Easter Rocky Road

One more quick Easter recipe for you. Yes, it’s basically just Rocky Road – but the Easter version. So it’s automatically even greater. And it takes ten minutes to put together. And very little skill. And I’m tired, okay, so unfortunately for you, this lazy recipe is all you get today. The Hot Cross Cookies were a slightly more respectable attempt at Easter baking.


I barely ever make Rocky Road actually, because a) James loves it, and b) I am lukewarm about it. This makes me sound very selfish, but truly, James doesn’t really want me to make it often because it means I’ll come home one day and find him sitting on the floor in the kitchen with chocolate all over his face, an empty tin clutched in his sticky fingers, and a wild look in his eyes. I’m being cruel to be kind.


I don’t quite know what’s so joyful about Easter eggs, but they’re magical. Even if it’s completely standard chocolate that you wouldn’t normally look twice at, somehow having it in an egg shape makes it incredibly appealing. This follows through to mini eggs too. I don’t know why, but I find them totally irresistible. So, even though I am lukewarm about Rocky Road, I ate quite a lot of this batch.



I’m not going to pretend this is a particularly inventive or difficult thing to make. It’s just normal rocky road plus Easter eggs. You can substitute anything else when we’re not in Easter season.


125g butter
300g chocolate – dark, milk, or a mixture depending on your taste
3 tbsp golden syrup
200g oat biscuits (or whatever biscuits you like)
100g marshmallows (cut them in half if they’re big ones)
150g mini eggs
2 tbsp icing sugar (for dusting)


  1. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper and make sure you have space to fit it in your fridge.
  2. Put your butter, chocolate, and golden syrup in a large saucepan and melt over a medium heat. While everything is melting, put your biscuits in a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin to break them up a bit, leaving some chunky pieces. When the chocolate mix is melted, stir the biscuits and marshmallows into it.
  3. Reserve a handful of your mini eggs, then roughly chop the rest and mix them into the chocolate. Spread the mixture out evenly in your lined tin and flatten the top. Push your reserved mini eggs into the surface of the rocky road, then pop the whole thing in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.
  4. When it’s set, dust the top with icing sugar, cut it into squares, and serve.

Goats’ Cheese and Spinach Tortilla

This isn’t so much a recipe as a suggestion. An idea. Inspiration. I know you know how to make this. Whether you call it a tortilla, or a frittata, or an omelette, or ‘miscellaneous egg dish’, you can cook this. But I find that sometimes you just cannot think of anything to cook. You know there has to be a meal. You know you have to make it. But what? Name some meals. Any ideas? Anything? And you can’t think of a single thing that people eat. Or maybe that’s just me when I’m tired.


Anyway, this is an excellent thing to cook. It can feed a group of people, or, if you are solo or one of a pair, you can keep the slices and they make excellent and re-heatable leftovers. You can put whatever odds and ends you have in the fridge in it. You can make it in twenty minutes. It’s very suitable on its own for breakfast – heated up or eaten on the hoof. It’s a perfect lunch and can be very easily transported to work, if that’s your jam. And it’s a satisfying dinner, served with salad or extra vegetables or a hunk of bread if you so choose. Sometimes, meals can just be simple.



Obviously you can add whatever you want to this, skipping out the meat if that’s not your thing, throwing in extra vegetables that are kicking around the fridge, or topping it with other cheeses. You do not have to know what you are doing.


3 tbsp olive oil
a knob of butter
400g little potatoes, unpeeled and sliced (baby new potatoes, Jersey Royals, Anya… anything like that)
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
leaves of 1 thyme sprig, finely chopped
leaves of 1 rosemary sprig, finely chopped
Pinch of paprika
Pinch of sea salt
150g chorizo, sliced
handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
200g spinach, chopped
8 large eggs, whisked
small log of goats cheese, sliced


  1. Heat your oven to 160C/140C fan/ gas 3. In your largest ovenproof frying pan – ideally non-stick – melt your butter and heat your oil on a medium heat. Then pop your potatoes, onion and garlic in, and begin to gently cook them. After a minute, add the thyme, rosemary, paprika, and salt, and stir everything together. Let it cook for a minute, then add your chorizo. Put a lid on your pan (if it doesn’t have a lid put a baking tray or something over it), and let everything sweat gently for five minutes
  2. When everything is soft, add your parsley and spinach, and stir to wilt the spinach. Take the pan off the heat and add your eggs. Stir together until everything is evenly distributed.  Lay your slices of goats’ cheese on top of the egg mixture.
  3. Put your pan in the oven for around 10-15 minutes, or until the egg is cooked through. If you like, you can give it a minute or two under the grill to bronze the top. Let it sit for five minutes before turning it out and slicing it.


