Category Archives: Entertaining

Seafood in Dill Cream Sauce with Black Spaghetti

I found a packet of black spaghetti in my excellent local farm shop, and I pounced upon it with great enthusiasm.  Black pasta is dyed with squid ink which gives it a very faint fishy flavour, an ideal and dramatic complement to a fish sauce.

I wanted to use crayfish for this recipe but there was none to be found, nor lobster neither, which would have been a lovely treat, so I settled for king prawns instead which is still a treat.

This dish needs to be served really freshly cooked so that nothing goes soggy,  so prepare the ingredients before you start cooking.


Seafood in cream dill sauce with black spaghetti

1 x large pan for the spaghetti
1 x medium pan for the sauce
1 x small pan for the courgettes

8-10oz / 240-300g Black Spaghetti
2oz / 60g Butter
1 x small onion – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
2 small Courgettes – cut into fine Julienne strips (skin on for colour and texture)
4 floz / 125ml White wine
4floz / 125ml Cream
3 ½ oz/ 100g Cream Cheese
½ tablespoon fresh Dill – finely chopped
4-6oz / 120-180g Prawns / crayfish / lobster – cooked

Cook the spaghetti as per instructions – probably about ten minutes
Melt the butter in the small pan
Add the courgettes and cook briefly until just cooked through.
Drain the butter off into the medium saucepan and keep the courgettes warm
Add the onion and garlic and cook on a medium heat until just soft
Add the wine and cook on a high heat to reduce down just slightly
Add the cream and whisk for one minute
Add the cream cheese and dill and whisk for one minute
Add the shellfish and courgettes and cook until everything is hot
Season to taste and serve on top of the hot, black spaghetti


Filed under Entertaining, Food, Recipes

Coconut and Banana Tart

Sister the First ‘phoned this evening and I was immediately inspired to give you a tart recipe.  This is a lovely tart that I have made for many dinner parties over the years.  Tarts, sweet or savoury, are always impressive on the table, whether they are large ones for slicing or individually served with an attractive garnish.  Don’t be afraid of making pastry or baking blind – it’s all about lightness of touch.  Follow the instructions and you’ll be as right as ninepence.


Cococnut & Banana Tart

1 x large bowl
2 x medium mixing bowls
1 x small bowl
1 x rolling pin
8” / 22cm flan dish – greased and floured
1 x lemon squeezer
2 x small pan
Piping bag and nozzle for piping cream

7oz / 200g plain flour
A pinch of salt
3 ½ oz / 100g butter
3 tablespoons cold water
7 tablespoons of milk
3oz / 90g caster sugar
3 ½ oz /100g dessicated coconut
2 eggs – beaten
1 tablespoon rum
5 bananas – sliced
the juice of 1 lemon
1 tabelspoon rum
4 tabelspoons sugar
To decorate:
¼ pint / 150ml double cream
8 glace or maraschino cherries

Pre-heat the oven to 200 / 400 / 6
Make the pastry:  Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl
Cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour
Add the water and mix to a dough, keeping your movements quick and light
Roll out the dough on a floured surface and line the prepared flan dish
Prick the base lightly with a fork and place a circle of foil on top of the base of the dish on top of the pastry – this is one method ‘baking blind’
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until the pastry is beginning to form a slight crust
Remove the foil from the pastry and return to the oven for about another 10 minutes, the pastry should be lightly browned
Remove from the oven and leave to cool
Now make the filling.  Boil the milk in a small pan and leave to cool slightly
Mix together the coconut and the sugar in a small bowl, then stir in the eggs
Add the milk, stirring in a gentle figure of eight
Return the mixture to the pan and thicken over a low heat, still stirring in a brisk figure of eight
Stir in the rum and set aside to cool
Toss the banana slices in the lemon juice to stop them going brown
Strain off the juice and put it aside
In a small pan, mix the rum, sugar and strained lemon juice
Heat the mixture over a low heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves
Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly, to form a thick syrup
Pour the coconut mixture into the pastry case
Arrange the bananas attractively on the top
Pour the syrup evenly over the top of the bananas and leave for half an hour to settle down
Decorate with the cream and cherries
Et voila!

Note:  Tarts and quiches are always best served at room temperature or above and should never be unpleasantly cold


Filed under Entertaining, Food, Recipes

Leftover Stilton (or the cheese that broke the camel’s back)

In which is demonstrated the uses for leftover Stilton Cheese in Cauliflower or Broccoli and Stilton Soup, Leek and Stilton Soup, Cauliflower or Broccoli Cheese, Huntingdon Stuffed Pears and Stilton and Nut Mousse.

