Category Archives: cakes & Baking

Perfect buttery flapjacks: recipe

Whether you are snowed-in and avoiding the blizzards, or trapped under a deluge of rain (our dreams of white-capped hills thwarted for the time being) there’s not much to top a cheering batch of chewy, rib-sticking flapjacks and a steaming mug of tea or fresh coffee. Guaranteed to warm the cockles and put a smile on the face.

Flapjacks are often overlooked for posher cakes like macaroons and cupcakes and aren’t really considered a treat at all. Their practicality and lunchbox friendliness make them seem like the healthy alternative and at times they are wheeled out as the last resort when more exotic treats or something ‘nicer’ isn’t around. I think its high time we sung the praises of the humble flapjack and stopped treating them as the poor relation.

For me flapjacks are about as decadent as you can get; what’s not to like about a sweet concoction of sugar, syrup and butter. Tooth-achingly rich, incredibly easy to make and cheap; they are a the perfect recipe for an afternoons baking with bored kids and you only need the most basic store cupboard ingredients.

We like them as they come; usually straight from the tin, still warm, but cool enough so they have a little bit of crunch.  The basic ingredients will suffice but if you feel the need to tip a nod to their healthy reputation you can add a handful of nuts, seeds or dried fruit.

So on a drab wet Saturday Aidan decided he would make a batch. He had a to improvise a little; he used a tablespoon of treacle because we didn’t have quite enough syrup, which produced a darker flapjack, but didn’t overwhelm the flavour as much as honey tends to. He also insisted on adding 50g dried fruit. He also added a pinch of Halen Mon vanilla salt to the butter and sugars as they melted.

Our flapjack recipe….

150g unsalted butter

120ml golden syrup (about 6 tablespoons or so…we added one tablespoon treacle)

75g soft brown sugar

250g rolled oats (porridge oats are fine)

50g dried fruit/seeds/chopped nuts (or an extra 25g oats if you don’t wish to use anything else…just to stop the mixture being too sticky)

pinch of Halen Mon vanilla salt

Put the butter, sugar, syrup and pinch of salt in a saucepan and heat gently until melted. Give it a regular stir so the sugar doesn’t stick and to check if it has melted.

Put oats and fruit into a large bowl.

When the sugars have melted pour over the oats and stir well and until the oats are well coated. Press the mixture into a greased baking tin (20×28 cm) lined with baking paper or parchment.

Bake in a pre-heated oven gas mark 4, 180 degrees C, 350 degree F for about 25 to 30 minutes.

When ready remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. While still warm cut into fingers or squares.

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Chocolate salami

I first came across chocolate salami at my Grandad’s 90th birthday party of all places! For once I wasn’t doing the catering, so got to sample the lovely grub created by the son of a friend and one of the things he made was this. I think I polished most of it off myself!

Despite the name it contains no meat and needs minimal cooking. It is simple, Christmassy and makes an unusual accompaniment to coffee at the end of a meal.

The sweet creation is traditional in Italy and Portugal and it also made an interesting talking point for all the ‘oldies’ at Grandad’s party. I overheard one lady say “I don’t usually like salami, but this was very nice”


80g unsalted butter

200g bitter chocolate 70%

100g icing sugar

200g digestive biscuits

80g flaked almonds

80g dried cranberries

80g pistachios

2 egg yolks

80g Port

2ml vanilla essence

80g  Condensed milk

Pinch of salt

Cocoa powder for coating

Crush the Biscuits into small pieces, but not crumbs. Mix with the almonds, cranberries and pistachios and sprinkle half of the port over the mixture, set aside.

Melt chocolate and butter in a metal bowl, placed over a pot of simmering water. Once melted add the icing sugar, salt, egg yolks, the rest of the port, vanilla and condensed milk, mix well and continue to cook over the bain-marie for a further 4 minutes to cook the eggs, stirring regularly.

