The coffee lover’s dream
Almond and vanilla cookies
Perfect for dunking
Apple pie with flaked almonds
baked in a skillet
Avocado baked egg
High protein, full of goodness
topped with sausage & focaccia croutons
Some of you may have seen something similar to this in M&S’s new season range. My Mum brought one home to try last week and I couldn’t believe she’d paid so much for something so simple. Not to mention the complete lack of sausage and dry, sauceless pasta. “I could do better”, I said. So I did.
This is a great way to jazz up a jar of store-bought pasta sauce or home-made for that matter. It turns plain pasta in to something Matt begs for seconds and thirds of. I really do get sheer joy out of watching people enjoy the food I’ve made, especially him. Yes, a bit of a mushy moment but with my Parent’s away I’m really appreciating the amount he does for me. I feel lucky.
Whilst I’m off on a tangent, I was so happy with the photo above (completely unedited) until I noticed the burn mark on the tea towel! That will teach me to start using oven gloves. It’s really niggled me but I refuse to edit it out. Perfectly imperfect? Despite the little niggle, I hope my photos get your taste buds going a little, I’m really working on improving my skills at the moment.
This recipe comes in at £4.65 (around £1.16/person) using mid range products or £2.48 using value range items at Tesco (62p/person).
To feed 4 you’ll need:
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Part cook your pasta so that it’s softened but still has bite. Whilst that’s going, remove the skin from your sausages and crumble the meat in to a frying pan, just to brown it.
Drain the pasta and stir your sauce through along with the chopped tomatoes, sausage and anything else in your fridge that you fancy. Add to an ovenproof dish and top with chopped parsley, mozzarella and the focaccia. Bake for 15mins or until the cheese has melted and has started to turn golden.
Spoon out that deliciousness. Argue over who gets the last crouton.
P.S. I’m sorry there aren’t more photos. We were both just so hungry!
ExperimentTry ciabatta croutons Got some leftover chicken? Throw that in instead of the sausage Switch the parsley for basil Use smoked sausage Hide some more veggies in the pasta – diced mushrooms, carrots or celery
with a streusel topper
Makes 16 small muffins
BBQ roasted chickpeas
High protein, low calorie
These roasted chick peas are the perfect opportunity to show off my beautiful new spice rack from John Lewis, so before we get down to the recipe LOOK:
Is that not the most swanky spice rack you’ve ever seen? I was so excited when John Lewis told me they were sending me this, it’s a complete bargain. The 20 glass jars come pre filled with pretty much every spice a cook needs to get started. If you bought the spices at the supermarket you’d have spent almost £40 and you’d be left with some kind of sadistic cupboard treasure hunt each time you needed the cayenne – much like ours used to be. The rotating base makes it so easy to find what you need and packs a lot of ingredients in to a small space.
I’d be made up if I received this as a gift, it’s the perfect kit for a new home. My Dad liked it so much he tried to buy it off me the second he saw it! As you’d expect from John Lewis, it’s really good quality and built to last. There’s plenty more spice racks to choose from if you’re in the market for a new one. Anyway, I best get on with it…
For a bowl of this delicious crunchy goodness in a barbecue spice mix, you’ll need:
400g tin of chickpeas (about 200g drained)
1/4tsp Dried garlic
1/4 tsp Onion salt
1/4tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4tsp Caster sugar
A pinch of cumin
A pinch of cayenne
Let’s get serious for a minute, because salsa is serious business after all. You can play with the recipe below so, so much. Change the chilli to change the heat. Plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes as big as your hand but promise me one thing; get the best tomatoes you can afford. Value tomatoes that look a bit pasty aren’t going to make an incredible salsa. Try to head down to your local fruit and veg shop, they’ll no doubt have better pickings than the Supermarket.To fill two 400ml jars, you’ll need: 500g tomatoes 1 onion (peeled and halved) 2 chillies (How hot would you like it? I used a purple birds eye and Hungarian hot wax) 2 cloves of garlic (skin on) a handful of fresh corriander juice of 1 lime
Begin with a dry frying pan/skillet on a high heat. Add the onion, garlic cloves and fiery hot little beasts (chilli peppers). Allow to toast, turning occasionally until blackened. Charring them like this takes some of the raw heat out of the chillies, onion and garlic by part cooking them. The chillies will be sweeter, the onions and garlic softer and your salsa, a whole lot better.
Once they’re lovely and blackened, peel the garlic and chop the tops off the chillies. Add to a blender (or use a hand held) and blitz them, no one wants to find a big hunk of garlic in their salsa.
Do the exact same thing with your tomatoes, skin on, whole, dry pan, high heat. The skins are thinner so they won’t take as long. Add those to your blender along with the coriander and lime juice. How chunky do you like your salsa? Pulse until it’s just right for you. Taste it. Drool. Add some salt if needed.
If you’re making a big batch, the amount of acid in the lime juice and tomatoes should keep this happily in sterilised jars in the cupboard for up to a year. Otherwise, store in the fridge for up to 10 days. Don’t worry, there are loads of ways to use it up, check my serving suggestions below. Let me know if you try it!
Liven up a burger Spoon over my Mexican pulled pork Stuff in to fajhitas and tacos Serve with quinoa or rice Spread on white fish and grill Use a spoonful to top nachos with a handful of cheese Dip celery or carrot sticks as a healthy snack Mix through pasta as a cheats sauce Spice up an omelette Smother over roasted new potatoes for a spicy side Top a baked potato with a dollop and some soured cream.
Brownies hotter sister?
The verdict? To me, blondies are a brownies’ hotter, more mature sister. The macadamia nuts are the perfect addition to break up the cakey goodness. I really enjoyed the bake too, they’re super easy and just what you need on a cold winters day with a cup of tea!
P.S Keep your eyes peeled for a giveaway next week, I have some baking goodies for one lucky reader!
perfect weekend breakfast
I love the sticky sweetness of the blueberries but you can easily swap them for raisins, banana or chocolate drops if you prefer. Yummy!
