March 18, 2019

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING (with ginger but no dates)

You may wonder why anyone should bother to post about something as everyday as sticky toffee pudding, especially when the only picture is of a solitary slice.  The reason is simple, that it was wonderful, the best I have ever made (I have only ever made it twice before) and it doesn't contain any dates.  For reasons that I don't understand, Nick hates dates in his STP.
I made this for a family gathering on a cold wintry day when comfort food of the non-exotic kind was in order.  In other words, Dad and his lady friend were amongst the guest and at their ages (90 and 83) fancy food that's hard to chew would not have gone down well!
The recipe comes from Mary Berry's "Family Sunday Lunches" and is definitely a winner.  It made a huge pudding and even with most people having seconds there was still one piece left for me to photograph later.  It was delicious.  You can find it in several places on the internet, one of which is here. 
Of course, another reason for posting is that I know exactly where to find the recipe when I next need it!  Although it is so unbelievably sweet and bad for you that it won't be very soon.  My other attempts at STP can be seen here but I have to say that this recipe is my favourite so far.
(I dare say that if you don't have stem ginger in syrup in stock, a couple of teaspoons of ground ginger would do the job instead.)
For the pudding
75g softened butter (I used Lurpak Spreadable)
150g light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
175g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tblsp black treacle
1 tsp vanilla extract
125ml milk
5 pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped
For the sauce
110g butter
250g light muscovado sugar
400ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180 C / 160 Fan / gas mk 4.  Butter a large 2 litre shallow baking dish.  A lasagne dish is perfect.
For the pudding whisk the butter and sugar with an electric whisk in a large bowl until light and creamy.  Add all the other pudding ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Pour into the dish and bake for 50-55 minutes until risen and springy.
While the pudding is in the oven, make the sauce by putting all the ingredients into a saucepan.  Heat gently until the butter has melted then boil for 2 minutes, stirring all the time.
Pour half of the sauce over the cooked pudding and serve the rest in a jug, possibly with another jug of cream, so that people can help themselves. 
Serves 8.

March 17, 2019


There are a couple of posts I want to do before our return to France which is imminent.  To say we're looking forward to it would be the understatement of the decade so far, what with the toxic atmosphere of living in Brexit Britain and the lousy weather we've been having lately. 
Having said that, we have enjoyed our months back in the UK.  Knowing that for much of the time the weather back in our part of France is not much better than it is here, and that keeping the two log fires there going all winter is hard work compared with just tweaking the central heating control, has definitely helped.  We have achieved a lot in the house, decorating the hall, stairs and landing, which is a big job (especially when you change your mind about the colour of the paint when half of it is done).

We had a new staircase last spring, replacing the bouncy open tread job with the wrought iron banister for a modern, light oak version with chrome spindles.  Having that done was a big job in itself, not to mention moving the whole thing back a couple of feet and moving the radiator.  We started to tackle the decorating as soon as the Christmas decorations were put away and now that it's all finished we can hardly remember how horrible it was before.
The end of the work coincided with the couple of weeks of really nice weather that we had here in February.  We put the outdoor table up, ate our lunch outdoors and sat in the sunshine for a couple of hours for several days.  It felt so wrong to be doing that in February - in Derbyshire - but we made the most of it, knowing it couldn't last much longer and luxuriating in the warmth in the middle of the afternoon when all around us were out at work.  Sure enough, wintry weather has returned and salad is off the menu again to be replaced by traditional cold weather fare. 
With family coming for lunch we decided on something hearty but not too taxing so that we could spend time catching up instead of cooking and I spotted a recipe for a sausage traybake in Mary Berry's book "Absolute Favourites".  I adapted it slightly using different veg but the one thing I did do was to get sausages from the butcher instead of the supermarket.  What a revelation that was!  I had almost forgotten how good real, plump sausages could taste!  I bought a Cumberland and a Lincolnshire sausage for each person.
I got it ready to go in the oven well in advance, prepared some greens to go with it and set the table.  When the guests arrived all I had to do was turn on the oven and enjoy a glass of wine!
You can see the original recipe here and you could easily adapt it for more people by increasing the amount of veg and number of sausages, using a bigger dish.

Another, slightly different version, same recipe.

