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Cookbook Review: Jo Wheatley - A Passion for Baking

Tuesday 26 June 2012

“I'm a huge fan of Jo and can't wait to devour this book!” declares Nigella on the cover of Jo's book, high praise indeed, which is thoroughly deserved!

Jo Wheatley was 2011's Great British Bake Off winner and she blogs at Jo's Blue Aga.  I tweet with Jo, she is truly lovely, very friendly and down to earth.  She is also a busy Mum, like most of us are.  Once her book had been released I raced out to buy it, available exclusively at Sainsbury's, for £8.  It is such a brilliant bargain!  I love Jo's book and it will no doubt be at the front of my (severely overcrowded) bookshelf for a long time.  

Jo has written a fabulous book which shares her tips, tricks and family recipes which she has developed in her own kitchen. It really appeals to me as a busy Mum of 3 and enthusiastic baker.    There are more than 100 recipes in Jo's book and I shall be baking a good many of them, they all look delicious.

Who would the book appeal to, and who would/should you buy it for?

From beginners to keen bakers, if you’re in the mood for baking delicious treats, then this book is for you.  It has a recipe for everyone and every occasion.  With over 100 recipes in the book you’re pretty much guaranteed to find loads of recipes that you would like to try.

Are the recipes easy to follow?

There’s a thorough introduction where Jo advises on her must have storecupboard ingredients and equipment as well as trouble shooting tips for novice bakers.  The recipes are really clear and easy to follow. 

There are seven chapters in the book:





Baking with Children

Afternoon Tea

Family Cakes


Celebration Cakes


Bits and Bobs

The recipes have been adapted and amended over the years and at the top of each recipe Jo tells the reader where the recipe came from or what inspired her to make it.  The book is also packed with beautiful photos, hurrah! There are so many baking books that don't have enough photos in them.  I like to know what things are meant to look like, especially if I’ve not baked that particular recipe before, and love photos that lure me in and make me want to bake the recipe.

Is the book family friendly?

Absolutely!  It’s the epitome of family friendly cooking, there is even a Baking with Children chapter. Jo is a busy Mum so you know that she would create recipes with families in mind.  It isn't Mumsy though, there are loads of recipes to WOW your friends with as well as feed hungry family members.

Would I buy it for a friend or family member as a gift?

I already have! LOL All of my friends love this book and are dropping big hints when their birthdays draw near.  I have lent the book to a couple of friends and have almost had to pry it out of their hands to get it back.

How do I rate this book?

Definitely 10/10!  Fab recipes, great advice and loads of gorgeous photos.  Can't beat it!

Our Family Meal Plan Week of 25/06/12 - £62

Sunday 24 June 2012
This week I've gone for a pretty straight forward Meal Plan with a bit of baking and treats after very little of that kind of thing last week.  It's a busy week but I'm sure I'll be able to fit everything in that I need to.  I may change the order of the meals depending on our needs this week, but these are the meals we'll be eating. 

The lunches are really simple packed lunches of sandwiches, vegetable sticks and 1 or 2 pieces of fresh fruit. Adults will take leftover dinner for lunch the next day in order to stop food going to waste and save money. Sandwich fillings on this plan are cheese and chutney, leftover cooked meat, or egg salad.

The weeks dinner recipes use a total of 15 eggs so there is another 15 reserved for sandwich fillings, breakfasts and baking. I've also included 6 x 2 litre bottles of milk in my plan, plenty for cereal and also to make a couple of batches of Rice Pudding (see recipe below) as a lunchbox treat or pudding.

Breakfasts are really simple: cereal or porridge and milk, or toast with spread. I've added some sultanas to the Meal Plan that can be added to breakfasts, lunchboxes or used to bake some flapjacks and muffins. There's also enough flour and eggs to make some Pancakes on the weekend and perhaps some Versatile Savoury Scone Swirls, Apple and Sultana Scrolls, Flapjacks or Fruit Muffins for lunchbox treats. See below for the recipes.

You could of course do a meal plan that costs more by having more elaborate lunchboxes and baking more snacks. I haven't bought any loaves of bread or rolls. I prefer to make my own so I've included the cost of the wholemeal bread flour and yeast.

My Meal Plan also assumes that there are already some storecupboard items available like tea/coffee, herbs, spices, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, stock cubes, tomato ketchup, oil, cornflour and homemade or store bought relish/chutney and jam, peanut butter or honey.  If you don't have any of these then, of course, the cost of the Meal Plan will be more than what mine was.

The cost of our Meal Plan this week was £61.94 from Asda instore on 24/06/2012.  I checked the cost elseswhere using My Supermarket and it would've cost £72.53 at Sainsbury's and £73.17 at Tesco.

Versatile Savoury Scone Swirls


300g self raising flour
2 eggs
50g sugar
375ml milk

Mix all the ingredients together well and then cook ladlefuls of mixture in a greased fryingpan over a moderate heat. Serve with chopped bananas and drizzle with golden syrup, spread with jam or brushed with lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar.

