Win a copy of The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook | Press | Lay the table

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via Win a copy of The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook (featuring my recipe!) | Press | Lay the table.

Not my recipe ! but I do know Lynn and the clandestine cake club and have been delighted to attend one of the secret afternoon tea gatherings. So well recommended

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Homemade meatballs

So delighted. I got a new gadget toy for my kenwood mixer, it is a mincer. I had bought it thinking I would make sausages but when looking through my cookbooks I decided instead to try mincing my own meat and making meatballs. I used the mr bowler cookbook, and they were delicious. I will be now experimenting with lots of other types of mince , shepherds pie anyone?

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New Obsession with Jam and preserves

It used to be all about the soup but recently I have found myself becoming more excited by preserving.

It started a few years ago making my own marmalade. My mum has always made marmalade and so I thought I would give it ago, I then progressed to raspberry jam then strawberry jam. Then I began making my own sloe gin, then blackberry gin, raspberry vodka and now I can’t stop.

Being from Yorkshire and it being February I am going to make Forced rhubarb, rose and cardamom jam next. This is a soft set jam and I will use it to either spread on a cake or to top some yoghurt with a sprinkling of pistachios.

I am already planning what I will do after that so far the list is

– freezer jam – no cooking just use apple pectin to set (supposed to be great for strawberries and raspberries)

– raspberry and violet jam

– blackberry and sloe gin jam

– pear and chestnut jam

– apricot and lavender jam

– rose petal jelly

– earl grey tea jelly

– sweet blackcurrant vinegar

– pickled cucumber

– pickled garlic



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Celeriac and Thyme Soup

Celery and celeriac are ingredients that everyone goes “I don’t like them” and yet they love this soup. Celery makes the base for nearly all my soups and this is a delicious creamy soup with a hint of nutmeg and lots of fresh thyme – I love this soup it is magic and has so few calories that you probably burn up more calories eating it than consuming it!

250g Celeriac diced

4 sticks celery diced

Onion diced

1.2l Vegetable Stock

25g Butter

Bay leaf


Fresh thyme

Salt and pepper


Melt the butter and add half the thyme, the celeriac, onion and celery cover with a lid and sweat for 15 mins. Add the bay leaf, a few gratings of nutmeg and the vegetable stock . Simmer for 30 minutes remove the bay leaf, then blend, check the seasoning it needs quite a lot of black pepper and garnish with fresh thyme leaves.

Health benefits

Celery is great, it makes you wee loads (which is good if you suffer from water retention girls) lowers your blood pressure and lowers your cholesterol . Celery also contains compounds called coumarins that help prevent free radicals from damaging cells, thus decreasing the mutations that increase the potential for cells to become cancerous. Coumarins also enhance the activity of certain white blood cells, immune defenders that target and eliminate potentially harmful cells, including cancer cells. In addition, compounds in celery called acetylenics have been shown to stop the growth of tumour cells.

Thyme is the abracadabra of this soup as it contains the oil thymol. Thymol has been shown to stop your brain, kidney and heart cells from aging. It is also an antibacterial agent which means if you add it to a salad dressing it will kill off any nasty bacteria which could give you an upset stomach. .

Did You know…

The ancient Egyptians used thyme oil as an embalming agent to preserve their deceased pharaohs


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Tea or coffee for breakfast

Being a Yorkshire girl I do love a big mug of tea in the morning, however I also like a small strong cappuccino . Occasionally I get so carried away that I have to have both . The first breakfast is tea with a breakfast of peaches, yoghurt and toasted almonds. The second is coffee with a breakfast of English strawberries , greek yogurt. The last breakfast is softly scrambled free range eggs on toast with a strong cup of tea and an even stronger cup of coffee. What do you like to drink in the morning?





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Moroccan Chickpea Soup

It is cold and wet and horrible – you need nourishment. Now Jade Goody thought that chickpeas came from chickens but they don’t, kidney beans however are the kidneys of small dogs so be warned.


