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Asian Inspired Chicken Soup

Wednesday 31 August 2011
I made this soup for lunch the other day as my daughters wanted some noodle soup.  It's warming, nourishing and great for a pick me up now that the weather is cooling down here in the UK.  It's also a good way to make the most of leftovers from a roast chicken or chicken pieces instead of a risotto or wraps that is my usual standby for chicken leftovers.

Chicken bones from roasted whole chicken or chicken pieces

1.5 litres (6 cups) boiling water

1 garlic clove, squished

1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and lightly squished

1 Tblsp oil

1 inch/2.5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 small red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped

500g leftover meat from roast chicken, shredded

2 Tblsp light soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

3 tsp brown sugar

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 bunch bok choy or chard, roughly chopped

400g dry noodles (I used Sharwood medium noodles)

Place the chicken bones in a large stock pot with the boiling water, garlic, ginger, lime leaves and lemongrass.  Boil slowly for around 2 hours until you have a lovely rich stock.  Remove the chicken bones, garlic and ginger.  Taste the stock at this point, if it isn't rich enough then add a couple of stock cubes to enhance the chicken flavour.  

When you're ready to make the soup, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the finely chopped ginger, crushed garlic and the chilli.  Cook for about a minute and then add 500ml (2 cups) of the chicken stock.  Cover with a saucepan lid and bring to the boil.  Add the shredded chicken. Cook for 5 minutes or until well heated through.

Add the remaining stock, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar to the soup. Cover once again and bring back to the boil. Add the spring onion, bok choy and noodles. Cook for 3 minutes until the noodles are cooked and the bok choy or chard leaves have wilted.  Check the seasoning and then divide the soup between bowls to serve.

If you want to freeze the soup, don't add the spring onion, bok choy or noodles.  Freeze in a suitable container labelled with the contents and date, I usually defrost it and eat it within about a month. 

Courgette, Rosemary and Feta Bread - FFTO August Challenge

The Fresh From The Oven challenge was set this month Sally from My Custard Pie and the challenge was to make a bread using vegetables.  She was inspired by a glut of courgettes that she had in her garden.  We've had the same problem this year so I decided to make a tasty loaf with some of our courgettes that would liven up our sandwiches this week. 

500g (3 1/2 cups) self-raising flour

200ml warm water

2 sachets (2 x 7g) instant yeast

1 Tblsp sugar

2 tsp salt

2 courgettes, grated

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus extra sprigs to garnish

80g Feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 200C. Grease a large loaf tin.

Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Pour in the water, then add yeast, sugar, salt, grated courgette and roughly chopped rosemary leaves.

Gradually push flour into the centre mixing gently, until all the flour has been incorporated.  Coat your hands with flour and then knead the dough on a smooth floured surface for 5 -10 minutes, until smooth.  Or do what I did and mix the dough in a stand mixer on a really low speed to incorporate the flour and then knead at usual speed for 5 - 7 minutes until it's smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with clingfilm, and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes until it's doubled in size.  I leave my dough in my mixer as the plastic shield on it provides a good seal and dough rises happily in there.  It also saves washing another bowl.

Knock back dough with your hands for 1 minute and then knead goat’s cheese into the dough, until well combined.  I just mixed the goats cheese in using a very low speed on my stand mixer for 1/2 - 1 minute.

Put the dough into your prepared loaf tin, cover with clingfilm and leave for another 30 minutes until it has risen again.

Put a couple of rosemary sprigs on top of the bread to make it look pretty and then bake the loaf for 30 minutes, or until the bread is cooked and golden on top.  You can check it's cooked because the loaf will make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

Sundried Tomato, Herb and Cheese Spiral Buns

I regularly make most of the bread that we eat as a household.  This week on the Great British Bake Off the contestants were making bread so I thought I would post this recipe for the rolls I made to company a vegetable soup we were having for lunch last weekend.  They were really easy to make and rather tasty too.  They would make great lunchbox fillers for those back to school too.  They freeze well and you can vary the flavour according to what you have available.  My husband likes olives added to them, my daughters however don't, so this time I left them out. 

500g sifted Strong White Bread Flour

11/2 tsp Salt

1 tsp Sugar

1 Tblsp Olive Oil

7g Easy Bake Yeast

300ml Warm water

1/3 cup Merchant Gourmet Sundried Tomatoes (prepared according to packet instructions)

2 or 3 tsp Dried Italian Herbs

Handful of grated Cheddar cheese

Place the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the salt, sugar, yeast,  herbs and oil. Add the warm water and mix everything together well to form a soft dough.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for up to 10 minutes until a smooth and elastic dough has formed. Otherwise do what I do and knead it in a stand  mixer with a dough hook for 5- 7 minutes.

Shape the dough and place in a lightly greased bowl.  Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for about 45 minutes in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.  I leave it in the stand mixer bowl as the plastic shield forms a nice seal and the dough rises happily in there.

Preheat your oven to 200C, fan oven 180C, 400C, Gas Mark 6.

Knock the dough on to a lightly floured surface and add the well drained, chopped tomatoes. Knead and mix for a further 10 minutes. Or put the well drained tomatoes into the mixer with the risen dough and knead it for about 5 minutes on a low speed so the tomatoes are not broken up too much.

You can then do either of these:

Divide the dough into portions and roll it into balls.  Put on lined baking sheets with plenty of space between them.  Leave in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle cheese on top and then bake the rolls for 20 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.


Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle cheese over the dough and then roll up from the longest side into a log and pinch the dough to seal the join.  Cut the log into 1 inch sections.  Place cut side up on a baking tray, leave to rise as above, sprinkle with more cheese and then bake as above.

Mince and Lentil Onepot

Tuesday 30 August 2011
This makes a 500g mince go a long way and is great for when you are expecting a crowd or if you want to make a meal go further and freeze half for later.  Sometimes I serve this cottage pie style with mash and some grated cheese on top or over some steamed rice for a warming dinner.  It's also fab for lunch on top of a couple of pieces of thick wholemeal toast or on top of a baked potato. 

Serves 5 for 2 meals.

500g beef mince

2 large onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 pepper (any colour) finely chopped

250ml (1 cup red wine)

2 x 400g can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 x 400g can lentils, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp dried basil

¼ tsp nutmeg

fresh parsley or basil, finely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the pepper, onion and garlic together until the onion is soft and transparent. Add beef mince and brown well, breaking up any large pieces. Add the red wine, the wine should sizzle as it hits the heat of the pan.  The alcohol will evaporate and leave the flavour of the wine.

Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, canned lentils, dried herbs and nutmeg. Combine well and let simmer for at least 15–20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the the frozen mixed vegetables and then simmer until they are cooked, then serve it as you wish.

Chickpea Pilaf with Spinach

Monday 29 August 2011
This is a quick, healthy and delicious family dinner for a Meatfree Monday.  My daughters like it with some poppadoms on the side and mango chutney.  Give it a go, it works well as a side dish too.

1 ½ cups basmati rice

1 Tblsp olive oil

3 carrots, roughly diced

1 pepper, roughly diced

1 leek, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

60g raisins

¼ tsp turmeric

2 tsp mild curry powder

400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

400ml vegetable stock, made with 1 stock cube

300ml water

200g spinach

100g slivered almonds, roasted (keep 1 Tbsp for sprinkling over as a garnish)

2 Tblsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

2 Tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves

Low-fat natural yogurt and more chopped fresh coriander leaves to serve

Put the rice in a sieve and rinse it under cold running water until the water runs clear. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the roughly diced carrots, pepper, leek, garlic, raisins and spices. Cook, stirring it occasionally for about 8 minutes or until the vegetables, particularly the carrots, are tender.

Add the chickpeas, rice, stock, and water.  Bring everything to the boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cook everything with the lid on the saucepan for 12 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and put the spinach over the top of the rice.  Replace the lid on the saucepan and stand for 8 minutes.  Uncover the saucepan again and add ¾ cup almonds, and the chopped fresh herbs.  Stir everything together until well combined.  Serve topped with some yoghurt, chopped fresh herbs and the remaining almonds.

Lavender Shortbread

Saturday 27 August 2011
I recently received an email asking whether I would like a parcel containing some wonderful French ingredients from an area of France called Vaucluse en Provence.  I hesitated for about half a second before excitedly emailing back saying YES!  I was sent a package by The Vaucluse Tourist Board of lovely dried lavender, dried thyme, olive crackers and a tub of thoionade (a tuna/tomato/olive paste).

Vaucluse is paradise for foodies because it's Mediterranean climate provides a wealth of fantastic local produce and a huge range of interesting ingredients such as lavender, honey, olives, garlic, figs, cherries, melons and grapes as well as world famous truffles.

You can find out more information about this gorgeous region of France by visiting the Official Tourism Website of Vaucluse or by visiting their Facebook page.

My mother left us this morning to travel back home to New Zealand so a cheering up tea party was in order.  I decided to make some lovely Lavender Shortbread and serve in on some lovely plates I purchased at a charity shop last week.  Here's the recipe:

Lavender Shortbread

250g softened butter

½ cup caster sugar

1 tsp dried lavender, and extra to garnish

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 cups plain flour

½ cup cornflour

Cream the butter on it's own for a couple of minutes and then add the sugar.  Carry on beating until the butter and sugar mixture is pale/light and creamy,  gently beat in the dried lavender and freshly grated lemon zest.  Carefully fold in sifted plain flour and cornflour.

Divide the mix in half.  Roll each half into 2 logs about 2 inches/5cm in diameter and 7 - 8 inches/16-20cm long. Wrap the logs in cling film and then chill them for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Cut the logs into half inch/1cm-thick slices, or roll out the dough and cut it into rounds with a biscuit cutter.  Place your slices or rounds on a tray and put a little lavender flower on the top of each one as a garnish.  Bake at 160°C for 20-25 minutes or until the biscuits are firm and lightly golden.  Cool on a wire rack whilst you do the dishes and make a cuppa.

Marco's Quick Lamb Stew

Thursday 25 August 2011
I received a delicious box of Seasonal Produce in association with Knorr and Foreman and Field late last week.  There were lovely vegetables, smoked trout, London cure salmon and some large Lamb Neck Fillets.

There was also a mouthwatering recipe for a Quick Lamb Stew, using Knorr's NEW herb infusion stock pots, that Marco Pierre White has come up with.

The Exclusive recipe by Marco wont be available on the Knorr website until September, but I of course have it right now!  Better still, I'm allowed to share it with the readers of my blog.

There's also huge range of delicious recipes using Knorr products on their website.  There's plenty of hints, tips and video Masterclasses from Marco himself too *swoon*

I've made Marco's Quick Lamb Stew and it was delicious.  Everyone had seconds and my husband was most annoyed that there wasn't enough for him to have a third helping. You can add whichever vegetables you have available, just blanch them.  I used thin green green beans and celery as well as the vegetables that came in the produce box because I had some in the fridge that needed using up.  I also served the stew with fresh homemade crusty bread rolls to mop up the juices but you could serve it with mashed potato instead.

Without further ado, here's the recipe:

Marco’s Quick Lamb Stew

1 Knorr Herb Infusion Pot

2 tbsp olive oil

800g neck of lamb, cut into 16 pieces

25g butter

8-10 baby leeks, blanched and refreshed in cold water

10 baby carrots, blanched and refreshed in cold water

3-4 large spring onion bulbs, blanched and refreshed in cold water

200g peas, blanched and refreshed in cold water

a couple of bay leaves

a few sprigs of thyme

A dash of gravy browning (optional)

Mix the Knorr Herb Infusion Pot with 600ml of boiling water, stirring until thoroughly dissolved. Stir in the gravy browning, if you're using it.

Heat a heavy-based frying pan. Add in the olive oil, heat through well and add in the pieces of lamb.

Fry for 2-3 minutes, then turn the pieces of lamb over and fry for a further 2-3 minutes, so that they brown nicely on each side.

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat 400ml of the diluted Knorr Herb Infusion together with the butter.

Add in the blanched leeks, carrots and spring onions, cover and bring to the boil.

Simmer the vegetables for 2 minutes, then add in the peas and simmer for 1 minute. Strain the vegetables and keep them warm, reserving the cooking liquor.

Add the remaining diluted Knorr Herb Infusion and the strained liquor from the vegetables to the browned lamb in the frying pan, making sure that all sediment from the base of the pan has been mixed in.

Bring to the boil and boil for 2-3 minutes to reduce slightly.

Transfer the lamb and the gravy from the frying pan into a preheated, shallow, heatproof serving dish.

Top the lamb with some of the poached vegetables, serving the rest of the vegetables on the side.

Optional: Garnish the dish with the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Serve at once.