Fruit Muffins

1 cup of any fruit (fresh, tinned, dried or frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
100g melted butter or 100ml oil
250ml milk
2 cups plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 free range egg

Mix all of the ingredients together gently but thoroughly until well combined. Spoon into lined muffin tins.

If you want to be fancy you can mix together 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 Tblsp sugar and sprinkle it over the top of the muffins.

Cook for 12 minutes or so at 180C, depending on the size of your muffins.


225g butter
170g sugar
340g porridge oats
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp golden syrup
100g sultanas

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 28cm x 18cm x 3cm or 11in x 7in x 1.2in baking tray with non-stick baking paper.

Gently heat the butter and golden syrup in a large saucepan on the hob until the butter has melted, stir well to mix. Don't let it boil!

Once the butter has melted take the saucepan off the heat and add the oats, sugar, sultanas and pinch of salt. Thorough mix everything until well combined and the oats are completely covered by the butter mixture.

Put the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth evenly into the corners. Bake in the oven for approximatly 15minutes, turn the tin around and bake for another 5 minutes until golden brown.

Once cooked remove the baking tray from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. With a bread and butter knife lightly mark out about 16 pieces before the flapjack completely sets. Cut up into pieces when completely cold.

Rice Pudding (Lunchbox treat or pudding)

600ml whole milk
65g long grain white rice
pinch of salt
50g white sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
50g sultanas (optional)

In a medium sized, heavy bottomed saucepan combine the milk and rice with a pinch of salt. Place saucepan over a fairly high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice is tender. This usually takes about 25 minutes. Stir the milk mixture frequently using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon to stop the rice from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.

When the rice is tender (al dente) take the saucepan off the heat and sugar, vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon. Mix well to combine. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook until the rice pudding thickens, this should take about 5 - 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the sultanas if you are using them. Spoon the pudding into a bowl to cool and cover with clingfilm to stop a skin forming. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. To make this into more of a Mullerice type treat add some jam or golden syrup to swirl through the rice pudding. You could also add dried apricots or dates instead of sultanas if you have some in your store cupboard.

Meatfree Monday – Mixed Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto

(Serves 7 - dinner for 5 plus 2 lunches)

I added a couple of handfuls of spinach for extra vegetable content and to make the dinner stretch further. This risotto makes enough to feed the 5 of us generously and provide 2 large lunch servings for the next day.

Tuesday - Chicken Casserole (5 Servings)

1 onion, finely chopped
1 pepper, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 Tblsp dried mixed herbs
100g diced bacon
1 Tblsp flour
2 chicken stock cubes dissolved in 1 Litre of boiling water
1 Tblsp mustard
8 chicken drumsticks
3 large potatoes, cooked and mashed
300g frozen mixed vegetables

Preheat oven to 180C. In a casserole pot on the hob sauté the onion, pepper and garlic in a little oil for a couple of minutes, add the mixed herbs and bacon. Cook until pepper and onions are soft. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Take the pan off the heat and slowly mix in the stock and mustard. Put back on the heat and make sure everything has dissolved and is well mixed. Add chicken drumsticks then cook in the oven for 45 mins. Remove from the oven and add the frozen mixed vegetables. Let these heat through with the casserole on the hob for 5 minutes or so before serving. Serve the chicken casserole with mashed potato.

Wednesday - Fish Pie

(Serves 7 - dinner for 5 plus 2 lunches)

1 onion, finely chopped
1 pepper, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
600ml water
1 vegetable or fish stock cube
1 tsp mild curry powder
200g rice
1 large tin tuna or salmon in spring water (drained)
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters
100g grated cheese
5 potatoes, cooked and mashed
400g mixed vegetables to serve

Preheat oven to 180C. Sauté onion, pepper and garlic in oil. Mix water, chicken stock and curry powder then add to onion, pepper and garlic mixture. Add rice, stirring occasionally until rice has cooked through. Season. Pour in fish and mix until combined. Put the mixture in a casserole dish. Cover with the egg quarters and spread over the mashed potato. Groove the mash with a fork. Sprinkle over the cheese and put in the oven for around 15 - 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the fie pie is piping hot. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Thursday - Spaghetti Bolognese

(Serves 7 - dinner for 5 plus 2 lunches)

500g mince
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 pepper, diced
1 Tblsp mixed herbs
1 Tblsp mustard
1 Tblsp Worcester sauce
4 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
300g frozen mixed vegetables
1 Tblsp cornflour
1 Tblsp cold water
500g spaghetti
1 tsp oil
100g grated cheese

Brown the mince in a frying pan. In a separate large saucepan sauté the pepper, onion and garlic until softened. Add the mince, mixed herbs, mustard, Worcester sauce and tomatoes to the pepper, onion and garlic. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the frozen mixed vegetables and simmer for another 10 minutes whilst you cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Once the mince has simmered for a total of 30 minutes, mix the cornflour and water together and add to the mince mixture to thicken it. Serve bolognese on top of spaghetti and sprinkle cheese on top.

