13 April 2018

The most astonishing cake I’ve ever encountered!

Just a quick post to tell you about this!

Please pin to amaze the
cake eating public!

When I was at “work” yesterday (volunteer work sorting donated books to Cornwall Hospice Care) one of my colleagues, a lovely girl from Lithuania, brought in a cake to celebrate her birthday.  Not just any old cake though!!!

This is a picture of the actual cake, there is a black background set up in the office to take pictures when putting stuff up for sale on eBay and similar. It stood about 40cm/16” before we got at it.

Isn’t it amazing!


In English this is called a tree cake and you can see why. 

Šakotis is made of butter, egg whites and yolks, flour, sugar, and cream, it is sweet and soft yet crunchy, sort of a cross between a biscuit and a cake. Our one was drizzled with chocolate and icing.  It must be almost impossible to make at home.  Although if you are interested watch this!!

I have absolutely no idea what to do with leftovers, so Lithuanian Tree Cake isn’t mentioned in my book Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers!

Pin It!

10 April 2018

3,240 Recipes for Leek & Potato Soup - Ridiculous!!

definition of a recipe
I agree with him!
Once a week I sort out books that have been donated to the charity Cornwall Hospice Care. If they are worth a bit I post them for sale on Amazon, if worth a fair bit, they go to eBay or Abe books. If they are of not much value but in good condition they go out to the shops for selling around the county and (good news if you live near me) paperbacks are currently 5 for £1 in the clearance outlet. If they are in very poor condition they are sold for pulping, sadly, although sometimes I borrow and read them before returning them to “work” and throwing them away!

Many, many cookbooks come through each day and I flick through them both to check their condition and to see if they are interesting and almost always they are not!  The reason they are not interesting is that they all contain the same or similar recipes over and over again. 
bowl of soup pinterest image
Please pin for the future!

Recently, whilst doing said flicking, I happened to see 17 recipes for Leek and Potato Soup in 17 different cookbooks!

So, when I got home I googled Leek and Potato Soup Recipe and there were approximately 3,240 results.

I started reading them and every single one I looked at contained (can you guess?) a little oil or butter, leeks, potatoes, stock, salt and pepper and, frequently, a dairy addition such as cream, milk, sour cream or crème fraîche. Some of the recipes also contain onion, carrot or celery. Some people call it Potato & Leek Soup (weirdos!). See end of post for a little more on my findings.

This is my …

Leek & Potato Soup – serves 4

It is much the same as everyone else’s!

25g butter OR 2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium/large leeks – thinly sliced and cleaned
2 medium potatoes
475ml/16fl oz chicken or vegetable stock 

~ Heat the olive oil or butter, add the leeks and toss together till they are coated.
~ Turn down the heat, cover the onions completely with a piece of foil, pressing down onto the surface of the leeks and being careful not to burn yourself. (This is the way I usually cook onions too, it makes for lovely melting soft and sweet onions and leeks).
~ Put a lid on the pan and cook very gently till they are completely and utterly tender and are starting to caramelise a little.
~ Peel and slice the potato and add to the onions.
~ Add enough stock to just cover the potatoes, bring to the boil, turn down the heat, put on the lid, (throw away the piece of foil or recycle it or something) and simmer till the potatoes are tender.

Now then, what sort of texture soup would you like?

1.    For a chunky soup just leave it as it is.
2.   For a “rustic” texture crush the potato into the stock.
3.   Use a “liquidizer on a stick” or stick blender to mash more finely.
4.   Purée in a food processor.
5.   Purée in a liquidizer for a very smooth and sophisticated finish.

~ In all cases dilute to your ideal soup consistency with more stock, milk, cream etc., as you fancy, taste and season.

You don’t have to stop here, however, you can adjust the recipe to make a delicious leek and potato soup exactly to you own personal taste. Here’s a few ideas …

~   If you also fancy adding onion, carrot or celery thinly slice and add to the oil together with the leeks.
~   Use bacon fat to cook the leeks and top with crispy bacon.
~   Add cream, chill, serve cold and call it Vichyssoise.
~   Add some shredded cooked chicken just to heat through.
~   Add cooked fish or shellfish and cream for a seafood chowder.
~   Add a little cooked smoked fish – it goes really well with the leeks.
~   Add some herbs, right at the end of cooking, chives seem to be quite common with leek and potato soup.
~   Stir in some grated cheese just before serving.
~   Purée in a bunch of watercress. 

variation on leek and potato soup - add watercress

There is definitely a market for lavishly illustrated, gorgeous recipe books but surely, if they just repeat what everyone else says, they are not the most useful if you actually want to know how to cook. 

