Blackberry and Pistachio Frozen Yoghurt

I know, I know, I used blackberry and pistachio together in a recipe last month. And I also put pistachios in pretty much absolutely everything. I’ve mentioned before that I go through food obsessions and phases, and poor James has to put up with eating the same things over and over until I get bored and move onto something else. Basically, purple and green is just where it’s at with me right now, I’m afraid, so that’s what you get. Frozen yoghurt.

I never picked fruit as a child, living mainly in London and lacking that sort of bucolic rural upbringing, and so it never really occurred to me to do so as an adult until recently. A couple of summers ago, I was walking the dog of a dear friend who was temporarily immobile, post-surgery, and stumbled across the most incredible treasure-trove of untouched, heavy-ripe blackberries, just across the river from where our boat is moored.

It was part of our neighbouring nature reserve, and the plants had grown so high and wild that they’d formed winding paths through the field down to the river, each lined with dripping, plump fruit. We’re not in blackberry season yet – although it’s been so warm that perhaps it will come early this year – but when the time is right I am going to find my way back there again and gather a few tubs of berries to freeze for the colder months. Frozen yoghurt is only one of a thousand things to do with them.

Of course, you can buy perfectly lovely frozen fruit from the supermarket, but it makes me feel outdoorsy and practical to try and pick it myself occasionally. In reality, I am the least outdoorsy person you are likely to ever meet.


Anyway, we had what passes for a heat-wave in these parts last week (three full days of heat, anyone in an actual hot country is laughing at us right now), and all we really wanted to eat was ice cream. But I don’t have an ice cream maker. And I’m kind of too impatient for all that setting, stirring, setting thing you have to do with a no-churn recipe. So instead, I give you frozen yoghurt. It’s an incredibly simple recipe (as was last week’s actually – clearly I am getting lazy). It’s healthy-ish. But also nice, promise. You could legitimately have this for breakfast. I did have this for breakfast.



Obviously, you can make this with just about anything you like. I think raspberry and almond or blueberry and pecan would also be delicious, but hey, throw whatever you’ve got in the cupboards or the freezer in there and go wild. You could also stir through chocolate chips, crumbled biscuit, fudge pieces, cereal… That’s the beauty of frozen yoghurt. It’s adaptable.


300g frozen blackberries
50g pistachios
200g Greek yoghurt (I like the proper, thick, full fat stuff, but whatever you prefer will be fine)
2-4 tbsp honey (adjust to taste)


  1. Either get your blackberries out of the freezer ten minutes before you want to make this, or whack them in the microwave for 30 seconds or a minute to soften them up – some blenders (mine included) will struggle with absolutely rock hard frozen fruit. Pop your pistachios in a dry pan on a medium heat to toast for around 5 minutes – keep shaking them around now and then to make sure they don’t burn.
  2. Put your blackberries, yoghurt, and honey in a blender and blitz until smooth and thick. Taste, adjust honey if needed.
  3. Chop your pistachios roughly and serve the frozen yoghurt sprinkled with chopped nuts, and some whole blackberries if you like.

Review: Abingdon Food Festival

The Abingdon Food Festival has a great deal to recommend it. This was its fourth year, and yet I’d never been before: James and I made the journey down to Abingdon to see what we could see, and came away very full and happy, occasionally turning to each other and saying things like ‘That was really very good, wasn’t it?’

The festival’s location couldn’t be better. They make use of a beautiful riverside meadow, which is not only convenient – providing plenty of space and lots of parking – but picturesque, with boats moored all along the side of the festival site and green space all around. The setting contributes to the laid back, friendly atmosphere of the event. There were dogs and children everywhere, and plenty of seating provided and space to wander without feeling crowded. The volunteers on the gate and giving out information all seemed lovely, and I was very happy that the low £3 suggested entry price went to charity, having recently attended a food festival that cost more than £20 per person to enter  – and that’s before you’ve even bought any food…


My general approached to these events is to come early to avoid queues and to make sure I am very hungry, thereby enabling myself to eat enough to cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Being obsessive, I like to do a lap of the whole site and see what’s on offer before committing to buying anything, wary of missing out on something for fear of not seeing it before I’ve already stuffed my face.

At the Abingdon Food Festival, James derailed this sensible system by dragging me over to Dick’s Smokehouse immediately and demanding the pulled pork in a charcoal brioche bun with apple and fennel relish. It transpired that we were the stall’s first customers at their first ever event so, feeling very honoured, we tucked into our, er, breakfast. It was a delicious twist on the classic pork and apple combination, the meat flavourful and succulent, the charcoal brioche adding a bit of interest and texture, and the fennel present but not overpowering. The stallholders were lovely and their branding is bold and on-point, as proven by the fact that James immediately made a beeline for them – I’ll definitely keep an eye out for them in the future.


