August 27, 2023

TIRAMISU egg free version and a note to self

Some years ago I posted about a Rachel Allen recipe for a strawberry tiramisu (see here) and some time after that a reader left a scathing comment about it.  Apparently this person got as far as assembling the dish before they realised it contained raw egg yolks, was disgusted that they hadn’t been warned about that, and had to throw all the ingredients in the bin!  (The word used was "trash" so I presume the reader was from the other side of the Atlantic somewhere.)

I remember thinking it weird that someone would (a) not read a recipe through before starting to cook it and therefore not realise the eggs were raw and would (b) throw expensive ingredients away without thinking of a different way of using them.  However, I did afterwards label all recipes that contain raw eggs although there are only a few!

Anyway, the other week a friend served us a delicious tiramisu made without any eggs at all.  The recipe was, she said, a John Torode recipe.  I eventually found it in one of my cook books, "Masterchef kitchen bible" and made it myself for visitors the other day.  She said it was a quick and easy tiramisu and it is definitely both of those as well as utterly divine! 

It differs quite a bit from my previous tiramisu recipe, apart from there being no eggs in it.  The alcohol used is coffee liqueur not Amaretto and there is no sprinkling of cocoa powder on the layers other than on the top.  Which just goes to show that, just like a fruit trifle, there are lots of different ways of making it and they are all delicious!

I modified the recipe a bit to account for the fact that a pot of mascarpone generally contains 250g, not the 350g in the original and I didn't want to have to buy two pots (the supermarket only had one pot on the shelf and supermarkets are a good distance apart here in rural France!).  I also found that my 20cm square Pyrex dish was perfect for it, creating the right depth of layers, but I did have to use more sponge fingers than stated due to its dimensions.  Happily there was still just the right amount of coffee liquid mixture to soak all of them.  The end result was a slightly denser, more cakey texture.  It wasn’t quite the same as my previous recipe (see here) being more creamy but somehow less rich but it was lovely.  As always it was even better the next day once the ingredients and flavours had melled together.  Note to self: always make tiramisu the day before you want to serve it!


120ml espresso coffee, cooled

75ml coffee flavoured liqueur such as Kahlua

250g pot mascarpone cheese

3 tblsp caster sugar

250ml double cream

14-20 sponge fingers (Boudoir biscuits) depending on the dimensions of your dish

cocoa powder to decorate

coarsely grated dark chocolate (optional)


Mix the coffee and liqueur together and pour into a large flat dish such as a lasagne dish so that it's in a shallow layer.

In a large bowl whip the mascarpone and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved.

In another bowl whisk the cream until it holds its shape then fold into the mascarpone mixture.  Spread 2 tblsp of this mixture into the bottom of your serving dish.

Dip the sponge fingers one at a time into the coffee mixture, turning once until just soaked both sides, and arrange in a single layer in a serving dish.  A 20 cm square dish worked perfectly for me.

Cover the fingers with half of the mascarpone mixture then repeat with more sponge fingers and the remaining half of the mixture.

Level the top, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Dust liberally with cocoa powder just before serving.  Add a sprinkling of grated chocolate if you like.

Serves 6-8, depending on the portion size!

August 26, 2023

A LEAKY QUICHE RESCUE MISSION success snatched from the jaws of disaster!

With guests arriving for dinner I was flummoxed when, on removing my blind baked quiche pastry from the oven there was a large crack in it and a couple of small ones.  It was bound to leak.

Rats!!  What to do, what to do?  There was no time to make a batch of pastry, or to pop to the shops to buy another pack.  I put my thinking cap on and came up with a solution.

I had half of a "wonderloaf" in the house.  The pappy white sliced bread that’s neither very nutritious nor tasty but is good for cucumber sandwiches and toast with marmalade.  I pinched a bit out of a slice, rolled it into a small sausage, brushed one side liberally with some of the egg filling and squashed it into the cracks with the back of a fork.  I hoped it would stick sufficiently to plug the gap.

It worked!  There was still a little leakage but nothing major.  I shall have to remember this for future and presumably any kind of bread would work. The quiche was delicious and nobody knew how close the leaky leek and goats cheese quiche was to becoming a frittata instead!


One week after the event/almost baking disaster it has just occurred to me that the thing to do would be to save the pastry trimmings until after the quiche shell comes out of the oven.

I could have easily used a bit of the pastry trimmings to plug the hole if I hadn't already discarded them.  Hmmm........I'll try to remember that in future!

August 18, 2023

CINNAMON BAKED PLUMS and a biscuit discovery!

In return for some courgettes and tomatoes, my friend Sally gave me a huge bag of plums the other day.  Our own plum trees have had hardly any fruit on them since the bumper crop a few years ago and we do love plums so I was very grateful!

Knowing what to do with so many at once was a head scratcher.  We were expecting visitors but they have  a long list of things they don’t like.  Plums are on the list (as are courgettes and tomatoes).  So with a need for baking but not with plums I had to do something to preserve them for our own use later.

