picture of store cupboard

One of the hiding places…

It probably says something worrying about me that the phrase Live LAGOM runs through my head to the tune of Ricky Martin’s Living La Vida Loca. Every time I think of it. And I’m going to think about it a lot this year. What am I on about? LAGOM originates as a Swedish phrase Lagom är bäst, meaning the right amount is best. Think Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it’s the porridge that was “just right”, not too big, not too small, not too hot, not too cold, not too sweet, not too salty. It’s a concept that IKEA are keen for us all to embrace. Enjoying all that life has to offer but in moderation, by living sustainably and looking after the planet as you do.

I’ve been chosen to take part in the IKEA Live LAGOM challenge, joining another 249 households across Britain who are all hoping to reduce waste, save money, energy and water, and live healthier and more sustainable lives. We’ve each been given a budget to spend on IKEA products that will help us on this journey, enabling us to make changes, some small, some larger, in how we live. It’s going to be challenging, interesting and hopefully inspirational being part of this project.

My first thought, when approached about this, was but I already do all that. Don’t I? I recycle, I use low energy bulbs, I’m fanatical about food waste, I turn the lights off when I leave rooms, turn off electrical items not in use, monitor my water use, surely there’s not much else I can do? Oh but there is. Much, much more. I live in a 200 years old stone cottage. It’s grade 2 listed so I’m restricted in what I can do externally – no double glazing allowed – but that doesn’t mean I can’t reduce the draughts by adding internal blinds to all those windows. I have a mix of stone and wooden floors that can get a tad chilly underfoot, so that’s rugs added to the list. My scented geraniums that come in for winter and go out for summer – self watering pots with wheels – immediate benefits for all concerned – me not giving myself a hernia lifting the pots, the plants getting the RIGHT amount of water.

And what about my behaviour? What can I change? I have a confession to make. I hoard. Food. Paper. Books. Stuff. Time to let some of it go. My resolutions for this year have all been about simplifying. Starting with the food thing. I’m an unabashed food fanatic. I write about it, make it, eat it – I even work in a food related area – I’m the Regional Food Economies project manager for the NW and I blog and tweet as Grab Your Spoon, as well making and selling my own preserves under the same name. So I have cupboards. Full of spices, sugars, exotic ingredients, types of flour, pastas, pulses etc. You rock up to my house with an army in tow? I’ll feed you. No problem. Except there is a problem. I really can’t see the spelt wheat for the self-raising flour. I have NO idea what is in my cupboards. They are crammed. This means I regularly re-buy things that I already own. I make a guess when shopping as to whether or not I have turmeric. Turns out I do. Three unopened packets of it, that aren’t going to get used up before the potency of the ground spice dissipates. This is NOT cool. Bring on the stackable glass jars from IKEA that are going to help me organise my pantry. Lists are going to be made. Labels will be printed. And I WILL have order. Same of course goes for the fridge, the freezer and the slidy drawers in my tiny kitchen. Described as functional chaos, I’d like the kitchen to be a bit more functional and a bit less chaotic. I’ll deal with the books, the paper and the other stuff afterwards. One step at a time, and this kitchen is going to be a big step. Upside, inside out, I’m living La Vida LAGOM….

Sticky Ginger Cake

For those of you unfamiliar with the word, parkin refers to a soft textured cake flavoured with ginger, treacle or golden syrup and brown sugar. Particularly Northern in origin, parkin is made in Yorkshire – where it tends to be slightly drier in texture and is made with black treacle; and also in Lancashire, where it tends to be stickier and made using golden syrup. Here in Merseyside I’m really a Lancastrian plus I’ve only got golden syrup in my cupboard so that’s the version I’m going to make.

golden syrup tin, jug with milk, oats


I’ve adapted this recipe from The Camper Van Cookbook by Martin Dorey & Sarah Randall.