Friday - Bacon and Vegetable Frittata

(6 or 7 servings, depending on appetites)

1 pepper diced
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
100g bacon
9 eggs
200g frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 of a 750g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/ gas 6.

Simmer the potatoes and pumpkin in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain and leave to cool slightly before slicing thinly.

Meanwhile, put a 25cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan on the hob over a moderate heat. Dry fry the bacon for 5 minutes or so until browned. Remove then from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, pepper and garlic to the pan, and fry in the remaining bacon fat for about 5 minutes until the onion and pepper have softened.

Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and the softened onion, pepper and garlic. Carefully fold in the potatoes, pumpkin and frozen mixed vegetables. Pour the frittata mixture back into the frying pan and cook over a low-medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until it has cooked through and is set.

Saturday - Macaroni Cheese (7 servings)

500g pasta shapes
1 onion – finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 pepper, diced
150g bacon
2 Tblsp butter
2 Tblsp flour
350ml hot milk
200g grated cheese
200g frozen mixed vegetables
a couple of handfuls spinach

Preheat oven to 180C. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, adding the frozen mixed vegetables for the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking time. Whilst the pasta is cooking, sauté the onion, pepper and garlic in a little oil. Add the bacon and seasoning. In a separate saucepan slowly cook the butter and flour stirring constantly. When mixture looks a bit like biscuit crumbs add the hot milk and whisk until the mixture thickens. Add 200g of grated cheese and simmer for 5 mins, stirring frequently. Add the softened onion, garlic and bacon mixture to the cheese sauce and mix well to combine. Pour the cheese sauce mixture on to the drained pasta and mixed vegetables and stir through until combined. Serve as is or with a side salad.

Sunday - Roast Chicken (5 servings)

4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
8 chicken drumsticks
100ml oil
1 Tblsp chopped fresh rosemary and thyme
1 chicken stock cube
1 Tblsp mustard
125ml boiling water
400g frozen mixed vegetables, steamed or cooked in boiling water.
other 1/2 of Friday's 750g pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 180C. Place potatoes in cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 mins then drain. Put the potatoes, pumpkin and chicken in a roasting dish and brush over/lightly spray with a little oil. Use separate roasting dishes for the chicken and vegetables if you haven't got a roasting dish big enough to fit everything in. Sprinkle over the fresh herbs. Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes until the chicken and potatoes are golden brown and crunchy and the pumpkin is cooked and sweet.

To make gravy:

Mix cornflour, stock, mustard and water then add to the juice from the cooked chicken. Stir over a low heat until the mixture thickens.

Serve the chicken with roast potatoes and vegetables. Pour over some gravy if you like.

Shopping List

42 items: £61.94

Packets and Cereals
1x ASDA Smartprice Porridge Oats (1Kg) 75p
1x Sunnybisk Wheat Biscuits (48 per pack - 864g) £1.78
1x ASDA Smartprice Spaghetti (500g) 24p
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 Lyle's Golden Syrup Bottle (454g) 98p
1x ASDA Smartprice Golden Syrup (680g) £1.08
1x ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg) 40p
1x ASDA Smartprice Pasta Shapes (500g) 30p
1x Great Scot Pearl Barley (500g) 58p
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 64p

Tins, Jars and Cooking
1x ASDA Wild Pacific Pink Salmon (418g) £2.17
4x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) £1.24
1x ASDA Good for you! Mayonnaise (500ml) 71p
1x ASDA Double Concentrated Tomato Puree (200g) 48p

2x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) £1.50

Dairy and Eggs
6x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £6.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x ASDA Cooks Value Medium Eggs (30) £3.10
2x ASDA Smartprice Salted Butter (250g) £2.38
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 Smartprice Mixed Fruit (500g) 64p
4 ASDA Mushrooms by Weight (100g) £1.11
20 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) £2.00
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) £1.36
15 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) £1.17
10 ASDA Onions by Weight (100g) 70p
2x ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £2.00 2 FOR £2.00
10 ASDA Tomatoes by Weight (100g) £1.99
8 ASDA Butternut Squash by Weight (100g) 69.6p
2x ASDA Whole Cucumber £1.60
2x ASDA Round Lettuce £1.14
1x ASDA Celery 75p
1x ASDA Garlic Loose 27p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.50
1x ASDA Spinach (350g) £1.50
1x ASDA Oranges Extra Juicy (10) £2.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x ASDA British Lean Beef Steak Mince (500g) £3.60 2 FOR £6.50
2x Banham Poultry Chicken Drumsticks (1Kg) £5.96
1x ASDA Smartprice Unsmoked Back Bacon (312g) £1.50

Hazelnut and Chocolate Kisses

Thursday 21 June 2012
I made this recipe earlier today as I needed some rather lovely baked goods to help a friend feel better who is having a bit of a hard time.  She already loves my chocolate brownies (who doesn't!) but I wanted something a little lighter and different.  These special little morsels fit the bill perfectly and they are great with a cuppa, or two.

