Simple Simnel Cake

Simnel cake is a light fruit cake, similar to a Christmas cake, covered in marzipan, and eaten during Lent or at Easter. They have been around since mediaeval times, and were originally a Mothering Sunday tradition, when daughters would make one to be taken home to their mothers.

This Gluten Free version was made by my girlfriend for my mum for Mother’s Day and is based upon Mary Berry’s version from the BBC Recipe site.

(Printable Recipe)

175g/6oz Light Muscavado Sugar
175g/6oz Butter, softened
175g/6oz Self Raising Flour
3 Large Eggs
25g/1oz Ground Almonds
2 tbsp Milk
100g/4oz Sultanas
100g/4oz Cherries, quartered, washed, and dried
100g/4oz Dried apricots, snipped into small pieces
1 tsp Mixed Spice
2 tsp Ground Ginger
To serve:
450g/1lb Golden Marzipan
3 tbsp Apricot Jam
1 Egg, beaten

Preheat oven 160C/320F/Gas 3.

1 Grease and line the base and sides of an 20cm/8in deep, round cake tin with baking parchment.

2 Measure all the cake ingredients into a large mixing bowl and beat well until thoroughly blended. Place half the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.

3 Take one third of the marzipan and roll into a circle the same size as the cake tin, place the circle on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the remaining mixture on top of the marzipan and level the surface.

4 Bake for about one and three-quarter to two hours or until golden brown and firm in the middle. If toward the end of the cooking time the cake is getting too brown, loosely cover with a piece of foil. Allow the cake to cool in the tin before turning onto a cooling rack.

5 When the cake is cool. Brush the top with the apricot jam (warmed). Roll out half the remaining marzipan to the size of the cake and sit it on the top. Crimp the edges of the marzipan and make a lattice pattern in the centre of the marzipan using a sharp knife. Make 11 even sized balls from the remaining marzipan and arrange around the edge.

6 Brush with beaten egg and glaze under a hot grill for about five minutes, turning the cake round so it browns evenly, so the marzipan is tinged brown all over. (You can also do this with a blow torch if preferred).

Decorate with edible flowers.



Curried Sweet Potato Wedges

Having bought the sweet potatoes today, to go with some steak from our local farm shop, I decided to do something new with them. A normal family favourite is to cook them in the oven and sprinkle some paprika over them for the last five minutes. This particular recipe is based on Mary Moh’s Curried Sweet Potato Chips. As soon as I saw them, I knew I had to give them a go. I have to agree with Mary, the aroma was really good and the taste was fabulous!

(Printable Recipe)

2-3 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Garam Masala or Curry Powder
1 tsp Light Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Coconut Powder
1 tsp Oil

1 Mix the seasoning in a bowl and add the sweet potato wedges, coating them all over.

2 Spread them on a baking tray and bake at 200C for about 30 minutes, or until cooked.


Classic Chicken Chasseur

I always enjoy cooking recipes that have great preparations to them, like all the wonderful curries I have cooked recently, with their amazing herbs and spices (I love opening the cumin spice pot every single time just for the smell). But what is always one step better, is making a recipe like this Chicken Chasseur, where you even have to prepare fruit/vegetables like the tomatoes used here, in such a precise way, to use them as the Chef, who wrote it, intended!

As with any recipe I try and hopefully enjoy, it’s the smells in the kitchen that first let you know whether you are going to enjoy it or not. As this recipe was cooking, all I can say is that the smells that started coming out, had me salivating until the food hit the plate! It’s hard to describe online how something smells followed by the reaction it causes to the senses but this was something else – whether it was the caramelised shallots, or the tarragon, or the tomato purée with the stock, or simply all the ingredients cooking together, this had my girlfriend and I counting down the minutes till I could plate it up.

All I can say is that it tasted as good as it looked. Nothing was left on either of our plates. I used chicken thighs for my version and all six pieces I used, were eaten up. This will become a personal favourite and one that I hope to make again and again.

As per normal, I was making it for the two of us, so I halved all the ingredients.