2 tbsp Olive oil

1 Onion diced

Clove garlic chopped

2 celery sticks diced

2 tsp cumin

1 can of chickpeas

1 can of tomatoes

100g frozen broad beans

1 tsp harissa

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp tomato puree


Heat oil with spices, add onion and celery and sweat for 10 mins, add all the other ingredients except broad beans and simmer for 8 mins. Add broad beans and lemon juice (optional) serve with chopped coriander

Health benefits

Chickpeas like most of the other pulses are fantastic for you as they lower your heart attack risk (lots of magnesium and folate), provide lots of fibre which is very good for avoiding Irritable bowl syndrome, lowers cholesterol which when combined with a bit of garlic and turmeric (which this soup does) can lower your cholesterol level by 9%. Help your body balance it blood sugar so you don’t get highs and lows and instead have sustained energy release. Iron which loads of women are short off which can make you feel weak and lethargic and finally loads of protein which makes you feel full up without the saturated fat of meat or dairy.

Canned tomatoes have many health benefits. The magic word is Lycopene. This has been shown to help protect not only against prostate, but breast, pancreatic and intestinal cancers, especially when consumed with fat-rich foods, such as avocado, olive oil or nuts. (This is because carotenoids are fat-soluble, meaning they are absorbed into the body along with fats.) So you could have a few nuts with this soup if you want to increase your absorption of lycopene.

Did You know…

The word restaurant was first used in France in the 16th century, to describe a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup, sold by street vendors called restaurer, that was advertised as an antidote to physical exhaustion. In 1765, a Parisian entrepreneur opened a shop specializing in restaurers. This prompted the use of the modern word restaurant to describe the shops.


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Pea and Mint soup

From the 19th Century I have taken a split pea soup (sometimes called a London Peculiar as it was named after the smog “peculiar” to London) and from the 20th century I have taken a fresh pea and mint soup. Blend them together and we have created a 21st century soup complete with a garnish of petit pois. How lucky are you my little time travellers.


300g Green Split peas

300g Frozen peas (reserve a handful for garnish)

1 stick celery diced

1 Carrot diced

1 Leek sliced

1Onion diced

1.2l Vegetable stock

Bay leaf

½ tsp Cumin

1 tbsp Fresh mint

1 tsp Mint sauce

25g Butter


Soak the split peas for at least 4hrs – this makes them quicker to cook. In a large pan melt the butter and add the celery, onions, leeks and carrots sauté until soft add the cumin split peas bay leaf and vegetable stock bring to the boil and simmer for about 40 minutes until the green split peas have begun to break down. Add the frozen peas, remove the bay leaf and blend. Add the chopped fresh mint and the mint sauce check for seasoning, decorate with a few reserved whole peas.

Health benefits

Peas are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, thiamine (vitamin B1), iron and phosphorus. They are rich in protein, carbohydrate and fibre, and low in fat. Peas may help prevent certain types of cancer: for example, in one study they were linked to lower rates of prostate cancer. They are good for the heart because they are a rich source of soluble fibre, which enables the body to reduce its blood cholesterol level. They may also protect against appendicitis.

Mint contains a number of vitamins and minerals, which are vital to maintain a healthy body. Mint is rich in Vitamins A and C and also contains smaller amounts of Vitamin B2. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant and may help to decrease the risk of certain cancers such as colon and rectal cancer. Although mint may be consumed in small quantities, the vital nutrients obtained are still beneficial to one’s health.

Mint also contains a wide range of essential minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, potassium and calcium

. Did You know…

Garden peas were an absolute craze in the Royal French Court in the seventeenth century. They were eaten like a delicious sin (bit like we eat chocolate).
Madame de Maintenon, mistress of Louis XIV wrote in 1669: “There are ladies who, after having dined, and dined well, eat garden peas in their own quarters before going to bed.”

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Pirate soup

This soup is hot, so I hope you can all cope you bunch of landlubbers. Ever dreamed of being a pirate, sailing round the Caribbean sitting in a hammock under a blue sky sun beating down on you all around you can hear the crying of macaws ahh lovely . This soup has all the elements from roasted red peppers for warmth, sweet potatoes for silky velvety texture, roasted chilli for a fiery kick, coconuts to calm it down and lime to add a bit of zing. I want to hear tales of you behaving like a pirate and drinking rum after you have eaten this soup.


