Beano-style Cakes

Beano-style fairy cakes with a halved glacé cherry on top – half the calories of a swirly, whirly buttercream-topped cupcake, probably.

To make about 15:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Crack and weigh 3 eggs.  Weigh out exactly the same amount of self-raising flour, golden caster sugar and soft butter.  Pop into a bowl with a teaspoonful or two of vanilla essence and a teaspoonful of baking powder.

Use a hand-whisk to beat thoroughly over about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the edges of the bowl so that you don’t miss any of the mixture.

Put into a couple of lined tins and bake at 180 degrees for 12-20 minutes.  When they smell of cake and are bouncy to the touch, they are ready.

Once they are completely cooled, ice with normal, thick water icing and top with a halved glacé cherry.

Goat’s Cheese Salad with Figs and Walnuts

You’ll need spinach, small ripe figs, walnuts, goat’s cheese, a lemon, some balsamic vinegar and olive oil, some chutney, a clove of garlic and a little French mustard.

Start by making the dressing.  Put the garlic clove, a dessertspoon of balsamic vinegar, the juice of half a lemon and a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in the mini-processor with half a teaspoon each of any nice chutney and mustard.  Whoosh them together.

Slice your goat’s cheese, one slice per salad and place each piece onto a small square of greaseproof paper.  Put them under a hot grill.

Scatter a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves over each plate and sprinkle over some of the dressing, a few walnuts and about three halved figs.

When the cheese is golden and bubbling, carry the greaseproof paper to the plate and slide the cheese onto the salad.


Lamb Curry with Tomatoes and Green Beans

The photo doesn’t do it justice, but this is my new favourite curry.  First, get about a kilo of diced lamb.  It’s best to buy a leg of lamb joint, and snip it up yourself, because it’s easier to trim away all the fat this way.  Put the lamb into a bowl with one teaspoon each of turmeric, dried ginger, sea salt, half a teaspoon of cinnamon and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Mix well and set aside.

In a large, lidded pan, heat two tablespoons of oil until shimmering.  Add four cloves, two bay leaves and sizzle.  Now, add two sliced onions and let them brown.  Remove the onion from the pan, then add the lamb and let it brown.  When it’s browned, pop the onions back in, and add two chopped cloves of garlic and a teaspoon each of ground coriander, cumin and paprika.

Stir well, then add half a tin of tomatoes and 200ml of water.  Put the lid on and simmer for 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your fresh, tomatoey, curry sauce by putting one and a half tins of tomatoes, 100ml water, a chopped onion, four cloves of garlic, four long, green, hot chillis, six slices of fresh ginger, one teaspoon of turmeric, one teaspoonful of salt, two tablespoons of oil and a handful of fresh coriander into a medium-sized saucepan.  Boil with the lid on for twenty minutes, then liquidise.  Set aside until the lamb has cooked for an hour.

When the lamb is tender, add the sauce and a few handfuls of green beans.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve with plain, boiled rice and fresh coriander.  Also delicious with a few potatoes added.

Lamb and Spinach Curry

Fry 2 large, sliced onions in 4 tablespoons of oil until browning.

Skoosh up a two inch piece of ginger and 3 cloves of garlic and add to the onions.  Stir this into the onions with a teaspoon each of chilli powder, turmeric, ground cumin and salt.  Continue stirring and cook for 2 minutes more.

Add 500g lean diced lamb (I usually buy a leg or shoulder joint and cut it up myself so that there is no visible fat) and stir well.  Add half a tin of chopped tomatoes and stir.  Then add 400ml water and stir.  Put the lid on and cook slowly for 50 minutes.

Add 200g chopped spinach and cook – lid on – for a further 10 minutes.  Then take the lid off and turn up the heat to reduce the liquid for the last ten minutes.

Garnish with sliced chillis, ginger or coriander.

Lentil Soup with Ginger and Spring Onion

The stir-fry that never happened.

Put one red onion, 2 bunches of spring onions (save just one spring onion for the garnish later), 5 peeled carrots, a 3″ piece of peeled ginger and 2 cloves of garlic into the processor.  Skoosh up until small, but not mushed.

Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan, add the vegetables and 100g red lentils and stir for one minute.

Pour in 2.5 pints of hot vegetable stock (Marigold is fine) and a bay leaf.  Pop the lid on and cook vigorously for 30-35 minutes.  Add a little more boiling water if necessary.

Garnish with spring onion and serve.

Rib of Beef with Garlic and Rosemary


Advantages of having Rib of Beef for Christmas dinner:  you don’t need to get up at dawn to cook it; if you haven’t cooked it for long enough, it’s even more delicious; there is less washing up, especially if you just serve it with mashed potato and red cabbage.  We haven’t had turkey for three years now.

I think our beast was big-boned, as I asked for rib of beef with two bones, and it weighed 4kg.  About 3kg would be fine for six people, and give you some leftovers (rib of beef and red onion sandwich?  Heaven!).  Leave the joint out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cooking.  Preheat the oven to 245 degrees.

Get a handful of rosemary leaves, 2 cloves of garlic and a teaspoonful of sea salt.  Whoosh up together in a mini-processor with three tablespoons of olive oil.  Rub HALF of this mixture all over the beef, and save the rest for later.

Put the beef into a large roasting tin, and cook at a savage temperature for the first 20 minutes.  Now, lower the heat to 190 degrees and cook for 30 minutes per kilo.  When the meat is about 40 minutes from ready, turn it over and pop a whole bulb of garlic in to roast alongside.

When the garlic bulb is squishy (after about 30-40 minutes), leave it to cool for a few minutes before squeezing the cloves into the processor with the remaining rosemary rub.  Add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of runny honey.  Whoosh up until well blended.

Once the beef is cooked, brush over some tiny spots of butter (about 30g) until they have melted in.  Now brush the meat well with the rosemary-garlic-honey-vinegar mixture.  Cover in tin foil and leave to rest in a warm place for about 30 minutes.  Plenty of time to cook some potatoes and mash them with nutmeg and cream and to warm the red cabbage you might have made the day before.

Trim away any fatty bits and cut the joint into manageable chunks.  You can carve them more prettily at the table.  So easy.

Chicken Schnitzel



The perfect TV dinner for Epic Movie Night.

Take two chicken breasts and slice them very thinly (about half a centimetre thick).  Beat an egg in a flattish bowl and add a little salt and pepper.  Whizz up the end slice of a wholemeal loaf (not too fresh) in a mini-processor until it resembles, well, breadcrumbs.  Put the breadcrumbs onto a large plate.

Immerse the chicken slices in the egg, then press them onto the breadcrumbs until they are well covered.

Foam a small knob of butter in a large frying pan and add a tablespoon or two of oil.  Fry the chicken for about 3-4 minutes each side on a hottish hob until golden brown.  If in any doubt about whether they are cooked, cut in half to check, and if you like to be doubly sure, place in a medium oven for a few minutes.