Sweet treats . . . .

Christmas just isn’t going to be the same for so many of us this year. It isn’t Christmas, per se, but the meeting up of family, being with the people you love and the ones who love you most.  It has been such a difficult time  – I, personally, have see my children and grand children only a tiny amount of what I would normally – and we were all looking forward to finally being together. Let us try to be the best we can with whoever we can – and to look out for those that will find it even harder than we do.

Recipes for today are for treats – yourself, friends, neighbours – to share as you will.  Being Christmas (and particularly now) they are obviously completely calorie free!

GRANNY’S TREACLE TOFFEE – this was made when one of us had a sore throat to suck – so completely medicinal! Take care to suck, though, as the Husband broke a crown on it chewing!

  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 100 grams butter
  • 3 tablespoons treacle
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar

Put everything into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Keep on a rolling boil (I keep a wooden spoon in it so it doesn’t over boil).  It is ready when a small spoonful goes hard when dropped into a bowl of cold water.  Pour into a greased baking tin (BE CAREFUL AS ITS VERY HOT AND WILL BURN YOUR SKIN).  Allow to harden, turn tin over and tap till it drops out.  Keep in a airproof tin or tupperware.

SCOTTISH TABLET (English fudge) My best (oldest (in years of knowing!) friend, Sandra, gave me this recipe – its incredibly easy and even a non-Scot can make it!

  • 150ml evaporated milk
  • 150ml water
  • 75g butter
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teasp vanilla essence
  • Butter a 7 inch shallow tin. Put milk, water, sugar and butter in a saucepan and heat through slowly until the sugar has dissolved. The boil steadily for about 10 k- 15 minutes stirring constantly. Test by dropping into a cold glass of water and is ready when you can roll it between your fingers. Take off the heat and add vanilla essence. Cool slightly then beat until the mixture starts to thicken and crystalise. Pour into tin and leave to set. Mark into squares and keep in an airtight tin (it won’t be there for long!)

For the ultimate comfort drink, there will always be HOT CHOCOLATE – here are a couple of festive additions – obviously for more than one but why not make a batch, keep (a lot) for yourself and leave a warming cup on your neighbour’s doorstep?


  • red wine 300ml
  • cinnamon stick 1
  • star anise 2
  • cloves 4
  • allspice berries 6
  • demerara sugar 2 tbsp
  • whole milk 500ml
  • dark chocolate chips or dark chocolate 150g
  • Pour the red wine into a pan and add the cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, allspice berries and demerara sugar. Heat gently and simmer for 10 minute. In a separate pan, heat the milk, then gradually whisk in the dark chocolate. Strain the red wine into the chocolate pan and stir. Serve in small glasses or cups with extra cinnamon stick stirrers.

LUXURY HOT CHOCOLATE – with lots of topping suggestions!

  • cocoa powder 3 tbsp
  • whole milk 1.5 litres
  • demerara sugar 3 tbsp, plus extra to taste
  • dark chocolate 100g, chopped
  • vanilla extract 1 tsp
  • single cream 150ml
  • Put the cocoa in a large bowl or jug and mix in enough cold milk to make a smooth paste. Put the rest of the milk in a pan and bring to a simmer. Whisk the milk into the cocoa paste until everything is incorporated then pour back into the pan. Add the sugar, chopped chocolate, vanilla and cream, and heat gently, stirring until everything is combined. Sweeten with extra demerara sugar to your liking.
  • TOPPINGS – dark rum, whisky, brandy, Disaronno or Baileys / squirty cream / Cadbury flake /cinnamon sticks/ ground cinnamon / chocolate chips / mini marshmallo /fudge chunks
Red Wine Hot Chocolate Recipe

Music from the Master – never has the words seemed so true!

Have yourself a merry little Christmas – Frank Sinatra – YouTube

Wishing you all the best Christmas you can – and looking forward to Happy New Year!

A little extra . . .

Here, in England, we all thought come 2 December we would be out of our lockdown and at least be able to mix with a few friends in our homes.  However, it is not to be and time crawls on towards a vaccine and freedom!

So I just thought I would post a little extra to this week’s blog and give you a very quick and easy recipe my lovely son-in-law, Ben, sent me.  It’s a little bit of frivolous nothing – but what’s wrong with that today?  

Big Ben’s Ice Cream (it’s in measures so you can make as much or little as you like, just keep in proportion)

  • A measure of mascarpone
  • A measure of yogurt
  • a big squeeze of golden syrup
  • a big squeeze of honey
  • a little sprinkling of salt

Mix it all up together in an ice cream maker or freeze, churning every half hour till soft.

