October 5, 2015


chocolate and blackberry upside down cake3

We have just returned from a week’s holiday in Anglesey, where we were blessed with the most amazing weather for the time of year.  It was sunny and warm every day and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.


In fact I would go as far as to say it was one of the best holidays I have ever had, ever.  The skiing holidays in Austria, the diving holidays in Devon, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley experience, the motorcycle camping tours of Europe, are of course all now a distant memory and they were great, but I’d go back to Anglesey for its pretty harbours, deserted beaches and coastal walks any day.  Also for the blackberries.

chocolate and blackberry upside down cake2

The hedgerows were full of the most beautiful blackberries, large, plump, sweet and juicy.  To find so many at the very end of September was a real joy.  On the last day of our holiday we picked bagfuls of them so we could bring them home and freeze them.

Back home in Derbyshire, Sunday was a lovely day, so instead of sorting out our holiday baggage we decided to make the most of it and spend the afternoon in the garden.  The forecast was suggesting that the fine weather was coming to an end.  Sunday was also my sister-in-law Kathy’s birthday so we invited her round for tea and cake in the garden and the sunshine.  With all those lovely blackberries washed and ready for freezing I decided to rustle up a quick birthday cake that would use some of them while they were fresh.


In case you’re wondering why there’s a picture of the new CCC cookbook here it’s because I have a recipe in it! 

When contributions were invited at the beginning of the year I sent in one of my favourite recipes for a quick but fairly special looking cake that I make when I’m short of time but need to produce something that looks and tastes good – a pear and ginger upside down cake.  I was amazed when a few weeks later I received an email saying the recipe would be in the book!  Not only that, but as a contributor I was invited to the book launch party in Leeds last month and one of the other contributors at my table said she had already made the cake from the book and it was delicious – was I chuffed or what ??!!

So I decided to make a chocolate version for Kathy’s birthday cake, also using some of my lovely Anglesey blackberries.  It was made and on the table in just about an hour.

chocolate and blackberry upside down cake4chocolate and blackberry upside down cake5

It was a bit of an experiment and I had no idea if it would work, but it did.  The blackberries made a nice pattern on the top of the cake and I added a few more whole ones on top for decoration, fixing them and making sure they stayed in place with a smear of blackberry jam.  The cake was filled with more jam and whipped cream.  Definitely a cake I shall be making again. 


Dom’s Simply Eggcellent challenge at Beallau Kitchen this month is “Anything Goes”.  You can read the details here.


The Love Cake theme at Jibber Jabber UK this month is “In a hurry” and you can read the details here.


For the cake

200g softened butter, or spreadable butter (I used Stork with butter)

175g self raising flour

1tsp baking powder

4 tblsp cocoa powder

4 tbslp boiling water

200g golden caster sugar

4 eggs

2tblsp milk

For the topping

2 handfuls of washed fresh blackberries (preferably from Anglesey)

2 tblsp light soft brown sugar

For the filling

2tblsp blackberry jam or bramble jelly

125ml double cream (I used Elmlea Double)

1tblsp icing sugar

For the decoration

8-10 nice large Anglesey blackberries

1 tblsp blackberry jam or bramble jelly


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.

Mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water to make a paste.  Add a little more water if it’s very stiff.  Set aside to cool.

Put all the other cake ingredients into a large bowl and whisk with an electric hand whisk (or use a food mixer) until fully combined and smooth.  Add the cocoa paste and whisk again.

Sprinkle the soft brown sugar evenly over the bottom of one of the tins.  Add enough blackberries to make a single layer which covers the sugar.

Divide the cake mixture evenly between the two tins, being careful not to disturb the blackberries 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 fruit 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.

While the cake is cooling, whisk the double cream with the icing sugar until spreadable.  When the cakes are cold, spread the jam 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.

Smear another spoonful of jam or jelly in the centre of the top of the cake and place a few blackberries for decoration.

Cuts into 6-8 slices.

September 22, 2015



My brother Colin and his daughter Joanna came to stay with us in France for ten days in August.  They are both keen and accomplished cooks.  Jo, who is not quite eighteen yet, made some delicious meals for us, including a ratatouille pasta bake and a mushroom risotto.  She also enjoys baking cakes and one of the things she made was a tray of rhubarb flapjack.

jo's flapjacks

Having discovered the jars of rhubarb compote on French supermarket shelves, we always now keep some in.  The French seemingly must eat a lot of compote.  You can find jars and tins of all many varieties, the most popular being apple, but there is always a good supply of rhubarb and apricot as well.

