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A Pavlova to #CelebrateTheNations

Saturday, 17 October 2015
We're huge rugby fans in our household, it's kind of expected in NZ where we're from, and we are loving watching all the Rugby World Cup games.  It's like total rugby overload in our house, and my poor husband, who is not as enthusiastic about the sport as the rest of us, has been very tolerant of our need to watch every game and shout at the TV rather a lot.

I was delighted to be asked by Tesco to cook a NZ recipe as part of their Celebrate the Nations campaign to celebrate the Rugby World Cup. I asked my family what I should cook and they unanimously shouted "Pavlova, of course!" so that's what I baked.  It was delicious and as soon as the photographs were taken there was a stampede of hungry family towards the pav, similar to an All Black scrum.

I made two pavlovas but one cracked so instead of a double layer pavlova I created a single layer, coated with plain/dark chocolate (so it wouldn't get soggy all covered in cream and sitting around being photographed) and a double layer Eton mess with blackberries on top, separated by a layer of kiwi fruit, and topped with more blackberries.


This recipe makes one pavlova 25cm/10 inches in diameter

220g/1 cup caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp wine vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 large or 4 medium free range egg whites
I use my stand mixer to make a pav, sometimes I use my hand held electric beaters but find it much easier in the stand mixer.  Make sure the bowl and beater is completely spotless because any trace of grease will stop the eggs from beating and aerating well.  

Measure the caster sugar, cornflour, salt, vinegar and vanilla in to the bowl and then add the egg whites.  Make sure there is absolutely no yolk at all in the mixture as this will stop the egg whites from beating up well.  

Beat all the ingredients at high speed for about 15 minutes, until a thick meringue forms. Make sure the mixture is not gritty and that all the sugar has dissolved.  When you lift out the beater blades, the meringue should form peaks that stand up stiffly. 

Draw a circle 25cm/10 inches in diameter on a piece of non-stick baking paper large enough to line your oven tray.  Turn the baking paper over and secure it to the tray using a little meringue dotted under each corner.  Pile the mixture onto the circle on the baking paper and smooth the surface.  If you have the time or inclination you could pipe the mixture into the circle.   

Bake in a preheated oven at 100C/90C Fan for 60 - 70 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven for another half an hour.  Take the pavlova out of the oven.  Leave for an hour then top and fill as you wish.

Phil Vickery, ex England rugby player and 2011 Celebrity Master Chef winner has also created a delicious recipe for Pork, Pinto Bean and Sweet Potato Stew.

You can find the delicious Tesco #CelebrateTheNations Pork Stew recipe here.

Has my dish, or Phil's dish inspired you? Why not create your own culinary masterpiece and #CelebrateTheNations this Autumn! For more ideas and inspiration, visit realfood.tesco.com/celebratethenations.html 

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Bready, Steady, Go! Round Up for September

Sunday, 4 October 2015
It was my turn to host Bready, Steady, Go! Round Up in September and as always it is a pleasure to see all the delicious bakes linked up.

Onions and Paper baked these stunning Turkish Bread Twists.

Fuss Free Flavours created an ingenious loaf to use up leftover sourdough leaven, delicious!

Family, Friends, Food baked gorgeous Rosh Hashanah Spiced Apple Challah Bread shaped 3 ways.

Baking Queen 74 baked Wholemeal Olive Focaccia, a scrumptious lunch.

Sarah's Tasty Buds baked delicious Bublik, Russian Bagels

Sarah's Tasty Buds also baked some scrumptious Armenian Lavash, great as a side dish

Sarah's Tasty Bubs entered a third delicious bake, Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread, perfect for peanut butter sandwiches.

Thanks so much to all those who baked and linked up this month.  I cannot wait to see what you come up with next month!  Lovely Jen is hosting.

Vegetable and Cheese Bites

Saturday, 3 October 2015
I'm joining in with Jo who blogs at Slummy Single Mummy and The Co-Operative to promote the Co-Op 21 Day Food Challenge which aims to encourage families to eat better and healthier.  

