Beautiful Shortbread

Star Shortbread

As a child I was lucky enough to have a Grandparent living with me.  My Scottish Grandfather.  He was beautiful, elegant, funny, and ever so slightly deaf, which he regularly used to his advantage.

When ladies from the Derby and Joan Club telephoned, he would politely let them speak, pull the telephone away from his ear and shout,
‘I’m really sorry, I cannae hear a word you’re saying’,
place the receiver back in it’s cradle, and, smiling to himself, get on with his day.

I am of an age where it was usual for the Sunday papers to be delivered.  My Grandfather’s paper was The Sunday Post, a Scottish paper which kept him up to date with all the goings on over the border.  For us children, The Post held a reverence, not only because it linked us to our heritage, but because there was a cartoon section which had the weekly goings on of ‘The Broons’.

Now for those of you unfamiliar with cartoon strips in newspapers, ‘The Broons’ were about the day to day life of a Scottish family, with generic characteristics.  Not particularly P.C, but beloved.  The Mum, ‘Maw’ did the household stuff, the Dad, ‘Paw’ went out to work, the eldest child (aspirational, self confident) all the way down to the naughty twins (boys, always in trouble) and the baby.  Then finally there was the ‘Grandpaw’ – a slightly grumpy man with a twinkle in his eye and a habit of making merry with the others.  Just like my Grandad.

Each week there was a short story, often with humour, featuring all the different characteristics of the family. Each week, we would wait, with anticipation, for The Sunday Post to be delivered, and immediately pull out the cartoon section to find out what happened this week.

It was a delight, but always over too soon, then, once again, the long wait began for next week’s episode.

And why, you may ask, am I telling you all this?  Well, a few years ago, Big Dave (my dad) bought me a Broons cookery book for Christmas.  Included in all the usual Scottish classics was a recipe for shortbread which transformed my understanding of why the tastes differ so much, why some shortbreads taste absolutely pants whilst others are divine.

I’m hoping by now you may be a little curious to know exactly what is so special. Well, let me tell you, the clue is in the name… short (bread).  Yes, that’s right, it’s the shortness of the biscuit which makes it so delicious, and in the Broons cookery book, all became clear. The secret ingredient to a beautiful shortbread is…


Simple, and yet extraordinarily effective.

And the recipe? Well that, too, is simple. You will need:

500g butter, 175g castor sugar, 550g plain flour and 50g semolina.

Cream the butter and sugar (not too much, it ruins the biscuit structure and you’ll end up with more of a cake like mixture)

Mix the flour and semolina together, add gradually to the butter and sugar mixture.

Roll out*, cut, bake**, cool, enjoy.  With Tea.  Everything biscuity is great with tea.

And here’s a little addendum you may wish to consider.  I have started making these with 300g of rice flour and 300g of plain flour.  Just as simple, just as short, just as delicious.

*Make sure they are no thinner than 3-4mm. There is a difference between crisp shortbread and biscuit shortbread 🙂

**Gas 3, 150C, middle of the oven, 10 minutes or until golden in colour

Goan Fish Curry

Goan Fish Curry

Did you know there are some people in the world that have NEVER eaten a fish curry?  I know, I, too, am flabbergasted.

Fish curry, for those of you uninitiated in the experience, is one of the most delightful curries you will ever devour.  Providing, of course, you love a curry and are partial to fish.  I have noticed, coming from a fishing family, that those who have not been lucky enough to experience variable types of seafood from a young age and typically live inland, are not very good with fish.  By which I mean they pull an ‘oh no’ squirmy face when I mention fish and begin to jibber on about bones etc. at which point I have to change the subject.

That aside, if you tick the aforementioned boxes, you will find this irresistible.

The wee boy and I decided it would be a lovely thing to eat fish curry on Friday evening, so we bought all the ingredients we didn’t have in, including a bag of frozen Talapia from the Continental supermarket down the road.  Sadly, for one reason and another, this didn’t come to pass on Friday.  Undeterred, Saturday became designated as fish curry day.  However, according to the wee boy, it was puppet Dave’s birthday on Saturday, so I made a lovely batch of brownies which we all enjoyed enormously.  So much so, that when I tentatively suggested fish curry for dinner no-one, including myself, really had the appetite for it.

And so it was that we eventually ate this glorious curry on Sunday as, quite frankly, had we not done that, it would have been shelved for at least a week.

