Category Archives: Spring

Hot Cross Buns


I know full well that in Britain, it is possible to buy Hot Cross Buns all year round. However in keeping with my personal philosophy of only eating most foods when in season, I only eat these at Easter time, and as I no longer live in Britain, but in Italy, that makes it easier to do. Italians do not know what hot cross buns are. So at Easter I make hot cross buns, because we like them, and because they are relatively easy to make, and the few Italian friends who have tried them, like them very much. Who wouldn’t? What is not to like?

This recipe calls for strong bread flour, and I have made these buns with white and wholemeal, both with good results. You could (I have) make this with plain flour, but you would need to add powdered gluten, to enable it to rise. If you choose this route you would need to add 1 tablespoon of gluten per 500 gm/1 lb flour. Finding somewhere that sells powdered gluten, however is another thing altogether.

The most difficult part of this recipe is achieving the right piping consistency for the cross. It really has to be quite thick if it is not to disappear during the baking.

Makes 16. Preparation about 75 minutes. Cooking 15 minutes

Ingredients for the Buns

250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup milk

75 gm/2 1/2 oz/ 1/3 cup  sugar

90 gm/3 oz melted butter

2 sachets of instant yeast

500 gm/ 1 lb strong bread flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground mixed spice

250 gm/ 1/2 lb sultanas, lightly chopped

Ingredients for the Cross

3 tablespoons of plain white flour

2 teaspoons white sugar

water to mix

Ingredients for the Glaze

65 ml/2 fl oz/ 1/4 cup water

65 gm/2 fl oz sugar


In a small pan, gently warm the milk to about hand hot temperature and no hotter.

Cube the butter and add to the milk to melt it.

Add the sugar and 2 sachets of yeast, stir thoroughly to dissolve all ingredients.


In a large mixing bowl, put in all the dry ingredients and then put in the milk and yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon stir the mixture to bring it all together, then using your hands knead thoroughly for 5 or 10 minutes or until the dough is silky smooth. Cover with a tea cloth and leave in a warm place for 1 hour.

If you have a bread machine put all the dry ingredients for the buns into the mixing bowl, add the milk and yeast mixture and put the machine on to a dough cycle.


After 1 hour turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide equally into 16 balls and arrange them in a greased baking dish of approximately 23 x 30 cm/12 x 15 inches, cover with the tea cloth and leave for 15 to 20 minutes in a warm place.

Meanwhile make the cross batter by combining the flour and sugar in a bowl. Add water in small increments until you arrive at a thick consistency that can still be piped. A very thick cream like consistency is what you want to achieve.




Pipe the crosses on each bun and then put the buns into a hot oven set at 230 C/ 450 F/Gas 8/ Very Hot, and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until they are golden brown. They should also grow in size while they are baking.


Meanwhile make the glaze by combining the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and put over a low heat. Stir to ensure the sugar dissolves and simmer for 5 minutes.


Use a brush to glaze the buns while they are fresh from the oven and piping hot, brushing them at least 2 times to get a good glaze.


My preferred way to eat these is to cut them in half, when they are cold, and toast them on the cut side. Then slather them in butter. Eat immediately while they are still hot.


These are eaten at any time of the day, hot or cold, with or without butter, jam or cheese.



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Filed under Bread, Easter, Spring

Stuffed Baked Squash


DSCN5824I have this lingering love affair with squash. I like it pretty much however it is cooked. However in this neck of the woods, we do not get a lot of choice. On my occasional visits to Germany and Britain, I drool over the different squashes available. Here we basically get one sort and that is the squash that looks like a green curling stone, a flattened globe. They do come in a range of sizes however, from some not much bigger than a tea plate up to bigger than a soccer football. That said it is possible, on the markets at least,  to buy a half or even a quarter of a squash, with no fuss. As an aside, it is also possible to buy one (1) stick of celery! I just love it here.

Anyway I spotted this recipe, and because of my declared love and the original title of ‘Twice Baked Squash’, investigated further.

First off it said use butternut squash. Yes I have seen them, but not around here. But I did have an ordinary squash, so I thought ‘this is a goer’.  Next it said use goats cheese. Well I have some feta that needed using – that will do. Further it said user kosher salt – haven’t got any and none to be bought around here, however as I planned to use feta cheese, which is quite salty, I decided against using any more.Next up was low-fat Greek yoghurt, and again I thought, will ordinary Italian yoghurt from Sud Tirol do? I very sensibly told myself that it would and that no one would be any the wiser.

Lastly it called for Panko breadcrumbs. Now, I have seen this word a lot just lately, but I looked it up on Wikipedia just to refresh my memory. These are breadcrumbs made from a Japanese bread that is baked specially, by passing an electric current through the dough, producing a loaf that has very little crust and has the property of absorbing very little oil or butter when it is further cooked. I make my own breadcrumbs from the bread that I make. My bread is organic sourdough and I am very happy with it, and it has not come from the other side of the world.

I have to say the original title, of Twice Baked Squash, fooled me into thinking that it was a little exotic, and it was not until I had started the first baking that I realized what I was doing. I was softening the squash in the most expensive way possible, by baking it. That is not my style, no way. So I did back-to-back test cooking on how to soften half a squash and here are the results.


Original Recipe said to wrap the squash in aluminium foil and bake at 230 C/450 F/ Gas 8/  Very Hot for 35 minutes or until a knife tested soft. Well our oven takes about 20 minutes to get to that sort of temperature, so a total of 50 minutes oven time at full bore = expensive.

My Recipe. Next I put the other half, without foil, in our vegetable steamer and steamed it for about 12 minutes, using a low gas on the hob top. Done to perfection. I used a cup full of water which took less than 5 minutes to come to the boil, and that water went straight into the stock pot afterwards. I have to confess that I feel incredibly smug when I save time and money, with no loss of flavour either.

