For those who like such things – more flowers and bread

I took the pictures for this post a week ago but was too busy to put it together.

So here is some views of my garden recently.

I was pleased to find that my Vagabond clematis had a new flush of flowers. clematisbut less so to see that the slugs had been busy lower down. slug damageI was surprised to find that the fuschia seemed a little more compact than last year, fuschia bushthough I prefer it that way.

The lavender that I planted last year had grown into a much bigger plant lavenderand as this is just next to my favourite sitting place, the smell is quite delightful.

I took another picture today, the flowers have really opened. lavender closerThe golden sage is looking very happy. golden sageThis will mean pruning next winter I think, as I know what sage is like!! (Like the card the leaves are more yellow than this!).

My roses were in full flow. patio rosesI bought them because of the scent but they seem to have far more petals this year which is not so good for the bees I believe.

Now Bread

I made another granary loaf granary loafand photographed it this time.

Next morning I cut some slices for breakfast.

Here are two of them. two slices of breadand here is breakfast.breakfastThree slices covered with peanut butter or fig conserve or honey. Yum!


Christmas cooking and some bread

I thought since I had gone to the trouble of taking the photographs, I would show you my Christmas cooking for this year.

I made my normal twelve mince pies for the freezer. mince piesAnd as there was pastry and mincemeat over I made a mincemeat tart to be cooked and eaten straight away. mince tartI also made a Stollen, just one of a moderate size this year, but as I was feeling ill by the time I cooked it, I took it out of the oven and left it on the side without brushing it with melted butted and sprinkling it with icing sugar.

I left that for my son to do later. He sent me a photograph in hospital and said “I might have used too much sugar, blame bbc good food.” Stollen

However it was declared to be “Yummy” when he got round to eating some, so I was relieved as I wasn’t sure if it would be okay, having struggled with making it.

And today I made some bread.

Recently on “The Chase” there was a question about the “Chorleywood Process”. Being interested since it is a station on the way to Aylesbury, where my daughter lives, if you come from London. I looked up the details and found a description of the change in the breadmaking process that started in 1961 and is now the method used for most commercially prepared bread. I decided that accounted for the fact that I really find it hard to stomach shop bread.

Hence I decided not to buy some bread but make a loaf of wholemeal ‘Artisan’ bread, as I had before, though this time I just left the shaped loaf for thirty minutes while the pot heated up and it came out fine.  bread

Making marzipan fruits and Christmas baking

One thing I like to do when the occasion arises is to make marzipan fruit.

I don’t think I learnt to make these either from my mother or school; I think it must have been a book or leaflet.

For those of you who have never tried this is what you need. 0539-what-you-needSome marzipan, of course, a grater (the small side), a skewer, some food colouring and cloves.

In this case I used orange colouring to get orange marzipan. I used to use cochineal and yellow colouring but the Asda red and yellow colouring when mixed gave me brown. I would not recommend Asda’s food colouring.

To get the full range of fruits I had in mind I created yellow, orange, green and pink marzipan. 0539-four-colours-of-marzipanBe prepared to wash your hands at frequent intervals, between the different colours and whenever they begin to feel sticky when forming the fruit.

To make an orange: roll a piece of marzipan round and round in your hand as you did as a child with plasticine until you get a perfect ball. Then roll it gently round and round on the small side of the grater to create the texture of rind. The add a clove in the top.0539-stages-of-making-an-orangeThe ball on the right is before and the other is completed.

You make a lemon in the same way but need, obviously to make more of a lemon shape.

I also made a banana, four flattened sides, tapered and curved and here you do need something I didn’t mention before, namely a touch of cocoa for the colouring. 0539-banana-and-lemonI use the green marzipan for apples. Again you make a ball and I like to coat one half with a dab of red colouring (shades of Snow White!). You can stick a thin clove the other way round for a stalk and I like to mark the bottom with a skewer to suggest the part where the flower was attached. Of course a small change in shape and you have a pear!0539-both-sides-of-an-appleI kept a bit of the green for when making a strawberry with the pink.

Here I use the skewer to suggest the seeds and to make a hole to insert some green for the top. 0539-making-a-strawberry(The photographs were taken indoors under artificial light and the green marzipan came out very faded. So I adjusted it in some photos but not here!)

