Vonshef slow cooker review/giveaway!

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Remember my post last week reviewing the Vonshef halogen oven? Well Domu were extremely generous to also give me a Vonshef slow cooker to review. I was pretty excited about this because my current slow cooker has seen much better days and seems to take an absolute age to cook anything until tender (it’s slooooooow even for a slow cooker!)

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The first thing I tried in the slow cooker was brisket of beef – with onions, carrots, red wine and a beef stock pot. It was absolutely delicious and so, so tender.

I was immediately taken with the Vonshef slow cooker – if you’re looking for a no frills, decent slow cooker then look no further. The 3.5 litre size is perfect for my family of four. I will be using mine regularly.

So how would you like your very own Vonshef slow cooker…..?

Domu have very kindly offered to give one away to a lucky reader…..click on the rafflecopter link below and follow the instructions to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway will run until Monday 10th August 2015. UK residents only. The winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter.

Baking with Teatulia tea/coconut and lemon drizzle loaf cake

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Tea. It’s such an everyday part of our lives. How many times a day do you hear the words “I’ll put the kettle on” or “fancy a cuppa?”

It’s not just about Tetley these days. There must be literally thousands of different flavours these days (how do they keep dreaming up new ones?)

And tea isn’t just for drinking.

Using tea in baking is a great way of infusing flavour in your bakes. The best way of extracting the flavour for baking is to steep the teabags in melted butter or milk.

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Teatulia recently sent me some samples of their organic teas to try – I was more than tempted to drink it all but I decided to save the lemongrass tea to make a zesty lemon and coconut cake.

Coconut and lemon loaf cake

100g coconut
5 tbsp milk
200g butter, melted
3 lemongrass teabags
Zest of one lemon
180g caster sugar
4 eggs
275g self raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin.

Pour the milk over the coconut, stir and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small pan with the tea bags. When the butter has melted, simmer for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat and leave the teabags to steep in the butter for 15 minutes or so. Carefully squeeze the teabags to release their liquid.

Using your fingertips, rub together the sugar and lemon zest until the sugar is damp and fragrant. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the coconut and milk mixture and melted butter. Sift over the flour and fold in gently.

Pour into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until well risen and golden.

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For the drizzle:

100g icing sugar
Juice of one large lemon

In a small pan over a low heat, dissolve the icing sugar and lemon juice. Simmer for a couple of minutes until syrupy, then remove from the heat and set aside.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pierce all over with a skewer. Slowly pour over the syrup, letting it soak in.

For the lemony icing, mix together 100g icing sugar and around half the juice of one lemon. Once the cake is completely cold, pour the icing over the cake and finish with toasted coconut flakes and crystallised lemon.

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The Teatulia teas were delicious and so fresh tasting – I especially enjoyed the black tea. Visit http://www.teatulia.co.uk to read what they are all about and where you can find their tea.

Vonshef halogen oven review

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When Vonshef asked me if I wanted to review both their halogen oven and slow cooker I jumped at the chance – admittedly I wasn’t quite sure exactly what a halogen oven was, but a quick Google search sorted that.

I have to admit I was a little daunted when I removed the oven from the box – it was fairly big and I was sure it wasn’t going to fit on the limited available worktop space in the kitchen. Luckily it did!

The first thing I cooked in the halogen was a roast chicken. I was really impressed by how hassle free and quick it was – it was ready in just 45 minutes. I’ve heard you can also cook roast potatoes in the oven at the same time as the chicken, but I haven’t tried that yet.

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I brushed the chicken with rapeseed oil, sprinkled with herbs salt and pepper and roasted for 45 minutes. The chicken turned out so moist and delicious! I would certainly recommend cooking chicken in the halogen oven.

The halogen oven also cooks vegetables beautifully too – I made an aubergine parmigiana as part of a challenge I was set to cook a meal for £4 and under.

