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Blackberry & Lemon Eton Mess

Blackberry & Lemon Eton Mess

The blackberries are not quite ready yet, but it won't be long now.  We are lucky in this country to have an abundance of blackberries that grow in just about every hedgerow free for the picking.  They call them Brambles over here and long about late July on, you can see people parked up and picking to their hearts content. We British are great lovers of the Bramble, and no small wonder. 

We actually have plenty right in our back garden as well as in our hedge. I always end up the season with bags of them in the freezer, ready to turn into pies and crumbles and jams. This recipe I am sharing today makes good use of either fresh or frozen blackberries and is a RIF on our very popular Eton Mess Dessert, which is actually just whipped cream, strawberries and crushed meringues.  A simple dessert.  One thing I really love about British summers . . .  they are a tasty berry fest from beginning to end! 

I was recently gifted (as an early Birthday Pressie) with this lovely Cookhouse Hand Blender and I was really chuffed to receive it.  As you know mine had recently disappeared and my electric hand whisk blew up.  I have been busy putting it through its paces since I received it.  I use it every day. It is great for making lovely homemade mayonnaise, and pureeing banana, making smoothies, etc.  The mini food processor makes short work of blitzing small bits into crumbs, like nuts and bread. I use it to chop onions and celery.  Oddly enough I had never used the whisk attachment on my old stick blender, but not having a working hand mixer now, I decided to use this the other day to whip together my cream and yogurt for this dessert.

It did an excellent job!  This electric hand blender has variable speeds, so you can start it off at a lower speed and work it up to a higher speed.  This was invaluable when it came to whipping up this cream mixture.  It did not end up all over the kitchen because of that!  Yay! 

Eton Mess is a very traditional British dessert composed of fresh strawberries, broken meringues and whipped cream.

History says that it was first eaten at Eton College in 1893, created to serve at the annual cricket match between the pupils of  Eton and Harrow. 

Its very delicious in its simplicity, but then again  . . .  it is the simple things in life which often bring us the greatest pleasures.

This lovely dessert I am sharing today is a variation on that theme  . . .  

A simple whole blackberry sauce is layered in glasses with a good lemon curd.  If you have your own homemade curd so much the better.  You can find my recipe for that here.  Its pretty darned good if I don't say so myself. 

You don't have to use homemade curd  . . .  but its awfully nice if you can.

The cream mixture is simply thick Greek Yogurt and Single Cream (whipping cream) beaten together until soft peaks form. 

I use full fat yogurt, why quibble over a few calories when it comes to this. In for a penny . . .  in for a pound.

These are layered in dessert glasses. I like a layer of the yogurt cream on the bottom and then on the top.

With layers of the bramble sauce and lemon curd in between  . . .

You top it with crumbled meringue nests and finish it off with a light dusting of icing sugar.  This is so, so, so  . . .  lush and delicious.

Yield: 4

Blackberry & Lemon Eton Mess

A  delicious RIF on a traditional favourite using seasonal blackberries.


  • 150g fresh or frozen blackberries (1 cup)
  • 1 TBS water
  • 2 TBS sugar, divided
  • 280g full fat Greek yogurt (1 cup)
  • 240ml single cream (1 cup)
  • 160g good quality lemon curd (1/2 cup)
  • 2 meringue nests, crumbled
  • icing sugar to dust


How to cook Blackberry & Lemon Eton Mess

  1. First prepare the blackberry sauce so that it can cool enough to use. (I actually like to prepare it the night before.) Place the berries along with the water and 1 TBS of the sugar into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until reduced. It should be somewhat syrupy. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely. (If making the night before, cover and place in the refrigerator.)
  2. Place the yogurt, cream and remaining sugar into a bowl. Whip with an electric whisk until soft peaks form. Layer this mixture into dessert glasses along with the lemon curd and blackberry mixture, making a bottom and top cream addition, with the lemon curd and blackberries in the middle. Crumble the meringues over top, dust with icing sugar and serve immediately. Fabulously tasty!
Created using The Recipes Generator

