The perfect cheese toastie with Lactofree

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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?”

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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.

Chocolate, cherry and hazelnut biscotti

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For some strange reason I’ve been craving biscotti this past week….I wonder why…?

I do love a bit of biscotti with my latte whenever I visit Starbucks but I have to say this version is my very favourite. Chocolate dough packed full of plump dried cherries, chocolate chunks and hazelnuts, it’s pretty hard to beat. If you aren’t a coffee fan don’t fret – it isn’t very noticeable. The coffee just amps up the chocolate flavour.

chocolate, cherry and hazelnut biscotti

Adapted from chocolate cherry biscotti by Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 20

300g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
2 tbsp espresso powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
75g butter
200g sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g dried cherries
150g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
100g dark chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 180c. Line two large baking sheets with parchment.

Sift together all the dry ingredients.

Beat the butter and sugar together for a couple of minutes then slowly add the eggs and vanilla. Beat until everything is well mixed together. Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing until a dough forms.
Stir in the nuts and chocolate chunks.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one log at a time, roll the dough into 12 inch long logs. Flatten the logs into a rectangle with the palm of your hand so they are 1/2 to 1 inch high, 2 inches across. Transfer to the baking trays.

Bake the logs for 25-30 minutes or until slightly firm. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into slices. Return to the oven and bake for a further 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Lemon and lime madeira cake

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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.

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Madeira cake - simple but lovely!

Black forest cake

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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.

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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!

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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 China’s on their website.

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.

******COMPETITION NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED…THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!***

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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