Thursday, October 29, 2009


One of life's most awkward moments: Your mouth is full, you are really trying to enjoy what's in there, but with every forced bite, the expression on your face is telling too much; there is no more time for petty white lies:

Here tells the story of my latest experiment.
My first attempt at a Lancashire hotpot didn't go quite the way I wanted it to.
To say the least...

Well, let's just say I feel sorry for the friend I fed it to! The problem certainly had nothing to do with the recipe. In fact, I was very lucky to get my hands on such an authentic one. It was more to do with the way it was cooked! As a proud cook always says, 'It wasn't me, it was the ingredients...'

The true cause of the disaster was, in fact, time. Another excuse but undeniably true. A hotpot should be slaved over, loving waited for, and welcomingly eaten.

An impatient chef is no friend to this dear dish.

I wouldn't dare go into details but I would like to apologise to Mrs. Bamford, for putting her recipe to shame. I will try again...and again...and again, until the meat falls apart at the smallest chew, the vegetables are juicy and the sauce is thick and scrumptious.

By putting this recipe up here, I ask those who will cook it to do it the justice it deserves.


Serves 6:
400g beef or lamb, stewing meat.
3 carrots,
3 large potatoes,
2 brown onions,
beef stock (1 or 2 cubes or 50ml fresh stock)
Shortcrust pastry.

Slowly cook the stewing meat at 160 degrees C for 2 hrs with stock and 3 tablespoons of water.
Roughly chop carrot, onion and potatoes and when the meat is done, repeatedly layer the vegetables and meat, finishing with the potatoes in deep, heavy based dish. Add more water if you think it is needed and season well. Cook for 1 hr at a medium heat with the lid on.
After an hour, check the moisture, and add a little more stock if needed. Another hour with the lid on.
Add the pastry and cook for a further 15 minutes. And Voila! You should have in front of you what should be deliciously warming Lancashire hotpot - unless your face has already given the game away...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


AT LAST. Internet, after many an hour talking to the-people-who-know-best, is connected! This is a pathetic excuse for my inactivity over the last few weeks (although it does help), but just because I haven't blogged it doesn't mean I haven't cooked it.

Getting back into the swing of moving into a new house, spending life in the library again and realising there is no food in the fridge is slowly but surely getting back to some state of normality. Summer has flown, gardens are nowhere in sight and the nearest I've been to cultivation is by way of a 'grow your own basil from an egg' plant on my windowsill...four shoots so far. Every little helps.

This season I will be bringing you flavours of the North, experimenting with hot-pots and parkins; I will be preparing for the winter with warming and sustainable foods to defrost blue noses and keep the stomach rumbling at bay; and finding ways to make food last longer...

Before any of this happens though, I would like to bring on the term with the perfect housewarming gift: my favourite cupcake, the RED VELVET, courtesy of The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. My home baking has never tasted so good!

RED VELVET cupcakes

Makes 12
60 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
1 egg
10 g cocoa powder
20 ml red food colouring (preferably Dr. Oetker Red Food Colouring)
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 ml buttermilk
150 g plain flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
11⁄2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 quantity Cream Cheese Frosting*
(300g icing sugar, sifted; 50g unsalted butter, soft; 125g cream cheese, cold. MIX)
a 12-hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.

Put the butter and the sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed. Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour, and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Scrape down the side of the bowl again. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even mixture. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Beat until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a couple more minutes.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the Cream Cheese Frosting on top.

This recipe comes from the brilliant book, The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf.

Or check out their website at to order cakes for delivery if making them yourself seems just too much...