Chicken, broccoli and sweet chilli noodles

The trouble with kids is that if you say ‘you must eat 5 a day’, ‘you must eat your greens’……they can stick their heels in and REFUSE to have anything AT ALL to do with ‘healthy eating!! So finding new ways to introduce vegetables into their diet is important-it’s no good cooking dishes, however nutritious, if they don’t appeal to the little darlings.

Here is an easy supper dish you can rustle up in between activities and homework…using ‘super’ broccoli-a super food if ever there was one. I have packed in lots of vegetables, chicken and served it up with noodles-always good for a slurp. Try eating this with chopsticks for even more possibilities for hilarity. My top tip is to involve children in preparing their own food-they are much more likely to want to eat something they have made themselves. Participation depends on what you are cooking and age of the children but there is always some thing that can do help with such as cutting up the vegetables, setting the table, deciding the weeks menue or clearing away. Have a go with this recipe:





Pretty pink forced Yorkshire rhubarb
Pretty pink forced Yorkshire rhubarb

Now who can resist this beautifully pink delicate rhubarb with its chartreuse frilly hat…not me..I couldn’t walk past my local green grocers without buying this precious delight. It has a very short season, blink and you have missed it. It also comes from Yorkshire so what more could a Yorkshire girl want. It is mysteriously grown in the dark and cut by candlelight-the lack of light ‘forcing’ it to produce the slim, pink wands. A special ingredient needs delicate handling and a special recipe. So here is my rhubarb and almond tart just for you. It was inspired by a similar tart I had at a very special hotel the AltnaHarrie Inn (now closed) near Ullapool in Wester Ross, Scotland. When you arrived on the quay side you had to telephone (from the red telephone box of course-younger readers -that is how we used to make phone calls) and they would send a small boat to pick you up. Very romantic. I made some scribbles on a napkin and from these wrote this recipe 20 years later.


Rhubarb and almond tart
Rhubarb and almond tart

Continue reading “RHUBARB AND ALMOND TART”



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


Christmas Rocky Road
Christmas Rocky Road

Here is a Christmas treat, easy for children to make (with supervision) and a lovely present for them to give (if you can wrest it out of their hands). Best to make two lots I think. Don’t deviate from the recipe-it has to be Rich Tea biscuits and mini marshmallows, good butter and good chocolate…simple and delicious for everybody.



Zabaglione Trifle slice

It is all very well Nigella swanning around her Christmas kitchen looking gorgeous and sparkly and I do dream that this could be me….one year but to be honest it rarely (I’ve had my moments….) works out this way.

I love to make delicious food for all my family and friends and not spend all my time in the kitchen (who wants to anyway?). There is only one solution -PLANNING and help from the best Christmas helper of all -THE FREEZER.

Squirrel away some lovely dishes now for Christmas and then you really can put on your sparkly dress, have a glass of champagne, relax and enjoy some delicious meals. I am starting off (as I mean to go on) with a favourite pud-Zabaglione Trifle slice. A trifle is a Christmas must have and this one is based on the Italian zabaglione pudding. It is easy to make and freeze and makes a great alternative to Christmas pudding for those that don’t care for it. Have a go, pop this in your freezer and relax that’s one ticked off the list-spend the extra time shopping for something sparkly to wear.




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




The best ever chunky guacamole!

False modesty has never been my strong point so I can say, hand on heart, that this is really the best ever chunky guacamole ever! I’m a bit of a nibbler and dipper and would happily forgo any ‘proper’ meals for a life of nibbling and dipping. This guacamole is one of my favourites with a homemade hummus coming a very close second (recipe to come), perfect for sharing with friends (as long as they are not too hungry and leave me with none ) and for casual eating.The only slight problem is the general state of avocados available to buy-they tend to be rock hard so you need to plan ahead, buy them hard and leave them to ripen on a sunny window sill. I suppose I can see the supermarket’s dilemma (although I am not generally sympathetic to them) the problem is that you wait and wait for them to ripen and then they do and very quickly go over and spoil, blacken and strangely fibrous inside.

Here is my recipe for…





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.