My failed potato crop !

My attempt to become self-sufficient in potatoes has failed miserably ! About 3 months ago I planted 3 growing sacks with potatoes and had high hopes that I would have a good supply of home-grown potatoes ready for Christmas. I looked after them well but it seems our wet weather has taken its toll. About a month ago all the leaves went black and even to my inexperienced eye I knew that things were not looking good.

Anyway we decided that maybe potato blight was a problem and we cut off all the offending leaves. This was against my better judgement but anyway it happened. So, yesterday, the potatoes were dug up and whilst not expecting much I was shocked as to how bad the crop was. It is difficult to describe the end result but I can only say that they are small, very small infact! See the photo opposite. The largest was the size of a marble and the smallest the size of a pea!  

 I don’t think that I will try growing potatoes again. In fact I think that any attempt at The Good Life is doomed to disaster as far as I’m concerned so in future it’s supermarket vegetables for me !

As a consolation though it seems that it has been a bad year for potatoes in the UK due to the wet weather. This video about this years potato crop was on the BBC website.

Malaysian beef and aubergine curry‏ for the slow cooker

My slow cooked beef curry recipe is the most popular recipe on my blog so I decided it ‘s time to add another fabulous and easy curry recipe. This was introduced to me by my daughter and I have to say that I enjoyed this Malaysian curry more than the beef curry I normally make!
Try this recipe for an easy Malaysian beef and aubergine curry. You can use a slow cooker or a caserole pot on a low light in the oven.
Here are the ingredients to serve 4 people.
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
500g braising beef, diced
1 large aubergine, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons (or to your tasting!!) of red Thai curry paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
400ml coconut milk 
Finely chop the onion and fry in oil. add garlic, beef, aurbergine. fry until browned.
Add to the slow cooker, then add the coconut milk, fish paste and Thai red paste.
Cook on low until done.
Serve with rice and pak choi

Baked American Cheescake Recipe – Just amazing !

I have been a lover of cheesecake for as long as I can remember. Cheesecake, of course, comes in various styles but my favourite is the baked variety. I have eaten baked American cheesecake in New York, Las Vegas, Florida and Chicago but this recipe makes better cheesecake !  I have been using this recipe for many years and when I make this for dinner guests they all say how fantastic it is and they want the recipe !

It’s easy to make, and the preparation takes me about 30 minutes and the cooking time is about an hour.

This receipe serves eight people and here are the ingredients:-

350g digestive biscuits

100g butter (melted)

675g cream cheese (full fat)

225g caster sugar

3tbsp cornflower

2 large eggs, beaten

300ml whipping cream

1tsp vanilla extract

350 frozen mixed summer fruit berries

Extra 4tbsp caster sugar for the sauce

You will also need:-

1 round 24cm loose bottomed cake tin, greased with butter and lined with grease proof paper.

1 roasting tray


Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C on fan) or gas mark 4

To make the base, crush the biscuits until they look like breadcrumbs. I do this by weighing the biscuits and then putting them in a freezer bag and hitting them with a rolling pin.

Put the crushed biscuits in a bowl and then pour in the melted butter and mix it all together. Put the mixture into the base of the lined cake tin and press down until it’s level.

I then use a Magimix food processor to mix the cream cheese, caster sugar and cornflower, and then add the eggs, cream and vanilla. The mixture needs to be smooth before pouring it onto the biscuit base in the cake tin.

Pour 2cm of boiling water from a kettle into the roasting tray and then sit the cake tin in the hot water and put it into the oven for about an hour or until the top of the cheesecake goes light brown all over. To get an even brown colour you may need to turn the cheesecake around in the oven once or twice.

To make the berries, put them in a saucepan with the 4tbsp of caster sugar and gently heat until they turn into a nice sauce. Leave them to cool in the fridge ready to pour over the cheesecake.

I guarantee that this is a “melt in your mouth” cheesecake !

Fray Bentos Pies and Sean Bean

You might wonder what Fray Bentos pies and Sean Bean have in common! Sean Bean was a guest on last Saturday’s Jonathan Ross Show and he was talking about how he flew out 60 Fray Bentos pies whilst he was shooting a film on location somewhere abroad.

Now, I don’t mind a good quality pie myself on occasions, but I’m still searching for the perfect pie and  haven’t found anything to match my mum’s meat and potato pie! So when Sean Bean mentioned the Fray Bentos pie I thought that they must be very good if he considered taking 60 of the pies with him.

Anyway, I was in my local supermarket the next day and happened to stumble across the same pies so I decided I would buy one to try it. However, having just eaten it I have to report that they don’t live up to Sean Bean’s plug. In fact, I ended up leaving most of it as it was mostly artery clogging pastry with virtually no nice pieces of beef to speak of.

I noticed that Sean Bean is not as slim as he used to be and now I realise why!

