What a simple, brilliant idea

The other day my friend and I went to our usual coffee shop for a good catch-up, delicious coffee, yummy cakes and friendly yet unobtrusive staff. My kinda place. However, as we walked in this time, you could practically cut the atmosphere with a knife. It was like a fug. And it was all down to one person – the new manager. Shouting orders to staff, chastising them in front of everyone, stomping around hands on hip; short and abrupt with the customers. Quite alarming really. He was simply a bully to his staff, with appalling customer service. We shall never return.

In every career I have had, offering great service has been paramount and I brought everything learnt over the years to Merrow Savouries. The letters and emails of grateful thanks of not only our food, but also our great service are some of my most treasured possessions and are kept in a big box with a red ribbon. If I ever need a little joy adding to my day – I simply open the box and re-read some of them.

In fact, perhaps we should feel sorry for people who offer bad service – their life must be pretty miserable, not enjoying their work, always grunting, huffing and grimacing, with customers complaining. Not much fun eh? And no red ribbon to untie.

But there are happier stories..

Apart from other things, my father had antique shops. He always offered his customers a mug of fresh coffee and an endless supply of custard creams, whilst they browsed with absolutely no pressure whatsoever to purchase. He just enjoyed chatting and sharing his passion for antiques. The fact customers often bought from him was almost incidental as he was happy in his work, his prices were most fair and his endless knowledge and the service he offered were greatly sought after. People visited his shops from all over the world. His reputation preceded him – and this was way before social media and the internet. And he always rang to say if he was running late for an appointment – even it was going to be a few minutes.

When having our carpet fitted –the fitter said there was a perfect piece left over to make a rug, by hemming the edges – which he offered to do with no charge! Guess who we will use again?

The beautiful but highly fragile item I ordered online came so expertly packaged it was almost a shame to unwrap it. I shall certainly purchase from them again.

Or how about the catering company from whom I ordered 144 white china mugs but 2 arrived broken. With genuine apologies they credited me for 12 mugs (12 not 2 as they came in boxes of 12!) and sent another 12, not 2! The next day. That is why they are my first choice –faultless service

And finally, to prove how important it is to offer good service or a friendly gesture … the elderly gentleman in front of me at the checkout said ‘I am in no hurry – please go in front of me’. I thanked him and said ‘Hopefully someone will do that for you one day’. His reply…’Someone already has, that is why I am doing it now’.

It is so true, a smile, an act of gentle unobtrusive kindness or service can really make someone’s day. And who knows it may just catch on.


Delicious Portugese Tarts…

Delicious Portuguese Tarts!!!

For those of you who have been fortunate to visit beautiful Portugal or one of it’s even lovelier islands, then you will almost certainly have seen (as they are in every bakery or cafe) or better still tasted one of its specialities – Portuguese Custard Tarts.

Possibly surprisingly to many (!) I do not actually have a sweet tooth and cakes and pastries do little for me! Except these tarts. I love them. A recent trip to gorgeous Madeira witnessed me trying a tart in every eatery we went to, and yes that was copious many, if only because the coffee there is also a real treat. Every café had its own version and ‘secret recipe’ of this traditional speciality and everyone albeit different was devoured. So, here is my version, perhaps not as good as when eaten on a pavement café in Funchal or Lisbon, or in a little tavern in the mountains having hiked one of the levadas with agapanthus and orchids growing like weeds; but hey ho, I am back in Merrow and this is as good as it gets re those little tarts…..

On a floured board, roll out a 500g pack of puff pastry and using a 9cm cutter cut out about 12 circles (I should be on commission with the amount of this stuff I use and recommend.) Now line a greased muffin tray with the pastry circles and pop in the fridge to chill and relax (the pastry not you!) whilst you make the filling; which is basically rich custard. Mix 2 rounded tablespoons of custard powder with 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of double cream taken from a 400ml tub until it resembles a smooth paste. Now split a vanilla pod down the middle and scrape out the seeds and add to the paste. Or if you like, not as good but ok…just use a sprinkle of a good vanilla extract. (the better the quality the better the taste). Now add the zest of an orange to the paste (and eat the flesh for lunch). Then simply heat the rest of the cream in a small pan just to boil and pour over the paste; return to the mixture to the pan and heat gently, whisking for about a minute until thick and smooth. Basically you are just making custard as per the tin’s instructions but using cream instead of milk. Try and forget about the calories for a few minutes. Allow the custard to cool slightly and then pour into the chilled pastry cases. You could, if you like, sprinkle a tad of cinnamon or mixed spice on top, but not for me thank you. Bake in a hot oven, 220c, gas 7 for about 20 minutes until golden. Allow cool, dust with icing sugar and absolutely devour, with that cup of coffee. Sometimes these tarts are served looking almost ‘burnt’ or caramelised on top, achieved by sprinkling a little sugar on top before baking. They did not look as appetising… ‘Ooh that one looks burnt’ I thought – but they did taste good! All of them…..


