Chocolate & Blackberry Roulade

This year we went to France for Christmas which was excellent but I really missed having a traditional English Christmas dinner.  Foie gras and Pain d’épices served with Crémant d’Alsace is lovely but it’s not sausages in bacon, bread sauce and as many sprouts as your stomach can handle!  So my lovely Mum agreed to cook her second Christmas meal in the space of a week for New Year’s Eve.  I originally said that I would buy a dessert – I’d had a busy week!  But after much whinging by my hubby I agreed to make something.

Trifle was suggested, crumble was considered but I thought I go for it and make a roulade – in a nod towards the French traditions we had sampled a week earlier.    The original recipe idea was for dark chocolate and raspberries – but thanks to Sainsbury’s inability to keep their shelves fully stocked on New Year’s Eve (am I asking for too much?) I had to use blackberries – and they made a really nice change to the traditional mix of chocolate and raspberries.

We enjoyed this with a glass of my favourite wine of 2011 – Skillogalee Liqueur Muscat – a warming, luscious, fruity dessert wine made in the same way as Tawny port.


For sponge

  • 50g cocoa powder – I use Green & Black’s
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 large eggs
  • 100g caster sugar

For the filling

  • 500g mascarpone
  • 250g blackberries
  • 2 tbsp blackberry jelly or jam – depending on which you can find

For the frosting

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate
  • 175g unsalted butter – softened
  • 60g icing sugar – sifted


Preheat the oven to 190°c/170°c fan.  Line a 30x40cm Swiss roll tin with parchment paper, lightly butter the paper and dust with some additional cocoa powder.

Sift together the baking powder, cocoa powder and flour.

Using an electric whisk mix together the eggs and sugar until they become pale, thick and treble in size – this will take between 6-8 minutes so stick with it.

Using a large metal spoon fold the flour mix into the eggs and sugar.  Be quick but gentle with this as you want to keep as much air in the mix as possible.

Tip the mix on to the lined tin; gently tip the tray to even out the mix.  Cook for 15 minutes until the sponge is firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and cool for 2-3 minutes.

Here comes the fun bit – scatter some caster sugar over the top of the sponge, cover with a piece of parchment paper that is longer than the sponge, flip the sponge onto the new piece of paper and carefully remove the old one.  Using the parchment paper roll up the sponge and leave to cool completely.

For the filling – lightly beat the mascarpone just to loosen it up a bit.  Swirl the blackberry jelly/jam into the mascarpone to give it a marbled effect.  Unroll the sponge and spread the mascarpone evenly onto it, leaving a 2cm edge.  Place the blackberries on top in three lines, a couple of centimetres apart.  Again roll the sponge up, if it cracks a bit don’t panic (or swear!)

For the topping – in a bain marie melt the chocolate, then leave to cool for 10 minutes.  Beat together the butter and icing sugar then mix in the chocolate.  Using a palette knife spread the mix over the roulade – if like me you are making this for Christmas use the knife to create little peaks similar to a Yule log.  Decorate the roulade with the remaining blackberries.

Serve with vanilla ice-cream, chocolate custard or extra thick double cream.


Roasted Parsnip & Bramley Apple Soup

I got the idea for this soup from a Hairy Bikers programme a few weeks ago.  I just managed to catch a few minutes where they were eating Parsnip & Bramley Apple soup with sage and onion bread – they went ‘wow’, I went ‘ooooo’ and so a recipe idea was born.  I didn’t see how they made the soup so this idea is all mine – one of those let’s give it ago and see what happens moments.  And I have to say this soup made me go ‘ooooo’ all over again!  I think that is one of the fun things about cooking – seeing or tasting something wonderful and then trying to recreate (or even improve on) it in you own kitchen.  Perhaps one day the Hairy Bikers will be playing around with one of my ideas!


Serves 6

  • 4 large parsnips – peeled and chopped into 2cm chunks
  • 1 onion – chopped
  • 1 large Bramley apple – chopped into 2cm chunks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning


Preheat the oven to 180°c.

Put the parsnips, apple and onion in a large roasting tray, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with some sea salt.  Cook for 40 minutes until soft.  Tip – every ten minutes or so give the tray a shake and turn the veg – you don’t want them to take on too much colour from the roasting.

The next part will need to be done in approx. three batches – mix a third of the vegetable mix with 500ml of the stock and blitz in a processor until smooth – repeat with the remaining veg and stock.

Put all the soup into a large pot and gently heat.

