Monday, 29 March 2010

Simply the Nest

Here on the Keston kitchen blog we like to provide a wide range of recipes - from the simple and straightforward to ones that are far more complicated and challenging.
So brace yourselves - this recipe is aimed at the most skilled and experienced chefs out there - yes, it's the Easter nest!

I have been making chocolate nests every Easter since I can remember and this year is no different. I have concluded that shredded wheat is definitely the tastiest (and most nest like) cereal to use, and that Bournville (40% cocoa) chocolate is the best because it is not too sweet or too bitter.

The ingredients below make 12 Easter nests:

5 large Shredded wheat
200g Bournville chocolate
2 or 3 mini eggs per nest (a 100g bag of Cadbury mini eggs contains about 33 eggs)
12 paper cases

  • Melt the chocolate by placing it in a mixing bowl over a pan of boiling water, stirring until runny
  • Then turn off the heat and add the already crushed Shredded wheat - keeping the bowl over the hot water keeps the chocolate warmer and so makes it easier to combine it with the cereal. You can add less than 5 Shredded wheat if you want them to be more chocolatey
  • Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and stick the mini eggs into the nests before the chocolate sets
  • Place the nests in the fridge to speed up the setting process so you can eat the sooner

Saturday, 27 March 2010

I heart Italia: The Courgette Pasta

by Charlotte x

In our house this dish is known simply as ‘the courgette pasta’. A simple dish, of delicate flavours that we all love and devour on a regular basis.

I have this thing where I love vinegar, almost anything with a vinegar kick gets me excited, for example; Pickled Onion Monster Munch, Cornichons, Picked Onions, Salt & Vinegar Discos, Picked Cabbage… the list goes on. Anyway, this dish gets the kick that I know and desire from the cider vinegar and the capers. I’d like to take a moment to talk about the caper, an edible, Mediterranean bud from the spiny caper bush, something that right now – we cannot get enough of. It’s great in pasta dishes, salads and always makes me think of Italia.

Back to the recipe. Not much to say really, besides the fact that it is a visual feast of freshness.

And, when fed to friends it always gets some praise, a big smile and maybe a little wince – a good wince – a vinegar wince. Happy wincing.

For a serving of 4 I suggest using the following Ingredients:

3 courgettes, sliced into thick rounds and then cut each round into 3 batons

250g tomatoes, cherry or whatever your favourites are

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp chilli flakes

2-3 tbsp capers, depending on how much you love them

2 tbsp cider vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

350g pasta, I like linguine or wholewheat tortiglioni


1.Cut up the courgettes and place in a sieve/colander. Salt and leave for 15 minutes.

2.Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes and squeeze them, putting juice and tomatoes into a mixing bowl. Add the garlic, chilli flakes, capers, vinegar and oil to the bowl and leave to marinate.

3.Put the pasta onto cook.

4.Heat some oil in a large frying pan and throw in the courgette batons and the dried oregano. Cook for 6-8 minutes over a low/medium heat.

5.Throw in the tomato mix and cook for a couple of minutes while you drain the pasta.

Serving suggestion: in wide rimmed, rustic bowls with salad and friends on the side. Chilled prosecco should accompany the piatto del giorno… 

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Later with Jules: Red Velvet Cupcakes

Oh la la: red cakes xxx

Just as I was thinking it was high time for some midnight baking, March arrived and with it the birthday of Miss Lottie Shaw. More than a good enough excuse to stay up late one Thursday night preparing for the big day. We were to celebrate on a Friday night in Soho, so I felt the need for something exciting. I pulled down the trusty Hummingbird cookbook and what did I find: bright red cupcakes. Fun, pretty, out-of-the-ordinary, just like Lottie.

Now, this is the first time an ingredient such as food colouring has appeared in the Kitchen, the Keston ladies preferring our food au naturel, but these cakes came so highly recommended that I made and exception. Indeed Charlotte, a woman of high standards and healthy food snobbery, raved about them so much when Rachy made them last year that I knew they were worth a try. If they get a Charlotte endorsement, they gotta be good. The girl got taste.

Having bright red cake mixture in your baking bowl at midnight is very exciting. It takes you back to your youth: the more colourful the food the better. For me, it evoked fond memories of sitting in Rachy's mum's kitchen at a young age smothering rich tea biscuits with bright green icing and sweets (post to follow Midnight baking: the early years).

Back to the cakes. While you wait for the little red delights to bake, you make the delicious cream frosting. This just adds to the colour extravaganza: it looks like an ordinary cake, but as you bite through the cream icing you encounter a red surprise.

As these cupcakes are so pretty, I thought it fitting to present them in a box covered in cupcake wrapping paper. Damn, sometimes it good to be a girl.

