Pear, Marsala, Coffee and Chocolate Trifle

Serves 8


125g. raisins
275mls. Marsala
150mls. strong black coffee
1 tbsp. soft light brown sugar
145g. sponge fingers
15g. hazelnuts, toasted and very roughly chopped
6 tbsps. cocoa powder
300mls. double or whipping cream
2 tbsps. caster sugar

For the custard:

4 large egg yolks
65g. caster sugar
2 1/2 tbsps. cornflour
250mls. whole milk
300mls. double cream
1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the pears:

300mls. dry white wine or cider
125g. granulated sugar
2 strips of lemon rind
2 tsps. vanilla extract
4 Williams pears, peeled, halved and cored


  1. Put the raisins in a saucepan and add 200mls. of Marsala.  Bring to just under the boil, remove from the heat and leave the raisins to plump up.
  2. For the custard, Put the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a large bowl and mix well.  Heat the milk, cream and vanilla in a large pan until just below boiling, then take off the heat and slowly pour over the sugar and egg mixture, whisking continuously.
  3. Clean the pan, put the egg and cream mixture into it and whisk over a medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes until thickened.  If any lumps appear whisk the mixture or beat hard with a wooden spoon.  Pour into a large bowl, cover with greaseproof paper or baking parchment and leave to cool completely.
  4. Put the wine, 200mls. water, the sugar and lemon rind into a saucepan and heat, stirring to get the sugar to dissolve.  Add the vanilla and pears and cook gently until the pears are just soft.  Leave the pears in the liquid until they are cool.
  5. Put the hot coffee into a dish and add the light brown sugar and the rest of the Marsala.  Dip the sponge fingers in the coffee mixture and lay 2 for every portion in the bottom of eight glasses or bowls (each with a volume of about 250mls.), breaking them up if necessary.
  6. Spoon the raisins on top of the sponge, scatter on the nuts and sift some of the cocoa powder over the top.  Slice the pears thickly and divide between the glasses, then add the custard.
  7. Put the glasses / bowls in a roasting tin, or something similar, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for 2 hours.
  8. Before you serve sift some cocoa powder on top of the custard.  Whip the cream and add the caster sugar and spoon this on top of each trifle.  Sprinkle the rest of the cocoa powder on top and serve.


You can use tinned pears in a natural juice, not syrup, if you do not want to poach your own.  Fresh pears are, of course, in season this month.

If you do not want to make fresh custard you could use custard powder at a push.  If you make fresh custard you do not have to use cream.  I make mine with all milk but I use gold top.  Do not have the heat too high when you have mixed in the eggs as otherwise you will end up with scrambled egg.  You can buy fresh custard in the chiller cabinet also if you wish.

You could replace the Marsala with sweet sherry if you do not have Marsala or wish to buy it.

I use Greek yoghurt on top of my trifles as it is less sweet.  I also use Greek yoghurt on my pavlovas as it adds a bit of tartness.  I can also kid myself that I am being healthier by not using cream!!

I thought this might be a nice recipe for Christmas.  You could always make it in one large bowl if you preferred or didn’t have the glasses to make individual ones.

October Recipe – Cabbage and Sausage Hotpot

(Serves four)

A really easy recipe this month:-


2 tbsps. olive oil
12 sausages (that allows for 3 each so you might want less!)
2 tsps. fennel seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. cayenne or mild chilli pepper
1 white cabbage (weighing about 1.5kg.)
1 large glass of wine (about 200mls.)
1 large pear
black pepper and salt
1 tsp. brown sugar


  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on a medium flame.  Add the sausages for a few minutes with the fennel and mustard seeds and the cayenne pepper.  Allow them to become a little brown and then remove from the pan.
  2. Finely slice the cabbage.  Then add the cabbage and wine to the saucepan and core and roughly chop the pear and add this.
  3. Place the lid on the saucepan, or hob proof casserole, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn down to a low flame and return the sausages to the pot, along with salt, pepper and the sugar and simmer with the lid on for a further 20 minutes.

