A Cook in the Baking

Here at TRUFFLEicious/Wiltshire Artisans we know all about the small food business, not because we have done a couple of baking courses & think we know it all, but because over the years, (about 40), to be precise, we have done it. Several times. I am definitely a cook in the baking.

cake, chocolate, homemade, small business, cookery
A chocolate treat

We have never been, or wanted to be a large food business, small & exclusive, I think are the words that describes us best. Circumstances prevailed, when it was not always possible to continue those businesses, but never the less our passion for food & creativity has led us down different paths, over the years.

Learning the basics of cookery, like most girls in my youth (this was 40 yrs ago), from my mother, I had various jobs in kitchens during the school holidays where I learnt even more about food & my passion was born.

Leaving school, my teachers thought I was bound for Art College, but it was not to be “out to work & earn some money” my father told me and so off I went. The Lady Magazine, a publication which still exists today, was the key to my short term future.

“Cook required for small family of 5. Large Rectory in the rural Cotswold’s. Simple daily cooking & some entertaining at weekends”. Putting pen to paper, (no e-mails in those days,) I applied & two weeks later I was installed in my first proper cooking job. I thoroughly enjoyed the 5 years I spent here, the family were lovely, I had a cosy little cottage in the grounds & learnt a lot – about people & food.

During my time at the Rectory I was introduced to many interesting people, made even more fascinating because my cookery skills were in demand. I made steak & kidney pies for local pubs, cakes for cafe’s & cooked dinner parties for friends of my employer. One particular lady, the grand-daughter of a famous composer, lived in a beautiful Elizabethan Manor House. Finding times difficult, she started a bed a breakfast business for visiting Americans. Dinner in the evening was becoming a necessity, my services were needed on an ad hoc basis, a cottage became available on her estate, & the rest, as they say, is history.

cooking, history, small business, food, changing world
A Cook in the baking

Farm Cottage was started from my kitchen in rural Gloucestershire. Having obtained a list of names from my landlady I set about creating a mail shot. This was hard work in the pre-internet years. I hand wrote menus on vellum paper, stapled them into booklets and popped them into 25 large envelopes. I then sat back & waited for the phone to ring & ring it did.

Read more of my journey, in a later post on this site.

menu, mail shot, advertising, small business
A menu from the past

BBC Wiltshire – Rachel Houghton, 27/11/2018


BBC Wiltshire – James Thomas, 27/11/2018https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06qgwjp

Hi Foodies, I am feeling very lucky today, the lovely Emma Coleman from BBC Radio Wiltshire visited my little Stable kitchen, last week, to interview me.  That was luck in itself, but just imagine my feeling of elation when my recorded interview appeared not just on one, but both of the above mentioned radio programmes today. If you click the links above, you will be able to hear them.

Now. If you heard the programmes & read my previous blog – link in red below – you may wish to make your own Fondant Icing (Ready rolled). The recipe follows:

FONDANT ICING. Covers 1 x 10cm cake.

1, level dessertspoon powdered gelatine, mixed with 3 dessertspoons of cold water.

100gm Granulated Sugar

6.Tbspns hot water

1.Tbspn Fresh Lemon Juice

2.tspns vanilla essence

25ml Vegetable oil

1/2 – 3/4 kg Sifted Icing Sugar.


Place granulated sugar, hot water & lemon juice in a small saucepan & bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve.

Cover & boil for 2mins, uncover & boil for a futher 5mins until a little of the syrup forms a soft ball when dropped into very cold water.

Add the gelatine mix, essence & oil & stir to dissolve. Cool until luke warm.

Put half the icing sugar in a large boil & add the syrup mixture,stir well to combine. Gradually work in the remaining icing sugar, with the fingers, kneading until the mix becomes, smooth & pliable.

Place in a plastic bag & leave at room temperature overnight.

Roll out on a board dusted with sifted icing sugar & use to cover your cake. At this stage you can knead any colourings into the icing. This icing is also suitable for moulding. See the little snow men in the photo above.

You will also find my original blog, regarding the nasties in store bought icing, by clicking the link below:

If you have any questions on your Christmas cookery please feel free to ask.

Just leave your question in the comment box below.

If you have been. Thank you for reading & possibly listenening.

How do you like your Icing?

Ready to Roll Icing 

It’s that time of the year again. You’re rushing around like a headless turkey, trying to get everything done, buying presents for his parents, trying to calm down the over excited kids and all of a sudden, your remember. “Ahhhh I haven’t iced the cake”. Presuming you made one in the first place! Well, of course you did. You like to feed your family, wholesome, natural foods, not products loaded with chemicals, preservatives & goodness knows what else.

