Salmon, Asparagus & Dill Tartlet

My fresh Salmon, Asparagus tartlets use my favourite fresh herb has to be dill and my vegetable garden is full of it and I’m always looking for ways to use it (you can search for Marinated Courgette with Dill -another favourite recipe). Fresh herbs make such a fab difference to your cooking and I try to fresh herbs when they are in season. Dried herbs just don’t taste like the real thing and I’d much rather cook something different & seasonal. I know that you can get basil in a supermarket in December but it just isn’t the same. All is not lost however if you can’t do this, some fresh herbs freeze very well including dill (hoorah), parsley and coriander. Just chop them up and put in a plastic bag ( a zip lock bag is good as you are going to dip in and out of it). Pat it out so the herbs are just in a thin layer and freeze. After that, a  quick scrunch means that they aren’t frozen in a block and easy to use as you want.

I digress, these Salmon and Asparagus & Dill tartlets are delicious and look so pretty. They do take a bit of effort but you can’t always be a slouch and if you want to impress then give these a go. You can use all different sorts of fillings as long as it is previously cooked and bind it with the ‘basic tart mix’ and away you go. The cases can be made well ahead and frozen. If I have some leftover pastry I often use it for a tart or two (it’s surprising how little pastry they take), freeze it and then I can use them when I want. You can also do the same with sweet pastry (with fillings such as strawberries, raspberries or my favourite lemon tart). Lable them carefully, I have to admit that whilst testing this recipe I mixed them up and my son got a very strange tasting tart! It was a lucky dip 3 were with sweet pastry and three with ordinary pastry. Hmmm…





This simple pink & creamy rhubarb fool is made with the first picking of the most tender and pink rhubarb. These beautiful stems are a fleeting delight and are just starting to appear around now in my vegetable garden. Later in the season the stems will be tougher & not so pinky (although still delicious to eat) so you only have a short window of opportunity to pick it. Remember to pull the stems away from the plant (gently) rather than cutting them off. Take care also when cooking it as it needs a gentle touch or you will end up with a mush and you will lose the lovely pink colour- you have been warned. I have used Greek yoghurt for a  lighter version of the pudding but you can use whipped double cream if you prefer.

Serve with some little homemade shortbread biscuits.  Search for my recipe for Lavender shortbread thins and instead of the lavender substitute a small amount of finely ground, edible rose petals to make the prettiest biscuits to serve with this pretty dessert -is that pretty enough for you?



Easy meet free dish
Moroccan Filo Pie


This lightly spiced Moroccan pie but it can easily be made spicier by adding something like mango chutney or a hotter sauce. Pulses can be bland & usually need more additional flavourings than you think. It’s a good dish to make for those that don’t like meat and you can freeze it ahead of time. Handling the filo can be tricky but don’t worry if it all goes pear-shaped you can just use it scrunched up as long as you try to brush the butter between the layers.

I like to serve it as part of a vaguely inspired ‘Moroccan’ meal with grated carrot & cumin salad, cooked beetroot in yoghurt, flatbreads (sweet with honey & fennel seeds or savoury with seas salt & rosemary) etc. Lovely, easily  prepared food to share.




Cedar Manor Hotel
Cedar Manor Hotel

Like lots of good things in life I stumbled across this small, luxury hotel by chance.

Set in the heart of the lakes Cedar Manor Hotel is, appropriately, a most romantic place to rest your head. We loved the friendly, intimate feel of the hotel and the very warm welcome we were given by owners Jonathan and Caroline Kaye. Caroline enthusiastically manages to effortlessly  combine the hotel management with running marathons (in her ‘spare’ time) raising money for the charity Lupus UK. Jonathon, a charming host (ex Raffles night club manager in Chelsea) appears to have all the time in the world to chat about his love of walking, photography and his adopted Lakeland whilst not appearing to be frazzled by the work involved running a hotel

The food was my sort of food, unpretentious, not at all ‘cheffy’ and cooked with care. I loved some of the imaginative combinations-a delicate cock a leekie terrine with celeriac & a prune puree followed by a delicious cod with clams & chorizo served with saffron rice or honey & Masala glazed pork with a pancetta rosti. For desert we had lemon & tamarind crème brulee with greengage compote and vanilla shortbread and a rather wonderful beer ice cream. Now, chef, I have been trying to recreate this myself with some success but not as nice as yours! Other homemade ice creams included Caraway, rhubarb or pink peppercorn a wakeup call for your taste buds. We loved the poached pear with orange polenta cake with juniper & honey mascarpone. It goes without saying that everything was homemade from the breads served with dinner to the jams and marmalades served with breakfast. We were looked after by the lovely Spanish waitress Patricia who made us laugh and impressed us with her charming English.

