1 October 2014

As Interesting as a Beetroot!

When my niece Jenny was little she thought that “as a beetroot” was an expression of extremity which didn’t only apply to degrees of redness.  Our Jenny used to run as fast as beetroot, be as cross as a beetroot and so on.

Unlike Jenny I was, like many people, frightened by beetroot as a child (the pickled stuff in school dinners) but am beginning to pull round now which is, to a large extent, thanks to Tesco’s beetroot salad– even my real man likes it!

There is a surprisingly high proportion of beetroot to leaves in the salad so I often end up with just beetroot which, of course, is not a problem.

Today, for instance, I had a very sudden lunch, as is my wont – my survey of the fridge yielded the beetrooty end of a bag of beetroot salad, a little sour cream and three inches of leek.  Obviously the answer was soup, as is often the way.  Not borscht, of course, just beetroot soup.

Not-Borscht for 1

3” leftover leek – sliced
15g butter
1 small-ish potato – peeled and thinly sliced
1 handful leftover beetroot julienne – or even purpose bought
250ml vegetable stock
dollop of sour cream

~   Cook the leek very gently in the butter till very tender.  This is best done by pressing a piece of foil or a butter wrapper onto the leeks, putting on the lid and turning the heat down low.
~   When the leeks are tender add the potato and beetroot and enough stock to just cover the vegetables.
~   Bring to the boil, turn the heat down again, put on the lid and cook till all is tender.
~   Mash with a masher or purée in an electrical appliance together with the sour cream.
~   Taste and season and add more cream, stock or water till it is just how you like it.

This is, of course, based on my key soup recipe which I expound upon in “SOUP (almost) the Only Recipe You’ll Ever Need” – there is even a recipe for Borscht in it!

Quick – Free Offer!

"SOUP" is actually the third book in my Key Recipes series but as we are expecting autumn any day now I thought this would be a good time to run a freebie so download it here if you are in the UK or here in the States. It is only free 1st and 2nd October but not much money even after that! 
Once you’ve downloaded it (and by the way you don’t need a kindle to read it – get this app  from Amazon and read it on whatever you like) please do two things for me ...
~   Enjoy it.​
~   Review it on Amazon and maybe also Goodreads – because reviews help so very much. Some sites won’t even let me mention a book without reviews!
Incidentally see the end of this post for another free book offer – this one is permanent!

Other ways to use leftover beetroot julienne include ...

~   As a very pretty garnish as on this ‘ere Finnan Crispy Pizza.  

~   To make coleslaw turn a romantic pink. 

~   Add to stir fries, other soups, bean dips, potatoes when cooking for mashing etc.

I haven’t as yet forayed far into the World of Beetroot but I’ll tell you who has – The Guardian! 

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27 September 2014

How to Feed a Real Man!

It has occurred to me that I often write about the meals that I eat, all the delicious black garlic, spices, blue cheese, blah de blah and although I spend more time cooking the food my real man likes (his type of meal is not as spontaneous as mine – by a long thingy) I have never gone into details. 

As we are now in the midst of Great British Food Fortnight I think it is might be a good time to extrapolate on how I feed this British chap who is possibly a supertaster or maybe just a fussy git!

Either way he doesn’t like strong flavours or “foreign muck” such as garlic (although Britons have been growing and eating garlic far longer than they have potatoes) or chilli.  I on the other hand have very eclectic tastes in food and as eating is so important to us both I make sure that neither of us has to compromise. 

I cook 2 completely different meals every night, I love cooking so this is not a problem, rather the contrary!  Sometimes what he has even influences what I have for instance if he has steak I lop off a little and have a peppered steak saladbut we do eat very differently.

Here are some recent examples ...

Mince & Dumplings

He has this once a week and when he does I often have pasta as they are both stovetop meals. In this case I have a creamy tomato sauce, chorizo and some crunchy croutons on tagliatelle.

1 large onion – coarsely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
500g minced beef
1 tbsp flour
about 600ml good beef stock – hot

~   Fry the onion in the oil a large deep pan with a lid.
~   Cook till turning golden in parts, even a little darker in parts, to give good flavour.
~   Add the mince and break it up in the pan, tossing and stirring till starts to brown.
~   Stir in the flour completely.
~   Stir in the stock – you need just enough to come to the top of the meat, no more. Add a little water if necessary.
~   Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes/
~   Make the dumplings ...