Quick Custard Tarts

Wednesday 24 August 2011
Inspired by the Great Biritsh Bake Off on television last night, here's my favourite recipe for quick custard tarts.  You can make your own pastry if you like, I do when I have time, but this recipe uses shop bought pastry to speed things up.  I can see Paul and Mary rolling their eyes and tutting in disgust but Hey-ho sometimes needs must when you're a super busy Mum.

4 egg yolks

100g caster sugar

2 Tblsp cornflour

1 tsp vanilla extract

200ml milk (not skimmed)

200ml double cream

500g sweet shortcrust pastry

Peach slices, plum crescents or berries to top the tarts prior to serving

Dusing of icing sugar to make the tarts look pretty before serving

Find a heatproof bowl that fits snugly over a saucepan.  Put the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract, in to the bowl and whisk together until well combined.

Fill the saucepan with about 2inches of water and bring it to a gentle simmer on the hob.  Put the bowl over the saucepan and gradually whisk the milk and cream into the egg and sugar mixture.  Make sure you whisk continuously but not too vigorously until the mixture thickens and just comes to the boil.

Immediately remove the bowl from the heat and cover it with clingfilm so that you don't get a skin on your custard.  Leave the custard to cool completely.

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry to about 1/8 inch thick and cut into 4 inch diameter rounds, or big enough to fit your muffin or tart tins.  Line all 12 holes of a muffin tray with the pastry and prick the base of each case twice with a fork.  Fill each case with the custard mixture until it's about 3/4 full.  

Put the tarts in the oven and cook them for approximately 20 minutes, or until they're slightly golden. The custard will rise during cooking then sink again as it cools down.  After you've taken the tarts out of the oven, leave them to cool for about 5 minutes in the tin, then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack.

Top the tarts with some fruit of your choice and then sprinkle them with icing sugar just before you serve them.  The tarts can be served warm or cold.

Family Sized Vegetable and Lentil Pastry Roll

Monday 22 August 2011
This is a great low faff dinner or picnic lunch recipe that I make often as it uses ingredients that I normally have in the cupboard and freezer.  It's really versatile and you can adapt the fillings to whatever you happen to have in your cupboards or fridge.  Sun dried tomato, mozzarella, spinach and lentils works really well with some fresh or dried mixed herbs instead of the curry powder and mango chutney.  Leftover cooked cubes of pumpkin and other leftover cooked mixed vegetables with the lentils, curry powder and mango chutney work well too.

1 Tblsp olive oil

100g mushrooms, sliced

120g (3 cups) spinach

150g roasted pepper strips, well drained or 1 finely chopped fresh pepper

2 x 400g cans of lentils, drained and rinsed

2 tsp mild curry powder

2 Tblsp mango chutney, plus extra to serve

375g block puff pastry, defrosted if frozen

60g (1/2 cup) finely grated cheddar

1 free range egg, beaten

Heat oil in a pan over a medium heat. Cook mushrooms and fresh pepper if you are using it, for a couple of minutes until they soften slightly.  Add the spinach, roasted peppers (if you are using  them), drained and rinsed lentils, curry powder and mango chutney.  Season everything to taste and then cook for 2-3 minutes until everything is well combined and the spinach has started to wilt.  Allow this mixture to cool completely.

Whilst the mixture is cooling, preheat your oven to 180°C.  Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to form a 40cm x 30cm (12 inch x 16 inch) rectangle. Spread half the lentil mixture down the centre of the pastry, top with the grated cheese, then put the remaining lentil mix on top.  Brush the pastry edges with water, and then fold it over to enclose filling.  Press it well to seal it and put it on the baking tray seam-side down.  Brush the with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little extra cheese if you like. 

Bake the pastry roll for about 30 minutes or until its golden brown.  Slice the pastry roll and serve it with some plain yoghurt, salad greens and extra mango chutney.

I've been featured on the Be @ Home Blog

I was recently asked if I would like to appear on Be at Home which is a home décor blog that features anything from interior design tips to room trends, and from time to time, food-related content.

Cheesy Bacon, Egg and Vegetable Bake

Thursday 18 August 2011
I made this for dinner tonight after a long day looking after 6 children.  It can be served as a lunch or dinner and the recipe is easily adjusted to feed more or less people.  You can add whatever vegetables you have available.  I used frozen mixed vegetables, peppers and sliced mushrooms when I cooked tonight's dinner.  It is a very cheap, versatile and filling recipe that is easily adapted to use what you have in your fridge or cupboards. 

350g thickly sliced bread, crusts removed

250g bacon rashers, chopped

1 cup (120g) grated cheddar cheese

1 pepper, finely chopped

6 large free range eggs

2 cups (500ml) milk

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce or dried mixed herbs

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Cut the bread into cubes. Place the bread in an ovenproof dish (1.5-litre/6-cup capacity).

Add the bacon to a non-stick frying pan and cook, stirring it around, until it's browned.  Drain the bacon on absorbent paper. Sprinkle the cheese, bacon and pepper over the bread in the ovenproof dish.

Whisk the eggs in a large jug with a fork until well combined.  Add the milk and Worcestershire sauce or dried mixed herbs, then season with salt and pepper before whisking everything again until well combined. Pour over bread mixture in the dish.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until the egg looks set. Serve with a salad or cooked vegetables.

Tuna, Feta and Rice Loaf

Tuesday 16 August 2011
This is a really quick storecupboard lunch or dinner and I sometimes double the recipe so I can cook two and freeze one for later.  You can add a grated carrot as well as the courgette if you want the recipe to go a bit further.  You can also add a tin of salmon instead of the tuna.  Sometimes I use some cooked bacon, onion and peppers in place of  the tuna if we have no tins of fish in the cupboard.  Just use what you have in your cupboard.

225g (1 1/2 cups) cooked long-grain rice

1 x 185g can tuna in springwater, drained and flaked

70g (1/3 cup) semi-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 large courgette, grated

2 Tblsp chopped fresh basil (if available, or use 2 tsp dried)

75g feta, crumbled

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Mixed salad leaves or cooked vegetables to serve it with

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a 19cm x 9cm (base measurement) loaf tin with non-stick baking paper.

Combine the rice, tuna, tomato, courgette, basil and two-thirds of the feta in a large bowl. Add the lightly beaten eggs and stir everything together until well combined.  Season with pepper if you like.

Spoon the mixture carefully into the lined loaf tin and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the top with the remaining feta. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffed up and golden.  Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly before slicing it.  Serve the loaf with mixed salad leaves or cooked vegetables.

