Snowy breakfast bread

Winter is here!! I can't tell you how happy this makes me! Finally some cold weather to warrant the cosy knitwear I am longing to wear. Time to light the fires and snuggle down.

Weather like this needs good food - comforting, home cooked and generous so this weekend I will share some fabulous recipes to keep out the chills and warm the cockles.

Baking is a wonderful thing to do on a cold weekend day, this bread is simple but incredibly delicious. It is best eaten the day it is made, but it's so quick to make you can start it now and be eating straight from the oven bread for breakfast in a matter of a couple of hours. Or if you prefer, make this bread the evening before and let it rise in the fridge overnight. you can then shape and bake it in the morning!


When I see beautiful shining golden tresse (also called a zopf in Austria) in a boulanagerie I just cant resist buying them. Something about the way they pull apart along the lines of the plait is so satisfying. They are crying out to be dunked into really good hot chocolate (pxx) or smothered in butter and honey before a big day on the mountain.

Makes 2 plaits

15g fresh yeast or 7g sachet dried fast action yeast

240ml warm full fat milk

500g plain flour

8g fine salt

2tsp honey

60g unsalted butter, melted

1 free range egg, beaten to glaze

Mix the yeast with 50ml of the warm milk and set aside. Place the flour and salt in ta bowl, add the egg, honey, butter, the rest of the milk and the yeast mixture. Mix until you have a soft dough then turn out onto a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic.

Put back into a clean bowl and cover with lightly greased cling film and leave in a warm place to double in size, this might take a couple of hours.

Divide into two and then split each half of dough into three even pieces. Roll out three of the pieces and pinch the tops together then plait the dough all the way down and press the bottoms together. Transfer to a greased baking sheet and repeat with the other half of dough.

Cover with the cling flim again and leave to prove for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 180c. fan 160c. Brush the loafs with the egg and bake for 30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool a little then serve.

weekend baking beauty

When I first starting writing this recipe and thinking about how to make it for the shoot for Winter Cabin Cooking, I confessed I was slightly daunted. All my research showed these amazingly delicate layer cakes with perfect frosting which, I though, I could never achieve let alone on a shoot day with 7 other dishes to prepare! How wrong I was! When I came to test this recipe I realised just how simple it is, no really, it IS! Yes it takes time, you have to make the layers and there is chilling involved but nothing about it was difficult or panic inducing. Once I got over my initial shock as to how many layers this cake needed and succumbed to its making I found it to be a simple cake masquerading as a technical challenge.

It is a fabulous dessert style cake that any weekend baker should try, I urge you to give it a go and see for yourselves!

Esterhazay cake

I love the way this cake looks with its spiders web icing and they way it cuts to reveal it's layered insides.

For the sponge

400g blanched hazelnuts

3tbsp plain flour

9 egg whites

200g caster sugar

for the filling

9 egg yolks

200g caster sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

225g unsalted butter, softened

20g cocoa powder

for the top

3tbsp apricot jam

40g dark chocolate

3tsp vegetable oil

300g icing sugar

1tbsp lemon juice

warm water

Heat the oven to 160c fan 140. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Cool and then blitz in a food processor till roughly chopped. Take out 150g and set aside. Add the flour into the food processor and blitz again to a fine crumb.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until it reaches stiff peaks then whisk in the sugar, a bit at a time until you have a smooth glossy meringue. Fold in the hazelnut and meringue mixture. Line baking sheets with parchment and draw on 5 x 20cm circles. Divide the meringue mixture between the circles and spread evenly then bake for 16 minutes until golden brown and not sticky to the touch. You may need to do this in batches but let the baking sheets cool in between batches if you do. Allow to cool somewhere flat.

Make the filling. Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl with the vanilla extract and place over a bowl of barely simmering water and whisk with an electric hand whisk until pale and voluminous. Remove from the water and whisk for a few more minutes then leave to cool completely. Beat the butter until really light and fluffy then fold in the cooled egg mixture and the cocoa powder.

Peel all the meringues off their parchment. Place one on a clean piece of baking paper on a baking sheet and spread with about a quarter of the buttercream. Top with another meringue and layer up in this fashion, ending with a meringue. Save a little of the icing and spread around the outside of the cake. Top with another piece of parchment then place a baking sheet on top. Weigh down with a couple of cans and chill for an hour.

Melt the apricot jam in a pan with a tbsp of water then push through a sieve until smooth. Place the chilled cake on a cake plate, still on its bottom layer of parchment. Spread the apricot jam over the top. Chill for a little.

Melt the chocolate with half the oil in a small bowl over simmering water. Pour into a small disposable piping bag and set aside.

Whisk the icing sugar and lemon together with the rest of the vegetable oil then gradually add warm water a little at a time until you have a smooth spreadable glaze.

Pour about half the glaze over the cake and smooth out – don’t worry if it drips down the side. You can add more glaze if you need to, you want to create a really smooth layer. Snip a small hole at the bottom of the chocolate piping bag and pipe a spiral of chocolate over the icing.