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Aubergine parmigiana

2 tbsp oil
Two aubergines
One red onion, sliced
One clove garlic, finely chopped
One 400g can chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 tsp mixed Italian herbs
1tsp dried oregano
Grated parmesan (I used a 50g sachet which cost £1.30)

Slice the aubergines and place on an oven tray which will fit in the halogen oven, brush them with 2 tbsp oil and cook on the low rack at 260C for 6 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside.

Cook the onion with 1 tbsp oil for 3 minutes at 260C on the low rack. Add the garlic with a little drizzling of oil, cook for 1 minute, then add the chopped tomatoes, herbs, and season to taste. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour half the sauce into a bowl.

Layer aubergine slices on top of the sauce in the baking tin. Cover with some parmesan and some of the reserved tomato sauce, then repeat the process. Finish off with the remaining parmesan and cook on the low rack at 175C for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with dried oregano and serve with fresh crusty bread.

60g grated parmesan – £1.30
One red onion – 18p
Two Aubergines – £1
One tin chopped tomatoes – 39p
One bulb garlic – 30p

Total – £3.17

If you aren’t cooking to a budget and wanted to add a meat element (which I know isn’t traditional!) you could always add some sliced chorizo.

One of the things I love about the halogen oven is that you don’t have to preheat it. Now my boys are growing up and have various clubs/things after school and with my husband working odd shifts, I often find myself having to make meals at various times of the day. That is where the halogen will come in very handy – no waiting for the oven to heat up to the right temperature. And once you get the hang of the oven, there isn’t much you can’t cook in it – I cooked a fresh pizza and wedges (*confession time* yes I do occasionally resort to pre-prepared food – I’m a busy mum and only human!) in just 10 minutes. It’s also extremely easy to clean – all it needs is a quick wipe and it even has a self cleaning function for more stubborn stains which I thought was pretty nifty.

The only downside was the fact that it takes up a lot of room on my kitchen counter. I certainly couldn’t leave it sitting out – I just don’t have the space.

I’ve been told you can actually bake in a halogen but I haven’t had the chance to test it out yet – so watch this space!

The Vonshef halogen retails at the very reasonable price of £31.99 and comes with tongs, grill pan, baking tray, steamer tray, oven height extender ring, lid holder, gloves and skewer forks.

You can find more details about the halogen oven on the Domu website.

Coming tomorrow – Vonshef slow cooker review

Banana, pecan and maple loaf cakes with Moose maple butter

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Recently the wonderful people who make Moose maple butter were kind enough to send me a tub. If you’ve never experienced the joys of maple butter spread on a hot piece of toast, let me tell you you’re really missing out! I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it’s heavenly. It contains no preservatives or additives – just butter and pure Grade A maple syrup. Yum.

Moose maple isn’t available nationwide yet (come on, retailers!) but if you visit the moose maple website you will find a list of current stockists.

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Banana, maple and pecan loaves
Makes 4 medium sized loaves or 8 mini
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 ripe bananas, mashed
125g maple Moose butter, melted
175g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line your loaf tins, or use cake release spray.

Sieve the flour and baking powder in a large bowl.

Stir together the mashed bananas, melted butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs until smooth. Pour this mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring gently until just combined. Take care not to overmix. Stir in the chopped pecans. Divide the batter between your loaf tins, filling them 2/3 thirds full. Bake for 25-30 minutes for the smaller loaves and 40-45 minutes for the larger ones.
When they are risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the maple buttercream

125g Maple Moose butter, softened
2 tbsp maple syrup
250g icing sugar

Beat the ingredients together until light and fluffy.

Spread the maple buttercream over the cooled cakes and top with pecans.

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Orange blossom roasted rhubarb with Greek Yoghurt and pistachios

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Let’s talk rhubarb. Love it or hate it? My love for it has definitely grown over the past few years. I think it’s Nigella’s fault. Nigella is a massive rhubarb fan and she has a multitude of recipes in her books, especially in How to Eat and How to be a domestic goddess. I made her rhubarb cornmeal cake, not expecting to be particularly wowed by it. Some kind person had given me a small bunch of rhubarb (is it totally weird to say I’d rather be given a bunch of rhubarb than a bunch of flowers?) and I didn’t want it going to waste. Wow, that cake was delicious! It wasn’t very much to look at because the rhubarb wasn’t very pink but the flavour and texture was gorgeous.

