Thursday, 4 December 2008

Happy Christmas

I couldn't throw this magazine cover away, it's been in my filing system since 1987.

The weather at the moment is certainly seasonal, but I wouldn’t normally be wishing everyone a happy Christmas in the first week of December. I’m one of those people who is intensely irritated by ‘festive jingles’ inflicted on us when shopping in November and early December. But I do love Christmas, and most of all the preparation for it all, planning, baking, who is going to visit who, and when and where, choosing a tree – the whole lot.

I was going to post my favourite mincemeat recipe last year, and it’s even a bit late for this year, but it will still be delicious. It comes from Good Housekeeping December 1989.

I particularly like it because it is not overly sweet and makes excellent mincemeat slices, the ones made with porridge oats. Here is the recipe.


50g (2oz) each pecan nuts and blanched almonds
125g (4oz) no-soak dried apricots
50g (2oz) dried figs
50g (2oz) stoned dried dates
350g (12oz) cooking apples
250g (9oz) sultanas
175g (6oz) shredded suet
2 medium oranges
5ml (1 level tsp) each ground cinnamon and grated nutmeg
1.25ml (¼ level tsp) ground allspice
125g (4oz) soft dark brown sugar
300ml (10fl.oz) brandy

1 Finely chop the nuts, apricots, figs
and dates. Peel, core and finely chop the
apples. Place in a non metallic bowl with
the sultanas, suet, finely grated orange
rind, strained juice and spices. Mix well
with the sugar and brandy.

2 Cover and leave the mixture to stand
overnight. Stir well then pack tightly
into sterilised jars. Seal.

3 Store for about 6 weeks before using.
TO FREEZE: After 6 weeks' maturing,
pack into freezer containers and freeze.
TO USE: Thaw at cool room temperature overnight.

MAKES ABOUT 1.1kg (2½ lbs)

Happy Christmas, Everyone!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Burcott Mill

Sharon took her class on an away-day to Burcott Mill last week and brought back some spelt flour.
The spelt itself is grown at Sharpham Park, and is ground at Burcott Mill (near Wells) using their watermill.

I made a loaf in the breadmaker, mixing the spelt with Dove's white bread flour. Breadmaking, especially when using a breadmaker is the only time I think you can taste the difference in organic and non-organic produce. I set the breadmaker to a wholemeal programme, and because it had quite a light texture next time I will use less white flour.
There's nothing new about spelt, it is an ancient crop, a cousin of wheat, with an almost 'nutty' taste, especially when used for pastry. I know you can get spelt flour from the supermarket these days, but if you want it straight from the miller the address is The Mill is open for tours at the weekends in the summer.

Monday, 20 October 2008

What Should We Eat?

Beautiful Exmoor, an upland paradise for quiet walking or riding.

I have been pondering for a while how our food choices have changed over the last 40 or so years, or since I have been in the position to make those choices, and this morning, there was an article in the paper entitled ‘ Should we all be eating more fat?’, once again contradicting the current 5- a- day advice.

Mr. Groves, who has written a book called ‘Trick or Treat: How Healthy Eating is Making Us All Ill’ makes a persuasive case for an Atkins Diet sort of life style, citing more people falling prey to diabetes and heart disease than ever before. The article is third of a page of a broadsheet newspaper, so there is a lot to read , one point I can agree with is that fat laden foods do fill you up quickly, but to give up wheat because ‘it collects bacteria and dirt as it grows and is impossible to clean’? no, life would be sad without a freshly baked loaf.

We personally, use butter, olive oil and sunflower oil, all of which are relatively unadulterated in their production. We eat much smaller portions of meat than years ago, and many more vegetables. Thirty or forty years ago I would not have served a meal that was not primarily meat or fish, but now vegetables and lentils appear on the menu regularly, but how do I know that we wouldn’t have more even more energy if we ate a higher level of protein.

I am very glad that I brought up my sons when food advice was unambiguously pro protein, I cannot imagine them having grown up so strong and fit on a diet of vegetables, but all those extra calories were worked off by our extremely active lifestyle, like most farming families, and even their spare time involved walking long distance foot paths and pony clubs. They are still committed carnivores, I wouldn’t like to give them my vegetable crumble unless accompanied by a decent sized steak!

Not being clever enough to do too much research of my own, I think we’ll just carry on eating something of everything, and enjoying the continuing experience of new recipes and ideas, whether those ideas are of today or a hundred years ago.

Another photo of one of our favourite parts of England

Friday, 10 October 2008

Cheese Bread and Butter Pudding

I’m sure I have seen, in my travels through my cook-books, a recipe for a cheese bread and butter pudding, but can I find it now, of course not.

I do keep a large index file to help me track down things I thought at some time or another were ‘good ideas’, (essential I’m afraid, these days), but I could only find cheese puddings made with breadcrumbs, which I didn’t much like.

Yes, that is butter and cheese bubbling round the edge of the dish, so a really lethal hit for cholesterol levels!

For my cheesy pud I used:-

A largish onion, cooked in a little butter until soft, and 2 rashers of bacon that I had in the fridge, cut up and added to the onion.

(It may well have been those two slices of bacon that inspired me to make a savoury bread and butter pudding to start with, as I don’t like to see things lurking in the fridge).

4 slices of buttered bread, cut to fit the pie dish. I put the first two in butter side down, to make the bottom of the pudding browned.

On top of the first two slices of bread I put the onion, bacon and two thirds of 120 grams grated cheddar cheese. Then the final two slices of bread, butter side up this time.

I used 3 beaten eggs, seasoned with pepper, and enough milk to come up to the top of the bread. The last third of the cheese was sprinkled on the top.

I baked it in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes until it was puffed up and set.

