Dairy Free Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

It was my lady wife’s birthday last week, and having become the resident cook of the house, I had to make her a cake. I’ve mentioned it in passing before, but she has intolerances to yeast and dairy, which makes the world of baked goods a nightmarish minefield for us!

Still, birthdays and cake go together too well to forego the institution, and I refuse to have her miss out as a result, so I baked this, my second ever cake (the first was an okay Victoria sponge, too deeply average to make these hallowed pages) to celebrate.

Massive credit needs to go to Pippa Kendrick, the wonderful Intolerant Gourmet, for whom I owe a debt of gratitude- when first diagnosed, my wife and I had pretty much written off our hopes of eating anything but bland crap for all eternity. Her two books have been life savers, and as I use them more, I’m getting more aware of the kind of substitutions I can make for all recipes, meaning my shelves of cook books are back in play, ftw. I have not made any huge changes to her recipe, beyond making it triple layered, using a little less cocoa, and some sprinkles at the end, so in return for my uncouth plagiarism, I am leaving links here to both of her brilliant books on Amazon. If you have a food intolerance of any kind, these books really are a game changer.

The Intolerant Gourmet

Free From Food for Family and Friends


You’ll need either three 12cm cake tins (I used silicone ones from Poundland- oh that you could be that classy!) or two 20cm ones.


  • 125g tin cocoa powder (I know the black Green and Blacks one is safe for dairy- read the label!)
  • 275g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • A pinch of salt
  •  500ml Rice Milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 160ml rapeseed oil (canola if you’re American)
  • A jar of nice raspberry jam
  • A punnet of raspberries


  • 80ml Rice milk
  • 2 bars of dairy free dark chocolate (I always go for Montezuma, it’s pretty tasty)
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup


Sift the cocoa powder and flour into a large bowl, and add the baking powder, bicarb of soda and salt. I’m sure the smart readers of my blog know already that a little salt really brings out the best in chocolate- they are, in cookery terms, BFFs.  In a separate large measuring jug, measure out the rice milk and oil, with the lemon juice to sour the milk. Leave everything to sit for 5 minutes. Wash the sieve while you wait- you’ll never want to wash it, it’s a pain.

Continue reading Dairy Free Chocolate and Raspberry Cake


Cara Mia

Nearly 61 years to this day ago, this piece 9f what would probably be called popera these days went to number one, then did a Bryan Adams and refused to go away for 10 weeks.

It’s refreshing to see that the record buying public got it massively wrong back then, and that this isn’t just a recent trend!

Talk About Pop Music

I have a playlist that contains every UK number one song since charts began in 1952. Thanks to EveryHit, this is a fairly simple process. Let’s remind ourselves of these songs.

View original post 78 more words

Red Pepper Relish

As promised this morning, this delicious discovery of a good relish recipe has given my burgers a massive boost, and I’ve gone back twice this week for more! It’s sweet and bitter and a little spicy, and complements a lamb or beef burger like a dream!


  • 1 Red pepper (or a sweet pepper, such as roquito)
  • 1/2 red chilli, finely diced (or 1 tsp chilli flakes)
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 115ml cider or white wine vinegar


Chop up the pepper and the chilli. The chilli should be teeny tiny, and the pepper into 1/2 cm chunks, just keep dicing it till it becomes a pain.

Add the chopped veg to a small saucepan, and add the vinegar and sugar, bring to a medium boil and stir for about 5 minutes. Then reduce the heat to the merest simmer, and leave for about 20 minutes. Do go back and check on it occasionally- burnt on sugar syrup is an absolute nightmare to clean off.

When the vinegar and sugar has turned to a fairly thick consistency, somewhere around that of a thin jam, transfer to a small heatproof ramekin, or, y’know, a bowl if you’re not pretentious, and set this in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to cool, unless your mouth is genuinely made out of Teflon.

Serve atop a burger of minced meat, a good cheese, a few thin slices of gherkin and a single sheet of crisp watery lettuce.


