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Gluten Free Gingerbread Men

Wednesday 29 June 2011
This is a brilliant recipe from fab blogger Dawn who blogs and tweets as The Moiderer.  Her lovely daughter follows a gluten free diet and she has kindly let me share this recipe on my blog.

Dawn says:

I have experimented with this a lot because I found early versions too crumbly or overly gingery.  What I have found is that it' good to increase the wet component and add Xanthan Gum to counteract crumbliness. I also usually make half this amount because the recipe makes about 20 small gingerbread men!

Here's the recipe:

350g/12oz Gluten Free plain flour

175g/6oz soft brown sugar

125g butter

1 egg

4 tbsps golden syrup

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp ground ginger powder

1 tsp Xanthan Gum

Add the flour, softened but not melted butter, ginger, and bicarbonate of soda in bowl and mix together well to form a crumble type of mix.  Add egg, sugar, syrup and knead into a firm pastry.

Roll out and cook for about 10 mins max in 180 degree oven.

Leave too cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes or so before turning out carefully onto a rack to continue cooling.   They can break apart easily so be gentle.

Thanks heaps to Dawn for the great recipe.  I'm sure I'll use it for birthday party treats, after school snacks, or even cake stall goodies.  Don't forget to check out her blog The Moiderer.

Savoury Simmered Mince

500g beef mince

1 large onion, finely diced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 pepper, diced (can be red, orange or yellow)

1 large sweet potato (or small pumpkin), diced

1 stick of celery, diced

250ml beef stock (using a low salt stock cube)

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 Tbsp English mustard

pinch mild curry powder

Large handful or two of frozen mixed vegetables

2 tsp cornflour and a little water.

Heat a small amount of oil in a large frying-pan, or use cooking spray.  Add the onion, pepper and garlic to the pan, cook it for about 5 minutes until the pepper has softened and the onion is transparent.  Add the mince and break it up into small bits as it browns.

Once there are no longer any pink pieces of mince, add the sweet potato/pumpkin, and celery.  Making sure that the pieces of vegetables are all roughly the same size to ensures they cook evenly.  Vegetables cut into cubes of about 1 cm work really well.  Sweat down the vegetables with the mince for 10–15 minutes.

You can then add the frozen mixed vegetables, and stock.  Simmer the mince and vegetables until all the vegetables are tender.

Mix the cornflour with a little water to make a paste, then add a little at a time to the mixture. stirring it thoroughly until the mixture is as thick as you want it to be.  The flavours develop more if you store the mince in the fridge and eat it the next night for dinner.  Perfect for if you're batch cooking on the weekend for later in the week.

Serving Suggestions

You can use this mince for cottage pie (just top with mashed potato and grated cheese, then put under the grill for a bit to melt the cheese), put it in a pie dish and top with either flaky or shortcrust pastry for a large family sized mince pie, make a cobbler topping using scone dough recipe then put in the oven until the topping is cooked, serve it on thick wholemeal toast, pour it over cross cut baked potatoes, there serving suggestions are almost endless.

If I have some of this leftover I either freeze it in individual portions for emergency dinners/lunches, or add some leftover cooked rice (or a cooked pouch or two of microwaved rice) to bulk it out so we get another meal out of it.  Sometimes I add some sauteed mushrooms and make individual pasties or savouries then freeze them for lunches or easy dinners.

Easy Pizza Base

Tuesday 28 June 2011
This is the easiest pizza base recipe ever! You'll never need to buy shop bought pizza bases or frozen pizzas again! Give it a go, my 3 daughters can make their own pizzas - although my 4yo does need a little help. 

Use whatever toppings you have in your store cupboard and fridge.  Tomato puree as a base (I water this down a little as it can be rather strong, makes it go further too), ham, cheese, diced onion, olives, mushrooms, courgette slices, fresh or dried herbs, etc.  Great for kids to learn to cook lunch themselves, especially when they have friends over for a meal. 

1 cup plain flour (You can use self-raising flour just leave out the baking powder)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 Tbsp oil

½ cup (250ml) milk

Sift the flour and baking powder (if using) and add the oil and milk.   Mix together to form a stiff dough.  Add your toppings, take care not to overload the pizza otherwise the base will be soggy, and bake at 220C for approximately 10 minutes until base browns and the toppings are cooked through.


200 grams butter

25 grams cocoa

75 grams sugar

50 grams cornflakes

175 grams flour

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

Soften butter then add sugar and beat to a creamy light fluffy consistency.  Sift in the flour and cocoa, then lastly pour in the cornflakes. Put spoonfuls on a greased oven tray, flatten gently with a floured fork, and bake for about 15 minutes. When cold, ice with chocolate icing and put a walnut on top.  The walnut us entirely optional, as is the icing but I like mine iced.


3 egg whites

1 teaspoon vinegar

3 tablespoons cold water

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 cup caster sugar

3 teaspoons cornflour

Preheat oven to 150°C.

Beat egg whites until stiff, add cold water and beat again. Add caster sugar very gradually while still beating. Slow beater speed and add vinegar, vanilla and cornflour.

Place on greased paper on a greased tray and bake for 45 minutes, then leave to cool in the oven.

If you try to get it shaped like a cylinder, flat on top, you will probably find that the outside shell cracks. It is easiest to make a sort of shallow mound, but it doesn't really matter, since all the whipped cream you put on it hides everything. The traditional Kiwi pavlova has slices of kiwi fruit on the whipped cream, but you can also put strawberries or anything else. It is best to put the cream and topping on as late as possible before you serve.

