June 30, 2011


When it was Father’s Day we had a little family lunch party and I decided to make an old family favourite, sherry trifle, for pudding.  More recently we have called it raspberry trifle because Nick’s absolute favourite fruit is raspberries.

I make this trifle in more or less the same way as my mother made it when I was a child and in fact still use her old trifle bowl – the one that was used for many a Boxing Day trifle when we were kids.

My grandparents and my aunts would all make a trifle in a very similar way and we even had fabulous trifle at school with our school dinner occasionally – although with probably more custard and very little cream on top.

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In the 1970’s I started buying Good Housekeeping magazine – thinking myself very sophisticated and grown-up.  I was amazed to find that jelly in trifle was no longer the thing – it was thought to be common or old-fashioned – very working class !!

I confess I experimented with non-jelly trifles, also some faddy alternatives such as hot apricot trifle, which was baked in the oven with meringue on the top, and chocolate trifle which was made with chocolate cake and chocolate sauce.

But in the end I was true to my roots.  A trifle should have cake, jam, fruit,  custard, cream, maybe a dash of sherry, definitely jelly and, of course, hundreds and thousands to decorate.  Or silver balls and a plastic reindeer at Christmas !!

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If my mum made a trifle at the weekend it sometimes would be from a kit, which came in a box with trifle sponges, a tin of mixed fruit, custard mix, jelly and something which I think was called Dream Topping.  At Christmas it would be made with the full works – jam swiss roll, a good slug of sherry and cream from a tin.  Heaven !!

(I wonder if you can still get Dream Topping?)


Here’s how I made my raspberry trifle:


1 jam sponge roll

1 punnet raspberries

1 raspberry jelly

sweet sherry to taste

¾pint custard

small carton of double or whipping cream

hundreds and thousands or sugar pearls to decorate


Cut a jam sponge roll into slices about one inch thick.  Remember to get the one with only jam in it, not jam and buttercream.  If you cut carefully there will be exactly one slice left over for yourself.

Arrange the slices in the  bottom and sides of the dish as in the first picture, making sure the base of the dish is covered as much as possible.

Pour a little sweet sherry over the sponge – too much can be a bit overpowering but you need enough to be able to taste it.

Arrange a punnet of fresh raspberries over the sponge in a single layer, remembering to tuck one into each dimple made by the sponge in the sides of the dish.  Frozen raspberries will do just as well; use enough from a pack to make a single layer over the sponge.

Make up a packet of raspberry jelly according to the instructions and pour it over the fruit and sponge.  Leave to set in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Make about ¾ pint of custard from custard powder as per the instructions on the tin.  Or you could use a small carton of ready-made custard.  When it’s cool enough, spread it carefully over the jelly – if it’s too hot the jelly will start to melt around the edges, but that’s ok because it will set again.  Remember to leave enough room on top of the trifle to put the cream.  Put the trifle back in the fridge for an hour or so for the custard to set completely.

Whip the cream until thick and spread it on top of the custard.  Decorate as you like, you could even pipe swirls of cream to make it look really glamorous.

Serve using your best serving spoon and remember to enjoy that unique squelching noise you get when you take the first spoonful.  Magic !!

Serves 6-8

June 26, 2011


Dom at Belleau Kitchen has another Random Recipe Challenge for the month of June and this time it is to cook something from the most recent cookbook received as a gift. 

The “rules” of the challenge are that you open the book at random and cook whatever is on the page where it falls open.


I have acquired a few cookbooks this year but most of them were gifts from me to myself so I didn’t think that would count.  So I had to look at the gifts I received at Christmas.

My work colleagues gave me the Hairy Bikers “12 Days of Christmas” cookbook but I really didn’t fancy cooking anything vaguely Christmassy in the middle of June so I put it back on the shelf.

Nick gave me the “River Cottage Everyday” cookbook, which is wonderful, but every time I let it fall open it was at a page of typical HFW ramblings, not of an actual recipe, which I took as a bit of a hint not to use that book.

So that left just one book, the third I received at Christmas and which was given to me by my niece Joanna.

