Classic quiche Lorraine

It is difficult to make this dish look appetising as this photo demonstrates.

When you work in an office with a high percentage of women (as I have done) you often have to listen to tedious conversations about dieting. And many times I have overheard diet bores slapping themselves on the back because they have had “just a little bit of quiche and salad” for lunch. This is pretty funny because there are few dishes which contain quite so much fat (pastry, eggs, bacon, cream!!!). But for some reason quiche seems to retain an image of ‘lightness’ and ‘femininity’.

Calories aside, I have never bee a fan of quiche because I think eggs and cheese mixed together is the devil’s work. Even the smell makes me want to vomit. And memories of being forced to eat my primary school’s ghastly ‘cheese and egg flan’ have never quite left me.

I recently read however that a classic Quiche Lorraine should never have cheese in it (yes, yes, it was Elizabeth David again but I’m not obsessed, honest). Hurrah I thought and quickly googled for a recipe without cheese.

The filling for this recipe is very straight forward and comes from Felicity Cloake (attempting to create the ‘perfect’ quiche Lorraine for the Guardian). The shortcrust pastry recipe is from my trusty Be-Ro book. I couldn’t help myself and added a little caramelised onion to the mix – but this is not ‘the done thing’ – Elizabeth would not approve.

I found that I could happily eat quiche made this way. And my husband, who has a very feminine palate, (he loves cappuccinos, chocolate and yoghurt) thought it was wonderful.

Classic quiche Lorraine

Serves 10-12

For the pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100g margarine
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of cold milk

For the filling

  • 200g smoked back bacon, finely chopped
  • 320ml double cream
  • 4 whole eggs and two yolks (reserve the white for brushing the pastry bottom)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced (OPTIONAL)

To make the pastry measure the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the margarine and then rub together with the flour until you have a mix the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the 3 tablespoons of milk and with a knife stir until well incorporated. Then, using your hands, bring the mixture together lightly to form a ball. Knead very gently a couple of times until smooth. Press the ball down roughly to form a thick flat circle, place in a plastic bag and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 190oC.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out with a rolling pin until it is big enough to line a 23 cm tart tin. Prick the bottom with a fork all over and trim the edges. You need to make sure there are no cracks in your pastry (because otherwise the filling will seep out) but if you have some don’t worry – just patch up the holes/cracks with pastry left over from trimming the edges. Don’t worry if it looks a bit messy. Put a square of baking parchment over the surface of the pastry and fill with baking beads.

Bake the pastry case in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the beads and the baking paper and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. Finally brush the bottom with a thin layer of egg white (apparently this helps to avoid a soggy bottom) and pop back in the oven for another 3 minutes. Set the case aside while you prepare the filling.

OPTIONAL: Fry a large onion (or two smaller ones) gently in a little olive oil or butter for about 15 minutes until soft and caramelised. Spread over the base.

Fry the bacon until browned but not too crisp. Drain on kitchen towel and spread half over the onion or (if you’re not using onion) over the base.

Put the cream and the eggs and yolks into a large bowl with a generous pinch of salt and some pepper. Beat together slowly until combined and then give the mix a fast whisk until frothy. Pour over the base to fill and then sprinkle over the rest of the bacon.

Bake for 20 minutes. The centre should still be a little bit wobbly if you like a creamy texture. If you prefer a denser texture then cook for 5-10 minutes longer.

Serve warm or at room temperature (but not piping hot or fridge cold – both of these dampen down the flavour).


Ricotta hotcakes

ricotta hotcakes

I have mentioned Nigella Lawson’s ricotta hotcakes before but at that time I just included a link to the recipe on her website because I only ever made them very occasionally for my husband who disliked my stodgier Be-Ro dropped scones.

Nearly two years on however these have become the ones I ALWAYS cook. It turns out that my children prefer them too and with no sugar in the pancake itself they are a teeny bit healthier. Nigella keeps hers healthy by serving them simply, with strawberries, but in our house it’s golden syrup and chocolate spread all the way, so they do still remain a weekend breakfast treat.

You need two bowls and you do need to remember to buy ricotta cheese from the supermarket, but once you’ve made them a couple of times you’ll find that they’re not that difficult to make.