There’s also one of my all time favourite cakes that the lovely Eat Little Bird introduced me to – the divine rhubarb and custard cake. If you can find really pink stalks, it turns out visually stunning.

Recently I’ve discovered the joys of roasted rhubarb. It’s so simple and can be used in so many ways – over ice cream, spooned over shortbread biscuits, stirred into double cream to make a fool or on top of a pavlova – lots of possibilities.

I love it for breakfast with Greek Yoghurt and a sprinkling of pistachios – or try it with a nutty crumble sprinkled over the top. Gorgeous and healthy!

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Orange blossom roasted rhubarb

500g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 4-5cm pieces
The zest and juice of one large orange
1/2 tsp orange blossom water
175g vanilla sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C. Spread the rhubarb out on a large ovenproof dish. Zest the orange over the rhubarb and squeeze over the juice along with 2 tbsp of water, finally sprinkle over the vanilla sugar. Stir gently until all the rhubarb is coated in sugar and orange zest. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but not mushy. If you pierce a piece with a tip of a sharp knife, it should give easily but still hold its shape.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the rhubarb out of the dish. Transfer the juices from the dish into a small pan, bring to the boil and simmer until syrupy. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

This rhubarb is beautiful served warm or cold, with Greek Yoghurt, the orangey syrup and a sprinkling of chopped pistachios.

I’m sharing this post over at the monthly blogging event “Breakfast club” which is being hosted by Andrea over at Made with pink and Sarah at Maison Cupcake – both fabulous blogs so go grab a cuppa and check them out!

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Strawberry and white chocolate muffins

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Strawberries! Don’t you just love them?

As soon as they come into season I tend to get a little obsessed..whenever I go food shopping I can’t help myself from throwing a couple of punnets of the sweet red berries in my basket.

While I’m a firm believer that strawberries are at their very best eaten just as they are, perhaps with just a trickling of cream or a scoop of ice cream, I really do love them in these muffins. The berries go almost jammy and they marry in sweet harmony with white chocolate. Give them a try!

Strawberry and white chocolate muffins
Makes 16 (I got 12 muffins and four mini loaves)

175g soft butter
180g caster caster
3 medium eggs, beaten
120ml milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
240ml sour cream
320g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/4 tsp salt
200g fresh strawberries, chopped
150g white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a couple of muffin tins with liners.

In a large bowl, mix together (sieve if you really feel the need to – I’m a bit of a kitchen rebel and hardly ever have the desire do it *gasp*confession time!) the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, slowly add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir in the vanilla, milk and sour cream. Carefully fold in the dry ingredients, stirring gently until *just* combined. Lightly fold in the chopped strawberries and white chocolate. Spoon into your muffin liners, sprinkle with more white chocolate chips and bake for around 25 minutes or until golden and risen.

When they’ve cooled, I like to drizzle a little white chocolate over the tops. Which my boys highly recommend :-)

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Happy 4th July!

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Wishing all my American readers a very happy 4th July. Hope you all have a wonderful day!

Feeling inspired by all the 4th July desserts on Pinterest, I made this strawberry and blueberry cheesecake tart tonight. It’s very easy – I mixed 250g crushed digestive biscuits with 100g melted butter and baked at 180c for 10 minutes, then once it was cold, topped with 150ml double cream and 75g Yeo Valley honey Greek yoghurt (whipped together until thick) and piled with fresh berries. It was so light and fresh. Perfect for an easy Summer pudding!

I’m on holiday for the next week so there’ll be plenty of posts over the next wee while. Basically a huge list of stuff I’ve wanted to share with you for ages but I haven’t had the time.

Speak soon

Nickki xx

Cheats Mini cheesy vegetable puff tarts

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This is probably one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever written…but it’s too good not to share! It’s a cheats recipe since you use bought puff pastry, but let’s be honest…sometimes (or most of the time) we are way too busy to make puff pastry from scratch. I always keep a packet in the freezer – it’s such a useful ingredient to have.

