Friday, 30 December 2011

Raspberry and Amaretto Cheesecakes for Kenny !!

Our friends David and Tim came over for dinner tonight - it was a last minute thing so wanted something quick and easy with as little cooking as possible. I've always loved the passionfruit and lime cheesecakes that are in an earlier post and had the idea of using amaretto as my husband Kenny has declared it his new favourite after dinner tipple this Christmas. The raspberries were lurking in the freezer - I'd picked a huge basket in the Summer and had frozen them in small batches. So this recipe was invented......

Raspberry and Anaretto Cheesecakes

8 small ramekins or glass dishes

150 g digestive biscuits
50 g flaked almonds
60 g butter

225 g cream cheese
120 g icing sugar
4 tblsps Amaretto liquer
punnet raspberries
225 ml double cream


Place the biscuits and flaked almonds into a clear plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin to make crumbs.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the crumbs and mix well.
Divide between the dishes, press down well and chill.
Beat the cream cheese with a wooden spoon and add the icing sugar and mix well.
Add the amaretto and mix.
Place 3  raspberries in each dish on top of the biscuit mix - reserve 8 raspberries for decoration.
Crush the remaining raspberries through a sieve.
Whip the double cream to form soft peaks and fold into the cream cheese mixture.
Add the raspberry juice but only mix slightly to form a marbled effect.
Place this into a piping bag - it's less messy and looks better in the glasses.
Pipe on to the top of the biscuit mix - then decorate each one with a raspberry and some flaked almonds.
Chill in the fridge and take out 30 minutes before serving

They looked so pretty and tasted delicious - I'll definitely be making them again - so easy !!!

Give them a go - and ENJOY !!!

Rhubarb and Ginger cake for Nick ( @mydaddycooks )!!

I was invited on to Nick Coffer's afternoon radio show on BBC 3 Counties radio ( which covers Beds, Bucks and Herts ) to discuss my passion for baking and my career. Nick has a wonderful book out called My Daddy Cooks which has recipes he cooks with his small son Archie and I was lucky enough to be given a copy ( thanks Nick).
It was only right that I should take a cake with me -  so I decided on my Rhubarb and Ginger Cake, I thought it would be appropriate after so much chocolate and rich food over Christmas, as it is very fresh and light. The recipe can be found in November's posts although this time I used fresh cream for filling ( whipped double ) and just iced with plain icing - it made it a little less sweet. It went down a treat at the radio station.

Managed to save a slice to take home for Kenny as he has declared it his new favourite cake !! It was lovely chatting with Nick about my passion for baking - just hope I didn't talk too much !!

Myself and Nick Coffer - author of My Daddy Cooks - @mydaddycooks on Twitter.

Dad's 70th Birthday at Northcote !!

As I mentioned in my last post, Christmas is a very busy time for my family with lots of birthdays too, with my Dad's being on Christmas Day.
Every year we are joined by friends and family to celebrate at Northcote, a michelin starred hotel and restaurant near Clitheroe in Lancashire run by Craig Bancroft and Nigel Haworth. The head chef is Lisa Allen - both Nigel and Lisa have had winning courses on BBC2's The Great British Menu.
I've been lucky enough to have eaten there many times over the last 25 years and Kenny and I also had our Wedding Reception there in 1993.
Dad had chosen a beautiful menu ( no doubt with a little help from the kitchen )

There were a couple of changes as Kenny doesn't eat fish - so he had a beautiful egg on a bed of mushrooms.

Here is the halibut fish course - the parcel of shrimps and cockles was divine.

I didn't manage to get a photo of lamb as Kenny couldn't wait to tuck in !! I had monkfish as I'm not a huge red meat fan -

For pudding was a treacle tart bit with a hint of ginger and the salted sheep's milk icecream stopped it from being too sweet - gorgeous.

And not forgetting chocolates and petit fours with a Christmassy mincemeat feel, eccles cakes, honeycomb and mincemeat truffles.

Mum had organised a cake at the last minute - guess what Dad's main hobby has always been !!

It was a wonderful afternoon catching up with family and old friends - Happy 70th Birthday Dad !!

Betty's in Harrogate for Kenny's Birthday !!

Christmas is a busy time of year for most people but even more so in my family - my Dad's Birthday is on Christmas Day ( more about that in my next post ) and Kenny, my husband's is on the 28th !! Expensive !!
I decided I would take him on a trip to Harrogate and we'd have Afternoon Tea at the world famous Betty's ( the shops are quite nice there too !! ).

