February 27, 2011


We were recently entertained by our friends Raphael and Veronique, who come from France and are living in England for a while. He is from Marseilles, she is from Lyon. They cooked for us a delicious meal of DAUBE D’ AGNEAU.

This is a casserole of lamb with olives and tomatoes and also flavoured with oranges.

Vero sent me a scan of the recipe she used as I really fancied having a go at cooking it myself. I Googled it and found that you can also have DAUBE DE BOEUF. That was lucky as I happened to have some braising steak in the fridge.

Unfortunately, all the recipes I found for Daube de boeuf on the internet suggested marinating the beef for at least 12 hours, some suggested for two days !! That was not going to happen as we were to be having it for dinner that evening, in less than three hours. So I decided to do it my way. The usual way of chucking everything in the pot and shoving it in the oven.



I just cut the meat into large chunks, peeled the veg and added them in large chunks, chucked in a tin of tomatoes, some olives and wine. I didn’t brown the meat or veg and I didn’t have an orange so I put in some orange juice.



After about an hour or so I thickened it with some Bisto and it was delicious.



I was also very pleased with the stew pot. A recent purchase from the charity shop for £3.50.

You can’t really call it Daube de Boeuf so I call it FRIDGE STEW as I put in a selection of everything there was in the fridge. (It’s very similar to RANDOM HOTPOT, another favourite dish of this house.) The next time I make Daube de Boeuf (or agneau) I promise to plan ahead and do it properly.

Here’s my recipe for FRIDGE STEW


500g braising steak, cut into large chunks

4 small potatoes (unpeeled)

1 onion

1 carrot

1 stick celery

1 leek

1 parsnip

4 medium sized mushrooms

½ a green pepper

1 200g can chair de tomate (or a can of chopped tomatoes)

a small handful of pitted black olives

1 glass red wine

1 glass orange juice

1 bouquet garni

1 Oxo cube

Salt, pepper and Bisto powder


Preheat the oven to 160ºC.

Put the beef in a large casserole dish or stewpot.

Peel the onion, carrot, and parsnip. Wash the celery, mushrooms, leek, pepper and potatoes.

Cut all the vegetables into large chunks and pile them on top of the meat.

Add the wine, olives, tomatoes and orange juice.

Crumble the Oxo cube on top and then add enough boiling water to almost cover everything – don’t drown it. Season with salt and pepper and add the bouquet garni. Give it a good stir.

Cover and cook in the oven for about 1½ hours.

Remove from the oven, stir and thicken with 2-3 teaspoons of Bisto, dissolved in water. Return to the oven for about 30 more minutes, or until all the vegetables are meltingly tender.

Serves 3-4

February 18, 2011


A while ago I spotted an idea on a lovely blog called “I HEART CUPCAKES”.

The writer had made a chocolate Guinness cake using Nigella Lawson’s recipe and decided to use some of the mixture to make cupcakes.


What a great idea! I have made Nigella’s cake many times with great success and it is always well admired.  So, armed with my brand new Kenwood Chef, I was itching to have a go at cupcakes.




The daft thing is, you don’t need a food mixer at all to do the Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe. You melt the butter in a large saucepan with the Guinness and then add all the remaining ingredients to the pan – it’s so easy.

But I was determined to use my new toy, so I melted the butter in a small saucepan and then transferred everything to the bowl of my Kenwood Chef to do the rest of the mixing.

CUPCAKE21 The results were excellent. Nigella’s recipe is quite expensive to make but it produced 24 cupcakes with some mixture left over, so it probably would have made 30 cupcakes.

CUPCAKES5 The quantity of topping would probably have to be increased to give all the cakes a good dollop of icing. (I only iced 24 of the cakes and baked the remaining mixture as a small plain cake.)

CUPCAKES1 Here is my version of the recipe for LITTLE GUINNESS CUPCAKES


For the cake

250ml Guinness (save the bottle cap for decoration if you like)

250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

400g caster sugar

75g cocoa powder

1 x 142 ml pot soured cream

2 eggs

1 tablespoon real vanilla extract

275g plain flour

2½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

For the topping

300g Philadelphia cream cheese

150g icing sugar

125ml double cream


Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Put 30 cake cases into muffin tins.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan. Add the butter and heat gently until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat.

Add the cocoa powder and sugar to the pan and whisk in.

In a separate bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla essence. Add to the saucepan and mix in.

Whisk in the flour and bicarb. Mix well then pour the mixture evenly into the cake cases.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cakes are cooked, using normal methods to test for whether they are done. Remember that the cakes turn out a very dark colour.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

To make the topping, put the icing sugar in a food processor and whiz briefly to remove any lumps.

Beat in the cheese until smooth. Then beat in the double cream until thick. (You may like to add a little more sifted icing sugar to get the consistency you like for piping on the cakes.)

Makes approx 30 cupcakes.

