Dispensing With Pancake Mixes

Making pancakes is easy and well within the capability of any level of domestic cook. We make pancakes for the children (and for me) at the weekends and there’s no need for ready mixes as making from scratch is just as quick. We have a well used recipe taped to the inside of one of our kitchen cabinets for easy reference, and it’s a sure fire winner every time. The key to good pancakes is to use a little butter in your pan and a moderate heat, then only flip the pancakes when you start to see bubbling in the batter.


  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white suga
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter


  • Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl
  • Make a small well int he middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter
  • Whisk by hand until well mixed ( small lumps are fine)
  • Heat your griddle/pan on a medium heat and add 1/2 teaspoon of butter, just enough to oil the pan a little
  • Pour around 1/4 cup of the mix into the pan for each pancake

You may have to ditch the first as you get a feel for the heat and cooking time. The key is to make sure they’re not still raw in the middle and they do tend to puff up nicely when ready. Again, you will quickly get a feel for this by eye.

This is usually enough for 3-4 people and takes around 5 minutes to make the batter. It’s so simple you’ll never want to use a ready mix again!








Hidden treasure at Old Spitalfields Market

If you’re like me and love nothing more than rummaging through thrift stores and markets for kitchenware then I can recommend a trip to Old Spitalfields Market in London if you’re in the city and have a spare hour on your hands. Visit on a Thursday, but avoid 12:30pm – 2:30pm as the nearby office workers will fill the streets on their lunch-breaks. Go a little earlier and sample the food whilst you’re there. It’s located in the eastern end of central London and worth the effort. Today I was under strict orders not to buy anything, which is difficult but I stuck to my guns. I could have easily walked away with boxes full of storage jars, wooden spoons and vegetable baskets.

No need to worry about the London rain (like today) as it’s a covered market and a short walk from local transport. Here’s a little taster of what I spotted today during my 20 minute rummage.

Huge piles of reasonably priced cutlery; plastic handled, silver and stainless steel








A very mixed bag of assorted china, some full sets and plenty of odd mix and match teacups




Platters, plates and chargers which would look great in the right kitchen


Some great looking wicker baskets, wooden boxes and vegetable sacks. Some old and some clearly not so old



I’m pretty sure this Hogwarts crate isn’t the real deal, but fun if that’s your thing


I’m usually on the lookout for the more functional items, and there are lots to choose from


particularly wooden spoons, mixing bowls, whisks and all manner of utensils




You’ll find larger furniture too including tables, chairs and reclaimed cabinets



Make sure you keep your eyes peeled in the bargain boxes too as I spotted some interesting plates and old advertising items amongst the chaos




If I had been able to come away with anything it would have been a pile of old pub sign letters as there were originals to be found here


Make sure you look at every stall as you may find one little gem out of place and waiting to be picked up


You can take a look at the site here. Add it to your to-do list if you’re in London and enjoy the haggling!

Fun and Easy Flapjacks

I’ve tried numerous flapjacks recipes over the years and for some reason I couldn’t get it quite right. Either they were too hard and chewy, or they’d be too crumbly and fall apart. I didn’t like making them until I had the idea to take recipes for flapjacks and oat cookies and try to find a middle ground. The result was perfect and it’s now in my scribbled notebook of go-to recipes for the children’s treats.



  • 150g (1/2 cup) self raising flour OR 1/2 cup all purpose flour with 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt
  • 150g (1/2 cup) porridge oats
  • 150g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 150g (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon milk


  • Preheat the oven to 180c/350F
  • Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl
  • Melt the butter in a pan along with the milk and syrup
  • Mix the wet and dry ingredients in the bowl and then pour into a large baking tray lined with baking parchment before baking for 15 minutes

The size of baking tray will depend on how thick you want the flapjack cookies to be and I like mine around 1/2″ thick. If you prefer yours thinner or thicker  then adjust  the baking time by a few minutes and keep an eye on the oven.



Easy Tottenham Cake

I’ve been re-discovering some old recipes, in an attempt to inflict my culinary childhood on my own children. Much of what I ate back then I either wouldn’t want to resurrect or the ingredients have since been banned for all manner of reasons. One tradition, which seems to have been lost in time, was cake treats at the weekend. For me and my siblings this didn’t mean giant slabs of cream cake, but little treat sized bites. I’d forgotten how good these simple cakes are until I dug out the recipes and, with the help of my 4 year old, made a Tottenham cake.

Tottenham cake is a very plain English cake, a simple sponge square with pink icing (to which my son insisted on adding a little sprinkle flair). The recipe and method is very child friendly ad the cake will last several days in the tin, if you can resist it long enough.

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 170g (3/4 cup) butter
  • 170g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 225g (1 cup) plain flour (all purpose)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing:

  • 100g (1/2 cup) icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
  • Red food colouring


  • Cream together the butter and caster sugar in a large mixing bowl. Make sure it’s well creamed and looking paler
  • Add one of the eggs and beat in, then add 1/3rd of the flour/baking powder, beat in and alternate this with 1 egg followed by 1/3rd flour until well mixed. This will prevent any curdling of the batter
  • The cake batter should drop from a spoon, so if it feels a little dense then add a drop of milk
  • Line a 9″ square cake tin with baking parchment and add the batter
  • Bake for 45 minutes at 300F/150C/Gas Mark 2 until the cake is golden and risen
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool before icing
  • For the icing, mix red food colouring with the powdered sugar and add a little water if the consistency is too thick. The consistency should be thick enough to hold onto the cake
  • Once the cake is cooled, pour on the icing and leave to set before cutting into squares

Here’s one I made yesterday





Total preparation time is around 10 minutes and the cake can be ready, cooled and iced in under 90 minutes. Easily a short enough amount of time to retain the children’s short attention span!

