Thursday, 22 January 2015

Sticky Toffee and Orange Pudding

This week has passed in a M25/ A40/ Back streets of hell kinda blur and its only Thursday! I am typing this after 250 un-glorious miles since Monday entirely considering getting a dash-cam, as living out in the sticks I had become amused by the odd bad bout of Surrey drivers but oh my gosh the stuff these past few days has left me shaken and entirely grateful I had picked up a bottle of red in the weekly shop, if only to soothe my fried nerves upon flopping onto the sofa home! Hopefully tomorrow will be the end of this joyous saga...
Anyway I have squeezed in a little blogging and tonight with consent I give to you my Sticky Toffee and Orange Pudding! Quite amazingly up until Christmas just past I had never baked Sticky toffee pudding, and I am now a convert! I had originally made a rather delicious and rich Sticky Toffee Pudding from a fellow lovely blogger Sue over at Mainly Baking for our works Christmas party (and kindly gave me permission to re-produce here), and it was super popular but a few weeks later, a few odd things lying around post Christmas and the creative brain cells kicked in and I tweaked the recipe into a Sticky Toffee Orange Pudding, and I must admit it is glorious and the little bit of orange just lifts it into something heavenly! It is not at all diet friendly and never will be but you can eat in moderation. It is not for those lacking a sweet tooth!
The dates as always are bought from a late night grocery kinda place near my dad, Turkish owned. They are gorgeously gooey, almost toffee like on their own. Sue recommends blending the fruit mixture but I skip this stage as they go all lovely and smoodgy on their own. If you have regular dates and it doesn't look puree like then by all means blitz them.

Our ovens thermometer is still slacking but I guess approx. 180/160 fan in a working oven!

Makes one brownie sized tray - 8x8inch ish.


175g dates, stoned and chopped - buy the best you can!
50g Dried mixed fruit - including mixed peel
1/2 juice of one orange
175g ml boiling water
1 teabag
100ml milk
2 tbsp black treacle
175g self raising flour
140g light muscavado sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 medium eggs, beaten
85g butter

175g light muscavado sugar
50g butter
225ml double cream
1 tbsp. black treacle
1/2 orange juice
1 tbsp. orange zest

Zest a 2 inch piece of the orange and put to one side - before you cut in half! Add half the juice to the dried fruit mixture below.

Place the stoned, chopped dates, mixed fruit and teabag in a bowl. Pour over the boiling water and steep for ten minutes, discard the teabag.

Pre-heat oven to 180o.

Grease a 8 inch square tin (I swear by Dr Oetker Cake Release!)

Instructions based on a stand mixer:
Cream together the butter and sugar in the mixer. Sift the flour and bicarb together. Add a little egg to the butter sugar mix, then a little of the flour mix, repeat in two more stages. Beat in the milk last, then fold in the prepared fruit mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and level. Bake in the middle for 35-40 minutes or until it springs back to touch and a skewer removes clean.

Meanwhile make the sauce -

Heat in a medium saucepan the butter, sugar and half of the cream until nicely mixed and the sugars dissolved, when boiling add the treacle and remaining orange juice and gently bubble for about 4-5 minutes or until starting to thicken, remove from the heat and stir in the cream.

Oh to bathe in sauce!

When the cake is cooked, stab the surface with a skewer and gently pour over a little sauce too fill the holes, allowing it to sink in until you have used just under half. Keep the rest to serve with the pudding and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before eating, with more sauce!! Sprinkle over the reserved zest.

Eating time!!
It is undeniably rich, and sweet but has everything a good baked pudding needs! You could easily add a swirl of custard or scoop of vanilla ice cream too accompany this and the sauce alone is worth making, the gentle orange hint makes it fabulous!
As my pudding used up a leftover Christmas orange (from making red cabbage - we don't eat oranges), a long neglected tin of treacle and a carton of just-gone-by-due-by-date cream donated by a bemused friend I am sending this over to Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary No Waste Food Challenge, one that I firmly believe in too - I hate waste and always get upset even over tiny amounts of food!

Many thanks again to Sue for letting me play around with her lovely recipe and I hope you like my version of it too!!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Meal Planning Monday

For once I am a little early with my weekly meal plan! The week ahead is choc a block - tomorrow I start a course in pain management, to help manage by body better, well hopefully anyway and a close relative is having some big medical treatment and to be entirely honest the whole meal plan is somewhat dependent on how kind or indeed awful the M25 and the A40 are to me this week!
Last week we stuck fairly well to the meal plan managing 4 nights out of 5, though Friday's planned Tuna got merely moved a day to Saturday as I was exhausted and we settled for easy option of my usual Chicken kebab wrap and chips! Was delicious but very naughty and not at all diet friendly! I spent two days calorie counting this week and was so traumatized I ate a dark chocolate reindeer leftover from Christmas to console myself! Going back to the seared Tuna dish - it was a Jamie Oliver recipe, and it was entirely delicious and a definite keeper!
Thursday's plan was a little subject to change - I had mackerel in mind and knew we had kale to eat, just wasn't entirely sure how best to combine them! In the end I made meatballs out of the mackerel, with a little added egg, breadcrumbs and parmesan to combine, then cooked up a pan of Orzo - it looks a little like rice but is actually pasta, and a has a lovely silky texture, with the kale thrown in at the end. I also made a rich cherry tomato sauce and served the meatballs atop of it all:

