Sunday, 21 December 2014


A wonderful accompaniment to roast turkey at Christmas, or roast chicken at any time of the year is a really tasty stuffing and I like to roll mine into balls as they cook quicker and you can make them a bit crunchy.

Stuffing Balls

200g  sausagemeat
dried/ fresh fruit

Put the sausagemeat into a large bowl.
Add about 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and 1-2 tablespoons of oatbran if you have it.
Finely chop some fresh parsley or sage and add it to the mixture.
If you wish, you can add some fresh apple or dried apricots.
At Christmas it is good to add chopped chestnuts or fresh cranberries.

Squish the mixture together with your hands and roll into balls.
Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 180.

Christmas truffles

Christmas Truffles

100g dark chocolate
100g cake or biscuits
50g white chocolate
holly decorations

1.  Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
2.  Crush the cake or biscuits into crumbs, then mix into the melted chocolate.
3.  Take a walnut sized piece of the mixture and shape into a ball. continue until all the mixture is used.
4.  Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
5.  Drizzle a teaspoonful on each truffle and decorate with sugar holly berries and leaves.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Christmas Ham

The Christmas tree is decorated and hung with baubles and trinkets.  Christmas is getting ever closer and the excitement in the air is palpable.

At this time of year it is good to get a piece of gammon and cook it.  It is delicious hot with mashed potato, carrots, pease pudding and parsley sauce and it is scrumptious cold with salad, pickles and bread.

Baked Ham
1 boneless joint of unsmoked gammon
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cloves   
1 tin of pineapple pieces in juice

Large saucepan
Roasting tin
Carving knife

1.   Put the gammon is a large saucepan, cover with water and then drain off the water.  Cover with water again, place over a high heat and bring to the boil. Drain off the water, cover with fresh water again and bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 2 hours.
2.   After 2 hours, turn off the heat and remove the meat from the boiling water. Place the meat in a roasting tin and carefully remove the rind with a sharp knife. Leave some of the fat on the meat for flavour. Score the fat with the knife, making a diamond pattern. Push a clove into each diamond. Sprinkle the top liberally with brown sugar, pressing it on with your hands if you think it necessary. Drizzle  a tablespoon or two of pineapple juice over the meat and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes.
3.   Remove from the oven and put the meat on a plate, cover  with foil and leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving.  Pour the sweet, sticky sauce into a jug.

Thursday, 27 November 2014


Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated  in the United States of  America  as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and is said to have arisen from a celebration feast in 1621 at Plymouth in Massachusetts that  was prompted by a good harvest.  The pilgrims who began emigrating from England in the 1620s gave thanks for a good harvest that would see them through the harsh New England winter.
Although we do not celebrate Thanksgiving in Britain, there is no reason why we cannot enjoy some of the foods that are traditional Thanksgiving staples and anyone who has been to America will know that it is not Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie, so here is my recipe for this sweet delicacy.    

                         PUMPKIN PIE

175g plain flour
90g unsalted butter or half butter and half lard
Approx 2 tbsp cold water

450g  pumpkin pulp
2 eggs
250 ml double cream
75g soft brown sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

1.       First make the pastry:   Place the flour in a large bowl and cut the butter into small pieces.  Rub the fat into the flour using just your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually add the water and mix with your hand until you have a firm dough. Wrap it in cling film and place it in the fridge for at least half an hour.
2.       Roll out the pastry, turning it regularly on the board, until you have a thin circle slightly larger than the pie dish.  Lift one edge of the pastry and roll it around the rolling pin. Gently lift it over the pie dish then lower it and press gently into the tin.  Prick the pastry with a fork and refrigerate for a further 15 minutes.
3.       Remove the pastry case from the fridge, put a piece of greaseproof paper on the pastry and weight it down with baking beans. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Take it out of the oven and carefully remove the baking beans and paper. Return it to the oven for 10 minutes then take it out and put it on a rack to cool.
4.       Put all the filling ingredients into a large mixing bowl and beat or stir well. Pour into the cooled pastry case and bake for 30 minutes or until the filling has just set.  It should not be set hard but should have a slight wobble as the filling will firm up as it cools.
4.  Serve warm with cream or “a la mode” with ice cream.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday Roast

