Chocolate spread

Ricotta hotcakes

ricotta hotcakes

I have mentioned Nigella Lawson’s ricotta hotcakes before but at that time I just included a link to the recipe on her website because I only ever made them very occasionally for my husband who disliked my stodgier Be-Ro dropped scones.

Nearly two years on however these have become the ones I ALWAYS cook. It turns out that my children prefer them too and with no sugar in the pancake itself they are a teeny bit healthier. Nigella keeps hers healthy by serving them simply, with strawberries, but in our house it’s golden syrup and chocolate spread all the way, so they do still remain a weekend breakfast treat.

You need two bowls and you do need to remember to buy ricotta cheese from the supermarket, but once you’ve made them a couple of times you’ll find that they’re not that difficult to make.

Because there is no sugar in the batter they also make a good alternative to blini topped with savory toppings like smoked fish and sour cream.

Nigella’s ricotta hotcakes

Makes about 20

  • 1 tub (250g) of ricotta cheese
  • 125ml of semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g of plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • Groundnut oil (or other flavourless oil) for frying

You’ll need two mixing bowls. First separate the eggs and put the egg yolks in one bowl and the whites in the other.

In the bowl with the egg yolks add ricotta cheese and milk. Mix until well combined and then add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix again until you have a thickish batter.

Whisk the egg whites in the other bowl until foamy. This will only take a couple of minutes – you don’t need stiff peaks as for meringue.

Fold the egg whites into the ricotta mixture with a metal spoon, nice and gently so that you don’t knock out too much air.

Heat a large frying pan with a little groundnut oil to a medium high heat. Then add dessert spoons of batter into the pan (I do four at a time).

Cook the pancakes for about a minute until golden and then flip and cook on the other side for about another minute. The batter is quite delicate so this is probably the trickiest bit.

Continue this process until all the batter is finished, keeping the cooked ones warm on a warmed plate covered with a tea towel (or in my case I act as pancake slave, serving up each batch immediately to my family of hungry little birds who eat them more quickly than I can make them).

ricotta egg yolks burghley

Showing off my new Burleigh bowl – a 38th birthday present from my mum.


Chocolate frozen yoghurt lollies

Nutella yoghurt lollies x

It’s the summer holidays, and whilst I love my children without question, they do test my patience by vacillating wildly between being funny little angels and obnoxious little monsters. Despite all the parenting advice which says it’s wrong, I get through the day by offering incentives and dealing out ultimatums, “If you two could just stop squabbling for all of five minutes you can have X”, followed by “if you don’t brush your hair/clean your teeth/get dressed/eat your breakfast you won’t get X”.

For most of the year TV is my bargaining tool of choice but in summer lollies work better. Freezing pure juice is an obvious good/healthy idea but this is not an incentive for a son who hates all fruit, so I came up with this simple idea of mixing natural yoghurt with Nutella (or fake version of) and then layering it with plain yoghurt so that it isn’t too unhealthy.

PS. If you don’t have children please ignore the whinging above but make these anyway – for yourself. However, if I was making these for myself I’d make them entirely of the chocolate/yoghurt mix and do a few extra sit ups.

Chocolate frozen yoghurt lollies

Makes 6 small lollies (using Annabel Karmel lolly moulds £3 from Tesco, see photo below)

lolly mould

Mix 120ml of full fat natural yoghurt (I use Yeo Valley which is nice and creamy) with 1 heaped dessert spoonful of chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella or supermarket own brand) until well incorporated.

Put 2 teaspoons of the chocolate yoghurt mixture into the bottom of each lolly mould.

Then add 2-3 teaspoons of natural yoghurt to each mould.

Finally, for the top layer, add another teaspoon of the chocolate mixture (this is to encourage children to eat through the blander plain yoghurt to get to the bottom, if such an incentive is needed).

Put the tops on and place in the freezer until solid.

Marble muffins

marbled muffins 2

When my daughter Elizabeth first started pre-school I agreed to bake something for the summer fayre cake sale. Eager to impress I turned up with a giant chocolate cake from Nigella’s ‘Feast’ cookbook smugly confident that it would sell well and make a marvellous contribution to the fundraising effort. I had visions of it being cut up into slices each selling for at least 50p thus making a reasonable amount for the school…and was there also some sort of golden badge involved for my efforts and envious glances from other parents!!!

