No. 110 - November/December 2012


Welcome to the November/December 2012  Newsletter, the last for 2012. I was contemplating doing a Christmas special newsletter however, there is so much on the main website about Christmas that I've decided just to outline the numerous pages and sections for your convenience when you are ready . . . it's a bit too early for me.


Don't forget to follow/like/share this newsletter or any other Recipes4us' pages on Twitter and Facebook. You can easily do so by using the follow/find us buttons below as well as sharing this page with your friends and family by using one of the share buttons.


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Happy Cooking!





Florence Sandeman,



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Key: = Veg/Vegan    DF = Dairy Free    GF  = Gluten/Wheat Free



Retro Recipes


I seem to be picking on recipes which have very happy memories from my youth for this section. Last time it was crepes suzette, this time it's an equally impressive dish which was also flambéed at the table-side in restaurants during the 60's and 70's.  Mmmmm, not quite sure what that says about me !


Anyway, Steak Diane is a GF dish made from good quality steak which is beaten down so it's not too thick, quickly fried then served in a creamy sauce which has been flambéed with cognac.

Steak Diane


The whole thing only takes around 15 minutes to make, including all the prep.


The recipe takes its name from Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, and was traditionally a sauce to be served with wild venison. Exactly when and where it originated isn't really known although the name "Steak Diane" (as opposed to steak à la Diane) was first written about by the great chef Escoffier in 1907.


Although the ingredients sound lavish, because it is quite rich, smaller portions are will be adequate so you'll only need small steaks - say 175g/6oz per person. A tip from me - please do not use margarine or butter substitutes . . . . . and the Worcestershire sauce is a must. I promise you, you won't be sorry. Click the picture for the full recipe.



What's in Season in November



Click here to see what's in season and to find a UK Farmers' Market near you. There are Lots of seasonal recipes too



Weekday Menus



Click the picture to find this month's weekday menus to help you plan your meals and shopping weeks ahead.  Each weekday has a main course, suggested vegetable side dishes and accompaniments plus a dessert, which have been planned to supply you with a balanced diet. It's also been designed so that you can interchange one day's menu with another in the same grouping


 Getting stuffed

4th November is National Stuffing Day. With food prices set to rise worldwide whether it be due to drought, flood or lack of sunshine, now is a good time to think of ways to reduce costs of meals without scrimping on flavour, quality or quantity. Stuffings are the ideal candidate to solve these problems. Many people will immediately think of stuffing chicken or turkey, but there are many other foods which can be cooked with a stuffing. 


Certainly in the UK, many types of fish have become quite expensive, so these are prime candidates for being stuffed.  Below are three recipe ideas for stuffing fish - whole, cutlets and fillets. When stuffing fish, it's best to bake them in the oven so there's no need to interfere with them during cooking which will help ensure the stuffing stays in place.



A whole fish is easy to stuff as once cleaned and gutted, it has a natural receptacle for holding all manner of ingredients such as vegetables, rice, couscous etc.

Fish cutlets can also be stuffed easily as the basic shape lends itself to  being wrapped around the stuffing. Depending on the fish, these are sometimes called steaks or darnes.

Stuffing fillets is also an easy thing to do, especially when it comes to flat fish fillets such as plaice, dabs, flounder or sole, which are often quite thin and pliable. 

Stuffed Whole Fish

Bacon & Mushroom Stuffing

DF    GF


1 tbsp Olive Oil
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
175g/6oz mushrooms, sliced
1 small Onion, chopped
2 Tbsp freshly chopped Parsley
salt and pepper


Fry the bacon, onions and mushrooms in the butter then mix in the parsley, salt and pepper and use to stuff whole fish e.g. trout, sea bass

Herby Parmesan Stuffing


25g/1 oz Butter
1 small onion, chopped
8 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 teasp chopped Thyme leaves

1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp milk


Fry the onion in the butter until soft then add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Divide between 4 fish cutlets e.g. cod, hake, haddock

Crab and Spinach Stuffing



175g/6oz crab meat
25g/1oz fresh Spinach Leaves, Finely chopped
4 tbsp Crème Fraîche

Salt and Black Pepper


Mix all the ingredients together. Spread over fish fillets, roll up and secure with wooden toothpicks. Goes particularly well with sole or plaice and perfect for entertaining.


