My True Love Gave Me a Milka Colada


Today is the 8th day of Christmas.

So what? Yesterday was the 7th and tomorrow will be the 9th. What’s so special about the 8th that you have to write a blog post about it?

Well, you see – I didn’t get the 7th or the 9th. For that matter, I didn’t get the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th …

Okay, okay – we get the picture. Thanks for the maths lesson – but what are you talking about??

Sorry. Didn’t I say? The fantastically wonderful Clemmie of Innocent Drinks challenged me as one of 12 bloggers to create a non-alcoholic mocktail inspired by the Twelve Days of Christmas. I got the 8th day – eight maids a milking, and all that. Karen got the 1st, Marie got the 2nd, Nanya got the 3rd, Helen got the 4th, Dom got the 5th, Kate (not me – another Kate) got the 6th and Jacqueline got the 7th.

And the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th? Or did you think we wouldn’t notice? It’s hardly advanced number theory here, you know.

Err. Not sure. You’ll have to check Innocent’s Twitter updates for those mocktail recipes – each drink is linked to the matching recipe card on the day itself. BUT … as a special Christmas pressie, Innocent are going to compile all of the mocktails in a downloadable recipe book, which will be available once the 12 days are completed.

And you got the 8th day?


Soooo … where’s your milkmaid-inspired recipe then?

Ah, yes. I was wondering who’d be the first to spot that …

Ta daaaah!!


Milka Colada (inspired by the 8th Day of Christmas)

Serves 2

250ml Innocent Tropical juice
250ml coconut milk
3 tbsp condensed milk
2 pineapple wedges for garnish
2 maraschino cherries for garnish

Combine the Innocent Tropical juice, coconut milk and condensed milk in a blender. Add a handful of ice and blend until smooth.

Pour into 2 cocktail glasses and serve with a garnish of pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry on the rim of each glass.


Apple Pie Brunch Bars

September – back to school, a return of routines, darkening evenings and the buttoning of coats against an encroaching winter coldness.

Life sometimes takes unexpected turns and catches us by surprise. When I leafed through the first copy of a local magazine for parents back in June, I certainly had no inkling that my own writing would appear on these pages only three months later. But it was a time of high energy and I was planning to take on the world. Offering to write a food article for publication seemed to be the obvious course of action.

Kirsten, editor of Families North Devon and Exeter, took my enthusiasm in her stride and together we discussed ideas for a back-to-school article on healthy packed lunch boxes. Feeling slightly daunted by what I had taken on in a moment of reckless over-confidence, I ummed and aahed and dragged my heels for a while before taking up the virtual pen of Microsoft Word.

I wanted to feature a recipe for a lunchbox treat that could easily be tackled by both children and their parents. I had the notion that baking together in this way would inspire enthusiasm for the whole dreary business of daily sandwich-wrapping (something, I have to confess, that I have largely avoided by stubbornly insisting that all three of my children have school dinners every day).

My recipe-testers were keen to help out with this more practical side of writing the article, and so these Apple Pie Brunch Bars were born (with grateful thanks to Jon for joining me in a name-brainstorming session).

The article itself appeared in the September/October 2012 edition of the Families North Devon and Exeter Magazine. It is available online on the Families website, and also here as a pdf:


Apple Pie Brunch Bars

These Apple Pie Brunch Bars are easy to make with children, travel well, can be stored for several days and provide a sweet and delicious lunchbox treat without any added extras (you know exactly what goes into them!).

2 apples
1 tbsp lemon juice
310g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
113g butter
140g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, and line a 33cm x 23cm baking tray with baking parchment.

Peel, core and dice the apples, then mix them with the lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a mixing bowl and whisk them to incorporate fully. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave.

Put the sugars in a large mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Beat well with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Use a metal spoon to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add the apples and stir just until evenly mixed.

Spread the batter into the prepared baking tray and bake for 25 minutes until golden and the top springs back when pressed lightly.

Leave to cool in the tray for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool fully before cutting into bars.

Raspberry Crumb Bars

When M was little and I used to collect her from Preschool at lunchtimes, I could only ever find out how she’d spent her morning by a process of elimination.

Me: Did you have a good morning?

M: Yes.

Me: What did you do?

M: I didn’t do the cylinders (she went to a Montessori Preschool)

Me: So … what did you do?

M: I didn’t do any painting.

Me: And instead you did …?

M: I didn’t polish the mirror.

And in that way, I’d eventually discover that she had had a thoroughly enjoyable morning absorbed in weeding the garden, climbing the apple tree and pegging out woollen socks to dry on the clothes line.

L has a similar habit. As part of her recent science project for school, she decided to label a picture of a capybara to show “their adaptations to an aquatic lifestyle” (a phrase that featured often in the course of working on this project). After highlighting their webbed feet, highly-placed eyes, ears and nostrils, and water-resistant fur, she took great pleasure in adding a label to show ‘no tail’. I’m not convinced this lack has anything to do with an aquatic lifestyle, but she found the idea of labelling something that wasn’t there particularly amusing.