If anybody can recommend a good quality pie that you can buy on the Internet I would love to know, in the meantime, I won’t be opening the Fray Bentos chicken pie I bought at the same time. Never mind 60 pies, one of those was more than enough for me.

How to cook the perfect steak

After having tried various methods of cooking steaks I have realised that the simple method is the best.

First of all you need a good piece of steak. Sirloin, rib eye or fillet is the best and make sure that it has been hung for at least 21 days. If the steak has streaks of fat running through it like a marble effect then that’ s a good sign. Personally, I prefer fillet but it is more expensive.

The secret to cooking a good steak is to keep it simple. First of all, take the steak out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for about 30 minutes or so. Then put some olive oil onto the steak and then add ground black pepper in fairly generous amounts. Next, add  a good sprinkling of sea salt. Do this to both sides and leave for a few minutes.

Use a good quality frying pan or skillet and add a very small amount of olive oil and put the pan on a medium heat until the pan is very hot but not so hot that blue smoke is coming off. When the pan is hot enough add the steak. Depending on how you like your steak done leave the steak to cook for about 3 minutes and then turn it over. Each side should be well done but it’s the inside of the steak that needs to be cooked to your liking.

A good way of testing the steak to see how well done it is is to use your finger to press down on the meat and you can tell how well done it is by how soft the meat feels. The softer the meat the less well cooked it is.

Finally, once the steak is cooked take it out of the pan and leave it on a warm plate for 2 or 3 minutes as this lets the juices settle back into the meat. Transfer the cooked steak onto your plate, add salad and, of course some home made chips and you will have the perfect steak meal.

One final thing I would recommend is to but some proper steak knives. It’s a nice feeling when your knife effortlessly cuts through the perfectly cooked steak !


Britain’s Best Bacon Sarnie

I love a good bacon sandwich. They are one of life’s simple pleasures. I know that they are not the healthiest food you can have but anything in moderation I think is fine.

Now though a roadside cafe is set to become a destination in itself after judges named it the best place in the UK to get a bacon sandwich.

Bob’s Big Bite in Stourbridge has been awarded the title of being home of ‘Britain’s best bacon sarnie’ by the AA.

Judges spent  30 days eating nothing but bacon sandwiches at 50 venues to find the nations best buttie.

Andy Taylor of the AA, said: “After personally visiting all venues, I saw that the competition was extremely tough, but we feel that the winners truly deserve their title. 

“Bob Hunt at Bob’s Big Bite says: “We are so thrilled to have won this award. We work hard to give our customers the best quality food and service and look forward to serving up many more great bacon sandwiches”

Bob’s Big Bite will now be given a commemorative plaque to show off their award.

I wish the AA had asked me to enter the competition because I make a great bacon sandwich. The AA don’t say what they think makes the best bacon sandwich but in my opinion the bacon needs to be fried in pan until it’s crispy around the edges but not over cooked. A good fresh bread bun must also be used and you have to have at least 3 rashes of bacon. Brown sauce is an optional extra.

If I had entered I think I would have won !

Help ! How Do I Open A Tin Of Spam ?


Spam. I actually like it ! I am not talking about internet spam that is the scourge of all our lives but I am talking about the meat. It comes in a tin and it is a great credit crunch meal. It tastes great fried or grilled until it is nice and brown and crispy. Tomato sauce is a good addition as well.

I only have one problem with Spam and that is every time I try to open a tin of it I can’t ! You see the problem is, despite the very clear instructions, that I always end up pulling off the metal tag on the top of the tin which means then that it is virtually impossible to open.

I have just wrestled with a tin of Spam for 20 minutes to try and get it open. The metal tag with which you are supposed to open the tin with snapped off and I had to eventually get a big knife to it to saw the tin open. I was lucky that I didn’t slice my hand off. A normal tin opener wouldn’t work on the tin so I had to resort to brute force to get it open.

Eventually I managed to get the top off the tin but getting the actual meat out was another problem. I had to prise it out with a knife. Maybe it’s just a man thing in that we like things to be simple but products with too much packaging is a pet hate of mine. Many times I have had to get a sharp knife to thick plastic which completley encases something. Everytime I do it I risk losing a lot of blood !

If anybody else has problems opening a tin of spam I would love to know and if anybody knows of a good way of opening the tin I can’t wait to hear from you.

Waitrose Keralan Spiced Chicken Soup

It’s a cold winter day and you are looking for something to warm you through. It’s lunch time and not really the time for spending time in the kitchen. Are you looking for inspiration on what you can eat and get the body heat going again ? The problem is you can’t be bothered cooking and you need something quick and easy. Well, I may just have the answer –  Soup ! …..It has been around a long time and some soup has had some bad publicity lately due to high salt content, but I think I have found the perfect soup. It’s Waitrose Keralan Spiced Chicken soup and Moroccan Chicken soup. I am a fan of most things spicy and these soups hit the spot perfectly. They have plenty of chicken in them and vegetables and they are really tasty. I can highly recommend them. I have to tell you that I am not an employee of Waitrose, I just wanted to tell you that I have just discovered these soups. I can’t remember how much I paid for them and they are probably a little more expensive than other brands but I regard it as good value as I have never seen these flavours before.