Because there is no sugar in the batter they also make a good alternative to blini topped with savory toppings like smoked fish and sour cream.

Nigella’s ricotta hotcakes

Makes about 20

  • 1 tub (250g) of ricotta cheese
  • 125ml of semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g of plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • Groundnut oil (or other flavourless oil) for frying

You’ll need two mixing bowls. First separate the eggs and put the egg yolks in one bowl and the whites in the other.

In the bowl with the egg yolks add ricotta cheese and milk. Mix until well combined and then add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix again until you have a thickish batter.

Whisk the egg whites in the other bowl until foamy. This will only take a couple of minutes – you don’t need stiff peaks as for meringue.

Fold the egg whites into the ricotta mixture with a metal spoon, nice and gently so that you don’t knock out too much air.

Heat a large frying pan with a little groundnut oil to a medium high heat. Then add dessert spoons of batter into the pan (I do four at a time).

Cook the pancakes for about a minute until golden and then flip and cook on the other side for about another minute. The batter is quite delicate so this is probably the trickiest bit.

Continue this process until all the batter is finished, keeping the cooked ones warm on a warmed plate covered with a tea towel (or in my case I act as pancake slave, serving up each batch immediately to my family of hungry little birds who eat them more quickly than I can make them).

ricotta egg yolks burghley

Showing off my new Burleigh bowl – a 38th birthday present from my mum.

Soup and a roll

soup and a roll

If you’ve been reading the papers this week, you’ll probably have seen the story that Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (the wife of Nick Clegg) has a secret food blog (

Surprisingly the blog is an amateurish affair (just like mine) and not at all slick (unlike the politicians vying for power in next week’s election). But it’s rather sweet and the recipes do seem genuine – like she really does cook them, in her very own kitchen, with her very own children.

And Miriam’s milk bun recipe (below), which I tried this week, is very good and pretty straight forward. It won’t persuade me to vote Lib Dem but then I don’t think it’s meant to.

Politically I sit very much on the fence and I had thought about asking Samantha and Justine for their favourite recipe and then voting according to which of the three was best. But then that’s just a bit silly. Instead I’ll most probably abstain or vote for ‘Justice for Men and Boys’ (even sillier).

And to go with the buns, here’s one of my favourite soup recipes, which uses possibly my most hated vegetable. Sounds twisted and it is – horrid swede, turned into nectar in soup form. The recipe is based on one in Lindsey Bareham’s ‘A Celebration of Soup’.

Miriam’s milk buns

Makes 10

  • 500g plain flour (I used strong bread flour)
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • 9g fast action yeast
  • 90g butter (room temperature)
  • A good pinch of salt

Warm 100ml of milk. Mix the yeast, 100g of flour and the warmed milk and let it rest for half an hour until it gets frothy.

Then mix this with all the other ingredients. The easiest way to do this is in a food processor with the kneading hook for around 8-10 minutes. (I don’t have a food processor and the mixture is quite sloppy so I attempted to use the dough hook on my hand mixer but then ended up kneading by hand).

Once kneaded, put it all into a glass bowl (greased with a tiny bit of sunflower oil) and let it rest for 2 hours until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough to get rid of the air. Then divide the dough into 10 parts. Shape each one like a ball, or give them an oval shape.

Put them on a tray lined with baking paper (I needed two trays, with 5 on each). Cover the buns with cling film (I used a tea towel) and wait for another 35-45 minutes until they rise again.

Preheat the oven at 220 degrees. Cut the buns (if you like that shape) and ‘paint them’ with beaten egg (I didn’t bother with the egg glaze (a waste of a valuable egg) but sprinkled with poppy seeds instead).

Put them into the oven, lower the temperature to 200 degrees and bake for 15 minutes (mine needed an extra 5 minutes).

