Note to self

Rice pudding with blueberry compote scented with lemon and thyme served with clotted cream icecream…… rice and blueberries need not be to sweet.

August 25, 2011 at 10:42 pm Leave a comment

Chocolate Roulade

This is to my children what Black Forest Gateaux is to me…… a totally decadent dessert made for special occasions – This is my summer version.

It’s a two day process to make a good roulade, you can make it in one day but trust me it’s worth the extra time.

you will need

225g/8oz plain chocolate

4 eggs separated

1 tsp camp coffee

100g/40z castor sugar,

plus a little extra for sprinkling


300ml/1/2 pint double cream

1 punnet fresh raspberries

4 tbsp icing sugar

1-2 tbsp vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas 4

Line a 23x33cm (9″x13″) swiss roll tin with greaseproof paper

Melt 175g chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and thick  (5 mins)

Stir the melted chocolate and camp coffee into the egg and sugar – it will become very thick and solid.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and using a large metal spoon fold into the chocolate mixture (I usually beat a 1/3 of the egg whites in to the chocolate – it loosens the mix and makes it easier to fold in the rest)

Spread this out on the prepared tin and bake for 15-20 mins – it should be risen and firm – be careful not to burn it!

Sprinkle a fresh piece of grease proof paper with some caster sugar and carefully turn the roulade out on to it.

Peel off the lining paper and cover the roulade with a clean warm damp tea towel and leave to cool (this is where it is best to leave it overnight)

Whip the cream in a bowl until it forms soft peaks (Reserve 5 tablespoons for the top)

Stir the icing sugar and vanilla essence in to the the cream, then mix through the raspberries.

Spread the cream over the cooled roulade and roll it up (from the short end)

Decorate with the reserved cream and chocolate curls made with the left over chocolate.

Chill until ready to serve – you should have enough for 8 – 10 people depending how much you love chocolate.


June 10, 2011 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

techno mum vs mother nature

Sometimes its the simple things that give us the greatest pleasure.

After nearly six months of saving, waiting, holding my breath feeling guilty my brand new state of the art washing machine arrived last night and it is awesome.

Although I will never take for granted the pleasure of having clean fresh smelling clothes (thank you LG), the wind whipping my laundry wildly on the the line outside, is what is making me smile.

A few bright (dry) days and I should be back in charge of my laundry and then I plan to cook up a storm………….

November 4, 2010 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

From of the mouths of……….. small children

I am so sick of saying “what shall we eat tonight” that it comes as a refreshing change when one of my almost 4 year old puts in a request for dinner.

Jake makes sporadic requests, which much to the amusement of his daddy, are often made before breakfast. Today’s request is pizza – it is a special request as he wants pizza with tomato, sausage and fish fingers.

Don’t knock it – this is a carefully thought out request! One which I do my best to accommodate, the ability to make decisions about the food you eat is critical.

If you are a true foodie you will know how disappointing it is, if what you eat isn’t quite what you expect, this disappointment can oh so easily spill over into the rest of your life.

I include anyone and everyone I cook for in the decision about what I will cook automatically. I admit that sometimes I am just driven to experiment and create – if this is the case the only input needed, is at the end of a meal.

I have never understood children who won’t eat anything – I admit feeding Lauren is a challenge, I don’t think she is intentionally picky – I suspect she is a super taster as she gravitates towards food that is  very bland, rice, pasta couscous and toast with butter are her favourite staples having said that she loves peppers mushrooms broccoli, bacon etc. She also eats with her eyes – so food has to be pretty or familiar.

Forcing children to eat food they don’t like is a bit like making a gastronome eat a a 40% meat sausage and undercooked chips…… the outcome is never going to be good.

If I wake up and know what I want to eat, if my body is screaming yoghurt and blueberries or black pudding, eggs and bacon I listen but I never assume that anyone else will want to eat the same as me.

