Wednesday 25 May 2016

Chocolate Tarantula Experience (NB no arachnids harmed during the making of this cake)

No spiders here thanks - Not exactly scared, just don't like them.
However this is my mother-in-law's recipe for what the family always refer to as Tarantula. The real name is lost the mists of time. If anyone recognises it I would be delighted to know.


120g dark chocolate
120g butter
150g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
50g cocoa powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 150 C / Gas 2. 150 Degrees C

Grease a 20cm round cake tin, and dust with cocoa powder.
In the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter. (Lazy person cheat - microwave until liquid) Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, ground almonds, cocoa powder, eggs, chopped walnuts, choppedcherries and vanilla. Pour into prepared cake tin.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Pop a half walnut and half cherry on alternating slices
Slices can also be reheated for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.
Word to the wise - cut this into slices whilst still hot. It is very dense to cut when cooled - if you do not wish to serve it pre-sliced at the very least score whilst still warm

Cardiac Cookies

Let's get one thing straight first

These are NOT good for your heart. Your soul - maybe

These are incredibly scrummy but as they consist of pretty much sugar, sugar and more sugar in various forms I promise you will suffer the sugar rush from hell if you over-indulge. bouncing off the wall is the least of it (Yes, you know who you are...). However they are popular so I very, very occasionally will bake some and stand back to watch the fireworks. This time they are for a team meeting at the other half's place of work. Me, I think he's a sadist....

You can find many variations on this recipe all round the interweb - here is mine. Handle with care...


1 c. butter

1 c. crunchy peanut butter

1 c. white sugar

1 c. brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup golden syrup (optional)

3 c. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 bags fun size SNICKERS® bars, cut in half

If you are using normal size snickers bars cut into quarters


Cream butter, peanut butter, both sugar, egg, vanilla. Add flour and form in small balls. Wrap the dough around the SNICKERS® bar completely covering it and making it somewhat round. Lazy folks can add everything into a food processor and work that button. Warning dough is pretty solid so make take some final hand scrunching (Technical term there) Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4

Makes about 50 - really depends on how many snickers bars you have and how big you want the cookies.

As they will be scaldingly hot with all that sugar Try to let them cool before scarfing as many as you think your body can handle in one sitting.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Crunchy Cheesy Chicken

Chicken breasts can be boring. There I've said it. I KNOW they are low fat and a good food when trying to control calories but purlease! It the sauces them make it tolerable in my book - sorry. So I am aways on the lookout for ways to tart up a chicken breast that are, preferably, not loaded with cream and butter - although there is nothing wrong with a nice cream, mushroom and brandy sauce (with maybe a little parmesan in there...).

Anyhow, here is a coating that gives the breast a tasty, crispy coat whilst keeping the meat moist - and best of all this is a baked recipe so no frying involved.

I have only used this on whole breasts but I certainly intend to use this on chicken pieces - maybe thigh meat - the best of both worlds for me!

Crunchy Cheesy Chicken
Serves 4

4 chicken breast (I normally aim for free range chicken as, darnit, it just tastes better.)
1 egg
1/4 cup of milk
1 finely chopped clove of garlic (or 2 if you're a garlic fan)
1 tspn ground chilli (fresh or dried is fine)
2 cups breadcrumbs (preferably either fresh or Japanese Panko breadcrumbs - not golden though)
1 cup finely grated cheddar

  1. Ensure chicken breast are clean of any skin etc and dry with kitchen towel
  2. Take three bowls.
  3. In bowl 1 place enough flour to dredge the breasts
  4. In bowl 2 beat the egg and milk together then add garlic, chilli and seasoning
  5. In bowl 3 mix cheese and breadcrumbs.
  6. Dredge chicken through flour, then egg mix and then coat thoroughly in breadcrumbs.
  7. Put on a lightly oiled baking sheet
  8. Place in middle of oven, preheated to gas mark 6
  9. Cook for 35 mins
  10. Serve with buttered noodles and green salad.

Very easy for a summer lunch. I imagine that the chicken pieces version would work well on a buffet - I shall wheel it out at the next opportunity.

Monday 27 June 2011

Cheviot Pie

Don't know why this is called Cheviot Pie - maybe the original version came from there but that's all I can tell you. If anybody knows more I would love to hear from you.

