Monthly Archives: September 2015

Teamwork, Tarts, Type 2 …

Well our big Macmillan effort made £350 on Friday afternoon, thanks to a great team effort. My new pedometer/watch registered 11,500 steps or close on eight miles – my highest yet, and that was just walking round the kitchen, up and down the corridor to the tea rooms, filling tea and coffee pots and dodging round our cheerily chatting customers to pass the buns. Big shout-out especially for our youngest baking donor, Eilidh, who at the tender age of 14 made a huge batch of beautifully, neat, uniform Empire Biscuits such as I could never do in a thousand years.mackerel pate ragged smile

Sorry about the negative note in the title … I am strongly exercised by the need to avoid developing Type 2 Diabetes as the years go by.  So now that the sugarfest is over, it’s back to the healthy stuff. I said on Friday night that I’d never eat cake again … naturally that barely lasted the evening! However – the time has come. Here’s a ragged smile on a plate of smoked mackerel pate which I hope demonstrates my joie-de-vivre at the prospect.

slow-roasting tomatoesAnd here’s a good and easy – and healthy – thing to do if you have a greenhouseful of lovely tomatoes and are running out of ideas: just cut them in half through their equators, scoop out the seeds, sprinkle with olives and herbs of your choice, and dry them (you could hardly call it baking or roasting) at 50 degrees or as low as you can get your oven to go. After several hours they should be tastily chewy and not too charred (stop when they char as they’ll taste bitter). Put them in a screw-top jar and fill it up with a nice oil. A mixture of your best olive and a common-or-garden sunflower will do fine. Add a garlic clove or two, a chilli if you like it hot,  a sprig of rosemary for visual effect, and any other herb you fancy. They’ll keep for up to three months, and give an instant, gorgeous oomph to a fresh tomato sauce. Here’s health!

Cake Tastes Better Together

We’re joining in Macmillan’s nationwide coffee morning event next Friday (only ours is a coffee afternoon – 2-4pm at Seath House) to raise funds for a great service, and especially in memory of our late chairperson, Karen Blanchflower. So there will be flour and eggs flying all next week as we conjure up the goodies.

There will be scones aplenty, sponges, fruit loaves, strawberry tarts, empire biscuits … and a stall to buy some for later. In case you haven’t used up your daily allowance Marian's strawberry tarts and champagneof sugar and saturated fat!  (This photo is from a recent happy event with strawberry tarts created by my friend Marian. I doubt there’ll be Piper Heidsieck on offer next Friday, and the coffee afternoon tarts are being created by another lovely friend, Sheila – how lucky am I to have not one but TWO friends who can make luscious strawberry tarts???)

And here’s a recipe from Jane Asher that USES NO SUGAR! I’m going to do a batch for the coffee afternoon, so that as well as raising funds for Macmillan, we’ll all be having a share of healthy stuff.  I tried it with substitute ingredients (just what I had in the cupboard before going shopping – prunes for dates; cherries for cranberries; flaked almonds for seeds) and it was also very good, so I guess it’s one of those great recipes which lets you go off piste.


Makes 8

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 75g chopped dates
  • 75g dried cranberries
  • 25g mixed dried seeds
  • 150g rolled oats


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 175°C (160°C fan assisted, gas mark 4). Grease a tray-bake tin with butter or oil.
  2. Slice the bananas into a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. Add the melted butter, dates, cranberries and seeds and mix together. Add the oats and stir well. Leave for a few minutes to allow the oats to soak up the butter, then turn into the tin and press down evenly.
  3. Bake for 25-30 mins or until the top is beginning to brown. Divide into 8-10 pieces with a sharp knife while still warm.



Never has the expression ‘drawerful of porridge’ seemed so apt. I’ve been chucking stuff out recently to make way for my new lodger; and it wasn’t easy. The Wunderkind came home to help and was indeed a fountain of strength. ‘Mum,’ he said, ‘you don’t need 24 mugs!’ Well naturally I disagreed with him on that. Then, struggling to squeeze half a apint of milk  into the fridge, it was ‘Mum, you have TOO MANY CONDIMENTS!!’ But after all, I pointed out, you do need a mustard for every occasion.

After he went back to the Mess (hahaha that’s a funny one) I got started in earnest, because every time I cooked anything I was knocking things off the bunker. How does Rachel Khoo do it, in her ‘Little Paris Kitchen’? Probably it’s easier if you’re young and sexy and photogenic and well-connected. Anyway I started looking at sell-by dates on my magnificent collection of spice jars … and in my defence, I don’t think 2012 counts as truly ancient, especially as whole spices have a much longer shelf life than ready-ground … However I don’t want my lovingly prepared dishes spoiled by lack of vim and vigour, so I was ruthless – and threw out no fewer than 13 jars. Here they are. Farewell my friends, you were loyal and true, but this drawerful of porridge is being cleaned out! Life is tough.