Monday, 17 June 2013

A Dirty Martini

Now here's a thing, a martini with an edge; someone one day decided a splash or two of the liquor from a jar of olives was what was needed to improve what was after all already a perfect cocktail to be drunk once the sun is over the yardarm. Personally I think they may have just been a bit slap dash with the olives and as often happens discovered the extra briny flavour was worth repeating. I have to say there are days when I agree.

For this version of a gin martini you will need:
100ml of Plymouth Gin
3 teaspoons of Noilly Prat
3 teaspoons of the brine from a jar of green olives

In a large glass, or a cocktail jug if you're making for more than yourself, place three large chunks of ice that have been washed for a few moments in tap water. Add the ingredients and stir with a teaspoon for exactly one minute, this is sufficient time to dilute the gin, moderation in all things I say. Serve in a chilled small martini glass with 2 green olives. This quantity makes 2 martinis which as far as I am concerned is the perfect number. I think it was Dorothy Parker who once said she liked martinis, 2 at the most, 3 she was under the table and 4 she was under her host.

Paraguay makes it 103 countries, welcome!
I'm off to hospital for a while and so this I think is a very fitting last post for a while. While I'm away I do hope my blog readers will all enjoy the 145 recipes that are now on this blog, I'll be back as soon as I can be, much love Tôbi.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ginger & Lemon Madeira

Fond as I am of sponge cakes, though I admit it's not that often I make one, a madeira style cake is one you are far more likely to find here when offered a cup of tea. I like to incorporate ground almonds whenever I can, they add to both the flavour and the texture and I believe help the keeping quality of any cake. This cake is subtly flavoured with lemon and ginger, you can always add a little more ginger flavour by adding some ground ginger to the mix.

No 100 in the list of countries, welcome Bangladesh!

No 101, welcome Lebanon!
Amazingly, 3rd new country in a week, Gibraltar, country no 102, welcome!

For this cake you will need;
200g of caster sugar
200g of unsalted butter
3 eggs
150g of ground almonds
110g of  self raising flour
The rind of 2 lemons
4 chunks of ginger in syrup
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Heat the oven to 180C and line a large loaf tin, 23cm by 13cm, with baking parchment.
Begin by grinding up the thinly pared lemon rind in the sugar in a food processor, wash and pat dry 4 chunks of ginger in syrup and add them to be ground up along with the sugar and lemon rind. Add the butter and cream the mixture before adding the eggs one at a time, processing in between each egg.  Add the remaining ingredients and process just until you have a cohesive mix. Place the cake batter in the prepared tin and bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out cleanly when pushed into the middle of the cake,

One of the things I like about cakes such as this and the Orange & Poppy Seed Cake is the fact that you can serve small thin slices, much in the way you might serve petit four.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Orange & Poppy Seed Cake

Many many years ago, when Strawberry Fair in Cambridge was still worth visiting, I sold cakes from the back of my car, this orange & poppy seed cake was probably the most popular. Readers of my blog will know I rely on the peel of oranges to provide flavour and this cake is no exception.

Welcome Barbados, country No 99!
For this cake you will need;
200g of unsalted butter
200g of caster sugar
3 medium eggs, weighing roughly 200g in their shells
150g of ground almonds
100g of poppy seeds
110g of self raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
The peel of 2 medium sized oranges

Heat the oven to 180C and line 2 small loaf tins (16cm by 10cm) with baking parchment.
Begin by grinding the thinly pared rind of the oranges in the sugar in a food processor. Add the salt, and the butter and process until you have a light fluffy mixture, add the eggs, one at a time and process in between. I find you need to scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl to ensure all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Add the poppy seeds, ground almonds, flour and baking powder and process just until the batter comes together into a cohesive mix. Divide the mix between the two lined loaf tins and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a skewer comes out cleanly when pushed into the middle of the cake.

I like the thin glaze of an orange icing on this cake and I mix 100g of icing sugar with enough orange juice to make a thin icing, I pour it over while the cakes are still warm having taken them out of the loaf tins. Return them to the oven for 10 minutes so that the icing can dry out.
You can use fewer poppy seeds than my recipe states, personally I like the crunch of the seeds and the dramatic colour they give.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Bakewell Tart

Now the good people of Bakewell will always claim that the rest of the world is wrong to regard the confection known as Bakewell tart has anything in common with the Bakewell pudding readily available in the town. It's difficult now to think of what else to call this other than Bakewell tart but I freely acknowledge if you ever do travel to the town of Bakewell, this is not what you will find there, if you come to my part of Norfolk, however, and I have enough notice (2 hours) it is what you will be offered with a cup of tea.

