Sunday, 23 December 2012

Upside down Pear and Almond cake

This glorious, moist pudding cake was adapted from 'Saved By Cake', which was given to me by the lovely blogger Helen last year... The book is by Marian Keyes, who you may be more familiar as a popular fiction writer, however this book came about following Marian's battle with depression, and how she learned to bake and get on the road to recovery. 

Depression, afflicts a lot of us at points during our lives, and it took me a long time to realise I actually was under its grey thumb, thinking I was just a little ‘off colour’ following some pretty life changing events, and I was not realising how much it was affecting both me and those around me. Thankfully I sought help, spurred on by Helens enlightening post about her own challenge with it and my life is considerably better now for it and life is looking up again. I urge anyone suffering from this horrible illness to seek help of their doctor and don't be afraid to speak to your friends and family even when all you want to do is batten down the hatches and hide!

The original recipe was for a mango upside down cake, however I make a pretty mean version myself but this recipe was different enough and as I had some pears that had become very ripe after buying far too much fruit after a small spending spree in Aldi’s super six – honestly forget I only buy for one sometimes, and knowing from a previous experiment with some lush almond extract, I knew how well the flavours marry together so well, and thus the cake was born! 

2 ripe pears, peeled cored and sliced into 1/4cm slices
50g butter
50g light muscovado sugar

100g butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 180o/ gas4

Liberally grease a 20cm cake pan – don’t use a loose bottom one or it will leak (apparently so anyway!). I can definitely assume this would happen! I used my sealed bottom tin and a cake liner to doubly ensure no leakages!

For the topping beat the butter and sugar and spread over the base of the pan, top with the pear slices in an even fashion.

Cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs and a ¼ tsp almond extract (mine is from Bakery Bits and pretty intense so judge your own accordingly). Fold in the sieved flour and baking powder

Spoon over the pears evenly and bake for approx. 35 minutes, cool slightly for 5 minutes in the tin and turn quickly and carefully onto a suitable pretty cake plate. Serve warm with custard or cream

Unfortunately my camera was out on loan, and my old camera just doesn't do it justice - it was a lot more photogenic than the image suggests!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas with Knorr

Over the past year I've been working with Knorr to bring you an array of recipes I've developed and exclusive content and features, and this year Christmas came early for me when a gigantic parcel, and I mean the delivery driver had to lug it up the stairs gigantic - and he very kindly placed it in the hallway  for me, arrived direct from Forman and Fields last Friday! A far more joyous affair for a day that involved hideous weather and a wasted journey which I won't go into here, and a temporary loss of very important cards, needless to say I was just a teeny bit annoyed...this and a very nice takeaway was friends was a welcome diversion!

This Christmas, I will be working throughout - joy of shift work, so it will be relatively low key affair spread between parents. On boxing day, its my turn to cook our late lunch, and we will be having from the parcel a rather gigantic Turkey, which after logistical issues is now safely stored in my mum's freezer! Keep posted of 101 ways to use leftover Turkey in 2013! I have the tiniest freezer where I live, is not geared up to storing much more than some frozen spinach and a few UFO's so it proved a challenge! Within the hamper, were some other goodies, some which are being eaten before then due to freshness - tonight is some gorgeous smelling pork stuffing, and later in the week I plan to use the orange to bake something nice...! I have not fully decided how the Turkey will be cooked yet, partially as my mum is doing the hard part but included in my box was a really good sounding bacon baste recipe, so it might well involve that!

So have you had a mince pie yet? I was shocked this year as only had my first one last week but I have made up for it since - the ones that came within my box are absolutely gorgeous! I keep meaning to make a batch myself for work but just have been too busy! If I am lucky in the new year I hope to pick up some reduced jars of mincemeat, last time I got some for 25p!

Many thanks to Golin Harris and Knorr

Monday, 10 December 2012

Chai Fruity Tear and Share Bread

Oh oh oh..

Is it a cake? Is it a bread? Pudding. Breakfast. Snack? Who knows apart from its super bloomin good!

I have polished off my ‘feeder’ crown. I think on behalf of other food bloggers I can quietly and confidently confirm there is a little feeder within us all. This bread got shared with two close friends who live within walking distance (mainly as I didn’t trust myself alone with it) and it didn’t last very long! One of the texts did involve the quote ‘sharing the fat’!

Come into my lair said the fruit to the belly!

Whoever said baking is an exact science obviously didn’t get out much. A little knowledge can be dangerous, but only to the hip to waist ratio. I think once you master the basics, the cookery world is your oyster, to explore and enjoy! I rarely stick to a recipe and this one was plucked from various inspirations, partially previous experience with other breads; seeing another blog and her sumptuous Swedish buns, plus above all having a curious mind and discovery of a love for chai tea thanks to the lovely Jenny. Oh and for some reason of late (hmm maybe Christmas...) I have recently seen lots of use for ground cardamom (have since purchased), one of my favourite spices and it must have tattooed its fragrant imprint upon my brain cells it appears!

The day of baking I hadn’t planned to make this recipe at all, but having my lovely beef stew simmering away on the hob, the smells were so good and triggered thoughts of lovely bread….

On went the kettle, out came the dried fruit mix, enroute spotted the box of chai teabags and voila! I pretty much made it up as a I went along and to be honest I don’t think I would change a thing. It barely made it 24 hours from birth to death. And that was with some restraint.

