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Making Sure the Days Are Full Enough

It's 5th January and I have been busy in the kitchen. We started the new year with a favourite old recipe - cinnamon duck with redcurrant sauce - from Good Housekeeping (April 1992).  Basically, you sear duck breasts in a pan with a stick of cinnamon, then transfer the breasts to an oven (skin side up) to roast while you make a sauce with onions, thyme, stock, red wine and red currant jelly. A delicious start to the year. 

Yesterday I decided to make soup from one of our cookery books other than The Soup Book. I selected River Cottage Veg Everyday! (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, 2011, Bloomsbury) but didn't go for a straightforward recipe. In order to make Hugh's Mexican tomato and bean soup, I first had to make roast tomato sauce (1.5kg of tomatoes yielded about 550ml of sauce) and go on the hunt for a tin of black beans. Finding black beans was the hard part. Once I found them, there was no holding me back. The spouse said of the home-made tomato sauce: "Very good. Th…
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2019: Another year over ...

I was very busy last month as I prepared for Christmas. My cooking ventures included making three soups from The Soup Book: zuppa di verdure, Brussels sprout soup and kichidi, which I first made in January 2013, December 2010 and November 2011 respectively. I'm not sure what happened to the kichidi when I made it two days ago, but pouring out the water in which I simmered the lentils, rice and ginger was probably not a good idea. 

I spread the Christmas love by making Nigella's and Jamie Oliver's Christmas rocky road. Nigella uses amaretti biscuits, Brazil nuts and glace cherries while Jamie uses popcorn, coconut and stem ginger syrup. Cut and put into bags left over from the older offspring's wedding, both types of rocky road were well received as gifts. A large cake tin full of Nigella's was put to good use at my sister T's house over Christmas. 

One of my colleagues put in a request for a trifle for the office Christmas dinner. I obliged by making Nigella'…

A Flurry of Flapjacks

Since my last post I have made another soup and done a fair amount of baking. The soup recipe was from The Guardian Feast (2 November 2019) and was a hit in this house. Pasta soup with potato and sausage, cheese, leek - what's not to like? 

On the baking front I've made a marmalade ring and date and walnut biscuits (both recipes from Doreen's Country Fare), an apple pie (guided by my M&S cookery book published in 1980), and two types of flapjack (both recipes in my Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Baking). 

I do like flapjacks and am always very interested in other people's produce. My earliest memories of flapjacks date from my mid-teens when I was still living in England. Butter, brown sugar, oats and golden syrup. How can you go wrong? 

The ones I made last Thursday were for different purposes: ginger flapjacks for the younger offspring's associates and orange flapjacks for the office; and some spares for my nextdoor neighbour. (Spouse and offspring, I don't …

Two Soups in One Week!

Well, what a surprise! I have made two soups in the last week, one from The Soup Book and the other from Riverford Farm Cook Book (Watson and Baxter, 2008). The first soup was a spicy lentil soup I have made twice before and I used up the spice mix I had made for the curried parsnip soup. Today's soup was leek and potato with chicken, bacon and sage. I even made my own chicken stock, something I haven't done for a long time. Into the stock went thyme and a bay leaf from the garden, and the sage in the leek and potato soup was also from the garden. It still pleases me to use herbs I have grown myself. 

Not only did I make soup today, I also made carrot and parsnip compost cookies (Liam Charles, The Guardian), so called because you're supposed to use the entire vegetables, skin and all. I have to admit I wasn't brave enough to do so. 

Any one who knows me knows that I am not a fan of parsnips and yet I have used them twice recently. It must be the spice in the curried pars…

If you're still reading this blog ...

If you're still reading this blog then you'll know that my posts have become quite infrequent compared to when I was still enthusiastically engaged in my soup-making project. That started about ten years ago. I was gung-ho to work my way through the 200 recipes. Still, 170 wasn't bad going. Yesterday I made curried parsnip soup, which I first made in May 2012. It was very tasty and well received by the spouse and younger offspring. 

So much has happened in the last ten years and even in the seven years since I first made the parsnip soup. The older offspring is now married. The younger offspring is at university. The spouse has become prodigiously creative in the last eighteen months and blogs prolifically about his accomplishments. I have dabbled in various things - poetry, calligraphy, comedy improv, knitting - but baking and cooking remain my favourite pastimes and creative outlets. So far this year I've tried about eighty different recipes, some new to me but from o…

July is dressed up and singing a tune

As I write I'm listening to Summer Breeze sung by the Isley Brothers. Makes me feel fine. 

Lots of baking since my last blog entry. At the end of June I revisited a couple of lemon and lavender combination recipes - Bronte Aurell's blondies and Paul Hollywood's loaf cake. But an absolute triumph was Ottolenghi's salted coffee, pecan and lime rocky road. Oh yes. Make it. Make it soon. Make it often. 

Now I'm listening to July by Mundy. Oh my my, July.

July is baking competition time. The baking competition is just one section of a local horticultural society's annual show. It took place last Saturday. In preparation, I made sticky gingerbread using Doreen Fulleylove's recipe (Country Fare published in 1972) on the previous Wednesday and set dried fruit soaking in chai for my tea brack which I baked on the Thursday evening. 

I took a half day on the Friday and set to with my three remaining entries. A friend's sister ("Polly") was calling round to m…

June: Time to take a deep breath

Usually I love June. After all, my birthday falls in June. Roses are the flowers of June and pearls are its birthstone. I used to assume that the weather would be good on my birthday and that I was entitled to good weather on my birthday. How innocent I was! Last year we had lovely weather but all was not right with the world. This year there is more to be positive about. 

I have baked some very good cakes and other items since the end of April. Exactly a month ago I baked a cranachan cheesecake, using a recipe from Paul Hollywood's book Pies and Puds. My mother-in-law had asked me to provide a dessert for a family lunch and I was happy to oblige. 

A second recipe from the same book was a marmalade and almond cake. A couple of people said that
orange and almond shouldn't work and then they tasted the cake. Orange has been a surprisingly luxurious flavour or ingredient in anything I've ever baked. 

Just two days after the cheesecake I made a lemon, olive oil and bay leaf cake