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Waitrose Summer Party

Wednesday 30 May 2012
I must confess that when I received the invitation to the Waitrose Summer Party I did let out a SQUEEEE! and so a small dance of joy.  Thankfully I was at home and not out on the school run.  I did panic a little bit though when I realised that I would have to get glammed up and posh for the evening.  The party was bring held at Kensington Palace, in the Orangery, and we would be able to tour some of the gorgeous State Apartments.  Not only that but it would be an opportunity to catch up with fab foodie blogger friends, meet some who I tweet with but hadn't yet met, and have some superb champagne and canapes as well.

Those who know me know that I don't do glam.  I don't usually wear make up or get my hair straightened.  I don't have a job that requires me to, I don't usually have the time, and quite frankly I find applying make-up too faffy to be bothered with.  However, there was no way that I was not going to go along to this posh event!

I managed to get a dress, and shoes, and bag sorted.  I got my hair done locally on the day, my make-up was done in Oxford Street on the way to the event and I hopefully managed to scrub up rather well. 

I had a fabulous time with Sarah, Katie, Helen, Jules (and her husband), Rehn and a few other foodie bloggers.  We sipped Champagne, devoured canapes, had a good natter and also played the celeb spotting game.

Here's who we saw:

Master patissier Eric Lanlard - I bumped into him on the way to the bar (yes, literally - don't ask), Cheese making muso Alex James, baking legend Merry Berry, Royal cake maker Fiona Cairns, Masterchef  judges John Torrode and Greg Wallace - along with Dhruv Baker and Lisa Faulkner, Aggie Mackenzie, Lorraine Pascale, Gizzi Erskine, Ben Fogle (PHWOAR!!!), some ladies from TOWIE *eye roll*,  and the most lovely Kirsty Allsopp who I managed to get a photo with.

The State Apartments were AMAZING! So mindblowingly beautiful!

I was so glad that I was on the tour with Rehn and Katie, I was gobsmacked and it was great to have others who appreciated our surroundings as much as I did.

It was such a fab evening! Thank you so much to Waitrose for letting me come along, and to my fab foodie blogger and foodie writer friends for making it a truly memorable evening.

Fresh From the Oven Round-Up - Breakfast Fruit Breads

Coffee Affogato and Coffee Milkshake

Monday 28 May 2012
These treats are really easy to make and very addictive!  I made them using this icecream:

Yes indeed there is an icecream that has Lavazza coffee already in it.  Oh my word, it tastes divine!  I discovered it in my local supermarket when I was helping a friend with her weekly shop.  It was a proper eureka moment.  I knew I had to buy some and bring it home to try and create delicious treats with. 

So here we go! 

Coffee Affogato

This is basically a scoop of icecream with espresso poured over the top.  I added some grated dark chocolate on top of mine.

2 shots (120ml) hot espresso coffee

4 scoops ice-cream

Put the ice-cream into heatproof glasses. Pour over the espresso, grate over some dark chocolate, then serve immediately.

Coffee Milkshake

I used my Morphy Richards Milk Frother to make this.  All I did was put a couple of scoops of icecream into the milk frother follwed by 120ml of espresso and topped it up to the max line with milk (about 200ml - 250ml) then let the frother do it's thing.  You could also make the milkshake in a blender or use a stick blender.

You can add some whipped cream and a strawberry, plus some grated chocolate, on top if you want to make it look summery and lovely.  I did for the purposes of this post, but the ones I have made since went straight down the hatch and didn't touch the sides.  Apologies, I revert to Kiwi when I am crook (poorly) and tired.  UK Translation: These milkshakes are so delicious that I drink them rather quickly.
So there you have it! Two lovely refreshing options for your fix of delicious Lavazza coffee.

Really Easy Jubilee Sponge Traybake

My 3 daughters wanted to bake this afternoon, despite it being 30 degrees outside.  We made a delicious Jubilee themed sponge traybake because there will be a school Jubilee afternoon on Friday and my girls couldn't wait to get into the Jubilee spirit.  It was realy easy and quick.  The worked really well together, even though they were rather hot and tired.  There was intense debate and concentration during the decorating process too. Thankfully there were no serious disagreements and the cake was decorated without too much hassle.

I doubled this recipe and baked it in two large foil trays from the supermarket.  We then brushed the bottoms and tops with heated up homemade hedgerow jam, to stop the sponges from getting soggy after being covered with whipped cream, and topped it with berries.

The sponge is delicious and light!  The only problem is the size, it is suitable for a street party, it will feed at least 12 - 15 people.  I shared 1/3 with a friend (who has a family of 6), gave large slices to the neighbours and still had enough for us to have two helpings.

What I should've done is make one traybake, cut it in half, then stacked each half on top of each other with cream in the middle.  You could do that if you wanted a much smaller one that wouldn't feed the 5,000 LOL

They want to bake some Jubilee biscuits tomorrow . . . . . . . . .  watch this space!

Our Family Meal Plan for This Week 28/05 - £58

Sunday 27 May 2012
I’ve still got more upper respiratory illnesses than a doctors waiting room and am therefore feeling rather wretched. Our Meal Plan this week will be an easy and low faff one as a result of me being crook and having a busy week.

My 3 girls will be having school dinners as I won’t have the time or energy to cope with making lunches for everyone this week. I’ve got my sugarpaste modelling course on Monday, I’ll be baking and decorating cakes on Tuesday for delivery on Wednesday and on Thursday I shall be at a cookery Masterclass in London all day (major cookery swoonage!!). Also on Wednesday and Thursday I’ll have Church meetings to attend in the evening so won’t be home for dinner. By Friday I will be completely knackered!

I’m sure everyone has a week like this when they are poorly, tired, really busy, and just can’t find the energy to be bothered cooking too much.

I’ve included the cost of all the ingredients of the salads in the Meal Plan as well as fish, sausages, kebabs, burgers and haloumi cheese which will accompany the salads. We grow our own fresh herbs and salad greens but I have included the cost in the shopping list as not all people grow their own. I will probably make our tortillas and bread rolls to accompany the salads.

Breakfasts will be really simple, either cereal with milk or toast and spread, with fruit for afters.  As my 3 daughters will be having school dinners, lunches for my husband and I will be leftovers from dinner the previous night.  Dinners will be salad based as they are easy to whip up quickly and perfect for this hot weather.

