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Tag Archives: Fruit

Compiling My Perfect Cheeseboard

I both love cheese and am a bit funny with it at the same time. I like it cooked (hot and melted) but I’m not overly keen on it just on its own. Except with certain cheeses in certain circumstances. As with most things, I’m basically just picky! I didn’t grow up eating cheese (I wasn’t allowed it, don’t ask but yes, a children’s birthday party at Pizza Hut when I was little was just cruel when I wasn’t allowed to eat the pizza! Twice!)

I spent some time when I was 19 working on the deli counter in a Booths supermarket up in Lancaster. They’re family owned, all in the North West and often called “The Waitrose of the North”. I think they’re better than Waitrose but then I was fully indoctrinated! I spent large parts of my time asking anyone local who ordered Wensleydale to repeat themselves because it sounded like something off of Wallace and Gromit. Such fun. I spent the rest of my time tasting cheese, learning about it, sampling it and plotting cheeseboard meals to rival those we had at The Water Witch in Lancaster – they don’t appear to do them anymore sadly.

I’m not really a ‘little bit of cheese with a couple of crackers and a grape after dessert’ kind of girl, I’m more about an entire meal centered around cheese. There are no recipes here as such, just my musings and product recommendations on how I like to put together a cheese feast.

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The Cheese

It seems churlish not to start with the star ingredient. The cheese. As I said, I’m picky. In brief, I don’t eat any cheese that isn’t made with cows milk (especially goat’s cheese which I think tastes like licking a barnyard floor – bleugh! but also ewe milk so feta, manchego, etc.), I don’t eat blue cheese (have you ever tried to cut Dolcelatte on a hangover? Try it and you’ll never eat the stuff either) and I’m not crazy keen on very hard cheeses, especially very strong ones. Whilst I love rind ripened soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert, I don’t eat the rind so I have an elaborate ritual of cutting it off as I’m eating it. Maybe one day I’ll grow up and like it but maybe not!

Where to Purchase – Now you can of course go to a fancy cheese deli and purchase a multitude of fancy cheeses in one place but I’m not made of money so for the above pictured board I went to a few different places including M&S and Sainsbury’s to put it together. I’ve tried to make all of my links in this post supermarket orientated so they’re easy for everyone to find but smaller independents should have a lot of these too. The top supermarket trick is however to head to the cheese counter rather than the pre-packaged section. Firstly, you can get smaller chunks of more cheeses – variety is the spice of life after all. Secondly, the same cheese will usually be cheaper at the counter than on the shelf. Double check first tho.

Storage – Before I get down to the nitty gritty, some quick thoughts on storage. Cheese should be stored in the fridge. It shouldn’t however be stored in plastic as it’ll sweat. Ideally on getting home, you’ll unwrap the cheese and wrap it in wax paper or more likely, greaseproof paper then put it in the fridge. A lot of supermarkets, especially M&S do however now pre-wrap their cheese in breathable plastic – the wrapper tends to be baggy rather than clingy and has a matt, slightly waxy texture. Make sure to take the cheese out of the fridge at least 20/30 minutes before serving to come to room temperature – probably slightly longer for a soft cheese like Brie and Camembert.

Presentation – You can of course just stick the blocks of cheese on a board with a couple of knives and be done with it. I have however become a fan of pre-slicing some chunks of harder cheeses, especially if serving a crowd buffet style.  This cuts down on weird cutting practices and folks standing around waiting while one person goes to town. Don’t cut more than you think will be eaten on the first round, more can be cut on an ongoing basis as the board is revisited.  I don’t tend to pre-cut soft cheese but sometimes present it in two smaller halves. I have a friend who is convinced that it is super rude when attacking cheese to cut off the ‘nose’ or as I’d call it; ‘pointy’ bit of the cheese as that is the premium cut (the soft gooey bit in the very middle). This always seems to lead to some very elaborate side cutting and I’ve never fully cleared up at what point ‘the nose’ can in fact be consumed! I work on the basis of ‘you snooze, you lose’. Crack on.

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The Range – I’d recommend picking a cheese from each of the following categories for a very full and well rounded cheese board. A lot of cheeseboard compilers always seem to say…pick one or two great cheeses and keep it simple. Sod that! As far as I’m concerned – its all about the variety – trying something different whilst getting to indulge in some old favourites. And you know what, if you want to serve three different varieties of brie, then do that too.