I would visit the hotel again just for the food and beautiful rooms alone but what makes it even more special is the  lovely interior design to die for.  This was designed by local Fidget Design of Windermere and carefully overseen by Caroline. The lounges are as cosily welcoming as a hug especially on a cold and grey Lake District day. They are so comfortable you need to take care not to drop off.

One of the lounge areas
One of the lounge areas
Book wall paper in the snug
Book wall paper in the snug


Look in the snug to find the unique ‘book’ wallpaper  with witty Lakeland references such as ‘The lady in the lake by Lily Pad’ and ‘How to catch a char by A Fisher’ and (using the shepherds traditional way of counting sheep) –‘Yan, Tan, Tethera by Dick Methera ..1, 2, 3 and 4. All the rooms are carefully designed and you can pick out your favourite bed room from the photos on the website.

If you really want to treat yourself or celebrate a (very) special occasion then the award winning ‘Coach House is for you-an oasis of loveliness. This is the ultimate in luxury.  Edgy design, beautiful rich fabrics and stand out contemporary pieces such as lights and mirrors. There is a separate dining room and lounge area as well as the ensuite ground floor bedroom. You can adjust the surround sound within the suite including in the bathroom. THE bathroom has to be seen, gently changing coloured lights, spa roll top bath backed with a glass feature wall and…TV. I know………. how good is that, I’ve never seen anything like it before- ‘Aqua vision’ of course!

The fabulous bathroom in the Coach House suite!
The fabulous bathroom in the Coach House suite!

I was not surprised to see the fistful of awards for this beautiful hotel including Trip Advisors Travellers choice for 2015 and Cumbrian Tourism award 2014.

Go there you will love it, I’m sure.

Have a look at the website


My girls ready for the off!
My girls ready for the off!


Running a 6 week course for 4 young students has been very rewarding for me. We all had fun and they produced lots of really GOOD food which they and their families really enjoyed. The cooking classes were part of the ‘learning a new skill’ section required as part of their Duke of Edinburgh challenge.

I wanted to teach them a range of skills and recipes that would give them the basics and the confidence to keep on cooking and develop their own style. Cooking gives me lots of pleasure and seeing others enjoying my food even more pleasure and I wanted to pass this on. Cooking is a great life skill and especially so for young people heading out into the big, wide world away from mum’s kitchen.

Busy in the kitchen-It's all about being organised!
Busy in the kitchen-It’s all about being organised!

So we made bread, fresh pasta, short crust pastry, cakes, practised safe knife skills, muffins, turnovers, icing skills, making sauces and using chocolate….I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Incidental skills such as reading a recipe, getting organised to cook, washing up (!) and importantly what to do when things don’t go to plan were learnt along the way.

Lucy & Amelia taking time off between chats to make fresh pasta!
Lucy & Amelia taking time off between chats to make fresh pasta!

Of course we had a few dramas; an uncooked tart was dropped-and we scooped it back in and added more cheese on top, scales weren’t put back to zero between ingredients, recipes weren’t read properly, ingredients weren’t added, some pasta got really overworked and paper cases over or under filled. At times some of the girls had to be hurried along or told to slow down. All to be expected in a busy kitchen!

But  they turned their skills into bacon & egg tarts, savoury mince into shepherd’s pie and mince & dumplings, made American style blueberry, lemon muffins and banoffee muffins,  tomato & basil pasta sauce, macaroni cheese with sweet corn, terrific homemade bread in plaits, cottage loafs and baps, beautiful iced cupcakes, jam and chocolate puff pastries….and more

The final week I set them a GBBO type challenge-6 small cakes, flavoured, filled, iced and decorated by hand with flair and imagination and presented in 2 hours. Some forward planning was required and ideas discussed in advance.