When handed out to Lottie's lovely friends who had arrived to celebrate her birth, they were a resounding success. This is the real surprise of these cakes: they are delicious! They have an amazing flavour (containing both chocolate and vanilla) and a rich dense texture. Yum.

So, to inject a bit of colour into your baking, go for the red velvet.

  • Red Velvet Cupcakes

    • 150g plain flour
    • 10g cocoa powder
    • Half tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • Half tsp salt
    • 120ml buttermilk
    • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
    • Half tsp vanilla extract
    • 20 ml red food colouring (preferably Dr Oetker)
    • 60g butter at room temperature
    • 150g caster sugar
    • 1 large egg

    Cream-cheese frosting

    300g icing sugar, sifted

    50g unsalted butter, at room temperature

    125g cream cheese, cold

    If you want to make big fat american cupcakes, use muffin cases (it makes 12). Or makes about 18 English cupcakes.

    Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Line a 12-hole cup cake tin with cases.

    In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, bicarb and a pinch of salt. In a mug, mix the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and red food colouring.

    Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg a little at a time. Mix in a third of the flour mixture, followed by half the buttermilk mixture, then another third of the flour, the rest of the buttermilk and finally the last of the flour mixture.

    Divide the mixture between the paper cases. Bake for 20 minutes, until risen and springy - don't overcook them.

    Cool on a rack.

    When the cupcakes are cool, spoon on the cream cheese frosting:

    Beat the icing sugar and butter together with an electric whisk. Add the cream cheese and beat until incorporated. Continue beating for 5 mins until light and fluffy. Do not overbeat (it will can quickly become runny)

Monday, 1 March 2010

I heart Italia: Salsiccia e zucchine

Italian cuisine with a West Country twist...

by Charlotte x

A couple of weeks ago Matthew (ham enthusiast) came across a wee corner of a magazine which said that Kitchen Italia (fancy Italian restaurant chain), was running a pasta competition. Of course this meant that I/we had to enter so I came up with some initial ideas and decided that we should knock out a few dishes and get a few folk to taste them.

At that point (some point on a Saturday morning) Ceri entered the room and said that she fancied a night of Italian feasting and that she had invited some friends round. So it was settled, Jules would provide the apperitivi, I would make an experimental pasta dish as the first course and Ceri would follow it up with a tasty main course to remember, with some good Pinot Grigio to wash it all down (actually I cannot remember if the wine was Italian or not but I like to think it was).

The ingredients for the pasta dish that were circulating in my head were the following: Italian sausage (super tasty and comes rolled up in a big curl like a snail), courgettes (because they are amazing), juniper berries and cider. Initially I was thinking wine but then after looking into the cupboard and spotting a bottle of Weston’s Organic we decided that cider was the way to go – a fusion of Italian and West Country cuisine could only be good!

After playing around with some ideas, a big frying pan and several things on the spice rack, a rather nice aroma seemed to be materialising. I cooked some fresh pasta, dished it up, and despite the sauce being a little bit runny the overall flavour was a good one! Everyone said it was tasty; I like to think they would say if it was not. So, a couple of tweaks later and perhaps some new guests to do the taste test and I decided we’d be there.

In the meantime Ceri had gone to our local fishmongers (some of whom are rather attractive in the eyes of certain young ladies) and purchased some fine tuna steaks which she served up with a fantastic relish.

Skip forward a few days, maybe two weeks and I was at home preparing lunch for mum, sister, ham enthusiast, cousin, auntie P, uncle D and big Al. This was round two of the sausage pasta recipe experimentation. Obviously far more confident, I made the recipe and was then quite disappointed with the result which was far too runny (over excited with the cider quantity) and seemingly tasteless. So that evening we perfected the sauce to make it, thicker, richer and really quite nice. Here’s the recipe if you fancy giving it a go. If you want to check out the Kitchen Italia site you can now find the recipe on there too!


1 tbsp olive oil

1 small garlic clove, crushed

14 juniper berries, crushed with the side of a knife

400g Italian sausages, sliced

150ml West Country cider (I used Weston’s Organic)

3 tbsp crème fraiche

2 courgettes, cut into thick rounds and then sliced into batons

1 tsp dried oregano

Salt and pepper

50g Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

350g tagliolini


Cut the courgette into batons and salt in a colander for 5-10 minutes.

In a large frying pan heat the olive oil and add the crushed garlic and juniper berries. Throw in the sliced sausage and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes.

Pour in the cider and continue to cook for 6-8 minutes, allowing the cider to reduce by approx half. Stir in the crème fraiche and continue to simmer for a few minutes.

Add the courgette batons and the oregano and cook for 5 minutes, season and stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve with extra grated Parmesan if you like your cheese and fresh tagliolini. 

P.S. If you fancy nudging Ceri to talk about her fisherman friends and the ace tuna recipe then feel free to do so.