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When I opened it on Christmas Day I thought it was a joke book but in fact it is absolutely serious.  We already cook most of  Lulu’s food for her because we think she is allergic to the colouring in some dog foods.  Every so often her skin erupts into huge and itchy bumps (which drive us all mad with her scratching) but it has been much improved since we took control of her diet.  This book has given us some good ideas on expanding our canine-cuisine repertoire !!

When I flipped the pages it fell open at “Honey Dog Biscuits” – perfect !!

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The ingredients are simple and wholesome and you just combine them all without any fuss and roll out the biscuit dough.  I found the dough very sticky so added about a tablespoon more of the  wholemeal flour to be able to roll it out.

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You cut them into small dog-sized rounds (depending, I suppose, on your size of dog). I used the smallest cutter I had in my set, which was just under 2 inches.   You bake them and then leave them in the oven to dry out.

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Lulu was very keen to give her opinion on the biscuits as soon as they were cool enough !!

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Once they had cooled a bit, Lulu and I  both tried one !!  They were very tasty, with just a slight sweetness.  The flavour reminded me of the oat biscuits you often get in packs of mixed cheese biscuits and I thought they would go well with a nice piece of Stilton or Wensleydale.  In fact if you rolled them a bit thinner and cut them slightly larger, they would be perfect for that.

Lulu loves them anyway !!

Lulu Biscuits


150g wholewheat flour

150g porridge oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

30g butter

2 tablespoons honey

2 eggs

100ml milk

flour for dusting


Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Grease two baking sheets or line with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats and baking powder together thoroughly. 

Add the butter in very small pieces then add all the other ingredients.

Knead together thoroughly.

Roll out the dough to about 1cm thick on a floured surface.  Cut out round shapes and place on the baking sheets with a little space between each one.  (I found the biscuits only expanded slightly).

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Turn off the heat and leave in the oven for 2 hours to allow the biscuits to dry out.

Makes 40 dog biscuits.

June 24, 2011


I found a lovely blog called Chocolate Log Blog and Choclette has been hosting a “We Should Cocoa” challenge for June.


I fancied having a go as the challenge was to bake something that combined chocolate with strawberries, just in time for Wimbledon !!  Anyway, a second (or third) look at the conditions of the challenge revealed that entries had to be in by the 25th June – that’s tomorrow – crikey – better get my pinny on, I thought.

I fancied making yet another strawberry and white chocolate tiramisu but I was short of time so I decided to do a variation of my very rapid muffin recipe.  Not that muffins take any time at all to put together, but this recipe is mega quick and easy.  It had blueberries in the original recipe so I just switched to strawberries.

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You simply mix the dry ingredients together, stir in the rest with as little beating as possible, divide between the muffin cases and bake.

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How easy is that ??!!

The result: possibly not the most glamorous cakes ever made but very quick  and pretty good with a cup of tea and Wimbledon !!

Strawberry and white chocolate muffins


150 g plain flour

50g caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten

50g butter, melted and cooled

100 ml milk

75 g strawberries, cut into quarters or small pieces

75 g white chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 200º C (180º fan) and put 8 muffin cases into a muffin tin. 

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl.

Add the butter, egg and milk and mix together quickly.  Add the fruit and chocolate chips and mix in as briefly as possible, avoiding over-mixing.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake for approx 25 minutes until risen and golden. 

Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 8.

June 17, 2011


When I was browsing in the public library for cookbooks I came across this book.

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It is such a nice book that I bought a copy from Amazon.  Then I decided I couldn’t live without the book in France so I got a second copy.

In it there is a lovely recipe for Provençal Garlic Chicken – otherwise known as Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.

There is also one for these:  Cranberry Blondies.

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They are basically chocolate brownies but made with white chocolate instead of ordinary chocolate, and with cranberries added.  I made them at home and they were very indulgent and scrumptious.  

When we were there last month I made a batch of blondies in my French kitchen.

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The recipe states two tablespoons of grated orange rind.  The first time I made them I had grated the rind of two large oranges and stopped there.  There was less than two tablespoons but the blondies still had a strong orange flavour.  So this time I just used the rind of one large orange and it was about right.

