Weekend Cooking: Easy Baking

weekend cookingBeth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts.

Easy Baking is a Marks & Spencer book of recipes for Cakes, Slices & Bars, Cookies and Small Bakes, and Desserts.


I thought this little book looked too tempting to resist and one afternoon decided to make the Sticky Toffee Cake, one of my favourite cakes – and I had all the ingredients to hand. It really is an easy recipe. You need:

  • 75g sultanas
  • 150g stoned dates, chopped
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 25g butter
  • 200g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour, sifted


Cover sultanas, dates and bicarb with boiling water and leave to soak. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F and grease a 7 inch/18cm square cake tin. Mix butter and sugar together, beat in the eggs and fold in the flour, drain the soaked fruits, add to the bowl and mix. Spoon mixture into the cake tin and then bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

The recipe also includes a sticky toffee sauce, but I didn’t have the ingredients for that – it was still delicious, sweet and moist, without it. I’ll make it next time.

There are lots more recipes I’ll try making – including Jewel-topped Madeira Cake, which is topped with sliced glacé fruits glazed with honey, Chocolate Chip and Walnut Slices, Viennese Chocolate Fingers and Manhatton Cheesecake, which looks amazing with a digestive biscuit base and topped with a blueberry sauce.

Caramel Squares/Millionaire's Shortbread

Anything made of caramel is always tempting, especially millionaire’s shortbread. It’s that combination of shortbread, caramel and chocolate that I find so irresistible.

I’ve tried making it a few times and this last batch I made is the best, so far. It could be better, the shortbread could be shorter and the chocolate a bit thicker to reach perfection, but the caramel part was scrumptious.

Millionaire's shortbreadI used a mix of recipes:

Home Baking Cookbook 001The shortbread is made with:

  • 115g butter
  • 60g soft light brown sugar
  • 225g plain flour

I rubbed the butter into the flour, added the sugar and worked it together to form a firm dough. Then I pressed  the mixture into a 23cm square cake tin, pricked it all over with a fork and baked it in the oven at 190° for 20 minutes. I left it to cool and then –

For the caramel, I used the recipe on a tin of condensed milk:

  • 120g butter
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 397g can condensed milk

It all went into a saucepan and I cooked it over a moderate heat and stirred until the sugar melted and the ingredients were combined. Then I brought it to the boil and lowered the heat and simmered for 3 to 4 minutes until thickened, and then poured it over the shortbread and left it to set.

For the topping I melted some milk chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and poured it over the caramel. I’d have preferred plain chocolate, but milk chocolate was all we had in the house.

See Beth Fish Reads for more Weekend Cooking posts.

Weekend Cooking – Curried Carrot & Apple Soup

It’s been a while since I wrote a Weekend Cooking post – Weekend Cooking is hosted at Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. For more information, see the welcome post.

I had quite a lot of apples recently and after making various puddings I looked in my cookery books and found a recipe for curried carrot and apple soup in the Kitchen Doctor Low-Cholesterol Cooking for Health.

I adapted the recipe to make enough for two rather than four. Here is the recipe as detailed in the book, click on the image to enlarge:

It’s really easy to make – first heat the oil and gently fry the curry powder for 2-3 minutes. Then add the carrots, onion and apple, stir and cover the pan, cooking over a low heat for about 15 minutes until they soften. I added the stock and brought it to the boil.

Then I blitzed it with a hand-held blender, seasoned it with salt and coarse ground black pepper. If you like add a swirl of yoghurt (I didn’t this time) and serve.

The curry and the apple tone down the sweetness of the carrots – delicious.

The book contains over 50 low-cholesterol and low-fat recipes, with sections on soups and starters, meat, poultry and fish main courses, plus pasta, pulses and vegetable dishes and desserts, cakes and bakes.

Weekend Cooking – Forever Summer

Although it’s not yet summer here, it’s been feeling like it this last two weeks. We’ve had some gloriously sunny days, which made me think of cooking something from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer. This is a book full of recipes to give you that summery feeling all year round. There are recipes from around the world and I decided to make Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake.

