Orange and Cinnamon Biscuits

Baking these biscuits will fill your kitchen with the most Christmassy aroma. Later today Arthur and I are going to make a couple of batches as Christmas gifts for his teachers. We'll keep them plain and pile them into traditional ridged glass jars adorned with some coloured ribbons. They'll look as pretty as a picture.

Here I have strung each biscuit with a coloured ribbon to finish - simply make an additional hole in the top of each biscuit before baking using the tip of a large icing nozzle. 

Orange & Cinnamon Biscuits

225g butter, softened
110g caster sugar
275g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Grated zest of an orange

Preheat the oven to 170°C / 325°F
In a large bowl or food mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour, cinnamon and orange zest and combine fully to form a dough.

Roll out your dough on a floured surface and press out your biscuits with your choice of cookie cutters. Place the biscuit on a baking sheet (no need to grease or line) and bake in the oven for 12 – 15 minutes, or until they are golden and slightly firm on top.

Carefully transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

Cerise And White Bakers Twine; Set of 4 Bauble cookie cutters; Medium Traditional Ridged Glass Biscuit Jar; Large Multicolour Party Honeycomb Ball - all from www.dotcomgiftshop.com

Coconut Yogurt Bark

This is yoghurt bark. Have you heard of it before? I hadn’t until recently. It is really too simple to class as a ‘recipe’, it’s more just a case of throwing some ingredients together. It’s a great recipe for kids to get involved in too. The new limited edition Onken coconut yogurt works perfectly in this recipe - just the right amount of sweetness, with its flecks of coconut adding a lovely texture. 

The bark makes for a great healthy snack, but I reckon it is good enough to bring to the table at the end of a meal as an alternative to those after dinner mints. I like to use freeze-dried berries in this recipe as their dryness holds up well to the yogurt. Their bright pink hue combined with vibrant green pistachio nuts are a winning combination for me. Try experimenting with other toppings though - chopped almonds, hazelnuts, dried fruit, seeds and chocolate chips are all great alternatives.

Coconut Yogurt Bark

450g Onken coconut yogurt
1 - 2 tbsp freeze-dried raspberries
1 - 2 tbsp of pistachio nuts, chopped

Line a 25cm x 25cm baking pan with baking paper.

Pour the Onken coconut yogurt into the lined tin and allow it to level out. Sprinkle the yoghurt with the freeze-dried raspberries and chopped pistachio nuts. Place in the freezer for approx 4 hours, or until frozen.

Remove from the freezer and carefully release from the tin and peel off the paper. Using a sharp knife, cut the bark into shards and serve immediately or place in a freezer bag and store in the freezer until required.

This post is sponsored by Onken. However I only work with brands that I trust and love and feel are relevant for my blog and its readers. For more recipe inspiration and to view the full range of Onken products please visit www.onken.co.uk

Lime & Coconut Yogurt Cake

When Onken set me the challenge to develop four easy recipes using their new coconut yogurt, I had to include a cake. Here I have taken what is essentially a foolproof mix-it-all-together recipe and added a twist with the coconut and lime. You could use lemon instead of the lime or indeed any citrus, but there is something about lime and coconut that I like. You could bake one big cake, but I think this recipe lends itself well to a more dainty individual affair. 

Lime & Coconut Yogurt Cake

180ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
60ml lime juice
280g Onken coconut yogurt
385g caster sugar
300g self raising flour
160g icing sugar
2 tsp lime juice
1 - 3 tsp boiling water
Zest of a lime

Preheat oven to 160ºC (325ºF). Grease 6 (8.5 fl oz / 240 ml) mini bundt tins or one large 24cm non-stick bundt tin and set aside.

Mix the vegetable oil, eggs, lime zest, lime juice, Onken coconut yogurt and sugar in a large bowl using a whisk. Sift in the flour and mix until smooth.

Pour the mixture into bundt tins and bake in the oven for approx 25 - 35 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch. If using the larger tin, allow 45 - 55 minutes. Test they are cooked by inserting a skewer. If it come out clean, with no wet mixture, they are ready.

Allow the cakes to cool a little in the tins, before remove and inverting the cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the lime icing, mix the sugar and lime juice adding the boiling water bit by bit until you have a smooth runny consistency. Place a tray underneath your cooling rack before drizzling over the icing, allowing it to run down the sides of the cake. While the icing is still in its liquid state, finely grate over some lime zest. Allow the icing to set before serving.

