White chocolate parfait

We don't like Christmas pudding, so I try a new Christmas dessert recipe every year. Last year it was sticky toffee pudd. and this year I wanted to do something lighter. The recipe said that this amount would serve 8, but it served 3 people who had seconds! I made it in advance and froze it.

The recipe comes from this year's 'Woman's Weekly Christmas special'.

100g white chocolate broken up into pieces
250ml ready made vanilla custard
3 tbspns Baileys liqueur
142ml pot double cream
2 tbspns grated dark chocolate
a few raspberries

small loaf tin lined with cling film

Melt the chocolate and stir in the custard.
Leave to cool then stir in the Baileys.
Whip the cream then add it to the mixture.
Spoon it into the lined loaf tin and feeze overnight.
When it's solid, cover and wrap and label it.
Take it out and put it in the fridge 20 mins before you want to use it.
Put onto a plate, sprinkle the top with grated dark chocolate and decorate with a few raspberries.

Note: it melts quite quickly!


Christmas Day

Hope you had a great Christmas.

I shan't forget ours in a hurry, as I nearly burnt the house down!

I put some part-baked rolls in the oven to bake, ready to eat with our starter in the evening. Then we went out Christmas morning to visit our son and family and I forgot they were still in the oven! Luckily we came back earlier than we'd intended, as I wanted to make sure that the duck would be cooked  ready for our early evening meal. When we opened the lounge door, smoke was seeping under the door from the kitchen, and the kitchen was full of smoke! I quickly turned off the oven, and we had to open doors and windows to get rid of the smoke! My nicely-heated house turned into an ice block!
But it could have been an inferno!

Here are the rolls - blocks of solid charcoal!

Since then, I make sure everything is off before we go out!


Happy Christmas!

                                          Wishing you a very Happy Christmas.

Decided to start a new tradition and have muffins for breakfast on Christmas day. The idea is Nigella's, as is the recipe for Christmas morning muffins.

You'll find the recipe on Nigella's site here .


A quick cake fix!

I made an apple pie yesterday and had some pastry left over. What should I do with it? Then I remembered a childhood favourite - Welsh cheese cakes. There's no cheese in them nowadays, but they're tasty and quick and easy to make.

you need:

a bun tin
leftover shortcrust pastry
1 egg and it's weight in sugar, butter and flour
1/2tspn baking powder
jam of choice - I used Mirabelle plum [home made]

So, roll out the pastry and then cut out to fill the holes in a bun tin.
Beat the butter and sugar together and then add the egg and fold in the flour and baking powder.
Put a tspn of jam on the bottom of the pastry shell and then a heaped tspn of the cake mixture on top.

I cooked them at gas6/200C for 15 mins, when they were golden.


Date and walnut cake

Sorting out my new food cupboard this morning, I found a packet of dates which needed using. My Mum used to make a very moist date cake, so I hunted in her notebook for the recipe. Eureka!

175g dates, chopped
210ml boiling water
3/4 tspn bicarb. of soda
175g light [or dark brown] sugar
50g soft margarine [or butter]
1 egg, beaten
225g plain flour
3/4 tspn baking powder
40g walnuts, chopped
1 tspn cinnamon

preheat oven gas4/180C/350F
Grease and line a 20cm [8"] square cake tin

Put the dates in a bowl with the boiling water and bicarb and leave for about 10 mins.
Beat the sugar and margarine together [I used butter and light brown sugar, but my Mum used margarine and dark brown sugar] then add the beaten egg, dates and water.
Stir in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon [my addition!] and then the walnuts.
Put the mixture into the tin and bake for about an hour. Mine took 50 mins in a gas oven.
I decided to ice it with some glace icing.

                                 Mum's written that it keeps well. It's very moist.

Hello, I'm back!

Here I am, now back living in Northamptonshire.

It's been a rollercoaster of a ride getting back here, but I won't dwell on that. Sufficient to say that we've made it, and are busily unpacking boxes and arranging furniture. We've downsized considerably, so are trying to fit a quart into a pint pot!

Here's the van and trailer that arrived with all our worldly possessions - well not quite all, as there's all Bob's tools at one friend's house in France, his motor bike with another friend and my pot plants with a third friend! All these will come back in a hired van in January!

I want to get back to baking, but now have a gas cooker, so think I will take a little while to get used to having a gas oven again.

It's nice to be back, and I'll try and keep the blog up-to-date.


On the move again

We're moving out of this house on Wednesday, so I won't be blogging for a while. We take possesssion of the new UK house mid October, so will be staying in a holiday cottage in Northants for a few weeks.

