October 5, 2020


Now I know this may be an odd thing to post about but bear with me.

The recipe, if you can call it that, popped up in my FB feed and I was instantly compelled to make it for lunch!  We had it that day.

I was brought up on pilchards.  Not sardines*, but tinned pilchards in tomato sauce, warmed in a saucepan or in the oven and served on thick slices of toasted wholemeal bread.  Proper Hovis bread that had that delicious and unique aroma that Hovis doesn't have any more.

We usually keep in stock those very small tins of Glenryck pilchards in tomato sauce and at around 50p a tin they are just the right size for lunch for two.  The tins usually contain two plump pilchards that when split open and served with hard boiled egg make one of our favourite salads.

However, this particular recipe is a bit more sophisticated than just pilchards on toast!  It includes crushed avocado and rocket.  So, late to the party as usual, I have finally discovered that crushed avocados can be quite nice - how exciting that you can do more with an avocado than just serve it in wedges in a salad or prawn cocktail!

On the day I spotted the recipe I happened to have both a packet of ready washed rocket and two avocados in the house.  We also had a home made wholemeal loaf that Nick had made the day before.  You can see the toast recipe here, although it is actually for sardines and includes a sprinkling of chilli seeds which I omitted.

2 slices wholemeal bread
1 avocado
1 155g tin Glenryck pilchards in tomato sauce
a handful of rocket.

Empty the can of sardines carefully into a dish or plate and split them into two along the back and open out.  If like me you are not partial to the larger bones remove the spines.  Transfer carefully to a small saucepan so that they don't break up into pieces and heat gently.

While the sardines are warming through toast the bread.  Halve the avocado and remove the stone then the flesh with a dessert spoon.  Put the flesh into a small bowl and mash with a fork.

Spread the mashed avocado on the toast, top with the rocket then the sardines and serve warm straight away.

Serves 2.
*A sardine is a small pilchard.  In other words, pilchards are bigger and plumper than sardines.

Now for the cake stands.  I had a couple of Ebay successes recently and added to my collection.  This one is a Clarice Cliffe creation by Wedgwood and I was thrilled when it arrived.  I was not so lucky with the next one.

I often see cabbage leaf pottery on sale at French brocantes (a brocante is like a flea market) and it is usually quite pricey.  Most of it is also quite hideous.  I spotted this cake stand on Ebay just after I had already bid on the Clarice Cliffe one and it also came with two fairly large plates.  I was not fussed about having the plates but coveted the cake stand.  I turned out to be the only bidder and got the lot for £15.

Unfortunately the seller made the double error of not wrapping it very well and sending it via Hermes.  Over the last few years we've been doing a dog walk that begins at a small car park on the edge of town.  It's used by Hermes to decant parcels from their huge lorry to the cars and vans that deliver them to people's homes.  I have seen the way the parcels are handled and personally I would never use them to send anything even vaguely fragile or more valuable than a cheese sandwich. 
The seller has refunded my money and the three items are now in the bin.  Such a shame.  It will be a long time before I ever see another one like it I expect.

Lastly, the sad news as mentioned in the title is that the cake stall that we held at my place of work every year is no longer going to take place.  Not just this year (for obvious reasons) but not ever.  The owners of the business have decided that the Children in Need charity is already cash rich and any funds should be raised a different way and given to a different charity. 
So, no more huge baking sessions to supply the cakes.  
The first time we did it in 2003 we raised £130.  Last year we raised £2,113 and the grand total over the years is well over £15,000.  That's an awful lot of cake and I shall miss doing it.  It's what renewed my interest in baking and extended my repertoire beyond the annual Christmas cake and the occasional birthday chocolate cake.


I have done a bit of research and discovered that the "lettuce leaf" plates and cake stand are quite sought after and can be obtained elsewhere for quite large sums of money.  The design is actually "geranium leaves" and now I look at the pictures they do look like geranium leaves.  I can get a cake stand for £52 and the plates for £35 each.  What a shame that the seller did not pack them more carefully.  


  1. Sorry about your cake stand! I have been selling some china on behalf of a friend through my Etsy shop - and only sell to UK, I dont want to risk Royal Worcester Egg Coddlers going off to the other side of the world. Much Bubble Wrap and Royal Mail only! We had a Hermes delivery dropped over the side gate - it contained a computer! Fortunately the sender had been very thorough with wrapping. I understand that the staff are paid per delivery, so the more they can get rid of, the better - hence the drop-it-and-run technique.

    1. Angela, you could see immediately that the parcel was dented and the wrapping torn but unfortunately it was Nick that dashed to the door as it was delivered. I could hear the broken bits rattling from the next room as he picked it up from the doorstep! If it had been me I would have alerted the courier before she, as you say, ran off as fast as she could get back in her little van.

  2. I covet the Clarice Cliffe! It is a shame about the lettuce leaf one, though, but if one has to be broken better that than the beautiful CC. Just right for Cake Club...xx

    1. Gaynor, I can't wait to use it! Diet notwithstanding!

  3. Replies
    1. Interestingly, its description on Ebay was "lettuce leaf".

  4. Oh, I thought you were going to say about the sad news that Hovis has been - or will shortly be - sold to the Italians.

    1. Really? So much for taking back control!

  5. I believe I'm older than you are. That's not to say I'm necessarily wiser, only that I may have walked further in this Vale of Tears. Right through WW2 in fact, which I have to say was a culinary as well as a philosophical disaster. On my own blog I have already reminisced about a WW2 recipe for Canadian Suppercake in which liquid paraffin was used as a substitute for more normal forms of fat. The Canadians who then read my blog (they don't now) were, perforce, younger and were appalled. Reckoned I'd besmirched the maple leaf.

    So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut says.

    Tinned pilchards were available during WW2 and I ate them. Including their backbones which tinning mysteriously converted into thin columns of damp chalk. I ate pilchards to stay alive and as a ya-boo to Adolf. I'm not really knocking pilchards, though I would knock tinned snoek which arrived just after the war. Pilchards were edible. But once Britain was through WW2, round about the time the Swinging Sixties started, I didn't feel I had to persist with them. They evoked the past, as with Proust's madeleines, and it was a past I could do without.

    I fear this comment is something of a non-sequitur and may be ignored. Just to say that in the future you need not take my views on pilchards seriously. I have said all I know on the subject.

    1. Roderick, I can see that some foods would evoke unhappy memories and you would never want to eat them again. I had to look up snoek and even reading about it made me feel queasy.
      Fortunately all of my food memories are happy ones (with the possible exception of my MIL's "grey quiche").
      I once made a "war cake" for a vintage themed cake club meeting and did a lot of research beforehand. That one was made using white cooking fat, originally lard, and was delicious but I can understand why your Canadian readers took umbrage over the liquid paraffin incident, it sounds awful!
      You can see the war cake recipe here and it has an unexpected royal connection:

  6. Crushed avocado on toast is a fine thing that I've been eating for many years but I've no idea why it's considered a new and, recently, a trendy thing. On the other hand, I haven't eaten pilchards since my school days. They were a school dinner favourite and, like pretty much everything in our school dinners, they were hideous and inedible. Having read this, I think I should buy a can and try them out again.

    1. Phil, at 50p a tin it's not a lot to gamble if you find you still don't like them!
      I'm very lucky in that school dinners were mostly delicious at my school, the trifle was wonderful.