I've visited a lot in the last few years as it is always the 1st thing to do when on tour in Harrogate or York and have fallen in love with their Fat Rascals - these are a kind of spiced rock cake/scone and are served warm with butter.
It's very rare that you don't have to queue to get in and we braved the Yorkshire wind for 30 minutes before being shown to a table.

It was pots of tea and Fat Rascals all round !! So delicious - I'll have to have a go at baking them soon !!

Here's to Betty's - nearly 100 years old !!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Cakes (with a little help from Delia !!)- I confess !!

Ok, I've been so busy on tour and then sorting out my life and the house and Lapland etc..... that I wasn't going to make a Christmas Cake this year.
I also really love it and can't resist with a cup of tea - so not great for the post Christmas figure !!!
However, I was shopping in Waitrose a couple of weeks ago and waiting to have my 'bleeper' scanned to pay ( love those things - like pretending to be a shopkeeper ! ) and I noticed that Delia's cake box had been reduced to £7.50, so thought it was worth a go to see what all the fuss was about - lots of friends raving about it !!
So I 've made two up and been feeding them with brandy for the last 2 weeks and have now iced them!! Took forever and I never want to see silverballs again !!- it was like the game you get in crackers where you have to move the ball around into the holes !!
Number One is to take up to Mum and Dads - Happy 70th Dad for Christmas Day !!!

And Number Two is for us to devour !!!


Here they are together - Will let you know what they taste like in the New Year !!


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Mince Pie Eton Mess !!

I love Christmas Pudding but sometimes people can find it a little stodgy after a big Christmas Dinner. Here's an idea for something a little lighter but with all those Christmas flavours - Mince Pie Eton Mess !!
I can't take all the credit as the idea was put into my head by @BeverlyMacca1 on twitter - whose a hoot - if you're not doing already, follow her !!! 

Mince Pie Eton Mess

300 ml Double Cream
60ml Amaretto or a liquer of your choice
3 meringue nests
3 Marzipan Mince Pies or any shop bought ones
2 tblsps Mincemeat
1 tsp Mincemeat to decorate

Whip the cream and amaretto until it forms very soft peaks - don't over whip!!
Break the meringue nests - can be shop bought in and stir gently.
Cut the mince pies into 1cm pieces, add and stir in.
Add the mincemeat and stir in.
Spoon into a large glass serving bowl or individual glasses and decorate with a spoonful of mincemeat. So easy but gorgeous !!


Friday, 16 December 2011

Marizipan Mince Pies - IT'S CHRISTMAS !!!!!

I love a mince pie - but if there's one thing I love more it's marzipan. So I decided to combine the two.
I made a batch of sweet pastry from Edd Kimber's book ( can't recommend it enough ) and put it in the fridge to chill.
Greased the baking tin and, after 20 minutes in the fridge, rolled out the pastry and cut the circles to place in the tin.
I haven't had time to make my own mincemeat but used a good quality one from Waitrose and spooned a teaspoonful into each pie.
Then I rolled out some brandy marzipan quite thin - 2mm- and cut circles just a bit smaller than the size of the pie and placed them in each one.
Finally I cut out the pie lids and topped the mince pies.
Cut 2 slits in the top of each and glazed with an egg/milk wask and sprinkled liberally with sugar.
Placed in a moderate oven 180 o C for 5 - 20 mins until golden and the pastry is cooked through.
I served them warm with coffee to my girlfriends - Yummy !!

The marzipan really works and adds a welcome change to the ordinary mince pie - Merry Christmas !!

Mint Chocolate Macarons with Gracie !!

I'd been promising Gracie for weeks that we would have a go at making macarons, always think they look so pretty and cost a fortune in the shops, so with an afternnon free we set to !!!
We decided to use Edd Kimber's recipe from his book The Boy who Bakes as everything I've made from it has been delicious and never failed. Gracie can be a little fussy when it comes to fruit and nuts so we opted for the mint chocolate ones and we loved the colour - bright green !
Gracie marked out the circles on the baking sheet and then we started mixing and making.
I'm going to be honest with you now - this was our first attempt and although it wasn't a disaster they weren't perfect - my oven is very fast and even though it was on the recommended fan setting - they coloured slightly.
Gracie wasn't happy and neither was I - so we started again - 2nd time lucky ????
Reduced the oven to 130 oC and off we went again

Piped out and left to form a crust for 30 minutes

Fresh out of the oven

And filled with mint chocolate ganache

And close up - we were very pleased with ourselves !!


