October 31, 2020


Liver is the only offal I enjoy eating.  My mum loved it and we had liver with bacon and onions regularly as kids.  It's dead easy to make, taking only as long as the veg take to cook and you have a delicious, cheap and nutritious meal on the table in super quick time.  

This is my mum's recipe, or rather, her way of cooking it.  I have never consulted a recipe for liver and onions and have always made it this way ever since I left home, having watched her make it a zillion times.  She always used lamb's liver and would dip the sliced liver in seasoned flour before cooking it in lard, which I did too for about the first thirty years of making it.  Nowadays I just sprinkle the flour into the sauce as it cooks.  Mostly she would cook it entirely on the hob, perching a saucepan lid or plate on the pan to cover it.  Sometimes she would transfer it to a Pyrex dish and finish it in the oven, usually if we were having baked potatoes with it.  They would already have been in the oven for some time and she was not one for wasting the gas if there was the shelf space!

The other main difference between then and now is that it would have been unheard of to serve slightly pink, undercooked liver in our house.  My mum would have been horrified at the very idea.  Everything we ate was well cooked.  Something to do with old ideas about food hygiene perhaps, bearing in mind that we didn't own a refrigerator until I was probably in my early teens.  They were way too expensive in the early 60's and well beyond my parents' means.

On this occasion we had ours with mashed potatoes and green veg.  Yum !!


Roughly 250-300g sliced lamb's liver
2 rashers smoked bacon (back or streaky, either is fine)
1 large onion
1 tbslp vegetable oil
1 red oxo cube
Worcestershire sauce
splash of red wine if you have it open (optional)
1-2 tblsp plain flour


Peel and chop the onion coarsely, not too fine.  Heat the oil in a large frying or sauté pan and cook the onion gently over medium heat until soft and just beginning to brown, 5-10 minutes.  Slice the bacon rashers into large pieces and add to the pan.  Cook for about 5 more minutes until the bacon is cooked.

Cut the liver into evenly sized slices if not already so and remove any sinewy bits if necessary.  Add to the pan and cook gently, turning often until browned all over.  It will still be pink inside and oozing slightly.

Crumble the oxo cube into the pan and pour in the wine and enough boiling water to make a sauce.  Use as much liquid as you like depending on how much gravy you want!  (We like plenty if we're having mash!)  Stir to dissolve the oxo cube then sprinkle in a tablespoon of flour.  Stir again to mix in the flour and remove any lumps.  Add more flour if you have lots of liquid until the sauce is as thick as you like.  

Add salt and pepper, a good splash of Worcestershire sauce, stir well and put a lid on the pan.  Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the liver is cooked through.

Serves 2-3 depending on appetite and how much veg you have on the side.

October 11, 2020


I had been meaning to make this cake ever since I first spotted it on Lynn Hill's website here. I had in fact already tasted it, when a friend made it for our cake club meeting last October.  Sadly the cake club as such no longer exists.  It's been replaced by a "cake and bake" club that, more often than not, meets at lunchtime instead of mid afternoon.  This means that there are more savoury bakes, quiches and the like, because it's at lunchtime, (even salad, soup and sandwiches have made an appearance) as people think that lunch is not lunch unless you have something other than just cake.

It depends on your perspective I suppose!!

Anyway, this cake (diets notwithstanding) was baked because we were having visitors and a cup of tea in the afternoon just doesn't seem right unless there is a cake to go with it.  (Sounds like a good excuse to me!)  As usual I made it in a 23cm round tin rather than the square tin in the original recipe.

Like all of Lynn's recipes, it's straightforward to make and works perfectly.  After all, what else would you expect from the lady whose brainchild was the Clandestine Cake Club, a brilliant idea that ended up with thousands of members all around the world.  Sadly it is no more and I still miss it.  However, I urge you to check out the website and browse all the lovely recipes.

This was an excellent cake, just the right amount of moistness and spice.  The drizzled warmed golden syrup on top is a trick I might try on other cakes.  Our visitors loved it, had second helpings and jumped at the offer of a slice to take home.  Mind you, they thought it could stand more spice and suggested adding some ginger.  Judge for yourself if you make it.  I was concerned that I had sprinkled too much ground cinnamon over the cake before drizzling the icing on top, and that it might taste a bit "soapy", but in fact it was just right.

It's one of the few cakes I have made that have been gone in less than 24 hours.  Here's my adaptation of it.


For the cake

1 dessert apple (or eating apple as my mum used to say!)

180g spreadable butter (I used Country Life Spreadable)

180g soft dark brown sugar

3 eggs

200g self raising flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tblsp golden syrup

For the topping

3 tblsp golden syrup

1-2 tsp ground cinnamon

4 tblsp icing sugar 

1 tsp preboiled water (you could use lemon juice)


Grease and line the base of a 23cm round springform cake tin.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan.

Peel the apple, cut out the core and chop into 1cm dice.  Put the chopped apple into a small bowl and cover with cold water.  This will prevent the apple from going brown.  Set aside.

Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until lighter and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, along with a little of the flour and beat in.

Fold in the flour and cinnamon, mixing until well combined.

Drain the apple and tip onto a tray lined with baking paper.  Place another sheet of paper on top and pat the apple pieces dry.  Add to the mixture with the golden syrup and stir well to combine.

