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Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Wee Pinch Of Sugar


As someone who enjoys cooking and who feels she can produce reasonably good food for the family, takeaways have never featured much in our house. However as the boys got older and started going to college, University, concerts and the various nights out in the city, the ‘Takeaway’ has earned its place with them.

Words like, ‘best ever, ‘greatest ,Can’t beat it’ started to emerge to describe the various kebabs, pizzas, curries, and burritos that they discovered outside of my kitchen. Not that I grudge them the odd fat, high calorie,sugar, additive laden meal, but when it’s suggested that I could never make it like that, I immediately rise to the challenge.

I’m sure there are some very good takeaway establishments around and admittedly I am partial to the occasional Chinese, or Indian takeaway. However,don’t ask me to eat a Donner Kebab. The very sight of that huge lump of…

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‘Add a Pinch of Salt’

For many the appearance of the bright orange pumpkin in the shops usually means Halloween is on its way and images of lanterns are the first thought. However, the pumpkin is a great fruit, yes it is a fruit, not a vegetable and a versatile one at that . For me it  signals that not only is Halloween around the corner but that Autumn has arrived and it’s  time for a change of flavours in the kitchen. Different seasons bring new colours, new aromas, and the pumpkin denotes warm, spicy earthy tones that add comfort to food as we move away from salads and the lightness and freshness of summer food. Pumpkin works well in casseroles and curries, as a soup, in risotto as a stuffing for certain pasta, a roasted veg and even in a cake or a dessert. When I mentioned that I was making a selection of cakes and desserts with my pumpkin haul, there were a few raised eyebrows in the house,  not surprising as my boys would never eat it as a savoury dish, preferring to carve it in to a lantern to go trick or treating or to adorn the doorstep on Halloween. However, like other fruit or vegetable cakes it makes a lovely addition as it lends a nice subtle sweetness and moistness to a sponge cake and it’s also a nice change for a cheesecake or pie. Warm spices such as cinnamon, ginger and chilli compliment the flavour of pumpkin as do sweet flavours such as orange and surprisingly for some chocolate. These recipes make a nice change from the soups and savoury dishes and where possible I have reduced the calorie content by using oil or ‘lighter’ ingredients.

Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Ginger Sauce

Ingredients 225g digestive biscuits

60g butter

Juice and zest of 1 orange

340g cooked pumpkin. Either roast or steam

25g fresh ginger grated

225g golden caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

4 eggs


175g Plain chocolate

50g butter

1 tbsp ginger wine or a tbsp of the syrup from the preserved ginger.

2 pieces of preserved ginger (from a jar) chopped

Place the chocolate,  butter and milk in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water, stir until melted and creamy. Stir in the ginger and set aside until needed.


Heat the oven to 170oc /. Fan Gas 3

Grease and line a 10 in/25cm loose bottomed cake tin.

Crush the digestive biscuits into fine crumbs.

Melt the butter over a low heat, stir in the biscuit crumbs along with the orange zest Press the biscuit crumb mix into the base of the tin and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, pumpkin, grated ginger, sugar, and cinnamon until the mixture is smooth. A food mixer will make this much easier.

Beat the eggs and fold into the pumpkin mixture. Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for approximately 90 mins until set and a skewer comes out clean. Once cool,turn onto a serving plate, cover and chill overnight. To serve, dust lightly with icing sugar and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Pumpkin and apple samosas

Makes 12

1 packet of Filo pastry

Filling Ingredients

225g pumpkin chopped into a small dice

110g apples chopped into a small dice

25g sultanas

25g grated ginger

1 tbsp plain flour

Light muscovada sugar   Combine the filling ingredients together. Unroll the Filo, and cover with a damp tea towel.

Take one sheet of pastry and brush with melted butter or oil, fold one third, brush again and fold I the final third to make one long strip of pastry.

Place a spoonful of the filling at one corner end of the Filo and fold diagonally to make a triangle. Continue folding until you reach the end of the pastry strip and have formed a triangle parcel. Brush with melted butter or oil, place on a baking sheet and bake, 200C/ 180c fan Gas 6 for 20 – 30 mins until crisp and golden.

Allow to cool slightly,  dust lightly with icing sugar and serve with low fat creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt.

My next healthier Halloween offering is my Chocolate & Orange Pumpkin cake and although it contains sugar , there’s no artificial colourings.  This is a recipe I have adapted from my Mother in laws chocolate cake and the various carrot cakes I have made over the years. It’s made with fresh pumpkin and rapeseed oil as I find using oil makes for a more moist cake and much lower in saturated fat than butter.

The frosting is made with light cream cheese, icing sugar and grated orange rind,  although a lighter option is an orange drizzle icing.



300g self raising flour

300g light muscovada sugar   

1tbsp ginger

2.5 tsp cinnamon

60g cocoa powder (Green and Blacks gives the best flavour)

1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs beaten

140 ml rapeseed oil

30 ml natural yoghurt

Zest of 1 orange

650g pumpkin grated.


200g light cream cheese

85g butter

100g icing sugar

Zest of 1 orange

Approx 2 tbsp orange juice.

Oven Temp 180oc/ fan 160oc gas 4

30×20 cm loose bottomed cake tin – greased and lined with baking parchment

Put the dry ingredients, flour,sugar, spice, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and salt in to a large mixing bowl.

