Soup dragon

I’ve been thinking about my daily lunch. I normally have a sandwich, which I buy ready prepared and extravagant from Waitrose. Hardly anyone eats bread daily in our house, so we would waste a lot if we made it regularly in our bread machine. Normally I can stop off and buy a sandwich on the way home from training or walking the boys but sometimes I have to make a special trip tp Waitrose, which is annoying. In the meantime, we have vast quantities of unused veggies cluttering up the fridge.

The solution is soup. And, yes, I know it’s easy to make soup in a pot with a spoon, but then it has to be transferred to the blender and back again, creating lots of washing up and drips everywhere. None of this is hard or even particularly time consuming but it’s just another load of faff on top of the pile of faff that is life. My old Kitchenaid blender is a bit leaky, and wont to cause explosions of carefully seasoned puree all over the place, so that’s off putting too.

Then I saw this soup machine in Lakeland. The reviews were good and it makes smoothies and sauces too, which would be a great boon to my ice cream-making. I’m dying to make peach ice cream but the faff is discouraging me. Logically the soup machine, which crushes ice, could be used for Bellinis too. I’m partial to a Bellini. 

Today, then, I took delivery of the anxiously awaited Baroness Denise Von Crouton. I was kindly assisted with my name choice by  @donna_gallers off Twitter, who has a one year old Kitchenaid stand mixer called Barbara

I chucked in a couple of leeks, some carrots, a potato and some stock. I’d chopped the veg up a bit but that was all and I used Marigold vegan bouillon for the stock. And while Lady Denise toiled away for half an hour, I made the batter for tonight’s pancakes.

Of course, the quality of the soup depends on the ingredients, and I think I should have added a small onion and perhaps a bit of salt. Straight from the machine, the soup was too hot and burned my mouth, but it was smooth and lovely and, I think, a very efficient way to make a healthy and economical lunch from whatever’s in the fridge. I think I should make some bread dough and freeze it as rolls, ready to eat with the soup.

Almost the best thing about the machine is the lack of moving parts that have to be taken apart and washed. You wash the lid and the measuring cup that sits in it, but otherwise the jug has its own cleaning programme. Just add water and some washing up liquid, press the button and watch it swish around cleaning itself. I’d be inclined always to do this as soon as possible after making the soup so that it doesn’t dry on to the glass, though. 



Christmas Pudding

As you know, I’m a big The Archers fan and, when Stir Up Sunday comes around on the first Sunday of Advent every year, I listen enviously to everyone at Brookfield Farm gathering around their Aga – they must have an Aga, surely? – as Jill Archer makes her Christmas puddings, and everyone in the family stirs and makes a wish. Why envious? Because I’ve never actually made a Christmas Pudding myself. I know! This veteran cook of maybe 40 Christmas lunches has never dared to make her own pudding!

I really have no idea why I found the thought of making my own Christmas pudding so intimidating. Is it, perhaps, another British tradition to which I feel I’m only a Johnny-come-lately visitor? Maybe it’s the Blue Peter-esque faff with basins and string and muslin that’s always put me off because I don’t see myself as the most dextrous person in the world. I think my oddly-proportioned knitting creations can attest to that. And plus I’m never ready to gear myself up for Christmas by Advent Sunday either. Is it because, as an atheist, I don’t possess the structure of the Christian Calendar? I don’t know. Goodness I’m a tortured soul, aren’t I? Not like that @Annette1Hardy, whose Christmas pudding is long done and dusted. She’s even made one as a gift to take to a party, if you please!

This year, another Stir up Sunday came and went but I did manage to spend most of the afternoon writing Christmas cards. And when I happened to mention that I’d never made a Christmas Pudding, my dear and esteemed friend Dr Catherine Tomas came to the rescue with Eliza Acton’s recipe from 1845. I’ve already had some success with steak and kidney pudding using a plastic pudding basin with a click-on lid but Kate feels that a ceramic basin is best to achieve a good colour as it maintains the heat of cooking.

