Tag Archives: baking

Goat’s Cheese and Roasted Pepper Tart with Walnut Pastry

26 May

I happened across the idea for a goat’s cheese, walnut and roasted pepper sandwich. Tried it, loved it, wanted it in a tart!

NOT a confident pastry chef, I am always apprehensive when attempting to make pastry from scratch, but the recipe I used for this shortcrust is just amazing. It made pastry easy! And delicious of course. I know you can just buy the stuff but it bothers me so much when I can’t get something right it makes me even more stubborn to keep trying. It’s a recipe from a ‘Basics’ book I borrowed from the library, and is interwoven with the recipe for the filling which is mine.

This serves 4 and makes enough pastry to line a 23cm flan tin.

For the Pastry:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100g butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten, plus extra for brushing

For the Filling:

  • 150ml log soft, rindless goat’s cheese
  • 70g roasted peppers from a jar, drained
  • 50g walnut halves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150ml milk
  1. Put the flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it in until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the egg and about 1-2 tbsp water to form a soft dough. Knead briefly, then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. For the filling, beat the eggs with the milk. Roughly crumble the walnuts and goat’s cheese and add this to the egg mixture. Roughly chop the peppers and add most of these, along with any seasoning you might like.
  3. Heat the oven to 200ºc. Knead the pastry again and roll it out to the required size. This pastry doesn’t shrink so there is no need to chill it! Brush the base and sides with beaten egg.
  4. Put the flan tin on a baking sheet and bake blind for 5 minutes (do not use baking paper or baking beans as this would stick to the egg wash). Add the filling and bake for 15 minutes more. Now turn the heat down to 180°c and continue cooking for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly set.


Serve with salad! 🙂


Battenberg Cake and a Remorseful Explanation

19 Feb

Another long absence of recipes, and I do miss the blogging community! But life has been happening in a very unfortunate way lately, and it seems that the way I’m coping is to bury my head in the sand avoiding as many of my responsibilities as I can get away with… More than I get away with in all honesty – it’s a good job I have understanding college tutors put it that way!

When I started this blog, everything was looking beautifully rosy and I was fit to burst with the need to share that with everyone. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many things I have to be thankful for, but unfortunately the bad seems a lot more prominent than the good at the moment. I won’t go into any detail because it is personal and family related, but I am outlining the current atmosphere alla Anna to ask you most pleasantly, “Please will you bear with me on this one?” I will even share a recipe for Battenberg cake with you? 🙂

This is me anyway (just to show I’m alive – it’s not flattering in the slightest, I look tired and bug-eyed, but then maybe I am bug-eyed and I am probably tired. That is fine by me! The background is cool though I think):


And this is Martin, because he too is alive and well, although really, I wish he would eat some of my Battenberg. He refuses to eat his lizard food after all! Oh, and the back of the love’s head. Also alive:


On a more practical note, it has been difficult for me to post as everything I touch seems to break at the moment. The love had lent his camera charger to a friend so I couldn’t upload photos and my laptop decided to develop one tiny little issue that cost me £126 to repair today. So if I really am going to get back in the posting saddle now, you can expect recipes I created before I was conned out of a ridiculous amount of money, or meals including Spam. Just for a while of course 😉

Wouldn’t you know that my phone has been on the blink for weeks now too? “Life doesn’t happen in ones”, as my wise and wonderful friend Hayley once said, “that would be too easy”…

Now, for the cakes –


– it really is worth making 2 because it is not much more effort than making 1, and making 1 is quite a lot of effort! 😛 Well worth it though, as it tastes just perfect, just like ‘the real thing’, and it is always so fulfilling to create something that you normally only ever buy processed. Did I mention you can freeze one of the cakes for up to a month as well? So there really isn’t much to complain about 🙂

What I like to do is prepare the batter for each cake in a separate mixing bowl, just so I can relax while the first cake is in the oven. I wouldn’t bake them both at the same time to avoid uneven cooking and all that. In any case I only have one appropriate tin. So that’s why I’ve put 2 times all of the ingredients, rather than write the list out twice. I would like to make one thing VERY clear: Almond extract goes in the PLAIN cake, NOT in the PINK cake. PINK food colouring goes in the PINK cake, NOT almond extract. You would think this was straightforward, but if you’re anything like me…

