Monday, 23 December 2013


Good Morning to you,

How are your Christmas preparations going?  I am on the final rung, I just have to finish icing my Christmas Cake, which I am doing today.  Afterwards I will be making a Stifado,  which I know all my family will enjoy on Christmas Eve and then I am done..... well maybe just a few more presents to wrap..... don't you find, there is always just a few more presents to wrap.

Today, Natasha and her husband are in town doing their last minute Christmas shopping and George has gone to the butchers to collect the Christmas turkey and Christmas ham, so I am going to take this opportunity to ice my Christmas Cake.

Today, I do have some music to share with you.  Do you remember I mentioned that I was going to see Kate Rusby at the Sage, in Gateshead..... well I went with Natasha on Thursday and what a treat it was.  

Kate's voice, well, it was just so beautiful and we were both mesmerized by her singing.  She sang so many beautiful songs, but the one which stuck in my mind was "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem".  If you get the chance, see if you can find Kate on UTube and I promise, you will be so pleased you did.  As you can see, we were so thrilled with her performance that we bought Kate's Christmas cd to enjoy at home.

So with Kate's wonderful voice filling the kitchen, my apron is on and I am ready to ice my Christmas Cake.  


2 x 450g ready to roll icing
1 tablespoon (approx) of boiled and cooled water


Dust your work surface and rolling pin
with icing sugar.

Remove the icing from the packaging
gently knead the icing together
to form a round.

Gently roll out the icing, so that it covers
the entire cake, both the top 
and the sides, as we are going to
drape the icing over the cake.

Using a pastry brush, gently brush the
cooled, boiled water onto the marzipanned cake.
This will allow the icing to adhere to the marzipan.

Using a rolling pin, gently lift the rolled icing


drape over the cake

(isn't the sunshine just beautiful)

Gently smooth the icing onto the cake
and cut away the excess.

Using green food colouring,
colour enough icing to make the
ivy leaves..... be patient as this does take
quite a while. A little green colouring
at a time, and a little kneading 
each time, does the trick.

When you are pleased with the colour,

repeat the process with 
red food colouring.

Cut enough ivy leaves for your design.

When you are ready to create your design,
place a little water on the back
of the ivy leaves, as this  helps the
leaves to adhere to the icing....
and have fun
with the design.

When you are pleased with the
cake decoration,
return the Christmas Cake to a cool place until
Christmas Day,
when you can bring it to your table
for all the family to enjoy.

This year I have added Ivy leaves to my Christmas Cake, in honour of Ivy, my grandmother.  I felt that as all my family are with me, to celebrate Christmas this year,  it would be lovely to remember Ivy and to recount my memories of  her on Christmas Day. Phyllis will be with me,


Ivy, Phyllis and Me! will be together for Christmas this year.

Before I go, I just wanted to tell you, how thrilled I am, that you enjoy reading about my cooking adventures and that you take the time to return each week and to leave such lovely comments.  Your comments, really make my day.

So, however, you are spending your Christmas, have a wonderful time and I will see you in the New Year.

With Love and Very Best Wishes,


Ivy, Phyllis and Me!

This week I will be joining,

Saturday, 21 December 2013


Good Afternoon to you,

Phyllis always says, if you can't keep a promise, then don't make one.  I agree to a certain extent, but sometimes, we are unable to keep promises which we make, no matter how much we try. Do you remember, I promised, I would be returning on Wednesday 18th December, and as you can see, that date has come and gone and although I set the date with the best intentions, I just haven't been able to keep that promise..... I think I over extended myself just a little bit.

As you know I have been away in London for a few days. Since my return, the house has been so full of "busy", I  really just could not find the time to catch up with you, but today, I am pleased to say, I have finally found some time. The boys are happy because they have been fed and watered and are watching  the football......

and me...... I am  going to marzipan our Christmas Cake. There is no music to share with you, as Natasha is playing her guitar, which I am loving.  I love the peaceful atmosphere the sound of the guitar is creating in the kitchen.

So my new Christmas apron is on and I am quietly humming along to the guitar music.  I am now  ready to marzipan the Christmas Cake. 


2 x 450g packs of ready made marzipan
2 tablespoons of apricot jam
3 tablespoons (approximately) of icing sugar.

Remove the Christmas Cake from the larder
remove the tin foil
and parchment paper and discard both.
Place the Christmas Cake on to a flat surface.

