Archive for December, 2012


I think the one and only time of year double cream seems to take up room in my fridge is Christmas.  I always worry I am going to run out and tend to overbuy.  Usually by Boxing day I realise that I have too much left and start to feel guilty that unless I use it I will have to throw it out.  It has been known for double cream to be poured over the breakfast cereal as a way of using it up but I have been brain washed that too much double cream is bad for you.   Then I realised that I could turn it into butter and freeze it.  End of guilt.

Many moons ago, I shared a house with a know it all cousin who was never fazed by anything or anyone.  He always had buttered toast for breakfast.  One morning he came down for breakfast to discover the butter dish was bare and that was the day I smugly sat and wondered what he would do?  Unfazed he disappeared into the kitchen only to re-appear at the door with a glass jar and the top of the milk (milk used to come delivered to the door with a thick amount of cream at the top);  this he proceeded to shake.  I scoffed and ate my not so nice dry toast.  Half an hour later he was spreading his toast with the newly made butter, admittedly there was a tiny amount, but butter it was.  The word choke and toast did come to mind.

Home made Butter


Double Cream

Salt or herbs (optional)


Whisk or Kenwood mixer using the K beater, food processor or glass jar and a strong wrist.  Wooden spoon or Hands (Wooden Pats).

Cream turning into butter with the buttermilk at the bottom

Pour any amount of double cream into a clean bowl – there are no specific quantities – the more double cream you have the more butter you will end up with.

Whisk, keep on whisking until it starts to become thick and forming soft peaks.  At this stage slow the whisk to a minimum or you will be wiping the walls clean of buttermilk and specks of butter for many hours. Whisk on very low for a minute and stop.  The cream will have separated, producing a large lump of butter and a pool of buttermilk.

Sieve the buttermilk into a bowl and save, this can be used for scones etc. The butter clump now needs to be rinsed in cold water – the colder the better.  Rinse the butter until the water becomes clear – this can be up to seven times or even more.  The reason is to get rid of as much of the remaining buttermilk, as this is what will make the butter turn rancid too quickly.

Once the butter has been rinsed it will need to be beaten.  This can be a very relaxing and stress relieving stage.  Use the back of a wooden spoon or invest in some hands and slap the butter about, this encourages the last drops of buttermilk to drain out.

Separated buttermilk and butter

Finally, either add salt or herbs to taste, and with the hands form into pats, logs or bricks and wrap in greaseproof paper.  The butter will last about a week in the fridge and three months in the freezer.

I bought three pots of 600 ml of double cream out of which I made 940g of butter.  Buying double cream to make butter is quite a luxury so I tend to look out for when it’s massively reduced at the supermarket.  I also find whisking up any left over double cream to make butter is a good way of not wasting food.

I bought my butter Hands from http://www.ascott-dairy.co.uk or you could try ebay.


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Tiramisu – I think everyone has heard of Tiramisu, it can be found in nearly every supermarket and corner shop in small plastic containers.

I don’t know if it has been done to death but I have to admit that I really love the homemade version.   It’s light to eat, with a boozy creamy texture and easy to make.

Tiramisu means ‘pick me up’ in Italian.  What is surprising is that is not an old recipe.   It was first made and eaten in a restaurant called ‘Le Beccherie’ in a town called Treviso in Italy.  I wonder back in the 1970’s did they ever imagine how popular that dessert would become?

I don’t know what the original Tiramisu recipe was but I hope that this one doesn’t disgrace itself.  There are no real short cuts; neither do I feel I would want to substitute any of the ingredients for cheaper ones. I have put down the make of sponge fingers as Savoiardi because I have made the recipes with supermarket brands and the results are not as good. There are so many versions of this recipe but, this is the one I really like.

This is definitely a pudding worth making yourself.