(Printable Recipe)

Serves 4

4 Plum Tomatoes
50g/2oz Plain Flour
1.5Kg/3lb 4oz Chicken cut into 8 pieces
2 tbsp Olive Oil
110g/4oz Butter
175g/6oz Brown Cap Mushrooms
10 Baby Shallots, peeled and halved
20g/¾oz Caster Sugar
175ml/6fl oz White Wine
450ml/16fl oz Chicken Stock
3 tbsp Tomato Purée
15g/½oz Tarragon, chopped
2 tbsp Parsley, chopped
Salt and Black Pepper

1 Score a cross on each tomato, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 45 seconds, then drain and peel off the skin. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, remove the seeds and chop the flesh.

2 Place the flour in another bowl and season with salt and pepper. Roll the chicken pieces in the flour, to coat, shaking off the excess.

3 Set a deep frying pan over a medium heat and add the oil and a third of the butter. When the butter foams, add the chicken, skin side down if you have left the skin on, and cook for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

4 Heat another third of the butter in a second frying pan, fry the mushrooms until golden brown and then add them to the pan with the chicken.

5 Place the remainder of the butter in the second pan used for the mushrooms, add the shallots and sugar and fry for 3 minutes until the shallots are golden brown and caramelised.

6 Add the wine, bring to the boil, then pour over the chicken.

7 Return the pan with the chicken to the heat, adding the stock, tomato purée and two-thirds of the tarragon. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through.

8 Add the prepared tomatoes, parsley and the rest of the tarragon, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve two pieces of chicken on each plate and spoon over all the sauce.


Anzac Biscuits‏

This new post comes from my Mum…

Recently it was the 78th birthday of a very good friend of mine who originally came from New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsular in the North Island but has lived in our village for over 25 years. He is also one of our bell-ringers and a very good artist. Like me he has Coeliac Disease so when I make him his favourite biscuits from ‘down under’ I use Gluten-free Flour. Although they have oats in them many people with Coeliac Disease can tolerate oats as long as they are pure. I have made these biscuits for his birthday for many years.

ANZAC Biscuits were made to send to the ANZACS (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) serving in Gallipoli during the First World War. As the ingredients would not spoil they were safe to travel and the recipe has become a tradition. The recipe I use was sent to me by a cousin of my husband’s from Melbourne Australia. I hope you enjoy them.

(Printable Recipe)

Makes 24/30 biscuits

3oz (85g) Organic rolled oats
3oz (85g) Desiccated coconut
4oz (100g) Plain flour (gluten-free can be used)
4oz (100g) Unrefined caster sugar
4oz (100g) Butter
1oz (25g) Golden syrup
1tsp Bicarbonate of soda
2tbsp Boiling Water

Preheat oven to 180C/350F Gas 4 or 170C Fan Oven.

1 Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl.

2 Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a small saucepan.

3 Mix the bicarbonate of soda with 2 tablespoons of boiling water then stir it into the butter/golden syrup mixture.

4 Make a dip in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter/golden syrup mixture and stir until well mixed.

5 Put teaspoonfuls of the mixture, having gently flattened them with a fork, onto greased baking sheets about 1½ inches (3cm) apart to allow room for spreading.

6 Bake in batches until golden about 8/10 minutes.

7 Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then keep in an air-tight tin.

NB: Some people with Coeliac Disease may be able to eat this recipe as many Coeliac’s can tolerate oats if they come from a reliable source.


Minced Marmalade

This is just a different way of cutting up the Seville Oranges that were used in the first recipe.

Instead of slicing the orange skins put them through a coarse mincer and then continue to cook in the same way. It just gives a different texture to the finished product which some people might prefer.


Coconut Beef Curry

It’s been a couple of weeks since I cooked up a curry for the blog, and with the inevitable house move on the horizon for my new job, we have started to use up the food in the freezer for our suppers. I found some beef fillet and some venison that was perfect to use with this recipe, once I found it in my Curry Bible. I’m already looking forward to discover what other treasures I have hidden away in the freezer for meals over the next few weeks.

This rich and aromatic curry uses Mussaman curry paste, which is a Thai curry paste with Islamic origins. It is unusual because it contains a number of spices that are more common in Indian cuisine than in Thai, such as coriander and cumin.

This was so easy to cook up after a long day packing and was served up in under 40 minutes after I started preparing and cooking it!

As normal, I was making it for the two of us, so I halved all the ingredients.

