Baking, Something fruity, Something sweet

Plum crumble cake


I came across some plums in our local market at the weekend, they’re in season here at this time of year but not that easy to find so this cake is an annual treat for me, and whoever I decide to share it with! The one in the bunt tin is one I made almost a year ago to the day so this really is a seasonal treat. It’s got a great combination of contrasting, colours, flavours and textures, the tart plums and the sweet crumble and the soft sponge, the juicy plums and the crunchy crumble. So next time plums are in season near you give it a go. This recipe is adapted from Bill Granger’s book Bill’s Food.


So what do you need?

The cake

  • 150g of unsalted butter (softened)
  • 200g of white sugar
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 1/2 cup of plain yoghurt (no more)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
  • 200g plain (all purpose) flour (sifted)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 400g ripe plums (halved and deseeded)

For the crumble

80g plain (all purpose) flour

40g porridge oats

80g unsalted butter

80g brown sugar

40g flaked almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 175 Degrees C / 350 F.

Start by making the crumble, put the butter, flour, sugar and oats in a bowl and rub them together between your fingers (or in a food processor) until crumbly and then mix in the almonds (by hand) and put the crumble in the fridge while you make the cake.

In a food processor (or in a bowl) cream the sugar, butter and vanilla essence together until light and fluffy. Then add the yoghurt and the eggs one at a time and mix them in. Add the flour and baking powder and mix everything together into a thick, smooth batter. Pour this in a 24cm loose bottomed cake tin (or even better a bunt tin which will help the cake cook through better) and then place the plums on top, cut side up.


Then sprinkle over the crumble mixture.

P1020463Bake in the oven for an hour, or slightly longer, until a skewer comes out clean. It won’t rise that much because of the weight of the plums Check after about 40 mins and cover with foil if necessary to stop the almonds burning. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Enjoy warm with cream / ice cream as a dessert or once cooled with a cup of tea. Eat on the day of baking or the next day otherwise the cake will become soggy from the plums. You could try other fruit, perhaps raspberries or mulberries for a similar effect, peaches or mangoes would work well but wouldn’t have the tartness of the plums, so they would make sweeter cake. It makes about 12 servings.


Veggie mains



A few people have asked me when I’m going to put a veggie burger recipe on my blog and so here we go….

There are so many veggie burger recipes out there and over the past 30+ years I’ve been a vegetarian (I must have been a vegetarian from birth I hear you saying) I’ve tried a fair few. My main gripes with many of them are that they are too soggy / mushy, disinergrate when you cook them, or lack any depth of flavor. Over the past couple of years I’ve been trying out various burgers with beetroot in them, with some turning out better than others but generally I like the earthy flavor and the texture and colour the beetroot brings to the burgers. So here’s a simple beetburger recipe (which has a few stages which shouldn’t be rushed) that I think does the job. The oats seem to be the magic ingredient that help bind the mixture and absorb any excess moisture.

So what do you need? (for 4-5 burgers)

  • 1 smallish onion (finely) chopped)
  • 2 or 3 coves of crushed garlic
  • 1 raw beetroot (grated)
  • 1 – 400g tine of red kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 free range egg (beaten)
  • 1/2 cup of porridge oats
  • sea salt / pepper and 1/2 tsp of chilli powder
  • 2 tbps sesame seeds
  • some wholemeal flour
  • some vegetable oil

So what do you do?

Start by frying the onion in some olive oil, as it starts to soften add the garlic. While this is cooking grate the beetroot and add this and some salt (a few good grinds) and cook until it softens a little. Put the beans in a mixing bowl and mash them up (I use a potato masher) and add the egg. Next add the oats and the beetroot and onion mixture and half the sesame seeds and mix it all up. It will form a thickish paste.


Put this in the fridge for an hour or more this allows the oats to do their magic. Then form the burgers I have some rings that I think as meant for frying eggs that I use for this (and for making crumpets).


