Category Archives: Food

Christmas Recipes

I’ve been asked to give recipes for the food I’m cooking this Christmas. There’s a lot of cream and butter here, but it is Christmas so here goes:

Caramel Panettone Pudding (Thanks to Waitrose Good Food Magazine). Serves 8

For the caramel

300g icing sugar

200ml hot water

For the pudding

175g pannetone

50g unsalted butter, softened

50g golden caster sugar

6 large eggs, well beaten

400ml whole milk

284ml double cream plus more to serve


Put sugar and water into a small heavy pan on a low heat and stir until the sugar is disolved

Turn up the heat and boil until a golden brown. It will take a while. For golden brown think hair colour, so, darkish but not auburn

Remove the pan from the heat and swish the syrup into a 1.5 Litre oven proof dish, preferably a lasagne shaped one. As it cools, keep moving the dish to coat the sides with the thickening caramel.

Preheat oven 160C. Gas 3, fan 140C


Remove the dark brown bottom crust of the pannetone and cut it into 1 cm thick slices. Butter one side of each slice and lay them in a single layer onto the caramel, buttered side up.


Beat the sugar and eggs in a large bowl until thickened.

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan until beginning to fizz round the edge, then pour onto the egg mixture and stir to combine

Pour this custard over the Panettone, pressing the slices into the liquid. Soak for 10 minutes.


On middle oven shelf for 55 – 60 mins or until just set. Will shiver when gently shaken but will continue to set as cooling.

Rest 30 minutes before serving with cream. (Despite this instruction I’m going to serve mine chilled)


Marzipan and Mincemeat Apples

This is the recipe I have but actually I’m going to peel and core the apples whole and cook them in the oven, drizzled with cider. I don’t yet know how long this will take or what it will be like but I’ll report back after Christmas.

2 medium Bramley apples

3 oz marzipan

8 tbsp mincemeat

finely grated zest and juice of a small lemon


Cut the apples in half across the core and remove the cores

Stand them in a microwave safe dish

Break the marzipan into small chunks and mix with the mincemeat and lemon zest

Spoon into the centre of the apples and pour over the lemon juice,

Cover dish with cling film

pierce all over

microwave on high for 4.5 minutes

Remove the cling film and leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving with whipped cream, crème fraiche and/or brandy or rum butter – Delia’s is fantastic.

NB. It’s 18th January and I haven’t made this yet. The cooking apples are still in the fridge. I seriously over-catered this year and the neighbours have benefited.


Ice Cream Christmas Pudding (serves 8 – 10)

I usually do Delia’s, from her Christmas book, but this seemed much easier, and I find the coconut cream in Delia’s a bit overpowering.


450g jar vegetarian, suet free mincemeat. (I’ve got ordinary, hope it will be OK)

3 tbsp rum or brandy – or any spirit that takes your fancy

4 eggs separated

300ml double cream

100g caster sugar


Line a 2L pudding basin with cling film. Mix together the mincemeat and the (Christmas) spirit.

Place the yolks in a small bowl and mix until smooth

Whisk the cream to soft peaks

Using an electric, grease free mixer and bowl, beat the egg whites until so stiff they will stay in the bowl when you hold it upside down.

With the mixer still on high, add the sugar a teaspoonful at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time

Fold the egg yolks and cream into the meringue, then the mincemeat mixture.

Turn the whole thing into the pudding basin, cover and freeze overnight.

To Serve

Dip the dish into hot water and turn onto a plate.

Serve with toffee sauce, or any sauce you fancy really. I might be tempted to do port sauce, a mixture of port, maple syrup and cream – mix to taste.



Maple and Walnut Parfait (Not sure how many it serves)

I love the way recipes make you think of the person who gave them to you. Their writing remains on the page long after they have passed away.

This recipe was given to me by Maggie Leach, a formidable lady to whom I gave PC lessons. She was completely unafraid of the machine – occasionally a bit too gung-ho if I’m completely honest. She also gave me a beautiful stone she had made, with a picture of a rabbit on it.


60g walnuts or pecans

1 egg white and a pinch of salt

200ml maple syrup

240ml double cream


Roughly chop the nuts

Heat maple syrup to boiling

Whisk egg whites with salt (no grease within spitting distance)

Still whisking, gradually pour in the very hot maple syrup. Continue whisking until you have a thick, stiff meringue. Leave to cool.

Beat the cream until stiff and fold it into the cooled maple meringue.

