Friday, 28 November 2014

Parsley Stuffing

The best stuffing for your turkey and a very old traditional Cornish recipe. I have used this recipe forever and it has been on my Blog since I started! I make no apologies for repeating it this year, for all my new likers! Mine is already made and tucked away in my freezer, all ready to defrost on Xmas eve night….. then pop it into the turkey neck cavity before roasting. The photo is a mini chicken version!!

In our family we just call this Stuffing, or even "stuff", but I had to give it a proper name. I have no idea of the origins of this delicious dressing but my Mother served it for as long as I can remember and it was my belief that it was my grandmother's recipe - she was born in 1885! I have never cooked a roast chicken without this stuffed into its neck - definitely NOT his bum. It is just as scrumptious when cold, to serve with cold meats. It also freezes perfectly. I will give you the basic recipe, that will probably stuff 2 everyday chickens but for my Xmas Turkey I use at least double the amount. It depends on the size.

12 oz white breadcrumbs, from a few days old, uncut loaf - no crusts
6 oz suet - Atora, light is good [but a hundred years ago it would have been the real thing]
2 oz chopped FRESH Parsley - this is a lot! [use finer stalks too]
2 teaspoons of dried mixed herbs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper - plenty of both!
4 eggs to bind

Cube the bread and blitz in a food processor or blender. Put in a bowl along with everything else. Beat the eggs and mix together. It's as easy as that. I batch make and freeze little packets for use and take out the night before and leave in the fridge. Pack tightly in the neck cavity and hold with cocktail sticks, or at Xmas I sew it in. Watch out for the cotton!!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Golden Orange Fruit Cake

This lovely cake is a good alternative to the traditional dark fruit cake for Christmas!  The fruit and orange combination is just delicious and It improves after a day or so, plus keeps for several days, as long as it is in an air tight container.  The orange juice and extract smell wonderful as you are mixing. You can purchase orange extract in any supermarket - I bought mine in Asda for just over a £1. It has an intense zesty flavour.

Start an hour or so, before you make the cake as you need to soak the fruit in some brandy. Or rum if you prefer.

Lightly oil and line a large loaf tin with strips of parchment for ease of lifting out. Preheat your fan oven to 150C.

In a medium bowl:

5 oz dried cranberries
3 oz chopped dried apricots
3 oz large yellow sultanas [I bought these in Grape Tree]
3 oz very finely chopped mixed peel [use M&S - they are the best and are cut into smaller bits]
2 fl oz brandy

Stir well, then leave until the brandy is all soaked up by the fruit. See photo on my Blog of the lovely golden colours and red.

Make the cake:

4 oz room temperature butter
5 oz caster sugar
2 large eggs
8 oz Self Raising Flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice [if you wish]
2 fl oz fresh orange juice [I squeezed 2 clementines]
½ teaspoon orange extract

Use the creaming method. Beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, then whisk in the eggs, then the flour, juice and extract. Stir in the fruit and mix well. Tip into your prepared tin.

Bake for approx 1¼ hours. But check after an hour and turn down for the last few mins. A great alternative for Christmas! You can ice the top if you wish, adding a couple of drops of orange extract to the icing sugar. I also grated some zest over for even more flavour. Don’t forget to leave it for a day or so before you try it.

Many folk do not like mixed peel!!!! I am Cornish and all our cakes use it, so I am hooked!Why not try this using extra apricots and sultanas?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Cranberry & Walnut Spiced Plait

I may have mentioned I love yeast cookery. This is very easy, and is a lovely tea time treat in the build up to Christmas.  It does take about 2 ½ hours to prepare, but most of that time you are waiting for it to rise.  Do the ironing, read a book!! I always use a timer to remind me to look at it after an hour! It’s a senior thing.

1 lb strong plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1 level tablespoon [use a proper measure] dried fast action yeast
3 oz caster sugar
2 oz very soft butter
½ a large egg [the other half is for the glaze]

Place the above in a large bowl [or your mixer bowl, if you have a kneading option]
Mix well to combine the spices etc. Add scant ½ pint of warmed milk and water. Bring together with your hand then turn onto a floured surface to continue kneading. If, like me, you have a machine that does all the work, just turn it on and leave for 10 mins.

This loaf does need the full 10 minutes of hard kneading, until the dough is smooth and springs back when you poke it. 

Add your fruit. I used approx 4 oz dried cranberries, 2 or 3 oz sultanas and 2 oz chopped walnuts.  When your dough is kneaded, take it out of the mixer and roughly flatten it, on a floured surface, then cover with the fruit and nuts. Fold over, then knead gently to combine. Put back in the bowl and cover with cling film, to rise in a warm spot, until at least double in size.

