6 oz butter or marg.
6oz demerara sugar
8oz porridge oats

Melt the butter in a large pan with the sugar. Then add the oats and mix together well.

Tip the mixture into a greased Swiss roll tin and level out with a palette knife or fork.

Bake in the centre of the oven at gas mark 4, 180C or 350F for about 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and after a few minutes cut into squares or rectangles. Leave in the tin until cold.

Flapjacks are great for packed lunches as they travel well and what with all the oats in them they are at least a bit healthy. The so called healthy cereal bars which you can buy in supermarkets are unbelievably expensive – about £2.50 for 5 very small bars and I doubt if they do you any good.

Obviously this is a very basic flapjack recipe but you can have fun playing around with it. Try out different kinds of sugar or substitute some sugar with golden syrup or honey.

Add some spices like cinnamon or ginger for a change, or add dried fruit or nuts.

If you don’t mind being naughtier try mini marshmallows or chopped chocolate.

Darker Flapjacks

As you can see from my photographs I have done one batch with white sugar and another with dark brown, which gives a nice toffyish flavour.

Sparkling Rosé Jellies

Rose jellies

We couldn’t stand the thought of a heavy pudding on Christmas day, especially since we had had the Girdlebuster Pie for my husband’s birthday the day before. Sparkling rose jellies seemed to fit the bill as they are light and refreshing after a big meal.

They are very quick and easy to make and obviously can be done the day before you need them.

6 oz sugar.
pork gelatine as directed on the packet.
1 bottle sparkling rosé wine.
1½ pints of water.

Make up the gelatine as directed on the packet, calculating how much you will need for the amount of fluid in the recipe. If you use powdered (beef) gelatine then you just sprinkle it into the sugared boiled water. However we haven’t eaten beef products since before the media got hold of the BSE story so I used pork gelatine, which comes in thin sheets which you have to dissolve in a bowl of water over a pan of hot water. Snip the sheets up first.

Pour the 1½ pints of water into a pan and add the 6 oz of sugar. Stir and bring up to boiling point, making sure that the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Now add the dissolved (or powdered) gelatine into the sugared water. Whisk well together and place the pan in a cold place to set the jelly. After about 1 to 1½ hours the jelly should be on the point of setting. Now carefully add the bottle of wine and stir it into the jelly mixture. Ladle the jelly into pretty serving glasses or dishes and leave to set again, which should take about 3 hours.

The bubbles from the wine should be trapped within the jelly, giving a lovely texture to the dessert.

This recipe can be made with something like Schloer or a similar sort of grape juice, if you are making it for people who need to avoid alcohol. It would be especially popular for young teenagers whom you don’t want to feed booze to, but who have grown beyond the jelly and ice-cream stage.

The quantities which I have given will feed about 10 people. As you can see from the photograph, I added raspberries to mine when the jelly was setting this time. In future I won’t bother doing this as the raspberries tasted very tart compared to the jelly. It might work if you soaked the fruit in some more booze beforehand, but that would make it quite alcoholic.

I have tried this recipe using a white sparkling wine but I much prefer a rosé one as the fruitiness of the wine really comes out when it is very cold.

I added some raspberry juice to whipping cream to top them off.

With raspberry cream topping

Girdlebuster Pie

As I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to be making a Girdlebuster Pie for my husband’s birthday cake, I thought you might like to see how it turned out.

Girdlebuster Pie

I would be the first to admit that the photograph doesn’t look great, the ice-cream bubbles to the surface in places making a strange effect but crucially, it tasted yummy.

I used tiramasu ice-cream as I couldn’t get coffee flavoured but it worked really well anyway. The great advantage of this dessert is that it can be made so far in advance and frozen until it is needed.

It is very rich and I would say that it is enough to give 12 portions. Five of us managed to get through half of it, and the rest I put back into the freezer until next week.

The recipe can be found at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1059850/Girdlebuster-pie.html.

Chocolate Spice Cake


Chocolate Spice Cake

I baked this cake for G’s birthday last week and it went down well. I first did this one 30 odd years ago but for some reason I hadn’t done it again. I think it does look kind of 70s – ish but it tastes good and is dead easy.

8oz self-raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1 level tsp cinnamon
6 oz butter or marg.
5oz sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
3 eggs
4 tablespoons milk

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, add the syrup then the eggs one at a time. Mix well then add the flour, cocoa and spices. Mix together until it is all well combined and if the mixture seems too stiff add up to 4 tbsp. milk.
Divide the mixture equally between two 8 inch sandwich tins which have been well greased and bake at 350 F, 180 C , gas mark 4 for about 30 minutes.
When cold, sandwich them together and cover with buttercream
icing. Decorate to your taste. I used glace cherries and almonds.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing
10oz icing sugar, sieved
5oz butter
2 dessertspoons cocoa powder
1 dessertspoon milk

Cream together the icing sugar, cocoa powder and butter until
well mixed and smooth, then beat in the milk.

Eat. Yum.

