Tag Archive | gluten free

Cider apple stew for elves


Stew 10

Apologies for the slightly hurried, out of focus picture. I was hungry.


Ah, so we meet again. I feel like just a moment ago I was preparing a post about freezing gluts of late summer vegetables (which I will post later) and then I fell into a hole in the space-time continuum. Somehow, it’s now January and I’m not sure what happened. Well, that’s not entirely true. A large amount of pretending to be an elf happened if I’m being honest with you. It’s been a busy few months at work, I’ve been quite ill and not a happy bunny so writing time has been re-designated to lying-on-the-sofa-complaining-and-playing-Skyrim time. Cooking has fallen by the wayside. That said, I have had a few revelations:

  • Slow cookers are amazing
  • Stew is amazing
  • Simple, medieval type foods are really good for a poorly tummy
  • Tesco now sells Lactose free Stilton
  • I can get 8-10 meals out of one roast chicken
  • Sometimes I just really need to be an elf for a while

It’s a shame I’ve not had the wherewithal to write here for a few months though as Autumn is my favourite time of year and I have a lot of seasonal recipes I love to make. As soon as September rolls around each year I start getting wistful and excited, roaming the hedgerows and farm shops muttering about “mists and mellow fruitfulness”, and I’m not sure which I celebrate more, Halloween or Christmas.

Still, never mind, on with January and its leftover Christmas cake, half-bottle of sherry and well-intentioned bag of spinach. I don’t diet in January (or indeed, ever). I don’t believe anything good can come of it and I generally have so much food left over from Christmas it takes me an extra month to eat it all. Sooner or later I do end up drifting towards healthy eating though. My internal conversation in January generally runs something like this:

Taste buds: “Oh wow, I love eating Christmas food. Why don’t I eat like this all the time? Why do I only get to have these flavours once a year?”

Brain: “Because we’d literally turn into a salami if you did. It’d be like that episode of Invader Zim where they turn into human baloney.”

Taste buds: “But what if we did it in moderation? You know, just introduce a slightly higher salami-based portion of my daily intake”

Brain: “Hmm… and spinach?”

Taste buds: “Yes, and spinach, we’ll do that. Everyone knows spinach offsets salami. It renders it neutral or something. Let’s go and buy us another salami now then.”

Brain: “Ok, yes, I think we could make this work…”

Stomach: “STOP IT! STOP IT NOW!”

Brain: “Well, I suppose warrior-elves do eat healthily…”

The main thing this warrior-elf has been eating for the last few months has been stew. Lots of it. I have gone from hating stew to pretty much been eating it 5 days a week. It’s easy to make, easy on my tummy, tastes delicious and feels satisfyingly medieval and hearty. It feels like the sort of thing a tired hero might sit down to eat by the fireplace at the inn after a busy day of adventuring and dragon-slaying. And it looks like a witch’s brew so it’s a win all round.

This change in my opinion of stew has been down to one magical recipe which I adapted from a casserole I used to make. I think what makes it nice is the addition of lots of herbs and flavours that don’t become too bland after hours of cooking.

Recipe Notes

  • This recipe can be adapted to use pretty much any veg but think about the sort of flavours that work together. Root veg like turnips or parsnips might work well but you won’t want something like tomatoes for example.
  • I prefer to make this recipe in a large cauldron over an open fire, while wearing my black pointy hat, cackling evilly and stroking the cat but when I can’t, I use my slow cooker. You can make it in a heatproof dish in the oven but what I like about the slow cooker is the consistency of times and temperature it gives and the fact that you can just switch it on and forget about it. You can even leave the house with it on which you can’t do with a dish in the oven. I like the fact that it allows me to cook dinner in the morning when I’m feeling relatively perky and not have to worry about it later when I’m tired. I also like that I can cook enough in it to feed me for a week.
  • The dumplings included in this recipe are ones adapted from the BBC’s Good Food website (you can find the original here). I make them for myself with Lactofree butter and cheese and am yet to fine a satisfactory way of vegnising them successfully for my vegan friends. I think this may be a case of simply using alternative vegan dumplings rather than modifying this recipe further.
  • You can use pork loin steaks in this recipe instead of Quorn steaks but personally I prefer Quorn these days as they soak up the flavour from the sauce really well. If you do use pork steaks you will need to brown them lightly in a frying pan first before adding them to the rest.
  • If you can, use fresh herbs. Sage, thyme and rosemary all work really well for this one. I grow a lot of herbs in my garden but you can buy them in the supermarket easily enough. Of course, dried ones work just fine but fresh really give the best flavour. I tend to use a bit of both.


