Roasted sweet potato and carrot soup

I’ve been making this soup a lot recently. It’s so lovely and warming, which is much needed now the weather has turned nippy. I guess it was going to happen sooner or later – we had a pretty mild Winter so it was inevitable we were going to pay for it at some point!

Roasting the sweet potatoes and carrots really brings out their natural sweetness. If you wanted to add a little spice to counteract the sweetness, you could easily add some chilli flakes but I just love this soup the way it is. It goes down very  well with kids too!

Roasted sweet potato and carrot soup

500g sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 4-5cm pieces

300g carrots, peeled and chopped into similar sized pieces as the sweet potatoes

1 large or 2 small red onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, unpeeled

2 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil

Salt and pepper

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 200C. Place the sweet potatoes, carrots, onion and unpeeled garlic in a roasting tin. Drizzle over the oil, add a grinding of salt and pepper and roast for 45-50 minutes or until the veg is very tender.

Leave the veg to cool a little and remove the garlic. Squeeze the garlic from the skins and set aside. Transfer the veg to a large saucepan, add the garlic and blitz with a blender until smooth. Taste the soup to see if it needs more seasoning before transferring to bowls.

I linked this post with recipe of the week atA Mummy Too


Spiralized sweet potato, courgette and spinach quiche

Spiralizing seems to be all the rage the moment. There are dozens of Pinterest boards dedicated to spiralized recipes, numerous blogs and website articles telling you how to get the most out of your spiralizer and Sainsburys are selling courgetti and butternut squash noodles.

Steamer trading cookshop sent me a Gefu spirelli spiral slicer so I could create my own spiralized recipe. I was originally going to make a spiralized salad, but I fancied trying something a little different. The night before I received the slicer I had made some shortcrust pastry for a quiche. I started to think about incorporating the spiralised veg in the quiche, but I wasn’t sure if it would work. My initial concern was that the thinly sliced veg would catch in the oven and burn or end up overcooked. There’s only one way to find out, I told myself! 

It actually worked really well – the veg was perfectly cooked through, with no mushiness at all. 

The Gefu spiral slicer did a great job of spiralising the courgette and sweet potato. The extremely sharp Japanese blades sliced through the veg super fast. But what I really love about this spiralizer is how easy it is to clean. All it needs is a quick rinse under the tap. It doesn’t take up much room either, which is perfect if you’re like me and don’t have much space left for new kitchen gadgets! 

There are 2 settings which creates 2mm or 3.5mm spirals.

Compact, simple to use and easy to clean – the Gefu spiral slicer would be a great purchase if you are interested in buying a spiralizer but don’t want a huge gadget taking up space on your work top.

The courgette fit perfectly inside the slicer but I had to cut the sweet potato which left me with a few odd pieces leftover – they won’t be wasted though, they are in the fridge destined for soup!

The nutmeg in the filling is crucial for flavour – it makes all the difference. 

Spiralized sweet potato, courgette and spinach quiche

For the parmesan shortcrust pastry:

180g plain flour

100g very cold, cubed butter

25g grated parmesan

1 large egg yolk

1-2 tsp chilled water 

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and parmesan and rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and 1tsp water and mix until you have a dough. If the mixture isn’t forming together, add a little more water, a few drops at a time. Cover the dough with cling film and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 180/350F/gas mark 4. Place a baking tray in the oven to heat up.

Roll out your pastry on a floured surface to fit a tart tin. Place a circle of baking paper over the pastry in the tin and fill with baking beans. I don’t have baking beans – I use pasta, dried butter beans or anything similar. Just one word of advice – don’t use lentils! I did once and I ended up with crunchy lentils in my cooked pastry. There was a slight tear in the baking paper I used to line the tin and they ended up embedded in the pastry! Not great. Place the pastry lined tin in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and the edges are golden brown. 

For the filling

Splash of oil and 25g butter

One large red onion, sliced thinly

2 tsp sugar

I large or two small sweet potatoes

One courgette

80g fresh spinach

4 large eggs

300ml double cream

2 tsp grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Handful fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

Melt the oil and butter in a frying pan. Add the onions, sprinkle over the sugar and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions are very soft and caramelised. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. 