A sweet slice of heaven:

It’s the first time I’ve properly experimented with a sweet yeasted dough, and a lot of cross fingers went on but I couldn’t ask for more. Its slightly sweet, soft, light and full of plump fruit scented with cloves and hints of sweet spice. Oh and it looks rather pretty too! The mix smelt rather festive too, a gentle reminder of the approaching festive season…

Requires love and a 23cm springform tin

450g strong white flour
50g caster sugar
200ml milk – I used soya
25g butter/ margarine
½ tsp vanilla extract
Sachet fast action yeast
300ml boiling water
100g dried fruit
25g glace cherries roughly chopped
2 tbsp unrefined sugar
1 chai teabag
Egg wash – I swear by the spray one from Lakelands! If not just use a little beaten egg

1) Cover the fruit and cherries with 300ml boiling water and add the teabag. Allow to sit for a good hour or more before doing the next bits

Gleaming like jewels:

2) Meanwhile gently warm the milk with the butter till just melted, allow to cool to just above room temperature

3) Sieve together the flour and caster sugar. Add the yeast to the milk along with a heaped spoonful of the flour mix, mix well then rest for five or so minutes

4) Stir the milky liquid gently into the flour, along with a couple of spoons of the soaking liquor to get a sticky dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes – try not to add any further flour as you want a dampish dough, just enough so it doesn’t stick entirely to the counter top! It should all be lovely, smooth and elastic. Place in a floured bowl, cover and leave somewhere warm until doubled in size.

5) Knock back the dough, smooth out into a long baguette shape and cut into around 14 or so chunks. I love my metal dough slicer! Use your fist to flatten each chunk – trust me it’s the best way and quite stress relieving – and fill roughly with a spoon of the drained fruit mix, pinch over stretching into sort of ball shaped – don’t be too precise, you want a few bits sneaking out and place in the centre of the tin and repeat until all the dough is used up in one layer – sprinkle over and press in any remaining fruit mix. Glaze with egg and sprinkle over the unrefined sugar. Allow to rest for a further 10 minutes or so whilst the oven preheats to 200o/ Gas 6.

6) Place the tin in the middle of the oven, throw half a cup of water into the bottom, close the door quickly and bake for thirty minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap the sides – don’t try to turn it upside down like you would with a loaf – it will be very hot and it’s not the kind of bread!

7) Once your beautiful beast is out of the oven, allow to stand for a couple of minutes then undo the tin clip, carefully loosen and slide onto an airing rack, cool for a good thirty minutes before brandishing your bread knife and losing your dignity as you make strange noises in earshot of your flatmate mumbling ‘oh its so good’ and realise instincts are the best thing in baking. And life.

Nb: I hold no responsibility for weight gain.

Thanks to Paul for helping me with the final name for this!

Don't forget I am also on facebook and its comments like these 'P.s. Best bread ever' makes my heart go all squishy happy so fire away with your thoughts! I love hearing from you!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Jam and Coconut Microwave Bundt cake

Some time back whilst perusing the homeware’s selection in the local hospice shop my eyes settled upon a microwaveable bundt cake pan! My heart did a little skip and I swiftly grabbed it and handed over my shiny £1 for it! A pound very well spent as after it sat in the cupboard for a good year, I recently had a want for cake but lacked energy to put the oven on etc and remembered it was stashed away, following a quick wash its now been used several times and no longer gathering dust in the recesses of the cupboard!

One of the cakes I most frequently bake is jam and coconut. It is my favourite of cakes and so it was an obvious choice to test the bundt pan out! My mum recently put me onto Sainsbury's basics mixed fruit jam – is perfect for cakes and a bargain at around 27p a jar and ideal for this cake.

I was a little wary of how the microwave cake would taste for something so quick but it really does hit the mark and thanks to the pretty jam and coconut flake topping it doesn’t look anaemic at all and is so quick and easy. A little custard doesn't go amiss either!


2 large eggs (at room temperature)
125g soft butter/ stork margarine
125g self raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp dessicated coconut
3 tbsp coconut chips
3 tbsp mixed fruit jam

1) Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, beat in remaining ingredients to make the cake batter

2) Sprinkle the coconut chips into the bottom of the bundt pan and dot over the jam. Spoon over the cake batter, smooth over and microwave on high for 6 minutes in a 700w oven or until it bounces back and a skewer comes away clean.

3) Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then turn onto a plate, gently tap to loosen and serve warm 

Friday, 30 November 2012

Border Biscuits for Christmas

Eep - this is the first of my Christmas posts! Whilst I've had a fair few emails offering a range of things I would rather just post up things that really do interest me, and that my friend's is biscuits!

I love biscuits. The tin is never empty and ranges from basics digestives, which are surprisingly my favourite, to rather posh end ones and everything in between! So when the lovely Border Biscuits got in touch it didn’t exactly take much arm twisting to agree to ‘trying’ some! The things I do for you dear reader!!