* * *

If, like me, you have been left with a chunk of Stilton large enough to set up in business as a purveyor of fine fromage, you will, by now, be staring at your cheese plate with a mixture of admiration and fear.  On Christmas Eve, I went to Welton’s in Great Bowden to collect my Christmas order of a small Pork Pie, some Black Bomber, some Brie and a modest amount of Colston Basset Stilton.

A proportion of the Stilton was consumed at Christmas Tea with a chunk remaining that was manageable by a single adult over a period of a week.  But as luck would have it, I was given a massive chunk by Sister the Second who had been over-serviced by her supermarket.  It is sitting in the fridge glowering at me like The Cheese in the Railway Carriage so evocatively described by Jerome K. Jerome.

I was going to spin this out over a couple of days, but that would be too much like the Stilton. 
This is what you can do with it. 

HUNTINGDON STUFFED PEARS  have been featured earlier.  Click on the link for the recipe

CAULIFLOWER OR BROCCOLI CHEESE  use the cheese sauce recipe in the link but substitute Stilton for Cheddar. It’s rich but gorgeous. 


1 x medium saucepan
1 x stick blender or ordinary blender

1oz / 30g butter
1 medium onion – finely chopped
1 medium cauliflower or largish head of broccoli – broken into florets
1 pint / 600ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tblspn mixed herbs or a bouquet garni
½ a medium potato – peeled, diced and cooked
½ pint milk
4oz / 120g Stilton Cheese

Melt the butter in the pan
Add the onion and fry gently until soft
Add the cauliflower or broccoli, herbs and stock and milk
Bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetable is soft
Allow to cool slightly, add the potato and remove the bouquet garni if using one
Mix to a smooth puree with the blender
Stir in the cheese until it has melted

** Post post note:  Leek and Stilton also make an excellent soup.  Cook 2 large, finely sliced leeks in with the onions then add the stock and proceed as per the recipe.


8 x ramekin dishes – greased & with a circle of greaseproof paper in the bottom
1 x medium saucepan
1 x whisk

1oz /30g butter
2 level tablespoons plain flour
7floz / 200ml milk
7floz / 200ml vegetable stock
1 sachet of gelatine
40z / 120g Stilton cheese
2 eggs – separated – whites whisked to form stiff peaks
¼ pint / 150ml crème fraiche
2oz / 60g walnuts – chopped

Melt the butter in the pan over a medium heat
Stir in the flour to form a thick paste
Gradually whisk in the milk and stock until it thickens and starts to bubble
Remove from the heat.
Sprinkle over the gelatine and whisk until it has dissolved and is thoroughly mixed in
Add the cheese and stir until melted
Whisk in the egg yolks and season to taste
Fold in the crème fraiche with a metal spoon
Then fold in the whisked egg whites and gently stir in the walnuts
Spoon the mixture into the prepared dishes
Chill until set
Serve with a green salad


Filed under Christmas, Entertaining, Food, Leftovers, Recipes

I am the Egg Man – because I have a Westmark Egg Slicer

Some time ago, I was feeling rather down and Mrs Cromarty and PC Sorted came round to cheer me up and brought me a lovely gift.  Not only a lovely gift, but a lovely gift in its original box.

Westmark is a German company that makes kitchen gadgets and when I looked on the internet I discovered that they are are still making the egg slicer and the design hasn’t changed at all, other than a silver coating that makes them dishwasher safe.

Founded in 1923, Westmark began life as a grinding shop for cutlery and remained in the Schulte family estate for decades.  It specializes in high quality kitchen equipment and useful gadgets, but other than that I drew a blank.

At the first possible opportunity I sliced some eggs into a salad and jolly lovely they looked too.  Then I carefully washed and dried my ‘Eierespalter’ (teilt das Ei in 6 gleiche Stücke!) and put it lovingly back in its box.

And now that I have Photoshop back again, I’m sharing it with you.


Filed under Entertaining, Family and Friends, Life in general

Elderflower XL: Sorbet

Now that you are all so adept at making elderflower cordial, we’re going to take it a step further.

Elderflower sorbet is a wondrous thing.  It’s incredibly refreshing and cooling as a pudding, but I like to use it as an amuse bouche between courses.  A little plate, with a nicely shaped quenelle of sorbet, and a fruit sauce or couli drizzled elegantly across it, possibly decorated with a sprig of carefully placed mint leaves, makes a wonderful and impressive palate cleanser at a dinner party.  It also keeps for yonks so you can really stretch it out.