If you’re not a fan of apples or cider, a nice variant on this recipe, which we make just as often, is to swap the cider for a bottle of white wine and to omit the apples. Bottles of wine tend to be bigger than bottles of cider so the extra liquid there makes up for what you will lose by getting rid of the apples, although you may want to add a bit more veg to bulk it up.

Ingredients (to make 5 very hearty portions)


  • One bottle of cider
  • Two Bramley (cooking) apples
  • 2 large carrots
  • Half a swede
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • One courgette
  • 180g pearl barley
  • 10 Quorn fillets
  • Water (approx. 1ltr)
  • Dried mixed herbs
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • Fresh sage (chopped)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 tablespoons of plain flour (gf)
  • Eye of newt (optional)


  • 200g Gluten free self-raising flour
  • 1tsp Xanthan gum
  • 100g Butter
  • 2tbs water
  • 100g Cheese (grated)
  • 2tsp Fresh thyme (chopped)
  • 1tbs Fresh rosemary (chopped)

Slow Cooker Method

1 . Peel and chop the veg into bite-sized chunks. Do not peel the apples, just core and chop them. Add to the pot. Chop the herbs finely and add them too. (Pro tip: the best way of doing this quickly is to put them in a mug and use a pair of scissors to repeatedly chop them.

Stew 1.jpg

2 . Add the pearl barley, Quorn and seasoning.

3 . Sprinkle the flour in and give it a good stir.

Stew 2.jpg

4 . Pour in the cider.

Stew 3.jpg

5 . Mix the stock cubes in with a little boiling water (about 100ml should do it) until dissolved and add to the pot.

6 . Add more boiling water, just enough cover the veg.

7 . Turn the slow cooker onto the time and setting recommended by the instructions (mine is “medium” for roughly 6 hours)

8 . Check halfway though just to make sure that the pearl barley hasn’t all stuck to the bottom. The liquid may need slightly topping up with more water or cider at this stage too – it should always just be covering the veg.

9 . Make the dumplings – Rub the flour and butter together with your fingers until it forms “breadcrumbs”. Grate the cheese and chop the herbs finely. Add these to the mixture and sprinkle it with 2tbs water. Kneed it into a ball. (Alternatively, do what I do and just chuck it all into the food processor together – much easier)

10 . Divide into 12 balls and place on a baking tray covered with parchment paper.

Stew 5

11 . Bake at 200C/gas 6 for 10-15 minutes or until they just start to turn golden-brown.

Stew 6

12 . Plop the dumplings onto the top of the stew to finish cooking a couple of hours before the end.

Stew 9

Oven Method

This method is the traditional one but it is much more an art than a science. I made it this way for years and each time the cooking times seemed to be completely different. It always worked out in the end but it was immensely frustrating and this is why I now use a slow cooker. My advice is to allow about 2-3 hours for a large stew. Check it regularly and be prepared to top up the liquid or turn down the heat if necessary. The dumplings should not be pre-cooked, as in the slow-cooker method, and they will need to be added about half an hour before the stew is finished so it is down to your judgement to know when that will be.

1 . Heat up a little cooking oil in a large, ovenproof casserole dish. Fry the veg in the oil on the hob for a few minutes until the pan is nice and hot and the veg has softened a little.

2 . Coat the veg in the flour, then add the wine and barley. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the wine has reduced and thickened a little.

3 . Add the rest of the ingredients, as per the previous method.

4 . Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.

5 . Cook for roughly an hour at 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Check regularly. When it’s ready the veg will be tender and the liquid thick.

6 . Remove the lid and add the dumplings (uncooked) to the top of the stew.

7 . Cook for a further 20-30minutes until the dumplings are golden.


Stew 11

Another rushed, out of focus picture, this time with the camera flash on. I’m not sure if this makes it better or worse. I can confirm that it tastes the same however you take the picture.




Cherry Bakewell Traybake


The last few weeks have flowed like syrup. Dark, sticky and heavy with the promise of thunder. Thoughts move slowly, my body even more so as I do my best “Edwardian lady” impression – floating around the house in diaphanous gowns and drinking endless cups of tea.

edwardian lady

Any proper afternoon tea should come with a cake of some sort. No delicate little fancies for me however, what I require is a cake that matches the weather: dense, moist and almost (but not quite) a little too sweet.