Spiralize the sweet potato and courgette. Place the onions in the pastry case and place the spinach on top. Add your spiralized veg, spreading it all out so you have an even covering. Beat together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper, nutmeg and thyme. Pour this mixture into your pastry case, going slowly to allow the mixture to sink in. Try and make sure the spinach is covered or it will catch in the oven.

As you can see my pastry shrunk a little in the top left hand corner - probably because I didn't chill the pastry case before baking!

Carefully transfer the quiche to the oven, placing on the preheated baking tray. Bake for 50 minutes or until the filling is set. 


I was sent a Gefu spiral slicer for review. I was not paid in cash for this review. All opinions and photographs are my own. 
The Gefu spiral slicer is available to buy online here at Steamer trading cookshop.

I shared this post over at Taming Twins for #CookBlogShare. 

Hijacked By Twins

Meal Planning Monday 20th February

Last week flew past. I genuinely don’t know where it went! It wasn’t the best week for us – I kept getting migraines and the boys weren’t 100% either. It just seemed to be one thing after another. On top of that, baby Hamish started teething and decided that sleeping is for wimps. Coffee and chocolate is keeping me going!

I’m finding meal planning really helpful though. No matter how hectic things can get, if I know what I’m cooking that night it just feels like one less thing to worry about. 

Here’s this week’s meal plan:

Monday – Chicken and chorizo pasta bake

Tuesday – Fish and wedges for me, chicken burgers for the boys

Wednesday – Leek, potato and roasted garlic soup with crusy bread

Thursday – Sausages cheesy mash and peas

Friday – Stuffed sweet potato skins

As usual, I’m not making plans for the weekend yet – my eldest son turns 14 (14!!! htf did that happen!) on Saturday  and I’m not too sure how we’ll be celebrating yet. 

Have a great week! 

 I’m linking this post with the Meal Planning Monday bloghop, hosted at Hijacked by Twins and Little Paper Swans

White chocolate and raspberry shortbread hearts

I’m not competely against St Valentine’s Day, but I’m not a massive fan of it either. Why do we need a date on the calendar to tell someone we love them? We should be telling them every single day anyway. 

I didn’t always feel that way. I remember those school days and the crushing disappointment you felt when you didn’t get a card from the object of your desires. Oh well, maybe next year, you told yourself. Of course by then, you’d moved on to someone else. Oh to be a teenager again…maybe not. I don’t think I could  go back to those days. 

Whether you love St Valentine’s Day or think it’s all a load of commercial crap, I hope you spent it with the ones you love x

White chocolate and raspberry shortbread hearts

Makes about 20, depending on the size of your cutter

225g soft butter

200g plain flour

100g icing sugar 

100g cornflour

150g white chocolate

Freeze dried raspberries

Grease and line two baking trays. Preheat the oven to 180C. 

In a large bowl or using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the flour, icing sugar and cornflour and mix until you have a soft dough. 

Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper to an even thickness. Cut out shapes and place onto the baking tray. Bake for around 12-15 mins or until very light golden around the edges. Remove from the oven, leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Melt your chocolate. Dip one half of the shortbread into the melted chocolate. Scatter over a few freeze dried raspberries before the chocolate sets.  

I linked this post up to Treat Petite, hosted by Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer.

#Meal planning Monday 13/02

Hi folks! How can it be Monday again already?

This menu planning is harder to do than I thought. Not impossible, just hard. The difficulty is this. Picky teenage/pre-teen kids and fussy food fads. One week they like something, next week they don’t. Son number two loves sausages. Son number one hates them. Son number one loves roast chicken. Son number 2 doesn’t. One likes fish. One hates it with a passion. I could go on but I won’t – you get the picture! 

It’s a challenge but I’m not going to let it put me off – I’ve started making whatever I want and if the boys refuse to try it, I just tell them they can make themselves scrambled eggs/beans/cheese on toast. They are old enough to make themselves something else if they don’t want what’s on offer. I refuse to get into battles with them over food. I find it exhausting and trying to force them to eat it doesn’t work anyway. 

Do you have fussy eaters in your household? How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your tips!

This week’s menu is pretty much centered around what I know my boys will definitely eat without question and what I have to use up in the freezer. I’m trying to empty my freezer and cupboard before I do a big shop at the end of the week.

