Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mothers' Day

When you think about it, mothers keep the world running.  They give birth to new life, they nuture the child until it is old enough to be independent and they do a million and one other things.  My mother has looked after me when I was ill, taught me to read, inspired my love of Shakespeare, came to all my school plays, comforted me when I had my heart broken by my first  boyfriend,  taught me to cook, looked after my children and celebrated many milestones with me.  And now that she can no longer do so much for me, it is my turn to help her and be there for her when she needs me.  To thank her for all that she has done and show her how much she means to me, I cooked her a special Mothers' Day dinner:


1 leg or shoulder of lamb, about 1.5kg-2kg
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Fresh rosemary
1 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp white wine vinegar

2 roasting tins
Vegetable knife

1.   Place the meat in a roasting tin and  make small slashes in the skin with a knife. Into these slashes push slices of garlic and rosemary. Put the meat into a hot oven at 200 for 20 minutes than turn the heat down to 180 and roast  for  20 minutes per 500g.
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.  To make the mint sauce:  chop the mint leaves, add sugar, vinegar and 1 tbsp boiling water and stir well.
5. Turn the  oven  heat up to 190 to crisp the potatoes.
6.  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 and place in a steamer over the carrots to steam for 5 minutes. Drain the carrots, reserving the cooking water.
7. Using the roasting tin in which the lamb 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.

8.  Carve the lamb into thin slices and serve with the vegetables and gravy.


5 oz plain flour
1 oz icing sugar
1 egg yolk
4 oz butter

2 lemons,  zest and juice
3 eggs
6 oz caster sugar
5 fl oz double cream

1.  To make the pastry, put the flour and icing sugar in a bowl and dice the cold butter into it. Rub in the butter, or put it in a food processor, until it resembles finde breadcrumbs.Add the egg yolk and mix in well until you have a dough.  Leave it to rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes then roll out to fit a loose- bottomed tart tin.  Put a circle of greaseproof paper  and some baking beans on top and bake blind for 15 minutes at 180/gas 4, then remove from the oven and remove the paper and baking beans.  Put the pastry back in the oven for a further 5 minutes.  Take it out of the oven and leave it to cool.
2. Mix together the eggs and sugar then add the  lemon juice, rind and cream.  Put the pastry case in its tin on a baking sheet, carefully pour in the lemon filling and put it in the oven at gas 2/160 for 20 minutes until the filling has just set.
3.  Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Red Nose Day Cakes

If you have children, sooner or later you will be faced with a request for cakes at very short notice. Many people dread those words:   " I need to take some cakes into school tomorrow".  In fact, one of my friends admitted that she fees physically sick when she gets home from work and her daughters want her to bake cakes for them.  On day my daughter came home from school and announced that the following day was to be French day at her school.  She casually said
 "I told my teacher you would bake a cake like the French flag."  When I rang my sister she marvelled at how children have so much faith in their parents that they take it for granted they can create a cake, model or whatever is required.  Needless to say, I donned my apron and  cracked on with the task and judging by the feedback I received the following afternoon I don't think I let her down.
Anyway, If you are faced with a similar situation, such as a charity or school cake sale, her is my foolproof recipe for fairy cakes and in my experience these do sell like the proverbial hot cakes.  As it is Red Nose Day today get baking and raise some money for this wonderful charity that helps so many people. I find that the following recipe makes 12-14 cakes.  I used glace cherries for the red noses, but feel free to decorate you cakes as you wish.

115g/ 4oz self raising flour
115g/ 4oz unsalted butter
115g/ 4oz caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1tsp vanilla extract
Icing sugar
Food colouring

Cupcake tray
Paper cake cases
Large mixing bowl
Metal tablespoon
Cooling rack
Hand whisk

1.   Line a cupcake tray with paper cases.
2.    Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180c, 400F.
3.   Cream together butter and sugar.
4.   Add the eggs and vanilla.
5.   Add the sieved flour and baking powder and fold in with a metal spoon.
6.  Fill the paper cases about 2/3 full.
7.  Bake for 15 minutes.
8.  Remove from oven and leave to cool on a rack.
9.  To make the glace icing sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually add cold water, beating all the time to avoid lumps, until you have a smooth spreadable icing.  If you wish, you can add colouring.
10. When the cakes are cold, pour some boiling water into a jug or cup and dip your palette knife into it. Put a large teaspoon of icing on each cake and

Quickly spread it over the cake with you hot palette knife, dipping the knife back in the hot water between each cake. Decorate each cake with  edible glitter, sprinkles, or small sweets.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The best of British

I have been lucky to have some visitors from overseas, one from France and another from Korea and it has been an interesting and rewarding experience getting to know new friends from other countries.  I thought it would be good to let them sample some British cuisine so what could  be  better  than roast beef and Yorkshire pudding?  I like to make individual Yorkshire puddings in a muffin tin and the following recipe makes 12 muffin-sized puddings. Don't be afraid of making Yorkshire puds- they are really very simple to make and the trick is to have the oven very hot and keep the oven door closed so that they puff up.


