Monday, 2 March 2015

How To Make Nigella's Soft White Dinner Rolls

I've made Nigella Lawson's Soft White Dinner Rolls many times now and they are always lovely. The children adore these little rolls that are super hard to resist. They are a real treat with a bowl of hot soup or made into little sandwich rolls - perfect for packed lunches or picnics. I love these toasted with butter and jam. Yum!

  • approx. 550-600plain flour
  • teaspoons rapid rise yeast or bread machine or other instant yeast
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • tablespoon caster sugar
  • 375 ml milk
  • 25butter
+ 1 egg beaten for glaze

  1. Combing 500g / 3½ cups of the flour with the instant yeast, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Put the 100ml of the milk and butter into a saucepan and heat until the milk is warm, and the butter is beginning to melt. Add the remaining 275ml of cold milk to bring the temperature of the liquid to 'hand hot'.
  3. Pour into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix with a fork or a wooden spoon to make a rough dough, adding more of the remaining flour if the dough is too wet. Then either using your hands or the dough hook on an electric mixer, knead the dough until it is smooth and silky. It's always better to have a slightly wet dough. Everything will start coming together after 5 minutes of kneading. I always try to knead dough for 10 minutes.
  4. Put the ball of dough into a greased bowl and cover the top with clingfilm, then leave in a warm place to rise for an hour by which time it should be double the size. Punch the air out of the dough with your fist and then turn it out on to a floured surface.
  5. Pull pieces of dough the size of walnuts off the dough and form them into small round rolls, like ping pong balls, placing them as you go on to a greased or lined baking sheet. The balls of dough should be about 5mm / ¼ inch apart so that once they have sat to prove they will be just about touching. Nigella gets 30 balls of dough, and arranges them in six lines of five. I made slightly less, but bigger balls. I usually weigh my dough before I roll them into balls. These balls weighed 80g each. I like weighing the dough too so there's no arguing over who's having the bigger rolls!
  6. Cover them with a tea-towel and leave to rise again in a warm place for about half an hour, preheating the oven to gas mark 7/220°C/425ºF, while they sit. When the buns have puffed up, beat together the egg and a pinch of salt and paint them with the glaze. Nigella likes to scatter alternate lines of buns with sesame and poppy seeds, leaving plain rows in between. (A teaspoon of seeds should decorate two rows.) I like mine plain!
  7. Bake the buns for 15 minutes by which time they should be golden brown and joined together in a little batch. Remove them to a cooling rack or serve immediately.
  8. These rolls are great served straight away when they have cooled slightly, and really need eating fresh, but they are lovely the next day toasted too. Whatever you do, you'll love these rolls!

Here's all the steps in pictures to help you with how the dough should look at different stages.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Vegetable Korma

I love to make a good curry, and I never really use meat any more. Curries are a great vegetarian option because there are just so many flavours in them. I promise - you will never miss meat in a curry!

This Vegetable Korma is also a great budget saving recipe. No meat = cheap! Korma is a great vegetarian dish, because it has nuts in it to make it creamy, but they are a super source of protein too.

The kids love this dish. Korma's are pretty inoffensive as far as curries go, so this one is bound to be a kiddy hit. And it means they are eating a load of veg too. Of course, if you just can't go without meat, feel free to add some chicken thighs before you add the carrots.

1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 heaped teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 heaped teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 knob of ginger, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground corriander 
1 tsp turmeric 
600ml chicken stock
2 large carrots, cut into large chunks
1 large potato, cubed 
Half a cauliflower
50g frozen peas
50g whole cashew nuts
50g cashew nuts, ground
30g desicatted coconut
2 tbsp natural yogurt
2 tbsp creme fraiche
Salt & pepper

Have the oil ready in your pan with the cumin seeds and black mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds start to pop, add the onion. Fry for 3 minutes until the onions start to soften. Add the ginger and the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Now add the dry spices and fry for 30 seconds making sure they don't burn. Add the stock. 

You can now add the carrots and potato. Time for 8 minutes. Now is a good time to start cooking the rice (which takes around 20 minutes with the absorption technique). You need to add the cauliflower for about ten minutes before the rice is ready. When the cauliflower has been in 5 minutes, add the peas and cashew nuts. If it's looking a little dry, add some more water. Two minutes before the rice is done, add the ground cashew nuts, coconut, yoghurt and creme fraiche. Season and serve.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Carrot Cake Tray Bake Recipe

I thought I might try a bit of a healthy cake this week for the kids to have as a snack, although I'm not sure carrot cake is overly healthy! But it is mightily light, moist and tasty! I'm sure it's better than a chocolate biscuit? Anyway, I'll stop worrying about health benefits this week, maybe next week, I'll try a healthy version and I'll let you know how it goes. But so far, this Carrot Bake Tray Bake is a hit!