Another key trick, if you don’t like mushy burgers, is not to make them too thick. I think 1 1/2 cm is about right (2cm is too thick and mushy for me). I put the metal ring on a floured baking sheet and spoon in some of the mixture. I press this down and sprinkle on some sesame seeds and some flour and then place them on a tray and put them back in the fridge for 30 mins, or longer.


Then in a frying pan put in a reasonable amount of oil to cover the pan and heat this up until it is pretty hot and then fry the burgers (this stage seals them and helps stop them falling apart) and turn them over. While you are doing this heat a griddle pan (or do the next stage on a BBQ).


Then finish the burgers off on a hot griddle pan or BBQ to give them a charred flavour.


Serve with you favourite relishes and salad items. Here I’ve used my homemade tomato sauce, some salad and mayonnaise. I hope you enjoy them and please let me know what you think.


Veggie mains

No bake Mac & Cheese

I’ve had a really full-on week and have had no time to shop or cook so this evening although I was pretty exhausted I fancied some comfort food at home. I stopped at our weekly evening market on the way home and brought some baby broccoli and some oyster mushrooms.  This really hit the spot! The cream cheese and wine make a quick alternative to a be bechamel sauce, the grated cheddar adds some lovely chewiness, and the crispy garlic mushrooms make a great substitute for the yummy crispy cheese you get on the top of an oven baked pasta dish. Not to forget the broccoli which gives you one of your five-a-day and adds some colour to the dish too.

As soon as I got in I put a pan of water on to boil and went and had a super quick shower. Then I chopped up some of the mushrooms and fried them in olive oil with some garlic. While I was going this I opened a bottle of wine and poured a glass and put the pasta in the pan. Once the mushrooms were crispy I put them in a bowl and put a generous amount of cream cheese in the frying pan with a slosh of wine and some pepper and salt and heated this up. While this was happening I chopped up the broccoli and put this in the pasta pan. Next I added some grated cheddar cheers to the sauce. The pasta and broccoli were done so I drained them and added them to the sauce and gave them a good stir, put it in a bowl and sprinkled on the mushrooms.

A shower, dinner and my first glass of wine all in 20 mins. Not bad going!

Baking, Something sweet

Yummy sticky date pudding with caramel sauce

IMG_2487This is one of my favourite and popular desserts, it’s somehow deeply comforting reminding me of sponge puddings when I was a kid. The recipe I use is based on one I found a few years ago on after I’d enjoyed the delicious Sticky Date Pudding many times at Eat Me restaurant in Bangkok and wanted to try to make it myself.

So what do you need?

For the cake

  • 250 g pitted dates
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g softened butter
  • 1/2  cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

For the caramel

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 200 ml  cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 40g butter

So what do you do?

Start by soaking the dates in the boiling water, with the bicarbonate of soda for about 20 mins to soften them. Pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees C / 330 F. Then put your butter in a food processor with the sugar and blend them together (this can be done in a bowl) then add the eggs and the vanilla extract and blend again. When the dates are ready pour them and the liquid in and blend them together and finally sift the flour and baking powder and add them then mix it all together. The mixture will be runny, like a thick batter. Either pour this in one deep cake tin about 22cm diameter (either a good non-stick tin or lined with baking parchment) or for individual pudding pour it into a 12 hole muffin tin (you may have some left over batter that you can cook in a small tin, it depends on the size of your muffin tin.)


For individual puddings bake them for 20-25 mins and for a large cake bake for 40-45 mins, until a skewer coms out clean. Leave the puddings to stand for 10 mins and then remove them from the tin and put them on a cooling rack.


For the caramel sauce put all the ingredients in a thick bottomed saucepan and heat it up, stirring constantly, until it reaches a boil and then simmer for a further about 3 minutes continuing to stir. You can add some crushed sea salt or some whisky to the caramel if you want to give it a slight twist. Serve warm (particularly the sauce) with vanilla ice cream. For an extra treat serve with a  glass of Madeira too!