So what is in this now infamous curry, I hear you cry.  Well…

Whizz up a 4cm chunk of fresh ginger with 2 cloves of garlic, 2 deseeded long green chillies, and 2 onions.  Fry in a little oil until translucent then add 2 teaspoons of cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, and turmeric.  Stir for a couple of minutes before adding 6 large chopped tomatoes, one tin of coconut milk, 2 bay leaves and 2 cardamon pods, cut into two.

Allow it to simmer for around ten minutes.  In fact, I actually made this sauce the night before, but it’s not necessary.  Then add approximately 600g of meaty fish.  I used Talapia and salmon, but choose whatever you fancy.  Allow this to cook in the sauce then add a few prawns.

Just before you serve this delight, have a cheekie taste as you may want to add a little salt. Add a shake of lime juice (the juice of one if you’re going fresh) and sprinkle with fresh, chopped coriander.

Serve with whatever takes your fancy.

Midway through finally eating the curry, I remembered that I had forgotten to add the lime juice, which does give it a little extra kick, but is not, it turns out, the end of the world if you forget.  Also, as a little tip for those of you who like a curry with spicy heat in it, you could consider adding a couple more green chillies.

The important thing to remember here is, however you like your curry, making it with fish instead of meat, is a wonderful, dare I say healthy, alternative and one I can guarantee you won’t regret.




Bottled Water

frozen water

We keep bottles of distilled water in the fridge.  The bottles are beautiful, flip top ones, bought from a well known Swedish retailers (Ikea) and make that glorious ‘glop’ sound when popped.  Recently, and by recently I mean in the last 18 months or so, which I realise to someone relatively new to life may seem a long time ago, but to me feels like a mere drop in the ocean of life, the fridge began to regularly over cool any water that remained in the bottles.

I think it looks like an iced Christmas Tree which I find quite beguiling, however, I cannot help but wonder whether this is our fridge slightly over egging it’s role.  Consequently, I find myself considering much more than is healthy, the need to defrost the fridge.  Obviously, as with so many other things on my ‘to do’ list, the amount of time I spend considering a task to perform, greatly outweighs the actual time it would take to complete the task.  But still, it niggles away at my sub conscious, coming to the fore only when yet another bottle recreates a winter scene.

In my heart of hearts I know that this means our fridge is probably coming to the end of it’s useful lifespan, which I also find quite irksome as I expect everything I buy to last for ever.  Apart from kettles and washing machines which, if they last over a year I feel eternally grateful for.

I would like to be one of those people who factors in the lifespan of white goods into some sort of financial structure whereby, after so many years it is a given they will need replacing and therefore the resources are there.  Knowing I should at least attempt this tactic does not, in the slightest, change my reaction of absolute disbelief verging on panic when, either because they just stop working, blow up, or refuse to continue in the manner with which they were first purchased, I find myself having to consider replacing that item.

And so it is that, at the moment, I find myself on the white goods precipice of replacement but not quite accepting that the inevitable will occur, believing instead, that if I just let it ride, something miraculous may happen and the fridge will have a word with itself, realise the folly of it’s ways, and stop freezing everything that is put inside it.

Meanwhile, until it conks out completely, I am going to revert to type and behave like an ostrich.

*sticks head firmly back in the sand*

Hedgehog Potatoes

Hedgehog potatoes

I am a self confessed lover of potatoes.  They are, in my humble opinion, one of the most diverse vegetables to cook with, and always taste delicious.  Especially when you find a different way to cook them.  Enter the hedgehog potato.

This simple twist on a baked potato has just found it’s way onto my top ten cooking list. They look beautiful, need hardly any attention, and taste absolutely divine.  Sort of a cross between a baked and a roast potato.  All you need to do is cut slices three quarters of the way down the potato, brush with a warmed mixture of olive oil, butter, salt and pepper and pop in the oven for around fifty minutes.  Then hey presto, they’re done.  Yes, my friends, that is all it takes.  They have a wonderfully crisp exterior, but still maintain a soft interior.  Perfect with a Sunday dinner.

Meanwhile in the world of me, them and the puppy, I found a small part of the wee boy’s pants the other day, lounging idly on the living room floor.  A little bemused, I thought nothing more about it.  Out on a dog walk the following day, I discovered where the rest of that particular pair of pants had gone.  I have absolutely no idea why the puppy would even consider a small, perfectly shaped red and navy blue striped pair of boys pants edible, but then I’m not a chocolate labrador.  Anyone would think the poor wee thing was never fed.