Source: Curry Bible – Mridula Baljekar

(Printable Recipe)

Serves 4

1 tbsp Ground Coriander
1 tbsp Ground Cumin
3 tbsp Mussaman Curry Paste
150 ml/5 fl oz Water
75 g/2¾ oz Creamed Coconut
450 g/1 lb Beef Fillet, cut into strips
400 ml/14 fl oz Coconut Milk
50 g/1¾ oz Unsalted Peanuts, finely chopped
2 tbsp Fish Sauce
1 tsp Palm Sugar
4 Kaffir Lime Leaves
Fresh Coriander to garnish

1 Combine the coriander, cumin and curry paste in a bowl.

2 Pour the water into a saucepan, add the creamed coconut and heat until it has disolved.

3 Add the curry paste mixture and simmer for 1 minute.

4 Add the beef and simmer for 6-8 minutes.

5 Then add the coconut milk, peanuts, fish sauce and sugar. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, until the meat is tender.

6 Add the lime leaves and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Garnish with coriander.

Serve with cooked rice.


Seafood Risotto

I’m still relatively new to making a risotto and after it seemingly being national risotto day on the Good Food Channel the other day, I picked up the first cook book to hand, Gordon Ramsay’s World Kitchen and started looking for one to make. I started flicking through the Italian section and found this Seafood Risotto. I thought this would be perfect as we both love seafood and thought it would be similar to the stunning seafood linguine I had at Carluccio’s last year. After watching 3 celebrities ladling various stocks on their various risotto’s over a period of time, I made sure I lovingly prepared mine with the same flair they all used!

To say this was good is an understatement. The food was only half-eaten by the time my girlfriend asked me to make this again next week. Any risotto lovers should try this.

As I was making it for the two of us, I halved all the ingredients and that was perfect for a delicious supper.

(Printable Recipe)

Serves 4

300g Mussels
300g Prawns
200g Baby Squid, sliced
200ml Water
300ml Dry White Wine
800ml Fish Stock
Pinch of Saffron Strands
2 tbsp Olive Oil
40g Butter
1 Shallot peeled and chopped
1 Garlic Clove peeled and chopped
350g Risotto Rice
Finely grated zest of 1 Lemon
Sea Salt and Black Pepper
Flat Leaf Parsley, leaves chopped

1 Pour the water and 200ml of the wine into a large pan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Tip in the mussels, cover the pan and give it a few shakes.

2 Cook for 2-3 minutes until the mussels have opened. Drain them in a colander set on top of a pan to collect the juices. Shell the mussels and set aside, discarding any that remain closed.

3 Add the stock and saffron strands to the mussel juices and bring to a simmer.

4 Heat the olive oil and half the butter in a large pan. Add the shallot and garlic and fry until softened for about 6-8 minutes.

5 Tip the rice into the pan, stir well to coat and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice starts to turn translucent.

6 Pour in the remaining wine and let it bubble until all the liquid has been absorbed.

7 Add a ladleful of hot stock and stir until it has all been absorbed. Continue adding the stock in this way until the rice is creamy with a slight bite. (You may not need all the liquid.)

8 Stir in the prawns and squid and simmer for 2 minutes until they are just cooked through, adding the mussels for the last minute.

9 Finally stir in the grated lemon zest and remaining butter and taste for seasoning. Take the pan off the heat and leave to stand for a few minutes.

Serve at once, sprinkled with the chopped parsley.


Scallops and Chorizo

As Nigella mentions at the start of this recipe, scallops have long been paired with other foods like bacon and chilli. It has even been paired with black pudding in a James Martin recipe. Nigella chose to use Chorizo as it is a combination of the bacon and chilli, being able to use the paprika-hot oil for cooking the scallops in. Nigella goes on to say… “It’s quicker than the speed of light to make and quite as dazzling”.

As I was making it for the two of us, I halved all the ingredients, with it being such a simple list of ingredients.

(Printable Recipe)

Serves 4

110g Chorizo Sausage
400g Small Scallops (halve them to make 2 thinner discs if they are fat)
Juice of half a lemon
4 x 15ml tbsps chopped fresh Parsley

1 Slice the chorizo into rounds no thicker than 3mm.

2 Heat a heavy based frying pan and when hot, dry-fry the chorizo until crisped on each side – this should take no more than 2 minutes. The chorizo will give out plenty of its own oil.