He says it’s brilliant with fruit salad, chopped pistachios and fresh mint. Best thing is that it doesn’t last well in the freezer – so just make and eat it ALL. Sharing is not obligatory!

Vanilla ice-cream with fruit salad dressing recipe Recipe | Good Food

A little bit on the Side

I’m ready come the Revolution and we can all break out of Lockdown 2!  Up early one morning and wanting a job where I wouldn’t wake anyone else up, I cleaned out all the kitchen drawers, throwing out anything not used this year.  I then moved on to the fridge and  pantry – and later my wardrobe.  All very cathartic (if a little sad?) but so much easier to find anything – spatulas / a tin of sweetcorn / half eaten lemon icecream / pair of knickers – all immediately to hand meaning I’ll be out the door as soon as 2 December (England lockdown) ends. I miss my friends and my family; people to stay; lunches and suppers shared and all the little shops open in my nearby town.  When I started this blog it was to help those who suddenly found themselves on their own for whatever reason and had lost the joy of cooking as only for one.  Now, it seems, that many more of us are thus – definitely cooking for fewer people as a whole.  Remember, though, neighbours and less able people who may live nearby – cooking for one may not necessarily be so if you double up and leave/give a little something on a doorstep for them.

Last blog was about cooking simple but adding a sauce to spark up the everyday – this time I’m looking at side dishes – so you can still cook plain (sausages, chops, piece of fish etc) but adding something more adventurous on the side.

Apple, walnut and potato gratin

  • 125 ml milk
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 lb potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced 
  • 1 golden delicious apples, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 30g gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 60g grated cheddar
  • few walnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan-forced. Grease a 5cm-deep, 15cm x 26cm (6-cup capacity) ovenproof dish. Heat milk and garlic in a small saucepan until mixture just comes to a simmer (do not boil). Remove from heat. Arrange potato and apple slices, alternating, in rows in prepared dish. Push blue cheese in between slices. Strain milk mixture over potato mixture. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil. Sprinkle with cheddar and walnuts. Bake for 30 minutes or until potato and apple are tender and cheese is melted and golden. Stand for 5 minutes. Serve.
Baked Onions with Cheese
  • 2 – 3 onions trimmed at the root and peeled of skin and first layer
  • chicken stock 125ml
  • thyme a few sprigs
  • 25g soft white breadcrumbs (I keep a bag in the freezer, adding it to whenever I get to the end of a loaf that is not quite so fresh)
  • 1 dessertspoon olive oil 
  • 25g mature cheddar, grated
  • 40 mls double cream 
  • 1/2 teasp English mustard (optional)

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Put the onions into a deep baking dish, season well and pour in the stock. Add the thyme sprigs then cover tightly with a double layer of foil. Put into the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes until the onions are really soft but still holding their shape Mix the breadcrumbs with the oil until fully coated, then mix in the cheddar, Remove the foil and heat the grill to high. Whisk together the cream and mustard, then pour into the onion dish. Put a pile of the cheesy breadcrumbs on top of each onion, then grill for 5 minutes or until the cheese and breadcrumbs are browned, and the sauce is bubbling.

Radish Salad

  • 100g radishes, ½ wedged, ½ sliced
  • 1 dessertspoon capers 
  • 1/2 small head of radicchio torn into pieces
  • 1/2 small head frisee, (frilly lettuce) cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 white chicory, halved and root removed
  • 1/2 red chicory, halved and root removed
  • a handful of rocket
  • Dressing: garlic 1 small clove / anchovy fillets 30g (3 – 4 fillets), finely chopped / 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar / 3 dessertspoons olive oil

Put the radishes into a bowl of ice-cold water and soak for 15 minutes, then drain really well and pat dry. Grate the garlic, then tip into a bowl with the anchovies, red wine vinegar, olive oil and some seasoning, and whisk. Tip the radishes into a bowl with the capers and dressing, toss, then add the salad leaves and gently mix to coat. Tip into a large salad bowl and serve.

