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Heart and Soul Warmer for 2-3 people

February 8th, 2014 by Penny


While the wind and rain batters us to bits, here’s my version of this timeless classic. There is nothing quite like taking a pot of this from the oven to the table, opening the lid and feeling the hit of herby, rich savoury steam fill the room. A good green salad with plenty of dressing and perhaps some crusty bread if you’re making it go along way, is all you need to accompany this.

You need a deepish, cast-iron enamelled (or similar) casserole dish with lid for this. I bring it to the boil on the top of the Aga first and then bake for 1/2hr at about 160 to get it really hot. Then transfer to simmering oven for a few hours at least.

3 slices belly pork (include any bones, fat and rind for flavour), cut into 5 cm pieces

3 garlicky pork sausages (you can use ordinary sausages if necessary with 2 extra cloves of garlic in the cooking pan)

3 x duck/chicken legs (optional)

Roast the duck or chicken legs ‘til browned, and set aside.

In a large frying pan, fry the belly pork ‘til browned, and set aside.

Fry the sausages ‘til browned, cut them into 5 cm pieces and set aside.

I large onion

2 cloves garlic

Tomato puree

1 tin of tomatoes

1 chicken stock cube

Red wine

Black pepper


Fry a large chopped onion in some oil until browned. Add 2 chopped cloves of garlic, a good squirt of tomato puree, a tin of chopped tomatoes, a chicken stock cube, a good glug of red wine, plenty of black pepper and enough water to keep it a thickish sauce.

Put all the meats into this lovely sauce and simmer for 10/15 mins until nicely rich and gooey. Add a little water from time to time to keep it from going too thick and sticking to the pan. Set aside.

2/3 tins cannellini beans

Half a loaf of white bread (not too fresh is easiest)

Thyme, bay and parsley

Open 2 tins of cannellini beans and rinse. You may need another tin if you want it beany.

Take half a loaf of white bread, broken into small pieces and whizz in a grinder to coarse breadcrumbs.

In your casserole put a layer of meat and tomato in the bottom. Then a layer of beans and repeat until it’s all used up. Add some water if you think it needs it.

Make a bundle of 2 thyme sprigs, a bay leaf and some parsley by winding some cotton around them (just leave the end loose… it wont’ unwind itself too much). Shove this in the centre of the pot.

Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of this and put the lid on.

Cook as above. Many recipes don’t use the breadcrumbs, they wait for the beans to go crusty instead and stir them in at least twice through extra long cooking time. And yes this is delicious!! However if you want to get on with other things and not have to worry about all that, the breadcrumb crust works excellently. It should absorb some of the cooking liquid and become crusty with gooey bits around the edge. Truly delicious!!

Getting back on track

January 12th, 2014 by Penny

Well, moving into the new year it’s time to look forward again. After the business of The Christmas Season ……. so much to do and no time to reflect…… we have probably excused ourselves from our responsibility to ourselves! And now we are wanting…… Perhaps we have even fallen into the ‘poor me’ trap again and got stuck. “I did all the work and no-one even thanked me” or “I’ve been so busy looking after everyone else’s needs I’ve not had time for my own”. So now it’s time to pick up the thread. Actually most things take two and if we do blame another person or people for our downfall, they usually can take some of the blame!!! So go ahead and wallow a bit in your self pity. You deserve it. But use this to lever yourself out and upwards not to further glue yourself to the bottom.

It’s time to get a goal. Just a little one that’ll contribute in some way to your longer term stuff. If you feel there’s some kind of blockage just ask what’s getting in the way. Perhaps your’e run down, tired, bored. Tackle the obstacle. What could you do to pep yourself up, stimulate the brain cells and/or fitness levels. Make yourself a list of things and pick something. It could be that you just need a rest!

It could also be that since the last time you looked…..things have changed ….you’ve changed…and you need to look at things differently. Make a completely new plan with different options and ways forward.

I’ve just looked up my marmalade recipe. Lots of small goals are what I need at the moment and making marmalade seems appealing. I saw loads of Seville oranges in the shops the other day and the thought of that rich citrusy smell wafting about the house lifts my spirits.

