15 September 2014

What to do with all these blackberries ~ not necessarily with apples!

We recently discovered a lovely footpath not far from our home with all sorts of interesting old waterwheels and other abandoned buildings hidden away amongst the somewhat industrial landscape of clay country, where we live.

We’ve been back several times just to walk and explore but particularly now whilst the blackberries are ready for picking, all clean and undisturbed being far from the road. I have really stocked up.  Now what shall I do with them?

Blackberry and Apple Thing – obviously!

This could be a crumble, a pie, a cobbler or, as we had just now a sponge pudding.  For 4 people put 750g fruit (in this case sliced apples with stemmed and washed blackberries) in an ovenproof dish.  Add the appropriate topping and bake.


240g plain flour
160g cold butter or margarine
120g sugar

~   Preheat oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Rub in the flour and butter till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
~   Stir in the sugar.
~   Put peeled and sliced apples and some blackberries in a pie dish.
~   Sprinkle over the crumble mix.
~   Bake till the fruit is hot (and cooked, if using raw) and the crumble is golden.

Cobbler – so called, apparently, because the scone dough resembles a cobbled street!

225g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
60g cold butter or margarine
25g caster sugar
100ml milk

~   Stir together the flour, salt and baking powder.
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved.
~   Stir in the sugar once you have finished rubbing in; if you add it earlier it’s uncomfortable on the hands although, of course, it does exfoliate.
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest, add a little more milk if too dry or a little more flour if too wet – work just enough to form a soft dough.
~   Either form into rough dollops or on a floured surface press or roll the dough out to about ½” thick and cut into rounds.
~   Lay the pieces of dough on top of the fruit and bake till risen and golden and wonderful.

This picture shows an apple and raspberry cobbler I made whilst wiring “The Secret Life of Scones” which gives an amazing range of delicious things that can be made with this dough.

Pie ~ Just stick some pastry on top and bake it!


75g soft butter
100g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten with ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp boiling water

~   Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Cream together the butter and sugar till light in both senses; pale and fluffy.
~   Briskly stir in the egg mixture plus 1 tbsp of the flour (this helps prevent curdling).
~   Fold in the rest of the flour.
~   Spread lightly on top of the fruit and bake till it is risen and golden and bounces back when (if) you poke it – about 40 minutes.

Serve all these darlings hot with custard or cold with cream, clotted cream or ice cream.

Blackberry Coulis

It is said that the word “coulis” either referred to ‘the juices that flow from meat when cooking’ or that it came from the Latin verb to strain. These days, however, it is just a posh word for fruit purée. 

fresh blackberries (de-stalked and washed)
sugar (approximately half the weight of the fruit)

~   Put the prepared blackberries in a small saucepan.
~   Add the sugar.
~   Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat giving the berries a helpful squash now and then.
~   When the fruit is soft and collapsed strain through a fine nylon sieve pushing on the debris to extract as much coulis as poss.
~   Cool, cover and chill till needed.

Drizzle on ice cream, top with fizzy water for an different sort of cordial ...

... or make ice cream.

Blackberry and Clotted Cream Ripple

I use the clotted cream ice cream recipe from my ice cream book because these being Cornish blackberries, it felt appropriate.  See my ice cream book for 100+ delicious ice creams based on this one simple recipe.

250ml clotted cream
250ml single cream
200g condensed milk
150ml blackberry coulis

~   Slowly whisk together the two creams till merged and then up the speed and whisk till thick.
~   Fold in the condensed milk.
~   Decant the mixture in a shallow container and drizzle over cold blackberry coulis in a figure of 8 or any other enthusiastic swirly shape.
~   Stir it through just once or twice making sure to do a large expansive sort of stir down to the bottom and out to the sides of the ice cream. 
~   Freeze.

This is a little hard when it comes out of the freezer but quickly softens. When the ice cream is served the cutting, scooping and spooning will cause it to ripple further.

Blackberry Sorbet

See here for the recipe and here for my sorbet & granita ebook which gives lots of recipes based on this simple syrup and is only 77p! 

