I’m quite excited as I’ve seen a great house to buy.  Me and my partner need to get on the housing ladder … but want a project… to be creative …. and make a bit of money to buy a place that really suits us for a long term home.  We’ve looked at a few  houses and have only instantly fallen for two, one of which we lost.  And then I saw this house, not a pretty house… but there was something about it.  It made me want to know  more about it, and having looked at it we instantly knew ‘this was the place’.  A great refurb project but to enjoy doing it and make it a home, but with a view to sell it within two years and make a bit of of money to move on somewhere else.  My other half is a builder… so free knowledge, skill and labour !  Makes the project cheaper but gives us a new life. For years in rented accommodation we could only talk and dream of refurbishing the home we lived in and didn’t own, so we couldn’t ever pursue our dreams. Having put in an offer on this house we have seen, and having had it accepted, we wanted to find out more about the house, and have found out some really interesting facts.. makes it even more a project. I have been researching the history from when it was built (1899).  We had thought it was built in 1903, making it Edwardian (although we initially thought it was a 1920s house when we first saw it).  However, in the process of our buying it, legal documents have shown it to be Late Victorian, and this is such an interesting period in history with regard to house design and interior design and history in general.  We can’t wait to put the character back into the house with a modern twist, respecting the social influences and design of era. Really excited. I’m not posting any pictures yet, because we haven’t exchanged contracts yet and I don’t want to tempt fate by getting too excited.  Watch this space.. I hope to blog about this quirky house in the months to come!  🙂


A Simple and Chilled to Make Sunday Lunch – Oven Bag Roasted Chicken and Vegetables, Beer Batter Yorkshire Pudding and a Fresh Fruit Salad and Creme Fraiche

My other half usually cooks the Sunday Roast every other week.  However, today he was working and preparation of the Sunday meal rested on my shoulders!  As I work full time Monday to Friday, I often begrudge spending too much time in the kitchen over the weekend, especially when I also have to spend one of those precious weekend days doing the food shopping, and all that goes with that!  Today was one of those days – I wanted to prepare a tasty meal, but not a full blown Sunday Roast involving time in preparing, cooking, serving it up and dealing with all the dishes afterwards!

My idea was to cook the chicken and vegetables in oven roasting bags and to serve with Yorkshire Pudding and gravy, followed by a Fresh Fruit Salad with Creme Fraiche …. and so the plan emerged…. This is so simple … the prepared chicken and vegetables are both popped in the oven at the same time – the chicken for 1 1/2 hours and the veg for 2 hours. 

The chicken is removed from the oven and rested for half and hour while waiting for the vegetables to finish cooking for half an hour.  While they are cooking, quickly knock up the Fresh Fruit Salad, Yorkshire Pudding batter and gravy. 

So, now…. the chicken has been removed and rested, the vegetables are removed half an hour later and kept warm in the bag.  Turn the oven up and cook the Beer Batter Yorkshire Pudding and warm the gravy……  All will then be ready to serve and enjoy.  

So, here’s how it’s done……

Firstly, preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade Fan Oven  (or 190 degrees for other ovens)

Oven bag Roasted Vegetables (Nutritious, simple to cook and incredibly tasty) – pop in the oven at the same time as the chicken.



4 Medium Carrots – each carrot cut into four large sticks (I used organic carrots)

2 trimmed Leeks cut into large 3 inch pieces (raggy green parts cut off and discarded)

1 large Red Onion skinned and cut into 8 wedges

6 medium red skinned potatoes, peeled and each cut into quarters (I used Rooster potatoes http://albertbartlett.co.uk/potatoes/ )

2 large cloves of Garlic (crushed, skinned and each cut in half)

1 large handful of Greens trimmed and chopped into large pieces (or cabbage of any type)

1/4 cup of olive oil

4 large glugs of Worcestershire Sauce (I used Lea and Perrins)

1 dessertspoon of runny Honey

Freshly ground Sea Salt and Black Pepper

1 Baco Easy Roast Oven Bag (Medium)


Place the prepared potato, carrot, onion, garlic, leek and cabbage into a large bowl.  In a cup or jug, combine the olive oil, Worcestershire Sauce, Honey, salt and pepper.  Pour over the prepared vegetables in the bowl and then tip the veg mix into an oven bag, and place on a roasting tray (ensuring that as much as possible the vegetables are in a flat layer).  Tie the end of the bag with the nylon tie (provided in the Baco Oven Bag packet) – ensuring there is air in the bag to allow air flow and snip 2.5cm off the corner of the bag to allow steam to escape.  Place the roasting tray in the preheated oven for 2 hours. Half way through cooking turn the bag over on the other side to ensure the charring of both sides of the vegetables.

