Auld Alliance Apple cake

This is one of my favourite ‘standby’ recipes adapted from an original recipe for French vanilla apple cake , (which can be found here) but of course  couldn’t just leave it alone .

I added a little ( quite a lot) of cinnamon and a tiny bit ( well maybe more than a tiny bit)  of whisky and the ‘Auld Alliance apple cake was born!)

This is equally delicious served warm with cream, custard or ice cream or completely alone with a nice brew.



1 cup  / 125 g all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick / 1/2 cup/ 115g unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup / 130g granulated sugar (plus more for sprinkling over cake)

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp whisky

3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tbsp ground cinnamon ( in large zip lock bag)


Preheat the oven to 350°F / gas mark 4. Grease a 9-inch springform or regular cake tin with butter or nonstick cooking spray or use baking parchment to line the tin

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy ( about 3 minutes )

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add 1 tbsp of your flour with each egg.  Beat in the vanilla and whisky.

Don’t worry if the batter looks grainy at this point; that’s okay.

Add the remainder of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.

Place the apple cubes into zip lock bag with cinnamon and shake vigorously until apples are coated in cinnamon

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chopped apples.

Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and even the top. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.

Bake for about 40 minutes, (or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean)

Allow the cake to rest in tin for 10-15 mins then turn out on to a cooling rack




Freezer Friendly Instructions: The cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, cover it tightly with aluminium foil or freezer wrap. Thaw overnight on the counter top before serving.


I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do. A real ‘tea-time’ standard in HillyWillys Kitchen

See you next time.

Chickpea and Rosemary crackers

For context the year is 2020, the month is March, the mood is ‘isolation’.

Isolation can bring inspiration ( or desperation depending on results) to your baking. With a surfeit of both time and chickpeas I threw caution to the wind and chickpeas in a blender.

The result was a delicious healthy snack that is both gluten free and vegan. Well until you smother them in cream cheese.

So without further ado….

ckick pea crackers 1


200g of chickpeas. Soaked overnight, rinsed, dried and refrigerated for at least 1 hr.

1tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2-3 tsp coconut oil ( olive/ sunflower/ soya oil will be fine as a substitute)

This is all you need to make the basic cracker – you can add almost anything according to your taste.

I used :

1tbsp dried rosemary

1 tbsp dried onion

1tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground ginger


Preheat oven to gas mark 4 / 180 /  350 /

Line a flat baking tray with baking paper

Put chickpeas in a blender and blitz till your hearts content! I opted for a course texture with a few larger chunks ( because I’m impatient )

Scrape into a bowl and add add everything else apart from the oil and mix well

Add the oil gradually until the mixture comes together

Tip the mixture onto baking paper

Spread evenly with your hands until about 1/2 cm thick. If you are more patient than I you could place a sheet of baking paper over the mixture and even out the bumps with a rolling pin

Score into squares and place in the middle of the oven for 12-15 minutes.

Remove when edges are golden brown. Let rest on the tray for 5 minutes and cut along the score lines. Rest for a further 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack .

Let cool completely and try not to scoff the lot in one sitting!

ckick pea crackers 2

Happy healthy snacking 🙂




Nutella* Brownie Bars

So many apologies for not posting recently, but I hope you will forgive me when you see what I’ve got for you today 🙂

My friend posted a recipe link on Facebook and I just couldn’t resist…

I made them but found they were a little too squidgey for my liking and the modification began 🙂

They are so simple to make and ideal for a kids baking project. Small person whipped them up in a matter of minutes.

200g of nutella*
2 medium eggs
200g flour
20cl milk

*nutella is of course a brand name, but most supermarkets will sell this as chocolate hazelnut spread.

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mush them all together until well mixed.

This is where you can add a handful of whatever you like to give it a little texture. I halved the mixture and added a handful of crushed peanuts to one half and a handful of sugar balls ( more usual on the top of cakes I know, but they make a really fun multicoloured interior for small people)

Stir any of your extra ingredients into the mixture and it’s ready to be baked.