Blackberry and Apple Vodka

This is an experiment. I really don’t like gin except when it is sloe gin (recipe here) so I have made plenty of that over the years.  Last year I also made a batch of blackberry gin and it too is delectable. This year I am going to make blackberry and apple vodka – it should work. This is what I am doing – I’ll report back.

300g blackberries
1 peeled, cored and coarsely chopped apple
300g sugar
1 ltr vodka

~   Put all the fruit into a large sterilised jar – a Kilner or similar.
~   Add the sugar and the gin.
~   Seal tightly.
~   Put in a cool, dark place and give it a viddy sherrek (Cornish for good shake) every day until you can discern that the sugar has completely dissolved.
~   Leave it alone for as long as you can – a few months at least, but apparently the longer it sits the better it is and we are talking years here.

This is the blackberry gin that I made last year – if you look carefully you will see I took the trouble to store it in a bottle with blackberries on it!

If you can’t decide what to do or, like me, have loads of blackberries you’ll be pleased to know they freeze very well. One nice idea is to freeze some in ice cubes for pretty drinkipoos later.

Alternatively just drop frozen blackberries into your drink to chill and flavour it.


Last week I published my book about scones and offered review copies to my blog readers and (only) 27 people took me up on the offer! Does anyone have any better ideas for getting reviews? Incidentally if you’d like to know more and even review it for me then go here and do the necessary!

P.S.  I think I might make blackberry brandy too!

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7 September 2014

A Suggestion/Offer/Request Kind of Thing!

I was wondering if you could do me a favour in a kind of “you scratch my back .... etc" way!  I have just published another ebook in my Key Recipes series and would be grateful if you would have a look at it and then review on Amazon and perhaps Goodreads   for me. 

It is now available on Amazon here but if you would like a review copy in PDF then please just click here and I’ll send you a link. Once you've received it you could even convert it for your kindle here   , now I can’t say fairer than that, can I? This is a “time sensitive offer” only open till 100-ish people sign up, so go for it  - now!

This started out being just my scone recipe, some guidelines on how to make great scones plus a few recipes but it grew and flourished into all sorts of ways to use the same dough. I’ve had a helluva time testing them, I can tell you; day after day eating rock cakes and maple syrup dumplings, chocolate filled doughnuts and cobblers, tarts, turnovers, tatins etc.

As I have said before and will no doubt say again reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are the lifeblood of us indie writers. Having said that I am as guilty as anyone of not bothering to review (in fact I am off right now to review Marcus Bawdon’ Smoky & the Wood Pit: 20 Totally Awesome Smoky Recipes”  but please do as I say and not as I have been prone to doing!

In other news ...

~   Still on the trying to get my books out there thing I have made an infographic. Me! At my age! Here’s the start of it, for the full effect please click here . 

To make it go viral (I wish!) please Click to Tweet here.

~   I used two great free websites to do this – to assemble the photos attractively I recommend Photo Collage and to assemble the infographic Pictochart. 

~   Still good weather, at least it is here in Cornwall, so we went blackberrying yesterday. It is, of course, important in Cornwall to get your blackberries in early before the Devil has spat on them. Nevertheless, we are going to risk it and pick some more next week because these berries seem to be very confused; some black, some red and some still green so there should be plenty more.

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30 August 2014

Breaking News on Fastest Cake in the World!

Q.   What’s the fastest cake in the World?
A.   Scone

I’m afraid I haven’t posted anything for over two weeks the reason being that I have been busy eating scones.  Life’s never easy, is it?

I am writing another book, the fourth in an occasional series, on useful key recipes. The first three are:   

~  a really easy faff free no churn way to make wonderful dairy ice cream,

~  a small companion book to the above on sorbets and granitas

~  as it says on the cover; (almost) the only soup recipe you will ever need. Honestly!

See my Author's Page on Amazon for more info and links to look inside.

Each book in the series gives one simple key recipe, lots of recipes based on that key recipe including some surprising ones, helpful information and tips plus extra recipes for additions and accoutrements. Oh – and a few jokes, anecdotes and asides. The idea is once readers have the key recipe in their brain or other safe place (Kindle?) they will go on to start creating their own dishes.

