Wednesday, 11 May 2011


"If you only do what you know you can do - you never do very much" Tom Krause, inspirational speaker (b.1939).

My craze for jelly and all manner of set puddings continues!  When we have a glut of fruit juice in the fridge, I'll make some jelly using gelatine and pop in some fruit.  Some tinned fruits are good for this too and you can add the juice to the jelly.

Needless to say, the kids go love it.  They also love making it, although of course it involves the slightly tricky ingredient of boiling hot water.  We sometimes make a rainbow jelly over the course of a few days, this requires that the jelly is cooled, but not set, before you add each layer, rendering it safe for little helpers.  The pouring of the jelly in the mould is a much coveted kitchen task.  It also teaches kids some patience as they can't eat it until it's set.  Then there is the wobble and the will it/ won't it collapse spectacle on serving.

If you want to see some amazing jellies visit Bompas and Parr website.  They are famous for their architectural and neon, glow in the dark jellies.  They also make custom jelly moulds, (starting at eight hundred pounds).  I haven't progressed past my two pound fifty plastic Partridges white rabbit mould but it's nice to dream.  Us jellymongers clearly inhabit a broad church.

My daughter (aged 4) wants to know what will happen if you drink jelly before it sets!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Lentil Bake with Walnut Crumble

"As is the mother, so is her daughter".  Ezekiel Chapter 14, v 44.

When I was heavily pregnant with my first child, my Mother stayed with me Monday to Friday as my husband was working in Bordeaux.  Baby (a daughter) came late and so she was a regular commuter between north London and her west country home for quite a few weeks.  There is nothing quite like a mother's love.

One evening she showed me a store cupboard standby that apparently she has been serving for years.  Strangely, but I have no prior recollection of it.  She says it came from a Slimming World recipe from the early 1980's.  Both my parent's are slim and the family joke is that this is because my father has been unknowingly on the Weight-Watchers core programme for thirty years. 

You chop and onion and some garlic and saute them in water (!), yes really, it works perfectly well, although I do tend to use olive oil.  Then add some diced carrots and some of the following; diced courgettes, red pepper, celery.  After about 5 minutes, add some tinned tomato's, some vegetable stock and perhaps a sprig of rosemary.   Simmer for 20 minutes.  Then add a tin of lentils and simmer for 5 mins.  In effect you have a lentil sauce that you can do one of the following things with;

- pour over spaghetti and cover with grated cheese
- layer with lasagna sheets adding a white or cheese sauce or just a layer of natural yogurt and grated cheese on top, pop in the oven for 20 mins.
- layer with sliced boiled potatoes with a layer of natural yogurt and grated cheddar cheese on top before bunging in the oven to brown the top.
- blend it up into a soup
- Serve it with rice and vegetables

-My favourite; top with a savoury crumble.  Rub some soft butter into some wholemeal flour, add a handful of oats, maybe some breadcrumbs, some grated cheese and ground nuts - walnuts work particularly well with this), sprinkle on the top and bake in the oven.
-or finally, freeze it.

Sometimes I also substitute the lentils for chickpeas and add a squeeze of lemon juice - makes nice soup or a stew to have with wilted spinach and couscous.

Cranks Flapjack with Molasses

"Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do".  John-Paul Sartre (1905-1980). La Nausee, Vendredi.

My son went crazy a while back over some flapjack squares from an M&S bucket that were on offer at the music group we go to.  They were incredibly sweet.  It had me thinking that I could make this at home and adjust the sweet content  It can't be that difficult. After consulting a few recipe books, I was shocked at the amount of butter and sugar that goes into these things.  But of course!  How else would you make oats so delicious?

First, I tried a Prue Leith recipe produces some nice bars, but they set so hard that they'd risk breaking a tooth.   My Mum makes several 'healthy' flapjack variations with dates and oranges which I will try next but I wanted something that just used oats at this stage.  Co-incidentally it was at her house I was thumbing through a copy of the Cranks Recipe Book (Canter, Canter & Swann, 1982).  I remember a beautiful Armemian soup from here many years ago at a friends house.  I also used to meet my brother for lunch at their Covent Garden restaurant in the early 1990's when we were students.  Sensing Mum was a little reluctant to loan me her paperback (knowing how many of her other cookery books are on loan to my shelves), I decided to buy a copy online. However,  I didn't want a modern reprint, only an original dogeared paperback would do.  I found one for 99p (minus postage and packaging) and it arrived home before me.

The Cranks flapjack is a triumph.  It contains raw brown sugar and molasses.  The molasses gives it a depth and second flavour.  But most of all, it stays perfectly moist out the tin, three days after I made it.  Son and husband love it and it was perfect to make at 3pm in the afternoon and then bung in the oven later with supper (apologies to Sartre).

Also, I have finally found an outlet for the jar of molasses.  It hasn't so far proved popular on any previous outings in my household, even in tiny amounts, on breakfast porridge.  It may contain health-giving minerals, but it looks like tar.

I see Cranks now have a restaurant at the Dartington Cider Press - I've lunched here twice in recent years, why has this completely passed me by?  I'll make sure I find them on our Devon trip, this summer.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


"Better by far far you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad". Christina Rossetti (1830-1984) Remember.

So the planned Easter camping trip took place and was a great success.  We went to Dorset and stayed at Norden Farm .  It was fantastic; the kids loved it and the weather held.  Lots of animals running around, passing tractors, a steam rail to Swanage across the road.  I diligently packed and measured out an evening meal (pasta, anchoives in olive oil, fresh asparagus, lemons and garlic along with a packet of instant custard and a tin of peaches for dessert).    The flaw in this plan was that while darling husband had brought the camping cook box, he assumed that the actual camping stove was underneath all the other implements.  It wasn't.  Stoveless, husband suggested we just get fish and chips - I retorted that there was no way we'd find that on a bank holiday.   So imagine my surprise when we found a surf n' turf van open on  the camping site.  By now the kids were starving and my expectations were low.  However, we all enjoyed fantastic pan-fried haddock with chips and salad.    Chatting to the vendor, he assurred me that it was a local catch in that day and it was too good to put in batter.  It was most certainly was.  We also had buttered bread rolls with the meal which the kids found very funny, made into chip butties.  The next morning the lady in the farm shop took pity on me and filled up our tea mugs with boiling water.