2 tblsp olive oil
1kg baby potatoes, or small potatoes halved
1 large leek, washed and cut into thick slices
1 large red and 1 large white onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 red pepper, seeds removed, cut into thick chunks
1 stick celery, washed and thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
8 large butcher's sausages, pricked with a fork (I used two different flavours)
200ml white wine
1 tblsp fresh thyme leaves (optional)
Preheat the oven to 220 C / 200 Fan / gas mk 7. 
Put all of the veg into a large bowl with the oil, season with salt and pepper and swish around until they are all coated with oil.  Tip them into a large roasting tin or baking dish and arrange evenly.
Put the sausages into the same bowl and roll around so that they are also coated with the oil and arrange on top of the veg. 
Roast for 30 minutes until the sausages are browned on top, turn them over and toss the veg around, making sure the sausages are back on top.  Add the wine and roast again for 20 minutes or until the sausages and potatoes are completely cooked.
Serve immediately with more veg of your choice.
Serves 4.

March 14, 2019


This is another of those bakes that doesn't look much - definitely no glamour here - but in the eating the pudding is proved to be absolutely delicious !!

The recipe turned up in my email inbox as a post from Lynn Hill of the organisation formerly known as the Clandestine Cake Club.  Being a Yorkshire lass and therefore fond of Yorkshire curd tart, Lynn has found a way of making the tart using cottage cheese. 

I have very fond memories of Yorkshire curd tart myself.  When my mum went on her weekly bus trip to Matlock to do the shopping she would return with a selection of delicious goodies from the baker's shop, usually a custard tart, a vanilla slice, an iced bakewell tart with a cherry on top and, if we were very, very lucky, a Yorkshire curd tart. 
As an aside, I have to say that Mum's shopping trips were not as onerous as you might at first think.  She didn't have enough arms to bring several bags of shopping, enough for a family of four, home on the bus.  That would have been impossible, even in those days (the 1950's and 60's).  The reality is that the butcher, baker, greengrocer and ironmonger would turn up in their van at least once a week and park near the house so that we could get most of the shopping we needed literally on the doorstep.  I have wonderful memories of the baker bringing a huge basket containing a selection of bread and cakes to the back door for us to choose from.  Being only a nipper the goodies were at just the right height for me to dip in and pick one out before anyone could stop me!  Between the home deliveries, the village post office and the few shops in the next village which was just two stops away on the bus, we got everything we needed to live on without having to go very far at all and certainly not as far as Matlock!
However, my mum enjoyed her Saturday morning shopping trips to buy the few things that you could only get in town, such as her favourite boiled ham or cheddar cheese.  I enjoyed going with her and looked forward to the little cake or bun that would be for tea later in the day.   A Yorkshire curd tart was one of my favourites.

My Be-Ro book has a recipe for curd tart using curd cheese but I have never, ever seen it for sale in any supermarket.  You can make curd cheese yourself of course and in actual fact it doesn't look too difficult so if you google curd tart you will find instructions in several places.  I might try that one day when I have the time but on this occasion, I found myself looking at a pack of cottage cheese in the fridge that was just past it's best before date.  Lynn's recipe had turned up just a couple of days before that and I also remembered that I had a pack of ready made pastry in the freezer, unused over Christmas.  So yet again, with all the stars aligned, fate seemed to be telling me to make a curd tart.
Of course, as usual, I didn't quite make it exactly right.  The pack of pastry turned out to be puff pastry, which is not ideal and the cottage cheese was a fat free variety which I thought probably wouldn't work - but it did!
As Nick tucked into his slice he looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye and said "this one's a keeper!".  And he was absolutely right, it was truly delicious.  Very reminiscent of the Yorkshire curd tarts of my childhood and definitely one I'll be making again.
You can see the recipe here.
As another aside, I made it in my very ancient Pyrex pie dish, the one that came in a set of Pyrex bakeware that I bought when I first got a home of my own in the 1970's.  My mum made an apple pie for Sunday lunch in hers every other week.  She also used it for cheese pie, baked eggs and many other things.  It's the perfect size for a family of four and after forty years mine is still going strong and in regular use.  You can't buy them any more - except of course in our local charity shops!  I recently acquired this one for my friend Susan and for just £1 it's an absolute bargain!  I'm sure she will love it.