The cost of the ingredients in our Meal Plan for this week was £58.82 at Asda on 27/05/2012.  I used My Supermarket to check what my shopping would've cost had I shopped elsewhere.  My shopping would have cost £66.30 at Sainsbury's, £73.99 at Ocado and £74.51 at Tesco. 


With the exception of Monday night, all the salads will be served with either grilled fish, sausages, burgers or grilled haloumi cheese.

Salmon Bake

1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 free range eggs, beaten
500ml milk
100g butter, melted
415g can pink salmon, drained
1 onion, finely chopped
70g grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp fresh chives, finely chopped

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, pour in the eggs, milk and butter. Then add the drained salmon, finely diced onion, grated cheese and chives. Mix everything together until just combined. Don’t over-mix it.

Grease a large ovenproof dish then pour the mixture in. Cook at 180ºC for about 45 minutes until the egg has set. I’ll be serving this with a green salad and chopped tomatoes.

Couscous Tabouleh

300g couscous
Boiling water/vegetable stock
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 yellow or orange pepper, deseeded and diced
1 handful fresh mint, chopped
1 handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 Tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Put the couscous into a heatproof bowl and pour in enough boiling water or stock to cover the couscous. Cover the bowl with clingfilm wrap and set it aside for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes uncover the couscous, add the oil and garlic, then fluff it up with a fork. Leave the couscous to cool for 10 minutes then add the tomato, mint, parsley, spring onion, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve immediately or put in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.

Carrot Salad

5 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tblsp sultanas or raisins
Small handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

6 Tblsp lemon juice
1 Tblsp tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp honey or sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander

Put all the salad ingredients in a bowl and mix them together. Put all the dressing ingredients into a screw top jar. Shake to combine and then pour over the salad just before you serve it.

Roast Vegetable Salad

400g butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1 inch dice
500g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in to 1 inch dice
1 pepper, deseeded and cut into 1 inch strips
2 red onions, cut into 8ths
1 Tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
350g spinach
420g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
200ml natural yoghurt
2 tsp paprika

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Put the squash, sweet potato, pepper and onion onto a large baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Drizzle them with the oil and make sure they are all covered then season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for 15 minutes then take the tray out of the oven, turn the vegetables over, and roast for a further 15 minutes.

Put the spinach, roasted vegetables and chickpeas into a large salad bowl and gently toss them together. Mix the yoghurt and paprika together.  Put the salad on to the serving plates then drizzle some dressing over the top.

Asparagus and Quinoa Salad

500ml vegetable stock
200g quinoa, rinsed and drained
500g asparagus, woody ends snapped off then cut into 1 inch lengths
1 large pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
150g crumbled feta
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 Tblsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey or sugar
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp paprika
2 large handfuls of spinach

Put the stock and quinoa into a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.

Lightly cook the asparagus in boiling water or in the microwave until tender-crisp. Add the asparagus, pepper, feta, onion, parsley and rocket to the quinoa.

Put the dressing ingredients into a screw top jar. Shake to combine then pour over the salad. Toss everything together then serve.

Fruity Rice Salad

1 cup long-grain rice (white or brown)
4 Tblsp olive oil
2 Tblsp cider vinegar
1 large lettuce
3 large eating apples, cored and roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced
large handful or two of raisins or sultanas

Cook the rice in a saucepan of boiling water, following packet instructions. Drain and then leave to cool.

Put the oil and vinegar into a screw-top jar. Season with salt and pepper, put on the lid, then shake to combine.

Roughly chop the lettuce and put in a large bowl Add the apple, celery and sultanas. Pour over the dressing, toss to combine, then serve.

Potato Salad

700g small new potatoes, unpeeled
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
125ml mayonnaise
1 Tblsp cider vinegar
3 spring onions, thinly sliced

Cook the potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water for until tender. Drain then put in a large salad bowl and leave too cool.

Mix the mayonnaise and vinegar together in a bowl. Add to the potatoes and toss to cover the potatoes in the dressing. Sprinkle over the spring onion and hard-boiled eggs. Serve.

Shopping List

Cost of 39 items for our Meal Plan this week was £58.82 from Asda on 27/05/2012.

Packets and Cereals
2x Weetabix Cereal (24x18g) £3.00
1x ASDA Wholemeal Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.28
1x ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg) 40p
1x ASDA Wholefoods Cous Cous (500g) 68p
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 64p
1x Great Scot Quinoa (300g) £2.18

Tins, Jars and Cooking
1x ASDA Wild Pacific Pink Salmon (418g) £2.17
1x ASDA Olive Oil (250ml) £1.00
1x ASDA Smartprice Mayonnaise (500ml) 48p
1x ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g) 70p
1x ASDA Cider Vinegar (350ml) 84p

Dairy and Eggs
4x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £4.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x ASDA Greek Feta Cheese (200g) £1.50
1x ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g) 55p
1x Suffolk Farm Medium Free Range Eggs (6) £1.42
1x ASDA Chosen by You Cypriot Halloumi (250g) £2.28
1x Cathedral City Mature Cheddar (350g) £2.00

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Sultanas (500g) 84p
2x ASDA Asparagus (250g) £3.30
2x ASDA Salad Tomatoes (750g) £3.14
20 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) £2.00
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) £1.36
10 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) 78p
10 ASDA Red Onions by Weight (100g) 85p
7 ASDA Butternut Squash by Weight (100g) 67.9p
5 ASDA Sweet Potatoes by Weight (100g) 64p
1x ASDA Little Gem Lettuce (2) 88p
1x ASDA Round Lettuce 50p
1x ASDA Celery 89p
1x ASDA Garlic Loose 30p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.68
2x ASDA Spring Onions £1.34
1x ASDA Extra Special Jersey Royal Potatoes (1Kg) £1.00
2x ASDA Spinach (350g) £3.00
1x ASDA Unwaxed Lemons (5) £1.00

1x ASDA Chosen by You Salmon Fillets (400g) £3.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x ASDA Chosen by You Sausages (20 per pack - 1.14Kg) £3.00 any 2 FOR £6.00
1x ASDA Butcher's Selection Burgers Red Onion (681g) £3.00 any 2 FOR £6.00

Beat the heat - Recipes to help cool down on hot days

Thursday 24 May 2012
I think today is the hottest day of the year so far here in Cambridgeshire.  I took some homemade ice lollies and cold drinks in a coolbag on the school run for my daughters to have on the way home.

