red wine | The Proof of the Pudding


The credit for this cake goes 100% to Deb from the Smitten Kitchen blog. This is one of my favourite food blogs out there, and when I saw her picture of this cake on Instagram a few weeks ago I knew straight away that I had to make it. Happily, it coincided with my other half’s birthday and with his only request for his cake being “chocolate, chocolate, chocolate” this seemed like it was the only and ideal solution.
This cake was a complete success. Although it’s really all about the piles of sweet chocolatey buttercream on top, the sponge itself was delicious. It’s dense, almost like a brownie, but the overall effect is not too overwhelming as it’s a fairly thin sponge cut into small pieces. Instead of using buttermilk as in the original recipe, I went for Deb’s suggestion of substituting for red wine. On the day I baked it, we didn’t think the red wine flavour came through strongly, although it did add some much needed acidity to cut through the rich chocolate flavour, but on the second and third days after mellowing in the fridge you could definitely taste the red wine. If you’re baking this cake for little ones (it would be the perfect birthday cake for a kids party, and the quantities can easily be increased to make a larger cake) then just switch back to the buttermilk.

Ingredients (cuts into 12-16 small pieces) 85g softened butter 145g soft dark brown sugar 25g caster sugar 1 large egg, plus one large egg yolk 1 tsp vanilla extract 175ml red wine 40g cocoa powder 125g plain flour ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

55g dark chocolate 180g icing sugar 115g softened butter Pinch of salt 1-2 tbsp whole milk or cream ½ tsp vanilla extract

Topping of your choice – I used rainbow chocolate beans from Sainsburys

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 175C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3. Grease a 20x20cm cake tin and line it with a square of baking parchment.


As I mentioned in my blog birthday post last week, the three most popular posts on my blog since I started it just over a year ago are all slow-cooked meaty dishes (from pork belly to lamb shanks to BBQ pulled pork). And I’m not one to deny my readers what they want! Today I have something that you might not have cooked or even eaten before, but if you like pulled pork then you’re going to love this. Brisket is a cut from the lower chest of beef, and is a muscle that works hard so needs gentle, slow cooking in order to tenderise it. It is a relatively cheap cut of beef, so a great option for when you’re cooking a roast for a crowd.

I first cooked this recipe last year when I scribbled it down to take on a weekend holiday with friends (I got the original recipe from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall article, but now I can’t find it…however I will pop a link up here when I come across it again). I knew at the time that it would be a great recipe to blog about, but holidays aren’t the time to be photographing a recipe step-by-step and it was gobbled up so quickly that there wasn’t even time for an end-result picture – definitely a sign of a recipe worth sharing.

Ingredients (serves 4) Beef brisket 2 tbsp olive oil 2 onions, thinly sliced 2 carrots, cut into wedges 4 sprigs of rosemary 3 cloves of garlic English or Dijon mustard Large glass of red wine

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp corn flour
1 beef stock cube, made up with 300ml boiling water

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole pot and generously season the beef all over with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, place the beef in the pot and brown on all sides.

2. Turn the beef so that it is fat side up and nestle the vegetables, rosemary and garlic cloves around it.

3. Spread the top of the beef with mustard and pour the red wine into the bottom of the pot, along with a large glass of water. Put a lid on the pot and cook in the oven for 5 hours, basting the beef with the surrounding liquid once an hour. Add a little extra water if necessary during the cooking time.

4. After 5 hours remove the beef and leave to rest on a warmed serving plate, covered with foil and a dish towel.

5. As it rests, put the pot back on the hob and heat until the remaining liquid starts to bubble. Add the corn flour and stir to combine. Slowly add the stock until the gravy is the consistency that you like. Strain.

As the brisket is so tender, it will easily be shredded using two forks so no carving is necessary (can I hear cries of delight?!). I served the beef brisket with mashed potatoes, which I think is essential when you have a rich gravy on the side, and steamed cabbage slathered in butter and generously sprinkled with black pepper.

This dish would also go perfectly with the traditional Sunday roast trimmings of roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, but unless you have a second oven then the timings can get tricky since the beef cooks at such a low temperature. Either way, I promise you are going to love this cut of beef for Sunday dinner as much as a flashy sirloin cut. Humble and delicious.


Happy New Year gorgeous readers! I hope your festive break was filled to the brim with your favourite people, your favourite food and drink, and your favourite films, music, books and games. I know mine certainly was, and so much more. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much. You know that kind of laughter that makes your stomach and throat hurt and your breathing difficult? Yeah, that.

And so now it is January. The fruit bowl has been piled high, the vegetable drawer in the fridge is stuffed full and gym memberships have been renewed with gusto. I have just discovered Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga and what a revelation it is. I had forgotten how amazing just a short yoga practice every day is, plus there is the bonus that Adriene is an absolute babe. Serious babe crush going on.