Cooked plums take up less room in the freezer than whole ones so I decided to roast them.  We sat for a while at a shady table in the garden to halve them and remove all of the stones.  This was a bit fiddly but worth the trouble; the plums were at various stages of ripeness so some of the stones were easier to remove than others.

I then simply spread them in a single layer in roasting tins, sprinkled with demerara sugar and a dusting of ground cinnamon.  I baked them at 180° fan for 20 minutes by which time they were nice and soft and sticky.  We had some on our breakfast cereal and some with ice cream and a mini stroopwafel  The rest went into the freezer for future enjoyment.

Stroopwafels - where have they been all my life?  I had never heard of them until I spotted them in a French discount store called "Action". They are delicious little wafer sandwich biscuits with a caramel filling.  Utterly divine and wickedly sweet but luckily the mini version is not too detrimental to the waistline - as long you don’t eat too many!  They go perfectly with ice cream, fruit salad and Sally's delicious plums!

August 16, 2023


We are up to our necks in produce at the moment and finding ways to keep up with supplies is becoming a challenge.   As fast as we pick them the tomatoes and courgettes keep on coming and as fast as we give them to friends more stuff comes our way.

It's a marvellous yet humbling feeling, being so well supplied with fresh produce when so many people can't afford to eat properly.  Hence I feel even more determined to use it all and not waste any.

We gave two enormous tomatoes and some courgettes (green and yellow) to a friend who sent me a message the next day to say she had made them into a delicious chicken traybake.  I thought that was a good idea but on looking at the contents of our fridge found no chicken but a pack of two salmon fillets.  So "why not" I thought.

Roasting is now my preferred way to cook salmon fillets as I find the timing and the result more reliable.  Sometimes I sprinkle a few herbs on the top but otherwise I just bake them.  The days of foil parcels with herbs and lemon slices and having to peek inside to see if it's done are a distant memory!

The veg are roasted for a while before the salmon goes in as they take much longer to cook and it's very easy to overcook the fish.


1 large or 2-3 smaller tomatoes

1 courgette

2 salmon fillets

olive oil or Olive Fry Light

Herbes de Provence or fresh herbs of your choice (optional)


Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.

Wash and chop the courgette and tomatoes into large dice and place in a single layer in a suitable baking dish.  Drizzle a little olive oil over or spray with Fry Light, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over some H de P. 

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until nearly done, tossing them once if they begin to brown.

Remove from the oven, place the salmon fillets skin side down on top (coated with herbs if you like) and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.  By this time the salmon should be pink and tender and the veg soft.  If you need to cook for longer do it for only a minute at a time as the salmon quickly becomes overcooked.

Serve with potatoes, rice or pasta and extra veg if you like.

Serves 2.

August 12, 2023



The weather here in the middle of France has been rather English this summer.  However, it's still been warm enough for us to get a bumper crop of delicious tomatoes.  This is in contrast to last year when heatwave followed heatwave, our tomato plants virtually gave up and struggled to produce any fruit at all.

This year I'm scouring my cook books and the internet for imaginative ways to use them up.

This is my version of a number of recipes I found on the internet.
It's dead easy to do and makes an excellent lunch or starter.

Slices of tomato are set on a bed of grated cheese on a pastry sheet then sprinkled with herbs.

It takes next to no time to prepare and is very tasty.

For a different variation, try my friend Susan's recipe here.


1 sheet of ready made, ready rolled puff pastry.  Round or oblong will both work.

1 tblsp Dijon mustard (more if you like a bit more of a kick)

50g cheddar cheese, grated (any hard cheese will work)

2-3 large tomatoes

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or any other favourite herb, chopped)

A sprinkling of Herbes de Provence

Salt and pepper

A little olive oil or Olive Fry Light


Remove the pastry from the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to use it.  This prevents it from cracking when you unroll it.

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

Place a sheet of baking paper on a large baking sheet.  I usually use the paper the pastry comes wrapped in, trimmed to fit the baking sheet.

Unroll the pastry onto the baking sheet and with a sharp knife score a line about 2.5cm (1") from the edge without cutting all the way through.*

Spread the mustard evenly over the pastry and within the scored border, using the back of a spoon, palette knife or pastry brush.  Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top.

Arrange the slices of tomato over the cheese, sprinkle with the thyme and Herbes de Provence and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with a little olive oil or spray with a few squirts of Fry Light.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.  Serve warm or cold.

Serves 6-8 as a starter, 4-6 as a lunch with salad.

*You could alternatively cut the pastry into individual tarts before scoring and filling, which just takes a little more time.

August 8, 2023



We joined a walking group when we first came to France this year, back in March.  After each walk (called a randonée) most people retire to the bar in the village, or sometimes to someone's house, for a debriefing - liquid refreshment and a slice of cake!

A traybake is ideal for this as it can easily be cut into squares and passed along the table for people to help themselves.  The resulting chunk of cake tends to look a bit tidier and is easier to handle than a slice from a round cake.  (Loaf cakes are equally good in this respect too.)

