Piccalilli – great family favourite!

This is a real family favourite for Boxing Day, with cold ham and turkey and baked potatoes. It’s a good idea to get it made and maturing at least a month before Christmas. It’s best to keep it in a cool, dark cupboard – so not the airing cupboard! Once you have opened a jar then I suggest keeping it in the fridge and eating with a month or 6 weeks.


  • 1 small cauliflower, 2 medium carrots, 125g French beans, 125g runner beans,
  • ½ a cucumber, 1 courgette 10 silverskin onions
  • 75g salt, 600ml white malt vinegar, 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds, 8 black peppercorns, ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 3 allspice berries, 2 peeled cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour, 1 tablespoon English mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric, 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 75g caster sugar


  1. Prepare all the veggies into similar sized pieces, then place in a large ceramic bowl. Dissolve the salt in 1.2 litres of cold water and pour over the veg, cover and leave overnight.
  2. Mix the vinegar, bay leaf, mustard seeds, peppercorns, coriander, allspice and garlic into a non reactive pan (non stick is good). Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Mix together in a bowl, the flour, mustard powder, turmeric and ginger. Add a couple of spoons of the spiced vinegar and mix to a paste. Using a sieve, strain in the rest of the vinegar and add paste and vinegar back into the pan. Add the sugar and bring to the boil stirring until slightly thickened. The sauce should be glossy and coat the back of a spoon.
  4. Drain the veg, rinse and pat dry with kitchen paper. Add to the hot vinegar mix and simmer over a low heat for about 5 minutes until tender. Spoon into hot, sterilised jars and cover immediately. As a tip I use my dishwasher to heat and sterilise jars – works a treat.



Jack Daniels Fruit Cake

Richard is a huge Jack Daniels fan (can’t say I mind one myself!), so this cake will go down a storm in our household. Not sure that I should say storm at the moment bearing in mind the awful weather we are all going through!

This is a relatively easy recipe but it needs to be made well before Christmas so you can add more for a couple of weeks as it sits. This recipe makes enough for three cakes as I like to make one for us, one for my Mum and I usually give another away.

  • 8oz/225g butter
  • 1lb/440g dark brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 14oz/385g self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup Jack Daniel’s whisky, plus more for adding later
  • 3lbs 3oz/1.4kilos  cups dried fruit assorted
  1. Grease three 81/2” x 41/2” loaf tins (or equivalent size if you want round) and line well with wax paper.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat really well. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda and salt then slowly add this mixture to the butter mix, alternating between a bit of flour mix and then some whisky. Beat on a low speed (or manually) until well blended. Now stir in the fruit and then spoon into the cake tins.
  3. Bake for around an hour and a quarter or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool, still in the tins, on a wire rack. Now remove from the tins. Soak some muslin, cheesecloth or similar in the whisky. Then wrap the cloth around the cakes and wrap really tightly in cling film. Store in the fridge and add a little whisky (I said little!) every other day for a couple of weeks before serving, then serve thinly sliced.



The Nativity scene… seen differently

We are really enjoying making things with our Signature die range and it’s fun to have some different ideas and inspirations. To get some new and fresh input, we have ask some of our design team to produce some cards to make a stunning display of samples for the NEC exhibition at the beginning of November.

There’s no better way to demonstrate what wonderful designs you can create with the dies than to display a board full of pretty cards! I will be demonstrating too but we can’t demonstrate everything, so the boards are a really useful backup.

Here are a couple of ideas using the Nativity set. This is a limited edition set of dies for 2013. These cards don’t use the whole collection but give you some design ideas.

The background for the wise men with the palm trees can be achieved with some Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pads and an Inkylicious brush or two. Alternatively, you can use some ink blending foam. As you can see it’s a pretty simple card but, oh so effective!

I loved the nativity card for the unusual white on black colouring rather than black on white. The construction, again, is fairly simple but this really eye-catching effect is very pleasing!



The Forager’s Kitchen

Hedgerows are always a source of fascination, they are so full of flora and fauna. At the moment, they are dotted with glossy blackberries, and I can never resist picking them as I pass. My mother, the queen of preserves in our family, is already making jam and there has been talk of a blackberry and apple crumble coming our way too…!

My level of hedgerow foraging is fairly basic, but there is lots of ‘free’ food out there if you only know what to look for. My friend Julia Horton-Powdrill is a great forager and it was through her excellent Facebook page that I came across ‘The Forager’s Kitchen’ a truly fascinating cookery book that contains over 100 easy recipes from savoury to sweet, written by a Scots lady called Fiona Bird.

Don’t be put off by the title – this book is absolutely fascinating just to sit and read even if you have no intention of going and collecting any of the ingredients yourself. Not only does Fiona provide lovely (and easy) recipes, she gives lots of additional information about wildflowers, herbs, fruits and berries and more. Should you feel inspired, she also tells you how to forage, essential ground rules (how to avoid misidentification!) and a range of lovely little ‘wild notes’ with really useful hints and tips.

The book is divided up into sections – Flowers & Blossom, Woodland & Hedgerow, Fruits & Berries, Herbs and Sea & Shore. There’s a huge range of recipes – from Christmas Tree Cookies (using Douglas fir needs) through Carrot & Clover Cake to the most gorgeous looking Violet Macarons with Primrose Cream. Fiona writes very well and, whether you live in a city, the countryside or by the coast, if you follow her advice, you will find more ingredients growing in the wild than you could imagine!

Our ancestors knew what to pick and I do think it’s a shame that most people today are so ‘disconnected’ from the countryside and, indeed, wary of it. There is so much beauty in nature and such bounty out there if we only know what to do with it.

Fiona Bird is a mother of six children. She is a self-taught cook and past Masterchef finalist who has always had a passion for cooking and her approach to food is based on her knowledge of tight budgets and limited time. You can follow Fiona on her Facebook page. 



Old-fashioned Christmas

“Christmas?” I hear you cry, “Has the woman lost the plot?” No, honestly, I haven’t! I just wanted to show you a couple of samples from the Victorian Christmas Card CD, in case any of you were planning to make lots of cards for charity or for general sale and needed to start early.

One section of this CD I would particularly like to point out to you is the Shaped Cards section on CD3. Here, you have a lovely selection of cards that are not the usual rectangular or square shape, but have little cutaways and other pretty devices to make small but stunning cards. With the cost of postage going up all the time I know there are many that want to make sure their Christmas cards are compact and the postage element is as inexpensive as possible.

These two cards are examples of the designs on the CDs. There are hundreds of pages to mooch through and, as we all know, deciding what to use is always a tough decision! Every topper has a backing paper and multiple inserts and stationery to match so there’s no excuse not to be totally co-ordinated this year!

The reason I like the more vintage designs is, I suppose, because I love remembering the Christmasses of my childhood when everything was just perfect! Of course it wasn’t, but my memories always tend to be viewed through rose tinted spectacles and perhaps that’s the best way for things to be!