200ml milk
3 tbsp golden syrup
100g butter
75g plain flour
200g dark brown sugar
125g porridge oats
4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda


Preheat oven to 150C/ GM2. Lightly butter a shallow square cake tin, approx 20cm diameter.

Put milk, syrup & butter in a small pan and gently bring to the boil, stirring until all the syrup and butter has melted.

Sieve flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and mix in the oats, sugar, and spices. Pour over the melted butter & milk mixture and mix well into the dry ingredients.

cake batter

Pour into tin

Pour/ scrape into the prepared cake tin and level the top. Place in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool in the tin until completely cold. Cut into 16 pieces and put into an air tight tin or box. They will keep very well for at least a week, and actually improve in flavour and stickiness after a day or two!

parkin in tin cooling

Sticky ginger parkin cooling



Meantime your home, like mine, will be deliciously scented with sweet ginger baking. An instant mood improver!

pieces of parkin

Put the kettle on!

Paprika Beef

blue casserole dish with paprika beef

Paprika Beef

January is drawing to a close, but it’s still a bit chilly out there. This is a perfectly good reason to indulge in a hearty stew that will fill and cheer.  Lovely beef shin from is slowly simmered in the oven in a rich smoked paprika sauce, and then served on a pillow of creamy mashed potatoes with a side of winter greens. I often make beef stews that can sit in a slow oven, it’s such a simple way to add flavour to an economical cut of meat and really doesn’t involve a lot of complicated preparation. I had it in mind to go a bit Spanish – thinking chorizo, paprika, peppers etc but surveying my fridge contents I found I had some Hungarian smoked sausage left from my trip to the Fatherland before Christmas. So this is my Hungarian/Spanish beef stew, paprika & peppers being common denominators in both cuisines!


Paprika Beef Stew


1 kilo beef shin, cut into 1 inch cubes.

2 tablespoons of plain flour

1 dessert spoon of smoked sweet paprika

1 large onion, sliced into half and then into half moons

1 ramiro pepper (the long sweet red kind), halved and sliced into thin strips

1 stick of celery, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

200g smoked paprika sausage (use chorizo), skin removed and chopped

568ml of tomato sauce (I had some in the freezer,  but you can use chopped tinned tomatoes)

1 glass of red wine

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

salt and pepper


Toss beef cubes in the flour and paprika and set aside.

Heat a heavy based casserole dish (which can go into the oven, or use a heavy pan and transfer before adding the dish to the oven).

Add the chopped sausage and cook over a gentle heat until the fats begin to release their oils into the pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and pepper. Stir well to coat in the oils and cook for 10 minutes over a gentle heat until softening. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.

There should still be some juices left in the pan, but if not add a splash of olive oil or a tsp of lard. Turn the heat up and add the floured beef cubes, turn them to brown for five minutes in the pan, but be careful not to let the paprika burn.

Add the glass of red wine and allow it to simmer a little. Put the vegetables back into the pan, along with any flour and paprika that’s left behind from earlier.

Add the chilli flakes and tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes., season with a pinch of salt and pepper and give everything a good stir. Bring to a simmer then transfer, covered, to the oven, heated to 140C for 3 hours. Check occasionally to see if more liquid is required.

Once cooked through, the beef should be meltingly tender in a rich smoked sauce with a little spicy kick. Serve with mashed potatoes or plain rice or flat wide pasta ribbons and some greens on the side.



Marmalade Month

paper bag of seville oranges

Seville Oranges from Riverford Organics

January in Britain. Grey skies. Freezing temperatures. No money post Christmas spending. 5 weeks til payday. So far, so grim. But wait, there’s an orange glow on the horizon, bringing colour and scent to our kitchens. Yes, January is also the time of the glorious but short Seville orange season. Now is the time to get out your biggest pan and indulge in a spot of marmalade making.