A recent survey has shown that fewer families today are cooking a roast dinner at the weekend.  This seems such a shame as a roast dinner is very easy as you just bung the meat in the oven and leave it to roast.Sitting around a dining table enjoying a roast dinner is a marvellous opportunity to spend time as a family and for children to learn consideration and table manners and communication skills,  and it is a good time for the family members to exchange news about their day.  In March 2013 researchers at Loughborough University published a study showing that regular family mealtimes are associated with fewer eating disorders and a lower incidence of depression in adolescents. It may not be easy, but try to have at least  some meals together as a family and make sure that computers, mobile phones and televisions are switched off then. Sit around a table, not in front of a television.  All family members can eat together. I have never been a fan of feeding the children fishfingers or nuggets and putting them to bed before the adults eat. Have your baby sitting at the table in their high chair and when they see everyone eating they will want to try your family cooking and you will have no trouble getting them to eat vegetables and everything else. 

Roast Chicken


1 chicken
4 potatoes
2 carrots
cabbage, sprouts or broccoli
1 tsp cornflour
sausages wrapped in bacon

2 roasting tins
Vegetable knife

1 Place the chicken  in a roasting tin and  season with salt and pepper and smear with butter. Wash your hands thoroughly.  Put the meat into a hot oven at 200 for 20 minutes than turn the heat down to 180 and roast  for  about an hour.
2.   Peel the potatoes and put in a saucepan of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Put 1 tbsp sunflower oil or goose fat into a roasting tin  and put in the oven to get hot.  Drain the potatoes and put in the roasting tin ensuring that they are coated in fat.
3.   When the meat is cooked remove the meat from the oven and put it on a plate, covered with foil, to rest. Use that tin to make the gravy.
4.   Turn the  oven  heat up to 190 to crisp the potatoes. Pop the sausages in bacon on a baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes.
5.  Peel carrots, cut them into circles or matchsticks  and place in a saucepan of water. Bring it to the boil and cook the carrots for 5 minutes. Shred a cabbage or cut up broccoli or peel sprouts and place in a steamer over the carrots to steam for 5 minutes. Drain the carrots, reserving the cooking water.

6. Using the roasting tin in which the chicken was cooked, skim off any fat and place on the hob. Heat and add a tablespoon of wine or water, scraping up the tasty bits in the pan.   Pour in the water from the carrots and bring to the boil.  Add 1 tsp cornflour mixed to a paste with a little cold water.  Stir well until you have a smooth gravy. Season with salt and pepper.
7.  Place the chicken on a board and using a sharp knife remove the legs.  Then carve the breast meat downwards into thin slices.  Slice the meat off the legs.  Serve with vegetables and gravy.

While you have your oven on, don't waste the opportunity to pop something else in there to cook.  How about some baked apples?


This is a simple way of using apples, particularly when there is a glut in the Autumn and this dish can be popped in the oven while something else is cooking.

4 cooking apples
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon raisins
Golden syrup

Sharp knife
Apple corer
Baking dish

1.   Preheat oven to 180/Gas4.
2.   Wash and dry the apples. Remove the cores with the corer or a sharp knife and score the skin  in a horizontal line around the middle of each apple.
3.  Place the apples in an ovenproof dish and pour 1 tablespoon of water around them.
4.   Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and raisins and stuff this mixture into the cavity of each apple.  Squirt a little syrup over each apple.
5.  Bake for about 30 minutes then remove from the oven and serve with chilled cream, custard or yogurt.

Friday, 31 October 2014


Well, it's here already; Halloween, 31st October.  The clocks have gone back, it is getting dark earlier and the orange, amber and golden leaves adorn the pavements instead of the trees. But it does not feel like Halloween, more like a balmy Summer evening.
Months ago, we planted some small seeds in the garden and they grew into pumpkins and today we carved them and put candles in them.

