Great British Pie Week Day 1 – North Country Fidget Pie

North Country Fidget Pie (G. R. Moore)

Generally fidget pie includes apples and bacon or ham so this North Country version is quite unusual. Fidget Pie is a traditional English recipe for a pie served in the fields to the workers busy bringing in the harvest. I can see why.  The name fidget (or fidgety) pie, originates around Derbyshire andShropshire, in the middle of the country. The origins of the odd sounding name seem to have come from the fact that it originally was fitched, which means five sided in Anglo-Saxon. 


250g plain flour

Pinch salt

175g margarine

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon of cold water


1 finely chopped onion

250g sausage meat

Pepper and salt

1 egg

250g raw potatoes

150g peas


Make the pastry by popping the flour, salt and margarine in a processor, whizz until the mix is like breadcrumbs then add the egg then the water, to make a firm dough. Wrap in clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge for half an hour or more. Mix the chopped onion with the sausage meat, seasoning and bind with the beaten egg.  If you are using frozen peas defrost and drain well, if you are using fresh- cook gently then drain.

Roll out the pastry and use 2/3 to line the base of a pie dish. Put in a layer of the sausage meat mix, then a layer of potatoes thinly sliced, season well then add the peas. Lightly beat the egg and pour over the filling. Use the remaining 1/3 of the pastry to form the lid, glaze using beaten egg. Heat the oven to 190oc/375of/gas5. Bake it in hot oven for 30 minutes reduce heat to moderate – 180oc/350of/gas4 and cook for further 15 minutes. Can be eaten hot or cold.

From Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen 

Good bye to a cooking friend

I know I am supposed to be in the book selling business to earn a living but sometimes I find it very difficult to actually part with some of my books. It is like saying goodbye to a friend and today is one of those days.

I am a particular fan of hand-written recipe books and one that I had in the shop has gone to a new home in Australia where I am sure it will be much loved.

William Sayer starting writing his book in 1821, the hand-writing is beautiful and the recipes exciting. Some of them I used to write Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen, including currie powder, camp vinegar, curacao, Oxford sausages.

Cheerio William enjoy the antipodes.


Gorgeous Greek Fish

It’s a while ago now since I published my book Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen so I don’t run through the pages that often. And strangely I find I use it just like any other recipe book on my shelf. I find myself looking for a good recipe when friends are coming round and look for inspiration from the shelf only to find one from my book that I had loved enough to write about but had forgotten. I think that’s the problem of having a) a LOT of cookery books and b) not being able to make a decision. 

This came from a hand-written recipe book from the 1990s I don’t know the name of the author sadly, but she did often add the names of the people who gave her the recipes, there are quite a few recipes from Dick, Mary and Hilary. The book came with an envelope stuffed with newspaper cuttings and lots of notes on pieces of paper where he/she had jotted down recipes on the first piece of paper which came to hand.

Anyway with Norma and Mike coming round I needed a nice fish dish and found the perfect answer in my book. I’m not sure why I don’t eat this every week because I love it so much and it is so easy to make. 

Mary’s Greek Fish

1 large tin of peeled tomatoes

Bream, haddock or cod for 4

Large handful of fresh parsley and oregano

2 large onions

1 clove of chopped garlic

½ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 180oc/35of/gas 4

Place filleted fish in a flat oven dish with a lid. Fry the chopped onions in olive oil very gently until transparent add the garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes.  Add the tomatoes, then when mushy add the chopped herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the fish and bake in the oven for around 3/4 hour.

This doesn’t need anything with it apart from some crusty bread to soak up the last juices.

Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen

Community recipes – reflecting how people eat

Food is about sharing, whether that is the family at meal times, extended family and friend to mark a special occasion or communities getting together to cement community spirit.

Sharing recipes has been the way to pass on everything from family heirloom recipes and regional specialities to teaching new cooks how to master that basic arts since people started to cook.

I have been looking through some of the community cookery books I have. These are a bit of a favourite of mine and I love how they reflect not only the communities, the countries and regions of origin but the times in which they were produced. Even more than cookery books they reflect exactly how ordinary people cook in good times and lean, using the ingredients that come to hand locally. I love the (and I hate to sound stuffy) amateur and spontaneous approach, which comes from real people producing something. Such as the  booklet produced by Charlestown School (I have no idea where Charlestown is) with illustrations by children at the school and recipes from parents and friends and some celebrities they had written to, with recipes like Mushrooms Tuscan Style from Sally Brigham (obviously a family favourite).

Many of them are also used to raise money for local causes like schools and hospitals and some to raise money for global needs. A special book is Fare-ye-Well with Ladies of the Realm, a book produced during WW2 to collect money for Comforts and Medical Supplies for the Children of Soviet Russia with recipes from titled and ‘well-connected’ ladies of the time including Springtime Vegetable Pastry from Lady Beverage (or her cook?) 

Some are a bit unusual – The Alcatraz Women’s Club Cook Book produced by the wives of guards at the prison who also found themselves and their families ‘imprisoned’ and isolated. Or the Jim Collin Congressional Cookbook produced to fund the republican candidate for congress in 1962 with recipes from members of congress and their wives including Congressional Bean Soup. 

