What's New
Site Map

Bits N Bobs
Food And Drink

Recipe Collections
Recipe A Week 2013
Recipe A Week 2010
A-Z of Regional Cakes

Selected Entries
Pinhole Photography
Keeping Quail
A different recipe each week
Friends websites
Oven Temperatures and Measuring Cups

Most popular stories
A Hamster's Home is his C...
Hamster Peanuts
Simple HDR photography wi...
A Tangfastic Mess
Halloween Animal Beds
Decaffeinated Coffee
Pizza, Hamsters and Ballo...
Hamster Baby Update
Garden Fountain
More Squirrel Photos
Not Quite HDR photography

RSS Feeds:
RSS Feed Entire Site.
RSS Feed Diary only.

Powered by Blosxom

Pinhole Photography Ring
pinhole webring logo
powered by RingSurf
Next | Previous
Random Site | List Sites

Porridge Week 2

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

I only had time to try 4 different porridges this week. I'm going to be away on Friday so won't have chance to make anything.

Monday: Bacon and Syrup

Yes, you read that right. I don't like mixing sweet flavours with meat and consider pineapple with gammon or on a pizza to be a very poor choice. I decided to be adventurous and try a sweet bacon porridge. Mistake. I could still taste it even after a cup of tea and brushing my teeth.

Bacon and Syrup porridge

Tuesday: Apple and Blackberry

After last week's Apple and Cinnamon porridge, I decided to try an Apple, Blackberry and Cinnamon porridge, using extra cinnamon. This was better than the plain apple one, although the blackberry seeds added a bit of a crunchy texture.

Wednesday: Lemon Berry Porridge

This was inspired by a recipe from the World Porridge Making championships. I used a mixture of frozen berries (blueberries, blackberries, wild strawberries and red gooseberries) which were mostly picked in our garden, with about a tablespoon of added lemon juice. I cooked the porridge in water instead of milk then added the fruit.

I tried the porridge first, before adding any extra sugar. I don't think it needed any. The fruit were quite sweet and the lemon juice balanced it out with some added sharpness.

Lemon Berry Porridge

Thursday: Chocolate and Coconut

This was inspired by the flavours of the Bounty chocolate bar. Since dessicated coconut can be quite 'bitty', I microwaved some in water last night then added it to the porridge this morning, along with some drinking chocolate. The coconut still had a bit of bite to it. I have tried coconut in porridge several times before and there are always some hard bits so I probably need to boil or simmer it for quite a long time to stop that happening.

Porridge Week 1

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

I have porridge for breakfast fairly often but now that the weather is starting to get cold, it's probably time to make it my regular breakfast now. Most mornings I just add some dried fruit and sometimes some honey but this week I thought I would try a different flavour each day.

Monday: Peanut butter and Cranberry

Since it is World Porridge Day, I decided to do a different porridge each day this week. I only decided this after I had already left for work so this morning I used what I had available: a tub of dried cranberries and a small pot of peanut butter.

Tuesday: Dried raspberry

While I like raspberries, the taste didn't get into the porridge and they were very 'bitty' to eat.

Wednesday: Apple, cinnamon and brown sugar

I have mentioned before that most cake recipes don't use enough cinnamon. Unfortunately I made the same mistake myself and didn't add enough to the oats. Next time, I will add more and possibly use sweetened cooked apple instead of chopping a fresh apple into the porridge.

Apple and cinnamon porridge

Thursday: Strawberry Porridge

We have a bag of frozen strawberries so I put some in a tub to defrost in the fridge overnight and added them to the porridge after I had cooked it. I then gave it another 20 seconds in the microwave to make sure the strawberries weren't too cold.

Strawberry Porridge

Fresh strawberries don't always have much flavour and I could probably have added more but this was ok.

Friday: Nutella and Peanut Butter

This used to be a favourite of mine but I hadn't had it for a while. We recently bought a jar of nutella so I made it again today. This was possibly my favourite of the week.


Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

A few weeks ago I decided to try somewhere different for lunch. I found a website called wheeldecide.com which can randomly choose from nearby restaurants or take-aways. I decided to use it to choose where to go for lunch.

Week 1: Full Stop Sandwich

This place was a bit of a walk. I didn't know where 'New Town Row' was and had to look it up on a map. When I got there it was almost empty but while I was paying for my sandwich it started to fill up. I chose their 'sandwich of the day' which was pork and stuffing. It came with a very thick gravy and a few pieces of crackling.

Week 2: Tuckers

I walk past this place, in the Minories, fairly regularly. It does sandwiches and hot food. I decided to try the all day breakfast for £5 which had bacon, egg, sausage, black pudding, beans, toast, hash brown and tomatoes. It also came with a cup of tea. It was good value and very filling.

Week 3: Wasabi

I needed to walk to the shops to pick up something I had ordered from PC World so I put the postcode for the High Street into Wheeldecide. It kept coming up with places in the Palisades, which is closed for refurbishment, so I decided to go to Wasabi, in New Street Station, instead.

I had been wanting to go there since it opened. I chose one of their salmon sushi boxes, which came with a couple of spicy chicken skewers.


They have a wide range of sushi and bento boxes, with rice and noodles. I'll have to revisit to try something else.

Apple Sauce Hot Chocolate Brownies part 2

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

I made a second batch of the apple sauce and drinking chocolate brownies. This time I added a handful of dried cherries to the mix. I also used half apple pureé and half olive oil, since I only had half a cup of apple pureé in the fridge (the rest is in the freezer).


When the brownies came out of the oven, I sprinkled 50g of plain chocolate over the top and waited for it to melt before spreading it over the top.

I took the cakes to work the share out and the everyone seemed to like them.

Bake-Off Fougasse

Story location: Home / Blog / tv /

We have been fans of the Great British Bake Off since it first started and occasionally I cook something inspired by the programme. This week they did a Fougasse, which I hadn't heard of but looked good. The version on the programme was flavoured with herbs but I thought I would start with a plain version then try flavoured ones another time.

I followed the bread part of the recipe precisely, scaling it down a bit since I didn't need two loaves.

  • 300g (2¼ cups) of bread flour
  • 6g salt
  • one sachet of yeast
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 200 ml warm water

The method involved adding ¾ of the water at the start, then slowly adding the rest, using a food mixer with a dough hook. I followed it to the letter, including the 8 minute mixing time.

I actually split the dough in 2, adding extra flour to one half to use for a pizza base. The other half I left as-is and shaped into an approximate leaf shape and cut down the middle and diagonally from the centre.

After about an hour or so proving, I transferred the bread, still on the baking paper, onto the pizza stone and baked it (at gas mark 7) for 15 minutes.


It looks a bit irregular (or informal as Mary Berry might say) but that was mainly because it slid off the tray while I was getting ready to transfer it to the pizza stone. We ate it with some dips. I made the cheese and courgette dip again, but this time using cream cheese and pecorino instead of goats cheese. The fougasse was good. The outside was crispy while the inside was soft and fluffy. The dip was cheesy and went well with it.

Next time, I will add some extra flavours to the bread. Possibly garlic and chilli or parmesan/pecorino. We have some fresh herbs in the garden (and more chopped in the freezer) so I could also do Paul Hollywood's herb version too.

Apple Sauce Hot Chocolate Brownies part 1

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

We have a glut of hot chocolate powder in work, left over from when we used a different drinks machine. I was talking to a colleague in the kitchen and I wondered whether I could use some of it to make cakes. I decided to take some home to make an experimental batch of chocolate brownies. If they were any good, I would make some more to take back to work to share.

Every now and then I use apple sauce in recipes, since it can be used to replace some or all of the butter. We recently bought an Instant Pot, which we use several times a week as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, bread proving pot, or sometimes just a giant saucepan. It is very useful and I fully intend to blog a bit more about it in the future.

