Monthly Archives: October 2012

Confession number one: This isn’t a pumpkin cake. I know that shining title says pumpkin, but it’s really pureed butternut squash. Which is a type of pumpkin. So we will just deal with that one.

Confession number two: I’ve had a tough time this week, the toughness mainly existing as a sort of internal monologue as I trundle through my life in Aberdeen. I’m not going to lie, it’s tough as heck, but cake is getting me through. Lovely, thick, soft autumnal cake. Cake therapy.

Confession number three: My inner torment has been batting away all desires to roll up my sleeves and bake this cake which has been stewing in the blog section of my brain for weeks now. But as we are approaching the end of the month and Halloween will soon be a distant memory, I thought I best get myself in gear and get baking and blogging.

Cake confession over (three slices and five ‘hail butter and sugar’s please) I’m feeling better. Never let it be said that therapeutic baking isn’t the best way to beat, mix and bake away the blues.

Pumpkin spice has somehow managed to evade me for some time, namely because in Stirling we had no Starbucks (no, Underground doesn’t count) and missing out on a delicately flavoured coffee meant the combination was left to the Americans. But that sweet blend of creamed, amber coloured vegetable sprinkled with cinnamon and ginger can’t be missed forever, and certainly not nowadays with Pinterest and American blogs filling up my favourites on Safari. I am even listening to this Pumpkin Spice playlist. Yeh, obsessed.

So let’s take flavour combinations. This cake is nothing like a delicate sponge; it’s more of a dense, gingerbread like consistency which improves with age. No creaming of butter and sugar, more of a muffin mix than anything, with slicks of melted butter and frothy eggs combining this toffee coloured batter together. Toasted nuts bring a fragrant nibble to the crumb and the cup of pumpkin puree adds a little extra bit to the overall slice. Smoothed with a simple lemon frosting and topped with that autumnal berry bramble, this cake is stylish elegance that gives more to the season than an overtly sickly fondant cupcake with a pumpkin etched on top. Autumnal elegance is sweet spice, the vegetable of the season and a zest of lemon to blast away the blues. Happy Halloween readers.

 Inspired by BBC Good Food


You Will Need

For the Cake

300g self raising flour

300g soft light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon salt

4 eggs, beaten

200g unsalted butter, melted

1 lemon, zested

A small handful of walnuts, lightly toasted

1 cup of pumpkin puree (see tip)


For the Frosting

400g cream cheese, softened

100g unsalted butter, softened

100g icing sugar

Juice of 1 lemon (use the one zested for the cake)

Fresh blackberries to finish


Tip: Pumpkin puree can be bought in cans, but can be hard to find. To make a homemade version, scoop out the seeds of a butternut squash, peel and cut into cubes. Boil in large pan for about 20 minutes until soft, then drain and leave to steam dry for 5 minutes. Mash or puree with blender until smooth and use as described. Pumpkin puree can also be used as an alternative to mashed potatoes with plenty parmesan or used in a vegetable soup.

Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/gas 4. Grease and line two 20cm sandwich tins with baking parchment, the set aside. Whisk together the flour, sugar, spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Whisk together the melted butter and eggs and pour into the dry mix. Fold together and stir in the lemon zest, toasted walnuts and the pumpkin puree. Divide between the two sandwich tins and bake for roughly 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the cake tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter and icing sugar until smooth, and then add the cream cheese and lemon juice and whisk until fully incorporated. Level the cakes off with a bread knife and place the first cake right side up and the top bottoms up for a level top. Take the top cake off and smooth over a neat layer of frosting for the middle with a palatte knife, then place the top cake back on, bottoms up. Add half the frosting to the top of the cake and smooth all over the top and down the sides with a palate knife. This is called the crumb layer, and will smooth over any lumps and bumps before the final coat. Make sure it’s even and leave to set slightly for half an hour. Return to the cake and add the remaining frosting to smooth over a final layer. It doesn’t need to be neat, a few swirls here and there will give a rustic feel. Top with fresh blackberries and serve in wedges.

