Crunchy Orange Syrup Loaves – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

Another very easy recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, this is really the same recipe as her Crunchy top lemon cake which she bakes in 18cm/7in deep round cake tin and it’s similar to the lemon traybake except that the proportions of flour to sugar and butter are slightly different for the traybake. I had to buy 1lb loaf tins for this recipe and I did think about trying it in my 2lb loaf tin but I also want to try the malt loaf and that really would be better in smaller loaves. This recipe took about 15 mins to gather ingredients and make.

The freshly baked loaves covered in a crunchy topping looked simple but adorable. These loaves are a beautifully light sponge with a delicate flavour of orange and a nice crunchy topping.


  • 100g (4oz) softened butter
  • 175g (6oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 level tsp baking powder
  • 175g (6oz) caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • finely grated rind of 1 orange

for the topping

  • juice of 1 orange
  • 100g (4oz) granulated sugar


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/Fan 160/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line two 1lb loaf tins
  2. Measure all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat well for 2 minutes. divide the mixture evenly between the tins and level the surface of each.
  3. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 mins or until the loaves spring back when the surface is lightly pressed.
  4. Whilst the cakes are baking, make the crunchy topping. Measure orange juice and sugar into a small bowl and stir to mix. Spread the mixture over the baked loaves while they are still hot, then leave to cool completely in the tins.

Pear & Chocolate Puff Pie – Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies

Aidan made this pie as dessert whilst Conor cooked Mushroom pasta. This is the first pie we’ve made from the The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies cookbook that has been less than perfect. The pastry didn’t puff as much as it could and the filling was more molten than the picture in the book would suggest (and it had exploded out at one point. The pastry may not have puffed as it should because Aidan was ready to put the pie in the oven and it was clear than Conor needed longer for the pasta so we put it to one side for 20mins. Also we cut the pie whilst it was still warm so maybe we should have put it in the oven as soon as it was ready and leave it to cool before cutting. It still tasted good and the whole pie went in a sitting so we didn’t get a chance to see what it was like when it had cooled. It was very easy to make up. Aidan is very competent and the only thing that could be down to him was not doing the diagonal slashes and not putting the pie straight in the oven.


  • 100 g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 100 g ground almonds
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 50 g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 400g Can of pear halves, drained
  • 375g ready rolled sheet of puff pastry


  1. Preheat oven to 220 C/Fan 200 C/Gas 7
  2. Whisk the eggs until well combined
  3. Set aside a tbsp of the beaten egg in a small bowl to use for glazing the pie later
  4. Stir the butter, almonds, sugar and flour into the rest of the egg and beat hard with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and beat once more. Put the chocolate on a board and chop it roughly, then stir into the almond mixture.
  5. Unroll the pastry and place it on a baking tray lined with baking parchment
  6. Spoon the chocolate and almond mixture down one long half of the pastry.
  7. Press the pears into the mixture and brush the pastry around the filling with the beaten egg.
  8. Bring the other half of the pastry over the filling to enclose it completely and press the edges together to seal. Brush with more eggand slash the pastry diagonally down it’s length
  9. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.

Mushroom Pasta & Garlic Bread – Sam Stern’s Get Cooking

Although Conor is nearly three years older than Aidan he has never been as interested in helping in the kitchen. Since he’s now only two years away from going to university we felt it was time he learnt to cook. I’d suggested he make Mushroom Pasta and Garlic bread from Sam Stern’s Get Cooking cookbook. I forgot to buy fresh tagliatelle and thought we had enough dried in the larder, it turned out we didn’t so he had to use Amori pasta which wasn’t ideal for the sauce type. Otherwise this was a good recipe for a novice cook. Conor didn’t know what was meant by ‘Cream together’ in the instructions for the garlic butter which was interesting. Highlighted why you need to get teens cooking at home where there is someone to ask these questions as they learn.

The following quantities are for 4-5 people. We’ve adjusted quantities a little.


