Cardamom Cake with Coffee Icing

cardamom cakeI must confess I have been sitting on this recipe for quite a while now.  This cake started its life many years ago as a Danish Chocolate Chip cake whose recipe came to me via my friend’s aunt. As often with recipes handed down from one generation to the next, it needed a little tinkering. Cinnamon and chocolate were replaced with cardamom and I was finally happy with a bundt version dusted with icing sugar – the star feature at my Scandinavian Brunch Demo last Spring for the stationary brand Kikki K.

cardamom cakeSince then, versions of this cake have appeared in layers, loaves, muffins and bundts of all sizes, amended for every event, tea party or gathering. But it was not until September, when no.4 turned two, that I added a coffee cream cheese icing – a well known flavour marriage made in heaven.

cardamom cakeDon’t be perturbed by the use of cardamom, a spice used prolifically in Scandinavian baking. Its subtle warm undertones give cakes and buns a mysteriously delicious flavour. If, like me, your crowd seem unsure when you offer them a piece of cardamom cake, call it a soured cream cake or even a coffee cake and they will salivate at your table while waiting for their slice.

And, if you are truly cardamom averse for reasons other than semantics, feel free to replace it with 2 tsp ground cinnamon.  Or the zest of a lemon and a teaspoon of vanilla make a delicious soured cream loaf cake.  Tinker as you wish and make it yours.

cardamom cake

Cardamom Cake with Coffee Icing

This cake can either be made in a large (10 cup) bundt tin, as a layer cake in two 20cm cake tins with a removable base, in two loaf tins or 16 muffins.  It is just as good dusted with icing sugar if you prefer it in the morning with a cup of coffee.


1 1/2 tsp cardamon seeds, crushed (from 15-20 pods)

150g  unsalted butter

330g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar

3 large eggs

250g (2 1/4 cups) plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

300ml (1 1/2 cups) soured cream


150g unsalted butter at room temperature

150g icing sugar

400g full fat cream cheese at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp instant coffee granuals

2 tsp whole milk

Make cake:

Preheat oven to 180C (350F).  Liberally grease your tin of choice. Dust a bundt tin with flour, and line cake, loaf and muffin tins with parchment paper or liners.

Crush the cardamon pods to remove the seeds, making sure you have approximately 1.5tsp of seeds. (Feel free to use a bit more if you like.)  Crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment for 3-5 minutes on high until pale and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next and scraping down between each addition.  Beat another 2-3 minutes.

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and add the crushed cardamon.  Stir with a whisk or a fork to combine.

In three parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the soured cream to the butter,  starting and ending with the flour.  Be careful not to over mix.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin of your choice and bake in the lower third of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when you test the cake.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15-20 minutes and then invert onto a rack to cool completely.

Either dust the top with icing sugar, or once cool, ice with the coffee icing.


Cream together butter and icing sugar and beat for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy

Add cream cheese slowly and beat until fully incorporated

Mix together coffee granules and milk to make a “coffee milk” and add to icing. Stir through until the icing is a light mocha colour and glossy.

Liberally spread over the cake, loaf or muffins.

The cake will keep for about three days covered on your worktop if it lasts that long.





New Year’s Chicken and a Rosh Hashana Menu

New Years Chicken

The month long marathon of Jewish holidays is rapidly approaching and I am back in to the kitchen after weeks of traveling and barely cooking a meal.  Rosh Hashana kicks off the holiday season.  It is a two day eating and celebrating fest where we bring in the New Year and consume an abundance of symbolic, mostly sweet foods ensuring a good year ahead. (Read more about the symbolic foods eaten here)

Before the days of children, we always hosted the second night of Rosh Hashana.  Along the lines of an Autumnal New Year’s Eve party, we gathered in our living room with lots of friends and all the traditional food. Once the boys came along, our festive meal moved away from adult party and into more of an all day eating event spanning multiple generations of friends old and new.

table decorations

table decorations

Whoever celebrates with us, this New Year’s Chicken always features.  Before my first Rosh Hashana feast I consulted just about everyone who was willing to speak to me ad nauseum about the menu and their top dishes.  And this won.  It came from a friend, and stole my heart on the first attempt as it so reminded me of that old Silver Palate classic, Chicken Marbella (a staple at all childhood family celebrations).  The recipe has now evolved over the years and now includes apples, red onion, and cider vinegar.

This is the ideal party dish.  The chicken pieces (I always use thighs for consistency) needs to be prepared in advance and marinade at least overnight, and up to two days, so the prep is taken care of well ahead of any guests walking through your door.  I even sometimes marinate it Nigella style, with all the aromatics (minus fruit, olives and capers) in the freezer for up to two weeks, then just defrost, add the rest of the ingredients and cook.  Easy peasy.

marinading in bags

marinading in bags

So while this is my New Years Chicken, saved only for our large annual Autumn gathering, I urge you to make this for any get together of friends or family.  And for anyone like me who is also making a feast next week or any time in the year ahead, here are some ideas of the kind of dishes I will serve for our intimate crowd of 45 (and growing) next Monday:


Fig Challah (My mother’s speciality) and Apple Challah (made by my talented friend Jane)

Herring selection




New Year’s Chicken (recipe below)

Lamb Shoulder with Pomegranate Molasses

Jewelled Rice

Sauteed Green Beans

Gjelina Roasted Carrots (I use a tahini sauce instead of the yoghurt)

Green salad with Apple Vinaigrette


Honey Cake with the chocolate glaze from this cake

German Apple Cake (an old family recipe)

Figs, Pomegranates and new fruits of the season

For all of you celebrating next week, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year, and for all of you with any excuse to share a meal with friends and family in the months ahead, happy cooking, and enjoy.

New Years Chicken

New Year’s Chicken

This chicken definitely derives its flavours from Chicken Marbella, with its sweet and salty mix which truly works a treat.

This can easily be scaled up for a crowd, but do not double the liquid amount, as there will be too much juice in the pan for the chicken pieces to brown properly.

Serves 8

16 chicken thighs

3 large red onions, sliced into half moons

1 head of garlic, cloves separated but no need to peel

4 medium apples peeled, cored and cut into quite thick slices (about 8 -12 slices per apple depending on their size)

250g (1cup) pitted prunes

100g (approx 1/2c) pitted green olives, drained

60g ( approx 1/3 cup) capers, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp dried oregano

4 fresh bay leaves

salt and pepper

125ml (1/2 cup) cider or white wine vinegar

250g (3/4 cup) honey

125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

250g (1 cup) dry white wine (or I sometimes use Vermouth, but Marsala also works)

Sprinking of chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients in 2 large ziplock bags and marinade overnight or upto 2 days

When you are ready to cook, Preheat oven to 190C
Take out of the fridge an hour before cooking and bring to room temperature (about 1 hour before cooking)

Place all chicken pieces skin side up in a large roasting tin and surround my marinade and liquid

Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes

Uncover and baste and continue to cook for further 30 minutes until caramelised

Sprinkle with parsley, if using

Can be served warm or at room temperature




Autumn Class Schedule 2016


Photo thanks to Sophie Eggleton


Following the success of my first classes earlier this summer, I am pleased to list the Autumn schedule.

All the classes take place at my home in Central London. After each demonstration, we will eat all the dishes of the day.  The session will take place around my kitchen island where there will be plenty of opportunity for chat and questions.  Places are limited to 10 people.  Book early to avoid disappointment!

You can either book by clicking the links on the sessions below or through the Classes link on the title page of the blog.  I will continue to send out messages when new dates are added.  I hope to see you for a workshop around my kitchen island soon.


Building the Rosh Hashanah Feast

Tuesday 27th September 2016 7.30-9.30pm

Are you looking for a little holiday inspiration? Or entertaining extended family and friends?  Join me for an evening where I will share my favourite New Years recipes and tips for cooking for a crowd.  We will make Honey Roast Chicken with prunes and pears, Grandma’s Famous Pot Roast, Party Rice and Moist Honey Cake.

Weeknight Dinner

Thursday 27th October 2016 7.30-9.30pm

Are you stumped for midweek dinner ideas?  Come join me for a demo where I will share my secrets for midweek dinner success and my best tips for planning ahead.  I will show you my favourite one pot dinners which can be made ahead, and how to make the leftovers into a whole other meal for later in the week.

Fridge Basics

Thursday 10th November 2016 10.30am (90 minutes)

The secret to an easily thrown together and delicious meal is having readily available condiments in your fridge.  Join me to learn to arm yourself with fridge basics – pickled chilies, vinaigrette, basic tomato sauce, tahini sauce, confit garlic and shallots, macerated red onions, a basic marinade, and of course how to use them.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

Wednesday 30th November 2016 7.30-9.30pm

Everyone loves roast chicken.  During this demonstration I will demonstrate different ways to cook chicken – whole roast chicken, chicken thighs with my favourite marinade, chicken pie, and chicken chili.  I will also give you a selection of flavour variations and tips for using the leftovers.


I am happy to schedule private group sessions or individual classes.  Please contact me at with any inquiries.



Go-To Barbecue Sauce

Go-To Barbecue Sauce

Summer 2016 will forever be known as the year of the egg.  Since the delivery of my Big Green Egg at the beginning of June, I have somewhat obsessively cooked at least some aspect of our weekly meals on it.  I have baked sourdough and crumbles, smoked meats, hot smoked fish, roasted four chickens at a time, cooked endless varieties of grilled vegetables and of course made many a traditional barbecue.

Go-To Barbecue Sauce

On the whole the clan has not been disappointed (apart from one rib debacle), however there are concerns about our sudden increased red meat consumption and subsequent fear of elevated cholesterol levels.

The new episode of outdoor cooking has also provided me with the perfect excuse for another sub category of cookbooks, which I have added to at a ferocious rate over the past few months.  So much so that the one of the cake plate shelves in the kitchen has been completely replaced with books (right up there at the top of the list of First World Problems).

Go-To Barbecue Sauce

This barbecue sauce is adapted from one of my favourites.  The Fette Sau book, Feeeding the Fire, from the Brooklyn eatery is in my top three of the new acquisitions, and a gift thanks to CD from Tennessee (he obviously knows best).  Joe Carroll has talked me through how to smoke and cook outside with confidence, and thanks to his dry rub, I need not try any other again.

Vast quantities of a variation of his Sweet Barbecue Sauce have been made throughout the summer.  It was first used to make brisket burnt ends, and was such a success, I made more to keep on hand and smother on top burgers, as the finishing touch on grilled chicken and even as the sauce for oven roast chickens on a rainy evening when we were all craving barbecue flavour.

Go-To Barbecue Sauce

I spent many years making Ina’s recipe (which is delicious but a bit of a faff in comparison) but this is much easier, quicker, and made with items readily available in my overstocked larder.  My adaptations to the original Fette Sau recipe came somewhat by accident – mainly in an attempt to use up some classic condiments leftover from earlier in the year when, in a fit of nostalgia, I spent a few weeks frantically making my grandmothers pot roast recipe (coming soon).  Maybe I love this sauce so much as it has all the flavours of childhood Americana, or perhaps it is just that I have an excuse to keep stock of all those sauces whose packaging I love so much (despite the fact they contain all those ingredients we are constantly reminded to never ingest).

Go-To Barbecue Sauce

If you cannot get your hands on Heinz Chili Sauce, just use Ketchup like Joe Carroll tells us to.  And if you don’t have molasses hanging around the house, again, just like Joe, use brown sugar.  The original recipe calls for both hard cider and beer (what is hard cider?) and there is always a few bottles of beer lurking in the back of the fridge.  Finally, when I need this to be vegan, I replace the Worcestershire Sauce with soy sauce (but a lot less soy or it is too salty).

Barbecue Brislet burnt ends in a bun with spicy slaw. Photo @lifeofyablon

Barbecue Brislet burnt ends in a bun with spicy slaw. Photo @lifeofyablon


Sweet Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from Feeding the Fire by Joe Carroll

500g (2 cups) Heinz Sweet Chili Sauce (or ketchup)
3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce (or 1tbsp soy sauce for a vegan version)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp beer (preferably Pilsner)
2 tbsp molases (or dark brown sugar)
2 tsp Colman’s mustard powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a large heavy bottom non reactive saucepan and stir together.  Simmer for about 45 minutes, whisking occasionally.  The sauce will thicken and go from a crimson ketchup colour to a rich mahogany as it cooks.

Allow to cool and transfer to a container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate.  It will keep for up to a month if it lasts that long.


Berry Crumble

berry crumble

To me, the quintessential summer dessert has to be a fruit pie. My dream pie’s golden lattice top is filled with fruit from the local Pick Your Own farm and eaten under the beating sun, surrounded by blooms and of course with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Nothing quite beats a good pie in all its sunshine glory.

I developed an unrequited love for fruit stuffed flaky pastry during my many summers on the New England coast were we picked blueberries, ate every meal outside, and generally lived a slow life.  But while pie is not complicated, it takes time, planning and most importantly, great pastry: essential elements that feature prominently in fantasy life and not my reality this summer.

berry crumble

Intsead I make crumble.  I re-discovered summer crumbles a few years ago while spending most of July on the Sussex and Suffolk coasts – my answer to New England summers – where Pick Your Own farms were a popular (and competitive) activity.  Our afternoons on the local farms usually reaped a glut of berries which we brought home to rental kitchens with limited equipment on hand.  A lot of jam was made.  And a lot of crumbles consumed.

berry crumble

The beauty of crumble is the ingredients are always available, nothing needs to warm to room temperature and no fancy equipment is required. While I have given quantities in grams (my preferred measuring method), the dry ingredients can easily be measured in a mug which may be all that is available. It can be assembled in a matter of minutes for an emergency dessert.

berry crumble

the smaller crumble was made with coconut oil instead of butter for the visiting vegan and was a surprising success

I like to use wholemeal spelt flour in this recipe for its nutty flavour and reputed health benefits, but it also works with regular plain flour.  Added bonus: any leftovers make a perfectly acceptable breakfast option with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

berry crumble

Crumble is the perfect dessert to make in a holiday home

While pie is in my heart, my head is not stressing over pastry, resting times and potential soggy botttoms.  This summer, we are just enjoying crumble.

berry crumble

Berry Crumble

Serves 6 greedy people

Frozen berries work very well here (and are much cheaper).  I often just use blueberries, or mix them with a few blackberries or raspberries, but the frozen mixed berry selection is probably my favourite.  Do not defrost them first or it becomes too watery.  I only use fresh berries when we have a glut leftover from picking our own!  Frozen berries also mean that you can pretend it is summer all year round and make this in the depth of winter for a little pick me up.

Crumb Topping:

115g (1 cup) wholemeal spelt flour (or plain white flour)

55g (1/2 cup) plain white spelt flour (or plain white flour)

55g (1/2 cup) ground almonds

200g (1 cup) soft brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

125g (1 cup + 1tbsp, or 1/2 European block) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

handful of sliced almonds (optional)



750g (approximately 4 cups) mixed summer berries (not strawberries)

1/4 cup caster/granulated sugar

zest of 1 small lemon


Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)

Combine spelt flours, ground almonds and cinnamon in a bowl and whisk with a fork to combine.

Sprinkle over cold butter cubes, and rub into the mixture with your fingertips until pea sized pieces form in the crumbs.  (You can also do this in a bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but on this rare occasion I just use my fingers)

Pour the mixed fruit into the bottom of your baking dish of choice.  I usually use a rectangular 30cmx23cm (12×9 inch) baking dish but you can use a similar capacity oval or round dish of your choice.

Sprinkle over the sugar and lemon zest and stir to combine.

Crumble over topping and sprinkle over sliced almonds (if using)

Bake for 45-50 minutes until top is golden and fruit is bubbling.

Serve warm with ice cream or creme fraiche, and eat the leftovers for breakfast with a dollop of plain or greek yoghurt

berry crumble

leftovers for breakfast





Ballymaloe Weekend and Myrtle’s Scones


Every year it happens.  School finishes for the summer, and lacking any desire to tackle early morning departures over the holidays, I take the executive decision that summer camp is not for us.  While I fantasize about cafe excursions, museum visits, the odd doubles match, I soon fall down to earth with a bang.  Unstructured days with four boys over a 10 year age gap are filled less with magical moments and more with questions, complaining and bickering about the next activity.

BallymaloeLuckily this year, after a full week of no scheduled school life, all six of us, accompanied by my mother and sister, set off for the natural beauty of Southern Ireland, and a long weekend at Ballymaloe.  And it turned out this was exactly the distraction we all needed.  The boys roamed free, swam outside (despite the lack of sun), we all walked for miles and of course, ate ourselves silly.


As you enter the house you are met with a gloriuous display of blooms from the garden

This was not my first visit to this magical destination (see here), but it was our first trip en masse.  Ballymaloe has been owned by the Allen family for almost 70 years.  Starting as the family home and farm, it was in the 60’s when Myrtle Allen put it on the culinary map, opening up her kitchen and dining room as a restaurant serving dishes whose main ingredients were grown on their land.  Ballymaloe was an early pioneer of the farm-to-table dining movement shared by the likes of Alice Waters at Chez Panisse and more recently Dan Barber at Blue Hill Farm.


The Allen family still run the hotel, holiday cottages, a full working farm, and over the years have grown the business to include the world famous cookery school, an annual literary food festival and numerous condiments and food products for sale.


The walled garden at the main house provide every room and table with beautiful flowers

The walled garden at the main house provide every room and table with beautiful flowers

Sweet peas collected for the breakfast tables

Sweet peas collected for the breakfast tables

Kitchen garden at the cookery school

Kitchen garden at the cookery school


The gardens at both the main house and the cookery school yield some of the most exquisite flowers, fruit and vegetables which we consumed during our visit, and we also managed to inhale vast quantities of their irresistible home churned butter from their Jersey cows on absolutely everything. Some of us woke up at the crack of dawn to bake breads and scones for breakfast in the kitchens with the pastry team, while the other boys tagged along for the morning egg collection, and were impressed to learn that at the main house alone they consume 1200 eggs a week from their hens.

Happy Hens

Happy Hens


Obviously, despite the clean air and exquisite scenery, the main reason for our extended family excursion to East Cork was the food.  I insisted the group try every single item available for consumption in the main house, the cafe, the cookery school and their food truck, including an impromptu take away from Saturdays Pizza’s (from the cookery school’s wood fired ovens and only available on the weekend) which were gobbled up around the swimming pool during a brief moment of glorious sunshine.  And no weekend is complete without a visit to a farmers market.  The market in the local town of Midleton has a wonderful selection of local produce and producers, highlighted by my first ever raw milk flat white, which was nothing short of incredible.

Breakfast bread selection

Breakfast bread selection

Food truck selection

Food truck selection

Coffee cake goals

Coffee cake goals

Raw milk for coffees at Badger and Dodo

Raw milk for coffees at Badger and Dodo

We all had space and time to take in the air, the incredibly green landscape and partake in any activities.  Every member of our group recharged their batteries, and holiday mode officially began over the course of the weekend.  We found our vacation groove, and somehow the calm spirit of Ballymaloe remained with us on our return.  I survived this without summer camp, channeling the spirit of my happy place and vastly increased amounts of coffee.

Baking tin selection to rival mine

Baking tin selection to rival mine

Myrtle Allen’s Scones

They serve these scones every day at breakfast and for tea in the main house.  To this day, they still make Myrtles recipe:

Makes 15 7.5cm (3inch) scones

900g (8 cups) plain white flour

175g (6oz) cold butter

3 free range eggs

pinch of salt

50g (1/4 cup) caster sugar

3 heaped tsp baking powder

450ml (2cups) approx. milk to mix

egg wash (whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt)

Preheat oven to 250C/450F

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large wide bowl.

Cut butter into small pieces and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles crumbs.

Whisk together the eggs and milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured board.  Do not knead, just shape enough to make a round shape.

Roll out to 2.5cm (1inch) thick and cut into 5 cm (2 inch) round “cakes”

Place on a baking sheet, brush with egg wash and bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until risen and nicely browned.




