Pistachio, cranberry and white chocolate biscotti


I can’t believe it’s only one month until Christmas.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so unorganised. I have bought and tucked away a few small gifts but that’s about it. At least I have plenty of wrapping paper – my local supermarket were selling it off for 2p a roll back in January! I can never resist a bargain.

I’m telling myself it will somehow all fall into place the way it always does…

In the meantime, I’m officially declaring it the run up to the festive season over here. Foodie wise, at least. I can’t help but get completely caught up it in all – bring on the gingerbread lattes, clementines, those beautiful boxes of jewel like shiny fruit and nuts, panettone, marzipan filled stollen, and gingerbread reindeers.

This cranberry studded, orange scented biscotti would make a gorgeous gift, wrapped up in Christmassy cellophane. The lucky recipients favourite coffee or hot chocolate to enjoy with the biscotti would be perfect.

Let the festive baking begin!

Pistachio, cranberry and white chocolate biscotti

Makes about 25 little biscotti

250g plain flour
150g caster sugar
Zest of two clementines or one large orange
100g dried cranberries
75g pistachio nuts
100g white chocolate chunks or chips
2 medium eggs
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.

Place the flour, sugar, orange zest, cranberries, pistachios and white chocolate chunks in a large bowl. Beat the egg, milk and orange blossom water (if using) together and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix together until you have a soft dough (I use my stand mixer but I’ve done this with my hands.) When the dough has come together, cut it in half.

Line two baking trays with parchment. Place it on your work surface and tip one half of the dough out on top of the paper. Pat it out into a log shape, about 25cm long. Flatten to about 3cm thick.
Repeat with the other half of the dough. Bake the logs for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutter board. Turn down the oven to 150C. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut into 2-3cm slices. Return to the baking tray, cut side up and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Butternut squash & Thyme macaroni cheese


I think it’s safe to say that Winter has definitely arrived. Time to dig out those scarves, hats and gloves. Gingerbread lattes are in Starbucks. The Christmas tv adverts have started and the shops are full of Christmas goodies. Why does it always come around so fast?

For me, this time of year is all about comfort food. Pies, hearty soups and stews. Meals don’t come much more comforting than this butternut squash macaroni cheese.

Butternut squash & thyme macaroni cheese
Serves 4

One butternut squash, peeled and cut into small chunks
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked from the stalks
450g Macaroni
20g butter
One onion, peeled and sliced
50g plain flour
60g butter
1 1/2 litres milk
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly grated nutmeg
250g cheddar cheese, grated
50g parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the butternut squash cubes in a roasting tin, drizzle with a little olive oil and throw over most of the thyme leaves.
Roast for 20 minutes or until the squash is soft.

While the squash is roasting, cook the macaroni in a large pan of boiling water. When the pasta is just cooked, drain and set aside.

For the onion, melt the 20g butter in a small saucepan over a low to medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook gently until soft and tranceulent.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the flour, stirring to make a roux. Take the pan off the heat and slowly whisk in the milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. When the mixture is smooth, place back on the heat and stir constantly until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard, nutmeg, 1/2 tsp salt, 200g of the cheddar cheese and parmesan. Stir until the sauce is smooth.

Return the drained pasta to the saucepan and add the roasted butternut squash, onion and cheese sauce. Stir gently and transfer to a large casserole or gratin dish. Sprinkle with a final grating of parmesan and the 25g remaining cheese. Scatter with thyme leaves and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the macaroni is bubbling.


Highland Bake Off Recipe book news!

It’s been a little uneventful around here the past few weeks, but I promise, I haven’t abandoned this blog. Far from it.

Remember back in September I was lucky enough to win The Highland bake off? Part of the prize was to have the chance to write a book…..

and I did it!

I’m very excited to announce you can now pre-order it by visiting the following site:


Proceeds from the book will be going to MFR cash for kids, so it’s all for a very worthy cause. If you’re not familiar with the charity you can read about it here.

The book will consist of four chapters – cake, biscuits, bread and savoury bakes and I’m so excited….and also very nervous.