You can pretty much use any veg you have lying around here. I used red
onion, courgette and tomatoes.

Mini Cheesy Vegetable Puff Tarts

500g pack puff pastry
Vegetables of your choice
Handful of grated cheese – I used parmesan and cheddar, feta would also be good
Beaten egg for glazing

Roll out the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Cut into several small squares. Using a sharp knife, score a border around the edge of each pastry square. Top each square with the veg. Drizzle with a teeny bit of olive oil and sprinkle with cheese. Glaze the edges with the beaten egg. Bake at 200C for 20 minutes or until golden. Lovely hot or cold. I’ve been known to take these to work for my lunch..

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An Oaty white Loaf

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I haven’t made bread for a while and I’ve been really missing it. I think bread making can be a very rewarding task – kneading dough is great for the old bingo wings and it can be very therapeutic – especially after a stressful day at work.

This oaty loaf is very light and soft – the oats are soaked in water before they are added to the mixture. This helps keep the bread moist. It’s delicious spread with butter, jam, peanut butter, smoked salmon and cream cheese or anything else you fancy. It also makes amazing toast. Especially with my apricot and Amaretto jam (recipe coming very soon!)

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Oaty loaf

65g rolled oats, plus extra for the top
150ml boiling water
100ml plain yoghurt or buttermilk
1 1/2 tbsp honey
350g strong white flour
7g instant (fast action) yeast
1 tsp salt
100-150ml warm water
One beaten egg, to glaze the top

Place the oats in a bowl. Pour over the boiling water and stir well. Leave until just warm.

Place the flour in a large bowl and add the yeast and salt (keeping them at separate sides of the bowl).

Stir in the oat mixture, yoghurt and enough warm water to make a soft dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and bouncy. Place in a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warmish place, about one hour or until doubled in size.

Lightly oil a 1kg loaf tin. Shape the dough into a loaf (watch this how to video) and place in the tin. Cover with lightly oiled cling and leave until 45 minutes or until nearly doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 220c.

When the loaf has nearly doubled in size and is ready for the oven, glaze with the beaten egg and sprinkle over the remaining oats. Place in the oven and bake at 220c for 15 minutes, then lover the temperature to 200C and bake for a further 20-25 minutes. To test if the bread is properly baked, tap the bottom. It should sound hollow. Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack – that’s assuming it doesn’t get devoured by then. For which I wouldn’t blame you one little bit :-)

Gluten dairy free fresh apricot and raspberry almond cake

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This cake was the result of a little late night experimental baking. In all honesty I hadn’t intended to post the recipe on my blog, but the picture was pretty popular on my Instagram and Facebook pages plus I had a few requests for the recipe from colleagues.
This was my first attempt at a gluten and dairy free cake so I was pretty relieved that it was so well received. Phew!

I have been looking for any excuse to use the delicious ginger syrup I recently received in the post from the very generous and lovely ginger people. I added two tablespoons of the syrup to replace the milk – it turned out lovely, the ginger gave the cake a very gentle warmth without overpowering the other flavours.

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I absolutely love this ginger syrup – I’ve poured it over my porridge, ice cream and using it to make gingerbread lattes! You can find out more about The ginger people and their lovely products on their website.

Gluten free apricot and raspberry almond cake

175ml light olive oil
175g caster sugar
4 or 5 ripe apricots
2 eggs
175g gluten free plain flour
1tsp gluten free baking powder
100g ground almonds
2 tbsp ginger syrup (if you don’t have the aforementioned ginger party brand, any other kind of ginger syrup would be fine)
150g raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line the bottom of a 20cm cake tin.

Lightly beat the olive oil, sugar and ginger syrup together, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is well blended.

Sift in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder and lightly fold into the oil and egg mixture until the batter is smooth. Finally, fold in 100g raspberries.

Pour this batter into the lined cake tin.