Can see why the are so expensive now - they took forever - but well worth it !!
Some girlfriends came round for coffee the following morning and loved them - crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle - Well done Gracie !!!

Self Saucing Chocolate Pudding - That's Magic !!

I'd invited our old next door neighbours from Walthamstow over for lunch and wanted a quick , easy and comforting pudding ( weather getting chilly now ).
What else would do but my mum's self saucing chocolate pudding. It brings back so many happy childhood teatime memories and my sister and I were always amazed by this 'magic' pudding - How did 'drowning' it with water create such a lovely,chocolatey sauce underneath ??? Magic !!
The great thing also is it can be prepared before hand up to pouring the water on - so it can go into the oven as you sit down for main course and be ready 30 minutes later.

Self Saucing Chocolate Pudding

1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup self raising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa 
2 oz butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup extra sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 1/2 cups hot water


Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and beat. Fold in sifted flour and cocoa alternatively with the milk. Put mixture in a greased dish. Sift over extra sugar and cocoa. Pour over hot water carefully. Bake in a moderate oven for 35 to 40 minutes - 190 o C.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.
It's that easy - great for the kid's tea on a dark winter evening !!
The pudding mix made up before guests arrive

Boiling water poured on just before we had our main course and then popped it in the oven while eating

Out the oven after 30 mins and the magic has happened and the pudding has a gorgeous cocoa crust

 And then dig in to reveal the chocolate sauce underneath

Served with vanilla ice cream - this made us giggle - very ' Carry on ' - Oo er Mrs !!


Monday, 12 December 2011

Passionfruit Cheesecakes and Coffee Meringues for a Caldesi Catchup !!

With Vagina Monologues tour finally finished it was time to catchup with friends. Invited Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi and their boys Giorgio and Flavio along with our friends (and passionate foodies) John and Neil.
Wanted it to be a very relaxing afternoon for all so I prepared the puddings in advance - no last minute cooking required !!
The coffee meringues come from my Auntie Lorna's recipe for Cappucino Pavlova and it is great for both - the only difference is you will need more chocolate for the meringues as they are dipped before filling with the cream.

Cappuccino Pavlova

4 egg whites

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

1 dessertspoon cornflour  

1 tsp instant espresso coffee powder

1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar


Beat egg whites and salt until stiff. Gradually beat in half the sugar adding a little at a time. Beating well beat until thick and glossy. Fold in remaining sugar. Add cornflour, coffee and vinegar. The mixture should be lovely and thick and glossy. Spoon the mixture into a circle on parchment on a baking sheet. Bake at 110 o C / 120 o C for about 1 hour 40 mins then switch the oven off and leave in oven till cold.

Top with the following

600ml double cream

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 tsp coffee

1 dessertspoon tia maria

Whisk together then cover meringue and grate dark chocolate over the top.

Obviously, if you are making meringues you need to spoon or pipe individual ones on the baking sheet and bake for 15 mins less - then dip in melted chocolate and leave to set before sandwiching together with the cream.

The Lime and Passionfruit Cheesecakes are the easiest things to make - they come from one of my favourite recipe books - Jo Pratt's In the Mood for Entertaining and the only cooking involved is melting the butter for the base and toasting some coconut !!
To make 8 small eggcup sized cheesecakes

45g desiccated coconut
60g butter
150g digestive biscuits

225g cream cheese
120g icing sugar
zest and juice of 3 limes
3 large ripe passionfruit
225ml double cream


Heat a small frying pan and toast the coconut until golden.
Tip in a bowl and add the butter to the pan to melt.
Crush the biscuits to fine crumbs and mix with the butter and coconut.
Divide between the 8 little dishes - use a teaspoon so you don't make a mess up the sides of the glasses or dishes.
Place in the fridge to chill.
Place the cream cheese in a bowl and soften with a wooden spoon.
Add the icing sugar,lime juice, zest of 2 limes and pulp from 2 passionfruit, keeping the rest to garnish.
Mix well until smooth.
In a separate bowl whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks and then mix into the cream cheese mixture.
Spoon or pipe into the glasses or dishes and place into the fridge to firm up.
They can be left overnight.
When you are ready to serve, garnish each with the reserved lime zest and passionfruit pulp and dive in !!! Enjoy !!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Dessert Deli Visit !!