I make my own ice lollies for my daughters.  You can use diluted fruit juice, custard (homemade or storebought), frozen berries blended up, the lovely ladies from Crumbs blog have some fab ideas here.  There are loads of cheap lolly moulds available from £1 stores or supermarkets.  In the past I have receycled small fromage frais pots and iceblock sticks when I had no proper moulds.  All you need are some containers, suitable sticks, and a freezer. 

Make sure everyone has plenty to drink as children can get dehydrated really quickly.  I make up fruit juice ice cubes which flavour drinks as they melt and make water a bit more more exciting.  You could use sparkling water for a change too.  Fizzy drinks are full of sugar and will dehydrate rather than hydrate so I normally stick with fruit juice, diluted by at least 50%, or plain water.  You could also make a fruit punch using a mixture of different fruit juices and then top up with still or sparkling water.  I keep a couple of large bottles of water in the fridge to use in drinks when the weather is hot.

Homemade milkshakes are great too, just blend frozen berries with milk, with or without some ice cream or ice cubes, and then serve in tall glasses.

I made a coffee milkshake earlier with chilled espresso, vanilla ice cream and milk.  It was delicious!  Great for a mid afternoon caffeine fix, and to cool down in this heat.

Chilled fruit is a great snack if you use fruit with a high water content such as melon, grapes, berries and pineapple.  I prepare mine in advance, like a fresh fruit salad and then serve fresh out of the fridge. 

For Mums of babies and toddlers:

When my daughters were really little I made ice lollies out of breastmilk when they were still breastfeeding, they helped ease sore gums when they were teething as well. My friend makes her toddler follow-on formula ice lollies, great when they are poorly with a sore throat too.

Here are a couple of my favourite recipes for when the weather is hot:

Quick Berry Milkshake

I've been making this milkshakes like this for years. You could use frozen mango chunks and sorbet instead of berries and icecream if you wanted to. Try varying the flavour to suit your tastes, what is in season, and what you have in your fridge and freezer.

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.

Pour 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.

Frozen Fruit Kebabs

1 drinking straw per child (or kebab stick with spike removed for older children)
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.

What recipes are your favourites to have on hot days?

Our Family Meal Plan for This Week 21/05 - £62

Sunday 20 May 2012
Our Meal Plan this week is pretty unadventurous and simple as I've a hectic week and need low faff options for dinner. I’ve gone for simple baking and lunches I can make in advance as well.

Breakfasts will be cereal and milk or toast with a piece of fruit for afters. We’ll have boiled eggs and soldiers once or twice this week too. Breakfast on the weekend will be the same, however one breakfast on the weekend will be pancakes.

I will probably bake more than the Baked Treats mentioned in the Meal Plan, there are enough ingredients for me to do so.  I shall amend this post if I do bake more goodies this week but considering it will be a really hectic week, I shall be struggling to fit all the baking in that I need to do without doing loads of extra baking.

The cost of the 47 items needed for our Meal Plan this week was £62.43 from Asda and they were delivered today, 20/05/2012.  I used My Supermaket to compare prices, as usual, and my shopping would've cost £78.13 at Sainsbury's and £79.13 at Tesco.


Macaroni Cheese - Monday

I make my own cheese sauce using a roux base and add mixed vegetables to the pasta during the last few minutes of cooking time.  Our Macaroni Cheese usually has plenty of vegetables with the pasta in a rich cheddar cheese sauce.

Toad in the Hole - Tuesday

8 sausages
2 onions, quartered
2 Tblsp olive oil
150g plain flour
2 tsp mustard
2 eggs
300ml milk

Preheat your oven to 200C.  Put the sausages and onion wedges in an ovenproof baking dish. Drizzle over the oil and cook for 20 minutes.

While the sausages are cooking, put the flour and mustard powder in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the eggs and milk to make a batter. Take the sausages out of the oven and pour the batter into the dish. Put back into the oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes until the batter is crisp and golden.  I usually serve this with mixed vegetables and gravy.

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce - Wednesday

Tuna Burgers - Thursday

2 x 410g tins chickpeas , drained and rinsed
400g tins tuna n spring water, drained
2 Tblsp chopped fresh coriander
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chilli powder (use more or less to your taste)
2 Tblsp plain flour
1 - 2 Tblsp oil

Tip the chickpeas into a bowl and mash them so that they break down but still keep some texture. Flake in the tuna along with the onion, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, chilli and fresh coriander. Mix everything together well and then season the mixture to taste. Using your hands shape the mixture into 6 burgers using your hands. Dust the burgers with flour.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat. Cook the burgers for 5-6 minutes, turning over after 3 minutes. Serve in buns with salad leaves, mayo, tomato slices and a little more fresh coriander if you like.

Bangers and Mash with Vegetables - Friday

Grilled sausages served with mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes and homemade tomato relish.  Simple but delicious!

Mince and Lentil Onepot – Saturday and Sunday


All packed lunches will include crudités (carrot sticks, celery sticks and cucumber sticks) with herbed yoghurt dip and a piece or two of fruit. There will of course be a small baked treat included too. The bulk of the packed lunches this week will contain a calzone (recipe below) or Savoury Scone Swirls.

Mince and Vegetable Calzone

250g beef mince
1 onion, finely chopped
2 peppers, diced (any colour will do)
200g mushrooms, finely sliced
4 Tblsp tomato paste
125ml boiling water
1 tsp dried oregano
2 Tblsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1  x 7g packet instant yeast
1 Tblsp sugar
150ml - 200ml lukewarm water
3 cups bread or plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed herbs

Make the dough first so it has time to rise whilst you make the filling. Mix the yeast, sugar and water together then add the flour, salt, a couple of hearty grinds of pepper and mixed herbs.  Mix the ingredients together well, and add more warm water or flour if necessary, until the dough mixture forms a large ball.

Knead the dough gently until it is elastic and smooth.  Grease a bowl with a little oil, put the dough into the bowl and turn it n the oil.  Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside in a warm place to rise for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 190C/170 Fan.