If you follow my bossy rules you will find that the process of actually making the cakes is easier than you could imagine! The difficult part (for me at least) lies in assembling the damn thing, but that is because I am a caggy-handed monster who tends to balls things up when it comes to making them look neat and beautiful (have you seen my gingerbread house!?). I am sure you will be much more adept than me 🙂 

Makes 2 Cakes, Each Cuts Into 10 Slices

  • 2 x 175g softened unsalted butter
  • 2 x 175g golden caster sugar
  • 2 x 140g self-raising flour
  • 2 x 50g ground almonds
  • 2 x 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 x 3 eggs
  • 2 x 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (for the PLAIN sponge mixture!!)
  • 1/2 tsp pink food colouring (for the PINK sponge mixture!!) – you may need more or less depending on the intensity of the paste. Don’t attempt to use red thinking it will pass off as pink. It really doesn’t, and again you may think this is common sense. But if you’re anything like me…

To Assemble

  • 200g apricot jam
  • 1 x 500g block marzipan (white or golden)
  • icing sugar, for dusting
  1. Firstly, line a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 180°c. 
  2. Literally plonk 1 times the first 7 ingredients each into 2 mixing bowls, adding the almond extract to 1 and the pink colouring to the other. Mix it aaaaall up until it is nice and smooth!
  3. Scrape one bowl of mixture into the tin, spreading it out to the corners, and bake for 25-30 minutes while you lazily scroll through Tumblr (I’m not speaking from experience of course)… The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
  4. Re-line the tin and proceed as above with the second cake! While this one is baking, I would prepare the jam and the marzipan. Heat the jam in  a saucepan until runny, then sieve. Lightly dust a work surface with icing sugar, then roll out the marzipan as thinly and as oblong-y as you can, remembering that you need to be able to cover 2 rectangular cakes with it. This is easier said than done, so you can, if you like, buy 2 blocks of marzipan to save on stress. This does cause an awful lot of waste though, and once battered about on a work surface and dotted with specks of icing sugar, there isn’t really a lot to use the leftover marzipan for! It is a shame to chuck away such celestial almondness… Moving on, I find it best to lift the marzipan up off the work surface from time to time to make sure it doesn’t stick.
  5. Assuming that both of your cakes are now cool, slice a sliver of cake off three sides of the square, purely for neatness. Then substantially trim the remaining un-trimmed side of each, creating 2 rectangular Battenberg-sized cakes. Roughly measure the height of the cakes, then use a ruler to cut 4 slices the same width as the height on each cake. So you’ll have 4 pink and 4 plain long rectangles, with equal hight and width. Again, this can be very wasteful, but people tend to be more willing to eat scraps of cake than scraps of mauled marzipan.
  6. Brush the marzipan with the apricot jam. Lay one pink and one almond slice next to each other at one end of the marzipan, leaving about 5cm clear marzipan at the end. Brush jam in between the slices to stick them together. Brush more jam on top of the sponges, then lay a pink slice on top of the almond slice, and an almond slice on top of the pink slice. You know what you want, a checkerboard pattern! Trim the marzipan to the length of the cakes, then lift it up over the cake, smoothing it as you go. Crimp the edges with your fingers and thumb, or use the prongs of a fork. Repeat with the remaining cake!


As mentioned previously, the cake can be frozen for up to a month. Otherwise, keep them in airtight containers/covered in cling-film for 3-4 days.

This has got me thinking of all sorts of exciting flavour combinations you could use! I keep thinking lavender and something… Maybe lemon? It will have to be done.

And may I leave you with a stunning but entirely unrelated picture of flowers courtesy of the love?


Banana Bread with Macadamias and Coconut

7 Jan

To me, banana bread has the headiest, most irresistible scent in the world of cooking and baking. It might even overtake rosemary… but that would be a close call.

This is my first go at making it, but it definitely won’t be the last as I am overwhelmed by variations of the recipe that I want to try! Plus, it is so, so easy and cheap to make.