I have to admit that juggling a full-time job, managing the house and kids while testing recipes for the book was pretty hard going at times – but I’ll look on the bright side, we always had something yummy to sample! I may need to go on a diet soon!

So the book will be released in stores on the 7th December (just in time for Christmas!) but as I said earlier you can pre-order it now by visiting the Highland Bake off website.

I really, really hope you all like it.

Nicola x

WIN tickets to the BBC Good Food show this Winter!



I will announce the winner tonight 8pm!

How would you like to go to the BBC Good Food show this winter and see Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry, James Martin and Michel Roux Jr to name a few?

The lovely people behind the shows have offered me a pair of tickets to give away to one of you lucky lot!  You can even choose which show you would rather attend – London (13-15th November) Birmingham NEC (26-29 November) or Glasgow (6-8th November).

Please note that Saturday tickets are NOT included in the competition.

To enter all you need to do is post a comment below and state which show you would most like to attend if you win.

Here are links to each of the shows:




Good luck!

*******COMPETITION ENDS 12am Sunday 25th October*****

Plum amaretti crumble cake


One of my favourite things about Autumn is all of the seasonal fruit around this time of year – apples, figs, pears and plums are all perfect for baking homely cakes. You know the kind I mean – a cake that could be served alongside a cup of coffee on a rainy afternoon or for pudding, with lashings of custard. This recipe is that kind of cake. The sponge is really moist with the addition of Greek yoghurt and ground almonds, topped with ripe juicy plums and finished off with a layer of buttery amarreti crumble. It’s a gorgeous Autumal bake!


Plum amaretti crumble cake

175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
3 Large eggs
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
2 tsp vanilla extract
85g Greek yoghurt
6-7 ripe plums (depending on size – mine were pretty small so you might need less)

Amaretti crumble topping

50g each of butter, demerara sugar, ground almonds, plain flour and amaretti biscuits

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 22cm cake tin and baking paper. 

Make the crumble topping first – place the sugar, ground almonds and plain flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Crush the amaretti biscuits in random sized pieces and stir them through the crumble mixture.

For the cake, place the butter, sugar eggs, flour, baking powder, vanilla, ground almonds and Greek yoghurt in a large bowl. Beat the ingredients together until the batter is smooth. Tip the batter into the tin and level the top. Arrange the plums cut side up over the batter, then scatter over the crumble. Bake for 1 hour or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack. Lovely with either cream or custard (or both, if you’re that way inclined!)

Cupcakes for MFR Cash for kids


I’m very proud and excited to announce that Ashers Bakery are producing and selling my Highland bake off cupcake design in all their stores for a limited time!

For every cupcake sold, Ashers are donating 25p to local Inverness based charity MFR cash for kids – so by buying these cupcakes you’re helping to raise money for a very worthy cause. Eating cake while helping people at the same time – win win situation!

The cupcakes went on sale yesterday and I’ve been told they were a sell out in both stores in my local town by lunchtime, which is amazing!! They will be on sale for another two weeks so if you missed out yesterday (as I did!) there’s still plenty of time.

A huge thank you to everyone who bought them yesterday, your support means so much X

Nicola X


I’m very proud and excited to announce that Ashers Bakery are producing and selling my Highland bake off cupcake design in all their stores for a limited time!

For every cupcake sold, Ashers are donating 25p to local Inverness based charity MFR cash for kids – so by buying these cupcakes you’re helping to raise money for a very worthy cause. Eating cake while helping people at the same time – win win situation!

The cupcakes went on sale yesterday and I’ve been told they were a sell out in both stores in my local town by lunchtime, which is amazing!! They will be on sale for another two weeks so if you missed out yesterday (as I did!) there’s still plenty of time.

A huge thank you to everyone who bought them yesterday, your support means so much X

Nicola X

Nutty banana cake with browned butter maple icing and salted caramel

If you’re looking for a healthier kind of banana cake, better stop reading now.

This banana cake is all dressed up and ready to party.