Perth, Scotland

Had a nice day out in Perth yesterday. We visited the J.D. Fergusson Gallery which has a good exhibition of his art – as you would expect. They have hundreds of his little sketches, mainly from the 1910 era when he was in Paris. I love to see artists’ doodles. He really seemed to be able to capture whole personalities on wee scraps of paper.

Upstairs, the gallery has works by various Scottish colourist artists and by people who were influenced by them. Here are three by Fergusson himself.

Fergusson paintings

Fergusson paintings

These are by other artists.

Three non-Fergussons

Three non-Fergussons

If you’re interested in art and are in the vicinity of Perth then this gallery is definitely worth a visit. For some reason it isn’t advertised in The Guardian Guide under exhibitions, which I usually rely on to keep me informed of what is going on.

The building itself is an old converted water tower and it is nice that they have been able to convert it into a useful facility. Admission is free too, which is always nice.

If you are interested in The Colourists, you should try to get a look at the Scottish Colourists 1900 – 1930 by Philip Long.

Book cover

Book cover

As we were close to the river we went for a stroll along the embankment, which has been spruced up in recent years and has stylish metal gates leading on to the river steps.

Embankment gates

Embankment gates

Unfortunately, it was a bit of a grey day yesterday. The river Tay was about as placid as I have ever seen it though and old bridges always look good. Perth Bridge was built in 1755 so it’s looking pretty good for its age.

Bridge over Tay at Perth

Bridge over Tay at Perth

I reckon it will be another week or two before the trees really start changing colour though and then the whole of Perthshire is really worth a visit, just for that.

Riverbank trees and Church

Riverbank trees and Church

Pasta with bacon and mushrooms

Pasta bacon and mushroom

Pasta bacon and mushroom

230g dry pasta
one medium sized onion
5 or 6 medium sized mushrooms
oil for frying
grated nutmeg
220g bacon or one packet
150g cheddar cheese
1 large tin of evaporated milk (410g)

Cook the dry pasta as normal.

While the pasta is being cooked, heat the oil in a large frying pan and then add the finely sliced onion. Fry for about 5 minutes and then add the sliced mushrooms. Stir it all together, then grate some nutmeg into the pan before stirring again.

Cut the bacon into bite sized pieces. The easiest way to do this is to use kitchen scissors, trimming off any excess fat as you go. Add the bacon to the frying pan piece by piece then stir into the mixture.

When you are sure that the bacon is cooked add the evaporated milk into the mixture and bring it almost to the boil. Turn the heat down and add the grated cheese, stirring until it has melted and it is all well combined.

Add the well drained cooked pasta to the mixture and serve with more grated cheese.

If desired you can use half a tin of evaporated milk and make up the volume with ordinary (or semi-skimmed) milk.

This should serve 4 people.

I’d be the first to admit it doesn’t look too appetising in the picture but it is lovely.

I’ve been cooking this dish since before my children were born and they are both very grown up now. As is the way with families – one of my boys has always hated mushrooms but it is easy to pick out the mushrooms if you don’t slice them too small.

My oldest ‘boy’ who sometimes goes by the name of doctorvee requested that this recipe should be added to my blog.

Apparently it should be preserved for posterity as it is one of his favourites.

I look forward to him cooking it for me some time in the future.

Scottish (Swiss Milk) Tablet

Scottish Tablet

Scottish Tablet

This recipe has been handed down in my family for at least four generations. It is unbelievably sweet but at the same time very more-ish. So, if you are keen to hold on to your teeth, keep this recipe for high days and holidays only.

2lb / 907grams sugar
4 oz / 113 grams unsalted butter
1 cup / 150 ml milk
1 397grams tin of condensed milk
drop of vanilla extract

Put the sugar, butter and cup of milk into a large heavy-based pot and cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved and then bring the mixture to a good ‘rolling’ boil.

It is important that you use something like a large soup pot as you really don’t want this mixture boiling over on to your hob.

Pour the condensed milk into the pot and stir carefully. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and allow the mixture to come to the boil again, stirring now and then.

Have a cup of cold water ready for testing the tablet. The amount of boiling time required before getting to the testing point is a bit of a guessing game, but with practice you will know just by looking at the mixture as it will have turned darker and be thicker in consistency. It takes about 15 minutes to get to this stage on my hob, but as you can imagine it will vary greatly, depending on your hob and the type of pot used. I use an old aluminium soup pot.

Carefully scoop a teaspoonful of the mixture out of the pot and dip it into the cup of water. Leave for a few seconds and test for toffeeish consistency (not quite dripping off.) Repeat this if necessary until the mixture is at this stage.

Then turn off the heat and add the drop of vanilla extract. Beat the mixture with the wooden spoon. Be careful not to splash any of it on to you. Keep beating until you feel the consistency changing. It should feel heavier and thicker and you will feel the spoon ‘catching’ on the base.

Very carefully, pour the tablet into a non stick baking tray. Mine is 11 inches long and 7 inches wide and about 2 inches deep. This is really a two person job. One to hold the pot, while the other scrapes. Allow to cool and set slightly before marking into squares.

Watch how quickly it disappears. Be amazed by how fast you can put on weight. And fingers crossed that you don’t need any fillings when you next visit the dentist.

