Monday, 22 November 2010

Ginger beer

This ginger beer is made from a "plant" which is a yeast culture that you feed for a week. The recipe assumes that you received the plant as a gift from someone else. (The recipe for making the plant from scratch can be found in another post).

You will need:
  1. A jar with lid, holding about 1/2 pint of liquid
  2. Strong bottles with screw caps or swing stoppers, designed for holding fizzy liquids under high pressure, a total of 8 pints worth (you'll need a supply of these every week). Preferably they should be glass bottles, but plastic ones are easier to acquire.
  3. A large pan or a new clean bucket capacity more than a gallon.
  4. A large measuring jug, preferably 2 pts/1 litre.
  5. A square of muslin or a clean hankie
  6. A strainer
  7. A lemon squeezer
  8. A funnel is also useful if you have one
  9. Containers for the plants you will give away (see below)
Part A: feeding the plant.
  1. Put the starter sludge into the jar, and add about half a pint of water, leaving some space in the top of the jar.
  2. Feed it with one tsp of sugar and 1 or 2 tsp ground ginger (according to how strong you want the beer to be), and stir.
  3. Repeat step 2 every day for a week.
Part B; making the beer.
At the end of seven days, make sure you have two lemons and 1 lb of sugar.
Then you do this:
  1. Wash out the bottles (8 pints) with very hot water (boiling water is best if they will stand it).
  2. Boil a kettle of water.
  3. Put 1 lb of sugar in the large pan or bucket.
  4. Add 2 pts boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Add 4 pts tepid water (if the water in the tap is very cold, combine it with some hot water from the kettle). 
  6. Squeeze two lemons and strain the juice into the water.
  7. Clean the strainer and put it over the measuring jug. Spread the square of muslin over the strainer. Pour the contents of your plant jar into the muslin. Gather up the corners of the muslin and let the liquid strain out into the jug. Squeeze it gently to encourage it.
  8. Put aside the muslin with the sludge in it, and add cool water to the strained liquid in the jug to make it up to 2 pts.
  9. Add this liquid to the pan (check first that the water in the pan is not hot but only mildly warm).
  10. Stand each bottle to be filled in the sink or a basin. Using the measuring jug, scoop the liquid out of the pan and pour it into the bottle, using a funnel if you have one. If you strained the lemon it should not be necessary to strain it at this stage.
  11. Screw the cap on gently (leave the cap loose overnight).
Part C: Dividing the plant
  1. Empty the contents of the muslin gently back into the jar you used to keep it in. 
  2. Using a teaspoon, scoop out roughly half the sludge, and put it into another container (either a jam jar to give away, or a tiny sherd bag like the ones the spare buttons come in when you buy new clothes).
  3. Make up your own plant with water, and feed it with sugar and ginger in the usual way. Carry on for the next week, as above.
  4. Give the second plant to a friend, along with these instructions.
  5. If you have no more friends, you can throw the second plant away (it's compostable).
Part D: Storing and using your ginger beer.
  1. After about twelve hours, tighten the caps on your bottles and put them in a cool (but frost free) safe place.  Beware of exploding bottles.
  2. Leave them for about two weeks, and then test one for goodness. Open it carefully like a very fizzy water bottle. It should smell good on opening. If it smells off, discard the contents. If it is too sweet, and has no fizz or pressure, it has failed to work. If it has too little fizz and is too sweet, it is not ready yet.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


1/2 oz fresh yeast
5 teaspoons lukewarm water
4oz plAin flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp milk or a drop more
2 1/2 oz butter
Round crumpet rings or 3in cutters

Sprinkle the yeast over the 5 teaspoons of lukewarm water in a small
bowl and stand for 2-3 mins. Then stir well to dissolve the yeast. Set
the bowl in a warm draught-free place with the sugar for a few minutes
until the yeast bubbles up.
Put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the
centre. Pour in the yeast mixture and the milk and drop in the egg.
Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon then add 1/2 oz butter until
smooth batter is formed.
Set aside in warm place for 1 hour until batter is doubled in size.
Clarify remaining 2 oz butter in small pan. Do not let it brown. Skim
off the surface foam and spoon the clear butter into a bowl discarding
the milky solids at the bottm of the pan. Grease griddle or large
heavy frying pan and inside surfaces of crumpet rings with about half
the clarified butter.
Arrange rings on griddle and put on moderate heat. For each crumpet
drop about one tablespoon of batter into each ring. When it begins to
bubble and the bottom becomes a light brown, remove the rings. Turn
the crumpet over and cook for a minute or two the other side. With
each batch you must grease the griddle and rings again.

