Friday, 28 January 2011

All Recipes Now in US Cups

Listen up those of you of an American persuasion, all recipes have been update with weights in cups, so you have no excuse.

Converted using

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Return.

After an unexpected hiatus, The Octopus Tea Party is back with a vengeance.
Check back later for new recipes.


Friday, 14 May 2010

Lime Sponge

Of all the citrus family, The Lime, is my favourite. I would easily choose it over a lemon, orange or grapefruit any time of the day. And it is such an underused ingredient in baking, Most everyone always goes for a lemon sponge for a citrus bake. Blah Blah Blah is what I say. Lime is where it is at, and I am bringing it back.

This recipe will work well for a light sponge cake or cupcakes, either way it's going to be lush. I concocted this recipe myself for fun and it did not disappoint.


7oz /200g /1 & 3/4 cups Self Raising Flour
6oz /175g / 3/4 cup Vitalite
6oz /175g 3/4 cup Caster Sugar
1tsp Baking Powder
3 Medium Eggs
2 Medium Size Limes (zested & juiced)

You will also need either 2 small sandwich tins (greased&floured) or a 12 hole muffin tin, depending on what you decide to do with the mixture.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180oC

1] So, we just have to go at this like we were making a normal sponge mix. Cream the fat until pale and fluffy (around 3 minutes with an electric whisk on full whack). Then add the sugar and whisk again until thoroughly combined.

2] Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well between each one. With the final egg remember to beat in a tablespoon of flour with it.

3] Sift in the flour and baking powder and roughly combine with a spatula (to avoid flour cloud). Add the juice of the limes and then whisk away until the mix has a mousse like consistency. It is about this time that you will want to stir in the zest of the limes with your trusty spatula or pallet knife.

4] Evenly dollop the mixture between the muffin cases or sandwich tins and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes or until golden and a skewer comes out clean. Once done leave to cool in the tins for around 15 minutes before removing to a wire cooling rack.

And there you have it. Delicious lime sponge.

Now you can either enjoy as it is, which is fine, or you can embellish with the delightful coconut and lime frosting. And here is how you do it; using the aforementioned frosting technique make up a batch of plain frosting, then add a small handful of coconut and 2 tablespoons of lime juice and mix well. Tinkering with it is a must. The general sensation you should be aiming for is a delicate, sweet coconut taste proceed by a gentle cut through by the lime. A tricky balancing act if ever there was one, hence the need for tinkering, but it is definitely worth it.


Butter Cream Frosting (aka Deliciousness Personified)

I LOVE butter cream. Well, technically it's Vitalite cream, if you want to be pedantic about it, but butter cream sounds better! It's delicious creaminess adds that extra indulgence to any cake or bun. And it is so damn versatile. I haven't found an ingredient I couldn't make work yet.

Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, lemon, ginger, coconut, cherry, sherbet, lime, mint, the list goes on. Here is the basic recipe for butter cream. It will ice around 12 cupcakes, roughly. It all depends on how decadently you slap the stuff on!


8oz/250g / 1 & 1/2 cups Sifted Icing Sugar
3oz/80g / 1/2 cup Vitalite
2 tbsp Soya Milk
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1] Using an electric hand whisk beat the Vitalite for 2-3 minutes until pale and fluffy. Sift in half of the icing sugar and stir in with a spatula until roughly combined. Do this rather than jump straight in with the whisk or you'll have an icing sugar cloud floating in your kitchen!*

2] Sift in the remainder of the icing sugar and roughly combine. Add the milk and the extract then whisk for 4-5 minutes. The general idea is to make the frosting as light as possible, hence the compulsive whisking.**

3] Get a spoon and have a taste! Most of my frostings need a bit of tinkering here and there. A little more icing sugar if it's too lemony; a bit more mint extract if it's not minty enough. Always try it as everybody's taste is different. Once you are happy with it grab your pallet knife and schmear on that frosting like there is no tomorrow.

*Flavourings such as cocoa powder, natural extracts, sherbets are best added at this stage

**It is worth noting that any 'lumpy' flavourings (IE lemon zest or coconut) are best stirred in at the last minute with a pallet knife or metal spoon, as they tend to just attach themselves to the whisk blades.


Monday, 19 April 2010

Rocky Road

Rocky Road is a dessert with its roots in American history. Originally made as an ice cream during the Great Depression in the 1920s & 30s, its appeal has lasted nearly a century. In this post I'm going to walk you through making the Rocky Road Slab.

This is one of the easiest, yet most decadent recipes you will ever come across. I can clear off a tray of it on my own, although I wouldn't recommend it (unless you want to start haemorrhaging sugar).

The good thing about rocky road is how versatile it is. All the 'rocks' are completely interchangeable. For vegans, marshmallows can be substituted for jelly tots, glacé or dried fruits, more nuts or coconut, to name but a few. Crystallized ginger is a good one to add if you want a bit of a kick to it, and the fieriness cuts right through the sickly sweet of the chocolate.

