Below The Line

A challenge from a Twitter mate – Sal Godfrey has led to me attempting to live below the line – ie below the poverty line on the princely sum of £1 per day for 5 days. Yup £5 for 15 meals.

My Shopping List

Chopped tomatoes 400g 24p

500g carrots 25p

Peanut butter 89p

Chicken stock cubes 30p

Plain flour 1.5 kilos 45p

Soft cheese 180g 49p

Butter 79p

500g penne pasta 29p

1 kilo onions 35p

4 baking potatoes 35p

Broccoli 35p

Total: £4.75 – Sal says we are allowed salt, pepper & herbs at 1p a pinch so am “spending” my last 25p on salt, pepper, oregano and smoked paprika. All I can say is thank goodness for Aldi and their Super 6 deals…

You’ll note there’s no tea or coffee, no wine, cake or treats. And definitely no gin. None….

So how to do this? Basic and repetitive frankly. One thing I know about myself is I get “hangry” – short tempered when not fed. So my 5 day menu is pretty carb heavy as I know it will fill me up and prevent Lucy rage. I bought flour so I could continue to make my sourdough bread, which although not using the spelt & lovely organic flour I usually spring for, will at least make a decent couple of loaves. Breakfast will be sourdough toast with peanut butter. And water. Yum.

Soup is my go to for the office lunch in any case but I do usually supplement it with lots of fruit and a nice yogurt. Not this week. Starting with a big pot of minestrone, made with carrots, onions, pasta, potato, broccoli stems, stock and a bit of wild garlic for additional flavour. I miss the umami hit of parmesan but cooked long and slow, the veggies do become full of flavour and the pasta adds a bit of bulk. Add a slice or two of bread (told you this was a carb heavy diet) and I’m set up for the afternoon.

First day supper, couldn’t be bothered faffing so baked a potato, scooped out the centre – mashed it with pepper & butter, added grated carrot and two teaspoons of cream cheese and shoved it back in the oven to crisp up. It was filling but a bit dull to be frank. Normally I’d have served something like this with a lovely green salad drizzled with ev oil and lemon. Instead I made do with more wild garlic (thank goodness it’s in season) some dandelion greens and half of my broccoli florets. No dressing. Sad face.

Day 2. Same breakfast & lunch so won’t bore with the details. Got a bit fancy for supper though with a creamy pasta bake. Achieved with 300g penne, an onion, a carrot, 1 pack of chopped tomatoes, a little butter, oregano, some more wild garlic and a dollop of the cream cheese. Topped with cucina povera style rough chopped breadcrumbs and crisped up in the oven with a little butter dotted over – an old Italian trick to deceive the mouth into feeling like you’re eating lovely crunchy melted cheese. Enough for three nights, that’s Wednesday and Thursday taken care of.

So how do I feel? Bored. Bit cross and missing my morning coffee. I don’t drink a lot of caffeine, I went off it last year when ill, but I do like a morning coffee when I get up. Breakfast is a favourite meal of mine, I like poached eggs, kippers, bacon, avocado on toast etc. Peanut butter on toast is hitting the savoury note I crave but I can tell I’m going to be fed up of it by Friday. What am I missing? CHEESE. Can I emphasise that a bit more? C H E E S E. Not that fussed about meat tbh, I can manage without slabs of it but I do like adding bits of bacon/ ham etc for flavour to much of the food I make. I’m also not much for sweets, so the lack of sugar hasn’t been too hard to deal with but not having fresh fruit has been tough to take. And of course, the minute you tell yourself you can’t have something, it becomes the one thing you want…

Thank God It’s Friday. Last day of this experiment and I’ve got no reason to complain. I’ve been fed, monotonously, but haven’t gone hungry. More importantly, I’ve chosen to do this, not because I have to. Tomorrow I can run off and buy lovely things and play in the kitchen because I’m fortunate enough to have a full time job that pays me decently. What have I learnt? That I’ll smack the next person who suggests people who are struggling on a low income don’t know how to budget. I’ve spent more time working out how to live on £1 a day for food and juggling my pennies than I normally ever think about when food shopping. I’m humbled. And angry that this is the “choice” for so many people in our country. I believe that food should bring joy and health to us all. It’s not just fuel and it’s wrong to treat it as such. Having just enough food in your tummy to fill you up and get by isn’t enough for the human soul.

