The Quickie – Vegetarian Antipasti Puff Pastry Tart

Not that kind of quickie. FILTH.

If you’ve a vegetarian visiting, or even if not and you just want a tasty and bloody-well-effortless supper, then this is a super-reliable approach. If you use vegan pastry and cheese you could even make it vegan.

Wait. Is vegan pastry a thing? I have no idea.


Ready rolled puff pastry sheet

Egg, beaten


A selection of pre-packaged or jarred antipasti. Whatever you like. I tend to go for tomatoes, black olives, artichokes and whatever is on special.

Pre-heat your oven to 200c fan.

Lightly score the pastry – which you set onto a lined baking tray – all around, about 2cm or so in from the edge. Egg wash it. If you like you can lightly paint the inside area with red or green pesto, tho’ I didn’t tonight.

Then chop up the antipasti bits into appropriate sizes and chuck on the pastry, inside the scored line. Cracked black pepper over the top.

Into the oven with it for about 20-25 mins or until the pastry puffs – clue is in the name – and gets beautifully golden brown underneath as well as on top. Like me on holiday.

Eat. Like, all of it.

You’re welcome.

Diana Henry’s Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake w/- Coffee Cream

Do you know about Diana Henry? If not, get edumacated. She’s the absolute shit (‘the’ prefacing shit transforming it into a High Compliment) and her book, ‘Simple’, ought to be renamed ‘Just Cook Something, Anything, From This Book And It’ll All Be Ok’.

We’ve a fairly constant rotation of lunch guests throughout December and the impending January here at BakAv Towers. If I thought I could get away with it I’d just make the previously posted pavlova for every pudding but even the Boyfriend might get slightly boggle-eyed at yet again being presented with something involving kiwi fruit.

I am thus forced to seek alternatives and this, my friends, is an excellent one. It’s kind of brownie-ish but also totally isn’t. It can be made the day before and, as with most things dusted in icing sugar (bar me), looks pretty enough to blag its way through any post-main course lethargy.


For the cake:

160g unsalted butter, and a bit more for the tin

320g good quality dark choc, at least 70% cocoa please

145g caster sugar (I used golden, it makes literally no difference if you do or don’t)

5 large eggs, separated

40g ground almonds

Later on, just prior to serving, you’ll want:

300ml double cream

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder, dissolved in about the same of boiling water (I used hot from the tap, don’t own a kettle, hate drinking tea, etc etc)

2 tablespoons each of whiskey and icing sugar (DH recs up to 3 of icing sugar but I don’t think it needs that much)

Pre-heat your oven to 180C/gas mark 4, and butter a 20cm round tin, springform ideally unless juggling cake is a particular skill of yours and you are 100% confident in your tin-buttering skillz.

Over a little saucepan of gently simmering water, place a bowl (not touching the water) and chuck the broken up chocolate, the chopped up butter and the caster sugar in. Stir as required, until melted. Let it cool for a bit, off the heat, once done, 4-5 mins. Then stir in the egg yolks, one at a time. I used a fork for this bit.

Yum. Would already eat as-is.

Now you need to beat your egg whites (electric beaters, please) till they form what Lady Diana describes as medium peaks – stiff but with drooping peaks. She may as well be describing my post-child tits during this Winter weather, but she isn’t so let us move swiftly on. Look:

Cute little eggwhite Clanger.

Using a big metal spoon – wooden ones destroy all the lovely air you’ve managed to get into the whites – fold the ground almonds into the cooled chocolate mix, then about half the whites. It’ll look like the below:

Then gently combine the remaining whites into the mix and pour the done batter into the tin.

Into the oven for 35 mins. Do you know, writing this now, I have an AWFUL feeling I may have cooked mine for 55 mins. Fully average of me. The takeaway is that if I did, it was STILL bloody delicious so either way you can’t go wrong. Take it out of the oven and let cool completely in the tin.

The above pic is said cake immediately post-oven. It sinks and satisfyingly cracks as it cools. Also smells bloody amazing.

Right – once you’re ready to serve, whip the cream a bit till it starts to consider holding its shape, add the coffee, booze and icing sugar, whip briefly till combined. Cream is almost always infinitely better if you whip it just prior to consumption. Just like m….no. No.