So here is the recipe I work from:

400g /14oz /2 & 1/2 cups Plain or Dark Chocolate
175g /6oz / 3/4 cup Vitalite (or alternative)
4 tbsp Golden Syrup
200g /7oz /1 & 3/4 cups Broken Digestive Biscuits
150g /5oz / 1 cup Broken Brazil or Walnuts
100g /4oz / 1/2 cup Roughly Chopped Glacé Cherries
100g /4oz / 2 cups Marshmallows

You will also need some freezer/strong food bags, rolling pin, BIG pan, wooden spoon & roasting tray.

1] First, lightly grease your roasting tin as this is where your Rocky Road is going to set.

2] Now for the fun part. Weigh out your biscuits and place them in a freezer bag, tie the bag up and then get a firm grip on your rolling pin. Right, now go to town on the bags. Work out any anger issues you have by beating the biscuits into a fine mess of crumbs and chunks. Don't go too wild though, if you need to beat stuff to within an inch of its biscuity life then I suggest you see a professional. Now repeat this process with your nuts of choice.

3] Once you've done that, roughly chop the glacé cherries and weigh out the mallows so they are ready to use when you need them.

4] Add the chocolate, Vitalite & golden syrup to the pan and melt together over a low heat. The trick, keep stirring, nobody wants burnt chocolate. Once you have a beautiful, syrupy, chocolate goo the fun can begin. Stir in the broken biscuits and nuts first. Once they are thoroughly mixed, add the cherries, then the marshmallows last. When you are satisfied that all the rocks are sufficiently drenched scoop it into your roasting tray.

5] Once cooled, put in the fridge and chill for around 12 hours. When it has set, slice it up and get your nom on.


Friday, 16 April 2010


Now, a word on the tools I really could not bake without.

Getting these tools is the basis for all good baking. First get yourself a good set of scales. Accuracy is key in baking most of the time (I have been known to go for some creative guess work). I love my scales, they are accurate and beautiful to look at.

Mixing bowls, get a variety of sizes but stay away from cheap plastic ones, you will only regret it later. Personally I go for melamine or pot ones, sturdy and hard wearing.

SPATULAS! Seriously, get a few, silicone ones are best, they will change your life.

Wooden spoons, pallet knife, baking & greaseproof paper, sieve, bun trays, muffin trays, baking sheets, cake tins (in all sizes & shapes), silicone pastry brush, measuring jugs and a set of measuring spoons & cups. Measuring cups are useful if working with American recipes as this tends to me their default measurement.

Get some pipettes. I got 10 from eBay for around £2 and they are a godsend when messing with food colouring.

I think I have covered the basics here, I will address specialist equipment as and when needed.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Sponge is the basis of most good cupcakes as well as for a traditional Victoria Sponge. I find some comfort in the fact that this basic recipe has been used by millions of people for generations upon generations, all over the world. That said, I have made a few adaptions to work with dairy alternatives.

The age old recipe is

8oz Sugar
8oz Flour
8oz Fat
4 Eggs

Now the only major alteration to my recipe is to add an extra ounce of flour, for every four ounces. This is because I have found that using non dairy ingredients can make the mix curdle slightly. Also, I have found when the mixture has the consistency of a thick mousse it makes the best buns.

A word on cupcakes, an Americanism if ever there was one, I use muffin cases as opposed to bun cases (but that's just because I like them big and fat...ooooh matron).

So, those bases covered let us begin.

Ingredients (to make around 12 cupcakes)

7oz /200g / 1 & 3/4 cups Self Raising Flour
6oz /175g /3/4 cup Caster Sugar
6oz /175g/ 3/4 cup Vitalite (or alternative)
3 Medium Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 180oC/Gas Mark 4 & line muffin trays with cases.

1] Cream together the fat and sugar with your trust electric whisk. I usually go at it for a good 3-4 minutes, until it is fluffy like a cloud and pale in colour.

2] Add the eggs one at a time, whisk each one until thoroughly combined. With the last egg add one tablespoon of flour before whisking.

3] Sift in the flour and briefly fold in with a spatula, add the vanilla extract then whisk until thoroughly combined. As i stated earlier, I find the best cupcakes are made with a thicker consistency mixture.

4] Using a table spoon, fill the cases until 2/3 full, which is about a tablespoon and a half.

5] Bake in preheated oven for around 18-20 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR UNTIL AT LEAST 15 MINUTES HAS PASSED! The buns should be risen and golden when done. I ALWAYS use a skewer to check that they are cooked thoroughly (it should come out clean if they are)

6] Once you are satisfied that your cupcakes are done remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tray before transferring to wire cooling rack.

And there you have it. I will address variations to this recipe (chocolate, jam swirls, lemon to name but a few) in later posts, as well as icings and frostings.



Lovely Bakewells

One of the most popular things to come out of my kitchen are bakewells. My nearest and dearest go wild for them. Moist almondy cake sits in a case of sweet pastry, with raspberry jam hidden between the two. In short, delicious.

