By now, turkey, mince pies and Christmas pudding are all in the past!  It’s time to eat something a little healthier and lighter. But, because it’s so cold out there, I want to carry on eating comfort food and fish pie ticks all the boxes. Use your favourite fish – cod every time for me and a combination of those delicious, big prawns, free range hard boiled eggs and to give it a lift, capers. Cover with a creamy white sauce made with the fish stock, flavoured with lemon juice and parsley. Top the whole lot with smooth mashed potato. All you need is a bag of frozen petit pois and maybe carrots.

Two top tips –
Do not cook the precious, expensive, lovely fish for too long. Most cookery books will tell you to poach the fish fillets for 20 minutes. This is far too long! Twelve minutes is fine. Don’t forget you will be re-heating the whole fish pie after the mashed potato is added. You are aiming for large, just cooked flakes of fish not mush.

Secondly, any recipe that uses mashed potato calls for a potato ricer. This is a wonderful kitchen utensil that will guarantee that your mashed potato will be completely lump free. You can buy this kind of kitchen utensil at Bigger of Bailgate, Lincoln. Contact details below or in good kitchen shops like John Lewis.
Use a knob of butter to make your mashed potato creamy. Avoid adding milk which turns your lovely mash into slop.

Your family and friends will love this fish pie and there won’t be any leftovers. For the basis of the recipe, I return to Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course. I bought this book in 1984 and like alot of us, it’s a bit frayed at the edges now but still full of great ideas ! Currently, you can buy a Used copy from Amazon for £2.41. Has to be good value.

Fish Pie – serves 6
Ingredients –
800 g white fish – haddock or cod.
1 pint of milk
4 oz butter
2 oz plain flour
75 g large peeled prawns
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 tblsp capers, drained
3 tblsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
tblsp lemon juice
salt and black pepper
1 kg potatoes – for instance Maris Piper
2 oz of butter
a little grated nutmeg

Method –
Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. AGA owners will use the roasting oven.
Place the white fish into an oven proof dish and cover with half the milk. Top with 25 g of butter in flecks and season with salt and pepper. Poach for 12 minutes. Reserve the cooking liquid and carefully remove the skin and any bones from the fish. Flake the fish into large pieces and place in a buttered, baking dish. It needs to be deep enough to take the addition of the mashed potato.
To make the sauce, place 75 g of butter into a medium saucepan and melt. Stir in the flour and then gradually whisk in the cooking liquid and the remaining milk. Season, add the parsley and then let the sauce gently cook for 10 minutes. 
Add the prawns, chopped eggs and capers evenly to the fish in the baking dish.
Check the seasoning of the sauce and then add the lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the fish mixture and make sure all the ingredients are well covered.

Boil the peeled potatoes until tender and drain. When cool enough to handle, put the freshly cooked potatoes through the potato ricer into a large bowl.  Add the remaining butter, some nutmeg and salt and pepper. Spoon the mashed potato over the fish and carefully spread it out with a fork.

The fish pie can now be re-heated in the oven at the same temperature (200 C) for 30 minutes or until piping hot. Serve with green vegetables and/or carrots. Tomato ketchup – up to you!

Contact details – In Lincoln, Bigger of Bailgate for a great range of kitchen utensils.


Address: 48 Bailgate, Lincoln LN1 3AP.

Tel – +44 (0)1522 525 536

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – Seville Orange Marmalade



It is highly possible that like me, you are standing in your kitchen looking at your half eaten turkey. Sandwiches are still a good option but I always like to make a turkey and leek pie at this time. It’s the combination of the white and brown meat, tender leeks and a delicious creamy sauce married to a golden, puff pastry crust topping. The addition of smoked, streaky bacon is good or add left over stuffing. A green salad is all you need to go with it but if you want to make it go further, do jacket potatoes and petit pois!

First of all, you need to make the turkey stock that forms the basis of the cream sauce. The quality of the stock really affects the end result so take a little time to get this right. It will be worth it.

