Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas Crumbs

Image result for leftover bread

Christmas can be a time of overshopping, overspending and overeating. Consequently we feel the strain on our wallets, waist lines and -alas- on our waste bins as well.

Too much is bought, only to be thrown away. Bread and cakes are no exception- going stale or just losing their appeal after so much rich food.

This year's Christmas blog is all about making use of leftover bread, brioche or biscuits.
The first recipe uses up brioche rolls or slices- but you could easily make the recipe with any cake crumbs.

Prune and Lemon Tart
Sweet pastry case baked 'blind'

You will need  a sweet pastry case, baked blind at 180 degrees.
10-12 stoned prunes ( soaked overnight in tea)
If you don't like prunes, use figs or raisins soaked in rum/tea  or chocolate chips.
150 ml milk
150 ml cream
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon ( plus a dash of Limoncello if you feel like it)
100g blitzed brioche or cake crumbs
Vanilla sugar to top
1. Blitz up the brioche or cake into crumbs

Blitzed brioche crumbs
2. Chop the soaked prunes and place in a layer on the pastry case

Place prunes in the case
3. Whisk together the milk, cream, egg, lemon zest, Limoncello and crumbs and leave to stand until the liquid has been largely absorbed

Whisk together the ingredients and leave to stand
4. Spoon over the prunes in the case, smooth level and top with the vanilla sugar.
5. Bake for half an hour or so at 180 degrees.

Prune and Lemon Tart

Can I also recommend my Caramel Clementine Upside Down Cake?

Caramel clementine upside-down cake
Caramel Clementine Upside Down Cake

If you have room in your freezer, then you need never throw away stale bread- simply blitz it into breadcrumbs and store for when you need it.
Like for coating arancini as here

Arancini with Dipping Sauce
 or use leftover fish pie and breadcrumbs to make fish cakes:

Fish Pie
I do make a good fish pie - and the leftovers go brilliantly in fish cakes. Add a little extra seasoning to your cold pie ( chopped spring onion, capers, green olives or chilli to your taste) Simply shape the cold mash and fish mixture into patties and then line up two saucers - one with beaten egg and one with blitzed breadcrumbs or biscottes.

Roll the patties first in egg and then coat thoroughly with crumbs. Leave to chill in the fridge for a an hour before frying in hot oil.

Fry patties in hot oil
Drain and serve.
Crispy Fish Cakes

These go really well with a Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce.

Mix 1 cup of cider vinegar with 1 cup of light brown sugar, 2 tbsp of tomato puree, 1 cup of water,  1 diced red chilli and 1 tin of chopped pineapple in juice ( or fresh pineapple with 1 cup of whatever fruit juice you have to hand  eg. apple or orange).
Heat the ingredients until the sugar is dissolved, taste and adjust to your taste ( more vinegar or sugar as required). Mix 2 tsp cornflour with water in a cup and add to the mixture in the pan. Stir until thickened.
Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

Finally, if you have stale biscuits to use up, try this old favourite-

 A Breton biscuit cake, which won this week's recipe swap competition, sits atop a stripey tablecloth, with a couple of segments missing. The assumption is that someone has eaten a bit of it. To be fair, that's probably what has happened.
Breton Biscuit Cake

Whether you eat like a sparrow or a sparrow hawk, hopefully these crumbs will bring you comfort this Christmas.
Image result for birds on bird table
Best wishes for 2019!

Monday, 26 November 2018

Free from...

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More and more people are changing their diets- giving up dairy, gluten, alcohol, meat etc, sometimes for a short while, sometimes for good. Some for health reasons, others for environmental concerns.
My family and friends are no exception- and I find myself cooking for 'special' diets more often than not.

So, this month's blog is gluten free, and dairy free (although each of the recipes can be adapted if you eat either of those things.)
I'm starting with a gluten-free Toad-in-the-Hole. This version was crispier and lighter than its wheaty alternative, so I do recommend it. (You can make it dairy-free by using soya milk or almond milk.)
Dessert is an Avocado Chocolate Mousse- so simple and great if you have avocados in the fruit bowl needing using up.
Extra pudding ( because you have to have two!) is a gluten-free Golden Syrup Cake.