Some are produced by recognised community groups. I have one from a group local to where I live, the West Sussex Women’s Institute, from 1972 and What’s Cooking in the City produced by the City of London Red Cross with recipes from the Court of Aldermen and the Livery Guild of the City of London. I learned a lot about how many guild and trades there. It included such delights as Consomme Beluga from The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, who knew about them?

So from around the world, Cherokee Cooklore produced by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, to the close to home but much older Samaritan’s Cookery Book from Edinburgh these books are a delight and a real spotlight on local social history. Along with a chance of learning some new recipes from real people (or at least their cooks).  

Find some from your neighbourhood at local fairs, fetes and sales where they usually end up. They are a bit of a local treasure.

Zero waste for a 100 years

As I rambled about in my last blog, I have been working on a project about food and food availability locally during WW1. As part of the research we looked through lots of cookery books and magazines of the time, just the job for me I loved it.

At the outset of the war the main issue was reducing waste and being frugal. Although they never expected the war to last for over four years they did expect a tight winter. Books, government posters and magazines promoted the reduction of waste and came up with some canny ideas. As the war continued these recipes became part of everyday life.

Once again Sam Bilton who runs the Repast Supper Club came to our rescue and translated some of these old recipes in a cooking demonstration. Here is one which will stand up to the needs of  Zero Waste Week. I make this all the time now.

Stock Made from Vegetable Trimmings

Mrs C. S. Peel The Daily Mail Cookery Book (1918)

Ingredients: The well washed peelings of potatoes, carrots, turnips; the green tops and outside leaves of celery, cauliflowers, cabbage, lettuces (if not decayed), apple or pear peelings and cores; parsley stalks.

Method: Add water, or the water in which macaroni, rice, haricots, potatoes etc have been boiled. Bring all to the boil then simmer for 30-40 mins. Strain and use as a base for thick soups, sauces etc.

Cooks Comments: This is a very economical way to make what is actually a tasty stock. I kept a largish bowl in the fridge in which I put various vegetable peelings and onion skins as described above over a few days until I had accumulated around 500g or so of trimmings (although an exact weight is not really an issue). When I was ready to make the stock I also saved the water I had used to cook some potatoes and topped it up to around 2.5 litres. If you decide to include onion skins they will give the stock a brown hue, which is something to consider if you are planning to use the stock in a white sauce or summery soup 

Rose petal sorbet – again!

l summer is definitely here. The roses in my garden are coming into their own, the scent is outrageous and I need to make that edible treat that is Rose Petal Sorbet. Back by popular demand this heavenly recipe comes from 100 Great Desserts, Sweet Indulgence… by Mandy Wagstaff. This book stays firmly on my kitchen shelf. The book recommends roses with a sweet scent and a vibrant colour, I made this with the petals from Gertrude Jekyll roses from Terry’s garden, which are not so deep pink but are so perfumed it is heady. If you prefer your sorbet to have a lighter texture add the egg whites, otherwise just use the syrup.

Rose Petal Sorbet with Summer Fruits in Rose Syrup

110g (4oz) fragrant rose petals

570ml (1 pint) water

200g (7oz) granulated sugar

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 egg white (optional)

225g (8oz) mixed summer fruit


Trim and discard the white tips of the petals. Place the water and sugar in a pan and bring slowly to the boil, dissolving the sugar before the boiling point is reached. Boil for 2 minutes then remove from the heat and add the rose petals along with the lemon zest and juice. Stir well and leave to cool. Refridgerate overnight.

The following day, pour the syrup through a sieve lined with muslin. Reserve 6 dessert spoons of the syrup and set aside. Transfer the remainder to the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn until frozen. If using the egg white, whisk to a firm peak then add to the syrup when semi frozen. When frozen spoon into a chilled container and freeze until needed.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker put the syrup into a plastic container and into the freezer, then stir briskly with a fork every hour or so until it is frozen.

Prepare the fruit according to their type. divide them into six glasses, add a spoonful of syrup to each glass then add a scoop of sorbet.

This truly is food of the gods. Thank you Mandy.

want to see the book? click here

When the garden sends you broad beans…

Well the allotment is starting to take off on the picking front with broad beans, courgettes and runner beans and as usual I can’t keep up, so the broad beans are getting a bit big and I like them small and sweet.

The following recipe is not just something to do with an overload of broad beans, it is a reason for growing them! Thick, garlicky (is that a real word?) and herby.

Broad Bean Dip from The Taste of Health by edited by Jenny Rogers

This recipe calls for dried beans but I used fresh of course.





250g broad beans (removed from their jackets and peeled)

1 small onion

6 garlic cloves

A bunch of fresh thyme and a sprig of sage

2 bay leaves

110ml olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon or 1 lime

Salt & pepper


If using dried beans soak them for a few hours or overnight otherwise just carry on with the recipe.