Serve toasted, with butter or butter and jam / honey.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Roast Beef

A roasting joint of beef (rib roast, topside etc)

  • Weigh the joint and calculate the cooking time at the following rate*:
Rare: 20 minutes plus 20 minutes per pound
Medium: 25 minutes plus 25 minutes per pound
Well done: 30 minutes plus 30 minutes per pound

*Apparently prime cuts such as rib of beef and tenderloin need less time. Roasting it in a covered enamel tin will take a bit longer though.

When it's time to start, 

  1. Preheat the oven to moderately hot (350ºF). 
  2. Place the joint in a roasting tin. Standing it on a rack is supposed to help the bottom part of it to roast and not just boil.
  3. Put the joint in the oven and roast it. If there is a lid, remove it at the beginning to brown the meat quickly at the start, and again at the end.
  4. Make yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes as required.
  5. Take the meat out of the oven five minutes before serving and move it to a warmed carving plate. Pour off the dripping into a dripping pot. Add some boiling water to the pan and stir over heat to get the dark brown beef extract off the pan.
  6. Make gravy using the fat from the top of the dripping pot, thickened with flour, and then use the brown water from the roasting pan and the juices from the bottom half of the dripping pot.
  7. Carve the joint at the table and serve with horseradish sauce, gravy, yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, and seasonal vegetables. Carrots, greens or peas and beans are recommended.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Sago pudding

1 pint of milk
2 oz Tesco sago
1 oz sugar

  1. Heat the milk in a pan and sprinkle on the sago
  2. Bring the mixture to the boil. Then simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar and serve.
Alternatively (to brown) turn into an ovenproof dish, dot the surface with butter, and bake at the top of a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 200ºC, 400ºF or gas mark 6.

Also good served cold with fruit.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Spaghetti aux Aubergines et aux Noix

I found this recipe which shouldn't be forgotten ;)

400g de spaghetti
150g d'aubergines coupées en dés
100g de tomates cerise
2g de romarin
2g de sauge
3 cuillères à soupe d'huile d'olive vierge extra
1 gousse d'ail
10 noix décortiquées

Saupoudrer les aubergines de sel et les mettre dans une passoire pour les faire dégorger. Faire blondir l'ail dans l'huile, ajouter les aubergines et laisser cuire pendant 5 minutes.
Ajouter les tomates cerise coupées en deux, la sauge et le romarin finement coupés, les noix, faire cuire 5 minutes et saler.
Faire cuire les spaghetti dans une grande casserole d'eau salée, les égoutter 'al dente' et les faire revenir 1 minute dans la poêle avec la sauce.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Mint Choc Chip Cake

Perfect for summer!

6 oz butter/marg
6 oz sugar
3 eggs
8 oz self-raising flour
8 oz chocolate chips (or chipped chocolate)
a little milk
two teaspoons of peppermint extract
green food colouring

cocoa powder
icing sugar

Line and grease a fairly deep 7 or 8 inch tin. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, fold in flour and add chocolate chips. Add a little milk to make it slightly less stiff (but it needs to be fairly stiff or the choc chips will sink). Add 2 teaspoons of peppermint extract, and some green colouring if you like your cake to be the right colour.

Bake at 160-180 depending on your oven, for about 1hour 15.

When the cake is cool, mix up some chocolate butter icing (butter, cocoa and icing sugar) and spread it over the cake. Or use whatever your favourite choc icing is. Yummy.

Orange Choc Chip Cake

6oz butter or marg
6oz caster sugar
3 eggs
8 oz self-raising flour
8oz chocolate chips (milk or dark)
1 orange
orange oil (optional)

icing sugar
cocoa powder

Line and grease a reasonably deep 7 or 8 inch cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, fold in the flour and choc chips. Zest the orange (quickest way to do this is with a potato peeler) and add the zest to the cake mixture. Then halve the orange and squeeze one half of the orange juice into the cake mixture. For added orangeyness (recommended), add a few drops of orange oil.

Spoon into the tin and bake for 1 hour 15 mins on about 180C (a bit less in a fan oven).