Something fishy is going on

Whilst researching for the stuffing article above, it became apparent to me that the names for different cuts of fish have become a little muddled in recent years, especially when it comes to commonly sold cuts such as fillets.

I have been caught out on a couple of occasions recently when I ordered fish online from Tesco, therefore having to rely on descriptions and photos on their website. As you can see from the picture, Tesco calls this cut "fillets". This is incorrect although what they actually delivered were fillets in the true sense, i.e. a flatter, wider cut which tapered down and obviously came from the tail end.  All well and good, but totally not what I wanted for a particular recipe I had in mind.

The cut on the left should be labelled "Suprêmes" which is the proper name for a a boneless cross-section piece of fish  taken from a larger fish fillet.

Even muddier waters - what's the difference between a steak,  fillet steak, and a cutlet or between a dressed fish and pan-dressed fish?

For the answers to all these and more questions, visit the new Fish Cuts Page which I've just set up. It's got lots of photos and descriptions. There's also a page on Types of Fish which may be of interest.


Can you name these cuts/preparations of fish?

1st - 7th November is National Fig Week and 4th November is Leftovers Day

Watch me make this unusual salad using fresh figs simmered in a sweet spiced syrup which goes perfectly with the prosciutto and leftover chicken. Of course, you don't have to use leftovers -  it's worth cooking some chicken specially for this delicious recipe.

For the full sized video plus written recipe click here.


For more information about figs including origins, history, buying, storing and nutritional information visit the Fig Page and for lots more recipes using all sorts of leftovers visit the Leftovers Recipe Page

2 in 1 . . .

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot...


When we were kids, my brother and I couldn't wait for it to get dark so my dad could start letting off the fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night (also known as bonfire night or fireworks night in the UK).  It was the same for many people who had their own fireworks in the back garden.

Today many forgo having personal fireworks in favour of public displays, but there's no reason why you can't celebrate at home, even without a bonfire.  It's a great excuse for a party, and I've got the ideal recipe to serve at an autumn/winter gathering so it goes off with a bang. Coincidentally, it's British Sausage week from 5th November too.


Sausage, Potato & Bean Casserole


Sausages braised in a tomato and paprika sauce with cannellini beans and potatoes.  This serves 4 but can easily be doubled or tripled so long as you have a big enough saucepan. Click the picture for the full  recipe.

Food celebrations in November include:-

1st -   National Vinegar Day

1st – 7th  National Fig Week

4th National Leftovers Day

4th National Stuffing Day

5th Bonfire Night

5th - 11th   British Sausage Week

9th    British Pudding Day

2nd Week  Split Pea Soup Week

14th    National Pickle Day

17th   Homemade Bread Day

18th National Vichyssoise Day

21st   Gingerbread Day

22nd    National Cashew Day

24th National Sardine Day

25th - Thanksgiving

30th   St. Andrew's Day

National Pomegranate Month

National Roasting Month

National Pepper Month

Vegan Month



Bangers were a type of very cheap firework which didn't really do much except make a loud noise which scared both humans and animals alike. Thank goodness they are now banned in the UK .


Sausages are also known as bangers because of the tendency for lower quality versions which have a high water content to burst with a bang whilst being cooked.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the history, in 1605 Guy Fawkes and 12 other men, hatched a plot to blow up the houses of parliament in order to kill the king  by stockpiling gunpowder in the undercroft beneath the House of Lords.  They got caught and were executed.


An act of parliament designated 5th November a day of thanksgiving for the life of the king, when bonfires would be lit in celebration. From the 1650s onwards the bonfires were accompanied with fireworks and more revelry and effigies of Guy Fawkes would be placed on the top of the bonfire.

Will we have an Indian summer? Find a fantastic range of properties to suit all requirements. Ideal you are looking for a short break cottage in England, farmhouses in Wales, holiday homes in Scotland, apartments in Ireland or longer breaks at gîtes in France plus other European destinations





Thanksgiving Day, sometimes colloquially called "Turkey Day" is a national holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the USA and is one of its biggest national celebration days of the year. This year it falls on the 22nd November.

Below are links to recipes for some traditional foods eaten for a Thanksgiving dinner

Roast Turkey
Baked Ham
Cranberry Sauce
Giblet Gravy
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Seasonal Vegetables
e.g. Corn on the Cob, Green Beans, Carrots, Broccoli
Pumpkin Pie
for dessert

If you want to know more about thanksgiving visit our
Thanksgiving  page or the  
History of Thanksgiving page.