February 13, 2011


I got up this morning to a really miserable, grey, blustery, dismal February day.  We got up late, too late for breakfast so decided on brunch.  I looked in the fridge and thought that the only satisfactory thing to do was to bake a quiche.  A bit of a rummage in the fridge pushed me towards



I found a couple of packs of asparagus and half a pack of smoked salmon trimmings.  (The other half had been enjoyed with scrambled egg on oatcakes  the other day. )

I had a look in one or two of my recipe books and came up with a formula that derived from them, using the recipes as a guide to fit in what what I had to hand.  All the recipes suggested I needed cream so I dashed down to the local farm shop to get some.

I made 8oz shortcrust pastry, blind baked it, added the smoked salmon and lightly cooked asparagus, sprinkled some parmesan cheese on top then poured the egg mixture on top of that before baking.

137 138



The result :  scrumptious.  Here is what I did.


For the pastry

80z plain flour

40z margarine (or butter)

1-2 tblsp water to combine

For the filling

3 eggs, lightly beaten

300g asparagus

60g (approx half a pack) of smoked salmon trimmings

150 ml double cream

1-2 tblsp milk

1 tblsp grated parmesan cheese

salt & pepper


Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Grease a medium flan dish.

Make the pasty as usual and roll out to fit the flan dish.  Prick the pastry with a fork, line with baking paper and fill with baking beans.  Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Bake the pastry blind for 15-20 minutes until beginning to brown.  Remove the paper and baking beans and brush with a little of the beaten egg.  Bake again for 5 minutes to crisp the base.  Reduce the oven temp to 180°C.

Trim the asparagus using Jamie Oliver’s method:  hold one end of a piece of asparagus in each hand and bend it.  Where the stalk snaps in two is where the woody part ends and the tender part begins.  Trim all the stalks in this way or cut them using the first one as a guide.  I found it just as quick to bend and snap each stalk.  Discard the woody ends.  (And I have good intentions for using the discarded bits in a soup later.)

Cook the asparagus in boiling water for about 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse in cold water.

Arrange the smoked salmon trimmings and asparagus on the pastry base as in the picture.  Sprinkle the parmesan on top.

Whisk the eggs, cream and milk together.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour over the asparagus.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until risen up and golden.  serve warm.

Makes 4 portions.

Cook’s note:  apologies for the mixture of imperial and metric measurements.  I learned to make pastry in lbs and ozs from my mother so still do.  Recipes are usually in kilos and grams so I switch between both.  C’est la vie.

In the true spirit of thrift and economy I made half a dozen mince pies for my dad with the pastry trimmings.


February 12, 2011


I spotted a recipe for a pudding in a blog called “Tracing Rainbows”.

Being very much a fan of both comfort food and puddings I thought it looked interesting and decided to have a go.


You simply mix all the ingredients together in a food processor, pour them in a dish and bake.

The mixture you end up with is extremely runny and I thought to myself “this will never work”.


But it did !!  You end up with a pudding where there is a crust on the bottom, a custard in the middle and a layer of chewy coconut on the top.


Delicious !!

Thanks to Angela of Tracing Rainbows for the recipe for IMPOSSIBLE PIE.


4 eggs

¼ cup margarine

1 cup sugar

½ cup flour

1 tsp vanilla

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

2 cups milk

1 cup desiccated coconut


Preheat oven to 170°C.  Butter a 10” baking dish.

Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix well together.

Pour into the dish and bake for one hour.

Serves 4-6


A few years ago, the five ladies at my place of work decided that we would like to have a cake stall to contribute to the charity “BBC Children in need”. I don't know why we didn't think of it before. So now every November when the event comes round, we get baking.

The first time we did it was in 2003 and we made £135. Gradually over the years word has got around and lots of the surrounding small businesses and residents look forward to our cakes arriving. We know this because they tell us so !

In 2010 we made over £700 !! The whole premises was a sea of home-baked cakes at 9am and by late afternoon, most of it had gone.

Each year I try to make something I haven’t done before. On one occasion I decided to make RASPBERRY AND BANANA MUFFINS.

The recipe comes from a book called “The Sweet Life” by Antony Worral Thompson.  It’s a book of cakes and puddings – just my kinda book !!  All the recipes us a sugar substitute called Splenda.  You can however, re-substitute sugar for the substitute by making the conversion: 8tblsp Splenda = 100g sugar.  If you get what I mean !!

These muffins were absolutely scrumptious.  The raspberry flavour was quite intense, which according to Antony is due to using frozen rather than fresh ones.  They were also still nice and fresh the next day.

Like all muffins they were quick and easy to make and I have since adapted the recipe for other fruits with great success.  The only thing I haven’t done so far is to make them using Splenda !!  (Sorry, Antony!!)

Here’s the recipe (my version):


200g plain flour

2 tsp. baking powder

100g caster sugar (or 8 tbsp. Splenda)

100g frozen raspberries, briefly thawed

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

50g butter, melted

100 ml semi-skimmed milk

1 ripe banana, mashed


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°fan and place 9 paper muffin cases in a muffin tin.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and stir in the sugar and raspberries.

In another bowl, beat together the egg, vanilla, milk and melted butter. Then stir this mixture into the dry ingredients along with the mashed banana until just combined, avoiding over-mixing. The mixture should be lumpy but with no traces of dry flour. Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 9 muffins.