Chocolate Chunk Delight otherwise known as Chocolate Oatmeal Cake

Let me explain. One of my friends told me she had made my recipe for the sticky date flapjack which I wrote about in my blog titled My Hungry Boys. Now whenever she asks her family if they are hungry she says “would anyone like a hungry boy?” So not feeling it for the name of my latest bake – the chocolate oatmeal cake I turned to and asked her if she would like to name this one. I think this title is much more suited.

Anyway let me refresh your memory. For those that didn’t read my latest blog about my virtual experience on BBC Radio York I had to choose a recipe using ingredient/ingredients that people may already have in their store cupboard. The chosen ingredient was oats and I was determined not to source another flapjack recipe. The internet came up trumps and I chose a chocolate oatmeal cake. It is a cross between a brownie and chocolate sponge, perfect for pudding with vanilla ice cream. Some substitutes can be made …..I didn’t have any chocolate chip cookies so broke up chocolate buttons and any type of porridge oats could be used.

If you fancy having a go here we are

Chocolate oatmeal cake

Baking tin
26cm x 16cm baking tin

For the cake
125g golden caster sugar
125g light brown sugar
2 eggs
113g unsalted butter
245g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
140g oats
300g chocolate chips
180 ml boiling water

For the frosting:
70g unsalted butter
6 tablespoons milk
70g soft brown sugar
100g chocolate chips
45g mini marshmallows

What to do:

  1. Prepare the tin first Line the tin completely with baking paper (bottom and sides)
  2. Preheat the oven to 160C/350F/gas mark 5
  3. Weigh out the porridge oats and soak for 10 minutes in the boiling water
  4. Cream the butter until soft and then add the sugars and continue to cream together until pale in colour
  5. To prevent the eggs curdling add a tablespoon of flour into the creamed butter and sugar and then add the beaten eggs gradually.
  6. Once the eggs have been incorporated add the rest of the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa and mix to form a smooth batter.
  7. Add the soaked oats and chocolate chips and mix together.
  8. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes until the surface springs back lightly when touched
  9. Leave to cool completely in the tin before lifting out and leave on a cooling rack

For the frosting :

  1. Melt the butter, sugar and milk in a bowl sat over a pan of simmering water
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Stir until the mixture is smooth and the marshmallows have melted
  3. Pour slowly over the cooled cake TIP keep the cake on the greaseproof paper as you pour the frosting over as it will run down the sides.
  4. Leave to set then lift off the paper, portion and enjoy!



Recipe source: Pinchofyum

I will share a little secret with you

Sunday before last I was on air on BBC Radio York as a guest on Bake of the Day. This was my 6th appearance. Well, I say 6th appearance , this was a totally different experience this time. This time there was not going to be an appearance, I mean no visiting the studio, this time I was going to be on air ‘virtually’. By this I mean that I was going to be in my sitting room with my earphones plugged in and my notes propped up on a table.Why should this be different ? Well I felt very out of my comfort zone this time, I have to admit.This was my 6th time, I knew what to expect, I knew the routine. Normally I would choose my recipe, email my recipe to the editor and bake my recipe.

The date was in the diary and had been for several weeks, way before lock down. Easter weekend came and I wasn’t even sure whether we would go ahead with the show the following weekend. Except I received the email to say it would and could I email the recipe as usual. The brief was if I could share a recipe using ingredients that people may already have in the cupboard. So, I asked my followers which ingredients they had – with some carefully chosen ones suggested – I did need to be able to bake a recipe after all with the chosen ingredient! The votes came in and oats was the winner. Easy peasy, lemon squeasy all I needed to do was come up with a recipe that wasn’t flapjack! Eureka! I found the perfect one….a chocolate oatmeal cake….you could even use left over Easter eggs if you couldn’t buy any chocolate chips. A quick adaptation as it was a recipe with American measurements. I converted the cups to grams and greatly reduced the sugar content. All I had to do was bake it and email the recipe. Nothing new there then. All going swimmingly until Sunday morning arrived.