Serve with super crusty bread and lots of ground black pepper.

This soup freezes very well if you have any leftovers.

Double Chocolate, Toffee Popcorn & Macadamia Slab

Just a quick post for today.  First of all I apologise for any pounds you may gain as a result of this recipe.  It is a very simple recipe but it is oh so good!  And if you don’t like macadamia nuts feel free to adapt the recipe with anything you fancy – raisins, almonds, unsalted peanuts, chopped fudge, let you imagination run wild.

And if you can stand to give it away, this would also make a great homemade Christmas present for adults and children alike.


  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 100g toffee popcorn
  • 50g macadamia nuts – roughly chopped
Individually, in either a bain-marie or in the microwave melt the chocolate.
Line a 31 x 21cm baking tray with grease proof paper.
Spread half of the milk chocolate over the base of the tray then drizzle half of the white chocolate over the top.
Sprinkle the macadamia nuts and popcorn over the top of the chocolate.
Cover with the remaining milk and white chocolate.  You want to have a marble effect but try and cover the popcorn and nuts as much as possible.
When cool, remove from the baking tray and cut into individual pieces.  The slab will remain fresh for up to a week if kept in an airtight container (if you haven’t eaten it all by then!)

Smoked Haddock Chowder

With the leaves falling off the trees and wind whipping around your ankles autumn is definitely here and that means there is only one thing on my culinary mind – bowlfuls of hot, soul-hugging soup.  This chowder is definitely good for the soul; it is rich and creamy yet light and nutritious.  It is best enjoyed with thick chunks of crusty bread and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.


  • 1 onion – chopped
  • 4 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon – chopped
  • 2 potatoes – diced
  • 200g tin sweetcorn (or 150g frozen)
  • 350ml vegetable stock
  • 400ml whole milk
  • 150g undyed smoked haddock – chopped
  • 2 tbsp Parsley – roughly chopped
In a large pot add a drizzle of oil and slowly fry the onion until soft.  Add the bacon and cook for five minutes.
Add the potatoes and sweetcorn and cook for five minutes – don’t stir too much as you don’t want to break up the potato.
Stir in the stock and milk and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer for five minutes.
Add the haddock and 1 tbsp of the parsley.  Cook for a further five minutes, until the haddock is cooked.  Season as required with salt and pepper.
Serve hot, sprinkled with the remaining parsley and accompanied by lots of crusty bread.

By special request… My cupcakes

What is it about cupcakes that makes us smile?  Is it that they are the perfect size where they can be a treat but not too naughty; is it that they’re often pretty, sparkly and delightfully colourful; or is just that they bring back happy memories be that from childhood or our ‘grown-up’ years?

For me cupcakes bring back memories of our wedding day when I decorated each one with a Haribo jelly heart and ring; they remind me of birthday parties, tea parties and leaving do’s and of the halloween when I turned each cake into a mini spider including liquorice lace legs.

This recipe had been tried and tested many times and never fails to produce light sponge cakes and moreish buttery frosting.  Decorate as you please, after all letting your creativity run free is half the fun of making cupcakes.


  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk

You will also need 12 cupcake cases and a metal muffin/cupcake tin


Pre-heat oven to 200°c/fan 180°c

In a large bowl mix the butter and sugar together until they become pale.

In another bowl sift the flour.

Mix 1 egg and 1tbsp flour into the butter and sugar, repeat with the second egg and another tbsp flour.

Add the remaining flour and stir to combine.

Stir in the milk and vanilla extract.  Do not over stir the mix, it should be creamy and without lumps.

Fill 12 cupcake cases with the mixture (or 10 muffin cases).

Bake for 16-18 minutes until the cakes are golden on top and a fine skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean.

Leave to cool for a couple of minutes then remove the cakes (still in their cases) from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.


Chocolate frosting

  • 1 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tbsp Green and Blacks cocoa powder
  • 140g unsalted butter – very soft
  • 280g icing sugar

Mix together the cocoa and water to form a smooth paste.

Mix the butter and half of the icing sugar until smooth, add the rest of the icing sugar and the chocolate mix, stir until fully combined.

To frost – either use a piping bag with a medium star nozzle or smooth on with the back of a spoon.  Top with buttons or sugar strands.

Vanilla frosting

  • 140g unsalted butter – very soft
  • 280g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Mix together the butter and half of the icing until smooth; add the remaining icing sugar, the vanilla extract and 1tbsp milk.  Stir well to combine.  If the mixture is too thick add a second tbsp milk.

