Molly Cake

At least one of your five a day,  and vegan too – no eggs, no added sugar, no added fat, just yummy.

  •  250g chopped prunes
  • 300 ml water
  • 85 g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 85 g wholemeal plain flour
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 400 g mixed dried fruits (currants, raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, cherries – whatever you feel like)
  • 100g chopped walnuts
  • 80 ml orange juice

900g loaf tin

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C or gas mark 3.

Line a loaf tin with baking parchment.  Chop the prunes (you can do this in a food processor) and put in a pan with the water.  Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and set aside.

Sieve the plain flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a large bowl.  Add the wholemeal flour, mixed fruit, walnuts and ground almonds.  Stir to combine.  Stir in the wet prune mixture and the orange juice and mix well, and spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. Get it into the oven as quick as you can – the baking powder gets activated by the liquid so you need to act fast to keep all the bubbles in the mixture to make it nice and light.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Turn onto a wire rack and cool before slicing.

This could be used as a vegan version of a celebration or Christmas cake – it’s quite dense, and will take marzipan and icing quite well as it doesn’t rise much.  However it won’t keep as long as a traditional fruit cake.

Sausages with lentils

First discovered in Delia Smith’s excellent book “Frugal Food”, but edited to save a bit of cooking time, cut down on the number of pans used, and to make more sauce!  Serves 4, but it’s worth doubling up the quantities and freezing half, as it’s a very useful thing to have in reserve for a quick tea.

  • 500g sausages (about 2 sausages per person)
  • 175g green or Puy lentils
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bayleaf
  • salt and black pepper

Rinse the lentils and put them in a saucepan with 1 litre of cold water. Bring them to simmering point and let them cook gently for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the sausages in a separate deep lidded casserole pan  in the oil until they are coloured (this will be the pan that everything gets bunged into at the end).  If you are using veggie sausages, you might need a bit more oil as they don’t have the fat content of the meaty ones.  Take the sausages out, drain the fat back into the big pan, and add the onions and garlic and let them soften over a low-ish heat for about 10 minutes.  Then add the tomatoes, sugar, thyme and bayleaf, plus some fresh ground black pepper, and add the sausages back into the tomato mixture.  Simmer it all gently without a lid until it reduces a bit.  Your lentils should be cooked by now, so drain them (keep the cooking liquid) and add them to the big pan. Stir it all together and let it simmer again, this time with the lid on,  for another 20 minutes or so. If it looks a bit dry, add some of the lentil cooking liquid.  Taste and add pepper and salt if necessary before serving. If you want to bulk it out you can serve it with something carb-y to mop up the juices – couscous or mashed potato are my favourites, but pasta or polenta would work too.

Microwave clootie dumpling

In honour of Burns Night, we made this and served it with a bucketload of custard.

  • 300ml water
  • 125g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 125g lard (you could use butter)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice
  • 450g mixed fruit – we used currants, sultanas and about 75g of glace cherries
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 beaten eggs

Put the water, sugar, lard, spices and fruit in a saucespan and bring to the boil gently until the fat has melted.  Set aside to cool for a little.

Meanwhile, line a microwavable pudding bowl with clingfilm. Sieve the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl, add the beaten egg and the cooled fruit mix and mix it all together until all of the flour is incorporated.  Pour it into the pudding bowl.  Cook it in the microwave for 9 minutes on full power. Do not cover the bowl while cooking.

Turn it out and serve it with custard, or cream, or whisky sauce.

The above quantity served about 13 but there was some left over (and we did have trifle as well…).

Morgan’s clementine sponge pudding

clementineIn a search for a decent and quick stodgy pudding BUT containing at least *some* fruit, Morgan came up with this last night.  Serves 6, or 4 greedy people.

  • 115g butter
  • 115g sugar
  • 1 tsp baking power
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 large orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 eggs
  • 115gm plain flour
  • 3 clementines, peeled and segmented so no pith remains

Lightly oil a microwave-friendly pudding basin. Put the clementine segments and the golden syrup in the bottom of the basin.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, the orange zest and juice, then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix quickly to combine all the ingredients to a smooth batter.  Pour the batter carefully on top of the clementines and syrup in the pudding basin.  Microwave on full power for 5 minutes and leave to stand for a further 5 minutes.  Turn out onto a plate so that the syrupy clementine sauce runs down the sides of the pudding.

Serve with custard, ice cream or single cream.

eggs in purgatory

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • ¼ teaspoon very lazy chili
  • 1 x 400 grams can chopped tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 large egg (or 2 eggs if needed)
  • 2 teaspoons grated parmesan
  • 2 slices bread 

Heat the olive oil in a small pan, then add the finely chopped onion and fry it over a low heat until translucent. This should take about 10 minutes.  Add the chili and garlic and stir in, cooking for a further minute.

Tip in the tin of tomatoes and stir in the salt, and let it come to the boil. Crack in the eggs and grate a little parmesan over the top. Let it bubble for 5 minutes so that the whites are set and the yolk still runny.

Remove from the heat, taste and add black pepper or a bit of chili powder if it’s not spicy enough,  and serve with some really nice bread – toasted soda farls or Vogel’s barley & sunflower loaf are favourites.

NB it is possible to make this without onion and the parmesan, but I think it doesn’t taste quite as punchy without.

This serves 2, but can easily be scaled up.

the Cullimore “Family Heirloom” chocolate cake

The one and only birthday cake, stolen from the Be-Ro cookery book and still available on their website (but they recommend – horrors! margarine…). Make it with drinking chocolate if you must – but cocoa makes it actually taste of CHOCOLATE.

