Monday, 24 December 2012


This might seem a bit last minute, but it’s a cake my mum makes around this time of year and saves it for when we have family round after Christmas. Not sure where the recipe actually comes from, but it has a wintery feel, without screaming Christmas and that’s why I like it. Plus it’s really easy. Don’t be tempted to tuck in on Christmas day, let the flavours develop and rediscover the taste of winter after the big day.

170g soft brown sugar
115g butter
Small tin crushed pineapple
110g glace cherries
225g mixed fruit
2 large eggs
225g self raising flour

Preheat oven to 150fan/170c/3 Grease and line a deep 7inch cake tin, or you could use a loaf tin. Put all ingredients, except the eggs and flour, into a pan and bring to the boil. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes then mix in the eggs and flour.

Pour into the tin and bake at the bottom of oven for about an hour, or until a skewer entered comes out clean. When baked, leave to cool for around 5 minutes before turning out of tin and leaving to cool completely. Let the cake stand in an airtight container for at least 3 days, but if you really can’t wait it will still be nice, or if you want to leave it longer, that’s fine too.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Sly cake is a traditional Yorkshire recipe that gets its name for appearing a boring pastry block on the outside, but slyly hiding a rich fruit filling within. I’ve spruced up this classic by make it into individual parcels, fitting for the season, and using filo pastry instead of short crust. I’ve also added another casing to the fruit, wrapping it in marzipan before masking it with the pastry. If that wasn’t enough, I also cook down the fruit with amaretto before adding flaked almonds, instead of the traditional hazelnuts. That way you get a crisp and plain looking parcel, hiding a gooey lining of marzipan, hiding a chewy and crunchy filling of rich almond-y fruit. Sly indeed.

Makes 4

100g dates 
4 tablespoons amaretto 
50g mixed fruit 
25g flaked almonds 
200g marzipan 
4 sheets of filo pastry 

Preheat oven to fan200/220c/7.
Cook the dates and amaretto on a gentle heat in a small saucepan until the dates soak up the amaretto and begin to break down. Add the mix fruit and cook for a further minute or so before taking off the heat and mixing in the almonds. The mixture should be really thick and almost solid. Pop in the fridge to cool. 

Roll out the marzipan until reasonably thin and divide into 2. Press the date mixture into 4 equal squares. Take a date box and place inside one of the halves of marzipan. Fold the marzipan round the mixture to encase it, flattening and trying to get it to a rectangular box as much as you can. Make sure the marzipan completely seals the fruit. Trim the spare marzipan from either edge of the box and re-roll this to make the third and forth cake. 

When you have 4 boxes prepare for the second wrapping. With the sheets, as when working with all filo pastry, you'll have to be quite quick. Melt a knob of butter ready to brush over the entire surface of the sheet. For one sly cake, fold the sheet length ways and inwards until a third of its size and you have a thin, tall rectangle (so the pastry is in 3 layers). Place the box at the bottom of the pastry, and then wrap it all way around, folding over from the bottom upwards. Treat the spare edges like you would a present, tucking inwards before pulling up the sides, and sealing with lots of butter. The edges will try and spring back and eventually will in the oven anyway but just push them into the box to stop them unravelling completely. Repeat until you have parcels. 

Transfer onto a baking tray, lined with greaseproof and bake for 8 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. 


This is one of my new favourite recipes, and I’ve tried to explain it the best I can and hopefully succeeded. I really need a TV show or something to show the technique of it, if any producers are reading, I’m up for it.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


In this recipe I’ve tried to pack a lot of Christmas flavours into a speedy dessert, saving the before-hand preparation of a Christmas cake and also have an almost custard or cream in the dessert, making it a good all-rounder.

250g figs, fresh would like better but I could only get hold of dry and they worked well
100g dried mixed fruit soaked in 3 tbsp brandy
150ml double cream
150ml milk
1 cinnamon stick, snapped
4 eggs 150g sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
Preheat oven fan160°/180c/4
Lay the figs and the mixed fruit at the bottom of a baking dish. Sprinkle over some sugar just to coat the figs and bring out the sweetness.

Bring the cream and milk to boil in a small saucepan with the cinnamon stick and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool then remove the cinnamon stick. Beat together the eggs and sugar until well aerated then fold in the flour. Pour the cream and milk into the egg mixture and whisk well before pouring over the figs and mixed fruit and baking for 30 minutes.

When ready, the clafoutis should have set but still maintain a slight wobble. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

In other news, any vegetarian readers, or non for that matter, might be interested in my friend’s blog Two Fat Vegetarians. I met Anthea, one of the bloggers, on my food writing course and she asked me to write a dessert recipe for the blog, so I chose churros with chilli chocolate sauce, check it out.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Along with salt and black pepper, tiger bread is my favourite form of loaf. Once it’s out, I end up eating enough to fill a tiger. I’ve been finding it hard to find recipes which strike the balance between the crackled top and the nutty flavour of the baked in store supermarket loafs so I’ve decided to take it on myself. Here I’m using just my basic white loaf recipe, with toasted sesame oil instead of butter for the nutty taste, and have based the paste recipe on Lorraine Pascale’s take on the bread, her crackled top loaf, but adding sesame oil to this as well. Here’s the weird part. I really like the flavoursome chewiness of the supermarket loafs beneath the crusty top so before I add the tiger paste to the bread, I brush it over with marmite to get this, as well as more of the distinguished tiger loaf flavour. I suppose tiger bread is just as much as a love/hate thing anyway.

500g strong white bread flour
1½ tsp salt
1 sachet action dry yeast
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Around 300ml warm water

For the Tiger Paste
50g rice flour
1 tsp sugar A
 pinch of salt
½ tsp yeast
2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Put the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl, keeping the salt and yeast separate so that the yeast doesn’t die. Mix in the butter and slowly begin to add the water, until you get a rough sticky dough. The wetter the better.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead for around 10 minutes, pushing the dough away from you whilst folding it in on itself. Once the dough is smooth, soft and slowly springs back when touched, form into a ball and place into a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film that has been rubbed with oil and leave to rise in a warm place for around an hour. Next to a radiator, in the sun or the airing cupboard are my favourite rising places.

In the meantime make the tiger paste. Mix all of the ingredients then add about 50ml of warm water to make it into a paste. It will look like wet sand at this point, but it will work its magic later. Set to one side.

Once the dough has doubled in size, take your fist and punch the dough to release the air. Knead once more for a couple of minutes then shape into an oval, or any variation of loaf shape you want. Transfer to a baking sheet, cover with the same cling film then leave to rise once more for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size again.

Within this time preheat the oven at fan 200°/220c/8, putting a small, empty baking tray in the bottom. Once the dough has risen, drizzle generously with the marmite in tiger-like stripes then rub all over with the tiger paste, which will also help distribute the marmite. Add cold water to the empty baking tray to create steam which allows the bread to rise before forming a crust. Bake the bread for around 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crackled and the bottom sounds hallow when tapped.

Mine actually came out with a tiger print; normally tiger bread actually looks more giraffe-like. I’d love to say I did it on purpose, but who knows, yours might come out like that too and I can claim I did.