Chef Of the Moment

A Story Telling Community With a Love of Cooking

Simply Sweet: Sarah Lewis

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The day the Chef of the Moment Project met Sarah Lewis, she had invited us over the sample some of her homemade cupcakes. When we arrived, Sarah had set places at a tea party, the contents of  were overwhelmingly perfect, but at the same time appeared effortlessly pretty. Dainty cakes spiralled up ornamental displays and cwtched together on decorated plates. Fairy lights twinkled around the fireplace and diffused through oil jars full of cloves and chillis. The tea party charm was quintessential English Country Garden and to top it all, brilliant early March sunshine poured through the window. Sarah herself was a perfect host, pouring tea and telling me about her life as a composer and how she dreams of having her own cup cake business. This very talented lady is our third Chef of the Moment. You can view her blog at

Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis

Sponge cakes – particularly victoria sponges – have always held some significance for me. Both my Nana and my Mother bake a lot, and I’ve grown up sitting in the kitchen watching them cook. As a child, I was allergic to eggs for several years, so couldn’t eat cakes.  Instead, my Mother used to bake me special egg-less gingerbread cakes.  When it came to me being tested for allergies again around the age of five or six, my Nana made a victoria sponge cake specially, to take a small piece up to the hospital for me to eat, whilst those around me watched for an allergic reaction with bated breath. I remember the cake tasted amazing, and thankfully I had no reaction to the eggs. Through the years following, I enjoyed visiting my Nana and Grandpa and looked forward to the homemade tea that she would make, including a wonderful variety of cakes.

In more recent years, I’ve had to omit dairy products from my diet, and so have begun to be more careful about choosing cakes when out for coffee with friends.  See, the thing is, as much as I love cheese and milk, they don’t seem to love me back… Instead they make me feel sleepy and ill… Not so good!  To combat the temptation of all this yummy but bad-for-me dairy deliciousness whilst out in coffee shops, I have spent lots of time baking in the kitchen coming up with dairy-free tasty cakes and meals for myself at home.

Carrot cake and Creme Fraiche Icing

Carrot Cake and Creme Fraiche Icing

It’s not as hard as it may seem at first.  It’s easy – and cheap in some cases – to substitute dairy products for those that are lactofree (dairy products that have the lactose omitted) or dairy-free.  Quite often the cheap margarine spreads are the ones without any real dairy in (they use vegetable oils as a cheaper alternative, just check the ingredients labels!).

And on the plus side, including soya and vegetable oils in recipes instead of the normal dairy products mean that the cakes have a lower fat content, whilst still tasting great (I have fooled my friends many a time with my dairy-free sponge cakes, biscuits, and even soya ice cream, before revealing gleefully to them after they’ve eaten it all that it’s soya milk rather than cows’ milk in the ingredients!)

One of these dairy-free recipes that is always a hit is for a gorgeous lemon cake.  Instead of using a normal loaf tin for this recipe, I split the mixture evenly between 12 cupcake cases.  Although it looks like a complicated recipe at first glance, it’s actually simple and quick, as the lemon syrup topping can be prepared in the last 5 minutes before the cake comes out of the oven.


Cake mix:

30g (1 oz.) dairy-free spread (vegetable or olive spreads work well)

170g (6 oz.) self raising flour

170g (6 oz.) sugar

1 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

4 tablespoons milk (80ml) soya milk

grated rind of 1 lemon


Juice from 1 lemon

125g (4 oz.) sugar

Lemon curd

Butter-cream frosting*:

90g (3 oz.) dairy-free spread

170g (6 oz.) icing sugar

Grated lemon rind and / or sugar sprinkles for decoration

* If concerned about the fat content, these cakes are just as yummy with a simple dusting of icing sugar over the top.


Mix all wet and dry ingredients together to make the cake mixture.  Split evenly between cupcake cases, or pour into a greased loaf tin.

Bake in at 170˚C (325-350°F / Gas Mark 4), for 25 minutes for cupcakes, or for 40 minutes for a loaf cake.  When cooked, the cake should be slightly golden on top, and springy to the touch.

Whilst the cake is in the oven, prepare the lemon syrup by pouring the juice of one lemon and 125g castor sugar into a pan (you can get away with using granulated sugar if it isn’t too coarse a grain).  Heat the syrup mixture until it boils and the sugar is completely dissolved.

Whilst the cake is still hot from the oven, score the top with a sharp knife, and then pour the syrup mixture over it.  At this point, if the cake is in a loaf tin, you should leave it there to cool, and then turn onto a wire rack.  However, if you have made cupcakes in paper cases, it is tidier to turn those onto a rack before the syrup is poured over them (I made the mistake of not doing this, and the bottoms of the cases were all sticky with the syrup!).