I’ve found this week hard on several levels – one, I love cooking and making dishes, playing in my kitchen and feeding other people is my way to relax and have fun; two, it’s been boring eating the same thing, I wanted more flavour than my budget would allow; three, it’s been tiring, filling up on carbs is all very well but the lack of protein depletes energy levels, leading to tired grumpiness; four, you feel apart from everyone else, isolated in your little bubble of deprivation. Imagine that being your constant state of mind. No wonder we have high levels of depression amongst people on low incomes and asylum seekers. Doing this challenge has given me much food for thought. Thank you to Sal Godfrey from Sal’s Kitchen @Sal_Godrey for encouraging me to take part. I’ve chosen to make a donation of my “normal” food budget to Asylum Link Merseyside who support destitute asylum seekers who truly are living below the line. Find out more here: and do spare a few ££ to support your local food bank when food shopping if you can.

Fellow food bloggers who took the challenge are listed below.

You can follow our week via twitter using hashtag: #fdbloggersBTL

“Recipes” below:

Cheat’s Minestrone

2 onions, chopped roughly

4 carrots, diced

Broccoli stem (not florets), diced

1 baking potato, not peeled but diced

200g pasta – ideally spaghetti but I used penne because that’s what I’d bought

4 chicken stock cubes

50g butter

Handful of wild garlic leaves

1 pinch oregano

2 pinches salt

2 pinches pepper

Prepare veg. Melt butter in large pan and add onions, cook til soft, then add carrots and broccoli stem. Cook for 5 minutes. Add in the potato and 3 litres of chicken stock made up with the stock cubes. Add oregano and salt and pepper, stir well and leave to gently simmer for two hours on a low heat. Add the pasta – break it up into small pieces and chopped wild garlic and cook for another 5 minutes or so til the pasta has softened. Serve.


Penne Pasta Bake

2 onions, chopped

2 carrots, diced

400g chopped tomatoes

30g butter

1 pinch oregano

2 pinches salt

2 pinches pepper

2 tbsp cream cheese

handful of wild garlic leaves, chopped

300g penne pasta

chicken stock cube

two slices of stale bread torn up into small pieces

20g of butter, diced

Melt 30g butter in an oven/ hob proof dish. Add chopped onions and carrots and sauté gently over a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, rinsing out the tin/ box with water to get every last bit out! Add oregano and chicken stock cube and leave to simmer gently for half an hour, until the veggies are tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Take off heat and stir in cream cheese and wild garlic. Set aside whilst you cook pasta to al dente (it cooks more in the sauce in the oven). Add pasta to the creamy tomato sauce, stir well and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the bread crumbs/ pieces and dot with butter. Place in a medium oven, 180C/ GM5 and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the topping has crisped up. Serve.

Wild garlic potato gnocchi with cream cheese & broccoli

 2 baking potatoes


Wild garlic leaves

Cream cheese

Broccoli florets

1 onion

20g butter

Cook potatoes in their skins – either in the oven or boiling them until tender. Scoop the flesh out into a bowl and mash with a fork. Shred the wild garlic leaves and mix in. Whilst still hot, add flour slowly till you have a smooth dough. Set aside in a cool place to rest for half an hour. Dust chopping board with flour and turn out dough. Divide in half and roll out into two long sausages. Cut into half inch pieces, rolling in a little more flour and set aside to firm up in the fridge.

Make sauce – cook broccoli florets in a little water until tender don’t use lots of water because you want to use the water as part of the sauce. Mash with a fork and set aside. Chop the onion finely and cook in the butter til soft and golden, don’t allow to brown. Add the mashed broccoli mixture and then stir in the cream cheese to make a creamy green sauce. Season.

Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil, season with salt and drop the gnocchi pieces in one at time. They will rise to the surface as they cook, scoop out with a slotted spoon into a colander to drain. Add gnocchi to the broccoli sauce, toss gently and eat!