This post is sponsored by Onken. However I only work with brands that I trust and love and feel are relevant for my blog and readers. For more recipe inspiration and to view the full range of Onken products please visit www.onken.co.uk

Coconut Chocolate Mousse

When I was a kid I always thought that a Bounty chocolate bar was the most sophisticated choice of confectionery. After all its adverts which featured tropical beaches and coconut palms promised ‘the taste of paradise’. Chocolate and coconut still has a place in my culinary heart.

So when developing my series of recipes for Onken using their new limited edition coconut yogurt, I had to include something with chocolate. The result was this mousse. With the coconut yogurt replacing the traditional cream, it is a healthier version of a favourite dessert. It’s also a winner in my book as it can be made the day before and left to chill in the fridge until required - perfect if you're entertaining.

Coconut Chocolate Mousse

85g dark chocolate, 70%
1 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
1 tbsp caster sugar
50g Onken coconut yogurt
Grated dark chocolate and toasted coconut shavings for decoration (optional)

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place into a bowl that will fit over a pan of simmering water. Mix the cocoa and vanilla with 2 tbsp cold water, and pour over the chocolate. Place the bowl over the gently simmering water, give it all a stir, then remove from the heat.

Leave with the bowl of chocolate still over the water and stir occasionally until melted. Once melted, add 2 tbsp boiling water and stir to thin the chocolate down and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then add the sugar and whisk again until thick and glossy. Beat the Onken coconut yogurt into the cooled chocolate. Gently fold about one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mix using a large metal spoon. Add the remaining egg whites and carefully fold them in until fully combined, being careful not to over-mix.

Spoon the mousse into 4 small glasses and chill for a couple of hours, or overnight. When ready to eat, remove from the fridge and finish with a grating of dark chocolate and a few toasted coconut shavings.

This post is sponsored by Onken. However I only work with brands that I trust and love and feel are relevant for my blog and its readers. For more recipe inspiration and to view the full range of Onken products please visit www.onken.co.uk

Coconut, Blueberry & Pistachio Frozen Yogurt

Yogurt is big in our family. Sometimes it’s plain and used to add a creamy finish to our morning porridge along with some berries and toasted nuts. Sometimes it is a fruit yogurt served as a quick weekday pudding. However, our latest yogurt of choice is coconut. It’s a new limited edition flavour from Onken.

Onken set me the challenge to develop four easy recipes that the coconut yogurt could be used in and I am thrilled to be able to share them with you, over the next four days, on the blog.

This frozen yogurt recipe is quick to make and doesn’t require any special kit. I’ve used seasonal blueberries, but you could replace them with another berry such as raspberries. The coconut yogurt results in the most creamy of flavours making it taste extremely indulgent. Serve in a cone, small bowls or espresso cups.

Coconut, Blueberry & Pistachio Frozen Yogurt

375g blueberries
2 tbsp maple syrup
½ tbsp water
700ml Onken coconut yogurt
75g pistachio nuts
A handful of blueberries and pistachio nuts for decoration (optional)

Place the blueberries, maple syrup and water saucepan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and then cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 - 10 minutes or until the fruit is very soft and syrupy. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the berry mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Allow to cool a little before placing in the fridge until completely chilled.

Pour the Onken coconut yogurt into a large bowl. Add the cooled blueberry mixture, stirring until fully combined. Roughly chop the nuts and fold into the yogurt mixture. Pour the mix into a freezer-proof container and place in the freezer. After 45 minutes or so, take the container out of the freezer and whisk with a fork to break up any ice particles. Repeat this process every 45 minutes 3-4 times.

When ready to serve, take the container out of the freezer to allow the contents to soften for 15 mins or so before scoop into balls and serving with a garnish of chopped pistachio nuts and blueberries.

This post is sponsored by Onken. However I only work with brands that I trust and love and feel are relevant for my blog and its readers. For more recipe inspiration and to view the full range of Onken products please visit

P.S. The lovely ceramic espresso cups featured here are from www.dotcomgiftshop.com

Open House

On Friday I opened up my home for two hours and invited in friends, friends-of-friends, and neighbours to enjoy tea, coffee and homemade cake. It was in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support; my small contribution towards the national World's Biggest Coffee Morning - I raised £325.00.

The core aim, is of course to raise money for a worthy cause, but over the four years that I have held this event, it has become so much more. People of ages come along and each year I find myself greeting both familiar and new faces. 

There was a constant buzz of conversation that, due to the numbers and good weather, spilt out onto our small courtyard garden. I saw old friends in deep conversation with neighbours, mum's from school chatting with work colleagues - all sharing stories over a slice or two of cake. 

