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Saturday, 2 August 2014

Scrumptious summer shortbread

I have been asked by Nielsen-Massey to use some of their flavours and extracts. Vanilla is easy, it goes in lots of things and always tastes amazing. I love vanilla extract, but really don't like the cheap stuff I don't think it's even made fom vanilla. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that it comes from some kind of tree bark. So, splash out on the nice stuff, you won't need to use much so it will last a long time.
Something I've not used in my baking before is lemon flavouring. So I tried to get a bit creative and came up with a Lemon and Lavender shortbread.  Both perfect summer flavours. 

250g unsalted softened butter
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp lemon flavouring
250g plain flour
100g cornflour
1/2tsp salt


Blitz the sugar, lemon flavouring, lavender and butter together in a food processor until creamy. Add the flour, cornflour and salt. Pulse the food processor until the mix beignets to come together in clumps and turn out onto a floured surface.
Bring together fully into a ball being careful not to over work the dough as that will prevent the end biscuit being 'short' and crumbly.
Roll the dough out to a 25cm circle, use a cake tin or plate as a guide and trim around to get a neat edge.
Use two fingers to crimp the edge. 
Using a fork mark out 8 even slices in the dough.
Place on a tray and put in the fridge for 30 mins.
Transfer the tray to a pre heated oven to 189c/160 fan/ gas 4. Bake for around 25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Leave the shortbread to cool completely on the tray, then using a sharp knife divide into peticoat tails along the lines marked out by the fork prior to baking. 

The lemon gives a lovely citrus refreshing flavour with a slight aftertaste and scent of the lavender. Enjoy with a cup of tea in the garden.

Banana bread - a healthy(ish) option

I've deliberately not been baking much recently. As for various reasons that I won't go into I have put on around 7lb over the past year, and I'm struggling to get it back off.
So when I found myself with 8 bananas that had been delivered on my online shop a bit squished and bruised I needed to try to find a healthy(ish) way of using them rather than waste them. I didn't just eat them as I hate bruises and brown bits on my bananas. 
I turned to the tried and tested banana bread. It's the easiest way I know of using up past their best bananas. 
I tweaked the recipe a bit to keep it as saintly as I could, well actually it could be better as I could have used honey in place of sugar but I didn't have enough in the cupboard to do that.

I used 0% fat Greek yogurt in place of half of the butter. I don't believe it's possible to completely replace the butter as baking is a bit of a science and needs certain properties to be present for the right chemical reactions and therefore the right results. Which is one reason I don't use sweetener when I bake, I don't think it works as a proper substitute for sugar and the end result is in adequate. Also, I don't skimp on my Greek yogurt, I don't like Greek syle yogurt, it's watery and doesn't taste anywhere near as good. The only time I use Greek style is when making curry. This recipe uses a very small amount, so you might think it's a waste to spend on it, but Greek yogurt and honey with fruit is a delicious snack/breakfast/dessert.

This is a recipe that you could have the kids helping with, so perfect for rainy days. With the added benefit of knowing that the snack they will be eating won't be full of additives and things you can't pronounce.

285g/10oz self raising flour
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
55g butter (I used flora ex light)
55g 0% fat Greek yogurt
170g/6oz caster sugar
2 eggs
4 bananas mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract (Nielsen Massey is the best)
85ml/3fl oz of buttermilk or milk with a dash of lemon juice added to it.


Sift together the flour, salt and bicarb. Set to one side.
Then cream together the sugar, butter and yogurt until light and fluffy. 
Add the bananas, eggs, milk and vanilla extract to the sugar and butter mixture. Stir until everything is incorporated. Don't go too mad with this part though as the banana needs to stay a bit lumpy (the way I like it anyway). 
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, just until the flour cannot be seen anymore. Over doing it at this stage will stretch the gluten in the flour resulting in a dense chewy cake. 
Pour the batter into a greased and lined 400g loaf tin. 
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180c/160 fan/gas 4 for around an hour, or until well risen and golden brown.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.