From ‘Delicious Home Cooking’ by Caroline Conran

1.5 kg of Seville oranges

2 kg lump or granulated sugar

Wash the oranges and cut in half crossways. Put them into a pan with 1.8 litres of water. Simmer, covered for 2 hours, bringing the water back to its original level as it boils away. Leave to soak for at least 24 hours. Bring back to the boil and boil for 1 hour. Then leave to cool.

Remove the orange halves and take out all the pips and pulp, putting them back into the liquid in the pan. Give the liquid and pips one last boil and then sieve, working the pips against the sieve with a wooden spoon to get out all the pulp and pectin. Warm the sugar, slice the orange halves thinly and cut the slices across into shortish lengths.

Add the sliced peel to the liquid and heat. Tip in the sugar and stir over a low heat and boil until setting point is reached ,105C (220F).

Skim of any scum, leave to cool a little and pour into clean heated jars. Cover with plastic lined lids (or use selophane discs). Yum!!!

Fantastic chocolate cup cakes

September 25th, 2012 by admin

I made these with the help of two friends. One keen ten year old boy and one elderly, experienced lady cook. They came out so perfectly I want to share them!


- 6 ounces of softened, unsalted butter.

(Tom was fine with this no worries about grams etc!). You can soften butter quite quickly by putting it into luke-warm water for ten minutes.

- 6 ounces of caster cane sugar. Avoid using beet sugar – loads of pesticides apparently.

- Free range eggs:

Tom suggested 3 eggs. Mary insisted it’s best to weigh the eggs to around 6 ounces because sometimes 3 is either not enough or too much according to the size and that this CAN really make a difference. We agreed with her and used 2 huge home laid eggs!

- 1 teaspoon of natural, good quality vanilla essence. Take a good smell of the mixture after you’ve beaten it in. Yum!

- 6 ounces of good quality self-raising flour.

We are lucky enough to have a local mill that sources all it’s wheat from local farms and has been supplying craft bakers throughout the UK for years! So the quality is assured. It really does make a difference to the finished product whatever anyone says.

- 2 ounces of Bournville cocoa.

This may seem a lot but we all agreed it’s the thing that makes the difference between a proper tasting and smelling chocolate cake and a mediocre product – which we don’t want!



In a good round-based mixing bowl, sat on a tea-towel to stop it sliding about, take a smallish wooden spoon and mash the butter into the sugar. Once combined  use the broad side of the spoon to beat air into the mixture, until it’s light and fluffy.

Then, one by one, add the eggs. Beat these in too until really light and fluffy.

Then beat mix in the vanilla. (smell this – Mmmm.)

Then sieve in the flour and cocoa together, folding it into the mixture gently and carefully to keep all the air you’ve beaten in, in! You may add a little milk if necessary to reach dropping consistency (when the mixture drops off the spoon without a shake).

Cover a baking tray with paper cake cases (cup cake, muffin, fairy – whatever you like) . Leave a little room between these to allow them to spread abit. If you put these in patty tins you will have neater, less fulsome-looking cakes. Your choice.

Fill the cases 2/3rds full.

Bake for 15 minutes or so in the baking oven of a four door Aga or at around 350/375 degrees or equivalent in a conventional oven.

When they are just cooked: they should be risen and just firm and springy to the touch, ….. remove and cool. Then ice them.


Melt 2 to 3 ounces of butter in a pan very gently. Add a heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder, a tablespoon of water and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Mix well to get rid of any lumps of cocoa powder.

Put some icing sugar into a mixing bowl and mix in the chocolate mixture. Add icing sugar and teaspoons of warm water,  a little at a time. Beat well until you have as much icing as you need.

Spread this icing carefully over each cooled cake, avoiding getting it on the paper cases but covering every bit of cake. Apart from anything this helps keep the cakes moist and delicious.

These cakes keep for a few days…. if you can stop people eating them!

Summer celebrations

July 1st, 2011 by Penny

Having celebrated this summer’s solstice down by the river Thames last Sunday evening with friends, summery poems and readings, sparkling wines and a good number of delightful nibbles (the food-fest part of our midsummer revels gets increasingly various as the years go by!), I can confirm Summer is truly here!

