Tuesday Treat

Gluten Free Coffee Cake with Espresso Buttercream Icing

Even if you’re not gluten free I urge you to make this cake, it has a beautifully light sponge and the buttercream really is the ‘icing on the cake’!! Finding recipes for traditional sponge cakes which are both gluten free and light can be a challenge. My son Felix found this one when searching for a recipe which would please us both (he adores coffee and I am gluten free!). It is a recipe from the producers of ‘Doves Flour’ and it uses their wonderful gluten free flour.

2 tbsp espresso coffee powder

2 tbsp boiling water

200g butter

200g caster sugar

4 eggs

200g Doves gluten free flour 

For the Buttercream icing:

4 teaspoons espresso coffee powder

3 teaspoons boiling water

¼ teaspoon salt

250g icing sugar, sifted

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 walnut halves to decorate

*2x 20cm/8’ round baking tins, buttered and bases lined.

  1. For the cake: put the coffee powder into a cup, add the boiling water, stir to make a paste and leave to cool.
  2. Rub some butter around the inside of two 20cm/8″ round baking tins and line the bases with baking paper.
  3. Put the butter and caster sugar into a large bowl and beat with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then sieve the flour into the bowl and beat again. Finally, add the coffee mixture and stir until everything is well combined.
  4. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and smooth the top.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven, 170’c fan, for 20-25 minutes (until a cocktail stick pressed into the centre of the cake comes out clean). Cool the sponges in the tin a little before turning them onto a wire rack and leaving to cool.
  6. Meanwhile make the buttercream icing: combine the coffee powder with the boiling water and put to one side. Place the butter and salt in a mixing bowl and beat with electric beaters until light and fluffy, then add the sifted icing sugar, and whisk until well combined, finally beat in the cooled coffee mixture.
  7. To assemble the cake turn one of the sponges upside down (flat side facing up) and spread with half of the buttercream, top with the second sponge (flat side facing down), and spread over the remaining buttercream, use a fork or knife to make a pattern and place the 8 walnut halves around the edge.

Week Forty Six

Please pinch me!…I cannot believe that this week my son, Felix, will be celebrating his 21st birthday!…How did that happen? I have thus been rather consumed over the last few weeks with thoughts of birthday celebrations (and a slight feeling of loss!). In truth, the celebrations will be quite straightforward – a night out with mates and a celebratory meal out with us – the ‘old folk’! Naturally, this gives me the excuse to enjoy one of my preferred pastimes – eating out; we’ve booked one of my favourite London restaurants, Five Fields (see my review from last year here!). Of course, I will also be cooking some of Felix’s best-loved meals as an extra birthday treat, so I thought that this week’s recipes should reflect his favourite dishes. He is unashamedly a meat lover and prefers a sweet edge to his savoury food…

Menu one is ‘Chicken, Cherries & Chicory’, although the season is just about over, you might still be able to get some British cherries, however, if not this recipe works year-round with imported ones, as by cooking them you bring out their sweetness. This is a new family favourite, I particularly like it as it’s so easy to cook. At the moment I like to serve it with runner beans, but a good green salad would also work well and perhaps some potatoes (Felix’s favourites are Baby Roast Potatoes – recipe here!). Menu Two is ‘Sea Bream with Figs’, here the winning component is the figs – you don’t use fresh ones, but dried, so this is another year-round favourite. Menu Three is a ‘Blast from Past ‘recipe and one of Felix’s favourites – ‘Pomegranate and Honey Glazed Chops with a Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki’. This is a lovely recipe by Diana Henry which I shared last July –  if you haven’t already tried it, I urge you to! It has wonderful summery flavours – perfect for enjoying with the last of the summer sun as we move into September…


Menu One

Chicken, Cherries & Chicory (Serve 4)

This is a lovely easy, very tasty bake from Rosie Birkett’s cookbook ‘The Joyful Cook’. The cherries are a wonderful sweet addition and are complemented by the bitterness of the chicory (you could also use radicchio). It is a recipe which works year round as you can use imported cherries, as by cooking them you bring out their sweetness, alternatively you could substitute them for another fruit such as plums…Serve with green or runner beans and rice or potatoes.

4 teaspoons sea salt flakes

2 tablespoons caster sugar

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or chicken pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 bay leaves

15g butter

4 heads of chicory (preferably red), halved lengthways

6 shallots, skin on, halved

1 lemon, halved

150ml vermouth or dry white wine

300ml hot water

150g cherries (there is no need to stone them – just warn your guests!)

