A rustic summer lunch: courgette fritters

Last week I cooked lunch for friends who are vegetarians and finally got to try out Nigella Lawson’s recipe for courgette fritters (Forever Summer cookbook) as well as use up a pile of courgettes I had grown in the garden.

It’s a simple and yummy recipe that goes well with a green salad, a wedge or two of lime and a baguette. It’s also a great way to incorporate fresh summer herbs and vegetables from your own garden.

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– 750 grated courgettes

– 5-6 spring onions, finely chopped

– 250g feta cheese, crumbled

– small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

– small bunch fresh mint, chopped

– 1 tbsp dried mint

– 1 tsp paprika

– 140g plain flour

– salt and pepper

– 3 eggs, beaten

– olive oil for frying

– 3-4 limes


Coarsely grate courgettes and spread on a clean tea towel to soak up excess moisture (20 mins). Put onions, feta, parsley, mint and paprika in a large bowl and mix. Add the flour and season well with salt and pepper. Gradually add eggs and mix thoroughly before adding courgettes.

Heat a tablespoon of oil and fry gently on both sides until golden brown and cooked throughout. Depending on the size of your saucepan you will need to cook the courgette patties in batches.

Chop up the limes, squeeze some juice on each and sprinkle a little extra mint; serve on a plater with the remaining lime wedges.

Delicious… go on, give them a try! SCH

Elderflower cordial – it must be summer!

During the May half term, with the help of some little hands, it was time to make elderflower cordial. The recipe was from a 2010 article by Tom Parker Bowles.

We picked 30 elderflower heads and placed them in a clean bucket with almost a kilo of granulated sugar, boiling water, six lemons and a packet of citric acid. Over the next 24 hours, every time the children passed the bucket they would stir it. Once the sugar had dissolved we strained it through fresh muslin into sterilised Kilner glass bottles with flip top lids. With the addition of citric acid these should now last for a year.

For a tasty, refreshing drink I recommend mixing the cordial with ice cold sparkling water. It’s simply summer in a bottle. SCH.


Tray bake trials: Dutch apple cake

This week I tried out a great new recipe for Dutch apple cake. The recipe came from a fantastic baker and friend, Stevie, who used to make these bite-sized morsels for us when we were teenagers – they were always a big hit!


– 8 oz self raising flour

– 4 oz margarine

– 8 oz caster sugar

– 2 oz sultanas

– 1 egg

– 1/4 pint of milk

– 1 medium cooking apple (peeled and diced)

– Pinch of salt

– Glace icing to decorate


1. Rub together margarine and flour

2. Add the sugar, sultanas and apple

3. Add the egg to the milk and whisk

4. Add egg/milk mixture to the margarine/flour/sugar mixture and mix together well

5. Turn into a 7″ by 11″ lined tin/tray

6. Bake in a preheated over at 180 degrees

7. Turn out and cool

9. Cut into squares or fingers and drizzle with glade icing

The cakes were simple to make and very morish. I can see these being a perfect way to use up apples from the garden at the end of the growing season. SCH

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Cakes, cookies, pastries and tray bakes

Over the last month we’ve been preparing and testing recipes for lazy afternoon tea at Le Manoir.

Here are the fourteen that made the list (in no particular order):

1. Carrot cake
2. Lemon drizzle cake
3. Chocolate brownies
4. Flapjacks
5. Custard tarts (see below – yummy!)
6. Jam tarts
7. Victoria sponge
8. Fruit tarts
9. Coffee and walnut cake
10. Scones
11. Cookies
12. Shortbread
13. Chocolate cake
14. Lemon curd tarts

What’s your favourite? Is there anything else you would you like to see on this list? SCH

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Learning new cookery skills

I love food… everything about it.  I love to eat it, I love to look at it, and I NOW love to cook it.

I say ‘now’ because until recently I was a pretty bad cook. I used to grab whatever was called for (if I even bothered looking at a recipe), hack a few things into smaller chunks and then spend 80% of my time in front of the cooker moving whatever was in the pan around in circles until it looked vaguely warm enough to eat. The end result: something uninspiring, usually coldish, and nine times out of ten, tasteless.

That was until I booked myself on a five day course in Devon to learn the basics. The course was aptly named: ‘Foundations in cookery’ and was run by Ashburton Cookery School. I took myself off with the aim of having a bit of fun, maybe meeting some nice new people and perhaps even taking home a few tips and tricks.  What I found when I arrived was far beyond my expectations: an extremely professionally run operation where tutors are former (and existing) chefs and the kitchens are state of the art. Each person has their own work station and you quickly learn how important discipline is in the kitchen… from dealing with knives to keeping your area clean to working with others.

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Seasonal herb salad with edible flowers

During the week I counted some 25 recipes that we tackled, mostly in pairs. That’s around five a day (and we mostly ate what we made)! I learnt numerous invaluable skills such as basic knife handling, ideal cooking times for vegetables (and the different ways you can cook them), sauce bases, stocks, preparing and cooking meat and fish, as well as how to make different types of pastry.

I wouldn’t say that I am now an amazing cook, but I have the confidence to look at a recipe and actually know what the words mean. I can experiment a bit knowing that certain flavours go together, all the while tasting and seasoning and tasting again so I can achieve the perfect result. In essence, the whole experience has got me back into the kitchen and it has helped me to improve my timings… I now understand that around 80% of my time should probably focus on preparation and, if I’ve got that right, the rest should be much easier.

Simply put, the team at Ashburton have de-mystified the art of cooking and have taught me an invaluable skill that I can continue to use and practice in the weeks, months and years to come. SCH