Roasted Cauliflower Florets

  • 3 dessertspoon olive oil 
  • 3 dessertspoon chipotle paste (to taste; find it in the supermarket isle with all other spices)
  • 1 crushed garlic
  • cauliflower florets, plus any small, tender leaves
  • 70 g soured cream 
  • mix of ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp mild chilli powder and the zest of ½ lime

Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Pour the olive oil, 2 tbsp of the chipotle paste and the garlic  into a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and mix well. Add the cauliflower florets and toss together. Tip into a roasting dish with any leaves and mix well. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until charred and smoky. Mix together the remaining chipotle paste and soured cream in a serving bowl. To serve, tip the cauliflower florets onto a serving plate and drizzle over the remaining oil. Scatter over the chilli and lime mix and serve with the chipotle soured cream for dunking.

A silver tray topped with orange roasted cauliflower with a pot of white sauce in the corner

November Boogie – YouTube   


Easy Homemade Brown Gravy (no drippings) | Sprinkles and Sprouts

What topsy turvy times we are in! I have family in Scotland, family in London, family nearby and friends in Wales and each of these groups are in different tiers of quarantine/covid rules! Its really difficult keeping up with who you can see and how many! This weekend I should have been in London with my two daughters – 2 art gallery/museums visits planned, a dinner and lunch with friends – all cancelled and with no idea when it can be put back together again! Sometimes, one wishes for nothing more than simple times – a picnic, Sunday lunch or just a walk with the family (mine would be always over 6 which is against advice here).

This got me thinking of how nice it is to just cook simple – sausages, a piece of chicken, pasta or a lamb chop – and fine as it is to just eat them as is, how even better to pep up with a sauce. So today’s blog is just about that – sauces to bring the simple to life!

All of these sauces can be served with grilled chicken, lamb or pork chops, fish, sausages or even pasta. Freeze any left over – if it’s just for you, you can use the ice cube dish.

Mushroom sauce

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and add the onion. Cook the onion until softened but not coloured. Add the garlic and the mushrooms and cook for 3–4 minutes until the mushrooms are soft but have not released their juices. Add the wine and reduce the volume of liquid by half. Stir in the crème fraîche and parsley and heat through. Season to taste and serve.

Tomato Sauce

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more. Add the tomatoes, herbs and sugar and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Stir in a splash of water to loosen the sauce, if needed, and season to taste. You can vary this sauce so to suit your taste. For a spicy pasta sauce, add 1–2 pinches of dried chilli flakes with the tomatoes. For a creamy tomato sauce, stir in 2–3 tablespoons of single or double cream, crème fraîche, soft cheese or mascarpone at the end of the cooking time and heat through gently. For a meaty flavour, fry chopped bacon, chorizo, salami or ham when cooking the onion.

Cider, cream and apple sauce

  • 30 g butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 75 ml + 1 tbsp cider
  • 75 ml apple juice
  • 150 ml chicken stock
  • 100 ml double cream
  • 100 g apple, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour

Melt half of the butter in a small saucepan and fry the shallot without browning, for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add the chicken stock, 75 ml cider and the apple juice to the onion and boil until reduced by half. Strain the sauce and return to the pan, discard the onion. Stir in the double cream. Mix the cornflour with the remaining tablespoon of cider and stir into the sauce. Cook gently, stirring, for 1 minute. Melt the remaining butter in a small frying pan and fry the apple briskly until lightly brown. Add to the sauce and continue to cook for 2 -3 minutes.

And we could not possibly finish without something sweet – so a really easy Chocolate one!

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water until completely smooth. Heat all of the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan until evenly combined. Remove from the heat and stir through the melted chocolate. Serve warm over chocolate pudding, vanilla ice cream or both!

And to follow on – a simple song to cook along with . . . .

Comfort . . .

It’s been a very wet few days here in Worcestershire so much so that the need for some comfort meant the kitchen fire was lit for the first time this season and at least we had some cosiness to settle into. The back garden has flooded, too, so we’ve hurtled from our lovely Indian Summer straight into Autumn/Winter. Fires and drawn curtains, warm throws to snuggle on the sofa started me thinking of comfort foods and what I’d like to come home to if caught out in the cold, windy weather. Daughter No1 was here for the weekend and she mentioned macaroni cheese; The Husband likes oxtail stew (see below) after he’s had a day pike fishing and I love a fish pie.

What’s Yours?

The first recipe is a quick one – for those days you are caught in a sudden downpour, get cold home and wet and want a quick fix – and the second one is long and slow and full of anticipation for when you wake up to an already miserable day!