Now I know you are spitting coffee as you think that I am mad, mad, mad – some crazy lady who spends every waking hour accommodating every food need in my family. In reality it doesn’t work like that I aim to make one meal a week that suits one person perfectly that way I know that once a week everybody I love has a meal that nourishes their body and soul.

April 11, 2010 at 10:29 am 2 comments

Snow Day ….. Tomato Soup

Baby its cold outside….

I always want to make soup in this weather and my children and husband messing about in the snow prompted me to put together something tasty and warming.

Its after Christmas and the budget is tight so “soup from the larder” was the way to go, besides its snowed and I am certainly not popping to the shops!

I have to admit tomato soup isn’t one I have made since college (over 20 years ago) – I had been so disappointed, we had taken mediocre ingredients and turned then in to something that tasted like it came out of a tin..

I have read plenty of recipes over the years that pontificate about the use of fresh tomatoes (at their best) etc etc but this is what I did.


  • 1 red onion – about the size of an orange
  • 3 cloves of garlic 1x teaspoon basil (I had some dried – fresh is better)
  • A good slosh of olive oil (you could use a non stick pan and reduce the oil, but I like the taste!)
  • A good slug of sherry (optional – but it helps boost the flavour)
  • 2 x tinned plum tomatoes ( I used a value brand) chopped unchopped whatever you have
  • 1 x empty tin full of boiling water
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of marigold boullion powder
  • 1x teaspoon sugar about
  • ¼ tube of tomato paste (approx 2 generous tablespoons)
  • 1x tablespoon sherry vinegar (optional)
  • ½ cup (4 fluid ounces) double cream
  • scant ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A small handful of fresh basil leaves – if you happen to have them


Chop the onion and the garlic, it doesn’t really matter how – I chopped mine fine because I wanted it to cook quickly.

Add the oil to a deep pan and fry the onion and garlic until they begin to soften.

Chuck in the dried basil and stir it through add the tomatoes and tomato purée.

Fill one of the empty tins with boiling water stir the boullion powder into this and add it to the pot.

Let this cook for about ten minutes until the onion is soft.

An American trick when making tomato soup is to add a mix of milk and baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) to the soup whilst it is cooking the milk makes it creamy and the soda keeps the milk from separating. I mixed baking soda through the double cream that I had in the fridge (not strictly necessary as the cream should cook fine) and added it to the pot – this is where the deep pan is needed because the soup froths up and I hate cleaning my cooker.

Once the frothing has subsided stir in the sherry vinegar and season to taste.

Put the soup in a liquidizer add the basil leaves and process until smooth.

Pour it back into the saucepan and double check the seasoning – tip into bowls and serve with hot buttered toast.

Had I not been serving this to small children I may have been tempted to add a ½ teaspoon or so of chilli powder when frying the onions just to increase the warming effect!

This makes enough soup to feed 3 adults and 2 children so I guess about 4 servings.

January 6, 2010 at 4:11 pm Leave a comment

Tuesday’s Risotto – Sunday roast, garlic mushroom and sausage flavour.

There are certain programmes on the tv that I just can’t bring myself to watch. I really was happy not knowing (ignorance is bliss and all that jazz) that there are people who buy and roast a whole chicken remove a few slices of breast meat and bin the rest. I was taught chickens always make more than one meal, and we ate our first on Sunday – Roast tarragon chicken, roast potatoes, cabbage and carrot/swede mash. On Monday I started on the second dinner – Tuesday nights risotto, you could eat it on Monday if you wanted but we like to break up the “same old same old”.

I striped the chicken carcass of what was left of the meat (about a side plates worth) and put it in the fridge.

The bones and skin, an onion, some garlic (unless its pudding, there is often garlic) a couple of bay leaves, a leek, a carrot some pepper corns and a couple of celery stalks all got chucked in a large pot  along with the left over veg. This was then covered with cold water, brought up to the boil and left to do its thing for about an hour and a half or there abouts.

The usual magic had happened – some rather nasty looking bits, raw veg and plain old water has transformed into a lovely pot of stock. This gets left to cool and strained through a sieve. Put the stock in the fridge overnight (The fat from the chicken solidifies and rises to the top of the stock which makes it easy to remove).

