It really has been the most glorious summer and one thing will stick in my mind as the colder mornings are with us; the glut of fruit in the garden and greenhouse. Our fruit trees and bushes have groaned under the weight of their harvest. I started off making strawberry jam, froze raspberries, gooseberries and red and black currants. By the end of August I just could not keep up with picking plums. The sleepy, sophorific wasps were very busy with the plums so it was a challenge to get there in time. I made the most delicious plum and almond tart which will be the subject of a future post.

Back in the greenhouse, today is all about tomatoes. I don’t grow my own plants as I prefer to experiment with different varieties. In late March I stop anywhere on the road where there is a sign for tomato plants. In this way you have a lovely mix of beefsteak, yellow, cherry varieties and many of the old heirloom types that are making a come back. It all makes for a much more interesting tomato salad.

I love a home made tomato sauce which you can bring out of the freezer in the depths of winter. It forms the basis of a great and easy supper with pasta (preferably fresh) and some grated Parmesan. As you slowly re-heat the sauce, the kitchen will be full of that wonderful tomato, basil and garlic smell. Four minutes after cooking your fresh pasta, supper is ready. If you don’t have a ready supply of tomatoes to cook up now, buy them in bulk from the supermarket.

Ingredients –
4lbs fresh tomatoes
Olive Oil
Basil leaves
4 garlic cloves, crushed

Method –
Wash the tomatoes and then cut in half and place cut side up in a large roasting tin. If they are cherry tomatoes, I don’t even cut them in half. You will probably need more than one roasting tin. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and then scatter with the crushed garlic and torn basil leaves. Season with salt and black pepper.

roast tomatoes

Roast at 180 degrees (Aga – roasting oven) for 30 mins. The outside edges of the tomatoes should be crunchy. Remove from the oven and let them cool. Liquidize in a Magimix or with a hand blender and pour into tupperware boxes or freezer bags. Freeze when completely cold or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

You could also add chopped chillies to give some of the sauce an extra ommph. This sauce also makes a great base for a vegetarian lasagne with courgettes and aubergine.

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




Every time I make this treacle tart, friends and family ask for the recipe.  I have waited a while to publish my first ‘pastry’ post because I am a bit obsessive about the stuff.  I just love a tart !  Savoury ones are great and you just cannot beat a very well made, authentic
Quiche Lorraine for a weekend lunch. Ultimately though, my first love is a sweet tart and I nearly always include one when entertaining.  A few top ten favourites are tart au citron, pear & frangipane and good old Bakewell tart but this treacle tart is the winner every time.

First of all the filling.  No breadcrumbs here. I take inspiration from Bruce Poole’s book of the same name. He has a wonderful restaurant in South London, Chez Bruce and apparantly this is one of their most popular puddings. It’s the combination of golden syrup, eggs, double cream and gound almonds that gives you the light texture and a richness which is not cloying but still a wonderful treat.

The pastry is a whole subject on it’s own.  I have tried lots of combinations of Trex (vegetable fat), butter, margarine with plain flour, eggs, water, ground almonds and caster sugar. This Christmas I was thrilled to be given Richard Bertinet’s brilliant book Pastry. I followed his technique and recipe to the enth degree. You can even go on U tube and watch his tutorial !  So, I am going to put my head on the block here and tell you that I will now not make any other type of sweet pastry. Follow his exact method, placing the pastry in greaseproof paper and allow it to relax properly in the fridge. I can assure you that you will be able to handle the pastry shell and the finished result will be elegant with a sublime, buttery taste.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry – makes 2 shells made in 20 cm rings (4 cm deep)
Ingredients –
350 g plain flour
125 g butter – cold
125 g caster sugar
2 eggs + 1 yolk
pinch of salt

Place the flour and salt in a Magimix or Kenwood. Cut the butter into small dice and add to the bowl. Being very cautious, pulse the contents until the butter is about the size of your little finger nail. Add the sugar, pulse briefly. Add the eggs and yolk and again pulse briefly.
The dough will come together. Stop.
On a floured surface, bring the dough together gently and press down with your thumbs. Turn clockwise and repeat the gentle pressing. Do this no more than four or five times. The dough will then be like plasticine. Turn it on it’s side and knock it against the work surface to give it a straight edge all round.  Do not use too much flour on the work surface as it will alter the texture and consistency of the finished pastry.
Wrap the pastry in greaseproof paper as if you were wrapping a present and rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably longer.  Don’t use cling film as it makes the pastry sweaty. If you are in a hurry, pop in the freezer for 15 – 30 minutes.

