How to Line Cake Pans

This isn’t an exciting recipe, I’m afraid, but if we dedicate some time to learn how to do the essentials well, we can save a lot of time for baking lovely cakes. 

how to bake

I tend to use two 9 inch round cake pans  when I’m baking a cake, letting each sponge cook more evenly and for less time than a single deeper round cake, plus you can sandwich them together with something delicious. Although there is of course a time and place for a single deep cake (Christmas cake, for example, or a bundt) but this will make you a Victoria sponge, a chocolate cake, a carrot cake…all of those good ones.
 uses for greaseproof paper 

So you will need, your cake pans, grease proof paper, a pencil, a pair of scissors, some butter and either the paper the butter comes in, a pastry brush or a piece of kitchen roll.  Or you can buy a packet of these (at huge expense) but you’ll still need the butter. how do you line cake tins 
  Roll out a little of the greaseproof paper, set one of the cake pans on top. how do you line cake pans 
 Draw around the base. baking hints and tips 
  To give you this circle guide. how to prepaee cake tins 
Cut out the circle. Try to keep inside the line to stop you leaving any ink or pencil on the paper which will be cooked up against sponge. how to make cake pan liners
 And this is what you’ll be left with. Repeat with the other tin.how to grease bakeware
 Rub a butter paper, piece of kitchen roll or pastry brush against some butter.how to grease cake pans 
 Use it to rub butter all over the bottom and sides of each cake pan. how to grease cake tins 
 Not too much, not too little, just enough to make sure the sponges will turn out if the pans easily. how to line cane tins  Set the paper circles into the pans, then grease them too. And there you have it: all ready to fill with delicious cake batter!

Turkey Bolognese

So you want to eat healthily but you also want to eat well? Hmm…..I give you turkey bolognese. No, it’s not dry, and no, it’s not bland. Trust me. Even my Mum likes it and she won’t eat anything that looks or feels even vaguely healthy. We’re not talking superfoods here, but we are talking lean protein, plenty of vegetables and some punchy herbs and spices for good measure. What’s more, it hides any sweetness wholewheat spaghetti comes with so it actually tastes really quite luxurious even if you bring the calories and carbs down to the minimum.
Turkey Bolgnese RecipeTo make a large batch of this light but meaty sauce, you will need:

1 onion

3 cloves garlic

3cm fresh ginger

3 carrots

1 red pepper

Olive oil

3 tsp tomato purée

100ml red wine

1 packet turkey thigh mince

1 packet turkey breast mince

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cans plum tomatoes

1 jar passata

1 Knorr beef stock pot

1 punnet chestnut mushrooms (closed up or button will work as will)

1/2 tsp mild chilli powder

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Splash Worcestershire Sauce

Splash balsamic vinegar

A few leaves of fresh basil and parsley (if you have them!)

Salt and black pepper

Spaghetti Bolognese Recipe 1. Finely chop the onion, carrots and pepper (although I prefer to keep the pepper pieces sort of bite-sized) and grate the garlic and ginger.  Heat a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan or stock pot over a medium heat.  Chuck in the onions, garlic and ginger and cook until soft and transparent.  Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat – the garlic will burn!  Next, add the carrots and pepper and continue to cook out, stirring every now and again.  The idea is to soften the veg so that it becomes part of the sauce, not to brown it.  Add the tomato puree, stir it in and keep cooking it all out.  When it’s starting to turn dry, Add the red wine and let this simmer, steaming off the alcohol and any harsh taste.
Recipes using Turkey Mince2. Grab your largest frying pan, add a little oil and turn the heat up to the max.  Brown off the turkey mince, a few handfuls at a time to prevent overcrowding and lowering of the temperature, letting it turn golden brown before turning.  This stuff will kick off quite a bit of water and fat, so keep some kitchen roll handy to mop up any liquid if it looks like the mince is starting to boil rather than brown.  When it’s nicely brown on both sides, add to the saucepan, dry off the pan, then brown the next batch.  It may seem a little odd to use a combination of turkey breast and thigh meat, but I think it gives the perfect amount of fat balance to keep things moist without over greasing the pudding.
Pasta Sauce Recipes  3.  Stir the mince into the vegetables, add the tinned tomatoes and some of the passata – you may need more or less of this depending on the overall balance of mince and veg to sauce, bearing in mind that it will reduce during cooking.Spaghetti Bolognese Recipes  4. Add the beef stock pot and stir in – this can take some time and effort to distribute evenly but it really helps to round out the flavour.  Add the Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar, then the dried spices and herbs, lemon juice and sugar and stir.  Put a lid on and leave alone to simmer (check the temperature) for around half an hour.  Recipes using Chestnut Mushrooms

