31 Aug 2010


The last of the summer raspberries from my garden were used for this lovely cake-cum-dessert.

Homegrown raspberries don't come creepy crawly free like the ones you buy in the supermarket. My method is to put them onto a large inspection plate and then leave them for a while, I then transfer the picked over raspberries to another plate. You can't be too careful!

This cake can be either made by the all-in-one-method or the traditional creaming method. Either way, the cake will still be wonderful.

Either eat as is, or warm in the microwave and serve with Greek Yogurt or creme fraiche as dessert.

Makes: 15 squares.

You will need: 26x16.5cm oblong tin, lined with baking parchment.

175g softened butter, 175g caster sugar, 3 medium free range eggs, 175g self-raising flour, 125g ground almonds, 2 tablespoons of milk, 150g raspberries, 2 tablespoons flaked almonds, icing sugar for dusting.

1. Heat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs and then fold in the flour, ground almonds and milk. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.
2. Scatter the raspberries over the surface and press down lightly into the cake mixture. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40-50 minutes. Check with a skewer to make sure the middle of the cake is cooked. If not return to the oven covered with foil for another 10 minutes.
3. Leave in the tin to cool.
4. Cut into 15 squares and dust with the icing sugar.

12 Aug 2010

Review - Cook up a Feast, Mary Berry and Lucy Young

When asked if I would like to review a copy of Cook up a Feast, I just knew this book would be perfect for me.

I have followed Mary Berry for more years than I care to remember! Mary is regularly on our television screens, has written countless cookery books and is also an Aga specialist.

Lucy Young has worked with Mary for 20 years. Lucy is a cookery writer, gives Aga demonstrations, makes television appearances and writes a regular magazine column.

Mary and Lucy have now written a cookery book together, to serve larger numbers, after numerous requests from readers of their books and members of the audience at their Aga demonstrations. Many of the recipes are for 6 to 12 people, and some of the recipes will serve up to 48. The book gives information for cooking either in the Aga or conventional oven. Advice is also given for preparing ahead and freezing (a Mary Berry trademark!).

There are chapters on party bites, starters, special main courses, pot luck party, buffets, bowl parties, Italian food, summer in the garden, desserts and tea for a crowd.

A wealth of useful information for preparing a feast, planning the occasion, serving the right amount, kitchen knowhow, the right equipment, setting the scene, cheats and shortcuts and on the day. Everything you need to know, to help take away the stress, when cooking for a number of people.

The book has over 300 pages of exciting recipes to suit all cooking abilities, from the novice through to the more experienced cook. A taster of some of the recipes from the book - Crostini with slow roasted tomatoes and herbs, Bruschette with Reblochon and roasted vegetables, Celebratory fish platter, Boursin-stuffed chicken with garlic and mint sauce, Marinated marmalade and whisky lamb fillet, Mushrooms and spinach en croute, Rhubarb and lemon pots, Magenta fruit compote with white chocolate sauce, Party pavlova pyramid - just to name a few!

You shouldn't have to worry about making any of the recipes from this book, because from experience, I have always found Mary Berry and Lucy Young recipes work because they are thoroughly tested.

From the book I made Hazelnut meringue roulade with raspberries to serve 8-10 (oops in this case it fed 2 people over a couple of days!). The instructions were clear and easy to follow. The roulade can be prepared and made up to 12 hours ahead and can also be frozen. A perfect dessert, light and luscious. If you, like me, grow your own raspberries, the roulade will taste even better.

Fillet steak with a creamy mushroom sauce to serve 6. There was just the two of us and I scaled the recipe down very easily. Again, the instructions were clear and concise and it was easy to produce a wonderful meal. This recipe too has instructions for preparing ahead. I made the Cheese-topped dauphinois potatoes to go alongside the steak and these were delicious. In my freezer I now have some potato dauphinois for a rainy day.

Chicken tikka masala served with plain boiled rice and naan bread. The recipe is to serve 6 people, I made the full quantity and put half the cooked masala in the freezer for another day. This recipe uses chicken thighs but I am afraid I used breast because I am not a fan of chicken thighs - I know, I know!

Thank you Gemma.

2 Aug 2010


I can eat a bowl of risotto at any time of the year. It's quick, easy, filling and doesn't cost a lot of money. If I can't think what to cook or am pushed for time, these days it seems risotto is top of the list.

We seem to be having some summer weather this year and I am trying not to have the oven on for any longer than possible, because of all the heat it throws out into my kitchen. This year the majority of my cooking has been done either on the hob or outdoors on the barbecue.

Once you have mastered the base recipe for risotto, the possibilities for adding ingredients are endless, almost anything goes. As long as you keep your stock simmering on the hob whilst you are making the risotto and stir, stir, stir, to achieve a creamy rice - you can't go far wrong! Making this recipe was a good excuse to give my new pan a test run and it made the risotto perfectly.

Here is a useful link to the BBC GoodFood website showing how to make risotto.

The adapted recipe is from Jamie Oliver - The Return of the Naked Chef.

Serves: 2

You will need:

25g butter, 1 finely chopped onion, 1 crushed clove garlic, 150g risotto rice, glass white wine, 750ml simmering vegetable stock.
A handful of lemon thyme leaves plus some extra for decoration, 50g grated pecorino cheese, 75g crumbled soft goat's cheese, a few slices of prosciutto

1. Heat the butter in a wide shallow pan and cook the onion and garlic until softened. add the risotto rice and stir until coated.
2. Pour in the wine and bubble until it's all absorbed. Add the lemon thyme leaves. Gradually add the hot vegetable stock, stirring until the rice is tender but still has a little bite. Add the grated pecorino cheese.
3. Lay the prosciutto over the risotto, crumble over the goat's cheese and scatter over lemon thyme leaves.