Place 2 tablespoons of apricot jam
in a saucepan,
warm over a gentle heat.
Make sure you do not boil the jam.


using a small pastry brush,
brush the  top and sides of the Christmas cake
 with apricot jam.
(I found I had a little apricot jam left over,
but this is never a problem for me, as
I save it and enjoy it on hot, buttered toast,
oh yes, in case you are wondering, 
the bread fast has been broken..... 
but only during Christmas time, as we
will be returning to our bread fast after Christmas.)

Measure the top of the cake.

Sprinkle icing sugar onto a 
baking surface
and gently roll out the marzipan.

Cut a 9 inch round.
I find the easiest way to cut the round
is to use a 9 inch plate as it makes
the job so simple.

Using a rolling pin,
gently lift the marzipan

place it on top of the cake.
Press the marzipan into place.

Measure the circumference of the cake
and the depth of the cake.
Mine was 3 inches in depth and 
27 inches in circumference.

Using the second packet of marzipan,
roll out a strip long enough to 
go around the sides of the cake.

To create the straight lines I used the
edge of the rolling pin.

Place the strip of marzipan around
the cake and press it into place.
(The apricot jam works as an adhesive,
which allow the marzipan to stick to the cake.)
Join the top to the sides.

There are various utensils which you can use to create a flat surface, but I just use my rolling pin, very gently mind you, as you don't want the marzipan to become mis-shapen.  I then use a palette knife to make sure the sides are smooth.

Here is a little tip for you.  If you don't have any icing sugar, but you have a coffee grinder, preferably one which has never been used, then you are able to make icing sugar.  I keep one of my coffee grinders just for making icing sugar.

Place a couple of tablespoons of granulated or caster sugar into the grinder and whiz  two or three times. When you remove the lid, you will find you have icing sugar.  I use this method all the time, as I use icing sugar occasionally, but not enough to buy a large packet as the "use before date" would run out before I managed to use it all and as you know, I hate waste.

You can make your own marzipan,  by using ground almonds, caster sugar and eggs, but life is too busy at the moment, so I am happy to use ready made marzipan.

Oh, I must mention that I did have some marzipan left over, but that is not a problem, as I am going to make some chocolate coated, marzipan sweets...... yes I love the taste of almonds and as you already know, I love the taste of chocolate, so this is a perfect combination.

When the Christmas Cake is covered with marzipan, cover loosely with parchment paper and place the Christmas Cake into a Tupperware box. Return to a cool storage cupboard and allow the marzipan to dry for a couple of days,

then........ we will be ready for the icing.

As much as I enjoy Christmas, I know it is a very busy time for us all, so please, do remember to stop and make time for yourself.

Take care and I will catch up with you before Christmas Eve.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Good Morning to you,

Firstly, I have to apologise for not writing to you on Wednesday, this was not intentional, but once I explain, I know you will understand.

This week, has been an exciting week for us, as the first member of our family arrived, to celebrate Christmas with us.... our lovely daughter Natasha.  She had a long flight from India, but you would never have known, as she looked beautiful when she walked through the Arrivals door. 

Have you ever seen the film Love Actually?  Well, I have to tell you, we were exactly the same as those families in the film, we were crying with happiness, laughing, hugging and kissing each other and so very, very pleased to see each other.

On the day of Natasha's arrival, George and I could not wait to collect Natasha from the airport. We were so excited, that we were both up and about much earlier than we needed to be, and, as I said, we were so excited we could not sleep. I kept myself busy in Natasha's bedroom, plumping cushions and moving things around, which really did not need to be moved around and George kept himself busy, by checking the flight details, checking the weather over and over (of course it never changed) and checking the car.

When we first arrived at the airport, (much too early), we stood by the Arrivals barrier, waiting for the doors to open, eagerly anticipating Natasha's arrival. We had a clear view, but then another family joined us, who were just as excited as we were, and they stood in front of us. Well, I am not very tall and they were much taller than I am and unknowingly, they blocked my view. What to do.... George was fine, he could see, but each time I found a space where I could  see who was walking through the doors, they moved as well..... after a lot of moving this way and that way, the doors finally opened and there she was.... I am told I jumped in the air (well not a real jump, just a little jump) with excitement.   I clapped my hands together and ran towards her and I gave her such a big hug.  George was hot on my heels and we all hugged each other....... and we talked and we talked, all the way to the car, on the drive home and we have not stopped talking since.