You are a domestic goddess, you know what’s good nutrition wise, for your brood, you substitute butter for low fat spreads, to keep their hearts healthy, buy low sugar products to help their teeth & weight & try to get them to eat their 8 a day – no chance – . But. During all this healthy eating campaign, are you aware of what is actually in those substitutes? & their  food mile foot prints?  Do you read the ingredients list, in small print, on the back of products?

We need to be a couple of generations older, to know what some of these additivies will do to us – think smoking – Are you mindful of the ecco damage we are doing to our planet? – think Orangutan –  What is wrong with cooking & making fresh healthy food from scratch. Yes, I can hear you all crying “TIME”.  Well it is time. Time to get yourself organised, spend less time on FB & that glass of Chardonay every night & prioritise your week, as you CAN do it, you owe it to yourself & your family. 

Time, verses ready made products. The food industry is well aware of this, by persuding us to buy these tempting, ready made, calorie & chemical laden products.

This brings me back to the title of this blog How do you like your Icing? Please read in conjunction with my previous blog Marzipan

ready to roll icing,royal icing,icing additives,icing sugar,homemadeicing
Always read the label
Icing, Icing sugar, ready made icing, royal icing, home made icing,
Thanks white stuff

Ready to roll, (cake covering or fondant) is the most common, store bought icing. While it takes a little while to make, but you can soon whip it up in that lovely food mixer that stands, unused on your work surface. One thing you can be sure of, you know exactly what it contains. Just take a look at the ingredients list in the store bought products above.

Royal icing (piping, decoration). Is much easier to make, again in the mixer. Both icings are also much cheaper to make than their store bought counterparts. 

What I really don’t understand, is that so many of us seem to be aware of & indeed want gluten free, dairy free, Lowfodmap, lactose free, vegan, vegetarian etc, but we don’t seem to care about the additives, artificial chemicals & goodness knows what that is added to our foods. 

Its also not just about the Supemarkets. Don’t forget those ready made cakes you purchase, whether from a Farm Shop, Bakery or a social media advertiser of home made cakes!  Do you check their ingredients?  Can you be sure that they home make their own cakes & icings & don’t resort to packet cake mixes, store bought icings & decorations? Always beware of the words “hand made”. 

Follow me on twitter & Instagram for ideas & ingredient lists

In the long term, all these additives could be doing us untold harm. Who knows, only time will tell. So. Make the time, to home make your food from scratch, or you my find YOUR time is shortenened, in the long run.

Next year, my blog will include a weekly update of seasonal foods, with recipes & ideas on how to priorotise your time & feed your family with healthy home made foods.

So. Whats in your icing this Christmas?

Spiced Potato & Carrot Bahji

Spiced Potato & Carrot Bahji’s

I love a nice spicy, crispy Bahji, served with a nice fresh crunchy salad & a big bowl of chilli & cucumber ratia, for dipping. The only thing I don’t like is the fat content. Traditionally, Bahji’s are deep fried, which gives them that gorgeous, crunchy texture, it also gives them a high fat content. Well foodies after playing around a bit with my ingredients & cooking methods, I have come up with these little low fat, gluten free, dairy free vegan & vegetarian Bahji balls.

Carrots, Potatoes, Bahji's, Oven baked, low fat
Hot from the oven


500g Potatoes, grated. Put in a tea towel & squeeze to remove excess water.

2 medium red onions, grated ( I find red onions more digestible for lowfodmap diets)

200g Carrots, grated

5cm, Fresh Ginger, peeled & grated

2. Fresh red chillies, finely chopped

1tspn Turmeric powder

3 tspns Cumin Seeds

1 tspn Salt

5 Tbspns Gram Flour

Juice of 1 Fresh Lime

2 tbspns Rapeseed Oil

Fresh chillis & Corriander to serve.

es, bahji's, vegetables, low fat, oven baked
Assembling the spicy Veg mix


Place the drained potatoes, carrots, onions, chillis, ginger, spices and salt in a large bowl, & mix together well. (get you hands in).

Add the gram flour & mix well again.

Add the lime juice & oil & mix well again, adding a little more oil if necessary to produce a sticky mix.

Line a baking tray with non stick parchment, roll the mix into small ball, & place a little apart on the tray.

Bake for 25-30mins, checking half way through & turning if necessary.

Remove from the oven & sprinkle with fresh corriander & finely chopped chilli’s

Serve with a grated carrot, spring onion & red pepper salad, a bowl of corriander & chilli yoghurt & mango chutney.


Another little tip, for low fat nibbles. 15mins before the Bahji’s are ready, Sprinkle some pumpkin seeds in a single layer on baking parchement. Sprinkle with a little salt & some spice of your liking & bake.  Beats peanuts anytime.

pumkin seeds, low fat, nibbles with drinks, vegetarian, gluten free
Spicy, low fat nibbles


Remembrance, what does it mean to you?

