Saturday, 27 June 2015

Midsummer Madness at Rift & Co, Preston for South Lancashire Clandestine Cake Club

June saw our branch of Clandestine Cake Club making a visit to Rift & Co in Preston City Centre for our suitably themed event - Midsummer Madness.

Rift & Co is a cocktail bar that also serves food situated down one of Preston's most historic thoroughfares Mein Spirit Wiend, a narrow alleyway that runs on the line of an ancient burgage plot. 

We had a great time drinking cocktails and mocktails and munching on a fabulous range of cakes, we were made so very welcome by the team at Rift & Co with complimentary coffee and tea and sectioning off an area of the bar specifically for us.

We loved the funky urban vibe of the bar and the vintage style furnishings and browsed the cocktail and food menus, planning future visits.

So on to our cakes, our bakers didn't let us down and once again we had a fabulous selection of cakes. Ranging from a Mother Ruin Cake to  Blue Sea Cake and Chocoloate Malt. All equally delicious.

Rift & Co has a website here and it is a must visit if you are in town, cheers to our next event...

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Apricot upside down cake, a gorgeous fruity delight.

A few days ago whilst I was on leave from work I was wondering around my local market and I spotted some gorgeous fresh ripe apricots glinting at me in the sunshine, I only ever buy apricots when they are in peak season and that's right now folks.

Blushed with pink and slightly tender to the touch these were just about perfect, its way to early for any English apricots (I you can find any at all) and these are Spanish but they just cried out to be baked with. Its many many years since I last baked an upside down cake and that was the classic pineapple with glace cherries but this version is different, firstly it uses fresh fruit and secondly it features my new favourite spice "mahlab".

Mahlab is a middle eastern spice which I thought would marry well with the apricots, a perfect addition to the afternoon tea table in my humble opinion.

What you need
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 whole ripe apricots
  • 1 cup plain flour - gluten free blend works beautifully
  • 1/2 cup sugar - granulated
  • 1/4 cup fine polenta
  • 1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal (not cornflour)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt mixed with a little skimmed milk until consistency of double cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp of mahlab spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
23 cm cake tin, loose bottomed - well oiled ( I brushed on oil) on base and sides

What you do

  • Pre heat the oven to 180c
  • Cut each apricot in half and remove the stone
  • In your cake tin, sprinkle the brown sugar evenly on the base of the tin, place the halved apricots face down on the sugar
  • Now to make the sponge - in a large bowl combine the flour, granulated sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, mahlab and baking powder
  • In a smaller bowl combine the yogurt and milk, eggs, melted butter, oil and vanilla
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold until blended. Do not over mix
  • Pour the mixture over the apricots and spread out evenly
  • Bake in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes or so until golden, well risen and testing cooked when you insert a cocktail stick
  • Cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes and then run a pallet knife round the tin, place a plate or serving on top of your tin and invert to remove from tin.
  • Ta dah ! upside down cake, the cake can be served warm, cool or cold. 
  • If you like serve with cream, yogurt or creme fraiche

We are linking up to Simple and in Season this month hosted by Ren Behan, as we are using lovely seasonal Apricots.


And #RecipeoftheWeek over at A Mummy Too

                                          Link up your recipe of the week

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Cranberry and citrus cookies and an 80th birthday cake.

Recently at my weekly yoga class we held an informal 80th birthday party for a lady who attend regularly and is a great advert for the benefits of yoga, amazingly enough she had just returned from a month long tour of New Zealand too, so I for one will be carrying out practising yoga as long as I can.

As part of the birthday celebration my contribution was a lemon meringue birthday, which I was pretty proud of (the base recipe being a Fiona Cairns recipe from The Birthday Cake Book), as our yoga class is a quaint country church hall I couldn't adore the cake with candles through fear of setting off the fire alarm, so I resorted to raiding the garden for suitable edible greenery and flowers. I plumped for the fragrant yellow day lily and freshly picked lemon balm leaves.

