Bean cakes. Yes. Beans.

I have bought a lovely book by Tori Haschka. I bought it because I saw photos on her Instagram feed of Raspberry, White Bean and Rose Cake, and Chocolate, Black Bean, and Cherry Cake. I was hooked, there and then.


Of course I bought the book!

Lowering your carb intake isn’t always easy. If you love cake, then it’s tricky, but you can do it. It just so happens that these bean cakes make it even easier.

The first one I made was this. I am a total sucker for rose in anything. (Except in Dr Who. Let’s not speak of this again.)

Raspberry, White Bean and Rose

1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, well rinsed and drained

3 x medium eggs

100g caster sugar

3 tbs ground almonds

3 tbs desiccated coconut

1 tsp baking powder

2 tbs rose water

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp rose extract (I use Star Kay White, excellent extracts.)

8-10 fresh raspberries.

Blitz everything apart from the fruit together in a food processor until smooth.

Butter a loaf tin. Dust the inside with desiccated coconut and place a row of raspberries on the bottom.

Pour the mixture slowly into the tin (silicon for me, but inside another metal tin as it stops the sides bowing out) pop the rest of the raspberries on top and bake for 35 minutes.

I bake them at 170C in a fan oven.


Original white bean Basic batter

Finished cake Inside slice

It is a dense texture, with a mouthfeel reminiscent of the red bean filling in Chinese new year cakes. I added in the coconut because I adore coconut and raspberry, plus it shoves the Brain Says Beans thing to one side. I might add more next time.

This was so nice, that I had to make another. Many more tweaks this time.

Bean, Pistachio and Rose

1 x 400g tin of flageolet beans, rinsed and drained

3 x medium eggs

100g caster sugar

6 heaped tbs ground toasted pistachios + 1 tsp for dusting the tin

1 tsp baking powder

2 tbs rose water

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp rose extract

½ tsp cinnamon extract

Whole pistachios, dried raspberries and strawberries

Blitz everything (apart from the dried fruit, and the 1 tbs ground pistachios)together in a food processor until smooth.

Butter a loaf tin and dust the whole of the insides with ground pistachios.

Pour the mixture into the tin (silicon again for me) and bake for around an hour, again at 170C in my fan oven.

I tested at 40 minutes, and it needed more time.

The very first one I made was the basic one direct from the book, with minor tweaks because I had things I wanted to use up. This one was because I so wanted to experiment. Tori’s book does that to you.

I took this one to work, and nobody even guessed there was a tin of beans in it. It all disappeared fast.

Nuts and stuff  Pistachio, Rose and Fruit cake

Pistachio cake slice 

And again…next up was

Chocolate, Black Bean and Cherry

I halved the sugar in this version and added Splenda, as a test, mainly, to see if it works. I could, in all probability, use all Splenda.

1 400g tin black/turtle beans, well rinsed and drained

3 tbs cocoa (I used Green & Blacks)

1 shot strong espresso (30 ml)

3 medium eggs

50g golden caster sugar

125g glacé cherries, most chopped, 4 reserved for the top

3 tbs Splenda

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Blitz it all together, stir in the chopped fruit, pour into a greased tin, pop four whole cherries on top, and bake for 40 minutes at 170C fan. (I greased the tin with orange olive oil. Good taste.)

It’s even darker in appearance than the photo shows.

Black bean, chocolate and cherry

And so to today. A grey, rainy day that needed spice and warmth. Ginger. Yes.

Gingered Fruit Cake

1 400g tin borlotti beans, well rinsed and drained

6 tbs ground almonds

3 medium eggs

50g golden caster sugar

3 tbs Splenda

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp each mixed spice/cinnamon/orange flower water

2 tbs fig molasses (or use black treacle)

10 glacé cherries, chopped in half

Handful of sultanas

Blitz all except the fruit in a food processor.

Stir in the fruit.

Pour into a well greased tin (I use silicone brushed with the orange flavoured olive oil again) and bake at 170C fan for 40 minutes.

Beautiful colour, and an even rise.