Blog overhaul in progress

Monday 27 June 2011
I'm currently overhauling my blog and will post more recipes and reviews very soon.  Thank you for your patience during this time of reconstruction and maintenance.

Michelle x

Quinoa Salad

This is a really quick and easy throw it all in salad that is great for BBQ, picnics and  lunchboxes.  If I take it in a lunchbox I keep the dressing separate then add it about 10 mins before I eat it.  The quinoa can be cooked the night before and kept in the fridge.  A great prepare ahead salad if you cook the quinoa and chop the vegetables beforehand then mix it up when you're ready to serve it. 

1 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cups cold water

1/2 tsp salt

1 handful of mangetout

Small handful of finely sliced celery

1 large carrot sliced thinly or grated

1 thinly sliced red pepper

2 large chopped fresh ripe tomatoes

1 large cucumber, diced

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs:  flat leaf parsley, basil or coriander

1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or almonds (optional)

sunflower or pumpkin seeds to sprinkle over the finished salad

Extras to try: Black or green olives, fresh mint, finely chopped chilli, finely chopped spring onions, dried fruit (raisins or apricots)


2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

freshly ground pepper

Extras to try: Lime juice instead of lemon juice in the dressing, large pinch of cayenne pepper, finely chopped garlic, or finely chopped ginger

Soak the quinoa for 15 minutes in cold water.  Rinse the quinoa thoroughly, then pour off most of the water and drain through a large fine mesh strainer or sieve.  Put the quinoa in a large saucepan with 1 1/2cups cold water, salt and oil.  Bring it to the boil then turn the heat down to very low.  Cover the saucepan and cook the quinoa for 15 minutes.

Once the quinoa is cooked, leave to cool slightly then add all the salad ingredients you want to, followed by the dressing.  Toss together well, sprinkle over the seeds if you are using them, then serve.

Snacking Scroggin

Sunday 26 June 2011
I bag up this mix and seal it in individual portions for afterschool snacks or lunchbox treats.  My three daughters love it as the recipe is so easy they can make it themselves.  I'm rather partial to some as a mid afternoon snack.  You can substitute any dried fruits you like if you're not fond of dried apricots or raisins.  If there are likely to be issues with nut allergies, make sure you pick a toasted muesli that does not have nuts in it.  The quantities below make approximately 10 servings.

1 cup plain or fruit flavoured rice crackers

1 cup banana chips

60g (1 cup) shredded coconut

125g (1 cup) dried apricots

125g (1 cup) raisins

2 cups toasted muesli (unsweetened)

4 cups fresh popcorn (unsalted)

125g (1 cup) sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or mixture of both

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well.  Spoon the mix into individual bags and seal as a take along treat, or if you can't wait that long, put into containers and serve.

Easy Summer Supper - Prawn Noodle Salad

Saturday 25 June 2011
This is one of my standard summer suppers that's quick and easy to prepare and good enough to serve to friends as a casual dinner party dish.

100g vermicelli noodles

600g prepared prawns, tails left on

1 Tbsp oil

1 tsp salt

1 cucumber, peeled into long thin strips

1 handful of bean sprouts

1 large carrot, grated

1 hadful of fresh coriander leaves

1 handful of fresh mint leaves

1 finely sliced large red onion

Asian Style Dressing

1 Tblsp sweet chilli sauce

3 Tblsp fresh lime juice

2 Tblp fish sauce

1 minced clove of garlic

2 teaspoons crushed palm sugar (can use golden castor sugar, just double the amount)

2 teaspoons minced or finely grated fresh ginger

Cook the vermicelli for 5 minutes in boiling water or according to packet instructions.  Drain it well and then put the colander under cold running water to stop the vermicelli cooking.  Roughly chop it into shorter lengths with kitchen scissors.

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, mix well and then set aside.

Toss prawns in a little oil then heat up a frying pan over a high heat.  Quickly cook prawns until they turn an opaque pink colour.  You can also cook the prawns on a BBQ, just watch they don't overcook.   Sprinkle the prawns with salt to taste.

To serve the salad I usually put everything on a big platter for people to help themselves.  Arrange the vermicelli, cucumber, sprouts, carrot, coriander, mint and onion on the platter.  Evenly sprinkle the prawns over the salad then drizzle the whole lot with the dressing and serve immediately.

Easy Ratatouille - Inspired by Knorr

Friday 24 June 2011
Those of you who follow my blog will know that I attended a Masterclass with Marco Pierre White earlier this year.  As part of my ongoing involvement with Knorr I was lucky enough to be sent a large box of seasonal produce to create recipes with.

There were loads of delicious fresh vegetables and I wanted to try as many as possible as soon as possible!  It was a slightly chilly Summer night so I was inspired to make this Easy Ratatouille because I was craving some nutritious, non-stodgy comfort food.  I also received some fabulous meat from The Well Hung Meat Company *snigger* but will do a separate post about that later. 

I served this Ratatouille with homemade crusty bread but you could make some dumplings to put in half way through the simmering stage if you wanted to have a more Winter warmer type dish.  I did debate whether to add a couple of tins of cannellini beans or mixed beans instead of having crusty bread on the side but decided to try that next time.

