17 February 2018

Vegan chocolate cake

Vegan Chocolate Cake

  • Servings: a few
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In the early 90s I had a couple of vegan friends (one was a pal from uni, the other his wife), sadly lost touch with them but they were great fun and introduced me to Food For Thought in Covent Garden (sadly closed due to rising rents), mushroom paté in a tube (yum) and weird vegan cheese (less yum). We also occasionally had little stalls on a Sunday at Camden Market selling painted glass stuff.

Anyway I picked up this vegan recipe for chocolate cake but I don’t know where it came from so as always a bit worried that I’m pinching someone’s content – if you know its provenance please let me know so that I can give credit. I’ve made it (once, 20 years ago) and it was delicious but I remember a bit early on in the making when I was convinced it was going to fail because it curdles at one point (the recipe notes this), but it all worked out well in the end.

This recipe was written on the back of an envelope for the Youth Hostels Association – it might have been around the time I went to Florence with a friend and stayed in a youth hostel there, 1995 or thereabouts.

Vegan Chocolate Cake


  • 115g sugar
  • 115g soya margarine
  • tablespoon syrup
  • 1/3pint orange juice
  • teaspoon baking soda aka bicarbonate of soda aka sodium bicarbonate
  • 215g flour
  • tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt



  • Mix syrup, sugar and margarine together
  • Measure orange juice, add the baking soda and mix in – it will curdle, do not be alarmed
  • Add the remaining dry ingredients
  • Mix and put in the oven for 30 minutes at 180°C or Gas Mark 4 or 350°F

27 December 2017

Coconut cupcakes

This excellent and delicious recipe comes from a website that has disappeared, however there is a cached version here. I don’t really like ‘stealing’ recipes but I wanted to trap a copy in case anything happened to that one!


The oven will be at Gas Mark 4, 180°C. They’ll need about 25 mins to half an hour to cook through nicely. I tend to cook for 15mins then swivel the tray through 180° (no relation to the temperature!) and cook for another 10. Then test with a cocktail stick / skewer – if it comes out cleanly they’re cooked. For full-size cakes that also works or you can tap on the bottom and if it sounds hollow it’s cooked.

You’ll need a mixing bowl, mixing spoon and a couple of spoons to distribute the mixture among 12 cupcake cases OR you’d need a couple of cake tins (I need to have a think about the measurements).

photo 2(4)

Freshly baked cakes, cooling, awaiting icing

Ingredients – CAKE(S)

  • 120g caster sugar
  • 175g spread or softened unsalted butter
    Cream these two together first
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
    Always crack your eggs into a fresh bowl and check all is well before adding them in to your mix. With all other items you can check the packaging for any spoilage but eggs are a mystery until opened – you can check if an egg is bad by floating it in water. If it floats, it’s not good – a fresh egg should sink and bob gently on the floor.
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 25g cocoa powder (sift into the bowl with a sieve)
    Stir everything well then weigh out
  • 150g plain flower and
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    Then add these (will also need sifting with sieve) into mixture and stir well.
  • and if it needs it a bit of milk or water (‘3 tablespooons’).
    With cake mixture you’re generally aiming for a ‘dropping consistency’ such that if you scoop some up with a tablespoon and turn the spoon half over it should start to plop off the spoon but not be too liquid. It should fall nicely into the cupcake cases without resisting too much.

Don’t forget to lick the bowl (unless you’re pregnant cos I suppose you have to be a bit careful with the eggs, and possibly the flour too).

Ingredients – ICING

I only ever use plain icing sugar and spread to make mine cos I can’t really be bothered with mascarpone but the original icing instructions are reproduced below.

  • 150g mascarpone
  • 1 tablespoons icing sugar
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 25g desiccated coconut soaked in a little milk

These were the original instructions: “Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases. Cream together the butter and sugar in the large bowl until pale and light. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Add cocoa powder and coconut.