Beat the eggs, add the oil and yoghurt and orange zest and mix well. Fold in to the dry ingredients and then stir in the grated pumpkin ensuring that it is mixed well.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 35 – 40 mins or until springy to touch.


Beat the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the orange zest / juice until you achieve the desired flavour.

I find too much zest and juice makes the finished flavour to orangey and can be overpowering for the flavour of the cake. Using a palette knife to spread and swirl the frosting over the cake. Decorate as required.

Notes. Once frosted the cake keep well for a few days in the fridge. Lower the calorie count by using an orange drizzle icing.

Orange Drizzle Icing

Juice of 1 orange and zest of 1/2. 100g granulated sugar Mix ingredients together and drizzle over cake.

My thanks to Alice Strange at for  permission to use the ‘Add a Pinch of Salt’  print and to Debra at for allowing use of the pumpkin and garden pictures.

Pasta and Sausage Ragout

Friday night meals in our house tend to be a relaxed affair as we settle down to enjoy the weekend and a great favourite is this Pasta and Sausage Ragout. It’s a quick, easy  dish to make and with such a great variety of different sausages available the flavours can be changed to suit your own taste.

I find the recipe works well with a good quality pork sausage as the addition of paprika,fennel seeds and oregano really enhance the flavours of the tomato sauce and the finished dish.

Although it is a good one pot meal, I usually serve this with a green salad and crusty whole meal bread.

Sausage and Pasta Ragout

8 Pork sausages

1 tablespoon of rapeseed or olive oil

I onion, chopped

1 red pepper & 1 green pepper, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, chopped or crushed

2 tsp fennel seeds

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon oregano

400g can of chopped tomatoes

250 ml chicken stock

I teaspoon brown sugar


2oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese

350g tortiglioni or fusilli pasta.

Grill the sausages until cooked.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, add the onions and cook until soft.

Add the peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes, followed by the garlic, fennel seeds, paprika, oregano and continue cooking for 1 minute.

Stir in the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens and is slightly reduced.

Slice the sausages into bite size pieces, add to the sauce and continue cooking for 5 -10 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack.

Add the pasta to the sausage ragout, mix well and transfer to a large oven proof dish.

Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and brown under a hot grill.

‘Take a Box of Eggs’ ….British Egg Week

‘Pecking Order’ by Jan Curtis –

It’s British Egg Week and therefore seems appropriate for me as an egg lover and chicken keeper to pay homage to my Chooks and blog about the delicious eggs they lay.



Eggs are  nutritious fast food, containing a wealth of vitamins and minerals and are so easy to cook in a variety of ways yet recent research from YouGov revealed 35% of 18 to 24 year olds have never poached and egg, 1 in 5 (21%) have never made an omelette, 1 in 6 (17%) have never scrambled or fried and egg and 16% have never boiled and egg.

A box of eggs can contribute to a great breakfast or meal and as the mother of an 18 year and 24 year old I’m afraid to say that they are amongst the 35% who have never poached an egg! Of course that will now change and I will task their dad who I refer to as the ‘King of poached eggs’ to teach them his secrets of cooking the perfect eggs.

Having 6 chickens means that eggs feature a lot in our diet and being such a versatile food they are one of the best healthy ‘fast foods’ available.  In recent years health advice about restricting the numberof eggs in the weekly diet has changed and there is no longer a recommended limit on how many eggs people can eat.  The Food Standards Agency describe eggs as a good choice when part of a healthy balanced diet and  British Heart Foundation advice suggests that the cholesterol found in food such as eggs does not usually make a great contribution to the level of cholesterol in your blood, concluding that it is much more important to eat foods that are low in saturated fat.

I’m always hearing that people can’t cook or are to busy to cook but it’s important to realise that cooking a healthy meal doesn’t need to be time consuming or complicated and eggs are an ideal food for this.

In our house, eggs tend to be used to make great wholesome breakfasts, quick lunchtime omelettes or a large tortilla for dinner, served along with salad and bread, but they are included as part of so many other recipes including, baking, a binding ingredient in meatloaf, meatball or  fishcakes. An egg really is little powerhouse of nutrition and a rich source of good protein and with less than 70 calories in a medium egg why not think about including them for quick and easy meals.

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Grilled Tomatoes

If you’re looking for new ideas on how to cook with eggs the ‘Take a Box of Eggs’ is a new cookbook by Lucy Knox,  launched for British Egg Week. It is the latest in the ‘Dairy Cookbook Series and with more than 100 tasty recipes you’ll never be short of ideas for a quick meal. There are seven sections, covering basic recipes, toasts and snacks, vegetarian, fish, meat, bakes and deserts.

Each recipe has its own QR code which can be scanned with a smartphone for an instant ingredients shopping list.

What kind of eggs? ……..There’s a variety of eggs available now and what you chose to buy is a matter of personal preference and very often cost as many families are now on tight budgets. A dozen large eggs will make a great meal for a family of 4. A check at my local supermarket revealed a range of prices e.g.  £3 for a box of 30 mixed weight eggs, £3 for 10 organic eggs or £2.70 for 12 free range. If I have the need to buy eggs then a local egg producer is usually my choice as I prefer to buy local food wherever possible and I find the quality much better than some supermarket eggs.

I haven’t included any recipes as there are so many great recipes available from the following:- (Take a Box of Eggs and other titles in series available from this site)

Boiled Eggs with Oatcakes