December 31, 2023



This is what I posted about in 2023.







December 25, 2023



December 21, 2023


We have really enjoyed the most recent TV series by Mary Berry called "Mary makes it easy".  Her guests were all sweetie-pies too and the dishes she cooked all looked very "tempting" - a word she uses herself frequently.  

She’s such a good teacher, scattering useful little hints and tips here and there like sprinkles on a trifle and above all her recipes do work!   She really is a national treasure.  I could happily cook most of them from this series and the book is on my Christmas wish list. 

We are now back in the UK for Christmas.  We had invited a couple of  friends round for dinner a few days before we left France as we won't see them again for a while.  I had planned to serve this cannelloni.  Sadly, one them developed a bad cold and they cancelled, which was very considerate, as for us to catch it before travelling back would have spoiled our Christmas.

However, I had bought a pack of cannelloni tubes and the other ingredients and we were very keen to give the recipe a go.  So I scaled it down for just the two of us and it was delicious!  Another winner from the marvellous Mary Berry and destined to become a family favourite.  The quantity I made would have easily served three but we scoffed the lot between us.  It will be on our table on Christmas Eve as that’s how many of us there will be this year, just us and my brother.  Thank you Mary!

You can see the recipe here.  I didn't have any fresh herbs available but dried herbs worked fine.  This is how I adapted it for two (really three) servings:


8 cannelloni pasta tubes (or the right number to make a single layer in your dish)

1 ball mozzarella, sliced

30g grated parmesan cheese (I used the ready grated packet cheese)

a splash of olive oil for frying

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and grated or finely chopped

200g low fat minced beef

1 tblsp plain flour

150 ml beef stock, made with half of a stock cube

a splash of Worcestershire sauce

2 tblsp tomato purée

2 tsp dried thyme

For the sauce

a splash of olive oil for frying

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, grated or chopped

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes

a squeeze of tomato purée

a pinch of sugar if needed

2 tsp dried basil


To make the beef filling for the tubes, fry the onion in hot oil until softened then add the garlic and mince.  Fry until browned.

Sprinkle over the flour, add the stock, W sauce, thyme and tomato purée and stir until well mixed.  Cover and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes while you make the sauce.  Add a splash of water if it looks a bit too thick or solid.  Once cooked set aside to cool.

For the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until soft.  Add the garlic and fry briefly before adding the chopped tomatoes and purée.  Add 100ml water (rinsing out the tomato tin) and season with salt and pepper.

Stir well, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Taste the sauce and add the sugar if it seems too sharp.  Stir in the basil.

Preheat the oven to 200C / 180 fan / gas mk6.

Put roughly a third of the sauce in the bottom of your ovenproof dish.

Using a teaspoon, fill each pasta tube with the cooled beef mixture and arrange them in a single layer on top of the sauce.  Spoon the remaining sauce evenly over the top.  Scatter the slices of mozzarella and the parmesan over the sauce and cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the cheese has melted and browned and the pasta tubes are soft.

Serve immediately with a nice green salad.

Serves 3 (or 2 very greedy/hungry people).

December 12, 2023


Baking a cake is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things to do on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon.  With my birthday looming I  chose a recipe I've had my eye on for a while.  For years, in fact.  It's a BBC Good Food recipe that you can see here.  

The original recipe is for a two layer cake, sandwiched together with a cream cheese filling but I decided to go wild and make it as a Bundt cake.  

Even with my recipe for foolproof cake release paste, it's always a nervous moment turning out a Bundt cake.  Especially when it's a recipe that is not specifically for a Bundt.

I needn't have worried.  I cooled the cake in the tin for ten minutes and it plopped out instantly with a very reassuring thud.  You can see the recipe (if you can call it that) for the cake release here.

I've given it two stars in the fiddle factor as I find grating parsnips (or carrots) rather tedious.  Not to mention dangerous as proved by the sticking plaster now adorning my thumb!  However, I used an old tip by Mary Berry for grating the apple.  Don't bother peeling it, cut in half vertically, remove the core with a teaspoon or melon baller and then grate the cut side.  You will be left holding the peel with the apple nicely grated and fingers intact!