I write cookbooks too, but they are rather different from the ones referred to above. I my Genius Recipe books each give one key recipe together with many dishes based on that recipe together with all the handy hints, good ideas, serving suggestions, ancillary recipes and information I can think of to help the reader experiment confidently and vary the key recipes to their own taste. 

Here is my soup cookbook Soup ~ (Almost) the Only Recipe You'll Ever Need wherein, like every other cookbook, you can find a recipe for leek and potato soup.  You can also find the one basic key recipe together with 60+ soups based on that basic recipe and loads of useful information on soup making.

how to make all sorts of soup with one basic recipe
Click here for a preview.

Google Search Results

These are a few of the Leek and Potato Soup recipes I checked out on Google, they were all very similar. I’ve added any additional ingredients or variations on the basic soup, where applicable … 


I checked out quite a few more but I think you get the point and I don’t need to list them all!
Pin It!

30 March 2018

Delicious Ways to Make Toast ~ not Waste!

Apparently, a gobsmacking, 24 million slices of bread are thrown away daily.  What is wrong with people?

The inestimable Love Food Hate Waste people have a new campaign; Make Toast Not Waste. How right they are.  

One simple suggestion they make is freezing unwanted bread which, usefully, can then be toasted from frozen.

Some while ago I wrote a post called 7 (+) Interestingly Different Ideas for Leftover Bread but making toast is a no brainer! 

french toast, cinnamon toast, melba toast and Greek grilled toast
Please pin for later!
Firstly, in addition to straightforward toast, here are four alternative types of toast you might like to try, they are all great ways to use leftover bread and the fourth one is surprisingly gorgeous.

1.  Cinnamon Toast & More – cinnamon toast is rightly famous but how about other flavoured toasts such as salted caramel or vanilla, for instance.  Read about cinnamon toast and more here

2.  Melba Toast – very crisp thin toast (don’t worry it’s easy) which is perfect with creamy things such as pate, hummus etc.  

3.  French Toast, of course. Here’s how to make French Toast, you don’t have to coat it with panko crumbs as mentioned in the post! 

4.  The Greeks have an utterly wonderful way of making grilled bread (toast) which I urge you read about and then have a go, it is called λαδοβρεχτό!

The great thing about toast is it can also be a vehicle (!) for so many things, cheese on toast is a given but there are so many delicious ways it can play a supporting role with leftovers, my favourite ingredients! ~ win/win situation. 

rich beefy dripping on toast

What leftovers can you serve on Toast?

The most famous leftover on toast dish is probably bread and dripping. You know how, if you chill the meat juices after roasting some beef, you get lovely savoury meaty jelly under a layer of beefy fat?  Well spread it on toast and sprinkle with a little crunchy sea salt; it is so much nicer that you can possibly imagine, and our forebears swore by it!

Leftover dinner on Toast!  

Depending, of course, on what you had for dinner, for instance …

~   Leftover fish and seafood, and possibly leftover veggies, are good stirred through and appropriate hot sauce (Alfredo for instance) and piled onto toast.
~  The same goes for chicken.
~  Most meats, fish and seafood are also good stirred through with mayonnaise (maybe a flavoured mayonnaise) and served on toast. 
~  Pile reheated leftover cauliflower or broccoli cheese on toast, sprinkle with freshly grated cheese and breadcrumbs and pop under a hot grill till melty, crisp and golden.

leftovers on toast

~   Spoon hot leftover mince or chilli con carne on toast – top with cheese and grill.
~   Leftover stews of all descriptions go well with toasted bread too but perhaps in this case serve the toast as a side rather than under the stew or it might get too soggy! Here’s how to make a lovely stew so that you will then have the appropriate leftovers. 
~   Beans on Toast but not as you know it, Jim.  If you have any canned beans that need using up then heat them up together with a little pasta sauce or cheese sauce or whatever you have, maybe add some shredded chorizo, pulled pork, ham, chicken etc. and pile on toast. Yet again cheese would be good on top.
homemade beans on toast

Fruit on Toast

Butter the toast (leftover brioche or plain cake are good for this too), top with the fruit of your choice, sliced or diced or chopped as you wish, sprinkle with sugar and pop under a hot grill till caramelised.  Lovely breakfast! 

fruit on toast for breakfast

I’ve tried mango or peaches on toast sprinkled with soft light brown sugar, but obviously not bananas due to the old bananaphobia!   

