Sunday, 25 March 2012

CCC No 5 - Rhubarb Victoria Sponge cake

For the spring meeting of the South Lancashire clandestine cake club I decided that I wanted to make a cake that was seasonal and celebrated the emerging new life that is all around at this time of year. So I choose to use the every faithful victoria sponge but create a rhubarb compote to fill it from the early season rhubarb that is growing like topsy in the garden right now. For a great victoria sponge check out my earlier post which you can find here.

To make the rhubarb compote I finely diced one large stick of rhubarb and cooked it gently in pan with 1tbsp of soft brown sugar and a similar quantity of fruit juice or water, remove from heat as soon as the rhubarb is cooked.
To make the vanilla buttercream , mix 250g of icing sugar, 125g of softened butter and a good drizzle of vanilla paste in a mixer until softened and well blended, check that the buttercream isn't grainy.
Assemble the cake using the cooled compote and some of the buttercream as filling, top the cake with the rest of the buttercream and decorate to your taste.

Our venue for the event was the lovely Thyme Deli in Horwich, a lovely cafe deli run by the wonderful Amanda that is funkly decorated in a vintage style, which serves great local food and sells a fabulous range of foods, bakeware and kitchenalia. Pay them a visit if you are in the area you won't be disappointed.

If you are interested in joining the fun at a local clandestine cake club visit the website for more details.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Courgette & bacon risotto

I love italian food, it is the only other cuisine than English that I  would happily eat every day. Due to often experiencing gluts of courgettes my blog features quite a large numbers of curcubit recipes, this is another. Another one of my vices is creamy sauces and this  is a recipe were you get that creamy mouth feel without the addition of large volumes of double cream. I have used creme fraiche to reduce the fat level even further.


  • cubed pancetta or streaky bacon
  • courgette - cubed
  • small onion - finely chopped
  • clove of garlic- crushed or finely chopped
  • 175g risotto rice
  • chicken stock
  • white wine 
  • thyme
  • creme fraiche
  • parmesan - finely grated
  • olive oil

  • Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan
  • fry the onion, garlic and bacon for about 3 minutes
  • add your courgette to the pan and stir
  • now add the risotto rice to the pan, sprinkle with thyme
  • add some of your chicken stock and wine, simmer and keep stirring
  • keep adding stock / wine until the rice is soft but is al dente
  • add creme fraiche to taste
  • serve topped with grated parmesan

Monday, 19 March 2012

Easter Treats from Hotel Chocolat

The easter bunny has been both literally and metaphorically to our household, we have recently seen the arrival of a baby bunny thats appeared in the garden and the post man has delivered my treat from Hotel Chocolat. Wow ,I have never seen an egg like it and we have chickens !

Isn't it cute , the little smiley faces, the fried eggs and the little chocolate bunnies and chicks, but wait there is more the egg itself is wrapped like the golden egg from the golden goose and its an extra thick 40% cocoa solid chocolate egg.

Ordering from Hotel Chocolat is easy and they have a range of gifts for all, and everything is always packaged beautifully. 

The "You crack me up" extra thick egg is a fun upbeat egg which makes you smile whatever your age, your egg is delivered in a useful pretty mini hat box which contains the heavy weight extra thick egg, wrapped in gold foil, inside contains praline fried eggs, white chocolate eggy soldiers, solid chocolate bunnies, chirpy chicks which have a hint of sea salt and smiley faces which contain crunchy praline and chocolate brownie filling.

This egg would make a great gift for a young family to be shared by all or alternatively I am sure any friend would appreciate this fun easter gift. 

I have been fortunate to be provided  my egg by Hotel Chocolat for review purposes.

Chocolate courgette spelt cake

Regular readers of my blog will note that I  feature more than my fair share of courgette recipes, I like a nice courgette cake recipe, that unassuming vegetable that adds moisture to your cake recipe and cake is a great way of using up a glut when they are in season. This recipe using spelt (one of my favourite flours) and agave nectar to give a more healthy cake, the result is a nutty chocolate cake, not overly sweet.

  • 1 1/2 cups spelt flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs 
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups grate courgette
  • Preheat oven to 180c
  • Oil and line a 2lb loaf tin
  • Sift all the dry ingrients into a bowl
  • Add all the well ingredients and mix well
  • Pour your batter into your prepared tin
  • Bake for approx 45 mins until well risen and tested as cooked with a skewer
  • Cool on a wire rack
  • Cake is better after being kept a couple of days wrapped in a tin.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Food Photography

Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil on a spoon.

Inspired by Food Photographer Tim Clinch, my take on one of his classic images

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Danish Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake

This weeks post continues the odyssey of the bundt tin, after a busy couple of days I finally got round to baking. The recipe includes sour cream which helps to create a moist tender crumb, I did however get a bit worried that this cake might stick in the tin despite spraying with a vegetable oil spray but I managed to get the cake out with a sharp inversion. The resultant cake is tasty and has a lovely cinnamon swirl.


  • 3/4 cup vegetable margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs - free range
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup demerara sugar
  • Pre heat your oven to 180c
  • Oil your bundt tin
  • Mix the ground cinnamon and demerara sugar together in a separate bowl
  • Cream your margarine and granulated sugar
  • Now add all the other ingredients and mix well in your mixer
  • Now pour half of the mixture in your prepared tin
  • Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top
  • Now top off with the rest of the mixture and level.
  • Bake for approx 45-60 minutes until golden and fully baked when tested with a skewer
  • Cool in tin and then tip out until a wire rack
In celebration of all things Bundt, I'm joining in National Bundt Day Uk from Dollybakes

Monday, 5 March 2012

Spicy Torus Cake aka Spicy Bundt Cake

I have secumbed to the trend sweeping through the baking nation , I have purchased a bundt or kugelhopf tin ! According to Mr B the correct geometrical term for this shape is a torus so that is what this cake has now been christened. Given that most recipes are from the US of A and thats where I have taken my inspiration from, this recipe is in cups, now I know that some bakers detest american cups but personally I love them, you just have to commit and buy a good set to get good results.
I love spiced cakes, my favourite spice being cinnamon, this recipe features both cinnamon and cloves, the warm comforting aroma that rises from the oven when baking is delightful  and  it scents the whole kitchen.


