Category: Cooking recipes

This dish, usually found in the Alentejo, is made with our beloved grelos (turnip tops). It goes brilliantly with grilled meats or fish, but it is also delicious on its own.

(Serves 4-6)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus 4 tbsp to drizzle
1 small head of fennel, diced (with stalks and fronds)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, germs removed, finely chopped
Sea salt and ground white pepper, to taste
250g long-grain rice, washed and drained
1 bunch of turnip tops, separated into stems and leaves, finely chopped
1.5l of light chicken or vegetable stock (or water)
Splash of white wine
Splash of brandy
Juice of one lemon
Half a bunch of coriander, finely chopped
Shop-bought chilli oil (optional)

In a large, heavy-based pot with a lid, melt the butter with the oil, fennel, onion and garlic over low heat, stirring frequently. Season with salt and white pepper.

Once the ingredients are soft and translucent, add the rice and toast for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Add the stems from the turnip tops, raise the heat and continue to cook for another four minutes, still stirring (make sure the ingredients don’t start browning or burning).

Once the mix starts getting really fragrant, add the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmering. Cover, just removing the lid to stir occasionally, and cook for about 15 minutes.

Add the chopped turnip tops, stir well, adjust the seasoning and continue to cook until the rice is a little al dente, but still in a thick broth consistency. Remove from the heat, add the wine, brandy, lemon juice, coriander and chilli oil, and a further adjustment of seasoning with salt and white pepper.

Stir and cover the pot away from the heat. Let it sit for about five minutes. Remove the lid, drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil and serve in deep bowls with a nice piece of grilled fish or meat, if you like – but this dish works amazingly well by itself.

Felicity Cloake

It may not be fancy or fashionable, but I would be hard pressed to think of a cake I liked better than the simple Victoria sandwich. Coffee and walnut, or a damp, whisky-sodden fruited number might come close, but johnny-come-latelys such as the cheesecake or “death by chocolate” could never hope to compete with the quiet charms of this fete favourite. The Victoria sponge* didn’t always keep such a low profile, however: once upon a time, old faithful sat proudly at the culinary cutting edge, because it took the invention of baking powder in the 1840s to make such rich, buttery cakes even possible, let alone popular. The sweet-toothed British celebrated this truly world-changing moment with a gloriously patriotic recipe (although anyone who attempted to follow Mrs Beeton’s first version would have been left rather underwhelmed by its royal seal of approval, because the original domestic goddess/canny plagiarist left out the eggs).

No matter, because in the subsequent century and a half, we’ve had plenty of time to perfect it. Indeed, the Women’s Institute (WI) has elevated Victoria sandwich-making to an art form: a rosette can be won or lost with a wantonly loose crumb, or the application of the wrong sort of jam. To be honest, though, I’m not too bothered about winning any prizes – a truly great cake is reward enough as far as I’m concerned.

* Strictly speaking, panino pedants, this popular name is a misnomer, because a true sponge, of the kind used in swiss rolls, is made from a whisked mixture of eggs, sugar and flour.

Flour and baking powder
As the miracle without which there would be no Victoria sandwich, it stands to reason that baking powder must be the most important ingredient. Indeed, so vital is it in this recipe that almost everyone opts for self-raising flour, which comes ready fortified with baking powder, apart from east London baker Lily Vanilli, who compensates by adding a whopping 1.5tbsp of baking powder to her plain flour instead.

Joanne Wheatley, past winner of the Great British Bake Off, and author of Home Baking, even tops up her self-raising flour with extra baking powder, as do the twin deities of Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson. I’d hardly dare argue with that lot, so fortunately, though such supplements are not sanctioned by the official WI version, I reckon they know whereof they speak: it makes the cakes even fluffier.

Lawson also uses a small proportion of cornflour along with her self-raising, which reduces the overall levels of gluten, and thus, in theory at least, makes for a softer result. To be honest, though her cake is lovely and light, I prefer a little more of a robust texture in my Victoria sponge: it shouldn’t quite melt in the mouth; after all, that’s what tea was invented for.