115g Self raising flour
A handful of blueberries
Start by separating your eggs between two bowls. Whites in one, yolks in another. With the whites, add a pinch of salt and whisk until they form peaks. In the other bowl add the flour and milk to the yolks and stir until smooth. Fold the whites in to the batter.
Heat your biggest non-stick frying pan on a low heat. I like to brush my pan with some melted butter, then plop a tablespoon of batter in. Drop a couple of blueberries in and flip the pancake when the base is golden. Once the second side is golden, you’re ready to serve.
Drizzle with maple syrup, add a dab of butter or sprinkle with icing sugar, any way is good! The only question left is, breakfast or dessert?
If you’re looking for more recipes for Pancake Day have a look on my Pinterest board. I’ll be sharing my favourite savoury pancake filling at some point over the next two weeks!
a classic pasta sauce
To feed 6 adults you’ll need:
- 1 large onion
- 2 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 Carrots
- 2 Celery sticks
- 1.5 Tsp oregano
- 1 Tsp basil
- 500g minced beef
- 800g tinned tomatoes (I like to use tinned cherry tomatoes)
- 2 Tsp tomato paste
Bramble Infused Gin
The bramble has to be one of my favourite cocktails. The fact it has gin in is always a good pointer, add to that the sharpness of the lemon and it’s a winner for me. For those that aren’t familiar it’s Crème de Mûre, lemon juice, sugar syrup and gin.
Now, I don’t have any Crème de Mûre but I do have a heck of a lot of blackberry bushes in our field. Work with what you have right? What happens if I infuse gin with blackberries, add sugar and lemon juice? Bramble gin happens.
It seems everyone has a really good crop this year thanks to the sun we’ve had, so if you’ve never been picking now is the perfect time to start. The first rule is to wear old clothes. The really plump juicy ones explode like tiny bombs of impossibly steadfast stain and if you manage to avoid that, they’ll get you with their thorny second line of attack. Long sleeves work well as protection against the scratches and if you’re picking with heavy handed little ones, disposable gloves might be a good call. My final word of advice is to always pick above waist height, especially on road sides hedgerows (think great danes wee).
If you’re reading this in the future *wavy hands* and they aren’t in season, this should work fine with frozen blackberries stocked by most supermarkets.
For every 500ml of gin, you’ll need:
Keep it somewhere cool and dark (like a kitchen cupboard) shaking once or twice a week to keep the berries infusing. Leave for around 3 months, just in time for Christmas parties.
When ready, the sugar will be fully dissolved, giving more body to the dark glossy gin. Strain through a muslin cloth or a fine sieve lined with kitchen roll in to sterilised bottles. Dish out to impress your guests or keep it hidden away all for yourself.
I’ll come back and update you with a photo when this batch is ready for drinking. I suggest trying it out with soda water, tonic or neat with plenty of ice.
Butternut squash stuffed with roasted veg & feta
only 268 cals
I’ve had lots of requests recently for veggie and paleo friendly meals, so here is my first suggestion – I hope you like it.
How beautifully Summery does that look? I was lucky to catch the weather just right today so that I could enjoy my lunch sat outside and share it with you guys. This makes a fantastic lunch and equally good side dish for those that want to add some meat.If you manage to get your hands on a large butternut squash, a quarter is more than enough for lunch – unless you’re a piggy like me. If you’re dieting, a quarter of this recipe contains 268 calories and lots of goodness.
Preheat your oven to 175 degrees and start to prep your veggies. Cut the butternut squash in to quarters (with the help of some strong arms). Scoop out the seeds (and keep to one side for tomorrow’s recipe) and a little extra flesh if the hole is small. Now score the squash with a sharp knife and pop them in the roasting tin.Dice up the scooped out flesh and add it to the roasting tin. Drizzle the whole lot with garlic oil and the thyme.Roast for 45 mins or until the squash is cooked through. At that point, scoop your diced veggies in to the squash, top with crumbled feta and return to the oven for 5 minutes.Hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy this recipe with the sun on your back and a glass of pinot – god knows we could use the weather!
Candied Bacon & Macadamia Bark
Last week I received a lovely package from Aero with some of their newly revamped chocolates and my trickiest blogging task yet. They asked me to create an obscure flavour concoction to celebrate their new makeover.
Armed with a flavour thesaurus, I set to work, mixing and matching ingredients in my head and trying to find something that would work but was still a bit “out there”. Matt’s love of bacon won and we settled on an idea for a nutty, smokey take on my peppermint bark recipe. Candied bacon and macadamia bark.
The nutty, smokey and sweet toppings are levelled by the bitterness of the dark chocolate, a concoction that works perfectly, even if you don’t expect it.
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees. Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper or a non stick sheet (you know how much I love mine, this is why). Rub the sugar in to the rashers and lay out.Bake for around 30minutes or until your bacon looks like this hunk of meaty goodness:
Leave that lovely candied bacon to cool and head to the chocolate. Set up a double boiler to melt your chocolate (a bowl set over a pan of hot water) and stir continuously until you have smooth, silky, chocolate with a glass like sheen.
Pour in to a small non stick roasting tin (I like to use my stoneware dishes for this). It’s important now to leave the chocolate to cool a little before we add the nuts and bacon, otherwise they’ll just sink to the bottom. Give it 5 minutes, make yourself a cup of tea or something.
When you come back to it, roughly chop your bacon and nuts and sprinkle them on to the chocolate. Now the hard bit, leave until it has set! If you try to break it up before then it’s not going to look pretty.
Bash with something heavy for unwieldy shards or take to it with a super sharp knife if you’d like perfect squares. Devour.
in a creamy dill sauce
I’ve been talking to the folks at Chantenay carrots this week and I’m working on some recipes to share for them. I delved in to the recipe section of their site for a bit of inspiration and came across a dish of carrots in a double cream and tarragon sauce, developed by Rachel Green. (The Chef, not the one from Friends)
“Yum”, I thought but the fridge wasn’t playing fair. I had no double cream or tarragon for that matter. I did however have some creme fraiche so I turned to my herb box to see what I could pair up. Dill seemed like the winner for a versatile side dish and half creme fraiche meant I was cutting the calories in the sauce from 280 cals to just 50. That means I can eat 5 times as much right?
