Cherry Tomato and thyme Focaccia

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Hello! I’ve been meaning to post this Focaccia recipe since last year – I’m such a bad blogger! Hope you are all well and having a good “Summer” despite the wet, stormy and humid weather – it’s been cooler in the Highlands over the last couple of days which I am welcoming with open arms. Bump and I were struggling to cope last week with the humidity! I ended up getting signed off work with pregnancy exhaustion and another few issues. It was nothing to seriously worry about but I was forced to put my feet up and rest for a few days. But without further ado, I give you my cherry tomato and thyme Focaccia bread. 

This is such a beautiful, herby bread studded with cherry tomatoes. I love to make this using the different coloured tomatoes you can usually find around this time of year. It looks so pretty. I used to be scared of making Focaccia, but Once you get the hang of the wet dough, it’s really quite easy. If you have a stand mixer I recommend using it for this recipe. Otherwise, get your hands in to the mixing bowl and take off any rings – it’s going to get very sticky! Just don’t be tempted to add more flour. 

Makes one large Focaccia

500g strong white flour
1x7g sachet fast action yeast
10g salt
400ml tepid water
40g garlic oil, plus more for drizzling
Small bunch of fresh thyme
Small punnet of fresh cherry tomatoes, halved

Weight out the flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast and salt at opposite sides of the bowl (Placing salt directly on top of yeast can stop it from working.)

Pour the water and the garlic oil over the flour and using your hands or a wooden spoon, mix together. It will seem far too wet and you may think you’ve added to much water, but don’t worry! It’s meant to be this way. Once you have a very wet dough, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Turn out onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead for at least 10 minutes, or for 5-7 minutes using a food mixer. Don’t be tempted to add more flour – it will change the texture of the bread. Place dough back in the bowl and leave to rest for 1-2 hours or until almost doubled in size.

When the dough has almost doubled in size, tip out onto a large baking tray which you have drizzled with olive oil. The dough will start to collapse and flatten. Lightly oil your hands and fold the dough in half a couple of times. This should help it hold its shape a little. Flatten the dough out into a Foccacia shape, trying to get the dough to reach right to the edges of the tray. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for 45 minutes- 1 hour or until doubled in size again.

Preheat the oven to 220C/450F/Gas mark 8. When the dough has proved, poke dimples into the dough using your fingers. You need to press down quite firm. Place the halved cherry tomatoes into the dimples, scatter over the thyme leaves, drizzle with a little more garlic oil and scatter over some sea salt. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

Chocolate chip banana muffins

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As luck would have it (and much to my eldest son’s disgust because he had to go to school – ha ha) I got a much needed day off work today due to the bank holiday!

I’m now 17 weeks into my pregnancy and everything seems to be going ok. I could just do with a bit more energy! Unfortunately the job I do means I’m on my feet pretty much all day and I’m starting to find it pretty draining. Which means that when I get home from work every night I have my dinner, get my pj’s on and crawl into bed. I’ve been trying to start Stephen King’s book 11 22 63 for a while now but I can’t seem to keep my eyes open long enough to read! But despite my moans, I really am counting my blessings and crossing my fingers that everything has been going well so far. I’ve even started to feel the little one wriggle about which I love:)

Here’s a really great recipe for using up those black bananas. I don’t know about you but as soon as they start to turn black, I have to make something with them right away or just throw them out because the overwhelming smell makes me feel ill.

These don’t take much effort at all – and once you’ve tried them you’ll be glad you didn’t chuck those yuckky overripe bananas out!

Chocolate chip banana muffins
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s chocolate banana muffins in “Kitchen”

Makes 12

225g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
125ml coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
100g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g chocolate chips of your choice

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin lined with papers.

Weigh out the flour and cocoa powder. Stir together and set aside. Mash the bananas in a bowl and add the eggs, coconut oil, sugar and vanilla. Gently fold in the flour and cocoa powder, taking care not to overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon the mixture into the cases. Bake for 25 minutes or until risen and springy.

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CHOCOLATE CHERRY HAZELNUT BISCOTTI

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CHOCOLATE CHERRY HAZELNUT BISCOTTI

These crunchy, chocolate chunk loaded, espresso spiked twice baked Italian biscuits are the perfect accompaniment to a large mug of coffee or hot chocolate. I really like the dried cherries in this recipe but you can swap them for dried cranberries if you prefer. The espresso powder enhances the chocolate flavour.

I find it quite difficult to leave these alone. I love them!

Chocolate cherry hazelnut biscotti

Makes 10-14 biscotti

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/350F/Gas Mark 4. 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 thick. 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.

Sun dried tomato and rosemary bread and sharing some happy news!