Beloved by Paddington Bear, dreamt about by British expats and eaten from John O Groat’s to Land’s End, marmalade is a wonderful addition to your morning toast. Of course, it’s as British as curry, which is to say, we nicked it from somewhere else and made it ours. In this case, the Portuguese  delicacy “marmelada” travelled to England via France in the 16th century,  referring to a fruit paste made with  quinces, sugar and boiled until thickened. No-one is quite sure when ‘marmalade’ began to refer to a citrus fruit based confection but a recipe for a “Marmelet of Oranges” is found in the household book of Madam Eliza Cholmondeley circa 1677.  (Source: A Comprehensive History of Marmalade from the World Marmalade Awards)

For me, the joy of marmalade making is the endless permutations on a theme. Each year I make a “standard” batch and then make a further two batches, experimenting with other flavours, different sugars and thickness of peel. Marmalade happily sits with ginger, whisky, Grand Marnier, rum, treacle, and even chilli. This year I am playing with ginger, using ginger wine and chunks of stem ginger to add a little warmth to my basic marmalade recipe.

Marmalade is not just for toast, use it to glaze a ham, add to a bread and butter pudding for an extra citrus kick, bake a marmalade cake or, a particular favourite, make a marmalade martini….

I got my Sevilles from Ave Maria Farm via Riverford Organics but I’ve also now seen them in some of the bigger supermarkets.

Simple Seville Orange Marmalade:

1.5 kilos Seville oranges, washed.

2.2 litres (4 pints) water

2.5 kilos sugar

Whole Sevilles in the pan

Whole Sevilles in the pan

Put the oranges in a large saucepan and add the water. Simmer gently for 2 – 3 hours until the peel is very soft.

Remove the fruit, but DON’T throw the water away.

Let fruit cool til you can handle comfortably.

Cut the fruit in half and scoop the pips into a small saucepan, add 300ml of water and bring this to a simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to cool and then strain through a sieve into the reserved water from earlier. Squeeze as much liquid from the sieve as you can.

Chopped peel

Chopped peel

Meantime chop the peel to suit – thick or thin!

Put this fruit back into the large pan with the water and sugar. Stir well over a low heat until the sugar has all dissolved.

Turn the heat up and bring to a fast boil for 10 minutes, then pull off the heat and test for a set – either: dip a clean wooden spoon into the pan, remove it and holding above the pan, twirl the spoon to cool it then let the marmalade ‘fall’ off the spoon. If the drops run together and form flakes that hang onto the edge of the spoon, a set has been reached; or:

The "wrinkle"

The “wrinkle”

chill a saucer in the fridge, put a teaspoon of marmalade on the cold saucer and let it cool for 1 minute. Push the surface and if it ‘wrinkle’, it has reached setting point.

If the marmalade hasn’t yet set, put back on the heat and cook for another 5 minutes and try the set again. Repeat as necessary but do make sure you take the pan off the heat each time you test the set or you’ll end up with toffee!

Let it sit a little, remove any “scum” (or froth really), by adding a small pat of butter and stirring to disperse the air bubbles. Letting it sit for 5 minutes or so before potting it also helps the peel to suspend in the jelly rather than sinking to the bottom.

Ladle into sterilized jars (fill jars with just boiled water, rinse out and leave upside to dry in a warm oven), and seal. Leave to cool before labeling.

This recipes makes about 9  x 340g jars or 18 190g jars.

Jars of marmalade cooling

               Jars of marmalade cooling


Grab Your Spoon’s Marmalade Martini

Well, and why not?!

2 shots marmalade vodka (Chase Vodka make one, but you can use plain vodka or gin if that’s what you have!)

1 shot Cointreau or Triple sec

juice from 1 tangerine or half an orange

1 dessertspoon of Seville marmalade

2 tablespoons of double cream

Mix or shake in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Strain into a glass and grate orange zest over the top.