This was, I thought, a good recipe for this time of year and we are lucky to have good butchers in Ledbury who make a large variety of excellent sausages!

September Recipe – Blackberry Bakewell Pudding


225g. / 8ozs. blackberries
50g. / 2ozs. blackberry jam
175g. / 6ozs. softened butter
75g. / 3ozs. caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
175g. / 6ozs. ground almonds
40g. / 1 1/2ozs. plain flour
50g. / 2ozs. icing sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tbsps. flaked almonds, toasted


  1. Preheat oven to 180C / fan 160C gas mark 4.  In a medium bowl mix together the blackberries and jam.  Spread evenly over the bottom of a 1 litre / 1 3/4pt. baking dish.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the eggs, then gently fold in the ground almonds and flour.  Spoon mixture over the blackberries and smooth the surface.  Bake for 45 minutes.
  3. Sieve the icing sugar into a small bowl and whisk with just enough lemon juice for a runny yet thick icing.  Top the pudding with the toasted flaked almonds and the, using a teaspoon, drizzle over the icing.


If you are avoiding gluten make this with a gluten-free flour.

It can be frozen ahead.  Bake up to the end of step 2, cool completely, wrap well in clingfilm and freeze.  Defrost thoroughly at room temperature overnight.  It can be  enjoyed at room temperature or, to serve warm, preheat oven to 180C, 160C fan, gas mark 4 and bake on the middle shelf for 25 minutes.  Decorate before serving.

You can use different fruit in this recipe of course, plums are still in season as are damsons (use the appropriate jam), or pears, chopped small with a ginger jam or marmalade would be lovely, although obviously a different colour from the traditional bakewell. I have a lot of blackcurrants in the freezer and intend to use those.  Even apple, stewed first, would work, although it would be a pale colour.

August Recipe – Ratatouille in Tomato Pancakes

Pancake batter:

125g. / 4 1/2 ozs. plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
300mls. / 10fl ozs. milk (full fat is best)
a little olive oil for frying
2 tbsps. tomato puree
2 tbsps. water
1 tsp. dried basil


Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 aubergine, diced
2 courgettes, sliced or diced
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp. tomato puree
2 tbsps. red wine
pinch of caster sugar
salt and pepper
2 tbsps. chopped basil
4 tbsps. grated Parmesan


  1. To make the pancake batter sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the egg and gradually work in the milk and beat to form a smooth batter.  Whisk in the tomato puree, 2 tbsps water and the dried basil. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.
  2. To make the pancakes, heat a little oil in a good non-stick crepe or omelette pan. Add a ladle of batter and swirl to coat the base.  Cook for 1 – 2 minutes until golden and then flip or turn over and cook the other side.  Slide on to a plate and keep warm whilst cooking the remaining pancakes, oiling the pan between each one.
  3. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, red and green peppers, aubergine and courgettes.  Fry stirring for 5 – 10 minutes until they begin to soften, then add tomatoes, tomato puree, wine, sugar, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, then stir in the chopped basil.
  4. Use the ratatouille to fill the pancakes. Roll up and serve straight away, dusted with Parmesan.  Or, prepare the pancakes in advance, roll them up and place in a baking dish, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and reheat in a medium hot oven. .


I don’t bother to let my pancake batter stand and it is still fine.  Do make sure you use a good non-stick pan, that is essential.  You can make the pancakes the day before and store in the fridge.  i put a sheet of kitchen paper between each one.  They also freeze really well but I wouldn’t try and freeze the ratatouille mixture, there is too much water in courgettes and aubergines for them to freeze well.

June Recipe – Blackcurrant Plate Pie


225g. Self-raising flour
100g. cold butter, cubed
2 tbsps. caster sugar
2 – 3 tbsps. very cold water


300g. blackcurrants
125 – 150g. caster sugar
Cornflour and semolina (see notes)

Egg white to glaze


Make the pastry by rubbing the cold butter into the flour with your fingertips (or use the food processor).  Add the water gradually (you might need an extra tablespoon).  Bring the pastry together and cut into 2 halves.  Roll one half out and place on the pie plate (see notes).