Monday – Just me and the boys tonight so I’m making a quick and easy pasta carbonara.

Tuesday – Tattie soup and oatcakes

Wednesday – Burgers, sweet potato fries and salad

Thursday – Chicken wraps

Friday – Home made pizzas

I’m not sure about Saturday and Sunday so I won’t meal plan yet. 

I’m linking this post with the #MealPlanningMonday bloghop, hosted at Hijacked by Twins and Little Paper Swans

Celebrating National Bagel Day with New York Bakery Co

Happy National Bagel Day!

I loves me a bagel. Plain, sesame, cinnamon and raisin, doesn’t matter what flavour, I’ll happily scoff them all.

I became addicted to the New York Bakery Co red onion and chive bagels last year while I was pregnant. I was especially fond of them with turkey, lettuce, mayo and cranberry sauce. Yum.

New York Bakery Co very kindly sent me a selection of bagels so I could come up with some new bagel toppings. 

I called this one sausage mozzarella melt – pork sausages, fresh sliced tomato, basil and lots of melted mozzarella on the oh so good cheese bagel. On a side note, I think the cheese bagels would be really good with bacon and sweet chilli sauce – I’ll be trying that soon.

Next was a little spin on the NY classic pastrami sandwich – American mustard, layers of pastrami and gherkins on a red onion and chive bagel. 

I wanted to come up with a sweet bagel so here’s a super easy and quick idea – lemon blueberry cheesecake bagel. Stir a little icing sugar and lemon zest into cream cheese. Spread on a cinnamon and raisin bagel and top with fresh blueberry sauce.

Here are some more bagel toppings we are currently addicted to:

Ham and cheese, melted under the grill (my eldest son loves this)

Banana and peanut butter

Cream cheese cucumber and chives

Cream cheese and strawberry jam (on a cinnamon and raisin)

What’s your favourite bagel filling?
New York Bakery Co supplied me with the bagels. All ideas and opinions are my own. 


Meal Planning Monday 6/2/17

Hello Monday! I can’t believe we’re now into February. I’ve been meaning to start this weekly menu planning thing for ages but kept putting it off. But I’m going to give it a go because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself staring at the contents of the fridge/freezer/my bulging food cupboard at 5pm (my name is Nicola and I have a terrible food hoarding addiction) with no clue what I’m going to make.

It doesn’t help that my teenage boys have suddenly turned very fussy and trying to find meal ideas that everyone is happy to eat has become quite frankly, a real headache.

So I’ve devised a meal plan for the week ahead (not including the weekend because I won’t know what our plans will be until the middle of the week) going by food I already have in the freezer/cupboard so the only shopping I should have to do this week is for bread, milk and a few fresh bits.

So here goes! 

Monday – Beef fried rice (made with leftover roast beef from last night’s dinner)

Tuesday – Orange glazed pork loin steaks with tomato couscous 

 Wednesday: Chicken Fajitas

Thursday: Blood orange glazed salmon for myself and Son number 2, Southern breaded chicken for Hubby and Son number 1

Friday:  Sausage, sweet potato and apple traybake from A glug of oil

There we have first weekly meal planner. It might be a tad ambitious for the first week – we don’t always eat this well! Thankfully my hubby is on holiday this week so at least he will be on hand to help amuse the wee one while I cook. Here’s hoping it will make life a bit easier for us! 


Hijacked By Twins

I shared this post with the #MealPlanningMonday link up, which is hosted by Kirsty at Hijacked by twins and Cathryn at Little Paper Swans. I’ll be checking out the other blogger’s meal plans tonight for inspiration! 

Do you meal plan? Leave a comment and let me know if it works for you! 

Chocolate orange panettone bread pudding

I did not expect to be blogging a recipe for leftover panettone in February, but I had 3 mini boxes of the Italian sweet bread to use up after finding them reduced in my local co-op to 25p each. I couldn’t leave a bargain like that sitting on the shelf so I took them home 🙂

This chocolate orange bread pudding is a rather delicious way of using up leftover panettone, but it would be equally as good with brioche. 
Chocolate orange panettone bread pudding

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s chocolate chip bread pudding from “Kitchen”

250g chocolate panettone or brioche, cut into 3-4cm cubes

100g chocolate chips

Zest of one large orange

3 large eggs

40g caster sugar

125ml double cream

500ml full fat milk

4 tsp demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly butter an ovenproof dish with butter. 

