April 9, 2014


plum and apple dappy Two of my favourite baking challenges have joined forces this month.  Random Recipes by Dom of Bellau Kitchen, and Aphabakes, by Ros of The more than occasional baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes, have joined together to create an Alphabakes Random Recipe Challenge.

The idea is to choose a cook book at random and then randomly choose and cook a recipe in the A section of the index. 

Most of my cook books are now packed ready for moving house so my choice was limited to the remaining few in one bookcase.  Glancing along the shelf I saw this book by Laura Washburn:

plum and apple dappy2

Thinking that apples conveniently begin with the letter A, I took it off the shelf and discovered a post-it already attached to a page, one I had obviously bookmarked for baking some time ago.  So I decided to cook that.  I hope that’s random enough to comply with the rules of the challenge!

I deviated slightly from the recipe as I wanted to use up a few plums remaining from baking a crumble the previous weekend, but other than that I was reasonably true to the original.  I also conveniently had half a pack of ready made shortcrust pastry in the fridge left over from making a quiche.

 plum and apple dappy3 plum and apple dappy4

I had never heard of a “dappy” before I bought this book (one of my charity shop finds) and essentially it’s like a pastry roly-poly, filled with fruit instead of jam and sliced before baking.  The author describes it as a little known dish from the West Country. 

I now have several of Laura Washburn’s books, the first one I acquired being a Christmas present a few years ago called “the French country table”.  I have cooked quite a few recipes from all of them and they have always been a success.

As well as charity shops I find a good way of acquiring cook books for a very modest price is to use the “used and new” offer on Amazon.  I have collected some really good books for the cost of  only 1p each plus postage, which is usually £2.80.  One or two of the used books have been slightly grubby and very well used, but at that price, if it doesn’t inspire me, I am quite happy to take it back to the charity shops, which is where I imagine most of these 1p books come from in the first place.  Most of the used books have been in near perfect condition.

plum and apple dappy5

As shop bought plums can be a bit firm I usually cook them before putting them into a crumble or pie, so I cooked these along with the apples and also added a dash of cinnamon for extra flavour.   There was a bit too much fruit so rather than make the pastry too difficult to roll up by over filling it, I just tucked the extra in between the pastry rolls in the tin.

plum and apple dappy6

It was delicious!  A nice change from a pie or crumble and I will definitely be making it again.  I have to say that the shop bought ready made pastry was good too.  I’m using it at the moment to save time but I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again and again.


You can read all about this month’s “Random Recipes meets Alphabakes” challenge here and here.


250g ready made shortcrust pastry, approx half a pack

5 large plums, halved, stoned then cubed

2 medium eating apples, peeled, cored and cubed

2 tblsp golden caster sugar

½tsp ground cinnamon

1tblsp demerara sugar


Put the cubed fruit into a medium saucepan with a splash of water and heat gently for 10-15 minutes until the fruit is tender.  Stir in the caster sugar and cinnamon and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 200°fan / gas mk 7.  Line a 20cm square baking tin or dish with baking paper.

Roll out the pastry into an oblong approximately 20 x 30 cm.

Spread the cooked fruit over the pastry and roll up like you would a Swiss roll, from one long side.

Cut the roll into 7* even slices and lay one slice in the centre of the dish, cut side up.  Arrange the remaining slices around the centre one, not touching as the pastry will expand.  Sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through.

Serve with custard, cream, ice cream or crème fraîche.

Serves 4*.

*I followed the instructions and cut the roll into 7 slices but next time I will cut it into 8, to make portioning easier and fairer !!

March 19, 2014


pear and ginger upside down cake Right in the middle of packing I started having withdrawal symptoms.  My resistance failed me and I was overcome by the need to bake something.  I always knew it was too good to last!

I had been disappointed that my self-imposed abstinence from all things cake meant that I couldn’t take part in one of my favourite monthly baking challenges, Alphabakes.  I haven’t entered every month by any means, far from it, but I have done some of the tricky letters, such as Z and I.  This was going to be the final letter, U, and I already had a recipe earmarked for it.  An upside down cake.

Then we sold the house in record time and panic set in.  So much packing to do, so little time!  Baking would have to be put on the back burner for quite a while.

pear and ginger upside down cake2 pear and ginger upside down cake3

I was looking at some uneaten pears in the fruit bowl and the idea for a pear upside down cake came to me.  I had also unearthed a jar of ginger preserve during my clearing out of a kitchen cupboard.  Perfect for sandwiching the two cakes together!

pear and ginger upside down cake4

I used the recipe I intended to use in the first place, which is on the Good Food website and you can see it here.

I simply swapped the peaches for sliced pears and added a little ginger.

pear and ginger upside down cake5 The cake turned out spectacularly well, considering it’s such an easy recipe, essentially and all-in-one sponge cake with some fruit in the bottom of one tin.

