February 28, 2024

SUNDAY DINNER SOUP (soup maker recipe)

We are very much fans of Sunday Dinner Pie in this house.  It's very similar to Christmas Dinner Pie which I wrote about here.

Last weekend we roasted a small joint of loin of pork in our usual way, which is in a covered roasting tin, sitting on a layer of sliced onions and covered with a herb crust (breadcrumbs with a few added mixed herbs).  We are not fans of pork crackling on account of it being "rather bad for you"!

Afterwards there were two small slices of pork, two potatoes and a few florets of broccoli and cauliflower left over, but no gravy.  Gravy is an essential element of Sunday Dinner Pie so I decided to turn the leftovers into soup instead.

It was delicious and quite thick because of the quantity of leftover potatoes but none the worse for that.  If I didn't own a soup maker I probably would have persevered with the pie option, making some extra gravy and using ready made pastry, or maybe turned it into some kind of gratin, or had a roast pork salad with the potatoes and discarded the rather tired looking veg.  Or, perish the thought, maybe even a roast pork sandwich and discarded everything else.  This was probably the easiest and quickest option that made use of all the leftovers.

It would probably work with any leftover roast meat.


2 slices of roast pork (with any attached herb crumb) chopped

1 onion (use the one that had been roasted with the meat if you have it)

leftover potatoes and veg

1 large carrot

1 small potato

1 leek

1 garlic and thyme stock pot (or a veg stock cube)

a splash of dry sherry (optional)


Peel and roughly chop the carrot and put it in a layer in the bottom of the soup maker.  Put the Sunday dinner leftovers on top and then add enough prepared leek and potato to fill to the bottom line.

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

Cook on smooth.  Stir the sherry into the finished soup.

Makes 4 generous servings.

February 20, 2024


With my part used packet of chopped dates and a couple of tired bananas I hankered after making something quick and easy.  I have used this recipe for banana loaf before and followed the tips at the end of the recipe to add some chopped dates.  This time I made mini muffins instead.  They are a nice bite sized treat, easy to hand round to a group of people.

They were well risen, nicely spiced and not too sweet.  I think that a bananaphobe would have not been too challenged - they were very moreish and even Nick liked them!

There had been an unfortunate mishap with my brand new jar of English mixed spice the week before.  Hard tiled floors are not very forgiving, spice and broken glass went everywhere. On the advice of a friend I replaced it with a French equivalent called "quatre épices".  The spices are ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  I looked up the ingredients of British mixed spice and they have a very similar composition although also include coriander, which I usually associate with savoury dishes. Curious! The French version worked perfectly.

The quantity of mixture in the recipe made 48 mini muffins with some still some left over, so I made a few buns as well, which took a few minutes longer to bake.  Definitely a recipe worth remembering if you're short of time but want no shortage of flavour!

The very pretty little cake stand came from a brocante shop in a nearby village.  This place is actually an old barn stuffed with antique furniture, textiles, crockery and every imaginable kind of old or vintage household goods.  Prices are not as cheap as at the average village flea market but affordable.  This little cake stand was one of several that belonged to a huge set of matching crockery, a whole dinner service with numerous serving dishes, tureens and everything else that a large household might have.  The only item of it that I wanted (although all of it was gorgeous) was one of these with the pretty bird and flowers.  I think that had there only been one in the set the shopkeeper might have refused, but there were several so she was happy to sell me one.


3 very ripe bananas, about 225g peeled weight

3 large eggs

100g light soft brown sugar

150ml vegetable oil (I used groundnut oil)

275g self raising flour

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp baking powder

a handful of chopped dates


Put the dates into a small bowl and just cover with boiling water.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4.  Grease the holes of two mini muffin tins.

Put the peeled bananas into a large bowl and mash roughly with a fork.  Add the eggs, sugar and oil and whisk with an electric hand held whisk until well combined.