Arrange the bread in the dish. Scatter over the chocolate chips and orange zest.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar cream and milk. Pour this over the bread. Leave to soak for around 20 minutes, then sprinkle over the demerara sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the custard has set and has a slight wobble. 

This pudding is pure comfort food! I think we all need a little comfort in these current times.  So once you’ve made this, all that’s left to do is curl up on the couch with a blanket, a good movie or book and enjoy 🙂 

I shared this recipe with Recipe of the week link up over at A Mummy too.

Mint Oreo Brownies

If you like mint chocolate and Oreos, you’re going to love these mint Oreo brownies!

I’m a massive mint chocolate fan. Mint Oreo cookies have been available over here for a while now, but as they were imported from America they were very pricey. As much as I wanted to try them, I just can’t bring myself to pay £6 for a packet of biscuits. I just can’t. But now they are available over here for a much more reasonable price so I stocked up! 

Can I just make a suggestion? Try these brownies with a scoop of mint choc chip ice cream and chocolate sauce.


Mint Oreo Brownies

200g soft butter

200g dark chocolate, broken into squares

300g caster sugar

4 eggs

1tsp peppermint extract

100g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

1 packet mint oreo brownies, broken into quarters

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

Melt the butter slowly in a medium sized saucepan pan and once melted, take off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring to melt. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until very light,  pale and doubled in volume. Fold in the peppermint extract, flour, cocoa powder and mint Oreo pieces. Pour the mixture into the lined tin. Top with the remaining Oreo pieces. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is set.

 Leave the brownies in the tin to go completely cold before cutting into squares. 


Beef and Haggis cottage pie

I wasn’t planning to post this recipe, but quite a few of my Facebook followers requested the recipe after I shared this picture earlier this evening. This is hearty, warming grub, perfect on a chilly January night.
It would be great for Burn’s night supper tomorrow night. Some mashed neep (turnip) alongside or underneath the mashed tatties/parsnip would be a great idea if you’re more organised than I am and remembered to buy one!

Beef and haggis cottage pie

500g minced beef

1 Oxo stock cube

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced

1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Around 3/4 pint beef stock 

400g haggis

About half of a 1.5 kg bag potatoes, peeled and cut into even sized chunks

4-5 parsnips, peeled and cut into pieces roughly the same size as the potatoes

50-75g Butter for the mash, and a splash of milk

Place a large pan on the hob to heat. When the pan is hot, tip in the mince and cook until browned. Crumble in the stock cube and add the onion and carrot. Add the worcestershire sauce, the beef stock, a little salt and pepper and simmer for 30-45 minutes.. Keep an eye on the pan so the mince doesn’t get too dry. I often make the mince in advance, let it cool and pop in the fridge to save time later, plus I think it tastes better if it’s reheated later on or even the next day.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Place the potatoes and parsnips in a large pan of water.Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes and parsnips are very soft. Drain and mash with the butter and milk.

Remove the haggis from its packaging.

Place the mince in an ovenproof dish, crumble the haggis over the top and top with the potato and parsnip mash. Cook for 40-45 minutes until golden and crispy on top.

Hello 2017!

Happy New Year! I know I’m a little late, but better late than never I guess…

I really neglected this blog in 2016. I had so much going on something had to give. I was working full time, studying and pregnant while running a household and looking after my two older sons. So it left very little time for any extra activities. I ended up with pelvic girdle pain in the second half of my pregnancy and had to use crutches if I was walking for longer than 10 minutes. I’m normally a pretty active person and one of my favourite hobbies is going for really long walks, so I struggled with not being able to get around much. My husband ended up doing most of the cooking and with the way I was feeling, I was more than happy for him to do so. After a scare at 26 weeks, I was signed off work and told to rest as much as I could. It wasn’t the easiest of pregnancies, but it was all so worth it when we finally got to meet our gorgeous little Hamish, after an emergency C section at 11.10pm on the 30th October. If he was born one hour later he would have been a Halloween baby! 