This is the sort of pie that you need on a cold, damp evening. Yes dear reader, I know it's June but if you have looked outside you will realise that you'll need to take that up with the weather gods.

All the ingredients are items that you will have in the fridge and store cupboard so doesn't require much in the way of shopping - a bonus on a busy work day evening. The pie also has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive; an advantage in these economically trying times. Yet it tastes luxurious. Win, win.

Serves 4

200gm minced beef
1 medium onion
1 celery stalk
1 medium carrot
12 button mushrooms
2oz suet (vegetarian or beef)
4oz self raising flour
2oz strong cheddar, grated
1 Knorr beef stock cube
1 tbspn instant beef gravy granules (Bisto)
Cold water


  1. Place suet, flour, cheese, pinch of salt and pepper in mixing bowl.
  2. Add water
  3. Mix thoroughly until a ball of pastry is formed
  4. Put in fridge until needed (wrap in cling film)
  5. Preheat oven to gas mark 5
  6. Chop onions, celery, carrots and mushroom
  7. Pour a small amount of oil into a medium saucepan and place on medium gas
  8. Place onions into pan, season and cook until beginning to become translucent
  9. Add carrots and celery and cook for 3 mins
  10. Add mushrooms and stir in
  11. Add mince and brown
  12. Make up stock cube and instant granules with half pint of boiling water and add to pan
  13. Cook for two minutes and place mix into medium sized deep pie dish
  14. Remove pastry from fridge and roll out - it will be approx 1/4" thick
  15. Place onto pie and pat down
  16. Trim excess pastry and make small balls
  17. Make airhole in centre of pie
  18. Arrange balls around airhole and edge of pie
  19. Wash pie with milk
  20. Bake for 35 mins in middle of oven
  21. Serve with selection of green vegetables.

As you can tell, the pastry is fundamentally a dumpling mix with cheese added. This means that the finished pastry is fluffy and soft underneath with a brown crispy top. It really doesn't need any further carbohydrates so I don't tend to serve potatoes with it but there is nothing to stop you so doing.

This is real comfort food that doesn't break the bank. And we all have to applaud that.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Birthday cakes - where to start. Eveybody has a different favourite and to be honest, this would NOT be mine. Whilst I am a massive chocolate fan I like mine in bars. And I like sponge cake with creamy fillings. Even if there is chocolate frosting I would always plump for a vanilla sponge - maybe boring but it's my kind of boring.

Not so others - and as this cake was not for me I went scrumbling around for a chocolate cake that I could perhaps combine with raspberries to cut through some of the sweetness.

I used to have a recipe for a chocolate fudge cake which I could not lay hand on, and one of the favourite all time cakes of the birthday boy is a chocolate/almond/sugar confection normally referred to within the family as a tarantula. Not it's real name and when I lay hands on that recipe I shall post that too.

Anyway, back to todays project: I found a recipe on the BBC Good Food website by Angela Nilsen and decided to give it a go. It had great reviews and it lived up to every one.

For the chocolate I used Willies Supreme Cacao with forest fruits. 100% cacao and 100% delicious. You can get it in Waitrose.

The original recipe calls for a ganache icing but I substituted Betty Crocker's Chocolate Fudge icing - a massive fave of the recipient. I also used whole milk rather than buttermilk as I had forgotten to aquire any - it was of no obvious detriment to the finished product.

The only problem, is that the cake is waaay too big to get into any of my cake boxes but as it's size is diminishing fast I doubt that will be a problem for long

Ultimate Chocolate Cake


200g good quality dark chocolate, about 60% cocoa solids (I used 100% for extra chocolately goodness)

200g butter, cut in pieces

1 tbsp instant coffee granules

85g self-raising flour

85g plain flour

1⁄4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g light muscovado sugar

200g golden caster sugar

25g cocoa powder

3 medium eggs

75ml buttermilk (5 tbsp) (I used whole milk)

I tub of Betty Cocker Chocolate Fudge icing


  1. Butter a 20cm round cake tin (7.5cm deep) and line the base. Preheat the oven to fan 140C/conventional 160C/ gas 3

  2. Break the chocolate in pieces into a medium, heavy-based pan. Tip in the butter, then mix the coffee granules into 125ml/4fl oz cold water and pour into the pan. Warm through over a low heat just until everything is melted - don't overheat. Or melt in the microwave on Medium for about 5 minutes, stirring half way through.

