Archive | Recipes RSS feed for this section

Easter Simnel Cake

31 Mar

Since I have been on a diet (yawn) my baking activities have become somewhat depleted, but as I have guests, I thought I should make an effort for easter and so baked a Simnel Cake – great fun, easy peasy and I bet you have most of the ingredients in your store cupboard.  I didn’t have any candied peel and so I just grated the zest from a large orange instead.  If you haven’t got raisins, just put in extra of what you do have!


Purists can attempt their own almond paste, but really bought marzipan is so good that I can find better things to do than make it!


Semana Santa here is usually wet or grey or both, and so is a lovely thing to do in your kitchen – the smell of the spices is very festive.  For those of  you in the UK, it will give you a nice cosy feeling on this Easter Sunday.


Happy Easter everyone!

Simnel Cake 001



  • 560g / 1 ¼ lbs ready made almond paste (marzipan)
  • 450g / 1 lb dried mixed fruits (currants, raisins, sultanas, glace cherries)
  • 80g / 3 oz candied chopped peel
  • 225g / 8 oz all purpose/plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 175g / 6 oz butter
  • 175g / 6 oz caster sugar / fine sugar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • Milk to mix
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam


170°C/Gas 3

  • Line a 7 inch cake tin with parchment or greaseproof paper.
  • Divide the almond paste into 3 and take one portion and roll it to a round the size of the cake tin.
  • In a large roomy baking bowl mix the mixed dried fruits and candied peel with the flour, salt and spices.
  • In another large bowl cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg to the butter mixture a little bit at a time, beating well after each addition – do not try to rush this process as the mixture could curdle. If it does curdle simply add a tbsp of the flour and mix again, this should bring the mixture back together.
  • Carefully fold in half the flour and half the fruit into the egg and butter mixture, once incorporated repeat with the remaining flour and fruit.
  • Put half of the cake mixture into the tin, smooth and cover with the round of almond paste. Put the remaining cake mixture into the tin and smooth the surface carefully. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour.
  • Lower the heat to 300°F/150°C/Gas 2 and bake for 2 hours, or until the cake is golden brown. Test by inserying a skewer into the cake, it should come out clean and dry. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
  • Roll another third of almond paste, again to the size of the tin. Make the remaining almond paste equally into 11 tiny balls.
  • Once the cake is completely cool, remove from the tin and brush the top of the cake with apricot jam and cover with the disc of almond paste. Place the 11 tiny balls of paste evenly around the edge. Brush the paste all over with a little apricot jam and place under a hot grill until lightly browned.
  • The cake can then be decorated as you wish with tiny Easter eggs or any other Easter theme.


Lobster a L’Americaine

24 Feb

Lobster 003

I have to admit that I should have posted this a while ago – actually during Christmas week as it is something I used to make every Christmas Eve for my parents, siblings, partners and whoever was spending Christmas with us when I lived in North London.

My dad and I used to go to Billingsgate market at some ungodly, freezing hour of the morning but I relished it and for those of you living in London, I urge you to go if you never have.  You get the pick of the best fresh fish and seafood and all the atmosphere that markets in the early hours have to offer.  It was also the only way one could afford to cook 8 or 10 lobsters as they were less that half the price of the fishmongers or supermarkets and obviously much fresher.

Xmas 2012 006

Anyhow, I digress.  This year, for various reasons, Mick and I decided to stay in Spain for Christmas by ourselves, and for the first time in 7 years my family opted to stay in London.  Strange though it was, it was enjoyable in a different kind of way and meant that despite this hideous recession, I was able to cook lobster for the two of us on Christmas Eve, using my old recipe (still on an apron that my dad brought back from the states I don’t know how many years ago – I have never written it out before, and had to have the apron on the work top until now that is!).   So here it is – the most delicious lobster dish if you want a change from cold lobster and salad – if you are on a budget, then serve half a lobster per person and throw in some plump prawns or langoustine at the end of cooking time.