Amelia looking chuffed

They made some impressive cakes: Amelia’s were red velvet with a hidden filling and decorated with raspberries.


Lucy’s were vanilla sponge and icing, decorated with handmade red roses.


Emma’s frosty iced cakes were decorated with delicate snowflakes.


Ashton made pretty cakes to look like Christmas trees complete with baubles .

They should be very proud of themselves and I was very proud of them and now they can cook!

Ashton's cakes
Ashton’s cakes
Emma's cakes
Emma’s cakes
Lucy's cakes
Lucy’s cakes
Amelia's cakes
Amelia’s cakes


Mr Vikkis' Chutneys & sauces
Some of my favourite Mr Vikki chutneys and sauces



Stepping into the Mr Vikki’s shop at High Heskett, Carlisle….on a rainy, cold Lake District day was like stepping into another, much, warmer world. Every product here is packed full of spices and flavour and to varying degrees the ….heat of chillies.

These Indian fusion pickles and chilli products blend only fresh natural ingredients and freshly milled spices. They range from the spicy and fragrant Mango chutney and Lime pickle, to the hotter Coriander sauce, the very hot Fiery Lemon Harissa to the inexplicably hot…. Queen Naga.

Continue reading “MR VIKKI IS HOT HOT IN CUMBRIA!”



Mahedik café Pärnu Estonia


A few ramblings on the subject of Estonian food as experienced on a recent trip to Tallinn the medieval capital and the very beautiful Pärnu on the silvery Baltic coast. We didn’t experience much traditional Estonian food borne of the time when food was scarce and there was a need to preserve and ‘stretch’ what was available. These dishes are not for the faint hearted: marinated eels (served cold for breakfast), boiled tongue with horseradish, blood and barley sausage and boiled pork in jelly.

We did eat some great ‘modern’ Estonian cooking and experienced the whole newness of a modern cuisine developing without being tied down to the old ways.


Kefir ice cream
Kefir ice cream

Unusual ingredients included Kefir -) a sort of fermented cereal. To the uninitiated it did taste like hot milk on ‘Weetabix but it made a lovely ice cream!

Salted herring with new potatoes, chives and black bread icecream
Salted herring with new potatoes, chives and black bread ice cream

Fantastic breads featured in most restaurants with various twists on the staple rye bread. Rich and dark with the faint tang or a sourdough base it was served with all meals and with this herring dish as ice cream! Rye is a dense bread with an earthy nutty flavour. We tried various types with additions such as cracked rye, sunflower, and poppy seeds.

Sea buckthorn featured in many dishes –its astringent orange berries used to decorate the many delicious pastries and cakes or as a cooking ingredient. We did bring back some vivid orange sea buckthorn juice…an acquired taste and although it seemed not too bad sipping it looking out over the many beautiful parks….I suspect it will be sitting in my fridge for sometime!


sea buck thorn berries on custard carrot cake
Sea buckthorn berries on a lightly spiced carrot  and custard cake


Fruit tartlet with bilberries
Fruit tartlet with bilberries & raspberries


This is a ‘new’ country, very IT literate, lots of modern design especially with textiles, and many cool and beautiful cafes. We loved it!

A beautiful cafe in Parnu..
The beautiful café Supelsakad Pärnu Estonia



Very Fruity Strawberry and Rosepetal jam


Jane Maggs has been making beautiful, homemade preserves from her home in Wigton Cumbria for over a decade now.

The key to this business is in the name ‘Wild’. All the fruits used are locally grown and foraged from nearby orchards, farms and private gardens and Jane has built friendships with all of the producers. Brambles, damsons, blackcurrants, sloes, strawberries, raspberries, rosehips and even rose petals from Jane’s own garden make it into these little jars and bottles.

There is a vast range of curds, jams, jellies, sauces, fruit vinegars and chutneys and production changes with the season and is dictated by local availability of the fruits. Jane explained “I could buy in frozen fruits and concentrates from e.g. Poland but this would completely undermine the ethos of the business and of course the taste and flavour of our products. Our products are made by hand with seasonal fruits; I employ local people and support a wide range of other small, local businesses.”

