Mutton, Spinach and Coconut Curry

I made this on Monday, and gave it a good four hours of cooking time. I will definitely be using mutton on the bone again. To be honest, you could make this without the mutton, and just use a vegetable stock cube. I'd probably add in chick peas if I did that.

1.5 kilos cubed mutton, on the bone, rinsed and picked over for bone chips

1 very large sweet potato (purple skin, white flesh variety)

Bunch of broad leaf spinach

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 large onion

2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp garam masala

½ tsp ground fenugreek

1 tsp Madras curry powder

½ tsp ground black pepper

1 lamb stock cube

1 can coconut milk

1 tbs tomato puree

1 tsp salt

Slice the onions into half rings, chop the garlic and then cook in hot oil until very soft and starting to turn dark brown. This will take much longer than any cookbook tells you.

Add the grated ginger, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, garam masala  and madras powder. Mix well and cook down for about ten minutes.

Add the lamb and mix well to completely coat with the spices.

Pour in the coconut milk, plus half that can again of water, enough so that the lamb is covered.

Add in the stock cube, the tomato puree and salt.

Cover, turn the heat down and simmer for three hours.

After three or four hours the meat should be tender. Peel the sweet potato, cube and add to the curry. Cover and cook for half an hour or until the potatoes are soft, then uncover and add the chopped spinach.

Allow the spinach to wilt down, then mix in and leave to simmer, uncovered, for at least half an hour until the sauce reduces and becomes thick.

Serve over brown rice.


Rose and Cinnamon Tea Bread

I saw a post today by The Ginger Gourmand that got me all inspired. Tea loaf. TEA.

I love tea, me.


I’m not a huge Earl Grey fan, and I didn’t have any, but what I did have was Twining's Rose Garden tea. That’ll do says I. So, as is my wont, the recipe tweaking started. I love rose anything. Rose and cinnamon together are one of my favourite scents and flavours. So why not do that? I didn’t have self raising flour, so used plain with some bicarb.


350g mixed dried fruits (I used golden and dark sultanas, cherries and chopped dates to use up some packets)

225g soft muscovado sugar

300ml rose tea, well brewed

275g plain flour (gluten free flour would work fine I think. Dove’s Farm self raising.)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 medium egg, beaten

1 tsp rose extract (amazing extracts from here: http://www.starkaywhite.com/)

1 tsp cinnamon extract

1 tsp cinnamon powder

Get a good brew going.

Tea brewing

Put the fruits, sugar and well brewed tea into a bowl, stir and leave to soak. Overnight would be ideal, but the whim took me this morning, so they had a good 6 hours.

Prepare a 2lb loaf tin by greasing and lining with baking parchment or do as I did and use a silicone loaf mould. I might need a bigger one though!

The Mix

Stir the beaten egg into the fruit mixture and then mix in the flour and bicarbonate of soda, plus the extracts and spices. Stir very well indeed until combined. It takes a minute or two, but you get there.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake at 150C for 11/2 hours.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Because of the mix of fruits and dark sugar, this is very rich. No icing is needed at all but if you were using lighter sugar and just vine fruits, then a rosewater icing would be lovely.

This is perfect just sliced and buttered.

The Result

The Merry Monk–Isleham

I have failed in my blogging duties. Yes, I know. And I’m sorry.

We first ate at The Merry Monk in February of 2013. I was deep in the throes of job hunting at the time, and not really concentrating on anything else because PANIC, so the blog post didn’t get written up. Nothing but job hunt work went on at that time, it was all pervading.

So, almost exactly a year on, we went back. Ma in law chose to go there for her birthday, and we all gladly complied as we’d had such a nice time there before.

The pub

The first time we visited, the very knowledgeable and friendly owner, Adrian, was just about to send himself back into the kitchen full time instead of being front of house, and on that on that first visit, they cooked me the best duck I have ever eaten.

Goosnargh duck

I’m sure that the others had lunch as well, but I was so intent on devouring mine that I’m not sure I took proper note…

We all loved the homemade breads though. One molasses and one stout.

Stout and molasses breads

This time we went on a Saturday, and again, were not disappointed at all.

Tex and I got there first, so we got some nibbles of home made pork scratchings and I had a pot of tea. Because it’s me, and I always want tea. The little milk bottle made me feel like I was back at school, before Mrs Thatcher took away our milk. (No I still haven’t forgiven her.)