I had started off with two eggs in milk, but the mixture didn’t come far enough up the dish, so I just beat up another egg with some more milk to compensate.

We enjoyed eating this, there was more than enough for four but it is very rich, a probably never to be repeated experiment and certainly not very good for you, maybe I should have been more stingy with the butter. A crunchy green salad on the side was a welcome addition.

I had to put this photo in, picked today, probably the last of the season.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


In last Saturday's paper I found Xanthe Clay's recipes for soup, and loved her idea for beetroot and cardamom. I made it yesterday, the colour is amazing, the taste delightful.
I had baked the beetroots in the oven, which I used to do years ago when I had an oven that was on all the time, but it did seem to take for ever in my electric one. Still reading and sorting old cookery books, I had found a couple by Pomiane, who considered baked beetroots have the best flavour, I expect he may well be right, but as I can do quite a big batch in the pressure cooker which involves minimum water I think I shall definitely err on the side of economy.

Here are the recipes from the paper:-

Serves 4

A simple basis for countless soups. You need never pick up a carton again.

· 2 fat leeks, sliced and washed
· 2oz/60g butter
· Salt and pepper
· 2 medium floury potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
· 1½ pints/850ml pints water (or stock)
Cook the leeks slowly in butter until soft, but without letting them colour. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Add the potatoes, stir until they are well coated in butter and cook for a minute or two longer.
Pour in the water (or use a light stock if you prefer) and simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes are soft.
Purée the soup. Liquidise, pass through a mouli-légumes, or leave it chunky if you prefer. Taste and check the seasoning. Reheat and add a little cream, chopped herbs or a dollop of pesto before serving, if you like.
Great ideas for soup
Just remember that starchy vegetables can be substituted for the potato, but non-starchy ones, such as spinach or mushrooms, should be added as well as the potato in the basic recipe, unless it's a very thin soup you are after.
Beetroot and cardamom Cook the seeds from 3 cardamon pods with the leeks, and use peeled beetroot (about 12oz/350g) instead of the potato. Vac-packs of ready-cooked beetroot can be used, but make sure that it's the kind cooked without vinegar. That said, a squeeze of lemon juice at the end improves the flavour of beetroot soup.
Sweet potato soup with Angostura bitters Sounds unlikely but it's a magic flavour combination. Use about 12oz/350g sweet potato instead of the regular potato and finish the soup with a few drops of Angostura bitters.
Butternut squash and harissa Cook the leeks as above, then stir in half a teaspoon of harissa (Moroccan spice paste). Cook for a minute, then add 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed (seeds removed) instead of the potato. Add more harissa to the finished soup if you like.
Jerusalem artichoke and hazelnut Use Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cubed, instead of the potatoes. Liquidise the soup with 1 tbsp hazelnuts (toast them lightly first in a dry frying pan).
As the Soup Season is with us again I am reprinting here my recipe for Squash and Carrot Soup, which could just as easily use harissa paste as the spices I used.

Spicy Squash and Carrot Soup
Use a medium size butternut squash, carrots equivalent to approx. three quarters of prepared weight of the squash and 2 onions.
Lightly coat these vegetables, cubed, with olive oil and roast at the top of a hot oven until browned and a bit caramelised, (the carrots may not be fully cooked all the way through but can be finished later in the stock).
Scrape the browned vegetables into a large pan, and stir in 2 teaspoons of ground cumin and half a teaspoon ground chilli powder, you can add more later on, if it's too bland.
Swish out the roasting pan with boiling water to make sure you have all the juices and add to the pan. Use enough stock to comfortably cover the vegetables, season if using fresh stock, you could add some mint and piece of lemon peel and cook until the vegetables are soft enough to puree, using a blender stick is easiest.
You should have a thick mixture which can be diluted with milk or more stock to the right consistency.
If you want to make it spicier at this stage, cook more cumin and /or chilli in a little olive oil and combine with the soup. Half a teaspoon of ginger could be added to the original cumin and chilli.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Reaping the Reward

Our garden is festooned with hundreds of cobwebs each morning, which show up beautifully on a damp and misty autumn morning. I hate it if I walk into one, although I admire them greatly, I'm not overly keen on spiders, especially the monster sort you get in the garden at this time of the year.

It’s been rather an odd year, produce-wise. Our onion crop was virtually non existent but the leeks have done as well as ever. The autumn raspberries are still fruiting, but there are only about 10 red cabbages. In August the butternut squashes decided that the growing season was over, shed their leaves and hardened up. Many of them are oval rather than the traditional shape, and they have a more dense texture than usual. In spite of that the celeriac has not done too badly at all, a bit small, but I always thought that they needed a long growing season. Plenty of carrots, but no parsnips, gardening always seems rather a lottery to me, and more so because we grow on an allotment, so don’t see it daily.

One of our favourite Autumn and Winter meals is Vegetable Crumble which we begin to eat as the new root vegetables are harvested. I’ve never thought of it as a budget meal as we love it so much, but I suppose it would fit into that category. The original idea came from Cranks Restaurant at Dartington, long since gone.

For the crumble topping
Butter or margarine 4oz (100g)
100% flour 6oz (175 g)
Cheddar cheese, grated 4oz (100g)
Mixed nuts, chopped 3oz (75g)

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles
fine crumbs. Add the cheese and nuts

Mixed root vegetables (parsnip
swede, potato, carrot, etc.) 1½ lb (675g)
Large onion or a mixture of onion and leek
Butter or margarine 2.oz (50g)
Flour or cornflour to thicken
Tomatoes 8oz (225g) fresh or well drained from a can
Vegetable stock ½pt (300 ml) (Knorr or Kallo Vegetable stock cubes)
Milk ¼ pt (142 ml)
Parsley, chopped 3tbsp (45ml)
Salt & pepper to taste

Chop the vegetables, then melt the butter in a large
saucepan and saute the onion until transparent. Add the
prepared vegetables and cook over gentle heat, stirring
occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the flour, then add
the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil, reduce heat,
cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the
vegetables are just tender. Transfer to an ovenproof dish.

