Thursday 17 June 2010


Eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce

Shakshuka is a dish which originates from North Africa and is now popular all over the Middle East. It is easy to make, good for your belly, really delicious and very filling. We served with toasted pitta bread but it would also go well with rice or even pasta.

Ingredients: (serves 2 - 3)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 red chillis, deseeded and finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed and sliced
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 courgette, diced
- 2 tins tomatoes
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 eggs
- Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Handful feta cheese
- Salt, pepper
- Pitta bread

- Heat a good glug of olive oil in a wide, shallow pan and cook together the onions and chilli for about 5 mins, until softened and starting to colour.
- Add in the garlic, courgette, paprika and cumin and cook for another 3 mins.
- Pour in the two tins of tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and sugar. Add two-thirds of the chopped parsley and 1/2 cup water and simmer for approx half an hour until thickened and reduced, like so:

- Break an egg into a cup and gently pour it on top of the tomato sauce. Repeat for the other eggs (spread them out over the surface of the sauce) and put a lid on the pan. Cook for approx 10 mins until the eggs are cooked through, less if you want gooey yolks.
- Top with crumbled feta and the remaining parsley, and serve with toasted pittas.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Crunchy coffee bars

A nice alternative to a biscuit. Also, they're bigger!

I wanted to get some work done on my thesis today so I convinced myself that I 'needed' some 'study treats'. I didn't take much convincing so I decided to give these a go. I had read a recipe online for toffee coffee bars and it looked pretty good; I made a few small changes and the result was pretty tasty. I was hugely confused when the original recipe instructed me to put exposed chocolate directly into the oven - wouldn't it burn? The answer is yes, yes it would. Caught it in time and covered the baking tin to stop the chocolate spoiling. I'm guessing there is some ingredient in American chocolate chips (which the original recipe called for) that makes them more resistant to the heat of an oven. I used chopped German chocolate (a mix of 70% and milk) and it did NOT like being in the oven. Anyway, I recommend cooking the base separately and then drizzling melted chocolate on top when it has cooled. That's what I would do the next time.

- 4 oz butter, softened
- 1 cup soft brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups flour
- I cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

- Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until lighter and fluffier.
- Add the baking powder and salt and mix.
- If your coffee granules are quite coarse, put them in a pestle and mortar and grind them into a powder. Add this to the mixture.
- Add the flour and work it through (this takes some effort) until you have a crumbley 'dough' - a bit like a shortbread.
- Dump this crumbley mixture into a greased baking tray and press it down well.
- Bake at 160 (fan) or 180 (conventional) celcius for approximately 15 minutes until it has darkened slightly. Don't be nervous if it hasn't hardened - it will be really soft until it comes out and has fully cooled.
- Allow to cool in the tray for ten mins or so, then cut into squares and leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Melt the chocolate and drizzle generously over the squares. Serve to your friends and siblings as bribes.

Cauliflower soup with a hint of cheese 'n' onion

Wowzers. This is seriously good soup.

Some mornings I wake up and my body immediately tells me what I want to eat that day. Today I arose from slumber thinking 'cauliflower'. Odd perhaps, but I listened and made this soup and it was incredible. I used both a red and a white cheddar, both really mature and flavoursome, and finished it with finely chopped scallions for a bit of extra oomph. A winner.

- 1 head of cauliflower
- 1 onion
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1 potato
- Chicken stock
- Milk
- Cheddar cheese
- Couple of scallions


- In a large pot, throw in a good glug of olive oil and a knob of butter. Chop the onions and garlic and add them in. Cook for a few mins until softened.
- Meanwhile, chop the cauliflower into small florets and peel and dice the potato. Add them both into the pot and season with salt and pepper.
- Add chicken stock, enough to cover the vegetables, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, put a lid on and cook for 15 - 20 mins until all the vegetables are tender and cooked through.
- Use a stick blender to whizz up the soup until smooth, then add in a good splosh of milk (you can see its important to be exact here) and 2 good handfuls of grated cheese (as much as you like really).
- Cook through until soup is hot and cheese has melted. Taste for seasoning (I needed more salt at this point) and then add in the chopped scallions. No need to serve with bread as this gorgeous soup will keep you full all on its own.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Pistachio cake

A fragrant and unusual cake that is both incredibly moist and light.

I asked Martin what sort of cake he'd like for his birthday this year; he made the rather unusual request of a pistachio sponge. I had never heard of such a thing but figured I'd have a go. The result was an amazingly moist cake with loads of subtle, beautiful flavours. The cardamom and orange zest really bring this to life. We served with some whipped cream and big grins. All measurements here are in American cups (I would recommend investing in these, they are cheap and incredibly useful), but if you don't have a set then just use a teacup.

- 3/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (if grinding yourself then remove the green husks and pop out the little black seeds)
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 vanilla pod
- 4 oz butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- Zest of 3 oranges


- Preheat the oven to 160 (fan oven) or 180 for conventional.
- Generously grease a 9-inch round cake pan and set aside.
- Put the shelled pistachios into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Be careful not to overprocess or they will become a paste.
- Put the ground pistachios into a bowl and mix together with the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.
- Remove the seeds from the vanilla pod and add them to the bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat together the softened butter and sugar until pale in colour and fluffy in texture; this will take a few minutes.
- Add the eggs one at the time, beating well after each one.
- Put the mixer on low and add a tablespoon of the pistachio mixture, then half of the milk. Add half of the remaining pistachio mix, followed by the rest of the milk, then the rest of the pistachio mix until just combined.
- Turn off the mixture and using a spatula gently fold in the orange rind.
- Pour the batter (it will be very wet and loose) into the baking tin and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean from the centre and the edges of the cake pull away from the sides of the tin.
- Cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning out to cool fully on a wire rack.
- Serve at room temperature (putting it in the fridge will dry it out a lot) with cream or ice-cream.