Lindsey’s swede soup

  • One swede weighing about 450g, peeled and chopped into dice about 1cm square
  • 2 or 3 shallots, or half a regular onion, chopped
  • A small bunch of parsley, leaves and stalks
  • 75g of butter (although I can never bring myself to use this much and generally use half this amount)
  • 1 litre of good stock (homemade would be best but I generally use a Knorr beef stock pot)
  • Salt and pepper

Take a large sauce pan and melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the onion, swede and parsley stalks to the pan and stir well so that the vegetables are nicely covered with butter. Put a lid on and allow everything to sweat in the pan for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After this time, pour on the stock, bring to the boil and then lower the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Put the mixture into a blender, along with the parsley leaves and puree until really smooth.

Return to the pan and check the seasoning before serving.

Russian salad

russian-salad 3

The jury’s out when it comes to the ‘Russianness’ of this salad. Some say that it’s actually Italian and should be called ‘insalata russa’. All I can say in its defence is that I ate it a lot when travelling across Russia. It was a staple in railway buffet cars and one star hotels where I suspect it was made with tinned vegetables but I still found it tasty enough to attempt to recreate the dish at home.

This salad wouldn’t be considered a looker (unless you’re a three year old girl with a Disney Princess/colour pink obsession) but it is still delicious considering how easy it is to put together (although perhaps this is just because anything smothered in mayonnaise tastes good).

It’s also a great way to disguise lots of vegetables (although my four year old son, who prefers blue, is rather suspicious of the colour).

Russian salad

Serves two (as a hearty starter, or as a main course with bread on the side)

  • 1 medium beetroot, cooked (see below) or pickled
  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, I used Charlotte potatoes
  • 50g of fresh or frozen peas
  • 50g of carrots
  • 50g of green beans
  • 1 pickled gherkin
  • 2 hard boiled eggs (or, I like to use one pickled beetroot egg – see my post Things in jars – pickling and pesto – and one hard boiled)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • Some chopped fresh dill (if this is easily available, don’t use dried)

If your beetroot is raw then roast it in the oven (whole with the skin on) in a baking dish covered with foil at 160oC for one hour. Leave to cool then top and tail, peel off the skin and chop into small cubes. If you’re using pickled beetroot then just drain and chop into small cubes.

Peel and chop the potatoes into quarters then boil for 5-7 minutes until tender. Drain, leave to cool and chop into small cubes.

Chop the carrots into small cubes, slice the beans thinly then blanch all of these with the peas in boiling water for one minute. Drain and plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process, drain again and set aside.

Chop the gherkins into small cubes.

Cook the eggs in a pan of boiling water for 8 minutes. Cool in a pan of cold water, peel off the shell and chop into quarters.

To assemble, mix all the prepared ingredients together with the mayonnaise (leaving some of the chopped egg as a garnish) and put into small bowls or glasses. Garnish with the chopped egg and fresh dill.

If you want to work the presentation a little, then mix everything except the beetroot together and spoon two thirds of the mix into glasses. Then spoon over two thirds of the beetroot. Finally mix the beetroot with the remaining potato mixture and spoon this on top. You will then have distinctive, white, red and pink layers which I think looks a little more pleasing than all pink.


In my early 20s kedgeree was my signature dish and  I thrust it upon anyone who came to dinner – friends, family, work colleagues, potential boyfriends. This sums up my ‘devil may care’ attitude in those days – it didn’t cross my mind that people may NOT like it, of course they would, after all I liked it.

These days I am a more thoughtful and conservative host and even though I think it’s delicious I would be terrified of serving kedgeree to guests. What if they hate smoked fish (many people do), what about all that dairy (I have several friends that either avoid dairy or don’t like creamy things) and then there are all those evil carbs. That said I still love it and luckily so do my children and my husband.

Whilst traditionally a breakfast or brunch dish we rarely eat kedgeree at that time. I prefer it as a special dinner treat because admittedly it’s not the healthiest dish in the world (all those lovely hard boiled eggs and cream). There are hundreds of variations of this dish but in my version the fish is kept separate and served over the top of the rice. This serves two purposes, firstly, it keeps the flavours fresh and vivid and stops the fish from getting all mushed up, secondly, it avoids arguments as everyone gets a fair portion of the best bits.