We had recently been given a bag of apples from the tree in Emma's Auntie Val's garden. I peeled them, cut them into big chunks and put them in the instant pot with a splash of water. I cooked them on the 'Soup' programme for 15 minutes and they had cooked down to a smooth pureé, there was no need to mash or liquidize afterwards.


I looked up some brownie recipes to get a feel for the quantities, then decided to use the hot chocolate powder to replace both the sugar and cocoa powder.


  • 1 cup of apple pureé
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ cup of hot chocolate powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 50g of plain chocolate, broken into chunks


  1. Heat the oven to 180C or gas mark 4. Grease and line a 9 or 10 inch cake tin.
  2. Mix the apple pureé, eggs and hot chocolate powder together
  3. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and sift into the wet mixture. Fold in.
  4. Stir in the chocolate pieces.
  5. Pour into the tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.


Apple Sauce Hot Chocolate Brownie

Unfortunately I had to leave the house before the brownie was fully cooked so I turned the oven off and left it in while the oven cooled. When I got back, the brownie was properly cooked though, possibly a bit over-cooked because it wasn't moist and squishy inside.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the flavour though. Chocolate cakes do need a lot of cocoa powder or they just end up like brown sponge cakes. This was probably about right. I tried a square, then remembered that I needed to take a photo to put here. After taking the photo, I made a coffee and ate the second piece. If there is any cake left on monday, I'll take it to work, but I'll probably have to make another one to make sure there is enough to go round.

Hot Chocolate and Malty Bread

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

I recently bought another jar of malt extract, to replace the one I bought back in 2013 which had gone mouldy. I have started adding a tablespoon of it to bread or pizza base.

Last week we had some milk in the fridge which was about to go out of date so I thought I'd have a go at making a malted drink, a bit like horlicks or ovaltine. I put a spoon each of cocoa powder and malt extract in a jug, added the milk and gave it a whisk before warming it in the microwave. It probably needed more cocoa but it was good.

Tonight I had a go at making a spiced hot chocolate. I put sugar, ginger, cinnamon and a cardomom pod in a jug of milk and heated it before whisking it into some cocoa powder. I guessed at the amounts of spice and got the balance about right. I didn't write down the quantities but it was about a quarter of a teaspoon of each.

Regional Cakeathon Revisited: Northumberland Threshing Day Barley Bread

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /

The barley bread was one of the recipes I wanted to try during the main run of the A-Z of baking but I had difficulty tracking down the barley flour. I eventually managed to find some in a vegan/health food shop in Digbeth in Birmingham but by then I had already made the Nottingham Apple Pudding.

The only versions of this recipe on-line seem to be more like a savoury scone than a bread, made with buttermilk and baking powder. I thought I would try to make a more traditional bread, using yeast. Since baking powder was only invented in the mid 19th century, if the barley is a genuine traditional food, then early versions would have used yeast.

Northumberland Threshing Day Barley Bread

I used a mixture of barley flour and bread flour, added yeast and salt and then enough milk to make a soft dough. It rose quite slowly so I left it overnight. I only made a bread roll sized loaf as an experiment but it came out ok. I will have another go sometime in the future and try a few other variations on the recipe.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

I've been hearing a lot about the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte recently. It's been hard to walk down the street without seeing a poster or advertising board announcing their availability. I thought I should try one to find out what all the fuss was about.

I popped into a Starbucks on the way to work and ordered a 'tall' one, using their hilarious nomenclature of calling the smallest size tall. First impressions were promising. There was a very pleasant cinnamon aroma coming up from the cup.

Then I tasted it.

First impressions can be very deceptive.


Ewww, that's very sweet

The cinnamon smell was purely there to deceive the senses. It was sprinkled on the foam. There was no warming cinnamon flavour in the coffee. There was no warming coffee flavour in the coffee. There was a horrible sweet flavour masking everything else.

I couldn't finish it and half of it got poured down a grid.

