Go Nuts for Orange & Almond Syrup Cake

Nuts have been used in cooking for thousands of years in most parts of the world. Vegetarians and vegans have long recognised their nutritional benefits in our diets since they provide protein, minerals and valuable fats. Nuts stabilise blood sugar levels which can be sustained over a long period of time and therefore give you more energy. Perhaps the tastiest and most valuable nut used in cooking is the almond. Not only is it a high source of protein, it is also rich in calcium, magnesium and zinc. The humble almond which was originally grown in Central and South West Asia, is now grown in North America, the Middle East and most of Europe.


Orange & Almond Syrup Cake

200g unsalted butter

grated zest of 1 orange

165g soft light brown sugar

3 eggs

80g fine semolina

125g ground almonds

225g self-raising flour

200ml plain, set yoghurt

juice of half an orange

For the Syrup:

200g granulated sugar

juice of 2 oranges

Pre-heat oven to 190C, 375F, gas 5. Grease and line a 24cm-round cake tin – loose-bottom tins are better for this. Using a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it becomes pale in colour, then add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of sieved flour. Now stir in the semolina, almonds, yoghurt, juice and flour and combine the ingredients well. Pour into the prepared tin, spread evenly and make a small hollow in the centre to encourage a flat top to the cake. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until browned and firm to the touch. Allow to stand for ten minutes before turning out of the tin and leaving to cool on a cooling rack. Now make the syrup by combining sugar and juice in a small saucepan, heating slowly until the sugar has melted then allowing to boil until it has become slightly reduced. Leave to cool off before pouring over the top of the cake – this should be done slowly so the cake can absorb the syrup.


Cheese Please

Food is always an important element of any holiday for me and this post was inspired by my last visit to France when my husband and I cycled to Paris with a couple of our good friends. I particularly like the regional dishes of the French Alps, which is why our skiing trip during the Christmas holidays was so perfect.

We stayed with some friends in St. Jean D’Aulps and they introduced us to their favourite eateries, one of which was a small village called Londarais. The specialty of Londarais is a wonderfully sharp goat’s cheese used to make Salad Chèvre Chaud, my friend Jane’s favourite lunch.

Back home in Brighton, I discovered some really good cheese in Infinity Foods, made just half an hour away in Horsted Keynes at the Sussex High Weald Dairy. This is a small gem in the heart of the countryside where the Hardy family has been making cheese for 25 years! Most of their cheese is made from sheep’s milk which has a higher protein content than dairy and is more easily digested. Obviously this is good news for those suffering from a milk allergy but another reason it is preferable to cow’s milk is because it contains 100 percent more calcium and 33 percent more vitamins, amino acids and minerals. So why not consider locally produced cheese when a recipe specifies a European cheese next time?

Sheep’s Cheese Salad

Serves 4

4 Organic Slipcote cheeses cheeses, each sliced into 2 rounds

8 slices of a large French baguette

1/4 pint of good olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 lettuce torn into pieces, use a strong tasting lettuce

1 fennel bulb, tough stalk removed and finely sliced

4 spring onions

small bunch of flat leaf parsley, shredded

20 walnuts halved

4 stalks of cherry tomatoes, each vine holding at least five tomatoes

For the Dressing:

3 tbs of olive oil

juice of half lemon and salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6 and turn on the grill. Place the tomato vines in the oven until evenly browned, this will take about ten minutes if your oven is already hot. Crush the garlic and mix with the oil, then pour on to a plate and dip in the bread so it is oiled on both sides. Lay the slices on the grill pan and toast on one side. Meanwhile, put the oil, lemon juice and seasoning into a large bowl, mix together and add all the salad ingredients. Toss until everything is evenly coated. Turn the toasts over, place one round of cheese on each and spread to reach the edges of the crust. Replace under the grill until golden and bubbling. Make a pile of the salad on the plate, place two toasts on top and finish with the stalk of roasted tomatoes.



Easter Feasting

What I love most about Easter is the fact that I can gather all my family for an indulgent meal without going through the frenzy one experiences at Christmas. Easter, with its promise of better weather, manages to inspire a sense of celebration sprinkled with spring flowers. The giving and receiving of chocolate eggs lends a simplicity to the day leaving everyone relaxed and appreciative of each others company. This is surely worth celebrating, even for the most sceptical non-believers.

Lamb is traditionally served at Easter because of its symbolic relation to the Easter story, but also coincides with the natural breeding cycle of sheep producing spring lamb during the Easter period. We are more fortunate than many parts of Britain, except of course Wales, to have such excellent lamb reared here in Sussex! South Downs lamb has a sweet, succulent flavour, very similar to that of Welsh lamb. Here is a recipe from one of my traditional Easter menu’s that is not only a joy to make but also a luxury to eat.