I have also recently rediscovered the beauty of short journey train travel, although it also turns out that I’m still not very good at it.  Getting lost in my thoughts, the ability I have to block out all sounds around me to concentrate on the inner idle banter of my mind, I managed to completely miss my stop and had to go to the next main station before catching a train back to my original destination.

I guess the phrase ‘quicker by rail’ only works if you’re paying attention.


Duck Eggs

duck eggs

Duck eggs are absolutely beautiful.  They have this almost translucent shell which looks so fragile and yet is very tough.  Harder to crack, I think, than a hen’s egg.  Moreover, they have an elegance to them which is captivating.  Rather like the difference between DIY store and Farrow & Ball paint.  And, being that little bit larger than a hen’s egg, they fit into the palm of my hand beautifully.

Not so good on toast though.

The reason why I occasionally buy them is because I love how they transform a run of the mill, everyday victoria sponge cake into something slightly more luxurious.  There is a depth of taste there that you just don’t get when you bake with hen’s eggs.   Which is what I was looking for this weekend as I spent Saturday afternoon hanging out with two fabulous women, discussing very important things.  Well, important to us.  And in my world, it is crucial to have good cake when beginning something that will change yours, and other people’s children’s future.

However, baking with the duck egg is not without it’s hazards.  I have not yet made a victoria sponge where the sponge hasn’t verged on the descent into oblivion, otherwise known as a biscuit.  Moreover, I still seem to be having difficulty with the heat of my not so new to me now, electric oven.  Work in progress I think.

So here we are on Mother’s Day, again.  The speed at which days are flying by is frightening.  It only seems like yesterday that we were bunking down for the festive season and now we are opening up for spring, and the endless conversations about not having enough time to clean.  Or is that just me?

I always try and spend some time on Mother’s Day reflecting on the beauty of both life and death.  Inevitably, the wee boy and I have a conversation about death, my favourite of which was not today, but very recently.

Wee boy:  Mummy, when you die do you want to be buried or cremated?

Me:  I want to be cremated and my ashes planted with a seed which will grow to be a tree

Wee boy:  When I die, I want to buried under your tree






February 29th


I am very old school when it comes to the seasons.  For me, the various equinoxes dictate when the following season begins, so although tomorrow is the beginning of March, and meteorologically is the start of Spring, I am not even entertaining the idea that Spring is upon us until at least March 20th.

That said, nothing trumpets that Spring is round the corner quite like the daffodil.

It’s glorious variable yellows and oranges sing out amidst the uniformity of grey that we have all been dredging ourselves through for the last couple of months, barring the odd day filled with winter sun.

And today has an even more special appeal because it only happens once every four years, something I’ve never stopped feeling ever so slightly giddy about.  I’m not completely sure why to be honest.  I can only conclude that it’s the uniqueness of it’s month and number that makes me feel all twinkly.

Whatever the reason, I have managed to have the most enjoyable of leap days in what is turning out to be the most extraordinary year.  I hope you have too.

Happy February 29th

Rainbow Cake

rainbow cake

It has been another one of those unexpectedly busy weeks where, despite trying to do very little above and beyond what was necessary, the hours have flown by at a very alarming rate.

The week started with us making a rainbow cake.  As some of you may recall, the wee boy has been talking about this for quite a while now and I had promised him, in the half term holidays, that we would give it a go, little realising that the holidays coincided with our lovely Charlotte’s birthday.  So, we made her a rainbow cake for her birthday.

When I say we, I am being generous.  The wee boy did a little stirring, a lot more licking, and when the violet cake fell apart – you’ll notice there are only six colours and not seven – he did a great deal of ‘quality controlling’.  However, it finally got made and presented, covered in icing, silver balls, coloured sugar, and love.

Interestingly, when the cake was cut, none of us, for one second, thought there was anything unusual about having a large, six layered slice of special birthday cake, despite each slice being absolutely ginormous.  Oh no, instead, we valiantly waded through the layers, stopping regularly for a swig of tea, and then more tea, until the wee boy, with still a mountain of cake to go, declared he’d had enough.

There was still plenty of cake left on all plates, but we trundled off on a dog walk, convinced that we would make room for the final part of the slice on our return.  Imagine then, our genuine surprise when himself came home and cut himself half a slice.

Just three colours.