So on to this weeks plan - all super subject to the road conditions but at least having an idea will hopefully stop too many bad food choices!

Fish Goujons with mashed potatoes and broccoli
Sausages with roasted vegetables and couscous or polenta
Tuna Meatball and pea Risotto (Though possibly a cinema night!)
Cheese and mushroom omelette or Crustless pizza and salad
Swedish Meatballs with mashed potatoes

As always its in Mrs M's Linky:

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Sweet Potato and Mozzarella Bake

Finally my horrid germs, apart from last nights coughing- help-cough- I can't breathe - and stumbling in the dark and praying it was Covonia I was downing and not Liquid Senna (I know T.M.I!!) are packing their dirty bags, I am feeling marginally more human like and I am starting to finally work through writing up a few recipes jotted down before Christmas, which now seems like forever ago and I feel suddenly lazy! Where has the time gone?!

Anyway, a few months back I became part of the Happy Egg Co Taste 100 Blogger Network and I got to play with a few packets of lovely free range eggs and hopefully over the next few months I can bring you some egg-citing things on the blog! We go through a lot of eggs in our house as they are so versatile from baking sweet things to more savoury treats including glazing simple sausage rolls or even a simple omelette for dinner so a few eggstra packs of eggs was most welcome!

We only eat free range eggs at home and fortunately more and more people do use them and not ghastly battery farmed ones but its harder to tell when eating out, especially for breakfast. However I do try where possible to choose higher welfare and with free range eggs being easily affordable they play a big role in our diet and a lot of my meal plan! 

We also buy sweet potatoes on a regular basis and I love them fried, boiled, baked and especially turned into falafel but sometimes I buy them too often and I start to run out of ideas of what to do different to them... As a result half a bag was loitering in the salad draw and none of my regular options appealed on the particular chilly evening, whilst I rummaged through the fridge my eyes spotted the bright yellow egg boxes (hard to miss!) and I wondered what could I do with both...
From memory we were having a sort of Spanish night and I was frying off some heavenly Padron peppers and throwing together a large pan of my chorizo pepper rice dish and I really fancied something warming and bake like and I decided to make a bake with the eggs and sweet potato, added in some gooey mozzarella and ta dah a star was born!
Serves 3-4 

360g sweet potato
125g mozzarella, roughly torn up
4 large free range eggs
½ tbsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp smoked paprika
Butter or oil spray for greasing dish


Slice the sweet potato into ½ cm discs, place in a steamer bag or similar device and steam in the microwave for 6 minutes or until a knife goes through easily or in a regular steamer for about 18 minutes.
Heat 1 tsp oil in a frying pan and brown the onion slices until golden. 
Beat the eggs with the oregano, salt and pepper. Place the cooked sweet potato slices in a baking dish - something like a pie dish will suit, alternating with the mozzarella, scatter over the red onion slices and pour over the prepared batter.  Sprinkle over the smoked paprika.
Bake for 40 minutes in a hot oven or until golden and bubbling
The finished bake was delicious and warming, whilst feeling nourishing with the gorgeous orange hue of the sweet potatoes and purple onion slivers adorning the top which adds a little welcome colour to a blustery wintery night!
I have sent my Sweet Potato and Mozzarella Bake over to this months Vegetable Palette challenge at Allotment 2 Kitchen:

