The Easiest Way to Make Mulled Wine

~  Menu  ~

Creamy Peppered Salmon Pâté
Nubbly Toast
Glass of White Wine
A modicum of Vanilla Ice Cream with a drizzle of Mulled Wine Syrup

I had peppered salmon for dinner last night – just fillet of salmon generously sprinkled with ground pepper and pan fried.  That’s it, simples!  It was very good with sautéed potatoes, salad and Alfredo Sauce but I couldn’t eat it all – luckily!

Today I was considering a simple salmon salad sarnie but I spied the remnants of a pack of Boursin in the fridge so I pestled or mortared, or whatever the verb is, the salmon and the cheese together and loosened the mixture with a little cream and a squeeze of lemon.  It was so good one would have thought I’d planned it!


This morning I made some Mulled Wine Syrup for Christmas and had a little too much to go into my allocated bottle.  I drizzled it over a little vanilla ice cream and tidied it away - what would you do? 

Mulled Wine Syrup

This makes 75ml which, as luck would have it is sufficient to mull one bottle of wine and 2 tbsp of syrup is enough to mull 1 standard glass of wine.

Pin for future reference!

1 orange
1 lemon
250g light brown sugar
60ml red wine
1 cinnamons stick
1 vanilla pod
2 slices of fresh ginger
a generous grating of nutmeg

~   Remove the zest from both fruits in long strips – make sure not to get any of the white pith involved.
~   Squeeze the juice from the orange (set the bald lemon aside to do something else with sometime) and put in a small (non reactive is best) pan with the zests, the sugar and the red wine.
~   Stir together over medium heat till the sugar has melted.
~   Add the spices, turn up the heat and cook at a gentle boil for about 5 minutes to form a light syrup.
~   Cool to room temperature before removing the spices then strain the syrup pressing on the debris to get out all the delicious juices.
~   Pour into a clean bottle and keep in a cool place till needed.

How to Use Mulled Wine Syrup

Warm the syrup gently over low heat, add the red wine and heat through.  Don’t allow to boil or some of the alcohol will evaporate off.  Speaking of alcohol a little brandy could advantageously be added to the glass when serving.

Useful tip ~ to clean the pan warm a little wine in it stirring till the syrup has melted and have yourself a tester.

My opinion ~ this is a much better way of mulling wine than the traditional method of heating a whole bottle of wine with the flavourings; quicker and easier at the time of serving and, crucially, a lot less wasteful of Alcohol!

This is just one of over 50 recipes in my book Easy Festive Food for a Stress Free Christmas ...

Why not pin this so you don't forget?

Easy Peasy Bread Recipe

Our dear old Volvo Estate died (completely and utterly) a few days ago just before we were due to do our weekly shop.  As it is about an hour's bus ride to the supermarket (not that it's that far, just the bus goes through all the villages; after about 20 minutes in one direction I see a road sign saying 1 mile to my village!) we’ve been eating up everything in the house.  

We ran out of bread and so I whipped some up.  No big deal; I have spent great swathes of my life making my own bread but it occurred to me that it was so easy peasy I might as well pass it on.  So here it is …

Easy Basic Bread Recipe

homemade bread and butter

My real man gave me a Kenwood stand mixer for Christmas last year and with that making bread is even easier and less messy but it’s really not a problem the old fashioned way either.

500g strong bread flour
(I used 400g white and 100g wholemeal)
1 7g sachet of easy blend yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tbsp olive oil
about 350ml lukewarm water

warning - homemade bread is not economical as people eat loads with lots of butter!
~   Mix all the dried ingredients either on low in the mixer or just stir it all up.
~   Slowly mix in the oil and water till you have a soft manageable dough.  Either mix on low in the mixer for 3 or 4 minutes or turn out onto a floured board and knead till the dough is smooth and elastic.
~   Place in a lightly greased bowl and then put a plastic bag over it.  Leave in a warm place for about 40 minutes till doubled in size.
~   Munge about a bit to “knock down”, ie. knock the air out of it, and form into a loaf either in a greased loaf tin or freeform on a greased baking sheet.  Leave in the warm to rise again.
~   After 20 minutes preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5 and place a roasting pan in the bottom.
~   When the loaf has doubled in size again sprinkle with a little flour and, using a sharp knife, cut a few decorative slashes.
~   Put the loaf in the oven and pour a cup or two of cold water into the roasting pan.
~   Bake for about 30 minutes till risen and golden and, thanks to the steam from the roasting pan, lovely and crusty.  It is fully cooked when it sounds hollow when wrapped on the bottom.
~   Cool for as long as you can stand it then slice and eat slathered with butter and sprinkled with crunchy sea salt.  