My next pick was Polentista, who I’d never seen before and whose menu sounded delicious – I am, at heart, a carb lover. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to approach them and hear that they weren’t ready to serve food yet, despite it being 11am and the festival having opened at 10am. I don’t know if they’d had problems in the morning, but I was sad not to be able to try their gnocchi and polenta chips – next time! Instead we ended up with a satisfying pile of nachos from Hillbilly’s, which hit the spot. Maybe not the most original dish, but hey, they were well-made and delicious. James then grabbed a marshmallow lolly from the very friendly woman at Cottage Sweets, and consumed it in about forty-five seconds before proceeding to chew the stick, which I will take as a positive review.


Being somewhat of a brownie connoisseur (read: greedy brownie obsessive), I was keen to try the crème brûlée brownie from Ridiculously Rich. It’s pretty rare for me to come across a twist on brownies I haven’t seen before, so thanks Abingdon Food Festival. The brownie was a little thinner than I’d usually go for, but the topping was creamy and well-made, and the brownie itself was decadently chocolatey and more-ish. I am willing to concede that most people have a lower brownie tolerance than I do and would have found anything thicker too rich. The peanut butter fudge cake was a delight because, well, peanut butter fudge cake.


There was a great selection of alcohol at the festival, and I was happy to see stalls selling an impressive variety of good wines, as well as the beer and cider vendors that you’d expect to see at these events. Sadly, one of us had to drive home, so I didn’t get to sample the wines, but James very much enjoyed an unusually dry and flavoursome pint of Hitchcox Cider (I may have had a sneaky sip, just to test it) that was sold to us by the owner, a lovely guy. They also had a impressive range of drinks on offer, including loads of varieties of cider ranging from dry to sweet, as well as cider cocktails. Finally, before heading home, we grabbed a classic beef and Stilton pie from Brockleby’s, which was very much enjoyed for dinner later that evening.

Would we return?

Obviously we couldn’t sample everything we wanted to at the festival, and I was also sorely tempted by Caribbean and South African stalls in particular, but we very much enjoyed all we ate and had a great time chatting to the friendly vendors. With live music and cookery demonstrations as well as an impressive collection of all sorts of food from around the world, Abingdon Food Festival was the perfect place to while away a few hours, and we will certainly return next year.


Fennel, Apple, and Cucumber Salad

I don’t post many savoury recipes on this blog, mostly because I don’t tend to cook savoury food from recipes. It’s much more about what we’ve got in the cupboards, and what I fancy tossing into the pot that I think might taste good. Translating that into recipes for blog posts is tricky, because I don’t tend to make something in the same way twice and I’ve usually forgotten how I made a meal by the time we’re eating it.

Also, most of the time I have no idea what I am doing. With cakes, it feels more like a science to me. Add x, y and z and mix to the power of n to make blueberry muffins. The outcomes feel more predictable with desserts than savoury dishes, although I admit that’s partly because I cook proper meals so haphazardly most of the time.

But mainly, it’s because by the time I get dinner ready, we’re far too hungry to hang about while I photograph it. For dinner this evening, we had chicken wrapped in streaky bacon, stuffed with spinach and goats’ cheese and roasted in homemade garlic butter. It tasted pretty great, but I can’t do a blog post on it because it never got photographed before being fallen upon by ravenous coyotes (or, more accurately, James and I at 9pm after a really long day).


This salad feels like a cheat of a blog post, to be honest, because it’s not even really a ‘recipe’. All you have to do is chop things up and chuck them in a bowl.

Still, it’s delicious and healthy and summery, and I make it all the time, so I thought I might as well post it to break up the endless parade of cakes, if nothing else.


Notes: Obviously you don’t need to worry massively about quantities here. Use your best judgement.


1 large fennel bulb
1 eating apple (I use Jazz apples here, partly for the pleasing colour contrast of their red skins with all the green, and partly because they provide a good balance of sweetness and sharpness)
1/2 cucumber, seeds removed
1 lemon
5 tbsp good quality olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh dill


  1. Slice your fennel as thinly as you reasonably can, and chop your apple and cucumber into small matchsticks. There are probably julienne peelers or mandolins or something that would do this job admirably, but I just use a knife. Pop the fennel, apple, and cucumber into a bowl and mix them together.
  2. Juice your lemon, and mix it with around 5 tbsp of your good olive oil. Feel free to use more or less as you wish – you want to coat the salad well without drowning it. Toss the fennel, apple, and cucumber in the lemon and olive oil mixture. Season well with salt and pepper, then toss again.
  3. Top the salad with some fresh dill. Cover, and chill in the fridge until needed. I find this salad is best served cold.

