Monday, March 30, 2009

My Mother-in-Law's Madeira Cake

I love a good old-fashioned seed cake; if you do too, add a couple of teaspoons of caraway to this mixture. For a lemon poppyseed cake, add the juice of another half lemon and a tablespoon or two of poppyseeds. And I once came across an expensive but tempting curiosity: dried strawberries, tiny things harvested by that clever Terence Conran. I upped the liquid to the juice of 2 lemons and folded in 100g of the strawberries. It was a wholly successful experiment. - Nigella


240g softened unsalted butter
200g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
210g self-raising flour
90g plain flour
23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin, buttered and lined
Serving Size : Makes 8–10 slices.


1.Preheat the oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3.

2.Cream the butter and sugar, and add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour for each. Then gently mix in the rest of the flour and, finally,   the lemon juice. Sprinkle with caster sugar (about 2 tablespoons should do it) as it goes into the oven, and bake for 1 hour or until a cake-tester comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool in the tin before turning out.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Chocolate Cloud Cake

Cook Time: 40 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 8 servings


9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, minimum 70 percent cocoa solids
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs, 2 whole, 4 separated
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, optional (recommended: Cointreau)
1 orange, zested


For the cream topping:

2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur, optional (recommended: Cointreau)
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, for sprinkling

Special equipment: 9-inch springform pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of the cake pan with baking parchment.

Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or a microwave, add the butter and let melt in the warm chocolate.

Beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 1/3 cup of the sugar, then gently add the chocolate mixture, the orange-flavored liqueur and the orange zest.

In another bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the remaining sugar and whisk until the whites hold their shape but are not too stiff. Lighten the chocolate mixture with a dollop of egg whites, and then fold in the rest of the whites. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is risen and cracked and the center is no long wobbly. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack; the middle will sink as it cools.

When you are ready to eat, place the still pan-bound cake on a cake stand or plate for serving and carefully remove the sides of the pan from the cake. Don't worry about cracks or rough edges, it's the crater look we're going for here. Whip the cream until it's soft and then add the vanilla and orange-flavored liqueur and continue whisking until the cream is firm but not stiff. Fill the crater of the cake with the whipped cream, easing it out gently towards the edges of the cake, and dust the top lightly with cocoa powder pushed through a tea-strainer.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rapid Ragu

Photograph by Lis Parsons


2 x 15ml tablespoons garlic oil
125g cubed pancetta
500g lamb mince
75g caramelized onions
80ml Marsala
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
75g green lentils
125ml water
50g grated red Leicester or Cheddar (optional)
Serving Size : Serves 4


1. Heat the oil in a wide, medium-sized saucepan, and fry the cubed pancetta until beginning to crisp.

2. Add the lamb, breaking it up with a fork in the bacony pan as it browns.

3. Tip in the caramelized onions, Marsala, tomatoes, lentils and water and bring the pan to the boil.

4. Simmer the ragù for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with the cheese (if using) before serving.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Photograph by Lis Parsons

I am of the mind that it is perfectly all right to make this with canned pineapple rings. I feel it is slightly bad sport to start peeling and slicing your own pineapple. Anyway, canned pineapple is just fine, though I advise going for the one in its own juice rather than in syrup, and I add some of the juice to the sponge, too. This seems to make it light and fluffy. I have found that the best way of keeping this swift, is by baking it in my copper tarte Tatin tin; if you are using a regular cake tin, be prepared to add a few minutes on to the cooking time. - Nigella


butter for greasing
2 x 15ml tablespoons sugar
6 slices pineapple from a 425g can, plus 3 x 15ml tablespoons of the juice
11 glacé cherries, approx. 75g total weight
100g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g soft butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
Serving Size : Serves 8


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Butter a tarte Tatin tin (24cm wide at the top and 20cm diameter at the bottom) or use a 23cm cake tin (neither loose-bottomed nor        springform).

2. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of sugar on top of the buttered base, and then arrange the pineapple slices to make a circular pattern as in the picture.

3. Fill each pineapple ring with a glacé cherry, and then dot one in each of the spaces in between.

4. Put the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, butter, caster sugar and eggs into a food processor and run the motor until the batter is smooth. Then pour in the 3               tablespoons of pineapple juice to thin it a little.

