Wednesday, 17 September 2014


“Mawther used to get a herring, clean un, and put same stuffin” as what yow do have in mabiers [chicken]; sew en up with niddle and cotton, put ‘en in some daugh made of suet and flour; pinch the daugh up in the middle and lave the heid sticking out one end, and tail t’other. They was some nice pasties too, cooked in a fringle fire with crock and brandis and old furze tobs”

That was difficult to type out!! Let alone translate for all my American, Australian and South African cousins and friends!!!  But I think you will get the gist. I did not realise our forebears called chickens “mabiers” though?

The stuffing mentioned was posted by me on the 4th December, so just scroll down to find it. I always keep portions in the freezer. I find a niddle and thread, then clean the fish and stuff it as instructed!! I also lifted out the backbone carefully and as many fine bones as I could. In life there are firsts for everything and this is a first for me! I have never stuffed a small fish!  See photos on my Blog!!  It was quite hard to sew with my niddle as the thread kept coming through the flesh! I used red cotton, making it easier to see.

For the pastry:
6 oz Pain Flour
1½  oz suet [Atora]
1½  oz lard
large pinch of sea salt.

Rub the lard into the flour and salt, then stir in the suet. Add enough very cold water to just bind. Lightly mix until smooth then chill for 10 mins before using.

Take a piece of pastry and roll it out in a circle approx the same diameter as the fish, minus the head and tail. Then lift it around the fish and cut the excess and crimp. Brush with beaten egg to give it a lovely gloss. Then place it in a hot oven 220 deg C, turning down to 200 after 15 mins.

I had to guess the cooking time. 40 minutes? I took it out and let it cool, before cutting one open. The smell was very good. The taste? A bit strange and quite rich. But I really did enjoy it. Eating the stuffing I love and have eaten all my life with fish - it takes a lot to get my head around that!!!! 

Delicious! Different though!

I am now away for 2 weeks and my next Blog will be around the 2nd October. Lots of lovely cakes to come!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

SURPRISE TART from Perranarworthal

This recipe was given to me by Margaret, a lovely lady from Perranwell whose mother Ada, known as Clarrie, came from Perranarworthal and the Surprise Tart is her mother’s recipe.  So it is way over a hundred years old.  Margaret has no idea why it has the surprising name!

The recipe told me to line a pie dish with the crust. I think Margaret’s grandmother must have originally used an old fashioned enamel pie plate. I do not have one, unfortunately, so I scrabbled about amongst my flan dishes to find the closest! Finally choosing a small 7” with a lip.

Pastry:- 4oz flour, ¼  teaspoon salt, 1½ oz butter, cold water. Rub the fat into the flour and add very little cold water.    [me now - just enough to bind. Wrap in cling film and chill.
I never use pastry unless it is chilled. But Farmer’s wives of +100 years ago would not have done that!] Now see note as the bottom:

Filling:- ½  teacup sugar, 1 breakfast cup of peeled apples, 1 egg, lemon juice
Method:- Make pastry, roll out & line a pie dish. Mix apples with egg, lemon & sugar together, and put in the pie dish, cook for ½ hour.

I intend to blind bake the pastry for 10 mins. It has been bred into me to do that! Then add the apple mix.

I asked Margaret what type of apples to use. The answer was, whatever you have. Eaters, rather than cookers are a little sweeter and crunchier. The topping is supposed to turn “a bit brown and crunchy”.

Rest the pastry once more after rolling and lining the tin, plus pricking the base with a fork [see photo on my Blog],  I put some parchment in the bottom then filled it with baking beans then popped it in a hot oven 220C for ten mins.

While that was cooking I squeezed 1 small lemon and peeled and sliced 2 large dessert apples into the juice. Then coated it all with sugar. What sugar to use??? I went for half granulated and half demerera. 

After taking the dish out of the oven and removing the ceramic beans I tossed the apple, sugar and lemon mix into the pastry case then poured over 1 large beaten egg and placed it back into the oven, now at 200C, for 30 mins.

It looked lovely as it came out of the oven! It was delicious too, but the pastry was a little bland and needed some sweetness. The next time I will make it with a richer pastry, maybe with an egg and a little added sugar.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


This American classic is the real McCoy and a showstopper on any side of the Atlantic.
By baking and posting this, I realise I am moving aside from the more Cornish and English cake recipes but it’s good to be different now and then!! I have dozens of relatives and cousins in the US, all forebears of those Cousin Jacks, who left Cornwall in the 19thC!

Red Velvet cake was developed in NY City in the 1920s although the South says otherwise. Before the age of food dyes the red colour was achieved by using beetroot dyes. Yes, I agree the ingredients are quite decadent - but you would only make it for a special occasion!

Oil or grease 2 x 9” loose bottom sponge tins and line the bases with parchment. Turn your fan oven to 160C.

8 oz butter, softened
12 oz caster sugar]
1 teaspoon red food dye [I used concentrated gel, cochineal does not really work]
2 large eggs
10oz SR flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
8 fl oz buttermilk 
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste [or essence]
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Buttercream for filling [half butter to icing sugar and a little vanilla paste]

Cream the butter and sugar until really light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the food dye. Mix until well incorporated and the colour is even and you have achieved the correct level of “redness”.  In a jug mix the buttermilk, vinegar and vanilla. In a basin weigh the flour and add the salt and bicarb. Add these 2 alternately into the mix, a quarter at a time. Mix well.

Tip the mix into the tins and bake for about 30 - 35 mins. [if you want to be exact then weigh the mixture so that both tins are equal - I didn’t.] Cool in the tins for at least 5 mins then invert them onto racks. When cool, sandwich together with the buttercream and dust the top with icing sugar. Very impressive.