A piece of beef suitable for roasting, such as silverside or rib of beef
2 eggs
175g / 6oz plain flour
175 ml/6 floz milk
110 ml/ 4 floz water
Salt & pepper
Sunflower oil or dripping

Roasting tin
1 large mixing bowl
Electric whisk/ hand whisk
Muffin tin

1.  Heat the oven to 180, put the beef in a roasting tin, season with salt and pepper and put it in the oven for about an hour to an hour and a half depending on how large the beef is and if you like it rare or well done. Make sure you allow time for the meat to rest so that it is tender and easy to carve.
2.  Peel the potatoes, put them in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 5 minutes then drain and put into a roasting tin that has been pre-heated and has about 2 tablespoons of hot oil or goose fat in it.  Coat the potatoes with the fat and roast for an hour.
3.   Put the flour, salt and pepper in the bowl and make a well in the middle.
4. Crack the eggs and place in the well.  Gradually add the milk and water, whisking  really well until  you have a smooth batter, the consistency of single cream.  You can use this straight away, although I prefer to make it a couple of hours in advance and leave it in the fridge.
5.  While the meat is resting put oil or dripping in each cup of the muffin tin and place in the really hot oven until the fat is sizzling.
6. Take the tin out of the oven and ladle the batter in, filling each cup about three quarters of the way up.
7. Pop it straight in the oven and cook for 20 minutes by which time the puddings should be golden and puffed up.

8.  Serve immediately with roast beef and a rich beef gravy made by using the juices from the roasting pan the beef was cooked in.  Heat it on the hob and add a splash of red wine or water from the pan you have cooked your vegetables in.  Scrape up the tasty bits in the pan, pour in more vegetable water and bring to the boil.  Mix a teaspoon of cornflour with cold water to make a paste and add to the pan.  Stir well until it is thickened and season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

January Blues

Yesterday snowflakes were swirling in the air like ice-clad ballerinas and this evening, as I look out of the window I see a thick layer of ice coating the cars and pavement like fondant icing.
At this time of year, many people  embark on diets, eschewing carbohydrates, sugar and other comforts that make the dreary days and long, dark nights bearable. In this cold weather we need warming, comfort food. Why not make a delicious stew.  It takes very little effort, you can go and do something else while it is cooking in the oven.  My New Year's resolution is to dance more, so while my stew is cooking, I shall be dancing around my kitchen.


Serves 4

500g middle neck of lamb or stewing lamb                                                          
4 medium potatoes
4 carrots
1 onion
Pearl barley
salt and pepper

Large ovenproof casserole dish, approximately 1.5 litre, with lid

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 2 1/2 hours

1.   Cut meat into cubes, approximately 2cm.
2.    Peel and thinly slice the potatoes and put them in a bowl of cold water
      to remove some of the starch, then drain them off. 
3.   Peel and slice the onion and carrots.
4.   Put layers of meat, potatoes, onions and carrots, seasoning with pepper
      and finishing with a layer of potatoes. Pour in water to come halfway up
      the casserole dish and add 1 tablespoon of pearl barley.
5.  Put the lid on the dish and put stew into the oven at gas mark 3/170 for 2 hours.
6.  After 2 hours, remove the lid of the casserole and turn up the heat to
     gas 4/180 for 30 minutes to allow the top layer or potatoes to turn golden.

7.  Serve with some additional green vegetables.

Top tip
To save time, cook a double quantity and freeze half so you have a lovely homemade stew in your freezer.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year

Happy New Year!   Some of you may be feeling jaded after all the recent festive feasting and you may have some food leftover.  Here is a simple recipe that uses leftover turkey, chicken or ham and makes a delicious and filling pie.


500g  cooked chicken, turkey and/or ham
1 onion, finely chopped
250g mushrooms
1 tbsp plain flour
250 ml chicken stock or milk
400g pack puff pastry
1 egg and/or milk, beaten lightly (egg wash)

Frying pan
Wooden spoon
Marble board
Rolling pin
Pie dish
Pastry brush

1.  Fry the onion and mushrooms in vegetable oil until lightly browned and
     Add the cooked meat.
2.  Sprinkle  the flour over the meat and gradually add the stock or milk,
     stirring all the time. If you have any leftover cream add 1 tablespoon for a
    more  creamy sauce. Season to taste.
3.   Flour a rolling pin and board and roll out half the  puff pastry  until it is larger   than the pie dish and use that to line the base and up the sides of the dish .  Brush  around the edge of the pie dish with milk/egg wash.
4.  Pour the filling into the pie.
5. Roll the other piece of pastry  out to make the pie lid and roll it carefully around the rolling pin and gently drape it  over the pie. Crimp the edges of the pastry together and trim off any excess. Use the trimmings to make leaves to decorate the pie and cut a small hole in the top of the pastry to allow the steam to escape.
7.  Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash and bake in the oven for  30
     minutes or until golden brown at 200c/400F/Gas 6.

8.  Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes and green vegetables.