Succulent Oven Bag Roasted Free Range Chicken  (saves on mess in your oven and seals in the flavours for succulence)


1.5kg Free Range Chicken (I used a Free Range Chicken from Aldi https://www.aldi.co.uk)

2 thin slices of Lemon

2 Garlic Cloves (crushed, skinned and each cut in half)

2 Tablespoons White Wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc, a bottle of which I was slurping at whilst cooking!)

Freshly Ground Sea Salt and Black Pepper

A few knobs of salted Butter at room temperature (I used Anchor butter http://www.anchordairy.co.uk/)

1 Baco Easy Roast Oven Bag (Medium) http://www.baco.co.uk/products/product_19.shtml


Pop the Garlic cloves into the cavity of the chicken, along with the White Wine, Lemon slices and the tip of a teaspoon each of  the sea salt and black pepper.  Smear the surface of the chicken with a knob or two of the butter and then randomly place around 6 small knobs of butter over the chicken.  Place the oven bag on a roasting tray and pop the chicken into the oven bag (ensuring there is air in the bag) and tie loosely with a  nylon tie provided with the oven bags (Baco Easy Roast Oven Bags).  Snip about 2.5cm off one corner of the oven bag to allow steam to escape.  Put the roasting tray into the oven (at the same time as the vegetables) for approximately 1 1/2 hours until golden brown and cooked.  After 1 1/2 hours, or when cooked, remove from the oven and carefully take the chicken out of the oven bag and put on a board to rest. Reserve the meat juices left in the roasting bag and put into a small pan ready to make gravy.

While waiting for the chicken and veg to cook…..

……prepare the Fresh Fruit Salad, Yorkshire Pudding batter and Gravy.  This should only take twenty minutes and, when done, will allow you 1 Hour and Ten Minutes to relax and chill – taking in the delicious and comforting aroma of the chicken and vegetables roasting.  Time to have a bath/shower, make a phonecall to family, watch TV, take the dog for a walk, or have a snooze.. whatever you feel like doing on your Sunday – day of rest.

When the chicken and vegetables are removed from the oven (chicken resting, vegetables being kept warm, fruit salad chilling in the fridge)… cook the Yorkshire Pudding batter and warm the Gravy  

Preheat oven to 220 degrees centigrade – for the Yorkshire Pudding

Beer Batter Yorkshire Pudding  (adapted from a Delia Smith recipe)



3oz (75g) Plain Flour

1 Egg

3 fl oz (75ml) Milk (I used organic semi-skimmed)

2 fl oz (55ml) Beer (I used Carlsberg lager)

2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

Freshly ground Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Place the flour in a bowl and stir through with a whisk to break down the lumps.  Make a well in the centre, break the Egg into it and beat, incorporating the Flour into it.  Beat in the Milk a little at a time, followed by the Beer a little at a time.  Season with salt and pepper.  Then whisk (I used an electric whisk) until smooth and bubbles appear on the surface. 


Put the oil in a 11 x 7 inches (28 x 18 cm) roasting tin and heat in the oven for about ten minutes.  Pour the batter into the sizzling hot oil in the roasting tin and cook for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden brown.  This recipe only uses one egg and the pudding will not rise massively … but it does produce a very tasty Yorkshire Pudding – the type that you can use to spread butter and jam on as a snack the next day – IF there’s any left!!



Gently warm the reserved chicken meat juices in the pan.  Add a large glug of white wine, freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, a sprinkling of dried Parsley and dried Thyme.  Add 4 – 5 teaspoons of chicken gravy granules, stir in and bring gently the boil and simmer for five minutes.


Zingy Fresh Fruit Salad served with Creme Fraiche


About 10 Strawberries halved

1 Pink Lady Apple cored and cut into 1 inch chunks

1 other type of apple cored and cut into 1 inch chunks (I used a dessert apple off my apple tree)

2 Satsumas – peeled, segmented and segments cut in half

20 seedless Green Grapes and 20 seedless Red Grapes (each cut in half)

1 Banana – sliced

1 large orange (half of it sliced into 4 slices, rind removed and each slice cut into 6 pieces.  The second half reserved to juice)

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

Place the prepared fruit into a large bowl.  Squeeze over the juice of the reserved half of Orange and the juice of half a lemon.  Mix gently through the fruit.  Serve in individual bowls with a dollop of Creme Fraiche.