My Kedgeree

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite, for two this is a big portion)

For the rice (make up the amount below but you will only need two thirds of the cooked rice for this recipe. Save the rest for frying up another day – it’s great with an omelette on top. I’ve tried to reduce the quantities but for some reason this method of cooking the rice doesn’t work for such a small amount.)

  • ¼ litre basmati rice
  • ½ litre water
  • ½ Knorr chicken stock pot (or other stock)
  • 3 cardamom pods bruised
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon medium curry powder
  • a little oil, butter or ghee

Frying the rice

  • ½ onion
  • 10 medium closed cup mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic

For the fish

  • 300g smoked haddock
  • 100ml single cream
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • A little black pepper

To garnish

  • 2 hardboiled eggs
  • A good handful of chopped coriander
  • A squeeze of ½ a lemon

First, cook the rice. Put a small dollop of butter/ghee or a dash of oil into a small saucepan and put it on a low heat on the hob. Using a measuring jug measure out ¼ litre of rice then pour the into the saucepan, add the curry powder, turmeric and cardamom pods and give it all a good stir.

Boil the kettle and make up the stock using ½ Knorr stock pot (or other stock) and ½ litre of water.

Tip the stock into the saucepan, raise the heat and bring to the boil. Then put on a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes. Do not be tempted to open the lid during the cooking.

After 15 minutes fluff up the rice with a fork and leave aside to cool with the lid off (if you leave the lid on the rice will continue to cook and will go stodgy).

For the fish, first skin the fish with a sharp knife and remove any bones. Place in a small saucepan (you may need to cut the fish up if it doesn’t fit easily) and tip in the cream. Sprinkle over the turmeric and bring the cream to the boil. Put on a lid, turn the heat down and cook for about 5 minutes until the fish is just cooked through. With a fork break the fish into large flakes while still in the pan and spoon the creamy sauce over the fish until it is well covered. Replace the lid to keep warm while you fry the rice.

Fry the onions, garlic and mushrooms in a frying pan over a medium heat until the water has come out of the mushrooms and boiled dry. Tip in two thirds of your cooked rice and fry until the rice is heated through. Don’t move it about the pan too often or it will become stodgy. It adds to the flavour if some bits catch slightly and go golden brown. Season well with salt and pepper to your personal taste and then add half the chopped coriander and stir.

To serve put a nice big pile of rice in a bowl, spoon over the fish and cream and garnish with the hard boiled eggs cut into quarters. Sprinkle over the rest of the coriander and squeeze some lemon juice over the top of each bowl.

Note: These days smoked haddock is quite expensive, so for a more economical dish you can use a small piece of hot smoked salmon or even smoked mackerel. Cook the rice in the same way but instead of cooking the fish in cream just flake it up and add it to the rice at the end and stir.

Easy-peasy bake sale cup cakes

cup cakes
It’s the Easter cake sale at my daughter’s school this week and I haven’t got a great deal of time to devote to baking so I’m making these really quick and inexpensive cupcakes. Don’t worry, they do also taste lovely (in a simple kind of way) and look tempting (i.e. they involve chocolate).

Some of you may remember that I wrote a while ago about school cake sales and how I’d had my fingers burnt by baking cakes with expensive ingredients which were then sold for virtually nothing. These little lovelies follow all the rules I set down in that blog post.

Here’s the recipe which is so easy it’s burnt into my memory. In true Jack Monroe style the cost of the ingredients are in brackets.

PS. You won’t hear from me again for a while as I’m off to Japan. Expect healthy recipes on my return as I expect to put on at least half a stone while I’m there (Mos Burger, Mister Donut, Beard Pappa, gyozas, udon, sushi, tonkatsu – I’m dreaming of you!!!).

Simple cupcakes

Makes 16

Cost to make = £1.41. They will sell for 30p each so that’s £4.80 to the school.

For the cakes

  • 16 cup cake cases (16p)
  • 110g self-raising flour (3p)
  • 110g caster sugar (16p)
  • 110g stork margarine (22p)
  • 2 free range eggs (40p)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (3p)
  • 1 teaspoon warm water
  • A couple of drops of vanilla extract (20p)

For the icing

  • 75g icing sugar (15p)
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder (6p)
  • A little water

Heat the oven to 160 degrees (fan).

