Friday, 30 August 2013


In all honesty, this didn't start out as a Pac-Man tribute cake.  The fact is I had two overripe bananas and the ingredients for a Victoria sponge, but the cake smelt so fabulous coming out of the oven that by the time I'd located my camera it looked like this.

The brilliant thing about this recipe (apart from the smell) is that it works equally well with yellow bananas or those black ones that are way past their best.  Cooking time varies according to the size of the fruit and your cake tin, and you can adjust the cinnamon to taste.  Today though, this is what I did...


175g butter (softened)
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
175g self-raising white flour
2 medium bananas (ripe or overripe)
2 generous teaspoons of cinnamon


1. Grease and flour an 8 inch cake tin.  Preheat the oven to 180C (350F, Gas Mk 4).  

2. Beat the butter and sugar together.  Normally, I avoid hand blenders like the plague, but it really makes a difference here so is well worth the moral compromise.

3. Add the eggs gradually and mix well.

4. Fold in the flour, avoiding the compulsion to sieve (not necessary).

5. Chop and add the bananas.  Mix using the hand blender.  Your mixture should be smooth and moist, and will rise to form a lovely sweet, dense cake.

6. Add the cinnamon and mix well.

7. Tip the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 20 mins.  Check the cake every 5 minutes from this point on (today's cake took 35 minutes).  It is ready when it is golden on top and shrunk slightly from the edges.  

8. Hide cake from family and eat in private.

Friday, 16 August 2013


When you make your living through creative work, chances are you’ll go through periods of feast and famine. 

While the feast periods are great, lean times can be a chance to get inventive with the contents of your cupboard.  Your finances may not stretch to a take-away but a stay-in can be every bit as good, provided that you ignore the fact that you’re cooking it yourself (wine helps).

This Sweet and Sour chicken recipe uses the spare bits of Thai Chicken NoodlesFeast or Famine Bake and Odds and Sods Stirfry, with the addition of some fresh chicken and tinned pineapple and water chestnuts stockpiled from a wealthy period.  It’s one of our favourites for a Friday night in.  Enjoy.


Rapeseed oil for frying (best choice for helping the batter stick, although olive or vegetable oil will do).
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
Leftover chillies, deseeded and finely chopped (equivalent of two, preferably red)
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Leftover peppers, cut into strips (equivalent of two, red and green if you can manage it)
400-450g tin chopped pineapple pieces in juice
225g tin water chestnuts in water
100 self-raising flour
175ml chilled soda water
several large tablespoons of cornflour
2 large chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Rice and chopped spring onions (optional) to serve

A large, clip top lidded packed lunch box (bear with me).


1. Pre-heat the oven to 120C.

2. Add the soda water to the flour and mix to remove any lumps.

3. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of rapeseed oil to a high heat in a saucepan.

4. Put 3 tablespoons of cornflour in the packed lunch box, add the chicken pieces, fasten the lid and shake vigorously.  See?  Efficient. No mess.

5. Remove the dusted pieces of chicken in small batches, dunk in the batter and fry in the rapeseed oil for 2 minutes on each side.  They should be golden and cooked through.  Keep warm in the oven.

6. In a separate pan, gently fry the chopped garlic, chillies and ginger in a tablespoon of rapeseed oil until softened. 

7. Mix one and a half tablespoons of cornflour with 3 tablespoons of the pineapple juice.  Add to the pan along with roughly 350ml water.

8. Add the pineapple pieces, soy sauce, ketchup, sugar and water chestnuts.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

9. Rinse and cook the rice.

10. In a separate pan, flash fry the chopped peppers until seared but not soft.  Add to the sauce mixture.

11. Serve the chicken on the rice, and spoon the sweet and sour sauce mixture on top.
Slice the spring onions diagonally and add as a garnish.  Fab.