I haven't used a cream cheese topping, just a simple orange icing. I thought it can be used sparingly, so the kids still think they are getting icing - just not too much.

This cake is super easy to make. You don't have to mess about creaming butter and sugar together - just a bit of gentle mix and your away. 

You can substitute the cherries and cranberries for raisins if you like. These were the only dried fruit I had left in the cupboard, but they give the cake little bursts of tangy sharpness. Also, if you're not a nut fan - just leave them out, but I think the walnuts make this cake.

  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 140g grated carrots (about 3 medium)
  • 50g dried cherries & cranberries
  • 50g walnuts, broken up
  • grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg (freshly grated will give you the best flavour)

For the frosting

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 1½-2 tbsp orange juice


Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C. Butter and line the base and sides of an 24cm square cake tin with baking parchment. 

Mix the sugar into a large mixing bowl, with the oil and eggs. Lightly mix with a wooden spoon.

Stir in the grated carrots, cherries, cranberries, walnuts and orange rind.
Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices, then sift into the bowl. Lightly mix all the ingredients – when everything is evenly amalgamated stop mixing. The mixture will be fairly soft and almost runny.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40- 45 minutes, until it feels firm and springy when you press it in the centre. 
Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out, peel off the paper and cool on a wire rack. (You can freeze the cake at this point too.)
Beat together the frosting ingredients in a small bowl until smooth – you want the icing about as runny as single cream. Drizzle over the cake letting it drip down the sides.

Midweek Meal Planner 9th February

Easy, budget-friendly and super tasty midweek meals!

I find it really helpful planning what we are going to eat for the week. With a growing family of five, planning the week's food makes things a lot easier. I know what I'm buying when I go to the shop, and I know what I need to prepare and cook each night. It's also less stressful making a food planner, purely because you've got everything under control! 

If someone is out one evening, you can plan which meal to cook - maybe it's easy to heat up, or you can prepare it ahead of time. 

You will also only buy food you are planning to cook. Your fridge won't be full of rotting food, because you know exactly what you are doing with it!

Takeouts are not an option. If I've got everything sorted, then there are no excuses. Saving time, food and money. Everyone's a winner! And if there are any leftovers, Mr Mean can take them to work the following day for lunch. Although if there is too much left over, I put it in the freezer for another meal - usually having to fight off Mr Mean! He knows he's missing out on a tasty lunch!

This week, I've got five tasty dishes planned. I'm also making Super Cereal Bars for healthy snacks and Oatcakes for breakfasts and snacks.

Oatcakes are really easy to make and freeze very well. You can take individual oatcakes out of the freezer and defrost them under the grill. They are great after school for hungry kids. I like them toasted with jam or honey. Alternatively, grill two sandwiched together with ham and cheese for a cheeky lunch, or fried with baked beans and an egg. You can do so much with them!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Valentine's Dark Chocolate Fondants

What's the best way to a man's heart? Through the chest. The old ones are always the best! But back when me and Mr Mean were in the first throws of passion, this was my no-fail dessert of desire! Perfect for a little trip down memory lane for a super-indulgent Valentine's Day pud!

Not only is this pud a super luxury, it's super easy and convenient to make. You can make this the day before and keep it refrigerated, or freeze until needed. You can cook these puddings straight from the freezer and they'll probably be even more magnificent. Add four minutes on the cooking time for frozen puds. It is essential to make sure you have enough time to chill these puddings. Try to make a day in advance, or I'm making mine and putting them in the freezer for at least 45 minutes before cooking.

Keep a close eye on them in the oven. They don't need a lot of cooking. Make sure your oven is up to temperature five minutes before cooking. Once you see the the tops of the pudding looking solid and dry, and slightly dome shaped, they should be done. 

I used metal ramekins measuring about 8cm in diameter by 5cm deep.

Makes four
100g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken up
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
20g sifted plain flour
1 tsp cocoa powder
Berries and ice cream/creme fraiche to serve

Prepare your ramekins. Smother in butter and shake the cocoa powder around the inside of the ramekin. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Add the chocolate and butter, and leave to melt slowly. Once melted, remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.