Here are some of my ideas:

  • Banoffee bread
  • Pineapple topping (dried)
  • Chocolate (although I do usually believe that chocolate and fruit should stay away from each other. Once you think Nutella your mind plays tricks on you to make it happen)
  • Fresh strawberries or blueberries in the Summer
  • Butterscotch chips
  • Coffee
  • Pumpkin
  • Apple juice to add moisture and make a healthier loaf…

The sorry thing is that I could go on!

Anyway, this in no way means that the ingredients I have chosen for this particular banana bread are not heavenly and delectable. Using macadamia nuts and coconut was at the top of my ideas list, but now of course it has been crossed off! Substitute whatever nuts you like, though I would suggest macadamias or brazils for a slightly tropical feel like this one has. I chose sweetened flaked coconut and scattered it over the top of the loaf before baking, to give an ‘almost icing’. I also didn’t want to confuse the textures in the main body of the bread.


Cuts into 8 (as marked by banana chips!)

  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 140g butter, softened
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g halved macadamias (bashed or whizzed into smaller pieces, if you like)
  • sweetened coconut flakes, to scatter
  • 8 dried banana chips, to mark portions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment. 
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas and the sugar with a potato masher. And the eggs and mix well to incorporate fully, then add the butter and do the same. Add the flour and baking powder and again, mix until everything is well combined. Tip in the macadamias and mix once more before pouring it into the loaf tin. Shake over some sweetened coconut flakes for a lovely texture, and mark 8 portions, each with a dried banana chip.
  3. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and a half (mine took 1 hour 10 minutes) until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.


Leftovers will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container 🙂

A final word is that, when searching for banana bread recipes, I noticed wide variations in the amounts of ingredients used. Some people used 2 bananas and no sugar, while others used 4 bananas and 250g! It is all about taste, so go by how much your sweet tooth nags you. I found 150g to be just fine. And I ate mine with butter. Mmm!!!

Chocolate Guinness Cake

27 Dec

I feel as though it is about time I gave a shout out to THE Chocolate Guinness Cake.

Anybody reading this who knows me will probably not need to continue, as it has been made so many times by my own fair hands and those belonging to the love that they could make it themselves without the recipe, by recalling each taste and surmising from that which ingredients need to be used. And, if any of you own ‘Feast’ by Nigella Lawson, surely you have made it countless times yourself?

In any case, on the off-chance of one poor soul not having tried or at least heard of this cake, I am writing to bestow upon you the knowledge to enrich your life.


I first made this on Saint Patrick’s Day, I think last year… although it seems much longer ago than that…

Since then, it has been made into muffins; half-sized cakes; loaf cakes… all about as deeply damp and chocolatey as anybody could possibly wish for. Ever. I have also used natural yoghurt in place of the sour cream, which has worked just as well. We are actually getting sick of the requests to make it, as it reduces the opportunity to try anything new! (Yeah right).


You will use a whole block of butter. There is a reason for this: heaven.

Cuts into 12 slices (the perfect amount to pour into a 12-hole muffin tray!).

  • 250ml Guinness
  • 250g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 75g cocoa
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1 x 142ml pot sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp real vanilla extract
  • 275g plain flour
  • 2.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the Icing:

  • 300g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar, sieved
  • 125ml double or whipping cream

Before you get started, make sure all of your ingredients are weighed, ready and waiting to be used. I believe it is better to work quickly in the initial stages of this recipe, as the cake is on the hob, and if left to heat for too long before it is ready to go in the oven, it looks like a cake before it’s in the tin. Surprisingly, the end result doesn’t really suffer from this, but I feel more comfortable if the cake still resembles mixture before it is baked.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c, and butter a 23cm springform tin. 
  2. Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan. Add the butter and heat until it has melted. Then whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
  3. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla, then pour into the pan.
  4. Whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
  5. Transfer the cake batter to the tin and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean).
  6. Leave to cool completely in the tin. Meanwhile you can make the icing.
  7. Beat the cream cheese and sieved icing sugar together, then add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. I like to do this in a food processor, because if I don’t, for some reason I always bung all 3 ingredients in a bowl without thinking, and this does not make it easy to achieve the desired consistency.


Of course, the icing is meant to resemble the froth on top of a pint of Guinness. And yes, the Guinness does make a fantastic difference and it is noticeable, though people trying it unawares may not be able to put there finger on what ‘that taste’ is. I would describe it as a sweet and subtle bitterness, which creates the most amazing depth of flavour.

