#ThriftyOrganic three-course family meal

Organic September Collage

If you are a bit of a foodie and/or follow any social media here in the UK, you’re probably more than aware that this month has been dubbed #OrganicSeptember. Everyone’s being encouraged to celebrate all things organic. The message is that by making a small change to your everyday shopping, we can make a big difference: swapping to organic food has huge benefits for people, animal welfare and the environment.


While most of us will agree that organic produce is better for our environment, better for animal welfare and, well, just a more natural approach, isn’t it hideously expensive to shop organic? I try to buy organic wherever I can, particularly fruit and vegetables. For instance I have a weekly organic veg box delivered by Riverford – although I tend to do this less during late summer and early autumn when we tend to have a glut of veggies in our own garden. But I doubt I could afford to go totally organic.

Or could I? Continue reading

Chocolate cheesecake with blackberry cream

Chocolate Cheesecake Collage

I feel obliged to issue a public health warning before I go any further with this post. This dessert is not for the faint-hearted and certainly not for anyone on a calorie-controlled diet. It’s extremely rich and something of a colossal beast, easily serving 12 to 14 people, so only make this if you’ve got the man, woman and child-power to tackle it, and be sure not to feed them too much beforehand. Continue reading

Italian baked chicken with grapes followed by semifreddo with honey, figs and walnuts

Italian feast

Boasting honey, figs, grapes, nuts and sweet wine, this Italian feast would surely have won the approval of Bacchus himself. When I think about good food, when I dream about delicious dishes bringing together the simplest ingredients to create something truly magical, when I picture myself being served an incredible meal in an idyllic setting, I tend to find myself transported to Italy.

It’s been a few years since I’ve travelled in Italy and I long to return. My parents are in Tuscany right now and as you can imagine I am extremely jealous. My step-mum Sue has been sending me droolsome updates on Whatsapp, replete with photos, documenting their food adventures. There have been accounts of wonderful salads with chicken, ravioli in a walnut cream sauce,  the thinnest pizzas with just one or two toppings, grilled sea bass with roast courgettes, fritto misto in the lightest of batters, fagiolini with fine green beans and bacon in tomatoes and garlic. Oh and lots of gelati with figs and cherries… The list goes on. It’s been pure torture.

So when Expedia challenged me to come up with an Italian meal for their #expediaworldonaplate challenge, I knew I would be taking my inspiration from Tuscany. Continue reading

Strawberry ice cream sundaes with rosemary shortbread

Strawberry ice cream sundae with rosemary shortbread4

I didn’t realise strawberries with rosemary was a particularly classic combination but on consulting the oracle that is Google I see cooks all over the world are pairing them. This is the first time I’ve tried them together and I think they make a brilliant partnership, especially in this spectacularly simple ice cream sundae.

And with rosemary biscotti being a bit of a winner on last week’s Great British Bake Off, I think rosemary biscuits could turn out to be rather trendy. Not that I keep up with cooking trends in the slightest. I’m always a tad late to the party on that score. I only tried matcha for the first time a couple of months ago, while coconut oil made its first appearance in my cooking just the other day.

But back to those sundaes…

I made the rosemary shortbread to accompany the Rich Clotted Cream ice cream we brought home with us from our recent visit to the marvellous Marshfield Farm. My kids demanded sundaes and as I’m the biggest sucker around for ice cream piled high in a tall glass, who was I to refuse? Strawberries were the obvious choice to go with clotted cream and shortbread seemed the obvious choice for strawberries. And then the rosemary outside the back door called to me, and this sundae was born. Continue reading

Posh prunes and custard

posh prunes and custard 2

My blogging friend Janie from The Hedgecombers is off on an incredible road trip across Wales this month, discovering the best places to eat and drink in the country. Lucky bugger! While she’s otherwise engaged, she’s handed over the reins of her blog to some fellow foodies, including me.

My recipe for Posh Prunes and Custard has just appeared over on The Hedgecombers if you fancy giving it a try, and do check out Janie’s tasty offerings while you’re there. I’m sure you’ll be tempted by more than a few…

Poached pears in red wine and spices

poached pear 2

I was lucky enough to meet the brilliant Italian chef Valentina Harris at a special dinner party thrown earlier this year by Paddy and Judith O’Hagan who are part of the team behind the Wells Food Festival. The party was for volunteers and supporters of the festival, and we were treated to an incredible Italian five-course feast, all prepared by Valentina, who cooked at last year’s festival and is lined up to be involved again this year. There were beautiful canapes, followed by a selection of pasta dishes, then a wonderful risotto, an array of sweet treats and finally cheese.

One of the desserts was poached pears in the most heavenly red wine and spice syrup. I was rather surprised by how much my oldest daughter Jessie enjoyed the pears – so much so, she insisted we take our chances and pop into the kitchen (we’d been warned about the amount of swearing going on in there!) to see if Valentina would share her recipe with us. Continue reading

Cherry pie (and a damn fine cup of coffee)

Cherry Pie Collage

I don’t know a single person who’d turn down a big fat slice of hot cherry pie. It’s been one of my favourite pies for as long as I can remember, but this mighty fine dessert took on extra special significance when I was about 15 and became absolutely obsessed with the cult David Lynch / Mark Frost surreal murder-mystery, Twin Peaks. To this day, whenever I hear the opening bars of the ever so haunting Falling, a shiver runs down my spine.

Every Wednesday morning I’d rush to school so I could swap notes with my best friend Ruth on all the twists and turns of last night’s episode. I would have given anything for a leather jacket-clad biker boyfriend like James Hurley, was terrified if ever I entered a room with long red curtains, had recurring nightmares about Bob, and I so wanted to be Audrey Horne. I wasted much too much time trying in vain to tie cherry stems with my tongue…

Continue reading