Soft CheeseBrie, Camembert or even Stinking Bishop. Even better – Waterloo – the buttery god of soft cheeses. You can obviously go with a stinky french Brie De Meaux for authenticity (sometimes these taste a big ‘cabbagey’ to me) or try one of the many English made Bries such as Cornish Organic (the organic one is far superior to the regular one if you can get it). M&S used to do an amazing ‘Brie cheese’ (as its known in my house) but sadly they discontinued it and we shall forever mourn its loss.  Whichever you choose, make sure that there is no chalky core to the cheese and that is it oozy the whole way through. Leave it at room temp to ripen to ooey-gooey stage if needs be.

Medium Hard Cheese – These are your Cheddar, Double Gloucester, Cheshire and Lancashire type cheeses. My preference is a creamy Lancashire (there are a lot of varieties of Lancashire but very few are widely available). Cheshire is rather tangy and quite crumbly, nor my favourite. Folk tend to love a strong cheddar that bites back – look for something farmhouse made or for a strong Lancashire – the ever popular Grandma Singletons.  If you really can’t decide – go for some retro Stripy Jack/5 Counties for ultimate variety.

Smoked Cheese – Something a little different on the palette. The perennial favourite is Applewood but if you’re snobby about it (it is heavily processed and fake smoked) go for something like the Hickory Red Leicester from M&S (no online link). There are many Bavarian style smoked cheeses or Austrian ones in sausage shapes available from the supermarkets too.

Goat Cheese – God only knows why but folk do seem to enjoy a bit of chevre. You’ll see that some sneaked onto the above board to satisfy my housemate’s love of barnyard flavours. There is a whole world of goat’s cheese out there but I have little knowledge about it so I’m not best based to advise!

Blue Cheese – Again not really my cup of tea but I do know there is a massive variety of blue cheese out there. There are the creamy Dolcelatte and Gorgonzolas, brie style blues like Cambozola, harder blues like Shropshire Blue and of course the perennial favourite Stilton. I’d probably choose a style of blue in place of another style unless picking a stilton. Oh and by the way, you can now buy ‘Light Blue Cheese Triangles’. What has the world come too.

Flavoured Cheese – This is something that people can be a bit snobby about but these can sometimes be my favourite cheeses.  Wendsleydale with Cranberries, White Stilton with Apricot and Double Gloucester with Onion and Chive are probably the most ubiquitous. For the above board I tried some Wensleydale with Date and Orange and it was amazing. I’m also a fan of Red Leicester Whirl with Garlic and I’m not above a bit of roule. There is a whole world of flavoured cheeses to try…it’s hard to go to any kind of food market without finding at least one stall full of wax covered truckles with weird flavour cheese – Snowdonia is probably the most prevalent.  Some others that used to be super popular at Booths were Bowland, Sage Derby and White Stilton with Lemon.

The Rest – There are of course a million other options. I can’t make a cheese board without the semi-soft Port Salut – I do prefer the big chunk rather than the small whole cheese. If you can find the real thing on a cheese counter however – jump on it – its a world apart and delicious.  I also like to go for what I’d term a ‘rubbery cheese’ – something like Jarlsberg or Gouda. Or there are a multitude of creamy continental options like Doux de Montagne and a whole mass of harder options like Comte, Gruyere and Manchego (ewes milk). If you’re not sure – go to a cheese counter, ask for a recommendation and try some options before committing. Oh and last but not least, if I have any Graceburn Cheese in, that is definitely going on the board (in a ramekin!)

What to avoid – There are some cheeses that are just not overly suited to a cheese board but that’s not too say you can’t add them if you want to but I wouldn’t bother unless you feel strongly about it. I won’t put a Parmesan/Pecorino on a cheese board – its too strong and too dry  – best saved for grating over pasta in my book. Cream and cottage cheeses including Ricotta and Mascarpone  aren’t really practical. Similarly, Mozzarella, even the super expensive buffalo milk kind and the delicious Burrata isn’t a great cheeseboard option – best kept for savouring on its own or with a little (a lot) parma ham – it’ll be overpowered in this situation. Halloumi (which has a heady combination of goat, ewe and cow milks *boke*) is best grilled for a vegetarian and Feta would just be weird. Whilst I am often a fan of reduced fat cheese for things like Mac’n’Cheese, this is not the time or place. Its usually the texture that is compromised and its not good eating. If you’re having a cheeseboard, you’re not dieting so just don’t bother!