Thai Food

Veggie Hor Mok


This is a steamed Thai curry dish usually made with fish. My veggie version uses tofu and mushrooms instead. It’s mild and creamy and isn’t difficult to make and makes a change for standard curries. This recipe serves two in one medium sized bowl you can make individual servings in smaller bowls / ramekins. Traditionally Hor Mok is made in small bowls made of banana leaves or larger ones are sometimes made in coconut shells, so use whatever container you prefer.

First you need to line a bowl (about 12-14 cm across and 6-7 cm deep) with Chinese cabbage leaves and put a handful of Thai basil leaves (Horapa) in the bottom. The Thai basil is an important part of the flavor combination of this dish.


Next in some vegetable oil lightly fry 100 g of tofu cut into small cubes and 150 g of sliced mushrooms. When they start to brown a little add 1-2 tbsp of red curry paste, depending on the spiciness of your paste and your palate, and a tsp or so of light soy sauce, mix this with the tofu and mushrooms.

 You’ll need about 250 ml (or slightly less) of coconut milk, save about 4-5 tbsp of the creamiest milk and mix the rest with a beaten egg and 1 heaped tbsp of rice (or wheat) flour and add this to the curry mixture and heat through until it thickens. Then pour this into your prepared bowl.


Cover the bowl with foil and put in a steamer and steam for about 20 mins (individual portions will cook quicker) until it begins to set. After almost 20 mins put the remaining coconut milk into a small saucepan with 1/2 tsp of rice flour and heat it up until it thickens. Take the foil off the Hor Mok and pour the thickened coconut milk on top of the curry mixture and cover with foil and steam for another 10 mins. Cut thin slices of a large red chilli and think strips of a kaffir lime leaf. When the Hor Mok is cooked put these on top as a garnish. Serve with brown organic rice and any other dishes of your choice, perhaps a stir fried veggie dish.


Salads, Snacks

Sesame dip


This is a really easy and very popular dip that I often make for parties from a book called Vegetarian Party food by Celia Brooks Brown that is unfortunately now out of print.

All you need to do is dry roast ¼ of a cup of sesame seeds in a frying pan and the grind most of them, leaving about ½ tsp to garnish the dish. Then mix together ½ cup of (greek) yoghurt, ½ cup of mayonnaise and 2 tbsp of dark soy sauce with the ground sesame seeds. Put the dip in a bowl and sprinkle on the remaining sesame seeds and serve on a platter with crudités.


Baking, Edible gifts, Something sweet

Millionaire’s shortbread


This is a super sweet and yummy treat, classic shortbread topped with caramel and chocolate, AKA homemade Twix bars, enjoyed by small and big children alike, just make sure you have several people to share it with!

So what will you need?

  • For the shortbread
  • 225g butter
  • 75g  sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • 175g butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 1 (397g) can of condensed milk
  • 1tsp salt (optional)
200g chocolate
So what do you do?

Line a 20×30 cm greased baking tray with foil / baking parchment the tray needs to be at least 3 cm deep. Heat the oven to 160˚C / 


Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until light and creamy. Sift in the flour and mix it together until it forms a soft dough. This can be done in a food processor if you have one. Then press the mixture evenly into the tray. Bake for 30 minutes until pale golden.


Next put the butter, sugar, and condensed milk into a large pan over a medium heat. Stir continuously until the sugar dissolves then turn up the heat slightly and boil the mixtures for about 8 minutes, stirring all the time to ensure the mixture doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. The mixture will darken and thicken it is ready when it turns a deep golden colour, don’t worry if you get some darker specks in your caramel as it cooks. Stir in 1tsp salt, if you want salted caramel, then pour the caramel over the shortbread and leave to set.


Next put the chocolate, you can use plain or milk depending on your preference but I prefer the bitterness of plain chocolate to contrast to the sweet caramel, into a glass bowl and melt it over a pan of hot water. Then pour the chocolate over the caramel. Leave in a cool place to set.


Cut into about 30 pieces. When you do this score through the chocolate first and then cut through the shortbread, this will help stop the chocolate cracking. It can be kept for a week in an airtight container, but it probably won’t last that long.