Tuesday 25 February 2014


Scones are so English but I cant resist a good cup of tea and a scone.  Serve with extra thick or clotted cream and a good quality jam (preferably home made!).  These scones have the added sweetness of the sultanas which make them extra yummy.


225g self raising flour
75g butter
40g caster sugar
100 g sultanas
1 egg
3-4 tablespoons milk 


Pre-heat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7. 

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the sugar and butter and rub together until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. 

Add to the bowl the sultanas, egg and milk. Mix together using your hands until a soft dough is formed, adding more milk if required.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface a roll out with a rolling pin until 3 cm deep. Use a pastry cutter to cut out your scones and place on a baking sheet. Dust with flour and bake for 12-15 minutes until they have risen and turned golden brown.

Allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve with cream and jam.

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I love pancakes, and for me pancake day is deeply anticipated.  Every year we make pancakes, although I am very boring and mostly eat them with lemon and sugar.  However whilst on holiday recently I had ham and cheese pancakes, which were delicious.  So now I have a savoury pancake option too - bliss.

Makes 4 large pancakes


2 eggs
200 ml milk
110 g / 4 oz plain flour
Pinch of salt
Oil for pan

For the filling:
25 g / 1 oz Butter
25 g / 1 oz Flour 
200 ml Milk
3 oz / 80 g grated cheddar cheese
3 oz / 80 g quality sliced ham


Place the flour and salt into a bowl, creating a well in the centre.  Crack the eggs into it and mix  together until they form a paste.  Gradually add the milk until smooth. 

Whisk the mixture together until it has the consistency of cream and place in the fridge for a least 30 minutes.

Place some oil into a frying pan on a high heat as pancakes cook quickly and require a very hot pan. 

Add 1/4 (50 ml) of your pancake mixture to the pan and tilt the pan to ensure you evenly cover the bottom.  Move the pan around to ensure the pancake doesn't stick to the bottom, and after 2 minutes flip the pancake over and cook for a further 2 minutes.   If you are not confident about flipping pancakes you can cheat by placing a plate over the frying pan and turning it upside down before returning it to the pan.

To make the cheese sauce melt the butter gently in a saucepan.  Slowly add the flour to make a roux and then heat gently.  Gradually add the milk and cheese, stirring constantly until a thick sauce is formed.  Add the grated cheese.

Spoon the cheese sauce in a line in the centre of each pancake and top with ham cut into strips.  Season with pepper. Roll the pancakes up and serve.

If you are making several dinners then you can either bake the pancakes further in the oven or keep hot on a warm plate and cover with time foil.

Place the pancakes seam side down onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.  Top with parmesan cheese and bake for 15 minutes at 400 F/ gas mark 6 / 200c until the pancakes are crisp and brown.

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Friday 21 February 2014


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I made this dinner last night as it’s a family favourite.  I got some assistance from my little helper too, who enjoyed getting all squishy with the ingredients.  I often make up a large batch and after I have fried off the meatballs I freeze some to drop into a sauce another day.

Serves 6


For the meatballs
800g Pork mince
1 large onion
1 red chilli
50 g parmesan cheese, grated  
1 tablespoon chopped herbs (basil/marjoram).
1 tablespoon sunflower oil.

For the sauce
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1/2 onion
1 pepper
2 beef stock cubes
2 tablespoons brown sauce (or 1 teaspoon marmite)
Salt and pepper to season

Peel and chopped the onions and chilli into tiny pieces.  Place in a large mixing bowl and add the pork mince, chopped herbs and parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Using your fingers squish together all the ingredients until the mixture is evenly distributed and forms a patty.  Lightly flour the work surface and roll a small amount of the mixture up in your hands (approximately the size of a golf ball) and roll in the flour.  Repeat until all the mixture is used up.

Place the oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs until they are browned on the surface.  You do not need to cook them completely as they will cook further in the sauce. Set aside whilst you make the sauce.

Chop the onion and pepper into small chunks and fry gently in some oil for a few minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and stock cubes.  Season with the salt and pepper and brown sauce.

