A Roulade for a Summer’s Day

Working next door to a fruit and vegetable shop, it’s very difficult not to notice the changing of the seasons. Gone are the bushy bunches of leafy greens, purple sprouting broccoli and forced rhubarb of Spring. Instead the shelves are abundant with stone fruits, such as nectarines, peaches, apricots and cherries, sweet fresh peas still in their pods, and not forgetting Summer’s sweetheart, the tomato; ripe, delicious and ready to be devoured.

However, this year for me, the first moment of realisation that Summer had finally arrived was upon seeing row after crimson row of strawberries and raspberries lining the shop front before I’d even reached the door. Quite an exciting moment! As a chef, I spend a lot of time in the greengrocer’s sussing out the produce to see what is in season and what I can pick up to make that day’s soup or salads, but after a few days of eyeing up the delightfully plump berries I thought it necessary to buy some to turn into the quintessential summer dessert – the meringue roulade.

To be honest, meringue, whether it be a pavlova, roulade or atop a lemon meringue pie, works for me any time of the year, but the slightly crisp, marshmallowy foundation with a generous layer of unsweetened, vanilla scented cream is the perfect way to showcase the deliciously fragrant Summer fruit.

Mixed Berry Meringue Roulade

4 large egg whites

225g / 8oz caster sugar

a handful of flaked almonds

300ml / half pint double cream | whipped with the seeds of a vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste

a punnet of strawberries & raspberries (combined weight of about 400-500g) | strawberries sliced into quarters


Preheat your oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2.

Line a 30 x 20cm / 12 x 8 inch swiss roll tin with baking parchment.

Put the egg whites and half of the sugar into a bowl and, using an electric hand whisk, whisk to snowy peaks.

Gradually add the remaining sugar, continuing to whisk for 10-15 minutes until it forms stiff peaks.

Spread the mixture into the tin, sprinkle with the flaked almonds and bake for an hour.

Remove it from the oven and let it cool.

Turn the meringue out onto a fresh piece of baking parchment and carefully peel off the lining paper.

Spread over the cream, then top with the raspberries and strawberries and roll it up firmly from the long end, using the parchment paper to help you.

Sometimes I would dust the top with a little icing sugar or pipe on some rosettes of cream, each topped with either half a strawberry or a raspberry, but that’s merely for aesthetics, so not really necessary!

It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Today I just wanted to share some lovely food photography with you all. It’s quite unusual and really rather wonderful too!

This collection of photographs come by way of New York based photographer Beth Galton, who has turned simple food items into incredibly striking conceptual art. In this ‘Cut Food Series’ she dishes up some fascinating images, allowing for a surprising glimpse of cross-sections of the food we eat.

The photographs I found particularly interesting were the ones of the liquids, especially the coffee. I love how dramatic the creamy swirls of milk look, appearing as though they’re loftily dancing about within the contrasting, deeply-hued cup of coffee. It’s quite odd knowing that they are in fact stationary though. I wonder how she got the liquid to set before the milk fully dispersed? Hmm, puzzling.









‘This series was inspired by an assignment in which we were asked to cut a burrito in half for a client. Normally for a job we photograph the surface of food, occasionally taking a bite or a piece out, but rarely the cross section of a finished dish. By cutting these items in half we move past the simple appetite appeal we normally try to achieve and explore the interior worlds of these products.’ Beth Galton

Back To Porridge

Porridge, when made the right way, is a lovely thing indeed. It’s perfect for those days when all you want for breakfast is something warm and comforting, containing only a few simple ingredients.

This past week I’ve been all about the porridge. I’ve been having it every single morning. I caught myself thinking about it late one evening and was wondering about the pre-soaking stage some people do before actually cooking it. I know it’s traditional and all, but does it really make much of a difference? For the amount of effort which actually goes into it, I thought I’d give it a go. From boiling the kettle it literally took me all of 20 seconds, and you know, I think I’m a convert. This extra little step really helps in softening the oats so that when they’re cooked the overall texture is nice and creamy.

It seems almost funny giving you a recipe for porridge because it’s one of those things that epitomises the word ‘basic’. People don’t tend to get over-excited about it. I really like it though. And that term ‘Back to Porridge’? Come on, what is that all about? Don’t say it like it’s a bad thing! I may have to reinvent the phrase and just start using it more positively. “What time is it?! Morning?? Oooh! Back to porridge!”

