Monday, 31 August 2015

Dark Chocolate No-Bake Cheesecake

This is probably the easiest dessert I've ever made and it's also the most popular - everyone who's ever tried it absolutely raves about it.

You're going to notice two things about the above photo:

1) It doesn't look very pretty. Yes, you're right, I'm sorry. I was in a bit of a rush and forgot to take a photo of it all prettified, I usually decorate with piped swirls of whipped cream around the edge.

2) You're thinking that there's too much base and not enough topping. This time you're mistaken! My regular cheesecakes usually have a much higher topping to base ratio, but trust me, this cheesecake is so rich that it really needs about half and half. Make it and see. If you don't agree then let me know :)
This recipe makes enough for two 8" cheesecakes and I often have enough spare to fill up a few ramekins too.


400g pack Digestive Biscuits - basic range are fine!
Butter, melted
400g Dark Chocolate - I use 50% cocoa solids, this Sainsbury's one is lovely
500g Mascarpone Cheese
Optional: Whipped cream & grated white/milk/dark chocolate to decorate if you like. Icing sugar, to taste. Demerara sugar.


Crush your biscuits - either whizz in a food processor or place in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin (fab for getting some aggression out!)

Next add melted butter a little at a time (I've not put any quantity for the butter as I always just see how it looks, I'm a tad lazy with measuring!), stirring well until all the crumbs look moist - don't make it too wet as it will set too hard when the butter solidifies. At this point you can add a couple of spoonfuls of demerara sugar for added crunch but it's not essential as it's quiet sweet enough already.
It should look like this, a bit like wet sand:

Divide into your tins and flatten down with the back of a spoon. Loose base tins are easier for cheesecake but you can just about get away with a cake tin if necessary. You can either put them in the fridge to harden or, if you're in a hurry like I generally am, put in the freezer for a little while. If you haver leftover biscuit crumbs, save for having on ice cream later.

While your base is setting, you can get on and make the topping. Break your chocolate into pieces and place in a glass bowl. Put on top of a saucepan with a couple of inches of water in, over a low heat. Make sure your pan is large enough that the bowl doesn't touch the water and leave the chocolate to melt.

Once the chocolate is all melted, stir in the mascarpone a bit at a time. It will look as if it's all gone wrong as the cold cheese mixes with the warm chocolate, but don't worry and keep stirring, it will all come together after a while.

Now you can either leave it as it is or add a little sifted icing sugar to taste. Mix in well and pour over your set biscuit base.

Easy! Chill in the fridge until firm and it's up to you how you decorate it, it's so yummy that it doesn't need much really, but feel free to pretty it up as you wish.

Now just serve it to your friends and family and wait for the compliments to roll in - and you can look as if it's taken you absolutely ages to make while you secretly smirk..

P.S. Lick the spoon before you clean up.

Happy Making :)

Monday, 10 August 2015

Easy Egg Fried Rice

I've tried to perfect fried rice for years and this is the version I'm happiest with!
You can scale this recipe up or down according to how many people you want to feed. The amounts I've used make enough rice to go with a curry or other dish for my family of four but feel free to adjust as you wish, just remember to always use twice the amount of water to rice.


Rice - Basmati, one large mugful
Eggs - 5 medium
Peas - A good handful or more if you want (Optional)
Light Soy Sauce - 1tbsp
Caster Sugar - 1 tbsp
Ground Nut Oil - Approx 1.5 tbsp (Vegetable or other oil is fine!)
Salt & Pepper - to taste
Toasted Sesame Oil - Approx 1tsp (Optional)


First of all, cook your rice. You can either cook as per the pack instructions or follow my easy way in the microwave:
In a large microwave-safe bowl, tip in one mugful of rice and add twice the amount (two mugs) of boiling water. Stir well and season with salt. 

Cover with clingfilm and poke a hole in the top to let steam escape. 

Microwave on full power for ten minutes, remove the clingfilm and stir. Then microwave for another 4-5 minutes until the rice is cooked and all the water has been absorbed. My microwave is 800W so you may need to adjust the time slightly according to the power of your microwave.