Monday, 12 January 2015

Meal Planning Monday W/c: 12/01/15

Last week flew by - the week started fairly well and I finished playing post Christmas catch up with the filing pile but then I picked up the delightful cold that was doing the rounds at work, which left me sneezing approximately every 30 seconds and feeling pretty eurgh and worn out by the weekend, with little desire to cook! Fortunately its nearly reaching its end and I am trying to be positive that its a brand new week and I no longer need to be within half a metre of a tissue box!
As a result last weeks meal plan went a little off key towards the end of the week - Mondays Smoked salmon pasta was really lovely even if the salmon alone was a small fortune for January it was worth it! Tuesdays casserole with the Bratwurst, root vegetables and kale was so tasty - I posted the recipe over the weekend and its been surprisingly popular! I used to really not 'get' kale but after a challenge last year I now love the stuff -its full of goodness and cooked right its quite the super-veg! I had ended up inviting my dad over for dinner at the last minute, so sadly no leftovers either for Wednesday night! Nothing was thawed and we had to pop out and get milk and we ended up buying a fiery but tasty fancy roquito pepper and pepperoni pizza, reduced to £1.49 from £5.00 - I do love a bargain! Thursdays meal got shifted to Friday with a different sauce using up scraps of cream and ham, and instead we had ribs reduced from the hot counter and some leftover new potatoes, fried up with some courgettes. I was so full of cold I didn't want to go near the kitchen and it was purely fuel to keep me going!
Naughty but nice Pizza
This week, after last weeks splurges owing to my ill head I making a more focused attack on the freezer - I was discussing the impending week ahead and needing to meal plan, in order to pretend to be organised with my boyfriend and he came up with some good suggestions but not using up any of fresh stuff! I have taken his ideas though on board and moved them around a little! Not entirely sure what I might bake this week - though thinking of using an old recipe of mine for Carrot and Parsnip tea loaf if I get the time! Last week I made a very naughty Sticky toffee and orange pudding - will blog the recipe soon!
We had a lush fresh Tuna dish a few weeks back at friends and I am hoping to make it on Friday night - I picked up the tuna steaks for 45p yellow stickered last week and I squirreled away to the freezer waiting them fate! I think its one of my best 'posh' reductions to date! Tuesdays curry is a bit of a cheat - I admit I am using a ready made sauce but its a really tasty one and means I have time to make a pudding instead! The quiche for Wednesday was also a reduction - a whole 22p!
  Southern fried chicken burger, wedges and salad
Butter Chicken thigh curry, pilau rice, naan bread, garlic fried kale and courgettes
Bacon and Leek quiche, salad
Mackerel and kale couscous or Mackerel meatballs with kale risotto
Sesame crusted Tuna steaks, fried udon noodles or coconut rice, petit pois 

I normally do our meal plan on the pc in excel but my boyfriend has asked if we can put it up on some kind of whiteboard- and I am curious as to how others display their plans?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Bratwurst, Roots and Kale Casserole

This particular recipe was born out of hurriedly putting together last week’s meal plan, it seemed like a good idea at the time, and a good idea it was! There is something so wonderfully warming about a hearty sausage casserole and its great if you are feeding family arriving at uncertain times! My recipe for sausage casserole seem to vary slightly every time as to what is in the fridge but every time fortunately they are always so comforting and delicious! I hadn't really planned to blog this recipe but I had a lovely comment on the meal plan post, and so I remembered to note down the ingredients!
For the sausage part of this casserole I used a packet of Nuremberg Bratwurst, that my dad had gifted for us to try – they are sort of chipolata in size and consist of Pork, seasoned with earthy spices, including marjoram and a hint of citrus to lift the flavour. They are delicious simply grilled or fried but work very well too in casserole form. We normally buy the standard sized Bratwurst so it made a nice change to discover a new version of them!
Stock wise a light chicken or vegetable stock will suit best – I used Bisto stock melts on this occasion, purely as they were on offer when I went hopping and they worked out a good choice. My dad often finds dishes too salty if I use another well known brand of stock pots but if anything he added salt for the first time to this, I was so shocked!
To speed up cooking time you can pre-soak the barley in boiling water first, though I forgot to prepare this in the morning so they only had a quick bathe but was enough to get the barley started. Its a handy dish to put on the hob and then ignore whilst you get on with important things like opening up wine bottles for example.
Serves 4-6

300g Nuremberg Bratwurst
3 medium carrots, diced into 1/2cm chunks
3 medium parsnips, diced into 1/2cm chunks
1 white onion, diced
80g kale, hard bits removed and leaves shredded
1 leek, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
100g pearl barley
3 bay leaves
1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 chicken stock pot – I used Bisto stock melts
1200 ml boiling water 
Heat half the oil in a large lidded saute pan and fry the sausages for about 10 minutes or until nicely browned all over, remove from the pan and when cool enough to touch cut into 4 or 5 chunks.

Put the pan back on the heat with the remaining oil and fry the onion until golden, then stir in the parsnips, carrots and leeks and fry gently for a good ten minutes to add a little colour. Add the barley, tomato puree, mustard and bay leaves. Combine the stock pot with the boiling water and pour over the mixture, bring to the boil then add the cut up sausages and then reduce to a gentle bubbling simmer for about an hour and a half or until the barley is tender.
Stir through the kale, cover and simmer for a further 5 minutes then serve immediately into nice big bowls.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Monday Meal Plan - Hello 2015!

