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Learner Baker; watch out!

Lush, chewy, nutty brownies with a crispy shell

Lush, chewy, nutty brownies with a crispy shell

20130118_182841I’ve got to confess, I’m not much of a baker. In fact I think I’ve told you that before, but 2013 has begun with an immense project on the horizon and I’m going to have to learn, and learn fast. So I’m seizing the opportunity of being snow-bound, to practice. In the oven, as we speak, is a tray of hazelnut brownies made using nutella and I can’t wait for them to be ready. But my first attempt last week using a different recipe ended in catastrophe. It doesn’t matter who’s instructions you follow, everyone says the same thing. You HAVE to wait Read the rest of this entry


Haw he haw he haw, Soupe a l’oignon!

French onion soup with melted cheese toasts

It must be at least four years now during which my sister has been nagging me to write her a cook book or at least give her menu plans for the daily slog of feeding her family. It’s not that she’s an unenthusiastic eater, or cook for that matter, in fact as long as she’s not had too much wine Sarah can be very excitable in the kitchen! After that though things can go downhill and usually at a dinner party at their house someone will have to take over the cooking, because following a lovely starter of (if you’re lucky) her delicious crab tart, she’ll have forgotten all about the sautéed potatoes blackening on the aga, and you can kiss goodbye to any hope of the toffee sauce for the sticky pudding – unless a gallant guest steps in you may as well just thank your lucky stars you cleverly had seconds of that tart, give up hope of any further solid sustenance, and join her in dancing round the table as a backing singer, screeching ‘Bat out of Hell’ into a wine bottle microphone. Read the rest of this entry

Clandestine Cake Club

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Fudge Cake. Heavenly.

I’m not much of a baker. In fact I’m a bit rubbish. Despite following recipes to the letter not much I’ve baked (with a handful of exceptions) has ever really turned out spectacularly. Edible, yes, but average. My mum makes beautiful cakes and my sister can knock up a mean pastry from scratch but I find the whole thing frustratingly troublesome. I love the end results of my more credible baking friends endeavours though. I love the magic that happens when butter and flour come together; either with eggs and sugar for a cake, or salt resulting in pastry, one of my favourite things. As a kid there was always a home-made cake stashed in an old biscuit tin on top of the kitchen cupboards which meant we had to climb onto the worktop to get to it, so at least we got a little excercise before devouring all that sugar! Mum made a fantastic iced toffee and walnut cake, supersweet cute little butterfly cakes – their wings created by cutting off the peaky centre of each cupcake and plunging two ‘wings’ into a pile of yellow buttercream, gorgeous chewy flapjacks sticky with golden syrup, Read the rest of this entry

What to do with the pumpkin?

My 1-week-to-go pumpkin carving – room for improvement!

Right. It seems my personal Halloween circumstances have changed in very recent years. Having spent almost all of them since 2000 with my best mate, in either of our London flats, decked out in pyjamas, rooms lit only by flickering tea lights and scary pumpkins, Caribbean Chicken Stew bubbling away on the hob, red wine flowing, and horror movie at the ready, I now find myself living in the middle of the countryside far away from Kate. And to make matters worse this year, it seems I will be alone on Halloween Read the rest of this entry

Quick Sweetcorn Fritters

Sweetcorn fritters, bacon and maple syrup

When I was about 17 I got a job in a sandwich shop in Slough. I know, not very glamorous I hear you say, but this was not just any sandwich shop; it was a yuppy sandwich shop! In the era of ‘The Sloane’ we offered masses of different sandwiches, Read the rest of this entry

Smoky Chipotle Beef

Smoky Chipotle Beef

Due to the arctic conditions of the last few days I’ve already accidentally moved on to a new way of cooking. Not that there’s been much of the summery sort this year; when I wasn’t working or away it was either freezing, piddling down, or for some inexplicable reason, dark already. It’s been an amazing summer I know, but let’s face it, if it’s remembered for its weather it won’t be in a good way!

So without realising what was happening I found myself drawn to a recipe for a beef chilli in a recent edition of Donna Hay Magazine and before I knew it sticky meat was slow-braising in my oven. Read the rest of this entry

The Happiest Place on Earth

The Blue Marlin Beach Club

I’m a generally happy person. Easily pleased. It doesn’t take much to turn me around from a grump, usually. I don’t need mega-yachts, diamonds, caviar, or servants – I really enjoy slumming it and am in my element at a barbecue on a windy  beach barricaded up in a padded anorak; happy as larry chomping down on blackened sausages and Cornish pilchards and drinking cheap wine. And I’m just as inclined to contentment in a caravan on an English cliff top as a 5-star hotel on the Amalfi Coast, but, now and again, I do like a bit of unpretentious luxury and the Blue Marlin Beach Club have hit the nail on that particular head. Read the rest of this entry