As a side for four:
Boil the carrots until cooked through, drain and add back to the pan along with the rest of the ingredients. Lower the heat and stir until well combined and the sauce is glossy.
It takes less than 10 minutes to whip these up and it’s a side dish I’d happily serve guests. I served mine as part of a quick weeknight meal with sausage and mash and extra sauce for a summery take on a classic. The boy was pleased!
ExperimentSwap dill for tarragon or fennel Try adding haricot beans Add a teaspoon of honey to the sauce Make the perfect side for fish, add a squeeze of lemon
Serve withSausage & mash Buttermilk Baked Chicken Roast Chicken Baked Salmon
Chilli roasted squash seeds
After using a Butternut squash in yesterday’s healthy lunch, I put the seeds that I’d scooped out to one side to make Matt a little snack to take to work today. We’re both terrible for snacking on things so it’s nice to be able to send him to work with something homemade and healthy that I know he loves.
These little babies are jam packed with protein and very good for your ticker. A handful is 15% of your daily iron, and lots of beta carotene gives your immune system a magic boost. Wahoo!
A little bit like my BBQ roasted chickpeas, you can take the bones of this recipe and flavour it how ever you like, but as we all know, Matt loves anything spicy, so chilli it was.
Once you’ve scooped the seeds out of your butternut squash, separate the seeds from the goo (very technical terminology) and line a baking sheet. I used my cheap and trusty reusable non stick liner but greaseproof will do the job just fine.
Sprinkle the spices and salt over the seeds. Give them a jumble before spreading in a single layer. They need about 15mins in the oven at 175 degrees, just until they’re crunchy.
You can of course follow the same recipe with pumpkin or sunflower seeds but they’re both a little tough. I much prefer the butternut squash version. Let me know in the comments below if you try them!
P.S I now have a recipe page set up to give you a quick over view of the other things I’ve been up to.
ExperimentSwap the chilli/cayenne mix for smoked paprika Try sprinkling over a salad for added crunch Go with the BBQ mix I use for my roasted chickpeas
Creamy melt in your mouth goodness
Matt loves dauphinoise, in his world it goes with everything – the perfect side. In my world it’s pretty damn perfect still, but I wouldn’t pair it with fish fingers like he would (fish fingers, in my book, are pretty much forbidden anyway unless they’re home made).
Matt loves the creamy garlic and I love the way the inside almost melts in your mouth, it’s one of our favourite side dishes.
As a side for four you’ll need:
650g potatoes, I’ve used Scotty Brand this time.
1 large garlic clove
300ml double cream
Paprika & Buttermilk baked chicken
Garlic infused olive oil
drizzle… dip… cook with…
Use as a dipping oil
Use as a salad dressing
made with zero fat in 10 mins
If you’re counting calories, or just looking to rustle up a quick snack, I dare you not to love these.
Hot cross buns
One a penny, two a penny…
Put the flour, sugar, spice, yeast and salt into a bowl. Stir in the milk, butter and egg to form a soft dough. Mix in the dried fruits of your choice along with the zest of the orange.
Mine came out a little more “rustic” than I’d have liked but there are lessons to be learnt for next time. I’d definitely bake these little beauties again for their flavour alone. It looks like Baking Mad were happy with my efforts at least – this box of goodies arrived for me:
Iced Coffee Lollies
with Chocolate Nibs
Coffee is a very personal thing and when it comes to iced coffee especially, some people really just don’t ‘get it’. I’m not one of those people. I’m an iced coffee fiend and unfortunately us Brits don’t do it very well. Australia however ‘get it’. I spent my time over there hunting down the icy goodness and I distinctly remember insisting on one final sit down coffee break with my friend Dom at the airport before I left. It has become my new hot weather tradition – one that totally applies to Wimbledon.
As soon as I heard about the Lavazza, Wimbledon campaign, these were my first thought. I can really picture myself sat watching the action, one of these in hand. They’re iced coffee, but better.Appassionatamente Condensed milk Milk Chocolate drops or cocoa nibs
Unfortunately this is one of those recipes where precise measurements aren’t much use. How much of each layer you need, completely depends on the size of your moulds so you’re going to have to judge this by eye.
First up, brew your espresso in two jugs. For the lighter layer, mix up 1 shot with condensed milk. Keep in mind that condensed milk on its own doesn’t freeze, so mix in a little milk until it’s liquid. Pour this in to your moulds, and sprinkle in some chocolate. Give them 30mins in the freezer.
Flash forward and you should have semi-frozen bottom layers. Now you can mix up the rest of the espresso with a little condensed milk for sweetness, maintaining a dark colour. You should be able to pour it on top without the bottom layer mixing, then slide in the lolly stick. Ta da! Here comes the hard bit, resist eating them and put them back in the freezer until they’re properly frozen.
These are best eaten outside on the grass with a dog. Fynn won’t leave my side if I have a tennis ball in hand, or these lollies for that matter.
Whizzed together in 10mins
It’s a nutritious snack and makes a wonderful lunch but best of all it’s super easy. This is my blender version that’s cooked off in a pan rather than deep fried.You’ll need:400g drained chickpeas1/2 tsp harissa paste1/2 tsp corriander1/2tsp parsley1/2 tsp cumin1/2 tsp dried garlic (or 1 garlic clove)1/2tsp onion salt (or 1/2 a small onion)1/2 Tbsp plain flour to mix1 Tbsp plain flour for rolling
Bring a skillet pan to a medium heat with a glug of oil and fry your falafel until golden, turning as you go. When they’re ready, transfer them on to some kitchen paper to soak up any oil.
Lamb chops with salsa verde
Mexican Pulled Pork
(in a slow cooker)
To feed 6 you’ll need a 3lb boneless pork shoulder. So 2lb is there’s 4 of you or 1lb to nicely feed 2. I like to leave the fat on for flavour, but if you’re dieting you might want to remove that bit.
