Category Archives: Seasonal

I ran out of time…

I believe I may be very cute indeed

I had such a lovely post lined up for you today but the day ran away with my.  I spent all morning working on … well working on something, then I spent an hour doing paperwork, followed by lunch (Boy the Elder is still on half term) then some work on the post.  Except that I have just taken delivery of a new vacuum cleaner which needed building, which BTE did with great skill, so I had to try it out as I haven’t been able to vacuum for two weeks. In the middle of that I got a ‘phone call from a friend who was trying to organise a meeting point for the children to do some Halloween stuff, except that Boy the Younger had Cubs first and I had to sort out some stuff for him so he could get his IT badge and then I remembered that I needed another pumpkin to make a big pot of soup for us all.  But the pumpkins were all gorn so I had to use a butternut squash which took twice as long because Boy the Elder wanted it to make another lantern. I was going to write the article when BTY got home from school and then, while he was at cubs, make the soup.  Except that Cubs was cancelled at the last minute so we had to re-arrange the entertainment and abandon the article in favour of the soup.  By the time we got back it was time for ‘Doc Martin’ and now I have a splitting headache and I’m afraid I shall have to retire to my bed.


However, if you click on the link above, you will find three recipes for pumpkin as you’re bound to have some left or be able to pick up some post-Halloween bargains.


Filed under Children, Food, Leftovers, Life in general, Recipes, Seasonal

Joy of Soup

Red Winter Soup

One of the lovely things about the darker nights and colder weather is that home-made soup is on the menu more often.

Tonight we had Red Winter Soup which packed full of Vitamin C to help ward off colds.

In our local Co-op this morning I found four tins of Chestnut Puree in the bargain bucket for only 34p each so I bought them all for future use in Chestnut and Bacon Soup

Pea and Ham Soup

With root vegetables becoming seasonally cheaper, lovely lentil and vegetable soups can be recycled for days.
Make a huge pot and on Day 1 cook some chops or chicken pieces in it.  On Day 2 add some sausages and on Day 3 eat it on its own with good bread and a chunk of decent cheese.

Raid your local butcher or delicatessen and ask them for ham bones for hearty Pea and Ham Soup.

There are still patches of new nettles out there

And of course, let us not forget that Halloween is coming up.  Don’t just carve pumpkins, scoop out the flesh and use it for Pumpkin Soup.

And the beauty is that most soup can be made from Storecupboard Ingredients!   Put Soup into the ‘Search’ box for more souper recipes.


Filed under Food, Leftovers, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Seasonal, Storecupboard

A delicious Sausage Stew

This is a recipe for a delicious, nutritious, easy and cheap sausage stew which is just the job for warming you up on a chilly day.  This recipe serves 6 easily and uses storecupboard ingredients.  If, as in my case, there are only 2 or 3 of you, eat the stew with the sausages on day one, then eat the rest the next day either on its own with bread and cheese or add some lamb chops, chicken legs or bits of black pudding.


1 x large saucepan or casserole dish suitable for the hob
1 x chopping board
1 x vegetable peeler

a little oil
8 good sausages
1 medium onion – chopped
1 small swede or half a big one – peeled & cubed
3 medium parsnips – peeled & cubed
3 medium carrots – chopped into chunks
2 medium potatoes – chopped into chunks (I leave the skins on)
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 pint of stock – I made half beef and half chicken
1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree
1 tablespoon mixed herbs
1 flat tablespoon paprika
1 tin of baked beans
seasoning to taste

Heat the oil in a saucepan
Add the sausages and cooked until nicely browned
Add the onions and soften a little, adding a bit more oil if necessary
Add all the other ingredients except the baked beans
Cook on a low heat until the vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally (probably about ½ hour to 40 minutes)
Add the baked beans and cook for a further five minutes
Serve in big bowls


Filed under Food, Leftovers, Recipes, Seasonal, Storecupboard

Fish Cakes and Apple Crumble

Dinner last night was a pleasing combination of two old favourites.