It is not a difficult dish to make, just a little fiddly, you need time to prepare but the cooking bit is pretty last minute, so make up a green salad and lay the table in advance and serve the lobster with some jacket potatoes which can finish cooking whilst you cook and assemble the lobsters.  It has quite a few ingredients so take time to read the shopping list otherwise you end up missing something.  If you can’t find clam juice, simply leave it out or buy half a kilo (easily available here) and simmer them for a few minutes in some water and a decent splash of white wine, salt and pepper.  You can use the clams for a spaghetti vongole lunch!

Also, I have only ever cooked this on a gas hob – so if you have an electric hob just make sure you have a decent solid square pan and watch the heat!  – my dad bought me one that goes over the entire hob, which you do need if cooking for 6 of you – if you are cooking for two, then a decent roasting pan will do.  If you are cooking in warmer weather, then you could place the pan on the griddle of your barbeque – it may be easier.

Pour yourself a glass of Vina Sol, take a deep breath and have a go!

Xmas 2012 011

My recipe is for 6, just adapt according to how many you are cooking for.

As this is an American recipe they use “cups” – 1 cup = 8 ounces

6 lobsters around 1lb each

Half a cup of olive oil

9 tbsps butter (I think this is a bit heavy handed, so half it!)

1 cup finely chopped onions

9 shallots, finely chopped

4 large cloves, crushed

2/3rd ‘s cup of cognac warmed

9 large tomatoes peeled and seeded

6 oz tomato puree

1 and a half cups of clam juice (you can find them in bottles, look up on the internet for stockists, or just don’t worry about it!)

1 and a half cups water

1 and a half cups dry white wine

3 tablespoons chopped tarragon (or 3 teaspoons dried)

6 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped

3 teaspoons salt (or less)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon thyme, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried

3 tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces (or less!)

3 additional tablespoons of chopped parsley

Ask your fishmonger to cleanly cut your lobsters in two if they are live and you can’t cope! – or you can buy cooked ones, you need to clean them whichever, just leaving the lovely white tail meat – break off the claws and crack the shells as this will make it easier to eat when they are covered in sauce!  If you are doing it yourself at home, make sure you catch the juice, liver and coral. (google it if you are not sure!).

Heat the oil and butter in your pan and add all the lobster pieces (only if they are uncooked, if cooked just put them in before flaming them in cognac below).   Cook until the shells turn red and then remove and set aside.  Add the onions, shallots, farlic and cook until transparent but not brown.  Return the lobsters and flame with the cognac and swirl until the flames subside and then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, clam juice if using, water, wine, all the herbs, salt and cayenne (go easy on the cayenne as you don’t want to mask the wonderful flavours).  Simmer gently for 20 minutes and then remove the lobster again.  Over a high heat boil the liquid until slightly reduced – return the lobster with any juices reserved, plus the liver and coral. Now add a bit more butter ,check the seasoning and sprinkle with fresh parsley.  Serve on hot platters with lots of paper napkins and enjoy!  Trust me it is well worth the effort.

Biscotti with Almonds and Figs

21 Nov

We love these little festive biscuits with an espresso or coffee morning – they always seem to be a treat to buy from an Italian deli in London, as they seem expensive – but when you look at the ingredients, I suppose they are not really. But I found this recipe somewhere ages ago and have made them for us and our friends ever since and now would just never buy them.  Don’t be afraid of the way the “logs” look when you take them out after the first baking – they look pretty dreadful – but once they are sliced diagonally and then baked again, they look like the ones you buy in the shops (you may say a pointless exercise then, but it is fun to make them –and very easy!)


Makes 24-28


50 g butter

225g plain flour

150 g caster sugar (I just use granulated!)

pinch of salt

Half teaspoon baking powder

75 g whole almonds with skin (or you can use pistachios) chopped

100 g dried figs, or cranberries would be nice for Christmas, or apricots or cherries work well too, chopped – just use what you like

Zest of half lemon (I use the zest of a whole lemon)

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Pre-heat the ovento 180 c,350 f, Gas mark 4


Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  Sieve the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into roomy mixing bowl.  Add the fruit and nuts and lemon zest,  whatever you are using – don’t be tempted to add more than the recipe – it may break up the dough, which is already a little crumbly so stick to the quantities above.  Mix in well together.  Take the melted butter, egg yolk and whole egg, vanilla extract and give it a good old whisk with a fork.  Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add the egg mixture to it.  Stir firmly but take your time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.  I find flour varies and so if it is a little too crumbly, just add the smallish splash of milk until you have something that will come together in a ball – divide the mixture in two.


Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment (or brown parcel paper will do if you haven’t got any parchment).  Lightly flour a smooth surface and place one of your biscotti balls on top and then just lightly roll into a 10 cm log, you can just pat each end every couple of rolls to keep it nice and firm, but don’t overdo it or it will fall apart – you don’t want a skinny roll!  Place on the baking tray and then make the other log.  Place them side by side on the tray, leaving plenty of space between them (about 5 cms should do it) as they spread a little.  Bake on the middle shelf for about 35minutes, until golden (but not brown) and firm to the touch.   As said before, these kind of look like flat, gone wrong rock cakes at this point, but trust me on this, you will end up with the real thing!   Just leave to cool on the baking tray and go and do something else for an hour or so!  Turn the oven off.


When you come back pre heat the oven to 170c, 325f, Gas Mark 3 and cover 2 baking trays with baking parchment.


Using a sharp knife slice the biscotti on the diagonal into slices no thicker than 1 cm each.  Arrange these on the baking tray in a single layer.  Just be gentle and they should slice easily without breaking.  Bake on the middle shelf for around 20 minutes until crisp and  dark golden – keep an eye on them as oven vary and you don’t want them too dark.  You may like to swap the trays around halfway through cooking to ensure an even colour.  Cool and store, or if you are giving away as presents, put into cellophane bags and tie with ribbon.  They do need to be stored in an airtight container and best eaten within a week (this won’t be a problem!).


If your attempt fails the first time, stick with it as I promise you, you will have fun making these, they are just great to take to friends with a bottle of wine for after dinner, to have in a tin at home for when people drop by for coffee, or they make lovely tree presents at Christmas time if you package them beautifully,  and they are really easy to make without having a load of ingredients in your cupboard which you will only use once.

Do not be tempted to use self raising flour, or omit the baking powder, small amount though it is!  People forget the cooking is a science and unless you are prepared to experiment 6 times before achieving a good result, my advice is always stick to the recipe where baking is concerned.  Do experiment with the fruit and nuts though.

Padron Peppers with Garlic

17 Sep

If you see these tiny green peppers in the supermarket in the UK, (I know you can buy them in Waitrose), you may think, err, what do I do with these and pass them by.  So next time you see them, put a bag in your basket.  We see them so often here in restaurants and bars, and I cook them at home myself – they are a lovely accompaniment to many dishes, or just on the side with other tapas.


They take no time to prepare and are absolutely delicious.  A funny thing though, one in a few dozen is like a chilli pepper so take care!  The rest are mild and tangy when cooked – or you can chop them into salads.


Take one bag for 2-4 people

Four or five cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

Sea salt


Heat some good olive oil in a frying pan – the Spanish deep fry them, but I just move them around in a small amount of oil, so have a go at whatever you prefer.


Throw in the chopped garlic and cook for a minute

Then simply empty the bag of Padron peppers in too, and cook gently for 4 or 5 minutes.

Tip onto a serving plate and sprinkle some good sea salt over


Serve with a lovely chilled glass of dry sherry – absolutely gorgeous!

Cod wrapped in Serrano ham, with chilli and lime

6 Jun

I am currently trying to shed a few pounds – an easy way to help is to eat more fish – I know we have fish counters that groan under the weight of a vast selection of fish – I buy whatever looks good generally.  Last week I had friends staying, always a bit tough on the diet, but thought if I included fish on the menu a couple of evenings they would enjoy it and it would be healthy for all of us.  Some people are a bit nervous of cooking fish, simply because they might not really know what to do with it.  This is the most simple dish, takes minutes to prepare and about 20 minutes to oven bake and is quite stunning.

