Peyton & Byrne’s Victoria Sponge

My cousin Jess was coming to tea this afternoon. I love any excuse to use my tea set, and if I’m going to host any sort of gathering (even just tea for two) I’m going to do it properly. Cucumber sandwiches are easy, and a Victoria Sponge is a classic British cake. Peyton & Byrne’s recipe, which I tried for the first time today, calls for fresh strawberries (so this is definitely a summer or early autumn cake, if you’re a seasonal eating fan) and a large amount of whipped cream.

The recipe is a little different, in that the weight of the eggs determines the weight of the remaining cake ingredients. That’s the sort of precision I like!

Peyton & Byrne’s Victoria Sponge

For the cake:
4 medium eggs
The weight of the eggs and their shells in:
Self raising flour
aster sugar
utter (plus a little extra for greasing)

For the filling:400ml double cream (though you can use half this amount if you’re feeling a bit less decadent)
Strawberry jam (enough for spreading – I used Tiptree’s)
1 punnet fresh strawberries, washed & sliced

Icing sugar for dusting, and one strawberry for decoration

Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Grease a 20cm diameter/7cm high cake tin, and line the bottom with baking paper.

Use the eggs to determine the weight of flour, sugar and butter. In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add one egg, and a heaped tablespoon of flour, and mix in well. Add the remaining eggs in the same fashion. Then add the rest of the flour and mix until just combined.

Scrape the mix into the tin and bake in the oven for 3

5-40 mins, or until the sponge springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted to the centre comes out clean. Allow the sponge to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out from the tin to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, use a serrated knife to slice the sponge in half to create two discs.

Beat the double cream until thick. Spread a thick layer of jam on the top of the bottom cake disc. Follow this with a layer of whipped crea

m. Sprinkle all but one of the sliced strawberries over the cream, then add the remaining cream on top. Place the final cake disc on top and force the cream out of the sides a little. Dust the top and sides with icing sugar, and decorate with the last sliced strawberry.

Serve with cucumber sandwiches and proper leaf tea.


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Saturday March 19th 2011 – Super Greens Soup

Soup makes the world (well, my world) go round.

Super Greens Soup
(serves 1 for several meals)

1 litre stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 leeks, trimmed, halved and chopped
200g broccoli florets
2 courgettes, halved and chopped
2 handfuls kale
2 handfuls spinach
zest and juice of 1 lime
100g chopped fresh coriander
Cream or yoghurt (optional)
olive oil (for softening onion)
salt & pepper

Make up the stock. Chop the onion finely. Trim, halve and chop the leeks. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and leek and soften for a couple of minutes.

Add the stock, then the broccoli, courgettes and kale. After four or five minutes add the spinach, lime and coriander. After another four or five minutes, or once the vegetables are all soft, remove from the heat, and liquidise (my Braun Multimix was the best birthday present I’ve ever had). Add salt & pepper to taste.

If you want, add a little cream or yoghurt to thicken the soup, but it shouldn’t need it.

Posted in Any Main Meal, Light&Healthy, Soups, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Sunday 13th March 2011 – Crumpets with Butter and Honey

Sometimes, reliving the simple tea time joys of my childhood is all I need. Freshly toasted crumpets, smothered with butter and honey (or jam, or Nutella, or Marmite…) always hit the spot at four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. You can make your own or just buy them ready made.

They freeze beautifully.


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Thursday 10th March 2011 – Bird’s Wild Mushroom Risotto

picture credit -

One of the difficulties in replicating my cooking is that the measurements I use are an inaccurate science. As a British girl used to counting calories and alcohol units in grams and millilitres and following her mother’s recipes in ounces and pints, some of my measurements are metric, some are imperial, and some are a mix of experience and pure guesswork.

My best recipes come out of this, and amongst them is my mushroom risotto. After an initial shameless crib from the side of a Waitrose tub of dried wild mushrooms, it has developed as I have added bits to it and discovered my own balance.

The kirsch really brings out the flavours in the recipe. If made with vegetable stock, this recipe is vegetarian. But keep the parmesan.