So, I don’t think it can be denied that I have made the effort to get into the Christmas spirit around here. There have been mulled wine brownies. A Christmas cheat sheet. And even a heroic effort to eat all the world’s mince pies. But you know what? Not everything we eat at this time of year is mulled or sprinkled with glitter. So here is a completely seasonally inappropriate recipe that’s also completely delicious. I’ve called this Menemen because it sounds more exciting than ‘very liberal interpretation of a Turkish egg and pepper dish’, but this isn’t really Menemen in any true sense of the word. It’s also part Shakshuka, and part random invention. It’s an ideal brunch solution though, and very very tasty.


I have been making some variation on this for years, but only thought to put it on the blog when my brother asked me for the recipe after I made it at a family gathering a couple of months ago. When my brother asks for the recipe for something then I know it must have been a winner.


This is, of course, the sort of thing you can be fairly liberal with. If you have other vegetables you’d like to toss in – sliced courgettes, say, or a handful of spinach – then do. You can skip the bread if you don’t fancy it, although I promise you it’s excellent for mopping up all those tasty juices. And obviously, if you’re catering for vegetarians then you can pass on the chorizo. It will still be lovely either way.



This will serve 2-3 people, but it’s easy to scale up by adding more eggs. It’s an excellent thing to plonk down in the middle of a table so that people can help themselves.

Add chilli flakes (or skip them) according to your tolerance for spicy food. I like to make this with a good kick, but appreciate that not everyone will feel the same.


Extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion
3 red or orange peppers
125g chorizo
3 cloves garlic
1 heaped tsp cumin
1 heaped tsp paprika
chilli flakes, to taste
2 tins or cartons of chopped tomatoes
4 or 5 medium eggs
100g feta
handful of pistachios
bunch of fresh parsley
bread, to serve


  1. Gently heat a glug of olive oil in a large frying pan while you slice a red onion. Toss the onion in and cook on a medium heat to soften. Meanwhile, slice your peppers, and add them to the onion once it’s begun to soften. Cut your chorizo into small coins or half moons, turn up the heat, and add it to the pan. After a minute or two, when the chorizo has started to release its oil and is smelling amazing, crush your garlic. Add your garlic to the pan, stir, and cook for a minute. Add your cumin, paprika, and chilli flakes, stir, and cook for a minute more.
  2. Add your chopped tomatoes to the pan, stir, and put them on a medium heat. Let the mixture bubble away form around ten minutes. Taste your tomato base, and season as needed.
  3. Use a wooden spoon to make four or five (depending on how many eggs you are using) wells in the tomato base. Crack an egg into each, and turn the heat down to low. Pop a lid on the pan. The eggs will now poach in the tomato sauce.
  4. Crumble your feta, roughly chop your pistachios, and chop your parsley. After about five or six minutes, your eggs should be ready – you want the white cooked, but the yolk runny. Sprinkle your feta, pistachios, and parsley over the pan. Bring it all to the table and serve directly from the pan, with bread.

The Taste Test: Eggs

A couple of you asked that I put eggs to the test for this series, and I was only too happy to oblige. It’s actually turned out to be a particularly interesting experience. This taste test has been unique so far among all those that I’ve done: you can see why in my conclusions below.

Firstly though, an introduction. It’s basically my dream to own my own chickens (simple pleasures for simple minds and so on). The idea of having pets that actually produce beautiful, fresh eggs for us to eat is stupidly appealing. However, we don’t have a garden, so it’s a dream I have had to put on hold. Also, I’d need a lot of chickens. I go through a lot of eggs. I am a baker, so it comes with the territory.

I think a lot of people buy free range eggs nowadays, knowing vaguely that it’s a good thing. In the UK, 2% of eggs purchased are organic, 47% of them come from free range hens, 48% are from caged birds and the rest are from barn hens.

Sadly, though, ‘free range’ isn’t such a high welfare standard as it sounds. In the EU (sob, let’s not get into it right now), free range hens have constant daytime access to the outdoors. Standards also dictate a maximum stocking density of 9 hens per square metre of ‘usable’ space. There are a few other requirements, which you can check out on good old Wikipedia if you’re interested.