For this recipe you will need;
250g of good sweet pastry, I prefer paté brisée
180g of ground almonds
180g of caster sugar
180g of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 medium eggs
80g of self raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoon of jam, seedless raspberry or apricot.

Begin by lining a 24cm flan tin with the pastry and bake it blind in a hot oven, 200C for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, reduce the heat and when the temperature is down to 100C return the flan for 30 minutes to complete the cooking. It makes a big difference to have the pastry base fully cooked, a golden brown and fully dried out.
Make the filling by creaming together the butter and the sugar until they are pale and light in texture, add the eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly. Add the ground almonds, flour, salt and baking powder. Mix to a soft dropping consistency. Heat the oven to 180C.
Line the bottom of the pastry shell with the jam, spread out evenly before topping with the almond cake mixture. Cook in a moderate oven, 180 for 30 to 35 minutes until fully cooked. Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing, dust with icing sugar before serving.

It makes such a difference to the finished cake if you go to the trouble of baking the pastry case blind; it's easy enough to do, line the flan tin with the pastry, prick the base with a fork several times, place a sheet of baking parchment on top of the pastry to hold either ceramic baking beans or some rice that you keep for the purpose, this prevents the pastry from rising during baking. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes before returning to the oven with the temperature turned down and the parchment and baking beans removed.
You can also produce a delicious version of this tart by using rhubarb jam and ground hazelnuts in place of ground almonds. Simply grind up 180g of toasted hazelnuts with 180g of caster sugar and proceed with the rest of the recipe, beating in the butter, eggs and finally the flour and baking powder.

Friday, 7 June 2013


The world is grateful for the chickpea, it provides protein in a vegetable form for a huge number of people from the chana masala and pakora eaten in India, to the hummus and falafel eaten in the Middle East. Here is my recipe for falafel. The biggest mistake that is made in making falafel, is to use cooked chickpeas. It's possible of course to make a rissole type morsel from cooked chickpeas, but they wont be falafel. Chick peas have the ability to bind with other ingredients without the use of egg, this is true of both the flour as seen in pakora click here for the recipe and the ground up raw chickpeas in this recipe. I always like to add a little vegetable when I make falafel, this can be a small amount of carrot, a stalk of broccoli, a piece of green or red pepper or in this case a stick of celery. I also add a teaspoon of sugar to the mix to counter the slight bitterness of the gram flour.

For this recipe you will need;
250g of dried chickpeas soaked for 8 hours or overnight.
2 fat cloves of garlic
1 stick of celery
A small bunch of flat leafed parsley, about 2 tablespoons when finely chopped
140g of gram flour
2 teaspoons of Marigold bouillon powder or 1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 small red chilli
1 teaspoon of sugar

Begin by grinding up the garlic, chilli, parsley. celery and seasoning in a food processor. Add half the soaked chickpeas and process until you have a medium coarse mix. Tip the mix out into a large bowl and place the remaining chickpeas in the food processor with a couple of tablespoons of water and blend to a smooth paste. Add to the other mix along with the gram flour and mix together, adding just enough water to be able to make a cohesive mix that you can form into small balls to deep fry. I use two spoons to make small quenelle. Heat up a large container of vegetable oil to 180C and deep fry about 8 to 10 at a time. Deep frying should always be carried out in a container half filled with oil so that the oil has room to expand without spilling over. I use a large karhai or Indian wok. Fry for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side until they are golden brown and crisp. Although falafel are perfectly good cooled down, there is nothing quite as lovely as a falafel that has just been fried, the outside is crisp, the inside, tender, steaming and moist. The crunchy texture of the outside is enhanced by not over grinding the chickpeas initially, creating a medium course texture.

You can vary the flavour by adding a little freshly ground cumin seeds to the mix.
In Egypt fava beans are often used in place of chickpeas.
The worst falafel I ever had the misfortune to eat were in Bethlehem, I think the oil they were cooked in dated back quite possibly to biblical times.


Khubz (the Arabic word for bread) is just one of many flat breads cooked all over the Middle East; in the UK we are more familiar with pitta but increasingly it's possible to find alternatives, khubz being one of them. I often cook these pillows of yeasted dough to serve before a meal, they make ideal delivery systems for any number of mezze. Readers of this blog will know that I try to extend the length of time dough takes to ferment, especially when using commercial yeast, so in this case the dough is put together just before I retire for the night, using only half the normal amount of fast action yeast and leaving the addition of the salt until the following morning.

For 4 of these flat breads you will need;
400g of strong white flour
3g of fast action yeast
8g of salt
300g of water.