Bird’s Wild Mushroom Risotto
(for one)
75g risotto rice (carnaroli is best)
3 small shallots or half a medium onion
600ml of chicken or vegetable stock
half a cup of white wine
a good knob of butter/a tbsp olive oil
a handful of dried wild mushrooms
two handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
a shot of kirsch
25g grated fresh parmesan
salt & pepper

Throughout this recipe, keep an eye on what the pan’s doing, and if in doubt, stir.

Chop the onions/shallots very finely. Then, if you’re not using fresh stock (god knows I don’t) make up your pint of stock now. My favourite is Marigold’s Swiss Vegetable Bouillon ( (which also makes an amazing consommé type base for Alpine soups). You probably won’t need all of it but it’s always better to have more stock than needed.

Warm a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Put in the butter or oil and leave to heat up. Add the onion/shallots and soften. Add the rice, stir for a minute and a half or so. Add the first 150ml of stock, stir hard, and turn down the heat. Put in the mushrooms. As the mix dries out, add more stock, bit by bit.

The whole cooking process should take about twenty minutes from when the first stock goes in. At ten minutes, add the wine, at fifteen, the kirsch, and at eighteen, the spinach and most of the parmesan, leaving a little to sprinkle over the top. Keep stirring and serve when mostly dried out. Use salt and pepper to your taste.

Picture credit –

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Sunday 6th March, 2011 – Quinoa, Kale & Tofu Salad

Sundays always feel like they should be days of abstinence. After a breakfast of yoghurt, sultanas and maple syrup, I headed to Waitrose. Tinned artichoke hearts, lime pickle and carrots were the order of the day, and when I got home, I made the quinoa, kale & tofu salad which has become my standard need to feel healthy meal.

My thoughts are already turning to supper – cheese fondue on toast, perhaps, to use up some of the bottle of kirsch that’s been lingering at the back of my cupboard.

Quinoa, Kale & Tofu Salad (for one)
75g quinoa, washed
200g kale
100g firm tofu
soy sauce, to marinate
1 tbsp Spice Shop shellfish & mussel seasoning

Cube tofu; place in a large bowl and leave to marinate in soy sauce and seasoning mix.

Boil the quinoa in water for approximate 15 minutes. About half way through, put the kale on to boil in a separate pan for approximately five minutes.

Drain first the kale, then the quinoa,  and rinse with cold water to ensure they are cold. Drain thoroughly, add to the bowl of tofu and soy sauce and mix.

If not feeling abstinent, or requiring hair of the dog, serve with a couple of glasses of wine.

Posted in Light&Healthy, Lunches, Salads | Leave a comment

Saturday 5th March, 2011 – Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet

Home to Surrey for lunch and to see Mummy and the dogs. Lunch was chicken, asparagus and lemon cassoulet from the Leon cookbook I bought Mummy for her birthday. After lunch we took the dogs for a long walk at Parsonage, and then I headed back into London to see Black Swan at the Curzon Millbank with W. Supper was at Pizza Express on the South Bank after a stroll in the rain.

Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet (serves 2)
(original recipe from Leon)
1 lemon zested and juiced
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 glass white wine
3 tbs olive oil
200 ml hot chicken stock
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
4 tbs fresh breadcrumbs
2 chicken Supremes, skin on
lemon wedges
1 bunch asparagus
salt and pepper
1 medium onion diced
1 x 400g tin haricot beans

Put lemon zest, lemon juice, ½ garlic, 2/3 olive oil, thyme and plenty of black pepper into a dish.  Add chicken, coat and leave in fridge to marinate overnight.

Chop asparagus stalks into 4cm pieces, save 2 whole spears for the top. Heat remaining oil in frying pan; take chicken out of marinade, season well, lay it skin side down in the hot oil. Once skin is light golden brown, take the chicken out of the pan and rest it skin side up.

Tip onion into the pan, stir for a minute or two. Keeping heat up, add reserved marinade, rest of the garlic and fry for another couple of minutes.  Stir in drained beans, bay leaves, stir, pour in wine and reduce by half. Turn off heat, add asparagus and season.

Tip all into ovenproof dish so beans are filling it pretty much to the brim, then press chicken skin side up so the flesh is same level as the beans.  Pour in hot stock so you can just see it below the beans. Scatter breadcrumbs all over the beans but not the chicken, lay last two asparagus spears on top of the breasts, give a light drizzle of oil.

Bake at 200*C for 30 mins.  Serve with piece of lemon on the side.

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