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Things I love . . .

Do you remember the other day when I posted my Christmas Wish List?  Well, somebody was listening because look:

Yes those are those cute little measuring spoons from DotComGiftShop!  Aren't they totally adorable.  I just love the singing bird design . . . and somebody must have known that as well coz . . .

They also sent me this!  It's a singing bird Pantry Recipe Box!   Sooooo cute!!  Very Retro looking I think.  Quite 1950's . . . right down to the

snazzy dividers inside . . .


That retro design on the back . . . and just look at the lid . . .

Isn't that just the cutest thing  you have ever seen . . . not only that cute lttle singing bird again . . . but POLKA DOTS!!  I love polka dots.  Je t'adore beaucoup.  And  it's a beautiful big size to hold all those tasty recipes, but that is not all . . .

There's these totally adorable Pantry Cake Tins to match . . .


A three tin set, in perfect sizes to store all your sweets, biscuits and cakes!  Once again with that cute little singing bird design and POLKA DOTS!

There's a whole range of this stuff.  It's called The Pantry Line.  I just love it!!

Many thanks to DotComGift Shop for making my dreams come true!

I am actually totally in love with the whole site.  I was so impressed with what I had received that I did a tiny bit of shopping myself the other day . . . just look at what I found . . .

A Vintage Cat Egg Cup . . . just for me.

A Vintage Dog Egg Cup for the Toddster . . . 

Two adorable Wooley Ladybird Egg Cosies to help keep our morning boiled eggs cosy and warm.


and some Dress Up Dolly Plasters for a certain little girl I love.  (Just  perfect for  little boo boos!)

And all at a very reasonable price, and there was quick delivery as well.  I think I have found a new favourite gift site.

Marie Rayner
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Sticky Toffee Pudding

With the onset of cold winter weather, one automatically longs to immerse oneself in comfort and part of that is comfort foods such as soups and stews and rich desserts or puddings as they call them over here in England.

One of the most loved puddings over here has to be Sticky Toffee Pudding. Todd and I were so lucky to have spent several holidays up in Cumbria which is the home of Sticky Toffee Pudding. Nestled in the quaint countryside of the Lake Districk is the Cartmel Village, the home of the original sticky toffee pudding, or so they claim.

Sticky toffee pudding is a rich cake that is moist with dates and covered in a lusciously sticky toffee sauce that soaks down into it's wonderful richness and creates something quite magical to eat.

The origins of sticky toffee pudding are a bit mixed. It has been rumoured to have come from the Sharrow Bay Hotel in the Lake District and yet others have claimed it comes from the Udny Arms Hotel in Aberdeenshire. Having traversed the byways and laneways of the Lake District myself, it is not hard to imagine how very cold and bleak it might well be in the winter months and how comforting a pudding such as this would be, and I can well believe it's origins spring from the Sharrow Bay on the banks of Lake Ullswater.

The very first time I tasted Sticky Toffee Pudding was when we were up in cumbria on holiday, and let me tell you . . . I was hooked at first bite! We bought one of the Cartmel Village Shops sticky toffee puddings at a service station on the M6 and brought it back to our holiday cottage. That night I served it up after our tea , all hot and sticky and smelling wonderfully of treacle and brown sugar, all slathered with lashings of double cream . . . I was in heaven . . . so much so that, in fact, I had Todd driving me back to that shop every couple of days the whole rest of the time we were there, just so that I could treat myself to some more!!

Upon returning home I just had to search out a recipe for it myself and I believe I have managed to find one that is equally as good if not better than the Cartmel one we had on holidays. Homemade is always better right? Right!!

Just wait til you get stuck in to this delicious pudding . . . you'll be hooked too. I'd stake my life on it . . .

*Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake*
Serves 6 to 8 (or 4 if you are like me and a bit greedy)
Printable Recipe

A traditional pudding from the Lake District.  Impossible to resist.

75g soft butter (1/3 cup)
175g dark brown sugar (14 TBS)
200g self raising flour, plus extra for dusting (1 1/3 cups)
1 TBS golden syrup
2 TBS dark treacle
(if you can't get either of these, substitute with
3 TBS light molasses)
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
200g pitted dried dates, chopped (1 1/3 cup chopped)
1 TBS baking soda

For the Toffee Sauce:
100g soft light brown sugar (8 TBS)
100g butter (7 TBS)
200ml double cream (scant 7 fluid ounces)

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Grease a 9 1/2 inch round or square baking tin thoroughly with 25g of the butter, then dust lightly with flour, tapping out any excess.

