Recipes from and Unknown Kitchen: Book Review

Tucked away inside an 1894 edition of Mrs Beeton’s Cookery Book is one of my most prized possessions. It is a delicate, hand bound Almanac for 1871 containing number of cake recipes (which incidentally are little more than lists of ingredients). Some of the text on the front cover has been crossed out but two names remain just about legible: Eliza Anna Anderson and Emma Reader. The latter was my grandmother’s great aunt. Underneath the Eliza’s name it proudly proclaims that it is her “Own Book”. It is my theory that both of these ladies contributed to this book out of a desire to keep the recipes for posterity (although nobody in the family in entirely sure).

E Anderson Cookbook 1 LR

While accusations are frequently slung by social commentators about our fascination with cookbooks in an age where nobody either wants to or is able to cook (supposedly), it’s reassuring to know that cooking intrigued some of our ancestors long before television and social media came to rule the roost. For centuries we have been noting down recipes. Sometimes this has been a record of a recipe previously handed down by word of mouth perhaps by a relative or friend. Other times it may merely have been a quick jotting down of an adjustment to a recipe in an existing cookery book or maybe at the back in its notes section (something you rarely see in todays cookery tomes). During the 20th century as recipes began to appear in magazines these may have been torn out and kept to be made again one day.

E Anderson Cookbook 2 LR

As a cookbook collector, Rita Godfrey, has been privy to many of these culinary secrets. She has gathered some of the recipes she has come across in a new book called Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen. As she says on the back cover

“There is a great joy in finding an old recipe that someone has jotted down and in trying it out – even more in tasting the results.”


The book is a potted history through 200 years of our culinary history as recorded by regular people who presumably enjoyed these recipes so much that they were driven to write them down. Each section covers a specific period of time and is prefaced with a little bit of kitchen history to put them into context. It’s true that the book is not as slickly produced as other cookery books but this is of no consequence (I think sometimes too much emphasis is placed in food photography, as lovely as it can be. After all, right up until the mid to late 20th century it was rare to have a the obligatory food porn shot for every recipe we have come to expect these days). I love the fact that Rita provides a brief introduction to each recipe such as the explanation of what a flummery is (apparently the word could have derived from a Welsh word meaning empty nonsense). The book makes fun reading and those that I have tried delicious eating (spiced treacle scones – great with toasted cheese on top. Strange but true!).

The recipe I have chosen to reproduce here is for salad cream. I know it’s not a salad time of year but it seemed apt given that it is 100 years since Heinz introduced salad cream to the UK market. Reading around this product’s history I discovered that salad cream was considered to be the very down market (i.e. working class) cousin to mayonnaise. I found this strange as I always thought it added a rather sophisticated element to the classic egg and cress sandwich when I was a child (read into this what you will…). Anyway, I’ve also provided my favourite way to make an egg sandwich just to prove that it can be classy when made with salad cream.

Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen by Rita Godfrey (£12.99)

Salad Cream

Salad Cream LR


  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp mustard (I used Coleman’s mustard powder)
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 heaped tsp corn flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 150ml cream


  1. Mix all the dry ingredients then add the egg yolks.
  2. Put into a food processor and add water and vinegar gradually to make a smooth mix then add the olive oil.
  3. Pour into a pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly until it forms a thick sauce.
  4. Cool then stir in the cream. Transfer to a sealable bottle with a wide neck. Despite the addition of cream it will keep in the fridge for up to six months.

Egg Salad Cream Sandwich LR

To make my favourite egg sandwich mix 1 – 2 chopped hard boiled or scrambled eggs with 1 – 3 dessert spoons of salad cream (depending on how hungry you are!). Add to this 3 – 4 sun dried tomato halves which have been finely chopped and mix together. Put a layer of fresh baby spinach leaves onto a slice of bread (my favourite for this filling is ciabatta) the spoon the egg mix over the top. This is quite messy to eat but oh so delicious!

You may also want to try salad cream in a fish finger sandwich like Daniel from Young & Foodish.

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Medlar Tart & Spiced Medlar Vinegar

There has been a lot of interest in my earlier posts about medlars so I thought it was about time I came up with some more recipes using this unusual fruit.

I frequently get asked how to make medlar vinegar. If you don’t live in Sussex then you may find sourcing the fine flavoured vinegars (such as medlar vinegar) produced by Stratta difficult so I have posted a recipe for a simple spiced medlar vinegar below.