225g self-raising flour or plain flour + 1 rounded tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
60g cold butter or margarine
100ml oz milk

~   Stir together the flour, salt and baking powder (if using).
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved.
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest, add a little more milk if too dry or a little more flour if too wet – work just enough to form a soft dough.
~   Form the dough and roll it into walnut sized balls – makes about 12 so enough for 3-4 standard people or 1½ Geordies.
~   Drop the dumplings, spaced out a bit so they don’t touch, into the simmering stew.
~   Turn down the heat, cover the pot and cook for about 20 minutes till the dumplings are risen and firm.
~   Take the lid off the pot and allow to steam for a couple more minutes to dry out the tops of the dumplings.
~   Ready!

Now here’s an interesting thing, this is exactly the same dough as I use for scones, rock buns, griddle cakes, doughnuts, crispy sugary biscuits and more and so it qualifies as one of my key recipes - see here.


Most weeks my darling has a pie and sometimes two, but not at the same time – I do have some rules.  Sometimes chicken and leek made with leftover roast chicken, sometimes steak and kidney and quite frequently minced beef because after serving his mince and dumplings above there is plenty of meat left for another dinner.

When I make a pie I often have a tomato-ish soup (like this one with white beans) so that I can have cheese “rags” (pastry trimmings rolled with grated cheese and baked) with it – lots of other ideas for pastry scraps here.

Fry Up 

A fry up for him which typically comprises 2 sausages, 2 rashers back bacon, 1 slice black pudding, 2 lambs kidneys, a small piece of steak, onion rings, chips, roast tomatoes, mushrooms and sometimes peas.  In the picture, however, he has 2 slices of black pud as no steak available. With this he eats 4 slices bread and butter (well he is from Up North!).  Obviously the chips and onions rings are bought in and I am not entirely comfortable with this (feel like I’ve let the side own a bit) but he likes them that way.

I often have roast salmon and sweet potato chips when he has a fry up because I can cook the sweet potato and the salmon in the oven.

A Roast Dinner 

The blurry streak in the picture is a bit of knife action, he was keen to tuck in. In the traditional British way I tend to cook my man a roast on Sundays and I rarely participate. We recently picked up a reduced lamb rack, however, so whilst he had roast beef together with his standard mushy (aka sloppy) peas and six Yorkshire puds, potatoes and veg, I roasted myself half the rack together with potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and beetroot tossed in oil and also roasted alongside it. I deglazed the lamb pan with port, added lots and lots of freshly ground black pepper and had roast dinner my stylie (touch of the Jamie Olivers there!).

Yorkshire Puddings

I have given the recipe for these before and might even do it again – they are so quick, so easy and very cheap!  I make the Yorkshires whilst the roast meat is resting.

Three important points …

~   You MUST use plain flour and no raising agent or it won’t work! Strange but true.
~   Make the batter at least an hour before you need it.
~   The oil in the pan must be seriously hot before you add the batter.

1 heaped tbsp plain flour
a little salt
1 large-ish egg
a little milk

~   Beat together the flour, salt and the egg till smooth.
~   Whisk in enough milk to make a runny batter, as runny as runny double cream.
~   When ready to cook turn the oven up to (220ºC/425ºF/200ºC fan/gas 7)
~   Put ½ tsp of oil into each little muffin hole in a muffin pan for individual yorkies or a little more oil in one dish and put in the oven for a few minutes till hot.
~   Pour the batter into the pan and immediately put in the oven.
~   Do NOT open the door for about 10 minutes and even then do it with caution.
~   They are ready when seriously puffed up and golden but sadly they do tend to go down a bit once out the oven.

Good idea – if you stand the Yorkshires on a preheated baking tray in the oven the will have crisper bottoms.

The mushy/sloppy peas are a Northern tradition – I buy a box of dried peas, cook the lot and then freeze in single servings.

Toad in the Hole

A popular real man dinner this uses the above the Yorkshire pud batter – see here for moredetail and an anecdote! I use a full batch of batter but only 4 sausages when cooking this just for himself.

Toad in the hole is loveliest, to my mind, served with onion gravy and English mustard but my guy likes “plain” gravy (chicken or veg stock), mashed potatoes, veg and no fancy stuff, like mustard, whatsoever.

When he has this I usually have ... whatever I like!

His and Her Pizzas

See here for my pizza base recipe which works really well. His pizza uses two thirds of the dough and I top it with 250g minced beef (I lightly fry this and drain off the fat before putting it on the pizza base) and 2 pork sausages relieved of their skins and broken into pieces.  A mixture of cheddar and mozzarella finishes the job.