I think there are similarities here somewhere to Lacan’s theory that la femme n’existe pas, but it would be a bit of a conversation killer if I go any further along that line of thinking …

Anyway, if you ask M what she’ll be wearing to school next term, she’ll probably tell you, “Not a yellow jumper.” Which will be true. It’s the end of term and the end of key stage 1 for M. In September, she will be growed up enough to wear blue instead of yellow – only you’ll have to find that bit out by a process of elimination.

It being the end of term, I baked a couple of trays of raspberry crumb bars for my children to take into school for their teachers. There very nearly weren’t any of these left after L and I ‘sampled’ them last night. It was just to make sure we weren’t going to poison the staff – honest! Scientific measures of quality control.

At least, that’s the line we’re sticking to. We didn’t eat three slices each straight from the oven, we didn’t burn our tongues on hot, gooey jam and Captain Blackadder definitely did not shoot the delicious plump breasted pigeon, sir.

Raspberry Crumb Bars (adapted from a recipe by Joanne Chang)

12 oz unsalted butter
3 1/2 oz caster sugar
3 tbsp icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz plain flour
6 1/4 oz cake flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 jar of raspberry jam (with seeds)

Cream the butter with the sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla.

Whisk the dry ingredients together, then add gradually on low speed to the buttery sugary eggy mixture. Stir just until the flour is incorporated and evenly mixed.

Remove 8 oz of the dough, wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the freezer.

Press the remaining dough into a flattish disc shape, wrap it in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Roll out the fridge dough to a 9″x13″ rectangle between two lightly-floured sheets of baking parchment. Leaving the dough on the lower sheet of parchment, transfer the dough to a 9″x13″ baking tray. Neaten the edges and trim any excess overhanging parchment.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Let the shortbread base cool for 10 minutes and then spread the jam evenly over the top. Use a large-holed grater to grate the frozen piece of dough over the top of the jam.

Bake for a further 20 minutes until the top is bubbly and golden.

Leave to cool completely in the tray on a wire rack before removing and cutting into bars.

Apple Plum Pie

I’ve had several requests for my apple and plum pie recipe, so here it is (perhaps it should really be Apple Plum Pear Pie, but that sounds a bit of a mouthful).

Oh – and the Catalan quote …?

Let’s look down the coast, not up; it doesn’t rain fish.

Apple Plum Pie (an unseasonal pie for a rainy day in summer)

For the pastry
7 oz oz plain flour
3 oz self-raising flour
6 oz butter

For the filling
2 Bramley apples
6 ripe plums
3 small pears
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 oz light muscovado sugar
2 oz caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 oz butter
1 tbsp cornflour

Rub the butter into the flour and stir in just enough water to form a dough. Divide into two pieces, one for the bottom crust and one for the top crust of the pie. Wrap each piece in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge.

Peel and dice the apples and pears. Dice the plums. Toss all together in a large bowl with the lemon juice, sugars and cinnamon. Leave to macerate for at room temperature for at least an hour.

Strain the juices from the fruit and sugar mix into a small saucepan. Reserve the fruit (obviously – or it would just be a jam pie!).

Add the butter to the juices and bring them to the boil. Simmer gently until the juices are syrupy and reduced to about 1/3 cup.

Sprinkle the cornflour over the reserved fruit and toss to combine thoroughly.

Pour the syrupy jam over the fruit and toss again to mix everything together evenly.

Roll out the pastry for the bottom crust and use it to line a 9″ pie dish.

Scrape the fruit mixture into the pie. Roll out the pastry for the top crust and use it to cover the fruit. Seal and crimp the edges. Make four or five slashes in the top, or prod it several times with a fork.

Cover the pie loosely with clingfilm and leave it to rest in the fridge for an hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Bake the pie for 45 to 55 minutes until the pastry is golden and the juices are bubbly.

Allow to cool slightly before eating …

De Peixos, No En Plouen

Let’s talk about the weather.

No, let’s not. It’s raining. Again.

Is it really July? Without the endings that bring expectations of holidays and sunshine – the end of ballet classes, the end of the school year, the end of chorister duties …

– we could easily be hoodwinked into building bonfires and counting down the days to Christmas.

The BBC called us ‘deluged Devon‘ today. Apparently, a month’s worth of rain – up to 80mm – fell in the past 24 hours and more bad weather has been forecast. Thanks.

This eternal drizzle makes everything difficult. Bookbags and papers get soggy, hair turns frizzy, cooped-up children become grumpy. Okay, that’s probably more a description of my own problems with the weather than of anyone else’s … but I’m sure you know what I mean.

What’s that saying …? When life deals you something-or-other, make something-or-other? Fry fish? Make bagels? There’s a saying there on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite get hold of it.

Never mind. Here’s another I’ve just made up on the spot: when it rains instead of shines, make apple and plum pie.

Which is made just like Gooseberry pie really, only bigger. But if anyone wants the exact recipe, give me a shout.

Mirem més ensota que endalt; de peixos, no en plouen.