Vegetable stock

4 sweet potato,

3 red pepper

tin coconut milk

fresh chilli,



fresh coriander


Roast the peppers and chilli until blackened. Heat a little oil in a pan and add onion and sweet potatoes cook for 15 mins . Peel and deseed the chilli and peppers and add to the vegetables . Add the coconut milk and 500ml of vegetable stock , cook for ten minutes. Garnish with fresh coriander and lime juice

Health benefits

Chilli contains natural pain relief, it lowers cholesterol and clears congestion by stimulating secretions that help clear mucus from your stuffed up nose or congested lungs. (which is why you should have a curry if you have a cold) In addition Chilli peppers’ bright red colour signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. The anti-infection vitamin A is essential for healthy mucous membranes, which line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract and serve as the body’s first line of defence against invading pathogens. And finally chillies help you lose weight – All that heat you feel after eating hot chilli peppers takes energy–and calories to produce. Even sweet red peppers have been found to contain substances that significantly increase thermogenesis (heat production) and oxygen consumption for more than 20 minutes after they are eaten.

Sweet Potatoes are orange which means they contain beta carotene or pro-vitamin A which as I have just said is the anti infection vitamin so no more colds or flu.

Did You know…Pirate joke

Q – What does a pirate take for indigestion?

A – Yo ho ho and a bottle of Tums!


Filed under food, healthy, Homemade, recipe, soup, Uncategorized, vegetarian

Carrot and Cardamom soup

Inspired by the cooking of southern India. Carrots are gently infused with cardamom and fresh curry leaves. It is a fragrant soup and quite delicate in taste – Enjoy


Onion diced

1 kg carrots diced

1 stick of celery

25g butter

4 green cardamom pods

4 stalks of curry leaves fresh

2 litres of stock

Olive oil


Melt butter and oil in a pan and add carrots onion and celery, sweat for 15 mins with the lid on until all is soft and fragrant. Heat the cardamom pods in a dry frying pan for two mins. Split the pods open and add the seeds to the carrots with the stock and the curry leaves. Simmer for 30 minutes and blend until smooth. Just prior to serving add a knob of butter and season to taste.

Health benefits

Cardamom is a fantastic ingredient as it helps detoxify the body of all that caffeine you drink to keep you stimulated. It is also a key ingredient in love potions so watch out who you look at whilst eating your soup or you might fall in love with them!

Carrots are incredibly rich in vitamin A which is important in maintaining healthy skin and helps the body to resist infection – no more days off sick

Did You know…

The French court of Louis XI subsisted mainly on soup because they believed that chewing would cause them to develop facial wrinkles

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CD lunch box

Get an old cd disk tower and reuse it as a bagel holder. It even locks shut. What better way than this to transport your favourite bagel to work.

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Tomato, lentil and caraway soup

Born from the Kasbahs of Turkey. Smokey, mysterious and beautiful with the ability to take your breath away.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove chopped
1 green pepper diced
1 onion diced
1 dried red chilli
1 tsp caraway seeds
500g passata
tin of plum tomatoes
salt and pepper
500cl vegetable stock


Heat the oil and add the chopped garlic, the caraway seeds and crumble the dried chilli, heat till fragrant.  Add the onion and green pepper and cook for 10 mins or until till soft .  Add the tin of tomatoes and the lentils stir for 2 mins.  Add the passata and the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 40 mins. To serve, you could add some grated cheese or/and some finely chopped fresh parsley

Health benefits
Lentils are so good for keeping you full for a long time as well as cleaning out your insides with all that fibre.

Canned tomatoes contain lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant and has cancer-preventing properties, these cancers now include colorectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Prevention of heart disease has been shown to be another antioxidant role played by lycopene.

Did You know…
In one of the short stories in Dubliners by James Joyce, a character eats caraway seeds to mask the alcohol on his breath.