There is something quite special I feel about having a cup of tea and biscuit, something people really do not do enough of in our busy lives! I know when I'm at work I look forward to sitting down with a piping hot cup of tea, and a sneaky biscuit or two and the chance to relax and unwind for a few minutes. I don’t know if anyone saw Heston the other night with his giant pack of biccies, didn't they look awesome!! And I just loved the giant teapot and saucer, was so cute! Just imagine all that lovely tea! Above all I also have very fond memories of sitting down to have ‘elevenses’ with my beloved late Nanny Jean, and it always makes me think of her :)

Whilst I love baking, and from scratch I rarely make biscuits due to not much success other than cookies and so I have eaten a fair few shop bought biscuits varying in niceness! Border Biscuits sent me a fair few packets (did I mention I love you?) to ‘try’ including a lovely tin full which are just perfect for both giving, and receiving this Christmas. 

Within its depths there is one of my favourite flavour combinations – chocolate and orange shortbread! And sorry dearest brother, they are all mine.

I doubt anyone would be disappointed to receive a box of these! I know I wasn't!

 Many thanks to Border Biscuits for the lovely biscuit supplies!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Beef and Red wine Stew with baby Onions and Mushrooms

Oh my. Its been a long time since I made beef stew. Its not really something to be honest that crops up in my mind as I tend to cook fairly quick meal but having been sent a lovely piece of brisket in my Knorr Hamper – cue me googling it and subsequently trying to explain delicately whilst manoeuvring into cow position within the kitchen as to where it comes from on the cow to a bemused friend (google it if you want a giggle), it needed using up and what better than a winter warming stew! Even more considering the ghastly weather of late - I hope that everyone is keeping well and warm! This is also 'the beef' that should have been intended for an ill fated beef bourginnon the previous week! 

Whilst I had heard of brisket, it wasn't really something that I was familiar with cooking, even less so handling a huge slab of beef but with a sharp knife it was quickly reduced to more familiar chunks! Nothing fancy went into the stew, however the beef was such good quality it really didn’t need any lights or bells on to take it to new heights!

Serves 4


2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion roughly chopped
800g beef brisket
3 sticks celery, sliced at an angle into 1cm chunks
3 carrots, diced into 1 cm chunks
1 knorr beef stock pot
2 heaped tbsp. plain flour
Medium sized glass of red wine
400ml water
S&P to taste

*I sold my old casserole pan, which would be perfect however my largest saute pan did the job nicely!*

1) Start by heating 1 tbsp of the oil and browning the beef, you might need to do this in two stages – don’t crowd the pan

2) Remove any remaining beef from the pan to one side, add the remaining oil and brown the onion, stir in the flour, stock pot, then gently add the water stirring briskly and scraping off any stuck on bits, return the beef, cover and simmer on low for a good hour.

3) Add the carrots and celery, stir and cover and allow to gently plod away for a good 2 to 3 hours, giving the cursory stir when the lovely smells draw you into its path. Remove the lid for the last half hour to allow the sauce to thicken if desired.

4) To finish the dish, I used up some cute little onions that also came in my Knorr hamper, though totally optional!


200g Baby onions
3tbsp port
100g white mushrooms. Sliced into 4

1) Cover the onions in boiling water and sit for a few minutes, fish them out carefully, top and tail and peel – most of the skins should rub off. Reserve the soaking water.

2) Heat roughly 100ml of the onion water with 3 tbsp of port, add the halved onions and gently boil for around five minutes or until just softeneing, add the mushrooms and a splash more of the water if drying out, repeat for about 15 minutes or until the onions are cooked but retain a little bite. Use these to garnish your stew

Finish) Once the stew is at the desired thickness, and tenderness top with the onion mix, and serve with fresh green vegetables I.e. broccoli and maybe a nice potato dish. After my success with the other potatoes, I picked up a small bag of a variety called Corrole, though this time instead I boiled them, drained, added butter, fresh parsley and lemon juice (from a bottle), s&p to the same success, albeit minus the nice crispy bits. Still delicious. You can’t taste the lemon, it just adds a certain something and I will be repeatedly making potatoes this way!

Re-heats and freezes beautifully

Thanks again to Knorr and Golin Harris for my goodies :)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Turkey and Black Olive Roulade

Some nights I eat relatively quick and simple meals..some nights I feel like making more of an effort, and this was one of them! However it still was ready in under 20 minutes so not really too much effort was needed!

Serving meals up that look good on the plate always help I think, you do eat with your eyes after all as the saying goes! Also most importantly when cooking for one, you really do have artistic licence and you should make a little effort to treat yourself! Recently on a food forum we were discussing the highs and lows of cooking for one, and its a constant balancing act, however this is a perfect meal for one - you don't have leftovers for three days or even more tupperware to squeeze into the freezer and as it looks pretty, it feels that bit more special. As I used the rice water to poach it in, it also equalled less washing up - never a bad thing!

Prior to this I’d never made a roulade before and not even sure why I thought about it at the time, however I was glad I did. It actually was very easy to make, the only scary bit was trying work out how long it would take before it was cooked through due to my inexperience! Luckily my judgement paid off and the turkey was beautifully moist. This would also work really well with chicken breasts.


1 turkey breast fillet, 
Heaped tbsp black olive pate
Couple of freshly basil leaves


Start by covering the turkey in cling film and bash with a rolling pin evenly, until about 1/2cm thick and spread with the pate, tear over a couple of the basil leaves

Carefully roll up the turkey really tightly in the cling film, a little like a Christmas sweetie and firmly pinch/ tie the ends together.