*metaphorical lightbulb switches on*

Himself and I don’t do Valentine’s Day.  Mainly because neither of us are comfortable with the commercial concept, but also because we both believe that love should be given all year round.  That said, I would never judge anyone who does wish to engage with Valentine’s Day.  It’s a personal thing.  However, I do try and let people we love, know that is how we feel, so was brought to tears later on in the week when, flying hither and thither, the wee boy and I were on the telephone to son #1 and he finished the conversation with ‘love you’.  Similarly, when the wee one telephoned son #1 again, he left the conversation with ‘lots of love’.

I cannot put into words just how much this makes me glow inside.  I’m more proud that my boys can express their love for each other and us, than any bunch of flowers or heart embossed card and hope that nothing and no-one manages to crush that piece of perfection they both have within them.



Onion Bhaji

onion bhaji

We are all brought up with different ‘staples’ in our diet.  Indian food was never a staple for us, more a take away treat, like many children of my era.  However, as a nation, we seem to have completely embraced the delicately spiced nuances which are associated with asian cooking, although I would suggest that, in the main, it is still experienced via the restaurant or take away.  And I include myself in that category.

However, I am trying to conquer the art of cooking different cultural staples, if nothing else, just to see how easy it is.  Enter the Onion Bhaji, or as son #1 used to call them, Onions and Bhajis.

We are extremely lucky where we live, to be surrounded by different cultural food grocers, so finding all the ingredients is very, very easy.  I just pop down the local shop.  However, I am acutely aware that not everyone is as lucky, so, before I go any further I’d like to remind you all that recipes for savoury foods are just a guideline, nothing more.  If you don’t have it in, and cannot easily get hold of it, either miss it out or replace it with something you do have that is complimentary.  This may take a little research but trust me, it’s really not worth getting all hot and bothered because you can’t find fresh curry leaves …

Right.  So the ingredients I used are as follows:
60g gram flour, 30g rice flour – I used ground rice here as I didn’t have any rice flour and ground rice is just a more coarse version of the flour.  You could, should you so desire, just use gram flour in which case it is 90g (I know, mathematical genius…)
Juice of ¼ lemon, 1 tbsp ghee or butter, melted, or, in my case, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.  It’s personal preference here, but I also use vegetable oil to cook the Bhajis in so it’s a win win for me.

½ tsp turmeric, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp chilli powder, 2 green chillies – the thin ones are better as they have more heat – 2 tsp fresh ginger and two cloves of garlic chopped together and 2 onions halved and sliced.  Small pinch of salt.

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and add the oil, lemon juice and just enough cold water to make it into the consistency of Yorkshire Pudding batter.  Add all the spices, mix, then add the chopped onion.

At this juncture you may wish to add some fresh, chopped coriander, curry leaves or both.

Bring a deep pan of vegetable oil to a heat of 180C – now then, here’s a thing.  I had to look this up because I don’t have a deep fat fryer or a thermometer to test the heat.  I go by throwing a small piece of bread into the oil.  If it fizzles up and becomes a crouton in seconds, I know the oil is hot enough.  Not very scientific I know, but it’s the best I’ve got to give at present.

Anyway, when the oil has reached the desired temperature, take a dessertspoon of the mixture and drop it into the oil.  It should fizzle and rise to the top immediately, if it doesn’t, your oil is not hot enough, so whip it out and wait.  Keep turning the Bhaji until all areas are golden brown, then fish out and pop on a sheet of kitchen roll so that any excess fat is soaked up.

In my pan I use for frying, I can fit about 3 Bhajis in, so, prior to cooking, I put my oven on to keep already cooked Bhajis warm, whilst cooking the others.  This mixture makes between 6 and 8, so they won’t be in there long.

I then prepare a yoghurt dip by adding 1 – 2 teaspoons of mint sauce to 1 – 2 tablespoon of natural yoghurt.  Lush.

The first batch I made were not as delicious as I thought so I readjusted the balance of spices to the above recipe.  You, too, may have to readjust until you find the right spice level for your personal preference.  The other little tip I have, is, make sure that the batter is not too runny.  You can always add a little more water if it feels too stiff but it’s an absolute nightmare to readjust quantities if it’s runny.

Onion Bhajis.  Simple as.






Mushy Peas on Toast

mushy peas on toast

Before you say anything, try it.  I know it looks decidedly vibrant and slightly unctuous, but you have to trust me when I say that warmed, tinned mushy peas on toast with a sprinkling of black pepper and a drizzle of mint sauce is one of the most comforting foods you could possibly wish to eat.