If, like me, you have two flavours but only one want to do one bake, just line your tin with paper as normal, but make a peak fold in the middle and voila, as they say in these parts, you can fill up each half with a different mixture.

Bake at 200 degrees for around 20 minutes, until you can poke it with a cocktail stick and it comes out with a tiny smudge of mixture on it. You have to make sure you don’t over bake this as it is supposed to be slightly gooey in the centre.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer onto a cooling rack. As tempting as it is to dive straight in it’s best to try and wait at least 30 minutes so they don’t crumble too much when you cut them.

When cooled, cut into bars or squares and store in an airtight tin.


**more pictures will be uploaded as soon as small person has stopped hogging the pc 🙂

Couscous Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

My Small person announced in the supermarket the other day that she ‘really liked that frilly kind of cabbage’. When I picked myself up off the floor and put the savoy cabbage in my trolley it occurred to me that there are quite a number of leaves a whole cabbage and only 2 people in our house at the moment so I had better come up with some cabbage recipes quick smart.

My big sister has also been asking for some good low fat healthy recipes, not something HillyWillys kitchen is known for, so I thought I should try and come up for something for her as well. Hopefully she’ll like it as much as small person did.

This is a great tasting low fat dish on its own as a starter or served with a green salad and coleslaw as a main. If you happen to have any parcels left over wrap them in foil and keep in the fridge overnight and they can be eaten cold as a snack.

Couscous Stuffed Cabbage Leaves


6 large Savoy Cabbage leaves
500ml Vegetable stock
200g pre-cooked couscous*

*You can put just about anything into couscous to jazz up the flavour, but this is what I used in mine.

150g of dried couscous
25g raisins
Pinch of dried mint
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs
2tsp dried mixed pepper
(if you wish to use fresh pepper add 20g of finely chopped mixed peppers with the chopped tomato)

Place ingredients into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover and leave for 5 minutes. Once the water has absorbed into the grain stir in 1tsp of olive oil, 1tsp lemon juice and 1 finely chopped cherry tomato .

Take the cabbage leaves and cut away the hard white stalk
Image. Drop the leaves into boiling vegetable stock and blanch for 1 minute ( if you are using red or white cabbage you may have to leave for an extra minute) until slightly softened.


Take each leaf ( bring together the two edges where the stalk was cut away so you have a solid flat leaf ) and place a small amount of couscous in the middle of the leaf.


Wrap the leaf into a small bundle by bringing the bottom of the leaf up to cover the filling, then fold in the left then right sides and roll the bundle upwards.

Tightly pack the stuffed leaves into an oven proof dish and cover with the stock you used to boil the leaves. Cover and place in a 200 degree oven for 25 minutes. Uncover and cook for a further 10.


If you wish you can serve with a spoonful of low fat crème fraiche or a sprinkle of grated cheese on top.


A Bientot.

Chocolate Lime Macaroons

Well hello there. It’s been a while I know, but I just haven’t been feeling the baking mojo of late. A seemingly endless round of family illness and grotty cold weather had left me feeling rather uninspired.

The good news is that this week the sickness has abated and I’m slowly getting back into the kitchen 🙂

My first post flu cravings were for comfort and sweetness. What better than a coconut macaroon to cheer me up. But, as it’s me in the kitchen, it’s a coconut macaroon with a twist. Of course I turned to chocolate as a first choice, but i thought this might make it a little sickly and there was a little extra something needed to take the edge off so I dabbled with a little lime. The results were just what I needed.

This is a very simple recipe and quite quick to make too. They are ideal as a biscuit replacement with your afternoon cuppa, but pretty enough to be served at a high tea.

Chocolate Lime Macaroons

2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
160g desiccated coconut
Grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime ( reserve the rest in case your mixture isn’t quite wet enough)


200g dark chocolate

50ml single cream

Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix together. The best way of doing this is with your hands. It will feel very dry to start with but you really need to squeeze the ingredients till they start to come together. If it’s not pressing together add the reserved lime juice 1 tsp at a time.