I got myself set up in the sitting room, mobile tuned to BBC Radio Sounds, earphones in, ready and waiting. My husband then popped his head around the door and said that there was a time delay between the radio and it actually playing live. Oh no! What if I had missed my slot, what if I wasn’t listening to it in real time and it wasn’t going to happen. Hurriedly and rather in a panic I turned the radio off. I sat in silence waiting for the call, waiting for my mobile to ring. 11.25am came and went 11.28am then 11.32am can you imagine how I was feeling now? The allocated time of 11.30am had already passed. Then all of a sudden 11.38am the ring tone I had been waiting for. “Hello Nicola” said the voice on the other end I will just put you through. That was it I was on air except I couldn’t see anyone, no eye contact, no looking at the clock in the studio, no taste testing, it all felt a little surreal.

I felt I was bumbling on with no prompt from the presenter to tell me to stop. So I stopped, I stopped talking. Then there was that deathly pause, no one likes a pause, you always feel like you should fill it with words. Then words came again and I stopped again. Then another voice said “that’s great, thanks Nicola” and I was off air. No more chatting about how corona is affecting my business, how I am managing my business, has my business model changed. None of that. If I am truthful I felt short changed. I had quotes and anecdotes ready to share about people using up stores from their cupboards.

I sat motionless in the sitting room. What had just happened? I wasn’t really sure. All I know is this experience left me feeling a little out of sorts and bewildered. This is the little secret I wanted to share with you but the motto has to be during these tricky times of lock down, life’s experiences will be different and may even make you feel uncomfortable but we will get through this and learn and adapt.

Oh yes, I totally forgot if you would like the recipe I will be sharing it with you all very soon

Nicola x

Feast to famine

How poignant when I sat down in the garden earlier this week to read through my foodie articles that there should be an introduction to a recipe by Yottam Ottolenghi. It totally encapsulates what, as stay at homers – I think I have just made that term up – we are trying to do. I think his description ” to rustle up a meal with stuff that needs to be used up ……it’s brilliant to be reminded of the joys of a fridge raid” sums up the current times. After all, who doesn’t remember the Nigella series with her sneaking down to the kitchen at night to raid the fridge.

Another writer, Tom Hunt also mentions that “the worlds finest cuisines are based on the zero-waste peasant dishes of yesteryear” and that it is “thought that Upper Paleolithic tribes practised food storage techniques, preserving foraged seasonal gluts to eat year round”.

I was therefore delighted when I shared a recipe recently in a facebook group that I am a member of, for celeriac & feta cheese muffins. Another member was reminded of them when she was looking to bake something and adapted my recipe to suit what she had available, replacing the feta with cheddar cheese and the addition of chilli. As the supermarkets gradually begin to refill their sparse shelves again, now that the panic buying is over, we are hopefully not at the feast to famine stage and if there is anything positive to come out of this whole situation it must be people’s attitude towards food and food waste.

It must be a reminder to be inventive with our ingredients and have the confidence to go off piste. So, I am off to look in my cupboard and see what I can rustle up otherwise I am heading off to foradge in the hedgerows to pick some nettles. Watch this space!

Marzipan anyone ?

My kitchen ramblings at the moment all seem to have a common thread running through them…..lock down, food, ingredients, not the right ingredients, saving recipes for post lock down. You get the message.
Today is Good Friday. Now I don’t know if you are like me but Easter this year has suddenly arrived. I have not been excited about buying chocolate eggs or thinking about lunch on Easter Sunday. We are all living in this surreal bubble not knowing which day of the week it is, what time of day it is, having breakfast when we would normally be washed and dressed and starting the day.

I was going to be sharing all sorts of recipes, British and European Easter traditions in the lead up to the bank holiday Easter weekend but in the present climate it doesn’t feel quite right when people are worried about their families, loved ones, jobs etc etc. Traditionally lent – the time for fasting ends on Easter Sunday and is the time when feasting begins after what is classically known as the hungry gap. This was the time of year when Northern Europe struggled to produce much fresh food. However as families can’t be together, for me, to be chatting about chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and Simnel cake doesn’t sit well. So, later today I am going to be baking a lemon and marzipan cake with lemon butter cream and decorated with mini eggs. After all, marzipan is as much a symbol/tradition of Simnel cake at Easter as it is in Christmas cake and is one way I can enjoy cake this weekend.