Next we make our rub. This is my recipe for an all round mexican spice mix. The quantities below make enough for a 3lb shoulder so adjust as necessary. Otherwise, feel free to make extra for next time, use as your own fajita seasoning or even rub in to chicken thighs before baking…yum! Just store in an airtight jar.4 Tbsp chilli powder 1 Tbsp brown sugar 2 Tsp cumin 1 Tsp garlic salt 1 Tsp cayenne 1 Tsp oregano 1 Tsp onion powder 1/2 Tsp ground cinnamon
Mix all those lovely spices up. Now rub that baby in to every nook and cranny. You might want to wear disposable gloves for this part- 3 hand washes later, rubbing my eye still stung!
Here is where my searing slow cooker comes in to it’s own. It’s time to sear the pork shoulder. If your slow cooker is as nifty as mine, you can use the liner straight on the hob. If not, I’m afraid you’ll have an extra pan to wash. So high heat, drop of oil and lightly brown all sides. Don’t those spices smell glorious?
Slow cooker time. 8 to 10 hours on low and this baby will be amazingly tender. It will probably have released a lot of liquid so take the meat out and shred elsewhere.
I’m drooling writing this up. Holy Mother it was beautiful! If you want to juice it up, spoon a little of the liquid in the slow cooker over the meat.
I served mine in tacos with home made salsa and guacamole. Matt fell in love with me a little more after this meal.
Leftovers? No worries. Portion up in to bags and freeze. Get out the morning before you need it and stuff in to enchiladas or quesadillas. Let your other half, children, guests praise your super kitchen skills.
Told you I had another Mexican style recipe in the works, I can’t get enough at the moment! This time I’m showing you a really simple, healthy lunch idea. It’s vegan, vegetarian, celiac and paleo friendly, 3 weight watchers points (some of you have asked for that to be included) and plenty of protein to keep you feeling full. Magical eh?
With a little helping from my trusty Blackened Salsa, this packs a lot of flavour.
Make ahead on Sunday night and you’re set for the next 4 days lunches, easy. It also makes a great side dish for barbecues or to liven up an otherwise plain weeknight tea. Grilled chicken breast on a bed of this? Bit of blackened salsa on top? I’m there.You’ll need to mix these up: 150g quinoa (dry weight), cooked in chicken or veg stock to up the flavour 150g sweetcorn 150g black eyed beans Handful of sugar snap peas, sliced Handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered Handful of coriander Handful of oregano Handful of parsley Juice of 1 lime
Top with a heap of my homemade salsa. Done.
Microwave Macaroni Cheese
just minutes in a mug
10. Try out some quinoa recipes
The yummiest way to cook an egg?
perfect with a brew
- Matt’s favourite biscuits are jam packed with oats. He reminded me of that fact this morning… wonder why? I set about scouring books for a suitable recipe but every time I found one we were missing ingredients. You can see where this is going… I ended up making it up as I went along and this time it paid off.
- If you’re a regular baker you get a good feel for when something is the right mix – if you’re fairly new to it though, biscuits are the best place to start experimenting. You can start with a plain mix and add in extras, trade choc chips for raisins and add a tsp of cinnamon, you’ll get the hang of it.
- If I’m baking my own cookie or biscuit mix I always put two “testers” in first to see how they come out. That way I can rescue the rest of the mixture if something isn’t quite right. If you’re having problems with your own biscuit or cookie concoctions, there is a great trouble shooter that I use here. It’ll show you everything that could possibly have gone wrong and how to fix it.
- Anyway, back to the recipe you’ll need:
- 195g self-raising flour
- 80g porridge oats
- 175g golden caster sugar
- 1.5 tsp bicarbinate of soda
- 175g melted butter
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
Pour in the melted butter and stir to combine.
Paprika & Buttermilk Baked Chicken
How chicken should be
To serve 4:
3pounds skin on chicken -I’m using breast quarters and legs
3 crushed garlic cloves
Dauphinoise and haricots verts
P.S What do you think of the “Experiment’s” section? I’m hoping to include these on most future posts if you find them helpful.
a Christmas favourite, perfect for gifting
400g white chocolate
400g milk chocolate
4 peppermint candy canes
Pesto & creme fraiche chicken
Easypeasy weeknight eat
To feed 4:
3 Chicken breasts – cut in to strips
2 Tbsp pesto
300ml Low fat creme fraiche
A large handful of spinach or two frozen cubes
A handul of baby plum or cherry tomatoes – halved
1 Tsp chili flakes
Super speedy, no rise
Before now, the thing that has always put me off making my own pizza base was having to leave it to rise. It can add an extra hour on to prep time and let’s face it, sometimes we just don’t have an hour to spare. Here’s a recipe that will skip the waiting time and leave you with a lovely thin, italian style crust.
Makes 3-4 pizzas (approx 7inch):
A drizzle of olive oil
Using a sharp knife, cut in to 3 or 4 individual portions.
Poppyseed & Lemon
As much as I love baking, it gets to Summer and I feel a little lost with it. Cake is such a comfort food that it just goes hand in hand with Winter. Wrap up in wooly jumpers and tuck in to some warm gingerbread- it just works.
We’ve been so lucky this week with weather that I think Matt & I have had it better than my Parents who are holidaying in France at the moment. So what happens when Summer finally arrives in the Lakes? Lemon muffins happen, that’s what.
They’re a long time favourite of mine and if I’m ever passing a Costa, this is what I’ll head in for, not the coffee. As with most things though, home-made is just better. I know exactly what I’ve put in these muffins. They’re made with eggs collected fresh this morning, one laid by the grumpy broody hen (pictured here) and one huge speckled egg that comes from one of our Welsummers.
Moist, light, fluffy, these are the ideal Summer bake. The sticky lemon glaze finds its way down in to the middle of the muffin, giving a real lively tang and the texture is just perfect! If I dare say it, of all the things in my recipe file, these muffins are my best bake yet.
For 12 muffins:
For the glaze:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and pop your muffin cases in your tray. If you only have the smaller cake cases, here’s a good guide to make your own from baking paper.
As you all know, I’m not one for long bakes. I like my cakes fast and simple so armed with a handheld blender, add the eggs, butter, sugar and lemon juice to a bowl and blend until combined.
