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Sea Bream Acqua Pazza – or Dorade in Crazy Water?

This week has been marked by crazy weather here on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA. It started with an epic snowstorm in the early hours of Sunday morning, however, by Wednesday, we found ourselves basking in positively Mediterranean, or perhaps, Caribbean climes, when the Sun came out and the mercury rose to over 26c / 80f on my deck

The crazy temperature change inspired me to cook a classic Italian dish that I usually save for a Summer’s evening on vacation (hopefully in Italy) but which works just as well year round. A delicious easy to make poached white fish, using those classic Italian ingredients: basil, tomatoes olive oil and garlic

There are many different versions of Acqua Pazza – literally ‘Crazy Water’ (named after the bubbling and spitting combination of olive oil and water in which the fish is cooked). However, the recipe I use and share on the blog today is, I think, one of the easiest to make for even the novice cook and it will always impress with it’s delicious sweet sauce imbuing the fish with that magic of the Italian rustic cuisine

Just 8 Ingredients

Just 8 ingredients!

Ingredients (for 2 – 4)

  • 12 x tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 x Whole Sea Bream / known as Dorade in the USA (Tip 1: clean and scale leaving the head and tail and fins on for flavor. Tip 2: you can also use Sea Bass, or another meaty white fish)
  • 4 x garlic cloves, chop roughly
  • 20 x cherry tomatoes (I used around 25 grape tomatoes per fish as they were very small)
  • A generous handful of basil leaves, tear them roughly
  • A couple of decent pinches of sea salt
  • 1 x small red chili (seeds removed), finely diced
  • 400 ml / 13.5 fl oz water
  • A fresh hunk of ciabatta to serve
Sauce Ingredients on the Chopping Board

Sauce ingredients all diced and chopped…


  • Heat the olive oil and a large heavy base skillet / frying pan until hot, then add the whole fish one side down quickly followed by the garlic, tomatoes, chili, basil and salt
  • Then add the water, turning down the heat slightly to a energetic simmer once the sauce mixture is hot. The sauce should partially cover the fish
  • Cook the fish for 7 minutes per side until the eyes whiten, which indicates the fish is cooked through.
  • Then, remove the fish and place on a warm serving dish
  • Turn up the heat of the pan and cook the remaining tomato based sauce for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute, then immediately pour over each fish
  • Serve straight away with a hunk of the ciabatta bread to mop up the delicious tomato basil garlic sauce

Buon Appetito!

Ready to Eat

Ready to Eat – washed down with a glass of Pinot Grigio

By the way, back to the usual winter weather as I write cold and miserable…..roll on Summer!

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Chocolate Marble Drizzle Cake for Birthdays, Valentine’s Day & More

Whether you celebrate or not, it is difficult to ignore all the flowers, chocolates, and gift displays in many shops in the build up to Valentine’s Day, this Wednesday.  I have been wanting to make a Bundt cake for ages, having borrowed a  cake tin from my Mum’s vintage collection.

Flat Brew Espresso Coffee spread

I discovered a new product, Flat Brew Espresso coffee spread (@flat_brew) and also wanted to experiment with it in a recipe. By random chance, perhaps fate,  I call it cake karma I bumped into the founder who was running a sampling stand in Fortnum & Mason, the famous food emporium in Piccadilly, London just before Christmas. After a chat he suggested the coffee spread would be better in a cake frosting rather than baked into a cake. I am also in family birthday season- three which fall within the next month, including yours truly. So whether it be for a birthday, Valentine’s, Galentine’s or just because you like cake here’s my version of John Whaite’s Chocolate Marble drizzle cake  with a few taste2taste twists. John is a Great British Bake Off Winner, cookery book writer & cookery school founder (@johnwhaiteskitchen) & his Instagram photo looked delish! Cake karma it is so I combined all of the above. The coffee spread is optional, you could use espresso powder, very strong coffee or leave out if not a fan.  However I  like the mocha ( chocolate/ coffee) intense  flavour combo.  If you want to make it easier use a smooth ring or loaf tin to avoid the stress over whether the cake will release from the Bundt tin.  I however was up for the challenge!