I think the trick to making a really tasty porridge is all in the amount of time it cooks for. Soaking the oats overnight does cut back on the cooking time a little, but even so, I still like to simmer it for a good 20 minutes or so. This recipe is so easy it almost isn’t one and takes very little effort on your part, so get it in your repertoire!

The Perfect Bowl of Porridge – Serves 1 very hungry individual

1/2 cup organic rolled oats

1 cup freshly boiled water

1/2 cup milk

a pinch of sea salt


Put the oats in a saucepan and add the hot water and pinch of salt. Give it a stir, then cover with a tea towel overnight.

Organic Rolled OatsOrganic Rolled OatsPorridgePorridgePorridge

The following morning, add the milk to the soaked oats and simmer for about 20 minutes on the lowest heat possible. Add a little extra milk if it gets too thick or dry.


After simmering, your porridge should have thickened to a nice creamy consistency. Now get it into a bowl because it’s almost ready to eat!


I usually eat mine with a squeeze of honey or maple syrup, but this week I’ve reverted back to my childhood and have been really enjoying it with a bit of soft brown demerara sugar and a splash of milk. That is where it’s at.


If you forget to soak the oats the night before it’s not the end of the world! Just soak them for about 15 or 20 minutes prior to cooking, then simmer for about half an hour adding a little extra milk if necessary.

For this recipe I specify a half cup measure of oats, an American measurement which holds 125ml, but really any small mug will do.

Porridge is great eaten with so many different toppings: Maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar. Whatever nuts and seeds you happen to like. Try it with some dried fruit, like raisins or sultanas, figs, sour cherries or dates, or fresh fruit like sliced juicy pears, peaches or nectarines. Another good combo you should try is banana and peanut butter – Just stir in a spoonful of peanut butter into the porridge towards the end of the cooking time along with some sliced banana. When the banana is stirred into the hot porridge it gets a little cooked and becomes reminiscent of the inside of a banana fritter… Yeeaahh that’s right! If that, for some reason unknown to me, is not your thing, just slice some over the top once it’s in the bowl. Whichever topping you decide to opt for, it will taste great, and if not, I will eat my hat, so pick a good’un because I don’t really want to, okay? Thanks.

Too Hot? Too Spicy? Hot Hot!

It’s no secret that I am a big chilli fan. Sometimes I have to stop myself from putting it in just about everything! There’s just something about the fresh flavour they impart as well as their varying degrees of tongue numbingness that I love and cannot seem to get enough of. And they’re SO versatile. Chilli and chocolate anyone? They are a match made in heaven. After two and a half years of my cooking, Martina has gained quite the chilli tolerance too and can take it like a pro. I feel so proud! Or should I say, after two and a half years of subtly upping the quantity of spice she has not yet noticed! Scooore! I think that is a job well done. Little does she know I’m priming her for a really insane, Man v Food style chilli eating contest! Mwahahaa!*

Chillies come in so many different forms and can be used in a multitude of ways. The ones that are in constant rotation in my kitchen are fresh red and green chillies, dried chillies, Kashmiri chilli powder, the Malaysian sambal oelek, shichimi (Japanese 7 spice powder) Sriracha hot sauce (the Hollywood A-lister of the condiment world, created by Chinese-Vietnamese founder David Tran), a crispy chilli in chilli oil that has fried shallots in it and a photography of a very serious looking Chinese lady on the front and most recently gochujang, a fermented Korean condiment made from red chillies, glutinous rice, fermented soya beans and salt. It would seem I have the bulk of Asia covered! And they’re all fantastic in their own unique way. Oh, and those pickled green chillies you sometimes get on the side when you order falafel? Uhh yes please! Who could refuse that tangy, spicy kick in the tastebuds?!

I do realise that not everyone’s such a huge fan though and people are often told to stay away from spicy foods when they’re feeling unwell. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I am sick that’s what I find myself craving, especially when I have a cold or I’m feeling congested. At times like this I imagine something hot and fresh, like Tom yam soup, will cut through the sick feeling and come out triumphant! (or at least shoo it away a little faster.) It may not be the best thing to have if you have a stomach bug, but according to Wikipedia, the online fountain of knowledge, chillies are a safe and effective way in relieving arthritis pain, shingles, diabetic neuropathy and headaches. Not that I needed convincing, but anyways, I’m sold!

With the amount of chillies that I use in my cooking, I thought it was about time I grew my own. My sister Rachel bought me a nifty little grow your own tin, well, ages ago (sorry Rachie!) that I had yet to use, so yesterday I cracked it out to hopefully send myself on my way to chilli nirvana!