As the birthday cake was topped with blousey meringues I had a couple of egg yolks left over so I came up with this recipe which is takes it inspiration from several sources, a Gino D'Acampo recipe for sultana cookies from Italian Baking and a lemon drizzle biscuit from Biscuit by Miranda Gore Brown.

What you need
  • 85g butter - softened (needs to be very soft)
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks - left over from the meringue making
  • Couple of drops of Fiori di Silica essence (from Bakery Bits)
  • 175g plain flour - I used gluten free
  • 50g fine cornmeal
  • 85g dried cranberries - drained after being soaked in warm water for 20 minutes or so
What you do
  • Pre heat the oven to 180c
  • Mix all the ingredients except the cranberries in a mixer , until you have a course dough
  • Add the cranberries to the mix and just incorporate until the mix comes together
  • Take walnut sized lumps of dough and roll into balls, place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and flatten slightly
  • The mixture makes approximately 18 - 20 cookies
  • Bake for 15 -20 minutes until golden 
  • Cool on tray for a few minutes before carefully removing o a wire rack to cool fully
  • Store in an airtight tin
We are linking up this month to Simply Eggcellent , the theme this month being anything goes created and hosted by Dom over at Belleau Kitchen. As this is recipe that uses egg yolks after making meringues.

                                              simply eggcellent - June 2015

We are linking up to Treat Petite this month - the theme being Lets Get Fruity ! created and co hosted by Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer, as the resultant cookie is very fresh and fruity.



And also to Bake of the Week over at Casa Costello , which is a challenge for all things baking....

                                                Link up your baking posts from the last week

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Rhubarb and Almond Cake

Please forgive me for being so remiss, over the last couple of weeks what with work, WI centenary  celebrations, the garden and many many other things I haven't posted any recipes to the blog.

Naughty naughty me, instead of baking and cooking I have been needle felting, bead netting and more gardening and this has somewhat distracted me from the job in hand. Whilst gardening I noticed that our rhubarb bed was again producing huge crops of rhubarb, we have a couple of varieties hence the slightly greener rhubarb in the picture.

This cake is light and deliciously almondy and has the benefit of being gluten free, you need to be a patient baker as it does take quite a while to bake particularly if you rhubarb is quite sappy but the results are well worth it. Its amazing served with creme fraiche or yogurt but lovely on its own too.

What you need
  • 150g butter - softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs - free range
  • 200g ground almonds
  • Couple of drops panettone essence (I use Bakery Bits)
  • Couple of  drops of Almond essence
  • 100g gluten free plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 sticks rhubarb, chopped into 2cm lengths
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds
180c oven - pre heated
22 cm spring form cake pan - oil sprayed and base lined

What you do

  • Cream the butter, sugar and essences until pale and fluffy, I used my trusty Kitchenaid mixer. Whisk in the eggs and add the flour/almonds a little at a time with the eggs if it looks in danger of curdling.
  • Add the rest of the flour/almonds to the bowl and mix until well incorporated.
  • Spoon approximately half the cake mixture into your prepared cake and spread to the edges, arrange roughly half of the chopped rhubarb on to the mixture, staying away from the edge of the tin. Sprinkle over a little caster sugar (1 tbsp)
  • Top with the remaining cake mixture and spread to cover the rhubarb, now arrange the rest of the chopped rhubarb on the top in attractive pattern, again keeping away from the edge (this to prevent sticking to the tin), sprinkle with flaked almonds and another 1 tbsp of caster sugar.
  • Bake for 6o minutes until golden and well risen, now cover with baking paper and bake for another 15-30 minutes (may be even a little longer as this depends on the moisture level in your rhubarb) until cooked in the middle.
  • Cool initially in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack, the cake is quite delicate so be prudent and ensure very loose before removing from tin.

I'm linking up to Bake of the Week at Casa Costello, a linky for all things baked !

