Thrifty Bakes… two very different but equally comforting Bread Puddings.

P1000104We used to save up all the crusts and ends of loaves to take to the park at the weekend and feed to the ducks.  A fond memory, but it doesn’t happen any more – mainly because of the rat problem which has meant that park keepers leave notices requesting that visitors don’t feed bread to the ducks.  The fact that the girls are now well into their teens / twenties probably has something to with it as well!


So now one of our top ways to use those leftover bread / bun leftovers is for bread pudding.

Here are two very different sorts of ‘bread pudding’…

Bread & Butter Pudding

A traditional desert – layers of bread with butter and jam set in a vanilla custard.

A fun way to use up those last bits of jam in the pots – or ring the changes with marmalade instead.

Holly loves it cold for breakfast too, with lots of dried fruit suspended in the rich custard.

This is based on Delia Smith’s recipe – vary it by adding more mild / less cream if you’d like a lighter custard – or a few drops of vanilla essence into the custard (or almond essence, especially if you’re using apricot jam).  Make it in a well buttered rectangular / oval lesagne type dish approx 18 x 23cm (7 x 9″).  I always try to remember to get the butter out of the fridge the day before so it’s good and soft for spreading.   Serves 4 – 6.

8 slices of bread from a small loaf – or equivalent.  (Cut off crusts if they’re too crusty – make into breadcrumbs instead & mix with grated cheese and herbs to use as an alternative topping for fish pie or macaroni cheese.)

10 g (1/2 oz) whole candied lemon or orange peel, finely chopped – omit if you don’t like it.

50g (2oz) currants / sultanas / raisins

275ml (10 floz) Whole milk (use reduced fat for a lighter custard)

60 ml (21.4fl oz) double cream

50 g (2oz) golden caster sugar (or any caster sugar!)

grated zest of 1/2 lemon – don’t grate down to the white pith as this is really bitter

3 large eggs

Whole nutmeg / vanilla / almond essence.

Soft butter for greasing the dish and buttering the bread

Jam for spreading onto the bread (or marmelade for a sharper flavour)

Preheat oven t gas 4, 350F, 180C.

Spread butter and jam over the bread slices, right to the edges.

Cut bread slices into quarters and arrange one slightly overlapping layer over the base of the dish.  Sprinkle over candied peel and dried fruit.  Cover with another layer of bread and dried fruit.

Mix eggs in a big, wide jug or bowl.  Whisk in cream, sugar, milk and flavourings.  Pour over the bread & grate some fresh nutmeg over the top.

Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 30 – 40 minutes.

Remove and leave for 5 minutes before serving with thick cream.

– Try using different sorts of bread, jams, dried fruits…

– Try substituting one egg for 2 extra yolks  or some of the milk for more cream to make it richer.  This is real comfort food – make it simple and it’s easily digested too, so good if you’re feeling a little fragile.


Bread Pudding is quite different – mosit, heavy, spicy  and with a decidedly winter feel.

A traditional way to use up leftover stale bread (as opposed to fresh leftover bread, which is better for the recipe above), which is broken into pieces then soaked in milk to soften it.  Brandy, sherry or similar can be used to re-hydrate currants, sultanas and other dried fruit – and it’s good served with a brandy cream for tea, or cut into small pieces for a spicy treat to waken the taste buds & provide some hearty comfort food at breakfast.  This recipe is again based on Delia Smith’s.  Try with different combinations of dried fruit, glace cherries…

Serves around 6.  Use a baking tin similar to a deep flapjack tin 15.5cm x 20cm x 4.5cm deep. (6 1/4″ x 8″ x 1 3/4″).  Line the tin with parchment paper, or butter it well.

225 g (8 oz)  Stale brown or white bread, crusts removed.  You can also use stale buns, hot cross buns, or similar.

2 teaspoons ground mixed spice.

