Sunday, 26 June 2011

Bulgar wheat salad

I'm not a fan of stodgy fare at the best of times, and particularly when the weather is warm and sunny. This recipe is just the kind of guilt-free, veg-filled, colourful food heaven that I like to indulge in over summer.

Serves 4-6 people

200g bulgar wheat
dessertspoonful of onion pickle for popadoms (I had some left over in the fridge, but you can use one small onion, finely chopped and sprinkled with lemon juice instead)
the juice of one lemon
half a cucumber
5 ripe tomatoes (vine tomatoes are best)
one cup of garden peas
2 large carrots, grated
2 dessertspoons of spinach puree (puree is easier, but fresh spinach, finely chopped will also work)


1. In a large bowl, mix the onion pickle into the dried bulgar wheat. Add the lemon juice, then just cover with boiling water. Cover the top of the bowl with a plate to keep the steam in. The bulgar wheat will be rehydrated in about 30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, cube the cucumber, cut the tomatoes into wedges, grate the carrots, and cook your peas if you are using frozen ones

3. When the bulgar wheat is rehydrated, add the spinach, cucumber, tomato, carrots and peas, and stir gently, but thouroughly. Add salt and black pepper to taste. 

Personally, I tend to like the fresh taste of the salad 'as is', with just the lemon juice and black pepper to set off the taste of all of the fresh ingredients. However, if you prefer something with a bit more punch, then balsamic would work really well on this salad, as would a nice fruit vinegar.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Super-rich spiced rum truffles

For an obsessive cake-maker, I really don't have much of a sweet tooth. Perhaps that's why I love these truffles. They are sinfully rich rather than sweet, and you really only need a couple at a time. They also make wonderful presents at birthdays or Christmas. Enjoy!

This recipe will make a lot of truffles - around 20 - 40, depending on the size that you make them.

40g unsalted butter
200ml double cream
200g best quality dark chocolate (70% is best)
4 dessert spoons spiced rum (e.g. Morgan's spiced, Sailor Jerry etc)

1. Melt the butter into the cream on the hob, stirring continuously until the mixture is just bubbling.

2. Remove from the heat, and stir in the broken-up chocolate. 

3. Leave to cool a little, then stir in the rum, a little at a time so that the mixture doesn't curdle. 

4. Pop the mixture into a freeer-proof container and put in the freezer for about 3 hours.

5. Once the mixture has set, use teaspoons to form it into little balls, and roll these into either dessicated coconut or cocoa powder to coat the outside. 

Due to the cream in these truffles, they should really be eaten within 5 days of making. However, they freeze really well, so you can always make a giant batch and defrost as and when you want to use them.

Monday, 13 June 2011

'Birthday Present' decorated madeira cake

This entry is a bit of a 'cheat' - not a new recipe, but an example of what can be done with a bit of adaptation and imagination.

I made this variant of the 'Perfect Madeira cake' as a gift for my Dad's birthday. It used only one egg, and all other ingredients from the maderia recipe were scaled down appropriately. The cake is large enough to share a few slices, and small enough that it isn't a chore for an individual to eat. 

As I didn't have a suitably-sized springform cake pan, I baked the mixture in heart-shaped cupcake moulds and joined them together with a little frosting at the end. This meant that the cooking time was dramatically reduced - only about 15-20 minutes or so. Also, since it was impractical to wrap paper around each individual cupcake mould, the cakes came out a little domed, and needed to be sliced flat across the top.

Decoration was really simple, but effective: I covered it in one layer of soft white icing, and then mixed a pastel blue icing colour (using gel colouring, not liquid, so that the colour is vibrant and the consistency remains the same). I rolled this out and trimmed to make the parcel ribbon, and then sprinkled edible holographic glitter over the surface of the cake.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The perfect madeira cake!

I adapted this marvellousrecipe for an 8" round Madeira cake from


12 oz Stork
12 oz golden caster sugar
12oz self raising flour
6 oz plain flour
6 large eggs
2 lemons - zest only

1. Line an 8 inch round springform tin with baking paper and cover the ourside of the tin with four of five layers of newspaper. This will stop the outsides of the cake from cooking too fast, and will help your cake to rise nice and even on top, instead of being domed.

2. Cream together the Stork and the sugar until nice and light and creamy.

3. Add in the beaten eggs, one at a time with just as much flour as you need to stop it curdling (as little as possible).

4. Mix in the flour and the lemon zest. Don't worry if the mixture is gloopier than you are used to - it's supposed to be quite thick and stodgy.

5. Transfer into your baking tin, but scoop the middle of the mixture completely out, so that the mixture is sitting in a doughnut shape in the tin.

6. Pop into a preheated oven at 160 degrees Celsius, with a baking tray on the shelf above to protect it from too much heat. Put a bowl of water on the floor of the over so that the cake comes out nice and moist. Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

To decorate:


half a jar of strawberry jam
one batch of lemon buttercream icing (use about1/2 to 3/4 block of unsalted butter)
500g ready-to-roll icing
various food colourings and cake decorations, to your preference


1. When the cake has completely cooled, cut in half and spread about a third of the strawberry jam on the top of the bottom slice. This will be easier if you boil the jam first, then allow it to cool slightly.

2. Spread the buttercream icing on top of this and andwich the cake halves together.

3. Roll out the icing as per the packet instructions, into a ice big circle.

4. Cover the whole of the cake in a very thin layer of jam, for the icing to stick to. Then use a rolling pin to lift the icing over the cake. Starting from the middle of the top, press the icing down and secure to the sides.

5. Decorate the cake as per your preference. I used pearl dragees, small sugar butterflies, and I also made butterflies and roses from icing dyed pink. The roses are pretty easy to make - cut a piece of icing about 1-2cm wide and 8-10cm long, and wind it into a rose shape, nipping the bottom together. You can stick this to the cake using water or edible glue.

Enjoy with a lovely pot of tea!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Hearty marrow and beer stew with mustard dumplings

This recipe will serve 3-4 people.


For the stew:
tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 onions
4-5 cloves garlic
two large green marrows
1 vegetable oxo cube
1 decent glug - 1 small glass beer
1 tsp marmite
salt and pepper to taste
handful chives, chopped
half handful coriander, chopped
4-5 mint basil leaves, roughly ripped

For the dumplings:
4 oz self-raising flour
2 oz Atora vegetable suet
pinch salt
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds, crushed
water to mix


1. Chop the onion into large chunks (from top to bottom)

2. Chop the garlic cloves in half (from top to bottom)

3. Chop the marrow into tall pieces, about 3inches tall and 1/2inch to 1 inch wide.

4. Drizzle olive oil into the bottom of a casserole dish and sprinkle with the chilli flakes, then tightly pack the garlic, onion and marrows into the casserole dish, on end.

5. Dissolve the marmite and the oxo cube in a cup of boiling water, then pour this liquid into the casserole dish, so that it comes halfway up the height of the marrow stacks. Sprinkle the fresh herbs on the top of the stew.

6. Put the lid on the casserole dish and bake in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for about 15 minutes until the marrow starts to go tender. Test the broth and add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Meanwhile, mix the dumplings and divide the mixture into 6-8 pieces.

8. When the marrow is starting to go tender, add the beer to the casserole dish, and a little more water if necessary, so that the water level is maintained at halfway to three quarters of the way up the marrow sticks. Sit the dumplings on top of the liquid, replace the casserole lid and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.