I used walnuts rather than the pecans in the recipe, as that’s what I had in stock, and of course there was no filling or icing to be done, just a light dusting with icing sugar.

It was a delicious cake.  It didn’t taste overly sweet which is remarkable considering how much sugar there was in it plus the maple syrup.  And you would never have known it had been anywhere near a parsnip!.  The texture was close and amply firm enough to cope with a Bundt tin.  I will try it in a more elaborate design next time.


As an aside……
I often read the comments on internet recipes.  They frequently provide excellent suggestions and tips and can be very amusing.  Like this one:

"My cake looked exquisite as I took it out of the oven after baking for 50 minutes: beautifully domed and cracked on top and such a lovely colour. However, once I turned it out 7 or so minutes later, the middle fell right through the cooling rack leaving a rather good imitation of a cowpat on the kitchen surface. Can't for the life of me figure out where I went wrong. :("

Oh dear!  I'm sure many of us have had our cowpat moments!  



175g butter, diced

250g demerara sugar

100ml maple syrup

3 large eggs

250g self raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp mixed spice

250g parsnips, peeled and grated

1 eating apple, peeled and grated

50g walnuts, roughly chopped

1 small orange, zest and juice


Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a large saucepan and heat gently until all melted together.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.  Brush the inside of a large Bundt tin with cake release paste, making sure you get into all the nooks and crannies.

Whisk the eggs into the sugar mixture until well blended.  Add the flour, baking powder and spice and stir until well combined.

Add the parsnip, apple, nuts, orange zest and juice and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, tap on the worktop a few times to settle the mixture and dispel any air bubbles, and bake for 40-45 minutes until done.  

Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

December 9, 2023


I recently spent a happy half hour (or more) leafing through my cook books for recipes for nibbles.  We had friends coming for lunch and I found myself with the luxury of time on my hands that would enable me to do more than just spread some paté on bits of toast or put olives in a dish.

I found a Nigella Lawson recipe that I liked the look of and with all the ingredients to hand thought it worth a try.  The recipe makes a bowl full of little cheesy biscuits for now and enough mixture to freeze half of it for later.  Always a good idea in my book!

Very easy to do, delicious and highly recommended.

And then there were three!


150g plain flour

75g grated parmesan (I used the ready grated kind as that's what I had in)

100g butter, softened

1 egg yolk


Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix together using an electric hand mixer until it comes together in a large clump.

Transfer to a work surface and knead briefly until smooth.  Divide roughly into equal halves.

Take one half and roll it into a log then an even cylinder about 3cm diameter, with nice flat ends.  Wrap in cling film, twist the ends to secure and chill for at least 45 minutes or until needed, by which time it should be firm enough to slice easily. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk4.

Unwrap one or both cylinders and slice neatly and evenly into discs about 1cm thick.  I got 20 discs from my first one (the second is in the freezer).  Some of my discs looked rather irregular in shape but miraculously turned into nice neat circles when cooked.

Arrange on a baking sheet lined with baking paper (one sheet for each cyslinder) and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes until a pale golden brown (depending on how thick the discs are).

Makes about 20 biscuits per log.  Store in an airtight tin or box (if there are any left!).

December 6, 2023


This is a Delia Smith recipe for six individual puddings which requires six small glass ovenproof dishes or large ramekins.  I had some white ceramic ramekins of the right size but spotted some glass dishes that would do the job in a local supermarket.  The nice thing about glass dishes is that you can see the layers!

They are actually mini mixing bowls but they had the word "tempered" engraved on the bottom which to me suggested they were ovenproof, like Pyrex.  The lady on the checkout didn’t know and was clearly puzzled why I needed to know.  I bought one and took it home to try it in the oven.  It was fine so I went back for another five, leaving the same checkout lady convinced that the English are completely bonkers!

I made them for friends who came to lunch the other day and they were an enormous hit, evoking fond memories of home baking and school dinners.  Most of us hadn’t had anything like it for decades and it sparked a lively conversation!

