A New Look at British Cooking

A friend of mine, Jo Hiestand, writes two fabulous mystery series set in village England. (You can find her at http://www.johiestand.com/.)  Her Taylor and Graham series highlights different British customs and holidays.  Her readers requested more information on the holidays and the foods favored for each.  A recipe book, Cider, Swords & Straw (subtitled: celebrating British customs), was her answer to their requests.   The book’s chapters on British holidays and cherished foods are organized monthly with full recipes given for each food mentioned.

Full disclosure here, I have a long standing distrust of English foods.  Somehow I had learned early on that their food was bland and boring, i.e., something to be avoided.  Since I acquired this book, however, I’ve decidedly changed my mind.  So far I have only tried a few recipes, but I—and my family and friends—have enthusiastically enjoyed each dish.  As a result, I’ve decided to try one or more recipes each month and report on my new food adventure into traditional British foods, as given in Jo Hiestand’s book Cider, Swords & Straw.  Some items will be breads or muffins, but others not.  I will chronicle my food journey here.

By the way, if you’ve followed my bread blog in the past, you know I often cannot make a recipe without changing something.  If I do this, I’ll alert you to the change.  All original recipes, of course, can be obtained in her book.

I hope you come along with me and try some of these recipes.  If you do, let me know what your reaction was, any changes you made, and how you and yours enjoyed (or not) the results.

I started with the September chapter and made Lentil Cream Soup (p. 330), Lemon Plus Muffins (p 338), Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake (p 340), and Scotch Whisky Oatmeal Cookies (p 346).  The first three were quite successful, the fourth—the Scotch Whisky Oatmeal Cookies—was just so-so.  The latter may have been my fault; I replaced the flour with white whole wheat flour and the ½ cup of granulated sugar with ¾ of ½ cup of blue agave.  If you try this one, let me know what happened with your cookies!

Here are the Lentil Cream Soup and Lemon Plus Muffins I made.  For the cake, I followed her recipe exactly.

 Lentil Cream Soup:

The first time I made this soup (it was so popular, I already had to make it again!), I pretty much followed the recipe as given.  However, I did add more lentils, and whipping cream, and replaced the chicken stock with veggie broth.  Also, rather than slice the vegetables, I put everything through the food processor.  Since I fell in Hawaii (great trip otherwise!)

Lentil Cream Soup

Lentil Cream Soup

and messed up by back, etc., I am now into seriously trying to simplify cooking steps and ease the amount of time I have to stand in one place.  The food processor works wonderfully well and I highly recommend it for making this soup.


2 cups lentils

¼ pound carrots

¼ pound onions

2 stalks celery

1 small turnip

2 Tbl butter

4 cups vegetable broth

2 ½ cups almond milk (you can use regular milk)

1 round tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 cup whipping cream


Rinse the dried lentils in a colander.

Cut up all vegetables, using the food processor’s slicer attachment.

Melt butter in large pot and add vegetables.

Cook for approximately 10 minutes, stirring as needed to keep them from sticking.

Add stock, milk, lentils and seasonings.

Bring to a boil, then simmer until lentils and vegetables are cooked—at least 30 minutes or as lentils require.

Add cream—carefully and slowly to avoid curdling the cream.

Garnish with parsley before serving.


A big hit with everyone.  Simple ingredients, but the soup has a come-back-for-more character.

Lemon Plus Muffins:

I love lemon in cookies, pies, breads, muffins, whatever.  Often, however, I am disappointed with the strength of the lemon flavor.  Not so with these wonderful creations.  Lots of full, tart lemon flavor.  Enjoy!



1 ¾ cups white whole wheat flour

¾ cup sugar

1 Tbl grated lemon peel

1 tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

8 oz Greek lemon yogurt

6 Tbl butter, melted and cooled

1 egg

1 Tbl lemon juice

Glaze: [note: do NOT skip the glaze, it adds much of the lemon’s flavor to the muffins]

1/3 cup lemon juice

¾ cup sugar

2 tsp grated lemon peel

Directions for Muffins:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In large bowl mix the 5 dry ingredients above and make a well in the center.

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, butter, egg and lemon juice.

Pour the liquid mixture into the center of the dry mixture.

Stir just until blended.

Pour batter into muffin tin lined with muffin/cupcake cups.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until done. [test with toothpick, which should come out clean]

Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer onto wire rack.

Pierce 6-8 holes in each muffin.

Generously drizzle each muffin with HOT glaze.

Serve at room temperature.

Directions for Glaze:

In small saucepan, combine and cook the glaze ingredients over low heat.

Stir frequently until the sugar dissolves.


Fabulous.  Has to be one of my, now, all-time favorite lemon muffins!

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