When the cake is cool, mix a few spoonfuls of cocoa powder, several spoons of icing sugar, and the remaining juice from the orange, to make choc-orange icing. Spread over the cake, and leave to set.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Old Fashioned Rhubarb Pudding

1 oz butter
Soft brown sugar
8 oz self raising flour
1 tsp salt
3 oz suet
1/4 pint water
1 1/2 lbs of young rhubarb
1 oz chopped candied peel
2 oz currants
rind and juice of half a lemon
4 oz sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon
3 fl oz water
  1. Choose a very large glass or china pudding basin (2 pint basin is not really big enough for this quantity of stuff).
  2. Butter the basin thickly with the butter and shake plenty of brown sugar about in it so that it sticks to the butter (or spread them both together).
  3. In a mixing bowl, make suet pastry with the flour, salt, suet and the 1/4 pint of water.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and cut off one third of the ball to reserve for the lid.
  5. Take the larger piece and put it into the pudding basin. Pummel it out thin so that it lines the bottom and sides of the basin up to a bit short of the brim. Make sure there are no holes.
  6. Wash and trim the sticks of rhubarb and slice them into 1 inch pieces.
  7. Put half the pieces of rhubarb into the pudding shell.
  8. Sprinkle over the peel, currants, lemon rind and juice, half the sugar, and the cinnamon.
  9. Add the rest of the rhubarb and the rest of the sugar.
  10. Pour in the water.
  11. Take the remaining piece of suet pastry and knead it out to make a round lid. Put the lid on the pudding and stick the edges of the pastry together.
  12. Cover the pudding with a circle of greaseproof paper as if for steaming, tied on with string.
  13. Bake at 350º F, 180ºC, Fan oven 160º, gas mark 4, for 75 minutes.
  14. Remove from the oven, take off the paper top, turn out into a dish with sides.
  15. Serve piping hot with cream or custard.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Mini-Spanikopita (Flaky spinach and fennel pastries)

This is my cross between Rose Elliot's Flaky Spinach and Fennel pastries and Spanikopita.

8 sheets filo pastry
3oz butter, melted

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped (spring onions can also be used)
1 tbsp olive oil
1lb fresh spinach, cooked, well-drained and chopped, or 8oz frozen spinach thawed and squeezed as dry as possible
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2-4oz feta cheese, crumbled small
1tsp fennel seed (optional)

1. Make the filling by frying the onion in olive oil in a large saucepan until soft but not browned, then remove from heat and add the cooked spinach, chopped parsley and fennel seed.
2. Preheat oven to 190C/Gas mark 5.
3. Unroll the filo pastry and spread out in a pile with a damp cloth over.
4. Take one sheet of filo pastry, place on a large board and brush all over with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top and brush that too. Cut into five equal-width strips.
5. Place a teaspoon of filing 2.5 cm from the end of one strip. Fold the top corner over, making a triangular shape. Then fold the whole triangle over itself again and again until you get to the end of the strip. Brush with melted butter and place on greased baking sheet.
6. Continue with the rest of the filo and filling in the same way until it is all used up and you have lots of little triangles on baking trays.
7. Bake for 15 min until the pastry is golden-brown and crisp.

NB can be frozen after step 6, then cooked from frozen.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Lemon Curd

For this recipe you will need a microwave oven (conventionally it is done in a double boiler saucepan).

Makes about three jars.


1 lb sugar
4 eggs
4 lemons
8 oz butter


  1. Find a large mixing bowl, made of glass, plastic or china (not metal).
  2. Put the pat of butter in the mixing bowl and warm it in the microwave for 30 seconds to soften it.
  3. Add the grated rind and juice of the lemons to the bowl.
  4. Add the sugar.
  5. Put the bowl in the microwave again and heat it for a minute or two till it's all runny. Stir it.
  6. Add the eggs and beat the mixture with a hand whisk (or a fork would probably do okay) until it's all smooth and a consistent colour and consistency all through.
  7. Microwave for 30 seconds on full power. Remove and whisk the mixture again.
  8. Repeat step 7 for as many times as required (about 7-8 times) until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. It must not boil. Use medium power for the last one or two sessions if you are anxious about going too far.
  9. Pot into warm glass jam jars, and screw on the lids while it is still hot (or use the traditional wax paper and cellophane jam covers).
  10. Use within about 4 weeks. May need to be refrigerated after opening depending on how fast you eat it.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Victoria Sponge

Quantity for 8" sandwich tins or approx 18 fairy cakes.

6oz butter
6oz (vanilla) sugar
6oz self-raising flour
3 eggs
vanilla essence (optional)

1. Line base of sandwich tins with greaseproof paper and grease tins.
2. Cream butter and sugar until 'soft and fluffy' - if butter is hard, give it 20 second in microwave on full power.
3. Weigh up flour ready but do not add to mixture.
4. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat enthusiastically and add a spoonful of flour between eggs to prevent curdling.
5. Beat in remaining flour (and a few drops of vanilla essence if desired).
6. Divide evenly into two tins and spread out (or dollop into cake cases for fairy cakes using a teaspoon).
7. Bake in oven gas mark 4, 180C (160C in fan oven) for 20-25 mins until golden on top and starting to come away from the tin at the edges. Fairy cakes take 15-20 mins.

