Coffee and Cardamom Cake

Many years ago, travelling in Iraq and Jordan, I sampled cardamom coffee for the first time and fell in love with it. My friend Jenny, who is either psychic or knows my tastes remarkably well, recently gave me a packet from London’s Algerian Coffee Stores and it took me right back. It is the most evocative of tastes and although it makes a very fine drink, I wanted to use that flavour combination in a cake. Continue reading

Blackberry Spice Cake

It’s that time of year when all the early autumn fruit is ripening, a sort of bonus gift from nature to apologise for the end of summer and the imminence of winter. I’ve been pickling and preserving like my life depended on it, which historically would probably have been all too true.

Happily most of us no longer have to endure a subsistence lifestyle but while the blackberries are fat and juicy, you might like to do a bit of foraging and make this fruity, gently spiced cake. Continue reading

Greengage and Almond Jalousie

Jalousie: mid 18th century, French, literally ‘jealousy’, from Italian geloso ‘jealous’, also (by extension) ‘screen’, associated with the screening of women from view (Oxford Languages). The internet is a wonderful thing.

In this case a jalousie is a puff pastry pie with the top slashed to resemble (allegedly) a jalousie or louvred blind. It can be savoury or sweet and in this case proved to be the perfect vehicle for the greengages I picked from our tree, although you can use any plums you have handy. Continue reading

Mrs Portly’s Time Machine

I‘m lucky enough to live in an old and rather beautiful home. It’s Tudor, with the oldest part dating back to around 1500, although like most houses of its sort it’s been altered and added to over the centuries. We have witch marks on the beams, elaborate Elizabethan chimneys and parchment-written deeds which, sadly though responsibly, the previous owner donated to the county records office for their preservation. 

Living here has increased my interest in historical recipes and I thought it would be good to recreate some in a way that reflects the house and the periods it has lived through. Continue reading

Bigod, That’s Tasty!

Well, Mrs Portly’s only had one week off, but I wanted to share these frankly fabulous little filo pies while redcurrants are still in season.

Crisp, buttery pastry oozing with melty Baron Bigod cheese and redcurrant jelly, offset by the sharp tang of fresh redcurrants. They’re rich but they’re tiny, just a few bites, so they’re perfect as a starter with a few salad leaves or as a warm canape. Continue reading

Easing Lock-down

I understand the economic imperative, as one sarky journalist put it, of getting businesses with rateable values back up and running. I understand the joy of some of my friends in the restaurant industry, who’ve been struggling to make ends meet behind locked doors, at being able to earn a few quid at long last. I also understand the ones who’ve said: “Re-open? In these circumstances? Not likely!” Continue reading

Summer Fruits

Whether you’re picking them from a garden or buying them in the shops and markets, this is a wonderful time for summer fruits. Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and currants, they’re all fresh and ripe around now. Continue reading