Saturday, 25 February 2017


Each year, when Pancake Day approaches, I ponder the same question : why don't I make pancakes more often!
They are quick, simple and very versatile.

Shrove Tuesday, as it is also known, always precedes Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar. Traditionally, pancakes were a good way of using up eggs, milk and flour before the time of fasting during Lent.
Ironically, nowadays, retail marketing sees shops stock up with extra ingredients in an attempt to persuade the consumer to buy more in preparation for the annual pancake festival!

On the day itself, I don't think you can beat feather light pancakes eaten with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar - totally delicious!
 But this year, I also decided to make a Dutch Baby; a large, puffed pancake which is thought to have originated in the USA.
Think sweet Yorkshire pudding.

Using the same batter as a traditional pancake, a Dutch baby is cooked in the oven rather than in a pan on the stove.

Rather like a souffle, the pancake rose up impressively in the oven, but then sank somewhat when removed, so make sure everyone is ready to tuck in straight away.
I served mine with a mixture of berries and a dusting of icing sugar.

If you would like to try making a Dutch Baby, I found this link very useful.

Happy Pancake Day!


Saturday, 18 February 2017


Last week on a bone chillingly cold day when mist hung low in the air, we made a little trip to the city of Ely.
A city because of its magnificent cathedral, the Ship Of The Fens, which can be seen for miles across the low lying land, but at heart a modest little market town.
We walked a while along the river Ouse before the cold had so numbed our feet and hands, that with a gasp of relief we darted into Ely antiques for a wander through three floors of curiosities.

By contrast, a few days later the sun made an appearance and since then we have been enjoying days of spring-like warmth. 
Such are the vagaries of the British weather! 

So to celebrate the imminent arrival of Spring, I made a cake.
 A reasonably healthy cake I like to think.

To be honest, this was a cake I had intended to make for Christmas, but with our girl being so poorly for the latter part of the year, festive preparations were much simplified.

However, the two packets of cooked chestnuts which I had bought to make the gluten free chestnut, chocolate and hazlenut cake  ( a recipe from the December issue of Waitrose Food) were still in the cupboard so I decided to give it a go.

I have to say that Chestnuts are not usually my thing. 
The fruit of the Sweet Chestnut tree (not to be confused with conkers, from the Horse Chestnut which are mildly poisonous) are very versatile and can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and even ground into a flour, useful for those on a gluten free diet.
In this recipe, however, they gave the cake a rich, moist texture.

What did surprise me was the amount of flavour provided by a relatively small amount of orange zest.
 If you like the famous Terry's Chocolate Orange - you know, the beautifully formed orange shaped confection that with one sharp tap separates into delectable chocolate segments (and I do) then you will love this!

Rich enough to feel like a 'celebration' cake yet not too cloying, this is a recipe I will definitely make again.

Hoping you have good plans for the weekend
 The rumour is that the mild weather is set to continue!


Sunday, 12 February 2017

cookbook inspiration.

I know I am not alone in this. I have met other sufferers.
The truth is I have a serious cookbook addiction!
I have a pile of them by my bed and dip into them for a little bedtime reading or flick through them with my morning coffee.
I love the inspiration to be found within their pages and
this Christmas I was the happy recipient of another two to add to my collection.

Simple by Diana Henry and Abundance by Alys Fowler.
Two beautiful books.
This past week, I tried out a couple of recipes from Simple.
The first a recipe for carrot houmous.

from Diana Henry Simple.

I'm a big fan of houmous. It's great for a snack or part of a meal with lots of things to dunk into it.
I found this houmous improved after several hours or even overnight when the flavours had time to mellow.

To go with the houmous Diana suggests roasted tomatoes.
Place 8 halved plum tomatoes with cut side up onto a baking tray. Mix with 2tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp harissa paste and salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 1 tsp soft brown sugar before roasting at 190c for about 40 minutes until soft.


On another note, we were promised snow this weekend. Instead we have grey skies and rain.
Do you have snow?
If so, please send some this way. Not a lot, you understand.
Just enough to make things look pretty!


Saturday, 4 February 2017

spiced tomato soup for a winter's day...

I can't think of anything nicer than a big bowl of warming soup at this time of year. Nourishment for body and soul.
I found this recipe the other day, whilst sifting through old magazines and cuttings.
I've mentioned before that I am always tearing recipes from magazines and newspapers, which then accumulate in a pile on the desk or floor or tucked into a book.
From time to time I have to 'spring clean' and only keep those recipes which I think I will actually make.

Which is how I found this recipe for a rather posh tomato soup, torn from an old Waitrose Food magazine.

I remember being bitterly disappointed when, years ago, I first made home-made tomato soup. My taste buds were expecting the rather sweet, gloopy flavour of childhood favourite Heinz Cream of Tomato soup and the soup I made was nothing like it!
Much as Proust's madeleine evoked memories of his past life, so tinned tomato soup evokes nostalgic memories of my childhood for me!

But time and taste-buds have moved on and this soup was just as warm and comforting!
And with lentils and cashew nuts providing a good amount of protein, it really was a meal in its own right.

spiced tomato soup
Serves 4
adapted from Waitrose Food magazine


2tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
crushed garlic, 1 or 2 cloves to taste
2x400g tins chopped tomatoes
150g red lentils
1x400ml tin coconut milk

For the topping:

50g cashew nuts
20 g desiccated coconut
20g fresh coriander

Gently cook the onion, pepper and carrot in the oil for 5 minutes.
Add the ground coriander and cumin and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the garlic, tomatoes, 250ml water and the lentils. Season, bring to the boil then simmer for 20-25 minutes.
Blend the soup, then add the coconut milk and reheat gently.
Meanwhile, blitz the topping ingredients with a pinch of salt and 4 tbsp water.
Ladle into bowls to serve and add a dollop of topping.