A book worm and foodie, studying English Literature at the University of Glasgow, writing about food, books and travel while aspiring to be a writer.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Granny's pasta mince.

Due to an inconvenient wifi shortage at mine, this post is being hastily typed in a coffee shop while I try and drink my latte (before it goes cold) and am simultaneously downloading all study material I will need in preparation for tomorrow's English exam (gulp).

Yesterday, unlike today, was an absolutely gorgeous day in Glasgow. So much so, that me and Calum decided to take a break from the city and head up to Loch Lomond for a BBQ/picnic. Regardless of the fact that the burgers were frozen, BBQ wouldn't light and we ended up feasting upon gherkins and soft crackers, it was a great day out.
Today, unfortunately, is more on the rainy side and is being spent cramming quotes into my brain while I still can.

So, it's fitting that today's recipe comes in the form of one of my favourite types of comfort food. A dish I have been eating since I was knee high (although admittedly I'm not much taller now) and my beloved late Granny's signature dish; Granny's pasta mince.
Bless her, my Granny was never much of a chef. Which is hard to believe seeing as both me and my mum are both very much on the culinary band wagon. However, I always thought this was her greatest triumph. Plus, being cheap and very easy to make it is brilliant to whip up on a rainy day, in bulk, so you can freeze the leftovers, or live off of them for the next few days. It is made with beef mince but is just as delicious with Quorn, I have made and loved both many a time.

These ingredients make enough for five, or two with about half leftover.

  • 450g beef mince or Quorn mince 
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tin of Campbell's or Batchelor condensed mushroom soup
  • 1 tin of condensed tomato soup (the same) 
  • Enough pasta for 5, roughly 250g
  • 180g grated cheese
  • 180g mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  1. Boil the kettle for the pasta and preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Add your oil to a large pot on a medium-high heat, and then soften your onion until it is transparent.
  3. Add the mince, and keep moving until it is brown all over. At this point, you should be putting your pasta on to cook. 
  4. Add your mushrooms to the mince and onion, and let soften for about five mins. Then add both tins of soup and stir until your sauce is evenly combined. 
  5. Once your pasta is cooked, add it to the pot and stir until the sauce coats it evenly. Add half of the grated cheese and stir that through too. Then, spread the pasta evenly in a large, ovenproof baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, and bake in the oven for about ten mins, or until the cheese has melted and gone golden. 
If you want, feel free to add breadcrumbs or crushed crisps to the top for a bit of crunch. 
Calum isn't fond of mushrooms, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that he actually really enjoyed it, far more than either of us expected. 

If you are in the mood for some comfort food, and want to do something different with the mince that is sitting in the fridge,  other than spaghetti bolognese, this is the recipe for you. A family heirloom, it is almost the perfect student recipe with few ingredients and not a lot of work. AND the leftovers will keep you going over the exam period (I hope). 

Tonight we are heading to the Book Club for bingo - perhaps not the best idea given my exam tomorrow, but I won't have any regrets if I win... fingers crossed! 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Why you should definitely go to Illegal Jack's.

Today is a rapturous post about what is one of the best Mexican restaurants that I have ever been to - if not the best.
Mexican food has always been one of those food 'genres' that I remained on the fence about. I enjoyed it from time to time, and fajitas were an exciting mealtime treat to come in from school to, but other than that I was never really that enthused. My boyfriend Calum, however, has always been different. He loves the stuff, if anything it is his favourite kind of food and he swears that if there was a burrito equivalent to Subway, he would be the size of a house.

Illegal Jack's is situated on Lothian Road, Edinburgh. Sadly, there isn't one in Glasgow, however it's refreshing going somewhere so good that isn't a chain (and also if it were in Glasgow, my dress size would be out the window). This restaurant is definitely not in need of me singing it's praises. Winner of several prestigious food awards since it's opening, it is recognised as something different, which creates an amazing and consistently fresh product.

For those of you who haven't been before, it doesn't fit to the formal restaurant format of waitress/waiter service. Instead, it is something more like Nando's, perhaps even more relaxed, definitely in a good way. As you go in you pick up your menu, seat yourself where you like and then when you're ready to order you do so at the counter where they will make and personalise your meal right before your eyes, unless you order something that takes a little more preparation which is then (promptly) brought out to you from the kitchen.