6 tbsp olive oil

3 diced peppers, I used red, orange and yellow

1 diced large red onion

4 crushed cloves of garlic

3 medium-sized diced eggplant

Finely chopped leaves from 1 small sprig of fresh rosemary

4 diced medium-sized courgettes

2 tins of chopped tomatoes or 1 kg skinned, cored and diced fresh tomatoes

1 bay leaf

2 cups Knorr vegetable or chicken stock

2 tbsp red wine

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based pan or casserole dish.  Sweat the peppers until soft, then add onion and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes until the onion is transparent.  Add the eggplant to the pan then sprinkle in the rosemary, cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the courgette and cooking for a further 5 minutes.

Finally add the prepared fresh or tinned tomatoes, bay leaf and stock.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour or until all the vegetables are tender.  Add the red wine, season to taste and cook for a final 10 minutes.  If you want to add some rinsed tinned cannellini beans or mixed beans do so at this stage.  Make sure they cook in the ratatouille for the final 10 minutes.  When you are ready to serve, remove the bay leaf and ladle into bowls with crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Super Quick Couscous and Chickpea Salad

Thursday 23 June 2011
This is a fab salad to put in lunchboxes and can even be made in the morning before rushing off to work. It's also a quick fix salad if you're having a BBQ or picnic. It's a great midweek dinner side dish if we're having sausages (meat or vegetable) or grilled fish. 

3/4 cup couscous

3/4 cup boiling water

1 tin of chickpeas, well drained

juice and zest of 1 lemon

small handful of toasted walnuts or hazelnuts, whole or roughly chopped

2 Tblsp olive oil

2 cups salad greens (roughly 2 large handfuls)

2 Tblsp chopped dried fruit (pears, apricots, dates, raisins)

Pour the boiling water over the couscous in a heatproof bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate or clingfilm and set aside for a 5 minutes while you chop up the other ingredients and open the tin of chickpeas.

After 5 minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork, add all the other ingredients and toss well to thoroughly combine. That's all there is to it! Pack it into lunchbox containers, refridgerate until needed or serve immediately. 

Chocolate Caramel Slice

Wednesday 22 June 2011

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 cup self raising flour

1 cup desiccated coconut

1/2 cup Light Soft Brown Sugar

100g butter


30g butter

2 Tbsp Golden Syrup

400g can sweetened condensed milk


130g chocolate

30g butter

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Grease and line a Swiss Roll tin.  

Start with the base, Sift both flours into a bowl and add the coconut. Combine light soft brown sugar and butter in a pan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the sugar and butter mixture to the flours and coconut.  Stir well to combine. Press into tin with the back of a spoon, bake for 10 mins or until golden brown.

To make the filling combine butter, Golden Syrup and condensed milk in a saucepan.  Stir over medium/low heat for 10 mins until mixture boils and turns a lovely caramel brown (watch carefully that it doesn't burn on bottom).  Pour over the base and bake in preheated oven for 20 mins.

To make the topping heat the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Once melted and well combined, pour it over the slice and then leave to set.

Lemon Slice

This is one of the baking treats that my Nan was famous for. I'm not sure where or whom she got the recipe from but they are delicious! We converted the imperial measurements to metric years ago and I've adapted the recipe so I'm able to use my food processor to make it.  Whenever I take these along to coffee mornings and Governors Meetings and they are enthusiastically devoured without fail.


1¼ cups plain sifted flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

125 grams chilled butter

¼ cup caster sugar

grated rind of 1 lemon

Lemon topping

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup caster sugar

grated rind of 2 lemons

juice of 3 lemons (½ cup in total)

¼ cup sifted flour

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease and line a standard 20cm x 30cm Swiss roll tin.

Put the flour, baking powder, butter, sugar and lemon rind into a food processor and using the pulse setting process until the mixture forms soft beads of dough.  Tip into the prepared tin and press firmly into the base, I use a potato masher for this bit but you could use the back of a spoon instead.  You could roll a floured drinking glass or small rolling pin over the base once it's in the tin to make sure the surface is level and even if you like.

Bake the base in a preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden. You need to prepare the topping whilst the base is cooking.

To make the topping beat the eggs and caster sugar together until light and fluffy using an electric beater or your food processor. There's no need to clean the bowl inbetween making the base and topping. Once the eggs and sugar are nice fluffy you can gently fold in the grated lemon rind, lemon juice and flour.

Once the base is lightly golden, take it out of the oven and quickly pour the topping over the hot base.  The base needs to be really hot straight out of the oven when you pour the topping on it otherwise the topping will seep underneath the base and you'll end up with a nice pudding instead of an afternoon tea treat.

Once you've poured on the topping, quickly return the slice to the oven for a further 25 minutes or until the topping is spongy, golden and cooked.

Once it's done let it cool in the tin.  I usually dust it with icing sugar before I serve it. Also make sure you use a hot knife to cut it into squares otherwise it might stick.

Beef Koftas in Sauce

Tuesday 21 June 2011
I can whip these up in no time on a frazzled weekday evening and know they'll be eaten without any moaning.  You can serve the Koftas in the sauce or in tortilla wraps with a garlic and onion sauce and salad.

1 Tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves

1 large red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

500g beef mince

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp mild chilli powder

30g butter

2 Tblsp oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated

1 large red onion, finely sliced

1 large ripe tomato, chopped

600ml full fat yoghurt

2 tsp ground coriander

150ml water

In a bowl combine the chopped fresh mint leaves, finely chopped onion, crushed garlic, beef mince, salt and pepper, ginger and chilli powder.  Mix well and then roll into balls the size of a large walnut.

Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and brown the meatballs all over.  Remove meatballs from the pan and keep warm.  Lower the heat slightly and then and the second lot of crushed garlic, grated ginger and onion to the pan with the chopped tomato, yoghurt and coriander.  Simmer gently for 15 minutes, then add the water and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Put the meatballs back in the pan and simmer covered for 30 minutes or until the meatballs are completely cooked through.  You may need to add a little more water if the sauce gets too thick.  

DO NOT boil the sauce too vigorously or it will split and curdle.

Super Quick Potato Curry

Monday 20 June 2011
I love a good curry on a weeknight but am usually too tired to be bothered faffing about with loads of spices and simmering.  This is a cheap, tasty, quick and easy vegetarian curry that my family really enjoy and ask for often.

500g new potatoes, halved

1 Tbsp oil

1 large onion, sliced (250g)

1 Tbsp medium curry powder (15g)

1 (400g) tin chopped tomatoes

2 Tbsp mango chutney (40g)

Wash the potatoes thoroughly then put them in a saucepan.  Cover them  with cold water and bring to the boil.  Simmer the potatoes for around 10 - 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and cooked through. Drain the potatoes in a colander.  Whilst the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion for around 3 minutes until it softens.  Add the curry powder and fry for another couple of minutes.  Stir in the tin of chopped tomatoes, mango chutney and the cooked and drained potatoes.  Cook for around 3 - 5 minutes until everything is well heated through.  

You can serve this as a main dish on it's own with rice or as a side dish to accompany cooked chicken breasts, sausages or pork chops.

Lolly Cake - A Kiwi Classic!

Sunday 19 June 2011
125g butter

250 g of malt biscuits (one packet)
(UK: substitute malted milk biscuits)

180g of Eskimos/Fruit Puffs (one packet)
(UK: substitute 'Foam Shrimps and Bananas', 'Foamy Fruits', or plain marshmallows)

200g (1/2 can or 7 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

100 g shredded coconut (approximetely)

a pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Crush the biscuits.  They don't need to be a fine dust, some pieces can be left partially smushed to give the cake a nicer texture.  Mix in cinnamon, if you want it.

Warm the butter and condensed milk in the microwave for 30 seconds until the butter is very soft. It's OK if the butter melts a bit.  Allow to cool if it's too hot - you don't want to melt the fruit puffs/Eskimos.

Cut the fruit puffs in half if you want or leave them whole.  Mix the fruit puffs with the crushed biscuits, add the butter and condensed milk.  Mix well.

Scoop up the mixture and roll it into a log shape, or take small amounts and roll into little balls.  Alternatively, you can press into a slice tin and cover with fine layer of coconut.

Roll in the shredded coconut until the log or each ball is completely covered.

Place on a tray in the refrigerator and wait for it to harden. This takes a few hours.  Put plastic wrap over the tray to keep the lolly cake moist.

NZ Chop Suey

Saturday 18 June 2011
My best friend Jo made this especially for me whenever we went around to hers for dinner back home in NZ. It's one of my all time favourite dishes and I begged her for the recipe.  Everytime I cook this recipe my mind immediately transports me back to NZ, sat around Jo's table having a good natter. 

1 packet (250g) vermicelli

1 cup hot water

1 tbsp oil

1 kg diced pork or beef (with fat removed), or diced skinless chicken thighs

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp finely chopped ginger or 2 tsp ground ginger (optional)

2 onions, roughly chopped

8 cups chopped vegetables e.g. cabbage, celery, carrots, peas, beans, or frozen mixed vegetables

2 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp soy sauce (optional)
Put the vermicelli in a bowl and cover it with hot water from a just boiled kettle.  Soak the vermicelli until it goes nice and soft.  Drain it well and then cut it into 8 inch lengths with clean scissors.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok.  Fry the garlic and ginger (if you're using it) for a minute or two then add the onion and cook until the onion has softened. Add the meat and keeping stirring it around the wok or pan until browned.

Add your choice of vegetables and stir fry them for about 5 minutes.  Then add the drained vermicelli, water and soy sauce.  Simmer for a few minutes or until the meat is tender.

Serve with some Rewana bread or bread rolls to soak up the juices.

Basic Gluten Free White Bread

Friday 17 June 2011
225g Rice Flour (a blend of white and brown)

50g Potato Flour

50g Ground Almonds

1 Tbsp Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 1/2 tsp Fast Action Dried Yeast

1 Tbsp Xanthan Gum

1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

2 medium Eggs, beaten

1 tsp Cider Vinegar

5 Tbsp Sunflower Oil

250ml warm Semi-Skimmed Milk

Grease a 900g (1lb) loaf tin.  Combine the flours in a mixing bowl with the ground almonds, yeast, sugar, salt, xanthan gum and bicarbonate of soda.

Make a well in the centre and add the beaten eggs, vinegar, oil and milk.

Mix until smooth. The mixture will be quite stiff, but continue beating as best you can for 3-4 minutes. I use my stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. Cover and leave to prove in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1hr).

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/200C/425F.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden.  Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Quick & Easy Banana Cake

125g butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

500-600g (unpeeled weight) spotty over-ripe bananas

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

2 1/2 cups self-raising flour

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a round 23cm square cake tin with non-stick baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, mash the bananas and beat well in to the mixture.  It will look curdled but don't panic.  Beat in the eggs one at a time adding 1/2 a cup of the flour so the mixture comes together.  Add the last 1 cup of flour (and vanilla if using) then beat for one minute on low speed or until well combined. 