One-pan vegetable lasagne

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large courgette, chopped
  • 125g button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100g baby leaf spinach
  • 200g fresh lasagne sheets, sliced into strips
  • Handful fresh basil leaves, torn
  • grated parmesan to taste
  • 1 x 125g mozzarella ball, sliced

Heat the oil in the pan. Add the onions and fry over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the courgette and mushrooms, increase the heat and fry for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and 400ml boiling water, then season. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes over a medium heat. Heat the grill to high. Stir the spinach and pasta into the pan in batches. Once the spinach has wilted, stir in the basil, most of the parmesan and half the mozzarella. Scatter over the rest of the cheese, then grill for 3-5 minutes until melty and bubbling. Leave for a few minutes before serving.

Oxtail Stew – I cook this in a pressure cooker so it’s another one-pot wonder! I hesitated putting this on the blog as I always think of a stew as a dish for many – but then realised that , of course, one buys oxtail by the number so a perfect way of cooking for one!

  • Oxtail pieces – your butcher sells these individually so pick what you want
  • carrots, onions, celery, chopped
  • swede/turnip (this gets a little confusing in UK. In Scotland where I am from a turnip is the yellow root vegetable – but in England this is the swede and the turnip is the little white one – so just go with whatever!) chopped.
  • Beef stock cube, gravy thickening and redcurrant jelly

Chop all the vegetables and put in the bottom of the cooker. Place the oxtail on top and add water, flavoured with beef stock cube to cover. Bring to pressure and cook for 40 minutes. Switch off and allow pressure to drop. Take all the vegetables and meat out and bring the liquid to the boil, add a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly and thickening till it’s a lovely rolling mix. Add the vegetables and meat back into the stew. Serve with mashed potato. If there is any left over, put in the fridge and add some extra stock the next day to have as a soup. The meat will just fall off the bones.

You could also cook this in a slow cooker, putting it on the morning low to eat at night – or even a low oven/ Aga.

Oxtail Stew Recipe | Food Network


Daughter No1 has just pointed out that I forgot to tell you when to put the lentils in for the Indian lentil and cauliflower soup in previous post. Thank you, Jennifer – here it is as it should be!

Indian lentil and cauliflower soup

  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil or other oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced and peeled
  • curry powder, to taste
  • ground coriander1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 litre vegetable broth (from a cube)
  • 190 g uncooked red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium cauliflower, chopped into bite-size florets
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • salt and black pepper
  • chopped fresh coriander for serving (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the ginger, 1 tablespoon of the curry powder, coriander, and cumin and saute for 2 minutes more, until fragrant. Add the LENTILS. Stir in the cauliflower and sweet potato. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cauliflower and sweet potato are tender. Season with the salt and pepper, and add more curry powder, if desired. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with coriander, if desired.

At least it proves she reads the blog – and even more importantly want to make it!

Please, Sir, can I have some more?

As September moves to October so does the weather move from our lovely Indian Summer to Autumn in all its golden gloriousness. The nights draw in (I know some people don’t like this (including The Husband) but I love closing the curtains, lighting the fire, candlelight – but mostly being able to read my book early without my conscious nagging I should be doing something outside!) and, inevitably, hours become colder. As I write this, the day is filled with wonderful sunshine but I know as evening comes there will be a nip in the air and I will need something warming to come to – and, thus, we are back in the land of Soup which you can make ahead and freeze for another time. Hopefully, you will like this new set – and definitely be asking “for more”.

Vegetable Pho

Pho is a Vietnamese favourite. It is a complex, flavoursome soup that is traditionally served at breakfast as a hearty start to the day but will work best as a delicious dinner. Traditionally made with beef or chicken, this vegetarian version is just as delicious. The stock is best made a day in advance to allow the flavours to fully develop. Although the ingredients list may seem long, the soup is very easy to make.

  • 1L vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp. caster sugar
  • 2 star anise
  • stick of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cardamom seeds, cracked
  •  rice noodles (use however much you want for each serving)
  • 100 g beansprouts
  • Chinese cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 75 g mushrooms, cut into strips
  • 1 small red or green pepper, cut in half, deseeded and finely shredded
  • 4 spring onions, thinly shredded
  • 1 red chilli, cut into thin rings
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

 The day before it is needed, prepare the broth. Put the stock, soy sauce, garlic, sugar, ginger, star anise, cinnamon and cardamom in a large pan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool then refrigerate overnight.The next day, move the broth from the fridge, strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan and bring to the boil. Add the beansprouts, cabbage, coriander, oyster mushrooms, and the pepper, spring onions and chilli. Reduce the heat and simmer for two minutes. To serve, cook the noodles by covering with boiling water, leave to stand for 15 minutes, drain and put in the bottom of serving bowl. Ladle over vegetables and broth.