Allow to cool, then fill with butter icing - or jam, or lemon curd, etc.

Lemon option - add grated rind of 1 lemon to cake mixture, use juice from the lemon in butter icing for filling.
Chocolate option - replace 1oz of the flour with 1oz cocoa powder.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Red Cabbage

For four helpings.

1 oz dripping or oil
1 lb red cabbage, shredded
1 large onion peeled and sliced
1 cooking apple peeled and sliced
2 tbsp stock, or water, or apple or orange juice
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp salt
a little pepper
1 tbsp brown sugar
(raisins, sultanas or a little spice can be added if desired)

  1. Choose a large pan (not uncoated aluminium).
  2. Melt the dripping in the pan and add the chopped onions.
  3. Add all the other ingredients.
  4. Put on the lid and cook gently for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Serve hot, with pork, sausages, steak and kidney pudding or other traditional fare.

Basic Bread (wholemeal)

For wholemeal bread, one rising is enough. Fresh yeast can be bought from specialist grocers and whole foods shops, and from real bakeries where they bake on site, or ask for it for free from the Tesco in-store bakery.


for three large loaves:
4 1/2 lbs wholemeal flour
6 tsps salt
2 oz lard
2 1/4 pints of warm water (see below)
1 oz of fresh yeast creamed with 1 tsp of sugar (see below)
Optional: a spoonful of malt extract or molasses

or for two large loaves:
3 lbs wholemeal flour
4 tsp salt
1 1/2 oz lard
1 1/2 pints of water
1 oz of fresh yeast creamed with sugar as above
Optional: a spoonful of malt extract or molasses

  1. Put the yeast in a small cup and add a teaspoon of white sugar. Stir the sugar in firmly and put it aside. It will become runny after a few minutes.
  2. Put the flour into a large mixing bowl (it needs to be very large, i.e. washing up bowl size, for the larger quantities)
  3. Add the salt
  4. Rub in the lard.
  5. Measure up the water as follows: boil the kettle and pour approximately one third boiling water and two thirds cold water from the tap into the measuring jug (or each time you fill the jug if it takes more than one filling).
  6. Pour most of this water into the flour, reserving a small amount to add to the yeast.
  7. Pour the small measure of water into the cup of liquid yeast/sugar. Stir and add this yeast and water to the flour. (The water added directly to the yeast MUST not be too hot. The other water can be a little hotter since it will be cooled by the flour before the yeast gets there, especially on a cold day, and making the dough quite warm will speed up rising).
  8. Roll up your sleeves and wash your hands. Put the bowl on a table at a comfortable height for working. Starting with a knife and then using your hands stir and then knead the mixture until the water is all absorbed and the dough is smooth and springy, forming a clean ball. Drag and pummel it about in the bowl. It should clean all the dough off your hands in the process, though you may need to assist it by using a knife to scrape your fingers off and on.
  9. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it on a smooth surface for a bit, pulling, stretching and folding it and hitting it down hard with your knuckles.
  10. Grease the loaf tins.
  11. Divide the dough into the right number of pieces, by rolling the side of your hand back and forth across the dough ball like a bread knife at the cutting points.
  12. Put the dough pieces into the tins, put the tins into a huge plastic bag and arch the bag up over them so the bread has room to rise inside. Leave the bread to rise in the kitchen or some other warm place.
  13. An hour later, check the bread to see if it is well risen.
  14. Heat the oven to 450ºF, 220ºC, Gas mark 8. On the fan oven, make it about 200º or the bread setting if there is one.
  15. When the oven is warm, put the loaves in and set the clock for 42 minutes. You can glaze the top of the loaves with milk or egg if you like, before baking them.
  16. Remove the bread from the oven and take the loaves out of the tins. Cool on a wire rack (put a tea towel over the top to keep them slightly moist, if the loaves are to be left out cooling overnight).

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Whole lemon pudding

1 lb plain flour
8 oz shredded suet
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
1 egg mixed with milk (or plain cold water)
1 lemon
4 oz Demerara sugar
pinch of grated nutmeg
pinch of ground allspice
1/2 tbsp of cold butter, cut into bits (not obvious how you measure this in tablespoons mind you).