Now make the filling.  In a frying pan over a moderate heat, saute the onion, peppers, mushrooms until the peppers and onion start to soften then add the minced beef.  Brown the mince well, breaking it up as it cooks.  Add the tomato paste, water and chives then simmer gently for 10–15 minutes. Remove the filling fron the heat.

To make calzone, take a small piece of dough and roll it out into a small circle shape. Put a large spoonful of mince mixture on one side of circle, leaving a 1cm clear edge. Top with a tablespoon of grated cheddar cheese.  Fold the empty side over the filling to make a crescent shape then pinch the edges together to seal the calzone.  Repeat until all the dough and filling has been used.  I can usually get about 18 - 20 small calzone from this recipe. 

Put the calzone onto lined baking trays. Brush with a little oil and bake for 10 - 15 minutes or until they are golden and crispy.

Baked Treats

Cornflake and Sultana Cookies

125g butter at room temperature, diced
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 Tblsp milk
1 1/2 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup sultanas

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two large flat baking trays with non-stick paper.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just combined. Add the milk and mix until the dough just comes together. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the cornflakes and sutanas, and mix until well combined.

Roll the mixture into balls, I usually use 1 Tblsp at a time. Put onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Allow room for the cookies to spread. Flatten the cookies slightly with a floured fork. Bake for 12-14 minutes until light golden. Remove from the oven and stand for 5 minutes on the baking trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Banana and Date Loaf

Homemade Muesli Bars

1 x 397g tin of condensed milk
500g muesli
100g mixed dried fruit

Preheat your oven to 130C/Gas Mark 1/2 and lightly oil a large baking tin. Mine measures 23cm x 33cm x 4cm.

Mix the dry ingredients and fruit together until well combined. Warm the condensed milk in a pan then mix with all the other ingredients and use a spatula to make sure everything is well coated.

Press the mixture into the tin and level the surface. The mixture is really sticky so you might want to wet your hands or lightly oil them so that you don't end up a sticky mess.

Bake the muesli bars for 1 hour then set aside for 15 minutes to cool slightly. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container.

Shopping List

Cost of 47 items was £62.43 from Asda Online Shopping, delivered 20/05/2012.

Packets and Cereals
1x ASDA Smartprice Cornflakes (750g) 46p
1x ASDA Smartprice Crispy Rice Cereal (440g) 70p
1x ASDA Smartprice Swiss Style Muesli (1Kg) 98p
1x ASDA Smartprice Spaghetti (500g) 24p
2x Asda Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.20
1x ASDA Wholemeal Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.28
1x ASDA Smartprice White Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (500g) 61p
1x ASDA Smartprice Pasta Shapes (500g) 30p
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 64p

Tins, Jars and Cooking
1x Heinz Baked Beanz in Tomato Sauce (4x415g) £1.50
3x ASDA Tuna Chunks in Spring Water (185g) £2.85
1x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) 31p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mayonnaise (500ml) 48p
2x ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g) £1.40
2x ASDA Chosen by You Green Lentils in Water (400g) 94p
1x ASDA Double Concentrated Tomato Puree (200g) 48p
1x ASDA Extra Special Passata Chunky (700g) £1.28

3x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) £2.25

Dairy and Eggs
6x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £6.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x Stork (500g) £1.09
1x Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk (397g) £1.00
2x ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g) £1.10
1x ASDA Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs (15) £3.09
1x ASDA English Medium Cheddar (400g) £2.00 any 2 FOR £4.00
1x ASDA Chosen by You English Mature Cheddar (400g) £2.00 any 2 FOR £4.00

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Chosen by You Pitted Dried Dates (500g) £1.20
1x ASDA Smartprice Sultanas (500g) 84p
20 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) £2.00
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) £1.36
10 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) 78p
3 ASDA Courgettes by Weight (100g) 54p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mushrooms (750g) £1.18
10 ASDA Onions by Weight (100g) 76p
2x ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £2.00 2 FOR £2.00
5 ASDA Tomatoes by Weight (100g) 99.5p
2x ASDA Whole Cucumber £1.00
1x ASDA British Iceberg Lettuce Loose 50p
2x ASDA Celery £1.00
2x ASDA Garlic Loose 60p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.50
2x ASDA Mandarins (700g) £2.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x ASDA Unwaxed Lemons (5) £1.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
2x ASDA Chosen by You Pork Sausages (8 per pack - 454g) £2.00
1x ASDA British Lean Beef Steak Mince (500g) £3.29 any 2 FOR £6.00
1x ASDA British Turkey Mince (450g) £1.98
1x ASDA British Beef Mince (250g) £1.20

Tesco Real Food Jubilee Street Party Food Masterclass

Wednesday 16 May 2012
I attended a fabulous Masterclass event last week in association with Tesco and Tesco Real Food.  Tesco Real Food Magazine is free instore and is packed with great recipes and tips.  The Masterclass involved us bloggers cooking tasty recipes suitable for a Street Party to celebrate the upcoming Jubilee.  The recipes we used, and many others, can be found in a special edition of Tesco Real Food Magazine.  If you can't find one instore you can read it online here.

The Masterclass was led by the lovely Rosalind from The Cookery School who was on hand to offer lots of tips, new shortcuts and techniques, loads of assistance as well as a couple of extra recipes and vegetarian options for all the recipes.  Rosalind was amazing and I would definitely recommend attending a course at The Cookery School should you need/want to. 

At the Masterclass all the bloggers in attendance were given a recipe to cook.  There were some bloggers who couldn't attend so we all ended up cooking our recipe then helping others finish preparing theirs.  It was a fab team effort!

Hard at work preparing the feast
 Kerry who blogs at Multiple Mummy cooked Chicken Tikka Drummers

Tara who blogs at Hanwell Nest made Coronation Coleslaw

Claire from Crumbs blog made not one but two Red, White and Blue Trifles

I made the English Breakfast Quiche

and Fleur who blogs at Homemade By Fleur made Three Pea and Wensleydale Salad

My quiche fresh out of the oven
After we'd all cooked the delicious recipes we all got to eat them.  What a treat! There was so much food, and some wine, which was good because we all had seconds LOL

Tucking in to the delicious food we had prepared

If you have your own fabulous Street Party Recipe then upload it to Customer Recipes of the Tesco Real Food website.  Anyone who uploads a recipe will go in the draw to win prizes including a weekend cookery course for two at Ashburton Cookery School.