Press the crumble topping over the vegetables and bake
in the oven at 190°C (375°F/Mark 5) for about ¾ hour,
until golden.

Serves 4

This really is a meal in itself but we usually have a green vegetable with it, and I have been known to serve it to accompany steak.
I think it is important to have enough liquid in the mixture before you bake it, as it can become a little dry.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Quince and Lemon Chutney

I recently posted an item about the quince tree in our garden, and mentioned a recipe for a chutney I had found in an old WI cookbook. I made it this morning.

Here is the original recipe:-


(Taken from The Times some years ago, from an article

on quinces)

1½ Ibs. quinces.

½ lemon.

1 shallot.

1 clove garlic.

4 ozs. raisins.

2 ozs. chopped stem ginger.

½ teaspoonful each of ground cinnamon.


black pepper.


¼teaspoonful ground cloves.

1 Ib. sugar (½ granulated,½Barbados).

½ pint white vinegar.

Peel and core the quinces.
Chop them with the shallots and lemon (pips removed).
Put all into a heavy pan with the raisins, ginger, spices and sugar.
Add the vinegar and bring the mixture to the boil.
Simmer slowly, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is thick and looks like chutney.
It takes about ¾ hour. Pot immediately.

The only changes I made were that I used one whole, thin skinned lemon, of medium size, crystallised ginger, rather than stem, because I always have the crystallised sort in the larder, and one small to medium white onion instead of the shallot. These three items, with the garlic, I chopped in the food processor, before adding to the pan. Because the quince doesn’t collapse readily like apple it must be chopped into smallish pieces.

I’m really pleased with the result, it tastes fantastic, and will be set on a dark shelf for a while to mature. I'm lucky enough to have a large walk-in larder, and love to see the ranks of home made preserves I've put by. This made 3 jars.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Old Cookery Books and Budget Recipes

I've been doing some extremely belated 'Spring' cleaning, and decided it's time for some things to go.

I have collected recipe books since the 1960's, and because lots of them have come from second hand shops some of them are quite old. I don't think any of them are of particular value, but I have loved reading them and using them over the years.

This beautiful illustration is one of several in an early copy of Mrs Beeton's Everyday Cookery

However, it is items like the one above that I treasure most. Found inside a book I bought about 30 years ago it is a handwritten cake recipe dated Yarner, Jan 7th 1913. It is written on both sides of the paper, folded in half to make four pages. It is one of three handwritten items I found in the book. Although I know that this Yarner is a farm in North Devon, I have never visited it, but I still feel a connection with it because of my possession of this recipe. The other two items, one a recipe and the other a poem entitled 'Forget me not' are not dated, nor do they have an address, but I presume they came from the same household.

Among such treasures there is also a huge number of old and well thumbed paperbacks, which I bought as they were published, and it is these items which are getting a severe pruning, along with more modern offerings, whose bright colours and many promises seduced me at the time.

Before they can be discarded, however, they have to be re-read, or at least re-examined to see whether I want to hang on to them for a few more years, whether their condition is good enough for the charity shop, or must they go straight to the re-cycling bin.

I've found some on the subject of frugality, very apt in the present economic climate. Jocasta Innes' ' A Pauper's Cookbook', Delia Smith's 'Frugal Food' Mary Norwak's ' Money-Saving Cookbook', and I know there are more yet to be discovered on the shelves.

I thought I might begin to put some of the ideas to the test, and the first one I have tried is from 'Farmhouse Fare' 'recipes from country housewives collected by Farmers Weekly' the seventh edition, revised after decimalisation.

So here it is Cheese Batter Pudding

    6oz flour ........ 1 pint milk

    2 eggs .............. 1/2 lb cheese

Make a batter of the milk, eggs and flour. Leave to stand for one hour. Grate the cheese and add half of it to the batter. Bake until risen and lightly browned.
Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese over. Return to the oven until the cheese is crisply browned. If you are short of cheese, omit it from the batter and just sprinkle an ounce of cheese on the top. From Mrs C.P Rowan, Cornwall

Because I made it for just the two of us I used :-
1 large egg, enough milk to make it up to half a pint (275ml), 100g grated cheese and 100g plain flour. I put two thirds of the cheese in the batter mixture, and cooked it in a hot oven for about 30 mins when it was very puffed up, and rather browner than a usual Yorkshire pudding. I sprinkled the rest of the cheese over the top, but didn't leave it go crispy or brown, because I'm sure the lot would have been burned. The pudding went rather flatter, having been taken out and dressed with the cheese. However, it tasted delicious, and when I repeat it I shall try cooking it at a slightly lower temperature, maybe 200c, and put all the cheese in the batter.
I served it with creamed cabbage, whichwent very well. Finely sliced cabbage cooked in as little water as possible until only just tender. Every bit of water drained out of it, you can wait until its cool and wring it out in your hands. Chop it up in a food processor but don't go so far as puree-ing it, season and add double cream to re-heat. Equally good, I'm sure, would be leeks, finely sliced and cooked slowly in only a knob of butter and any water still on the leeks after rinsing. A heavy based pan, with a well fitting lid is best utensil to use for this.

Cheese Batter Pudding

Monday, 15 September 2008

Ouma's Recipe

Louise, my older daughter-in-law’s mother is South African, from a Lebanese background, and when she was last in the UK, a few years ago now, she made a delicious dish of stuffed courgettes. I’m pretty sure that she had brought with her a gadget which looked like a large apple corer, with which she made the cavities in the courgettes.