I was cooking rice anyway to go alongside the turkey, so also went in the roulade and boiled gently for about ten minutes, then very gently unwrap on a paper towel lined board. Alternatively simmer in boiling water.

Once the cling film has been removed, then brown the roulade in a hot lightly oiled pan to make it look pretty and golden all over. 

Slice the roulade into rounds and serve with whatever you fancy. I had rice and roasted vegetables with a little onion gravy, which worked very well. Making nice gravy too can be a bit of effort for a single serving, however I tart up instant with a spoonful of onion marmalade - works a treat!

N.b. The olive pate was one of my random purchases for 75p reduced from about £3 – I do love a bargain! If you can't lay your hands on some, something like tapenade would be suitable.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Bacon and cheese stuffed Butternut Squash with Wild mushroom potatoes

Some days everything just falls into place..and some days, well it just doesn't ... though the latter I find are usually entirely your own fault. A recent Thursday is an excellent example; In the morning I received my lovely little hamper from Knorr, packed full of goodies to make Marco Pierre Whites Boeuf Bourginnon. So what do I do? Think, hmm beef stew…yeah about three hours or so…texted mum, promised her dinner and meanwhile go to see dear friend and my gorgeous godson…lose track of time…chatting as us girlies do so well…check on my phone just how long recipe takes..oops…change of plan!

So its now about 4pm, rummage through fridge..look in freezer…hmm what to make that mum will eat. Mr butternut is squash poking out its smooth egg shaped head from the fruit bowl..really fancy squash now…what the hell to make with it. Especially when mum bless her is a meat and potatoes kinda girl.

Re-check fridge..hmm oh and half a block of red Leicester, albeit from Iceland and one I wont hurry to buy again but made sense at time of purchase. Also note some lovely quality bacon thats for the Bourginnon recipe, and a punnet of wild mushrooms also intended for the it. Realise I am about to not be at home for the next three nights due to work schedule and prior dinner plans and the lovely mushroomies wont hang around that long.. so how to combine mr squash and wild mushrooms. Bearing in mind I am surprisingly unfamiliar with cooking both ingredients. Google shows some rather interesting recipes, including a curious sounding wild mushroom and squash bread and butter pudding but mother sounds less than enthused at this suggestion when I quickly phoned her, and even I am a bit hmm… thoughts go down lasagne route, but have to bear in mind will be cooking dinner at mums house, complete with tiny kitchen and work space of a postage stamp. But it does have a gas oven! Another thought was some kind of lasagne but it just seems too much effort, not to mention washing up and its now nearly 4.30pm, mum likes to eat about 5.30 with Neighbours.

Consulted several cook books too, still nothing quite fits. Rifle through brains, remember having a lush chilli stuffed squash many moons back, albeit not about to make chilli but then thought hmm bacon and cheese…hmm indeed.. and so this dish was born. I am also super pleased to say mum ate everything without complaint, and I rather liked this one too!

Whilst the squash is the star of the plate, a real credit must go to the potatoes. For such a simple dish, it was quite beautiful and was born out of trying to find something to do with the wild mushrooms. I urge you to try it. Since have repeated with smaller baby potatoes and equally good. Just cover your eyes when you add the butter. It is borrowed from Simon Hopkinson's Week In, Week out book. Trust me you can't taste the lemon, it just adds a wonderful note to the potatoes.

Serves Two: 

One medium sized butternut squash – nicely shaped enough to lay flat when baked
Handful grated red Leicester or similar cheese
3 rashers good bacon, roughly chopped
2 tbsp grated grana padano
3 tbsp double cream
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp sunflower oil (mum had no olive oil..)

Step One:
Stab your squash all over with a sharp knife. Microwave for a good 8 minutes or until a knife goes through very easily. Allow to cool slightly before handling carefully.

Step Two:
Heat the oil  and fry your onions and bacon until golden, softened and cooked through but not too brown. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Step three:
Once the squash is cool enough to handle, pre-heat oven to gas 5. Halve it lengthways and using a knife and spoon, carefully remove and discard the seeds, then scrape out all the lovely flesh into the bowl with the bacon in. Add ¾ of the cheeses, thyme leaves and cream, mash up well using a fork, season well to taste. Loosely pack back into the shells, top with remaining cheese, and bake for a good 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Wild Mushroom Potatoes 

Mum told me on the phone they were salad type potatoes. On arrival, well more new potato but still workable...

4 large new potatoes
200g wild mushrooms
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp butter
lemon juice - about 1/2 tbsp
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

Step one:
Place the potatoes in a suitable dish, stab them a few times, cover and microwave for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Cool slightly, and try to slice into 1/3 cm slices. Alternatively steam them. 

Step two:
Using the bacon frying pan, heat a little more oil, fry the potatoes until lightly golden, stir in the mushrooms, wilt in for 2-3 minutes, turning gently

Step three:
Add a good knob of butter to the pan, squirt over a little lemon juice and season, Season to taste, sprinkle over the parsley and serve immediately.

Moral of the story: Great quality ingredients and an inquisitive mind will always make 
something delicious!

Many thanks to Jen at Golin Harris and Knorr for the ingredients

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Knorr Giveaway!

For my latest Knorr giveaway, you can win a box full of fabulous Forman and Field goodies to make Marco Pierre Whites Bouef bourguignon.