Tea with tiny milk bottle

Mom and Dad turned up soon after, and we settled down to the serious business of choosing what to have for lunch. Or brunch, really.


Dad and I settled on Venison and bacon pasty, with a crisp coated hen’s egg and home made piccalilli. EXCELLENT piccalilli it was too. At no point did it try and punch me in the face. It was a well behaved pickle, with a glorious soft boiled egg and a pasty that was dense with meaty flavours. And a brioche soldier to dip in the yolk! (apologies for photo quality, it was quite dark.)

Venison pasty with crispy hen egg

A moment of quiet was needed after that, but then up came the mains. A pork and bacon pie with greens for me and Dad. Tex had calves liver with mash and caramelised shallots and Mom had what she called perfect fish and chips.

Pork and bacon pie

That was one seriously packed pie. Tender gammon chunks, melting pork pieces and pastry that had butter layers, but didn’t shatter into a thousand pieces as soon as you tried to cut into it. Perfectly cooked buttery greens and a piquant piccalilli mash.

A well-stuffed pie

Mom’s perfect fish, chips and mushy peas. The chips were fluffy in the middle and properly crisp on the outside, just as they should be. The peas were made with fresh peas and mint, not marrowfat, so were much lighter.

Crispy cod and utterly perfect chips

A gentle snooze would have been useful at this point. Very useful indeed.

But no. Creme brulee with a ginger shortbread and poached rhubarb was coming to our table.

For once, there was a decent ratio of creme to brulee topping. Dark but not bitter, nicely thin so that it shattered properly. My only problem was that the rhubarb pieces were too big and refused to cut, but they were fresh and zingy, so I coped. Possibly needed more ginger in the biscuit, but that didn’t hang around very long!

Creme brulee, ginger shortbread, rhubarb compote

Dad had possibly the largest piece of treacle tart I have ever seen. Mom’s coffee came with home made petit fours of chocolate truffle, fudge and a coconut marshmallow cloud.

We really didn’t move far after that. In fact we were loathe to move anywhere, but they were about to close. Smile

All in all another very successful and deeply pleasant lunch experience. Oh I do think that we will be visiting a lot more.

Thank you Adrian, Michelle and your lovely Merry Monk staff!


The Merry Monk

30 West Street,

01638 780900


Bramley Apple Almond Tart

No, I do not know why this is called a tart. It’s my mother in law’s recipe and that’s what she calls it, so tart it is.

It’s one of our favourite puddings, and we always hope that she’ll have made it when we have lunch at their house. It started being made because pa-in-law is a coeliac and this uses no flour, but it’s carried on being made because it’s just delicious.

I realised I still had nice Bramleys to use up even after the granola recipe, and so this was the logical choice. I also adore almonds, so this is doubly lovely for me.


750g cooking apples (about 6 medium sized apples) peeled, cored and cut into wedges.

Quarter cup of honey

2 tablespoons butter

1 stick cinnamon (I used 1 tsp cinnamon powder)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1 tablespoon brandy (optional) (I didn’t have brandy, used Belvoir mulled wine cordial instead)

Almond topping:

100g very soft butter

100g golden castor sugar

2 eggs – beaten

100g ground almonds

1 tsp almond extract

Make a syrup by boiling honey, butter, cinnamon, lemon rind and juice and brandy together until starting to thicken and colour.

Add the apple wedges and simmer for 10 minutes, turning them well to coat.

Put in greased pie dish.

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and almond extract and beat well. Do not worry if it looks like it has curdled, it will be fine.

Mix in the ground almonds.

Bake at 170° C (fan oven) for 45 minutes until golden brown and cooked.

It will sink a bit when you leave it to cool, don’t worry about that either.

Apple and almond tart before baking

Apple and almond tart baked

Good hot or cold but especially with custard. Thanks Mom!

A Crisis of Confidence–and Breakfast

Yesterday I made Jack Monroe's recipe for Apple Crumble Granola. It was ok, but not great. Dry, with not much flavour. It certainly didn't inspire the OMG wow! reactions that I saw on her site. (I have NOTHING against Jack Monroe, by the way, just saying. I actually think she's ace.)