  • 300g dry pasta
  • 1 stick french bread
  • 150g soft butter
  • 6-8 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
  • fresh herbs (optional)
  • Squeeze of lemon (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olice oil
  • 25g butter
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 600 – 750g fresh mushrooms sliced
  • 250ml white wine or cider
  • 150ml double cream or creme fraiche
  • fresh parsley or tarragon finely chopped
  • freshly grated parmesan


  1. Garlic Bread Preheat oven to 200 C/Gas Mark 6. Put butter and grushed garlic in a bowl. Cream together. Mix in chopped herbs and lemon juice if using. Slah loaf diagonally, leaving the pieces attached at the bottom. Spread garlic butter into the cuts. Wrap the bread in foil. Bake on a tray for 25mins.
  2. Pasta Put a large pan of lightly salted water on to boil. Add the pasta when it is on a fierce boil. Cook until al dente.
  3. Sauce Meanwhile heat ooil and butter in another pan. Add onion and garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes until soft. Add mushrooms and cook gently until the soften. Increase head and add wine or cider, Let it bubble until quantity reduces by half and the mix looks sticky. Reduce heat and stir in cream or creme fraiche. Add Parsely or tarragon.
  4. Drain pasta, add sauce and serve with garlic bread.

Eton Mess – Sam Stern Cooking up a Storm

Aidan decided he wanted to make Eton Mess. He’d made it ages using Sam Stern Cooking Up A Storm – The Teen Survival Cookbook. This time he made it without the cookbook and decided to pick some raspberries to mix in as well. Whilst it is a very easy recipe it’s great when a cookbook recipe gives a teenager (Aidan is 13 ) sufficient confidence to just put it together the next time he wants to make a nice pudding. For anyone who has not come across it, Eton mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries pieces of meringue and cream which is traditionally served at Eton College’s annual cricket game against Winchester College and it’s been known by this name since the 19th Century. I don’t know if they still serve it at the school, my boys have a couple of friends at Eton I must get them to ask.


  • 300ml double cream
  • 8 meringues
  • 450g Strawberries
  • 300g approx raspberries (optional)
  • Drizzle orange juice or white wine
  • 25g icing sugar


  1. Chop strawberries in half (cut large strawberries smaller)
  2. Chuck in a bowl and splash with orange juice or wine. Add icing sugar (optional)
  3. Just before eating whisk cream until soft, (mixes very well in a food processor)
  4. Break up meringues
  5. Put cream, meringues (save some to put on top) and fruit in a bowl and stir gently for marbled effect
  6. Spoon into glasses, tumblers or a big bowl, sprinkle with some saved meringue  and serve.

Iced Lemon Traybake – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

Despite being closed away in the Eglu the chickens woke me up this morning with much squawking and clucking. Since I was the only person up and I had another doz eggs in my hands (including one lovely warm egg that had just been laid – the reason for all Yasmin’s noise) I decided to make a cake.

Wanting something easy I decided to make the Iced Lemon Traybake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. I’m using this book a lot at the moment as it is an excellent way of getting a wide repertoire of ‘basic’ cakes, (I doubt I’ll manage to make every recipe in the book though as there’s over 250). The only drawback with deciding to bake first thing in the morning is no softened butter. I cubed it and zapped it in the microwave for 20secs but there were still a few large lumps as I mixed. I hope I didn’t overmix the cake mixture. I needed to zest two lemons so used the new box grater I’d picked up in Tesco – I couldn’t believe how much easier it made it, thinking back I think my old box grater dated from university days, I guess it had got a bit blunt.

This traybake was very easy to make, the top surface wasn’t perfectly smooth (see pic below) and the icing didn’t cover it up completely. I’m still not sure whether I should turn the tray bake over to ice. I should smooth the mixture more before putting into the oven to bake I just worry about overhandling the mixture. The end result was lovely light sponge squares with delicate lemon flavour icing. I only used one of the lemons in the icing. I think with a nice sharp grater to get all the zest I would have been fine with 1 large lemon.


  • 225g (8oz) softened butter
  • 225g (8oz) caster sugar
  • 275g (10oz) self raising flour
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tbsps milk
  • grated rind 2 unwaxed lemons

For the icing

  • 3 tbsps lemon juice
  • 225g (8oz) sifted icing sugar


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/Fan 160 C/Gas Mark 4
  2. Grease and line a 30 x 23 cm (12 x 9 in) traybake tin.
  3. Measure all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat until well blended. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the cake has shrunk away from the sides of the tin and springs bake when pressed. Leave to cool in the tin.
  5. Mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar to give a runny consistency. Spread out evenly over the cake and leave to set before cutting into 21 pieces.