Will be sad to leave here and all our friends. Everyone has been so kind to us; it's been like a long holiday.

Au revoir from France, and hope you'll join me again in the UK!


National Cupcake Week

It's National Cupcake Week, so I made a few this morning as my contribution. I decided that I would make fairy cake sized ones, as this is much more British than the blowsy US cupcakes.

I'm not a huge fan of buttercream, so these are simply dipped in some good dark chocolate from our local chocolatier. I used about half of a 100g bar of 70% dark chocolate for the topping.

It's a simple 100g butter, sugar and sr flour mix with 2 heaped tbspns cocoa powder and 2 eggs.
Just beat the butter and sugar together, add the eggs and beat them in, then fold in the flour mixture.
I also added a heaped tspn of coffee granules to the flour mixture, which Ina says enhances the chocolate flavour. We shall see!
This amount of mixture made 8 small cakes, plenty for the 2 of us.


Plum upside down cake

                                 My friend gave me lovely plums from her garden.

I decided to make a variation on the gooseberry upside down cake I posted a while back, as it's so quick and easy.
It's just 110g of butter and sugar beaten, then add 2 eggs and 110g sr flour. I added some cinnamon with the flour as I love it!
Butter a 20cm springform tin well and make a nice payer of soft brown sugar in the bottom then add the plums, cut in half and stoned, skin-side up.
Put the cake mixture on top and spread it out evenly.
Bake in oven 180C/gas4 for about 35-40 mins till golden brown.

The plums were very juicy, but the cake tasted delicious. We had some as a pudding tonight.


Cheese and red onion tart

Another of my 'use up what's in the freezer and garden' recipes.

We've had a good crop of onions this year, both red and white, so I decided to use up the puff pastry in the freezer and make an onion tart. I found some Cathedral Cheddar yesterday in the supermarket, so a marriage made in heaven!

You need:

1 pkt puff pastry
2 big red onions sliced
about 75g Cheddar cheese grated
dried mixed herbs
1 tbspn oil and 1 tbspn butter
about 1 tspn sugar
sprigs of any herbs you fancy

Preheat oven 210C/gas7 and grease a baking sheet.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and fry the onions gently for about 5 mins till soft then add the sugar, s&p and dried herbs and cook for a further 10 mins.
Roll out the pastry [I've packed my rolling pin so had to use a lemonade bottle. Mum would be proud of me!] and put onto baking sheet.
Spoon the onions onto the pastry leaving about 2 cms round the edge.
Sprinkle the cheese over the top and put the sprigs of herbs on the cheese. I used thyme.

Cook for about 12-15 mins till the pastry is risen and golden brown.

I made a big green salad and a tomato salad to eat with it. Bob also had chunks of crusty bread that I'd made in my new breadmaker.


Apricot and walnut loaf

Yes, another easy loaf!
I'm now trying to use up the contents of my food cupboard. There were a few dried apricots, sultanas and walnuts left, so this was the perfect recipe.

300g plain flour
21/2 tspn baking powder
11/2 tspn mixed spice
90g diced butter
90g soft brown sugar
200g dried apricots
125g sultanas
90g chopped walnuts
210 ml milk
1 beaten egg

Preheat ovem 180C/350F/gas4

Grease a 900g [2lb] loaf tin

Sift flour, spice and baking powder into a bowl and rub in the butter. Add the sugar, fruit and walnuts and mix together.
Add the milk and egg and mix well.
Put into tin and bake for 45-50 mins till golden. Cool on a wire rack.

                                    I didn't have enough apricots so I also added some dried apple.


Unexpected present

We were busy packing boxes this afternoon when the doorbell rang. There were 3 ladies standing outside grinning at us.
They were 3 of our lovely neighbours, and when invited in, they produced a package and said it was a souvenir of our time here. We were so moved that they'd thought of doing this.
On opening the present, we found a lovely watercolour, done by a local artist, of La Garette, a pretty village in the Marais Poitevin, our area.

It's not framed as they wanted us to choose what we wanted.

What lovely people we have as neighbours; everyone, without exception, has been so kind to us. Our little hamlet has about 20 houses and we belong to a big village.

The Marais Poitevin is beautiful. It's now an inter-regional park. It's not well known to the Brits and is still unspoilt. It has a variety of scenery, from marshes to the coast. We live in the lovely marsh area with lots of alder trees.
Have a look here.
The black flat-bottomed boat is known as a barque, and is a popular way of experiencing this lovely area.

Tomato soup

Thought I'd just finish off the post that I did the other day about tomatoes.