Sweet-peas are blooming in abundance and lavender spikes are as fat as I’ve ever seen. It’s also been the best for roses in my garden: hundreds of gorgeous blooms hanging heavy on bended boughs, intoxicating scents, rich reds and pinks, yellows and whites. I’ve even got one called Penny Lane (my maiden name!), which died in the hard winter but has started to grow again (how symbolic!). Hollyhocks are beginning to bloom and purple-red poppies are just forming their seed pods. And…..it’s time for a party!

Here is the most amazing recipe for Cold Curried (Coronation) Chicken:

Cold Curried (Coronation) Chicken

  • Serves 8-10 (so can be doubled or tripled as I have just done for a party)
  • 2x 1.5 kg fresh free-range chicken, with giblets
  • ground black pepper and lemon juice or/and salt
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 carrot
  • handful of herbs
  • chicken stock cube (organic, free range)
  • 1 lb rice (basmati, long grain, short grain, white or brown- whatever you like best)


  • 4 tblspns oil
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 tblspns good quality curry powder
  • 300mls white wine (fragrant/fruity rather than too dry)
  • 150 ml stock
  • 1 X 411g can apricots strained
  • 600 ml mayonnaise
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 150 ml whipping cream, whipped


  • 100g flaked almonds, toasted
  • Fresh coriander


Rinse and wipe the chooks then put them in a roasting tin half filled with water, stock cube, carrot, celery and handful of herbs, sprinkle liberally with pepper and a squirt of lemon juice/salt. Cover the whole tin in foil. Bring to the boil on the top of the cooker then roast/boil in the oven (200+ degrees) for an hour or so.

Cool the chicken in the liquid. Lift out and remove the meat from the bones, taking care to keep some good-sized bits intact. Reserve 150 ml of the stock (it’ll be jellied when cool) for the sauce and use the rest (top up with water if necessary) to cook the rice in. Then let the rice cool.

To make the sauce, heat the oil and fry the onion until transparent and softened, not brown. Add the curry powder (mmm – fab. smell!) and cook for 2 minutes, stirring all the time (don’t risk it sticking/burning at all – it’ll ruin the taste).

Add the wine, stock and season to taste. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, then blend or process until smooth. Strain and cool.

Puree 8/9 of the apricot halves and stir into the sauce.

Stir in the mayonnaise. Add the lemon juice. Fold in the whipped cream and then the chicken meat. Put this gorgeous mixture onto a bed of rice and sprinkle with the toasted almonds (you can mix these into the mixture if you prefer) and sprigs of fresh coriander. Chill in the fridge but make sure it’s not too cold when you serve it. It needs to be just cooler than room temperature (not more than 18 degrees) to allow all the flavours to come alive in the mouth. Enjoy.

Chorizo and Bean Stew

February 17th, 2011 by admin

Something spicy for at least 2 greedy people and some left over!

  • I Chorizo sausage, chopped into 2cm chunks (can be diagonal if you feel like it)
  • 4 pork spare ribs, roasted in hot oven with salt and pepper until cooked (20 mins or longer as necessary),
  • 2 tins cannellini beans, opened (!)
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped
  • 1 tin of tomatoes, opened (!)
  • 4 fresh tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and quartered
  • 2 tbspns tomato puree
  • 2 glasses of basic red wine
  • 1 bunch of thyme, parsley and bay, tied together with some cotton.
  • Large handful of fresh white breadcrumbs OR use one or two pitta bread (white or brown, torn into small bits) if that’s all you’ve got and just whizz in a grinder/chopper.


The idea is to layer beans and meaty, onion/tomato mixture in an earthenware or cast iron pot: 3 layers of beans and two of mixture, ending in beans with a breadcrumb top.

So – in a big/deep pan, fry the onions until soft in some olive oil. Add the chorizo and fry ‘til the red (paprika) juices flow. Add the garlic, tomatoes and red wine. Simmer,  until reduced. This intensifies the flavours. Remove from the heat.

Put one third of the beans in the cooking pot. Then place two ribs and half the chorizo mixture on top, then more beans, then the other two ribs and the rest of the chorizo mixture, finishing with the last of the beans.

