Tag Archives: recipes

Eastbourne pudding, anyone?


Reading about the current search for the definite recipe for Dundee Cake, so that it can get a ‘protected name status’ from the EU, reminds me of a puzzle I think I’ll never solve. Does anyone still make something that my grandmother called ‘Eastbourne Pudding’, and where does the recipe come from? Does it have another name?

Eastbourne Pudding involved slicing a few large bananas (not too ripe) in half or thirds (depending on size)  then lengthways down the middle. You spread the halves of banana with raspberry jam and put them in a serving bowl. On top, you pour about a pint of white custard (i.e. sweetened milk, thickened with cornflour). When that’s cooled, you pour over half a pint of single cream on the top, and just let the cream find its way wherever it wants to go, but make sure you get plenty when you serve the pudding.

It’s so simple, yet I remember it being gorgeous – no-one should be allowed to eat single cream like this, but here you had licence. My grandmother (who was a domestic science teacher, and taught me most of what I know about cooking) said they called it Eastbourne Pudding only because they had it at a guesthouse in Eastbourne when they went their on holiday as children, so it’s not the Eastbourne Pudding in this old book.

So does anyone else have memories of this pudding in their family, in Eastbourne, or anywhere else? Is it just a name for something else that has a proper name? I have a feeling I will never know.

30 days without supermarkets #21: bye bye chicken breasts


Wonderful pink grapefruit from Daily Fresh

I’m quite unnerved by the amount of money I’m saving by not shopping at Sainsburys, or rather by the amount that I would throw at them without a thought to what I actually liked or wanted. I’m building up a mental list of foods that I have completely forgotten about since I started my no-supermarket challenge.  Smoked salmon, asparagus, raspberries, Danone yoghurts, mini corn on the cob, tenderstem broccoli and chicken breasts.

  • Most of those I wouldn’t get that often, except for chicken breasts which were hardly out of the fridge from one week to the next. I’ve now  realised that despite that list being worth over £20,  I don’t really like any of the things on it enough to seek them out, not even – in fact, especially not – chicken breasts.

Nigel Slater wrote somewhere that he could happily throw the breast of a chicken away and use the rest, as it’s such a dull, tasteless and unrewarding thing to cook. Yet I had begun to think that a packet of 4 chicken breasts was a kitchen staple.  Since they cost around £5 pounds a packet, just think what else you could eat if you just took them out of the equation for a week.


30 days without supermarkets #19: pleasures of the haphazard


Home-made muesli bars

Cereal bars are  one of the things I used to buy regularly from supermarkets. It’s only laziness that stopped me from making my own. They don’t take much time at all, and are probably much cheaper and more nutritious. Best of all, they taste different every time you make them.

I don’t really have a recipe, just principles of how to throw them together. Muesli bars are a great way to use up stuff that’s been languishing in the kitchen, because they use up bits of everything. This batch started with the fact that I had a bowl of soaked prunes that I’d lost interest in.

Muesli bars

This isn’t a recipe, so much as an account of what I managed to use up. The things that muesli bars absolutely have to have is some fruit juice and/or pulp (to avoid using too much fat) , some fat (but not too much) something naturally sweet  (to avoid using sugar), muesli, and – for my taste – nuts, to give them crunch and protein. Beyond that, you can use pretty much anything you’ve got left, the details don’t matter. Amounts depend on the size of your tin. As long as the mixture binds together well, you can take a guess at the ratio of liquid to dry stuff.

  • Juice and grated zest of an old orange
  • 1 whole grated apple – to save it from being wasted
  • 1 tablespoon treacle – the end of a tin
  • About 1/4 cup of sunflower oil
  • Bowl of prunes that had been soaked in water
  • Chopped mixed nuts – cheap in Holland & Barratt, need using up
  • Chopped walnuts – don’t know how old they are, time to get rid of them
  • Sultanas – because they need using up
  • A bit of mixed fruit soaked in cherry brandy that I found in the freezer
  • A tablespoon of semolina (don’t ask me why, it was just a passing thought)
  • Holland & Barratt muesli base. Not sure how much  – it depends on the size of the tin.
  • Heaped teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of grated nutmeg

Mix it all up, so that it’s a moderately stiff mixture, though not dry. Spread the mixture flat in a shallow oblong  baking tin lined with non-stick baking parchment and cook at around 160 (fan) for about maybe 20-30 minutes, depending on what’s in the mixture. Keep an eye on them, and rescue them before they burn. Cut them into slices immediately, and try to lift them onto a wire rack early, so that they dry out rather than sweat on the paper. They’ll be softer than the average cereal bar, so don’t try and cook them til the’re crisp – they won’t ever be.

