Sunday 29 June 2014


Good Morning to you,

Today, I have free reign to bake again.... yes the baking ban is over and life in the kitchen has returned to normal.

Do you remember me telling you, that George had asked me to stop baking sweet things for a while, as both he and Natasha were training  for their 84 mile walk along Hadrian's Wall? 

They had intended walking from Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria to Wallsend in Northumberland in 6 days.  The bed and breakfasts were booked, and they were fit and ready to start their adventure.

..... but that wonderful thing, called the 'English Weather' put a spanner in the works. 

The morning George and Natasha left Bowsness-on-Solway the sun was shining, but the forecast had been pretty grim.... lots and lots of rain was expected.  They both left Bowsness-on-Solway in a happy frame of mind, ready to enjoy the walk..... but then, a few miles into the walk, the rain fell and it fell and it fell and it did not stop. Diversions were in place and the fields were dreadful, to use George's words, the soil was so 'claggy' that it was like walking through glue, the wet soil seemed to suck their boots into the ground.

They managed 24 of the 84 miles, but sadly they then had to stop the walk, as the rain continued falling and the forecast for each day was rain, rain and again more rain.  When they returned home, George dried their boots by stuffing them with newspaper and it took 4 days for their boots to dry out.  They were both so disappointed, but they made the right decision, because the rain did not let up, as Cumbria also experienced hail stones as well as continuous rain. 

When Natasha left to return to India, the weather was lovely..... isn't that always the way.  If Natasha lived in England, it would not have been a problem, because they could have completed the walk at any time, but of course she had to return home. Although they were disappointed that they did not finish the walk, when Natasha returns next year, they are determined to complete it...... they are not giving up, they are determined to collect all the stamps in their Hadrian's Wall passport.  You never know, I might even join them.... well, as long as the weather is nice..... yes, I am being honest when I say, I am a fair weather walker.

So now that the ban has been removed, I have free reign to bake again, and so I have decided to make,

a scrumptious Victoria Sandwich, well, with a little bit of a twist. The cake is a normal Victoria Sponge, but instead of filling the cake with cream, I have used Greek yoghurt, icing sugar and raspberries..... it is a little bit different, but I have to tell you, it is very nice.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to is,

the album  Africainement Votre by the group Magic System. I first heard their single 'Magic in the Air' on Radio 2 and it made me dance around the kitchen.... honestly, just listen and I bet you will find that your feet will not be able to keep still. It is such a bright and sunny song.

So whilst I am listening to 'Savoir' I will organise my ingredients. I have decided to double the ingredients which were in Phyllis' cookery book as today, I want a thicker sponge.


250g unsalted butter 
(at room temperature)
250g self raising flour
250g caster sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


500g Greek Yoghurt
225g Raspberries
4 tablespoons of icing sugar

2 x 23cm loose bottom cake tins
the bases lined with parchment paper

Pre-heat the oven to 180C


Butter and line the base of the cake tins.

Sift the flour and the salt
and set aside for the moment.

Cube the butter
place in a large mixing bowl
or as I did into the mixing bowl
of my KitchenAid.

Add the sugar


whisk until you have a pale,
creamy consistency.
Using my KitchenAid it took 5 minutes
to reach the correct consistency.
If you are using a bowl and a wooden spoon
then it will take a lot longer.

Using a separate bowl,
whisk the eggs.

 1 tablespoonful of egg
at a time, 
to the creamed sugar and butter
and if you find the mixture
is starting to curdle, 

1 tablespoon of flour.

I found I needed to add 3 level tablespoons of flour
to prevent curdling.

If you are using a mixer, remove the mixing bowl
and continue by hand.

Using a metal spoon, gently fold in the
remaining sifted flour.

Mix together 
vanilla extract


the milk.

Add a little at a time until you have
a soft, dropping, consistency.

Divide the mixture between the
2 baking tins
bake for 35 minutes,

or until the cakes are baked and golden brown.
I use a cake tester to make
sure my cakes are baked thoroughly.
You will notice a larger hole 
near the centre, where I tested the cake.

Leave the sponges in the cake tins
for 10 minutes and then remove the
outer cake ring.

Wait until the cakes are completely
cooled before removing the bases 
and the parchment paper. 
The cake is much easier to handle when cooled.