Spicy Moroccan Vegetable Patties

Monday 15 August 2011
These patties are a great standby for a quick lunch or dinner and the recipe is easily increased for a crowd of diners.  I have used grated pumpkin or sweet potato instead of carrot in the past and they worked equally as well as the carrot. 

700g salad potatoes, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup dried red lentils, rinsed

1 1/2 Tblsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tsp Moroccan seasoning (use 3 tsp if you want  them to be spicier)

1 courgette, grated

1 carrot, peeled and grated

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tblsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

1/2 cup couscous

mango chutney and salad leaves, to serve with the patties

Cook the potato in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water for 10 to 12 minutes or until just tender.  Drain well and reduce the heat of the saucepan to low.  Put the potatoes back in the pan and mash them roughly.  Remove them from the heat and set them aside to cool slightly.  

Meanwhile, put the lentils in a small saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring them to the boil over a medium-high heat then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the lentils, partially covered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until they're tender. Drain them well.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook it for 3 to 4 minutes or until it's nice and soft.  Add the seasoning and cook it for about a minute, stirring it around until it's fragrant.  Remove the pan from the heat and then tip the onion and seasoning mixture, cooked lentils, grated courgettte and carrot, beaten egg and chopped fresh coriander to the roughly mashed potato. Stir everything together until well combined.  Using about 1/4 cup of mixture at a time, shape the mixture into approximately 12 patties.

Put the couscous in a shallow bowl.  Gently dip the patties in the couscous to coat them.  Shake off any excess couscous. Refrigerate the patties for 15 minutes, if time permits, for them to firm up.  Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.  Cook the patties in batches, adding more oil if necessary, for 3 to 4 minutes each side or until golden and heated through.  Serve the patties with mango chutney and salad leaves.

Croissants - Fresh From The Oven Baking Challange

Sunday 14 August 2011
(From River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens)

Makes 24-28 croissants

1 kg strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

20 g salt

330 ml warm water

330 ml warm milk

10g powdered dried yeast (instant/bread machine yeast)

140g caster sugar/white sugar

500g unsalted butter

For glaze

2 medium egg yolks

50ml milk

It is best to use a food mixer for the first stage as the dough will be soft, sticky and difficult to knead by hand. So, put all the ingredients, except the butter, into the mixer bowl and fit the dough hook. Knead on low to medium speed until the dough is soft, stretchy and satiny – about 10 minutes. Put the dough in a decent sized polythene bag (it needs room to rise), suck out the air, tie a knot in the bag and put it in the fridge to rest over night.

First thing in the morning, get the butter out of he fridge. You need it to warm up a bit so it is workable, but not soft. The idea is that the dough and the butter have a similar degree of firmness.

As soon as it seems ready, lightly flour the butter, lay it between two sheets of cling film and bat it out with a rolling pin to a fairly neat square about 1cm thick. Take your time to get the thickness and shape as even as possible, then put it to one side.

Take your dough out of the fridge, flour it and roll out to a rectangle, a little more than twice the size of the butter (allow a couple of centimeters extra all around). Now lay the butter on one half leaving a border, fold the other half over and press down all the way round to seal the butter in.

Next roll the dough away from you until it is twice its original length, then fold the top and bottom edges in by one sixth. Fold them in again by another sixth, so the folds meet in the middle, then fold one on top of the other.

Give the dough a quarter turn and roll it out again to about the same size as before, fold the top and bottom edges in to meet at the middle, then fold one on top of the other. Roll this out slightly and seal the edges with the rolling pin.

Put the dough back in the plastic bag and return it to the fridge to rest for an hour or so. (You’ve given the gluten a good workout and it must relax now, otherwise it will be resistant and uncooperative later.) *I found the dough extremely resistant after a 2 hour rest and I had to use a Herculean effort to roll it out. I did halve the dough and let the second half rest overnight and had a much easier time rolling it out. Unless you’re a body builder I would advise a longer rest than an hour or two.

In the meantime, you need to cut a template from a piece of cardboard (the back of a cereal box or something similar). You want an isosceles triangle, measuring 20cm across the base and 25cm tall. (The easiest way is to draw an upside down capital T and join the points, like a cartoon sail).

When your dough has rested, unwrap and roll it out to a neat rectangle, a little larger than 140cm x 50cm (pic 1). Now trim the rectangle to these measurements leaving perfectly straight edges. Cut the rectangle in two lengthwise, to give two 25cm wide strips. Now using your template as a guide, cute 12-14 triangles from each strip(pic 2).

Lay each triangle away from you and roll it up from the base (pic 3). Wet the pointed end and seal it. Curl the tips around to form a crescent and pinch them together to hold them in place (pic 4); or you can leave them straight if you prefer. (At this point you could freeze some if you like. Space them out on a tray and freeze, then pack into bags. Allow an extra hour for rising when you come to use them).

Lay your croissants with the sealed point underneath, on baking trays lined with greased baking parchment or (better still) silicone mats. Cover with cling film or a bin liner and leave to rise until doubled in side. As the dough is cold, this could take a couple of hours, or longer.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200C/400F /Gas Mark 6. Beat the egg yolk and the milk together, then gently brush all over the croissants. Bake for about 10 minutes, then lower the setting to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3 and bake for further 10-15 minutes until they look beautifully golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly, while you make coffee.

P.S. If your work surface isn’t large enough to roll the dough out to a 140 x 50cm rectangle, cut it in half. Roll out one portion at a time to a rectangle a little bigger than 70 x 50cm, then cut the strips as above and cut 6 or 7 triangles from each strip, using your template as a guide.
You can make larger criossants by using a larger template.  I put a square of chocolate inside the criosant when rolling up the pasrty for a decadent treat. 
For savoury treat I put a small amount of grated cheese and some small pieces of cooked bacon inside the criossants when rolling them up.
Here are some of the plain criossants that I made:

Kringel - Baking Challenge

Last year, I took part in my very first Fresh From the Oven Baking Challenge. I now help administer the blog and compile the roundup roughly every second month. 

The website is here:   http://www.freshoven.blogspot.com/ 

The first challenge recipe I took on was for an Estonian Kringel.  The recipe that was used is the recipe from the Hairy Biker's "Mum's Know Best" cook book.  The recipe below is exactly as it is written in the cookbook.