My pizza can have all sorts of wonderful stuff, usually leftovers of some kind, on it.

You may imagine that my real man is on the plump side but au contraire! He is very private and doesn’t want me putting his photo or even his name on the internet but here is a photo of his torso which, as a cunning disguise, I have turned into a pencil drawing using the wonder of Photoscape (a brilliant and free photo editing program) which will give a clear idea of his build. Lucky me!

Incidentally I took the above photo to commemorate the day when he weighed himself on some supermarket scales which said that he is obese. Must be the weight of his shoulders!

The Great Cornish Food Festival

My friend Carol and I visited The Great Cornish Food Festival yesterday and I have to say I was a little disappointed!  It seemed smaller than usual and some major players,in my opinion; Healey’s wonderful ciders, Vicky’s superb bread and the fascinating Nature Kitchen weren't in evidence. Hopefully this is because they are all so successful now that they didn’t have time! Of course some of my favourites were still there; Deli Farm Charcuterie and wonderful Davidstow Cheddar for instance.

Speaking of cheese I was delighted to taste a new version of Lynher Dairies’ Cornish Yarg, a delicious semi cheese, invented by one Alan Gray (coincidentally – NOT – his name is Yarg backwards) some 30 years ago. 

Until recently Yarg has always been wrapped in nettle leaves but now there is a wonderful new version is wrapped in one of my favourite ingredients – wild garlic. Gorgeous.

On another stall I tried a piece of black bread the flavour of which I couldn't identify and no wonder – it was sepia (squid ink!!!) and cranberry. What a surprise!

I also had a brief chat with Nathan Outlaw – Carol knows him – he seems a nice guy.  I have a feeling one of our chefs went to work for him after we left Cornwall – if you ever dine at Nathan’s and see El Rupo’s Kentucky Chicken Soup on the menu then he got it from our Rupert!

Whilst you’re here  ...

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23 September 2014

Chocolat Chocolat ~ handmade chocolates, a review.

Bespoke Chocolate Bars - what a good idea!
Click here to Tweet this 

Oh happy day – look what came in the post this morning! Lovely chocolate from Chocolat Chocolat, a company in Cambridge who, among other chocolatey things, are making bespoke chocolate bars. 

What an excellent idea!

First you choose your handmade chocolate (from dark 70%, dark 55%, milk 34%, caramel 34% and white 28%) and then the hard work starts – choose up to three toppings from, brace yourself:

~   Fruits: dried apples, apricots, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, raisins and sultanas plus banana chips.

~   Nuts: grilled flaked almonds or whole caramelised almonds, hazelnuts, praline, coconut flakes, pecans, caramelised pistachios and walnuts.

~   Herbs & Spices: Aniseed, cardamom, cinnamon, chilli espelette (a mild aromatic Basque chilli), fennel, crystallised ginger, lavender, liquorice, crystallised mint, pink peppercorns, poppy seeds crystallised rose petals, fleur de sel, and crystallised violet petals, Plus: Chocolate coffee beans, cocoa nibs, Earl Grey tea, espresso coffee grains

~   Confectionary: Amaretti crumbs, chocolate buttons, cappuccino callets (posh chocolate chips), crunchy balls of various flavours, chocolate coated honeycomb, fudge, fudge brownie, feuilletine wafer crunch, malt balls, marshmallows, meringue, chocolate crisp, popping candy, shortcake, gingerbread.

~   Decadent: Gold or silver flake.

There is also an option to have a message on your bar of chocolate. They suggest Thank You, Happy Birthday or I Love You but I asked for Sudden Lunch!

My Choices

I tried the dark chocolate first, for which the only addition I had asked for was fleur de sel. I love salted dark chocolate so popped a bit in my mouth almost as soon as I’d got it out the packet. I then accidentally went all dreamy and thoughtful which I think is a good sign. 

Milk chocolate with espresso powder and fudge pieces, good choice me! Although I was not immediately gobsmacked as with the dark chocky I notice that I have to keep trying it again and again so think I would describe it as moreish.

I was nervous of eating the gold flake but it was fine; innocuous and very pretty. The orange complimented the white chocolate well, the chocolate was surprisingly crumbly but that is not necessarily a bad thing!

