a passionate food-lover who really enjoys cooking, eating and sharing the culinary delights of the world around me. Seasonal, fairly produced and regional ingredients are what interest and inspire me, so grab your spoon and join me!

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 www.forsterorganicmeats.com 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 www.huertaavemaria.com via Riverford Organics www.riverford.co.uk 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 www.chasedistillery.co.uk 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: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/21/food-waste-tesco-reveals-most-bagged-salad-and-half-its-bread-is-thrown-out) 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 – www.forsterorganicmeats.com 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 www.lovefoodhatewaste.com 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.









Creative Cranberries

Cranberries have long been used in Scandinavian and American winter cooking, with many Brits joining the berry party after Delia featured them in several recipes in her Winter Collection book. At this time of year, there are both frozen and fresh cranberries available on the shelves of most supermarkets, yet I frequently see the fresh ones marked down in the bargain section.  I picked up  four bags  of fresh cranberries recently for 25p each! This led me on to some experimentation – I make curds throughout the year, including using seasonal fruits like strawberries and blackberries, so why not a cranberry version?

Cranberry Curd

450g cranberries

115g unsalted butter

450g caster sugar

4 large eggs

Put the cranberries and 150ml of water in a saucepan and cook on a low heat until they have popped and become tender.  Use a stick blender to process into a puree. Sieve into a large microwavable bowl. Add the butter and sugar and microwave on full power for about 2 minutes until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

Whisk eggs together and add to the cranberry mixture. Continue cooking in the microwave in 1 minute bursts, stirring each time, and reducing the length of time to 30 seconds as the mixture thickens. Once it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon

jar of cranberry curd

Cranberry curd

(and you can draw a finger through it, leaving a channel), sieve again to remove any cooked egg bits and put into jars – this will make about 900g – so will fill 4 or so small jars.




I made the gloriously pink curd and then it seemed a shame not to use it in a cake, so I adapted the meringue cake found in Nigella Lawson’s Feast to create a festive version.

Cranberry Meringue Cake

125g very soft unsalted butter

4 large eggs (separated)

300g  caster sugar (plus 1 teaspoon)

100g plain flour

25g cornflour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

100 dried cranberries

4 teaspoons milk

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

150 ml double cream (or whipping cream)

150g cranberry curd (see above recipe)

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200°C/400ºF. Line and butter two 21cm 8 inch sandwich tins.

Mix the egg yolks, 100g of the sugar, the butter, flour, cornflour, baking powder, bicarb, and dried cranberries in a processor. Add the milk and process again. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins. It looks like it won’t be enough mixture, but spread it out as evenly as possible.

Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form and then slowly whisk in 200g sugar. Divide the whisked whites between the two sponge-filled tins, pouring or, more accurately, spreading the meringue straight on top of the cake batter. Smooth one flat with a metal spatula, and with the back of a spoon, peak the other and sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the peaks. Put the tins into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

With a cake-tester, pierce the cake that has the flat meringue topping to check it’s cooked all through. (It will have risen now but will fall back flattish later.) No sponge mixture should stick to the tester. Remove both cakes to a wire rack and let cool completely in the tins.

Unmould the flat-topped one on to a cake stand or plate, meringue side down. Whisk

picture of cake

Cranberry Meringue Cake

the double cream until thick but not stiff and set aside. Spread the flat sponge surface of the first, waiting, cake with the cranberry curd and than spatula over the cream and top with the remaining cake, peaked meringue uppermost. Dust with icing sugar.




And finally, I’m including the very simple recipe I use for a cranberry sauce – which is lovely with turkey, cold meats, pates and creamy cheeses.

Cranberry Sauce

450g cranberries

110g sugar

300ml red wine

125ml port

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

zest and juice of a large orange

Put all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to a very gentle simmer. Stir well, and leave to cook very gently for about an hour on a low heat without a lid on the pan. Stir occasionally.  You will end up with a thick cranberry sauce that can be left to cool and then put in a covered bowl until needed.



An Alternative Christmas Cake

Not everyone likes fruit cake, that traditional stalwart of the Christmas afternoon tea. Or in my case, I love fruit cake but I’m not so keen on the rock hard icing and marzipan that usually accompanies it.  And, confession time, I didn’t manage to get my act together this year to make a Christmas cake in time for that slow maturation and booze feeding that makes it so delicious. So, with that in mind, I did a bit of experimenting this weekend and came up with a variation on my favourite Nigel Slater cake that ticks the boxes for Christmas flavours AND ease and speed of making.

Christmas Spiced Citrus Drizzle Cake


200g caster sugar

200g unsalted butter

3 eggs

zest of 2 tangerines, 1 orange and 1 lemon

200g self raising flour, sifted

knife point of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice

grating of nutmeg

125g demerara sugar

juice of 2 tangerines & 1 orange

Pre-heat oven to 175C. Grease and line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper.


