March 20, 2013


This month’s Tea Time Treats Challenge is for something French and I fancied making something that seems unique to France.


Navettes are a speciality of the south of France and are little cookies made in the shape of a little boat or shuttle to commemorate the arrival of the Saintes Maries to the coast of Provence two thousand years ago.  Fleur d’oranger is the classic flavour and you can read all about it here.


They are easy if rather time-consuming to make.  I imagine it would be something children would enjoy doing – all that rolling and shaping of the thirty two little “boats” would keep them occupied for ages – I might try it out on my French baking friends Isabella and Amélie at Easter.  Amélie is particularly meticulous when it comes to sizing and presentation – she would not serve a plate of my mini tarts to guests last summer until they had been arranged in perfect formation so I’m sure she would get the navettes much more evenly shaped and sized than I did.


You end up with a small cookie which is crunchy on the outside and soft inside, just the right size to serve with coffee mid morning or after dinner.  They also dunk really well ! ! I will definitely be making them again.

I think next time I will boost the orange flavour by adding some orange zest, just because I love the flavour, even if it would no longer be traditional.


I am therefore grateful to Karen of Lavender and Lovage, and Kate of What Kate Baked for putting on this monthly event and causing me to explore my many French cookbooks and bake something I may have otherwise overlooked.  Karen is hosting this month’s Challenge and you can read about it here.


50g unsalted butter at room temperature

100g caster sugar

3tblsp orange flower water

1 large egg, lightly beaten

260g plain flour

a pinch of salt

For the glaze

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbslp water


Put the butter and sugar into a food processor and process until light and fluffy.  Add the orange flower water and egg and process again until well combined.

Add the flour and salt and mix again until a dough is formed.  Remove to a floured work surface and knead into a ball.

Split the ball into two balls, flatten slightly and wrap each on in cling film   Chill in the fridge for at least an hour and up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to make the navettes, preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4.  Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Divide one ball into 8 segments and roll each segment in your hand to form a little ball.  Put each of these balls on the floured work surface and roll into a log about 8cm long.  Cut each log in half so you now have 16 4cm logs.  Repeat with the other half of the dough so you have 32 little logs.

To make the shuttle shape, nip the ends of each log and roll on the work surface slightly to make a smooth, even taper.  Flatten slightly and cut a slit along the centre using a knife or spatula, running the whole length of each cookie but not cutting all the way through.

Brush each one with the egg glaze and bake for 15-17 minutes until pale gold and slightly browned at the ends.

Makes 32 navettes.  They keep well in an airtight tin.

March 17, 2013


When I was looking through my cookbooks for something beginning with “I” in order to take part in this month’s Alphabakes Challenge, I stumbled upon this recipe for Italian bread pudding in a book called “Greatest ever baking”.

bread pudding1

I’m not sure how I acquired the book but it really doesn’t live up to its title.  I have nearly taken it to the charity shop several times but changed my mind at the last minute as there are one or two good recipes in it that I use occasionally.

bread pudding2bread pudding3

“I” is a difficult letter.  If you look in the index of most books you will find iced biscuits, Irish this, individual that and quite a few Italian the others.  I very nearly didn’t bother to look at this recipe as I assumed it would need pannetone but in fact it uses stale French bread.  So that makes the recipe immediately quite useful.

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This is different from an English bread and butter pudding in that you don’t butter the bread.  Essentially it’s a layer of apples, a layer of stale bread and a egg and cream mixture poured over.

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I have to say it was simple to make and absolutely delicious.  I think next time I make it I might skip the coring of the apples to make rings and just try sliced apples instead.  Also I would use my lemon zester rather than make matchsticks of the pared orange rind, which is also very fiddly.

bread pudding8

But I will certainly be making it again.  It’s good to have another recipe that uses up stale baguette and this is most definitely not a poor relation type of pudding at all.  It was yummy.

So this is my second entry for the Alphabakes Challenge this month.  Having initially thought the letter “I” was a definite non-starter I have found another recipe that could easily become a favourite of the house.

The challenge is hosted alternately by Ros (otherwise known as Baking Addict) of The more than occasional baker and this month by Caroline of Caroline Makes. You can read more about this month’s challenge here.


100g stale white bread, which is roughly half a baguette, crusts removed and cut into 2cm slices.

