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Savvy shopping, seasonal eating and thrifty recipes. Spend less on groceries and enjoy better tasting, easy to prepare meals your friends and family will love – all on a budget.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Flatbreads - Chapati and Tortillas


Gluten Free Rice Flour Savoury Roti

2 cups rice flour

1 cup grated coconut

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh green coriander

1/4 inch fresh ginger, chopped very finely/minced

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin powder

6 tsp vegetable oil

Mix all the ingredients together and make a soft dough by adding water bit by bit or beaten yogurt. If you're using commercially made yogurt make it a bit thinner by adding water.

Divide the dough into 6 equal parts.

Preheat a non stick frying pan on a medium heat. Pour a little oil into the pan. Now press out one portion of the dough into a round shape with your fingers on the pan itself. Make the dough circle a 1/4 inch thick.

Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes.  Serve hot with butter, chutney or tomato sauce.


Gluten Free Chapati

1 cup chickpea flour

1/3 cup water

2 tblsp arrowroot, powdered

1 tblsp light vegetable oil

1/4 tsp salt

olive oil or butter

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Roll into 1inch round balls and pat flat.

With a rolling pin, roll flattened dough balls into thin rounds.

Heat a lightly oiled frying pan (cast iron recommended) until very hot. Reduce heat to medium high and heat each round for 1-2 minutes on each side, until warmed and slightly browned. Brush with butter or olive oil and serve hot (store extras in the fridge).


Gluten Free Tortillas
 
1/2 cup Brown Rice Flour

1/2 cup Rice Flour

1/2 cup Potato Starch Flour

1/2 cup Tapioca Flour

1 Tblsp Xantham Gum

3 Tblsp Shortening

3/4 cup Hot Water

In a large bowl, combine the flous, xantham gum and salt. Add shortening and rub in until crumbly like breadcrumbs, as if you're making scones.  Add water and stir with a spoon.  Form into a ball with your hands.

Divide the dough into 12 balls. Press with a rolling pin, with lightly oiled plastic wrap on both the top and bottom of the dough. Heat a large frypan, until a droplet of water dropped on it crackles. Cook tortillas until bubbles form and the bottoms are lightly browned. Turn and cook the other side.

Makes 12 tortillas

Monday, 30 May 2011

Rewena Paraoa (Maori Bread)

For the Rewena starter:  Boil 3 medium slices of potato with 1 cup water until soft.  Cool to lukewarm and mix in 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon sugar to form a paste.  Cover and stand in a warm place until the mixture has fermented.

5 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Rewena starter

Preheat the oven to 230°C.

Sift flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Fill with the Rewena starter and sprinkle baking soda over the top.  Combine and knead mixture for about 10 minutes, adding a little water if the mixture is too firm.

Shape into loaves or place the mixture into greased loaf tins. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Smoked Haddock Baked Potatoes

This is a really quick, cheap and filling weeknight dinner or weekend lunch that always goes down well.  You could use a drained tin of salmon or some white fish fillets instead of the smoked haddock, just add some mustard or chopped fresh herbs to enhance the flavour.   

4 large baking potatoes

300g smoked haddock fillets

25g butter

4 Tbsp double cream

1 handful of frozen sweetcorn, defrosted (or 1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained)

75g grated Cheddar cheese

Prick the potatoes in several places with a fork.  Cook the potatoes in the microwave on high for between 5 and 8 mins.  Take them out of the microwave and put them into a preheated oven at 220°C/425ºF/Gas Mark 7 and bake for 15 mins.  This finishes off cooking the potatoes and helps to get the skins nice and crispy.

In a non-stick fryingpan, cook the haddock in the butter for around 5 mins.  Gently break it into flakes before stirring in the cream and sweetcorn.  Season to taste.
Remove the cooked potatoes from the oven and set the oven grill to a medium heat.  Slice open the potatoes and scoop out the flesh in the middle.  Mash the scooped out potato flesh and mix it with the creamy haddock mixture.  Gently spoon the mixture back into the potato skins.  Top with the grated Cheddar cheese and cook on a baking tray under the grill until the cheese has melted.  Serve with a large side salad or some steamed greens.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Sainsbury’s Feed Your Family for £50 Meal Plan 2

As I've previously mentioned, I love Meal Plans and use one every week for our household.  I was  lucky enough to be invited along to the launch of Sainsbury’s Feed Your Family for £50 campaign and blogged about it here.  As I said in my previous blog post we were able to try out some samples of recipes that were in the First Meal Plan.

