Quick Minestrone

Quick Minestrone

 

This quick minestrone is made up of a selection of vegetables cooked with cannelloni beans and small pieces of spaghetti. It makes for a satisfying lunch accompanied with crusty rolls.

 

Quick Minestrone
Prepares: 8–10 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 20–25 minutes
  • Cooking time: 25 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 4 small carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 x 400g tin (½ x 796ml/28 fl oz can) chopped tomatoes/diced tomatoes
  • 1.8 litres (3 pints) good chicken stock (7½ cups)
  • 85g (3 oz) spaghetti
  • 400g tin (540ml/19 fl oz can) cannellini beans/white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 140g (5 oz) frozen peas (1 cup)
  • fresh basil to garnish


  1. Method
  2. Peel the vegetables and dice into small pieces, about 0.5cm (¼ inch). Heat the oil in a large pan, add the vegetables and stir to coat with the oil. Cook, uncovered, over a medium–low heat until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Then stir in the tomatoes and stock, and bring up to a simmer. Break the spaghetti into small pieces and add to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes.

  4. Finally, add the beans and peas, and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

  5. Serve garnished with basil leaves and accompany with crusty bread or rolls.

Updated May 21, 2017

Victoria Day Sponge Sandwich

Victoria Day Sponge Sandwich with Sprinkles

Next weekend is the Victoria Day weekend here in Canada and, as we are having the family over, I shall make a special dessert to celebrate it.

 

Celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday on May 24 goes back to 1845 in Canada, so I thought I would base a cake on the classic Victoria Sponge Sandwich. Apparently, Queen Victoria enjoyed a slice of cake with her afternoon tea and this cake was named after her.  All I have added is the maple leaf to symbolize the Canadian connection.

 

Victoria Day Sponge Sandwich
 
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30–35 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • For cake
  • 170g (6 oz) self-raising flour/self rising flour (1 cup + 3 tbsp)
  • 170g (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened (¾ cup, or 1½ sticks)
  • 170g (6 oz) caster sugar/white sugar (¾ cup + 2 tbsp)
  • 3 large eggs (U.K.)/extra large eggs (N.A.)

  • For the filling and decoration
  • 115g (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened (½ cup, or 1 stick)
  • 225g (8 oz) icing sugar/powdered sugar, sifted (2 cups)
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 6 tbsp raspberry jam
  • icing sugar/powdered sugar for sifting
  • red sprinkles
  • maple leaf template (I printed a shape found on the internet and made sure the size would fit on the top of the cake)

  • Equipment
  • 2 x 18cm/7 inch sandwich tins, base lined and greased


  1. Method
  2. For cake
  3. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) (gas mark 3)

  4. Using a free-standing mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until they are creamy and pale yellow in colour.

  5. Next beat in the eggs, one at a time, along with a tablespoon of flour. (Adding the flour prevents any curdling)

  6. Finally, carefully fold in the rest of the flour until just combined. You want to keep as much air as possible in the mixture.

  7. Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans and level the tops. Bake towards the top of the oven on the same shelf for 30–35 minutes until firm to the touch. (When pressing a finger gently on top of the cake in the middle it should spring back and not leave a depression)

  8. Leave in the tins for 2 minutes then carefully remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

  9. Using an all-in-one method in a free-standing mixer
  10. The ingredients can be mixed at the same time using a free standing mixer. To make sure you get a good rise, add 1½ teaspoons baking powder.

  11. Sift the flour and baking powder together into the mixing bowl, then add the remaining ingredients and beat for 1 minute.

  12. For the filling
  13. Beat the butter, then gradually beat in the icing sugar/powdered sugar until light and creamy. (A free-standing mixer does this in no time)

  14. Warm the lemon juice and add to the butter icing.

  15. Once the sponge is cool, invert one of the sponges and place on a plate. Reserve two tablespoons of the icing, spread the remaining buttercream over the sponge, and then cover evenly with the jam. Top with the remaining sponge.