Whole Nutmeg

110g (4 oz) Sultanas

25g (1 oz) currants

25g (1oz) raisins

50g (2oz) candied peel, chopped

3 Tbs brandy or sherry or orange juice

275ml (10 floz) milk

50g (2 oz) butter, melted – plus extra for greasing

75g (30z) soft dark brown sugar

1 large egg, beaten

grated zest of 1/2 orange

grated zest of 1 lemon

1Tbs demerara sugar

Place dried fruit and candied peel into a bowl with the brandy.  Leave to marinade.

Break bread 1 cm pieces and place in a separate, large bowl.  Pour the milk over, stir and leave to absorb for about half an hour by which time the bread should be well soaked.

Preheat the oven to gas 4, 350F, 180C.  Make sure there is a shelf in the centre.  Line tin.

Beat eggs with a fork.  Mix in melted butter, sugar, mixed spice and add to marinated fruits.  Add oragne and lemon zest.  Add soaked bread and mix gently all together.

Spread into the baking dish.  Sprinkle with demerara sugar and freshly grate some nutmeg over the top – not too much!

Bake on the centre shelf of the over for around 1 1/4 hours.  If serving as a desert, eat hot with brandy cream (whisk some brandy and sugar into double cream until thick and gloopy).

History of bread puddings – our ancestors throughout the ages have been inventive in an effort not to waste food.  There is evidence that the Romans made a type of bread pudding with milk, fat and sugar – although they didn’t use eggs to make a custard, so it would have been denser than the recipe above.  Ancient Egyptians reportedly made Om Ali, an Egyptian version, from bread, milk / cream and raisins.

These days, regional varieties are still made all over the world – Shahi Tukra is an Indian dish made from bread, ghee, sugar, saffron, rosewater and almonds.  I’d love to hear of other variations still being used today –


Feel the Love – It’s Mother’s Day!

jas child picsIs it an over commercialised retail opportunity?  Or is it a long standing tradition that’s evolving over time, which puts a mark in the sand – setting out a pre-determined day which reminds us as a community to stop for a moment and give thanks to someone who is so constant, so necessary, that they’re usually taken for granted.

As a child, Mother’s day is a meaningful opportunity for me to thank my mother – to show my love and appreciation in a way that is more personal to us and our special relationship than other more public occasions like her birthday would allow.

As a mother, I’ve always said to my girls that it’s how they are everyday that counts – not tokens of ‘love’ at Christmas, birthdays or other special occasions – but their love that shines through the constant, supportive, very close relationship that we have.  But it is still very special for that bond to be formally appreciated.

Like many others, I expect, I’ve spent the last 2 or 3 weeks stopping at every sight of Mother’s Day cards to browse the selection and see if I could find the right one for my mother… to no avail.  So yesterday, as the final attempt before resorting to a home made card, I went to ‘The Card Shop’ on the high road.  It didn’t disappoint – a whole wall from top to bottom of every kind of Mother’s Day card you could imagine – funny, cultural, irreverent, soppy, traditional and less so – even some for ‘Single Mum’…

The shop was packed – literally.  One could say ‘typical, everyone leaving it to the last minute‘ – but  there was a strikingly positive, thoughtful atmosphere in there – people of all ages, from all walks of life, quietly taking their time to really go through the massive array of cards.  Quiet contemplation – focus on finding the right one for each mother in mind.  A tall guy in a hoodie next to me started a long range conversation with his friend at the other end of the shop ‘Oi – did u see the words in this one?’ … back came the response…  ‘I liked the picture in the one above but I’m looking for betta words…’ Everyone else carried on searching – then happily joined the long queue to pay – visibly content, feeling good that they’d got the card that said whatever it was they wanted to say to their mum… this was no quick dash in last minute desperation for an empty ‘token’.

I found a perfect card for my mother.  It was a ‘thank you’ card.  It said, in a more pink and fluffy way than would be acceptable on any other day of the year – exactly what i wanted to say… not just have a great mothers day, but thank you… for all the good thoughts, intentions, love, for always being there and for all the inspiration.