Happy Easter x

My hungry boys

I have been reading lots of friends posts on social media about the quantity of food that their little ones and not so little ones are eating every couple of hours during this lock down period.

So, I thought what better way than share a recipe that is a favourite with my 2 boys. Well, I say my 2 boys, one is my husband and the other is my 13 and a half year old! I will add one piece is usually enough as it is packed with oats and so normally does the trick of filling them up, for a while anyway .

Sticky date flapjack
What you need:
I use a rectangular baking tin (26cm x 16cm) but you can use a 20cm square one

200g stoned dates (I buy the ones that are already stoned)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g unsalted butter
150g light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
300g rolled oats

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 160C 325F Gas mark 3
1.Line the base of the tin with greaseproof paper and thoroughly grease the sides
2.Place the dates in a pan and sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda over them . Add enough cold water to to cover and bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down to simmer for 5 minutes.Keep an eye on it as it can boil up quite vigorously
3.Leave them to cool then drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of the liquid.

4.Pop them in a blender/ food processor to puree with the liquid.
5.Melt the butter, sugar and honey together. It is helpful to whisk it so that the ingredients all come together.

6.With the oats in a large mixing bowl, quickly stir in the melted butter,sugar and honey until all the oats are evenly coated.
7.As I am a perfectionist I weigh out half the quantity of mixture, approx. 325g and press this into the base of the tin.

8.Then spread the date puree over the oats, leaving about a 1 cm border , as this will help it to not ooze out to much and make it easier to remove from the tin.
9.Gently place the remaining oat mixture in dollops over the date puree. This makes it easier to spread and not get mixed up with the layers too much
10.Then gently press the top layer of oats down.

11.Bake for approx 35 to 40 mins , mine bakes in 37 mins . You want it to be golden brown.Then remove from oven and place on a cooling rack

Top Tip Once it is out the oven , carefully with a non stick palette knife, run this around the edges to loosen slightly. This will make it easier to remove from the tin.
Top Tip leave to get completely cold in the tin then run the pallette knife around the edges once more. With a chopping board over the top, invert the tin and it should come away easily. If not repeat the process with the pallette knife until the flapjack comes out of the tin in one piece .
Top Tip Then place another chopping board on what will be bottom of the flapjack and turn over. This makes it much easier to then cut into portions

Enjoy x


The dates can be replaced with dried apricots . Follow the same method as for the dates but without the bicarb of soda but adding 3 tablespoons of orange juice.

If you would like another recipe for flapjack here is the link to my blog Chewy Muesli Bars.

To buy or not to buy, that is the question

I came across a pastry recipe the other day and it reminded me of a question my husband always asks me. What is the difference between sweet and savoury? Well, I do know that pastry can be used for both dishes. I myself, am not an accomplished pastry chef and will be the first to admit, along with even the top chefs that I buy shop bought whether that is flaky, filo, shortcrust or puff. I am not ashamed to admit it which is probably why I always pass over any pastry recipes for sweet, savoury or otherwise except until I saw this recipe. It was crying out to be baked for my husband and son. Let me explain.

My husband is like Paddington Bear. His love of marmalade is second to none. A day does not go past when he doesn’t eat it. My son’s love for apples is on the same scale. So this recipe is dedicated to them both and the marmalade and apple galette is absolutely a match made in heaven.

We do think Autumn is the season for apples but as supplies of seasonal fruit are much less in February and March and you have had your tummy full of blood oranges and rhubarb why not turn to apples. These keep extremely well as they have been stored since the Autumn along with those jars of home made seville orange marmalade.

Here is a link to my blood orange syrup loaf cake  and a link to my rhubarb, polenta & almond cake.

I am defiantly popping to the shops to buy a pack of puff pastry and may even pop a tub of crème fraiche in my basket too.