Steak and Mushroom Pie – Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies

My father-in-law bought me a lovely new Magimix 4200 Food Processor
which I hadn’t tried out yet. Pastry is one of those things food processors are supposed to be good at so I decided to make another pie from The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies. I love the Magimix – it really does makes pastry making so ridiculously easy 🙂

The Steak and Mushroom pie filling takes 2 hours to cook, filling preparation time was probably about 15-20 mins. I made up the filling after dinner one evening and put into the fridge. I made the pastry the next evening when I got in from work, filled the pie and put it into the oven. At the back of the book the hairy bikers give instructions on how to do a crimped edge which worked well. I need a bit of practice to get my edges as perfect as theirs but I was pleased with how the pie looked. Since the pie filling was cold from the fridge the needed longer to cook than the instructions and I think I’d reduce the stock to 400ml as there was a little too much liquid. Pie was delicious, with a perfectly cooked base and it smelt wonderful as it cooked. So far every pie I have tried from this book has been one I’d make again. We ate half for dinner with carrots and cauliflower cheese (no potatoes) between 4 of us. We’ll try the other half cold tomorrow night. It would easily feed 8, especially with some small baked potatoes as well.


  • 750g chuck steak, trimmed
  • 2-3 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 150ml red wine
  • 2 tsp Worcestshire sauce
  • 400 – 500ml beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 25g butter
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms wiped and cut in half
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Shortcrust Pastry

  • 400g plain flour (plus extra for rolling)
  • 250g cold butter cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg beaten with
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • beaten egg to glaze


  1. Cut the steak into rough 3cm cubes and season well. Heat 1-2 tbsps of oli in a frying pan and fry the meat over a high heat until browned all over.
  2. Transfer the meat to a flameproof casserole dish as it is browned then toss in the flour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 150 C/Fan 130 C/Gas Mark 2.
  4. Add 1 tbsp oli to the fry pan and cook the onions and garlic for 5 minutes until golden and soft.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the wine and add the Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil whilst stirring to get any sediment from the pan.
  6. Pour the gravy over the beef in the casserole dish, then add the stock and the bay leaf. Bring everything to the boil on top of the stove. Remove from teh heat, cover and place in the oven for 1.5 hrs.
  7. Melt the butter in the frying pan and cook the mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring until lightly browned.
  8. Add the mushrooms to the beef, then return the casserole dish to the oven and cook for another 30 minutes. Leave to cool.
  9. To make the pastry put the flour and butter into a food processor and blitz on pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  10. With the motor running add the beaten egg and water and process until the mixture is just coming together as a ball (be careful not to over process).
  11. Remove and divide the dough into two-thirds for the base and one third for the top, then shape into slightly flattened balls.
  12. Preheat the oven to 210 C/Fan 190/Gas Mark 6.5
  13. Roll out the larger ball of pastry on a floured surface and use it to line your pie dish.
  14. Add the beef and mushroom filling and brush the edges with beaten egg.
  15. Roll out the remaining pastry to the size needed for the pie lid and carefully lay on top of the pie.
  16. Trim and crimp the edges then brush with beaten egg,
  17. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is piping hot.

Dorchester Biscuits – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

I wanted to bake a savoury biscuit and the recipe for these in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible looked interesting. Like the majority of Mary Berry’s recipes they were easy to make, and like many of Mary’s biscuit recipes if you make the quantities she specifies you’d end up with tiny little morsels. It’s weird her traybakes make generous quantities so it isn’t just that she eats smaller portions than everyone else. Anyway for these biscuits I made 20 little biscuits instead of her stated 30. The biscuits were crumbly around the edges, I don’t really know why. As you can see from the picture I topped them with half a cashew which was less of a faff than the chopped nut topping would be. I really liked the biscuits and they were all but I’m not 100% convinced they will make my list of regular recipes – I don’t know why not.


  • 100g (4oz) grated mature cheddar
  • 100g (4oz) plain flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100g (4oz) softened butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 50g (2oz) chopped unsalted mixed nuts
  • either mixed chopped nuts or cashew halves to decorate


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C/ Fan 160 degrees C/gas mark 4.
  2. Lightly grease 2 baking trays
  3. Measure all the ingredients except nuts for sprinkling into a bowl.
  4. Work together with a knife then your hands to form a dough.
  5. Form the dough into about 20 balls and place well apart on the prepared baking trays.
  6. Sprinkle with either chopped nuts or nut topping then lightly flatten the balls with your hand.
  7. Bake in  pre-heated oven for about for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Lift onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cold.