Gingered fruit cake

I can’t wait to taste these! But they are for Cake Club at work. On Thursday. [sigh]

I shall just have to eat toasted pistachios, and bide my time.



Soft Cows’ Milk Cheese

I want to make cottage cheese. It never seems to happen though, but I keep trying. The shop bought stuff used to be lovely but these days, to me, it always tastes off, no matter what they put into it. It can’t be that hard, but I never seem to manage it.

Along the way, though, I have ended up with a very nice Something Else. A very fresh, soft cheese.

I had bought some full cream milk (found it in Sainsbury’s) so wanted to use that for my cheese attempt. I had no rennet so lemon juice it had to be. Sainsbury’s Basic lemons are quite possibly the meanest I’ve come across, juice-wise, (it took five of them to get 1/3 cup of juice) but they smelled gorgeous.

Milk and lemons

1 litre Graham’s Gold Jersey milk

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 tsp white vinegar

pinch salt

Put the milk in a stainless steel pan, and heat it gently until bubbles start to form around the edge and the top looks foamy.

Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and vinegar, plus a pinch of salt, stir and then leave to sit for 10 minutes. It should curdle and start to split. It doesn’t split into large lumps, but it does split.

(If it doesn’t, heat gently again and add another tablespoon of lemon juice. NOT vinegar.)

Line a colander with a large piece of cheesecloth or a clean teatowel.

Pour the split milk into this then bring the corners together to form a bag.

I tied the top of mine with a piece of string that I could then loop over the tap to drain.

I let it drip for around 2 hours, then turned it out into a Tupperware.

I’m going to try rennet next time, as I don’t always want the lemon flavour, but this is really good on bread or crackers with honey on top, and I’m going to stuff peppers with it tomorrow.

For my taste, next time I would also not add white vinegar as it was a bit too strong. It does make for a very tangy cheese for eating on its own, but with a drizzle of honey it’s perfect.

The Gold milk gives it such a buttery colour, so I’ll definitely use that again!

The hunt for cottage cheese will continue…


Edited: Later that weekend…

I made a salad. The cheese had sat in the fridge for 24 hours. It crumbled perfectly, and went incredibly well with not just the salad ingredients, but with chargrilled aubergine too. Lovely! Next time I shall try and turn it into feta. Sorry. Salad cheese.


Those are Essex olives, picked from my own tree and home cured. Smile




This is all entirely Pete Favelle’s fault. All of it. It started with this post over on Kavey Eats. I couldn’t get the things out of my head.

I bought crumpet rings, but the horror tales of not being able to dislodge the crumpets put me off and I hid them away for a few months.

The germ of an idea refused to leave, and one day I decided to make just one BIG crumpet in a frying pan – no rings - and see what happened.

The batter was very thick, so the whole lot just flopped out into the hastily added cake tin. (Added as I realised the skillet had sloped sides and crumpets don’t.)

It was huge, and I faffed at it a lot,  creating the hashtag of #crumpetgate along the way, but I did it, and it tasted really good!

Batter Stage 1Batter stage 2Stage 3 with cake tinStage 4 OMGWILLITCOOKUndersideSplit

Dinner plate sized crumpet

But the thought of individual ones was stuck in my head. So I braved the dreaded rings.

I adapted the recipe as I had no white bread flour, only wholemeal, but you know, it worked! I also added lemon juice to the milk, to make it more like buttermilk, for no reason other than I was curious as to how it would taste.


4 ounces plain flour

4 ounces strong wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 pint milk and water (50/50 mix, ish) – warmed slightly in the microwave, to body temperature

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon light olive oil

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1 tsp honey

one packet of dried yeast

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 1 tbs warm water


Add the lemon juice to the milk, and mix. It will separate, that’s ok.

Whisk everything together really well, except for the bicarb.

Leave to stand, covered, in a warm place. It should double and froth up.

Pour in the dissolved bicarb and mix very well. It will knock all the air out and hopefully make it pourable. (I had to add a bit more water to thin it out.)

Heat a griddle on a medium heat. Add the rings. I used Lurpak’s cooking mist to properly spray the rings and the pan, and poured in the batter to a depth of about 1 cm.