Take a large mixing bowl and measure out the flour, margarine, sugar and baking powder. Crack in the eggs and then, with an electric hand mixer, mix until just incorporated (about 20 seconds – don’t over mix). Add the vanilla extract and warm water and mix briefly again.

Put 16 small baking cases into jam tart or muffin tins and spoon 1 ½ heaped teaspoons of cake mix into each one.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then leave to cool on a wire rack.

When completely cool mix up the icing. Put the icing sugar into a small bowl and add the cold water a couple of drops at a time, gradually stirring and adding more water until you have a thick paste. It needs to be thin enough to spread but not so runny that it falls down the sides of your cakes.
Set aside a quarter of the icing in another bowl and add the cocoa powder to the remainder. Stir until the icing has turned a nice chocolaty brown colour.

Ice the cupcakes with the chocolate icing then put a small dollop of white icing in the middle. With a skewer make swirls from the centre of the cake outwards to make a flower/sun pattern. If this is too much like hard work then you can always just drizzle the white icing over the top of each one.

Pop in the fridge for 10 minutes for the icing to set.

Put in an old container that you don’t mind loosing and take to school.

Try not to obsess over whose cupcakes are selling the best and buy your own back if they sell slowly because at least you know they will taste nice.

Stay at home pub food – Scotch eggs

scotch eggs

Last weekend Jay Rayner wrote a piece in the Guardian about Pizza Hut’s 2,880 calorie cheese burger crust pizza. I just couldn’t believe the photo – surely food-wise things couldn’t get any worse.

But then my local (which has reached a new low since being taken over by the Flaming Grill Pub Company and painted bright orange) topped this by advertising their new ‘Trash Can Challenge’. For £19.99 you can consume a whopping 3763 calories and 219g of fat with a:

giant rack of ribs
double up cheese and bacon burger
beef chilli sundae
chicken skewer
onion rings
corn on the cob
smokey BBQ baked beans
peas (for just the tiniest bit of green)
a TRIPLE portion of chips

All presented in an actual bin lid. If you can’t quite imagine how much food this is then here’s a photo

I just wonder who is sneaking off to the Bluebell pub in the rather lovely village of Attenborough to give this dish a go. On the plus side it makes me feel a lot better about some of my own unhealthy guilty pleasures, such as my love of scotch eggs – previously the unhealthiest pub food I could imagine.

Now I will eat supermarket Scotch eggs when I have a hangover but I do worry about the standard of meat and eggs, so if possible I prefer to make my own. The bread crumbing is a little bit messy and the deep fat frying part is a bit of a faff, but they are not that difficult to make and they are just so deliciously unhealthy.

If you fancy trying to make your own too then here are my two Scotch egg recipes, one for a traditional pork sausage meat scotch egg, and another for a smoked fish version (a fairly recent experiment, vaguely based on a Richard Corrigan recipe which turned out really well).

Scotch eggs

Makes 4

  • 5 eggs (4 for hard boiling, one for bread crumbing)
  • 6 good quality medium sized pork sausages (about 300g)
  • Breadcrumbs (I make my own from leftover bread which I blitz in a food processor and then dry out and store in jam jars until needed. But you can buy breadcrumbs and if you’re feeling really fancy you can now buy Japanese Panko breadcrumbs from most large supermarkets which give a really crunchy crust.)
  • A little plain flour
  • 3 litres of sunflower oil

First hard boil your eggs. I start with the eggs in a pan of cold water then bring to the boil and time for 8 minutes from boiling. This results in a just hard egg yolk (if you like the yolk to still be a little runny then only cook for 5 minutes). Run the eggs under a cold tap and then leave to cool in a pan of cold water for about 5 minutes. Once cooled peel the shells from the eggs, pat dry and roll in a little flour.

Remove the sausage meat from your sausages. I use about one and a half regular sized sausages for each egg. You can season the sausage meat and add additional herbs but if your sausages are from a decent butcher then I don’t think this is necessary. Dampen your hands slightly and take the sausage meat in your hands and flatten it out into a circle, then place the egg in the centre and wrap around the egg smoothing with your hands until there are no gaps. Circle the sausage covered eggs in the palms of your hands as if you were making a ball of pastry – I find this helps to get a nice even thickness of sausage meat. Leave on a chopping board dusted with a little flour while you prepare the rest.