Here are a couple more useful bread recipes ...

My blog goes Gaga!

This is just a quickie. 
dappy vs. apple dappy

Yesterday I posted a lovely recipe for Devonshire Apple Dappy (a quick and easy recipe which is delish – I think you should try it). Well … 

Sudden Lunch! averages 150 – 200 hits a day with some viral lift and bounce rate, if you know what I mean (I’m not completely sure I do!). 

Yesterday after posting my blog, I made a coffee, returned to the computer and was amazed to have already received 50 hits. By the end of the day my site had been visited 1769 times. I had no idea why. 

Chatting with my real man this morning, wondering how many hits I’d get today, he had a brainwave. He thought there might be a singer in a group call N-Dubz or similar, called Dappy. 

I had me a google and there he is. In fact my blog appears on the very first page of results for Dappy. Presumably 1600 or so people have clicked on my blog and then said “F***” (not the correct pronunciation) for which I apologise.  I hope there is not the same confusion about this post! 

Devonshire Apple Dappy & a Savoury Cream Tea!

~  Menu  ~

Savoury “Cream Tea”
Devonshire Apple Dappy
Cornish Clotted Cream

I’d have made a Cornish Apple Dappy if there was such a thing!  I've certainly had plenty of Cornish apples around the place recently and have made the usual dishes; apple sponge, apple crumble, apple pie, apple sauce etc. so felt like a change.

heavily fruited apple tree

Apple Dappy is a recipe I have been vaguely aware of for some while but have never got round to trying - but then I’m only 57!  Yesterday, however, was the day and let me tell you, it was worth waiting for.  The dough is the same versatile recipe I use for numerous recipes (scones, singin’ hinnies, pie crust, dumplings etc. etc.) - see below.

Devonshire Apple Dappy

a dish of apple dappy
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
tbsp Golden Syrup or Honey
30g butter
4 tbsp sugar
100ml water
225 g self-raising flour OR plain flour and 1 teaspoon Baking Powder    
a pinch or two of salt
50 g cold butter or margarine
100 ml milk
4 apples
2 tbsp light brown sugar

~   Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5.
~   Grease a shallow ovenproof dish.
~   Bring the first 4 ingredients to a boil stirring to melt the butter and sugar and simmer a couple of minutes. Set aside.
~   Make the dough (see method here) and roll out to a rectangle about this thick [    ]      ~   Peel and coarsely chop the apples and toss with the light brown sugar.
~   Sprinkle over the dough and roll up, Swiss roll style, starting from a long edge.
~   Cut into thick slices – about this thick [            ] and arrange, cut sides up, in the greased dish
~   Pour over the syrup and bake till risen, crusty, golden and sticky – 30-35 minutes.

I meant to serve this hot with custard but the car broke down and my real man was so late home we had it lukewarm with clotted cream.  I had the leftovers today for lunch pudding.

P.S. Something funny happened after I posted the above – see here for details!

savoury cream tea with cream cheese and tomatoes

With the dough trimmings and scraps I made myself a small personal scone and today had a sort of savoury cream tea for lunch.  I split the scone and filled it with Boursin herb and garlic cream cheese slightly softened with a tad of double cream.  I added a little (leftover) spicy tomato sauce and some lovely sweet piccolo tomatoes turned in a simple vinaigrette. Unfortunately, I don’t like tea so had to make do with a glass of red.

Both these dishes use my genius (well I think it is!) dough recipe which is basically a scone recipe but so useful and flexible I have written an entire book on the matter - The Secret Life of Scones.

ultimate scone recipe cookbook

3 Ways of Roasting Butternut Squash

Pin this image
so you don't forget!