3/4 cup hazelnuts
1 cup icing sugar
125g butter, softened
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup plain flour


120g dark chocolate (I used Divine 70%)

Preheat your oven to 180C.  Put the hazelnuts on an oven tray and toast them in the oven for 3 - 5 minutes.  Keep a close eye on them as they can go from not toasting to burnt and bitter really quickly.  Once they're nicely toasty you can put them in a clean tea towel and rub them together to remove the skins.

One the hazelnuts are ready you can put them in the food processor with the icing sugar until they are finely ground.  Make sure you seal the spout of the food processor otherwise you will get a dust cloud that will cover your kitchen and make you look like a ghost.  Don't ask how I know, LOL. 

Add the softened butter and lemon zest and process everything together until the mixture is nice and creamy.  Take the mixture out of the food processor and gently stir in the flour until it is just combined.  Don't beat it or over mix it otherwise your kisses will be like lead and not light and lovely.

I use a teaspoon to scoop up a small amount of mixture and roll it into a ball as they turn out a nice size.  Not to big and not too small.  Put the balls of mixture onto an oven tray lined with non-stick baking paper.  Allow a decent amount of room for them to spread. 

Bake the kisses in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until they turn lightly golden.  Leave them to cool on the trays for at least 20 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

To make the filling:

Melt the chocolate either in the microwave or in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Spread a small amount of chocolate on one side of a cooled biscuit, then sandwich together with another biscuit.  Repeat until all the biscuits have been partnered up.

Serve with a cuppa and a good chat.

Our Family Meal Plan Week of 18/06 - £62

Monday 18 June 2012
I'm back to doing a proper Meal Plan this week.  Life is still hectic but I made the time to sort out a decent Meal Plan for my family and they are very relieved.  My 3 girls will be back on packed lunches, after having had school dinners last week, and they are very glad about that!

I will of course be baking all our bread, bagels, rolls, wraps, etc as needed.  There's no treat baking included in this Meal Plan as I'm unsure if I'll have time. Yes I know, tis shocking!  I will probably make some rice pudding for a lunchbox treat or afterschool snack.

Breakfasts will be cereal and milk or toast with a piece of fruit for afters.  Boring, I know, but I won't have time for a banquet each morning.

The cost of our Meal Plan for this week was £62.48 from Asda online shopping delivered on 17/06/2012.  I used Money Supermarket to check how much it would've cost elsewhere and the cost from Tesco would've been £71.32 and from Sainsbury's would've been £76.78.


Red Lentil Bolognese

1 cup red lentils, uncooked
2 Tblesp oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 Tblsp tomato paste
1 tsp sugar

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Pour in the lentils and stir to ensure they do not stick to the base of the saucepan. Boil the lentils for 8-10 minutes or until soft.

Heat the oil in a medium pan and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and herbs, then stir in the lentils. Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer until flavours develop, around 15 minutes

Roast Chicken With Roast Vegetables

Leftover Chicken Rolls

1 Tblsp oil
2 carrots, cut into very thin strips
1 pepper, cut into very thin strips
6 mushrooms, sliced
3 spring onions, sliced thinly
1 cup bean sprouts
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
4 Tblsp salt-reduced soy sauce
6 free range eggs, beaten

To make filling, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Stir-fry the carrot, mushrooms and pepper for 3-4 minutes. Add the bean sprouts, garlic and five spice powder. Cook for 2 more minutes. Add chicken and soy sauce. Heat through then set aside in a bowl.

Using the same frying pan, pour a little beaten egg into the pan and swirl it around pan to make a thin omelette. Cook until the edges start to turn golden. Carefully flip over the omelette and cook for another 30 seconds.  Slide onto a plate, fill with some of the prepared willing and then roll up.  Repeat until all the egg and filling have been used.

Chicken Fried Rice

4 spring onions, sliced
500g frozen mixed vegetables
4 cups cooked rice (or use microwaveable rice)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 Tblsp salt-reduced soy sauce

Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Spray with oil then fry spring onions for 1-2 minutes. Add frozen vegetables and fry for a couple more minutes until cooked through.

Add rice, chicken and soy sauce to pan and stir to combine. Heat for a few minutes more then serve immediately.

Red Lentil Bake

125g red lentils
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large courgette, diced
60g rolled oats
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 large free range egg, beaten
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Put the red lentils into a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Bring the lentils to the boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the lentils are soft. You might need to add a little more water. Stir the lentils occasionally to stop them from sticking to the bottom of the pan whilst they cook.

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat. Sauté the onion until it has softened. Add the garlic and courgette and cook for 5 minutes before adding the cooked lentils, mixed herbs and rolled oats. Take the frying pan off the heat, then stir through about ¾ of the grated cheese and the beaten egg.

