Pancake Day

Despite what I said about wanting to cook more with Spider I have ducked out of the question of whether he’s old enough to make pancakes by being ill. Fortunately his Grandma is a champion pancake maker and kept him occupied for most of the afternoon watching her make the batter and flipping pancakes.

I was more than happy to submit to a bit of mothering myself and wolfed down 4 pancakes with traditional jiff lemon and caster sugar.  A blog I like a lot was discussing the merits of toffee sauce versus lemon and sugar and although I agree that lemon and sugar is the best, I have been longing to try a recipe I saw in the observer several years ago. Hugh Fernley Whittingstall made pancakes with a banana and toffee sauce for Lyn Barber. All you needed for the sauce was some milk and half a packet of chewy toffees…unfortunately the packet of wherthers original that was in the fridge appears to have been slowly disappearing…

I’m all lost in the supermarket…can no longer shop happily

Apart from the slaw for this weeks lunch I haven’t managed much cooking this evening as have been sat on my bottom watching Hugh and his chickens – I missed this last time round.

I was trying to salve my conscience as I turned to Husband to say “well, at least we don’t eat much chicken, and what we do tends to come from the Co op” when he pointed out that there is usually a bag of chicken dipper type things lurking not too deep in the freezer.

One of my friends, Supermum has a new years resolution that she will not use a supermarket again, except for the local Co op as they are a) a bit more ethical and b) supporting local shops is a “good thing” – I want so much to be a better person but until my herb garden starts growing I shall have to rely on the big pushers to get my drugs of choice (coriander and basil mainly, occasionally mint and parsley – fortunately even I can’t kill off a thyme plant).

Food Hero: Hugh Fernley Whittingstall

I get a lot of hits on these pages from people looking for Hugh, and presumably his recipes. Guess they are disappointed to find that there’s only a brief mention of the food award he won last year from Radio 4’s Food Programme – oh and a link to his brownie recipe.


Hugh is actually one of my food heroes but I don’t own any of his books. I have been an admirer since back in his “Cook on the wild side” days as I love the idea of food for free.


When the River Cottage programmes started I became a full time groupie, I couldn’t get enough of his programmes – but oddly enough it was actually the ideas that he was promoting rather than what he was cooking which was getting me. In fact aside from the Beetroot Brownies I can’t think of a single recipe of his that I have actually been tempted to cook.


I am however deeply hooked on the idea of growing my own food and sourcing things more locally…I would love to keep a pig, but I think the neighbour might complain (although historically most of the back gardens down this road would have had a pig from time to time). The highlight for me of this year was the guys in Sheffield who collect unwanted fruit from trees planted by companies, the council or just in forgotten orchards.


As a presenter and a journalist I find him fascinating, his words both written and spoken sizzle with passion and enthusiasm but I really don’t know what happens when he puts pen to paper to produce a cook book. Hugh seems to loose all his zing and zip when bound between the hard covers of a cookbook – they really are dull dull dull. But then I am probably in a minority as I do actually read cookbooks from cover to cover rather than use them to cook from…I am reserving judgement though as I’ve only read 3 so far, maybe one of the others  will change my mind, not that it matters as if I need my fix there is always the web site.

B is for Beetroot…

I have come to the conclusion that I don’t do this Mummy thing very well. Flapjack Queen does, she hardly ever shouts at her children (and she has 3 of them) or gets cross with them, she talks quietly and gently and reasons with them… I even have another friend in the village who is in my phonebook as “Supermum”. Me, well I’d like to think that at least some of the time my snappy mood is down to the fact that Spider is a very determined little boy (his Grandad describing the same trait in his daughter calls it stubborn !), he knows his own mind and has very strong views on how things can be done, but honestly I know that its mainly me who is at fault. Example, I am not a talker. My life is full of long silences, long periods where I am on my own (134 mile round trip commute) so to spend a day with someone who never stops talking and provides his own running commentary is a little bit hard to say the least !