I’ve been toying with the idea of making a medlar tart for a while. It struck me that the consistency of bletted medlars is not dissimilar to that of pumpkin so I have taken my inspiration from America pumpkin pie. It seems particularly apt to post this recipe today as it is Thanksgiving in the USA.

If you need help in preparing your medlars take a look at my earlier post here.

Medlar Tart

Medlar Tart LR


  • 320g pack ready rolled sweet short crust pastry (or make your own)
  • 400g medlar puree
  • 397g tin condensed milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 25g caster sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange


  1. Preheat the oven to 200℃.
  2. Line a 22-23cm deep tart tin with the pastry. Prick the base then line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven (also remove the baking beans and paper) and reduce the temperature to 170℃.
  3. Meanwhile prepare the filling. Mix all the remaining ingredients together in a large jug. Pour into the pre-baked case and bake for a further 40 minutes until set. Best served at room temperature or cold.

Spiced Medlar Vinegar

Makes approximately 4 x 350ml bottles

Medlar Vinegar LR

I used the pulp left over from pureeing the medlars for the recipe above. However, you can use whole bletted medlars for this recipe. Just lightly squash them before you add the remaining ingredients.


  • 600-700g medlar pulp or the equivalent weight of whole bletted medlars
  • 1 litre white wine vinegar
  • 450 – 750g granulated sugar
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 10cm piece cinnamon stick


  • Steep the medlars in the vinegar for 3 to 5 days in a non metallic container. Pour the contents into a jelly bag and allow to drain. This will take several hours so leave overnight if possible. DO NOT SQUEEZE the bag to get more liquid out otherwise your vinegar will be cloudy.
  • For every 600ml vinegar add 450g sugar (basically you need 75% sugar to the quantity of vinegar). Put the vinegar, sugar and spices in a saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil then simmer for around 5 minutes removing any scum that floats to the surface. Allow to cool then remove the spices and bottle. Use for salad dressings.

Other Medlar recipes you may enjoy

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A Pear of Tarts

Pears LR

When is a tart not a tart?

I think it is fair to say in Britain a tart is generally considered to have a pastry base but no lid. However, that which passes as a tart in Britain would be classified as a pie in the US. Then there is the filling. Does a ‘tart’ or open pie with a savoury filling automatically become a quiche (as in Quiche Lorraine) leaving sweet fillings involving fruit and/or custard to claim the name tart? Alan Davidson points out that tarts in Medieval times, such as those listed in the Forme of Cury, usually contained meat albeit often mixed with spices, dried fruits and sugar (think of the original mince pie).

For the purposes of this post I am using the word tart in both the savoury and the sweet recipes below. The first contains blue cheese, walnuts and pears. It’s most definitely a savoury recipe although the sweet pears compliment the metallic tang of the cheese beautifully (and perhaps harks back to a time when sweet and savoury fillings were intertwined). But what of the second sweet recipe? To all intents and purposes many people would consider this a pie as it includes a pastry lid. However, I am more than happy to go along with the original authors’, the Caldesi’s, description as a tart (it sounds far more elegant than pie in my book). I love the way the cinnamon pastry embraces the sliced pear giving it more of the appearance of a tart than a pie in any case.

Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Tart

Pear, blue cheese & walnut tart LR

Serves 4 as a main or 6 to 8 as a starter.

Ingredients for the walnut pastry

  • 125g walnut halves
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 40g parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg

Ingredients for the filling

  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 300ml creme fraîche
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100g strong, blue cheese, such as Stilton, crumbled or roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp snipped chives
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 50g walnut halves
  • 2 ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped


  1. Place the walnut halves for the pastry in a food processor. Blitz until finely ground then add the flour, butter and cheese. Process again until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs then, while the motor is running, add the egg a little at a time (you will probably need just over half an egg) until a soft dough forms. Refrigerate for an hour or so.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200℃. Roll out the pastry the best you can to line a 23-25cm deep, loose bottomed tart tin. This pastry is very crumbly and it will crack and break very easily. It will inevitably be necessary to make some repairs so make sure you roll the pastry out so that it is larger than the tin you are using. This way you will have sufficient pastry to make the repairs. Roughly trim the pastry so that you leave some over hanging the edges of the tin (you can tidy it up later). It doesn’t matter how ugly the inside of the tart case looks (you won’t see it after it is filled) but it is imperative that there are no cracks otherwise the filling will leak out. Lightly prick the base of the pastry case then line it with grease proof paper and baking beans (or rice). Bake blind for 10 minutes then remove the baking beans. Bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and trim the case so it is level with the top of the tin.
  3. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 150℃. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a gentle heat then add the onion. Cook until soft and translucent (about 5 to 10 minutes). Meanwhile, mix the eggs (plus any extra left over from making the pastry) and the creme fraîche in a jug. Stir in the blue cheese, chives and cayenne.
  4. Keep a few walnut halves aside (about 5 or 6) then roughly chop the rest. Sprinkle the nuts and chopped pears over the base of the pastry case then pour over the cheesy ‘custard’ filling. Place the reserved walnut halves on top of the custard then put the tart in the oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes until just set (it’s fine if it still a bit wobbly after this time) and golden. Serve warm or cold with a little dressed salad on the side.

Venetian Pear Tart

Venetian pear tart LR

Serves 8

This recipe is taken from Venice: Recipes Lost and Found by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi (Hardie Grant, £25.00, Helen Cathcart) who run the Cucina Caldesi and Caffe Caldesi in London. It’s a fascinating look at how the cuisine of this famous Italian city has been shaped by some intriguing influences over the centuries. Definitely one to put on your Christmas list if you are a fan of Italian cooking and food history.

Ingredients for the pastry

  • 300g ’00’ or plain flour
  • 160g unsalted butter
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients for the filling

  • 5 large ripe pears, peeled, cored and roughly sliced
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp rum (optional)


  1. To make the pastry sift the flour into a large bowl and rub the butter into it using your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, egg, cinnamon and salt. Mix well until you have a ball of dough (alternatively you can use a food processor for this stage). Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for 30 minutes or overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200℃ and butter and lightly flour a 25cm loose-bottomed tart tin. After 30 minutes (if you chilled your pastry for longer, let it warm up a little for 20 minutes at room temperature) remove the pastry from the fridge, divide in half and roll into 2 circles. Line the tin with one of the circles of pastry.
  3. Layer the sliced pears into the pastry case, sprinkle over the sugar and rum (if using) and top with the pie with the second circle of pastry. Using a fork make some holes in the pastry to let the steam escape. Bake for around 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden.


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Jack O’Lantern Soup

Pumpkin Soup LRThe Independent reported this week that we throw away over 18,000 tonnes of pumpkins after Halloween. After reading this article it seemed churlish to add our jack ‘o lantern to this pumpkin waste mountain so I’ve turned ours into soup.

Serves 4


  • 1 pumpkin
  • 1 jacket potato, weighing around 175g – 200g uncooked
  • 400ml tin coconut milk
  • 400ml water
  • 2 tsp Swiss Vegetable Bouillon powder
  • 1 – 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste (or more, depending on how spicy you like your food)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
  • Thai fish sauce or salt & pepper to season


  1. Preheat the oven to 200℃. Whilst it is heating up cut your Jack O’Lantern into wedges removing any fibrous bits and seeds that may have escaped the scooping out process. Wash and place on a baking sheet ready to go in the oven.
  2. Bake the pumpkin wedges for 40-60 minutes until tender (this will very much depend on how large your wedges are and on the type of pumpkin). You can put the jacket potato in the oven at the same time (prick the skin first). Alternatively, cook the potato in a microwave until tender (microwaves differ in wattage so refer to the manufacturers instructions for timings).
  3. Remove the pumpkin and potato from the oven (if you’ve decided to cook it at the same time). Leave the pumpkin until it is cool enough to handle then scoop the flesh away from the skin and place in a bowl. Using a stick blender puree the pumpkin flesh.
  4. Remove the cooked potato from it’s skin and pass through a potato ricer into a different bowl.
  5. In a large saucepan place the coconut milk, water, bouillon powder, curry paste, riced potato and 500g of the pumpkin puree (any remaining puree can be frozen for use in other dishes). Stir using a balloon whisk then heat until it reaches boiling point then simmer for a minute or two until piping hot. Just before serving stir in the lemon juice and peanut butter. Season with a little Thai fish sauce or salt and pepper if you prefer according to taste.