Thank you so much to Tesco for asking me along to the event and to Rosalind at The Cookery School for providing invaluable assistance and a great venue.  I had a fabulous time, delicious meal and a good natter with other bloggers which is always a treat.

Rhubarb Cake

Tuesday 15 May 2012
This cake livened up a very wet and cold afternoon today, great with a cuppa to brighten the mood.  It was really popular with my 3 daughters as well as a friend and her daughter who stopped by to escape the deluge and warm up a bit after school.  I thought about using some of my homemade rhubarb and ginger jam as a filling but had already baked some rhubarb to use with yoghurt for tonight's pudding so I used that instead.  The general consensus was "OMGness, it is rather delicious with a little cream and a hot cuppa!" LOL

Put the following into an ovenproof dish:

1 bunch (500g) rhubarb, washed and trimmed then cut into 2cm dice
2 - 3 Tblp Caster sugar

Bake at 180C for about 30 minutes until the rhubarb is tender.  Mash up a little with a fork, a syrup should've formed from the rhubarb juice and sugar.  Mix to combine everything together and leave to cool.

For the cake you will need:

200g caster sugar
200g butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 free range eggs
385g self-raising flour
300ml (1 pot) buttermilk, you could use natural yoghurt instead

To sprinkle on the top:

1 Tblsp brown sugar
1 - 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 180C.  Grease and line a square cake tin with non-stick baking paper, mine is 23cm square.

Using a stand mixer or electric beater, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until they are pale and fluffy. 

Add the eggs, 1 at a time with 1 Tblsp of flour, beating well after each addition until well all the eggs have been added and the mixture is well combined.

Stir in the rest of the flour and buttermilk or yoghurt.  When the cake mixture is ready to be baked, spoon half of the mixture over the base of your prepared cake tin and smooth the top. Spoon over the rhubarb filling and smooth it to the edges to ensure even coverage.

Spoon over the remaining cake mixture and smooth the top.  Combine the light soft brown sugar and cinnamon  then sprinkle over the cake just before you bake it.  
Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, without any crumbs sticking to it.  Take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.  

Our Family Meal Plan Week Of 14/05 - £62

Sunday 13 May 2012
I’m using the rest of the Budget Box meat from Keevil and Keevil this week. The meat is superb quality and has stretched over 2 weeks so is well worth the £30 cost. I could stretch it even further if I wanted to as the meat is so flavoursome and such good quality that you don’t need much to flavour each meal and make it taste delicious. I would highly recommend giving a Budget Box a go, it is superb quality meat for a decent price.  I have included the equivalent meat from the supermarket in the Meal Plan and Shopping List to ensure the costing of the Meal Plan is correct.

Our Meal Plan this week also includes loads of fruit which we really missed last week, along with loads of vegetables – both fresh and frozen. There is even a midweek roast which is a real treat.  I will be out at a really posh event on Thursday so have planned a dinner that I can prepare and put in the fridge ready for my husband to cook when he gets home with our 3 girls.  It is a really busy week work-wise this week for both myself and my husband,  along with loads of other things that need sorting out, so I've gone for tasty but fairly low faff recipes and lunches.

As always I will bake all our own bread, tortillas, rolls, etc throughout the week when I have time. I made a couple of loaves of bread and some tortillas tonight (Sunday) ready for the week ahead. Our Meal Plan doesn’t include drinks or household items. Also, if you want a calorie controlled, perfectly balanced, suitable for specific dietary needs Meal Plan, then see a nutritionist or dietitian.

The cost of our Meal Plan grocery shop this week was £62.50 at Asda on 13/05/12.  I checked out how much the basket would've cost elsewhere using My Supermarket and it would've cost £72.54 at Sainsbury's and £77.32 at Tesco.


During the week breakfasts will be cereal and milk or toast and spread, both with a piece of fruit. Perhaps some Fruit Bread or English Muffins to toast if I get time to bake some but it’s a full on busy week so I may deprive my family of those to save my sanity. On the weekend we will probably have pancakes one morning and crumpets the other.


Packed Lunches this week will use recipes from this post.

We’ll be having the following recipes for our lunches this week: Falafels with Crudités and Dip, Couscous and Chickpea Salad, Calzone and weekend lunches will be Scone Swirls one day and Baked Potatoes with Grated Cheese and Salad the other. All lunches will have a piece of fruit or two and a small baked treat.  Our baked treat this week will be Sponge Traybake which will probably have some mixed dried fruit added to it for extra flavour.


Vegetarian Enchiladas - Meatfree Monday

1 tsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, grated
2 celery sticks, grated
2 tsp mild chilli powder
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g tins mixed beans
6 small tortillas
1 small pot crème fraiche
100g extra-mature cheddar cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Cook the onions, celery and carrots for 7 - 10 minutes until they’re soft. If the vegetables start to stick to the pan, add 1 Tblsp of water.  Sprinkle in the chilli powder and cook for another minute. Pour in the tomatoes and tinned beans.  Bring everything to the boil. Once it's boiling, turn down the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to thicken. Take the pan off the heat and season the mixture to taste.

Heat the grill in your oven to high.  Spread a spoonful of the bean chilli over the base of a large ovenproof dish. Lay each tortilla onto a board, fill with a few tablespoons of bean chilli mixture, fold over the ends and roll up to seal. Repeat for all 6 tortillas.  Put them into the ovenproof dish and then spoon the rest of the bean chilli over the top.  

Mix the creme fraiche and grated cheese together spoon it over the enchiladas.  Grill for a few minutes until the topping is golden and bubbling.  I'll serve mine with peas and corn.

Roast Pork Loin With Roast Vegetables.- Tuesday

Roasted pork loin with roast potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots served with peas and corn.

Bacon and Vegetable (Sort of) Risotto - Wednesday

1 onion, diced
1 pepper, diced (any colour will do)
350g bacon rashers , rind removed and chopped in to chunks
350g risotto rice
1 Litre of hot vegetable stock
1 large handful each of frozen peas and frozen corn

Finely chop the onion and pepper. Heat 2 Tblsp of oil in a pan, add the onions and pepper and sauté them until softened. Add the bacon and fry for 5 minutes, until it starts to get crisp.