Slice up the cake and dollop very generous blobs of cream on or next to it. I was half pissed by the time we ate this so no good pics to share other than the icing sugar’d glory as demonstrated below.

Eat. Enjoy. Also, leftovers. Also, I’m having cream with booze and coffee in it always from now on.

Nigella’s Pavlova

It pains me to call pavlova ‘pavlova’. Any decent human knows it as ‘pav’.

I had 6 adults and three 4yr olds to feed at lunch today. Obviously the children got shop-bought, over-priced organic icy-poles for pudding. For the adults – some sterling pav.

My mate PP (hi P!) swears by Nigella’s ‘How To Eat’ pav recipe. I’ve tried it three times now. I can subsequently report it’s very reliable as long you, too, are reliable. Ish. I’m relatively reliable but I am also, at the time of writing, about 75% pissed, so I promise no gospel here bar that of my own experience.

Nigella does a few odd things in this recipe. The sugar content is pretty super-high, and she has the oven up high pre-pav entry. She also uses cornflour AND vinegar. OMG NIGELLA WHY SO CONTROVERSIAL?!

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.


4 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons cornflour


250g caster sugar (I always use golden)

600ml double cream

Strawberries, raspberries, kiwi and passion fruit

Separate the eggs, yo. Don’t fuck it up as any yolky ingress will render the whites un-whiskable.

Start to the whisk the whites in a VERY clean bowl. Use an electric mixer of some kind, stand or hand-held, either will do. After a bit begin to add the sugar slowly, as per the video.

Above is a really scientific demonstration of the consistency you’re looking for post-sugar inclusion. Don’t fuck it up.

Add the cornflour, vinegar and about a teaspoon of vanilla and whisk briefly.

It should look like the above when you’re done. It’s a stiff meringue. I never accomplish perfectly smooth raw mix. A bit of sugar graininess is fine, just be sure there’s a glossiness about it. Don’t stress. CHILL OUT FFS IT’S ONLY A PAV.

Dab some meringue onto a baking sheet and place your baking paper on top. This is a Super Fancy Trick to stop the paper moving. Be impressed.

Dollop on the raw meringue in whatever shape you please. I generally prefer some kind of long-ish thing as opposed to circular. Doesn’t matter really though a long log type shape will see you well when it comes to slicing up equal serves. Chuck it in the oven and immediately turn said oven down to 150C. Bake for about 60-65 mins. Then after the allotted time, turn the oven off and leave the meringue in there till it’s 100% cool. Overnight is ace.

See how it’s cracked and fallen in, above? That’s totally fine. Normal. Do not stress. Just let it cool completely before removing from the oven.

Whip 600ml of double cream with a bit of vanilla paste and about a tablespoon of icing sugar, until thick. Splodge on top of the pav. Top with – and this is VERY important – kiwi, raspberry, strawberry and passion fruit. ONLY.


Eat. Eat lots. You should get crispy meringue outside and pillowy marshmallow inside.

It needs eating on the day it’s made, ideally. Follow with a course of confident Stilton and reassuring Port, for total fulfilment.

Donna Hay’s Lemon Yoghurt Cake

OMG hullo.

This is essentially a test post to see whether I bother to revive this poor, neglected blog. I have had, without sounding too up my own arse, a few requests to reboot the old dear so here we are. It’s not a full reboot but it is a bit of a ‘let’s see if anyone comments and feeds my ego enough that I continue booting the re- to its fullest extent.’

Life update: Boyfriend (aka technically husband but hey ho) remains gallantly willing to eat everything I make, NewHuman seems approximately and very obnoxiously 14, not 4 as he should be, and the dog continues to reach never before seen levels of melancholy. Status quo.


So if you’re after a cake that is (1) piss easy, (2) pleasingly lemony and soft, and (3) a literal cakewalk to make (one bowl, 5 mins max) then this is the one for you. I bang it out fairly regularly – FNAR – when I have short notice visitors or leftover yoghurt. Cause let’s be real here, anyone who claims to actively enjoy natural yoghurt is lying. I got dangerously close to really liking it, as it comes and unsullied, during a health kick earlier this year. Thank god I came to my senses in time.

Right. Pre-heat your fan oven to 160C.