Although the Telegraph claims that Mary Berry believes margarine gives a lighter texture to cakes, she’s certainly not admitting it in the Great British Bake Off book: indeed, everyone except Wheatley opts for butter instead. Although she adds an extra egg yolk for colour and richness, I miss the flavour of butter: with careful beating, and a little baking powder, heaviness shouldn’t be a problem. That said, a little milk, as used by Lawson, helps bring the mixture to just the right dropping consistency – I find the WI’s batter thick and difficult to spread evenly in the tins.

In one of two recipes for a Victoria sponge in her book, English Food, Jane Grigson melts the butter with water before adding it to the mixture, to create a “delicate, foolproof cake of the Genoise type” that she credits to the West Sussex Women’s Institute. Foolproof it may be, but mine’s oddly flat and, though undeniably light, rather chewy, like a boudoir biscuit.

Vanilli’s method is yet more unusual: she mixes the butter and flour first, coating the flour with fat, “which inhibits the development of gluten and produces a very soft crumb” – hence, presumably, the amount of baking powder. Her cake is indeed pillowy, but, though light it seems off-puttingly dense and moist, more like an American cake or even a muffin than a Victoria sponge.

Smith and Wheatley both go for the gratifyingly quick all-in-one method, where the ingredients are simply beaten together and baked, rather than the traditional sequence of beating together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, and then gradually introducing the eggs, and finally folding in the flour.

Annie Bell admits in her Baking Bible that she was once a fan of the easy version, but, after testing both it “unanimously came back that the whisked sponge was much lighter … the all-in-one was denser and chewier”. Although, as Bell observes, I would scarcely have noticed the difference separately, when tasted side by side, the traditional method produces a distinctly less coarse, more delicate texture.

Rather than giving exact amounts, the WI weighs the eggs in their shells, then calculates the weight of the flour, butter and sugar accordingly. This seems an eminently sensible idea, given the remarkable variation even within boxes graded by size.

Flavourings and toppings
Vanilla extract is near ubiquitous here, with Vanilli in particular adding a huge amount, but I find it overpowering and sickly, so I’m going to side with the WI. I’m also with them on their caster sugar topping, which, unlike Lawson or Smith’s prettier icing sugar, adds a satisfactory crunch to proceedings.

Though I love the seedy texture of raspberry jam (“homemade/good quality”) I can’t agree with the WI’s spartan prohibition of any other filling. Like food writer Xanthe Clay, I think adding something creamy “rounds out the flavours”. Though the poshest of cakes seem to use fresh whipped stuff (Jane Grigson in particular is very snooty about buttercream) and Smith goes for a highly suspect continental mixture of mascarpone and fromage frais, I’ve fallen in love with Vanilli’s decadent buttercream. This I’ll allow to have the merest nod of vanilla.

Smith and Lawson stuff the cakes with fresh berries, and Vanilli makes a fresh berry compote to replace the jam, but all that fanciness is a step too far. We are in Britain, after all.

The perfect Victoria sponge
Felicity Cloake’s perfect Victoria sponge cake

3 large eggs, weighed in their shells
The same weight of soft lightly salted butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
Generous pinch salt
2tbsp milk
5tbsp raspberry jam
Caster sugar, to top
For the buttercream:
100g butter, softened
200g icing sugar
50ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/gas mark 4) and grease and base-line 2 x 21cm sandwich tins. Put the butter and sugar into a food mixer, or use a hand mixer to combine until light and really fluffy – this should take a good couple of minutes.

Scrape down the sides, beat the eggs together, then add them to the mixture a little at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl down to make sure everything is mixed in properly.
Fold in the flour, baking powder and 1/2tsp salt, then add enough milk so that the mixture drops easily off a spoon, but does not run off. Divide evenly between the tins, smooth the top and put in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and well risen: a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then put, flat-side down, on a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the buttercream by beating the butter until light and fluffy, then adding the sugar and cream and a pinch of salt. Beat together well, then set aside until the cake is cool.