In my head, Cherry Bakewells mean Mr Kipling. I experienced no other as a child and I can’t say I cared for them all that much. I found them too dry, too small and not nearly almond-y enough for my palette. This is a shame really as I consider cherry and almond to be a flavour combination made in heaven, and one that is perfect for summer. This recipe is not like Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells. Nor is it like an authentic Bakewell tart, which is an entirely different entity. It is a sort of hybrid: a were-bake: a Franken-well… but one that tastes very nice.

Recipe Notes

  • This is not necessary a quick recipe. The various stages are simple enough but it does take time. For people with limited “spoons” like me this can be problematic. I’ve found I can reduce the time by completing each stage in the order given below and/or actually making the pastry in advance and freezing it. (It freezes perfectly well for several months) I also love my food processor. It saves me so much time and effort, and I can even put it in the dishwasher. I know they’re expensive (mine was a gift from my Dad) but if you cook a lot it might be worth the investment. The good news is, simple ones work just as well for day-to-day cooking as fancy ones with all the attachments. It’s also possible to find old 70s/80s food processors at flea markets and car boot sales being sold for next to nothing. My Mum has had her food processor for around 30 years and it’s still going strong.

My Mum’s is not this exact brand but it looks like this.

  • So far, I have made this recipe using eggs and have also made it completely vegan, using chia seed goo instead. Personally, I prefer the fully vegan version as it is much denser and stickier. But, if you are not vegan and prefer a lighter, more risen sponge layer then the eggs are for you. See my recipe here for how to make the chia seed egg replacement. It’s really easy and only takes a few minutes.


  • Similarly, if you are using gluten free flour for the pastry then I’ve found that an egg or chia seed substitute helps to bind it all together a little better. But if you are not using gluten free flour then this is not necessary at all.


  • If you don’t use polenta or ground almonds very much and don’t want a situation where you have half a packet lurking in the back of the cupboard forever more, you can replace them in the pastry with the equivalent amount of flour. They’re not vital ingredients at all, they just make the pastry taste that bit nicer.


  • I nearly always use golden caster sugar in my baking because I like the slight caramel taste but you don’t have to – normal caster sugar works just fine.


  • The amount of water used in the icing seems tiny but go with it. For years I made icing too runny by adding more water than I should because it seemed right at the time. It wasn’t until I discovered this ratio that I finally achieved the perfect consistency of “firm enough not to run all down the sides but runny enough to not be fondant”. I promise you, it works.




  • 6oz gf plain flour
  • 1.5oz polenta
  • ½ oz ground almonds
  • 1 heaped tsp xanthan gum
  • 5oz (vegan) butter
  • 2oz golden caster sugar
  • EITHER 1 egg OR equivalent vegan egg replacer (1/4 tablespoon chia seeds + 1 tbs water)
  • A little water


  • 4oz gf self raising flour
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 8oz (vegan) butter
  • 8oz golden caster sugar
  • 1tsp almond essence
  • EITHER 4 medium eggs, beaten OR equivalent vegan egg replacer (4 tbs chia seeds + 16 tbs water)
  • About half a jar of jam – strawberry, raspberry or cherry works nicely


  • 300g icing sugar
  • 3tbs water
  • 25g flaked almonds (toasted)
  • 20 glace cherries



First make the pastry (this can always be done in advance to save time).

The method is pretty much the same as with any pastry, and if you have a food processor you can skip the faff, pop all of the ingredients in together and watch the magic happen. If not, do the following…

1.  Mix the flour, polenta, ground almonds and xanthan gum together in a large bowl.

2.  Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the dry mix. “Rub it in” using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3.  Mix in the sugar.

4.  Add the chia seed egg replacer/egg yolk and mix in well.

5.  Add a tiny bit of water at a time, mixing with a spoon and then your hands until the mixture comes together to form a solid ball. The amount of water you will need depends on the individual mix so go slowly. If you are using a particularly large egg you may not need any water at all.

6.  Ideally, wrap the pastry in clingfim and chill in the fridge for half an hour (if you are pushed for time you can skip this step).