When you are ready to cook the pastry shell, pre-heat the oven to 170C. AGA owners, no suprise, will use the baking oven.
I run my hands under the cold tap, then dry then thoroughly. On a clean work surface scatter a thin sprinkling of plain flour. Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut it in half. You can, if you prefer, freeze the pastry you don’t use. Using a rolling pin, carefully press and roll, turning clock wise all the time. This will give you a round shape. You are aiming for a thickness of about 3 mm. You may need to scatter more flour on the work surface and also on the rolling pin. Work as quickly as you can but enjoy it ! It should not be a stressful process!
Grease the tart ring with soft butter and then lift the pastry over the ring. Carefully press it into the bottom of the tin but leave an overhang of about an inch. This will be trimmed off later. Prick the base of the pastry shell all over with a fork then line it with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes then carefully remove the paper and beans, return to the oven and bake for a further 4 minutes. Remove to a cool place until you are ready to fill the tart.

Treacle Tart – serves 8-10
A pastry shell that you will make from half of the quantity above.
680 g golden syrup
280 g ground almonds
280 ml double cream
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten

Method –
Pre-heat the oven to 150C. If you are an AGA owner, you will use the baking oven.
Mix the ground almonds and syrup together in a large bowl. Add the cream and then the beaten eggs. Avoid over mixing. Stir rather than whisk as you don’t want too much air in the mixture. Pour into the baked tart shell and cook for 35 minutes. If the pastry is cooking too much, gently cover the tart with a dome of foil. Rest for at least an hour then trim the excess pastry from the edge with a sharp knife. This will give you a professional finish. Serve with double cream or creme fraiche. This is the most fabulous pudding you will make again and again.

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

Next time – JUGGED HARE




It’s still chilly out there and several friends have asked for a recipe for my smoked haddock chowder.  I visited Cape Cod last July and ordered this at a diner, a ‘locals’ cafe and a very upmarket, smart restaurant.  On the whole, I was disappointed each time.  The chowder was too milky and not fishy enough – no big flakes of lovely smoked haddock.  The vegetable content was largely just bits of potato.  All round, not enough love or care in the chowder.

The only solution is to make your own.  I’ve said it before but please DO NOT overcook the haddock. It’s expensive but you don’t need that much per person. Prep all the vegetables so they are the same size and make sure they are very fresh. Use double cream to finish and a good handful of chopped, flat leaf parsley.  The addition of lemon zest finishes it off with a zingy taste.  It can be an elegant starter for a winter dinner party or a filling lunch on it’s own. Serve with brown bread. Look out for this in a future post – a whole new subject for us!

Smoked Haddock Chowder – serves 6
800 g undyed smoked haddock
1 litre full fat milk
6 black peppercorns
25 g unsalted butter
3 rashers smoked streaky bacon, derinded and chopped
1 leek, washed
3 carrots, washed
3 celery sticks, washed
3 medium potatoes, washed
3 sprigs lemon thyme
2 bay leaves
sea salt and freshly gound black pepper
150 ml double cream
grated zest of a lemon
handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Chop all the washed vegetables so they are diced the same size. Lay out the fish on a board and check for pin bones. Place the milk and peppercorns in a wide saucepan and gently heat. Bring to a simmer, add the haddock and remove from the heat.  The cooling liquid will gently cook the fish

In another saucepan, melt the butter and cook the bacon until it is just browning. Add all the vegetables and herbs and cook gently for 10 minutes

Drain the haddock but keep the poaching milk.  Gently break the fish into large flakes and
look out for any bones you may have missed. Strain the poaching milk to remove the peppercorns then add the liquid to the vegetables. You now need to turn the heat up slightly so the potatoes and carrots are just tender. Don’t let the milk boil.  Carefully add the haddock flakes and stir everything together. Discard the herbs and add the cream. Warm it through again and taste to check the seasoning.  It’s unlikely to need any more salt.

Serve in warmed soup bowls and garnish with the chopped parsley and lemon zest. This is perfect for the weather right now.

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

Next time – TREACLE TART



Pigeon & Beetroot Terrine

As of 1st February, the pheasant and partridge season is over but there is still  pigeon to be had out there in the countryside. Around us, the locals will gather in the woods during the late afternoon on a Saturday waiting for dusk and the pigeons coming to roost. These wily birds are really wild and very difficult to shoot as they jink high in the sky. The guns must remain well hidden in the near dark so they are not seen.

Therefore, any wild pigeon should be treated with the respect it deserves in the kitchen. If you are given any pigeon, pluck the breast feathers off straight away and then cut the breasts off. This is not a game bird to roast. Two tips – do NOT cook the pigeon breasts for too long.  Flash fry them for 30 seconds on each side then roast for 3 minutes.  Overcooked pigeon breast is tough and horrible to eat. Secondly, I always marinade the pigeon breast for 24 hours in a combination of red wine, a little goundnut oil and seasoning such as garlic and herbs. The process of marinading the meat helps to tenderise it and also improves the flavour of the pigeon that has been cooked quickly. If you are looking for a supply of pigeon, ask your local butcher or, in the countryside, a farmer.