Ingredients- Marble Cake:

250g/ 8.8 oz very soft unsalted butter plus extra 20g/0.7 oz for greasing if using Bundt tin

275g/9.7 oz caster ( superfine or baking) sugar

6 large eggs at room temperature, broken into a jug & lightly mixed using a fork

250ml/ 8.4 fl oz buttermilk ( I used Court Lodge organic natural yoghurt)

350g/ 12.3 oz  plain ( all purpose) flour, sieved

1/2 teasp. bicarbonate of Soda, sieved into flour

1 teasp. vanilla bean paste

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

3 tbsp. hot water

2.5 litre/ 10 cup Bundt tin, ring or loaf tin

Ingredients- chocolate/ mocha drizzle:

75g/ 2.6 oz dark chocolate ( 70% cocoa solids)

50g/1.8 oz  milk chocolate ( 55% cocoa solids)

50g/1.8oz   white chocolate

190ml/ 6.5 fl oz double cream  ( heavy cream)

1 dessertspoon Flat Brew Espresso Coffee Spread ( or use  strong espresso powder)


Preheat fan oven to 160C/ 320F/ gas mark 4

Bundt tin Preparation:

John’s advice – double coating of melted butter

I followed John’s foolproof method for preparing the Bundt tin. Melt 20g/ 0.7 oz butter and brush a thin layer on the inside of the Bundt tin getting in every nook & cranny using a pastry brush. If you have room put in the freezer for a few minutes, I used the fridge to set.

Bundt tin buttered & floured

Repeat with another layer of melted butter then dust all over with a handful of flour again ensuring the whole tin is well coated. Shake the pan to get an even layer then tap out the excess flour over the sink. If using a ring cake or loaf tin just grease with a little soft butter as you won’t need to coat using this method. The cake should release easily after cooling.


To ensure  the butter is very soft,  put 250g/ 8.8 oz into a mixer with a paddle/ k blade attachment & beat on high for a few minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the bowl. Add the caster/ superfine sugar and mix on high speed for about 5 minutes  until pale & fluffy. Scrape down the bowl.

Cake batter – split after 6 eggs ( don’t panic!)

Add the egg mixture a little at a time ( 5 or 6 additions) beating on slow for 30 seconds then on high for 90 seconds. Scrape down the bowl in between egg additions. John’s recipe says the mixture could split. Traditionally I would add a tablespoon of flour to bring back, but the recipe says keep going – so I did! Add the buttermilk or natural yoghurt in 4 additions, mixing on slow for a few seconds then on high for 60 seconds between each addition to combine. Again the cake mixture could split ( it looks slightly lumpy) but again ignore. Add the vanilla paste and mix on high for 30 seconds. Make sure the mixer is on its slowest setting and add the flour in 3 additions mixing for 20 seconds then stopping to scrape down the bowl in between.

Vanilla cake batter

The batter should now be smooth and pale yellow, stop the mixer as soon as combined so as not to overmix which can make the finished cake texture slightly dense. Put half the cake batter into another large mixing bowl.  In a small jug add the cocoa powder,  hot water & mix well until combined. Add to one half of the cake mixture and stir gently with a spatula until an even chocolatey colour. Blob alternatively vanilla and chocolate batters into the tin using 2 spoons. Once full use a spatula or knive to swirl the  batters to form the marbling ( see photo)

Marble cake ready to bake

Bake the cake on the middle shelf  of a fan oven for 50-60 minutes, each oven is different & mine took 50.

In the oven – almost baked

Remove the cake and insert a skewer which will come out ‘clean’, no cake sticking to it which means it is baked. My cake had a few cracks on the surface which is fine as this is the base & won’t show. Leave to cool for 20 minutes in the tin. Give the tin a good shake and invert onto a cooling rack. I used the skewer round the edge of the tin before turning out to help release it cleanly. Allow the cake to cool completely before decorating.

