Taken a battering

Dear Ruth,

Pancake day came and went and not a pancake was flipped in my home. So crazy has my week been that I ran out of milk on Monday and didn't even get to replace it before I went away on Thursday. And I've been so tired that even if I had done, summoning the power to whisk would have been unthinkable.

However, I did eat a pancake at the weekend, which reminded me just why they deserve their annual celebration. Wow they are good! Especially with lemon, sugar and vanilla ice cream. Even tastier after a juicy steak, hard earned after a day falling over on the slopes. My pudding also proved a welcome break from the gallons of ale demanded by the reason for the holiday - (an unconventional) stag weekend. But a top pud tip for you, try not to follow your dessert of dreams with absinthe. Just wrong.

It's now Monday. The sun is but a memory behind the mountain in my mind, and I'm home. Home with a kitchen, flour, eggs and finally some milk. After a day off work, what better way to spend my time than make up for missing one of my favourite days of the year than whip up a pancake or two?

I may have needed hard core training for Christmas, but when it comes to Shrove Tuesday I'm a pro. I've hosted several pancake parties, where guests compete for the best topping (the savoury ones always win) and until this year, Christmas morning was always ushered in with one of epic pancake efforts.

So my batter and beauties took me no time at all, convincing me that I really should get back into the habit of keeping batter in the fridge whether for blitzed raspberries or left over ratatouille.

But of course I had my eyes on the prize and forgot to take a photo at any point so you'll have to take my word for it! Instead, here's a picture from the ski lift on my first day. You can imagine that me and the pancake had a lot in common that day. Falling flat, flipped, battered...

Yours with sugar (and lemon) on


About flippin' time - Plain pancake batter

Dear Tom

How are your stews and leftovers going? I thought as it is Shrove Tuesday this week that you might like to add pancakes to your 'to cook' list.

Pancakes are made of basic ingredients, cooked in a basic way and are basically fool proof... unless you start pancake races with your neighbours, toss them high enough to stick them to the ceiling or forget that you have left one cooking in the pan... like I said, fool proof.

The origins of shrove Tuesday and pancake day are to use up stores of fats, sugars and flours before Ash Wednesday when you fast for lent... I personally couldn't give up any of those things for lent, but shall be making pancakes never the less!

What you fill it with is up to you, mine will be stuffed with ice cream, sliced strawberries and topped with homemade butterscotch sauce, yum!


4oz/100g plain flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 pint milk
pinch of salt
small knob of butter to fry with


Put the flour into a mixing bowl, with the salt
Put the egg into the milk and whisk together
Pour the milky mixture a small amount at a time into the flour, mix really well to get a smooth batter
Pour into a jug (To make easier pouring into frying pan)
Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, melt the butter, add enough batter to just about cover the bottom of the pan very thinly
Its cooked when it starts crisping at the edges and slides in the pan, toss, flip, or carefully turn over to briefly brown the second side

Think you'll enjoy this one

Yours, toppings planning,


The pie's the Limit....

Dear Tom

Well done, I had a feeling that a meat dish might get some attention.

So this weekend, instead of posting a completely new recipe (I had planned bacon and cheese scones) I thought you could use your intuition a bit more and expand on the stew theme...

One of the things I tend to do when cooking is to cook too much, often on purpose, because left overs are the best bit. Also it is a more economical way of cooking, why make only one or two portions of stew, if the oven is on anyway you might as well make more. OK, so nobody is going to want to eat stew four days in a row, but say you had four portions, you could use one, freeze one and then with the other make a new dish, again one to eat and one to keep in the fridge or freeze.

Last week you made a beef stew, how about a lamb one? You could add rosemary or a spoon of red current sauce?

When you have finished cooking it then you need to divide your portions., and decide what to make.

When making a beef stew I tend to make a pie, when using lamb I make a hot pot, but either is interchangeable.

It just requires a little thickening of the gravy which can easily be done with bisto or even cornflour.


To make a pie you can use the pastry techniques that you learnt back in December (Recipe and method is under mince pies I believe) but in brief - 8oz flour, combined with 4oz butter and a splash of water to form dough. Chill it for 20 mins. then roll out and use.
You don't need to make a bottom to your pie, just pop your stew into required pie dish and top with pastry, making sure that the pastry is slightly wider than the dish and comes up the edges a little. This will stop the gravy bubbling over it and sinking it!! Make to small slits in the middle of your pastry, to let out the steam, egg wash for a golden glaze and then pop into your oven at gas5/200'c until bubbling and brown.