The Meat

Obviously my favourite part!

I like to try and go for a selection of cured meats and sausage. In the case of the below selection, I have included serrano ham, mortadella, milano salami and chunky chorizo. There is also a revelation of a product in Sainsburys called Sobrasada De Mallorca which is basically a soft chorizo which a super porky taste which we loved. Which type of ham and which type of sausage you choose is hugely down to personal preference. I would recommend at least one variety of each however. For a spicy kick and alternative to the Sobrasada, a good n’duja (nuh-jew-ah) would be a delight.

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Where and How to Purchase – In exactly the same way as cheese, cured meats are better procured from the deli counter – Morrisons is my preferred affordable option. The meat in Morrisons is generally the most superior supermarket meat (and all British).  Its best to specify with some serious emphasis that any parma ham/serrano ham/prosciutto is sliced extra thin – “oh but it will fall apart” the assistant will say – clearly having never gnawed on a piece of overly thick ham akin to boot leather.  Insist I tell you!  And also ensure that each slice is separated by a piece of film or you’ll find a giant lump of ham that tears into tiny shreds as you try to pull the slices apart. This isn’t such an issue with the salamis and you can slice them as you prefer – I do again prefer them on the thinner side, mostly to not entirely overpower the cheese. This time I went for a chorizo ring sliced into thick chunks to provide another texture. Obviously an independent neighbourhood deli would be an excellent outlet for this sort of thing but unless for a vary rare treat – my budget does not afford me this luxury.

Presentation – There is something to be said for cheeseboards with fruit and cured meats sexily draped around and about the cheese but the practical reality is that that is a pain to eat. And no good if you have any vegetarian’s coming. So I usually present the meats separately – in this case in a enamel tin with the soft chorizo as a focal point in a glass ramekin. I also like to try and give the flat items a bit of a ‘tszuj’ (this is apparently how you spell the word pronounced something like ‘juyz’ or ‘juj’) by folding the salamis into quarters, pinching the middle point together and then putting them on the plate – they should then fan out a bit. Clearly not necessary but it does increase the visual a bit – the same with draping slices of cured ham – much nicer looking than a flat pack of plastic separated slices!


The Bread

All bread is good. I’m especially a fan of the mass produced sliced white bread much hated by food snobs around the world. Bacon sandwiches any other way are basically a travesty. However, even I have to admit that a cheeseboard situation is a time for something a little more refined. I’m a big fan of a ‘cutty’ granary loaf or roll.

In this case, I decided to try a bit of bread baking. With the exception of my old faithful Sodabread and Garlick Tear’n’Share Loaf, bread is not my forte.

With the delightful help of Catie, my latest new housemate/sous-chef, I whipped up a Focaccia with Infused Oil from Perfect Plates, the latest gorgeous book by Bake off Winner John Whaite. Not my most successful bake ever – the dough is super sticky and is probably best made in a stand mixer as advised in the book! My new vintage Kenwood will be tried and tested with the recipe at some point in the near future.

I also made Dan Lepard‘s Alehouse Rolls from Short and Sweet which were very odd to make! The method starts with boiling oats in a whole bottle of ale then leaving this to macerate  for a while.  The rest of the method involved very little kneading but many stages of brief kneads followed by resting periods. Nothing difficult but I should have started baking them at least one, if not two hours earlier. The result was still pretty damn good and the went down a storm but I thought they needed a little more salt. Another one to definitely try again sometime.


The Condiments

You can get the best cheese, the best meat and the best bread but without some well selected condiments, you may as well not have bothered. Ok a bit harsh maybe, unaccompanied cheese is better than no cheese but still a good condiment can elevate the whole thing to another level.

My absolute mainstay is this Caramelized Red Onion Chutney from M&S. I’m not really a chutney girl – I find them too astringent and overpowering so red onion is the way to go for me. I’ve tried a multitude and settled on the M&S option as my preference. I will make a special trip to M&S for it – much easier now a Foodhall has opened in East Dulwich!

