Sticky Date and Coffee Cake 

It’s been far too long since I last shared a recipe with you. I could give you reasons and excuses as to why I have been too busy and distracted to write, but as you are probably aware I am not a fan of waffle so I will just get on with it and share my new favourite thing with you.

A friend and I had a sudden urge last weekend to make sticky toffee pud; mostly because we made a big pot of coffee which we then forgot about, and soaking dates in it seemed like as good a way as any not to waste it. A quick Internet search brought us to this recipe, which we then adapted to make this fabulous cake.

Sticky Coffee and Date Cake

What we changed…

Most importantly, the dates were soaked in coffee, not in water! We soaked them for rather longer than stated in the recipe (overnight is best), which meant that we didn’t need to use the very expensive and wonderfully gooyey Medjool dates; instead we used cheaper dates (no pun intended!) intended for baking instead.

The second adjustment was that rather than making a number of individual puddings we used two loaf tins. This did mean however that it took longer to cook; approximately 40 minutes. I suggest putting a skewer into the cakes at about 35 minutes; if it comes out clean it is cooked, if not put it back for five or ten minutes and then do the skewer test again.

Lentil, bean, tomato & anchovy stew

This is a true Kitty’s Store-Cupboard recipe – quick, easy and cheap.

I have had feedback recently that people miss my £5 a week challenge which I started in January last year. It probably hasn’t come across well in recent posts, but one of the things which I am passionate about is demonstrating how it is possible to cook very delicious and wholesome meals from a well stocked store-cupboard and a small weekly shopping bill.

This dish is one which I made up on the spur of the moment earlier this week… and by ‘spur of the moment’ I mean that I changed the whole direction of the dish half way through my cooking session! It started off as a pasta sauce recipe, but when  I realised that I had run out of pasta it morphed into a lentil and bean based dish.

Note, I was in the mood for something strong tasting when I made this so I used a whole tin of anchovies. You may want to start with half the amount. Also, if you are not a fan of fish then bacon is a good substitute.



  • two small/ one big red onion, finely chopped
  • a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • half a teaspoon mustard seeds
  • teaspoon mixed herbs / ‘herbs de provence’
  • teaspoon paprika (smoked paprika is good if you have it)
  • tin of anchovies
  • tin of tomatoes
  • packet of pre-cooked lentils and kidney beans (I got mine in Sainsbury’s – see photo below)
  • grated cheese to serve


Heat approximately a tablespoon of oil (I tend to use rapeseed oil) in a medium sized frying pan.   Add the onion, garlic, mustard seeds, herbs and paprika and gently fry until soft.

Next, halve the anchovies and add them to the onion mixture.

Add the pre-cooked lentils & beans and the tinned tomatoes.

Simmer for approximately ten minutes and then serve topped with grated cheese.

Yummy with rice or crusty bread.


Pear & Sponge Tarts

This is one that I made up this morning at the café. I had some pastry left from making quiche yesterday  (thanks to the wonderful Marie-Helene to whom I delegate quiche making – her pastry is wonderful!). I also had some pears to use. Seeing as I was busy baking sponge I made some extra mixture and topped it with that.


  • Shortcrust pastry 
  • A pear
  • 2 oz self raising flour
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 2 oz margarine 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 


Roll out the pastry to about 1/4 cm thick. Cut out circles with a large biscuit cutter or a pint glass. Gently push the rounds of pastry into a muffin tin. 

Cut the pear into quarters and take the core out. Slice the pear thinly and then place a few pieces in the bottom of each pie base.

Next, make the sponge mixture. I tend to use Delia’s all-in-one sponge recipe as a base for most of my cakes – it is easy and reliable; ‘just’ whizz it all together until nice and smooth. This morning I made a three egg mixture,  took out what I needed to top the pear tarts, and then stirred some lemon zest into the remaining mixture for my lemon drizzle cake.

The tarts were baked in the oven at about 180oC for 10 – 15 minutes. They are ready when the sponge has risen nicely and is slightly browned on the top.