I find that cold rice works better for frying so I always do this step earlier and put the rice in the fridge until I need it.

When you're ready to cook, crack your eggs into a cup or jug and whisk together. Add half a tbsp of oil to a non-stick wok and scramble over a medium heat until just set as they will cook more later. Remove to a plate/bowl and set aside for now.

Add a tablespoon of oil to your wok and put over a high heat. Once the wok is really hot, tip in your rice and stir fry for a few minutes to get the rice coated in the oil. Now add your peas and stir in. Cook for a few more minutes.

Now it's time to add the salt & pepper, soy sauce and sugar - I know sugar seems an odd addition but trust me, it balances the saltiness of the soy nicely - and then, finally tip in the scrambled eggs. 

Keep stir frying until the peas are cooked through and, if you like, add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, which I absolutely love as it gives a gorgeous flavour to the rice, before serving.

Always taste as you go along so you can adjust the seasoning if you need to and, if you find that the high heat is making your rice dry out a bit, just splash some water in and keep going. Serve with anything you like or you can always add some cooked chicken for a speedy meal!

Happy Cooking :)

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Victoria Sponge Cake - Using Duck Eggs

I'd never tried a duck egg before my hubby brought some home when he picked our kids up from their holiday in Devon. They were from a lovely farm and I was quite excited to try one and amazed at how huge they are! 
Alas, I wasn't very keen when I tried a fried egg, I found the white a bit rubbery although the yolk was gorgeous and creamy. We had three left and I was curious to see what difference they would make to a basic sponge recipe so knocked up a quick cake to try it out.


3 Duck Eggs
Self-Raising Flour
Butter or Margarine (such as Stork), softened - I do this in the microwave
Caster Sugar
Fillings of your choice - I used vanilla buttercream and raspberry jam

You'll notice there are no measurements provided! Usually when I make a Victoria sponge, I use 6oz (roughly 170g) of butter, sugar and flour plus 3 eggs but I wasn't sure how the size of the duck eggs would affect the mixture so I used the method where you weigh the eggs (in their shells) and use the same weight of your other ingredients. 

My duck eggs weighed 8oz altogether so that's the weight I used for each ingredient.


I used a stand mixer for this, simply because I'm lazy, but a wooden spoon is fine.

Add your sugar to your mixing bowl and add your softened butter. Cream together on a medium speed.

Crack your eggs into a cup or jug and add a little at a time while the mixer is still going. When all the egg is incorporated, stop the machine and scrape down the sides with a spatula to ensure your mixture is all combined. 

Briefly whizz the mixer again before adding your flour. My Kmix has a "fold" function which stops you losing too much air from your cake mix but if yours doesn't, just use a slow speed or fold in with your spoon.

Now your cake batter is ready, divide between two lined and greased sandwich tins - mine were 8" round - and bake at 160° fan until golden and springy to the touch, about 20-25 minutes, although every oven differs so keep an eye on it.

Turn out onto a cooling rack or leave to cool in the tins if you like and then once it's totally cold, sandwich together with your chosen fillings. 

Fresh whipped cream and strawberries is lovely but this time I chose vanilla buttercream and seedless raspberry jam. Finish off with a sprinkling of caster sugar over the top and make yourself a cuppa to go with it! Yum.

Overall, I think the duck eggs added an extra richness to the cake, no doubt because of the size of the yolks, but it also seemed to rise slightly more than my usual recipe. It kept well too, it was still lovely and moist after more than a week.

Happy Baking

- x -

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Cheese & Tomato Pasta Bake

My hubby says he can't cook. Like most men, I think it's often more a case of won't cook. So I asked him about it and he says he gets very stressed trying to follow a recipe and thinks he has to stick rigidly to the instructions or it will all go horribly wrong. This is one of his favourite dinners so, when he was home from work for a few days recently, I helped him make it and he was surprised by how easy it is. He was also very chuffed that he'd cooked a meal and felt confident that he could manage it by himself in the future. 
Be warned though, this is not a low-fat recipe, my lot love anything full of cheese! I often make this in the morning, pop it in the fridge and bake twenty minutes before we're ready to eat, so it's perfect for a busy day.
Please note that this recipe makes more sauce than you really need as I always make enough to pop some in the freezer for another time!
Serves 6 with accompaniments or 4 greedy people like my family...