Deconstructed Baba Ghanoush

deconstructed baba ganoush

There is a new distraction in my life.  As of the beginning of June, I am the proud owner of a Big Green Egg.  For those of you who may not be acquainted with this outdoor cooking implement, it is the mother of all barbecues: a ceramic egg shaped cooking device on which you can both grill and smoke, and holds temperature for hours on end.

deconstructed baba ganoush

a whole new world of smoking ribs and brisket

a whole new world of smoking ribs and brisket

Consequently, entertaining levels have soared and our rare (i.e. barely bi-monthly) red meat consumption has dramatically increased to twice weekly.  Many mouths have sampled Neil Rankin’s smoked ribs, Fette Sau brisket and burnt ends, whole salmon wrapped in newspaper, tuna, numerous beer can chickens, and virtually every vegetable grilled while the protein rested.

While much of my “egg” cooking inspiration came from US barbecue kings, it has a heavy dose of Levant influence thanks to our recent 3 day escape to Tel Aviv.  While we were there for a truly magnificent wedding, we managed to find the time to eat ourselves into oblivion.

deconstructed baba ganoush

spices at the Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

deconstructed baba ganoush

More Carmel Market delicacies

deconstructed baba ganoush

While we consumed countless memorable dishes in Tel Aviv, on my return I could not stop thinking about the many aubergines I demolished with various tahinis.  This combination found throughout Middle Eastern cuisine, and happens to be the perfect side or part of a mezze starter for any meal.  And the perfect addition to a summer cook out.

deconstructed baba ganoush

Inspiration from North Abraxas, possibly my favourite restaurant in Tel Aviv


Numerous aubergines have been roasted and many jars of tahini whisked for what I can now tell you is our favourite side to the “egg” feasts over the past few weeks: deconstructed baba ghanoush.

deconstructed baba ganoush

This is not technically a recipe, more of an assembly of ingredients on a plate that can be increased or decreased to suit.  So, use this as a platform for expression in both design and flavour.  Feel free to add different herbs, chopped tomatoes, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, some toasted seeds or grated hard boiled egg.  The choice is yours.

Deconstructed Baba Ganoush (without a recipe)

I make 3 aubergines for 8-10 people, but if you are going for a different look, you could split one in half and put each one on a small plate with the tahini and topping (like they do at North Abraxas in Tel Aviv).

Grill 3 aubergines until their skins are blackened all over and wrinkled, either on a bbq, in a very hot oven, or over the flames of a hob.

Once they are completely charred, slice them in half from the top to the bottom, leaving the top end attached for display.  Place in a colander over a bowl and drain for about 20-30 minutes.  Gently rub off the charred skin of the aubergine, keeping the top in tact.

In a flat serving dish with a lip, pour approximately 1 cup tahini sauce (whisk about 1 cup of tahini paste with a good punch of salt,  juice of  1 or 1.5 lemons, depending on their size and how lemony you like it and slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup very cold water.  Keep whisking until pale and the consistency of double cream).

Cover the tahini sauce with the split aubergines, spreading them out on the plate with the centres meeting in the middle of the dish.  Sprinkle with a small handful of chopped parsley and mint (or corriander if you prefer), a smattering of pomegranate seeds and 1 tsp each of sumac and za’atar. (Or feel free to top with any of the suggestions above).

part of a summer buffet spread

part of a summer buffet spread



Triple Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

triple chocolate hazelnut cookies

It is Monday morning the 20th June, it is dark outside and bucketing down with rain.  Huddled at my computer in three layers, I am wondering if summer will ever arrive.  If, like me you are also in the depths of sun deprivation, these cookies will cheer you up no end.

triple chocolate hazelnut cookies

There have been many, many varieties of chocolate chip cookies made in my kitchen over the years, but like fashion, they change with the season, and accessorised by the preferred ingredient of the moment.

triple chocolate hazelnut cookies

These are the Summer of 2016 cookie.  We have eaten more batches of them while waiting for the warmth to hit than I think any other cookie ever to emerge out of the kitchen.  I have tampered with the cocoa amounts, added and subtracted chocolate, but the best addition was definitely the hazelnuts, which take these from a standard chocolate chip cookie to pure decadence.

triple chocolate hazelnut cookies

The recipe for these was inspired by The Violet Bakery Cookbook, and Claire’s Egg Yolk Chocolate Chip Cookies.  In those months where the days are longer, and meals with friends are more laid back, relaxed and hopefully outside, I like simple desserts that sit well with stone fruits, ice creams and granitas, veering away from cakes and making cookies and bars to accompany fruit and ices.  Replacing some of the flour with cocoa and adding white chocolate chips (and hazelnuts) makes these gooey yet still crisp round the edge cookies more of a dessert than a snack.

triple chocolate hazelnut cookies

What do do with the leftover egg whites?  Make these and pray for sun.

Tripple Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Adapted from Claire Ptak’s, The Violet Bakery Cookbook

Makes approx 36 medium sized cookies

This is your time to get creative.  Use any chocolate chunks of your choice (white, dark or milk).  Just because I like to combine does not mean you have to!  Want to use different nuts?  Pecans or walnuts would also be great, but feel free to leave them out all together if you prefer.  If using nuts, just remember to toast them first.

Note: These cookies need a little time in the freezer before baking, and are therefore great to make in advance

250g (9 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature

200g (1 cup) soft light brown sugar

100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 egg yolks

1 tsp salt

285g (2.5 cups) plain flour

40g (1/4 cup) best cocoa powder

3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

125g (4.5 oz) dark chocolate chopped in to pieces (or dark chocolate chips)

125g (4.5 oz) white chocolate chopped in to pieces (or white chocolate chips)

100g (3.5oz) hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped (or crushed with a mortar and pestle)

Line a small baking tray with parchment (make sure it will fit in your freezer).

Beat butter and sugar in a stand mixer until combined.  You do not want them to be creamy as these are dense cookies and not a light cake.

Add vanilla and egg yolks and mix well.

In another medium sized bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder and whisk together.

Add to the butter mixture and mix.  Add the chocolate chunks and hazelnuts and mix through.

With a small ice cream scoop (or 2 dessert spoons) scoop cookie dough into balls on to the prepared sheet.  As you will not be baking the cookies on this sheet, you do not leave to need space between them (See them smushed together like sardines above).

Cover with cling film and place in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.  If you do not have time, you can cook them straight away (making sure they are spaced out on the cookie sheet), but they will spread more and be a bit less even.

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 170C (325F), take the cookies out of the freezer and place on a couple of large cookie sheets lined with parchment, leaving enough space between them to expand (the will double in size).  Allow 5 minutes out of the freezer for the dough to warm up before popping them in the oven.

Cook for 10-12 minutes depending on their size and allow to cool on the cookie sheets.  They will still be very soft in the middle when you take them out of the oven but they will firm up as they cool.

Note:  You do not need to cook the whole batch in one go.  Once the dough has firmed up in the freezer, you can transfer the uncooked dough balls to a freezer safe bag or container and keep them frozen for upto 2 months.  Just take them out as and when you need them and cook as above.  Instant dessert.  Instant gratification.

triple chocolate hazelnut cookies



Asparagus with Lemon Caper Salsa

asparagus with lemon & caper salsa

It is hard to believe that we are already a month into the short asparagus season and it has taken me until now to post a recipe.  Hard to believe, as despite its well known side effects, I probably eat a bunch a day around this time of year, re-affirming its place as my favourite vegetable.  Asparagus probably holds this highly esteemed position in my life, as I refuse to consume it out of season, and thus find it absolutely necessary to gorge myself on it for the few weeks it hangs around the farmers market.

asparagus with lemon & caper salsaIf you are not a first time visitor to this site, you will also be aware of my utter devotion to fresh herbs and lemon with almost everything, and therefore not particularly surprised to see them here in their full glory as a salsa verde of sorts.  And as we are in the throws of hopeful al-fresco dining, this side dish is the perfect accompaniment to grilled meat or fish, or if you are so daring, picnics.

asparagus with lemon & caper salsa

I am heavily into simplest of simple cooking at the moment, so for this recipe I quickly steamed the asparagus. But if your grill is on, or if you are so inclined, you can blanch them for a minute or so, drain, and then pop them on the bbq (or under the grill, or onto a griddle pan) just before you want to serve with the salsa.  Also, you may want to make some extra salsa, it is delicious on any grilled fish or chicken.  And feel free to mix in any herbs of your choice.  It just so happens that I am using chives and dill with abandon this summer.

asparagus with lemon & caper salsa

The inspiration for the salsa came from April Bloomfield and her delicious lemon caper vinaigrette, where she segments the lemon and keeps them in chunks in the dressing.  I loved this idea and added the herbs to the mix, and hey presto!

Asparagus with Lemon Caper Salsa

1kg asparagus (2 bunches), tough ends trimmed

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 lemon

1 small garlic clove

good pinch of salt

1 handful of chives, dill and parsley (approx 15g of each)

2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp olive oil

Bring a large sautee pan with salted water to the boil.  Add asparagus and cook for 1-3 minutes, depending on their thickness and whether you want to finish them off on the gill.

Drain asparagus and run under cold water.  Drain again.  Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper

Zest the lemon and keep to one side. Segment the lemon (discard any remaining peel first) over a medium bowl to catch the juice.  Add the segments to the bowl with  lemon juice and squeeze the membranes to extract any final liquid.

Crush the garlic and add to the lemon.  Allow to sit and macerate for a few minutes.  This removes the raw garlic taste in the salsa.

Thinly slice the chives and chop the dill and parsley and capers.  You don’t want to mince the herbs, the salsa should have some texture against the smooth asparagus.

Add the herbs and capers to the lemon juice and segments.  Drizzle over the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and gently stir everything together.  You don’t want to break up the lemon segments too much.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste, but remember there is already some on the asparagus.

Arrange the asparagus on a serving plate and arrange the salsa over the stems.  Alternatively, if you want to finish them up under or on the grill, keep the dressing in the fridge for upto an hour or so and dress once the asparagus have been a little charred at the edges.




Building Feasts Cooking Classes

Photo thanks to Sophie Eggleton

Photo thanks to Sophie Eggleton

Big news! I am now offering classes from my home in Central London. You can either book by clicking the below links on the sessions below or through the Classes link on the title page of the blog.  I will continue to send out messages when new classes are added.  I hope to see you for a workshop around my kitchen island soon.

Summer Entertaining

Wednesday 15th June 2016 7.30pm £70.00

The sun is finally out!  Come join me for an evening demonstration where I will show you how to make a selection of sides, salads and a dessert, perfect for a summertime dinner or lunch with friends.  I will include entertaining tips and how to scale up for a crowd, and at the end of the demonstration, we will eat all the dishes of the day.  The session will take place around my kitchen island where there will be plenty of opportunity for chat and questions.  Places are limited to 10 people.  Book early to avoid disappointment!

Four Ways with Fish

Wednesday 13th July 2016 7.30pm £70.00

Looking for some new and fool proof ways to elaborate your fish repertoire?  Join me in this evening demonstration where I will show you four simple ways to cook and prepare different fish dishes.  We will eat all the dishes at the end of the evening.  The session will take place around my kitchen island where there will be plenty of opportunity for chat and questions.  Places are limited to 10 people.

Autumn Classes (dates TBC)

Building the Rosh Hashanah Feast

Teatime Treats

Weeknight Dinners

Please contact me at if you would like to discuss private workshops or sessions.

Herb Butter Fish

herb butter fish

Ever find yourself suffering from midweek meal fatigue?  After a long day, the prospect of making dinner can sometimes induce total meltdown, so today I thought I would share a little gem of inspiration.

herb butter fish

Maybe I just love butter with everything, hence this is my current quick dinner of the moment.  These simply pan fried fish fillets dabbled with a little herby butter transforms what could be a boring dinner, into a totally satisfying meal.

herb butter fish

The butter takes all of about 2.5 minutes to whizz together and can happily sit in your fridge for a week or your freezer for upto 3 months, and is delicious on just about everything.  I made this with halibut fillets, but you can use any white fish or salmon, and I often make it using a whole side of salmon and roasting it for a crowd. (for temperatures and times, see here)

herb butter fish

What did you make this week?

herb butter fish

Herb Butter Fish

This makes more herb butter than you need for the recipe.  The leftover will keep for a week in the fridge or unto 3 months in the freezer.  It is delicious on vegetables, stirred in to grains, on any fish or slathered on toast.

I like to pan fry the fillets in a heavy bottomed pan with a tight fitting lid.

4 x 175g (6oz) firm fish fillets such as hallibut, haddock, cod, seabass, hake or salmon

For the herb butter:
100g butter at room temperature
3 spring onions (scallions) roughly chopped (white and green parts)
1 small clove of garlic
1 small bunch of each parsley, dill and tarragon and thinly sliced chives (you can also use coriander, basil, marjoram)
zest of 1 lemon and the juice of half a lemon (approx 1 tbsp)
salt and pepper

Make the butter:

Put all the herbs, scallions, garlic and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade.
Chop all the herbs together and add the softened butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper and blitz until combined.
Scrape into a bowl ready to smear on the fish.
Alternatively, roll butter mixture into a roll with baking parchment.
Pat the fish fillets dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper.  Smear 1 tsp of the herb butter onto the flesh side of the fish

Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan with a lid on the hob.  When hot add 1 tbsp of the herb butter and once just melted add the fish fillets to the pan, skin side down into the hot butter.

Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes until skin is blistered.  Add 2-3 tbsp of water to the pan and cover with a lid.  Allow the fish to steam for a further 2-3 minutes.  Flip the fish over and cook another 1-2 minutes until cooked through.


Avocado Salad (aka Guacamole)

avocado salad (aka guacamole)

I am not ashamed to be a fully paid up member of the avocado toast club.  It features as one of my meals multiple times a week for either breakfast, lunch or dinner on top notch sourdough or toasted rye bread, with possibly eggs/sliced tomato/drowning in spinach leaves…..I think you get the picture.

avocado salad (aka guacamole)

But mushed avocado featured heavily in my culinary life long before the toast craze.  It was with me through countless late University evenings in Upstate NY alongside beer, chips and salsa and for many years after graduation.  Guacamole has basically remained a principle condiment to most of my comfort meals for as long as I can remember.

avocado salad (aka guacamole)

David Tanis is responsible for taking my guacamole to another level of greatness.  Ranking highly on my food heroes list and with a clear and uncomplicated approach to assembling a meal, this ex Chez Panisse chef and gifted food writer has influenced me almost more than anyone else.  His books and articles have encouraged me to drown out the noise, and forced me to concentrate on the flavours and colours at hand, simplifying each dish to make them sing rather than morphing into elaborate, fussy recipes where flavours are lost.

avocado salad (aka guacamole)

David’s recipe for this avocado salad is hidden in his gem of a book A Platter of Figs and Other Stories (a must if you don’t already own it). He includes it as a condiment for fish tacos (possibly one of the the most popular meals in this house),  but this version of mushed avocado is superior to any other over zealous guacamole around.  Granted it is not technically the original Mexican dip, but I can live with the adaption (and probably why the word guacamole does not feature anywhere in the original recipe).

avocado salad (aka guacamole)

I especially love this version as it minimises all faff.  No peeling tomatoes, chopping onions or numerous ingredients.  David is right.  A good avocado really needs nothing more than a little lime and a good pinch of salt.  And if you really want to jazz it up, throw in some spring onions and my addition, a little hot sauce.


Now that we are in full bbq season swing, ditch the toast, rinse a bunch of beautiful radishes (my favourite accompaniment), mush some ripe avocados and dip away.

avocado salad (aka guacamole)


Adapted very slightly from David Tanis A Platter of Figs and Other Stories

I always like to have a few extra limes on hand just in case it needs a little extra.  You can always use the leftovers the cocktail you will be making to sip while you dip

4-5 ripe avocados

2-3 limes (depending on their juiciness)

2 spring onions, thinly sliced white and green parts (optional but I love them)

a good pinch of salt

a few dashes of your favourite hot sauce (optional for you but necessary for me)

Halve the avocados and spoon out the soft flesh into a bowl

Roll the limes (make sure they are not straight of the fridge) to help extract the juice, and cut in half.

Squeeze the juice of 2 limes to start (you can always add more at the end) and sprinkle over the salt and sliced spring onions.

Mush all together with a wooden spoon.  This does not need to be smooth.  I love the texture of a few larger avocado chunks on my tortilla chip, hiding in my fish taco, or dangling off the end of a radish.

Sprinkle over a few drops of hot sauce if you are using and taste.  Add more salt or lime if necessary.

Dip away!





Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

choc chip banana muffins

I do not consider myself the competitive type.  Tending to steer clear of tournaments, races and high stake games, I prefer to muddle along at my own pace trying to enjoy the activity of the moment.  As the lone female in my very male dominated household, I also feel it is my duty to harness this quality, and thus counterbalance some of the testosterone and endless desire to win that rages under our roof.

But my attitude somehow shifted a little last year when my oldest started secondary school and decided to take his own lunch.  Suddenly, I was faced with a driving compulsion to guarantee his midday selection surpassed that of all his counterparts.  Faced with the challenge of his very simple palate (in both taste and colour), and the grim reality that he is content with merely a cheese sandwich and a packet of crisps, I focused on my baking skills to ensure his peers were regularly reminded of exactly how lucky he is.

choc chip banana muffins

So, ignoring any question of my sanity, and under the premise of “recipe testing”, I pack off my son every morning (who incidentally travels across London on the underground) with an extra tupperware of baked treats.  Brownies, cookies, muffins, home made granola bars and the like to share with his friends. Hoping, of course, that I will get a little more than a



“OK” as a begrudging reply to my daily nudge along the lines of

“How were your treats today?”

But, when these chocolate chip banana muffins (of which there is always an emergency stash in the freezer) are the treat of the day, I usually get a more enthusiastic response of

“Good.  Everyone liked them”

and sometimes even finished with a

“Thanks” (Sometimes.  He is 12 after all)

choc chip banana muffins


Funny thing is, anyone who spent any time in our house after 1986 (when the original recipe was coaxed out of our neighbour in Philadelphia) will probably remember Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins as a regular and much loved feature on our kitchen counter.

choc chip banana muffins

So, here they are.  My version.  With buttermilk, cinnamon and a little more banana.  And if you can get your hands on them, peanut butter chips take these muffins to a whole new level.

choc chip banana muffins

This recipe is an excellent way to use up those last over ripe bananas lurking in your fruit bowl and can easily be made as a loaf for tea.  I often double it to make muffins and loaves to stockpile for a rainy afternoon (or my sons lunchbox).

choc chip banana muffins

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Makes 12 muffins, or 2 loaf cakes

3 large very ripe bananas (approx 300g in weight when peeled)

125g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature (plus more for greasing)

220g (1 cup) caster sugar

175g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

80g (1/3 cup buttermilk)

200g (approx 1 cup) chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners or grease and line two loaf tins with parchment

Peel the bananas and mush them with a fork.  I am a bit lazy so there are sometimes some chunks in the muffins.  Dont stress too much about the perfect mushing.

Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).

Meanwhile, combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.

Add the eggs to the butter and sugar scraping down between each one, and then add the vanilla extract.

Mix the banana into the wet ingredients and add the buttermilk.

Pour in the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir through the chocolate chips.

Divide mixture into muffin tins (I do this with a large ice cream scoop), or pour into loaf tin.

Bake muffins for 20 minutes and allow to cool on a rack for a few minutes before removing from the tin to cool completely.

Loaf cakes should take 40 minutes to bake (but check after 35 minutes).

choc chip banana muffins


Creamy Garlic Aioli

confit garlic

If, like me, you have made an unusually large quantity of meringues or macaroons recently and find you have a plethora of leftover egg yolks in your fridge, I have a solution.

confit garlic

This garlic aioli is the perfect use for at least a few egg yolks and is delicious on everything from fish and chicken to artichokes, or my favourite, sweet potato fries.

This recipe calls for a clove of garlic, but if you have any confit garlic to hand it would be delicious in place of the raw garlic.  Or use the oil from the confit garlic instead of the olive oil for a more mellow flavour.

confit garlic

As we are only half way through Passover, I am going to have a lot more yolks as the week goes on, and I would love some inspiration on how best to use them up, so please send over any suggestions.

Garlic Aioli

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking


1 small garlic clove

pinch of salt

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

1/2 cup olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Crush the garlic finely with the salt.  I like to do this with the flat end of a large knife so that it forms a paste.

Add the crushed garlic to the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl and whisk by hand until thick.  You can also do this in a stand mixer.

Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously until the mixture thickens.

Finally squeeze in the lemon juice.




