Category Archives: vegetarian

Blackcurrant ice cream with blackcurrant sauce

Please excuse the blurred photography.  This particular photograph was taken after a fine lunch at my parent’s house, which may explain the shaky camera work!

We have had a really good crop of blackcurrants this year in our garden and we have managed to pick them between the rain showers.  The smell of a colander full of blackcurrants is really quite intoxicating and as I was admiring their perfect purply black beauty I was wondering what would make the best use of this fruit.  A summer pudding is always very welcome in this house, but I was a bit short of bread.  I had a tub of cream which was just hanging on inside its use-by date so I thought it had to be ice cream.

The taste of this ice cream, both creamy and sharp at the same time, really is very enjoyable and it manages to capture the essence of the blackcurrant with its heady aroma.

I decided to make a sauce to go over it with another load of the horde and then what wasn’t used to adorn Sunday’s pudding I have frozen into ice lollies for when the summer returns!

I have used the recipe for Blackcurrant Ice Cream from The River Cottage Family Cookbook (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Fizz Carr, 2005) which uses the basic custard method, but then adds extra double cream for added oomph.

I admit that I tend to only buy double cream, so when a recipe calls for single cream I just use about three-quarters double cream and a quarter milk.  I have no idea if this a huge faux pas or not, but it seems to work ok for me.  Please feel free though to be more sensible and use both single cream and double cream as directed.

For the ice cream

350g blackcurrants
2 tbsp water

300ml (or a 284ml pot) single cream
4 egg yolks
vanilla pod
125g caster sugar
300ml (or a 284ml pot) double cream


Place the blackcurrants an 2 tbsp of water into a pan and simmer until they are soft and pulpy.  Leave to cool.

Pour the single cream into a saucepan with the vanilla pod and heat until it is steaming.  Take off the heat.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until they are thick and paler.  Pour the cream over the eggs, whisking all the while.  Pour this mixture back into the pan and place over a gentle heat. Stir the mixture all the time to prevent scrambled eggs and keep stirring until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon. Take off the heat and stir for a few minutes until it has cooled down. Leave to one side whilst you deal with the blackcurrants.

Pour the blackcurrants into a sieve set over a bowl and using a metal spoon stir the mixture until all that is left in the sieve is skin and seeds and you have a lovely seed free blackcurrant sauce in the bowl.  Add this blackcurrant sauce to the custard mixture and mix well.  Add the double cream and mix this in well.

Place in an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions or pour the mixture into a freezer-proof container and freeze for an hour.  Remove from the freezer and beat well.  Return to the freezer and repeat this process another two times.

This ice cream freezes hard so you will need to remember to remove it from the freezer a good ten minutes before you want to eat it.

For the blackcurrant sauce:

icing sugar


Repeat the process for making the sauce above by simmering the blackcurrants, with a tablespoon or two of water until soft and pulpy.  Leave to cool.  Press through a sieve  over a bowl.  Add icing sugar to taste.

Use this as a sauce or freeze in ice lolly containers for a refreshing sharp ice lolly on a hot day.

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Broad bean vinaigrette – and chicks!

We have broad beans in the garden.  Hooray!

I haven’t always been enamoured by broad beans.  When I was a child I disliked them with zeal.  They seemed too bitter and fibrous and my mum always seemed to serve them with liver! But things change, and my taste buds must have done as I love them now. I can’t say the same for liver though.

We went on holiday with my parents three years ago and had these little beauties as an appetiser at a little place, suspiciously called Cafe Londres. We have eaten them often since.  If I have parsley then I add it.  Our parsley in the garden has now gone to seed, so tonight’s version was un-embellished. It’s delicious either way.

I like my vinaigrette with a bit of zing so I always add more lemon than is traditional, but feel free to adjust to taste.

Shelled broad beans (fava beans, I understand, are the same thing)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
juice of ½ lemon
3-4 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper


Make a vinaigrette by mixing together the crushed garlic, lemon juice, oil and salt and pepper and adjust to your taste (adding more oil or lemon to suit you).

Boil the broad beans for a few minutes until tender  (timings will  depend on the size of the bean).  Drain well and run briefly under a cool tap until they are cool enough to handle and then pop the skin off the larger beans.

Add the broad beans to the vinaigrette and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes before enjoying at room temperature.