‘If you have a mom, there is nowhere you are likely to go where a prayer has not already been’.  Robert Brault
The strongest memory I have as a child is of winter holidays in a family friend’s ‘mobile home’ – they lent it to us, and my mother would take my sister and me to stay in a large static caravan during the autumn and spring half terms.  My dad would stay at home, not able to spare the time off work.  It always rained and my mother would take us on long beach walks… looking back, there was probably little else to do in those parts out of season.  We’d have a wonderful time watching the wild skies and the angry power of the waves, crashing and foaming.  Under her direction, we would just be wearing our cagools and shorts “so we don’t get wet“.  When the rain was heavier and the drops bigger than usual, she’d tell us to ‘run between the raindrops‘, and we did.  Then return to the steamy warmth of the caravan for hot homemade soup, listening to the hammering downpour on the tinny roof.  Feeling cosy and secure, physically and emotionally.  Those are such happy memories, despite the fact that I hate getting wet…  Anyone who can create such sunny, positive thoughts about going for long wet, cold walks is a pretty amazing person.
 You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around — and why his parents will always wave back.  William D. Tammeus

P1000045I treasure my mother’s day gifts – a huge surprise bouquet of my favourite white flowers delivered in a big box and left on the doorstep by the courier yesterday from Jassi.  A carefully chosen and very unusual, densely written card from Holly.  And a ‘surrogate mother’s day present’ of a facemask kit from a friend who is staying here at the moment.  All perfect presents, chosen with care, so warmly given and received .

According to the African proverb, ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ –

I think that this is so true, and am profoundly grateful to all of those along the way who have taken a real interest in, or been a positive influence on my children.
As a mother, my main hope has always been that the children who I was so blessed to be given the opportunity to bring up will grow up to be happy, successful individuals; confident in their own minds, making positive contributions to life and those around them at each stage of their life.

 ‘A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.’ Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

But being a mother doesn’t bring all the answers, shine all the lights in the right direction.  Fathers are vital too.    Sometimes circumstances are less than ideal.  Running a home, being the sole provider and bringing up a child was never meant to be a job for just for one person.  Perhaps today is a good day to put the past behind.  It will never be forgotten, but perhaps today is the day to move on from it.  To remember that family ties are always there.  They may be broken, but they don’t go away.
Happy Mother’s day to all mothers –
and to all those who support mothers,
and most of all to our wonderful children –
we really couldn’t do it without you.  xx.

Apple Cake Experimentation – 3 recipes that came out as winners.

We’ve been experimentating with different apple cake styles and recipes over the winter.

It’s been interesting, made the house smell wonderful and provided us with a great excuse to have the oven on, which has helped the log burner heat up the kitchen – win, win, win!

Here are the recipes for three of our favourites – all very different.

Recipe 1 – 

Chunky Apple & Plum Loaf Cake.           

ImageThis is a great way to use up not only older apples, but also the last bit of jam in the jar (or have a clear out, and finish those last smidgens from lots of pots!)

We made it in a loaf tin… just for a change, but you could use a regular round tin if you prefer – use a 1Kg / 2Lb loaf tin or a 20 cm round tin lined with baking paper.

This recipe is adapted from one found in BBC Good Food Magazine.

We used Plum jam, so ours was an apple and plum cake, but consult with your almost empty jam jars then decide what you’re going to make –

250g / 9oz Self Raising Flour

175g / 6oz butter (I always use butter rather than spread in cakes & pastry as I think it tastes better)

175g / 6 oz Muscovado Sugar (or demerara, or white if you don’t have Muscovado)

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

3 Small Eating Apples – Peeled & cut into medium sized chunks

2 Large Eggs, Beaten

1 tsp Baking Powder

Jam & 2 x Rounded Tbs Demerara Sugar for top

1.   Preheat oven to 170c or Gas 4.  Line loaf or cake tin with baking paper.

2.   Rub the flour, butter and muscovado sugar together to make fine breadcrumbs.  Reserve 5 Tbs of this mixture and mix it with cinnamon and demerara sugar for topping.  Set this reserved mixture aside.

