Saturday, December 24, 2011

Easiest Ever Vanilla Fudge

This fudge is great. You have all the ingredients in the house already and don't need to go to the corner shop in the rain looking for a large tin of condensed milk as you would for most other fudges. You can make it right now as long as you've got a sugar thermometer or don't mind taking a risk.

Makes enough for 2 last-minute Christmas Eve gift bags
350g golden cater sugar
300ml whole milk (would probably work with semi-skimmed too)
100g butter
few drops of vanilla extract

1 Place the milk, sugar and butter in a pan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves. You get a better end texture if you make sure all the sure has dissolved before you start to boil the mixture.

2 Bring to the boil and bubble vigorously for 20 minutes, stirring regularly until it reaches past 116C on the sugar thermometer. This is the soft ball stage, if you don't have a thermometer, drop a spot into a cup of cold water and see if sets squidgily for you.

3 Turn off the heat and beat in the vanilla extract, keep stirring for about 5 minutes until the fudge starts to thicken.Pour into a buttered or lined non-stick tin (I used a small square one but it depends on how thick you want your fudge).

4 Leave it to set for a few hours, if you remember, mark out the little squares with a knife before it's fully set - we forgot to so the surface wrinkled a little but was otherwise fine. Cut into squares, pack into gift boxes or cellophane bags.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Jamaican Ginger Cake

Thanks to all this damp and misty weather, Landcroft House is currently going through an afternoon tea and cake obsession. Here's today's simple offering. I like the last minute addition of a sticky orange glaze but it isn't very authentic and traditional Jamaican ginger cake often has grated root ginger in for a bit of heat - try adding some if you fancy it.
Serves 10
175g butter
175g light brown or muscovado sugar
175g black treacle
250g plain flour
11/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 - 3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200ml milk
2 eggs
finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
50g caster sugar

1 Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas 4. Melt then butter, brown sugar and treacle together in a pan.
Scrape into a bowl and add the flour, bicarb, spices, milk, eggs and orange zest and beat with a hand-held whisk for a couple of minutes until smooth.

2 Pour into a lined tin (mine was 20cm x 26cm) and bake for 30 - 40 minutes.

3 While the cake is baking, squeeze the orange juice into a small bowl, add the caster sugar, stir well together and set aside.

4 Take the cake out of the oven, drizzle over the orange sugar and leave to cool before cutting.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bats, Brains and Spiders

Fabio and I have been hard at work getting ready for today's school Halloween cake sale. Cutting out the bat's wings took far far too long and anyway we liked the brains best. The idea for those came from Lily Vanilli's terrifying cupcake book, we just added few maggots

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Child-friendly Cucumber Sushi

Cucumber rolls are a good introduction to sushi. They're enjoyable to make and there's nothing in them even the terrible two year old could object to eating. This will be us next week !

Serves 2
150g sushi rice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
large pinch caster sugar
5cm piece cucumber, cut into batons
2 sheets nori seaweed
1 tbsp sesame seeds
sweet soy sauce

1 Put the rice in a small pan with 300ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir in the vinegar and sugar, cover and leave to cool completely.

2 Divide the rice between the 2 sheets of nori, spreading it out evenly over the seaweed but leave a 1cm clear border at the bottom. and 3cm at the top. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the rice then lay the cucumber batons across the centre.

3 Fold the bottom edge of the seaweed over the filling then roll it up firmly. Dampen the top border with a little water to help it to seal the roll. Continue with the second roll then wrap them individually in cling film and chill until ready to serve.

4 Using a serrated knife, cut each roll into 8 rounds. Serve with sweet soy sauce for dipping.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Fishy Fingers

Makes 12

250g skinless, boneless white fish
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
6 tbsp bread crumbs
2 tbsp plain flour
1 egg, beaten
olive oil, for shallow frying

1 Cut the fish into chunky fingers.

2 Mix together the cheese and breadcrumbs.

3 Dip the fish first in the flour, then the egg and finally the cheesy crumbs.

4 Heat some oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. Cook the fish fingers for 5 - 8 minutes until crunchy and dark golden.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Thank You Someone Nice on Crystal Palace Road

Look what I found on my way to the pub last night. How kind!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Squashy Marshmallows

This is not one for children to attempt on their own as it involves boiling sugar but the finished marshmallows are so much yummier than commercial ones, they're really worth having a go. The liquid glucose is not strictly necessary but is an insurance against the sugar crystalising and you having to start all over again.

Makes 100

30g icing sugar
30g cornflour
9 sheets gelatine
450g granulated sugar
1 tbsp liquid glucose
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Line a 20cm x 30cm tin with baking paper.