Approx 4 tomatoes, more if you like
200g grated cheese - I used mature cheddar
300g dried pasta - I used penne
100g butter or margarine
75g Plain flour
Approx 1 pint of milk
Salt & Pepper
Basil - optional


De-seed your tomatoes by quartering and then scooping out with a spoon what I call the "slimy" bit! Roughly chop and put to one side.

Start cooking your pasta according to the pack instructions. My penne takes about 10-12 minutes in a large pan of boiling water.

Add your butter to a large saucepan and melt over a low heat.

Tip in the flour and stir into the butter and cook for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.

Start adding the milk a little at a time, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.

Then tip in the rest of the milk and increase the heat. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens. As I'm preparing the pasta bake ahead, I add a little more milk to make the sauce looser as the pasta will absorb some.

When you're happy with the thickness of your sauce, season well with salt and pepper, then add about ⅔ of your grated cheese and stir in. 

That's the sauce finished. If your pasta is ready, drain in a colander and tip into a large oven-safe dish or tin.

Mix as much sauce as you like into the cooked pasta and tip any leftover sauce into a tub for the freezer.

Nearly done! Chop some herbs if you wish (I used Basil) and add to your tomatoes before scattering over the top of your pasta.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Now you can either bung it in the fridge for cooking later or bake straight away in a 200° fan oven for about twenty minutes until the cheese has melted and a nice golden colour.

We like this with some salad, crusty bread or garlic bread.

Happy Cooking

- x -

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Cupcake Bouquet Tutorial - Step by Step

Cupcake Bouquets were one of the most popular items when I had my cake business, especially for Valentine's and Mother's Day (and also the most popular post on my old blog!). It's fairly easy to do and by using different colours and decorations you can create a beautiful bouquet that not only looks lovely but tastes great too! 

You will need:
A suitable container (I like to use metal buckets that are easily available from florist suppliers, they are approx 6" across - you could also use terracotta pots or anything else of a suitable size that takes your fancy)
Plastic disposable cups - mine hold around 200ml
Various coloured tissue paper 
Optional: cellophane, ribbon, sugarpaste, elastic band.

You also, of course, need a batch of cupcakes plus enough buttercream to decorate them! You will only need seven but my recipe makes twelve so plenty to nibble on later ;)
This time I used good old vanilla for both cake and buttercream but you can use any flavour combination you wish.


To start off, you need 7 plastic cups, arrange them into this shape:

Now, at this point, you can either staple them together as they are or you can do as I did and wrap some tissue paper around each cup (sellotape comes in handy here just to keep in place) before stapling for an even lovelier effect, like this:

If you'd like to use cellophane, now is the time to wrap it around your pot as it's much more fiddly to do it later on - cut a big square of cellophane, turn your pot upside down and secure with an elastic band, don't worry that it looks awful, we can pretty it up later!

Next, take a sheet of a different colour tissue paper which will complement your icing colours, cut in half and lay out flat across each other:

Lay the tissue sheets over the top of your container and gently push your cup arrangement downwards pushing the tissue paper with it.

Ok, you're ready to ice your cupcakes! For these ones, I used a Wilton 2D nozzle in a piping bag and painted a stripe of red extra colouring up the seam of the bag before filling with buttercream to get a two tone effect with the icing.

Another optional bit now! To make the cakes a little more special, I rolled out some red sugarpaste and used a plunger cutter to make some simple flowers. Add one to each cake and any other decorations you like.

To assemble your bouquet, carefully pop a cupcake into each cup holder! Then, tie a length of ribbon around the pot to cover up that elastic band.
And there you have it, a gorgeous bouquet of cupcakes! Perfect for a gift :)

There are all kinds of decorations and colour schemes you can do with these, I like to experiment! With the one below I used lots of different colours and wrapped the plastic cups with cut-out paper doilies (much cheaper than specialist cupcake wrappers!).

Happy Baking

- x -