Holiday musings… continued 

I write this sitting in Malaga airport…

I have decided not to continue sharing my holiday musings on frugality with you.  I expect that you’re not disappointed – the Web is hardly short of blogs telling you how you should be budgeting and running your finances and my thoughts on the subject are hardly earth shattering. Also, it would be rather presumptuous of me to think that what works for me might work for you.

After Christmas it will be the year anniversary of starting my blog. Maybe I will give myself another January Challenge to mark the occasion – any ideas?

P.S. yesterday while visiting a vinyard in the Ronda region I got a fabulous Paella recipe from an equally fabulous lady called Ana. I will share it with you just as soon as I have tested it 🙂

Holiday musings on frugality 

I write this sitting in a Spanish bar

‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink‘ would be a more appropriate start given the topic of frugality, but that wonderful first line has already been taken – plus it would be a big fib.

The bar in question has a black cat pictured on the menu, and a real black cat called Tahita who likes to have her ears tickled. It is a local’s bar, where no English is to be heard and the food and wine are cheap and good. I am very lucky that it is just across the road from my apartment building; most of the other options are the typical ‘Brit abroad’ Irish Bar or expensive seafood restaurants.

Anyway, back to ‘I write this sitting in a Spanish bar with a black cat‘; it was the perfect setting for some diary writing –  a favourite holiday occupation of mine along with reading, eating, drinking and sleeping. Holidays are a good time for reflecting, and writing has always been my favourite way to put my thoughts in order.  I decided that my musings from this morning were worth typing up and sharing with you,  given that quite a proportion of this blog is about frugal eating.

read an article this morning about a lady who gave herself a ‘spending break’ for a whole year – that knocks my January Challenge of £5 a week for food into a cocked hat! Having said that, I suppose that what she has done – allowing spending on only mortgage, bills and groceries – is similar (although rather more strict!) to the rule I gave myself when I was made redundant in February. The bank account which my redundancy money went into I only allowed myself to use for my mortgage and for bills; the only money  which I allowed myself to spend was that which made it’s way into a different account from temping work and making and packing lovely meringues for my friend Lisa. I have kept to this rule rather well until the last month or so. Not bad.

On reflection, the problem with my redundancy money rule was that anything which made it into my other account I was allowed to spend on myself in what ever way I wanted, and so I lost much of the discipline learned during my January Challenge. Also, the January Challenge concerned only food rather than a wider ‘frugality’, which led me to reflect this morning on what other things I spend money on which are not strictly necessary. The things that most quickly came to mind were wine, gin and ‘lazy food’ – so still pretty food related! What is it they say about putting your money where your mouth is?! I had to put rather more thought into where the rest of my money is frittered away to.

… and now to repair to another Spanish bar for wine and tapas. I will finish typing up my musings tomorrow – providing that I can still read my handwriting ! 

Hannah’s ‘failed cake’ chocolate fridge-cake recipe 

This is a truly wonderful waste-not recipe. I don’t make it very frequently because it uses the crumbs from a failed cake – which doesn’t happen to me very often! However, this week I have been getting used to a different oven and I ended up with a chocolate sponge which was a little too crispy around the edges…

The recipe was handed down to my friend Hannah by her mother. I had to text Hannah in a panic asking for the recipe when my chocolate cake failed, however I have since found my old copy and I think I will leave it to Hannah’s mum to instruct you.

All that I need to add is the decoration. This was done after the cake had cooled in the fridge over night, and was simply melted chocolate with raspberries and flaked almonds scattered on top.  

Sausages cooked with apples and shallots

I love autumn! 

Tonight’s supper was simple, seasonal and delicious. 

I chopped a couple of cooking apples and some shallots from the garden into a ovenproof dish, put sausages and a handful of bacon on top and then put it into the oven for half an hour. 

I served it with some runner beans from my parents garden and, because I was feeling a little lazy, microwave brown rice.