THIS DOES NOT ALWAYS WORK. The batter is alive. It has its own rules. Crumpet size may go up as well as down.

Gradually the sides will start to dry out, and bubbles will appear. AT NO POINT did I burst these with a skewer. Nope. Not me.

I turned the heat down so that the bottoms didn’t burn. Each one takes maybe 5 minutes to dry out, and then I removed the rings – carefully – and flipped the crumpet to brown the top.

They aren’t as light in texture as a purely white flour mix would be, but they are damned tasty. I am looking forward to toasting some for breakfast tomorrow.

Rings stage 1

Rings stage 2


Released side view

I had one with Blueberry No Sugar Jam for tea.

Blueberry No Added Sugar Jam

Bear in mind this will not last long, as there is no sugar to preserve it apart from that in the blueberries.

1 large punnet of blueberries

2 tsp Splenda

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbs water.

Mix everything together well in a saucepan, bring to the boil, then simmer on low until all the juices have reduced and you have a thick jam. Keep in the fridge.

Crumpet in the sun

Bavette, Flat Iron and my version of chimichurri

Whenever I go and stay in Penge on a weekend, it’s very hard not to head straight to The Butchery in Forest Hill. Every single piece of meat that I have bought from there has been exceptional, and the prices are very good considering the high quality of the meat that you are getting.

Last time I was there,  I bought one large piece each of bavette and flatiron steak, two bags of proper pork scratchings and 1/2 a pound of smoked bacon. That was £16. The steaks easily did two dinners, and possibly four had I not eaten all of mine.

I’ve had onglet before, as that seems to be the steak of fashion these days, but I hadn’t had flatiron or bavette, and wanted to give them a try. They have a reputation for being incredibly flavourful, but also for being tough if not cooked right, so I decided on a marinade. Red wine, lots of garlic, thyme. Can’t go wrong with that.

Roughly 2 glasses of red wine, 5 cloves chopped garlic, handful of chopped parsley, teaspoon of dried thyme and a glug of olive oil.

Put the steaks in it, leave for 2 hours, turning every half hour.


Cook on a searing, smoking hot griddle for 3 minutes per side. Serve with chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce (not authentic so don’t kill me)

Bunch flat parsley

3 spring onions

2 cloves garlic

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar

1 tsp sugar

Chop the garlic, parsley and onions all together until very fine.

Put in a bowl, pour over equal parts olive oil and vinegar.

Stir in 1 tsp sugar until dissolved ands add salt and pepper to taste. Add in some dried chilli flakes if you want a kick.

Almost chimichurri

The steaks cooked up brilliantly, despite it being my first steaks cooked on an electric hob.

Steak and chimichurri


Tahini & Rose Cookies

This was inspired by a recipe that Rebecca Bakes Cakes put up. I did have some nut butters, but I also had the end of a jar of tahini that I needed to use. Tahini, for me, goes hand in hand with cinnamon and rose, two of my favourite flavours, so I decided to go with those rather than the orange water I’d been contemplating.

I had to adjust the recipe as I think that the egg I used was very large, and tahini may be more liquid/oily than peanut butter. Once I’d mixed in the 100g of flour, I added a bit more, 10g at a time, until the dough reached a roll-able consistency. I chilled it for half an hour to make sure.

I can’t wait to try this again, and have a bit more of a play with the recipe, perhaps make a pistachio honey paste to sandwich the cookies together.

50g soft butter

50g golden caster sugar

50g soft brown sugar

50g Cypressa tahini

1 tsp cashew butter

1 large egg

150g self raising flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp Star Kay White rose extract (the best one I’ve found)

Beat the sugars, butter, tahini, cashew butter, cinnamon and extract together until well mixed and fluffy.

Beat in the egg.

Then mix in the flour.

You should be able to roll the dough into balls about 2cm in diameter. If the dough gets too sticky, pop it back in the fridge for 5 minutes.

Space them out on a lined baking tray about an inch apart and press down lightly with the tines of a fork. They don’t spread too much.