                                                   Casa Costello

Monday, 1 June 2015

Lee Birtwistle - All Fired Up - Wood fired Pizza

Lee Birtwistle

Everyone loves fresh real pizza and its this love for authentic tasty food that led to a second career for Lee this month's featured foodie, driven by a passion to set his own mobile wood fired pizza company. You will find Lee at farmers markets, events and food fairs using fresh handmade dough to create wonderful pizza fesh from his mobile wood oven. 

Passionate about local seasonal food, Lee will create a special for the occasion using the best local produce, black pudding, Lancashire cheeses and fresh local vegetables have all featured on his pizzas.

You can also book Lee to cater for your event, he is on Facebook and twitter.

What is your favourite cookery or food book or publication ?
The Naked Chef – Jamie Oliver

What sentence sums up Lancashire Food to you ?
Bold and independent tastes

If you weren't doing what you do now, what would you like to be ?
Pro Snowboarder (too old I know)

Which piece of kit could you not do without ?
My Pizza peel which I handmade out of oak. I can fire four fully topped 10 inch pizzas into the oven with it

Who would join you at your ultimate dinner party and why?
James Martin …. I love Saturday Morning Kitchen

What advice would you give to your younger self ?
Don’t worry so much

Describe your style in three words
Authentic rustic and fresh

What was your latest foodie gadget purchase ?
Info-red Temp Gauge

What is your greatest achievement to date ?
My Kids

What is the worst mistake you have made ?

When I went to pick my pizza oven up I'd been dealing with two companies and was insistent that I'd settled for the company in Worcester so not being too long a drive I took my boy on an overnight adventure with me. We got to Worcester plugged to post code in the sat nav……It was actually the company near Ipswich. Truly was an overnight adventure. We laugh about it now honestly. We cried that night when we finally got to bed at 3 am.

Tell us a secret about yourself ? may be something we wouldn’t expect !
My love of food began when I toured the world with my now wife back in 1994!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Lancashire Food loves.....

As we go out and about in Lancashire (and sometimes a little further too !) we come across great places to eat and or products to buy, we are also in the fortunate position that sometimes we are also sent or given products to try, so we have decided that every so often we will write a post about some great things we have come across.

The selection will be pretty random and will cover all sorts of different things, so here goes, let us know what you think in the comments and whether you would like to see more of this type of post its a bit like instagram but in words and pictures.

A few weeks ago we were kindly sent a selection St Helen's Goat Milks and cheeses to sample and very pleased with them we were too, I made several recipes with the mature goats cheese and was very impressed with the flavour being mature but not overtly goaty like a lot of the mature goat cheeses can be. We particularly enjoyed the goats butter as well which has a mild creamy flavour and worked well in cake baking as well as spread liberally on fresh home-made bread.


For many years I have been a subscriber to Country Living Magazine and I a always pleased to see Lancashire venues and producers being featured, in last months magazine there was an offer alongside an article on Gazegill Organics for their Moo box. Gazegill Organics is a organic farmstead in the stunning hill country of Lancashire and one of the only places in the county which supplies raw milk and cheeses. I have previously bought meats and cheese from the farm at Clitheroe Food Festival and they also regularly stand some of the other farmers market in Lancashire, so snapped up the opportunity to buy the Moo box at a discounted price and what amazing value it was.

The moo box contains raw milk, cream, 4 types of cheese, 12 sausages, beef olives, 4 x minced beef, 4 x diced steak, braising steak and a huge roasting joint, fabulous value and fabulous quality meats.

The box filled the freezer and will be feeding us for quite sometime, it has fabulous flavour and comes highly recommended.


The Bees Country Kitchen is another recent discovery for us, a great addition to the Chorley food scene, every day the talented team create hearty wholesome food on their funky market stall. Great prices abound and so you can enjoy their delicious food at home they also have a "pantry" or kits ready for you to whip up a wholesome treat. I have tried the brownies and the Tuscan bean soup and both where a great success. You can find them on Chorley market and also at various pop occasions including Crafty Vintage, they also provide an outside catering service too.