Anyway, Spider is having an extra movie night tonight as a treat (Valiant and now Cars) and I have been in the kitchen trying to bake away my snappishness and ill temper – Bake your way to a better mummy…

So beetroot then ? Well I have just realised why most of the beetroot in this country is eaten pickled as it takes so bloomin’ long to cook.

I am in the process of cooking Hugh Fearlessly Eats it All’s Beetroot Brownie’s and I have made the classic mistake of not reading the recipe properly as it says use 250g of cooked beetroot. No problem I thought I’ll just cook it, won’t take long. Wrong – beetroot can be roasted in a moderate temp oven (200 deg C) for 1-2 hours or boiled/simmered for 1.5 -2 hours…if you have a pressure cooker then it takes about 20 minutes…so a energy saving recipe this is not ! Although you can buy pre peeled and cooked beetroot in most supermarkets.

I haven’t had much experience with beetroot before – I avoid it due to horrid memories of salads in the late 70’s early 80’s where it caused the cheese to go pink…Husband on the other hand adores pickled beetroot (hates most other pickles) so I usually put a jar in his stocking each Christmas.

Of the 3 times before I have cooked it only 1 was it a pleasurable experience, so I have no idea how these Brownies are going to turn out, fortunately I have chosen the one night of the year where it won’t really matter if I have to wait 3 hours before I can start cooking as I wasn’t planning on going to bed until after Jools (he IS new year…!).

The last 3 occasions just for the record were a chemistry project at the age of 13, making natural dyes I think – all I can remember is the beaker getting to hot, cracking and the bench being covered with hot purple liquid. Second was a recipe for borscht from the Cranks Entertaining book – didn’t like it, but I put that down to the texture as we couldn’t get it to puree smoothly. Last year I made a Beetroot cake which was gorgeous (apart from the linseed’s, but apparently I should have soaked them first).

Two last points about beetroot, it smells horrid when its cooking and even raw it stains everything…my kitchen (white shiny units) looks like a scene from psycho as it somehow has managed to get everywhere.


Verdict: Turned out a little soggy which I put down to having boiled the beetroot instead of roasting it but were basically ok. Taste slightly less sweet than most of the others, occasionally there was the woody taste of beetroot but not often.

Cupboard clearing…

Haven’t been baking much the last 10 days as there is plenty to eat and I keep being given left overs from people I know.

Started sorting the cupboards out last night, doing a stock keep of what I have and what needs using up, other than the obvious stuff in the fridge…

Still feeling run down so trying out a “tonic” rather than copious cups of tea as I still have some ginger left from my cold cures and I discovered some forgotten lemon grass in the freezer, which if I was in the mood I could turn into a Thai curry (as there are 2 tins of coconut milk lurking with the rice pud) but I am not in the mood…although there are still loads of goose bits in the fridge…and I wonder if the co op sells corriander…

Anyway rather than the curry I haven’t made here is the tonic (makes 4 cups, I’ve only made 1 as I may use the rest of the lemon grass on something else)

Lemon grass and Ginger Tea (Cook at Home with: Peter Gordon)

2 stems lemon grass bashed flat with a hammer or rolling pin

100g ginger skin scrubbed and roughly chopped

1 litre cold water

sugar, elderflower cordial or honey to taste

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat, out the lid on and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain before drinking.

lemongrass tea - a break for the liver

lemongrass tea - a break for the liver

ps ooooh, whilst rooting around in the veg drawer for the ginger I found the beetroot I bought just before christmas to do Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s Beetroot Brownies, so I may do one last baking session before new year…

verdict on the tonic: Well I feel invigorated, the ginger was a bit strong for my taste, but perhaps its less intense if you drink it hotter, mine was a bit on the cool side as just as I made it, Spider dragged me off to show me a 3 he had just found – we’ve been playing a number recognition reward game, if he correctly names a number then he gets a small toy as a reward…it probably would be cheaper with sweets…!

Hugh Fernley Whittingstall

Been meaning to stick something up here about Hugh for several weeks now, along with other “food heroes” and I will…at some point…

Anyway was pleased to hear on the Radio (Friday lunchtime on the way back from surrey) that Hugh has been voted Radio 4’s Food Programme’s Food personality of the year [more here]