Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Tiffin for coeliacs


8 oz bought gluten free biscuits (doesn't much matter how horrible or tasteless they are; they can be ginger or lemon flavoured or just plain).
4 oz best salted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Some raisins/cherries/nuts/marshmallows/dates/mixed peel or whatever you fancy (not maltesers: they have wheat in them): about a handful of these things or more if you like.
8 oz bar of good chocolate, plain is best.


  1. Put the biscuits into a strong plastic bag and bash them into small pieces with a mallet.
  2. Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a pan and warm them together until melted. 
  3. Add the cocoa and throw in the biscuit pieces and the other bits and pieces.
  4. Mix to a stiff mixture.
  5. Grease a square or oblong tin (small swiss roll tin) or plastic box with good butter, and press the mixture into it. Flatten the top.
  6. Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a small basin. Warm the basin of chocolate in a pan of water, until nicely melted. 
  7. When the chocolate is nice and runny pour it over the warm mixture in the tin, and let it set.
  8. Cool in the fridge. Cut into pieces with a knife.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Simple home remedies... Total Magic No. 2: mosquito bites

To treat a mosquito bite:

rub the bite with the inside of a banana skin.

Household hints... Total Magic, No. 1. Cleaning copper

For copper pans, kettles and other copper items that become tarnished or lose their coppery look.

Pour a little salt into a small ramekin. Take a quarter of a lemon (it can be the lemon you grated the rind off, for instance) and dip the cut side into the salt.

Rub it gently over the copper pan.

Wash it up, and dry with a cloth if required.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Catherine's best baked eggs

For starter or light meal, serve one egg for each person. For a main meal for hungry and hardworking folk, you can put two large eggs in some or all of the pots.
Preheat the oven to 180º/350º/Gas 4.

You will need:

Ramekins or other small oven-proof dishes, one for each person.


  • Eggs: one or two per person, as explained above.
  • Tzatziki: about a teaspoon per person.
  • Double cream: about two tsp per person.
  • Seasalt


  1. Break one or two eggs into each small oven-proof dish.
  2. Blob a small spoonful of tzatziki into the egg white (anywhere: no need to spread it).
  3. Grind a little salt over the egg.
  4. Pour enough double cream over the top to more or less cover the surface. (Do this slowly: the cream will rise to the surface after a moment. Don't put more than you need).
  5. Stand the dishes on a baking tray. Some people say you should put some hot water in the tray but that will slow the cooking down and makes little difference to how much they stick. 
  6. Bake in the oven until the top rises and browns a little. About 10 to 15 minutes I guess.
  7. Serve the eggs in the dishes, on a larger plate with toast fingers and garnish for a starter, or on a larger plate with vegetables and side dishes for a main meal.
Note: The cream is to prevent the top of the eggs going leathery: it can't be omitted. A little grated cheese can be used instead if you have no cream.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Preparing blackcurrants, redcurrants and white currants.

The currants arrive on branching stalks. The most efficient way (in theory at least) to detach them from their threads is to take hold of the top of a thread of them, and dangle it over a large bowl or colander. Then with the other hand you run a fork down the thread from top to bottom and it pops the currants off the stalks.
Some will still have their tiny stalks attached, having popped off the main stem more easily than off their own stalk. These need to be fished out again and have the process repeated, either by fingers or with the fork.
Then run the colander under a tap to wash off dust and dirt and you're all set for the pan.

JAM: Blackcurrant, Damson or Gooseberry


2 1/4- 2 1/2 lbs prepared fruit
3 lbs granulated sugar 
1-2 pints of water


  1. Warm enough clean jars for about 5 lbs of jam (put them in a low heat oven).
  2. Put the fruit and water in the large preserving pan and simmer gently until the fruit is soft (about 30 minutes). Add a little water to prevent the fruit from burning if necessary.
  3. Stir in the sugar.
  4. When the sugar has dissolved, boil the jam hard, but not so hard that it boils over.
  5. Test for setting after about ten minutes of fast boiling, and/or use a jam thermometer.
  6. When setting point is reached, draw it off the heat to a safe place for pouring into jars.
  7. Use a warm jug to scoop jam out of the pan and pour into the pots. Screw on the lids firmly before the jam is cold.
  8. Clean the sticky off the outside of the jars with a hot wet cloth, and then label the jars when cool and dry.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Medovnik (Honey Cake)

  • 450 grams Flour
  • 180 grams Icing Sugar
  • 180 grams Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 6 tablespoons Honey
  • 4 tablespoons Cream
  • 1 teaspoon Cocoa Powder
Beat the butter, sugar, egg, honey and cream over a low heat (or bain marie) for about 5 minutes.  In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda and cocoa powder.  Then mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes covered in cling film. It should be a nice soft dough consistency and you should be able to roll it out without it sticking.  If it’s too sticky then let it sit another 5-10 minutes or use a little bit of flour.
On greaseproof paper draw an 8 inch circle (or square) and roll out approximately 160 grams (one eighth) of the dough to fit the circle. It should be about 2-3 mm thick (i.e. thin!)  Roll out 8 of the circles and bake each one for 4-7 minutes at 180C.
Once they are baked, cool them on wire rack, leaving the paper on (until you come to put the cake together).  The cake layers can be baked beforehand and kept in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen for up to a month.
(If you have any dough left, bake the extra too and later grind it up with the nuts to coat the outside of the cake)

Filling and topping

  • 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 200 grams of Unsalted Butter
  • 70 grams roughly chopped walnuts
  • 50 ml of Rum or coffee or both
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons of Sugar
  • 150 ml of Water
You can first boil the can of sweetened condensed milk for 3 hours, unopened, in a pan of water. This makes it tastier, but is not essential. If you do, do this the day before, and do not open the can until several hours later when it has cooled sufficiently. 

