Monthly Archives: December 2012

Deep Suffering

We are suffering.

Crowded beaches, offensively so.


Awful seafood.


Tiny crayfish.


Uninteresting cave systems.


Freezing weather, not at all conducive to sitting quietly on the verandah.

We are deeply unhappy.


Guest Post: Lemon & Poppyseed Loaf

Hello.  I’m writing this from the past.  From 26 November, in fact.  AMAZE.

It’s because my future-body is in Australia at the time of publishing this blog.  I trust it’ll be sunny.  You’ll hear my screams from space, if not.  Anyway a few days ago I put a call out for help, via Twitter, for guest posters to blog a recipe for when I’m away, and a couple of kind souls responded.   Today is K’s turn – she’s got a yummo Lemon & Poppyseed cake type thing going on.

Enjoy!  And thanks to K.  I’m off for a swim.  Probably.


I am a big fan of Average Baker, and very pleased to have the opportunity to share a tried and tested recipe on her blog. I should make it clear from the outset that I don’t own a beautiful dog to include pictures of. I did consider driving to my mum’s house to photograph her Labradoodle, but decided that would be slightly ridiculous. Besides, I know for a fact that she’s not doing a roast dinner this weekend.
This cake has served us well. It’s a regular feature in our household, and even went to Kendal Calling festival with my husband in the summer. The syrupy faff you have to do at the end ensures the cake stays moist for a few days. Just on the off chance that you’re the type who actually reserves sweet stuff for dessert time only, and isn’t prone to eat (for research purposes) a large slice of cake an hour before you then eat a big pile of burritos for dinner.
I’m a supporter of loaf tins. They make cakes look proper and grown up, even when you can’t be bothered to ice them. This is a variation of a recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery’s Cake Days book. Scattered among hundreds of twee varieties of cupcakes, and those ridiculous whoopee pie things, are a series of manly loaves, in flavours like cardamom and rhubarb & almond. Grrr.
You will need to gather up the following:
190g unsalted butter
190g caster sugar
3 eggs
A splash of vanilla
190g plain flour
3 eggs (I use medium eggs for everything. Damn the man!)
1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
4 tablespoons of poppy seeds
Zest of 3 lemons
25ml milk
80g yoghurt (mine appears to be low fat, which is unlike me)
There is also a post cake syrup element, for which you will need:
Juice of 1 lemon
50g caster sugar
100ml boiling water
Oh, and preheat your oven to 170°C before you start. For the record, mine isn’t a Shit Oven or a great oven. It’s just a normal oven in need of a good clean. But we’re moving house next year, so I figure that’s something for the next residents to worry about.
The rioja is for drinking, obviously, and not to go in the cake. But in my house an accompanying drink is the first rule of baking club. If you’re making something frivolous, like rocky road or cookies, I’d go for a nice cold gin & tonic or a cocktail. But a Sunday afternoon, such as this, with a good old reliable loaf cake, it has to be red wine.
Let me introduce you to Big Brown Bowl. He is, in lieu of any antique pearls or a rundown cottage in the country, something of a family heirloom. He’s huge, sturdy and doesn’t fit into any of my cupboards. We bake everything together.
Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. No, don’t use an electric whisk. You can do it by hand in a couple of minutes and it’s far more satisfying.
Mix in the eggs (I forgot to photograph that bit, but it definitely happened), one at a time, and then add the flour, baking powder and salt. You can’t tell, but the baking powder and salt have been added here. You’ll just have to trust me on that one. Mix until well combined.
What you have now is your very bog standard sponge mix. This can be used for any number of cake situations. Congratulations. Reward yourself with a large swig of wine. NB: cake mix and red wine is probably in my top five favourite meals.
The next step is to zest three lemons, which really is an incredibly tiresome task. Bet you’re glad you have the wine cheering you on now, aren’t you? Throw the zest into Big Brown Bowl (or your own baking equivalent) along with the poppy seeds and yoghurt. Mix well until all combined.
Yes, there are quite a lot of poppy seeds. Thanks for noticing! Google is unclear on exactly how many poppy seeds you would need to eat in order to fail a drugs test for opiates. If you’re in the line of work which requires regular urine sampling, may I suggest bribing the testers with cake?
Tip the mixture into the loaf tin. I used to grease and flour my loaf tin before baking, which was really no big deal. Then one day I was given a pack of loaf tin cases to save time (90 seconds per cake, approximately). I don’t think I can ever go back now. And yes, I own a tube map tea towel. I live in the Midlands and, when it comes to London, I am a massive tourist.
Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes until the sponge is firm, a skewer comes out clean, and all the usual jazz. At this stage you could give the cake a couple of extra jabs with the skewer, to aid the syrup soaking process.
I know, just when you thought you’d finished cooking you need to make the syrup to pour over the top of the cake. It’s easy though, and you can do it in the few minutes you spend fannying about taking the cake in and out of the oven trying to decide if it’s ready. Combine the caster sugar, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan, and boil until it reduces slightly. Pour over the hot cake, to produce satisfactory sizzling noises.
Wait until the cake is entirely cooled before slicing. Otherwise you run the risk of the entire loaf collapsing into a big pile of cake crumbs which, while not unpleasant, does make sharing difficult.
Serve on its own accompanied by a nice cup of tea. Or with ice cream in order to bribe a small child, should the occasion arise, as demonstrated below.


