(Almost) According to Paul Gayler: Chocolate Sorbet

Isn’t it nice when one’s work-place provides ice-creams mid-afternoon because it’s too hot? Quite the nicest sort of work-surprise, excepting a healthy bonus.

We were given an ice-cream maker a few years ago – it’s sat in its box in the cupboard ever since – and with all this heat at the moment, I was inspired to pull it out and test a recipe in an Ice Cream and Sorbet recipe book. Admittedly I attempted a vegan ice at the weekend, with blueberries, coconut milk and bananas, but it was just a bit too bananary for me. So I riffled through the recipe book, and settled on chocolate sorbet.

I’m not a huge fan of commercial chocolate ice-creams – they’re all a bit chemically and not nearly chocolatey enough -but this recipe I recall being quite good. And I had some cacao chips to use up.

Chocolate Sorbet


125g chocolate, pref. at least 70% cacao

(I used 100g cacao chips – gonna be a rich chocolate sorbet)

500ml water

250g sugar

75g cocoa powder

(I used chocolate flakes – no cocoa powder in my cupboards!)

60ml creme de cacao

How to Make:

Bring to the boil the water, sugar and cocoa powder and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes to create a chocolate syrup.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over a pan of boiling water and stir until smooth.

Stir the chocolate into the syrup and add the creme de cacao. Stir until smooth.

Allow to go cold before tipping into your ice cream maker/pouring into a tub and popping in the freezer. If not using the magic machine, remember to take it out every hour or so and give it a good stir.


(Almost) According to Hummingbird: Muesli Bar

I was looking for something vaguely virtuous, something I could, perhaps, easily take to work to nibble at lunch-time. Something which wasn’t a sandwich, and which wasn’t full of sugar, and wasn’t really flapjack.

What I found was this recipe for a Muesli bar in one of my Hummingbird Bakery recipe books. It involved oats and cornflakes and dried fruits and nuts and seeds, and quite a lot of sugar, if I’m honest. It wanted about 240ml of golden syrup AND about 240g of sugar. Bit much, if you ask me. So I switched the both out with a large-ish splurge of black treacle. Still sweet (ish) but not quite as sweet as it would have been.

Muesli Bar

Apparently, though, Mark doesn’t like treacle (I did know this; I forgot) so I need not have been so nice as to switch out the raisins for something else. I also skipped the cornflakes, having bought a box of Morrisons’ own brand. I’ll have to think of something else to do with them.

So basically, I ended up with some fairly virtuous flapjack, being butter and treacle, with oats, desiccated coconut, apricots, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and pecans. According to the recipe, it didn’t need baking. I think if I made it again, I probably would bake it. It’s quite melty and sticky otherwise.

And then I decided that so much virtue was too much, and melted down some old and needing-to-be-used-up chocolate to pour over the top.

Sigh. I tried with the virtue.

Agnes’ Berry Crumble Cake

I’ve been trying to pick which of my many story-ideas is going to be my next project this weekend. Trying to work out which of the beginnings has the most mileage for becoming a novel. Or at least a novella. It’s been a bit disappointing. So many starts, and different characters, and not much clue for where any of them are going!

So today, in between my literary endeavours, I’ve also been baking. I was given this recipe by my colleague Agnes. I have no idea where she found it, but it’s wonderfully delicious (even if I think perhaps I took it out a little early, or maybe it was slightly too small a tin). It isn’t the simplest recipe, but oh, so worth it!

Berry Crumble Cake

Step One

You’ll need:

400g plain flour

250g butter

 2tsp baking powder

3 tbsp icing sugar

5 egg yolks (save the whites: you’ll need them later)

Make ‘breadcrumbs’ with the butter and dry ingredients, then add the egg yolks. If it seems bit dry (it did to me) add a splash or two of water.

Divide into two portions, roughly 60:40, and freeze it for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. I left it for a morning.

Prepare your baking tray, and grate the larger portion into it, pushing it down to make it even, and bake for about 15 minutes at 190C. Leave to cool while you do step 2.

Step Two

You’ll need:

  5 egg whites you saved from earlier

170g sugar, adjusted if using sweetened custard powder

1 tbsp vanilla essence

80g custard powder

125ml sunflower oil

Berries of your choice, small or chopped up

Icing sugar to decorate, optional

Whisk the egg whites, then slowly add in the sugar and vanilla essence. Add in the custards powder while mixing, and then whisk in the oil. Pour evenly over the baked cake base and dot the berries on top – if using raspberries, my instructions were to poke them in point down. Over the top grate the other frozen cake-mix.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 190C. Allow to cool and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Cheese Biscuits

I like a simple recipe. In fact, the simpler the better.