  3. While the chocolate is melting, mix the two flours, bicarbonate of soda, sugars and cocoa in a big bowl, mixing with your hands to get rid of any lumps.

  4. Beat the eggs in a bowl and stir in the milk.

  5. Now pour the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until everything is well blended and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency.

  6. Pour this into the tin and bake for 1 hour 25- 1 hour 30 minutes - if you push a skewer in the centre it should come out clean and the top should feel firm (don't worry if it cracks a bit). Leave to cool in the tin (don't worry if it dips slightly), then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  7. When the cake is cold, cut it horizontally and liberally apply raspberry jam - preferably not too sweet.

  8. Spread Betty Crocker icing all over top and down the sides

  9. Decorate with grated chocolate and fresh raspberries.

  10. The cake keeps moist and gooey for 3-4 days.

Birthday candles were also freely applied - couldn't use the right number or I could have burned the hosue to the ground sp they were more symbolic than literal.

This was a very easy recipe to follow and the cake is everything you could ask for in a a gooey chocolate birthday cake. For those who walk on the chocolate side, cross the road to this recipe now. You'll be glad you did. Even I liked it.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Baked Fresh Pineapple

Fresh pineapple- what's not to love?

As a child of the 60's it was exotic and whispered of far away lands where life was certainly more romantic (and sunnier) than suburban West London.

Pineapple normally entered into my life in tins. Chunks and slices, occasionally crushed. Served with Carnation or as part of an upside down pudding, dotted with cherries and served with custard. My mother was fond of dressing up a gammon steak with pineapple but as I didn't care for gammon in the first place this was a mystifying ritual to me. And party hedgehogs - bliss. A poor grapefruit stuck all over with toothpicks either bearing a small chunk of cheddar cheese or a pineapple chunk - fun for the kids to make and even more fun to ravage! But fresh pineapple remained remote and aloof.

Once I was mistress of my own food destiny, fresh pineapple strode into my recipes like a long awaited knight on a white steed. (OK, I may be overdoing that just a tad). Fruit salads became zestier (and not from a tin), chocolate fondues (previously limited to strawberries, bananas, apples and peaches) became more cosmopolitan - well, you get the picture.

And somewhere along the line (I believe it was during a trip to Spain) I had a baked pineapple. I immediately set about trying to refine this and here is the result.

Baked Fresh Pineapple

Serves 4


1 fresh pineapple

2oz butter

1 cup soft brown sugar

Toasted flaked coconut

Brandy or Malibu (optional - cannot stand drinking it, but for some reason there is always a bottle left over after any party- this is the only use I make of it.)


  1. Remove 'crown' from pineapple and save (wear kitchen gloves or wrap with a teatowel as it's a spikey little bugger)

  2. Cut pinapple into four segments vertically (hint: use the biggest, sharpest knife in your arsenal. I personally lay the pineapple flat, stab in the middle and lever down through the flesh then repeat in the other direction)

  3. Remove central core

  4. Run knife between flesh and skin, the slice down into triangular segments - whilst keeping within skin.

  5. Cut butter into slices small enough to force between pineapple segments

  6. Place into overproof dish

  7. Pour booze of choice over the top

  8. Cover with sugar

  9. Bake for 30 mins, gas mark 6

  10. 10 mins before end sprinkle coconut flakes over pineapple

  11. Serve in individual bowls with cream.

Friday 25 March 2011

Heston's Tagliata with Rocket & Parmesan Salad

The entire universe knows I am a massive fan of Waitrose and could probably bore for England and the USA combined about their virtues. Their fresh produce is impeccable, customer service unfailingly spot on and the whole shopping experience is superb. I am also a fan of Heston Blumenthal - OK, some of the more out there ideas leave me hiding behind the sofa, peeking at the TV (just like Dr Who used to when I was a kid - hmmm, now THERE'S an idea...) but I love his passion for perfection even if I'd probably rather chew glass than eat some of the results. Have to admit though, last Christmas I was one of the dissapointed many who trawled any Waitrose within reach trying to find a Heston's christmas pudding.