Remove all the meat from the turkey carcase and store it, covered in the fridge. Place the carcase in your largest casserole (you may have to break it up). Add a chopped carrot, onion and celery if you have it. Season with salt, a few black pepper corns and a couple of bay leaves. Add just enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil and then transfer to a low temperature oven (120 / 130 C) for two hours. Discard the carcase and vegetables and strain the liquid through a sieve. You should then have at least a litre of fragrant stock.

Ingredients – serves 6 to 8. 
800 g cooked turkey meat, cut into big chunks
4 leeks – washed and trimmed. Chop the white ends into chunks and finely slice the green ends.
2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon – chopped
A handful of fresh thyme and sage
Olive oil
Large knob of butter
2 heaped tbsp plain flour
200 ml single or double cream

1 x 500 g packet puff pastry
1 free range egg, beaten

Method –
Preheat the oven to 190 C. – Aga users will use the baking oven.

Then put the bacon and herbs in a large casserole and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and the butter. Fry off for a few minutes. Add the leeks and fry them off for 3 minutes. Season, put a lid on and let them cook on a very low heat for 15 minutes.  Stir every 5 minutes so the leeks don’t catch.
Add the turkey meat plus any left over stuffing. Add the flour, mix in well then stir in the stock. Heat gently for 10 minutes. Once combined, the sauce will thicken. Add the cream and check the seasoning. Bring the mixture to the boil then spoon into an oven proof dish – 22 x 30 cm.
Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the puff pastry to fit the dish. Tuck the ends in and score the surface with a knife. Add a pinch of salt to the beaten egg and brush over the top of the pastry.  Place in the oven for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is hot.
This really is a most delicious and easy way to use Christmas left overs. 

Have a relaxing holiday weekend.

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – FISH PIE



This post is for all of you that have not made a Christmas cake yet! It’s the week before Christmas and lots of cookery books are telling us we should have made the cake in October !  Actually, this delicious cake is popular with my family all year round. It travels really well and so is perfect for picnics and those holidays where you cater for yourselves.

So, if you feel inspired to make a Christmas cake, this one will be perfect for eating next week. All you will need to turn it into a Christmas cake is the ready to roll out marzipan and royal icing.

The secret to a delicious, moist cake is the amount of alcohol (brandy) you use and also, how long you soak the dried fruit in the brandy.  I cover the fruit with a clean tea towel and then place it in a cold pantry for up to 3 days.  Every now and again, stir the fruit.

Assemble all your ingredients and make sure you can be around for 2 – 2.1/2 hours. As ever, with baking, the correct tin size is crucial and this one requires a deep 20 cm tin.  Line the base and sides with bacoglide or baking parchment / greaseproof paper. You will need an extra circle of bacoglide / paper for the top of the cake to stop it getting too brown.

Ingredients –
1lb currants
6 oz sultanas
6 oz raisins
2 oz glace cherries – chopped
5 fl. oz brandy
8 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
8 oz unsalted butter- softened
8 oz soft brown sugar
4 large free range eggs
3  oz chopped almonds
2 tblsp black treacle – Tip: Place the tin in a very low oven to make the treacle easier to extract.
Grated rinds of 1 lemon and 1 orange

Preparation –
Soak all the fruit in the brandy for at least one day – you’ll get a better result if you leave them longer than one day.

Method –
Pre-heat the oven to 140C.  Aga users will use the simmering oven for up to 3.1/2 hours. 

Sift the flour, salt and spices in a large bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together. I use a kitchenaid, an essential for any keen baker. This is the most important process and the mixture should be pale, light and fluffy.  Beat the eggs in a small bowl and then slowly add to the creamed butter and sugar.  Don’t panic if it curdles.  Add a little of the flour to stabilise the mixture. 
When the eggs have all been added, take a large spoon and fold in the flour/spices gently. Stir in the soaked fruit and then the nuts, treacle and grated orange and lemon zest. If you feel like it, add a little more brandy!
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and even it out with a spoon.  Place your disc of bacoglide/paper on top. Cut a small hole out of the centre of the paper so the top cooks
After 2 1/2 hours the cake should feel firm with a slight ‘give’ to the top when gently pressed. Let it go completely cold then wrap it in foil or store in a tin.  You can now eat it as a luxury fruit cake or use marzipan and icing to make it into a Christmas/Celebration cake.