Turn out your mixture onto a greaseproof sheet and press it firmly into a square about 1 cm thick.
Take a small cookie cutter and press firmly into the mixture.
Very gently transfer to a lined baking sheet. You will need to be quite delicate when easing the shape out onto the tray as this is a VERY crumbly mixture.

Keep cutting and repressing your mixture until it is all used. I had enough to make 24 hearts.
Place the tray in an oven preheated to 180degrees for 10- 15 minutes, just until the coconut has started to brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool on the tray for 5 minutes to allow them to firm up a little before placing on a wire cooling rack.
When the macaroons are completely cool melt the chocolate and stir in the cream until it is completely blended.
Dip the macaroon in the chocolate ganache and place onto greaseproof paper  until the chocolate is set.
These can now be kept for up to a week, ( if you have a stronger will that I ), in an airtight container.
A Bientôt.

Marvellous Moreish Muffins

I haven’t actually been in the kitchen very much of late as my lovely hubby has been cooking up a succession of delicious curries and Thai dishes for us, I’m hoping he’ll guest spot here one day with his fabulous spicy pork salad but up till now he can’t be persuaded.

That said I have been allowed in to make the odd dessert or two and I have found one of the simplest and most reliable muffin recipe I’ve ever used. And this is what I’m going to share today. This is a quick bake too- no more than 30 minutes start to finish.

This is so simple and delicious that it’s great for novice bakers, kids and old hands alike, and the variety of flavours are as limitless as your imagination!

I will start by giving the plain muffin mix recipe and method then go through a few variations after. These ingredients are enough for 6 large muffins. If you happen to have run out of muffin cases then it works just as well in cupcake cases and you will get 10 ( guess how I found that out!)

Marvellous Moreish Muffins.

In a Bowl

150g Plain Flour
1tsp baking powder

In a large Jug

1 egg
60g sugar
2tbsp oil
100ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
ingredients (Now for the chocoholics amongst us if you want to make chocolate sponge as well, simply replace 25g of your flour with cocoa powder)
Mix the egg,milk, oil and sugar together in the jug.

Pour the egg mixture into the bowl gradually and mix until combined *
Spoon mixture into cake cases and put the tray in the oven at 160C for 20 until set and cracked at the top if not quite set put back in for a further 5-10 mins
So the plain muffins are delicious, but they are well, plain so let’s have some fun!

*Just before you spoon the mixture into the cups is a great time to start being creative. You can add just about anything here, chunks of fruit, chocolate, nuts or combinations of all 3 of those things. I have found that around 100g of ‘extras’ is about right, but if you are adding things like oats or desiccated coconut you may need a tiny bit more milk as they will absorb some of the moisture in your mix.
(Now for the chocoholics amongst us if you want to make chocolate sponge as well, simply replace 25g of your flour with cocoa powder)

Here are a few flavours I’ve already tried;
Oatmeal honey and raisin
Apple and cinnamon
Chocolate chunk
Chocolate cranberry and coconut.
Marvellous Moreish Muffins
I’m quite sure I’ll be making more, I’m already tempted for a chocolate and orange, but do let me know what flavours are your favourite.

A Bientôt

Speedy Spicy Tomato Carrot & Apple Soup

There’s nothing nicer on a drizzly damp night than some spicy home made soup, and it just so happens that’s exactly what we had for tea tonight.

There’s also nothing nicer than something that only takes 20 minutes to prepare and cook.

So here is a very quick recipe for a very quick meal.