My other new favourite condiment is this Spicy Peach Chutney from Waitrose – delicious. Sadly a Waitrose has yet to open nearby (sort it out people) so I’d run out by this cheeseboard day. Now I have a car, I have frequented a number of Waitroses and I’m once again fully stocked!

Last but not least and a discovery on cheeseboard day itself is this Sticky Fig Chutney from Sainsburys.  No hint of cinnamon as it seems to state and no real hint of the apple that is also apparently in there either but figgy and delicious. And great with cheese.


The Rest

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Mushroom Pâté – Now its not often I choose the vegetarian version of something over the meaty version but pâté is one of them (along with haggis). Waitrose used to do an amazing Mushroom and Arborio Rice Pâté on their counters but they seem to have discontinued this a couple of years ago but I’ve recently discovered Castle MacLellan Oven Roasted Mushroom Pâté which is delicious as heck. I’ve tried a couple of supermarket own brand mushroom pâtés which were considerably cheaper of late and they’ve all gone in the bin. This one is available in a few supermarkets, not just Sainsbos.

Salad – As I mentioned in my intro, I prefer salad with my cheese rather than fruit. I tend to go for a fairly strong leaf such as Wild Rocket or Baby Spinach which will stand up to the other strong flavours.  Don’t go to town with this, a good handful will see through quite a crowd.

Bell Peppers – or ‘capsicums’ as my Aussie housemates insist on calling them despite that having all the equivalent precision of calling lilies, tulips and daisies ‘flowers’ or onions, leeks, garlic and ‘allium’. Anyway. Peppers provide a bit of crunch which is otherwise lacking. You could of course go with something like celery but as I’m convinced that no one actually likes celery, don’t. Also, no one like a bitter green pepper so try and stick with yellow, orange or red varieties.

Red Onions – By the time I’ve done with my red onions, they’re no longer providing any crunch and the biting acidity is toned down but I’d not have a cheeseboard without them. The treatment is the same as with my onion topping on my Carrot, Red Lentil and Satay Meal Soup – basically finely slice 1 small Red Onion and add to a bowl with 1 tsp White Sugar and 1 tsp Lime or Lemon Juice and a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes. Gently mix together to coat the onion and set aside for at least 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Figs – You know how I said no fruit? Well I make an exception for figs (as I am clearly obsessed by the prevalence of them on my blog! Nothing funky required here – just quarter and serve some good ripe figs (if you can get hold of any).  Saying that, a drizzle of honey would be rather delicious….


Final Thoughts

Let me know what you normally do – have I missed anything? Do you think something I do is weird? Any tips?

I’m off to buy some cheese…..

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The Great Date Bar Experimentation

Apologies for the title, I’ve watched a lot of Big Bang Theory episodes this week. Also apologies for disappearing for a month or so. Going to Turkey for the week before Christmas meant some serious pre-planning, organisation and socialising in early December followed by Christmas itself, the black hole that is now known as ‘twixmas’ and then rather than #NewYearNewMe, my body opted for #NewYearEpicMigraine. Good times. I usually use the festive period and time off work to do as much baking and cooking as I feasibly can. What actually happened was that I ended up doing sod all, so what should have been blogging material gold, turned into arid blogging desert.

To the experiment…..I’m ironically not that good at snacking. Its not that I can’t snack, I can put away a whole packet of Viscounts or French Fancies in a (clogged) heartbeat but I’ve never got ‘healthy snacking’ down. I had a brief foray a year or two ago when I discovered that I could manage some raw carrot sticks and hummus and I can eat the occasional fun-size banana but the whole ‘handful of almonds’ or ‘stick of celery and tablespoon of unsweetened peanut butter’ shtick – yak! I have however recently discovered that I actually quite like date based energy bars – the kind that include no added sugar but still genuinely taste sweet and don’t feel like health food. My particular favourite is the Cocoa Chocolate Orange Nakd variety but they’re 75p each or £2.50/£2.75 for a pack of 4. They’re 135 calories each which isn’t too bad when calorie counting (a banana is 90-120kcal depending on size) and I do actually feel like I’ve had a snack when finished, even though they’re only small. Nakd also handily provide its ingredients list with percentages so I decided that I’d try and recreate them at home….and here the experiment began…

Makes 10 – 148kcal each

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Ingredients:

140g Cashew Nuts
140g Dates
50g Seedless Raisins
20g Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Orange Essence
4 tsp Hot Water


My first step was to calculate the quantity of ingredients I would need to make 10 x 35g bars – 350g in total. The ingredients as listed on the Nakd bar I was trying to replicate are 40% dates, 40% cashews, 15% raisins, 4% cocoa and orange flavour – I assumed the missing 1% was made up of the flavouring and water. I measured the ingredients out per the above list and prepared my mini Kenwood chopper for some hard work.