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – Turkey and Leek Pie


At this time of the year there will be an evening when you want to push the boat out.  It’s not quite the Christmas season but you feel wintery and festive.

I get a few friends round and put a bit of extra time in.  I feel that I want to do something a bit special.  The dinner (or lunch) calls for Partridge.

If you live in the country, you will come across coveys of partridge (a family group), particularly at harvest time in the stubble fields.  They are highly likely to be red legged, French partridges. I am told by a local Lincolnshire expert that the English ones fly too fast and people can’t shoot them!  The French ones are also easier to rear.  So, this is a bird that has not even led the life as a grass/corn fed chicken in a field or barn.  It’s completely wild and therefore has a wonderful gamey (but not too gamey) taste.  I much prefer it to it’s wild neighbour, the pheasant.  Generally a partridge is easier to bring to a lovely, ‘just cooked enough, done’ state whereas a pheasant , roasted, can easily be tough.

Buying them should not be that difficult.  You cannot find them in supermarkets here but a good butcher will have them or I hope you can find a game dealer.  I buy dressed (plucked and cleaned) partridges by the box from Jonathan Fenwick at Beelsby.  Each partridge comes very conveniently, individually wrapped.  You should allow one partridge per person.  Currently the price/partridge is between £4-6/brace.  There are two partridges in a brace. Contact details below.

For an idea for a recipe I go back to a book from 1995. Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers – THE RIVER CAFE COOK BOOK.  I spent the 90’s in a flat in Ladbroke Grove cooking from this book and still love it today.  There is a not a huge amount of meat on a partridge but I would be serving a Starter and a Pudding, maybe cheese.  All the partridge needs is the Chestnut stuffing, the pan juices and a nutty, creamy parsnip puree.  You will be transported to a Tuscan winter and your friends will have had a real treat.

Partridge with Proscuitto and a Chestnut Stuffing served with a Parsnip Puree
Serves – 6

Ingredients –
6 partridges, plucked and cleaned
80 g unsalted butter
6 slices prosciutto
1 tablespoon olive oil
150 ml Italian red wine – I recommend a light red like Dolcetta

For the stuffing –
250 g pack vacuum-packed peeled chestnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
175 g fresh belly pork (minced) or good quality sausage meat
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
100 g pancetta, chopped
150 ml Italian red wine as above
1 teaspoon crushed juniper berries
1/4 nutmeg, grated
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method –
Make the stuffing. Break chestnuts into small pieces. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, pork or sausage meat and thyme, and cook, stirring, until the meat is brown. Add the pancetta, the wine, juniper and nutmeg and cook together for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cool. This can be all done in advance and I prefer it that way.  All the flavours mesh together.

When you are ready to cook the partridges, preheat the oven to 230 C. (Aga roasting oven). Add the chestnut pieces to the cool stuffing and then stuff each bird. Cover the partridge breasts with a covering of butter and then a slice of proscuitto. Brush a suitably sized roasting tin with the oil and brown the birds for 10 mins. Baste with the buttery juices and then lower the heat to 180 C for a further 20 minutes. (Aga baking oven). Test by pulling a leg away – if still too pink, cook for a few more minutes.  Remove to a warmed meat platter and cover with foil.  They will sit happily in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Parsnip Puree –
Serves 6
Ingredients –
6 large parsnips, peeled
60 g unsalted butter plus a little extra to finish
400 ml full fat milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method –
Chop the parnsips into even 1cm dice. Melt the butter, add the parnsips and season well with salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Occasionally, move them around with a spoon. Add enough milk to cover the parsnips and cook over a low heat until they have completely softened – about 15 minutes. Strain off the milk and keep it warm.  Blend the parnsips in a Magimix (or with a hand held blender), adding back enough milk to make a thick, smooth puree.  Check the seasoning.  When you are ready to serve, gently reheat the parnip puree with a knob of butter.

Deglaze the roasting pan juices with the red wine. Spoon the puree onto each hot plate and place the whole partridge on top. Spoon the red wine juices over the birds and serve immediately.