2 eggs

300g self raising flour

A generous tablespoon lemon zest

60ml or so of fresh lemon juice

385g of caster sugar (I use 350g)

280g fresh natural yoghurt, Greek is nicest

180ml veg oil

2 tablespoons thyme leaves, if you’re Donna Hay, but not if you’re me and/or can’t be arsed

You’ll also want a cup of icing sugar, half a tablespoon of boiling water and one of lemon juice for when the cakes come out of the oven.

Into a large mixing bowl chuck the all the ingredients, bar the flour.

Not pretty.


See how fancy I’ve become in the last couple years? VIDEO.

Right. Once mixed, add the flour. Donna says to sift it first but I say don’t bother and I’d take her down in a fight any day of the week, so choose carefully.

Then pour into a greased Bundt tin. I don’t know what size Bundt tins Donna has but they must be boat-sized. I use a standard ring tin and then have enough mix left for another loaf. Brill.

Into the oven for 50-55 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Whilst you wait, put the boiling water into the icing sugar. Again, you can sift here but why bother? Just start to mix it through and add the lemon juice. Essentially you’re making something that tastes like liquid sherbet. Keep adding lemon juice till it gets to a nice thick-but-runny consistency, as not very well demonstrated below.

Once the cakes come out of the oven give them 5 mins or so in the tin before turning out.

Then turn out onto a cooling rack, having put some kitchen towel or similar underneath. Then drizzle the shit out of that icing, drizzle and drizzle and do not even try to make it look neat. DO NOT.

Donna at this point sprinkles thyme leaves onto hers. Have you ever properly, carefully picked thyme leaves from their stalks? Donna doesn’t have to cause she has an army of kitchen assistants. I only have NewHuman and he’d rather drive toy cars into my legs than get involved with anything green. No thyme for me.

Then transfer onto a cake thingy or dinner plate. Whatever. Serve the fancy round one to guests and hide in the larder and eat the entire loaf one yourself.

It has the softest, loveliest crumb (thank you veg oil) and keeps lovely, and is thus nothing at all like me.

Delicious Magazine’s Rhubarb & Amaretti Cake with Orange and Rosemary Glaze

Two things. I have no truck with recipes and menu items which list every bloody single ingredient in the headline, as Delicious Magazine does with today’s post. Chrissake, ‘Rhubarb & Amaretti Cake’ would do, and the orange and rosemary hoo-haa will come as a nice surprise. It happens on shows like Masterchef too;  some poor idiot presents ‘Lamb Chops Grilled Over Coal with Locally Sourced Wild Garlic Pesto, Half-Decent Carrots Glazed With Honey, Some Random Mini-Herbs and A Sauce Made of Hope and Desperation. Oh, And Salt And Pepper’. Menus that bang on about ‘Hand-Gathered Heart of Veal With Tear-Infused Milk Sauce And New Potatoes Harvested by Artisan Pickers, Devastated Smear of Something Red Seasoned with Cuticles and Diner’s Regret’.

No. I will not have it.

Second thing is I hate Amaretti. I can’t bear the almondy-ness of it, and I can trace this directly back to a trip I took to Dresden and surrounds back in 2001, spent with a German friend and her family, and where the drink of choice for her (and thus for me) was Amaretto and apple juice. All weekend. Non-stop. Literally one meal all weekend, but litres of alcoholic almonds. Cannot bear the stuff now and the stench of Amaretti biscuits just takes me back to the weekend of sugary booze and constant hunger.

Despite all the above I made the cake anyway and it was good. Even I, legendary Amaretti hater, managed to down a good slab of it. It’s quite a nice thing to eat whilst rhubarb is in season though I will call Delicious Magazine out on headlining the rhubarb content as it is essentially just decorative rather than offering anything that might reasonably be called ‘rhubarb cake’.

I sound grumpy, huh. I shouldn’t be. I’m just back from the pool and so I smell deliciously of chlorine. It’s over 20C and there are only three mobs of builders working concurrently on three separate houses in my immediate vicinity. It’s practically silent around here with just the sound of one pneumatic drill and three jackhammers on the go.



225g unsalted butter, softened

200g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon good vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)

4 medium eggs, beaten

Grated zest of 2 oranges

200g ground almonds

50g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

8 Amaretti, broken into chunks (I used soft Amaretti – they were fine)

1-2 sticks of rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 6cm pieces, then halved lengthways to give you 12-16 lengths or so WHATEVER DOESN’T MATTER DO WHAT YOU LIKE I DON’T CARE

Granulated sugar, to sprinkle

For the glaze:

Juice of 1 orange

1 fresh rosemary sprig

20g granulated sugar

Squeeze of lemon juice (I didn’t use)

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan and grease a 23cm loose-bottomed tart or cake tin, lining the base with baking paper.