Next, whisk your eggs and yolks with the sugar until pale and fluffy. To avoid breaking a sweat, use an electric whisk!

Whisk in the flour, then the chocolate mixture and pour into ramekins. Refrigerate over night or pop in the freezer for a minimum of 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180C (a little less for fan), and bake for 10-15 minutes. I baked my totally frozen puds for 15 minutes.

Once cooked, leave the puddings for one minute, then turn out onto a plate and serve with berries, ice cream or creme fraiche. Enjoy!

Disaster! My first attempt collapsed! It needed slightly more cooking. Try again!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

6 Minute Treacle Sponge Pudding

I fancied a traditional treacle sponge pudding today (on a Wednesday night too - slap my wrists!), but didn't have the time for the whole steaming business. This is a very cheeky and quick recipe that is as good as if you'd spent hours slaving over a stove.  

I even cracked open a tin of Ambrosia Custard too, but had to add some cream to make it super bad!

100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
2 eggs
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp golden syrup

Put the golden syrup in the bottom of a microwaveable dish. Cream the butter and sugar together. Next, beat an egg at a time with a spoonful of flour, so the mixture doesn't curdle. Fold the rest of the flour and milk in and then pour the batter on top of the golden syrup. Place a microwaveable plate on top of the pudding dish and microwave for 6 minutes on full power. Leave to stand for 2 minutes, then serve with a whole load of custard!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Store Cupboard Pad Thai

I love a bit of Thai food. Pad Thai must be one of my favourite dishes, so I'm going to have a crack at it! My recipe is a good store cupboard meal. The prawns were from the freezer, but you could easily replace them with chicken or tofu - or stick them all in if you really feel like going to town!

The trick to cooking this dish is to have everything prepared before you start cooking. Make sure you've made the sauce up so it's ready to add quickly. Once you start cooking, it's a very quick dish!

I like to soak my prawns in lemon water before using - just to get rid of that fishy smell! Please feel free to add some bean sprouts and some radish too.

200g cooked king prawns, defrosted, rinsed and drained
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, finely sliced
Half inch of ginger, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50g frozen peas
1 pack rice stick, soaked in cold water
3 eggs, beaten
30g salted peanuts, chopped
3 spring onions, chopped
Chilli flakes

2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 lime, juiced

Have a pan of boiling water ready to simmer your rice noodles for 5 minutes. Take one tbsp of oil and fry the onion until translucent, then add the garlic and ginger. If you want a bit of extra kick, add a whole red chilli, finely chopped, at this point. Plunge the noodles into the boiling water. Add the carrots and peas to the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, add some water if it's looking dry. Once the noodles are done, drain and transfer to the onion pan. Add the sauce, peanuts and prawns. Now add the egg and cook for 3-4 minutes. Serve with whole peanuts, chilli flakes, spring onions, and a squeeze of lime.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Grantham Gingerbread Recipe Revisted

I posted this recipe four years ago, but I thought it demands a re-visit due to it's simplicity of biscuitiness! Now I'm not a huge fan of the gingernut, but the balance of ginger in these Grantham Gingerbreads is just right!

These aren't strictly gingerbreads as we know them - they are more like crunchy biscuits. But that's what they're called, so I'm gonna go with it! Either way, they are a real treat with a cuppa!

100g butter
350g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
250g self raising flour
1 level teaspoon ground ginger

Beat the butter and sugar until they are pale and creamy. Next, beat in the egg and then sift the flour and ginger into the mix. This should come to form a firm dough. Now roll out little balls of dough (the size of a walnut) and place on a greased baking tray, with enough room for them to spread. Bake in a preheated oven at 150ºC for 40-45 minutes until they are hollow.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Catherine's Famous Lentil Bake

This is Catherine's Famous Lentil Bake Recipe. It could also be known as a Lentil Hotpot, but however you describe it - it's a great vegetarian dish and famous throughout Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and probably Norfolk! Catherine is my friend from school (not my school, but our children's school!). We spend hours yacking about food at the school gates - and why not? We all need some inspiration. 

My weekly Bean Stew is wearing a little thin now. Don't get me wrong - it's a tasty supper dish, but the kids are getting a little bit bored now. Catherine mentioned her Lentil Bake the other day and it sounded like a super yummy mid-week meal, so I thought I'd give it a try. She also told me how she's been making it for years and it's always a winner!