Place the remaining butter into a bowl and cream it together with the sugar with an electric mixer. Slowly beat in the golden syrup, treacle, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Turn down to a slow speed and beat in the flour until totally combined.

Place the dates in a saucepan with 300ml of water. Bring to the boil. Cook for several minutes until the dates have softened and the mixture is thickened. Stir in the baking soda while still hot and then quickly add this mixture to the batter mixture. Combine quickly and completely and spread it into the prepared tin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is just firm to the top. Don't over cook.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool to warm.

To make the sauce, melt the butter and sugar together in a small pan. Add the cream and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Pour half of the hot sauce over the warm cake, allowing it to soak in somewhat.

Serve the cake cut into squares with the rest of the sauce spooned over and don't forget the lashings of double cream!!

If you think you have seen this on here before, you would be right.  It's a re-post.  I am having some neck issues at the moment which preclude me from sitting at the comp for very long.  Most annoying!

That is the cottage we used to live in down South at the top of this post.  We don't live there anymore unfortunately . . . but hey, you can't have everything!
Marie Rayner
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A Simple Lasgne Verde Guest Post


A simple Lasagne Verde

 I’m sure everyone has a favourite lasagne recipe – and this is mine. In my opinion, this is the best lasagne ever! This classic recipe is simple and the ingredients are totally basic, meaning you don’t have go to the ends of the earth for them. It is made up of layers of pasta verde sandwiched between a roast ham and a béchamel sauce… yummy! For best results, consider using triple coated premium non stick bakeware. As well as an easy release of food this has the added bonus of being easy to clean.

3oz/75g butter
10oz/275g chopped mushrooms
1 medium onion chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
1 medium courgette
10oz/275g diced roast ham
6oz/150g frozen petit pois
1pt/500ml Béchamel sauce
8oz/225g grated Cheddar cheese
2 packets pre-cooked Lasagne Verde
1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F, gas mark 5, lightly greasing your bakeware.
2. Fry onions, mushrooms and garlic in butter until softened.
3. Prepare Béchamel sauce and add the petit pois and ham, seasoning to taste.
4. Spread a thin layer over the base of the tin cover with a layer of lasagne.
5. Take the onion and mushroom mixture and spread over the lasagne, cover with Béchamel sauce.
6. Layer until the onion and mushroom mix is finished. Top with remaining Béchamel sauce, sliced courgettes and grated cheese.
7. Bake in the oven in 30 minutes using your premium non stick bakeware. Leave to stand for a few minutes before serving.

You can compliment the lasagne with garlic bread to make it a tad more traditional.

By Zirca Ali

Thanks Zirca!  It looks delicious!!
Marie Rayner
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Apple and Hazelnut Brown Betty

The Toddster loves apple desserts more than anything else in the world.  If I want to make him happy . . . all I have to do is to bake him a treat which includes apples in some way.  He is a man with simple tastes and values.  

Apparently his mom made the best apple pies on the face of the earth.  Unfortunately I never ever had the chance to taste them as she had passed away well before the Toddster and I met . . . but I have heard all about them.  I cannot make an apple pie like hers, but I can make a pretty mean Brown Betty!

Over in North America Brown Betty's are popular apple desserts in the autumn. You can't beat them. Tastily buttered bread crumbs layered with apples, sugar and spice. It has a definite YUM factor, without an awful lot of fat.

The bread crumbs get all crispy on the bottom and the top, and the middle layer melts into the apples and their sweet juices, almost helping to thicken the mixture.

Low in fat. High in taste tempting pleasure.

To me it's the perfect dessert!

I added nuts. Tastily toasted hazelnuts . . . and tasty wholemeal seeded bread . . . extra health insurance and nuttiness.

Simply Scrumptious.

With lashings of fresh, warm custard to pour over top . . . it went down a real treat. Nom! Nom!

*Apple and Hazelnut Brown Betty*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

This is just wonderful, simply wonderful . . .

7 ounces fresh wholemeal bread crumbs
(I used a seeded wholemeal loaf)
3 ounces butter, melted
100g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
4 ounces caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
the grated zest of 1 lemon
the juice of half a lemon
2 pounds of cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
1 TBS demerara sugar to sprinkle
Vanilla ice cream, creme fraiche or custard to serve

Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Butter a 1 1/2 litre oven dish and set aside.

