Tales from kitchen and cellar

Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

Dizzy Viennese Whirls

In Baking, Cakes, Cooking, food, Food and Drink on April 27, 2012 at 10:54 am

Viennese Whirls

These light as air, crumbly biscuits are a great weekend treat. If you have a piping bag and nozzle the method is pretty easy and once made they will last up to a week in an airtight container. However, if you have friends over I doubt they’d last that long!

Once baked they’re texture is like a whipped shortbread and are delicious enjoyed at the end of a meal instead of a dessert with a small glass of sweet madeira (Malmsey works best) or a glass of late harvest sauvignon blanc.

For extra decadence melt some dark chocolate and dip half the whirl into it and leave to set, this makes the biscuit a little more substantial and adds extra density.

I prefer them as little light whirls all on their own!


  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 55g icing sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g corn flour
  • 300g dark chocolate optional for dipping


Preheat the oven to 170C,  Gas Mark 3

Place all the ingredients (except the chocolate) into a mixing bowl, make sure the butter is softened first.

Using a wooden spoon or electric mixer mix the ingredients to a paste and then stop being careful not to add too much air.

For the classic look of the biscuit place the paste into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe the mixture out onto non stick baking paper in little swirls. Starting at the centre and working your way outwards. You will soon get the knack after a couple of biscuits. Be careful to space wide apart as they grow in the oven.

Bake for around 15 minutes then leave on a wire rack to cool.Then place them onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

If you want a chocolatey edge, melt some dark chocolate in a bowl on top of a pan of boiling water then dip half the biscuit in, or just enjoy unadulterated.


Celebration Cup Cakes with Vanilla Buttercream mmmmm…

In Baking, Cakes, Cooking, food, Food and Drink on April 26, 2012 at 10:43 am

Fabulous Fairy Cakes or Cup Cakes

Today I have showcased the very popular cup cake or if you’re English and feeling nostalgic the fairy cake. It’s to celebrate a lovely honour that a fellow blogger has bestowed on this site. With many thanks to We Eat Things who have named Tales from Kitchen and Cellar Blog of the Month. I’m thrilled by the feedback and so to say thank you one of my cup cakes is winging its way virtualy to We Eat Things as a thank you! Check out their site, beautiful and full of great information I particularly liked their pithy take on the pros and cons of coffee. So, with that said let’s get down to some cup cake business!

These cakes are easy to prepare just make sure your butter is softened fully before you start. The humble cup cake is a great home baked treat and so much better than those bought in a supermarket and what’s more they are cheap and pretty too…


  • 100g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 2  eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional)
  • 75g butter
  • 175g icing sugar, sifted


Makes 12 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to  180c Gas Mark 4. Place cup cake cases into a muffin tray

Using an electric whisk or food processor or wooden beat the butter and sugar until very light, pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating each one in well before adding the next. Add the vanilla essence. Carefully fold in the flour and if using the baking powder.

Using two spoons dollop the mixture into the pre prepared muffin tray and place in the oven for 10 – 20 minutes. Check after 10 minutes with a skewer try not to overcook the cakes or they will be very dry.

When baked leave to cool on a wire rack.

Make the vanilla butter icing

Using an electric whisk or food processor beat the butter until very soft.

Gradually add the sifted icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence and beat into the butter until you have a smooth paste. When the cakes are cool, using a palette knife place the buttercream on top of the cake  swipe into a swirl. Decorate with whatever sugary treats you like.


Tripping the Fizz Fantastic

In Food and Drink on April 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Fantastic Fizz

As some of you know food is not my only love and what helps to pay the bills is my love of wine too. I’m lucky enough to teach my interest on a regular basis and it’s about this time of week that I start to gear up for the weekend, which tends to be the busiest time. So perhaps Wednesday’s blogs should be called…Wino Wednesdays!

This weekend one group of lucky ladies are set to have a champagne and sparkling wine tasting. This always raises so much debate. I always blinfold an English fizz in a bag and a classic champagne and get them to guess which they think is the real deal. Then I ask them which they prefer.

The results are always so interesting, Ridgeview the English fizz nearly always gets more like votes than the classic champagne. Around half the people can’t tell the difference. It really is a great way to highlight fantastic fizz that doesn’t fall under the champagne umbrella.

