Big Allotment Challenge: Okra Night

Pickled Okra

Pickled Okra

Okra is the Marmite of vegetables: you love it, you hate it there is no middle way. But it is possible to move from the hate stage to the love one as I’ve found out.
My first experince of okra were in cheap though not necessary cheerful “Indian” restaurants around the hospital where I trained. We would all save up and go out of a monthly curry and whilst I focused on the Tandori Chicken there was always some idiot who wasted some of our meagre cash on a Bhindi Bhaji. This slimy mess was an anathema to me, I wanted meat, hot dhal and buttered naan bread, but as we always split the bill I would force down my share of slime. Continue reading

Big Allotment Challenge : Jam Night

Home made jam

Utterly Delicious Homemade Jam

Tonight on Big Allotment Challenge our contestant are asked to make two jars of jam, one savoury and one sweet and boy do they struggle!
While jam making is most usually a summer pastime when soft fruits like raspberries, strawberries or orchard fruit like plums and apricots are at their best, provided you stick to some simple rules you can make jars of delicious jam at any time of year.
Don’t be phased by the lengthy instructions below a quick read through and you set to go.

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Big Allotment Challenge : Green Pea Dip

FullSizeRender Tonight on The Big Allotment Challenge I’ve asked the gardeners to make a dip with the peas they’ve grown for Jim Butress. I’m quite hard to please, as you may have noticed, but I love food and want it to be as fresh and as good as possible. I’m giving a recipe for my green pea dip here, it’s made from frozen peas at this time of year and you’ll probably have them in your freezer, most of the other ingredients are ones you can find in the kitchen.
Make substitutions if you’ve not got exactly what I say: creme fraiche or soured cream can be used in place of the yogurt and Tabasco can replace the red chilli. Continue reading

Mango and Lemon Chutney : A Perfect Preserve


Picture by Keiko Oikawa

You would think, given that my shelves groan under the weight of pickles and jam, I might take a year off from preserving. Or that at least is what my husband hoped, but then on Saturday I was walking through Chapel Market, near my home in Islington, and I saw five large, no enormous, mangos for £2.50. I was lost, mango chutney called to me. This I hopes illustrates one of the rules I have for preserving  and it is that you should pick what ever is good and plentiful and make your jams, chutneys and pickles from that bounty. This recipe is a family favourite and comes from my new book. Continue reading

A Quick, Tasty Mincemeat Cake

Mincemeat cakeFinding a jar of mincemeat in one’s cupboard can have you knocking up a batch of mince pies, or even a pan of the mincemeat flapjack in my previous post, but if you want something a little less rich this “plain” cake is quick to make, satisfyingly moist and quick to disappear.
The cake is made by the “rubbing in” method where soft butter or margarine is rubbed , with your fingertips, into the flour giving the texture of bread crumbs. The other ingredients are stirred in and then the cake is ready for the oven. Continue reading

Sticky Christmas Flapjack

Mincemeat FlapjackThese delicious sticky oaty squares are an easy alternative to mince pies allowing all the taste of Christmas with little of the work that rolling and cutting the pastry needs. The recipe has the added bonus of using exactly a whole jar of mincemeat. I cannot be alone in finding that I am always left with either a spoonful of mincemeat and no pastry case or a couple of pastry cases and no mincemeat. Such are the problems that I strive with each December.
The recipe is very simple: mix the dry ingredients, melt the butter then stir this in. Then press half the oat mixture into your tin, carefully spread over the mincemeat and top with the remaining oats. Bake, cool, cut and eat. Continue reading

Perfect Preserves: My lovely new book

Perfect Preserves by Thane PrinceI am often asked when it was I first began my love affair with preserving and, thinking about it for a while, I realise that I have been fascinated by jars of jams, jellies and chutneys since I was very small. The craft of preserving and stocking the pantry was an integral part of my childhood, when my mother would follow the seasons, pickling, bottling and potting whatever could be safely stored away to enliven our food in the bleak North Norfolk winters.
I loved to help and not only because I was a hungry little girl, it was more than that. I’m sure my affection was based on the love and security that comes with a shared task, the filled shelves and the glow of an important job well done, as much as a promise of something sweet for my tea. Continue reading

Staying at Le Manoir or My Night in Heaven.

Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

It’s hard to know where to start when speaking about Le Manoir: do you begin by talking about the beauty of the setting, the mellow Cotswold stone building with it’s exquisitely appointed rooms, the extensive grounds where you can wander from manicured lawns to Japanese water gardens, finding assorted statuary dotted in wood and field or do you start with the food. Continue reading


Rome with Castel St Angelo on the right

Rome with Castel St Angelo on the right

I love cities. I love everything about them: the noise, the energy, the bustle but most of all I love their endless possibilities. In a city you can go anywhere, be anything, change your hair style, your life style and your job without comment. Having grown up in a small town I loved the anonymity of London when I first arrived here and since then apart from a brief time spent between London and Suffolk I’ve always lived right in the centre, willingly sacrificing easy parking and a garden for the sheer joy of walking home from the theatre, having cafes open late into the night and busses, wonderful, frequent busses, that whisk you anywhere you want to go. When I came back to live in London full time a friend commented that she’d always thought i was too urban for coastal living. “Urban!” I cried” I’m Metropolitan” as I shook off my deck shoes and pulled on my Laboutins. Continue reading

Delicate Jellies for a Summer’s Feast

Campari and Prosecco JellyI’ve been making summer jellies a lot recently. These are gelatine set ones not the ones more associated with my role on Big Allotment Challenge which are pectin rich preserves! The jellies add both elegance and a touch of “remembrance of time times past” to a special summer meal, reminding us of tables spread with treats at parties when we were children. Continue reading