You may also like the following recipes from this blog:


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Name Your Poison

A conversation shortly before bedtime earlier this month…

Billy: “What are you reading?”

Me: “Just flicking through a couple of books I was sent recently.”

Billy picks up one of the slim volumes by Jane Percy, the Duchess of Northumberland and reads the title.

“‘Poisons, Potions and Aphrodisiacs‘. Which one will I be getting?” he muses a little perplexed at the thought that one of the first two will be on the menu.

Fortunately, for Billy I have no sinister plans to do away with him. I was looking in this book and it’s sister volume, Cocktails, Cordials and Elixirs (also by the Duchess) for inspiration. I was about to embark on a month of sobriety in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support’s Go Sober campaign.


The books form collections of recipes from the archives at Alnwick Castle (famous for its poison garden). They are fascinating insights into the ‘cures’ and remedies available hundreds of years ago for various ailments and libations. Cocktails contains a lot of recipes  for cordials involving alcohol, a reminder of a time when water was unfit to drink (and clearly these were not appropriate for my forthcoming mission). The Duchess herself confesses to being rather partial to cocktails and has given her name to four concoctions which are served in the Treehouse Restaurant at Alnwick Castle. This includes the Deadly Jane which is aptly served in a poison bottle (the recipe, which involves rum, apricot brandy and fruit juice, can be found in the book).

Drink books LR

It’s easy to laugh at the largely herbal remedies in Poisons but some of them actually sound quite soothing if not curative.

For a Bathe

Take rose leaves, Mallowes, Lavender, Alacampana seethe all these in water till they be tender and then put in milk. So let the patient sitte in it as hote as he maye suffer it and after go to a warme Bedde and sweate.

From Edith Beale’s Book of Recipes 1596

Others like Oyle of Frogges (yes, it really does include frogs and earthworms to boot) not so much. It’s fair to say that many of the recipes in the books contain ingredients that are not readily available to most people and are required in quite large quantities (think gallons rather than litres). Nevertheless, they are both great little books which would make perfect gifts for anyone with an interest in historical food and drink.

Cover High Res

I still needed inspiration for my sober month so I turned to another recent arrival, Artisan Drinks by Lindy Wildsmith. This covers everything from homemade soft drinks (cordials, syrups, teas and fizzy drinks) to alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, perry and cider) with suggestions for cocktails and mocktails using some of the above. What I really love about this book is the fact that each of the recipes I tried makes a realistic quantity of the given drink. So rather than making dozens of bottles of a particular cordial, most of which will wind up languishing at the back of your cupboard, you can make just one or two. Most of the non alcoholic recipes I tried will keep in the fridge for three to six months. Lindy also provides instructions on how to pasteurise cordials to extend their shelf life (outside of the fridge) although I didn’t try this method myself. So here’s a quick run down of the recipes I tried.

Italian lime siroppo

Lime cordial LR

Based on a recipe by Pellegrino Artusi (who in turn based his on a recipe from the Medici cookbook). This looked a gorgeous fresh green in the book but my version was not as impressive (one son asked if someone had peed in a bottle!). I also found it too sweet for my tastes. Perhaps the limes I’d chosen were at fault. Probably not a recipe I would try again.

Ginger cordial

Ginger cordial LR

If the lime siroppo looked like wee then this looked like something entirely different but more unappetising. However, as the adage goes, looks can be deceiving. This was by far my favourite cordial. If you’ve ever enjoyed ginger tea in the far east then you’ll love this. It really is an ‘uplifting and warming’ drink (as described by Lindy) when served hot and was excellent in the Heatwave mocktail.

Rose hip syrup

Rose Hip LR

I have fond memories of drinking this cordial as a child. It takes a bit more effort than some of the other recipes I tried (you have to pick the rose hips for a start) but it is worth it. It looks stunning in the bottle and tastes great hot or cold (and not in the least bit like roses which was a plus for my boys).

Ginger beer

Ginger Beer LR

This is so ridiculously easy to make you will wonder why you ever bothered buying it from the supermarket. It was a huge hit in our house so much so I had to make a double batch of ginger beer second time round. Lindy advises you to drink it within a few days after opening before the sparkle subsides but I found that it stayed fizzy even after opening for more than a week.