So that is the reason for my lapse in writing to you. I had intended to post a recipe on Wednesday, but do you know, as much as I love chatting to you, I just could not tear myself away from Natasha.  I know you will understand, because as a family we live so very far apart, so when we manage to get together, the time is so very precious..... and the exciting thing is, we will relive that same wonderful moment,  when our beautiful daughter, Danielle arrives and also when Phyllis arrives.

Now, I hear you saying that maybe I should have planned for this and written the post before Natasha arrived and saved it, so that I could just press the publish button, but, I don't write my blog that way.  What I do is, I share with you what I am either cooking or doing on a daily basis and I really do not pre-plan my dishes.  If I am making a meal, cake or dessert for George, which I think you will enjoy, then I share it with you.  Such as this,

Sweet Potato Soup

This soup arose because I had a sweet potato, a squash, a few leeks, carrots and potatoes in my vegetable basket which I wanted to use up.  When I have a few "this and that" vegetables, I always make soup. That is the wonderful thing about soup, the measurements are not precise.  If you only have a few vegetables, then you can make a small amount of soup.  Or if like me, now and then, you have too many vegetables left over, then you can make a large saucepan of soup. We have eaten some of the soup, and the remaining soup is going to be put into the freezer to be enjoyed after Christmas as it will be perfect to eat after indulging in all the rich, traditional, Christmas food.

There is no music playing in the background today, as there is too much chatter..... I know you will understand. 

So it is on with the apron and I have gathered my vegetables and other ingredients.


2 leeks
1 sweet potato
4 medium sized carrots
1 butternut squash
6 medium sized potatoes
1 400g tin of cannelloni beans
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
(less if you prefer)
2 litres of chicken stock
olive oil


Add olive oil to a large saucepan
add the chilli flakes
cook for a minute

Cut the leeks into slices
and wash 
(I find it easier to remove any grit when the leeks
have been sliced)
Dry the leeks
add the leeks to the saucepan
and gently saute

Peel and chop the sweet potato into cubes
add to the saucepan of leeks

Peel and chop the carrots
add to the saucepan

Peel and chop the squash 
add to the pan
and coat all the vegetables with olive oil.
Add more olive oil if needed

Peel and chop the potatoes
add to the saucepan.

Add the chicken stock
bring to the boil
simmer for 45 minutes

Add the tinned Cannelloni beans and simmer for
a minute or so.

sea salt and black pepper
to taste

Very carefully, ladle the soup into a blender,
or if you have a hand held blender,
blitz the soup in the saucepan 
(very carefully as I don't want you to be splashed with hot soup)
until the soup is smooth.
You will find the soup will become thicker
as it is blitzed.

Place your soup into a bowl
and garnish with a few bacon pieces
and black pepper.

If you prefer, add the Cannelloni beans after you have blitzed the soup, which is what I sometimes do, but today I wanted a smooth soup.  I had a couple of rashers of bacon in the fridge, so I grilled them, sliced the rashers and added them to the soup.  If you prefer you can add a swirl of cream, or as I sometimes do, wilt spinach into the soup..... which is very healthy. If you are vegetarian, then use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and it will be perfect for you.... of course without the rashers of bacon..... that goes without saying.

Because I had some cooked chicken in the fridge, I decided to make a chicken and lettuce sandwich to eat with the soup, which we all really enjoyed.

Later this week I will be visiting London, which I am very excited about.  So I won't be writing to you this Wednesday or  next Sunday, but I promise I will be returning on Wednesday 18th December to share with you my finished Christmas Cake and photographs of my trip to London.

Now, I  really must catch up with you and reply to your comments. Until next time, whatever you are doing, have a wonderful week and take good care of yourself.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Good Morning to you,

Last year, George and I celebrated Christmas together, without our family being around us, but this year, well, I have the most fabulous news to share with you...... our whole family are coming home for Christmas and we are all going to have the most wonderful family Christmas.... how exciting is that.  We have Natasha and her husband, Danielle and her partner, Nan Phyllis and Nana Sadie, all celebrating Christmas with us and we are over the moon. There is going to be much excitement, much chatter and lots of tea drinking, with the odd gin and tonic and glass of wine thrown in for good measure.  