Littlest baker likes hers served with some peanut butter spread on it as a treat.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

A little something to finish off the festivities

In December I was asked to sample a cheese and wine combination from Aldi.
Aldi have paired up with Master of Wine Sarah Jane Evans to create some lovely cheese and wine combos which complement each other and are perfect for finishing off a meal. 

I was sent the Specially selected Cheeder with garlic and herbs, matched with The exquisite collection Limoux Chardonnay.

The cheddar had a lovely strong taste which held up well to the crisp acidity of the Chardonnay.  

The cheese went well on my Christmas cheese board along with the usual Stilton and Bree etc... The Chardonnay a welcome addition to the after dinner drinks and cheeses. 

Aldi are proving that there is no need to go to the bigger named supermarkets for your entertaining needs. In the current economic climate and particularly when we're all watching the pennies around Christmas and New Year I really don't see you you would pay more for something when you can get something of the same quality for less. 

Time to be daring...

I was asked by Knorr to sample some of their new flavour pots in my food. I have noticed them on the supermarket shelves and been tempted to buy them so thought I'd give it a go.
Having recently discovering pinterest I thought I'd have a quick look on there for recipes using some store cupboard ingredients that I could possibly adapt. What I came up with is something that I'd have never normally either tried or attempted to make, but I was really surprised (so too was hubby!) by what I came up with and will definitely make it again.
I'd never normally attempt a curry mainly because the list of ingredients for a curry is usually daunting, with so many different spices to be included, many of which I've not heard of or simply don't want to but to then have them taking up space in my kitchen for the next year!
That's where the Knorr Curry pot was so good to have, it has a combination of 13 spices such as cumin, cardamom and cloves. No more having to work out just the right measurement of spices to get the right heat or flavour combination. It has a good 'kick' to it but as I've learnt over the years this can be toned down to suit your tastes by clever use of yogurt/ cream.
This meal is a fantastic mid-week meal that can be thrown together in 15 minutes using store cupboard and fridge basics. It is all gluten free (including the flavour pot).
Here's my take on a Chickpea Dahl - Beginner baking style (with some help from Knorr)


400g can of chickpeas
1Knorr curry flavour pot
1 Red Onion
250g carton passata
400g can Light Coconut cream/milk
Curly Kale
Finely dice the onion and  fry in a heavy based pan on a med/low heat using low cal cooking spray. Fry until soft, then add the passata, and curry pot.
mix together until the curry pot has been well incorporated, next add the chickpeas and coconut cream.
Simmer for 5 mins then around 3-4 minutes before serving add the curly kale and cook until the kale is wilted.
Served with steamed curly kale and a salmon fillet.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Winter warmers

I have been thinking about winter warming recipes recently, trying to settle on one particular recipe that I like to eat more than others on the cold, dark, late Autumn days.
I thought about sausage and mash, soup, chicken pie but the main meal that my mind kept wandering back to was Shepherd's pie. 
But me coming along here to tell you how to make a bog standard shepherds pie would be boring, so I came up with a bit of a twist and re-named it to be Shepherd's cobbler. 

Full of flavour and veg, this is a reasonably priced meal to make this should be a hit for all of the family.


250g lamb mince
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
Handful of chopped mushrooms
Handful of garden peas
1 tbsp balsamic glaze
1 carrot, finely chopped
Small sprinkle cinnamon 
1 Knorr herb stock pot
1 Knorr onion gravy pot
Salt + pepper to season

For the herby dumplings:

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (not to be confused with cornflour!)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Knorr herb stock pot
1tsp sugar
Small sprinkle cinnamon
Some luke warm water



Begin by frying the onion on a medium heat until softened, then add the lamb mince and garlic until the mince is browned.
Whilst the onions and meat are cooking, have the carrot par-boiling in a separate pan ready to add to the mix when needed. 
When the meat is browned, remove some of the excess fat and add the mushrooms. 
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the balsamic glaze, cinnamon, peas, carrots and herb stock pot. 
Cook on a medium heat to melt to stock pot and get all of the ingredients well incorporated. 
Next, make up the onion gravy with the water from the par-boiled carrots. Using the carrot water retains the vitamins and some of the flavour leached from the carrots when being cooked. 
Add the onion gravy to the meat mixture and stir well. 