Trio of cordials LR

Artisan Drinks contains some great classics (like lemonade) plus some more unusual drinks like fennel flower ‘prosecco’ (which I’m looking forward to trying next summer). I can’t comment on the alcoholic recipes but given that her recipes are easy to follow I’m confident they would work just as well as their non alcoholic counterparts. It’s also beautifully photographed and certainly made my sober October far more interesting than it could have been.


Artisan Drinks (Jacqui Small) £25

Little Book of Cocktails, Cordials and Elixirs (The History Press) £9.99

Little Book of Poisons, Potions and Aphrodisiacs (The History Press) £9.99

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Love at First Bite Cupcakes

Love at First Bite 1 LR

These chocolate and raspberry cupcakes are bleeding good (quite literally).  Watch out for the oozing centre. The name comes from a silly comedy horror movie released in 1979 starring the ‘suave’ (depending on your taste in vampires) George Hamilton.

Makes 12


  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 50g dark chocolate, melted
  • 2 tbsp sour cream or creme fraiche
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp red food colouring (I use a paste)
  • 12 tsp seedless raspberry jam.


  1. Preheat the oven to 180℃. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together then add the eggs one at a time beating thoroughly after each addition.
  3. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into another bowl. Gradually fold the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture followed by the dark chocolate, sour cream, vanilla extract and food colouring.
  4. Place approximately 1 table spoon of the cake mix in each muffin case. Place a tea spoon of raspberry jam in the centre of each case on top of the chocolate mixture. Top with more chocolate mixture ensuring the jam is covered.
  5. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack before icing.

Love at First Bite 2 LR


  • 200g fresh or frozen raspberries (defrosted if frozen)
  • 200g white chocolate in pieces
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g icing sugar
  • ¼ – ½ tsp red food colouring
  • Freeze dried raspberry pieces and edible glitter to decorate
  1. Puree the raspberries in a food processor then pass through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.
  2. Meanwhile melt the white chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Once melted stir in the raspberry puree and refrigerate for up to an hour until cool and thick but not solid.
  3. Cream the butter and the sugar together in a food processor. Add the cooled raspberry chocolate and the food colouring. Blitz again until combined. If necessary, place in the fridge to firm up a bit before piping onto the cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with freeze dried raspberry pieces and edible glitter to decorate.
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Witches Brew Cupcakes

I have a vague memory of eating a chocolate mint flavoured ice lolly in a rather disgusting shade of bogey green as a child. Despite it’s gruesome appearance I rather enjoyed it. This is my homage to this long forgotten iced treat.

Witches brew cupcakes 1 LR

Makes 12


  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g self raising flour, sieved
  • 3 tbsp buttermilk or natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • ⅛ tsp green food colouring (I use a paste rather than a liquid)
  • 100g dark chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 180℃. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together then add the eggs one at a time beating thoroughly after each addition.
  3. Gradually fold in the flour followed by the buttermilk then the peppermint extract and food colouring.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips then spoon into the muffin cases. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden on top and springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack before icing.

Witches brew cupcakes 2 LR


  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 100g soft butter
  • 200g icing sugar, sieved
  • 1 – 2 tbsp very hot water
  • A few drops of peppermint extract (optional)
  • Edible glitter to decorate


  1. Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a barely simmering pan of water.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together. I prefer to use a food processor to do this. Add the melted chocolate then mix again. If the icing appears too stiff then add a little of the hot water. Refrigerate for up to an hour until firm but pliable enough to pipe then decorate the cooled cupcakes.
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Lunch at the Rex Whistler Restaurant

There were raised eye brows earlier this year regarding the consumption of rare meats. Not so much those served at our dinner table but those being fed to animals, or more specifically, the inmates of Copenhagen zoo. The directors of the Danish zoo invited international condemnation from animal lovers and campaigners around the world when it was revealed they had first killed Marius the giraffe and fed him to the lions then a month later euthanised four healthy male lions.

So am I about to launch into a tale (sorry couldn’t resist) of eating endangered species for my dinner? No. It just struct me as an ironic coincidence that this controversy began to unfold around the same time as I had lunch with some friends at the Tate Britain’s Rex Whistler Restaurant with it’s mural the Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats.

