23 November 2013

Nana's Christmas Cake

I remember, as a child, the ritual of making the Christmas cake. I remember mum carefully measuring out the ingredients, I remember her preparing the tin and tying newspaper around it, I remember licking the bowl when the cake was in the oven, and I remember the heavenly Christmas smell that filled the house for the 4 hours the cake was cooking.
I've taken up the tradition of the Christmas cake, and determined to mimic mum's I rummaged through her tattered much loved recipe book and found this recipe. Handwritten in mum's handwriting, the mum in Mum's Xmas Cake is actually my grandmother. So this recipe has been through 3 generations and when my children are ready to cook their first Christmas cake, that will make four. I hope you enjoy it as much as our family do.

Nana's Christmas Cake

  • 1 kilogram mixed fruit (I used currants, sultanas, and mixed peel)
  • 180 grams butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (or 1 teaspoon brandy essence)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • grated rind of 1 lemon (or 1 teaspoon lemon essence)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


1.   Soak fruit overnight in 1 cup hot water. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. 

2.   Remove from heat and add in the butter, sugar, golden syrup, spices, brandy, vanilla essence and lemon. Stir to melt butter then leave to cool. Heat oven to 130 degrees celcius (250 degrees fahrenheit).

3.   Beat eggs and add to the fruit mixture. Dissolve baking soda in milk and add, and finally add sifted flour and baking powder. Mix well and pour into well lined 8 inch cake tin. Wrap newspaper around the tin and tie with string (this insulates the cake to prevent the edges burning while the middle of the cake is cooking).

4.   Place the tin in the oven, on top of a magazine (to insulate the bottom) and cook slowly for 3 hours. Check to see if a skewer comes out clean, if not then cook for another hour. Test again. Turn the oven off and leave the cake in oven to dry out.

5.   Put the cake into a container with a good seal. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer, and gently pour a few teaspoons brandy into the holes. Repeat every week. Store in a dark cupboard until Christmas. Cake is best made 2 months before Christmas.

8 November 2013

Chana Masala

I've been going through an Indian food phase recently, I love the combination of spices, which you can buy ready blended or in my case, I take such pleasure out of roasting the spices and grinding them together to create a wonderful curry powder. I bought a cheap as chips coffee grinder and it only gets used for spices, if you like using different spices, it's well worth buying as freshly ground is so muh tastier than pre-mixed powder.

Northern Asian food requires more time in the pan than SE Asian food. You need time to cook out the raw flavours in the spices, and time too for the flavours to develop and blend together into something that is greater than the individual spices that go into it. I'm also a big fan of using different kinds of protein, and one of my favourites is chick peas (garbanzo beans to the folks in the US).

Chana Masala

  • 2 tablespoons chana masala powder
  • 800 grams tinned chick peas
  • 2 tablespoons oil (not olive)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 inch thumb of ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped or 1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated coconut (optional)
  • 5 small shallots (optional)

Masala Powder
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 cardamon pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder


1.   If making the masala powder, roast the whole spices in a dry pan individually as they all take differing amounts of time to cook. Grind together in a spice grinder, and then mix with the dry ginger and nutmeg.

2.   Heat the oil over a medium heat, and saute the onion, ginger and garlic until onion is soft, add in the curry powder and cook a further 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

3.   Add the tomato, chick peas, and 3 cups of water. Bring to the boil, and simmer gently for 25 minutes. Taste and add salt to taste. I added a large chopped potato at this stage as well as I love curried potatoes, so tend to pop them in curries that don't typically have them in there. Stir frequently and if it starts to get dry then add more water. The final curry will be fairly dry.

4.   Blend the coconut and shallots together into a paste and add to the cooked curry, cook for another 2 or 3 minutes and serve with Indian breads like paratha or dosa and rice.

4 June 2013

Caramel Shortbread

I've posted a couple of recipes from my favourite chef, Peter Gordon - this is yet another of his. A delightfully light shortbread mixture topped with caramel and then topped with more of the shortbread mixture crumbled up.

The caramel mixture is quite simply a can of sweetened condensed milk, boiled for 2 hours and cooled - it's quite magical opening the tin and seeing caramel instead of white sticky condensed milk. I have no idea what the science behind it is, and why it works, but I enjoy the outcome and always boil 2 cans as it keeps in the fridge for about a month, and you can use the caramel in other recipes.