Tip the mixture into the tin and level the top.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and done.

While the cake is cooking, put the 3 tblsp golden syrup for the topping into a small saucepan and heat gently until melted and very runny.

When the cake is done, remove from the oven and prick all over with a skewer.  Pour on the melted golden syrup and brush over with a pastry brush.

Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.  

When completely cool, dust with ground cinnamon.

Make a water icing using the icing sugar (sieved) and water (or lemon juice) and drizzle it decoratively over the cake.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

October 5, 2020


Now I know this may be an odd thing to post about but bear with me.

The recipe, if you can call it that, popped up in my FB feed and I was instantly compelled to make it for lunch!  We had it that day.

I was brought up on pilchards.  Not sardines*, but tinned pilchards in tomato sauce, warmed in a saucepan or in the oven and served on thick slices of toasted wholemeal bread.  Proper Hovis bread that had that delicious and unique aroma that Hovis doesn't have any more.

We usually keep in stock those very small tins of Glenryck pilchards in tomato sauce and at around 50p a tin they are just the right size for lunch for two.  The tins usually contain two plump pilchards that when split open and served with hard boiled egg make one of our favourite salads.

However, this particular recipe is a bit more sophisticated than just pilchards on toast!  It includes crushed avocado and rocket.  So, late to the party as usual, I have finally discovered that crushed avocados can be quite nice - how exciting that you can do more with an avocado than just serve it in wedges in a salad or prawn cocktail!

On the day I spotted the recipe I happened to have both a packet of ready washed rocket and two avocados in the house.  We also had a home made wholemeal loaf that Nick had made the day before.  You can see the toast recipe here, although it is actually for sardines and includes a sprinkling of chilli seeds which I omitted.

2 slices wholemeal bread
1 avocado
1 155g tin Glenryck pilchards in tomato sauce
a handful of rocket.

Empty the can of sardines carefully into a dish or plate and split them into two along the back and open out.  If like me you are not partial to the larger bones remove the spines.  Transfer carefully to a small saucepan so that they don't break up into pieces and heat gently.

While the sardines are warming through toast the bread.  Halve the avocado and remove the stone then the flesh with a dessert spoon.  Put the flesh into a small bowl and mash with a fork.

Spread the mashed avocado on the toast, top with the rocket then the sardines and serve warm straight away.

Serves 2.
*A sardine is a small pilchard.  In other words, pilchards are bigger and plumper than sardines.

Now for the cake stands.  I had a couple of Ebay successes recently and added to my collection.  This one is a Clarice Cliffe creation by Wedgwood and I was thrilled when it arrived.  I was not so lucky with the next one.

I often see cabbage leaf pottery on sale at French brocantes (a brocante is like a flea market) and it is usually quite pricey.  Most of it is also quite hideous.  I spotted this cake stand on Ebay just after I had already bid on the Clarice Cliffe one and it also came with two fairly large plates.  I was not fussed about having the plates but coveted the cake stand.  I turned out to be the only bidder and got the lot for £15.

Unfortunately the seller made the double error of not wrapping it very well and sending it via Hermes.  Over the last few years we've been doing a dog walk that begins at a small car park on the edge of town.  It's used by Hermes to decant parcels from their huge lorry to the cars and vans that deliver them to people's homes.  I have seen the way the parcels are handled and personally I would never use them to send anything even vaguely fragile or more valuable than a cheese sandwich. 
The seller has refunded my money and the three items are now in the bin.  Such a shame.  It will be a long time before I ever see another one like it I expect.

Lastly, the sad news as mentioned in the title is that the cake stall that we held at my place of work every year is no longer going to take place.  Not just this year (for obvious reasons) but not ever.  The owners of the business have decided that the Children in Need charity is already cash rich and any funds should be raised a different way and given to a different charity. 
So, no more huge baking sessions to supply the cakes.  
The first time we did it in 2003 we raised £130.  Last year we raised £2,113 and the grand total over the years is well over £15,000.  That's an awful lot of cake and I shall miss doing it.  It's what renewed my interest in baking and extended my repertoire beyond the annual Christmas cake and the occasional birthday chocolate cake.


I have done a bit of research and discovered that the "lettuce leaf" plates and cake stand are quite sought after and can be obtained elsewhere for quite large sums of money.  The design is actually "geranium leaves" and now I look at the pictures they do look like geranium leaves.  I can get a cake stand for £52 and the plates for £35 each.  What a shame that the seller did not pack them more carefully.  

October 1, 2020


 When I cleared our fridge in France I brought back to the UK three packs of ready made pastry.  They were "pâte brisée", or plain shortcrust pastry.  I had bought them to bake something savoury for an event but in the end made a cake instead.  They still had several days left on them before the use by date but they needed using up.

With one I made a chicken, leek, mushroom and potato pie using this method here.

The chicken, mushroom and potato elements were leftover from the previous evening's dinner, a sort of fricasee that Nick created and served with lovely new potatoes.  I just added the leek and a pack of smoked lardons, also from France.

With another pack of pastry I made a bacon, caramelised onion chutney, spinach and cheddar quiche using this method here.

The lardons were in a twin pack so this used the second half.  We had it with homemade coleslaw using this recipe here.  (Also with baked beans - but nobody's perfect!!)