My favourite Chocolate Cake

19 January 2017

This dead-easy chocolate cake recipe is committed to memory and is my go-to dessert for any occasion. It can be gussied up with a bit of ganache or seasonal fruit but it can also be left quite happily as it is. Served slightly warm with a scoop of ice cream or mascarpone cheese, this cake makes a simple and elegant end to any meal. It is also free of gluten, I find that rice flour creates a lovely moist texture, although you can use plain flour or ground almonds instead.


Serves 8 to 10

250g plus 2 tablespoons salted butter, for greasing the pan
250g best quality bittersweet chocolate
6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
250 g granulated sugar
6 tablespoons rice flour, plus extra for dusting the pan

Butter a 22cm cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment or waxed paper. Butter the paper and dust the pan with a bit of rice flour, shaking out the excess. Preheat the oven to 180°C
Place 250g butter in a mixing bowl and heat over barely simmering water. While the butter melts, chop the chocolate into small pieces. Add the chocolate to the butter and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is very smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Whisk the egg yolks until just blended and beat in the sugar until just mixed. Whisk the yolks into the warm chocolate mixture, and fold in the rice flour.
In a separate bowl, beat the whites until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites quickly into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to deflate them.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. The cake is done when the sides are set but the centre of the cake is still soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. The cake will develop cracks in the top as it bakes, and more will appear when it cools, but this is normal. When the cake has cooled to room temperature, you may cover the pan tightly with cling film if you are not serving it right away. It will keep for a couple of days and freezes beautifully.

Lemon-Rosemary Posset with Lemon Polenta Biscuits

1 March 2014

lemon possett 2Coming towards the end of Winter and leaning desperately towards Spring, this refreshing Posset straddles both seasons nicely. Lemons are still in season, and if you can get your hands on some beautiful Amalfi lemons, all the better. For a bit of colourful garnish and contrast of flavour, use some soft fruit or mango. I will also be using a bit of poached rhubarb in the next few weeks – we have some peaking through in the garden now.

This is a great do-ahead recipe and great for entertaining. Rosemary pairs amazing well with citrus and makes a lovely flavour addition. The zest is used in both the biscuits and the garnish for a simple, but sophisticated plated dessert. however, the posset is delicious on it’s own!


Makes 6


750ml double cream

200g caster sugar

3 large sprigs rosemary, washed and dried

4 large unwaxed lemons, zested (reserve zest for later) and juiced (remove pips)

For serving: 1 punnet raspberries, pureed or left as they are, whipped cream, lemon zest and Lemon Polenta Biscuits (recipe follows)


In a large saucepan heat the double cream with the rosemary sprigs until hot, but not boiling. Remove pan from the heat and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.


After 20 minutes, remove the sprigs and add the sugar. Return the pan to the heat and bring slowly to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let the mixture boil for about two minutes, taking care to watch that it doesn’t boil over the sides.

Remove from heat and mix in the lemon juice. Carefully pour the mixture into 6 serving glasses or bowls, cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.


To serve, spoon a bit of raspberry puree or, if leaving whole, scatter on top on each posset. Dollop a bit of whipped cream on top, finishing with a garnish of remaining lemon zest and a sprinkling of icing sugar, if desired. Pass a plate of Lemon Polenta Biscuits alongside.




Lemon Polenta Biscuits

Makes about 3 dozen


200g unsalted butter, at room temperature

150g caster sugar

Grated zest of 2 lemons

4 egg yolks

300g plain flour

pinch of fine sea salt

150g uncooked polenta


Preheat oven to 180℃. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper, parchment or silicone baking mats.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar and lemon zest until creamy. Add egg yolks one at at time, beating well after each addition.


In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, the salt and the polenta. add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix well to combine. Gather the mixture up and flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour or until firm.


Roll out the dough to 6mm thick on a floured surface  and, using a 6cm biscuit cutter, cut out circles. Carefully lift the circles and place at least 2.5cm apart on the prepared trays, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden. While biscuits are baking, gather any scraps of dough and knead gently. Rewrap and chill until dough is firm enough to roll out, 10 to 15 minutes. Cut out more circles with the remaining dough roll (roll scraps only once or the resulting biscuits will be tough). Bake as before. Cool on wire racks and store in an airtight container for up to a week.





Breaded Pheasant Breast Paillard with Mustard, Cream, Capers

17 October 2012

Mistley and Manningtree are smack in the middle of huntin’and shootin’ territory. During the season, which starts on October 1 and finishes at the end of January, there are numerous shoots in the region of which I am the happy recipient of some of the spoils. I still have a difficult time believing that much of a day’s shoot will be left to waste. I am told there isn’t much of a market for game birds, which is a shame as pheasant is delicious, nutritious and easy to prepare. Once the season is underway the price drops considerably making pheasant very economical.

Pheasant can be purchased ‘oven-ready’ from good butchers, farm shops and farmers markets and sold in a ‘brace’, a hen and a cock. Early in the season, pheasant is very tender, becoming a bit more robust in texture as the season goes on. Because pheasant is extremely lean, I tend to cut the breast meat from the carcass and leave the rest for the stockpot. Call me a philistine, but I don’t like roasting a pheasant whole, I find it has a tendency to dry out and can be a pain to carve. One great way to serve pheasant is as a paillard, which is a handy little cutlet that can be prepared ahead of time. Bathed in a sublime mustard sauce and served with one of my favourite veggies, Cavalo Nero, it makes a delicious autumnal supper.

