Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

Perfect for Hallowe’en. If you are feeling indulgent, double the recipe, divide the mixture between two cake tins and sandwich together with coffee butter icing. A single layer works for us:

2 large eggs
2 tsp coffee granules
225g / 4 oz soft butter
225g / 4 oz self raising flour
225g / 4oz demerara sugar
1 tsp baking powder
100g white chocolate
50g dark chocolate

Heat the oven to 160 Fan/ 180 gas 4. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

Mix the egg and coffee together and set aside whilst measuring out the other ingredients into a food mixer. Give the eggs and coffee mix a good stir then add to the other ingredients. Beat until completely combined then spread in the tin and bake for 25 minutes until the top is springy.
Cool completely.

Melt the white chocolate in a microwave for about 1 minute until pourable. Melt the black chocolate in a mug. Pour the white chocolate over the top of the cooled cake. Dribble the dark chocolate in a spiral using a spoon. Then using a cocktail stick, feather the spiral for that cobwebby look. Alternatively, if it isn’t Hallowe’en!, just swirl it about randomly with a spoon, for a cappuccino look.

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20180330_171217Tired of paying extra for rubbish chocolate just because it is egg shaped?

Want to avoid the ridiculous amounts of packaging that surrounds Easter eggs?

Forgot to buy Easter eggs ?

Still want to consume silly amounts of calories ?

Well then, I bring you :

hot cross bun fudge

55g butter

250ml semi-skimmed milk

600g white sugar

300g soft dark brown sugar

397g tin sweetened condensed milk

100g dried mixed fruit and peel

1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp allspice 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Line a 25 cm square tin with grease-proof paper.

Melt the butter and milk together then add the sugars and bring to the boil for four minutes.  Add the condensed milk, then bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 20 minutes.  If you wish, you can test the mixture for readiness by dropping some in cold water – should instantly form a ball, or measuring the temperature – 118C.

After the 20 minutes remove from heat and beat the living daylights out of it for about 10 minutes. – Add the fruit and spices.  Pour into your prepared tin.  Cool enough to mark the top into squares – makes 36 really big lumps.

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It’s October, yet the  gluts continue to roll in, so here is another glut busting soup.

tomato and courgette soup

1 kilo ripe tomatoes

1 kilo courgette

2 onions

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp plain flour

1 litre stock – I used water and 2 tsp swiss marigold

I chopped the veg, none of this skinning and deseeding of tomatoes malarky – it all goes in…. then melted the butter and cooked the onions a bit, then threw in the courgettes and tomatoes, cooked a bit more then added the flour, stirred around and in goes the stock.  All cooked up until everything is soft, then once again the stick blender goes in.  A little seasoning adjust and done.  *does cheffy hand slap*.

It does make 6-8 portions, so some lurks in the freezer – but not for long as it makes a tasty easy lunch.

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mixed spice


It seems that Autumn happened all of a sudden, snapping quickly from summer to the next season, instead of the usual fight, days on and off.  We are getting lovely sunny days, but they feel like lovely sunny Autumnal days.  I have started to light the fire in the evenings, and it wont be long before the veg glut dwindles… saying that I still picked a heap of beans and ten courgettes today.  A good problem to have. The apples were ready very early this year, and to add to the Autumnal feel, I am doing my usual apple processing in the kitchen – Devon apple cake has been baked, and the mincemeat has been mixed, brandied and awaiting festivities in a few months time.

It was only as I was assembling the ingredients that I realised we are low on mixed spice, as the mincemeat needs a lot. I headed out to the village shops to get some – but there was none available.  It is a gripe of mine that ingredients that I feel are essential, are no longer available and instead the baking section of local supermarkets contain such must-haves as ‘ready made frosting’ and various sprinkles and sugary cartoon stickers.


*climbs down off soap box*

Anyway, I wasn’t going to drive to another town to track it down.  Thinking about it, I was reminded that when I posted the mincemeat recipe, I had been questioned by someone from another European country about what ‘mixed spice’ actually was.  You grow up using something you don’t question it really – but I guess is makes as much sense as ‘pumpkin spice’ means to me..  something we are not familiar with in the U.K.

I decided to make my own, as it turns out I keep all the separate spices in anyway.  In fact it makes total sense to make my own, to give a sort of turnover of some of the less used spices, keeping them fresh and tasty.   Any anyway, the shops didn’t have any.

mixed spice

3 tsp ground allspice

3 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground mace

1 tsp ground ginger.

And mix.  Even better if you ground the spices yourself, probably, but using ready ground spices works.

The mixture was loads more scented and flavoursome than the ready mixed stuff, not making sense, as it was only assembling ready prepared spices – but I suspect many packet versions have cheap fillers – coriander and the like.

I used what I needed for the mincemeat, and stored the rest in an air-tight jar. And the kitchen smelt delicious.. the mincemeat tasted delicious.  No going back for me now.


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runner bean soup Runner bean soup doesn’t sound that good does it?  It sounds healthy and earnest .Turns out it makes a very nice soup.  I was talking about it to friends and they said ‘how do you get rid of the taste of runner beans?  Which left me a bit lost for words.. because I like the taste! That’s why I grow them.