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin & gently shake to level, don't bang it.  Bake in oven at 180°C for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside in the cake tin for 10 minutes to cool slightly before transferring the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.

My Favourite Tea Bread

1 cup sultanas or raisins

1 tsp mixed spice

1tsp cinnamon

25g butter

1 cup hot strong tea (without milk)

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 or 2 1/4 cups self raising flour

Measure the sultanas, mixed spice, cinnamon and butter in to a medium sized bowl.  Pour hot recently made tea over them and leave to stand until cold.

When the mixture is cold, add the brown sugar and self raising flour.  If you use 2 cups of flour the tea bread will be more cake-like, whereas if you use 2 1/4 cups of flour the tea bread will be more bread like.  Mix gently until just combined, don't overmix or the tea bread will be tough.

Line a 20cm cake tin, or a 23cm x 12cm loaf tin with baking paper and pour the mixture evenly in to it.  Bake at 180C for 35-45 minutes in the cake tin, or 1 hour in the loaf tin, until a skewer pushed in to the middle comes out clean.

When cold store in an airtight container.  It's best left 24 hours before cutting but never lasts that long in our house.

Homemade Chicken Dippers with Spicy Fruity Dipping Sauce

Thursday 16 June 2011
This is a dinner that my family never fail to devour without complaint and ask me to cook it quite often.  I manage to put it in the meal plan once a fortnight because, as well as being popular, it's fairly economical too.

2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts

1 onion, cut into quarters

2 slices of slightly stale bread made into breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 handful fresh flatleaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

Spicy Fruity Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup apricot jam

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon tomato sauce
Put the quartered onion, chicken breasts, slices of bread, Dijon mustard, salt, parsley and egg in a food processor and pulse a few times until minced but not pureed.  Don't be too over enthusiastic with your food processor.

Heat a frying pan and spray with a little cooking spray or grease with a little oil.  Put a spoonfuls of the mixture into the frying pan and flatten each spoonful to form small patties.  I can usually fit about 6 - 8 patties in my frying pan at once.

Cook the patties until underside has browned then turn and continue cooking until the patties are done.  This usually takes about 4 minutes each side.

Serve the patties with the dipping sauce, green salad or steamed greens and some homemade oven chips or baked potatoes.

To make the sauce:

Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly in a small bowl and serve as a dip for the patties.

Slightly Spicy Meatloaf

Wednesday 15 June 2011
This meatloaf is easy to prepare and is versatile becuase it can be served either hot or cold.  It's a simple weeknight dinner when served with salad or steamed greens, or a filling weekend picnic lunch when served with a side salad.  You can even use thin slices in sandwiches or wraps.

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly diced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

500g beef mince

2 Tbsp tomato paste

425g tin chilli beans

Salt and black pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup grated tasty cheese

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 23cm loaf tin with non-stick baking paper making sure it comes up over the sides at least 1 inch.

Put the finely chopped onion, roughly diced pepper, dried oregano and thyme, and the beef mince in a bowl with the tomato paste, chilli beans, salt and pepper, and lightly beaten egg.  Mix it well with your hands until thoroughly combined.  Spoon the mixture into the tin and gently level the top.

Cover lightly with baking paper to stop the top browning too quicly and bake it for 45 minutes.  Take the baking paper cover off and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of the meatloaf.  Bake it for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling nicely and the meatloaf is cooked through. Stand for 10 minutes in the tin before you serve it.

Spinach, Ricotta and Tomato Pastry Rolls

Monday 13 June 2011
These are one of my favourite picnic treats as well as being an easy weekend lunch option.  They are also a great vegetarian option for shared lunches or bring-a-plate events.

1 bunch of fresh spinach, trimmed and washed (you can use frozen too)

250g tub of ricotta

1 tsp ground nutmeg

4 green shallots, thinly sliced (you can use a small red onion instead)

140g semi-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

2 sheets of ready-rolled frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, lightly beated

Put the washed and trimmed spinach into a bowl.  Boil the kettle and pour in enough water to cover the spinach.  Leave the spinach in the just boiled kettle water for about 1 minute or until wilted.  Drain them well and put them  in a bowl of cold water to stop it from cooking any further and help keep a nice vibrant colour.  Use your hands to squeeze out any excess moisture from the spinach and chop it finely.  You can use defrosted frozen spinach, just make sure you squeeze out as much moisture from it as you can.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C.  Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.  Put the tub of ricotta in a medium sized bowl and break it up with a fork.  Add the green shallots, semi-dried tomatoes, finely chopped spinach, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly to combine.

Lay the sheets of pastry on a clean surface.  Cut the whole sheets in half lengthways.  Spread about half a cup of ricotta mixture down the long side of each pastry half.  Brush the other long side with a little lightly beaten egg and roll the pastry up lengthways, giving the edge a good press to seal it.  Trim the edges if necessary.

Brush the tops of the rolls with the remaining lightly beaten egg and cut each roll into 4 pieces.  Put the pieces on the lined baking trays and bake them in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown.

My Husband's Favourite Iced Buns

Sunday 12 June 2011
My husband LOVES iced buns, he used to buy one from the local bakery every Sunday when we used to get the Sunday papers from the local corner dairy in New Zealand.  I've finely tuned this recipe to get it as close to our old local bakery ones as I possibly can.  Give them a whirl!