I'd roasted a tray of tomatoes ready for soup. It's been too hot to even contemplate soup, but the weather is now cooler so we had some for lunch today.

It was really tasty.

What did I do?
I sauteed an onion in a little evo till translucent, added a few chopped cloves of garlic and some chopped  oregano from the garden. Cooked this a little longer, then added the tomatoes and 300ml of vegetable stock. [I used a good veg.stock cube].  I simmered it for about 10 mins then blended it. I checked the seasoning, then we ate it with big chunks of multigrain homemade bread.


Fruit galore!

We planted a couple of Chasselas grapevines a couple of years ago, and we've just picked our first fruit.

                                 For a small vine we picked quite a lot, and there's more to pick.

Then our friends arrived this morning to bring us some lovely plums from their garden!

We still have yesterday's blackcurrant loaf to eat, we picked a lot of Bramleys from our trees [which I've stewed to eat with my porridge] and now plums..!

I'm going to really miss this garden when we move. It's not huge, but we've become almost self-sufficient in veg.


Blackcurrant loaf

I'm desperately trying to use up the contents of the freezer before we move. Just before we came here, I ended up running down the road to my friend with an enormous plastic bag full of food from the freezer! I want to do a better job this time, so it's 'use up some blackcurrants' day!

I love teabreads and loafcakes, so was very pleased to find this recipe in a little book I bought ages ago from a NT shop. There's no author's name, and the book is called 'Favourite family teabreads and other delights'.

Here's the recipe which I've adapted.

100g fresh blackcurrants
275g sr flour [plus a bit for tossing the blackcurrants]
100g butter or margarine
100g caster sugar [and a bit for sprinkling on the top]
2 large eggs, beaten
a little milk

Preheat oven 160 fan/180C/350F/gas4

Grease a 900g [2lb] loaf tin

Rub the fat into the flour. Add the sugar then the eggs and stir together. The mixture should be fairly dry, but if it won't come together easily, add a little milk.
Put the blackcurrants in another bowl and toss them in a little flour [to stop them sinking to the bottom of the cake] then mix them into the dough.

This shows that tossing them in flour does work - no I didn't eat 2 pieces!

Put into the tin, sprinkle the top with some sugar and bake for about 45-50 mins till golden.

I used light brown caster sugar and added a little cinnamon to the dough, as I love it!

We still have several bags of blackcurrants left, so watch this space!!



I don't plant tomatoes from seed as I only need 6 plants, so this year we bought a tray of 6 mixed varieties. These were - cherry tomatoes, vine cherry tomatoes, beef tomatoes, plum tomatoes, vine plum tomatoes and a round tomato I've forgotten the name of!

As we've had so much hot weather, they've been prolific and they've had a wonderful flavour. They've lacked water, and we've got a hosepipe ban, so I've been using the 3 water butts, now they've run out!

Bob picked yet more today, so I decided to make some soup with some and I made a starter with a few more.

These are some lovely plum tomatoes going into the oven to be roasted, just drizzled with olive oil. These will be for the soup.

This is the starter. It's not a good picture as it's from a French magazine.
It's mozzarella tomato gratin.

for 4 people you need:

6 tomatoes, 1 ball of mozzarella [125g],
4 tbns grated parmesan, 1 clove of garlic
4 stems of parsley, 4 stems of basil, 1 tspn thyme
evo, s&p

Preheat oven 160C/gas6/325F

Cut the tomatoes in 2 horizontally and put them on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle them with the thyme, s&p and a glug of evo. Cook them for about 40 mins.
Grate the mozzarella coarsely. Chop the basil and parsley. peel and chop the garlic.
Mix these with the grated and parmesan and about 10cl evo. Spread this on the cooked tomaotes.
Put under a grill for about 5 mins. Serve warm. Great with grilled chops or steak.


Whoopie pies

I've seen a lot in magazines and online about whoopie pies so as I had some marshmallows in the cupboard, I thought I'd have a go at some.
This recipe comes from the June edition of Sainsbury magazine and is by Dan Lepard, one of my favourite bakers.
You'll find the recipe on Dan's forum here .
The recipe makes a lot of pies so I halved it. I think the pie is a cross between a biscuit and a cake. As there's no raising agent in the recipe, they don't rise very much. I just spooned the mixture on, but if you want a really good shape, you need to pipe them. Oh, and I added some grated lemon rind to the mixture.

The mixture for the pies is quite thick, thicker than the normal cake mixture.

The marshmallow were big ones, but they melted easily.     


This is the melted mixture.

