Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Table Decoration

I think this looks beautiful as a centre piece for the Christmas table. A collection of red fruits and dates would be enough, but I mixed mine with some golden glass fruits which were a bargain find in a second hand shop recently and a painted gold orange. A little greenery looks good too. Maybe a candle in the middle for the evening? The bonus being you can snack on it every time you pass.

Happy Christmas to everyone who has followed my blog this year. I haven't been as frequent with my posts. There are times when I wonder why I'm doing it, but even for my own reminder of recipes I find it useful. I hope there are others out there who do too. So for the moment I'll keep going, so keep reading. 

Merry Christmas and A Very Happy New Year. x

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Chocolate Brownie mix in a jar

I'm sure these aren't a new idea, but I saw them a couple of weeks ago at a Christmas fair and thought they were a good present idea. I have a few spare Kilner jars in my cupboard and had most of the ingredients required to make up the jar. I'm waiting for some walnuts to top the jar up. They are very quick to make and I think a really nice present for someone who loves chocolate brownies. The recipient just adds the eggs and melted butter to the mix and bakes. Certainly not too late to put together now if you are struggling for present ideas for Christmas, or in fact any occasion. 

Makes 16

In the Jar:
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
95 g plain flour
35 g cocoa
75 g plain flour
135 g brown sugar
150 g sugar
100 g chocolate chips
100g white chocolate chips
50 g walnuts or pecans (optional)
150g melted butter

3 beaten eggs

Layer the dry ingredients in a one litre jar, following the order above, from top, starting with the baking powder and flour. Press each layer down before adding the next. The amounts given should exactly fill a one litre jar.
Give to your friend :) Remember to include a tag with the following instructions

For the tag: Combine the contents of the jar with 150g melted butter and 3 beaten eggs. Mix well, and pour into a lined 9 x 9 inch tin. Bake at Gas 4 / 180 C (160 fan) / 350 F for 25-35 minutes.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Delia Smiths Spiced Apricot and Orange Chuntney

Looking through my faithful Delia Smith, Christmas book, I was reminded of this lovely chutney which I used to make every Christmas. That was a time before children when I used to make a lot of my Christmas gifts. There is nothing difficult or time consuming about it, so I decided to make some yesterday with the thought of presents on my mind. 
The mixture filled 3 bonne maman jars, those jars come in very handy. Add a luggage label and a ribbon and voila. 

400g no-soak dried apricots
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
225g soft brown sugar
425ml cider vinegar
1 chopped onion
50g sultanas
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 chopped cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
½ tsp of cayenne pepper
grated zest and juice of an orange

Cut the apricot into small pieces. Heat the coriander seeds in a dry frying pan, then bash them in a pestle and mortar until ligthly crushed. Put everything together into a large stainless steel saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer half-covered for 45 minutes or so. You want soft onions and fruit, but you don't want it too thick, and it will carry on thickening as it cools. Rather like a liquid jam. 

Spoon into sterilised jars. It's best kept for a month before eating, and is a perfect accompaniment with cheese and cold cuts of meat. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Spaghetti with prawns and pea pesto

A new recipe. About time too. I'm clearing the freezer to make room for some Christmas cooking. Searching on Goodfood website for a recipe with prawns and peas I came across this tasty and easy little number.

Serves 4
400g frozen peas, defrosted
½ x 300g tub garlic & herb soft cheese
zest and juice 1 lemon, plus wedges to serve
1 garlic clove, chopped
300g spaghetti
190g pack small cooked prawns 

(I used raw king prawns and cooked them while the pasta was cooking)

Whizz 300g of the peas with the soft cheese, lemon zest and juice, and the garlic. Add some seasoning, then set aside.
Meanwhile, cook pasta following pack instructions. Tip in the remaining peas 2 mins before the pasta is cooked, then drain everything and return to the pan. Stir through the pea pesto until warm and add some seasoning. Divide between 4 plates and serve with the prawns and extra lemon wedges, if you like.