Butternut squash seem to be available most of the time but they are at their best now.  I love them and always keep one by me in case of emergencies.

Squash are particularly delicious roasted which brings out all their lovely caramelly sweetness so with no preamble (apart from the above and you are past that now!) here are 3 recipes to use this delicious fruit (yep, fruit).

Butternut Squash & Roasted Garlic Soup

This, the easiest way to roast butternut squash, is ideal when making soup.  

The recipe makes more roasted garlic than needed;  mash the leftover cloves with the oil and freeze in ice cubes – this makes a great addition to all sorts of dishes and is soft enough to use straight from the freezer.

1 medium butternut squash 
1 medium onion
1 medium sized floury potato
vegetable stock
3 cloves of roasted garlic, or to taste
salt & pepper

~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6.
~   Cut the squash in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds and place the butternut cut sides down in an oiled roasting pan.  Roast alongside the garlic for about 40 minutes till it is utterly tender and the skin is staring to bubble and go brown.
~   Whilst these are cooking make the rest of the soup.  Peel and halve the onion and slice thinly into half moons.  Toss together with the other tablespoon of olive till in a saucepan over medium heat till hot. Turn the heat down to low, completely cover the onions with a piece of foil pressed directly onto the surface put a lid on the pot and cook gently till utterly tender – 15-20 minutes.
~   Peel and thinly slice the potato and add to the onions together with the tender roasted butternut flesh (discard the skin – although you can eat the skin too if you like) and add enough stock to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer till the potato is tender.
~   Add 3 cloves of roasted garlic or to taste and purée everything together till beautifully smooth.
~   Dilute as needed with a little hot stock or perhaps add some cream, although it is perfectly delicious without, but keep it fairly thick and unctuous.
~   Taste and season – a little crunchy sea salt sprinkled on top is a definite advantage. 


This soup is just one of a great many that can be made using my genius soup recipe which I have written about at length in my book; Soup: (almost) the Only Recipe You'll Ever Need!

Roasted Butternut Wedges

This way of roasting squash is almost as easy as above and makes a great side dish.

1 medium sized butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
a small bunch of thyme
salt and pepper

~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6.
~   Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and cut the squash into wedges.
~   Heat the olive oil in a roasting pan and toss in the wedges to coat.
~   Season to taste with salt, pepper to taste and sprinkle over coarsely chopped fresh thyme.
~   Roast for about 40 minutes till golden and tender.

roasted butternut wedges

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Onion and Chilli

For this the squash needs a little more work but it’s worth it.  This is a wonderful flavour combination; lovely as a side dish, tossed with pasta or as a pizza topping.

1 medium butternut squash
1 medium red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
chilli flakes to taste (optional, maybe black pepper instead)
sea salt

~   Preheat the oven to 400F/ 200˚C/gas 6.
~   Peel the squash, cut in half, discard the seeds and cut the flesh into large dice – about 25mm/1 inch.
~   Peel the onion and cut into slivers.
~   Toss the squash and onion together with the olive oil, chilli flakes and sea salt.
~   Spread in a shallow layer in a roasting pan and cook for 30 minutes till completely tender and the onion is just starting to char.  
~   Stir occasionally during cooking and if any onions slivers seem to be getting overcooked before the squash is ready set them aside and stir back in at the end.

butternut squash with red onions and chilli

In Other News ...


I recently saw Cock Flavour Soup for sale. I remember this from my days in the Caribbean, it was quite popular.  

I sent some to my sister for her birthday, she’s a very busy girl with her Cake Hole  and also their Art Cafés in Colchester and Mersea Island so this might help her out. Read about The Cake Hole and Art Cafés here.

Ras al Hanout ~ Posh Spice!

This might say Ras al Hanout!
~  Menu  ~

Trout & Avocado Salad with Ras al Hanout Mayonnaise
Vicky’s Bread
White Wine Spritzer

A week or so ago I was in Truro where, lo and behold, Ally from Nature Kitchen was there with a stall selling her spices.  She had some tasters one of which was a dip made from ras al hanout – it was so good I felt like testing the whole lot!  