Hot Pot

To make a hot pot is even easier, if you made this with two portions of stew mix you could freeze one.

Knowing you have a limited amount of cookware (Unlike me who has enough to start a lending library or possibly a museum!) I suggest you cook the stew, then pour it into a different pan to keep it. You will need your lovely cast iron pot for this one. For anyone with more cook ware a Pyrex dish or similar sized oven proof dish will be fine.
Put the required amount of stew into the casserole dish. Next take two medium potatoes, peel and slice really thinly so that each slice is only 1mm or so, if they are thick they will just take longer to cook which is no big deal, and can be yummy you will just need to cook for slightly longer and cover the pot for the first half of the cooking time to prevent burning.
So, take potato slices and arrange them over the top of your stew, covering it and starting a second layer if needed, season and then dot the top with butter (to help browning) and cook for about 30-40 minutes at about gas5/200'c until brown and bubbling, or until you are too hungry to wait I guess. If the potatoes are browning to quickly, put the pot lid on or cover with some aluminium foil.
Serve with green vegetables.
You could do slices of celeriac with your slices of potatoes too.

Right, so does that all make sense?

Failing all of the above, make another stew and top with ready to roll puff pastry :)

 Happy to write out recipes again, but I'm sure you'll be fine.

Yours with faith


Gluten free / dairy free cinnamon and raisin pancakes (#thebreakfastclub)

One of my sons can't eat wheat or dairy and with pancake day fast approaching... still, he used to have an egg allergy too (amongst other things ) so it is getting easier! I am always happy to adapt recipes and happy to try and help those who find that they are cooking for someone with an allergy, feel free to ask. With that in mind, here is a gluten/dairy free recipe and the photo at the bottom will show you how well they went down this morning!

Cinnamon and Raisin Pancakes (Gluten and dairy free recipe)


5oz/125g Gluten free plain flour (I use doves farm)
1 heaped tsp sugar
1 heaped tsp baking powder
50g raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
100ml soya milk
1 egg
A small amount of soya butter to fry in


1 Put all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl

2 Measure the milk into a jug, add the egg and beat together

3 Pour the milky mixture into the dry a mix a small amount at a time and mix well, to prevent lumps

4 Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and melt the butter

5 Spoon out the mixture a small amount at a time, you should be able to cook 3 at once

6 Stir the mixture before spooning out more each time as the raisins will sink a little

7 When the pancakes start to get small bubbles they are ready to turn over

8 Cook on the other side for 20-30 seconds

9 Either eat on their own, hot or cold, or serve with toppings of your choice, Mattie had honey and blueberries, but maple syrup, plain yoghurt or a small squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle of sugar work well too

American Pancakes (#thebreakfastclub #fridayfeasts )

You can tell that shrove Tuesday is nearly upon us, with the plastic yellow lemons and offers on flour in the supermarkets. Over 50 million are likely to be consumed on Tuesday alone, now that's a lot of mixing, not to mention the tossing mishaps! I will be making the traditional batter, (plus a wheat and dairy free version) and the boys are counting down to the moment it all gets assembled, but for now I thought I would share with you the breakfast ones that we make.

American pancakes, not exactly healthy, unless you argue that the milk equals calcium, eggs equal protein, and everyone need some carbs?? Ours have been served with homemade rose hips syrup throughout the autumn, with maple syrup or fresh berries last summer, but this morning were served with strawberries, blue berries and honey and were very tasty. Now normally I would be of the use what is in season persuasion, but as my fruit was reduce by 80% at the end of the supermarkets day! How could I not?

Right, on with the recipe

American Pancakes


8oz/200g plain flour
1 dsp sugar
pinch of salt
4 tsp baking powder
350ml milk
small knob of butter (for frying)
Toppings of your choice
Healthy appetite


1 Place all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
2 Measure out milk then add the eggs into the jug, whisk together
3 Pour in about a third of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well, then gradually add the rest of the milk, adding it a bit at a time helps to prevent lumps
4 Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, melt the butter
5 Pour in small amounts of the mixture, you should be able to fit about 3 at a time
6 They are ready to turn over when you see bubbles starting to appear, see photo

7 Just 20-30 seconds on this second side should see them turn golden brown, serve straight away or keep warm in a low oven until all of the mixture is cooked. this recipe should make approximately 20 small ones

8 They are OK could too, so leftover ones can be eaten in a packed lunch

Casse-role model

Dear Ruth

Look, look look, I cooked! Back in the game!