Always one to look for a shortcut I found a ‘meat filling for vegetables’ in Claudia Roden’s ‘Middle Eastern Food’ and instead of even attempting to stuff it into a vegetable I slice courgettes very thinly lengthways, steam them gently until they are just tender and layer them up with the mince mixture. The whole lot is then covered in foil and baked in the oven. About 15 or 20 minutes would do it if all your components have just been cooked and are piping hot to start with. An hour if you have cold ingredients. It is important to have it good and hot all the way through if you are re-heating, and anything containing rice should be treated with care, not left lying around in a warm kitchen.

Louise and our mutual granddaughter loves this combination, although not a natural vegetable eater, the fact that it was ‘Ouma’s recipe’ (Ouma is the Afrikaans word for Grandma) was the inducement to try it!

Here is the recipe that I use:-

450/500g (1lb) minced lamb ..... 180g (6oz) short grain rice
A good ½ teaspoon ground allspice ..... 2 medium onions
Lamb stock to cover meat and rice while cooking (I use a Knorr Lamb Stock Cube)
Salt and pepper as required.

Tip the minced lamb into a very hot pan and stir it around until the fat starts to run. Pour it into a sieve to drain off surplus fat. If you have very lean mince, add it to the pan after you have cooked the onions.
Cook the chopped onions in the residual fat in the pan, or add a little oil to the pan if you need to. When they are cooked and golden coloured add the meat back in, let the meat change colour if you haven’t done it first, then stir in the rice, ground allspice, salt and pepper.
Use enough lamb stock to just cover the ingredients, and cook gently until the rice is soft, 15-20 minutes. You want the liquid to be absorbed into the rice, moist but not wet.

While the meat mixture is cooking thinly slice courgettes lengthways. You will need more than you think. Here is a chance to use up the ones that have made a bid for marrow status while you turned your back! And actually many of the courgettes I see for sale are much bigger than the ones I choose to pick from the allotment. Steam them for about 5 minutes. If your steamer is rather small, they will take a bit longer and you will have to turn them a bit so that they all cook equally.

Layer up the meat and courgettes as though you are making a lasagne. If I am not going to cook it straight away I do not assemble it, but put the meat onto a large cold plate to cool rapidly and leave the courgette slices to drain.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Our Quince Tree

This beautiful little drawing came from a copy of a magazine called 'The Countryman', a then quarterly publication, it had a lot of line art. My husband still subscribes, it's become monthly I believe, and much more photographic. I don't think I have ever seen quinces for sale, but have been given the odd jar of quince jelly in the past and read a good deal about them so we decided to plant a tree in our garden, I'm guessing about 8 years ago.

The blossom is very delicate looking with a faint perfume and as it flowers early we wondered if it would survive on the tree long enough to produce fruit. In fact after the first couple of years it has gone on to produce more and more fruit annually, and is looking rather dominant in our small walled garden! Until this year, when it's crop of quinces is decidedly sad, and most of the leaves from one side of the tree started to drop in August. There are still about a dozen good sized fruits but a lot dropped off before they got very big. As it's been such a wet and cold summer we are hoping that that is all it is.

The first time I saw a quince in the flesh was about 25 years ago, and it looked like an oversized pear. They have a layer of fluff on them straight from the tree, which means they have to be thoroughly scrubbed before using if you are going to leave their skins on when cooking.

Quince and Lemon Marmalade (Marmelo)

450g/1 lb lemons
1.35kg/3 lbs ripe quinces
1.5 litres/2.5 pints water
1.35kg/3 lb sugar

Using a zester remove rind from lemons, otherwise peel and shred rind. (Yellow rind only, no pith). Squeeze out the juice. Put on one side. Put pulp, pith and pips from lemons in a large pan.

Peel and core the quinces. Put parings and cores with lemon piths, add half the water, bring to boil and simmer for about 20minutes. In the meantime cut up quinces into neat small dice, cover with half lemon juice as you are doing it, add rest of water and lemon zest, gently cook until tender in a large enough pan in which to rapidly boil the finished preserve.

When the quince is tender, but not collapsed, add the sugar, remainder of the lemon juice, and the strained extract of the pan with the peelings in. You can then throw the peelings, pips etc on the compost heap!

Over a low heat stir the quince mixture until the sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Cool slightly, then stir to make sure the quinces pieces won’t all rise to the top of the jars.

Makes about 5lbs.

Quince Paste/Cheese

900g/ 2lb quinces, weight when peeled and cored

450ml/¾pint water

3¾tablespoons lemon juice per pint puree (60 mls)

sugar, 450g/ 1lb per pint puree.

Chop up peeled and cored quinces, simmer in water until very soft, sieve or mash until very smooth. Measure puree, adding sugar and lemon juice as above.
Stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved, then boil until very thick. Watch very, very carefully. When you can draw a wooden spoon through the mixture and see the bottom of the pan for a second or so you are there.

You could boil the puree down before you add the sugar.

The first recipe I followed instructed to put cut up, unpeeled uncored quinces in pan with water, and sieve the whole lot when the fruit was very soft, but it is fairly hard work.

My preferred method, which works for me is to peel and core the quinces, after thoroughly washing, boil the peelings and cores for a while, strain off the extract and cook the quince flesh in that liquid, then adding the sugar and lemon as before. Don’t use more water than you need, you only have to boil it all off at the end.
Makes sense to double or triple the recipe, as you are going to be standing over the stove for a while.

This recipe should make a preserve that will turn out for slicing.

Each 1 lb sugar gives about 1½ lb preserve.