3.   Mix apple chunks and eggs.

4.   Stir baking powder into rubbed in mixture, then quickly and lightly stir in the egg mixture – don’t over mix.

5.   Spoon into the tin – if you have enough jam, you can dollop some jam in as you spoon cake mixture in.

6.   Dollop rest of jam on the top – we made a little rut along the middle of our loaf cake, and put jam along the middle – good idea to keep it away from the sides of the tin as you don’t want the jam to burn

7.   Spoon reserved crumble / sugar over the top, avoiding jam.

8.   Bake in your preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 or 20 minutes – test with a skewer & it’s cooked when skewer comes out clean.  Cover with foil after about 50 minutes.

9.   Once cooked, leave in tin for around 30 minutes then cool on a wire rack (or eat hot!)

Recipe 2 – Apple Cake with Syrup.

ImageThis is a very different cake, made with semolina – higher in protein than flour.  This cake has no added fat and the main sweetener is the maple syrup.  There are different grades of ‘maple syrup’ sold, and as always you get what you pay for – genuine maple syrup has a low GI in contrast to cheaper varieties, which often contain a low element of maple syrup (therefore less taste) and often have a much higher GI.  This is great with greek yougort or vanilla ice cream.

The recipe here was adapted from

Line a 20 – 22 cm cake tin, or make in a flapjack type tin – 32 x 22 cm, lined.

Heat oven to 180c or gas 4.

4 eggs
½ cup  sugar
250g semolina
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
½ cup quick oats
800g stewed Apples
½ cup flaked almonds – optional

1 cup water
¼ cup  sugar
¾ cup  Maple Syrup

1.   Mix eggs and sugar with a whisk until light, creamy and thick.

2.   Add some of the semolina, then some of the water and vanilla.  Add the rest of the semolina, baking powder, water, vanilla and oats. Mix well.

3.   Mix in apples.

4.   Spread into tin. Sprinkle with almonds if using them.

5.   Bake for 20 – 25 minutes if using a flapjack style tin, or longer if using a cake tin – it is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

6.   Allow the cake to cool.  Heat the syrup for a little while in a small saucepan – don’t let it burn, but do let it thicken a little.  Then pour it over the cake – slowly so it soaks in.

Recipe 3 – Apple, Sunflower seed and Honey Cake.

ImageSunflower seeds are great little packets of goodness – they contain lots of vitamin E, which has been said to help to reduce cholsterol.  They also contain a lot of magnesium, which is needed for strong healthy bones and also for regulating the flow of calcium to the blood vessels and muscles.  They also contain  selenium, which has been found in some studies to inhibit cancer cells… and the Vitamin E that they contain is claimed to help prevent UV damage to the skin by the sun.

We made this in a ring tin – one with a hole in the centre.  We greased it well first, and it turned out wonderfully.

Preheat oven to 170c or Gas 5.

1 cup sunflower seeds.

1/4 cup Honey (heat your measuring cup first by pouring boiling water into it, and this will help honey to run out more cleanly)

1 cup sunflower oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 cups plain flour mixed with 1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt and 1 tsp ground cinnamon or nutmeg and 1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups peeled, chopped apple – chop quite small.

Honey to pour over – use a spoon heated by pouring boiling water over it first to help.

1.   Sprinkle some of the sunflower seeds into the greased tin.

2.   Use an electric mixer to beat sugar, honey and oil.

3.   Beat in eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with the last couple if necessary.

4.   Gently beat in rest of dry ingredients, then fold in vanilla, rest of sunflower seeds & apple.

5.  Cook for 50 – 60 minutes.   Cool in tin for about 10 minutes when taken out of oven.

6.   Turn out onto a wire rack to cool, and very carefully pour over more honey – it helps this absorb better if you heat the honey gently in a pan first.  You may want to prick the cake gently too, to help absorption.

Delicious served with vanilla ice cream, custard, creme fraiche or greek yogurt.

– Do you have any recipes that you’ve found to be family favourites?