2 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into rings (I made mine about 5mm thick)

75g granulated sugar

2 tblsp white wine

300ml single cream

2 eggs

the pared rind of one orange, cut into matchsticks (or just use a zester)


Whisk the eggs in a small bowl with the cream and half of the sugar.  Add the orange rind and set aside.

Butter a 2-pint baking dish and lay the apple rings in the bottom.  (I’m sure sliced apples would be just as good here.)  Sprinkle the other half of the sugar over the apples and pour over the wine.

Lay the bread slices on the top, filling in all the gaps with pieced of bread.  Flatten them down with your hand or a fish slice.  Pour the egg mixture over the top and leave on one side to soak for about 30 minutes.

Bake at 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4 for about 25 minutes until golden and set.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.  Serve warm.

Serves 4.

March 16, 2013


Italian bean stew

I have bought quite a few cookbooks in the last few years (mostly since I started this blog) but I realised the other day that I hardly ever buy magazines any more.

Magazines are so expensive these days and for little more than the price of just one you can pick up a really good cookbook from the supermarket or a discount bookshop – for example, I got my copy of Bake by Rachel Allen, for £4.89 in Tesco last year and I recently swooped on a copy of Annie Bell’s fabulous Baking Bible for £7.99 in The Works.

When I buy a magazine which will have cost nearly four quid, I might read half the content, cut out and save a recipe or two, then it goes into the recycling bin, whereas a beautiful cookbook will give years of use and pleasure and is therefore much better value for money.

Italian bean stew3

This is how I talked myself into not feeling guilty about buying yet another couple of cookbooks a few months ago !!  They were by Gino D’Acampo, in an offer of two books for £10.

In this one is a recipe for something called “sausage, bean and olive casserole” that is absolutely scrummy. You can see the original recipe here.  The first time I made it I used some turkey sausages from Sainsbury’s, just because I happened to have them in the fridge. They were quite herby and very tasty so I used them again and the recipe has become a favourite of the house, which we now refer to as “Italian sausage and bean stew”.

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I do like recipes that are adaptable, especially if it puts a really tasty meal on the table in less than an hour.  This stew is hearty, filling and ticks all the boxes for a hot mid-week meal when the weather’s miserable and you arrive home from work cold and hungry.

Napolina Chopped Tomatoes with Peppers & Chilli in Tomato Juice (400g)

I have also made a variation using pork sausages and a tin of Napolina chopped tomatoes with pepper and chilli.  This was equally delicious and had just a slight hint of warmth from the chilli, which I like.

Italian bean stew, chilli version

The chilli version, which looks similar (just a little redder) but tastes different!

So hats off to Mr D’Acampo and I shall be exploring the content of his books some more !!

As luck would have it, this recipe fits in nicely with this month’s Alphabakes Challenge, which is to bake something sweet or savoury with the letter “I” in it.  I thought last month’s challenge was hard enough but there are possibly even fewer recipes in the “I” section of the indexes of my cookbooks, so I am hoping that my adaptation of the original recipe fits the bill.

The challenge is hosted alternately by Ros (otherwise known as Baking Addict) of The more than occasional baker and this month by Caroline of Caroline Makes.  You can read more about this month’s challenge here.

Italian sausage and bean stew (adapted from the recipe by Gino D’Acampo)


6 turkey or pork sausages

3-4 tblsp olive oil for frying

2 onions

2 carrots

1 small pack (250g) of lardons or smoked bacon bits

2 tbslp plain flour

2 small glasses of red wine

a 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained

a good squirt of tomato paste

400ml beef stock

1 tblsp sliced or whole pitted black olives

6 chestnut mushrooms, quartered

3 bay leaves

salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Heat the oil in flameproof casserole or deep frying pan.

Peel and roughly chop the onions and carrots and fry for 2 minutes until just beginning to brown. 

Cut each sausage into thirds and add to the pan with the lardons or bacon and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the flour and stir for another minute.

Add the wine and cook on fairly high heat for 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol then add all the remaining ingredients, stir well and season.

bring to the boil then transfer to the oven, with the lid on (or tip from your frying pan into a suitable casserole dish) and cook for 30 minutes until the sausages are cooked and the sauce has thickened.

Serves 3-4 people, or two people with vegetables and leftovers !

For the chilli variation:

Omit the tomato paste, stock and bay leaves and instead add a 400g can of Napolina chopped tomatoes with pepper and chilli, and a splash of water.