One very important thing, you must let this mixture go cold before adding the soft butter or it doesn't work! I was impatient and added the butter while it was still warmish and it didn't become a nice fluffy filling, just a runny one!

Only had pink marshmallows left,so my second attempt at the filling is yellow rather than white! But at least it worked this time.

I didn't put any icing on top, as the original ones don't have it and I thought they'd be too sweet.

They taste fine, but to be honest, I don't think I'd make them again. They certainly aren't the 'new cupcake' imho. Maybe a chocolate version would be better?


Saucy lemon pudding

My Mum used to make this when I was young, but I'd forgotten about it till I was looking in her recipe book the other day.
I thought it was magic because the mixture goes in mixed together and comes out as a sponge top and a lovely lemon sauce underneath. As I had a few lemons to use up it was the perfect pudd. for today. My husband  thought it was too sweet, and it does have a lot of sugar in it. Maybe I would use less another time.

3oz/90g soft margarine or softened butter
9oz/275g caster sugar
3 eggs, separated
3oz/90g sr flour
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
3/4pt/425ml milk

Preheat oven 180C/gas4/350F

Grease a 2 pt/just over a litre pie dish.

In a big bowl beat together the margarine or butter, sugar, egg yolks, flour, rind and juice and the milk.

It might look curdled, but don't worry, all will be well. Mine wasn't curdled and I wondered what I'd done wrong!

Whisk the egg whites till they form soft peaks and fold this gently into the lemon mixture.

It looks a bit lumpy, but that's OK.

Pour this into the dish and put the dish in a roasting tin . Then pour enough hot water into the roasting tin to come half way up the sides of your dish.

Bake for about 45mins to 1 hour till golden.



Apple and cinnamon scone round

Yet another apple recipe!  Am making the most of the Bramleys before we leave.

This is a nice easy recipe that you can make in a few minutes, if you need a cake in a hurry. It's another one from Mum's old handwritten book.

4oz/125g sr flour and 4oz/125g sr wholemeal flour
1 tspn baking powder
2oz/60g soft brown or demerara sugar
11/2 oz/45g diced butter or margarine
1 tspn cinnamon
1 medium Bramley apple [about 10oz/300g before peeling] peeled, cored and chopped
3-4 tbspn milk
extra demerara sugar for the top

Preheat oven 200C/gas6/400F

Grease a baking sheet.
Sift the flours into a bowl and rub in the fat.
Stir in the sugar and cinnamon and then add the chopped apple. You can, if you like, grate the apple, but I prefer it in chunks.
Mix it all together then stir in enough milk to make a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured board and shape into a 7"/ about 18cm round.
Mark it into 8 and then sprinkle the top with denerara sugar.
Bake it for about 25-30 mins.


Spicy topped apple cake

Yes, another apple cake! The apples are falling off the Bramley trees as there are so many of them, and it's been so hot.
I found this recipe in one of my Mum's old cookbooks. It was called a 'crunchy' topped cake, but it's not at all crunchy on top. It's not a spongecake base this time - more of a sweet pastry.

75g butter or margarine
175g sr flour
50g caster sugar
1 egg
75ml water
3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges


75g dark brown sugar
2 tspn cinnamon
25g butter of margarine

Preheat oven to 180C/gas4/350F
Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

Rub fat into flour till it looks like breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar and mix in the egg and water to make a soft dough.
Spread this dough into the base of the tin.

Press the apple wedges into the dough and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon. Dot with pieces of butter of margarine.

Bake for about 30 mins till firm.
It's difficult to decide of the base is cooked as the top is soft from the melted butter. I cooked it for 40 minutes and it was cooked perfectly.

It wouldn't win any awards for 'best looking cake', but it tastes really good.

We ate it with some cream, but ice cream would be delicious too.


On the move!

We've sold the house again and hope to move back to the UK at the end of September.
Have just come back from a visit to family and friends and to see our new granddaughter - Emily Kristen.
She was 10 lbs at birth and has long feet and hands. Going to take after her Grandad I think, who's 6'6"!

We also went to look at some houses, and on our return, put in an offer on a house we'd seen twice, and it was accepted. We hope to complete on both houses at nearly the same time, so we can move back and get into the new house to redecorate. We'll rent a holiday cottage nearby until we've done what we want to do.

There's a lovely big kitchen in the new house so am looking forward to cooking in it. It has a gas cooker, and I've not used one for many years. Have had gas hobs in the last 3 houses and this house, but have had electric ovens.

Don't know this area very well, so am looking forward to a new chapter in our lives.