So after sparrowagedon whereby the sparrows ate all the flowers.. then I netted the beans – which stopped the sparrows, until the flowers grew through the nets.. then the beans and nets got very tangled and under pressure until I cut the nets… fortunately they were just old torn nets left over from the hen runs, but I wont be doing that again.

The beans kept on flowering and the sparrows got bored – or perhaps they had raised their young and didn’t need the extra food?  And I am now completely overwhelmed with beans.  I have come to the conclusion that I am glad sparrows are no longer in such short supply and we can share and I will accept that in future I will get my beans later on in the summer.

runner beans

yes, I pick this much every day


Now it is September and feeling autumnal, but the beans are still coming in in heaps – Every meal comes with beans, and we are still enjoying them, and freezing the surplus, and making pickle, but still they pile up.  Which is why I experimented with the soup. And it is a winner – really quite tasty.   I am sure this would work well with frozen beans too.


runner bean soup

500g runner beans – prepared as you would normally – I disgarded really stringy ones.

2 onions, diced

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons of flour

1 litre of stock – I used 2 teaspoons of Swiss marigold veg bullion and water

1 clove of garlic, peeled.

I melted the butter and cooked the onions until soft, while I prepared the beans.  Then in went the beans, a quick stir around, then the flour ( which looks like a bad idea, but it works), stir around , and then the stock.  I threw  in the garlic,  covered and simmered for 20 mins or so, until the beans were soft and the garlic clove squishable.  In with my trusty stick blender and then a taste for seasoning – but between the butter and the stock, no more salt was needed.

Ideal for the forthcoming colder weather.

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Courgette season is upon us, and as always the forums and groups call out for courgette recipes – and frankly some are a bit scary, but there are lots of great recipes and a few winners. This is my contribution, first posted in 2012 (!), the courgette bhaji – definitely a family favourite:





courgette bhajis
3 or 4 courgettes
1 tsp black onion seed
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
gram flour
oil for frying
For this I use 3 courgettes – but I probably pick slightly bigger than shop size.
Grate the courgettes using a food processor.  Tip everything out, liquid and all, into a bowl and fish out any bits that did not get grated and slice them up.Now stir in the spices and salt, and mix well.Add gram flour and stir, and keep adding more gram flour until everything comes together as a sort of ball, and is fairly stiff.  How much gram flour depends on how juicy the courgettes are!Heat oil in a frying pan or wok, and when the oil is hot enough (test with a shred of courgette – it should sizzle instantly), drop small amounts carefully in – about a dessert spoon is enough  -much more and it wont cook in the middle.  I use my hands for this.As soon as they browned on one side, turn and fry until cooked on both sides. Lift out and drain on kitchen paper, whilst you cook the rest.

Serve with a cucumber raita or as a accompaniment to a curry.

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other than mincepies

mincemeat pinwheels

mincemeat pin-wheels

It is a shocking concept, but some folk don’t like mincepies.  True.

The good news is, there are many other ways to use mincemeat, and whilst some are a lovely festive alternative, others are really useful when it come to using up the leftover mincemeat after Christmas if, like me, you make large quantities.

mincemeat pin-wheels

Pre made puff pastry sheets


1 small egg, beaten

a little milk

a little icing sugar

Pre heat the oven to 180 C fan.  Prepare a couple of baking sheets with baking paper.

Unroll the pastry and spread a layer of mincemeat all over, about 1 piece of fruit thick, leaving a small border round the edges.  Roll up loosely(they need growing room),  rolling the long side.  Paint the edge with milk and press the ends in. Slice into 1 cm ish slices and move to  the baking sheets, pushing into a vague circular shape.

Mix the egg and remaining milk and paint the tops and sides with the mixture.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the pastry has risen and is golden and the mincemeat is bubbling.  Allow to cool and dust with icing sugar.

mincemeat flapjacks

4oz demerara sugar

4oz golden syrup

40z butter

8 oz oats

1 tablespoon of mincemeat

4oz demerara sugar

4oz golden syrup

40z butter

8 oz oats

 Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan, and grease or line a 9” square cake tin.

Melt the sugar syrup and butter together in a pan, gently, until the sugar has dissolved. 

When the  sugar mixture is ready stir in the oats and mincemeat, then pile the mixture into the tine, spread out evenly and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool before cutting.

mincemeat loaf

4oz butter

6oz sugar

2 eggs

8oz plain flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp milk

3 tbsp mincemeat

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour and baking powder, and milk.  Stir in the mincemeat.

Pile into a 2 lb loaf tin, and cook at about 180C for about an hour, or until it springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

 Allow to cool a little then turn out, and try to let it cool completely before eating it all!

mincemeat and clementine pavlova ….or mess

make a standard meringue pavlova base, pile high with whipped cream, scatter with mincemeat and fresh peeled clementine segments.  Alternatively make microwave meringues, break up and mix with whipped cream, mincemeat and clementines.

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