Apple Loaf Cake

Like apples? Don’t like apples? Either way I suggest you try out this treat for elevenses one week: a sweet snack with a quick cup of tea. It’s wonderfully moorish!

2 eating apples
A tablespoon of lemon juice
A tablespoon of demerara sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
110g flour
110g caster sugar
100g unsalted soft butter
2 large eggs (beaten)

Preheat the oven to 180º (gas mark 4).

Cream the butter and sugar together, until white and smooth. The softer the butter, the easier this is to do. Add a little of the beaten egg and stir in, alternating with the flour until all the flour and egg are mixed into a smooth batter. Swirl in the table spoon of cinnamon to create a rough marble effect in the batter. If you don’t like cinnamon, just leave it out. Then pour the batter into a loaf tin lined with greaseproof paper.

A good tip, when it comes to lining any square cake tin is to leave extended bits of paper sticking over the edge of the tin. You can use these to lift the cake out after cooking.

Finely slice the apples into very thin segments and arrange over the top of the cake batter. I stood mine up in the mix in two long rows, but not digging them in too much – as they will sink into the cake as it rises during the baking process.

Sprinkle with a little lemon juice and demerara sugar. Bake for 55 minutes on 180° in the middle shelf on an oven.

Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting. To make sure it is cooked all the way through, test the cake by running a metal skewer through the centre. Although this is naturally quite a wet cake, it should still come come out fairly clean, without batter. If not, put it back in the oven for another ten minutes.


Fatayer Bi Sabanekh – Spinach Turnovers

My Grandmother wrote in 1969 that she sampled this little snack on a picnic in the mountains. Although she was in Austria at the time, this is a Lebanese snack. Now, forty years on, I find myself making them for a picnic of my own. These are little spinach triangle pies, bursting with the flavours of lemon and cinnamon. The trick is to get the pastry as thin as you dare. You may, like me, consider this a peculiar mixture of flavours – but it’s a delightful little edible and really worth a taste.



For the pastry:
7 cups bread flour
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried fast action yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of sugar
Cold water

For the filling:
2lbs fresh spinach, chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup pine nuts or walnuts
Lemon Juice
Salt and pepper


Add a tablespoon of warm water to the sugar and the yeast to activate it. Stir in the olive oil, flour and salt. Slowly add the water a tablespoon at a time and bring together the mix to form a stiff dough. Add a little more flour to compensate if you make the dough too wet.  Cover with a damp cloth and let it stand in warm place for half and hour, before rolling out on a floured surface. It needs to be thin – no more than half a centimetre thick. With a round pastry cutter, cut two-inch diameter circles. Combine the filling ingredients together and spoon a tablespoon into the middle of each pastry disc and push three sides of the circle into the centre, pressing the edges together firmly.

Place on a baking sheet and cook in a hot oven until the edges of the triangle have caught a little colour and the pastry is golden.

Serve hot or cold with slices of lemon to squeeze into the centre. It’s a great accompaniment with lamb, some full flavoured meat (cold is best). Although it may be considered a crossing of various cultures, I also like having it on a kind of mezze platter, with my favourite sliced smoked meats or a bit of leftover roast lamb, roasted aubergines and garlic lathered in olive oil and with a bowl of fresh tzatziki dip.

Scones for Tea?

Crispy just-baked shells of cloud soft warm doughy sweetness. With raisins or with cheese. I’ve even seen treacle and herby ones too. Are they scary to make? No. Do they need that shop-bought perfection shape of approval? No. You could be sitting on a sunny croquet lawn in the West Country, or you could be in your front room with the rain pouring off the window pane – but I’m telling you now, there’s nothing nicer than a freshly baked scone with clotted cream and your favourite, well made pot of English tea.

The secret? Sorry – the secret is they’re just too easy to make! You’ll end up with a pile like these.

230g self raising flour
A tsp salt
25g unsalted cold butter
120ml ice cold milk
55g caster sugar
A handful of raisins

Sift the flour into a bowl, add the sugar and a pinch of salt. Cut the cold butter into small cubes – the colder the butter, the easier this is. Then, with your hands, rub the butter through the flour to make a crumbly mix. Add the raisins and then the milk, a little at a time, and using a knife stir it in, combining the liquid with the flour to bring together a cold dough. When you can form a small ball, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for no longer than a minute or two. You don’t want the dough to get too warm, just smooth enough to roll with a rolling pin or push out with your hands. Flatten the dough to no thinner than 1.5cm and using a pastry cutter (I used a 5cm diameter one) cut out scones and lay on a greased baking tray. Be sure that when you press the cutter into the scone dough, press evenly around the edges – this will help the scone rise more evenly and you wont get overly lopsided ones.

You should be able to get between 10 and 12 from the dough, but you will have to re-roll the dough trimmings out after the first five or six.

Once arranged on the tray, brush any left over milk over the tops.

Place on the middle shelf of a pre-heated oven on 220° for fifteen minutes or until nicely golden brown. Just keep an eye one them during those last few minutes – blackening edges make for ugly looking tops.

For cheesy scones, omit the sugar and raisins and grate about 100g (two heaped handfuls) of cheese into the flour before you rub the butter in. For a nice colour use something like Red Leicester. In actual fact, I also used some extra mature cheddar as well.

Pineapple Custard Tart

Ingredients  Pineapple chunks 1 cup double cream 2 large egg yolks Vanilla essence Butter 50g (cubed) Flour 125g 1 tsp caster sugar 2 tbsp milk 2 eggs Make up the sweet short crust pastry by rubbing the butter and flour and sugar together between your fingers. When the mixture is crumbly add the eggs and […]

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There is a family story that tells of my Grandfather, Jim, dining at the Savoy in London and one evening ordering the soufflé for his desert. So unhappy was he, with what was served, that he wrote to the kitchen explain his disappointment. Unlike today’s apologetic vouchers or consolatory free meal, this was the 1940s […]

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Roast Chicken Bake

This is a quick fix recipe for one of those I’m-a-bit-stumped-as-to-what-to-have-dinner-tonight moments in life.

2 large  potatoes, diced
Roasted chicken (boneless)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
A sprig of thyme
3 – 4 large leaves of Spring greens (or 1 leek/cup of spinach)
Salt and pepper to taste

50g mild Cheddar cheese, grated
30g  plain flour
1/2 cup of milk
30g butter
grated nutmeg

Par-boil the diced potatoes in some salted water until they are soft enough to run a knife through easily. While the potatoes are boiling, fry the onions and garlic, adding the spring greens and take off the heat when softened. If you are using spinach, then it doesn’t need much cooking – it will cook through enough in the oven.  Stir in the roasted chicken (and spinach) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the sauce, begin with a béchamel base by melting the butter in a pan and stirring the flour in to form a smooth paste. Remove from the heat and keep stirring as you mix in the milk. Once consistent and smooth, return to the heat, melt the cheese into the sauce and finish with some grated nutmeg.

Now all the components of the bake are ready to bring together. Put the chicken filling into an oven proof dish and pour over the cheese sauce. Scatter evenly over the top the the diced potatoes. It doesn’t matter if some stick up more than others, these bits will catch the heat and give a characterful golden crispy texture on the topping.

Place in the oven on 200°/gas mark 6 for about 25 mins until the potatoes are a happy golden colour. ~