Bakewell 14.jpg

7.  Grease the inside of a large roasting tin with oil and dust with flour to coat the surface.

Bakewell 6

8.  Roll out your pastry to fit the tin. Rather than attempt a complicated transfer process with fragile, crumbly gluten free pastry, I find it easier to simply roll it out part way, and then squish it out the rest of the way into the corners of the tin with my fingers.

9.  Prick the pastry all over with a fork. (This helps the pastry to stay flat and crisp)

Bakewell 7

10.  Spread a generous layer of jam all over.

Bakewell 8


While the pastry is chilling, make the filling… (That rhymes!)

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6.

2.  In a large bowl, cream (mix really hard) the butter and sugar until pale in colour.

Bakewell 3.jpg

3.  Add the “eggs” a little at a time, stirring after each addition.

Bakewell 4

4.  Add the almond essence and ground almonds.

Bakewell 5

5.  Sieve in the flour and fold it in, in a “figure of 8” pattern.

6.  Spoon the mixture over the jam-covered pastry and bake for 40 minutes until golden-brown.

Bakewell 9

Bakewell 10


While the filling is cooking, make the icing… (That doesn’t rhyme. How disappointing)

  1. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl to remove any lumps.
  2. Stir in the water.

Bakewell 11.jpg

Put it all together!

  1. Once the filling is reasonably cool, spread the icing over it (leave it in the tin at this stage) and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

Bakewell 12.jpg

2. Place 20 glace cherries evenly over the surface.

Bakewell 13.jpg

3. Cut into 20 squares with a sharp knife.

4. Leave in a cool place for the icing to set a little more and lift the squares out of the tin.

Bakewell 2.jpg

Vegan Egg Substitutes Part Two – Chia Seeds


Ground chia seeds

Chia seeds make an excellent substitute for eggs in many recipes. When water is added to ground chia seeds they produce mucilage (fun goo) that binds everything together nicely. They are gluten-free, have an earthy, almost nutty flavour and add a lot of bulk and texture to a mixture. Unlike many chemical vegan egg replacers, they also add nutritional value to your food. I have had particular success with chia in things like pastry, brownies and biscuits. I wouldn’t try to use it for anything that I want to be light or crumbly however.

Recipe Notes

You can buy whole chia seeds and grind them yourself to make this recipe. The resulting chia meal will be nice and fresh and can then be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a year. To grind them, you will need something that can cope with tiny seeds. I tried to use my food processor after reading that you could but it didn’t work at all – it just made a mess. I imagine a mortar and pestle would work but given that Sainsburys sells huge bags of pre-ground chia seed meal this sounds far too much like hard work to me.

Chia is such a good binder that I have found myself needing less of it than some recipes have stated. Again, it’s a matter of playing around and figuring out what works for you.

Ingredients (To substitute 1 medium egg)

  • 1 level tablespoon ground chia seeds
  • 3 tablespoons water


  1. Mix the chia seeds and water in a bowl.
  2. Cover and leave somewhere the cat can’t get at it for 5-10 minutes. Once it is done, the consistency should be similar to an egg.
  3. Use in place of eggs in recipes.

Chia + Water = Goo

Vegan Egg Substitutes Part One – Science!


In the next two posts, I will be talking about kittens and sunshine and chocolate and sparkles and fireworks and, um… vegan egg substitutes.

Ok, so it’s not the most exciting topic in the world but one that is helpful to know about if you want to cook exciting things. Like cake. And more cake.

In this first post I will give a little background on vegan egg substitutes and briefly discuss vegan, gluten-free baking. In part two I will share a recipe for chia seed egg substitute – the one I use most often.

As I have mentioned, I am not vegan myself; I just melt in a puff of smoke leaving nothing but my shoes and pointy hat when I’m exposed to lactose. When I am cooking for myself I can therefore use eggs and Lactofree products (which behave just like normal dairy products, minus my personal kryptonite). I do love cooking for other people though and I have a lot of vegan friends. As a relative beginner to fully-vegan cooking, eggs have been the thing I have struggled with the most. I have experimented a fair bit now, with varying degrees of success, and would like to share what I have learnt so far. As I learn more and as I try new substitutes for eggs I will let you know the results.

What on earth is a vegan egg replacer and why should I bother?


In baking, eggs have various functions. These include:

  1. Acting as a binder to give structure to a mixture
  2. Helping a mixture to rise (leavening)
  3. Thickening a mixture
  4. Adding moisture
  5. Adding flavour

There are also many other functions of eggs in cooking, depending on what you are making. The science behind the role of eggs in cooking is explained here, far more efficiently that I would be able to.

