Category Archives: Recipes

Peyton & Byrne “British Brownies”

From Peyton & Byrne: British Baking by Oliver Peyton (Square Peg, 2011)

Although most of my jubilee weekend was given over to the Stoke Newington Literary Festival (as mentioned in my previous post), I couldn’t resist fitting in a bit of bank holiday baking. I took the easy/occasion appropriate route and opted for some British Brownies. The rationale for including these in the British Baking book is laughably weak – “brownies have long been a favourite in Britain” – but they hit the spot on a grey day off. How could they not – they contain three, yes three, bars of dark chocolate…


300g dark chocolate, chopped

100g unsalted butter

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 eggs

50g light brown sugar

150g caster sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

100g plain flour

100g chopped walnuts (I didn’t have any so substituted with macadamias, but they were somewhat overpowered by the chocolate)








Preheat oven to 180 oC. Butter 20cm square baking tin, line with baking paper.

Place chocolate and butter in heatproof bowl, add salt and melt over pan of barely simmering water.

In another bowl, break up eggs, add sugars and vanilla until incorporated.

Whisk egg mixture into melted chocolate, then gently fold in flour and walnuts until just mixed.

Pour into baking tin.

Bake for 25 mins or until set. Leave to cool completely in tin before cutting into squares (I totally ate one before it had completely cooled).








Verdict: Quick, easy, delicious and kept well. Will bake again.

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Dorie Greenspan “Chocolate and Orange Marbled Loaf Cake”

From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)









250g plain flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

170g unsalted butter

225g caster sugar

4 large eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

120ml whole milk

113g dark chocolate, melted and cooled

Grated zest of 1 orange

1/4 tsp orange extract

Preheat oven to 165 oC. Butter a loaf tin and dust with flour.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Beat the butter with a stand mixer/electric hand mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and beat for another 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low and alternately add flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2, mixing only until each addition is incorporated.

Divide the batter in half and stir the melted chocolate into one half and the grated orange zest and orange extract into the other.

Spoon the batter into the tin in long alternating rows, in several alternating layers. Use a table knife and zigzag through the batter in 6-8 zigs and zags.

Bake for 1hour 20 – 1hour 30, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 15 minutes before turning out. Cool to room temperature on the rack.








Verdict: After my over-swirled Peyton & Bryne loaf cake, I needed to try again! The Greenspan marbling technique is definitely a marked improvement and gave a much more defined contrast between the two batters, although it’s still a bit more patchwork than swirled.

Next time I’ll be using the Peyton & Byrne recipe and the Greenspan marbling technique, as the former had the edge in the recipe stakes, with the yoghurt giving a deliciously moist loaf.

Side-by-side comparison of the marbling:

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Peyton and Byrne “Chocolate Marble Cake with White Chocolate Icing”

From Peyton & Byrne: British Baking by Oliver Peyton (Square Peg, 2011)

Recipe available here








As I am beginning to realise, the cake recipes from this book tend to take longer than anticipated to make. I have to admit, having started this one late on a weekend afternoon, I was tempted to omit the white chocolate icing out of sheer laziness, but that would have been a mistake as it really adds an extra dimension to an already deliciously moist bake.

Despite the warning against over-swirling, I sadly over-swirled, giving a rather subtle marble effect.








Having learnt my marbling lesson, I will definitely be attempting this one again with a few less swirls.



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River Cottage “Magic Bread Dough”

From River Cottage Veg Every Day! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, 2011)

Same basic recipe and method as this








There’s no way around it – homemaking bread takes effort. But some recipes take far more effort than others and this one is a winner, balancing energy expenditure, time and results.

The above link to Hugh’s pizza dough recipe uses the same method and ingredients, in the same quantities as the flatbreads from the book. This basic dough can be adapted to pizza bases, pitta breads, breadsticks and rolls as well. It can also be scaled up and frozen for future use, which I’ve tried and tested and it’s just as good as freshly made. Magical.

To turn the dough into flatbreads, after knocking back, divide the basic quantity of dough into 8, roll into circles a few mm thick, rest for a few minutes and then cook in a very hot pan for a few minutes on each side.

I’ve been using these for mexican inspired burrito-type meals. Below with River Cottage Veg Every Day! Refried Beans recipe, which has been one of the least successful things I’ve tried from the book.


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River Cottage “Leek and Cheese Toastie”

From River Cottage Veg Every Day! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, 2011)

Of all the cookbooks I have ever bought, which isn’t an astounding number but is steadily growing, none has found the instant acclaim in my kitchen of the latest Hugh F-W volume.

Full of simple, tasty and more often than not quick recipes that sate even the carnivore in my household.

Having made this cheese and leek number one Saturday, it is now a weekend regular and I can never go back to plain old cheese on toast ever again. Yes, it takes a bit longer and marginally more effort than directly grating some cheddar onto a bit of bread, but the result is well worth it. In fact, it’s quite astounding what a difference the addition of a bit of cream and some sweaty leeks can make to this humble dish.

See here for an almost identical version of this recipe. In this case, cheddar was used instead of blue and marginally smaller quantities of butter and cream. 

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Peyton and Byrne “Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies”

From Peyton & Byrne: British Baking by Oliver Peyton (Square Peg, 2011)









100g whole hazelnuts

140g unsalted butter, softened

90g demerara sugar

80g caster sugar

1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk

170g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g dark chocolate chips

Makes 12 large cookies

Preheat the oven to 180 oC. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and lay the whole hazelnuts on one of them. Toast them in the hot oven for about 10 mins. Turn off the oven and empty into clean tea towel and rub together to slough off skins, then roughly chop.

Meanwhile, place the butter and eggs in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add the egg and then the yolk, mixing well. Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda together and gently mix into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the dark chocolate and the chopped, toasted hazelnuts.