Cut the apricots in half and remove the stones.  Arrange the halved apricots, skin side down, on the top of the cake. Place the remaining raspberries on top. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. If the cake is getting a little dark on top, cover with a piece of baking paper.

This cake is beautiful served warm as a pudding with extra ginger syrup and a trickling of cream if your diet allows – although bear in mind that it is quite delicate until it’s completely cooled.

The Ultimate Peanut Butter Lover’s No Bake Cheesecake

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If you love peanut butter but are trying to diet, you should look away now. This recipe is naughty. Very very naughty. But we all need a little indulgence in our lives, otherwise what a boring world it would be. Life is too short to count calories 24/7. Make this for the peanut butter fan in your life and they’ll love you forever!

Peanut Butter Lover’s no bake cheesecake

200g chocolate cookies (such as Bourbons, Oreos, Maryland chocolate chip)
60g butter
300g full fat cream cheese
60g caster sugar
120g crunchy peanut butter
125ml double cream
Reeces peanut butter cups, peanut butter m&ms, salted peanuts

Preheat the oven to 180c.
Place the chocolate biscuits in a food processor and process to fine crumbs. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Pour the melted butter over the biscuit crumbs and stir until evenly coated. Pour this into a 20cm fluted tart/cake tin. Bake for 15 minutes to set the crust, then remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Beat the cream cheese and sugar together. In a small saucepan, warm the peanut butter and double cream over a low heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before folding into the cream cheese. Pour this peanut butter cheesecake mixture onto the crust, using a spoon to level the mixture. Place in the fridge for 4-5 hours to set.
Just before serving, decorate with salted peanuts, Reeces peanut butter cups, peanut butter m&ms or a drizzle of chocolate if you like!

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Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

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Maincrop rhubarb is in season right now and it tends to grow like wildfire. It isn’t as pretty-pink as the forced rhubarb that you find in the shops earlier on in the year and it has a more intense flavour.

The rhubarb I used to make this jam came from my Mum’s back garden. Thanks Mum!

Rhubarb and ginger are perfect together. Spread this jam on toast, pancakes, scones or oatcakes. I like a dollop stirred into my morning porridge and it’s also extremely good with Greek Yoghurt – like a home made fruit corner – but my absolute favourite way to eat it is between two pieces of shortbread – heavenly. I guess I didn’t really lose that sweet tooth after all :-)

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Rhubarb and ginger jam recipe by Nickki “Something sweet something savoury”

Makes approx 4 medium sized jars

First of all, sterilise your jars. This is very easy – all you need to do is soak them in a sink full of extremely hot water, give them a good scrub then rinse, shake off excess water and place in a very low oven (100c) to dry them. Sterilise the lids exactly the same way. Or if you have a dishwasher, just pop them in alongside your normal wash cycle.

Place a small dish in the freezer for the “wrinkle test”.

500g rhubarb, washed and cut into approx 2-3cm pieces
500g jam sugar
300ml water
3cm chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped into very small pieces or grated
Juice of one lemon
75g crystallised ginger, chopped
One tbsp ginger syrup (optional) OR 75g stem ginger and one tbsp of the syrup from the jar
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Bring all of the ingredients, except the crystallised ginger and syrup, to a boil. Turn down the heat slightly and simmer for around 15 minutes, stirring often so the mixture doesn’t catch. Don’t be tempted to walk away and leave it – the last time I did I ended up with a pan of rhubarb toffee. What a mess. Not to mention a waste! A sugar thermometer is handy here if you have one – setting point is 104C. Take the pan off the heat. Go and get the little dish from the freezer. Place a small amount of jam on the dish. Leave for about 30 seconds, then lightly push the jam with a finger – if it looks like it is forming a skin and wrinkles, it’s ready. If it isn’t wrinkling, pop back on the heat and try again in a few minutes.

Rhubarb is naturally low in pectin, so it might take a little longer to reach setting point. The jam sugar is supposed to help but I had to do the wrinkle test five times before this batch was finally ready! The end result is worth it, I promise you.

When the jam is ready, stir in the chopped crystallised ginger and syrup, if using. Decant into your prepared jars.