Rosemary & Dijon Rack of Lamb with Aubergine Relish

Serves 4

2 medium-size best ends of lamb, eight chops per piece and Frenched (ie. the rib ends cleaned and trimmed)

1 large stalk of rosemary

2 tsp Dijon mustard

light olive oil for searing the lamb.

For the Relish:

2 large aubergines, diced large and salted

4 medium red onions

4 red peppers, diced small

2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 tbsp light olive oil

250ml red wine vinegar

400g granulated sugar

1 tbsp smoked paprika

salt & pepper

2 tbsp finely chopped mint

To prepare the lamb, rub a tsp of mustard into the fat side of each best end and coat the whole area evenly. Press the chopped rosemary into the mustard and place the meat in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.

Now to make the relish: Peel and chop the onions into large dice. Fry the onion with the ginger and garlic  in 2 tbsp of olive oil until the onion turns transparent. Add the diced pepper and cook for two minutes. Now add the vinegar, sugar and paprika and cook until the mixture becomes caramelised. Put the aubergine pieces in a clean tea towel and squeeze out all the juices, using a firm grip. Fry them in the remaining oil until evenly browned all over. Mix the aubergine in with the onion mixture, season and stir well. Leave to cool. When cool, stir in the chopped mint.

Preheat the oven to 220C, 425F. Place the lamb in a roasting tin and roast for 10-20 minutes, depending on hoe you like your lamb. Remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest fr five minutes. Put a spoonful of the aubergine relish on each plate and cut each rack of lamb in half, sit each piece on top of the relish and serve with homemade mint jelly.

Enjoy and Happy Easter!


Think Green

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we thought it would be fitting to share one of our favourite recipes for the occasion!

Beef and Guinness pie:
750g chuck steak – walnut size chunks
1 large onion, sliced
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1/2 pt beef stock (homemade if possible)
1 bottle of Guinness
pinch of dried sage
1 bayleaf
piece of mace
1 Tbls of 00 flour
Pastry: 250g of 00 plain flour
110g cold butter – cubed
110g cold lard – cubed
4 Tbls of icy cold water
Brown the beef, this means actually browning it, not just searing it because you need to create a good dark colour to your stew.  So make sure your pan is hot and do small batches so as not to lower the pan heat.  Remove – to a casserole dish.
Sear the onions and carrot, add to the casserole dish.
Deglaze your pan by adding a spoonful of stock and scraping the base of pan until it is ‘clean’.  The liquid will have mostly evaporated, add the flour and stir into the juices in the pan, brown and then slowly add the remaining stock, followed by half of the beer.  Pour this over the meat and add more beer to just cover the beef and vegetables.
Season well – I mean really well and taste it.  Add the herbs and mace.  Stir well and cook in the covered casserole dish in a moderate oven for 11/2 hours or until the meat is tender and falls off a fork when prodded.
Make the pastry:
Put cubed fats and flour and pulse in a food processor until it has turned to crumbs.  Add the water and pulse until it forms lumps.  Turn onto a floured table and lightly knead into a ball, cover and rest for 20 mins.
Roll the pastry into the shape of your pie dish.
Fill the pie dish with the meat filling, cover with your pastry lid and crimp the edges.  Use your left over pieces of pastry to cut out a pastry shamrock to decorate the pie.  Egg wash the pastry and bake in the oven180º- 190º for 30 mins or until the pastry is golden brown.  Use a temperature probe to test the heat at the centre of the pie, it should be 75º or over.
Serve with a pint of ice cold Guinness and some creamy mash.

Orange and Almond Tart Recipe

This tart always gets a great reaction from everyone who I’ve made it for, it’s basically a rich frangipan but the oranges give it a bit of sharpness and balances the sweetness of the almonds and sugar. I use a short pastry to make the base because pate sucrée is a bit too sweet, so make a 500g quantity of basic shortcrust pastry and line a 8-10inch fluted flan tin. Prick the base and leave to rest in the fridge whilst you make the orange frangipane.

You need a couple of tablespoons of orange curd, it’s quite acceptable to buy this, Waitress sell a very good one. If you prefer to make your own, take the zest and juice of 2 large oranges and put into a bowl with 400g sugar, 140g soft butter cubed, 4 eggs + 3 yolks. Set over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted, keep stirring until the mixture will coat the back of a spoon.

Spread the curd onto the base of the pastry case.

To make the frangipan, put 100g of butter, 10g plain flour, 100g ground almonds, 1 teaspoon of orange, 100g caster sugar, zest of 1 large orange, 2 eggs. Whizz everything together in a food processor and spread over the curd evenly. Bake in a preheated oven 180C until lightly brown, at this stage scatter over a few flaked almonds and return to the oven. Bake until golden brown, about 25mins. Cool and serve with some creme fraiche or homemade vanilla icecream.