3 Remove the chorizo to a bowl and fry the scallops in the chorizo oil for about 1 minute a side, until the scallops start turning a lovely orange colour.

4 Return the chorizo to the pan with the scallops, add the lemon juice and let it all bubble for a few seconds before arranging on a serving plate and sprinkling with parsley.


Côte de Boeuf with Watercress and Black Beer Mustard

As I said in my last post, at the weekend I wanted to cook something other than a usual Sunday roast, after seeing James Martin’s recipe. I love spending time preparing all the food for a roast normally but wanted to see if there was something quicker I could try. Having made the Black Beer Mustard, which was the longest part of the whole recipe, I started cooking the beef and preparing the watercress salad and within half an hour the food was ready to serve!

We both loved this dish, down to the flavour and melt in the mouth texture of the beef, also the mustard that cut through the taste perfectly and the simplicity of the rest of the meal too. I didn’t feel too full either after eating, so it made a perfect lightweight Sunday roast substitute. This would be so good to cook up for family or friends after a day out, as there is little to do once you have a pot of mustard already made up.

(Printable Recipe)

Serves 2-4

2.2lb/1kg Rib of Beef
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
4oz/110g Black Beer Mustard to serve
For Watercress Salad:
1 tbsp Cider Vinegar
3 tbsp Rapeseed Oil
1 tsp Black Beer Mustard
4oz/110g Watercress
Salt and Pepper

1 Season the beef with salt and pepper and brush with the olive oil.

2 Set a frying pan over high heat and add the beef when it is hot, cooking for 4-5 minutes on each side.

3 Make sure you turn the beef on its sides to seal the edges and then cook for 4 minutes per side, or 8-10 minutes if you prefer your meat well done.

4 Remove the beef from the pan and allow to rest for 5 minutes before carving.

5 For the watercress salad, whisk the vinegar, rapeseed oil and mustard together in a bowl and season to taste. Place the watercress in another bowl and drizzle over the dressing, tossing the leaves to coat evenly.

Serve by cutting the beef into fairly thick slices and serve the mustard and watercress on the side.


Black Beer Mustard

I really wanted to make something slightly different than a normal Sunday roast, so decided to have a go at James Martin’s Côte de Boeuf with Watercress and Black Beer Mustard (recipe to come).

Having written down all the ingredients I didn’t have, I went shopping for the rest. I decided to go and see what ingredients I could get in James Martin’s own shop ‘Cadogan & James’, especially as some of them I had never bought before and didn’t know where I could get them.

I did ok, picking up the allspice berries, black mustard seeds and some more ‘posh’ red wine vinegar (as I didnt have enough) from his shop but he didnt have any white mustard seeds. After asking about whether they had any out back or what I could use instead, the very helpful staff, told me that James might be in the shop at closing time, so I could come and ask what to use as an alternative. We came back five minutes before closing but was told he had been held up so wouldnt be there in time. Not letting this deter me, we ventured to Waitrose and eventually found yellow mustard seeds, so I decided to buy them and use them instead.

I have no idea if using the yellow seeds rather than the white ones, made a huge difference but I will say that it made a great accompaniment to go with the beef and I’m going to have lots more with some steak later in the week. It was exactly what I was after, rather than the normal roast beef and gravy!

(Printable Recipe)

Makes approx. 425g/15oz

25g/1oz White/Yellow Mustard Seeds
110g/4oz Black Mustard Seeds
75g/3oz Light Soft Brown Sugar
1 tsp Allspice Berries
1 tsp Paprika
½ tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Crushed Black Peppercorns
175ml/6fl oz Red Wine Vinegar
40ml/1½fl oz Balsamic Vinegar
3 tbsp Runny Honey
110ml/4fl oz Black Sheep Ale

1 Put all the dry ingredients into a processor or blender and blend until the seeds are roughly crushed.

2 Transfer to a bowl and stir in the two vinegars, honey and ale.

3 Cover the mustard with cling film and place in the fridge for 2 hours.

If you want to keep the mustard longer, put into sterilised jars and store in a cool, dark place.

The mustard should then keep for 3-6 months.