Sunday, 21 September 2014


Good Morning to you,

For those of my friends, who have been reading my blog for a little while, you will know about my love affair with chocolate. I have to tell you, it cannot be just any old chocolate, it has to be a good quality chocolate.

We all have our favourite chocolate and of course there are many different types of chocolate available, German, French, Belgian, Swiss and Dutch chocolate are amongst my favourites, oh yes and I must not forget Spanish drinking chocolate, if you have never enjoyed the experience of Spanish drinking chocolate, then you really must add this to your list of things to try.

I am being honest when I say, I find, eating one square of good quality chocolate is much more satisfying than eating a couple of squares of cheaper chocolate.

....but there is an exception.  What is it about Nutella.... I just love it. I came very late to the joys of Nutella, I never imagined I would like it, but when I tried it, I found I loved it. Sometimes I will spread Nutella onto toasted date and walnut bread, and with the addition of a small coffee, it tastes fabulous.

So what do you think we are making today,

you will not be surprised to hear that it is something with a dash of chocolate. I am making chocolate muffins today, but with a little something added in the centre.... Nutella.... well a girl can never have enough chocolate.

So without further ado, it's on with the pinnie, and the music I am listening to today is,

the Dixie Chicks. Listen to 'Ready to Run', 'Cold Day in July, and 'Good Bye Earl'.

With 'Good Bye Earl' playing, it is time to organise my ingredients.


Makes 10 large muffins

175g unsalted butter
125g plain chocolate 
(70-80% cocoa solids)
50g dark brown sugar
200g caster sugar
125g plain flour
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
4 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
12 teaspoons of Nutella


Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Place 10 large muffin cases
into a muffin tin.
(The red muffin cases are because I did
not want to leave the two centre
muffin holes empty)

Using a bain marie,
or a bowl over a pan of simmering water.



chocolate into
the bowl
gently melt,
stirring when the chocolate and butter melt.

When melted
transfer the chocolate mixture into a large
mixing bowl

stir in the brown sugar

caster sugar.

Whisk the eggs

with the
vanilla essence
add a little at a time to the
chocolate mixture.
When the ingredients are thoroughly mixed,

sift the flour

cocoa powder


gently fold into the mixture.

Place a tablespoon of the
mixture into each muffin case

1 teaspoon of Nutella into the centre.

Divide the rest
of the chocolate mixture
between the muffin cases,
so that the Nutella
is covered with the chocolate mixture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

You can enjoy your
chocolate muffin
dusted with a little
icing sugar

as we sometimes do,

with a little
stem ginger.

If eaten warm the Nutella is soft, but if the muffins are eaten cold, the Nutella is firmer,  which is just as lovely.

Do you know how I eat my muffin?  I peel off the paper case, cut the muffin into quarters, divide the stem ginger between the four quarters.  This way I know I am not getting too much Nutella, but just enough with each bite.

.... and I always enjoy chocolate with a strong cup of coffee.

Take care and I will see you on Wednesday.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


Good Morning to you,

On Sunday, I  really enjoyed telling you about  Bob's love for his garage  and I really hope you enjoyed reading about it. I find once I start thinking about a subject, especially when there is a family link, the words just seem to flow and my fingers merrily tap away on my keyboard and then before I know it, I have written more words than I had meant to.

The lovely Mariette mentioned in the comments section, that she did not know who Sadie was, and would like to know a little more. I have spoken about Sadie before, but maybe she is new to you. Sadie is George's mother.  Sadie is the same age as Phyllis, my mother, and although Sadie lives in the north of England and Phyllis in the south, they have been friends since George and I married all those years ago.

So after reading Sunday's post, you will have gathered, that Bob loved his garage and all of it's contents. Over the years the contents of the garage never diminished, as he always found more items to replace the ones he had given away.

When Bob retired, he did make a couple of changes....  he   added a deckchair to sit on and a radio to listen to, and he was happy.

As you will remember, I have mentioned before that Bob had a sweet tooth and he loved cakes, but cakes were his downfall. When Bob retired, he was not as active as he used to be, and he put on, a little weight around his tummy, so Sadie decided she would help him,  she would not buy cakes from the baker, as she felt this would help him lose weight, but unbeknown to Sadie, although Bob was not eating cake in the house,  Bob had been visiting his favourite bakers and he had his own little store of cakes in the garage.

..... and how do I know this, well it all came about when Bob passed away and the garage had to be cleared.

As you can imagine, clearing the garage was very emotional for everyone and it took quite a while to empty the contents. Two days into the job, almost at the back of the garage, a few tins were found, and when George's brother opened the first tin, he found a selection of cakes which Bob had bought from the bakers, inside a smaller tin, were biscuits and in another, boiled sweets. So when Bob said he was going to potter in his garage, yes he was pottering, but away from Sadie's prying eyes, he was also enjoying his favourite cakes, biscuits and sweets.