Fish Cakes using up some leftover mashed potato and

Apple Crumble with my first gift of autumn apples

Although how such skinny boys can eat a cooked breakfast, have a two course lunch, a snack mid-afternoon and then a two course dinner is beyond me.  All height and feet I expect.


Filed under Food, Leftovers, Seasonal

Chocolate Crispy Cakes – for the able and less able

I haven’t made chocolate crispy cakes since I was ever so wee, and they are generally considered to be a recipe which an amoeba with acronyms could manage.  Despite being an accomplished and confident cook, The Wartime Housewife Buggered It Up. (Sounds like an Enid Blyton re-vamp – I shall publish at once).

I had two bars of milk chocolate in the larder, so I thought I’d use those.  On exposure to the slightest heat, the chocolate solidified into a glutinous, granular mass which resisted all attempts to absorb the syrup.  I stirred and stirred but nothing happened.  I became reckless.  I added an ounce of butter which made it separate, so I added a great dollop of double cream and went at it with a stick blender.  Result!  In went the cornflakes and bish bash bosh.  Crispy cakes with a satisfyingly toffee-like texture.

This is what I should have done:-


1 x heatproof bowl
1 x saucepan
12 x paper cases
a tray to put them on

6oz / 180g dark chocolate
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
3oz / 90g cornflakes
Mini eggs to decorate

Melt the chocolate into a heatproof bowl over a pan of hot water
Stir in the golden syrup
Stir in the cornflakes until they are evenly covered in chocolate mixture
Spoon the mixture into 12 paper cases
Arrange the mini eggs on top – you could also put a tiny fluffy chick in the middle if that’s your bag
Put them in the fridge to set.


Filed under Food, Recipes, Seasonal, Slider

Creamed Mushrooms – a dish for St. George

There is a mushroom called The St George mushroom or Calocybe gambosum which is one of the few edible fungi to be found at this time of the year.  It is so named because it only appears around the time of St George’s Day which, as I’m sure you all know, is 23rd April.

St Georges Mushroom

It is fairly common and widespread in the UK and can be found on grassy verges, the edges of woodland and at the roadside.  As well as being a culinary delicacy, it is thought to have some anti-bacterial properties and has been reported to lower blood sugar levels. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you never to eat fungi that you find growing wild unless you are absolutely, 100% sure what you’re doing.  I do not want a poorly executed recipe on my conscience.

I love mushrooms in all their wide variety and they are an excellent source of mycoprotein.  Creamed mushrooms make a delightful and tasty lunch or supper, served piled up on hot buttered toast.  This recipe will serve 2-3 so why not get in your favourite mushrooms and have this dish for lunch on Saturday; a portion for yourself, England and St George.  Or something.


2 x medium saucepan
1 x wooden spoon
1 x toaster

1lb / 480g mushrooms – halved, quartered or left whole depending on the size
1oz / 30g butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3floz / 90ml double cream1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon cider or apple juice
1/2 tablespoon parsley – fresh and finely chopped
hot buttered toast

Melt the butter in the pan and add the mushrooms
Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes or so, making sure not to burn the butter
Sir in the lemon juice and half of the cream
Simmer for about 8 minutes and season if you wish
Pour off the liquor into the other pan and keep the mushrooms warm
Pour in the cider, the parsley and the rest of the cream and turn up the heat
Cook, stirring continuously, until the sauce had reduced by half
Return the mushrooms to the sauce then serve immediately on toast


Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Recipes, Seasonal, Slider

Fun Easter activities for all the family

Now that the school holidays are nearly upon us, it is a great time to get out those paints and glue, eggs and flour and get creative.  Or better still make your children get creative.