Spoon the mixture into a non-stick baking dish and then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake for about 30 minutes. I usually serve this with steamed mixed vegetables and either baked potatoes or mash.

Macaroni Cheese

Crustless Salmon Quiche

1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
4 free range eggs, beaten
500ml milk
75g butter, melted
415g can pink salmon, drained
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp fresh chives, finely sliced

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Put the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs milk and butter. Combine to make a batter then stir through the salmon, onion, cheese and chives until they are just combined.

Pour into a large ovenproof dish which has been greased or lined with non-stick baking paper. Cook at 180C for about 45 minutes until the quiche is set. I usually serve mine with salad or steamed mixed vegetables.


Weekday lunches will be Calzone from this Meal Plan along with crudites and herbed yoghurt dip.  There will of course be a piece of fruit or two and maybe a homebaked treat if I get time to bake some, otherwise there'll be a small pot of rice pudding.

Weekend lunches will be as follows:

Goats Cheese and Courgette Fritters

4 courgettes, grated
100g feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tblsp finely chopped fresh mint
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 free range eggs
1 onion, finely diced

Squeeze out as much excess moisture from the courgettes as you can. Combine with the feta, mint, breadcrumbs, eggs and onion. Form into 5 large fritters.

Put a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the fritters over a moderately high heat for 2-3 minutes each side, or until golden and cooked through.

Twice Baked Potatoes

Shopping List

39 items: £62.48

Packets and Cereals
1x ASDA Smartprice Porridge Oats (1Kg) 75p
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 Long Grain Rice (1Kg) 40p
1x ASDA Smartprice Pasta Shapes (500g) 30p
1x Great Scot Red Split Lentils (500g) £1.10
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 64p
1x Sunnybisk Wheat Biscuits (48 per pack - 864g) £1.78

Tins, Jars and Cooking
1x ASDA Wild Pacific Pink Salmon (418g) £2.17
2x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) 62p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mayonnaise (500ml) 48p
1x ASDA Double Concentrated Tomato Puree (200g) 48p

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

Dairy and Eggs
1x ASDA Greek Feta Cheese (200g) £1.50
1x ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g) 55p
2x ASDA Chosen by You Low Fat Strawberry Yogurt (6x125g) £2.00
1x ASDA Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs (15) £2.50
2x ASDA Chosen by You English Mature Cheddar (400g) £4.00 any 2 FOR £4.00
6x ASDA Fresher for Longer Filtered Semi Skimmed Milk (2L) £6.00

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Pears 90p
1x ASDA Baby Spinach (180g) £1.00
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
7 ASDA Courgettes by Weight (100g) £1.26
1x ASDA Smartprice Mushrooms (750g) £1.29
10 ASDA Onions by Weight (100g) 70p
2x ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £2.00 2 FOR £2.00
10 ASDA Tomatoes by Weight (100g) £1.99
5 ASDA Sweet Potatoes by Weight (100g) 64p
2x ASDA Whole Cucumber £1.80
2x ASDA Little Gem Lettuce (pack of 2) 88p
1x ASDA Celery 75p
1x ASDA Garlic Loose 30p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.65
1x ASDA Spring Onions 61p

Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x ASDA Butcher's Selection British Beef Mince (500g) £2.60
2.5kg ASDA Extra Special British Corn Fed Free Range Whole Chicken £8.95

Tomato and Mixed Vegetable Pasta Sauce

Friday 15 June 2012
This is such an easy pasta sauce that my children love and which uses up whatever vegetables I have lurking in the fridge at the end of the week.  They love preparing the vegetables themselves, which is great as it saves me a job.  My 12yo will happily make this by herself for a family dinner, she really enjoys cooking. I wonder where she gets that from? LOL

We normally make a huge pot of this recipe as it freezes really well and is a great standby to have on hand if hungry crowds descend or if your cupboards are almost bare.

This is the recipe for a single large batch, I usually double or triple it:

3 large carrots, peeled
1 or 2 peppers (any colour will do)
handful of mushrooms
2 courgettes or 1 aubergine
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Tblsp olive oil
2 x 400g cans diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano or mixed herbs
1 tsp sugar

Dice the carrots, peppers, mushrooms and courgettes.  Peel and dice the onion too.

Put a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the oil and saute the onion and peppers until they have softened.  Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.  Then add whatever other vegetables you are using along with the tins of chopped tomatoes, oregano and sugar.

Reduce the heat to low and put the lid on the saucepan.  Simmer for 45 minutes so that a rich sauce develops and the vegetables have softened.  Turn off the heat and serve with pasta or rice.  Leftovers are fab as a topping for baked potatoes.


Just before the sauce has finished cooking, add a large handful or two of chopped kale, chard or fresh/frozen spinach. Cook the greens in the sauce for 5 minutes before you turn off the heat and serve.

You could stir through some flaked tuna, leftover cooked sausages/meat or a tin of chickpeas or mixed beans if you wanted to add some protein to the sauce. 