If you cannot use eggs in your recipe and want it to turn out the same, then you will need to find an ingredient that mimics what the eggs do. (With some recipes, you can simply omit the eggs but with most it will significantly change the result. With something like a cake, it would be a disaster)

The good news is, there are lots of things that you can use, including, apple puree, tofu, oil, banana, flax seeds and chia seeds. There are many more. There are also lots of pre-made vegan egg replacers on the market. I haven’t tried any of these yet and have heard mixed reviews. All of these substitutes have different properties and the best one to choose will depend on what you are cooking. For example, apple puree may add lovely flavour to a cake but it won’t bind pastry together effectively as chia seeds. It’s a matter of looking at your original recipe and deciding what property you most require from your egg substitute.

If you want to know more about the properties of various vegan egg substitutes the easiest way is actually just to google it – there are hundreds of cheat sheets and guides out there comparing them all. Once I have tried enough to speak with authority on it, I will make one for this blog.

Double Trouble

“Well, this is all excellent”, you might think. “It seems a little confusing at first but once you get your head around the idea, it really is ok. Er, will it matter that the recipe needs to be gluten-free as well?”

The short answer is… yes. And no.


The thing I am slowly learning is that with free-from cooking there is rarely a short answer. Or a simple one. Or one that works every time and in all circumstances. Free-from cooking is kind of a nice analogy for the rest of life really. Despite a loud background chorus of people all claiming to have the “one perfect answer”, the whole thing is completely subjective and experiential. It is a journey across a vast grey area, interspersed with serendipity, personal bias, utter chaos and a lot of time spent on Wikipedia. In the words of Monty Python, “You’ve got to work it out for yourselves.”

So, what should you do about gluten-free vegan cooking? Well, it is mostly ok. It’s only really in baking that things get tricky and that is down to the properties of eggs and gluten that provide binding and leavening.

In baking, gluten and eggs are a dream team. They interact in just such a way as is perfect for things like holding pastry together and getting a sponge cake to rise. You can often get away without one, but if you try to omit both things start to fall apart, literally.

If you don’t need something to rise, a vegan egg substitute with a lot of binding power like chia will do the job well. Chia is great for things like pastry and I have had a lot of success with it in gluten-free recipes. When it comes to leavening however, it is surprisingly useless.

Gluten-free Vegan Cake

cake cat by nomomomo_bucket at photobucket

“Birthday Cake Cat” by nomomomo_bucket at Photobucket

A lot of vegan cake recipes rely on the assumption that you will be using wheat flour to do the hard work of leavening. Xanthan Gum can be used with gluten-free flour to do the job of gluten but it does not do it perfectly. When you bake a cake with gluten free flour and xanthan gum, you will still lose a significant portion of the rise and structure. A lot of gluten-free cake recipes therefore use the leavening power of eggs to fill the gap.

I am yet to find a vegan egg replacer that leavens sufficiently to get a gluten-free sponge cake to rise. I read that the chemical ones may be able to do this and I have heard whispers about arrowroot powder but so far, I have not tried these. I know that it must be possible because a wonderful local vegan café has managed it but they won’t divulge their hard-earned secrets. (And who can blame them?) I would love to hear from anyone who has had success making a vegan, gluten-free sponge. Comments section anyone?

Currently, the only tips I can give from my direct experience are the following:

  • If you don’t have to, don’t torture yourself. I have given up trying to make light gf/vegan sponge cakes and instead go for brownies, tiffin or other dense, traybake type things when I want to treat people.
  • On that note, dark chocolate is your friend.
  • If it’s just regular wheat and not gluten that’s the problem, try white spelt flour instead. Check that whoever you’re cooking for can eat spelt first.
  • Using a little extra baking powder can help but doesn’t solve the problem completely. Take care not to use so much you get a nasty, chemical taste however.

In Part Two I will share the recipe for chia seed egg substitute.

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble


If you ask me, there is something comical about rhubarb. I don’t know why. I think it’s got something to do with this.

My Uncle has a new allotment and has given much care to his rhubarb plants. I haven’t seen them but apparently, they are luscious, thriving and have stems as thick as your arm. He’s thinking of showing them. I was given some of this rhubarb when I visited my Nan a week or so ago and as far as I’m concerned, there is only one thing to do with rhubarb…


*I know crumble is technically more of an autumn dish, but never mind.