Today I had a lovely afternoon visiting Laura Amos at The Dessert Deli - a fabulous company she has set up making beautiful desserts and cakes  - check out her website
Her kitchen was all go - 4 large and 16 small Christmas cakes in the oven, brownies and mince pies being made - the smell was amazing!!!
We had a great chat about our thoughts and ideas for puddings and desserts and I'm looking forward to catching up with her again soon - Watch this space!! She sent me off with a bag of goodies - millionaire's shortbread, amaretto truffles, mince pies and these beautiful dessert shots -

I've just polished off the cherry one and am about to dive into the passion fruit - just gorgeous - thanks Laura !!
Check out the website or follow Laura on twitter for great offers and tips

Bara Brith from Lesley in Llandudno

Llandudno was cake mad !! Aswell as Banoffee Cake we were really lucky to have some Bara Brith (Welsh Teabread) made for us by Lesley Beech or as she is known on twitter @posh_pinkies.
It was truly delicious, so moist and as Mel Giedroyc commented " look at the rise on that fruit!!"
We all loved it and smothered it with Welsh butter.!!
It was so lovely to meet Lesley and she is obviously a great cook and baker -

Check out her blog -
It 's really great with lovely recipes and interesting stories.
Thanks Les - we LOVED your Bara Brith !!

Banoffee Cake was voted favourite Vagina Monologues cake!!

The last week of Vagina Monologues tour flew by!!
So sorry this post is late but our hotels for the week didn't have wifi.
Louisa Lytton left us to go off to Pantoland and although I was sad to see her go, I was very excited as we were joined by Mel Giedroyc who co presents the Great British Bake Off !!! So many questions to ask - could I limit it to one a day?????
The pressure was on for the final cake and Banoffee Cake was voted in as a favourite of the tour. I had a bit of a panic on packing the cake up for travelling to Llandudno as it kept sliding off the base but that was solved by a top tip from one of my followers on twitter -  use a cereal box and cut a collar for it and tape it around in the tin - brilliant !! Arrived in one piece!
It really is so delicious - even if I say so myself - and Mel loved it - Phew !!The recipe is on an earlier post in October although I noticed I forgot the flour on it - 325g of sef raising flour - ENJOY !! and goodbye Vagina Monologues Cake Club - It's been fun !

Monday, 28 November 2011

Sticky Toffee Pudding on a Sunday !!

Vagina Monologues Cake Club had a break last week as we didn't make it home over the weekend and, therefore, I couldn't bake !!
Back this week though for our last week on tour and the favourite cake has been requested again - the winner - BANOFFEE CAKE !!
More of that in a later post .
It seems ages since I've had a whole Sunday at home without a show and I've missed catching up with friends, so it was 10 for a Roast and Sticky Toffee Pudding !! Quick and easy and always a hit, and as John Torode said on Celebrity Masterchef - A seriously Sexy Pudding!!
Click on the link for the recipe -

Delicious served with Vanilla Ice Cream !! 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Chewy Speculaas Blondies for City Varieties, Leeds!!

We couldn't decide on a cake for Vagina Monologues Cake Club this week so I took to work Edd Kimber's The Boy who Bakes recipe book and we chose Chewy Speculaas Blondies !! A sort of brownie made with lots of brown sugar and hazlenuts!!
The smell from the oven when they were baking was amazing and I only used one pan so washing up was kept to the minimum - bonus!!
Edd even tweeted me a top tip! Makesure the tin cools completely so they can be easily removed and cut up without falling apart - thanks Edd!
They were truly delicious and very morish -

Sorry but I'm not going to give you the recipe - you'll have to go and buy Edd's book - it's brilliant and would make a great Christmas present.                                                                                                    
It was great to be eating these while sat in the dressing room of the newly refurbished City Varieties       Theatre in Leeds. I have very fond memories of watching The Good Olde Days with Leonard Sachs as a  child and was thrilled to be playing such a famous and much loved auditorium.I just had to take some photos of it.Beautiful!!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Makes me want to sing 'Down at the Old Bull and Bush' !! ( feeling old !)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Rhubarb and Ginger Cake for Louisa Lytton !!