They were easy enough to make although the timing was tricky.  I made the base of egg mixture and jam the day before, the kitchen being cool enough overnight without having to find space for them in the fridge.  I got the egg whites ready in a bowl and sugar measured out before the gang arrived,  whisked up the meringue and baked them when the main course came out of the oven.  

They were still nice and warm when we ate them.  Delicious!  (Because there are several steps and you have to think about the timing I have given the recipe two stars in terms of how fiddly it is!)

It has occurred to me that these puddings would make a nice alternative to Christmas pudding!  You could make the breadcrumb base on Christmas Eve and finish off on the big day.

(I have posted about Queen of puddings before, a completely different recipe, that you can see here.)


1 pint of milk

10g butter

110g fresh white breadcrumbs

100g caster sugar (plus a little extra for sprinkling)

1 lemon (zest only)

3 large eggs, separated

6 dessertspoons, or about half a jar, of cherry jam (or any other red jam of your choice)


Butter six suitable ovenproof dishes, whether ceramic or glass.

Put the milk into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil.  Remove from the heat.

To make the breadcrumbs, weigh slices of bread to make 110g and blitz in a food processor.  

Stir the butter, breadcrumbs, 60g of the sugar and the lemon zest into the hot milk.  Set aside for about 20 minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to swell.

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk4.

Put the whites on one side in a grease free bowl or container.  Beat the yolks and whisk them into the breadcrumb mixture.

Divide the mixture between the six dishes and bake on a baking tray for about 25 minutes until set.

At this stage you can either proceed and finish the puddings or set aside until nearer the time when you want to serve them, or overnight.

Spread a layer of jam over the breadcrumb mixture, heating the jam to make it more spreadable if necessary.

Preheat the oven as before.  

Add the remaining 40g sugar to the egg whites and use an electric hand whisk to beat them to stiff peaks.  Pile this evenly on the puddings, making sure you spread out to the edges of each dish and creating little peaks.  Sprinkle with a little extra caster sugar.

Return the tray of puddings to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until the meringues are golden brown.

Serve hot or just warm.  Leftovers kept in the fridge are also nice cold.

Makes 6 individual puddings.

December 3, 2023


I wanted to bake something for the walking group that was quick and easy, preferably a traybake, and brownies came to mind.  I hadn’t made brownies for years and looked for a recipe that didn't require melted chocolate as I didn't have any real chocolate to melt except for a bag of chocolate chips.  This one by Mary Berry has to be the easiest recipe ever.

They turned out to be really good with a crusty top and a squidgy middle.

What more could you want?!


275g softened butter

375g caster sugar

4 large eggs

75g cocoa powder

100g plain flour

100g dark chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease a large baking tin or roasting tin measuring about 30 x 23cm and line with baking paper.  

Put all of the ingredients except for the chocolate chips into a large mixing bowl and beat together using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon and a hefty amount of muscle power! I started with the wooden spoon but resorted to a hand held mixer which was working very hard.  Next time I will use my Kenwood food mixer.

Add the chocolate chips and stir in.  Transfer to the tin and level the top.  Tap on the worktop a few times to settle the mixture and dispel any air bubbles.

Bake for 30 minutes then cover loosely with foil.  Bake for a further 10 minutes until just done.  Over baking will cause the brownies to lose their gooey centre.  Cool in the tin.

Cuts into 24 generous squares. 

November 27, 2023


Never in a million years did I think that I would need to consult a recipe for a crumble.  I have, after all, been making crumbles for about sixty years, ever since I first started helping my mum to make the Sunday dinner.

Crumbles in those days were very basic, either apple or rhubarb, using Bramley cooking apples bought from the greengrocer van that came round on Friday evenings, or rhubarb from the rhubarb patch at the top of the garden behind the greenhouse.  At the right time of year there would be wild blackberries to add to the apples.

They would be made the same way as pastry, half fat to flour, usually margarine, rubbed in by hand.  There were no embellishments, just fruit and crumble topping served with Bird's custard.  They were not fancy, just plain home cooked fare.