Easter baskets

Easter Baskets:

Hot Cross Buns


Hot Cross Buns:

Egg decorations


Faberge Egg Decorations:

Simnel Cake


Simnel Cake:

Egg cosies


Felt Egg Cosies:


Filed under Seasonal

Decorated Chocolate Easter Eggs – using real eggs

As Easter approaches, I have been trying to think of interesting ideas for eggs or gifts.  It occurred to me that one could decorate real eggs and fill them with chocolate.  If you saw one of these in John Lewis they would cost you a fortune and rightly so as they look so glamorous.

You could have a lot of fun with the designs, using applique, stippling, marbling, or just using a bit of ribbon and some stick-on gems as I have done.  I have a big bag of ribbons, sequins, sparkly things etc so I tend to use what I already have in stock.  This is what I did:-


Make a hole

1 x large needle
Kitchen roll (paper towel)
1 x heatproof bowl for melting the chocolate
1 x saucepan
Icing syringe
Acrylic paints – matt and/or metallic
Acrylic varnish for matt paints
Paint brushes – thick & thin
Ribbons – assorted
Decorative gems

Melt the chocolate

PVA glue
Egg cups
4oz / 120g good quality chocolate per egg

Using the needle make a hole about ¼ “ / 0.75cm diameter in the bottom of the egg
Waggle the needle gently inside the egg to break up the yolk
Drain the egg into a bowl for use as omelettes or to make a cake

Fill the egg with chocolate

Rinse the inside of the egg thoroughly and leave to drain and dry on a towel
Bring some water almost to the boil in the saucepan and place the heatproof bowl on top
Break the chocolate into pieces and place in the bowl
Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally
Pour the chocolate into the syringe and fill the empty egg shell, leaving a little space for expansion
Wipe any excess chocolate off the shell and leave in a cool place to set
Paint the egg with several thin coats of acrylic paint, making sure not to get any paint on the chocolate
It’s best to do most of the top half first, leave it to dry and then do the remaining bottom bit
When the paint is dry, varnish if you need to and leave to dry

Paint the egg

Then decorate with ribbons and gems, fixing into place with a little PVA

When you come to eat the chocolate, hit the egg quite hard on the side and roll it a bit to crack the shell, a bit like you’d do with a hard-boiled egg.  Then peel the shell off and eat.

A box of eggs

The sadness and yet, the joy!


Filed under Food Presents, Seasonal, Slider

Nettles – the free alternative to Spinach

In which the Wartime Housewife points out that nettles gathered from the hedgerow are free whilst spinach costs over £1 per bag.  Plus a recipe for Egg Florentine Au Naturel.

Nettles - free food

While Boy the Elder was tramping through the Brecon Beacons this weekend, Boy the Younger and I decided to strike out into the countryside ourselves.  When BTY fell off his scooter for the 3rd time, he got, complaining miserably that he had been stung.  And so he had.  The very first nettles were peeping through the brown, sodden remains of last year’s foliage, vivid green and packed full of venom.

It won’t be long before we can start having Nettle Soup again! we cheered.  But nettles are a perfectly good vegetable in their own right.  The other dish I really like to make is Egg Florentine which is usually made with spinach (which is the ‘Florentine’ bit) but can be made equally well with nettles. It would make an incredibly nourishing breakfast dish as well as a light lunch.

How to prepare nettles for eating

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to wear rubber or thick gardening gloves when harvesting nettles.  Always use the young tender leaves or the tender tops off older plants.  Get rid of any tough stalks and give them a good wash to get rid of any insects or anything else you wouldn’t want to eat.  Then treat them just like fresh spinach.


