Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially after an early morning workout at the gym. I can be guilty, like a lot of people, of "having" and not "enjoying" breakfast, due to habit or a busy schedule. Yes, we can all pick up a box from our local supermarket but it is very satisfying to sit down to enjoy a bowl of tasty home-made granola. This is a simple recipe and one that you can adapt with your personal choice of ingredients. I love mine served with cold milk or it would work equally well with natural yoghurt. Once you've tried the home-made variety you will wonder why you never made your own before. This granola will keep good for a month in an airtight container.


Serves 12

300g rolled oats
4 heaped tbsp regular shop-bought apple sauce
4 heaped tbsp clear/runny honey
1 tbsp golden/maple syrup
3 tbsp oil (sunflower or non-virgin olive oil)
60g soft dark brown sugar (or light if you prefer)
4 heaped tbsp dessicated coconut
60g mixed nuts (almonds, pecans or hazelnuts) roughly chopped
100g dried fruits (apricots, cherries, cranberries, pineapple pieces, anything you like really), chopped

Preheat the oven to 170oC/150oC fan oven/325oF/Gas Mark 3.

Mix all the ingredients together, except for the dried fruit, in a large roomy bowl. Make sure that the oats are well coated in the honey, syrup and oil.

Turn the mixture out into a large baking tray in a single layer; shake the tray slightly so that you have some clumps and some smaller bits.

Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes until golden. You will need to keep stirring and jiggling the granola around while it bakes so that is browns evenly.

Once baked, remove from the oven, add the chopped dried fruits and stir to combine. Leave to cool completely and then store in an airtight container. It will keep for a good month.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Sorry for my lack of blogging lately but hubby and I have been away on holiday for a much needed break and to celebrate both of us turning 40 in August. We had a lovely time away in the Cotswolds, a beautiful part of England, where we rented a log cabin with outdoor hot tub, which we used every evening after a day of exploring. While away we enjoyed lovely pub lunches/dinners all made from wonderful local produce. On the topic of birthdays, I made this amazing chocolate cake for my hubby's birthday. The recipe is from a Passion for Baking and like all the recipes I've tried from this book, this cake did not disappoint. This is the perfect birthday cake and I'll definitely be baking this again!

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Serves 8-10

225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 bicarbonate of soda
30g cocoa
2 tbsp full-fat milk
100g good-quality dark chocolate, melted

200g dark chocolate
100 milk chocolate
250ml double cream

1 large packet of Maltesers

You will need 2 x 20cm sandwich tins, greased and the bases lined with buttered baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan oven/350oF/gas mark 4.

In a bowl of a free-standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until pale, light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs and vanilla extract. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa and milk, then mix until combined. Add the melted chocolate and mix again until smooth.

Divide equally between the prepared sandwich tins, spread level and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 22-25 minutes until golden and a skewer comes away clean when inserted into the middle of the cakes. Turn the cakes out of the tins onto a wire cooling rack and leave until cold.

To make the ganache, finely chop both the dark and milk chocolates and tip into a saucepan along with the double cream. Set the pan over a low heat to melt, stirring constantly until smooth. Pour the ganache into a shallow dish, cool and then chill to firm.

To assemble the cake, place one of the cakes on a cake or serving plate and spoon half of the ganache on the cake and spread. Then scatter with crushed Maltesers.

Cover the top of the second cake layer with ganache, spreading it smoothly with a palette knife. Sandwich the two caes together and finish off with a good scattering of Maltesers.