  • 1 cup vegetable margarine
  • 2 cups of caster sugar
  • 3 eggs - free range
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk ( if you can't get it milk acidified with lemon juice)
  • Icing sugar to spinkle 
  • Preheat your oven to 180c
  • Grease / oil your tin
  • Cream your margarine and sugar until light and fluffy, use a mixer if you have one.
  • Add your eggs , don't worry about the curdled look
  • Add the flour, cinnamon, cloves, salt and bicarb, sift as you go.
  • Mix well and pour into your prepared tin.
  • Smooth top
  • Bake for 50-55 mins until tested as cooked
  • Cool in tin for 10 mins and then turn out to cool fully on wire rack.
  • Dust with icing sugar to serve.

In celebration of the bundt , I am linking this post to DollyBakes National Bundt Day UK celebration

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Parkers Arms - Newton in Bowland

For many months I have followed Stosi Madi of The Parkers Arms on twitter, a passionate advocate of local food. Today finally saw our first visit to the fine establishment nestled in the nook of the rolling moorland countryside of the stunning Forest of Bowland.  Just 10 minutes drive from Clitheroe but a world away, this is pub/restaurant with rooms and is everything a country pub should be, warm, welcoming with fabulous local food, lovingly prepared. On pulling up on the carpark what first strikes you is the silence, well lack of intrusive noise anyhow, all we could hear were sheep bleeting and birds singing.

We were warmly and genuinely welcomed by front of house AJ , the fire already lit in the grate and the bar warm and cosy. We had booked but where given a choice of tables and chose to sit in the window so we could watch the  panorama of the glorious hillside outside.

Mr B ordered from a fine selection of local ales from Bowland Brewery - "Sawley Tempted" as I was driving I choose one of their soft drinks, I note they had a fine selection of mawsons traditional drinks to refresh any passing traveller, this being on the scenic route to the Ribblehead viaduct.

Whilst we perused the menu and the daily defined specials we chatted with the lovely friendly staff, the whole menu is focused on local seasonal produce, beautifully prepared to emphasise its best points and is just the right length, enough choice but not too much that you get bamboozled or doubt on the freshness of the produce.

Our choices made and we were pleased to be joined by other diners as the establishment started to fill up for lunch. Our first hints of the delights in store was the arrival of our first appetiser - crunchy roasted potato skins with tomato relish, delicious crunchy skins sprinkled with sea salt and served with a sweet smooth tomato puree, sweetened by being roasted. Delicious.

Next a tasting plate of local ( and when I say local I mean local a mile or so up the road) Dunsop bridge trout with horseradish and homemade country bread, the trout has been treated gently and was beautifully tender , the creamed horseradish just spiky enough to cut any oiliness from the fish. Then the puffy fluffy lancashire cheese souffles arrived, soft, yeilding and cheesy ( in the best way), also featuring local eggs again from the chickens at a local farm.

Next my Black pudding, egg, crispy potatoes and homemade chutney were delivered, perfectly roasted black pudding was complimented with a dippy egg and homemade chutney, a delight for the taste buds, the crispy potatoes perfectly complimented with the herb oil drizzle. My dining partner had selected the Spiced venison loin, pickled damsons and  homemade bread, I snuck a little taster of the venison which was tender and well balanced with the pickled local damsons.

By this stage we were getting a little full, AJ told to relax our mains would be with us soon, after a suitable polite pause( so grateful) ( whilst watching the other delights emerging from the kitchen) our mains were delivered, Hot-water crust pork and rabbit pasty, roasted roots, kale and thrice cooked chunky chips for my dining partner and Sole, sea vegetables, saute potatoes and lemon butter sauce for me.

WOW , all the food was beautifully presented and the portions exactly the right size, my sole was tender , cooked on the bone just how I like it , the sauce buttery lemon but not over powering , matched well by the sea vegetables which provided a nice salty edge to the dish, the potatoes were equally delicious and well matched to the rest of the plate. The cute pasty was packed with filling, moist and juicy all encased in a golden pastry crust, the chips triple cooked were a revelation and very much lived up to the recommendation of AJ, but I am sure the alternative of creamy mash would be just a good. The little dish of roasted roots and kale was great accompaniment to the pasty which needed the robust "roast dinner" flavours to meet the challenge of standing up to the slighty gamey pasty.
By this stage we were full, Mr B even leaving a couple of the chips,  however  the dessert menu looked equally scrumptious all made on the premises including the elusive local "wet nelly" !

All in all this lunch is up there with my best dining experiences and we will definately be visiting again, the food is very reasonably priced for the quality and the fact that this is real Lancashire Food and the word local really means local , I can only recommend you visit yourself very soon  for stunning food and the stunning landscape.

I'd like to apologise for the lack of photos too, the food was so good it disappeared to quickly to get many snaps. They are open Tuesday to Sunday and have a special very seasonal very local special menu on weekdays that is sourced from within either 10 or 20 miles of the pub and they serve a traditional Sunday lunch on Sunday's. I'd also to point out that the Parkers Arms did not ask me to write a feature on my blog and that I paid for my lunch. Stosi did know I was visiting as I had booked a table, at the time of my visit lots of other diners were also enjoying the same food and ambiance.

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