To Bob, the garage was his private little world, and like a magpie, he loved to fill it with his own version of 'sparkly' things. 

Whenever any of us retell this story, we always smile, as Bob did not have a lot of money during his lifetime, but he was such a kind and generous spirited man. He would do anything to help, when help was needed. When Bob passed away, we held the service in St James' Church in Newcastle and the service was taken by George's cousin.  St James' Church is a beautiful old church which was built in 1833. Although it is a large church, there was not enough room for everyone to sit inside, so many of Bob's friends had to stand outside because they could not get into the church to hear the service. 

Isn't that a marvellous testament to the life of a man..... you do not have to be rich and famous to place your mark on the world, you just have to be someone  who  has a kind and generous spirit.

So with Bob's smiling face in my mind, it is time to tell you what we are making today.  If you remember on Sunday, I made Mackerel Dip, well today we are making,

the Crisp Breads. These crisp breads are just perfect eaten with the mackerel dip.

So it's on with the pinnie, and the music I have chosen to listen to today is,

Moulin Rouge.  I remember when I went to see this film, at the cinema, with Natasha and Danielle, the music made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.... I loved it so much.  I love 'Your Song', 'One Day I'll Fly Away' and 'Come What May' just pulls at my heart strings.

So while I listen to 'Come What May' for the second time, I will organise my ingredients.


4 slices of brown or white bread
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
sea salt



Using a sharp knife,

cut the crusts from the slices of bread.

Find your rolling pin


roll out each slice of bread thinly.

I thought I would show you that the bread
is thinner, but there is not a huge difference
in size.

Continue rolling the 3 other slices of bread
in the same manner.

Brush the slices of bread
olive oil.

Cut each slice of bread into 4 triangles
place the bread, oiled side down
on a baking tray.

Brush the top side of the
bread with olive oil

sprinkle with sea salt.

Pre-heat the oven to 160C
and bake in the oven for
10 - 15 minutes.

Check after 10 minutes.
You want the crisp breads to be golden in colour.

Remove from the oven 
allow to cool.

As you can see,
these crisp breads are so easy
to make.
If you do not want to add salt,
dried oregano, or dried chilli,
it is really up to you what flavour you choose.

.... and are you wondering what I did with the
crusts cut from the bread?

They were whizzed in the
food processor


placed in the freezer to use
as a coating
potato cakes.

Just before I go, it occurred to me that you might like to see St James' Church, in Newcastle as it is a very old and interesting church, so I have added the link.

Take care and I will see you on Sunday.

This week I will be joining,

Sunday, 14 September 2014


Good Afternoon to you,

After a busy morning, dividing plants and adding top soil to the flower beds..... we were feeling quite tired.  So we decided to stop and enjoy the afternoon sunshine. I made lunch, which we took into the garden and we sat in our deckchairs and put our feet up.  After we finished talking about our plans for the garden, George mentioned that he needed to tidy his garage a little, which led us to talking about the happy memories associated with his father's garage.

It will bring a smile to your face when you learn about Bob, and his love affair with the contents of his garage.  

Bob had been a builder for most of his life and in his later years he renovated old houses..... and in those old houses were items which are so popular nowadays..... such as stone sinks, old ranges, chimney pots, old kitchen tables and the like.   Bob knew that I loved vintage items, and that was before vintage became popular, but  in those days they were called second hand, as they were not old enough to be called antiques. Each time Bob would save something for me, Sadie would say that I really wouldn't like it, but Bob said I would, and so it was safely stored in his garage waiting for my arrival..... but I hasten to add, not just for me, he would do the same for everyone in the family.  

I remember when Natasha went to university, he told us to pop over to see if there was anything in his garage that Natasha could use.... honestly it was like an Aladdin's cave. Natasha chose the things she felt would be useful, we packed the car and we took them to her new rooms, leaving hardly a dent in Bob's Aladdin's cave, actually you wouldn't have known we had taken anything.

Just before I go on, I need to mention, the reason that Sadie did not like the items which Bob stored in his garage, was because as a young girl, growing up in the 1930's, the items Bob found were the style which she had grown up with. She remembered, as a young girl, having to scrub the kitchen table with plenty of soapy water, a scrubbing brush and lots of elbow grease. This was a time when housework was hard work and whilst ranges are very popular today, they are easily wiped clean, whereas Sadie's mother had to black lead her range, which was such a dirty job. There were no such things as hoovers, only brushes to sweep, so in later years, Sadie much preferred modern conveniences. I remember when Bob gave me a chimney pot, Sadie really couldn't imagine why I would want it, as they were smelly old things, which had been filled with smoke. Even when I told her I would wash them, then use them as plant pots, you could see she really thought I was as mad as a hatter and put it down to my youth. 