Put the butter and sugar in your mixer and beat until it’s light and fluffy. If it’s not going light and fluffy just add the vanilla early on and it’ll help push things along.


Add the eggs one by one, the recipe says, which is fucking annoying as they also want them beaten. I just chucked the whole eggs in and whazzed the mixer up to warp speed. Was fine, Looked like sick, as demonstrated below, and as all good cakes should at some point in their journey towards death by teeth and stomach acids. Just make sure you beat well between eggy additions, get them incorporated nicely and don’t leave any swirls of yolk or white floating in the mix.


Then take the bowl from the mixer stand and gently incorporate your flour, orange zest, ground almonds and baking powder.Rhu3Then add the Amaretti chunks. Should look a bit like the below.Rhu4The recipe then says ‘pour the mix into the cake or tart tin’. If you can get a mixture that looks like the above to pour then great for you but I had to fuss and push and cajole the bastarding stuff into my tart tin. And I had enough left over for a whole other cake.

Anyway once it’s in, however you managed it, level the top and gently push in the rhubarb pieces in some kind of pattern. Leave about two-thirds uncovered as they should sink a bit when in the oven.

Chuck the whole thing into the oven for 35-40 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.Rhu5Whilst it’s in the oven make the syrup by chucking all ingredients into a little saucepan, bringing to a simmer and bubble it quite rapidly for 4-5 mins till it thickens a bit.  Rhu6Let the cake cool, once out of the oven. Rhu7Drizzle over the syrup. Might take a few goes to do this as nothing’s boiling hot and thus at peak permeability. Just be patient, yo.Rhu8Below is NewHuman demonstrating his best effort at the ‘hide’ part of Hide and Seek. I’m hoping for excellent sporting skills as general academic cleverness is looking increasingly out of reach.Rhu10And below you’ll find the idiot dog who this morning managed to open up her front leg in the most dangerous way yet incurred a miniscule actual skin-slice of approximately 7.5mm in length. Looks like nothing, is something quite serious. And expensive. And she’s mad at me for the cone of shame but she has no self control when it comes to licking said pricey wound so bugger her, she’s staying coned up till I say so.Rhu11

Below is cake. Almondy. Served with vanilla cream. Eat. Enjoy.


Potted Shrimp

Hullo there. I’ve been your absent friend. Or maybe just your absent. Who knows. Anyway, excuses are as follows:

(i) Laziness – two categories: In General and In Respect of the Blog

(ii) Lack of Things to Blog – I had a load of pics ready to blog cauliflower cheese but then I changed my mind on blogging that and didn’t cook anything blog-worthy for ages

(iii) Australia. Spent most of March and a little bit of April back home, traipsing from West to East and ending with some delicious time in Coolum after an unusual (in Aussie terms at least) inland trip driving from Sydney through the middle of NSW, the Narrabri plains and the Darling Downs of Queensland before ending up on the Sunshine Coast.

(iv) Laziness. Again. Post-return.

(v) Australia, MK II. I had to head home rather fast for a short trip about two weeks after getting back.

(vi) Lovely weather in England. OMG CAN YOU BLOODY BELIEVE IT.

Anyway here I am and here is a recipe for potted shrimp. Potted shrimp is something I spent my first ten years in London avoiding (yesterday having been my FIFTEEN YEAR anniversary of moving here, Jesus Christ), the congealed clarified butter on the top somehow offputting in perceived mouth-feel in the same way peanut butter can hijack your palate by superglue-ing your tongue to the top of your mouth.

Clearly I eventually got over my stupid self and tried some potted shrimp and they are a thing of simple beauty. I don’t know what baby brown prawns you’d use in Australia – do we even bother with prawns that small? No idea. Maybe a nicely chopped normal prawn treated the same way might do? If you try, let me know.

Regardless, this is a really really easy and really really nice thing to do if you’re having people over. As it can all be done the day before you just whip the shrimp out on the day, with some fancy toasted brown sourdough on the side, and absorb the compliments faster than the UK Tory government does tax evading business partners.