This recipe is one of the basics we teach at the School Cookery Club

Coffee Cake Pop Coffee Cup

Thursday 14 June 2012
Firstly, I would like to congratulate the most lovely Tea & Biscotti, Mulia, and Andy who are semi-finalists (along with me) in the Coffee, Set, Match Challenge run by Wimbledon sponsors Lavazza.  Do check out their blogs, they're fab and their coffee creations have been amazing!

Secondly, I would like to introduce this rather rushed effort as my last recipe in the Coffee, Set, Match Challenge semi-final round:

It is meant to be a cake version of one of the Lavazza Wimbledon cups that Tea & Biscotti was lucky enough to obtain the other day.  Here's her photo:

Photo used with kind permission from Tea & Biscotti - thanks lovely! x

As you can see, my cake looks like a round brick with a handle, my piping is dodgy and the whole thing is a bit of a disaster. LOL However, it tastes fab and the cake pop mixture is so simple to put together.  Everything is edible, apart from my lovely new Limited Edition Wimbledon Coffee Machine thanks to Lavazza.

It's really easy to create your own cake like mine, yes really!  All you need is a cake which you crumble into fine crumbs and some buttercream icing.  That's all there is to it! Just mix enough buttercream icing to get a fudgy consistency and then but it in the fridge to firm up a little and become more manageable.  Then sculpt it into whichever shape you like.  You can dip the shapes in to melted candy melts or melted chocolate instead of covering them with sugarpaste as I have done.

The entire cake and cake board coating are completely edible, and it tastes delicious!

It took absolutely ages! a lot of tinkering to colour the sugarpaste the correct Lavazza Wimbledon colours.  If I had've been more alert and thought about it, I should've baked a cake in a coffee cup to get the right shape before icing it.  I was really short of time, and sleep, so I crumbled a coffee cake I had made then added enough homemade coffee buttercream to get a fudgy consistency.  I then shaped this into a brick into a kind of cup shape and covered it with sugarpaste.  I was going to make mini coffee cup cake pops but ran out of time.  I may still do that and blog it at a later date.

All of the bloggers who have been involved in the quarter finals and semi finals of the Coffee, Set, Match Challenge have worked hard on their recipes and produced delicious coffee treats.  A huge "Well done, and good on you!" to all those bloggers who've taken part in the Challenge so far.


 The finalists are announced tomorrow, best of luck everyone! x

Espresso Meringue Tart

Wednesday 13 June 2012
I made this recipe to use up the egg whites leftover from the Mocha Custard Pots as I try to never waste any food or ingredients.  It is really easy to make and if you are not confident making your own pastry you could buy a pastry case. 

You will need an 8.5 inch (22cm) blind baked sweet shortcrust pastry tart case for this recipe.  I made my own but you could buy one at your local supermarket.

Here's how to make your own sweet shortcrust pastry tart case:

250g plain flour
Pinch salt
100g icing sugar
125g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 free range egg yolk
Ice cold  water

Sift the flour, salt and icing sugar into a large bowl. Rub in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the egg yolk and one tablespoon of water at a time to the mixture.  Gently work it together until you have a ball of dough. Don't work your pastry too much or it will be tough and not lovely and crumbly and light.  Once your pastry has come together, wrap it in cling film and put it into the fridge to rest for at least an hour.

Once your pastry has rested and is well chilled, roll it out on to a floured work surface.  Use it to line a 22cm diameter flan tin.  Bake the pastry blind for 25 minutes at 180°C until it is lovely and golden.  Once the tart case is cooked, remove the baking beans and baking paper then leave the tart case to cool completely before you use it. 

How make the espresso meringue filling:

250g icing sugar
1 Tblsp very strong espresso
4 free range egg whites

Sift 250g of icing sugar into a large bowl.  Add one egg white and 1 Tblsp strong espresso coffee then  mix with a spatula until fully combined.  In another bowl, (or use a stand mixer like I do) whisk the other 3 egg whites until they reach the soft peak stage.  Gently but thoroughly fold the whisked egg whites into the icing sugar mixture using a large metal spoon.

Pour the meringue mixture into the pastry case and bake in your preheated oven for 30 - 35 minutes.  Leave to cool in the tin.

I served our Espresso Meringue Tart with a homemade mixed berry couli made with frozen berries we had lurking in our freezer.

The delicious Espresso Meringue Tart with and without Mixed Berry Couli

Our Family Meal Plan for week of 11/06 - £50

Monday 11 June 2012
Our Meal Plan is late this week, mainly due to be being floored by a foul migraine for a day and a half.  Thanks to some decent migraine drugs I am kind of back to almost normal.  This week is a really busy week (again!) so I need low faff meals that can either be premade or prepared with minimal effort as I'll be out at dinner time 4 nights this week.

I'll still fit in baking our bread this week and/or tortilla wraps as needed.

My daughters will have school dinners this week and my husband and I will have dinner leftovers for our lunches.


Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we'll be having Simmered Mince Many Ways.