However, organic eggs must meet all the basic free range requirements, and then many more. Here’s a handy summary from the Soil Association (the whole article is very useful):

‘Organic chickens are raised to organic standards, which not only means free-range but a whole lot more. Organic standards cover not only the animals housing and the amount of space they have, but also the way they are treated, what they are fed and how they are transported and eventually slaughtered. They are not allowed to be fed on GM feed (which is common in free-range and non-organic hens). Chickens must not have their beaks trimmed to try and prevent feather pecking and are given plenty of opportunities to express their natural behaviours such as – foraging, bathing in the dust outside and pecking at insects and worms on grass fields.’

In summary: organic eggs come from happier chickens. With that in mind, I set out to taste test some of the happiest eggs I could find, to see if budget versions that conformed to high standards were any different from the fanciest of them all.

As before, I feel I need a rambling disclaimer: obviously, I am doing this in my kitchen and not in a lab and I am not a scientist. These are the opinions of one person – that said, one person who has been trained to taste for quality. Also, the products used in this series are just examples – obviously each supermarket has, say, eight or nine different types of eggs or whatever the product may be, and I’m not going to try every single one because what am I, made of money?

Finally, I should highlight that I tasted all the products blind, and at the time of tasting and making my notes I didn’t know which product came from which shop. I sat in one room while my glamorous assistant (er, my husband), prepared the samples in another. Any notes added regarding packaging and so on were only done after blind tasting, when I learned which supermarket had made A, B, C, D, or E.

The Blind Taste Test: Eggs


£ (6 eggs/328g)*
General Info
Aldi – Merevale
1.39 (328)
Organic, RSPCA Assured, Lion, Class A
Lidl – Woodcote
1.39 (328)
Organic, RSPCA Assured, Lion, Class A
Sainsbury’s – TTD
1.85 (328g)
RSPCA Assured, Free Range, Lion, Class A
1.80 (328g)
Organic, Free Range, Lion, Class A
Waitrose – Duchy
2.75 (6 large)
Organic, Free Range, Lion, Class A


Now, I haven’t done all of the usual nutritional information this week because they’re eggs and it doesn’t really work like that. I have, though, noted what the packaging states about the eggs’ standards. You’ll also see from the photos that the sizes of the eggs vary quite a bit. That’s because some of the half dozens I purchased were of mixed sizes and some were large. All had to meet a minimum weight of 328g though.

You’re also not getting any tasting notes this week. You know why? They all tasted like decent boiled eggs. Really, pretty much exactly the same – or so close to it that I couldn’t taste a difference.

A – Sainsbury’s – Taste the Difference

B – Lidl – Woodcote

C – Tesco

D – Aldi – Merevale

E – Waitrose – Duchy

I’m far from an expert, but here’s a very basic guide to the classifications.

  • Class A simply means the eggs meet the basic standards for retail in the UK – size, cleanliness, basic quality and so on.
  • The Lion mark is about food safety and legal requirements, not hen welfare.
  • RSPCA assured means the farms where the eggs were produced meet the RSPCA’s welfare standards. These are less stringent than organic standards, but still higher than basic free range (and the products are often cheaper than organic options).
  • Organic and/or a Soil Association mark represents the gold standard of welfare.


The conclusion this week is pretty simple. All the eggs taste pretty much the same, so if you’re going to buy high welfare eggs, you may as well buy the cheapest ones that meet the standards you are happy with. The Aldi and Lidl eggs were marked organic and thus met the welfare standard, but are almost less than half the price of the Waitrose eggs.

Although if I have to pick a winner, I pick Aldi. You can just about see in the picture above that the Aldi egg I tried (D) has a double yolk. I’m pretty sure that means I get to be lucky forever or something like that.

*Prices correct at time of writing.


Leiths: Intermediate Term, Week 1

It feels very odd be writing ‘Intermediate Term’, and odder still to have cycled all the way back to Week 1. A new beginning – a new term – and yet a revisiting of the past: we’re back in first week once more. First days back anywhere tend to share similar features, be they at school, university, or work: the forgetting of passwords and door codes; repeated conversations and rehearsed questions and answers about what you did with your holidays; the unfamiliar familiarity of an old routine which you slip back into like a worn pair of winter boots. You’re buoyed by the limitless opportunity of a new term, year, or season which you’ve not yet had a chance to taint with apathy and laziness, and yet weighted by the fear of all the hard work and possible calamity it represents.