This zingy Fruit Salad is a superb finish to this meal and really tops it off. 


AND NOW THE MEAL CAN BE SERVED – hand carved chicken slices, with roasted vegetables, a slice of Yorkshire Pudding and drizzled generously with the chicken and white wine gravy.  Finishing off with zingy Fresh Fruit Salad served with a dollop of Creme Fraiche…. DELICIOUS and so simple to do.  Meal enjoyed, of course, with a large glass of white wine – I had Sauvignon Blanc…!


Summer’s Evening Salad


What superb weather we’re having.  Tonight is truly a real English summer’s evening.  The balmy breeze after the heat of the day and time to relax on the patio.  I don’t much feel like being in the hot kitchen, so I rustled up a salad with tender leaves, baby plum tomatoes, celery, radishes and avocado, topped with olive oil soaked and baked crusty bread croutons, torn into large pieces and drizzled and tossed in a warm mustard, olive oil and honey dressing.  Served with some warm sausage rolls and a dollop of Branston Pickle.  Mmmmmm, and washed down with a dry white wine spritzer.  Now time to watch the sun setting over the cow peppered meadows!  I love English summers and the simplicity of salad dishes.


Best of British Dorset – Dorset Red and Fursty Ferret Tart

The Best of British Dorset  (hosted by Lavender and Lovage http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/) was very thought provoking for me.   I live in North Dorset and am surrounded by the traditional food of Dorset – Dorset Apple Cake, Blue Vinny cheese, Dorset Jugged Steak dishes and Dorset Knob biscuits to name a mere few.  I am glad that I feel surrounded by these foods as it means that local people are keeping their regional foods going. And that is what is so interesting about foods of different countries, that they all have their regional specialities, no matter where you go.  However, if you were to go into Tesco or Morrisons in Blandford, you will be very lucky if you come across more than five products that are produced locally and are regional foods.  You will get plenty of Scottish Oatcakes, Cornish Yarg cheese, etc, but look for something from Dorset, a traditional food, then you will be very stuck.  If you want Dorset Blue Vinny or Dorset Knobs, to name but two, then you must go to a local Delicatessen, of which there are many in Dorset.

So, rather than recreating a Dorset dish, I decided to think of traditional Dorset foods individually which are locally produced still today and which are perhaps little heard of.  The first that came to mind was Dorset Red cheese – a fairly new Dorset cheese produced by Ford Farm in West Dorset.  This cheese is delectable; it’s a smoked cheese made only from the milk of cows which graze on the lush pastures of the West Dorset Estate.  In fact, the cheese is not red, but amber in colour and is encased in a rich red rind which is created by the gradual smoking of the cheese over natural oak chippings.  It has a smooth and velvety texture and slightly crumbly.  I next thought of a great independent family brewery in Blandford Forum, North Dorset – Hall and Woodhouse.  Their award winning bottled beer is Badger Beer, of which there are many kinds. I decided to focus on a very locally popular one, and which has been served draught in some local pubs – Fursty Ferret, which is a tawny amber ale, sweet and nutty.  Wow, what a combination – the velvety, rich, smoked cheese and the sweet nutty ale, and both from Dorset.

I thought long and hard about how I could combine these two elements, Dorset Red and Fursty Ferret, to create a truly Dorset Dish.  I was inspired somewhat by a recipe from the ‘Hungry Sailors in Poole’ Smoked Cheese Tart recipe, but wanted to combine Fursty Ferret, too.

I came up with the Dorset Red and Fursty Ferret Tart!


For the pastry:

150 g plain flour

75 g butter (chilled)

½ tablespoon water

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

1 red onion

75 g Dorset Red cheese (grated)

3 thyme sprigs

100 ml milk

50 ml Hall and Woodhouse Badger Fursty Ferret ale

1 large egg

To create:….. (preheat oven to 180 c)

Cube the cold butter and add to the flour and salt.  Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the water and knead the mixture until combined and forming a firm ball.  Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and cut the red onion into thin slices through the root, so the slices are intact.  Char in a hot, dry frying pan.  Put to one side and allow to cool.

Roll out the pastry to 3 mm thickness and use to line a 9 in diameter, greased flan tin.  Place baking beans or equivalent on the pastry case and bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.  Remove and leave to cool.

Beat the egg, add the milk, Fursty Ferret ale, salt and pepper, thyme leaves and grated Dorset Red cheese and mix gently.  Lay the charred red onion over the  pastry case and pour the cheese and egg mixture evenly into the flan case and bake at 180 c for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown on top.  Cool before serving with a glass of Fursty Ferret ale, accompanied by a Dorset orchard apple, crisp and tangy.

