Parsnip and honey cake

Parsnip and honey cake

I belong to a book club. Well, when I say book club… It started a couple of years ago with the intention of us reading a book and meeting to discuss it every month. After a couple of months the book club turned into what it is now; we gave up on the books and just enjoy meeting to have a proper catch up. A few times a year we have a clothes swap evening. Which is a brilliant idea for everyone but me. I don’t buy many new clothes and those that I do I tend to wear until holes appear. So, I never have anything to contribute to the clothes swap. For this reason I always take food instead. Last week I took this cake. It was a big success.

The cake in the photo above is only half the mixture. Because I hadn’t made it before I wanted to do a taste test to make sure it was good before I took it along. So I split the mixture into two loaf tins and me and Mr OC polished off the other half a little too easily. Your cake will, therefore, be bigger than the one in the pic.

The cake improves the next day. The first day, the taste is predominantly parsnip. The second day, the parsnip has mellowed and the other flavours are given a chance to shine through. It is a sweet, slightly spicy, moist and delicious cake.

NB: I added 25g of coconut flour in place of 50g of the plain flour, (you need less coconut flour) but I have not specified this in the recipe as you do not need it and I don’t want you to go out and buy it just to make this cake.

250g grated parsnip (from about 350 -400g of unprepared parsnip)
175ml olive oil (not extra virgin) or rapeseed oil or sunflower oil (whatever you have in the cupboard)
150g light brown sugar
100ml honey
3 eggs
100g wholemeal flour or spelt flour
150g plain flour
5g (1tsp) baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
50g walnuts (optional)


Grease and line a 20cm square or round tin or a 2lb loaf tin. Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or use the centre of the baking oven of the Aga.

Mix together the oil, sugar, honey and eggs in a large bowl until well combined. Add the grated parsnip and mix well.

In another bowl mix together the flours, baking powder, mixed spice and walnuts and then add them to the wet ingredients. Mix well.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes until the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean when pierced through the centre of the cake. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

UPDATE* 7th October 2015

I made the cake again with a few more adaptations (well I can’t help myself) for our evening bread making  class last night. Here is a full sized version of the cake and how yours will look of you don’t split it between two pans.

parsnip and honey cake

The adaptations included using half grated parsnip and half grated carrot and adding 100g currants which I had warmed in a pan with the juice of ½ an orange to plump them up. I frosted the cake before serving with a cream cheese frosting, combining 250g icing sugar with 50g softened butter and 125g cream cheese and the grated zest of an orange. It was a big hit with the ladies on the course.

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Rosehip syrup

rosehip syrup

Rosehips and sugar, day 1

This is an experiment. I have made rosehip syrup before (although I failed to blog about it) by using the boiling method, similar to making a jelly. When I made the crabapple and rosehip jelly Margaret wisely suggested that boiling rosehips probably defeats the object of the syrup. Rosehips are incredibly high in vitamin C and so a syrup can be very handy to have in the house during the winter months to stave off any nasty lurgies.

My wonderful friend A suggested this tactic for making the syrup. She had been to visit her Cornish uncle and he had bought out his rosehip syrup for her to try and had explained that he made it by layering the rosehips in sugar. We both wanted to give it a go.

It always makes me smile to think about my friendship with A. We have been friends since we were 17 and at college together. Back then our interests were mostly concerned with having fun and partying. Now when we get together, which is as often as we can manage, we mostly find ourselves strolling around the garden and discussing the finer points of growing vegetables and how best to cook them. How times have changed.

Anyway back to the rosehip syrup. This is not a recipe as such. You just pick as many rosehips as will fit into your jar. You give them a good wash and remove the old flower head. Dry the rosehips well. Now you pour a layer of sugar into the bottom of your jar, then a layer of rosehips, then sugar, then rosehips until the jar is full. Your rosehips should be entirely covered in sugar. As a guide I used about 400g rosehips and 450g of sugar to fill my kilner jar.

This is my jar after a week:

Rosehips and sugar Day 6

Rosehips and sugar Day 6

This is an experiment. I will report back in due course whether it has been successful. However, as you can see from the photo above it looks promising. I did not pierce the hips at all and the maceration has started. I am hopeful that we will have rosehip syrup for our porridge and to sweeten our mint tea in perhaps six weeks time. Watch this space.