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Hello! It’s been a while. I’ve completely neglected this blog lately. The truth is, I haven’t spent very much time in the kitchen at all. It’s hard creating recipes when more often than not the smell of cooking makes you retch and meal planning pretty much goes out the window when you don’t have a clue what you are going to fancy eating from one day to the next.

Yes….I’m pregnant!

Baby T is due 5th November and we couldn’t be happier!

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So now you know the reason why I’ve been a really bad blogger over the past couple of months. I’m feeling much better now (frantically searches for some wood to touch!!) but I had a lot of nausea in the first 10 weeks…some days the nausea was so severe I couldn’t lift my head off my pillow. I’ve had some very random cravings which included proper sausage rolls from a local butchers, Tyrells salt and vinegar crisps, granny smith apples spread with peanut butter and ginger nuts. I think I’ve eaten my body weight in ginger nuts. So no really weird cravings so far. I’m almost 15 weeks now and the sickness seems to have faded. Needless to say I don’t miss it at all! Apart from that I’m absolutely loving being pregnant again. It’s been a long time since I went through this (my boys are 13 and almost 12) and I just can’t wait to meet our new addition to our family. Exciting times ☺

So how would you like a new recipe? I think it’s long overdue! Today I’m sharing one of my favourite bread recipes with you – sun dried tomato and rosemary bread. The smell of this bread baking is absolutely divine and never fails to make me feel ravenous.

This bread is amazing with chorizo slices and melted mozzarella – best sandwich ever!

Sun dried tomato and rosemary bread

500 g strong white bread flour
7 g sachet fast-action dried yeast
10g salt
250ml warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp clear honey
80g sun dried or sun blush tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl, keeping the yeast and salt at opposite ends of the bowl. Mix together and make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm water, oil and honey and mix until the mixture forms a dough. If there are dry crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, add a little more warm water.

Knead for 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in a mixer, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Shape into a ball, place in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave in a warm place to prove for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for another minute to deflate any air bubbles. Flatten the dough out into a rough rectangle and add the drained tomatoes and chopped rosemary, gently kneading to incorporate.

Shape into a round loaf and transfer to a baking tray lightly dusted with flour. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove for a further hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

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About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 200°C/400F/gas Mark 6.

Dust the risen loaf lightly with flour and make a couple of slashes across the top, if you like.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown and the underside sounds hollow when tapped underneath.

The Sound of Flavourites Dairy Milk Chocolate Giveaway

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****COMPETITION NOW CLOSED….THANKS FOR ENTERING!****

WINNER TBA…..

Can listening to music while eating chocolate actually make it taste better?

According to Cadbury, it can!

The good folks behind the chocolate Company have conducted an extensive study with Mindlab and I have to admit, my geeky side was intrigued!

With hearing and taste senses being closely linked, they have discovered that our chocolate eating experience is enhanced by listening to different tempos of music depending on whether our chocolate is plain, nutty, fruity or stuffed with other goodies.

The study revealed the following:

1. Low pitch complements nutty flavours

2. High pitched music complements crunchy texture

3. Steady rhythm complements smooth texture

4. Mellow sounds complements soft spongy textures

5. Up-tempo sounds complements surprising textures that pop and crackle

Cadbury have put together an album called “Sound of Flavourites” with the London Contemporary Orchestra. Each track is designed to pair up with one of the nine bars in the Cadbury range, and you can test the theory out in the comfort of your own home by visiting Spotify. That’s if you can resist eating the chocolate all up before the playlist loads, of course😉

To celebrate the launch of The Sounds of Flavourites, Cadbury are giving away a big haul of chocolate to one of you lucky readers!

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It’s super easy to enter. All you have to do is leave a comment below this post telling me what your favourite chocolate flavour pairing is. The winner will be drawn at random on Friday 25th March 2016. UK residents only. Good luck!

Reeces peanut butter cup banana loaf

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Over the years, I’ve made so many banana loaves I could probably make them in my sleep. I’ve tried dozens of different versions but I think this one is my new favourite. This moist banana loaf is studded with Reeces mini peanut butter cups and Reeces pieces. It’s pure heaven for lovers of the banana and peanut butter combo!

Reeces peanut butter cup banana loaf

175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
2 large, very ripe bananas (about 250g total weight), mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g Reeces mini peanut butter cups, chopped in half (save a few for sprinkling over the top)
1 small packet Reeces pieces OR handful chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the base and sides of a 2lb loaf tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Slowly add the eggs to the creamed mixture, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little curdled at this stage. Gently fold in the flour. Finally, fold most of the peanut butter cups and Reeces pieces/chocolate chips into the cake mixture, taking care not to overmix.