Recipe of the Month - November

Roast Leg of Pork with Sage & Stuffing Onions

As November is roasting month, here's a delicious recipe by celebrity Masterchef finalist Liz McClarnon courtesy of

Serves : Allow 100-175g (4-6oz) raw meat per person
Cooking time : About 30 mins per 450g/½kg (1lb) plus 30 mins (medium)


Lean pork leg joint, boned and rolled
15ml (1tbsp) Olive oil
4 Medium onions
5ml (1tsp) Butter
2 Large sprigs fresh sage, roughly chopped
450g (1lb) Premium pork and apple sausages slit skins and remove meat
Olive oil
Sage leaves


Preheat oven to Gas 4-5, 180°C, 350°F.

Take the joint and calculate the cooking time using timing above. Dry the rind and score deeply using a sharp knife. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on a rack in a roasting tin and open roast in a preheated oven for the calculated time (no basting or covering or you will have soft ‘crackling’).

Cut the onions in half horizontally and using a spoon scoop out some of the layers leaving 2-3 in the shell. Roughly chop the removed onion. In a pan, heat butter and lightly fry onion. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the sage and sausage meat and combine together.

Take a handful of mixture and stuff into onion shells. 40-50 minutes before the joint has finished cooking prop up the onion shells around the joint, drizzle with a little olive oil and cook until onion is soft and fully golden and the joint juices run clear or the internal temperature reaches 70°C. Once cooked allow the joint to stand for 10 minutes before carving, allowing the juices to settle.

Serve pork sliced with roast potatoes, parsnips, stuffed onions and crispy fried sage leaves.



Clasic Vichyssoise SoupA winter food newsletter wouldn't be complete without at least one soup recipe, but which one? There are a few soup related food celebrations in November and December including split pea week (2nd week in November), and  National Bouillabaisse Day on 14th December however I have decided to feature a soup which has its celebration day on 18th November though to be honest, I'm not sure why as it's traditionally served cold. There again, it must be summer somewhere in the world?

Vichyssoise is one of those soups many people  will have heard of. It is made with leeks, potatoes, cream, and stock and whilst it is traditionally served cold, it can also be served hot.  I'm not a keen lover of cold soups, but this is one I'd eat any day.

I was wondering why this particular soup is so well known considering its very humble ingredients, so I did some digging around, only to find that most of the claims to its invention were nothing particularly remarkable. Indeed, its origins are not only subject to much debate, with some saying it's French and some saying it's American, but even the inventors and circumstances under which it was created aren't particularly noteworthy.

Then I came across a much more interesting story which told of King Louis XV of France (1710 – 1774) being totally paranoid that people were constantly trying to poison him, insisted that all his food was tasted by several servants before he would eat it.  Although hot leek and potato soup was one of his favourites, by the time it had passed all the tasters, it was always cold. The king finally decided that he actually preferred it that way. 

Other claims include:-

  •  A hot version called Potage Parmentier after Antoine Auguste Parmentier, was invented after the Seven Year War (1756 to 1763) when he set up potato soup kitchens throughout Paris after he returned  from a prisoner of war camp to find people starving

  • French chef Jules Gouffé published a hot version in Royal Cookery in 1869

  • An article written in 1950 stated that Chef Louis Diat of the Ritz Carlton in New York claimed to have created it in 1917 in tribute to his mother who cooked a hot version which he would cool down by adding cold milk.  That article also stated that the soup was originally called Crème Vichyssoise Glacée and that it was named after the town of Vichy in France.  Just as an aside there was an attempt by some patriotic chefs to change the name to "Creme Gauloise Glacee" during World War II after the set up of the Nazi collaborating government in the town of Vichy in 1940.  Obviously, the new name didn't stick.

Although it's basically a very  simple soup consisting of just 5 main ingredients, there are three important points to remember if you want to serve the perfect Vichyssoise:-

1. Seasoning is key so it's important to taste the soup before chilling to ensure it's not bland

2. The texture should be very very smooth and about the consistency of a thick pouring double cream

3. It should be well chilled beforehand but not served too cold as the delicate flavours would be lost on the palate

Apart from that, the actual cooking is simplicity itself.  Here's the recipe plus a video I recently filmed showing exactly how to make it. Don't forget, you can serve it hot too.