I didn’t get any spices at the time because I was distracted by a handmade jumper on the next stall so yesterday I popped into St. A and got myself a small modicum of the stuff.

Ras al Hanout 

Nice one for Pinterest!

A Moroccan spice blend whose name translates as head or top of the shop or as we would similarly say “top shelf”, so pretty special (posh spice!), made up of a large and variable range of spices including in some cases hashish and Spanish fly!  I asked Ally if her mix contained such delights and she said …

“No those herbs (hashish and Spanish fly), although much sort after, are too expensive to add to the ras. 26 spices altogether in this deeply secret blend. ….. No two ras al hanouts should be the same as they are the individual spicer’s personal recipe.” 

Whatever Ally puts in her ras is fine with me, it’s delicious; a kind of floral garam marsala, a bit like curry but not, if you see what I mean.

Having tasted Ally’s delicious dip I tried mixing the ras with mayonnaise (delish), with Greek yogurt (delish) and with both (delish) – so there you have it!

I then had three bowls of ras al hanout-ish dips so mixed some leftover cooked trout and half a perfectly ripe avocado in with the mayo one – and hey presto; my sudden lunch.

spicy leftover trout salad

My friend Debs lived in Morocco for a year or so and she tells me that Ras al Hanout is good in rice dishes, as a rub on chicken, in lamb tagine, with cous cous, chickpeas and that sort of thing.  

I think I shall try it soon as a rub on fish before pan frying because it certainly went well with the trout.  I also imagine it would be good in lentil or split pea soup.  In fact I have so many ideas I want to try I think I'll get a great big modicum next time!

When I was at the little market in Truro I also saw a stand selling some pretty impressive looking pork products.  I didn’t buy any as I wasn’t going home for ages and I didn’t get any info but I think the company was called Cornish Black Pig.  Anyhoo, here’s a photo of their stuff.

Cornish pork products

Hasn’t the weather been fab, here in Cornwall at least, considering how late in the year it is?  We went for a drive, fish ‘n’ chips and a pint yesterday lunchtime and saw people with no shirts on, kite surfers (you can just make one out in this quick pic I took from the moving car), flowers still flowering and sun-bathers still sun bathing.

Cornish beach

“Christmas Miniatures – finger food and tiny treats” by Australian Women's Weekly - review

Quick – get this book!

Any minute now Australian Women’s Weekly are publishing a lovely little book “Christmas Miniatures – finger food and tiny treats” (thank you so much for my review copy) which I urge you to buy asap. The sooner you get it the sooner you can start planning what to make as gifts and what to cook for the upcoming festive season; there’s lots to choose from.

I used to collect Australian Women’s Weekly years ago and have cooked and sold many a fine dish based on their recipes.  Becoming nomadic I stopped collecting cookbooks (or anything really) but now, having settled down in order to practice for my dotage, I’ve started again and am glad to see that AWW are as good as ever and to add this book to my budding new collection.

“Christmas Miniatures” gives over 50 recipes for nibbly treats divided between …

~   Cocktail Food with a subsection entitled No Fuss Finger food.  This section concerns savoury nibbles such as Vodka-Cured Gravlax, Sticky Glazed Pork with Pineapple and so on and so forth – lovely stuff!

~   Little Pies and Tarts

~   Little Cakes & Pudding

~   Biscuits and Slices

~   Chocolates and Sweets including a subsection on sweet gifts.

There are, of course, some of the things one would expect in such a book; miniature Christmas puds, a few weeny versions of mince pies, including an Eccles cake version, and chocolatey delights but there are surprises too; Stained Glass Biscotti being one and Gingerbread Christmas Trees another – lovely presentation.  In fact quite a few of these tiny treats are not only good enough to eat they are pretty enough to hang on the tree first.

The book is illustrated with some great photos, one per recipe, so you know what you are aiming for and in the back are some conversion charts and a useful glossary.  The relevant details are “Christmas Miniatures” is published (on Monday!) by Octopus Books through their imprint Australian Women’s Weekly and is available here from Amazon, the ISBN numbers are ISBN-10: 1742450881, ISBN-13: 978-1742450889