Great cava is also hard to beat and I love the often berated Freixenet Reserva, this is great served with fish and chips or some chilli or salted chocolate.

This weekends tasters are set for a fantastic fizz selection from the classic dry Paul Herard champagne to the South African Graham Beck Rosé. Made in the same way as a classic champagne but at less than half the price.

They will also get to try a very lively and fruity Italian prosecco by Bisol Jeio, and a delicious and sweet Moscatel which will have your tastebuds in carnival mood, all the way from Brazil!

Lucky ladies, I will of course be spitting them out but will make sure that something equally tempting is waiting in the fridge upon my return.

It would be great to hear any thoughts on sparkling wine versus champagne, it’s always great to get fresh input from fizz lovers!

One final thought, the pictures in this blog are all taken by me and are of food and or drink. However, I was lucky enough to be running a tasting last night in the heart of London’s Canary Wharf, at the top of one of the towers, this was the view. What better place to stand and stare with glass in hand…

Asparagus and Chilli Polenta Paradise

In Cooking, food, Food and Drink on April 24, 2012 at 10:51 am




Asparagus and Chilli Polenta

Well it’s the English asparagus season and what better way to celebrate it then in mediterranean style! A glass of chilled white from Sicily or an ice cold beer would cap this dish off.

If you fancy a vegetarian evening miss out the chopped ham. Serve as a smaller portion as a fresh starter or with lots of polenta for a hearty dinner. Whatever your mood this dish showcases the asparagus and is a colourful, enticing and easy supper.

This dish is more of an inspiration guide than a set ingredient and method style recipe. But here are some rough ingredient guidelines:


Ingredients for 2

1/2 packet instant polenta

2 free range organic eggs, the fresher the better

1 bunch English asparagus

2 red chillis finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

2 Tablespoons olive oil

A little plain flour for dusting polenta

4 slices ham, salami or prosciutto

Drizzle of good balsamic vinegar

Fresh grated parmesan



Prepare your asparagus by snapping the woody ends off and peeling the ends for a smart edge.

Fry your chilli and garlic in a large saucepan for a couple of minutes. Add half your packet of instant polenta and follow packet instructions. Once cooked pour into a shallow baking tray and chill down.

When the polenta has firmed up (around 1-2 hours) slice into chunks and dust  lightly in a little plain flour. Fry as many chunks as you are hungry  for in a frying pan until golden and crisp. Then toss in your asparagus and fry for a few minutes more. You can pop the pan into a hot oven around 200C if you prefer.

Whilst the asparagus is cooking chop up your ham or prosciutto and any fresh herbs you have, I used a little marjoram last night.

Remove pan from oven and move the asparagus and polenta around so you have two neat holes to crack your eggs into.

When the eggs are cooked, plate up and finish with the ham, parmesan and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

This was delicious served with a chilled glass of Sicilian Fiano. Yum!

















































Magic Muffins

In Baking, Cakes, Cooking, food on April 23, 2012 at 10:16 am


Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins

A warm oven fresh muffin filled with delicious fruit and chocolate is hard to beat. Today’s recipe has taken its inspiration from the raspberries at my local fruit and veg market and some white chocolate chips tucked away in my baking stash. It would be great to hear your ideas on classic muffin combinations over the coming weeks… I will try them out!

These muffins are great to eat as a breakfast, lunch or teatime treat. Eaten after cooling slightly from the oven the chocolate will still be soft and the sweetness is balanced by the sharp acidity of a warm, delectable raspberry.

Time for another one I think….


2 eggs
125 ml vegetable oil
250 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
200 g sugar

400 g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
100 g white chocolate buttons or chopped white chocolate, the higher quality the better

150 g fresh raspberries


Preheat the oven to 200°C, Gas Mark 6.

Fill your muffin tray with paper cases or squares of baking parchment for a more rustic look to the finished muffin.

Place the eggs, oil, milk, vanilla essence and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat together until sugar has dissolved and the mixture begins to pale.

In another large bowl, mix together the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Add the white chocolate drops or chopped chocolate and mix.

Add the liquid mix to the dry, and roughly mix in it doesn’t have to be absolutely smooth, in fact it will look a little lumpy. Add the raspberries last and fold into the mixture carefully so as not to break up the fruits.

