Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Fearnely-Wittinghstall’

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Kitchen Crush

November 14, 2011

As may be apparent from the previous post my current, primary kitchen crush is with Dan Lepard. An extra helping of his recipes courtesy of last week’s Saturday Guardian provided these spicy Bonfire Night Biscuits.

A quick and easy recipe to knock up even if you’re not lucky enough to have a bonfire in your back garden to provide the autumnal smell of wood smoke, the aroma of these baking in your kitchen will make the dullest November day sparkle. The recipe asks for glace ginger but I used stem ginger and the comments section suggest that crystalised would do just as well if you wanted. I also cut out into rounds and adjusted the baking time down a bit to compensate. The base biscuit recipe I imagine is adaptable by swapping the spices and additions – I’m planning a Christmas version. Watch this space.

My other current crush is on Mr Hugh Fearnly-Wittingstal. My summer holiday this year was spent in Dorset taking part in the Four Day  Cookery Course at Park Farm, the headquarters of River Cottage. They run day courses that cover everything from bread and baking to curing meat, even seashore foraging.

I’ve long wanted to do the four day course; which dedicates a day each to meat, fish, veg and bread and baking; and I’m so glad that I did. It’s not cheap, but I turned it into my summer holiday – with a few days spent exploring and walking the surrounding area – and I can honestly say that having done the course it was the best value for money of any holiday I have ever taken.

I’ve tried to blog about it, but I can’t find the words to do the week justice. I could write a list of the dishes cooked, decipher my notes into recipes to share with you, but this would not convey what I learnt or the fun that I had. The team at Park Farm go out of their way to ensure you have good fun and the hours whip by as their share their passion and knowledge and you share, with the others on the course, the fruits of your labour.

I made and ate things that I would not normally try and it has given me more confidence in the kitchen and with my palate and skills. Should I try to more accurately describe all that I learned, made and ate I would run out of adjectives by the first lunchtime. There are photo’s on my Flickr page which chronicle the dishes cooked and eaten over the four days and I hope they give an indication of the fun that was had.

On the course I bought a copy of  ‘River Cottage Veg Everyday!’ book – the latest from Hugh. It accompanies his current TV Programme where he extolls the virtues of a veg based diet by giving up meat and fish for the summer. The book accompanies his current TV show on C4 which follows the usual River Cottage format of HFW taking something he’s passionate about and making an entertaining and informative programme to share his passion. Whilst Hugh isn’t going to be a life long vegetarian he wants us to eat more veg and realise that veg-centric meals needn’t be dull.

The book is broken down into sections on salads and soups, raw things and bready things and mezze and tapas to name a few.

First off for me was the veggie biryani made for 12 – want to feed a crowd? Who could ask for more than succulent spicy veg with curried rice garnished with crunchy almonds? A breeze to prepare and cook, and if you can lift the casserole dish containing enough for 12 people and carry it to the table to reveal and serve, all the better (I needed help just getting it out of the oven – damn you Le Cruset with your sturdy based pans, wrist splints should be sold alongside them IMO).

For dips and salads, please make the roasted carrot hummous – this has replaced Peamole (it is what it sounds like) as the dip-tastic choice of the season and the raw beetroot and walnut and cumin salad add a fab crunchy side – try it with a smoked fish platter.

Above is a warming Sunday night dinner for friends, a puy lentil and spinach soup (made with the veg stock recipe from the same book) filling and warming, perfect  after a long walk in the crisp autumnal sunshine. Should you want a little meat in there, I added some pancetta as there were some in the fridge that needed using. I don’t think Hugh would mind.

What I enjoy about veggie cooking, and all the things I’ve made from this book so far, is the ease with which each dish is adaptable in terms of using up what’s in the fridge or buying what’s currently in season. I feel more able to play around without the meat – perhaps because the total cost of the dish is cheaper so the risk is less. Perhaps also just because I’m more comfortable with cooking veg and less fearful of over or under cooking and more confident of how the dish will fare as leftovers. I’ve made more than I’ve covered here, and yet more are flagged. This book is one that I will return to over and over again.