Chocolate Cloud Cake (Passover friendly)

chocolate cloud cake I am a sucker for late night television.  I know I should be reading or sleeping.  But often, when the house is quiet and finally mine at the end of the day, I find myself uncontrollably drawn into classic re-runs, police dramas or obscure cooking shows.  And every so often, this pass-time (that many claim will rot my brain) pays off.

chocolate cloud cakeCase in point – Chocolate Cloud Cake.  Many years ago, during a late night television marathon, I stumbled across a program (apparently filmed sometime in the mid 1980’s) all about chocolate.  Immediately drawn away from a Homicide episode, and not deterred by the age of the film, I was intrigued by a show dedicated completely to my preferred food group.

Hosted by someone I did not recognise sporting a mega perm and huge glasses, the guest for this particular episode was an editor of what appeared to be a well regarded chocolate magazine.  Despite a complete obliviousness to the identity of either the host, editor or the magazine, I watched on.

chocolate cloud cake

The show, while itself was not particularly memorable, will be imprinted forever in my mind as the source for this cake.  You see, I am constantly searching for recipes that are naturally dairy free.  Hence my excitement as while watching the segment, it appeared the cake contained no butter and could be a welcome addition to my collection.  The original ingredients list, quantities and method were literally scribbled on the back of a piece of paper straight from the television.  A recipe copied down from a show whose name remains a mystery, and hosts, guests and a publication I have never seen again.

Was it all a dream?  Maybe, but there is a decadent chocolate cake at the end which is a hit at my table time and time again.  To this day I have no idea if I accurately transcribed the recipe, or if when it was presented on the program if they demonstrated it with all the ingredients in tact, but this version works.

chocolate cloud cake

I also adapt the original every year for Passover, replacing the flour with ground almonds.  This cake is akin to a set chocolate mousse and makes a perfectly rich and decadent end to any feast. Which makes it a double Passover bonus, as only a thin slice of this is required to satiate even the most serious chocoholic, and a 22cm cake feeds a lot of people.

For all of you celebrating, feast well.  For those of you who do not celebrate, this is a wonderful cake either with flour or ground almonds.  And is not only Passover friendly, but allergy friendly too which is almost more useful.

chocolate cloud cake

Chocolate Cloud Cake

To give the moist, mousse like consistency, this cake cooks in a bain-marie (water bath). Make sure you have a roasting tin large enough to take the springform tin.

This needs nothing more than a little icing sugar or cocoa sprinkled on top and is delicious served with strawberries or roast spiced rhubarb

220g (1 cup) sugar

180ml (3/4 cup) freshly brewed coffee

7oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

60g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder

3 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

80g (1/3 cup) ground almonds / almond flour

6 egg whites

1/4 tsp salt

squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180C (350F)

Grease and line a 22cm (9 inch) springform tin with parchment paper or liner and wrap the outside of the base and sides with foil to insulate.  Fill a roasting tin with an inch of water  and put into preheated oven to warm.  (I also like to put an old tea towel on the bottom of the roasting tin to keep the cake still while cooking.)

Place the sugar in a saucepan and add the freshly brewed coffee. Bring to the boil, turn down heat to low and add chopped chocolate. Once melted, turn off heat an stir.

Add cocoa, salt, egg yolks and vanilla to the melted chocolate. Mix well and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. After resting add ground almonds.

Meanwhile, while the chocolate is cooling, whisk egg whites with the pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon until soft peaks form.

Stir in 1/4 of the egg whites into the cooled chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Once combined, add chocolate mixture to the remaining egg whites.  Fold carefully making sure not to knock out too much air from the batter.  Make sure there are no whites left showing.

Pour into pan and place carefully into the bain marie. Top up with recently boiled water if the water does not come half way up the sides of the springform tim.  Cook for 35 minutes.

Remove the cake from the bain-marie and remove the foil from the outside of the tin. Cool completely in tin before removing onto a serving plate.

Before serving dust with icing sugar or cocoa.

chocolate cloud cake



Cape Town Moments

cape town moments

It is not every day that we are invited to be house guests.  But we have some pretty special friends who have somewhat temporarily relocated to Cape Town, and graciously welcomed all six of us into their home.  For a whole week.

We ate ourselves silly, surrounded by the magnificent natural beauty of the area.  And here are the highlights (in no particular order):

  1. The views in Cape Town are spectacular.  Surrounded by mountains and two oceans, the natural beauty is unlike any other city I know.  And staying up on a hill in Camps Bay, we were spoiled by sunsets, ocean vistas and Lions Head outside the kitchen window.

2. Chefs Warehouse. Don’t be put off by the need to queue.  This casual dining space turned out the best food we ate in Cape Town.  Exquisitely executed, perfectly flavoured, yet not fussy. And the most delicious lemon posset.

3. Halleluja. I knew I would love it here the second we walked through the door.  The walls are covered in flamingo wallpaper and with only a few dishes on the menu (and no substitutions), we ordered one of everything, and then one more again.  The highlight were the margheritas with tamarind, orange, yuzu and a grating of dark chocolate and wins my award for my favourite cocktail ever.

4. Boulders Beach. While I would never profess to be the worlds greatest animal lover, I do have a soft spot for penguins, and seeing them roaming around on the beach was a highlight.  Not to be missed if you are visiting the area.

5. The Old Biscuit Mill hosts a buzzing Saturday market with food and crafts, and is as much a social scene as a purchasing opportunity.

6. Rosetta Roastery was my first coffee in Cape Town and the best.  I don’t think I need to say any more! I stumbled across it while visiting the Woodstock Exchange, an incredible converted warehouse with retail and office space and a fabulous vibe.

7. Truth Coffee Steampunk Cafe  is probably the most exciting cafe I have ever set foot into.  Filled with old machines, pipework and metres of intricate metal panels, breakfast (and of course the coffee) is also pretty marvellous.  And the best coffee art on a hot chocolate for the littlest one…….

8. I cannot visit a city without at least a few hours agonising over how I will transport back the new collection of homewares.  After a fair amount of damage in the shop at Chef Warehouse, I followed the instructions of my host and popped into Blink and Lim, where I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide about Wonki Ware and wooden spoons with my family patiently in tow.

9. Babylonstoren ticks both my design and food boxes.  Set in the wine country about an hour outside of Cape Town, the 17th Century Dutch farm and hotel prides itself on its exquisite gardens and the ultimate farm to table restaurant and cafe. While we dined at both, I absolutely loved the greenhouse and the opportunity to make my own tea blend from the tea chest where I selected my own herbs and flowers (from their gardens) for an infusion. I am desperate to stay there on our next visit. I can only imagine breakfast may trump everything else.

10. The Braai.  While we ate some truly memorable restaurant meals, our best times were together, on the terrace with a view over the Atlantic and the most incredible bbq.  Set into the chimney stack on the outside of the house, the perfectly designed wood fired stove and the braai provided the ultimate Cape Town experience.

Thank you for a superb week.  Can’t wait for our next visit.

cape town momentscape town momentscape town momentscape town momentscape town momentscape town momentscape town momentscape town momentscape town momentscape town momentscape town momentscape town moments



Gravadlax with Dill and Mustard Sauce


I am not quite sure when my love/obsession with all things Nordic began, but its influence is visible through virtually all of my interiors work and present in most of the food I cook.

I first learned to make gravadlax a number of years ago with Signe Johansen, Norwegian food anthropologist, writer and chef (who incidentally also introduced me to the joys of baking with spelt).  And I have been making a variation of this cured salmon for basically any gathering ever since.  The cure can be spiked/flavoured in numerous ways, and I vary mine depending on whether I am serving it as part of a brunch spread, a lunch smorgasbord or as an hors d’oeuvre.  It is also perfect for a party as it needs to sit in the fridge for 48 hours in the herby/spice mixture before slicing which means there is minimal last minute faff.


So it only seemed appropriate for gravadlax with dill and mustard sauce to appear as a central dish in my Skandi Brunch Demo that I was recently asked to host, showcasing Kikki-K’s new homeware range.  As my hands were somewhat tied up that morning, I want to thank Sophie Eggleton, Victoria Metaxas (aka Aurora Stories), Vikki Packer (aka Style and Minimalism) and Emma Parlons (aka Life of Yablon) for taking wonderful snaps of the demo, and allowing me to feature them here today.

photo @sophieeggleton

photo @sophieeggleton

photo @sophieeggleton

photo @sophieeggleton

photo @styleminimalism

photo @styleminimalism


I like to serve this either on thinly sliced rye bread (my favourite is from Snaps and Rye on Goldourne Road), or on Peter’s Yard Crackers.


Gravadlax with Dill and Mustard Sauce

This recipe is adapted from Scandilicious by Signe Johansen and The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann (another of my Scandi food gurus)

One of the secrets of good gravadalx is really fresh salmon.  If you are in any doubt, freeze your salmon for 24 hours, and then defrost before curing.

(See note at the end of the recipe for making this for a smaller crowd)

1.5kg side of salmon
1.5 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds or juniper berries
100g granulated sugar
75g maldon salt
2-3 tbsp Aquavit or Gin (optional)
100g dill + 6 extra dill sprigs

30g dill
3 tbsp sunflower oil
3 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
3 tbsp demarara sugar
3 tbsp dijon mustard
pinch of salt

Remove any pin bones and I like to trim the edges of the fillet so that its edges are tidy (but this is not completely necessary!)
Crush the peppercorns and coriander seeds (or juniper berries) in a mortar and pestle, and mix with the salt and sugar.
Finely chop the dill.
Cut the fillet into two equal pieces and lay them skin side down on a large piece of cling film.
Cover the skinless flesh with chopped dill and cover one piece with the spice mixture.  Drizzle over booze if using and lay 3 additional sprigs of dill across the spices.  Cover with the other piece of fish so that the dill/spice mixture is in the middle and the skin is on the outside.
Wrap tightly in two layers of cling film and put in a tray or dish to catch any brine.  Lay another tray or plate on top and weigh down with bottles or tins.
Leave to cure for 48 hours in the fridge, turning every 12 hours or so (if you remember!)

When ready to serve, blitz all the ingredients for the sauce together in a blender or food processor and whizz until smooth.

To serve, unwrap the salmon, and wipe off the herby/spice mixture with kitchen towel.  Chop the remaining dill sprigs and lightly press onto the salmon.
Slice diagonally from the tail to the centre, and serve on buttered rye or sourdough and drizzled with dill and mustard sauce (and if like me you are radish crazy, sprinkle a few on top too).

Note: If you want to make this for a smaller crowd, use a 750g fillet of salmon, and use slightly less of the cure.  Lay the chopped dill over the flesh side of the salmon and top with the salt/sugar/spice mixture.  Wrap tightly in a double layer of cling film and cure in the fridge for 48 hours in a roasting pan and under a weight.  When ready, rub off the cure, slice and serve.

photo @styleminimalism

photo @styleminimalism


Lemon Olive Oil Polenta Cake (and a few baking tips)

lemon olive oil polenta cakeWithout a doubt, the culinary questions I am most frequently asked are baking related.  It seems that while we all love eating them, some folks shy away from the opportunity to bake for fear of failure.  We have all had them: collapsing, exploding, burnt messes in the oven. But there are a few simple, yet not totally obvious (if you have not been told) baking rules that can help alleviate stress and aid success.

Today, I apologise if you are an experienced and talented baker.  If you do not need any baking tips, skip to the end of this post where you will find a recipe for Lemon Olive Oil Polenta Cake.  It is a winner and dairy free to boot. However, if you are looking for a few simple pointers, please read on.

In my opinion, the secret to baking is understanding (a) a few key (basic) scientific formulas, (b) the importance of following the instructions and (c) being organised.

mise en place in action

mise en place in action

Mise en Place (which literally means putting in place) is a term regularly referred to in most professional kitchens re: setting up and organising a workspace, ingredients and tools.  It is about the most transferable “cheffy” skill for the home cook.  Think mindfulness in the kitchen.  Taking the time to read the recipe, ensuring you have all the correct implements and enough of all the ingredients measured out to hand will produce a calm baker and avoid what I call “mid mix panic”lemonpolenta2

In short, here is a list of the most important things to remember when embarking on a baking session.  These tips should ensure success and the joy of a sweet smelling kitchen.

  1. This point may sounds moronically basic, but when it comes to baking it is supremely important: Read the recipe from beginning to end before you do anything else.  The order that ingredients are written is always the order that they are prepared or added.  The method (and the order which the ingredients are added) can vary from recipe to recipe.  Understanding what needs to be incorporated at every stage at the start eliminates any surprise half way through mixing, and most importantly keeps the baker calm.
  2. Before taking out a single ingredient, turn on the oven. Turning the oven on as you start to gather your ingredients ensures that it is hot when everything is mixed together and ready to go in.  When you bake, the moment the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients (ie.raising agents) are mixed, the chemical reaction of rising begins.  If you oven is not hot, and your cake is sitting on the side waiting for the oven to heat up, it will not rise fully as the action started in the cool kitchen rather than the hot oven.
  3. Ensuring that you have the right size pan at the start eliminates any last minute panic once ingredients are mixed.  It also means you can scale a recipe up or down at the beginning to suit if you don’t have quite the right size or shape.  This is also why recipes tell you to grease or line it at the very start.  You don’t want to be messing around with parchment paper and softening butter while your finished cake is ready to be poured into the pan.  Remember the raising agents!
  4. Measure out all your ingredients before you start mixing.  You will know immediately if you are missing anything (and can therefore adjust accordingly if possible).  Also, you are less likely to forget to add an ingredient if they are all there and in the forefront of your memory.  Plus it makes the actual mixing time very quick and efficient as you are not scurrying around the kitchen cursing and making a mess.
  5. Follow the instructions verbatim.  They are there to guide and ensure success at the end.  If a recipe tells you to cream the butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes, don’t do it for less.  The pale and fluffy start to the cake will help the eggs incorporate fully and keep the finished product light and fluffy.  Wonder why yours sometimes is flat and dense?  Maybe you did not whisk enough at the begining? Just a thought.  It makes a difference.  The same rule applies to the order the ingredients are added and the duration of mixing at each stage (see above).  Please don’t overmix the flour into the wet ingredients. The gluten in the flour will develop too much and it will make your cake tough.  Everyone tells you.  There is a reason.  It is science after all!

lemon olive oil polenta cake

The only other tip I would add is try not to multitask while baking (think back to the mindfulness analogy).  Being organised, present and clear about the task ahead is really half of the battle, and really can make the whole experience quite relaxing.  Plus, taking a magnigficent sugary treat to the table is immensely satisfying, so quash your inner baking demons and turn on the oven!

lemon olive oil polenta cake

I would love to know if any of these pointers helped.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this cake.  I have been making it all winter with blood oranges, which are sadly at the end of their season.  That will not deter me from making this regularly for the rest of the year, as it works brilliantly with lemons too.

lemon olive oil polenta cake


Lemon Olive Oil Polenta Cake

This cake works just as well with blood oranges, or regular oranges.  Just use the equivalent amount of zest and juice.

2 tbsp lemon zest (from 2 large unwaxed and preferably organic lemons)
290g (1 1/3 cups) caster sugar
180ml (3/4 cup) olive oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
125ml (1/2 cup) juice from zested lemons
75g (1/2 cup) fine polenta
75g ground almonds (3/4 cup)
115g (1 cup) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

75g caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (approx 60ml)

Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
Grease a 23cm (9 inch) springform pan and line the bottom with baking parchment
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the zest and the sugar and rub between your finger tips.  This will release the oils from the zest and make a huge difference to the flavour of the cake.
Add the eggs and olive oil and beat with paddle attachment for 3-5 minutes until pale and thick.
Meanwhile, combine the rest of the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
When the sugar/eggs/oil are light and fluffy, add the vanilla extract and lemon juice and quickly mix.  The batter will seem to deflate but do not worry
Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Pour batter into prepared springform tin and bake for 40 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

While the cake is in the oven, make the glaze.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and lemon juice.  Cook on a low-med flame until sugar has dissolved and the glaze has reduced slightly.  Remove from the heat.

When the cake is cooked, take out of the oven and onto a cooling rack.  Run a knife around the edge to release the cake and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Prick the cake all over with a skewer and loosen the outside edge of the springform tin.  Paint on the glaze with a pastry brush until the top is glistening.  (If the glaze has set while the cake is cooking, just pop it onto a low heat again for a few minutes to thin out)

Allow cake to cool for another 30 minutes or so and remove from the tin onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

lemon olive oil polenta cake


Sauteed Green Beans

sauteed green beans

This week I am not sharing nostalgic moments, stories of family adventures or lists of incomplete tasks.  Just good simple food, with flavours that sing.  I am often asked what I serve on the side.  And nine times out of ten this is what I make.sauteed green beans

I cannot believe that anyone will ever tire of the lemon/garlic combo which makes just about every vegetable come to life.  I use it on anything green lurking in the fridge – brocollini, brussel sprouts, spinach, kale.  Just sautee the veg of choice, refresh under cold water and toss in a hot pan with a dash of olive oil, golden garlic and finish off with a few scrapes of lemon zest.

Serve with fish, chicken, lentils, or eggs.  And if you still have a few cloves of confit garlic in a jar use them instead of the fresh garlic.

sauteed green beans

Sautéed Green Beans

Using lemon zest in stead of the juice for the flavour stops the beans discolouring.

400g fine green beans, trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Add the beans and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes and drain.

Pour the olive oil into a large sauté pan / frying pan on medium heat and add the sliced garlic.
When the garlic is just starting to colour, add the green beans and turn up the heat to high.  Season with salt and pepper and keep the beans moving around the pan to stop the garlic burning.  When the beans are well coated and start to colour, turn off the heat and stir through the grated lemon zest.

Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

Note:  The beans can be blanched in advance and warmed through with the oil just before serving.
The beans also taste good at room temperature if made earlier.

sauteed green beans

Soft Chocolate Drop Cookies

soft chocolate drop cookies

Cunning parenting tricks I learned from my mother #324: A constant supply of baked goods at home keeps your kids off the street.

Growing up, my mother’s artful ploy to keep an eye on us was executed with the help of her baking prowess.  Our house was renowned for its limitless supply of home made treats,  enticing our friends into our warm kitchen and (unbeknownst to us) under her careful watch.

soft chocolate drop cookies

I seem to be emulating this model. With my oldest in the throes of (pre)adolescence and the facing 20 straight years of teenage trials and tribulations, I am looking for all the parenting help I can get.  Four boys between the age of almost 12 and almost 18 months, I have to admit, can generate a fair amount of maternal angst, noise and chaos.  To relieve my nervous energy, I furiously bake.  Luckily, I now have a constant supply of consumers for said baked goods which eliminates any concerns about excess scraps hanging around the kitchen. It also gives me ample opportunity to eavesdrop. You know what they say about every cloud?

soft chocolate drop cookies

Half term holiday started this week with an abundance of leftover soured cream in the fridge (over purchased when making my current favourite icing).  These chocolate drop cookies were a regular feature growing up, and a perfect use for those dairy dregs lurking around.  They are like little chocolatey pillows – the cookie version of a moist chocolate birthday cake from your childhood, and were one of my mothers winning tricks to lure my friends around our kitchen table.  They were particularly popular in the summer months when frozen on either side of a scoop of ice cream to make the perfect sandwich.

soft chocolate drop cookies

Soft chocolate drop cookies are equally high on the popularity list here.  They take no time at all to make and require no pre-bake rest (incidentally,  this is very irritating when I just want throw something together before a crowd walks through the door).

soft chocolate drop cookies

I need to add, that I have absolutely no idea how the recipe landed in our family collection.  I remember sitting in my mother’s kitchen carefully transcribing the ingredients into my first ever recipe notebook, but at the time I was not particularly fussed about the recipe’s origin.  She thinks it may have come from a parent when she was a student teacher in the early 70’s (“but don’t quote me”). So, if anyone recognises this (even with my slight alterations), please let me know!

soft chocolate drop cookies

Soft Chocolate Drop Cookies

170g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour

60g (1/2 cup) cocoa

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

170g (6 oz) soft unsalted butter

220g (1 cup) caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

115g (1/2 cup) soured cream

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and line 2 cookie sheets with slipmats or parchment paper

Combine all dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl and whist together to combine

In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes)

Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl in between.  Add vanilla and soured cream and beat again.  Don’t worry if the batter appears split at this stage it will come back together with the dry ingredients.