Indian lentil and cauliflower soup

  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil or other oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced and peeled
  • curry powder, to taste
  • ground coriander1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 litre vegetable broth (from a cube)
  • 190 g uncooked red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium cauliflower, chopped into bite-size florets
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • salt and black pepper
  • chopped fresh coriander for serving (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, until translucent.Stir in the ginger, 1 tablespoon of the curry powder, coriander, and cumin and saute for 2 minutes more, until fragrant.Stir in the ginger, 1 tablespoon of the curry powder, coriander, and cumin and saute for 2 minutes more, until fragrant. Stir in the cauliflower and sweet potato. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cauliflower and sweet potato are tender. Season with the salt and pepper, and add more curry powder, if desired. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted.Ladle the soup into bowls and top with coriander, if desired.

Carrot, ginger and coconut Soup

  • 3 tbsp. sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 800 g carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 tbsp. peeled and finely chopped root ginger
  • 800ml chicken or vegetable stock (from a cube)
  • 400 ml tin of coconut milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. chopped coriander, to serve

Pour the sunflower oil into a large saucepan on a medium heat and, when hot, add the onions and garlic. Cover with a lid and sweat for six to eight minutes or until softened but not browned. Stir in the grated carrots with the ginger, then cover again with the lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for eight to 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Pour in the stock and coconut milk, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for two to three minutes. Remove from the heat and liquidise the soup in a blender, or use a hand-held blender, then place back on the hob and heat through again. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

carrot, ginger and coconut soup recipe

September . . September

Season’s of mist and mellow fruitfulness  . . .  It all happens in this household in September.  The Husband’s birthday, daughter No 1’s birthday, wedding anniversary – and this month we are finally getting away for a week, visiting friends and relatives, up and down the country. With no road trip abroad this year (just as well as I’ve now discovered my passport has run out!), we thought we would just do a mini British one so off to Northumberland, Scotland and Cumbria, testing the waters of what Britain can offer in these odd times.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (home) the garden continues to offer up its treasures and I expect when we return that we will be faced with a glut of tomatoes – green at the moment but about to turn.  So having picked blackberries and sloes and various vegetables, herewith some ideas for the scarlet harvest!

Halloumi and Tomatoes Halloumi is a semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk, and sometimes also cow’s milk. It has a high melting point and so can easily be fried or grilled. 

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp za’atar A combination of herbs, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt, it is one of the world’s unique and best seasonings. It’s loaded with bold flavours and great texture
  • 225g pack halloumi , sliced
  • cherry tomatoes , halved
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • handful mint leaves , to serve
  • 1-2 tsp pomegranate seeds , to serve
  • Pour the olive oil into a medium bowl, add the za’atar and stir to combine. Add the halloumi and toss in the mixture until well coated. Heat a large griddle pan. Place the halloumi in the pan and cook for 1-2 mins, then turn over and cook for a further 1-2 mins until golden brown on both sides. After turning the halloumi, add the cherry tomatoes and move them around the pan quickly so they cook all over. Transfer the halloumi and tomatoes to a plate, then drizzle over the pomegranate molasses and serve with the mint leaves and pomegranate seeds scattered over.
Halloumi with tomatoes & pomegranate molasses

Semi Dried Tomatoes

  • batch tomatoes (any quantity and any size, from cherry to plum)
  • olive oil , for brushing and covering
  • basil or oregano, for topping
  • Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Halve tomatoes and arrange over a baking sheet, cut-sides up. Brush lightly with olive oil and put a small piece of shredded basil or oregano on each. Sprinkle with seasoning and bake for 2-3 hrs, depending on size, until semi-dried. Pack into jars and pour over olive oil. Use for salads, sauces, pizza and pasta. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

Spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce If you really have a mountain of tomatoes (or you find them cheap at the market) you can easily double up the sauce recipe and freeze.

  • 200g spaghetti or linguine
  • red chilli , deseeded and finely chopped
  • shallots , finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 300g tomato , diced
  • 125g ball mozzarella or burrata (see tip, below), torn into pieces
  • handful basil leaves , torn, to serve
  • Cook the pasta following pack instructions. Meanwhile, put the chilli, shallots, oil, lemon zest, vinegar, sugar and tomatoes into a big mortar. If yours isn’t big enough, put it all in a bowl and just use the pestle in that. Add a good amount of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and bash everything together. Drain the pasta and toss together with the tomato mixture and mozzarella. Scatter over the basil and serve immediately.
  • It’s worth getting hold of burrata – a softer, creamier relative of mozzarella – for this dish. It will go oozingly melty and create a sauce that clings to the pasta.

