Baking, Something sweet

Spiced pumpkin cake

This makes a great cake to have with a cup of tea at Halloween, or at any other time for that matter! It’s a spiced up recipe from the River Cottage.

So what do you need?

  • 150g soft butter (a pinch of salt if you use unsalted butter)
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 2tsp. group cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 250g grated raw pumpkin
  • 350g plain (all purpose) flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder

For the icing

  • 1/2cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1tbsp. lemmon juice

So what do you do?

Start by preheating your oven to 175 degrees C / 350 F. Then in a mixer, or mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and then add the eggs one by one and mix them in. Next add all the spices and the pumpkin mix everything together. Then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix them in. Grease a 20 cm cake tin or a 25 cm bunt tin and dust with flour then pour in the cake mixture. Put in the oven and cook for about an hour. A cake cooked in a bunt tin will cook a bit faster so one in a normal tin may take an extra 15 minutes or so. Cook until the cake is firm and a skewer comes out clean. Take the cake out of the oven and allow to stand in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing sift the icing sugar and turmeric into a bowl and add the lemon juice then add enough hot water to make a thick paste and put in an icing bag and pipe it onto the top of the cake like a spider’s web, or just ice the cake normally. Enjoy with a cup of tea!

Baking, Veggie mains

Stuffed pumpkin


This makes an impressive dish for a party that can be made and then left to cook in the oven unattended for a couple of hours. A 4 kg. pumpkin will give 8 good portions, or more if served with other dishes.

You’ll need a large, fleshy pumpkin the one I used was about 4kgs a pumpkin that’s heavy for it’s size will have good dense flesh. pre-heating your oven to 200 degrees C / 400F. Then make the stuffing. Chop and fry an onion in some vegetable oil add 2-3 crushed cloves of garlic a tsp. of salt, a tsp. cumin seeds, a tsp. mustard seeds and a tsp. turmeric powder. Gently fry and then add a chopped red pepper and about 200g chopped mushrooms. Fry for a few minutes then add 2 handfuls of cashew nuts, a handful of sultanas, 1 1/2 cups of brown rice and 1/2 cup red lentils. Next I added a small bottle (275 ml.) cider and then cover the mixture by a couple of cm. with boiling water (you can use veggie stock instead of cider and water if you prefer) and put a lid on the pan an simmered for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile wash your pumpkin and cut a lid out of the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all the seeds and the softest layer of flesh inside. In a mortar crush a clove of garlic with a pinch of salt, a few peppercorns, about a 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds. Smear this on the inside flesh of the pumpkin. Check your rice to see how it’s doing you want it to be about 3/4 cooked so still a little hard and to still have a reasonable amount of liquid in it. Once the rice is almost cooked taste it and season with extra salt, if necessary, then scoop it into the pumpkin and put the lid on. Loosely wrap the pumpkin in foil to stop the outside burning and put it in the oven for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours. The cooking time will depend of the size and density of your pumpkin.

To serve I made a simple sauce that Ottolenghi uses with roast pumpkin. Mix 8 tbsp. of plain yoghurt and 2 – 3 tbsp. of Siracha sauce together. It looks good if it’s not completely mixed together. I also finely chopped a couple of spring onions and added them to the sauce. Once the pumpkin is cooked place on a serving dish. To serve take off the lid and cut slices of the pumpkin and filling and serve with the sauce and some fresh coriander leaves.

Baking, Something fruity, Something sweet

Pears poached in Marsala 


These make a great autumn dessert if you have the oven on cooking a roast.

Start by peeling your pears (one per person) leaving the stalk and the slice the bottom flat. In a casserole dish place your pears (I made 5) and pour in about 250ml of Marsala wine, a cinnamon stick, a tsp. vanilla essence and a tbsp. honey. Cover the casserole dish and put in the bottom of the oven at about 175 degrees C or 350 degrees F and cook for about 90 mins turning a couple of times. Take them out of the oven an allow to cool down. Serve warm with some thick cream.

Baking, Brunch, Something fruity

Breakfast bars


I’ve made these the last couple of Sundays so that I have something healthy and easy to eat in the mornings rather than just eating toast. They keep longer if you make them without  the bananas. You can adapt the recipe adding dried fruits and nuts of your choice. I either make them in a tray and cut them into squares or in individual portions in a muffin tin.

Today I used:

  • 2 ripe bananas (optional)
  • 1/3 cup (rice bran) oil (coconut oil works too)
  • 1/4- 1/3 cup honey (maple syrup or muscovdao / unrefined sugar are good too)
  • 1 cup of dried fruit (chopped dates and sultanas)
  • 1 cup of nuts (I used peanuts)
  • 1 handful of chopped crystalized ginger (or a tsp. ginger powder or other spice of choice)
  • 4 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. perilla seeds
  • 2 0r 3 cups of porridge oats

Start heating your oven to 175 degrees C / 350 F. Then mash the bananas (if using) and  mix in the oil and honey. Then mix in the dried fruit, seeds and spices saving a couple of tsp. of sesame seeds to sprinkle on top. Finally stir in the oats to make a thick mixture. If you don’t add bananas then you won’t need as many oats. Then press down in a lined baking tin or in individual portions in cake cups in a muffin tin and sprinkle the remaining sesame seeds on top. Bake for 15 mins for individual portions or about 20 mins for a large baking tray, until they it browns on top. If you have made them in a try cut into 12 pieces while warm and the allow to cool and keep in an airtight container. If you’ve added bananas you can keep them in the fridge so they last longer if you live in a hot climate like I do.

Baking, Something fruity, Something sweet, Tarts

Rustic apple & pecan tart

This is an autumnal variation on my rustic peach tart the pastry is made in the same way. For the filling I put a good handful of sultans in a large mixing bowl with about 4 tbsp. maple syrup to this I added about 5 or 6 freshly ground cloves and mixed them together and left to stand while I made my pastry. While the pastry was in the oven I pre-heated the oven with my pizza stone in it and peeled, cored and sliced 4 eating apples. I kept the apples in a bowl of water with lemon juice in it to stop them browning. Once my oven was hot I rolled out my pastry. I drained the apples and dried them in a clean tea towel and mixed them and a good handful of pecan nuts in with the sultanas and coated them all in the maple syrup. Then I put the pastry on the pizza stone and spread the apple mixture in the middle of it and quickly folded up the edges and put an egg and milk glaze on the crust. I then sprinkled over a tbsp. of brown sugar and baked the tart for 45 minutes until the pastry was golden brown. Serve warm with thick cream or vanilla ice cream