Rubber gloves
1 x small saucepan or poaching pan
2 x medium saucepan

½ carrier bag of nettles
4 eggs
1 knob of butter
1  quantity of cheese sauce – see below
a little paprika

Make the cheese sauce and keep it warm
Place the nettles into a medium saucepan with a little water and a knob of butter
Cover and steam until tender
Soft boil or poach the eggs
Drain the nettles and divide between 4 plates
Place one egg onto the top of each pile of nettles
Pour cheese sauce over the top of each
Sprinkle with a little paprika and serve immediately

Cheese sauce
2oz / 60g butter
2oz / 60g wholemeal flour (or 2 really heaped tablespoons)
4oz / 120g cheese – grated
½ pint / 300ml milk
1 pinch mustard power / ¼  teaspoon ready made mustard

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan then slowly
Stir in the flour and mustard powder to make thick paste (a roux)
Add the milk a bit at a time, stirring constantly
Simmer gently until the sauce has thickened slightly and then stir in the cheese

The sauce can also be done in a bowl in the microwave.  Follow the steps above but instead of simmering in a pan, pop the bowl in the microwave for about 3 minutes, taking it out to stir occasionally.


Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Seasonal

How to make a Christmas Ham

I really love Christmas.  I love Christmas shopping, I love the decorations, I love buying a new decoration every year to put on the tree.  I love designing the Christmas cake and making the Pudding.  I love spending at least one day with my lovely family (in whom I am well pleased) eating too much, drinking too much, playing games, laughing till we cry and watching everyone open their presents.

Sadly, my house is too small to host Christmas for everyone anymore and I miss the military catering exercise that goes with a large gathering.  But one thing I like to do, even if I take it to someone else’s house, is a home-cured Christmas Ham.  It’s really easy to do, it just requires several stages and by crikey it’s worth it.  The process is – cure it, boil it, glaze it, bake it.

1 x large pot – big enough to submerge your ham and ideally with a lid
1 x sharp knife
1 x clean oak log (optional)
You might need some cling film
1 x roasting tin

½ a ham – on the bone
approx 6 pints of dry cider
10 peppercorns
2 bayleaves
Some stock vegetables – eg carrots, leeks, onions
8oz clear honey
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

Put the ham in a large pot with the peppercorns and bay leaves and cover completely with cider
Put the oak log on the top to hold it under the cider
Cover the pot securely and leave for three days, topping up the cider if necessary
Strain off the cider, rinse out the pot, then replace the cider and the ham
Add the stock vegetables and bring to the boil
Reduce the heat then cover and simmer for about 4 hours
Remove the ham and let it cool – discard the cooking liquor and stock veg
Mix the honey and mustard together into a paste
Carefully remove the skin, leaving the fat and place in the roasting tin
Score a diamond pattern into the fat, taking care not to cut right through the fat
Cover the whole thing in the honey and mustard mixture
Bake in the oven, pre-heated to 180 / 350 / 4 for about 1 ½ hours until the glaze has gone a rich, golden brown
Leave to cool and serve
Bask in the love and adulation of those who eat it


Filed under Christmas, Family and Friends, Food, Recipes, Seasonal

Sausage Free Stuffing

I had a request from Lady B the other day for a stuffing recipe that did not involve sausagemeat.  Lady B is having a Jewish friend to lunch but I think for all of us, Christmas Lunch can get a bit over-porked, even if one is having a turkey or a goose and it’s nice to have a light stuffing.  Can I just say at this point how hard it has been for me to resist the urge to descend into a crevice of ‘Carry On’ style double entendres.  But resist I did.

 Ladies and Gentlemen, I have not one but two recipes and here they are.  By the way, both recipes freeze well in a sealed container, so you can be really organised and make it in advance.


1 x large-ish saucepan
1 x grater

8oz / 240g chestnuts – already peeled and cooked then roughly chopped
2oz / 60g onion – finely chopped
1 garlic clove – finely chopped
2oz / 60g butter
6oz / 180g fresh breadcrumbs
2oz / 60g suet
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon of dried)
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 lemon – juice and rind
3 eggs – beaten
you may need a little milk or stock if the mixture is too dry

Fry the onions and garlic in the butter
Add the breadcrumbs and suet, stirring well
Then add the chestnuts, herbs and lemon
Cook on a medium heat for a few minutes
Take the pan off the heat, stir in the eggs and season if you wish
If the mixture is a little dry, add the milk or stock until it has a slightly sticky consistency

SAGE AND ONION STUFFING  WITH WALNUTSThis one is especially good for goose, as it absorbs some of the fat, but if you’re having a turkey, you may want to add an ounce or two (30-60g) of melted butter.  You can use fresh or pickled walnuts for this.