See? There was hardly any point at all in me writing that. You could have worked it all out from looking at the picture.


Peach, Raspberry, and Almond Loaf Cake with Cream Cheese Topping

I am not musical at all. I love music, but I can’t read it or produce it in any way. I can’t sing, or play an instrument, or keep time very well. I can’t even dance.

Yet, every Monday, you’ll find me at band practice.


When James and I first got together, I knew he had an unruly folk band. I’m still not totally sure how many people are in it – twelve? thirteen? – because people come and go, and it’s never really clear what everyone’s status is at a given moment. There are people on maternity and paternity leave. People get jobs that take them away from the band for a while, like being in other bands, or taking acting jobs, or working abroad. And that’s part of the joy of the band. You don’t quite know who is going to turn up to a rehearsal, but it’s always enough people to make some sort of music.

I fluttered around the periphery of the group for a little while, and then I starting going to the rehearsals. I initially thought my being there would be a bit pointless. What was the use in showing up when I couldn’t play a thing? But I just sort of… kept going. I sing along in the loud bits where hopefully no one can really hear me, and I mess around with the simplest percussion instruments, and I force huge amounts of food on everyone. I take photographs and videos at gigs and have people round for dinner and go to band parties. Mostly, I chat to people.


The band is a mongrel mash-up of members from completely different backgrounds. The age range spans about thirty years. Some people are trained classical musicians who have jumped from those hallowed heights into folk’s cushioning, beery embrace. Some people are self taught musicians who can’t read music but can play along with anything from Bellowhead to Beethoven to Björk by ear on five different instruments. Some people are scientists, some are actors. We have a counsellor and a software QA engineer, a publishing professional and a policeman.

Even though I’m not really ‘in’ the band, I am at least with the band. I’ll see and talk to people socially, outside of rehearsals. I’ve helped some of them move. They’re all invited to our wedding.

Less than two weeks ago, a band member gave birth to an absolutely beautiful baby girl. I am one of those incredibly annoying people who will coo over babies for hours until their parents gently prise them from my arms so that they can, you know, go home and get some sleep, so I have been ridiculously excited about this pregnancy and the imminent arrival of the baby for months. Tomorrow, I get to go and meet her for the first time.

Of course, I’m not going empty-handed. I asked if I could bake a cake, and the request came in for something summery, with peaches. I couldn’t quite find a recipe that I liked the look of enough to fit the bill, so I made up my own.


Notes: The core of this cake is similar to a Madeira cake, but with a higher proportion of almonds than you would normally find, and no lemon or other citrus because I wanted the peaches and raspberries to shine through. It’s essentially a cake for summer fruits, fairly light and very moist, and content to be the background for whatever delicacies you fancy – apricots, nectarines, plums, blueberries, strawberries…

If you fancy making this, please don’t skip the almond extract in the topping, because it’s really important to the flavour of this cake. I buy it at the local Sainsburys, so it shouldn’t be hard to get hold of.


for the cake

175g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175g sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
100g ground almonds
150g self-raising flour
2 large or 3 small/flat peaches, fairly ripe
100g raspberries – either fresh or frozen is fine

for the topping

50g butter
150g full fat cream cheese
50g icing sugar
1 tsp almond extract
handful of toasted almond flakes
handful of freeze dried raspberries (not essential, but pretty)


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4. Find your largest loaf tin (mine is 30cm x 15cm), and grease and line it with parchment paper. Beat your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in your eggs, followed by the vanilla extract. Fold your almonds into the mixture, then sift your flour and salt together and fold that in too.
  2. Cut your peaches into fairly chunky slices, and pop them in another small bowl with your raspberries and around 1 tbsp of flour. Shake it all about a bit so the flour lightly coats the fruit (it will help to stop all the fruit sinking to the bottom of the cake). Fold the fruit into your cake mixture, then dollop the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth over the top. Pop it in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the cake is firm and golden and passes the skewer test. Let it cool for ten minutes, and then get it out the tin and let it cool completely.
  3. Make your topping. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until it’s soft, and then beat in the cream cheese. Sift the icing sugar into the mixture, fold it in roughly, and then beat it properly until the mixture is smooth. Add the almond extract and beat once more. When your cake is completely cool (absolutely and completely – I have learned this the hard way many times), spread the topping onto it, and sprinkle it the cake with your toasted almond flakes and freeze dried raspberries.