Thursday, 31 March 2016


Good Evening to you,

Oh my goodness, I am so behind with things at the moment. Consequently, I am writing to you in the evening, rather than the morning, which is my normal routine.

We have enjoyed a lovely Easter weekend and then we went on to celebrate my birthday. 

So all in all, I have had a fabulous week and feel thoroughly spoilt, but it has been a week, which has not included very much cooking.

.... so today, I decided I needed to organise myself and get back to normal.

I started by sorting out my store cupboard, checking dates and taking note of what food I had stored away. I then went on to check the fridge and freezer. 

.... and why this sudden burst of activity. Well, I have to tell you, I do have an ulterior motive. I have seen the most fabulous chair which I would like to buy.  To be able to buy the said chair, I have decided to set myself a challenge. I am going to try and create all our main meals, with the food I already have in the house, using only my store cupboard, fridge and freezer food.  I will own up to buying key essentials like milk, eggs and fresh vegetables, but other than that, I will be making our meals, with food I already have in the house.

Although it isn't the 1st April today, I decided, today would be a good day to start.  So I routed through my fridge and I found a chicken breast, some Feta cheese and quite a few sun dried tomatoes.

I then checked my store cupboard and found some preserved lemons, a couple of shallots and a half a packet of pearl barley mix.

On my windowsill sat a pot of flat leafed parsley, which was growing very well.

So what to make. I made a cup of coffee and had a think.... don't you find it easier to think when you have a cup of coffee in your hand.

.... and then I had it. I knew exactly what I would make. I would use the ingredients to make a,

Pearl Barley, Chicken and Feta Stack, with the addition of a few other ingredients which I already had.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to, is someone who is new to me. Having heard one of his songs, which I really loved, Natasha bought me the album for my birthday.

The album 'Bitter Pill' by Gavin Jones is lovely.  I confess I know very little about Gavin, only that he is an Irish singer/songwriter, so I will have to do some research and learn a little more about him.

So while I listen to The Book of Love I will organise my ingredients.  


Serves 4
You will need 4 ring moulds to make 
the stacks

200g pearl barley mix, which includes
red lentils and dried peas
if you prefer
200g of pearl barley
1 preserved lemon
1 chicken breast
100g Feta cheese
1 shallot
2 tablespoons of yoghurt
8 sun dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon to brush the moulds
handful of flat leaf parsley
sea salt
black pepper


Place the pearl barley mix into a bowl
cover with cold water.
Allow to soak for 4 hours.

Drain the pearl barley mix
and place
in a large saucepan.
Cover with cold water.

Remove the flesh from the 
preserved lemon.
Cut the preserved lemon rind into small pieces
and add to the pan.

Finely chop the
add to the pan.

Bring the contents to the boil 
and rapidly boil for 10 minutes.
Reduce the heat and
simmer until the pearl barley is tender.

When cooked,
spoon into a large bowl.

Drizzle with olive oil
(I used the olive oil from the sun dried tomatoes)
and then
toss everything together.

Season with
sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper.
(Not too much as the feta cheese and preserved
lemon are salty)
Set aside for the moment.

Cut the chicken breast
into small pieces 
and set aside for the moment.

Using a fork, mash together
the feta cheese and the yoghurt.
Set aside for the moment.

Using scissors,
snip the sun dried tomatoes
into small pieces.

snip the flat leaf parsley
into small pieces.
Add to the bowl

Using the remaining olive oil
brush around the sides
of the ring moulds.

Start by layering
some of the pearl barley mix
into the base of the mould.

Then layer a quarter
of the
chicken on top of the pearl barley.

Layer a quarter of the
sun dried tomatoes on top of the chicken.

Then a quarter of the
feta and yoghurt.

top with another layer of
pearl barley mix.

Using the presser
which comes with the ring moulds.
Gently press down.

Leave to stand for a couple of minutes.
gently lift the ring mould
and the stack will release
itself from the mould.

you have a really lovely lunch,
packed full of flavour.

So all there is left for you to do

I decided to weigh the ingredients to give you an idea of the amounts I used, but I have to say, this stack really is something, I make, without worrying about amounts, because as long as you have enough ingredients and they marry together, then you can make your very own stack with the ingredients you love.

