Sponge Cake with Lemon Zest and Raspberries

Yet another cakey delight from the kitchen, with a low-sugar option in the ingredients 🙂

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar (or half a cup of e.g. Splenda)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups individually quick-frozen raspberries (6 ounces)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 10-inch round cake tin or loaf tin.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a bowl, mix the olive oil with the milk and lemon juice.
  3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, blend the sugar with the lemon zest. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and beat at medium speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Beat in the dry ingredients, alternating with the olive oil mixture until the batter is smooth.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the raspberries on top. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely. Cut the cake into wedges and serve.

Lemon Yellow Squash Pie

With an abundance of Tonda Padana winter squash – grown for its amazing taste and storage properties – Suz adapted a squash recipe found elsewhere. It went something like this:


  • 1 cup tonda padana squash
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Splenda (sweetener)
  • 3 teaspoons white flour
  • 2 eggs (kindly donated by Holly and Mistletoe)
  • 1/4 cup baking margerine (Stork, but butter will do)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • pastry for the base (to suit)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350C.
  2. Wash and peel the squash.
  3. Scoop out the seeds and save to bake separately for another dish.
  4. Cut the squash into manageable chunks
  5. Grate the squash with a coarse grater (a typical cheddar cheese grater is good)
  6. Mix all the ingredients (except the pastry!)
  7. Line a pie dish with the pastry – it’s only going to be the base.
  8. Fill the base with the squash mix.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes on the low rack, but in our fan-oven it only took 27 minutes.

That’s it! Suz baked a couple of them – they lasted two days (personally I’m surprised they lasted that long!), and the second was even better as the lemon had time to really soak into the squash.

On the subject of squash – we worked out, given the seed packet cost, how much it costs to make a meal per person. Suz concocted another gorgeous recipe – Baked Squash Soup – roughly speaking the ingredients are baked squash, baked garlic, fried onions, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Oh, and some milk. This soup, with grated cheese on top, a couple of slices of bread and butter, gives you all you need and the soup contingent costs around 10p per person per meal. The squash, onion and garlic are all home-grown. So including the cheese and bread and electricity you’re probably looking at 40p maximum per person per meal. I’m saying this, not for the cost perspective, but for the fact that as a nation we have forgotten how to eat cheaply *and* well. I only wish local councils would help people who want to grow their own by encouraging allotments, teaching people, and we could all have a bash at that smug feeling to be had from chowing down on your own produce. Sometimes our priorities are so messed up. Sure, it takes a lot of time to grow and prepare the food from your own patch, but what else would we be doing? Watching the goggle box? Paying for gym membership, when all the exercise I could possibly wish for was at the end of a fork or spade?


Damson Gin

Christmas Damson Gin

Christmas Damson GinIt’s that time again, and this year’s damson supply has been a darned site better than last year which, for us, was practically non-existent.

The recipe was almost the same as this one – but I decided to add some typically festive spices – nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Absolutely gorgeous!

Homemade Redcurrant Cordial & Rhubarb Juice

2013 Redcurrant CordialThis is another easy one – along the same lines as our homemade rhubarb juice. The picture says it all really – squeeze every last drop of juice from your redcurrants – or you can blend them and leave them to drain through a seive – find a way that works for you with what you have to hand. Then add a small amount of vanilla essence, to take the bitter edge off, and sweeten to taste. We use sweeteners, but sugar is better if you don’t need to use sweeteners, and a spoon of honey wouldn’t go amiss. Boil the juice down, to remove the excess water, and you have created a cordial that you can add water to when needed! Chill it, and use within a couple of days.

Rhubarb juice is exactly the same method, except you use the waste water left over from cooking your rhubarb! Leave the water in the pan you cooked your rhubarb in, strain it if there are bits floating in it. Add the vanilla essence and honey and sweeteners/sugar, bring to the simmer, just to mix the ingredients, and leave to cool before popping in the fridge. This is one of my favourites, especially as it uses something you would otherwise throw down the sink!

For a particularly refreshing version of either, add a dash of lemon juice to either

Lazy Man’s Mayonnaise

Okay – easy mayonnaise for the culinary crippled:

Ingredients for the Basic Mayonnaise

  • 475ml sunflower oil or rapeseed oil – don’t get all fancy and use olive oil – it’ll taste disgusting (take it from one who knows)
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Colman’s Mustard Powder or 1 teaspoon of Colman’s English Mustard from a jar
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

Drop all of the ingredients except the oil into a blender and turn on to full whack.

Gradually trickle the oil into the blender as the ingredients are mixed. This ensures the oil is aerated as it enters the forming mayonnaise. Trickle too quickly and it will end up a gloopy mess (bleugh). Too slow and it will end up cooking the eggs 🙂 I’ve only made those mistakes once each – a nice steady trickle will ensure you never will!

