March 23, 2023


This is an adaptation of a recipe in one of my slimming club cook books.  Now that we're back in France my membership has officially lapsed but I'm sticking to the plan as much as is possible in a country where the fat free versions of some things are hard to find.  I brought with me several bottles of low fat cooking spray as I had no idea whether or not you could get that kind of thing here.  I would like to lose a few more pounds but at least put none back on!

The recipe calls for cavolo nero or kale as the greens but I used broccoli as that's what I had.  Now that we're chez nous the supermarkets and other shops are some distance away and you can't guarantee the availability of anything, so cooking what you have in is the way to go.  Another adaptation from the original include using haricots blancs instead of borlotti beans as I had a tin of them in the cupboard.

In the book the recipe is cooked in a slow cooker but also includes instructions for cooking it on the hob.  We had the little French Aga-style of wood burner going to heat the house so I cooked it in that.  The hotplates were boiling it too fast so I transferred it to the oven for the cooking time.  To be honest, cooking anything in the woodburner oven is rather hit and miss as the temperature is not very controllable but if anything a casserole of some kind is what cooks best.  At a push I can cook a shepherd's pie or crumble in it but anything requiring accurate temperature control is a no-no.  I certainly wouldn’t attempt pastry or a cake in it!

It was delicious.  Cooking without lots of oil, or flour to thicken the sauce, is a revelation and definitely the key to losing (or not gaining) weight.  We had ours with no extra veg as there were already plenty in it.  Using just three slim pork steaks it made four generous portions but with a few more veg on the side it would have satisfied the hungriest appetite!  You could of course add other herbs or spices according to how adventurous you feel!

As an aside, I noticed that to use the right kind of tinned tomatoes for the recipe I had to look for "dés" or diced tomatoes.  Diced means chopped and anything else is literally pulp.  You can also get whole tomatoes - entières - just like you would have with your fried breakfast - and chop them yourself.  


3 pork loin steaks or chops, cut into large chunks

a small pack of smoked bacon lardons or 2-3 slices smoked bacon, chopped

low calorie cooking spray (or olive oil)

2 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

1 large leek, cleaned and thickly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves plucked and chopped

2 bay leaves

1 vegetable stock pot or cube made up to about 1 pint with boiling water

4-5 medium waxy potatoes

1 200g can chopped tomatoes

1 400g can borlotti beans (or cannellini or any other beans you like) drained and rinsed

1 head of broccoli, cut into medium florets


In a large metal casserole dish or ovenproof saucepan fry the bacon and pork in the oil or spray until brown.  

Add the carrots, leeks, potatoes, herbs and stock, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.  Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour (or transfer to the oven at 170C for 1 hour).  Check after 30 minutes that it is not boiling dry - if so add more hot water.

Stir in the broccoli, tomatoes and beans and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Check for seasoning, remove the bay leaves and serve as it is in bowls or with bread, rice, pasta or more veg.

Serves 4.

March 10, 2023


 Perfect for a snowy day in March and possibly the best ginger cake recipe, ever.

You can read about it here.

February 28, 2023


I often think very fondly of the old Cake Club days.  It started as a Loire Valley branch of the now defunct Clandestine Cake Club.  When that folded the members opted for a more varied style and it evolved into a kind of lunch club.  I handed the reins to someone who arranged just one meeting, the pandemic ultimately seeing the club off.  There has been no sign of it being resurrected, even though several of the former members tell me how much they miss it.  Hey ho.  
In reality there are plenty of other events where large groups meet and eat - although the sight of a dozen or more fabulous cakes laid out on someone's dining table and a group of lovely bakers gleefully anticipating a slice or three while they sipped their glass of the Loire's finest fizz is beyond compare!  For a confessed cakeaholic that is!

This cake was one that I made for a cake club meeting and it comes from a great blog written by Dominic Franks.  I have made more cakes from his blog than from any other source (unless you count my collection of Mary Berry cook books as a single source!).

I was going through a chocolate cake phase at the time.  That was followed by an apple cake phase.  In any case, it was a lovely cake and you can read all about it here.

February 26, 2023


I spotted this recipe on Kirsten's blog, "A letter from home" and you can see the post here.  As soon as I read about it I felt compelled to make the cake.  The recipe comes from the Sainsbury's Magazine website where you can see a number of ideas for using Biscoff spread here.