Veg    GF


Serves 2  Prep & Cook time: 35 mins plus chilling

2 Medium sized Leeks, white parts only, washed and thinly sliced
1 large Potato, peeled and sliced
240ml/8fl.oz. Milk
240ml/8fl.oz Fresh Stock (Chicken or Vegetable)
Salt and White Pepper
120ml/4fl.oz Double Cream
Fresh Chives or parsley to garnish

1. Place the leeks, potatoes, milk, stock, salt and white pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to simmering point over a medium-high heat. Once at a rolling simmer, reduce the heat, cover and continue to cook gently for 15-20 minutes or until the potato is very tender.

2. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool, stirring  for a couple of minutes then either transfer to a blender or purée in the saucepan using a hand held immersion blender. Aim for as smooth a purée as you can get – it’s worth spending a little time on this.

3.Once it’s smooth, stir in the cream. Taste and add more salt and white pepper if necessary, then in order to get the ultra smooth texture required,  pass the soup through a fine meshed sieve into a clean bowl or jug.

4. If necessary, thin the soup down a little by adding a little more cream or milk so it’s the consistency of a thickish pouring double cream, mix well, cover and allow to cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours.

To serve - Remove from the fridge about 20 minutes before serving then transfer to serving bowls and garnish with the snipped chives.


In My Kitchen

I have a beautiful pair of old fashioned balance scales which has a bronze weighing bowl and looks rather fetching on the worktop. Trouble is both the scales and the weights are quite heavy and I have been finding it increasingly tiring to use them.

I am one of those people who watches most cooking programs on TV and I kept seeing small, sleek, flat digital weighing scales where the chefs just put their mixing bowls on the platform, and weighed all their ingredients with the touch of a button. So, when I came across this set of digital scales on Amazon, I thought what the heck and as they were under £10, and ordered them for next day delivery.

True to their word, it was delivered the next day but my initial thoughts were "wow - this is a really small light package". I was even more surprised at the weight and size when I unpackaged it. No I hadn't bothered to check the dimensions online. Its around around 8 inches (20cm) square x 25mm/1-inch deep and extremely light.

It has a large clear LCD display, a one touch metric/imperial conversion, with an intelligent auto switch off to prolong battery life (included) and copes with weights from 1g to 3kg.  The zero function is really simple to use and a boon when weighing multiple ingredients in the same bowl. You just place the bowl on the scales, set it to zero and add the first ingredient until the correct weight shows. Press the button again so it goes back to zero then add the next ingredient to the correct weight and so on and so on. Easy peasy and no more transferring weighed ingredients to the mixing bowl.

Weighing is very precise which is perfect for cakes etc., and you can even weigh foods directly on the platform if you want as it's very easy to wipe clean.

By far the easiest, probably the most accurate and certainly the lightest/smallest set of scales I have ever used and I'm very glad to have finally joined the 21st century.


Cupcake Corner


November is Vegan Month, 21st November is Gingerbread Day  and 15th December is National Cupcake Day. Here's a recipe which covers all three food celebrations.


Vegan Gingerbread Cupcakes

With a Lemon Glace Icing topping


Veg/Vegan    DF   30mins plus cooling


100g/4oz dark Muscavado Sugar
3 tbsp Black Treacle
4 tbsp Golden Syrup
90ml/3fl.oz. Vegetable Oil
1 teasp lemon juice
2 teasp ground ginger
1 heaped teasp mixed spice
150ml/5 fl.oz. Coconut Milk
200g/7oz self-raising Flour
1/2 teasp Baking Powder
For the icing
50g/2oz Icing Sugar
Approx 2 teasp Lemon Juice


1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5 and place 12 cupcake cases in a 12-hole patty or muffing tin. Place the sugar, treacle, golden syrup, oil, lemon juice and spices in a pan, place over a low heat and stir until well blended and thick.

2. Remove from the heat, stir in the coconut milk and mix well for a few minutes until slightly cooled and well blended.

3. Sift in the baking powder and flour and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.

4. Fill the muffin cases about ¾ full and bake for around 16-20 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted into a cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

5. Once the cakes are completely cold, make the icing by placing the icing sugar in a mixing bowl then add the lemon juice and mix until smooth. Place in a piping bag /tube fitter with a small plain nozzle and decorate. Leave to set for an hour or so before serving.




