Crab cakes

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Makes 10 crab cakes

1 cup plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

1 x 170g crab meat, drained

About 200g drained sweetcorn

A pinch of chilli flakes

Chopped parsley

A pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients together and then fry spoonfuls in a hot, oiled pan for about 2 minutes on each side – till they’re golden and firm.

A green salad would be nice with this, if you weren’t aged one. We had ours with roast garlic tomatoes (okay, and ketchup). Bert kept clawing his hands like a crab for seconds and thirds. A little insensitive to the crab who died in the making of this, but they were delicious.



Beer and seed bread


Home made bread was a big part of my childhood. It was a real treat to have a slice that was buttered while it was still warm from the oven.

After much nerding out and research, this recipe has been updated. I love home made bread, but it often has that sitting in the bottom of your stomach like a lead weight quality. This solves the problem and gives you a really light loaf. The trick is to replace one cup of flour with self raising flour and to do a really quick first rise and a long second one when it’s shaped to go in the oven (it’s normally the other way round).

Makes one large loaf or two small ones

350g strong white flour

150g self raising flour

500g seeded bread flour

10g quick acting yeast

20g salt

300ml beer and 300ml water – together they need to be hand hot, so I add water from the hot tap at its hottest. Or use 600ml of hand hot water.

1 tablespoon melted butter

If you’re lucky enough to have a Kenwood mixer (thanks Tony’s mum) then weigh all the ingredients into it, mix with the dough hook and then knead for ten minutes. Otherwise mix into a dough, tip out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes or so.

When all the flour’s incorporated and before you start your ten minute knead, have a look at the dough. It will be very wet. Do not panic.

Leave it in the bowl in a warm place for just half an hour. Then knock it back to push out the air and pop it in a loaf tin. I like my rolls kind of craggy so I just tear off small pieces. In theory, for loaves, round or tin, it’s best to fold the ends underneath so you create a kind of platform for the bread. That works with a dryer dough, but for this I just sort of pour it in.

Get the bread in its shape and in its tin and then leave it to rise again. This is the long rise – maybe an hour, maybe an hour and a half, till it’s doubled in size and is springy. By my warm Aga it just takes half an hour, so keep checking it. Push your finger in and – counter intuitively to me – the dent will remain if it’s ready to bake. You can adjust your rise time by leaving somewhere cooler for a slower rise or warmer for a quicker rise, depending on how much time you’ve got. I think a slow rise is generally better – tastier and supposedly gentler on the stomach. Keep looking and keep pushing a finger in.

Anyway, after its second rise you need to prepare it for the oven. Slash the top, sprinkle with seeds, wash with egg or milk or dust with flour. I brush mine with milk and sprinkle seeds on top.

Then it goes into a hot oven. Put a dish of boiling water from the kettle on the bottom of the oven first – that gives your bread a good crust. If you’ve got a conventional oven, give the loaf a blast in a hot oven first (the hottest you can get it for 10 minutes – gas mark 9 or 240) then turn it down to 170 degrees (gas mark 3) for another 30 minutes.

In an Aga, which seems better suited to bread making, just pop it in two rungs up from the bottom of the roasting oven (that’s about 200 degrees, I think). Total time: 10-20 minutes for rolls, 30-40 minutes for a small loaf, 40-50 for a large loaf. In my Aga this quantity of dough takes 30-35 minutes, but Agas are not neccessarily representative I don’t think. In the gas oven it’s the 10 minute blast then 30 minutes at the lower temperature.

Pre-Bert I used to make this bread all the time. This is maybe the second time I’ve made it since he was born. I suppose the length of the recipe tells you why, but remembering my fresh bread filled childhood has inspired me to start again.

Not panettone


Makes one large loaf

I looked up the recipe for panettone and quite quickly decided I was too lazy and unskilled to attempt it. This is a fruited, enriched raisin bread that’s sweetened with caster sugar and vanilla. But it’s not panettone.

500g 00 flour

100g golden caster sugar

7g quick acting yeast

150g raisins

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

1 egg

300ml warm milk

Combine all the ingredients and knead, by hand or with the dough hook on a food processor, for around 10 minutes. It will be a soft, sticky dough that’s very stretchy and elastic. Flour a tin and push the mixture into it, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise till it’s doubled in size, before cooking in a hot oven (180 degrees or on the grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven) for 30-40 minutes.

Serve warm from the oven with butter or toasted the next morning.

Almond and nectarine cake

nec almond

Made a large cake that didn’t last very long

180g self raising flour

180g soft butter

180g golden caster sugar

100g ground almonds

3 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 nectarines, sliced

More butter to line the tin

Beat all the ingredients except the nectarine together till fluffy. While your toddler beats his father over the head with a plastic hammer, butter a loaf tin then layer the nectarines on the bottom and spread the batter over. Cook at 180 (or on the grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven with the cool shelf two rungs above) for 30 minutes. We had ours warm with creme fraiche and a headache.

When Bert went to bed we had some more.