Cinderella Vegetables – Jerusalem Artichokes

Following a chat on twitter with @LordCornelius & @WilliamShankly, I’m starting a small series on what I call the Cinderella Vegetables that crop up in the veg box every now and then. You know. The giant Swede, the alien looking Kohrabi, the nobbly Jerusalem artichokes, the gnarly Celeriac, the leafy and sometimes loathed Chard and the aniseed scented Fennel.  All capable of engendering a slightly sinking feeling and the thought “What on earth do I do with THAT then?”.  All is not lost. A little TLC  (and occasionally the judicious application of bacon…) can rescue these Cinderellas from the compost heap and send them to dinner at the ball.

I’m starting with the Jerusalem Artichoke, mostly because I promised Bill I’d post this recipe.

picture of jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem Artichokes

Bit of history first*.  First of all they’re not artichokes and they don’t come from Jerusalem. The name comes from an account written by the founder of Quebec, Samuel Champlain, who described them as “roots with the taste of artichokes”, following a French exploration of Northern America in 1605. These roots were taken to France, where they were soon grown in quantity.  They were recognised as a relative of the sunflower (also introduced from the New World), as like that flower, the flowers of the Jerusalem artichoke also track the sun, with their heads twisting round.  They were introduced to the English botanist John Goodyer in 1617 as “girasol” artichokes (a French word meaning gyration or turning). This became bastardised into Jerusalem artichoke, the good folk of England having no truck with fancy French words….

(*source: Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book)

Preparation.  Try to pick the smoothest and least knobbly, wash well and peel. Drop straight into acidulated water (lemon or a splash of vinegar), as they discolour quickly. If you’ve ended up with a bag of total knobbles, then don’t attempt to peel – parboil for about 10 minutes in their skins until half cooked, then rinse under the cold tap and slip off the skins. (remember to slightly reduce cooking times to account for this pre-cooking).

Jerusalem artichoke and potato pie


1 pack of ready made puff pastry (all butter if poss)

bit of plain flour for rolling out pastry

350g Jersusalem artichokes, peeled and sliced into thickness of a £1 coin

250g Desiree potatoes (or King Edwards), peeled and sliced into thickness of a £1 coin

150ml double cream

1 large egg, free range, beaten

1 egg, free range, beaten for sealing pastry and glazing top.

1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

1 dsp of finely chopped fresh thyme

salt & pepper


Butter a cake tin*, approx 25cm in circumference and about 5cm deep.

Roll out the pastry and line the cake tin, keeping back enough pastry to make a lid. Set aside to rest in a cool place.

Pre heat oven to 200C/ 400F/ GM6

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the artichokes and potatoes for 5 minutes, drain well.

In a large bowl, toss together the garlic, thyme, potatoes & artichokes until evenly distributed. Mix together the egg and cream and pour over the vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper. Toss again.  Pile into pastry lined cake tin, pressing down slightly to fit all in and leave an even surface for the lid. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg, and add the pastry lid, pressing down to seal the edges. Egg wash the top of the pie, and cut two slits to let steam escape. Decorate pie with any left over pastry, don’t forget to re egg wash them.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes, and then reduce temperature to 180C/ 350F/ GM4 and bake for another 10 minutes. (I usually check the pie after 20 minutes, if it is browning too quickly, reduce temp at that point and cook for 20 minutes). Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out of dish. Serve in thick wedges, with a tomato chutney and salad (works well cold too)

*(please note, if you don’t have a suitable tin, you can free style it – just cut out two pastry circles, one slightly bigger to use as the base, place the filling in the middle and pull up sides round it)



Resolutions for food lovers

These are personal to me, but you might find inspiration!

What am I eating? Read those labels. Ask the questions. If buying a sauce in a jar, read the ingredients and choose one containing stuff you’ve actually heard of… e.g a 440g jar of value pasta sauce costs 39p but contains water, maize starch and calcium chloride (yum).  Buy a 500g pack of value Passata at 34p, add a crushed garlic clove, pepper and some herbs. Simmer slowly. Much better.