Monday, 10 November 2014

A Homemade Christmas Hamper

It gets more and more difficult these days to think of gifts for people at Christmas. I'll certainly be struggling to think of anything that my children need this year. I do think that homemade gifts are extra special to give. It shows that you have put thought and effort into something. I made this hamper for my mum last year. I chose things that I thought she would definitely use and enjoy. A lot of hampers you buy are stocked with ingredients that you put in the cupboard and forget about, pickled walnuts for example. The items don't have to be too expensive, I selected some of the special range from Aldi, but mixed them with some items from M & S. All placed in a basket and wrapped in cellophane and a ribbon, the gift can't fail to please. It's a nice touch to put something a little more personal in too, maybe a photograph. My sister made a hamper for me a couple of years running and I always enjoyed ploughing through the goodies. So if you have someone in the family who is a nightmare to buy for, think about all the things they like to eat and put together your own hamper this Christmas. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cupcakes

My daughter turned 15 last week. Every year I say no more parties and every year so far I have given in. This year she invited her friends around to the house, they just hung out, sang and danced. They set themselves up with a homemade photo booth and took loads of great photos. Considering there were 26 girls, they were a pleasure to have. I kept the pizzas coming and made about 37 cupcakes. I think there were four left at the end of the night. The Hummingbird Bakery cupcake recipes are definitely my recipe of choice. I started off by putting too much mixture in the tin and they were too large, and I didn't have enough mixture to make a dozen. The mixture should make a dozen as they do rise considerably. 

Makes 12
100g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120ml whole milk

1 egg
¼ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170°C
Put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
Whisk the milk, egg and vanilla extract together in a jug, then slowly pour about half into the flour mixture, beat to combine and turn the mixer up to high speed to get rid of any lumps.
Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and slowly pour in the remaining milk mixture (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix. Divide the mixture between the cup cake cases filling to about ⅔ full and cook for 20-25 minutes. They should spring back when touched.

Chocolate frosting
300 g icing sugar, sifted
100 g unsalted butter, at room temperature 

40 g cocoa powder, sifted
40 ml whole milk

Beat the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Add the milk to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Linguine with samphire and prawns

I've just found this photo of a meal I cooked in the summer from Olive magazine. It's really quick to make about 20 minutes in total, quicker if using fresh linguine. It couldn't be simpler.

Serves 2
200g linguine
150g cooked tiger or king prawns
150g of samphire  trimmed and blanched
1 lemon zested
2 tbsp creme fraiche

Cook the Pasta and drain leaving a little water clinging to it. Tip it back into a pan and stir in the prawns, samphire, lemon zest and crème fraîche until everything is heated through. 
Season well with pepper (taste the samphire before adding any salt) and squeeze over some lemon juice. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

One pot, chicken stuffed with goats cheese and roast vegetables

A lovely, easy one dish meal, full of flavour and a good way of using up bits in the fridge the other evening.
Heat the oven to 200ºC. Cut a pocket into the side of each chicken breast and stuff with creamy goats cheese. Wrap the prosciutto ham around each breast and keep in the fridge until ready to cook. Put some new potatoes in a roasting tray and season and cover with olive oil. Cook these for 20 minutes until starting to brown. Add the chicken breasts after 20 minutes and cook for approximately 30 minutes until well and truly cooked through. Depending on which vegetables you are also using, also add to the dish in the last 30 minutes of cooking time. I added tender stem broccoli at the same time as the chicken. This ended up quite burnt and crisp, but I quite liked that. I added cherry tomatoes for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. Serve with all the lovely cooking juices.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Buttery mushroom and spinach pilaf

Olive magazine provided the inspiration for this very tasty lunch yesterday. I loved the soft boiled egg on top, which coats the rice with warm, golden egg yolk. 

Serves 2
1 onion, halved and sliced
25g butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
Basmati rice, I teacup
Vegetable stock
250g chestnut mushrooms
100g spinach chopped
2 poached eggs to serve

Cook the onion in the butter with a good pinch of salt for about 20 minutes, until dark golden brown and caramelised. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until softened and browned and there's not much moisture left in the pan. Stir in the garlic and spices and cook for a minute then tip in the rice and stir well. Measure 2 cupfuls of stock using the same container you used to measure the rice. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook on a low simmer for about 12-15 mins until the stock is absorbed and the rice tender. 
Stir in the spinach with a splash of stock and leave for a few minutes to wilt. Divide between 2 plates and top each with a poached egg. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Jamie Oliver's Bloody Mary Beef

Forgive my long absence, I've haven't been trying out many new recipes, nothing worthy of a blog anyway. Last night I cooked a meal for my mum and my sister to celebrate their birthdays. This Jamie Oliver recipe appealed to me as it could be prepared hours in advance and cooked slowly in the oven . This usually means masses of flavour and tender meat. I did enjoy it, but not as much as I thought. The meat wasn't falling apart as suggested in the recipe, it was still a bit stringy. That may have been the quality of the meat though. I think that for beef meal with wonderful flavours, you can't beat a Beef Bourguignon. However, it could be that as I had smelt the meal cooking away all day, by the time I came to eat it my taste buds had been overloaded. Everyone else thought it was wonderful. The recipe is from Jamie's new book "Comfort food. I might try it again in a slow cooker and leave it for much longer. Serve with a great pile of creamy mash and some greens.