The only changes I make to his recipe is to use all of the tin of caramel (he uses two thirds of a tin) and to bake the shortbread base first, cool, spread on the caramel, crumble on the topping and bake again.

Caramel Shortbread

  • 1 tin of condensed milk (397g)
  • 250 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 150 grams cornflour
  • 300 grams plain flour

  1. To make the caramel, put the tin of condensed milk into a deep saucepan and cover with water, by at least 2 inches (I put a clean tea towel in the bottom of the pot to stop the incessant tin on tin noise when the water simmers). Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, pop the lid on and simmer for 2 hours, keeping it topped up with water if the level gets close to the level of the top of the can. Set aside to cool completely before opening.
  2. Heat the oven to 170 degrees celsius (350 degrees F). Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift the two flours together and add to the butter mixture and mix lightly to form a dough. Press two thirds of the dough into a greased baking paper lined 20cm by 30cm tin. Bake for 15 minutes until firm, remove from the oven and cool slightly (about 5 minutes).
  3. Spread the tin of caramel over the top of the shortbread base, and crumble the remaining dough over the top of the base. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Cool for 5 minutes and then cut into 1 inch squares, or larger slices if you prefer. Let it cool completely in the tin. Once cooled, put the jug on, invite your friends round and enjoy.

2 June 2013

Basil Pesto


It's hot! 45 degrees hot, that's really really hot! And my basil is dying, or was close to it, I revived it several times by drowning it in water 3 times a day, but the ambient heat had it wilting, so it's time to turn it into one of my favourite things - pesto!

I love the fragrant, fresh, earthy aroma and taste of basil pesto - used simply in a bowl of pasta, spread on pizza as an alternative to tomato sauce or dolloped elegantly onto a seafood canape, it enhances the most simple of ingredients.

Use this as a basic recipe, but if you prefer less garlic, or more cheese, simply add to taste. And you can freeze it, just pop it into ice cube containers, freeze, then pop cubes into a plastic freezer bags - it isn't as good as fresh pesto, but it's not far off.

Basil Pesto
  • 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

  1. Toast pine nuts over a low heat in a pan for a few minutes until just starting to colour.
  2. Quite simply...pop all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend until well combined, but still a bit chunky.

23 May 2013

Cheese Scones

There are a few recipes that I make so often, that they are scribbled out on post its and stuck to the fridge door - this is one of them. I got it from my mother's cookbook. She was an avid collector of recipes, she'd painstakingly cut them out of newspapers or magazines or jot them down on scraps of paper. Credit where credit's due, I think this recipe came from the monthly New Zealand Machine Knitters Society newsletter - always a treasure trove of tried and tested recipes.

The key to making a good light scone is not to handle the dough too much. When it comes time to add the liquid, do it swiftly and mix very lightly. This is a savoury scone, but you can make a sweet version by omitting the cheese, adding a tablespoon of sugar to the dry mixture, and then add dried ingredients of your choice. I like chopped dates and walnuts, or raisins and cinnamon with a pinch of mixed spice.

Cheese Scones

  • 575 grams flour (about 4 and 3/5 cup)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 100 grams butter, chopped finely or grated
  • 300 grams grated cheese
  • 450 mls milk 


1.   Sift flour, salt and baking powder together.
2.   Rub in butter with finger tips until it resembles bread crumbs and mix in the grated cheese.
3.   Add in the milk and mix very briefly until it starts to come together.
4.   Tip onto the counter, and gently squeeze it together until it comes together into a dough.

5.   Press into a rectangle and cut into 12 equal pieces. Place onto a floured baking tray, and brush with milk.

6.   Bake at 200 degrees celsius for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

22 May 2013

Chiang Mai Noodles

Recently, I've spent a lot of time baking, this time though, I'm heading back to my savoury roots and sharing one of my favourite noodle recipes - Chiang Mai Noodles. Whilst the name suggests the Chiang Mai region in Thailand, the dish itself doesn't bear the traditional hallmarks of Northern Thai cuisine, for a start it uses copious quantities of coconut milk that isn't traditional in northern thai food, but regardless of it's authenticity, it is lovely, sweet, sour and creamy with a decent wollop of heat.