I looked at a few recipes online and kind of made this one up as an amalgam of them all, using Felicity Cloake’s always-amazing Guardian column as the main resource.


To serve 4 generously, gather:

200g unsalted butter
Juice of around 1/4-1/2 lemon, to taste
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, grated
¼ teaspoon white pepper (I didn’t have so used finely ground black)
Around 200g cooked and peeled brown shrimps
Cayenne pepper, to serve (I didn’t have, so didn’t use, I sprinkled a tiny amount of sweet smoked paprika on instead. Was nice).

In a saucepan melt the butter over a gentle heat till it comes to a simmer.
As you can see above, it starts kind of golden and opaque, creamy even. Keep going. Keep an eye on this as if you let it burn you’ve ruined it.

Don’t let it burn, yo. Above is how it looks when done – less golden yellow, slightly darker and the vaguest hint of dark flecks in the liquid. It took mine about ten minutes to get to this stage. Ten minutes of watching more carefully than I do NewHuman when he scales some local feature of great height.

Strain it through some muslin or a couple of pieces of kitchen towel.
Isn’t it pretty? Congratulations – you just clarified butter!

Pour about two-thirds back into the saucepan (which you’ve carefully wiped out), reserving the rest. Add the lemon juice, grated nutmeg and a pinch of salt and simmer VERY GENTLY for 5 minutes or so.

Let it cool a bit.

Put your shrimp into your pots/ramekins. Pat them down quite firmly, possibly more firmly than they might like. When the butter is still just warm but not set, spoon it over the shrimp and press down again. You really need to press them down with a spoon quite nicely as otherwise you leave too many gaps and tunnels for the clarified butter topping to escape down.

Stick ’em in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Then add the reserved butter on top, equally divided between pots. Back into the fridge till set! This was literally the road to Hanging Rock, near Nundle, NSW. I love Nundle. I loved it the moment I met it. If you ever go that way, drop in.

Anyway, the boys walked to Hanging Rock and they even made it back alive which is something I believe isn’t guaranteed so hey ho and woohoo and all that.
Oh, beloved Coolum…..*dies of longing*

Ok – below is the done deal, halfway through being consumed. Bloody delicious. Perfect for English spring weather. Get potting.

Bill Granger’s Brownies

We’ve had better weeks, to be honest. NewHuman has an infection and is subject to regular attempts by me to push foul, fluorescent-yellow ‘banana’ (banana my ass. It’s no more banana than Trump’s preferred shade of hair dye) flavoured antibiotics into him. He was sent home from nursery today looking very sorry for himself so has been packed off to bed. Again. Spends a lot of time there at the moment. He wants to perk up soon, we are due to leave for Oz in just over a week and I will NOT countenance any delay to our departure.

Worse, oh worse, has been the dog, who had an odd lump biopsied and which came back as BAD TERRIBLY BAD LUMP from the lab, so was (relatively) rushed into surgery yesterday and had it removed. She’s achieving impressive levels of sooky la-la and is enjoying her soft-food diet and painkilling drugs. I can’t stop cuddling her.

Anyway, bring on the holiday and sunshine.

Also, bring on the non-diet period of time during which I’ll eat whatever the hell I want. Speaking of, I had a weekend off Hell Diet and lunch guests coming both Saturday and Sunday. As usual I left it rather late to decide what to cook when, last minute, a friend (hiya Riri!) posted a recipe on Twitter advocating World’s Best Brownies. I was determined to test the theory.

They’re bloody amazing. Seriously. Obviously cause they’re Bill Granger and, thus, Australian. My parochialism gets noticeably worse the closer to a trip home I get.

Either way, make these. Literal piece of piss to bake and crazy delicious. I should say I had a go at cooking these on the convection setting of the microwave (the oven being otherwise occupied by a disconcertingly large porchetta). They came out great despite that, so imagine the glory if you did them properly. Go on.


Right. Preheat your oven to 160C.


350g caster sugar (I used 300g)

80g cocoa powder (I used 50g cocoa and 40g drinking cocoa cause I ran out of proper cocoa)

60g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

200g butter, melted (unsalted, preferably. I used salted)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs, lightly beaten

200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Grease and line a square tin, about 22cm square or so.Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder. Give them a whisk together.