Last Christmas Jo gave me a jar of flapjack mix for a present, using her recipe, for me to bake myself.   They were her original apricot flapjacks using dried fruit and were delicious.  These flapjacks are a variation on that recipe.

jo's flapjacks2jo's flapjacks3

It makes a tray of gorgeous chewy flapjack with a layer of rhubarb in the middle.  Jo used to make the apricot version most weekends when she worked in a local café and apparently they always sold out early.  I can see why!

jo's flapjacks4


This month’s Alphabakes Challenge is the letter ‘J’, organised by Caroline of Caroline Makes and Ros of The more than occasional baker.  You can see the details here.

Jo’s rhubarb flapjacks


75g plain flour*

200g butter

125g muscovado sugar**

3½ tsp honey or golden syrup

150g porridge oats

A few tblsp fruit compote or dried fruit puréed


Grease a 20 x 15cm baking tin. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan.

Mix the flour and oats together in a large bowl.

Put the butter into a small saucepan, add the sugar and honey and heat gently until they are all melted together.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients until combined.

Spoon half of the mixture into the tin and spread it out. Spread a thin layer of the fruit compote on top. Spoon the rest of the flapjack mixture over that and spread out evenly.***

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden on top and firm to the touch.

Turn out carefully onto a wire rack, so that the flapjack doesn’t break apart. Cut into the size of slice you want when it is just warm to the touch.

Serve warm with custard, or cold.

*Wholemeal flour would also work.

**Caster sugar may also work.

***If the fruit is very runny, put the tray in the fridge for it to firm up and warm the flapjack topping in the microwave to make the spreading easier.

Cuts into 6-10 pieces, depending on how large you like them.

September 17, 2015


chocolate beetroot cake

For our last Clandestine Cake Club meeting in the Loire the theme was “guess the mystery ingredient”.  Putting weird vegetables and odd spices in a cake is common place these days.  Parsnips, carrots, courgettes and other unlikely things were unheard of when I started baking properly (as a grown up) in the 70’s.  Nowadays there are plenty of recipes around to include something out of the ordinary.

I decided to make a cake I’ve had a hankering to bake for quite some time.  It first appeared in Dom’s Bellau Kitchen blog here and he recently made it again and decorated it even more fabulously here.

chocolate beetroot cake2chocolate beetroot cake3

I stuck to Dom’s recipe apart from the fact that I increased the amount of apple and reduced the amount of beetroot.  The theory being that I would label my cake as a chocolate beetroot cake, as I thought the beetroot might be an easy guess, leaving the apple as the “mystery ingredient”. 

I was wrong!  Both the beetroot and the apple were impossible to detect in the cake and nobody guessed it.  It was however beautifully moist and incredibly chocolatey.  I would guess that you could disguise anything with that amount of chocolate in a cake – it would be a very good contender for a murder mystery!

chocolate beetroot cake4

I didn’t quite achieve the depth of pink in the icing of Dom’s cakes, even after adding a splash of pink colouring, but it looked very pretty all the same.  Definitely a cake I shall be making again.

My one tip to add to the recipe is that if you put a dinner plate under the cooling rack when you drizzle the melted chocolate over the cake, any that runs off can be spooned up and drizzled again.

mystery 8

There were, as always, some splendid cakes on the table at the Loire Valley CCC meeting and you can read all about that here.


I am being really cheeky this month and sending Dom’s own cake to his monthly “simply eggcellent” challenge, which this month is “cakes”!  You can see the details here.  Well, he asked for it really, didn’t he, n’est-ce-pas?!

August 28, 2015



stuffed courgettes

stuffed courgettes6

stuffed courgettes2

We have loads of home grown produce around at the moment.  From a small number of tomato plants we have grown many kilos of tomatoes and they keep on coming.  We didn’t grow these squash and courgettes ourselves, they were gifts from different friends, all of whom seem to have a glut of them this year.  Lucky for us!

stuffed courgettes7

We haven’t done so well with our apples.  Our best apple tree had to be removed to make way for the new fosse septique, leaving us with just one that we have “rescued”.  It was squashed in amongst lots of other weed trees and bushes that were overcrowding it when we bought the house so we cleared them all out to give it room to thrive.  By early July it had loads of apples on it but then we had a spell of really hot weather and the tree suffered badly, most of the apples falling off before they were ripe, becoming food for the critters.  The few in the picture above are our full crop for the year as there are no more on the tree.

stuffed courgettes3

We may be short of apples but we have plenty of donated courgettes - although I thought these looked more like small marrows.  They made me remember the stuffed marrow dish my mum used to make.  Each summer my dad would proudly produce a couple of giant marrows and she would fill thick slices of them with a stuffing of minced beef and onion cooked in Oxo gravy, smother them with cheese sauce and bake them in the oven.  Delicious!

stuffed courgettes4

However, on checking the contents of our fridge I discovered a glut of other bits and bobs that were also in need of using up.  My brother and his daughter came to stay with us in early August and we predictably overbought on food, not allowing for the number of days we were likely to eat out – not to mention the food shopping they did themselves to add to the haul.