Now, this is proper boy cooking. Get your hands on some meat, give it some attention and then chuck in the rest, whack in the oven and leave until done. Well, not quite...

You see, I bought half a kilo of lovely casserole beef on Saturday, and at about 8 I thought it about time to get cooking. Then I checked your recipe thinking 'an hour at most'. Four hours?! Just what sort of lazy layabout do you think I am if I have four hours to watch the oven? The fact that I spent four hours until 8pm lazing on the sofa watching The Hangover double bill On Demand should not be a blemish on my character (by the way, the irony of watching The Hangover with mini man flu - all of the symptoms, none of the previous night's pleasure - was not lost on me)

So I had to leave it until today. Except today I got carried away with lots of bits and pieces preparing for an upcoming holiday, the sun coming out and demanding I go for a walk etc and didn't get cooking until 7pm. Meaning I had to make an alternative supper as well. But just to prove I can multi task, whilst the casserole was in the oven I made a risotto:

But back to the stew. I did follow the recipe, but having watched too much Masterchef, I thought I'd better taste it. I didn't really season it. So in went the salt as you advised, and then I thickened it as you instructed too. And at the end of that? A tasty and tempting stew - my first ever. I just have to wait until tomorrow night to eat it!

I hope you're suitably impressed?

Yours proudly


Valentine's Cookies (#thebreakfastclub)

As it is Valentine's day in this coming week I thought some valentine's biscuits might go down well.

It may be that you will be inundated with chocolates and gifts and have no desire to bake, but I think homemade biscuits are great at anytime, so give these simple ones a go, they take hardly any preparation, cook in next to no time, and taste lovely, and lets face it, who can resist freshly baked goodies, not me!!


6oz/175g self raising flour
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp sugar
2oz/50g butter
3 tbsp syrup


Pre heat oven to Gas5/190'c

Grease a couple of baking sheets

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl

In a pan melt the butter with the syrup

Pour the melted mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well

You should now have a dough, if it is a little too soft add a small amount more flour

Roll out on a floured surface to about 4mm thick and cut with heart shaped cutters (Or whatever you fancy)

Pop onto the baking sheets and cook for approx 8 minutes watch carefully as they can over cook quite quickly

Remove from oven and leave on the tray for a couple of minute before transferring to a cooling rack

Ice if you like

Obviously the size of the cutters makes a difference to the amount of biscuits you get, but the batch I had just baked numbered 22, yum yum!

In a Stew

Dear Tom

How did the shopping go? Are you less Old Mother Hubbard and more full to bursting now? Any unusual purchases?

Not knowing what you have bought, but knowing that you like your butcher and grocer I thought the safest idea to get you back on track would be a simple stew. Nothing complicated, nothing fancy, and once you have made a basic one you can tart it up in anyway you like. It can be good for a tight budget, easy to freeze or reheat and lets face it, its a comfort food and this cold snap has a lot of us shouting out for some of that. so, here goes, back to the lessons

Simple food, simply done


500g (ish) casserole beef, I used shin beef for mine
2 medium onions, sliced
3 medium carrots peeled and thickly cut
3 medium parsnips peeled and thickly cut
Handful of pearl barley
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
2 Litres water
2 tbsps cooking oil


Oven on to low, about Gas 1-2/140'c

Heat oil in the bottom of a casserole dish and brown beef, just briefly, you aren't trying to cook it, just give it some colour and seal it

Add all of the other ingredients

Pop a lid on your pot and put it into the oven, for about 3-4 hrs if Gas2 or 6ish at Gas1 check occasionally and stir, although it is happy to be left doing its own thing whilst you are out doing yours too

This is great cooked the day before you need it and re heat it

Serve with fresh bread or thicken the liquid and serve on mashed potatoes

I hope to be posting a basic bread recipe on the weekend workshop, so give that a go too

Simple soups (#thebreakfastclub)

There is something very lovely about homemade soups, the more simple the better too. They can be stretched to feed many, adapted to the tightest of budgets, or tweaked with all sorts of extra yummy things. They are good for dieters, good for helping boost your 5 a day, good for thermos flasks as lunch, good as a supper, good to freeze, good to share, good to use up bendy carrots, sad potatoes and all sorts of vegetable draw victims.

I prepared the following two soups at the same time, in under 5 minutes, quick, easy, nutritious and tasty, what more do you need?

Firstly I will give you the basic recipes, and then some hints on how to make a little extra of them if you have time.

The most important part of soup making is the stock, like a blank canvas or a slice of bread, it is the base of everything. I ALWAYS use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon, it is great and well worth getting hold of, although I do tend to make it up a little weaker than suggested.