Melt the butter

Chop the chocolate

Lightly beat the eggs and vanilla
Mix the eggs and vanilla into the dry ingredients, then mix through the butter.Then stir through the chocolate.
Cry a little bit for the dog, the NewHuman and that new, unexplained bump on your face that must basically be an age-wart.Pour into your greased and lined tin and chuck it in the oven for 40-45 mins. This seems a long time to me, but then again the oven temp is fairly low and even with the mental microwaving I involved myself in it never dried out. Meh, what do I know.
Take the done thing out of the oven and let cool in the tin before slicing.Dog now looks like a Kray twin. Suppose it’s not a bad look for a dog who needs to live a successful life on the hard streets of London.

Anyway below is a brownie, covered in double cream (half fat, of course, I’m not entirely stupid, only mostly stupid). Rapturous. Riri was right.

Cheat’s Shortbread (Australian Women’s Weekly)

It’s half-term here in England, some weird thing where kids get ANOTHER week off during term time and still get holidays at the end of term. I’ve never understood it. It’s mostly packed with activities (and activity places packed) as a result of the desperate planning of hordes of parents who are forced to waste their holiday allowance on the bloody thing, and who fear the consequence of 5 days of non-school based boredom. Because we are wankers and send NewHuman to a private nursery school which observes this mad tradition, despite the children there not actually being at school and being under the age of 5, we suffer the same.

This morning I’ve walked NewHuman about 1km to the bus stop, holding my hand the whole way. Sounds easy. Isn’t. Then I got him to wait for the right bus without getting on the previous 3 that went by first, then I hauled him off after only pressing the bell 3 times and THEN I marched him to the dentist where all my endless prep (‘The dentist is fun! His name is Dave! He has a big chair! He’ll count your teeth!) totally paid off. Then we walked to the taxi rank where I wrangled him into a cab despite him having a monumental shitfit in a nice solid pile of bird crap because the taxi we were getting into wasn’t yellow.

Then I kept him locked down in a seatbelt despite further shitfits because he’d tossed his matchbox car in temper and now no longer had it. Then I finagled my way into his father’s office (also his grandfather and grandmother’s office) in Soho and he took a tour of the wider staff population whilst I enjoyed 5 quiet minutes to myself having a very long wee in the staff loo. He exited the office munching on a chocolate biscuit. Good post-dental practice.

Then, this time with his father’s help, we managed to get him through the mean streets of Soho into an establishment serving food where he sat in a seat, not a highchair, and pretty much ate enough to qualify for lunch, ruining only his father’s jeans in the process. My ambitious plans for riding the bus home from Regent Street took a backseat, much like we did as we bundled him into his second cab of the day – lucky sod – and we finally got home again about an hour after naptime was due to start.

I have, not at all unrelatedly, decided today is the day to test run the magic medicine that should help him sleep on the plane home to Oz in March. He’s just had a dose and I’ll go up and check when this blog is done. Right now I can hear him singing endless verses of ‘Wheels on the Bus’ so hopes are not high.

So, I get points for taking him to the dentist and actually being able to be examined, and for accessing multiple forms of transport (not counting the various tubes we caught yesterday) and for a trip into town. Lost points for cabbing there and back and for being too tired to get him home on the bus. And for what is, essentially and hopefully, drugging him to blissful sleep.

Evens out in the end.

Anyway, he’s been increasingly involved in the kitchen whenever I’m cooking as far as I let him. This shortbread is a good thing to let kids help with as it is hard to ruin, although we did manage to ruin it this time, and is easy, fast, and pretty delicious without the usual faff that shortbread requires.

It’s Australian Women’s Weekly, of course. They call it ‘melt and mix’ shortbread. I call it cheat’s.

Pre-heat your oven to 180C (170C fan) – a moderate oven – and gather:

  • 250g butter
  • 13 cup icing sugar
  • 13 cup cornflour
  • 14 cup sugar (I used caster)
  • 12 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
  • 2 13 cups plain flour

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and let cool. It says to let cool. I just let the heat die off a little.
The above is a great book. Full of shit recipes for stuff you’d never make but I truly do love it. Right. Having mixed together your sugars (icing and caster) and cornflower, then vanilla, drizzle in the melted butter. This is where we ruined the shortbread. I lost at least 50g of butter through dint of NewHuman ‘helping’. You really do need the whole amount. Please don’t spill it.
You mix and mix till it goes kind of thick. See? It’s kind of roux-y but then settles back to smooth if you don’t agitate it. Get it to that stage and you’re good to go.
Then mix in the flour.After a good spin by the electric mixer it’ll look something like the above.
Using a metal spoon, bring it all together till it looks a little like the above, albeit ideally very slightly less dry. In a well-buttered tin of around 20cm x 30cm or so – no need to be too specific – press it down well. Usually it isn’t lumpy, it presses down lovely and smooth.