Now for the bread crumbing. Take a shallow bowl and beat one egg with a fork until well mixed. Take another bowl and empty in some breadcrumbs (I season mine with a little paprika which gives a pleasing orangey colour).

Dust the sausage covered eggs with a good covering of flour over all sides. Dip them into some beaten egg and then into your breadcrumbs making sure that you press the breadcrumbs into the surface to get a total covering. Place the Scotch eggs back on the chopping board until you are ready to fry (if this is a while away then you can keep them covered with cling film in the fridge but bring them back up to room temperature before frying).

Take a large deep pan and decant a whole bottle (3 litres) of sunflower oil into it. This is a horrifying amount of oil but you will be able to strain and reuse it a few more times. Heat the oil until a single bread crumb sizzles immediately on entering the pan and turns golden but does not burn.

Lower your eggs into the oil with a slotted spoon and cook until golden brown, this usually takes 5-8 minutes. I then cook them in the oven for a further 10 minutes at 180oC just to make sure the sausage meat cooks through (this is because I once served some up as a dinner party snack/starter and the sausage meat was raw).

You can serve these hot or cold. I prefer to eat homemade Scotch eggs warm when the outer coating is still nice and crunchy.

Smoked fish Scotch eggs

scotch egg fish

These are made in exactly the same way as above, however instead of the sausage meat you use a mixture of smoked fish and a little mashed potato. You can use any smoked white fish such as cod, haddock or pollack.

Ingredients as above except replace the sausage meat with:

  • 350g smoked white fish
  • 2 medium floury potatoes (roughly 150g peeled weight)

Begin by making mashed potato. Quarter the potatoes and cook in salted boiling water for 12-15 minutes until a fork can easily be poked through the potatoes. Drain the potatoes really well (you want them to be as dry as possible) and then mash. Do not add any butter or milk.

Steam the fish in a steamer or in a lidded pan with a splash of water until just cooked through (3-5 minutes should do it). Leave to cool, pat dry and then skin and flake the fish into a bowl making sure to remove any bones. Add the mashed potato and mix thoroughly until you have a smoothish paste. Check the seasoning. The smoked fish is very salty so you probably don’t need to add salt but you may like to add a little pepper.

Now follow the recipe for traditional Scotch eggs above only use the fish mixture instead of sausage meat.

Again, serve hot or cold. They taste really good with tartar sauce (bought or homemade).

Weekend breakfast – pancakes, pancakes!


In our family weekend breakfasts have to be a bit special and for us this usually means either eggs or pancakes. This recipe for scotch pancakes comes from the Be-Ro Flour Home Recipes book and it’s the one my mum always used. These really excite my children and they’re so quick to knock up. In terms of the effort versus pleasure ratio they’re a complete winner and it’s a great recipe to have to hand when you’ve run out of bread in the morning.

Dropped scones (in our house called Scotch pancakes)

100g self-raising flour
25g caster sugar (the original recipe uses 50g but I think this makes the pancakes too sweet, especially if your favourite topping is golden syrup!)
Pinch of salt
1 egg
Milk to mix (about 4 tablespoons)
Oil for frying

Measure the flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the egg. Add a drop of milk and stir with a spoon until the mixture comes together in a thick batter. Add a little more milk gradually until you have a dropping consistency.

Drop a desert spoon of batter into a moderately hot frying pan greased with a little oil (I use groundnut or rapeseed oil, never olive oil). You can usually fit 3 or 4 into the pan at a time.

Turn over once the pancakes start to bubble and are golden brown on the underside.

Serve with plenty of your favourite topping. I love lashings of golden syrup, my daughter likes raspberry jam and my son prefers them plain or, as a special treat, chocolate spread.

This recipe cooks about 10-12 pancakes. This is usually enough to feed my two hungry children and myself.