Now to my recipe.

Serves 4. Preparation 15 minutes. Cooking 30 minutes


Half a medium squash cut through the middle,  deseeded

3 or 4 medium sticks of celery cut to 6 mm/ 1/4 inch lengths

1 medium onion finely sliced

1 clove of garlic minced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh sage chopped finely or 1/2 tablespoon of dried sage

50 gm/ 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons of yoghurt

2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, dry toasted in a frying pan


Steam the half squash for about 10 to 12 minutes or until it is fully softened. Test with a skewer or thin knife.

Meanwhile saute the onion, celery slices and the garlic in a little of the olive oil. Leave a little texture in the celery.


Using a dessert spoon, remove the flesh, from the squash, transferring it to a small mixing bowl and , leaving a 6 mm/ 1/4 inch layer all over.


Retain the shell

Mash the flesh and then add the cheese, yoghurt, celery, onion, garlic and sage. Mix thoroughly.


Transfer the mixture to the retained shell, smoothing over the surface.

Spread the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.


Sprinkle sparingly with the remaining olive oil.

Bake in a pre set oven at 200 C/425 F/Gas 6/Moderate Hot for about 15 minutes or until it is heated right through.

DSCN5833Serve immediately with vegetables of your choice. And very tasty it was too.



Filed under Autumn/Winter, Cheese, Main Meal, Spring, Vegetables

Stir Fried Brussels Sprouts and Apple



I just love Brussels Sprouts. Raw, boiled, steamed, baked, in a stew, cold the next day, whatever and now this way. It is made with a little maple syrup or honey added, and that touch of sweetness gives the sprouts a bit extra on the taste front and help counter any bitterness from the sprouts.

One of the beauties of wok cooking is the speed with which food can be prepared and brought to the table, and the smaller the food is chopped to, the quicker it is cooked, and this recipe is no different. When my son Adam was at high school, he had a Chinese friend, whose parents owned and ran a Chinese takeaway, and on occasions when I went to collect Adam when he had been playing with his friend, I had the opportunity to see the behind the scenes action in the kitchen of the takeaway. An array of woks on impossibly high gas flames and the  two parents stirring and shaking vigorously for all they were worth, and producing a meal in mere minutes. Impressive.

One can of course prepare all the food before cooking, in which case one would have to soak the prepared apple in lemon juice to prevent it from going brown. However by working swiftly it can be prepared while the onion is cooking, saving the cost of said lemon juice. Like wise the sprouts can also be prepared quickly while the onions and apples are cooking.

Serves 4. Preparation Time 15 minutes. Cooking Time 15 minutes (maximum). Total time approximately 20 – 25 minutes


1 large onion, finely sliced.

2 cloves of garlic.

2 tablespoons olive oil.

1  cooking apple or firm crisp eating apple.

1 level tablespoon maple syrup or honey or sugar

370 gm/12 oz/ 3 cups Brussels sprouts, chopped into eighths , or shredded in a processor

100 gm/ 3 1/2 oz/ 1/3 cup pine nuts, any nuts, chopped or flaked, no nuts

salt and pepper to taste


In a wok (preferably), or medium frying pan, gently soften the onion, in a little of the oil, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue for another 2 minutes.

While the onion and garlic are cooking, chop the apple into small bite size pieces.

Add to the onion and garlic, increase the heat and stir fry for 2 or 3 minutes.


Add the maple syrup and stir fry for 1 minute, and then scrape into a bowl and reserve for later.



Add the rest of the oil and then the sprouts. Over quite a high heat stir fry the sprouts up to 5 minutes, depending on how fine they have been chopped, and until they have turned bright green and are beginning to brown on the edges.


Add the onion. garlic and apple mixture, and working quickly, stir fry, warming through the whole mixture. Season to taste.


Add the nuts, stirring through to distribute them equally.

Serve immediately onto hot plates.


Here I have served them with hot home made sauerkraut in a tomato sauce, and plain boiled potatoes.



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Filed under Autumn/Winter, Main Meal, Spring, Student Food, Vegetables

Braised Red Cabbage


This dish is very popular in Germany and Austria where it is consumed throughout the year, but of course in Britain, red cabbage is used almost exclusively for Pickled Red Cabbage, and rarely for serving hot, which is a pity really. It provides a sweet counterpoint to stronger flavoured items on the plate such as Brussels Sprouts, Parsnips, Swede or Game in much the same way that Cranberry Sauce does, and at a fraction of the cost.

It is simplicity to make, freezes well and the flavour improves if made the day before it is wanted, and just heated up prior to serving. For vegetarians and vegans it could be served with plain boiled potatoes as a main course.



1 small red cabbage

25 gm/1 0z/ butter

1 large onion finely sliced

1 level teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 level teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 Bramley or cooking apple peeled,cored and grated

100 ml red wine vinegar

100 ml cold water

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons of redcurrant jelly or similar


Melt the butter in a suitably large saucepan and gently saute the onion for 5 minutes


Finely slice the cabbage discarding the core, then add to the onion.

Stir in the spices, apple, sugar, red wine vinegar and water. Season well.

Stir until the sugar is dissolved, fit the lid, bring to the boil and the simmer with a lid on for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Check near the hour and make sure the cabbage is tender and also to ensure that the liquid has nearly evaporated. If it has not then cook for a further 10 minutes with the lid off.

Stir in the redcurrant jelly and serve. I used grape jelly the last time I made it, and it was just as nice.


If you do want to make this ahead then when you reheat it just a add a very little water so that it does not catch on the bottom of the pan. Warm it through for about 10 minutes and serve hot.

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Filed under ALL Recipes, Autumn/Winter, Main Meal, Side Dishes, Spring, Vegetables