Beyond Bread  - London - on a recent trip to the big smoke (that's London for those not in the know) we popped in to the lovely friendly Beyond Bread in Fitzrovia for a quick coffee and cake before catching our train home. This totally Gluten free bakery is a great find and the breads and cakes delicious.



Mahlab- a recent spice discovery for us, used a lot in Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern cookery, this pale cream coloured spice has a bright cherry almond flavour, with a citrussy edge, I am looking forward to baking with this once the sun comes out. I purchased mine from Steenbergs.

                                           Mahlab Specialist Arabic Spice - 45g


Ayni Chocolate discovered at BOB (Best of Britannia) when it was hosted in Preston City centre recently, this local paleo chocolatier hales from Lancashire and is very allergy friendly, gluten, diary, nut, egg, grain, sesame seed, soy and refined sugar free this is chocolate for all, available mail order.


We also paid a visit to the foodie capital of Cumbria - Cartmel, home to L'Enclume Simon Rogan's flagship restaurant, we weren't however dining there. We were in the area to visit the Holker Hall Garden Festival and decided to make an overnight of it and we weren't disappointed. We booked into Broughton House B and B situated in the stunning Cartmel Valley, which comes very highly recommended its more like stopping at a friends than staying in a B and B and the Cate made us so so welcome, the breakfast was excellent.


Eating at the Cavendish Arms - Cartmel for our evening meal and very good it was too (book just in case), this traditional pub situated in the village centre served some delicious dishes and the prices were very reasonable.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Beef and leek pan haggerty

I have been meaning to write about Pan Haggerty for a while, this northern dish is a cross between a cottage pie and a hot pot. Frugal, delicious and warming its a great recipe popular with all the family, pan haggerty comes in several varieties including a vegetarian version of just potatoes, onions and cheese.

This recipe came about as I wanted to use the last of the leeks from the garden, so I set about creating a twist on this classic Northumberland dish. Its an easy dish and showcases simple wholesome ingredients.

What you need
  • Minced beef - suitable quantity for number of people you are feeding
  • Leeks - cleaned and finely chopped
  • Beef stock - I used Essential Cuisine
  • Thyme - fresh freshly picked
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cornflour or gravy thickener
  • Brown sauce 
  • White potatoes - peeled and finely sliced
  • Cheddar cheese - grated
  • A little rapeseed oil
What you do

  • Heat a little oil in frying pan and fry off the minced beef until coloured , break up the mince in to small pieces, once well coloured then add the leeks to the pan.
  • Continue to cook with the beef and leeks until the leeks are softened, add some of the freshly picked thyme, brown sauce and beef stock to the pan and bring to a simmer.
  • Stir and simmer for 10 minutes or so then thicken the gravy to your desired consistency and allow to cool whilst you prepare your potatoes.
  • Slice the potatoes very finely and start the dish by placing a layer of potatoes in the bottom of your dish, then pour on  a layer of the mince leek mixture.
  • Then sprinkle with a little grated cheese, then another layer of potatoes, continue with mince, cheese and finish with another layer of potatoes and a sprinkling of cheese.
  • Pre heat your oven to 180c
  • Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or so until the potatoes are soft, remove the foil and bake until golden and slightly crispy on top.
  • Serve with a green vegetables

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Pink Lady Food Photography Awards 2015

We can formally announce that we have been awarded 2nd Prize in the Food Bloggers category of the Pink Lady Food Photography Awards 2015, with our image "Roasted Tomatoes" as below.

We were invited to the Champagne reception at The Mall Galleries London for the awards ceremony, at that point we didn't know that the image had won a prize, we had a great time meeting other foodies and photographers and also indulged in a little celeb spotting too. (Michel Roux, David Loftus, Jay Rayner, Harry Eastham, Valentine Warner and many more...)