Add the flour, baking soda, salt and milk bit by bit until everything has come together. Stir in your poppy seeds – watch those blighters, they get everywhere.
Now put your little bundles of lemony love in the oven for around 20mins. Just as they’ve started to turn golden on the top, whip them out and leave to cool on a rack.
Mix up your lemon glaze (literally just mix the icing sugar and lemon together). Remember this isn’t icing, we’re looking for runny and sticky so make sure it’s thin. Use a tooth pick/kebab stick/other pointy tool to poke holes in the top of your muffins. Drizzle your glaze over, letting it soak down in to the middle of the muffin and pool a little around the edges. Top with lemon zest to make them super pretty. Drool…
Potato skins with tapenade
and what to do with the rest
When I found a jar of Pink’s Smoked Tomato Tapenade in my Flavr Box I was made up! This one is a little different to the “standard” tapenade. It’s made with smoked tomatoes, parmesan and cashew nuts. Just reading the label was making my mouth water! There were so many things I wanted to do with it that I banned anyone from going near until I said otherwise.
Quarter some baking potatoes. Boil until you can easily get a knife in and out. Drain.
Scoop out the fluffy bit and mash with tapenade and a little milk. Put a good dollop on each skin.
Top with cheese. Bake at 190 until crispy and golden.
Smooth under a chicken’s skin before roasting.
Red Onion & Brie Tart
only sixty-seven pence a portion!
This is one of my favourite quick meals to rustle up at short notice. If you’re using ready made pastry (like Jus Rol), it’s prepped and cooked in twenty minutes. This tart works out at £2.70 – just over 67p per portion!
To feed four:
5 Red onions
375g Puff Pastry (rolled)
1/2 Tbsp brown soft sugar
Knob of butter
A splash of milk.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Quarter the onions and add to a frying pan on medium heat along with a knob of butter and half a tablespoon of brown soft sugar. Cover with a lid and cook until the onions have softened slightly (about 5mins).
With your pastry in the shape you’d like, transfer it to a baking tray. Lightly score a border about 2cm from the edge and brush with milk. Fill the centre with the onions (discard any liquid in the pan) and slices of brie.
Bake for 15mins or until the pastry is golden. Doesn’t it look impressive for so little work?
It makes a lovely simple starter for a dinner party, we like it served hot with a big salad for tea. If there are any leftovers (I doubt it) just pop it in the fridge, it makes a lovely cold snack the next day.
If you fancy something a little different, try pesto and goats cheese or a tomato, basil and mozzarella tart.
Slow cooked pork in cider & mustard sauce
My first meal in the slow cooker went well! This recipe started out as a BBC Good Food recipe that I played about with to match the ingredients we had on hand and has since been adapted to suit a slow cooker.
The pork falls apart in your mouth and carries the rich and flavoursome sauce really well. Thanks to my slow cooker this is an easy week night eat yet still the perfect serve for a prim and proper dinner party
Coat the pork in cornflour and add it to the slow cooker along with the cider, onion, mustard and bay leaves. Cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 6. Just before you’re ready to serve, add the chopped parsley and creme fraiche and stir through.
If you like this recipe and fancy sharing the love, I’ve added some new sharing buttons at the bottom of every post to make it a bit easier for you all.Experiment Try wilting spinach in at the end for added goodness. Reduce the calories by opting for low fat creme fraiche Serve With mashed potatoes and green beans
I’m glad we never booked a holiday for this Summer, it’s so rare we get heat like this that it would be such a shame to miss it. I’m taking full advantage of this heatwave and using the first of the seasons tomatoes in glorious sun dried fashion.
Now, I say dried but these are more sun blushed tomatoes. The type that you buy in the supermarket, kept in oil or from the deli. They’re so simple to make with a throw together marinade and they’re a great way to cling on to the best of Summers produce.
It’s not very often we could sun dry anything in the UK so I’m getting stuck in.
As I mentioned in my Blackened Salsa post, it’s important to buy the best quality tomatoes you can find. We want these to be super tasty! If I may say so myself, this marinade is absolutely spot on. They taste exactly like my favourite deli tomatoes. Drool…
To make your own sunblush tomatoes, you’ll need:500g tomatoes, quartered 2 tablespoons of garlic infused olive oil (or add 1/4 tsp dried garlic to plain) 1 teaspoon of dried thyme 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Begin by tossing all the ingredients together in a bowl. Remove the tomatoes, discarding any oil left in the bottom.
Ideally, lay out a cooling rack in a large ceramic or stoneware baking dish, place the tomatoes on top and cover with cling film. Make a small hole with a knife every 2cm. The rack gives room for your tomatoes to breathe and air to circulate, helping them dry evenly. The cling film keeps bugs at bay and the tiny holes let out any evaporated moisture.
Pop them out in direct sunlight on a hot day. Anything 23 or over should be fine in the UK. Now go and put your feet up or get on with your jobs.
The change won’t happen quickly, this is quite a lengthy process (two hot days) but little fuss is needed. It’s quite interesting to see the plain tomato transformed in to it’s sweeter, tastier, sun dried alter ego. Here’s 3 hours in. You can just start to see some signs of drying.
Obviously how long they need depends on the size of tomato and the strength of the sun that day. If you think they’re going to take longer than two days, you’ll be best off finishing them in the oven (instructions below). If they take too long to dry, you start getting in to potential nasties territory so don’t attempt to dry them outside if we aren’t in full swing heat wave.
If the sun isn’t doing it’s thing you can finish them off in an oven or just cheat all together. To be a sneaky cheater, preheat your oven to 180 degrees, lay them on a rack in a stoneware dish and pop them in the oven, turning it off as soon as you put them in. You’re still looking at around 8 hours that way but any quicker and you’d end up with tomato leather.
You keep these in the fridge for 5 days or freeze them for future use. I’m sure there’s a way to preserve them in oil in the cupboard but I’m not clued up enough on that to advise you. If you know more about it, please do leave a comment and I’ll update the post.