March 9, 2019


I have a bit of a thing about scones.  They usually turn out like rocks.  Not rock cakes, which are edible, but rocks, which are not.  Consequently I have had so many disasters with baking scones in the past that I have more or less given up and haven't made any since my Victoria scones in 2012.  That's seven scone-free years.
However, the CCC Facebook group seem to have gone bonkers over scones, ever since someone spotted the National Trust Book of Scones appearing for sale at a bargain price on some website or other.  The offer was too good to miss and for only £2.99 including postage I decided to risk a punt.  With the gauntlet thrown and feeling there was a fair wind around the corner I decided to have another go.
The thing that spurred me on to actually baking some scones (as opposed to just reading about them) is that the book, written by someone initially as a scone-eating tour of National Trust properties, has a page for Hardwick Hall, a NT property that is just down the road from where we live.  The Hardwick Hall page is opposite a recipe for rhubarb and ginger scones, which I thought was an amazing coincidence.  When we visited the hall last summer and had tea and scones in the tea room, we had rhubarb and ginger scones which were delicious.  And here I was with some lovely Yorkshire pink rhubarb in stock and a new book in front of me.  With all the stars aligned I decided that this was the best sign ever that I might actually be able to conquer my scone nemesis.
I took more care than usual in gathering together the ingredients.  I rather complicated matters by deciding to halve the recipe quantities as it was for ten huge scones.  In actual fact, having made the upside down cake, I only had enough rhubarb left for a half measure - and there was always the outside chance that they would turn out like granite again and a waste of all the ingredients.  Consequently I actually found myself feeling nervous as I checked and double checked the recipe.  I even rubbed the butter into the flour by hand instead of blitzing it in my food processor, and bought whole milk instead of semi-skimmed.
I have to say that for me they were a great success.  Probably not the best scones ever baked on the planet but they were light and fluffy, and very tasty.  Delicious slightly warm with butter and rhubarb jam.  I am dead chuffed and although I don't see my scone phobia as banished completely, I'm definitely on the road to recovery.
Ingredients (half of the quantities in the original recipe)
375g self raising flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
93g caster sugar
93g butter, cubed
100g rhubarb, peeled, and cut into small dice
1/2 a piece of stem ginger from a jar, chopped into very small dice
150ml whole milk
Preheat the oven to 190 C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a bowl and rub in the butter until you get fine breadcrumbs.  Add the fruit and ginger and about 2/3 of the milk until you get a soft, slightly wet dough,  adding a little more milk as needed.
Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out to 3-4 cm thick.  Cut into rounds using a 6cm cutter, place spaced well apart on the baking sheet and brush the tops with milk.
Put the scones in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 180C.  Bake for about 20 minutes until risen and golden.  Serve warm with butter or clotted cream and jam.
Makes 12 scones.

March 5, 2019


A couple of years ago I heard of a liqueur made from rhubarb, called Rhucello.  Being a huge fan of rhubarb I was keen to find some but this isn't easy.  It's made by a Yorkshire family from the beautiful pink rhubarb that is raised lovingly in the Rhubarb Triangle in Wakefield.  It is sold at food fairs up and down the country but until the other week I had never been in the UK at the right time to go and buy some.

When I heard that there was a Rhubarb Fair taking place in Wakefield and that the makers of Rhucello were having a stall there, only wild horses and six foot snow drifts would have kept me away!  After years of only dreaming about Rhucello I was at last able to get my hands on a bottle (or two) and, as the name implies, it tastes of rhubarb in the same way that Limoncello tastes of lemons. 
Not only does it taste delicious, it is also a gorgeous pink colour!
The Rhubarb Festival was great fun, lots of food and drink stalls selling anything and everything you could possibly make out of rhubarb from gin to chutney.  Also bars, a music tent and cookery demonstration tent.  We spotted Gordon Ramsay posting for selfies as we breezed between the stalls.  Naturally there was plenty of the beautiful pink rhubarb itself for sale and I bought a bundle.  That was just before we treated ourselves to a bowl each of delicious home made rhubarb crumble in the cathedral café - at £1.50 each a real bargain.
And so with visitors coming for lunch last weekend I decided to use some of my precious rhubarb to make an upside down cake using and adapting a recipe on the Guardian website that you can see here.
You arrange the rhubarb on a layer of sugar and butter in the bottom of a tin, cover with a sponge mixture and bake.
It was lovely, had a nice texture and just the right balance of sweetness from the caramel and tartness from the rhubarb.  Naturally we served it with a glass of our new rhubarb liqueur alongside!
For the topping
80g unsalted butter, diced
140g light soft brown sugar
250g (2-3 stalks) rhubarb, trimmed, washed and cut into 5cm pieces
For the cake
150g caster sugar
175g plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
150ml sunflower oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Place a circle of baking paper in the bottom of a 23-24 cm round tin with a fixed base.  Alternatively us a springform or loose bottomed tin but line it with foil that comes well up the sides to prevent any leakage.
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.  Scatter the butter and brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the tin and put in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the butter.
Remove from the oven and arrange the pieces of rhubarb over the melted butter mixture, pressing them in carefully.
Put the dry cake ingredients into a large bowl and mix together.  Beat in the oil and eggs, adding a little milk if the mixture seems very stiff.  Spoon the mixture carefully over the rhubarb and level the top.  Bake for 45-55 minutes until done (mine took 50 mins).
Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before inverting onto a plate to release the cake.  Remove the baking paper or foil carefully. 
Serve warm or cold with cream or ice cream.  Cuts into 8-10 slices.