In this old recipe book, the first one, it says inside, published by Devon WI, is a chutney made from lemon and quince. With my meagre crop this year I am going to have a go at that. The original recipe it says was 'taken from the Times some years ago, from an article on quinces'. I would think that the WI cookbook is probably 1950's, and has hints and tips as well as recipes. A cure for mumps submits Miss Mold of Chawleigh WI is to 'Rub the afflicted part with a live snail'

A favourite way of cooking quinces is to lay peeled and cored thick slices in a layer, drizzle some honey over them and bake in a hottish oven. They turn a beautiful pinkish gold colour. They can be frozen like this as well, perking up apple pies and mincemeat slices later in the year.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Muffin Cases

Sharon brought these silicone muffin cases back with her after her visit to the USA
I just love these little muffin cases, they wash up perfectly in the dishwasher and the muffins slide out perfectly, thank you, Sharon.
Here is Mary Berry's recipe for Blueberry Muffins:-

9 oz (250 g) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 oz (50 g) soft margarine

3 oz (75 g) caster sugar

6 oz (175 g) fresh blueberries

grated rind of 1 lemon

2 size 2 eggs

8 fl oz (250 ml) milk

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

Measure the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Rub in the margarine with the fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, blueberries and grated lemon rind
Mix together the eggs and milk' then pour the mixture all in one go
into the dry ingredients. Mix quickly to blend.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes until well risen, golden and firm.

I made 12 muffins in these cases with this mixture, using raspberries instead of the blueberries and lemon rind. I put the raspberries in at the end, because they are more fragile than blueberries.
I did make 12 muffins, we had already eaten the ones from the empty cases!

Sunday, 31 August 2008


Raspberry Muffins

As we don't grow blueberries, but usually have raspberries in the freezer this is my take on an American favourite. Of course, this time of the year we still have fresh raspberries, the Autumn fruiting variety, which in spite of the awful weather are doing a valiant job.
Here's the recipe:-
  • 10 oz plain flour and 3 teaspoons baking powder OR 10 oz self-raising flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Half a teaspoon salt.
  • 4 oz white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 8 fl. oz. milk
  • 3 oz butter, melted
  • 6 oz raspberries
This mixture makes 11 muffins in the standard size cases that I use.
In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, add the sugar. In another bowl or large jug, combine the milk, beaten egg and melted butter.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and stir lightly until just combined. Fold in the fruit carefully so it's not crushed. Do not thaw frozen fruit.
Spoon into the muffin cases, and bake for about 25 mins at 190-200c until they are browned lightly and springy if you press them. Frozen fruit can lenghten the cooking time by 5 or 6 minutes.
Much the same, but baked as a cake is:-
Raspberry Streusel Cake
  • 10 oz plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 fluid ounces milk
  • 8 oz raspberries
  • 4 oz melted butter
  • 4 oz golden caster sugar
  • Use exactly the same method to make the cake as the muffins, but this time turn it into a cake pan about 12 x 9 inches, lined with silicone paper or greasproof.
    Then sprinkle over the streusel topping made by rubbing in 2 oz butter to 4oz plain flour, and stirring in 4 oz soft, moist light brown sugar. You want a fairly lumpy crumble mixture.
    I bake this for about an hour at 180c, in the centre of the oven.

    Our friends Chris and Marilyn have just celebrated their Golden Wedding. Because the caterers were not available for the 'proper' day we had two parties! For the small informal 'do' we had, I made a batch of cupcakes, the same recipe that we used on the Bloggers Day, in the sew-together blog. They are unbelievably good.


    MAKES 12 deep cupcakes • PREP 10 mins •
    COOK 18-20 mins. Freeze without frosting

    150ml pot natural yogurt
    3 eggs, beaten
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    175g/6oz golden caster sugar
    140g/5oz self-raising flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    100g/4oz ground almonds
    175g/6oz unsalted butter, melted


    1 batch white chocolate frosting (see recipe)

    1 Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases
    and heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.

    In a jug, mix the yogurt, eggs and vanilla
    extract. Put the dry ingredients, plus a
    pinch of salt, into a large bowl and make
    a well in the middle.

    2 Add the yogurty mix and melted butter,
    and quickly fold in with a spatula or metal
    spoon - don't overwork it.
    Spoon into the cases (they will be quite full)
    and bake for 18-20 mins or until golden,
    risen and springy to the touch. Cool for a few mins,
    then lift the cakes onto a wire rack to cool
    Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze as soon as possible.

    White chocolate frosting

    Melt lOOg white chocolate in the
    microwave on High for 1½ mins,
    stirring halfway. Leave to cool. Beat
    140g unsalted butter and 140g icing
    in a large bowl until creamy.
    Beat in the chocolate. Cover and chill
    for up to one month.

    Up to 48 hrs before serving (or the
    day before if ifs really hot), bring back
    to room temperature, then spread over
    the cakes.

    This recipe comes from the Good Food magazine June 2007

    From this recipe amount I made 16 generously sized cakes, and still had frosting over, which I have put in the freezer.


    I really loved the taste of this fruity when we tasted it at Isabel's house. It keeps well and improves as it ages, so if you are regular cake eaters it is well worth making two. The original recipe does not use black treacle, but I like the extra depth it gives to the cake, both in flavour and colour.

    Isabel’s Pineapple Fruit Cake

    6oz soft brown sugar 4oz butter or marg
    Small tin crushed pineapple or chopped up pieces
    12oz mixed fruit 4oz cherries
    1 dessertspoon black treacle 8oz SR flour
    2 teaspoon mixed spice 2 eggs

    Put sugar, fat, fruit, cherries, drained pineapple and treacle in a pan, bring to the boil and allow to cool. Beat in two eggs, and then pour the fruit/egg mixture into the sieved flour and spice. Fold in to combine well.
    Put into a lined loaf tin and cook for 1¾ hours at 350°f -180°c

    In my own oven 1½ hours at 165°c gave a better result.

