Tuesday, 28 February 2012



“Pudding for 20-30 for a farewell party?” I repeated. “When do you need this?”

“Sunday,” came the reply. “We’re not quite sure of exact numbers, lots of children though.”

That gave me a day or two to think but no time to make. So after much discussion we decided we needed one proper pudding- banoffe pie was voted the most popular, and a big cake.

“A REALLY BIG cake!” added one daughter

“Everyone loves chocolate cake. Can we decorate it?” asked the other

“Of course!” I replied.

So, on Sunday morning paper was spread on the kitchen table and as I whizzed up my Mum’s trusty chocolate cake recipe, more and more complicated master plans were designed for this special cake.

As the cake needed to wow and feed so many we opted for a flat tray bake style.
Easy to transport, serve and eat.

The great thing about my Mum’s recipe is that it always works, it’s soft, moist and the quantities can easily be scaled up and down. 

So for a two tier sponge you use 8oz’s, 
for 13-15 cup cakes or muffins I tend to use 6oz 
and for this cake I used 10 oz’s.

Green and Black's organic cocoa


Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 20-25 minutes

8 oz Margarine or butter
8oz Caster Sugar
8oz Self Raising Flour
4 eggs
2 tbsp cocoa
2 tsp baking powder

(So for a larger tray bake style cake as I made it is 10 oz Marg, Sugar and Flour
5 eggs, 2 ½ tbsp cocoa, 2 ½ tsp baking powder)

Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees

1 Cream the marg/butter with the sugar until it goes paler in colour and is smooth
2. Add the eggs and beat into the mixture. Don’t worry if it doesn’t mix in at this stage.
3. Add the flour slowly, beating it into the mixture creating a smooth batter.
4. Add the baking powder and cocoa and beat in until combined.
5 Grease the baking tins- or line them with baking parchment then pour in the mixture.
Place in the centre of the pre heated oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, I have found it varies slightly for each oven.

Top Tip to test  the cake is cooked..
when the cake shrinks from the edges of the tin or
when a knife or skewer comes out clean if you put it in the cake.

Keep an eye on the cake you don’t want to overcook this as it will be too dry.

 Remove the baking parchment and let it cool on a wire rack. This can take about ½ hour.

Whilst it is cooling make up your icing.

Ok for this cake we just made one large bowl of vanilla icing.

Back to the designs...

As the cake rose gradually in the oven the designs became more and more intricate. White chocolate, strawberries, blueberries, sweets..glitter frosting...even Willy Wonka would have been impressed

Blueberry stars

Edible Glitter

The final design was a combination of the British and American flags to celebrate the success of the Anglo American exchange!

Blue berries were used to represent the stars on the American flag and colour the blue sections of the union jack. The red and white sections where made with icing.

Anglo American Chocolate Cake!

 It was then all sprinkled with generous amounts of edible glitter!

Friday, 24 February 2012


Crabs from Lyme Bay

Another busy week.  Exchange friends staying, lots of extra teens for supper, I finally finished my radio play and really great news- my blog has been taken up by Mums Net..so THANK YOU to everyone who has followed and been reading  ... and welcome to anyone who is clicking on for the first time..   

I started this blog after one of my teens became a vegetarian and I found I was doing twice as much cooking and wasn’t happy!

Don't get me wrong. I love food and cooking.  I’m interested in different flavours, where things come from, what’s in season. I hate bland food. I just don’t have the time pander to, or cook individual suppers for everyone!

This also seemed a great way to get Teen Veggie more interested in food, be more proactive in what is eaten and how it is cooked!!  It is working slowly and Teen V is threatening to post soon..Won’t hold my breath!

As a bonus I have rediscovered my love of photography. My husband is a photographer, so for the last however many years I just let him to take pics, he does it so well, but I have adored getting creative again with the camera...as you can see!

Enough of that, back to this week. With my leg better, (see earlier post about over enthusiastic dancing!) I walked up to the weekly fish stall.

Crabs- From Sea To Me.

There is a very small market that comes to The University of Southampton campus every Monday. Us locals can pop along too.

For me one of the highlights is - CARLIN SEAFOOD -FROM THE SEA TO ME - a great fresh fish stall that sells locally caught fish. They have a stall at different markets in the South of England. See below for their contact details.

There is also a New Forest Butcher who sell local venison ...I am trying to think of a good combination for vege and meat eaters so more on that later...(if anyone has any ideas I'd be keen to hear?)

I love their displays of crabs, caught in Lyme Bay, and so rather than resort to  Fish and chips this Friday, always a good default when I’m very busy,  I bought some crab and chillies for chilli crab spaghetti.

Red Chillies!

 It is quicker than fish and chips- the time it takes for spaghetti to cook, and is really tasty. It also works out much cheaper!!

 Here’s the recipe. It really is SO simple that even friends who can’t cook can do this.