The recipe has only three ingredients; a jar of Biscoff spread, two eggs and some baking powder.  Biscoff spread has the same flavour as those delicious little biscuits (the kind often served alongside tea or coffee in cafés and tea rooms.)   As I poured the mixture into the cake tin I looked at the thin layer of it and thought "that will never work", even though the pictures on Kirsten's blog and Sainsbury's website clearly indicate that it does!

It worked!  It has to be the fastest cake I have ever made and it rose perfectly and looked exactly like......cake!  Luckily we were having visitors so I needed to create something for dessert other than my current staple of fruit salad.  (I was aware that our young guests were not huge fans of fruit salad.)

Diet or no diet I served myself a thin slice (to go with my dish of fruit salad) and can confirm that by some miracle the unlikely looking mixture magically turned into an actual delightful and delicious cake!

I bet you could also make it into lovely muffins, mini muffins or possibly even an apple pudding........a kind of Eve's pudding with a cinnamon sponge topping.......mmmmm.  I bet you could even make the mixture into a sandwich cake using two 18cm tins and sandwiching it together with the Biscoff buttercream suggested on the website.  Double mmmmmm......!!

The original recipe suggested that you melt a little more Biscoff spread to drizzle over the top.  That meant I would have to buy a second jar and having something like that in the house is far too dangerous.  Instead I bought a pack of the little Biscoff biscuits.  (Biscuits are one of the things Nick is filling up on while I abstain so I knew they wouldn't go to waste).  I bashed a couple into crumbs using a rolling pin and sprinkled them on the top, thereby turning it into a crumble cake.  

Marvellous!  And miraculous!


1 400g jar of Biscoff spread

2 large eggs

1½ tsp baking powder

a couple of Biscoff biscuits (optional)


Preheat your oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and line the base of a 20cm cake tin.

Spoon the spread into a large bowl and microwave briefly until it becomes just liquid.  Mine reached this stage after exactly one minute at power 900.

Using a hand held electric whisk, beat in the baking powder, then the eggs.  (My mixture stiffened up a bit once the eggs were whisked in.)

Transfer the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.

Put two Biscoff biscuits (if using) into a polythene bag and bash until they become crumbs.  Sprinkle evenly over the top of the cake.

Bake for 30 minutes until done.  I cooled my cake in the tin before turning out.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

February 21, 2023


The sprout is not everybody's favourite vegetable but in this house we love them!  We even loved them before they were genetically modified (or whatever they did to them) to be less bitter.  As a child I was brought up on home grown veg and sprouts were a favourite back then.

The recipe came about because I found an unopened bag of sprouts in the fridge when Christmas was well and truly over and just fancied doing something different with them.  We enjoyed it so much that I have made it several times since then.

You could substitute broccoli,  asparagus or green beans instead.  You could, if you feel inclined, also add a teaspoon of chilli flakes to add a bit of punch.  Personally I can't take the heat so would add some herbs instead.  I also added a sliced Matteson's smoked sausage for a bit of extra flavour, which added not too many calories to each serving and was well worth it!


a good handful of sprouts, trimmed, washed and each one cut in half (unless they are already very small).

1 large leek, trimmed and finely sliced

2 peppers from a jar of roasted peppers in brine, sliced (those in oil will add more calories)

1 Matteson's light smoked sausage (or similar), thinly sliced

4-6 medium eggs (depends on the size of your dish)

a little semi skimmed milk

a tsp or two of dried herbs


Preheat the oven to 180° C / 160° fan / gas mk 6.

Cook the sprouts in boiling water for a few minutes until just tender.

Spray a frying pan with 1-cal cooking spray and cook the leeks until soft and beginning to colour.  (Alternatively, cook them in water with the sprouts.)

Spray a suitable baking tray or dish with cooking spray and tip in all the veg along with the slices of sausage.  Stir to make sure they are level and evenly distributed (so that nobody gets most of the sausage!).

Crack the eggs into a jug and add a splash of milk and salt and pepper.  Beat well and pour evenly over the filling.  Sprinkle the dried herbs over.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the frittata is just set.

Serve hot, warm or cold, with veg, or salad.

Serves four generously.

February 18, 2023



This excellent recipe deserved a second outing but......I never did.

You can read about it here.

February 14, 2023


 This is another cake that I meant to make again but never did!

I remember that it was stunningly delicious but created a lot of washing up.

You can read about it here.