Archive for July, 2012

Foodie Penpals 2: The Spicy Edition



Another month, another lovely Foodie Penpal package! This month’s package comes from the lovely Susie Nunn at

This month I was lucky enough to receive:

  1. Montezuma’s Sea Salt and Lime Chocolate – which disappeared at speed!
  2. Spicy Cajun Style Beans – I am addicted to Wasabi peas, so these were pretty much a perfect choice; slightly spicy and packed full of flavour. These have been forming my morning snacks so far this week 🙂
  3. Dried mango – wonderful stuff! Sweet, chewy and good for you 🙂
  4. Smoked Birds Eye Chillis – the package says these things pack at 8/10 on the heat scale, and they really weren’t kidding! I put half a chilli into an aubergine dish over the weekend both my OH and I (whimps that we are) were finding it really quite hot, but the smokey flavours from the chilli worked so well with the aubergine.

So, thanks Susie! Awesome selection 🙂

If you’re interested in signing up for the Foodie Penpal UK scheme organised by the fabulous Carol Ann Grady please see: (There will also be links for the USA/Canada group there too, I believe)


Mrs Beeton rides again! Shearing Cake, a.k.a; Cacen Gneifio, or Lemon and Caraway Cake


You may have heard of Mrs Beeton. Your Grandmother or mother may have had a copy of her guide to household management. Her book is one of those wonderfully comforting bookshelf staples, popping up fairly regularly in charity shops – no doubt cleared out to make way for another TV celebrity chef offering. And so my OH came to acquire a couple of interesting reprints, one of which was The Best of Mrs Beeton’s Cakes and Baking.

Mrs Beeton was a pretty interesting old duck, in her way. Well, I say ‘old’ – she was in fact only 28 when she died. Before finding out more about her I had always imagined a rather matronly old woman, a housekeeper of many years in a stately home, used to dealing with untrained maids and clumsy cooks.  It’s quite interesting to think that she started her magnus opus Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management when she was only 20, and it was published when she was 24. It’s an extraordinary achievement! I’ll admit that a woman’s life back then was pretty different, and there was a decided emphasis on being a good housewife – for which most girls would have been train for from as soon as they could stand. And she would write from experience. But it is still a very tender age at which to produce such a comprehensive guide, especially one which was to stand the test of time. She lived in a time where it would have been quite unusual for a woman to be published, especially under her own name, but this is an area in which ‘the public’ might acknowledge that she might have a degree of authority.

If she were alive today, I wonder where she would fit into our modern society? Would she be a cross between ‘Kim & Aggie’ (household cleaning TV ‘agony aunts’, for the non-Brits) and Nigella Lawson (who probably needs no further introduction on the baking pages of WordPress). Would she have been a best selling author by the same age?

In browsing through OH’s recent purchase, I found an interesting sounding recipe: Shearing Cake.A slightly mysterious title, and one which grabbed my attention. The blurb goes thus:

“In Welsh this simple cake is known as “Cacen Gneifio” and traditionally it was prepared to serve with tea for all the farm workers who gathered to help on the days when sheep were sheared and dipped.”

Basically it can be translated as: Lemon and Caraway Seed Cake

  • Butter for greasing
  • 400g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 200g butter
  • 225g soft light brown sugar
  • grated rind of 1/2 lemon (I think this could work pretty well for orange zest)
  • 4 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  1. Line a grease a 20cm round cake tin. Set the oven to 180 degrees/ GM 4.
  2. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir int he sugar, lemon rind and spices.
  3. In a second bowl beat the eggs lightly with the milk, then stir into the dry ingredients.
  4. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for an hour (checking after 40 mins) (the original recipe says 1 and a half hour, but the cake was done at one hour when I checked it!) Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then invert on a wire rack to cool completely.

The outcome was very pleasant indeed, but rather dry for me. After the photo I did a simple lemon icing just to give it a little extra moisture. The other way to do it would be to add a lemon drizzle. But on the whole it worked very well – Mrs Beeton would be proud!

I will never need another Chocolate Brownie recipe…


… Well, except for Lissa’s mum’s recipe, which is (I believe) a matter of US national security, and therefore classified information (or at least that’s what I was told).

On Saturday we had a bit of a high-tea/pot-luck dinner type thing, and very nice it was too! The OH made some wonderful scones from Richard Bertinet’s book ‘Dough’ (if you like your bread I suggest you check it out!), I contributed the last of the Orange, Cardamom and Poppyseed biscuits from my last post, and Richard brought over some totally decadent chocolate brownies.

