Saturday, 25 August 2012

Toad in the Hole and Joyful trifle


Last Thursday I had not 2 but 6 guests. My mother in law (her name is Heather), Andrew and Angela and their son Tim and grandchildren Tom and Luiza.

I cooked as my mother in law requested a toad in a hole with onion, cider and honey gravy and a joyful trifle, with raspberries from Heather's garden and mandarine segments.

Making a trifle was one of the things I had the most fun putting together, ever in my life. Of course, I should have made it in advance to have the jelly really set, but as I didn't it was slightly crumbling but everybody loved it and again, not a crumb of anything leftover.

My mother in law said it was the best ever toad in the hole and my friend said it was the best ever trifle so I am pleased!

I put loads of mandarine liqueur instead of Cointreau in the trifle and it made it really tasty.

I put some sausages in the toad in the hole and some out, because Jamie doesn't put any sausage in the batter and how can we have a toad in the hole without the toad?

I also raised more good money for the Romanian charity which I am pleased about.

Good things happening all round for trying to come out of myself and do things for other people. It makes me really happy when I can see people enjoying themselves and with a great big smile on their faces. I might go out to Romania and actually visit the charity and get to know the girls I am helping with my cooking and Jamie's recipes.

Again, here we have some pictures, taken with my iphone:

Onion gravy, thickening

Boiled potatoes and carrots

Beautiful toad in the hole

Sausages and onion gravy

Onion gravy all ready to go

The joy of a joyful trifle

Luiza and Tom

Andrew and David

Heather and Andrew

Tim and Luiza

Tom and Angela

Tim, Luiza, Tom and Angela

Tim, Luiza and Tom

Me pulling some face

Me and Heather

Heather leaking the trifle bowl up!

RECIPES 16, 17

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

White Pepper Skate (on a bed of fresh minted peas) and Jamie's nan St Clement's cake


Another cooking day for me with 2 new recipes.

My husband and I went to the fish shop in Paignton and we bought 1,7 kg of rake fish, freshly caught in Brixham.

I rarely cook fish, not to say never, and this recipe was slightly daunting for me as I had to de-bone the fish with a knife and a piece of wood as described in Jamie Oliver's website.

The rest of it was pretty simple, coat the fish in pepper and fennel seeds, roll it in egg and flour and fry it in butter and olive oil. Lay a bed of frozen peas, spring onions and fresh mint leaves and voila, a delicious meals, one of my husband's top three dishes according to himself.

I must say, cooking time for this recipe is impeccable, as I am quite inexperienced I followed it to the letter and the fish was cooked throughout and very moist and tender.

We invited our friend Sharon over for dinner and it was a lovely evening, she got us lucky beers, with bottles shaped like Buddha, so much for our spiritual growth.

For dessert I baked a St Clement's cake, probably one of my favourite cakes ever, quite simple but deliciously moist and fluffy. I still have plenty of it left for a cup of tea later on this afternoon.

Here are the pictures for the curious:

Delicately frying spring onions in oil and butter

Beaten egg and flour to coat

Frying the fish

Dished out, skate on a bed of minty peas

Sharon and David

Our plates, ready to be eaten

St Clement's cake

Big chunky slices...Yummy!

RECIPES 14, 15

Monday, 20 August 2012

Boiled and glazed bacon, pease pudding, spring veg, mustard and ecclefechan tart, dolop of whisky and ginger cream


Very long and complicated names and very long and complicated recipes.

This Saturday was the most difficult cooking day so far, good 4 hours in the kitchen to put all those recipes together.

In fact, it started the night before, soaking yellow split peas overnight.

David did most of the shopping and collected all the herbs from my mother in law's garden for me. What would I do without him?

My mother in law supplied herbs and runner beans from her garden. We bought peas in the shell and de-shelled them, frozen broad beans (because they are out of season), baby carrots and potatoes from the supermarket, everything else from the supermarket. I will point out that gammon was excellent, we got a 1,4 kg piece for 4 and most of it went.

I invited over Julius and his friend Wendy for dinner and I set the table in the newly decorated conservatory. I turned my conservatory into a miniature French style shabby chic bistrot. My husband painted it light blue as before it was a gloomy wood stained dark blue.

The most different thing in this recipe was the pease pudding. I must admit I had rarely eaten something so comforting and so delicious, it was worth every trouble, though I thought at first this boiling in a cloth stuff was rather complicated, it worked out like magic! 