Handful fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. First of all, a few hours before cooking, grind the salt, sugar and fennel seeds using a pestle and mortar, then rub this ground ‘cure’ mixture on the flesh, but not the skin of the chicken. Chill in the fridge (you could leave it overnight) and remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. If pushed for time just leave it in the rub whilst you prepare everything else for the dish.
  2. Gently rinse the cure from the chicken and dry it well with kitchen paper.
  3. Heat the oil in frying pan over a medium heat. Brown the chicken, skin side down for about 8-10 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and place skin side up in a large roasting tin on top of the bay leaves. Season with black pepper.
  4. Using the same frying pan with the fat from the chicken, add the butter and melt over a medium heat. Place the chicory, shallots and lemon halves, cut side down in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until caramelised and softening on their cut sides. Transfer these to the roasting tray cut side up, squeezing the lemon over the chicory and throwing in the spent lemon halves.
  5. Turn up the heat under the frying pan and add the vermouth (or wine), scraping up any of the crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer until reduced by half, then pour into the roasting tray – avoiding the chicken as you want it to remain crisp.
  6. Finally pour in the hot water (again avoiding the chicken), cover the roasting tin with foil and place in a preheated oven, 120’c fan, for 20 minutes then take off the foil and add the cherries and chopped tarragon.
  7. Turn up the oven to 180’c fan, return the tin to the oven and roast for a further 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked, the skin is golden and there are delicious juices in the tray.
  8. Serve the chicken on plates alongside the wonderful cherries, chicory and shallots with the juices spooned over.

Menu Two

Roast Sea Bream with Figs and Almonds (Serves 4)

In this recipe the delicate flavour of sea bream is complemented by salty olives and sweet figs – it’s a fantastic combination! In addition it’s a really simple recipe, all you need is a good green salad on the side. You don’t use fresh figs, but dried, so this is a good all-year-round recipe. Depending on the size of the fish you could serve one fish per person or alternatively two larger fish for four. I found this recipe in Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table in Venice’ – not only are the recipes delicious but the photographs of both the food and of Venice are inspiring!…

4 sea bream (or 2 larger – see note above)

10 dried figs, quartered

80g black olives, stoned

20 almonds, chopped

50ml white wine

50ml olive oil

A few sprigs of rosemary

Sea salt

  1. Wash the fish under cold water and pat dry, including their insides, with kitchen roll. Rub the insides of the fish with a little salt and lay them in a roasting tin.
  2. Scatter the figs, olives and almonds over and around the fish. Drizzle in the wine and olive oil, tear the rosemary into pieces and add to the roasting tin.
  3. Roast in an oven to 180’c fan for 30 minutes until the fish is cooked.

‘Blast From the Past Recipe’

I shared this recipe last July, it is such a delicious quick recipe that I thought I should remind you of it!…

Pomegranate and Honey Glazed Chops with a Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki served with Rice (Serves 4)

This recipe is from Diana Henry’s cookbook ‘Pure, Simple Cooking’, it is one of those cookbooks which I find myself going back to again and again, it has lots of really simple yet stunning recipes. This recipe has the flavours of Greece, it is a perfect summer dish, and if the UK weather permits, even better al fresco! I like to serve it with white long grain rice. Make sure you allow time to marinate the chops, anything from 1-24 hours – but the longer the tastier!..

8 thick lamb chops (chump chops)

Olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper


2½ tablespoons pomegranate molasses

8 tablespoons olive oil

1½ tablespoons honey

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki

200g radishes, finely sliced

½ cucumber, cut into small cubes

300g plain Greek-style yogurt

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons mint, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

To serve:

Large bunch of coriander, leaves picked

Olive oil

1 lemon

3 tablespoons of fresh pomegranate seeds

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together, coat the chops generously and leave to marinate, refrigerated, for 1 to 24 hours.
  2. To make the Tzatziki simply mix the radishes, cucumber, yogurt and garlic together, then stir through the mint leaves and olive oil.
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, cook the chops for about 3 minutes on each side, do not have the heat up too high otherwise you will burn the honey and pomegranate mixture.
  4. Serve the chops on a bed of the coriander leaves, dressed with a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and the tzatziki on the side, sprinkle over pomegranate seeds. Serve with rice.