I checked out the salt content on the label and each carton has 0.63g of salt. I think the maximum daily intake of salt is 6.00g a day, so they don’t seem to have an excessive amount of salt. These figures count as “healthy” to me but I am no expert. What could be better than a healthy and very tasty soup – perfect for a winters day ! NOTE– If Waitrose want to send me some more of their soups to see if they measure up to the Keralan Spicy Chicken soup I could easily be persuaded to try them !

Waitrose Keralan Spiced Chicken Soup

El Gaucho Steak House, York – Review

As you may know from one of my previous posts about 10 things to eat before you die I love a good steak. In fact it is number 1 on my list. Last week I realised that I had not eaten a good piece of beef steak for quite a few months so I decided that I needed one!. My daughter is a medical student at York University so I decided to visit her and go out for a meal on the Saturday evening. After a bit of research I discovered that there is an Argentine Steak restaurant in York called El Gaucho so I made a reservation and off we went.

The best steaks I have ever had have been in the USA. There is a chain called “The Outback” which have an Australian theme to them. After that the UK has some good beef but Argentina is famed for it beef and after I had a good experience at The River Plate restaurant in Leeds I have been a fan ever since.

The El Gaucho restaurant in York is quite small and because I booked late there was only space for us upstairs, but the food is the same so it didn’t matter. The menu at the El Gaucho is quite extensive. They also have chicken and salmon on the menu but I was there for the steaks. I decided to go for the Beef fillet which included chips and salad. I also had a side order of onion rings. At £21 the fillet was a little expensive but as it turned out it was money well spent as the beef was very tasty, succulent and well cooked. I like my steak cooked medium to well done. OK, I know many people will say that you should have it cooked rare, but I like mine medium to well and always have!

el gaucho york

The service at the El Gaucho was very efficient and friendly and when I was paying even the owner came out of the kitchen to talk to me. I nearly asked him if he could show me how to cook the perfect steak but I didn’t! (My home cooked steaks are ok, but I am still working on the best way to cook a steak)

Overall my visit to El Gaucho was a very good experience. If you like steaks and you live in the York area then I can highly recommend this restaurant. Judging by how busy it was I think a lot of other people have realised that it’s a little gem too!

Britains Top Chippies

In a previous post about food I mentioned that I love fish and chips. I don’t each fish and chips very often now but I still consider myself a connoisseur of the dish ! I am still fairly slim so they can’t be all bad, expecially if eaten in moderation.

I came across an article about Britains top 10 chippies but I can’t believe that Yorkshire does not have one chippie listed in the top 10. I say that because Yorkshire has traditionally been the home of good fish and chips. The famous Harry Ramsden started his now world famous brand in the Yorkshire town of Guiseley in 1931. His restaurant served a record 10,000 people in one day in 1952. I have been to Harry Ramsdens many times but not for at least 10 years. I can remember the queue’s outside the restaurant on a Sunday afternoon as families stopped off on their way home from a day out in the Yorkshire Dales. The restaurant was, and still is, on the busy A65 road between Ilkley and Leeds.

Anyway, back to the top 10 chippies. There is only one on the list that I have been to and that is the Anstruther Fish Bar & Restaurant in Fife, Scotland. It was a freezing cold day in January and I was visiting St. Andrews. I had read about this restaurant so I drove to the quaint fishing village of Anstruther, which looks out into the North Sea and the Firth of Forth. I didn’t know exactly where the fish and chip shop was so I headed towards the harbour and sea front and parked my car. I got out of my car and set off walking to try and find the shop but I couldn’t find it anywhere. So, I walked back towards my car to discover that I had parked bang outside the place and never noticed !

I didn’t eat my fish and chips in the small restaurant there. The best way to eat fish and chips is sitting on a bench, so that’s what I did. In the middle of January on a very cold but sunny day I sat on a bench on the harbour side, and they were very good. It is said that when Prince William was at St Andews University he used to make the short trip to Anstruther to do the same as I was doing !

Why Yorkshire does not have any chippies in the official top 10 I will never know. Murgatroyds at Yeadon, near to Leeds/Bradford Airport has fantastic fish and chips and the seaside towns of Yorkshire have good ones too. I recently visited Scarborough and Filey and I can personally vouch for the fish and chips in Filey.

If any of my blog readers have any suggestions on other great chippies please use the comments box for your suggestions.

In the meantime, click the following link to see the official list of Britains Top Chippies.