Inside your box you will find:

200g pearl onions
unsmoked bacon
200g wild mushrooms
800g beef brisket
½ leek (the white part)
125ml port
1 celery
Bolney Estate Lychgate Red wine (its very nice!)
Knorr Rich Beef Stock Pot

To enter simply use the below rafflecopter form, the only condition is that your box will be delivered on Friday the 16th November 2012 so make sure you can receive it!

Good luck!

Thanks to Golin Harris and Knorr for supplying such a fabulous prize!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Breakfast Club - The Pastry Round Up

Erm where exactly did October go? I was all geared up excited to be hosting my first blogger event and boom we are nearly November! The nights are that bit cooler, the mornings that bit darker despite the clocks going back, and any hope of a late summer have well and truly vanished somewhat like the heavy mist that surrounded my home last week! Out has come the beloved snuggie and evenings spent on the sofa with the scent of smelly candles floating in the air... Must remember to buy hot chocolate to make the evenings complete!

I've had some delicious recipes sent in for the Breakfast club, firstly is these rather dinky looking Mini Quiche Lorraines, made by Karen from Karen’s Kitchen Stories. Somehow everything is that just that little bit better in bitesize form, and these mini delights make no exception! I've never considered quiche for breakfast before but being a huge egg eater I can see these coming up on my breakfast table soon!


Next up are these sublime looking Apricot & chocolate pastries, filled with jam and chocolate, made by Sarah from The Garden Deli. I was so happy to choose pastry as my theme this month and Sarah has done a great job with her pastries!

Last but not least is the rather heavenly looking Fig tarte tatin from Helen at Fuss Free Flavours. I’m yet to make a tarte tatin but I am sure this is delicious! Figs are bang in season right now and I just love their squishiness.

Many thanks to Helen for letting me host, and also a huge thanks also to Helen, Sarah and Karen for baking their goods and sending them over to my round up!

Here was my entry that started it all - Bacon and Egg pastries

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Beetroot Love – not just for salad!

What is it about this ruby jewelled, slightly earthy but in a good kind of way delight of beetroot that makes me love it so very much? Frankly it makes the chopping board and surrounding area look like we need to call in CSI and no matter how careful I am I always seemingly manage to get some on me too! Disposable gloves are an essential kitchen tool for dissecting these beautiful beets!

I wonder if it my very watered down Polish roots? Hmm something to explore anyway… am completely hooked on beetroot and horseradish relish which I buy in bulk quantities, it goes with everything from salads to fish fingers..

Some time back I was extremely fortunate  to be gifted a bag of homegrown beetroot from my lovely uncle T's mum, it so fresh you could smell the damp earth on it! Quite surprisingly whilst I am a beetroot addict, for some reason I had never actually got my hands on the raw beauties! And now following a crash, self taught course it will never, ever be far away from my culinary reportiore. Except of course when dad comes round, who will eat anything…except beetroot!

I am now on a mission to convert those who think beetroot simply comes in vinegar at dodgy family parties - trust me there is more to it!

Honey and mustard roasted baby beetroot 
2 beetroots
Heaped tsp Wholegrain mustard
Good drizzle of Honey
Tbsp or so of raspberry vinegar

These were test batch one – simply sprayed with a little oil, loosly tucked up into a foil bed and roasted until tender - try to roast similar sized beets. Then the foil was loosened, beets got glazed with the honey, mustard and vinegar, and baked for a further ten minutes. Serve warm as a side vegetable - ideal with beef

Also served up with a bacon, courgette and potato salad was simple and tasty lunch

So the roasting bit worked so very well, then came the almighty inexperienced question what to do with the other 9 beets I had... Previously I made a pretty awesome Christmas chutney without a proper recipe and since had requests for it so can’t be bad at these special experiments and turned my hand to pickle. It needs some refining but it fires up a salad nicely!

Sweet Beetroot and Mustard Pickle:

2 beets, microwaved 15 minutes trimmed and scrubbed
Red wine vinegar to fill a medium jam sized jar
heaped tsp Wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp Dark muscovado sugar
S&p pinch of both

Start by microwaving the scrubbed beets in a suitable container, covered with cling film for 15 minutes or until tender and dice into small half centimetre chunks. Meanwhile boil the remaining ingredients fiercely for five minutes to reduce slightly - open the windows! Sterilise a suitable jar and fill with the diced beets (still hot) and pour over the liqor. Screw on the lid tightly and invert the jar to seal . 

Ideal served with salad:

Or a real favourite was to fry cooked sausage, with cooked diced beetroot, mushrooms, and finished with sweet chilli sauce – heavenly things, made more heavenly. Sweet, hot, spicy and meaty, its all good baby. Serve with rice.

So if you are not yet converted, why not? Try might like it!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Another week..another omelette! Black forest Ham and Courgette & Omelette

Thank heavens for flatmates, especially one that leaves gifts! Mine went on holiday recently, and when I returned home at night I found ‘my’ shelf in the fridge now also contained a tomato, 2 loose eggs and a yoghurt!

Having found myself rather hungry, after working a very long shift I was deciding what to eat VS state of mind I proceeded with my fall back meal – omelette! I had some smoky black forest ham left in the fridge, along with half a courgette left from another of my other fallback recipe of marmite soup (will blog soon!), and quickly knocked up a ham and courgette omelette, served with balsamic tomatoes on the side.

