Sunday 1 December 2013


Original painting by Soren Hawkes @ Passchendaele Prints 

Advent is a special time and you can enjoy this Advent Calendar throughout December.  To see each day's article, you can choose from the index below to soak yourself in festive recipes, beautiful photographs, the stories behind the traditions and even the odd story and poem. Just click on the day to be taken there.  Feel free to sing along too.

Enjoy this wonderful Advent of seasonal greeting from Fancy Pans Cafe - please don't be confused by the dates of when the articles were written.

The Advent Calendar Recipe Book is now available from Amazon too - click here to see inside.

1st  The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; time to light the first Advent candle - Butternut Squash Soup 

2nd  Rejoice!  Christmas cake - plus gluten free          

3rd  Angelic!  Time to make your pickled red cabbage

4th Impossible - (gorgeous song) and Spooky

5th Need to make the biscuits for the Christmas Tree - and you can't beat a bit of Wham!

6th  Angel cakes, or butterfly cakes, or fairy cakes?  You decide 

7th Are you dreaming of Christmas yet?  

8th Nuts about trees - see why I hate them - and enjoy the nuts!   

9th Cristingle! - So what is a Christingle and what is the history? Click on 9th to find out.

10th  A donkey's dream - chocolate haystacks!     

11th  Mince pie time, but first you need some mincemeat

12th Let's build a snowman - even the kids can make these delicious sweets

13th  So, you've made your mincemeat, time to make the pies

14th  Who were the Shepherds? - great take on an old Carol - and a favourite amongst so many - Mutton Pies (obviously the shepherds weren't watching!)

15th  Broccoli and Stilton Soup - bang goes the Christmas Stilton

16th  More Stilton gone in these fab biscuits - and a bit of Elvis too.

17th  Cheese?  Cake?  Cheesecake?!  Oh yes!

18th What kind of straw do you like in your manger - I like cheese (and Elvis)

19th Great song, great poem, great drinks, great photo - this is Christmas personified.

20th  Mulled Wine and Mistletoe time!   

21st  Did King Herod get the Moody blues?

22nd Are we ready? - original poem

23rd What do you know about the Yule Log? 

24th  Christmas Eve a silent night on the Western Front, 1914 - original poem

25th  Joy to the World - and if you forgot to make or buy a Christmas pud -here's a quick fix


Friday 22 November 2013

Stir-Up Sunday

The Sunday before the first in Advent is known as Stir-Up Sunday.  This is because it embraces the British tradition of making the Christmas Pudding and was introduced, apparently, by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

It was a time when families got together to make the pudding and where children learnt from their parents and grandparents what goes into the Christmas dessert. Most of us now tend to buy our Christmas puddings and will never experience the fun of stirring the pudding and popping in the odd coin which will be found on Christmas day, bringing health, wealth and happiness to the family for the coming year.

The term comes from the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and used on the last Sunday before Advent in the Anglican Church:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

.Excita, quaesumus, Domine, tuorum fidelium voluntates: ut divini operis fructum propensius exsequentes, pietatis tuae remedia maiora percipiant: Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

It was thought that cooks, wives and servants would go to Church, hear the words ‘stir up’ and know that it was the day for making and stirring the Christmas puddings in plenty of time for Christmas Day. (The prayer was actually stirring up the people to do good deeds.)

A traditional Christmas pudding has thirteen ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples. When family members take a turn in stirring, they should stir from east to west to remind them of the wise men who visited the child Jesus and brought him gifts. It is also customary to make a wish when it’s your turn to stir.

Here’s a traditional recipe for a Christmas pudding for either 4-1pint puddings or 2- 2pint puddings


 1          8oz golden caster sugar
 2          8oz suet or margarine
 3          2lbs  4oz mixed fruit
 4          8oz plain flour
 5          2oz flaked almonds
 6          Zest of 1 lemon
 7          5 beaten eggs
 8          A small cooking apple, peeled and chopped
 9         1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
10        1level teaspoon mixed spice
11        1 level teaspoon nutmeg
12        Pinch of salt
13        5fl oz brandy or rum

Mix together all the dry ingredients.

Stir in the eggs and brandy and mix together, with everyone taking a turn to stir the pudding.

Put the mixture into 4x1pint pudding basins or or 2x2 pint basins which have been greased well.

Cut a circle of baking parchment for the top of each and wrap foil over the basins.

Tie securely with string.

Make a string handle from one side of the basin to the other so it's easier to pick the basin out of the pan after cooking.

Put the basins in to a large steamer or, if you don’t have a steamer, use a large pan and put inverted saucers into it to stand the basins on.

Pour in boiling water, about a third of the way up the basins, then put the lid on and steam away. This will take about 5-6 hours and you will need to keep checking the water and replacing it so that the pans doesn’t boil dry.

When cooked, store somewhere cool until you need them.

You will need to steam them again for another 2 hours before serving , or, you could cheat and pop them in the microwave for a few minutes.