It sums up what I love most of all about food - when it is shared and brings people together.

Late Summer Market Salad

I've probably made this salad more than any other over the summer - plump, juicy cherries, sweet cherry tomatoes, crisp celery and creamy avocado and freshly snipped herbs - so simple yet so tasty. The cherries at the greengrocers are still good - so make it while you can. It's a salad that can only be made in late summer - it wouldn't be proper to make it any other time. 

These images, taken by photographer Emma Gutteridge, feature in the September issue of The Simple Things Magazine as part of an outdoor cinema gathering that I cooked and styled. The September issue of the magazine, containing all the recipes from the shoot can be purchased here.

Late Summer Market Salad

an adaptation of a recipe from Green Kitchen Stories

Serves 4

1 small celery head, sliced, including leaves
2 avocados, stoned, peeled and sliced
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 large handfuls of cherries, halved and stoned
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
Juice of ½ lemon or more to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and prepare all the vegetables, fruit and herbs and place in a large serving bowl. Mix to combine. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to mix well. This salad will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.

Cheddar & Sage Scones

Scones. I remember my mum making them when I was a child - plain, fruit and cheese ones. They one of the first foods we learnt to make as a children. Quick to make, quick to cook and with ingredients so few and basic you'll nearly always have them in the cupboard. If you don't you almost certainly need to go shopping and regain control of your life.

Cheddar & Sage Scones
 

Makes 10

250g self-raising flour
1 tsp mustard powder
pinch of cayenne pepper, plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
50g butter
125g strong cheddar cheese, grated
small bunch of sage
1 free-range egg. beaten
4 tbsp milk
olive oil
milk to glaze
coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200C / Gas Mark 6.

Sift the flour, mustard, cayenne and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pick the sage leaves, reserve 10 whole leaves and finely chop the rest. Add the chopped sage to the mixture along with 75g of the cheese, the egg and the milk and mix to a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead lightly and roll out to a 2cm thickness. Cut into 5cm rounds with a plain cutter and place on a floured baking sheet. Brush with milk and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Brush the reserved sage leaves with a little oil and place one on top of each scone and dust with a light sprinkle of cayenne and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Split and serve buttered.

Buttermilk Sponge Cake

This blog is always the first casualty when life shifts up a gear or when life turns upside-down as it has during the past couple of months. Even when you’re pre-warned of a bumpy road ahead, and you think you’re prepared, it can leave you with new scars to adjust to and experiences to process. Often quite literally. 

I’ve questioned myself recently about whether I really need to keep this blog up. Calling it a day would seem a bit sad. I see it as a creative output of sorts: there for times when works doesn’t allow much freedom and it's all heads-down and deadlines. I think a creative output is healthy: for me anyhow.

It’s the creating of the food and creating of the images that I relish and loose myself in. It's the words I struggle with. I’m not a wordsmith. Some posts never get published as try as I might I can’t find the words I want to sit alongside my images. When I write for work and the words don't come I have to keep going until they do. It's my job. I don't want this blog to feel at all like work so I’m going to change things. Going forward my posts will not be word heavy. I hope to simply set the scene, share a recipe and let the images do the rest. 

This recipe has sat unpublished on my desktop, waiting for words since March. I think it is just as suited for June. If I was making this now, I'd top the cake with plenty of seasonal strawberries and decorate with a few lacy heads of elderflower. I'd also eat it sitting in the garden with a cup of tea under the shade of my wide brimmed sun hat.

Buttermilk Sponge Cake

250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
200ml buttermilk (or 75g yogurt mixed with 125ml semi-skinned milk) 
finely grated zest of an unwaxed lemon, plus 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
125g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
3 large free-range eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F, gas 4. 
Butter a 23cm ring mould cake tin. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate and salt together.
Mix the buttermilk (or yogurt mixture) and lemon zest. Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a little of the flour with the last one. Gradually add the rest of the flour with the buttermilk, one after the other, until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until well risen and pale golden brown. Loosen the sides of the cake with a round-bladed knife and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

For the cake in the image I made two of the above sponges and once cold sandwiched them together with jam and a simple buttercream and topped with further buttercream, mini meringues, fresh fruit and flowers.

Spring Salad

I love it when a new seasons produce starts to come in - spring is no exception. There are many ways to prepare and cook all the new vegetable and fruits that are now appearing in the shops, markets and, if you're lucky (and better organised than me), your allotment or garden.