Less than 10 minutes to table and a content stomach! Start by grating and gently frying the courgette for about 3 minutes just to soften, remove from the pan. Then the way I always do mine - as per the weight watchers recipe that simply uses a tablespoon of water, whisked in with s&p, into a hot pan with a little spray oil, add the eggy mixture, let it sit for fifteen seconds or so, then gently loosen the sides and use a wooden spatula to fluff up the middle until just set, add the courgette and roughly torn ham, warm through for about a minute or so, flip over one side to seal and serve! For the tomatoes, simply cut into quarters and drizzle with balsamic crème.

The omelette was delicious, with the smoky ham and tender sweet courgette flavours working in harmony together.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

21st Century Easy Cheesy bread

I truthfully was a little dismissive about the recipes prior to reading Lorraine’s Pascale’s cook book, post seeing the rather glam, and also skinny chef proclaiming ‘oh I eat all the pies honest’. Well I do and I certainly am not tall, nor skinny, maybe she just nibbles on the crusts or has good genes?..

Anyway I digress, following a little sleepover at a dear friends I took along my copy of Great British Bake Off Showstoppers, which I won in a competition recently yippee (why hello Mr Hollywood!), so we swapped books and I read through her copy of Cooking Made Easy. Whilst most of the recipes were pretty simple, as if the title didn't already give you an idea, I stumbled upon her 21st century Cheese, Ham and Chive bread and the mind started scheming as to how much time I had before I had to start work..

I love the taste of home-made bread, but combining shift work, cooking mostly for one and a weakness for anything freshly baked means that home-made bread is rarely on the menu chez Anne’s Kitchen. However what instantly grabbed me was the use of self-raising flour – no yeast to rise the bread, therefore no rising time either! Within an hour of leaving my friends house I had two of the loaves nearly cooked in the oven, and believe me I am not exactly speedy freak in the kitchen! It pretty is much mix and stir and bake, you really can’t mess it up!

Due to what I had to hand at the time, the cheese got substituted for some vegan soya based cheese I was trialling, I omitted the ham and also the spring onions, one thing I did add thought was a good sprinkle of some chilli sea salt I bought recently on impulse – this was so made for topping bread! Little spicy, salty crystals that burst in your mouth, yum!

The bread itself was pretty impressive for something so quick. Naturally due to the missing yeast element, its more spongy like in texture and a little heavier than compared to a white loaf but is definitely going to become a regular feature, purely for the ease if anything and also that undeniable self smugness of having home-made bread!

I think the original quantities would make a fairly large beast but I split my finished dough in two, and baked two smaller loaves, stashing the spare into the icy depths of the freezer until girlfriend came over and we, er, devoured the whole thing in one sitting, but we did eat it with smoked mackerel salad and enough pickles to almost deter her soon to be husband, so was fairly balanced on the grand scheme of things!


Ingredients for my version:

425g Self raising flour
100g grated strong Cheese – soya works fine
Just under 250ml water
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp English mustard powder
½ tsp salt
Approx 10 leaves fresh basil, shredded
Few twists black pepper
Chilli sea salt to finish

Pre-heat oven to 200o/ gas 6

Mix the dry ingredients and the basil in a bowl, saving a small handful of the cheese. Stir in 200ml of the water, adding extra if needed to form a dough, use your hands to knead together until smooth.

Shape into one large, or two small rounds, place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and flatten slightly. Score the tops if you remember. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and a pinch of your spicy sea salt. Quickly squirt (or throw a cupful) of water into the bottom of the oven to create steam and bake for approx. 35 minutes, or until sounds hollow when tapped on its bottom and your bread is lovely and golden in colour.

Allow to cool a little before grabbing the butter and your bread knife.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Macmillan Baking Thank you!

Last week was Macmillan's annual coffee morning, which is basically a fantastic excuse to eat lots of cake and its all for a great cause!

I decided to nominate myself as baker and held one at work, every poor visitor to the ward I work at that morning was prompted for money, and I am super proud to say we made a whopping £64.81 just from donations in return for my cookies and cakes! A huge thank you to everyone who gave so generously!

Thanks also to Kenco who supplied biscuits and delicious Millicano coffee to help wash it all down with!

Unfortunately I had forgotten to charge my camera, so the photos are from my phone and old little compact camera, but they were all delicious and I've already had not so subtle hints about baking again!

Coconut and jam buns - with cappuchino buns hiding in the background

Chocolate and Almond fudge cake:

Chocolate orange and oat cookies:

 I was so proud to pin this to the notice board:

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Bacon, Cheese and Egg Pastries for Breakfast Club

Welcome to October's Breakfast Club!

Over the past few years, whilst I’ve occasionally remembered on time and participated in several blogging challenges, this is my very first actual hosting of one, and also finally submitting a recipe for the Breakfast Club! Exciting! Please don’t let me down! Flood my inbox with your wonderful breakfast recipes pretty please!

I have spent all month since meeting the lovely Breakfast Club founder Helen for lunch, by the river on a decidedly lovely British September day (and I do believe our three days of summer judging by the weather now), deciding what to make for it after also volunteering to host it, and have since swayed from my beloved and ‘safe’ porridge oats right up to thinking of variations on savoury rice (surprisingly good breakfast..), and everything in between…

But what came with overwhelming urges..…was pastry…yeah yeah all that butter ‘oh not for me darling haha’ yeah you know you love its dirty air filled buttery layers really’ and yes I can *just* do up my bridesmaid dress so don't panic my lovely bride to be L, and just about breathe, decided to make bacon and egg pastries for my weekend breakfast. Yep, judging my sums of two good breakfast things + one naughty thing is equal to mmmmm why hello gym! You know you want it so why deny yourself such pleasures?