London was dressed in her finest due to the General election and the celebrations for VE day, so we took the opportunity to visit most of the tourist spots such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye, etc given that it has been several years since we last visited the big smoke. 

The Food Blogger Category

The finalist images are currently all on show in the Mall Galleries on the Mall, near Admiralty Arch until Sunday 10th May, we are in the Thread needle Space.

The  all Northern winners #Yorkshire #Lancashire #Cumbria of the Food Blogger category

The image originally featured in a blog post last year for a rocket, tomato and feta salad and was taken on the fly as the tomatoes were cooling after leaving the oven, the shot is handheld and with a point and shoot camera.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Mike Bryan of The Bees Country Kitchen - Chorley Market

Our featured foodie this month is Mike Bryan, aka as the hotpot man of The Bees Country Kitchen who recently opened an outlet on Chorley market, serving up proper wholesome home-made dishes to the people of Chorley. As well as providing an outside catering service ,The Bees Country kitchen also supply a great selection of make at home kits (soups, brownies, salad dressing etc.) and can create fabulous gift hampers for your friends, relations and business contacts.

The emphasis is is on fresh local and seasonal produce being used to create tasty affordable food with a healthy twist, so pop along and enjoy one of their dishes. More details can be found on facebook and twitter .

  • What is your favourite cookery or food book or publication ?
My bashed up old copy of ‘Practical Cookery’ which I used as a student at Scarborough technical College in the early 80's. A great source of proper ‘from scratch’ recipes.

  • What sentence sums up Lancashire Food to you ?
Hearty, healthy, wholesome and the best produce on our doorstep.

  • If you weren't doing what you do now, what would you like to be ?
A jazz DJ in a dingy basement dive in New Orleans. Music is my other great passion and you can hear my ’Soul Moves’ show on Chorley FM every Thursday night from 10 pm to midnight. We’re hoping that we’ll expand the business into outside events like music festivals next year.

  • Which piece of kit could you not do without ?
My set of Sabatier knives with riveted rose wood handles which I've used since 1982!

  • Who would join you at your ultimate dinner party and why?
Nigella – the ultimate domestic goodness other than my wife of course

Levi Roots – a fellow foodie/muso

Craig Bancroft (Northcote MD) – for his amazing wine knowledge

Phil Maile (Chairman – Ludlow Food and Drink Festival) – in charge of our favourite foodie event and an all round nice chap

Karen Brady – for some top business tips

  • What advice would you give to your younger self?
Make sure you pass your maths o level!

  • Describe your style in three words
Informal, homespun, classic

  • What was your latest foodie gadget purchase ?
A wooden lemon squeezer for our home-made lemonade

  • What is your greatest achievement to date ?
After 33 years in hospitality, finally opening my own venture

  • What is the worst mistake you have made ?
Not doing my masters in hospitality straight after my first degree

  • Tell us a secret about yourself ? may be something we wouldn't expect !
I had a two year DJ residency at Sankeys nightclub in Manchester

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Peanut butter, oaty raisin cookies

Who doesn't love a cookie ?

These cookies are based on a recipe in River Cottage "Light and Easy", with a few tweaks as I didn't have all the required ingredients as recommended. The resultant cookies are soft and tender and not overtly nutty or sweet, great for an afternoon treat and easily whipped up in a flash.

Ideal for snacking on whilst having a brew and a quick browse of a magazine, low in sugar and gluten free, whats not to like.

What you need

  • 200g smooth peanut butter
  • 50g Honey
  • 1 egg - free range please
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 70g raisins
  • 100g porridge oats 

Makes approx 12 cookies

What you do

  • Pre heat the oven to 170c, prepare your tray either line with baking parchment or use a silicone sheet if you have one
  • Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until you have a firm stiff chunk dough
  • Roll dessert spoon sized balls with slightly moist hands, place on baking tray and press down to make a cookie shaped round
  • Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until golden , cool initially on the tray and then gingerly transfer to a wire rack to cool fully
  • Store in an airtight tin

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