5. Pour this mixture carefully over the cherry-studded pineapple rings; it will only just cover it, so spread it out gently.

6. Bake for 30 minutes, then ease a spatula around the edge of the tin, place a plate on top and, with one deft – ha! – move, turn it upside-down.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Italian Sausages with Lentils

Cook Time: 1 hr
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 serving


3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin), divided
1 onion, finely chopped
Sprinkling salt
About 2 3/4 cups (about 18 ounces) dried Puy lentils
1 fat clove garlic, squished with the flat side of a knife, and skin removed
8 Italian sausage links
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine
1/4 cup water
Flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, for garnish


For the lentils:

Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil into a good-sized saucepan (and one that has a lid that fits) on the heat and when it's warm, add the chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt (which helps prevent its browning) and cook over low to medium heat until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the lentils, stir well and then cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil, then cover and let simmer gently for 1/2 an hour or so until cooked and most, if not all, the liquid's absorbed. I don't add salt at this stage since the sauce provided by the sausages later (and which will be poured over the lentils) will be pretty salty itself. So, wait and taste. And remember, you can of course cook the lentils in advance.

Anyway, when either the lentils are nearly ready or you're about to reheat them, put a heavy-based frying pan on the burner, cover with a film of oil and add the bruised garlic. Cook for a few minutes then add and brown the sausages. When the sausages are brown on both sides - which won't take more than 5 minutes or so - throw in the wine and water and let bubble up. Cover the pan, either with a lid or aluminum foil, and cook for about 15 minutes. Using a fork, mash the now-soft garlic into the sauce and taste for seasoning, adding a little more water if it's too strong.

Remove the lentils to a shallowish bowl or dish (I evacuate the sausages from their cooking pan, plonk the lentils in, then proceed) then cover with the sausages and their garlicky, winey gravy. Sprinkle over some flat-leaf parsley.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Cherry Cheesecake

Cook Time: 20 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 6 to 8 servings


1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 stick soft unsalted butter
10 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 (10-ounce) jar black cherry spread (recommended: St Dalfour Rhapsodie de Fruit)


Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until beginning to turn to crumbs, then add the sugar and butter and whiz again to make the mixture clump. If using graham cracker crumbs, you can use a bowl and wooden spoon to mix the butter in, with the sugar added.

Press this mixture into a 8-inch springform tin; press a little up the sides to form a slight ridge.

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth.

Lightly whip the cream, and then fold it into the cream cheese mixture.

Spoon the cheesecake filling on top of the biscuit base and smooth with a spatula, put it in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to serve the cheesecake, un-mold and spread the black cherry spread over the top.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Amaretto Syllabub

Cook Time: 15 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 servings


1/3 cup amaretto liqueur
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 (8-ounce) packet amaretti morbidi (soft almond macaroons)


Pour the amaretto liqueur into a bowl with the sugar and lemon juice and whisk to mix.

Whisk in the heavy cream and whip this mixture until it has thickened but is still soft and billowy.

Crumble 2 little amaretti biscuits into each of the 4 glasses (each with a yield of about 2/3 cup).

Divide the syllabub between the glasses on top of the crumbled biscuits.

Crumble another macaroon or 2, and sprinkle this golden rubble over the top of all the glasses to give a fine sprinkle of crumbs on each. Serve the remaining amaretti alongside the syllabub.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cornbread Topped Chili Con Carne

Cook Time: 2 hr
Level: Intermediate
Yield: up to 20 servings



4 tablespoons olive oil
4 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried or crushed chili flakes
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
5 cardamom pods, bruised
2 red peppers, seeded and finely diced
3 pounds 4 ounces ground beef
7 cups canned chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cocoa
3 1/2 cups canned red kidney beans


1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups buttermilk
4 eggs
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated Cheddar
Guacamole, recipe follows

Serving suggestion:

2 cups sour cream
Ground paprika, for dusting
3 3/4 cups grated Cheddar
Special equipment: Very large pan


Heat the oil in a very large pan and fry the onion and garlic until it begins to soften. Add the chili, coriander, cumin, and crushed cardamom pods and stir well.