In brown butter maple icing and salted caramel. It’s not for the faint hearted! It’s very sweet so I like to add a little more salt to the salted caramel to balance it out a little.

Obviously leave the nuts out if you’re allergic, but I love the crunch and texture they give.


Nutty banana cake with browned butter icing and salted caramel glaze
Inspired/adapted from the banana and hazelnut cake from The Meringue Girls “Everything sweet”

500g very ripe bananas, mashed
125ml vegetable oil
125g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
150g mixed nuts, chopped (I used pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts)
225g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
A large pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line the base of two 20cm cake tins.

Sift the self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat the oil and sugar together and beat in the eggs one at a time, beating until  well mixed. Add the vanilla extract and mashed banana. Fold in the flour and mixed nuts. Pour the batter into the cake tins and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the sponges are risen and springy.
Carefully turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Browned butter maple icing

150g butter
500g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp maple syrup

For the browned butter, start by melting the butter in a small pan. Once it’s melted, leave on a medium heat until the butter has browned and has an almost nutty smell. Measure your icing sugar out and place in a mixer with a whisk attachment fitted. With the beaters going, carefully pour the still warm butter into the icing sugar. Keep whisking – it might look a bit strange at this stage but keep going. Add one tbsp of the maple syrup and keep whisking until the icing is very light and fluffy. If it’s a little too thick, add another tbsp maple syrup.

I used this recipe for the salted caramel. Leave to cool completely (obviously!) before pouring over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.

My Highland bake off experience

Hello! It’s been a little quiet around here for the past week or so and here’s the reason why..

About a month ago a few of my friends tagged me in an event that was happening in Inverness called Highland bake off. It would be the very first amateur baking competition in the area. There wasn’t very much information at the start, apart from that the event was being held to raise money for local charity MFR cash for kids and would be held in a secret location in Inverness. It all sounded pretty exciting so I promptly booked my space.

When I received the information pack in the post, it confirmed the format of the competition. There would be four challenges – bake a celebration cake in 90 minutes, a batch of 12 cookies in 1 hour, your signature loaf in 2 hours and the final decorating challenge (with minimal decorating tools) which would be in front of a live audience. Eeeeeeeek!!

Time flew past with work and family life
and before I knew it I had a week to practice my baking. Gulp. I already had a good idea which recipes I was going to make so I gave them a trial run to make sure they were achievable in the time scale we had been given.


This was my practice cake – chocolate raspberry ganache cake. The cake layers were soaked in Chambord liqueur, sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream, spread with chocolate ganache and topped with fresh and freeze dried raspberries.

The day of the competition arrived and I was so nervous! I was seriously thinking of pulling out of the competition the night before. But now I’m so glad I went through with it because….


I won!! I nearly fell down in shock when I heard my name. When this picture was taken I was exhausted, hungry, sweaty, covered in butter, icing sugar and dough but I was giddy with happiness! It was such a long day with quite a few hairy moments (my cakes aren’t cooling! Quick, in the fridge!! Crap, get those cookies out of the oven NOW!) but I absolutely loved it. What a amazing experience.

And the most thrilling part of the whole thing is the prize….I get to release a cookbook!

Yes, a cookbook!

I’m still having trouble processing that part! I don’t know many details yet apart from that the proceeds will go to MFR cash for kids and it will be available to buy in Waterstones and Amazon! How crazy is that??

It’s seriously a dream come true for me. I keep pinching myself in case I dreamt the whole thing!

Plus my baking designs from the final will be released in Ashers Bakery for a limited time. So exciting!

I’ll leave you with a few pictures from the bake off. I really did have the best time and met some really lovely, talented ladies. I couldn’t have gotten through the day without them.

Cookie challenge - Popcorn, white chocolate and raspberry cookies
Bread challenge - milk loaf


I’ll keep you updated! xx

The perfect cheese toastie with Lactofree


The lovely folks at Lactofree recently sent me this gorgeous hamper to help me recreate the perfect cheese toastie.

Cheese toasties happen often in this house. I’m going to put my hands up and admit that I often come home from work with the kids in tow, tired and hungry, look in the fridge for dinner inspiration and end up muttering the words “how about cheese toasties?”