These are  the two main parts to our next chicken meal, if I was really pious I could stretch it to three meals, by splitting the stock to make soup or using the chicken in sandwiches but I feel good when I feed the five of us twice from the one chicken.

I know that cooking risotto is quite hands on, but if you prepare all the ingredients before you start its no more difficult than cooking stir-fry.

  • 1 pack of porcini mushrooms soaked in about 300ml boiling water
  • 3-4 tbs Olive oil
  • a white/brown onion chopped
  • three or four garlic cloves chopped fine, smash with salt or use a garlic crusher
  • 200g (more or less as you like) mushrooms thickly sliced
  • a pack of Arborio rice
  • thyme fresh or dried
  • tarragon fresh or dried
  • a slug of sherry or glass of wine
  • a pepper diced (mine was yellow and I forgot to put it out of reach)
  • the stock I made yesterday
  • the left over chicken meat
  • 1 or 2 mattesons sausages chopped (I chop them small so the mix through the rice more evenly)
  • parmesan cheese to finish in lieu of parsley (it was dark and raining)

inside the panThe key to a good risotto is  to remember to add the stock little by little, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid, this is what gives it the flavour. Keep stirring to keep the rice grains separate turning it, will cook it evenly. When your risotto is ready the grains of rice will have transformed from being white and and hard to looking milky or translucent with a small white spot in the middle. If you are unsure check the rice packet guidelines but a  risotto should be cooked in approximately 18-20 minutes.

– now with this in mind lets get started

Gather all the ingredients, put the porcini mushrooms in a jug and cover with boiling water, leave them to soften for about half an hour or so, the longer the better.

Chop the ingredients that need chopping and make sure you have everything with in easy reach of the stove.

Put the fresh, sliced mushrooms in to a saucepan with half of the oil (you could use butter here) and half the garlic, some salt and pepper put on a lid and cook on a low heat, shake the pan from time to time – you are looking or cooked but firm garlicky mushrooms, cooked enough to lose the raw taste but not cooked so much that they are dark and slimy.

Put a large heavy based pan on to heat, while it is heating chop the porcini mushrooms, remember to keep the liquid, its a good idea to strain it, so all the grit from the mushrooms doesn’t end up in the risotto, which is horrid! Use a tea strainer if you have one or if you are brave like me just stop pouring when you can see the grit in the bottom of the jug…. I live on the edge – can you tell?

Add the rest of the oil to the pan and stir in the onion cook untill it starts to soften (1-2 mins) chuck in the rest of the garlic, stir and add the rice.

Stir the rice to coat with the oil, onions and garlic and cook on a moderate heat until it starts to smell hot – almost toasted (do not burn), you need to keep stirring and be vigilant at this point or the rice will burn and it’ll taste bitter.

Add the wine or sherry and stir, cook until the alcohol  has evaporated.

Add the chopped porcinis to the rice.

At this stage the heat may need adjusting, you are looking to cook the rice not so fast that the liquid you add dissipates leaving the the rice to stick to the pan and burn but not so slow that the liquid sits in the pan and the rice gets soft and mushy or just doesn’t cook. I have the pan hot enough that when I add the liquid ingredients it quickly becomes a rapid simmer (it would be quite violent and mess up the stove if left alone but because you are stirring pretty much constantly its fine)

Add the mushroom soaking liquid to the rice – I usually do this in 2 parts.

When this has been absorbed you can start adding the stock, a ladle is good thing to use here, but you could always just use a jug or pour direct from the bowl/saucepan that the stock is in.

After you have been adding stock, stirring and cooking for about 12 minutes add the chicken and the sausages to the pan stir through and add more stock as required. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, make sure all the meat is thoroughly mixed through and properly hot!

Add the mushroom slices in the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Adjust the seasoning to your liking – decadent last minute additions can be a knob of butter or a slosh of double cream, some freshly grated parmesan or some freshly chopped herbs, you can add them all or none depending on your mood and what you have in the fridge.