If you are feeling patient you can roll lots and lots of tiny balls and make a raspberry. I had a little green and some pink, so I made a green core (though I would normally use pink) and made one just to show you. raspberryAnd here is a whole plate (or rather saucer!ful) plate-of-fruit

I don’t try and make the fruit sizes proportional to real life. It is more a matter of using a similar amount of marzipan for each and they are normally about the right size to fit in sweet cases (except the banana!).

And here are some other things I have made.

Two Stollen. 0539-two-stollenI think I have become much better at forming them so they don’t open up.

Compare these from 2012 Baked stollenAs you can see this year I made a lot less dough. I made a quarter my original recipe that would make four large ones and used my food processor to do the kneading to save my wrists.

I also made some lavender shortbread snowflakes. 0539-lavender-shortbread-biscuitsI was making some millionaires shortbread for when my daughter came on a present drop and decided that that was the ideal time to make double the amount of shortbread and turn half of it into biscuits. I had been intending to try lavender shortbread ever since I had bought some in Waitrose and really loved them, so I put in plenty of lavender as I had had it a while. (Yes it is edible lavender – some lavender tea I had bought in Winchester.)

And here is my traditional Christmas cake. Just for me, so I added what dried fruit I had including some crystallised ginger! christmas-cakeAnd here is my first attempt at a tunis cake. 0539-my-tunis-cakeMy son had said that he would be interested to try one and having been introduced to tunis cake years ago, when I first knew my husband, but then forgotten about them, I thought I would see if you could still buy them.

I found a few in supermarkets and a couple of recipes but they all seemed to be covered with ganache, or worse still fondant icing, when I remembered them as covered with a layer of solid chocolate.

So I decided that just for fun I would try to make one.

I wanted a rounded top to the cake but it rose a bit more than expected and so the chocolate I had bought was not enough to give a perfectly flat top but I decided to leave it as it is and see how it looks when cut. Then if I make one again I will adapt with either a flatter cake or more chocolate.zzz


Making mincemeat!

A few years ago I discovered that making mincemeat is really easy. Easier than Christmas pudding which I have never thought of buying. Of course it is possible, if not probable, that making mincemeat costs more than buying a jar, especially as you have to buy more of the ingredients than you need. But hopefully you can use the rest up in some other way.

This made me really happy, especially as I am more and more concerned about what might be in the food I eat. For instance, I always make sure these days that the ingredients in a jar of jam are just fruit and sugar, the ingredients list in some jars of jam, especially the cheaper sort, read like a laboratory list.

I probably had a few recipes for mincemeat in among my many cookbooks but I decided to go for a “Delia” recipe which I found on-line.

Now if I make full quantities it is more than enough for the dozen or so large mince pies I make to offer my son when he comes round, so this year I decided to make half quantities.

I have made too many mistakes when halving a recipe in my head,Ingredients card so I carefuly sat down and wrote out what half quantites were, double and triple checking as I went!

I had bought a Bramley cooking apple and the suet.Suet and appleI always have raisins and sultanas in the cupboard but currants are always a bit more problematical as the only thing I need currants for is pikelets and I rarely make them these days. I almost bought 500gm (smallest available) but then I had an idea. My two most popular fruit cake recipes use mixed fruit and mixed fruit contains currants, so I bought a bag of mixed fruit and sat down and sorted the fruit into currants, peel and raisins & sultanas. I didn’t bother to sort between raisins and sultanas as they are so similar. Mixed fruit separated
Then I weighed each sort and wrote it down.Mixed fruit breakdownI halved the sultanas/raisins pile and made them up to the required quantity, added all the currants, as you hadly need to be exact, and topped up the peel with other that I had bought.

I got out the orange, lemon and packet of brown sugar. I normally have brown sugar too but I had run out recently.Orange, lemon and sugarWeighed out some almonds and cut them into slivers. AlmondsThis is half-way.

Measured out the spices. SpicesI have been extra generous with the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Having peeled the apple and chopped it into very small pieces, weighed out the suet and sugar and removed the zest and juice from half the orange and lemon, I added them to all the other ingredients and mixed well. Mixed ingredientsThe recipe says to leave this for twelve hours before adding the brandy so that is what I did.