So right now I’m just making the most of my maternity leave and our new baby. My other two boys are almost 14 (next month) and 12, so I can really appreciate why people say “they grow up so fast!” and “cherish every moment while they are little”.  It’s not a cliche, it really is true.
Thank you for sticking with me in 2016 and I hope to be back posting recipes very soon! 

Amaretto fruit cake

We are fast approaching the time of year when I begin to get ridiculously excited. I love Christmas and this year we have an extra special reason to celebrate…

Our gorgeous little boy Hamish Andrew arrived on the 30th October 2016, at 11.09pm. I can’t believe he is a month old already! I ended up having to have an emergency C section and for the first couple of weeks I wasn’t up to venturing out at all. My husband had to do everything for me – thank God he was off work. 4 weeks on and I’m still pretty tender and I get tired quite quickly. Breastfeeding every 3 hours can take it out of you as well, so at the moment my motto is – If it’s not desperate, it ain’t getting done! I’m just enjoying every moment with our little bundle of joy 🙂

 I just can’t imagine Christmas without a fruit cake – if I’m totally honest one of my main reasons for making one is to fill the house with the amazing, festive smell while the cake is in the oven! I usually make elaborate plans to ice and decorate the cake, but in reality I’m never usually organised enough to actually do it. If you’re short of time, a fruit and nut topping is easy and looks so pretty. 

This simmer and stir method means it isn’t totally necessary to make the cake weeks before Christmas and feed it – but you can if you want to.

It’s definitely worth taking the time to line your cake tin correctly to protect the cake during its long baking time.

Grease a deep, loose bottomed 23cm round cake tin and line the base and sides with non stick baking paper. Cut out a circle of baking paper, using the base of your tin as a template. To line the sides, cut a strip of baking paper a little longer than the circumference of the tin and about 3 inches higher. Fold it 1 inch along its length, then using scissors make little snips up to the fold line, making a fringe along the length. It should now fit snugly inside the cake tin. Finally, fit your circle over the top, covering the fringe.

Amaretto fruit cake

200g dried figs, chopped
300g sultanas
350g raisins
200g glace cherries, rinsed, dried and halved
50g crystallized ginger, chopped (optional)
125ml Amaretto, plus extra for soaking the cake
300g butter
250g dark brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 large Orange
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons treacle
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 medium eggs
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
30g flaked almonds


3-4 tablespoons apricot jam
250g mixed fruit and nuts such as apricots, glace cherries, cranberries, crystallized ginger, Brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.

Place the dried fruits in a large saucepan with the Amaretto, butter, sugar, Orange zest and juice, lemon zest, treacle, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg. Gently bring to a simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes. I’ve often done this in advance and left it overnight. When you’re ready to bake the cake, pour the soaked fruit mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and flaked almonds. Stir until everything is well combined. Pour into the lined tin and bake for 2 1/2 – 3 hours or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin. When the cake is cold, poke a few holes in the cake, drizzle with a little Amaretto, then wrap in baking paper and store in an airtight container.

If you’re decorating the cake with the fruit and nut topping, warm the apricot jam in a small pan over a low heat. If there are any lumps of fruit, strain through a sieve.
Brush the top of the cake with some jam, then stick the fruit and nuts onto the cake. Carefully brush the fruit and nuts with the remaining jam to add a lovely shine.

Spooky spider cookies!

I came across some spider cookies on Pinterest using Reeces peanut butter cups a while ago and thought they were cute. This is my version using chocolate buttons – I hope you give them a try! I really enjoyed making these. I’m not a fan of spiders at all, but I love these!

Spooky Spider Cookies

200g soft butter

200g light brown sugar

125g caster sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

400g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g dark or milk chocolate chips 

To decorate: 1 large bag chocolate buttons

Packet of candy eyeballs (I bought mine online via ebay)

100g melted chocolate for the spider legs

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line 2 or 3 baking sheets.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating until the mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla.  Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together over a medium bowl. slowly stir into the creamed mixture, until the mixture becomes a dough. Stir in the chocolate chips. Roll even sized amounts of cookie dough into balls and place them on your baking sheets, leaving about 3-4cm between each one to allow for spreading. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 5 mins, then remove the tray from the oven and bang the tray on a work surface to deflate the cookies. Return to the oven for another 5 mins or until light golden brown. 

While you’re waiting for the cookies, melt the 100g chocolate and place in a small piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle. 