Lemon Drizzle Traybake – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

I needed to make some cake for a picnic on a friends boat. It needed to be sufficient to serve a number of hungry teens & children and 3-4 adults and be individual cakes/pieces so we didn’t need a knife. A traybake was the obvious option and I knew Mary Berry’s Baking Bible had a whole chapter. I’ve never actually made a lemon drizzle cake before and I really don’t understand why not as it is very easy. I wasn’t sure which side up is best for the cake before pouring over the lemon sugar mix so I turned the cake over and poured the lemon sugar mix over the base. I suspect either side up is fine. This way the new ‘top’ of the cake was very even in colour and texture and the syrup soaked in well. The cake was delicious, melt in the mouth soft, moist crumb and a satisfyingly sweet & bitter crunch to the topping. The teens and children all liked the cake and my husband who hates icing also liked it so the ratio of juice to sugar for the topping is just right.

I’d like to know how well it keeps to the next day but that will have to be another batch another day.


  • 225g softened butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 275g self raising flour
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • Finley grated rind of 2 lemons

The crunchy topping

  • 175g granulated sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons


Prep: 15 mins    Cooking Time:  40mins    Makes: 25-30 squares

  1. Lightly grease and line a traybake tin or roasting tin (30 x 23 x 4 cm) and preheat your oven to 160 oC.
  2. Put all the ingredients for the traybake into a large bowl and beat well.  You can use an electric mixer but as long as your butter is soft it really is very easy to beat by hand.
  3. Empty all of the mix into the tin and level the top with the back of a spoon or spatula.
  4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden, the sides have pulled away slightly and the sponge springs back when pressed lightly.
  5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes then remove from the tin using the baking paper.  Carefully remove the paper and allow the cake to cool on a wire rack.
  6. For the crunchy topping, mix the ingredients together in a measuring jug/small bowl then spoon it over the cake while it’s still just warm.
  7. Cut into squares once completely cooled.

Cheese Straws – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

My teen boys are big fans of cheese twists and having got over my fear of pastry (thanks to the Hairy Bikers) I thought I’d try some cheese straws as I didn’t have any puff pastry to hand and didn’t have enough time to make puff pastry. I’ve been using Mary Berry’s Baking Biblea lot lately so it seemed the obvious recipe to start with. As I mixed together the dough I started to get an inkling why she might be so tiny. The quantity of dough hardly seemed worth bothering with! However I didn’t have enough spare butter to make more so in it went to the fridge. Actually mixing the dough was quick and easy and as long as you plan for the 1/2hr rest in the fridge these don’t take much time to make. I was surprised the butter went in soft. The finished cheese straws were nice but minute and rather crumbly. This would be a good recipe to use up egg yolks if you were making meringues, especially as Mary says they can be frozen (and even eaten straight from the freezer)


  • 100g (4oz) plain flour
  • 75g (3oz) softened butter
  • 50g (2oz) grated mature cheddar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • finely grated parmesan for sprinkling


  1. Pre-heat the over to 190 degrees C/Gas 5.
  2. Lightly grease 2 baking trays
  3. Measure the flour into a bowl and run in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the grated cheddar.
  4. Reserve a little of the egg yolk for glazing and stir in the remainder. Bring the mixture together to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Roll the chilled dough out on to a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of about 5mm. Cut into neat strips about 5mm (I did 1 cm wide) wide and about 10cm long.
  6. Place on the prepared baking trays, brush with the remaining egg yolk and sprinkle generously with the grated parmesan.
  7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Lift off the baking trays (with great care) and leave to cool completely on a wire rack

Mushroom Risotto, Spinach Salad and Lemon Cheesecake – Jamie’s 30 minute Meals

I was watching Jamie’s 30 minute meals whilst ironing last Sunday when Aidan (13 yrs) wandered in and got interested. He decided he’d try cooking the menu shown on the tv from Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals that evening. Now I must admit to being skeptical about a mushroom risotto plus salad plus dessert in 30 minutes given risotto usually needs constant attention and is best cooked slowly but overall the taste of Jamie’s 30 minute menus have ben worth the effort.

Our first hiccup was my food processor has given up so I have to chop the dried mushrooms, onions etc by hand so that took extra time. And great as Aidan is in the kitchen this was more ambitious than he’d ever made so I was coaching him through making the meal. We took at least an hr ! But it was very enjoyable cooking with Aidan and he learnt a lot so both of us were happy to spend the time. One of the areas he was not so sure on was identifying herbs so we spent a bit of time in the garden looking at the different herbs.

