Category Archives: food & drink

We’re incredibly lucky to have independent retailers in Ilfracombe, who sell real food – not processed cardboard. I also enjoy growing fruit and vegetables, and cooking mainly traditional English food.

Connecting over cake

I was exhausted this morning and didn’t make it to the beach, much to the disappointment of deep spaniel eyes – we’ll go tomorrow, I promise. This made me realise that I needed to relax today and I decided to make a cake ,as I find baking very calming.

The other day, we had been looking through a recipe book we bought probably 30 years ago – one of four – which we had dipped into for some reason. It’s called A Glut of Citrus Fruit by Ann Carr. I saw a recipe there for Lemon and Currant Cake, which I liked the look of. I prefer sponges and light fruitcakes to rich cream or chocolate cakes, so this sounded delicious to me.

Now, at the moment, I’m taking part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to reinvigorate my blogging and have committed to posting something every day for 31 days. It was suggested that today we post about our social media accounts and I wanted to do this, but also wanted to write about my cake, so I thought I would combine the two. After all, what better than to connect over cake? But then I thought, we can’t actually share this cake online, so the next best thing is to share the recipe.

Lemon and Currant Cake

Recipe by Ann Carr.


4oz butter
4oz caster sugar
2 eggs
Grated peel of 2 lemons
2oz candied peel, preferably lemon, but mixed is all right
2oz currants
4oz ground almonds
4oz self-raising flour


I rinse the currants and candied peel in hot water to rinse off excess sugar of my own accord as I think it keeps the cake lighter, but is not essential.

Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs separately and beat. Stir in the lemon peel, candied peel, currant and almonds. Then fold in the flour.

Pour the mixture into a greased 8-inch tin and bake at 180°C (350°F/Gas Mark 4) for 30-40 minutes or until an inserted knife or skewer comes out clean.

Lemon and Currant Cake | @robertz

Connecting on social media

I hope you enjoy the cake, if you decide to bake it, and hope the photo and video don’t make you too hungry. I post my kitchen adventures on my social media accounts, as well as photos and videos of adventures with our dog, walking in the countryside, views of Ilfracombe where we live in North Devon, business information and comedy.

I enjoy discussions, but not hard sell, so while I’m happy to see everyone promote their businesses, I don’t like being sold to. I think that building relationships is what is important. Sometimes these will be social, sometimes they will be about business and occasionally they will combine the two.

It would be good to connect at:

Posted in food & drink.

My life’s essentials 10: breakfast

My life's essentials 10: breakfast

I’ve noticed that food figures a lot in my life’s essentials.

It is, after all, essential to life for us and I think it figures so highly because I’ve had to look at my diet closely because of my Crohn’s disease and also to prevent middle-age spread.

My aim is to achieve a balance of eating healthily while enjoying meals and having the occasional treat.

Take breakfast as an example: I couldn’t get through the day without it and as I eat it after my morning walk, I am usually very hungry.

In the week when I’m working, breakfast is a serving of natural yogurt followed by porridge. It took me a while to develop a taste for porridge, but now I eat it all year round in preference to manufactured cereals. I really enjoy it and know it gives me fuel to get through the day.

On a Sunday it’s time for a treat and that’s when we usually have a cooked breakfast. Our table is laid with cups and saucers, sugar bowl, milk jug and cafetiere. The toast rack makes an appearance along with the butter dish and knife, and the jars of marmalade and homemade jam line up as if on parade, jam spoons at the ready.

Whereas porridge is eaten on the go, our eggs and bacon, chipolata, black pudding, mushrooms, tomato and hash browns, or occasionally fried bread, are savoured leisurely with accompanying music. (Allegro’s Miserere performed by the Sixteen was a favourite of one our spaniels.) This creates the perfect balance to working days.


Posted in Crohn's disease, food & drink, my life's essentials.

My life’s essentials 7: wooden spoon

Following on from my home baking post, yesterday I realised that the wooden spoon I use for baking has become an essential.

My life’s essentials 7: wooden spoon

As I spend so much time typing on a keyboard, using my iPhone, apps and software, one of the biggest pleasures I take in baking, and cooking generally, is working with ‘real’ things: ingredients I can touch, taste and smell.

I am fascinated by the transition when individual ingredients such as butter and sugar combine to create a fluffy, creamy new substance.


Add eggs, flour and other ingredients and the mixture changes again.

Put it in the oven and it transforms from ‘paste’ into a solid – hopefully not too solid – structure with completely different characteristics. Where has the new texture, aroma and taste come from?

