Monday, 31 December 2012

PISTACHIO TART - a recipe for a very Happy New Year!

Pistachios and orange

As Teen V sits in the other room shelling pistachios and watching Lord of The Rings, I take a moment before I start to bake.

I can’t believe it’s nearly a year since I started Not Just For Rabbits.

I started tentatively not knowing if anyone would actually read it, other than my family, and a few close friends, but little by little it has grown, the hits gone up massively, ok not quite on the scale of the girl who posted photo’s of her school dinners,  but people are coming to the site from all round the world.

 It’s a  fantastic compliment, thank you.
It seemed fitting that it’s New Year’s Eve and this is my 60th post.

There have been so many highlights to this year it is hard to choose just a few.
2012 started in Wales on the beach with friends and finishes snuggled up at home with the rain lashing outside.

Wales 2012

As I look back over these pages I appreciate all the new experiences and tastes we have had, from the sweetness of Sicily, to the adventure of fishing for our supper in North Usit. Catching lobster and scallops on my birthday!

 Not to mention the simple pleasures of picking one’s own beans, baking fresh bread and meeting other bloggers at the Mums Net Blog Fest. Then there was catching up with old friends in Paris, the lazy lunches and tasty breakfasts- that fig and nut bread was amazing!!Thank you S. The suppers with friends locally and so much more..

 It has been hard with Teen V still recovering slowly from glandular fever, trying to help her appreciate the small progress she makes when everyone around her continues life at twice the pace. Her life will be very different this year as she keeps off the treadmill of school and exams for a while longer. Time for new things, exciting opportunities as she gets her strength back.

In the past at New Year I have made the French Galette du Roi, the traditional epiphany cake. It reminds me of another life, a long time ago, with its delicate frangipane and puff pastry. This year, inspired by my discovery of all things Sicilian I decided to try something new. Torta ai pistacchi or pistachio tart inspired by the recipe by 
Giorgio Locatelli in his Made in Sicily cook book.. a real must have book.

It combines nuts, with ricotta and a hint of citrus and looks amazing. Hence Teen V is sitting shelling piles of pistachios for me as I type.

Salted Pistachios

Shelled pistachios


Serves 8
Preparation time 15- 20 minutes
Cooking time 30 minutes
Cooling time 1 hour plus


For the paste:
300 g shelled pistachios
75g caster sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1 egg

Pistachio base

For the filling:
400g fresh ricotta
100g caster sugar
Zest of lemon
75g dark chocolate grated
2 eggs medium

To decorate:
100g of pistachios and candid pistachios and a tbsp of sieved icing sugar.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees c

1.     Mix all the ingredients of the paste together and then line the base and sides of a loose bottomed baking tin or lined pie/flan dish.
2.     Put in fridge to cool and mix together all the filling ingredients.
3.     Spoon into the lined base and then bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven cool in the tin/dish before taking out.
4.     Decorate with lines of pistachios and candid pistachios if you have them.

It is very simple to make, especially if you buy pre shelled pistachios or have a willing helper.

Pistachio Tart

To you all, where ever you are and whatever you are doing
THANK YOU for reading.

 I look forward to sharing more recipes and snippets of life with you all 
in 2013.



Saturday, 15 December 2012


Thai Prawns and spinach with noodles with GOURMET GARDEN Herbs and spices

Yesterday when the postman knocked I was more than pleasantly surprised to receive a lovely present from the GOURMET GARDEN Herbs and Spices Company.

At this time of year the post seems to be all Christmas cards, bills and if they’re lucky, presents for the younger members of the family. So to see something for me was a real bonus, especially as it contained a selection of their lovely fresh herbs and spices.

The GOURMET GARDEN have come up with a great idea by putting fresh basil, garlic, coriander and ginger to name but a few, in tubes that make life very easy avoid all the mess and smell of chopping up mounds of garlic etc.

GOURMET GARDEN Herbs and spices

We decided that the garlic paste, which tastes so fresh, would make garlic bread even easier to make. Teen V though a tablespoon of that mixed into some butter and slathered in a French stick would be a brilliant alternative to having to chop endless cloves of garlic.

As we have been beset with colds and flu here we decided to test the potency of the Thai spices along with the garlic and ginger so decided to create a Thai prawn noodle dish.

I’m all for using the real thing when it comes to food and seasoning, as any of you who have read this before will know, I actively encourage everyone to make their own where possible and today was no exception.