Brussels sprouts are funny old things. I tend to eat them boiled once a year on my Christmas dinner plate, and then they are forgotten about for another 12 months. I have never given these ‘baby cabbages’ much thought, aside from the odd food magazine rolling out the old ‘sprouts and pancetta’ line in their Christmas edition. Hmm, inspired.

However you may well know I have a penchant for a certain food blog called Shutterbean. All of a sudden my weekly shopping basket is seeing a lot more winter veg, a lot less salads and big hunks of butternut squash nestled alongside the kettle chips and pinot grigio. In Aberdeen the weather has gone from suitably bracing to full on arctic blast, and so having a repertoire to browse on my smartphone on the bus that encompasses all the very best of winter veg without the old tired ideas is somewhat inspirational.

I have toyed in the past with the idea of a pizza recipe, but the dough is often the problem. To rise or not to rise? To knead or not to knead? Plain flour, bread flour or self raising flour? The issues with this particular doughy dilemma have often led me to the easy route of the frozen aisle in Tesco. But not anymore. I have devised a wonderfully soft, quick-knead dough that yields a crisp, yet slightly soft base to top with whichever you please, going from dough to dinner in around 40 minutes.

But please don’t be alarmed at the sight of the dreaded sprout adorning this winter pizza. Shredded and marinated with balsamic and oil lifts the flavour of the little leafy things and transforms them into a sort of autumnal baked salad alongside the usual suspects of tomato, and cheese. Add a little fried bacon for a smokey aroma, sliced garlic for a subtle zing and half moons of red onion for a dinner treat that doesn’t exactly squeal unhealthy. Push aside your preconceptions of the humble sprout and branch out into unchartered territory with a wholly original take on Italian eating.


Adapted slightly from Shutterbean and Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals


You Will Need

For the base

1 ½ cups self raising flour (roughly 375ml on a measuring jug)

½ cup tepid water (125ml)

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper


For the toppings

4-5 brussels sprouts, thinly sliced

2 tablespoon olive oil

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

¼ red onion, sliced

3 rashers of streaky smoked bacon, chopped

125g ready-shredded mozerella

To make the base, place the flour, oil, water and a twist each of salt and pepper in a bowl and mix. Bring together with your hands and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for roughly 5 minutes, pulling and stretching with your hands and pressing in with your knuckles to make the pizza base soft and stretchable. Once formed into a smooth ball, flatten down and roll to a rough circle with a rolling pin, until the base is around 1mm in thickness. Oil a baking sheet and carefully place the pizza base on top. Brush with a little extra oil and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220oc/200oc fan/Gas Mark 6. Place the brussels, 1 tablespoon of oil and the balsamic together in a bowl, mix and leave to marinate. Stir together the tomato paste and dried herbs for a quick pizza sauce and spread evenly over the pizza dough. Top with the cheese, sliced onions, marinated brussels and garlic slices.

Fry the chopped bacon in a frying pan over a medium heat until beginning to crisp. Scatter evenly across the pizza then bake in the oven for roughly 15-20 minutes, checking regularly to make sure the edges don’t burn. Slice up and serve on a wooden board.





Hi guys, remember me?

I realise VSPP has gone slightly AWOL in the past couple of weeks due to my ineptitude with technology, accidentally breaking the Wi-Fi on my first night in my new flat. Luckily I live with a so-laidback-he’s-practically-horizontal flatmate, who hasn’t killed me much for my wonderful first-impression mistake. So my first chance to get back on the web has seen me brush Lovefilm aside and get cracking with some blog posts. Who knows when I will finally get the net back? I’m not taking any chances.

So here I am in a First Class seat (not a big expense, the seat was £3 more expensive than standard) heading up to Aberdeen after a fabulous weekend of wine and food, with a little Cosmopolitan Blog Awards thrown in the middle. It was such good fun; I met a ton of lovely people and will give you a little insight to what it was like in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

Anyway, I suppose I should get down to business and update you about my move to Aberdeen. A couple of weeks ago I made the thrice life-changing move to the top of Scotland to a new city, new flat and (most importantly) new job. It’s terrifying, fast paced and completely different to anything I have encountered before. I utterly love it.