However, what I didn't mention at that point was that we were also lucky enough to be asked to try out the Second Meal Plan as a sneak preview.  To enable us to do this we all received the entire £50 worth of groceries on the shopping list for the Second Meal Plan, which was released this week on 25th May.

I must confess that I was very apprehensive about trying out a Meal Plan that wasn't compiled by me. I know I'm a control freak but that doesn't mean that I'm not game to give things a whirl on occasion.  Therefore with the lure of a weeks free groceries we decided to try it out.

When the groceries were delivered there was an enormous amount of food and loads of it was from the Sainsbury’s Basics range.  I'm very fond of a bargain so I didn't mind in the slightest and had already tried quite a few of the products that arrived.  


Breakfast options on weekdays were either peanut butter on toast or muesli with banana.  One of my daughters doesn't eat nuts so that put paid to both those options for her.  She ended up eating her usual Weetabix, Cornflakes or porridge on the muesli days then  had jam on toast instead of peanut butter on the toast days.  The rest of us followed the plan for breakfast and it was rather tedious until we got through to the more exciting weekend options on the plan.  We were very relieved to have a respite from just cereal and toast. 

The lunches were really sandwich heavy and my two older daughters have school dinners so it was just my 4yo, my husband and I that tried the lunches.  My 4yo loved the lunches, however my husband and I felt they were rather uninspiring and mostly ended up having leftovers from the previous night's dinner for lunch.  Also the kids wouldn't touch the Sunday lunch of Three Bean Mackerel Salad at all and they usually eat almost anything.  It was OK but not the tastiest meal of the week.  My husband was distinctly unimpressed and I think we would've preferred the vegetarian option of fresh mozarella and added some fresh herbs from our garden.

However, the dinners were very good and we all thoroughly enjoyed them.  Hurrah!!! The Roasted Vegetables with Chicken and Rice was a real hit with my daughters and really easy on a rather hectic Monday evening. 

Photo courtesy of Sainsbury's

The dinner on Wednesday of Sausage, Tomato and Cannellini Pot with Mash was really filling and great comfort food for a slightly chilly spring night. 

Photo courtesy of Sainsbury's

And of course the Roast Pork, with roast potatoes, carrots & broccoli was a winner on Sunday evening.  I would use fresh broccoli as the frozen stuff is rather minging.

So what did we really think?
 
As I said in my previous post, if you’re on a really tight budget, have little tolerance for faffing about with meal plans, and want a simple solution, the Sainsbury’s meal plan is great value for money.  There's a handy tip on each recipe for ideas to make it vegetarian.



Bear in mind though that not all the food will be to your taste and the weekday breakfasts definitely lack variety. The bread is rather thin and the muesli is dusty and slightly tasteless and without the banana added would be truly dire.  If you don't like the lunch options, don't be alarmed as you'll probably have leftovers from dinner for lunch as the dinner portions are rather generous.   
It would be fabulous if they incorporated some of the recipes from the Family Value Meal Plans tucked away on another section of their site as they are rather more inspiring and offer a bit more choice of vegetables than the courgette, and broccoli that this plan uses lots of.

We'd give it another go if we had a really tight month moneywise but I'm content to be a control freak and still do my own meal plans each week.  I will however still make a few of the dinners as they were a real hit with my daughters and my rather picky husband.

The Third Meal Plan is due to be released on 15th June.  I will be very interested to see what recipes are included and may even try some out.  If I do I'll be sure to blog about it.


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Mini Frittatas

These are fab for lunchboxes, picnics or a weekend lunch using up leftovers you may have in the fridge.  They are always a hit with my family and are so quick and easy to whip up if you have friends coming around or receive a last minute picnic invitation

1 large onion, finely diced

2-3 rashers bacon, rind and fat removed

1 teaspoon oil

1/2 cup self-raising flour

3 eggs

1 cup reduced-fat milk

2 cooked potatoes cut into cubes

1 small can of sweetcorn

60g grated cheese

1 chopped spring onion (or use fresh chives, parsley or coriander)

salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 220°C.

Put the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion and bacon until the onion softens.  Set aside to cool a little.

Whilst the onion and bacon cools, sift the flour into a large bowl, chop the herbs or spring onion, drain the tin of corn and grate the cheese.  Then, in a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk and cooled onion and bacon.  Season with salt and pepper then beat well with a fork until thoroughly combined.  Pour this mixture into the bowl of sifted flour and stir together gently just until everything is combined.  You can now add the cooked cubed potatoes, drained tin of corn, 2/3 of the grated cheese and the chopped spring onions or herbs.

