Sunday, 20 January 2013

It is snowing yet again, so there is some fresh build up of snow on the ice outside!  The men in the house are watching the snooker finals and I am contemplating if I should bake....but a Sunday roast is currently cooking in the oven!

I thought I would post some pictures of my chocolate cake.  It is the one that I am asked to make the most by friends and family and for charity donations etc etc.  It is four layers of chocolate sponge cake, sandwiched together with vanilla cooked flour buttercream then wrapped in a dark chocolate collar (band) and topped with truffles, maltesers and chocolate buttons....basically it is a chocolate indulgence cake!  Quite simply it is amazing just how a collar of chocolate cake can make a basic chocolate sponge, look classy!

I have this week bought another recipe book (my collection is huge) entitled "Made at Home Preserves" by Dick & James Strawbridge.  It has simple recipes for preserves of all kinds which I will attempt to make over the weeks/months, but as soon as I can get to the supermarkets out of town, I will most definitely get the ingredients to try the chilli chocolate brownies (pg 168).  I love chilli chocolate and the brownies look divine.  

Friday, 18 January 2013

Snow!  School is closed today because of snow.....and it is still coming down where we are!  As we are home today, I thought I would again try and use up some of the coconut stored in the cupboard...hence coconut fingers were made today!  

Being from St Helena, a coconut finger is a traditional celebration cake.  It would be outrageous if there was a wedding, christening, or birthday party, family gathering, day out, picnic, etc.  and there were no coconut fingers!  They are usually iced in pink, or green. I imagine it is because they were the food colours that was widely available when our grandparents, and great grandparents and great - great grandparents made them all those years ago.  

Every family or district on St Helena I am sure has their own family recipe for making the sponge cake and for decorating them, which is a messy business.  Some dip the whole sponge into the icing before rolling them in the coconut, or some do them the way I do (which my mum does) by using a flat blade knife and spreading the icing on each side while holding onto the small ends between thumb and index finger, before rolling in the coconut.  

Nevertheless they are a sweet mix of soft sponge cake, icing and coconut.  My smallest son, asked me if it was "St Helena Day" as I usually only make these on 21st May, when we celebrate St Helena Day.  When I told him it was a treat to have with a cup of hot chocolate after playing in the snow, he was then asking "how soon could we go outside?"

This recipe is how I make them.....there will be numerous St Helenian ways of making them, but this one works for me.  The ingredients are in ounces time I will convert them!  

Coconut Fingers

Makes 18

6 oz self raising flour
6 oz caster sugar
6 oz margarine or butter
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla flavouring 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.


8 oz icing sugar
pink or green food colouring
hot water

1 small pack desiccated coconut preferably fine.  (But medium will do)

To Make the Cake:

Preheat the Oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease and baseline a 8 inch square baking tin.  (You may need to double the ingredients if you are using a larger tin).

Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl until pale and creamy and there are no traces of sugar.  Pour into the prepared tin, and bake on the middle shelf  for approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins.
Remove from the tin and cool completely.

To decorate:

Cut the cake half and then cut each half into strips (9 fingers from each half).

Pour the coconut onto a plate.  Place the icing sugar and a small amount of food colouring in a bowl and add hot water by the tablespoon and stir until the icing is of a thick glossy consistency.  Add more water if it is too thick to spread.

Spread the long sides of a finger of cake with the icing, then roll in the coconut.  Set aside for the icing to dry.  Repeat with the remaining cake.  

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

How many people find themselves in January looking through their cupboards after the Christmas hoard wondering what they can use up?  Having looked on my so called baking shelf, I found that I had two large packets of coconut (stocked piled when cheap in Aldi) and two large packets of dates that a friend had brought us on a visit from Saudi Arabia.  If I had mentioned to the kids that I would be making a cake with dates, there facial expressions of disgust would determined the end to my baking that day, so what with Saturday being very cold, I thought I would entertain myself with some baking and find a use for my stockpile!  Hence a Date, Coconut and Chocolate Chip tray bake was made.  The smell was delicious as it was baking and the kids couldn't wait to have it..... they even added a dollop of cream!  I think though it is the perfect coffee cake (says she who is no coffee drinker), as it was moist and was still soft and moist the next day!

As this months Alpha Bakes hosted by Caroline Makes and The more than Occasional Baker, had the letter D as the challenge, this cake has fitted perfectly too in with their theme.