Thursday and Friday we will be having Hearty Sausage Casserole

On Saturday and Sunday we will have Mince and Lentil Onepot

Our lunches on the weekend will probably be Twice Baked Potatoes with a variety of toppings.

Shopping List

Despite this being a busy week there is still plenty of fruit on our shopping list, and also some yoghurts for snacking as I won't be baking much.

The cost of all 29 items needed for our Meal Plan this week was £50.38 when ordered online and delivered on 10/06/2012.  My shopping would've cost £58.89 at Tesco and £60.86 at Sainsbury's.

Packets Cereals

1x ASDA Smartprice Spaghetti (500g) 24p
1x Asda Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) 60p
1x ASDA Wholemeal Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.28
1x ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg) 40p
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 64p
1x Sunnybisk Wheat Biscuits (48 per pack - 864g) £1.78


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

Tins, Jars and Cooking

6x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) £1.86
2x ASDA Butter Beans in Water (410g) £1.16
2x ASDA Chosen by You Chilli Beans (290g) £1.36

Dairy and Eggs

6x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £6.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
2x ASDA Chosen by You English Mature Cheddar (400g) £4.00 any 2 FOR £4.00
2x Low Fat Yogurts Red Fruit (4x125g) £2.00
2x Low Fat Yogurts Yellow Fruit (4x125g) £2.00

Fruit and Vegetables

1x ASDA Great Stuff Kids Garden Gang Pears (700g) £1.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
20 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) £2.00
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) £1.36
10 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) 78p
4 ASDA Courgettes by Weight (100g) 72p
3 ASDA Leeks by Weight (100g) 77.7p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mushrooms (750g) £1.18
10 ASDA Red Onions by Weight (100g) 85p
2x ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £2.00 2 FOR £2.00
1x ASDA Celery 89p
2x ASDA Garlic Loose 60p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.65
1x ASDA Mandarins (700g) £1.00 any 2 FOR £2.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry

2x ASDA Butcher's Selection Beef Mince Lean (700g) £6.67 any 3 FOR £10.00
1x ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (10 per pack - 756g) £3.33 any 3 FOR £10.00

Onepot Cooking Masterclass with Marco Pierre White

Friday 8 June 2012

Knorr Stockpots which were used in the Masterclass and which I use at home
I've cooked with the lovely Marco before, it was the first ever PR event I was invited to.  You can read about it here.  I was SO nervous and maybe slightly terrified.  I needn't have worried though.  He was really lovely, the event was relaxed, and the PRs were fab. 

Neil and Jen - the PR Dream Team!
I now know the PRs really well, have been to many more events, and this time when I was invited I wasn't nervous at all - just rather excited LOL

The Masterclass we were invited to this time was Onepot Cooking. I love Onepot Cooking because it saves on washing up and most dishes cooked this way are warming and comforting. Perfect for a rain battered, gale force wind filled May and June ;o)

Marco, as always, was amazing and gave us loads of cooking tips and tricks!
The Masterclass was once again held at Stamford Bridge, yup the football ground, home of Chelsea Football Club.  Marco's restaurant is really glamorous and gorgeous - as you would expect.

We had a cuppa and a delicious pastry in the restaurant before the Masterclass started.

Once we had been fed and watered it was time to start the Masterclass.  We all watched intently as Marco explained his recipe for Pumpkin Soup, using  Knorr Stockpots.  The secret is to use freshly prepared carrot juice as it brings out the sweetness of the pumpkin.  Don't use carrot juice in cartons or bottles as the ingredients they add to stop it oxidising alters the flavour.  You will need a juicer.  Unfortunately, I don't have one! (HINT!) 

Marco often uses juices in his stews and casseroles - prune juice in his Guinness and Beef Stew, apple juice with Slow Roasted Pork Belly and of course carrot juice in his Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato) Soup.  The juices help build and balance flavours and add sweetness to the dishes making them flavoursome without being heavy.  Great tip from Marco!

Marco telling us how to make Pumpkin Soup his way

As Marco was showing us the recipes he was also writing them down.  You can find his recipe for Pumpkin Soup here.  He also steamed some pumpkin in the microwave then reduced the liquid from the cooked pumpkin.  It was an amazingly sweet syrup which you could use to top a cake or loaf. 

Pumpkin Syrup - so amazingly sweet!
Once the pumpkin soup had been made it was time to devour it taste it.  I had a heavy cold and the pumpkin soup was the perfect warming and soothing starter to have.  It was so smooth and flavoursome, Marco suggests passing it through a fine sieve to give the soup a silky texture.

Delicious Pumpkin Soup with Parmesan
The next dish on the Masterclass menu was Asparagus Risotto, made Marco's way.  He uses the trimmings and woody ends from the asparagus to flavour the stock so that nothing is wasted.  He also blanches the tips separately and serves them on top of the risotto to give it more flavour and another dimension of texture. 

