Monthly Archives: September 2012

Salmon and Summer Vegetable Bake

I really enjoy this dish so I thought I had better hurry up and get it posted before what we had of a summer was a long distant memory.  It already seems like months ago as the howling wind and rising flood waters surround me and the heating went on last week but this dish allows me to cling to lighter summer eating while still being warm, filling and very satisfying.

If you’re lucky enough not to have had all your crops eaten by slugs or birds or trampled by workmen (I don’t want to talk about it) then you can use courgettes, tomatoes and potatoes you grew yourself.  The rest of us will just have to look on enviously! (Although I still have hopes I’ll find some potatoes that the slugs haven’t had!)


Other than the flavours of this dish one of the delightful things about it is that you can, if you want, just throw it all in a roasting dish and bung it in the oven.  Minimal prep work is required and 45 minutes later dinner is served with no fuss and no extra dishes!  If you would prefer your tomatoes and courgettes to hold their shape a little more then you can precook the potatoes a bit by steaming them for 10 minutes and then cooking everything for 30 minutes.  For a family supper I wouldn’t bother, if you were cooking to impress then may be I would.

Another thing I like is that you don’t need any kind of sauce.  I am terrible for always needing something like mayo, ketchup or gravy if there isn’t a proper ‘sauce’ with something but the cream cheese topping does a delightful job of keeping everything moist and full of flavour.


Serves 2 (can be scaled up or down to whatever capacity your roasting dish can hold!)

2 salmon fillets
1 tsp green pesto
4 tbsp cream cheese
2 tbsp bread crumbs (Feeling lazy? Panko work nicely too)
1 large courgette, cut into batons
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes (whatever seems a suitable portion)
2 handfuls of new potatoes*
1 lemon sliced into quarters
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
– Take a large roasting tin and pour in the olive oil.  Tip in the courgettes, tomatoes and potatoes and toss in the oil to coat.
– Mix the pesto and cream cheese together and spread on top of the salmon fillets.
– Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top of the cream cheese.
– Nestle the salmon between the vegetables.
– Give everything a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and add the lemon wedges to the dish.
– Cover with foil and pop it in the oven for 45 minutes.
– Test the potatoes to check they’re done.  A sharp knife should slide in smoothly.
– Serve, a nice crust bread would go well with this dish to soak up the juices.

*Alternative – Steam the potatoes for 10 minutes before tossing in the oil with the other vegetables.  Then only bake the dish for 30 minutes.



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Filed under Easy, Mains

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am currently a little bit obsessed with the Chocolate Chip Cookies from M&S Bakery section.  They put something addictive in them I swear!  As a result I’m currently spending a lot of time trying to recreate that cookie.  I don’t hold out much hope of actually doing that but in the meantime I’m baking a lot of decicious chocolate chip cookies!


This one is my current favourite because of the melted butter.  It’s ridiculously quick and easy to throw together and makes a delicious, chewy cookie with nice crispy edges just the way I like them!  In order to get the full M&S experience you should eat the cookies warm… I challenge you not to scoff half the batch fresh out the oven, no one has that much will power!


Makes 24 large cookies

170g melted unsalted butter
220g light muscovado sugar
100g caster sugar (If you like the grainyness of the M&S cookies feel free to use granulated, I don’t like it so I use caster)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
200g chocolate chips (I use one bag of dark and one bag of milk for variety)

– Heat the oven to Gas mark 3/170C and prepare three baking trays.
– Melt the butter, I put it in the microwave for 1 minute but microwaves vary so be careful!
– In a large mixing bowl mix the melted butter  with both sugars until smooth.
– Beat in the vanilla, egg and egg yolk until smooth.
– Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until it forms a dough.
– Mix through the chocolate chips.  *
– Each cookie should be about a 1/4 cup size of dough.  I use a dessert spoon to scoop and drop onto the baking trays.  Make sure they cookies are well spaced apart as they spread.
– Bake one sheet at a time in the top of the oven for about 15-17 minutes.  The cookies will still be soft but the edges should be a little brown.
– Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely/eat.
– Repeat with the remaining trays of cookies.

*I frequently put the bowl of cookie mixture in the fridge at this point and leave it for a few hours/overnight.  Sometimes, life gets in the way! I think this can result in a chewier cookie and a taller cookie with a bit less spread as the butter takes longer to melt and spread out.  (There is actual science behind this to do with the flour absorbing the liquid, apparently 36 hours chilling is the optimum but who is that organised?)


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Filed under Cookies and Biscuits, Easy

Rainbow Chard, Spring Onion, Sweetcorn and Pepperoni ‘Pizza’

I tried to grow rainbow chard this summer.  It had obviously been watching the Olympics this summer because it bolted.  Immediately, not pausing for breath, it simply sprinted right past edible and grew gloriously tall.  Which was a shame as I was very much looking forward to trying it.


Happily, I found some from the local organic vegetable stand at York Farmers’ Market so I grabbed myself a bunch (and also some tips for next summer, more nitrogen apparently) and, vaguely remembering a recipe over on Smitten Kitchen, I decided that pizza was on the menu that night.  I grabbed some local pepperoni (amazing amazing pepperoni, so nuanced I was instantly smitten and I don’t even like pepperoni!)

I mean, just look at it, isn’t it beautiful?  As far as flavour goes, I am very willing to admit that it’s a leafy green vegetable.  It’s good but it didn’t set my world on fire.  However, I have very low iron levels so I need all the leafy green veg I can get and I am always willing to eat something simply because it’s pretty!