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When baked, I cut them into quite small pieces as they are very rich and make nice sweet little “bites”.  Then I sprinkled them with icing sugar using a marvellous item found in a French supermarket.  It’s a tube of icing sugar with a rotating sieve at the top.  You tip it upside down over your cake, twist the disc at the top and have a beautifully controlled dusting of icing sugar.  Much easier than the icing sugar fog I usually end up with using a normal sieve and a spoon.  I haven’t seen anything like it in the UK so I brought it home with me.

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They turned out looking exactly like the picture in the book, always very satisfying.

Here’s the recipe for CRANBERRY BLONDIES

This is what you need

200g butter

300g white chocolate, in two 150g halves

3 eggs

150g caster sugar

½tsp vanilla extract

200g plain flour

pinch of salt

grated zest of one orange

100g dried cranberries, in 75g and 25g portions

icing sugar to dust

This is what you do

Melt the butter and half of the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Mix together until smooth.  Put on one side to cool a little.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Grease and line the base of a 18x28cm baking tin.

Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until pale using an electric mixer or whisk.  Beat in the melted chocolate.

Sift together the flour and salt.  Chop the remaining 150g chocolate.  Fold the flour and salt into the mixture then mix in the chopped chocolate, orange zest and 75g of the cranberries.

Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and level the top.  Sprinkle the remaining 25g of cranberries over the top.

Bake for 20 minutes until the top is firm but the inside is still soft.  Leave to cool in the tin.

When cool, cut into 24 small or 12 large squares and dust with icing sugar.

June 7, 2011


Dom of Belleau Kitchen posted this recipe a few weeks ago.

When I was a child we lived near woods that were full of wild garlic.  It never occurred to me that anyone would want to eat it.  In fact the smell of the garlic was so pungent that my parents always referred to the plants as “stinking nannies”.  Nobody in their right minds would surely use anything with such a horrible name for cooking !! 

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I was intrigued by the fact that the recipe uses the leaves, not the bulbs, as in regular garlic.

A couple of days after I saw Dom’s recipe, we were walking the dog on one of our favourite walks and came across a patch of wild garlic.  So we picked some.  Being very fond of making quiches, I was looking forward to having a go at the recipe.

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You fry the vegetables as you normally would for a quiche filling, then place the wild garlic leaves on top to wilt briefly, as if you were cooking spinach.

In Dom’s picture, the garlic leaves were on top of the other ingredients when filling the pastry case, but for some reason I decided to put them underneath.  It worked fine.

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It produced a very filling and delicious quiche and it was of course, ideal for vegetarians.  Or for people like us who eat quite a lot of meat-free food, just because we enjoy it.

On our walk we picked quite a lot of garlic as I hadn’t taken much notice of how much was needed to make the quiche.  It only uses a “handful” so I had at least twice as much as I needed.  So I gave half of it to my French friend who made a quiche, froze it and served it to her mother when she came over to the UK for a few days.  Apparently the lady was much impressed.  Et voilà!!


For the pastry case

8oz plain flour (or half plain, half wholemeal)

4oz butter or margarine

1tsp salt

cold water to mix

For the filling

a large handful of freshly picked wild garlic leaves, washed

a bunch of spring onions, finely chopped

one large leek, finely sliced

a dozen chestnut mushroom, finely sliced

butter and olive oil for frying

300 ml double cream

150g cream cheese

4 eggs


Make the pastry in the usual way and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Roll out the pastry to fit a flan or quiche tin or dish.  Bake blind for about 20 minutes until golden.  Turn the oven temperature up to 190°C.

In plenty of butter and olive oil, sauté the onions and leeks until soft, then add the mushrooms.  Cook for a little longer until the mushrooms are soft and slightly browned.  Add salt and pepper, turn off the heat and place the garlic leaves on top.  Cover the pan and let the leaves wilt until soft, just like spinach.

Whisk together the eggs and cream, add the cream cheese and whisk again.

Tip the sautéed vegetables into the pastry case and spread out evenly.  Pour the egg mixture on top.  Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden brown.

Serves 6-8