Category Archives: recipe

Resolutions 2012

Today, i’m a little ick. It’s the first day in two years I’ve had to cancel work because I don’t want to spread my lurgy. I’m so very sick that I have a bag full of Moore-ish tiffin to eat, just about the nicest thing there is in the whole world, qnd I couldn’t eat even a piece. That’s the problem with not being ill often… when I am, I’m a total wuss.

Anyway, yesterday, I was thinking about my resolutions at the beginning of the year and working out my tally out of 93. I know 93 is a bit of a random number, but there you go.

From 11-20 are here:

11. Finally have some success with carrots. Did that! I had 10 kg of the beasts. They were small and I should have thinned them out, but I had some at least!

Carrots - Lady Justine's blog

12. Paint the front wall and build a small herb garden. No. Didn’t get there. Another one to carry forward.

13. Make tin-can planters and tea-light holders to hang from the trees. Yes to the tin-can planters; no to the tea-light holders.

Decoupage on plant pots - Lady Justine's blog
Decoupage on plant pots

14. Finish painting the gate! Another miss. Again. This has to be my first spring task!!!

15. Render the outside wall of the lean-to. Nope.

16. Add some lean-to art. Nope also

17. Finish painting the lean-to window frames – I need new windows, so I’m foregoing that. Steve painted the shutters though…

Pink shutters - Lady Justine's blog

18. Make curtains for the lean-to. Ha ha ha

19. Find some cheap chairs to renovate for lean-to sitting. Likewise.

20. Paint the rest of the laundry lean-to. Finally, a lean-to related task completed

So I’m at 9 out of 20. That’s not bad. It’s almost 50% This year, I think I need to make like Boxer and work just that little bit harder. If I knit a pair of socks by the end of the year, that would be 10 out of 20 so far and I can live with that!

I’m off back to my sickbed. Is this what happens to your immune system when you are 40? If it is, I don’t like it. It’s a night of Glee for me in bed with my knitting. Between electric blankets, hot water bottles and these super-cool fleecy pyjamas from my sister, I think I’ll survive. If I’m not up to eating chocolate tiffin by tomorrow, I’m booking a plot in the cemetery.


Do you like these pjs? I’m in total love with them. If I just taught by internet, I could wear them all day.

Anyway, I better be better tomorrow. I have things to do. I hate being ill. In the words of Ms. Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

I’m hoping to make some sweet Christmas rolls with Moore-ish mincemeat. I’m very Mooreish at the moment. January, the lady behind Moore-ish things, is the ideal woman to make anyone feel better. She knows comfort food like nobody does!

If you are too far away and you fancy a little chocolate tiffin yourself, here’s the BBC Good Food recipe. January’s has meringue in it – and between that and the glacé cherries, they’re my favourite bits. All wrapped up in chocolate. Yum.


These vegetable days

This week, I have been mostly eating chickpeas.

I love Jesse’s Diets from The Fast Show. I also suspect I’m beginning to look a bit like him, what with the wellies and the coming out of a strange shed. His diets included bourbon biscuits, taramasalata and acorns. Oh, and prozac. 

In all seriousness, I used to be a very serious organic vegetarian. My brother-in-law calls this ‘lesbionic’ food, and yes, my cupboards were largely unappetising if you were on the scrounge for chocolate, sugar, crisps, biscuits and the likes. I ate rice cakes and brown rice and lentils and hummus and all the things that people like to laugh at. I made a pot of mixed-bean salad at the beginning of the week and ate it with brown rice or cous-cous for lunch every day. It was a finely-balanced diet and any nutritionist would have been proud, if not a little stunned. To my brother-in-law, it’s the kind of food that sandal-wearing, hippy social workers eat. Yotam Ottolenghi is the king of the lesbionic food.

But when I had to stop running, when my feet were busted for good, I fell to comfort foods. I did lots of low-impact activities anyway and lots of weights and so on, but eventually, life got the better of me. When I say life, I mean feeding boys and men who won’t eat chickpea and aubergine curry. Whilst I am proud I expanded Steve’s diet from mainly pies, chippy and huge sandwiches, taking him into the realm of risottos and cous-cous and occasional vegetarian meals, I started eating meat again, after a 20-year hiatus, mainly because it was convenient. Cooking three separate meals is something of  a chore when you’ve been working all day.