Mix together the flour and baking powder and fold it to the butter-egg mixture, and mix until smooth. Divide between the paper cases and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes until the cakes are golden and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the frosting, mix the mascarpone, icing sugar and lime zest until smooth. Add coconut. When ready, sprad an even layer of the mascarpone mixture over the top of each cake and sprinkle with coconut.”

15 November 2017

Salmon, mashed potato & Brussels sprouts

I hadn’t made mashed potato for ages so I thought I’d better check and see what’s new in potato-mashing. According to this YouTube video below I’ve “been doing it wrong” all this time and if I want super-creamy mash I should follow their instructions.

Happily I’m after a more gravelly mash (skins on, don’t have a potato ricer) so I carried on, wrongly 🙂

The thing with mashing is that apparently you want a fairly starchy and non-waxy potato so that it falls apart on cooking and almost mashes itself. Fortunately there are lists of suitable potatoes. For mashing you cook the potato for a lot longer than you would for just normal boiled potatoes, and start with smaller chunks too – at least I do. I went with a Marfona potato – they also feature quite a lot in my microwave ‘roast’ potato, baked beans and cottage cheese recipe.

For my recipe you would need

Salmon, mashed potato & Brussels sprouts

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Easy
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  1. a potato – the final mash volume will be slightly greater than what you start with if you expand it with milk and butter
  2. some Brussels sprouts, I went with 8 big ones
  3. Hot-smoked Arbroath salmon thingy from M&S, the one I got comes in a pack of 4. It seems cooked (not a fan of ‘smoked salmon’ which always seems… not quite right).


The potatoes need about 25 mins, the Brussels between 8 and 10 mins (nearer 8 if you cut them in half)

  • Boil kettle, or put pan of water on to boil
  • Halve the potato lengthwise then slice (lengthwise again) into four then turn 90° and chop again
  • After 10 minutes or so…
  • …prepare the Brussels (I just take the bottoms of and the outer leaves, you can cut them in half too if you like), and get the water boiling ready for the last ten mins.
  • After 15 minutes you’ve got 10 mins left so best get the Brussels boiling soon as anything less than 7 minutes probably won’t do. They get a bit too mushy for me after 10.
  • At the end drain the potatoes and return to pan but don’t put back on the recently-hot hob. Drain the Brussels too (don’t leave them sitting in the hot water while you mash the potatoes). I have a fantastic metal sieve which the Brussels can sit in.
  • Mash: add a bit of spread or butter and some milk and wallop them with a masher.

Serve with a bit of crême fraiche. It was delicious and very straightforward.

2 May 2017

Salmon fillet (steamed) and rice with green beans

I’m filing this under tolerably pleasant and probably healthy but not exactly something I’d get terribly excited about. Salmon (fish generally) isn’t really a favourite of mine but a salmon fillet is very easy to cook in a steamer in about 8 minutes above a pan of cooking rice, so why not. I don’t mind pre-cooked salmon fillets either, used in salads but I draw the line at smoked salmon.

The packet instructions for the rice suggested just covering Amount X (I went for 80g) with cold water, bringing to the boil and simmering. Other advice suggested a ratiometric thing going on with the relative amounts of rice and water. Presumably because draining sodden rice isn’t likely to be much fun so perhaps you want to reach the end of the cooking period with minimal water.

After a few minutes of cooking the rice I noticed a burning smell and realised I’d not arranged the flame sufficiently for a gentle simmer and the pan was drying out. I added some more water, brought it to the boil again and turned the gas down.

In total the rice had about 18 minutes (the packed recommended this) in hot water, some of it boiling, mostly simmering and I added the salmon to the steamer bit after ten minutes of rice cooking so that it cooked for the final 8 minutes. At two minutes before the end I zapped a pack of pre-sliced green runner beans in the microwave – perfect.


  • 80g rice, I used something that had wild rice in it as well. Didn’t bother rinsing it – possibly I will regret this later if I develop stomach ache 😉
  • One salmon fillet
  • Pack of green runner beans
  • Creme fraiche which, if I’m honest, probably saved the meal by ‘connecting’ the ingredients together (literally and figuratively) in a way that it was lacking somewhat.