Add dry ingredients slowly (otherwise your kitchen will be filled with a cloud of cocoa) and combine.  Once it is all incorporated give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure there are no white streaks.

Drop the batter onto the cookie sheets with an old fashioned ice cream scoop with a spring. Or you can use 2 spoons.  This makes around 24 cookies depending on how generous you are with your scoops.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  They will be soft but no longer wet on the top.  Allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

soft chocolate drop cookies


soft chocolate drop cookies

PS this is my ice cream scoop of choice for all cookies and muffins. They are becoming harder to find so snap them up while you can!




Confit Garlic

garlic confit

It is always important to have a few tricks up your sleeve.  Especially in the kitchen.  And confit garlic is up there as one of my most useful secret ingredients.  It elevates even the most mundane of dishes, and I feel somewhat uneasy when there is none on hand.

Just having these soft golden garlic cloves in a jar at the back of the fridge, transforms a sad desk lunch into gourmet heaven when spread on toast topped with a little goats cheese or avocado.  But I use them on almost everything.  They make vegetables sing, pasta come to life, and confit garlic is the hidden ingredient in the best mashed potatoes.  Not to mention in vinaigrette, sauces and dips.

And the bonus?  Once all the garlic cloves have been devoured,  the remaining garlic oil can be drizzled on anything.

garlic confit

In case you don’t already have enough inspiration, here are my top 10 tips for using confit garlic:

  1. This confit garlic toast beats any garlic bread hands down
  2. David Tanis’s tricks for creamy dairy free mashed potatoes are even better with confit garlic
  3. Mash 1 confit garlic clove and some of the oil with some vinegar of your choice for a fast vinaigrette
  4. Rub a few cloves under the skin of a chicken before roasting
  5. Stir through a few crushed cloves with steamed green beans or broccolini for added flavour
  6. Make an instant pasta sauce by warming through some halved cherry tomatoes and torn basil with a few confit garlic cloves and top with parmesan.
  7. Add to soups and stews for added depth.
  8. Use in humus or guacamole, or stirred through some labeneh/ricotta/greek yoghurt as a perfect side topped with fresh herbs.
  9. Toss with roasted vegetables (I cannot stop making the roast cauliflower in the Gjelina cookbook with confit garlic)
  10. Simply mashed with butter and spread on sourdough.

I would love to hear your favourite uses for confit garlic, so please drop me a line or leave a comment below and let me know.

garlic confit

A few notes on this recipe:

Scale it up or down accordingly – it really depends on the size of your pan or pot. The garlic must be completely submerged but the oil so use these quantities as a guide.

The minute you google confit garlic, you will see warnings of botulism (which can be caused by spores growing on low acid foods like garlic).  To avoid any concerns, keep the garlic in a sealed jar in the fridge once cooked, and remove the cloves with a clean spoon when you want to use them.  It lasts for a couple of weeks in the fridge.  Just make sure the jar is clean and the cloves are submerged.

Many people peel their garlic cloves.  Please feel free to do so, but I do not.  I smash the heads apart but keep the skins on (usually broken a little by the smashing anyway).

Feel free to play with the flavours.  Add rosemary, a few dried chillies, or some pink peppercorns.

I bake mine in a covered pot in the oven, but you can also slowly cook the garlic on the hob. I prefer the oven as it keeps it at a low, constant temperature ensuring the garlic does not burn.

Confit Garlic

Adapted from Gjelina by Travis Lett

4 heads of garlic, cloves separated and paper rubbed off

2 bay leaves

8-10 thyme sprigs

500ml (2 cups) extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 170C (325F)

Place all the garlic cloves in a 22cm (8 1/2 inch) pot with a tight fitting lid

Add the aromatics and cover with oil.  The garlic cloves need to be completely submerged, so the oil quantity is really a guide.

Bake for 45 -60 minutes until the garlic cloves are lightly golden and soft.

Transfer cloves and oil to a clean jar and refrigerate once cooled.

garlic confit







Roast Chicken with Lemon and Fennel

chicken with fennel & lemon

I always dread the first few weeks of January.  Not because I pine for lazy holiday mornings, or because we are officially in the depths of winter, but because I am bombarded on all side with people’s sanctimonious resolutions for how they are changing/improving their lives in the New Year.

I don’t make resolutions.  Mainly because I have the willpower of a flea.  And because I do not operate well under pressure.  Maybe if I lived in the southern hemisphere where the sun is shining, I would be marginally more inclined to incorporate green juice into my daily diet, but really, during our short grey days, all I really want to do is bake and eat comfort food.

Roast chicken (virtually any way) is definitely on my top 10 comfort food list.  It is the first meal I make when we return from holiday, features at most Friday night dinners (as well as other weeknight meals), and in these dreary winter months, warms my bones and my heart.

IMG_4314chicken with fennel & lemon

Rarely a week passes without chicken thighs making an appearance at our table, and I have made a version of these roast chicken thighs with lemon and fennel more times than I care to count.  I sometimes change up the herbs, or onion variety, omit the fennel or add more veg for a complete traybake meal.

Having waxed lyrical about how I NEVER make a New Years resolution, I did try my hand at something new this month.  I gave my first cookery demonstration.  Stress Free Suppers featured these chicken thighs with fennel and lemon, as well as herbed spelt, sauteed green beans, and finishing with pear and chocolate crumble (pictures below).  Thankfully, my extremely talented and trusted cheerleader Emma (check her out on Instagram @lifeofyablon) was there to document the evening, knowing that in her absence I would never manage a single snap.

thankfully @lifeofyablon was there to document the evening


It was a great success, and while everyone was tucking into their post demonstration dinner, we discussed further classes and their topics.  As we emerge out of the winter dolldrums, I would like to offer a monthly class (in central London).  If you are interested in joining a session, please send me an email or leave a comment at the end with your details and I will keep you posted.

chicken with fennel & lemon

Roast Chicken with Fennel and Lemon

It is best to marinade this chicken the day before, but if you don’t have time, an hour is fine.

Serves 6

6-8 banana shallots (approx 400g)
3 medium fennel (approx 1kg)
1 head of garlic, cloves separated but skin on
2 unwaxed lemons (preferably organic)
3-4 thyme sprigs
4 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
3-4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
250ml white wine
12 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in

Halve the shallots and peel off the outer skin. If they are on the larger side, cut each half in half again.

Quarter each of the fennel keeping the fonds in tact, and remove the central core.  Cut each quarter into half again, or into thirds if the fennel are large.

Separate the garlic head, keeping the the skin on the cloves and place all the veg in a ziplock bag or in a non reactive dish/bowl.

Halve each lemon and squeeze the juice over the veg.  Cut each half in two and add all 8 pieces to the marinade.

Strip the thyme and rosemary sprigs and add to the marinade with the bay leaves.  Drizzle over the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and pour in the wine.

Finally add the chicken thighs, seal the bag and smoosh everything around so that the chicken is covered with the marinade.  Place flat in a baking dish, and put in the fridge to marinate overnight, turning it over every so often.

When you are ready to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge.  It will need an hour to come up to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 200C, with a rack in the middle of the oven.

Tip the chicken and the marinade into a shallow sided roasting tin and arrange the thighs skin side up.  If they all do not fit in one layer, cook on two smaller trays.  Drizzle with a little more olive oil.

When the oven is hot and the chicken is at room temp, pop in the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes until the chicken is deeply browned and cooked through.

This can be served straight out the roasting tin, or on a warmed serving plate, decorated with the roasted veggies and juices from the pan.


chicken with fennel and lemon

US Road Trip Top 10

Key West Sunset

We have just returned from an almost 3 week adventure in the USA.  Starting with 10 days in New York where we met the Australian contingent of our family for a reunion/celebration, we then ventured to the Southern Most Point of the country for guaranteed winter sun in Key West, ending our trip in the bright lights of Miami.

Here is my top 10 (in no particular order):

  1. Ninth St Espresso (NYC)- don’t be put off by the menu or milk options – I loved choosing exactly how much frothed milk went into possibly the best cup of coffee I have had in my distant memory.
  2.  Tenement Museum (NYC) – the new Whitney was sensational, the Guggenheim reminded me of the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Neue Gallery still has the best cafe, but the Tenement Museum was a fabulously interactive experience and really illustrated the life of the building, the neighbourhood and its residents.  A must visit.
  3. Black Seed Bagels (NYC) – owned by the Mile End Deli team, these are worth breaking any diet for.  Especially the salt and the everything bagels.  Stuffed with white fish salad.
  4. ABC Kitchen (NYC)- No visit to New York is complete without a meal at ABC Kitchen. Needless to say I was especially relieved to find the sundae with salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts & popcorn, whipped cream, chocolate sauce was still on the menu.
  5. Sushi Seki (NYC) – sitting at the bar, eating the most sublime omakase, may have been my favourite evening of the adventure.
  6. Petite Shell Chocolate Babka (NYC) – we tasted a lot of babka in a relatively short period of time, and this won hands down.  Thank you to my almost twin for ordering and delivering it to us.  You so know the way to my heart!
  7. Bad Boy Burrito (Key West) – I am a sucker for Mexican food, especially as it is virtually impossible to find in London.  Hence when Stateside, I try to gorge myself with as much as can be tolerated by my traveling companions.
  8. Louie’s Backyard (Key West) – classic American fair with a stupendous terrace and view.  A must if you are in the neighbourhood.
  9. Key West Sunsets – a perfectly mesmerising end to our days
  10. The Raleigh Miami Beach – I am true devotee of early/mid 20th Century design, and the lobby, terrace and pool at the Raleigh makes me want to move in forever.  It is an oasis of calm and class in the midst of the surrounding bright lights and glitz.

Here are some other highlights in visual form:

A visual must - the Guggenehim Museum

A visual must – the Guggenehim Museum

Blue skies and Frank Stella at the Whitney

Blue skies and Frank Stella at the Whitney

When in the Lower East Side

When in the Lower East Side

The beauty of the Palm

The beauty of the Palm

Rare glimpse of the babe and his first barefoot walk on grass

Rare glimpse of the babe and his first barefoot walk on grass

Festive Key West

Festive Key West

I just could not resist

I just could not resist

Roast Pumpkin & Kale + Thanksgiving Menu

roasted pumpkin & kale

If you have been to my house any time in the past few months, likelihood is, pumpkin was featured somewhere in the meal.  My children are about ready to revolt.  But I cannot stop eating its golden sweet flesh.  Roasted with red onions and a little allspice is possibly my favourite Autumn 2015 side dish, and as a bonus it leaves the house reeking of festive spirit.

roasted pumpkin & kale

This side dish is our addition to this year’s Thanksgiving feast.  Ideal, as I can make it a few hours before the guests arrive, and leave it at room temperature, while I get on with the rest of the meal.  Of course, if you are more organised than me, you can make it and serve it warm, but those precious hours before dinner here is more than a little frantic, so I make it ahead to avoid any additional panic before the guests walk through the door.

roasted pumpkin & kale

I also wanted to share our Thanksgiving menu. This is a very collaborative meal, with my mother, sister, aunts and cousins all making their signature dishes.  As the meal is happening here, I am making the bird, gravy, stuffing, one cranberry sauce, this roasted pumpkin and kale and Ille Flottante for a crowd.  Everyone else is bringing the rest of the meal or I might have a nervous breakdown!  Most of the recipes are linked where available.

I would love to hear what you make for your festive feasts.  Please leave a comment at the end as I am sure they will inspire me and others in their future menu planning.

To all who are celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving!

roasted pumpkin & kale

Thanksgiving Menu 2015

Starters to nibble on with drinks:


Gravadlax with Dill and Mustard Sauce

Auntie Dianne’s Chopped Liver

Crudités and Crackers


Nigellas Turkey (cooked upside down with timings as written in Feast.  I stuff it with herbs, an orange and an onion)

Nigella’s Allspice Gravy with these helpful tips from Bon Appetit

Rowley Leigh Cranberry Sauce

Raw Cranberry and Orange Relish

Joy of Cooking Stuffing with Challah, Sage, Chestnuts, Apples and Prunes

Roasted Pumpkin with Kale (below)

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips

Brussel Sprouts with Capers and Walnuts

Red Cabbage Slaw


David Leibovitz Chocolate Pecan Pie

Ille Flottante for a crowd

Apple and Cranberry Crumble

And over the weekend I will have these hanging around for snacks and tea:

Cranberry Bars

Pear, Cranberry and Pecan Cake

Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake

roasted pumpkin & kale

Roasted Pumpkin with Kale

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

When not serving this on Thanksgiving, I like to serve it with tahini sauce a la Ottolenghi


1/2 Blue Hubbard / Jarrahdale pumpkin are my favourite (or 1 med butternut squash)

2 med red onions cut into 6 – 8 wedges each depending on their size

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground allspice

salt and pepper

300g Kale / Cavolo Nero

50g marcona almonds

a handful of parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F)

Peel and cut the pumpkin into wedges and arrange on a shallow sided baking sheet with the onions

Drizzle a good glug of olive oil over the top, and mix with allspice, salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-45 minutes, turning half way through until they are caramelised.

While the pumpkin and onions are roasting, strip the leaves from the tough centre ribs of the kale.  Blanch the leaves in boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes until they are cooked through but still bright green.

Drain and squeeze out all the excess water and arrange the leaves on the bottom of a shallow dish, drizzled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  You may want to tear them up slightly.

When the pumpkin is cooked through, remove from the oven and allow to cool slighty.  Arrange over the steamed kale and sprinkle over the marcona almonds and parsley.

This will sit happily at room temperature for a few hours while you faff with the rest of the meal.




Pear Cranberry and Pecan Cake


Tucked in among the leaves of my first cookery notebook, there is a scribbled on 3×5 file card with the ingredients for an apple cake. I originally salvaged the card thinking it was the famous family cake, but despite countless attempts over the years I am yet to master the recipe. This is possibly because the scratchings on the card consist only of the ingredients list and lacks any method, cooking time or temperature. As a result, every time I make what I now refer to as the cake with limited information, it flops.  Edges taste great, but is the centre is goo or the top is burned.

pear, cranberry & pecan cake

Continuous baking failures do not sit well with me. I like to keep trying until I get a recipe to work. It is no secret that I am both mildly compulsive and an optimist who believes that in the end triumph prevails, but making this apple cake, without success, more times than I can remember challenges my inner beliefs.

Recently, the culmination of all my failed attempts paid off.  A different pan, a lot less sugar, different oil, and a much longer cooking time than I ever anticipated, and finally a winner. No gloopy mess in the middle, and the desired result of a not too pretty, but immensely moist and comforting apple cake of my dreams.

pear, cranberry & pecan cakepear, cranberry & pecan cake

In my wave of excitement I embarked on a new wave of experimentation, searching for the perfect festive cake to sit on my countertop for a few days.  You see, it is Thanksgiving next week, and the 4th Thursday in November is a BIG DEAL in our family.  Bigger this year, as for the first time ever some of the American contingent are coming to celebrate with us here in London.  And thus there will be more people than usual hanging around the kitchen island looking for a little something sweet to accompany their tea.

pear, cranberry & pecan cake


So I wanted to turn this (finally) perfect apple cake (which is now a staple on my Rosh Hashanah menu) into something a little more festive for cranberry season.  Thanks to a plethora of pears, and my zealous over purchase of the first cranberries to hit the shelves at my local greengrocer, further experiments commenced.  Apple quantities reduced, cranberries and pecans added, sugar quantity tinkered with again.  And here we have the result.

pear, cranberry & pecan cake

For some it may not meet the beautiful cake criteria. But it is succulent, deliciously tart, and so packed with fruit that even if you eat 3 slices at once, all guilt is assuaged as it could count as one of your 5 a day.  Sitting on a beautiful plate, covered with a dome, it will last for 3-5 days on your counter (if not devoured first).  Or if you feel the need to beautify it for tea or dessert, dollop on some maple whipped cream, and a sprinkling of cinnamon or chopped nuts and hey presto! A beauty.

pear, cranberry & pecan cake

Pear Cranberry and Pecan Cake

Note:  If you want to make the original apple version, use 350g (3 cups, 4-5 apples), peeled and sliced and leave out the cranberries.  Nuts are optional, but I prefer walnuts with the apples.

I like oil based fruit cakes as they let the flavour of the fruit shine through. As a general rule I like to use olive oil instead of sunflower oil, so when tinkering with this recipe I replaced the flavourless oil with olive oil.  Feel free to use sunflower oil instead of olive oil.

300ml (1.25 cups) olive oil plus more for greasing

440g (2 cups) caster sugar

300g (2.5 cups / approx 4 med pears) peeled, cored and sliced

1 tbsp lemon juice (basically juice from half a lemon)

150g (approx 1.5 cups) fresh cranberries, halved or roughly chopped

100g (1 cup) pecan halves, roughly chopped

3 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

350g (3 cups) plain flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

Grease and line an angel food pan or tube pan with a hole in the middle.  (This quantity also makes two 1lb loaf cakes).

Combine olive oil and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium for about 5 minutes.  In the meantime, prep the rest of the ingredients.

Peel and slice the pears and cover with lemon juice to stop them browning. Halve the cranberries and chop the nuts.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, whisk together and set aside.

Add the eggs one at a time to the oil and sugar, and mix for another minute or two until silky smooth.

Add vanilla, followed by dry ingredients.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold in fruit and nuts with a wooden spoon.

Pour batter into cake tin and cook in the lower third of the oven for 1hr 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  This is always a little hard to tell with a cake containing such a high quantity of fruit as the fruit sticks to the skewer even if the cake is cooked.  If you are making this in loaf tins cook for 50-60 minutes.

Maple Whipped Cream (optional topping)

300ml (1.25 cups) whipping cream

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon for sprinkling on top of the cream

Whip the cream until it just holds soft peaks.  Add the maple syrup and vanilla and mix through.

Dollop onto the top of cake and sprinkle with cinnamon, or just serve the cream on the side.

pear, cranberry & pecan cake



Cauliflower Rice and my Favourite New Gadget

cauliflower rice

I have a new toy.  It is quite possibly the best kitchen gadget to enter my home since my Kitchen Aid, which is now almost 15 years old.  Let me add, I am not short of culinary tools.  But my master slicer has seriously changed my life.

Having walked straight passed these green and white contraptions on countless occasions in Israeli markets, it finally caught my attention a few months ago on Instagram.  And within moments the Amazon purchase was made, and the little brown box arrived the following morning.  Thus began the love affair.

I use the master slicer just about every day, for chopped salads (the perfect side for morning scrambled eggs), salsas, soffritto for sauce and soups, herbs……..the list goes on.


I can hear your heckling – how is it different to a magimix, vitamix or minichopper? (All by the way have dedicated spaces on my worktop).  This has three blades (not the two that are usually found in a magimix or blender), which produces chopped veggies not minced, mushed or pureed.  And best of all, it is manual, not electric, so you have much more control over the size of the desired ingredients, and no need for nearby plug soccets.

cauliflower ricecauliflower rice

At approximately the same time as the master slicer entered my life, I started to make cauliflower rice.  I know, I am slow on the uptake of this latest gluten free, no carb, grain alternative to just about every meal.  But to be honest, I suffered through a number of bad experiences when this rice alternative hit the streets, most memorably in one eatery (that shall remain nameless), that prides itself on all things healthy.  My cauliflower rice arrived soggy, raw, and completely lacked seasoning.  It was as though boiling water had been poured over the chopped cruciferous veg, not quite drained, dumped on a plate with no salt, pepper, herbs or anything containing any taste at all.  And I was sworn off this “healthy” alternative for good.

cauliflower rice

Until, reading through Anna Jones book for the umpteenth time, I stumbled upon her recipe for spiced cauliflower rice.  And concluded, that if it was good enough for her, I should at least try to make it as an alternative to my regular family offerings.

