Food, Recipes

Lead me into temptation

Banoffee Pie - sex on a plate

Banoffee Pie – sex on a plate

Auckland baker Jordan Rondel’s first book, The Caker, is an abandoned romp that will tempt you to indulge in the sins of the flesh.

It is, of course, a book about cakes. But oh my! What cakes.

There’s nothing prissy here. No slick and sickly icing, fake flavouring and disappointing conveyer belt perfection. Instead there are seductively simple ingredients and alluringly clever combinations. Honestly. There’s a whole chapter given over to syrups and fillings and toppings that will make you go, Ooh! Including a method for a Black Doris Plum Icing that is nothing short of revelatory.

Teetering layers, tumbled with fresh flowers, these cakes promise nothing but pleasure.

Fruit features heavily. Caramel and Apple Upside Down Cake, Double-Layer Raspberry White Chocolate Cake with Rosewater Creme Icing, Dark Chocolate, Pear and Pistachio Cake with Ganache… Why, I don’t mind if I do.

The photographs, by Babiche Martens, are fashion mag stunning. A gorgeous young woman with bedhead hair bites her lip, a raven-haired beauty runs her fingers along a seemingly bloody blade (on closer inspection, it’s the reflection from a bunch of crimson roses).

As for the food styling… these cakes are positively wanton. They ooze cream, bleed raspberries, drip caramel and chocolate… Frankly, they’re begging to be devoured.

The book itself is a slim paperback volume. Unlike cookery collections destined for the coffee table, it’s light enough to take to bed. Perhaps that’s the point?

Within the covers you’ll find lust, desire, naked greed. And a whole lot of gratification. Talk about sex on a plate.

Let yourself be lured. And, if my words can’t convince you to go out and buy the book, well, let the pie do the talking.

The Caker’s Banoffee Pie

For the caramel
100g butter
100g caster sugar
400ml condensed milk (1 tin)

For the banoffee pie
150g gingernut biscuits, blitzed in a food processor
230g pecans or walnuts, halved
75g butter, melted
3 large, not overly ripe bananas, chopped
250ml cream, softly whipped
cinnamon for dusting

To make the caramel, place the butter and sugar in a non-stick frying pan over a low heat, stirring until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.

Add the condensed milk and slowly bring to the boil, stirring continuously, to make the caramel. As soon as the mixture thickens and begins to smell of caramel, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, place the crushed biscuits and half of the pecan or walnut halves into a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a 22cm diameter tart dish. Press the biscuit base evenly over the base of the tin, packing it down.

Add the chopped bananas to the caramel mixture and combine well. Spread the mixture over the biscuit base andchill for 30 minutes.

Remove from the fridge and spread the whipped cream evenly over the top of the banoffee layer. Place the remaining pecans or walnuts in a circular arrangement on top, and dust with cinnamon.

To store, cover well with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for up to a week.

The Caker


Fay’s Family Food


I wasn’t expecting much from this. So what if it‘s written by an actress? The subject didn’t exactly float my boat either. Family food. Yawn.

Not that I’ve got anything against family food, per se. Food is love, in my book, and feeding your family’s got to be one of the best things ever. But in cookbook-land, the term is usually shorthand for crap.

The obligatory Jamie Oliver quote on the cover did nothing to dispel my doubts. “Witty, fun and great recipes that work!” As if it’s a surprise that a cookbook has recipes that, you know, work…

But I was surprised. The book is a revelation. Fay Ripley can cook. Crucially, she makes the reader want to get stuck into the kitchen and do the same. Chiefly because of the very real charm and warmth conveyed by her writing.

For once, the celebrity chef endorsement is bang on.

You’ve got to love a cook who’s not afraid to admit she gets it wrong sometimes and is no stranger to a burnt pot. But you’re unlikely to go wrong following her recipes, which will see you through everything from breakfast to birthday parties (there’s a kids’ party planner at the back).

The instructions are simple and the finished dishes look stunning without being over the top. Delicious, healthy, and achievable. I can see them appealing to kids and adults alike, and not just because of all the glossy colour pics of Fay’s photogenic family tucking into their five-plus a day.

I know it’s a bit of a cliche now to use all those images of happy families cooking together and enjoying the food, but that’s what it’s all about, eh? And in this sort of thing, it works a treat, making you feel you’ve been invited in. Shots of the kids’ artwork on the walls only enhances the experience.

There’s a pic of every dish, too – important, I’m told, for nervous cooks. A friend once said she never makes a recipe that doesn’t have a picture, because without one she’ll have no idea how it should turn out.

The book’s basic concept will be a boon for time-poor parents, and especially useful for those new to feeding tots: instead of dishing up two or three different meals to keep the whole family happy, you cook one, portioning off bits for baby and toddler before seasoning and serving to the adults.

I even learned stuff. You shouldn’t give rice to babies. Who knew?

The food in here is too good to confine to families though. Confession time again. I don’t have kids, so was going to give this to my sister, who does. But they’re all tough out of luck. This book’s a keeper.

Food, Recipes

Everything’s coming up Rosie


I can’t wait to buy this book!

Tucked away inside bustling Brixton market, Rosie’s Deli Cafe is one of my favourite places to hang out with an espresso, flicking through magazines. And this week I got to flick through an advance copy. Like the shop, and Rosie herself, the book rocks.