Of course, you can pop everything into a large bowl and mix the ingredients together, but what I discovered, using these moulds, was that, I could decide the amount which went into each stack and I discovered the flavour was much better and I have to say, with very little effort the stacks look very impressive.

Just before I go, I wanted to say thank you so much for giving me advice on how to tackle my bundt cake issue. It was so very kind of you to share your experience with me. I feel a lot better, now that I know, that even experienced bakers who use buntd tins can get caught out every now and again.

I promise I will reply to your comments over the weekend, but what with the Easter celebrations and my birthday I really have not had the time.  But we are back to normal now, so I will be able to catch up with you.

As always,

Thursday, 24 March 2016


Good Morning to you,

I really do love writing this blog.

.... and I can honestly say, I love sharing my day to day recipes with you. Spending time in my kitchen, is not an effort for me, it is something I really enjoy.

.... and one of the things I do enjoy, is baking cakes. I'm not saying I'm a fabulous baker, but I think it would be fair to say that my cakes usually turn out pretty well.

So I was really looking forward to making a chocolate cake for this Easter weekend. I had decided to make George,

a Chocolate Marble Cake, using my,

brand new buntd tin. Did you happen to notice that I said, I was making this cake for George? Who am I kidding, you know how much I love chocolate. You won't be surprised to hear that I will allow the odd piece of chocolate cake to pass my lips this weekend.

.... but before I could do that, I needed to organise myself. I started gathering my ingredients, I had everything weighed out and ready to go.  I just needed to butter my buntd tin. I remembered reading somewhere, that it was so important, when using a buntd tin to butter it well, and when you thought you had buttered it enough, butter it some more.... and as you can see from the photograph, I did exactly that. 

When the ingredients were mixed together, I divided the cake mixture in half, then added chocolate to one half of the cake mixture.  I then spooned the mixture into the pre-buttered buntd tin, alternating between the chocolate mixture and the plain. I ran a spoon through the mixture to create the marbled effect I was after. I placed the cake in the pre-heated oven and baked it for the correct amount of time.  I  then allowed the cake to cool a little, before I was ready to turn it out of the buntd tin. When the time arrived, the cake had other ideas, instead of it releasing itself from the buntd tin, the cake stayed where it was,  it held firm.  I was not phased, I thought to myself, I just need to give it a little more encouragement, so I tried using a rounded knife, hoping this would help the cake to release itself. I then turned the buntd tin upside down and I waited patiently,

.... there was no movement, the cake held firm, it was going no where.

I reached for a wooden spoon and gently tapped the base of the cake.

I tried again. I turned the buntd tin upside down.

Can you believe it, the cake would not budge. My beautifully baked cake had decided, rather than being released, it preferred the confines of the buntd tin, it was happy to stay where it was.

.... but I had other ideas. By hook or by crook, this cake was going to be parted from its tin and take its rightful place, on my cooling rack, ready to be photographed.

I gently shook the cake. I gently banged the cake on the work surface... notice I say gently on both counts. 

But neither worked.  I was still no nearer to releasing the cake from its tin.

So I found myself another knife, and yet again, very gently, began coaxing the cake away from its tin. I was quietly confident.  

I took a deep breath and turned the cake upside down once again.  Ooh, there was movement,

.... and then I gasped. I say a gasp, I think it would be fairer to say it was more of a loud groan.

Look what appeared before me.... a mish mash of a cake. Half of the cake had decided to come out of the tin, whilst the other half, decided to stay put, inside the tin.... the cake was a mess. There was no beautifully rippled cake for me to present to you.

I was so disappointed.  I had been looking forward to using my buntd tin for so long and I was expecting to produce a beautifully shaped cake.... instead I got this mess.

George was listening to the world news in the den when he heard my groan.... yes it was that loud. He walked into the kitchen to see what I was doing. He looked at the cake, he then picked up a piece, and said "now that's really nice" and walked away.  I watched him walk away. Had he not noticed something a little odd about the cake, in actual fact, had he not noticed the cake was a mess. Between you and I, I can't help but feel he had decided not to comment on the cake, thinking it was better that he walked away, rather than stay and listen to me lament about the state of my cake. 

I was so disappointed, I had taken all my step by step photographs, which believe it or not, do take such a long time, and after all that effort, I didn't have a beautiful end result to share with you.

So I made myself a cup of coffee and sat down, feeling pretty miserable with myself.

George was trying to be kind, but whatever he said, didn't really help.

.... and then he looked up and said.... as only George could.... 'It does look a bit rubbish doesn't it'. I looked at George, he looked at me and I saw the twinkle in his eye and we both burst out laughing.

Yes, I admit it, the cake was a bit rubbish, but in my defence, it tasted lovely.  So I decided to wrap the cake in tin foil and put it away for the moment, then start all over again and bake another cake, this time using a standard cake tin.  I buttered the cake tin, I lined the cake tin with parchment paper, feeling very confident this time, that once baked, I would be able to remove the cake from its tin, very easily.

.... and I am pleased to tell you, that once baked, the chocolate marble cake, behaved itself, as all cakes should, and released itself,  from the cake tin, without any fuss. 

Once the cake had cooled, I used a pastry cutter to remove the centre of the cake, so that I could fill it with little Easter chocolates, which is what I wanted to do with the bundt cake. 

So all in all, everything turned out well in the end.  I am pleased with my cake, second time around, but I have decided I will not share the recipe with you just yet, because although the cake is lovely, it did not work out as it should have.  So I feel it would be wrong to share this recipe with you.

What I want to do, is bake this Chocolate Marble Cake in my buntd tin and present it to you, complete, recipe and all.

So please, do you have any advice to help me.  Is it just that I did not butter the buntd tin enough.... although I have to say I buttered it much more than I normally would.

On reflection, I was so disappointed that the cake had not turned out as I had expected it to, but once I had thought about it, I realised,  whilst I am proud to show you my triumphs, I also want to share with you my failures..... after all, life isn't perfect is it and the same can be said about my baking and I for one, can live with that.

.... oh well, there's nothing more to do, I suppose, I will just have to force myself,

to enjoy the odd piece of salvaged cake and I promise to leave the Easter eggs for the children. Come to think of it, I do have a packet secreted away in the biscuit tin.... well you just never know when the fancy will take hold.

Have a Happy Easter and I will see you next Thursday.

As Always,

Thursday, 17 March 2016


Good Morning to you,

Now don't laugh.

I'm going to tell you what I recently treated myself to.

It wasn't a nice new handbag or a nice pair of shoes.... although either would have been lovely. 

No, I have become the owner of a new, large magnifying glass.

I bet that surprised you. Of all the things I could have said I had bought, I feel sure you didn't expect me to say I had bought myself a magnifying glass.

.... and why have I bought myself a magnifying glass?

Am I having problems with my eyes?

No, my eyesight is fine.

Do my reading glasses need renewing?

No, I can honestly say, I can read the words of my current book, 'Writing Home' by Alan Bennett, that is, as long as I can lay my hands on my reading glasses, you know how terrible I am for mislaying them.

....and the reason I bought a magnifying glass.... is so I can read the small print, which seems to be included in so many letters and contracts which we receive nowadays. Is it me or is the writing in these letters getting smaller?

It started a few months ago, when I was reading our new television contract. I managed to read the main part of the letter without a hitch, but I hit a problem when it came to reading the small print.... I could not read it, as the print was so small.  So I did what many of us do.... I put the letter at arms length.... I'm not sure why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.... and I feel sure, you won't be surprised to learn, that it didn't work, I still could not read the small print. I moved the letter closer, nope that did not work either, so what to do. I looked up and there on the table, were George's glasses, so I picked them up and placed them over the top of my reading glasses.  There I was, sat in the armchair, with one pair of glasses balanced precariously on top of another.... luckily, there was no one around to see me, as I did look a little eccentric, with two pairs of glasses balanced on my head... but it worked, I managed to read the small print, although I realised it wouldn't be wise to do that again, so I hit on the idea of buying a magnifying glass.... that would do the trick, yes, the problem would be solved when I bought myself a magnifying glass. 

When I finished reading the letter, I removed both pairs of glasses, and made myself a cup of tea. While waiting for the kettle to whistle, the idea of buying a magnifying glass seemed to click with something in my brain, as it brought to mind, someone, I had not thought about in over 35 years. A grand, elderly lady, called Rose. The thought of Rose just flooded my mind. She was such a wonderfully eccentric, English lady, who even in her 90's, still loved to wear her lipstick, blusher and eyeshadow, although not applied with a steady hand, it was part of who Rose was.... she was a fiercely independent lady.... and I loved her feistyness.

Rose loved it when we visited her and always made us so welcome, but, there were a couple of conditions attached to our visit. Firstly, we were always expected to arrive with a King Edward's cigar tucked inside George's jacket pocket and the second condition, we bought Rose, The Telegraph newspaper. The King Edward's cigar, believe it or not, was not for Rose's husband, who had passed away, many years before, but for Rose herself.  She loved to smoke cigars and King Edwards were her favourites.

When we handed over the gifts to Rose, she would always thank us. She would then, almost ceremoniously, open The Telegraph, and lay it on the settee. She would then open a drawer and remove a large magnifying glass, which she would lay beside the newspaper.  She would then ask George to light the King Edward's cigar for her. When lit, Rose would take a few puffs and smile, I think it would be fair to say, she was 'in heaven'. Then while I was making the tea, she would puff away on her cigar, thoroughly enjoying reading the second page of the newspaper. Why the second page, I have no idea and I never liked to ask, but what I did know was that the rest of the pages would be enjoyed when we returned home. 

Now I know, I'm not 90, but if it works for Rose, it works for me.... but where to buy a magnifying glass. I really could not think.  So the magnifying glass was forgotten for sometime.  That is, until I went to TK Max.... and there, lying on a shelf was a magnifying glass.... actually you probably spotted it here on my book. I was amazed to find, when I needed a magnifying glass, I found one.  I can honestly say, I have never seen one in a shop, although to be fair, I have never looked for one. 

So, my magnifying glass, is living in the same place as Rose's, it is tucked away in my drawer, ready to be used whenever I receive letters with small print.... and do you know what the added bonus is, each time I use my magnifying glass, I will always think of Rose.

Now whether or not, what I am making today would be Roses cup of tea, I cannot say, but it is certainly mine. Today we are making,

nothing too complicated, just simple food, this healthy brown rice with green lentils. It is the perfect comfort food, without too much fuss and bother.

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

the wonderful Emilia Mitiku singing Your Not Right For Me. I love Emilia's voice, it reminds me of a combination of Dolly Parton and Madeleine Peyroux's voices.... just gorgeous.

So while I gather my ingredients I am enjoying, Ooh La La both records are from Emilia's album ' I Belong To You'.


Serves a hungry 4
a not so hungry 6

3 large onions
6 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
265g ready cooked tinned green lentils
125g uncooked long grain brown rice
125g (1/2 bag) of baby spinach leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt plus more for seasoning
freshly ground black pepper


Finely slice the onions.

Place the olive oil in a wide pan
add the sliced onions.
Using a low heat,
cook the onions until  they are golden in colour
and slightly caramilized.
This took about 40 minutes.
Slow, but worth it.

Whilst the onions are caramelizing,
cook the rice as per the manufacturers instructions.
I use a rice cooker, so my timings
are different.
When the rice is cooked, 
set aside.

Remove the outer papery
layer from the garlic

crush the garlic
with 1 teaspoon of sea salt

Set aside for the moment.

When the onions are slightly
caramelized add 
the garlic to the pan
and cook for a minute or so.

Rinse the green lentils
with water
add to the pan containing
the caramelized onions.

Add the cooked rice
and still using a low heat,
stir the ingredients together.

Rinse the spinach leaves
and add to the pan.
Place a lid on the pan
to allow the spinach leaves to wilt.

Season with sea salt

freshly ground black pepper.

Then as always,

all there is left to do,

Now, just before I go, I wanted to mention, it seems I have used a lot of olive oil to cook the onions, but you will find, once sliced, there are a lot of sliced onions to cook. You will also notice that once the onions are cooked they reduce significantly. The other thing I wanted to say, was be patient, as it does take a while to cook the onions, but honestly it is worth the effort.   

Also another tip, when you add the spinach, don't leave it too long on the heat as you don't want the rice to catch and burn.  Once the lid is on the pan the heat builds up quickly and the spinach takes only a few minutes to wilt.

.... and finally, I find using a wide pan works well when making this dish... but that is just my personal preference.

Next week, as it will be Easter weekend, I am going to be making a lovely chocolate cake.... you know how much I love chocolate, I can't wait to start measuring the ingredients.

So take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining, 


As always,

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