1 cup gluten free flour
1 cup cornflour
1 egg
milk/soya or almond milk to mix
1 tsp each of salt and baking powder
1 dozen chipolata sausages ( Tescos are gluten free)

1. Pour 1 tbsp vegetable oil into a roasting dish and place in a hot oven (190 degrees) to heat up.
1. Mix the flours, salt, baking powder and egg together in a bowl

Mix up your batter
2. Add sufficient milk to make a thin batter ( like pouring cream)
3. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes whilst you brown the chipolatas and allow the oil in the oven to heat up to smoking point
4. Lay the sausages in the hot fat and pour on the batter. It should sizzle.
5. Quickly return to the hot oven and allow to cook until well risen and firm.

The Best Toad-in-the-Hole
6. Serve with onion gravy and veg

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

1 large or two small avocados
1  heaped tbsp golden syrup or honey
1 bar of dark chocolate

1. Melt the syrup and chocolate together (either microwaved in the food processor goblet or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water)

Melt together the syrup and chocolate
2. Blitz together with the avocado until smooth

Add the avocado

Blitz  until smooth

3. Spoon into glasses and serve with fruit as a garnish if you wish.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries

And finally for the Golden Syrup Cake.

You will need:
100g of vegetable margarine
50g caster sugar
50g soft brown sugar
200g golden syrup
150g gluten free self raising flour
50g cornflour
1 egg
150ml milk or soya/almond milk
2 extra tbsp golden syrup

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease a 2lb loaf tin
2. Melt the marge, sugars and syrup together in a pan then set aside to cool
3. Beat the milk and egg together
4. Sift the flours together an beat in the egg mixture
5. Add the syrup mixture and pour the batter into the loaf tin
6. Bake for 1 hour until golden on top
7. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then prick all over the top with a skewer
8. Warm the extra golden syrup and then pour over the top
9 Allow to cool completely before serving

Glorious Gluten-Free Golden Syrup Cake

10, For best results wrap in foil and serve the next day when all the syrup has soaked through the cake.

Nobody said anything about these recipes being calorie-free, of course.

Image result for satisfied walrus
But they taste SO good!

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Pounti, Patates and Pointy Cabbage

Autumn harvest is done.

Everything has been eaten, stored, bottled, frozen or given to the neighbours.

A few new recipes for you, using up my autumnal produce and then I hope you'll love your veg as much as we do.

Pounti is an Auvergne dish- traditionally made to use up leftover cooked meat. It can be eaten warm or cold, served as a main course, side dish or with an apéritif.

We made it at Cookery Workshop, using cooked ham- but use any meat you have.

200g leftover cooked meat
100g bacon lardons
1 bunch of parsley
3-4 Swiss Chard leaves ( or 1/2 bag spinach)
1 onion
6 eggs
300g flour
2 tsp baking powder
500 ml milk
200g prunes (soaked overnight in water or tea)
butter for greasing, salt and pepper to taste

1. Blitz or finely chop the meat, bacon, parsley, onion, chard or spinach

Blitz the meat, veg and herbs
2. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder and milk and mix well

Mix up your eggs, flour and milk and add to the veg mixture
3. Pour into either a large greased cake tin, or several small tins for individual cakes

Pour into cake moulds
4. Drop in the stoned prunes

Add the prunes
5. Bake at 180 degrees for approximately an hour ( for a large Pounti ) or check smaller cakes with a skewer after 30 minutes.
6. Eat warm from the oven if poss.


I also experimented this year with two new crops- cabbage ( pointed variety) and sweet potatoes.

I asked my local cooks how best they liked to cook their cabbage, and got this suggestion from my Romanian neighbour who says it is her husband's favourite. We loved it too, so I have named it after him.

Cabbage Alexi
1 head of cabbage
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 jar of passata
2 apples
1 pack of lardons
chipolatas or pork chops
red wine

1. Gently fry the chopped onion, crushed garlic, and chopped apples

Gently fry onion, apple, garlic - and add in the lardons
2. Blanch the cabbage for 4-6 minutes in boiling water, drain and chop

Blanch the cabbage heads
3. Add the lardons to the frying pan and fry until lightly golden
4. Add the chopped cabbage, stir fry and add a glug of red wine and plenty of seasoning

Add the cabbage, red wine and seasoning
5. Cook over a high heat for a few minutes, then add the passata and turn down to a simmer
6. Brown the chipolatas in a frying pan

Brown the chipolatas
7. Tip the cabbage mixture into an oven dish, add the chipolatas, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 170 degrees.

Cabbage Alexi

And finally, to the sweet potatoes (Patates Douces). I only grew two plants, but they yielded well- if a little wonkily shaped.

