Google+ Badge

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.



Saturday, 16 November 2013

Holidays are coming

It's getting to the time of year where thoughts are rapidly turning to all things Festive. The shops have been selling it to us for months already. The more organised of us have bought most of our presents and started planning for the Festive feasts ahead. The less organised are burying their heads in the sand and saying 'Christmas where? When?'

Whether you are the former or latter you will most likely be adding Christmas cake to your list, and here I will give you my recipe for a lovely, fragrant, yet brilliantly simple Christmas cake to rival those mass produced efforts that the shops peddle. I really think that homemade Christmas cake and pudding is so much nicer than the shop bought, and it can be a family tradition to all make a wish when stirring; as it was in my household when I was growing up.

It's one of those things that I think people are afraid to try as they think it will take a long time or be difficult. I can assure you, it isn't!

You will need a 20cm Round cake tin, or 18cm Square tin (and plenty of grease proof paper)


  • 200g currants
  • 200g sultanas
  • 200g raisins
  • 75g candied peel, chopped
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g light soft brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 150ml alcohol of your choice (usually something like Sherry, Brandy or Rum)
  • Zest and juice of 4 clementines
  • 1 tbsp black treacle

  • Method:

    A day or two before you make your cake soak the dried fruit in the alcohol, zest, and juice in a covered bowl or tub.
    If you forget to do it the day before you can heat the dried fruit gently in a pan with the alcohol, zest and juice and leave it to cool to soak up the juice.

    Begin by heating the oven to 140c (130c fan). Grease and line the cake tin with greaseproof paper. You need a circle to cover the bottom of the tin and enough to go around the inside of the tin with around 3cm of paper of the top.
    Then using a clean bowl or your stand mixer (makes life a bit easier) beat together the butter, sugar and treacle until light and fluffy.

    Next, beat in the eggs, one at a time (to prevent the mix curdling).
    Fold in the flour, mixed spice and fruit (with remaining liquid).

    When the batter is well mixed, spoon into the lined cake tin and level out with the back of a spoon. 

    Bake in the oven for 4- 4.5 hours. Until the cake is cooked through and a rich golden brown colour.
    Check on the cake after 2 hours, if it already has a good golden colour it can be covered with foil or a circle of greaseproof paper to prevent it burning before it is cooked through.


    Allow the cake to cool in the tin then carefully remove it and remove the greaseproof paper. To store the cake re-wrap it in clean, fresh greaseproof paper, making sure you cover the top as well with a separate circle of paper.
    Store in an air tight container in a cool place. The cake can be stored for up to 6 months, so plenty of time to make this ahead.
    Feed the cake every couple of weeks with some more alcohol (if you choose) or for a non alcoholic version you could use tea. Just skewer the cake in several places and drizzle over around 1 tbsp of your chosen liquid. Just be sure to re cover the cake well after each feeding to keep it fresh.

    I haven't decorated my cake yet, and as I can't really do sugar craft it will have a simple marzipan covering topped with plain white icing. Wrapped with a festive cake ribbon and topped with an edible decoration. Look out for pics over the next few weeks.