These turned out as some of the nicest I’ve made, and I put that down to the dark, sweet flavours of the treacle and prunes, and the old alcohol in the fruit. Who knows. That’s  the fun of real cooking, the iterative process of trying stuff out until you find things that work, the variability of ingredients, the additions and subtractions, the forces of circumstance that subtly change the chemistry of what you’re making. This is precisely what you don’t get with all that stuff that you buy by the box in supermarkets.

30 days without supermarkets #16: Less is definitely more


Living without supermarkets is the  kind of challenge that’s  easier when you’re leading a fairly predictable life at home, less so when you’re on the road.  That’s not entirely true: what’s difficult is to get out of the habit of being unprepared because you know some supermarket or coffee shop chain will be just waiting to help you out at stations, service stations and garages. I was determined not to drop the good habits on a couple of long away-day trips to Birmingham, in a studio where there’s no food unless you bring it with you.

I’m glad I didn’t, because along the way I discovered a kind of instant coronation chicken sandwich filling that’s a keeper, and is a great use for the green tomato chutney I made last year, and the last of the tandoori chicken I made. Chop up the  chicken at a spoonful of  low-fat mayonnaise and a spoonful of chutney. Mix it up, put in a large wholemeal pitta bread and take to work. I also added a box of crudités made from carrots, kohlrabi & red pepper.

Not only has this saved me a lot of money that I would have spent in M&S, it’s also stretched out the food that I’ve bought in my local Tooting shops virtually to the end of the week. It’s also a lot more filling than an M&S sandwich.

30 days without supermarkets #15: A fridge full of food, a pocket full of money


I can’t quite remember when, but at my local shop, Daily Fresh, I bought four large chicken legs for £2.65, and a kilo of lamb mince for under a fiver, without much idea of what I’d do with them. We’ve had 3 days worth of kheema matar and tandoori chicken (thanks to my favourite Indian recipe book, left). I couldn’t be bothered to spend much time with the remainder of the mince, so I made wonderful meatballs that had yoghurt & mint in, from the same book. Sainsbury’s tends to drive you into thinking a meal at a time, rather than having a continuous supply of things that you might eat together, separately, for lunch, dinner, or hell why not, breakfast.

And while I seem to be talking about nothing except food, I’ve in fact lost 51lb in the last two weeks, as a result, I think, of eating less of more interesting food. It’s a strange equation, and I don’t pretend to understand how it works.

30 days without supermarkets #14: The power of old bananas


Banana muffins

This isn’t a direct result of not shopping at a supermarket, but it’s the kind of thing that happens more when you’re not living in a Tesco-induced stupour.

I rescued three bananas on their last legs on Sunday night, and while my coffee was brewing on Monday morning, turned them into banana muffins, thus using up not only the bananas, but a few other things that might have languished in the cupboard or fridge. Now I can’t use 12 muffins, so I kept two, and took the rest to work to hand out.  Why not.

I can’t really explain why shopping locally should have made me much more aware of waste, but it has. I think it has a lot to do with being able to buy what you need, and not allowing yourself the luxury of nipping out at any time of night to the supermarket. It’s not a luxury. You pay for laziness in a kitchen.


30 days without supermarkets #11: Hello kohlrabi


Kohlrabi: great for cutting into crudités

Although there’s nothing particularly exotic about the kohlrabi – my friend Andrew Williams’ parents used to grow them in the back garden in Bournemouth – I actually have never eaten one until prompted by my 30-day challenge.

I discovered through a Delia Smith recipe that the stalks of broccoli are much more interesting to eat, sliced like matchsticks,  than the florets. Kohlrabi as a brassica is like an enormous round broccoli stalk, but slightly less peppery.

I was starving when I was chopping it up, so I ate a quarter of it raw like crudités. I like it. I put the rest into a vegetable curry, and it was great. It adds body, depth and crunch.  What I’m looking forward to next time is making a kohlrabi-apple-mint coleslaw from this page, though I’ll probably replace the 1/4 cup of cream with something less rich.

After only 11 days, I’m already looking back on my pre-challenge shopping habits, and thinking how dull it all was. I have spent less, shopped less, eaten less, and enjoyed food much more since I started this. It feels like I have some control and imagination back.

I’ve given up listing everything that’s cheaper. Chicken legs, lamb mince, tomatoes, chilli powder, lemons. Oh and what a relief to be able to tell the butcher how much you want, rather than having to decide between packs that are too big or too small.