The risotto should be just about done but now, and being a one pot wonder meal, it is very hot – I have taken to putting a lid on it removing it from the heat and leaving it for 10 minutes

yum dinner...

happiness on a plate

November 11, 2009 at 7:04 pm Leave a comment

Potatoes in a new light

I was introduced to a friend of a friend yesterday, she said we would have a lot in common…….

I had planned on Sausages for dinner tonight and as it’s now no longer summer (in fact its bloody cold) I was leaning towards sausages and mash – add some full on grainy mustard we are happy campers – but its been a long week, clearing up after two poorly 3 year olds is like filling the kettle with a sieve. Less than inspired I was seriously considering a takeaway until, I saw this link my new friend had sent me.

Paul’s Mediterranean Potato transport of delight

He is of course a much more prolific blogger than I!

Sometimes its as simple as that – an easy recipe that just hits the spot – fired up I put away my purse and headed for the kitchen


- my take on "Paul style"

My amended list of ingredients

  • Some rice bran oil – for frying
  • Some olive oil  – for flavour
  • Some sliced potatoes – about 3 – 5 mm thick – about 2 medium potatoes per serving, I guess. Add more if Greg pitches up
  • A clove of garlic (or three) – chopped fine
  • A little chopped chilli – I substituted a half teaspoon of jalapeno flakes (they add a great warmth that doesn’t put small children off)
  • A large red onion, sliced – I used ordinary brown – I could tell you it’s because they caramelize in the oven and work well with the sausages ……
  • A tablespoon of cumin seeds – toast them first – hot pan, five minutes
  • A teaspoon of ground cumin or increase the toasted cumin and pound in pestle
  • Some chopped black/kalamata olives – add more if you like, I will not get upset don’t be upset I didn’t add any!
  • A splosh of balsamic vinegar
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped or sliced  or a tin of cherry tomatoes if you don’t have any fresh
  • 1 or 2 whole peppers chopped (I started with 2 – remember to keep out of reach)
  • A pinch of sugar – I forgot this!
  • Some oregano – fresh is always a crowd-pleaser dried is ok too!
  • Some fresh parsley (send daughter up garden with a torch it gets dark early)
  • A teaspoon of paprika (use sweet when feeding kids/hot if you want to ramp up the flavour)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sausages any that you like – we happened to have Porky Whites

Method (adjusted a tad from the original)

  • Put the sausages in a pan with a little rice bran oil, start them cooking on a low heat, shake the pan from time to time. Put the oven on and place a heavy roasting tin in to get hot,as the oven heats up.
  • Heat a large wok until it starts to shimmer (very hot)
  • Add the oil – I use rice bran it has a really high smoke point and clean taste
  • Add the chilli flakes and the potatoes cook for 5 minutes
  • Throw in the onions and peppers lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften and the potatoes begin to colour up a bit this will take 2 or 3 minutes
  • Throw in your garlic and your cumin
  • Shake the pan to mix everything
  • Add the tomatoes, the balsamic, the oregano, paprika and the parsley
  • Cook  gently for a couple of minutes keep shaking the pan – the tinned tomatoes have a lot of juice, it mixes with the herbs and coats the veg
  • Transfer the potato mix to the roasting tin – remember it will be hot so pour away from yourself to avoid being splashed by hot liquid.
  • Return the roasting tin to the hot oven (about 200ºC) and cook for about 10 minutes then add the sausages, drizzle with a little olive oil and cook for a further 30 mins.
  • I have adjusted the cooking times slightly from Paul’s version – this is to allow for the addition of sausages – I used chipolatas – if I had used ordinary sausages I would put everything in the oven at the same time.

Serve up and enjoy – its a full bodied dish that has some of the more robust flavours of summer. The warmth of the chillies combined with the paprika will leave you feeling very happy.

November 7, 2009 at 12:52 pm 4 comments

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