No reason why you shouldn’t try bananas on toast though, maybe spread the toast with peanut butter before applying the banans or, alternatively, drizzle with chocolate sauce or sticky toffee sauce

Fudge on Toast is also good for breakfast

seriously useful leftovers handbook

Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers ~ a leftovers handbook

I love cooking with leftovers so much so that I have written a book giving every recipe, idea, handy hint, storage info, food pairing advice, cook's treat and general stuff I can think of for 450 potential leftovers. Read more here.
Pin It!

25 March 2018

9 Splendid Things to Make with Sweet Potatoes!

delicious recipes for sweet potatoes
I’d already started writing this post when I realised that, coincidentally, this is one of those strange weeks, International Sweet Potato Week to be precise. 

I first tried sweet potatoes when I visited New Zealand, where they are called kumura (unlike in the States where they are often called, wrongly, yams!). What a lovely surprise they were, I think I eat them more often that “normal” potatoes. 

What do I do with sweet potatoes?  Well …

This post starts with simple ways to cook sweet potatoes, progresses through more unusual ideas which toward the end of the post.

Firstly, anything you can do with a potato you can do with a sweet potato.

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

~   Heat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC/200ºC fan/gas 7.
~   Put a baking tray in the oven.
~   Peel a sweet potato per person and cut into chips.
~   Toss them with a drizzle of olive oil and some seasoning; salt and pepper plus cayenne if you fancy it.
~   When the oven is hot spread the sweet potato chips on the hot tray with space around each chip. If you need more space heat another tray.
~   Bake for about 20-25 minutes depending on how thick they are. They are ready when golden and crisp and tender.
homemade sweet potato fries

Baked/Jacket Sweet Potatoes

sweet jacket potato
large, clean dry and evenly sized sweet potatoes
a little oil and salt

~   Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6.
~   Put a little olive oil and a little sea salt in a bowl and rub each potato thoroughly with this mixture.
~   Prick the potatoes several times with a fork.
~   When the oven is hot either lay the potatoes directly on the oven rack line with foil, sweet potatoes tend to ooze a bit when baked.
~   Bake till soft in the middle and crisp on the outside – timing depends on the size of the potato but say 30-40 minutes, they cook faster than normal potatoes.

Sweet Potato Crisps

dish of spicy sweet potato crisps
~   Preheat the oven to 325°F/160ºC/140ºC fan/gas 3 and grease a baking tray.
~  Slice raw sweet potato into rounds, pretty well as thin as you can.
~  Lay onto the greased tray, brush with oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper or chill powder.
~  Bake for about half an hour, keeping an eye on them, till the edges have curled and the middles are shade darker. Cool on a rack to crisp.

Fried Sweet Potatoes

See the soup recipe below for how to make delicious crunchy frazzled sweet potatoes.

Spicy Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup

Sweet Potato Scones

225g/8oz self-raising flour
a generous pinch of salt
60g/2½oz cold butter or margarine
25g/1oz caster sugar
100g/3½oz mashed cooked sweet potato (or pumpkin!)
approx. 60ml/2½ fl oz milk

~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Stir together the flour, salt and baking powder (if using).
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved (see this post for how to rub in https://suddenlunch.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/simple-homemade-dumplings-from-scratch.html ).
~   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 mashed sweet potato and seasoning and then just enough milk to form a soft workable dough.
~   On a floured surface press or roll the dough out to about 1½cm/½” thick and using a cookie cutter cut into rounds or squares which are easier and more economical on time: no re-rolling. They look quite good too.
~   Transfer the scones to a greased baking try, brush their tops with a little milk and bake in the oven till risen and golden – about 15 minutes.
~   Transfer to a cooling rack till needed.

