Chocolate Muffins

Margaret says this is her favourite chocolate muffin recipe. Not exactly wholefood, but they can be made with organic and fairly traded ingredients. The recipe comes from ‘Chocolate’ by Patricia Lousada which a friend gave me a while ago.


  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 90g granulated sugar
  • 30g dark brown sugar
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 150ml milk,
  • 60g good quality plain chocolate in 1cm squares


  • Set the oven to gas 5, 190c and line a bun tin with paper muffin cases
  • Cream the butter and the sugars and beat until light and fluffy
  • Beat the eggs and add gradually to the butter and sugar, beat the two together as you add the eggs
  • Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together a couple of times and fold into the egg mixture, adding the milk as you go to make a soft ‘dropping’ mixture
  • Half fill the paper cases with mixture, and divide the squares of chocolate between the muffins. Cover each chocolate topping with a little bit of mixture
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until the muffins are cooked and springy to touch. Put on a cooling rack.

Muffins are best fresh. Say no more.

Beef and beer stew, prehistoric style

I so very nearly called this post ‘Prehistoric beef and beer stew’ but then thought at least one person might find that too funny to pass up for a joke.

This is one of the recipes from a book called ‘Prehistoric Cooking’ by Jacqui Wood. I picked this one because I was still experimenting with honey from last month’s article. My sister sent me the book, hopefully because she thought I would find it very interesting.


  • 500g stewing steak
  • 25g wholemeal flour
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bunch of sorrel (grows wild, I have some cultivated in the garden)
  • 50g honey
  • 1 pint of ale


  • Cut the meat into 2cm cubes, and dust with the flour
  • Fry the meat in the butter until browned. Use a casserole dish with a well-fitting lid.
  • Add salt, chopped sorrel, honey and beer.
  • Put on the lid of the casserole and cook over a low heat for one and a half hours, until the beef is tender.

For authenticity, serve with wholemeal bread rather than potatoes. Carrots are a good side dish. 

Polenta Cake

This is a delicious recipe that can be made using duck eggs. Polenta is gluten free so this is a useful cake to whip up for the GF tea table.



  • 110g butter
  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 110g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 225g fine polenta


  • 3 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tsp lemon juice


  • Preheat the oven to 180 C. 
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and creamy
  • Beat the eggs into the mixture with the ground almonds, then add almond extract and polenta
  • Line an 18 x 28 cm swill roll tin with greaseproof paper, allowing the paper to stand about 2cm higher than the tin. Spread the mixture into the tin and bake for 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the syrup. Warm the honey in a pan and add the lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Simmer for five minutes until the syrup has reduced a little. Set aside to cool. 
  • When the cake comes out of the oven, cut into squares and pour over the syrup. 

You could garnish these with slivered almonds while still hot and sticky, the syrup should hold the slivers in place. Serve when cooled. These are good at the end of a meal, with a cup of coffee. 


Honey is one of the foods that I can remember eating when I was very young. I can remember eating comb honey when we lived in New Zealand; I must have been aged about four. Later, when we lived in the middle east, we used to buy honey from the people living in the Alburz mountains; we called in bees-foot honey, as it sometimes contained small fragments of the poor bees that made it. In Nigeria, honey was rare and costly, and sold wrapped in leaves by tribesmen sitting at the edge of the market place.

In all these parts of the world and more, and going back through the millennia, honey has been eaten. There are Mesolithic cave paintings in Spain, showing women collecting honey. It has value as a food, and as a medicine. The ancient Egyptians new of its healing powers and used it to dress wounds, and to embalm the dead. In the bronze-age, in Britain, honeyed breads were made for festivals.

Honey has value as a food, and also has medical uses. These are still being researched, and include measuring the medicinal value of honey to help with oral infections, reducing cough in children, and in the management of chronic wounds and acute burns. The use of some types of honey for wound management is already part of mainstream practice in the UK. There seems to be variation between types of honey when it comes to how well they work; Manuka honey is the most widely know therapeutic honey, made from nectar collected by bees from the Manuka tree in Australia and New Zealand. There seems to be several different ways in which the honey works to treat and prevent infections in wounds.


Honey is made from the nectar of flowers, which collected by honey bees. Bees manufacture honey as a stable, high-energy food for their young. They collect nectar from plants that are in bloom. Flying back to the hive, the bees then transfer the nectar into six-sided wax cells. They then flap their wings to help water to evaporate from the nectar, and condensing it into honey. Once the honey is ready, the bees seal each cell with wax, storing it for when it is to be consumed.

When it comes to harvesting the honey, the beekeeper removes the combs of honey from the hive, cuts off the wax caps and spins the come to get the honey out. The honey is then strained and bottled. Only honeybees make large enough colonies in hives for this to work; bumblebees do not live in large colonies, and honeybees are not native to the islands.