Breaded Pheasant Breast Paillard with Mustard, Cream, Capers and Wilted Greens

Serves 6 to 8

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

For the Pheasant:

  • 12 boneless, skinless pheasant breasts
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 150g (5 oz.) plain flour
  • 4 free-range eggs, whisked
  • 450g (15 oz.) fresh breadcrumbs
  • 125ml (4 oz.) light olive oil

Place the breasts on a flat surface and pound with a kitchen mallet until they are an even 1cm (3/8 in.) thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the flour and fresh breadcrumbs each separately (do not mix together!) in large shallow bowls or pans. Arrange in a row: The flour, then the bowl of whisked eggs, and finally the breadcrumbs. Dredge each pheasant breast first in the flour, shaking off the excess, and then dip it in the egg mixture and then the crumbs. Make sure that the pheasant is completely coated. Set aside breaded pheasant breasts until ready to cook. (This can be done up to a few hours ahead of time, just cover and refrigerate until needed.)

For the sauce:

  • 1 litre (1 quart) chicken or pheasant stock
  • 250ml (8 fl. oz.) dry white wine
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 500ml (16 fl. oz.) cream
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon
  • Sea salt and ground pepper
  • Capers and shavings of Parmesan cheese

In a large heavy saucepan add the stock, wine and shallots. Bring to a boil over heat and reduce the liquid by half. Add the cream and mustard and cook for a few minutes until it is slightly thickened. Complete the seasoning by adding lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Keep sauce warm while cooking the pheasant and kale.

To finish the pheasant:

Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over moderate heat. When the oil is hot add the pheasant breasts to the pan without crowding. Reduce the heat slightly and cook each breast about 4 minutes until golden and then turn each piece over and finish cooking for another 2 minutes, or until the breast is completely cooked through. Place the wilted greens on a warm platter and top with the pheasant breasts and warmed sauce. Scatter capers over the top along with shavings of Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Serve with Wilted Greens

Roast Norfolk Black Turkey Breast in Aspalls Cider and Sage Sauce

15 December 2011

Serves 6 to 8


  • Large bunch fresh sage
  • 2 kilo boned Norfolk turkey breast (bones reserved)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 cooking apples, cored and sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 350ml  Aspalls cider
  • 1 litre chicken or turkey stock


Insert 10 sage leaves under the turkey skin. Turn the breast over and secure a bunch of sage under the tenderloin. Rub skin with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

In a deep roasting pan, saute the bones in oil until brown. Add the vegetables and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add apple slices, fresh herbs and 250ml and bring to a boil. Reduce slightly, then add stock. Continue reducing for about 10 minutes.

Set the turkey breast on top of the bones and vegetables. Place the roasting pan, uncovered in a preheated oven 200°C. Roast for about 1 hour or until turkey is golden.

Remove the turkey breast from the pan and loosely cover to keep warm. Strain the juices into a saucepan. Add the remaining cider and set the pan over high heat and reduce for a few minutes. Season to taste and serve hot.

Basic Cornbread Stuffing

15 December 2011


  • 1 recipe Cornbread, broken up into small cubes and toasted
  • 60 to 12g unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, cut into small dice (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • a small handful of flat parsley or chervil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 175g toasted chestnuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 250ml chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 to 2 eggs, well beaten (optional)


Preheat oven to 200°C  Gas 6.

Turn the toasted corn bread cubes into a large bowl, breaking up the cubes with your fingers. Set aside.

In a large frying pan melt the butter over medium heat and add the onions, celery, pepper and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped herbs, chestnuts salt and pepper.

Pour the vegetable mixture over the corn bread and mix well. Moisten with the chicken stock and eggs, stirring until the stuffing is lightly moist but not packed together. Adjust the seasonings.

Turn the mixture into a large buttered baking dish. Bake uncovered in a 180°C oven until the top has formed a crust and the stuffing is heated through, about 25 to 30 minutes.

My Mom’s Corn Bread

15 December 2011

8 servings

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 230°C Place a heavy 23 cm frying pan, preferably cast iron, or less desirably, a 20 x 20 cm baking dish:
1 tablespoon butter

Whisk together in a large bowl:

  • 275g cornmeal or polenta
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Whisk until foamy in another bowl:

  • 2 eggs
  • 500ml buttermilk

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk just until blended. Place the pan or dish in the oven and heat until the fat is hot. Pour the batter in all at once. Bake until top is browned and the centre feels firm when pressed, 20 to 25 minutes.

This recipe can also be served immediately from the pan, cutting into wedges or squares. It is a great alternative to wheat bread as it is gluten-free.

Braised Red Cabbage with Honey and Vinegar

15 December 2011

Serves 6 to 8


  • 1 small head red cabbage (about 900 g), quartered, cored, and thinly sliced crossways
  • 2 slices bacon, diced or use 30 g butter or a bit of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onions
  • 4 tablespoons good-quality vinegar, Aspall’s Apple Balsamic is a nice option
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, if bacon is used, or 1 teaspoon if butter or oil is used
  • 1/8 tablespoon caraway seed


Immerse the shredded cabbage briefly in cold water.
In a large non-reactive frying pan or casserole, cook the bacon or butter or oil over low heat until the fat is rendered. Add the onions and cook over medium heat until golden.
Lift the cabbage out of the water and add to the pan along with vinegar, honey, salt and caraway seeds. Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the cabbage is very soft, about 1 hour, adding boiling water if needed during cooking.