Serving suggestionsA great addition to salads Use to make Spanish stuffed roast chicken Try adding to spaggetti olio or other pasta dishes Add to risottos Stuff in to a chicken breast with some mozzarella, wrap with parma ham & bake Whizz in the blender to make a sun dried tomato spread, layer in sandwiches or on bruschetta Blend with chickpeas & a little more garlic oil for sun dried tomato hummus. Mix with cubes of feta for an easy side
Sesame pork noodles
in under 10mins
Where has this past two weeks gone? How are we nearly in July? How is it six months until Christmas? I’m sure as you grow older, years go by faster. Just me?
Anyway, on to the food. I think a spice cupboard says a lot about a person’s eating habits and if you opened ours, the contents would speak for themselves. Galangal, lemon grass, cumin, cassia bark, kaffir lime leaves. We love Asian food!
It makes sense then that noodle and rice based dishes are our go to when we simply don’t know what to have for tea or have things in the fridge that need using up.
This meal is packed with flavour and if you already have the store cupboard items, it’s very cheap. These noodles are so easy tea to whip up on weeknights when time is short. Tonight we enjoyed ours on the patio, catching the last of the day’s sun. It was bliss!
First up, get your noodles going. I like to cook mine in stock to make them extra tasty. They’ll take around 3-5mins, but don’t worry, we’ll be done in that time.
Heat a little groundnut oil in a wok. I’m choosing groundnut oil because it’s almost entirely flavourless and won’t taint the meal we’re about to cook and can handle the intense heat of a wok. Sunflower or Rapeseed are also great alternatives.
Add the garlic, ginger, chilli, pork and sugar.Stir fry until the pork is cooked through and nicely browned. Whilst your doing that, set your sesame seeds to toast in a dry pan – keep an eye on them, they’re done when they turn golden brown.
Add the soy, sesame oil and fish sauce to the wok. We’re adding the fish sauce at the end because we don’t want to fill your kitchen with it – straight from the bottle it doesn’t smell very pleasant but it adds something unmissable to this dish.
Combine the drained noodles with the pork and stir through. Set aside in your serving bowls.
Super quickly, get the pak choi to the wok and stir fry for 2minutes. Add to your bowls and sprinkle over the sesame seeds.
Marvel over your sub 10 minute creation and serve to eager onlookers.
Starbucks Style Chai Latte
(dairy free & vegan)
As lovely as coffee shop trips can be, sometimes you just want your fix in pyjamas you know? Let’s arrange that…
I’ve already taught you how to make your own syrups for all the fancy flavour shots now it’s time to tackle the mysterious Chai Latte *wavey arms*. For some reason, people seem to think Chai is edging in to the too complicated zone. They’re wrong. Just think malty, milky spiced Assam.
I’m using Blue Diamond Almond Milk to make this recipe friendly for vegan and dairy free tums. Believe it or not, it’s almost half the calories of semi skimmed milk so you can whip these up all day long, guilt free.Blue Diamond‘s 1 Chai tea bag per person Nutmeg or Cinnamon for serving (optional)
This is one of those times where I can’t give you precise measurements, how big is your favourite mug? We’ll work in thirds.
Chai needs water on a rolling boil so start brewing the second your kettle gets there. We want all the lovely spices trapped in that tea bag to make it into our latte. Add a tea bag and fill 1/3 of your mug with the water. Leave to one side whilst we prepare our milk.
You’ll need around 1/3 of your mug of milk in a jug. In the ideal world you’ll have a steam nozzle to froth your milk to perfection but if you don’t, you can still make this work. Put your milk in to a jar and screw the lid on tight. Shake, shake, shake it until the milk has nearly doubled and there’s a good layer of foam on top – this works best in jars with plenty of room. Be a cheaty microwaver and warm, lid off for around 90 seconds.
Take your teabag out of the mug and pour in the silky micro-foam milk.
Here’s the point where Starbucks would pile in a whopping amount of sugar but as an added bonus, almond milk is naturally sweet. You probably won’t need to add any but if you’re a sweet tooth, make it raw cane or demerara.
If you like some extra spice or prettiness, top with grated nutmeg or cinnamon.
Arm yourself with one of these and a lemon and poppyseed muffin and we’re pretty much there- coffee shop hopping in your pyjamas.
P.S For the Iced Chai Latte lovers, skip the microwaving and pile in the ice. Easy.
Sweet, sticky, chilli jam
I love this time of year for many things, but mainly because it’s time to get the jam pan out and watch my Mum whip up batches of her legendary jams and jellies.
The scent is better than any candle you could ever buy and the house fills with it. It smells like the best moments of my childhood. Of course over the years I’ve learnt that the best time to appear is just as the jam needs testing to see if it has set. That’s the earliest she’ll ever let you have a taste you see, before that point it’s just plain torture!
It was only natural that I set about to make some chilli jam with the gigantic crop that our chilli plants offered up this year. For the heat fearing, this isn’t a super hot recipe. It’s sweet and flavourful with just a kick at the end.
I know lots of people have given Nigella Lawson’s chilli jam recipe a go but I have two issues with hers. Issue 1 is the biggie for me. Nigella tells you to sterilise your jars but then she advises you to leave the jam to cool for almost an hour and then pour in to cold jars. I’m at a complete loss. Hot jam and hot jars create a seal. Cool jam and cold jars create a not very well preserved, preserve. Kind of pointless.
Issue 2 is more just a matter of preference for me. Nigella advises using pectin powder to set her jam, I’d rather use the unprocessed pectin found in apples because it’s natural and cheaper!
So yes, this chilli jam recipe is properly preserved. The jars are sterilised and sealed and the lids “pop” just like you’d expect anything from the supermarket to. It’s set naturally using the pectin from crab apples – like jam should be.
My Dad thinks it works a treat in a steak baguette. I love to dip beer battered king prawns in it or spread on hot crusty bread. Smother salmon fillets before baking, liven up a burger, serve with a cheese board or cold meats, spice up sausages, mix in to mayo… You’ll need:100g Chillies 1.2kg Sugar 470ml Apple cider vinegar About 8 small crab apples (or 3 large cooking apples)
One of most important bits of jam prep is to sterilise the jars you’ll be using. The way my Mum has always done it is to wash the jars and put them in a roasting tin (without their lids) then heat in the oven from cold to 100 degrees Celsius. In this case you’ll need five 200ml jars.