Tomato and Apple Spicy Soup

1 Onion
2 tsp Tomato Puree
200g ( half a tin ) Chopped Tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 Potato
4 Carrots
1 Apple
1l Vegetable Stock
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper

Roughly chop the onion and put in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, tomato puree and sugar. Stir well until the onions are coated in the puree then add the chopped tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
cook tomatoes and onion
Roughly chop the carrots, potato and apple and add to the pot, stir well for a couple of minutes and add the vegetable stock and cayenne pepper.

roughly chop veg
Boil for 15 minutes until the veg are tender then blend. Serve up with a splash of cream or a dollop of creme fraiche and some warm crusty bread.
serve with creme fraiche or cream
Simple, quick and delicious.

A Bientot.

Parslip* Soup

This year has been a complete disaster in the garden, after a tiny crop of early radishes we have harvested close to nothing from our tiny veg patch. A combination of peculiar seasonal weather and voracious insects have left slim pickings indeed. So when hubby required a leaf or two of parsley to complete the evening meal it was off to the market we had to go. I don’t know if it’s the same in the UK, but here in France it’s almost impossible to buy a small amount of parsley, and the bunch we were left with after the required leaves had been plundered was … rather large.
parsleyNow if you are a regular follower of this blog you will already know that I loathe throwing anything away, but what to do with a big bunch of parsley on a chilly autumnal weekend ? I went through, and rejected, a few ideas involving breads and pestos and plumped for one of my favourite standbys; soup.


But parsley on it’s own would be far too strong a flavour and it needed something that would compliment the slight sweetness of the herb, but not overpower it. Tricky.

My musings were put to a decisive end at the supermarket when we all got very excited to see that they had on sale the seldom seen pleasure of ‘Panais Anglais’. Now whilst that may sound rather exotic and strange it is quite simply the humble parsnip.

Parsnips are not a usual feature on the supermarket shelves in this part of France,  (they are traditionally grown as donkey fodder rather than for human consumption!), but as the influx of ex-pats to the region grows ever larger so has the demand for this ‘strange’ delicacy. The suffix of ‘Anglais’ has been added not as point of origin, but as an indication of who will most likely be buying them.

So there was my answer, all I had to do now was make the soup.


Parslip* Soup.

3 tbsp olive oil
100g of leek, roughly chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
50g of Parsley,  with stems removed ( reserve a few leaves for garnish)
200g of chopped Parsnip
1 apple, diced
1 l of vegetable stock

Warm the oil in a large pan the add the chopped onion, leek and garlic. Stir well then cover and sweat for a few minutes making sure the vegetables don’t start to brown too much.

Add the parsley and stir until the leaves have wilted, then add the chopped parsnip and apple. Cover and sweat for a few more minutes then add 1 litre of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15- 20 minutes.

When the parsnip has softened, blend the soup till smooth and serve immediately with a swirl of creme fraiche or cream and garnish with the remaining parsley leaves.
Parslip SoupThis is a rich, thick, slightly sweet soup which, ( in my opinion at least), is perfect for a rainy autumnal evening warmer. And its a fabulous colour too 🙂

A Bientôt

*No it’s not a spelling mistake, it’s a clever play on words.

Sweet Somethings

Sugar and spice.  But mostly ……..


I’m a relative newcomer to flavoured sugar, it’s only since I arrived in France and discovered small (and outrageously expensive) packets of vanilla sugar for sale. Of course I was curious, and then I was hooked. It took me quite a while to realise that with very little effort and expense I could have a ready supply at my fingertips by making it myself. I said I was curious, I never said I was bright.

So……. in my last recipe I used Lavender sugar and I’ve had quite a few queries about what on earth it is, where you can buy it and can you make it yourself?

Well lavender sugar is exactly what it sounds like, lavender flavoured sugar.
As to where to buy it I have absolutely no idea, which brings me rather neatly on to how you can make it. It’s really easy, and totally delicious too.

All you need is sugar, some lavender grains, a glass jar and a week or two. That’s it.

Fill a jar 1/3 with sugar chuck in a couple of spoonfuls of lavender grains, fill the jar to 2/3 with more sugar and add another spoon or 2 of lavender, close the jar and give it a good shake. Then put it in your cupboard giving it a shake every now and again and in just over a week it’s ready to use. You can tell it ready when you take the lid from jar and have a good sniff!