Nigella writes that this is an Oz-emanating recipe that she scribbled down from a friend after a gardenside Sunday’s summer lunch.

It’s a combination of Pavlova and Victoria Sponge: make the sponge mixture by creaming 100g very soft butter with 100g caster sugar, beat in 2 egg yolks, fold in 12g plain flour, 25g cornflour and 1½ teaspoons of baking powder, add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and stir in 2 tablespoons of milk to thin the batter. Divide this mixture between 2 x 22cm Springform tins.

Then add the pavlova mixture – whisk the 2 egg whites until soft peaks form, gradually add 200g caster sugar and spread a layer of the meringue on top of the sponge batter in each tin and sprinkle over 50g flaked almonds.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes in a preheated oven – 200°C/gas mark 6 until the almond scattered meringues are a dark gold. Let the cakes cool in the tins until you’re ready to assemble the cake.

Whip 375ml double cream and hull and slice 250g strawberries and sandwich the cream and berries between the two cakes – meringue on the base layer and on the top.

I made this last weekend when we had the family round,  As Nigella suggested I placed more strawberries in a separate dish to eat alongside the cake and it was half gone by the time I remembered to take a photo of it. It’s definitely a recipe I’ll be making again – it’s scrumptious.

Strawberry meringue layer cake

Weekend Cooking is host at Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. For more information, see the welcome post.

Weekend Cooking: Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post at Beth Fish Reads.

Nigella Lawson’s programmes and books never fail to entertain and inform. Her latest is Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home.

Click to watch this video

In the Introduction she writes about what the kitchen means to her and says:

A real chef would have an apoplectic fit and a nervous breakdown simultaneously – if forced to cook in my kitchen. The surfaces are cluttered, the layout messy and getting messier by the day (and, overall, I’ve no doubt my kitchen would fail many a health and safety test and law of ergonomics). But I love it, even if it is more of a nest than a room. (page xv)

Thank goodness for that , not only is Nigella a real woman she has a real kitchen too. I like the way she writes, with no fuss or nonsense and I like her mouth-watering recipes, that are easy to follow and a pleasure to cook. In this book she begins with a list of kitchen equipment that she regards as essential and non-essential too.

I previously posted a recipe from this book – Blondies, which my husband made. I bought him the book for Christmas and yesterday he made Strawberry and Almond Crumble, which is so delicious! We had friends round so I didn’t take a photo and we ate it all up! Here’s a photo from the book:
Strawberry crumble

The recipe is online at BBC Food Recipes.

Nigella writes:

The oven doesn’t, as you’d think, turn the berries into a red-tinted mush of slime, but into berry-intense bursts of tender juiciness. This is nothing short of alchemy: you take the vilest, crunchiest supermarket strawberries, top them with an almondy, buttery rubble, bake and turn them out on a cold day into the taste of an English summer. Naturally, serve with lashings of cream: I regard this as obligatory. (page 131)

I love that description of crumble as an ‘almondy, buttery rubble’, and I love this recipe. This book is one of Nigella’s best.

Weekend Cooking

Time now to think about cooking for Christmas. I’ve made the Christmas Cake and that is maturing nicely (I hope). Whilst out shopping I found this book with more ideas for Christmas Cakes and Cookies:

It’s a flip-over book that is also free-standing, so you can stand it up whilst looking at the recipes as you cook. There are recipes for Shortbread Snowmen, Gingerbread Reindeer, Snowflake Delight, Festive Fudge, Christmas Crunchers and Christmas Toffee Pudding and many more delicious temptations.

I’m very tempted by the Christmas Toffee Pudding which is made with dates:

(click image to enlarge)

For more tempting cooking posts have a look at Beth Fish Reads

Weekend Cookery – Blondies

I haven’t done a Weekend Cookery post for a few weeks, so I thought it was about time I did.

My husband likes to cook and often cooks dinner, but he doesn’t bake. He’s a fan of Nigella and and also of Blondie. So, he couldn’t resist making Nigella’s recipe in the pullout in the Radio Times of Nigella’s Simple Treats.

Here are Dave’s Blondies – they are absolutely delicious.