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Getting Fruity with Hugh

January 5, 2011

The pain of last night’s lack of sleep is still too raw (a long, dull story involving new smoke alarms that are ‘charging’. Loudly). However I did at least have Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall and his Date and Orange Cake recipe from last Saturday’s Guardian to keep me company at 4am this morning, that and my lovely new Microplane zester.

Look at it, isn’t it lovely?

The perfect Christmas gift from my brother and family it made short work of zesting the three oranges that go into this moist cake. The recipe was part of a section in the Guardian last weekend about Christmas left overs. Now, I always have dates and oranges in the house for baking purposes but I did actually have a pack of medjool dates still  in their little paper cases, bought for a Christmas treat that didn’t get eaten.

As one of the commenters on the link above noted, and as I’ve found before with Hugh’s recipes, the butter pooled out of the bottom of the tin. Luckily I had placed the tin on a baking tray so it was caught and I didn’t have to spend time scrubbing away at burnt fat on the base of the oven (that would not have improved my day). I would try reducing the butter, to 250g perhaps, but I also wonder if it’s the nuts in the cake that makes it less absorbent especially as these were pulsed from whole blanched almonds so were coarser than pre-ground almonds – of course that’s still reason to reduce the butter should you wish.

I kept the pieces of dates fairly large as they were deliciously moist but have to confess I had only the smallest of tastes of the finished cake from one small section that had stuck to the base where the parchment had come loose. I took the finished cake into work, let it be known it was in the kitchen, and in no time it was gone.

I was fairly sure, in that post-Christmas time of abstinence a rich cake such as this would’ve been nibbled in thin slivers or shunned entirely leaving me time to taste, but it went before I could cut a slice. It went  down well though. Perhaps if you make it you could let me know what you think?

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Wholemeal Honey Cake

August 3, 2009




Not that I believe you need an excuse to eat or bake a cake, but I’m always on the lookout for special occasions for which to get the cake tins out. My good friend C has grandchildren coming to visit this week, had recently given me a recipe for Hugh Fearnely-Wittingsall’s Wholemeal Honey Cake and challenged me to produce one that didn’t sink in the middle as her previous attempts had done. My plan was to spend Sunday morning baking, so when the morning started with 4.30 on my bedside clock at least I knew the kitchen would smell divine by the time the shipping forecast came on.


As the majority of the products from my kitchen get distributed amongst work colleagues I try to keep them nut free (I nearly killed a colleague once – a long story for another time) I dismiss so many recipes on the basis that they full of wonderful crunchy nuts or are based on fluffy ground almonds. A shame as I love nuts and sometimes you can’t just leave them out or find an adequate substitute. But this cake was not for work, it was filled with ground almonds and covered with a liberal sprinkling of slivered ones – wonderful for catching the honey that’s drizzled over when fresh from the oven.


Unfortunately, sink it did. The recipe called for self-raising wholemeal flour which I couldn’t find, so I added an extra teaspoon of baking powder (a possible cause for the slump?) it also seemed to contain an enormous amount of butter – so much so that whilst baking it ran out of the bottom of the tin. It also took an additional 20 minutes of baking until the centre was set, my oven is trusty and I don’t usually have to make such big adjustments – the butter? Were I to make it again I would reduce the amount and I’m tempted to have another go soon as I don’t like to be beaten and would like to see what difference less butter would make (perhaps a whole 100g less?) but I will wait for C to enjoy this one and indicate she’s ready to receive another.




Wholemeal Honey Cake


350g unsalted butter, softened
265g unrefined caster sugar
4 organic eggs
150g ground almonds
150g wholemeal self-raising flour (I used plain wholemeal with an extra 1tsp of baking powder)

1 tsp baking powder
50g flaked almonds
3-4 tbsp runny honey


Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/ gas mark 3. Grease a 24cm diameter, springform cake tin with a little of the butter and line the base with baking parchment.

Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, and cream them together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the ground almonds, then sift in the flour and baking powder and gently fold these in, too.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, scatter the flaked almonds over the top, and bake for 45 minutes (or 65 in my case), or until a knife pushed into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and, while it’s still hot, evenly drizzle all over with honey. Place the tin on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cold.