Here look, isn’t it cute? I can’t wait to see all those little Italian chillies start to flourish!

Chillies in a tin

According to psychologist Paul Rozen, eating chillies is a prime example of a “constrained risk”, like riding a roller coaster, so people can enjoy the feelings of pain and fear because they know that these sensations are not actually harmful. This method lets people experience extreme feelings without any risk of bodily harm.

That says it all: If eating chillies is being compared to riding roller coasters, they must be pretty damn amazing.

* And no, I am not ACTUALLY entering Martina into a chilli eating contest. The idea is to help increase tolerance, not annihilate her poor little tastebuds!

When Life Gives You Lemons, It’s Time for Dessert.

It was my birthday last month, and being someone who loves to read and cook to my heart’s content, I must admit.. I pray for cookbooks. It may sound corny, but my heart jumps with glee when I unwrap one. No joke.

This year, my sister Rachel sent me the new book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, ‘Hugh’s Three Good Things on a Plate’. I’ve always been a big fan of Hugh and the folks at River Cottage due to their wonderful food ethos and hard-hitting campaigns on animal welfare and fish sustainability, as well as promoting the act of growing your own fruit and vegetables and living off the land.


I really like the simplicity of this book. There are no overly fussy recipes in sight or ingredient lists the length of your arm and in cooking there doesn’t need to be. I really believe that if you use the freshest, best quality ingredients you can find, they will sing all by themselves with very little help. Although there are generally more than three ingredients used in each of the recipes, there are three ‘main’ ingredients that comprise each dish.

As it says in the introduction:

“This book is not about exotic ingredients or trendy techniques. Nor is it a polemic about shunning certain foods or worshipping others. It’s about recognising a simple pattern that already underpins many well-loved dishes.. They [are usually] little more, and little less, than three good things on a plate.”

Living with Martina, who, when it comes to biscuits, is all about the gingernut, the obvious three good things to tackle first was the condensed milk, lemon and gingernut combo. I say ‘tackle’, but there is really little more to do than mixing them together with some double cream, so it was deceptively easy. Great when you know you’ll want dessert after dinner but are strapped for time, or cash for that matter! It’s very much a store cupboard kind of recipe afterall. The condensed milk and biscuits will last in the cupboard for ages and if you happen to have a few lemons knocking about in your fridge like I tend to, then all you have to get is some cream! A nice solid standby recipe that can be whipped up at a moments notice, then left to do it’s thing in the fridge.

Lemon Pudding 1

Lemon Pudding (Serves 6)

(From ‘Hugh’s Three Good Things on a Plate, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)

“This is an incredibly easy and deliciously retro pud. The idea of ‘setting’ condensed milk with lemon juice goes back to recipes-on-the-back-of-the-tin in the 1970’s, or earlier. It’s a neat trick, and a yummy one. The lemon cuts the intense sweetness of the condensed milk perfectly and the crushed biscuits on top give a sort of upside-down-cheesecake effect.”

4 large lemons

400g tin sweetened condensed milk

150 ml double cream

12 gingernut biscuits


Finely grate the zest of two of the lemons. Squeeze the juice from all of them and strain it to remove any pips and fibres. Measure out 150ml strained juice.

Tip the condensed milk into a large bowl and stir in the cream. Add the lemon zest and juice and stir until the mixture is thick and smooth.

Divide evenly between 6 small cups or glasses and chill for several hours, until set.

Crush the biscuits to fine crumbs and scatter thickly over the top to serve.

Lemon Pudding 2

 I only needed 3 lemons when I made this to get the 150mls of juice you need, but maybe have a fourth one handy just in case. Best to have too much than too little I guess. I didn’t see the need in straining the juice either and it turned out just fine, no fibres or pips to be found!

Oh, and whilst we’re on topic, I am wholeheartedly a sucker for condensed milk. Oh sorry, I meant pure condensed ethereal joy. Old-fashioned it may be, but this stuff is like sweet liquid manna sent from heaven!

There’s a hole in this cake

For anyone who’s familiar with the film ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’, I’m sure you’ll remember the scene when Toula’s love interest Ian brings his parents to meet the Portokalos family and Harriet Miller presents them with a bundt cake? Yes, you know the one! Maria Portokalos cannot, for the life of her, say the word ‘bundt’. “Bon? Bonk? BonnnT?” Oh, “It’s a cake!” Then, whilst walking back towards the house, she makes a disapproving comment about how this cake had a hole in it.