Add the rice and stock, bring to the boil, then stir well. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes until the rice is almost tender.

Stir in the peas and corn then season to taste. Cook for a further 5 minute until the peas and corn are cooked then serve.

Vegetarian Shepherdless Pie – Thursday

1 Tblsp oil
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 peppers, diced (any colour)
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
200ml red wine
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp vegetable bouillon
410g tin green lentils
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a frying pan, then sauté the carrot, celery, onion and pepper until the carrot and celery softens slightly. Add the dried mixed herbs and the wine along with the tomatoes and half a tomato tin of water. Sprinkle over the stock cube, stir everything to mix thoroughly and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the tin of lentils, don’t bother to drain them, then cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the sweet potatoes until they’re tender. Drain them well and mash them, adding butter and seasoning to taste. Put the lentil and vegetable mixture into an ovenproof dish, then spoon the sweet potato mash over the top. Sprinkle on the cheese and then either chill in the fridge to cook later or bake for 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5. If you are cooking this dinner straight from the fridge, cook for about 40 minutes until it is piping hot all the way through and the cheese is bubbling and golden.

Mince and Lentil One Pot – Friday and Saturday

End of the Week Frittata – Sunday

Frittata using 9 eggs and whatever vegetables we have left from the week, baked in the oven at 200C for 25 - 30 minutes until set.

Shopping List

45 items: £62.50

Packets and Cereals
1x ASDA Smartprice Cornflakes (750g) 46p
1x ASDA Smartprice Crispy Rice Cereal (440g) 70p
1x Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (1Kg) 98p
1x Asda Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) 60p
1x ASDA Wholemeal Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.28
1x ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Arborio Risotto Rice (500g) 99p
1x ASDA Wholefoods Cous Cous (500g) 68p
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 64p

Tins, Jars and Cooking
5x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) £1.55
1x ASDA Smartprice Mayonnaise (500ml) 48p
4x ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g) £2.80
2x ASDA Chosen by You Green Lentils in Water (400g) 94p
2x ASDA Mexican Style Bean Mix in Water (400g) £1.06

Dairy and Eggs
1x ASDA Crème Fraîche (300ml) £1.00
6x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £6.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x Stork (500g) £1.00
1x ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g) 55p
1x ASDA Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs (15) £3.09
1x ASDA Chosen by You English Mild Cheddar (400g) £2.00

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Fruit (500g) 64p
1x ASDA Smartprice Pears 73p
20 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) £2.00
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) £1.36
20 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) £1.56
1x ASDA Smartprice Mushrooms (750g) £1.18
10 ASDA Onions by Weight (100g) 76p
2x ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £2.00 2 FOR £2.00
10 ASDA Butternut Squash by Weight (100g) 97p
2x ASDA Whole Cucumber £1.00
3x ASDA British Iceberg Lettuce Loose £1.50
2x ASDA Celery £1.00
2x ASDA Garlic Loose 52p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.50
1x ASDA Spring Onions 67p
1x ASDA Sweet Potatoes (1Kg) £1.20
1x ASDA Spinach (350g) £1.00
2x ASDA Mandarins (700g) £2.00 any 2 FOR £2.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x ASDA British Beef Mince (500g) £2.28
1x ASDA Smartprice Smoked Back Bacon (312g) £1.50
3 ASDA Chosen by You Carver Ham by Weight (100g) £2.55
1x ASDA Pork Boneless Loin Joint (1Kg) £5.00

1x ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn (1Kg) £1.00
1x ASDA Smartprice Peas (1Kg) £1.00

Live Below The Line - Days 3, 4, 5 and 6

Saturday 12 May 2012

We've been Living Below The Line this week.  You can read about how the first two days went here.  The rest of the week has been hard!  My husband was able to stick to the plan and make sure our daughters also stuck to the plan when I was at the event in London on Wednesday evening.  I was very proud of him for staunching it out and putting up with their pleading whilst not giving in.  I had a delicious meal at the event in London which, of course, was not part of the plan.  I even had a glass of bubbly.  I did feel rather guilty about it but I had committed to the event before we had signed up to the plan, and it would've been rude not to taste the meal we had prepared at the event.

Thursday was tough as we were all tired and, even though dinner was filling, my daughters are missing being able to raid the fruit bowl for pudding or just grab a snack when they like.  Our resolve was weakening and we were struggling.

Friday is the day when I usually mind 3 extra girls after school.  I made sure that there was extra food available for them to eat and I assured their Mum (Hi Aurelie!) that they were not going to have to suffer through our deprivation along with us.  It was however much less than the usual offerings I have available and all 6 children were tired and not very happy about the lack of a banquet. 

Saturday (today) is the 6th day.  Most people only do 5 days, but as I Meal Plan for the week, I decided to stick it out for an extra 2 days.  I should've stuck to 5 days instead! LOL  We managed to get outside a lot today as it was sunny and warm enough to tame the garden whilst our children played.  This worked up an appetite though, despite me making pancakes for breakfast.  It didn't help when our neighbours decided to have a BBQ either!  We stuck to the plan today, it was torturous, we all moaned and were grumpy by the end of the day.  I was glad to get our children in bed, they will probably moan in their sleep though. LOL

Tomorrow is the last day Living Below The Line.  There is a shockingly small amount of provisions left.  We'll go to Church as usual and my 3 girls will get a sausage in a bun before the service as we have been giving them to the 15 or so unaccompanied children from the local estate who have been turning up for services without having had breakfast. 

Lunch and dinner will be as per the plan with no food left for snacks.  By the end of tomorrow we will be glad to get back to normal and I shall be compiling our Meal Plan for next week tonight and shopping for it tomorrow afternoon. 

I'm really glad that we took part in the campaign.  It has been a great life experience for our children as well as my husband and I.  We are all more aware of how much we actually need to eat versus what we think we need to eat.  It has been great for our 3 girls to know how little others live on and gain an appreciation for what we have and how lucky we are.  They have discussed it at school too.  We will take part in the campaign next time around too and when we do I shall try and hunt out more food for our money and not cheat with a lovely dinner and glass of champagne. 

This has been a really long and difficult week but one that has taught us so much.  I think it would be difficult to stick to £35 a week long term but I am sure we could do it, after we got used to it, and be much more creative with meagre resources.  If we had a big allotment and our own chooks to provide us with eggs, it would be much easier to live on £35 a week.