March 11, 2013


After reading Dom of Bellau Kitchen’s recipe for lemon cake (actually his mum’s recipe to be truthful) I wondered how it would turn out in my bargain fancy cake tin that I bought from Lakeland.

lemon cake3

Well it turned out fine, just as good as the any time of day fruit cake, and I took it to my mother-in-law’s little Mother’s Day tea party where was well appreciated.

lemon cake1

Obviously, I had to let the cake cool just a little before turning it out and drizzling with the lemon syrup, rather than pouring it on straight out of the oven as per the recipe, because the cake is served upside down so the drizzle goes over the bottom, when it has become the top!

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It looked lovely and tasted delicious so I am most grateful to Dom for posting his mum’s recipe.

However, it was nowhere near as spectacular as this cake baked by Elizabeth which you can see here.

rose cake 1a[2]

Photograph by kind permission of Elizabeth.

She used the same recipe and made it into something beautiful for a friend’s birthday.  You can read all about it here. 

Well done Elizabeth – icing is something on my bucket list, which seems to be getting longer every day !!  After all, everyone needs something to aim for in life !!

I am linking this post to Bookmarked Recipes#22, a monthly event organised by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes, to encourage people to try and blog about recipes they have found in blogs, websites, books and magazines.  You can read last month’s roundup and see the selection for this month so far here.

March 6, 2013


Dom’s Random Recipe Challenge for March is to randomly select a recipe from your collection of cuttings, memories and clippings.  As I was reading the post I had in front of me a thick pile of papers; recipes that I had cut out of magazines or printed off from websites and were in need of sorting out.  So I gave them a quick shuffle and found myself looking at a recipe for something called “afternoon tea cake”.  It’s by Rachel Allen and you can see the original here.


I don’t know why saved this recipe, as I’m not a huge fan of fruit cakes. I think it must have been the title, conjuring up visions of teacups, doyleys and pretty tray cloths. Or maybe because the second item on the list of ingredients was a good sized measure of alchohol. Any cake that has booze in it is definitely worth a second look and as I was reading it my image of lace and teapots took on a different hue and I could imagine little old ladies getting slightly tipsy over their knitting and crochet !! 


Anyway, it required one 20cm round tin. Not long ago I came across a bargain in Lakeland, this “fancy cake tin” which had a pattern in the base not dissimilar to those old fashioned jelly or blancmange moulds. I don’t think I would have bought it at full price but at £2.99 I thought it might come in handy one day. It makes a cake with a raised pattern on the top, which would look nice for afternoon tea, so it was time to put it to the test.

 cake4 cake5

The tin would have to have a really good non-stick coating if it was going to be any use, as the cake would be served upside down after it was baked. I decided to spray it with cake release spray, just to be sure I was in with a chance of not finding the pattern that should be on the top of cake still stuck to the inside of the tin when I turned it out.


It also occurred to me that as cakes rise (or so we hope), there would be a dome on the bottom of the cake when it was turned upside down to reveal the “fancy” top. So when I put the mixture in the tin I made a slight depression in the hope that this might compensate for too much rise. I was also prepared to have to slice the bottom off so that the cake would sit flat and not rock about on the plate.

As it happened, it turned out beautifully and came out of the tin clean as a whistle. And I didn’t have to slice off the bottom. I’m not sure I could taste the booze but it was lovely and moist with a crisp outside, and the amount of fruit was just right for afternoon tea. In fact you could rename it “morning coffee cake” or even “any time you like cake” as it was very moreish and would be nice at any hour of the day. It kept well in a tin for a couple of days – longer than that I can’t say as I took it to work and it soon disappeared !! Definitely a cake I will be making again.



125g of mixed dried fruit

75 ml of whisky, brandy or cointreau (I used whisky in mine)

200g butter, softened

150g caster sugar

1 tblsp sunflower oil

3 eggs

250g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt


Put the fruit and alcohol in a small saucepan, bring to the boil gently, simmer for a few seconds then remove from the heat and put on one side to cool

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4.  Thoroughly grease a 20cm cake tin.

In a large bowl or food mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Then add the eggs one at a time and beat again, followed by the oil.  Add the sifted flour, baking powder, salt and fruit and combine gently but thoroughly.

Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out and level the top, leaving a slight dent in the centre.

Bake for 50 minutes until cooked.  Cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.