Whilst you are waiting for the sponges 
to cool, wash the raspberries.
Mix together
the Greek Yoghurt and icing sugar.

Spread the Greek Yoghurt and icing sugar
onto the bottom layer of the Victoria sponge

add the raspberries.

Place the 2nd sponge on top
of the 1st sponge and
press down slightly.

Spread the remaining yoghurt
on the top layer

add the rest of the

Dust with a little icing sugar


there you have it,

a pretty scrummy Victoria Sandwich.

If you prefer, you can pipe the yoghurt onto the
cake, but as the cake was to be shared between the family
there really was no need
as it would be eaten practically straight away.

If the Greek yoghurt and icing sugar does not appeal to you, then whip up some double cream and use instead.

I often whip up double cream and add lemon curd which gives a nice zingy flavour to the filling.

Just as an added note, to make a good Victoria sponge it is important that the eggs and the butter  are at room temperature as this makes for a much better sponge.

Before I leave you, I thought you might like to see,

George and Natasha (behind the camera) leaving the Hope and Anchor at Bowness-on-Solway,


a few miles into the walk at Brampton, George eating a snack with the hope that the rain would pass..... which we now know..... it did not.

Take care and I will see you on Wednesday.

This week I will be joining,

Wednesday 25 June 2014


Good Morning to you,

The weather is lovely and warm, the sun is shining, so this afternoon we are both going to relax, put our feet up, and enjoy reading a good book.  To enhance this experience, we will need a nice drink of something.... and that something is,

Ginger  Beer.  I make my own Ginger Beer, because I find commercially sold Ginger Beer is far too sweet for me....  I know, it's hard to believe isn't it, as you know about  me and my sweet tooth.  

The recipe I used before I discovered Jamie's, was from Phyllis' 1950's cookery book and the recipe for that version was,

2 lemons
2 oz bruised ginger
1 oz cream of tartar
2 lbs of white sugar
3 gallons of water
2 tablespoons of brewers yeast.

yes, you read correctly 2 lbs of white sugar, but I only used 1 lb of sugar. The amount of water used was 3 gallons, and if my maths serve me correctly, 8 pints equals 1 gallon, so 24 pints equals 3 gallons and that is a lot of ginger beer, which believe it or not, disappeared very quickly during hot summer months, so on reflection the sugar does not seem too bad.

.... but then, I found a recipe for Ginger Beer in Jamie Oliver's cookery book 'Happy Days with the Naked Chef'.  I adapted Jamie's recipe slightly and I found it a much easier recipe, than Phyllis' old recipe.

I remember the first time I saw Jamie on the television, I thought to myself, oh no, this young man is not for me.  I did not enjoy his style of presenting, but Natasha and her then boyfriend, who is now her husband, raved about Jamie, so I decided to be open minded to what Jamie had to offer, and I am so pleased I did, because he really is inspirational and his enthusiasm for cooking is infectious.  I have a number of Jamie's cookery books and I use the recipes over and over again. 

This leads me nicely on to the meal we all enjoyed at Jamie's new restaurant in Newcastle.  Now Jamie certainly does not need me to rave about his restaurant, because quite honestly the restaurant does it for itself. We arrived at the restaurant, without reserving a table, we thought we would go on the off chance, and I have to tell you, the tables were practically all taken, so people in Newcastle are enjoying the Jamie experience. The food was so good and the atmosphere was lovely, that we stayed for almost 3 hours.... slowly eating our way through a starter, a main and yes we went on to enjoy a dessert..... there's that sweet tooth of mine again, and we finished with a fabulous cup of coffee. So as I said, I really don't need to recommend Jamie's restaurant, but I really want to recommend it, because we had such a lovely time.   

So to get back to what I am making today, it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to is,

the album Time Without Consequence by Alexi Murdoch. Listen to 'All of My Days' and 'Love You More Than Anyone', oh yes and 'Song for You'.  This album was recently recommended to me by Natasha.  I love it when 'the girls' introduce me to music which I would perhaps never hear about, as it certainly broadens my musical horizons.

So whilst I am listening to  'Love You More Than Anyone' I will organise my ingredients.


75g fresh ginger
3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
3 lemons
1 litre of soda water
fresh mint


Remove the skin 

from the ginger


using a large holed grater,
grate the ginger.

Place the ginger in a large bowl

and add

 the brown sugar

to the bowl
and stir together.