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 mins before transferring to a wire rack for 10-20 minutes. While the cookies are still very slightly warm, place a chocolate button in the middle of each cookie, place the candy eyeballs on using a tiny blob of melted chocolate and finally pipe on little spider legs. Leave the cookies for a little while to set the chocolate before serving to your trick or treaters, or guisers as we call them in Scotland!

Have a wonderful Halloween! I won’t be doing it this year because I’ll be in hospital having my little bundle of joy! I’m so excited to meet him after all this time! It’s felt like a very long pregnancy. Hopefully see you soon! xx

Pumpkin spice chocolate chip granola

My favourite season of all is officially here. I love Autumn. I love the colours of the leaves, the cooler weather, making warming soups, cosy jumpers and pumpkin spice lattes. This crunchy granola has plenty of Autumnal flavours in the form of pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Not forgetting a generous handful of chocolate chips. Chocolate is always a good thing at any time of year!

I love this granola with natural yogurt and fruit. Or just as it is, eaten in snatched handfuls whenever I pass the jar! 

Pumpkin spice chocolate chip granola

350g rolled oats

125g walnuts

50g pumpkin seeds

50g brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

100g pumpkin puree (I use Libbys, the only brand I can ever find in the shops)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

80ml maple syrup 

100g dried cranberries

100g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C.  In a small pan, melt together the pumpkin puree, oil and maple syrup. Take off the heat and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sugar, spices, seeds and nuts. Pour over the melted mixture and mix very well together. Pour this onto a deep baking tray/tin and spread out evenly. You may need to use two trays depending on their size. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the granola is golden and crunchy.  Remove from the oven and leave to go completely cold before stirring in the cranberries and chocolate chips. 

This granola will keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight jar. 

Viennese Whirls & House of Fraser Whisk, Bake, Serve, Repeat bakeware review

 Hands up if you’ve been watching The great British bake off? I’ve been loving the return of the hugely popular baking show. Last week’s theme was biscuits – the contestants made viennese whirls, iced biscuits and the final challenge was to make a showstopping 3d gingerbread structure. 

Everyone who knows me will be well aware that there’s nothing I enjoy more than pottering around in the kitchen cooking and baking, but the pelvic girdle pain I currently have is making that very hard to do. I can’t stand on my feet for longer for 20 minutes, I get awful stabbing pains in my pelvis area and I feel like I have the hips of a 90 year old woman! So I went for the easiest option – viennese whirls. 

I decided to make them on Sunday evening after dinner. I made the dough in my trusty Kitchenaid but by the time it came to piping out the biscuits, I had well and truly ran out of steam and had to employ the skills of my ex-baker hubby while I sat down to put my feet up. He hasn’t worked as a baker for years and doesn’t have the time to bake at home, but he certainly hasn’t lost his piping skills! The biscuits turned out beautifully. Very light and crumbly – just how a viennese whirl should be. I used this recipe from Mary Berry. I sandwiched the whirls with strawberry jam and vanilla buttercream, then dipped the tops in white chocolate and strawberry sprinkles. The Viennese fingers were sandwiched together with buttercream and dipped in dark chocolate. They look very fancy but were actually pretty easy to make. But I wouldn’t make a habit of making them – purely because I would simply scoff them all! 

House of Fraser recently sent me a selection of their “whisk, bake, serve, repeat” bakeware, which looks really pretty and would be fantastic to use with little ones to get them involved in baking – now my boys are older, it’s getting much more difficult to get them in the kitchen with me -when they aren’t at school, they are either at football practise or out with their mates. But then that’s the way it should be, they are both practically teenagers now. Hopefully when the little one in my tummy is big enough, he’ll be keen to spend some time in the kitchen with Mum! 

I was sent a selection of bakeware from House of Fraser – they have some good deals on the range at the moment so it’s definitely worth checking out.

I was impressed by the quality and design of the bakeware, so I’ll be featuring it in future posts! 


Homemade Jaffa Cakes

I’ve not been feeling up to spending much time in the kitchen lately, but after watching the return of The Great British Bake off I was inspired to try the technical challenge – jaffa cakes. Plus the fact that there has been a serious lack of cake in the house for a while – so I needed to do something about it!