The sponge was light and moist with just a hint of ginger, the pears beautifully caramelised and the ginger jam and cream set it off perfectly.  I would definitely make it again.

The fact that it was so quick to make, makes me feel a lot less guilty about taking the time to make it when I should be packing or sorting yet another drawer or cupboard!

alphabakes Alphabakes is a monthly baking challenge organised by Caroline of Caroline Makes and, this time, by Ros of The more than the occasional baker.  You can see the details here.


For the cake

200g softened butter, or spreadable butter

200g self raising flour

1tsp baking powder

1tsp ground ginger

200g golden caster sugar

4 eggs

2tblsp milk

For the topping

3 ripe pears

75g light soft brown sugar

For the filling

2tblsp ginger preserve

125ml double cream

1tblsp icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease two 20cm sandwich tins, line the bases with baking paper and grease again.

Sift the flour, baking powder and ginger into a large bowl.  Add all the other cake ingredients and whisk with an electric hand whisk (or use a food mixer) until fully combined and smooth.

Sprinkle the soft brown sugar evenly over the bottom of one of the tins.

Peel the pears, halve them, remove the cores (using a melon baller) and slice each half into three wedges.  Arrange the pear slices on top of the brown sugar.

Divide the cake mixture evenly between the two tins, being careful not to disturb the pear slices and remembering that the tin with the fruit on the bottom will inevitably look fuller.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are done.  The one with the pears on the bottom will take about five minutes longer than the other.

Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out carefully onto a wire rack.

Whisk the double cream with the icing sugar until spreadable.  When the cakes are cold, spread the preserve on the bare cake half.  (Warm it slightly in a small pan if necessary to make it runny enough to spread.)

Spread a thick layer of whipped cream on top, remembering to let the jam cool completely first.  Put the fruited cake on top of that.

Cuts into 6-8 slices.

March 14, 2014



I was horrified and angry to read that this cake glitter is not edible at all, but made from shredded plastic and powdered brass.


I got mine from a local specialist cake decorating shop where they stocked about twenty different colours.  It’s now in the dustbin.

I remember being sceptical when I first bought it but felt that it probably wouldn’t be on sale at all if it was harmful or not edible.  Not in this day and age.

I should know by now to trust my instincts.

March 10, 2014


birthday bundt This is the last cake I will be baking for a while.  The house is sold so all my baking stuff will be packed up ready to be stored or moved before long.

I was pleased to be  making this cake, a birthday cake for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday.  Her favourite cakes are lemon or fruit cake so I decided to go for a rather special lemon drizzle cake.

birthday bundt2

I used my new Bundt tin, the one that Nick gave me for Christmas, coated it well inside with cake release spray, and the cake slid out perfectly.  That was a relief!  After the previous disaster (here) I can safely say that the tin was not the culprit on that occasion.  I must remember not to put fudge into a Bundt cake again !!

birthday bundt3

I’m not into fancy icing so I decorated the cake with some pretty number candles and pink roses.  I used a small shot glass to act as a vase which I pushed into the hole in the middle of the cake.  I lengthened the stems of the candles by attaching them to wooden kebab sticks with sellotape so that they would stand up at the right height in the vase.

The recipe comes from the blog Delicious, Delicious, Delicious, which you can see here.  It worked perfectly, although I didn’t prick the cake to make holes for the drizzle to soak in as I didn’t want to spoil the lines of the cake.  I just kept pouring the syrup over, recollecting it as it ran off by putting the cake on a cooling rack over a dinner plate.  That resulted in a nice coating of sugar and some of it definitely soaked in through the crust.  To finish the cake I added a light sprinkling of edible glitter.

birthday bundt4

It looked very pretty in the centre of the table for my mother-in-law’s birthday tea.  The flavour was good and everybody enjoyed it.

So that’s it for a while.  I have no idea where my next post will come from, but I’ll be back as soon as we’re settled somewhere !!

Tea_Time_Treatrs_logoIn the meantime I am entering this cake into this month’s Teatime Treats, hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and this month by Jane of the Hedge Combers.  The theme for March is “Decorative Cakes” and you can see the details here.

March 6, 2014


Incredible as it seems, we appear to have sold the house only two days after it went on the market!

I was certainly hoping for a quick sale, to get it over with before I lost my nerve, but I did expect it to take a few months, not just a few days!

Of course it could all go horribly wrong if our buyer drops out for some reason so I'm not counting my chickens just yet.  However with all the sorting and packing to do there will not be too much time for baking in this house for a while so the blog may go quiet and not be updated quite so regularly until we’re more settled – and I can wrestle my baking tins back out of their packing cases !!

I shall be keeping up with my blog reading though – I have to have something to do at 5.30 in the morning when I’m wide awake and can’t seem to get back to sleep !!