We’re off!

At least one guest post is in the pipeline, keep an eye out. I’ll no doubt post a boasty thing or two along the way.

Have aces Xmases and New Years, all.

Here’s an unimpressed dog to get you in the festive spirit.


Recipe Test – Jamie Oliver’s Bloke’s Fusilli with Sausage


I trust you all had marvellous weekends.  The boyfriend and I travelled to Kent (via a 2hr tour of the shittiest bits of South-East London, traffic was bloody awful) to do some local touristing and visit his brand new niece.  Margate is crap, except for a little bit called the Old Town which is the opposite of crap.  Broadstairs seemed nice but we didn’t get out to look around it, although we stayed in Dickins’ actual Bleak House (staffed by two appropriately Dickensian staff of thin frame and beaky nose) on the Broadstairs coast.

New niece was new.  And cute.

Anyway I knew I’d not have done any cooking this weekend and so, like the massive genius I am I have kept behind a pasta thingy I made last week.  It’s another Jamie Oliver – the fat-tongued elf might be frustrating in about a thousand ways but his recipes mostly taste ace.

He calls this blokey pasta but that’s disingenuous.  It’s just nice pasta.



• 2 heaped teaspoons fennel seeds  – I didn’t have any so used a good teaspoon of caraway seeds instead – quite subtle in the finished dish, yet interestingly strong in the leftovers the next day
• 2 dried red chillies, crumbled – I used half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
• olive oil
• 600g good-quality coarse Italian or Cumberland sausages – I was running late home from work (GO TO HELL SOUTHERN TRAINS!) so ran into Tesco, which I DESPISE, and got the best sausages they had.  Not that great.
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• a wineglass of white wine
• zest and juice of 1 lemon – I used half – it was quite enough, and I say that as a lemon-lover
• 500g good-quality fusilli or penne
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• a couple of knobs of butter
• a handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
• a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped – we didn’t use but I should’ve.


Put some water onto boil, salted, for the fusilli.

Take the skins off the sausages.  If I’d used sausages from the lovely butcher, which I was too late to get to (GO TO HELL SOUTHERN TRAINS), this’d not be half as disgusting as it was doing it to Tesco’s.  Either way it’s never going to be a fun job.  Do it anyway.


Break up the sausages and throw into an oiled frypan, using your spoon to bash them up further, kind of getting them to mince stage.  This will continue to look foul for some time.


Throw in your caraway/fennel seeds, as well as this much chilli.


Keep cooking till the sausage starts to get nice caramelly brown bits.  Basically instead of looking rank it’ll start to look kind of ok.  Should take about ten minutes.


Pour in the wine, and the dried oregano (pronounced orrie-gah-no, yes?), and simmer it away till it’s reduced by about half.  This bit is pleasing.

Obviously the pasta water will have boiled by now and you’ll have thrown in the fusilli to cook.

Add the lemon zest and juice to the mince stuff.


While the mince stuff is reducing its liquid and the pasta is boiling grate your cheese and hack off a couple of chunks of butter to use in a short while.

Drain your pasta (don’t drain every bloody drop of water off it, that does no good – it’s fine to be dampish, it’ll help the sauce) and throw it back into the saucepan.


Tip in the mince mixture, add the cheese and butter, and stir through.  Your boyfriend will do this bit.  I find he turns up in the kitchen when the fun bit begins.


Voila.  It’s yum.  As you can see it could’ve done with a bit of parsley for freshness and colour, but overall, as a LADY, I found this pasta to be quite good.  In your face, blokes.

Below is the dog, begging pointlessly.  We leave for Oz in a week and I am already sad at leaving her behind.  Like, really sad.  I have been discussing the likelihood of Skyping her with the dogsitter.  *straight face*