June 28, 2012


I have tried very hard over the decades to like fruit salad – you know the sort I mean, chopped apples, pears, bananas, grapes - because it’s good for me, but really – I just can’t get excited about it.  I always enjoy it if someone else has made it for me but for some reason my own home-made fruit salad just doesn’t hit the spot – maybe I’m fed up with it by the time I have finished all that peeling and chopping !!  And I would rarely order it as a dessert if we were eating out – especially if things like sticky toffee pudding or crème brulée were also on the menu – there would be no contest !!

hot fruit salad1

However, this hot fruit salad is one I have made over and over again and always enjoy.  I copied the recipe from a magazine many years ago.  The title is misleading as it should really be “warm fruit salad” or “spiced poached plums” – because essentially that’s what it is – plums poached in wine with sugar and cinnamon.

hot fruit salad2

It works really well with any stone fruit, and with all those punnets of lovely nectarines, plums, apricots and cherries in the shops at the moment the timing was just right.

My own youngish victoria plum tree is struggling this year.  It’s smothered in hard little green fruit and if we ever get enough sunshine to make them ripen I should be in for a good crop, but everything is struggling in the garden just now, in this horrible warm, grey and muggy weather that we are having.

 hot fruit salad3

Quantities are listed in the recipe below but what I usually do is to choose a baking dish according to how many I have to feed, cover the bottom with prepared fruit, pour on one or two glasses of dry white wine – although this time I used rosé wine because that’s what we had open and it worked really well – sprinkle on 3-4 tablespoons of light muscovado sugar, add a cinnamon stick and bake.

hot fruit salad4

It’s a very versatile and forgiving recipe and works perfectly with any stone fruit.  This time I used (roughly) 6 apricots, 6 plums, 4 nectarines and a handful of cherries. 

According to the instructions you should baste the fruit a couple of times during cooking but I rarely remember to do this and it doesn’t seem to matter.  It’s a great pudding to throw together and leave in the oven whilst you get on with everything else.

  hot fruit salad6hot fruit salad5

We usually have it warm with a little cream or some crème fraîche.  It’s also good with ice-cream, yoghurt, cold rice pudding (I know, I know !!) or just by itself.  It is also delicious cold the next day, especially if you strain the fruit and warm the liquor to serve with it.

It works as a rustic pudding or a fancy dessert – if you serve it in pretty dishes on a plate with a spoonful of ice-cream and a piece of home-made shortbread on the side.

“Hot” fruit salad


1kg mixed stone fruits such as plums, nectarines and apricots

110g light muscovado sugar

150ml dry white wine

1 cinnamon stick


Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°fan/gas mk 4.

Wash the fruit, cut each one into half and remove the stone.  Cut the larger fruits into quarters so the pieces are roughly equal in size (this doesn’t matter too much).

Choose a suitable baking dish large enough to hold the fruit in a single layer – some overlapping is fine but it shouldn’t be piled up.  Butter the dish and arrange the fruit in it.

Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the fruit and pour over the wine.  Tuck the cinnamon stick into the dish somewhere near the middle.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the fruit is cooked and knife-tip tender, basting once or twice during cooking.

Serve warm with cream, ice-cream or crème fraîche.

Serves 4-6.

June 26, 2012


I spotted this recipe in a 2011 copy of Delicious Magazine, which was in a pile of stuff ready for recycling.  Which just goes to prove you should never recycle a magazine until you have looked at every recipe on every page in case there is one you can’t live without.

potted crab4

You can see the original recipe here.

As it happens, crabs were half price in Tesco a few weeks ago ~ £2.50 ~ which actually seems like the right price for a small crab to me.  Anyway, I bought one thinking Nick would enjoy bashing the crab out of the shell after a long week at work and we could do something with the crabmeat afterwards.  It was obviously fate as I spotted the recipe that very evening.

We had almost everything we needed in the house already.  Instead of the crème fraiche listed I used Philadelphia Light, which is fast becoming my favourite ingredient for all sorts of things.  It worked brilliantly.

potted crab1 potted crab2

It could hardly be easier to make.  Apart of course, from the process of extracting the crabmeat from the shell.  That’s a messy and fiddly job but very therapeutic for someone who has had a chewy week at work.

potted crab3

You simply mix all the ingredients together, cover with a layer of melted butter and chill in the fridge until needed.

potted crab5

It was quite delicious and would make an impressive starter or a nice light lunch.  Well worth the effort involved and we will certainly be making it again – I say “we” because bashing a crab is obviously a job for the man of the house !!