Recipe Notes

  • There are recipes out there for all sorts of fancy and wonderful things you can do with rhubarb, crumble and both. But seeing as the focus of this blog is on simple, tasty, home cooking, it would be remiss of me not to start with the real basics. I grew up eating a lot of crumble but it does contain our old friends, wheat and dairy. Luckily, these are so easy to substitute in a crumble recipe you barely notice the difference.
  • Sometimes, I like to substitute some of the flour for a handful of porridge oats and/or chopped nuts to give it an interesting texture. It depends what mood I’m in.
  • If you prefer your fruit crunchy you can skip the pre-cooking step and just bake it from raw. I don’t as I like my fruit more cooked but I still take care not to simmer it for too long.


  • 8oz of cooking apples
  • 8oz fresh rhubarb
  • 6oz plain flour (or gf substitute flour of choice)
  • 3oz butter, chilled (or vegan/lactofree substitute)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • An orange
  • 3oz caster sugar (I like golden caster sugar but white works fine)


  1. Wash the apples and rhubarb. Cut both into small-ish chunks.Crumble5
  2. Finely grate the orange rind and squeeze the juice.
  3. Place the fruit in a pan with, the cinnamon, orange rind and a tablespoon of orange juice.
  4. Place a lid on the pan with a little gap to let the air out and simmer for roughly 5mins, or until the fruit begins to soften, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking to the bottom.Crumble4
  5. Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the flour. “Rub it in” to the flour using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make sure the butter is as cold as possible for this to work best. (Alternatively, stick it all in the food processor and let that do the work for you!)
  6. Add the sugar.
  7. Place the fruit mixture in the bottom of a large oven-proof dish. (1.5 pint should do)
  8. Spread the crumble mixture on top and dot with little chunks of butter.Crumble3
  9. Bake at 210°C for 20mins and reduce to 180°C for 45mins.
  10. Eat before you can take a decent photo of it for your food blog.


  1. Crumble2

    Observe my truly excellent photography skills. I particularly like the shadow of the camera I have managed to capture in the corner…

A Romantic Interlude…

IMG_20160815_121133 (2).jpgSweet Peppers Stuffed with Cream Cheese

vegetarian/lactofree/gluten free/can be made vegan

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Before we get properly started on the epic adventure curry quest I thought I would share a quick recipe to mark the occasion of receiving my first ever Valentine’s card with the word “wife” on the front. (We got married last summer. Yay us.)

This is one I often make as a romantic treat for my husband. (Yes, we do live in the 1950s apparently) wife-6-600x782.jpgIt’s tiny sweet peppers stuffed with cream cheese. My husband loves these naughty little beauties. He first spied them in a pub while on a weekend away in Birmingham and has lusted after them ever since. The look on his face while he is eating them suggests that he may even love them more than me. For my part, instead of getting jealous of the peppers, demanding to know whether he is eating them behind my back, obsessively checking his phone for pictures of peppers and throwing his cheese out of the window, I have decided to take the unconventional approach of welcoming the peppers into our relationship and fulfilling his gastronomic urges every chance I get.

I think these work best when eaten as part of a tapas style spread. On the last occasion, we ate them with sweet potato fries, miniature vegetarian pigs in blankets, baked green lemon tiger tomatoes and olives but you can do whatever you like best.

Recipe Tips

  • Sweet peppers of suitable dimensions to make delicious, single-bite-sized parcels of cheesy goodness are surprisingly difficult to find. Most on offer that I have found in supermarkets are simply too big to be consumed in one bite. Of course the recipe does still work perfectly well with the larger variety, it’s just less satisfying when you have to cut them up. For those of you with a taste for the spicier things in life, this recipe is traditionally made with chillies, and these have the advantage of being the perfect size. I and my digestive system however, cannot cope with all the excitement. On balance, the scarcity of perfectly sized peppers is probably a good thing; given an unrestricted supply who knows what orgies of cheese based consumption might otherwise ensue in our household.
  • You don’t actually have to use cream cheese for this – any soft cheese will do if you can eat cheese.
  • I have not yet found a vegan or lactose free cream cheese that contains herbs or anything exciting so have added in the step of making my own for this dish. If you are using normal cream cheese feel free to skip this part. I like to add Herbes de Provence but a standard Italian herb mix will do just nicely. You can also add a sprinkling of paprika and/or garlic powder if you like them.
  • To minimise cheese-leakage when cooking I have, through much experimentation come up with an ingenious solution involving a scrunched up roll of aluminium foil to hold the peppers cheesy end up. I call my marvellous invention the patented* perky pepper proper-upper  *patent pending**    **patent not pendingpeppers-4