I made my crumbles like this for decades and always had some block margarine in the fridge for that purpose.  When I got my first food processor I made my pastry and crumble mix in that which saved a bit of time.

Latterly I have become extremely lazy.  Fruit chucked into the bottom of the dish with - quelle horreur - shop bought crumble mix on the top.  Maybe sprinkled with a few flaked almonds.

With friends coming round for supper I had decided to make a crumble and thought it was time I should up my game.  Hence the hunt for an actual recipe and the first one I liked the look of is by Mary Berry which you can see here.  The main difference is that the proportion of butter to flour is greater than half and the sugar used for the topping is demerara.  I had plenty of time so even rubbed the butter into the flour by hand!  

A crumble is a popular dessert in restaurants in this part of France I had noticed that the topping is often fairly thin, sometimes barely covering the fruit layer.  Quite different from my home made crumbles which had a good thick layer of topping.  Having decided to use a small bag of my cinnamon baked plums (see here) from the freezer, I supplemented it with a few apples and then wondered if the quantity of crumble in the recipe might be too much.  So, I made 1½ times the quantity, used half and put the other half in a bag in the freezer ready for another day.

It was lovely, deep golden and fudgy and the demerara sugar sprinkled on top gave it quite a sparkly, glamorous appearance.  This is the way I will be making my crumbles in future.  


For the fruit layer

About 12oz plums

2 tblsp soft light brown sugar

a sprinkling of cinnamon

3-4 eating apples

For the crumble topping

9oz plain flour

6oz cold butter, cubed

3oz demerara sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)

*I have used imperial weights, i.e. ounces instead of grams, because that was easier when calculating the increased quantities compared to the original recipe! 


Preheat the oven to 200° C / 180° fan / gas mk 6 and butter a suitable shallow baking dish.  Mine was about 20cm square.

My plums were ready cooked and in the freezer (see text) but if you are using fresh plums, wash them, cut in half and remove the stones then cut into quarters.  Put into a large saucepan with a tblsp of water, the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Peel the apples, slice them straight into the pan with the plums (discarding the cores) and cook gently until just soft.  Add a little more water if necessary and stir often.  Set aside to cool while you make the crumble topping.

To make the crumble topping, put the flour, butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl.  Rub together using your fingertips until you have the appearance of breadcrumbs.  A few larger clumps will be fine.

Tip the fruit into the baking dish and spread it out evenly.  Sprinkle roughly half of the crumble topping over the fruit and bag the other half for the freezer.

Sprinkle a little extra demerara sugar over the top and bake for 20 minutes.
Then lower the oven temperature to 180° C / 160° fan / gas mk 4 and continue baking for a further 20 minutes by which time the topping should be golden brown and the fruit bubbling slightly at the edges of the dish.  Keep your eye on it and check after 10 minutes to make sure it's not overcooked or burning.

Serves 6 portions.  Plus the extra crumble mix which is frozen for future use.  Thaw at room temperature for an hour or so before using.  

Update: I have since made the crumble using the food processor instead of rubbing in by hand, stopping before the crumbs were completely even in appearance.  In other words, left a few lumpy bits.  It was just as good!


I feel compelled to mention here the plate!
At our local déchèterie (council tip or recycling centre) there is a large table where people can put unwanted items that are still good.  You can simply help yourself.  There were huge piles of crockery the other day and tea plates like this are very useful for the larger gatherings that I sometimes host, or to lend out to others for theirs.  They are very pretty so I took six of them.

November 18, 2023


We recently invited friends round for a midweek dinner at short notice. We had commitments during the day they were coming so planning the meal was a challenge.  It was therefore a question of combining a quick trip to the shop with what we already had in stock and cooking something that wouldn't take all day in the kitchen to produce.

