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.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Dark Chocolate Mousse

What's this? A indulgent, dark chocolate mousse that isn't packed full of sugar? A mousse that only has two ingredients? Could you nearly say it's good for you? Well that's the line I'm going with! Because there's certainly nothing wrong with a dark piece of chocolate and an egg. And what's even better is - you can make this yummy dessert in super quick time. This is nearly health food!

To make this mousse, get a good quality 100g bar of 70% chocolate. My favourite at the moment is Asda's Extra Special Organic Dominican Republic Dark Chocolate. And at only £1.29, I think it's a great bargain.

This mousse is super yummy and indulgent, but it is so rich - you really won't need a lot. You could add a shot of espresso for a coffee hit, or some orange zest for a zingy vibe. Serve on it's own or with whipped cream or creme fraiche. Enjoy!

100g 70% cocoa solids chocolate
4 medium eggs, separated

Smash your bar of chocolate into pieces and melt in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave to cool slightly. Now separate your eggs. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. When the chocolate has cooled slightly, add the egg yolks and any flavouring you want to put in. Fold in the egg white being careful not to knock any air out. Spoon into small bowls or ramekins and refrigerate for at least four hours. 

The Ultimate Pancake Recipe

Pancake Update!!!

We are having a Pancake-Off. Me and Mr Mean are going head-to-head in the pancake-making stakes in the ultimate breakfast fluff test. He should win. After all, he does make a batch every weekend. But has he become complacent? Has his methods become sloppy over all these weeks? 

These aren't strictly traditional pancakes, like the French crepe, but a great alternative. They are a light and fluffy Scotch pancake - also known as drop scones.

Well, the verdict's in. And I'm the winner! Yes! Sorry Mr Mean. I followed my recipe to the letter, except that I forgot I was making a double batch and added half the milk which resulted in a super thick and fluffy pancake. Very cheeky! So here's the recipe for my Super Thick Award-Winning Pancakes!

Eddie likes them so much, he cries when he's finished! That boy certainly loves his breakfast pancakes!

250g self raising flour
pinch of salt
50g caster sugar
4 eggs
100ml milk
50g melted butter

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre, pour the eggs in and add a little of the milk. Start to beat and gradually add more milk until you have a smooth batter that drops reluctantly off the spoon. Stir in the melted butter.

Heat a heavy-based pan over a medium heat and grease with a smear of butter or oil. Drop tablespoons of the batter onto the pan, leaving room for it to spread. When bubbles start to form, flip them over and cook for a few more minutes.

Serve with golden syrup, jam, fruit compote, yoghurt, Nutella - anything you feel like!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

How To Make Almond Butter

I'm a little bit partial to a bit of almond butter, so when I ran out (shock, horror), I thought I'd try to make my own recipe for nut butter! Don't confuse this lovely spread with the mass-produced peanut butter (I'm not a huge fan). I much prefer my homemade recipe - as does my one year-old!

At the moment, my fave breakfast is a couple of slices of wholemeal toast made into a sandwich - one side smothered in my plum jam and the other with almond butter. Yum! So I rummaged in the cupboard and found a 200g bag of almonds. I washed out the actual nut butter jar in preparation for the homemade stuff! 

You can make many variations too. I like to use 70% almonds and 30% cashew nuts - it changes the texture slightly. You could add maple syrup for a bit of natural sweetness, and even cinnamon - there's so much choice! Here's how to make it:

200g raw almonds
Pinch of sea salt
Small amount of sugar or honey to taste

Place all the almonds on a baking tray and bake for 7-10 minutes at 180C. Once the nuts are done, put them in the blender or food processor. Put the clean jar on the baking tray and put it in the oven with door open at 130C. Blitz the nuts until ground. If you like your nut butter a little crunchier, remove a couple of tablespoons now for later. Keep on blitzing the nuts a minute at a time. After each minute, scrape the nuts down the sides of the blender and carry on blitzing. After about 5 minutes, you will have the usual nut butter consistency, if not, keep the faith and keep blitzing! It will change soon! At this point add the salt and sugar if required. Blitz again and then stir in the crunchier nuts. Spoon into the jar and either store in a cool place or the fridge.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Spanish Omelette

I've been super organised and made a meal planner for the week. I even did some prep in advance to make this Spanish Omelette super quick. So when I had a spare few minutes yesterday, I chopped the spuds, sliced the onions and cooked them. Once cool, I put them away in the fridge until I needed them today.

I think I will do this with all potatoes that might be about to go off, but I'll cook them and put them in the freezer.

So today, I just had to beat the eggs and plop the potatoes and onions in with some seasoning. Bang it in the pan, make a great salad and that's dinner done.

Serves 6
1kg potatoes, cubed
2 large onions, sliced
8 eggs, beaten
Mild olive oil

In one pan, gently cook the potatoes on a medium heat in a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook until tender, season with salt and pepper. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, slowly cook the onions in another tablespoon of olive oil. Once the onions are translucent and tender, you could now make the omelette or put the potatoes and onions in the fridge for the next day. Add the potatoes and onions to the beaten and seasoned egg. Cook in a large pan on a medium to low heat. Once the egg starts to go solid, you can put the pan under the grill to firm up. Serve with a salad. Can be eaten cold too.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Tuna Pasta Salad

I haven't got much time for anything at the moment. I certainly haven't got time to be standing cooking for hours on a weekday at all. What with little babies needing my undivided attention, children needing to be picked up, the ever-growing mountain of washing and cleaning, and my heavy boxing training schedule - I should be the perfect candidate for a takeaway lifestyle. But that ain't ever gonna happen! So I need some cheeky recipes that I can make in advance or only take a few minutes to throw together. 

Let me indroduce you to my little friend - The Tuna Pasta Salad. It's so easy to make, it can be made in advance and popped in the fridge, and everyone loves it. Job done. Can I have a mummy prize please?

I use brown pasta. Yes, I can hear you white pasta lovers going "yuck", but this variety is the best I've found for texture and grabbing onto pasta sauces. You'll love it! And it's healthier too. I'm sure that should be another mummy prize? Oh well, no real recognition in this job! Here's the winning recipe!

350g Mafalda Corta brown pasta
120g tin tuna
2 tablespoons french mayonnaise 
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tomatoes, diced
4 spring onions, finely chopped
40g black olives, finely chopped
50g baby spinach

First of all, get the pasta on and cook for 9 minutes (or according to the instructions). Whilst the pasta is on, put all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Add the drained pasta and the spinach will wilt. Serve warm or cold from the fridge.

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