Edit: maybe when we are not on lock down !

Marmalade & apple galette
What you need:
flat baking sheet

Ready rolled puff pastry sheet
200g marmalade ( I used my husband’s home made seville orange marmalade)
5 apples
150g soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice
15g butter

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 200C 390F Gas mark 6
1. Put the marmalade in a small pan, warm through until it turns to liquid.
2. Spoon out the peel and place in a small bowl leaving the liquid in the pan, keeping it on a low heat so it doesn’t set.
3. Peel and core the apples and slice into approx 5mm slices. Add them to a bowl with the sugar and orange juice and lastly the marmalade peel.
4. Roll out the pastry sheet to an approximate circle of 30cm and lay on the baking sheet , lined with greaseproof paper
5. Pile the apple mix on the centre of the pastry, spreading it out, leaving a border all around the edge. Bring up the sides of the pastry and fold them over to create a small wall so that the mix doesn’t come up above it
6. Drizzle the marmalade liquid over the apple mix
7. Melt the butter in the pan you used for the marmalade and then brush it over the pastry wall
8. Bake in the oven for approx 30 to 35 mins until the pastry is risen and golden
9. Remove to cool slightly then serve
Enjoy x

Recipe credit: Thomasina Miers

And the result is …….part 2

I started my blog titled “And the result is” with the words “we are now in the height of forced rhubarb season and no, this is not making those long slender pink stems do something against their will in those dark sheds”.Well, my goodness who would ever have known that when I came to write up my recipe for that blog 19 days later that we would be in a forced locked down only being allowed to go out for basic necessities, one form of exercise a day and travel to and from work only if absolutely necessary. As for those dark sheds, one blessing is the glorious Spring days we have had recently and that has meant I could escape into my garden.

Sadly you may not be able to go out to shop for the ingredients for this cake but I hope I can brighten your day just by sharing this recipe with you.

Rhubarb,almond & polenta cake
What you need:

20 cm diameter tin ( I used a springform tin) . The recipe does say a long loaf tin could also work

For the rhubarb
4 decent stalks or 6 smaller stalks (mine weighed approx 135g when prepared)
2 level tablespoons golden caster sugar

For the batter:
125g unsalted butter
1 tbsp honey
Zest of 1 lemon
50g light brown sugar
3 eggs ( I always use medium free range )
1 level teaspoon vanilla extract
150g ground almonds
50g polenta (you want the loose type not the block form )
30g plain flour
75g golden caster sugar
2 level teaspoons baking powder

What to do :
Preheat the oven to 150C 300F Gas Mark 2
1. Cut the rhubarb into chunks about 2cm long and wash. Place them in a single layer in a baking dish ( I used a flan dish), sprinkle with the sugar and cover with a layer of greaseproof paper ( I used an 8″ precut circle) and then cover with foil.

2.Bake in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until softened . Do not let them go soggy
3. Grease the sides of the baking tin and line with greaseproof paper.
4. Turn up the oven temp. to 180C 350F Gas mark 4
5. Cream the butter, honey and brown sugar together
6. Separate the eggs – put the egg yolks into a small bowl and the whites into a bowl or jug larger enough to beat. Lightly beat the egg yolks and add slowly to the creamed mix stirring gently.

7. Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest, mix gently.
8. Add the ground almonds, polenta, flour and baking powder to the batter. It will become stiff

9. Beat the egg whites with the sugar until they are stiff and glossy

10. At this point I scraped out the creamed mixture from my food processor and transferred it to a large mixing bowl. Then fold 1/3 of the egg white into the mixture to loosen it and then gently fold in the remainder

11. Spoon the batter into the tin and carefully arrange the rhubarb on top

12. Bake for approx 45 mins -mine was baked in 38 mins ! Test with a cake tester, if this comes out clean it is baked . If you think the rhubarb is browning too quickly you can cover with greaseproof paper but definitely not before half an hour of cooking time.
13. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack

14. Serve on it’s own, with some greek yoghurt or creme fraiche
15. Enjoy X