I’ve already baked something from it, courtesy of the most recent issue of the Observer Food Monthly. In fact, I was heating up the oven before I’d even finished reading the article.

simplest orange and almond cake
makes 12 shallow slices
6 medium free-range eggs
300g golden caster sugar
200g ground almonds
1 large juicy orange
2 tablespoons water

Use a long rectangular cake tin or a 25cm loose-bottomed tin, lined with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Separate 3 of the eggs, putting the whites aside in a mixing bowl.

Beat the egg yolks with the remaining whole eggs in a large bowl. Add 200g of the caster sugar and all the ground almonds. Thoroughly mix. Grate the orange zest and add this too, keeping the rest of the orange for later.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Using a slotted metal spoon, fold the egg whites into the thick cake mix, a spoonful at a time. Be careful not to knock the air out of the whites.

Now pour this foamy cake mix into the lined tin and place in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour. When the cake is ready a toothpick will come out clean.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin and make the syrup.

Put the remaining caster sugar into a small saucepan and add the juice from the orange and a few tablespoons of water. Place this on a really low heat in order to dissolve the sugar and slightly reduce.

Using a toothpick, plant holes all over the cake and pour the syrup over. Allow the cake to cool and absorb all that deliciousness before you take it out of the tin.


The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, Tarek Malouf

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, Tarek Malouf

Austerity-chic may be the height of fashion in some circles, but for most of us economic gloom brings an urgent need for escapism. And fantasies don’t come much more indulgent than those cavorting across the glossy pages of the first cookbook from London’s Hummingbird Bakery.

This is naked food porn, no doubt about it. The photography is a delight, the camera lingering in loving close-up on food that’s begging to be eaten – cakes are sliced into, forks are laden with frosting, plates are covered in crumbs. It’s a no-holds-barred, unapologetic romp of sugar and butter and chocolate.

Decadent? Yes, but there’s something childlike too in the gleeful abandon of these affordable extravagances, urging the reader to damn the diet and bake their way to a happier place. That place is the 1950s, though the book harks back to America rather than a Britain still constricted by rationing.

It’s a cornucopia of sweet and sticky pleasure: lavish layer cakes, cute cupcakes – over-the-top cakes of all kinds, topped with swirls of candy-coloured buttercream – cookies, brownies and pies, the ultimate diner treat. Who can resist the lure of such adorable confections?

Not me. I say give in to the desire to conjure up the sugary spirit of Doris Day. Don a frilly apron and get baking.

Food, Recipes

Eating with your fingers

When Mole inspected the contents of Rat’s ‘fat, wicker luncheon basket’, he found inside it “coldchickencoldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkins
lemonade sodawater…”

He was an instant convert. As was everyone who ever read, or had read to them, Kenneth Grahame’s classic, The Wind in the Willows. Which is as it should be. Because if there’s one thing in life as much fun as messing about in boats, it’s picnicking.

I think it’s got something to do with being allowed to eat with one’s fingers. Whatever. Food always tastes better out of doors.

KG wasn’t the only writer who made the most of the power of picnics to seduce readers. Characters in Enid Blyton books were at it all the time. Take the Famous Five.

They were always on the scrounge from kindly farmers’ wives who would effortlessly conjure giant slabs of sticky gingerbread, fruitcakes, loaves of fresh white bread and slices of home-cured ham, hardboiled eggs and pork pies. And of course, lashings of ginger beer.The hedgerows segmenting the storybook land over which out intrepid heroes rambled provided juicy blackberries, and Julian was always pulling a battered tin frying pan from his rucksack in which to sizzle a few sausages for supper. They certainly didn’t starve.

Mind you, nor did we at the races the weekend before last – an annual outing to the Wellington Cup to gamble and guzzle fizzy wine. And where the horses always run a distant second to The Picnic.

We usually have about 30 to feed. And while there have been years in the past when I’ve spent the day napping under a tree, tuckered out after pulling all-nighters in the kitchen, I’ve got a better handle on this catering lark now. After all, the cook has to enjoy the day too.

So this year I didn’t cook anything at all, just shopped smarter. What’s more, I don’t think anyone even noticed. After all, we had lovely crusty bread and good cheeses, all manner of dippy, spready things out of little tubs from the supermarket, piles of avocados, crunchy vege sticks, smoked mussels, salami and cold roast chicken, watermelon, apricots and strawberries – and chocolates for good measure.

Like I said, nobody starved.

And it was all so easy. Picnics don’t have to be that lavish though. Just snatching a few minutes in the middle of the day to stroll to a park and eat your lunchtime sarnies there instead of at your desk will put you in a picnicky enough frame of mind to forget the rigours of work for a blissful hour.

Pan Bagna is the perfect picnic sandwich: filled with strongly-flavoured Mediterranean-style ingredients and fragrant with fresh herbs, it’s a sort of salad Nicoise in a bun. Doused in olive oil and tied up with string the night before, it’ll slice well without falling apart.

one baguette, anchovies, black olives, tuna, eggs, roasted red pepper, tomatoes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil

Stone the olives, drain the anchovies and tuna, hardboil the eggs and slice the pepper and tomatoes.

Cut the bread in half through the middle, layer all the ingredients artfully on the bottom half, pack on lots of fresh basil, and drench the lot in olive oil.

Press the other half down on top and tie the sandwich tightly with string. Wrap in tinfoil and refrigerate overnight (anything from four to 24 hours is fine but the longer you leave it the easier it will be to slice).