Food celebrations in December include:-

2nd National Fritters Day
6th Microwave Oven Day
9th National Pastry Day
10th National Lager Day
13th National Cocoa Day
14th National Bouillabaisse Day
15th National Cupcake Day
17th Maple Syrup Day
21st California Kiwifruit Day
24th Eggnog Day
25th Christmas Day
27th National Fruitcake Day


Readers' Questions


Question:  How much  is a stick of butter in metric and imperial weight?


Answer:    A stick of butter is an American unit equivalent to :-


100g / 4oz / ¼ lb


By volume it equals  ½ cup or 8 tablespoons



Food in the News . . .


Time spent chewing food important for satiety, study suggests

The amount of time spent chewing food could have an important impact on feelings of fullness – calling into question the suitability of beverages for increasing satiety, according to a new Nestlé-sponsored study.

> > > > More    (external link)


Cooking Skills . . .

                              Suet Pastry


As 9th December is Pastry day, I thought I'd feature a pastry which seems to be a rarely made at home nowadays. Suet pastry is a traditional British pastry which is generally lighter,  more elastic and more robust than shortcrust, making it perfect for holding fillings with less leakage.



Although suet pastry can be used in baked recipes such as baked roly poly's where it is rolled out, spread with a sweet or savoury filling then rolled up like a Swiss roll and  baked, or as a pie or tart/flan crust it is is probably best known for use in recipes which are steamed or boiled  as, unlike other types of pastry,  it won't disintegrate under damp conditions. The end result is a light, soft  casing with an exquisite texture and flavour.


Filled Steamed Puddings Pie Crusts Roly Poly's Pasties
Filled suet pudding suet pie crust

roly poly

Suet Pasty


It gets its name from its use of suet which is the fat from around the kidneys of a cow and although it gives a unique taste, strangely enough, it doesn't impart any meaty flavour to the finished dish whatsoever.  For those of you who are vegetarian,  it is possible to buy vegetarian "lite" suet which makes a good substitute,  so now everyone can make this delicious pastry.


Shredded suetIt is the use of this fat which makes the difference in this pastry mainly due to the fact that it melts much more slowly than other fats used in pastry making, which means the structure of the pastry starts to set before the fat has melted which leaves little air pockets in the dough leading to a lighter end result.


Another factor in creating such a light pastry is that the fat is not rubbed into the flour as it's already shredded into very small pieces, so all that is needed is to stir the dry ingredients together.


I think suet pastry is one of the easiest pastry's to make as there's no rubbing in, hardly any kneading and because the dough is relatively soft, rolling it out is also effortless,  so even if you feel you are not a good pastry cook, I would urge you to try to make suet crust pastry as it's so simple. Here's how to do it:-





225g/8oz Self Raising Flour

1 teasp Salt

100g/4oz Shredded Suet

Cold Water to mix (about  150ml/5fl.oz.)



1. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl then add the suet and stir with a knife until well distributed.


2. Add half the water and using a knife, start mixing using a figure of 8 movement.


3. Continue to add the water a little at a time, until the dough is soft, slightly stick and starting to come together.


4. Bring it together with your hand then turn onto a well floured work surface and knead very lightly for a couple of minutes until smooth,  and elastic. The suet shreds will still be discernable.


Best used at room temperature.


Suet Crust Pastry Tips


If you don't have self raising flour, you can use plain flour however you must add baking powder - 1 teaspoon to every 225g/8oz of flour.


For savoury versions try adding herbs such as oregano, parsley or thyme or other seasonings such as chilli powder


For sweet versions, depending on the recipe, try adding a small amount of sugar, grated lemon or orange zest


Use a mixture of half wholemeal self-raising flour and half self raising flour                                                            


Adding an egg to suet crust pastry makes the pastry crisper


Always use half suet to flour when making suet crust pastry


Try to use suet crust pastry at room temperature for best results


Always preheat the oven when baking suet crust pastry



This pastry needs to be rolled out before being steamed, boiled or baked. The thickness depends on the recipe for which it is being used:-


Roll out to :-


Approximately 12mm/½ -inch for large pie crusts or to line pudding basins, or


Between  6mm/¼-inch and 12mm/½ -inch for individual pasties and flan bases.