This new book is about one very simple, very useful dough (basically a scone dough) which is so flexible that really I imagine one could manage with very little else in the dough department. There are a really surprisingly large variety of scrumptious things that can be made from the key recipe, in fact I have to keep delaying publishing the bugger whilst I test out more ideas!

What a problem, eh?  Just look at what I’ve been up against in the past few days.

I’ve been testing:

Sweet Scones ...

... and Cheese Scones,

Glazes and Toppings,

Griddle Cakes

 ... and Regional Variations

But that is just a start, there are so many delicious possibilities with this simple recipe.

*** NEWS FLASH ***

This is now published - Hurrah! Read more about it here or have a  look inside and maybe invest in a copy here.

In other news:

~   I was very surprised to read my name in an article about Antony Worrall Thompson, no less, and excellent Holy Lama Spice Drops – turns out I am "well known"! 

~   We had a primrose in flower last week – does this augur the end of the World do you think?

Sorry about the poor quality of the photo – I was startled!

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11 August 2014

Have your Cook’s Treat firmly in mind before you start cooking.

Despite having been aware of the fact, for over half a century, that one day I would become 60 I am still surprised that last Saturday it actually happened! So far I feel just the same ... or do I? 

I just had what may be considered a senior moment! Last night I made a lovely Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce  to go with homemade double vanilla ice cream (it’s easy peasy and in the book) and homemade choc-chip cookies.

Only seconds after putting the dirty sauce pan in the washing up water this morning I remembered what I should have done with it! Because of the caramel element this leftover sauce sticks quite hard to the pan so the correct way to deal with this is thus ...  

~   Add water (enough to fill your favourite mug or cup and no more) to the chocolatey pan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve all the loveliness.
~   Make a cup of coffee with the chocky-water.
~   Sit down, relax, sip and grin.

What a dickhead I am!  This prompts me, however, to remind my readers how very important it is to have your Cook’s Treat firmly in mind before you start cooking.  

If you are unsure exactly what constitutes a Cook’s Treat well, according to Wikipedia, it is 

“ ...a portion of the prepared ingredients not served as part of a dish, but which is nevertheless tasty and enjoyable and may be eaten by the cook.”

Some Cook’s Treat Suggestions

~   Obviously scraping the bowl is a time honoured cook’s treat but have you thought of extending this to the food processor (which, incidentally, I advise you to turn off first)? If I make hummus I wipe out the processor bowl with a piece of good bread and eat it, if I make vinaigrette (see here for lots of ideas) I wipe out the bowl with a piece of lettuce and eat it. And so on.
~   Also obvious is the “checking for quality” of random pieces of fruit as you prepare it.
~   Similar to the above I always (so far, I hope I don’t start forgetting) bake a small tester when making scones, for instance, or cookies. I’m just being greedy assiduous.
~   When starting a new, crusty, delicious loaf it’s quite likely, especially if you concentrate, that the first slice or so will be too small to make a sandwich or toast or it may be that you just have a few crusts over.  Either way dip them into some good olive oil and enjoy yourself.

~   Pastry scraps can be used to make all sorts of treats – see here for lots of ideas and here  for Brown Sugar Doo Dahs which make a pleasant treat for one.

~   Not enough batter left to make a final pancake?  Well fry some rags for yourself and drizzle with maple syrup.

~   Chicken Oysters – these are the two little pieces of delicious sweet tender dark meat that you’ll find either side of a whole chicken's backbone. Whilst the chicken is resting and you are waiting for the veggies to be ready scoop these out and eat them unobtrusively over the sink – they might cause you to dribble.  (If you’d like to save the oysters for yourself when cutting up a raw chicken there is some useful info here and remember that other roasted birds have oysters too, of course. 
~   Whilst on the subject of chickens you might as well have the liver for yourself too!  They contribute nothing other than bitterness to any giblet stock you might be making and on the other hand they contribute a great deal to toast, butter and brandy.