Rex Whistler The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats 1926–7 at the Rex Whistler Restaurant, Tate Britain

Rex Whistler The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats 1926–7 at the Rex Whistler Restaurant, Tate Britain

You can read more about the splendid mural here but in a nutshell it depicts an expedition to the fictitious Duchy of Epicurania in search of exotic meats. The travellers encounter fantastic creatures such as truffle dogs and unicorns and are able to transform the diet of dry biscuits the people in their homeland are accustomed to with their delicious discoveries. Despite the somewhat trippy meaning behind the mural it’s soft green and blue tones actually make it rather soothing and transform what could otherwise be a stuffy, formal restaurant into something rather pleasant.


Situated in Pimlico the restaurant has always been a popular haunt for MP’s and underwent a major refurbishment towards the end of last year. In many circumstances the revamp of a restaurant usually requires that the menu receive similar treatment. Having never eaten at the Rex Whistler restaurant before I can’t say whether the menu has changed radically or not. What I do know is that head chef Nathan Brewster has taken his inspiration from typically British dishes which have been around since 1927 (when Whistler painted the mural). Think classic combos like calf’s liver and bacon with rumbledethumps or marmalade pudding and custard. And that rather appealed to me.


Puddings themselves are dishes that can be liberally laced with nostalgia. One mouthful can evoke memories of the people who cooked them or places visited. I have a particular fondness for treacle tart. I can’t pinpoint the precise memory which would explain why it is so endearing but it’s one of those desserts I associate with childhood (along with jam tarts and arctic roll). Perhaps it’s because it was a sweet reward for having forced down a revolting school dinner? Whatever it is, treacle tart is something I love and the dessert in question at the Rex Whistler restaurant didn’t disappoint. Here they serve not one, but two slices, of tart. The first is dark with a deep liquorice intensity (a true treacle tart). The other a golden caramel (made with the less intense golden syrup). Both were encased in light buttery pastry and were tooth achingly sweet but oh-so moreish I just couldn’t resist finishing the plate.


You could perhaps accuse the Rex Whistler menu of reading like that of any old gastro pub come 70’s bistro. It’s true that you will find pub favourites like smoked mackerel pate present but like so many of these typical dishes done well they can be a joy to eat. The mackerel pate here was rich and smooth with a perceptible wisp of smoke rather than the overpowering acrid charred scent you get with some smoked foods. Dill flavoured cornichons provided a complimentary tang to the oily fish. My only complaint would be that it was only served with a couple of thin slices of toasted rye bread which were soon gone before even half the pate had been devoured.


I’d plumped for another bistro classic for the main with a skate wing served with brown shrimp and caper butter. My husband’s mother used to say that eating skate made her chin itch. I can’t say that I’ve ever had this problem myself when I’ve eaten skate. This particular specimen was meltingly soft and accompanied by salty shrimps and piquant capers. Some just wilted spinach on the side provided an interesting hint of iron. My friend J also commented that her lemon sole fillets stuffed with anise herbs and served with a mussel sauce were delicious and G said her cauliflower cheese bread pudding and salsify was surprisingly light. So all in all we were very happy customers and thoroughly itch free.


There’s nothing rare or extraordinary about the Rex Whistler Restaurant (in a good way). The menu may be old school but it delivers modern British cooking to a very high standard with playful nods to the past. The surroundings are beautiful and the service is friendly and attentive without being overbearing. The restaurant also has an outstanding wine list which sadly I couldn’t investigate further on this visit due to being on medication following a choking incident elsewhere in London. So if you fancy pursuing rare meats, like the intrepid travellers in Whistler’s mural, you’d be better off having a chat with the keepers at Copenhagen Zoo.

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Life in Miniature

As much as I like making desserts I rarely have room for one when I eat out. This doesn’t mean that I don’t hanker for a sweet little something after my meal. This is why my eyes light up at the appearance of a plate of petit fours. I can always find a small crevice in my oh-so-full tummy for a bite sized treat.

Treat Petite Cover

Part of the joy of eating petit fours in a restaurant is the knowledge that I haven’t personally had to fiddle with them to make them look pretty. Whilst I love baking I have never had much patience for the sugar craft side of things. I simply like to have my cake and eat it (unless of course someone else has kindly added the embellishments for me). Then earlier this year a copy of Treat Petite by Fiona Pearce arrived in the post. My first thought was that I would never have the time or the inclination to make these miniature treats. But as I flicked through the book I was gradually seduced by the recipes and images of Early Grey Madeleines with Honey-orange Glaze, Micro Meringue Kisses and Chai-spiced Palmiers. As Fiona says in the introduction to her book:

There’s an Alice in Wonderland charm about teeny chocolate éclairs, delectable miniature Victoria sponge cakes, button-like macarons…any little treats you can just pop in your mouth and finish in a bite.