Put beans into a saucepan and cover with water.  Tie the 3 garlic cloves, the onion and the herbs loosely in a muslin bag and add to the pan. Simmer until the beans are tender then discard the muslin bag and water.

Put the beans into a processor with the olive oil, lemon/lime juice, salt & pepper and the the three remaining garlic cloves and process until they are a smooth paste.

yum yum

click here for the book

It’s Pancake Day – Try Scarborough Fair Pancakes

Looking for a savoury pancake to celebrate Pancake day?

Scarborough Fair Pancakes makes 8 large pancakes or 16 small

This recipe comes from The Artful Cook, Secrets of a Shoestring Gourmet by Richard Cawley published in 1988.Reflecting the spirit of the age when chefs were realising that food could be beautiful as well as tasty. This book has some excellent recipes.

8oz plain flour, 2 heaped teaspoons baking powder, salt & pepper, 9 fl oz milk, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon each chopped fresh, sage, rosemary & thyme. Oil for frying

Mix together pancake ingredients. Stir in chopped herbs. Drop tablespoons of the batter into a lightly oiled frying pan and cook over medium heat for 3-4mins turn over once until golden on each side.

Strangely these can be eaten sweet or savoury. For a sweet option serve with yoghurt,  soured cream or maple syrup. For a savoury option serve with goats cheese and salad they also make a good alternative to breakfast pancakes. I also tried them filled with steamed asparagus (of course with a little butter and ground pepper)

A Palm Oil Free Alternative to Nutella

It’s World Nutella Day and if like me you don’t want to join in because of the palm oil in Nutella, here is an alternative.

From Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen this is a chocolate spread, however if you add finely ground hazelnuts (around 1/2 tablespoon) it turns into a nutella-ish spread.

Betty’s Chocolate Spread 

I had to add this homemade chocolate spread, although it is perhaps too nice for my waistline. I did add more cocoa to make it chocolatier (is that a real word?). Easy to make and scrummy.

1 tablespoon soft butter

1 tablespoon icing sugar

2 tablespoons dried milk

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon boiling water


If the dried milk you are using is the granulated rather than fine powder type give it a whizz in the coffee grinder or smash it in a mortar, this makes it easier to mix in.

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl then add the boiling water and mix well, mashing it with the back of the spoon. It never is quite as smooth as the bought variety but that doesn’t affect the spreadability or taste. Put it in a jar or small covered dish and keep in the fridge. I don’t know how long it lasts as it hasn’t got past a week in my house.

Not Just Recipe Books

Over the Christmas holidays I had the chance to actually read some of the books on my shelves. One of the sad things about my job is that I am surrounded by the books I love but hardly get a chance to enjoy them.

And while I was discovering new recipes and jotting down which ones to try over the next few weeks I also really enjoyed having a good old read.

How many people actually read cookery books rather than just dip in and out for recipes? Those that don’t are missing out on a treat. Cookery book writers are passionate about their subject and this overflows into their creations.

Some books are written to be more than just recipes books such as The Settler’s Cookbook by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown with the experiences of her family in their moves around the world.

Of course the Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries epitomise the ‘blooming good read’ category of cookery book and I have read each one from beginning to end like a novel, and enjoyed cooking the food even more because of that. 

As the books I have go back back over 200 years (and in one case 400 years) it means that the style of writing changes drastically from one book to another. Each one assumes that the reader is of there time and is familiar with the subjects of their text and can identify with their ideals for the perfect food and in these I have found some fabulous ‘bon mots’ a few a which follow.

From the the foreword in what first appears to be a most uninspiring book – The Cold Table by Helen Simpson – while giving a potted history of chilled foods, includes the following  passage about Roman feasts.:-

‘But that the Romans did have such feasts I maintain: firstly on Blake’s theory that anything that can be imagined must be true; secondly, arguing from an undoubted proven fact that there were gourmets amongst the Romans, and to the man whose palate is his darling there is no pleasure more immediately more exquisite that a sudden frost upon the tongue’

In fact the whole intro is great and I immediately loved the recipes more.

Chapter One of Kitchen Ranging by Pearl Adam has always been a favourite opener. Entitled The Animal Who Cooks, it begins – ‘Man is the greatest animal of all, the animal who cooks’ He is also, it is thought, the only animal who has weighed the stars, invented handwriting, or discovered dressmaking’ A few of my favourite recipes come from this book including Ginger Apples.

And also found during this cookery book read in is the following, Found in the Souvenir Cookery Book of Leeds Maternity Hospital 1905 – “Cookery means the knowledge of Medea and Circe, and of Helen and of the Queen of Sheba. It means the knowledge of all herbs and fruits and balms and spices, and all that is healing and sweet in the fields and groves, and savoury in the meats. It means carefulness, and inventiveness, and willingness, and readiness of appliances. It means the economy of your grandmothers, and the science of the modern chemist; it means much testing and no wasting; it means English thoroughness and French art and Arabian hospitality; and, in fine, it means that you are to be perfectly and always – loaf givers.” Ruskin.

A fine sentiment for the beginning of 2016.

Happy Reading and don’t just look at the recipes.