Best served slightly warm with a cup of tea, here is how you do it:


For the Pastry:
8oz /225g /2 cup Plain Flour
6oz /175g / 3/4 cup Vitalite (or alternative)
3 tbsp Caster Sugar*
Splash of milk

For the Filling:
4oz /100g / 1/2 cup Vitalite (or alternative)
4oz /100g / 1/2 cup Caster Sugar
2oz /50g / 1/2 cup Ground Almonds
2oz /50g / 1/2 cup Self Raising Flour
2 Medium Eggs
1tsp Almond Essence**

Seedless Raspberry Jam

*I usually do the sugar by sight, but 3 tbsp is about the amount I use
**always use essence/extracts rather than flavourings. They only cost about 50p more and you can definitely taste the difference!


First, prep your bun trays. you will need to grease them with a little fat. This recipe will make you between 18 and 24 bakewells.

1] Now some bakers will gasp in horror with what I am about to say, but it always works for me...
To make the pastry add the sugar, flour & fat to a large mixing bowl. Using an electric whisk beat together until breadcrumbs form. (alternatively you can go for the traditional rubbing with fingers technique).

2] Once breadcrumbs formed, add a splash of milk (only a little at a time) and go at the pastry with a wooden spoon until a dough has formed. If you have been a bit over zealous with the milk, add a little bit more flour to even the dough out. Once happy, wrap in clingfilm and chuck it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Now, sit down and have a brew.

3] OK, now once the 30+ minutes is up start preheating your oven to 180oC/Gas Mark 4.

4] On a clean, dry work surface sift an even layer of plain flour. Using half of your dough roll out until around 5mm thick. Using an appropriate cutter, cut out your pastry and line the bun trays. Repeat until all pastry has been used. A word to the wise, I wouldn't re-roll pastry more than 3 times. Add 1/2 teaspoon on jam to each pastry case.

5] Now for the cake mix. Have your electric whisk at the ready. Cream together the fat & sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg and half of the almonds and continue to whisk until combined. Repeat with the second egg and remaining almonds. Once thoroughly combined sift in the flour and add the almond essence. Whisk some more until beautifully fluffy.

6] Add approximately 1 (heaped) teaspoon of cake mix into the pastry cases. Make sure the jam is completely covered. Depending on how generous you are with the mix you may find it doesn't stretch to make 24 bakewells, but never fear, just throw a bit more jam in the extra cases and you've got yourself a few sneaky jam tarts! Place in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, they should be golden in colour and springy to touch.

Now you can either leave them plain, or go a bit Kipling and add icing and glace cherries. I will eat them either way so it is up to you.



Ingredient Alternatives.

Before I begin the bombardment of recipes a few words about the alternative ingredients I use.

There are a few variations available on the UK market, the main two contenders being Vitalite and Pure. I generally prefer using Vitalite as it has a more buttery taste. Pure is good for pastries as it has a firmer consistency (more like a baking fat).

It goes without saying that the better quality your ingredients, the better your little miracles will taste. Which is true. But for my everyday baking, I generally use the 'value' flour and I honestly have never had any complaints. As long as you sift it well, I have found no issues with it.

My default sugar is Silver Spoon Caster Sugar. I use this for anything that doesn't require a specialist sugar.

Milk & Cream.
As a lactose intolerant vegetarian, I use soya milk a lot. My brand of choice is the value, 60p a carton, unsweetened variety. No frills. It does its job. Dearest Mummy Farquharson (a hardcore vegan) shudders every time I pick up a carton. She prefers Alpro, which frankly makes me feel a bit sick. But I digress, what I am getting at is use the brand that you love.

In regards to cream, Alpro do make a single cream which works very well in recipes (or just with a lovely apple pie). Double cream was a tricky one, but then I found this: Granovita Organic Cremovita. I haven't used it extensively yet but it does work bloody well in chocolate truffles. (I wouldn't use it as an alternative for double cream in savoury dishes as it is just too sweet).

I always use free range or barn.

Other ingredients/alternatives I will address as and when the recipes call for them. I do have a cracking recipe for making condensed milk, which is a god send for making fudge & caramels.

So, let us begin.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

And in the beginning there was cake.

So much delicious cake I thought: "Surely, this must be some sort of bliss." Rich buttery frosting spilled over the tops of moist milk chocolate cupcakes. Dense rum truffles filled with the best double cream. Jersey's finest vanilla ice-cream melts into a hot apple crumble...and I then I wake up.

Just another dream, my mind torturing me with things I will never again eat thanks to my body turning against me.

And the torture think of the hours I have spent reading the back of packets in supermarkets and shops, the time wasted trying to find something delicious and sugary and ready to eat. Even Walkers Salt & Vinegar crisps now have milk!? What is that all about? The Farquharson minds. This aggression (against those of a non dairy persuasion) will not stand, man.

Thus, I have made it my life's mission to convert and adapt recipes to suit the dairy free diet, be you vegan or just allergic.

And now, I shall share them with you.