PS I should add that when I incorporate these into a business’ breakfast or elevenses there are never any left – over as ‘chef’s perks’. Shame.

Did you try one of those…?

Many restaurants and caterers will not divulge their recipes for a plethora of reasons. However, whilst there are a few Merrow Savouries’ dishes that we would not want to reveal their secret (coronation chicken is one and the other is our chocolate and amaretti cheesecake!) both Tom and I are quite happy to share our recipes and ideas. We take it as a compliment when someone asks. It means they must have liked it. So, here is the first of many sweet treat ideas we would like to share.

One of the most frequently requested recipes is for date slices. Actually given to me by mother in law over 30 years ago (as are so many of my recipes) and still as popular as it was then.

Using your fingertips rub together equal quantities (say 250g of each) of plain white flour, soft margarine, demerara sugar, porridge oats and a good pinch of salt. It does not have to be too fine. More a breadcrumb consistency. Meanwhile soak about 250g of dried stoneless dates in boiling water or better still for a good hour until they are soft. Press half the crumble mixture into a greased Swiss roll tin. Drain the dates and squash them up a little. Press them into the crumble. Then tip the rest of the crumble on top, sandwiching the dates. Press the top layer of crumble down. Bake at 170’C/300F/Gas 4for about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Cut them into squares, as big or as little as you like. We like to serve them ‘bite size’ for afternoon teas or bigger for morning coffee. You could substitute the dates for apricots or mixed dried fruit (soaked in orange juice to soften them). Or at Christmas use mincemeat inside and sprinkle with nuts on the top layer, dust with icing sugar once cooked and offer as a delicious alternative to mince pies. The crumble mix itself is also great on top of apples, rhubarb or plums with a tad more sprinkling of Demerara on top to brown it up and add a crunch.

Another much requested recipe of ours is for rock cakes which are always thoroughly enjoyed as a part of our cake platters. Whilst so very quick and easy to make, very few recipe books seem to mention them. Although incredibly simple -it seems that the more often you make them, the better they get. Perhaps they are a bit 1970s? but who cares, they are always devoured. As before use your finger tips to rub together ‘half everything to flour’ ie 200g self raising flour with 100g margarine and 100g Demerara sugar. Then add about 100g of dried mixed fruit and a teaspoon of mixed spice and a pinch of salt. Now using a fork, combine the dried ingredients with one large beaten egg. It may look quite dry but do not be tempted to add more eggs (ok a tad of milk if you must) otherwise you will have rock flats rather than rock cakes or buns! Using a spoon and fork or your hands dusted in flour, divide the dough into about 12 rocky lumps (don’t be precious about smoothing them into rounds) and place on a greased baking tray. Bake for about 15 minutes at 190’c/375F/Gas 5. Serve slightly warm straight from the oven or if you can bear the wait – cool on a rack, but best eaten on the same day, just like scones.




A Pasty A Day…

A pasty a day – is delish but not a good idea!

A recent trip to Cornwall, despite the copious miles of cliff walks, saw me return 3lbs heavier than I arrived. Not funny.

There was only one answer – the pasties!!!! Oooh I do like a pasty but luckily for the waistline I do not live in Cornwall and they are not the daily treat that most tourists, like us, seem to enjoy.

However, we do offer them on our menus, especially for business lunches – as they go down a treat, albeit presented smaller than those gigantic 1500 calorie Cornish ones. Although at the risk of offending some County Pasty Society or expert who would tell me their proper ones should have a particular cut of meat in them or must have swede or must be made with flaky pastry or crimped at the top– I hedge my bets and simply call our version – Pasties.

So, having tried and tested ‘the real thing’ possibly too often(!) here is the basic idea how we make ours..

First, a secret – we use bought puff pastry. Horror of horrors – bought, not home made– but frankly I am not ashamed to admit it – as I understand that it is a rare chef or even good restaurant that does make their own. Shortcrust and sweet – yes always – but puff is a tad of a chore and the bought stuff is excellent – buy it fresh and ready rolled though, not frozen in a block– as you don’t want to ‘work it’ any more than necessary or else it gets hard and dry.