Grow herbs & salad leaves. One of the biggest food waste culprits for supermarkets is pre-packed salad. 68% of salad in bags is binned (source: An average bag of pre-packed salad costs around £1.50 for 200g. A packet of cut and come again salad leaf seeds costs between 99p and £1.50. Sown in succession in shallow troughs, (window boxes are perfect), you can harvest your own mixed salad for months. Alternatively, ditch the pre washed stuff (mostly washed in chlorine – mmm), and pick up a whole lettuce for around 60p. Wash the outer leaves – use in soup, and eat the centre sweeter leaves raw in salads. Herbs add joy to a meal and need little effort to cultivate, as most will grow quite happily in pots. Even if you start with a pot from the supermarket shelves, decant into a bigger pot with plenty of added compost and watch it thrive. I managed to keep a pot of basil going for 5 months this summer, not bad for a 79p investment! Good herbs to grow for kitchen use include: bay, rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, marjoram and basil.

Eat seasonal – of course it’s not practical to solely eat seasonally, but think about what you are purchasing and try to enjoy the fruit and vegetable bounties at the appropriate time. Strawberries in June are always going to taste much better than in December, Asparagus should be celebrated for the joyous seasonal speciality that it is and gorged on during May and June. Hydroponically grown tomatoes in February are really not going to taste as good as the ones on sale in September following a season of sun ripening. Make the most of gluts and get bottling/ jamming/ ginning!

Eat kind, choose free range, organic meat where possible. Eat it less often so you can afford the extra it costs – although I purchase all my beef and lamb from a local organic farm – and they often undercut the prices in the supermarkets and it tastes and cooks SO much better. Respect the animal and use it all, don’t just use selected bits.  Support fair trade producers of sugar, coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas. Use free-range eggs.

Support local – there are lots of small and even not so small food & drink producers in your local area. Give them support. Go to your butcher. Visit your baker. Locate your independent wine seller.  Find out when the farmer’s markets are on. Even a once a month purchase will help, and you might just enjoy the process of having a chat with the food person and feeling that you’re making an informed choice.

Explore your locality, seems obvious but be a tourist in your own backyard. Step away from the usual coffee chains and try that little café you keep passing. It might be rubbish, but it also might be fantastic! Make it a resolution to try an independent restaurant, not a Brake Brothers delivery point of food that goes ping!

Meatless Mondays, exactly what it says on the tin. Ditch meat once a week. Explore the use of pulses, vegetables and grains. Italian and Indian cuisines are particularly good for meals that deliver flavour and satiety without meat.

Potluck suppers, invite friends over. Don’t make it fancy, just ask folk to bring a dish – a pud, a salad, whatever and enjoy the experience of communal eating. Give it a theme – try something new. I love the Jewish Shabbat custom of Friday suppers for friends and family to come together.

Try new: food/ ingredient/ cuisine, I’m increasingly interested in the food of Northern Europe, the mix of spice, sweet, salt and sour in Danish smorgasbord and the wide range of breads and pastries found in Sweden.

Learn a new skill, I’ve said it before, but this year I really want to learn how to make bread. I’d also like to learn how to carve a chicken properly, as opposed to my usual “rustic” hacking… Other ideas might be to master pastry, make your own bacon, brew your own beer…

Plan ahead and waste less, I’m convinced I was once a starving peasant in the middle ages – how else to explain my manic hoarding of food?  (other than sheer greed, obviously…) No, 2014 is the year I USE the store cupboard and freezer contents up and achieve an enviable Nigel Slater like calm of shopping only for what I need and stop buying things “to have in”…

Happy New Year to you all – good health & good eating for 2014.

Lovely Leftovers

This is one of my favourite times of year – the in-between bit of Christmas and New Year. There is no necessity to rush about, the sofa and books beckon, with tea and slices of Christmas cake. New Year’s resolutions are days away, so the guilt over calories and inactivity can take a back seat.