Regional Cakeathon Revisited: Bakewell Tart and Chester Pudding

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /

When I was compiling the list of recipes for my 'Cakeathon', there were some letters where I found several recipes which I wanted to do. I decided to go through the alphabet once then revisit any remaining recipes.

A couple of days ago I blind-baked a couple of pastry cases, with the intention of making a Chester Pudding. While I had the ground almonds out, I thought I should make a bakewell tart too. I know that the Bakewell Pudding is the genuine traditional item and that the tart is a more modern version. I intend to try the pudding at some point but here is my attempt at a Bakewell Tart.

Bakewell Tart

See more ....
The filling was based on a recipe from a Hairy Bikers programme.

Chester Pudding

On to the Chester Pudding. While I was researching recipes, I found the there were two completely different puddings with the same name. One was a suet pudding, the other was a version of a Lemon Meringue Pie. I decided to make the latter. This was the same recipe which featured on the TV programme Terry and Mason's Great Food Trip, where Terry Wogan got driven around the country, eating local recipes.

Chester Pudding

When I read a few recipes, I realised that the lemon and almond layer was actually just a lemon curd with ground almonds and almond essence added. I decided to take a bit of a short cut and mixed a few tablespoons of lemon curd with almonds and spread that on the pastry base.

Apart from the pastry base being a bit thick and dry, both puddings/tarts came out well. The almond filling for the bakewell tart was really good for a first attempt. The lemon and almond layer in the chester tart could probably have benefited from more almonds or almond essence but that's a minor quibble.

Owls Everywhere

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

A few months ago, a load of decorated owls popped up in and around Birmingham. I managed to find and photograph a few of them on my way to work and during my lunch break.


Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail
Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail
Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail
Thumbnail Thumbnail

Click on the thumbnail to view the image

Regional Cakeathon Z: Zimbabwe Sweet Potato Scones

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /

At last I have reached the letter Z in my alphabetical trawl through cakes and geography. It only took me a bit longer than I expected. I originally planned to make something every week or so but it ended up taking one year and 9 months. I have had to leave the UK again since the only 'Z' recipes I could find were Zimbabwe or Zanzibar.

I'm not sure how authentic this recipe is. There are many versions on different websites, mostly claiming to be a cookie recipe and mostly identical to each other, so it's not been easy to find where it came from. I came across a book called Cooking the Southern African Way: Culturally Authentic Foods Including Low-fat and Vegetarian Recipes which has the same recipe, but without the lemon glaze. This book claims that the recipe was a British invention which may explain why the so-called cookies are actually more like a traditional scone, but without milk.

We regularly have sweet potatoes in the house, so last time we cooked some I grated and froze a tub ready to make these.


  • 140g butter
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1 tbs orange zest (the original was lemon zest but I had some orange zest in the freezer)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice (the original used nutmeg)
  • 60g honey
  • 1 egg
  • 140-180g grated sweet potato
  • 400-450g self raising flour (the original used plain flour and separate raising agents)
  • a pinch of salt


I started by softening the butter then beating in the sugar, orange zest, mixed spice, egg and honey. I stirred in the grated sweet potato then sifted in enough flour to make a soft dough. I broke off lumps of dough, rolled then into balls then flattened them into cookies. These were baked at gas mark 3, 170C, for 15 minutes. While the scones cooled, I mixed the icing.

Lemon Glaze

The various versions on-line usually have a teaspoon of lemon juice then small amounts of water are added to get the right consistency. I didn't measure the icing sugar. I started with generous teaspoon of butter which I melted then added the icing sugar. I added enough lemon juice to form a spreadable icing.

Zimbabwe Sweet Potato Scones
The so-called Sweet Potato Cookies.

As I said earlier, these were more like a scone than a cookie. One of the small ones had cracked so I tasted (un-glazed) it while the rest cooled. The combination of orange and spice flavours worked very well. The lemon glaze added a bit of sharpness which worked well.

Regional Cakeathon Y: Yorkshire Curd Tart

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /

I first tried a Yorkshire Curd Tart back in 2010 when we went to the Otley Agricultural Show. I quite liked it so it was the natural choice for me to make for the letter Y.