We're not a family of vegetarians and we all like meat - but I don't want to eat it everyday. Lentils are a great inexpensive source of protein. They also contain dietary fibre, folate, vitamin B1 and minerals - perfect for a well-balanced non-meat meal. My mother has been a vegetarian for over thirty years now, so I was brought up with plenty of very tasty veggy meals.

Now my three children are getting older, they are eating a lot more - especially the boys. I know they are going to cost me a small fortune in food when they are teenagers, so this dish is a great frugal meal that won't blow the weekly budget and can be bulked-up to feed very hungry adults and children! And you will probably have most of the ingredients in your fridge and cupboard if you are ever stuck for something to cook. It's great to prepare in advance too.

This is my version of Catherine's Lentil Bake, but you could try many variations too. I know Catherine only uses red lentils in her recipe, but I've added green too. You could also try topping the lentils with mash potato, or even mashed sweet potato. I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

For the Lentils:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
1 small sweet potato, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
100g red lentils
100g green lentils
1 tbsp tomato purée 
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano 
1 bay leaf
600ml stock
Salt & pepper

Potato topping
1kg potatoes, par boiled
25g butter, cubed
25g strong cheddar, grated
Salt & pepper

Start by frying the onions in the oil until soft and translucent. Now add the celery and carrots and garlic, sauté for a few more minutes. Add all the rest of the ingredients for the lentils and simmer for 30 minutes. Add more liquid if the mixture seems too dry.

Take a large oven-proof dish and spoon the lentil mixture in for the bottom layer of the bake. Now boil your spuds, whole for 10 minutes. Drain and cool before cutting into slices. Top the lentils with the sliced potato. Now add the cubed butter, seasoning and cheese. Bake at 170C for 40 minutes.

James Morton's Spiced Tea Loaf

Tea Loaf - Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves
Prep 20 mins, Total time Up to 16 hrs, including overnight proving
Recipe taken from Brilliant Bread by James Morton (Ebury Press, £20) 
"Take your time with this recipe. Adding fat, spices and fruit to the dough slows the activity of the yeast and the gluten development, so it's slower to rise. For a sweet bread with flavour to blow your socks off, rest the dough for ages, ideally in the fridge. You can't rush this one."
My friend has James Morton's book about bread and says it's very good. She made this recipe and her whole family loved it, so I thought I'd give it a go. I was a bit surprised by the colour of the loaf once baked - and I only left it in for 30 minutes. Apparently, this is normal, so don't be alarmed at the dark colour. It is delicious! Fresh or toasted when it's a little older. Also great for the kid's snacks - they loved it!

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 10g table salt
  • 2 x 7g sachets fast-action yeast
  • 260g full-fat milk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground or grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • grated zest of ½ orange
  • 100g raisins (or dried fruit of your choice)
  • 1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

  1. In a large bowl, weigh the flour and sugar. With your fingers, rub in the salt at one side and the sachet of dried yeast on the opposite side, as the salt can stop the yeast working.
  2. Add the milk and eggs, and mix together until it forms a coherent dough (use your dough to mop up any flour sticking to the side of the bowl).
  3. Cover your bowl with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and rest in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes, or until noticeably increased in size.
  4. Inside the bowl, rub the soft butter into the dough and repeatedly fold it over until the butter is completely incorporated.
  5. Add the spices, orange zest and raisins, and incorporate them by folding your dough over itself repeatedly. Keep going until your dough is a consistent colour.
  6. Rest the dough until it has doubled in size, probably around 1 hour or so. This might take a little longer due to the spice barrage you have just subjected your yeast to.
  7. Once rested, turn the dough out on to a very lightly floured surface and shape for a loaf tin. Make sure your tin is well greased right into the corners with butter. You’ll need a loaf tin measuring 17 x 10cm and 9cm high (about 1.6 litre capacity).
  8. Transfer your loaf to the tin to prove and loosely cover with lightly oiled clingfilm.
  9. If you want an amazing loaf, put your tin in the fridge for 8-12 hours, preferably overnight. In this cold environment the yeast will work much slower to produce subtle flavours that propel this bread to a whole new level of tastiness.
  10. If you'd rather, this prove can equally be brisk & instead you can put the dough in the fridge for the initial resting stage.
  11. Preheat your oven to 220°C, fan 200°C, gas 7, at least 20 minutes in advance.
  12. Once proved, brush the top with the beaten egg. Bake in the tin on a preheated baking tray on the lowest shelf for 30-40 minutes, until very dark brown and shiny.

After knocking back and shaping.

After an overnight proving just before baking.

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