Instead though, I just had to watch aghast as they slapped on a £2 price tag FOR THE WHOLE DAMN CAKE…I couldn’t believe my eyes. Stupidly I had also presented it on a pretty wooden chopping board which got sold with the cake and was never returned.

The ingredients had cost me at least £5 so in the end the only winners were Tesco and whoever it was that bought the cake for a ridiculously low price and stole my lovely chopping board. I left wishing I’d just given the school a fiver and saved the effort.

With my fingers burned I now stick to these rules when it comes to baking for school.

  1. Forget about showing off – you won’t win any brownie points and your smugness will just annoy the other parents anyway
  2. Make sure your ingredients don’t cost too much. Forget the finest dark chocolate money can buy and don’t bother with fancy icing or sprinkles. If there are economy versions of ingredients use those
  3. Keep a supply of ice cream, Celebrations and Roses tubs in your cupboard to put your cakes in – that way it’s not an issue if you don’t get them back

With these rules in mind, I offer you this recipe for marble muffins. They have reignited my benevolent nature and I no longer leave bake sales feeling bitter and twisted. They are really quick and easy to make, only a little light stirring is involved so you don’t have to get the electric mixer out, the ingredients are cheap (if you use ‘value’ lemon curd), and they don’t need any icing or decoration.

They also taste yummy so I cook these for our own consumption too (albeit with decent quality lemon curd).

PS. On a completely different note, I have to tell you about this blog It’s really funny in a comedy-tragedy sort of way. I’ve definitely had evenings when I really can’t be bothered and my dismal efforts wouldn’t look out of place here.

Hugh FW’s lemon curd marble muffins (from River Cottage ‘everyday’)

Makes 12

Dry ingredients

  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g caster sugar

Wet ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 125g plain yoghurt
  • 125ml milk
  • 75g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 150g lemon curd

Preheat your oven to 170oC fan.

Put a dozen paper cases into a muffin tray.

Measure the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and sugar) into a large bowl and whisk to combine and add some air.

Measure the wet ingredients (egg, yoghurt, milk and butter) into a jug and stir with a fork to combine.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir briefly and lightly with a large metal spoon until just about combined. If you over-mix at this stage then your muffins will be tough. You just want to stir enough so that there are no large lumps of flour.

Now add the lemon curd in about 6 dollops and give the mix another couple of stirs to distribute through the batter. Again, don’t over-mix otherwise you will just end up with lemon flavoured stodgy lumps.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases. I find that an ice cream scoop works well here, with one scoop being enough for each case.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

These are best served warm or on the day you bake them. However, if they don’t all get eaten (rare in our house) then you can refresh by heating each one in the microwave for about 10 seconds.

A chocolate version

For a chocolate version replace the lemon curd with 150g of Nutella, slightly warmed so it’s easier to spread through the mix. I’m not a great fan of this version but my children love them.

Ode to the digestive – part 1, silly toppings


I love digestive biscuits. Admittedly they are a bit boring by themselves but they are so versatile and great topped with sweet or savoury food stuffs or as the biscuit base for all sorts of puddings. When I rooted through my recipe folder I found quite a few digestive based desserts and so these very silly recipes begin my 5 days of 5 ways with digestives.

Digestives with melted marshmallow

I’m not sure where on earth this idea came from but I used to do this as a child and now my own children just love it. It is pretty exciting watching the marshmallow blow up like a balloon and the end result is a sweet and sticky delight.

  • a digestive biscuit
  • a standard marshmallow (pink or white)

Place a single marshmallow on a digestive biscuit.

Place in the microwave for 10-20 seconds and watch it blow up like a balloon. When it is about the same size as the digestive (circumference-wise) stop the cooking. When you take it out it will deflate into a lovely melted gooey mess over the digestive.

Leave to cool for a minute before eating.

Marshmallow on a digestive

Ready for action.

marshmallow on a digestive blown up

Blown up.

melted marshmallow


Cheat’s cheesecakes

This is for when you really can’t be bothered to make a proper dessert but you need something sweet to end your day.

It honestly does taste just like the real thing once it’s all mushed up in your mouth but you obviously couldn’t serve it a dinner party – unless you were trying to be funny.

Cheat’s lemon cheesecake
Take a digestive biscuit and smear with cream cheese. Then dollop a spoonful of lemon curd on top.

Cheat’s raspberry cheesecake
As above but with a dollop of raspberry jam.

Cheat’s chocolate cheesecake
As above but with a dollop of chocolate spread.