I ended up using a recipe from The boy who bakes for the sponge bases – I’ve made Mary Berry’s before and although I had no problems with them, I wanted to try a different recipe this time for comparison. Edd’s genoise sponge contains eggs and a small amount of butter, so it is somewhat richer and slightly denser than Mary’s fatless sponge but I do prefer it. But no offense to Mary, I still love her!

You’ll find Edd’s recipe for blood orange jaffa cakes right here. I’ve bookmarked it and I’ll be giving it a try in late January/early February when blood oranges come into season. 

Jaffa Cakes

Makes 12

1 135g packet orange jelly

150ml water

Place the jelly cubes in a heatproof bowl and pour in 150ml boiling water. Stir until the jelly cubes have thoroughly melted. Pour into a shallow dish measuring 30cm x 20cm and place in the fridge for an hour or two or until competely firm.

For the sponges

1 large egg

30g caster sugar

30g self raising flour

15g (1 tablespoon) butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 180C and thoroughly grease a 12 hole muffin tin (or use cake release spray)

Place the egg and sugar into a medium bowl and using an electric mixer whisk together for 5 minutes or until the mixture is pale and thick. Sieve the flour over the egg mixture and carefully fold in. Pour in the butter and carefully fold in, taking care not to beat to much air out of the mixture by overmixing. Place about 1 tbsp of batter into each muffin tin base and bake for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. Leave in the tins for a few minutes before turning out (you may need to carefully coax a few out using a butter knife, they can stick a little). Place on a wire rack to cool completely. 

Remove the jelly from the fridge and using a 2cm round cutter (I couldn’t find a cutter small enough so I used an icing nozzle) cut out 12 little rounds of jelly and place in the middle of each sponge.  

For the topping, place 150g dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water and leave until melted. Watch the chocolate doesn’t get too hot or it will melt the jelly. Using a spoon, spread the chocolate over the top of the jelly centres, gently spreading it over to the edges of the cakes. Leave to set. 

Are you baking along with GBBO this year? I posted these jaffa cakes on Twitter for #gbbotwitterbakealong – if you fancy joining in (there are some great prizes to be won!) head on over to Twitter and search for the hashtag to find out more ☺

Malted Fruit and banana Loaf

The past couple of weeks have been a bit fraught. I ended up going to hospital not once, but four times due to a few complications (baby and I are fine thankfully  – they are just keeping a close eye on me because I lost my first baby very late in pregnancy) and I had to stay in for a couple of days last week as a precaution. I have to say though, the staff at the hospital are absolutely amazing and I can’t praise them enough. They did a fantastic job of calming my nerves and comforting me when I was taken through via an ambulance last Tuesday night. Honestly, where would we be without our NHS? I actually dread to think…

So needless to say, things have been pretty quiet on the cooking/baking front. The housework is being severely neglected. I’m sure my ironing pile contains clothes that we’d forgotten we owned we haven’t seen them in that long, and I just have piles of stuff.

Everywhere. Boys are so messy!

But I’ve been told to rest as much as I can, so I’m trying my hardest to turn a blind eye. To be fair, my eldest has been hoovering daily (one of my bug bears is dirty carpets – normally if I see a speck of dirt I’m out with the hoover) and they’ve both been taking their dirty washing/cups/plates downstairs and helping Dad wash up. They are trying!

I made this fruit loaf just before one of my longer hospital visits. It’s packed full of goodness and is fat free. So in other words, it’s a health food! If you can overlook the golden syrup 😉

Malted fruit and banana loaf

100g malt extract

100g golden syrup

100ml milk

75g dried dates, roughly chopped

75g sultanas or raisins

225g self raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

1 medium egg, lightly beaten

1 ripe banana, mashed

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the malt extract, golden syrup and milk in a saucepan. Stir over a gentle heat until the mixture is hot and all of the ingredients are well combined. Remove from the heat and add the dates and raisins/sultanas.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the fruit mixture, egg and mashed banana. Stir the mixture until everything is well combined and no pockets of flour remain. Spoon into a greased and lined 1 litre loaf tin (approx 20x10cm) and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Leave to cool completely in the tin. This fruit loaf will last for about a week – if it isn’t devoured by then!

Cherry Tomato and thyme Focaccia

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


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.





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.