It’s magic.

That’s why I tend to do almost everything by hand and my trusty baking wooden spoon, not used for anything else, made me realise that.

Posted in food & drink, my life's essentials.

My life’s essentials 6: home baking

My life's essentials: home baking

Why? Because the flavours are overwhelming.

And because I know what’s gone into it.

And because it’s been a big part of my life.

And because I find it a very relaxing activity.

And because I like eating it . . .

. . . and sharing it.

When I was young my Mum baked a delicious light fruitcake that we would scoff at Christmas and other holidays and it gave me pleasure to see her enjoying the fruitcakes I made for her when she could no longer bake.

I’m so lucky that my Mum was such a wonderful cook who taught us to cook and bake and that Mrs Z is an equally good cook. What are the chances of that?

Although we strayed into buying manufactured cakes for a while, I no longer eat these, finding them too ‘artificial’.

It remains a treat though to enjoy cake in a tea room or café where you know it is genuinely home made.

Nothing, though, beats the delight of taking home-baked cake or bread out of the oven and that moment when you cut and eat the first slice.

That’s a currant loaf I baked above. I’m afraid we’ve eaten it all.


Posted in food & drink, my life's essentials. Tagged with , , , , , .

I reduced sugar but still eat cake

I’d wanted to do something about it for years. I didn’t think I was overweight, I just felt uncomfortable at times: not right.

I reduced sugar but still eat cake

In 2013, a stomach bug caused me considerable bloating and discomfort for some months. I had to buy bigger trousers as I couldn’t wear 90% of those in my wardrobe. As a Crohn’s disease sufferer, luckily symptom-free for decades, I convinced the NHS to give me a full check-up. The conclusion was that it was nothing serious, but they didn’t know what was causing it or how to treat it. I decided to stop taking the medication they had given me, which was not working, and felt better overnight.

I also decided that, with my history of Crohn’s disease, my age and the ineffectiveness of the medical profession, I needed to do more not only to get fit again but to take better care of my body.

I had thought that wheat was part of the problem and sought to reduce my consumption, but I also looked at sugar. I have a very sweet tooth and, although I have reduced my consumption at times, can wolf down sweets with ease.

My wife and I cook most meals from scratch and eat little manufactured food, but I looked more closely at what I was eating. I already ate Shredded Wheat for breakfast but switched to porridge made with milk six days a week – we have a cooked breakfast on a Sunday as a treat. Of an evening, I would enjoy a shortbread finger with my coffee. Out that went, along with all biscuits and shop-bought cake. I even stopped eating my favourite organic yoghurt which had frightening levels of sugar in it.

I started to feel hungry.

I resisted the temptation to open a packet of biscuits or buy sweets when filling up the car with fuel. Instead I started eating almonds and cashew nuts as well as dried apricots (when fresh ones were not available).

The results have been remarkable. Within several months I had lost 8lbs and returned to the weight I was 20 years ago. Some of my new trousers almost fall down when I wear them and I can fit into all the clothes I have in my wardrobe, some of which I have kept for years in the hope that they would one day, by some magic, fit me again.

I’m probably eating as much bread as before, but much less sugar and much less less glucose fructose syrup and other food nasties.

Is my diet boring?


I’ve started baking and eating my own cakes again, because I believe it’s good to have occasional treats, but I know how much sugar I’m eating.

We also eat lots of fruit and veg and my belief is that good quality ingredients make food tasty. They need not be expensive either: root vegetables are very cheap, as are many other basic ingredients.

Is it easy to change diet?

It needs determination.

When I go to a filling station, I always seem to have to walk through an aisle with sweets to the right of me and crisps and snacks to the left. I usually have a bag of almonds in my pocket for fuel.

When in grocery stores, I look at the cakes and biscuits, but the image in my mind of what’s in them puts me off.

When out and about, it can be very difficult to eat well. I won’t buy prepared sandwiches, often full of undesirable ingredients, so usually carry my own packed lunch. I can see how easy it is to revert to old habits.

I have, on several occasions, relapsed and chomped on a packet of sweets, but soon regretted it. Is my body starting to reject the rubbish in these products?

Is it worth it?

I still can’t believe how several simple changes have had such a big effect and how much better I feel. I’m glad I persisted.

So that’s my experience of reducing sugar and food nasties, and how it is working for me.

I would recommend it if you want to give it a go. I have no idea if it will work for everyone, but I’ll be happy if my experience can help you.

Posted in a musing, food & drink. Tagged with , , , , .
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