To frost – either use a piping bag with a medium star nozzle or smooth on with the back of a spoon.  Top with sugar strands.

Mum’s Birthday Cake

This week my Mum had a ‘big’ birthday; I won’t tell you which one because she’ll tell me off!  And so my week of baking began.  First of all there were the 48 cupcakes for her to take into work.  Then there was the Victoria sponge cake with fresh cream and strawberries to celebrate the actual day.  And then finally there was the monster cake for her party on Saturday night.  But you know what, Mum’s worth it.  She’s had a crappy few years but has never stopped smiling, joking and supporting her children and for this we love her.

This cake is sweet, creamy, chocolatey, gooey and quite simply delicious.  It is a marvel of chocolate – two types of sponge, chocolate buttercream and white chocolate frosting.  And the family devoured it as though they hadn’t just eaten a three course meal already.  If you want to go even further and make it really naughty serve it with a big scoop of vanilla ice-cream or a dollop of mascarpone.

Now, although I won’t share how old Mum was, I will tell you that we managed to set off the fire alarm in the restaurant with all the candles that were on top of the cake!


For the chocolate sponge

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g unsalted butter – softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder (I use Green & Black’s)
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2tbsp milk
For the vanilla sponge
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter – softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the chocolate buttercream
  • 140g unsalted butter – very soft
  • 280g icing sugar
  • 2tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2tbsp hot water
For the white chocolate frosting
  • 200g good quality white chocolate
  • 140g unsalted butter – very soft
  • 280g icing sugar
For the chocolate sponge

Heat your oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter and line two 20cm sandwich tins.

Cream the caster sugar and butter until they become pale in colour.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together.

Add one egg, stir, then add a quarter of the flour and stir again, repeat until all the eggs and flour have been used.

Add the milk and mix together until you have a smooth batter.  Or if you have a food mixer put all the ingredients into the bowl and mix until smooth.

Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth the surface with the back of a spatula, then bake for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Remove from oven and leave in the tins for a couple of minutes then turn onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool. 

For the vanilla sponge
Follow the instructions for the chocolate sponge, omitting the cocoa powder and adding the vanilla extract when you add the milk.  Use only one 20cm cake tin.
For the chocolate buttercream
In a large bowl soften the butter and add half of the icing sugar, mix together then add the remaining icing sugar.
Mix the cocoa powder and boiling water together until smooth.
Add to the icing mix, stir well until combined.  Leave in a cool place until needed.
White Chocolate Frosting
Melt the chocolate either in a microwave (as per instructions on the packet) or in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Leave to cool.
Mix the butter and half icing sugar together.  Add the rest of the icing sugar and the melted chocolate.  Stir well until combined.  Leave somewhere cool until needed.
The Cake
Place one of the chocolate sponges on a cake board.  Top with half of the chocolate buttercream.  Place the vanilla sponge on top and cover this with the remaining buttercream.  Finally place the second chocolate sponge on the top.
Using a spatula cover the cake with the white chocolate frosting.  I put a thin layer on first and then a second thicker layer to help stop crumbs mixing with the frosting.  Use a palette knife to smooth the edges of the frosting.
If you are not eating straightaway, store in a fridge or cool place until needed.
Top with loads of candles and loudly sing Happy Birthday to the birthday boy or girl.

Thank You

Just a brief note to say a big thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog and making comments.  I created this blog for my independent project module for my third year at Bath Spa University and I have just found out that I got a ‘first’ for this project which has made my day.

But this isn’t the end of the blog, so keep visiting the site as I have lots of new and exciting recipes coming up in the next few weeks, including my Mum’s monster birthday cake and a lovely spicy Moroccan roast lamb.

Thanks again for your support and a big thank you to my family who have been and will continue to be the guinea pigs for all of my recipes.

Qabili Pilau

When I told my husband that we were having an Afghani meal for tea he looked slightly bemused but bless him he is quite happy to let me experiment on him.  I generally know when he is enjoying something as he goes very quiet as he eats it and at the end says ‘again, again.’  This is his code for – great meal, add it to the blog and make sure you cook it again soon.  He’s a man of few words.

The dish is simple to make and looks fantastic with the raisins and carrots mixed through it like glistening jewels .  I was also pleased that I managed to cook basmati rice and not turn it into rice pudding – I have a pathological need to stir things for which I really need to seek treatment or forever eat clumped rice. If you are not a fan of lamb you can replace this with chicken thighs/legs or beef.