40g fresh yeast

1tbsp sugar

250ml milk, lukewarm

2 egg yolks

50g butter, melted

600-700g flour


100g butter, softened

3 handfuls of raisins

10 tsp sugar


150g dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids)

75g butter

Mix the yeast and sugar in a bowl. Add the lukewarm milk and egg yolks, then mix in the flour and melted butter and knead well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°c/Gas 6. Dust your work surface with flour. Take the dough out of the bow, knock it back and roll out to a thickness of 1cm. Spread the softened butter evenly over the rolled sheet of pastry, then sprinkle with raisins and finally sugar.

Roll up the dough like a swiss roll and cut it in half with a sharp knife. Starting from the uncut end, plait the dough, lifting each half over the other in turn. Finally, shape the plaited bread into a B shape and transfer to a buttered baking tray. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.

In the meantime, prepare the chocolate topping by melting the chocolate and butter in a bowl over boiling water. Once out of the oven, let the bread cool down a bit, place on a serving plate and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Cheese Kringel

To make a savoury version, leave out the raisins and sugar and sprinkle the Kringel with grated cheddar instead. Add more grated cheese on top instead of the chocolate sauce.

Here is my Kringel

Khrushchev Dough - FFTO Challenge January

The Fresh From The Oven Challenge for January was Khrushchev Dough.  It was very versatile and I have definitely made the dough again and I enjoy discovering what else I can make with it.  The recipe was supplied by mushitza

40g fresh yeast (or 10g powdered dry yeast and 30g water)

10g salt

250 ml cold milk (straight from the fridge)

150g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature (NOT melted)

1 Tbsp sugar

500g all purpose flour + more for dusting

Original eggwash by mushitza:

a mixture of egg yolk, few drops of water and few drops of oil

My eggwash:

1 egg

1-2 tsp milk

If using fresh yeast: rub the salt through the yeast block with a tablespoon until it becomes liquid.

If using dry yeast: Mix salt and dry yeast, then add the water.

Add in the milk, butter, sugar and sift the flour on top. Mix with an electric mixer equipped with the dough hooks till all the ingredients are combined and soft dough forms. A wooden spoon could be used if you fancy a good arm workout.

Cover the bowl with an airtight lid or plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly.

The next morning, dust your bench with flour, place the dough on top, roll it out and shape it as you like. Work the dough as soon as you take it out of the fridge. If needed divide it in two or three parts and place one part in the fridge while you are forming the other.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Dust the counter with flour and roll the dough out to 3 mm thick rectangle. Cut it lengthwise and widthwise to smaller or bigger rectangles. Place some grated feta, cheddar or whatever cheese you have in the fridge and roll the rectangles up to tight rolls. All kinds of jams or nutella could be used. Arrange them on a baking tray leaving space between them because they rise in the oven.

Mushitza did not mention letting the dough rise before baking, but after reading J's Kitchen blog post I decided to set them aside for about 1 hour in a warm place, covered with cling film.

Brush with eggwash, then bake for for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

I made some croissants with the dough and also some savoury parcels.  I used cookie cutters to cut chapes from the dough, put filling in between, then joined them together.  The filling I used was caramelised onion relish and cheese.  I sprinkled them with some black sesame seeds for extra flavour and texture.  

FFTO March Challenge - Yeasted Recipe Using Local Flour

I decided to revisit one of the previous FFTO Challenges this weekend and make some more Herb and Onion Bread as I had some more fabulous flour from Lode Mill.  Here's how to make it:

The Fresh From The Oven Challenge back in March was hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours.

The challenge was to bake something yeasted, using flour where you know either where it was grown or where it was milled.  After wracking my brains or a bit, I decided to purchase my flour from Lode Mill which is a working 18th-century water mill in the grounds of Anglesey Abbey Cambridge.

The mill operates on the first and third Sunday of every month (subject to the water level) and is open to the public. It's great for kids (and adults) to see the mill and all it's workings.  As an added bonus the oatmeal and wholegrain flour it produces is available for purchase.

I used the wholemeal flour I purchased to make some Herb and Onion Bread.

180 ml milk

3 tbsp sugar

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp butter

180 ml warm water

2 tsp dried yeast granules (or 1sachet instant yeast)

365g plain flour

200g wholemeal flour

1 small onion

1 tsp dill seeds

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2-3 stems parsley

1 tsp sesame seeds

Chop the parsley and rosemary fairly finely and grate the peeled onion – a pickling onion is about the right size. Combine the flours in a large mixing bowl. My favourite formula at the moment is 365g plain, 200g wholemeal flour. If you are using dried yeast, sprinkle it onto the warm water in a small bowl and set it aside for 10 minutes to dissolve. Instant yeast should just be mixed into the flour.

Put the milk, sugar, salt and butter into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts, and then set aside to cool slightly.

Add the chopped herbs, dill seeds and grated onion to the flour, then pour in the dried yeast and the warm milk mixture. (If you have used instant yeast add the warm water now.)

Mix everything well. The dough will be quite sticky. Turn it out onto a floured board and knead it gently for about a minute, then form it into a ball, and put it in a lightly oiled bowl.

Put a plastic cover or a damp, clean tea towel over the bowl and set aside to prove for 1-2 hours until the dough has doubled in size. Instant yeast works a little more quickly than dried yeast and the warmth of your kitchen will also affect the speed of the rise.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF/180ºC and lightly oil a large loaf tin. Turn the dough out onto a floured board, pat it out a little and then roll it into a cylinder and set it in the loaf tin. (Or you could divide the dough in half and bake it in two small tins.)

Leave the bread to rise for about 45 minutes, covered with a cloth. It should just be rising above the edges of the tin.

Brush the top of the loaf with milk or water and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes until it is well risen, a beautiful golden brown and sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom of the loaf.  Set aside to cool on a rack before slicing.

My Favourite Freezable Buttery Biscuit Dough

Saturday 13 August 2011
These are my all time favourite biscuit. They are lovely and buttery and really versatile. I can vary the flavourings to suit the occasion. I've left out the vanilla extract and added grated lemon zest and iced them with lemon glace icing and they were devoured in record time by my afternoon tea guests. I've added chocolate chips and even sugar sprinkles to the dough and it works well every time. There’s always some of this dough in my freezer. The dough freezes really well and can also be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.

250g softened butter

140g sifted icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large free range egg yolk

375g sifted plain flour - Sometimes I add 25g of sifted cocoa powder and 350g flour for a chocolate version.

Best the butter and icing sugar together until very pale and fluffy. I add the icing sugar slowly and start the beaters on their lowest speed setting so that I don't get that cloud of icing sugar rising up from the bowl and going everywhere.