Anyway, my friend Rachel has inspired me to be more experimental and healthy again. She makes this amazing quinoa salad and I’ve been feeling more and more like I needed a break from the dairy/meat and sandwiches grind I’ve been in. Plus, when it’s just me, I eat a lot of sandwiches. Sandwiches constitute my main meals. Toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, sandwich for tea.

I’ve no allergies to anything, it must be said, but eating ‘lesbionic’ food does make you feel clean inside. It gives you back all the energy you used to have. I’m a big believer in what you put in and how it affects your mood and energy levels, but then I’m also a comfort eater who eats her feelings. So this week, I ‘ave mostly bin eatin lesbionic food.

I cut out most bread and yeast last week. I had a couple of rounds of French bread and a burger bun. This week, it’s been mostly dairy-free as well. I’m not being mad about it. It’s not a cult. It’s not ‘all or nothing’. But yesterday, I made a Keralan coconut curry with chickpeas, tofu, almonds and green peppers. And very delicious it was too. It’s nice to be able to be experimental with flavours again.

The recipe was as follows:

2 red onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp of fresh chili paste (from the Portuguese section in the supermarket if you’re in France) or 1 chopped chili.

1 tsp of garam masala

1 tsp powdered ginger

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp turmeric

200 g chickpeas

1 chopped green pepper

100 g tofu, chopped (from the ‘bio/nature’ section in the supermarket)

20 g chopped almonds

3 tbsp sunflower oil

200 ml coconut milk

Fry the chopped onions in 2 tbsp sunflower oil for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft. Add the garlic and the chili and fry off for two minutes. Add the spices and continue frying for 2 minutes. Add more oil, then the tofu and green peppers. Sauté until both are browned. Add 100 ml of coconut milk and stir in, before adding the chickpeas. Add the remaining coconut milk and cook for 20 minutes. Add water if the sauce becomes too dry or sticky. If the sauce fails to thicken, you may want to add some cornflour paste.

Serve with brown rice and sprinkle the almonds on top.

It’s a very mild curry indeed – very gentle. Nobody’s going to have watering eyes from it.

Having said that, Mme V gave me real English bacon butties last night and boy was I glad to break my bread and meat fast 🙂

A little of what you fancy doesn’t do you any harm, now does it? I think that’s what got my waistline in trouble in the first place!

Quite Contrary…

If you know me, you may wonder why I’m not called Mary, since I am indeed very contrary. Ornery. Stubborn. Awkward. Perverse and definitely willful.

If I were a horse, I’d be the one that always cantered off wherever it felt like it.


Anyway, this post isn’t about me being contrary, but about my lovely little garden. I spent two hours yesterday digging up more vegetables, pickling, bottling, cleaning, wondering why I’m bothering, thinking ‘I could buy this in the supermarket for 1€’ and then, finally, then, feeling damn bloody satisfied with myself, nay, even a bit smug.

A bowl of red onions for marmalade, more beetroot (and yet still not enough for my beetrooty needs!) and more carrots. By 9:30 pm, I’d pickled another kg of beetroot as beetroot and ginger chutney.

Here’s the recipe, by the way. It’s a Women’s Institute one.

700 g beetroot, cooked and cubed or mashed (depending on whether you like your chutney chunky or not)

225 g chopped onions

225 g chopped cooking apples

225 g raisins

600 ml cider vinegar

2 tsp powdered ginger

450 g sugar

Cook the onions for 5 min in 50 ml of vinegar. Then add the apples and the raisins (you can also use dates). Cook down til soft (about 25 mins). Add the chopped beetroot, the rest of the vinegar, the ginger and the sugar. Stir in and cook over a low heat until it’s at a caramelised consistency (between 45 mins – 1 hr) and then put into jars. This makes about 3 jars of 500 ml content.