Now to the chicks part of the title.  I was a little busy last week and this was the reason:

Our Black Rock, Daisy, went broody four weeks ago, so we let her sit on her eggs in a rabbit hutch.  The first chick hatched on Monday and the eighth hatched on Friday. It was very exciting to go out and find yet another chick hatched under Daisy.  I took each one off her after it was born and kept it warm in a box on the Aga, with a mop head as a temporary mummy and then when we were sure that no more were going to be hatched we reintroduced Daisy to her brood – and very happy about it all she is too.

I just hope they aren’t all cockerels.

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Elderflower cordial

My oh my, it’s been such a long time since I posted last.  Sorry, sorry.  Choclette has even asked me if I have disappeared into another ash cloud. It is starting to feel that way.  I have a list of jobs as long as my arm ( and someone else’s) and it seems if I dare to turn my back more weeds have grown to monstrous proportions in the garden.  Oh well, mustn’t complain as there are some good things growing there too. I am hoping to harvest a few broad beans tonight for the first time, and we are on our last root of Charlotte potatoes from the polytunnel, just in time for those in the garden to be ready.  The first strawberry is turning a crimson shade today in the old sink, ready for the girls to pick tonight. The girls have been disappearing  for about twenty minutes every night just before bed to emerge smeared with redcurrants.  The onions and garlic are nearly there too and we have been enjoying them the last couple of weeks.

My mum, who of course has a garden in which there is not a weed in sight, gave me some wonderful beetroot this week which I roasted and enjoyed very much indeed. Even Mr OC who has for years had a fear of the beetroot (something to do with pickled beets and the way they bleed into everything on your plate) had one and said it was ‘alright’!

One of the best things about this time of year though is the hedgerow and the wonders that can be found in it.  We are very lucky to have some really good elderflower trees nearby, which are well away from the road and which, this year, are brimming with flowers.  So, on Sunday evening, with the sun still shining I went off with my scissors and bowl and cut about 30 heads of elderflower.  The smell of these flowers is so beautifully sweet and delicious and really is the essence of summer. When I poured the just boiled water over, the smell permeated the whole house all evening, making it worthwhile making this cordial simply for that reason.

However, there is another very good reason for making this cordial and that is that it is really delicious and thirst quenching on a hot day, or even a cloudy and showery day like today.  I also intend to have a go at making an ice cream or a sorbet with it.  Should you be planning a summer barbecue, then make some quick as it makes a really good drink for those who wish to forgo the alcohol.

I have taken the recipe from The River Cottage Cookbook (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, 2001, HarperCollins, ISBN: 0 00220204 2) in which Hugh advises that if you want to keep this for more than a few weeks in the fridge then you should add a heaped teaspoon of tartaric acid for every 500ml of strained juice. It should then last for a year.  I haven’t added any to mine as I don’t expect it to hang around that long.  Don’t forget that the cordial needs to be diluted by at least one part cordial to five parts water before you enjoy it.   I am going on the hunt for a recipe for blackcurrant cordial next.

Make sure you are careful when you pick the elderflowers as you don’t want to lose the precious pollen in each of the tiny flowers.  Give them a very gentle shake to get rid of insects and then start the recipe as quickly as you can once they are picked.

20-30 heads of elderflower
zest of 2 lemons
zest of 1 orange
350g sugar for every 500ml of strained juice
50ml lemon juice for every 500ml of strained juice


Place the heads of elderflower in a large bowl and grate over the zest of the 2 lemons and 1 orange.  Pour enough just-boiled water over the elderflowers to cover them completely. Cover with a cloth and leave overnight.  The next day strain through a muslin or a clean tea towel and measure the amount of strained juice you have.  Then pour into a large pan.  For every 500ml of strained juice add 350g of sugar and 50ml of lemon juice and heat over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Bring up to a gentle simmer and spoon off any scum that rises to the surface.  Leave to go cold, then strain it through a muslin or tea towel again and then decant into clean bottles.  Store in the fridge and then dilute by at least one part cordial to five parts cold water.  Add ice and enjoy.

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Pea and cos salad – the return

A few weeks ago I posted about my efforts to recreate the pea and cos salad we had on our wedding day.  Well here is another version of that salad, and this is a bit closer to the original. I have made this a couple of times in the last couple of weeks – well you can never have too much of good thing, surely? The recipe is an adaptation of one given to my mum by a very good friend who was a guest at our wedding and knows how much we loved it. The original recipe calls for mayonnaise and then adds Dijon mustard, vinegar and sour cream.  However, as I make my own mayonnaise which already has mustard and vinegar in it, I don’t add these as an extra and I replace the sour cream with yoghurt, as I always have a pot of that in the house. If you are using mayonnaise out of a jar though feel free to add a little mustard and vinegar to spike things up a bit.