You now need to make the lines. Use the tip of a sharp knife to drag 6 lines from the centre of the cake to the outside. Then in between each out ward -line, drag the tip of the knife back into the centre of the cake. You should end up with a spider’s web effect.

Clean the sides of the cake with the sides of a spatula and then press the reserved 100g of chopped hazelnuts all around the edge.

Chill overnight.

Carefully remove the parchment and pop back on your cake plate and you are ready to serve.

Warming autumn soup

I'm a huge fan of soups - all kinds, smooth, chunky, creamy and rich, spiced and fragrant, thin broths or filling stews, you name it I love it.

This little number is from my book Winter Cabin Cooking, and reminds me of mountain side lunches with hunks of crusty French bread and wedges of nutty local cheese, washed down with a crisp cool beer. It works equally well on a gloomy Wednesday in November, something to warm you from the inside out.

Celeriac and parsnip veloute

I adore veloute, which means velvety in French, smooth and creamy and, well, like velvet in the mouth. A big bowl of steaming veloute that clings enticingly to your bread as you dunk it.

serves 4

1 celeriac (about 500g)

2 parsnips (about 350g)

2 small onions, one halved and one finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

5 sprigs thyme

100g unsalted butter

100g peeled chestnuts

100ml whole milk

2tbsp madeira

squeeze of lemon juice

double cream to serve

Peel the celeriac and parsnip and finely chop the flesh. Put the skin and 100g of the each of the vegetables into a pan with the halved onion, the garlic and half the thyme. Cover with 1.2ltr water and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock.

Heat the butter in a pan and add the finely chopped onion and fry for 10 minutes until soft. Add the remaining flesh of the parsnip and celeriac and the chestnuts and remaining thyme. Cover with the reserved stock and milk and simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Strain, reserving the liquid and then whiz the solids in a blender until smooth (you will get a smoother soup this way than if you blend in the pan with a hand blender). Return pureed vegetables to the pan through a sieve and add enough of the cooking liquid to form a rich veloute. Season to taste and add the madeira and a little squeeze of lemon. Bring back to a simmer then serve with a good swirl of double cream.


Bonfire night has becomes something of a big deal in my family. Fed up of municipal displays with crowds of people jostling for space, cheese music accompanying the pyrotechnics, and dire food from crappy fast food vans we have taken to a diy approach.

The last few years have seen our fireworks parties becoming part of the calender for lots of friends and their families. Not to blow our own trumpet too much but our parties are pretty legendary and this year was no exception.

Friday was spent cooking up a storm - like any good party - food is at it's heart. Keeping it simple we opted for simple but flavour packed curries - recipes I love from my dear friend Dhruv Baker from his book Spice which I styled. Yellow pork, the most simple recipe you can imagine where chunks of pork simmer gently in a spiced yoghurt mixture until it falls apart, and a chickpea and aubergine curry which I adapted. Rice was too much of a faff for 60 plus people so opted for naan breads - from tooting - the best naans in the land - nothing like the packets of supermarket naans that are dense and chewy - these are light and buttery and melt on your tongue as you scoop up sauce greedily. The key is to smear them in butter and wrap in foil to warm up.

Toffee apples are a must for bonfire night -especially one with lots of smalls, and cake for grownups. My gingerbread recipe from my first book Winter Kitchen fitted the bill nicely - rich and gingery, and to complement it a pear upside down cake. pear and ginger have got to be one of the best combinations. To finish it (and everyone else) we picked up local beer from Millis Brewery, aptly named Wobbler and Guzzler.

Saturday morning dawned, pissing with rain. Not to be put off - and putting our faith the forecast - we ploughed on - setting up tents, festoon lighting, braziers to keep the mulled cider warm and stocked up the bonfire. The bonfire was HUGE this year! we set it burning at 11.30 and it was nicely ready for bulking up when guests started arriving at about 4.30.

Dad had excelled himself with more fireworks than you can image and the boys had great fun setting them all up ready to fire.

True to its word, the skies cleared and the night became clear and perfect. About 60 revellers and their offspring joined us to help celebrate, it was, in short, a wonderful evening.



makes 8

8 small crunchy apples

400g caster sugar

3tbsp golden syrup

1tsp white wine vinegar

Pour a kettle full of boiling water over the apples then drain and run under cold water. Dry and push wooden lolly sticks into each apple. Set up a tray lined with baking paper.

Put the sugar, syrup and vinegar in a pan with a good splash of water. over a low heat, melt the sugar. once it has melted you want to increase the heat and bubble until you have a dark rich caramel - about 115 degrees on a sugar thermometer but it is pretty easy to tell, when it starts to turn a dark amber and smells like caramel.

carefully dip the apples into the caramel, allow the excess to drip back into the pan then stand on the baking sheet to cool and harden.