Boiling pease pudding and ham together, infusing it with all the flavours from the gammon piece, and all the fresh herbs has worked out a treat.

When I first came to the UK I thought the cooking was always done in water and salt and unfortunately for most people it is still true, making food taste blend and boring. Herbs infuse life back into the food and also infuse aromas. We start eating with our eyes and noses before we even taste the food. It is funny, when I cook for long hours, I tend not to eat so much as smelling the food all afternoon makes me somehow satisfied. A kitchen that always smell of freshly baked food is a kitchen that is alive, not like most kitchens that don't smell of anything but freshly microwaved cardboard kits.

Talking about microwaves, one of the discussions was the microwaves kill the food, I rarely heat anything in the microwave, except from milk and sometimes I defrost vegetables a bit, but I think I am dropping those altogether and go back to old simple methods of reheating and defrosting.

We had a lovely evening chatting and getting to know each other. The most pleasant thing out of it is to get to know our neighbours and finding out a bit more about our close community. We spend time on the computer talking to a million of strangers and sometimes we forget to try and get to know our next door neighbours. Another bizarre change in our modern bizarre world. Communications have never been so widely available and we don't even relate to those ones around ones.

There is nothing wrong with the old days when everybody knew everybody and if we wanted to visit someone we just turned up at their doors because there was no telephone. Not so long ago, as we had our first phone when I was 7, but other members of the family didn't have one, so we just visited them. I remember my auntie sitting at her gate, on the pavement, chatting with her neighbours and I remember turning up in the afternoon for our afternoon coffee with fresh bread rolls and butter and a lot of chat. I loved to get those bread rolls still steaming from the bakery and seeing the butter melt on them. I am getting very nostalgic and I am starting to have tears in my eyes, sometimes I wish I could turn the clock back to those happy days, I only realise how happy they were now that they are far gone, but still very fresh in my memories.

Back to Saturday cooking, the dessert was another exploit as when I started baking it I realised I had no double cream and no black treacle, so I had to abandon my gammon boiling and zip up to The Happy Apple, our closest supermarket which sells organic food, I got organic black treacle and double cream. It is very important to support our local producers, even though the big chain supermarkets can be affordable and handy, they are killing all the small business that inject life and variety to our towns, villages and cities, sometimes it is worth spending a little more and preserving what is important to all of us.

This tart was very appreciated by everyone, It is a man's dessert, it has got a very strong character but I admit my heaped tablespoon of treacle was slightly over heaped! Anyway, people loved it and I loved the pastry more than anything, I remind you, don't ever overwork your pastry because it makes it hard instead of lovely and crumbly. Just gather it together to bind it and it is sufficient.

My husband has arrived and today it is finally a lovely sunny day, so I will publish this post and bid you goodbye. This week I have more cooking nights and I have to plan them. Oh and I forgot to tell you we raised some more money for the Romanian charity! All for the good of all of us men, our neighbours, our community, our family and the world.

I find it really funny those people who think they are changing the world when they sit in their chairs and criticise politicians. If we want to change the world we have to start changing the little world around us and if everyone did that, the entire world would be a much better place to live. I have a neighbour up in Berry Pomeroy, a small village nearby, she puts hundreds of flower pots in the corner of the street, every spring and summer. This is what I call citizenship. You work to make your town, your community, your neighbourhood a better place to be. This is your home too, not only inside your doors.

I talk and chat too much, I will now bid you goodbye and I see you on the next post.

I wish you all well, I hope this blog inspires you to get cooking!

Much love,


Newly painted and decorated conservatory

Our door mat, gift from a Brazilian friend, Cyrene

My lovely lights!

Yellow split peas in the cloth to prepare pease pudding

Adding potatoes and onions

Adding fresh herbs

Fresh herbs from my mother in law's garden

Ham and pudding simmering away with herbs and onions

Operating kitchen

Ecclefechan tart with pastry and fruits

No cutting corners, de-shelling peas

Glazing ham with marmalade

Tart ready to go

Pease pudding, in-cre-di-ble!!!!

Dished out 

Our guests, Julius and Wendy

With my husband David

I forgot to tell you how incredible gravy was, with flavours from ham, marmalade, vegetables and mustard. I kept all the juices from this cooking and froze them for a soup next time.

Everybody had seconds, It was enough to feed us four, with seconds and a little left over for a small one person's meal the following day. I guess this recipe was enough to feed 6 people well.

RECIPES 12, 13