I promise this will be the last version I post, I don’t want to risk boring you.

Feel free to add parmesan shavings too.

For the mayonnaise:
1 whole egg
pinch of Colman’s mustard powder
small clove of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
100ml of oil ( a mild olive oil or half and half of olive oil and ground nut oil, depending on your taste)
1 tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice

Method for mayonnaise

Place the egg, mustard powder, crushed garlic and salt and pepper in a food processor and whizz until combined.  With the motor running, pour the oil in a steady and gentle stream through the funnel of the processor until the mixture is emulsified and thick.  I tend to use around 100ml of oil, but it may need more or else so be guided by your own judgement. Add the vinegar or lemon juice and whizz again.  Check the seasoning and add more salt, pepper or vinegar/lemon juice to taste.

For the salad:
Homemade mayonnaise (as above)
150g greek yoghurt, or thick natural yoghurt
a good handful of mint, finely chopped
peas (I use frozen and as many handfuls as I think I need)
lettuce of some description

Method for salad

Combine the mayonnaise and the yoghurt and add the chopped mint. Cook the peas in boiling water for a minute or two, then drain and rinse under cold water until cool.  Add to the mayonnaise mixture.  Arrange the salad leaves on a plate and dollop over the pea mixture.

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Marinated peppers

I am in a celebratory mood.  This is my 100th post.  When I started blogging in September last year to reach the goal of posting 100 recipes seemed very distant indeed.  I have enjoyed every minute, although, I fear my waistline is expanding exponentially. Yesterday I recorded the greatest number of views to my blog since I started. Today I am a very happy blogger indeed.

To add to this happiness we have been eating summery food for a couple of weeks now and enjoying some very lovely sunshine.  Marinated peppers is one of my favourite salads and it formed part of a whole hosts of summery salads I put together for tea the other night. The spread included minted aubergines (recipe coming soon), chorizo in red wine with feta, tomato salad and lettuce from the poly tunnel.  Some would call it a mezze, some tapas, I call it bits and bobs.

If I had waited a couple of nights we could have had our first Charlotte potatoes from the polytunnel too, as we had those this week too and very delicious they were too.  Life is very good indeed.

These marinated peppers are lovely and will happily sit in the fridge for a day developing their flavour, so are handy for parties as they can be made well ahead.  They look even better if you use a mixture of red, yellow and orange peppers.  I don’t particularly like green peppers but if you do, go for it.

This is the recipe if you are just using 1 pepper to serve 2 people, but it is easy to double, triple or quadruple.

1 red pepper
1 clove garlic
½ tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
lots of parsley


Leaving the pepper whole, place onto a baking tray and roast in a hot oven until blackened.  Because I have an Aga I just place the pepper directly onto the floor of the roasting oven and turn every five minutes and it takes about twenty minutes for the pepper to blacken all over.  You can grill a pepper to the same effect or indeed hold it using large kitchen tongs over a gas flame.  Once it is blackened all over, place the pepper into a plastic food bag and tie to seal and leave for five minutes.  This steaming in the bag makes it easy to peel.  Peel the skin from the pepper, holding it over a bowl to catch any precious juices.  Remove the stalk and seeds and slice the roasted pepper into thin slices. Place in a shallow dish and pour over any juices.

Crush the garlic either with a garlic crusher or in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of sea salt.  Add the vinegar and mix well and then add the olive oil, mixing well again.  The measurements given above are for a classic vinaigrette, but I tend to splosh and taste, adjusting to my taste and I do like it a little on the acidic side so feel free to adjust to your own taste.  Season with more salt if necessary and pepper. Pour this dressing over the pepper and mix well.  When the pepper is totally cool, add plenty of parsley.  Place in the fridge but bring it out to get to room temperature before you want to serve it.

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Pea and cos salad

When Mr OC and I wed, we had a wonderful caterer who really put on a very fine spread.  Everything was delicious, but one of the things that really stood out from the rest was the wonderful pea and cos salad.  I have since tried to recreate this on many occasions and I admit that I don’t think I am quite there yet.  I think crème fraîche and parmesan were involved somewhere along the line.