So needless to say we all had great fun creating our own cheese toasties. The only problem I had was with the toastie maker – unfortunately the catch broke! I ended up using my trusty old toastie maker Mr George Foreman which was given to us when we got married back in 2001. He’s doing pretty good for his age.

My boys stuck with their favourite cheese and ham and hubby and I tried chorizo slices and cheese which were really delicious. I added some hot yellow pepper jelly to mine which added a nice little kick. Cheese toastie heaven!

I’ve seen the Lactofree cheese in the supermarket and I have to admit I’ve never even considered buying it, but now that I’ve tried some it will definitely be going on my shopping list. It’s a lovely, full flavoured cheese and I certainly couldn’t tell that it was lacto free. If you suffer from bloating and stomach cramps after eating dairy, it’s definitely worth checking out the Lactofree range.

Lemon and lime madeira cake


Here’s my second bake inspired by the first episode of bake off….madeira cake.

I have to confess that madeira cake always sounded a little boring and plain to me…but after one taste I was sold! It’s light, buttery and moist – anything but boring! It really is a lovely, lovely cake. Sometimes the classics are the best!

Lemon and lime madeira cake

Grease and line an 18cm round cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180c.

175g soft butter
Zest of one lemon and one small lime
175g caster sugar
225g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
3 eggs

Measure out the sugar in a large bowl and using your fingertips, rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is damp and fragrant.  Add the butter, flour, ground almonds and eggs and beat for one minute until the mixture is smooth. Pour into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 60 minutes or until well risen and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing:

125g icing sugar
Juice of half a lemon or lime

Mix the icing sugar with the juice until you have a fairly thick icing that will still run off the back of a spoon. Pour over the cooled cake.

Madeira cake - simple but lovely!

Black forest cake


Bake off is back!!

Yay!!! :-D

As soon as I heard the bakers were making a black forest gateau for the first showstopping challenge, I had to make one. I wasn’t going to go to a huge amount of effort because no-one else in my house would be eating it – which is extremely dangerous for my hips. Luckily though, I have plenty other family and friends who were more than willing to help me eat it!

Black forest takes me right back to my childhood (I’ve spoken about this before – but please, humour me) but the kind I enjoyed as a little one was not home made but from a box found in the freezer aisle of the supermarket.
The Sara Lee gateau was the height of sophistication in the 80’s and we usually seemed to have one whenever there was a special occasion to celebrate. A jug of pouring cream was always on offer to trickle over your slice. It all felt very grown up and posh to my eight year old self.

I’ve kept things fairly simple for my version – chocolate sponge sandwiched together with whipped cream, cherry compote and topped off with a rich chocolate ganache.

Black forest cake

For the cake

200g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g cocoa powder
225g soft butter
200g caster sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
4 large eggs
150g Greek yoghurt

Grease and line two 20cm round cake tins and preheat the oven to 180c.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and beat together until the mixture is smooth.) I sieved the dry ingredients into the bowl of my KitchenAid, then added everything else and used my paddle beater to mix).

Pour the smooth batter into the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until well risen and springy. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before removing and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I used this recipe for the cherry compote and halved it. And then halved it again since I only had a smallish punnet of cherries! It was just a shame I didn’t have any kirsch or cherry brandy leftover from Christmas – it would have been really lovely in the compote.


Fill the cooled sponges with softly whipped double cream and the cherry compote.

For the ganache, place 100ml double cream in a small pan over a medium heat. When it almost reaches a boil, take off the heat and immediately add 100g finely chopped dark chocolate. Leave for a few minutes before stirring to make sure all the chocolate has melted. Leave to thicken and cool a little before pouring over the top of the cake. Decorate with fresh cherries.

Mummy Mishaps

I’m linking this recipe up over at Mummy Mishaps for the great bloggers bake off, a blogging event which is so much fun and a brilliant excuse to bake along with The Great British bake off!

Foodie parcels update!