I cut the recipe in half for this, successfully, making only two servings which Todd was able to enjoy two days in a row.  Oh but I was sorely tempted  . . .  and yes, I did have a tiny taste for review purposes you understand, lol.  I could never recommend something I hadn't actually at least tasted for myself could I?  Oh the things I do for you  . . . . you are most welcome! 😋

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Marie Rayner
Bagel Chips

Bagel Chips

What I am showing you today is not so much a recipe as it is a technique, although I will certain give you a tasty recipe that you might want to make at the end!  Bagel Chips.  These crisp delicious crisp snack breads are so simple to make and you will find that they come in handy all year round, especially if you are entertaining!  I would probably even go so far as to say that if you have these in the house, you got a party in the making! 

All you need for them is a bag of bagels (use your favourite kinds) some kind of fat for spreading on them, and a seasoning sprinkle.  Today I did them three ways so I could compare the taste.

I did a batch with olive oil, a batch with sunflower oil and a batch with softened butter.  All three I used the same Italian garlic seasoning on.  Can you guess which was the tastiest to me?  No surprise there  . . . butter.   As you can see they also got a bit crisper with the butter as well.

You will want your bagels to be a bit stale as they will be easier to slice thinner the harder they are.  Use a serrated knife. I got about 5 slices from each bagel.  I don't recommend using cinnamon raisin ones as the raisins will burn, but I can't think of another kind that wouldn't work well.

Just brush them well on both sides with your preferred fat/oil.  Then sprinkle with seasoning.    I used Garlic Italian today, but seasoning salt would work well . . .  your own herb mixture.  Whatever floats your boat. 

I had my oven temperature at 230*C/425*F/ gas mark 7, which worked very well.  They took less than five minutes at that temperature.  Be careful not to slice them too thin as they will burn if they are too thin.

Try to brush the fat on as evenly as you can  . . . so you don't get pale spots, that is where butter worked better than the other fats . . . it actually spreads whereas the oils tended to soak into spots, even though I was using a brush and brushing it over top.

The thinner ones are crisper, but all are quite nice  . . .

Kind of like bagel shaped melba toasts.  Crisp and ready to spread with your favourite spread . . .

I highly recommend this Smoked Salmon Spread which is really popular around here during the holidays, but its also nice for your summer get-togethers!  It was something I often made when I worked at the Manor!  You can buy smoked salmon off cuts for this without a problem. They are perfect for such a dish. I always get my smoked salmon here. Its the best.

Smoked Salmon Spread

Yield: Makes 2 cups
Serve this delicious spread with breadsticks, crackers or slices of toasted baguette.  Deliciously different!


  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (340g)
  • 1/3 cup dairy sour cream (40g)
  • 6 dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 3 spring onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 3 TBS capers, rinsed and drained
  • 8 ounces smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
  • 3 TBS chopped fresh dill, or 1 TBS dried dill tops
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • fresh dill to garnish


How to cook Smoked Salmon Spread

  1. Put the cream cheese, sour cream, Tabasco sauce and lemon juice in a food processor. Blitz to combine. Add the spring onions, capers, salmon, chopped dill and pepper. Pulse to blend. Scrape into a serving bowl. Garnish with the dill and serve chilled or at room temperature. Fabulous!
Created using The Recipes Generator

What more can I say, but these are incredibly moreish.  Especially the butter ones.  I find myself wondering now what if I made cinnamon toast ones?  And served them with a cream cheese dip  . . .  hmmm . . . sounds tasty . . .  the wheels are turning! 

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Marie Rayner
How to Eat Conveniently While Gluten Free

How to Eat Conveniently While Gluten Free

About fifteen years ago a friend of mine from Canada came to stay with us for a few nights at our cottage down south.  I remember being a bit worried at the time about what I was going to feed her.  She actually brought her own bread and cereal with her, so it ended up being not too bad.