It’s such an amazing colour and taste. My dad says it’s like Branston Pickle, but it’s not. It’s much more beetrooty and subtle. I just love the dark ruby-red glow. Nigella has a recipe for ‘slut red’ something-or-other, and this is about 50 shades more red than that. If her recipe is slut red, well, the colour of this must be whorehouse burgundy. I’ve already given away two jars, and I’ve made six, so I want to make another batch at the very least. It’s THAT yum. Couple it with some cheese and biscuits and it’s just heaven.

Anyway… that’s about the vegetable plot – the potager  – not the garden.

Now it might only be a key-hole shaped plot of roughly three big bags of soil, perhaps 1.5 m long by a metre wide, but this is the highlight of my gardening life:

Apart from 30€ for the soil and the manure and the posts and net, it’s cost me:

15€ for the sedum, the rudbeckia, the achillea, the coreopsis, the dicentra, the aquilegia and the monarda

1.60€ for the packet of marguerite seeds

29 cents each for the limonium, portulaca and asters

two packets were a gift from my mum – the ostrich asters and the calendula

3.99€ for the dahlias


£5.99 for the campanula seeds, the second achillea, delphinium seeds and the scabiosa. That’s 23€ for a garden that, should I maintain it properly, will either come back next year or give me seeds for next year.

And they’re all beautiful flowers. I’m particularly loving all the pinks, whites and purples. The limonium are wonderful, and for 29 c from Lidl, have to be some of my favourites. Likewise the portulaca. The limonium coupled with the scabiosa – well, that’s my favourite bit. It’s obviously a favourite of the wildlife as well.

Now, I’m not usually a frilly, pink, fluffy kind of a girl. Give me whorehouse burgundy every time. But that’s where I’m contrary. Because I love the fluffy pink and the frilly white together. And I’m going to be doing other patches with these next year, I think. It’s such a good look!

I’m also loving the purple and orange combo of the limonium and the calendula. The calendula are ‘Pink Surprise’ though I’d be very surprised if they were pink. They don’t look pink to me. Or to anyone with eyes. Spot the Jersey Tiger Moth, though. At least, that’s what I think it is. I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong!

The ostrich asters are also beautiful, some of them very pink and frilly as well. Perhaps it goes with the ‘knickers on a line’ signs? It’s kind of a boudoir garden. In fact, I’m sensing a theme for my next border. I think I shall call it ‘pink and frilly’ and put some real boudoir knickers out there.

I admit… I’m entranced by the colours and the ‘Wow!’ of it all. I’m a fan of all those crazy plants in together, as it gives you something to look at. And yes, the annuals are the show-stealers. I’m going to look for some perennial scabiosa and then at least I can have half a site that won’t need quite so much looking after.

I think it’s also Heston’s favourite part of the garden because he loves to chase butterflies and moths. Watching him chasing butterflies is just about the cutest thing ever. Love my doggies.








Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Back in September, we went on a trip to Brantome and I ate some fabulous beurre salée ice cream from a glacerie. It was amazing, and as soon as I got back, I was looking for a recipe. I found one on The Guardian website.

I had to adapt the recipe as I went along – some simple reasons for this. One is I don’t like melting sugar without any liquid in it or without butter. It tends to stick and burn, so I added the butter.

The other adaptation I made was when I saw you needed to add cold milk and cream to hot caramel – it’s very likely to harden it. So I heated the milk and cream in one pan and then added it, warm, to the caramel. I know it’s two pans, but it avoids solidifying the caramel. 2 tsps of salt is too much for me, especially with salted butter, and the original sauce was too rich for me, so I added 500 ml of crème fraiche. Made double the amount, but it mellowed the flavour a little so it didn’t just taste like Werther’s Originals.

So… a slightly amended recipe:

300g caster sugar

60 g demi-sel butter

500 ml whole milk

250 ml thick cream

1 tsp salt – fleur du sel if possible

5 egg yolks

500 ml crème fraiche

1. Melt the sugar over a low heat with the butter, stirring constantly, checking to ensure the sugar and butter don’t burn.

2. Meanwhile, heat the cream and milk. When all the sugar is melted and the cream/milk are gently simmering, add them to the pan with the sugar in it. Add 1 tsp of salt.

3. Beat the egg yolks and when the milk/sugar mixture is just about to boil, add the eggs. Keep them on a low heat unless you want omelette. Stir for a few minutes until they thicken.

4. Leave to cool

5. Stir in 500 ml of crème fraiche

6. Put in an ice-cream maker for 30 minutes and then freeze for another couple of hours until it is set properly. Defrost for 15 minutes before eating to soften

EDIT: this was far too salty, even with the extra cream. I ended up throwing it away. It also tasted like Werther’s Originals mixed with Butterscotch Angel Delight. Not so bad for me, but neither of the boys would even try it. I’m going with the Marmiton recipe (in French) next time, if I bother at all. Much better ratio of caramel and custard. They put no extra salt in it, and a third less sugar. I guess this will taste better. Will let you know!!!

Quince jelly – la confiture de coing

We have a fabulous quince tree in our secret garden, which had 20 or so huge, globe-like, weighty fruits hanging pendulous and heavy from it, making the branches sink under them. Some of them gave way to rot (my fault… I have to get better at picking things quickly!!) but we had 7 heavily-scented fruits left after I’d given four of the biggest to my dad’s neighbours. This morning, I decided it was time to turn them into jelly.

Again, I found my way to the cottage smallholder and the recipe for quince jelly here. I washed them first to get rid of the fluff, and then cut them into pieces. They are very hard and it’s a good job I had the internet to peruse or else I’d have left these a lot longer than I did in order to ripen up!! They were a soft pear-like yellow. I covered them with water and they are currently boiling. Apparently, they can take 3 hours or more. Larousse says only 30-40 minutes, but that doesn’t seem enough to me. They’ve turned a deep peach already.

1 hour later, they softened and the water is a deep red (not sure how!) – they are soft enough to mash. I’ve mashed them and put them through a fine mesh sieve (I don’t hold with muslin!) and now it will be left for 12 hours to drain through.


Walnut and Gorgonzola pasta

A quick and delicious pasta dish – good for post-foraging!

400 g fresh pasta, preferably home-made. If you haven’t got it yet, Phaidon’s fabulous recipe book, The Silver Spoon which is at least a thousand recipes under one cover, is a must-have! Unfortunately, mine is still languishing in England and there’s no way I’ll be able to bring it back in December seeing as how heavy it is. Still, I’ve got a good few recipes to heart. Basically, it’s 400 g of 00 Italian flour, 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks. Give it a lot of kneading and leave it to rest. When it’s rested, form into pasta shapes, farfalle or tagliatelle.

200 g crème fraiche

100 g walnuts (or to taste)

200 g gorgonzola, or other smooth blue cheese.

Put the pasta on to boil. Heat the creme fraiche and gorgonzola until the gorgonzola has melted. Add the walnuts and heat. Then mix in the fresh pasta. You could always add a few sultanas, but Steve is not a sultana fan so I left those out. Equally, bits of chopped apple would be lovely, if getting a bit Waldorf salad!

Preparations for Autumn

Jake’s been off school yesterday and today – so today we’ve been baking biscuits, as opposed to my usual cookies. I’ve dug out my cookie cutters for Hallowe’en and we’ve iced and decorated our biscuits. It’s a very simple recipe:

  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 225 g butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 450 g flour, sifted

Just cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and then add the flour in 50 g increments, mixing it in with your hands until it’s a dough. Leave somewhere very cool for an hour (or in the fridge!) and then roll and cut out. Some people are fussy about them being level and flat and so on. I don’t care because they don’t last long. Bake for 10 minutes at Gas Mark 4 – whatever that is. Then leave to cool, then ice!

I am unscientific with my icing sugar – Put a bit in, add some milk and mix to a thick paste. Add light colours of food colouring first and be very sparing if you’re adding darker colours to mix to other colours.

Jake and I painted them with a cocktail stick – and then we all enjoyed eating them!!