So, first thing is to cut out the pastry into a circle – use a saucer as a good guide or a larger side plate if you want something a little more substantial a la holiday portion. We use a mug to cut around to make smaller ones when they are a part of a buffet lunch, or a glass rim for our little canapé ones.

Place the pastry rounds on a floured board and pop in the fridge to cool and rest (this stops the pastry shrinking when cooking)

Now, the fillings – personally I love the cheese, onion and potato ones so simply sauté some onions or caramelise them by adding a splash of balsamic vinegar and some muscovado sugar – add to some 1cm cut pieces of boiled potatoes, and add grated cheese, even a spoonful of pickle as well. Mmmm.

Meat lovers will love it when you basically make a dryish, not wet, thick bolognaise sauce with beef skirt or mince with added cooked chopped 1cm potatoes and swede. Or how about a thick pork bolognaise sauce with the ubiquitous chunks of potatoes, some pieces of apple and slices of stilton. How about using lamb mince and add chopped fresh mint. Or vegetarians would love it if you roast slices of red onions, colourful peppers with chopped fresh tomatoes, aubergines and slices of courgettes.
Always season your filling well especially with fresh ground pepper and cool before use.

Remove the circles of pastry from the fridge and moisten the edges with a little water. There are lots of ways of presenting the pasty but the easiest is to place some of the filling on one half of the round pastry and fold the free side over and use a fork to press the pastry sides together.

Brush with some beaten egg and cook for about 45 minutes in a hot oven. Then devour…but note to self…not too many!


Everyone loves lasagne

Everyone loves lasagne

When we are asked to cook for a large hungry crowd needing a tasty, hot but easy-to-eat supper, perhaps for a barn dance or quiz night we often suggest lasagne accompanied with some really great salads and home made garlic breads. Always devoured.

OK, so it is hardly cordon bleu or rocket science and lots of people make lasagne themselves anyway; but sometimes lack of space, facilities, material items or simply the logistics of making it in very large quantities can be a little daunting. However, whatever version, it is always such a party winner, if like so many other successful and popular dishes – a tad 1980s! So whilst you may need our help if you are having a big party why not try out some of our variations and ideas on a smaller scale, for your family? One big tip though – please don’t be tempted with a bought jar of ready-made sauce or tub of cheese sauce. Make it yourself and just taste the delicious difference.

Whilst traditionally made with pasta sheets layered with savoury beef mince and topped with a white sauce is yum; we like to think up different variations of the theme such as using good quality pork mince with a little grated apple or using lamb mince and topping the dish with grated parmesan or a little stilton.

One of our popular vegetarian options that even the meat eaters love is to make a mixture of colourful roasted peppers, aubergines, red onions, courgettes and beef tomatoes. Topping with a home made cheddar cheese sauce.

Wilted, well drained fresh spinach combined with sautéed posh mushrooms, pine nuts and ricotta cheese layered up with the pasta also makes a yummy dish. Served on a bed of leaves and in small portions this one also makes for an unusual dinner party starter.

For fish lovers – using seasoned milk gently poach white fish with flaked smoked salmon, king prawns and mussels; then using the fishy milk (which sounds awful doesn’t it?) make up into a tasty white sauce with butter and cornflour. Layering the fish, pasta and sauce – this is rich and delicious, just needing a good green salad to accompany.

For a really wholesome lasagne sauté chopped onions, carrots and celery and add a couple of tins of good quality tomatoes, then a generous splash of Worcester sauce and seasoning. Combining this vegetable sauce with cooked red lentils results in a thick tasty mixture. Layered up with the lasagne sheets and finally topped with a tub of crème fraiche. Taking a good 45 minutes in the oven it makes a super filling tasty supper.

Finally, try layering up the pasta sheets with a combination of good home made tomato sauce, pieces of cooked chicken, onions and peppers with perhaps a splash of chilli sauce for a kick. If you are making this version for your own family it is a great way of using up any left -over chicken from the Sunday roast. Topped with some more of the tomato sauce, bake in the oven for 45 mins then add a generous topping of grated cheese and return to the oven for the cheese to melt and bubble up. Delish.

So, why not try one of our lasagne ideas or just think out of the box a little and make up your own new family favourite version. But do make it yourself – it is definitely worth it.