Obviously this comes with the caveat that you must love all the various ingredients in order to even attempt to put them together.  ‘It’s ok,’ doesn’t cut the mustard in this particular case.

However, if you have ticked all the criteria, then try you must, as there is something absolutely outstanding about this combination which will make you wonder why it hasn’t been in your life earlier.  A perfect lunch, a wonderful afternoon snack, and suppertime just will not be the same again.

The other thing in it’s favour is the speed with which it delivers.  For me, at the moment, this is crucial.  I am, as some of you may be aware, not a fan of the bought sandwich, which flops, unenthusiastically out of it’s packet like a wet dog’s ear, although I understand completely why it is so popular amongst the busy.

That said, barring the odd occasion where needs must, I just cannot bring myself to dine on the mass produced, cold, and unfulfilling.  However, if you sashay to the left, just a little, in your thought process, the light bite medium that the sandwich has dominated for so long can be easily replaced by something much more enjoyable.

Invariably, but not exclusively, on toast.

Meanwhile this week’s shenanigans have flown by.  The highlight?  My wee boy became a knight.  Oh yes.  In the glorious place he attends, along with his two friends, they held a ceremony with a story created just for them, telling about their heroic actions in order to help others, culminating in them all being deigned worthy of being knighted with the wooden swords they had spent months making.  I cannot tell you just how much this makes my heart glow from the inside out.  Every nuance of translation touches my soul, but perhaps it is the mantra they were asked to learn which transcends into everyday life the most.

I have strength and courage

to do what is right,

To protect those in need,

For I am a knight

Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire Pudding

One of our weekend family favourites, especially in the winter months, is Yorkshire Pudding.  There is a light, crisp warmth to it that, if food could speak, would say, family.  Not just my family, but many families.  Partly, I think, because it is a shared dish, but partly because there is something synonymous with the anticipation of sitting around the table awaiting Sunday dinner, invariably the one meal of the week when people still do sit round a table to eat.

Referring to, once again, my touchstone of food history, The Food Timeline, the phrase that catches my attention the most, is the following, as it describes the first known mention of Yorkshire Pudding:

In 1737 the recipe for ‘A dripping pudding’ was published in The Whole Duty of a Woman.

As I’m reading it, I begin to wonder, were there prequels to such a book?  Perhaps, ‘The Occasional Duty of a Woman’ or ‘Can’t be Arsed Jobs of a Woman’ don’t, I suppose, have the grand sweeping statement which encapsulates in one title, just exactly where womankind was placed in the pecking order of life.

We’ll never know.  They were probably all burnt at the stake with the women who dared to look at life differently.

*Steps down from miniature soap box*

Cracking on.  My favourite recipe for said pudding is by Delia Smith, mainly because it never, and I mean never, tastes rubbish.  And I say this with experience of many a Yorkshire Pudding I have made looking as though it fought two battles to get there.

The magic ingredient though, is not whether you use dripping, lard or vegetable oil, but how hot it gets before you pour in the batter mix.  If it isn’t smoking, it’s not hot enough.

The ingredients for a large pudding are as follows:

150g Plain Flour, 150ml Semi-skimmed milk, 110ml Water, 2 large eggs, salt and pepper.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that adding more milk and less water will make it more luxurious.  You need the balance of water and milk to keep it light.

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth and pour into your piping hot oil.

Now then, here’s a wee tip: did you know you can keep the oil hot by placing the dish over a turned on hob ring, or two?  No, neither did I until recently, and to be honest I still often forget this little trick until I’ve put the pudding back in the oven, but hey ho, you can’t have everything.

My beautiful man’s grandma used to put onion in the bottom of the pan with the oil whilst it was heating, before adding the Yorkshire Pudding mixture.  That’s delicious, especially with gravy.  And here’s another thing to tickle your fancy, were you aware that Yorkshire Pudding was often served before the main meal in order to fill everyone up so they didn’t need as much meat?  I know, a fount of information, that’s me…

Anyway, onto other things.  This week the wee boy and I were driving home one night when he said:

Mummy, guess where Poppy (his friend) lives?

Me: I don’t know darling, where does she live?

W.B: In the future…

Me: And where do you live darling?

W.B: (Indignantly) In a house, with you and daddy, etc, etc…