Push the bunch of herbs into the middle of the mixture, leaving the stalks just sticking out for removal, later. Add boiling water (with an organic chicken stock cube if you want extra flavour/salt) to just under the top of the mixture.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top. Put the lid on the pot and bring to the boil on the top of the oven. Then place in a simmering oven (300F ‘ish) for at least 1½ hours. It should come out thickened and smelling wonderful with the crumb top having absorbed some juices and gone brown and a bit crispy. If it isn’t, take the lid off and cook a little longer in a hotter oven, just to finish it off – but take care there are still enough of the juices in the stew to keep it moist.

This stew can be left in a low oven for a good few hours (the crust just gets crispier) or can be made the day before and re-heated. Absolutely delicious with loads of dressed, green salad and a good strong bread to mop up the juices.

Clearly can also feed more than two people!

Autumn Flapjacks

November 25th, 2010 by Penny

A nice recipe to warm the cockles!

I love flapjacks. You can make them really thick and fat and gooey, or thin and crispy. You can add different bits to make them extra soft or crunchy. Here is my version for this time of year. They taste like crunchy, nutty, toffee apples. Yum!

  • 125g Lurpack unsalted spreadable butter
  • 120 ml clear honey
  • 50g dark brown muscovado, soft sugar
  • 25og whole oats (or rolled will do)

A good handful of roasted and crushed hazlenuts

1 grated apple with skin

Slowly melt the butter with the honey and sugar in a largish pan. When it begins to bubble, take it off the heat. Stir in the oats nuts and apple (grate this straight into the mixture).

Scrape this into a buttered, shallow rectangular tin (18 x 28 cm roughly) and smooth it over with a flat knife (wet this first if the mixture insists on sticking to it). If you want thinner ‘biscuitier’ flapjacks, use a slightly bigger tin.

Bake in a warm oven (180 degrees C), gas mark 4 for around 30 mins. Check at 20 mins. It needs to look well browned but can be browner around the edges if you want it to be crunchier. Carrying cooking according to how you want them – or not.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes. First run a knife around the edges then cut into fingers or squares (your preference). Cool completely before removing from the tin. You can eat them before this of course!

Viking Pastry – message for KR (she knows who she is!)

October 21st, 2010 by Penny

This is a quick reference to my recent post on Steak and Ale Pie. I am reliably informed that a squeeze of lemon to the cold water added to the pastry to bind it, makes all the difference. It’s also good in hot water with a slice or tot (whisky etc)—excellent creature comfort drink.

The Best Steak and Ale Pie

October 1st, 2010 by Penny

Baking The Best Steak and Ale PieThe Best Steak and Ale PieBaking The Best Steak and Ale PieThe Best Steak and Ale Pie

This is Lizzie enjoying cooking! It’s the first time she’s made shortcrust pastry and , with lots of confidence she perfected the rubbing-in method (with a little coaching and extra tips from me (Penny)!

Here is the recipe:



  • 2 tablespoons beef dripping (fat) or olive oil
  • 1 large white onion roughly chopped
  • 60 grams traditionally farmed or organic braising steak, hung for at least 3 weeks and comprising: skirt, chuck, rump, shin etc and then cubed (about an inch square)
  • 1 tablespoon plain white flour  (more if you like a very thick gravy)
  • 1 tablespoon HP Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • I Organic beef stock cube
  • Black pepper
  • I bottle or can of best brown ale, organic if poss. (beer). Lager will do.


Fry the onion in the dripping or oil ‘til golden and soft. Add the meat and fry ‘til browned all over. Sprinkle in the flour. Add the sauces, pepper and stock cube and stir well. Add the beer ‘til the meat is just covered. Stir well ‘til slightly thickened. If it looks too thick add some more beer.

Cook for at least 2 preferably 3 hours in a slow oven. Adjust seasoning and thickness after cooking depending on how runny you like your gravy and bearing in mind it’s got another 20/30 mins to cook under the pastry -  and liquid evaporates.

Halfway through making the pastry, put the cooked filling into a pie dish to cool a little before putting the pastry on.



  • 250 grams plain white flour, locally produced if poss.
  • Salt to your taste
  • 125 grams unsalted butter at room temperature, not too hard or too runny. The best way to achieve cool but soft butter is by putting it in a jug of water at 28 degrees Celsius for 5/10 mins.
  • 2–3 tablespoons of water

Pastry likes cool conditions best so, even if you’re short of time and feel hot and flustered, just run your hands under a cool tap, tell yourself your doing this because you want to, take a few deep breaths and crack on.