The move up north hasn’t come without its pitfalls. There was the insane weather a couple of Tuesday’s ago that left my connecting bus accidentally hit by a rather large tree, my brolly fancying an adventure and sailing off into the sunset and my central belt winter coat pointing and laughing at me, when what I really need is an arctic puffa. Yes, the weather is at best cold and at worst hurricane like, but I am battening down the hatches and diving headfirst into one pan cooking.

This recipe was earmarked as soon as Shutterbean had clicked publish on WordPress. The large Le Creuset pan filled with liberally curried chicken and fluffy coconut rice practically screamed MAKE ME when I read it. I dutifully obliged and I have been snacking on the leftovers ever since.

The beauty of this particular one pot dish is that it is rather cheap to make. Although expensive items like coconut milk and fresh herbs (which I left out as I had forgotten to buy them) may seem like needless commodities, you are actually allowing yourself to buy nicer store cupboard items due to the fact you are jointing a £4 chicken into ten tasty pieces. 40p for a piece of chicken! It’s an utter bargain! Of course, you do need to take a little time to do it, but the results are worth it. I am conscious of the fact that mere words cannot really do instructions for this kitchen essential justice, so feel free to YouTube to get a visual guide. The extra added bonus is a fresh carcass for stock making, and if you take a slow Sunday to bring a pan of cold water with said carcass, half an onion and two garlic cloves to the boil for a few hours, you will have an unbeatable reduced stock that is perfect for a chicken noodle broth.

As for the eponymous dish, the flavours are extraordinary. Crispy skinned chicken flavoured with beautiful curry spices baked with fragrant coconut rice, nestled with sweet onion and garlic. So simple and delicious, yet packing a delicious punch. The best part is settling down on the sofa on a Sunday with a glass of wine and a big bowl, safe in the knowledge that no matter how many times you go for seconds, there will still be plenty left for lunchboxes for the coming week.

Adapted from Shutterbean

You Will Need

1 whole chicken

1 teaspoon ground cayenne chilli pepper

4 teaspoons curry powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 white onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons tomato puree

400g can of light coconut milk

2 cups of basmati rice

2 cups water

Firstly prep the chicken. Remove the string and place breast side down on a chopping board, legs nearest to you. Using a jointing knife (long, slightly curved and thin knife) slice a line right down the backbone, just hitting the bone. Tilt your knife so it is on a slant, and begin to make small cuts along the ribs down one side, removing the meat from the bones. As you slice down, you will find the joints for the wings and thighs. Simply wiggle each joint a little to loosen and cut through any silage to remove from the main bones. Cut as far as possible then stop. Repeat on the other side so that the bird is mostly flat. Begin to carefully cut up the breast bone, trying to keep as much meat as possible on the bird. You will be able to cut right through, but the one part that will remain is the wishbone. Carefully cut down this fiddly bone to remove from the meat and you should have a flat chicken with the ribcage removed.

Now to portion. Begin by slicing down the middle of the breasts to create two halves. Then find the wing joint and remove from the breast, cutting to separate the two. Remove the tip of the wing (the pointed part) as this has barely any meat and is much better used in the stock. Cut the breast lengthways to create two smaller pieces. Separate the thigh from the leg in the same manner, cutting between the joint and separating. Remove any excess skin as this will add unnecessary oil to the overall dish. Repeat with the other half.

Now you should have 10 pieces of chicken, a carcass and wing tips. You could freeze the breasts to use in another dish or create stock with the bones. Try to use as much as possible, as it is far better to use the whole bird well than throwing out needless waste.

Whisk together the cayenne pepper, curry powder and salt and sprinkle over the portioned chicken. Coat well and either leave to rest or continue cooking. On the hob, heat a small amount of oil in a large casserole pot and begin to brown the chicken in small batches, skin side down first to crisp up and then the other side to a golden brown colour. Rest on a plate as you prepare the vegetables. Turn down the heat a little and fry the onion, garlic and ginger together until golden, roughly 7-8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for a further minute, then add the coconut milk, rice and water.

Bring to the boil then nestle the chicken on top. Cover and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the rice tender. Sprinkle with fresh herbs such as parsley if you have any and serve in warmed bowls with a glass of wine. Perfect winter comfort food.