Saturday, December 16, 2023

Weekend Cooking: The Vintage Village Bake Off by Judy Leigh

The three Rankin siblings are all at a bit of a crossroads in their lives. Hattie has recently been divorced from her husband of nearly 50 years. He was a very objectionable man who right from the beginning has demeaned Hattie and reduced her self confidence to nothing. Now that she is free from him, she is beginning to realise how badly he had been treating her and is relieved that he ran off with Linda from the bowling club. 

When her sister Bunty turns up completely out of the blue with a new lover in toe, Hattie's life is turned upside down. Bunty has always been a bit of a whirlwind, but Hattie is surprised to find out that she has left her husband. It soon becomes very clear that three is a crowd and something has to give so Hattie decides to go and visit their brother in Devon.

Robert is a retired head teacher who enjoys growing his own produce and then cooking up a storm. Recently, he has come to the attention of a number of women in town who find the idea of a man who can cook VERY appealing, although he is a bit oblivious to the fact that he has suddenly become so attractive to the opposite sex. It's definitely not something he is used to. 

Soon Hattie is beginning to fit in the community, and her confidence is growing. Bunty is re-evaluating some of her choices and Robert's baking skills come to the attention of a local journalist. Before he knows it he is involved in a bake off against a skilled baker from Cornwall. After all, this is a chance to answer the age old question of whether you put jam and then cream on a scone (as they do in Devon) or the other way around (Cornwall). For me, it is a no brainer. It is always jam first! Every time!!

I have read a number of Judy Leigh books now, and this is my favourite! I loved the way we saw the characters growing (especially Robert and Hattie), and the sense of community coming together that we saw throughout the book. If I was going to use one word to describe the book it would be fun. And you can tell that the author has had a bit of fun with this book too. For example, all the animals that Robert has all have cute names. Two of the goats are called The Great Goatsby and Vincent Van Goat, and the cat is Isaac Mewton!

Which brings me to a recipe to share. Given that there is a scone bake off, it might have been more obvious to share a scone recipe. There were some truly delicious non-traditional scone flavours in the book which might come in handy for International Scone week later in the year. For example there is a ginger scone that Robert makes. Instead I am going to bring you something different.

Tomorrow night we are having Christmas family dinner with the kids (most of them anyway). Our menu is prawns for starters, then pork roast with caramelised apple (based on this recipe) and a roast chicken (based on this recipe) with various side dishes, and then for dessert I am going to attempt to make the following recipe.

In the book Robert makes a pavlova to take to the gardening club meeting so I am not going completely rogue. He is happy to hand whisk his eggs. I, however, am more than happy to let my mixer do all the hard  work

Raspberry Swirl Pavlova Wreath (Donna Hay)


225ml egg whites (about  6 eggs)
1½ cups (330g) easter sugar (Superfine) 
1½ tspn white vinegar
2 tspn cornflour (cornstarch)
1½ cups (375ml) single (pouring) cream
250g raspberries
2 tbspn shelled pistachios, finely chopped 
1 tbspn freeze-dried raspberries, finely crushed (optional) 

Raspberry swirl

½ cup (65g) frozen raspberries
2 tbspn caster (superfine) sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract

To make the raspberry swirl, place the raspberries, sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3–4 minutes or until slightly reduced. Strain into a heatproof bowl, discarding the seeds, and refrigerate until cool.

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F). Draw a 22cm circle on a sheet of non-stick baking paper and place it on a baking tray. Place the egg white in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking for 30 seconds before adding more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk for a further 6 minutes or until stiff and glossy. Place the vinegar and cornflour in a small bowl and mix to combine. Add to the meringue and whisk for 2 minutes or until glossy and combined.

Place 12 heaped spoonfuls of the meringue mixture on the tray around the inside of the circle to create a ring. Drizzle the raspberry mixture over the meringue and use a teaspoon to create a swirled effect. Reduce the oven temperature to 120°C (250°F) and bake for 1 hour or until crisp to the touch. Turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven with the door closed.

Place the cream in a clean bowl of the electric mixer and whisk until soft peaks form.

Place the pavlova wreath on a cake stand or plate. Top with the cream and sprinkle with the raspberries, chopped pistachios and freeze-dried raspberries to serve. Serves 6–8

We will be skipping the pistachios due to the nut allergy in the house, or maybe I should put some on the side. We'll see.  I am crossing everything that my version looks somewhat like Donna Hay's version.

Here's a video showing what it should look like.

I am sharing this review with Foodies Read at Based on a True Story

Weekly meals

Saturday -  Out for dinner
Sunday -  Roast beef and gravy rolls
Monday - Beef and Broccoli Noodles
Tuesday - Chicken Shwarma
Wednesday - Butter Chicken
Thursday - Out for dinner
Friday - Takeaway

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page


  1. I'm wondering what gravy rolls are, mentioned in your weekly meals.

    1. If we do our food shopping later on a Sunday afternoon, then we quite like to buy a pre-cooked hot roast, bread rolls and a microwaveable gravy and have that for dinner. It is one of our favourite Sunday night meals

  2. That raspberry swirl is so festive!

    I wrote about Mary Berry's Ultimate Christmas this week:

    1. Oh, I will be over to have a look!! Thanks for sharing your link even though I clearly forgot to put the linky up this week.

  3. Your dessert looks lovely! Have a great week ahead! I am sharing the most delicious potato dish, because not every main dish served, had gravy!

  4. It turned out quite well I think!!

  5. I picked up this book for my Kindle after reading several good reviews on the book. It will be one of the first books I read next year.

  6. I don't like nuts in my desserts but that pavlova sounds awesome! I bet those tiny silver balls would look even better than pistachios. I hope it turned out well. I have been printing out a lot of recipes but the one I really want to make is from King Arthur:

    1. I went with little bits of mint!
      That coffee cake looks great!