When the cakes are cooled, use a sharp knife to cut out a circular wedge shape out of the middle of the cupcakes (or a straight wedge the length of the loaf cake).  Fill the space with lemon curd, and place the cut-out wedge back on top.

To make the butter-cream frosting, cream the dairy-free spread and the icing sugar until light in colour and smooth.  Depending on your preference for frosting, you may want to add more icing sugar.

Using a piping bag or a knife, ice the cakes with the buttercream frosting.

To finish, decorate with the grated lemon rind and / or sprinkles of your choice.

Citrus-flavoured cakes remind me of spring-time, and these lemon cakes are perfect accompaniment for a cup of tea on a warm spring afternoon

Lemon Curd Cupcakes

Lemon Curd Cupcakes



Written by chefofthemoment

March 20, 2011 at 4:49 pm

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Correspondent in India: Natalie Fulcher

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Natalie Fulcher embarked on a huge adventure six months ago. Fresh from a Textile Design Degree at the University of Falmouth, she was snapped up by a textile company in India and hasn’t looked back. She has fully embraced the community and way of life and I am lucky enough to get wonderful emails every few weeks. Her discovery and photography of the food has been an invaluable clue into an exotic style of cuisine and serving. She is our next Chef of the Moment. For more information about Daulat Kii Chaat, visit Dehli, its a local speciality!

This is a wheat milk foam delight called Daulat Ki Chaat. I have never come across anything like it. It’s kind of like a mousse which is made really early in the morning, it’s sprinkled with sugar and something called ‘pista’ and flecks of edible silver!! (you should also check out indian sweets I don’t have any snaps but ones such as Gulab Jamun, rasgulla, jalebi, soan papdi and milk cake. Very pretty/fatty/delish… I kept saying that I was going to turn into a ‘goooolaab jaaaaamuunn’ saying this in a fat voice pretty much sums up what it is; deep fried dough balls soaked in syrup. I think they have a really sweet tooth!

Written by chefofthemoment

March 11, 2011 at 9:22 pm

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First in the Kitchen: Rhea Phillips

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The day I met Rhea, it was pouring with rain and she emerged from Cardiff Central, enigmatic and wistful. Draped in a cape and without an umbrella and we briskly walked through the rain to our destination, a fresh food market. A ghost and creative writer, Rhea is passionate about literature and has a great depth of knowledge about food. She is the first Chef of the Moment and sets the tone with Chocolate Brownies.

Chocolate is the ideal sweet ingredient, I mean, who doesn’t like chocolate?  The more the better and with this double chocolate recipe you will not be disappointed. There is nothing better than a gooey, fudgy brownie that melts in your mouth. Despite my best efforts I can never get the texture completely right. I either leave it cook too dry or bake it too thick, turning it into a cakey mess.My sister always looks on each of my efforts with an annoyingly smug expression, knowing that she can do much better.   She would be right, but that’s not something I’ll admit to her too soon. But it is nice when she does finally overcome her calorie obsession and spare herself half an hour to make the house a batch of the finest brownies I have ever tasted. It seems I am doomed to live a life among more talented dessert cooks. One of my housemates was the Queen of flapjacks, brownies and cakes. If she was cooking, which she often did, you knew that dessert that night was going to be good. Complete with the student diet, I dread to think how much weight I put on during that year and I’m glad my hyper Springer Spaniel who helped me to lose it again. 

The recipe my Sister swears by, and tells she follows to the book is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s, one of the most influential Chefs of our time. He’s the main man pushing for change within the food industry. I got introduced to his food by my Mother, who has always wanted a small holding. His TV series, ‘River Cottage’ appealed to her sentimental side. Our garden, by no means small isn’t the five acres she had hoped for. Although she does like to pretend it is with the amount of vegetables and flowers she plants out there. During his first series he had just been a run of the mill TV chef, nothing special. He began his career as a food activist with his Chicken Out campaign, it got people talking and more importantly, thinking about where their food comes from.  His campaigns speak to me because I’ve had a work taster with a niche part of the meat industry before. It didn’t scare me nor did they do anything terrible to the animals, it just made me aware of what I was eating. Knowing his background just makes using his recipes all the more rewarding and enjoyable. Not to mention yummy. He has an undeniable knack for using old fashioned, feel good foodie methods.

