Category Archives: recipes

January 12, 2015

this year’s marmalade

In these darkest, wettest months, I retreat to the warmth of my kitchen to make my own sunshine. At this time of year I find cooking to be particularly soothing, preparing soups, dahls, chilli spiced noodles. I return to the ritual of baking bread, and I peruse my cookbooks for wholesome biscuits to dunk in my tea and to fill the after-school hunger gap.

Of all my January kitchen potterings however, nothing brightens my spirits like the making of my annual batch of marmalade. It’s been a ritual for several years now: the moment that I spot Seville oranges in the farm shop or the greengrocer, out comes the preserving pan in readiness for a Saturday afternoon at the kitchen table, up to my elbows in golden peel.

This year, I photographed the process and recorded my recipe as a story over on Steller. You can view by clicking below. I hope that it may bring a little sunshine to a grey day.

December 19, 2014

gingerbread latte :: recipe

gingerbread latte-2

gingerbread latte

I have a bit of a weakness for gingerbread lattes. During the rest of the year, I tend to drink flat whites or, on tired days, just plain old espresso shots, but there’s something so alluring about the gentle gingerbread spice, and on a dull wintery day, a ginger-scented coffee always lifts my spirits. Out here in the country, however, fancy coffees are few and far between. It recently occurred to me that the way forward was to devise a recipe for homemade gingerbread syrup.

After a little kitchen pottering (and one particularly disastrous batch of unintentional caramel), I found myself with a jar of spiced sweetness. Having posted a photograph over on Instagram, I was asked for the recipe, and so here it is:

Homemade Gingerbread Latte

For the gingerbread syrup:

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 a vanilla pod

1 large chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 1 inch chunks

3 peppercorns

3 cloves

a couple of gratings of nutmeg

1 cup of caster sugar

1 cup of water

For the latte:

2 tablespoons of the gingerbread syrup

1 or 2 shots espresso (I usually make mine with a stovetop coffee maker)


Ground cinnamon/ nutmeg (optional)


To make the syrup, place the water, and all the ingredients apart from the sugar into a small pan. Heat until just about to boil, then turn off the heat and allow to infuse for twenty minutes.

Add the sugar and place the pan on a low heat, gently swirling to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the mixture up to the boil, then immediately turn off the heat.

Leave the syrup to cool. Once it is cold, remove the cinnamon stick, ginger pieces, vanilla pod, cloves and peppercorns. Pour the syrup into a jar and store in the fridge.

To make a gingerbread latte, pour a shot or two of hot espresso into a mug, and stir in two tablespoons of the gingerbread syrup. Top up with warm, frothy milk (you can whisk it in a pan if you don’t have a steam wand.)

If you want to be extra fancy, you could dust the top of your coffee with ground cinnamon or nutmeg.

You can keep the leftover gingerbread syrup in a jar in the fridge.

May it sweeten your Christmas!



September 26, 2014

grow, forage, cook : pear and ginger cake




My love’s birthday is in September (in actual fact, he and Sabrina are cosmic twins!). Whilst we are rarely short of cake in our house, this is always his opportunity to choose his favourite. He’s a fan of chocolate cake, but it’s sticky pear and ginger upside-down cake which has made the most appearances on his birthday table over the years. The pears for this year’s incarnation were carefully selected from one of the ‘pick and mix’ fruit stalls at the farmer’s market, at their juicy best.

This delicious autumnal recipe is one which I tore from the Guardian magazine long ago, and it has been stuck into my recipe binder, annotated and underlined. The crucial step in the whole process is the making of the caramel- timing is everything: undercook it and it will be anaemic and watery, but leave it for too long and it’s easily burned. I have learned the hard way not to take my eyes off it, and so this time it was cooked to perfection. The cake element is a simple but perfect gingerbread, which is wonderful with the caramelised pears and, unlike most birthday cakes, actually improves after a day or so in the tin.

Pear and Ginger Cake

4 tbsp water

200g granulated sugar

5 pears, peeled, cored and cut into slices

110g black treacle

110g golden syrup

110ml water

75g butter

85g light brown soft sugar

340g plain flour

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamon

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Grease a 22cm cake tin.

Begin with the caramel: in a heavy saucepan, mix the water and the granulated sugar and bring to the boil over a medium hear, swirling the pan to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, raise the heat and boil steadily until the mixture turns a rich amber, swirling the contents of the pan from time to time to disperse the heat. Remove from the hob, pour into the cake tin, and set aside to cool and harden.