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Harvest Bread

On Sunday we had a little trip out to Acton Scott Historic Farm. It’s a wonderful place, not least because the Bailiff’s Cottage has the traditional bread oven still in place and still in use. They were having their harvest festival on Sunday and using the oven to bake their harvest loaves. I was very excited to talk to the Bailiff about his use of faggots to get the oven up to temperature and to find out that you can cook up to 18 loaves in the capacious oven.  Whilst I was in heaven talking to the Bailiff about his oven, our 11 year old was doing what 11 year old’s do best; muttering under her breath wondering how her mother could possibly find any of this interesting. One day, she will understand. The nearly 9 year old though still has a year or so before the proper disdain for her mother’s interests sets in, so she was quite interested. On Monday she asked me to make a dough the following day so that she could make a harvest loaf when she got home. I was more than happy to oblige. I have always been a bit put off from making one as they look like you might need an artistic eye and patience, neither of which describe me. But in we ploughed.

It took us about an hour and a half to put together. I was ridiculously pleased with the result of our work and kept taking pictures and telling the youngest how brilliant it was.

For the instructions on how to a make the harvest loaf take a look at Daniel’s brilliant blog Bread, Cakes and Ale. He has made one too and has given detailed instructions as to its construction. Even if you don’t want to make the loaf pop over to his blog anyway for a good read.

And here is a picture of the loaf I was so proud of.

Harvest Loaf

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Damson and rosehip jelly

damsons and rosehips

I think damsons might be my favourite fruit. Not straight off the tree; that way they have a bitter edge which makes you purse your lips. But when they are cooked with sugar they are rich, perfumed and glorious. One of the most lovely things about them is their purplish bloom which imprints itself on your fingers when you pick it from the tree. I picked these beauties on Sunday and the tree stands next to a rose that due to my lazy gardening has suckers that have naturalised. My lazy gardening of course has its benefits, in this case the beautiful rosehips that are hanging heavy. I couldn’t resist picking some to add to my damsons.

I am not sure that the rosehips add anything in terms of taste to this jelly. The damsons overwhelm their delicate taste, but maybe some of their goodness will have hung in there through the boiling process. I am glad I added them for the photo above alone. Look at those colours! Autumn on a plate.

Damson and rosehip jelly

Makes about 3 jars

1kg damsons
300g rosehips
1 litre water
Granulated sugar

Wash the rosehips well and remove the old flowers and check for insects. Chop these finely (wearing gloves if you do this by hand as the hairy seeds are an irritant, I use my food processor). Add to a large pan. Wash the damsons and add to the pan with 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil and simmer away until the fruit is soft. I mashed it with my potato masher. Strain the fruit through a jelly bag or large square of muslin tied at the top and hang over a bowl. The weight of the fruit and damson stones will mean that the majority of the juice will have strained through in 1 hour, but you can leave it overnight. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag though as this will make the jelly cloudy.

Pop a couple of saucers into the fridge to get cold.

Measure the juice and to every 600ml of juice add 450g of sugar. Return it all to a clean large pan and bring slowly to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat to bring it to a rolling boil. Check to see if it’s set by pouring a small amount onto a cold saucer. When it’s cooled push your finger through it and if it wrinkles it’s ready. Pour into warm sterilised jars and seal.

Use it like jam on your toast or as an accompaniment to meat, cheese or anything else that you fancy.

If you like this, then you might also like my pickled damsons, stewed damsons, damson ice cream, damson vodka or damson jam.

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Lemon, poppy seed and almond cake

Lemon and poppy seed cake

I am baking this for tomorrow’s bread making evening class. I have been meaning to make a poppy-seed cake for ages and just not got round to it. I love the way the tiny black dots glisten amongst the soft cake. Poppy seeds always make me smile to myself. The first time I put a bread roll  adorned with poppy seeds in front of my eldest, she just stared at it for a long time. I wondered what she was thinking so I asked her if she was ok. “What are these mummy?” she asked pointing to the top of the roll. “Poppy seeds, darling”, “Oh, I thought they were beetles”.  I promise that no beetles were harmed in the making of this cake.

If you don’t want to use ground almonds then just use 175g of flour instead. You need four lemons for this cake. Don’t be fooled by it saying three lemons  in the first section. But if you only have three lemons in the house then no harm will come to the cake if you just use the zest of 2 lemons in the cake itself.

For the cake

175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
Zest of 3 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
125g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
2 tbsp poppy seeds

For the syrup

Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
50g granulated sugar
50g icing sugar
1 generous teaspoon poppy seeds

Grease or line a 2lb loaf tin. Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or bake in the middle of the baking oven of the Aga.