Bake for 13 minutes at 170C fan. I turned them round halfway through. (I know it was 13 minutes, I set a timer and everything.)

Leave them to cool on the tray for a couple of minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. They will crisp up around the edges. If you can resist eating them all before then, well done.

They are quite a light biscuit, and very moreish. The tahini doesn’t overpower, and the rose/cinnamon flavours are in the background.

Tahini batter


One missing


Cattleman’s Smokehouse and Grill – Romford Marketplace

Title bar

Yes. Romford. Not usually the place that you think of when you think of barbecue, but if this place keeps going, then I sincerely hope that will change.

I haven’t been to Pitt Cue, it’s out of my ‘get there in a lunch break’ zone, as is Red Dog, and all the hipster-ish places that have sprung up. Big Easy has opened up near my work, and I will be visiting there soon, but what of weekends?

What if you want a proper pulled pork bun with crunchy coleslaw, or a slab of brisket with a side of rich, smoky beans? Where to go? Not everyone has a smoker in their back garden, and not everyone knows how to do it.

My first experience of proper barbecue was in America, in 1999. We went to a place in downtown Portsmouth called Muddy River Smokehouse, and were presented with what looked like, to us, brontosaurus ribs smothered in smoky sauce, and two half racks of pork ribs. EACH. That was a starter. We resolved after that to have a starter between the two of us each time we ate out.

It also got us started on the hunt for good barbecue. Now, I’m from Cypriot stock. We love a good souvla, with its juicy meat charred over open coals and doused in herbs, olive oil and lemon, but this was a style of barbecue that I wasn’t used to. Smoked, deeply so, and soused with sweet sticky tangy sauces, or dry rubbed with yet more spices.

I think we’ve been on the search for it ever since. We’ve been spoiled by getting the really good stuff on our first try. It’s a hard act to follow.

We’ve been to Bodeans in Poland Street, and they used to almost hit the sweet spot, but lately it’s not been quite as good as it used to be. I’m not sure why. Maybe the menu has gotten too big for them, and they need to stick to what they really know.

During the course of our barbecue hunting, Husband found a sauce called Cattlemen’s. It’s perfect. Sadly, we only found it in a Pound shop, and haven’t found it since.

Today I tasted a sauce that was pretty damned near the mark, and that was in Romford, at the Cattleman’s Smokehouse and Grill.

Cattleman’s is Steve, Rhys and Bob. Old Bob, according to Steve.

They’ve been set up in the marketplace for about 2 months, and I would definitely like to see them make a go of it, because there’s talent, and a lot of knowledge there.



They didn’t mind me faffing about taking photos, or nattering at them. Steve is full of ideas about the processes and the finished product. I suspect that this is a man who wants to perfect his art, and then take it that bit further when he’s done that.

There was discussion about the right bread rolls – heavy enough to hold the meat + sauces but not so heavy that they are just a doughy lump.  The proper kind of bacon, that isn’t so thin that it disappears on the griddle. Then there’s the right cuts of meat, with the correct fat ratio. Brisket can dry out if it’s not fatty enough, so when you ask your supplier for a more fatty piece of cow, and they give you the same style every time, you need to look elsewhere. Today they didn’t have salt beef, which is usually brisket,  but they did have smoked clod (beef shoulder) and that was lovely. A light smoke, not overpowering, and it was still tender with a hint of pepper to it. That in a bun with mustard and pickles would be heaven. Indeed, that’s what someone ordered while I was standing there. (rubbish photo ahoy)


I got to try an offcut (go me!) and it was lovely.

The barbecue beans are fabulous too. Full of smoked brisket, and thick with sauce. The pinto beans are properly cooked, but not mushy. I took a pot of those home with me and made them into dinner.

BBQ beans

I had to try the pulled pork. Start with the benchmark, right?