Melt the butter. Mix the breadcrumbs and hazelnuts together in a bowl. Toss with the butter. Set aside.

Mix the chopped apple with the sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon zest and the lemon juice.

Place 1/3 of the bread crumb mixture in the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Top with half of the apples. Add another 1/3 of the breadcrumbs, sprinkling them over the apples. Top with the final half of the apples, and sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top. Butter a piece of aluminum foil and lay over top, sealing the edges.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil. Sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the apples are tender and the top is nicely browned. Serve warm with creme fraiche, custard or ice cream.
Marie Rayner
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This is my latest cook-booklet, Christmas In The English Kitchen, which
you can purchase for yourself or a friend,  right over there in the right hand column of my page ==================>>
I always really enjoy putting these cook-booklets together, all the artwork and the recipes and what not, and I am happy to say that I always get really good feedback from them as well. 
Today a person named Ann Lamont purchased one, which I have tried to send to her twice, but it keeps bouncing back as an unknown e-mail address.  Ann, could you please contact me with your proper e-mail address on mariealicejoan at aol dot com so that I can send you out your cookbooklet?
Thanks so much.  I hate to think that anyone is sitting there waiting for it to arrive and thinking I haven't sent it.  I  usually have them sent within just a few hours, if not immediately.  (Depending on if I am on the computer or not.)  Hoping this will catch your attention Ann!!  Thanks so much!!

I will delete this post once Ann has contacted me.

And now . . . back to your regular programming.  ☺
Marie Rayner
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Chicken and Mushroom Casserole with Crusty Dumplings

One of the most versatile leftovers has to be leftover roast chicken!  I just love it.  There is so much that can be done with it.

I often make hot chicken sandwiches with the sliced meat and leftover gravy . . . boy oh boy is that gravy good on chips!  With a little dab of coleslaw on the side and some cranberry sauce, this meal is bliss!

Chicken salad also comes to mind . . . chopped chicken, toasted pecans, chopped celery, onion and some chopped apple and dried cranberries in a mayo dressing . . .  perfect served in a warm croissant, or scooped out onto a bed of lettuce!

Or how about a tasty chicken pot pie, using all the leftover vegetables and gravy as well.  If you put it under a crust, I am so there!

Then there are the chicken casseroles . . . chicken and noodles,  chicken and rice, white lasagna . . . there is no end to what you can create with a bit of imagination!

One of my favourites is this delicious Chicken and Mushroom Casserole with Crusty Dumplings.  Chunks of tender chicken, salty bacon, onions and browned mushrooms in a tasty sauce, topped with flavourful chive suet dumplings and baked in the oven until the casserole is all hot and bubbly and the dumplings are crusty and lightly browned.

Oh boy . . . is this some good!  I like to serve it with steamed peas and new potatoes.  (Want a little trick?  Take a can of peeled new potatoes, drain well and then dump them into a skillet along with a knob of butter, a tsp of white sugar and some paprika.  Heat through over medium high heat, stirring until they begin to brown.  Season with some salt and pepper and they are good to go!  Easy peasy lemon squeasy!)

*Chicken and Mushroom Casserole with Crusty Dumplings*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

A delicious way to use up some of that leftover roast chicken!

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
4 slices of streaky bacon, chopped
1 pound closed cup mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
1 TBS oil
1 TBS butter
2 heaped TBS plain flour
1/2 tsp summer savoury
sea salt and white pepper to taste
2 cups of cocoked chicken, cut into cubes
8 fluid ounces chicken stock (1 cup)
8 fluid ounces milk (1 cup)

For the Dumplings:
100g self raising flour (3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g of vegetable suet (1/4 cup)
salt and white pepper
1 TBS finely chopped chives

Heat  the oil and butter in a large skillet.  Add the bacon, onion and  mushrooms.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is cooked, the  onions are softened and the mushrooms have begun to brown.   Add the  summer savoury.  Sprinkle with the flour and stir to coat.  Stir in the  milk and chicken stock.  Cook and stir until it thickens.  Season to  taste with salt and pepper.  Pour into  a 9 inch deep pie dish.

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.

Measure  the flour for the dumplings  into a bowl.  Whisk in the baking powder and season  generously with salt and white pepper.  Drop in the suet and chives.   Give it a good stir.  Add enough cold water to  make a soft and sticky  dough, about 4 to 5 TBS.  Roll into 8 evenly sized balls with floured  hands, and drop on top of the chicken mixture.