Tiramisu – Pick me up


20 Savoiardi biscuits (these are worth looking out for)

180 ml/6 fl oz strong black espresso coffee

5 tbs Marsala

250 g/9 oz Mascarpone

2 eggs separated

2 tbs castor sugar

4 drops vanilla extract

cocoa powder to decorate


Make the coffee – I use a Bialetti Brikka stove top two cup coffee maker, I fill the filter with illy coffee to the top not pushing it down and fill the base up to the top with water. This is my version on how strong I like my coffee you can adjust this part of the recipe if you like. When its ready I pour the coffee into a dish and add the Marsala and stir. Leave it to cool a little.

Separate the eggs into two bowls. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla until pale and then add the Mascarpone and mix gently – don’t over beat but make sure it is mixed in well. In the other bowl beat the egg whites until stiff and sitting up in peaks now fold them into the Mascarpone bowl.

One packet of Savoiardi biscuits usually comes in two sections – this recipe will use one section of biscuits leaving the other section for another day. Take each biscuit and dip it into the coffee and Marsala and place in a shallow dish (I have found a dish which is just wide enough for a row of biscuits and one biscuit on its side) don’t leave too long in the dip as the biscuit sucks up the liquid and will break. After I have dipped all the biscuits and covered the bottom of my dish with them I pour over any left over liquid.

Pour the Mascarpone mixture over the biscuits and level with a knife – put in the fridge and leave. If I am making this for the following day I cover with cling film.

Before serving dust with cocoa powder.

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Victoria sponge cake is a bit old-fashioned and not everyone wants to make them any more. The taste of a homemade sponge cake is totally different from anything else bought in a shop and it is not that difficult to make. It’s just like a giant cup cake. I hate that word ‘cup’ cake.

I can remember one Christmas our cooker blew up taking my mother’s eyelashes, eyebrows and a good chunk of her hair. Her only crime was to open the oven door. The gas board got the blame and I can remember coming home from school to find two ladies from the gas board in our kitchen making Victoria sponges. Apparently this was the tried and tested scientific method to see how the gas was performing in the cooker.

As a child I would know that a particularly good slice of Victoria sponge cake could be had at Mr and Mrs Thomas’s house, they lived in a house across from ours. Every afternoon on the dot of four Mrs Thomas a tall American lady who sported a short bob and always wore a tweed suit, would load up the wooden tea trolley and wheel it through to the sitting room where Mr Thomas would appear from his workshop in the garden to join her in their ritual cup of tea and solitary slice of cake. Mrs Thomas didn’t have children of her own and had a reputation of speaking her mind, which didn’t endear her to her fellow neighbours. She also did not take kindly to children save for a few exceptions. Guess what? I was one of the few exceptions, and would often sit quietly in one of their oversized armchairs whilst stuffing myself with tea and cake listening to the grown up chat with one eye on the chance of a second slice (it never came, but there was always hope). Once or twice I did take Mark who lived further up round to the French windows and we would stand and wait for the beckoning finger, sometimes we were beckoned and other times we were ignored. Tea and cake was never a certainty at the Thomas’s but yearning for something always makes it taste all the better.

Chocolate Victoria Sponge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Filling


6 oz/175g unsalted butter

6 oz/175g caster sugar

3 eggs large beaten

5 oz/150g self raising flour

1 oz/25g cocoa powder

1 tbs warm water (optional)


2 tbsp cocoa powder

4 oz/100g softened butter

4oz/100g icing sugar

Icing sugar to dust or split the buttercream and put half between sponges and the other half on top.

Turn oven to Gas mark 4/180C/350F.

Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until it is light in colour then mix in the eggs a little at a time – putting too much in will make the mixture curdle. If this happens add a tablespoon of the weighed out flour and keep mixing until it blends to a smooth consistency.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl with the butter and sugar and fold it in. If the mixture is slightly heavy add the water. I mostly add the water but this time the eggs might have been a little larger so I didn’t add it.

Now divide the mixture between two 8-inch sandwich tins. Level with a knife and put both tins in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes. In my gas oven I leave them for just over 25 minutes. All cookers cook differently so you need to check. I know when they are ready because when I gently push the top with my finger the sponge bounces back. Another sign is the sponge is slightly coming away from the sides of the tin.