A couple of clicks on the Lakeland website sorted out the pudding basin issue and today I made my very first Christmas pudding, stirring as the recipe insists, after the addition of each ingredient. We felt that a 5p piece could have presented a choking hazard. A pound coin was a rather-too-alarming reminder of hyper-inflation in the Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe, so we settled on a 10p piece as a reasonably non-inflationary alternative. Everyone in the house stirred the mixture and made a wish except the dogs as they do not have opposable thumbs and Oscar is far too heavy to lift up to kitchen island height. Who knows what they would wish for, anyway?

I hope that this is a new tradition for me and that one day I’ll be like Grandma Jill Archer, surrounded by several generations of family all stirring and making wishes. I hope that I’ll not be as deranged as Jill currently sounds, though. So my pudding in its basin is in the steam oven right now for three hours and then I’ll tie it up with the muslin and red ribbon supplied in the Lakeland kit. And then wait until Christmas lunch for the proof of the pudding is in the eating, obviously.*

*People saying “The proof is in the pudding,” is a bugbear of mine.

Rich raspberry ripple ice cream

Rich raspberry ripple ice cream

It’s about time I put my ice cream maker through its paces again. Much as I love the chocolate and coffee flavours, I needed to make something different and fruity to show that it’s possible.

Raspberries are in the shops so I bought a couple of punnets and found this recipe on the BBC Good Food site.

Now, I’m on a singing course at the Benslow Music centre in Hitchin this week, and I didn’t want the raspberries to go off in my absence so I found myself starting this ice cream at 9.30 last night.

Making a custard-based ice cream is a bit of a faff and generates rather too much washing up but once you get going it’s fine.

Picture the scene: I have cream and full fat milk coming to the boil with a vanilla pod on the hob. I have  assiduously separated 10 egg yolks and they’re waiting to be whisked in the Kitchenaid.  There’s a freezer bag all ready to receive the whites. And then I reach for the wrong bowl and, instead of sugar, the egg whites are reunited with their yolks to the whisking bowl.

My long suffering spouse had to nip out to a local petrol station for some eggs (free range.)
It’s good to chill the custard overnight before churning it in the ice cream machine the following day. I was in a hurry today – in my haste to leave home I’ve left my laptop and chargers in another suitcase – and previous ice cream mixes have always been a little too hard for my liking so I set this custard to churn for 40 minutes. It was much softer and easier to remove from the machine but it was too soft and melty for my liking.

Anyway the result is a rich vanilla ice cream cut with a tart, rich raspberry sauce. Berry nice.

Rhubarb cake

Rhubarb cake

The lovely Abel and Cole, my weekly furnishers of fruit, veg and now fish and meat, saw fit to include some rhubarb and some ginger in my box this morning. I’ve wanted to make a rhubarb version of Mamma Moore’s Apple Cake for a while, so I seized the opportunity.

This pretty tart is pretty tart but would go well with a dollop of clotted cream on the side. Or, indeed, rhubarb ice cream. One minor self-criticism is that next time I’d grate the ginger rather than chopping it up, for a smoother bite. Otherwise it’s delicious.


I am missing my daily blogging but I find myself with little inspiration. I’m sorry, The Boywonder. I know that you like to see things from home on here.

I don’t know why this is, we are non-believers, but we always have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. I have no idea why we don’t make them on any of the other 364 or 365 days, although I have been known to whip up a delicious chestnut blini or two in my time.

Tonight we are without MsDD, who is playing bleddy Land of Hope and Glory again at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, to parents of primary school children. I have my irritating weekly 10 minute turnaround between the OH returning home and him leaving for band rehearsal and there I was, standing over a hot induction hob to make pancakes just because it’s that day.

We have eaten too much meat recently, I think, so tonight’s offering as a pancake filling was mushroom stroganoff. Which feels odd, given that the origins of Shrove Tuesday were a last-ditch effort to get rid of anything vaguely nice in your storehouse before the 40 days of fast. But as I say, we’re not religious and many religious people seem to be quite happy picking and choosing their favourite bits from their religions anyway. So what the hey!

Here is my pancake:





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