We are so lucky that we got to live this way for only a week.  £1 a day is what 1.4 billion people worldwide have to live on. That means they must pay for everything – not just food on £1 a day. That figure is the World Bank's benchmark for 'extreme poverty'. This past week we got a small insight into what it is like to be out of our comfort zone living on much less than normal.  Our perceived deprivation is nowhere near what millions of people experience everyday.  We rediscovered how lucky we are, how much we have, and how little we need.  Those lessons are invaluable reminders for us to be more aware of how we, and others, live.  It hasn't been easy but has definitely been well worth it!

Mother's Day Baking Ideas and Treats

Thursday 10 May 2012

It is Mother's Day in my homeland this weekend and I can't be with my Mum or send her baked treats which is really frustrating and sad.  I will of course Skype with her and phone her but will miss not being with her on the day.  I am so lucky because she is totally awesome and the best Mum in the world I could ever have.  She is also a fabulous Nana to my 3 daughters.  We can't wait until she comes all the way over to see us again.

Hopefully not everyone will be like us and separate from their Mums on the day.  If you are in a similar situation to us, my thoughts are with you, as they are with those whose Mums are not around for whatever reason. 

Should you want to whip up some treats for your Mum, or encourage your children, partner or others to make some for you, then this is the blog post for you.  I blogged some Mother's Day Recipes for Mothering Sunday here in the UK and thought I would suggest some more recipes suitable for everyone from young children, and those who don't cook that often, to experienced cooks so that Mums can be pampered and given tasty treats.

Remember, you can treat your Mum to a homemade pressie anytime,
 not just on Mother's Day!


Easy Breakfast Trifle Treat
This looks great if you can put it into tall glasses or tumblers.  Great recipe that kids can make themselves as all it involves is layering ingredients into bowls or glasses. 

2 cups low-fat natural yoghurt
2 Tablespoons honey
2 cups breakfast cereal (Muesli or oats based is best)
2 punnets of berries or 1 tin of well drained tinned fruit salad

Put the yoghurt and honey into a bowl and mix together well. Divide half the yoghurt evenly between 4 small bowls or tall glasses.  Top with half of the cereal and then half of the berries/fruit salad.  Repeat the layers until all the ingredients have been used.

Fruit Bread

2 tsp mixed spice
3 1/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp instant dried yeast
1/4 cup sugar
375ml (1 1/2 cups) warm water
2 cups of mixed dried fruit
1 Tblsp milk
1 Tblsp each cinnamon and sugar mixed together

Sift mixed spice and 3 cups flour into a bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar. Make a well in the centre. Add water then mix to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Add remaining flour. Knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. I use my stand mixer to knead my bread if I'm not in the mood to knead it by hand.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. I leave my dough in the stand mixer, with the plastic shield on it the dough proves quite happily. Grease a 6cm-deep, 9cm x 19cm loaf tin.

Using your fist, punch the dough down. Knead until smooth. I just knead the dough a little in my stand mixer. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface. Gradually knead in the dried fruit. Again, I just use my stand mixer. Shape then put in to the prepared loaf tin. Cover with lightly greased cling film and set aside in a warm place for 15 minutes or until the dough rises to the top of the tin.

Meanwhile, your preheat oven to 200C/180C fan-forced. Once the dough has risen, brush the top of it with milk. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 170C/150C fan-forced. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and hollow when tapped on top. Stand in tin for 5 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve with butter and jam.

Continuing the breakfast theme, you could make some PikeletsCrumpets, or just serve toast with spread and a hot cuppa or juice.  I'm sure most Mums would appreciate a breakfast that they didn't have to prepare themselves.  Some flowers from the garden in a small vase on the breakfast tray or table along with using some decent crockery and cutlery will help make the occasion a bit more speacial too.

Treats and Baking

Chocolate Balls

This is another treat that kids can make themeselves and is fab for kids parties as well as Mother's Day treats.  You could decorate a special box to put them in as well, just make sure it's suitable to put food in, you don't want Mum getting crook.

8 Weetbix, crushed
1 cup sultanas
½ cup cocoa
1 x 395g can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup chocolate cake decorating sprinkles or 100's and 1000's

Put the crushed Weetbix, sultanas, cocoa and condensed milk into a large bowl and mix until totally combined.  Roll the mixture into 30 balls and then roll them in the sprinkles.  Put them in the fridge to firm up for a bit before you serve them.

Cake Balls or Cake Pops

You can put these on a stick or leave them as cake balls and put them in mini muffin cases.  Cake pops are perfect for birthday parties or gift ideas as well as a Mother's Day treat.  They are so easy to make, the only heat required is to melt the chocolate, so kids can make these easily.  You can either make your own sponge cake or use a bought one.  You could use a few tablespoons of buttercream icing instead of the chocolate to make the cake balls if you wanted to.  However, make sure the mixture isn't too wet or you won't be able to mould it into balls properly.  If you decide to use buttercream mix it in one tablespoon at a time.

100g good quality milk or dark chocolate
250g plain sponge cake
2 tbsp desiccated coconut

To decorate:

300g milk, dark or white chocolate
Cake decorating sprinkles, finely chopped nuts or grated chocolate

Melt the chocolate in heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Crumble the cake into a bowl, then stir in the melted chocolate and desiccated coconut.  Mix well until completely combined.

Roll golf ball sized pieces of the mixture into balls. If you want to make cake pops insert the sticks now about 1/2 way through the cake pop.  Put in the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes, or until they are firm.

Meanwhile, melt the 300g of additional chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and line a baking tray with greaseproof/non-stick baking paper.  Put your choice of sprinkles onto a plate.

Take the chilled cake balls or cake pops out of the fridge and carefully dip them one at a time into the melted chocolate.  Gently roll in the decorating sprinkles and then put them on the lined baking tray so that the chocolate coating can firm up.  You can do this at room temperature or put the cake balls or pops back in the fridge for another 20 minutes, or until the chocolate has set.

You could also make a Quick and Easy Banana Cake, Sponge Traybake or Chocolate Loaf.  You can find some great recipes to get blokes baking on the Blokes Who Bake website which has a wealth of recipes written by blokes for blokes. 