The recipe below should make 4 servings, but to be honest, I eat big when it comes to curries so I pop it into two big bowls, and work my way quite happily almost all the way through one. I've also added fried tofu (stop gagging) and beansprouts, which are not traditional in the dish, but add texture and taste to the dish - as with most of my recipes, play around with the flavours and ingredients you like.

Chiang Mai Noodles
2 large servings, or 4 smaller servings

  • 250 grams fresh egg noodles
  • 1 to 2 small red chillies, deseeded and chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 6 asian shallots, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons good quality red curry paste (home made if possible)
  • 350 grams chicken breast, sliced finely into strips
  • 1 tablespoon chopped palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 750mls coconut milk
  • juice of half a lime
  • small handful of chopped coriander leaves
  • 4 medium green onions, chopped finely
  • chopped red chillies for garnish
  • packaged fried noodles to garnish

  1. Cook noodles for a few minutes in a pot of boiling water until cooked. Drain, drizzle with a little oil, toss and set aside.
  2. In a mortar and pestle (or small food processor), pound the garlic, chillies, shallots and curry paste until a thick and chunky paste.
  3. Heat a wok over medium to high heat, add a tablespoon or two of oil, stir in the paste mixture and stir constantly for a few minutes to cook out the raw taste of the paste, add the chicken and fry for a few minutes more until the outside of the chicken is cooked.
  4. Add the palm sugar, fish sauce, chicken stock, coconut milk and lime juice and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes until chicken is cooked through. (add tofu here if using). Taste and add extra sugar or lime juice if needed.
  5. Place the noodles into individual bowls, scoop chicken pieces on top, and ladle curry soup on top. Garnish with spring onion, chillies, coriander and fried noodles. (add bean sprouts here if using).

15 May 2013

Beef Pide

I've been to Turkey a couple of times, and I love grabbing a seat at a street side restaurant and ordering a Pide - the Turkish version of Pizza, combined with a bowl of ezme (spicy tomato salsa) it is serious comfort food. The dough is easy to make and lovely and crispy, and you can play around with the toppings, much like any other pizza. Traditionally the meat would be lamb, so use that if you like, I just fancied a beef pide this time round. The egg on top is optional, but delicious, it makes the Pide almost pie like, and for me adds both texture and taste.

You can also make the dough and bake it plain, with a few herbs and olive oil, to make bread for dipping.

Turkish Pide

For the dough

  • 3 cups flour
  • 50mls olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 teaspoons dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the meat mixture

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 500 grams minced beef, or minced lamb
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes (optional)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • small squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs


1.   Mix together the water, sugar and yeast and sit for 5 minutes until frothy. Put the flour, salt, and olive oil into a bowl and add the yeast mixture. Combine well, and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put into an oiled bowl in a warm place for an hour to rise.

2.  Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the beef, cumin, coriander, paprika and chile if using and stir until the meat is browned.  Add the tomatoes, and cook out the moisture. Remove from heat, add a squeeze of lemon juice and the parsley and mint, season with salt and pepper to taste and stir.

3.   Roll out the dough into 4 ovals, pinch the ends to create a boat like shape and place on a baking tray.

4.   Spread the filling onto the base, leaving about a centimetre around the edges, and fold the edges of the dough up to form a shelf around the pide.

5.   Carefully crack one egg onto each pide, breaking the yolk, and bake at 200 degrees celcius for 15 minutes until the egg is cooked and the dough is crispy and brown. Serve with a spicy tomato salsa.

22 April 2013

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins

I love looking at the ingredients in my fridge, having a bit of time, and thinking about what I can cook. My main ingredient was raspberries, I tipped the Bacardi bottle upside down and it was sadly empty, so a Mojito was out of the question, I contemplated Creme Brulees, but thought the hours on the treadmill to burn them off wasn't worth it (I would quite happily eat them all), I'll save them for a dinner party. So....in comes muffins, the ultimate in share food, I could quality test one or two that afternoon with hubby, and take the rest into work the next day to share, not too generous though, as I needed two for breakfast (quality checking of course) before anyone else got a look in.