5. Cut the grotty stalk ends off the mushrooms then slice them, bearing in mind that they will cook down a bit in the sauce. Add to the sauce, stir in, and cook out for another half hour or so, stirring every now and then.  You’ll notice that the sauce has already started to deepen in colour. Oh and if your saucepan isn’t big enough to take everthing, you can just as happily split the sauce into two saucepans, just remember to split any extra ingredients between both.
How do you make Spaghetti Bolognese?

6. Put the lids on and cook out for at least another half an hour to 40 minutes before serving, but ideally as long as possible.  Taste, adjust the seasoning and then add the fresh herbs before stirring through a final time.  Serve with some perfectly cooked pasta (not necessarily spaghetti!), green veg or salad and maybe even some garlic bread.  Grate a little fresh parmesan over the top if you have some -a little goes a long way if you’re counting calories.  This batch fed me for two suppers, and my parents for one, with a large freezer bag going in the freezer, so I’d day it would feed 6 people easily.

Best Ever Spag Bol Recipe

Buon Appetito!
Low Fat Spag Bol

Fresh Basil and Pinenut Pesto

I’ve been a pesto sceptic for longer than I’d care to recall, finally settling on accepting that I was only ever going to enjoy red pesto, and even then how often do you get the opportunity to use red pesto?

Oddly, though, I encountered a jolly good hankering for some fresh pesto last week, knowing I had a basil plant on my windowsill and a block of Parmesan in the fridge. So off I popped to M&S to pick up some (ridiculously overpriced, but delicious) pine nuts and I was good to go.  homemade pesto
To make a ramekin of this pesto, which will give you enough for 3 meals for one person, or probably 1 meal for two, you will need:

4 cloves garlic

A packet of basil leaves or one of the small plants you can buy in the supermarket

3-4 tbsp grated Parmesan

50g or so of pinenuts

Glug olive oil

Glug rapeseed oil

Pinch salt

Dash lemon juice

Sorry for the approximations! Like a salad dressing recipe, the balance of a pesto is as much in touch, sight and taste, so you may need to alter some of the quantities to taste.  how to make pesto
1. What made the difference for me here was roasting the garlic first at 180c wrapped in foil for around 20 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin into a mini chopper, blender or pestle and mortar.  Roasting garlic gets the best out of it whilst also eliminating any harsh raw flavour.  Add the basil leaves and Parmesan. I bulked mine out with a couple of parsley leaves because I’d already used up a bit of my basil plant. basil and pinenut pesto recipe

2. Meanwhile, toast your handful of pine nuts in a medium heat pan – be careful not to burn them as they turn in the blink of an eye. pine nut recipes  how to toast pinenuts

3. Add to the chopper, then add salt, lemon and both oils (if you don’t have one or the other, 100% of one oil will be fine). Don’t go overboard with the oil – you can add but you can’t take away!  

4. Put the lid on and blitz. Stop, remove lid, stir and blitz again. If it’s too dry, add a little more oil at this stage.  I didn’t want mine to be too smooth but do whatever you like with yours!how smooth should pesto be
5. Taste, then add more cheese, salt, lemon or oil if necessary. recipes using pestoI scooped my pesto out into a little ramekin and added a touch more oil, then it was good to go! Delicious spooned over salmon or chicken before baking, a great fresh tasting pasta sauce in minutes, and divine with some cooked vegetables tossed in it. pesto ideas

Chicken Shawarma

If you love street food, a bit of spice, juicey chicken and crisp salad, this one’s for you. Make it your own with your favourite salad items, a different bread, perhaps, or ditch the yoghurt for a chutney, but this is my favourite way to eat it and my ultimate comfort food.