My brother and his daughter both enjoy cooking and after they had gone home I found a few interesting things in the fridge that they had bought but never got round to cooking.  Including two packs of halloumi.

I don’t think I have ever eaten halloumi, certainly I have never bought any or cooked with it.  But, along with my glut of tomatoes, a pack of smoked salmon trimmings, some grated Emmental and the large courgettes, an idea of what to do with them all started to form.  I was thinking of a blog post from our friends who gave us the courgettes and the link to a recipe for something called “zucchini boats”.  You can read it here.

stuffed courgettes5

So it turns out that I made something totally new and delicious that I didn’t have to shop for, never really planned, and I will definitely be making again!


2½ large courgettes

1 pack (183g) halloumi, diced

6 medium tomatoes, diced

half a pack (125g) smoked salmon trimmings

a few handfuls of grated Emmental cheese


Put on a large pan of water to boil.  Wipe clean two of the courgettes, slice in half lengthways and remove the seeds.  (I scooped them out with a melon baller.)

Put the oven on to heat up to 200°C / 180° fan.

Drop the courgette halves carefully into the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Remove and drain.

Dice the remaining half of a large courgette (or a smaller one) and put into a large bowl.  Add the diced tomatoes and halloumi.  Season with salt and pepper, mix together well and stir through the smoked salmon trimmings.  I also added a pinch of the little pack of herbs and spices that came with the cheese.

Arrange the courgette halves in a suitable ovenproof dish.  Pile the stuffing ingredients into them and sprinkle over the Emmental.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until the topping is nicely browned and bubbling.

Serve with a green salad.  Serves two.  Gluten free.

August 23, 2015


blueberry and white chocolate mini muffins2

I am quite a fan of mini muffins.  They are barely more than a single mouthful in size and consequently as a treat they are far less daunting a prospect than regular muffins.  I sometimes find that just one regular muffin is quite filling, and could never eat more than one, whereas mini muffins are so easy to eat that one is never enough – and I don’t feel at all greedy in eating a second or even a third.

blueberry and white chocolate mini muffins3

I made these soon after our return to France for what was going to be quite a long stay.  I knew I would be leaving our UK kitchen for several weeks so I had a quick look around for anything that would soon need using up and that I could take with me.  Among the various bits and bobs I found a packet of white chocolate chips in the cupboard and half a pack of fresh blueberries in the fridge.

blueberry and white chocolate mini muffins

I used my old faithful recipe which I have used before and in no time at all rustled up just one tray of mini muffins.  Most muffins have to be eaten on the same day as baking but these mini versions kept well for three days in a cake tin.  Which means I had three days to eat the lot as Nick is not all that keen on muffins……!!


This month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge, organised by Choclette of Tin and Thyme is “anything goes”.

Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary

The No Waste Food Challenge is a monthly event of Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary which celebrates the using up of all food rather than throwing it out.


150 g plain flour

50g caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten

50g butter, melted and cooled

100 ml milk

75 g blueberries

75 g white chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 200º C (180º fan) and butter a 24 hole mini muffin tin.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl.

Add the butter, egg and milk and mix together quickly.  Add the fruit and chocolate and mix in as briefly as possible, avoiding over-mixing, as long as there are no dry bits of flour.

Divide the mixture between the muffin holes.  (I use a mini ice cream scoop to get the amounts reasonable even.)  Bake for 12 - 15 minutes until risen and golden.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.

Makes 24.

August 21, 2015


lemon tiramisu

First tweak of my tiramisu recipe.

I spotted a recipe for lemon tiramisu in a blog and decided it was such a delicious sounding idea that I just had to make one.  Instead of making that particular recipe I experimented by adapting my usual tiramisu recipe, which I got from a friend about thirty years ago.  She got it from a German magazine when she was living there.

It makes a tiramisu that is more like a trifle than a cake.  In other words you serve it by the spoonful into bowls rather than by the slice on a plate, which is the kind of tiramisu I prefer. 

lemon tiramisu3

Second tweak of my tiramisu recipe, my favourite version, served in a lasagne dish which is not as pretty as the big bowl but probably more suitable for people to serve themselves.