The food itself is so good it transformed me from an on-the-fence Mexican food fan to someone who would probably choose the tacos over a pizza any day.

The menu offers a four step personalised dish, where you can choose from a burrito, tacos or a quesadilla as your platform and fill it with your choice of meat or veg, salsa, pinto or black beans and any extras you may desire.
The fillings are to die for, from chicken breast to pulled pork, mouth-wateringly good beef chilli, vegetarian or meat haggis (yes really) or veggies/veggie chilli.
Then, there are a selection of specials, from fajitas to nachos (which I have had, and during so experienced a life changing moment), buffalo chicken wings served with blue cheese sauce, which I also recommend and salad bowls.

Basically, if you aren't convinced that Mexican food is all that great, this place will almost certainly change your mind. Or, if you are a Mexican lover, it will probably make you want to weep with joy. It's worth a train ride to Edinburgh for and to be honest, it is so good that often I'm not even tempted to branch out and try somewhere new when I'm visiting, despicable I know.

During this visit I had tacos for the first time; crispy tortilla shells which I filled with beef chilli, rice, black beans, roasted salsa, cheese, lettuce and guacamole. Too messy to pick up and eat, but gloriously so. Calum tried the haggis for the first time, in a burrito, his personal favourite. A cheeky bite means that I am definitely going for haggis when I next visit, surprisingly good with the Mexican flavours. It's great value for money in terms of portion size. The food fills Calum up (and he has hollow legs) and I can rarely finish mine, although this time my plate was clean! The staff are friendly and the relaxed, D.I.Y attitude creates a great place to pig out and feel like everyone else is doing just the same and loving it just as much as you are.
If you haven't tried Illegal Jack's, do. If you have, go again.

Anyway, back in Glasgow now (yippee) and down unfortunately to some revising. However, the high street and the thought of my summer holiday are making me feel particularly summery, especially since the purchase of my new Topshop sunnies and bikini, which make me rather feel like (an albeit less amazing) Beyonce. Now, all I need is for it to be sunny in Glasgow so I can wear them outside. The glasses I mean, not the bikini.

Travelling into town to see my gorgeous friend Lauren today, on the pretence of studying for our English Literature exam. However, if the stress of 'Orlando' by Virginia Woolf proves too much, it all might end in cocktails.. More to follow.

Lindsay x

Friday, 25 April 2014

CAKE FRIDAY! Victoria Sponge.

Today I'm going to be posting an easy recipe for one of Britain's most classic and most loved of cakes, the Victoria sponge of course.
The recipe comes from another Queen of Cakes, Mary Berry. It's from her AGA cookbook, but can easily be made in a conventional oven and always yields a great (and tasty) result. It's definitely a bake to try if you're new to baking and with cheap ingredients it's a great one for a student to knock up for friends, when feeling particularly elegant,  ooh fancy!

My favourite thing about this recipe is how quick and easy it is. For instance, on Tuesday, my last full day of being at home, we had some friends over for tea and being a domestic goddess (ha) I managed to whip this up in about half an hour so that it was just being assembled as they arrived. So simple. It's also one of those delightful recipes in which everything is thrown in a bowl at the start and mixed, and you're done. My favourite kind.

Ingredients -

2 seven inch cake tins, lightly greased and base lined.

  • 4 (free range) eggs
  • 225g of caster sugar
  • 225g of self raising flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 225g of butter or margarine, softened
  • Jam of your choice, to put in the middle and add whipped cream if you fancy!
Method - 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C or Gas 4.
  2. Place the eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl, and mix until evenly combined. The best way to do this is probably with an electric hand mixer, but when I'm making a cake I come across as all old-fashioned and like to use a wooden spoon, how quaint. 
  3. Pour the cake mixture evenly into your two greased and lined cake tins, and smooth the top with a knife. 
  4. Put the tins in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 mins, checking after 20 mins but not opening the oven beforehand incase they fall. They should be golden brown when done and the edges should be coming away from the cake tin. 
  5. Remove your cakes from the tins, running a blunt knife around the edges first then tipping them onto a wire rack or your hand, gently. Leave them to cool on a wire rack. When they are cool, place the bottom cake on a plate or cake stand and spread the top with your jam. Place the other cake on top, dust with a touch of caster sugar and you are done. Lovely. 
Unfortunately I had to leave this one at home before I came down the road, meaning it's probably long gone by now. Currently in the beautiful Edinburgh, after Wednesday night spent clubbing and yesterday spent shopping I am ready to return to Glasgow and it's culinary delights, can't wait. 