To assemble the cake, put the least favoured cake, whichever it is, on to a plate or stand, and spread generously with jam. Top with a layer of buttercream, then add the second cake, flat-side down. Dust the top with caster sugar, and devour.

Is the Victoria sandwich the unsung hero of our teatime repertoire, or does it deserve its dull reputation? Have you ever won a prize for yours, and which other old-fashioned cakes would you revive given half the chance? (My vote’s for seed cake: it always sounded so very jolly in Enid Blyton’s fabulous midnight feasts.)

What’s there not to love about chicken drumsticks? They’re dark meat (more flavor), relatively inexpensive (certainly compared to boneless skinless breasts), they cook up quickly (half an hour in the oven), you can save the leftover bones for making stock, they’re kid-friendly (have you ever met a kid who didn’t like drumsticks?), and they even come with built-in nifty handles (so you can eat like King Henry VIII).

There are many ways to do breaded and baked drumsticks (see list of recipes from other bloggers at the bottom of this recipe). This particular recipe uses a mayonnaise and mustard mixture as a first coating, then some breadcrumbs with chives for the breadcrumb coating. You could just as easily use a beaten egg for the first coat (you need something for the breadcrumbs to adhere to), and a mixture of breadcrumbs, panko, grated Parmesan, lemon zest, tarragon, or thyme for the bread crumb coating. You can also brown the drumsticks first on the stovetop and then transfer the pan to the oven (helps to use a cast iron pan if doing it this way).

Do you have a favorite way to prepare breaded drumsticks? A favorite breadcrumb coating combination? If so, please let us know about it in the comments.

Breaded and Baked Chicken Drumsticks Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4-6.
  • Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Dijon or whole grain mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped chives or green onion greens
  • Salt
  • 6 large chicken drumsticks, about 1 1/3 lbs
  • Olive oil


1 Place rack on upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat the bottom of a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet with a thin layer of olive oil.

2 Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a medium bowl. Mix together the breadcrumbs and minced chives in a separate medium bowl.

3 Sprinkle each drumstick with salt. One by one, dip each drumstick in the mayonnaise mixture, turning to coat. Then dip the drumstick in the breadcrumbs mixture, turning to coat. Place the drumsticks on the prepared roasting pan.

4 Bake chicken for 20-25 minutes, until just cooked through, and juices run clear (not pink) when poked with a sharp knife.

Strawberry shortcake is one of those iconic desserts—make it from scratch or not at all. If you’re craving strawberry shortcake, you want the real deal: tender biscuits, pillowy whipped cream and ripe, juicy berries.It need not be complicated…which is why we were impressed with the perfect simplicity of a reader recipe that recently came our way. The results were glorious—the nutritional analysis was anything but.

The original recipe packed:

409 calories
28 grams total fat
18 grams saturated fat

Once we saw the numbers, the saturated fat was our main target for reduction. Here’s how we made it healthy:

* We dropped the heavy cream and a stick of butter from the biscuit, replacing it with a healthier blend of buttermilk, canola oil and reduced-fat cream cheese (a smaller amount of butter was left in the mix for its irreplaceable flavor).

* The cream was hardest to replicate, but a traditional whipped cream cut with reduced-fat sour cream gave a slight tang to the sweet berries while still creating a decadent, creamy topping. With these efforts we cut the total fat in half and the saturated fat by two-thirds.

* To make sure the biscuits were tender, but with a bit of fiber, we switched from all-purpose flour to a blend of  cake flour and white whole-wheat flour. (We love white whole-wheat flour for baking.)

* Then we increased the berries by a cup, which added more vitamin C and fiber per serving.

The EatingWell version rang in at:

303 calories
14 grams total fat
6 grams saturated fat

The beauty of our Strawberry Shortcake recipe is not only that it’s healthier, but also that it’s elegantly simple. You’ll want to try this recipe with other fruit, too—peaches, raspberries and blueberries are natural choices. We’ve also developed healthy take-offs on strawberry shortcake using different fruits and variations on the basic biscuit.