Tuesday Treat

Almond, Pear and Ricotta Cake

This is the most delicious, delicate tasting cake. It’s not overly sweet and is quite light, but be warned it is very moreish! I have taken this recipe from Nina Parker; she mentioned that she first tasted it in Capri, where she had it for breakfast….So, how could I resist, I had to try it myself for breakfast, and yes, it’s indulgent, but, oh my, it really is a great start to the day – try it! In her recipe, Nina poaches fresh pears for the filling, however I have tried it with both fresh poached and tinned pears, and there really is little difference, so now I always make it with tinned pears, which of course makes life a lot easier. The cake itself is rather flat looking, don’t expect a risen ‘victoria sponge’ like cake, but as you know looks can be deceiving and in this case they really are – it is a dream cake and it’s gluten free!

190g caster sugar

5 eggs, 4 separated, 1 left whole

170g ground almonds

1 tablespoon rice flour

½ teaspoon almond extract

For the filling:

250g ricotta cheese, drained of any water

100ml whipping cream

A few gratings of nutmeg

Seeds from ½ vanilla pod

Zest of a lemon

70g caster sugar

400g tin pear halves, drained and cut into small cubes

Icing sugar to dust

*2 x 10 inch cake tins

  1. First of all grease two 10 inch cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
  2. Using an electric whisk, whip the 4 egg whites until just light and fluffy and then slowly begin whisking in the sugar until it is all mixed in.
  3. In a separate bowl lightly beat together the 4 egg yolks, 1 whole egg and the almond extract, then add the ground almonds and rice flour – the mixture will be dry.
  4. Use a spatula to mix in ¼ of the egg whites, to loosen the mixture and to help get rid of lumps. Carefully add another ¼ of the egg whites and finally, fold in the remaining whites until the mixture is well combined – it may still appear a little ‘lumpy’, but don’t worry too much.
  5. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake in a preheated oven, 170’c fan, for about 25 minutes until they are light and springy to touch and golden on top. Allow to cool completely on cooling racks.
  6. Meanwhile make the ricotta filling. Whisk the ricotta, whipping cream, nutmeg, vanilla pod seeds, zest of lemon and the caster sugar until it forms soft peaks, the consistency of whipped cream, then gently fold in the cubes of pear.
  7. Spread the ricotta cream over one of the cake bases and place the remaining cake on top. Dust generously with icing sugar and serve. (This cake keeps well in the fridge)

Week Forty Five

Our recent holiday in Suffolk was wonderful, we were particularly lucky as we had spectacular weather. However, I would be lying if I didn’t admit to missing the opportunity to holiday abroad. Normally we spend our summer holidays in Italy, where we own a small ‘bolt hole’. Our little corner of Italy is a home from home, yet at the same time, with the glorious Italian weather and culture, it offers a breath of fresh air from our ‘norm’. Right now I’m feeling rather nostalgic for an Italian break, but despite travel restrictions being lifted we haven’t yet planned a visit – as I write this, Italy is still requiring British tourists to quarantine for five days. So, in the meantime, this week I thought I’d share some recipes which are inspired by the wonderful Italian cuisine…

One of my favourite places to eat when we visit ‘our corner’ of Italy is a fish restaurant which overlooks an estuary, it’s a little old fashioned – it still has a dessert trolley(!) – but it serves delicious classic Italian fish dishes. My favourite is their salt baked sea bass. For many years I could never find a restaurant that was able to match the deliciousness of this dish (obviously the setting helped!). However, some time ago whilst visiting of all places Las Vegas, I ate at a wonderful Italian restaurant at the Wynn Hotel and ordered their version of salt-baked sea bass. They flavoured the salt around the sea bass with star anise and orange, and served it with a delicious citrus dressing (Agrumi Sauce), it really was incredible. Immediately afterwards I ‘googled’ the recipe (thank God for Google!), and since then I have always used this recipe at home! So, this week’s Menu One is my favourite version of the Italian inspired recipe for Salt-Baked Sea Bass (with Agrumi Sauce). Baking fish in salt is extremely easy, and it is strangely satisfying when you remove the baked salt crust! To make this dish even more special, you should serve it with Samphire New Potatoes – the subtly salty flavours of these potatoes with just a touch of lemon complement the fish beautifully. Menu Two is ‘Crab and Asparagus Linguine with Chilli’, there are many variations of pasta dishes with crab, this is one of our family favourites. I must admit, with the addition of asparagus I’m not sure how authentic this recipe is, but it reminds me of the Italian sun, so it ticks my nostalgia box! Menu Three is a ‘spin’ on the Italian dish of Carbonara. Traditionally this Roman classic is simply made with spaghetti, eggs, pancetta and pecorino, but in this recipe by Diana Henry, she has replaced the pancetta with courgette, thus making it a great vegetarian option without forfeiting the flavour!  Finally, no summer in Italy would be complete without a cocktail, and very often I like a Mojito after a long day on the beach. So, to complete Menu Mistress’s Italian menu I’m sharing my favourite Mojito recipe!

Hopefully, these recipes will bring a little bit of Italy to your kitchen this week…enjoy!…

P.S. This week I’m sharing some new tunes…Music to Cook to…MenuMusic Fourteen is a classic mix of soul tracks, it’s perfect for lifting your spirits and on the rainiest summer day it will bring a bit of sunshine to your kitchen!!…

Menu One

Sea Bass Baked in Salt with Agrumi Sauce served with New Potatoes, Lemon & Samphire (Serves 4)

By cooking fish in a salt crust you trap all of its natural flavours and moisture, it doesn’t make the fish any saltier than if you seasoned it regularly, but it does ensure that your fish is beautifully moist and flavoursome! In this recipe the salt paste is flavoured with star anise and orange, which very delicately adds to the flavour of the fish. The oven-baked crusted salt is then removed to reveal a perfectly cooked fish which falls easily from the bone, it is served simply with a delicious citrus dressing, Agrumi Sauce. It is an easy yet impressive recipe, I like to serve it with ‘New Potatoes with Lemon & Samphire’ (recipe below) and a good green salad.

*if you can’t find anise seeds in your local supermarket they are available on Amazon.

1 whole sea bass to serve 4 people (or 2 smaller fish)

1.2kg course sea salt

25g anise seed

25g star anise, crushed in a mortar

Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 lemon

5 egg whites, lightly beaten

½ to 1 orange, sliced into half moons

Several sprigs flat leaf parsley

For the Agrumi Sauce:

120ml freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Zest of ½ orange

Zest ½ lemon

175ml extra-virgin olive oil

5 mint leaves (plus more to garnish)

5 basil leaves (plus more to garnish)


  1. To make the agrumi sauce, stir all the ingredients together in a bowl, bruising the herbs with the back of the spoon. Season to taste with salt and let it sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature to allow the flavours to develop, then strain through a sieve to serve.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the course sea salt, anise seeds, crushed star anise, orange and lemon zests and the egg whites; it will have the consistency of wet sand.
  3. Stuff the fish’s cavity with the orange slices and parsley sprigs. Spoon 1/3 of the salt mixture onto a baking dish large enough to hold the fish. Set the fish on the salt mixture (if using 2 smaller fish set them side by side over the salt mixture). Cover the entire fish with the remaining salt mixture and pat it down into place.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for about 25 minutes until cooked (a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish measures 130’c).
  5. To serve, using a knife or spoon, crack the salt crust off the top of the fish and discard. Lift the fish from the salt and carefully fillet the fish by removing the skin and large bones. Transfer the filleted fish to plates and serve with the agrumi sauce. Garnish with additional mint and basil leaves.

New Potatoes with Lemon & Samphire (Serves 4-6)

It’s always good to have different recipe ideas for potatoes and this one is a new favourite of mine. These potatoes are fabulous with fish, the subtle saltiness of the samphire complements its delicate flavour. I discovered the recipe in Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table for Friends’, it’s such a simple idea to combine samphire and lemon with new potatoes but so effective and wonderfully simple. The potatoes can be served warm or at room temperature, but make sure you dress them with the olive oil and lemon whilst they are still piping hot, so that the citrusy flavours are infused with the heat.

1 kg baby new potatoes

5-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon sliced into very thin rounds

90g samphire

Large bunch of parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Sea salt flakes

  1. Steam the potatoes until cooked through.
  2. Drizzle the hot, cooked potatoes generously with the olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt (not too much as the samphire will be salty). Toss well then add the lemon slices and toss again.
  3. Meanwhile steam the samphire for 4-6 minutes until al dente, then add to the potatoes and stir gently to combine.
  4. When the potatoes have cooled a little add the chopped parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Menu Two

Asparagus & Crab Linguine with Chilli (Serves 4)

There are many variations of pasta dishes with crab, but this recipe with the addition of asparagus is a firm family favourite, the asparagus complements the crab beautifully without overpowering it. It is a lovely fresh tasting dish which is super quick to make!