I could also give you The Husband’s recipe for tomato salsa with its secret ingredient – but then I would be forced to kill you! Shall I ask him if he wants to do a guest spot?

Courgette/Zucchini et al

Courgette chutney recipe - Countryfile.com

In the UK we call them courgettes, in other countries, zucchini, and when they get BIG, they are called marrow.  Wherever they are, once they start producing they go on and on till you are wading through a glut. The trouble is, you cannot grow just one courgette. Minutes after you plant a single seed, hundreds of courgettes will barge out of the ground and sprawl around the garden, menacing the other vegetables. At night, you will be able to hear the ground quake as more and more courgettes erupt into monster marrows. So the trick is to pick and eat them quickly – although this now gives you the problem of what to do with them.  All of these recipes are freezerable – or pass-on-able – or barter- able (you know how your blackcurrants failed – find someone whose didn’t and do some trading!)


Courgette Frittatas (this recipe makes 8 but they keep in the fridge for a day or so so you can have two lunches – or invite a friend over for lunch in the garden and serve with a nice salad and a glass of cold white wine)

Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7, then put an empty muffin tin inside. Coarsely grate 1 large or 2 small courgettes and slice 4 spring onions. Heat 2 tsp rapeseed oil in a frying pan and fry the spring onions for about 3 mins. Stir in 1 crushed garlic clove and the grated courgette and cook for another 1 min, then set aside to cool. Beat 3 large eggs, a good pinch dill fronds and 4 tbsp Greek yogurt together in a jug, then season. Stir in the courgette mixture. Take the muffin tin out of the oven and drop in eight muffin cases, divide the egg mixture between the cases and bake for 15-18 mins until set and golden. Serve hot or cold.


Courgettes, like carrots, make very good cakes so don’t forget they can have a sweet side!

Courgette Loaf Cake

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Butter and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and sugar, then add the courgettes and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients with a pinch of salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, then pour into the tin. Bake for 1 hr, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool, then serve, or freeze for up to 1 month.

NB  You could go mad and throw a party and serve them all these recipes in one sitting! Starter, Main and Dessert! 

Hello, Blackberry Way . . .*

*with apologies to The Move (see below)

There are blackberry bushes – and there are blackberry bushes – and there is mine:


It’s absolutely HUGE – and laden with fruit!  Underneath are some old fallen apple trees, mistletoe, nettles and probably a host of homes for rabbits, mice and badgers. Luckily, I have lots of friends to come and pick – and lots of recipes.  Blackberries freeze beautifully – just lay them out, singly, on a tray and pop in the freezer.  Leave for a few hours and put in a bag.  We eat them all through the Winter first thing in the morning with porridge or on their own for a quick burst of Vitamin C and sunshine.

We all love blackberry crumble (with or without apple), pies and ice cream but I hope you will give these a try, too, when you can:

Blackberry Crumble Overnight Oats:

  • 50g fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 1 teaspoon runny honey
  • small handful chopped almonds or walnuts
  • 40g porridge oats
  • 150ml milk
  • 3 drops almond extract (optional)
Weigh however many blackberries you have and put in a bowl.  Weigh out half that weight in preserving sugar and add to the bowl.  Mash the fruit up slightly and leave aside for no less than an hour.  Put into a saucepan (you can at this point add a tablespoon of cassis if you like/have), bring to the boil and stir a rolling boil for exactly 5 minutes.  Allow to cool and put into sterilised jars.
Blackberry, Elderflower and Mint Fool
  • 200g ripe blackberries
  • 1 – 2 tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 60g caster sugar
  • a few fresh mint sprigs
  • 150ml double cream
  • 125ml full-fat Greek yogurt

Put the blackberries in a saucepan with the elderflower cordial, caster sugar and fresh mint sprigs. Set the pan over a medium heat and gently bubble the mixture for 10-15 minutes until the berries soften and release their juices, then reduce to a thick coulis. Remove from the heat and let it cool a little, then taste, adding more sugar or a dash more cordial if needed. Remove the mint sprigs. Allow the mixture to cool completely (it will become more like jam in consistency). Pour the double cream into a large bowl then, using an electric mixer, whisk to soft-medium peaks. Stir in the Greek yogurt, then fold in the cooled blackberry coulis, creating a swirled effect. Spoon the fool into a dish and serve straightaway, or cover and chill for up to 6 hours.


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