This is such a satisfying supper, or even a weekend lunch for friends – perfect for putting all the extras in the middle of the table and helping yourselves. It is as delicious texturally as it is flavour-wise, and I know that when I’m in the mood for nothing else, this will do the trick.

chicken shawarma feast for one

You will need (to serve 2):

8 boneless chicken thighs

4 flatbreads, wraps or pitta (I used my own recipe flatbreads which add to the preparation time but make a real difference and can be made ahead of time)

A generous salad, such as lettuce, cucumber, ribbons of carrot, crisp peppers and avocado – something to add crunch and even more texture contrast

3 cloves garlic (or 2 if they’re very large)

Thumbsize piece ginger

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

1/3 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp sumac (a lemony Moroccan spice you can buy in the speciality section of Tesco)

Dash lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Good glug olive oil

For the curried yoghurt (can be replaced by plain yoghurt, chutney or mayonnaise in a pinch):

150ml Greek yoghurt

Dash lemon juice

Pinch salt

3 tsp curry powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1. Prepare the chicken thighs by removing any fat and sinew – it’s easiest to do this with a clean pair of kitchen scissors. 
2. Grate the garlic and ginger into a medium sized bowl. Make the marinade by adding the dried spices, seasoning, lemon juice and olive oil.  how to marinate chicken 3. Add the chicken to the bowl and mix everything together. Add more oil if it’s too dry.  Set aside for as long as you can manage – at least a couple of hours, ideally, but if you’re short on time you can make your salad, yoghurt dip and set the table while the chicken soaks up the flavour. how to griddle chicken thighs

4.  Preheat the oven to 180c and put a griddle (or frying pan if you don’t have a griddle pan) onto a high heat on the hob. When it’s good and hot, place your chicken thighs onto the griddle, 4 at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan. I really enjoy cooking like this – the smell is gorgeous and you get lots of sticky caramelised edges. When one side is starting to catch, flip them over and repeat on the other side, then place on a baking tray for the oven to make sure they are cooked all the way through.

Meanwhile, mix the spices, salt and lemon juice into the yoghurt and that’s that ready for the table.  chicken shawarma recipe   5. Cook for about 20 minutes then remove from the oven. If you’re inexperienced with cooking meat , you may want to cut a piece open to check it’s cooked through. how to use up flatbreads  6. Serve up with the flatbreads, salad and yoghurt dip, and you have yourself the most wonderfully messy DIY sandwich. The flatbreads pictured are homemade (and so easy) but you can use wraps or pitta if you’d prefer something shop-bought. chicken shawarma recipe

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

It’s still winter! Can you believe it’s still winter?! Not to worry, there’s still plenty of comforting soup to make it all better. And this one is a belter, if I do say so myself. It does take a little extra effort, but it’s so worth it.
Roasted tomato and basil soup

You will need:

1 onion

5 carrots

1 leek

4 cloves garlic

A glut of tomatoes. I used 4 punnets of vine tomatoes (they were half price) and 2 punnets of cherry tomatoes for sweetness

4 peppers, red, yellow or orange

3 chicken stock cubes (or vegetable if you’re vegetarian)

1 tsp mild chilli powder

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp oregano

Pinch sugar

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

Salt and black pepper

A handful of fresh basil and parsley

Olive oil

A stick blender and a sieve are also handy!

which tomatoes make the best tomato soup
1. Preheat the oven to 190c and prepare three baking trays, lined with foil. Cut each larger tomato in half and place face up on the trays, then add the cherry tomatoes in the gaps. Drizzle with olive oil and put in the oven. how to roast vegetables for soup

2. Top and tail the leek and cut it in half lengthways. Place it cut side down on the third tray and add the garlic. Core the peppers and cut them in half, removing any seeds and so on. Place face down on the tray and drizzle with olive oil. Put in the oven on the highest shelf. The trays will each need around half an hour to get the vegetables roasted and packed with flavour. vegetable base for soup

3. Meanwhile, chop the onion and carrots and prepare the stock.  Heat a little oil in a stock pot and toss in the chopped onions. Sweat then down and add the carrot. The leek can be chopped and added once it has roasted to a sweet and tender state.
how to roast tomatoes 4. When the tomatoes are starting to catch, they’re ready and can be removed from the oven. One tray may take a little longer than the other depending which shelf it’s in but just remove each when they’re ready.how to roast peppers