Butternutty Soup

So here we are on the 3rd January 2016. It’s a grey, wet and frankly miserable day. The festivities are over, the tree is taken down, decorations tidied away and it’s back to work or school for many of us tomorrow. Cheering up food is required. Something tasty, bright and warming. Soup should fit that bill, and I have had a butternut squash kicking about the kitchen for the past two weeks that needs using up.

I’m taking part in an Ikea challenge – to Live LAGOM – which is all about simplifying your life, reducing waste and being more sustainable in all your activities. One of things I’ve put down as a personal challenge is to manage my store cupboards better. I’m convinced I was a starving peasant in a former life as I regularly overstock my pantry, secure in the knowledge that I can, if required, feed an army at short notice. However, as that army doesn’t rock up with the frequency I think it should, I end up with full cupboards and an occasional *cough* duplication of items because I can’t actually find anything in them…

With that laudable intent in mind, I spent a merry morning turning out two pantry shelves, listing everything I had, relabelling jars & chucking out things from 2008. Oops. I’ve got lots of odds and sods – some desiccated coconut, not enough for a cake; various small quantities of lentils; lots of bits of pasta; and a fine selection of nuts including unsalted cashews, pine nuts and hazelnuts. I do hate waste so I’m determined to make some meals using up these scraps.

Back to the butternut squash and the warming soup that’s so sorely needed. I don’t think I’m being particularly original in this combination of butternut squash, cashews and coconut but by gum it makes a yummy soup! Please forgive the slightly random measurements, this soup was rather chucked together, so you may need to adjust quantities to suit your own taste. I’ve also realised that I’ve created a vegan recipe, by accident not design, but one that fits nicely into January’s Veganuary theme for a few folk.

Butternutty soup

1 medium butternut squash

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

1 tsp dried thyme

1 medium onion

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 dsp desiccated coconut

a handful of unsalted cashews (or peanuts)

1 litre veg stock

Cut up butternut squash into 2 inch or so chunks – skin and all, but remove the seeds & fibre from the centre. Toss in a baking tray with 1 tbsp of oil, thyme and three slightly crushed but not peeled garlic cloves. Place in a medium hot oven – GM5/160 fan/ 180C and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until the squash is tender. Leave til cool enough to handle, then remove skin from butternut squash pieces and squeeze out the roasted garlic.

Meantime, roughly chop the onion. Add 1 tbsp of oil to a heavy based pan, heat gently and then add the onion. Keep the heat low and cook onions til soft and translucent. Add the chilli flakes and stir well. Add the butternut squash, garlic, coconut and cashews. Pour the hot veg stock into the vegetable baking tray to rinse out any lingering flavours and decant into the soup pan. Give everything a good stir and bring to a gentle simmer for about 15 minutes. Take off the heat, let it cool slightly before blending into a rich creamy soup. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed – salt/ pepper/ pinch of cayenne if it needs more heat etc. Serve garnished with more cashews.

Soup in preparation

Vegetables cooking before stock added

Picture of butternutty soup

Butternutty Soup

Wild about Spring

IMG_1428March is leaving us like a lion – wind, driving rain and the occasional frost. But the light has changed, dawn comes earlier with a blackbird’s song, and in the gardens and woods the greenery is spreading. Sometimes this time is known as the hungry gap, the stored winter vegetables are coming to their end and the seedlings of the new season are yet to sprout. Now is the time to go foraging, in search of fresh wild spring greens to add zing and flavour to meals. My favourite is wild garlic – the richly scented green leaves made into a pesto with hazelnuts and extra virgin rapeseed oil.

An “English” PestoIMG_1414

50g wild garlic – just cut the leaves, leave the bulbs for the next year.
50g watercress or young spinach
100g hazelnuts
Extra virgin rapeseed oil – I use Borderfields which has a lovely nutty taste to complement the hazelnuts.
salt to taste

Use a food processor – pack in the nuts & greens, set it going and begin to drizzle the oil in until you have a thick spoonable paste. Season to taste and pack into clean sterilised jars. Top with more oil to keep it fresh and seal. Keep in the fridge.


Toss a couple of teaspoons of pesto through hot gnocchi, and add a handful of fresh spinach or watercress and a grating of Parmesan.