    When doubling the recipe still use only one tin pineapple

    Tuesday, 5 August 2008


    Courgette and Feta Pie
    Some of the best ideas must come about when you are looking for ways of using up a glut of a particular vegetable as well as being determined not to buy any additional ingredients.
    Here is what I used for what turned out to be a perfectly delicious vegetable pie:-
    2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
    500g courgettes (about) sliced thinly
    a tablespoon of olive oil (or butter or vegetable oil)
    4 cloves of garlic, chopped
    125g feta cheese, cut into small cubes
    chopped mint leaves to taste, if you like them
    2 beaten eggs, add some pepper to these
    1 sheet of ready rolled puff pastry,
    sheets of filo would be great, but frozen puff is what I had lurking in the freezer.
    Start off by gently cooking the onion in the olive oil while you are preparing the courgettes and garlic. When they have softened, add the courgettes and garlic and continue until they are just cooked, covering the pan, keeping the heat low, so as not to colour the vegetables. Turn out into a cold bowl to cool.
    Roll out the pastry a little more thinly on a floured board. I used a small oblong roasting pan so I could fold the pastry over the filling and not have to cut it up. Grease the bottom of the pan with a little oil so that it will brown well, and lay the pastry on it, with the ends hanging out equally all round, ready to fold over the filling later.
    Add to the cooled courgette mixture the eggs, cheese and mint and stir all together. Put the filling in the centre of the pastry, and fold the edges over. Use the beaten egg that didn't come out of the bowl to stick the pastry together, you can tug the pastry gently to make it fit. If there is enough left over egg you can tip it on top of the pastry to glaze it.
    Bake for 30-35 minutes at 225c to start with, turn the oven down to 200c when it is starting to brown. You are looking for nice crisp pastry all round.

    Inside the pie

    A Chutney of courgettes, apples and tomatoes

    The mixture before cooking

    Take 1kg each of courgettes, apples, (eating or cooking, but use a tart one) and tomatoes. Scald and skin the tomatoes, peel and core the apples and trim the courgettes, then chop them up neatly, and put in a large pan.

    Peel and dice 500g onions and add to the pan, along with 500g raisins or sultanas, and 500g of soft brown sugar.

    You will need 750ml of vinegar. In a small bowl put 2 level teaspoons ground cayenne (which will make it quite hot), a scant teaspoon of ground cloves, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a good 1inch size knob of ginger, which must be peeled and finely grated. Add a small amount of vinegar to the bowl and mix together. Add the rest of the vinegar to the vegetables, followed by the spice mix. Stir it all together and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 3 hours. It will need to bubble enough to gradually reduce the liquid, don't cover the pan, but don't have the heat so high that it burns on the bottom of the pan, stir it often. You want a nice thick mixture at the end.

    This will make about 8 jars, which need to be matured for a few weeks.

    Pickled Courgettes

    450g courgettes, thinly sliced
    1teaspoon turmeric
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons white mustard seeds
    2 tablespoons clear honey
    300ml. cider vinegar
    2 onions, sliced into thin rings

    Sprinkle the courgettes with salt and leave for an hour. Mix the turmeric, salt, mustard seeds, honey and vinegar in a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Leave to cool, skim if necessary.

    Drain the courgettes, wash well and pat dry. Pack into clean jars with the onion rings. Cover with the spiced vinegar. Seal well and store for 2-3 days before eating.

    This recipe comes from The Perfect Pickle Book, published in 1988 to accompany a BBC TV series.

    Monday, 4 August 2008

    Summer Fruits

    Fragrant sweet peas,
    with a favourite chicken made by Andrew Eddleston.

    One of my favourite ways of using plentiful soft summer fruits is to combine them in a puree of sweetened blackcurrants. Although it is so easy to do, it looks stunning simply served with Greek Yoghourt. The same mixture makes a good Summer Pudding filling, and when set with gelatine a classy looking fruit terrine.
    All you need to do is gently cook your blackcurrants with a tiny drop of water until they start to pop, and push them through a sieve. Sweeten to taste. When the puree has cooled to tepid, add raspberries and halved or quartered strawberries. If you want to set the mixture add soaked gelatine while the blackcurrant puree is still hot enough to dissolve it. If you are going to make a Summer Pudding add a little more water with the blackcurrants, so the bread will be well soaked with juice in the finished dish.

    Frozen raspberries keep their shape when defrosted in the puree, and if you put frozen strawberries into a jelly mix they will also keep their shape as they defrost. Be careful, however of adding too much frozen fruit to jelly, as it will set too quickly and look messy. If you are making a Summer Pudding it won't matter if frozen strawberries collapse anyway.

    Sunday, 22 June 2008


    Chris and I were away quite a lot this summer, all at the 'wrong time' as far as the garden was concerned, but Sharon and Imogen valiantly stepped into the breach and picked courgettes so they didn't give up producing, as well as trying to stop too much being wasted. Here are some photos that they took.

    These pictures were taken at the beginning of July, a rare warm and sunny day this year.

    But the following ones were taken earlier in the year just as a record of local allotments. I was hoping to find time to add more photos.

    Mendip View Allotments

    Mendip View

    Welshmill Allotments

    Friday, 16 May 2008


    We grow rhubarb on our allotment

    Always a prolific crop, here is the start of what I hope will be several ways of using some of it.

    Rhubarb Crumble Cake

    14 oz trimmed rhubarb
    7 oz butter
    10 oz SR flour
    3 oz pale muscovado sugar
    4 oz caster sugar
    11/2 oz chopped hazelnuts
    1 orange
    2 large eggs
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    For the nutty crumble topping:- Sift 4 oz flour into a bowl - add 3 oz butter, rub in roughly, stir in muscovado and nuts, set aside.