Now I’m quite a fan of the ‘bits’ in the sugar, but if you don’t actually want to have the grains mixed in then tie the lavender into small muslin sachets and pop them in the jar instead. It takes a little longer and a few more shakes to infuse the flavour, but works just as well. When you have used some of the sugar simply top up the jar and shake well. If you are using the sachets you will have to give the bags a little squeeze every now and again to release more of the scent.

Now I have a bit of a confession to make, I do have a small ‘problem’ with flavoured sugar. The problem is that there isn’t enough room in my cupboard for all the different varieties i have made. Once you get a taste for it ( and if you are me) the possibilities are almost endless. To date I have lavender sugar, vanilla sugar ( split a vanilla pod, bury it in a jar of sugar, shake and  leave for a week ), cinnamon sugar ( bury a couple of cinnamon sticks in a jar of sugar…. you know the rest by now ), clove sugar and chilli sugar ( I haven’t used the chilli yet, but I have an idea for it and will let you know if it works! )

part of my collection
The method for any of the citrus sugar is slightly different; zest your fruit and allow the zest to dry out before adding it to your sugar jars and this will avoid any ‘clumping’ of the sugar crystals.
For ginger sugar you can add a few pieces of crystallized ginger ( handy recipe just here ) or a couple of spoonfuls of dried ginger root powder.

If you don’t want any ‘bits’ in your sugar then simply pop the whole lot into a food processor and give it a whizz for a couple of minutes. Job done.
I’m still working on a satisfactory method for mint – I’ll let you know…

Now you might wonder what on earth you can use all these sugars for, but the possibilities are endless from simply stirring into tea or coffee to sprinkling on French toast or flavouring pastry or just about anything you can imagine.

I’m quite sure my curiosity will lead me on to many more experimental sugars, ( I’ve just discovered how to make coloured/flavoured sugar cubes, but I’ll keep that one for another time ), but if you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know in the comments box.
Its just as well my coffee consumption is sufficient to keep up the supply of large jars that I’m going to need:)

A Bientôt.

Souper simple Tomato Soup

“What would you like for lunch sweetie?”

“Tomato soup would be lovely mum”

“Sorry pickle, we haven’t got any.”

“Well there’s tomatoes in the fridge, you could just make some.”

“But I’ve never made tomato soup before.”


Sometimes I’m a victim of my own success …. A quick forage around the kitchen revealed that there was no earthly reason that I couldn’t give it a try so here we have my first ever attempt at tomato soup….

1 large onion

1 carrot

3 cloves of garlic

1 glug of olive oil

2 big squeezes of tomato puree

2 bay leaves

4 large ripe tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

1/2 litre veg stock

Chop the carrot onion and garlic and sweat in large pan with oil for 5 mins making sure they do not burn. Add tomato puree stir well till all your ingredients are coated in the puree and sweat for another 5 minutes.

Whilst doing that skin the tomatoes. Now its not entirely necessary to skin the tomatoes, but I much prefer the flavour and if you have never peeled tomatoes before it’s a LOT easier than it sounds Pierce skin of tomatoes 2 or 3 times and place in a large bowl. Completely cover with boiling water. And wait…

Not long, about 2 or 3 minutes is usually enough. Remove from the water with a spoon and simply slide the skin off the tomato. If the skin does not fall away then place back in boiling water for another minute. Easy peasy.*

When that is done, chop roughly and remove the hard stalks. Add them to the pan, give it a good stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. Now add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the 2 bay leaves, blend and serve with a generous swirl of cream or creme fraiche and a sprinkle of basil. Et Voila, as they say in these parts.

And what was the verdict? Well there was none left and it has been decided ( not by me) that when my daughters school friends next come over to tea they will be having soup. Whether they like it or not!

A bientot.

*This method also works for any similarly skinned fruit (peaches, plums nectarines and – if you have the patience-grapes too)