Mont Blanc

16 Dec

Usually when you see Mont Blanc, it is served in individual portions. This is fine, obviously, but I fancied making it into a ‘pavlova’, not least because this is the first time I’ve successfully made meringue, and I felt like this was a better way to show it off 🙂

I was amazed at how simple meringue actually is to make! I can be very impatient you see, and when I have tried before, I have added all the ingredients to the bowl at once, only to then read through the method and discover that you are supposed to add the sugar GRADUALLY and once the egg whites already form soft peaks.

Making this has enabled me to cross quite a few things off my to-do list, such as trying marrons glacés! I found a small box at John Lewis and jumped at the chance to buy some and not pay a ridiculous amount. They are expensive and tend to come in larger quantities than this. They are extremely special though, so worth it in my book.



There are a couple of things I’d change slightly next time, namely how to layer the dessert, and I will write the following recipe with these changes in mind, but they will not change the taste in the slightest, and the taste is one of my all time favourites. The alterations are for aesthetic purposes only, as my version ended up flatter than I’d have liked. It looks more like a pie, as you will see below!


Serves 4.

  • 2 egg whites
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

For the Topping

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 300ml carton double cream
  • 250g sweetened chestnut purée (with vanilla if possible, if not, add 1 tsp vanilla extract to the purée)
  • 6 marrons glacés


  1. First make the meringue. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 160°c. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Add the sugar little by little, whisking after each addition, until it has all been added and stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Whisk in the cornflour and vinegar. You should see that this final addition stiffens the mixture that little bit more.
  2. Spoon the mixture onto the baking tray in a squat circle – don’t spread it too thinly or the meringue will be more difficult to prise off the tray later, and it won’t look as toweringly impressive. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 140°c and continue baking for 40 minutes more. Turn off the heat and leave the meringue in the oven to cool completely (1-2 hours, but can be left overnight). It should be crisp but uncoloured.
  3. For the filling, mix the chestnut purée in a bowl with most of the double cream (leave about 2 tbsp in the carton to use later). When it is combined, whisk until thickened to your liking – the stiffer the mix, the better it will sit on your meringue.
  4. Break up the chocolate in another bowl and add the remaining double cream. Heat in the microwave at 30 second intervals, giving it a stir each time. Alternatively, heat over a bain marie (melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water without letting the base of the bowl touch the water), but I find this set up oh so laborious 😉 leave to cool completely.
  5. When it is time to assemble the pud, sit the meringue on a serving platter. Spread the melted chocolate over the top, then dollop on the chestnut mixture. Crumble two of the marrons glacés over and you’re ready. The remaining marrons glacés are for serving on the side. I think it’s a nice gesture 🙂


I didn’t whip the chestnut-cream mixture for long enough, so it remained a little fluid when I added it to the meringue. As I didn’t want to let it drip all over the serving plate, I saved some of it for another time. I am positive that it would be delicious served alongside a warm mince pie.


To see the meal that preceded this dessert: https://welcomebackbelly.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/spicy-maple-glazed-pork-fillet-with-roasted-vegetables/

Christmas Crafting

9 Dec

Do you ever find yourself looking at the clock and being shocked at the time while trying to make your gingerbread look just so?

Well, this is what happened to me last night. I had spent a substantial part of the afternoon preparing for the gingerbread house I had wanted to make for years. I followed every instruction for making, baking, rolling, building… I worked hard! Then, after a short tea break (maybe 2-4 hours…), I decided to get back to it. So what if it’s already past 10 o’ clock and I’m normally in bed by now? It’s Saturday night and I’m hardcore! Many trials and tribulations later, it was getting on for 1am. But brace yourselves for the final result!

It was supposed to look like this:



But I found this a step above my abilities. It wasn’t to be! My gingerbread pieces turned out to be too bulky. I thought I had rolled the dough out thinly enough, but it was very sticky dough and I imagine my mind was playing tricks on me to prevent me from adding 500g more flour and/or chucking it at the window. I baked each piece for slightly longer than the recipe suggested because they just didn’t seem to be browning up like they should. I took them out of the oven when they were firm to the touch, but they were not firm enough for a good sturdy house – probably because they were too thick. The love said that this would result in better insulation, but a collapsing house just wouldn’t be worth the fleeting warmth in my opinion. I think I came up with a decent solution, seeing as though the house stubbornly refused to stick together.