Spaghetti with crab

Preparation time- 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 mins
Serves 4

Pots and pans: frying pan and large saucepan

2 cloves of garlic
1/2 red pepper
½ fresh red chilli
2 handfuls of flat leaf parsley
Juice of half a lemon   
Olive oil good slug for frying
1 crab already cooked



1.     Put the saucepan of water on to boil for the spaghetti. Read the instructions for the spaghetti and cook for the required time.
2.     Chop the pepper and fry in olive oil until soft. Literally a few minutes. Take off the heat
3.      Put the crab meat in a bowl. Chop the chilli and garlic.
4.     Add the chilli, garlic and onions to the crab.
5.     Then squeeze  half the juice of the lemon into the bowl
6.     Chop the parsley and add into the mixture.
7.     Drain the spaghetti. Mix into the sauce and squeeze the other half of the lemon over. Put in a bowl, season with salt and pepper.

Crab and chilli spaghetti

This is also delicious if served with a little fresh rocket salad.


Can be found in:

Southampton University on Mondays,
Winchester Market on Wednesday,
Royal Holloway and Uckfield on alternate Tuesdays.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012



“Pancake day?” our young American friend said with a confused look, when we excitedly explained the tradition to her yesterday over breakfast.

 “No Mam, we don’t have pancake day where I come from!”

It was our turn to look confused. “No pancake day?” the family said in shock.

“We have Fat Tuesday.  We eat whatever we want.”

FAT TUESDAY... Eyes lit up round the breakfast table and my heart sank.

“If you want cake for breakfast”  she continued  “and popcorn and waffles for lunch you have it!”

The ratatouille pancakes for supper were going to be a real let down in comparison to this.

 Endless questioning ascertained that on FAT TUESDAY you could eat whatever you want without your Mom suggesting you have some salad or fruit. That even school offered unhealthy options.

It was one day it didn’t matter what you ate, you just made the most of it.

Nice idea thought everyone.

She couldn’t see why we were so excited by pancake day, even when I had made two different varieties for breakfast- Thick American ones and “crepes”- normal ones according to us.

Stories of waffles piled with ice-cream, sprinkles and candy, topped with sauces made certain eyes green with envy.

 I decided that I had to adapt my plans quick.

We still had our pancakes- ratatouille and 2 cheeses for Teen Vege and ham and cheese for meat eaters..with optional ratatouille, followed by our own FAT TUESDAY PANCAKES..

The creations were impressive. Including such delicacies as icecream, nutella, blueberries, chocolate buttons, marshmallows ..

I’ll stop, you get the idea!

I think we have a new tradition in our house.


Just don't forget to get lots of eggs.

For the pancake recipes I used Nigella's American Breakfast Pancakes and the Good Housekeeping pancake recipe. Both are brilliant.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


Fishing huts and the new Jerwood Gallery in the snow, Hastings.

Firstly my apologies.

 I had great plans of what I was going to do this week but got waylaid by a very sore leg...so ended up doing very little instead as had to rest.

Before you become too sympathetic I suppose I should admit that it was kind of self inflicted, too much over enthusiastic dancing at a fantastic party last weekend, still, all very annoying.

However, before I became immobile, I visited snowy Hastings and was charmed by the boho rustic feel of the old town and beach.

 Hastings Old Town in the snow.

It is refreshingly individual which is increasingly rare now days. There are quirky shops,  cafes and bar’s as well as proper bakers and deli’s...it is so worth a visit.

You must check out the award winning organic bakery and shop, Judges Bakery at 51 High Street.

It is owned by Green & Black’s founders Craig Sams and Josephine Fairley, whose passion and commitment to organic food has created a wonderful shop as well as truly delicious food.

Meringues at JUDGES BAKERY, Hastings

They also have the most irresistible Italian meringues that really do taste as good as they look, as well as a superb range of bread and cakes...when I have learnt how to make meringues like theirs I will share the recipe because they were delicious.

Fishing boats in the snow, Hastings.

The new Jerwood Art Gallery opens on 17th March 2012 and will house the Jerwood collection of  20th and 21st century paintings to be displayed for the first time.

The gallery has been designed in keeping with the black wooden buildings on the Stade in Hastings Old Town, and sits alongside Europe’s largest beach launched fishing fleet.

Fishing boat, the Stade, Hastings.

Whilst I was there I bought a copy of

THE HASTINGS & RYE FISH COOK BOOK 2 by sea saw books. 

It is written by local people whose mission is “to buy, cook, eat and enjoy even more locally caught fish” and is fantastic.

 I’m afraid I have been rather busy reading their recipes to post any of my own today so sorry!!

If you are keen to check it out it is available from numerous shops locally in Hastings or on Amazon if you aren’t in the area...  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hastings-Rye-Fish-Cookbook-Book/dp/0956366317

Fishing boats in the snow, Hastings.

In the snow everything looked rather ethereal.

I can’t wait to go back and visit it in the spring.  
If you get the chance, GO, it's worth it.

Saturday, 11 February 2012



Yesterday turned into ‘one of those days’.

A day when you have, what you think, is a brilliant idea but it doesn’t quite work...

The snow had melted into nothing, before feet, let alone sledges, got out to play and a heavy sky settled, filling all with gloom.