There has been a tendency to make pulled pork into this gelatinous mass of shreds, all sauce and bits, but this was not like that at all. The pork goes in the bun, the sauce gets squeezed on top, then the ‘slaw gets added on that. On goes the top bun and there you go. Pulled pork sandwich. Messy to eat, but with proper chunks of meat that get in between your teeth and give you something to chew on. Excellent pork, still juicy despite a long smoking. Good coleslaw, with minimal onion (Hooray! Thanks Bob!) and good crunch. Their bbq sauce is…yes, perfect.

Dark, tangy but not too vinegary, nicely spicy, sweet but not cloying and decently smoky but not overwhelming. You almost want to get some on your face so you can have it for dessert. (This is the small bun…)

Pulled pork

They also do a bourbon based sauce, which they use for basting their ribs. It’s thinner, but man…The bourbon based one was AMAZING. Liquid spiced caramel. I could have done a shot of that. Actually, a pickleback with that? Line ‘em up.

It’s so good to talk to a man who knows his craft. This is a man who is about to make a new smoker out of an old fridge. Smoking, like cannabis smoking, invariably leads to carpentry or engineering. “Hey! I can make a bong/smoker out of that!”

They already have two smokers. One at the stall, Betty Lou, and one back at HQ, which I think is Bobby Jo.

Personally I can’t wait to go back, and take my husband along. There has to be brisket, there has to be ribs. And if there’s room? There has to be bacon and waffles and maple syrup. They also do coffee, and mugs of tea. Proper.

A breakfast item, in their words:

Saddlebags, a large buttermilk pancake, topped with pieces of home made sausage, crispy bacon, a fried egg and.......warm maple syrup!!!

There is talk of them bottling their sauces, so you can bet I’ll be lining up for those.

You can find them here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cattlemans-Smokehouse-Grill/515432998512094?ref=ts&fref=ts

Here: https://twitter.com/USA2UKFOOD

And Romford Marketplace, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Come on down y’all!


Moro inspired pork belly.

I blame my friend Karen. She sent me the link in the first place, and it was that link that had me thinking about pork belly so much that I couldn't get it out of my head.

You ever have those times when you read a recipe, or hear about a dish, and you know that until you give in and make it, all you’re going to be doing is thinking about making it? Truly, it’s better just to get on and make it or your brain will nag you.

This is the culprit. Guardian, I hold you responsible for this too you know. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/09/sam-sam-clark-chicharrones-de-cadiz-recipe-pork

I failed to buy a piece of pork belly last time I was at the butcher's, but I resolved to find pork belly strips and go ahead and adapt it anyway. I chose to do this on a day when I was working from home, as it does require time. My husband loves crackling, but not pork fat, so it makes sense to cook this kind of thing just for me.


My adaptation of the above recipe. You go with what you’ve got, right?

2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp ground fennel seeds
2 x 400g packages of pork belly strips (there were 4 strips per pack)
2 tsp sea salt flakes

2 tsp cumin powder
½ lemon

Toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan. They will darken and release their aroma.

Add in the two garlic cloves and toast them briefly to intensify their flavour. (It was at this point I discovered that the garlic I had was old and sad, which is why I threw the two cloves into the pan with the fennel seeds)

When the garlic picks up a little colour, put the seeds and garlic into a pestle and mortar along with the 2 tsp sea salt.

Pound well until everything is mixed, and all the seeds crushed down.

Rub this mixture all over the pork. I added a touch of olive oil to get it to adhere to the meat better.

Let it sit for half an hour, then lay the strips in a roasting tin.

Bake on 300F/150C/Gas 2 for a couple of hours, turning once. You want the fat to render, but not disappear.

When the slices have turned dark golden on both sides, take them out and let them cool enough to cut into chunks.

Cook them in a dry frying pan until the edges and any fat starts to crisp, then mix with ground cumin and take off the heat.

Serve with a generous squeeze of lemon juice all over and a little sprinkle of sea salt.

These make incredibly moreish snacks.

Fennel seeds

Seeds and pork


Stage 1

Mixed with cumin and lemon

Stage 2 finished

PS: do not throw the fat and excess seeds/cumin away from the roasting pan. It makes amazing potato wedges the next day.


Nigella’s Easy Almond Cake

It was Easter. I like Easter. It means that spring is here. Or might arrive soon anyway.