So I like this recipe. It’s three basic ingredients, with optional herbs and pepper: flour, grated cheese, butter. Rub the butter into the cheese and flour until it’s a good pastry-texture dough. Chill for about an hour before rolling out and baking at 180C for 10-15 minutes.

Ratios: 150g flour, to 120g butter, and 130g cheese – some variety of Italian hard cheese is best, but I’ve used cheddar with success before.

Cheese Biscuits

Try not to eat them all at once…


(Almost) According to Mary Berry: Mincemeat

Sometimes it happens that not all of one’s careful preparation can defeat the Real World.

My NaNo attempt continues to fail apace, and this week my careful planning for this blog also fell apart. Instead, I have Christmas plans afoot, starting with mincemeat, which I admittedly made a few weeks ago. The stitching of Christmas cards, though, has yet to begin. What’s that saying about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions?

Anyway, because of Mark’s aversion to dried grapes of any variety, normal mincemeat and mince-pies are out of the question. So this year I thought I’d make my own and dug up a recipe from Mary Berry.

And substituted the 525g of raisins, sultanas, and currants for blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and pears.

Mincemeat: Mary Berry

Really, a very simple recipe.

Put: 700g of various dried fruit (those above plus cranberries and some glace ginger), 100g mixed peel, 1 cooking apple, 125g butter/suet/cacao butter, 50g chopped almonds, 225g brown sugar, spices to taste (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, mixed spices), and the juice and rind of a lemon or lime in a big saucepan and heat gently until the butter/suet is melted. Simmer very gently for about 10 minutes.

Allow to cool completely, then stir in 200ml of your preferred alcohol: brandy, rum, sherry, mead. I used some Jack Daniels Winter Spice stuff.

Spoon into sterilised jars and keep in a cool place for up to 6 months. The sort of Christmas preparation you can do well in advance.

You should get about 4-5 normal sized sorts of jars out of this recipe.

(Almost) According to Waitrose: Pumpkin Soup

This year, after discovering a pumpkin soup recipe in amongst my recipe-cards, I thought I would join the merry throngs sharing pumpkin recipes.

I was going to scoop out the innards for my soup and carve a face for Hallowe’en in the rind. Waste not, want not, after all.

So I carefully cut off the top, scooped out the seeds, and then gave up on the whole lantern idea because it was far easier to get the flesh out by chopping and peeling.Waste not, want not’s all very well, but sometimes life is too short. I even saved a section to be turned into roasted pumpkin.

This didn’t have a whole lot else beyond pumpkin, stock and coconut milk – just a bit of onion (although the recipe called for shallots), and some spices: ginger, cumin and nutmeg. I just rummaged through the cupboard to find replacements for the curry powder I didn’t have.

I will admit, although it was tasty, it wasn’t as tasty as I thought it might be. On the other hand, reheated the next day – it was much better. Not sure if I’m going to keep the recipe for something that’s better made the day before and reheated, however useful such a recipe might be for a dinner-party (not that I give many dinner-parties, but you never know for the future…).

(Almost) According to Waitrose: Apple and Fudge Muffins

Since our wonderful British apples are in season, and so deliciously so, I’m finding what recipes I can to use them in. Alongside eating them, obviously. But Bramley apples can be a bit sour sometimes for eating. Not that that’s stopped me before.

This recipe, one of those from a Waitrose recipe-card, is wonderfully seasonal, although I didn’t have all the ingredients, and I will admit to using apple-sauce rather than freshly chopped apples. This had the bonus of me not needing the single egg required (and which I didn’t have)

Apple Muffins


227g self-raising flour

1tsp baking powder

Fudge Chunks (although I used honeycomb bits)

2 Apples (I used half a jar of apple sauce)

I medium egg

200g golden caster sugar (I skipped this in an experiment re: apple sauce)

60g salted butter (approx. 50g cacao butter), melted

170ml sour cream (coconut milk)

How to Make:

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and fudge chunks/honeycomb. I also added a smattering of ground ginger.

Waitrose would like you to reserve half of one apple, thinly sliced, for decorating. Since I used apple sauce, I didn’t do this. Dice the other apple and half and stir into the flour mix.

In another bowl, mix together the sugar and egg/apple sauce, then whisk in the butter and then the sour cream/coconut milk.

Stir wet ingredients into dry, folding until it just comes together.

Spoon into cases. If you followed Waitrose’s advice with the apples, top each muffin with a slice or two.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Other than actually probably requiring at least a smidgeon of sugar (I was hoping the sugar in the apple sauce would be enough, or maybe they just needed some more ginger), these are quite tasty little cakes. On the other hand, the lack of sugar makes them perfect for a dollop of jam, and go very nicely with damson jam – also in season about now.