Not this time. Not my fault.
Score it lightly but properly into squares, and then use a fork as seen above.

Into the oven for about 30 minutes till it’s a light golden colour all over.

Take it out and, whilst it is still warm, cut properly along the score lines.

Let it cool in the tin.

If you want you could sprinkle some caster sugar over the top whilst it’s still warm. I didn’t bother this time. Above is NH enjoying his piece. The rest went to the boyfriend’s office, bit embarrassingly as it wasn’t as good as it should be.

Still tasty. V good thing to make if people call and say, ‘just nearby, fancy a visit?’ and you don’t but can’t say no and don’t have anything but slightly rotten rocket leaves and one sad leftover Xmas chocolate left in the house. For example.

Bloody kid is still awake up there, having moved onto Old McDonald’s Stupid Farm. Can’t be much fun, farming stupid.

Ricotta Fritters a la Jamie Oliver


NewHuman is a scabby mess but, importantly, is no longer contagious so has been unceremoniously packed off to nursery with an arguably indecent level of haste on my part. My work in the West of England has finished and I’m now at home, Doing Chores, until we take off for Australia in March. The washing machine is beeping rudely at me, indicating it wants emptying, and the dog is currently looking at me with eyes so liquid with desire for a park run that she may well flood the sitting room with tears.

My contract ended at exactly the same time as the neighbours began a loft extension so my days at home are now soundtracked by thumping, crash-bangs and builder’s farts. It’s not that different to a day spent at home with NewHuman, to be fair.

On hell diet (which is, btw, only vaguely successful despite me eating not a great deal other than flavoured air most days, bastarding malfunctioning metabolism) I am constantly on the lookout for new ways to eat not-much. These fritters are yum, a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s over-ambitious ’15 Minute Meals’ regime, and he serves them with a grated courgette salad and a spicy tomato sauce. You can google both those if you want, but I’m only blogging the fritters cause (i) they’re pretty damn good, (ii) I’m a lazy cow, and (iii) I think they go with lots of other things, not just what Jamie decrees.


  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 400 g ricotta cheese
  • a quarter of a whole nutmeg, for grating
  • 1 lemon
  • 40 g Parmesan cheese
  • 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
  • olive oil

You’ll also want a frypan and maybe a warmed plate with a piece of kitchen towel on it, at your disposal.

Oh, and seasoning. Lots.

Into a bowl dump the ricotta and the egg and mix well. It’ll go surprisingly, pleasingly yellow considering the ratio of cheese to egg. That’s assuming of course you’ve used an egg from a happy, free-range chicken and you aren’t some bastard who still (HOW DARE YOU) uses caged chicken eggs.
Then grate in the nutmeg and the lemon zest. I dialled down a little on the zest front as I was keeping NewHuman in mind but really I didn’t have to. He was all over these fritters like a rash. A RASH. HA. *pox-themed cries* Then tip in the cheese. No harm getting generous in respect of the grams advised by the recipe. I did. Was good.
Then add the flour. Beat it well. Beat it like the pointless crush you had on that dickhead back in 2000. Should look like the above.

In a pan over a medium heat drop in some olive oil and dollop the mixture. It should make about 8, according to JO. I made 9. Hell Diet has me making everything smaller except my ass and my thighs.
Fry till golden and then VERY CAREFULLY flip. They’re not the most robust of fritters. They’re all soft and fluffy and have less backbone than an American Republican.

I found the below lemons in the fridge. All at once. We have a problem with half-cut lemons.

I wish I were half cut. OK OK – the courgette salad is literally as many baby courgettes as you can be bothered to grate, a chopped red chilli, some chopped mint, salt (a good amount), pepper (cracked, black, same goes), lemon juice and olive oil. Basically season, lemon juice and oil all to taste.
Below are the fritters, half-done. I didn’t take a photo of the done deal. Was too busy hoovering them up.

