Judging preserves at Heckington then a perfect North Norfolk wedding

I had a brilliant day judging preserves at the Heckington Show on the last Saturday of July.

Yet again, the turn out of preserve entries was AMAZING and it was a real privilege to try each one but it was so tricky to pick the winners! If you haven't entered, you really should as you are taking part in a brilliant tradition which is fun to enter, and fun to look at as well when you are going round the show.

I had the help of a lovely steward (so lovely I have forgotten her name which is unforgiveable!) and between us we whizzed through the entrants in around two hours. The overall winner was difficult but in the end it went to a really well balanced rhubarb and ginger jam.

Then I had to hot foot it to North Norfolk to see my lovely friend Trish get married! It was a really long, but very happy and sweet day...


Here's Steve in his flowery shirt : )

I ADORED the bride's evening outfit which really suited her free-spirited personality! Such a perfect day - from judging preserves to a totally dreamy wedding...



Swiss Rolls - where have they been since the 70s?

I have NEVER had an urge to make a Swiss Roll. When I was a pipsqueak in the 70s, they came wrapped in clear cellophane and tasted of nothing with a very sweet artificial creamy filling. They were the pudding of choice. I liked them, but then it was the 70s and we all ate them with loads of tinned custard so I was bound to. Also, cook books will have you believe they are difficult but, having seen them on Great Bristish Bake Off, I had a go and I can tell you they are not difficult to make. Fiddly, a little, but difficult, no. Also, I had no idea they have no fat in them which means they are slightly kinder to your waistline.  Here's my attempt, using home-made blackcurrant jam as a tart filling. I am going to fiddle about a bit and will share a recipe once I have made it a little more special...


Apple & blackberry bande aux fruits

I baked this lovely bande aux fruits ('fruit strip') the other day when summer had been put on hold and the wind and rain was lashing the house... From 'Indulge' by the talented Claire Clark - a book well worth buying if you want to advance to a more complicated recipes. (Which I need to do as it's easy just to do a fruit crumble out of your head, and not tax yourself...) I was quite pleased with the result though I could have been a little neater!


100g/3.5oz blackberries

3-4 apples

3-4 tablespoons apricot preserve


For the sweet pastry

110g/3.75oz softened unsalted butter

50g/1.75oz caster sugar

1 medium egg

Half capful of vanilla extract

210f/7.5oz plain flour

Pinch of salt


For the almond cream

125g/4.5oz softened unsalted butter

125g/4.5oz caster sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

Grated zest of half a lemon

Half teaspoon of vanilla extract

40g/1.5oz plain flour

125g/4.5oz ground almonds (or flaked, but blitz)


You will need an oblong tart tin for this recipe, about 25 x 10cm/10 x 4 inches

Make the pastry in a food processor, if you have one, by placing all the ingredients in the machine and pulsing gently until they form a soft, but not sticky, dough.

Flatten the dough with your hand to about 1cm/half an inch thick, wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the almond cream.  Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.  Add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.  Sift the flour and ground almonds together on to a piece of baking parchment and add to the creamed mix all in one go.  Fold in the dry ingredients (if using an electric mixer, you can do this with the machine but use a lower speed).

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.  Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface into a rectangle about 30 x 15cm/12 x 6 inches; it should be about 5mm/0.25inch thick.  Use to line the oblong tart tin, pressing it well into the base and up the sides.  Lightly roll the pin over the top of the tin to remove the excess pastry.  Spoon the almond cream into the lined tart tin so it is about two-thirds full and level with a spatula or palette knife.  Set aside in a cool place, but not the fridge, while you prepare the apples.

Peel and core the apples, cut them in half and then slice them thinly, keeping them together in a half shape.  Place the apple halves on to the almond cream, pressing on them lightly so they fan out slightly.  Dot the blackberries around the apples.  Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the almond cream springs back when pressed gently.  Check to see if the almond cream is cooked by inserting a small knife into the centre of the flan; it should come out clean.

Using a pastry brush, brush the apricot glaze over the tart to seal in moisture and give it a shine.


The new AGA City60 might be what you have been waiting for?!

There's a new AGA.... the AGA City60 (though to me it's the 'baby AGA'!). If you would like more info, please let me know! It's 60cm wide so it will fit in most kitchens...and this smaller size might just suit you more than the traditional size.

The new AGA City60 comes in two design styles, one sleek and contemporary (shown here in Lemon), the other traditional (shown here in Rose). Like the full-sized AGA cookers, it's made from cast iron and employs radiant heat cooking technology, meaning all the goodness and moisture is locked in during cooking or baking.

There are two ovens, offering roastingbaking and simmering functions and a hotplate, which enables you to boil and simmer.

Plus, the main oven, which can be set to either baking or roasting, can be fully programmable and can have up to three events pre-set per day. 

In the winter you can enjoy the indefinable AGA warmth in the kitchen and in the summer your AGA City60 can be on when you need it and off when you don’t.


  • Just 60cm wide 
  • Two ovens 
  • The top oven can be switched between baking and roasting modes 
  • The bottom oven is for simmering 
  • The hotplate can be set either to simmering or boiling 
  • When in boiling mode, the surrounding top plate can be used as an additional area for simmering 
  • When the hotplate is in simmering mode, this outer area can be used as a warming plate, for example to melt chocolate or soften butter 
  • Uniquely and usefully, the top plate is made up of two cast-iron half-moon pieces, which can be removed and put in the dishwasher 
  • The ovens will take 40 minutes to an hour to heat up and the hotplate eight to 11 minutes 

The new AGA City60 is available in 14 colours, including two gorgeous new shades, Lemon and Rose


Taunton farmer's market

Taunton has a really good farmer's market, one of the nicest I have been to. We visited during our week in Somerset, during an impossibly hot day. I think it was every Thursday, and I recommend you take a look if you go there! The highs for us included the cheese man, the butter man, the Japanese chef. I also liked the lady with the patisserie. I will let the photos speak for themselves: