Category Archives: food

Chocolate Ginger Cake, Great With A Cuppa, Or As A Pud.

There’s nothing like a slice of cake on a dull dark afternoon to cheer the soul. I do love cake but I don’t particularly like icing, it’s too sweet.

Gran’s Wartime Ginger Cake is a firm favourite with everyone who has tried it. It’s also suitable for vegans, and it’s great warm with some custard, cream or ice cream as a pudding. You can find the recipe here.


I thought it might be an idea to try a chocolate version of this cake. I found half a jar of stem ginger in syrup the fridge that needed using up so chocolate ginger cake it is. Chocolate on it’s own would work well but then I would add all the golden syrup to the recipe, chocolate chips would be good but there’s the possibility they will sink. Dusting them in flour i meant to help prevent fruit sinking so that might work, I will have to try it next time.

Chocolate and Stem Ginger Cake.

2 cups plain flour minus 2 tablespoons.

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 cup sugar

4 oz butter or margarine

1 cup hot water

pinch of salt

2 large tablespoons stem ginger in syrup, chopped fine

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon of baking powder



Grease and line a loaf tin

Heat the oven to gas mark 4 or 180 C

  1. Melt the fat and golden syrup (if using ) in the water
  2. Sieve the flour into a bowl with the sugar and salt
  3. Make a well and pour in the liquid and stir in the ginger.
  4. Mix the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder with some vinegar in a cup, it will froth up, quickly pour into the mixture and beat everything together. Pour into the tin and bake for about an hour, watch the top doesn’t burn.

My cake sank a little as I took it out of the oven too soon, my main oven is broken so I cooked it in a combi microwave. It still tasted good.

It’s nice and chocolatey, squidgy with a lovely lovely warm ginger note, again this cake would be great as a pudding with some ice cream or clotted cream.

I ate it in front of the fire with a mug of tea after a bracing walk, it was just the job.

Jam Making With A Glut Of Apples.

It’s been a strange year in many ways as we all know. Most of my crops started well and grew like Jack’s beanstalk in May with the lovely weather, then things turned very wet and windy and most of our vegetables failed to produce. The exception being our apples which thrived in the warm weather and swelled with all the rain.  So what do you do with a bumper crop of apples?

We eat them daily and I have stewed and frozen a lot. The blackberries ripened early so I had to rush out in a dry spell and pick what I could, unfortunately the wild bullace tree doesn’t have any fruit at all this year so no jam there.

I looked online for jam recipes using apples, I always make apple chutney and sometimes blackberry and apple jam, as we have so many apples this would be a great way of using them up. I found recipes for apple and raspberry jam  which I made using raspberries that were in my freezer.
Apple and raspberry jamApple and blackcurrant jam made using home grown blackcurrants which I froze as they ripened until I had enough to make something.
Jam making
Apple and ginger jam made using root ginger, I had accidentally ordered to much when shopping online.

Do you like my new jam pan? Well worth the money; I bought a digital thermometer as well having burnt marmalade to the base of my old jam making pot last year. When the thermometer reads 105 C the jam is ready to jar up.
Jam making
Apple and apricot jam as I had a bag of dried apricots in the cupboard.
Jam making
And of course apple and blackberry jam from my Gran’s old cookbook.
Jam makingI had to make some bread to sample my jams. 🙂
Homemade bread and jam made this morning 😊They tasted delicious, here we have apple and apricot and apple and raspberry.
Homemade bread and jam made this morning 😊
My task next week will be making some chutney.

Sourdough Stottie Cakes

As you may know already I’m dabbling with sourdough, I try to keep baking to the weekend taking Hercules ( my sourdough starter) out of the fridge on Thursday for dough making on Friday (after a couple of feeds) then baking on Saturday morning. I make more dough on Saturday for baking on Sunday. Hercules is fed then returned to the fridge.

The chewy texture of sourdough reminds me of a traditional stottie cake from Northumberland. I couldn’t find anything online for making a sourdough stottie so I set about to make my own. My Gran baked them regularly so I know how a traditional stottie should be and how a shop bought one differs. I’m going to try to make my Gran’s version.

Where does the name come from you ask? To stot something is to bounce if off something, like “stotting a baall off the nettie waal”, or “it’s stotting doon ooutside”, meaning  bouncing a ball of the toilet wall ( in the days of outside loos) or in the latter, it’s raining heavily.

Here’s my recipe, I thought I would have to make a few to get it right but actually the first attempt was pretty close to what I wanted.

Sourdough Stottie Cake.

2 1/4 cups strong white flour

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 cup active sourdough discard

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

150 ml warm water

1 tablespoon dried milk powder


Mix the dry ingredients except milk powder in a bowl.

Mix the  milk powder and water, stir in the discard and the oil.

Pour into the flour mixture and bring together into a rough ball. Let it rest 10 minutes.

Stottie cake and pease pudding

Tip onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Leave to rest covered with a damp tea towel for  minutes.

Flatten out with your hand and put on a baking tray, poke a hole in the centre, and prick with a fork ( I forgot to do this). Leave in the fridge overnight.
Stottie cake and pease pudding

In the morning bring out of the fridge while the oven heats to 200C. Put a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. Pop the stottie in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, turn over and bake another 15 minutes.

It should be cooked, I like to check the internal temperature is about 98 C so I know it’s done. Wrap in a tea towel and leave to cool.

Stottie cake and pease pudding
I made some quick pease pudding to eat with my stottie cake. I soaked yellow split peas overnight then rinsed and put in a pan with water and a stock cube, boil until the peas mush. Keep an eye on the water level and top up if needed. I like a bit of texture so didn’t go completely mush, but I blitzed with a hand blender. As the pease pudding cools it thickens up and becomes spreadable.
Stottie cake and pease pudding
Traditionally the peas would be tied in a clout (cloth) and put in a pan of vegetables, water and bacon bones or ham hock to make pea soup , the peas thicken the soup and the peas in the cloth take on flavour from the stock.
Stottie cake and pease pudding
For a miner’s family this would be 2 cheap filling meals for very little money especially if they grew their own vegetables, pea soup and dumplings and ham and pease pudding sandwiches. My quick version is still very tasty, you can add other things like bacon pieces or onions but we had it plain.

The texture when I cut into the stottie looked right, just a little dense but not too heavy.
Stottie cake and pease pudding

It tasted great, just as I remember it.
Stottie cake and pease pudding

The next day I made another stottie cake but cooked it differently to see if I could get a crust like a shop bought stottie. It was cooked in a cast iron pan then put in the oven to finish off. While it was in the pan I realised why they have a belly button, it lets the steam out and stops it puffing up like a pitta bread.
Stottie cakeIt came out more stodgy, but the crust seemed to have the right texture.
Stottie cakeIt tasted good but I do prefer my Gran’s stottie cake.
Stottie cakeStotties will be a regular feature of my sourdough baking in future, I wonder how my Gran would rate them 🙂


Sourdough journey has begun.

I have spent the lockdown try to resist but in the end I caved in and decided to give sourdough bread making a go. I try not to eat much bread but when I found out that you can keep your starter in the fridge and bake once a week I couldn’t resist any longer and so Hercules was born.
SourdoughAs there’s so much sourdough information out there ( bit of an overload for my brain just now) I bought a book called “Artisan Sourdough  Made Simple” by Emilie Raffa. It’s a brilliant book for a beginner as everything is well laid out and easy to follow.
SourdoughHercules (I’m hoping he is strong and mighty) was halved, fed and watered for 6 days as instructed, he smelled nice and had bubbles but he wasn’t rising up the jar. Day 7 he was fed again, by this time I had quite a bit of discard so I decided to make flatbread from the book. I thought it wouldn’t matter how they came out as they are flatbread. They were delicious.
SourdoughOn day 8 Hercules came good and had risen up the jar so it was time to make the first recipe for a loaf as recommended by Emilie. I didn’t have enough white flour so I went half and half with a local biodynamic wholemeal flour. I was sceptical as the bread dough looked heavy, I got a good crust, however as my main oven is broken it had to be squeezed into the top oven and got a bit too dark on the edges.
SourdoughIt was fine when I cut into it, the crust was amazing, very crisp, and well flavoured. The loaf didn’t last long as we sat in the garden with a glass of wine, some salad from the garden, cheese and olive oil.
SourdoughSadly I ran out of flour but I managed to source some online, in the meantime Hercules was fed with what I had left and the discard started to mount up, so we had crumpets from King Arthur Flour website. These were very easy to make and light, but not the same as my usual crumpets, they lacked the rubbery texture. I will make them again but not think of them as a crumpet.

&SourdoughBy the time Friday came I felt like Old Mother Hubbard as our grocery delivery doesn’t arrive until today, so I had a look around to see what I had in. There was some pesto, cheese, tomato and mushrooms, and of course sourdough discard so I cooked it off in the frying pan.

Quick pizza using sourdough discardTopped it and put under the grill, in a few minutes we had a pizza!
Quick pizza using sourdough discardHopefully my flour will arrive soon, I have to say Hercules is a welcome addition to the family, we have unanimously agreed homemade sourdough is the best, we are hooked.