I looked up what I could do with the two pork steaks I already had, settled on this recipe and went to the nearest shop.  I ended up with a menu of Palestine soup (because the shop had Jerusalem artichokes) followed by pork with prunes, hassleback potatoes (because we had plenty of potatoes), green beans (in the freezer) and pumpkin pie for dessert (I had a tin of pumpkin purée).    All I needed to get was two more pork steaks, a bag of prunes, a pack of ready made pastry, a jar of redcurrant jelly and a tin of evaporated milk.  All available in the little supermarket (with the added bonus of spotting the artichokes).  I decided to use white wine rather than buy cider for the casserole as we had some already.

The soup was done in the soup maker earlier in the day while the pie cooked in the oven, both to be warmed up later.  The casserole and potatoes were happy to tickle along in the rather unpredictable woodburner oven in the afternoon while I laid the table and were ready when the guests arrived.

Apologies for the poor photo which I suddenly remembered to snap just before I took it to the table.  It was delicious.  The sweetness of the prunes and redcurrant jelly along with the creaminess of the crème fraîche turned it from a simple casserole into something rather special.  I shall definitely be doing this again.

Update……after a late afternoon visit to M&S in the UK between Christmas and New Year we came home with some amazing and fabulous yellow sticker items (called anti gaspi in France!). This included two gorgeous pork steaks.  I didn’t have any redcurrant jelly so used cranberry sauce instead.  It was delicious!


2 tblsp sunflower oil

4 pork loin steaks, halved  (or 500g cubed pork)

1 large onion, chopped

1 heaped tblsp crème fraîche

100 ml chicken stock (made with half a chicken stock cube or stock pot)

250 ml white wine

1 tblsp redcurrant jelly (or try cranberry sauce)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

16 prunes

2 level tsp cornflour


Heat 1 tblsp of the oil in a frying pan and brown the pork steaks or pieces in two batches.  Transfer to a casserole or oven proof dish.

Add the remaining oil and the onions to the pan and cook for a few minutes until soft.

Mix the crème fraîche with the stock and add to the pan with the redcurrant jelly, wine and mustard.  Stir to combine, bring to the boil then transfer to the casserole dish.  Then add the pork with the prunes.  Stir, cover and cook in the oven at 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4 for about 25 minutes or until the meat is tender. 

Mix the cornflour with 2 tblsp water and stir into the casserole, returning it to the oven for another 5 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Serves 4.

November 16, 2023


We harvested the last of the tomatoes the other day, dug up the plants and dispatched them to the compost heap.  All but one of the tomatoes were hard and green.

I had made green tomato chutney in the past and was not too thrilled with it but this time we had so many good tomatoes that it seemed a shame not to do something with them.  

With the rain pouring down outside and the wind howling it seemed like the perfect day to do some cooking on the wood burning stove so I searched online for a different recipe.  It was a Sunday and the shops were shut so I looked for one where I could use what I had in the house.

You can see the original recipe on the Waitrose website here.  I didn't have any mustard seeds so used ready made wholegrain mustard instead.  The only vinegar I had was this one which is brown vinegar with added honey.  I didn't have a cooking apple so used two eating apples (golden delicious).  (I omitted the chilli as I personally can't eat it nowadays.)

I have listed below the ingredients that I used but suggest you refer to the original recipe which I used as a guide.

I remembered from the last time that I made chutney (which was some years ago) the best way to tell if it's thick enough and done.  You draw your spoon across the bottom of the pan and if it leaves a clear channel which doesn't immediately fill up with liquid it's ready.

The quantity of tomatoes I had made 2½ Bonne Maman jars of chutney.  Most of the recipes I looked at suggested you should keep it for 2-3 weeks before eating it but of course I had to have a little taste!

It is yummy!!  It's nice and chunky, just as I like a chutney, as I'd chopped the ingredients not too small.  The flavour is delicious, both sweet and sharp, and I wonder if the particular vinegar I used had something to do with that.

Anyway, I can't see me lasting 2-3 weeks before I open the first jar and it's most unlikely to end up at the back of the cupboard, unloved and still uneaten 2-3 years later!  It's a winner!