Lemon courgette cake

It's that time of year again - courgettes. They're so prolific that if you blink, you miss one, and it's become a marrow! We decided to only plant one plant, but it's still prolific. Reminds me of 'The day of the Triffids'!

I've tried a chocolate courgette cake, so wanted to find something different.

I found this recipe on the excellent site - http://www.allrecipes.co.uk/ and I tweaked it a bit.

200g grated courgettes
150g caster sugar
1 egg
125ml veg.oil
200g plain flour
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn bicarb.
1/4 tspn baking powder
1 heaped tspn cinnamon
2 tspns lemon zest

Icing sugar and lemon juice if you want to ice it.

Preheat oven 160C/gas3
Grease a loaf tin.
In a bowl beat together the courgettes, egg, sugar and oil.
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and bicarb. then add the cinnamon and lemon zest. Stir this into the courgette mixture and gently mix together till just blended.
Pour into the tin and bake for about 40 mins.
Leave in the tin till cool, then turn onto a wire rack.

I made some lemon icing by mixing icing sugar and lemon juice, and poured it over.

You can peel the courgettes before grating, but I like the green specks in the cake.


Banana cake

I had 2 very ripe bananas to use up so decided to make a cake. It's very easy and delicious [I sound like Ina!].

2 ripe bananas [about 400g]
150g butter at room temperature
150g soft brown sugar
100g sultanas
300g plain flour
2 tspn baking powder
1/2tspn bicarbonate of soda
1 tspn cinnamon
2 medium beaten eggs
100ml vegetable oil

Preheat oven 180C/gas4/350F

Grease a 2lb/900g loaf tin
Peel and mash the bananas.
Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat together till fluffy. Stir in the bananas and the sultanas.
Sieve together the flour, baking powder and soda.
Add the flour mixture and the eggs to the banan mixture, adding about a third at a time of each.
Mix together well. Then stir in the oil.
Put into the loaf tin and bake for about 40 mins. Leave in the tin to cool and then put onto a wire rack.

I didn't have the 400g of bananas so used more sultanas. I also didn't use any oil this time and it's still a moist cake.


Blackcurrant pavlova

I've made lots of small meringues and meringue toppings, but this is the first time I've made a pav.
As it was Father's Day, and Bob's favourite fruit are blackcurrants, I decided to make him a treat.

The cream didn't whip as thickly as double cream, but it turned out fine.

This is the recipe I used, but I didn't swirl the blackcurrants throught the cream. Think I used more fruit too!


Chocolate cake

 chocolate I fancied doing some baking this afternoon and having found a bar of 70% chocolate in the cupboard, decided to make a chocolate cake.
I tried a recipe from a book I've had for many years, but never used. It's Jane Pettigrew's 'Teatime - a complete collection of traditional recipes'. This is her 'Moist chocolate cake', but to be honest, I prefer my old Victoria sandwich recipe. We both found this cake rather dry, despite its buttercream filling.
If I try it again, I'll use less flour.

Didn't decide to blog about it till I'd cut us each a slice, and I'd had another one!
The recipe:

100g plain chocolate
150g butter of soft margarine
150g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
15ml [1 tbspn] milk
225g sr flour

Preheat oven 350F/180C/gas 4

Grease and line 2 x18cm [7"] sandwich tins.
Melt the chocolate over water or in a microwave.
Cream the fat and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
Stir the milk into the melted chocolate then add it to the mixture. Beat togther.
Fold in the flour. Mix well.
Pour into tins and bake for about 30 mins [my oven is hot and they were ready in 25mins] Leave to cool in tins and then turn onto a wire rack.
Make the filling:
15g softened butter
50g icing sugar + some for sifting on top
5ml [1 tspn] milk
1 tbspn cocoa powder

Cream the butter and icing sugar together then add the milk and cocoa powder. Beat well.
This amount is fine to sandwich the cakes together. It's half the amount given in the recipe.
You can sieve some icing sugar over the top to finish off the cake.



Having packed all my cookery books into boxes ready for the move, I'm having to improvise my cooking. Decided to only unpack one box which has my favourite books in it.

Bought some turkey escalopes today, so decided to serve them with roasted veg. Breaded them with some of my home-made bread crumbs.

Have missed out on veg. eating whilst on our UK visit, so made up for it tonight. Used carrots, courgettes, shallots and sweet potatoes and some rosemary from the garden. We really enjoyed it.

Looks rather blurred! Haven't had any alcohol, honest!

Gratin de choux-fleur

 I was given a medium sized cauliflower and as it's not my favourite vegetable, struggled to know what to do with it. Have kept a few Fr...