Saturday, 28 February 2015

Day 12

Nettle Soup

Just a few weeks until we'll foraging nettles for soup. I've got a recipe for a nettle cordial but I won't share that as I haven't tried it yet. This is a very rich and tasty nettle soup. Dark green and chock-full of iron. I make it in several batches and then freeze in ice-cream tubs.


1/2 carrier bag of nettles (tops or young leaves)
2 onions (finely sliced)
1 large carrot (sliced)
1 stick celery (sliced)
1 litre of stock
3 rice cakes (broken into bits)
Salt and pepper


1. Pick over the nettles and wash thoroughly.

2. Melt some butter in a large pan and sweat the onion, carrot and celery until soft.

3. Add the stock and seasoning then pile in the nettles.

4. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Add the rice cakes bit and then liquidise.

6. Slowly re-heat. You can add some cream when serving up.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Day 10

Fat Apple Rascals (make about 12-15)

I'm a big fan of regional recipes and I'll be posting plenty of them during this period. When I first came across them they were called Yorkshire Tea Biscuits. They are very simple to make and seem to me to taste a bit like an apple scone. Apparently they have been made since Elizabethan times so making them also helps keep a heritage recipe alive.


225g self-raising flour
110g butter (finely chopped)
30g soft brown sugar
100g cooking apples (peeled, cored and cut into small pieces)
50g sultanas
3 tsp milk
3 tbsp demerara sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon


1. Rub together the flour and butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the soft brown sugar, apples, sultanas and milk and mix well.

2. Bring the dough together with your hands and knead gently. Squash into a flat disc, wrap in cling film and squash a bit more. Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

4. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the dough as thinly as the apple pieces will allow (about 5-10mm). Cut into squares using a sharp knife and carefully put them on the trays about 3cm apart.

5. Mix the demerara sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle generously over every square. Bake for about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool on the baking trays.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Day 9

Date Slice (makes 16 slices)

I'm a big fan of date slices. I usually have it when we go out for tea and cake somewhere. I've managed to convince myself that it's also healthier than the other cake options. Here's the recipe that I use at home. I'm the only member of the family that actually likes date slice so I don't make it too often.


375g pitted dates
Grated zest of 1 lemon
200g self-raising wholemeal flour
150g butter (diced)
90g light muscovado sugar
150g porridge oats


1. Place the dates in a saucepan with 200ml of water and the lemon zest. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes until soft and thick. Set aside.

2. Mix together the flour, butter and sugar until you get a breadcrumb consistency and then stir in the oats.

3. Tip half of the flour mixture into a buttered tin (28cm x 18cm is ideal) and press down with a wooden spoon. Spread the date mixture all over and then sprinkle the remaining flour mixture.

4. Bake at 200 C for 20-25 minutes until golden on top. Cut into slices. Only remove from the tin when cold.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Day 8

Kolace (Sweet Buns)

A few years ago I went on a camping trip to the Czech Republic with a group of teenagers from Norwich and Luton. We were the guests of a local group for young people and we stayed at a campsite near Brno, the second city of the Czech Republic. It was an excellent holiday and our hosts did well to cater for a group of English people that included both vegetarians and vegans.

During my time there I wanted to find out more about Czech cooking. It's not the most exciting cuisine in the world but since I got back I have made these delicious buns.


250ml of milk
80g caster sugar
2 sachets of dry yeast
500g sifted flour
50g butter, melted but cooled
2 egg yolks, whisked
1 egg for glazing, whisked
Jar of jam (plum jam is usually used)


1. Warm 100ml of the milk in a pan. Add a tablespoon of the caster sugar and add to yeast. Whisk, cover and leave for about 10 minutes.

2. Sift the flour into a bowl, add the butter, egg yolks and the remaining milk, caster sugar and the yeast liquid. Mix together with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes. Dust with flour, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove for 2 hours.

3. When the dough is doubled in size, use a tablespoon to cut out large pieces and place on floured surface. Roll each into a ball of about 4-5cm diameter. Pat down flat each ball to a thickness of about 2cm. Make a deep indent in each one with a finger knuckle.

4. Use a teaspoon to put the jam in the indents. Glaze each kolace with beaten egg.

5. Bake at 180C for about 20-25 minutes until golden. Leave to cool and serve.

There are other toppings including poppy seeds and curd cheese. I've haven't got around to doing these yet.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Day 7

Five Nut Roast (Serves 4)

This is a staple dish in my household right throughout autumn and winter and is always used on Christmas Day as the vegetarians outnumber the ominivores. It's a rich and filling nut roast and is very easy to make.


250g mixed nuts
100g onion (finely chopped)
1 tin chopped tomatoes (drained)
100g cheddar cheese (grated)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp Marmite mixed with 1 tsp of boiling water
1 tsp lemon juice


1. Put the nuts in a dry frying pan over a moderate heat. Toast gently until golden and fragrant. Put aside to cool.

2. Preheat the over to 180C. Generously grease a 2lb loaf tin.

3. Put nuts in a food processor and whizz until thoroughly ground.

4. Put the ground nuts in a large bowl and then add all the remaining ingerdients. Mix very thoroughly.

5. Scoop the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until firm and golden. Cool slightly and then turn out.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Day 6

Suffolk Rusks

A few years ago I was part of the team that helped with the redevelopment of the excellent Museum of East Anglia Life in Stowmarket, Suffolk. One of the old exhibits was a reconstruction of a Victorian kitchen with all of the paraphernalia associated with cooking in that period. Amongst the displays was this recipe for Suffolk Rusks. I noted it down and converted the measurements and some of the instructions. I have never met anybody else who has baked, or even heard of, Suffolk Rusks. It would be good to keep this East Anglian dish alive.