Raspberry and soft cheese sandwich


Okay, I admit I didn’t eat this myself, but Bert loved it. I’ve been struggling with lunches since he stopped eating eggs and refuses most sandwiches, but this worked. Now, how can I sneak a carrot in?

Serves a greedy 0.5

1 English muffin

Generous slathering of Philadelphia cheese

Scattering of raspberries

Split the muffin, spread with cheese, squish in the raspberries and stuff in face.

We walked Ray, hunted Gruffolos and Bert ate a picnic in his baby carrier, which he found a totally hilarious concept. At one point, Ray ran into the woods and a couple of seconds later three black spaniels, including Ray, ran out – also hilarious if you’re one and a half.

Little blackberry and ginger upside down cakes


Not very seasonal – but very nice. This is basically a pineapple upside down cake, purpled. I do this in ounces not metric, because it makes easy proportions with the egg (2 ounces of everything else for every egg).

Makes 6 muffin sized cakes

2 eggs

4 oz self raising flour

4 oz golden caster sugar

4 oz soft butter

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger

A few blackberries

Beat the egg, sugar, butter and flour together (in a food processor for laziness) till whippy. Butter the insides of a muffin tin, pop a layer of blackberries in the bottom of each and top with batter. Cook at 180 or on the grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven for 15 minutes.

The creamy gingerness reminds me of the ginger-iced shortbread me and my sisters used to buy on the way home from school.

Chocolate orange cookie-cutter biscuits


Mostly we just snack on fruit – more because Bert’s appetite for sweetness is insatiable than any principled rejection of sugar. And let’s face it, he’s already a well padded boy. But everyone could do with a biscuit now and then and these are more fun to cut out than play doh is.

We used the letters B, E, R and T and some random animal shapes. Use all the letters of the alphabet for the opportunity to offer someone a snack and insult them at the same time.

Makes about 30 small biscuits

250g plain flour

125g butter

80g icing sugar

Tablespoon of cocoa powder

Finely grated zest of an orange

Juice of an orange

Rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand, or put them all into a food processor until they start to look like breadcrumbs. Add the orange juice till the mixture comes together and then bring it into a ball and chill.

Roll out on a floured surface to about 5mm thick and cut out your shapes (or encourage a child with still developing hand-eye co-ordination to do the same – you may lose some cookies to raw tasting). Put on a lined baking sheet and cook at 160 degrees (I did it on the bottom rung of the roasting oven with the cool shelf two shelves above) for about 10-12 minutes.

I see this is the first time I’ve tagged ‘chocolate’ as an ingredient. How restrained I’ve been.

Wholemeal raspberry and banana pancakes


Serves 3-4

2 tablespoons melted butter

225g self raising wholemeal flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 eggs

300ml whole milk

1 crushed banana

Handful of fresh or frozen raspberries

Mash the banana together with the raspberries and melt the butter. Stir the rest of the ingredients into the fruit and use the traces of melted butter in the pan to grease a hot frying pan. Fry dessert spoons in batches, turning over when they start to bubble. Cook till golden on both sides and firm.

Do not attempt this with plain wholemeal flour – you will get flat, dry patties.

Bert’s dad’s on a health kick and this is my attempt to make our normal weekend banana pancakes daddy-friendly. Apparently the maple syrup was missed. (I wouldn’t know – mine were drowned in it.)

Little pineapple upside down cakes


Tonight I had a flushed, tired, whinging toddler on my hands and no pudding planned. But sometimes everyone needs something sweet. The whole thing took 20 minutes, 15 of which were oven time. Five of those 15 were taken up with spoon licking.

The quantities are in ounces because the maths, dividing down from four times the quantity, was so much easier.

The quality of the picture is because a toddler soaked my phone in spit and cake batter.

Makes 3 muffin sized cakes

1 egg

2 ounces of self raising flour

2 ounces of soft butter

2 ounces of golden caster sugar

A few chunks of pineapple

Put the egg, flour, butter and sugar in a food processor and mix till smooth and whippy. Butter three holes of a muffin tin, layer a few chunks of pineapple in the bottom and top with batter.

Cook at 180 degrees (or on a grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven) for 15 minutes.

I ate 2.5 of the three.

Oat and raisin cookies

oat cookies

Makes about 24

100g raisins

150ml vegetable oil

100g golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons apple sauce

1 egg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

140g plain flour

¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

300g oats

Soak the raisins in 50ml of boiling water – the soaking plumps them up and stops them from burning in the oven. In a food processor, beat the oil and sugar together then add the remaining ingredients. Flatten dessert spoonfuls of the mixture on a lined baking sheet and cook at 180 degrees (or the grid shelf on the floor of the Aga roasting oven with the cool shelf two rows above) for about 13 minutes.

The apple sauce replaces some of the sugar so these are pretty worthy, as cookies go. We have these as an afternoon snack with milk, or an easy, filling pudding when Bert’s in a carb avoiding mood. I grabbed three for breakfast on the train this morning, too. Sorry Bert, that’s just the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.