The bonus was that we walked around our neighbourhood and talked to our neighbours and met some new people.
Then we came home and baked a spider's web cake for Halloween. It is very simple:
6oz caster sugar
6oz self-raising flour
5oz soft margarine
1 oz cocoa
3 eggs mixed with a spoonful of milk

8" sandwich tins
whisk or wooden spoon
cocktail stick

1. Preheat the oven to 180 and grease the sandwich tins and line with baking paper.
2. Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until smooth and creamy.
3. Scrape the mixture into two sandwich tins and bake at 180 for 20 minutes.
4.  Turn out onto a cooling rack.
5.  Mix 4oz soft, unsalted butter with 6oz icing sugar and 1oz cocoa and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth and creamy.
6.  Mix 1 tablespoon icing sugar with 1-2tsp water to a smooth paste.
7.  When the cake is cool, spread a layer of icing on one half of the cake and sandwich the two halves together. Spread another layer of chocolate icing on top.
8. Put the white glace icing into a piping bag and pipe circles around the cake radiating out from the  centre.
9. Take a cocktail stick and draw lines from the centre to the outside, working around the cake.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Season of Mists

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

When John Keats wrote these words in his Ode "To Autumn" he perfectly captured the mood of Autumn and even though he wrote those words in 1819, almost 200 years ago, they still resonate today.  This is the season when the harvest is gathered in, marrows, pumpkins and squash are swollen with promise, the branches of fruit trees bow under the weight of ripening apples, pears and plums. Make the most of Nature’s larder: pick blackberries when you see them along the wayside, enjoy the fruits and vegetables in season, go for a walk in the autumn sunshine and kick your feet through the fallen leaves and cherish the light evenings before the clocks go back and the days grow shorter.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year and there are so many wonderful foods in season.  My kind neighbour gave me some apples from his garden so what could be better than an apple pie.


8oz/225g plain flour
4oz/100g butter
2oz/50g lard
3 tbsp cold water
1 tsp cinammon
3 tbsp  sugar
2-3large cooking  apples, peeled, cored and sliced

Rolling pin
Sharp knife
8inch/20cm metal pie plate

1.   First, make the shortcrust pastry: Put the flour into a large bowl and cut the butter and lard into dice and drop into the flour.  Rub the fat into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Gradually add the water and mix together with your hands until you have a dough.  Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.
2.   After 20 minutes, sprinkle flour onto a board and your rolling pin and roll out half the pastry, keep turning it as you roll so that it does not stick and you get a circle the size of the pie plate.  Carefully roll the pastry round the rolling pin and transfer to the pie plate. Moisten the edges of the pastry with egg or milk.
3.  Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180c, 400F and put a baking tray in the oven.
3.   Arrange the apple slices on top and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
4.   Roll out the other half of the pastry into a circle and place on top of the apples.
5.   Crimp or squeeze the edges of the pastry together to form a seal and trim off any excess.  Roll the spare bits of pastry out and cut out shapes such as leaves to make decorations.  Brush egg or milk over the top of the pastry.
6. Put the pie plate on the heated baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes.

Serve warm with custard or cream.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Baking for Macmillan

Tomorrow is the World's Biggest Coffee Morning to raise money for Macmillan.  Macmillan is a marvellous charity that provides medical, emotional, practical and financial support for people diagnosed with cancer. My wonderful, caring sister is a palliative nurse so I know how hard the nurses work and what an invaluable service they provide.
The idea for a coffee morning started in 1990 when a local Macmillan fundraising committee decided to hold a coffee morning and it has now grown into a national event.  It is a good excuse to meet friends, have a coffee and cake and help a charity too.
Get baking and why not make these rich,  moresih, chocolate brownies.


200g dark chocolate
200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
50g  dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa

1.   Grease and line a cake tin or shallow pan with baking parchment. Heat the oven to 180/ Gas 4.
2.   Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over a very low heat, then leave to cool slightly.
3.   Whisk the eggs and both sugars together briefly in a large bowl then add the melted chocolate.
4.  Fold in the flour and cocoa.
5.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
6.  Cook at 180/ Gas 4 for 20 minutes or until the outside is cooked but the inside is still a little gooey.
7.  Leave to cool for a short time in the tin.

8.   Turn the cake out onto a board and cut into squares. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Serendipity ...and beetroot

Having lived in the same area for many years, I thought I knew all the interesting places but on Sunday I was driving along a road, not far from where I live when I spotted a sign that read "Band Day".  My curiosity aroused, I went down a narrow lane and found myself at a nursery.