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Double ginger and lemon iced loaf

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I really do love a ginger cake. In fact anything gingery makes my tastebuds sing. This particular cake is one of my very favourites. It’s a fabulous little recipe to have in your repertoire. It is the moistest, most gingery ginger cake I have ever tried. It’s a good keeper too – it will happily keep for up to at least one week, wrapped in a double layer of foil. It freezes beautifully – uniced of course.

Double ginger and lemon iced loaf
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s stem ginger gingerbread “How to Eat”

230g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
Zest of one lemon
110g butter
110g treacle or molasses
110g golden syrup
110g light or dark muscovado sugar
280ml milk
1 egg, beaten
50g Crystallised or stem ginger, finely chopped plus extra for decorating

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices together in a large bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the lemon zest, sugar and chopped crystallised ginger.

In a small pan over a low heat, melt the treacle, syrup and milk. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature before stirring in the egg. Pour into the flour mixture, whisking thoroughly until no lumps remain and you have a smooth batter. Pour this batter into the lined tin and bake for 60-75 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the gingerbread cool completely in the tin.

For the lemon icing:
100g icing sugar
Juice of half or one lemon
Chopped crystallised ginger

Sift the icing sugar into a medium sized bowl. Add enough lemon juice to make a thick but pourable icing. Pour over the cold cake and top with the remaining crystallised ginger.

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Pimp my Snack! Giant Empire Biscuit

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Empire biscuits are something I tend to bake often. Everyone I know seems to love them – and no wonder. Soft, tender butter shortbread sandwiched together with jam, topped with icing and depending on your preference, crowned with a glace cherry or a jelly tot. Or joob joobs, as I remember them being called many years ago.

I don’t know what made me decide to make a giant version of this pretty well known bakery treat, but it was a very good idea! It was pretty much demolished this afternoon by my boys and their friends. I’ve kept a little sliver (with the cherry intact) for myself for later while I’m watching TV :-)

Giant Empire Biscuit

250g salted butter, very soft
320g plain flour
85g icing sugar
Strawberry or raspberry jam for the filling

100g icing sugar
Glace cherry or jelly tot/sweet to decorate (if you ever come across the extra large fruit jellies they would be perfect here)

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and base line two 20cm cake tins.

Cream the butter and icing sugar together until very light and fluffy. Mix in the flour until it forms a soft dough (if you’re using a stand mixer place a tea towel over it – otherwise you’ll have a flour explosion!)

Divide the dough into two equal portions and press into the cake tins, using the base of a drinking glass to smooth the dough out evenly (top tip!)

Bake for 30 minutes or until very light golden. Leave to cool in the tins completely.

When the biscuits are cold, sandwich together with jam. Mix the icing sugar with enough cool water to make a think but pourable icing. Spread over the top of the biscuit and top with a cherry or large jelly sweet.

Creamy chicken, bacon and spinach pasta

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When it comes to weekday meals, like many people I tend to find myself coming home from work, opening the fridge and wondering what on earth I’m going to make that will make everyone happy. This recipe is the result of a little fridge rummaging. It’s creamy, filling, delicious and it just so happens to contain two of your five a day. Which  means it’s healthy, right?

Creamy chicken, bacon and spinach pasta
Enough for four hungry people

Penne pasta (I’m not going to tell you how much! Only you know how much pasta you and your family can eat in one sitting. I used around half a bag. I don’t do measuring)
One tablespoon garlic infused oil
4-5 large chicken breasts, cut into strips
One tsp paprika
One tsp Italian herb seasoning
About 5-6 rashers bacon, cut into small pieces and rind removed OR small packet of cubed pancetta
A good handful of cherry tomatoes, halved or 3-4 large tomatoes, chopped
1 250ml tub of creme fraiche
About half a large packet of spinach leaves
Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

Place a large pot of water on the hob to boil. Heat the garlic oil in a large pan, then add the chicken pieces. Sprinkle over the Italian seasoning and paprika. Cook until the chicken is golden and cooked through. In the meantime cook your pasta and when ready, drain but keep back a small cup of the cooking water in case you need it to thin down the sauce.