Also had dinner at my absolute favourite Mexican restaurant last night, which I will be posting about tomorrow for any Edinburgh diners. Tonight we are headed to SWG3, a club below the University down by the river in Glasgow, for a night of techno and fun and a free after party. I've been to SWG3 before and it's a unique, minimalist venue, second only to SubClub and maybe the Arches from my experience of the amazing Glasgow night life. Can't wait. Not sure what to do on the outfit front yet. My favourite mono-tone dungarees might be making an appearance once more. 
Anyhow, back to analysing The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon for my first exam.. which is less than a week away, gulp. 
Happy Friday everyone! Go on, make a cake, it's Friday. 
Excellent crumb structure, as Mary would agree. 

Lindsay x 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Asparagus Rigatoni al Forno.

One of my all time favourite recipes today! I cook it all the time, whether I'm at home cooking for my family or in Glasgow, cooking for friends, my boyfriend or even just me. It's healthy, delicious and it combines several of my favourite flavours to make this gorgeous vegetarian pasta dish; Asparagus Rigatoni al Forno. Al forno simply means oven baked.

This recipe is from one of my mum's many vegetarian cookbooks (yes, her collection is non-exhaustive) - Mollie Katzen's 'Vegetable Heaven', but it's one of those recipes I know completely off by heart.
With an impressive name and taste, it is very easy to make and a great dish to cook and then live off of for the next few days.

Here are the ingredients - to serve 4 - 5 people (although I normally make the same when cooking for me and my boyfriend, and the leftovers make an excellent lazy lunch the next day)

  • 3 - 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 small onions, chopped into large chunks
  • Around 400 - 500g of asparagus, chopped into two inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 350g of pasta, rigatoni or penne is best, and to be healthier opt for wholegrain. 
  • 3 - 4 tbsp of balsamic vinegar 
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 70 grams of parmesan cheese, grated (plus a bit extra for the top)
  • 70 grams of bread crumbs
  • Extra balsamic vinegar for drizzling (optional) 
  1. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C, and put a large pot of water on the hob to boil for the pasta.
  2. Pour the oil into a 9 x 13inch baking dish, glass is best. Scatter the onion in with your hands, then stir so it is coated in the oil. Place the uncovered dish in the oven and roast for 5 minutes. 
  3. When your water is boiling rapidly, add your pasta and cook whilst you continue to roast the vegetables.
  4. After the onions have been roasting for 5 mins, stir in the asparagus and sprinkle with the salt. Spread everything into a single layer and return to the oven to roast for another 5 mins.
  5. When the pasta is al-dente (has a bit of a bite to it still), drain and stir into the dish of vegetables. Add the vinegar, black pepper and parmesan and mix well. Sprinkle over the bread crumbs and a little more parmesan and return the pan to the oven. 
  6. Bake uncovered for 10-15 mins, or until the bread crumbs are golden brown and crisp. Serve hot, with extra parmesan and balsamic vinegar if you desire!
This is honestly one of the easiest dishes I rely on when I want to cook up something tasty that will be a winner with friends. It's fresh and delicious at any time of year, although best when asparagus is in season. 

On another note, look how good my lunch looks today! I have discovered the cheeky bliss of egg poaching cups, which I definitely need to get ahold of for myself. So yummy, and it feels like your eating something that took way more time and effort, at the hands of a competent chef, then it really did in a little pan at home. 
I served mine on a toasted roll, spread with some grainy mustard and butter, with spinach leaves and bacon underneath. YUM. I think even if you didn't like eggs you would like poached eggs, obviously I wouldn't know, but how could you not?! 

Fashion wise, I am in a dilemma today. Packing to return to Glasgow tomorrow and I am sorely tempted to sneak my mum's new Docs into my bag. We just happen to share the same shoe size. I am currently "breaking them in" for her... A convenient way to subtly give me a gift? Perhaps. Thanks Mum! 
And here is a picture of a happy tiny onion I found, enjoy!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter pudding - Rhubarb and sticky stem ginger crumble

After a lovely sunny Easter spent mainly gorging on chocolate eggs and Easter dinner - being somewhat traditional we had lamb - I thought I would share with you the pudding I made for yesterday's festivities; rhubarb and sticky stem ginger crumble. I don't often have the luxury or time to make puddings, so this one was perfect for the occasion, i.e easy and tasty.