Mix a teaspoon of the pesto with creme fraiche and use to dress a piece of grilled salmon as a quick sauce.

Try with roasted lamb – use it as a rub before putting in the oven.

Mix with mashed potatoes and serve alongside a piece of gammon.

Use on bruschetta with a little feta or goats cheese crumbled over.

Butter Squashed

So. It’s the second weekend of January and I’m still using up the veg from Christmas week. Not because I over ordered (perish the thought) but because I got invited out to more dinners then expected – the joy of hospitable friends and family and to be frank, the lure of lovely shiny places like Salthouse Bacaro ( and Berry & Rye ….

Anyway. Back to the vegetable glut. I have two butternut squashes, a single parsnip, half a bag of Brussels sprouts, a cauliflower, some carrots, a bit of celery, a few potatoes and the usual pantry staples of onion, garlic and ginger. First thought of course was soup. But then I always make soup and one of my food resolutions for 2015 was to be bold and not just to stick to my comfort zones.

In search of inspiration, I perused Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus – which takes the interested cook on a journey through categories such as Spicy, Woodland, Roasted, Earthy, Marine etc, suggesting pairings of ingredients based on their flavour characteristics and how they balance each other. As butternut squash is dominating my larder, I looked up what she had to say about it. Niki places butternut squash in tFlavour Thesaurushe Woodland category, alongside carrots, chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. She points out that the sweetness of butternut squash means it works well with salty or sour flavours but its dense creamy texture means that it can also cope well with spices and herbs. Some of Niki’s suggestions include pairing it with bacon, blue cheese chilli, lime, seafood, rosemary, sage, or nutmeg.

Bacon has a tendency to grab my attention, especially as I know I have a pack of Savin Hill’s dry smoked bacon lurking in the fridge. I also like the idea of using the woody herbs such as rosemary and sage but the ingredient that’s really intriguing me is lime. It just so happens I have a few limes left over from the Christmas gin & tonics. Now I’m thinking about Asian inspired dishes, using lime and chili to sharpen up the sweet butternut squash. Decisions, decisions…

Being January, my herb patch is looking a little sad, but the sage is marching on so I decide upon using one of squashes to make butternut & bacon filled ravioli, served with sage butter. The other is destined for more exotic treatment, a Malay inspired Laksa with lime, chilli and coconut (yes I know it’s a sort of soup, but it’s a fancy one!).

Butternut & Bacon Ravioli Serves 4


500g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 4 cm pieces

3 tsp olive oil

salt & pepper

2 rashers of bacon*, cut into small dice (or use pancetta)

50g gorgonzola (or other blue cheese) grated or diced into small pieces.



300g 00 grade flour

3 large free range eggs



50g butter

2tbsp olive oil

handful of fresh sage leaves


Preheat oven to 200C/ 400F/ GM6

Toss the butternut squash pieces with two teaspoons of olive oil and season.Butternut squash Place in one layer on a baking sheet and put in the oven to roast for 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes before blending into a thick puree with the gorgonzola. (I needed to add a little cream to aid this) Set aside to cool.

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in pan and cook the bacon pieces until crisp. Set aside to cool. Mix into the cooled butternut puree, with nutmeg and more salt and pepper as needed to taste.

pastaMake the pasta. Make a well of sifted flour and add a pinch of salt and the 3 eggs, lightly beaten together. Use a fork (or fingers) to lightly mix them together to create a dough. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead well for between 5 and 10 minutes – pulling and stretching the dough until it changes texture from rough and floury to smooth and silky – it will have a slight sheen. Divide into 4 pieces, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for a good hour.

Pasta photo 2 photo 3


Once the pasta dough has chilled, take the first portion and roll it out onto a lightly floured work surface to about 1mm thick or roll through your pasta machine. (Note to readers: It is at this point I took the sensible decision to invest in a pasta machine. Rolling out pasta by hand is perfectly possible but you will develop Popeye’s forearms…)

photo 2 handrollingphoto 3

Using a pastry cutter 8.5cm or 3.5 inch in diameter, cut out 12 discs. Set aside and repeat the process until you have 24 discs. Divide the cooled filling into half and spoon into the centre of 12 of the discs – about a heaped tsp. Brush round the edge of the filled disc with water and then take another disc and lay it over the top, pressing down on the water brushed edges to seal. (Note to readers: I was paranoid about the filling bursting out, so I gently stretched the discs and then rolled the edges rather like a Cornish pasty. Not very authentic, but my raviolis stayed intact!)