Fold in the chopped nuts and spoon into a dish


transfer to the fridge for half an hour to soften before serving



Cold Dawg

Thanks to Mrs Plyma for this one. Another wonderful old lady, sadly gone, who would chat to me in her refined voice, over the counter of my delicatessen shop in Sheep Country.


8oz Caster sugar

2 eggs

tbsp coffee powder – not granuals

pinch salt

a little rum (optional)

packet of morning coffee biscuits

8 oz of block creamed coconut


Melt the creamed coconut and remove from heat

Beat the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy

Add the coffee and cocoa powders, rum, salt and lastly the melted creamed coconut block. Mix well intill thickened.

Line a 1 lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper and put in a layer of biscuits, cutting to fit.

Pour in a layer of chocolate mixture and continue in layers, finishing with a biscuit layer. I usually use 5 layers of biscuits in all (Mrs Plyma’s words)

Refrigerate overnight.

Serve in thin slices.



Something savoury now:

Julia Child’s Chicken Liver Parfait (Julia Child is not someone I had the privilege to meet but I’m sure she was as driven as the other women)

2 Cups of chicken livers

2 tbsp minced shallots (actually I used onions)

2 tbsp butter

1/3 cup cognac

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp allspice

1/8 tsp pepper

pinch of thyme

1/ cup melted butter

grinding salt and pepper


Trim greenish or blackish spots and sinews from the livers and cut them into 1/2″ pieces

Melt butter over a medium heat in a saute pan until foam has subsided. Saute livers and onions in butter for – 3 minutes until the livers are just stiffened but still pink in the middle. Scrape into blender jar

Pour the cognac into the pan and boil until it has reduced to 3 tablespoons. Scrape it into the blender jar.

Add in the cream and seasonings and whiz until the liver is a smooth paste.

Add the melted butter – if you are using a food processor you can pour it in down the funnel.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Bear in mind that the flavours will be less strong when the pate is chilled.

Pack into a bowl, cover with cling film and chill for 2 – 3 hours or overnight

You could top with clarified butter or aspic jelly once cold or if you were feeling energetic you could top with Julia’s…

Cognac Jelly

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp unflavoured gelatine

1/ tsp sugar

1/2 cup dry vermouth

2 tsp cognac


Place 1/4 cup warm water in a ramekin, sprinkle on gelatine and let it stand for about 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan heat vermouth and sugar over a medium low heat for about 5 minutes

Once the gelatine has softened, add the rest of the hot water and stir until mixture is clear.

Add the gelatine to the wine mixture and mix thoroughly.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and add cognac. Let the mixture stand until it almost reaches room temperature.

Once it has cooled, pour over the chilled mousse.

Return the mousse to the fridge and chill until the gelee has set.

Tuna and Pasta Bake

Serves 6, allegedly

This was so good that I made the recipe for 6 and three of us ate three quarters of it i.e. 50% more than we should have done.

I cooked it in a large, straight-sided frying pan of about 14″ diameter that could also be put in the oven. If you don’t have one then a roasting tin or lasagne dish will do. I’m lazy about washing up so happy to skip a pan if possible.

The remains of tuna and pasta bake
Probably should have taken the picture before we devoured it.



2 Tins of tuna in brine, drained

250g pasta, boiled for 10 – 12 minutes until al dente

Corn or rape seed oil for frying

1 large tin chopped toms

1 stick celery, chopped

1 onion chopped

1 pepper, any colour, chopped

4 large mushrooms chopped

Half a chilli including seeds

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 Tbsp fish sauce

Black pepper

Cheese sauce

2oz (50g) butter

2.5oz (60g) plain flour

2 (1 litre) pints milk

Salt and white pepper

6oz (150g) grated mature cheddar

Half a teaspoon English made mustard


2 Slices of wholemeal bread whizzed into crumbs mixed with 2 – 4 oz (50 – 100g) grated mature cheddar


Pre-heat oven to gas 5 / 375f /190c


Fry all the veg, apart from the tomatoes, in the frying pan until the onion is soft.

Add the tin of tomatoes, the garlic and the fish sauce and pepper, then stir in the cooked pasta and the tuna. Leave to cool while you make the sauce.

Cheese sauce

Melt the butter gently until liquid and stir in the flour to form a smooth paste (take it off the heat at first to blend) cook slowly for a minute, stirring all the time.