Grease a 12-cup metal muffin tin thoroughly (or just use cooking oil spray) and carefully spoon the mixture into the muffin cups. Metal muffin tins will give the best results, but use silicone ones if that's what you have.

Top the mixture in each muffin cup with the rest of the grated cheese and cook at 220°C for 25-35 minutes.  Once they're cooked, take them out of the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes or so before turning them out or cutting them.

If I'm serving these as a lunch I top them with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce, stick blob of tomato relish or chutney on the side and plate up with a green salad.  You could also serve them with steamed greens for a light supper.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Easy Mini Falafel with Yoghurt Dip

I was given this recipe by one of the of the Mums at school and it's now a firm favourite in our house. The falafel can me eaten as a lunch in a wrap with salad, taken on a picnic or served as a weeknight dinner with couscous and salad leaves.  The falafels are also freezable for up to 6 months in an airtight container. Great for make-ahead lunchbox treats or emergency dinners.

2 (400g) tins of chick peas

1 large onion, very finely chopped or grated

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

4-6 Tblsp plain flour

Salt and pepper

Oil for frying

Put the chickpeas in a bowl with the very finely chopped onion, crushed garlic gloves, cumin, ground coriander, salt and pepper.  Use a potato masher or pestle and mortar to lightly mash the mixture until it begins to stick together. You can quickly pulse it in a food processor but don't be too over enthusiastic, you don't want a mushy puree.
Take walnut-sized blobs of mixture and and shape them into small flat rounds about 1/2 and inch thick.  Roll the falafel in the flour ensuring they are well coated.  Chill them for 15-30 minutes, this makes them much easier to work with.  Heat some oil, about 1 inch deep, in a frying pan.  When it's hot add a few falafels and cook over a medium heat for about 5-6 minutes, turning them frequently. Carefully take them out of the oil and drain well on kitchen paper.

To use the falafels from frozen:  Put them on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and warm in the oven at 180°C/(350°F)/Gas Mark 4 for about 10 minutes or until piping hot.

Serve with a dip and  crudités, in a wrap with salad leaves, or as a dinner/lunch with couscous salad.


Yoghurt Dip with Mint and Cucumber

150ml natural yoghurt

2 Tblsp mayonnaise

Juice of 1/2 a lime or lemon

1 small or 1/2 a large cucumber, thickly grated then drained on kitchen roll

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 Tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves

Pinch of salt

Put the yoghurt, mayonnaise and lime/lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together well with a fork.  Add the drained cucumber, garlic and chopped fresh mint leaves.  Mix together well and, if you think it needs it, add a pinch of salt.

Cover the dip with clingfilm and leave in it the fridge for at least 1 hour to allow the flavours to mingle before you serve it. 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Easy Beef Mince Stirfry with Noodles

This is an extra speedy and really easy stir-fry dinner that can be cooked in no time in either a wok or a frying pan.  You could add some deseeded and finely chopped chilli if you want it to have more of a kick.  If you wanted this recipe to go further and get more servings out of it, add some more vegetables and noodles or serve with more steamed rice. 

500g beef mince

2 tsp oil

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely diced

1 small cabbage, chopped/shredded

½ cup corn kernels (tinned, fresh or frozen)

½ cup frozen peas

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp oyster sauce

¾ cup water or beef stock

2 tsp cornflour

1 packet of crunchy noodles (optional)

Steamed rice to serve

Put the beef mince in a bowl and mix in 1 tsp oil.  Heat a large fryingpan or a wok until hot.  Crumble in half of the mince and cook, stirring often to break up the mince, until the mince is no longer pink and is cooked and brown.  Remove the first batch, bring the fryingpan back up to a high heat and then cook the other half of the mince.  Remove from the frying pan and set aside.

Reheat the frypan, add the rest of the oil.  Add the finely diced onion and carrot.  Cook, stirring once or twice, for a couple of minutes. Add the shredded cabbage and cook for a further couple of minutes.

You can now add the corn and peas to the vegetables in the fryingpan.  Heat for about a minute and then return the mince to the frypan.  Heat the mince through and then push the mince mixture out to the side of the frying pan or wok.  Mix the soy sauce, oyster sauce, water and cornflour together and add it to the frying pan.  Stir it as it comes to the boil, then move the mince mixture back into the centre of the pan and make sure everything is coated in the sauce.  You can add the noodles at this point if you are using them.  Heat for another minute or two and then serve with the steamed rice.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Pikelets

This is my Nan's recipe for Pikelets that I grew up with.  Sometimes I add some grated apple and a little cinnamon or some mashed banana for a change.  My kids love them as a school holiday treat or occasional after school snack.  They're really easy to make and ridiculously cheap too when you're feeding a crowd.