Use the remaining egg yolks to add to Yorkshire pudding batter or to make some lovely home made ice cream.  I will provide a recipe anon.


1 x medium mixing bowls
1 x whisk
1 x freezer-proof container with an airtight lid sufficient to hold a pint of sorbet
An ice cream maker if you have one

1 pint / 600ml elderflower cordial
2 x egg whites

Beat the egg whites until they are stiff and form soft peaks
Put the elderflower cordial into the freezer-proof container *
Put the lid on and put in the freezer until it forms slush
Remove from the freezer and fold in the stiff egg whites
Return to the freezer until ready to use

* If you have an ice cream maker, follow the instructions in the leaflet
Basically, this means add the cordial to the bowl and as it forms slush, add the egg whites and let the machine do the rest!


Filed under Entertaining, Food, Hedgerows, Recipes, Seasonal

Halibut Femme de Guerre

I seem to remember saying that, if my dinner party the other week went off alright, I’d share the menu with you.  Lady Somerset is a Pescetarian (which I thought was a former Soviet state) and she is also a little prone to anaemia.  So.  The menu was:-

Watercress soup with crème fraiche
Elderflower sorbet with mixed fruit sauce (as an amuse bouche)
Halibut Femme de Guerre
Tarte Tatin and Bread and Butter Pudding with custard
English Cheese*, biscuits and fruit

(* with a lump de Roquefort because the French market had come to town and we couldn’t resist it)

Because I am usually hosting dinner parties by myself, I tend to plan them with military precision but Lady Somerset was having none of it.  She made me go into town in the morning and look at things and sit in coffee shops and stare at frocks, while I tried very hard not to chew my own limbs off in my anxiety to get home and start the preparations.  The upside of this was that we went to the fish shop to see what they had and then decided what to make on the strength of it.  I’m more than happy to do this for normal meals but it felt a bit scary when we was ‘avin’ compny.  We came up with this, to serve 6 and it was fab.


Chopping board
1 x large frying pan or Paella pan
1 x large pan
A method of warming plates – important

6oz / 180g butter
1 medium onion – finely chopped
6fl oz / 175ml vegetable stock
6 fillets of halibut – skin on
2 bags of fresh spinach – any large stalks removed
1 tspn lemon juice
2 tblspn Marsala
1 tspn fresh chopped thyme
1 tspn fresh chopped parsley
36 medium or 24 large prawns

Melt 1oz/30g of the butter in the frying pan, add the onion and cook until soft
Add the stock to the pan and bring to a simmer
Place the halibut into the pan, skin side up and simmer very gently for about 4 minutes
Add the prawns and cook for a further 2 minutes
Cover the pan and set aside, keeping it warm
Melt another 1oz / 30g of the butter in the large pan
Add the spinach and turn up the heat, stirring continually until it is just softening
Divide the spinach between six plates, shaping it into a nice square or oblong
Remove the skin from the fish and place one fillet on the top of each square of spinach
Remove the prawns from the frying pan and put it back on the heat
Add the remaining butter and boil rapidly until the liquid has reduced and is starting to look like a sauce
Add the lemon, Marsala and the herbs and boil for another 30 seconds or so
Add the prawns and just stir them around a bit until they are warmed through
Arrange the prawns nicely around the fish
Pour over the butter sauce, making sure it looks attractive on the plate and serve

I also served new Anya potatoes, julienne carrots and broccoli


Filed under Entertaining, Food, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes

My contribution to the Lent Lunch: Smoked Mackerel Pate

As I mentioned yesterday, I was helping out at a Lent Lunch in a nearby village and decided to take along a bowl of Smoked Mackerel Pate.  It is an old favourite recipe of mine and I thought fish would be an appropriate contribution.  This is dead easy to make and is a lovely light starter that can be prepared in advance or, piled onto hot buttered toast, a satisfying lunch. I tripled the quantity and it served 20 people comfortably, combined with bread, cheese, fruit, nibbles etc.  On it’s own, it makes 4 generous portions.