We eat a lot of grains here that I make in bulk and keep in the fridge as sides for quick weekday meals.  This rice has been added as a most popular option.  It is perfect along side grilled, fish, meat veggies, stews or with a fried egg on top. It has all the deep almost caramelised flavours of roasted cauliflower in half the time and taking up no oven space.

cauliflower ricecauliflower rice

And it takes about 15 seconds to chop the ingredients in the master slicer.  Throw in your quartered onion, crank handle maybe 5-10 times to give perfect chopped onions.  While they are sauteeing, chuck in your cauliflower florets into the bowl (no need to rinse), turn the handle maybe 10 times, and once the onion is browned add the “rice” it to the pan.  Could not be easier.  Barely any clean up.  No watery eyes from the onions.  No big machines to dismantle.  I mean it really is a sinch.  And you will fall in love with the machine almost as much as you will fall in love with the slightly burnished, almost guilt free cauliflower.

cauliflower rice

Just a side note.  This is not a sponsored post.  I know that I may sound like an infomercial about the master slicer.  But I do absolutely love it, and every so often I will share a gadget or tool that I find indispensable in the kitchen at that given moment.  But the opinions are my own and all items are purchased by me.

Cauliflower Rice

Inspired by Anna Jones and Yotam Ottolenghi who encouraged me to revisit the cauliflower as an underloved vegetable.

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets, core removed

salt and pepper

handful of chopped herbs such as parsley, dill, corriander and/or mint

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over a medium heat

Chop the onion (or slice into half moons or grate on the large holes of a box grater) and add to the pan with the olive oil

Sautee on medium heat until nicely browned and fragrant 10-15 minutes

In the meantime, core the cauliflower and cut into florets.  Chop until it is the size of grains of rice or grate on the large holes of a box grater

Just as the onions begin to brown add the chopped garlic, and cook making sure it does not stick and burn.

Add the chopped cauliflower to the pan and season with salt and pepper.  Turn over in the pan with the onions, and leave to cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure that it does not stick to the pan.  You want it to brown and caramelise in places, but not burn!

When it is golden and tender, remove from the heat and sprinkle with roughly chopped herbs.  I like to add a squeeze of lemon before serving.  (But I like to add a squeeze of lemon to most dishes before serving!)

It is delicious hot, or at room temperature.  This is very adaptable so feel free to use spices or herbs to flavour this dish that compliment anything else you  are serving with it.

cauliflower rice







Lentil and Vegetable Soup

lentil soup

It has been a month of excess here.  Jewish holidays, ridiculous amounts of entertaining and a brief Italian interlude for a friend’s spectacular birthday celebration, puts me on an official indulgent meal break.

Filled with good intentions, I started last week with a clean slate, and a large pot of lentil soup. This is my perfect autumn lunch.  While this steaming bowl of comfort is the perfect transition into a new season, it is substantial enough for a meal with a slice of crusty bread or a salad, yet still high on the clean eating spectrum.

lentil soup

This soup is an amalgamation of just about every lentil soup recipe I have ever made.  It is endlessly flexible.  Please feel free to tinker with the herbs or vegetables depending on your preference on any given day.  I usually add spinach towards the end of cooking, but sometimes replace it with cavolo nero or chard, or leave it out completely depending on what (if any) is on hand.

However if and when you adapt this recipe, please do not leave out the squeeze of lemon just before serving.  It is an essential flavour borrowed from Persian red lentil soup recipes.  While the creamy Persian version is completely different both in texture and flavour to this one, the squirt of lemon once the soup is ladled into the bowl brings all the elements together and just makes the lentils sing.

lentil soup

So, with this soup I am waving goodbye to celebrations for the next few weeks, and embracing lower temperatures, beautiful leaves and jackets.  Roll on winter and all the glories of soups, stews and of course Thanksgiving.


Lentil and Vegetable Soup

2-3 tbsp olive oil

2 onions

2 carrots

2 celery sticks

1 leek

1 fennel bulb

4 sprigs thyme

1 sprig rosemary

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 fresh bay leaf

1/2 tsp chili flakes

300g puy lentils, rinsed

1litre (4 cups) vegetable stock

salt and pepper

150g baby spinach leaves

To serve:

Chopped fresh parsley

squeeze of lemon juice


Chop onions, carrots, celery, leek and fennel

Heat oil in a soup pan and add the chopped vegetables and the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and sweat on a medium heat for 7-10 minutes.

Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook for another 2 minutes

Add the rinsed lentils and stir to combine with vegetables

Cover with the stock and bring to the boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer and partially cover pot.

Cook for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are cooked.

A few minutes before the end of cooking, add the spinach and allow it to wilt into the soup.

Some people like this soup as is, but I like to blitz it just a little to give a mixture of texture.  Either remove 1/4 of the soup, blend and pour back into the pot. Or with a soup wand you can blitz the soup 3 or 4 times just to blend a small amount (keeping the soup chunky) without the extra washing up.

Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

lentil soup






Sheet Pan Pavolva with Figs and Berries

sheet pan pavlova with figs and berries

I am often faced with a number of kitchen quandaries.  Most frequently I find myself in ‘the serving piece predicament’.  My cupboards are dangerously packed to the hilt with bowls and platters in virtually every shape, size and colour. Yet I never have quite the right one when I need it.  Anyone else baffled by the same situation?

I have wasted an inordinate amount of time contemplating which platter/bowl/plate would be best to serve a dish. The result leaves me either in a state of panic trying to throw together the rest of the meal, or irritated that I should have have spent my time on any of the 57 other more important items on my list.  So, to alleviate the problem, I now cook as many dishes as possible in the pieces that I intend to serve them.  Hence no mental space wasted.

sheet pan pavlova with figs and berries

Case in point: sheet pan pavlova.  I should probably mention that I have an unadulterated love of pavlova. My godmother makes the best ‘pav’ I know.  Her meringue is high, soft and pillowy.  It melts in your mouth, has a slightly crisp edge and is adorned with a healthy amount of cream and fruit.

In the early 70’s she lived next door to an Australian who taught Domestic Science (yes, that really did exist) and gave my godmother this pavlova recipe, along with some nuggets of cooking genius.  As I am an extremely devoted goddaughter, she has kindly passed them on.  Along with the recipe.

sheet pan pavlova with figs and berries

Pavlova is the ultimate party piece.  But to make it for a crowd, you need a large circular serving implement, and sometimes mine is not available.  Plus, I have no more cupboard space. Cue trusty sheet pan – my kitchen saviour.  It now has a beautiful patina thanks to overuse, but when covered with baking parchment, becomes dinner party chic.

The best part about this recipe is that it is very easy to scale up and down depending on the size of your gathering.  The formula is simple: for every egg white, you use 2 tbsp caster sugar.  So you can make it for as many people or as few as you like.  The only variation I have made from the original recipe is that I cut the amount of double cream in half and use Greek yogurt instead.  I love the tang against the sweetness of the fruit and the meringue base, and makes it lighter (not to be confused with less calorific).

sheet pan pavlova with figs and berries

As the figs and blackberries are glorious this year, I used them to adorn my pavlova last week as the main dessert for lunch on Rosh Hashanah.  To keep it festive, I sprinkled some honey cake crumbs that I toasted in the oven for some extra texture and crunch.  But some may consider this gesture a little excessive. Please use any berries of choice when they are in season on your pavlova, and passion fruit in the gloomy winter months always works a treat.

sheet pan pavlova with figs and berries

Sheet Pan Pavlova with Figs and Berries

Note: You can also make this with coconut whipped cream for a dairy free option.

This recipe serves 10-12 generously.  To serve a smaller crowd, scale the recipe down with the formula above of 1 egg white = 2 tbsp caster sugar.

It is very important when making meringue that the egg whites are at room temperature and you whip them in a very clean bowl.


8 egg whites

pinch of salt

260g (16tbsp) caster sugar

2 tsp white vinegar (either malt or white wine vinegar)

2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)

2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream and Topping:

250ml (1 cup) whipping cream

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g (1 cup) Greek yogurt

6-7 figs, cut into quarters (or sixth depending on their size)

approximately 1 small punnet of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries

Preheat oven to 140C (275F).

Line a 37x25x2.5cm (14.5x10x1inch) sheet pan with parchment paper (leaving it overhanging the edges to allow for the meringue to grow in the oven).

Beat the egg whites with a small pinch of salt until they form soft peaks.

Slowly add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time until fully incorporated and you have a shiny meringue.

Add the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla and beat until combined.

Spread the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until lightly browned with a slightly crispy top.  It should be soft but not wobble when touched.

Allow to cool.  (This can be made a few hours in advance, but assemble as close as you can to eating.  I have been known to make the meringue the night before and leave it covered until I need it).


Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Add the Greek yogurt and whip together until just combined.  If you have overwhipped your cream (ahem, I often do) then just stir the yogurt through and it will loosen the mixture.

Lightly smear the cream across the cooled meringue and scatter with figs and berries or your topping of choice.

sheet pan pavlova with figs and berries




Honey Cake

honey cake

Something happens to me around festivals and holidays.  I become fixated on (a) seasonal baked good(s) and transform my kitchen into a gift making factory.  Often I am not even sure who will be the lucky recipients, yet I churn out batches of sweet treats to give away in a frenzied, almost possessed state.

Perhaps the most commonly requested recipe at this time of year is for honey cake.  Traditionally served on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), which falls next week, honey is present in many of the festival dishes to symbolise a sweet new year.  After trying numerous honey cake recipes with varying degrees of success, I stumbled across Marcy Goldman’s and never looked back.  Her cake is wonderfully spiced, sweet and extremely moist, and will convert any person who has vowed never ever to eat another piece of dry, tasteless honey cake again.

honey cake

Marcy Goldman is the queen of festive treats, famous not only for her Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, but also for her Caramel Mazo Crunch and Lawsuit Buttermilk Muffins.  And I made her honey cake recipe, verbatim, for years.  Until my neighbour brought me her mother’s honey cake.  And it was not only moist, it was dark and sticky and unlike any other honey cake I had ever tasted.  I shamelessly begged for the recipe, which said mother was not too keen to share (under the auspices of being a “family secret”).

But I eventually wore her down, and when she finally handed over her carefully transcribed sheet of paper (now firmly glued into a notebook), the secret was revealed.  It was not in fact a honey cake at all.  It was a golden syrup cake.  And a complete game changer.  I began to tinker.  I felt like a bit of a fraud making a honey cake without any actually in the batter, but replacing half the honey in Marcy’s version with golden syrup made an already perfect cake even better.

So, for all of you who have asked, don your aprons. You have one week to get baking and serve this cake at your Rosh Hashanah feast, or just enjoy with a cup of coffee.

Please share your traditional honey cake recipes I would love to try them!

honey cake


As gifts, I make these as loaf cakes, but when I serve it as one of my desserts or for tea over the holiday I make it in a 25cm (9 1/2-10 inch) bundt tin, tube pan or angel food pan.  This recipe makes either three 20x11cm (8×4 1/2 inch) loaves or one large cake.

To decorate I either sprinkle the top with sliced almonds (although I often curse loudly about 10 minutes after they go in the oven when I realise the almonds are still on the counter and not in fact on top of the cakes), or I make a simple honey glaze (recipe below).  This version of Marcy’s recipe uses a chocolate glaze which also works surprisingly brilliantly.

honey cake

Honey Cake

Adapted from Marcy Goldman’s Majestic and Moist New Year’s Honey Cake in A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (or anywhere on the internet!)

440g (3 1/2 cups) plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground allspice

250 ml ( 1 cup) vegetable oil

175g (1/2 cup) honey

175g (1/2 cup) golden syrup

300g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar

100g (1/2 cup) soft brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

180ml (3/4 cup) orange juice

250ml (1 cup) freshly brewed coffee (or strong tea)



either a handful of slivered almonds


Honey Glaze

60g (1/2 cup) icing sugar, sifted

1 tbsp honey

1-3 tsp hot water

Preheat oven to 180C (350F)

Grease and line loaf tins or angel food pan with baking parchment.  If using a bundt or tube pan make sure it is very well greased and dusted with flour.

In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.

In another bowl mix together remaining ingredients, adding coffee last

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients, mixing with a strong whisk or wooden spoon and combine until all ingredients are fully incorporated.  (You can try to mix it in an electric mixer, but it is a very wet batter and mine goes everywhere!)

Pour into the prepared pans and sprinkle the top with almonds if using

Put cake(s) on a baking sheet in the oven and bake loaf tins for 40-45 minutes, or bundt/angel cakes for 55-65 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently pressed.  As the batter is liquidy it may take extra time, depending on your oven.

Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

While the cake is cooling, if you want to glaze the cake, mix together the icing sugar, honey and 1-3 tsp hot water, depending on how thin you want it.

When the cake is still warm, trickle, spoon or brush the glaze over the cake.

honey cake






Roasted Banana and Coconut Ice Cream

roasted banana and coconut ice cream

It is hard to believe, but baby no.4 (lovingly known around here as G4) is 1 next week.  Shocking how time can simultaneously pass so slowly and quickly.

In this whirlwind year, I have, however, managed to accumulate a fair number of cookbooks while spending relatively little time cooking.  It was almost as though reading about all the food I wanted to cook somehow made up for the fact that my kitchen was basically in a state of neglect.

Anna Jones book, A Modern Way to Eat, was my hands down favourite of the lot. Thanks to Anna’s beautiful layout and unfussy, mouth watering dishes, I have cooked my way through most of the book, introducing the team at home to new tastes and flavours without much reproach.  (This in and of itself is a major achievement).  The recipes in the book contain no meat or fish, and have many vegan options, but in no way would I consider this in the category of the vegetarian cookbooks of days gone by. If you are indeed a bona-fide carnivore or pescatarian, many of the ideas in the book make wonderful sides as well as complete meatless meals without nasty replacement food. (And her new book, A Modern Way to Cook is equally brilliant)

roasted banana and coconut ice cream

Don’t think this book lacks desserts.  There are many. But this ice cream in my opinion wins.  It has no fussy custard base but still creamy, rich, packed with flavour.  It also happens to be dairy free, egg free, gluten free, refined sugar free, moderately healthy, and simple to make.

roasted banana and coconut ice cream

And it is a firm favourite.  I have been making it all summer and it is so delicious that I ate the entire first batch straight out of the ice cream maker before it hit the freezer.  So I have increased the portions by half again (for those who read my blog regularly, you may see a trend……….)

roasted banana and coconut ice cream

I am aware that it is the end of the summer.  And I am now sharing an ice cream recipe.  But you should not reserve this only for sunshine feasts.  Eat it all year round.  Especially as comfort food during those gloomy winter months scooped onto a warm brownie.  I know that is what I will be doing.

roasted banana and coconut ice cream

Roasted Banana and Coconut Ice Cream

very slightly adapted from Anna Jones A Modern Way to Eat

Note: I added cacao nibs to this recipe.  Because I am a chocoholic.  And caco nibs continue the healthy(ish)/virtuous theme.  But feel free to use regular chocolate chips.  They too work a dream.

4 large / 5 medium bananas

2-3 tbsp honey

1.5 cans coconut milk (600ml)

1-2 tsp vanilla extract (depending on how much you love vanilla.  I use 2tsp)

1 tbsp lemon juice (approx 1/2 lemon)

pinch of salt

40g (1/4c) cacao nibs

Preheat oven to 180C/350F

Line a baking tray with parchment

Slice the bananas in 1-2cm (1/2-3/4inch) pieces and toss with the honey on the baking sheet

Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring once during baking until the bananas are browned, cooked through and the honey caramel is bubbling

Scrape the bananas and any caramel syrup from the baking dish into a blender or food processor with the coconut milk, vanilla, lemon, salt and blitz together until smoothe

Chill the mixture in the fridge until cool (about 4 hours or overnight)

Freeze in your ice cream maker.  Towards the end of the churn add the cacao nibs and fold them through the mixture.

If you do not have an ice cream maker or attachment, mix the cacao nibs into the cooled custard and pour into a shallow baking tray and freeze, stirring with a spatula every 20 minutes or so until frozen.

For a more mousse like texture, eat straight out of the ice cream maker, otherwise transfer into a container and freeze until completely frozen.

roasted banana and coconut ice cream






Alice Medrich Best Cocoa Brownies With a Twist

Alice Medrich Best Cocoa BrowniesIt is my strong belief that one can never have too many brownie recipes under their belt.  There are so many options at our digital fingertips that I could easily test one brownie recipe a day for a year and not run out of permutations.

But I try hard to impose some restraint.  And limit myself to one favourite brownie recipe per year that I make to death, until I find what I think is a more suitable alternative to the mood in the house (as everyone cries out for a change).  I know this makes me fickle.  And appear unfaithful to those baking gurus who I adore.  But I do return to old classics time and again for comfort and moments of sentimentality. (They occur more often than you might imagine)

Alice Medrich Best Cocoa Brownies

Alice Medrich entered my life a couple of years ago.  I will freely admit that I was quite late in discovering her baking genius, but I would like to thank her for single handedly improving my baking prowess.  She has taught me many things, including the fact that the dull side of tin foil is the non stick side.  How on earth did I not know this before?????  And how to line a square tin with foil without tearing it by turning the tin upside down, covering the outside with foil to get the shape and then dropping the foil shape it into the tin the right way round.  I told you.  Genius.

Alice Medrich Best Cocoa BrowniesAlice Medrich Best Cocoa Brownies

And this brownie recipe has officially been my go-to now for over a year. Which makes it a  complete winner.  There are others that I make occasionally, but these are complete old school, made with only cocoa (not melted chocolate) giving them a distinct fudginess, without the richness or denisty of melted dark chocolate, a shiny crust and they stay moist for days in a tin (if you ration them).

Alice Medrich Best Cocoa BrowniesIMG_3564

Another great advantage of these (and almost every other brownie recipe) is that they freeze beautifully.  So I always make double. Today’s recipe has my increased quantities, not with Alice’s original amounts, so feel free to halve it if you are out of freezer space.

Alice Medrich Best Cocoa BrowniesAlice Medrich Best Cocoa Brownies

I have also added chocolate chips to the mixture, because that is what Ina does in her Outrageous Brownies, which are both outrageous and outstanding, but definitely reserved for special occasions.  And I cook these on a crushed hazelnut base, just like Rose Carrarini (of Rose Bakery) does with her rich and oozing Hazelnut Brownies which are decadent beyond all belief and definitely on my classics list.

Alice Medrich Best Cocoa Brownies

Feel free to make them without the hazelnuts (if you are in a mad rush) or the chocolate chips a la Alice, but I personally love the additions making this brownie recipe a keeper.

Alice Medrich Best Cocoa BrowniesAlice Medrich Best Cocoa Brownies

Loosely adapted from Seriously Bitter Sweet

Note:  I cook these in what the Americans call a quarter sheet pan, or what we call a Swiss Roll tin.  Basically it is quite a shallow rectangular tin (40cm x 27cm x 3cm / 15.5 x 10.5 x 1 inch).  If you halve the recipe, Alice makes hers in a 20cm (8 inch) square baking pan.

200g raw hazelnuts

280g (10oz) unsalted butter

500g (2 1/2 cups) granulated sugar

160g (1 1/2 scups) best cocoa powder (I use Green & Blacks or Vahlrona)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 large eggs

130g (1 cup) all purpose flour

280g (10oz) semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 170C (325F).

Turn your baking tin upside down, and cover the base and all four sides with foil (dull/non stick side facing down).  Lift off and turn over tin and drop in foil liner with dull side facing up.

Tip whole hazelnuts into your prepared tin and toast for 5-10 minutes until fragrant.

Once slightly cooled, rub as much of the skin off of the nuts and roughly chop. (I do this in a mortar and pestle as I like them to be quite chunky and not uniform in size).

Spread the nuts over the base of the prepared tin.

Melt the butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.

Once melted, add sugar, cocoa and salt and stir from time to time until the mixture is smooth and hot enough that if you test it with your finger you will want to remove it pretty quickly.

Remove bowl from the heat and allow to cool briefly until the mixture is only warm not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a spatula / wooden spoon.

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each one until the batter is shiny and well blended.

Fold in the flour until fully incorporated and then beat another 50-60 times.

Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into the tin over the chopped hazelnuts.

Bake for 20 minutes.  You do not want to overbake these.  If you test them with a toothpick, it should emerge slightly moist with batter.

Cool completely in the pan, lift up the ends of the foil liner and place on a cutting board.

Cut into squares or rectangles and devour.

Alice Medrich Best Cocoa BrowniesEnjoy!