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup milk

1 tablespoon melted butter

Sift flour into a mixing bowl and add sugar. Mix together egg and milk and mix into dry ingredients. Add melted butter. Add 2 tablespoons of mixture to the heated greased pan. Cook for approximately 2 minutes on medium heat, until bubbles appear on the surface of the pikelet. Turn over pikelet and cook until other side is golden.

Serve with your favourite jam and some more butter, or chocolate spread. 

Monday, 16 May 2011

How to soak and cook dried beans, pulses and legumes

Most beans, pulses and lentils are available tinned in the supermarket and are fairly cheap.  Dried beans and pulses are useful if you are really watching your pennies or just like to prepare your own from scratch.  Lentils, beans and pulses are great for making meals go further and are also high in protein and fibre, contain iron and and contain no fat.

How to soak and cook beans
Most beans will almost treble in volume when cooked.  The length of cooking time varies depending on type of bean, and the age and size of the beans so cooking times are approximate.

Overnight method
Place beans in a saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water to 1 cup of beans. Soak the beans overnight in cold water. The beans will have softened but they still need to be cooked. Replace the soaking water with fresh water and simmer the beans for 1-3 hours or until tender but not soggy.

Quick cook method
Place beans in a saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water to 1 cup of beans. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes, then leave to stand for one hour.

Now they are ready to cook, return the pan to the heat and simmer the beans until till soft 1- 3 hours.

Kidney Beans and other similar sized beans simmer for 2-3 hours.

Soy Beans 3-4 hours.

Chick Peas 1-2 hours 

Since beans require long cooking which uses electricity, cook several cups at a time and freeze them. You can add a frozen chunk of beans directly into boiling soups and stews.

Ensure all beans are thoroughly cooked before serving.

Useful Tips/Tricks
Kidney beans in particular can cause tummy upsets if not properly cooked. During cooking a 15 minute period of rapid boiling is recommended for kidney beans. Cooked beans should be tender but not mushy.

A dash of oil in the water will help prevent foaming

Do not salt the cooking water as that will make the beans tough not tender.


Lentils

Lentils don't need soaking or precooking, they can be cooked in boiling liquid and drained or simmered until cooked and all liquid has been absorbed – just like rice really.  Split red lentils will cook in around 10-15 minutes, brown and green lentils take up to 40 minutes.  Lentils can be used in place of, or as well as, meat in all sorts of dishes.

Add lentils to mince dishes to extend them. Red lentils can be simmered in your sauce as long as there is plenty of liquid or they can be precooked (simmer for 10-15 minutes) and stirred in. Brown and green lentils take longer to cook so precook them before adding them to your dish. Try in bolognese, lasagne, chilli, burger patties, cottage pie and meatloaf .

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Fairy Hobmother Has Visited Me!

There is a lovely man named Ian who masquerades as The Fairy Hobmother from Apppliances Online who sell cookers, washing machines and other white goods.  He has been visiting blogs, spreading joy and giving out gifts both large and small.

When I received a lovely email from him with a gift of an Amazon voucher, I was of course rather thrilled!

I'd deliberately not asked for anything when I'd commented on other posts where they had given things to bloggers, or just commented about how fab it was for them to be so generous, as I think others should have lovely surprises and are far more deserving of such things than I am. 

However, an Amazon voucher will come in very handy just now, so of course I'm very grateful and happily accepted it.

And guess what? The Fairy Hobmother could visit you too!

Just leave a comment on this post telling me (and Ian) what you would like and why, and your wish could be granted!
 
Thank you very much to Ian the Fairy Hobmother at Appliances Online for the lovely surprise. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Sainsbury's Feed your family for £50 Meal Plan

I have a confession to make, I'm a Meal Planner.  I sit down with or without the rest of my family and plan our meals for the week/fornight ahead so that we all know what we're going to eat and it helps us stick to out strict budget.

Whilst taking in to account various events, visitors, and requests for favourite meals, I then add up what it will cost and tweak our plan as necessary.  It usually saves us quite a bit of money as I can also check what's on offer at the supermarket and factor this into the plan too.