Meet Sweetie, Knobby, Curly and pals

They nevertheless made two meals, each for 4-6 people.

I scrubbed the potatoes, pricked them all over with a knife and baked them in the microwave until soft when pressed ( about 6-10 minutes depending on your microwave). I then peeled them easily.

The first meal was a Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry and the second was a Vegetable Lasagne- made with layers of lentil ragout, Swiss Chard and leeks, creamy pesto sauce, sweet potatoes and a Welsh Rarebit topping.
A layer of sweet potato 
Welsh Rarebit Topped Lasagne

For the curry: fry onion, garlic, chilli and ginger, add 1-2 tbsp of your curry paste of choice, add the chopped sweet potato and 2 cups of cooked lentils some vegetable stock and a can of coconut milk and simmer together.

Lentil and sweet Potato Curry

And that's it for now...

Hope you're feeling the love!

Sunday, 30 September 2018


The crypto-currency of the Auvergne!

Sorry to go on about my glut of fruit and veg this year- but in addition to everything else, it has proved to have a surprisingly good exchange rate. Certainly a lot better than poor old sterling!

So far, I have exchanged my trays of excess fruit with friends and neighbours for : marrows, tomatoes, courgettes, blackberry cordial,  3 dozen eggs, two boxes of jam jars, eau de vie, more tomatoes and 5 tubs of donkey manure. Not to mention bringing a smile to the faces of our wood supplier, boiler service engineer and electrician when presented with gifts of jam.

Thanks for the poo Josephine!

Only a week left before we return to the UK so I will be looking for profitable transactions on my pears, cabbages, chard and potimarrons before I go.

However, I am still using up the fruit that wouldn't fit in the freezer- spreading it over the top of cheesecakes, baking cakes and clafoutis and making chutney.
Here are a few recipes to take you into October.

Apple Clafoutis

2 apples
100g flour
50g sugar
400ml milk
20g butter
1 sachet of vanilla sugar
pinch salt

1. Separate the eggs and beat the whites until they form soft peaks

Beat the egg whites to soft peaks
2. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar, milk and melted butter
3. Beat in the flour until you have a smooth batter
4. Pour half the mixture into a buttered oven dish
5. Add slices of peeled apple
6. Gently fold in the whites into the remaining batter and pile on top of the apple mixture

Mix the egg whites into the remaining batter
7. Bake at 180 degrees until risen and golden.

Apple Clafoutis

Chestnut and Cherry Bars

125g unsalted butter
175g sugar
1 egg
250 g crème de marron
1 tsp vanilla essence
375g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
200ml  cherry jam 
150g roasted peanuts or hazelnuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees
2. Cream together the butter and sugar, then mix in the vanilla essence , egg and chestnut cream and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs etc with an electric mixer
 3.Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until combined
4.Grease and line a baking tray or gratin dish and spread 2/3 of the dough along the bottom

Spread two thirds of the dough over the base of the lined dish
5. Spread the jam evenly over the dough
6. Drop blobs of the remaining dough randomly over the top

Spread with jam and the remaining dough in blobs
7. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes until golden on top and cooked underneath.

8. Cut into slices when cool.

Chestnut and Cherry Bars

Jam Duffins

We made these little buns at Cookery Workshop this time. I have made them again at home using rice and cornflour mixed to make a gluten free version and they were just as good.
They are a cross between a doughnut and a muffin. What's not to like?

To make a dozen:

150g of flour
2 heaped tsp baking powder
1 pot natural yoghurt or milk
1 egg
40-50g sugar
75g melted butter
2 tsp vanilla essence
jam of choice

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
2. Beat the egg and the sugar together

Beat the egg and sugar together
3. Add the yoghurt/milk, butter, flour and baking powder and beat well

Beat in the other ingredients
4. Add the vanilla
5. Butter the insides of a muffin tray and half fill the cups with the mixture

Half-fill the muffin cups with batter
6. Add 1 spoon of jam to each cup

Add 1 spoonful of jam
7. Cover  with the remainder of the mixture and bake for 15 minutes until (you guessed it) risen and golden.
Cover with the remainder of the mixture
8. Leave to cool before unmoulding so the jam can soak well into the cakes.

Jam Duffins

And so, if you are looking for a safe investment I can thoroughly recommend Auvergne Apple-Pay. It looks like the best bet at the moment!

Image result for cartoon of falling pound
Poor old Pound!