Green Goddess Dip

green goddessCocktail hour at my grandmother’s was sacrosanct.  At the stroke of 6pm, she would stop, pour herself an ice cold vodka straight up and enjoy the moment. This ritual occurred in any time zone, every day. In the summer, as the sun began to set, we would gather on the screened porch of her New England colonial house on the hill, surrounded by woods and green, all of us with a drink of some description and a selection of nibbles.


cocktail hour on the porch with Uncle Paul 1980

cocktail hour on the porch with Uncle Paul 1980

To me, these moments of my childhood are the personification of summer, and this year in particular, nostalgia is running high and significantly influencing my cooking. My neglected bibles have regained their position on the accessible book shelves, and the old classic sauces, condiments and sides reminiscent of Connecticut in August have pride of place at any meal.

Case in point, this updated version of Green Goddess Dressing has been eaten on almost everything here for weeks.  I first made it as a dip for crudites, reminiscent of those summer evenings.  Used the leftovers as the sauce for BBQ fish kebabs, and then made a slightly thinned version as salad dressing. I have also found members of my family drizzling it on frittata, sandwiches, the list goes on……..


For those who may not have the slightest clue what I am talking about, Green Goddess Dressing was a Californian staple of 1970’s and 80’s cuisine.  Created in the 1920’s by the Chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco as a tribute to actor George Arliss and his play The Green Goddess, the dressing had a mayonnaise base, packed with herbs and a few anchovies. Almost like a blended, creamy, salsa verde.


Now, while I may have loved this as a child (I had no idea about the anchovies), I lost my love for mayonnaise post adolescence (with the exception of egg salad sandwiches) and swiftly replaced it with an unadulterated love of soured cream.  So, with an an unstoppable desire to feature this sauce at virtually every meal, I had to do a little research and make a few changes to retain the smooth texture without the mayo.

green goddess dip

Alice Waters recipe in Chez Panisse Vegetables (one of my treasured bibles) trades mayonnaise for avocado and olive oil, which works well, but was not quite creamy enough for me.  After a bit of tinkering and a little soured cream I achieved what I considered to be a perfect dip/dressing.  Personally I prefer it a little thicker as a dip.  As a dressing it drowns those delicate salad leaves that I love at this time of year, but it works extremely well with sturdier endive (chicory) or gem lettuce.


So, go ahead. Make it.  And visualise your inner goddess wearing a kaftan, martini in hand, dipping a caulilfower floret in this luxurious dip at a dinner party circa 1981.

Green Goddess Dip

Feel free to play around with the herbs depending on what you are serving.  Tarragon and chevril feature in the original recipe for the dressing, but some others used corriander or mint.  Tailor it to your taste!

If you want to use this as a dressing rather than a dip or a sauce, add 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil when blending the ingredients.

6 sprigs parsley

6 sprigs basil

10 chive stems

6 sprigs dill

30g (1 cup) watercress

1 clove garlic

2 spring onions

2 anchovy fillets

1/2 ripe avocado

60ml (1/4 cup) soured cream

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp white wine/cider vinegar

salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree.  I prefer to use a blender as I find it chops the herbs more finely.  It does not have any affect on the taste – it is merely a visual bias.

Taste and add salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.

green goddess dip








Smoked Salmon, Goats Cheese & Herb Frittata

smoked salmon frittataThis was a big week.  I finally turned 40 on Monday.  I say finally, as I have actually been celebrating for about 7 weeks now and have almost reached 40 celebrations for my 40 years of age.  Almost.  For anyone that knows me, this is a strange phenomenon as I have not celebrated since my 21st.  It seems that this year I am making up for lost time.

smoked salmon frittata

To start the big day, I invited a group of friends over for breakfast.  After all, breakfast is my favourite meal, and what better way to start my new decade (and the week) with some good cold brew and sugary carbs.  For those who proclaim to no longer eat them, amongst a plethora of summer fruits, there was granola with (yes) goats milk yoghurt and berries.

smoked salmon frittata

smoked salmon frittata

smoked salmon frittata

I also made one of my favourite brunch dishes, originally inspired by Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa).  For the birthday breakfast crowd, I decided to make three times the usual, in case EVERYONE ate a whole portion, not accounting for the numerous other options on the table.

But I made a classic error.  I used a different goats cheese.  I always make it with the same soft French creamy goats cheese.  While rushing around at the eleventh hour for my ingredients, my usual goats cheese was nowhere to be found and I was forced to default to an alternative (which turned out to be almost feta-ey in its saltiness).

smoked salmon frittata

Most normal people, when cooking for a crowd on their 40th birthday, would not only be organised in advance, but would stick to known ingredients. Alas, not me. I experimented.  And the end result was very salty.  I neglected to taste the goats cheese before I added it, and, when combined with the smoked salmon (exacerbated by tripling the recipe), the frittata (while looked good) was not up to my usual standard.

smoked salmon frittataThankfully all was not lost. There was tonnes of other food.  And it turns out that everyone was happy to indulge in sweet carbs after all.

Here is the recipe for the frittata that I have slightly adapted over the years.  I make it all the time, and it is fantastic for a (smallish) crowd, either hot straight out of the oven, or at room temperature as part of a weekend lunch/brunch or summer dinner.  Just taste the salmon and goats cheese before adding them to the egg mixture so that you can decide how liberal you want to be with the salt.

smoked salmon frittata

Smoked Salmon Goats Cheese and Herb Frittata

Adapted from Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa Family Style

This serves 8-10 as part of a brunch spread (or summer picnic).  It is equally good served with a green salad for dinner (where it may only stretch to 6).  It makes a great packed lunch the next day, so make the full amount and embrace the leftovers.

1 medium onion (approx 150g/5oz) diced

1 tbsp olive oil

12 large eggs

180ml (3/4 cup) milk (preferably whole, definitely not skimmed)

2 spring onions (scallions) thinly sliced white and green parts

8 sprigs of dill finely chopped

5 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped

10 sprigs of chives finely chopped

225g (1/2lb) smoked salmon, chopped

100g (3.5oz) soft goats cheese, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 180C (350F)

Heat olive oil in a 26cm (10 inch) sautee pan and cook onions gently for about 10 minutes until translucent and fragrant.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, add the milk, chopped spring onions and herbs and combine.

Add the chopped smoked salmon to the eggs and mix.

Pour the mixture over the onions, and sprinkle, the crumbled goats cheese, and put in the centre of the oven.

Bake for about 50 minutes until it is puffed and golden, and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean and hot.

I scoop it straight out of the dish, but if you are brave you can turn it out on to a platter and slice into pie pieces.

Note:  if you want to serve it turned out of the pan at room temperature, make sure there is enough oil when you sautee the onions to line the base and sides so that you can easily remove the frittata once cooked.

Also feel free to change up the herb selection.  Tarragon also works well, as does basil, although use both a bit more sparingly than the ones listed above.

smoked salmon frittata






Chicago Bound

chicago bound

In a few hours time I will be en route to Chicago.  Alone.   For a whole four days.

I don’t frequently get the opportunity to travel any more without at least a few companions, but my old College room mate is getting married.  The invitation prompted a generous offer from my Better Half and the Grandparents to stay behind and mind the team, allowing me to swan off, carefree, 5,000 miles away to catch up with old friends.

While the outfits for the weekend’s festivities (dress code: #preppychic) have consumed a fair amount of mental space, the anticipation of “alone” time has sent me into a cooking frenzy.

Let me be clear, my husband is extremely capable of feeding and making sure the boys stay somewhat clear of danger.  They adore palling around town together while I am away, eating all the things I forbid to pass their lips,  while watching mildly inappropriate movies and staying up late.

Despite their weekend plans, I have organised a rigorous schedule with barely a moment to breathe (or fight).  But, just in case they change their mind, or invitations for meals are reneged at the last minute, there is food for an army in the fridge and freezer.

So, (as a little indication of my insanity) here is some of what’s on hand for the boys should they get hungry:

4 loaves of Ballymaloe brown bread

1 batch granola

Salmon Burger mixture (ready to be cooked tomorrow night)

Nigella’s Mother’s Praised Chicken (for dinner on friday night.  Comfort food just in case they miss me)

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s chicken curry

Melissa Clark’s lamb meatballs with mint

1 batch of these cookies from Dori Greenspan

I hope they enjoy at least some of it.  Or maybe we can just tuck in on my return?


PS I have not visited the Windy City in almost 20 years and would love some recommendations of things to do and places to eat.  Please send them over! Thanks so much.


Ballymaloe Brown Bread


Don’t look away. Don’t think, “nice idea but I don’t need a bread recipe. I will NEVER make my own”.  Don’t proclaim you can’t bake bread – its way too complicated, and who has the time? You can. You will. Or at least I urge you to try.

IMG_3213Having spent the past few years attempting, with varying degrees of (un)success to master either 100% rye, or sourdough bread, I assumed, (while eating copious amounts of this bread last month) it might also require a PhD to master.  But to my utter delight I was mistaken.


Adapted from Doris Grant’s “no-need-to-knead bread loaf”, they have been making this recipe at Ballymaloe for more than 60 years.  It requires no culture, no kneading, no fancy equipment for the perfect rise, and no complicated proving or turning schedule.  Simply mix the ingredients, transfer the wet batter into a loaf tin, let it sit for a few minutes and bake.  Out of the oven comes a wonderfully nutritious loaf of bread, ideal for both toast and sandwiches.  And leaves you feeling positively smug about such a marvelous achievement.

I learned to make this bread while on our “weekend I will never forget or stop talking about” at Ballymaloe last month.  One of the many privileges of staying at the house as a guest, is that you are able to wake up at the crack of dawn and bake the day’s breads and scones with the chefs.  Despite a reasonable amount of local whiskey the previous evening, one of my loyal cohorts and I joined Chef Ann in the kitchens to make scones, soda breads and 15 loaves of the ‘famous brown’ for the day.  The process is so quick and simple, that while at 7am we were elbow deep in dough, the finished product was ready for breakfast by 8.30.

measuring out mixture for 15 morning loaves

measuring out mixture for 15 morning loaves

Ballymaloe WELL seasoned bread tins waiting to be filled

Ballymaloe WELL seasoned bread tins waiting to be filled

A well organised pastry kitchen

A well organised pastry kitchen

There is no better place to either start or resume a love of bread making than with this recipe, which, time after time, will allow you to reap the satisfaction of a home made loaf, with a rich depth of flavour.  Best of all slathered in salty butter.

ballymaloe brown bread ballymaloe brown bread

Note:  This post was ready to share last week.  I had written the text and photographed the last shot, when I dashed out to collect the kids from school.  While waiting for them to bound out of the gates, David Lebowitz latest post popped into my inbox, with, you guessed it, Ballymaloe Irish Brown Bread.  I broke out in a sweat.  How can I possibly post the same recipe as the godfather of the food blog?  Well, I have decided to anyway.  David, I loved your post.  It explains brilliantly the difference of all the flour varieties.

ballymaloe brown bread
Ballymaloe Brown Bread

Two 23cm (9 inch) loaf

Notes:  I always use fresh yeast for breads.  And as it comes in 50g packets, I always double this recipe and make 2 loaves (the original recipe was for only one loaf, so feel free to halve the recipe it still works!).  They freeze brilliantly and make great gifts.  If they last that long.  Mine get polished off in one sitting.
To ensure a good rise in the loaf, the yeast requires a warm space.  Some say that warming the flour helps, but I only think that is necessary in the middle of winter.
The type of flour you use will change the flavour and texture of the bread.  A stone ground strong wholemeal flour will produce a loaf with nuttier flavour than a regular strong wholemeal flour which is more finely milled. It is worth experimenting.  In the UK I like Shipton Mill and Batcheldare, but in the USA I am sure King Arthur Flour produce a good version (although I have not tried it).

If using dry yeast, divide quantity by 3 and if it is not fast acting yeast, allow a little longer to rise. Here are some helpful conversion tips.

800g (7 cups) strong, stone ground wholemeal flour
100g (1 cup) strong white flour
2 tsp salt
900ml (scant 4 cups) warm water (blood heat according to Darina Allen)
2tsp black treacle (or molasses or golden syrup – all create a slightly different flavour)
50g (1 3/4oz) fresh yeast (for dry yeast see note above)
sunflower oil for the tin
sesame seeds for the top

Preheat oven to 230C/450F
In a large bowl mix the flours and the salt.  It is important that the ingredients are at room temperature.  In the colder months, or if you keep your flour in a cold storage space, pop the flours in the oven when you turn it on and leave it for a few minutes as it warms up.
In a small bowl or jug mix the treacle with 300ml (1 cup) warm water and crumble in the yeast.
Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to activate the yeast.  After about 5 minutes it will be dissolved and have a creamy/frothy top. (see photo above)
Stir and pour the yeast and the remaining 600ml (3 cups) warm water into the flours and mix with your hands (yes it is a bit messy) or a bowl scraper until it forms a wet and loose dough.  Do not attempt to knead – it should be way too wet.
Allow to sit while you brush the base and sides of 2 loaf tins with sunflower oil.
Pour wet batter into bread tins.  Place in a warm, draft free area and cover with a tea towel.  Let it sit for between 10 and 20 minutes or until it has risen to the top of the pan.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 20 minutes.
Turn down the oven to 200C/400F for another 40-50 minutes until it is sounds hollow when tapped.
If, like me, you like a crustier loaf, remove the loaf from the tin 10 minutes before it has finished cooking, and pop back in the oven to crisp up.

ballymaloe brown breadEnjoy!

My Favourite Cheesecake

Cheesecake is a staple in this house. It is present at tea parties, summer gatherings, and all celebrations.  While I have been making the same recipe for years, this year I felt compelled to alter and tinker with an already tried and tested family favourite.


When I was finally happy with my amendments, and ready to photograph and post, I embarked on what felt like my 47th cheesecake bake of the week. And then, disaster after disaster struck.

While in my recipe I always pre-bake the biscuit base, for some reason, in this final cake I thought it would be OK if I just chilled it and skipped the bake.  For some reason I also made it in a springform tin rather than my regular loose bottomed cake tin.  And thanks to the little lip that you have on a springfrorm base, I could not lift the chilled cake off of the base.  Result: crumbled cake in two pieces.  Definitely not the photo finish I was after.


And the bad luck continued.  I ran out of cream cheese (who runs out of cream cheese when testing cheesecakes?).  The boys helped themselves to a chunk out of a cake as I was looking for my camera, thinking it was one of the “testing cakes”.  And then, having finally made the most deliciously smooth, creamy and perfectly photo ready cake , I DROPPED IT while taking it out of the oven.

See?  The photos are deceptive.  Behind the serene, peaceful and uncluttered backdrop, there is complete mayhem.


So, here we have it. Cheesecake. A lot too late for anyone to make for Shavuot last weekend, but, if like me, you make up any old excuse to whip up a cheesecake, here is the well tested, and I think, definitive recipe. Which I assure you, does work.  If you just follow the instructions.


A few notes:

This recipe is a hybrid of my cousin’s and Nigella’s London Cheesecake.  Despite my strong American roots this is not a New York fluffy cheesecake.  This is an unctious thick set custard cheesecake cooked in a water bath.  The soured cream top gives it a wonderful finish and can hide any imperfections which is genius.

The biscuit base is very flexible.  I like it best with these ginger thins,

cheesecake - annas thinsbut you can literally make it with any dry biscuit – graham crackers, digestives, ginger snaps, rich tea or even chocolate chip cookies.

My mother always makes her cheesecake with curd cheese.  You can easily replace  a portion of the cream cheese with curd cheese under the premise that it may be lighter.  Which it may be, but cheesecake is not exactly a diet food, so I say just indulge in the full calorie version!

Finally, I always make cheesecake in the food processor.  But it works equally as well in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment.  I am just lazy and if possible don’t like to dirty more than one appliance at a time.  On a technical note, I also like the food processor as it does not allow you to get much air into the filling which makes it less likely to crack when cooking.


With a little help from Nigella Lawson and her recipe for London Cheesecake in How to be a Domestic Goddess

Biscuit Base:

250g (9oz) dry biscuits (I prefer ginger thins or graham crackers but see note above for options)

100g unsalted butter, melted

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon


560g (20oz) Philadelphia (or other full fat) cream cheese

60ml (1/4 cup) soured cream

150g (2/3 cup / 5.5 oz) caster sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon (approx 1 tbsp)

1.5 – 2 tbsp lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

Soured Cream Topping:

300ml (1 1/4 cups) soured cream

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

20cm (8 inch) loose bottom cake tin (but you can also make it in a 22cm/9inch cake tin – it will just be less high)


Preheat oven to 180C (350F)

Butter and line base and sides of cake tin with parchment.  (I tend to line them in separate pieces on the base and sides so that it is less creased.  I makes it easier to push up out of the cake pan with the sides lined with parchment)

In a food processor, blitz the biscuits into fine crumbs with the sugar and cinnamon

Add the melted butter and pulse again until they feel like damp sand.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of the cake pan with your hands or the bottom of the glass until it is evenly distributed.

Place in the oven for 15 minutes and cool.

While the cake is cooling, half fill a roasting tin with just boiled water (make sure it will hold the cake tin), and place in the oven to keep warm.  (This will be your water bath)

While the base is cooling, make the filling.  Wipe out the food processor and process cream cheese and soured cream until smooth.

Add sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and lemon and blitz for a few more seconds until combined.

Double line the outside of the tin with foil around the base and sides.  Pour filling over the cooled biscuit base

Carefully place in the water bath in the oven and bake for 40 minutes until the edges are set and there is still a little wobble in the middle.

Just towards the end of the bake, combine the soured cream topping and spread over just set cheesecake.  Bake for a further 10  minutes.

Take the roasting tray out of the oven and carefully remove the cake onto a cooling rack.  Once completely cook, place in the fridge for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Once cold, gently push the cake out of the tin.  Cut with a knife plunged in hot water for a clean slice.





Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb

roast shoulder of lamb Last weekend I fulfilled one of my (many) dreams.  We spent two nights at Ballymaloe.  It was under the auspices of a rather significant birthday happening next month, but really, it was an excuse to eat like gluttons and wash it all down with a fair amount of whiskey. And bake. In a world famous cooking school. With Rachel Allen herself.  A foodie’s dream come true.

Ballymaloe House

Ballymaloe House

I am currently planning our next visit. But in the meantime, I have a fair few meals to cook, and succulent spring lamb is now at its peak.  I love Rachel Allen’s recipe for Slow Roast Spiced Lamb Shoulder (from Rachel’s Recipes for Living).  Thanks to Rachel, I now cook my lamb uncovered for the whole four hours, allowing a beautiful dark crust to form.

I roast almost everything on a bed of fennel, onion and lots of garlic. Here, with the addition of red wine, it produces a rich and sweet jam to accompany the meat.  This also saves me having to make gravy or any other sauce, which more often than not, sends me over the edge.

roast shoulder of lamb

But, even if you are only cooking for a small number of people, please, do not look away.  Make the whole shoulder.  And once cooked, shred it off the bone, mix with the fennel jam below, and freeze the leftovers in smaller portions for dinner another time.  Simply reheat slowly in a heavy saucepan once defrosted.  So worth it.

roast shoulder of lamb

Roast Shoulder of Lamb

Inspired by Rachel Allen in Rachel’s Food for Living

Serves 6-8

Note: This is a great dish for a crowd, and I often make two.  Leftovers are always a bonus

1 shoulder of lamb on the bone (approx 3.5-4.5kg/7 1/2-10lbs)

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp fennel seeds

salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

3-4 fennel bulbs (1kg/2 1/4lbs)

4 large yellow onions (600g/1 1/2lbs)

2 whole garlic bulbs, separated (but don’t bother peeling)

1/2 tbsp dried chili flakes

1/2 tbsp sugar

80ml (1/3 cup) red wine vinegar

375ml (1 1/2 cups) red wine

Toast seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, about 5 minutes

Grind spices together in mortar and pestle and add a good pinch of salt, a few good grinds of pepper and olive oil

Rub marinade mixture into lamb and let it sit on the counter for an hour or so to let the meat come up to room temperature

Preheat oven to 220C (425F)

Thinly slice fennel and onions and place in the bottom of a large casserole or deep sided roasting tray with the garlic cloves, chili flakes, sugar, red wine vinegar and wine

Nestle the lamb on top of the vegetables and pour enough water into the pan so that it comes half way up the side of the joint

Place in the oven for 30 minutes

Turn down the temperature to 160C (325F).  Continue to cook for 3.5-4 hours, basting every 15-30 minutes, until the meat is meltingly soft and the vegetables resemble a jam/chutney

It is a good idea to let it rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. It also allows any fat to separate and can easily be skimmed off the top

I like to serve this straight out of the roasting tray, pulling the lamb off the bone with a serving fork or a pair of tongs.

roast shoulder of lamb




Salmon Burgers with Dill Sauce

salmon burgersSometimes, I think I was Scandinavian in a previous life (minus the blonde locks and endless legs).  While I am unaware of any trace of Nordic blood in my family, should you sit on any piece of furniture in our house, or dine on any of my crockery, you would think I had inherited everything from my Viking grandmother. Plus, I adore Scandinavian food.  Fresh fish, whole grains, pronounced seasons, exquisite baked goods and of course, rye bread.

salmon burgersAs a nod to my unrivaled love of all things Scandi, here is my recipe for salmon burgers. Light, bursting with flavour, moist, and so easy to throw together. They are as comforting as any juicy beef burger without that over-stuffed-impossible-to-digest feeling at the end.

