Never Let An Ingredient Go to Waste

Ooh, Mr Kipling - I may well have bettered you...

Ooh, Mr Kipling – I may well have bettered you…

Any excuse for a little baking… I had ground and flaked almonds in the cupboards rapidly about to go out of date* and home-made raspberry jam in the fridge so Bakewell Tart beckoned.

I borrowed from the Mary Berry recipe as her recipes are excellent, but in my new tradition of confident baking I fiddled a little with the recipe. The impulse is born not out of arrogance – ‘of course I can do better’ – but more because I’m not keen on being told exactly what to do. The inner rebel emerges and recipes are thus adapted**.

Mary, as you may know from her TV appearances, is whippet thin and therefore I conclude that baked goodies aren’t a big part of her daily diet. I, of course, am on the wedding diet so would also promote her message –eat delicious home-made cakes and biscuits in very small quantities no more than two or three times a week and enjoy a lovely life!

Bakewell Tart – serves (depends on how many slices you deem fit)

  • 175g plain flour
  • 75g chilled  butter (salted is fine)
  • 2tbsp icing sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp cold water
  • 4 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 125g butter , unsalted
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 2 free-range eggs, beaten
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 50g flaked almonds

Heat the oven to 180 degrees.

To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the chilled butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. You can also use a food processor or – a ‘me trick’, use a handheld blender, dipping into the mix briefly and pulsing. Once breadcrumbed, add the water slowly, mixing until the flour and butter mix together all comes together.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface and use to line a 20cm loose-bottomed tart or flan tin. Allow the excess pastry to hang over as it will shrink. Prick it all over. Chill for 30 mins. Line with foil and fill with baking beans or rice (to weigh the pastry down).

Cook for 15 minutes, then take out the foil and baking beans/rice and cook for another three minutes to dry it out.

Take out and allow to cool for five minutes. Spread the jam evenly over the base. Melt the butter in a pan, then take off and add the sugar. Stir until dissolved and add the ground almonds, beaten eggs and lemon juice. Pour into the pastry base.

Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes (watch the pastry as it may burn over this time). Serve warm with ice-cream or whipped double cream. Or served cold – still yum!



*Ahem. About to go out of date? Gone out of date several months ago. Ah well, Sandy and I lived to tell the tale, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

**Sometimes anarchy ensues as a result of this culinary disobedience.







Marital Bliss in 30 Minutes

Today, with just under 11 weeks to go till I wed, I am going to share with you the secret of making a man happy…
[If you would like this in more detail, please purchase my ebook, where for a mere £79.99, you can discover the key to long-lasting marital happiness. Guaranteed. Hurry. This is a limited offer.]*
So, drum roll… It is, ta dah, the following recipe. Create, present to your man, enjoy happiness in excess quantities**.

Potato and Bacon Bake (serves 2)
500g new potatoes, sliced finely
300ml double cream
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Dried thyme (tsp)
125g lardons
60g Edam cheese, grated
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Put the potatoes into a heavy based saucepan with the cream and the thyme. Lightly crush the garlic and add to the pan. Bring to the boil slightly and then turn the heat to the lowest. Cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop sticking.
Fry the lardons in a non stick pan until lightly browned. Add to the potato mix and add salt and pepper to taste. Tip the whole lot into an oven-proof dish, top with the grated Edam and cook in the oven for 25 minutes. Serve with green beans and salad.
*Reader, I mock. Sorry, you will have to forgo the wisdom of moi.
**Erm, do not feed this to anyone on a regular basis. It’s possibly not the healthiest of choices…

The world of weddings can become a little bit, diva-ish shall we say. Anyway, I blogged about Bridezillas at Russell’s excellent top ten site (for the cat lovers among you, look out for the Caturday posts)…

Oops! Pounds lighter and Skin Still Shiny

Is there a word for skincare/foundation addiction? If there is, it describes moi.

[Sucker probably covers it; along with marketeer’s dream].

So a weekend away in Newcastle (our last as a non-married couple) and in the spirit of compromise – me: what do you want to do now? Wander round department stores with me? No? Ok, here’s a tenner take yourself and your newspaper off to the pub – I found myself at the Laura Mercier counter of Fenwick’s nodding vigorously as the salesgirl extolled the benefits of her products.