I took [and slightly adapted] this recipe from a great recipe book entitled The United Cakes of America. When I was on holiday in San Fransisco about 4 or 5 years ago I was wandering around the shops of Union Sq and bought it in the fantastic Williams & Sonoma Cookshop.  Over the next year or more I will bake some more from it!!

Saturday, 6 September 2014


About 40 years ago I got very fed up making pasties, they took too long and often started laughing at you i.e. the crimping fell open. I still make proper pasties occasionally, but for weekly use I make Pasty Pies. So easy, they never fail if you follow a few simple rules and you use and eat less pastry [crust]. They taste exactly the same as a proper Pasty! I can fling one together in about 15 mins. Meal done, no dishes - perfect.

You need a deep - at least  2", round 8” or 9" tin, preferably with a small lip around the outer edge, well oiled. I do have a 10" for a larger Pie, feeding a good 6. So much easier than making 6 pasties!!!!

Making the Pastry. [Rough Puff]
I make it first thing in the morning or the night before and leave it in the fridge. Or batch make, to freeze, taking out the night before. But pastry needs to rest in the fridge.

For one 8" Pasty Pie you need:
12 oz Plain Flour
large pinch of salt
3 oz lard - room temperature
3 oz hard baking margarine [or butter, but in this instance marg is OK] - room temperature

Rub the fat into the flour and salt, not too finely. Add very cold water slowly until just enough to bring together. Gently knead with your hands until incorporated and put in a poly bag to rest.

Assemble all your ingredients:        

12 - 14 oz beef skirt, cut into little pieces. NEVER ever use minced beef.
Swede [Rutabaga in the US], chipped small from a whole piece
2 leeks, sliced finely                                 
Onion, roughly chopped
Potatoes, chipped like the swede
Fresh parsley, chopped
Sea Salt and  fresh ground epper.
A little extra flour for dredging.

Never cube or diced the veg.
I use leeks, because my mother often did and they make pasties very juicy.
I have not given you quantities as it will depend of the size of your tin - but see photos on my Blog.

Make your Pie:

Roll out just under two thirds of your pastry, keeping it round and even and making sure you have enough to hang over the lip for the crimping.  Slide your rolling pin underneath, lift and place it over the tin. Fit the pastry and trim if necessary, making sure you leave plenty for the crimp. I always make more pastry than is needed as it is easier, when rolling not to scrimp. Just cut the excess off.

Start the filling:

Swede first, then half of the potato. A little seasoning. Then the leeks and the remainder of the potato. More seasoning, then carefully cover with the skirt, then the onion and parsley. A little more seasoning. Your Pie needs to be really full.
Dredge with plain flour.

Roll out the rest of the pastry crust. Lift with your rolling pin as before. Level out the edges and trim so everything is even. Press together and start the crimping, as the photo. Press the crimped edge towards the centre and make a slit in the centre top. You can brush with milk or egg if you wish. Place in your very hot pre heated oven 220 deg C for the first 10 mins to set the pastry. Turn down to 190 deg C and bake for 1 hour 20 mins, more or less, according to size and thickness.

Leave in the tin for 5 mins, then, on a cooling rack, take some kitchen paper, cover the Pie and put a corner into the slit on top [to stop the juices escaping]. Cover with another rack, hold both racks together and VERY quickly flip over, take off the tin and flip back  See photo.

Be careful - it is very hot! But hey presto it is out of the tin. Make sure the top rack is upside down.

DO NOT EAT for at least an hour. Allow the juices and flavours to develop and merge together. You cannot appreciate the flavours if the Pasty Pie is too hot - this applies to ordinary pasties too, of course.
The Rough Puff basic pastry recipe is suitable for lots of things.

Bought Flakey Pastry is too flakey for the Pie, although I have used it occasionally if desperate!! You cannot use shortcrust pastry - it is not strong enough.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014


This cake is a part of history!  In July 1954 my Mother was listening to Woman's Hour on the radio. It was a momentous day!  Rationing had come to an end and you could finally buy quantities of butter. To celebrate the occasion the BBC broadcast this recipe and my Mother wrote it down...…

It is deliciously moreish, moist and almondy [is that a word?] and it is baked at a very, very low temperature for 3 hours. I have passed this recipe on to many friends and I am sure they have passed it on as well. I have lost count of the many times I have baked it and my husband loves it.

I posted this recipe during the first week of my Blog and FB pages, one year old in about two weeks time!  During the next few months I will be reposting some of my early favourites for all my new likers!

Prepare a 8" round loose bottomed tin, lightly oiled. No need to line it, as it is cooked at such a low temperature. Turn your fan oven to 120 deg C.

In a mixing bowl, cream:

8 oz butter  [do not even THINK of using margarine]
8 oz castor sugar

Whisk together 3 large eggs, then add to the above

Then add:
8 oz Plain Flour
½  teaspoon Baking Powder
4 oz Ground Almonds
a few drops of Almond essence
6 - 8 oz of glace cherries [the original programme suggested 4 oz, but I like more]

Mix together carefully and tip in the tin. Bake for 3 hours
After one hour turn down to 115 deg C and for the final hour bake at 110 deg C

Absolutely, perfectly, delicious
It freezes like a dream too!

As I type it is the morning of 2nd September and I have just made my Xmas Cake and popped it into the oven. Already the smell is filling the air - just wonderful. If you would like a brilliant Xmas Cake recipe go back to late November/early December. I have made this same cake for over 30 years and it was my cousin’s wedding cake recipe, made by her grandmother [no relation to me - the other side!]. When it is cool tonight I will pour brandy over the bottom and wrap to store. Taking it out to repeat the brandy at least tree times more before I marzipan and ice.