The colour and flavour of honeys differ depending on which flowers have been visited by the honey bees. The colour ranges from nearly colourless to dark brown, and the flavour varies from mild to distinctive and bold, depending on where the honey bees buzzed. Honey from different flowers has a distinctive flavour and colour due to differences in the nectar

As a general rule, the flavour of lighter coloured honeys is milder, and the flavour of darker coloured honeys is stronger. Darker honeys have more nutrients than light ones. Vitamin and mineral content also depend on the floral source of the honey. Below is a list of some of the more commonly available types of honey in the UK and in the wholefood catalogue.

Acacia honey: A light mild clear honey produced from Acacia and a blend of other flower nectars.

Chilean ulmo honey: Growing along the coastal areas of southern Chile, ulmo trees produce a white blossom in February and March. This honey has a delightful flavour reminiscent of aniseed and parma violets.

Greek honey: A strong rich dark clear honey produced from pine, wild rose and other flower nectars.

Clover Honey: Usually a pale set honey, it has a smooth texture and a deliciously mild buttery flavour.

Orange blossom honey: This clear honey is collected from hives sited in orange groves. It has a deliciously distinctive orange flavour and a light amber colour.

Turkish pine honey: From the pine forests of western Turkey, south east of Izmir, this dark, clear honey comes from hives managed to organic standards. It has a rich, full-bodied flavour reminiscent of sweet molasses.

Scottish heather honey: This is a dark, set honey, usually gathered from the moorlands around the Grampian mountains during August and September. Heather honey has a distinctive thick consistency with a rich flavour – slightly bitter with a pleasing aftertaste of burnt caramel. Some find it too strong.


There is an art to cooking with honey; as well as being very sweet, some honeys have quite a strong flavour, while others lose their floral taste in the process of cooking. In addition, honey includes water, so adjustments need to be made to recipes when substituting honey for sugar.

There are some combinations that blend well with the texture and flavour of honey; my favourite is Greek yoghurt with honey and nuts. A similar classic combination is icecream and heather honey; the neutral ice cream showcases the strong flavour of heather honey . Another classic combination is pecorino cheese with walnuts and comb honey.

When it comes to baking, most recipes work best with a blended wildflower honey, whose flavour is not too cloying or assertive. If you substitute all the sugar for honey, the texture of the finished cake or biscuit can be a bit chewy. Instead, use a mixture. The suggested substitution method is to use about 1/3 honey, 2/3 sugar. Use an equivalent weight, for example for a recipe asking for 100g sugar, you would substitute 30g of the sugar for 30g of honey.

If you are using a lot of honey, you should also subtract about 100ml of liquid from a recipe for every 250ml honey used and some sources suggest adding 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to a recipe to counteract honey’s acidic nature, which can affect other ingredients.


Lemon soother:

  • Juice of 2 lemons, plus 2 thin slices
  • 1cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp Honey
  • 4 tbsp whisky (optional)

Pour the lemon juice into a measuring jug and add the sliced ginger and honey. Add enough boiling water to the jug to measure 300ml and stir. Pour into 2 heatproof glasses, add the whisky if desired and serve immediately, garnished with a thin slice of lemon.

Banana Honey and Cinnamon Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 150ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 150g Natural Yogurt
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1 large pinch ground cinnamon

Chop a banana into large chunks and place in a blender. Pour in 150ml semi-skimmed milk and add a 150g pot Natural Yogurt with 1 tsp clear honey and a large pinch of ground cinnamon. Blend until smooth, pour into a glass and serve, sprinkled with a little more ground cinnamon.

Spicy Cabbage, Hungarian style

The recipe is adapted from Judy Ridgway’s Quick After-work Vegetarian Cookbook. Some of the recipes have become standbys., an excellent book.


  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 hot green chilli
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 head white cabbage, shredded
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 75ml stock
  • Salt and pepper


  • fry the sliced onion and chilli in the olive oil over a high head for 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a simmer. Cook over a medium heat, turning the vegetables from time to time, for about 8 minutes, when the cabbage will be tender.

This recipe is best as a side-dish.

Lamb in Cider

Once upon a time, I decided to try cooking a leg of lamb with cider instead of wine. It was delicious. I just found the recipe again.


  • A joint of lamb
  • 750ml cider
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 heaped tsp dried rosemary
  • a pinch of ground ginger
  • 1 onion, chopped


  • Rub the lamb with the salt, pepper and ginger, and put into a casserole dish that fits well. Sprinkle with rosemary and pour in the cider. Cover, and bake at 140 C for 3+ hours
  • We served with roast parsnips, roast potatoes and buttered cabbage


Garbure is a thick French soup, almost a stew, based on cabbage and beans with some form of meat and other vegetables, often with bread added. It originated in the south-west of France, around Bearn, the Pyrenees, Gascony and Landes. It may vary from household to household and season to season, depending on what is available. The basic principle behind this dish is the lengthy simmering of an assortment of vegetables and meats, generally meats preserved en confit. As far as vegetables go, anything is possible. The cabbage may be accompanied by any kind of beans, potatoes, turnips, celeriac, kohl rabi, nettle tops, borrage, leaf beet, beetroot, in fact just about anything that can be grown in the area.