My husband is a massive, unashamed Heston fan though and the Fat Duck is probably top of his list of places he'd really like to eat. So moved was he, one Saturday he decided to make 'Heston's Chips' to go with lunch. Problem was he only went to start them at lunchtime so by the time they'd been cooked and cooled three times (well, cooled twice) lunch was served around 7pm. But the chips were amazing. And he did make the Heston's Banana Eton Mess last summer again, truly outstanding.

A year or so ago the Waitrose Recipe Collection started doing recipes by Heston and Delia Smith. Nice idea, pick up the recipes in store, buy the ingredients then go home and enjoy. I have many of these cards, but must admit I have made few of them yet. Until last week. I found myself watching a TV ad for Waitrose that featured this Heston recipe and found mysef dribbling in an unseemly manner. I thus resolved to gather the card and ingredients to try it, and oh my dear, dear reader - adjectives fail me. I can only say if you try nothing else, you MUST try this. The only thing I would take issue with is the fact that it says it serves 4. Not a chance. Two of us cleared the lot.

Heston's Tagliata with Rocket & Parmesan Salad
Serves 4


Olive oil for cooking the steaks
2 essential Waitrose British Beef Steaks (I used rump as I think it's more flavourful, approx 300g each)
120 ml 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil
100g of thinly sliced chestnut mushrooms (OK, this is NOT in the original recipe so you can ignore this if you wish but I love mushrooms)
3 garlic cloves
4-6 sprigs of rosemary
2 strips of lemon peel (use a potato peeler to peel 2 shallow strips from an unwaxed lemon)
Juice of 1 lemon
Table salt, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
To serve:
60 g Waitrose Wild Rocket
40 g Ferrari Parmigiano Reggiano Fresh Flakes

  1. Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a high heat, then add 2mm of olive oil and heat until it is smoking hot. It is vital that the pan is extremely hot before adding the steaks.
  2. Remove the steaks from the fridge. Season them with a little salt and place them in the smoking-hot pan for 15-20 seconds. Then turn the steaks over and fry for a further 15-20 seconds. Repeat this, turning the steaks for 2½ minutes.
  3. Remove from the pan and allow to rest on a cake rack set over a plate to catch the juices.
  4. Pop the sliced mushrooms into the pan and cook until beginning to brown
  5. Remove mushrooms and place onto kitchen towel and pat to remove any remaining oil.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and discard most of the used oil (but don’t clean the pan).
  7. Allow the pan to cool for 2 minutes, then add the 100% Italian olive oil to the pan.
  8. Bash the garlic with the palm of your hand or the side of a knife and add it to the oil.
  9. Add 4-6 rosemary sprigs.
  10. Rub the strips of lemon zest between your finger and thumb to release the oils and add them to the pan, too.
  11. Allow to infuse for 5 minutes while the meat is resting, then squeeze in the lemon juice.
  12. Strain the dressing through a sieve and add any juices that have come from the steak.
  13. Slice the steaks thinly (0.5cm wide) with a sharp knife.
  14. Season with table salt and black pepper and place on the serving dish.
  15. Place mushrooms over steaks.
  16. Spoon over half the dressing.
  17. Season the rocket leaves with salt and mix with the remaining dressing.
  18. Place the rocket leaves on the beef and finish with the Parmesan flakes and a sprinkling of sea salt crystals.
  19. Serve with Heston from Waitrose Horseradish Sauce.

Copyright © Heston Blumenthal 2010

I served this with freshly baked bread and it was truly amazingly scrummy. The steak was pink and succulent (if you don't like rare steak add to the frying time), the dressing was tart and flavourful and the horseradish sauce was creamy and light - I would warn you to be careful of the salt as you are adding it in four different places. Next time, and oh yes there will be a next time, I will probably not add the table salt to the rocket leaves, just the sprinkling of sea salt crystals.

My admiration of Heston remains undimmed, but I do wonder where he hides that sonic screwdriver...

Useful tip: If you don't live near a Waitrose all of the recipes from the cards can be found at