In addition to the bespoke chocolate bars Chocolat Chocolat offer chocolate bouquets, buttons, hot chocolate, gift boxes and all sorts of other goodies.  Even more – they do Chocolate Making and Chocolate Tasting courses and all sorts of other interesting things. I suggest you get over to their site for a browse! Or pop into their shop if you are in the area, it is according to them, in historic centre of the city opposite Emmanuel and just around the corner from Darwin in a 19th century building.

A few provisos, not all of them serious ...

~  The chocolate was very well packaged indeed so don’t try to open a bar when hungry.
~  The products are not cheap, £5.95 for a 100g bar but for a special occasion or a gift probably worth the investment.
~   I think they may need to practice their handwriting a bit!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, oddly enough. Ads on the telly, Christmas themed programmes, Christmas goodies in the shops and in some cases even Christmas trees and I must say this pre-empting of the festive is season is not something I really go along with. You may remember my discombobulation a couple of years ago when this appeared in
Padstow Tesco store on 2nd May 2012!

Well, having had a bit of a rant there I think I might join in to point out that a little something from Chocolat Chocolate would make a rather lovely Christmas prezzie or stocking filler.

In Other News

~   Speaking of chocolate, if you think I’m lucky (and I am) did you see the article in The Western Morning News about The Best Jobs in Devon and Cornwall?  It mentions my blogging friend Choclette, now she’s really given some thought to her lifestyle!

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15 September 2014

10 Ideas for this Bumper Crop of Blackberries!

We recently discovered a lovely footpath not far from our home with all sorts of interesting old waterwheels and other abandoned buildings hidden away amongst the somewhat industrial landscape of clay country, where we live.

We’ve been back several times just to walk and explore but particularly now whilst the blackberries are ready for picking, all clean and undisturbed being far from the road. I have really stocked up.  Now what shall I do with them?

Blackberry and Apple Thing – obviously!

This could be a crumble, a pie, a cobbler or, as we had just now a sponge pudding.  For 4 people put 750g fruit (in this case sliced apples with stemmed and washed blackberries) in an ovenproof dish.  Add the appropriate topping and bake.


240g plain flour
160g cold butter or margarine
120g sugar

~   Preheat oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Rub in the flour and butter till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
~   Stir in the sugar.
~   Put peeled and sliced apples and some blackberries in a pie dish.
~   Sprinkle over the crumble mix.
~   Bake till the fruit is hot (and cooked, if using raw) and the crumble is golden.

Cobbler – so called, apparently, because the scone dough resembles a cobbled street!

225g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
60g cold butter or margarine
25g caster sugar
100ml milk

~   Stir together the flour, salt and baking powder.
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved.
~   Stir in the sugar once you have finished rubbing in; if you add it earlier it’s uncomfortable on the hands although, of course, it does exfoliate.
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest, add a little more milk if too dry or a little more flour if too wet – work just enough to form a soft dough.
~   Either form into rough dollops or on a floured surface press or roll the dough out to about ½” thick and cut into rounds.
~   Lay the pieces of dough on top of the fruit and bake till risen and golden and wonderful.

This picture shows an apple and raspberry cobbler I made whilst wiring “The Secret Life of Scones” which gives an amazing range of delicious things that can be made with this dough.

Pie ~ Just stick some pastry on top and bake it!


75g soft butter
100g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten with ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp boiling water

~   Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Cream together the butter and sugar till light in both senses; pale and fluffy.
~   Briskly stir in the egg mixture plus 1 tbsp of the flour (this helps prevent curdling).
~   Fold in the rest of the flour.
~   Spread lightly on top of the fruit and bake till it is risen and golden and bounces back when (if) you poke it – about 40 minutes.

Serve all these darlings hot with custard or cold with cream, clotted cream or ice cream.

Blackberry Pancakes

See here for how to make pancakes without even having to buy the mix!
When cooking them sprinkle blackberries onto surface of the pancake just after pouring and then drizzle over a little more batter. This protects the fruit from the harsh heat of the pan.

Blackberry Mess

I mean this in a nice way, a great autumnal variation on the Eton variety. Simply fold crushed meringues and blackberries into whipped cream plus an optional drip of vanilla extract.

Blackberry Coulis

It is said that the word “coulis” either referred to ‘the juices that flow from meat when cooking’ or that it came from the Latin verb to strain. These days, however, it is just a posh word for fruit purée. 

fresh blackberries (de-stalked and washed)
sugar (approximately half the weight of the fruit)

~   Put the prepared blackberries in a small saucepan.
~   Add the sugar.
~   Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat giving the berries a helpful squash now and then.
~   When the fruit is soft and collapsed strain through a fine nylon sieve pushing on the debris to extract as much coulis as poss.
~   Cool, cover and chill till needed.