Easter is an odd time for me, being half Cypriot, because the usual Greek things that happen usually involve family. LOTS of family. I don’t have that, so there’s not the impetus to do things that there used to be. Making the 40 or 50 flaounes is a group activity, and not something I would attempt on my own, plus what am I going to do with 40 of the things anyway? Red eggs are a tradition, but not really worth doing unless you do a lot at once, plus the splatter dyes everything red. Or purple. Or blue, or…

I don’t really feel the attachment to chocolate eggs at Easter that many do, though I’ll certainly not turn one down but, for me, I’d rather bake lots of things and give them away to people. Annoyingly, this year, I was thwarted in this as Greek Easter, for once, was at the same time as British Easter, and many people went on holiday. How could they? Didn’t they know I needed to bake things and give them away?

I soothed my baking itch by deciding to bake some cakes for my husband. He shares my love of marzipan, so when I saw Nigella’s recipe for Easy Almond Cake, I knew it had to be done.

The whole mixing bit gets done in a food processor, which makes me very happy. I apologise to those who do not have one but, for me, it’s a complete godsend. It means less time standing up, plus I can make pastry without my ridiculously hot hands melting the butter in seconds.

Now. The cake. Oh yes. I warn you now, if you are an almond/marzipan addict like me, when you make this, you will find it very hard indeed not to just eat the batter out of the bowl with a spoon. It’s like a gloriously velvety, marzipan scented silken custard.

Little Easy Almond Cakes

Preheat oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3/325ºF

250 grams unsalted butter, softened

250 grams marzipan, softened

150 grams caster sugar (I used golden)

¼ teaspoon almond essence (I would up this next time to 1/2 tsp)

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (ditto with this)

6 large eggs (I used 6 Clarence Court Burford Browns, but next time would use 5)

150 grams self-raising flour (I didn’t have any, so added a level tsp baking powder to 125g plain flour)

Chop the marzipan into chunks, and put in the food processor bowl with the butter and sugar. Give it a good whirl until combined.

Add in the extracts, then add the eggs one at a time, processing after each addition.

Then add in the flour and baking powder if using, processing again until it’s all mixed. You will probably need to scrape down the sides to make sure all the flour has been mixed in.

I didn’t have a suitable large tin, so decided to bake this as individual cakes. Plus marzipan makes this mixture very sticky, so the silicone moulds give an added non-stick back up.

Adjusting the baking time was tricksy. The original recipe says to bake for 50 minutes but check at 40. I checked at 20 minutes and they were done.

I left them to cool in the mould.

Still quite difficult to get out of the moulds, but they came away in the end.

The cakes are reminiscent of a steamed pudding, very light and, for me, a bit eggy this time around, so next time I will use 5 eggs not 6. That egginess faded after a few days and the cakes got more dense in texture.


Cakes in silicone tray

Finished cakes


They keep very well in an airtight container.

Thanks Nigella!



I’ve recently been watching a fabulous cookery show called A’Fuine, made by BBC Alba. A down to earth show about cooks up in the Hebrides, all cooking in their own kitchens, with no fancy camerawork, or hipster brown bags of ready weighed out goods. The equipment is well used, in many cases old and handed down, and the recipes are excellent.

I have one Dutch recipe to make when I have the time – Gevulde Speculaas - http://www.thedutchtable.com/2010/12/gevulde-speculaas.html but one I did have time for this weekend was flapjack. So off I went.

Recorded here so that I don’t lose the recipe.

6oz butter (I used salted)

5 oz brown sugar

2 tbs golden syrup

1 3/4 oz plain flour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch salt

1/4 tsp orange flower extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

12 oz oatmeal (I used Co-op basic porridge oats)

Melt butter, sugar and golden syrup together until liquid and all the sugar has dissolved.

Add in the ret of the ingredients, some dried fruit if you fancy, then spread out on a lined baking sheet.

Press down well into the edges, making sure it’s even.

Mark lines into the mixture so you can just break them apart when cool.

Bake at 180C for 15 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin before tipping out.