It was a little later, that I spoke to Auntie Mim and my mother, Phyllis, who are the same age, and they both told me about life in the 1930's and they said the same thing..... going backwards was certainly not for them, they loved the modern, easy clean, style of living and could not understand why I harked back to owning things from a different era.

Sadie didn't really mind Bob collecting the vintage items, even though she did not understand why he did, but she did not want to see them.... and the trouble was, she did see them. To the side of the garage, there was quite a large window, which she had to pass every time she went into the house via the backdoor. She tried not to look in the window, of the garage, but you know how it is, when you don't want to look, you do.  It upset her to see, what she felt was rubbish, inside the garage, so she hit on a solution.  She bought some voile curtaining and when Bob was at work, she hung it on the inside of the window, so that when she passed by, she did not see anything, which was inside the garage, she just saw a pretty voile hanging from the window and so she was happy..... but Bob was not, as he did not want a voile curtain hanging from his manly garage, as he felt it was not man appropriate. They resolved their disagreement and Bob agreed that it would stay, as it made Sadie happy and actually Bob was quite canny, because it meant that Sadie would not be able to see any of Bob's new acquisitions, so he could carry on collecting to his hearts content. 

We always loved visiting Bob's garage, because you never knew what you would find, before any of the family went to the shops to buy anything, they would always visit Bob to see if he had what was needed, inside his garage..... invariably he did.

There is a little more to this story, but if I carry on, there will  be  no time left for making,

Mackerel Dip.   Now this is a throw back to the 1970's as we always served this dip at parties..... but just because something is considered old fashioned nowadays, it does not mean to say that it is past it's sell by date.  So I have decided to re-introduce my version of Mackerel Dip to you.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I have chosen to listen to is,

LeAnn Rimes.  You might recognise a couple of the songs from the film Coyote Ugly, such as 'Can't Fight the Moonlight' and 'But I Do Love You', but also listen to 'I Need You'.

So with 'Written in the Stars'  playing, it is time to organise my ingredients.


250g  cooked peppered mackerel
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion
1-2 tablespoons of creamed horseradish
1 tablespoon of cream cheese
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Finely chop
the onion.

Place the olive oil in a pan

add the onions.

Cook slowly,
until the onions are golden brown.

Whilst the onions are browning,

remove the skin from the mackerel


shred into smaller pieces.

Place the mackerel in to a food processor



cream cheese,

creme fraiche


horseradish cream.
If you are not sure about the horseradish cream,
then add a little at a time and taste,
then if you need more, add a little more.

Whizz in the food processor
until all the ingredients are mixed together.

Add the 
browned onions
and whizz again.

Add the lemon juice,
a little at a time.
Add by the teaspoon, whizz and then taste,
keep adding the lemon juice until you get the right
balance of flavours.
It is always better to add a little at a time.

Season with sea salt
freshly ground pepper
whizz again.
I did not add very much black pepper as I had used
smoked cooked Scottish Mackerel with a spicy
peppercorn coating,
 if you use, as I often do,
plain cooked mackerel,
then  do add more pepper.

Whizz until you get the consistency you want,
sometimes I make this Mackerel Dip

such as today, I make a smoother,
Mackerel Dip.
It really depends on your fancy on the day.

You will notice that I am serving my Mackerel Dip with some little breaded crisps.  I am not going to be showing you how to make them today, but I promise, I will on Wednesday.

I thought I would let you know that I am in the process of changing my label names and I have decided to group together, all of my vintage recipes under the name of 'Arctic Roll and Aspic'.  Arctic Roll, because when I was first married, there was nothing more fabulous than an Arctic Roll.... sorry to the younger ladies, but I am talking about the 1970's.  I could not believe that it was actually possible to bake ice cream in the oven and that it did not melt. The Aspic part of the label is because it was used in the 1940's and 50's, when Ivy and Phyllis were young, as Aspic was a really popular ingredient, used in dishes such as 'Eggs in Aspic'. I just felt it was a nice way to label vintage dishes with Ivy, Phyllis and Me! in mind.

Don't forget, I will finish my story about Bob and his garage on Wednesday, but I have to tell you. you know what we found at the back of George's uncle's garage? Three vintage, Jones, treadle sewing machines.... of which one, now sits happily in my sewing room...... so you see hoarding does run in the family.

Take care and I will see you on Wednesday.

This week I will be joining,


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