This recipe comes from The River Cottage Family Cookbook by the man himself and Fizz Carr (the recipe is on page 403). On the page it is entitled Double Chocolate Brownies but I prefer to add strawberries to sweeten the deal.
Ingredients:Dark Chocolate Chips, 250 g
*Butter, 200 g
*Caster sugar, 200 g
Free-range eggs, 3
*Plain Flour, 125 g
*Cocoa Powder, 50g
*Fresh Mint
Broken Walnuts (Optional but delicious)
For decoration:
Real Strawberries, as many as you desire. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 or Gas Mark 3. You don’t have to wait around for ages, like my oven, for the little light to click off.
  2. Making the brownie mixture is actually very quick and you can get it done and in the oven within twenty minutes if not less. Beware it can be fast paced. Take your time and don’t get stressed.
  3. There is nothing wrong with taking things a bit slowly if you are unsure. It is how I prefer to cook and with the exception of my Uncle (he works as a chef), I’ll admit that freely.
  4. I cook for pleasure and because it relaxes me after a day of mindless job applications and endlessly finding the next short story competition to submit to. Never let over thinking or pressure destroy the enjoyment you get from cooking. Believe me, it’s not worth it.
  5. To start your journey to gooey paradise first off fill a pan of water about 3-4 cm deep and bring to simmer over a medium heat. You can use boiling water from a kettle if you’re short on time.
  6. For this recipe you will need two bowls. The first bowl must be able to gently fit the pan in order to melt the chocolate. Break the chocolate up and add the butter into the bowl.
  7. Put the bowl over the pan and leave the ingredients to melt. Hugh says to turn the heat off but I found it easier to keep it on at a low temperature rather than to take it away completely.
  8. Try to use a wooden spoon to move the chocolate around. Wood doesn’t scratch your bowl and heat up as much as stainless steel does. Hugh also says to use “good dark chocolate” I recommend chocolate chips as they melt quicker. Occasionally stir to prevent burning.
  9. If you are lacking in chocolate, I was down by 50 g, just bulk it up with cocoa powder. All it will do is turn the mixture a little drier, but I found custard makes up for it admirable.
  10. In the shop where, most of the time, I feel is a second home they sell a Madagascar Vanilla Custard for around £3.00. It’s worth the price tag. I have never tasted anything more creamy and addictive.
  11. If you have any left you can save it for the morning and eat it with a small bowl of fruit salad. Healthy but with a devilish topping, nothing is better to start the day with.
  12. While the chocolate is melting get your second bowl out, add the egg and sugar then whisk until smooth and creamy. A balloon whisk is recommended but a fork will do as long as you keep a consistent and strong motion.
  13. The second bowl should be larger than the first as you will now need to add the chocolate mixture to the creamy one. Keep hold of your wooden spoon in order to mix it together but a silver spoon will suffice to get the chocolate out.
  14. Remember to put on some oven gloves before you pick up the bowl and if possible get a helper to empty the chocolate for you. Holding a bowl and attempting to swipe at warm chocolate is never an easy task.
  15. Mix together before adding some plain flour and cocoa powder, I prefer mint, and add it to the main bowl. You can add walnuts now if you desire.
  16. Heave a sigh of relief because that’s the hectic part is done and dusted.
  17. Get your baking tray ready. Remember you’re not making a cake so try to keep the depth thin. Pour the mixture and smooth it out before placing it in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  18. I recommend checking on it at 15 minutes because they cook quickly. I checked mine at twenty minutes to find them slowly blackening, a painful sight.
  19. The recipe also says to line the tin with foil and although brilliant if you have any, just use ordinary butter and grease it up if you haven’t. It won’t harm the mixture or the outcome of the brownie.
  20. After 20-25 minutes use oven gloves or a good tea towel to bring it out of the oven to cool, it is better for the brownie to be too squishy than firm. The best test is to dip a knife in the middle and if it comes out slightly smeared then it’s done.
  21. If you do find that the brownie comes out dry, don’t worry. It is a fault I am more than used to and as such have found many different methods to overcome it other than using custard.
  22. With your strawberry curls or just rustle up some frosting. Smear on while the brownie is still hot so it melts down into the cakey mixture. It can be a bit soggy but will give the mixture a little moisture.
  23. Once cooled, about ten to twenty minutes, you can add some embellishment. Get some strawberry curls or real strawberries and decorate as desired. A light coating of icing sugar is always a nice touch.
  24. The strawberry curls are a new discovery of mine and are very light and sweet. I bought mine from Morrisons for about £1.50. They are pink in colour and the best alternative around for real strawberries.
  25. If you are hosting a dinner party cut the brownie into equal squares and with a small stencil from an art shop, dust the icing through the stencil and serve the brownies warm with vanilla ice-cream. It adds a touch of professionalism but is so easier and fun to do, especially if you make the stencils yourself.
  26. All you have to do now is enjoy the rich, gooey sensation of one of the best brownies you will ever taste! Along with the fact you are backing a man with a clear focus on preserving and improving the food industry.

Written by chefofthemoment

March 11, 2011 at 8:42 pm

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