However, I do realise that some people don't have the urge or the time to be as organised as I do, can't be bothered, or have no idea where to start when sorting out a Meal Plan.

Sainsbury's have solved this problem with some simple, delicious and affordable recipes that make up their Feed your family for £50 Meal Plan.  That's right 84 delicious meals for just £50.

As a keen meal planner I was rather cynical about what a supermarket had come up with because I  often think they're only interested in helping money out of our pockets than helping with anything else.  I must say I am impressed with what they have come up with. 

I would say though that if you are following the plan to check the quality of the products carefully.  For example check the meat content of the sausages recommended in the plan and buy different ones if you are concerned about a higher percentage of meat in your sausage.  It may cost slightly more but if you are taste conscious you may want to explore alternatives for certain items.  Also, if you are ordering online check the dates of things carefully when they drop off your order, or put a note next to the products when ordering, and be sure to ask for longer shelf life dates for things you will use towards the end of the week.  Otherwise you may find that items arrive and may expire before you get a chance to use them on the plan. 

Speaking of ordering, if you shop online you can just dump the entire meal plan in your basket in one go. There is also a mobile app you can use which not only has the Meal Plan on it but loads of other useful features too.

Likewise if you have more or less than 4 people in your family, or children younger than 4 years old, you can vary the recipes accordingly.  There is even a Personalise Your Plan section.  I think the plan is great for people that want to save money but don't want to spend loads of their time sorting out a Meal Plan for themselves.

The meal plans are nutritionally balanced and Sainsbury's have worked hard to ensure that the plan  offers 85% of your ideal daily intake, including fibre which most people don't get enough of, so there is still room for drinks and snacks.  The plan also makes sure you get your 5 a day, every day throughout the week. 

I was lucky enough to be invited, with some lovely food & parenting bloggers, to the launch event in London on 4th May.  We were able to speak to nutritionists who worked on the plan and to try out some of the recipes featured in the plan available in supermarkets at the moment.

Here's my favourite recipe on the current Meal Plan:


Ingredients:

1 onion, peeled & finely chopped

350g lean beef steak mince

400g sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 4cm chunks

300g carrots, peeled & chopped

300g potatoes, peeled & cut into 4cm chunks

30g Butterlicious spread

380g Basics frozen British Garden peas

From your store cupboard:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled & finely chopped

1 tablespoon tomato purée

1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs

200ml beef stock (1/2 stock cube)

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion for 5-10 minutes, until soft, adding in the garlic for the last minute. Turn the heat up to medium/high, add the mince and cook for 5 minutes. Stir through the tomato purée and mixed herbs, then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, until thickened.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan/gas 6. Cook the sweet potatoes, potatoes and carrots in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes, until soft. Drain and mash with the Butterlicious.

Spoon the mince mixture into a 1.5 litre-baking dish and top with the mash. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Cook the peas in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and serve as a side.


Photo courtesy of Sainsbury's
 
There will be another Sainsbury's Meal Plan released in late May, keep an eye on their website for details.
 
Have you tried any of the recipes or the whole Meal Plan? If so let Sainsbury's know.  Very soon they'll be giving you the chance to win a £50 meal plan and put it to the test, feeding your family for a week, see the Sainsbury's site and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for details.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Super Quick Supper - Salmon, Asparagus and Tomato Pasta

This is one of my favourite summer weeknight dinners that is ready in a flash.  It's light and yet filling at the same time.  You can leave out the fresh basil if there is none about, or use flat leaf parsley instead.  This also works well if you use a drained tin of tuna in spring water instead of salmon.

4 cups (400g) dried or fresh pasta

1 bunch (250g) fresh asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced

3 large ripe tomatoes, finely diced

1 1/2 Tblsp capers, thoroughly rinsed

2 Tblsp finely chopped fresh basil or flatleaf parsley

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 Tblsp olive oil

1 Tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

pinch sugar, to season

black pepper, to season

210g can skinless and boneless salmon, well drained and flaked

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions or until as al dente as you like it.  When the pasta is almost cooked add the asparagus to the pot for the last couple of minutes of cooking time.  Drain the pasta and asparagus well and return them to the saucepan.

Put the finely chopped tomatoes, rinsed capers, chopped basil/parsley, crushed garlic, olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice in a bowl.  Mix well to combine and have a taste.  If necessary add a little sugar or pepper to season.

Add the tomato mixture and flaked salmon to the asparagus and pasta.  Toss or stir well to thoroughly combine the sauce, fish and paste.  Serve as is or sprinkle with more chopped basil/parsley.


