roast butternut squash and red pepper soup

IMG_2210When did it get so cold?! This soup is deliciously hearty; warming and fragrant, you can beat the winter blues! Without bacon, it is vegan and vegetarian friendly.


  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into 4 lengthways
  • 1 large clove of garlic, or two medium cloves, left whole
  • Vegetable stock cube
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sage
  • Bacon, if desired


  1. Heat the oven to 160 degrees.
  2. Scatter the butternut squash chunks onto a baking tray. Pour over a generous amount of olive oil, then sprinkle over the cayenne pepper and paprika.
  3. Peel the garlic, and crush under the flat side of a large knife. Nestle the squashed, whole clove in the middle of the baking tray. Season, then place the tray in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until soft and browned. Turn the squash to let the other side soften and caramelise.
  4. Remove the tray from the oven, and transfer the squash into a blender.
  5. Roast the red pepper in the same tray until soft, and add to the blender along with the cooking oil from the tray.
  6. Crumble the stock cube over the pepper and squash, and add enough boiling water to cover the vegetables. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a pan. Add more boiling water if the soup is too thick. Add the sage, and warm over a low heat.
  7. In a frying pan, crisp bacon, then slice into strips. Taste the soup, and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  8. Serve the soup topped with crisp bacon, alongside crusty bread.

egg custard tart

IMG_2188Hand on heart, it is honestly no exaggeration to say that this custard tart has driven me to despair. For weeks I’ve been trying to achieve well baked custard, perfectly seasoned with nutmeg, encased by buttery shortcrust pastry. Many methods, recipes, ingredients, and even baking dishes have been used, and AT LAST: success. I’m not sure if egg custard tart is technically difficult to complete, but I hope that if anyone else has ever similarly struggled, this recipe will give you a disaster-free, fool-proof custard tart.

When Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood set the tart as a challenge on Great British Bake Off, my dad (who swears/lies that he ‘never watches that show’ when in company) said he had fond childhood memories of it being baked by his mum, and devoured by him and his siblings. So I thought I’d make one. It was terrible (the recipe for sweet pastry came out like a cake batter; then like a half burnt flan) and initiated a series of crippling self doubts; an existential crisis unfolded in the kitchen, leading me to bake two more tarts that day, both of which were failures. With no eggs left, I did the honourable IMG_2029thing: turn to beer and call it a day.

Not to be defeated, the next week I tried again [right]. Mixed results: individual components were fine; together, a disaster. The pastry was too thin – it split in the oven, the custard leaked out, dripped onto the tray and onto the oven, leaving a blackened custard and the smell of charred eggy nutmeg. A similar dearth of eggs, and now a depleted alcohol supply.

Growing desperate, I called my granny and asked how she made it. What could be better than to revive the actual recipe that my dad had fond memories of? The one thing she said to do was “watch it – if it’s in there too long, it’ll come out watery and ruined”. I’m pretty sure I was watching it, but it all happened so fast and before I knew it, a watery shiny substance had flooded the pastry case. Broken, I decided to give custard tarts a rest for a while.

But finally. Finally, nearly a month after that episode of Great British Bake Off aired, I have successfully made an egg custard tart. The only problem is, I don’t really like dairy and I don’t have a sweet tooth, so…I’m not sure if it’s for me.


  • 75g butter or margarine
  • 150g plain flour
  • Cold water, as necessary
  • 400ml whole milkIMG_2193
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 51g caster sugar
  • ½ clove of fresh nutmeg, grated finely


  1. Rub the flour and butter together until fine breadcrumbs form. Add tiny amounts of water gradually, just enough to bring it together as a pastry dough. Cover with clingfilm, and chill in the fridge.
  2. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  3. Roll out the pastry 2cm wider than the pastry dish, and line the case, leaving the 2cm extra to hang over the side. Place baking beans in the pastry and blind bake for 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes, remove the baking beans and place the pastry back in the oven to cook through fully for a further 10 minutes.
  5. Heat the milk over a low heat until it just comes to the boil. Grate in nutmeg and stir.
  6. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a large bowl, until pale and fluffy. Remove the milk from the heat, and add to the egg yolks, whisking all the time.
  7. Leave the custard to stand, removing any froth from the top with a spoon.
  8. Take the pastry case out of the oven, and fill with the custard. Grate more nutmeg over the top, and put into the oven for 20 minutes.
  9. The custard should dome slightly, and bounce back when touched. It should have some movement, but not be jelly-like. Leave the custard tart to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
  10. After this time, cut the excess pastry from around the rim of the dish to give an even crust. Remove the custard tart from the tin, and serve.

coffee and walnut cake

P1040045Coffee and walnut is one of my favourite combinations for cake. It’s often not received with as much enthusiasm as sponge or chocolate cake, but honestly, it’s great. Whether you like coffee or not, don’t rule out this cake. I managed to convince my flatmates and I hope this recipe will convince you too! This also works really well in a loaf tin, with lots of creamy coffee icing spread on top when cooled. Slice thinly width ways, and the loaf is perfect as a light afternoon treat!


  • 175g brown sugar (I used Demerara – don’t worry that it doesn’t become ‘pale’ and is a bit grainy – it’s delicious!)
  • 175g butter
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp strong black coffee granules mixed with 1 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tsp baking powder

for the icing:

1 tbsp strong coffee
½ tsp vanilla extract
115g butter
200g icing sugar


  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. It won’t be as pale as usual – using Demerara sugar changes the colour of the butter. Instead, it’ll be a little grainy and a light brown colour, but it gives a sweeter taste and a lovely colour.
  3. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs. Add the eggs gradually to the butter and sugar mix, beating well with each addition. If it begins to curdle, add a little of the flour.
  4. Add the coffee one tablespoon at a time, stirring it throughout the mixture.
  5. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Fold gently with a wooden spoon, working in figures of eight.
  6. Divide the mixture between two lined baking tins, and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
  7. Whilst the cake cooks, make the butter icing: whisk together the butter and icing sugar until fluffy. Be careful not to overwork the mixture, else it might split! Add the vanilla and coffee, and gently stir it through the icing. Cover, and refrigerate.
  8. Once the cakes are cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for an hour.
  9. Then, spread half the icing in the middle of the cakes, and the remaining icing on the top of the cake. Decorate the top of the cake with sliced walnuts, spacing them around the edge of the cake. Serve with cups of tea!