He made them by combining 200g porridge oats, 100g plain flour, and ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. In another bowl he beat together 150g soft unsalted butter and 100g light muscovado sugar until pale and then stirred in 1 can (397g) condensed milk, then add in the oats mixture. When this was well mixed he added in 1 egg and 170g of dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces.

He then put the lumpy mixture into a 9in square cake tin and baked it in a preheated oven at 180°for about 35 minutes. As Nigella describes it, it was ‘quite a pronounced dark gold around the edges and coming away from the tin’ and was still  ‘frighteningly squidgy, not to say wibbly.’

He let it firm up in the tin and then cut it into pieces. You can see in the photo below that they are a lovely consistency and the chocolate pieces are softly melted into the  chewy oaty mixture.

D's Blondies1

weekend cooking

Weekend Cookery is a weekly event hosted by Beth Fish Reads, where you’ll find more cookery related posts.

Edited 28 August 2021: The recipe is in Nigella Lawson’s book, Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home page 314.

Weekend Cooking – Watercress Soup

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. For more information, see the welcome post.

It’s been hot and sunny here all last week, but today it’s been raining on and off all morning. Just the right sort of weather to make watercress soup. This is my favourite soup to make because it’s so easy. The only preparation is peeling and chopping potatoes and onion, briefly sautéing them in oil, then simmering them for about 15 -20 minutes in vegetable stock until cooked. Then add the watercress and simmer very briefly before blitzing the soup with a hand blender in the pan – cooking the watercress like this means it keeps a fresh green colour.

Simmer chopped potatoes and onion in vegetable stock

Add watercress

Bowl of watercress soup

Weekend Cooking – Bread

Bread is one of my favourite foods. I’ve been baking my own bread for about 4 years now, using a breadmaker. I’ve tried making it by hand but all that kneading just defeats me and it is so much easier with a machine. It is very simple – you just put all the ingredients in the bread tin, choose the appropriate setting, press start and leave it to knead, prove and bake. My breadmaker has a little dispenser so you can add nuts, or dried fruit. Or there is a dough setting – doing all the hard work for you – and then you can shape the dough into rolls, baguettes, plaits, croissants or whatever takes your fancy and bake them in the oven.

I vary what I make, sometimes using a packet mix, which does give a very good result. My favourites are Cheese and Onion, Ciabatta and Mixed Grain. Other times I use fast acting dried yeast and the Very Strong White or Wholemeal flour, sometimes making half white and half brown bread. I recently bought a Country Grain flour – with malted wheat flakes, rye flour and malted wheat and barley flour and mixed that with the very strong white flour to make this loaf:


For this I used 1 teaspoon of yeast, 250 grams of the Country Grain flour, 225 grams of strong white flour, I½ teaspoons of sugar, 1¼ teaspoons of salt, 25 grams of butter and 340 ml of water and set the breadmaker on the wholemeal setting. It took 5 hours to make and bake. There is a rapid setting as well but I find that  the bread doesn’t rise as much and it takes more yeast.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs

Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

As it’s Easter my contribution this week is Simnel Cake. This recipe is from Marguerite Patten’s Everyday Cook Book in Colour, which was first published in 1968. It was the first cookery book I bought and I’ve used it extensively ever since.

The ingredients are the same as a Rich Dundee Cake (fruit cake). You put half the cake mixture into an 8 inch round cake tin, put a layer of marzipan on top of that and then add the remaining cake mixture. Bake for 2 to 2½ hours at 160°C or Gas 3. When cold brush the top with egg white or apricot jam and cover with a round of marzipan. Traditionally this is decorated with eleven marzipan balls, representing the eleven disciples (leaving out Judas), or sugared eggs, or chicks.

Originally Simnel Cake was made for Mothering Sunday, but it has now become an Easter Cake. Nigella Lawson’s beautiful book Feast: Food that Celebrates Life also has a recipe for Simnel Cake and she uses a light fruit cake mixture and after decorating the cake with marzipan she paints it all with egg white and blow-torches it to give it a burnished look. I haven’t tried that.