1lb/0.5kg plain flour
3 eggs
2oz/60g caster sugar
1.5 tsp active dry yeast
2oz/60g butter
1/4 pint milk


1. Mix the yeast, flour and sugar together.

2. Melt the butter and add to the milk 

3. Gradually add to the flour mixture

4. Beat the eggs and add to the flour mixture

5. Stir until you have a smooth dough

6. Prove for about 1.5 hours (To prove add a little olive oil to a bowl and put the dough inside. Now drape a damp tea-towel over the bowl and leave in a warm place

7. Knead and break up into small rolls

8. Place on a tray with baking paper and bake in a hot oven (about 200-220 celcius) for about 10 minutes.

Optional 9. Cut each roll in half and briefly return to the oven to crisp.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Day 5

Elderflower and Blackberry Drink

In the run-up to Christmas I watched a TV programme called (I think) "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with Alexander Armstrong and Giles Coren. It was a bit dull, unless you find the sight and sound of two posh blokes pontificating about wines and liqueurs exciting. However, they did feature one non-alcoholic drink which I thought sounded nice. I have to watch the right bit a few times on BBC IPlayer to get the right ingredients and here it is...

1/2 cup of elderflower cordial
Juice of one lime
1 litre of soda water
Handful of blackberries
Handful of mint leaves (bruised)


1. Put all the ingredients in the order above in a large glass jug.

2. Serve with ice.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Day 4

Raspberry Buns (makes 15)

This was a staple of my wife's grandmothers baking. It was the first thing I ate when I was introduced to the wider family of my wife. They are very simple to make and keep for several days. Apologies for the rather odd measurements and instructions. I had to convert the imperial used by Rachel's grandmother into metric and I had to copy down her hand-written (and very faded) recipe.


225g plain flour
170g margarine
110g sugar
1 level tsp. of baking powder
1 egg (beaten)
Raspberry Jam


1. Rub together the margarine and flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Add the sugar and baking powder.

3. Mix with the beaten egg until it becomes a dough ball.

4. Roll out to about 1.5cm thick and cut out circles with a large cookie cutter.

5. Make a well in the centre of each circle of dough with a finger knuckle and put in some raspberry jam.

6. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees.

7. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Day 3

Easy Naan Bread (makes 4-5)

There's a bit of a tradition of a home-made Saturday evening curry in our house. Everybody eats lots of it. I used to buy naan bread to go with the meal but once I found this recipe I've never bought them since. It's very easy to make and just taste nicer (as well ab being cheaper) that the shop-bought variety.


250g plain flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
140-150ml of milk
2 tbsp of vegetable oil


1. Sieve the flour, sugar  and baking powder into a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl mix together the milk and oil.

3. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the liquid.

4. Draw in the flour from the sides and slowly mix the ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft dough.

5. Knead for 8-10 minutes

6. Cover the bowl with the dough inside with a tea-towel and leave in a warm place for 10-15 minutes.

7. Form the dough into four/five parts.

8. Preheat the over to 200C (include two baking sheets).

9. Roll out the dough pieces quite thinly into an oval shape.

10. Place the dough on the baking sheets and put in the over. Turn after 2-3 minutes. After another 2-3 minutes remove from the oven.

If you want to add flavours like poppy seeds, garlic or fresh coriander then this can be added just before stage 5 starts.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Day 2

Fried Kale and Rice Dish (Serves 4)

It was my wife who first discovered this dish whilst browsing through a recipe book in a charity shop written by Gwyneth Paltrow. My opinion of Ms Paltrow? Seven - Yes; Sliding Doors - No. 

Anyway this has become a staple in our home and is loved by all, especially my 11 year old son who eats great spoonfuls of it in one go. We eat it with either sausages, falafels (if we're feeling especially cosmopolitan) or poached eggs.


200g kale (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
3 large spring onions (chopped)
175g of brown rice (cooked)
3-4 tbsp. of soy sauce


1. Steam the kale for 6-7 minutes

2. Heat a little vegetable oil to a large frying pan or wok

3. On a low heat add the chopped garlic and fry briefly.

4. Turn up the heat a bit and add the spring onions and kale and fry for a couple of minutes

5. Add the rice and fry for a couple of minutes. Keep stirring at this point to prevent sticking.

6. Add the soy sauce and stir until the sauce is evenly distributed (about 30 seconds to one minute).

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Day 1

Red Cabbage Stew (Serves 4)

I found this recipe in an old copy of Hello magazine whilst staying with some friends in Bridge of Weir, a posh village near Glasgow. It's simple and incredibly satisfying, especially when it's cold outside.


1 small red cabbage (cut into small chunks)
1 onion (sliced)
1 red pepper (sliced)
1.5 litres of vegetable stock
Tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
Tin of Haricot/Cannelleni beans
Grated Cheddar or Cheshire cheese


1. Fry the onion in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with a little olive oil

2. Add the red cabbage and pepper, fry and stir until the cabbage leaves begin to separate and soften

3. Add the vegetable stock, chopped tomatoes and puree.

4. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes (add the beans a couple of minutes before you take off the heat)

Serve in large bowls with some grated cheese on top. This stew also goes well with chunks of wholemeal bread.