I started with an enormous home-grown cabbage. I didn’t use all of it; this cabbage weighs more than an average baby, and is about the size of a basket ball. I just shaved off about a quarter of it.One word of warning: this involved a lot of chopping and I used a very large pan.


  • 1 small cabbage (or part of a larger one), coarsely shredded
  • 3 tbsp goose fat
  • 2 carrots, diced, or use celeriac
  • 1 turnip, diced, or use kohl rabi
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large leek, split lengthways into quarters and then chopped
  • Parsley, thyme, bayleaves
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2.3 litres of stock or water
  • 1 can of borlotti beans (you could use any sort of bean, especially canellini beans.
  • 350g potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 250g butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled and cubed.
  • 1 serving of meat per person, for example ham hough, sausage, confit of duck or goose. If you cooked the hough yourself, use the stick in the soup.

  • Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the cabbage, simmer for ten minutes and then drain well.
  • In a large soup pan, heat the goose fat and add the carrots, celery, turnips, onion and leeks, and stew very slowly for fifteen minutes, stirring from time to time.
  • Add the drained cabbage, and cook for another ten minutes
  • Add herbs, salt, cayenne and the stock, then stir in the beans, potatoes and pumpkin and cook, uncovered, at a very slow simmer for around 40 minutes. You may need to top up with water as required.
  • Submerge the meat in the soup and continue to cook for another thirty minutes.
  • To serve, line each bowl with a slice of home-made bread, ladle the soup over the bread, and top with a portion of meat.

    There are other versions, which include cloves, or garlic, or other ingredients. You can make the base soup, cool before the step where the meat is added. Then, when you need to, reheat what you need.

Red Lentil Dal with ginger

This is another Madhur Jaffrey recipe from Curry Easy, a great side-dish for other curries. It is a good idea to make this early on in the meal preparation, as it can sit cooking slowly, and will stand in a warm spot once it is ready.


  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 140g chopped tomatoes, or 140g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 200g red lentils
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander


  • Combine the garlic, ginger, ground coriander, cumin, cayenne and turmeric in a small bowl, ready to add to the pan. 
  • Pour the oil into a medium pan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion, and fry until it is beginning to turn golden at the edges. 
  • Add the spice mixture from the bowl, stir for a minute, add the tomatoes and continue to cook until the tomatoes have softened. 
  • Now add the lentils, 800ml water and salt and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes. Check from time to time, stir to prevent it from sticking, and possibly add a litte water if you think it is getting a bit too thick. 
  • For the last five minutes of cooking, uncover and stir, and then add in the fresh coriander. 

South Indian Potato and Coconut Curry

I made this using some lovely potatoes from my garden. I have a lot of Charlotte potatoes that are ideal for this sort of curry, they taste very good, and they hold together during the cooking. 

This is a Madhur Jaffrey recipe from Curry Easy, super delicious, one of my most used and reliable recipe books. I made a tweak, I have a thing about not putting olive oil in curries, I don’t think it heats well enough for cooking the spices. I served it with braised kale and dal. It goes well with rice.


  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp yellow split peas
  • 2 birds eye chillies
  • 15-20 fresh basil leaves, torn (should be fresh curry leaves, but these are not available locally)
  • 1/2 medium red onoin, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, or a tablespoonful of tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 450g potatoes (I used Charlotte potatoes)
  • 1 level tsp salt
  • 120ml coconut milk
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander


  • Pour the oil into a medium saucepan over a medium to high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, yellow split peas and the chillies. As soon as the seeds begin to pop, add the basil leaves and the onion, lower the heat a bit and fry for around three minutes. Don’t let the onion start to brown.
  • Add the tomato, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and garam masala, stir them in until the tomato is hot, and then add the potatoes and 250ml water and the salt. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. 
  • Add the coconut milk and fresh coriander, stir and heat through. 

Tofu (or chicken) and egg noodles with black bean sauce

This is a very versatile recipe; it is possible to substitute ingredients quite successfully and still get a delicious result. It is based on a Wagamama recipe, but it has been through a number of versions in our own home. This makes two servings.


  • 100g egg noodles
  • 1 tsp cornflour or kudzu powder
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 150g firm tofu (you can substitute chicken breast)
  • 1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into 2cm squares (you can also use mange tout peas)
  • 1 small hot red chilli pepper
  • 1 sprin onion
  • 1/2 jar black bean sauce
  • 600ml light stock, such as marigold stock
  • 1 tbsp sake or dry sherry


  • Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the pack. Drain and rinse in cold water
  • In a small jug, blend the cornflour with soy sauce, sake, and stock. 
  • Slice the tofu and pat dry
  • Heat a wok and when it is very hot, add the oil, then the tofu and chopped pepper, and stir-fry for a minute or two. 
  • Add the black bean sauce and the chopped chilli and cook for another couple of minutes, until the tofu or chicken look cooked. 
  • Stir in the stock mixture, and simmer for a couple of minutes
  • To serve, spoon the noodles into large plates or bowls, and then top with the sauce. 
  • Garnish with finely chopped and sliced spring onion.