The Essential Rules for Burgers


Back in the early days of this blog, I posted a recipe for burgers– simple stuff, but with a great result (indeed, as I was focused on the business of eating the things, the picture is recycled from last October’s article!). I now make a variety of burgers- basic stuff, lovely quick dinner, and I’ll stick the essential recipe info at the bottom- there are a few simple things, one of which I only found out this week, that should ensure your burgers are perfect every time (okay, nine times out of ten. We’re only human!)

As a complement to this article, I’ll be sticking up a quick and easy recipe for a red pepper relish later today- it’s all of the good things.

If it’s neat, it’s crap

The more you handle the meat, the more tightly packed it’s going to become, and you’ll have a tough, disappointing burger. Once you’ve mixed in any seasonings, grab a ball, place it on the chopping board, and push it down flat, but loose. It’ll look scruffy, but taste ten times better.

You get what you pay for

If you buy some cheap ass, blue stripe* mince, you’ll come out with a cheap ass, blue stripe burger. The best burger I’ve made contained salt, pepper, a pinch of fresh parsley, and an egg yolk. It would have been fine completely unseasoned, because the meat was good stuff, matured for three weeks, from a local farm. I used the same recipe a week later, using cheap mince (IT WAS A FEW DAYS FROM PAYDAY AND I WAS SKINT). It was awful.


Probably the most important thing in this article- for years, I was frustrated by the fact my nice, flat burger patties would curl and swell into non burger shapes when they hit the pan. The answer- push a dimple into the middle of each burger, about 1/2cm deep. It will never be a problem again!

Wait for the salt

With thanks to The Kitchn, a great food website- salt starts reacting with the moisture and breaking down the proteins in the meat as soon as it makes contact. Mix all the other ingredients in as you make it up, but salt your burger just before you throw it in the pan. The meat will be a lot more tender for it.

Fuck healthy eating

Not all the time, obviously, but you’re eating a burger, not a quinoa and acai salad. There’s a time and a place, and burgers aren’t a time to be worrying about being beach ready. They’re already healthier than they would be- you’re not going to stick MSG in it, or some dehydrated horseshit extract that preserves it for three days longer. So stop messing around. Use proper mince, with a proper fat content, because people want a juicy burger. That’s a phrase. Nobody asks for a dry crumbly burger, because nobody is naturally a complete moron. Rant over. 20% fat content is about right.


Are you serving it on a chopping board?

If so, never darken my doors again, you gastropub git.

And finally, 2 burger recipes…

I’m assuming you’ve worked out to mix all the mince and ingredients together in a bowl, make patties and chuck in a grill pan till cooked is the entirety of the cooking instructions, so here are two ingredient lists for great burgers.

Basic Beefburger

Makes 4 good sized burgers

  • 500g beef mince
  • An egg yolk
  • A small handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Pepper
  • Salt (but not till just before you cook it!)

Minted Lamb and Tahini burger

As above…

  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 tbsp. tahini**
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • A good handful of chopped fresh mint
  • An egg yolk
  • Salt and pepper

Well, I hope this fulfils a fast food craving for you! I’m done!


* With apologies to overseas readers. The British supermarket, Tesco, had a value range, marked out by blue striped packaging. This became synonymous with cheap and nasty food. Having said that, their blue stripe bread (9p), tinned tomatoes (14p), instant noodles (8 for £1) and pasta (49p) pretty much prevented my death from starvation when I moved away from home in my late teens!

Banksy, channeling Andy Warhol. He’s probably saying something meaningful about expectations and junk.

** You can buy this in a jar from healthy shops for about £3. Or… you can by a bag of sunflower seeds, stick them in a spice grinder or blender with some olive oil and whiz them up till they make a paste for about 80p, stick it in a jar, and sell it to idiots at a 375% mark up.