5. The pepper tray will be ready when the peppers’ skins have blackened considerably. Allow them to cool a little while you chop the leek and add it to the soup pot, then squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin, then add to the soup pot. Allow everything to sweat down a little, but not brown.

how to skin roasted peppers6.To get the peppers to this stage of glorious lusciousness, simply pinch the blackest part of the skins where they will have come away from the flesh and peel off the papery skins.  Roughly chop them up the add to the pot and stir them into the rest of the lovely vegetables.

how to use peppers in soup 7.  Dissolve the stock cubes in around a litre and a half of boiling water (if you haven’t done so already) then pour it into the pot.  Add the tomatoes, just as they come off the tray, and pour in any tomatoey juice which has leaked into the tray.
tomato soup recipes

8.  Add the dried herbs and spices, liquid seasonings and a few cracks of black pepper (everything bar the fresh herbs and some last minute salt).  Let everything cook out with the lid on for around half an hour.ideas for using up tomatoes  9.  Get ready to blitz!  Turn off the heat and (if you have a non-stick pot you’re sensitive about like I have) decant the soup into a large bowl.  Please don’t do this all at once by pouring it straight from the pot to the bowl as you’ll be in danger of scalding yourself or at least being splashed by boiling liquid.  Use a ladle! basil recipes 10. Add the fresh herbs and blitz with a stick blender.  You could, of course, do this in a blender in batches – just be careful to put the lid on.
how do you remove seeds from tomato soup?  11.  Here’s the time consuming part!  Make sure your soup pot is free of any lumps of onion and so on and place a sieve over it.  This uses to take me much longer when I was using my terrible, flimsy Joseph Joseph sieve (it came in a set with bowls I’ve never used), but I invested in this sturdier sieve at TKMaxx which saves a bit of time. Add a few ladles at a time to the sieve and push the soup through with a wooden spoon, scraping hard to get as much through as you can, leaving the seeds and skins behind.  You could blanch and skin the tomatoes before they go into the oven, but I think leaving them on throughout the process really turns up the volume and colour. Repeat until it’s all sieved, and discard the pulp.  Make sure you scrape the underside of the sieve clean into the soup pot, as that’s where the thickest parts tend to linger.

Tomato, red pepper and basil soup recipe

12.  Add a few more leaves of basil and parsley, stir through and serve up or portion up for lunches and the freezer.


Let me know if you try this – I’ve been making soup for years and this is honestly the best I’ve managed it so far – It tastes a bit like Heinz cream of tomato but without the cream and with a bigger, fresher flavour.  It’s a bowlful of vitamin C.  Enjoy!

Really Easy Flatbreads

One of my favourite meals is made-up of some sort of spiced meat, a fresh crunchy salad, a delicious dip or chutney and some sort of flatbread or pitta. It does make for a messy way of eating, but who doesn’t like to get their hands a bit dirty every now and again? It feels like a really basic but delicious way to eat; every bite slightly different.

These flatbreads are great in that sort of setting, or make a really impressive replacement for naan bread if you want to make your own but don’t have the time for yeast to get involved. If you wanted to serve them up as a side dish, give them some herby or garlic butter and serve warm. They’re simple to make too, with the most time consuming part being cooking them (which is why I’ve kept the recipe small) but if you’re having a party you won’t mind the extra time to double or triple the quantities. Now I want to eat more of these….

Onto the recipe!

To make 6, you will need:

175g self-raising flour

175g Greek yoghurt

Pinch salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

You’ll also need a bowl, a knife and a griddle pan. You can use a rolling pin if you want but I think spreading them out by hand leaves them looking a bit more rough and ready (which is what you want from a flatbread).

1. Weigh out the flour, salt and baking powder in a nice large bowl.  

2. Add the yoghurt and mix everything together, kneading gently until the ingredients form a nice dough. Don’t overwork it though. Think pastry, not bread.

3. Flour a clean board or worktop and roll the dough into 6 even balls. Flatten them with your hands or a rolling pin to about 1/4 cm thick.   4. Optionally, use a small, sharp knife to score shallow width-wide lines along the length of the bread and gently oil.

  5. Put a dry griddle pan on a high heat hob, then place one bread in at a time. When they bubble on the up-facing side, like below, turn and cook on the other side. They will only need a few minutes, until a little puffed up.