  16. For the decoration
  17. Press a piece of kitchen paper over the top of the cake to absorb any excess moisture.

  18. From the template, cut out the maple leaf, leaving the paper around it intact as you will be needing both pieces. Place the maple leaf section in the middle on top of the cake and, keeping this in place, thickly dust the icing sugar/powdered sugar around the edge. Carefully lift off the maple leaf template.

  19. Now, using the other template, cover the icing sugar/powdered sugar. While holding this in place, spread the remaining buttercream over the middle of the cake. Then sprinkle a thick layer of the red sprinkles over the buttercream and gently press down so they stay in place. Very carefully lift off the template.

Updated: July 3, 2017

Country Vegetable Soup

Country Vegetable Soup

 

This is a lovely smooth, thick vegetable soup. It’s quick to make and great for a winter’s day accompanied with soda bread.

 

Country Vegetable Soup
Prepares: 6 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking time: 45 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 55g (2 oz) butter (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 large potato, chopped
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes (½ × 796ml can diced tomatoes)
  • 600ml (20 fl oz) good beef stock (2½ cups)
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • salt and pepper


  • To serve
  • Chopped chives or celery leaves to garnish


  1. Method
  2. Melt the butter in a large pan, add the vegetables and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.

  3. Add tomatoes, stock, tomato purée, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

  4. Remove from the heat, cool slightly, then purée in a blender.

  5. Pour into a clean saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes.

  6. Check seasoning and serve garnished with chives or celery leaves.

Updated: May 7, 2017

Lemon Roulade

Lemon Roulade

 

The light, rolled sponge in this Lemon Roulade is filled with a zesty lemon curd and creamy mascarpone filling. Just heavenly!

 

Lemon Roulade
Prepares: 8 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 1 hour
  • Cooking time: 25 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • For the lemon curd
  • 3 lemons
  • 3 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.)
  • 125g (4½ oz) caster sugar/white sugar (½ cup + 2 tbsp)
  • 85g (3 oz) butter at room temperature (⅜ cup, or ¾ stick)

  • For the sponge
  • grated zest of 1 lemon (prepared from a lemon used in making the curd)
  • 55g (2 oz ) butter at room temperature (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
  • 115g (4 oz) caster sugar/white sugar (½ cup + 1 tbsp)
  • 2 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.)
  • 115g (4 oz) self-raising/self-rising flour, sifted (⅔ cup + 2 tbsp)
  • a little icing sugar/powdered sugar, sifted, for dusting

  • For the cream filling
  • 250g mascarpone (straight from the fridge)
  • 200g fromage frais (straight from the fridge)
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar/white sugar

  • For the icing
  • 1 lemon
  • 55g (2 oz) icing sugar/powdered sugar (½ cup)

  • Equipment
  • A 23 × 32.5 × 1cm (9 × 13 × ½ inch) deep baking tin/pan lined with baking parchment and lightly greased.


  1. Method
  2. For the lemon curd
  3. For this you will need a heatproof bowl that can be sat over a pan of just simmering water. The bowl must not be able to touch the water.

  4. While the water is heating up in the pan, prepare the ingredients. Zest one of the lemons and put this aside for using in the sponge. Zest 1½ of the remaining 2 lemons and place in the bowl. Juice all 3 lemons and add this to the bowl (the 3 lemons should produce 9 tablespoons of juice). Also add the eggs and sugar. Whisk all the ingredients together and then place the bowl over the pan of simmering water.

  5. Add the butter a little at a time to the bowl, whisking between each addition until well blended.

  6. Whisk the curd occasionally to keep the mixture smooth and cook until it has thickened, about 15 minutes.

  7. Remove the bowl from the pan and let the mixture cool. Then cover the curd with clingfilm to prevent it forming a skin and refrigerate so it has a chance to become well chilled.

  8. For the sponge
  9. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6)

  10. Put all the ingredients except the icing sugar/powdered sugar in a large bowl and whisk for 1 minute. Use either an electric hand mixer or a food mixer.