500g plain flour

70g (1/3 cup) caster sugar

1 tsp ground mixed spice

30g (1/4 cup) milk powder

7g sachet dried yeast

65g (1/3 cup) raisins

50g butter, melted and cooled

1 egg, lightly beaten

310ml (1 1/4 cups) lukewarm water

Plain flour, to dust bench when kneading

Vegetable oil, to grease bowl the dough rises in

1 egg yolk

1 Tbsp of extra water


250g (1 1/2 cup) icing sugar

15g (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3-4 tsp water

2 drops natural pink or red food colouring

1 tsp natural stawberry flavouring

Sift the flour into a large bowl then add the sugar, milk powder, yeast, mixed spice  and raisins.  Stir everything to combine.  Make a well in the centre and add the cooled melted butter, lightly beaten egg and lukewarm water.  Use a bread and butter knife to mix everything together using a cutting motion.  Once the mixture starts to come together use your hands to mix it until you have a nice soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.  You may need to use a little more dusting flour whilst you are kneading.  I mix the dough in my standmixer using the dough hook and put it on to knead for around 5 - 7 minutes.

Once the dough has been kneaded, using your preferred method, brush a large bowl with a little vegetable oil to grease it and then put the dough in the bowl.  Turn the dough slightly to make sure it gets lightly coated in the oil.  Cover with clingfilm and place in a warm, draught-free place for about an hour or until dough has doubled in size.

When the dough has doubled in size preheat your oven to 190°C.  Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.  Punch down the dough with your fist before turning it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1-2 minutes or until it's once again smooth and elastic.

Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and shape each into roughly 5 inch lengths.  Put the moulded buns onto the prepared baking trays, leaving about 2 inches between each bun to allow for spreading.  Cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and put in a warm, draughtfree place for 20-25 minutes to prove.

Mix the egg yolk and extra water together in a small bowl, this will be a glaze for the buns.  Gently use a pastry brush to coat the top of the buns with the egg mixture.  Bake in the preheated oven, swapping the trays halfway through the cooking time.  Bake for 12-15 or until golden brown and buns sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Transfer to a wire rack for 30 minutes to cool.

To make the icing

Sift the icing sugar into  a bowl and add the cooled melted butter.  Gradually add the water and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Add the natural red/pink food colouring and flavouring then mix it well.  Spread the icing over the buns and leave them until the icing sets.  If you're serving them to children or just want  them to look extra special, sprinkle some coconut, hundreds and thousands or white chocolate shavings over the icing before it sets.

My Daddy Cooks Cookbook by Nick Coffer

Saturday 11 June 2011
I have eagerly awaited the publication of Nick's book and was really excited to be offered a copy to review.  To be honest I would've bought one if I hadn't been sent one.  I love Nick's My Daddy Cooks blog as well as his Weekend Kitchen radio show

Nick's book shows anyone and everyone how to cook delicious and easy family meals, even if you have a minute kitchen and your children want to "help".  Nick is a stay-at-home dad who launched a video blog cooking with his son Archie in their tiny kitchen.  From these humble beginnings a brilliant cookbook was written in which Nick shares over 100 tried and tested recipes suitable for both the family dinner table and impressive dinner parties.

My Daddy Cooks isn't one of those cookbooks that you buy and only cook one or two recipes from.  This is a book I guarantee you'll use time and again.  Whether you are a parent looking for inspiration, or just someone who loves good food, My Daddy Cooks provides practical recipes to suit everyone.
If you haven't guessed already, I LOVE this book! Nick's laid back approach to cooking means that you can alter recipes, change quantities, substitute ingredients with whatever you've got to hand and you'll still come out with great food - how many other cookbooks can you say that about?!  There are also no obscure ingredients or complicated techniques, just easy recipes that make great tasting food. 

I cannot praise this cookbook highly enough. I'll be ordering several copies to give to friends, both with and without children.  It's of course available via Amazon and Nick tweeted this week that he'd made the Amazon Top 25. Thoroughly well deserved, he'll be number 1 in no time!

London Fine Meats Review

Friday 10 June 2011
On Friday of last week I received a lovely hamper from London Fine Meats so that I could try some of their products during National BBQ Week.

I received a great range of products to try free of charge, and they were all superb.  We decided to have a BBQ with the neighbours and a couple of friends to get as many opinions on the products as possible. Everyone said that the meat was delicous and very tender.  You could definitely tell the meat was really high quality.

I can thoroughly recommend products supplied by London Fine Meats.  They pride themselves on supplying the freshest, most tender meat right to your door and that is exactly what they do.  

All meat is sourced from the British Isles, and raised to the highest animal welfare standards. They hand pick the products that they supply to ensure great quality for their customers and process all the meat in their our own state of the art facilities in SW London, using a combination of traditional butchery skills with new technology. This process ensures they maintain a connection with every product sold, from the way it is reared to how it appears on your plate.

The convenience of having delicious, great value meat delivered to your door (no need to waste time going to several supermarkets to get the cut you want)

Wide range of cuts and sizes available, including a full organic range

Money-saving discounts when you buy one of our meat boxes

100% satisfaction guaranteed (or your money back)

We use the latest technology (and years of experience) to make sure our meat reaches you in perfect condition, every time

Quick and easy-to-use online shop

Orders arrive chilled, ready to cook or freeze, in quantities to suit you

British-sourced meat, which means it's not only fresh but hasn't had to travel thousands of miles before it reaches you

Delivery times to suit you

10% DISCOUNT and FREE DELIVERY on your first order

If you require top quality meat that is reared to the highest animal welfare standards then I can definitely recommend London Fine Meats.