  6. When the lines look like this on each side, remove from the heat and set aside. Repeat with the rest of the breads.

Serve with flavoured butter or lots of tasty toppings!

Mango Prawns

Mangoes – once you’ve worked out a system to remove their stones and peel them, that is – are really rather delicious. They look and taste like sunshine; juicy but not too citric, beautiful in a fruit salad, delightful grilled, and nourishing puréed. We love mangoes. As it’s winter, I thought I ought to find a new way to put these to work to brighten up my supper, and this, rather satisfying little thing, is the result. Serve with noodles or rice and enjoy.

mango prawns

To feed one, you will need:

1/2 onion

1/2 red pepper

5 or 6 florets of broccoli cut into smaller sprigs for better cooking

1/2 ripe, fresh mango

Handful uncooked King prawns

1 clove garlic

3 tsp soy sauce

2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

Dash lime juice

Splash groundnut oil

1. The first thing to do is make the marinade for the prawns. Grate the garlic into a bowl and add in the sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce and lime juice. If you don’t have sweet chilli sauce, just use a teaspoon of honey and a dash of sriracha or some chilli flakes.

2. Prepare the prawns by cleaning them and making sure there are no nasties still attached (which is actually the most time consuming part!). Dab off with some clean kitchen towel and set them in the marinade to have a nice time. Get the rice on or ready the noodles to go on in 10 minutes.
stir fry vegetable base

3. Slice the onion, pepper and broccoli and add to a large pan or wok which had a little groundnut oil heating in the bottom. Turn down to a medium heat so the vegetables are softening, not burning. Cook until the onion is soft, and the broccoli is just about done.

savoury mango recipes
4. Slice the mango into chunks,being sure to remove any skin, and add this to the pan right before the prawns are ready to go in, so that it is just heated through rather than cooked.
marinating king prawns

5. Push the veg to one side of the pan then add a little more groundnut oil. Give it time to heat then place the prawns in the oil. Pour the marinade over the vegetables and give them a quick stir. how to stir fry prawns
6. After a minute or so, check if the prawns have cooked on the first side – they should be a nice healthy pink.king prawn stir fry
7. Turn the prawns, cook until pink on the other side, then mix in with the vegetables and mango. Give it 30 seconds to come through the heat again and serve.

I served mine with some jasmine rice, but you do you!

What’s in my Freezer?

With the recent spell of bad weather, which could well be the first of many as we tread steadily on into the deepest darkest depths of winter, I thought it would be a good time to share my tips as to how I run my freezer. Not just because it’s almost as cold out there as it is in the freezer drawer, but because it’s a really good time to make sure you have lots of good food in stock which could potentially make you a meal if you can’t make it out to the shops (or in case the shops run out again!).


Ok, it isn’t the tidiest freezer just now, but there is plenty in it, although I am trying to run things down a little to replenish with fresher food.

It’s important to me to have a good-sized freezer because I cook a lot, pretty much every day in life. And to cook economically in a household of one, batch cooking is essential. And unless you want to be eating the same stew all week, you have to learn to freeze your leftovers. It’s genius really. Not only do you prevent waste, but you give yourself “ready meals” for those days when you don’t have the time or inclination to throw something together from scratch, but when you still feel you need something balanced, nutritious and homemade.

In case you’re interested, I thought I’d share some of the things I have in my freezer most of the time which help me to keep things ticking over.

whats in my freezer
The Top Drawer

Because this is my shallowest drawer, as well as the easiest to access, it’s where I like to make and keep ice. It’s not totally essential at this time of year, but it’s good to have. Because I have a frost-free freezer, however, the ice in the trays is constantly being eroded, so I like to make it then decant it into a big freezer bag to try to keep it intact.

freezer hints and tips
Ice cube trays are also really useful for preserving all sort of things, such as fresh herbs, and I used one to freeze some homemade chicken stock into little portions which can be added to sauces to lift their flavour a little. Pictured here I also have a couple of frozen homemade tortilla wraps, as well as three homemade vegetable samosas, which are too delicate to risk being thrown about when I’m rummaging around in the major drawers.