Thursday, 12 May 2011

Gingernuts

Good old favourite biscuit recipe, great for staving off morning sickness.  I usually make a double batch and take some along to my regular coffee morning and keep some in the biscuit tin at home. They are very tasty dunked in hot drinks, not that I'm admitting to anything.

125g softened butter

50g brown sugar

3 Tblsp golden syrup

250g flour

1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 Tblsp boiling water

2 tsps ground ginger

1 Tblsp boiling water

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a couple of baking trays with non-stick baking paper. 

Cream the softened butter, brown sugar and golden syrup together until light and fluffy.  Add the baking soda dissolved in boiling water followed by all the sifted dry ingredients.  Mix well to combine.

Roll spoonfulls into small balls and place evenly spaced on the baking trays. Allow a little room for the bscuits to spread.  Press down each one lightly with a floured fork.

Bake on greased trays for about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Ryvita Crackers Review

When I was asked to review some new Ryvita crackers I jumped at the chance.  The main image conjured up in my mind when Ryvita is mentioned was their crispbread that looked and tasted like cardboard when I tasted some years ago.  I really wanted to give the new crackers a go to try and change my impression of Ryvita products.

I was sent a really fabulous hamper with two boxes of the new Ryvita Crackers (both the black pepper flavour and the golden rye), three gorgeous cheeses and some delicious chutney. Once I opened the box I was really delighted to discover the cracker packaged in handy little packets of 6 crackers within the large box, so you are always going to get nice crispy crackers.   

I thought the new Ryvita crackers were delicious and so did my three daughters and husband.  The black pepper ones were not really to my taste but my husband liked them, and I the girls and I loved the golden rye variety.

The crackers are delicious, light and crispy.  They have enough flavour to be tasty enough to eat on their own without cheese. My daughters liked them as a snack and I would be happy to include a pack in their lunchboxes.  My husband took some of the black pepper crackers to work for his lunch with some strong cheddar and he reported back that they were delicious and could I please buy some more.

So the overwhelming verdict from us is that they are delicous, light, crispy and will  most definitely be added to our grocery list on a regular basis.


I was sent the Ryvita Crackers as part of a hamper (contents shown in the above photo) free of charge for review purposes. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Cupcakes

This is a really easy bung everything in together recipe which makes a tin full of light golden cupcakes that are firm enough to decorate.  Perfect for kids parties or school cake stalls.

1 1/3 cups self-raising flour

A pinch of salt

100g softened butter

½ cup caster sugar

2 large free range eggs

1 dessertspoon of lemon juice

Grated zest of one lemon

small spash of milk

Pre heat oven to 190°C.

Line mini muffin tins with paper cases.

Combine all the main ingredients together in a bowl and beat until absolutely smooth - about 1-2 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for 15 -20 mins or until well risen and golden.


Glace Icing

1 cup sifted icing sugar

A little squeeze of lemon juice or a drop or two of natural food colouring and flavouring such as raspberry or peppermint

Combine the icing sugar and flavourings/colourings, use only as much water as you need to make a spreadable icing.  Ice the top of each cup cake then decorate however you like.


Buttercream Icing

100 g unsalted butter

175 g icing sugar

Flavouring and colouring, if required

Beat the butter until it is very light and fluffy.  Add the icing sugar a little at a time, otherwise it will fly everywhere when you try to beat it in, particularly if you're using electic beaters.  Beat the icing sugar in well until it's all incorporated.  The finished butter cream will be firmer than whipped cream but still light and pale enough so you can easily add colouring.  Once you've added any colouring/flavouring that is required you can either spread the icing on cupcakes or pipe it on using a piping bag and nozzle.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Masterclass with Marco Pierre White - Courtesy of Knorr

I was enormously excited to receive an email inviting me to a Masterclass with 3 Michelin star chef Marco Pierre White at his Stamford Bridge restaurant Marco, thanks to one of  the most versatile ingredients in our kitchen store cupboards . . . . .

After a rather interesting and slightly torturous (overcrowded trains, totally packed underground trains, and several confusing tube line changes) journey, I made it to the venue and had the most AMAZING time!  To be truthful a stampede of wild horses closely followed by the All Blacks scrum wouldn't have kept me away.

Celebrity chefs promote loads of products these days and I thought it would be interesting to see if Marco did indeed use Knorr products.  Not only does he use them but he's deliciously inventive in the way he incorporates them into recipes.