I had it in mind to make Mary Berry's lemon drizzle traybake but on reorganising my pantry and kitchen cupboards (what a joy it is to have a pantry!) I found several packets of coconut which, I know, is not everyone's favourite in a cake but needed using up.  

To make the cake I adapted a recipe from a charity shop find - a book called "Cakes, regional and traditional" by Julie Duff which, as the title implies, is full of lovely old fashioned and traditional recipes from all over Britain.  I based this recipe on the one for coconut pound cake and will be delving into the pages of this book again!

The cake was lovely, a nice moist and soft texture with not too much coconut and a delicate lemon flavour. 

For another coconut and lemon cake see here.

For the cake

225g self raising flour

225g caster sugar

225g baking spread or softened butter

3 eggs, lightly beaten

115g desiccated coconut

1 tsp coconut essence (or Malibu)

zest of 1 lemon

For the icing

3 tblsp icing sugar, sifted

lemon juice


Butter and line the base of a large roasting tin or traybake tin that measures roughly 30 x 23 cm (or 12" x 9").  Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.

Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat well until thoroughly combined.  I managed this with a wooden spoon but a hand held mixer would have been easier!

Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out and level the top.

Bake for about an hour or until done.  Mine was ready in 55 minutes.

Cool in the tin for about ten minutes then turn out carefully onto a wire rack.

To make the topping, mix the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make a runny but creamy consistency and drizzle any way you like over the cooled cake.

Cuts into 24 squares.

August 4, 2023

RUSTIC FRUIT TART and a brilliant little gadget!


What do you do when a rapid dessert is called for?  You make one of these tarts from whatever fruit you have in!

I used a pack of ready made, ready rolled sweet pastry (called pâte sablée), a few sticks of rhubarb and two apples.  This pastry comes as a circle in France which is handy.  In the UK it's usually an oblong which is more awkward, in which case it's probably better to buy the pastry in a block and roll it out yourself into a circle.

I have made tarts like this before but this time I used a suggestion from Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall's excellent book "Love your leftovers".  I used less sugar to sweeten the fruit and spread some strawberry jam on the pastry before filling it instead.  It took very little time to make and was on the table in well under an hour.  Delicious!


Now would be a good time to mention my latest kitchen gadget.  A Jar Key.

I think I first heard about it from Angela over at Tracing Rainbows who mentioned it in a post some time ago.

I spotted one in Zodio in France recently.  This is a chain of stores selling kitchen ware, craft stuff and home wares, like a cross between Dunelm Mill, Hobbycraft and The Range.  It's a fabulous shop and an Aladdin's cave for enthusiastic cooks, crafters and people who need gorgeous new towels!!

Jar Keys are not cheap but by jove they are worth every penny (or centime).  They take all the effort and frustration out of getting the lid off a glass jar.  AND they leave the lid undamaged so that you can reuse the jar.

As time goes by the fight with jam jar lids has become increasingly more difficult and I have tried everything.  I have tried running them under hot water with the consequent scalding, gripping with bits of bubbly rubber stuff, crushing with one of those lid removers that look like a cross between a tin opener and a medieval torture instrument and, ultimately, asking a neighbour or passer by for help!  Nick is able to get them off with a certain amount of grunting and cursing but if he's out I have no chance.

Well, this little gadget has solved that problem.  It has a neat little grip that tucks under the edge of the lid and with one slight tweak the vacuum is released and it comes off effortlessly.  No more dreading the new jar of olives, jam or compôte!  All the stress is now gone!

Every home should have one.  They should be available on the NHS to prevent jar related high blood pressure and minor accidents in the home!  Brilliant!

You can get them from Amazon, Lakeland and I'm sure many other places.  Don't buy any alternatives, this is the one that works!



1 pack of ready made, ready rolled sweet pastry (or plain shortcrust pastry)

4 slim sticks of rhubarb

2 eating apples

2-3 tblsp strawberry jam

2-3 tblsp ground almonds

1 tblsp granulated sugar

1 beaten egg or a little milk

demerara sugar for sprinkling


Remove the pastry from the fridge 15 minutes before you want to make the tart.  

Preheat the oven to 190° / 170° fan / gas mk 5.  Place a sheet of baking parchment on a baking sheet.  I usually use the paper that the pastry comes wrapped in.

Unroll the pastry and spread the jam in a circle leaving a margin of about 5cm (2").*

Sprinkle the ground almonds over the jam.  This helps to absorb any juice from the fruit and avoid the dreaded soggy bottom.

Wash and trim the rhubarb and cut into smallish chunks.  Peel, core and chop the apples.  Arrange the fruit on top of the ground almonds.  Sprinkle the granulated sugar on top.

Fold the pastry over the fruit, overlapping as if to form pleats.  

Brush the pastry with either beaten egg or a little milk and sprinkle demerara sugar over the whole thing.

Bake for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit bubbling.

Serve warm with cream, ice cream or custard.

*You can use a narrower margin and use more fruit, which results in a larger tart with less of an overlapping edge to the crust and will make more servings.

Serves 5-6 portions.