The spinach salad was nice but I felt too much dressing and I couldn’t work out the benefit of effectively soaking the pine kernels in the dressing before tossing. Next time I would make less dressing, toss the salad then sprinkle the toasted pine kernals on top (and much as we all like pine kernels and it pains me to say it you really could have got away with half the quantity of pine kernels. Family opinion was divided on the merits of adding the cucumber.

The cheesecake was really nice. I’ll get Aidan to make the cheesecake desserts a few other times. I think they could end up being very quick to make up. Perhaps using mascarpone next time. Not sure how many raspberries we used we picked what was available in the garden. One of the good things about this dessert is you could improvise with quite a few ingredients. I liked the individual servings.

Mushroom Risotto 


  • 1 large white onion, halved and peeled
  • 1 stick celery
  • 15g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 300g risotto rice
  • 1/2 a glass of white wine
  • 1 vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 litre boiling water or stock (we used Marigold swiss bouillon)
  • 500g mixed mushrooms, wiped clean and torn (we used a mixture of chestnut, shiitake and portebello mushrooms)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • a small bunch of thyme, leaves picked
  • a large knob of butter
  • 40g Parmesan, grated
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • small bunch of flat-leaf


  1. Put the onion, celery and dried porcini into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Heat a large saucepan on medium and add a good lug of olive oil. Scrape in the processed mixture and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Throw in the chopped rosemary and rice; stir well for a minute. Pour in the white wine and crumble in the stock cube. Stir until the wine is absorbed and then season.
  4. Add a couple of ladles of the stock or water and stir in well. You need to then keep coming back to the risotto every minute for about 16-18 minutes – stirring in a bit more stock each time. Add half the mushrooms after a couple of minutes.
  5. Heat the grill.
  6. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan and add a couple of good lugs of olive oil, the remaining mushrooms, garlic, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir for a second, add half the thyme and take off the heat. Add the remaining thyme to the rice.
  7. Put frying pan of mushrooms under the grill to crisp up, turn the grill off when they are golden and crispy.
  8. When the rice is al dente stir in the butter and most of the Parmesan, add lemon juice and taste for seasoning.
  9. Stir in half the parsley and throw the rest over the grilled mushrooms.
  10. Put the risotto onto a serving bowl and spoon some grilled mushrooms over the top with some extra Parmesan.`

Spinach Salad


  • 100g pinenuts, (50g is sufficient)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 200g baby spinach, sliced roughly into 1cm thick strips
  • 3 large sprigs of fresh mint, leaves picked
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, halved and sliced on an angle about 1cm thick


  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry non stick pan
  2. Put balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper into a large salad bowl and add the pine nuts (I’d add them later next time).
  3. Add the spinach, mint leaves, sun-dried tomatoes and cucumber. Don’t toss until the last minute.
  4. If you haven’t used the pine nuts sprinkle this on top.

Quick Cheesecake


  • 50g butter
  • 50g blanched hazelnuts
  • 8 gingernut biscuits
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 heaped teaspoons good quality lemon curd
  • Approx 150g raspberries
  • 250g light or low fat  cream cheese, marscapone cheese or crème fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or extract
  • A splash of milk
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • Good quality dark chocolate for grating ( approx 70% cocoa solids


  1. Place 4 tumblers for these cheesecakes into the freezer.
  2. Put the butter into a medium frying pan on a high heat. Wrap the hazelnuts and biscuits in a clean tea towel (we used a plastic food bag) and quickly bash with a rolling pin.
  3. Turn the heat off under the melted butter, tip in the bashed nuts and biscuits and stir. Finely grate in the lemon zest and mix well.
  4. Take the tumblers out of the freezer and divide the mixture between them, gently patting it down until firm.
  5. Put 1 heaped teaspoon (or two) of lemon curd into each tumbler and top with a few raspberries.
  6. Spoon the cream cheese, marscapone or crème fraiche into a bowl and add the vanilla paste or extract and a splash of milk. Stir, then ass the icing sugar and another splash of milk and mix really well until it looks soft and silky smooth. Divide between the tumblers.
  7. Scrape over a few gratings of dark chocolate and set aside until you are ready to serve.