Remove from the heat and stir in the biscuit mixture mixing well. Leave the mixture to cool for about 10 – 15 minutes, this will make it easier to shape as it will thicken and set.  Shape it into a salami shape roll between a double layer of cling film. Put into the fridge to set overnight. Remove the cling film and roll the salami in cocoa powder. Wrap ready for serving in a sheet of greaseproof paper and tie the ends with string, just as a salami would be wrapped. Serve with good strong coffee by cutting on the diagonal.

Not all recipes use nuts and fruit, but i really liked this one and it gave it that Christmassy feel with the addition of cranberries.

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“Gypsy tart makes you fart”…recipe

…well according to my friend Kim it does (although I can’t say I recall that particular side effect from school). What I do remember is that it was my favourite school pudding (and many of my contemporaries). I mentioned on Facebook that I’d rediscovered the recipe (thanks to Ellie and Rosie at the salad club) and was suddenly bombarded with requests for me to send it. So this post is therefore dedicated to Holly, Kim, Paula and all the others that loved gypsy tart…

Gypsy tart with red berry coulis and crème fraîche

14oz tin of evaporated milk,

12oz / 340g dark muscovado sugar

a 10 inch prebaked shortcrust pastry case

Whisk the milk and sugar together for about 10 to 15 minutes until light and fluffy. Ellie and Rosie suggested leaving it to stand for a while, then give it a quick stir again before pouring into the pastry case, which I did although the effect is not different if you just pour it straight in the case. Bake in a preheated oven (gas mark 6/ 200 degrees) for 10 minutes.

The results you might ask? Well, the tart had a light, moussy texture and was very very sweet, just as I remember it. Surprisingly my kids didn’t like it. It didn’t quite compare to the tart I remember from school but as a latter day update the addition of a dollop of crème fraîche and a dribble of home made berry coulis  worked well adding grown up touch and cutting through the tooth rotting sweetness.

My Aunty Rani says that  “The only people who could make ‘Gypsy Tart’ were the dinner ladies at school! The only real test to see if it is authentic is to see if you teeth stick together when you take a bite!!!!!!!!!!!”

I have to say that fresh from the oven it did not stick my teeth together, but after a couple of days it started to remind me of the version served at school. I’m not sure whether its good to discover that our school dinners were probably a day or two old!! If anyone chooses to make this tart do please tell me if it sticks their teeth together….or even as Kim suggested, make you fart.


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Halloween feasts and spooky cookies

Pumpkin soup, Fresh Ciabatta, mini baked potatoes with sea salt and a dollop of Mascarpone on top…finished off with Halloween cookies, some trick or treating and then off to the Halloween ball….perfect!

Despite being skint we couldn’t resist an impromptu Halloween feast. The house was full of teenagers already and I felt as though i’d become the street pumpkin recycling zone, with every other neighbour arriving on my doorstep with bowls of pumpkin flesh

“could you do something with this?” they asked….and never one to throw food away I obliged with several cauldrons of soup. In fact enough soup to feed at least 30!!!!

So armed with a Cauldron of soup, some roasted pumpkin seeds and a ton of baked potatoes topped with creamy mascarpone I invited all and sundry for impromptu supper.





Rolling out the dough



Getting the kids into the spirit of things I set them up making Halloween cookies, the recipe is dead easy and the cookies are delicious.

Halloween cookies:

75g (3oz) icing sugar

150g (50z) butter.

Once soft and light they added the grated rind of one lemon and a tablespoon of the lemon juice.

225g (8oz) plain flour

Cream the butter and sugar until soft and light. Add the grated rind of one small lemon and a tablespoon of juice. Then mix in the flour and work the mixture into a ball of dough. On a floured table roll the mixture out until it is about quarter of an inch (5mm) thick then cut out shapes using Halloween cutters. Bake the cookies on gas mark 4 (180 degrees C, 350 F) for about 15 mins. Once cool you can decorate the cookies with coloured glace icing (just icing sugar mixed with a couple of teaspoons of hot water) or melted Green and Blacks milk chocolate.


A Halloween feast

The first sitting consisted of 4 teenagers, one little un and three adults. Once the kids disappeared on their trick or treating the remaining adults sat down to wine and yet more soup.


A visiting hag


getting ready to go trick or treating


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