Qabili Pilau (Lamb and rice with carrots and raisins)


  • 300g long grain rice, preferably basmati
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 750g stewing lamb on the bone
  • 750ml water
  • 1 onion – diced
  • 2 large carrots – cut into batons
  • 100g black seedless raisins or golden sultanas
  • 2tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom

Preheat your oven to 170°c/fan 150°c

Add 2tbsp of the oil to a pan and brown the onion. Add the lamb and cook until sealed on all sides.

Add 750ml water, 1tsp of the salt and the cinnamon, ground cumin and ground cardamom.  Cover and simmer for about an hour, or until the meat falls off the bone.

Separate the meat from the liquid and put both to one side.

Sauté the carrots and sugar in 2tbsp of oil, until they are lightly browned. Remove from the oil, then add the raisins (or golden sultanas) and cook until they swell up (a couple of minutes).

In a pot bring the meat juice to the boil and add the rice, the remaining salt and if needed, enough boiling water to come 2 inches over the rice. Cook for 10-15mins until the water is barely absorbed and the rice is tender – do not stir the rice.

With a fork mix the meat, carrots, raisins and rice together, add a splash of water. Place in a large oven-proof casserole, cover and bake for about 30mins.

Tori Nabe

I have always enjoyed Japanese food, whether eating sushi in a restaurant or making my own restorative ramen dishes.  But I have always thought of the food as an Anglicised version of the original so I decided to find a traditional recipe.  The recipes I found for Nabe seemed to be quite flexible, adding different meats, vegetables and bases for the broth.  The recipe I settled on turned out to be quite bland, the kombu broth did not add enough flavour for my liking.  I tried it with some sliced chilli, as I would put in my own ramen dishes, but found that this overpowered the subtlety of the kombu.  After trying a variety of versions I settled on the one below.  The ginger adds some warmth and depth to the dish and complements the kombu rather than covering it up.  This is a great meal to serve for friends as there is very little preparation and served at the table it makes an interesting talking point.


Serves 4

  • 1 piece of dried kombu, or 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1cm cube ginger, grated
  • 6 boneless chicken thighs – cut into cubes
  • 1 block of firm tofu cut into 1cm cubes
  • 4 Savoy cabbage leaves, thinly sliced
  • Carrot – very finely sliced
  • a handful of spinach
  • 1 pack of mixed mushrooms, including shitake and enoki
  • 1 leek – thinly sliced
  • 1 pack of fresh udon noodles


Soy sauce

lemon or lime juice


Put the kombu in a pot and add 1 litre of water, leave to soak for 30 mins. Put on the hob and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes, remove and finely slice, put to one side.  (Or if using stock bring to the boil.)  Add the ginger to the stock and continue to simmer.

Prepare all your ingredients. Add the chicken to the stock and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tofu and vegetables (leeks, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, kombu) and noodles.  Skim off any scum that rises to the surface to keep the broth clear. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the noodles are soft.

Traditionally the nabe is served in the pot and the table and your guests help themselves, eating the meat, vegetables and noodles, then finishing off with the broth.  If you have a tabletop cooker you can provide extra vegetables and meat at the table and add these throughout, like a Japanese fondue!  Soy sauce and lemon or lime juice should be provided so your guests can season the nabe to their own taste.

Baked Mince & Leeks (Tave Me Presh)

When I first found this recipe I didn’t have high expectations.  It only had a few ingredients and there wasn’t much to the method.  But I was wrong – this is an effortless yet delicious meal.  The fat from the lamb mingled with the vegetables creating the most amazing, buttery leeks I have ever had.  I would have been quite happy eating a plate of just the leeks with some toast.  I served the dish with some buttered mashed potatoes, a glass of red and then melted away in enjoyment of this simple yet scrumptious meal.

Baked Mince & Leeks (Tave Me Presh)

Serves 4


  • 75ml olive oil
  • 4 leeks, cut into 2.5cm slices
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 450g lamb mince
  • 2tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 red peppers, de-seeded and chopped (or two carrots, peeled and chopped diagonally)
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Vegetable stock


Pre-heat the oven on to 190°c.

Heat half the oil in a large pan and fry the leeks on a low heat until soft.

Transfer the leeks to a baking dish.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan and fry the onions and mince until the mince is brown.

Add the tomato puree, red peppers (or carrots), seasoning and enough stock to cover and bring to the boil.

Pour the mixture over the leeks, cover and bake for 1 hour.

Serve hot with buttery mashed potato or tagliatelle.