Total cooking time is 18 minutes.

  • Pour the rice into the pan, add 160ml (I tried double) cold water and bring to the boil. If you’re doing it correctly this is the point at which you turn down the heat so it simmers, if not after stuffing it up a bit you’ll have to add a bit more water, bring that to the boil and try again with the simmering. Let it and add the steamer unit on top plus the lid to keep all that lovely steam in.
  • After 10 mins add the salmon fillet to the steamer and replace the lid quickly.
  • After another 6 minutes have elapsed (16 mins in total) microwave the beans, or peas or whatever.
  • I used a slatted spoon to collect the rice, it had absorbed most of the water to be honest – pleasingly not a watery mess. Salmon fillet on top, beans next – then a dollop of creme fraiche to knit it together. I felt it needed it.
  • Next time I make it I’ll take a photo but I can’t get too excited about this recipe and already have some bacon in the fridge to make this much more exciting – but probably far less healthy – recipe 😉
1 May 2017

Crudités – things to dip in hoummous etc

Current crudité options include anything raw that I can dip in hoummous. I’m adding them here as a reminder (I use this blog a fair bit when I’m in shops as I often forget something delicious that I once enjoyed eating) rather than instructions for making crudités 😉

  • 🥕 Carrot (peeled, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced vertically into several bits)
  • Sugar snap peas (can eat the whole thing)
  • Radishes (topped and tailed)
  • Celery (cut in blocks lengthwise, then halved vertically)
  • Hoummous


23 April 2017

Couscous, tomato, brie, mint etc

Couscous is definitely the easiest pasta*-related thing to cook. I have some dried couscous in a packet – I’ve no idea if it exists in other formats.

Instructions for cooking couscous

  • 80g of couscous makes a pretty decent sized portion once cooked, put it in a bowl (I used a glass Pyrex one because of the boiling water)
  • Add 100ml boiling water, stir, cover the bowl with clingfilm for five minutes.
  • Once cooked stir it with a fork.

Things to add to couscous

  • tomatoes (I added 3 vine-ripened tomatoes cos they have quite a nice sharp taste for this)
  • mint, chopped
  • sesame oil (I tend to add it to salady things)
  • drizzle of lemon juice
  • some small bits of chopped brie

IMG_3949.JPG*[Wikipedia] Couscous is made of small steamed balls of semolina… and semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat mainly used in making pasta and couscous.

Picture shows the couscous with just tomatoes, mint, sesame oil and lemon, brie added last. Tomorrow’s lunch 🙂

17 April 2017

Tuna and mayonnaise

Less a recipe, more a reminder to me to eat this occasionally cos it’s delicious but I tend to forget about tins of tuna. And because I eat this so infrequently I tend to find that my mayonnaise has gone off when I come to use it so I’ve been buying mini mayo packs from a local pie and chips shop.


You will need

• Tin of tuna (I like the chunks in brine but flakes are fine too)
• Mayonnaise
• Tin opener

How to prepare it
Drain the tuna so it’s quite dry, then cut it up with a knife and fork to your mulch-preference level – mine is a bit pate-like. Gradually add some mayo and mix, mostly with the fork. I use just enough mayo so that I can shape the mix into a sort of ‘cake’. After that it’s up to you what you want to do with it, can be used in sandwiches or given a salad accompaniment. Avoid adding those awful little capers though, why would you do that to a meal?

A note on tin openers
There are obviously many different kinds of tin openers but I think of them as being either ‘innies’ (top opening) or ‘outies’ (side opening), much like tummy buttons. Innies cut the lid so that it sits within the tin after being cut around – I prefer this kind for tuna because then I can press on the lid with my thums to get rid of the fluid (pressure slightly better than just draining in a sieve, but that’s fine too if your thumbs are a bit arthritic). Obviously I’d recommend rinsing the end of the tin you’re going to open, as the tin’s lid will come in contact with your food.