Now That’s What I Call Music 38


Released-  17th November 1997

Music History

Notorious BIG scores two number ones, both shockingly missed on here (especially I’ll Be Missing You which was ubiquitous at the time) too late to earn royalties. Elton John scores one of the biggest number ones of all time, due to Lady Di’s poor choice in chauffeur. Inspired by the sales power of death, Michael Hutchence decides to try for the big cash in in the sky. And incredibly, given the best you could hope for back then was 56k, Mick Jones of the Clash’s side project, Big Audio Dynamite release one of the earliest download only albums after a dispute with their label. Given that it took me an hour to download a poor quality mp3 of My Name Is by Eminem a couple of years later, it must have taken at least 12 hours dialled in to a premium rate number to get hold of.

Me History

I’m not sure… I’m choosing my GCSE’s (poorly… never offer me choice). I think some time around this point I form my first band, Loose Ends, a rock and blues cover band- our ringleader, a Mr Richard Rozze was the only talented musician of the four of us, and he remains so to this day- his album, Learning to Fly is the work of a supremely gifted multi instrumentalist, but most of all, when he even knocks a guitar over, it sings. Genuinely, buy the living shit out of it here!* We were housemates when we moved away from home at 18- this was less successful than our musical endeavours- he is an organised, diligent human being who rises at 6am and I was (and still am to a degree) a scruffy layabout who would struggle to organise my trousers on the right way, who went to bed around 5am. It took years for us to get back towards a decent relationship again!

If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were to be accused of having fictitious WMD’s, that track would be…  Freed From Desire by Gala, because sometimes things are so stupidly simple you can’t resist them. And I like Gala apples.

Track by Track Breakdown

Chumbawamba – “Tubthumping”

It’s not satire if nobody gets it guys. Otherwise, Mein Kampf would be hilarious. Still, good fun.

Spice Girls“Spice Up Your Life”

The Spice Girls have, deservedly, gotten a lot of praise in these reviews. Sadly, this record is a bit of a mess, and possibly with hindsight, the point at which the wheels started coming off (remember Spiceworld: The Movie?… shudder).

Hanson – “Where’s the Love”

MMMBop without the nonsense chorus. So about a third as good.

Boyzone – “Picture of You”

The cultural disruption wrought by the Spice Girls appears to have forced Boyzone to take a more fun approach, with this breezy pop soul number. A refreshing change from the usual, if still a little too polished.

Backstreet Boys – “As Long As You Love Me”

They seem to have a formula to create great, solid pop hits at this point. A little bit irresistible.

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 38

Griddled Quail and Asparagus

If you’ll excuse the pun, I’m back on my game for the first time in about six months!

This is my first attempt at cooking game since I did veal, which went very well initially (the recipe for Venison in a Wild Mushroom Sauce is here), but following some texturally unpleasant venison meatballs, I went off this for a while- still, an experiment isn’t an experiment if you’re certain of the outcome!

A mixture of boredom and an extended lunch break took me to Birmingham’s historic rag market, under the shadow of the Bullring, where there are about 20 butcher’s and fishmonger’s under one roof. Honestly, if you’re from round this way, it’s a treasure trove, and there are massive bargains to be had!

Anyway, I left with four quail, and only the barest idea of what to do with them- the inspiration for how to cook them comes in part from Sophie Grigson, daughter (and fine cookery writer in her own right!) of my own cookery hero, Jane Grigson, whose book, English Food is probably the nearest thing I own to a religious text.

Anyway, feeling adventurous but time limited? Here’s a recipe for you. It would also work equally well for a barbecue, as summer is coming, and people will likely remember the delicious quail over the tasty but obvious prepackaged lamb and mint kebabs!



  • 4 Quail
  • Garlic oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1tbsp herbes de provence
  • Salt and pepper


  • A good bundle of asparagus (about 20 heads)
  • Pancetta
  • Olive oil


  • Dressed fresh crisp salad and roasted new potatoes, to serve



Start with the new potatoes and asparagus- parboil the new potatoes, halve them, chuck them in a roasting tin with a little oil and salt (and rosemary, if you have some fresh and to hand) in an oven at around 200c for about half an hour.

Continue reading Griddled Quail and Asparagus

Such A Night

More number oneness from ’54, and things are moving on apace! This arhythmic, almost skiffle number is almost a precursor to the changes to come.