That's the main body of the dish ready, pour into a shallow casserole dish and put to one side whilst preparing the dumplings.

Method for dumplings:

Place the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl.
Melt the herb stock pot in around 1/2 pint of hot water and allow to cool to be luke warm. 
Slowly incorporate the stock into the dry ingredients until you have a smooth, not sticky dough.
When you have the right consistency, knead the dough for 2 minutes. 
Shape into small balls and flatten slightly. 
Drop the dumplings onto the top of your shepherds pie mix. 

To finish off the cobbler, glaze the top of the dumplings with a beaten egg and bake in the oven, heated to 160c fan, 180c for around 25 minutes.

I served mine with some baby new potatoes steamed in the microwave using Colman's clever Season and steam pack. Which even people passing the front door commented on how lovely they smelled!


A delicious winter warming, family favourite. In fact, reading on Facebook as I write this post there are three other people I know, all eating Shepherd's pie for their dinner tonight too. If only they had this recipe!

If you still have a little room left after your dinner why not follow up with a Hot toddy Tea cake?

 I tried to come up with a cake that would go well with a nice cup of tea and a Sunday afternoon movie on the sofa. I think this ticks all of the boxes, and is such a simple recipe.


300g dried fruit
225ml hot tea - I used PG Tips 'the Rich one' a good strong proper tea.
Juice and zest of one orange
50g butter
100g light brown sugar
1 Egg
225g self raising flour
50ml Whisky/Bourbon

For the drizzle:

6 Tbsp icing sugar
1 Tsp Lemon juice
Between 25 and 50ml Whisky/Bourbon



Cover the mixed fruit with the hot tea, orange juice and zest and Whisky/Bourbon. Cover with cling film and leave for a minimum of 4 hours, or even better over night.

Pre-heat the oven to 160c fan, 180c/gas 4
Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin (though I used my Bundt tin, just because).
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Next beat in the egg and finally the flour.
Then stir through the fruit and remaining liquid and mix until well combined.
Pour the mix into your tin, levelling the surface with the back of a spoon.
Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre.

While the cake is cooling slightly mix up the drizzle topping.  Do this by mixing the icing sugar, lemon juice and bourbon until you have a thick yet still runny consistency.

Make small holes all over the cake and gently drizzle over the icing, allowing it to soak down into the cake.

Leave to cool, then slice and enjoy with a cup of tea and a good film.

I was asked to create a winter warming recipe on behalf of Unilever as a part of a competition for Bloggers. I was provided with samples of some products to use to create my recipes and include in my post.
Having said this, all views in this blog are my own and unbiased by the samples provided to me.
Thanks to Unilever for giving me the opportunity to work with you and enter your competition.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Get ready for Stir-up Sunday

Stir-up Sunday is fast approaching, in fact, it's just a week away!
Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent so called because the opening words of the Collect for the day (the main prayer) in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 (used in Anglican Churches) says:
"Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
which was used on the last Sunday of the Church year, also because this day is the day upon which the Christmas pudding should be made in order to mature in time for Christmas day. The two have become interlinked over the centuries.

In preparation for Stir-up Sunday I have been researching Christmas pudding recipes and sourcing ingredients and pudding bowls to make my Christmas pudding in. 
There are some long held traditions when it comes to Christmas pudding and as I was brought up by a somewhat superstitious mother, I intend to continue with some of these traditions as I make my own Christmas pudding.
The first is to place a charm or coin of some sort into the pudding before it is cooked. Allowing it to become hidden and subsequently found when being eaten. These coins and charms are said to bring luck to whomever finds it.
A note of warning though, if you do place something into your pudding, please be sure to inform anyone who eats the pudding to prevent them choking on it! If serving to children, I would suggest leaving it out entirely.
I have a Farthing and a half penny to go into mine, in the absence of a Sixpence. 