Bake in the heated  oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the casserole is bubbling and the  dumplings are nicely browned, light and puffy!  Serve with some boiled  potatoes and some baby peas.

Note :  This also works well with leftover turkey!
Marie Rayner
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A Traditional Victorian Sponge Cake and the Clover Block Challenge

I was recently contacted and asked to do the Clover Block Challenge. Clover is part of the Dairy Crest family, which is one of the UK's premier dairy food companies. I've always loved the Clover Commercials on the telly and so I thought why not, I'll give it a go.

Cover Block is a spread which has been specifically designed for baking with.With only 30% of the saturated fat that butter has.  On their page I read that it has a buttery taste, which comes from the buttermilk that they churn to make it.  Hmmm . . . all the flavour of butter with only 30% of the saturated fat?  I'm in!


I decided to use it to bake my Victorian Sandwich Cake.  It's one of our favourite cakes and a cake that really highlights the flavour of butter.  Could the Clover Block compete?  We would see.


I recently got a special tin that you can bake individual sponges in and so I was really keen to do mini Victorian Sponge Cakes.  I used the same recipe, but divided the batter equally amongst the spaces in the tin and cut the baking time down by 5 minutes.


The Clover whipped up nicely, just like butter would.  And I admit I tasted it (I am a naughty puppy.  I lick beaters too!) and it tasted just like butter.  But would it bake like butter?


Well . . . you be the judge.  I could in all honesty see no discernible difference between using the Clover Block and using butter.  My cakes had a lovely texture, and if anything, )and I'll put myself way out on a limb here) . . . I actually preferred the Clover as there wasn't that oily greasy feel that you can sometimes get when you use butter.  But maybe that's just me.

In any case, I was well pleased with my results and if I can bake things using clover block, which contain only 30% of the saturated fat, well then, I am quite simply going to use Clover.  Seriously.  The recipe calls for half butter and half margarine.  I used ALL Clover block. Nom! Nom!

 *Traditional Victorian Sandwich Cake*
 Makes one 7 inch cake
Printable Recipe

Popular during the reign of Queen Victoria, this cake remains popular to this day, which is a huge testament to it's taste and ease of baking!  Don't be tempted to use all butter.  This is one recipe that is better for the use of a mixture of butter and margarine.

12 TBS of clover block spread
6 ounces caster sugar (1 cup)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, beaten
6 ounces self raising flour (a scant 1 1/2 cups)

To finish:
3 TBS raspberry jam
buttercream to fill (optional)
icing sugar or caster sugar to dust the top


Butter and base line two 7 inch sandwich tins.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.

Cream the butter, margarine, sugar and vanilla together until light in colour and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition.  If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful of the flour.

Fold in the flour with a metal spoon, taking care to use a cutting motion so as not to knock out too much of the air that you have beaten into the batter.  Divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins, leveling off the surface.  Make a slight dip in the centre of each.

Bake on a centre rack of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponges have risen well, are golden brown, and spring back when lightly touched.  Allow to cool in the pan for five minutes before running a knife carefully around the edges and turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, place one layer on a cake plate. Spread with raspberry jam and buttercream (if using).  Place the other cake on top, pressing down lightly.  Dust with icing or caster sugar and serve.

Today,s cakes were filled with vanilla butter cream icing and Turkish Vanilla Cherry Jam, which I buy at M&S.  

Be sure to check out the Clover UK page on FACEBOOK, where you can win prizes and share recipes with other Clover followers!Clover Block spread is available at most grocery shops and through your Dairy Crest Milkman.

It's not butter, it's a spread, that cuts, measures and tastes like butter with 30% of the saturated fat.  That works for me!

Many thanks to Kayleigh and Clover for allowing me to participate in this challenge.


For an easy way to cut small cakes, or large cakes for that matter, perfectly in half horizontally . . . cut yourself a nice long piece of dental floss (preferably not flavoured) that fits around the cake with enough over hang to grip decently.  Place it around the centre of the cake, crossing the floss ends over each other  in front.