When the chicken is cooked, remove from the pan and add the bacon, cook until starting to crisp around the edges. Remove bacon from the pan. Throw in your tomatoes with a pinch of sugar and the creme fraiche. Cook until the sauce is bubbling, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and once it has wilted, remove from the heat.

Throw your pasta into the sauce and add the cooked chicken and bacon. Grate in some parmesan, add salt and pepper place back on the heat and stir. Add some of the cooking water if the sauce is a little too thick. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes, remove from the heat and serve.

Foodie parcels and weekend bakes

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    Hello! Sorry things have been a little quiet on here this past week. Work and home life has been super busy lately. I’ve also had some stupid sore throat virus for the past couple of weeks. I haven’t been able to shake off. So lately my daily routine has been get myself and the boys ready for leaving the house, go to work, come home for dinner, a bit of washing/housework/helping the kids with homework or whatever else needs my attention, bath then collapse in bed with my tablet to watch a couple of Breaking Bad episodes. I’m up to season four and totally hooked. Brilliant series.

    I’ve got a few recipes on the backburner that I will share with you soon..in the meantime here’s what’s been going on in my kitchen.

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    Debbie and Andrew’s sent me this lovely package. I’ve already tried their sausages and loved them so I knew we would be in for a treat. Their gluten free caramelised red onion sausages went down an absolute storm with us. I used them in a tomato and sausage pasta recipe from the cute little booklet they sent me – there were clean plates all around. If you see these sausages in the supermarket I urge you to pick up a packet!

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    Scan sent me a couple packs of their Swedish meatballs to try. I’ve never seen tried Swedish meatballs before and they were pretty tasty! I made the meatball and roasted vegetable pasta bake from the recipe booklet that came with the package and it went down very well, plus I had leftovers for lunch the next day! Scan Swedish meatballs are available to buy in Sainsburys, Ocado and Morrisons.

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    I was delighted when I received this ginger syrup from the ginger party. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know all about my love of all things ginger related! I can’t wait to use this syrup in my baking.

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    My cookery book obsession continues…here are a couple of recent purchases! The Works is a very dangerous place indeed…I’m sure I’ve pretty much doubled the amount of cookery books I own since they opened!

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    I made these cute little Baileys glazed baked doughnuts on Sunday…who could resist these? Not me that’s for sure. You’ll find the recipe right here on Recipes from a pantry.com

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    Pecan tassie bars from The Hummingbird Bakery “Life is Sweet”. I love anything with pecans so these jumped out at me while reading through the book. They are quite rich but the large amount of treacle stops them from being too sweet.

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    Last but certainly not least, I made this custard cream cheesecake from She Who Bakes. The ultimate treat for a custard cream lover!

Sweet cinnamon rolls with vanilla cream cheese icing

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Lately I’ve had this huge thing for cinnamon rolls. Right now there’s nothing I’d rather eat for weekend breakfast. Sweet vanilla scented fluffy dough, with spirals of honey, cinnamon and brown sugar, topped with a vanilla cream cheese icing. Sigh.

Resistance is futile. Join me.

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Cinnamon Rolls

350g strong white flour
7g sachet fast action yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
50g sugar
One large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste
125ml milk
50g butter

For the filling:

75g very soft butter
50g soft light brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp honey or maple syrup

Mix the sugars and cinnamon together, then stir in the honey or syrup.

Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Don’t place the yeast directly on or beside the salt – this could kill the yeast.

Place the milk and butter in a small pan and place on the hob over a gentle heat, stirring until the butter has almost melted. Take off the heat and leave for a minute, then stir in the egg and vanilla. Check the temperature of the milk by dipping a finger in – it needs to be only just warm before
adding it to the flour. When the milk is ready, pour over the flour and knead for at least 5 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook attachment or 10 minutes by hand. When the dough feels smooth, silky and shiny place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a neat rectangle.