On the day I made these, despite working very hard er yeah aka out late for dinner the night before, I woke up at stupid o clock and after fighting the pillows long enough. crept silently like a slightly drunken mouse into the kitchen, for fear of waking my flatmate and proceeded to make not only these delicious pastries, but with the leftover pastry a batch of olive and pesto swirls to use up fridge scraps…not sure why upon reflection but seemed like a great idea except olives are really only palatable gone noon…we live and learn! Either way they were excellent for rousing a friend from his slightly worse for wear state in payment for looking over my car (oops just remembered must buy oil!) and its continuing ailments. Anyone want an 7 year old elderly but loved fiat?

Anyway back to the good stuff, these Bacon, Cheese and Egg Pastries are to open the Breakfast club show and I am very much looking forward to seeing what you guys n gals come up with! Grab your pastry and join the Breakfast Club!

Makes two
2 free range large eggs
1 inch block mature cheddar, grated (I happened to use up some soya cheese..worked fine!)
Egg spray* (I buy it from Lakelands but if not just use a little beaten egg)
2 rashers smoked Bacon sliced into cm chunks
half block frozen Puff pastry thawed - about 200g
Black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 220, and line a baking tray with parchment paper or equivalent

Roll out half the pastry to make two approx 15cm x 15cm squares

Dry fry your bacon, and allow to cool slightly

Spray or glaze the pastry edges. Dot the bacon to form a ring about 1 inch in, very very gently crack the egg into the middle. Sprinkle over most of the cheese and season with black pepper. Now carefully pull together opposite corners and pinch together. Glaze the tops with egg and repeat with other two sides, glaze all over with the eggwash and sprinkle over remaining cheese.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden, puffed up and cooked through.

Oh my these were rather delicious, warm from the oven, filled with airy love, just cooked egg and smokey bacon mmm mmm mmm. Sorry an extra mmm here.

Best served warm from the oven but the remaining one had a quick zap the next morning in the microwave to no ill effects.

Breakfast Club: Because breakfast should be more interesting

than tea & toast or coffee & cereal!
To take part, simply make a breakfast along the line of that months theme *PASTRY* and post it.
  • Mention Breakfast Club in your post and use the logo
  • Link to the host’s blog and to this page
  • You are welcome to send in old recipes, but please add the information above and republish
  • Entries can be sent to other events, but please respect their rules
  • If you tweet please tweet using #blogbreakfastclub
  • If you do not have a blog send a photo and details to the month’s host
  • Please email me your entry url, picture and blog details by the 25th October to anneskitchen1 AT and I will do the round-up on the 31st.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Maple and Pecan Cheesecake

For me just the thought of maple and pecan together makes my tastebuds perk up, it really has to be one of my favourite of the sweet combination world! The soft and yet crunchy nuttyness of the pecans, combined with the dark and silky sweet maple syrup is rather heavenly! I have a weakness for reduced pastries and on the occasional late night supermarket jaunt (daytimes are far too stressful), have been known to pick up a packet of those gorgeously flaky and sweet Maple and Pecan danishes, and for them not to always make it as far as my kitchen home....

Following on from my creamy blueberry cheesecake recipe last week that I made with my friend Rems, this is its older, slightly demure sister, and quite possibly the best cheesecake I have ever made. Sweet, crunchy, deliciously creamy and the slightly salty contrast of the ricotta cheese - what more can you want? I can also confirm it is perfect for late night fridge pickings, and even breakfast. You may not want to share this one.

As per the blueberry version, nothing was weighed and so all weights are approximate, just go with what feels right. You really can't go wrong! 

Makes one lovely cheesecake.

3 tbsp Maple syrup and a little extra for drizzling
2 tbsp Pecan nuts
2 tbsp Butter + 1 tsp
125g Ricotta cheese
250g Mascarpone 
2 tbsp icing sugar
Digestive biscuits to fill two biscuits deep in the tin when laid out, and one for luck!

*You will need a 20cm spring form sandwich tin* 
Step one:
Start by caramelizing your pecans. In a small pan toast the pecan nuts until they smell rather nice but before they singe, add 1 tsp of the butter and melt. Stir in the maple syrup, bring to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave to one side to cool. It should look fairly runny still at this stage but will set.

Step two:
Place the biscuits in a sealable food bag and use a blunt implement reduce it to crumbs. A rolling pin, jar etc are ideal.

Step three:
Melt approximately 2 tbsp of butter and stir into the crumbs, it should be enough to make the biscuit crumbs look a little glossy and sort of stick together when pressed. Tip into your cake tin (lined with baking paper but not essential) and firmly but gently press into and smooth over using a metal spoon. Place in the fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes to cool down and set. 

Step four:Place the mascarpone and ricotta into a large bowl and lightly beat in the icing sugar – taste a little, it should be slightly sweet but not too sweet - adjust to taste. Use this mixture to top your crumb base and smooth over. Break up the caramelly pecans and press into the top. Swirl over a little more maple syrup and chill for ideally at least a couple of hours to set, or how long you can wait! It is best to wait until the next day to allow the flavours to develop.