Cod with ham, chilli and lime

If you are in the UK, just go to your local fishmonger or fish counter in the supermarket and take a look at what they have – hake would do just as well for this if there is no cod.  Ask the butcher for fillets of either, they need to be nice and chunky.


Pre-heat your oven to 180c, 350f, gas mark 4


Lightly oil a metal baking tray (this helps the fish to cook through properly).



Take your Serrano ham and lay it on a board.  Put the fish on top and then sprinkle on some chopped chilli (fresh or dried is fine, fresh looks prettier), a squeeze of lime juice and some course sea salt and ground pepper.  Then wrap up the fish like a little parcel.  You can put an extra piece of ham on top if it doesn’t quite meet in the middle.  Then put onto the baking tray, put in the centre of the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the fish.  I serve this with paprika potato wedges (sprayed with oil and baked in the oven 20 minutes before the fish, then just leave them on a shelf above the fish and continue cooking), and minted pea and crème fresh puree.



Courgette Flower Tempura

14 May

Ok, this is one of those things which only cooks or people with allotments would ever get excited about – most people would not ever give them a second thought, know about them or if they do, care.


I first had these stuffed with something fantastic like goose liver parfait (sorry) at the Moulin de Mougins in the South of France around 30 years ago (yikes) and because they just looked so beautiful I have never forgotten them.  Anyhow, the difficult thing with these is that you never see courgettes with the flowers left on in shops because they do wither very quickly.  You need to pick them, carry them home carefully and use them that day.

Courgette Flower Tempura

On Friday, I went to my friend Nevenka’s farm shop in Vera as I often do on Friday mornings.   Opening times are11 am until 2 pm.  It is well worth a visit for gorgeous citrus fruit, particularly limes as she has 400 lime trees!  But also, lovely preserves, chutneys and other condiments. She always has some lovely fresh vegetables too, potatoes, beans and whatever is in season and also loads of gorgeous fresh herbs – all of her vegetables are organic – she often has things which you cannot buy here – last week I had a bag of mange tout – absolutely delicious – and on Friday she had the most beautiful baby courgette with the flowers on.  I had quite a lot to do on Friday as everyone was coming around for the opening of the Friday night outdoor cinema and I was preparing a little supper.  But as said, these beautiful pale flowers come along once in a blue moon and so I took four and thought that I would make a tiny starter for lunch.  I really would have liked them stuffed with crab and crème fraiche and chives, but I thought, get real – just look in the fridge and see what is there.  So when I got home, I pulled out some cream cheese and mixed in some chilli sauce put teaspoons of the mixture into the flowers.  Then I made up some tempura batter – plain flour, a tablespoon of cornflour, a little sea salt and some sparkling water.

Then all you do is drop the stuffed flowers in the batter with a slotted spoon and deep fry in vegetable oil until they turn the palest golden colour.  Because the oil is so hot, everything stays in tact, nothing oozes out and they just look stunning. They need to be drained on kitchen paper and eaten immediately with a little chilli sauce.


Mick said they were sensational so I will be popping back to Nevenka’s this week in the hope that there will be a few more for me to steal!



4 May

I think one of the things I like most about living in Spain is the way that certain types of food is just, well, so Spanish!   Churros is one of them.  And the way that you find it – i.e. literally on the streets, out of vans, at fiestas and in cafes.  I can’t think of an English equivalent that is so universally found.  I have mentioned churros before, but thought that some of you might like to have a go at making them and so have included a recipe.  This is something which you will only ever do if a) you love cooking b) you have an extractor fan and c) when it is a miserable day outside and you have nothing better to do!  But let me explain a bit more about the famous Churros.

A churro, sometimes referred to as a Spanish doughnut is a fried delicacy

There are two types of churros in Spain, one which is thin (and sometimes knotted) and the other which is long and thick (porra). They are both normally eaten for breakfast dipped in hot chocolate

Churros are typically fried until they become crunchy, and may be sprinkled with sugar. The surface of a churro is ridged due to having been piped from a churrera, a syringe with a star-shaped nozzle.