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season and spice

Trialing the season and spice monthly box selection. This month got elderflower heads, long pepper to make strawberries with elderflower and pepper cream. Saffron, rouille mix, soup mix to make a bouillabaisse and some cajun powder for bbq’s.

Strawberry with elderflower and long pepper was amazing will make again and turn into ice cream I think.  Bouillabaisse was a triumph though would adapt recipe a bit in future (one niggle this is a seasonal recipe and it tells you to put mussels in which are out of season – remember only buy mussels in a month with an R in it).

I used the cajun powder on a chicken which I roasted – similar to what I normally put onto my chicken fennel, cayenne, salt, pepper and thyme.

I love getting a monthly selection – it makes me cook things I wouldn’t normally cook which is always a good thing, I get to try out new spices and understand how they work and the recipes are very simple.  looking forward to next months selection.

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Smoked salt

Latest supermarket strange reduction maldon smoked salt – normally £1.99 for a little box reduced to 49p – have a look in sainsbury’s maybe they are discontinuing or changing the packaging. Well I had to get some.

So far have added it to my spicy north African prawn dish, some cajun pork and a courgette soup. It smells great,  like a bbq on a beach would smell salty and smokey – no idea if it is having much effect on the food, life is too short to cook the dish twice one with smoked salt one without! bet it is lovely on its own with some unsalted butter and fresh bread though – yum

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A long relationship with a bar

It all started with a skinny little bar called North Bar. Leeds had no decent bars back in the day ( pubs yes, but not bars) North was one of the first to open (alongside arts, oporto and Normans). It sold interesting beer but also a great gin and tonic – this was the dark days when gin and tonics came in wine glasses with an ice cube and a slice of lemon from a jar. North was my first experience in Leeds, of lots of ice and a squeeze of fresh lime. We would all pile in – they would do table service (this was a shocking level of service, they even let you set up a tab!!). But as I got older North got busier and louder – I needed somewhere quieter to sip wine and maybe have some food with friends.

Ahh lovely North bar opened a sister bar down the road called the Reliance in 2001. Here my relationship developed from casual lover to committed relationship. Just four months after Reliance opened we got married there (me and my husband, not me and the bar). Joss (owner manager) had never done a wedding at Reliance (we had never got married) but between us we managed to get a band (thanks to the bargirls boyfriend – she said they were good I believed her and they were) get a cake (thanks to the frustrated chef who always wanted a chance to do some fancy spun sugar work) and order in crisp white linen and silver cutlery (thanks Joss)

The pub was closed to the public, the florist and the chief usher (Mark now creative director for World Events) worked all day decorating the bar with flowers  (using vegetables as flower containers)help move furniture, lay tables. As it was October, the food needed to be hearty and welcoming. We chose sausages – five different types plus two vegetarian and three different types of mash all with gravy. How were we to know that come the wedding day the temperature was 25c instead of the expected 14c.

Thank God we had opted for Tapas and cava for the evening guests. The day was wonderful (might be biased) the staff were lovely and we all had a great day. As a wedding present the bar gave us the cctv footage of the evening – hmm bit like being in the big brother house.

The Reliance continued being a favourite bar – we always had birthdays and anniversaries there.

Then they opened another bar Cross keys, this is the sophisticated business sibling. All grown up gastropub with fabulous interior. This is the perfect work meeting spot, after work drinks, or Sunday lunch. It is in the Round Foundry a complex made up of architects, design agencies, new media agencies (and another brilliant bar Midnight Bell) . Have taken mum to Cross Keys on Mother’s Day where she got a free glass of Champagne ( how sweet).

It doesn’t stop there last year the latest family member, little sister Further North  was opened- which is on my doorstep in Chapel Allerton, it is tiny has great olives and means I don’t have to pay for a taxi to get there or back! I love North bar and all the rest of the clan.

Now I want them to open somewhere with a lovely big beer garden. Will take some photos this weekend and post them up.

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Saving money at the supermarket

I love this, it makes me giggle. It all links back to being thrifty, which doesn’t mean having to compromise.

Below is a table lifted from Martins money saving expert  (I am a pirate) showing when supermarkets reduce food (In the UK). I would also add that I have noticed in the past that certain days are more likely to see bigger reductions.

