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





This weekend I was asked to make a selection of canapés for a Drinks party. With Christmas coming up (yes, we cannot ignore it any longer!) it seemed the right time to pass on three canapé ideas that work and are very popular.

Remember, canapés need to be easy to prepare and assemble in a short period of time.  If it’s your party and you are the host, prepare ahead and avoid canapés that need a lot of work at the last minute.  It won’t be much fun if you are in the kitchen all the time! So, I freeze ahead and have fillings ready in the fridge.

As ever, the correct equipment is a must and this is where I introduce you to the mini muffin tin.  If you like this type of entertaining, you will use this tin again and again so invest in a good quality, non-stick version that holds 24.  You will also need a plastic squirty bottle and piping bag and I recommend disposable ones.  I buy all this type of kitchen equipment from Biggers in Lincoln.  Biggers offer the best retail experience in Lincoln and supply absolutely everything a professional or keen amateur cook would want.  Contact details below.

My three Canapes are:

  •  Mini Yorkshire puddings with fillet of beef and horseradish and mustard sauce
  • Lincolnshire sausages stuffed with mustard mash
  • Herb omelettes stuffed with ricotta

To get ahead, freeze the prepared sausages and Yorkshire puddings and assemble the omelettes on the day and store in the fridge.

Mini Yorkshire puddings with fillet of beef and horseradish and mustard sauce (for 24 pieces):

200g piece trimmed fillet of British beef
170g plain flour
2 large eggs
175 ml full fat milk mixed with 120 ml water
2 rounded tablespoons hot horseradish sauce
2 level teaspoons wholegrain mustard
1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche
24 sprigs fresh watercress

Preheat the oven to 220 C and pre-heat a sturdy flat baking tray.

Sift the flour into a bowl, add salt and pepper, add the eggs and whisk together.  The mixture will be stiff.  Incorporate the milk/water gradually to make a smooth batter.  If you have a Magimix, you can do this in a few minutes.  Decant the batter mixture into the squirty bottle.

Place the muffin tin on the baking tray and brush the cups generously with the beef dripping.  Preheat the tin for 10 mins.

Carefully place the baking tray and tin over direct heat and squirt a tablespoon of batter mixture into each cup.  Aim for the centre and you will get a little dimple in the Yorkshire pudding which helps to hold the beef and sauce in place.  Immediately return to the oven and bake for 12-15 mins.  They should be well risen and crispy.  Cool on a wire rack.  At this point you could freeze the Yorkshires but be sure to re-crisp in a hot oven for a few minutes before serving.

To cook the beef, turn the oven up to 230C.  Pre-heat a frying pan and brush with a little dripping.  Seal the beef on all sides.  Don’t move it round until it’s sealed properly.  This
will take a few minutes. Season, then transfer to the oven and roast for 18 minutes (for rare beef).  Trust me, this recipe calls for rare beef!  Allow to cool then wrap in cling film and chill.  I take it back to my friendly local butcher who kindly slices it for me on his professional slicer.  If you can’t do this, carve on the day as thinly as you can. You will need 24 slices.

When you are ready to serve, arrange a fold of sliced beef on each Yorkshire. Mix together all the sauce ingredients, then add a teaspoon of the sauce and sprig of watercress on top of the beef.  It looks tidier to pipe the sauce.

These canapés are so popular.  Every one will go !

Lincolnshire Sausages stuffed with Mustard Mash (for 24 pieces):

24 Lincolnshire cocktail sausages
120g mashed potato
wholegrain mustard
Parmesan cheese
chilli jam and tomato ketchup

A quick word about sausages.  They are a very personal taste and I only buy them from my local butcher, Topliss in Kirton Lindsey.  You will have your own favourite type.  If you can’t find cocktail size ones you like, buy the chipolatas and neatly cut them in half.  Or, your butcher may make them in cocktail size to order.

Grill the sausages so they are cooked evenly and nicely brown.  Cool completely.

Warm the mashed potato in a microwave until it is just soft.  Add enough mustard to taste and to loosen the mixture.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Transfer to the piping bag, snip the end and to be efficient, stand the bag in a container such as a measuring jug.

When the sausages are cold, cut half way through lengthways and gently push open.  Take the piping bag and neatly pipe into the opening.  By the time you have done 10, you will be an expert and will be able to make a pretty pattern!

Store in the fridge until you need them or freeze them at this stage.

When you are ready to serve, pre-heat the oven to 200C.  Arrange on a baking tray and sprinkle with Parmesan. Heat through for 7-10 minutes. Transfer to your serving dish with shot glasses full of chilli jam and tomato ketchup.  Keep back in the kitchen until they are not mouth burning hot.

These simple canapés are so popular.  Serve full sized chipolatas to teenagers/bonfire night/carol singing etc.

Herb omelettes stuffed with ricotta (for 24 pieces)

Now for something completely different……  These canapés are elegant and sophisticated but not complicated to make.  They cover off the vegetarian option and look beautiful served on a platter scattered with chives or parmesan.

For the recipe I go back to Orlando Murrin’s wonderful book A Table in the Tarn – Living, Eating and Cooking in South-West France

For the filling:
A handful of basil and parsley, roughly chopped
250g tub ricotta
3 tablespoons Parmesan

For the omelettes:
1 clove of garlic
A handful of chives, chopped
4 large free range eggs
3 tablespoons Parmesan grated
Oil for frying

To serve:
A few snippings of chive and a scattering of Parmesan

Using a Magimix, mix all the filling ingredients first.  Add plenty of seasoning so it’s not bland.  Transfer to a bowl.  It will be a beautiful pale green.

Without washing the processor bowl, mix together the omelette ingredients. Transfer to a measuring jug.  Check where your one-third measure is.  You will be making 3 omelettes.

Heat the oil in a medium sized non-stick frying pan and when hot, add third of the mixture. Quickly spread out so it is thin (like a thick pancake).  When it is set slide onto a flat board covered with greaseproof paper.  Repeat to make 3 omelettes with the paper in between.

When they are completely cold, spread with an even amount of the filling (to the edges).  Roll up neatly into a sausage shape using the paper to help you. Refridgerate until ready to serve.  Slice on the diagonal and sprinkle with snippings of chive and a little Parmesan.

You may want to eat the end bits yourself.  I do. Cook’s benefits!

For great canapes in Norfolk – Fi Bullen – or call 07796 854 103

Useful Contacts:
Bigger Of Bailgate Ltd. 48 BAILGATE, LINCOLN. 01522 525536.
Topliss Butchers. 24 High St, Kirton Lindsey, Lincs. 01652 648230

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

Next time – Chocolate Brownies


I have been encouraged by my hungry friends to write this blog as apparently I spend a lot of time thinking about food, talking about it, cooking it and of course eating it. Mostly, I cook for my family and friends but I also cook for local people in Lincolnshire – food for their freezers, dinner and drinks parties. Food is one of the greatest pleasures in our lives and I would like to share my passion with anyone else who is interested.

Continue reading