Add the vanilla extract and egg yolk and beat in well. Gently sift in the flour and mix it until it forms a firm dough. I quite often do this by hand as it doesn’t take long, my daughters like to help with this bit too. If you ultimately want to cut shapes out of the dough work the dough into a smooth ball and then put it in the fridge for an hour to rest. If you just want round biscuits that you can join together with icing, form the dough into a long sausage slightly smaller than the size you want the biscuits to end up, wrap the dough thoroughly in cling film and then either freeze or refrigerate the dough for an hour or so until you are ready to use it.

When you're ready to use the dough, take it out of the fridge and preheat your oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

If you want to cut shapes out of the dough, remove it from the fridge and roll it out to about 3mm thick then cut out the shapes you want using a cutter. Put the shapes, or the round biscuits on to baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. If you want round biscuits then cut 5mm slices from the long sausage of dough.

Bake the cut out shapes or rounds for 10 - 12 minutes at 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the biscuits to a wire rack where they will harden as they cool.

You can ice the biscuits any way you like, or sandwich them together with some ganache or buttercream.

Friday Night "Chuck it all in" Minestrone

Friday 12 August 2011
This is a versatile end of the week soup that you can chuck vegetables in that need to be used up before a shopping trip and you can also add meatballs to it if you want.  It's also a way of using up leftovers from packets of different shaped pasta.  It's a filling, flavoursome, easy to prepare and cheap - just what you need after a long week.  Give it a go!

250 g beef mince (optional - if you want meatballs)

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 rashers bacon, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 stalks celery, finely sliced

2 courgettes, roughly chopped

½ cup green beans (fresh or frozen)

400g can diced tomatoes

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock

400g can haricot or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

400g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup dried pasta (any shape you have is fine)

1 tsp dried basil

1 big bunch of spinach leaves

1 handful fresh basil leaves (if available)

In a large saucepan, gently fry the onion and garlic over a low heat until the onion softens and becomes transparent. Add the chopped bacon and fry it until it's crisp.  Throw in the prepared carrots, celery, courgettes, green beans and any other vegetables you have that you need to use up or want to put in.

Make sure that the vegetables are all cut to the same size so that they cook evenly.  If some vegetables are denser than others, dice them a little bit smaller.  Cook all of the vegetables over a medium heat until the carrots start to soften and brown a little.

Add the tin of tomatoes, tomato paste and vegetable stock and bring it up to a gentle simmer.  Add the drained and rinsed cannellini beans, the drained and rinsed kidney beans and whatever pasta you are using.  Simmer everything gently for at least 20 minutes or until the pasta has softened.

Whilst the soup simmers, make tiny meatballs.  Mix the beef mince with dried basil, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Form meatballs from heaped teaspoons of the seasoned mince.  Repeat until all mince mixture is used.

Fry the small meatballs in a little olive oil until lightly browned all over.  Make sure they are small meatballs otherwise they’ll break apart in the soup.  If they do break apart in the soup, no worries they'll still get eaten with the soup.

When the pasta has softened, add the meatballs, spinach and fresh basil to the soup and stir them through. Simmer the soup for another 5 minutes then serve it with crusty bread.

The New Ice Age and Favour Frozen Inspired - Easy Fish Pilaf

Wednesday 10 August 2011
This is a really quick dinner that I whipped up this evening, your oven does most of the work for you.  It uses frozen fish fillets which are cheaper than fresh ones and you use what you need which means less waste.  The recipe is easily altered depending on how many people you are cooking for.

3 tsp vegetable stock powder, or 2 vegetable stock cubes

800ml boiling water

1 Tblsp olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

1/3 cup tikka masala curry paste

1 1/3 cups basmati rice

500g frozen fish fillets, thawed and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

100g spinach

Preheat oven to 190C/170C fan-forced.

Combine the stock powder and boiling water in a jug.  Heat the oil in a large non-stick flameproof casserole dish over a medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion has softened.  At this point add the curry paste and stir it around for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Pour in the rice and stir it around to coat it in the spices then add 750ml of the stock stock mixture. Bring everything to the boil.  Cover and then transfer to the preheated oven.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the rice from the oven.  Stir in the fish pieces, mixed vegetables and remaining stock. Cover the dish and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through.  Gently stir through the spinach. Cover the dish again and set aside for 3 to 5 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Serve.

Rhubarb and Apple Jam

Tuesday 9 August 2011
We have 3 apples trees in our back garden that are fully laden and my family get rather sick of homemade crumbles and turnovers.  I do freeze loads of cooked apple for later on in the year but I needed another way to use up some of the apples.  I decided, after making strawberry jam, to give rhubarb and apple jam making a try.  The jam is a light caramel colour and is not too sweet with a slight tang from the rhubarb.  It tastes fab on freshly made crumpets or pancakes!

Here's how to make Rhubarb and Apple Jam

500g finely chopped rhubarb

1kg of peeled and thinly sliced apples

125ml (1/2 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice

125ml (1/2 cup) water

approximately 1kg of sugar

Put the rhubarb, apples, lemon juice and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.   Reduce the heat and let the fruit simmer for around 20 minutes or until the fruit is pulpy.  I used my stick blender to blend the fruit until it was smooth at this point because I wanted a nice smooth jam at the end, but you could leave it chunky if you wanted to.

Measure the amount of fruit you have then add 3/4 cup of sugar per 1 cup of fruit mixture.  Put the fruit mixture back into the saucepan with the amount of sugar your fruit requires and heat it gently, without boiling, until the sugar dissolves.

Boil the jam uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until jam sets to a spreading consistency when tested. 

Pour the hot jam into hot sterilised jars and seal them whilst everything is hot.

This recipe made approximately 1.75 litres of jam.

Easy Strawberry Jam

Monday 8 August 2011
I was recently given a massive amount of strawberries, around 4kg of them.  I decided to make sorbet, icecream and jam with the free strawberries I'd been given.  I'll blog the dessert recipes in later but decided to post my strawberry jam recipe.

There are some really detailed blog posts about making jam that give excellent step-by-step instructions and tips so I won't go into all that in this post.  Check out Hannah's Homebaked Online blog post with answers to preserving questions and also Katie's Jam Masterclass for a Total Beginner blog post. They are both really fab!

Strawberry Jam

1kg of strawberries washed, drained and hulled, then cut into quarters

1.1kg Sugar (You can use jam sugar with extra pectin added or just normal white sugar)

80ml (1/3 cup) Water

125ml (1/2 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put a saucer in the freezer.  Combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and water in a large saucepan.  Stir over a medium heat, without letting it boil, until all the sugar has dissolved. 