It ended up looking like this:



Now, it may look like a garden shed as opposed to the grand cottage I had in mind (due to the fact that the entire house was built from 1 wall of the gingerbread house that had fallen apart for the nth time), and the love told me that I probably wouldn’t be able to work for Ace of Gingerbreads, but I am so happy with it nonetheless! Making a little house meant that I could use the ideas I had for a garden 🙂

Here is my snowman (of course), in his liquorice allsorts packet inspired hat:



The gnome… He’s trying to fish but the pond is frozen over which is silly.



The pile of presents, the  chocolate biscuit pathway and the ‘giant’ candy cane ‘tree’ 😀



Of course, using one of 6 large pieces of gingerbread meant that I had A LOT of leftovers to contend with. The initial mixture makes such a large amount that I actually froze half of it for another time, but since I had already baked the other half, I decided to use it to make biscuits!

So, we had flowers, hearts and squirrels. Yes, squirrels because the love gave me a lovely cookie cutter as an early Christmas present :3

I’ve had plans to make squirrel nutkins for a while, and I still fully intend to, but since the time hasn’t yet come, here they have their first outing as red squirrels. Ginger… red… I thought it was cute…


I used the icing which was meant for glueing the house pieces together to brighten them up a bit. And edible sugar, as it was there 🙂


I know it looks like child play, and essentially it was! It was about all I had time for after the efforts and sacrifices involved in making a ‘full-sized’ gingerbread house. They taste good is all that matters, and they last about a week apparently which is great stuff as we have thousands!

I also left this out for the love who was late home :3



I know, aren’t we the sweetest 😉

Anyway, on a much quicker and smoother note (as this task met far fewer obstacles). This is my wreath!!



I am so happy that I finally feel able to create things again after years of being too afraid.

Ultimately, I find that this post sums up a sign we have hanging on the wall, which says ‘do something you love every day’.


Baby Victoria Sponges

30 Nov

This was originally the recipe for one big Victoria sponge, and it was the first ‘proper’ cake I made.

It was for my brother’s birthday and the success of it buoyed my interest in cooking as opposed to just food.

Here, I will give the recipe for 12 little cakes baked in a muffin tin, however I doubled the amount to make lots, as I have volunteered at 2 Christmas fairs today! Christmas fairs have bake sales -> I like baking -> the results are natural.

I did actually intend to make 2 big cakes, but the love rightfully pointed out that fairy cakes would sell better, so I improvised to make us both happy 🙂

Anyway, all you have to do to make one big Victoria sponge is to pour the mixture into 2 greased and lined cake tins, 20cm in diameter. This way the sponge rises beautifully so you have a very impressive looking cake.


Makes 12 sponge babies

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • approx 400ml double cream
  • 12 tsp strawberry jam
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c and fill the muffin tin with cake cases. 
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy, then slowly add the beaten egg, making sure the mixture is well combined after each addition.
  3. Fold in the flour, taking care not to overwork, and add about 2 tbsp of the mixture to each case.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes. I find that the cakes still look a little uncooked after 20 minutes, but if you insert a skewer through the middle, it will come out clean 9 times out of 10, so don’t worry, if the skewer is clean they are ready!
  5. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tray, then remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. Meanwhile, whip the cream until it nice and thick. Alternatively, you could use squirty cream for an easy option 🙂
  7. Remove each cake from its case, then carefully cut them in half horizontally. Now spread a teaspoon of jam and a little dollop of cream onto one half of each cake, then place the other half back on top. You may want to dust with icing sugar but this is entirely up to you.
  8. Finally, I know it’s a hassle but as the cake cases will now be slack and untidy, I like to place my finished Victoria babies into fresh cake cases. Admittedly, this is mostly for their purpose as Christmas fair goodies, so really a plate will be fine.


I feel it is also necessary to say that as this was my first Christmas fair bake sale effort, I (perhaps foolishly) didn’t make incredibly chocolatey cakes or anything covered in smarties or fancy cupcakes, but they still all sold: they appealed to the adults more so than the children.