Beat sugar, butter and citrus zests together until light and fluffy. Add spices to the sifted flour (by knife point, I mean literally a pinch of the spices – you want this to be subtle but feel free to change the quantites to suit your own taste) Add eggs, one at a time with a tbsp of the flour & spice mix and then fold in the rest of the flour. Make sure all well mixed in.

Shows cake mix going into tin

Cake mix into tin

Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth over the top. Place in oven to bake for 40 to 50 minutes – check with a skewer at 40 minutes.


Dissolve the demerara sugar into the citrus juices. Remove cake from oven and stab all over with a fork. Pour the sugar & juice mix over the hot cake, making sure to cover the whole cake.  Leave to cool and let the juice soak in. A lovely sugary crust will form on the top of the cake.

Sugar and tangerines

Cake topping


Remove cake from tin and decorate with sliced tangerines.


Picture of finished cake

Decorated cake, ready to eat!

Serve with cinnamon Chantilly cream – cream beaten with icing sugar, vanilla and a little cinnamon.

Keeps for 4 days if covered.

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…




Found fruit – Apples in the city


It never ceases to amaze me how much fruit goes unpicked and unused across the city. Leftover remnants of orchards abound in Liverpool, a legacy of the city’s more prosperous past.  Many a large Victorian or Georgian house has long disappeared, leaving only the ghost of a garden behind, which has either been incorporated into a new housing estate or forms the edge of a new road system. Driving round Liverpool I find crab trees in pub car parks and on the edge of Otterspool’s new houses; I spot apple trees on Menlove Avenue and along the edges of golf course boundaries. Plum trees poke above the fenced off industrial areas in Garston. All are laden with fruit, left unpicked to eventually fall and rot in the grass below.  I often head out for a forage, coming back with kilos of apples to use in jellies and chutneys, always of course leaving some behind for others and wildlife to munch on.

At the end of September I had occasion to visit Wavertree, where I stumbled upon a trio of apple trees, merrily shedding their harvest into a car park, where their beautiful red fruit was being driven over by cars and mashed into an unusable pulp.  I picked up 3 kilos of apples from the ground in about 10 minutes and took them home. They were such a beautiful red, I photographed them and then prepared to use them for an apple jelly base. Cutting one open I was amazed to discover that the flesh of the apple was also red, not something I had seen before. Diligent research via twitter, facebook and google suggested that these apples were a variety of orange pippin, possibly crossed with a crab apple. Tasting them, the flesh was juicy, tart and firm.

car park apples

car park apples


Red red red!

Red red red!

I was contacted by Paul Quigley from Norton Priory, a museum and garden in nearby Runcorn (http://nortonpriory.org/).  Their 18thC walled garden contains an orchard of local heritage apples as well as the National Collection of Quinces. Paul was interested in the apples I had found, as he helps to identify and collect old varieties of apples once grown more extensively in the North West.  I had kept back a few of the apples, as I had thought to send them to Brogdale (www.brogdale.org/), which keeps the National Fruit  Collection, with over 4000 varieties of British heritage fruits. Norton was much closer! Paul kindly swapped a bag of quinces, medlars and apples for my “found” treasures, and I wait to hear if they will be definitively identified and perhaps propagated for the future.

And the rest of the apples? I turned them into the most beautiful jewel like jelly, with cider and mulled spices.  Something to serve with the King of English Cheese, Colston Basset’s  creamy hand ladled Stilton this Christmas. A much better end than squashed in the road!

Mulled apple cider jelly

Mulled apple cider jelly

Apple Jelly:

Roughly chop your apples, cores and all. Put into a heavy based pan and just cover the fruit with cold water. Add 1 halved lemon and bring to the boil then turn down and simmer gently for about an hour, until the apples have become a soft pulp.  Pour the apple pulp and liquid into a jelly bag suspended over a large bowl (Lakeland do a good, foldable and adjustable one) to drip through the juices for 24 hrs. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag dry, it will make your end jelly cloudy rather than lusciously sparkling.

Once all the liquid has dripped through, measure the amount of liquid into a pan and add 1lb of sugar to each pint of apple liquor. Stir well to dissolve.  At this point I also added a 500ml bottle of Welsh Cider, 1 tsp of ground cinnamon, 1 tsp of ground ginger, 1 tsp of allspice and a ½ tsp of ground cloves.  (I also added some extra sugar to compensate for the additional cider liquid – half ratio this time). Bring to a rolling boil and let the liquid simmer until setting point is reached – either forming a skin you can wrinkle with your finger when you put a spoonful on a cold saucer or use a sugar thermometer and let it reach around 106C. If a slight scum forms, add a little butter to dissolve it.

Pour into sterilized jars and seal, leave to set before storing somewhere cool before use.

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