While the world paused for thought at the 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month remembering the courageous young men & women who lost their lives in WW1,  Remembrance, then turned to my own family. Only last Wednesday, I pushed the pooch into the back of my car & set off to West Sussex to see my brother.  Over the years, I cannot say that we have been close. Living miles apart from each other didn’t help – that’s what I told myself – but in reality we both perceived things in different ways & were both – mainly me – too stubborn to talk about our feelings & emotions.

sea, emotions, family, remembrance, short breaks
Stormy seas often reflect our emotions

Having suffered mental health issues since a teenage & being diagnosed with Bipolar in later life, I now know I wasn’t the easiest person to get on with. With reality comes the dawning that something has to be done about it. But what?  I spent many years in therapy, being told to “hold on to that positive thought, acknowledge it & let it go”. Didn’t seem to work for me. To be honest, I didn’t even know what they were taking about. I can only describe it as clambering up a crumbling cliff side. As soon as you think you are reaching the top, bits of stone & chalk start sliding under your feet & you slip back again & on and on the process goes. Of course, all this was hidden from the people around me. I just kept it to myself. When work colleagues found out I’d had a nervous break down, they all said “No. I don’t believe it, you are always so, jolly & happy, nothing worries you”. But, you see, that’s what its all about. Shame & people knowing. With that shame & silence, monsters grow in our minds, which are difficult to cope with. If we remain silent & ashamed these monsters can take over.  So seeking help & talking, is a must.

I digress. Having finally reached Sussex, through the pouring wind & rain & let my pooch, leap the break waters on the beach like a racehorse,  my brother & I took  afternoon tea in a small local hotel.  Delightful. I thought.

afternoon tea, food, family, dog walking, cake
Balliffs Court Hotel. West Sussex

Now. I must say at this point, the company was amazing. We spent a good couple of hours in conversation & I haven’t laughed so much in years, but, the food was appalling. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with cheap sliced bread with hardly any filling, but when it is priced at £31 per person, I think they could have done a bit better. Being a cook myself  truffleicious.org  I pride myself on fresh home made food, which is value for money.  This afternoon tea, certainly wasn’t.  The scones were hard & the cakes of dubious quality. Hey ho. that’s only my opinion. Did notice another two tea takers ask for a doggy bag.

Cake, afternoon tea, hotel, by the sea, dogs
Afternoon Tea.

tea, cakes, sandwiches, afternoon tea, family
No. Go on, you have it.

Tea concluded we set off into the dark, wet & windy gloom of a late afternoon in November.

I had booked myself & the pooch into  St Marys Gate Inn in beautiful Arundel, opposite the Castle & next door to the Gothic Cathedral. I had been a frequenter of this quaint little watering hole about 45 years ago & my how things have changed.  The establishment has been transformed from a gloomy pub, into a very smart Inn with comfortable accommodation, restaurant & cosy bar, complete with open log fires. Another great plus for me, when booking was that it is dog friendly. On arrival being greeted by the pubs five resident fur balls, was a delight. The staff & jolly landlady were also friendly & house trained.

After settling into my room & giving the pooch a quick trot around Arundel Park. It was time to retire to the bar.  My brother had returned, with his two lovely sons – my nephews – who I had not seen for more years than I care to remember. Bit embarrassing for them to be reminded of when they were about 6 years old. Photos being called for, Gypsy who had settled down in the brick hearth of a large fire place – unlit, not trying to toast her -, decided it was time for her to get in on the act. Now, we were sitting on a rather comfortable leather sofa, in front of a low table. Picking her moment, when one of the nephews had his camera, trained on us. Gypsy leapt, from a lying down position, straight on top of us. 28 kilos of furry Labrador proceeded to settle herself comfortably on our laps & pose for the said photograph. Needless to say a great time was had by all, with a couple of us feeling a bit worse for wear, in the morning.  It was really great to talk and I shan’t leave it so long next time.

dogs, labrador, photographs, family, furry friends
Just let me in this photo.

Next morning, after a freshly cooked breakfast, which Gypsy was determined to share, I set of for home, reflecting on the most enjoyable time we had, together & that it really is good to talk & drive out those monsters.

dogs, bed & breakfast, accommodation, hotels, Arundel
Pleaseeee let me have some of your breakfast.

Now there are three morals to this ramble. Those being:

Not everything that is expensive is good.

Make time & TALK to your family & friends.

and finally – to me the most important:


If you suffer from mental health problems, DON’T try to hide it & suffer in silence. It is good to talk & write things down. I found that writing this blog was very cathartic. Long healthy walks with my dog are also a great benefit & most of all meeting my brother & feeling good about myself.

If you wish to leave a comment, it will be gratefully accepted.