Outie tin openers cut around the outside of the tin and cut off the top, the resulting cirle of metal will not slot inside the tin (without bending) and so can’t be used to squeeze out any fluid – this sort of tin-opener is fine for anything where you want to keep the full contents, liquid and all.

22 January 2017

Creamy bacon & courgette tagliatelle


Can I just show off a bit that I painted this plate in a ceramic cafe in 2003? So we have a home-made meal on a home-made plate. Fork part of the fixtures and fittings though 🙂

This recipe is adapted from one of those little recipe cards they give you in Waitrose (also in other supermarkets but that’s where I got this one) and it’s pretty delicious. The original is for four people and uses Waitrose-y ingredients, mine’s for one person and uses M&S ingredients.

photo 1.JPG

Olive oil, courgetti (saves chopping courgette but any courgette will do), tagliatelle, bacon, creme fraiche, garlic and parmesan – Waitrose do a handy tiny pack of pre-grated parmesan if you don’t think you’ll use much parmesan.


  • frying pan
  • sauce pan
  • chopping board
  • couple of small plates.


  • Olive oil or your preferred frying oil (don’t make the mistake I once did and try cooking anything with sesame oil, black smoke everywhere)
  • Pack of unsmoked bacon medallions, four medallions cut into slices (I literally use scissors for this). The recipe actually calls for smoked but I liked the look of the medallions
  • Pack of spiralised courgette, or one courgette sliced
  • Clove of garlic thinly sliced
  • Tagliatelle pasta
  • Creme fraiche
  • Parmesan, grated


  • Fill the kettle (but don’t boil yet)
  • If you prefer to have everything ready before starting you can cut up the bacon, slice the courgette, grate the parmesan and slice the garlic beforehand and just add these to the relevant pan at the relevant time.

Preparation (simplified, when all ingredients are already prepared)

  1. T0 – Heat oil, add bacon, fill kettle
    (set timer for 4 mins)
  2. T4 – Boil kettle, put tagliatelle in pan, add water, start boiling
    (set timer for 1 min)
  3. T5 – remove bacon, add courgette – add any oil, change heat as needed
    (set timer for 5 min)
  4. T10 – Add garlic and re-add bacon
    (set timer for 2 mins)
  5. T12 – Drain pasta, stir in creme fraiche, some of the parmesan
    (takes 1 min)
  6. T13 – Plate the meat and veg

Total cooking time is 13 minutes – pasta gets 8 minutes, bacon gets 7 minutes and courgette gets 8 minutes.

Preparation (more detailed, includes interim prep)

  • Warm some oil in the frying pan
  • Cut / slice / chop the BACON medallions into small bits
  • Raise the heat on the oil and add the sliced BACON – set a timer for 4 mins
    It seems you need a fair bit of oil to stop the bacon sticking (or perhaps my pan’s just ancient) and leave it to cook for 5 mins. The instructions mention something about cooking it ‘until crispy’ but at no point did it look remotely crispy. Maybe smoked bacon crisps more (I’ve no idea)
  • Put 4 TAGLIATELLE units / rings (what are they called) into the empty saucepan
  • Slice the COURGETTE (if needed, not if you’re using bagged)
  • When timer pings, set it again for 1 min, then boil the kettle, fill the sauce pan and switch on the heat to get it boiling to cook the pasta. Set the timer for 5 mins and remove the BACON from the frying pan and put it on a plate. Add the COURGETTE to the frying pan.
  • Give the courgette a bit of a stir every so often, can turn the heat up a bit to drive off some of the water.
  • Slide the GARLIC
  • Grate the PARMESAN
  • When timer goes set for another 2 mins – then re-add the BACON to the frying pan, and add the GARLIC too, stir and then let it get on with it.
  • When the timer goes switch off all heat sources.
  • Drain the pasta and return to the hot saucepan, but not the hot hob
  • Add some CREME FRAICHE to the pasta in the saucepan and some of the PARMESAN. Then serve on a plate. (This takes 1 min)
  • Put the bacon-courgette-garlic mix on top, garnish with remaining PARMESAN.