     Chicken Liver(s) on Toast

       ~   Remove the liver from the giblet bag and trim it of any stringy and/or greenish bits.
       ~   Sauté the good bits in a little butter and when turning brown but still a bit squidgy add a
            spoonful of brandy (away from the flame), a good grind of black pepper and a little salt
            and turn your liver in it, so to speak.
       ~   Mash onto a sippet of toast.

~   Chickens again – whilst serving the dinner pop a few scraps of chicken skin back into the oven to crisp up and tease your appetite with them before joining your guests at the table.
~   When slicing cheese it is often a good idea (and is actually de rigueur in the case of Cornish Crackler) to eat any crumbs that fall off accompanied by a sip or two of “chef’s coffee”.

~   Related to the above – you have probably been asked to taste the wine when dining out, don’t you owe it to your guests that you also taste a little before serving it to them?
~   Crispy bacon crumbs should always be eaten by the cook either just as they are or sprinkled onto something accommodating such as ice cream with a drizzle of maple syrup.
~   A spare anchovy is surprisingly good crushed onto hot toast and topped with ... clotted cream!  Ta da!!!
~   Leftover gravy is great finished up by dipping bread into it. 
~   Leftover stew is good on toast even if it’s just the scrapings left on the bottom of the pan.
~   Chocolate – this is taken directly from my book "The Leftovers Handbook"

Although I have given what I believe to be the most commonly held definition of Cook’s Treat Urban Dictionary gives this alternative ...

“Street name for coke used by senior chefs.”

... and I don’t think they are talking the sugar loaded fizzy drink!  I have oft been a senior chef but never took coke in either form and I don’t blame me!


Please click on the links below ...

~   Have your Cook’s Treat firmly in mind before you start cooking.
~   Cook’s Treat Suggestions ~ do you have any more ideas?
~   A spare anchovy is surprisingly good crushed onto hot toast and topped with ... ?

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3 August 2014

How to Cope with an Abundance of Sage!

Last night my excellent neighbour Julie gave me a bunch of sage from her garden, and when I say a bunch I really mean A BUNCH! 

The house smells wonderful!

After admiring and sniffing for a while I decided to put some aside for later so I froze a batch in oil, have some drying and made sage butter.

To dry herbs

In the case of sage this may also keep evil spirits away from the house – certainly burning sage leaves does!

~   Remove all damaged leaves and make sure the leaves and stalks are completely dry.
~   Assemble a few small branches of your herb and tie together.
~   Poke a few holes in a large brown paper bag and insert the bundle of sage, leaves first.
~   Gather the bag opening around the stems and tie shut making sure to leave the sage plenty of room in the bag.
~   Hang upside down somewhere nice and airy.
~   They should take about 2 weeks to dry but keep an eye on them.
~   When fully dried out store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.
~   Keep them whole dill needed then crush – this way they will release the most flavour.

1 teaspoon of crumbled dried herbs is about the same as 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped herbs.

As you can see I’m doing a bit of lavender too.

To freeze herbs

There are several ways to freeze herbs, which are ...

~   Stuff them into a freezer bag till well packed and squeeze out as much air as humanly possible. Freeze.
~   Coarsely chop or keep small leaves whole, divide between hollows in an ice cube tray and top up with your choice of water, stock or olive oil.  This works really well as once frozen the cubes can be decanted into a freezer bag and then you can add a cube here and a cube there as needed.  I didn’t do this with mine, this time, however as I didn’t want to contaminate the freezer with lots of sage flavoured ice cubes – my real man might object. 
~   Purée torn leaves with twice their volume of olive oil and then freeze in an airtight container. The beauty of this method is that the purée doesn’t freeze very hard so you can actually scrape out what you want. 

Herb Butter

I have written a lot before about compound butters, see here and use sage!

Two other way to save sage for later ...

Sage Vinegar

Put clean sage leaves in a sterilised jam jar, enough to loosely fill it. Add enough cider vinegar to fill the jar then put on the lid.  Keep for 2-3 weeks before using but do give it shake every now and then.  This, of course, makes great vinaigrette or marinade for porky items – see here for info. http://suddenlunch.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/how-to-make-vinaigrette.html

Sage Honey

Same as above but using runny honey!  This is very good brushed on pork, ham and bacony things or drizzled over cheese.  See here for lovely Honeyed Stilton on Toast

This left me with ...