650g green tomatoes, washed and chopped

2 onions, peeled and chopped

2 eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped

200ml brown vinegar

50g sultanas

1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp salt

75g light soft brown sugar


Put the tomatoes, onions and apples into a large, heavy based saucepan, with half (100ml) of the vinegar.

Bring gently to the boil and simmer for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veg are soft.

Add the other ingredients and remaining vinegar and cook again, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened.  (See text for how to tell when it's ready.)

Spoon into sterilised jars while still warm.  Tap the jars on the worktop several times to dispel any air bubbles, seal and label the jars.

Makes 2½ 1lb jars of chutney.

To sterilise the jam jars

Wash the jars and lids thoroughly in hot, soapy water and rinse well.  Shake off any excess water (do not dry with a tea towel) and place on a baking tray.

Place the tray in a warm oven (160°C or thereabouts) for 10 minutes until dry.  Fill the jars while they are preferably still warm.

November 14, 2023


I recently stumbled across a really nice website containing lots of lovely home baking recipes.  It’s for a brand of flour called Odlums which I had never heard of before and comes from Ireland.  From it I had bookmarked a nice looking recipe for an apple cake which you can see here.  

This week’s Monday walk was cancelled for the third time due to the wet weather.  I have to say that the weather has been grim for at least the last four weeks which is very disappointing.  However, our walking group are a social bunch so even if they can’t walk the debriefing in the bar afterwards usually goes ahead!  More often than not someone brings a cake so I decided to make the apple cake.  (I added a handful of raisins to the list of ingredients, just because it seemed like a nice idea.)  

I really liked the decoration for what was a very plain cake - rings of apple arranged on top.  This posed a challenge as my usual method for coring an apple wouldn't work.  I good old rummage in my kitchen drawer unearthed my little used apple corer.

I usually cut the apple in half vertically from north to south and dig out the core with a melon baller.  This method is good for producing thick or thin wedges.  To get the apple rings I cut the apple in half horizontally around the equator and used the apple corer.  I then sliced the apple thinly to get the rings.  Easy peasy.  You can never beat having the right equipment (even if you have to hunt for it).

It was a very nice cake.  I often find that apple cakes can be a bit fragile, especially those containing apple slices.   They can fall apart which makes being handed round rather messy.  This one held its shape perfectly, possibly because the apples were chopped into quite small dice and the mixture was quite stiff.  It had to be spread into the tin rather than poured.  

I baked it in an oblong tin measuring  11" x 7" rather than the loaf tin in the recipe.  It cut perfectly into 12 squares of just the right size for a group.  Definitely a recipe I will be using again.  The only change I would try is to add a little more spice next time.

The more eagle eyed of you might notice a different cat in one of the pictures.  We were so sad to have to say goodbye to our beloved Daisy last month when she (and we) lost the battle with her tumour.  Yvonne came into our lives just one week later.  Her owner had left her with a friend for a couple of weeks in the summer but two months later he made it clear that he was not coming back for her.  Word went out among the walking group that a new home was needed so she is now part of our little family.  She's nine years old and is settling in really well so far.

You can read more about Daisy here.


225g self raising flour

175g softened butter or baking spread

175g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp ground cinnamon

3 eating apples

50g raisins


Preheat the oven to 190°C / 170° fan / gas mk 5.  Grease or line a 2lb loaf tin or a 11" x 7" baking tin with parchment.

In a large bowl, cream the butter or spread with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tblsp of flour with each addition.

Sift in the rest of the flour and cinnamon and fold in.

Peel and core the apples.  Chop 2½ of the apples into small dice and add to the mixture with the raisins.  Stir into the mixture and transfer to the tin.  Level the top.

Cut the remaining half apple into thin slices and arrange on top of the cake.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden brown and set.  Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Cuts into 12 squares or 8-10 slices.

November 2, 2023


My mum used to bake every weekend and her jam or lemon curd tarts were very popular.  They were not, however, things of beauty!  The jam or lemon curd would always boil over, producing a slightly burnt or chewy edge to the tarts.  My dad used to joke that he could only eat one if it had a brown ring round it!