After School Snacks for a Crowd

Wednesday 8 June 2011
Here are some recipes that I use if I know I'm expecting my daughter's friends over after school or if I have a tribe of children decend on our house in the school holidays.

Even if I'm not inspecting visitors, these recipes are really quick to make and I nearly always have some in the freezer just incase.  They're great for kids parties too.

Quick Berry Milkshakes

400g frozen mixed berries or 400g fresh berries
1 litre or 4 cups milk
5 large scoops of berry or vanilla flavoured frozen yoghurt or icecream

Put the berries in a blender with the milk and frozen yoghurt or icecream. Blend until smooth. How easy is that?! You can use a stick belnder if you don't have a normal blender. If the milkshake is too thick just add a little more milk and blend it again.

Pur into glasses and serve either on it's own or top each glass with an extra scoop of frozen yoghurt or icecream if you like. You could put a strawberry on the rim of each glass for an edible decoration.

Cheesy Vegetable Fritters

These are a great tummy filler and I make them often on the weekend for a quick and healthy lunch.

1 courgette, grated
1 tsp olive oil
1 carrot, grated
1 small tin or 1/2 cup frozen sweetcorn
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1/2 cup plain self-raising flour
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated tasty cheese
olive oil cooking spray

Grate the courgette and squeeze out as much moisture from it as you can using your hands. No need to faff about putting it in a tea towel or anything like that.  Put a little olive oil or cooking spray into a  large, non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat.  Add the prepared courgette, carrot and corn to the pan and cook, whilst stirring it for 2 to 3 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Set aside to cool whilst you make the fritter batter.

Sift both flours into a large bowl.  Tip any of the wholemeal flour husks left in the sieve into bowl as well.  Make a well in the flours and pour in the buttermilk and lightly beaten egg.  Whisk the mixture gently to combine the flours and wet ingredients.  Add the cooled vegetable mixture and cheese.  Stir again to thoroughly mix.

Spray the frying pan with cooking spray or put add a little oil to the frying pan.  Put it on a medium heat and spoon about 1 heaped tablespoon of mixture per fritter in to the pan.  I normally cook 4 fritters at a time for 3 to 4 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface.  Turn them over and cook for 2 minutes or until cooked through.  Transfer to a plate and cover them with foil or a tea towel to keep them warm.  Repeat the process until all the mixture has been used.  It normally makes around 16 fritters. I usually serve these with either a homemade or store bought mild tomato salsa or chutney.

Handy Hints
You can freeze the cooked fritters.  Just wrap them individually in plastic wrap and place in a large airtight freezer bag.  Seal the bag well then label it with what's in it and the date.  The fritters can be frozen for up to 3 months.

You can replace the corn kernels with 1 finely chopped pepper or some frozen peas.  You can also add some finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or mint leaves when adding vegetables to the batter mixture for a different flavour.

Frozen Fruit Kebabs

1 drinking straw per child
A selection of fruit: grapes, strawberries, satsumas, pineapple and melon chunks, etc

Thread the fruit onto the drinking straws.  Wrap each fruit kebab well in clingfilm before putting them in an air tight freezer bag.  Make sure the bag is sealed well.  Freeze until the fruit has frozen. Remove from the freezer, unwrap them, leave them to warm up slightly for a couple of minutes then serve.

Fruit Loaf

1 1/2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

50g butter, chilled and chopped into small cubes

1/4 cup caster sugar

3/4 cup dried fruit (mixture of raisins, apricots and sultanas)

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm-deep, 10.5cm x 22cm (base) loaf tin.  Line the tin with non-stick baking paper, allowing at least a 2cm overhang at both long ends.

Put the flour, spice and pinch of salt in a bowl. Add the cubed butter to the bowl and use your fingertips to rub the butter into flour mixture.  Once it resembles fine breadcrumbs you can stir in the sugar and dried fruit.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.  Whisk the egg and milk together in a jug then pour into the bowl.  Stir everything gently to combine all the ingredients.  Spoon into the prepared loaf tin.  Smooth the surface then bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Remove the loaf from the oven and leave it to stand in the loaf tin for 10 minutes.  Turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to continue cooling.  I usually serve it sliced and buttered.

Store Cupboard Dinner - Quick and Easy Lentil Bolognese

Monday 6 June 2011
This is another cheap, easy, filling and versatile store cupboard recipes that can really come in handy when money is tight or if you feel like a vegetarian option instead of traditional beef bolognese.

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, ends trimmed, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

2 garlic cloves, crushed

115g dried split red lentils

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock

2 Tbsp tomato paste

500g dried pasta, not tube shaped

Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the finely chopped onion, finely chopped celery, grated carrot and crushed garlic.  Cook, stirring for around 5 minutes or until the vegetables soften.

Add the lentils, tin of tomatoes, stock and tomato paste to the pan.  Stir well then season to taste with salt and pepper.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to the boil.  Once it's boiling, reduce the heat to medium and let it  simmer, partially covered, for around 20 minutes or until the mixture thickens.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water according to the packet instructions or until al dente to your liking. Drain the pasta and return to the pan.  Pour the sauce into the pan containing the pasta. Stir well to combine, then serve.

You can serve this on thick wholemeal toast, over baked potatoes or with rice if you don't have any pasta in the cupboard.  Sometimes I spoon it into an ovenproof dish, spread it with mashed potato, sprinkle cheese over the top and then put it under the grill to melt the cheese for a really quick and easy vegetarian shepards pie.