I noticed Louisa eating a piece of gingerbread from Starbucks last week and she mentioned how much she loved ginger - hence this weeks Cake Club choice !
We're also visiting Wales with the Vagina Monologue tour and Zoe Williams, who won the Supersweet competition on This Morning  with her Rhubarb Crumble Cheesecake, is coming to see the show. So with that in mind I created a Rhubarb and Ginger cake. The rhubarb flavour comes in the form of rhubarb and ginger preserve which I found in the fridge - so the taste isn't that strong but it makes the cake very moist. Added a little rosewater to the icing and it worked for me!

250g soft butter
250g caster sugar
4 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsps ground ginger
3 balls crystillised stem ginger (chopped finely)
250 g self raising flour


125g soft butter
225g icing sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
Rhubarb preserve

icing sugar
rosewater essence
pink food colouring
2 stem ginger balls


Preheat oven to 180oc and grease and line the bottoms of two cake sandwich tins.
Cream sugar and butter and add eggs, beat well and add the ground ginger.
Fold in baking powder and flour and mix in chopped ginger.
Split the mix between the two tins and bake for 15 to 20 mins till risen and golden,
Allow to cool.
Beat soft butter with icing sugar and ground ginger and cut the sponge in half.
Layer the sponges with the buttercream and preserve,
Make up the icing and spread on top.
Decorate with slivers of stem ginger,

The smell was amazing when the cake tin was opened.

It is extremely sweet but everyone loved it and Louisa declared it her favourite so far !!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Dinner at The Hand and Flowers, Marlow !!

Just the one night off from Vagina Monologues tour and needed a catchup and a lovely meal out, so headed to the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Bucks and the fabulous food of Tom Kerridge, who has won the main course dish for the Great British Menu on BBC2 two years running.
As usual, we weren't disappointed... I started with a salt cod scotch egg with chorizo - just perfect !!
Kenny and I then shared the Pork platter which won the Great British Menu last year.....

It was a fantastic talking point and every element of the dish was amazing - the best crackling I've ever had and the potatoes baked in the salt crust were so moist and tasty.
For pudding we chose a pear souffle - so light and served with a pear puree and a mace mascarpone.....

And a tonka bean pannacotta with poached plums and plum jelly and sorbet - an autumn version of his Great British Menu strawberries and cream pannacotta - the sorbet was to die for.......

A wonderful meal and evening with the Caldesi's !!
Check out their website or, better still, visit for a gorgeous meal. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Buns for the Caldesi's Bonfire Party!!

We were invited to a bonfire party at our friends the Caldesi's. I first met Giancarlo when I appeared on Celebrity Masterchef - I was sent to do a lunch service in his restaurant in Marylebone, Caffe Caldesi, and we have stayed in contact ever since. He was such a great help and support to me throughout that competition and it's always lovely to spend time with him and his wife, Katie - who has written the wonderful ' Italian Cookery Course' and runs their cookery school ( )- and their sons Giorgio and Flavio.
Obviously, the food is always amazing at their house but we were all invited to bring along our bonfire favourites to help cater for around 30 people.
I decided to do one of our families favourites, Devilled Sausages. My godmother Lorna used to always prepare them on Boxing Day to go with the cold turkey but now we have them all year round.
They're so simple....... Place your sausages (about 12) in an oven proof dish, then mix a jar of redcurrant jelly with 5 tsps of english mustard and spoon over the sausages. Cover with foil and place in a 180oc oven for 30 mins. Turn them and then take off foil and bake for another 15 mins so the sauce reduces and becomes sticky.... so yummy

Gracie and I couldn't resist making some sweet treats for all the kids too....
Treacle Toffee Flapjack from a recipe by Holly Bell, who was a finalist in this year's Great British Bakeoff. It can be found on her blog - recipesfromanormalmum
It was deliciously gooey and treacley!!

 We also got a little create and made Bonfire Buns !!

250g butter
250g caster sugar
4 eggs
200g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder
Raspberry seedless jam
icing sugar
orange food colouring
cadbury's flakes

Preheat oven to 180oc and put buncases in muffin tray ( should make about 15 large buns)
Cream together butter and sugar, add eggs and beat.
Sift in cocoa and flour and fold in.
Put a tsp full into the cake cases , then a tsp full of jam , then another spoonful of cake mix.This should, hopefully, give the bun a jammy centre.
Bake for 13 to 15 mins  and then leave to cool.
Make up orange icing and cover buns.
Break or cut up flakes and arrange on top like a bonfire!!

All the kids loved them - and the adults did too !!