Ravioli photo 2 photo 3

Once you have filled 12 pasta parcels, repeat the process with the remaining mixture and two balls of dough. Place on a floured board, and dust with a little flour. Cover with a cloth and set aside.

Make the garnish before cooking the ravioli. Roughly chop the sage leaves. Melt the butter and oil in a shallow pan and add the sage leaves, cook til they start to crisp, then remove from the heat.

To cook the ravioli, fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil. Add salt and turn down to a gentle simmer. Slide the ravioli into the water. They will sink to the bottom of the pan, and as they cook will bob to the surface. It will take about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and toss in the sage scented butter. Sprinkle with black pepper and a scattering of grated Parmesan. Enjoy!

ready, cook! photo 4

*Note for Vegetarians – leave out the bacon and add a handful of toasted pinenuts instead.




Celebrate Welsh food!

St David’s Day is the 1st March, and a great day to celebrate the glories of Welsh food & drink. Whilst perhaps not having the most well known cuisine in the world, Wales can be justifiably proud of the quality of its produce. Welsh lamb is legendary, and their beef is pretty spectacular too.  A great chunk of Wales is coast, so not surprisingly, the seafood is excellent, often served with Laverbread – a type of seaweed, which is also added to a traditional Welsh breakfast. Sea salt, harvested in Anglesey, was recently given protected status by the EU, lining it up beside Champagne, Prosciutto di Parma and Stilton as a product  only allowed to be identified as genuinely originating in that region. Check out for details of their lovely sea salts, including  smoked, vanilla, celery & plain.

Cheese is another fabulous Welsh product – Gorwydd Caerphilly – a citrussy, mild cheese; Organic Perl Las – softly blue and creamy; Cenarth Brie – a buttery brie ; Snowdonia Extra Mature Cheddar – rich creamy & salty; & Harlech  – flavoured with horseradish and parsley; are just some of the delicious cheeses produced here. Have a look at for details of their Welsh selection. Of course, cheese leads me onto the wonderful Welsh dish – Welsh Rarebit aka posh cheese on toast.  I make it old school style, melted in a pan and then poured over the toasted bread and browned – see below for the recipe.

What would St David’s Day be without a leek? A traditional symbol of Wales, this lovely onion relative has a milder flavour and is the main component of the velvety textured Vichyssoise soup, made with leeks & potatoes and served chilled in summer. As summer is yet some way off, I’ve given a recipe for a hearty leek & potato soup instead!

Bara Brith is a traditional Welsh tea bread, made with dried fruit and tea, and sometimes yeast but I confess to a weakness for Welsh cakes, a sort of griddle scone with spices and fruit, best served warm with lashings of butter…


Welsh Rarebit


25 g butter

25g plain flour

100ml strong dark beer (Welsh)

150 g mature Cheddar, grated (try the Snowdonia)

1 tsp English mustard (yes, English.. sorry!)

1 egg

Melt butter in a small pan, add the flour and cook over a gentle heat until it’s starting to go golden. Slowly add the beer, stirring well to prevent lumps, and then add the grated cheese. Take off the heat and stir until all the cheese has melted into the beery sauce. If it’s not melting, put back on heat but don’t let it boil. Add the mustard and mix well. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then add the egg, well beaten.

Toast 4 slices of bread on both sides, then spread the cheese mixture over the bread and put back under the grill until golden and bubbling.

Hearty Leek & Potato Soup


50g butter

1 small onion, chopped

3 large leeks, cleaned well (!) and chopped into quarters, then slices

3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

900ml of chicken stock

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (1/2 tsp if using dried)

salt & pepper

100ml double cream

Melt the butter in a large pan, and add the onion and leeks. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring to keep from browning, until the leeks and onions are softening. Add the thyme and chopped potatoes, stir well and add the stock and bring to a simmer. Put a lid on the pot and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender. Take off the heat and use a potato masher to break up and thicken the soup (you can use a hand blender if you prefer a smoother texture). Add the cream and adjust seasoning to taste.