Then back to the floured surface. Knock back the dough, then cut it into 3 equal pieces. Roll each ⅓rd into a longish sausage, about 15 inches, also making the middle slightly fatter than the ends. Repeat twice more. Make sure they are the same length.

Plait the rolls, making sure you pinch the ends together firmly. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, then loosely cover with cling film and put to rise for the second time. About 45 mins. Then back to the little jug with half an egg in it. Add a tablespoon of water and a dessertspoonful of icing sugar. Give that a little whisk. Chop a few more walnuts as well.
More pics on my Blog.

When the plait is ready for the oven, brush over half of the glaze and place in a pre heated fan oven 200 deg C for about 20 mins. Quickly take it out and do the glaze once more, this time adding a few more chopped walnuts. Back in the oven for another 15 - 20 mins. Delicious, warm with butter. But equally good cold.

Note: You can also make rolls with the mix. Just shape into approx 2½oz buns and set to rise, but reduce the baking time.

Monday, 17 November 2014


If you like Sweet Potatoes, as I do, then you will love this idea. They are baked in the oven, with only a touch of olive oil [or Rape Seed]. So, low calorie and extremely good for you! The flavourings are endless, but here I have used the best flavour and combination!! Smoked Sweet Paprika.  I just love that. And the fries [not - but they look like it!] are so easy.

Line a baking sheet with some baking parchment. This is essential. Turn your fan oven to 210 deg C.

Choose nice even shaped sweet potatoes and peel them. I usually take any nobbly bits off to make the cutting easier. Slice the sweet potatoes in about ¼” slices longways. Then cut those slices in ¼” strips. Don’t be fussy about this! Or worry about being exact, they will look more interesting!

Place the strips in a large poly bag [see photo on my Blog] then add a shed load of freshly ground pepper and a small teaspoon of cornflour. [this is for 2 med/large veg]. Shake very hard to coat every piece well. Then choose your flavours. I mixed sea salt flakes with the smoked paprika. Pour that into the bag along with about a teaspoon of Oil. Shake again, then tip out onto your prepared baking sheet, making sure none of the fries are touching. See pic on my Blog. You cannot overload or they will not “fry”. After about 12 - 15 mins, take them out and turn each one. [Bit boring, but also necessary]. Put them back in the oven for another 12- 15 mins.

Turn off the oven and open the door to let them dry and cool a little.

Enjoy! They are just brilliant to serve with just about anything, or to snack on. For the bowl in my photo, I had 2 friends for lunch and we had egg and chips!! Sin free comfort food!!
Other flavourings - Chinese 5 spice is good, Thai 7 spice as well. Or Moroccan. You can, of course, just use plain salt. With a little nutmeg? Or use some chilli flakes or powder? As long as you stick to the basic rules, there are so many possibilities! If you want to make a large batch use separate baking trays.

Note: For the quantity in the picture shown I used 6 medium Sweet Potatoes and 2 baking sheets.

Thursday, 13 November 2014


Mincemeat is a British speciality/peculiarity!! Eaten during the run up to Christmas and over the festive period. For all my “likers” who do not live on this island - there is no meat in mincemeat but lots of dried fruits in a sweet, syrupy, spicy mix and we usually eat it in tarts or pies. It is sold in jars, like jam, or you can make it from scratch then preserve it. See photo on my blog. But there are so many good high quality versions out there - I often buy it. I am using Lidl’s De Luxe Brandy and Ginger Mincemeat.  Very good value at £1.29.

Mincemeat is also fantastic in a cake! This simple cake is literally…. a piece of cake. Within ten minutes it’s in the oven and is also a good keeper.

Lightly oil and line the base of a 8” tin. A spring form one is handy. Preheat your fan oven to 140 C

9 oz Self Raising Flour
5 oz softened butter
5 oz light soft brown sugar 
2 oz raisins
2 oz chopped glace cherries
1 jar mincemeat [the speciality ones are very good - all are around 400grms]
zest of a lemon [balances the intense sweetness]
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 eggs
Tiny splash of brandy 

Cream your fat and sugar, then add the eggs with a little flour, then all the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Tip into your prepared tin and bake for about 1½ hours, but check after an 1¼ and cover the top with a small piece of foil if browning too much. You know the routine to check if it is ready! I like to turn the oven down to about 130 after an hour, then it might take a little longer.

Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then cool on a rack. Just yummy. I have left it undecorated for the photo, but it cries out for some icing or topping! I will be giving you another mincemeat recipe soon!!

Sunday, 9 November 2014


Another very old Cornish recipe, that I have brought up to date. The original recipe came from an aunt’s collection of pre war Farmers Weekly clippings, the recipe was sent in by a Mrs Cooper, from Cornwall. It used soured whole milk [how do I get that????] but I use regular sour cream. You can use any type of tin, a 8” round or a large loaf, or an oblong tin, cutting the cake into bars. Very easy and very scrummy.

Assemble your ingredients:

In a bowl sieve:
1 lb plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoonfuls of ground ginger

6 oz fat - half butter & lard
½ lb any sugar. I used soft light brown [muscovado is good too]
1 egg
5 fl oz black treacle
5 fl oz sour cream
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda dissolved in a tablespoonful of boiling water.

In a mixer [hard work by hand]:
Cream the fats and sugar until fluffy ish. Add the egg, then the treacle and sour cream.

Fold in the flour and ginger, along with the bicarb. Mix well. Then tip into a prepared oiled and lined tin of your choice.  With a good non stick loaf tin I just place a band of parchment to help lift it out.

Bake in your fan oven, preheated to 160 C for about 45 - 50 mins, if using a shallow oblong tin. Approx 1hr 10mins [turning down to 150 after 40 mins] if you use a large loaf tin, until just firm to the touch. For the photo I have just dusted with icing sugar, but you could ice and decorate the cake if you wish. Wonderful texture and flavour, that lingers wonderfully in your mouth. Keeps well for a few days.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Baked Fennel with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Here is another of my very favourite veggie dishes, brilliant for special meals, that I have often passed on to friends. It is one of the best side dishes and sits happily beside meat, chicken/turkey or fish.  The dish can be prepared in advance - which I love! It will sit happily in the fridge for several hours before baking. Although it is not really suitable for freezing. The amount below serves about 6 but can be easily halved.

4 fennel bulbs, trimmed, ¼rd, then cut those in half [8 wedgies]
1 ½  pints vegetable stock - a little stock pot is good
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 fat cloves garlic [or cheaty Lazy Garlic]
1 large shallot, finely chopped and quickly fried until just golden
142 ml tub double cream
3 tablespoons tomato pesto [I used lovely Felippo Berrio sun dried pesto]
4 oz grated cheese. Cheddar, gruyere, or any nice melting cheese. 
I used half cheddar and half mozzarella.

Place the fennel, stock, olive oil and garlic into a large saucepan and bring to boil. Cook, uncovered, over high heat for 20 mins until the stock has reduced right down. Now turn down the heat and leave the fennel to cook in remaining oil until soft and lightly golden. Remove with a spoon and place in a heatproof shallow serving dish, along with the shallots. Pour over the double cream and spoon through, season well with fresh ground pepper and a little sea salt, then drizzle with the pesto, finally sprinkle with the cheese.

For a quick finish - ** Heat your grill to high and cook for 5 - 10 mins until golden and bubbling. You can also do this in the oven, especially if you have prepared the dish a few hours beforehand and it has been sitting in a fridge.
To oven bake, I usually prep up to** then put in hot oven for 25 - 30 mins to finish. Works just as well. YUM.

Note: I halved the quantities for myself and a friend for lunch. Easily doubled too, for a party or Xmas!

Monday, 3 November 2014


This is such a great recipe, that I have been using for decades but I have no real memory of where I got it! I know I have passed it on to many folk and it is my husband's favourite veggie dish. It can be prepared well in advance, freezes perfectly too, so it's a handy standby for any meal and just great at Christmas.

Place 2 lb of peeled and chopped parsnips [peeled weight] in some lightly salted water and boil until just soft. About 15 mins.

Drain, then mash along with:

very large knob of butter
2 fluid oz of single cream
generous sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg 
lashings of freshly ground pepper.
If very stiff add a little more single cream.

Whisk 2 large eggs, preferably free range, organic with nice yellow yolks!

Beat them quickly into the parsnip mix until the mix is lightly and fluffy, almost mousse like.  Tip into a lightly oiled overproof serving dish.
Grate some fresh Parmesan over the top, sprinkle over some sweet paprika too and loads more pepper.
[freeze at this stage and take out a few hours before baking. Allow extra time in the oven too]
Set your fan oven to about 190 deg C
Bake for about 40-45 mins until the top is just golden.

This amount serves about 5 - 6 [but not my husband’s portion size!!!]