1 x medium saucepan
1 x mixing bowl
1 x grater

8oz / 240g onion – coarsely chopped
2 chicken livers or 1 goose liver if you can get one
8oz / 240g fresh breadcrumbs
2oz / 60g oatmeal
1 cooking apple – peeled, cored and finely chopped
3oz / 90g stoned prunes – chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage (or 1 tablespoon of dried)
1 egg – beaten
1 lemon – juice and finely grated rind
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
6 walnuts – roughly chopped

Put the onions and the liver into the pan with a little water, just enough o cover them
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes
Drain off the liquid, take out the liver and chop it finely
Put the breadcrumbs, oatmeal, apple, prunes, onions and sage into the bowl and mix together well
Stir in the egg, lemon, nutmeg, walnuts and liver.
If you are having turkey add the butter at this point and stir in well.


Filed under Christmas, Food, Recipes, Seasonal

Meaty Mincemeat – the gloves are off

Right. I’ve had enough of this namby-pamby mincemeat with nothing but dried fruit and sugar!  Let’s put some meat in the recipe!  No, really, let’s put some meat in the recipe.  Originally mincemeat was just that – a well spiced condiment containing, amongst other things, minced meat.

It started off as a savoury dish in the 15th century but as sugar became more widely available, it gradually crept sweetly towards the end of the meal.  It was also a good way of preserving meat and although mine has never stayed around long enough to find out, it can certainly be left for a month in a sealed jar and probably longer.  You can use lamb or beef – I prefer lamb because it’s lighter – but whichever you choose make sure it’s good quality meat with no sinewy bits and nice and lean.

You mustn’t be afraid of this recipe; many people find mincemeat somewhat too sweet anyway, and whilst this version is pleasantly sweet, it leans towards the spice rather than the sugar.  Also, it is virtually impossible to detect the meat so there is no need to be squeamish.  A few years ago I took a warm plate of these mince pies into the playground at school and handed them round.  They were received with great gladness and only a few stupid people wrinkled their noses when they found out what was in them.  Why do people do that?  If I’d fed them minced kittens I could understand it… blah blah blah…

1 x large mixing bowl
1 x vegetable peeler
1 x grater

1lb / 480g minced lamb – broken up finely
1lb / 480g dark brown sugar
8oz / 240g apples – peeled cored and chopped
8oz / 240g raisins
8oz / 240g stoned dates – finely chopped
2oz / 60g suet
1 small orange – juice and grated rind
1 lemon – juice and grated rind
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 good slosh of brandy (apple brandy is really nice in this too)

Mix it all up together in a bowl
Spoon into sterilized jars and leave for at least a week or preferably two before using.

You can sterilise jam jars in the microwave. Quarter fill the jam jar with cold water, put the lid on, shake the water around the jar, then remove lid and empty almost all of the water out. Microwave  for 1 minute. Everywhere the water has touched will be brought to boiling point and sterilised. Pour out the water, take care as the jar will be hot, and use for jams etc


Filed under Christmas, Food, History, Recipes, Seasonal

A Wartime Christmas Cake recipe

Last year, I shared with you the Christmas Cake recipe that my Grandmother used.  Click on the links below for that recipe, as well as information on how to ice and marzipan your cake, plus recipes for Christmas Pudding and Mincemeat.  But keep checking the blog, because I’m going to go radical with the Mince Pies very soon (she added mysteriously…)

This year, I’m going to give you a Wartime Christmas Cake recipe, ideal for the Forties Fetishists among you, but also quite interesting as a comparison.  My dear friend, Lady Salisbury gave me this recipe that she remembers her mother making when she was a child.  Consult last year’s recipe for tin-lining instructions.