To find our more Christmas and Advent facts, plus lots of recipes, why not treat yourself to The Advent Recipe Book - available from Amazon.  Click here to see inside

© Karen Ette 2013

Sunday 10 November 2013

Remembrance - Poem: Pals


 In this lonely place

     rows of white stone       
mark the spot
where we once saw the dawn. 
In this lonely place
     a solitary oak 
         whispers its sadness

                   where we once carved our names.

In this lonely place
     a flower blooms
         bright as the sun

                   that once warmed our cold backs.

In this lonely place,
    a breeze ripples grass
        silent now

                  where once we sought sleep.

In this lonely place
    a bird bravely flies
        soaring above

                   where the Howitzers roared.

In this lonely place
      shell-holes remain
         empty craters

                  Armageddon we once faced.

In this lonely place
    a rabbit passes by
       on the same earth

                   that once oozed the smell of mortal fear.

In this lonely place
    a whistle blew
        over we went

             where shells scorched Picardie.

In this lonely place
    a battle raged
      pals joined in conflict

                    divided ranks, into hell we ran.  

In this lonely place
    a tear was shed
        destiny marked

                     with the vile taste of despair.

In this lonely place
    the sun went down
         mud took claim

              where a Bergmann gun[1]spat our names.
  We prayed
       We cried
              We lived
                     We died
                                    In this lonely place.


[1] Bergmann machine guns were not used on the Somme until 1918

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Courgette (or Zucchini) - prolific producers

Courgette plants have no sense of timing; they wait until you are at your most unsuspecting, and then they become productive, and boy do they fruit 

If you fancy your own plants, they are really easy to grow from seed and can be sown outdoors in late May or early June in the spot where they are to grow. Sow them about 1 inch deep and keep the seedlings covered using a cloche, or a jam jar, which will do the trick, for as long as you can until they are too big.
Or, you can start them off indoors in pots a little earlier, which is what I did, and then plant them out when the plants are sturdy and roots are emerging.

Courgettes, or Zucchini, are prolific if they are kept well-watered, and the odd feed is also appreciated.

Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.

The problem is, what to do with them? 

Why not try one of our recipes? Click on the link to be taken to there.

Like marrows, they are quite bland, so need to be livened up a little, so it’s time to get creative and try out the courgette recipes, which are on the menu at Fancy Pans.

© Karen Ette 2013

Courgette Gratin

This yummy, vegetarian recipe serves four people.


2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 medium onions, sliced fairly thinly
1 garlic clove, crushed
12 oz of sliced courgettes (that's about 350 grammes)
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1 teaspoon of chopped thyme
4 large tomatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Seasoning (that's salt and pepper to you and me)

1 oz butter (that's about 25 grammes)
1 oz plain flour (ditto)
Half a pint of milk (that's around 300 ml or 10 fluid ozs)
40 oz grated Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon of fresh breadcrumbs

Heat your oven to 170/180 degrees C (350 F, Gas 4)

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onions until soft, taking care not to burn them. Add the garlic, courgettes and  herbs, plus salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking and burn. Remove from the heat and put half into an oven-proof dish. Cover with the sliced tomatoes and then put the remaining courgette mix on top.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, then add the flour. Cook for about two minutes, stirring all the time. Gradually add the milk and bring the sauce to the boil; keep stirring - you don't want it to catch and burn. Simmer gently for about 2 minutes, until the flour is cooked.  Add half the grated cheese and season.

Pour the sauce over the courgettes and tomatoes. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and then the rest of the grated cheese.

Bake for about twenty minutes; until golden.  Make sure the courgettes are cooked by testing them with a skewer before serving.

This dish can be served as a complete meal, or with roast potatoes for that "little extra".


© Karen Ette 2013

Lemon and Walnut Courgette Cake, with Lemon Icing

You will need:

Approximately 8 oz peeled and grated courgette (that’s approx. 250g)
Squeeze as much water out as you can – put it in a sieve with a saucer on top and a weight on top of that, overnight if possible. If you have a food processor, then you can blitz it with that instead of grating.

When you are ready to make the cake, grease and lightly flour a 2lb loaf tin and set your oven to 160C, 325F, Gas 3.
You will also need:
6 oz golden caster sugar (170g)
1 egg
¼ pint vegetable oil (4 fl oz or 125 ml)
8 oz (250g) Self Raising Flour
8 oz (250g) Plain Flour
            plus ½  teaspoon salt
            ½  teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
            ¼  teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
Zest of one lemon
4 oz chopped walnuts (113g)

Put the courgette into a bowl with the sugar. Beat the egg into the oil then
Add to the courgette and sugar and beat them all together.

In a separate bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients except the nuts and zest, then stir the flour mix into the courgette mix and add the zest and nuts.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and pop it into the pre-heated oven.  Bake for 55 minutes. Test with a clean knife or skewer to see if it comes out clean when pushed into the cake.

Remove from the oven and leave the cake in the tin for about 10 minutes. Whilst it is cooling, prepare the icing.

Put 2-3 oz of icing sugar into a bowl and add the juice of the lemon a little at a time until the icing is runny enough to drizzle over the cake, but thick enough to stick.

Tip the cooled cake onto a cooling rack and drizzle over the icing. Leave it to set for a few minutes.

© Karen Ette 2013