The top drawer is also home to my ice cream collection. I have an open tub of Ben & Jerry’s Frozen Yoghurt hanging around from when I first tried to lose weight (which I may have given up on as a result of how bad this was) and I’m keeping it around for emergencies.


The Middle Drawer

This is where things get serious. We’re in the belly of the beast here where there’s most space, but it can get to be a bit of a mystery what’s in here!

First, we have the vegetables. You have to be careful with some vegetables if you decide to freeze them from fresh; carrots, for example, are prone to losing structural integrity when frozen in a domestic freezer (frozen food producers have industrial rapid-freeze units to combat this problem) but others work really well.

Leftover green beans are great to freeze to avoid them going bad, and are so quick to defrost and cook (cook from frozen) but I always forget to top and tail them before I put them in the freezer!). Peppers work really well as well if you have a glut (my dad grows them in his greenhouse) – just slice them, bag them and put them in the freezer and you can then use them in stir fries or fajitas when you forget to buy fresh.

I always have frozen peas in my freezer as they are so quick to provide a nutritious and tasty portion of veg, as well as being great to bulk out a pasta sauce or rice dish. Although I haven’t yet needed to use them to soothe someone who has been punched in the face!

Next up we have various frozen bread items. The problem with fresh and homemade bread is that it goes stale within about 24 hours. So when I make fresh bread, I like to slice and immediately freeze anything that’s not going to be used. You can then pull it from the freezer and put it straight into the toaster. I have a couple of old frozen loaf heels as well which can be defrosted and blitzed into breadcrumbs.

I like trying out different types of breads as well, so I often have a couple of homemade naan breads chilling out in this drawer, but just now I have a couple of flatbreads, which can go straight into the oven to defrost and warm through when needed.

Given I live on my own still, I like to batch cook and freeze leftovers, like curry or pasta sauces and homemade burgers (which taste best if you freeze them uncooked). Ready meals in a flash! The big guy in the front is half a batch of cookie dough which can be defrosted, sliced and baked off when needed.

which foods freeze well
Along the same lines, I like to keep some frozen raw ingredients in the freezer for later in the week when I haven’t made it to a supermarket, and it’s also an economical way of making sure one person can use up a packet of 8 sausages! The usual suspects are salmon fillets, chicken breasts and sausages, but I also have a cod fillet and some blueberries just now. Freezer bags and a Sharpie are a must!


This is where I have to admit to resorting to “convenience foods” every now and then! I have a couple of ice lollies for when it’s warm outside, as well as some cheeky breaded mushrooms and potato wedges (because sometimes you just have to!). Fish fingers are another must have, because they can easily be cooked off from frozen and served up with peas. Not the most heathy choice but everything in moderation (and I fear I’ll have to give up when I move in with Charles due to his fish allergy….).

The winner in this category is these Tesco frozen King Prawns. They’re usually about £5 for a bag (although I got these for about £3.50 I think) which is much more economical than the fresh ones. They’re nice and big and defrost relatively quickly in a bowl of cold water so they’re great for a last minute dish if you forget to take something out of the freezer in the morning. Just remember to remove the gut!

The Bottom Drawer

This is the drawer which has the most turnover, because it’s where I keep my frozen soup and more liquidy leftovers such as meatballs in sauce and casseroles. I love having soup for weekday at my desk lunches, so I usually make a big pot of it every Sunday, with leftovers going in the freezer for weeks when I don’t have time on the Sunday. It also makes a great last-minute starter or lunch if someone decides to visit.

The Lakeland Soup and Sauce bags are great for freezing this type of thing as they sit nice and upright to be filled, but it does mean they need a deep freezer drawer until they’re nice and solid. More recently, I’ve been using these Tip N Zip bags my Mum found at Home Bargains – they’re much cheaper and sit more horizontally so they’re easier to squeeze into the freezer.  how to freeze soup

This drawer also houses some random odds and sods like homemade linguine and a brioche roll, as well as some more bread.

Sorry this post went on for days, but I hope it was helpful or interesting. I’d love to hear what you always keep in your freezer.

Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake

Call me crazy, but I occasionally get an unarguable hankering to bake. Often it’s a need to bake generally, sometimes it’s a particular type of baking I’m craving, such as bread or biscuits, and sometimes, more rarely, I wake up in the morning thinking “I want to make a chocolate bundt cake today” so that’s just what I did!