Peachy Chocolate Bake

Peachy Chocolate Bake

Peachy Chocolate Bake

We had this for our pudding yesterday for the first time, and I’ll definitely be doing it again.

7oz/200g plain dark chocolate, broken into squares
4oz/115g unsalted butter
4 eggs, separated
4oz/115g sugar
15oz/425g tin peach slices, drained
serves 6

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3

Melt the chocolate with the butter in a glass bowl over simmering water. Remove from the heat.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale.

Beat the egg yolk mixture into the melted chocolate and butter mixture, until well combined.

In a clean, grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.

Fold in the beaten egg whites.

Fold the drained peach slices into the mixture, then tip into a buttered ovenproof dish.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until risen and just firm. Serve hot with cream or ice cream.

This pudding has a serious amount of chocolate in it, and as there were only 3 of us again for Sunday dinner, I halved the quantity of everything except the peaches. It worked out perfect for 3 people who don’t want to end up like elephants. I baked it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, which gave a nice slightly dried out, crisp texture to the surface.

I got this recipe from a book called Heavenly Chocolate by Christine France.

Recipe books

Recipe books

Recipe books

I’ve inherited family recipe books which belonged to my mother and my granny. Over the years they collected recipes from magazines and friends and kept the most successful ones for their books. I started doing the same thing myself years ago and only recently began adding recipes to this blog, partly because I’m pretty sure that my family will be flying the nest fairly soon and if they want to know how mum made something, then it will eventually end up here for them.

It is all very handy having things printed on the computer, and no doubt for their generation it is the way to go, but I can’t help thinking that you miss out on such a lot of the charm of a home made recipe book. I am the older generation now as mum and gran have both shuffled off this mortal coil – that makes me seem ancient and I hope this doesn’t sound morbid, but it struck me that their handwritten recipes are really the only examples of their handwriting that I have, along with some cards.

So I think it is a great idea to keep up a tradition of handwritten stuff as it is so much more personal than printing on a computer and it gives the next generations something to leaf through in years to come. Especially as people seem to be getting into family histories so much now.

I know from personal experience that whenever someone close to you pops their clogs there is a general search amongst family members to gather up the best photographs taken over the years as reminders, and sometimes they are so bad and old that the person is hardly recognisable but somehow a person’s handwriting is usually so individual it is still very familiar to you, long after they are gone.

When my dad was seriously ill in hospital and I was stuck 500 miles away from him and unable to visit, I did the only thing that I could do at that time and sent a card. I was lucky to be working at that time with a woman who had spent quite a long time in hospitals over the years, and she told me to put a stamped addressed envelope and writing paper in with the Get Well card as she had often wished for that when she was marrooned in various hospital wards over the years. I would never have thought of doing that before, and I am grateful that she mentioned it, because my dad was able to write to me and 29 years later I still have his letter. He died later on that year and we don’t have any other examples of his handwriting.

Honestly I’m not being morbid. It’s just that I know how interesting these things can be to later generations.

We found a letter written to Jack’s great grandmother from his great grandfather when we were clearing out a family home. It is over 130 years old and he addressed her as “dear wife.” I wonder if he ever called her by her name.

Anyway, this post came about because I noticed a post by Susan Beal at West Coast Crafty where she shows a Mother’s Day gift which she compiled for the family including handwritten recipes and notes and I was really glad to see that someone else is keeping up the tradition of creating family heirlooms.

My recipe book is just a simple hardback notebook which was very cheap, but it was very easy to make a cloth cover to fit it with some material from my stash and instantly turn it into something altogether classier and unique. Fabric covered notebooks are so expensive in the shops.

Chocolate Mousse

This is a real favourite with my family. I can’t remember where I got the recipe from but I do recall that it was called Chocolate Cream Cloud but it is really just a lovely easy mousse.

6oz or 150g of dark chocolate
4 large eggs (separated)
4 tsp. sugar
1/2 pint of whipping or double cream
alcohol of choice (optional)

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan of hot water. Separate the eggs and whip the whites until stiff. Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from above the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and a bit cooler. Add the sugar to the egg yolks and stir until smooth.
Then add the egg mixture to the melted chocolate. Mix together well with the wooden spoon.
Using the metal spoon fold a small amount of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then add the rest of the beaten egg whites. Now whip the cream until stiff.
If you are going for the wickedly adult version – add a dessertspoon or more of your choice of booze to your dessert glasses (Tia Maria, Baileys or Grand Marnier are all good.)
Now spoon a quantity of the chocolate mixture into the glasses.
Fold about half of the whipped cream into the remaining chocolate mixture. Spoon some of this into your glasses. Then spoon in some cream and keep layering it all until your glasses are full.
Decorate with grated chocolate. The easiest way of doing this is to use a potato peeler on the edge of the chocolate. Not nearly such hard work or messy as a grater.
For a mocha version add a heaped teaspoon of instant coffee granules to the cream before whipping it. Yum.
Obviously you should use fresh eggs for this but in over thirty years of making this dessert with raw eggs I’ve never had any problems – even with toddlers eating it.