For more information about buying and storing suet pastry, details of how much suet pastry to make plus recipes using suet pastry visit the Suet Pastry Page.


  Focus on . . .                               

                     Almond Paste (Marzipan)


As I mentioned above, I tend to watch a lot of cooking programs on TV,  so you can imagine how mortified I was when I watched a recent BBC Saturday Kitchen episode where a vote was taken  to cook a celebrity's idea of "food hell" - a plum tart which included homemade marzipan. I had made a similar recipe a couple of months ago using some plums I had grown but which unfortunately weren't that juicy. It gave me the idea to write this editorial, especially as almond paste is popular at this time of year. As it was, I needn't have fretted.


Not only was there so much meaningless jabbering going on that one could have easily missed how to make it (even when I re-played it on the BBC I-player, I still found it unclear) but for some reason, James Martin called for boiling sugar and water to a certain temperature before adding it to the ground almonds - totally unnecessary for marzipan being used in this sort of recipe.  The only time you need to "cook" marzipan is when making sweets or decorations which will need a lot of handling.  So lucky me, I can go ahead with this article knowing I'm not duplicating anything recently shown on TV.


Before I go any further, I'd just like to confirm that in this article the names marzipan and almond paste are interchangeable.


If you've never eaten homemade almond paste then you don't know what you're missing. I'm not that keen on ready made marzipan, including the type found on fruit cakes, because to me, they taste (and look) very artificial. However, home made almond paste is a totally different affair: quite soft, rich and almondy without being too overpowering.


Better still, it's very easy to make, consisting of only 6 ingredients which are basically all mixed together, it only takes 10 minutes and it can be used in various ways. If you only ever thing of marzipan as the thing covering fruit cakes then you may be surprised at the following uses:-



Rolled out to around 1cm/½-inch thickness use to cover rich fruit cakes before icing


Can be used to stuff dates


Can be used as an ingredient to make biscuits


Can be used as a type of frangipane base in fruit desserts


Can be moulded into shapes to create  confectionery - use a little more icing sugar to create a firmer paste


It can be coloured and used to make decorations for cakes such as green for holly leaves or red for berries. Once again, adding a little more icing sugar will make it easier to handle


It can be flavoured with rose water for a slightly different taste or with added almond essence for extra almond flavour


Can be rolled very thinly to cover small individual cakes such as fondant fancies however add more icing sugar to get a firmer paste


For more hints and tips visit the Almond Paste Recipe Page   Veg   GF  DF  but in the meantime, here's the dessert recipe I referred to above which uses almond paste.  You can use most stone fruit for this recipe.


Almond Plum Gallette Recipe


Serves 4      Prep & Cook time: 40mins   Veg  

200g/7oz Puff Pastry
100g/4oz Almond Paste
4 Plums, halved and stoned
1 teasp Ground Cinnamon
Vanilla Sugar or Caster Sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 220C, 425F, Gas Mark 7. Roll the pastry out thinly (about 6mm/ 1/4 -inch thick), cut into 4 squares or circles and place on a non-stick baking sheet.

2. Divide the almond paste into 4, roll each portion into a square slightly smaller than the pastry squares and place each on top of the pastry.

3. Slice the plums halves lengthways into wedges and arrange them on top of the marzipan, leaving a border of pastry around the edge.

4. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and a good coating of sugar and bake for 20 minutes until golden and caramelised.



Winter Food and Recipes

There are many foods which are at their best during the winter months - December to February in the UK.   Game birds and other poultry such as goose  are at their best as well as certain nuts such as chestnuts and walnuts as well as traditional winter fruits such as cranberries. Click the banner above to find lots of winter season produce but in the meantime, below are three of my favourite winter season recipes

Editor's Choice Top 3 Winter Season Recipes



Goose Confit   DF   GF

A traditional French recipe where the breast and legs of goose are slowly cooked and preserved in goose fat. This is also suitable for duck and pheasant.




Red Cabbage with Chestnuts  GF

Slow braised winter season red cabbage with fresh chestnuts makes a great accompaniment to roaast goose, chicken or turkey.




Pears with Spiced Cranberry Sauce     Veg  DF   GF

Fresh Cranberries and cooked with white wine and sweet spices then used to braise fresh pears.