Good Energy Event wtih Arthur Potts-Dawson

I recently attended an event hosted by Good Energy and Arthur Potts-Dawson to encourage people to take a low-carbon approach to cooking.  I am all for minimising the environmental impact of our activities and cooking uses an enormous amount of energy to power ovens, hobs, extractor fans, etc.  I was keen to find out more about the campaign and of course have a go at some great new recipes.

Good Energy is the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier and this is the second year in a row that they have teamed up with green chef Arthur Potts Dawson to run a campaign to teach people about low-carbon cooking. 
Arthur said "From how we power our kitchen through to the choices we make about the food that we eat, we can all make small differences that can go a long way to positively impact our planet."  I couldn't agree more!
Here are the recipes that were demonstrated at the event (reproduced with permission):

Raw Pea, Broad Bean and Violet Artichoke Salad With Wild Rocket and Dandelion

Serves 4 
100g freshly podded peas
100g freshly podded young broad beans
4 young artichokes
25g wild rocket
25g wild dandelion
70ml virgin olive oil
45g Grana Padano cheese
1 small clove of garlic
1 small wedge of lemon
10g fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

To make the dressing:

Pound the garlic in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of sea salt until smooth, then add the basil and continue to crush and smash until you have a smooth green paste in the bottom of the pestle. Now begin to add the peas and broad beans, one handful at a time, making sure that with each handful you have sufficiently crushed the previous handful to a rough paste.

Once the peas and broad beans have been crushed grate the cheese into the pestle and mortar, smash together again, add the olive oil and finally give it a good mix. The mixture will resemble a light green pesto.

To make the salad:

Prepare the artichokes by cutting off their stem but leaving 5cm which you then peel to leave the edible stem. Trim off the outer leaves and then cut 3cm off the top of the artichoke, leaving the main flesh of the artichoke behind. Cut each artichoke in half and scoop out the choke with a teaspoon.  Place the artichoke flat side down onto the chopping board and slice up as thinly as possible.

Place all of the sliced artichoke into a mixing bowl and squeeze the lemon over the slices to stop them from oxidising (going brown). Add the wild rocket and dandelion, sprinkle in the salt and pepper and drizzle in 15ml of the olive oil. Mix well with your finger tips.

Arrange the salad on serving plates then spoon over the pea and broad bean ‘pesto’ and serve.


Steamed Golden Beetroot And Asparagus With Smoked Mackerel And Fresh Horseradish

Serves 4

800g golden beetroot
2 bunches asparagus
2 filets of smoked mackerel
100g fresh horseradish root
25ml balsamic vinegar
10ml fresh lemon juice
50ml virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Wash the beetroot well (scrub them if they are muddy) but do not peel them. 

Prepare your steamer and place the beetroot into your lowest steamer compartment. If the beetroot are too big, cut them in half, but preferably keep them whole to keep all of their goodness in
Cook the beetroots for one hour in the steamer; check if they are cooked by piercing them with the tip of a small knife, they are cooked if the knife slips through to the middle without any resistance. If they need a little longer, keep the steamer going until cooked.

Prepare the asparagus by washing it well and snapping off the stalk end; keep the stalks for a delicious soup. If the asparagus is particularly thick it is a good idea to peel an inch of the stem to remove any fibrous skin.

When the beetroot is just cooked, add the asparagus spears to the second steamer compartment and steam for 4-5 minutes.

With one minute to go, place the mackerel into the top steamer compartment to warm through.  When the asparagus is cooked, remove all of the tiers from the steamer and begin to put the salad together.

With a tea towel rub the skins off the beetroots and place them whole into a mixing bowl. When all of the skin is removed, use a small knife to cut the beetroot into 4cm pieces and while still warm, drizzle in the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Cut the asparagus into 4cm long pieces and add these to the beetroot in the bowl.

Grate in ¾ of the horseradish and mix the asparagus and beetroot together well.  Spoon the mixture onto serving plates, keeping the beetroot and asparagus in equal quantities.  Break up the mackerel pieces and arrange onto the plates equally.  Grate the remaining horseradish over the top of the dishes and serve.

Slow Cooker Braised Celery, New Potato And Sea Kale

Serves 4
1 head celery
750g new potatoes
400g sea kale
3 bay leaves
25g vegetable bouillon powder
150ml dry white wine
600ml hot water
25ml virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Warm up the slow cooker before you start.
Remove any damaged outer stalks from the celery, cut the remaining stalks into 6cm long pieces and wash well.  Cut the new potatoes in half and wash well. Wash the sea kale too.

Heat a frying pan and add a little of the olive oil. Begin to fry the celery and potatoes until they have a golden colour and then tip the coloured celery and potato into the slow cooker.

Continue with the rest of the potatoes and celery until used up.  Pour in the white wine in order to deglaze the vegetables, and pour the mixture into the slow cooker.

Add the bouillon powder, the hot water, a pinch of salt and pepper and the bay leaves, mix well and put the lid on the cooker. Keep the cooker on high and cook for 5 hours.

When the tip of a small knife goes through the potatoes, add the sea kale, the rest of the olive oil, mix well and continue to cook for 10 minutes.  Season to taste and serve.

Top tips for a sustainable kitchen

Sustainable cooking is all about where food is sourced and how it is used. Here are some useful tips for low-carbon cooking:

Eat more vegetables - Vegetarian sources of protein, like grains, pulses and nuts, have a carbon footprint three times smaller than meat products. If you do like to eat meat, use it sparingly as a flavour, rather than the main ingredient.

Minimise waste - Try to buy little and often to avoid wastage. Compost what you can. According to the Energy Saving Trust, wasted food is a big contributor to carbon dioxide emissions.

Be energy efficient in food preparation and storage – Typically the kitchen accounts for around a third of the average household’s electricity consumption. The slow cooker is most energy efficient method of cooking, followed by electric steamer, microwave and then gas or electric hob. Or, of course, many fruit and vegetables need no cooking at all!

Eat locally and seasonally - Choose seasonal food from the farmer’s market which has not travelled miles to get to your plate. The best way to source your fruit and veg is grown your own, if possible.

For more information and Good Energy happenings check out the Good Energy Blog.  You can also follow them on Twitter and connect with them on Facebook.

* I had my travel expenses paid to enable me attend this event but was not paid to blog about it *
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