I also put a plate in the fridge. Yeah, I know that sounds like a strange thing to do but you’ll see why further down.
Now to prepare out ingredients. Trim and deseed the chillies then pulse in a blender. Remove any loose stalks from the crab apples and pierce the skin in several places.
Add all of the ingredients to a large, heavy bottomed pan and bring to a rolling boil for around 15 minutes.
Now here is where our plate comes in handy. Take a spoon and drop a small amount of jam on to the plate. After a minute or two, give the jam a gentle push with your finger. If the jam wrinkles or ‘skins up’, your jam is done. If not, keep checking every 5 minutes until you get it there.
When your jam is done, skim any foam off the top. Take your jars out of the oven and ladle in the hot jam. Unless you have extraordinarily steady hands, you’ll probably need a funnel to do this, or failing that a jug.
Screw the lids on tightly and leave to cool. If you hear loud pops, that’s a very happy jam noise -the buttons in the lid are inverting to show they’ve sealed. Wahoo!
This is a jam for gifting and eating obscene amounts of in one go. I think I’ll be making more for Christmas.
Tom Kha Gai
a thai soup packed with flavour
If anyone is looking for someone to eat their way around Thailand- I’m your girl. It’s by far my favourite cuisine and it would be an absolute dream to go island hopping, filling up on local food as we go.
I’ve been wanting to test out my own Tom Kha Gai for a while and today I finally gathered the final few ingredients so that I could share it with you. I know thai recipe names throw a lot of people, but it’s easily understood if you break it down:
Tom- Soup. This is your coconutty, aromatic, hot, sweet, sour, spicy broth.
Kha- Galangal or ‘thai ginger’, one of the main flavours of the broth. You could sub for ginger root but it really isn’t the same. Galangal gives this dish a real depth of flavour that you just won’t get from ginger. Sometimes up in the Lakes it’s like living in Narnia when trying to get hold of special ingredients but even Tesco stock sliced dried galangal.
Gai- Chicken. Oh beautifully soft poached chicken. You’ll almost always find prawns in your tom kha gai too and although they don’t make it in to the name, the sweet seafood has a vital part to play in building deep, savoury flavours. In this case I’ll be using locally netted crayfish, kindly given to us by a family friend.
As I write, it’s lashing down with heavy thunderous rain but for the little while I spent eating my soup, I was in Thailand. I’ll get there one day…
To serve 4 you’ll need:400ml coconut milk 400ml chicken stock 1 inch of galangal, sliced thinly (or 6 dried slices) 1 stalk lemongrass, cut in ha lf and bruised 3 kaffir lime leaves (at a push 2 tsp of lime juice) 2 chillis, sliced thinly 1tbsp thai fish sauce 1 chicken breast, cut thinly against the grain a handful of prawns or crayfish tails 2tsp Chiu chow chilli oil or Num-prik-pow a handful chopped coriander
Begin by making your broth. In a large pan add the coconut milk, stock, galangal, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime leaves and chillies. Mix and bring to just below a simmer for 5mins.
This is the most important part of the recipe. Inhale the beautiful aromas filling your kitchen! It’s all about getting the balance of flavours right. You might need to add a little more galangal, perhaps you’d like more chilli – taste and add until it’s right for you. Don’t get cocky with the fish sauce though, that stuff is potent!
When you’re ready to poach your chicken,make sure the temperature of the broth is right. You don’t want this to boil, or even simmer. You should be able to put your finger in it without being scalded, it should just be “ouch” hot.
Lower your meat in to the broth and keep an eye over it, as soon as the chicken and prawns are opaque, it’s done. Your meat should be tender, succulent and full of the broth’s flavour. Turn the pan off and scoop in to bowls.
Garnish with chopped coriander and extra chilli oil if you like things hot.This soup will freeze or you can keep it in a sealed container in the fridge for 4 days. Perhaps this is an idea for work lunches?
Tuna pasta salad
make ahead for lunches
To serve four, you’ll need: 50ml olive oil 1 carrot 1 onion 1 stick of celery 10g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked. 400g tomatoes 1 litre of chicken stock A handful of chopped parsley A slice of stale ciabatta 1 egg 4 Tbsp grated parmesan
Begin by dicing the soffritto of carrot, onion and celery and add to a large, heavy bottomed pan to saute in the olive oil.As the onion begins to turn translucent, add the loosely chopped mushrooms and the tomatoes. Allow to cook for a few minutes until the skins of the tomatoes have split.Now it’s time to go in with the chicken stock, and if you’ve used dried mushrooms, you might want to add a little of the reserved liquid from that too. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened and have broken apart a little.Whilst the soup finishes, add 4 eggs to the pot to poach. If you’re worried about this step, you can always poach them separately.In a soup bowl, add a slice of ciabatta to each bowl, then top with a poached egg. Stir the parsley through the soup and spoon over the eggs. Finish with a tablespoon of parmesan per bowl. Enjoy!If you’d like to help me get to Tuscany. Simply click here, and vote for Acquacotta towards the bottom of the page. I’ll send you internet goodness and virtual hugs.
Twinings Lady Grey Cake
Zesty & bright!
Twinings are such an iconic brand. Their logo is the oldest continually used logo in the world and the Royals have shared their breakfast table with them since 1837. It’s no wonder then, that Twinings are already getting their best china out in anticipation of the Royal baby.With the launch of their gorgeously Summery Limited edition tea caddies (pictured below) they invited me to join them and hold my own Afternoon Tea party.I’m so impressed with the design of these caddies. They’re a very welcome addition to my tea cupboard, showing off the modern side to Twinings that is often forgotten about. The labels peel off so they can be reused as colourful storage once the tea has gone, very handy indeed.Now, no afternoon tea is complete without cake and seeing as this is a Twining’s tea party, I thought it would only be fair to share my Lady Grey cake recipe. Beautifully moist and peppered with flecks of loose leaf tea and orange zest, it’s a real Spring time cake.