Copper Pans or not?

I’ve been cooking from the same old set of sturdy stainless steel pans for the last 10 years. They’ve done pretty well, they’re fairly low maintenance and they lasted beyond what I expected from the original price, so I can’t complain at all. Finally they started to give up and the bases began to separate, so I began the process of researching new pans. I’d already decided that it was time to upgrade to something more fitting for my kitchen and I wanted to find something that would survive years of hard use and still look good.

Having looked at a huge variety of pots and pans, both new and used, I finally decided it was time to try copper. I had a few reservations and had heard that copper pans could be a minefield of maintenance with care and polishing involved. After a lot of investigative work I found a good set of 3 on sale for under $100 (which is actually quite possible) and after a few months of use I can honestly say I’m very happy with the results. They’re much more sturdy and efficient and I’d recommend a set to anyone considering a set.

Copper pans 1

Here’s the lowdown of the pros and cons I’ve found so far, which may help persuade or dissuade you:


  • They look great. Really, they look great.
  • They heat up and cool down very quickly and it’s much easier to control the cooking temperature
  • It’s heavy enough to stay put on a burner, whilst not being too heavy to handle easily. So the weight feels right, for me anyway


  • The cost is higher than a lot of other perfectly good pots and pans
  • Not suitable for dishwashers
  • They need to be dried immediately after washing, to prevent water staining
  • They also should be polished fairly regularly to keep up the shine (I highly recommend Barkeepers Friend for this)

So, the cons are mainly cost, cleaning and maintenance. In all honesty, the maintenance isn’t particularly time consuming and takes a few minutes a week. It’s worth looking for pans with a stainless steel lining, rather than tin or silver, as this is very hard-wearing and unlikely to wear through at any point. If well looked after I would hope to get 25+ years of good service, if not more from these so a good investment in my mind.

If you’re someone who uses copper cookware regularly then I’d be very interested to hear how you get on and any tips would be warmly received!

Reclaimed and Upcycled Kitchens

I have a dream kitchen in my head. It’s mostly planned out although it’s not a very specific layout and it’s a vague notion at this stage. It’ll take a while to shape as I’m still spotting great ideas for space saving and improved functionality. What I do love are well thought out touches using upcycled reclaimed materials and I’ve gathered up a scrapbook of notes for my own reference, much of which I doubt I’ll ever use.

One of the best cities in the world to find genius space saving ideas is, of course, New York. It’s a city so tightly packed that the inhabitants have become very adept at living comfortably within apartments considered untenably small elsewhere. When I stay in New York I tend to use Airbnb apartments, partly because I prefer them to overpriced hotels and partly because I love to see the clever storage and space saving ideas and scribble notes for future reference.

I stayed in a beautiful and very stylish (but small) apartment in Brooklyn last year in which the owner had created a stove splash-guard from an old sash window hung from the ceiling by chain. It was so simple, practical and well executed that I wanted to share.

upcycle brooklyn2


It appears that the locals in New York tend to eat out a lot more than most, which is understandable if your kitchen is also your bedroom, but there’s still so much attention to detail in these kitchens that they’re a mine of great ideas, even if your space is on a much larger scale.

I also enjoy whiling away hours in the many salvage and reclamation yards that have become so much more prominent these days. They’re a fantastic source of ideas for interior design and there are some great bargains to be had, as well as the opportunity to find the unique. You can find listings of reclamation yards near you here (for the UK) and here (for the US) and I’d encourage you to take the time to visit them, if you haven’t already.

Of course, Etsy is a great place to search for upcycled kitchen ideas and is becoming an enormous marketplace for vintage and artisan. It’s a good place to look for chopping boards and wooden reclaimed furniture, in particular, and I have my eye on a new kitchen table made from scaffold boards and railway sleepers (which I’ll be keeping to myself).

If you have any ideas you’d like to share then I’d be grateful, as always, as my dream kitchen is still a work in progress but I’m keen to get started.



Storing Your Spuds

Food waste is a big problem and costs the average UK household £470 per year and in the US it’s higher at an average of $910. It’s estimated that around 40% of the food we produce goes from farm to landfill, via retail and homes.

When I started to look at the food waste in my own home I realised that I had 3 problems that are easily solved:

1. I shop for groceries weekly and, without realising it, but food that has a short shelf life and don’t freeze enough (must try harder)

2. I frequently make too much food and don’t use the leftovers quickly enough

3. I don’t store some fresh foods efficiently enough to extend their shelf life

So I did a little research and found some useful tips for making fresh fruit and vegetables last a little longer.

Potatoes tend to soften and sprout quickly in my kitchen, even though I store them in a dark cupboard. To prevent this I’ve started storing apples with the potatoes as the ethylene gas produced by the apples will prevent them from sprouting. This really does work and could help slim down your food waste.

One of the other culprits for me is lettuce (or salad leaves in general). I’ve always assumed that water prolongs the life of leaves in the fridge, but in actual fact water causes the leaves to rot far more quickly. The smart way to store leaves is with pieces of kitchen towel inside the bag or around the lettuce. This absorbs the water and slows down the active bacteria which thrives in the damp conditions.

Most people are aware that storing bananas with other fruit will speed up ripening (which can be useful) but did you know that you can extend the life of your bananas by wrapping the stalk ends in a little cling film (saran wrap)?

If you have any tips of your own then do please share!