Festive too, as rhubarb has just come into season (when I'm at home I'm lucky enough to be able to pick it straight from the garden), this recipe is from Jamie Oliver's 'jamie at home' book.
Trust me, the simplicity of the recipe takes nothing away from the taste of this easy-to-make crumble-with-a-twist and I highly recommend it, especially for this time of year.

This recipe serves four to six, we had five generous servings of it and there is still (blissfully) some in the fridge.. midnight snack anyone?

Ingredients -

  • 1kg rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into large chunks
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • zest and juice of one orange (I didn't have an orange so I used 2 tbsp of orange juice)
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter
  • 100g oats
  • 2 pieces of stem ginger, chopped
  • (we also had ice-cream to serve, which I feel is definitely compulsory)

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas 4. Put the rhubarb, half the sugar, the orange juice and zest into a pan. Put a lid on top and bring to the boil on the hob, and simmer for a few minutes. 
  2. Remove the lid and simmer for about five more minutes until your rhubarb has softened slightly. I'll admit, I neglected my rhubarb and it went too far on the wrong side of mushy, but if you get it out the pan with a slotted spoon and save the leftover juice in a jug, it makes a delicious rhubarb syrup, yummy on top of ice-cream. A happy accident, I would like to think.. 
  3. Spoon the rhubarb into an oven-proof baking dish and spread evenly across the bottom. 
  4. For the crumble, rub the butter and the flour together with your fingers in a mixing bowl until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the oats, the sugar and the stem ginger and mix until evenly combined. 
  5. Sprinkle the crumble over the fruit, and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the rhubarb is bubbling and the crumble is golden. Because I overcooked the rhubarb at the 'pan stage', 25 minutes was enough cooking time for mine. 
Let it rest for a bit as the rhubarb with be like molten-lava and then serve generously with ice-cream, cream or custard. 

The stem ginger adds a lovely spice to the whole dish and it is a warming, seasonal way to end a Sunday dinner, or simply as a weekday treat. Suitable for vegetarians, and really easy to make too. 

Now I'm off to enjoy the last of my days at home, trying to ride out the sugar buzz from my Easter chocolate feasting, in the pleasantly (un)seasonal spring sunshine. Then it's back to Glasgow via Edinburgh for exams, partying and hopefully some exciting urban food as well. Oh, and probably rain, boo. 

Happy Easter Monday everyone!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Sunny pea and broad bean pasta.

Another very lazy, but fresh and tasty pasta recipe. Pasta seems to be becoming a staple in my easter holiday diet and with all the loveliness of spring around, I thought I would make something light, fresh and green which is almost more salad than pasta, but still every bit as satisfying and healthier than usual.

This was another one of those happy recipes which you make up as you go along and turns out surprisingly impressive. The ingredients I used include pancetta, or bacon bits, however you can make it without them for a delicious vegetarian option. In fact, I would recommend this as it was as delicious without and a tad healthier.

Here is what I used, but it a fairly flexible recipe so feel free to add bits and bobs within reason.

Ingredients - to serve two

  • 3 large handfuls of frozen broad beans
  • 3 large handfuls of frozen petit pois garden peas
  • Half a packet of pancetta/bacon cubes
  • Half a packet of cream cheese
  • 100g of parmesan cheese, grated finely
  • 50ml of vegetable stock
  • Ground pepper, to season
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • Half an onion, finely diced 
  • Enough pasta as you will eat, I normally allow three handfuls per person, which will leave some leftover. 
  • Half a tbsp of olive oil 
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped 
  • 1 tbsp of dried mint 
(yours may not look as liquid-y as this when you add the stock; I put in too much, but have altered the recipe to correct it!)
Method - 