Sue and Tom
Merrow Savouries

Yummy Crunchy Top Vegetable Bake, with Magic Cheese Sauce and Weird Topping

For pretty obvious reasons, I do seem to spend my life thinking about food, planning menus, hosting occasions and of course – cooking – often in extremely large numbers. Hence, sometimes thinking about our own family supper is not always high on the agenda. But even at home – it is always homemade; otherwise the entire ethos of my business would be pointless.

Basically, every now and again or if I am late back from a function – whatever is in the fridge or larder is made into something quick and easy and yet yum, with minimal thought or hassle.

One such meal and a great favourite in my old veggie restaurant – is Crunchy Top Vegetable Bake and even if you don’t have the ingredients– it is worth venturing to my dear special friend and second home – the supermarket – for the ingredients.

Fry a couple of sliced onions, 2 battoned carrots and chunks of a large courgette until soft but not brown.

Meanwhile in a pan of boiling water barely cook some broccoli and cauliflower florets and add a tin of sweetcorn. Drain well (no soggy soft veggies if you don’t mind) and combine them all into an ovenproof dish.

Now these veggies need a tasty sauce. One of Merrow Savouries’ most popular ‘feed a hungry crowd’ dish is Lasagne. It may be a tad 1970s but it is still always delicious, hugely successful and devoured. But it does need a really good homemade cheese sauce. Never ever a bought jar of slimy, greasy E-filled slop. Homemade is fathoms above bought stuff – hence possibly why we are asked to make our Lasages all the time, be it beef, lamb, salmon, seafood, ratatouille, vegetable – you name it…

Anyway, when it comes to making our sauce we use the all-in-one method – much quicker when you have to make copious pints of the thick creamy cheesy stuff and frankly practically fool proof, always works, and lumpy sauce is banished forever.

So, instead of making the traditional ‘roux’ – simply put all your sauce ingredients into a saucepan at the same time, all cold. Proportions are roughly 1pt milk, 40g sifted flour/ and 40g cubed butter (not marg – you will tell the difference!). It also works well with much larger quantities. Now turn on the heat and bring the ingredients to a slow simmer – whisking as you go. It will quite quickly all come together into a thick glossy creamy sauce with no lumps. Magic! Then turn off the heat and leave it for 5 minutes to rest and thicken a little more; then season with salt and pepper and perhaps a pinch of cayenne or nutmeg or mustard. Stir in about 40g of grated strong cheddar cheese, which will melt in the residue heat of the sauce. Don’t add the cheese into the pan whilst it is cooking– it may become stringy. And you don’t want that.

With the magic all-in-one cheese sauce made – simply pour it over the prepared veggies.

Now for something weird…. Using a rolling pin crush some cornflakes (yes, cornflakes!) and combine with some grated cheese.

Top the veggies in the sauce with the cheesy flakes. Or you could actually be even weirder and use crushed crisps.

Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes and serve with a salad.


Fruit in Salad? And in Winter? Whatever Next?

I know, I know, it is January and freezing cold and all we really want to eat is casseroles, pies, hotpots and carbs; but many of us are still hankering after a slimmer, fitter self to ring in 2017 – so it does pay off to have some healthier dishes during the week.

Personally I love devising, making and enjoying salads at any time of the year; either to enjoy at lunchtime or to compliment the usual heartier winter dishes. Whatever time of year, salads are usually included in our buffet menus. But, not the run of the mill ones – something a little different, something ‘out of the box’. So, here are a few perhaps slightly unusual ideas to the usual lettuce, tomato and cucumber, but would still compliment many of our favourite winter dishes and frankly makes a fresh change to the usual heavier winter broccoli, sprouts and cabbages.

Coleslaw is a great accompaniment to the traditional dishes of lasagnes, moussaka, steaks and chops. Our version is to slice equal quantities of white and red cabbage and grated carrot but to add chunks of red and green apples and good quality plump sultanas. Combine with mayonnaise, low fat is fine, or for a healthier kick some low fat yogurt or crème fraiche. Great with roast chicken and jacket potatoes.

Another personal favourite has the rather fancy name of Celeriac Remoulade – and one of Tom’s trademark salads. Grated peeled celeriac (the ugliest but tastiest of the root veggies also great in a dauphinoise) combined with a splash of Worcester sauce, some wholegrain mustard which has those lovely little seeds or Dijon will do fine, but maybe not look quite so posh. Combined with low fat mayonnaise. Garnished with fresh parsley. If you don’t like the very pronounced taste of the aniseed in celeriac, then use half white cabbage and half celeriac – just as good.