Mix the blackcurrants with a couple of tablespoons of sieved cornflour.  Sprinkle the base with semolina and top with the blackcurrants.  Do not go right up to the edge.  Paint the edge with either egg white or yolk to seal and place the other rolled out pastry half on top.  Seal by pressing the edges together.  Cut a slit in the top to allow the steam to escape.  Paint the egg white on the pastry and I sprinkle a little more caster sugar over.  Bake at 180 for 25 minutes.  Serve warm or cold with cream or ice cream.


I use my Mother’s pyrex plate to cook this on.  It measures 9 inches or 23 cms.  I believe you can easily buy enamel pie plates from most kitchen shops or  I think Wellworthit.  I have 3 pyrex plates which belonged to my late Mother.

The recipe uses self raising flour and it works so keep to that.  I haven’t rested the pastry when I have made it and it has rolled out easily and successfully.  I have had a small amount leftover, enough to make about 4 jam tarts!  I haven’t stored my pie in the fridge as I think this tends to make the pastry go soggy but it has kept well for about 4 days out of the fridge, even in the hot weather.

The cornflour absorbs some of the juice the blackcurrants leach out.  My Mother was taught the semolina trick by a Scottish friend and it helps prevent soggy bottoms and keeps the pastry crisp. 

You could use this recipe for other fruit, some of which e.g. apples you would have to slightly cook first I think.  I have used frozen blackcurrants (defrosted) as I had a lot in my freezer, donated by a kind neighbour. 

May Recipe – Bangin’ Beetroot Burger

Makes 4 large or 6 smaller burgers

400g. tin of kidney beans drained and rinsed
6 chestnut mushrooms
2 raw beetroot, peeled and grated
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 red onion, roughly chopped
50g. / 2ozs. smoked cheese, grated
1/2 bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
1 tsp. gd. cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
4 tbsps. olive oil
150g. breadcrumbs

To serve:

burger buns
lettuce leaves
fresh tomato and tomato relish
toasted pine nuts

Place the drained kidney beans in a saucepan and cover with water.  Boil for 8 minutes before draining and cooling them and then tip into a food processor.

Add the mushrooms, beetroot, carrot, red onion, smoked cheese, parsley, cumin and paprika.  Blitz until everything is well mixed, a few chunks here and there is fine.

Pour a tablespoon of oil into a large frying pan and when the oil is hot tip the mixture into the pan and fry it for about 10 minutes on a medium heat.  By this time the mixture will be releasing quite a bit of liquid.  Tip this away and put the mixture in a bowl.

When it has cooled tip in the breadcrumbs and mix it all together – your hands are best for this.    It should all clump together.  Divide the mixture into the number of burgers you require  and form patties using your hands.  Shape isn’t important but an even thickness is.  Place on baking parchment and a plate and firm up, uncovered, in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Heat a griddle pan or frying pan, remove burgers from the fridge and brush lightly on both sides with oil.  Carefully place in the pan and cook for 3 – 4 minutes on each side.

Toast the burger buns in the same pan and construct your burgers using lettuce, tomato, relish, pine nuts and extra smoked cheese if required.

If you possess a food processor you will be able to grate your vegetables in this as well as process the mixture, but if you do not you will have to use a box grater and a potato masher.  Make sure if you are not using a processor that you chop the onion finely.  Obviously it is up to you what you choose to serve with the burger, the recipe is making suggestions.  Enjoy…

April Recipe – Ginger Simnel Cake with Spring Flowers

I made this rather different Simnel Cake one Easter when our friends were coming to stay and it was voted a big hit with all concerned.  I just hope that with the present odd shopping situation, you will be able to buy all the necessary ingredients.  I won’t be making one this year as we have so much Christmas cake left.  My husband has been on a very strange diet – low fibre – and unable to eat dried fruit.  I make my Christmas cake for him, so there is a lot left!

Slightly different this month as the recipe is on the BBC’s “Good Food” website – use the link below to get to it:

Ginger Simnel Cake with Spring Flowers

Wishing you all a happy Easter, although I realise it will be far from normal.