400g linguine (or spaghetti)

Large knob of butter

4 tablespoons extra virgin oil

2 small red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

250g asparagus

300g crab meat

4 tablespoons chives, finely chopped

1 lemon, zested and juiced

  1. First of all prepare the asparagus by snapping off and discarding the woody ends, then slice the stalks lengthways.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet until al dente.
  3. Meanwhile heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and chilli, then the asparagus. Cook for about 3 minutes until the asparagus starts to soften.
  4. Add the crabmeat to heat through, then remove from the hob.
  5. When the pasta is ready, drain (reserving a little cooking water) and add to the asparagus pan. Place is back on the heat, add the chives, lemon zest and juice and toss well, adding a spoonful of the reserved cooking water to loosen if needed. Season and serve with an extra glug of olive oil.

Menu Three

Courgette ‘Carbonara’ – Pasta all’Ortolanana (Serves 4)

This is a wonderful recipe from Diana Henry’s cookbook, ‘Simple’, it is basically carbonara but the bacon is substituted with courgettes, thus making it a great vegetarian option…and a delicious one at that!…

300-400g spaghetti

400g courgettes

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, very finely sliced

1 garlic clove, very finely sliced

2 eggs, plus 4 egg yolks

100g finely grated Parmesan cheese

50g finely grated Pecorino cheese

Leaves from a small bunch basil, torn

Salt and black pepper

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, top and tail the courgettes and cut the flesh into thin batons. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the courgettes and onions over a medium-high heat until golden and cooked through. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. In a bowl, beat the eggs, the yolks and both cheeses, seasoning with lots of black pepper.
  4. When the pasta is cooked, drain, reserving half a cup of cooking water. Pour the reserved pasta water into the courgettes and then add the spaghetti, stir the mixture over the heat for a few moments to allow the water to evaporate and the spaghetti to absorb some of the flavours.
  5. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the egg and cheese mixture, mixing well so that every strand of pasta is covered and the sauce has thickened. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if required. Sprinkle over the torn basil leaves and serve immediately.

And A Little Treat…

A Classic Mojito (Serves 1)

There are many recipes around for Mojitos, I prefer mine with dark Havana rum, and just a splash of soda – too much and you spoil it! Unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying an authentic Mojito in Cuba (although Havana is on my bucket list!), the nearest I’ve been is a Cuban bar in Florida, where they assured me that dark rum was the way to go – who am I to argue!…

*To crush/crack the ice cubes: put the ice in a bag, cover this with a tea towel, then use a rolling pin to bash/ crush them.

50ml Havana Club Dark Rum

3 teaspoons sugar syrup

8 mint leaves

Juice of a lime

A splash of soda – about 30ml

Ice cubes, gently crushed/cracked (see note above)

  1. Place the mint leaves in a glass, add the sugar syrup and use the back of a spoon to gently crush the leaves to release the mint oil.
  2. Add the rum, the lime juice and the crushed/cracked ice cubes. Give it a good stir then top with a splash of soda, stir again and serve.

Tuesday Treat

Roast Apricot & Orange Blossom Fool (Serves 8)

This is a fantastic recipe for making the most of apricots which are plentiful at this time of the year. The flavours are perfectly balanced; the sweetness of roasted apricots is delicately cut by whipped cream which is combined with a little Greek yogurt, orange flower water and honey. I have taken the recipe from Diana Henry’s cookbook ‘Simple’, and yes it is simple but very impressive! (Any leftovers make a great, indulgent breakfast!!)

900g apricots, halved and pitted

75ml white wine or water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

115g granulated sugar

300ml double cream

4 tablespoons Greek yogurt

5 tablespoons orange blossom honey, or to taste, plus more to serve

3 teaspoons orange flower water, or to taste

Toasted almond flakes, to serve

  1. Put the apricots in a gratin dish, cut sides up, so that they lay in a single layer. Mix the wine or water with the vanilla, then pour it over the apricots. Sprinkle evenly with the sugar and roast in a preheated oven, 190’c fan, for 30-45 minutes until completely soft. Leave until cold.
  2. Remove eight of the best looking apricot halves to put on top of each serving. Puree the rest of the fruit and any of its juice in a food processor.
  3. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks, then stir in the yogurt, honey and orange flower water.
  4. Fold the purée through the cream, don’t over mix – you want it to be marbled with the bright orange colour. (You can add more flower water to taste).
  5. Spoon into bowls, top each with an apricot half, if you want a little more sweetness drizzle with extra honey, then sprinkle with the toasted almonds.