2 Sift together the icing sugar and cornflour and sprinkle half into the tin.

3 Put the gelatine into a large glass jug with 150ml water and set aside.

4 Put the sugar, glucose and 200ml of water into a pan and bring gently to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes without stirring until the syrup reaches 125C on a thermometer.

5 Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until stiff.

6 Take the syrup off the heat and let the bubbles subside. Carefully pour the syrup into the gelatine jug and mix well.

7 With the beaters switched on, steadily pour in the hot syrup and the vanilla. The mixture will slacked but keep whisking on full speed (5 - 10 minutes) and once it's nicely thickened, pour into the prepared tin. Leave to set for a couple of hours.

8 Peel off the parchment and cut into squers, rolling them in the reserved icing sugar mixture. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer School - Buttermilk Pancakes

Given a choice between two pages from a writing workbook or to cook a dish and write up a recipe every day, Fabio has chosen the second option. Say hello, to the Landcroft House cookery school for seven year olds. So far, we have made toad in the hole, fruit smoothies, chorizo omlettes, chocolate chip cookies and fresh pesto (not used any knives yet...)
Today, buttermilk pancakes for breakfast

Makes a lot
You could halve the recipe but then you're left with half a pot of buttermilk you'll never use. Any leftover pancakes can be toasted tomorrow.
250g self raising flour
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
100ml milk
2 eggs
284ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp melted butter
sunflower oil
butter and maple syrup, to serve

1 In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder.

2 Pour the milk into a jug, crack in the eggs and beat well. Whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla and butter then mix into the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.

3 Pour a tiny bit of oil into a large, non-stick frying pan and cook spoonfuls for a minute or 2 on each side until puffed and golden brown. Eat with butter and maple syrup - also good with a handful of blueberries or some sausages.

Friday, November 05, 2010


The 4 litres of limoncello I made in July ready for Christmas have now mostly been drunk. To be honest it only takes three weeks to make so I was a bit ahead of myself really and anyway I needed the bottles emptying so they could be ready again for this new batch.
I work on an equal quantities method (equal sugar to water for the syrup then equal syrup to vodka) but you can adjust yours, even each bottle, depending on how you like it and who you're giving it too. I serve mine with Prosecco, Kir Royale style before lunch and with ice after dinner.
Makes 2 litres
1 litre of basic vodka
5 unwaxed (preferably organic) lemons
500g caster sugar
500g boiling water

1 Peel the lemons using a swivel-style peeler. Scrape off any white pith, turn the radio on and sit comfortably at the kitchen table as this bit does take ages but it's very important as the pith will make the limoncello taste bitter.

2 Place the peel in a 2 litre kilner jar and pour in the vodka. Leave in a cupboard for a week, shaking the jar every day.

3 Put the sugar in a heatproof bowl and pour over the boiling water, stir until the sugar dissolves then leave until completely cool.

4 Stir the syrup into the vodka, seal the lid and leave for at least another two weeks, again shaking every day or two if you remember. Taste the limoncello at this stage and sweeten with more syrup or top up more vodka as suits your taste then strain into bottles. Pop one in the fridge and keep the rest on the shelf or give as gifts.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Suddenly Baby turned one this week. Don't know how it happened so quickly but there we are. As she doesn't have any friends yet, she had to have her cake in the middle of Scrap's Hallowe'en party, in amongst the bats and the eyeball jellies. Not that she noticed.
This is a good chocolate cake for kids as it's very light and not actually very chocolatey and I find that it suits those below five better that way. It's basically a big red velvet cupcake but a lot easier and without all the unnecessary red food colouring.

Serves 18 - 20
300g caster sugar
120g butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
280ml carton of buttermilk
25g cocoa powder
300ml plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tbsp wine vinegar
sprinkles, to decorate
600g icing sugar
150g butter
200g soft cheese
75g milk chocolate, chopped

1 Preheat the oven to 170C / Gas 3. Using an electric whisk, beat the sugar and butter together until soft and pale - this takes a while and once you've had enough of whisking add the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla and buttermilk then cocoa and flour. Add the bicarb and vinegar and whisk again for a couple of minutes until light and voluminous.

2 Divide between three buttered and lined 20cm cake tins and bake for 25 minutes. Lift onto wire racks and leave to cool.

3 Whisk together the icing sugar and butter - I find it easier to add the icing sugar a bit at a time so the whole kitchen doesn't get coated in a fine layer of dust. Once it's well beaten, add the soft cheese and whisk again - don't over beat at this stage or the icing can start to over-soften.