Growing Vegetables In Pots.

Although The weather has been bright throughout the day it’s been chilly at night, we have even had a few frosts, so I have been nurturing my veggies. One advantage of growing in pots you can bring them inside at night, or wrap in fleece, or cover with cardboard or panes of glass. This will give enough protection to keep off the frosts.

My mixed cut and come again lettuce are doing really well, I will be having baby salad leaves very soon. The other tray has some which we transplanted so that will extend cropping. These get covered with glass at night.
Growing veg in potsThese are cylindrical beetroot, we will eat the thinnings as salad leaves and leave the rest to grow on, 2 crops in one.
Growing veg in potsThe pot in front is spinach and the one behind is mizuna which is quite hardy. We will eat young leaves in salad and the larger ones in a stir fry. I have some other oriental vegetables, the edamame beans aren’t up yet, also perilla and amaranth which haven’t been sown yet. I’ve just sown rocket, basil and corinander in small pots which will be sown every few weeks to maintain a supply throughout the summer.

Growing veg in pots
Potatoes are doing well.
Veg in potsRunner beans don’t like the cold, where I live they shouldn’t really go out until June but they needed potting on so they got planted out. They are wrapped in fleece to keep the wind from burning the leaves and to keep the frost off. A couple of nights they came indoors.

Growing veg in potsYou can see them inside the fleece wigwam, they look ok. I have 2 varieties, one is a purple bean which keeps it’s colour if you steam it.
Veg in pots
The courgettes are growing quickly, if it had been warmer they would have been potted on, I bring them inside at night.
Growing veg in potsThis is a rogue seen that was in the bean packet, can’t wait to see what it is. It looks like the courgettes but more silvery, let’s hope it’s a melon.
Growing veg in potsMy tomatoes are still on the windowsill I bought a compact cherry tomato seed in the hope they don’t get too leggy, so far it’s working. The two smaller ones are grown from seeds from my tomato sandwich as only 4 of the 6 bought seeds came up.
Growing veg in pots
I love watching my plants grow but it will be even better to eat them. Anyone got a good courgette or green bean recipes?

Partying At Home This V.E. Day

I think the lock down must be getting to me I’ve gone stir crazy today, I awoke feeling in the mood for some baking. Like many people we can now celebrate the V. E. Day 75th anniversary with an afternoon tea in the garden.

I thought I’d try and make our tea as authentic as possible, I already make my Gran’s wartime  ginger cake which is a firm favourite with everyone who has tried it.
IMG_0048The unusual thing is this cake has no eggs, it uses vinegar and baking soda instead so it’s great for lock down or vegans. You can find the recipe hereV E Day ration book recipesI should mention everything got a little browner than usual, my main oven gave up on me a couple of weeks ago, I’m using the top oven.
Once sliced you can’t tell  🙂
V E Day ration book recipesI went in search of other wartime recipes and found a great blog called The 1940’s Experiment. I found a chocolate cake recipe that looked great, with mock cream. My Aunt always made a similar mock cream for her chocolate cake and I loved it as it’s  not as sweet as buttercream. She always put Cadbury’s  chocolate and buttons on the top of hers but I  don’t  think they would have had that luxury then and I don’t have any in my pantry so a dusting of icing sugar will have to do.
The cream looks a little lumpy but it tastes fine.
V E Day ration book recipes
V E Day ration book recipesI made my tried and trusted scone recipe which I think came from my Gran originally, I  had it on my blog but can’t  find the recipe, I will add it soon. Again no eggs, vinegar and baking powder make these scones nice and light. With true ration book thrift I divided the scone mixture and made half cheese and wild garlic picked from my garden and the other half fruit.

V E Day ration book recipes

V E Day ration book recipesI’ve donned some red lippy and a land girl look,  I’m looking forward to eating this lot and waving to my neighbours who are busy putting up bunting, these are strange times. All that’s left to do is set the table.
I just wish my Dad could be here enjoying tea with us. Can you imagine how people would have felt at the end of the war, we might feel a little stir crazy with 6 weeks of lockdown but it’s  nothing in comparison is it?

Enjoy your day however you are spending it and stay safe.

Cooking with dried egg.

When the lockdown started and panic buying was leading to food shortages I bought some dried egg powder. I have been curious to try it as my Mum told me she loved it during the war.

From the packet I worked out 12g was about the equivalent of an egg. I decided to make a Victoria sandwich cake, but I only made 110 g / 2 egg mixture, baked in one tin just in case it didn’t  turn out right, I didn’t  want to risk wasting ingredients, I could always make a trifle with it if it didn’t turn out right.