Everyone is coming in stages and last to arrive will be Danielle, Dan and Nan Phyllis..... all arriving on Christmas Eve. It is a wonderful time to arrive, because the Christmas decorations will be hung, the Christmas tree will be dressed with past and present ornaments  and there will be lots of twinkling lights around the house. The presents will be around the tree and a Boeuf Bourguignon will be cooking in the oven, ready for everyone to enjoy at supper time.

I thought, as it will be really cold when everyone arrives, they will enjoy a drink which will warm the cockles of their heart,

a glass of Mulled wine which will be warming and so aromatic.  It will be made with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, grated nutmeg,  sliced orange and of course a bottle of red wine.  The house will smell fabulous and it will provide a very warm welcome for everyone.

The first time I tasted a spiced wine, was in Germany when we visited one of the fabulous Christmas Fayre's.  There was always a stall selling Gluwein, which was so welcomed, especially as the Christmas Fayre was held outside in the cold.  Our noses might have been bright red, but our tummies were certainly warm.  Just one sip, of this warm, aromatic liquid took away those winter chills.

During the Victorian era, Mulled Wine was a very popular drink and was especially enjoyed at Christmas time, just as it is nowadays. There are many recipes for Mulled Wine, but I would say, generally they are the same, with a little of this added or a little of that.  Mulled wine is very simple to make, but before I list the ingredients, I need to choose my music for today and what could be more lovelier than,

listening to The Nutcracker Suite. One of the reasons I chose The Nutcracker Suite is not only because I love the story and the music, but because I have a number of wooden Nutcrackers which decorate our house at Christmas time.

The Nutcracker is such a lovely story. I remember when Natasha was a little girl, the school put on a performance of The Nutcracker and  Natasha played the part of a snowflake.   The story begins on Christmas Eve at a party being given by the Stahlbaum's.  The children Fritz and Clara are given Christmas gifts by their Godfather, Drosselmeyer the Toymaker.  Fritz and all the boys are given a drum and the girls are given a doll, but Clara is given a Nutcracker, which she loves.  Fritz, her brother, becomes jealous because he feels Clara's gift is better than his, and he takes the Nutcracker  from Clara and throws it to his friends and by so doing, the Nutcracker is broken.

Clara becomes upset, but the children's Godfather repairs the Nutcracker, using his handkerchief and Drosselmeyer's nephew creates a makeshift bed.  The Nutcracker is then placed safely under the Christmas tree.  At bedtime, when the guests have left the house, Clara checks to see that the Nutcracker is alright and falls asleep under the Christmas tree, holding the Nutcracker...... and so her adventure begins. 

I am putting my apron on and "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is playing....  such beautiful music.  I am now ready to list the ingredients.


1 75cl bottle of red wine
1 orange
1 large or 2 small cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon of cloves
1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
2 star anise
100g of dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon of brandy (optional)
A cup of water


Pour the bottle of wine into a large saucepan


slice the orange
add to the saucepan 

add the
cinnamon sticks,
grated nutmeg,

the star anise,
(aren't they just beautiful)


the dark brown sugar,

a cup of water.
a tablespoon of brandy (optional)

Place the saucepan over a very low heat
and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Bring the wine to  a gently simmer
and continue simmering
 for 10 minutes

Remove from the heat
and allow to cool.  

Set aside for 4 hours to allow the flavours to mature.

When you are ready for a little glass of
this delicious Mulled Wine,
return the saucepan to the heat 
and allow the wine to become hot, 
but not boiling.  
I usually put some mulled wine on a teaspoon
and test with my little finger, if the wine 
is not too hot for my finger, then it is ready
to pour into glasses and enjoy.
you must strain the spices
using a small sieve.


using a ladle, 
carefully pour the mulled wine into a heatproof glass

nice cup
promise you,
this will
warm the 
cockles of your heart
on a 
cold, winter's day.

Last week, I mentioned that today I was going to be covering my Christmas Cake with marzipan, but when I checked on the cake yesterday, I found it to be a little too  wet, so I have postponed rolling out the marzipan  until later in the week.

I am feeling very pleased with myself as so far everything is going according to plan.  How are your Christmas preparations going?

Oops, I almost forgot, My Christmas To Do List

Mulled Wine ~ tick 

Take care and I will see you on Wednesday.

This week I will be joining,

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