Once it has cooled, arrange the pears quarters on top. If you have any spare pear left over, dice it and put it to one side ready to add it to the gingerbread.

In another pan, combine the treacle, syrup, water, butter ad brown sugar, and heat slowly until the butter has melted and you have a smooth mixture. Set this aside to cool. Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl, pour in the cooled mixture, add the diced pear and and beat thoroughly.

Spoon this mixture on to the pears in the tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top springs back lightly when pressed. Cool the tin on a wire rack for five minutes, then run a knife around the rim and place the tin base-side up on a plate. Let it sit for a few minutes before unclipping the sides, to allow the melted caramel to set a little.

There have been so many wonderful additions to the #growforagecook hashtag over the last month, and it’s almost time for Sabrina to pick her favourites as part of the September roundup (you can find the August roundup here).  Please do continue to share your own pictures or blog posts about your seasonal kitchen adventures using the #growforagecook hashtag on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, tagging @circleofpines and/or @wolvesinlondon. We can’t wait to see what Autumn brings to your kitchens…

August 13, 2014

grow, forage, cook :: a basket of plums





In my last post, I introduced a brand new collaborative blog series: grow, forage cook, which I’m starting with my friend Sabrina.  I’m going to begin my #growforagecook adventures with the large basket of plums which was has been gracing my kitchen table…

At our local PYO farm, there is a row of slightly neglected Victoria plum trees, straggling down the edge of the field between the rhubarb and the strawberries. We picked (and jammed) more than our fair share of strawberries at the start of the summer. Now that late summer is upon us with its warm, languorous abundance, plums are our fruit of choice, and a far cheaper option than the last of the berries. The trees are laden down with them, a sticky purple covering of windfalls on the ground below. Branches are low-hanging so that the boys are perfectly placed for picking, and the fruit is so ripe that it comes away easily in their hands. We ended up with almost 3kg of fruit, enough for a trio of my favourite plum recipes.

Jam is always my first thought, when blessed with a large basket of fruit. My last attempt at plum jam had been a disaster – it had to be re-boiled and eventually was usable only as a compote. That was a couple of years ago, and my jamming skills have improved, so I felt brave enough to have a second try. I used the recipe from my bible of jam – the River Cottage Preserves book. Plums are rich in pectin, so it’s a simple recipe with only plums, sugar and a little water (this Country Life recipe is similar). This time, using a combination of the jam thermometer and the saucer test, I caught it at exactly the right time, and the resultant jam was richly flavoured with an amazingly deep purple colour to it. My only regret was that I made half the recipe quantity, so ended up with only three jars of the stuff.

The next day, we had friends to visit for a roast, which proved the perfect opportunity to make another of my favourite plum recipes: a clafoutis. I use the recipe from the My Daddy Cooks book (you can see it made on video here), and every time I make it, I am once again surprised by just how quick and easy it is, given that it makes for such a delicious (if inelegant) pud. A traditional French clafoutis is made with cherries (and I fully intend to make one, if I can track down some cherries), but it works equally well with the humble plum.

Finally, and inevitably, I had to bake a plum cake of some description. This plum tray bake with a cream cheese ripple is one that I’ve adapted slightly from a long-lost supermarket recipe card. Making two batters sounds more complicated than it is, and the resultant cake combines fruity caramel flavours with light and creamy layers. It’s really rather scrumptious eaten sitting at the kitchen table in the late afternoon sunlight with a hot cup of tea.

Plum Tray Bake with cream cheese ripple

200g cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp caster sugar

4 medium eggs

175g butter, softened

175g light brown soft sugar

200g self-raising flour

400g ripe plums, stoned and quartered (if small) or roughly chopped (if large


Preheat the oven to 180c, gas mark 4. Line a 23cm x 18cm shallow baking tin with baking parchment.

In a bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, vanilla extract, one egg and the caster sugar, until smooth.

In a separate bowl, or a freestanding mixer, combine the remaining eggs, butter, flour and sugar. Beat until pale and creamy.

Spread half the cake mixture over the base of the tray. Dollop over half the cream cheese mixture, mixing with an uneven swirl. Scatter with half of the plums. Spoon over the remaining cake mixture, dot with the rest of the cream cheese mixture. Scatter over the remaining plums.

Bake for about 45 minutes until risen, and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack.


So there you have it, three ways with plums for #growforagecook. I think it’s time for me to go and refill that basket. In the meantime, don’t forget that you can share your own pictures or blog posts (about plums or any other seasonal loveliness) using the #growforagecook hashtag on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, or in the comments  of this post. We’d love to see what’s been happening in your kitchen…