1 large cooking apple
1/2 tbsp. nutmeg
100g candied peel
500g raisins
70g plain flour
50g fresh white bread crumbs
50g light muscavado sugar
1 tbsp. Brandy
125g butter (cold, from the fridge)
2 small eggs


Peel, core and chop the apple
Chop the candied peel.
Mix with the remainder of the ingredients, except the butter.
Grate half of the butter into the bowl and stir to combine. Repeat this until all of the butter is grated into the mix and combined.
Then, you will need to gather your family around as it's time to stir! A tradition on Stir-up Sunday is to have each member of the household stir the pudding mix three times, seeing the bottom of the bowl each time and making a wish.
The mix is ready (when everyone has had a stir) when the mixture subsides slightly after each stir.
Generously butter a 2 pint pudding bowl and put a circle of greaseproof paper in the bottom.
Pour the mix into the bowl and pack in tightly.
Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment, pleating it to allow for expansion, then tie with string (keep the paper in place with a rubber band while tying). Cut off any excess paper.
Then place the pudding on a large sheet of foil and bring the edges up over the top, then put another sheet of foil over the top and bring it down underneath to make a double package (this makes the pudding watertight). Tie with more string, and make a handle for easy lifting in and out of the pan.
The pudding needs to be boiled for 8 hours, topping up the water when necessary (do not let it boil dry). At the end of the 8 hours, carefully remove the pudding from the pan and allow to cool over night.
The next day, remove all of the foil and greaseproof paper and replace with clean, new greaseproof paper and foil.
The pudding is then ready to be stored in a cool, dry place until Christmas day.
To serve the pudding on Christmas day, re-heat it by boiling it for one hour. Unwrap it carefully and turn out onto a plate or bowl.
If you're feeling adventurous, flame the pudding by pouring 3 tbsp. of warmed brandy over it and setting it alight. Note: be very careful with flames, especially if there are children around!

Happy Birthday Ed!

Another Happy Birthday post, this time for my hubby Ed.

This is a bit of a belated post as it was actually his birthday way back in October, though time constraints have prevented me from getting my posts done.

I really wasn't sure what sort of cake to do for Ed. I wanted it to be a bit different to the usual sponge that  he gets from me. Then I came across a recipe for a Peanut butter cheesecake and thought I'd give it a go. I know it's not really what you would do for a birthday cake but it certainly still went down well.

Here's how to make it yourself.


For the base
  • 50g salted pretzels
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder
  • 50 unsalted butter, melted
  • 150 choc chip cookies

For the cheesecake filling
  • 1 Large egg yolk
  • 100g light brown soft sugar
  • 300g peanut butter
  • 200ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 250g Quark
  • 250g Mascarpone
  • 2 Large eggs

For the topping
  • 1 Pack of Caramel nibbles
  • 50g Dark chocolate (melted)


Heat the oven to 150c (130C fan).

Prepare the base by blitzing the pretzels, cookies and cocoa powder together in a food processor until they are fine crumbs. If you don't have a food processor, put the ingredients into a sandwich bag and bash with a rolling pin to get the same results. Then mix in the melted butter and stir (or pulse) until well combined.
Push the mix into the base of a 20cm tin (needs to be a loose bottomed tin). Level out the mix and put in the fridge to chill.

Whilst the base is chilling in the fridge, make the filling.
Begin by beating the Quark, Double cream, Mascarpone and sugar until smooth. Then beat in the peanut butter and eggs until the mixture is smooth.
The peanut butter needs to be room temperature to be mixed in properly, also, you may find this easier using an electric whisk or stand mixer.

Do not be tempted to over beat the mix at this stage or you will lose the texture from the whipped cream.
Spoon this mix over the chilled base and bake in the middle of the oven.
To help prevent the cheesecake drying out and cracking in the oven, place a roasting tin half filled with boiling water in the bottom of the oven whilst it is baking.
Bake in the oven for about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 mins, the cheesecake needs to be set, with a bit of a wobble in the centre.
Remove from the oven and gently run a knife around the outside of the cheesecake and leave to cool overnight in the fridge.

The next day, as you are getting ready to serve the cake remove it from the tin. For the topping, melt the dark chocolate and drizzle over the top of the cake. Whilst the chocolate is still runny place the Caramel nibbles on top of the cake in whatever pattern you like.