GOURMET GARDEN Herbs and spices


Preparation time 5 minutes
Cooking time 8-10 minutes
Serves 4


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2tsp of Gourmet garden fresh garlic
3tsp of Gourmet Garden fresh ginger
2tsp of Thai spices
1 small onion
1 tsp turmeric
1 litre of fish stock
1 stick of lemon grass chopped
1 pack of cooked tiger prawns
1 160 g small can of coconut cream
1 250g pack of spinach snipped into ribbons
100g of thin egg noodles


1.     Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and add the onion, ginger, garlic, and lemon grass and cook gently for 3 minutes.
2.     Add the Thai spices and fish stock and then stir in the creamed coconut and tumeric.
3.     Hydrate the noodles in a dish of boiling water separately and snip the spinach into the pan and simmer for about 2 minutes.
4.     Now add the prawns to the mix, drain the noodles.
5.      Add them to the pan and stir for about 3 minutes until everything is piping hot.  
6.       Serve and eat..with forks and spoons to spoon up all the delicious juices.

EASY and delicious even with a cold!

NJ4R'S Thai prawns with spinach and noodles 

So if you want fresh herbs that will keep up to 3 weeks refrigerated I recommend you give them a try.


Sunday, 9 December 2012


Advent calendar at Not Just For Rabbits

“When are we getting our Christmas tree?”
 is the question we are bombarded with daily as soon as the 1st door on the Advent calendar is opened.

Not wanting to peak too soon we normally wait until school breaks up, but, a few years ago I left it too late. I couldn’t find a tree for love nor money. Everywhere had sold out.

 I remember driving round with tearful little ones until we found a droopy tired old thing that just didn’t look right and was probably going to be thrown out it was so misshapen.

Christmas grotto!

It has never been forgotten.

Christmas trees from Scotland. 

To avoid a repeat disaster I got up early this weekend to get a tree on the understanding that we might not put it up for a few more days. My logic is I need to clean a bit before we put the tree up...sometime soon!!

Not Just For Rabbits Christmas tree felling!!

Teen V, who is slowly making progress from the glandular fever, had a little energy and decided to get us into the festive spirit by making ginger biscuits.

We have a tried and tested old favourite recipe from
 The Good Housekeeping COOKERY BOOK 
that I have had for years and is great. I have put a link to Amazon  here if anyone hasn't discovered these classic books. My battered hardback is out of print but they have several other classic cookery books that are good no nonsense recipes.

So if you are trying to ease gently into Christmas and want something easy for children, teens or yourself to make that is suitably festive I can recommend these.  

Here is the recipe..

Christmas trees, snowflake and reindeer gingerbread


Makes about 40-50 biscuits depending on the size of the cutters!
Takes about 15 minutes to make and cut
Cooking time is under 10 minutes per batch.

12 oz plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 oz butter
6 oz light soft brown sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
1 egg beaten

dough and cutters


1.     Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line 2 or 3 baking sheets with baking paper.
2.     Sift the bicarbonate of soda, ginger and flour into a bowl. Rub in the butter until it looks like bread crumbs.
3.     Stir in the sugar then beat the egg and mix to form dough.
4.     Knead until smooth then divide into 2 pieces and roll out on a lightly floured work top until about 0.5 cm.
5.     Using the cutters of your choice press out lots of festive shapes, place on the prepared baking sheet then bake for 10 minutes.
6.     Remove from the oven and then cool on a rack. If you want to decorate with icing go for it.

festive gingerbread

Of course by the time I had sampled a few of these delicious biscuits there really was no time to get the tree we have that excitement for another day! Yes!!!


Thursday, 6 December 2012

VEGETARIAN HOTPOT - An easy one pot supper recipe

Vegetarian one pot hotpot

“Why do I need those?” Teen V asked as I threw a pile of cookery books on her bed the other day.

“To choose what you fancy for supper.” I smiled hopefully.

“I don’t mind, anything!” She said with a distinct lack of interest as she turned back to whatever she was looking at on the laptop.

I sighed.....

 “Well, choose 3 or 4 things, I’m out of ideas.” I said as I walked off to check the endless to do list.  

As I sipped a coffee later I pondered that what I needed were a few simple one pot suppers that could be prepared ahead of time and be ready for those cold evenings.

Ideally I want easy, delicious recipes, that are cost efficient, and feed quite a few as we seem to be gathering extra’s at the moment!

On my return a few hours later I was pleased to find several pages marked out as potentials. They ranged from soufflés to hotpots. Several of them needed herbs from the icy garden 

Thyme from the garden

We made our own version of vegetarian hot pot with cheese triangles, from the 330 Vegetarian recipes for Health published by Hermes House.