I’m planning on having a ‘feu de joie’ (a fire of joy – or bonfire to you and I) for the 5th November, seeing as we can’t get back to England at half term. I’ve planned an extensive list of potato and apple products – pommes d’amour (toffee apples), purée de pommes de terre (mashed potato) sausages, jacket potatoes done on the barbecue, parkin (only if I can find molasses, my make-do substitute for Tate and Lyle’s divine black treacle) bonfire toffee, fudge, baked bananas and chocolate, mushy peas, pickled red cabbage – so Jake can invite some of his friends round. I’ll invite a few neighbours and English people who I like – and we’ll have some games and a small bonfire (not forgetting firewood is now a commodity, not something to get rid of!) which I think will be jolly lovely!!

We’d also gone to look for the non-existent maison de la Resistance in Chasseneuil – apparently a room in someone’s house (not unlike a ‘teddy bear’ museum I went to in Japan which really was just someone’s front room done up!!) – but didn’t find it, so I dragged us up to the Necropolis in Chasseneuil instead. Amazing to think it was a small hub of Resistance activity. I thought Jake might be interested because these were your real life Jack Bauers and Tony Almeidas, taking pills to stop themselves confessing under torture. The Necropolis is dedicated to the Resistance fighters in Chasseneuil. It’s quite amazing to think of these real people fighting. Not like the British, sending people to war, but actual war around your own home, affecting everybody – your parents, your children.

Unfortunately, however, in the midst of this solemnity and sombre necropolis, Jake and Steve decided it’d be great to do their usual horsing about, throwing each other about, attacking each other, kicking each other, punching each other. I said I’m not taking them anywhere ever again. They can’t go anywhere without it being street theatre and almost a contact sport for the average passer-by. So they’re staying at home from now on. I shall not allow their noise pollution to escape Les Ecures. I’m sure it’s their way of holding hands, but it’s more like chimps playing. In fact, I’ve seen this very thing on Monkey World, where the little chimp chases after the bigger chimp and they roll about for a bit and then the little chimp ends up playing too rough and the big chimp ends up losing his temper and playing too hard. How little we have evolved.

I’m standing at the foot of this huge memorial, mulling over the seriousness of world war and contemplating life 70 years ago, and they’re rampaging through it like they’ve escaped from La Vallée des Singes.

Next week, I might go and look at some stuff on my own and leave them at home. Men.

As I write, Jake’s just gone outside to set fire to some pine needles, and is murmuring about ‘it only gives off a smoke’ – Neanderthal, then, rather than chimp?!



Creme de marrons

Crème de marrons

This recipe is quintessential France for the autumn – a purée of chestnuts. It’s a sweet jam ideal for putting with profiteroles or choux pastry as an éclair, or spread on flaky pastry, or as part of a tart.

A lot of the online recipes call for 2 or more kg of chestnuts, but that gives LOTS of chestnut purée – so I’ve used a smaller amount.


500 g of shelled chestnuts

300 g sugar

100 ml water x 2

1. Put a cross with a sharp knife into the top of each chestnut. Put them in a pan and cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then plunge them into a tub of cold water.

2. Peel the chestnuts and take the inner skin off too, so you’re left with the flesh.

3. Boil the chestnuts in 100 ml of cold water. It will take about 10 minutes to boil them until you can mash them. Then put them in a food processor and whizz them until they are smooth. If you haven’t taken the outer skin off, this will make it bitter, which is why you need to get rid of them first. That’s the messy, tricky and annoying bit – but after that, it’s easy.

4. Put the 300 g sugar in a pan with 100 ml water and bring to a boil. Pour in the puréed chestnuts and keep over a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Rapid, but not chaotic, and not just simmering. Keep stirring from time to time.

5. Put into a sterilised jar, cover with a piece of waxed paper, seal and leave.

I’m keeping mine in the freezer until it’s cold enough in the pantry to keep it in there. Opinions vary as to how long it can be kept, from 1 month to a year, but err on the side of caution unless you want a nasty case of botulism!