February 25, 2014


carrot soup

Cooking has been somewhat chaotic at home lately, largely because we have spent more time sorting our belongings and cleaning than we have shopping.

Once the agent had been and taken the photos of the house for the website we were able to sit back and take a breather.  Also to take stock of what we had in that we could eat.  Inspection of the veg drawer revealed quite a lot of carrots but not much else.  Nick was feeling in need of baking some bread (therapeutic kneading) so we decided to treat ourselves to home made soup and bread for lunch the next day.

 carrot soup2

The recipe comes from a slim volume of the “Best Kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute” series of books and is actually described simply as carrot and ginger soup.  The orange flavour actually comes through quite strongly so I have re-named it for myself.

To be truthful, I didn’t have any oranges but there were two largish clementines in the drawer so I used those.

carrot soup3

It’s quick and easy to make, a glorious colour and, like all home-made soups, immensely satisfying.  Eating a bowl of home-made soup is always such a tremendous pleasure.  It tastes a million times better than the tinned stuff and even the carton stuff.  Knowing that it has been rustled up from a few leftovers makes me feel very virtuous too.

It’s gluten free if you use home-made vegetable stock or a gluten free stock powder such as Kallo or Marigold.


500g carrots, peeled and sliced

2 large onions, peeled and sliced

a 25cm knob of fresh root ginger

Flora Cuisine (2 good squirts) or 40g butter for frying

1tsp ground ginger

the zest and juice of 1 medium orange (or 2 clementines)

800ml vegetable stock (made from a stock cube or powder)


Bash the knob of ginger to crush it and put it in a pan with the carrots and stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

While the carrots are cooking, put the sliced onions into a large pan with the butter or oil and fry until soft.  Stir in the ground ginger and orange zest.

Remove and discard the piece of ginger from the carrot pan and pour the carrots and stock into the onion mixture.  Bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly then purée the soup either by transferring to a food processor or by using a stick blender in the pan.  Blitz until the soup is the consistency you like.  If it seems a little thick, thin it with a spoonful or two of water or milk.  Season to taste.

Add the orange juice and reheat.  Add a swirl of double cream if you like before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

February 23, 2014



The kitchen “before”.

We are beginning the process of selling our house in Derbyshire.  Our intention is to downsize in England and upsize in France, spending more time there.  I try not to think too hard about the reality of selling two houses and buying two houses as the idea is just likely to send me into freefall but we have made a start.

This start involved making our house in England look like a show home for the photos that will appear on the agent’s website.

kitchen after

The kitchen “after”.

We are now functioning with about half of our cooking equipment, the other half being temporarily moved to the garage then ultimately to be deposited in my dad’s garage so that anyone wanting to view the house can see the size of the garage beyond the stuff that used to be in the kitchen.

baked eggs with haddock and spinach Cooking has been limited and even more haphazard than usual during this initial process but we have managed to make a few things that we were pleased with (baked beans and scrambled egg don’t fall into this category, however much we love them) including this dish which is ideal for lunchtime (or a starter perhaps). 

It’s adapted from the Hairy Bikers book “The Hairy Dieters” which my brother gave us for Christmas the other year.  (He also gave us their second dieting book last Christmas - cheeky monkey.)

baked eggs with haddock and spinach2 baked eggs with haddock and spinach3

It’s basically smoked haddock baked in crème fraîche with spinach and eggs and it’s absolutely delicious.

baked eggs with haddock and spinach4 We followed the recipe almost to the letter and for personal consumption I would do it again and again with no changes.  If I was to serve it to guests I think I would follow the tip given by Rachel Khoo when making her croque madame muffins and pour out some of the egg white.  It would simply make it look prettier and a tad more professional.

Instead of smoked haddock (we used the tail end of a piece we had the day before) I think it would be lovely made with smoked salmon, smoked ham or even a bit of fried bacon.

baked eggs with haddock and spinach5 Ingredients (for two people)

½ bag spinach leaves

75 - 100g approx smoked haddock, skinned and snipped into small chunks

75g crème fraîche

2 spring onions, washed, trimmed and sliced

1tsp cornflour

2 eggs (preferably fridge cold)


Preheat the oven to 220° C / 200°fan / gas mk 7.  Lightly grease two large ramekins and put them onto a baking tray.

Put the spinach into a pan with about a tablespoon of water and cook until wilted, about 2-3 minutes.

Drain in a sieve or colander and remove as much water as possible by pressing with the back of a ladle or large spoon.

Put the spinach, fish, crème fraîche, cornflour and spring onions into a medium bowl and mix together.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Divide the mixture between the ramekins, cover with oiled foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, slip off the foil and break an egg into each ramekin.  Replace the foil and bake for a further 8 minutes, by which time the egg whites should be cooked but the yolks still runny.

Remove from the oven again but leave with the foil on for a further 2 minutes.

Serve hot with toast on the side. (And a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc if desired.)

Serves 2.