Contact details –
In Lincolnshire, contact Jonathan Fenwick for boxes of partridges – 07860 869 537 or 01472 371 245.

Next time – RICH, FRUIT CAKE




I spent this weekend baking for the Fillingham Trees Christmas Cafe which has now opened.  I wasn’t at all suprised that the chocolate brownies were very popular.  I make these nearly every week and they are a firm favourite.

Funny things, chocolate brownies.  We did not grow up with them and yet they are now on
every menu in some guise or other or sold at vast expense as a little chocolate square of
sugar in cellophane.

So, like Apple, a US import that is actually very versatile.  They work for me as a comforting, sugar fix when you need a boost with morning coffee or your afternoon mug of Earl Grey.  Or, slightly warmed, with caramelised oranges in the winter or raspberries in the summer, they make a delicious, smart pudding.  Use a small, pretty, rectangular white plate with a helping of double cream or creme fraiche.  I have even cut them into very small (inch) squares, dusted them with icing sugar and served them with coffee as an after dinner treat.  People just come back for more.

Stacked up on a beautiful plate, with a few candles, they make a very indulgent, grown up birthday cake.  Or, take them to a friend’s house in a nice tin if you need a hostess present.

But, you need the right recipe and a few tips (no rules, as I have banned them, tips are fine). Don’t worry about your baking skills. Creaming, whisking and folding techniques are not required.  Brownies are made from a batter mixture.  I use one spatula.

The consistency of the baked brownies is the key to success. Your brownies should be slightly crisp on the outside yielding to a deep, intense chocolate inner bite.  I add walnuts to the batter mix because I love the combination but please be creative as you like.  You may love pecans, cherries, dried cranberries.  Whatever you feel like at the time and how your brownies are going to work for you. So, creativity is fine but please not when it comes to the basic recipe.  Let’s face it, baking calls for you to be accurate. Weigh the ingredients preferably using electronic scales.  Don’t get hung up about cocoa %.  Use Bournville.

Lastly and probably most important.  You will achieve the right level of squidginess if you use the correct size tin.  Too big a tin and your brownies will be moist biscuits.  Too small a tin and your brownies will be a gooey mess in the centre.  I use a tin that is 18 cm x 28 cm.  The brownies are then 3 cm deep. Invest in this one tin and you will use it all the time.
I line mine with bacoglide which I then keep to use again but baking parchment is fine, cut to size.  I buy baking tins and bacoglide from Bigger of Bailgate in Lincoln – contact details

Makes 15 pieces

Ingredients –
250 g salted butter
250 g Bournville chocolate
4 large free-range eggs
330 g caster sugar
3/4 tablespoon vanilla extract
150 g plain flour sieved
pinch of salt
150 g walnut pieces

Method –
Preheat the oven to 180C.  Using a heavy large pan, place the chocolate and butter on a very low heat and let them completely melt.  Stir and leave to cool a little.  In a large bowl, stir the eggs into the caster sugar until the mixture is completely combined and lump free.  Add the vanilla essence.
Add the egg/sugar mixture to the chocolate/butter and combine well.  Sieve the flour into
the mixture and then add the walnuts.  Pour into the prepared, lined tin.
Place in the oven and set the timer for 35 minutes.
For you Aga owners, put the grid shelf on the floor of the baking oven and bake the brownies for 25 minutes.  Check after 20 mins and if the top is cooking too quickly, slip a cold plain shelf on the second set of runners for the last 5 minutes. If the mixture is too squidgey, transfer the tin to the simmering oven for up to 10 minutes.
The top of the brownie mixture, when cooked will be a pale golden, speckled colour.  Press the top gently and if it feels too wet, give the tin another few minutes.  The brownies will continue to cook in the tin so don’t be over cautious and give them too long.
Nothing worse than a dry brownie. If the very centre one is a bit too squidgy the first time you make them, just eat it yourself!

Useful Contacts –
Fillingham Christmas Trees –

Fillingham Trees, Albion House, Manor Farm, Fillingham, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire DN21 5BS   Tel – 01427 667 014

Bigger of Bailgate, 48 Bailgate, Lincoln LN1 3AP. Tel – 01522 525 536

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – Partridge