I very rarely make them but during the clearing out of the freezer recently I found a pack of ready made, ready rolled sweet pastry at the bottom of a drawer so thought I might like to have a go for old time's sake.  My dad died last year and his birthday is just around the corner.  It's nearly twenty one years since my mum died and baking something that they both used to enjoy brings back happy memories of life back home when I was a little girl.

Then, the other day, I stumbled across a tip for making perfect tarts.
It's not so much a recipe as a guide to how to avoid the brown, chewy rings and it's so simple.

To achieve the perfect tart shell you need two identical tart tins.
I used my new mince pie tins.  The holes have rounded not flat bottoms.

All you have to do is to grease one tin as usual and line each hole with a circle of pastry.  Then grease the underside of the other tin and place it on top of the first with the uncooked tarts.  Don't press it down, just sit it on the top.  It's effectively a way of blind baking the pastry without having to faff about with paper and beans.

Bake at 200° C / 180° fan / gas mk 5 for about 11-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and take off the top tin.  Return to the oven for a 3-4 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

You then have a dozen perfect shells which you can fill with lemon curd, spooning it straight from the jar.  If you want to have a jam tart you will need to heat the jam gently in a small pan before spooning it into the tart shell to get a smooth finish.

I stored my tart shells in a sealed plastic box and they were still perfectly crisp and delicious several days later, which meant that I could simply have one lemon curd tart as and when I fancied one, AND there was no problem storing them - no sticking of the filled tarts together.  (Although I have to say that getting two tarts stuck together in the cake tin was definitely a bonus when I was a little girl!)

My next experiment will be to make mini tart shells using two mini muffin tins.  Mini tart shells, sweet or savoury, are excellent for making party nibbles.  I have yet to discover whether this method will work as the holes are relatively deep.  I'm hoping it works as they are such a price to buy in the shops and the incredibly long use by date makes me wonder what they put in them to achieve that.

I shall give it a try and report back!!

The tip comes originally from Nancy Birtwhistle, a previous GBBO winner who has produced an enormous amount of material showing how you can save money, save the planet and live better.  She has also written several books on these subjects.


The method worked perfectly when I tried it using a mini muffin tin.  I used my Pampered Chef tins as the holes have slightly more sloping sides and they also came with a little "dibber" to push the pastry neatly into the holes.  I used a 2" pastry cutter and baked them for 11 minutes before removing the top tin plus 2 minutes more.  Success!!

October 31, 2023


It was the usual story.  Three bananas in the fruit bowl, past their best and whispering "cake, cake" every time I passed by.

I fancied making a banana cake that I hadn't made before and the recipe comes from a little book called "Cakes and Slices".  It's one of those compilation cook books where no one person lays claim to the recipes. 

The cake was a bit of an ugly duckling (very craggy) but very easy and quick to make, and yummy all the same!  I took it to our walking group for the "debriefing" so was able to see how it cut and to taste a slice.  It was very good and I made a second one for a cake stall at a local event where it sold well.

Although it was in principle very easy, I've given it two stars in the faff factor as I find chopping chocolate and walnuts rather tedious!


3 ripe bananas, mashed

170g caster sugar

185g self raising flour

2 eggs

3 tblsp light olive oil or sunflower oil (I used groundnut oil)

3 tblsp milk

100g dark chocolate, finely chopped 

90g walnuts, chopped


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Butter and line a 2lb loaf tin or use a paper liner.  A 20cm round tin would also work.

In a large bowl, mix together the banana and sugar.  Sift the flour into the bowl.  Add the eggs, oil and milk and mix well together.  Stir in the chocolate and walnuts.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Cool in the tin for five minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.


Some time ago I made some raspberry turnovers which were delicious (you can see the post here).  In fact I made them several times, taking them to various events where they always went down well.

With a pack of puff pastry lurking in the freezer I had a yen for making them again, looked up my post about them and referred back to the original source; a blog which you can see here.  There I found a really good idea in the comments for making them using apple compote and apple slices.  "Now there's a thing" I thought and, rather than go out and buy some raspberries, I decided to give it a try.  We always have apple compote in the house as we have it most days on our cereal or porridge.