Welsh cakes  (recipe from:


225g plain flour

100g butter

75g caster sugar

50g currants (or mixed dried fruit)

½tsp baking powder

¼tsp mixed spice

1 egg

A pinch salt

A little milk to bind

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, mixed spice) together into a mixing bowl. Cut up the butter and rub into the flour. Stir in the sugar and fruit, pour in the egg and mix to form a dough, use a little milk if the mixture is a little dry. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a biscuit. Use a pastry cutter to cut out rounds. Cook the cakes on a greased bake stone or griddle until golden. The heat should not be too high, as the cakes will cook on the outside too quickly, and not in the middle. Once cooked sprinkle with caster sugar and serve with butter.

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)



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.









Courgette Glut!


Judging by the generosity of friends lately, courgettes (zucchini) have done rather well in this summer of heat and rain.  I’ve been given fat green, almost marrow ones; slim dark mini ones; acid bright yellow ones and squat round striped ones. Now I’m not one to turn down free produce, ever, but there’s a limit to how much ratatouille a girl can eat so I’ve been searching out alternative recipes to make the most of this August bounty.

First up is the ever-reliable Lime & Courgette Cake, courtesy of Nigella Lawson. Found in her How to be a Domestic Goddess book, this is a recipe I renamed Lime Surprise cake, inviting tasters (especially children) to guess the surprise ingredient. Very few ever did, and all loved the cake, proving to me yet again that sometimes you can smuggle greens into people who might otherwise avoid them…

Lime Surprise Cake


  • 250g courgettes (2-3)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 225g self raising flour
  • ½  tsp bicarbonate soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder


lime curd, if shop bought, add juice of a lime to sharpen. If you can’t get lime curd, use lemon and add the juice of lime.


  • 200g cream cheese
  • 100g icing sugar
  • juice of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 180C/ GM4. Grease and line 21cm cake tin x 2.

Wipe courgettes but don’t peel them. Coarsely grate them and put into a sieve over the sink to allow excess water to drain.

Whisk eggs, oil & sugar together until creamy. Sieve in the flour, bicarb & baking powder and continue to beat until well combined. Fold in the grated courgettes.  Pour mixture into the cake tins and bake for 30 minutes until slightly browned and firm to touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 -10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.

To make the icing – beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add the icing sugar, sieved, and finally the lime juice to taste.

Assemble cake – put one half on a plate, spread the top with lime curd. Put on the top cake and cover with the cream cheese icing. Put in the fridge to firm up before serving.

Note: when unable to get or be bothered to make lime curd, I’ve made this cake in one tin (leave for 45 to 50 mins to bake) and covered it with the cream cheese icing and the zest of a lime – bit like a carrot cake.

Last year I was given buckets of green tomatoes, which I turned into chutney and also jars of pickles. I thought I’d try the same principle with the courgettes. The River Cottage has a fab recipe called Glutney – designed to be adjusted to whatever ingredient you have the most of.

Crunchy Courgette Pickles

  • 500g courgettes
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp non-iodised salt

For the pickling liquid

  • 500ml white vinegar
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • ½  tsp juniper berries
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½  tsp dried chilli
  • 1 finely chopped gariic clove
  • 1 dsp chopped dill
  • 1 dsp chopped thyme

Thinly slice the courgettes using a sharp knife, mandolin or slicing blade on a food processor. Put in a bowl with the shallots and sprinkle over the salt. Cover with ice-cold water, stir to dissolve the salt and leave for 1 hr. Drain the courgettes thoroughly and pat dry using kitchen paper or tea towels. If they stay too wet, the water will dilute the pickling solution.

Meanwhile, put the pickling ingredients into a pan and bring to a simmer. Bubble for 3 mins, making sure the sugar has dissolved, then leave to cool until warm but not hot. Add the courgettes and stir. Scoop the mixture into 2 x 500ml sterilised jars. Seal and leave for a few days in the fridge. Kept chilled, these will keep for a couple of months. Rather nice on a burger….