(It’s not the most eco-friendly option I know but unless you are a much better person than me and your dedication to the cause extends to scrubbing burned cheese off your cookware I would highly recommend this solution)


  • As many tiny sweet peppers as you think you can eat – remember: they are going to be stuffed with cheese so this one really is between you, your arteries and your conscience.
  • A tub of spreadable cream cheese. (I use lactose free but vegan works fine too)
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika and garlic powder (optional)
  • Mixed herbs
  1. Prepare the pepperspeppers-1

Gently cut a ring around the stems using the tip of a knife. Pull the stems out and you should be left with a neat hole. Wash the inside of the peppers out under the tap to remove the seeds.

  1. Improve the cream cheese

Decant some cream cheese into a bowl – no measures, just as much as seems reasonable – a few dessert spoons should do it for one person. Add salt and pepper and herbs to taste.

  1. Stuff those pepperspeppers-2

Using a knife, fill the peppers with cream cheese. If you’re feeling fancy you can use a piping bag but the results are much the same.

  1. Bakepeppers-3

Place on a baking tray lined with foil or greaseproof paper. Bake for roughly 15-20mins (give or take – just keep checking it) on 200C.

  1. Revel in cheesy decadence. 

    Neufchatel. Markus Lindholm Wikimedia Commons.

Curry for the unadventurous



Image source: Flickr. Matt Oldfield. The kitchen UWRF13. Wikimedia Commons.


Well hello there. My, what a time is has been! We have feasted, we have frolicked and we have made merry. We have roasted, fried, dipped, marinated, drizzled, boiled, crushed, glazed, baked, squeezed and sprinkled until we are fit to burst. I have (ironically) been so busy in the kitchen over the festive period that I haven’t even had time to write about it. The good news is that the fruits of my labours have provided lots of new recipes and tips to tell you all about in time for next year.

But for now, February…


As I write this at 4pm the sun is just caressing the horizon, gilding the neighbours’ Cypress tree with warm light. Below, the pond is frozen solid and slivers of frost still linger in the shady patches of ground. This time of year is often undeniably beautiful yet we seem do our best to hate it anyway. In my daily life, I rarely encounter anyone with a good word to say about February. All of the fresh January enthusiasm has faded leaving ice on the car windscreen and a fridge full of wilting salad. I totally understand the compulsion to feel healthy after the splurge of December. I for one am craving apples. I normally hate apples. But I have never got to grips with the whole raw vegetables thing when it below zero outside. Surely, I think, there must be a better way. And I think I have found it in curry.

I would love to know more about cooking curry but have always been held back by the long lists of unfamiliar ingredients involved and a vague terror of making things too spicy. (IBS will do that to you) Despite liking the idea of curry the furthest I was prepared to venture in the past was a mild chicken korma. Even black pepper on my dinner was living wild as far as I was concerned. My husband however can tolerate food so hot that the sales assistant in our local spice shop once speculated that there must be something wrong with him.

Over the last couple of years of cooking together and trying to find a middle ground between our tastes I have gradually increased my tolerance for spice without really knowing it. So much so that the other day while eating one of my standard chicken with super-mild-korma-sauce-from-jar I was actually moved to get up out of my comfy chair to add some extra chilli powder before I even realised what I was doing.

Curry for me embodies everything you need on a cold February day. It’s colourful, warming and can be filled with fresh vegetables. Some ingredients in curries (i.e. ginger) can also be good for battling the dreaded plague demons that regularly beset us fragile mortals at this time of year. (Plus, it sort of looks like witches’ brew and that pleases me greatly. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to cackle manically as I stir a cauldron of bubbling curry on the stove).

So, I propose a quest. An adventure into the world of curry for the chronically unadventurous. Join me as I start by re-tracing my steps through the easy, mild curries that I am familiar with and then boldly venturing into delicious and unchartered realms. I’ll go and get the ingredients, you check back for the start of the quest soon!

(insert manic cackle here)