Archive for July, 2011

Having said I’m not much of a baker and take most of my lead from Nigella, this is most definitely an exception. Adapted from an old Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook (Cakes and Bakes) that we inherited from my Scottish Granny (no, I don’t know either) it is literally amazing, possibly the best carrot cake ever.

That being said quite a few of my friends have a  running joke about the competition between this cake and one baked my very lovely and awesome friend Sophie, whose blog features said carrot cake a.k.a. “sunshine cake”, which she too believes to be the best carrot cake recipe ever. Needless to say the cakes have never been in direct competition and we have agreed, very diplomatically, that they are in fact two very different creatures, my recipe being a purists carrot cake, and hers being and orange and carrot cake. You see? Totally different…

For the cake…

  • 185g butter
  • 375g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups  grated carrot
  • 230g plain flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
For the icing…
  • 1 packet of cream cheese (200g)
  • up to 175 g icing sugar
  • juice of half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200°c, and grease and line two sandwich tins, or prepare about 24 cup cake cases.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and combine the dry ingredients in a different bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time with a little of the dry ingredients sifted in in-between each egg. Sift in any remaining dry ingredients and fold in the carrot. Pour/spoon into the tins/cup cake cases. I used to do this in a loaf tin, but it is just that little bit too moist to cook well all the way through without burning on the edge. For this reason, cup cakes work exceptionally well, especially the little silicone ones.

If in a tin bake for 1 hour, if in cup cake cases, about 15mins. Check to see if a cake skewer or cocktail stick comes out clean to test. If in the tins, leave to cool for about 5mins before turning onto a cooling rack. Be very careful, it is quite an moist/unstable cake.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese, sifting the sugar in gradually, making sure it doesn’t go too runny (the more sugar, the more liquid it goes as it dissolves). Once you’re happy with the consistency add lemon juice to taste. I like it quite lemony to cut through the spicy sweetness of the cake. Spread in between the layers and on top of the cake once cool. There you have it, make it and I guarantee it and you will be an absolute hit.


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Ok ok, I know I promised more cake but see this as a kind of savoury interlude, closer to my vegetable shaped heart. There’ll be carrot cake next time I promise… but in the meantime, aren’t portobello mushrooms and halloumi just amazing? Their textures are perfect for a veggie feast and only the most committed carnivores will notice the lack of meat. I used beetroot for the relish because we had some beautiful “candy stripe” beetroot to use up, it almost seemed a shame to chop it up, but chop it up I did and it tasted gooood as did the smokiness of the paprika which compliments the salty squeaky deliciousness that is halloumi very well indeed. Not only is this recipe tasty, but it also gives me the opportunity to tell an excellent cheese-related joke. Doubly brilliant.

What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror? Halloooo me!

Serves 4

  • 4 portobello mushrooms
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 cooked beetroot, finely chopped (boil a fresh one whole and skin once cooled slightly, or use a pre-cooked one from a vacuum pack.)
  • 250ml red wine (or half the amount of vinegar)
  • ½ tbsp ketchup
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika
  • splash of water
  • About half of a 250g pack of halloumi
  • salt to taste

Preheat the grill and wipe the mushrooms with a damp kitchen towel. Put the mushrooms under, gill side up for about 10 minutes, or until the juice starts to come out of the gills. Meanwhile fry the chopped shallots and garlic in the oil until softened, add half of both the tomato and beetroot, fry for 2 minutes and then add the wine. Cook on a high heat, adding a splash of water if it looks a bit dry. Take off the heat and puree what’s in the pan, return the mixture to the pan adding the rest of the tomato and beetroot , the ketchup and paprika. Salt to taste, but be careful not to oversalt as the halloumi will do most of it  for you. Spoon the mixture into the mushroom caps and top with sliced halloumi. Return to the grill until the cheese is browned.

Serve hot as you would a burger, with salad and potato wedges or as a starter.

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This first blog is dedicated to all my friends from my university, especially those who couldn’t make the tea-party featured. I threw it to thank them all for being absolutely awesome during my four years studying.

It’s probably a bit of an odd one to start with as I consider myself better at cooking than baking as a rule, but the pictures were pretty and it allowed me to add a few recipes at once. I’ll tell you the recipes for flapjack (tweaking required), carrot cake, scones and possibly rocky road in the next few posts. If you’re lucky.

Banana-Chocolate Marble Loaf

(adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Banana Bread) 

In keeping with this whole post being slightly more bakey than is my custom, this cake is slightly more chocolatey than I would normally prefer, but I first made it with left-over bananas, and a distinct lack of raisins/walnuts/rum which are called for in the original. I did however have a bit of dark chocolate lying around, and so this cake was born, and I was encouraged to make it at every ripe-banana opportunity by my housemates, which means I’ve never actually got round to making the original, though I am sure it is amazing. I trust Nigella absolutely regarding anything baked, her Victoria sponge and brownies being pure perfection.  The bananas really do have to be really really ripe, if they aren’t quite black try putting them on top of a radiator or in a warm place (thank you to my housemate’s Granny for that one). Also I love the bitter dark chocolateness of this, but if you’re not such a fan, replace it with milk chocolate, or maybe leave out the chunks.

175g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

125g unsalted butter

125g caster sugar

25g soft brown sugar

2 large eggs

4 small, very ripe bananas (about 300g weighed without skin), mashed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

200g dark chocolate

  • Preheat the oven to 170°c
  • Weigh out the dry ingredients and mix together.
  • Melt the butter and then add the sugars until well combined.
  • Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar, and then the mashed bananas.
  • Add in the sifted dry ingredients a bit at a time.
  • Melt half the chocolate on low in the microwave and add half the banana mix (about 350g) to it once it’s completely melted.
  • Bash up the rest of the chocolate in the packet with the end of a rolling pin. Divide between the chocolate and banana mixes and stir in.
  • Pour one mix into the bowl of the other but DO NOT STIR.
  • Pour the two-tone mixture into a 23 x 13 x 7cm lined and greased loaf tin.
  • Bake in the oven for about 1-1 ¼ hours (test to see if  a cake skewer or a cocktail stick comes out clean).
  • Allow to cool for 5 mins in the tin before turning onto a cooling rack.


Granny’s Shortbread

This recipe comes from none other than a genuine Scottish Granny, namely mine, and is therefore the epitome of delicious-buttery-light-melt-in-the-mouth-shortbread. Fact. The secret is using cornflour and icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar) for super super lightness. It is also super easy.

messy kitchen


200g butter

100g icing sugar

200g flour

100g cornflour

splash of milk

Granny’s top-tip: If you find yourself having to use margarine instead of butter, add a drop of vanilla essence and you’ll never notice the difference.

  • Preheat the oven to 170°c
  • Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Fold in the sifted flours and then gradually add milk until it makes a pliable dough.
  • Roll out about 1cm thick, depending on how you prefer shortbread, I always roll things toothin, especially these and scones, I always have to remember they don’t really rise much and those shop-bought shortbread fingers are really quite thick.
  • Use a biscuit cutter/egg-cup/anything you can find to cut into shapes.
  • Place on a floured baking tray and prick with a fork, it helps them to cook evenly as well as giving you license to get creative with the patterns.
  •  Pop it into the oven until they start to brown slightly (about 15mins), if your oven isn’t very good at browning things like mine was, check the underside to make sure they aren’t burning.
little tea-pot shaped pieces of heaven

the finished product

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