1 x large mixing bowl
1 x 8”/20cm cake tin – lined as above
A wooden spoon, or if you insist on being modern, 1 x electric mixer

5oz  / 150g margarine
3oz / 90g sugar – saved from your ration
1 tablespoon treacle or golden syrup – whichever you can get
2 eggs – fresh not powdered if possible
8oz / 240g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1-1 ½ lb / 480-720g dried fruit – whatever you can get hold of
A little milk

Pre-heat the oven to 140 / 1 / 275
Cream the margarine, sugar and treacle.
Beat in each egg for 8 minutes
Sieve the flour, baking powder and spice into the bowl and lightly fold into the mixture
Stir in the dried fruit
Add a little milk, if necessary, to obtain a dropping consistency.
Place the mixture into the lined tin and make a dent in the top with a spoon
Bake for 2 ½ to 3 hours
It is cooked when a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean.

                                                                             *   *   *   *   *
Rich Christmas Cake 2009

How to Apply Marzipan to your Christmas Cake

How to Ice your Christmas Cake

Christmas Pudding 2009

Mincemeat for Mince Pies


Filed under Christmas, Food, Recipes, Seasonal

Steak & Kidney Pudding: no clever title required

It would be hard to express to you how much I love Steak & Kidney Pudding.  As children we only ever had it out of a tin.  Remember the Shiphams pudding where you had to make a hole in the lid with a skewer and then steam it for 45 minutes?  I think they’re Fray Bentos now.  When I made my first home-made pud, I wept for joy, ate too much and had to have a little lie down.

It does seem like a long and complicated business but you just have to factor in the time and have something else to do whilst it’s steaming, such as watching a film or catching up with the mending and darning!  It really is worth it.

By the way, I have not forgotten about Bacon Roll (or Plough Pudding as it is sometimes called).  I just want to test the recipe before I put it on to make sure it’s up to scratch.


Savoury Suet Pastry

1 x large mixing bowl
1 x wooden spoon
1 x rolling pin

300g / 10oz self raising flour
180g / 6oz suet
pinch of salt
pinch of finely ground rosemary
pinch of finely ground mace
water to mix

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well
Add the water a little at a time until the mixture forms a firm dough
Knead lightly and quickly and roll out

Steak and Kidney Filling

2 x large, heavy based saucepans
1 x 2 pint (1 ¼ litre) pudding bowl – greased and floured
Foil or heavy greaseproof paper

½ onion – finely chopped
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons wholemeal flour
240g / ½ lb kidney – cored and chopped
720g / 1 ½ lb stewing steak – cubed
120g / 4oz mushrooms – whole button or sliced
150ml / ¼ pint beef stock made with beer
1 tablespoon mixed herbs or a bouquet garni
2 teaspoons paprika
1 big dash of Worcestershire Sauce
2 bayleaves

Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion gently until soft but not brown
Coat the meat in the flour and add to the pan
Fry until the meat is brown and sealed
Add the mushrooms
Gradually add the stock, stirring to avoid lumps
Add all the other ingredients and cook gently for 1 hour
Leave to cool and remove the bouquet garni if necessary

Roll out the suet pastry to about ¼ inch / ½ cm thick
Line the pudding bowl with the pastry leaving enough to make a lid
Fill with the meat mixture
Cover with the remaining pastry and seal firmly
Prick the top with a fork to allow the steam to escape
Cover the bowl firmly with foil or greaseproof, putting a pleat in the top to allow the pudding to rise
Secure with the string
Place the pudding basin into a large saucepan, ¼ filled with boiling water
Do not allow to boil dry and do not allow any water to touch the actual pudding
Steam gently for 3 hours topping up the water when necessary


Filed under Food, Recipes, Seasonal

Pumpkin Reminder

Anyone who is planning to go Trick or Treating tonight, and is carving out pumpkins, click on the link to last year’s post to get three delicious recipes using pumpkin.

And don’t throw eggs at anyone.


Filed under Food, Recipes, Seasonal