Using two tablespoons use one to fill the other to scrape the mixture into the muffin cases until they are around two thirds full. Bake the muffins for 25 minutes.

Leave to cool slightly then enjoy.

Prosciutto and Spinach Salad

In Cooking, food, Food and Drink on April 20, 2012 at 9:55 am

Shiny Tasty Salad

Looking back on this week’s blogs I thought maybe it was time to step away from the sugar and toward the healthy, fresh and tasty. At last the sun is shining in this little corner of southern England and it would seem Spring is…well, springing! So what better way than to celebrate with a delicious lunch of spring greens, tomatoes and or course a good quality proscuitto.

Like many cooks I cannot stress enough the importance of a good ingredients and my local market provided all the inspiration I needed. The spinach so green and verdant begged to be bought. The tomatoes on the vine although a little early were as succulent as any I have seen in the summer months. A really good quality prosciutto makes this salad and of course a decent extar virgin olive oil finishes the dish off.

It’s a simple salad that can be adapted to whatever you have to hand some radicchio would add a nice bitterness or some creamy mozzarella would add clean colour and texture. Some toasted hazelnutes too would add crunch and would be pleasing to the eye.

This recipe is more a list of ingredients that you can adjust in quantity depending on your and taste.

Ingredients for one

Handful or two of baby spinach leaves

2 gardeners delight tomato or if you see them heirloom tomatoes

Small handful of frisee lettuce

2-3 slices prosciutto

For the dressing

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon vinegar

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil


Wash the salad leave and chop the tomatoes, add extra herbs such as basil if required.

Mix the mustard with the salt and pepper (to taste) whisk with white wine vinegar and then add the oil whisking a little in at a time. If to acidic for your taste add a pinch of sugar.

Dress the salad with the vinaigrette. Place the prosciutto or similar style ham on top and dress with a little more extra virgin olive oil. Garnish as you like with other goodies such as mozzarella, nuts, or baby shoots.


Decadent Chocolate Brownies

In Baking, Cakes, Cooking, food, Food and Drink on April 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm



Chocolate Brownie Heaven

These tasty fudgy rectangles make a great any time treat and are so versatile. Have as an afternoon snack or slightly warmed as a delectable dessert. The crispy shell and gooey centre is a sure fire hit with kids and adults alike. There’s nearly always a fight for the gooey slice at the centre. They are quick and easy to make and if kept in a sealed box will last upto a week, although I would be surprised if they’ll survive uneaten for that long!

Dust with icing sugar if serving as a dessert and with a good quality vanilla ice cream. If pudding wines are your thing then a very chilled glass of sauternes or the more unusual banyuls will go down a treat.  Yum!


22cm square brownie tin

oil, for greasing, greaseproof paper

350 g dark chocolate, broken in small pieces

50g white chocolate button

50g milk chocolate buttons

250 g unsalted butter

3 eggs

250 g dark brown sugar, preferably muscovado

100 g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder


Heat the oven to 170°C/gas 3. Lightly grease a 22cm square cake tin and line with greaseproof paper for easy removal laerMelt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, being careful that the water doesn’t get into the chocolate.Whisk the eggs and sugar together for 2-3 minutes until smooth, creamy and fluffy. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.Sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixture and stir to mix. Fold in the chocolate drops Pour the mixture into the cake tin.Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 35 minutes until the surface is set. It is cooked when it just starts to crack on the top. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool completely in the tin.
Slice the cake into squares and store in a tin or in a container in the fridge.

Spring Wedding Cake

In Baking, Cakes, Cooking, food, Food and Drink on April 18, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Dotty about Dots

As some might have gathered I am rather partial to the sugar arts so it was my great privilege to make this spring time wedding cake which played a part in celebrating the happy couple’s special day. If you’d like to know how the design came about and how the cake was made then read on…

I was lucky enough to have pretty much free rein on the design and so decided on a three tier cake. The base, ten inches in diameter was a rich fruit cake fed for a month with a tablespoon of brandy each day. It was what I call a hiccup cake or boozy to some!

The happy couple wanted chocolate to feature so the middle eight inch tier was a rich chocolate fudge cake filled with chocolate ganache.