Date, Coconut and Chocolate Chip Cake.

1 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup chocolate chips

Place the chopped dates in a small bowl and cover with the boiling water.  Stir and allow to cool completely.  The dates will soften during this time.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease and baseline a 8 x 8 square tin.

Whisk the sugar, egg and butter together until pale and creamy. Mix in the flour,  cornflour, baking soda and baking powder.  Stir in the dates and coconut.

Pour into the prepared tin.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and bake for approximately 25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.  

Doubling the mixture will give a deeper cake.....but as I thought it would be just me and my hubby eating this, I decided to go for a flatter cake.  The kids have raved about this another one will be on the cards soon!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

When the weather is cold, nothing beats some good ole tasty home-made food!!  It's January and theoretically we should all be counting calories etc etc, so to cut back on some the calories in these individual beef and vegetable pies, I have just made a herby shortcrust pastry lid for them...trying to bling up a boring shortcrust lid!  The family really enjoyed them......there was no complaints!

The filling is cooked ahead, before the pies are baked in the oven.  It is all a little time consuming, but the end  result is worth it.  

Beef and Vegetable Pies with a Herby Shortcrust Pastry Lid

Makes six individual pies (deep filled)

For the filling:

1 kg beef shin
1 large onion diced
2 large carrots sliced
3 large flat mushrooms diced
1 medium red chilli (optional)
3 sticks celery sliced finely
3 garlic cloves crushed
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 beef oxo's
1 litre hot water
Fry light Spray

Remove any visible fat from the beef and then dice into 1 1/2 cm cubes.  Spray some fry light into the bottom of a medium saucepan (which has a lid).  Place over a medium heat source and add the beef.  Stir the beef over the heat until it is browned on all sides.  Add the diced onion, garlic and chilli if using and the balsamic vinegar, and stir. Dissolve the oxo's in the hot water and add to the meat in the saucepan.   Stir, then add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover the saucepan with the lid and allow to simmer for approximately one and half hours until the meat is tender, stirring from time to time.  Add the carrots, mushrooms and celery to the meat and cook for a further ten until the carrots are cooked.  Remove from the heat. 

Shortcrust pastry: 

400g plain flour
200g butter cubed
2 tablespoon mixed herbs (dried or fresh)
1/2 tsp salt
4 - 6 tablespoons very cold water

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the salt and the herbs.  Add the water and combine to make a dough.  Add some more water if the mixture is too dry.

Wrap in clingwrap and chill for up to half and hour.

Making the Pies

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.    Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface.  Place one of the pie dishes upside down on the pastry and cut around it, slightly larger to make the pastry lids.

Fill the pie dishes with the beef filling.  Place a lid on the top of each pie, ensure that it touches the meat and press the pastry into the sides of the pie dish.  Use a knife to make a few slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape so the pastry will become crisp.

Brush the pastry with some beaten egg and bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

It's a New Year and before I find myself bending under the weigh of my resolutions, I have decided this year that I wont make any!  I am heading for a milestone birthday this year....hopefully the weather will be good to me in August, when it is, and apart from wishing that myself and my family will remain happy and healthy  and achieve successfully what we set out to do, there is nothing more, that I should really ask for!!

After the Christmas and New Year splurge.....its back to simple healthy ish ( healthy most of the time I hope) meals.  Having thought this morning that some sort of protein with veggie sticks and dips would be nice this evening, as the hours have ticked by and its has become duller and colder....that idea has fallen by the way side and so, beef and vegetable pies with a home made pastry is!! So healthy has gone out of the window and had I made a resolution....I would have fallen foul by day 2!!

In September I entered my  mince pie recipe in the Tesco Real Food Bake Off and at the end of October, I got an email which said  

"Congratulations! After you submitted your recipe at you have been drawn as a lucky winner in the Tesco Baking prize draw (week five) featured online at

Your fabulous prize is a Morphy Richards Hand Blender Work Centre, which combines the convenience of a hand blender with the flexibility of a processor. It has a powerful 700W motor with a turbo setting and an array of accessories to cater for all your food preparation needs."

In November, my prize arrived....all I can say I was well chuffed and naturally the family was very proud of my achievement.   The blender has had a good testing over the weeks, blending my home made soups and the blade attachment made light work of crushing the 300g of ginger nuts for the baileys cheesecake base, I made on Christmas Thank you Tesco!!