But, Alas! That is how it’s supposed to be! A bundt is in fact a cake with a hole in it, and that is why I love them. Why? Well, if your tins are anything like mine, they won’t have a gaping hole in the middle, but one that is sealed at the bottom. This serves the genius purpose of acting as a collecting vessel for excess glaze, thus more lemony bang for your buck! Perfect.

Lemon and Poppy seed is a combination I love, but don’t have often enough. I think it seems to be more of an American thing than British, but either way it tastes great. Some pairings are classics for a reason, they just work. Lemon and poppy seed are like the popular American kids of the baking realm, so best just stick them together in a crown shaped cake and pronounce them home-coming king and queen!


Lemon Poppyseed Baby Bundts

(Makes 5)

125ml natural yoghurt

75g butter, melted

2 large eggs

zest of 1 lemon

150g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

125g caster sugar

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

pinch of salt

For the icing

200g icing sugar

juice of 1 lemon


Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3.

Butter or oil generously 5 mini bundt tins (about 10cm diameter).

In a measuring jug, combine the yoghurt, melted butter, eggs and lemon zest.

Whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, poppy seeds and salt.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, folding them well together, then fill the bundt tins about two-thirds full, and cook for about 25-30 minutes. When they come out of the oven, leave them to cool for a while before turning them out, otherwise they are prone to break up. However, don’t let them cool completely as they’ll just stick fast to the tin! Let them cool on a rack, flat-side down.

Making the lemon icing is incredibly quick and couldn’t be any easier. Just sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and whisk in enough lemon juice to make a smooth thick glaze, the snow atop your little lemony mountain peaks!



These bundt cakes are pretty versatile, so you can chop and change the flavour to what ever takes your fancy. I like the little pops of crunch and texture you get with the poppyseeds, but you could easily replace them with various dried fruits, chopped nuts or a good quality white chocolate. Orange zest would also make a lovely change to the lemon, in which case maybe something like dried cranberries or dark or milk chocolate would be a nice addition.

P.s. I  enjoy big bundts as much as the next girl, but after making these,

I like small bundts and I cannot lie.

– Over and out, Ms. Mix-a-Little.

The Glorious Galette

‘As easy as pie’. That has got to be one of the most misleading phrases in the world. Not that making a pie is difficult per se, but tender, flaky pastry does not come easily if the baker in question ain’t got skills. There’s the risk of a tough, over-worked crust or a soggy base if you’re not careful. If pie is so easy, then how come an amazing one is so hard to find? What is the solution?! I think somewhere along the line the French must have caught wind of this and created the galette; a free-form tart in which the pastry is simply rolled out and roughly folded around the edge of the filling. There we go, take away the formality of baking in a perfectly fluted pastry case and, BOOM.. easy. Facile as a french tart.

My first attempt at a galette was using quite an unusual fruit I spotted whilst doing my grocery shopping. The nectacot. Cross-pollination gives this little fruit the flavour of an apricot but with the juiciness of a nectarine, which as you can probably imagine tasted pretty good! After biting into this questionable specimen to deduce it’s calling in life, I decided that its sweet yet tart flavour and dense texture would lend perfectly to a simple fruit tart in which the fruit is the main attraction.


Nectacot Galette (Serves 6-8)

For the flaky pastry

200g/6 1/2 oz plain flour (1 1/4 cups all-purpose)

1 Tablespoon caster sugar (superfine)

125g/4oz very cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

3 Tablespoons ice water, plus extra if needed

For the filling

125g/4oz (3/4 cup) ground almonds

60g/2oz (1/4 cup) caster sugar (superfine), plus 3 Tablespoons to sprinkle on before putting in the oven

finely grated zest of 1/4 lemon

1 large egg yolk

Roughly 600-700g (or 1.25 lb – 1.5 lbs) nectacots/nectarines, thinly sliced

15g (1 Tablespoon) butter, cut into small pieces


To make the pastry: Measure the flour and sugar onto a large, flat work surface and spread out until about 1cm thick. Scatter the cubes of cold butter over the flour and toss a little flour over the butter so that your rolling pin doesn’t stick, and then get to rolling! Many pastry recipes call for the dough to be chilled before rolling, however this one benefits from being rolled out straight away.

butter & flour

When the butter starts flattening into long, thin sheets within the flour, use your hands or alternatively a bench scraper to bring in any remaining flour that has not yet been incorporated. Repeat the rolling and scraping 3 or 4 times before drizzling over the ice water. Mix with a fork until the dough is just about holding together and flatten into a disk.