Scoop the cake batter into the prepared loaf tin. Top with the reserved peanut butter cups and bake for between 1 hour and 1 hour 10 minutes, or until risen and skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or until turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Le Creuset cast iron grillit – review

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I felt I hit the jackpot the other week when Houseology very kindly sent me a Le Creuset cast iron grillit to review!

I’ve never cooked with cast iron before and I was excited to try it out. I had read a few things about seasoning the pan before you use it, but the instruction booklet told me there was no need so I decided not to worry about it.

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I was making beef olives for dinner the weekend the grillit arrived, so I had the perfect recipe for trying it out.

I was a little worried how it would fare on my little electric hob, but it was absolutely fine. I had no issues with the food sticking at all. It worked perfectly!

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I’ve used the grillit about three-four times since and I really like it. It’s fantastic quality and I love the way it heats up so evenly and maintains the heat. So far it’s inpressed me. The real test will be cooking a steak on on it!

Do you own any cast iron cookware?

Do you have any tips for cooking with cast iron?

The Le Creuset cast iron grillit is available to buy right here

Houseology have a brilliant masterclass section on their website which is filled with tips, buying guides and tools for interior design! It’s perfect if you’re looking for inspiration for redecorating or even just freshening up a room. There is also a great kitchen section with tips and recipes

Book Review – Prohibition Bakery

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Along with the everyday baker, I was recently given a copy of Prohibition Bakery by Leslie Feinberg and Brooke Siem to review.

Brooke Siem is a classically trained chef who, with experienced baker and bartender Leslie Feinberg, created New York City’s first alcoholic cupcake company, Prohibition Bakery in 2011.

A book dedicated to boozy cupcakes sound very appealing to me and whenever I’m sent books for review I like to test a few recipes out but sadly I can’t drink alcohol at the moment (no, not because of that!) so I had to make myself content with reading the book and imagining what the recipes would taste like!

Flicking through the pages I found many classic cocktails in cupcake form – Cosmo, sex on the beach, mint julep, strawberry daiquiri, Tequila sunrise and amaretto sour to name just a few. There are also a fair few I’ve never heard of including Kokoloko, flower of Oahu, Johnny Appleseed’s dirty little secret and my personal favourite name for a cocktail/cupcake – Breakfast, Bitch!

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If you’re going to bake from this book, you’ll have to invest in a mini cupcake tin. All the cupcakes are presented in mini form, which the writers insist, is vital for recipe success. Of course, there is nothing to stop you from trying the recipes using a regular cupcake tin, but Leslie and Brooke go on to say don’t get grumpy if they don’t work! So we can’t say they didn’t warn us.

It really is a great book full of handy tips on how to achieve perfect results when baking with alcohol and in the final pages there is even a little cocktail recipe section to inspire you.

I can’t see myself using this book as an everyday baking reference, but I would definitely use it if I was throwing a girls night in get together – a selection of these mini cupcakes would be a perfect addition to the party! Sounds like a plan…;)

I was sent a copy of Prohibition Bakery by Leslie Feinberg and Brooke Siem to review. RRP £14.99. All opinions are my own.

Book Review – The Everyday Baker

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The Everyday Baker
Essential Techniques and Recipes for Foolproof Baking
By Abigail Johnson Dodge

A sumptuous, comprehensive tome, The Everyday Baker is a baking reference to die for containing 200 essential, step-by-step techniques and recipes that every home cook should master. The book showcases a huge variety of sweet and savoury baked goods, from simple crumbles and muffins to pavlovas, meringues, soufflés and more, all with detailed instructions, visual clues and ingenious tips, so that each one is in easy reach of the novice cook.

Author Abigail Johnson Dodge is a veteran cookbook writer and pastry chef who explains techniques in a friendly, conversational tone, alongside 650 photos to bring her instructions to life. For each recipe, Abigail provides the extras that make her a highly regarded baking expert: make ahead tips, flavour and size variations and ‘baker’s wisdom’ gems that will help home cooks become more knowledgeable and confident. The Everyday Baker is packed with authoritative yet approachable information and will remain a staple in the kitchen long after home bakers gain the skills they need to become Great British Bake Off hopefuls!

I was recently given a copy of The Everyday Baker to review. It is indeed a tome, with over 600 pages. It is pretty heavy! It’s definitely a perfect book to curl up and read if the weather is rubbish. I’m pretty certain you would pick up a few new tips along the way – Abigail shares a wealth of handy kitchen hints and techniques. One thing I really love is the recipe measurements are in cups, grams and ounces – very helpful! There are also step by step photographs for many of the recipes.