Serves 8

1 x 1kg piece of brisket
olive oil
head of celery
4 small red onions
half a bunch of fresh rosemary (15g)
2 fresh bay leaves

Bloody Mary mix
1 x 700g jar of passata
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
few drops of Tabasco sauce
3 tbsp vodka
1 tbsp port

Preheat the oven to 130ºC. Place a snug-fitting casserole pan over a medium heat to get hot. Season the brisket all over with salt and pepper, then add to the hot pan with a splash of olive oil and cook for about 10 minutes, or until gnarly and browned all over. Meanwhile, trim and chop the celery into 5cm chunks, then peel and quarter the onions. Add the chopped veg to the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes, or until slightly softened.

Combine all of the Bloody Mary ingredients in a large jug, then pour into the pan with 500ml cold water and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Make a bouquet garni by tying the rosemary and bay together with string, then add to the pan and bring everything to the boil. Take the pan off the heat and cover with a cartouche – this is basically a scrunched-up piece of greaseproof paper that you place directly on the surface of the food. Cover the pan with tin foil and cook in the oven for 5 to 6 hours, or until the beef is tender and falling apart.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Hummingbird Bakery Apple Streusel Cake

For those of you who are lucky enough to have their own apple trees, or have access to home grown apples, this recipe is a great way to use some of them up this Autumn. I have posted this recipe before, but  after making the cake the other day I was reminded how delicious it is. Especially served warm with some creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream. The following link will take you to the recipe, Apple Streusel Cake .

Monday, 15 September 2014

Pasta with butternut squash and pancetta

Due to the drop in temperature and a definate autumnal feel today, it seemed quite apt to be cooking this meal with butternut squash. It's a new recipe I found on the GoodFood website. I used bacon instead of pancetta, but think that pancetta would have been a better choice. I also tweaked the recipe by roasting the squash, garlic, chilli and rosemary in the oven, seasoned and drizzled with olive oil. I just added this to the bacon when it was crispy and mashed the squash slightly at that stage. I then added the pasta and the spinach and combined all the ingredients.

Serves 4
½ x 160g pack pancetta di cubetti
1½ tbsp olive oil
750g butternut squash, deseeded and cut into 2cm cubes
2 rosemary sprigs, leaves finely chopped
¼ tsp chilli flakes
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
350g fusilli bucati (or fusilli)
100g young leaf spinach, roughly chopped
grated Parmesan, to serve

Tip the pancetta into a large frying pan set over a medium heat and cook for 5-8 mins until really crisp. Remove using a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the oil to the pan, along with the squash, rosemary, chilli and garlic. Cover and cook for 25 mins, stirring now and then, until the squash is tender. Season well, and gently crush some of the butternut squash with the back of a spoon.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil 15 mins before the squash is ready, and cook the pasta following pack instructions. Drain, reserving the cooking water. Add 1-2 ladles of pasta water to the squash and let it bubble for a few mins. Tip in the drained pasta and toss together. Stir through the spinach, then divide between plates. Sprinkle over the pancetta, some grated Parmesan and a good grinding of black pepper.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Citrus salmon with crushed new potatoes

I have been neglecting my blog a little recently. I have cooked two new recipes this week. The first I didn't feel was tasty enough to blog. Last nights stir fry meal was lovely, but didn't photograph well.  This salmon meal is one of my family favourites and one I have blogged a long long time ago. I cooked it again last week, so this photo is just a reminder and a way of moving on from the picture of the sausage bake. Which quite frankly readers must be sick of looking at now. The following link will take you to the recipe. Citrus salmon with crushed new potatoes. 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Tuscan style sausage bake

This meal is a new favourite, with such wonderful flavours and it's ease of preparation. My sister in law cooked it for me from a Marks and Spencer recipe app, and I cooked it for friends a few nights later. We both roasted some new potatoes in a separate dish, but these could also be done in the same roasting dish if the dish is large enough. Add the potatoes first and cook from raw for about 10-15 minutes before adding the sausages.

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
8 pork sausages
500g vine cherry tomatoes
1 red onion, cut into thin wedges
2 red or yellow peppers, deseeded and cut into large chunks
60g pitted black olives, drained
150ml hot chicken stock
400g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
small bunch of fresh basil
Heat the oven too 220°C. Put 1 tbsp olive oil in a large roasting tin and heat in the oven for 5 minutes. Carefully add the sausages and roast for 10 minutes until browned, turning half way. Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes, onion, peppers and olives in 1 tbsp oil and season well. Tumble into the roasting tin and re-arrange the sausages on top. Roast for 15 minutes, turning the sausages half way.

