June 27, 2023


We at last have summer weather here in France and the barbecue season has arrived!  We seemed to  suddenly lurch from a cool and wet spring to high summer with temperatures regularly above 30°C.  Luckily we have a shady place to cook on the barbecue and last year we lashed out on a new gas one.  We had resisted, thinking we were not really barbecuing unless we used charcoal, but it has taken much of the guesswork out of the cooking.  We no longer get food that's crozzled on the outside and raw in the middle and we can predict more accurately when it will be ready - no more waiting for the charcoal to become hot enough then having to get on with it!  In other words, cooking on a gas barbecue has taken all the stress out of it and is definitely just as tasty (if slightly less exciting).

I recently bought some excellent lemon and thyme marinated chicken brochettes in Lidl when we were having visitors.  They were quite pricey so we looked for a recipe we could adapt to make them from scratch.  We found one in a book called "Charred and Scruffed" by Adam Perry Lang.

The book itself was a gift from my brother some years ago, possibly to encourage us to be more creative than just burgers than sausages with our barbecue repertoire!  It's not a book I would have bought for myself as it's American so therefore in cup measurements, which I'm never very confident with, but it's full of lovely recipes.


4 smallish skinned chicken breasts, cut into large chunks

1 red pepper, seeds removed and cut into large chunks

For the marinade

2-3 tablespoons olive oil (or roughly equal to the amount of lemon juice)

2 cloves garlic

1 shallot

juice of 1 lemon*

1 tsp granulated sugar

3-4 small sprigs thyme**

salt and pepper to taste


Grate the garlic and shallot using a microplane zester or the finest grater that you have.

Strip the leaves from the thyme sprigs, chop fine, and put them with all the other marinade ingredients into a small jam jar.  Shake the jar well to combine everything together.

* For extra tanginess you could add in the lemon zest and the fleshy bits from the juicer/squeezer.

** If you don't have fresh thyme, use a teaspoon of dried thyme and marinate for more than the minimum time.

Push the chunks of chicken and pepper onto skewers and lay in a shallow dish.  Pour the marinade over evenly, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least thirty minutes, or 2-3 hours.

Alternatively, put the chunks of chicken and pepper into a plastic bag, add the marinade and toss about to make sure everything is coated then leave in the fridge until ready to cook and assemble the skewers.

Grill on the barbecue for 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally.  Or bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Test for doneness by inserting a sharp knife into a piece of chicken to see if it’s still pink.

Serves 2-3, depending on how many sausages there are per person.  (We have found Lidl Toulouse sausages a good bbq alternative to the magnificent Cumberland!)

June 22, 2023


On many occasions I have felt compelled to make a cake from a recipe as soon as possible after I saw it in a book or on the internet.  This one was so compelling that I made it the same day!

I spotted it in a recent edition of the Guardian online where it appears as a cherry muffin cake.  The writer suggests you can adapt it to use other fruit and I happened to have a punnet of nice chunky blueberries in the fridge, bought the day before.   We also had guests coming for dinner so all the stars were aligned!

At the time of writing, you can see the original recipe here and  I wondered what was muffin like about it.  Probably because you make it the way you would usually make muffins, i.e. not by creaming butter and sugar, or rubbing butter into flour as in the most common cake recipes.  I wondered if the cake might also not keep well as muffins are often past their best the next day.  I decided that that wouldn't matter as a fair chunk of it would be eaten on the day and even stale muffins are edible if you warm them in the microwave and serve with instant custard!

The cake looked rather craggy when it came out of the oven so I dusted it with icing sugar before serving.

I was also a bit miffed that it looked like most of the blueberries seemed to have sunk to the bottom but as the cake was cut it was clear that some hadn't so that was a relief.

It was a delicious cake, really good.  The muffin method was not easier than say an all-in-one sponge cake but easy enough AND it was most definitely not stale the next day.  In fact it kept well (I put it in the fridge because of the fresh fruit) and the last couple of slices were still good two days later.

A brilliant cake and one for the recipe box.


220g plain flour

200g golden caster sugar

10g baking powder (this turned out to be about 1½ tsp)

zest of 1 lemon

pinch of salt

200g Greek yoghurt (I used full fat)

100g butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

¼ tsp almond extract

200g fresh blueberries


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Butter and line the base of a 20cm springform cake tin.

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (not including the fruit!).

In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir well to make sure there is no unmixed flour.  Fold in the blueberries.

Pour into the prepared tin, level the top and bake for 40-50 minutes.  Mine was done in 40 minutes.

Cool in the tin.  Dust with icing sugar before serving if you like.

I served mine with a spoonful of fruit salad alongside and a blob of whipped cream.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.