I could quite happily bake my way through the entire book. The chapters include:

Morning food
Quick to make
Cookies
Cakes
Pies and tarts
Pudding and custards
Yeast breads
Pastry
Flatbreads
Fruit desserts

Recipes I want to try include:

Cinnamon swirl crumble topped ricotta coffee cake
Baked double chocolate dougnuts
Vanilla macarons with Nutella filling
Toasted coconut meltaways
Espresso hazelnut meringue cake with espresso buttercream and milk chocolate ganache
Maple pear slab pie
Roasted butternut squash pie with pecan praline
Popcorn creme caramel
Bourbon maple pecan baklava
Double tomato basil open faced tart
Cheesy bacon focaccia rolls

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I made the creamy peanut butter filled Devil’s chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache topping. The chocolate sponge was so moist and light. They were amazing. My sister declared them the best cupcakes ever!

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The best ever maple pecan granola clusters were addictive. It was lovely with natural yoghurt but I couldn’t walk past the jar without grabbing a handful. Perfect. Another keeper recipe!

So far that’s two brilliant recipes – I’m really looking forward to trying more.

The Everyday Baker is a fantastic baking reference. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced, confident baker I highly recommend this book. It will be a constant kitchen companion for me.

I was given a copy of The Everyday Baker to review. All opinions are my own.

Blood orange and strawberry smoothie

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I’ve been feeling very drained and tired lately, so in an attempt to increase my vitamin intake I bought myself a NutriNinja (thanks to my brothers and sister for giving me Lakeland vouchers for Christmas!) and I’ve been experimenting with all different kinds of smoothies and juices.

So I thought I’d share some of the more successful smoothie experiments with you in a series of mini posts ☺

Starting with….

Blood orange and strawberry smoothie

Makes one large glass for one

Juice of 2-3 blood oranges
5 large strawberries
1 banana
200ml Greek yoghurt
A little milk to thin the smoothie, if too thick

Simply blend all the ingredients together. Add a little milk if it’s too thick.

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Horlicks limited edition bundle giveaway

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Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief – we made it though January! But we all know February can also be cold and grey, which makes us want to shut out the outside world, curl up on the sofa with a blanket, a good movie or book and a warming milky drink.  So with that in mind I’ve teamed up with Horlicks to give one lucky reader some fantastic limited edition Horlicks memorabilia.

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The prize includes a Horlicks mug, storage tin, coaster and a tub of light malt chocolate Horlicks.

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Horlicks is great for those looking for an alternative afternoon cuppa to help boost energy levels! A mug of Horlicks Traditional is packed with 14 key nutrients including Vitamin B6 which contributes to the normal functioning of both the nervous and immune system and can reduce tiredness and fatigue. It is also low fat and a source of protein.


To enter the competition, all you need to do is click on the Rafflecopter link below and complete the entry options. The more options you do, the more chance you have of winning. Good luck! UK entrants only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Easiest ever Nutella cookies

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Easiest ever Nutella cookies

These Nutella cookies are so simple and easy to make and I can guarantee they won’t be around for long, especially if my boys have anything to do with it!

Makes 12-15 cookies

125g Nutella 125g condensed milk 75g plain flour 75g plain chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a baking sheet.

Place the Nutella and condensed milk in a medium bowl. Add the flour and chocolate chips and mix together with a wooden spoon. It will come together, although it might not seem like it at first! Alternatively, place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you have a shiny dough. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and place on the lined baking sheet, placing them at least 2cm apart. Slightly flatten each one with the palm of your hand and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies have spread and look set around the edges. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Gingerbread loaf with orange cream cheese icing/lemon icing

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I really do love a nice, simple ginger loaf and this is a really good one! Like most gingerbread, this is best made in advance – keep it wrapped up for 2-3 days and you’ll be rewarded with a beautifully sticky, moist cake. The orange cream cheese icing/lemon icing is optional but lovely.

ginger loaf with orange cream cheese icing/lemon icing

250g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
120g butter
110g treacle
110g golden syrup
110g dark muscavado sugar
250ml milk
1 egg, beaten
50g Crystallised or stem ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.Grease and line a 900g loaf tin.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and lemon zest 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.

ORANGE CREAM CHEESE ICING

125g full fat cream cheese
275g icing sugar, sifted
Finely grated zest of one small orange
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

OR

Lemon icing:
100g icing sugar
Juice of half or one lemon
Chopped crystallised ginger to decorate, optional

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, if using.