If eggs are your thing, I can testify (oh Jesus, oh Amen, oh Holy Spirit, etc etc those religious types go on a bit) that a fried egg on a reheated fritter the next day is a thing of beauty.


Smitten Kitchen’s Chewy Oatmeal & Raisin Cookies 

Good morning, campers. And Happy New Year!

You may want to stand back a little. We are The House of Pox. Sadly it’s not some kind of good, war-going Game of Thrones-style family House with an unresolved feud and a taste for bloody murder but rather a boring and rather inconvenient case of chicken pox on the part of NewHuman.

Obviously this has given me ample opportunity to rail against Stupid England (trademark pending) as in Australia these days a vaccination against the pox is standard issue. Here in the UK they, on official websites, have lots of lovely sensible reasons as to why it’s not on the regular timetable of vaccinations but they are also happy for you to cough up £150 for it, if you want, so clearly it’s totally a money issue. I meant to pay for it. Life just got in the way, and by life I mean me, being shit.

I remember having pox when I was about 8 years old. And I remember both my younger sisters getting it at the same time. And I remember getting mumps pretty much straight after. And both my sisters getting mumps, too. And I have no idea how my mum didn’t lose the plot at the time. Maybe she did. Did you, mum? We were living in Queensland’s Darling Downs, in a lovely old clapboard house with a green roof (93 Patrick Street, if I remember rightly), and I mostly recall being in bed and having no discernable neck by the mumps stage. And I remember having baths in water flavoured with porridge oats and being turned pinky-purple by copious Calamine lotion application.

Anyway it’s all much less exciting this time around. NewHuman has pox in places I never thought pox would be interested in going, and I’m certain he’s going to be a giant pox-crater once the blasted things have all disappeared. At least he’s getting it in time to be recovered for our trip home to Amazing Australia (trademark pending) in March.

Right. I’m on hell diet so can’t eat anything nice. I need to be on hell diet in order to avoid having to buy a second airplane seat for my arse alone. In the interests of good hosting, when some unsuspecting friends came over with their children for a playdate and we unwittingly exposed them to the pox (the guilt is awful), I made these biscuits.  Smitten Kitchen is usually really reliable. This time around – not so much. Having said that, I must claim some responsibility for not following the recipe completely but pretty much I did, and I don’t rate these biscuits so highly.

You try, let me know.

Preheat your oven to 175C.


115 grams unsalted butter, softened (I used salted, as is standard, and mine was cold-hard from the fridge, for reasons to be revealed)
125 grams light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
95 grams plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon table salt  (I didn’t use, absolutely no good reason as to why not)
120 grams rolled oats (I used porridge oats, same diff really, don’t think it matters)
120 grams raisins (I used sultanas. Absolutely does not matter)
65 grams, chopped (optional) (I didn’t bother) In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.

Yeah. So. As you can see below, ‘smooth’ isn’t something I achieved. It’s hard to manage ‘smooth’ when you start with rock-hard butter. The reason I started with rock-hard butter is I didn’t have time to chill the mix, as the recipe later recommends, and so I wanted to make some time up by having the mix a bit cold by using said rock-hard butter.

This experiment may not have worked.

It looks reassuringly like vomit, though, which is a stage all good bakes seem to go through.
Smitten Kitchen says to whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a separate bowl.  I didn’t.  I just stirred them into the butter/sugar mixture as below.Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.

It’s a stiff bitch of a mix, stiffer than the back of a recently offended middle manager on a compulsory work outing.
It’s at this stage that SK recommends you chill the mix, whether in the bowl or having already been laid out in cookie-sized lumps on the trays.

I didn’t, as previously mentioned.  She says if you don’t the cookies will end up slightly less thick. THAT IS A LIE. If you don’t chill, in my experience, the cookies end up like the recently evacuated poops of an organically fed rabbit. But hey, what do I know. After dropping heaped teaspoons onto lined trays, chuck into the oven for 10-12 minutes or till the edges start to brown.

NewHuman below,  24hrs before the pox made themselves known. As you can see, he was trying to tell me. I didn’t listen.

Right. Below the finished product. What did I tell you? Rabbit poop. Obviously some kind of Notting Hill rabbit, fed only on WholeFoods produce, but still. Rabbits.