What is Christmas without dates

If you are used to those sticky ones sold in boxes with a long plastic prong to remove them, you simply must try some magnificent Medjool dates . 

They are deliciously sweet without all that stickiness, entirely natural, rich in fibre and virtually fat free. Bite for bite, Medjool dates contain more potassium than a banana. They’re also classified as a ‘good carb’, which means they provide the perfect energy boost, whilst helping to keep blood sugar stable and your appetite in check. Better still, just two Medjool dates count as one portion of your 5-a-day.

Although we associate dates with Christmas, Medjool dates are available all year round and the rich flavour of Medjool dates ranges from honey-like richness to brown-sugary sweetness, with hints of caramel and the subtlest trace of cinnamon, makes them an ideal alternative to sweets, chocolate and biscuits. They are also excellent used in both sweet and savoury recipes.

Below is a really easy festive recipe using Medjool dates - perfect for entertaining. Click here for more recipes using dates.

Medjool Dates with Cream Cheese & Walnuts

courtesy of

Prep time: 5 minutes
Makes 12 canapés

12 Medjool dates
12 Walnuts halved
Approx. 1 teasp of cream cheese per date

1. Make a deep slice down the centre of each date, being careful not to completely separate each half and remove the stones
2. Fill the dates generously with the cream cheese and place half a walnut on top
3. Press the dates gently to give them their original shape.

GDA per canapé:

133kcal, 1g protein, 18g carbohydrate of which 16g sugars, 2g fibre, 7g fat of which 3g saturates,  30mg sodium

Countdown to Christmas . . . . .


Here are some tasks you should consider starting now to ensure a stress-free holiday period. It may seem to start early, but you'll be glad of the extra time you'll have in December.


2nd week in November
If you want to get a fresh turkey or goose you'd do well to order it now as you may be surprised at how quickly stocks run out, especially free-range and organic birds.  Click here to find out
what size turkey  you'll need.



3rd week in November

Make your Christmas puddings early. The aim is to re-boil/steam then for a couple of hours every two weeks or so, which results in an incredibly dark rich pudding.  Why not try one of these



Christmas Pudding with Guinness

Traditional Christmas  Pudding

Vegetarian Christmas Pudding



4th week in November

If you want to make a traditional cake with marzipan and icing, ideally, once you've covered the cake with the marzipan, you should wait a week before icing - longer if you wish and once iced, it will last for weeks in a cake tin. Click here for a Traditional Christmas Cake  recipe.


1st week in December

Christmas Puddings

Continue re-boiling home made Christmas puddings once every 2 weeks


Christmas cake

Now's the last chance  to marzipan your cake if you haven't already done so.



Now's a good time to make your own mincemeat especially if you find shop-bought varieties too sweet or not to your liking.


2nd week in December


There may still be enough time to order your turkey but don't delay. Many specialist suppliers are sold out by now especially if you want  the delicious Bronze  or free range birds.


Now's a good time to stock up on items such as extra wide aluminium foil, wooden cocktail sticks, festive linen or paper napkins, crackers and any bakeware items you may need such as large roasting tins and baking trays.

Christmas cake

Ice your cake


3rd week in December

Christmas cake

Now's the last chance to ice your cake.

Christmas Puddings

Last re-boiling of  home made Christmas puddings before the day.


There's still time to make your own mincemeat.


Now's the time to buy in less perishable  items such as potatoes, parsnips, chestnuts, nuts, streaky bacon etc. Don't leave it until Christmas week to avoid disappointment.

Time Plan

Take an hour out, put your feet up and make a list of all the remaining things to do. Include things like making mince pies, planning meals on Christmas eve,  Christmas day  and Boxing day.


Christmas Week

If you've followed the above, the only things left to do are collect the turkey and buy last minute perishables such as cream and green vegetables.



Festive Feasting



Buying Christmas food

When to buy, where to buy, how to buy. Your complete guide to all your food needs for the holiday season plus a printable shopping list!

All Things Turkey

Everything you ever wanted to know and buying, storing and cooking turkey, including what size turkey you'll need, how much stuffing for it, plus lots of leftovers recipes.

The Perfect Christmas Lunch

Details on how to cook the perfect turkey with all the trimmings, including preparation, quantities, timings, trimmings and full menu. Plus a printable time plan with tick boxes


Serving your special festive food and drink



Whether you are having a formal dinner, an informal lunch or a party, you are bound to find information and  inspirational ideas on one of our pages which focus on table settings, parties and napkin folding.