He shares many of his recipes on the Knorr website and we were lucky enough to be able to watch him cook a few of them. 


We all paid close attention to the culinary genius at work in front of us.  He was very charming and lovely, politely answering all our questions as we stood there swooning from both the heat in the kitchen and the fact that he was cooking just over a metre away from us.

Here are a couple of recipes from our Masterclass.



You just mix one or two Knorr chicken stock cubes with olive oil and finely chopped rosemary and then massage it into both sides of chicken breasts with the skin on. 


Marco put the chicken into a COLD pan - skin side down and let it heat up slowly. The fat starts to cook which ensures a crispy skin but the chicken cooks slower so still stays moist.  He then turned the heat up before turning the chicken over. To finish off cooking the chicken he put the pan in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Marco was careful to check the chicken was cooked through, if its not then return it to the stove top for a couple of minutes and check again.


Once the chicken was cooked to perfection it was dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.  He then served it to us all and there was unanimous agreement that it was superb.  

The next recipe that Marco cooked for us was:


A tuna steak smothered in a paste made with a Knorr chicken stock cube and olive oil. Cooked on a griddle pan and accompanied by olives, capers, fresh basil, coriander and cherry tomatoes all dressed in a lovely light dressing.


As a comparison Marco cooked one tuna steak without massaging in the Knorr stock cube paste and one with the paste massaged in.  The tuna steak that was cooked with the paste on was much tastier and it really bought out the flavour of the tuna.  Needless to say the Tuna Steaks a la Niçoise looked and tasted absolutely stunning!

We also had a lesson on how to cook the perfect steak.  Marco again used a Knorr stock cube paste to enhance the flavour of the steak.  It was so tender you almost didn't need a knife. Oh my word it was beyond scrumptious! By far the best steak I had ever tasted.  He also showed us a special technique for finely chopping an onion and herbs.  I learned so much from him, loads of tips and tricks that I will most certainly be using at home in my tiny kitchen.

Our Masterclass was filmed by a camera crew who got more hot and bothered the longer the class went on as the ventilation in the kitchen was turned down so the sound of the fans wouldn't affect the recording.  Poor blokes were beetroot red by the end! All for a good cause though.


We had a stunning lunch with a choice of  either chicken, tuna or steak for mains and a gorgeous side salad and new potatoes.  Dessert was the most scrumptious chocolate truffles which left us weak at the knees, they were so good. Thankfully we were still sitting down! 

I can barely articulate how awesome the day was and how lovely, charming and gracious Marco was.  I was hugely grateful to have been able to attend.  I came away with some great Knorr products to use in my cooking (I usually use Knorr anyway), a signed apron . . . . . .


And a photo of me with the 3 Michelin star chef himself . . . . . .


My sincere thanks to Marco Pierre White, Knorr, the lovely Jen, Alistair and Neil from GolinHarris for an absolutely fantastic and unforgettable day.

Oh and just to tempt you even more, next month on the Knorr website Marco will be cooking Curried Chicken with Watercress.  I was given the recipe at the Masterclass and cooked it for both us and our neighbours who asked to try some.  It was simple, quick  and delicious.  Here's a pic of the dish courtesy of Knorr, because we all devoured ours before I remembered to get a photo.  

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Beef, Pepper and Tomato Pasta Bake

This pasta bake makes 300grams of beef mince into an economical and filling family meal.  The Italian flavours appeal to most tastes and you can sprinkle more grated cheese or a handful of parmesan over the cheese topping just before you put it in the oven if you want.

Serves 4-6

300g lean beef mince

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pepper (any colour) deseeded and diced

2 (400g) cans of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

½ tsp dried oregano

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 beef stock cube, crumbled

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 Tbsp water

250g (2 heaped cups) dried pasta - macaroni, shells, twists (whatever you have available)

1 Tbsp butter or oil

1 heaped Tbsp plain flour

1 cup (250ml) milk

1/2 cup grated cheese

Put a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat,  Brown the mince, breaking it up as it cooks.  Add the chopped onion, garlic and pepper and continue cooking until the vegetables have softened.  Pour in the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, crumbled stock cube, sugar and Worcestershire sauce.  Stir well to mix and then for 10-15 minutes on a medium to low heat.  While the sauce is simmering cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the packet directions, or al dente to your liking, and assemble the cheese sauce.  If the meat sauce is a little thin, dissolve the cornflour in 1 Tbsp cold water and stir through the meat sauce to thicken it.