Makes 2

250g strong white bread flour
1 tsp fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
150ml warm water
knob of butter
200g rainbow chard, sliced into ribbons
4 tbsp creme fraiche
4 spring onions, sliced
2 tbsp sweetcorn
1/2 block ‘greek salad cheese’ or feta

– Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and mix.
– Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water.
– Mix until it forms a dough then turn out to knead on a floured worksurface for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
– Place in an oiled bowl and cover, in a draft free place, and leave for one hour or until doubled in size.
– Knock it down and divide the dough into two.
– Shape each ball of dough into a roundish pizza shape and place on a baking tray.
– Cover with a teatowel and leave in a warm palce to rise for half an hour.
– In the meantime heat the oven to gas mark 7/210C.
– In a large frying pan, preferably with a lid, heat some butter until just browning.
–  Add the chard, with a sprinkle of salt, and stir a little to coat with the butter.
– Turn down to a low heat and place the lid on.  Cook for 5 minutes until the chard is wilted.
– Place half of the creme fraich on each pizza and spread out to the edges.
– Add the cooked chard and then the other toppings.
– Place in the oven on the top two shelves and bake for 25 minutes, swapping trays over after 10 minutes.


(I apologise for the fuzziness of some of the photos, I’m having resizing/uploading/rotating issues.  I’ve identified the problem for the future but can’t seem to fix the ones I’ve already done!)


Filed under Mains, Moderately easy

Four Layer Chocolate Cake with American Frosting

As this is my 300th post, apparently, I thought it suitable that I post one of my more impressive creations to date.  I baked it to practice a few different techniques and my colleagues were more than happy to be my test subjects!


That reads “Anna’s Chocolate Cake” for those in any doubt.  Piping skills was one of the things I wanted to work on.  Actually, I’ll be honest, the icing picked up a lot of crumbs and wasn’t as clean and as I wanted it to be so I thought I’d disguise it by putting a bunch of busy swirls and things on top and, incidentally, thought ‘great, I wanted to practice that!’


I had decided ages ago that I wanted to make a multilayer cake.  At about the same time my trusty victoria sponge tins decided to start parting with their nonstick atributes.  I decided to treat myself to 4 silicone ones so that I could make a multilayer cake without having to slice, which I am notoriously wonky at.  I think they were an excellent investment, I’m really happy with them so far.


I also thought I would give American Frosting a go.  My mother warned me that it was rather tricky stuff but I wanted that glorious clean, white look and the soft peaks and ripples really appealed to me.  It was, indeed, tricky.  Very very sticky and it lifted a lot of crumbs from the cake.  A lot of that was my (lack of) technique but it is just plain sticky!  I would definitely use this on a cupcake in the future but I would need to practice a good few more cakes like this before I was happy with it.


Serves 16 easily

For the cake:
250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
4 large eggs (weighing approximately 250g)
250g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk

For the American Frosting:

300g caster sugar
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 large egg whites

Chocolate decorations (about 50g melted chocolate made all of these decorations)

– First, make the cake.  Heat the oven to gas mark 4 and grease 4 8″ sandwich tins.
– Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
– Gradually add the eggs, mixing well between additions.
– Add the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and mix to combine.
– Add the milk and mix until smooth.
– Divide the mixture equally between the cake tins.  Easiest way is to eyeball it first then weigh each one altering them until they are all within a gram or two of each other.
– Bake for 20 minutes on two shelves, switching shelves after 10 minutes.
–  Test with a skewer to check each layer is cooked through  then turn out onto wire racks and leave to cool.
– When you’re ready to assemble your cake start the icing.
– Place all of the ingredients in a large, heatproof bowl.
– Place the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water and beat lightly until the sugar is dissolved and you can’t feel any grains.
– Use an electric hand mixer to whisk the mixture until it forms stiff peaks.
– Then remove from the heat and continue to whisk until cool.  (Or, until you get bored and wander off, whichever happens first, ahem.)
– To assemble the cake place the first layer on your serving plate and top with a dollop of frosting.  Carefully but quickly spread this out to close to the edges.  Try not to go over a spot more than once.  Just smooth and move on.
– Repeat with the remaning layers until you reach the top.  You should have about half the frosting left.
– Generously frost the top of the cake, being a little more artistic withthe swirls this time.  Again, try to only make one pass.
– Smooth the remaining icing round the sides with a palate knife to create a smooth side.  Make sure the frosting on the top and sides joins together and meets the plate at the bottom.
– Decorate as you wish.
Once iced this will keep uncut for a few days before serving.



Filed under Basic, Cakes, For the Keen Cook

Watercress Soup

I thought I’d stick with tradition and apologise for not posting more.  It seems to me that in the summer I don’t really have a lot of enthusiasm for cooking new and different things.  I like to stick with trusty favourites so I can get on and do things in the daylight.  Luckily, it would seem like autumn is well and truly on the way in.  The weather has taken a turn for the worse and I was wearing a coat today!  Lucky for blog readers, anyway!

I whipped up this soup late last night as I realised that a Snickers bar 5 hours earlier did not really cut it as far as dinner was concerned.  Calories, yes, vitamins, no!  It was wonderfully warming but still light, bright and gloriously green.  The perfect end of summer soup.


Serves 4 as a starter (2 as a main with seconds!)

1 onion, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
2 bags/bunches watercress
750ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
grated nutmeg
creme fraiche to serve

– Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat.
– Add the onion and celery and 1/4 tsp salt.
– Put a lid on the pan and allow to sweat for 5 minutes.
– Add the stock and the watercress and put the lid back on for 3-5 minutes until the watercress has wilted.  Reserve a few sprigs of watercress to garnish.
– Blitz until smooth with a stick blender.
– Grate in a little nutmeg and check the seasoning and adjust to taste.  (I tend to add a bit more salt than is good for me to be honest so I try to start low and work up a bit at a time)
– Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche in the middle and a sprig of watercress on top.  Excellent served with crusty bread, equally good without!



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Filed under Easy, Starters