28 July 2016

Ping cuisine 1 – chicken, courgette and noodles

IMG_3950.JPGI was (am) one of many who’ve mocked the trend for spiralised vegetables being used to stand in for pasta and spaghetti etc. Far too fiddly and I like carbs. Then I noticed that Marks and Spencer had ready-spiralised packs of veg. They’ve given them mildly silly names but it turns out I rather like spiralised veg, as long as I don’t have to do the spiralising.

This is one of my M&S microwaveable ping cuisine meals.


  • M&S noodles (these come in square packs, ready to microwave or stir-fry)
  • Chicken breast (eg pre-sliced M&S chargrilled chicken, or slice your own)
  • M&S spiralised courgette pack
  • Crème fraîche


  1. Courgette first – I find I can manage the whole pack with ease but I think it’s meant to be two portions in one pack so adjust accordingly. I cut off the top of the pack, stick it in the microwave and blast it for the recommended time (I think it’s 2m 45s). Once done, remove it from microwave and leave it in its pack for now
  2. Noodles – I use half a pack and adjust the microwave instructions, so it’s somewhere between 1.5 and 2 minutes. To stop it drying out cover with a lid though there’s no real need to include a small (separate) container of water (which is another way of stopping microwaves from drying stuff out)
  3. Chicken – I don’t cook this bit, though you can and it takes about a minute. If I were cooking the chicken I’d add it in to the final minute of noodle-cooking time.
  4. Courgette: draining – courgette contain a LOT of water yet it doesn’t just conveniently drain out when you put the courgette in a colander or strong metal sieve (best). I recommend using a pair of tongs to squeeze as much water out of it, though this does rather ruin the structure of the ‘spaghetti-ness’ of the courgette and mulches it a bit. Still delicious though.
  5. Shove it all on a plate, add a dollop of crème fraîche, eat.

Pic when I have one.

28 July 2016

Orzo pasta – first attempt

Lemongrass Orzo Salad

Photo: by VeganFeast on Flickr (illustrative, I didn’t have a salad but it looks lovely)

I first heard of orzo pasta last Summer in one of the lovely cafes (I forget which one) at the Greenwich Maritime Museum and asked the Italian and Spanish friends I was with if they’d come across it (of course they had). It was delicious. Actually I’ve probably had it before unknowingly as it’s definitely the sort of thing that would appear in mixed salads, while also not being the sort of thing I’d pick out of them (looking at you sultanas).

Then I bought a packet of dried orzo and googled it for more info. The name orzo (says Wikipedia) is the Italian word for barley which comes from its Latin binomial Hordeum vulgare. The pasta shapes do look a fair bit like grains of barley though I’d assume that pasta is made from wheat (Triticum spp.) and not barley but I’m still finding my feet with this tiny pasta 🙂

My efforts at cooking it
It’s delicious even when I cook it, though I think I overcooked it. The instructions were to boil for 9-11 minutes and at 6 mins I spooned a few out to test and thought they were ready then but what do I know! I cut things short at 9 minutes though and for the last two minutes (that is, from 7 minutes of cooking) chucked in a few frozen peas, and heated up some chicken in the microwave.

Forgot to take a photograph but it was lovely.

Orzo are small and glutinous and this makes for difficult straining. I poured the pasta + water into a colander without thinking and then had to rescue the escaping orzos as they landed in the sink. I’ve a nice metal sieve which solves the size problem but I regret using it as it was really difficult to clean afterwards because the film of pasta-y goo gets everywhere and some of the orzo managed to get stuck under the rim of the sieve. My sink, colander and sieve looked as if a whole load of maggots had got stuck to them which wasn’t very appetising.

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