The egg powder is a lovely yellow colour, it smells slightly eggy but that’s probably to be expected.
Baking with dried eggI added it after creaming the butter and sugar, it didn’t  sieve very well so a spoon was used to push it through. I added some milk as the mixture was too stiff then beat it in before folding in the flour.
Baking with dried egg
All the mixture went in one tin, with the plan of cutting it into 2 semi circles and sandwiching with homemade jam. I don’t  like buttercream and I’m not going out to shop so unfortunately there’s no cream to put in the middle.
Baking with dried eggThe cake rose well, I decided to cut it through the middle but as it was so light I found this quite difficult and the top layer cracked, nothing that can’t be disguised with a dusting of icing sugar.
Baking with dried eggOn eating, the cake was feather light and spongy, it tasted buttery maybe slightly more eggy than when using fresh eggs, it was delicious.
Baking with dried eggAs it’s Easter Sunday I’m cooking a roast dinner for the 3 of us who are at home, normally there would be a family gathering. I used the dried egg and dried milk to make Yorkshire puddings, not the best puds I’ve ever made but they tasted great, very light and fluffy.

Yorkshire puddings made with dried egg and milk

Making Beeswax Wraps

I really can’t get going this January. It’s always a difficult month as I only work in the daylight hours. Also I intend to adopt a slower pace of work this year, I need more time to do other things. I’m taking this ‘slow living’ to heart and really enjoying feeling calm and relaxed.

I’ve been reading, knitting and cooking healthy food, exercising and following my diet plan. I even made a Facebook group called  ‘Motivation and Support for Healthy Eating and Exercise’ click here if you want to join us.

This week I decided to make some beeswax wraps.

I cut some squares of cotton fabric, having washed it first to remove the finish. Then added some beeswax pellets and another square of fabric on top.
Making beeswax wraps

Making beeswax wraps

This was sandwiched between 2 pieces of baking parchment. I decided to do this on an old towel rather than the ironing board.

Making beeswax wraps

When you iron you can see the wax melting and coming through the fabric.
It looked patchy so more beeswax was added then more ironing.

Making beeswax wraps

Making beeswax wraps

I had too much wax this time, it leaked out onto the towel.

Making beeswax wraps

Because there was too much wax I layered up one waxed piece with a new piece of fabric and ironed to transfer the wax. I kept doing this until they looked evenly coated.

Making beeswax wraps

They were laid flat until the wax set.

Making beeswax wraps

I have to say I’m  not totally convinced they will work but I’m certainly going to try them out.

They work as bowl covers.Untitled

Lets try wrapping an apple.

Making beeswax wraps


Making beeswax wraps

I wouldn’t use them for things like meat but they will have their uses and they will save on some waste.

The Be-Ro book revisited.

Last week I had cause to do some baking, I decided to make my Dad his favourite, “Maids of Honour “ from my Mam’s old Be-Ro book.

I learned to cook as a child with my Mam and Gran from this book, it was THE cookbook.

I have 2 old copies of the book, both were my Mams, one is really quite old and in sepia, it’s lost the cover, after a bit of online research and what I remember the cover to look like I think it dates back to 1930. The other one is in colour, it’s the 34th edition from 1974. I decided to buy the 41st edition to add to my collection.
BeRo books through the agesI  did more research online, I didn’t realise that Be-Ro was a North East company, but that would explain why every household I knew as a child had a Be-Ro book. All my family baked from this little book for the weekend, the cake tin was rarely empty. The recipes are straightforward and economical too. I enjoyed reading about the history of Be-Ro flour and why the cookbook came about, you can read about it here.

It’s interesting to see how recipes have changed over the editions, to suit today’s palate and pocket. For example the Dundee cake is smaller now, it has less almonds.
Dundee cakeThe lemon meringue pie has more lemons in it and they are now individual pies.
Lemon meringue pieMargarine has been swapped for butter in the Victoria sandwich cake.

Victoria sponge

In most recipes salt has been reduced.

Some recipes like my Dad’s favourite Maids of Honour have gone but there are some new recipes like Smoked Trout Tartlets which sounds rather grand for the Be-Ro book.

Today I’m baking for friends coming, I’ve made a start with a Victoria sandwich cake (to fill later) and coconut tartlets. OH can’t resist these.
Baking from the BeEo book
The new book has some very useful conversion charts (useful when using the old books) And helpful tips for when things go wrong, as ever this really is a little jem of a cookbook  and unlike a lot of cookbooks the recipes are easy to follow and ingredients don’t cost the earth. At under £5 a copy I think every home should still have one. Now I think I will go and make some Melting Moments, I bet you can’t eat just one 🙂