Potted Crab


Approx 300g fresh crabmeat, about two thirds white and one third brown

4 tblsp Philadelphia Light

2 tsp horseradish sauce

2 spring onions

½ tsp ground cayenne pepper

50g butter, melted

1 tsp pink peppercorns


Finely chop the spring onions and mix with the crabmeat, Philly, horseradish, cayenne and half of the melted butter.

Divide between large or small individual ramekins, depending on how you want to serve the crab.

Pour a thin layer of the remaining melted butter on top of each ramekin and drop a few peppercorns on top of each one.

Chill for at least one hour before serving.  Can be made the day before it is needed.  Or wrap in baking paper and cling film and freeze for up to one month*.  (Thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.)

Serve with toast and lemon wedges or with a small salad as a starter.

This quantity will make 6 very small starters or 4 more substantial ones.  We used 2 larger ramekins and shared each between two people.

*The crabs that are for sale in our local Tesco are previously frozen.

June 21, 2012


Last Sunday all our plans for Father’s Day went pear-shaped for one reason or another so my dad decided he would go to his model engineering club as usual.  He phoned to tell me his plans and hinted that some cake would probably go down well with his mates.  So at ten o’clock in the morning I was leafing through recipe books to find something I could make from what I had in the house that wouldn’t be too ordinary, it being Father’s Day after all.

cappuccino cake1 cappuccino cake2

In one of those excellent little Good Food books I found a recipe for CAPPUCCINO CAKE and with a little improvisation with the ingredients I was able to rustle one up without having to go to the supermarket – which I didn’t have time for.

 cappuccino cake3 cappuccino cake4

It was an all-in-one sponge recipe, made as a traybake.  I didn’t have enough butter at room temperature so I used some Flora Buttery instead.  I didn’t have any natural yoghurt so used my last two cartons of “fromage blanc” which we brought back with us from our recent trip to France – they were on their last day before the throw-away date.  I used Camp coffee essence instead of strong instant coffee and omitted the bit about drizzling extra coffee over the cake when it was cooked.  I didn’t have any mascarpone for the topping so I switched to a Mary Berry recipe and used Philadelphia cream cheese.

Other than that I followed the recipe precisely !!

cappuccino cake6 Although I did use a baking tin slightly larger than specified, thinking a slightly shallower cake would cook a little quicker and cut into more pieces !!

It was beautifully moist and the coffee and chocolate flavours came through just right.  The cream cheese topping was scrummy and it looked lovely with a sprinkling of cocoa powder on top – just like a cappuccino in fact.

It was also perfect for entering in this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by Lucy, The Kitchenmaid.

My dad took a boxful to his club and brought it back empty with a complaint – it disappeared so fast he didn’t get a piece himself.   Luckily the box only holds twelve pieces which means there were another twelve left over !!

Here’s my version of Cappuccino cake:


For the cake

250g softened butter (or Flora Buttery)

300g self-raising flour

250g caster sugar

½tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

150g natural yoghurt

1tsp vanilla extract

1tblsp cocoa powder

2tblsp Camp coffee essence

For the topping

100g icing sugar

50g softened butter

175g full fat Philadelphia cheese


Grease and line the base of a baking tin, 20 x 30 cm.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°fan/gas mk 4.

Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.

Tip into the prepared tin and level the surface.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is risen and golden and passes the skewer test.  Leave in the tin to cool.

Whilst the cake is in the oven, make the frosting.  Put the icing sugar into a food processor and blitz briefly to remove any lumps.  Add the soft cheese and butter and blitz again until smooth and creamy.

(Or, sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the cream cheese and butter and beat together by hand.)

Put into a small bowl to chill in the fridge until you are ready to ice the cake.

Remove the cake from the tin and when it is completely cold spread the icing over it evenly.  Run a fork over the cake to make a pattern.

Cut into squares and sift a little sprinkling of cocoa powder over each one.

Makes 24 squares and will keep for a few days in an airtight box in the fridge.

June 15, 2012


The mouse will make rice pudding.

rice pudding1 Another book I bought from the discount bookshop was one by Gregg Wallace.  It cost me £3.99 which I thought was ok for a book full of pudding recipes.  I had never heard of Gregg Wallace until I watched Masterchef on the telly and find him quite amusing, his love of pudding being something I can identify with.  (When we eat out I usually choose my meals from the pudding backwards.)

rice pudding2 On leafing through the book I spotted a recipe for rice pudding and, with Nick working away from home, I decided it was now or never.  I had all the ingredients in stock so why not?

Nick and I don’t disagree about too many things but one of them is rice pudding.  I love it and he hates it.  I love rice pudding made as my mother used to make it – made just from rice (pudding rice was the only rice anyone bought in the 1950’s), milk, sugar, a knob of butter and a sprinkle of grated nutmeg.  It was baked in the oven for absolutely yonks alongside the lamb – we had lamb shoulder most Sundays for dinner, decades before slow roast shoulder of lamb became a trendy thing to eat.  The rice pudding would be thick with a golden brown skin on top.  Occasionally mum would put in some evaporated milk to make it even more delicious.