Beat together the butter and the caster sugar until fluffy and lighter in colour. I find that if I use an electric whisk to get things started and then go in with my hand like a claw I get a much fluffier mixture. The heat of your hands makes the difference. Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly between additions. Add the lemon zest, juice, flour, ground almonds and poppy seeds and fold in with a large spoon until evenly combined. Spoon the mixture evenly into the tin and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Whilst the cake is baking, mix together the ingredients for the syrup.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven use a skewer to pierce all over and deeply into the cake. Spoon the syrup evenly over the cake. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

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Six years of discoveries

WordPress tells me that it has been six years since I wrote my very first post on these pages. I am very grateful for this blog for lots of reasons.

I set up this food blog for lots of reasons too. It was at a time when I had to make a decision about my future and that of my children. I was working in a job which I loved and which consumed a lot of my day. It was one of those brilliant jobs that really only comes along once in a while. I worked from home most of time, thanks to this marvellous thing called the internet. I was passionate about the project that I worked for – I had spent five years writing a PhD about it. I got to travel and speak to policy makers and at conferences. I loved it. But I also loved my girls who were three and five years old at the time. I had worked through both pregnancies, taking only a couple of weeks off for each birth and getting back to it as soon as I could. I was freelance and self-employed. I needed to work and I enjoyed my job. My employer was very accommodating, understanding and kind. One memorable occasion saw me sitting in an ante-room listening to a meeting in the next room feeding my three-week old and shouting my responses to the discussion happening next door; then taking my three-week old to change her nappy and lifting her up, to have her throw up the entire feed down my blouse. Thankfully the bag I had with me was the one which we had taken to hospital and it still had one of my husband’s t-shirts in there. What was I thinking? Five years on from this messy meeting and six years ago this month there came an opportunity to reassess what I was doing. Did I continue with my career? Or did I take a break and spend more time with the girls? After much hand wringing and into the night discussions we decided I should take a career break. It has been a decision that I have wrangled with ever since.

I have loved every minute of being with the girls, taking them to and picking them up from school, being there for every holiday. But, my oh my, I have felt guilty about not being at work, not earning money and not using that PhD that I sweated over for five long years.

I set up the blog to keep my hand in, teach myself new skills and to share my love of cooking and baking. It has delivered on all of those fronts and more. It has, more than once, saved my mental health by giving me something to focus on; to work towards. It has introduced me to new friends in the UK and abroad. Our friendships may be virtual but they are no less important for that. Each positive comment sends a buzz through my brain. The thought that someone out there baking that cake or making that jam with the process and the result making them happy makes me very happy.  The blog has made me push myself with my cooking skills and knowledge.  I have become a more imaginative and skilled cook.  I have certainly acquired quite a library of non-virtual books, as my heaving shelves can testify. I have become obsessed with bread making and the science of it all; it appeals to the researcher who loves to read in me. And perhaps most importantly of all, this blog has set me on a new career path and one that I am equally, if not more passionate about than the last – teaching others to bake and cook, both through this blog and by setting up Veg Patch Kitchen. I hope that this blog pushes me as much in the next six years as it has in the first six.

A big thank you to everyone that reads or has read this blog, and to those that have commented, over the last six years, you have been my saviours.

Kath x

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My Family Kitchen – Book Review

Sophie Thompson Family Cookbook

I was kindly sent an advance copy of Celebrity Masterchef 2014 winner and actor  Sophie Thompson’s new cookbook ‘My Family Kitchen’ to review. Released today, the book shares recipes from four generations of Sophie’s family. Every recipe has an introduction written in a friendly style explaining where or who the recipe comes from. She makes her Uncle James’s remote Scottish cafe sound very appealing with the paddles of the mixer forever beating chocolate or orange cake. I have an image of a steamy room filled with the scent of baking cakes and a comforting cups of tea on tap. Lovely.


The book is full of pictures of Sophie’s family and photos of passed down hand- written recipes. It is a comforting book, making for a good read on a rainy day. The recipes are all easy to follow and there are lots that appeal. My youngest was really taken with the book and read through it on the first day making selections for us to get cooking. We made the brandy snaps that very day.

Brandy snapsAnd we have made them again since.

We made the courgette fritters too, using yellow pattypans, a very good way of using up the glut.

courgette fritters

Another recipe that appealed to the youngest is the one for Coconut Boobie Cakes ( I have no idea why!). We haven’t made them yet, but I am sure we will.

coconut boobie cakes

Coconut Boobie Cakes

Sophie’s book is one which I am sure we will dip into again and again when we are cooking together as a family.

I was sent a free copy of the book for review purposes. All opinions are my own and are honest. 

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