Drizzle on ice cream, top with fizzy water for an different sort of cordial ...

... or make ice cream.

Blackberry and Clotted Cream Ripple

I use the clotted cream ice cream recipe from my ice cream book because these being Cornish blackberries, it felt appropriate.  See my ice cream book for 100+ delicious ice creams based on this one simple recipe.

250ml clotted cream
250ml single cream
200g condensed milk
150ml blackberry coulis

~   Slowly whisk together the two creams till merged and then up the speed and whisk till thick.
~   Fold in the condensed milk.
~   Decant the mixture in a shallow container and drizzle over cold blackberry coulis in a figure of 8 or any other enthusiastic swirly shape.
~   Stir it through just once or twice making sure to do a large expansive sort of stir down to the bottom and out to the sides of the ice cream. 
~   Freeze.

This is a little hard when it comes out of the freezer but quickly softens. When the ice cream is served the cutting, scooping and spooning will cause it to ripple further.

Blackberry Sorbet

See here for the recipe and here for my sorbet & granita ebook which gives lots of recipes based on this simple syrup and is only 77p! 

Blackberry and Apple Vodka

This is an experiment. I really don’t like gin except when it is sloe gin (recipe here) so I have made plenty of that over the years.  Last year I also made a batch of blackberry gin and it too is delectable. This year I am going to make blackberry and apple vodka – it should work. This is what I am doing – I’ll report back.

300g blackberries
1 peeled, cored and coarsely chopped apple
300g sugar
1 ltr vodka

~   Put all the fruit into a large sterilised jar – a Kilner or similar.
~   Add the sugar and the gin.
~   Seal tightly.
~   Put in a cool, dark place and give it a viddy sherrek (Cornish for good shake) every day until you can discern that the sugar has completely dissolved.
~   Leave it alone for as long as you can – a few months at least, but apparently the longer it sits the better it is and we are talking years here.

This is the blackberry gin that I made last year – if you look carefully you will see I took the trouble to store it in a bottle with blackberries on it!

If you can’t decide what to do or, like me, have loads of blackberries you’ll be pleased to know they freeze very well. One nice idea is to freeze some in ice cubes for pretty drinkipoos later.

Alternatively just drop frozen blackberries into your drink to chill and flavour it.


Last week I published my book about scones and offered review copies to my blog readers and (only) 27 people took me up on the offer! Does anyone have any better ideas for getting reviews? Incidentally if you’d like to know more and even review it for me then go here and do the necessary!

P.S.  I think I might make blackberry brandy too!

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7 September 2014

A Suggestion/Offer/Request Kind of Thing!

I was wondering if you could do me a favour in a kind of “you scratch my back .... etc" way!  I have just published another ebook in my Key Recipes series and would be grateful if you would have a look at it and then review on Amazon and perhaps Goodreads   for me. 

It is now available on Amazon here but if you would like a review copy in PDF then please just click here and I’ll send you a link. Once you've received it you could even convert it for your kindle here   , now I can’t say fairer than that, can I? This is a “time sensitive offer” only open till 100-ish people sign up, so go for it  - now!

This started out being just my scone recipe, some guidelines on how to make great scones plus a few recipes but it grew and flourished into all sorts of ways to use the same dough. I’ve had a helluva time testing them, I can tell you; day after day eating rock cakes and maple syrup dumplings, chocolate filled doughnuts and cobblers, tarts, turnovers, tatins etc.

As I have said before and will no doubt say again reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are the lifeblood of us indie writers. Having said that I am as guilty as anyone of not bothering to review (in fact I am off right now to review Marcus Bawdon’ Smoky & the Wood Pit: 20 Totally Awesome Smoky Recipes”  but please do as I say and not as I have been prone to doing!

In other news ...

~   Still on the trying to get my books out there thing I have made an infographic. Me! At my age! Here’s the start of it, for the full effect please click here . 

To make it go viral (I wish!) please Click to Tweet here.

~   I used two great free websites to do this – to assemble the photos attractively I recommend Photo Collage and to assemble the infographic Pictochart. 

~   Still good weather, at least it is here in Cornwall, so we went blackberrying yesterday. It is, of course, important in Cornwall to get your blackberries in early before the Devil has spat on them. Nevertheless, we are going to risk it and pick some more next week because these berries seem to be very confused; some black, some red and some still green so there should be plenty more.

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