I am very fortunate that none of my children are fussy eaters and happily eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables, pulses and grains without complaint.  Our eldest went through a fussy eating phase when she was around 3 years old but that was brief, thankfully.  So far there haven't been any teenage food fussiness phases, fingers crossed.  It did make me think about how I would persuade my teen, and preteen, to go back to their previously unfussy ways should they suddenly develop aversions to their usual varied diet.

Here are the tips I came up with:

Appeal to their vanity, let them know that fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that are great for healthy hair, nails and skin.

Mix familiar and unfamiliar vegetables.  Why not mix some sweet potato with normal potato mash, or add some extra vegetables to stews and bolognese.  You may need to be sneaky and blitz the vegetables into sauces, depending on the level of aversion and fussiness.

Smoothies are great for getting fruit, and sneaky vegetables, into our diets.  I usually use at least two portions of vegetables to each portion of fruit and add dates for sweetness rather than honey or refined sugar.

Let children help with meal preparation.  If they help make it they are much more likely to eat it.

Try raw, steamed, roasted or stir fried vegetables.  It may be that children prefer the taste and texture of vegetables cooked a certain way or uncooked. Experiment to find what suits and go from there.

If you have other great tips and pearls of wisdom I would love to hear them, please leave a comment below.  Lovely Jo is hosting a Twitter party on this very subject with prizes to be won!

Vegetable and Cheese Bites

My 3 daughters and I baked these as lunchbox fillers, packed with vegetables they are a flavoursome and healthy snack.  Even baby boy enjoyed one for his lunch, fab for baby led weaning too.

70g butter, cubed
110g self-raising flour
60g grated cheese, I used mature cheddar
80g grated courgette
80g grated butternut squash
1 pepper, finely diced, any colour will do but I used red
1 free range egg
1 tsp dried mixed herbs

Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Mix in the vegetables and cheese so they are coated in the flour mixture.  Add the egg and mix until completely incorporated.  Make 8 - 10 patties from the mixture and place on your prepared baking tray.  Sprinkle a little extra grated cheese over the top.  Bake in  your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and cooked through, and the cheese on top is bubbling and melted.

Follow The Co-Operative on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for recipe inspiration and latest food news.

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Beetroot and Autumn Vegetable Soup

Friday, 2 October 2015
I was delighted to be asked by Waitrose to create an Autumn Warmer recipe to celebrate the season. This autumn Waitrose are celebrating Britain’s warmest dishes, and they would love to see what you’re cooking! Whether it’s homemade comforting soup, a delicious apple crumble or a traditional Sunday Roast they would be delighted for you to share your makes and bakes with them. 

Simply post photos or tell them about your favourite autumnal food and drink on social media using @Waitrose and #AutumnWarmers for a chance to win a range of prizes, including a baking bundle, a Sage by Heston Blumenthal multicooker and a ultimate roast dinner for you and your friends!

The leaves on the trees are currently turning lovely colours and there is a crisp chill in the air.  I decided to be inspired by the lovely colours of autumn leaves and make a soup a vegetables that mimic those colours.  

I created this Beetroot and Autumn Vegetable Soup which is vibrant and delicious, packed with vegetables to ward off any sniffles.  Our baby boy and I enjoyed this soup for lunch, and my older 3 daughters enjoyed some as an after school snack.  It went down very well indeed, a scrumptious serving of Autumn produce.

Beetroot and Autumn Vegetable Soup

1 Tblsp oil
1 large onion, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
300g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
300g sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
200g pack cooked beetroot in natural juice, roughly chopped
700ml vegetable stock
juice of 2 lemons

Put a large saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the oil, onion and celery.  Cook until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes.  Sprinkle in the mixed spice, add the squash, sweet potato and vegetable stock.  Bring to the boil, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are very tender. Add cooked beetroot and juice.  Cook for 5 - 10 minutes util the beetroot is tender.  Add the lemon juice and stir to mix.  Leave the soup to cool for at least 10 minutes before blending with a hand held stick blender or blending in batches in a jug blender.

Check out all the other delicious #AutumnWarmers by following Waitrose on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. You can also find recipe inspiration on their website.

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