The pastry base was a standard shortcrust, not the sweet enriched pastry often used for dessert tarts or pies. I figured that the traditional version of a recipe like this would have a more plain pastry.

I've never had much luck with pastry so after baking blind for 10 minutes, I removed the baking beans and put the case back in the oven for another 5 minutes to dry out a bit more.

First attempt at a Yorkshire Curd Tart

See more ....
The filling was made by creaming together 50g of caster sugar and 50g of softened butter. I added a teaspoon of mixed spice and 2 small eggs then the curd cheese. We use Quark semi-regularly so instead of making fresh curd cheese, I tipped in what remained in the open tub in the fridge, which was a bit over 100g. I then added 50g of sultanas.

I poured the mixture into the pastry case and baked it as gas mark 4 (180 °C) for about half an hour or so.

Yorkshire Curd Tart

Despite my precautions with the pastry case, the base was very soft and the sides were a bit too crispy. After baking, there was a strong buttery smell in the house and I was worried that the filling had separated but it hadn't. The tart tasted good, not too rich or sweet. It would probably go well with a cup of coffee.

Regional Cakeathon X: eXeter Pudding

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /

My choice of recipe for the letter X is a bit of a cheat, since of course Exeter doesn't start with that letter. I have also had to more or less abandon my original idea of doing recipes named after places I've been to or those with some significance or importance to me. I've not actually been to Exeter - the nearest I've been is driving past on the motorway.

I originally found the Exeter Pudding in the ever useful Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery. I had brioche crumbs in the freezer (which has to be a candidate for one of the most middle class things I've written) so I used those for breadcrumbs. I didn't have any rum or lemon rind so I added some limoncello to the breadcrumb-custard mixture.

Exeter Pudding recipe from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery

See more ....
Last night I made a couple of small sponge cakes, using the simple but reliable equal weights recipe. Tonight I assembled the pudding and baked it:


Sponge cake

  • 2 eggs (about 120g)
  • 120g butter
  • 120g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Exeter Pudding

  • 150ml double cream
  • 150g breadcrumbs (from a chocolate chip brioche I made earlier in the year)
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • a couple of tablespoons of limoncello with milk added to 150ml
  • Ratafia Biscuits


I buttered a pyrex dish, sprinkled a handful of breadcrumbs over the base then covered with a layer of ratafia biscuits. I melted the rest of the butter and mixed it with the rest of the 'wet' ingredients. I poured a thin layer of this over the ratafia then added a layer of sponge cake, which I had spread with raspberry jam.

I poured some more mixture over, added more ratafia biscuits, more mixture, a final layer of sponge cake then the rest of the mixture. I covered the dish with foil and baked for about an hour at gas mark 4.

Exeter Pudding

The pudding was a bit sweet but the flavours were good, possibly thanks to the ingredients which went in - you can't really go wrong when a pudding contains cream, brioche and a rich sponge cake.

Exeter Pudding

Regional Cakeathon W: Welsh Cakes

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /

Most of the recipes I've done so far have been named after towns or regions. This is the first one named after an entire country, one in which I lived and/or worked for over 10 years.

Welsh Cakes

The recipe I followed was the average of several ones:

  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 3oz sugar
  • ½ mixed spice
  • 1 egg
  • sultanas/dried fruit
  • a splash of milk

I put the flour and butter in a food processor and pulsed until it formed breadcrumbs. I then added the mixed spice and sugar and pulsed a few more times before tipping the mixture into a bowl. I added the fruit (a handful of sultanas and mixed berries) and egg and mixed well. I put a small splash of milk in to help it form a dough.

Traditionally, Welsh Cakes are cooked on a flat griddle (another name for them is Bakestones). I cooked them on our pizza stone for about 3-4 minutes each side.

It's been a few years since I ate a welsh cake (the last time I went to Cardiff) so I can't remember exactly how these compare. They tasted ok to me.