When I lived very close to a supermarket I would accidentally stumble across amazing bargains (probably, I now realise, because it was after 7pm). As a keen cook it often means that I would save massively on expensive ingredients which I would then cook that evening – yummy.  

Supermarket Rough Reductions Schedule
Times will vary by store, but this is rough feedback from store staff
Amount you may be able to save
  Up to 25% off
Up to 50% off
Up to 75% and up
Source: Great ‘supermarket staff, tell us your reduction policies’ hunt.  

These days I tend not to hunt round supermarkets at 8pm instead choosing to shop online. 

Online supermarket shopping has been greatly improved by my supermaket which is brilliant. My supermarket allows you to choose what supermarket you want to shop at, pick a delivery time and then keeps a running tab of how much your shop would be at the other supermarkets. It also offers suggestions for swaps to save money or have fewer calories. There are a few issues for foodies such as if you put in free range chicken it will do a price comparison in the other supermarkets for any chicken, same with organic milk, but hey I can cope.

Having tried all home shopping deliveries would say Ocado is the best – not cheap but I have aldi for the basics – my reasons are as follows

  • 1 hr delivery slot (not rubbish 2 hr slot)
  • they always come in that hour (not like Asda who were an hour late in a two hour slot)
  • they text you 10 mins before coming with name of driver – which means even during the hour wait you can pop out
  • they always seem to have all the goods and substitutions are very rare
  • the drivers always seem happy and helpful
  • they have green delivery slots
  • they deliver the next day
  • finally my nearest store is 10 miles away so they are cheaper delivering than me going there!

Worst was Asda which is a pity as they are often the cheapest – reason being

  • bad delivery times
  • substitutions are many – which means rifling through your shopping on the doorstep whilst they re scan it ( every time I ask for no substitutions but they always do) and also often means you have to go somewhere else to buy what you ordered so wastes time.
  • Bad substitutions –  no fresh thyme so they offered me fresh basil.
  • drivers all tell you that it not their fault (despite me not blaming anyone) and that asda are just rubbish (great staff training and motivation!) 
If you order branded goods rather than ingredients then I would still use Asda as they are cheaper, Tesco and sainsbury are both okay not bad for delivery or substitutions (but not great)  maximum points for Ocado.

Have also tried Natooraand they were very good and exciting (more farmers market experience) and will definitely order form them for a dinner party or Christmas. Slight niggle with them was the amount of packaging – kept everything safe but filled my green bin with packaging! 

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happen upon round up

So this week Happen upon has happened upon

  • frozen roasted peppers – should be good for soups (waitrose)
  • frozen grilled aubergine slices – (asda)
  • Lauden chocolates at the farmers market – yum yum
  • Loose birds free range chicken – harome North Yorkshire
  • Midnight Bell – new pub and brewery
  • Sloe Whisky – by sloe motion mmm delicious

more tasty treats next week


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Chocolate and spice and all things nice.


Just spotted Bloomsbury and Co chocolate. Quirky wrappers some with pharmaceutical type labels – girth control, Bochox, dechox, oral pleasure. Checked out the website and they are definitely a fun bunch – based in New Zealand.

Americans all rave about this chocolate but hey they like Hershey bars – yuch yuch. Actually I take that back as I still have sleepess nights thinking about  mariebelle hot chocolate. We happened upon this place in SoHO New York and fell in love with the place (looking on their site I think they have grown since I went 4 years ago). Bought a small tin home to the UK not thinking much of it. When I tried it I was in heaven – I have so many different real flake hot chocolates but this was the best and you could make little creme de chocolates. If you live in America then buy this stuff by the bucketloads.

I like a good 60% plus but will be persuaded by rococo to eat any of their chocolates (I draw the line at white chocolate though). My favourites, so far, of the artisan bars are sea salt, rose and cardamom.

A recent find in our farmers market was Lauden, who make the most exquisite chcolates, all hand made and I recommend the pistachio cups (ganache in a dark chocolate shell with nibbs of bright green pistachio. So if you go to Mariebelle for me I will go to Lauden for you – only available in Leeds and York. 