Using a knife, carefully
remove the skin from 3 lemons,
taking care not to peel away any of the pith.
I use a small knife for this but
if you prefer you can use a vegetable peeler.

Add the lemon peel to the
sugar and ginger
and mash together.
(In Phyllis' book this is described as bruising.)

Juice the 3 lemons


add the lemon juice to the bowl.
 and leave the ingredients to
steep for 1 hour.

If you have friends visiting, or perhaps you
are particularly thirsty and you are going
to drink all of the ginger beer in one 
it is time to choose your jug.

Using a sieve,

strain the liquid

add the soda water
and stir.

Ladle the ginger beer into 
your chosen jug.

Pop  a couple of 
 sprigs of mint 
into the jug,
and you are ready 
to enjoy
a cool drink of ginger beer.

if like us, you cannot drink 
1 litre of ginger beer,
in one afternoon,
when you reach the part where
the ginger and lemon is strained,
instead of adding the soda water,
place the strained liquid into a bottle
and place in the fridge.

When you are ready,
place some ice cubes in a glass,
then add as much or as little of the
ginger, sugar and lemon liquid from the bottle,
and top up with soda water,
add a slice of lemon
and a sprig of mint
you have a refreshing drink to enjoy.

I refrigerate the remainder.

This is my glass of ginger beer


this is George's.
Same drink, but different 
ways of enjoying 
Ginger Beer.

Now, the flavour all depends on the quality of the lemons and ginger.  When I made this ginger beer in Cyprus, I used only 2 lemons, but here in England I find I need 3.  The same applies to the ginger.  Try this recipe and tweek it to work for you.

.... and before I go, I thought I would tell you, that not only were we impressed with Jamie's food, but we were also impressed with his bathroom, so much so, that just for a bit of fun, Natasha and I took a photograph of ourselves,

 does this constitute a 'selfie', I'm not sure.

Take care and I will see you on Sunday.

This week I will be joining,


Saturday 21 June 2014


Good Evening to you,

Advice is often given about the do's and the don'ts of blogging.  One of the pieces of advice which I have read, is to post regularly on the days which one is expected to post.

As you will have noticed, I have been sadly lacking in that department just lately.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have had highs and lows and since I spoke to you last, one of the lows was receiving an evening phone call from my mother, Phyllis, telling me that she had slipped and fallen whilst shopping in her local supermarket. She had been taken by ambulance to the hospital, where it was discovered that she had broken her finger.

Now I think you will know by now, that Phyllis, at the age of 83 years is a very independent lady, but I was later to discover that the fall had really shaken her. 

When she rang she told me about the accident, and that I was not to worry as she was alright, but her voice told me another story. So after discussion with my sister, George and I drove down the M1 to stay with Phyllis.  

Danielle arrived at Phyllis' house early the following morning and spent the day helping her, because as you can imagine, trying to do simple tasks with a broken finger is no easy feat and Danielle knew Phyllis would be trying to carry on as normal. We arrived late in the evening, the day after the accident, to be greeted by a very subdued Phyllis. I took one look at her finger and knew we had to re-visit the hospital.  I had expected to find her finger to be swollen, but I noticed  she had a ring on her broken finger, which was making the problem worse and I felt it really needed to be removed. Phyllis wears two rings, her wedding ring and a ring which her brother, my Uncle Tom, bought for her many years ago and which she treasures.  Apparently the para medics had asked if they could remove the ring, but Phyllis, in a state of shock, would not allow it, but it was a decision which had to be made. She kept saying her finger would be alright, but I knew it would not be alright.  So I persuaded her to visit the Fracture Clinic with me the following day so a doctor could take a look at her finger and make the decision as to whether or not the ring needed to be removed.  I am so pleased I did, because the doctor agreed, the ring certainly had to be removed. 

I think, for me, it was the shock.  Phyllis does not take any medication, she is as fit as a fiddle, so when something like this happens, it reminds me of her fragility.  I spoke to her today and you will never guess what she told me she had been doing... she had only removed the sheets from her bed, washed them, hung them out to dry and remade her bed.... yes with a broken finger.  I asked why she did not wait until my brother popped over to see her and she told me, "There is no point in moping around, you have to get on with things and anyway the doctor told me to keep my finger moving"  I said I'm sure the doctor did, but not to that extreme..... but that is Phyllis for you..... independent to the end.