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • Half level teaspoon salt
  • Half level teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) cocoa
  • 100g butter, at room temperature
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 5 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • Half teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 180°C, gas mark 3-4.  Grease two 8 inch (20cm) tins and put baking parchment at the bottom. Mix the flour, sugar, salt and cocoa together. Rub in the butter.  Beat the eggs, add in the evap and water and vanilla extract. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture and beat well. Split the mixture between the two tins and bake for about 30 – 35 minutes. If it’s slightly undercooked, so much the better (it really shouldn’t be crispy around the edges!).  Turn out onto a rack.  When cold, sandwich and top with the icing.

For the icing:

  • 60g butter
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 250g sieved icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 180°C, gas mark 3-4.  Grease two 8 inch (20cm) tins and put baking parchment at the bottom.

Melt the butter, blend in the cocoa, then stir in the hot milk and vanilla and the icing sugar.  Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and thick.  If it looks like it’s separating, don’t worry, just beat it a bit more and add a bit more hot milk, and if it looks really thin then add some more icing sugar.  Let it cool a bit before spreading it on the two cakes and sandwiching them together.  If the icing’s thick it’s like chocolate fudge, if it’s thinner it goes nice and shiny but you might have to catch the drips down the side of the cake. No hardship there.

Fast cauliflower curry

A totally veggie – or even vegan if you don’t serve it with the raita – super-quick recipe using mainly storecupboard ingredients for those days when you need something fast and full of flavour.  Cheerfully ripped off from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals – but with some changes for convenience (plus I never did like easy-cook rice…)

Serves 4

  • ½ large cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy ginger (or a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated)
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy garlic (or 2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed)
  • 1 onion, grated, or chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy chili
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400 g tin light coconut milk
  • 1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 x 227 g tin of pineapple chunks in juice
  • ½ lemon

For The Rice

  • 1 mug (300g) basmati rice
  • 10 cloves
  • ½ lemon

Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower, then slice it 1cm thick and put it on a hot griddle pan, turning when lightly charred.

Put 1 mug of rice and 2 mugs of boiling water into a  pan with the cloves, lemon half and a pinch of salt, put the lid on and cook on a low heat.  Heat the oil in a large casserole pan and gently fry the finely chopped onion, ginger, garlic and chili for a few minutes until the onions start to go translucent.  Add the garam masala and stir it round for a minute to heat up the spices before adding any of the wet ingredients.

Add the tin of tomatoes, the coconut milk, the drained chickpeas and the pineapple chunks and their juice.  Add the griddled cauliflower, cover the pan and turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil.  It should be ready when the rice is, but if the sauce is a bit sloppy then take the lid off and give it a couple of minutes at a fierce heat, stirring all the time to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice of the remaining half lemon into the curry and season to taste  with salt and pepper if it needs it. Check that the rice is cooked through and drain it if there’s too much water in the pan.  Scatter the torn coriander leaves over the curry and serve with the drained rice.

You can serve this with a quick “raita” of fat-free yogurt mixed with fresh chopped mint leaves, and poppadums, chapatis or naan if you want a bit more carb content with your tea.

filo mini strudels

Something else you can use leftover mincemeat for.

  • 1 packet ready made filo pastry
  • Melted butter
  • 1 jar mincemeat
  • 1 large Bramley apple, peeled and grated

Mix the grated apple with the mincemeat.  Brush a sheet of filo pastry with melted butter and fold in half. Place a spoonful of the apple/mincemeat mixture at one edge, then fold and roll the filo pastry around the apple/mincemeat mixture to make a parcel that looks a bit like a spring roll – the filling should be entirely encased in pastry or it will all burst out the ends. Brush with more melted butter as you fold and roll.  Place the mini strudel on a baking tray, with the trailing edge of the filo underneath (to prevent it unravelling in the oven).  Continue until you have used up all the filo pastry or the mincemeat mixture. Place the baking tray of mini strudels in a medium to hot oven for 10-15 minutes, until the edges of the pastry are crispy and golden.  Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar, with fresh pouring cream or ice cream.


  • olive oil
  • 2 large purple aubergines, cut into large chunks
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • a small bunch of chives or coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • a handful of pitted olives, green or black, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons best-quality herb or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tin of chopped plum tomatoes
  • optional: 2 tablespoons slivered almonds or pine nuts, lightly toasted

Serves 4

In a large pan, pour in a couple of glugs of olive oil, and place on the heat. Add your aubergine chunks and oregano, season with a little salt, and toss around so the aubergine is evenly coated by the oil. Cook on a high heat for around 4 or 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then. (Depending on the size of your pan you may need to cook the aubergine in batches.)

When the aubergines are nice and golden on each side, add the onion and garlic, and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Feel free to add a little more oil to the pan if you feel it’s getting too dry.

Throw in the drained capers and the olives and drizzle over the herb vinegar. When all the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes and simmer for around 15 minutes or until tender. In the meantime, toast the almonds or pine nuts lightly in a dry frying pan until they are slightly coloured but not burned.

Taste the caponata before serving and season if you need to with salt, pepper, and a little more vinegar. Drizzle with some good olive oil and serve sprinkled with the chopped chives or coriander and the toasted almonds or pine nuts.

This works as a lovely side vegetable when hot, as part of a picnic when at room temperature, or with a salad when cold. You can also use it as a pasta sauce if there are any leftovers, although that’s really not a traditional use for it!