Life without supermarkets #10: Hello parval



One of the first things that occurred to me when I started this challenge was that it would finally prompt me to take advantage of everything the local shops have to offer, including the vegetables that I have no idea what to do with.

Today it was time to try parval, a very small gourd-type vegetable about 2-3 inches long. I found a recipe for parval curry online. I have a feeling that the parval with potato curry  might be more interesting, but I didn’t have any potatoes.

You have to peel and quarter them, so it’s not quick. I added some creamed coconut because it was a bit bland, but they have a great texture, a cross between marrow and watermelon – crunchy, even when they’re cooked.  And definitely more interesting than those bags of pre-chopped carrot, cauliflower & broccoli that you pay pounds for in supermarkets.

Me, an activist? 

10 days in, and the challenge is beginning to have another unexpected effect on me. It’s been so enjoyable to make a small difference by giving my  money to local shops rather than Sainsburys and to stop being a mindless consumer that when I came across a book called The Everyday Activist I  was hooked.  Step one: donate to the East Africa drought appeal. Step two? Watch this space.

30 days without supermarkets #9: Muesli & the benefits of forethought


5-star Muesli

An unexpected side effect of this no-supermarket challenge is that I’m getting much better at thinking ahead.  Instead of going into a supermarket with an étonne-moi  attitude, you look around to see how you can make the best of what you’ve got.

As an example, this week I finally followed the advice given to me 22 years ago by a  Swiss-Italian guy called Stefano, and left a bowl of muesli to soak in the fridge overnight in a pool of the juice of an orange and some low fat yoghurt thinned out with some milk. The result in the morning was so delicious, especially once I’d thrown on a banana, sunflower seeds & almonds, that I kicked myself for having ignored the advice for so long.  The thing is, when you soak muesli, even in low-fat milk or yoghurt & juice, it becomes sweeter and creamier of its own accord.  It turns from a dry, orthorexic punishment into a luxurious, pudding-like pleasure. This is what you’ll get in a 5-star hotel advertised as ‘Bircher Muesli’.  In fact, this isn’t some luxury version of muesli, it’s what the Swiss call it anyway, named after the man who invented muesli in the first place, the Kellogg of the alps Maximillian Bircher -Benner.

Stefano could never understand why the English ate muesli at all, if they were going to eat it dry, cold and unloved as they do.  My ‘recipe’ for muesli is roughly this:


  • Holland & Barratt’s muesli base (no fruit or nuts in it)
  • An orange
  • Skimmed milk
  • Low fat yoghurt
  • Fresh or dried fruit / nuts as you like
  1. With a very sharp paring knife, peel an orange over the bowl that you’re going to put the muesli in, so that the juice lands in the bowl. Then holding the orange over the bowl (to catch the juice again) slice the orange into segments over the bowl. Either put the segments aside, or leave them in the bowl.
  2. Add a handful of muesli base
  3. Add some milk & yoghurt to make up the liquid so that when you stir it, it’s about half muesli half liquid.
  4. Leave in the fridge overnight with a plate over the top.
  5. In the morning, add fruit & nuts if you want.

Life without supermarkets #3 & #4: Goodbye Green & Black’s


Nigella's lemon cake

It’s only day 3 of my no-supermarket-for-30-days challenge, and I’ve already realised that supermarkets have made me lazy and dependent in an almost childish way, and created a mental food-universe that consists of whatever brands and products they happen to be pushing.

Here’s an example. I have two favourite cakes, both of them by Nigella Lawson, and both involving a lot of ground almonds. One is her lemon and almond cake, and the other is her  chocolate lime cake.  Yesterday, I had more or less decided to make the chocolate one for a birthday today.

To make it work, you really need good quality chocolate, and normally I’d use Green & Black’s. What I’ve discovered today is that Green & Blacks chocolate, nice though it is, is a supermarket phenomenon. It’s in your face constantly at Sainsbury’s and Tesco, but none of my local shops stock it.

So I made the lemon cake instead, as Daily Fresh has plenty of lemons and almonds. At £1.99 for 200g the ground almonds are 1p cheaper than Sainsbury’s. The unsalted butter (Emborg – Danish, nice shiny silver packet) at £1.29 was cheaper than some of Sainsbury’s unsalted butter brands.  And of course, I didn’t have to walk all the way to Sainsbury’s to get it, and I was served quickly by a human with a genuine friendly smile.

Only 3 days without a supermarket, and I already find myself thinking more independently and creatively about food.  Far from being a nuisance, this challenge feels like a liberation.