Once all the sugar has dissolved, bring the jam to the boil.  Boil it, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.  Check that the jam has reached it's setting point.  To test the jam for it's setting point, spoon a little jam onto the cold saucer.  After a couple of minutes gently push your finger through the jam and if the surface wrinkles it is ready. If not, return the jam to the boil for 2 - 3 minutes, then re-test it.

Once the jam is ready, pour it into sterilised jars and seal the jars whilst both the jars and jam are hot.

  Homemade jam is an excellent inexpensive gift idea and makes great use of excess fruit. Give it a go!

Meatfree Monday - Chickpea and Vegetable Stew with Cheesy Potato Topping

This is a versatile recipe that can make 6 individual servings or one large stew.  It's easily adjusted to serve more or less people and is really inexpensive and filling.  This dinner is relatively quick to cook with minimal faff, other than some chopping and stirring.  You could use frozen green beans or breadbeans if fresh ones are too expensive or unavailable.  I've used frozen mixed vegetables in the past and just left out the fresh carrots as they were in the mixed vegetables.  Adapt the recipe to use what you have available and what's in season.

I used sliced potato for the topping one night because we didn't have any pastry and I couldn't be bothered making any.  It makes the dish more filling and some people don't like pastry.  The key to a good potato topping is to use a desiree type potato that won't break up and go fluffy, you need to use a salad potato rather than one for roasting/mashing.

That said, you could leave the potato topping off and not use it at all.  I've served it with crusty bread in the past, topped with shredded Parmesan and toasted so the cheese melts instead of faffing about with the potatoes.  The crusty bread is also great for soaking up the juices from the stew.

Serves 6

1 Tbsp olive oil

500g pumpkin or squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1 inch dice

300g small mushrooms, quartered

2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 courgettes or one marrow, roughly chopped

1 leek (white/pale section only) thinly sliced

2 cloves of crushed garlic

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp chilli powder

2 x 400g tins of diced tomatoes

250ml (1 cup) vegetable stock, made with one stock cube

2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained and well rinsed

250g thin green beans, topped, cut into 1 inch lengths

Small handful (1/4 cup) coarsely chopped fresh coriander or flatleaf parsley leaves

6 large (about 800g) desiree-type potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced

70g (1 cup) shredded Parmesan cheese (or vegetarian equivalent)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat then sdd the pumpkin, mushroom, carrot, courgette, leek and crushed garlic.  Cook all the vegetables, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until the leek softens.

At this point add the cumin and chilli then cook, stirring well, for around 30 seconds or until they become aromatic.  Quickly add the tinned tomatoes and vegetable stock then bring everything to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.  Uncover the stew and then simmer for a further 10 minutes which helps thicken  it.  Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them to the stew with the green beans.  Cook the stew whilst gently stirring for 5 minutes or until the beans are bright green and slightly tender but still quite crisp.  Sprinkle in the chopped fresh coriander or flatleaf parsley leaves and stir them through.

Preheat your oven to 180°C.  Divide the vegetable mixture among six 625ml (2 1/2-cup) capacity ovenproof dishes or one large 1.5 litre ovenproof dish.  Top with half the potato slices, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with half the shredded Parmesan.  Repeat the process again with the remaining potato and Parmesan. Bake in oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until the potato is tender. Serve with a side salad or steamed greens.

Chelsea Buns - Fresh From The Oven Challenge Recipe from October 2010

Sunday 7 August 2011
Back in October last year the Fresh From The Oven Challenge was Chelsea Buns.  My husband LOVES them and is somewhat of a connoisseur so I have a lot to live up to.  I make them regularly and made them again with my 3 daughters in the first week of the Summer Holidays this year.  Here's how it went:

We made the dough as per the recipe, proved it then rolled it out.  We then spread our dough with the lovely butter and sugar mix, added a sprinkling of mixed spice, then lovingly sprinkled it with raisins.

We rolled the dough up like a Swiss roll, then chopped it into eight pieces.  These were then put into a greased baking tin, covered with clingfilm, left to rise.

They were then baked in the oven and came out looking yummy!

The girls insisted on drizzling a rather large amount of pink icing over the top.

They are delicious! My husband says they taste better than his favourites from our local bakery back in NZ.  High praise indeed.  Here is the recipe if you would like to make some of your own, I highly recommend it.

Chelsea Buns from Wendy at Quirky Cookies

225g (8oz) strong white bread flour

25g (1oz) caster sugar

1/4 tsp salt

25g (1oz) softened butter – this is for the dough

1 1/2 tsp fast action dried yeast

1 medium egg, beaten

90ml (3 fl oz) warm semi-skimmed milk

25g (1 oz) butter really softened, but not melted – this is for the filling

65g (2 1/2oz) light muscovado sugar

115g (4oz) dried fruit

1) Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into a mixing bowl (I used my KitchenAid as usual). Make a well in the centre and add the softened butter, egg and milk. Mix to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth. It’s at this point I remember how much I love my KitchenAid, and make myself a coffee.

2) Cover and prove until doubled in size. I find that if I’m in a hurry the airing cupboard can do this in around half an hour, and I’ve had no adverse side effects from quick proving so far. Generously butter and line a 7″ square tin. Make sure it’s not a loose bottomed one, or you’ll get problems later on and loose your filling.

3) Flour your work surface, and roll out the dough, (no need to knock it back) to a rectangle measuring about 12 x 9 inches. If you get the edges as square as you can it will help to make your buns look even, but I quite like the squiffy homemade look. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m damn well sticking to it!

4) Spread the softened butter as evenly as you can over the dough. Sprinkle the sugar and the dried fruit on top, and gently press it into the butter. Now, roll up the dough along the long edge, as though you were making a Swiss Roll (and don’t tell me you haven’t!) Seal the edge. I find that smoothing it down with the flat side of a paring knife can help here, but don’t get too ocd over this bit. Turn the roll over so that the seal is underneath and divide the roll into 9 equal buns.

5) Place the buns, cut side down, into the buttered and lined tin, and leave to prove until the dough has doubled in size, and they have all joined together into one big Chelsea bun muddle. I baked mine in a 180 degree oven, for about 15 minutes, but I’ve got a particularly hot and fast cooking oven. You know your oven better than I do, and I suspect most of you will need to set the oven slightly higher, and /or cook for a little longer. Some recipes suggest covering the buns with parchment or foil, but the fan is so strong in my oven this has never worked for me. Once cooked, cool on a wire rack, and eat them as soon as you dare.