I was disappointed that it hadn't come out as I had wanted or expected it to.

It bugged me. A lot. 

So not wishing to be defeated, today I rejigged the granola. Almond oil mixed in, more sugar, 1 extra teaspoon each of spices, and then a re-bake.

It was much, much better. Husband is  now eating a bowlful of it. Dry.


This granola recipe thing has made me realise that I have a tendency to underestimate my own cooking, and to assume that other people - the people who write (some of) the recipes I use - are much better at it than I am. 

I look at my Foodie pals - successful food bloggers, cookery book writers, amazing chefs - and they wow me, but sometimes I feel like I'm just your less-than-average home cook.

Lots of my close friends have told me how amazing my cooking is and I try and hold on to that confidence yet, when a recipe fails, my brain defaults to "It must be me, not the recipe (especially when other people make it, and seem to have no problem with it)

But this time, I didn't give up and assume I was being rubbish. I followed my instincts, tweaked the recipe the way that felt right to me, and it worked. 

Yes, I am surprised, but I shouldn't be. I've been cooking since I was a teenager, and talking about food for far longer. I really do know what I'm doing. I am an instinctive cook.

Sure, I don't know the technical terms for a lot of things, or the fancy ways with sauces or foams (ugh, foams, just give the damned sauce boat already), nor can I dice an onion at speed or ice a cake but I can feed you, and make you happy. 

I can make a good meal out of what you have in your cupboards, even if there isn't much to work with. The Ready, Steady, Cook pantry was a banquet as far as I was concerned.

I can bone a leg of lamb and butterfly it out, even though it won't look tidy, but I'm not afraid to do it.

I just have to remember those things, when I'm feeling a little lost and inferior. 

Here is Jack's recipe: http://agirlcalledjack.com/2014/01/28/apple-crumble-granola/

My Tweaked Version of Jack’s Apple Crumble Granola

300g oats

1 cooking apple, cut into small dice, skin left on

3 tbs melted butter

3 tbs sweet almond oil

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp mixed spice

3-4 tbs golden caster sugar

Melt the butter with the spices, then mix in the oil and the honey.

Put the oats, sugar and the apple in a bowl, mix well to coat the apple, then pour in the honey/oil/butter/spice mix.

Stir the oats so that everything has a good coating. Add one more tablespoon of oil if it looks too dry.

Spread out on a lined baking sheet and bake at 170C fan for around 30 to 40 minutes, turning every so often.

It will crisp up when it cools.

I rebaked it again a little today to make it more toasty. Next time I am adding sultanas as well.

Apple Crumble Granola


Comfort soups for cold days

Because of the tube strikes, I am working from home. Yesterday I tried to get in to work, but it took three hours to get nowhere, so I came home and made soup, because I was cold. I’d spied a jar of artichokes in the Co-op, and wanted to use those.

1 jar of marinated artichokes,  or a tin of hearts, cut in half
1 medium white onion
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tin white beans
1 chicken or veg stock cube (I used Knorr)

Gently fry onions and garlic in olive oil until soft.
Tip in the drained beans and artichokes
Add a stock cube and then pour in enough boiling water to cover the beans and 'chokes.
Simmer for about half an hour. Taste and add more salt or pepper if wished.
Drizzle with a fruity extra virgin olive oil.

Happiness ensued. The green is some amazing Cypriot olive oil that I brought back from, well, Cyprus.

White bean and artichoke soup

Today I wanted more soup. I had a cauliflower. I had onions. I’ve always got chick peas. Off I went.

1 small head of cauliflower, broken into florets.

1 stalk from the cauliflower, thinly sliced crosswise

1 medium onion, finely sliced into half rings

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 Knorr chicken or veg stock cubes

1 tin drained chick peas

2 level tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

Sauté the sliced cauliflower stalks with the onions and garlic until softened.

Add the florets, and sprinkle with the spices.

Add the chickpeas.

Mix well and add enough boiling water to cover it all, and pop in the stock cubes.

Simmer until the cauliflower is cooked. Taste, and season if you think more salt is needed.

I also mixed in 1/2 teaspoon of tomato purée at this stage and simmered for another ten minutes.

Serve with barley rusks.


Cauliflower and chickpea soup


Cauliflower and chickpea soup with dakos