1 x medium saucepan
1 x medium mixing bowl
1 x measuring jug
1 x chopping board and a sharp knife
1 x hand whisk or electric whisk
1 x stick blender if you like your pate smooth

8oz / 250g smoked mackerel fillets
1oz / 30g butter
1 medium onion – finely chopped
2 tblspns plain white flour
¼ pint / 150ml milk
1 tblspn lemon juice
1 tblspn white wine
Salt and pepper
1 tspn parsley – finely chopped (or ½ tspn dried)
¼ pint / 150ml double cream – lightly whipped

Remove the skin from the fish and break it up into flakes (checking for any tiny bones as you do it)
Melt the butter in the pan , add the onion and cook until soft but not brown
Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to stop it sticking
Gradually add the milk, stirring in a brisk figure of eight pattern, until thickened
Transfer the mixture to the bowl
Stir in the lemon juice, wine and parsley and season liberally with salt and pepper
Add the fish.  If you like a smooth texture, give it a whiz with the blender.  If you like a coarse texture, just stir it in.
Fold in the cream, then cover and chill until required.

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No post today as Lady Somerset is up for the weekend and we are entertaining Irish Alice, Mr Irish Alice and the Rev. and Mrs Marple.  We have many courses to prepare and, if they work, I will share them with you in due.. er.. course.

A bientot.

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A very rich and very versatile Chocolate Cake

I developed this recipe firstly because we are a chocolate cake kind of family, but secondly to cope with celebration cakes that may need to last a while.  It is really rich and sticky and is easy enough to make for a tea time favourite, but because it is quite dense in texture, it can be shaped quite easily for special occasion cakes.  This can be made from storecupboard ingredients.

The engagement cake

A friend of mine is having an engagement party tomorrow, so I’m using this recipe (x3) for the cake.   I will show it to you when I’ve finished it.


1 x medium mixing bowl
1 x measuring jug
1 x electric mixer
2 x 8” cake tins
1 x wire rack for cooling

6oz / 180g self raising flour
2oz / 60g cocoa
¼ tsp baking powder
6oz / 180g white sugar
4oz / 120g butter
2 eggs
6tblspns golden syrup
¼ pint / 150ml milk

1 quantity of buttercream or mock cream for the filling

Pre-heat the oven to 160/325/4
Grease and flour the two cake tins
Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a bowl
Stir in the sugar
Rub in the butter until the dry mixture is like very fine breadcrumbs
Beat the milk, eggs and syrup together
Beat the liquid into the dry ingredients until smooth
Divide the mixture equally between the two tins
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean
Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

When completely cold, sandwich together with the buttercream.

A nice treat is to pipe butter cream shells or stars to form a circle around the top edge, then pour melted chocolate in the middle.  Spread it out so that it goes right up to the edge of the buttercream circle.


Filed under Entertaining, Food, Food Presents, Recipes

Home Made Sweets 1: Snuffling around for Truffles

I often make up boxes of these for presents and always make a batch to finish off a dinner party.  They’re really simple, if a little messy, to make and are absolutely delicious.  The white ones particularly melt in the mouth.  Always use the best quality chocolate you can afford.

They are also very useful if you’re feeling a bit too thin after Christmas and need to add a few pounds to get up to your proper fighting weight.  Makes approx. 30 truffles.


1 x medium saucepan
1 x medium bowl which will fit on top of the saucepan
1 x small bowl for the icing sugar/cocoa

8oz / 240g white chocolate – broken into pieces
2oz / 60g unsalted butter – cut into small pieces
3 tblspn single cream
Cocoa or icing sugar to coat (according to your preference)

Place the bowl over a pan of hot water
Put the chocolate in and stir occasionally
When it has melted, remove the bowl from the heat and stir for 1-2 minutes until it has cooled slightly
Gradually stir in the butter
Slowly fold in the cream
Cover the bowl and chill until firm
Form the mixture into 1″ / 2.5cm balls and roll in the icing sugar or cocoa
Keep chilled (good advice for us all I think)
Serve them in petit four cases


1 x medium saucepan
1 x medium bowl which will fit on top of the saucepan
1 x small saucepan
1 x electric whisk or a good firm hand whisk
1 x small bowl for the icing sugar/cocoa

12oz / 360g plain chocolate – broken into pieces
¼ pint / 5floz of double cream
4 tblspns brandy (or rum)
cocoa or icing sugar to coat (according to preference)

Place the bowl over a pan of hot water
Put the chocolate in and stir occasionally
When it has melted, remove the bowl from the heat
Warm the cream in the small saucepan until just tepid and then stir it into the chocolate
Allow to cool then stir in the brandy
Whisk the mixture until it has turned lighter in colour and holds soft peaks
Cover and chill until firm
Form the mixture into 1″ / 2.5cm balls and roll in the icing sugar or cocoa
Keep chilled and serve in petit four cases


Filed under Entertaining, Food, Food Presents, Recipes, Storecupboard

A Very English Dinner Party in Three Parts. Part 3 Treacle Tart

And finally the pudding!