Despite being a frequent meal planner and advocate for it I had abstained lately from meal planning on the blog, partly because around Christmas time we were all over the place and I didn't want to entirely tell the world we were not at home and I was well, not planning very well as life was keeping us busy with plans changing frequently! Lots of cooking and eating happened which was all good!
December is always a funny month, its a month full of a range of emotions - our friends were blessed with a gorgeous baby boy, my eldest niece turned 17 (how old do I feel!) and within all its joy its also a poignant reminder of those loved ones who are no longer in our lives but always in my prayers and also for those loved family members who are halfway around the world - at least we have facebook to keep in touch and keep sane!
The previous Christmas I was not feeling right at all - I reacted badly to a new medication and I felt like a walking zombie trying to smile my way through the days and after a ghastly bout of hideous hip pain to top it all off and having since had to change my job because of it, its been quite a year and one that I am quite glad to see the back of!! Out of all the things to happen least welcome was the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia after months of poking and prodding - it was so final and I almost lost hope but I have had to learn to pace myself and that itself is often the hardest part but I am learning patience and to look after myself better, and having a good diet plays a huge role!
So I can only pray for better times ahead - I have shiny new laptop to play with and I am determined to make this year count, and more importantly remember to count my blessings - I can't predict the future but I can at least try to enjoy life more and to keep moving forward, come what may!
On a brighter note, For the first meal plan of 2015 its a mixture of using up veg bought cheap after Christmas, trying to clear the freezer of UFO's and scale down the zillion jars inside the fridge! We are changing our 'upstairs' fridge soon as its on its last legs and it needs to be cleared down ahead of this, lots of pickles and jams to eat up!! I have also cooked up a bag of tired new potatoes tonight, which will be recycled into lunches with tinned tuna/ boiled eggs etc.
Monday - Cappellini pasta, with a sort of carbonara and rocket sauce, with the very last of our Christmas treat of hand cut smoked salmon, with garlic toasted 'deli thins'
Tuesday - Sausage, kale and root veggie casserole
Wednesday - Leftover casserole
Thursday - Spinach and ricotta tortellini, with courgette butter sauce
Friday - Chorizo jambalaya or Chicken curry with rice

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Zesty Orange and Red Grape Chicken Salad

So its 2015. Wow that kinda came around fast! I would really love to say that this New Shiny January the first we have dumped all the sugar, eaten the last sausage rolls and cleared the drinks cupboard...but that would be a lie! I am finishing off the last glass of Prosecco as I type this, opened at midnight for the celebrations (though we had to pause watching Frozen in 3D to watch the fireworks!)  and I am eating some rather nice pistachio nougat sweets my dad brought over. We are still surrounded by several tins of very nice biscuits, half a tub of heroes, a chocolate orange awaiting its fate and a fridge full of reduced vegetables! Oh and a Stollen, various half eaten bags of party snacks and a lot more still!
So vowing to be healthy this January is going to take a lot of will power and power walking and may well fail but I have been developing some healthier recipes and this gorgeous Zesty Orange and Red Grape salad makes a great start to the year! Its loaded with super food chia seeds, endorphin inducing red chilli and or course lots of lovely fresh salad leaves courtesy of Florette! It only takes a few minutes to prepare and you could sub white for red grapes if they are to hand.
I made two versions of this to suit our guests palates last night and for lunch today - this one was for the adults and our friends little one had it without the chilli in. Its great to serve as part of your buffet or in individual bowls but really needs to be eaten freshly prepared. If you wish to serve it cold, simply make up the chicken part, chill and allow to come to room temperature before tossing with the salad leaves. I did experiment a little by marinading one portion in the juice mixture vs straight into the pan and there was no notable difference so save time and simply add as you go along!

Serves 4


2 Cooked chicken breasts, finely sliced
1/2 an orange, juice
1 inch sliver of the orange peel
2 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
125g Florette Mixed Salad Leaves - either Crispy or Bistro
1 spring onion, finely sliced
16 red grapes, halved
1/2 large red chilli, minced
1 tsp chia seeds
1/2 yellow pepper, sliced
1 tsp olive oil

Mix the orange juice and vinegar and put to one side. Cut the peel into fine slices.

Heat the oil, fry the pepper and spring onion for 1 minute over a moderate heat, then add the chicken, chilli and grapes, heat through gently turning in the pan for 2 minutes, pour over the juice mixture and allow to gently bubble away until reduced down - about 2 minutes or so.

Place the salad leaves in a large bowl or platter. Spoon over the chicken mixture and any remaining juices. Scatter over the prepared zest and chia seeds.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

We all really enjoyed this salad - its hint of chilli combined with the zesty orange scented chicken made it a very welcome winter salad and added a bit of lightness up against all the heavy winter feasting on pastries and cakes! If you fancy looking for more inspiration check out Florette's website which has lots of salad recipes to explore!

Many thanks to Florette who provided vouchers to cover the cost of the salad and a very lovely salad cook book!
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