    Cake mixture:- Slice rhubarb into 1-inch chunks and finely grate the rind of orange over it.
    Put remaining 4oz butter, softened but not runny, caster sugar, remaining flour, spice, eggs and two tablespoons of the orange juice into a bowl and beat together.
    Spoon cake mixture into a greased and lined 8 - 9 inch loose bottomed or spring clip cake pan. Scatter over rhubarb and orange, then cover the fruit with the crumble mixture.
    Bake at 180c, Gas mark 4 for about one and a quarter hours. Cool slowly - don't turn out until completely cold - try to wait until the next day before eating.
    You can make this with frozen rhubarb.

    Rhubarb and Date Cake

    6oz plain flour 170g

    1/2 teaspoon baking powder

    3oz margarine 85g

    4oz caster sugar 115g

    8oz trimmed chopped rhubarb 225g

    4oz chopped stoned dates 115g

    1 egg

    4 tablespoons milk

    Sift the flour and baking powder, rub in the margarine and stir in the sugar. The rhubarb should be in small pieces, add them and the chopped dates. Stir in the beaten egg and milk. We bake this in a 7" greased and lined tin, because that is what we have, but the recipe gives a 6 1/2" tin. Our result is rather a shallow cake. It is baked in a preheated oven, 190c mark 5 for one and a half to two hours. It can be a bit moist, but is delicious.

    The recipe comes from a Mary Ford book, and says it will serve 12, not in our house!!


    Rhubarb and Ginger Crumble

    First, bake your rhubarb in a hot oven, preferably in a shallow layer, do not add any liquid, bake for about ten minutes, when the juice of the rhubarb should be appearing in your dish. Cut up some crystallised ginger in thin slices and add to your dish. We love ginger so add quite a lot, and it loses it's heat somewhat when baked in with the rhubarb, bake for another five minutes, then stir in a dessertspoonful of honey. If the dish is not the one you want to serve your crumble in transfer the fruit, making sure you keep every scrap of juice. Add a crumble topping, 6oz flour, 3oz butter, 2 to 3oz sugar, and cook in a moderate oven, 180c Mark 4, for 30-40 minutes.

    The rhubarb, ginger and honey mix is also delicious chilled, served with Greek yoghurt. Just make sure that the rhubarb is cooked enough, but still holding its shape, and you may feel it needs more honey.

    Rhubarb Jam with lemon and orange

    2½lbs prepared rhubarb
    rind and juice of three sharp, but not Seville, oranges
    juice 1½ lemons
    2½lb granulated sugar.

    Grate the rind from the oranges, or use a zester.
    Cook the rhubarb with rind and the juice from the oranges and lemons until tender.
    Add the sugar, and when it has dissolved, boil until setting point is reached.

    Because there is not very much liquid in this recipe it will set quite quickly.

    I've found a couple more interesting rhubarb ideas from Britains Best Dish
    The first one is Joanne Temple's Rhubarb Bread and Butter Pudding, in which she layers cooked rhubarb with the slices of buttered bread, and the second is
    Anne Aitken's Yorkshire Ginger Parkin served with cooked rhubarb and a sticky ginger sauce.
    If you click on the link it will bring you to the recipe page.

    Thursday, 6 March 2008


    Hot Cross Buns

    For very many years now I have thought of Eastertime as the beginning of the new year, trees in fat bud, the daffodils plentiful enough to pick and bring indoors, lambs appearing, earlier and earlier these days, and of course the birds with beakfuls of dried grass and twigs. This year the blackthorn blossom seems to be especially plentiful, let's hope we won't be calling it a Blackthorn Winter in a few days, that period of cold weather that often occurs when blackthorn is in flower.
    I decided to make my hot cross buns a couple of days ago, and put them in the freezer ready for Good Friday breakfast and the rest of the holiday as well, as I have made quite a few.
    Here is the recipe to make 24 buns:-
    Mix together in a large bowl 2lb of white bread flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of mixed spice and a small pinch of ground cloves, 4oz sugar and 4 teaspoons instant yeast ( 2 7g sachets)
    You need to incorporate 4oz butter, which can be rubbed in, but I tend to melt it in the water I am using for the mixture. If you want to do that put 7 fl oz hot water from the kettle into a heatproof bowl and cut the butter up in little bits so that it will melt fairly quickly. Add 8 fl oz milk when the fat has melted, which should make a lukewarm mix and put it all into the centre of the flour etc. with two beaten eggs.
    Instead of using milk with the water you can use some dried milk powder in the dry mix, 2 -3 oz. and use 15 fl oz water.
    Stir in 8 oz dried mixed fruit, currants, sultanas and mixed peel with the liquid, you should have a soft dough. Turn it on to a floured board and knead it for about 10 mins. until smooth and elastic. If it is too sticky to handle add more flour cautiously, very dry dough makes for heavy buns!
    If you have an electric mixer that is powerful enough to take this quantity of dough do not add the dried fruit until the end of kneading time or it will get a bit mashed up. Of course you will not have to knead it for 10 minutes if you are using a machine.
    Put the dough back into a bowl and let it rise until doubled in size, 30mins to an hour. Pre-heat the oven to 220c. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface again and knead it gently until very smooth and divide into 24 portions, form each into a neat ball, by sort of flattening each portion and tucking the ends into the centre, which will then be the underside of the bun. Arrange the buns on a large, greased baking tray, or two, not quite touching, and allow them to rise until nearly doubled in size and just touching each other.
    To make the crosses, mix together some flour and water to a thick,flowing paste. With a very sharp knife lightly incise a cross in the top of each bun, easier if you treat all the buns as one large item, and pipe the flour water mix across them. See the picture below.