Scrape your work surface clean and lightly dust with flour. Flatten the disk with 6-8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Aim to handle the dough as little as possible as this will give you the flakiest crust! Continue to do this until you are left with a 30cm/12 inch circle. Place the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.


In a small bowl, stir together the ground almonds, the 60g caster sugar, lemon zest and egg yolk. Spread the mixture into a 20cm/8 inch circle in the centre of the dough.

Fan out the fruit over the almond mixture leaving a 4cm / 1.5 inch border of dough uncovered along the edge. Fold the edge of dough over the fruit, pleating it loosely and leaving the galette uncovered in the centre. Sprinkle the nectacots with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and dot with the butter. Refrigerate the galette until the dough is firm, at least 30 minutes.

nectacot galette


In the meantime, preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. When out of the fridge, bake the galette for about 45-50 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the fruit tender.
Let cool for 20 minutes or so before serving.

I love this recipe for its simplicity and the fact that it is so versatile. The types of fruit you can use in this recipe is endless. Why don’t you try apples, pears, figs, plums or pineapple? Maybe even incorporate some dried fruit with the fresh. There are so many possibilities that I’m looking forward to trying out too. This rustic french tart with its deliciously flaky crust, vibrant crown of fruit and not to mention the moist almond interior is a dead cert winner.


A Classic with a Twist. A citrusy twist.

A tall beauty I whipped up earlier.


Victoria Sponge with Cherry Lime Jam

270g butter, softened but not melted

270g caster (superfine) sugar (plus a small handful for sprinkling onto the cake at the end)

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

270g self-raising flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon milk

A couple of generous spoonfuls of cherry jam

Juice of half a lime

Medium tub double cream (About 275ml or 1 cup)


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.

Grease two round 7-8 inch (18-20cm) sandwich tins with a little softened butter and line the base of both with baking parchment.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. You can do this using an electric hand mixer or the more traditional way, with a wooden spoon. Either way cream it for a good 10 minutes as it really makes all the difference to the finished texture of the cake. It’ll be worth it, just you wait and see! I like to crack out a book at this point for a little light reading whilst my other hand is being productive with the electric mixer. However sometimes I watch the creaming process like a good tv show. Sad, but true.

Add the eggs in one at a time beating well after each one until fully incorporated. You might want to add a little spoonful of flour in after each egg to ensure the mixture doesn’t curdle. Mix in the vanilla extract or paste.

Fold in the flour mixture about a third at a time until fully incorporated. Don’t overmix it though, for your own sake and for my peace of mind (please and thank-you!), as doing that will only go and undo all your hard work and result in a tough cake. Not tasty. Not tasty at all.

Finally, add in the tablespoon of milk to loosen the cake mixture a bit. It should have a nice dropping consistency where it falls slowly off the spoon. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for about half an hour before turning them out of their tins and peeling off the parchment paper. Now leave the cakes to cool fully, on a cooling rack if you want to be proper.

When you’re ready to assemble the cake mix the jam with the lime juice. (If you want to go down the more traditional route opt for good old raspberry jam.) I like to do this because I love the flavour of the black cherry jam but wanted it to be a little more tart on this occasion. The jam does become a little thinner but that isn’t really a problem for the simple reason that a cake oozing with jam cannot be a bad thing. This also happens because I happen to like using a lot of jam.

Whip the cream until quite firm. Now flip one of the cakes upside down and spread it with the jam. Spoon the cream on top of the jam and spread a little (or pipe it if you’re feeling that way inclined. Some days you just feel a little fancier, right?).
Top with the other cake the right way up this time and sprinkle with caster sugar.

All that’s left to do now is put on the kettle for a nice cup of tea and in approximately 5-10 minutes you’ll be chowing away on a little slice of heaven! Best served with good company.

* The rule of thumb when making a Victoria sponge is to weigh the eggs (still in their shell) and use the same quantity of butter, sugar and flour, something to bear in mind if you want to make a different sized cake. Just change the size of the cake tin as appropriate, so if you make one with 5 eggs a 9 inch tin might be best or for a 3 egg cake I probably wouldn’t go bigger than a 7 inch cake tin. It’s nice if the cake has a good bit of height.