1st Bundt cake out of the tin – phew!


Break the chocolate into small pieces into 3 bowls – one for each chocolate type. If using the coffee spread/ espresso coffee powder  add 1 dessertspoon to the milk chocolate bowl.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan on medium heat for a few minutes until boiling point and add a third to each bowl to melt the chocolate. Leave for 30 seconds then mix well with a fork ( one for each bowl) until a glossy drizzle mixture is formed. If too thick add a little more hot cream. With the cake on the cooling rack drizzle each chocolate randomly over the cake. I used newspaper on the counter for less mess! The aim is to look abstract so have fun! Leave for at least 1 hour to ensure it is fully set before moving onto a serving plate/ stand.

Chocolate Mocha Drizzle with Flat Brew

I actually left mine overnight. I also used a little dab of melted chocolate on the serving plate to hold the cake as I had to transport it to the other side of London to deliver for the family birthday. This cake keeps well for a few days in an airtight container although it won’t last long, if your family are anything like mine!

Cake for two!

Chocolate ( mocha) marble drizzle cake for Birthdays, Valentine’s Day or for any reason to eat home made cake!


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Swiss Chard Leek & Feta Cheese Tart

As a  London foodie I seek inspiration from  the sights, sounds, smells & tastes in places like Broadway  or Borough food markets. On a grey  chilly January day the Swiss chard with its  jewel coloured ruby & golden stems & dark green leaves stood out. With thoughts of warmer days and planning holidays  with a food blogger element I wanted to create a vegetarian recipe, with tantalising tastes of the Mediterranean. I had shortcrust pastry previously made & stored in my freezer. You can easily use shop bought, but try and get a good quality all butter variety. I blind bake the pastry case first to make it extra crispy but you can miss this step to speed things up.


Swiss Chard 10-12 leaves & stems, washed stems sliced finely, leaves chopped roughly

1 large leek, washed & thinly sliced

Swiss Chard Leek & Feta Tart

Preparing the Swiss Chard

2 sticks of celery, washed and finely sliced

2 shallots, peeled finely sliced

2 cloves of garlic chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lemon, rind finely zested

2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh mint , leaves roughly torn

1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped

125g Feta crumbled ( I used Odysea Greek Feta)

150g  Ricotta or goat’s curd ( I used Ribblesdale Yorkshire goat’s  curd)

25g pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan on medium heat

400g shortcrust pastry

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper


Heat the oven to 165C/ 329F fan

Roll out the pastry  thinly and line a large quiche tart case,  with a loose bottom that has been greased & prick all over with a fork.

Line with baking parchment and add baking beans or dried beans or rice

Swiss Chard Leek & Feta Tart

Pastry lined tart case

Swiss Chard Leek & Feta Tart

Blind baking the pastry case

Bake for 15 minutes, remove paper & beans, brush with some of the beaten egg

Return to oven & bake for a further 5 minutes, remove and cool.

Swiss Chard Leek & Feta Tart

Preparing the Veggies

Turn the oven up to 185C/ 365F fan oven

Swiss Chard Leek & Feta Tart

Veggie & Cheese Filling ready

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil to a frying pan on a medium heat.

Add chard stalks, shallots, leeks, celery, sage, parsley & mint stir and cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally to soften the veggies without colouring them. Remove from heat & cool

In another frying pan add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil  add the garlic and chard leaves and cook on a medium heat for 3-5 minutes until the leaves have wilted. Remove from heat, add to other veggies & cool

Add the crumbled Feta, lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, beaten egg & season with sea salt & black pepper

Add to the pastry case, flatten and then dot the surface with the ricotta or goats curd

Bake on the top shelf for about 30 minutes, check after 25. Cool for 20 minutes & remove from tin.

Serve a wedge either warm or at room temperature with some salad.

Swiss Chard Leek & Feta Tart

Swiss Chard Leek & Feta Tart – ready to eat!

My Swiss chard, leek & feta cheese tart – aromas & tastes of the Mediterranean.