IMG_2758Loved by those of all ages, these burgers are just as good at room temperature (read: leftovers), and you can accessorise them with multiple toppings for that total comfort food effect.  I promise, you will never feel like you are eating the pescetarian option at a BBQ.

salmon burgersThanks to Diana Henry’s book, A Change of Appetite, I now add a small amount of creme fraiche to the mixture.  This keeps them incredibly moist, and adds a wonderful “tang”. But  you can leave it out if you prefer to make them dairy free. This recipe is very adaptable and can be used as a base. Feel free to swap the spring onions for sauteed shallots/white onion, or use coriander and chili for a more Asian feel.  And of course, capers would be great too (but personally I prefer them in the sauce).

salmon burgersWe often eat them in pita bread.  I am fully aware that this totally digresses from traditional Scandi fare. However, I prefer pita for the simple reason that you can stuff your perfect little pocket to the hilt without losing any of the extra “accoutrements”.

salmon burgersBut they also taste excellent between two slices of rye bread, or on their own with a lovely salad.  (I sometimes serve them like this as part of a lunch/brunch selection)

salmon burgersSo, please, whizz up a batch, and let me know your favourite way to eat them.

Salmon Burgers with a Dill Sauce

Makes 6 burgers

Burger Mixture:

750g (1lb 10oz) salmon, skinned (I buy the tails for this as it is much cheaper)
4 spring onions (scallions) roughly chopped
1/2 small bunch dill (approx 5 sprigs)
1/2 small bunch parsley (approx 5 sprigs)
1 large egg
1 1/2 tbsp creme fraiche
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil / groundnut oil

1 tbsp capers (rinsed and drained)
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped dill
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 clove of garlic, crushed
120g (approx 1/2 cup ) Greek yoghurt
60g (approx 1/4 cup) creme fraiche)
salt and pepper
drizzle of olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice (1/2 lemon depending on size)

Cube salmon into large dice.
Place spring onions and herbs into the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade attachment and chop.
Add cubed salmon and pulse until finely chopped.  You want to pulse it so that the mixture does not turn to mush – it should still have some texture.
You can of course do all of the above by hand instead of using a food processor if you don’t have one to hand.
Tip mixture into a mixing bowl and add egg, creme fraiche, salt and pepper and mix.  I find it best to use my hands so that you do not break it up too much.
The mixture will be very wet.  Don’t panic!
Place mixture into the fridge and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes (and upto 8 hours in advance).

In the meantime, make the sauce:
Chop capers and add to a bowl with mustard, chopped dill and chives, lemon zest and crushed garlic.
Stir through Greek yoghurt and creme fraiche and season with salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
Cover and leave in fridge until ready to use.

When you are almost ready to cook the burgers, wet hands, and form mixture into 6 patties.  Return to the fridge for another 30 minutes or so.

Put a large frying pan or griddle over medium heat and drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil.  Allow oil to heat up but not until smoking.
Add patties to pan.  Depending on the size of your pan you may need to do this in batches.
They should take about 3 minutes each side depending on thickness.  Do not move them around too much.
Serve with sauce dolloped on top.

dill sauce for salmon burgersEnjoy!

Roast Spiced Rhubarb

Roasted Spiced Rhubarb

Moderation is a quality I do not possess.  I am embarrassed to admit how many shampoo varieties currently clutter my shower ledge, the number of cookbooks added to my collection in the past six months, and the essential grains and condiments stuffed in my larder.  And none of this even comes close to the contents of my “emergency” chocolate box.

Does anyone ever have just one piece of chocolate? Really? I often need to forcibly remove myself from the room and sometimes from the house to resist the temptation.

Roast Spiced Rhubarb

The Sunday morning farmer’s market ritual, is another example of my conspicuous consumerism in all its glory.  Do I need 8 fennel bulbs?  A whole tray of eggs? All those apples?  I think you get the picture.*

So when forced rhubarb appeared on the stalls in Queens Park last month, I stashed as much as I possibly could into my trolley.  Note: I am the only family member who actually likes rhubarb.

Roasted Spiced Rhubarb

I swiftly returned home and started cooking with my bounty,  baking it in apple crumble and rhubarb bars.  But best of all, I roasted it in large baking dishes, eating it all week long.  Spices mixed with orange and sweetened with honey made it the perfect condiment on grilled mackerel, on vanilla ice cream and spooned onto plain yoghurt topped with a little granola for breakfast.**

Roasted Spiced Rhubarb

And yes, I happlily ate more than one portion at a time (and most straight out of the baking dish).

Roasted Rhubarb

Adapted from Nigel Slater Tender Volume II


500g (1lb 2oz) rhubarb, leaves discarded

3 tbsp honey

1 unwaxed orange

2 cinnamon sticks

2 star anise

1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (Nigel does not use it, but I love vanilla in everything)

Preheat oven to 170C (325F)

Cut rhubarb into long lengths (approx. 8 cm/ 3 inches) and place in a baking dish so that they fit in one layer

Grate orange zest, and cut in half squeezing the juice over the rhubarb

Mix in honey, cinnamon, star anise and vanilla and stir together

Cover with foil (or a lid) and bake for 20-30 minutes checking regularly after 20 minutes so that you do not overcook it.  The rhubarb should keep its shape but remain soft

Roasted Spiced Rhubarb


*Fear not. While I may be totally incapable of buying food in moderation, I am virtually obsessive about not wasting food, and by the end of the week I get very creative with the dregs of the weeks purchases left in the fridge.

**For anyone looking for a little Passover inspiration, this is a great breakfast solution with chopped roasted nuts.


Celebrating my (blog) Birthday with Coconut Milk Chocolate Cake


coconut milk chocolate cakeToday I am celebrating a few major milestones.  One year ago I posted this.  Seth is exactly 6 months old.  And for the first time, today’s cake was photographed by a professional.

It’s hard to believe that 12 months have passed since deciding to publicly document my kitchen forays, while simultaneously suffering with morning sickness.  In hindsight, I think only a person not of sound mind, possessing limited writing or photographic ability, would undertake such an endeavour.  And I have not looked back.

coconut milk chocolate cakecoconut milk chocolate cakecoconut milk chocolate cakeI wonder, at times, what possessed me to publish my first post in the first week of March.  Within 5 days, my blog, my husband, my oldest son, and my sister all have birthdays.  That is a LOT of cake.  Building Feasts may come first chronologically, but this happens to be the year of “big” birthdays and I did not want to overshadow this weekend’s showstopper desserts with a towering extravaganza.

coconut milk chocolate cakeSo, for the blog’s 1st birthday I have made my favourite chocolate cake with a secret killer ingredient.  Coconut milk.  This cake is rich, fudgey (and yet somehow not too heavy), totally delicious and dairy free to boot. Even if you are not a coconut lover, do not fear, the flavour is present but not overwhelming.

I stumbled across this late one night while perusing Poires au Chocolat. Sadly Emma, the author, no longer writes her blog.  Her regular posts are sorely missed, but luckily, she has turned her site into a reference book with all her best recipes.  I have adapted her version, and use coconut oil instead of butter and coffee in place of hot water.  I think this make the chocolate sing.

coconut milk chocolate cake

And the coconut milk ganache on the top, is a game changer.  Feel free to make it without the token amount of Karo Syrup (otherwise known as the devil), but it keeps the ganache shiny – helpful as the cake really can keep for a few days.

coconut milk chocolate cake

I always wanted to share this recipe.  Even before I contemplated writing a blog. And this anniversary presented itself as the perfect opportunity.  A special recipe, and a small gesture of gratitude for all the support and encouragement I have received over the past year. Huge thanks to those (you know who you are) who not only inspired me to start Building Feasts, but also cajoled me through the newborn months, proofread and edited posts and talked me through basic photography.  I am amazed (and a little excited) when people say they have read a post or made a recipe.  This has been a monumental year of learning.  Thank you for taking the journey with me.

coconut milk chocolate cake

While we are on the subject of gratitude, I have to thank my truly talented friend and image maker, Jeremy Coleman, for taking today’s magnificent photos.  He has patiently (and painstakingly) talked me through, how to use my camera, understand light and space and willingly divulged his genius photography tips (most of which I have yet to master).

Please, even if you choose not to make this cake immediately, enjoy the images.

coconut milk chocolate cake

Coconut Milk Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Poires au Chocolat

Note: this recipe has an added user friendly quality, by using exactly one (400ml) can of coconut milk, so no leftovers hanging around in the fridge.
Make sure the coconut milk is well mixed before measuring it out for the cake

55g (2oz) dark chocolate
85g (3/4 cup) good quality cocoa powder
180ml (3/4 cup) freshly brewed coffee
145g (1 1/3 cups) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
90g (3 1/4 oz) coconut oil (or other flavourless oil, but I love the coconut oil in this cake)
225g (1 cup) caster sugar
50g (1/4 cup) dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs
275ml (1 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp) coconut milk

Ganache topping:

125ml (1/2 cup) coconut milk
125g (4 1/4 oz) dark chocolate
1 tsp Karo syrup

Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
Grease and line 24cm (9 inch) round springform tin with parchment circle
Break up the chocolate in to small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl with the cocoa powder.
Pour over hot, freshly brewed coffee and whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Set aside while you get on with the rest of the cake.
Melt the coconut oil
In another small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugars and whisk to break up any lumps.
Add the coconut oil and whisk until combined.
Add the eggs one at a time.  After the second egg has been added, whisk for 3 minutes until the mixture has thickened and is pale.
With the mixer on a slow speed add the chocolate mixture and then the coconut milk, scraping down the bowl until it is all incorporated.
Finally add the flour mixture and whisk until it is just incorporated.
Don’t panic, the mixture will be quite wet.
Pour into the prepared tin and place in the bottom third of the oven for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out of the centre with a few damp crumbs (not a liquid mixture).  Be aware that if you test the cake and it is still quite liquid, it may only take another 3-5 minutes to be done, so keep checking).
Place on a cooling rack and cool before removing from the tin.

When you are ready to ice the cake, make the ganache.
Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl
Heat the remaining coconut milk and Karo Syrup (if using) until it just comes to the boil and  pour over the chocolate.
Leave for 2 minutes and then stir until it is a smooth and shiny.  Allow to rest and cool a little for 10 minutes before pouring onto the cake.

Garnish with toasted coconut, sprinkles, or whatever else takes your fancy

Note: if you want to whip this into more of a buttercream consistency for a celebration cake, stir warm coconut milk and chocolate together until smooth and cover with cling film.  Allow to cool completely and set.  Whisk in an electric mixture on high speed until fluffy.

coconut milk chocolate cakeEnjoy!

Hamantaschen Two Ways


Last week, for the first time ever, I taught a class.  Patience is not a virtue that I really possess, and thus I always assumed that without patience, I could never teach.  But as I wave goodbye to my 30’s, I am attempting new challenges in the hope that my brain does not turn to rot.

In this realm of trying new things, I (nervously) accepted the offer to teach a class on Hamantaschen – a delicate triangular biscuit eaten for the Jewish festival of Purim, which falls this week.


Purim is a day of celebration. The story is told that Haman, the King’s adviser, plotted to exterminate the Ancient Persian Jews, but his plot was foiled by Queen Esther.  As with most holidays, Jews celebrate with food.  On Purim, we exchange edible gifts and eat Hamantaschen representing the three cornered hat worn by Haman.

So, last Thursday evening, with dough and fillings prepped and ready to roll, sixteen of us congregated in my kitchen and made hundreds of these tasty triangular treats.


Traditionally, Hamantaschen are filled with either prune (lekvar), or poppyseed (mohn).  Maida Heater, in her Book of Great Cookies, has a wonderful recipe with orange flavoured dough and a prune and apricot filling which is sweet but not clawing.  And these have been a staple in our home for as long as I can remember.


However, this was my first foray into teaching and I thought I should offer a twist to those attending (who I assumed already had their traditional recipes up their sleeves).  Despite my extensive cookbook collection, I always turn to Marcy Goldman for a traditional Jewish delicacy, primarily as she has published the BEST (and probably most quoted) honey cake around.  And she did not disappoint with her blueberry filling, which is totally reminiscent of blueberry pie, and pairs brilliantly with Maida’s orange dough.


As I like to live in the world of possibilities, I also offered the children’s favourite filling of peanut butter and chocolate.  Peanut Butter & Co has simplified life even further by having the best combination available, which we generously dolloped onto into pastry rounds to take home “for the kids”.  Alas (for some), they were all demolished, straight out of the oven, before they could be packaged up as goodie bags.


I am truly grateful to my wonderful friend, Emma (, who declined the offer to get her hands dirty with us in order to photograph the evening.  (She is aware that I am totally incapable of multitasking while in the kitchen).  Her photos beautifully capture the energy of the evening.

Photo thanks to @lifeofyablon

Photo thanks to @lifeofyablon

Photo thanks to @lifeofyablon

Photo thanks to @lifeofyablon

Photo thanks to @lifeofyablon

Photo thanks to @lifeofyablon

Photo thanks to @lifeofyablon

Photo thanks to @lifeofyablon

So, please get in the kitchen, and make these.  Preferably before Thursday, or you may have to wait until next year!

Hamantaschen with Two Ways

Recipe adapted from Maida Heater’s Book of Greatest Cookies

Please do not panic at the length of this recipe.  It is longer than usual as I have illustrated three methods for making the pastry.

The pastry needs to be made a day ahead allowing it to rest in the fridge overnight. It will keep in the fridge for 2 days or for a month in the freezer.
The filling can be made ahead of time and kept out and covered in a container for a day or two or for 2 weeks in the fridge.

230g (2 cups) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
160g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
125g (4 oz) cold unsalted butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1orange
20 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) orange juice

350g (12 oz) dried pitted prunes (unsweetened)
175g (6 oz) dried apricots
240ml (1 cup) water
1 tbsp lemon juice
120ml (1/2 cup) mild honey
1 cinnamon stick
75g (3/4 cup) walnuts in medium sized pieces (optional)

Make Pastry:
Pastry can be made either in a food processor, an electric mixer, or by hand

Food Processor Method:
Cut butter into small cubes and put in the fridge to keep it cold until you are ready
Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor with a steel blade and pulse a few times to combine
Add cubed butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand
Mix together egg, vanilla, orange zest and juice and pour through tube Process until a ball of dough  is formed – about 25-30 seconds
Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half
Wrap each half of pastry in cling film and flatten slightly into a disc
Refrigerate until ready to use

Electric Mixer Method:
Cut butter into small cubes and put in the fridge to keep it cold until you are ready
Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of a mixer
Add cubed butter and mix on a low speed with a paddle attachment until mixture resembles sand
Combine  egg, vanilla, orange zest and juice and add to the bowl
Mix until a soft dough is formed
Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half
Wrap each half of pastry in cling film and flatten slightly into a disc
Refrigerate until ready to use

By Hand:
Cut butter into small cubes and put in the fridge to keep it cold until you are ready
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl
Add butter and cut in with pastry blender until mixture resembles sand
Combine  egg, vanilla, orange zest and juice and add to the bowl
Stir until you have a smooth dough.
Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half
Wrap each half of pastry in cling film and flatten slightly into a disc
Refrigerate until ready to use

Make Filling:
Cut prunes and apricots into small pieces
Place them in a saucepan with the water and the cinnamon stick
Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes on a low heat until very soft (if the water evaporates before the fruit is soft add another teaspoon or two of water and cook a few minutes longer)
Add the lemon juice and honey
Cook stirring constantly for 5 more minutes
Don’t let it thicken too much as it will continue to do so when cooling
Stir in the nuts (if using) and set aside

Assemble Hamantaschen
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
Take first round of pastry out of the fridge and allow it to sit for 5 minutes
Lightly flour pastry on both sides and place it between 2 pieces of parchment paper.  You will need to work quickly as the dough will warm up in no time
Roll out the pastry between the parchment layers, turning it over occasionally to ensure it is even
It should be rolled quite thin – 3mm (1/8 inch) but not thinner as it will be too hard to handle
With an 8 cm (3 inch) cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds
Re-roll the scraps (you may need to chill the dough again first

Drop a heaped teaspoon of filling into the centre of each round
Shape triangle by by bringing three edges together.  Make sure they are pinched tightly, leaving an opening in the centre
If they become sticky before you shape them, slide the parchment onto a baking sheet and chill in the fridge or freezer until they are firm enough to handle.

Place Hamataschen 5 cm (2 inches) apart on a baking sheets

Chill sheets in fridge for minimum of 30 minutes or freeze until firm.  You can make the hamataschen upto this stage and freeze them on the cookie sheets for up to 2 weeks and then cook them straight from frozen.

While they are chilling, preheat oven to 190C (375F)
Bake 12-15 minutes until they just begin to colour on the sides (slightly darker around the edges)
You may need to rotate baking sheets half way through cooking
Transfer to a cooling rack (they are very delicious warm, so make more than you need as a few always disappear straight out of the oven)

Alternative – Blueberry Hamantaschen Filling

Adapted from Marcy Goldman’s A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking

Blueberries are not exactly seasonal at Purim, so I make this filling with frozen blueberries.  This filling is also a perfect solution to convert those who claim to not really like Hamantaschen into lovers of the trianglular treat.

250g (2 cups) frozen (or fresh) blueberries
150g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice (approx 1 lemon
4 tsp cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 2 tbsp recently boiled water

Combine blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy bottomed saucepan bring to simmer on low heat
Stir in cornflour mixture and increase temperature
Cook berries for about 5-10 minutes (3-5 if using fresh berries), stirring occasionally, until they burst and mixture thickens to the consistency of pie filling
Remove from heat and pour into a bowl
Seal with clingfilm directly over mixture to ensure no skin forms and chill in the fridge until needed.

Photo thanks to @lifeofyablon

Photo thanks to @lifeofyablon


Sausage Rolls

sausage rolls

I first discovered really good coffee in Sydney.  It was 1999 and I was in the prime of my youth.  Having spent a number of years in the States drinking pre Chemex drip, some could argue that I just didn’t know any better.  But while soaking up winter rays I tried my first true flat white.  And have never looked back.

sausage rolls
There were a number of voyages across the planet to visit siblings before our numbers grew too daunting to travel that far en masse.  And while we were Down Under, we spent considerably more time was spent checking out eateries than beaches.

sausage rolls
Bourke St Bakery, which had recently opened on our last visit, produced some of the most memorable breads, pastries and coffee in Sydney.  And they are equally renowned for their savoury pies and sausage rolls which they make in a gazillion flavour combinations.

Roll on a few years, and no real opportunity to travel across the globe, I brought Bourke St Bakery to my kitchen in the form of sausage rolls.  They epitomise comfort food – a staple here on Sunday night, and are loved by all.

sausage rolls

These rolls of (comfort) perfection are ideal either hot for dinner, cold for lunch, or in miniature size for a party.  Over the years I have modified their recipe, exchanging a few of their ingredients for more tolerated varieties in this here abode.  I hope you will think they are as undeniably delicious as we do.  Or maybe we just believe that anything encased in pastry is hard to resist………..

Sausage Rolls
(inspired by those beauties I first spotted at Bourke St Bakery all those years ago)

I most often fill these with beef and mushroom as below, but please feel free to play around.  I have been known shake up the “sausage” bit with turkey and sage, or lamb and chickpea with a hint of cumin, or for the veggies a sweet potato, red onion and goats cheese filling.

