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.

Weekend Cooking: Ultimate Chocolate Brownies

Slender Frenchwomen often told the co-founder of Green & Black’s chocolate that ‘they kept a bar of Green & Black’s in their desk drawer, to have a square at 4 pm which would keep them going till dinner …’ Could I be so disciplined and just eat one square?

Well, I can restrict myself to eating just one Ultimate Chocolate Brownie and whilst that can never really be thought to help keep anyone slender, eating one at 4 pm will certainly keep anyone going until dinner time!

Chocolate Brownie

I made a batch recently using the recipe from Green & Black’s Organic Ultimate Chocolate Recipes: the New Collection. This is a book mainly about baking, and it makes my mouth water just looking at it, full of recipes for cakes, cookies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, tarts  soufflés, puddings, pies, and sweets such as truffles and chocolate marshmallows. They are all decadently chocolatey and scrumptious.

To make 24 chocolate brownies you need:

  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 300g dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate broken into pieces
  • 5 large free-range eggs
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Preheat oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
  • Melt butter and sugar together in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water
  • Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together until the mixture is thick and creamy and when chocolate and sugar have melted together beat in the egg mixture
  • Add flour and salted (sifted together first) and beat until smooth
  • Bake in a tin 30x24x6cm, lined with greaseproof or baking parchment for about 20-25 minutes until the top has formed a crust just starting to crack.
  • The brownie will not wobble but will be gooey inside
  • Leave in the tin for 20 minutes and then cut into 24 squares and remove from the tin

Eat and enjoy!

N.B. I wrote about Green & Black’s first cookbook in an earlier Weekend Cooking post where I described making chocolate mousse – Dark with Coffee.

weekend cookingWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish ReadsIt’s 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.

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: Cakes Please!

Yesterday was CatsPlease on my blog and today it’s CakesPlease! I used to bake cakes every week, but haven’t done so for years.

Mary Berry's Baking Bible P1080218Earlier this year I got the baking bug after watching The Great British Bake Off, and I was so taken with Mary Berry that I bought one of her books – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. For the first time I bought a cookery book to read on my new Kindle Fire, partly because I have lots of cookery books and there’s no room for any more and also because the Kindle Fire has colour and the cover has a built-in stand so I can stand it up on the kitchen table to refer to it easily whilst cooking.

This contains a huge range of cakes, biscuits, traybakes, breads, buns, scones, hot puddings and pies, souffles and meringues and cheesecakes! Over 250 classic recipes.

Mary Berry writes:

Cakes are made to be shared so, once you have mastered a recipe, invite your friends and family to enjoy the fruits of your labour with a good pot of tea – happy baking!

So, I’m sharing the recipe for the Banana Loaf, which I made earlier this week and as I can’t physically share it here are my photos. First the ingredients:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/ Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Lightly grease a 900g loaf tine then line sides and base with baking parchment.
  2. Put all ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat for 2 minutes until well blended. Spoon mixture into the loaf tine and level the surface.
  3. Bake for about 1 hour, until well risen and golden brown. Leave in the tin to cool for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

This is what mine looked like:

It tasted delicious!

For more Weekend Cooking posts see Beth Fish Reads.

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 – from The Long Song

One of the books I’m currently reading is The Long Song, a novel about slavery set in 19th century Jamaica, by Andrea Levy. The narrator is July, now an old woman born as a slave, writing her memoirs.

This morning I read about the preparations for the Yuletide dinner of 1831. There were to be twelve people at the plantation owner’s table.  Caroline, the owner’s sister is giving Hannah, the cook, her orders for the food to be provided.

There was to be both turtle and vegetable soups, mutton, pigeon pies and guinea fowl, a boiled ham and a turkey or two, turtle served in the shell (but she would prefer beef), four stewed ducks, cheese, as many hogsheads as they could get and roasted pig.

There was also to be:

… malt liquor, wine, porter, cider, brandy and rum, watermelon, mango, pawpaw, naseberry, soursop, grandilla fruit. ‘And make sure the preserve has come from England. Strawberry or damson. Do not serve guava, ginger or that ghastly sorrel jelly. I’m so tired of Jamaican jams.’

Hannah had stopped listening, for the need to shout ‘And me to fix-up all this? You  a gut-fatty, cha!’ at her misssus was becoming overpowering in her. (pages 74 – 75)

And in case they were still hungry after this obscene amount of food, Hannah was told to make plum pudding. Hannah remembered how to make it –

A little fruit, a little molasses, some cornmeal, eggs, plenty rum. Mash it up a bit. Put this mess in that silly round mould the missus did give her the first Christmas she arrived, and boil it until the water does run dry. And when the thing is hard then it is done. (pages 75 – 76)

So far I think this book is beautifully written, vivid, lively and enthralling.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Weekend Cooking

Two Greedy Italians

I love Italian food, so Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo looks like a book that I would love to have!

This book  accompanies a new series on BBC2 which starts on Wednesday 27 April 2011 at 8 pm.

Carluccio and Contaldo are old friends. They return to Italy to reconnect with their culinary heritage, explore past and current traditions and reveal the very soul of Italian gastronomy. Containing over 100 mouthwatering recipes, this  book goes beyond the clichés to reveal real Italian food, as cooked by real Italians. It includes an intriguing combination of classic dishes and ingredients as well as others showcasing the changes in style and influences that have become a part of the Italy of today.  (Description adapted from the Product Description on Amazon.)

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Quadrille Publishing Ltd (18 April 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 9781844009428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844009428

We do have one of Antonio Carluccio’s books – Passion for Pasta, which is a beautiful book, full of recipes for making your own pasta and sauces. He writes:

… I would like you to forget about bottled sauces, ready-made pasta dishes, and pre-packed Parmesan cheese. Instead indulge yourself by trying the amazing soft texture of your own hand-made pasta, the bite of fresh Italian cheeses, the flavour of cured meats such as Parma ham, and anchovies and fresh basil. (page 7)

There are also lots photos of mouth-watering food, such as this which shows Pasta Per Tutte Stagioni – Pasta For All Seasons, made with fresh shitake mushrooms, fresh oyster mushrooms, chanterelles and small dried fusilli. It includes double cream, smoked ham, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley and truffle oil, which Carluccio says is very expensive and very sophisticated – a dish for special occasions!

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; 2nd Revised edition edition (24 July 2003)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 9780563487616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563487616
  • ASIN: 0563487615
  • Product Dimensions: 25.8 x 18.2 x 1.4 cm
  • Source: I bought it

This is my contribution to this week’s Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

“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.”

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