However, the other day I saw a cos lettuce for sale and so bought it, but then promptly forgot to purchase either crème fraîche or parmesan ( I blame shopping with two small children for my terrible ability to go out for a pint of milk and return with a pot of basil and a piece of steak, but no milk, but I don’t really think they are to blame).  So I had a go with what I had in the fridge and the garden and although it doesn’t reach the sublime level of the salad of our wedding day it is really nice, especially with a good roast chicken or a slab of rare steak.

I will keep trying with my recreation of the original recipe, so you may well see another recipe for this appearing at some point in the future.  However, for now, here is a version.  If you do have some parmesan in the fridge then shave some over just before serving, and feel free to replace the yoghurt with crème fraîche.  I promise to try harder next time I go shopping.

1 head of cos lettuce, washed and dried
3 or 4 handfuls of frozen or fresh peas, boiled until tender (2 or 3 minutes in boiling water)

150g Total greek yoghurt
handful of fresh mint, chopped
juice of ½ lemon
salt and pepper


Arrange the washed salad leaves on a platter and artfully pour over the peas.  Mix together the yoghurt, chopped mint and lemon juice and season to taste and dollop over the peas and lettuce.

Dig in and enjoy!

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Rhubarb crumble

It’s lovely to go on holiday and relax with the family, but it is also lovely to come home.  It is especially lovely if when you go on holiday winter seems to still be hanging around and then you come home three weeks later  (a longer holiday than planned thanks to that dastardly volcano!) to find that spring has certainly sprung. So much has changed, the trees are in full leaf, the apple blossom is heavy, the wild garlic is everywhere (and past its best for that salad I was planning) and the weeds seem to have taken over the veg patch. We have been back for over a week now and much of that time has been taken up with sorting out all that post that has piled up, cleaning the (volcanic?) dust that has accumulated and doing some heavy-duty gardening.  Never before have those knee pad thingys that you can buy from the garden centre seemed so appealing.

What was so lovely to come home to (apart from family and pets) was that first trek around the garden to see what was coming up (ignoring the weeds).  The mint, of which there was no sign when we left, is now a foot high.  I reprimanded myself for not getting round to cutting last year’s dead sticks back before I left, but that has now been rectified. The rhubarb, which was just a couple of nobbles peering out of brown earth when we left is now positively taking over its corner of the garden.  I was very pleased to see both of these things as mint is something which I add to my cooking as often as possible and I love and adore rhubarb.

So, one of the first meals we had on our return was minted aubergines followed by rhubarb crumble.  Both of these were demolished before I managed to get the camera out so you may have to wait a while for the recipe for the minted aubergines, but I have made the crumble again and so here it is in all its lovely spring is here glory.

6 sticks of rhubarb, prepared by peeling, if not forced rhubarb, and slicing into chunks
grated zest of 1 orange
juice of ½ orange
4-6 tbsp vanilla sugar

For the topping:
25g (1oz) pecan nuts
175g (7oz) plain flour
100g (4oz) butter
50g (2oz) sugar


Spread the rhubarb into a deep pie dish and grate the zest of an orange over.  Pour over the orange juice and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar.

I always prepare my crumble in a food processor by whizzing the flour and nuts together until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar and pulse until the crumble is crumbly. If you don’t have a food processor, then place the pecans into a food bag and bash with a rolling-pin until fine and then add to the flour.  Dice the butter and then rub into the flour using your fingertips and then mix in the sugar.  Sprinkle this crumble topping all over the rhubarb.  I like to have little bits of rhubarb peeking out so that the juices caramelise on the top.

Here is the crumble how is should be eaten, with cream poured generously over, and it’s just as lovely cold as it is hot.

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Onion bhaji

Regular readers will know that I went a bit crazy in the flour aisle a few weeks ago and bought lots of different flours, including gram flour (ground chickpeas). Onion bhajis are, of course, the perfect way to use gram flour and as I had never made them I thought it was time to give them a go.

I am in no way claiming authenticity with this recipe as I read a few and made up my own on that basis, but these bhajis were very good, so do please give them a go. I think next time I will add more than 1 tsp of crushed chillies as they were fairly mild; necessitating Mr OC to chomp on a raw chilli to make up for it – but then he is addicted!

They went perfectly with the cucumber and cumin dip that I made to go with them.