Delia Smith says to put it in the oven at 120 deg C for 3 hours and that is what I did the first time but last year when I did that, I went and forgot about it and when I remembered it was frankly a bit on the burnt side, so I had to throw it away and start again. So for the second attempt last year and then this year, I decided to leave out that step, as in commercial jars you can normally see the suet so they can’t do it.

I did however add 3 dessertspoons of brandy and give it a good mix then put into a kilner jar in the fridge. Ready for when I get round to making some mince pies that I will freeze. They can then be cooked as and when they are needed.

I find 1lb flour and 8oz fat makes enough pastry for about a dozen large mince pies made in a muffin tin.


Not quite a recipe!

First a little story. I am very fond of the flowers of the Japanese quince (Chaenomeles), I had one in the last house, so when I moved here I planted one in the garden.

However a few years ago it became infested with a pest that covered it in fine cobwebs and which died down in the winter but came again the next year, so in the end, reluctantly, I chopped it down.

I was not able to did out the root however so that sprouted and I couldn’t quite bring myself to keep cutting the sprouts off, so this year it was flowering Japonicaand when I came to look on the ground a few weeks ago there were a whole load of quinces on the ground. I picked them up because you can make jam with them, which I had done previously.

There was in fact about 1lb (454gms). Here are some of them.QuincesI had plenty of granulated sugar so I decided one day to make them into jam.

First I chopped them up. Half a quinceHere you can see what they look like inside.

And here are some chopped in pieces. Chopped up quincesWhen they were all chopped I covered them with water. Ready to cookand simmered them for about an hour. Stewed quincesI then sieved them to remove the skins and pith. Sieving out skinsPut them in a saucepan with about 20oz of granulated sugar and boiled them for about 10 minutes.Boiling for jamI had forgotten to weigh them after I had prepared them but 20oz seemed about right (which it was).

Here are my brief instruction notes from my recipe box. Recipe cardLuckily I had written instructions on how to prepare the jars on the back. I don’t make jam very often!Jar instructionsI went in the garage and got out some of my favourite hexagonal and multi-sided jars that I had saved. Prepared jarsI prepared them before the jam was finished so I was able to quickly fill them and cover with wax discs. Filled jarsI found I only needed two.

Then later I added the lids. Jam finishedI used one of the other sterilised jars for some mint jelly I was making at the same time. Mint jellyThe mint jelly had to wait till I next had lamb but I had to have a taste of the jam straightaway. Sharp (as I expected) but delicious!Having a taste(I have been eating rice cakes rather than bread lately.)

I would be happy to make more jam but I have a problem. I buy jam: apricot for Battenburg or maybe Christmas or Simnel cake, strawberry for scones with cream when people come to tea. Then as I don’t eat a lot, (I mean jam isn’t good for you is it? all that sugar!) the jars last for ages. I’d like to start eating the quince jam now but I have a quarter full jar of apricot and another quarter of strawberry! and if I leave them too long they will only go mouldy! even in the fridge. 😦

Maybe I should make a Victoria sandwich and some jam tarts! Mmmm…  🙂

One-a-penny, two-a-penny, Hot Cross Buns.

Just had to show you this year’s buns they look so much better than last year.

Made half quantities, so much more sensible with just me and as there are two eggs in the recipe easy to do.

I made the flour mixture for the crosses thicker this year But I can see room for improvement next year. The shop ones obviously have a groove marked first. Must try that.

Buns ready to go in ovenNow taken out of the oven

Buns cookedAnd glazed and cooling, – taken under the kitchen lights; forgot to take without my shadow!

Buns glazed

I will amend my recipe to add these pictures as last year’s tasted fine but looked a mess!

Bun cut in half so you can see the inside.

Bun cut in halfAnd buttered and ready to eat!

Buttered bun

Almondy Stuffed Peaches

I realised when I made a picture menu for my recipes that I have not yet shared with you my favourite peach pudding. I suppose part of the reason for this is that I am normally making it when I have guests so I haven’t time to think of taking photographs along the way.

This week my granddaughter is visiting and one of the things she especially asked for was my ‘stuffed peaches’, so on Saturday we made the filling all ready for cooking as Sunday pudding.