This recipe makes 16 large sausage rolls (we eat 3 per person here and still fight over the last one).  If you are not such gluttons, the filling freezes well so feel free to make the full amount and freeze the other half for another time.  They also make fantastic leftovers or lunch the next day.  And for retro party hors d’euvres, you can make mini rolls.


200g (1 large) onion

5 large cloves garlic

3 celery stalks

1 1/2 tbsp thyme leaves

1/2 tsp crushed chillies (red pepper flakes)

2 tbsp olive oil

150g (5.5oz) chestnut or shitake mushrooms

salt and pepper

1kg (2 1/4 lbs) minced beef

65g (2/3 cup) breadcrumbs*

2 x packages ready rolled puff pastry (approximately 300g/10.5 oz each)

1 egg

2 tbsp sesame seeds, divided


Finely chop onion, garlic, celery and thyme (I do this in a food processor)

Heat olive oil in a pan and add onion mixture and red pepper flakes.  Cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until soft and translucent.  Do not let it brown.

Meanwhile finely chop the mushrooms.

When the onions are soft add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.

Cook for another 5 minutes or so until the mixture is soft and fragrant and all the moisture has been released.

Transfer mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool.

Once cool add beef and breadcrumbs and mix well with your hands.

Whisk egg in a bowl with 1 tsp cold water for the wash and put aside.

Unpack first puff pastry sheet (or roll a block of puff pastry into a rectangle approx 35 x 23cm/9 x 14 inches).  I usually leave it on the parchment that it is rolled on, or if you are rolling it out, make sure you lightly flour the worktop first.

Cut in half lengthways and fill each length with 1/4 of the filling (see photo above).  I place the filling in one half of the oblong so that it is easier to fold over the pastry

Brush egg wash over exposed pastry and firmly fold pastry over pressing edges together to seal.

Turn over so that the seam side is down and slice each log into 4 rolls.

Brush egg wash over the top and sprinkle with 1 tbsp sesame seeds.

Transfer onto baking sheet lines with parchment paper.

Repeat with the remaining puff pastry and the other half of the filling.

Once all the sausages are on the baking sheets, chill for 30 minutes or until ready to use (they can be made a few hours in advance)

Preheat oven to 200C (400F) and place racks in upper and lower third of oven

Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and juicy. (You may need to swap the trays around half way through)

sausage rolls


*I always whizz up the ends of my bread in the food processor and keep them in the freezer for times like these

Yoghurt Cake

yoghurt cake

There is something extremely comforting about a simple loaf cake.  Especially one that you can make with just a bowl and whisk, and can be popped into the oven in under 10 minutes. It is also the simplest and quickest loaf cake in my collection.

I found this recipe in my grandmother’s roladex of cards.  It was well worn and in someone else’s handwriting, so I actually have no idea where it originated.  All the ingredients are measured in a yoghurt pot* – empty the yoghurt pot into your mixing bowl and then refill the pot once with oil, twice with sugar, twice with flour etc. Brilliant.

yoghurt cakeyoghurt cakeI have, however, since stumbled across many versions of this recipe whose ingredients are all measured in a small yoghurt pot.  And most of them virtually identical in their proportions.  Apparently every family in the West seems to have a version of this delicate, moreish cake, that is as good for breakfast as it is for tea. Clearly people, I am not alone.

I prefer to make this cake with olive oil instead of a flavourless oil as stipulated by our family recipe card.  Not only for my conscience.  Olive oil just tastes much better.  When I tested the recipe, the olive oil version was still good (and even better according to some) on day 3, while the sunflower oil loaf was dry. I make this very quickly in a bowl with a whisk. But I have made it in my mixer wondering if it would improve the outcome, and it made precious little difference. So, feel free to make it either way.

yoghurt cakeI have also altered the method of the original recipe, and I add the oil at the very end, as Dori Greenspan suggests.  I have adopted her method here as I think it gives a wonderful shiny crust to the cake.  It is important that you do not rush this last stage – the oil must be mixed well and fully incorporated into the batter or the cake can sink in the middle.

Finally, I finish mine with a dusting of icing sugar, therefore still making it breakfast friendly. Or you can drizzle it with a simple lemon and icing sugar glaze.  And remember, it tastes infinitely better the next day.

yoghurt cake yoghurt cake yoghurt cake*To alleviate any confusion about the size of the yoghurt pot, I have given the ingredients in grams and cups.

Yoghurt Cake

Dori Greenspan and Nigella Lawson’s recipes in Baked and Nigellissima respectively helped me to amend and improve my original version.

Makes 1 loaf cake (feel free to double the recipe and make it in a tube pan for a more festive feel, or alternatively make 2 loaves and keep one in the freezer)

2 eggs

220g (1 cup) sugar

zest of 1 lemon

2 tsp vanilla extract

150g (1/2 cup) plain yoghurt (not greek yoghurt)

180g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil


Preheat oven to 180C (350F), making sure your shelf is in the bottom third of the oven

Grease and line a 11 x 22cm (4 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch) loaf tin

Whisk eggs, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla until pale

Mix in yoghurt

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt and whisk together

Add dry ingredients to yoghurt and egg mixture and whisk until just combined

Pour in oil and stir with a wooden spoon / silicone spatula until the oil is completely incorporated.  Do not rush this stage

Pour mixture into prepared loaf tin and bake in bottom third of the oven for 45-50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean)

Allow to cool for 10 minutes and turn out onto a rack to cool completely

Dust with icing sugar and serve

yoghurt cake




Baked Oatmeal

baked oatmeal

I have implemented a new rule in the house – no meal can take longer to make than to clean up. I find that this is quite easy to enforce Monday – Friday,  but come the weekend, when any good intentions evaporate into thin air, I feel like a short order cook.  Particularly at breakfast.  But, I am delighted to say, I have stumbled upon a solution. Baked oatmeal.  Trust me.  It ticks all the boxes.

Cue Heidi Swanson, with her beautiful site, 101 Cookbooks  (plus two excellent books) and her genius idea for baking your morning oats and favourite toppings all together in the oven.  The idea is genius for many reasons – oats are a perfect way to start the day, it is all made in one dish (read: less washing up), and even those who (ahem) claim to hate porridge, devour the contents of their bowl.  And we all have the same meal. Together.

baked oatmeal

This is a very forgiving recipe and quick to throw together, but I reserve it for Sunday mornings as there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that I am either up early enough or organised on a weekday morning to get it into a hot oven and bake it before everyone leaves the house.  Even if we do crave that golden crusted bowl of goodness.

baked oatmeal

Me being me, I made a few small adjustments. And, I thought I might add a few hints and suggestions:

– Make sure you use jumbo oats (rolled oats in the US) and not instant oats

– I like to use unsweetened nut milk instead of cows milk, but feel free to use any milk of your choice.  Coconut milk (the one in a carton not a can) also works extremely well (but due to its natural sweetness you may want to reduce the maple syrup slightly)

– Feel free to use toasted walnuts (Heidi does) or pecans instead of the sliced almonds

– I have tried replacing the butter with coconut oil, and while it works, I think butter is better (always, not just for this!)

– Use any fruit you like.  We are a little smoothie crazy here so I always have an abundance of frozen fruit in the freezer, but dried cherries or apricots and shredded coconut are also delicious.  I don’t love it with strawberries, but that’s just me….

– This can definitely be scaled up for a crowd and is perfect as part of a brunch spread – much easier than omelettes or french toast, and less mess than granola.

baked oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal

(Adapted from Heidi Swanson Super Natural Every Day)

serves 6

45g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter (plus more for greasing the dish)

200g (2 cups) jumbo porridge oats (rolled oats)

50g (1/2 cup) sliced almonds

scant 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

475ml (2 cups) almond milk

1 egg

60ml (1/4 cup) maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract (I have been using vanilla bean paste recently and it is wonderful)

1 ripe banana cut in half and then sliced (you can use frozen banana too)

200g (approx 1/2 cups depending on berries) frozen berries


Preheat oven to 190C (375F)

Butter a 25cm (10 inch) high sided round pie dish (or square equivalent)

Melt butter and leave to cool slightly while measuring other ingredients

Mix oats, half the almonds, salt, baking powder and cinnamon together in a bowl

Combine milk, egg, maple syrup, vanilla and half the melted butter and whisk

Slice banana and scatter over bottom of the dish with half of the frozen berries

Cover the fruit with the oat mixture

Carefully pour the wet mixture over the oats, and gently thwack the dish on the counter a few times to make sure everything is evenly distributed

Scatter remaining almonds and berries over the top and drizzle the remaining butter

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the mixture is set and has a golden crust

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before diving in

Feel free to drizzle with a little more syrup or as I love it with a dollop of plain yoghurt

baked oatmeal












Turkey, Leek and Grainy Mustard Pie

Turkey, Leek and Grainy Mustard Pie

Things have been a little chaotic here of late.  While I have been wallowing in newborn bliss (sleep deprivation and  diminished brain capacity aside), time has been wafting by. Weeks have flowed into months. Suddenly Autumn became Winter. And all of those recipes that were still to be written and photographed contained ingredients that were no longer seasonal. Shock horror! I could not write posts with out of season produce, could I?!

And while today, I am reminding you that this site does still in fact exist, there are a few caveats with the post.  No real photos.  Apologies for this, but it was only when I was sweating the leeks for this delicious pie, the afternoon after Thanksgiving (read:tired) that I realised I should really be sharing this recipe.  And because we were planning to eat it for dinner an hour later, there was no light or styling for the photos. (Note: Thanksgiving was almost 2 weeks ago and I am just finishing this piece now)

Turkey, Leek and Grainy Mustard Pie

But enough whining. This is a great dish.  And while I recognise that I may be the last person on the blogging planet to be posting anything referencing Thanksgiving, I am thrilled that Christmas is around the corner, and I am virtually ahead of the game with a suggestion of what to do with all that extra turkey.

This pie is a variation on Jamie Oliver’s.  I love it so much that I often make turkey out of holiday season just so that we have some for the filling.  I have also been known to make it with  roast chicken.  It’s that good.  The quantities are very adaptable, so feel free to scale them up or down depending on how much “bird” you have left (or how many mouths to feed).  And you can literally chuck anything in.  Extra stuffing, brussels, chipolatas……..

Brilliant tip: Jamie’s “jazzed up” puff pastry crust with crumbled chestnuts and sage.  In fact I now find myself flavouring pastry all the time – savoury and sweet, puff and shortcrust, possibilities are endless.

Turkey, Leek and Grainy Mustard Pie

Jamie also has an extra step in his recipe to make gravy.  It is a very clever way to make the all important sauce for the pie, but after a lot of cooking for the holiday feast that produced the ingredients for the dish, it’s another step that I think you can avoid.  Instead, I like to make double the amount of gravy that I need on the big day (follow these brilliant gravy tips from Bon Apetit), and that way I am sure to have enough for the pie.

Enough chat, here is the recipe.  I hope you make it at the end of the month, if not before!

Turkey and Leek Pie
(Inspired by and adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe)

I make this in a 20 x 30cm deep rectangular dish but you could use an oval equivalent or round pie dish

2 tbsp olive oil
1.5kg (approx 3.5lbs) leeks, washed and sliced
10 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
salt and pepper
approx 1kg (2.2lbs) leftover turkey or roast chicken torn into big chunks *
2 tbsp single cream (I use coconut milk for a dairy free version)
2 tbsp leftover gravy (don’t worry if you do not have any to hand, just add an extra tablespoon of cream to the mixture)
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 x 500g package of puff pastry (or you can use 2 of the ready rolled sheets)
15 vaccum sealed chestnuts
10 sage leaves
1 egg
*this is a very approximate amount, as I never actually weigh what I use I just chuck in all the leftovers, or roast a chicken and shred it – it is that kind of pie…..
**feel free to add any extra stuffing, brussel sprouts or chipolatas to the filling mixture when you add the turkey

Preheat oven to 190C/375F
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan and add thyme leaves and leeks
Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes until well coated with oil and season with salt an pepper
Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to make sure they do not brown or catch
Once the leeks are soft and sweet, add turkey and stir.  If you are adding any extra leftovers like stuffing or brussels this is the time to pop them in the pan
Add cream, gravy and mustard and stir
Dust your work surface with flour and roll out puff pastry into a rectangle approximately double the size of your dish.  If you are using ready rolled puff pastry unroll it!
Crumble the chestnuts over one half of the pastry and tear the sage leaves over the top of them (or over the whole of the first ready rolled sheet)
Fold over the other half of the pastry on top and roll it out evenly so that it is big enough to cover your tray with a little left over for crimping the edges.  If you are using the ready rolled pastry, cover the sage and chestnuts with the second sheet and carefully roll out a little to seal them together
Spoon the filling into the baking dish and spread it out
Lay the pastry on top, crimping the edges or tucking them into the side of the dish, and gently score the pastry with your knife
Whisk the egg in a little dish with a good pinch of salt and brush the pastry
Cook for 40-45 minutes until pastry is puffed up and golden
Just before it is finished cooking reheat your gravy and serve with the pie alongside your leftover cranberry sauce!

Turkey, Leek and Grainy Mustard Pie


Thanksgiving Cranberry Bars with Spelt, Oats and Almonds


thanksgiving cranberry bars with spelt, oats and almonds

Snacks.  They seem to punctuate every activity in our day.  The constant desire to eat, regardless of time lapsed since last consuming a mouthful, is a strong inherited gene.  In fact, there are members of my family whose hunger is determined by their watch, not their belly.

So, as you can imagine, no plan, outing or gathering with friends is complete without adequate refreshments, or the discussion of what will be on hand should anyone be struck down with sudden insatiable hunger.  It is the first topic of conversation at the school gates, or on entering and leaving the house.  Like a Pavlov reaction, before or after doing anything at all, we must eat.

thanksgiving cranberry bars with spelt, oats and almonds

These bars are a firm favourite during cranberry season, and are perfect for indulging those hunger pangs at any time of day.  They are both festive, wonderfully tangy and not terribly sweet with a crispy base that is simple and quick to make without the faff of pastry.  While cranberries are in abundance, I make them at least once a week.  And as for a snack, they hit the sweet spot, but appease my conscience.

thanksgiving cranberry bars with spelt, oats and almonds

Note:  The cranberry filling is my standard cranberry sauce that is constantly on hand at this time of year (in fact, these bars are the product of too much sauce post a Thanksgiving feast).  I usually double the recipe below and use half for the bars and keep the rest in the fridge, where it will live happily for a few weeks and is delicious not only with turkey, but chicken, salmon or on a cheese sandwich.  I have also  made them successfully with plain flour and gluten free flour, so feel free to play around.

thanksgiving cranberry bars with spelt, oats and almonds

Cranberry Bars, with Spelt Oat and Almonds

Inspired by Maida Heater’s Texas Cowboy Bars (a 1970’s classic), and Martha Stewart’s Cranberry Bars

Makes 16 bars

Cranberry filling

250g (2 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
zest and juice of 1 orange
60g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 tbsp water

Rinse cranberries and put in a saucepan with the remaining the ingredients.
Simmer gently until cranberries “pop” and break up, around 5-10 minutes
(If using frozen cranberries do not thaw first, and they may take longer to cook)
Stir well and remove from the heat.
Allow to cool

You can make this in advance, as the sauce will keep for a few weeks covered in the fridge.  Or simply allow to cool while making the base

Crumb base and top

175g (1 3/4 cup) unsalted butter
90g (3/4 cup) wholemeal spelt flour
90g (3/4 cup) plain spelt flour
125g (3/4 cup) soft brown sugar
150g (1 1/2 cups) jumbo porridge oats (not instant cook oats)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
50g (1/2 cup) sliced almonds, divided

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)
Line base and sides of 24cm (9 1/2 inch) square tin with parchment paper or foil
(equivalent size oblong tin or high sided baking sheet is fine as you will be cutting this into squares)
Melt butter
Combine flours, sugar, cinnamon, salt, oats and half the sliced almonds in a bowl
Add butter and mix together.  It wills seem a bit like a crumble topping
Tip 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared tin and press down to make the base
Spread cranberry mixture evenly over the base and crumble the remaining mixture over the top to make the crumb
Sprinkle over the rest of the almonds and pop into the oven
Cook for 45 minutes until golden
Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars

thanksgiving cranberry cowboy bars with spelt, oats and almonds


This recipe was featured in the launch issue of Mr Fox Magazine, the Best of all Things Boy

Almond Milk with a Hint of Vanilla

almond milk

The arrival of Seth has severely impeded my ability to cook.  Don’t get me wrong, I am that annoying person who loves newborn babies.  I have basically spent the past 6 weeks sitting in a rocking chair, in an old tatty tracksuit, cuddling a newborn and eating cake.  Bliss.  I have not really left the house, and made fewer meals than I can count on one hand.  But I have been making almond milk. Religiously.

Why?  One might ask.  Well, firstly, it is great for a feeding mother.  And at the moment I am all about looking after myself and the baby (sorry kids and husband).  It is also delicious – I drink a glass every morning.  And I have made all kinds of delicacies with it – almond milk hot chocolate, matcha latte’s, porridge, custard, and it is perfect for the kids when things are so disorganised that there is no milk for cereal at breakfast.  Yes, while I am in some kind of bleary eyed euphoria, things are only just hanging together in the household.


decadent treat - almond milk hot chocolate (and a ice of cake)

decadent treat – almond milk hot chocolate (and a pice of cake)

But, back to almond milk.  I first started making it last summer when my old friend, “cooking sister”, and truly talented Kim S was home from NYC.  We spent many days last August making nut milks and creams in many varieties, and after a little finessing, this is the final version that I rely on.  It is rich, nourishing and slightly sweet, and adds a depth of flavour to hot and cold breakfast cereals and desserts.

The recipe makes 4 (US) cups of milk.  It is the consistency of whole milk and very creamy.   I use double the amount of water to nuts for milk (ie. 2 cups of nuts and 4 cups of water).  But I sometimes make a thicker version for a dairy free custard (perfect for ice cream), which is more like single cream, using 1 1/2 times the water to nuts.  And yes, it work brilliantly.

For those skeptics out there, give it a go and let me know what you think.  The trick, as ever, is to use the best possible ingredients.  Good raw almonds (ie. not too old) and vanilla really make a difference to the end result.  And aren’t we all supposed to be cutting down on dairy?

soaked almonds ready to blitz

soaked almonds ready to blitz

almond milk

note:  I strain the milk in 2 batches

note: I strain the milk in 2 batches


Almond Milk

Makes approximately 950ml (4 cups)

You will need a blender, a fine mesh sieve and a muslin or cheesecloth.  And a jar to store it in!

250g (2 cups) raw whole almonds with skin

1 medjool date

1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp good vanilla extract)

1 tsp pink Himalayan salt (or Malden salt)

Put the almonds in a bowl and cover with cold water until submerged.  Cover and leave on the counter overnight (or for 8 hours)

Drain and put in a blender with 950ml (4 cups) cold water. Note: This is double the amount of water to almonds.  You can easily scale the recipe up or down with the quantity of almonds.  If you want to make a thicker milk use less water.  I use 1 1/2 quantity of water to almond ratio for a single cream consistency.

Add date, vanilla and salt and blitz in the blender.  There will still be small flecks of almonds but don’t worry as they will strain out at the end.

Line your mesh sieve with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin and place it over a bowl.

Pour the milk slowly through the sieve, pressing as much liquid out of the remaining almond meal as you can.  I usually end up wringing it out over the sieve at the end.

Discard the almond meal, pour the milk into a jug or jar and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

I would love to hear how you like to use your almond milk.  Please let me know!



The Bun is Out of the Oven

photo thanks to Stan Freedman

photo thanks to Stan Freedman

Introducing Seth Abraham Goldsmith, born September 5th 2014.  Known by his brothers as G4………

Seth was a bit alarmed to meet his brothers

Seth was a bit alarmed to meet his brothers

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy obsessively baking.  Listed below are the links to  a selection of some of the goods packed into my freezer ready for visitors. I fear I will post a little more sporadically while I enjoy the first precious few months of newborn bliss (and before the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation start to show). But in the meantime, feel free to try out any of these family favourites!

David Lebovitz Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies

Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Yoghurt Cake

Justin Gellatly’s Ginger Cake

Soured Cream Coffee Bundt Cake

seriously packed freezer

seriously packed freezer