Increase the heat under the pan and pour in a a dosh of the milk, whisking constantly until blended, then start using a wooden spoon to make sure to bring in the thickening sauce from the corners of the pan. As soon as the sauce starts to thicken, reduce the heat a little to prevent burning. If lumps start to form, remove from heat and get rid of them with the whisk.

When the sauce is thickened, stir in the cheese and mustard, taste and season if necessary.

The sauce needs to be quite thick. It should move, but slowly in the tilted pan. Use the remaining milk to adjust the consistency.

Putting it together.

Pour the sauce to cover the base, then top with the breadcrumbs/cheese.

You can leave it now until you need it. Chill it if necessary.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, possible a little longer from chilled.

Serve with salad.


Recipe. Spicy, creamy prawns with rice

Hopefully you’ve read my previous post about rice.

This recipe served one person. I was all alone with a bottle of this. A remarkably good bottle of rose from Aldi. It cost £5.99.

food and drinkIt needed something fishy and luxurious and this is what I cooked.


A knob of butter or a tbsp of oil – not olive as it’s a bit strong in flavour

Prawns, (Aldi prawns are particularly tast and cheap. I used about a quarter of a defrosted bag)

Half a red chilli about 2 inches long, diced small

A quarter of a small onion diced

4 quartered cherry tomatoes

3 mushrooms sliced

4 tablespoons of half fat creme fraiche (you could use cream if you felt decadent)

1 desert spoon of fish sauce

200g cooked rice


Fry the onion and chilli gently in the butter/oil until the onion is soft, then add the mushrooms and continue cooking for a couple of minutes.

Throw in the tomatoes and cook until soft, then add the prawns, cream and fish sauce and cook until warmed through.

Throw in the rice and turn it through the mixture then turn the whole thing into a pasta bowl or onto a plate.

Good with rocket or peas.

Rice – a working woman’s staple

rice and how to save timeApparently rice can be dangerous if cooked and frozen, then re-heated. There’s a bacterium that can be found in rice. I’ve never met it but here’s a quote from

Uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning. When the rice is cooked, the spores can survive. If the rice is left standing at room temperature, the spores can grow into bacteria.

The website doesn’t tell us what the chances are of buying rice containing this bacterium and speaking from experience I have been cooking and freezing rice in portions for years with no ill effects. I’m not saying there is no risk, I’m saying calculate it and make a decision based on evidence.

The main thing is to chill the rice quickly after cooking it. Freeze it in portions – 200g of cooked rice is the size of portion my family looks for. I usually cook it by the bucket load and shovel 600g into each freezer bag for three of us. You may have slightly smaller appetites than us. In our family we are pretty enthusiastic consumers of food.

Having ready cooked rice in the freezer saves a lot of time on a busy evening when kids need to be taken to activities and husbands have to go to meetings – or the pub. Defrost it in the microwave. Bung the bag straight onto the turn table and cook for 2 minutes on full power. You may worry about the chemicals coming from the bag. I don’t, and look, I’m here to tell the tale.

There are a number of quick recipes using pre-cooked rice. Watch this space and they will appear.

Once more the brain lets me down

Alternative ways to serve a burger

Are you getting bored with my brain? I certainly am.

Last weekend we went to visit Horace in Chorley – blooming miles away. We had to wait for Mavis to get home from school, at about 4.30pm, before we could set off, and we were all a bit behind with things as there was a plethora of jobs demanding attention during the day so we finally left home at 5,30pm. Almost immediately the sat-nav began warning of traffic and recalculating our route. The eta became later and later; it was just as well we had agreed to eat en route.

After an hour or two we pulled into a service area on the M1. McDonald’s only – not my favourite. I ordered a 1955 burger (my DOB so it seemed appropriate) and Whizz queued while Mavis and I collected napkins, straws, salt, pepper, ketchup and powdered sweetener from the condiment point.

We found a reasonably clear table and when Whizz arrived I was feeling fairly enthusiastic about my meal due to the lateness of the hour.

‘Pass the salt, please.’ Whizz sprinkled it liberally onto his potato wedges.

I grabbed another packet and shared it between potato wedges and burger before taking a bite.

‘Have these wedges got barbecue flavouring on them?’

‘No, I don’t thinks so.’ Whizz tried another, ‘No, mine are plain.’

Mavis ‘chipped’ in ‘Perhaps you’ve put sugar on them. Ha ha!’

She was joking but unsurprisingly, she was right!