But on the other hand, we are still in the depths of winter. The days may be getting gradually longer, but it really doesn’t feel like it right now. So let’s all agree that we still need some comfort food every now and then, yeah? We can stick to stir-fry and steamed vegetables and baked fish during the week, but on a Sunday night let’s snuggle up together on the sofa, wearing our comfiest pyjamas, with steaming bowls of stew and glasses of red wine. Cheers to that.

Ingredients (serves 2-3) 1 generous tbsp dried ceps (aka porcini mushrooms) 2 small onions, finely chopped 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped 2-3 small carrots, cut into chunky wedges 2 medium parsnips (or in my case, one daddy, one mummy and one baby parsnip), cut into chunky wedges 350g beef shin 180g mushrooms, either cup or button Large glass of red wine 2 bay leaves 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas mark 2. Lightly crush the dried ceps in a mortar and pestle.

Cover with a few tablespoons of hot water and leave to soak. 2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole pot or pan and gently fry the onion and garlic over a low heat for 5-10 minutes until soft and just beginning to brown.

3. Turn the heat up so the onions sizzle and add the carrots and parsnips, mixing well to coat them in oil. Allow the vegetables to cook for another 5 minutes.

4. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Add a little more olive oil and wait until very hot. Generously season the beef shin with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan. Fry on a very high heat for a couple of minutes until brown and caramelised on both sides.

5. Pour the wine into the pan and bubble for 3-5 minutes to reduce the liquid by about one third.

6. Add the vegetables back into the pan, along with the now-rehydrated ceps (including the soaking water), and stir. Season and tuck a couple of bay leaves into the stew, pop the lid on the pan and put into the oven.

7. Remove the stalks from the mushrooms, peel and cut in half. If you’re using button mushrooms then skip this step and use them whole! Ain’t nobody got time for that.

8. After an hour and a half remove the stew from the oven and stir in the mushrooms and redcurrant jelly. If necessary add a splash of water to the stew.

9. Continue to cook the stew in the oven for a further 30-60 minutes. The meat should be beautifully tender and the relatively large amount of fat in the cut of beef shin should have melted away into the sweet, rich liquid.

Serve with potatoes, cooked in the style of your choice, or some lovely fresh bread which you can use to mop up the delicious sauce. And of course, since it’s January, I suppose some steamed vegetables on the side will help to make us feel that little bit more virtuous.


Last week was named Salad Week and we had different summer salads from sweetcorn salsa to refreshing watermelon to raw fennel. All delicious, healthy dishes, packed with strong flavours and perfect for summer eating. However, in the interest of balance this week will be all about booze and frying.

In our house, sangria means New Year (or Hogmanay as we call it here). A slightly odd combination, I’m not actually sure where it came from, but it’s now a firm family tradition. Sangria is one of my favourite alcoholic cocktails, and when I’m in Spain I can drink it by the bucket load with a bowl of olives and be happy with the world. It’s the perfect drink to make for a barbecue during the summer, or for any occasion that involves lots of people, as you can multiply up the quantities to serve as many as you like – just make sure you have a jug big enough!

This recipe is based on one from Katie Stewart’s Cookbook (our cooking bible, as I mentioned before), with a little extra booze and fruit thrown in for good measure. You can follow this exact recipe to start with, but adapt it to your own taste as you learn what works for you. I’ve had some sangrias in Spain that have enough liquor to get you under the table after just a couple of glasses (I remember one particular concoction at a beach bar which included nearly every spirit in the bar – actually very delicious, but totally deadly) so experiment with different spirits if that’s up your street. If you have a particularly sweet tooth then use lemonade instead of soda water, but personally I find this too much. As for the fruit, basically anything goes. We added peach in to this batch and it worked a treat, as would nectarine. Melon is a great addition to sangria, though some people don’t like the taste. I should probably tell you to get a half decent wine to use, and in fact a Rioja is a perfect option if you find a nice bottle, but really this is a great opportunity to use a cheaper wine. Once the fruit, spirits and soda have gone in, no one will be any wiser. Even more true after a couple of glasses have been quaffed.

Ingredients 1 orange 2 lemons Any other fruit you like e.g. apple, peach, melon 1 tbsp sugar 1 tbsp brandy 1 tbsp cointreau 70cl bottle of red wine, chilled

350ml soda water, chilled

Method 1. Chop the fruit into similarly sized pieces. Remove any pips from the lemons and orange, but leave the skin on.

2. Place the fruit into a large jug and pour over the sugar and spirits. Mix well and leave to marinade for at least an hour.

3. Add the chilled red wine to the jug and leave for at least another half hour.

4. When ready to serve top the sangria up with soda water. You can alter the quantities of soda water to your taste, depending on whether you like the sangria weaker or stronger.

5. Fill glasses with ice and pour over the sangria with some fruit pieces.

Serve as a punch at a party, with the main course of a Spanish meal or as an aperitif with olives, some sliced Manchego cheese and serrano ham or just some fresh crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Close your eyes as you sip and you could nearly be on the beaches of Spain.