Add the flour, spice and baking powder and whisk again until just combined.  Stir through the soaked dates including the liquid.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins.  I used a mini ice cream scoop so that they were roughly even.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until done.  (The larger buns took 20 minutes).  Cool in the tins for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

Makes more than 48 mini muffins.

February 4, 2024


It's been a dull, grey weekend, the oven whispered "bake a cake" around lunchtime, and with a few parsnips lurking in the fridge, some lonely clementines in the fruit bowl and an unopened packet of chopped dates in the cupboard, a particular cake sprung to mind.  It's many years since I made it and the original comes from one of my most  favourite food blogs written by Dominic Franks.  You can see the last time I made this cake to Dom's recipe here.

Several people expressed a certain amount of scepticism when I made a cake using parsnips a few weeks ago, but on actually tasting it "ate their words".  Parsnips work just as well in a cake as do carrots, courgettes and other vegetables.  (I draw the line at kale.  The kale and apple cake I made a few years ago was truly horrible and I still shudder when I think about it!)

This time I used the dates instead of sultanas and, as both dates and parsnips are fairly sweet, I omitted the small amount of honey.  I also decided not to glaze it with the honey and clementine glaze either.  It was sweet enough without it and the top already looked nice and glossy so I didn't ice it.  I also decided to grate the parsnips a bit finer, using the medium grater on my box grater, which produced a nice cloud of fluffy parsnip which would be more easily concealed in the cake if anyone had doubts about it!

I made it as a traybake, with the walking group debriefing session in mind and it worked beautifully.  It was moist, delicious and kept well - possibly being even better the day after baking.  It was a huge hit with the handful of intrepid walkers that braved a cold, grey and muddy walk then retired to the bar.  There was only the slightest twitch of a raised eyebrow from our French members who by now probably realise that the English, although bonkers, can make a good cake from peculiar ingredients.  One even compared it to pain d'epices - and had a second slice.  Praise indeed!  A winner!


150g chopped dates

juice and zest of 4 clementines (or satsumas, mandarins or maybe 2 small oranges)

3 large eggs 

175ml groundnut or sunflower oil

200g soft light brown sugar

200g self raising flour

50g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

200g parsnips


Put the dates and clementine juice into a small pan.  Add a little water if necessary to ensure they are covered.  Bring to the boil, turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

Peel and grate the parsnips, using the medium fine side of your grater, grating only the fleshy part and discarding the tougher core.

Preheat the oven to 170° C / 150° fan / gas mk 3½.  Butter and line the base and sides of a large traybake or roasting tin measuring about 33 x 24 cm.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar and flour until well blended and creamy.  This is easy enough to do with a wooden spoon.

Add the soaked dates including any liquid and all the other ingredients including the clementine zest.  Mix well.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and cooked.  Cool in the tin.

Cuts into 12-16 slices or squares, depending on how many people you want to feed.

February 3, 2024


I have made this dish many times before, although not for a few years, but never posted about it.  You can find versions of it all over the place on the internet but I usually follow, as a guide, the recipe for "Provencal garlic chicken" from a great little book by Jill Dupleix called "good cooking"**.

It’s one of those recipes that’s staggeringly easy but delicious and warrants ferreting around in the back of the kitchen cupboard for a much loved bit of old kitchen equipment - the chicken brick!

I acquired a chicken brick back in the 70’s or 80’s, or whenever it was that they were all the rage.  It was made of a terracotta pottery (possibly from Habitat) and was probably a Christmas or birthday present, but it didn’t get much use and I don’t remember when I noticed it was no longer around.  Then, about twelve years ago, we held a Pampered Chef party at our house - a kind of Tupperware party but for cooking equipment.  I bought quite a few items and they were not cheap but have turned out to be a good investment.  One of the things I lashed out on was a new chicken brick, or updated version thereof, as it's also very good for casseroles, slow roasted meats and other things.