At first I put two wedges of apple onto each square of pastry but soon realised that there was too much filling so removed one wedge from them all.  By the time I had done this the compote was already spreading and every one frankly looked a soggy mess.  Thinking this experiment was not going well and the turnovers were likely to turn out like a dog's dinner I put them in the fridge to chill and firm up a bit in the hope that they might be rescued.

They turned out fine, much better than expected, and definitely worth baking again.  Leftovers had lost a bit of their crispness by the next day but were still delicious.


1 pack of ready made, ready rolled puff pastry
12 tsp apple compote
1 - 2 small eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin wedges
milk and demerara sugar to finish
icing sugar to decorate (optional)


Take the pastry out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature well before using, at least half an hour.  Pastry that is still chilled will crack when you unroll it.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Unroll the pastry and cut in half along its length.  Cut each half into squares of equal size. (The number of squares will be determined by the dimensions of your sheet of pastry as it’s important that the squares are exactly square and not oblong.)

Put a teaspoon of compote and one wedge of apple on a square, slightly off centre.  Dampen the edges of the square and fold it diagonally over the filling to form a triangle.  Press the edges together then seal by pressing a fork into the pastry along the edge.  Repeat with the rest of the squares and make three small slashes in the top of each triangle.  

Brush each puff with milk and sprinkle with demerara sugar.  Arrange the puffs on the baking sheet with a little room between each for spreading and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan while the puffs are chilling.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  The compote will leak out a bit but this adds to the charm of the puffs!

Serve as they are, slightly warm or cold, or dusted with icing sugar or decorated with a zig zag of icing made with lemon juice and icing sugar if you like.

Makes approximately 12 turnovers, depending on the dimensions of your pastry sheet.

September 11, 2023

ROASTED TOMATO SOUP (soup maker recipe) and another note to self.


Having got my copy of "Masterchef Kitchen Bible" off the shelf to look for the tiramisu recipe, I flipped through the pages and turned up quite a few recipes that I wanted to try.  One of which was for this soup.  I adapted it for what I had in stock and for the soup maker.

Our tomato plants are still going strong and this recipe uses quite a few of them.

Essentially, you roast fresh tomatoes with onion and garlic and turn it into soup.  I had taken a few pictures of the tray of roasted tomatoes but when I came to review them I found that the SD card was not in the camera!  I had left it in the slot in the laptop and lost quite a few pictures as a result.  The camera does not have a hard memory of its own so they're gone for good.  Oh well, it will teach me to check before I use it next time!

This is an utterly delicious soup.  Like Heinz tomato soup but even better!  Not the quickest to make due to roasting the veg before putting them in the soup maker, but worth it.  (I put mine in the oven to roast while something else was cooking so it wasn't too much trouble.)  It would probably work just as well with shop bought tomatoes as roasting does bring out the flavour of most things that are a bit feeble in that department.  Using my home grown tomatoes I omitted the tomato paste but if using shop bought ones I would probably add it.

Note to self:  check for the SD card before next using the camera!

For Diane! A picture of my soup maker (next to the kettle).


6-8 large tomatoes, or a combination of any kind of tomato amounting to about 700g

1 large onion

2 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)

2-3 tblsp olive oil (or Fry Light)

home made vegetable or chicken stock plus one stock pot or cube (or use two stock pots or cubes)

3 small potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced

2 tblsp tomato paste (optional)


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

Cut the larger tomatoes into quarters, smaller ones in half and lay on a large baking tray.  Drizzle with the oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 10 minutes.

Peel the onion and cut into quarters.  Add to the tomatoes with the unpeeled garlic and continue to roast for another 15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, onion, carrot and potatoes to the soup maker,  Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and add to the machine.  (Make sure not to go above the bottom line when adding the carrot and potatoes but use all of the tomatoes and onion.)

Add the stock and stock pot/cube plus enough water to fill to the top line.

Cook on smooth.

Makes 4 generous portions.