  1. Grease a large pudding basin before you get your hands in the flour.
  2. Put a large saucepan of water on to heat.
  3. Tip the flour gently into a mixing bowl and add the suet. Grate a bit of the lemon rind into this, and add 3 teaspoons of the sugar. Mix these ingredients with a knife and then add the liquid (egg and milk, or water). Add enough liquid to mix to a soft dough with the knife and/or your hands.
  4. Put the blob of dough into the pudding basin and dig a hole in the middle of it. Continue to dig it out and pull it up the sides of the basin until you have a big cavity in the middle of the dough.
  5. Into the hole, place the lemon (cut in quarters), the rest of the sugar, the spices and the butter.
  6. Close up the hole by dragging the sides together and make sure it all seals across the top with no cracks or holes.
  7. Put a lid on the basin or tie it up with greaseproof paper and string.
  8. Put the basin in the pan of water (water should come two thirds up the basin) and boil over a low heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  9. Lift the pudding basin out of the pan, remove the lid and turn the pudding out onto a serving plate (use a dish with sides, e.g. a flan dish because the juice will flow out when you cut it).
  10. Serve with custard, lemon sauce, golden syrup or cream.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

As you like it Sausage and Bean Stew

Essential ingredients:

4 or 6 tasty sausages
3 small or 2 large leeks
1 or two red onions
at least 3 cloves garlic
2 tins of tomatoes, chopped
One tin of butter, kidney or haricot beans
Herbs, salt and pepper

Optional ingredients:

Half a red pepper
Five to ten mushrooms
A few rashers of bacon
A stick of celery
1 glass white wine
Some like it hot - chilli powder, mustard seed, cumin or other spicy spices

Prick the skins of the sausages and brown them in the bottom of a large pan. While they are sizzling, chop up the leeks, onions, garlic, pepper, mushrooms, celery and bacon. When the sausages are looking brown, take them out, leaving their fat in the pan. Throw the chopped vegetables (and bacon) into the pan and start them cooking in the sausage fat (with the lid on). Cut the sausages into chunks, and throw them back into the pan. When the vegetables are just soft, add the chopped tomatoes and white wine, and season with salt, pepper, herbs and spices. Simmer with the lid on for at least twenty minutes. Then rinse and drain the beans and add them to the stew, and simmer with the lid off for another twenty minutes.

Serve with mashed potato, rice, or a big chunk of crusty bread.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Cheese bread and butter pudding

Six slices of mature bread
6 oz grated cheese
1/2 pint of milk
2 eggs
Salt, pepper and mustard powder.

Butter an oven proof dish. Butter the slices of bread thickly. Cut them into triangles.
Lay some triangles butter side down in the dish to cover the base.
Sprinkle thickly with most of the grated cheese.
Add the rest of the bread butter side up, and sprinkle with a little cheese.
Measure the milk into a measuring jug and break the eggs into it. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and mustard powder to taste. Beat well with a fork and pour the custard over the bread.

Leave to soak for an hour or more.

Bake at 425º F, 220ºC, gas mark 7, for 30 minutes.
Serve at once, piping hot.

Yorkshire puddings, large and small

Ingredients (to serve 4 - 8 people)

4 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp of salt

1 egg
1/2 pt of milk

(or 2 eggs, and enough milk to make 10 fluid ounces with the eggs).

For best results use the liquidiser:
Break the eggs into the liquidiser. Add the milk. Whizz for a bit.
Add the salt and spoon in the flour, a bit at a time.

Blend for 30 seconds.

Alternatively, make the batter by hand:
Measure the flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl.
Make a well in the centre.
Break the eggs into the centre and add the milk (or combine these in a measuring jug first).
Use a wooden spoon to beat the liquid gently at first and then more strongly, gradually drawing in the flour in which the pool of liquid lies, until all the flour has been drawn in and the batter is smooth. Then beat hard to create an airy bubbly batter.

Cooking instructions:
Using either a large roasting tin, or a patty pan with either four yorkshire pudding cups or 12 bun cups, place a little dripping or lard in each cup. Put the pan into the hot oven and heat until the fat is close to smoking.
Pour the batter into the tins (all of it into the roasting tin, or a little into each cup) and return to the oven quickly. Bake in a hot to very hot oven for about 30 minutes for the roasting tin size, or 20 minutes for smaller ones. The puddings should be well risen, light and crisp, but not blackened on the top!

Serve with gravy, with roast meat, or as a pudding with golden syrup, fruit, warmed jam and cream.