To make the filling, blend the sweetened condensed milk with the butter until creamy.

Separately, mix the rum/coffee, sugar and water in a bowl and set aside.

Putting the cake together
Cut the edges off the 8 cake layers, so that they have a nice cleanly round shape (or square, if you used a square shape...) and don't have hard edges. The bits you've cut off can be ground into crumbs and used to spread over the cake at the end.
Put the first cake layer on a plate, and brush the rum/coffee mixture all over the top of it, then cover with the buttercream and sprinkle with a few chopped nuts.  Proceed like this, brushing both sides of the second and subsequent cake layers with the rum/coffee mixture, placing the layer on top of the last one, and spreading buttercream and nuts over it.
When you've put the last layer of cake on, cover the whole cake with the remaining buttercream and then with the cake crumbs and nuts.  Chill the whole cake in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but overnight is better - the longer you leave it, the more the cream soaks in and it becomes better. The cake can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Baked chocolatey ricotta cheesecake

For the base:

175g crunchy cocoa biscuits, anything with a classic biscuit consistency will do.
80g butter

Crush the biscuits (in a bag, with a rolling pin, or in a food processor) until fairly fine crumbs with some larger bits.  Cut the butter up and melt it in a bain-marie or microwave. Add the butter to the biscuits (in a bowl!) and use a spoon to combine thoroughly.

Butter your cheesecake tin (20 cm springform tin) thoroughly and line with greaseproof paper (on the bottom will do). Put the butter-biscuit mixture in the bottom of the tin and press down until it forms an even and compact covering over the whole base of the tin, about 1cm deep. Use the back of a spoon or your knuckles to press it down.

Put it in the fridge for 30 mins while you prepare the filling.

For the filling: 

120g dark chocolate, 50% cocoa
250g ricotta
250g greek yoghurt
3 eggs (if very big, use 2)
100g granulated sugar
35g cocoa powder
optional: grated rind of one lemon
cocoa for dusting the top of the cake

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bain-marie or microwave. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites, and whisk the yolks with the sugar. Separately, whisk the whites with a pinch of salt until they form firm peaks.
Turn out the ricotta into a large bowl and cream it for a moment or two using a wooden spoon (add the grated rind of one lemon at this stage if you like!), then add the yoghurt gradually, followed by the egg yolks/sugar mixture, the melted chocolate and finally the whipped egg whites.

Pour the mixture into the tin, in which you have already prepared the biscuit base. Smooth the top, and bake in the centre of the oven at 160°C for about 50 minutes.

When done, remove and leave to cool in the tin. When it is lukewarm, place it in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.

When chilled, remove from the tin, dust with cocoa powder and serve, or if you like first decorate it with petals made of white chocolate and lemon slices, as below...

On a piece of greaseproof paper, sketch out petal shapes with a pencil.
Break up 75g white chocolate and melt in bain-marie or microwave. Using a spoon, fill in the petal shapes you've drawn on the paper with white chocolate. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to the fridge to harden up (at least 30 minutes).

Meanwhile cut the lemon into slim slices and simmer for 10 minutes in a pan with 100 ml water and 100g granulated sugar. Remove the lemon slices and cool them on a piece of greaseproof paper.

Place one of the lemon slices on top of the cake. Around it, arrange the white chocolate petals.If you like, outline them with a little dark chocolate sauce or melted dark chocolate.

Serve the remaining lemon slices together with the cake, if you like.

Keep the cake in the fridge :-)

Lemony oaty syrupy biscuits

  • 175 g butter 
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup   
  • grated rind of half a lemon (optional) 
  • 175 g self-raising flour
  • 75 g porridge oats
  • 175 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 180C/gas 4. Grease 2 large baking trays.

2. Put the butter and golden syrup into a pan, with the lemon rind if desired, and heat over a low heat, stirring until all melted and combined.

3. Take pan off heat and add the flour, oats, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Stir, if necessary also knead with your hands, until you have a smooth dough. 
4. Turn out onto a clean surface and form into about 28 small balls, about 2cm thick.

5. Place the balls on the baking trays, well apart from each other as they spread significantly. Press the tops to flatten slightly.

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and using a pallet knife vel sim., transfer to a cooling rack. 

Maková Bábovka - Poppy seed cake

  • 250 g butter or margarine
  • 190 g granulated sugar (vanilla if poss)
  • 1 sachet of vanilla sugar / few drops vanilla essence (or just use vanilla sugar above)
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 150 g ground poppy seeds (this requires a special grinder to squash the seeds - do not attempt in liquidiser!!)
  • 180 g plain flour (wholemeal or coarser flour to be encouraged)
  • 1 sachet baking powder
  • 200–250 ml milk
  • icing sugar to dust
1. Preheat oven to 180, fan oven 160 ˚C. Thoroughly grease medium size cake tin (ideally a ring mould, with a hole in the middle) and dust with flour. 

2. Cream butter/marg and sugar, add vanilla and egg yolks and beat until light and fluffy. Add the poppy seed mush and the baking powder. Mix, and add enough milk to obtain a dropping consistency. Whisk the egg whites until standing in firm peaks and fold into the mixture. Pour into the prepared tin, smooth the top, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Check that the cake is completely done: stick a cake tester in in a few places! It has a tendency to be a bit sticky in the middle. When convinced, take it out of the oven and cool for 3 minutes in the tin, then carefully turn the cake out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Variation: At the egg white stage, add two handfuls of fresh or frozen cherries (hlaved, stones removed).