English Carrot Cake

In the school holidays, it’s always nice to have a homemade cake around for children and drop-in visitors. This is actually a good one for kids to help make and, as it’s moist texture comes from sweet grated carrots, it’s almost one of your five a day! Unlike American carrot cake, this is made with butter rather than oil and has a thin drizzle of citrus icing rather than a thick covering of sweetened cream cheese frosting. I like both versions but this one is a little less sickly.

English carrot cake

  • 285g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs at room temperature, beaten
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 225g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
  • 225g carrots, grated
  • The zest and juice of an orange
  • The juice of a lime
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of pistachio nuts, chopped

To make…

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  • Grease a 900g loaf tin and line the base with baking parchment.
  • In a separate bowl, grate the carrots and stir in the zest of the orange and half of the juice.
  • Sift the flour, bicarb, salt, cinnamon and ginger together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Melt the butter in a small pan and allow to cool slightly, then whisk in the vanilla and eggs.
  • Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add the butter and egg mixture and stir thoroughly before adding and incorporating the carrots. Turn into the prepared loaf tin – once you’ve added the wet and dry ingredients together the bicarb will activate and the cake mixture needs to be cooked immediately.
  • Bake in the centre of the oven on the middle shelf. Set the alarm for an hour and check to see if it’s cooked. The top should spring back when you press it lightly with your fingertip. Ovens vary so pop it back in for another 10 minutes or so if it’s not ready. Be careful not to overbake it as that will dry it out.
  • When the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and set it on a wire rack in the tin to cool for 10 minutes before you turn it out.
  • Once the cake is completely cool you can ice it.
  • Put the icing sugar into a small bowl and stir in the fresh lime juice. Add drops of the remaining fresh orange juice until you have drizzling-quality icing.
  • Drizzle the icing sugar evenly over the cake with a spoon. Scatter over the chopped pistachios. Delicious with a cuppa.
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If you’ve been to Turkey on holiday, it’s highly likely that you’ll have been served a Kisir salad just like this as part of a mezze. The combination of nutty bulgur wheat in spicy tomato and harissa marinade mixed with fresh herbs, cucumber, spring onions and tomatoes is a real taste of summer. This recipe takes about 30 minutes to make and will easily serve six people if you’re serving it with BBQ meats and other Mediterranean side dishes  – we like BBQ courgettes and peppers with it.


  • 250ml boiling water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 generous teaspoons of rose harissa paste (I use the Belazu brand – you can buy it at Sainsbury’s)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200g bulgur wheat, rinsed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon
  • Generous handful each of fresh mint, flat leaf parsley (coriander is also nice), finely chopped
  • Six spring onions, cleaned and finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered

To make…

  • Mix the boiling water, tomato paste, salt and harissa paste together thoroughly in a bowl. Add the bulgur wheat, stir, cover with cling film and leave to stand for 15 to 20 minutes until the liquid has been completely absorbed.
  • Prep the herbs, spring onions, tomatoes and cucumber whilst the bulgur wheat is absorbing the spiced tomato liquid.
  • Fluff the bulgur wheat up with a fork and stir in the cumin, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon zest and juice.
  • Stir in the spring onions, tomatoes, cucumber and fresh herbs. Serve at room temperature.
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Stuffed Courgette Flowers with Farleigh Wallop

I love this ‘homage to fromage’ blog, loads of great recipes and well worth following.

Fromage Homage


I can only apologise for more courgettes. But such is my life at the moment. This recipe, however, focuses on the flowers. As abundant as their fruit at this time of year, courgette and pumpkin flowers are all over my allotment. Thanks to an industrious squirrel burying pumpkin seeds all over my garden during the spring, they have also randomly appeared in a selection of borders and pots over here too. Waste not, want not; they are delicious in a risotto with sliced baby courgettes and, of course, stuffed, battered and deep-fried.

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Linguine with tomato and tuna sauce

This is one of those quick, simple, inexpensive but ‘oh so tasty’ pasta dishes that you’ll make over and over again. You only need to use a few basic store cupboard ingredients and you can have this ready for lunch or supper in about 20 minutes.

Linguine bolognese

You will need…(serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons of light olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 400g tin of plum tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar
  • 400g linguine
  • 160g tin of tuna, drained
  • 40g grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To make…

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sweat the onions for about 10 minutes until soft, sweet and golden. Add the tomatoes, sugar and salt, simmer gently.
  • Cook the linguine according to the instructions on the pack – it’s usually 10 minutes in a large pan of boiling salted water.
  • By the time the pasta is ready, the sauce should have reduced. Stir in the tuna.
  • Drain the pasta and tip it into the sauce, coat each strand thoroughly.
  • Serve in warm bowls and top with the Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
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BBQ spring onion and pancetta wraps

Rick Stein made a lovely TV programme this year called ‘Long Weekends’. In one episode he visited Palermo and their famous street food market where he came across these little beauties: spring onions rolled in thin slices of pancetta or very thin slices of streaky bacon and roasted on a hot BBQ until the pancetta is crisp and the onion soft underneath. We now make about three each of these as a BBQ starter and they go down a real treat. Enjoy!

spring onions with bacon

To make…

  • Buy as many bunches of spring onions as will give you 3 per diner and a couple of packs of good quality pancetta (I use Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the difference’ or Waitrose own brand), you’ll need one slice per onion. If you use streaky bacon it must be very thinly sliced or it won’t adhere to the onion and it will unravel during the cooking process.
  • Prep the onions by trimming both ends and ensure they are clean and dry.
  • Brush the whole onion lightly with a little olive oil and then wind a piece of pancetta or bacon around each one.
  • Using tongs, add the onions onto a very hot BBQ and cook them on each side until they look crisp and golden – it will only take a few minutes. Longer than it will take to eat them anyway!
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