Gently pull the ends of the floss and it will slide through the cake, giving you perfectly cut layers.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Strong Cotton sewing thread also works a charm!
Marie Rayner
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Salmon Loaf with Creamed Peas


Every once in a while I get a hankering for this delicious old favourite of ours.  It's simple, easy and quite an inexpensive entree if you pick up the tinned salmon when it's on special.  Whenever I see tinned salmon on special, I pick up a few tins.  It's a really handy item to have in your store cupboard.


This is quite an old recipe which I have been making for years and years.  I love it because it's good, and it's basic . . . and it's simple.


Simple ingredients prepared in a simple way and yet . . . very big on flavor.  Delicious does not have to be complicated.  I know I say that a lot, but that's because it is true.

Sometimes I serve it with the cucumber sauce, which is quite tasty and refreshing and goes very well with the salmon.  Other times I serve it with creamed peas.  It all depends on what's in the freezer or larder and what I am in the mood for.  The other day the peas won out!


I suppose you could make this with an equal amount of tuna and it would also be very, very good . . . but we like it with salmon.  I always serve it with my stove top mac and cheese as well.   I know . . . it seems kind of crazy to do that, but it's what we like.  To me, the two just go together like peas and carrots!

Sometimes you even get lucky and find tins of the boneless, skinless salmon on special!  I love that.  I am not particularly fond of picking out all the bones and skin . . . but I do it because I love this dish so very much . . . anything that saves me from having to that, I love even more!  You can use either pink or red salmon.  Today I used red Alaskan Salmon.

*Salmon Loaf*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

This is a wonderful recipe I have been making throughout all of my cooking life. It was my mother’s recipe and most likely my grandmother’s as well. I expect it probably came from off of a tin of salmon at one time. It’s delicious. I like to serve it with a cucumber sauce. (recipe below)

1 large tin of salmon
½ cup milk (125ml)
3 cups soft bread crumbs (180g)
¼ cup butter, melted (60g)
1/3 cup of the juice from the salmon tin (80ml)
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 TBS finely chopped onion ( I grate it on a fine microplane grater)
The juice of one small lemon
½ tsp hot pepper sauce
½ tsp of salt
A good grinding of black pepper
1 tsp dill weed
3 egg whites, beaten stiff

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 5. Grease a loaf tin really well and set aside.

Drain the salmon, reserving the liquid. Remove as much skin and bone from the salmon as you can and then mash it really well.Scald the milk and add the breadcrumbs. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Add the salmon liquid and melted butter and beat smooth. Stir in the beaten egg yolks, minced onion, lemon juice, black pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce and dillweed. Add the mashed salmon and mix it all in thoroughly. Fold in the egg whites.

Spread into the greased loaf pan. Bake in the heated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until firm to the touch and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before loosening from the pan and cutting into slices to serve.

Serve with the cucumber sauce below or creamed peas if you wish.

*Cucumber Sauce*

Makes 2 cups
Printable Recipe

This is a lovely sauce that goes very well with fish of all kinds.
¼ cup butter (60g)
¼ cup plain flour (25g)
2 cups milk (500ml)
1 ½ cups grated unpeeled Englishcucumber
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp dill weed

Put the grated cucumber into a colander and drain it while you make the rest of the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring for about one minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Stir constantly until the sauce bubbles and thickens. Stir in the salt, cayenne and dill weed. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Add the grated cucumber, blending it in well. Serve.

 *Creamed Peas on Toast*
Serves 2
Printable Recipe

When I was a child I hated peas. My mother found a cricket in the bottom of a tin of peas once and that did it for me. I never gave them much of a chance after that. I did like frozen peas though and gradually through the years I have come to enjoy them. Fresh is best, frozen is not bad, tinned is unacceptable.   This is delicious in it’s simplicity, no ifs ands or buts about it!

2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
2 cups whole milk
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup frozen peas
4 slices of bread
Softened butter for spreading

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for one minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, stirring, over medium heat until it begins to bubble and is thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste and turn the heat down to low to keep warm while you cook the peas.

Bring a small pot of water to the boil and add the peas. Bring the water back to the boil and cook them for only a few minutes, no longer. Drain them well. Stir them into the white sauce and keep warm.

Toast the slices of bread and butter them. Lay them on two plates and spoon the warm sauce with the peas over top. Serve.

PSST - Just FYI, the leftover salmon loaf (if you have any) is really delicious sliced cold and then fried in butter until golden brown on both sides and served up burger style, or quite simply with some scalloped potatoes and peas and carrots.  Just so you know.  ☺
Marie Rayner
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