Monthly Archives: March 2013

bulgar wheat pilaff


I’m really into bulgar wheat at the moment – it’s great in a lunchbox as part of a salad with some parsley, chopped tomato and cucumber with lots of olive oil and a big squidge of lemon juice and it’s just so much more interesting than couscous…

Here’s another way with bulgar wheat – cooked with stock and spices, it makes a great accompaniment to curry or tagine or anything with a lovely rich sauce to mop up. I should say, this is probably as authentically middle-eastern as toad-in-the-hole but I think it’s great, anyway.

Bulgar wheat pilaff – serves 3-4 (it’s surprisingly filling!)

  • One large onion
  • Vegetable oil – a good slosh
  • Ground cinnamon – 1/2 tsp
  • Garam masala – 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • Bulgar wheat – about 150g
  • Chicken stock – I use those stock jelly pot things, 1
  • Butter – a generous slice

Put a large saucepan on a medium heat and cut the onion in half and slice the onion relatively thinly. Cover the base of the pan (and a little more) with the oil and cook the onion until it is golden with small brown bits and then add the spices and give it a good stir – it should smell pretty wonderful at this point…

Add the wheat and stir to coat with the spices and oil and then cover with boiling water from the kettle (plus about a centimetre – you can add more later on if it starts to get too dry) and add your stock cube/pot/whatever. Pop the lid on and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the wheat is tender with a bit of bite and the liquid has been absorbed. Check the seasoning and stir in the butter just before serving

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orange marmalade cake

With the snow falling outside, I embraced the cabin fever and baked something. Sometimes only cake will do.


I ended up choosing the sticky orange marmalade cake from the Great British Bake Off cookbook. This is a pretty fab book – I was lucky enough to get a copy a couple of birthdays ago and I turn to it regularly. It’s a really good all-round baking book and I’ve made quite a few things out of it before, my favourites probably being the very moreish chocolate crackle cookies.

This seemed like a great cold weather bake and I just happened to have a jar of mum’s home-made marmalade in the cupboard… It’s just a pretty standard sponge stirred through with a generous splodge of marmalade to make the sweet, rich sponge a bit more interesting. Once the cake is done, you warm through more of the marmalade and spread it over the top of the cake and leave it to cool before drizzling over some glacé icing. I didn’t alter the recipe much except to let the marmalade down a bit with a tablespoon or so of water to make it a bit more liquid and poked the cake all over with a skewer so the syrup had a chance to sink into the sponge to make it extra sticky, leaving the shreds of orange on top.

It’s quite a grown-up cake (with the strong kick from the marmalade) and I think a little wedge would make a lovely afternoon tea, if that’s your bag (and makes a nice change from its mainstream sister, the lemon drizzle). Otherwise, scoff it anon. It’s a great chance to show off some lovely home-made marmalade if you happen to have some knocking around!

You can find the recipe here if you want to give it a try.

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Compost Cookies


Compost Cookies are one of the trademark items on the menu at the world-famous Momofuku Milk Bar in New York – combining cookies with potato chips, pretzels, coffee, chocolate and butterscotch chips, oats… I’ve never tried the real thing but they sound pretty nuts, no? It sounds like it shouldn’t work. At all. Like licking the bottom of your larder. So of course I had to give them a go.

I didn’t go the whole hog – these are a streamlined, compost-lite version just taking the caramel, pretzel and chocolate from the original and using my favourite, go-to cookie base. I chose the combination to reflect my favourite flavour combination du-jour: salted caramel. And anyone who doesn’t love a chocolate covered pretzel doesn’t really like food at all. Salt, sweet, crunchy, soft… It’s got it all going for it!

I always turn to the chocolate chip cookie recipe in Edd Kimber’s The Boy Who Bakes – it’s fab just with dark chocolate (or I love them 75% dark and 25% white chocolate combined) and is a magnificent foil for other flavourings – I made a Christmas-themed version last year with white chocolate, dried cranberries, orange zest and nutmeg which went down rather well.

Anyway, so here’s my version of Compost Cookies – well worth a try (even if it’s just for seeing the look on peoples’ faces when you tell them what your serving them).

Makes about 40 (yes, I know, it’s a huge batch).

  • 500g plain flour
  • 1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1tsp Baking powder
  • 1tsp Salt
  • 225g of butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 220g Caster sugar
  • 220g Light soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten slightly
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g dark chocolate (decent but don’t bankrupt yourself, moderate cocoa content)
  • About 100g of cheap toffees (just the basic ones from a supermarket will do)
  • About 75g of salted pretzels

Chop the chocolate into chunks, chop the toffees and crush about 2/3 of the pretzels into big chunks leaving the rest whole (just because it looks interesting!). Sift together the flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Add the eggs a little at a time and then add the vanilla. Fold in  the flour mixture (gradually) until just combined and then fold in the chocolate, toffee and pretzels being careful to keep some of the pretzels whole. Wrap the dough and put in the fridge for at least an hour or two but overnight if you have time (I’m really not that organised).

When you’re ready to go, preheat the oven to 180 degrees (C, 160 fan) and start making the dough into 45g balls – roll them with your hands or with a tablespoon or something. 45g is a good-sized cookie but if you want monsters, 60g is a good size too. You chill the dough and form into balls so that the cookies don’t melt too much in the oven – you end up with a thick, chewy cookie rather than a mean, thin, snappy thing. Line 2 baking trays with parchment and  bake the cookies in batches of 8 to a tray. They’ll probably take 15 mins or so but keep a close eye – they want to be a light gold around the edges but they’ll be very soft until they cool down so don’t use firmness as any indication of done-ness. Cool on the paper until they’re firm enough to slide onto a wire rack.

These are seriously good. Eat them warm (even with a scoop of ice cream if you’re feeling particularly wanton) and serve up to universal admiration.

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Ginger loaf

So it’s got cold. Again.

After a lovely weekend off visiting people, I fancied a speedy bit of baking to ward off the cold and I turned to Edd Kimber’s Guinness Parkin – a very good, dense, toothsome kind of ginger loaf which is an absolute breeze to make and a great thing to have knocking around the house if you are in the mood for a bit of old-fashioned, cakey goodness.

You can find the recipe here: it really is very good and despite all the treacle (yes, that’s a whole half-tin of the black stuff) it’s neither too sweet or overly bitter. I don’t keep Guinness in the house (haven’t developed a taste for it) so I make Edd’s non-alcoholic variant with milk which turns out just fine indeed.

Procedure-wise, it’s dead easy – melt the butter, cream the sugar and eggs into a froth, melt the treacle into the milk/Guinness and then mix everything together and fold in the dry ingredients. You bake it for what seems like forever but it does go from completely liquid to done-to-a-turn in a blink of an eye so keep an eye on it…

I didn’t stray from Edd’s recipe (he won the Great British Bake Off for a reason, kids) but I do like to add a cheeky glacé icing to drizzle over the top – the cake is very rich and dark so some lighter sweetness is quite welcome and using lemon juice instead of water makes for a more interesting icing – about 3tsp of juice to 100g of icing sugar is about right for a drizzle-able icing.

Anyway, give it a try! If you like spicy, gingery cake, this is the cake for you.


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