To make the cheese sauce melt the butter or oil is a small saucepan, turn the heat to low and stir in the flour.  Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring it all the time and then, using a whisk, gradually add the milk.  Add a little milk at a time, stirring continuously to create a smooth lump free sauce.  When all the milk has been added, swap the whisk for a wooden spoon and stir the sauce continuously until it begins to thicken. Do not allow it to boil.  When the sauce will coat the back of a spoon, stir in the grated cheese, mix it in well and then set aside.

Drain the pasta and stir into the meat sauce.  Put the mince and sauce mixture into an oven proof dish and level the top.  Spoon the cheese sauce over the top and grill or bake (depending on how much time you have) until golden.  You can sprinkle a little extra cheese over the top just before it goes under the grill if you want.

Serve with steamed greens or a large side salad.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Twice Baked Potatoes

Sufficient large potatoes to allow one or two halves per person, scrubbed well until clean

Milk

Butter, if you want
Selection of additions: grated cheese, leftover shredded chicken, diced ham or cooked bacon, tinned tuna, chopped springonion or chives, corn kernels, baked beans, whatever you have available and is to your taste.

Wrap the cleaned potatoes in foil and bake at 180C for about one hour or until a skewer or knife goes in easily.  Take the potatoes out of the oven and allow to cool.  If necessary, you can refrigerate them until later at this point.

When you are ready to carry on with the recipe, halve the potatoes lengthwise and scoop out the cooked flesh.  Be careful not to puncture the skin and leave enough potato on the skin to form a bowl for the fillings.

Mash the scooped potato and add any fillings you like, then season to taste.  Gently spoon the mixture back into the shells of the potatoes, piling it up generously.  Sprinkle grated cheese on the top if you like.

Return the potatoes to the oven and bake at 180C for a further 30 minutes or until golden brown and well heated through.

You can serve the stuffed potatoes as a dinner with salad, on their own as a lunch, or as a side dish.

 

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Dark Chocolate Rocky Road Brownies

I make these for school cake stalls, coffee mornings or just for a nice treat at home with a cuppa.  They make great gifts for teachers, a thank you pressie for friends, and are fab for Mother's Day.  This brownie recipe can even be made up to 1 week in advance.  If you are making the brownies ahead of time make sure you store them in an airtight container and keep them out of direct sunlight in a nice cool place.

Melted butter, to grease the tin

300g dark chocolate (60% cocoa solids), roughly chopped

160g butter, cubed

155g (3/4 cup) caster sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

190g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour

60g pink and white marshmallows, cut in half

80g (1/2 cup) whole unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Brush a 16 x 26cm (base measurement) non-stick slice tin with melted butter to lightly grease. Line the base and 2 opposite sides with non-stick baking paper, ensuring that the paper can overhang by a couple of inches.

Put the chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over a very low heat and stir with a metal spoon for about 5 minutes, or until chocolate has completely melted. Add the sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for another 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Immediately take it off the heat and leave it to cool for about 5 minutes.

The mixture needs to cool otherwise the eggs will scramble when you add them if the mixture is too hot. Stir in the egg and flour and mix until well combined. Gently stir in the marshmallows and peanuts. Spoon the mixture into the prepared slice tin and gently smooth the surface.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out slightly sticky. Remove the brownies from oven and set aside to cool in the slice tin for 3 hours before you cut it into squares.  You do need to leave it to cool for that long so they can set and be sturdy enough to hold their shape when cut into squares.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Store Cupboard Dinner - Bean Hotpot

This is a really useful recipe when your cupboards and fridge are nearly bare and money is tight.  I can usually find all the ingredients to make it in my pantry or can they can be bought really cheaply from the supermarket.  It's a filling dinner that is really easy to prepare and can be on the table within 15 minutes.

½ Tbsp oil

1 large onion, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp flour

1 tin (400g) tomatoes, chopped

1 tin (425g) beans, drained (e.g. mixed beans, butter beans, haricot beans or chickpeas)

1 large tin (400g) sweetcorn, drained

4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced (optional)

1 pepper, diced (red, orange or yellow)
 
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and sweat the onions until soft and transparent.  Add the diced pepper and mushrooms and cook gently until softened.

Sprinkle in the flour stir for 1-2 minutes before adding the drained tins of tomatoes, beans and sweetcorn.  Cook for another 5 minutes until everything is well heated through and the stew thickens slightly then serve.

I usually serve this with bread rolls or baked potatoes.  You could also serve this over thick wholemeal toast, cooked rice, cooked pasta or baked sweet potatoes.