Winter Warmer drinks

(Serve in cups with a handle as the vessel will get very hot)

Great for entertaining


Spiced Winter Berries Mulled Wine

serves 7

1 bottle of dry white wine (we recommend a Sauvignon Blanc)
70ml Belvoir Spiced Berry Cordial
400ml Cloudy Apple Juice
1 Cinnamon stick
Peel of 1/2 an orange


Gently simmer all ingredients in a saucepan on low heat and serve in short glasses or mugs

Should serve 7 glasses


Belvoir Hot Toddy

serves 1

15 ml Belvoir Apple and Ginger Cordial
3 wedges of lemon squeezed
150ml boiling water
1 cinnamon stick
2 thin slices root ginger
35ml Scotch whisky (blended whisky if available)


Add all ingredients into a cup with a handle and allow to steep for 30 seconds. Ensure you squeeze the juice from all three wedges into the cup but only drop one squeezed lemon wedge in to the drink, discard the other two. Stir well and garnish with the sprayed zest of an orange peel and lemon rind if available. Add more cordial or lemon juice to meet individual tastes.


Find the best of UK produce online - even unusual or hard-to-find items at  Christmas food shopping has never been easier !



Recipe of the Month - December


Roast Butternut squash with thyme and whole roasted bulbs of garlic


Butternut squash is wonderful roasted - especially with the lovely rich flavour of goose fat. The outside of the squash will take on a lovely golden colour, leaving the flesh soft and rich.

Courtesy of



1 butternut squash
2 bulbs of garlic
1 large bunch of thyme
1 tsp sea salt
Lots of pepper
4 tbsp goose fat

Prep and Cooking time 45 minutes      

Serves 4



1. Preheat an oven to 220c. With a knife cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds.

2. Then cut the squash into 1 inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Cut the bulbs of garlic into half, cutting across the cloves, and add these to the bowl.

3. Add the sprigs of thyme, the salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Heat the goose fat and pour it into the bowl, mixing everything together.

4. Pour the contents of the bowl into a deep roasting tin and spread it out evenly.  Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden.

Cook's Tip....

Delicious served as a side with roast chicken and a range of other dishes. .



 In the Kitchen Garden


Do you remember earlier this year I mentioned that I really wanted to have a go at growing rock samphire in my garden, especially as it is an "in" ingredient but difficult to obtain?


In the last post I wrote about it, I had ordered and sown the seed in pots which I started off indoors as I was very late with it. They took around 4 weeks to germinate as was mentioned on the seed packet, and I finally moved them outdoors in early July even though they were growing really really slowly.  In fact, I thought they weren't going to make it.

I then more or less left them to their own devices. It was such a terrible summer, I didn't even bother watering them much, but by mid August they had put on a bit of growth so I decided to pot them up as I had originally sown 3 or 4 seeds per  7.5cm/3-inch pot

Samphire - home grown

As Samphire naturally grows on cliff tops, in rocks or in shingle, I half filled 7.5cm/3-inch pots with small stones, topped them up with a mix of compost and ordinary garden soil and transplanted the seedlings 1 per pot. They chugged on by themselves without much looking after and now seem to be doing very well. Here's a picture I took on 31st October.  This plant is about 15cm/6-inches tall.

I haven't decided how to pot them up again although it will definitely be in spring and probably into  15cm/6-inch pots which are mostly filled with stones. I'm quite excited about it!

A reminder of the blurb which was on the packet

Samphire Crithmum maritimum av 45 seeds
Crithmum maritimum - Rock Samphire, Sea Fennel, height 15-30cm
Sea Samphire flowers from June to August. Leaves and seed pods are used, leaves used in salads and pickled in vinegar and spices, or often cooked in butter. The plant has a reputation for helping weight loss. Medicinally used for treating obesity and kidney complaints also aids digestion. Sow seed in cold frame autumn or spring, lightly cover the seed, grow on in pots and plant out in the summer. Prefers a dry well drained soil in full sun sheltered from cold winds, benefits from a salty soil. Habitat grows in rock crevices, rocky shores, shingle beaches.


For detailed growing instructions visit our specialist  growing herbs and vegetables section


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