Churros are often sold by street vendors, who will often fry them freshly on the street stand and sell them hot.  You get a lovely brown paper bag full for a euro! In Spain churros are available in cafes for breakfast although they may be eaten throughout the day as a snack. Specialized churrerías can be found in the form of a shop or a trailer during the holiday period. Big Spanish cities have churrerías throughout their streets but we usually just get them from a van either at Vera market on a Saturday or Villaricos market on a Sunday. I have to admit that I have only eaten them 3 or 4 times in 8 years because they are so delicious, but so bad for you and I am scared of it becoming a regular thing!

The dough is a mixture of flour, water and salt.

In south Spain the word churro usually refers to the thicker variant, called porra elsewhere. The thicker variant is usually fried in the shape of a continuous spiral and cut into portions afterwards. The center of the spiral is thicker and softer, and for many a delicacy in itself.

It may seem obvious, but DO TAKE CARE if you decide to be adventurous and try out the recipe below.  This is not a recipe for kids as it involves boiling hot oil!  If the oil is too hot it will really splash so imagine you are making chips – the oil doesn’t need to be any hotter than that!


For the churros:

90g caster sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

125g plain flour

125g self-raising flour

a good pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 litre sunflower oil for frying

For the chocolate sauce:

200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped

50g milk chocolate, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons golden syrup

300ml double cream


Serves: makes 16 long sticks

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.

Make the chocolate sauce. Put all the chocolate in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the golden syrup and cream and heat over a low heat, stirring continuously, to melt the chocolate, being careful not to let it burn.

Sift the flours with a good pinch of salt into a metal or heatproof bowl and make a well in the centre.

In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil and 450ml boiling water together, and pour into the well, beating it well with a fork to get rid of any lumps. The dough should be slightly soft and sticky to touch. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Fill a large, heavy bottomed saucepan (or Wok) with the sunflower oil – it should be about one-third full. Heat the oil to 170C or until a small piece of bread browns in less than 30 seconds.

Add the dough to a piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle and squeeze out churros directly into the hot oil, cutting them with a pair of scissors into the length you want. Be careful not to cook more than three at any one time, or they will all stick together. Fry for about 3 to 4 minutes until crispy and golden. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Reheat the chocolate sauce and pour into little cups for dipping with the churros.

If you don’t have the energy to make these, search out a Spanish restaurant on google!

There are plenty in London I know.  El Cantara in Soho is a good start!

Rhubarb jelly

20 Feb

The other day I was making an apple and pear crumble and I thought I would add some tinned rhubarb too to make it a bit more interesting.  Rhubarb is a bit precious here – even tinned!  There isn’t a word in Spanish for it and they simply don’t know what it is!  Quite often when friends ask me if there is anything they can bring fromEngland, I say “Fresh rhubarb please” if it is in season.  They think I am bonkers of course.


Anyhow, after I had added the fruit I thought I would use the juice (not syrup) to make jelly – it is the most divine and subtle flavour and if you add some chopped up stem ginger to the liquid it makes quite a sophisticated dessert and needs nothing else.  If you are not using all the fruit for something else, then you could add some rhubarb to the jelly and make a compote to go with it.  It is the simplest of home made desserts and fantastic after something like a casserole or pie which can be on the heavy side.


Use a couple of tins to yield half a pint of juice and put in a small pan to warm.




Soak two leaves of gelatine in a little cold water for 5 minutes, then drain and squeeze the gelatine and put in with the juice. Stir until completely dissolved and then take off the heat.  Chop a piece of stem ginger into tiny chunks and add to the liquid.  I don’t think it needs any more sweetening, but you can make your own mind up and if you like add a teaspoon of soft brown sugar while the liquid is still warm.  Then add to a couple of individual glasses and refrigerate for a few hours or make the day before you need it if you are planning a dinner party.  I must say, that because it is a completely natural jelly, I did add the tiniest bit of pink colouring to mine to make it prettier, but this is not needed!


Ballycastle Pancakes

9 Jan

Ok –how did that happen!!  A month has gone by with no blogging!  But as you will see from my last post, a third dog and a puppy at that, plus 10 of us here for the holidays kept me on my toes to say the least.  Now we are back to 2 humans and 3 dogs and still looking for a home for Minnie the Podenco.