For that 'first time', it's nice to keep things simple, allowing the produce to be centre of attention at it's 'welcome back party'. I served this salad as a quick midweek lunch accompanied by some cheese and sage scones. The salad is set off beautifully in this elegant white ceramic Rin bowl by Reiko Kaneko.

Spring Salad

This salad doesn't require any precise measurements, just add as much or as little as you like. If you have a lemon half lurking in the fridge, a squeeze of juice in the lentil mixture gives a nice citrus tang.

200g cooked puy lentils
a handful of kale or cavolo nero, tough stalkes removed and leaves finely shredded
a handful for chopped parsley
a handful of chopped chives
2 tbsp capers
1 - 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 - 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
a pinch of sea salt and course ground black pepper
a handful of rocket leaves
 ¼ red cabbage, finely shredded
handful of radishes, finely sliced
1 yellow pepper, shredded
handful of radishes, finely sliced
a handful of strawberries, hulled and sliced
parmesan shavings

First, empty the lentils into a bowl and add the shredded kale or cavolo nero, the parsley, chives, capers, vinegar, oil and seasoning. Stir and leave to let the flavours mingle while you get on with chopping the vegetables. Get yourself a nice generously sized salad bowl and start layering your salad. Start with the rocket, red cabbage, tomatoes and yellow pepper. Combine these ingredients a little in the bowl and then top with the lentil mixture. Next add the radishes and then the sliced strawberries. Finally top with a few shavings of parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Lemon, Hazelnut & Rhubarb Cake

I've been looking forward to sharing these images of my Lemon, Hazelnut & Rhubarb cake on the blog. I've had to wait as the cake was part of a shoot I did back in June for The Simple Things magazine. Now the said issue has been published, I can happily share these pictures with gay abandon.

It's always such a treat to have have my food shot professionally. These images are all courtesy of the talented Emma Gutteridge.

The recipe is an adaption of the Lemony Hazelnut & Blueberry cake from Love, Bake, Nourish by Amber Rose - an excellent sponge that turns out perfect every time.

Lemon, Hazelnut and Rhubarb Cake

Serves 8 – 10

115g hazelnuts
260g unsalted butter, really soft
225g white spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 large free-range eggs
130g honey (or golden caster sugar)
130g maple syrup
finely grated zest of 1 large unwaxed lemon

For the filling and topping:
1 bunch of pink rhubarb (approx 400g)
250g caster sugar
350ml double cream
2-3 tbsp honey
fresh flowers to decorate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180 ºC (170ºC fan). Grease and flour 2 x 20cm loose-bottomed sandwich tins.

Start by toasting the hazelnuts in the oven for 5-7 minutes; check after 5 minutes as they can burn easily. Once they are starting to change colour and releasing their lovely nutty aroma, remove them from the oven and leave to cool for a minute or two before rubbing off most of the skins. Whizz the nuts in a food processor into a fine meal.

To make the cake, simply sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and beat in all the other ingredients using an electric hand mixer or Kitchenaid. Be careful not to over mix – you want a light cake. Scrape the cake mixture into your prepared tins and level the tops with the back of a spoon or a palette knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and risen and a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before carefully taking them out of their tins and placing on a cooling rack and cool completely. If making ahead of time, the sponges can be double-wrapped in foil and frozen. Be sure to defrost thoroughly before filling.

To make the rhubarb topping, mix the caster sugar with 250ml of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, cut the rhubarb into batons of approx 4cms. Add the batons to the boiling sugar syrup, then immediately remove the pan from the heat. Leave the rhubarb batons in the syrup as it cools. Use a slotted spoon to remove the rhubarb batons from the syrup. Reserve approx half for the top of the cake and puree the remainder with a hand-held blender, adding a splash of water to loosen. Chill the poached and pureed rhubarb until you’re ready to assemble the cake. If making ahead of time, the prepared rhubarb will happy sit covered in the fridge for 24 hours.

When you are ready to fill and assemble your cake, prepare the honey cream filling by lightly whip the cream until very soft peaks form. Drizzle in the honey and whisk again until incorporated.

If your cakes are very peaked you may wish to trim the tops so that you have a nice flat surface to decorate. Carefully place one cake on your cake plate, spoon over two thirds of the honey cream, marbling through 1-2 tbsp of the rhubarb puree, and place the second cake on top. Spread the remaining third of honey cream on the top of the second cake, then top with the poached rhubarb and a few seasonal flowers, if you wish.