I made the second one to take to a friend’s lunchtime BBQ party, having tweaked the recipe slightly again.  It was placed on the table with all the other desserts and looked nice.  I sampled a small spoonful and thought it tasted lovely.  When I went back for a second helping there was hardly any left and another guest who was poised over it said “you should get the last of this while you can, it’s delicious”.  I thanked him for his praise and he said it was a pity I hadn’t made two!

lemon tiramisu4

So now I’m writing down the recipe with the scribbled changes to my friend’s original, while I can still remember where I put the scrap of paper I wrote them on and interpret my own writing!  As always, it’s even better if you make it the day before you want to eat it, chilling it in the fridge overnight so that it becomes slightly firmer.


This month’s Alphabakes Challenge, organised by Caroline of Caroline Makes and Ros of The more than occasional baker, is the letter “Z”, and this tiramisu has quite a lot of lemon zest in it.


This month’s Simply Eggcellent Challenge, created by Dom of Bellau Kitchen, is “anything goes”, as long as it has eggs in it, which this lemon tiramisu certainly does!


For the syrup

The juice of two lemons

The finely grated zest of one lemon

2 tblsp caster sugar

4 tblsp Limoncello

For the cheese filling

1 pack (175g) boudoir biscuits + possibly a few extra from another pack, depending on the size and shape of your dish

4 egg yolks

3 egg whites

3 heaped tblsp caster sugar

350g mascarpone cheese

the coarsely grated zest of one lemon for decoration


Begin by zesting and juicing the lemons.  I used a lemon zester to get the ribbon-like strips for decoration and a fine grater to get the finely grated rind for the syrup.

For the syrup, mix together the lemon juice, Limoncello, fine zest and 2 tblsp caster sugar in a small bowl – but one big enough to dip in your boudoir biscuits.  Set aside.

Next, separate the eggs, putting 4 yolks in a large bowl with the 3 tblsp caster sugar.  Put 3 of the whites into a medium bowl.

Whip the egg yolks and sugar together using an electric whisk, until pale and thick.  Beat in the mascarpone cheese until smooth.

Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold into the cheese mixture.

To assemble the tiramisu, dip the boudoir biscuits one at a time into the syrup and create a single layer in the bottom of your dish.  Add half the cheese mixture.

Repeat using the rest of the biscuits, making only a single layer on top of the cheese mixture and opening a second packet of biscuits if needed according to the shape of your dish.  Brush any remaining syrup over this layer of biscuits.

Spread the rest of the cheese mixture over the biscuits, making sure you go right to the edge of the dish, leaving no gaps. 

Chill in the fridge for at least four hours and preferably overnight.

Serve chilled and sprinkle the reserved strips of lemon rind over the dessert before serving.

Serves 8.

July 19, 2015


rustic gooseberry tart

We are back in the UK briefly for a funeral.  Nick’s mum’s funeral.  Two funerals in one year is more than enough.  It should have been three but we were unable to make it to his aunt’s funeral, his mother’s oldest sister who also died earlier this year. 

We came back the long way via Portsmouth to avoid Calais in case there were more shenanigans and the port and tunnel were closed again.  Normally it wouldn’t matter if we didn’t make it back home but there was no way we wanted to risk being stuck in transit for such an important event.

The funeral itself is tomorrow and it will be sad but also a relief.  It was her time, she was ninety one and life was no longer that much fun for her.  We’ll all be glad when its over.

Anyway, on arriving back after a journey that took nearly sixteen hours, I opened the fridge to find a dish of gooseberries in there.  Put there by my dad, who is eighty seven next, picked from his lady friend’s garden. 

Life, eh?  The gooseberries cheered me up no end, we love them in this house.

rustic gooseberry tart2

Then this morning I spotted a recipe for this tart on the lovely blog Tin and Thyme.  The recipe uses half ordinary flour and half spelt flour.  I felt fairly sure we had some spelt flour somewhere so went a-rummaging and sure enough there it was, at the back of the cupboard.

Nick pulled a face when I mentioned the spelt flour.  Spelt is thought to be healthy and he doesn’t really do healthy.  Not in baking anyway.  Not since his mum and dad turned vegetarian and she took to making wholemeal pastry.  It was not the best pastry, bless her.

rustic gooseberry tart3

I had just the right quantity of gooseberries for the tart and it was delicious.  Nick and my dad declared it so and I agreed.  I have seen recipes for this kind of tart many times – the folded over pastry rough and rustic kind – but never made one before.  It was a revelation and I will make it over and over again, with other fruits.  A great success.

Thanks to Choclette for the recipe.  You can see the original here.  My only adaptation was that I used slightly less butter in the pastry (125g) and milk instead of yoghurt to combine it – because that’s what I had available.