4 Take a third of the mixture and stir in the chopped ch0colate, use this to sandwhich the cakes toegther then swirl the rest of the icing all over. Decorate with sprinkles (I cut a heart out of a piece of paper and used as a template) and leave to set. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sweet Potato & Goats Cheese Tarts

These are nice - they're easy to make, they're packed with goodness and they taste yum. Eat hot from the oven or wrap and pack in your bag.
Makes 6
2 small sweet potatoes
375g sheet ready rolled puff pastry
2 tbsp sun dried tomato paste or red pesto
handful baby tomatoes, halved
100g goats cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
drizzle of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C / Gas 6. Bake the sweet potatoes for 30 minutes or so until just about cooked through but not soft. Peel and slice.

Meanwhile, cut the pastry into six rectangles. Spread the the pastry with the sun dried tomato paste and top with the sliced sweet potato. Scatter with the tomatoes, cheese, pumpkin seeds and finally a drizzle of oil. Bake for 20 minutes until puffed and dark golden.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ring, ring!, ring, ring!

"Hello? Is that Landcroft House?"

"Yes caller, hello. How can we help you?"

"Well hi. It's Skream, aka Oliver Jones, dubstep legend and one third of the brilliant Magnetic Man here..."

"Oh hi, Skream. How are you?"

"I'm really good thank you, how are you?"

"Oh we're great, thanks. Actually, can you help us out a minute?"

"Sure, yeah, no problem. What's up?"

"Oh nothing major, we were just wondering what you thought was the greatest record ever made?"

"Oh wow. OK. That's a tough question..."

"Yeah - sorry about that."

"Well (pauses for a bit)... I think it's probably Prince, Controversy."

"Wow. Good answer. Why that one?"

"I suppose it's because I think that’s the greatest party record ever made and it has this series of the most amazing chord changes. It's just brilliant. And Erotic City too. I’m so into Prince, he made such great records and he just works whatever mood you’re in, which is pretty unusual. Will that do?"

"That'll do brilliantly. Thanks Skream."

"No problem. Bye, Landcroft House."

"Bye Skream, bye..."

Line clicks and goes dead...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Bellenden Bun Fight

Your local charity bake-off is back! You have exactly two weeks to get your jams, jellies, biscuits and scones up to scratch. This season's Classic Cake category is The Lemon Drizzle. We have brilliant prizes courtesy of our friends at delicious and yours truly is in charge of the judging panel! Hurrah!
More details here.

Hannah Jones' Prize-Winning Chocolate Ginger Biscuits

225g soft unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
275g plain flour
25g crystallised ginger
200g bar dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 170C. Cream the butter, then add in the sugar and beat until pale and soft. Chop the ginger into small pieces and mix it with the flour. Add the ginger and flour to the sugar and butter and mix until you have a dough.

Break off walnut-sized balls and roll in your hands until smooth. Place on a baking tray and press into them with the back of a fork to pattern 'n' flatten. Bake for around 15 minutes or until they are nice and golden brown. Near the end of the cooking time, watch them obsessively so you don't miss the optimum colour, as biscuits are sly and will burn on you in a second.

Take them out of the oven and immediately transfer them from the tray to a wire rack. When they're cold, melt the chocolate in a bowl. You will have far more chocolate than you need, but melting a large quantity makes it much easier to coat the biscuits smoothly. Dip the biscuits halfway into the chocolate, gently combing off any drips or runners with a teaspoon. Leave on greaseproof paper until the chocolate has set.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Hello Old Thing, Hello New Thing: 45

Griffin: Yours Till Forever (Capitol, 1970)
Sunshine psyche-pop delightfulness recorded with a cast of, well, about twenty in LA forty years ago this summer. Griffin never did make any sort of mark - if you could see the picture of them in front of me you'd understand why - but this is a truly lovely record. Of course, that might be because it was written by Kenny Nolan who went onto write this. I should imagine the royalties on that are a bit more yacht-shaped than the Griffin ones. More of this sort of thing here.

Peter Broderick: Guilt's Tune (Bella Union, 2010)
I thought I had put a Peter Broderick track up here some years ago on account of how he makes the sort of music that tickles the very essence of my being. But no. What an oversight. Anyhow, Mr B has a fantastic new record out, like, sort of now, though you'd be hard pressed to discover that just by looking at either his own website or, indeed, that of his label. Still, never mind, it's here too though only on vinyl. No, hang on, it's here on CD. Anyway, it's bloody lovely. Buy it.