The top tier was a six inch lemon drizzle cake with lemon curd buttercream filling. My personal favourite and made extra special as the smallest of the tiers made it the most sought after when it came to handing out the cut up cake.

The decoration was simple, each tier was covered with marzipan and finally white fondant icing. A good tip is to work quickly with fondant icing, and roll out in the morning. The warmer the day becomes the more it’s prone to crack and split.

The bottom two tiers were strengthened with four dowling rods and the cakes glued together with sugar paste softened to make a glue with a little vodka.

Pink ribbon matched the beautiful flowers hand tied by the brides mother and the baby’s breath made a welcome addition of nature to the top and bottom of the cake.

As for the dots, small ones were cut out for the top tier which increased in size to the bottom tier. The bride felt this added a little bit of fun to a formal cake and I like to think lifted the cake to extra special.

I loved making this cake and seeing it in the old barn setting of the wedding venue brought it to life. I hope you like it too, if so there will be more cakes to come…

Milk and Cookies

In Baking, Cooking, food, Food and Drink on April 17, 2012 at 11:14 am

Milk and Cookies

Tuesdays are a strange day, not quite the beginning of the week and far from the end. So what delicious treats can be conjured up to make Tuesdays tasty! Look no further than the picture above…

This is such a simple recipe that brings back great childhood memories, served with fresh organic milk makes this tea time treat  a hit with adults and kids alike. The tricky thing is to wait until tea time to eat them, especially when still warm from the oven and the chocolate is still gooey and glossy, begging to be eaten!

Let me know your favourite cookie combinations, as I’m looking for new ideas and would love to know any unusual thoughts!


    • 350g flour
    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 225g butter
    • 175g caster sugar
    • 175g brown sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 eggs
    • 350g dark chocolate drops or chopped dark chocolate


Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5

In a bowl mix the flour, baking soda and salt.In a separate bowl, beat the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until light and creamy. Add the eggs. Slowly add in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate drops or chopped dark chocolate if using.

Bring together to forma a dough and roll into a sausage shape approximately 2 inches in diameter (cut into two sausages if easier to manage). Wrap them in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to bake the cookies, cut the dough into 2 cm thickness and place on a greased baking sheet widely spaced.

Bake for 9 to 12 minutes depending on your oven until just golden. They will continue to bake once out of the oven.

Finally serve with a glass of chilled milk or a hot coffee if preferred!

Prosecco or Merlot, Chocolate or Cheese?

In food, Food and Drink on April 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Food and Wine Matching

This weekend was a busy one as I ran two wine tastings in one day. This meant that I had the opportunity of being a part of two people’s celebrations a fiftieth birthday party and a hen party and two very different crowds. The tastings got me thinking and I often learn so much from other people. Food and wine matching is a great passion of mine and so it seemed it was for the fiftieth birthday crowd.

There was a great feast on display at this tasting of fantastic cheeses and meats and breads which had been carefully chosen to go with the seven different wines they all tried. It looked and I’m reliably informed tasted great!

Wine and cheese or meats is a long held tradition but what about the sweet stuff, where as many of you know my heart truly lies! Where does wine sit with chocolate or other sweet treats?

For me the classic pairing of dark chocolate with a merlot or cabernet sauvignon is a great combination. If you want a specific tip I can’t think of any finer pairing than Rococco’s Criollo dark chocolate and Catena Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, Argentina. It’s hard to beat and one tip I’ve learnt from a very learned wino couple! Rich in antioxidants in both the wine and the chocolate the two combined are great news for the body, if of course they are enjoyed in moderation!

But how about the classic fizz? I love a salty chocolate and a glass of champagne. The most decadent matching for me would be Rococco sea salt chocolate and a glass of great champagne or if you are a lover of English Fizz like me Ridgeview’s Cavendish sparkling wine. The salty chocolate pairs well with the umami taste in the champagne. If you are looking not to blow the budget then a cava or prosecco matched with Lindt’s savoury chocolate offering of a touch of sea salt works just as well. Try it!

It would be great to learn some other quirky wine and food combinations and would love to hear more if you have them.

If you are interested in wine tastings please take a look: http://www.thirtyfifty.co.uk/ and don’t forget to mention me.