2 onions
100g (4 oz) gram flour
1 tsp crushed chilli (or more if you want a greater kick to your bhaji), or you could use 1-2 fresh chillies chopped finely
1 heaped tsp cumin seed
1 heaped tsp coriander seed
1 tbsp oil
100ml warm water
salt to taste


Put a frying pan onto a medium heat until hot and then add the coriander and cumin seeds and cook until they release their scent. Pour them straight into a mortar and pound them to a fine powder with the pestle (or a bowl and a rolling-pin will do the job just as well).

Sieve the gram flour into a large bowl. Add the coriander, cumin, chilli and salt.  Pour in the oil and water and mix to combine to a smooth batter. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Cut the onions in half and slice thinly. Add the onions to the batter and mix well.

Heat 4-5 cm of vegetable oil in a large pan until it reaches 170°c on a kitchen thermometer (or until a cube of bread turns golden brown in a few seconds).

Add spoonfuls of the batter, and you will need to do this 2-3 at a time or you will overcrowd the pan and they won’t cook properly.  Remove as soon as they turn a golden brown and drain on crumpled kitchen paper.  Keep warm until all the bhajis are cooked and serve as soon as possible.

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Victoria sandwich – the all-in-one method

It is my Mum’s birthday, which of course means a cake. My choice would, of course, be chocolate, but it wouldn’t be my mum’s so a Victoria sandwich fits the bill nicely.

This one is very easy and quick to make. You can have the cake in the oven in minutes.

I have taken the advice of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Fizz Carr in their excellent Family Cookbook and weighed the eggs in their shell and then used the same weight of butter, sugar and flour. I have not followed their creaming method though which calls for the butter and sugar to be beaten first and then the eggs incorporated and then the flour folded in.  Instead, I have used the all-in-one method as used by Mary Berry in her The Aga Book. For the all-in-one method to be a success it is crucial that the butter is soft, so you must remember to bring it out of the fridge a couple of hours before you want to make the cake. It is also important to add a teaspoon of baking powder to the self-raising flour as you won’t be beating in as much air with this method.

It is delicious with raspberry jam and softly whipped cream but you could sandwich it just with the jam of your choice or lemon curd or even a buttercream.

4 eggs – weigh them in their shells and then use the same weight for the sugar, flour and butter.  (My four eggs from my lovely hens weighed exactly 200 grams so I used 200g butter, 200g sugar and 200g of self-raising flour for the cake above).
soft butter
caster sugar
self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
a splash of milk

The jam of your choice
150ml double cream, softly whipped
1 tsp icing sugar to dust the top of the cake


Preheat the oven to 180°c (gas mark 4).  Grease 2 sandwich tins with a smear of butter and line the bases with greaseproof paper.

Put the butter, sugar and eggs in a large bowl and sieve the flour and baking powder in. Add the vanilla extract and a splash of milk.  Using an electric whisk on medium speed whisk the mixture until all combined.  Divide the mixture between the two tins and spread evenly.

Place in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes until golden and springs back when touched lightly.

Turn out onto a cake rack and allow to cool completely.

Spread one of the cakes with the jam and then the cream (or the filling of your choice) and then place the other half of the cake on top.  Dust lightly with icing sugar.

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Chocolate tiffin or refrigerator cake

This is another of those recipes with a variety of names, some call it tiffin, others refrigerator cake, others still a no-cook chocolate cake. I am sure there are other names for it too.  This is my version and although there are a list of ingredients below it really is one that you can play around with and add whatever is your favourite fruit and nut combination or add whatever you have in the cupboard. This week I had a packet of vacuum packed roasted chestnuts, some dried cranberries, dried blueberries and macadamia nuts in my cupboard.  I used milk chocolate Hobnobs because they were the only biscuits I had in the house, but you could use digestives or Rich Tea or any other biscuit you have in the tin.

This is rich and decadent but delicious and a real treat with a good coffee and five minutes peace and quiet, although the latter is highly unlikely in this house.

150g best quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
50g butter
4 tbsp golden syrup
50g dried cranberries
50g macadamias
50g pecan nuts, chunkily chopped
25g dried blueberries
80g Hobnobs (or any other biscuit you may have in the tin) broken into chunks
60g roasted chestnuts


Place the chocolate, butter and syrup in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water until they have all melted.  Stir to combine.

Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine.

Line a loaf tin (mine measures 20cm length x 12cm width x 6.5cm depth) with clingfilm, with plenty to overhang the sides. Pour the chocolate mixture into the tin and smooth the top.  Place in the fridge for a few hours until set.  Remove from the tin and peel off the clingfilm. Cut into slices and serve with a lovely cup of coffee and put your feet up and enjoy.

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