Vegetarian Hot pot with cheese triangles

Serves 6
Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 40 minutes


 2 or 3 slugs of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
1 large onion
1 lb or 450 g of potatoes peeled and chopped into chunks
12 oz carrots peeled and chopped into chunks
150 g celeriac
6oz mushrooms
300g sweet potato peeled and chopped into chunks
2 large leeks
1 courgette
 1 pint of vegetable stock
1 tbsp of tomato purée
400 g tin or carton of tomatoes
2 tbsp of fresh thyme
400g tin of borlotti beans drained and rinsed
 Salt and pepper to taste

For the cheese triangles
4oz butter or margarine
8 oz self raising flour
4oz grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp fresh chopped chives
Splash of milk

Plus a little extra cheese to grate over the top if required.


1.     Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat the oil on the casserole dish and fry the onion for a couple of minutes before adding the chopped potatoes and garlic.
2.     Add ALL the root vegetables and stir for a couple of minutes before gradually adding the stock, tomato puree and tomatoes.
3.     Bring to the boil then cover for 5 minutes, then place in the oven for 25 minutes.
4.     Now prepare the cheese triangles. In a large bowl put in the butter and part of the flour and gently rub together. Add half the cheese and the chives and keep combining until you have mixed in all the cheese, flour and chives to form a dough. You might need a splash of milk to help this.
5.     Then roll it into a 1 cm thick slab and cut into triangles.
6.     Remove the casserole form the oven stir in the rinsed beans and place the cheese triangles on top. Then return to the heat without the lid on for a further 20 -25 minutes.

The final verdict was really tasty; some of the assembled grated additional cheese on the top but most of us preferred it as was intended.

Vegetarian Hotpot

It’s healthy, easy to make, not expensive and is a real one pot supper. 

If the meat eaters feel hard done by by this glorious concoction of veggies then a selection of tasty quality sausages roasted in a dish at the same time would go very well!!


Sunday, 2 December 2012


Au Petit Versailles bakery Paris

As I trudged along our local high street yesterday morning past the growing number of charity shops and bars to the last remaining grocers I was struck by the huge difference between here, and the street on which my friend lives in Paris.

 She’s also in a residential area but they still have lots of small independent shops and numerous bakers. My recent visit saw me idly sampling bread and patisseries from as many local shops as I could in a weekend!

My favourite has to be Au Petit Versailles du Marais Patisserie in rue Francois Miron.
Only in Paris do the bakers have chandeliers and elaborate painted glass tiles!

Au Petit Versailles Paris

They treat food like we treat precious jewellery and life style shops.

Customers purchasing bread in Paris

How did we as a nation get so far removed from our food when a few hours away in France they still have local bakers that produce fresh bread several times a day? 

How did we become more accustomed to buying our bread ready sliced and in a plastic bag when our European cousins still value freshly baked loaves?

French bread shop

Listening to the Radio Four food Awards today gave me hope that there are still pockets of people who value real food and are making fresh healthy options, but sadly for most of us they seem to be the exception. Sadly there isn’t anyone doing that near where I live.

So if you want an easy bread recipe that will remind you of life elsewhere, here is a recipe for French Bread.


Preparation time 5 minutes and 1 and ½ rising time
Cooking time 30 minutes

11 fl oz (1 1/3 cups) water- slightly warm
450 g (4 cups) unbleached strong white bread flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp dried yeast


1.     If using a bread machine put the water in first then the flour and put the salt and yeast in separate corners then put on a dough cycle.

DON’T WORRY  If you don’t have a bread maker put the flour in a bowl with the salt mix the yeast into the water and then gradually mix the water into the the flour and combine the mixture by hand until it becomes a gloopy mass.

Cover and let rise until doubled in size, this takes about 1 ½ hours.

2.     When the dough has risen or the cycle has finished remove it from the pan or bowl and put it on a lightly floured work top and knead gently for a minute or two until the air has been knocked out.
3.     Lightly grease a baking sheet and shape the dough on it and leave for about ½ until the dough has risen again.
4.     In the mean time pre-heat the oven to 190. When the dough has risen to nearly twice the size again pop in the middle of the oven and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
5.     Remove from the oven when it is golden and hollow when you tap the bottom and let cool on a wire rack until you want to eat it.

  I let it spread rather than confine to a baguette shape.

Home made French bread. 

 It only has a few simple ingredients, with no nasty hidden preservatives so it does need eating in a day or so, unlike the supermarket packet bread that scarily seems to keep fresh for days.... I am still trying to keep Teen V on healthy immune boosting food to combat the lingering Glandular fever so this recipe is a welcome break from the wholemeal and grainy nutty breads I have been making,
 and makes delicious French toast!