  It is a glorious place with fat carp swimming in ponds and another pond full of glittering goldfish. There were rows and rows of dahlias, their jewel colours shimmering in the sunlight.  There was indeed a band and we sat outside the cafe on a bench, the scent of lavender wafting on the breeze and enjoyed a cup of tea while listening to the band play the Dambusters tune.  The experience fired my enthusiasm for gardening so I rushed home and weeded and remembered that some weeks ago I had planted some seeds that had grown into plump, purple beetroot.

I adore beetroot.  It can be eaten raw, grated into salad and it can be baked, boiled or roasted and pickled. The leaves can also be cooked like spinach. I prefer to boil my beetroot so I cut off the leaves and stalks, washed them and boiled them in a saucepan until tender.  Large beetroot can take an hour to cook. Beetroot is delicious with goat's cheese or other soft cheese but it can also be added to cake to give depth, moisture and richness to a chocolate cake.  Here is my recipe for chocolate beetroot cake. You can bake it in one large tin and that will need about  35-40 minutes but I prefer to use 2 sandwich tins as the cake bakes quicker and more evenly. I like to decorate it with a rich chocolate ganache, but it is equally delicious with fresh cream and raspberries.

3 tbsp  hot water
180g/6oz cooked beetroot
200g/7oz dark chocolate
200g/7oz unsalted butter
125g/4oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
180g/6oz caster sugar
4 eggs 
100g plain chocolate
200ml double cream
Knob of unsalted butter

1 blender
2 mixing bowls
Small saucepan
2 sandwich tins, greased and lined with baking paper
Palette knife

 1.  Place the beetroot and water in a blender and blend to a smooth puree.
2.  Break up the chocolate and put it in a bowl, together with the butter over a saucepan of hot water and allow them to melt.
3.   Weigh out the flour, cocoa and baking powder and set aside.
4.  Separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then add the sugar gradually until you have a glossy meringue.
5.  Whisk the egg yolks until creamy then add the chocolate and butter, then add that to the egg whites.
6.  Fold in the dry ingredients, then pour the cake mixture into 2 sandwich tins and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and turn the cakes out of the pans and leave to cool on a rack.
8.  While the cake is cooling, pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat it until it just starts to bubble then turn off heat and add the chocolate. When the chocolate has melted, whisk in a knob of butter until you have a glossy ganache.  Leave to cool and thicken.

9. Place your cake on the serving plate, dip the palette knife in boiling water  and spread half the ganache on the bottom layer. Place the second sponge on top and spread the rest of the ganache on top. Decorate with fresh raspberries or chocolate shapes. 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Summer fruits

In July, when the children broke up from school and the Summer seemed to stretch ahead like a lazy cat in the heat, the weather was sunny and sultry.  Now, at the tail end of Summer, the days and nights are cooler and ennui has set in and we have run out of ideas for how to pass the time.
We have been away to the beautiful Suffolk coast for a week of splashing in the sea, building sandcastles, collecting pebbles, cycling and crabbing.
We have been for walks with our friend's sweet-natured dog and we have been swimming and to museums and read books.
We were also lucky enough to get tickets for the theatre during Kids' Week and we was the hilariously energetic and effervescent  performance of Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense.
So, what else could we do?
A trip to our local "pick your own" farm proved fruitful (please excuse the pun!) and we returned home laden with sweet, ripe raspberries. The gorgeous, jewel- coloured fruit called for a pavlova, so here it is:


2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
250 ml double cream
200g raspberries, strawberries or mixed fruits
1 tablespoon of cassis or liqueur, if desired

1 large baking tray lined with baking parchment
Electric or hand whisk

1.  Preheat oven to 140/Gas 1.
2. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Add the sugar a little at a time, whisking it in thoroughly. Then add the cornflour and lemon  juice and keep whisking until the mixture is completely combined and looks glossy.
3.  Spoon the meringue mixture onto the baking parchment in a circle. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Then switch off the oven and leave it to cool in the oven.  This is important to ensure  that the meringue does not crack and is crisp on the outside with a slightly marshmallow texture in the middle.
4. Whip the cream until it is floppy. Put the meringue on a serving plate and spread the cream over it. Then put the fruits on top and drizzle the liqueur over the fruits.