This is why I don’t bake

I’m not much of a baker. My cavalier attitude to cooking (a handful of this, a glug of that) doesn’t translate well to the scientific, accurate world of baking. However, every now and then I think: “How hard can it be to bake a cake/ some bread?” and give it a go, only to end up ballsing it up spectacularly and reminding myself why I don’t bother the rest of the time. This happened this week, when I decided to bake some fairy cakes to take into work on my last day (as I’m leaving to start a new job). I had all my ingredients ready, along with some Smarties and marshmallows to decorate the cakes with, and was feeling rather positive about the whole thing.

The recipe I used was the cupcake version of the dense chocolate loaf cake from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. I’m not going to blame Nigella- in my eyes she can do no wrong, and I’m not going to blame my oven (even though it’s rubbish), because a bad workman blames his tools. This is a summary of what went wrong:

I decided to double the cupcake recipe and also had to keep turning back a page because the actual method for the batter was under the loaf cake heading. Because I wasn’t concentrating properly, I ended up adding four eggs instead of two because I was looking at the ingredients list for the loaf cake and not the cupcakes. In my panic, I then had to make up the extra ingredients to match the four eggs I’d added and ended up with a huge, almost unmanageable amount of batter. I also missed out the bit in the recipe about adding boiling water to the batter to make it more liquid (although I added it to the remaining mixture while the first batch of cakes was cooking and they still didn’t turn out right).

So, after a lot of swearing and mess, I calmly admitted defeat. Behold, the culinary abomination that is my attempt to make fairy cakes- something that most children have mastered by the time they’re about eight years old:

I won’t tell Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry if you don’t…


Another bloody recipe for chilli con carne

I know, I know- the last thing the internet needs is another recipe for chilli con carne. On top of this, I went through all my cook books today and counted up eleven different recipes for chilli (and that was just the basic ones, not including vegetarian ones and what not). Despite this apparent saturation of the market, I’m going to go ahead and post my contribution anyway.

I often find myself making this when we have people visiting, as I can just plonk the pot from the slow cooker on the table and let people help themselves. It’s also a bit of an indulgent Saturday night favourite in our household- ideally washed down with a cold beer (perhaps Sol or Desperado) or a nice glass or three of red wine. We enjoyed this earlier tonight while watching the new series of Doctor Who (Geronimo!) and followed it with Nigella’s glitzy chocolate puddings.


  • 60g dried kidney beans
  • 500g lean beef mince or turkey mince
  • About 125g chorizo, cut into small half moons/ chunks
  • 1 large brown onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
  • Fresh red chillies- as many as you like, finely chopped
  • A handful of cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • A tablespoon of cornflour
  • A generous glug of red wine
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 6 (ish) sun-dried tomatoes- I use the ones that come in jars of oil, chopped into small bits
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • A few drops of Angostura Bitters (optional)
  • 2 squares of dark chocolate (the darkest you can get but at least 70% cocoa solids)

Soak the dried beans overnight or for at least 8 hours in plenty of water with a bit of bicarbonate of soda added to it. When they’re soaked, drain them well and add to a pan with enough water to cover. Bring them to the boil, then let them simmer with the lid on for 10-15 minutes. Drain and set aside. (Don’t be tempted to miss out this step- The beans need to be soaked and boiled in order to get rid of toxins in their skins that can apparently cause severe stomach cramps.)

Fry the mince until cooked and drain off any excess fat or liquid. Add the chorizo, onion, red pepper and fresh chilli to the pan and fry for a bit. Some fat should come out of the chorizo but add a bit of oil if it looks a bit dry. Add the cumin seeds and garlic and fry for a bit longer to get them nice and fragrant. Add the cornflour and stir until it is coated by the oil and juices. Turn up the heat, then add the red wine, allowing it to bubble away for a bit. Add the chopped tomatoes (I like to whizz these in a food processor first but don’t worry if you can’t be bothered with this), sun-dried tomatoes, cumin powder, smoked paprika, Angostura Bitters (if using) and the drained red kidney beans.

You can add chilli powder or flakes to adjust the heat to how you like it.

Put the whole lot into a slow cooker and cook on low for 4-8 hours. (If you don’t have a slow cooker, I’d suggest cooking this on a low heat on the hob for about an hour or until the kidney beans are cooked through) Shortly before serving, pop in the squares of dark chocolate and stir in thoroughly until melted. Serve with basmati rice with sour cream dolloped on top.

Serves four (or two with another two portions for the freezer).

Cooking away in the slow cooker.

One of Nigella’s glitzy chocolate puddings.