Jane is the sort of person who sweeps you along with her enthusiasm and spirit and her determination to stick to the essential ideas underpinning her business

My favourite (although it was tricky to choose) was her bestselling Strawberry and Rose Petal conserve. This has a beautiful pink colour and fruity taste of strawberries with a very distinct flavour of roses-just like a summer garden. It was delicious on a home baked scone with cream-a lovely taste of Summer.



Leonie Fairbairn and Fergus
Leonie Fairbairn and Fergus

It warms the cockles of my heart when I go to small food producers who are so dedicated and passionate about their product in spite of the hardwork and difficulties they face along the way. I was delighted to visit  THORNBY MOOR DAIRY Crofton Carlisle

Entering the farm shop and dairy I felt I was stepping back in time where cheese is made the old fashioned, natural, way dictated by the rhythms of the process and not to any manufacturing deadlines. Patience and gentle handling are needed to make the best cheese. The dairy is run by Carolyn Fairbairn and her daughter Leonie. Carolyn started to make cheese from the milk of her small goat herd and later on cow’s milk  from a neighbouring farm was used to make these delicious cheeses.

Visit the dairy and you can watch the cheese being made. Local, single herd, raw milk is used and the cheese is made, in open vats, entirely by hand. Variations in milling and storage times results in a good  range of cheeses from the traditional ‘Cumberland Farmhouse’, a cow’s milk cheese, with a smooth, buttery texture, ‘Blue Whinnow’  a delicate blue and ‘Bewcastle’ a soft, milk curd delicious served with soft fruit or herbs. The goat’s milk cheese range from the ‘Allerdale’ a British style cheese with a clean, almond like flavour to the roundy ‘Stumpies’ fresh, mini cheeses which can be grilled or fried. All the cheeses are carefully and lopacked by hand.


Fergus in the cheese store


Richards (7 of 7)
Delicious Thornby Moor cheeses


Carolyn & Leonie Fairbairn

Thornby Moor Dairy

Crofton Hall




Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9am to 5.30pm

Sat 10am to 5.00pm

Tel/Fax 016973 45555




Salad seedlings good to go

This is THE month for sowing seeds for a delicious summer-I’m hard at work in my vegetable garden sowing in anticipation of super fresh goodies to eat later in the year. Of course there are a few hurdles to surmount not least the vagaries of the British weather ( too much rain, not enough rain, too cold, too hot, not enough sun and too much sun) and the indiscriminate chomping by slugs and worse.

I have just sown some lovely rocket and mixed salad  and am looking forward to the peppery taste of the rocket and the freshness of the leaves which I will pick as a ‘cut and come again’ that is harvesting a few leaves at a time and leaving the plant to grow on and produce more and more…-no more smelly supermarket bags of leaves for me. The ones in the picture are just getting going but the fleece is on stand by in case we get a cold night and the crushed egg shells a good and organic deterrent to unwelcome guest who also want an easy meal. My favourite ‘Charlotte’ potatoes are in, these waxy, thin skinned salad potato  will be dug up to order and on the table before you can say Golden Delicous…. melting with butter or perhaps a little olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh herbs-quite yummy.  My little sons, when pressed into work in the vegetable garden didn’t need any encouraging to dig up the potatoes they said they ‘were digging for gold’ and they were.

Fresh herbs are perhaps the best to grow for culinary excitement so you can pick big generous handfuls later in the year rather than be content with the mingy little growing pots of over forced herbs in the supermarket.  My easy favourites are the aniseedy dill to serve with fish or just sprinkled over a creamy mayonnaise and the fragrant, spicy coriander to add sparkle to curries and and wake up my taste buds after winter comfort foods. Sweetcorn can be set off now (inside for this), nothing is better than eating the cobs straight from the plant and briefly cooked on a smokey barbeque. Homegrown peas are just the best, mine rarely make it to the kitchen let alone a pan of boiling water, I like them raw sprinkled over a salad or lightly crushed with some olive oil and garlic to make a chunky dip. I could go on…tiny sweet beetroots and baby turnips, finger thin carrots and more unusual vegetable such as pak choi and chicory..I am getting ahead of myself and there is a lot of work and TLC to be put in before I can enjoy the fruits of my labour.

However if you are new to this lark then start of with the easiest things and then you won’t be put of if things go wrong (and they do even for the experienced gardener)-my bet would be the salads and the peas.

Good luckx