Pour the hot chicken stock around the vegetables, add the butter beans and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the sausages are cooked through and the vegetables are tender.  Sprinkle over the red wine vinegar and a handful of fresh basil leaves to serve.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

An easy summer lunch for 10

Sometimes the thought of cooking for 10 people can seem quite daunting. At a recent family gathering, I decided to make it an easier affair by including lots of salads in the meal, so the actual amount of cooking was minimal. Also a meal like this is perfect for summer lunches.

Lunch comprised of a large nectarine and feta cheese salad. 

A sliced tomato salad with basil and parmesan, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned well.
A homemade coleslaw, sliced white and red cabbage and a red onion chopped. Mayonnaise, lemon juice, seasoning and some cider or white wine vinegar. 
A gorgeous date salad, which I had at a friends house for lunch and pinched the recipe. See the following link for the recipe, Date and spinach salad
All of the salads could be prepared in advance (without the dressing on the leafy salads) and stored in the fridge until needed.
I cooked two free range chickens side by side in a large roasting dish and a pile of roast potatoes.  I spooned off some of the chicken juices to coat the potatoes to give them that extra wonderful flavour. Once the chicken is ready and left to rest the potatoes can be turned up to finish off and get that crunch. All that is left to do is carve the chicken and dress the salads.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Salad Nicoise

I do like to return home after a holiday. It gives me great pleasure landing on home turf. I've only been away one week, but tonight look forward to my own bed and all that is homely and familiar. I have just spent a week in Nice with my family, I loved the city, but not the food. There's lots of tourist trap restaurants, which unfortunately we seemed to stumble upon. I ended up self catering on a few evenings as we were nearby to a decent supermarket. As Nice is the home of salad Nicoise and the one I had in a restaurant was very average, I made my own version one evening. I enjoyed it much more without the inflated price tag. There are lots of variations on this recipe I'm sure, but my version was fairly simple.

Serves 4
Salad leaves of your choice
1 tin of tuna
I tin of anchovies
4 boiled eggs, quartered
8 tomatoes quartered
A vinegarette dressing

Optional Additional ingredients:
Green beans 
new potatoes
broad beans

Monday, 21 July 2014

Strawberry Vacherin

If you can make meringues then this dessert won't be too much of a challenge. I thought it was a change from my normal Pavlova, but looks equally as impressive. The recipe is from Olive Magazine.

Serves 8
4 egg whites
100g caster sugar
100g icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Strawberry cream;
400g strawberries, 4 -5 finely chopped and the rest hulled
300ml double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

On a piece of non stick baking parchment draw out 2 rectangles 20cm long by 10cm wide, spacing them apart. Heat the oven to 120ºC.
Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks then beat in the sugar in 4 batches. Then fold in the icing sugar in 4 batches. Add the vanilla. Spoon the mixture into a large piping bag fitted with a wide, straight edged nozzle. Pipe the meringue in longs stripes onto each rectangle, making sure the stripes rest alongside each other so there are no gaps. Pipe any remaining meringue onto a separate sheets in small rounds, no more than 1.5cm across and flatten any peaks with a wet finger. Bake the buttons for 30-40 mins and the rectangles for 1 - 1½ hours or until they sound crisp when tapped. Leave to cool in the oven.
Whip the cream, vanilla extract and icing sugar then fold in the chopped strawberries.
Lay one rectangle on a plate and spoon some strawberry cream down the centre, add a layer of sliced strawberries and some blobs of strawberry cream on top, then put the top layer of meringue. Spoon the rest of the strawberry cream into a piping bag and pipe blobs all over the top (I just spooned it on), then add slices or quarters of strawberry and meringue buttons. Serve with any remaining strawberries.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Griddled nectarine and feta cheese salad

The marriage of fruit and cheese is always a good one, so when I saw a recipe for a similar salad I had to give it a try. The salad could be made with peaches and I would think other cheeses such as goats cheese or mozzarella would be equally as good. 
Simply fry or griddle the nectarines and add to salad leaves of your choice and chopped feta. Lovely with a drizzle of balsamic glaze. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Malted banana ice cream

I have had a mere taste of this ice cream, but enough to know what a great, easy recipe it is. Another use for those very ripe bananas. I am into my fourth week of dieting. I feel like I have given up practically everything I like and I'm not seeing a massive difference. Still every little helps and I'll keep making the treatie things for the other members of the family and look on longingly.
I found the recipe on a blog I follow called 'Delicious, Delicious, Delicious'. My daughter claimed it was the nicest ice cream she had ever had!

300ml of double cream
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
4 tbsp of horlicks
1 can of condensed milk (397g)
2 tbsp of vodka (optional, but will keep the texture smooth for longer in the freezer)

Whisk all the ingredients together until thick and airy, then freeze in a suitable container. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Tandoori Chicken

It takes minutes to prepare this low fat chicken tandoori. Five minutes in the morning before work, and dinner is prepared ready to cook for the evening. The chicken was incredibly tender, due to the marinating. I added a little red food colouring to the marinade, I think this is how they get the strong red colour in Indian cooking. I served mine in a pitta bread, with wilted spinach and fried onions.
I used the leftover pieces for the kids packed lunches the next day, which was a change from the rather dull sandwiches they usually take.

Serves 4

4 tsp of tandoori curry powder
1 tsp of ground cumin
Juice of a lemon
1 large pot of low fat yoghurt
1 clove of garlic
4 chicken breasts
A little red food colouring (optional)
1 tbsp of vegetable oil

Mix the tandoori curry powder, cumin, lemon juice, yoghurt and garlic. Cut the chicken into 2 cm cubes, coat thoroughly in the mixture and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the marinated chicken until slightly cooked, about 2 minutes on each side. 
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Transfer the chicken to the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Baked yoghurt chicken with rice and a side salad

I haven't posted any recipes this week, as I am still using following the Tesco diet website as a guide to cutting down a little on the calories. I feel if you are following a food blog you don't really want to look at a load of low fat recipes. I miss eating what I fancy, I love good food and I love wine and restricting myself is very tough. However, I have made this low fat recipe twice now and have really enjoyed it. It doesn't feel like you are scrimping on flavour and satisfaction. The cakes and treatie things are on hold at the moment, but give it another couple of weeks and I'm sure I'll be back to my old ways. 

Serves 4
125 ml of greek low fat natural yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 pinch of chinese five spice
1 pinch of chilli powder
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
juice of a lemon

Mix together the yoghurt, spices, soy sauce and garlic. Score the chicken and squeeze over the lemon juice. Mix the chicken with the yoghurt mixture and leave in the fridge to marinade for 3 hours.
Heat the oven to 180ºC. Bake the chicken on a baking tray placed on greaseproof paper for about 15 -20 minutes until cooked. Serve with brown rice and a side salad of your choice.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Baked white fish with a tomato and raisin topping

I have reached that point where I realise that I eat far too much and really should cut down a little. At least I'm trying this week, so my recipes are lower fat as I am using the Tesco diet plan as a guide. This recipe can be made with cod or haddock. I couldn't bring myself to pay the extortionate price for tiny cod fillets today, so I bought the haddock instead. This recipe is a blast from the past, it's very simple and would be equally as nice served with some brown rice instead of potatoes.

Serves 4
4 pieces of firm white fish
olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 tsp of sugar
A pinch of oregano
A tin of tomatoes
Salt and pepper
A handful of raisins

Heat the oven to 180ºC. Fry the olive oil in a heavy based pan and fry the onion, garlic and sugar until cooked and slightly caramelised. Add the oregano, seasoning and tomatoes then simmer slowly until the sauce has reduced.
Cook the fish in the oven, dotted with butter and seasoned, loosely wrapped in a foil parcel for around 12 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. Once the fish is cooked, plate and top with some of the tomato sauce. Add some raisins and serve with potatoes of rice and some steamed vegetables. 

Friday, 13 June 2014

Malted brownies with sea salt

You can tell from the photo just how rich and indulgent these brownies are. They were a little bit more difficult to make than my usual classic fudge brownie. The malt stayed in big chunks when melting the chocolate mixture, so they required a fair amount of attention. The mixture didn't look quite right as I put them in the oven, however there were no complaints. Is there ever where chocolate brownies are concerned? The recipe is from the April edition of Olive Magazine.