So here are lots of ideas (I’m going to need lots) for using sage.

Quick ideas, links and recipes

~   Add a little chopped fresh sage to cheese scones.
~   Sage leaves either as naked as the day they were born or dipped in a light batter and deep fried make a great crispy garnish.
~   Mashed potatoes - warm a little chopped sage in a tablespoon or so of melted butter and allow to steep for a few minutes before mashing into hot, freshly cooked potatoes.
~   As sage goes so very well with pork try mixing some in with minced pork and make pork burgers and bit of grated apple would go well in these too.
~   Toss chunks of parsnip and of apple in olive oil together with fresh sage, salt and pepper and roast to serve with pork.
~   White Bean and Fresh Sage Dip – information on bean dips her– use  cannellini beans, fresh sage and lemon juice or whatever combo you fancy!
~   Add sage to polenta, it works really well.  See here for howto make polenta, you’ll have to read down a bit for the recipe
~   Add a bit of fresh sage to egg dishes as in this chorizo, asparagus and sage scrambled eggs that I had for lunch yesterday.

~   Sage and Cheddar Cheese Straws – see here and add sage!  Did you guess? 
~   Make a dipping oil for good bread, or, related to this ...

Sage and Walnut Pesto

60g walnuts –preferably toasted for deeper flavour
2 cloves garlic
30g of fresh sage, coarsely chopped
30g fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
60ml cup olive oil
30g grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

~   Coarsely chop the garlic and walnuts in a food processor.
~   Add the herbs and chop in with the nuts and garlic.
~   Gradually process in the olive oil.
~   Stir in the cheese then taste and season.

This can also be made with a pestle and mortar which results in a more rustic and very pleasant variation.  Toss with hot pasta or add to sauces, cheese on toast, sandwiches, dressings etc.

~   Sage goes brilliantly with squash so add some when roasting or top butternut soup with a drizzle of sage pesto or a little sage butter.

This soup, which I've just eaten, was made using my key recipe which I explain all about in “Soup (almost) the Only Recipe You’ll Ever Need" which gives 50 delicious soup recipes, instructions for stock making, guidance on adding herbs, spices and other flavourings plus additional recipes for roasted garlic, pepper coulis, frazzled leeks, compound butters and other garnishes and accoutrements.  

Sage and Onion Stuffing

Traditional Sage and Onion Stuffing probably springs to mind for most people at the mention of sage. I always make my own stuffing, sometimes with and sometimes without sage – here is a loose recipe or guideline.

~   Fry coarsely chopped onion together with your choice of carrot, celery and garlic in a little oil till starting to take colour. If adding raw meat eg. bacon or sausage do so now.
~   When it is turning golden in places add a handful or two of diced or torn dry bread and just enough hot stock to moisten it.
~   Add a knob of butter, cover and set aside for about 20 minutes.
~   Stir in the butter and make sure that the bread is thoroughly soaked through but not sitting in liquid. If it is drain it off.
~   Taste, season and add any cooked meats, herbs (time for the sage!) or spices.
~   Stuff into a bird, roll in a joint of meat or put in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with a little more butter and bake alongside the roast for the last 20 minutes or so of cooking. The top should be crisp and golden.

Brown Butter and Sage Sauce – serves 3-4

A simple but famous sauce which is excellent on pasta, gnocchi and especially butternut ravioli.  Make the sauce whilst the pasta, gnocchi or whatever is cooking.

60g butter
10 medium sage leaves – cut into shreds
juice of half a lemon
50g grated Parmesan

~   Melt the butter in a frying pan and then continue cooking over medium heat till it turns a golden brown.
~   Add the sage leaves and remove from heat.
~   Stir in the lemon juice and set aside till needed.
~   When the pasta is done add spoonful or two of the pasta cooking water to the butter sauce in the pan and then drain.
~   Reheat sauce, add the cheese and toss with the pasta, or whatever!

Apparently sage has many attributes healthwise but I’m not getting into them here other than to mention that apparently it was oft said in Roman times ...

"Cur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto?"
('Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?')


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