Going back to Leiths felt like a strange dream until I actually got there and remembered what my life at school is like. After that, it started to feel normal frighteningly fast. Sample six different wines at 10am on a Monday morning? Why not?

That was genuinely what we did on Monday, for our introductory wine lecture. Apparently all things wine-related are going to be getting a lot more serious this term. I did have a small wine breakthrough though: for the first time ever, I smelled wine and got something other than just ‘wine’ (apricots, in case you are wondering). Please may I have my diploma now?


In the afternoon we cooked the feast above as a gentle reintroduction to the kitchen (yes, really). From left to right, baba ghanoush with parsley and paprika, lamb meatballs in a cinnamon tomato sauce (technically kefta maticha), cous cous, roasted green peppers in harissa and preserved lemon dressing, and spiced chickpea flatbreads. We cooked as a table of four and it was all delicious.

On Tuesday our morning dem saw a truffle expert (fungus, not chocolate) come to speak to us and let us eat and handle some terrifyingly expensive specimens. We learnt, amongst other things, that there is no actual truffle in truffle oil and that dogs are preferable to pigs for truffle hunting because a pig will just eat all your truffles and get violent if you try to take them away from him. Later, we were back in the kitchens. I was told my portion of wild mushroom risotto and guinea fowl was on the large side for a main course. I promptly ate it all as an afternoon snack.


By mid-week, I think Leiths had decided that they’d eased us in gently enough and it was time to up the game a bit. The morning dem was on hollandaise with Ansobe. Hollandaise is another tricky technical skill for us to master, and I really was trying to focus on the technique, but I was minorly distracted by the absolutely delicious food we got to sample. Eggs Benedict, a fish tart with burnt hollandaise, steak with béarnaise sauce and triple-cooked chips… I ended the morning happy and full and sleepy, which was unfortunate because it was followed by a tricky afternoon for which I could have done with having my wits about me. Firstly we made artichoke soup for an assessment. This doesn’t sound so bad, but we were under strict time constraints, and I have never actually cooked with artichokes before. I have decided that they are divas in the vegetable kingdom. Once you peel them you immediately have to stick them in cold acidulated water so that they don’t oxidise and get ruined, you have to cut them into 2mm thick pieces to assure they cook through correctly, you must simmer (never boil) them in pre-scalded milk and… I won’t go on because it’s really dull, but suffice to say I was feeling a bit glum by the time I finally got my soup served. Luckily, and surprisingly, I actually got really good comments for a change. It’s not much to look at, but here’s a picture anyway to commemorate my triumph.


We followed up the artichoke soup with a pot roast chicken with a walnut and olive dressing which was slightly tricky, in part due to the fact that my cooking partner Sophie managed to properly slice through her finger while prepping the dressing. She was much more stoic about this than I would have been and soldiered on with a plaster and a blue glove for quite some time before I insisted that the blood filling the glove was problematic and she was whisked out of class to be tended to. Meanwhile, I haphazardly threw the rest of the chicken dish together and into the oven and ended up with the dish below an hour later – a very messy plate of over-cooked chicken. Sophie was fine in the end, for all those wondering.


On Thursday morning we had a lovely fish dem with Michael – I have been genetically blessed with the ability to eat fish at any time of day – followed by an oddly hectic session in which we made Eggs Benedict in order to test out our newly acquired hollandaise knowledge. It went well enough in the end, but Christ, was it ever a struggle getting there. Basically, the reason I only ever eat Eggs Benedict when I go out for brunch is that they are a bloody hassle to make and create a huge amount of washing up and scrubbing hollandaise off a gas hob is no fun.

I limped into the end of the week (literally, the cold and the cycling is making my knee play up), ready for another dem with Michael, this time on game. Now, I’ll eat anything and I’m not a squeamish person in the slightest, but even I struggled slightly as we watched a beautiful, sleek, fluffy rabbit get brutally beheaded by a cleaver and skinned. It was already dead, obviously. But still. The afternoon held more trauma in store. I’m pretty used to filleting flat fish by now, so when we were asked to fillet our first round fish – mackerel – I wasn’t too worried about it.

Ah, the blithe optimism of an ignorant idiot.

It was really, really hard. I mean, partly I was just rubbish at it, but it’s also pretty fiddly. Mackerel flesh is very delicate, and it’s easy for your fillets to start looking fairly brutally hacked as you attempt to prise them from the frame. The concentration in the kitchen was such that the room was almost completely silent, which is a rarity. We filleted two whole fish, and my end result was, frankly, awful, so I was left feeling pretty anxious about the whole thing.