    The buns straight from the oven before glazing
    Put the baking tray(s) in the oven, near the top and reduce the temperature to 200c as you do so, bake for 15-20 mins. To test for done-ness lift one of the buns off the baking tray and tap it on the bottom. It should sound hollow when cooked. If you are using two trays you will have to swap them around and they will take a good 5 minutes more to cook.
    The buns can be glazed with a thickish syrup of sugar and water, or you can use beaten egg and milk brushed on before you pipe on the crosses.
    You can make the crosses with thin strips of shortcrust pastry, stuck in place with egg wash.

    Sourdough Bread

    I'm feeling quite pleased with myself at this very minute, as I have not long taken this loaf out of the oven, and, of course, tasted it. But I'll tell you how I came to make it.

    I went to a meeting on Tuesday morning, only four of us turned up, but one who did was Stina. I've met Stina before once or twice, but know very little about her except that she is very artistic and a devotee of organic and local food. Over her clothes she was wearing a large hessian apron with deep pockets, in lieu of a bag I understood, and from one of these pockets she drew a honey jar with a growing, naturally fermented sourdough culture. Did anyone want it, she asked. Of course I did.

    Having taken it home and decanted it into a basin I found I had about 3 tablespoons of starter, which had a very fresh smell, and was gently bubbling. I decided to increase the bulk of the starter before I did anything else, so I added literally a few grains of instant yeast (I can hear Stina screaming from here), a pinch of sugar and couple of dessertspoonfuls of bread flour and some lukewarm water and left it in a reasonably warm room . It was looking very healthy in the evening, with a much more developed aroma so I divided it into two, half in a covered bowl in the fridge and the rest in a large mixing bowl, adding probably about 300 grams of white bread flour and enough water to make it a sloppy mixture, a bit like thick pancake batter. I left this at room temperature for 24 hours, the smell was delightful, and the sponge was very well risen.

    First thing this morning I added about 250grams of rye flour, another approximately 200 grams white flour and some salt with enough water to make it a soft dough, a bit too sticky I grumpily thought at one time, as this was before my cup of coffee and I was in need of my caffeine fix. I used about 750grams of flour altogether and left it to rise in a stainless steel casserole rather than a baking sheet or tin, to see if I could get a nice rounded shape.

    I baked it at 225C for about an hour, longer than I would have thought, but the casserole has a very thick bottom, and I really had a tricky job to get it out, it stuck on the bottom, even though I had greased the pan well, and of course it was much deeper than a baking pan.The shape is good because of the rounded pan, but not an altogether successful experiment.

    I am going to give Sandra one half of the remaining starter, to which I have added a little water and flour, and have another go, perhaps writing down the amounts of flour and water I am adding at each stage.

    A few days later now and I have made another loaf and written down quantities:-

    On Thursday at 4pm I took the left over starter from the fridge, having duly given Sandra one half of the remaining amount. To my share of the starter I added 230g. (8oz.) wholemeal bread flour and 230ml (8fl.oz) lukewarm water. I stirred it all together and left it overnight at room temperature, covered with a damp cloth. ( Had I been making a new starter the flour and water would have to have been left for about 3 days at room temperature).

    On Friday at 9am I divided this new mixture in two, putting half back in the fridge for next time and added 230g (8oz) white bread flour and 200ml (7fl.oz) lukewarm water to the one half, beating well together. I covered it again, with a plate on top of the bowl this time until this morning, when I added another 300g (12oz) white bread flour, 4 fl. oz. (120ml) lukewarm water and a teaspoon of salt. I kneaded it lightly, allowed it to double in size, about an hour and a half, kneaded it again and put into a greased bread tin. My bread tins are longer than the regular 2lb tins, and it 2/3rds filled it, I allowed it to rise to the top of the tin, and baked it for 40mins in a pre-heated oven 220c. or until it sounds hollow when you tap the base. A perfectly risen loaf, it rose above the bread tin while baking.

    Wednesday, 20 February 2008


    Our grand-daughter has spent the last half-term holiday with us, and along with all her other interests she loves to help with the cooking. Even when she was quite tiny she would like to weigh out flour for bread, cakes and pastry. I still use a very ancient set of scales with a copper pan and lots of seperate weights, and she was fascinated by the art of getting the two sides to balance. Most of her activity in the early days was playing with bread dough or pastry, making them into tiny shapes for baking, and subsequently eating. These days however, she is getting good at the job, and even though she is still not keen on very sharp knives or fat that will spit at you, the results can be excellent.

    One of her favourite meals is meatballs with tomato sauce and this is how we make it. In a large bowl combine 500g of good minced beef, a thick slice of wholemeal bread,( could be white if that's what is available, and it would be two slices of shop bought sliced bread), half of a large onion, finely chopped, and a large egg, salt and pepper.

    Shape the mixture into balls, aim for the size of a large walnut, they always seem to turn out bigger, and put them on a floured plate as you work. When all the mixture is done put a smear of oil around a large shallow pan, and brown the meatballs all over. It really will be best if you have a pan that will take all the meatballs in one layer. When they are browned, take them out and put aside while you make the tomato sauce.

    The easy way to do this is to liquidise two tins of tomatoes with the rest of the onion and two or three cloves of garlic, you can add a bit of chilli here if you like it, and I'll admit to adding a Knorr beef stock cube at the same time, do season it well. Or you could just use a jar of passata. Pour the tomatoes etc back into the pan and cook for a while so that the raw taste is gone, the oven should be heating up now, 150-175c, and than add the meatballs back into the pan. Bake for about 45 mins.

    We like to serve this with rice, which is why we make quite a lot of sauce.

    Cold leftovers are delicious is a buttered soft roll, with salad stuff and mayo, but this recipe does freeze well, as long as you defrost slowly and don't break up the meatballs as you re-heat.