It’s a great song, and whatsmore, in the coming weeks, before rock n roll takes over, I’ll be able to use the word skiffle a lot. It may not seem like much, but to be able to use a word like skiffle is like Christmas coming early for me!

Talk About Pop Music

I have a playlist that contains every UK number one song since charts began in 1952. Thanks to EveryHit, this is a fairly simple process. Let’s remind ourselves of these songs.

View original post 93 more words

Now This Probably Isn’t What Anyone Would Call Music 4 – Lionel Richie

The observant amongst you may notice I’ve skipped a digit. There’s just nothing good to cover on 3. White people covering hip hop is played out, so no White Lines, and the Postal Service have done better than I ever could in covering Phil Collins. In it’s place, here they are.

So, onto Now 4, and a song I pretended to like ironically for years, before giving in, and accepting that it’s just brilliant. The video, too, is a work of genius.

Now That’s What I Call Music 37


Released-  14th July 1997

Music History

The Spice Girls launch Channel 5 in the UK, which I don’t get in the South East, and have watched maybe twice since (Terminator 2 was on). Both Radiohead and Missy Elliot release albums that redefine their respective genres, while Oasis record an album which puts a reasonable full stop on theirs.

Me History

The 1997 election gets me into politics for the first time, and I am optimistic about that Tony Blair chap. We didn’t realise- we didn’t see the sickening bloodlust behind his cold dead eyes and marketeer’s smile. I also save my pocket money for months to buy Radiohead’s OK Computer on cassette (and Paranoid Android on blue vinyl) and then listen to it solidly for the rest of 1997. My brain can still perform the entire album for me without need for an actual copy of the record today. It sometimes does when my train is delayed- it’s a nice way to spend 40 minutes!

If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were to be accused of having fictitious WMD’s, that track would be…  Paranoid Android by Radiohead, Narrowly beating out The Verve and the Backstreet Boys. Sentences I never thought I’d have to say. Great song, brilliantly barmy video.

Track by Track Breakdown

Hanson – “MMMBop”

Impossibly catchy and summery, but also very possibly the work of Satan. Want to feel old? They’re all parents now. Even the teeny tiny one.

Eternal featuring BeBe Winans – “I Wanna Be the Only One”

18 years of perspective leave this as a pretty entertaining 80’s styled soul ballad, rather than the pop pollutant I felt it was at the time.

The Cardigans – “Lovefool”

Inextricably linked with Baz Luhrmann’s stylish but hollow Romeo and Juliet. Thankfully, beyond the dialogue, written by respected screenwriter Billy Shakspere, the soundtrack was the best thing about the film, this slice of Scandinavian indie funk being a good example.

No Doubt –  “Just a Girl”

Quite a bit closer to their ska punk roots than Don’t Speak, this is a great, high octane two and a half minutes of misandrist joy.

Sash! featuring Rodriguez“Ecuador”

Identikit follow up to Encore Un Fois, the only discernible difference being the change in shouty language from French to Spanish!

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 37

Chicken Katsu Curry

So, i have a dark secret… way back in 2005 I worked as a waiter at Wagamama. I was woefully inadequate at the job, save for an uncanny ability to spend my pay cheque on Tsing Tao beer, and in 4 weeks managed to drop two rounds of drinks and miss two shifts to spliff related idleness…

However, you were encouraged to have a meal from the menu between services, which was cool, and my absolute favourite was the Katsu curry. The creamy but light sauce was a delight.

Anyway, here’s my take on this Japanese classic.


  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • Half an onion, diced
  • 250g sweet potato, grated
  • 6 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 red chilli, seeds in
  • A knob of ginger
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce or tamari soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 300ml chicken stock


Once you’ve prepped all of the ingredients, put everything but the chicken and stock into a food processor and blitz into a coarse paste.

In a large pan, start colouring the chicken for a minute or two, then add the paste and stir everything together. As it starts to boil, add the stock, and bring back to the boil again.

Reduce to a simmer and leave it to reduce, lid off for about 20 minutes.


Return to your kitchen, which should smell great, and serve with some boiled short grain rice. Nothing fancy, the curry should bring all the flavour you need!

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