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Strawberry yoghurt Ice cream

It is Strawberry season in England, Wimbledon has just finished and all the farmers markets are packed with punnets of local strwaberries. My father in law popped round last night with a large punnet of home grown strawberries ( and a few sticks of rhubarb). When faced with this glut I usually make Strawberry Jam but I thought I would make Strawberry yogurt Ice cream instead, having just been to Italy and not having readjusted to missing my nightly ice cream fix.

There had also been a promotion on Total greek yoghurt and I was up to my eyes in the stuff so here is what I did


punnet of strawberries chopped roughly in a pan with two tablespoons of vanilla sugar, gently heat till sugar dissolves (add a dash of balsamic vinegar) allow to cool then add pot of greek yoghurt (500g). In the meantime whisk two egg whites with a tablespoon of sugar untill it forms soft peeks.

Get ice cream maker and add yoghurt strawberry mixture, after this has churned for 5 mins add the egg white. My ice cream maker turned this into ice cream in 20 mins.

This is the best Strawberry yogurt Ice cream ever, it is healthy(ish), fruity and simple – go on have a go. I have experimented with full fat and 2% fat and both are fine. They do produce a 0% fat which is supposed to crystalise too much, though I am going to give it a go.

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Soup Journey

How did this happen?
One day I was busy running a digital and design team, the next thing I know I am writing about soup.
It started with me giving my job up. I was searching for inspiration and creativity. I felt I needed to start a new journey, and I needed nourishment. After the initial buzz of freedom, I began to look at what I should do, nothing seemed to interest me.  As I had more time, I began a pottery course hoping it would keep me busy whilst waiting for inspiration to strike, but no inspiration struck. I also began to dedicate more time to my first passion cooking.

I decided to start make fresh soup, for my husband, for lunch. I knew how hard it was to eat healthy food at work and how dull sandwiches can get.  Always spotting an opportunity, our friend Ally asked if I could make her soup too.  All three of us ate soup every day for lunch and were amazed as we started to lose weight, feel healthier, and enjoyed the variety of a different lunch every day. Before I knew it word got out and everyone wanted some of my magic soup and I found myself making large vats of soup every day.

So I would like to thank all my Soupies who have tried, tested, commented on and refined these soups. Big kisses to Paul, Xtine and Ally, and much love to Alex Heaton, Karen Lewis, Karen Boswell, Ian Rossin, Christine Osborne, James Wheatley, Harriet Hughes-Payne, Caroline Skipsey, John Morgan, Angela Friscuolo, Lynn Haynes, Helen Collier, Charlotte Moody, Leah Kayles, Claire Robinson, Leanne Elgy, Jodie Richmond, Andrew Brown, Julie Hanson, Ruth Holgate,  Claire Thackray, Anne Kelly, Gaby Ferry and everyone else who has given me such lovely feedback and encouragement.

All the photos, recipes and some of the pottery featured in this blog were created by me (so the pottery is coming in handy).   I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I enjoy creating it. I never thought I would be doing this! Not sure if this is my new journey but it is a great experience.

Finally three top tips:
1) Get yourself a stick, hand blender. There is nothing more annoying than forever pouring boiling soup from pan to jug to pan    – nightmare. Instead buy a good hand blender and stick it straight into the pan, see how easy is that.
2) Cheat and use Marigold vegetable stock. It is natural, tasty and very easy.
3) The soups all feed four hungry people, or six not so hungry.


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Name dropper

So I am very proud of my Aunt and Uncle – they opened my eyes to seasonal cooking – not surprising as he was co chef at Chez Panisse and she was restaurant manager and I have all the Chez Pannise cookbooks. Well it caused a stir when they left. They now run a restauraunt called Eccolo. He is rather passionate about curing his own meat – (hey we all have to have a hobby) and Janet has the most amazing design eye.

Haven’t eaten there yet as it is a long way for lunch – they are in Berkeley California I am in Leeds UK. But will look them up soon. Hi Aunty Janet and Uncle Chris if you are reading this xxx

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