So the upshot is, the ring has been removed and Phyllis is on the mend, albeit slowly.

So we are getting back to normal, but I am in constant touch with Phyllis to make sure she is alright...... and just in case you are wondering why I did not bring her back to stay with me, when I asked, she said it was a kind offer, but she wanted to stay and mend in her own home..... yes I can fully understand that.

Now I have told you about one of the lows, so now I will tell you about one of the highs.  The time finally arrived for us to go to the Dolly Parton concert and I have to tell you she was marvellous. We had the most fabulous evening and when Dolly walked on to the stage the audience erupted with applause.... and what a talented lady she is. Did you know Dolly can play nine instruments, we counted each of the nine instruments she played during the evenings performance..... we were amazed.

I asked Natasha and Danielle what their favourite Dolly song was and Natasha said, in terms of audience, on the night experience, 'Islands in the Stream'.  Danielle said that her favourite was definitely '9 to 5' and mine was 'I Will Always Love You'.  I know Whitney Houston sang a wonderful version, but there is something about Dolly's version which I love.

Natasha said she is looking forward to being 68 years, to be able to play 9 instruments (she plays 2 at the moment) and have the ability to sing as well as Dolly, whilst wearing a tight fitting corset.

All in all we had a wonderful evening, Dolly was amazing, with a wonderful sense of humour and I love her giggle.  It is a concert which we will never forget and it was all the more special because I went with Natasha and Danielle.

So it only seems fitting that today I am listening to,

Dolly's new album, Blue Smoke and I love it. Listen to 'Home,' 'Lay Your Hands on Me'.... yes it really is the Bon Jovi song and if that surprises you listen to 'Don't Think Twice' yes, you've guessed it, the Bob Dylan song. I love the whole album.... I have to tell you I do love country music and a few years ago Natasha and I were in Nashville.  At that time we went to hear Roberta Flack sing.... but that is a whole other story.

So whilst I am listening to 'Home' it's on with the pinnie and today we are making,

Baba Ghanoush.  This delicious Middle Eastern dish is made with aubergines and it is very popular in this household.

There are not many ingredients, but this dish is made in two stages, so without further ado, here are the list of ingredients.


3 large aubergines
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 tablespoons of tahini
1 teaspoon of salt flakes
or sea salt
2-3 lemons
1 tablespoon of olive oil
plus a little extra to oil the baking sheet

Pre-heat the oven to 200C


Wash the aubergines


using a fork, prick the aubergines
so that the aubergines do not burst open
when cooking.

Place the aubergines on an oiled baking sheet
and bake for 1 hour
until the aubergines are cooked.
This took an hour in my oven, but it depends
on the size of your aubergines,
so it might take a little more time
or a little less.

When cooked, remove from the oven
and allow to cool.


peel 2 cloves of garlic

using 1 teaspoon of  salt flakes,

crush the garlic
and set aside for the moment.

When the aubergines have cooled
slice in half and remove
the flesh.

Place a sieve, over a bowl
and using a fork, mash the aubergines
to remove any bitter juices.
Leave to stand for 10 minutes
you will find even more juice
will drain into the bowl.

This is the amount of liquid which
drained through the sieve.

Place the mashed aubergines in a
clean bowl

add the tahini,

the lemon juice,

the garlic
and stir well to combine
all the ingredients.

Taste and if needed add a little more
lemon juice and salt.

Place in a bowl
and drizzle over some olive oil
and decorate with either coriander
or flat leaf parsley.

as part of a meze.
with pitta bread
 if you prefer,
 some crackers.

I have to mention, that the best way to cook the aubergines, is over a bar-b-que, because if the skins are blackened,  when the skins are removed, the Baba Ghanoush will have a smokey flavour.  We do not have a bar-b-que so I always bake the aubergines in the oven.  

It is difficult to give exact cooking times for the aubergines, because as I mentioned before, it is dependent on the size of the aubergines.  The same applies to the lemons, you may need the juice of 2 lemons, or you may need the juice of 3 lemons.  It depends on how much lemon juice each lemon yields. Do the taste test and if you think more lemon juice and salt is needed, feel free to add more.

Before I go, I wanted to mention that I will be catching up with everyone this week.  I am looking forward to finding out what you have all been up to.

Take care and I will definitely see you on Wednesday.

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