Makes approx 15
200g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
100g milk chocolate broken into chunks
250g butter
325g soft light brown sugar
5 tsp malted milk powder of Horlicks
4 large eggs
150g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
a couple of pinches of sea salt flakes
ice cream to serve

Heat the oven to 180ºC and line a 20 x 30cm baking tin with baking parchment. Put the chocolate, butter, sugar and malt powder in a saucepan and gently melt together, stirring occasionally. Lift off the heat and leave for 5 minutes before the next stage.
Beat the egg, one by one, into the chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon. Sieve over the flour and cocoa and stir in. Scrape into the tin and scatter with a couple of pinches of sea salt flakes - just a little. Bake for 30 minutes on a middle shelf, then cool completely before cutting into squares or chill overnight for slightly firmer brownies. Serve with a scoop of ice cream.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Chocolate & ginger refrigerator squares

I was looking for a dessert that required no cooking to make on holiday last week. Lazy I know, but holiday cooking should be easy. This was just perfect, everyone loves chocolate and with the use of a food processor it was made and in the fridge in 10 minutes. This recipe is also from the Goodfood website. 

300g ginger nut biscuits, roughly crushed
140g crystallised stem ginger, finely chopped
300g plain chocolate
100g butter, diced
100g golden syrup

Line a 20 x 30cm tin with baking parchment. Mix the biscuits with most of the ginger, then set aside. Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth and glossy. Pour this over the biscuit and ginger mixture and mix together well.
Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and sprinkle over the reserved ginger, then flatten the top lightly – it doesn’t need to be completely smooth. Chill for at least 2 hrs, or overnight, before cutting into small squares.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Honey, mustard & crème fraîche baked chicken

This is another of those super meals, where you throw it all in a roasting dish and bung it in the oven. We all loved it, and it was very easy to prepare. It's garlicky, mustardy and sweet all at the same time, and those flavours go wonderfully together. I used chicken breasts instead of the thighs and drumsticks, I'm not a fan of chicken drumsticks. The recipe is from the GoodFood website. 

Serves 4
4 tbsp crème fraîche
2 tbsp grainy mustard
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150ml chicken stock
8 skin-on chicken drumsticks and thighs
500g baby potatoes
200g green beans
2 tbsp clear honey
½ small bunch tarragon, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 200ºC. Mix together the crème fraîche, mustard, garlic and stock with some seasoning. Arrange the chicken, skin-side up, in a roasting tray just large enough for the chicken and vegetables.
Tuck the potatoes and beans in between the chicken pieces. Pour over the stock mixture then season the chicken and drizzle with honey. Cook for 40-45 mins until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes tender. Scatter over the tarragon before serving.

Note: Having made this again at the weekend, I increased the amount of sauce, It is a really good sauce, so the more the better. I couldn't get hold of fresh tarragon and the dish was every bit as nice without it.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Proscuitto, mozzarella and rocket panino

These grilled sandwiches made a delicious supper a few evenings ago. For four sandwiches you will need 4 ciabatta rolls, 2 packets of mozzarella, a packet of rocket and some proscuitto ham. Slice the ciabatta in half and lay the mozzarella in thin pieces on one of the halves. Top with the a couple of slices of ham and a pile of rocket. Season and drizzle olive oil over the rocket. Using a griddle if you have one, a frying pan if not or even better a panini maker, heat the sandwich until the mozzarella starts to melt and the bread becomes toasted. 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Tonno e fagioli, tuna and beans

Not to be recommended if you are planning on getting up close and personal with someone, otherwise try it for an easy summer lunch. In the absence of cannellini beans I used chickpeas and I only had tinned tuna.

Serves 6
1 - 2 fat garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
600g canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 red onions thinly sliced into petals or 6 small spring onions sliced
400g best quality tuna 
A few handfuls of fresh basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the garlic on the chopping board, crush with the flat of a knife, add a large pinch of salt, then mash to a paste with the tip of the knife. Transfer to a bowl and add the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of oil and beat with a fork.
Add the baens and onions and toss genttly. Taste then add extra oil and vinegar to taste.
Drain the tuna and seperate into large chunks. Add to the bowl and turn gently to coat with the dressing. Top with the basil leaves anf black pepper to serve. 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Sweet Potato cakes

In future if I had the decison of making these again or just cutting up some sweet potato wedges, I think I might go with the latter. I liked them, but they were very messy to make and quite difficult to manouevre once they were in the frying pan. I did try to work with the sweet potato while it was still hot, the recipe does say to leave it for an hour to drain before mixing.  They may have been easier to make if the mixture had been cold. The recipe came from a cookbook called 'Plenty' by Yotam Ottolenghi. Saying that, as a meat free meal, they were substantial and flavoursome. 