Sieve the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Put the lump of soft but cool butter in the middle, then, simply and lightly using your delicate, cool finger tips only, pick up bits of butter and flour and rub the one into the other. It’s a bit tacky at first but do it little by little. Lift your fingers up out of the bowl each time you rub. As it falls back into the bowl it collects air and makes your pastry deliciously light.

When it’s all finished and resembles the classic ‘breadcrumbs’ look, sprinkle over the water a spoon at a time and use the blade of a round ended butter or dinner knife to cut across the mixture quickly, turning the bowl as you go – like a very slow motion blade in a processor. Gradually, this will persuade the whole lot to stick together. When it feels like it’s just on the edge of doing so, put the knife down and gather it all together into a big ball with your cool fingertips: gently but firmly.

Remove your meat and gravy from the oven to cool a little. Put it into a nice enamel pie dish, with a pie funnel, if you have such a thing, to stop the pastry sinking into the middle of the dish.

If you have time, cool the pastry in the fridge for 30 mins or so. If not don’t worry. If you do and when it’s time to roll it out, remove from the fridge and let it slacken for 10 mins before rolling out.

Roll the pastry out on a floured board or marble. Do not turn it over. Only roll it on one side. Do not ever stretch it. It hates it. Be gentle at all times.

Wet/brush the edges of the pie dish (with meat and gravy already in it) with a mixture of egg and dash of cold water for sticking. Put pastry lid on top, trimming the edges and making the whole thing look pretty (add leaves like Lizzie did or whatever you fancy – plain is good too!).

Cook for 20/30 mins. at 200-220 degrees C. More if the filling is from cold.

‘Cheesley Weesley’ Recipe

September 14th, 2010 by Penny

This is great, quick taste-bud pleaser to keep hungry types going ‘til the next main meal. Serves two plus.


  • Deep pan for frying.
  • Tin lined with kitchen paper.


  1. At least 75 gms strong cheddar or similar, grated.
  2. A thick batter made with 1 egg, 125 gms self-raising flour and 15 mls milk (ish) with salt and pepper and a tspn of Dijon mustard.
  3. Groundnut, olive, sunflower or corn oil.
  4. Parmesan cheese, grated.
  5. Pickle and or tomato ketchup.


Mix the cheese into the batter and add more milk or flour if necessary to produce a good thick dropping batter. Heat the oil ‘til it fries a drop of batter light golden brown. Never let it get so hot it smokes—it’s bad for you and tastes foul. Carefully drop desert-spoon dollops of the mixture into the oil and fry till deliciously crisp but cooked inside. Cook in batches. You will have to turn the cheesely weeselies’ over to get an even cook. You will also have to taste for cooked-ness. Keep them warm on kitchen paper until all the mixture is used up, and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve with pickle or ketchup or whatever you fancy. Yum!!!

Note of warning: Avoid eating too many of these just before a main meal!

Feeling Chocolatey

July 7th, 2010 by Penny

It seems fitting, for my first output from the kitchen table, to offer a recipe for something scrummy, quick and really quite healthy to eat when feeling chocolatey. Children (and adults!) of all ages love it. This actually comes from a friend of mine and was included in a cookbook we made for church restoration fundraising. So here it is:

Chocolate Chewies by Joanna Farrell

  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp. golden syrup
  • 75 g  butter
  • 250 g  oats, whole or rolled
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla essence

Melt the sugar, syrup and butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the oats, cocoa and vanilla. You can add 25 g of walnuts and or 50g of raisins at this stage if everyone likes them! Mix the lot together, very thoroughly until every oat (nut and raisin) is coated in the chocolate mixture. Taste a tiny bit then spread in a buttered 20 cm square cake tin (or similar). Chill in the fridge until firm then cut into squares – your choice how big to make these. Remove from the tin with a flat knife and store in an airtight container.

If you have any recipes that have really contributed to your and your family’s well being and you would like others to benefit, please email them to me and I’ll include them on the blog.

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