  1. Heat your oil in a large shallow frying pan on a medium heat, and add the garlic when one 'test' piece begins to sizzle. Then, add your onion until it softens and is slightly translucent.
  2. At this point, if you are using bacon, you should add it to the pan and fry for at least five minutes until is goes crispy. 
  3. You can use fresh peas and beans for this recipe, however, if you are using frozen ones add them to a pan of boiling water and boil for about two mins, just to defrost them. 
  4. Add your pasta to a pan of salted boiling water at this point.
  5. Once the beans and peas are out of the water, add them to the pan with the vegetable stock and the cream cheese, alongside half your parmesan.  Lower the heat under the pan to a low heat. Stir the sauce until the cheese has melted and it has all combined.  
  6. Add the mint at this point, and pepper to taste. 
  7. Once your pasta has drained, add it to the pan and stir the sauce through it until it is evenly mixed. Add the rest of the parmesan, and if it's too dry add an extra tablespoon of cream cheese. 
  8. Mix through the fresh basil just before you serve, and viola. 
Lovely to enjoy on a warm sunny evening, for a large group, two of you or just yourself. Customise it as you will, adding fresh mint instead of basil would be a nice touch. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Slut Spaghetti!

Owing to poor wifi connection, being distracted by the lovely seaside and the general 'holiday' atmosphere, everything has been pretty quiet on the blogging front, revision front and well.. anything productive front.
However, that doesn't mean there was a lull on the cooking side of things; eating wonderful leisurely food is one of my favourite parts of being on holiday.

And, today's delicious recipe epitomises the lazy, easy, sunny feeling of the holiday food that I'm after. Straight from the domestic goddess we all love and know as Nigella Lawson - her take on Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca which translates into english as whore's pasta, i.e. the wonderfully named Slut's Spaghetti.

After watching her make it on TV, I decided to cook it for me and mum one night when we were having a girly night to ourselves, and was pleasantly surprised that it actually was as easy as she made it look. One for people who like strong flavours, it consists of anchovies, olives, capers and garlic in a tomato sauce and here is how you can make it yourself.

Ingredients - This serves 4-6, I halved it for two and still had some left over.

  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 8 anchovies, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 tsp of dried chilli flakes
  • 500g spaghetti
  • 1 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 150g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp small capers, rinsed and drained
  • fresh parsley, to garnish
  • salt and pepper to season
'melted' anchcovies
  1. Heat your oil in a large shallow frying pan, on a medium heat. 
  2. Add the anchovies, cook for 3 minutes whilst stirring and pressing with a wooden spoon until they have, as Nigella says, "melted" (you will see exactly what she means when they are cooking). Add the chilli flakes and the garlic and cook for a further minute
  3. Add your spaghetti to a pan of salted boiling water and follow the instructions on the packet in terms of cooking time. 
  4. Add the tomatoes, capers and olives and cook for ten minutes, stirring every once in a while; it will thicken at this point. 
  5. A great tip here -  when your spaghetti is almost done, remove a small cupful of cooking water and put it to the side. Then, when your pasta is cooked, add it to the frying pan of sauce and you can also add some of the saved pasta water to help the sauce and pasta combine if needs be.
Done. Simple. Sexy. The kind of thing you can imagine eating in an intimate courtyard in some amazing Italian city. Now, all you have to do is "as Nigella would" and eat it in bed, in a slatternly fashion, with your red lipstick on (or not, if your male.. then again, go ahead).

Unfortunately I have now left the costal heaven that is Findhorn and am back to revise for my exams. Still, at least I can always wistfully sigh over how gorgeous it is. Although, it is just tempting to move there and eat spaghetti on the beach for the rest of my life.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

S'more S'more S'more!

This is a quick, easy and incredibly indulgent blog/recipe today. Probably the laziest and tastiest to date.

Me and my family are currently on a beach-retreat to the absolutely stunning little village of Findhorn, Moray. The beaches go on forever and the town's own micro-climate means it's (almost) always sunny. What's not to love?

A tradition whilst we're visiting has always been to have at least one BBQ. However, yesterday was simply too cold and too windy to merit standing outside, guarding the steaks, so cooking was done inside.

This left us with a dilemma, what about the smores?! It may be my part-Canadian upbringing, but the deliciousness of s'mores is something that is a given after any BBQ, especially when consumed on - or near to - the seaside.
For those of you who haven't had a s'more, I will explain. In American and Canada it's normally executed with a Graeme cracker, but in the UK, chocolate digestives are the next best thing. It is basically a chocolate digestive sandwich, which encloses a melted marshmallow. Heaven, no?