Depending on what you intend doing with the scones you could add a little seasoning such as cinnamon or ginger of even a little chilli.
sweet potato scones

Fartes de Batatas!

These are little sweet gooey cakes or sweeties from Portugal. Their name means something like “Potatoes that Satiate”, what did you think it meant?

portuguese sweet potato cakes
170g caster sugar plus more for sprinkling
1 egg
15g soft butter
170g cooked, mashed and cooled sweet potato
(slightly warm the sweet potato before removing from its skin and mashing.)
70g ground almonds
finely grated zest of 1 orange
a squeeze of lemon or orange juice
1 egg white, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt

~   Whisk together the first three ingredients very well indeed till light and fluffy.
~   Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, ground almonds, citrus zest and juice.
~   Scrape the mixture into a pan and stir over medium heat to dry out; when the texture of stiff mashed potato spread onto a floured board to cool.
~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6.
~   Roll into walnut sized balls then flatten into little cakes.
~   Place on a greased baking tray, brush with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar.
~   Bake for about 20 minutes till slightly puffed up, golden and fragrant
~   Cool on a rack and serve with coffee.

homemade sweet potato ice cream

Roasted Sweet Potato, Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Ice Cream 

Kamote or Camote Cue

These are Filipino street food; caramelised sweet potato slices, often served on sticks. Cook in small batches, serve immediately, eat while hot.

~   Slice a sweet potato about 10mm thick. 
~   Heat 250ml of vegetable oil in a small pan and when hot sprinkle in 200g soft light brown sugar.
~   Cook the oil and sugartogether for a minute or two during which time the sugar will rise to the surface and form a bubbly crust. 
~   Carefully add the potato slices and cook over medium high heat turning occasionally for seven or eight minutes till tender and speckled with caramel.
~   Lift out and drain on kitchen roll.
~   Thread on sticks if you feel like it!

caramelised sweet potato slices

Sweet Potato Toast

I've read about this, it involves putting a slice of sweet potato in the toaster and giving it several toasts till soft and crisp in places. 

Before trying it I was a bit dubious, wondering if it was along the lines of other silly hacks I have seen such as cooking veggies in the dishwasher.  I'm not sure if I was right or wrong, the sweet potato caused a bit of a mess in the toaster and I gave up before it was cooked!

Pin It!

11 March 2018

7 Leftovers You Should Never Throw Away

Leftover food is often thought of as just the unwanted remains of a meal but to me there are seven specific types of leftover, all of which are very much wanted.

The Seven Types of Leftovers  …

remains of a meal

1.   The remains of a made-up dish or the last few scraps of ingredient which are surplus to the requirements of a recipe. I think this is what most people think of as leftovers.

leftover egg yolk 

2.   By-products of cooking for instance egg yolks after making meringues, bacon fat or the rind of a Parmesan cheese.

salted peanuts
3.   Something forgotten you find lurking in the back of the cupboard or fridge such as the tail end of a jar of mayonnaise or half a packet of peanuts.


4.   Too much of something having been over enthusiastic when picking blackberries or due to two-for-one offers, for instance.

chocolate squares

5.   A very small amount of something you wish you had more of e.g. three squares of chocolate and four friends.

broken biscuits

6.   Accidents – for instance what to do with the result of having sat on a packet of biscuits.

steak trimmings

7.   Collections – it is a good idea when you have just a little of something to make a collection in your freezer of similar little bits (say a collection of fish scraps, or a bread crusts, or beef trimming) until you have enough to make something delicious. Read more about collecting leftover food here

Read more here.

In my book Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers, which is an A-Z of potential leftovers with recipes and ideas for using them I address all these possibilities giving, for instance, 14 ways to use bacon fat or 18 things to do with bread crusts. Bearing in mind that I deal with 450 possible leftovers that is a lot of ideas, recipe and suggestions!

Pin It!

9 March 2018

Do You Know How Easy it is to Make Burgers & Why You Should?

I'm going through all my old posts and updating the images, SEO etc. and was reading an earlier post on Michael Pollan’s excellent book Food Rules.  In it I mention how strange it is that people would rather buy a burger from MacDonalds or similar than make one.  I thought I’d extrapolate on this (Madam!).