Add the meatballs to the sauce.  Allow the sauce to thicken for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with spaghetti.

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Thursday 20 February 2014


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I must admit that sometimes I cheat by buying pre-made pastry when I do my baking.  Quite simply, there are days when you need to hurry things along and make life easier, and I make no apologies for that.  

But other days its lovely to relax and take your time to go back to basics and make your own pastry.  So whether its sausage rolls, jam tarts or a fantastic quiche you can impress with your home made pastry.

Short crust pastry

Short crust pastry can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes.  The recipe can be adapted slightly to make your dishes more distinctive.  If bind the ingredients together with an egg rather than water the pastry will be much richer.  You can also opt to use equal parts of butter and lard instead of all butter.
Makes approx 300g / 10 oz pastry.

200g / 7 oz plain flour
110g / 4 oz butter (room temperature)
2-3 tablespoons water
Pinch of salt 

Cut the butter up into small cubes  and place into a large mixing bowl.  Add the flour and salt.

Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Do not overwork the mixture as this warms the dough, resulting in the fat sticking to more flour particles than it would normally.  This inhibits the water, which is essential to bind the mixture together, leading to hard, dry pastry which crumbles and is difficult to roll out.

Gently add the water to the dry ingredients and stir together with a metal knife. Mix until the ingredients form a dough ball, adding a little more water if necessary.

Wrap the pastry up and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill before rolling. This allows the gluten in the flour to react with the water ingredients and makes the pastry elastic.

(You can freeze the pastry too if you like for up to 2 months in the freezer).

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Friday 14 February 2014


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With Valentines Day coming up I decided to bake a cake for my other half.  An easy win really, as he loves cake and especially victoria sponges.  I decided to jazz it up with red icing and chocolate hearts.  I even made a butter icing just in case that wasn’t enough calories for him.  Hope he likes it!

200 g/7 oz caster sugar
200 g/7 oz self raising flour
1 tea spoon baking powder
4 medium eggs
200 g/7 oz margarine
Vanilla essence
2 tablespoons milk

For the filling:
140 g/ 5 oz Icing sugar
100 g/ 3.5 oz Butter
Vanilla essence
Strawberry Jam

To decorate:
Red icing block
Chocolate hearts

Heat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  

Grease two cake tins and line with baking paper.

Place the margarine and sugar into a bowl and cream together until smooth.  Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, milk and vanilla essence and mix thoroughly. 

Divide the mixture evenly into the cake tins and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Cook until the cake springs back when lightly pressed.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.

To prepare the filling, cream together the butter and icing sugar adding 5 drops of vanilla essence.  Spread this butter icing onto the underside of one of the sponges and jam onto the top of the other sponge and sandwich together. 

Roll out the red icing block on a board lightly dusted with icing sugar.  Place on top of the cake and trim edges.  Add the chocolate hearts.

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Tuesday 4 February 2014


Polar bears have evolved from brown bears.  But they are white, not brown.  So why did they change colour?

The reason for the change is the difference in habitat of the two bears. The polar bear differs from its brown cousin as it lives and hunts on sea ice.  The snow and ice are white so the bears blend in with their surroundings.  Most Arctic animals such as the Arctic fox and hare are white in the winter, but the polar bear is white all year round.  

However, think again.  It is not the fur that is white.  The hairs are actually transparent and it is the light bouncing off them that makes them appear white.  In addition the hair follicle is hollow so there is no melanin present to determine colour.. Even more fascinating is the fact that the skin colour of the polar bear is black.

Polar bears have two layers of hairs that help to insulate them against temperatures as cold as -50F.  Next to the skin is a layer of soft, downy colourless hairs which trap warm air to insulate the skin.  Above these are thick, coarse guard hairs which repel water and are also colourless.

Polar bears have previously turned green in some zoos.  Further investigation by scientists found that algae from pond water inside the enclosure was growing inside the hollow hair fibres and giving the green appearance.

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