For a recipe, I go back to an old cookery book Cooking for Friends by Raymond Blanc (1994).  He looks very young on the front cover! You can still get a Used copy on Amazon for £4.30. Pigeon & Beetroot terrine is a recipe that is brilliant for a winter dinner party.  It’s not difficult as long as you plan ahead and as always, use the correct sized equipment. In this case, a loaf tin.  I buy all this type of kitchen stuff in Biggers of Bailgate in Lincoln – contact details below.  You will need a weight to press the terrine down and I use a bag of lentils/beans etc.  Use something that is heavy and will also spread out to fill the space.

Finally a serving tip. After the terrine has been turned out, use a very sharp carving knife to cut a clean, tidy slice. I then use a cake slice to carefully place it on the plate.  I am making it sound a huge faff. It’s not, but I have done this many times and this is the best method. Please try it, your family and friends will be impressed and it’s delicious.

Equipment – 1 loaf (terrine) tin 9 inches long, 4 inches wide and 4 inches deep
8 breasts of wild pigeon
1 tbsp groundnut oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine
2 juniper berries, crushed
freshly ground black pepper
1 bayleaf

For the terrine
1 kg beetroots
1 tbsp caster sugar\
12 black peppercorns, crushed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
5 gelatine leaves – soak them in a bowl of cold water to soften

For the garnish
2 handfuls of various salad leaves
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method –
Mix the marinade ingredients together. Place the pigeon breasts in a small flat dish and pour over the marinade. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. It’s good if you can remember to turn them a few times.

Wash the beetroots and place in a casserole dish. Cover with cold water and add a tsp of salt, the sugar, peppercorns and vinegar. Simmer for 50 minutes.  I do this in the Aga (baking oven), otherwise a moderate oven – 150C if fine. Check they are cooked with a knife blade – they may need more time if they are large. Leave them to cool in the liquid.
This will be retained to make the jelly.  Peel the beetroot and chop into 1/2 inch dice. Taste to check the seasoning.  Set aside.

Place 300 ml of the beetroot water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the softened gelatine, take off the heat and stir. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 230C. Place the terrine tin in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Remove the pigeon breasts from the marinade and pat dry. Take a frying pan and heat the oil until hot. Sear the breasts for 30 seconds on each side. Season with salt and pepper and then place in a roasting tin in the oven for 3 minutes. Remove from the tin and allow to cool. Season again with more salt and pepper.

You will now build the terrine.  Remove the terrine tin from the freezer and pour an 1/8inch
layer of jelly on the bottom.  This will set immediately. Neatly place a layer of diced beetroot in the terrine, then along the middle, a line of pigeon breast. Cover with another layer of the diced beetroot. Top with the beetroot jelly and cover the terrine with cling film.  Place the weight on top of the cling film and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Just before serving, remove the weight and cling film from the terrine.  Dip the terrine tin in hot water. Heat a sharp knife under hot water and carefully run the blade along the inside.
Carefully invert onto a flat plate.  Cut the terrine into slices and using the cake slice, place
onto the plates. Garnish with the salad leaves.  Shake the salad dressing ingredients in a jam jar, season and drizzle onto the leaves.  Your guests will love this delicious and smart

Contact details – In Lincoln, Biggers of Bailgate – 01522 525 536

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




It’s really cold outside and as I am carrying a few extra pounds I need to eat something healthy, delicious and comforting.  I have to thank my good friend Petra Duguid for this wonderful recipe.  Petra’s a great cook and as many of her recipes are from the US  I have adapted this for the UK.  Please don’t think this is a ‘tree-hugging’ recipe because you will use lentils and split peas.  My family are strictly carnivore but this fabulous vegetarian soup is very popular and absolutely delicious. It’s the combination of the creamy coconut with the spicy curry powder along with the bite of fresh ginger and the coriander.  Try it once and I know you will love it.

Red lentils and yellow split peas are easy to use.  Just remember to rinse and rinse again until the scummy water they give off is gone.

Coconut Red Lentil Soup – serves 6
Ingredients –

200 g yellow split peas
200 g red split lentils
1.6 litres water
1 medium carrot, diced
2 tblsp fresh peeled and grated ginger
2 tblsp medium curry powder
2 tblsp butter
8 spring onions
45 g raisins
80 ml tomato paste
1 x 400ml can of coconut milk (use low-fat if you prefer)
2 tsp sea salt
large handful of fresh coriander

Method –
Place the lentils and split peas into a sieve and run cold water over them for a few minutes.  I then place them in a bowl and fill it carefully with more clean cold water.  If the water is still murky, repeat the sieve/running cold water exercise.
Now put them in a large pan with the 1.6 litres cold water. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the carrot and 1/4 of the grated ginger. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.  The split peas need to be soft.