Depending on the capacity of your blender, towards the end of adding the oil you may need to stop the blender, stir the mix to free the blades, then restart the blender and continue to add the oil. I need to do that about 4 times in our Kenwood to make sure the oil mixes well.


The easiest thing to add is garlic. Just add a couple of cloves at the initial blending stage, before adding the oil, and you get great garlic mayonnaise!

Herbs and spices are also easy to add, or onions for a less-garlicky flavour. I guess you could also add some beetroot for a red mayonnaise, though I’ve never tried it 🙂 One for Hallowe’en maybe…

Rhubarb Cake

We had a great gathering over the weekend, with old friends and their families descending on us for a camping weekend. One of the puddings that went down well was the Rhubarb Cake Suz and Jay made, and as people have asked for the recipe – here it is!

Rhubarb cake:
8 oz Self-raising flour
pinch salt
4 oz margargine
12 oz chopped rhubarb (if you use the pink stuff it looks prettier)
4 oz sugar – I used this for the party, but usually put in much less – and usually just fruit sugar
2 large eggs

Grease + line a 1 lb loaf tin
Chop the rhubarb into slices approx. 10 – 15 mm wide.
Pre-heat oven to 180C, Gas Mark 4 or 5
Add the salt to the flour, rub in the fat till bread crumbs. Mix in the sugar, chopped raw rhubarb and then the beaten eggs. The mixture is fairly dry + heavy. Into the loaf tin, level out.
Bake in oven for approx. 45 to 50 mins – press top with finger to see if it’s done.
Remove, leave cake in tin for 15 or more mins to firm up before turning out onto a wire cooling rack. Eat warm as a pudding or cool as a cake.

Yum. No pictures I’m afraid – I didn’t have time to take any before it was gone!

Cheesy Bread

Think of Chelsea buns, replace the currants with mature cheddar, use spelt flour, and this is what you end up with. Gooey rolls with seams of cheesy loveliness 🙂

Raspberry Shortbread

Jay’s recipe for raspberry shortbread … not in the traditional sense.
250 g plain flour
75 g sugar
175 g butter

Mix flour and sugar in a bowl. Rub in butter. Knead to form a smooth paste. Chop a handful of fresh raspberries in half. Throw into the shortbread mix, mix around with your hands. Out onto a floured board, plenty of flour, roll to 1 cm thickness – chop into squares – onto tins covered with greaseproof paper – into oven approx. 150oC (fan oven) for 30 minutes – until pale and interesting … with a lovely raspberry ripple effect throughout.
Serve warm from the oven with fresh raspberries. Delicious.

Hedgerow Jelly

A receipe borrowed from Ashridge Trees’ website 🙂

This an excellent recipe which can be adapted to accommodate almost any hedge (and its fruit).  Please remember to check that something is safe (if you are not sure) before cooking and eating it.

On average these will yield about 2kg of jelly
3lbs (1.4kg) crab apples, windfall apples or cooking apples
2lbs (900g) in total of blackberries, elderberries & sloes as available
2lbs (900g) in total of rowan berries, haws & rose hips as available
Juice of 1 lemon

Wash the apples, and if you are using cooking apples chop them roughly.
Wash and drain the blackberries, elderberries & sloes.
Wash and drain the rowan berries, haws & rose hips.
Put all the fruit except the rowan berry batch in a large, heavy- based pan with all bar a tablespoon of the lemon juice and add cold water to the level of the fruit.
In a separate pan put the rowan berry batch and the remaining lemon juice and cover with water.
Bring to the boil, then simmer gently until all the fruit is tender and well broken down – the rowan berry batch will take longer to soften.
Strain both panfuls through a scalded jelly bag for at least 4 hours. Do not squeeze the bag.
Measure the strained juice and weigh out 1lb (450g) sugar for each pint (575/600ml) of juice.
Pour the juice back into the pan and heat very gently. Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
Bring to the boil and cook rapidly until setting point is reached.
Skim, pot and seal in the usual way.

Pickled Shallots

And here are the first batch of pickled shallots – the Picasso and Red Sun, both red varieties. With the roof of the mouth bite we got last year with our pickles, I’ve decided to refine the same recipe as they really were omnipotent onions. This year, same preparation as last, topped, tailed and soaked in a strong sea-salt brine solution for 24 hours. Then drained well, the vinegar boiled, and poured over the onions ready in their jars. Needless to say the jars have been scrubbed clean and left to dry first. The vinegar mix was one third spiced malt and two thirds balsamic. I went for a fruitier balsamic – Aldi did a decent one that wasn’t too tart, which hopefully will make these onions the equivalent of a winter stout beer – strong, rich and not many needed.

The next batch of shallots will be the yellow varieties, and for those I’m going to use one third spiced malt and two thirds cider vinegar, which will hopefully make a lighter, fresher, crisper flavour to accompany this balsamic version. I may even add some fresh tarragon to the next mix – I feel it might work, and you never know until you try! That’s this coming weekend’s job, along with damson gin making 😀