So credit for this recipe goes to Richard (although he attributes the recipe to his friend Ross), and he will be rewarded in continued supply of baked goods on a Thursday evening (possibly including this recipe at some point) 🙂

Richard’s Rockin’ Chocolate Brownies

“One Brownie Recipe, as it was passed to me. I used Green and Black’s Maya Gold for the Dark Chocolate, and added some cherries and white chocolate chips, you get the general idea:

100g (or about half a block) of unsalted butter
100g (or about a bar) of dark chocolate
175g white sugar (it says caster, but it’s never stopped me from using
regular granulated)
75g brown sugar (it’s specific on the type, but I’m never been)
A tablespoonful of golden syrup

2 eggs

1tsp vanilla flavouring

100g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Stuff into a saucepan: butter, chocolate, sugars and syrup and heat *gently* until it all melts into an unidentifiable goo. If you break up the chocolate before hand, it’ll be easier. Do not for the love
of god boil it.Once that’s smooth, take it off the heat and leave to cool.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together two eggs, and a teaspoonful of vanilla flavouring.

Once the chocolate goo in the saucepan is cool enough (try grabbing the side of the pan – if it’s unpleasantly hot, give it longer), stir it into the egg mix.

Next, measure out 100g of plain flour, plus half a teaspoon of baking powder, and sieve/fold it into the rest of the ingredients.

Make sure the whole mess is well mixed, pour into a tray (oh, and, if you’re planning on ever getting it out of the tray, greaseproof paper or baking parchment is your friend – put in enough that you can pull the whole thing out with the edges of the paper), and cook at 180 for about 25 minutes (I think, but be sure to check at about 15, as I’ve seen it take somewhat less time to cook a couple of times).

Erm, does that all make sense?”

Tasty tasty goodness! Sorry I don’t have a picture to share, but I think the image above covers all the key points 😉

Bare cupboard baking: Orange, Cardamom and Poppy Seed Biscuits

It would be fair to say that this week has been fairly full-on at work. It hasn’t been a case of long days, but each day has been manic. I’ve been getting home with no energy left and just wanting to go straight to bed. Yes, I know, moan moan moan! But on Thursday I had to motive myself to do something productive (and pleasant) with my evening, so a spot of baking seemed like a good option.

So what do I have in my cupboard? Ummm… not a lot…  But I had recently read a recipe for Lemon and Caraway Seed Cookies that I liked the sound of, but no Caraway seeds in the house.  But I do have an orange, and I do have poppy seeds (courtesy of my last Foodie Penpal package)… This could work…! Chuck in some cardamom and some mixed peel and we have a fully functioning biscuit recipe. Not only that, but they go really well with coffee!


In the interests of my newly re-acquired will-power I made these on an evening where my OH has his friends over, and they seemed to go down well. And those I brought into the office today have gradually disappeared over the course of the day.

300g Plain Flour

Pinch salt

275g caster sugar

115g slightly salted butter

2 tbs orange juice

1 tbs orange zest

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp poppy seeds

Crushed seeds of 5 cardamom pods

Handful mixed peel

  1. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment
  2. Sift flour into a large bowl and add salt. Rub the butter in until it reaches a breadcrumb texture. Stir in the sugar, juice, zest, poppy seeds, mixed peel and cardamom seeds.
  3. Add egg and mix until it reaches a soft dough.
  4. Roll out on a well floured surface and use a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass to cut to shape. Place on the baking trays with a reasonable amount of space between.
  5. (At this stage you can glaze them with an egg was, but I didn’t for mine. Then sprinkle with sugar)
  6. Bake at 170 c for 10 – 15 minutes.

Confessions and resolutions of a Yuppiebaker

Well, I have a confession to make. It’s not terribly shocking, but I am rather ashamed. Since Christmas I have put on a bit more weight than I am comfortable with; not a huge amount (well 10lb could be considered a huge amount by some…). And at least a little of that is to do with baking more regularly… oops… Actually, I don’t feel guilty about the baking part at all – after all, I’m enjoying it 🙂

So, before it goes any further, I’m going to do something about it. I lost a significant amount of weight a couple of years ago with Scottish Slimmers and got down to my target weight. I was very proud of this and I managed to maintain it for about a year before it started creeping on again.

My aim is to get back down to my target weight by mid-September in time for holidays and a couple of weddings. Fortunately the rubbish Summer weather has meant I haven’t felt the need to wear light/small clothes, it’s just a shame it’ll be Autumn again before I get back in shape… ho hum…

To aid my resolution I will probably take the baking back to once a week, on a Thursday evening when the OH has his friends over (so they can help remove temptation :-p) and any left-overs can go into the office as a treat for co-workers on the Friday.

I’ll keep a note of how it’s going, and will do a few of the nicer ‘healthy’ baking recipes I know 🙂

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