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As I don’t have a large processor, the Kenwood mini would have to do – as a result I had to grind the ingredients individually. I started with 140g Cashews:

This was as fine as I was able to grind them without adding some sort of abrasive such as salt so I hoped that this would be sufficient and moved onto the 140g Dates and 50g Raisins.

My mixer struggled a little with this – the mixture was very stiff and tended to clump above the mixer blades. I had to let down the mixture somehow so added 1 tsp Orange Essence and 1 tsp Hot Water which did help somewhat.

I emptied the mashed dates into 20g Cocoa Powder and the ground cashews and started mixing, initially with a spoon but latterly with my hands – some proper schmushing was required.  The mixture was very dry so I added a further 3tbsp Hot Water which gave me the texture I was looking for.

I mushed the mixture into a flattish rectangle using a lined loaf tin to help me get an even shape – I spent a good few minutes on this to try and get the mix equally thick all the way to the ends and edges so each of my bars could be cut evenly.

I couldn’t see any reason to let the mixture sit or chill before cutting it so I went straight ahead and cut 10 bars with a sharp knife. The slab cut really easily with no tearing or splitting and the texture was very reminiscent of that of the Nakd bars.

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I didn’t want the bars to dry out so I wrapped each individually in greaseproof paper and put the batch (minus the one I tried!) into a sealed sandwich bag. I have put them in the fridge but there is nothing realistically that needs to be kept chilled so I will be moving them to my desk drawer next week (if they last that long).

Overall I’m super pleased with how these turned out – the dates aren’t clumpy, the bars look, feel and taste almost identical to the original and I’m fairly sure they work out cheaper to make for fairly little effort. I’ve calculated this as follows:

140g Dates – £1.12
140g Cashews – £1.75
50g Raisins – £0.17
20g Cocoa Powder – £0.16
1 tsp Orange Essence – £0.58

Total – £3.78
Per Bar – £0.38

With Nakd bars costing a full price minimum of £0.62 when buying a pack of 4 at £2.50, this means that you can make a saving of 24p per bar which is going to add up rather fast.

My Final Thoughts

Next time I make these, I will be adding all 4 tsp of hot water to the dates and raisins when they are in the processor to help the chopping – if its needed, it may as well be added where it is most helpful.

I made an assumption when looking at the Nakd ingredients list that the percentages given related to weight of the ingredients. My calorie calculations (using My Fitness Pal) tell me that each of my bars (35g each) contain 148 Kcal compared to Nakd’s 136 Kcal. There does seem to be a lot of ground nut in these bars – not enough to affect the taste but I do wonder that if I revisited the percentages on a volume rather than weight basis, maybe that would be more true to the original recipe and would reduce the calorie count of each bar. I will try this at some point the future and I will also revisit the amount of water I used as I think less with be needed to counteract the dryness of the ground cashews.

There are obviously endless possibilities of flavour combinations to be tried here. Various other nuts could be substituted – pecans, walnuts or the ubiquitous almond and other dried fruits could be added/substituted – I have bought a bag of dried figs to try for example and a friend recently experimented with dried apricots.

Just in case you are concerned, I am not advocating any kind of sugar, gluten or dairy free or otherwise ‘clean’ diet – I just happen to like these bars and they just happen to have no added sugar or gluten in them. I guess they’re vegan too aren’t they! I hate myself for posting this and I will continue to eat them with a builders brew with 2 sugars and cows milk. And a slice of ham.

Maple Roasted Fig and Serrano Ham Salad

I work next door to Borough Market – yay foodie heaven you might think and whilst you’re technically right, I don’t work in investment banking nor have 2 hour lunch breaks so I can neither afford to eat there regularly or have the time to navigate a hell hole of slow moving and oblivious tourists. You know the kind that just stop in the middle of the path and stand there like morons while everyone behind them withers to nothing? Borough is full of them. And then there can be the queues. I found 50+ people waiting at my one preferred lunch stand a couple of sunny Fridays ago. Nope!