Top tip from Marco:  When your risotto has been made and you add the butter and Parmesan to finish it off, don't stir it straight away.  If you do then the texture will be tight and not creamy.  Let the cheese and butter melt in for a couple of minutes with the lid on and then stir it in.  You'll be able to tell the difference!  You can read Marco's Asparagus risotto recipe here.

The risotto was outstanding! Lovely al dente texture and comforting but not heavy at all

Our last course was a Chicken Casserole which Marco makes using preroasted chickens as the meat is more moist and flavoursome.  You could cheat and use a cooked chook from the supermarket if you were in a hurry ;o)  Marco made a blond roux using stock made with a Knorr Stockpot instead of milk.  You can follow his recipe and make your own Chicken Casserole here.

We were also served a stunning Raspberry Souffle for dessert with hot Raspberry Sauce.  OMGness it was SO absolutely delicious and light.  There were some rather interesting noises being made as we ate it, oh yes, it was THAT GOOD!

The Raspberry Souffle tasted even better than it looked, totally amazing!

I also found out Marco's pet hate in the kitchen - wooden spoons left in pots whilst you're cooking.  We had an amazing day and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Marco was his usual charming self, very generous with his knowledge and his time. 

Some of us lucky bloggers with the man himself!

Thank you so much to Knorr for the fabulous day, and of course to Neil and Jen who are most lovely too. 

I hope I didn't give Marco my cold LOL

You can find more recipes and cooking tips on the Knorr website.

Roast Vegetable and Goats Cheese Filo Tart

Wednesday 6 June 2012
I was recently sent an emormous hamper full of goodies from the lovelies at Capricorn Goats Cheese so that I could create some recipes.  I was really chuffed with the hamper and very grateful to Capricorn for their generosity.

Here's my second recipe using some of the hamper contents, Roast Vegetable and Capricorn Goats Cheese Filo Tart, which was a delicious dinner and served 6.

You will need:

6 cups seasonal vegetables cut into 1 inch dice (I used courgettes and peppers)

You could use pumpkin, aubergine and mushrooms as well as courgettes and peppers if you wanted to.

1 whole head garlic
2 Tblsp olive oil
9 sheets filo pastry
1-2 Tblsp tomato paste
100g goats cheese

Put the prepared vegetables into a roasting dish, slice the top off the garlic head and put it in the pan with the vegetables, drizzle with olive oil and roast for around 30-35 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Put the vegetables aside to cool. Meanwhile prepare the pastry.

Lay a sheet of filo pastry on the bench, brush sparingly with oil and put another sheet on top, brush that sheet with oil and finish with a third sheet of pastry. Grease an ovenproof dish big enough to hold all the cooked vegetables and line it with the filo pastry.

Mix the tomato paste with 1 Tblp of boiling water then brush it over the base of the pastry.  Put the cooled vegetables and chunks of goats cheese into the filo lined dish, squeeze the roasted garlic forcing the pulp from the skin, then mix this into the vegetables and goats cheese.  You can drizzle over a little more tomato paste if you like.

Lay out the remaining pastry sheets and brush each sparingly with oil. Cut each piece in half and crumple them up, putting them on top of the tart to cover the vegetables. Bake at 180°C for 15 - 20 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden. Serve with salad or mixed vegetables.

The only complaint my family had about this dinner was that there wasn't enough for seconds. LOL

Our (recycled) Family Meal Plan for this week

Monday 4 June 2012
I am crazy busy this week and this weekend has sped by so I really needed a low faff solution to Meal Planning for this week.  I have therefore decided to recycle a previous School Holiday Meal Plan, which you can read by clicking here.

I used the exact same shopping list as that Meal Plan and my shopping came to £69.69 from Asda when I ordered online on Saturday evening (02/06/2012). As usual I used MySupermarket to compare the cost of the equivalent basket of groceries and they would've cost £75.74 at Tesco and £78.05 at Sainsbury's.

Do check out loads of other fab Meal Plans in the linky over at the At Home With Mrs M blog.
I shall be back on proper Meal Planning form next week, I promise!

Goats Cheese, Walnut and Pear Salad

Saturday 2 June 2012
The lovelies at Capricorn Goats Cheese sent me an enormous hamper of goodies to create some recipes with for the Capricorn Challenge.  We had this salad for lunch today, using freshly picked herbs from our garden, and it was delicious!  The recipe is easily multiplied if you are feeding more people and it's really quick to put together.

Serves 2

2 ripe pears, peeled and chopped smallish chunks
1 red onion, chopped in half then into thin slices
40g walnuts, roughly chopped
100g Capricorn goats cheese, diced
1 large handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 large handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

For the dressing:

4 tsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
squeeze lemon juice

Separate the onion slices into ring and then put into a large bowl with the pear pieces, walnuts, goats cheese and herbs.  Mix well.

Put the oil, balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice into a screw top jar.  Shake to mix well then pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat it in the dressing. Serve immediately.

You can also follow the Capricorn Goats Cheese blog and tweet with Ethel the Goat on Twitter.
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