When I ran the vegetarian restaurant one of the most popular salads was actually my worse nemesis. To be honest I did not, and still do not, even like preparing it but the customer comes first and is always right (!!!) and unfortunately for me they always asked for this salad. Chunks or slices of fresh beetroot combined with segments of peeled and de-pithed oranges. Pouring any escaping juices over it too. Very colourful but watch the staining of your hands- I use rubber gloves not only to stop the stain but so I do not even have to touch the wretched thing (Or I ask Tom to prepare it – even better)

Another option, although still arch-enemy, is the beetroot combined with chopped red and green apple. For some reason it was and still is always devoured!!! Oh what I do for Merrow Savouries.

Slices of fresh oranges also go well with the salad leaves of rocket and watercress with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. In fact toasted seeds of any sort always smarten up and add both protein and texture to a green leaf salad, and the lovely little red jewels of the seeds of pomegranate add even more colour and vitamins.

A fresh alternative is also so simple – just grate some really good quality fresh carrots and combine with chunks of apple and some good quality dried sultanas or raisins. You could also sprinkle over some toasted almonds or pine nuts, even cashews or peanuts for a great texture and healthy bite. A great light lunch particularly if you add some grated low fat edam cheese which is a better choice than cheddar if you are watching your weight.

So, salads don’t have to just be for the Summer months – why not ring the changes and enjoy them all year round.


Mr Sanders’ favourite meal

My father in law always most graciously said that his favourite meal of the year was ‘Boxing Day in Merrow’ and it was indeed always a great pleasure to cook for him – he loved it so, the family, the log fire, Wallace and Gromit on the telly, and although it meant he needed a good hour on the sofa after lunch for a little shut-eye, probably to avoid the washing up – it was worth it, to receive the big bear hug of thanks.

So, here is his favourite menu…

Cold Turkey leftover from the day before. (I always buy one far too big!)

A home baked ham, served cold– easy peasy. Several days before, boil a whole gammon in 2 litres of coca cola for a couple of hours– seriously – just ask HRH Nigella(!) Then carefully remove, score the skin and rub in equal measures of honey and mustard. Bake in the oven for about half an hour. Cool. Slice and arrange in alternate slices with the turkey.

Colourful crunchy coleslaw made with shredded white cabbage and grated carrots and celeriac combined with a little crème fraiche with wholegrain mustard but also with the addition of chopped fresh apple and a good handful of sultanas and shelled pistachio nuts.

A simple green salad of spinach watercress and rocket sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, and toasted sesame and black onion seeds.

Cold baked red cabbage leftover from the Big Day when it was served hot. I make mine in the oven by simply layering up a medium roughly chopped red cabbage, a couple of chopped onions and couple chopped apples then pouring over a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a couple of tablespoons of Demerara sugar. A good grind of black pepper and salt and a teaspoon of mixed spice. Give it all a good stir and bake in a covered oven dish for a good 2.5-3 hours. Makes lots –served hot for the big day, and cold for boxing day – then put any leftovers in a clean jam jar and enjoy as a chutney with cheese or cold meats (again!!!) throughout January.

-Cold left over chestnut stuffing. Well not exactly left over as I make tons to see us through both festive days. A real family traditional favourite. Made with equal quantities of the very best sausagemeat and chestnut puree mixed together and baked for an hour in the oven. Divine with the Turkey on the Big Day but even better cold on the next.

Creamy root vegetable dauphinoise – layering up thin slices of par- boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, swede, butternut squash and celeriac and lots of sautéed onion. Then generously pouring over some seasoned double cream laced with fresh chopped garlic and baking in the oven for a good hour. Alternatively how about baking some sweet potatoes rather than the usual white ones? Or making a creamy mash and adding horseradish or chopped spring onions?

– Then there are the giant eye-watering pickled onions our friend gives us every year; my own chutneys of which there is always copious jars full and the cold left over bread sauce, which has by now gone a tad solid – that only me and my father in law seems to like. But still, more for us

Dessert is simple, as it is a very busy time of the year for us caterers(!)– line a pudding bowl with cling film and pile in some crushed meringues and whipped cream marbled through with a drained tin of black cherries, but keep the left over juice. Freeze overnight, then take out the freezer about an hour before use – turn out and pour over some of the extra juice. Or perhaps a splash of cherry liquer as well. Mmmm.

Roll on boxing day.