  11. Heat a little water and add 1 tablespoon to the mixture and whisk briefly, just enough to mix in.

  12. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin and smooth it out to an even layer. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes but do not open the oven door before 8 minutes has elapsed or the sponge could sink. The sponge is cooked when if feels springy in the centre if lightly touched with the forefinger.

  13. Remove the cake from the oven and leave it for 5 minutes to cool in the tin.

  14. Meanwhile, cut a piece of baking parchment 40cm (16 in) long and lay it flat. Heavily dust all over with icing sugar/powdered sugar. Turn the sponge out onto the sugared paper and carefully remove the lining paper. Now dampen a tea towel and lay over the sponge and leave for 3 minutes. This will make it easier to roll the sponge but it needs to still feel slightly warm.

  15. To roll up the sponge, lift the paper from one of the shorter sides and fold it over the edge of the sponge. Carefully roll up the sponge and the paper together as tightly as possible. Gently lift onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  16. For the cream filling
  17. Whisk together the mascarpone, fromage frais and sugar until soft and creamy.

  18. To assemble
  19. Unroll the sponge and evenly spread all-over with two-thirds of the lemon curd and two-thirds of the cream filling. Now gently roll up the sponge again but this time more loosely and carefully lift onto a serving plate.

  20. For the icing and decoration
  21. Using a zester, remove the zest from the lemon to get long, curly strands and put on a small plate. Sprinkle over about half a tablespoon of lemon juice and stir to coat the zest strands.

  22. Now to make the icing, sift the icing sugar/powdered sugar into a small bowl and stir in about one tablespoon of lemon juice, enough to make a thin glaze. Using a spoon, and starting at one end, quickly drizzle the glaze across the roulade back and forth, working down the roulade to the other end.

  23. Tip the zest onto a piece of kitchen paper to absorb any excess lemon juice and then scatter the zest over the top of the roulade.

  24. Stir the remaining lemon curd and cream filling together and spoon into a small serving bowl.

  25. The roulade is then ready to be sliced and served with a spoonful of the lemon cream.

  26. Note
  27. The roulade can be made and refrigerated, lightly covered, a few hours in advance and removed 30–60 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

Raspberry Cream Dessert

Raspberry Cream Dessert

 

A very smooth dessert that is quick to prepare. Frozen raspberries are folded into a creamy raspberry mixture that is then left to set.

 

Raspberry Cream Dessert
Prepares: 8 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Refrigeration time: The individual serving dishes will take about 1 hour and the large serving dish will take about 3 hours

  • Ingredients
  • 1 pkt raspberry jelly/jello
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar/white sugar
  • 150ml (5 fl oz) soured cream (⅔ cup)
  • 300ml (10 fl oz) double cream/whipping cream (1¼ cups)
  • ½ lemon, juice only (1½ tbsp)
  • 450g (1 lb) frozen raspberries (4 cups)
  • Crème Frâiche to serve

  • Equipment
  • Large glass serving dish or 8 individual glass dishes


  1. Method
  2. Bring some water to to the boil.

  3. If using a packet of jelly in the UK, pour 150ml (5 fl oz) of the boiling water into a bowl. Separate the jelly into segments and add to the bowl, stirring until the jelly has melted. Then stir in 150ml (5 fl oz) of cold water.

  4. If using jello in North America, pour 120ml (4 fl oz) (½ cup) of boiling water into a bowl. Add the jello, stirring to dissolve and then stir in 120ml (4 fl oz) (½ cup) of cold water.

  5. Stir in the sugar and then the soured cream. Using a balloon whisk, whisk to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

  6. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until soft peaks form and then fold this into the jelly mixture until it is fully incorporated. Stir in the lemon juice.

  7. The raspberries do not have to be fully thawed but they do need to be separated. Add these to the jelly mixture which will be quite runny.

  8. Pour into the large bowl or divide between the individual glass dishes. Refrigerate to set.

  9. When ready to serve, just dollop a spoonful of crème frâiche on the top.

Updated: May 6, 2017