I think it would be fair to say that some of the recipes are more fiddly than others and some do require specialist equipment (like the mini Madeleines). However, I tried two recipes which tickled my fancy (Cinnamon Meringue Mushrooms and Coffee Bean Biscuits, an adapted version of which you will find below) and found the recipes easy to follow plus I was pleased with the end result. OK, so my versions aren’t quite as pretty as Fiona’s but this is a lady who posts tutorials on how to make baking and craft projects on her blog Some of the recipes seem to make staggering quantities but you just have to remind yourself that, at the end of the day, they are only small mouthfuls.

Cinnamon Meringue Mushrooms

Cinnamon Meringue Mushrooms

If you’re inclined to make edible gifts for Christmas presents or as end of term presents for teachers, then you’ll definitely love this book for inspiration. And if canapés are your thing too, then you’ll love the last chapter on miniature savouries. Profiteroles with Blue Cheese Mousse anyone?

Mocha Bean Biscuits

Mocha Bean Biscuits

Mocha Bean Biscuits

Adapted from Treat Petite by Fiona Pearce

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Fiona’s original recipe for Coffee Bean Biscuits. I just love the combination of coffee and chocolate (plus I have no problem in fiddling with recipes). I also halved Fiona’s quantities as the thought of making 200 biscuits, however small, was quite alarming. That said these biscuits are surprisingly quick and easy to make and so moreish that it wouldn’t take long for 200 to disappear.


  • 90g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee granules
  • 1 tbsp boiling water
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g plain flour
  • 30g cocoa powder


  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Gradually, beat in the egg until well combined. Mix the espresso powder or coffee granules with the boiling water to form a syrup. Add the coffee syrup and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until smooth.
  2. Sift in the flour and cocoa, then mix gently with a spoon until well combined. Form the dough into a flattened disc, wrap it in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour until firm.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180℃. Line a baking sheet with baking paper (I used a silicone liner). Allow the dough to soften slightly at room temperature. I cut the dough into 10 evenly sized pieces then rolled each piece into a long sausage shape. I cut each dough ‘sausage’ into 10 segments each roughly 1cm long then rolled these into small ovals before placing them on the lined baking sheet. Press a cocktail stick horizontally along each biscuit to imprint a line down the centre to form the coffee bean shape. Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven for 3-5 minutes until just firm to the touch. Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.
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Mutton, Pumpkin & Spinach Curry

Crown Prince Pumpkin at Townings

Pumpkins at Townings Farm

This is a great one pot dish for those chilly Autumnal nights (which I’m sure are on their way) that needs little more than a portion of rice or perhaps some naan bread to go with it. Mutton is an underrated meat in my opinion. It has a stronger flavour than lamb and responds well to slow cooking. It can be difficult to source so your best bet is to head to a good farm shop. I got the mutton for this recipe from Townings Farm in Chailey who will be having a pumpkin festival later this month.

Don’t be put off by the number of ingredients. This is actually a very quick and easy dish to prepare then let the oven do the rest!

Mutton Curry

Serves 4 – 6


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 – 4 large cloves garlic, (about 1 dsp when peeled and crushed)
  • 2.5 cm piece fresh ginger, (about 1 dsp when peeled and grated)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground tumeric
  • ½ – 2 tsp cayenne pepper (according to taste)
  • 400ml coconut milk and 400ml water
  • 100g red lentils
  • 750g mutton or lamb diced, e.g. shoulder
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 5 cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 200g fresh spinach leaves, roughly shredded if large


  1. Preheat the oven to 140℃.
  2. Heat the oil in a flame proof, lidded casserole over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry until golden then add the garlic, ginger and ground spices. Continue to cook for a minute or two until aromatic.
  3. Pour in the coconut milk and water followed by the lentils, mutton and whole spices. Stir well then bring to the boil. Cover then transfer to the oven and cook for 90 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven then stir in the spinach leaves. Return to the oven for a further 30 minutes before serving with boiled rice or naan.
The pumpkin patch at Townings Farm

The pumpkin patch at Townings Farm

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