Enjoy, Sue

Soup for Julia

We were recently hugely privileged to be asked to cater for the friends and family of one of Merrow’s most loved and respected residents. This wonderfully kind lady always had a smile on her face and a pack of biscuits in her hand to share around. As the colder Autumn days approached, her final days, being the ever – thoughtful lady she was, she was still thinking of other people – and requested that when her time came- that the guests be able to enjoy sandwiches and cakes and copious cups of tea plus – a mug of hot home made soup. Her favourite was Rustic Tomato.

As expected, hundreds and hundreds of people came to St Pius on a cold rainy Monday to say their goodbyes. As requested by so very many of them … here is the recipe for the soup Tom made for her guests and we served on that day (albeit he made 45 times the quantity I suggest here!) …

To serve 6 .. In a large saucepan with a tablespoon of oil, place 2 large finely diced carrots, 2 thinly sliced celery sticks and 2 finely chopped onions. Now put the lid on the pan and allow the vegetables to sauté and soften for about 15 minutes. Now add 2 finely chopped fresh garlic cloves, 2 tins of the best tomatoes you can find and 6 large chopped fresh red tomatoes (no need to skin them). Allow all these vegetables to simmer away for about another 15 minutes. Then add a really good handful of chopped fresh basil leaves which will wilt immediately in the hot nectar.

Finally, you can season to your taste – a good pinch of salt, and a good grind of fresh black pepper. Perhaps a pinch or 2 of sugar may also be your liking? But, without the latter, apart from still being delicious it is a great way towards your healthy five -a -day.

That’s it! Now it is up to you how to serve it – we wanted it really thick and rustic so just blended with the hand blender for a few seconds. Or you could serve it really smooth and blend for much longer – even sieve it (if you have the time or inclination!). Even add some water or stock if you like it less thick and rich. If you want to cheat you could also just double up on the tinned tomatoes and leave out the fresh ones. But to be honest, whilst a little cheat is often no problem, with this soup – the better the quality of the tinned tomatoes and more importantly – the smell, flavour and texture of the fresh ones really does make all the difference. And please, no dried basil or dried garlic for this one.

So, there you are…. a very simple, very delicious soup – especially for Julia.


Easy Peasy Moreish Apple Cake

I was recently asked to prepare a cake to incorporate within an afternoon tea that included fresh fruit. Without hesitation I thought of the classic Apple Cake. Obviously great to make at this time of year when the apples are falling off the trees.

There are dozens of variations of Apple Cake and therefore dozens of names accordingly – German, American, Swedish, French, Norfolk, Dorset. All slightly different, some best served warm, some in slices, some dark and rich, some light and fluffy. Perhaps as I use local apples, I shall call my variation Merrow Apple Cake.

Catering for funeral receptions in particular, the cakes presented need not only to be attractive and of course delicious but also suitable to cut into bite size portions. This particular recipe is good for just that…

Firstly peel, core and very thinly slice 500g apples. Any apples will do, they just give a slightly different result – windfall cookers like Mr Greens will break down more and make more of a soft cake, the apples being almost like applesauce, but something like a Braeburn will keep its shape more. Up to you. Cover the fruit slices with the juice of half a fresh lemon to stop it browning and to give a tad more flavour and moisture. (Useful little thing those lemons!). Now for the cake, which could not be easier as everything can go into the bowl at once– using a wooden spoon or electric whisk (another useful little thing and my utensil of choice!) whisk together 225g butter, 275g of light muscovada sugar, 4 eggs, 2 teaspoons of good vanilla extract, 350g of sifted self raising flour and 2 teaspoons of sifted baking powder. Add a teaspoon of ground mixed spice if you like, but don’t forget the vanilla essence – it does make a difference.

Now spread half the creamy cake mixture into a greased and lined 30cm x 25 x 4cm cm baking tray. Gently arrange half the sliced apples on top. Then gently spoon the rest of the cake mix on top and then the rest of the sliced apples on top of the cake.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes at 180’c/gas 4. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack.

I serve my cake dusted with icing sugar, but you could serve large slices or serve warm with ice cream or custard. Alternatives could be to add almond extract instead of vanilla and sprinkle the top with some flaked almonds before cooking or use the juice of an orange instead of a lemon for a slightly different flavour. Golden caster sugar instead of muscovada will give a paler cake. Perhaps add some other chopped mixed nuts into the mixture. How about blending some rich cream cheese or mascarpone with a little sifted icing sugar and top the cake or, yes please, drizzle with some caramel sauce. Or when in season add some blackberries to the apples – oh hold on that would not be Merrow Apple Cake, but I could give it another name, now let me think…..



Catering for your Occasion