Thursday, 3 January 2008

Lemon Curd Cake

I must admit that I have a weakness for lemony things as well as sweet things so this lemon curd cake ticks all of the boxes for me and luckily enough most other people in my family like it too.

This cake is basically a victoria sandwich that is cooked in a tin that is bigger than the usual so that the end result is thin rather than thick. I make a 2 egg sponge and cook it in an oblong cake mold 27cm x 17cm. i have one of those fantastic silicone ones that never have to be greased and that the food pops out of without effort.

Sponge Recipe:
110g (4oz) Butter
110g (4oz) Caster Sugar
125g (5oz) Self-raising Flour
2 Eggs
1 tsp Grated Lemon Rind

Preheat oven to 190°C: 375°F: Gas 5.
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
Add the beaten eggs gradually with a little of the flour.
Fold in the remaining sieved flour and add the flavouring.
Mix in about a tablespoon of water as this makes the cake lighter.

Turn the mixture out into the oblong tin.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.
Turn out on to a wire rack to cool.
When cool cut in half widthways. One half will be the top of the cake while the other will be the bottom.

To make the lemon curd:

Makes three 1 lb (350 ml capacity) jars
grated zest and juice 1 large juicy lemon
2 small eggs
4oz (110 g) caster sugar
2oz (60 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small lumps
1 level teaspoon cornflour

Begin by lightly whisking the eggs in a medium-sized saucepan, then add the rest of the ingredients and place the saucepan over a medium heat.
Now stir continuously, using a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens – about 7-8 minutes. Next, lower the heat to its minimum setting and let the curd gently simmer for a further minute, continuing to mix. After that, remove it from the heat.
Now pour the lemon curd into the hot, sterilised jars, filling them as full as possible, cover straightaway with waxed discs, seal while it is still hot and label when it is cold. It will keep for several weeks, but it must be stored in a cool place.

For the filling:

The lemon curd as made above and 1/4 pt of double cream.

To make the filling mix the cold lemon curd with whipped cream. and fill the sponge. Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares. You can cut them small to kid yourself that you are not having too much but then you can always eat two or even three.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Bars

This recipe has been adapted from the one given by Rachel Allen in her recent book. I found it on the BBc web site. I've made some changes as I thought that her recipe was too sweet so here is my version.

For the chocolate base:

200g/7oz butter

50g/2oz cocoa powder

200g/7oz caster sugar

2 free range eggs, beaten

225g/8oz plain flour

For the hazelnut caramel layer

125g/4½oz butter1 x 397g/14oz tin condensed milk

2 tbsp golden syrup75g/3oz caster sugar

125g/4½oz toasted and halved hazelnuts

For the chocolate topping

200g/7oz dark chocolate, chopped

1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil


1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3 and line the base of or grease, a small Swiss roll tin measuring 20x30cm/8x12in.

2. In a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat, heat the butter for the chocolate base, stir in the cocoa powder and then the sugar and mix until smooth.

3. Remove from the heat and stir in the eggs until mixed and then the plain flour.

4. Spread the chocolate base over the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until firm on top.

5. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the hazelnut caramel layer.

6. In a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat, melt the butter and then add the condensed milk, golden syrup and sugar.

Turn the heat to low and stir continuously for 12-15 minutes until the mixture is dark caramel in colour (do not let it burn).

7. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts. Spread evenly over the chocolate base and allow to cool.

8. Melt the chocolate in a bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water. When it is melted, stir in the oil and then pour over the caramel layer and smooth out, leaving to cool and set.

9. To serve, cut into squares. These will keep for a week in an airtight container.


Once the colder weather starts the first thing that I want to appear on my plate is a dish of warm minestrone. If I am really truthful I don't even have to wait for the cold weather as this is one of my favourite soups, ney foods. It's the perfect comfort food and has the benefit of several things: it's healthy, filling and it's easy to make. What more can you ask for.

Once you have the basic ingredients it will also let you throw in a few random vegetables without having a major strop. So for the basics.

There is no need to sweat the vegetables as you will be cooking this soup slowly and the flavours will have time to develop.

Simply put a pan of cold water on the hob and add to it as you go along. The amount of water varies according to the number of people that you cook for. Let's say about 2pts for 4 people.

To this add

1 medium onion,
2 sticks of celery
1 bay leaf
1 carrot
1 small potato approx 120g. Don't get too precious as it can be slightly bigger or smaller.
1 large vine ripened tomato or failing this about 1/3rd of a tin of tomatoes.
A few stalks of flat leaf parsley

I don't even bother to chop the veg up finely. You will soon see why.

Bring slowly to the boil and allow to simmer gently for about 1 hour. This is no hardship as there will be a lovely smell in the kitchen. Now use a potato masher and give the veg in the pan a bit of a bash. Don't make them too fine as you still want to identify them. They should just be broken up.

You can now add any variations that you have. I like to add a handful each of:

cauliflower florets which have been cut small
peas, frozen are fine but fresh are better
finely chopped dark cabbage
precooked borlotti beans.

Do not add swede, parsnips or turnips as they will not make a good soup.

Allow the soup to simmer until these vegetables are cooked and then season to taste with salt and pepper and a stock cube if you have one.

Add a small handful of small pasta per person and cook until soft.

Serve with a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil and lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.