Last week we had a new member of the office arrive so we went to the pub for lunch. When we emerged it was hammering it down (love August) and as I had no jacket or umbrella, I thought returning back to the office via the relative cover of the market was a good plan. It wasn’t on the whole but my eye was caught by one of the relatively few reasonably priced produce stalls and I ended up with 4 plump fresh figs for £2. Now – what to do with them?!

I do most of my ‘proper’ cooking when cooking for more than just me, so with a friend heading round for a Saturday evening in, I decided to make us a little salad to precede the spelt pizza I also made.

This was a hearty starter and the portions could be a light lunch. For a more generous main course, just increase the ingredient quantities – you can be quite free and easy with the ratios.

I was going to serve fresh mozzarella with this salad too but my 50% reduced fat ball of cheese was not of ‘eating raw’ quality so I stuck with a small amount of Graceburn Cheese. You could use any kind of fresher cheese such as ricotta, feta or mozzarella or if you are that way included, a soft blue cheese.

Serves 2 – 292 Kcal

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Ingredients:

4 Fresh Figs
2 tbsp Maple Syrup
2 large handfuls of Wild Rocket Leaves
4 slices Serrano (or Parma) Ham
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 tbsp Graceburn Cheese (or 1 tbsp EV Olive Oil and another fresh cheese)
Sea Salt Flakes


Start by preheating the oven to a quite high temp – about 220c or equivalent.

Slice into 4 Fresh Figs from the top so they are quartered lengthways but don’t cut through the bottom so each fruit remains as one piece. Fan the quarters out slightly and place each in a small lined oven tray.

Drizzle 2 tbsp Maple Syrup over the figs and sprinkle with Sea Salt Flakes. Put in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the figs have softened a little and released some of their juice.

Meanwhile, arrange 2 large handfuls of Wild Rocket Leaves over 2 medium size plates and drape 4 slices Serrano (or Parma) Ham over the leaves.

Once the figs are ready, add 2 to each plate of leaves and ham and stir 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar into the remaining juices

 Tip – If you are using something other than Graceburn Cheese, also add 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the juices and vinegar.

Lightly scatter 2 tbsp Graceburn Cheese over the two salads along with a little of the olive oil marinade from the jar.

Drizzle the salad with the fig juice dressing and serve.

For a heartier meal, why not try this with a side of my super easy Oregano and Chilli Sodabread?

Scotch Pancakes with Bourbon, Peach and Ginger Compote

I love pancakes. Thick, thin or savoury, I’m in. I’ll extend to their near cousins the waffle too. And I’m not shy about having them for meals that aren’t breakfast or brunch either.

This is a pretty classic scotch pancake recipe made a little more grown up with the addition of booze.  I last made this on pancake day as the dessert course for a major pancake feast. Serve with some crème fraiche to cut through the sweetness of the compote. The scotch pancakes can of course also be made and topped with anything else like golden or maple syrup.  Bacon would be a great addition for breakfast.

Apologies for the shoddy photo.

Serves 4 – 262 Kcal per serving

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Scotch Pancake Ingredients:

125g Self Raising Flour
2 tbsp Caster Sugar
1/2 tsp Sea Salt Flakes
1 Large Egg
150ml Skimmed Milk
Frylight Spray (not the Olive Oil one)

Bourbon, Peach and Ginger Compote Ingredients:

1 tin Peach Slices or Halves in Juice
1 ball Stem Ginger
1 tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Bourbon


To make the compote:

Chop 1 tin Peach Slices or Halves in Juice into small pieces and add to a small saucepan along with a finely diced 1 ball Stem Ginger and 1 tbsp Dark Brown Sugar. Place on a medium heat and bring to a gentle boil, stirring the sugar in until melted.

Add 2 tbsp Bourbon and leave the compote to simmer gently while you make the pancakes.

Tip – Add a little water if the compote starts to become dry. 

To make the Pancakes:

Measure 125g Self Raising Flour, 2 tbsp. Caster Sugar and 1/2 tsp Sea Salt Flakes into a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Make a well in the centre of the bowl and add 1 Large Egg.  Start adding 150ml Skimmed Milk bit by bit and whisking the batter until all the milk is combined. Try to whisk any lumps out when the mix is still quite thick as they are harder to get out a more liquid batter.