Cool on a wire rack – don’t put the sponge top side down as it with appear with criss cross marks.

To make the buttercream soften the butter and then add the sifted icing sugar and cocoa and beat until smooth. If you find the buttercream heavy add a tablespoon of milk and beat this in.

Sandwich together the two halves and either sift icing sugar over the top or split the buttercream adding half in between the sponges and half on top, if you want to go further you could then add chocolate buttons.

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The weather has been dry but rather cold and I agreed to go with Charlotte for a brisk walk along the promenade for a bit of light exercise.  It seemed a good idea at the time.  What I didn’t bargain for was the bitter wind which constantly kept whipping my hair into my face and making it cling there, no sooner had I wrestled a strand back than another escaped lashing itself across my face.  We decided to turn around and walk the other way and into the path of the local fisherman, who every Thursday and Saturday sets up his van on a wide bit of pavement by the sea wall and sells his catch.  I am sorry to say I am not a regular customer because I have a husband who likes fish but not the bones.  He has a fear of getting one stuck in his throat.  Which is a shame as I love fish.

Luckily, he was busy serving another customer so I got to cast my eye over his offerings (no pun intended).  The fish looked fabulous and I made a impulse decision that today was the day I was going to buy.  When it was my turn to be served, having decided to go adventurous, the moment he asked me what I wanted, all I could hear myself say was ‘have you got any whole cod?’  It was too late I had said it, at least I knew Tom would eat it.  Over the years I have devised recipes that takes away the chances of him finding a bone.  Yet, if there is a bone to be found it always ends up on his plate.

This recipe is based on the Portuguese recipe Bolinho de Bacalhua which uses salt cod instead of fresh.

The flavour might not be as strong but these little fish croquettes have a lovely crispy outside and a soft light fluffy inside.

Bolinho de Bacalhua

1 lb /450gms cod

1lb /450 gms potatoes peeled

½ white onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

3 tbs fresh parsley chopped finely

2 eggs separated

Oil for frying

Lime for serving

Place the cod into a saucepan and fill with water just covering the fish and bring to the boil, as soon as it starts to boil switch off the heat with lid on and leave for 5 minutes.

Drain the fish and let to cool before flaking the fish, taking out any bones and removing any skin.  Set aside.

In another saucepan boil the peeled potatoes until tender and drain, leave to stand for five minutes in a colander so that any water has a chance to evaporate.  Put the boiled potatoes through a ricer or press through a wire sieve.  You could use a potato masher but the result is not as light.  When cooled add the 2 egg yolks and set aside.

In a frying pan put 1 tablespoon oil and gently fry the onion adding the garlic and fry until translucent but not browned.  Now add the fish and stir through.  Remove from the heat.  Add to this the parsley and season with salt and pepper.  Stir well, incorporating all the ingredients evenly.

In a clean bowl whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Add this a third at a time to the fish mixture.  Gently folding in making sure that it is well combined.  Add a little more egg white and fold in until all the egg white is used.

Put this mixture into the fridge and leave for 30 mins or longer.  This will allow the mixture to chill and make it much easier to handle.

Remove from the fridge and roll into small balls or make quenelles with two spoons, take a heaped spoon of mixture and with the other spoon firmly push the mixture off, repeating this a couple of times until you have a smooth quenelle.

To fry fill a pan with at least 2 inchs of sunflower oil.  The oil is ready when a tiny bit of fish mixture is dropped into the hot oil and it floats to the top.  Gently drop into the oil the quenelles.  (I found that I could cook 3 quenelles at a time).  Turn them over regularly so that they have a even colour.  Once golden brown drain and place on kitchen paper put the next batch in and while they are frying place the cooked quenelles in the oven to keep warm.  Gas mark 3.

Serve with mayonnaise and a wedge of lemon


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