Here’s a wee round-up of some foodie parcels I’ve recently received in the post…I really should have posted some of these earlier but with the school holidays and all I’m afraid I’ve fallen behind a little…..bad blogger!


Chika’s sent me some of their premium snacks to try. The smoked almonds were my favourite – they are very moreish! The plantain and gluten free chickpea crisps were very nice too – different but in a good way. They are lower in fat than normal crisps and contain no artificial additives, so you don’t have to feel guilty about eating them! You can read more about Chika’s on their website.


It was a lovely unexpected surprise when the postman delivered a big box of VitaCoco natural coconut water – it arrived on a very warm and humid day (the day of the Wimbledon semi-final!) so it was very much appreciated. It was very refreshing straight from the fridge. My only regret? Not leaving any for the cocktail recipes I saw online using coconut water…rookie mistake! You can find VictaCoco in most supermarkets.


Ryland Peters & Small very kindly sent me a couple of books to review – Naked cakes by Hannah Miles and The salad bowl by Nicola Graimes. I already own a few books published by Ryland Peters & small and their books are always visually stunning. I’ll be trying some recipes from both of these books soon so watch this space…

Rhubarb Curd

My Mother’s rhubarb is thriving and I seem to be reaping the benefits…over the past few weeks I’ve made jam, cake and now curd. I’ve always loved rhubarb and I’m always looking for new ways to cook with it.

My Facebook friend Frances made rhubarb curd a couple of weeks ago. It looked so good I made a mental note to try it asap.

So when I was kindly given another bag of rhubarb, I knew exactly what I was going to make!


I love the pretty pink colour of the curd. But I must confess…I cheated and used a tiny amount of pink food colouring! You don’t have to but just be aware that the curd will probably be yellowish without it…unless you are reading this post in January and have the really vibrant pink forced rhubarb.

Rhubarb Curd

Makes one large or two small jars

450g trimmed rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces
200g sugar
75g butter
4 tsp cornflour
3 large eggs, beaten
Pink food colouring, if using

Place the rhubarb and 50g sugar in a pan over a medium heat, cover and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring now and then until the rhubarb is soft and becomes pulpy.

Pour into a sieve set over a bowl and using a spoon, push the rhubarb through. You should end up with around 200ml juice.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Mix the cornflour with a little of the rhubarb juice. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cornflour, eggs, remaining (150G) sugar and the juice.
Place the pan back on a low heat and stir continously for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Don’t be tempted to stop stirring. When it has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon without dripping off, take off the heat immediately. Stir in a little pink food colouring paste if you like (go easy – you shouldn’t need much.)


Spread on toast, scones, pancakes, anything that takes your fancy! Or you could use it to sandwich a Victoria sponge together instead of jam….

Fudgy brownies with raspberries and white chocolate


I didn’t originally intend to post this recipe – but it caused a bit of a stir amongst my Facebook friends this week so I thought why not! And besides, I decided that there just aren’t enough brownie recipes here. You can never have too many brownie recipes under your belt. If someone tells you otherwise, stop taking to them. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!


Fudgy brownies with raspberries and white chocolate

Fudgy raspberry & white chocolate brownies

Makes 12

200g butter
250g dark chocolate (I use Bournville)
3 large eggs
250g dark brown sugar (you can certainly use regular or light brown sugar but I find the dark brown sugar adds a certain treacley richness to the brownies)
100g self raising flour
25g Cocoa powder
125g fresh raspberries
125g white chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22cm square tin.

Melt the butter and chocolate together over a pan of simmering water. Take off the heat once melted and stir until smooth. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick, then add the chocolate. Stir in the flour, cocoa powder and white chocolate chunks. Pour half the batter into the tin, place the raspberries on top of the batter, then drop spoonfuls of batter on top of the raspberries. Use a spatula to spread the mixture out so all the raspberries are covered. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is set – the brownies should still have a slight wobble in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin (I always leave mine overnight) before cutting into squares.

Vonshef slow cooker review/giveaway!


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!)


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



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.


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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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



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.


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.


Orange blossom roasted rhubarb with Greek Yoghurt and pistachios



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!


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!