A perfect Dorset light lunch.

Most Simply Traditional


Friday Night… Simple, Quick and Tasty English Meal

It’s Friday night, the night I’ve been looking forward to all week and no work tomorrow, so a proper chilled Friday night.  Normally we treat ourselves to a takeaway, but being on a mission to save money and home cook our meals, I knew I would have to cook.  I had some pork loin chops which I had defrosted in the fridge yesterday, but was too tired to cook them last night after a full day at work (instead, we had a couple of frozen meals of leftovers of meals I had cooked two weeks ago and frozen).

Anyway… Friday night and I didn’t feel much like cooking but had to use those chops, so I set to work – peeling potatoes, slicing them, in a leisurely way – sitting in the kitchen and listening to music, glass of wine a few inches away!.  And.. I thought…. how nice on a Friday evening to be sitting next to my partner, chilled…. the  22 year old and 19 year old ‘kids’ drifting in and out….. a cosy night in!  And how nice to prepare and cook a meal for those near and dear to me.  So I set to work….. and, as you know from above, the recipe includes potatoes, since I was peeling them!  And the recipe only needed everyday ingredients that most people would normally have in their kitchen….

Cheesy Oven Baked Chops with Potatoes  (Serves 4)


1 kg potatoes, peeled and sliced to a medium thickness

1 onion finely sliced

50 mls water

50 mls wine  (You can instead substitute the 100 mls of liquid above (i.e. wine and water) for cider or stock

2 tbspns olive oil

4 medium to large pork chops

100 gms Cheddar cheese (I used Cathedral City http://www.cathedralcity.co.uk/)

1 tbspn of Wholegrain Mustard (I used Rosebud Preserves (Masham, North Yorkshire) English Country Wholegrain Mustard  http://www.rosebudpreserves.co.uk/)

4 tbspns milk (I used semi-skimmed which I get delivered from my local milkman http://www.milkandmore.co.uk/home)

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 230c/fan 210c/gas 8.  Toss the potatoes, onion, liquid (i.e. wine, water etc) and olive oil, salt and pepper, in a large bowl.  Place in a large, lightly greased Pyrex  http://www.pyrexware.com/  (ovenproof) dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the potatoes start to brown.  Next, place the chops on the potatoes and cook in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Whilst the potatoes and chops are in the oven, mix together in a medium bowl the grated cheese, wholegrain mustard and milk.  When the chops and potatoes have been in the oven for 10 minutes, remove and spread the cheese mixture over each chop evenly.  Place under a medium to hot grill until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown.

Serve immediately, with garden peas.

I have the thumbs up from partner and son…. They say it’s absolutely delicious.  A Friday night simple, quick and tasty meal.  The two boys were greedy and ate two large chops each – it should serve 4.  But, it’s Friday night and much tastier than a takeaway I am told… and a family evening.

A simple and traditional English Friday night meal, with all the atmosphere of a family Friday night. 

“Most Simply Traditional”

Simply…. traditional…… Marmite on toasted bread….

The recession that we have been in … are in, has made the cost of living go absolutely sky high.  As a result my weekly grocery shopping bills have over doubled in cost over the last six years.  I am now very conscious of ‘no wastage’ when it comes to food, and as a result I am discovering very simple and traditional food, that can be made from leftovers, and which is extremely tasty.  Probably more tasty than dishes that I have slaved for hours over to prepare and cook.

Today my most simply traditional snack made from leftovers… and bloody tasty!!…………………

On the kitchen counter is a discarded crusty roll, bought on Sunday, one of a pack of four crusty rolls and forgotten about.. until today .. three days later almost.  Was  it going to get wasted?  No…. I’ve just had the most delicious and cheap snack.  The leftover roll (which would have been destined for the birds in times of no recesssion!) was torn roughly in half, and then toasted in the toaster.  Because of its uneveness it charred slightly on the edges (the smell of slightly burning toast in the kitchen, which smelt heavenly actually).  But this  made for a magnificent pallette for the large dollop of salted Devon butter which I then roughly and unevenly daubed on the toasted, what had been stale, bread roll.

I then searched the fridge, did I want to put salad on it, did I want to put jam on it….?  I shut the fridge and went straight to the food cupboard.  What it needed was MARMITE.

A large smearing scooped out of the jar and roughly and unevenly applied to the hot buttered toasted half of roll. MMMMMMMMMMMMMM

It was delicious, and …. simply traditional