Hokey Pokey Biscuits

Sunday 5 June 2011
This was one of the first recipes that my Nan taught me to bake with her.  The are great biscuit tin fillers and always go down well.  Perfect for coffee mornings and when friends come around for a cuppa.

125 grams of butter

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon golden syrup

1 tablespoon milk

1½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Combine the butter, sugar, golden syrup and milk in a saucepan stirring constantly. Heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is nearly boiling.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm.

Sift the flour and the baking soda together and add them to the cooled mixture.  Stir the combined ingredients well.

Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on an oven tray lined with non-stick baking paper, then flatten the balls gently with a floured fork.

Bake the biscuits for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Store in an airtight container.

Tuna Pasta Bake

Friday 3 June 2011
This is one of those recipes that is a great standby for those nights when your short of inspiration, time and money.  Give it a whirl, you can substitute the tuna for some chopped ham if you don't like fish.

A couple of large handfuls of macaroni pasta

1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons plain flour

2 cups semi skimmed milk

1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

1/2 cup grated tasty cheese

185g can tuna in spring water, drained

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 6-cup capacity ovenproof dish.  Cook the pasta according to the packet directions or until al dente.  Once it's cooked to your liking drain it well.

Whilst the pasta is cooking you can make the sauce.  Start by melting the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes until it softens.  Then sprinkle in the flour. Cook again stirring for about a minute.  Remove the pan from heat and gradually add the milk, stirring or whisking the sauce until it's nice and smooth.  Return to the pan to the heat  and cook whilst stirring for 5 minutes or until mixture comes to the boil.

Once the sauce has come to the boil, take it off the heat and stir in the mustard, cheese, tuna (or ham), parsley and pasta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  You can serve it at this point if you wish.

If you have a little more time, spoon the mixture into the greased ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is golden.  Serve with steamed vegetables or a salad.

Annabel Langbein - The Free Range Cook

Wednesday 1 June 2011
As you all know I'm a very proud New Zealander and have been known to get a little homesick.  However, I shall be much less homesick as I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of the book "Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook".  The book not only features some delicious recipes it also has loads of gorgeous photographs that perfectly present her food and show off  the spectacular scenery of  Lake Wanaka, the Sothern Alps, and some of the surrouding areas.

I've long been a fan of the lovely Annabel Langbein.  She is not very well known here in the UK but back home in New Zealand she's a cooking legend who has self-published 17 cookbooks.  I've got some of her older cookbooks and bought them with me all the way to the UK from NZ.

Anyway, time to explore her latest book.  Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook is a cookbook to accompany her new 13-part TV series that will be shown on The Good Food Channel here in the UK.  The book focuses on Annabel gathering the freshest ingredients and cooking a menu for friends in different locations and settings.   In her own words her own words "it's about a pared back approach to food and cooking thats celebrates the spirit of resourcefulness, the pleasure of freshness, a sense of belonging in the community around you and the ability to the live in the now, enjoying what is in season at its very best."

For example, she makes the following Bacon and Egg pie for a picnic after a session of cherry picking at a local orchard.

Annabel's Bacon and Egg Pie - Serves 6 - 8

3 sheets (450g) ready-rolled savoury shortcrust pastry

250g streaky bacon, cut into 2cm pieces

2 medium potatoes, peeled, cooked and thinly sliced

3 tbsp soft herbs such as parsley, basil, chives or spring onion tops, chopped

14 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp salt

ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place a flat baking tray in the oven to heat – the pie will sit on this and the heat will help it to crisp.

Cut a piece of baking paper to fit a 40 x 30cm baking dish or roasting pan. It should cover the base and reach about 3-4cm up the sides. Remove the baking paper from the baking dish or roasting pan and lay it flat on your bench. Dust it with a little flour and lay 2 pastry sheets on top. Join the pastry sheets by pressing them together firmly with a small overlap. Roll out the pastry to cover the paper. Lift the paper with the pastry and lay it into the baking dish or roasting pan (it will reach 3-4cm up the sides).

Sprinkle the bacon over the pastry. Top with the sliced potato and sprinkle with the herbs. Break 8 whole eggs over the top.

In a mixing bowl, lightly whisk the remaining 6 eggs with the milk, salt and pepper. Pour this evenly over the whole eggs.

Roll out the remaining sheet of pastry very thinly and cut it into narrow strips. Arrange the strips in a lattice pattern on top of the pie, trimming off any excess.

Place the prepared pie on top of the heated baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes until the pastry is starting to puff and turn golden. Reduce the heat to 180˚C and bake until the pastry is golden and cooked through on the base – about a further 35-40 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a salad and pickles or chutney. It will keep in a covered container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Each Chapter of the book has a theme - From the Oven has sticky buns, sausage rolls, breads, crispbreads, tarts and pies.  From the Larder shows how to make your own cheese, icecream, choux pastry and chocolate treats.  From the Garden is my favourite Chapter with recipes for sensational side dishes, salads, salsas, sauces and fabulous vegetarian dishes.

I utterly love this book and it will be kept at the top of my favourite cookbook pile with a couple of other treasured books that I often refer to.  There are so many useful and delicious recipes, not to mention stunning photos of New Zealand to savour.  I recommend this book without any hesitation and encourge everyone to watch her series on The Good Food Channel.

Good on you Annabel, you're a legend!
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