I remember the Pampered Chef agent saying that these pots should not be put in the dishwasher, that they should be washed in hot soapy water to remove any food bits but should otherwise be allowed to develop their own "patina".  This rather goes against the grain for someone like me who was brought up to scrub things to within an inch of their lives to ward off nasty tummy bugs - and whose very first domestic science lesson (from a very stern Mrs Stafford) was about how to clean a kitchen worktop properly and look after your dishcloth (having first knitted it from cotton string in the needlework class).  But I have to say that the residue hasn't killed us yet, however unappealing it may look! 

Any suitable casserole or roasting dish that has a tight fitting lid will do the job.  You can ensure a tight seal by covering the chicken with foil or baking paper before putting the lid on.  With my chicken brick I don't have to do this.

The original recipe is for forty cloves of garlic but when I checked the larder all I had in stock was thirty! It turned out beautifully; moist and delicious.  The leftover meat was excellent in a chicken and leek pie, the carcass went into the stock pot and was turned into a tasty soup with the leftover potatoes and garlic.

Retirement does have benefits.  Our food bill and wastage are both significantly lower than when we were working.  I never thought I would turn into a person that makes their own stock (and uses leftovers so enthusiastically) but having the time to do it is the key.  

**Other recipes from this excellent little book that I have made and posted about before include:

Airport potatoes 

Cranberry blondies


1 oven ready chicken, about 1.2 kg in weight

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs of thyme

4 tblsp olive oil plus extra for oiling the dish

30 garlic cloves, unpeeled

6-8 smallish potatoes, washed but skin on

75ml dry white wine


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Lightly oil the inside of the baking dish.

Rub the chicken with a little salt and put it in the pot, surrounded by the potatoes, garlic and herbs.  Drizzle with the olive oil, pour over the wine and season again with salt and pepper.

Fit the lid tightly (see notes in text) and bake for about an hour.  Remove the lid, increase the oven temperature to 220°C / 200° fan / gas mk 7 and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through* and the skin is a golden brown.

Serve with the potatoes and garlic cloves, which are delicious when squished so the puréed garlic oozes out.  Serve the cooking juices from the bottom of the chicken in a jug and any greens or salad of your choice.

*You can judge this by either poking a knife into the thickest part of the breast and making sure the juices run clear, not pink, or by using a meat thermometer.

Serves 6 with leftovers to use as you wish.

February 2, 2024


For my Burns Night Supper I decided to make this as well as the traditional Cranachan.  Marmalade was thought to have been invented in Scotland after all although this is now disputed.  (See here.) 

One of the guests was tee total and as the recipes I had settled on for both desserts contained whisky, I made two versions of each; with and without it.  I had an idea that whisky is not to everyone’s taste, not even the Scots, and as it turned out both versions were equally popular!  For this pudding I simply divided the ingredients between two separate baking dishes and put a good dollop of whisky into half of the egg mixture. 

It was delicious and you can see the original recipe here.  I used "wonderloaf" but it would also be good made with brioche or sliced croissants - for a Franco-Scots variation!


8 slices of white bread, crusts removed

approximately 50g very soft butter

approximately 4 tblsp orange marmalade, plus a few extra tsp

300ml milk (I used semi skimmed as that's what we have)

250 ml double cream

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tblsp golden caster sugar (white sugar would be fine)

1 tblsp whisky (optional)

icing sugar for dusting (I forgot this step!)


Butter a suitable ovenproof pie dish.

Butter both sides of each slice of bread.  Make four marmalade sandwiches by spreading 4 of the slices generously with marmalade and topping them with the other 4 slices.

Cut each sandwich into four triangles and arrange them, pointed end up, in the pie dish.

Put the milk, cream, eggs, vanilla, whisky and sugar into a large jug and beat well together.  Pour this mixture over the sandwiches and set aside to soak in for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 160°C / 140° fan / gas mk4. 

Dot a few teaspoons of extra marmalade over the pudding and dust with icing sugar.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the edges of the bread are brown and crisp and the custard is set.

Serve straight away or just warm.

Serves 6-8.