People who are gluten free can sometimes find it difficult to eat out at restaurants, and making meals at home often takes a little more work and planning than cooking a normal meal. In the past, there have been certain types of food that gluten free dieters typically had to avoid, and these included pasta, sandwiches and pizza. This can be tough when your family is searching for the cheapest pizza specials and you know you cannot join in.

These days however, more and more places are catering to this gluten free lifestyle. If you are looking for some gluten free alternatives to your favorite foods, it is now becoming much easier to dine out and eat while in a hurry, with a lot more options being available!

Why Some People Are Gluten Free

 Gluten is a protein that is found in products such as wheat, rye and barley. People with celiac disease suffer from a disorder in which gluten affects the immune system in a way that it harms the lining of the intestine. These people must avoid gluten, or they can get really sick.

Others may not have celiac disease, but are gluten sensitive. This can cause bloating, constipation and other abdominal issues. Some people stay away from gluten because they are allergic to wheat, while others simply try to avoid it as part of a healthy diet.  

Favorite Foods That Now Have Gluten Free Options

Eating gluten free can be difficult, especially if you have always loved to eat foods that contain gluten. You may find yourself occasionally craving your favorites. Thankfully, many companies and restaurants are now using other grains as an alternative to wheat. For example, pasta can be made with quinoa, corn, rice and lentils. You can also find a wide variety of gluten free bread options for sandwiches as well as for your morning toast.

I adore Pizza, its one of my favourite foods.  I cannot imagine living in a world where I could not eat pizza!  Fortunately, there are now pizza crusts that are gluten free. Some are made with cauliflower while others are made from potato starch, rice flour and ancient grains such as quinoa, sorghum and teff. If you have written off pizza, it is time to start the search for the best tasting gluten free pizza

Eating Gluten Free While on the Go 

Whether you are running errands all day, or you are transporting the children to and from activities, eating healthy and, especially, gluten free can be really tough to manage. However, there are numerous options for keeping you satisfied and on track with your eating plan. Some good gluten free on-the-go items that you can snack on throughout the day include:

 • Nuts
• Yogurt
• Dried fruit
• Beef or turkey jerkey
• Hardboiled eggs
• Fresh fruit and vegetables
• Cheese

 Making a trip through a drive thru? Ask for a grilled chicken breast or burger on lettuce leaves instead of the bun, or ask what other gluten free options they might have.  You will find that most places are quite accomodating these days and will have at least one gluten-free option available.

Sometimes,  on really busy days, the last thing you want to think about when you get home is cooking.  What do do when all you want to do is sit down and kick back but you have a ravenous family nipping at your heels???  Those are the perfect times to order in delivery such as a gooey, delicious gluten free pizza. You can even throw in a salad to improve the nutritional benefits. With the best pizza tracking app, you can also keep tabs on your order so you know when it is ready.

Enjoy Gluten Free Anytime 

Its really nice to know that people who eat gluten free now have many more feasible options at their behest than they did years ago. The availability of gluten free items in a variety of cuisines make it easy to avoid gluten yet still eat great tasting food. Having to keep to a gluten-free diet need no longer be the landmine that it used to be, and that makes me happy.

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Marie Rayner
 Cornmeal Crusted Cod Cheeks

Cornmeal Crusted Cod Cheeks

Cod Cheeks.  Yep you read that right.  Cod Cheeks.  I adore Cod Cheeks.  To me they are every bit as delicious if not more so than scallops or lobster.  Seriously. If you have never tried them, you have no idea what you are missing. 

Fish cheeks are a great delicacy.  A tiny pocket of meat, found just below the eyes,  they are tender and have a wonderful flavour.  Little nuggets of deliciousness.  Most Chef's love them as they are boneless, skinless and have a beautiful texture which lends itself to a variety of cooking methods.

My favourite way of cooking them is to coat them in a well flavoured cornmeal crumb and then fry them in hot oil.

They take literally just a few minutes to cook and are so tender and delicious when done. 