Whilst the pan is simmering, take a small frying pan and toast the curry powder over a low heat until it gives off a lovely fragrant smell.  Be careful though, you don’t want to burn it. Set aside. Place the butter in a pan over a medium heat and add half the onions, remainder of the ginger and the raisins. Cook for a few minutes whilst stirring then add the tomato paste and stir again.

Add the toasted curry powder to the tomato paste mixture, mix well then add this to the simmering soup along with the coconut milk and the salt. Simmer, uncovered for about 20 minutes. The soup will thicken up and if it’s too thick for your liking, add more water.

Ladle into warm bowls and sprinkle over the remaining spring onions and a good scattering of coriander. I eat this with brown bread but you could be really good and eat it with rice or even brown rice !  I sometimes have a little left over and actually, it’s even better on Day 2.

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

Next time – PIGEON



If you have marmalade fans in your family, you simply must make Seville orange marmalade. The flavour, chunkiness of peel and ‘bite’ of the homemade stuff is
just so much better than even the smart brands you can buy in the shops. You will also be a very popular guest if you can bear to give away some of your fabulous marmalade as a hostess present!
Seville is a lovely city to visit and I was lucky enough to have a mini-break there last January. The whole city is full of orange trees groaning under the weight of this strange, knobbly fruit. They are definitely not ‘eaters’ but for a short 2-4 weeks you will find them in Waitrose. Sadly, my local Tesco in Lincoln does not stock them.

Like baking, preserving calls for you to be quite scientific, so use the correct equipment and weigh out the ingredients accurately. It’s very straightforward – for every 2lb of Seville oranges you use, add 1 lemon and 4lb of granulated sugar.

You will need four bits of kit. A preserving pan, squares of muslin, string and a few saucers. Stay with me on this. It’s necessary but easy. In Lincoln, I return to Bigger of Bailgate for the muslin. Contact details below. You can also get this type of kitchen equipment from Lakeland. It’s lovely to use those smart preserving jars but any sterilised, old jam jars will do.

A word on hygiene: you will be making (or giving away) your precious marmalade and expecting it to keep for a year. Therefore, it’s very important to sterilise the jars properly. I put them and the lids through a dish washing cycle and then leave them to cool.

Seville Orange Marmalade

Ingredients to make 6 x 1lb jars –
2 lb Seville oranges
1 lemon
4lb granulated sugar

Method –
Put 4 pints of cold water into the preserving pan. Cut the oranges and lemon in half and squeeze out all of the juice. Add the juice to the water and place the pips and any bits of pith in the centre of a muslin square. The pith and pips contain pectin which is the important ‘setting’ agent.
Cut the orange peel into quarters and then using a very sharp knife, cut the quarters into shreds. This is a very personal thing and all I can say is that if you have particular family requests for ‘shred thickness’, recruit helpers ! If your family love marmalade as much as mine do, you could have batches of thick and thin shreds. Add the orange shreds to the water.
Tie up your muslin square containing the pips and pith with the string to make a little bag. Make a handle with the string so the bag is immersed in the water. Bring the pan slowly up to the boil for about 2 hours until the shreds are completely soft. Now put the saucers in the freezer.
Remove the muslin bag from the pan and set aside. Pour the sugar into the pan and over a low heat, slowly dissolve the crystals. Do not proceed with the next step until the sugar is totally dissolved. Turn up the heat under the pan. Squeeze the muslin bag over the pan with your hands or a spoon against the side so that the sticky, pectin oozes out. Stir into the mixture.
Your pan will now be boiling and as soon as it does, start timing. After 15 minutes, bring out a frozen saucer and put a teaspoon full of mixture on it and place in fridge. When it’s cooled, push the mixture gently with your finger. If it’s set, it will crinkle. If not, continue to boil for another 7-8 minutes and then try again.
When you are happy with the ‘setting’, remove the pan from the heat – there might be a little scum on top of the mixture. You can add a teaspoon of butter to disperse it or carefully skim it off. Then let the mixture settle for 20 minutes.
I now put my clean jars in a moderate oven for 5 minutes to finish off the sterilisation.
Use a ladle or funnel to fill the jars being very careful not to burn yourself. Seal the jars whilst still hot and label when they are cold. Store in a cold and dark place if possible.

At this stage it’s impossible not to feel smug as you admire your beautiful, filled jars. Making marmalade got me into preserving and now I make chutney and jam as well.

Contact details – 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.



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