Ahem. Several pounds lighter off* (and darn it, money ones not fat ones) I skipped away with my little bag of purchases. I was excited. ‘Ooh, this product will give me flawless skin and a matte finish which lasts all day! Hoorah!’

Oh reader, alas… One day and six hours of foundation wear later I am shiny. Not the nice glow-y thing, but a bit greasy looking.

My last count of foundations/skin primers I own (most bought in the hope of long-lasting/non-shiny thing) is eight foundations and five primers. Perhaps I should open my own foundation exchange if folks can get over the slight hygiene issues?

Hmm. Am I destined to constantly seek out skincare products which promise what they can’t deliver and end up disappointed? Or is it just an impossibility – we humans are physically incapable of not being shiny-faced by the end of the day?

On the other hand, a bonus of ageing (and I believe, added wisdom aside, there may not be many) could be the drying out of skin. Give it another ten years and I may well look back fondly at my shiny skin years…


*In my defence dear reader, wine had been consumed. I was susceptible to sales of most things. Possibly, if I’d been a Newcastle resident, at this point I’d have bought coals.

For my lovely American readership, there is a saying ‘selling coals to Newcastle’ which is roughly the equivalent of selling ice to the Eskimos.

Ssh! Is it Getting a Bit Noisy in Here?

Oi, oi, oi! It’s getting a bit noisy in here…

I have been reading a rather excellent book of late about introverts. Introverts, y’know, we folks who prefer own own company and who never need to tell secrets so everyone else notices?!

My original wedding plan was: small family wedding followed by large party for friends. The logistics of this were such that it looked easier to combine the two and lo, the big wedding was born.

Go online and our 110 (ish, we still have not worked this out for sure) guest list looks modest. It stills seems like a terrifying amount of people to me. In the name of good manners, I talk to them all at the wedding. Flip, that’s a whole load of small talk to conjure up.

So, weddings… Surely the introvert’s nightmare? Everyone stares at you. I volunteer myself to do a speech from feminist principles. I feel obliged to talk to lots of people. We have to dance by ourselves and everyone watches.

Hmm. I appear to have chosen the extrovert’s, and not the introvert’s, ideal event. I’m hoping Susan Cain’s excellent book on being a wee quiet person in an extrovert’s world will set out some strategies to cope…

My Wedding – My Way (Totally)

According to popular rumour some women get pretty worked up about all things bridal…

Popular culture calls this Bridezilla territory and I heard one story this week that I feel compelled to share. My mum and I went mother-of-the-bride outfit shopping (personal shopper appointment at House of Fraser – do IT) and while mum changed into the 15 or so different combinations the talented personal shopper had picked out, I chatted to the lovely lady*.

It turns out she is going to a wedding this year and is to be a bridesmaid. The bride-to-be insists that her bridesmaid grows her hair so that it fits with her vision of how the bridesmaids look.

In the world of me, I view this as utterly unreasonable. And who flippin’ cares either? My mum, bless her heart, chipped in at this point with a comment about me being a very non-Bridezilla type.

Strictly speaking, I am a bit Bridezilla – if only with myself. I am frantically exercising, frantically dieting and frantically doing all kinds of extravagant skincare** things in order to make sure I look my best by May.

This self-improvement is very shallow – perhaps I should instead frantically research how to be a good spouse, the secrets of modern marriage or what I need to live a worthwhile life. (I have a feeling that the fixation with skincare, cookery programmes and my waist to hip ratio isn’t so worthwhile.)

So with this newly-reinforced ‘I am not going to be a Bridezilla’ resolution in place, my fiance and I have re-entered the minute-by-minute negotiations for what happens on our wedding day.

Me – speeches before dinner. Him – speeches after. Me – ABSOLUTELY no alcohol before the ceremony. Him – I would like a drink with my brothers beforehand. Me – so, despite our shared atheism, we do have a Catholic priest from New York coming, shall we get him to say the Selkirk Grace? Him – NO. This could be interesting…



*So, how did you get into this job? Do you love your work? Are you happy on Mondays? What happens, each season the new collection comes in do you familiarise yourself with the garments? What kind of discount do you get? You worked for the Mary Portas franchise? It wasn’t so great?

**Ahem, while in House of Fraser, I got tangled up in its beauty counters. I bought Clinique’s pore refining solutions serum and the instant pore corrector. Serum – I’ll deliver the verdict three weeks down the line. Instant corrector thingie – pretty good, but it’s never going to meet my perfectionist standards.