Nana's Super Quick Chocolate Sponge

Saturday 6 August 2011
This is a great cake to whip up quickly, especially when a friend phones wanting a cake made and delivered in a hurry or you have unexpected guests show up for afternoon tea.  It was one of my Nana's standby recipes that she used loads. It always tasted delicious and you can ice it or fill it any way you like.

1 cup self-raising flour

¾ cup sugar

30g butter, melted

2 dessertspoons cocoa

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup milk

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder in to a bowl and add the sugar.  Make well in the centre of the dry ingredients and then add the melted butter, unbeaten egg, milk and vanilla.  Stir everything well with a spoon and then beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat for a further minute.  Carefully pour the cake batter into a greased and lined round cake tin.  Bake the cake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes in the cake tin.  Turn the cake out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Dust with icing sugar or ice with chocolate ganache or buttercream icing before serving.

Sausage Meatball Kebabs

Friday 5 August 2011
6 good-quality flavoured sausages with skins removed ( I used herbed supermarket ones)

3 tbsp breadcrumbs (use a little more if you want to make the meat to go further)

1 large onion, cut into wedges

1 small onion, very finely chopped

1 pepper (any colour) cut into wedges the same size as onion wedges

200g pack semi-dried tomatoes, drained, oil reserved

If you are using wooden skewers put 6 or 8 of them them into water at this point to soak for 15 minutes or so.  Otherwise just use metal ones that don't need soaking.  Then put the sausage meat, breadcrumbs and finely chopped red onion in to a fairly large bowl and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Lightly flour your hands and then divide the sausage meat mixture into 12 - 14 equal blobs before shaping the blobs into small meatballs.  Put them in the fridge to chill and firm up for about 15 minutes.

Remove the meatballs from the fridge and the skewers from soaking.  Heat the grill to medium whilst you  thread the meatballs onto the skewers.  Make sure you alternate the meatballs with the semi-dried tomatoes and wedges of pepper and onion.  Brush them with a some of the oil reserved from the semi-dried tomatoes. Grill for 10-15 minutes, turning every couple of minutes, until completely cooked through.

We usually serve the kebabs with loads of green salad or a Sweet Potato and Spinach Salad.

Roasted Kumara (Sweet Potato) and Spinach Salad

Wednesday 3 August 2011
I love this salad because it's really easy to make and a tasty side dish or main meal salad with BBQ meats, fish, haloumi or marinated tofu.  My daughters love this as an alternative to potato salad and we usually have it with grilled salmon for dinner or on with vegetable kebabs for a light lunch.  Toasting the pumpkin seeds seems like a faff but it really is worth it because it makes the pumpkin seeds even more tasty.  I've used pinenuts and toasted them instead of the pumpkin seeds, because we didn't have any, and they also worked well in this salad.

1kg sweet potato, peeled

4 Tblsp olive oil

one handful of pumpkin seeds

150g baby spinach

200g roasted red pepper, cut into strips

1 Tblsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Dice the sweet potato into 2cm cubes. Combine the sweet potato and 2 tablespoons of oil in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat in the oil.  Put the sweet potato in a single layer on the prepared tray.  Roast the sweet potato for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and tender.  Set aside for a while to cool down.

Whilst the sweet potato is cooling, heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the pumpkin seeds to the frying pan and then cook, shaking the pan, for about 2 minutes or until lightly toasted.  Allow the pumpkin seeds to cool whilst you make the dressing.

Arrange the spinach on a platter. Top with the cooled roasted sweet potato and chopped roasted red pepper.  Whisk the white vinegar, dijon mustard, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and salt and pepper (to taste) in a jug until well combined.  Drizzle dressing over the entire salad and sprinkle over the toasted pumpkin seeds before you serve.

Easy Speedy Sticky Chicken

Tuesday 2 August 2011
This is a really versatile recipe that can be served with couscous and other salads as dinner, or in wraps or rolls with salad as lunch. You can marinate the chicken as soon as you get in from work or holiday fun and then  it's super quick to cook the chicken and  make the couscous.  It's one of my 3 daughter's favourite quick fix dinners and also one of mine because it's so versatile and if you serve it as wraps, it makes a little chicken go a long way.

Serves 6 - generously

4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts

juice and zest of 4 oranges

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp hot sauce or BBQ-style sauce

2 Tblsp honey

Grate the zest from the orange in a non-metallic bowl.  Crush the garlic and then add the orange juice, crushed garlic, honey, Worcestershire sauce and hot or BBQ sauce to the bowl. Mix together until well combined.

Slice each chicken breast into 6 thin strips and marinate in the prepared mixture for 45 minutes. While the chicken is marinating you can prepare the couscous, salads or wraps.

Heat a non-stick pan and cook the chicken, turning frequently, until browned all over and cooked through.

Pour in the remaining marinade and continue to cook, turning the chicken in the sauce until it's dark golden and sticky.

Serve with couscous and salads, or in wraps with salad.

Brown Rice or Haricot Bean Salad

Monday 1 August 2011
This is a cheap, healthy, tasty and super quick salad that's fab as a BBQ side dish, light supper or weekend lunch. It's a filling picnic feast too.  Super quick to whip up, especially if you use microwave rice.  Sometimes I use 2 drained and rinsed tins of haricot beans if we've run out of rice or we're in a real hurry.  I've eaten the salad with hot, freshly cooked rice and I definitely prefer it after it's been in the fridge for an hour our so as the flavours develop much more.  Give it a whirl.

2 cups cooked brown rice or 2 tins drained and rinsed haricot beans (I use microwave rice sometimes)

1 cup grated carrot (can use half carrot and half courgette for variety)

1/2 cup pinenuts (optional)

1 stalk celery, finely sliced

1 pepper, deseeded and diced

I large red onion or 4 spring onions, finely sliced

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley or coriander

2 Tbsp low salt soy sauce

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

1/4 cup oil (I used seame oil)

1 tsp brown sugar

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Combine the cooled cooked brown rice, grated carrot, diced pepper, pinenuts, finely sliced celery and spring onion, and roughly chopped fresh parsley in bowl and toss well to combine everything.

To make the dressing, whisk together the low salt soy sauce, grated fresh ginger, oil and brown sugar in another bowl. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Toss well to combine everything and then serve.
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