Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

Hello! I know, it’s been a while. I think Instagram has been fulfilling my need to post photos of food for a while now. It was nice though to get the ‘real’ camera out again and take a picture or two the other day. These photos are of a chocolate cake I baked last weekend. I wanted to share this one because it was really delicious – very moist and…well…dense, as the name suggests :) It was fairly quick and easy to make – the main (off-putting) task being the lining of the tin. Yeah, you get the picture.





225 g soft butter
375 g dark muscovado sugar
2 large organic/free-range eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g best dark chocolate, melted
200 g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
250 ml boiling water

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Grease and line a 23x13x7cm cm (9x5x3in) loaf tin.

2. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla, beating in well.

3. Fold in the melted and cooled chocolate, taking care to blend well but being careful not to overbeat. You want the ingredients combined: you don’t want a light airy mass.

4. Gently add the flour, to which you’ve added the bicarb, alternately spoon by spoon, with 250 ml of boiling water until you have a smooth and fairly liquid batter.

5. Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 170°C/gas mark 3 and cook for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be a bit squidgy inside, so an inserted cake tester or skewer won’t come out completely clean.

6. Place the loaf tin on a rack and leave to get completely cold before turning it out. If you have the willpower, this cake improves if left for a day or so before eating. Don’t be alarmed it sinks a bit in the middle – it still tastes great :)

This recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s book, ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’.

Roast Vegetables with Creamy Lemon Quinoa

Over the past while I have found myself introducing more and more meatless dishes to the diet of my little family. Anytime a vegetarian recipe catches my eye, I pounce on it and give it a try. This salad is a new one I started making this summer and it has become a firm favourite with all of us. It’s inspired by this recipe from the Green Kitchen Stories blog which I’ve been following for several years now. I’ve been adapting the recipe to whichever vegetables are in season. So, in early summer I made it with asparagus, but this weekend I made it with squash and broccoli shoots (and a few other things I had lying around in the fridge). I think it tastes good with any roast summer vegetables. What gives it the kick, is the lovely tangy dressing and the creamy feta cheese.


The dish in the photo is one of my favourite things from my friend Lene’s shop, Culture Living. Lene has been selling all sorts of wonderful things at her infamous Christmas markets in her home for years. She has recently taken the plunge and opened her own shop at Nordre Frihavnsgade 27 in Copenhagen.


Serves 4

190g/1 cup white quinoa
1kg vegetables for roasting e.g. squash, asparagus, peppers, spring onion, carrots etc.
2 tablespoons olive oil
200g feta cheese, crumbled
1 handful coriander or flat-leaf parsley, chopped

For the dressing
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Preheat the oven to 170° C (340° F)

Prepare the vegetables by washing them and cutting them into bite-sized pieces (or leaving the likes of asparagus and spring onions, whole). Place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to ensure all the vegetables are coated, and spread out on the tray. Place in the oven for approximately 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and slightly charred.

Rinse the quinoa, place in a small saucepan and add 475ml/2 cups of water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain any excess water and set aside to cool.

Gently crush the cumin seeds with a pestle & mortar. Whisk together with the remaining dressing ingredients.

Combine the quinoa, dressing and vegetables in a serving dish. Sprinkle the crumbled feta and the chopped herbs over the top.

This dish can either be served warm or chilled (and it keeps well :)

Sausage Time

Truth be told, for most of my life I have had an aversion to sausages. It started at an early age when watching Play School on television. Each episode had a part called ‘through the window’ where they would take the viewers to the outside world and show an educational type clip from a factory or the like. I remember one time it took us inside a sausage-making factory. Hello! What were they thinking? I remember being totally grossed out by a big pink mass of gunk being pumped into sausage skin. From that day on, and until fairly recently, I refused to eat sausages. (In retrospect maybe this is where my aversion to industrialisation of food all started.)

In recent years, as more palatable, gourmet type sausages have become available, I have gradually been learning to appreciate this food item. Not least during our summer holiday in Ireland this year. At the end of our 3-week trip we spent some time with our friends, Eddie & Tremayne, in Carlow. Eddie and Tremayne, who inspired us to keep hens in our small urban garden, have now taken things a step further themselves and have thrown a few goats into the equation. While we were staying with them we helped collect their second lot of billy goat kids – so cute – from a local farm, which they will rear with a view to having them end up on the table.

We were fortunate to be around to sample the meat from their first small herd of billies. Eddie set about giving us (the husband and I) a sausage 101 master class in sausage-making. The below pictures illustrate the process. Knowing what exactly went into these sausages, and knowing that it was all good stuff, made all the difference. I had no hesitation about eating these bangers, which were a far far cry from those awful things I had seen ‘though the window’ all those years ago. I may even have to get myself some sausage-making accessories now ;)


The lads get stuck in


Preparing the herbs and spices


Measurements noted on the kitchen’s black board


And here we go…goat meat & Merguez spiced sausage in the making




Time to sample…


Although this happy picture indicates otherwise, Tremayne hesitantly has a taste of the end result (she had grown rather attached to the goats)


Picking up the new kids at Elizabeth Bradley’s goat farm


A glimpse of some of Elizabeth’s amazing cheeses made from her goats’ milk – we bought some of her cheese at the farmers’ market in Carlow and it got devoured in no time.


Young Halley and Dylan see that the new billy goats settle in to their new home at Hawthorn Cottage

Merguez Spice Mix (by Christine Benlafquih)

1/4 cup sweet paprika
2 tablespoons ground fennel seeds
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoons powdered sugar (optional)