Serves 4
1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 tsp soy sauce
100g flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
3 tbsp spring onion, chopped
½ tsp fresh chilli, finely chopped (or more, to taste)
Lots of butter, for frying or oil

For the sauce:
50g Greek yogurt
50g sour cream (I left this out)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Steam the sweet potato until soft, then drain in a colander for an hour. Meanwhile, whisk the sauce ingredients until smooth and set aside. In a mixing bowl, work all the fritter ingredients by hand - it should be sticky, so if it's a little runny, add some flour. Do not over-mix.
Dip your hands in water and shape walnut-sized balls with the fritter mix, then flatten so you have round cakes around 5cm in diameter and less than 1cm thick. Place on an oily surface.
Melt some butter in a nonstick pan. Using a fish slice, lift the cakes in to the pan and fry on moderate heat until you get a nice, brown crust, turning as necessary - about six minutes. Place between two sheets of kitchen towel, to soak up the excess butter. Serve hot or warm, with the sauce on the side and a crisp green salad.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Spicy pork and aubergine

There are some recipes I long to try, but I know that they wouldn't be popular with the children. I don't think they would have particularly enjoyed this one. I bought some aubergines with a vegetarian recipe in mind, I'll try it soon as it sounds lovely, it has mangoes and noodles, with a lime, coriander and basil dressing. Sounds perfect for summer. However last night I decided to try this one instead from the Goodfood website. The kids were out for tea and the sun was shining, we had our first meal in the garden this year in the warmth of the evening sun. The meal was perfect, not a curry as such, more like a North African tagine. 

Serves 4
1½ tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 small aubergine (about 250g/9oz), trimmed and diced
500g lean pork fillets, trimmed of any fat and sliced
2 sweet red peppers, seeded and cut into chunky strips
2-3 tbsp mild curry powder
400g can plum tomatoes
150ml water
cooked basmati rice, to serve

Note: I added a red chilli for extra spiciness, fry it with the onions and aubergines if using.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan with a lid. Tip in the onions and aubergine and fry for 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and golden brown.
Tip in the pork and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown. Mix in the pepper strips and stir fry for about 3 minutes until soft.
Sprinkle in the curry powder. Stir fry for a minute, then pour in the tomatoes and water. Stir vigorously, cover the pan and leave the mixture to simmer for 5 minutes until the tomatoes break down to form a thick sauce (you can add a drop more water if the mixture gets too thick). Season with salt and pepper and serve with basmati rice.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Baked chicken and peppers with almonds

Meals like this are just the best when you're not in the mood for cooking. It's not really cooking, just a bit of chopping, mixing and assembling ingredients. The recipe is another from the Goodfood website, which I find a godsend when you are stuck for ideas. I left out the almonds as I didn't think they would be necessary. Also my husband has just had a brace fitted and is struggling with textures of food. 

Serves 4

500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 medium red onions, cut into thick wedges
500g small red potatoes, cut into thick slices
2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into thick slices
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp each ground cumin, smoked paprika and fennel seeds, slightly crushed
3 tbsp olive oil
zest and juice 1 lemon
50g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
170g tub 0% Greek yogurt, to serve
small handful parsley or coriander, chopped, to serve

Heat oven to 200C. Place the chicken, onions, potatoes and peppers in a large bowl and season. in another bowl, mix together the garlic, spices, oil, and lemon zest and juice. Pour this over everything and spread the mixture between 2 baking trays.
Roast for 40 mins, turning over after 20 mins, until the chicken is cooked through. Add the almonds for the final 8 mins of cooking. Serve in bowls with a big dollop of Greek yogurt and some chopped parsley or coriander.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Cheesy Nachos

I spent a lovely day shopping in London on Saturday with my daughter and my sister in law. We were in desperate need of a sit down and a cocktail by the time we had walked the entire length of Oxford street. We ordered a plate of nachos with our cocktail which I tried to recreate at lunch time today. I cut some flour tortillas into triangles and baked them in the oven until they started to crisp. I sprinkled them with cheddar cheese and chopped jalapenos and put them back in the oven until the cheese had melted. I used a ready made salsa, some half fat creme fraiche and a chopped avocado to top the nachos. I think the bar we visited used something else for the nachos as they were much crisper than mine, perhaps corn tortillas. However mine tasted wonderful. 