Leek and Potato Soup


2 medium leeks
Knob of butter (optional)
3 - 4 medium potatoes
1 litre of vegetable stock
0.5 litres water
Ground black pepper


Roughly chop the leeks, discarding any tough green bits, dirty outer leaves and the root bit at the very bottom

Soften in a pan with the knob of butter. Make sure they don't brown as this will not make a attractive soup and will make the whole pot taste of fried onions.

Meanwhile, peel and chop potatoes, into quarters, or possibly more if you have used large potatoes. Add to the leeks, pour over stock and water, add ground black pepper (I suppose I use about 4 twists on my pepper grinder) then bring to the boil.

Turn down until simmering and cook for about 20  minutes until potatoes are soft.

Blend cooked soup and check for seasonings

Hints - nice with a good wedge of crumbled Stilton stirred in
Adjust the thickness by the changing the amount of potatoes you put in
It works well with a bag of watercress cooked in it, adding a pepper flavour and iron
Works well with a head of brocolli too, but don't add to much stalk as that maes it very gloopy

Tomato and Carrot


1 tin of chopped or plum tomatoes
3 medium carrots
1 litre vegetable stock
0.5 tsp of mild chilli powder


Peel and chop carrots

Add all ingredients to soup pan and bring to the boil

Turn down to a simmer and then cook for 20 minutes until carrots are soft

Blend until smooth

Hints - you could omit the chilli altogether, or add basil instead, any left over soup can then be added to mince to make pasta sauce
Nice topped with grated cheese, or homemade croutons (cubes of bread fried slowly in butter or oil with a little chopped garlic)
Great in a thermos as it is a thin soup
A nice diet soup too.

Old Mother Hubbard...

Dear Tom

So you are back, I thought you had got lost somewhere.

Happy to help with your request for store cupboard must haves, however, you did say a list of things that I couldn't do without... for me, that would be an enormous task, quite honestly more store cupboard is full to busting!! I collect just in case ingredients the same way others collect pottery or pieces of art! So, I think maybe I will try and break it down a bit.

Top of my list, as I have said before is Marigold Swiss vegetable Bouillon, a fabulous stock that I simply couldn't do without
After that;

Herbs and Spices

You can't have too many of these as long as you use them and don't let the pots gather dust for a few years and then wonder why they don't taste of anything

Cinnamon (great in sweet/savoury dishes)
Smoked paprika (fab in soups)
Mild chilli powder
Ground ginger
Cumin seeds
Ground coriander
Ground cumin
Mixed spice

Bay leaves
Mixed herbs

Tins and jars

Tomatoes (I get through heaps)
Tomato Puree (ok so its a tube not a tin, but it seemed like a good place to put it in)
Lots of beans, pulses like kidney beans, cannelloni, chickpeas, puy lentils, baked beans.
Worcestershire sauce
light soy sauce
White wine vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Whole grain mustard
Chutney and Jam (I will have you making your own soon)

Packet and baking

Plain flour
Self raising flour
Strong white flour
Baking powder
Vanilla Extract (Not essence which has never seen a vanilla pod!!)
Cous cous
Pasta shapes
Porridge oats
Cheap chocolate (for cooking not scoffing)
Coco powder
Sugar, white, soft brown

Fresh (Must Have In Always)

Cheese, mature cheddar (I don't like mild)
Lemon juice (one of those plastic ones is fine)
Plain yoghurt

I am sure there are plenty of things I have forgotten, and I'd like to hear about other people's essentials too...

Enjoy your shopping

Yours, waiting to resume lessons,


Epic Fail


I simply can't get this cooking lark.

Whether it's laziness, tiredness or simply just exhaustion from a hard day at the office, in the last few weeks, in fact since Christmas I've hardly cooked a bean properly. Occassionally I'll cook a roast and hope to make the most of the left overs. But no soup, no normal cooking. And a lot of fish and chips.

I daren't show you the state of my kitchen either!

So this is a plea, dear Ruth. To take me back to basics.

Friday I'm off work. I have a chance to do what anyone in their right mind does on a day off. Go to Asda.

It's my storecupboard that needs some attention. I'd like to get the meat from the butcher, fruit and veg from the grocer but here's a chance to give myself every opportunity to look after myself when I'm least willing to - 7pm on a Tuesday night usually.

Are you able to give me a list of the essentials that will make suppers super simple? Things you couldn't live without?

Yours embarrassingly