So, me, my little brother and my mum racked our brain for a solution, seeing as shivering outside under blankets just wasn't going to cut it. And, my genius of a mother came up with what I am, from this point onwards, going to rely on as a foolproof recipe for INDOOR s'mores.

It really, truly and honestly couldn't be easier.
All you need is a grill, some chocolate digestives and a packet of marshmallows (we used two). Oh, and an ovenproof dish.

Cover the bottom of your ovenproof dish with digestives, the dark chocolate variety are my particular favourite.
Then, systematically cover those digestives with the marshmallows, leaving as few gaps as possible.

Wait until your grill is really really hot, for about twenty minutes or so.
Then, place your dish under the grill, at the bottom of the oven.

This is the hardest part, you need to watch those marshmallows like a hawk. They will start turning brown very quickly and that's fine. You want to keep rotating the dish so that they all brown evenly, and then turn your grill down and let them all puff up.
When they have noticeably started to swell, just turn your grill off and leave the dish in there for another five minutes so the heat continues to melt the digestives.

Take out of the oven and serve in bowls whether you are by the sea, on holiday or at home.

This is an incredibly fast, foolproof and delicious pudding for any time. Cheap, too. P.S, the black bits aren't burnt. They are lovely, sugary, chewy bits of loveliness.

Indulging every now and then won't kill you, go on, you know you want to. Have s'more!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Birthday 'Let them eat cake, cake'

Today it is my brother's 17th birthday, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Being the low-on-funds student that I am I decided to give the cheap, but always appreciated present of cake. Who doesn't love birthday cake?

Since he's the grand old age of 17 I wanted to make him something classy, sophisticated.. but still fun. And so I turned to Lorraine Pascale's 'Let them eat cake, cake' from her book 'Fast, Fresh and Easy Food', because a) I have made it before b) it's simple c) it's tasty and d) the decor seemed just right for the occasion.

For those of you who have the book, or maybe saw her make it on her TV show, it is a chocolate cake, which ends up covered in neat rows of maltesers and looking very swish indeed.
The actual making of the cake couldn't be simpler - here is how you do it.

You will need 2, loose bottomed spring clip cake tins, 20cm, base lined and greased. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4.

Ingredients -
For the cake

  • 150g really soft butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 125g sour cream
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • a few drops of vanilla extract
For the Buttercream
  • 100g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
  • 550g icing sugar
  • 250g really soft butter
  • 2tbsp milk, or water
Plus 4 x 135g bags of maltesers to decorate.

  1. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, sour cream, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add your vanilla essence and either mix by hand or blend with a hand mixer/food processor until you have a smooth, soft mixture. 
  2. Divide evenly between your cake tins and smooth the tops. Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  3. Leave them to cool in the tins for a few minutes before carefully removing them and leaving to cool on a wire rack. 
  4. When they are almost cool, begin to make the buttercream. Break up your chocolate into a medium bowl and melt in the microwave, stirring every thirty seconds until melted. Or sit the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn't in contact with the water, and stir. 
  5. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, or electric mixer/food processor bowl. Then add the butter and milk (or water) and beat until light and fluffy. Do this stage with a mixer/food processor if possible, otherwise it will take ages! Once it has done, pour in the chocolate whilst stirring continuously. 
  6. To ice, you want to sit one of the cakes on the plate you are serving it on (mine is on a cake tin lid as had to be transported. Then dollop some of the icing on top of the cake and spread to the edges. Place the other cake on top and spread icing on the top and sides until the whole cake is covered. 
  7. Stick your Maltesers all over the cake, neatly or not, whichever way you prefer, and viola! 

Done :) the one thing I would say with this recipe as a warning is that I made far too much icing for the cake. I had about half left at the end, which unfortunately was wasted and this was after I had smothered it to within an inch of it's life. 
I don't know whether the mistake was mine, as I was sifting icing sugar into the bowl as it sat on the scales and it may not have measured it correctly, but anyhow, just a warning. Next time I make it I think I will try making less the the recipe suggests and see how it turns out. 
The buttercream I had left.

Otherwise, this is an incredibly simple recipe for a gorgeous and yummy cake. Definitely a good one to try as a first bake, or to do with kids. It makes an impressive birthday cake too, if I do say so myself!

The book this is from, as well as Lorraine Pascale's 'Baking Made Easy' are both full of easy, tasty and quick to prepare dishes. I have both books and I would highly recommend them!