I reckon if you’re going to go for a chocolate cake, it has to be the most chocolatey creation you can imagine, so this one is triple chocolate with a real chocolate sponge filled with chocolate chips, topped with rich chocolate ganache and garnished with grated chocolate (so technically, it’s quadruple chocolate!). You can of course leave the grated chocolate off, or replace with sprinkles or chocolate curls if you would prefer.

To make this just as chocolatey and bundty as I did, you will need:

110g good quality dark chocolate, I use the £1 bars from Tesco usually, which have 70% cocoa solids. 

175g salted butter, at room temperature

60g soft light brown sugar 

110g caster sugar

4 large eggs

30g cocoa powder

pinch salt 

200g self-raising flour 

1 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp milk

3 handfuls chocolate chips (I used half a packet of Tesco White chocolate chips and some chopped dark chocolate)

For the topping:

100ml double cream

50g dark chocolate 

And you’ll need one of these – a bundt tin:

 how to bake with a bundt tinA bundt tin is essentially a ring-shaped tin with patterned sides to give you a beautiful all in one cake, which looks quite the picture on your kitchen or dining room table. You can make all sorts of plain, iced or glazed bundts, and they’re perfect for when you want to make something pretty without going to the effort of sandwiching sponges together. If you don’t have a bundt tin, the sponge will work well divided by two and sandwiched with extra ganache or buttercream, or you could bake it in a loaf tin instead.  how to line a bundt tin
 1. Preheat the oven to 170c fan, making sure the shelf is nice and low to give you space to settle the deep tin in the middle of the oven. Prepare the bundt tin by buttering liberally (to get into all the flutes you might be better using a pastry brush or paper towel to do this) and coating the buyer with cocoa powder to give your tin some extra non-stick credentials.

  
2. If you don’t have a microwave, set a glass bowl over a little boiling water in a saucepan, set to a simmer and break the chocolate into the bowl. Let it do its own thing until starting to melt, then stir, leave and stir again until all melted then set aside. Don’t let the bowl touch the water and don’t let any water in the bowl.

If using a microwave, put the chocolate into a microwave-friendly bowl and heat for 10 or 20 seconds at a time, remove, stir and repeat until melted. Too hot or too long and it will burn and be unusable.

  triple chocolate cake recipe 

3. Whisk up the soft butter with an electric whisk until light, then weigh in the two sugars, before whisking again for a good few minutes until combined and creamy. I find it helpful to have a silicone spatula to hand to keep pushing the ingredients down the sides into the belly of the bowl. 

incorporating 4 eggs into a cake batter

4. Next, the eggs. The more air we can get into the cake at this stage, the less likely it is that the cake will go wrong or come out tough. So, with that in mind, slowly combine the eggs by cracking them in one at a time, then whisking them in to the creamed butter and sugar. The first egg will loosen the mixture considerably, and by the time all of the eggs are in, the mixture will be quite runny. 

 tips for a light sponge 

5. Give the batter another long whisk until it’s really light and airy, then fold in the cocoa powder and then the melted chocolate.

combining the chocolate into the cake batter 

6. Add the salt, flour, baking powder and milk and gently fold until just combined, being careful not to knock the air out of it. Fold in the chocolate chips.

 how to make a chocolate cake
7. Don’t freak out when you see the thickness of the batter, just spoon it evenly into the tin. Don’t worry about spreading it out; the oven will do that for you. 
 chocolate bundt cake recipe 

8. Put in the oven and have a peek after about 25 minutes. It will spread, rise, crack then bake fully. Once it’s starting to look like this, give it a gentle press. If it’s springy it’s done, but if it’s soft leave it in. Mine took about 35 minutes but it will depend on your oven. If you’re nervous you can check if it’s done by inserting a skewer through it gently. If it’s clean when removed, it’s ready, if there are gooey traces put it back in for 5 or 10 minutes.

 bundt cake recipe 

 9. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes or so until it’s starting to shrink and cool then gently loosen the edges (in and out) with a knife. Put a large plate, cake board or cake stand over the top, flip and carefully set down. The tin should lift off relatively easily. If not, flip, ease with the knife again and flip back to try again. If you’re still struggling, leave it to cool for a little while before trying again.

what should i bake today

10. Time to make the ganache! This is so much easier than the professionals make it sound! Pour the cream into a small saucepan and set on a low to medium hob. Let the cream warm up but don’t let it boil. Break the chocolate up and put it straight into the cream, stir until melted, mixed glossy and beautiful. 

