I certainly like my food and was inspired by a grandmother and a mother who made proper food – cooked from scratch using recipes they’d had handed down to them.

Gathered here you’ll find a collection of my favourite recipes and ideas; some old, some new. All delicious. All tested. All eaten. More than once.

Quinces; November


Quince time is always exciting in our household. Exciting because my wife makes the most delicious quince jam that we feast upon alongside warm Turkish bread (encrusted with nigella seeds) and good cheese; ewes’ milk Wensleydale from the Hawes Creamery or good Double Gloucester. It makes the best, most indulgent breakfast.

The excitement starts as Autumn closes in and we ask ourselves ‘Where will we be able to buy our quinces from this year?’ This conundrum is always solved, one way or another, but it can become pretty intense as the calendar advances steadily through October (and sometimes November) and we still are quinceless.

In recent times we have obtained our quinces from the excellent fruit and vegetable section in Newcastle’s Fenwick department store, a surprise and joyous find in Newcastle’s excellent Grainger Market, had them brought back from Iran in a suitcase and, last year, via friends who bought quinces for us in a Cambridge market and brought them all the way up to the North East. Our predilection for them is well known.

This year we surprisingly found them, in good quantities, in a greengrocer’s shop in Sunderland’s Chester Road; the growing profusion of rather more exotic fare in these high street shops is a constant source of good things; fresh herbs, good tomatoes and BIG pomegranates.

When we were first married my wife tried to explain to me about quinces. They are popular and widespread in Iran but have fallen out of favour here in the UK and I have to admit I was entirely ignorant of them, even as a gardener. However, once she had found some and made her excellent jam I was hooked. At around the same time they cropped up in many books and articles written by Monty Don. He is a big fan of them and grows three or four varieties in his Herefordshire garden. They looked like handsome fruit to grow.

From then on obtaining quinces became something of an obsession and we would get hold of them, by hook or by crook, every year. I have sowed quince seeds regularly over the past five or six years and have developing trees of various sizes in our allotment and in pots ready to plant wherever we fancy. Even the oldest of these twiggy trees is nowhere near fruiting or flowering but it is an exciting project that will hopefully bear fruit for us in a few more years.

In the meantime, we buy our quinces and enjoy their aromatic scent and flavour in our chunky jam throughout the year.


Dried chillies; January

Here are the chillies from harvest 2014, dried on the window sill and packed in a handsome jar.


Making marmalade – January

It’s been a couple of years since I made marmalade, it’s a bit of a faff and needs a few uninterrupted hours and, of course, Seville oranges to do it justice. A visit to Glasgow rewarded me with some Seville oranges (by accident) and so a day was set aside for the alchemy. After a lot of squeezing, slicing and scraping I was left with the basic elements and set to work.

The kitchen is a fine place when marmalade is on the go and very soon the whole house is too. The aroma of warm bitter oranges seeps into every corner of the house and with the addition of sugar, a sweet heady edge combines to give the unmistakable marmalade smell.

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The whole boiling section of any sort of jam\preserve making is a bit of a leap of faith for me. Sometimes it works (I know not how) and sometimes it doesn’t (I know not why) but the end product is nearly always delicious and one can compromise easily when it’s home made. Hand-in-hand with boiling the liquid is the selection and cleaning of the jars; always a jumble of sizes and shapes that require heating to the point that you can barely hold them as you ladle in scalding hot sugar syrup.

Nonetheless, it was all accomplished and the results are delicious!


Oat, Cinnamon and Vanilla Scones

oat and cinnamon scone

This recipe is a new one, found on the pages of the excellent How Sweet It Is food blog by Jessica. The ingredients are in volume rather than weight but use the same measuring vessel (for your cup measurement) and you’ll be fine. There is an optional maple syrup glaze and crunchy oat topping too for when you feel like impressing!


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk (or use 2/3 yogurt + 1/3 milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

maple glaze
1 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon single cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

oatmeal crunch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Add the butter and using your fingers, a fork or a pastry blender mix it together and combine until the butter forms coarse crumbs.

Make a well in the center and add in buttermilk and vanilla extract. Mix with a large spoon until a dough forms and comes together – it will be sticky! Just make sure your hands are floured and so is your work surface. Pat the dough into a 1 1/2-inch thick square. Slice the square into 12 smaller squares or cut into circles. Brush each with some milk, then place the scones on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Top with the glaze and oatmeal before serving.

maple glaze
Whisk together the ingredients until smooth. If the mixture is too thin, whisk in more sugar 1/4 cup at a time. If it’s too thick, whisk in more syrup or cream, 1 teaspoon at a time. Drizzle on scones!

oatmeal crisp
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the sugar and let it start to bubble. Stir in the oats and cinnamon with a spatula, coating the oats well. Cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, while the oats toast and the sugar caramelizes. Place the oats on a piece of parchment paper and let them cool completely. Break pieces apart and sprinkle on top of the scones.