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.