Turn the oven onto a low heat to keep the batches of pancakes warm as you go along.

Heat a medium frying pan to just smoking point then turn down to a medium heat.

Spray the pan with 3 sprays of Frylight Spray.

Using a tablespoon of batter for each, make 4 piles of batter in the pan, leaving room for each to spread a little. If they spread and touch, it isn’t an issue but try to make them not touch for rounder pancakes.

When little bubbles start to appear on the surface – about a minute, flip each pancake over. Start with the first one you put in the pan and work round in the same order.

Leave the pancakes for another 30-60 seconds and check the colour underneath. when golden brown, remove from the pan and transfer to a plate in the oven to keep warm.

Repeat the process until all of the batter is used, there should be circa 16 pancakes made in 4 batches.

Serve 4 warm pancakes per portion with the warm compote and some crème fraiche.

They can be rewarmed for 20 seconds in the microwave or in a dry pan and will keep for a couple of days.

The compot will last up to a week in the fridge.

Peach and Ginger Crumble

I am a fruit dodger. There I’ve said it. I hate apples, pears, raspberries, blueberries, melon and everything flavoured by them. I can’t tuck into a fresh peach, apricot or orange although I do like their flavour. Strawberries are bearable but only covered in some sugar and I will have some of these softer fruits baked with sugar for a pudding. I can eat a banana in a pinch but I have to buy the kids size ones or I get overwhelmed by the texture.

Crumble is therefore an issue. I love the crumble, but I generally hate the fruit. I am however extremely talented at siphoning crumble off of fruit!. I do however sometime make my own with my preferred 20% fruit to 80% crumble ratio. I have found that I don’t mind a peach crumble, especially with the addition of my favourite spice – ginger.

You have been warned – I like everything very sweet. This recipe is acclimatised to my tastes – you can vary it by leaving out the sugar in the fruit, reducing the sugar in the crumble, even doubling the amount of fruit and/or halving the amount of crumble (wierdos!)

Best served with custard, clotted cream or double cream are also options, as is crème fraiche which works to cut through the sweetness quite well.

Serves 4

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Ingredients:

8 Fresh Peaches or 2 tins Peach Slices
25g Dark Brown Sugar (Muscovado)
1 ball Stem Ginger
2 tbsp Syrup from Stem Ginger Jar
200g Self Raising Flour
100g Light Spread (Or butter)
100g Caster Sugar
1 tbsp Demerara or Caster Sugar


Preheat the oven to 200c or equivalent.

Peel and chop 8 Fresh Peaches into small chunks and put into a medium saucepan onto a medium heat with a splash of water. Or slice 2 Tins of Sliced Peaches and do them same.

Add 25g Dark Brown Sugar to the peaches along with 1 ball Stem Ginger, finely diced and 2 tbsp Syrup from the Stem Ginger Jar and leave to simmer gently while making the topping.

Dollop little hunks of 100g Light Spread into 200g Self Raising Flour and rub in.

Tip – Using the tips of your fingers rub the spread through the flour until the mixture has the texture something like breadcrumbs. Some bigger lumps won’t kill anyone.

Stir 100g Caster Sugar through the flour and spread mix and set aside.

Check the fruit mix – the sugar should be dissolved and the fruit soft most of the way though. If it at all dry, stir through a little more water. Take off the heat.

Line a tin or oven dish, ideally with greaseproof paper.

Tip – I usually use loaf or cake tin liners from poundland for easy clean-up. Otherwise butter the dish.

Tip the fruit mix into the lined tin/dish and pour over the topping mix. Spread the topping so it covers the fruit.

Tip – I tend to heap the topping slightly higher in the middle to ensure a gooey centre and help the fruit juices to attractively bubble up the sides.

Tip – Perversely I sometimes put a layer of topping on the bottom for extra gooeybits like in the below pic.

Sprinkle 1 tbsp of Demerara or Caster Sugar over the top for crunch and pop in the oven for around 30 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Serve as mentioned above with custard, cream, clotted cream or crème fraiche.

Warning – the fruit will be hotter than hell – try to give it a few minutes so as not to burn your mouth!

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