TREACLE TART – serves 6 gentlefolk or 4 gluttons

1 x 8″ flan dish
1 x mini chopper
1 x small saucepan
1 x rolling pin

8oz / 240g golden syrup
1 tblspn lemon juice
2oz / 60g fresh white breadcrumbs
1 packet of shortcrust pastry
butter and flour for greasing and rolling out

Pre-heat the oven to 190 / 375 / 5
Grease and flour the flan dish
Roll out the pastry onto a floured surface and line the flan dish, trimming off the excess and dampening the edges
Roll out the excess and cut out 8 strips about as wide as your little finger to decorate the tart
Warm the syrup and lemon juice in the pan then thoroughly mix in the breadcrumbs
Pour into the flan case – remember this syrup mixture will be very hot, so don’t dip your finger in!
Arrange the strips of pastry into a lattice on the top
Bake for approximately 35 minutes

Serve with custard or cream. 
For instructions on how to make Real Custard, see the post ‘Custard Continuum.’


Filed under Entertaining, Food, Recipes

A Very English Dinner Party in 3 Parts. Part 2 Cumberland Tattie Pot

This is the main course following on from yesterday’s starter of Huntingdon Pears.


A note about lamb:  Hot Pots often suggest using lamb chops, but I think they’re far too expensive for what they are, and certainly unnecessary for use in a casserole that will be cooked for several hours.  Ask your butcher what he/she has – a neck or shoulder piece will melt in the mouth and is considerably cheaper.

1 x large ovenproof deep casserole dish
1 x chopping board
1 x sharp knife

2lb / 1kg of lamb – (see above) cut into portion sizes or chunks
12oz / 360g black pudding – cut into 1″ / 2.5cm chunks
6 Cumberland sausages or a whole coiled sausage
2lb potatoes – thickly sliced
3 large onions – sliced
¾ pint / 500ml beef stock
1oz / 30g butter or dripping
Salt & pepper – to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 160/325/3
Place a layer of potatoes in the casserole dish, then a layer of onions, lamb and black pudding, seasoning as you go
Then another payer of potatoes, onions and sausages
Finish off with a layer of potatoes
Pour the stock over the whole thing
Grease the lid of the casserole dish and place it on.
Put it in the oven and cook for about 2 ½ hours
Remove from the oven, take off the lid and smear the potatoes with butter or dripping
Return to the oven without the lid for a further half hour or until the potatoes are nicely browned
Serve with carrots and green beans.

PS.  I have just finished the remains of this for my Sunday lunch, washed down with a bottle Badger’s ‘Blandford Fly’, which is undoubtedly the best beer in the world.  Drink some at once.


Filed under Entertaining, Food, Recipes

A Very English Dinner Party in Three Parts. Part 1 Huntingdon Stuffed Pears

On Saturday I had my lovely friends Rev. and Mrs Marple and Baroness Benefield over for dinner. I had determined upon a menu of traditional English dishes and, as it is winter, I felt that comfort food was the order of the day.  I also had a sizeable slice of Stilton left from new year that was crying out to be eaten up.  The dishes I chose were these and I will give you the recipes over three days.

Huntingdon Pears
Cumberland Tattie Pot
Treacle Tart and Custard

Of course the Tattie Pot and the Treacle Tart are perfectly acceptable every day food and are surprisingly easy to make.


1 x stick blender
1 x mini chopper (a large sharp knife is just as good)
1 x chopping board
1 x vegetable peeler

2 large ripe pears (or tinned pear halves if you can’t get fresh – well drained)
4oz / 120g ripe Stilton cheese
1oz / 30g softened butter
2 tblspns double cream
freshly ground black pepper
1oz / 30g walnuts – finely chopped
4 walnut halves
crisp, sweet salad leaves
lemon juice (for use with fresh pears)

Peel, core and halve the pears, allowing a hollow for the filling
Mix together the,cheese, butter, cream and black pepper using the blender.
Stir in the chopped walnuts
Fill the centre of the pears with the cheese mixture
Arrange a few salad leaves attractively on plates and place one pear half in the middle of each one
Place a walnut half on the top of each stuffed pear
If using fresh pears, drizzle lemon juice over the exposed fruit to stop them going brown


The filling can make a delicious dip for crudités, crisps or bread sticks.  Just add a few more tablespoons of cream to the mixture (depending on how firm the Stilton was to start with) and beat it for a bit longer.  Celery is particularly good with this dip.

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