Two ingredient icecream
lace with goodies
I keep seeing 2 ingredient icecream knocking around on Pinterest, but when I click through it’s actually frozen bananas. I had a go at that version but it really isn’t anything like icecream. It’s severely lacking in the cream department. It might be healthy but it sure as hell isn’t good, and what use is that? I’d rather have the real deal.
Prepping this for the freezer takes 5 minutes. There’s no churning or fancy equipment, just a whisk and a bowl. You’re left with creamy, smooth, rich ice cream ready for whatever flavour combination you dream up.
For the icecream base you’ll need:
This honestly couldn’t be any easier. Add the ingredients to a large bowl and whisk until it forms soft peaks.
Now for the goodies. I decided to split mine and mix 150 grams of Skittles and Jelly tots in with half, a homage to my favourite ice cream from Kitchen Wizard. The other half received the bashed up Oreo treatment.
What have you got in the cupboard? There are so many things you could add to create amazing combinations. Crushed nuts, crystallised ginger, rum soaked raisins, coulis for a fruit ripple, your favourite chocolate bar, cookie dough, chunks of brownie, marshmallows, dessicated coconut, peanut butter, meringue pieces, honeycomb, vanilla essence, lemon curd, maple syrup, Nutella, Baileys, coffee, christmas pudding… I’ll stop there. Whatever you choose, load it up and fold in.
Pour in to a 2 litre tub or loaf tin and freeze for around 12 hours before you dive in.
I don’t care if Summer is nearly over, this recipe is too good not to share! If you give it a go don’t forget to leave me a comment below to let me know how you got on and what you chose to load yours up with. If you take a photo email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll link them all up below.
perfect for lattes or drizzling over yoghurt
Thanks to my new coffee machine. I’ve almost got the perfect barrista coffee at home but one thing is missing for me. A plain latte will never come close to its flavoured equivalent, I need vanilla syrup.
Flavoured coffee syrups have been around for a long time but the demand for them has grown massively over the past few years. It’s an easy way to personalise your drink and a relatively new tradition for coffee shop goers.
Today’s little achievement was to make a bottle of my own rather than paying extortionate amounts for a bottle elsewhere (sorry Starbuck’s). This recipe yields enough for around 50 vanilla lattes and costs about 45 pence to make ( less than a penny per serving).
Starbuck’s vanilla syrup also has a pretty shocking ingredients list for something so simple: sugar syrup, water, flavouring, E150d, E202, E330. What’s with all the E numbers?! They’re totally not needed. My recipe is super simple:250ml water 250g sugar 2 Tbsp natural vanilla extract
Some of you might be wondering why I’m choosing to cook with extract, well there are two reasons. Firstly, vanilla beans are expensive, and second, they’re fiddly. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a bottle of extract in your cupboard; it’s just natural vanilla stored in alcohol. Essence or flavouring however, are a totally different story and you should try to steer clear. These tend to have lots of nasties and preservatives in so make sure you check the labels when you’re buying.
Ready for a two line recipe?
Heat the water and sugar in a sauce pan on a medium heat, whisking until all the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour in to sterilised jars and seal.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t seal mine, it was in a coffee straight away.
It tastes so good that you’ll want to put it in everything. Drizzle over pancakes, waffles or ice cream. Pour over soda water for your own homemade cream soda. Make a vanilla milkshake. Add to greek yoghurt and fruit. Use to glaze a cake. Create a vanilla vodka and lemonade.
You can take this recipe and make any flavour syrup you like. Amazon are pretty handy for unusual essences or try your local health food shop. For a real Wimbledon treat, swap the vanilla for strawberry essence and top your latte with whipped cream. This would be a delicious way to transform a plain cheese cake too, just drizzle over the top.
If you fancy barrista level coffee at home, make sure you head over to the Lavazza-Wimbledon website and enter their competition to win a machine like mine. You can follow them on twitter and facebook too for coffee making tips.
Let me know if you give the syrup a go. Which flavour will be your #newtradition?
Other posts in this series:
Wild garlic & herb butter
sink in to a steak or saute with veg
Now, are you ready for the easiest recipe ever? To make your own wild garlic butter, all you’ll need is:
250g Butter (I promise I’d have made my own if I had a snazzy mixer to churn it in)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
4/5 wild garlic leaves, washed
Melted in to a jacket potato
Saute with green beans
Smothered all over a chicken for a herby roast
Bake with fish in a parcel
Smeared on corn on the cob
Try coriander instead of parsley
Make it smokey with paprika
Wild Rice & Lentil salad
only eightytwo calories per serving
To make enough for 4 lunches, just mix together:
150g green lentils, cooked and cool
150g Wild Rice, cooked and cooled
1/2 Red pepper, diced
1 stick of celery, diced
1 spring onion, diced
2 Cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
A small handful of parsley
Winter Vegetable Cobbler
My favourite veggie meal
It’s chocka with veg and goodness, packs a little punch and has the most delicious cheesy scones on top. This recipe comes from “The Complete Book of Vegetarian Cooking“and my family have been making it for years.
The ingredient list looks a bit hefty but I promise it is worth it! Here we go:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
8 small onions, halved
2 celery sticks, sliced
250g swede, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
250g mushrooms, sliced
425g chopped tomatoes
60g red lentils
2 tbsp cornflour
4 tbsp water
300ml veg stock
2 tsp Tabasco Sauce
2 tsp oregano
250g SR flour
pinch of salt
125g cheddar, grated
1 egg, beaten
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the garlic and onions for 5mins. Add the celery, swede, carrots and cauliflower and fry for 2-3mins more.
Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and lentils. Mix the cornflour and water and add to the pan along with the stock, tabasco and oregano. Bring to the boil, stirring until thickened. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, cover and bake at 180 C for an hour.
To make the topping, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Run in the butter and stir in the cheese and herbs. Beat the milk and egg together and gradually add to the mix until you’ve made a soft dough. Roll out to 1cm thick and cut in to rounds.
Remove the dish from the oven and increase the temperature to 200 C. Arrange the scones on top of the dish and brush with a little milk. Cook for a further 10mins or until the topping is golden and risen.