Lay out 2 pieces of baking parchment and place half the dough into the centre of each, shaping it into a log about 4cm thick. Roll the parchment paper up around the cookie dough and wrap this is cling film. Freeze the dough for about 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180 oC. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Unwrap one log of the dough and let it sit for about 5-7 mins to soften slightly. Use a sharp knife to slice the first log into 6 pieces, each about 2cm thick, then place these on the prepared tray about 6cm apart. Bake for 15-18 mins, until golden in colour but still soft in the centre. Repeat with second log. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.








Verdict: Hmm. A lot of effort and baking parchment origami went into these and whilst they looked rather handsome, their texture was disappointingly cake-y. I followed the measurements exactly, but it seems the bicarb made them puff up rather than spread out in this instance. Making the 2 logs meant it was easy to cook one batch and keep the second log in the freezer until needed. Will be trying out lots of other cookie recipes before I go back to these.

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Perfect “Pesto”

From Perfect: 68 Essential Recipes for Every Cook’s Repertoire by Felicity Cloake (Fig Tree, 2011)








Makes 200g

2 tbsp pine nuts

A pinch of salt

125g fresh basil leaves (pick off as much of the stalk as you can, as this discolours faster than the leaves)

15g Parmesan, grated

15g pecorino, grated

125ml extra virgin olive oil

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan on a modertae heat, stirring regularly and being careful not to let them burn, and then allow to cool completely. Lightly crush in a pestle and mortar, along with a pinch of salt.

Add the basil leaves a few at a time, and, working as quickly as possible, pund them into the mixture until you have a thickish paste.

Work in the cheesse, then gradually incorporate the oil, reserving a little for the top.

Spoon the pesto into a jar, and cover the top with oil. Refrigerate until use.


Verdict: very easy to make at home and store in the fridge until required. The book, as Cloake’s column does, explains in just the right amount of detail exactly why the ingredients and method have been chosen.

Read more of Cloake’s ‘Perfect’ recipes on the Guardian website.

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The River Cafe’s “Conchiglie al Pomodoro e Porcini Secchi”

From The River Cafe Cook Book by Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers (Ebury Press, 1995)









Serves 6

75g dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted

4 tbsp olive oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled & sliced

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 dried chilli, crumbled

juice of 1 lemon

800g tinned plum tomatoes, drained of juices

120ml double cream

120g Parmesan, freshly grated

250g conchiglie

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic gently for a few minutes with the thyme leaves, most of the parsley and the chilli. Add the porcini and cook for a few more minutes to combine the flavours. Add the porcini liquid a little at a time – it will be absorbed very quickly – and continue simmering until the porcini are tender, approximately 20 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, then the tomatoes. Cook together gently until the tomatoes have thickened and become a sauce, about 30 minutes. Add the cream and reduce very briefly by boiling. Season, then remove from the heat and stir in half the Parmesan.

Cook the conchiglie in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain thoroughly. Add to the sauce with most of the remaining Parmesan and stir well. Serve sprinkled with the remaining parsley and Parmesan and a dribble of extra virgin olive oil.

Before rushing out of the door for work this morning, I had a quick browse of The River Cafe Cook Book to find a quickish pasta dish for dinner, jotted down the shopping list and was on my way. What I had failed to clock was a) the volumes of oil, cream and Parmesan involved for a Wednesday night supper and b) the cooking time.

Whilst certainly indulgent, it filled the hole created by a day out and about in London. The cooking time wasn’t unbearable, especially when accompanied by a cold glass of white, but wasn’t the speedy dish I had hoped for. Well worth it though – the dried porcini mushrooms were extremely tender, where with minimal cooking time I often find them chewy.

Not being able to lay my hands on any whole chilli, I substitued with a little too much dried crushed chilli (1 tsp when probably 1/2 tsp would have sufficed) and felt that perhaps the juice of half a lemon would have done the job. Being in a bit of a rush I poured the whole lot in, where a more patient cook may have added a little at a time, tasting along the way. The acidic lemon and pungent chilli ended up masking the earthy mushroom flavour somewhat, and were certainly the first hit of flavour with each fork, which was a bit of a shame.

I had my doubts about this stretching to 6 servings, with only 250g of pasta in the ingredients list. I upped this to 300g and there was a generous amount of sauce to go around still. As a main dish, rather than as a pasta course in an Italian meal, I would say this serves 4-5, with the amended amount of pasta. Feeling slightly ashamed at the amount of grated Parmesan that went in, I also omitted the final sprinkling of extra virgin olive oil.

Verdict: a hearty and tasty pasta dish – when cooked exactly by the book I’m sure it would be an excellent addition to anyone’s pasta repertoire.

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Mixed Bean Salad”

From The Guardian Weekend Magazine (30.07.11)

Click here for recipe

This colourful summer salad caught my eye and wanting to expand my salad repetoire away from the failsafe leaves/tomato/cucumber combination I was keen to try. With doubts about being able to source the yellow beans required a) easily and b) at a reasonable price, I had sort of forgotten about the recipe.

Fate jogged my memory when perusing the Farm Direct website and low and behold I had ordered the beans. Chervil is another ingredient that doesn’t usually come to hand easily, but having a boyfriend who works across the road from Borough Market has its advantages and he dutifully returned home with said chervil and an unwaxed lemon.

Sadly, this coming together of the ingredients wasn’t replicated in the finished dish. Perhaps my palate isn’t sophisticated enough, but the combination of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, tarragon, chervil and lemon zest was heady to say the least and became quite hard going.

Verdict: easy on the eye, not so much on the tastebuds. Probably a once off, but herbs/spices could be adjusted to taste.

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