Then we served our crème caramels, and mine was lovely, so that was nice.


In other news, either there is something wrong with my bike or I have lost literally all of my physical fitness over Christmas, because the five mile cycle ride from Paddington to Leiths which I was managing twice daily for months in 2015 has suddenly become a Herculean task to which I am not equal. This is not helped by the fact that it has been about zero degrees celsius while I have been cycling to school for much of this week, so I end the journey raw-faced and scarlet-fingered, the cold air having shredded my protesting lungs.

On the plus side, Great Western Rail have finally had the courtesy to bequeath my morning train to me. About time, really.



Egg Yolk Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have an extensive Amazon wishlist. Once upon a time it was full of all manner of things, but now it’s essentially just cookbooks. The problem with this is that cookbooks tend to cost quite a bit more than your standard paperback novel, and so buying three or four in a blinded, lustful daze can easily set you back a bit of money. So I have to ration myself, and only buy one now and then. Or when there’s something I really want, obviously.

In bookshops it’s even worse. I have to actively avoid the cooking section in most of them, because I never walk away without something new. They’re so tempting, cookbooks: beautiful and tactile, heavy and reassuring, full of delicious things. I am a big book lover in general and have curated a huge collection of fiction since childhood, but cookbooks are a different thing entirely. A novel is full of mysterious, hidden promise, and you don’t know if it will deliver until you have invested some time in it. A quick flick through a cookbook will reveal its bright offerings, and you can know in two minutes whether or not it’s a tome you want to cook from.


I’d had my eye on Claire Ptak’s The Violet Bakery for a while, so when our lovely wedding florist mentioned that she’d bought it and it was excellent, that was all the encouragement I needed.

The book definitely passed the ‘flick through test’. When I first get a cookbook, I tend to sit down and mark up all the recipes I want to make from it immediately. In The Violet Bakery, there were literally dozens. Inviting, interesting, delicious-looking things. Raspberry and star anise crumble muffins. Apricot kernel upside down cake. Wild blackberry tart.

And the first thing I made from the book was a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

I mean, I like chocolate chip cookies, but they are a humble delight and I certainly wouldn’t say they were my favourite thing to bake, or anywhere near the most enticing thing in this book. But the recipe called for three egg yolks, and I just happened to have three egg yolks sitting around in the fridge, waiting to be used up (all the whites had gone on macaron-related escapades). And since I had everything else I needed for this recipe in the cupboard, I thought it was worth a go.


Source: As above, the glorious cookbook from The Violet Bakery, by Claire Ptak. I really would advise you to go and buy it if you are at all interested in happiness and joy.

Notes: I only made a couple of minor tweaks to this recipe. This is very, very unlike me, but I have actually dialled the salt down slightly, because I felt that it was too much, and increased the vanilla because I thought it needed to be a clearer note. Also unlike me, but I recommend using a good quality milk chocolate, rather than dark as suggested. As you can see, I made them with a mixture of milk and dark chocolate, and I found the dark chocolate too overwhelming here.

I found these cookies were actually a bit better on the second day – they softened a bit and became more chewy than crispy, which is my preference.


250g butter, softened
200g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or, if you have it on hand, vanilla bean paste
3 large egg yolks
325g plain flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g milk chocolate chips, or a chocolate bar broken into chunks


  1. Line a baking tray which will fit in your freezer with parchment paper – I had to bake these cookies in batches because I can only fit one baking tray in my freezer at a time. In your largest bowl, beat the butter and both types of sugar together with an electric mixer until just combined and even, then beat in the vanilla and egg yolks – all at once is fine.
  2. In another bowl, sieve your flour, salt, and bicarbonate together. Add this to the butter mixture along with the chocolate and mix until combined – it will be a stiff, firm dough.
  3. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the dough into cookies and pop them on your cold tray. Freeze for an hour, or up to a month. I could only do half at a time because my freezer is absolutely full of stuff, and I couldn’t fit all the dough on one baking sheet, so I put the rest of the dough in the fridge while I was waiting for the first cookies to chill in the freezer.
  4. Heat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and take the cookies out of the freezer. Make sure they are well spaced on the tray as they will expand massively when baked. Let them rest at room temperature for five to ten minutes while the oven heats up, and then pop them in. Bake for 15-20 minutes (it was 16 in my oven), until the outsides of the cookies are baked and crispy, but the insides still feel soft and underbaked. Let them rest on the counter to firm up for at least 10 minutes.