Anyhow, I will start the New Year with a recipe for one of the things which I made over Christmas to have with drinks;  the recipe for which came from our friend David Rice.  You can call them drop scones, blinis or pancakes, are fantastically versatile and you can pretty much have them with whatever you like.  You can top them with maple syrup, honey or jam; bacon and poached eggs or as I have done in the picture, smoked salmon and sour cream.  They are utterly delicious and just really easy to make when you have a little bit of time to spare.  You can buy things like this easily enough but there is nothing like the taste of something freshly prepared at home.


To have a go, roll your sleeves up and follow David’s recipe!


Sift together 150 grams self-raising flour plus 1/2 tsp. baking powder with 1 tbs. caster sugar.


Whisk in 3/4 cup milk and 1 egg to make a smooth batter.  Add a pinch of salt. Whisk to smooth.


Leave to sit for around 5 mins.


Griddle on cast iron or non stick pan greased with olive oil or unsalted butter on med. – high heat. Use a table or soup spoon to measure.


Turn when bubbles appear on top  — about 2 mins. either side. Depends on heat. You have to practice a bit but once you have had a go, you should find it relatively easy.


Cool on wire rack and then serve with whatever you feel like.


Gail’s Lime Farm Pie

6 Nov

Our friend Nevenka has 400 or so lime trees near the town of Vera– we call it the Lime Farm.  It is beautiful and until quite recently limes were quite hard to come by here and so she was lucky to have an entire grove of them!  Whenever Nevenka comes here or we go there, I come away with a bag full of the delicious things – my favourite cocktail is a Marguerita and so sometimes I juice up a load of limes and freeze it for future cocktail hours!  Other times, when I have been given kilos of frozen limes, I make marmalade.  But last week, with a basket full of fresh ones, I was keen to look up recipes that used a lot of fruit.  One of Mick’s favourite pud’s is Key Lime Pie.  So here is my take on the classic version – it works really well with the ginger biscuits instead of digestive, they are less fatty and compliment the zingyness of the limes. You can freeze them too, so I am going to get baking soon for Christmas time, as it is very light and refreshing after lunch or dinner, and since there will be 10 of us, it will be good to have a few things made up already to go.

To make enough for 8-10 slices


You will need a loose-based flan tin 9” in diameter lightly oiled – mine was a bit bigger and so if yours is you might want to increase the lime filling by half the recipe again.  The friends who ate it yesterday didn’t think it was necessary but if you like a deeper “pie” then feel free to do so.  The quantity for the  ingredients for the base was fine as it was.


For the base


95 G butter


225 ginger biscuits, smashed up to resemble crumbs


(if you have grape nut cereal in your cupboard, substitute 50g of the biscuits with them)


For the filling


Zest of 3 or 4 limes


150 ml freshly squeezed lime juice from 5 limes (depending on the size)


3 large egg yolks (when you have made the pie, immediately make some meringues and freeze those too!)


400 g tin of condensed milk (hence no additional sugar needed)


Small tub of whipping cream, whipped!


Grated dark chocolate (more for the look than the taste)



To serve


Some twists of lime dipped in sugar






Pre heat the oven to Gas mark 4, 350 F or 180 C


Melt the butter and mix in the biscuits/grape nuts.  Empty into your flan case and then press down and make sure it goes up a bit at the sides to stop any leakage from the filling.  Place on a baking tray in the centre of the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden


Then make up the filling.  Whisk the egg yolks and lime zest together with a hand whisk for 2 minutes.  Add the condensed milk and continue whisking for another 5 minutes or so to get some air into the mixture.  Add in the lime juice and give a final whisk. Pour onto the base and return immediately to the oven for around 20 minutes (a bit less in a fan oven).  Remove, cool and then cover in clingfilm and refrigerate, overnight if you like, but a couple of hours should do it. Then whip up the cream and spread or pipe it over your pie and put back in the fridge just to give a final chill.




To Serve


Grate good quality dark chocolate over the pie, decorate with a couple of lime twists and there you are.  It is a lovely easy pudding and really delicious.