Add the peppers then break up the ground beef into the pan and, using a fork, keep turning it to separate it as the meat browns. Add the chopped tomatoes, ketchup, tomato puree, and water stirring to make a rich red sauce. When the chili starts to boil sprinkle over the cocoa and stir it in. Add the beans and simmer partially covered for 1 1/2 hours. At this point you can cool and freeze the chili, or just keep it in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Pour the chili into a large, wide dish or keep in the pan you cooked it in if it is ovenproof.

Combine the salt, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, honey, and oil in a jug, and then stir into the dry ingredients mixing to make a vivid yellow batter.

Pour the cornmeal topping over the chili con carne, or blob it over to cover the top as evenly as possible.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the cornbread and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the cornbread topping is risen and golden and the chili underneath is bubbling. How long this takes depends on the how cold or hot the chili was when it went into the oven. Since it's such a huge vat, you may find it easiest to reheat it on the stove in its pan first.

Let the chili stand for about 5 minutes once out of the oven before cutting the cornbread top into squares or slices to serve with a helping of chili underneath.


4 ripe avocados, peeled, stoned and chopped
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 limes, juiced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Mash the avocados with the scallions and add the juice of up to 2 limes, to taste. Stir in most of the cilantro and turn into 2 bowls, sprinkling each with the remaining cilantro.

Divide the sour cream into another 2 bowls, and dust with a little paprika and, into another pair of bowls add the grated Cheddar so that people can take clumps and add the tangy cheese to their plates of guacamole and sour cream splodged chili.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Best Birthday Cake

Photograph by James Merrell

Serving Size : Makes up to 12 slices, though small ones


200g plain flour
3 tablespoons Bird's custard powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs
225g soft butter
200g caster sugar
2–3 tablespoons milk

For the buttercream filling

125g icing sugar
4 teaspoons Bird's custard powder
75g soft unsalted butter
11/2 teaspoons boiling water

For the chocolate icing

60ml water
2 tablespoons golden syrup
125g caster sugar (or use 50g if using milk chocolate)
175g dark chocolate
1 pot hundreds and thousands


1.Make sure everything you need is at room temperature before you start. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C, and butter and line two 20cm sandwich tins.

2.Put all of the above ingredients except the milk, into a food processor. Process to a smooth batter, and then add the milk a tablespoon at a time to make a soft dropping consistency. Divide between the two cake tins and bake for 20 minutes. The cakes will have risen and feel spookily puffy; this is because of the cornflour in the custard powder.

3.Let the tins sit on a cooling rack for 5 minutes and then turn them out on to the rack, peeling away the paper.

4.FOR THE BUTTERCREAM ICING - Process the icing sugar and custard powder to get rid of any lumps, and then add the butter, processing again to make the buttercream come together. Feed the boiling water down the funnel with the motor running to make the filling easier to spread. Then sandwich the cooled sponges together with the custardy buttercream.

6.FOR THE CHOCOLATE ICING - Combine the water, syrup and sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve over a low heat.

7.Let it come to the boil and then take it off the heat.

8.Break up the chocolate into small pieces if you are not using chocolate buttons (as I do for cooking, but good quality not confectionary standard), and then add to the pan, swirling it around to cover in the hot liquid. Leave to melt for a few minutes, and then whisk the icing to make it smooth and shiny. Pour over the buttercream filled cake, letting it drip down the sides, and then sprinkle generously with the hundreds and thousands before the icing sets.
9.Prong with candles, light them and sing.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Photograph by Lis Parsons


500ml full-fat milk
6 x 15ml tablespoons superior Continental hot chocolate mix (or enough for 500ml liquid according to packet instructions)
4–5 x 15ml tablespoons Kahlúa,
Squirty cream from a can (optional, depending on taste)
4 long cinnamon sticks
Serving Size : Serves 4


1. Heat the milk in a pan and make the hot chocolate according to packet instructions.

2. Add the Kahlúa and take off the heat before it boils.

3. Serve with a topping of the squirty cream (if using), and put the cinnamon sticks in as you would straws, even though I am not suggesting they be used as such.

The whipped cream on top is not essential unless you decide to serve this in lieu of pudding - and –coffee, which I can't help thinking is a very, very good idea indeed. Aerosol cream, which gives that glorious whipped cream effect is, alas, always longlife, but if you're brave enough, buy a nutritious cream whipper and learn to spurt and squirt the fresh cream at will. - Nigella