Begin by mixing together the flour, yeast and water to form a very soft dough. Leave overnight covered in a bowl. In the morning, add the salt and mix for 1 to 2 minutes to fully combine. Leave the dough to rise for 2 t 3 hours, stretching a folding every hour. Divide the dough into four and form into large bun shapes, The dough is sticky because of the high water content but a well floured board makes this easier, cover with a dry tea towel and leave for an hour. Heat either a flat griddle or pizza stone in the oven, switched to 240C. Roll out each bun to form a flat circle, transfer quickly to the griddle and place in the oven for 7 to 12 minutes to puff up and take on a little colour. Bake one at a time.

You can of course reduce the length of time it takes for this dough to ferment, but the flavour will not be so good. It's also possible to make up twice the quantity and keep half the dough back in the fridge for a day or two. Allow the chilled dough to return fully to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours before dividing and forming into bun shapes.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


I know there are crumpets for sale still in this country, I'm just not sure I have seen pikelets for some time. The good thing is they are really simple to make. They have a distinctively different texture to pancakes and should not be confused with them, they are more closely related to crumpets or even blini. Pikelet batter is thinner than crumpet batter, but both have to be thin enough to allow the bubbles to form characteristic tiny tunnels throughout. The tunnels increase the ability to saturate a frightening amount of melted butter! They were a tea time treat of my childhood and in those days they were toasted in front of a winter fire, but if they are made fresh they can be eaten directly from the griddle plate, buttered and spread with jam.This quantity makes between 70 and 80, but don't panic, they freeze very well.

For this recipe you will need;
150g of plain flour
200g of bread flour
250ml of buttermilk
350ml of warm water
1 teaspoon of salt
3 teaspoons of sugar
1 sachet (7g) of fast action yeast
1 scant teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.
1 tablespoon of milk

Begin by making a thick batter with the flour, buttermillk, water, salt, sugar and yeast. Whisk it together for a minute or two and set aside in a warm place for an hour or until the batter shows vigorous signs of growth. Heat up a large heavy based frying pan, or a large flat griddle iron on a low heat until hot, wipe the surface with a small amount of oil on a kitchen towel.
 Mix the bicarbonate of soda into the milk and when it's fully dissolved stir into the batter. Test the batter by cooking a single pikelet. Using a small ladle pour a small amount of the batter onto the hot iron. Leave to cook until you see the surface bubbles form and pop, creating small holes. If this doesn't happen lightly whisk in a little more milk. The mistake people make with crumpets and pikelets is to have the batter too thick for the bubbles to travel to the top. Simply dilute it a little. Bake a batch, the pikelets will spread a little so allow for this. Either serve directly to hungry diners with lots of butter and jam, followed by a brisk 45 mile hike, or store once cooled in an airtight container, at a later date, toast lightly before serving. The pikelets will keep perfectly well for a couple of days in the fridge, but really it's worth making these when they are to be eaten as soon as they come off the hob.

It's better to heat up the griddle or heavy based pan on a low heat to avoid hot spots, if the pikelets are to be toasted at a later date, you can cook them for a little less time, avoiding over browning.
To make crumpets, simply reduce the water content by 50ml and cook on a flat griddle using well greased crumpet rings; pour the batter into the rings until they are nearly filled and wait until the surface is spotted with popped bubbles and has lost the shine of the wet batter, turn the rings using a large spatula and cook briefly on the other side.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Salsa Verde

This is all there was left when I remembered to photograph it!

You can adjust the proportions of this wonderful Italian sauce to suit yourself, I imagine there are as many versions as there are households in Italy where it is made. Essentially it is a mixture of finely chopped herbs, my preference is basil, flat leaved parsley and mint, with garlic, capers, a little Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar. It is a prefect sauce to drape over a piece of fish, it's even good with fried Haloumi cheese and as for what to put on Jersey Royal potatoes in place of butter, there is no question, for me a little salsa verde is ideal.

For this sauce you will need;
Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Lemon, juice and zest (why not?)
or red wine vinegar.

You will note I haven't put down exact quantities, for enough sauce to serve for 4 people I would use, around 20 basil leaves, the same of mint leaves and an equivalent amount of flat leafed parsley. Begin to chop the herbs on a large chopping board, along with a clove or two of garlic, depending on the size of the cloves and also how garlicky you like your food and a tablespoon of capers, rinsed under running water for a moment or two. I like to chop everything quite finely, there is something very pleasing about taking the time to do this, but if you would prefer you can place the herbs, garlic and capers in a food processor and pulse until you have finely chopped but not disintegrated herbs. Transfer to a bowl and add 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, the finely grated zest and juice of a lemon or 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar if using and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. The capers even after draining are salty so taste and check what the finished sauce requires by way of seasoning, a little salt may be required but only a little, for me some black pepper, and oddly enough I have been known to take the acid edge of the vinegar or lemon off by adding just a pinch of sugar. Stir to form an unctuous green sauce which will bring to life anything it's poured over, note I didn't say literally!