My husband dislikes these basic dropped scones as he says they’re a bit stodgy. He prefers Nigella’s delicious Ricotta hotcakes ( which are super light and fluffy. However,  as they involve ricotta as an extra ingredient (which you have to remember to buy at the supermarket), an extra bowl, egg separating and whisking, I’m afraid these don’t get cooked very often.

NOTE: The title of this post comes from Eric Carle’s children’s book ‘Pancakes, Pancakes!’. It’s such a great story that involves a small boy having to go to great lengths to source all the ingredients for his much desired breakfast pancake. He has to thresh the wheat to make flour, milk the cow and so on.

Things in jars – pickling and pesto

It’s that season down at the allotment when all the hard work pays off and everything seems to be ready to eat all at once. It’s both a joy and a bit of a stress. Because I just hate waste I fret about trying to use up everything but sometimes there just don’t seem to be enough meal times in the day and I’m already bombarding my friends and relatives with hand-outs. This is where pickling and preserving comes in.

Pickled Beetroot and Eggs

Beetroot pickled eggs

Beetroot pickled eggs

My friend ‘Little Ben’ first introduced me to pickled eggs at the end of a drunken night out in Nottingham and I have to admit I was not a fan. These pickled beetroot eggs however are truly delicious. The beetroot makes them lovely and sweet and the pinky colour of the eggs is just wonderful. I like to eat them on their own, sliced in half with a blob of mayonnaise and salt and pepper. They are also really good cut up in a Russian style salad with their pickled beetroot neighbours.

  • Cooked beetroot skinned and chopped into chunks (I cut medium sized beetroot into quarters). To cook I scrub the beetroot gently and roast them in their skins in a foil envelope  for an hour at 160oC fan.
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • About 250ml of red wine vinegar (it’s difficult to be exact here as you will need enough to cover the contents of the jar and this will depend on how tightly packed in things are
  • A teaspoon of sugar
  • A couple of bay leaves
  • About 6 peppercorns mixed white and black

Sterilise a big jar (750ml mayonnaise ones are good) then cram in the cooked beetroot and the eggs layering the two throughout the jar.

I put the vinegar, sugar, bay leaves and peppercorns into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. When the mixture is piping hot and the sugar has dissolved I tip the vinegar into the jars until the eggs and beetroot are completely immersed. I then pop on the lids of the jars and leave to cool. Leave the jars for at least a couple of weeks in the fridge before using.

Basil Pesto

Brilliant basil...

Brilliant basil.

  • Fresh basil leaves (stems removed)
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • A little lemon juice
  • Salt

Pesto is so easy to make but it’s difficult to give exact quantities for this recipe as it will depend on how much basil you have available at the time and it’s quality. Once you’ve whizzed up the basil leaves in a food processor with a good glug of olive oil to help things along (I have one of those mini choppers like this one which works well) you just need to add the other ingredients a little at a time until you have the right balance. If you’re basil leaves are a bit long in the tooth then you will need to use quite a lot of olive oil. You will also need a lot more basil than you may think. One shop bought basil plant will only make the tiniest jar of pesto so it really is best to grow your own. I drive my family mad by growing plants on every window sill in the house as well as in huge tubs in the allotment greenhouse.

Keep your pesto in a sterilised jar in the fridge with a fine layer of olive oil on the top to stop it from turning brown. I’ve never actually managed to keep any long enough for it to go off in the fridge but it should keep for at least a month or two.

I always add parmesan cheese to the pesto before tossing with pasta but I find that if you jar it with the parmesan added then it impairs the flavour.

A Lovage version

A couple of years ago we bought a small lovage plant from our local garden centre in a 4 for 3 offer on herbs. We didn’t have a clue what it was at the time or how it could be used. Lovage is said to be similar to celery in flavour but personally I think the taste is unique and I absolutely love it. The plant has grown to over a metre high and takes centre stage in our herb bed. Because it is so plentiful in the early part of the year when the basil on the window sills and in the green house is only just germinating we thought we’d try a pesto made with lovage instead of basil with the same additional ingredients as above.  You will probably need a bit more olive oil than for a basil version and it’s a very strong flavour but used sparingly and mixed into pasta with plenty of parmesan it is delicious.

Lovely lovage

Lovely lovage