It’s a time when I enjoy being extra creative in the kitchen – if you’re anything like me, you’ll have over-catered for the festive period, leaving you with a fridge and larder full of random leftovers and odd items. I can never throw food away – it’s hard wired in my DNA via my frugal Scots grandparents and my Hungarian father who lived through a time of great food shortages when young. Have a look at the excellent for more ideas to use up your leftovers. Current items in my kitchen include parsnips, egg whites, pecorino cheese, Stilton, Brussels sprouts, carrots, stale bread, ham, honey roasted nuts and Christmas pudding.

So, what’s for lunch today?

Parsnip Soufflé with a bread crumb gratin topping, with a side of carrots, Brussels and nuts.

Parsnip Soufflé

picture of souffle

Parsnip Souffle

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped into small pieces.

Half a pint of milk

1 bay leaf

100g butter

100g plain flour


4 eggs

250g Pecorino, Gruyere, or cheddar cheese – something full flavoured

100g breadcrumbs


Put parsnips, milk and bay leaf into a pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the parsnips are soft and tender. Drain, reserving the milk to make the base for the soufflé. Puree the parsnips and put aside.

Pre heat oven to 400F/200C/ GM and butter a 4 person soufflé dish or 4 individual ones.

Melt butter in a saucepan, and add flour to make a thick roux. Gradually add the milk from earlier and cook until you have a thick, smooth sauce. Fold in the parsnip puree and season with white pepper and a pinch of salt. Grate the cheese and add 200g to the parsnip mix. Separate the eggs (unless like me you are just using up egg whites), and add the egg yolks to the parsnip sauce. Whisk egg whites until stiff, and fold into the parsnip mix in three lots, being careful to keep as much air as possible in the mixture.  Spoon into your dishes. Sprinkle over the remaining grated cheese mixed with the breadcrumbs and put into the oven for about 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and puffed up. Serve immediately.


Variations on a theme – use thyme or sage, add chopped ham or use carrots instead of parsnips.


Carrots and Brussels Sprouts

Brussel sprouts & carrots

Brussels & carrots

1 small onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1lb carrots, peeled and sliced into ½ inch pieces

½ lb Brussels sprouts, halved lengthways

60ml water

1 tbsp cider vinegar

50g honey nuts

Cook onion in butter and oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add carrots, Brussels sprouts, ¾ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add water and cover pan, then cook over medium-high heat until vegetables are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in vinegar, honey nuts and season to taste.









Stir Up Sunday

The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in, it’s as dark when I get up as when I come home from work and my thoughts are turning to the approaching festive season. The scents of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves need to fill the air and bring me comfort.

This weekend it is Stir Up Sunday – the day that traditionally we British like to make our Christmas puddings, to give them a full month to mature and develop those delicious festive flavours.

The name “Stir Up Sunday” refers, somewhat irreverently to the beginning of the Book of Common Prayer’s collect (prayer) said on this day – “Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit  of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen”. This prayer was then adapted by children to the following rhyme: “Stir-up we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot; and when we get home, we’ll eat the whole lot!”. Canny cooks also noted that this date meant a perfect 5 week maturation of the Christmas pud.

There are all sorts of lovely traditions associated with this recipe. The whole family takes it in turn to stir the pudding and make a wish for the coming year. The mix is traditionally stirred from East to West (clockwise), to represent the journey made by the Three Wise Men. The pudding also traditionally has 13 ingredients – to represent Jesus and his twelve disciples. A coin is placed within the pudding and cooked, the person who finds it on their plate will find wealth in the coming year.

So, to the Christmas Pudding recipe – this is one my family has made for years and is unusual in that it contains NO FAT (yes, really) which of course means you can eat it with plenty of cream! It is also completely vegetarian.


Antal Christmas Pudding


6oz plain or self-raising flour

6oz fresh breadcrumbs

freshly grated nutmeg

1.5 lbs of mixed dried fruit

(raisins /sultanas/ blueberries/ cranberries/ cherries/ apricots – whatever you like best but a mixture. You can also add a handful of chopped pecans / macadamias/ almonds or hazelnuts)

1 grated carrot

8oz Demerara sugar

2 tbsp marmalade

2 tbsp treacle or golden syrup

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 eggs

1/4 pint milk

2 tbsp lemon juice

brandy or rum to taste



Mix all ingredients together well.