A couple of anchovy fillets can be chopped up with the herbs, capers and garlic, they do add a depth of flavour as well as the obvious saltiness, but omit of course if you are serving vegetarians.
Play around with the proportions to suit you and the food you are serving.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Smoked Salmon Tart

I've my dear sister in law coming to visit, a joy! "Please don't sabotage the diet", was the request so I put together this recipe to enjoy this evening. It's entirely possible to make this with a fuller fat version of the cream cheese and the yogurt, if you, like me are throwing caution to the wind. Now then a word about the appearance of this tart, in reality the top isn't actually burnt but it's closer than I would ever want it to be. The tart came out of the oven and thinking the top was a little pale, I placed it under the grill, I foolishly neglected it while taking a phone call. At least you do know I publish my errors and this African dog appearance is entirely avoidable.

Far more attractive on the African Dog

For this recipe you will need;
250g of whatever short crust pastry you wish
275g of smoked salmon
300g of lowest fat cream cheese
4 eggs
300g of 0% fat Greek yogurt (yes it does exist!)
1 teaspoon of Marigold bouillon powder of 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of finely chopped chives

Begin by rolling out the pastry and lining a 24cm flan tin. Line the pastry with baking parchment and baking beans and bake in a hot oven 200C for 14 minutes, remove the parchment and beans and dry out the pastry in the oven, having turned down the temperature to 100C for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the filling. I find the most economical way to buy smoked salmon for this tart is to buy a couple of fillets, Cook them for no more than 2 minutes in a microwave in order to reduce the amount of liquid they contain. Leave them to cool. Mix up the cream cheese and yogurt in a bowl along with the seasoning, add the eggs one at a time and whisk in thoroughly. Finally add the chives.
When the tart base is completey cooked, crisp and a pale gold colour, flake the salmon and distribute the flakes evenly over the base of the tart, carefully pour in the egg mixture and bake in a moderate oven 170C for 25 to 35 minutes. The tart needs to retain a slight wobble when it first comes out of the oven.

Smoked trout is good as an alternative and finely chopped spring onions works in place of chives.
I am of the opinion that not only is the flavour of a finished dish affected by using low fat ingredients but almost more so, the texture. This tart though delicious enough has a drier texture than I would wish for despite not being overcooked, something the addition of full fat cream cheese or creme fraiche in place of 0% fat yogurt would have easily dealt with. Useful though when fighting the flab.

Sourdough with Gruel

If Marks & Spencer can produce a "fuller for longer" range then so can I, I said to myself and knowing that oats are supposed to do this very thing, make you feel fuller for longer I came up with this idea. The smell of the malt as I stirred it into the thin gruel was very promising.

The softest lightest bread I have made for a long time.
And as for toast -  it's tender and delicious!

For this bread you will need;

For the ferment
1 tablespoon of starter from the fridge
200g of strong white flour
200g of water

For the main dough
All of the starter
1,000g of strong white flour
100g of porridge oats
800g of water
20g of salt
1 tablespoon of malt extract

 Begin by making up the ferment, mix all the ingredients and leave at room temperature in a large enough bowl for the mix to expand, cover and leave until the ferment is showing healthy signs of growth, lots of bubbles breaking and collapsing, forming creases in the surface click here for an image.
Make up the gruel by cooking the porridge oats in 800g of water until the oats are cooked and have thickened the water slightly, I find doing this in the microwave is easiest, it takes 10 minutes. Microwaves come into their own when it comes to cooking starch and liquid combinations.  Stir the malt extract into the gruel and set aside to cool completely to room temperature. I made up the ferment and the gruel mid morning and just before going to bed I mixed the main dough ingredients. Add the flour, the gruel and the ferment and form into a soft dough, add just a little extra water if you feel the dough is too stiff. Omit the salt at this point and leave the dough to rise overnight.
In the morning, add the salt and knead for a couple of minutes to fully combine. Leave the dough to rise at room temperature, stretching and folding every hour for 3 to 4 hours. Finally divide the dough into 3 and shape into whatever loaf shapes you prefer. Leave to rise for 2 to 3 hours, and balke in a hot 200C oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

Oats are sharp enough to pierce gluten, inhibiting the stretch that can usually be achieved, cooking the oats before hand reduces this effect and the loaves and billowy and light.
The water content of this bread has varied over the three batches I have made, largely down to how much the oats absorb while cooking, so do adjust the proportions to suit your own requirements, a little more or less water and a little more flour if you find the dough too soft. 
I sprinkled some porridge oats on top of the loaves before slashing and baking.