Almondy Stuffed peaches

I don’t know where we got the original recipe; it may have been off the back of a tin of peach halves. My mother used to make it when I was a child but we changed the recipe to suit what we had and our taste. In those day you could buy a large tin of peaches (1lb 13oz) that contained seven large peach halves or a smaller tin that contained seven small peach halves. Nowadays they only sell the smaller tins and they contain a random number of peach halves. When making the pudding on this occasion, two tins gave me eleven peach halves! The main difference with my version is that I make twice as much filling because it is so delicious.

It is a really quick and easy recipe. The filling can be prepared the day before but it really doesn’t take very long to mix up on the day.

Almondy Stuffed Peaches recipe (For 4)

You need two tins of peach halves which you drain and then pick out two of them to mash up as part of the filling. (If any of the peaches look a bit mushy these are the ones to use as they are much easier to mash and less good for being filled.)

Two tins of peaches


Together with the two peach halves, you take

  • 2 trifle sponges,
  • 2oz (5og) ground almonds
  • 1oz (25g) soft brown sugar,
  • 1oz (25g) butter,
  • a few drops of almond essence.

Ingredients for filling

You crumble the trifles sponges.

Trifle sponges crumbled

Chop up the two peach halves.

Peach halves chopped

Then put everthing into a bowl and blend together thoroughly.

Filling mixed

The filling was enough for four people but Sunday I was only making it for three, so I put seven peaches in a dish.

Peach halves in dish

Two each and one to fight over! 😉

You fill each peach half with a big blob of filling.

Peaches filled

Spoon one tablespoon of the juice or syrup from the tin over each stuffed peach.

Juice poured over

And put in the oven. The original recipe says 20 mins at 425 deg F (210 deg C) but I have been finding with my fan oven that 15 mins at a lower temperature is enough.

Cooked stuffed peaches

And this is how they look.

Serve with the remaining syrup/juice or cream. We go for the cream!

And enjoy. 🙂




Peachy pudding

I have not quite got used to only posting once a week and I have this recipe to share with you. So here it is.

This isn’t my favourite peach pudding (which I may share with you one day) but it is appropriate to this time of the year.

Stuffed Mincemeat Peaches

You need a casserole dish with a lid.


Tinned peach halves – I like to prepare two halves per person or three maybe if I have hungry guests.


Some mincemeat (this is the last of last years homemade mincemeat so it is a bit surgary but it cooks okay 🙂  )


And some red wine – you don’t need much and any sort will do.


You place the peach halves in a dish, cut side uppermost, and add a generous spoonful of mincemeat to each one. ( I was making these for myself and my son on Sunday.)


Pour a little red wine over each peach half


Cover the dish and cook for 20 minutes in a hot oven. I have a fan oven and I cooked mine at 190 deg C. (That is about 375 deg F but I would use 400 deg F in a conventional oven)

However timing and temperature are not too critical.

Here they are as they came out of the oven.


They taste good served plain or maybe with some cream. The cream does cool them down a lot though. (My son complained – well maybe he should have taken less cream. 😉 )

December Montage

In December I shared my pictures of my ‘violet’ garden as well as some showing what is flowering now.

I also, finally, finished the CAL blanket and showed you how it looks with my leafy edging.

There were pictures of my pre-Christmas cooking of fruit cake and stollen as well as the snowflake decorations that seem to predominate this year.

And lastly I showed you the crochet animals I had attached to key rings as presents for some of the family.


Christmas cooking

Yesterday and the day before (they took a long time to rise!) I made some Stollen using the same recipe I shared with you last year. – HERE


I was pleased because I had managed to shape them much better than last year so that they didn’t split in the middle – see below. (The two I didn’t show you last year were worse.  😦   )

Baked stollen

I also made a different sort of Christmas cake. Normally I make the usual marzipaned and iced fruit cake but this year I decided to try a recipe I have been thinking of making for years and years. At least as long ago as when there were ‘Safeway’ supermarkets in this country.


I cooked it yesterday afternoon and this morning I added the final decoration.


Then, as I had had to cut off a slice at the top to level it, I sat down with half the offcut and a large mug of coffee to write this post.


which is what I am doing now.