The best rice pudding I ever had was the one my mum made to welcome me home from the nightmare holiday that no-one ever wants to have.  We went to Cyprus for a week and I spent three weeks in a Cyprus hospital.  When I finally got home, still so poorly that I had to have help to climb the stairs, a whole rice pudding was in the fridge, just for me.

rice pudding3 Gregg’s rice pudding recipe has ingredients that my mother would never have thought possible – nor me for that matter – suet, salt, breadcrumbs, coriander, eggs and rosewater.

rice pudding4

rice pudding5

This pudding is cooked in a saucepan on top of the stove (which would have my mother turning in her grave for a start).  The eggs, breadcrumbs and rosewater are added once the rice is cooked and creamy.

rice pudding6

It was absolutely divine.  For people that love rice pudding this is the holy grail of rice puddings.  A wonderful combination of flavours and absolutely scrumptious.  The sprinkling of brown sugar on top was not necessary – as I discovered when I indulged in my third bowl.

There are not many foods that I could die for but this is one of them.

Rice pudding


75g pudding rice

100g caster sugar

¼tsp ground coriander

½tsp salt

½tsp ground nutmeg (I didn’t have any ground nutmeg in stock so used a good amount of grated whole nutmeg)

2tblsp shredded suet

600ml milk (a pint !!)

3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg

4tblsp white breadcrumbs (mine came out of the freezer, I just left them to thaw while the pudding was on the hob)

2tblsp rosewater

a spoonful of light brown sugar to serve


Put the rice, sugar, suet, milk, salt and spices in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and cook gently, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes until the pudding is thick and creamy.

Add the eggs, breadcrumbs and rosewater and beat until combined.

Serve warm with a sprinkling of brown sugar if you like.

Serves 4 small portions, or 2 secret eater indulgences.

June 13, 2012



I recently bought this book, “Gorgeous greens”  from the local book discount shop.  Having become a fan of Annie Bell – I already have her books “Gorgeous cakes” and “Gorgeous desserts” - £2.99 didn’t seem like too much to gamble on another of her books !!


It had it in a pile of books by my bedside  and I picked it out at random to browse through the other night when I was waiting for a text from Nick to confirm he had arrived safely in America for his current work assignment.  Hmm, maybe I could use it for the next Random Recipes Challenge, what ever that might be, thought I.

randomrecipes This month the challenge is to cook the recipe in the middle of the book, in other words exactly half way through including the introduction and the acknowledgments.  That would put me on page 97 where there is a recipe for “Venetian peas and rice”.


I happened to have all the ingredients in stock, except for the fresh parsley.  There were some shelled peas left over in the fridge after my father had enthusiastically worked his way through shelling several bags that I bought in an offer in the supermarket.  Marigold stock powder is something I always keep in the cupboard for when vegetable stock is required .  So on the way home from work I nipped into Sainsbury’s for a bag of flat leaf parsley and looked forward to a tasty meal for one. greens3 I was not disappointed.  The peas lost their bright green colour by the end of the cooking time and I half expected them to be like little bullets – I would not normally boil fresh garden peas for 15 minutes – but they were still sweet, tender and delicious.

greens5The recipe was for four portions so I cooked half the quantity.  I was not sure whether it should be a side dish, starter or light meal as it appears in the section entitled “gorgeous grains” but it seemed like it would be an improvement on the hotchpotch of random dinners I usually cook for myself when I am on my own.

It took very little effort to make and the combined flavours of the peas, parsley and parmesan were lovely.  The rice was perfectly cooked.  I had considered adding some bits of  fried bacon but in the end I was glad I didn’t – the fresh taste of the dish would have been spoiled.

Half quantities are definitely worth doing again as an easy meal for one or lunch for two if you added some chunks of bread.

Here’s my version of pea risotto (full quantities) :


50g butter

1 small onion

275g shelled fresh garden peas

200g Arborio risotto rice

150ml dry white wine

1 litre vegetable stock, made with 4tsp Marigold bouillon powder

70g grated Parmesan cheese

4 tblsp roughly chopped flat leaf parsley


Chop the onion and cook with the butter in a large saucepan until it softens and begins to colour.

Add the peas and rice and stir together.  Cook for two minutes then add the stock and wine along with a good grind of salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in the Parmesan and most of the parsley.

Divide into soup or pasta bowls and serve immediately with the rest of the parsley scattered on top.

Serves 4.