To serve, carefully place your tin over a large jar/ upturned bowl etc and gently tap the sides, then gradually loosen, teasing down until it has come off, slide your cheesecake with fairy light touch onto a pretty plate and grab a fork!


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Blueberry Cheesecake

There is nothing very complicated about this recipe, and its a good base recipe that can be adapted easily to whatever fruit is seasonal or needs eating up!  I am very fortunate to work with some lovely colleagues, who have also become firm friends and recently we all managed to actually have the same day off, something of a miracle when you work shifts! We regularly talk about and share out food on our breaks and whilst I am certainly in no way a master, I think I have promised how to teach everyone to cook!

Rems had requested to start our very relaxed and informal cookery lessons (we may have had wine...) by making blueberry cheesecake (but I also had a dream about maple and pecan – so we made both, to which the recipe will follow shortly!) In turn, and I am probably spelling this wrong she is going to teach me some of her native filipino dishes including something called Adobo, so depending on my success I hope to bring you some more exotic cooking in the future!

Meet Rems!
With cooking, there are some things you can write down but I do find practical demonstration so much more informative – with learning what to avoid, how to salvage things etc! Fortunately we had no hiccups other than eating our body weight in the cheesecake in lieu of dinner! Not the most healthiest or balanced meal but if you count the fruit its not all certainly was a delicious dinner!

Whilst I was teaching, we didn’t weigh anything as I was trying to show her things ‘by eye’ so that she would feel confident to make it again without need of weighing scales etc (our accommodation doesn’t exactly come well equipped..), fortunately I brought nearly all of mine with me so have boxes full under the bed of various gadgets!) and Rems has managed to make a fabulous looking raspberry one since then, which I hear was delicious so I must of done something right!

Blueberry Cheesecake

½ tub blueberries, washed - approx 150g
2 tbsp caster sugar
Enough choc chip digestives to fill two biscuits deep in the tin when laid out, and one for luck!
2 tbsp butter
500g mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp icing sugar, or to taste

*You will need a 20cm spring form sandwich tin*

Start by relieving some stress – place the biscuits in a sealable food bag and use a blunt implement reduce it to crumbs. A rolling pin, jar etc are ideal.

Melt approximately 2 tbsp of butter and stir into the crumbs, it should be enough to make the biscuit crumbs look a little glossy and sort of stick together when pressed. Tip into your cake tin (lined with baking paper but not essential) and firmly but gently press into and smooth over using a metal spoon. Place in the fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes to cool down and set.

Wash the blueberries and place in a small saucepan with the sugar, bring to a light boil and reduce to a simmer, occasionally stirring and bashing up the fruit until you have a jammy like consistency – this will take around 20-25 minutes. Cool slightly

Place the mascarpone into a large bowl and lightly beat in the icing sugar – taste a little, it should be slightly sweet but not too sweet - adjust to taste. Use this mixture to top your crumb base and smooth over, and pour over your fruit. Chill for ideally at least a couple of hours to set, or how long you can wait! It is best to wait until the next day to allow the flavours to develop.

To serve, carefully place your tin over a large jar/ upturned bowl etc and gently tap the sides, then gradually loosen, teasing down until it has come off, slide your cheesecake with fairy light touch onto a pretty plate and grab a fork! 

I've also added my cheesecake to the delicious sugar inducing coma blogger event 'Sweets for a Saturday 87"!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

World’s Biggest Coffee Morning for Macmillan

I am sure that most of you will have probably heard of the charity Macmillan at some point, some may have even been in receipt of their services. They have provided support and nursing care to both patients and their families afflicted by cancer, including my own loved ones. Additionally after my own brush with it, and also working with people frequently dealing with cancer this charity is very dear to my heart.

This 28th September is their annual coffee morning – I am organising a fundraiser at work via sale of cakes – just to decide on final choice of what to bake! Even if you are not the most proficient of bakers – why not use this as opportunity to beg borrow or buy some cake tins and whip up a quick batch of fairy cakes?

Silver Spoons Little Local Hero Awards:

Silver Spoon, the homegrown sugar people, are the official sugar sponsor for the event, and this year have decided to launch a fantastic competition as part of their activity. On the 24thAugust 2012 Silver Spoon and Macmillan are launching Silver Spoons Little Local Hero Awards. They are scouring the country for local heroes under the age of 18 who have done something truly special. Your local little hero could have looked after their little sister when they were ill, gone to great lengths to make Mother’s Day very special, or done something fantastic to raise money for charity.

If you know someone under 18 in your local area who you think would be a worthy winner, just follow this link and explain in less than 100 words who you are nominating, why, and what you would bake them to say thank you

Competition closes 20th Sep at 23:59 BST

Master Pâtissier Eric Lanlard, star of Channel 4’s Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard, will choose a Silver Spoon National Little Hero and to celebrate he will bake them a special cake of their choice! 10 runners up will also receive a Silver Spoon Baking Hamper packed full of exciting treats.

There are sure to be some amazing stories from our local little heroes all over the country, but in the meantime don’t forget to register to hold your own coffee morning on the 28th September, just follow this link and you can help to raise money for people with lives affected by cancer.
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