Do you know how easy it is to make a burger? 

If not this is what you do …

~   Get some fresh but not too lean minced beef – you want your burger to be juicy.
~   Divide it into portions the size you would like your burgers but treat the meat gently as overworking it will toughen them. I have always made 225g/8oz burgers both at home for my real man and when cooking professionally. Allow me to go off on a small tangent here ...

typical bought in burger

According to McDonalds themselves their cooked beef patties in a Big Mac weigh approximately 66g/2.3 ounces each so that’s a little under 4.6g/5oz. Even allowing for shrinkage you can do way better than that! Anyhoo …

~   Heat a frying pan and grease lightly. ~   Season your burgers on both sides with salt and black pepper. The salt is important because not only does make the burger tasty it helps form a good crust on the meat.
~   Cook your burger till perfect by browning over medium high heat according to the timings below on the first side without disturbing it. Flip onto the second side and finish cooking. Times may vary a little according to the thickness of the burgers.
Rare – 3 minutes per side, feels soft and juicy.
Medium – 4 minutes per side, feels springy.
Well Done –  5 minutes per side, feels firm.
~   If you top your burger with something eg. bacon, cheese etc. cover the pan briefly to heat and melt the topping or, better really if you can,  pop the topped burger into a hot oven or under a hot grill for just a minute to heat briefly.
~   Serve with a burger bun (toasted or not to your taste) with whatever you fancy eg. mayonnaise, bbq sauce etc. plus real cheese, bacon, onions and so on.

Do you want a dimple in the bottom?

~   They do say you should make a small depression in the burger on one side which, apparently, helps the burger cook evenly and stay flat.  I have never done this and always been happy with my burgers but you could give it a try.

6 important points when making burgers …

~   DON'T crowd the pan; if cooking more than one burger there must be space between them or they will steam rather than fry.
~   DON'T press or flatten burgers during cooking because this squeezes out the juices, compresses the meats and really irritates me!
~   If the meat seems stuck to the pan when you want to turn it wait a little while; once a good crust has formed it will release itself .
~   Only flip once.
~   Don't cut into the burger to see if it is done at this releases yummy juices.
~   As with all meat set aside to rest in a warm place for a few minutes before serving.

homemade cheeseburger

5 Reasons Why You Should Make your Own Burgers

pros and cons of making homemade burgers pinterest image
Please pin this and spread the word!
 You will save money

Big Mac (just an example - other burger suppliers are available!)
£.3.19  comprising 132g ground beef (possibly and possibly not with additives), one white bun, some lettuce, a slice of processed cheese (or cheese product to be exact i.e. not real cheese).
or ...
Homemade Burger
£1.80 approx comprising 225g ground beef, 2 rashers back bacon, a generous portion of lovely mature Cornish cheddar, a spoonful of freshly fried red onions, lettuce and baby plum tomatoes, white burger bun.

~   You will save time

As I mentioned above, if you have the ingredients, making a burger at home is so much quicker it takes about 10 minutes from taking the meat out of the packet (although longer if you also do chips).  The alternative is driving to, parking outside and queuing in a take away and then driving home. Not only that, your food is fresh from the stove so in prime condition

~   You can eat “cleanly”

Even if bought in foods don’t contain any chemicals, e-numbers,  etc. they may still be high in salt, sugar and/or fat.  When you make your own you know exactly what is in your food.

~   You can Personalise your Burger

Season to taste i.e. your taste or perfect for whoever you are making it for . Make your perfect burger with whatever seasonings or additions you fancy; spices, garlic, smoked salt, bits of crunchy bacon etc.

~   Be happy – I haven’t looked into it much but have read that eating fast food can make people depressed and not just because it is not quite what they wanted!

So ~ your choice …

This is just one example of why you should cook your own food – it is real and fresh, can be made exactly as you like it and is also cheaper. Go for it!

Speaking of books ...

A new edition of my leftovers cookbook, giving recipes, ideas, storage instructions, handy hints, food pairings and cook's treats for 450 different potential leftover foods is now out – Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers, read more here.

if you love your leftovers this is the book for you!

Pin It!