Friday, 9 May 2014

Tomato, pepper and orange soup

This is an extremely quick soup to make, using mostly store cupboard ingredients. A serving is only 120 cals which appealed to me, although eating chocolate cake after it kind of defeats the object. The recipe is from a book called '101 easy recipes, Low GI', by Lynda Brown, 

Serves 4
3 fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)
400g jar of roasted peppers
2 tsp golden caster sugar
1 litre of tomato juice (I used ½ litre)
4 very ripe plum tomatoes (I used a tin of plum tomatoes with the juice)
300 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
juice of a fresh orange

Pull the leaves from the rosemary sprigs and discard the twiggy stalks. Put the leaves into a food processor, add the peppers, sugar, half the tomato juice and the plum tomatoes and whiz together until slightly chunky.
Sieve the mixture into a pan (I didn't bother sieving it) and stir in the stock, orange juice and the remaining tomato juice. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Season with plenty of black pepper to serve.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Pasta with mozzarella, mint and tomato sauce

The other evening when my fridge was very bare I searched the goodfood website for a recipe with pasta,tomatoes and mozzarella. I was lucky enough to have the ingredients for this very fresh and summery pasta dish. I'm not much of a gardener but do have an abundance of mint, which is spreading like wild fire and some chives growing in the garden. It would make a lovely pasta salad to accompany a BBQ as well as being a meal in itself. 

Serves 4
zest and juice 1 lemon
1 red onion, very finely chopped
400g spaghetti (and pasta will work)
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
4 tsp small capers
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
pinch of sugar
500g red ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered
bunch mint, leaves torn
handful chives, snipped
1 or 2 x 125g balls buffalo mozzarella, depending on how lavish you feel


Put the lemon juice and zest into a large bowl, tip in the onion, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside for 10 mins, to let the onion soften a little.
Boil the spaghetti for 10 mins. Mix the oil, capers, chilli and sugar into the lemony onions, then season generously.
When the pasta is ready, drain, toss with a splash of oil, then let cool awhile. Put into the bowl with the dressing, tip in the tomatoes and most of the herbs, then toss well. Tear in the mozzarella and toss ever so gently. Put into bowls, top with more herbs and drizzle with more oil to serve.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Salt and pepper chilli prawns

This was another attempt at recreating a favourite starter from a local restaurant. I think it was just luck that I cooked the prawns for the right time and they were incredibly succulent. The coating on the prawns is extremely light and the flavours of the garlic, chilli and spring onions come together to make a wonderful dish which I'll be doing again soon. I found the recipe on the Ocado website. 

Serves 2

2 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
16 few drops raw king prawns, peeled and deveined
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 fresh hot red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
6 spring onions, cut into 5cm pieces, then halved lengthways
1 splash dark soy sauce, to serve


In a bowl, mix together the cornflour, salt, and cracked black pepper. Add the prawns, and toss until well combined. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chilli, garlic, and spring onions, and stir-fry for 3–5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and cover with a lid to keep warm while you cook the prawns.
Heat the remaining oil in a separate frying pan over a high heat. Add the prawns, and cook for 3–5 minutes, tossing them gently until they are completely pink.
Remove the prawns from the pan with a slotted spoon, and divide among 4 serving plates. Top with the chilli and spring onion mixture, and serve immediately with a splash of soy sauce.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Quick fresh fruit brûlée

This is a cheats version of creme brûlée, which I find quite difficult to make. It's made by mixing a tub of fresh custard with a tub of mascarpone cheese. Top with fresh fruit of your choice. I used strawberries and some frozen raspberries. Melt some caster sugar with a little water and heat until the mixture caramelises, just a lovely amber colour no more. Pour this on top of the fruit and leave to harden before serving.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Salmon pate

My mum makes this salmon pate quite often, but I was reminded of it at the weekend when my cousin made it for a starter. Very simply put a small packet of smoked salmon slices or smoked salmon pieces into a food processor and mix with half a tub of cream cheese. Season well and add a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve with some fresh crusty bread.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Hairy Dieters skinny lemon cupcakes

A treat without the calories of a regular cupcake. Although still 167 calories per cake. I dread to think how much a cupcake made with butter and buttercream icing has. They had a very light texture and even though I didn't have the blueberries to add, there was enough flavour with the lemon. 

Makes 12
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g golden caster sugar
100g blueberries
finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
2 large eggs
150ml low-fat natural yoghurt
2 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
50ml sunflower oil
- - -
Lemon icing
100g icing sugar
4–4½ tsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Line a 12-hole deep muffin tin with some non-stick paper cases or folded squares of baking parchment.
Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and stir in the sugar, blueberries and lemon zest. Make a well in the centre.
Beat the eggs with a large whisk until smooth, then beat in the yoghurt, milk and oil until well combined. Stir into the flour mixture with a large metal spoon until very lightly mixed.
Working quickly, divide the batter between the paper cases. Bake in the centre of the oven for 16–18 minutes or until the cupcakes are well risen and golden brown. Transfer them to a wire rack and leave to cool.
To make the lemon icing, mix the icing sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth and runny. Using a spoon, drizzle the icing over the cupcakes and leave to set for at least 30 minutes before serving.