Grease pudding bowl and add mixture. Cover well and secure.

Steam immediately for 4 hours.

Cool & store in fridge until needed.

To re-heat, steam for 11/2 hours.


This will make one big pudding (2 pint) or can be divided into two smaller ones and will feed 8-10 people, with seconds…




Perfect Pâté? – homemade vs. commercially produced

Perfect Pâté? – homemade vs. commercially produced

Thinking about what to write about, I was musing on autumn, and all the lovely fruits and vegetables that are available now. Then I was given a gift. A block of Ardennes Pâté. “How nice!” I hear you say?  Well, yes and no. The thought behind the gift was lovely, but the actual pâté itself was terrifying.  Let me explain.

The ingredients listed for this product contain:

Pork Liver, Chicken Fat, Chicken Meat, Chicken Connective Tissue (mmm, are you hungry yet??), Wheat Flour, Salt, E301, E326, E330, E472C, Onions, Milk Protein (?), Sugar, Tomatoes, Spices, E450, E452, Yeast Extract, Rice Flour, E250, E261, Gelatine.


Now, call me fussy, but that little lot is really not something I want on my toast. However, in the interest of research, I did try it. Bleurgh. Fatty, unidentified chewy “bits”, and a very strong liver flavour. Much as I seriously HATE to waste food, that went into the bin. I know I can do better and cheaper without compromising on taste and adding weird bulking ingredients and strange chemicals.

I plan to add to this post with a “proper” coarse cut pâté recipe, but that will involve me toddling off to the butcher in search of the right ingredients, plus a group of mates to help eat the results (as Simon Hopkinson says, it’s not worth making a small terrine).  So instead I’ve rummaged in the freezer for a pack of chicken livers – costing all of 60p for 250g, and made this:


Chicken Liver Pâté

 250g chicken livers

2 shallots or ½ an onion

1 garlic clove

1 rasher of smoked bacon

thyme – leaves stripped from 3 sprigs

rosemary – leaves from half a sprig, chopped

tomato puree

English mustard

sherry or Madeira

salt & pepper



Start by draining the chicken livers in a sieve and giving them a quick rinse in cold water, then tip out onto kitchen towel and pat dry. Remove any gristly bits and set aside (use scissors if you’re squeamish about handling them)  Chop up the bacon and put in a wide shallow pan on a low heat for the fat to melt. Finely chop the shallots or onion and garlic, add to pan and gently cook over a low heat until translucent – don’t brown. Tip in the chicken livers, and add the thyme and rosemary. Cook over a low heat for approximately 5 minutes, until the livers go from dark wine coloured to a rosy grey colour and smell very savoury.

Add a splash of sherry or Madeira (or wine or port or brandy – whatever’s at hand really) and cook a little more to remove the raw alcohol taste. Take off heat. Add a tsp of tomato puree , a tsp of English mustard and two dsp of double cream. Stir well. Put back on heat and allow to bubble, then remove again and cool slightly.

Tip everything into a food processor and whizz until smooth.  Taste and add salt and pepper to suit. Whizz again and if you have the patience, push the whole lot through a sieve – this will give the pate a beautifully smooth texture but isn’t essential. Put into ramekins, and smooth top. In a clean pan, melt 3 tbs of butter gently until it separates. Spoon the clear yellow liquid butter over the top of the pâté to cover the surface. Make sure the butter completely covers the pâté, as this will form a seal to keep the contents fresh for up 4 days until you eat it. Set aside to completely cool before putting in the fridge to set. This also freezes very well.

Eat on toast in the sure knowledge that you have made something wholesome, delicious and cheap. No connective tissue required….


chicken liver pate