Spread the butter over the dough and top with the cinnamon sugar. Lightly press the sugar into the dough. Roll up from one of the long ends as tightly as you can. Seal the end of the dough with a little melted butter. Cut into 10 equal pieces and arrange in a greased 23cm round tin. Cover with cling and leave to prove until doubled in size, about 45 minutes -1 hour.

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Preheat the oven to 200C. When the
buns have doubled in size, pop in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.

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For the icing, beat 50g soft butter, 150g icing sugar and 1/2 vanilla extract and beat together until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese and beat until the icing is combined and smooth.

Spread the icing over the buns while they are still a little warm. Take and deep breath….and dive in!

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Coconut and raspberry jam loaf

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This coconut cake is another old fashioned recipe that is so easy to make yet so lovely.

This particular recipe is actually the very first cake I ever made. It came from the Hamlyn book of cakes and baking, an extensive baking book that had a picture alongside every recipe. The raspberry jam topping is my nod to the retro school dinner pudding that was a favourite of many, the square slab of sponge covered with jam, coconut and slathered in custard. Birds of course!

Coconut and raspberry jam loaf cake

2 large eggs
6 tbsp milk
100g caster sugar
75g dessicated coconut
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g butter
About one third jar raspberry jam
Dessicated coconut for sprinkling over the top

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Butter and line a loaf tin.

Crack the eggs in a measuring jug and top up with enough milk to make 200ml. Stir in the dessicated coconut and leave for 30 minutes. In a bowl, sieve together the plain flour and baking powder. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Add the egg mixture and stir everything together until well combined. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until risen, golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool completely.

When the cake is cold, spread with the raspberry jam and sprinkle with dessicated coconut.

Vanilla custard biscuits

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These cute little golden tinged biscuits may look pretty unassuming but they are absolutely wonderful in their simplicity.

If you’re gentle with the dough and don’t overmix, you’ll be rewarded with biscuits that melt in your mouth.

One is never enough.

Vanilla custard biscuits

250g very soft butter
250g plain flour
70g icing sugar
70g custard powder
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, stopping as soon as you have a soft dough. (I use the KA, a food processor would do the same job. Or you could mix by hand if you aren’t as lazy as I am.)

Roll the mixture into balls and place on the baking tray, press them down with a fork. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Leave on the baking tray for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.

I shared this recipe over at Super Golden Bakes for #Cookblogshare
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I also linked up at A Mummy Too for recipe of the week.
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Yum

Mexican chilli beef and black bean soup with New Covent Garden souper booster

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The lovely people at New Covent Garden Soup Company sent me their new souper boosters to review along with a veg box so I could create some tasty soup recipes.

On Sunday night we had a really lovely topside of beef for dinner, and I used the few leftover pieces to make this spicy, Mexican style black bean soup. I love spicy food and this soup really hit the spot! I used a tin of black beans with jalapenos which added even more kick, but if you can’t find them they aren’t essential to the recipe – a regular tin of black beans would do fine. If you do use the regular ones just make sure you rinse them in a sieve before cooking.

Mexican chilli beef and black bean soup

One tablespoon oil
One red onion, chopped
One stick of celery, chopped
One red pepper, chopped finely
Half a tube New Covent Garden Mexican Chilli Souper flavour booster
One tin of black beans with jalapenos (I found this in Tesco in the American food aisle – the brand is Ortega)
200ml beef stock (I use those Knorr flavour pots)
One 400g tin chopped tomatoes
One tablespoon tomato puree
A few pieces of leftover roast beef, sliced into thin strips

Heat the oil in a large pan and throw in the onion, celery and pepper. Squeeze in half a tube of New Covent Garden Mexican Chilli souper booster paste and cook for 5 minutes or so, until the veg has started to soften. Add the entire contents of the tinned black beans with jalapenos, the beef stock, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and a grinding of salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. If it’s looking too thick, add some water to thin it down. Finally add the beef strips and cook for a further 5 minutes. Taste and add some more Souper booster if you like. Serve with plenty of sour cream, fresh chopped chilli and nachos.

You can read more about the souper boosters and order them right here on the New Covent Garden website!