  
11. Set it aside and allow it to cool down a bit, stirring every now and then to check the texture. When it’s a bit firmer to the point where it will drop rather than run off the spoon, it’s ready to spread on your cake. If it’s still running off the spoon, it will run straight off the cake.

how to make ganache  

 12. Spread the ganache evenly over the highest point of the cake ring, allowing it to drop down the sides as naturally as you are able – as you can see, it needs to have a little bit of setness about it to give you that irresistible effect – overflowing but going no further. 
 how to ice a bundt cake 

13. Grate more chocolate over the top or decorate however you wish. Serve immediately or allow to set fully, and be sure to lick the spoon once you’re finished! how to decorate a bundt cake 

This will keep nicely for a few days in an airtight container. If you have any left once it’s starting to go stale, slice and warm it in the microwave – the ganache will melt, the sponge will soften – and serve as a pudding with cream or ice cream. 

Quick Sausage Rolls and Cheese Straws

IMG_0250
Some horrible photography but they weren’t really frazzled – promise!

This won’t exactly be very coherent because it wasn’t even a very coherent day! My mother and step-father have an annual Christmas party – I know, I know, a very late post but I wasn’t sure to write it up or not because it was such as mishmash of things. I wanted to help them with things because they are both getting on a bit and my mother has a bad back so don’t want her making it worse. I was supposed to do a few things, cut up 5kg of beef, prepare 30 chicken thighs to make mango chicken and then I thought I would make some sausage rolls for the guests.

Needless to say, despite my good intentions, I got there and the beef was already cooked and ready to be reheated the day of the party and my mother was keen to do the chicken because it also turned out that they had been deboned by the butcher so it was very low effort! She had also proceeded to order a very small amount of sausage meat so I arrived with very little to do and a mass of bought pastry so I had to improvise! I also did this before Brookers of Blunty’s came about so it wasn’t very well documented with photos.

Sausage Rolls

The sausage rolls were intended to be made in a much bigger quantity, I have made them a time or two before and how can you not love a sausage roll?! The best thing is that it is totally customisable. I went with some herbs in the sausage meat and some thinly sliced bits of “cooking” chorizo to give something a bit more. As it slowly dawned on me how little meat I had, the sausage rolls sort of became pinwheel type things but they were still brilliant!

Notes
If you are being adventurous with your flavour combinations, it might be worth taking some of your sausage meat and frying it in order to check it tastes ok.

Ingredients

Sausage meat (more than your mother gives you!) – probably about a pound (500g)

1 pack of ready made puff pastry

About 70g of chorizo

1 tablespoon of thyme

1 tablespoon of sage

1 tablespoon of rosemary

1 beaten egg

Fennel and sesame seeds to top

1, Roll your pastry into a long rectangle large enough to contain all of your sausage meat etc

2, Throw in all of the herbs, sausage meat and shredded chorizo into a bowl and mix well, your hands are the best thing for doing this with!

3, Create a freestyle sausage shape on the pastry, remember you will need a good bit of an overlap in order to overlap the pastry.

4, With a pastry brush, brush a little egg onto the flap of pastry and then, over the SAUSAGE, ROLL the pastry over and use a fork to crimp the pastry.

5, Cut them into the desired size and put them onto a greased baking tray, brush on some beaten egg and sprinkle sesame seeds etc on top.

6, Put them in a medium oven (180 degrees C) for 20 minutes and check them regularly to see they aren’t burning!

Quick Cheese Straws

The cheese straws were made purely to use up the excess pastry but they were brilliant. I decided to cut the chorizo into thin matchsticks and grate some cheddar. There is no need to bother with instructions, simply roll out the pastry, liberally sprinkle the filling and then fold it in half and then cut them into ribbons about 1cm wide and 4-5mm thick. If you want to get fancy, try twisting them up!

Sorry about the chaos of this post, it has been a busy few days of no free time and working all weekend!  On the bright side, we saw a barn owl flying over our field. Lovely stuff.IMG_0249