I used fresh raspberries, and love fresh raspberries, but this is a recipe that is great with frozen as well, and to be honest they hold their texture well.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins

  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 150 grams white chocolate (chopped) or chips if you can get them
  • 225 mls milk
  • 150 mls cream
  • 125 grams butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 250 grams raspberries, fresh or frozen (be gentle with fresh raspberries)

  1. Pop the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl and whisk or stir to mix and aerate the ingredients.
  2. Add in the milk, cream, butter, vanilla essence and egg and mix briefly.
  3. Add in the chocolate and raspberries and stir very briefly to combine, but keeping a few of the raspberries whole.
  4. Bake at 200 degrees celsius (380 degrees Fahrenheit) for 15 to 20 minutes until a skewer comes out of the muffin clean.
into the muffin tins

after baking

7 April 2013

Stuffed Peppers (Biber Dolmasi)

Across the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean kitchens they stuff things, from vegetables to vine leaves to bread and pasta - they enhance the flavour by changing the texture and taste of the original ingredient to create something awesome.

There is something so refreshing about a whole pepper stuffed with a fragrant rice mixture, filled with crunchy pine nuts, succulent currants and finished with the clean flavours of lemon and mint, and a good glug or three of good quality olive oil. I've made a vegetarian version, but traditionally this is a meat dish, using ground beef or minced lamb. The filling can also be used to stuff other vegetables like eggplant and zucchini, or popped into vine leaves and steamed. 

Finally, don't be shy with the olive oil, I've used 3 tablespoons in cooking the rice, but added extra to the cooking dish.

Rice Stuffed Peppers

  • 8 small peppers (capsicums)
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small fresh tomatoes, or 2 tomatoes from a can of tomatoes, chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup pine nut, toasted
  • 1/3 cup currants or sultanas
  • 1 teaspoon all spice
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


1.   Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the onion, cook for 10 minutes stirring until onion has softened and add the rice. Stir to coat the rice with the oil and add the water or stock.

2.   Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and then add the remaining ingredients. The mixture will be slightly uncooked.

3. Cut the top off the peppers, and carefully remove seeds and membrane, leaving the peppers whole. Stuff with the rice mixture and place the top of the pepper back on, or a slice of tomato (which is more traditional). Put them into a dish that allows you to stand them up so they don't topple over.

4.   Empty the juice from the canned tomatoes into the dish, squeeze the remaining lemon half on top and drizzle in some more olive oil. Cover and bake at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 to 40 minutes until rice is cooked. Alternatively, stand the peppers in a saucepan, add water to come one third up the peppers, drizzle with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes until cooked.

5.   Serve with fresh lemon, thick yoghurt and chopped mint.

16 March 2013

Homemade Chorizo Sausage

I can't get decent chorizo sausage here in Doha, to be honest I can't get any chorizo sausage here, so I decided to make my own. I used pork mince, as I had some in the freezer but for all my Halal friends, you can make it with chicken mince instead.

Traditionally it's made with oregano and cumin, but you can use whatever herbs and spices you like, I had some smoked paprika so chucked that in as well. The recipe below makes a fairly mild chorizo, if you like it spicier, up the chillies or leave the seeds in, if you like it very mild, reduce them.

I made free form chorizo, basically the meat mixture without casings, so it's not a traditional sausage, but rather a mixture that can be used on a pizza, in a Mexican chili, wrapped in pastry or in this case, on a tortilla with the typical Mexican fixings like sour cream, salsa, and a dollop of habanero sauce. 

Mexican Chorizo Sausage Meat (in tortillas)

  • 500 grams minced pork (or chicken)
  • 10 large dried chillies, seeds and stems removed
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped roughly
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar, warmed in a pot
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • to cook, olive oil and 1 teaspoon sugar, plus tortillas, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, red pepper and chili sauce


1.   Place the chillies in a glass bowl, and put the onions and garlic on top. Pour on the warm vinegar and cover with plastic wrap, let sit until the vinegar cools to room temperature.

2.   Pop the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.

3.   Put the pork mince, oregano, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper into a bowl and pour on the pureed chili mixture, Mix thoroughly with your hands until well combined. This is the basic chorizo mixture and can be frozen as it is ready to use in recipes (unless you started with frozen mince, then you should cook it before freezing).

4.   To cook the chorizo, heat some olive oil in a pan over medium to high heat and fry the meat mixture until cooked, taste and adjust seasoning - I added some ground black pepper, some sugar (to offset the vinegar), and some chili flakes. 

5.  Served spooned onto tortillas and add toppings to taste.