And it is such a simple way to prepare them.  You just mix cornmeal (which is like a fine polenta) together with some simple seasonings . . .  cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt. 

Don't freak out at the amount of pepper.  Its the perfect amount. Trust me on this.

You simply roll the cod cheeks in the cornmeal mixture and then fry.  It only takes 3 to 4 minutes per side for them to be done to perfection. 

Perfectly crisp and golden brown on the outside . . .  tender and succulent on the inside.  You can't ask for much better than that. 

Bite sized and filled with flavour.  I get mine from The Fish Society.  Their Cod Cheeks are sustainably sourced from Norwegian waters.  

Fish from the Fish Society comes straight to your door, with an overnight delivery, and it is beautifully packaged.  It arrives in perfect condition ready to throw right into your own freezer.  All of their fish is frozen shortly after catching and is of a far superior quality than that which you can buy at the shops, which in all likelihood has already been frozen once, thawed and then presented to you on ice.  I have never been disappointed in any fish I have received from them and they have a huge range to choose from.

Today I served these lovely cheeks with some chips and homemade coleslaw . . .  just like you would be served in a restaurant back home in Nova Scotia.

In the old days, when Cod was plentiful, it would not have been unusual to find Cod Cheeks the size of your fist, but sadly Cod of that size are no longer very common.  They are coming back however, and that is a good thing.  Of all the fishes in the sea, Cod is my favourite.

I tried to get a photograph so I could show you how tender and succulent these are inside.  Kind of hard because it is so white, so I guess you will have to take my word for  it.  These bite sized babies are delicious!

Yield: 4

Cornmeal Crusted Cod Cheeks

Cod cheeks are a really delicious part of the cod that is often overlooked. Boneless, skinless and firm, they are meaty and sweet.  Coating them with a spiced cornmeal mixture gives them a crisp exterior whilst protecting all that succulence inside.


  • 450g of cod cheeks (1 pound)
  • 170g fine cornmeal (1 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 TBS finely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • oil for frying (you want to use a flavourless oil, like canola)


How to cook Cornmeal Crusted Cod Cheeks

  1. Mix the cornmeal, cayenne, pepper and salt together in a shallow bowl. Take your cod cheeks out of the refrigerator. Remove them from the packaging and roll them in the cornmeal mixture to coat, setting them aside on a plate while you finish coating them all.
  2. Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once it is hot enough to brown a cube of bread (between 180/190*C or 350/375*F) add the coated cod nuggets,
  3. a few at a time. Take care not to crowd the pan, or your oil will cool down too much. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Scoop out to a baking tray lined with paper towelling to drain and keep warm in a slow oven while you cook the rest. Once done serve immediately with your favourite accompaniments. We like chips and coleslaw.
Created using The Recipes Generator

Down East Coast Coleslaw

Yield: 6
Crisp and delicious and lightly flavoured with Maple syrup. Don't knock it until you try it.


  • 1 white cabbage (about 2 lb in weight), trimmed and cored
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 4 spring onions
  • 200g of good quality mayonnaise (scant cup)
  • 4 TBS buttermilk
  • 2 TBS maple syrup (I used a no sugar sub)
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • salt and black pepper to taste


How to cook East Coast Coleslaw

  1. Using a sharp knife, shred your cabbage very fine and place into a bowl.  Grate your carrots on the large holes in a box grated and add them to the bowl with the cabbage.  Thinly slice the spring onions and the celery.  Add to the bowl as well. Whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, maple syrup, and seasoning to taste. Pour this over the vegetables in the bowl and toss all together to coat.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Created using The Recipes Generator

I called this down East Coleslaw because it is lightly sweetened with Maple Syrup.  Because I am a Diabetic I used a no sugar one, which isn't really Maple Syrup, but trust me when I tell you that it is very, very good nonetheless.  Even better with the real thing.

I really hope you want to try Cod Cheeks!  I think you will find that they are really very  wonderful, and highly underrated!  Give cheeks a chance!

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Marie Rayner

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