In an attempt to cheer things up I took inspiration from our recent visit to the David Hockney Exhibition at The Royal Academy, London.

 We went on the greyest day and yet I came out uplifted. The vibrancy of his colours are stunning,  such a tonic. They feel slightly sharper, more intense. So alive in even the winter scenes.

 Those vivid oranges, blues and purples...  I wanted to  find foods that could have the same uplifting effect..slightly ambitious and some might think crazy but... 

Various members of the family suggested a roast or decent piece of steak was what would pick them up but I was thinking visually. ..And wasn’t sure teen Vegetarian would be too thrilled at the prospect of a hunter stew or juicy steak..

Looking around our local veg markets at what is in season I was struck by the choice. Lots of purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage, leeks .. but it was the beetroot and sweet potato with the promise of colour under their skin that caught my eye.

Beetroot isn’t overly popular with us at the moment...

 Last year I had been over enthusiastic when shopping and ended up with rather more than I had wanted, so decided to make Beetroot Brownies.

I tested the mixture and several brownies prior to offering them to the family and thought they’d barely notice the difference. They were moist, and very chocolatey..

How wrong I was! 

Funny how they spotted the intense redness and the slightly different texture instantly and were rather unimpressed..

Since then they’ve become suspicious when I make cakes and biscuits..they ate the beetroot brownies but not as keenly as normal often preferring to make brownies themselves just to be sure there was nothing hidden!

Anyway, a friend Lucy suggested beetroot hummus as a colourful tasty dish..

Perfect! I teemed it with sweet potato falafel, a little grated carrot salad, whole wheat pitta’s...

  It looked great.

Vibrant... colourful..healthy..

However I nearly had a mutiny at the table.

All too much.

Everyone liked something about it..

Teen V adored the sweet potato falafel with the toasted sesame seeds

The beetroot hummus was popular


The meat eaters decided the beetroot hummus would go very well alongside a nice chicken Caesar salad or chicken, pesto and grape salad...it was all too heavy with the falafel

And for once I agree with them..

So I decided to post the recipes anyway because individually they are great- with other things..maybe the falafel should be served with a Tzatziki...

Here are the recipes. The sweet potato Falafel recipe is from the LEON cookbook and the beetroot hummus is my own...  

Beetroot Hummus


Preparation time -5 minutes max
Cooking time- 30 minutes to roast or 20 to boil
Serves lots

4 beetroots chopped and roasted or boiled
400g -1 tin chick peas
4 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
3tbsp tahini
2 ½ tsp cumin
Juice of 2 lemons

1.        Roast or boil the beetroot until soft.

2.      Blitz the chick peas, garlic, beetroot, tahini, lemon juice and cumin together with the  lemon juice. 
     ....It is SUCH A GREAT COLOUR..

3.      Cool and Serve!

Sweet potato falafel


This is from the LEON Ingredients & Recipes by Allegre McEvedy

It’s really simple to make, but, does require a few hours to cook and chill, so it’s not something you can make in a hurry or if you’re hungry.
The good thing is that you don’t need to do anything complicated or fancy..you literally roast the sweet potato whole in the oven, cool it, then mash it all up..It’s the sort of thing you can make if you are at home and doing other things because you really don’t need to think ..just listen out for the timer.

Preparation time 10 minutes –Although you need to allow 4-5 hours from start to finish
Chilling time 1 hour
Cooking time 1 – 1 ¼ hours
Makes approx 18 balls

700g sweet potato
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
2 cloves of garlic
1 ½ tsp ground ginger and ground coriander
2 big handfuls of coriander- chopped about 30g
Juice ½ lemon
120g gram flour
Splash olive oil
Sprinkling of sesame seeds
Salt and pepper

1.     Bake the sweet potato with its skin on until soft..Probably about an hour. Then let cool.
2.     Put the chopped garlic, cumin. Coriander- fresh and dried, lemon juice, gram flour and the flash of the sweet potato in a bowl and mash. I use the hand blender to speed the whole thing up.
3.     Chill in the fridge for an hour to allow the mixture to firm up.
4.      Oil a baking sheet then, using 2 spoons, scoop up and shape the mixture into little falafel ball shapes. You will have approximately 18 falafel. Preheat the oven.
5.     Sprinkle the balls with sesame seeds
6.     Cook in preheated oven at 200 for 15 minutes
 Serve and 


Thursday, 9 February 2012


Cookbooks and a cuppa

Great excitement as snowflakes were spotted here at last

There’s been lots of snow envy as other parts of the country looked so pretty...

Whilst the family dusted off sledges I settled down with a cup of tea...in a Richard Bramble mug- great size and beautifully painted..

Check out The Richard Bramble Collection at

And a few of my favourite cook books from LEON.
If you don’t know LEON yet the cafes are fab for quick healthy food 

and the cook books have an eclectic stylish mixture of recipes.

I love new cook books!

To get us in the mood we knocked up some snowflake shortbread biscuits...

Snowflake shortbread

Let’s hope the snow settles for longer than the shortbread!