Raspberry jam filled sandwich cookies

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I absolutely love the look of these jam filled cut out cookies – you can go with any cutters that take your fancy  but I think the stars are perfect for this time of year. A thick dusting of icing sugar makes them look so festive 🎄

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Raspberry jam filled sandwich cookies

100g soft butter
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour, plus extra for sprinkling
½ tsp baking powder
Raspberry or strawberry jam for the filling

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4

Cream the butter and sugar together until combined, then beat in the egg, vanilla extract, flour and baking powder and continue mixing until it all comes together to form a soft dough.

Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes (it won’t hurt at all to leave it for up to a day.)

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, sprinkle your work surface with flour, place the dough on it and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Roll out to a thickness of about 5mm.

Cut into shapes of your choice – I  used a 7cm round cutter and a 3cm star for the cut outs. Don’t do what I did the first time I made these – I got carried away and cut stars out on all of my cookies, forgetting I needed half of them whole!! Oops!  Place the shapes on a lined baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes or until quite firm and lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then carefully remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

When the cookies have completely cooled, spread a little jam over each one of the whole cookies, then place the cookie with the star cut-out on top. Liberally dust with icing sugar.

Terrys chocolate orange cheesecake

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December 1st!! The countdown to the big day has officially begun and I’m celebrating with a very easy and delicious no bake chocolate orange cheesecake.

I converted two supposed cheesecake haters with this one. I really hope you love it too!

Terry’s chocolate orange cheesecake

150g butter
280g chocolate orange digestives, crushed to fine crumbs
450g full fat philadelphia cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g icing sugar
Finely grated zest of one large orange
200ml double cream
1 (or 2 if you want lots of chocolate orangey goodness OR for extra pieces to snack on while you’re slaving away making this….just saying ;))Terrys chocolate orange (keep about 10 neat looking pieces for decorating the top, roughly chop the rest for the filling)

Melt the butter in a saucepan and tip in the crushed biscuits. Stir until the biscuits are completely coated in butter and resemble damp sand. Tip into a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin and press down evenly. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling, whip together the cream cheese, vanilla, icing sugar and orange zest. In a separate bowl, lightly whip the double cream to very soft peaks. Fold the cream into the cream cheese mixture. Finally, fold in chopped chocolate orange. Pour the cheesecake filling over the biscuit base. Pop back in the fridge to set for at least five hours or preferably overnight. The last time I made this I only lasted 3 hours before cutting…needless to say it wasn’t set properly! It was still delicious but a little runny. When the cheesecake is set and you are ready to serve it, decorate with the reserved chocolate orange segments/melted chocolate. If you didn’t eat them while waiting for the cheesecake to set. I didn’t do that myself by the way. Nope. Not at all………

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Gingerbread latte cake

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I am a huge fan of gingerbread. Especially gingerbread lattes. I just can’t help it, I find them irresistible. I frequent Starbucks more often in December than I do any other time of the year – I’ve got to have my gingerbread lattes! But my obsession doesn’t end with visiting coffee shops – I buy the syrup and make it at home (which is much kinder on the purse!)

It was only a matter of time before I turned my favourite festive drink into a cake. This three layer cake is full of warming winter spices and just a hint of coffee. The caramel biscuit icing is from this months Christmas BBC Good Food magazine. The only thing I changed was substitute some of the cream cheese for mascarpone because I had some that needed using up.

Gingerbread latte cake
Inspired and apapted from “Gingerbread cake with caramel biscuit icing” from BBC Good Food Magazine

225g soft butter
375g light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tbsp treacle
375g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
300ml tub sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 heaped tsp coffee granules, dissolved in 50ml boiling water (leave to cool a little before using)

Grease and base line three 20cm loose-bottomed cake tins. If your tins are shallower than 4cm, line the sides with a baking paper collar.

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C/Gas 4. Using an electric mixer/whisk, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the treacle.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices. Stir the sour cream, vanilla and cooled coffee together in a jug. Fold the spiced flour and sour cream coffee mixture into the creamed mixture, alternating until all the ingredients are incorporated and you have a smooth batter. Divide the batter between the tins and bake for 25-30 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes come out clean. Cool the cakes in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Once the cakes are completely cool (and if you don’t need to ice them straightaway) wrap in cling film and store for up to 4 days, or they can be frozen for up to 2 months.

The recipe for the caramel biscuit icing can be found right here – I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s not cheap to make, but for a treat it’s definitely worth it!

Pistachio, cranberry and white chocolate biscotti

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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

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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.

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WIN tickets to the BBC Good Food show this Winter!

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***COMPETITION NOW CLOSED****

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:

https://www.bbcgoodfoodshowlondon.com/

https://www.bbcgoodfoodshowwinter.com/

https://www.bbcgoodfoodshowscotland.com/

Good luck!

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