Welcome to my blog!

Savvy shopping, seasonal eating and thrifty recipes. Spend less on groceries and enjoy better tasting, easy to prepare meals your friends and family will love – all on a budget.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Chocolate Mud and Caramel Easter Cake

This Easter Waitrose are encouraging people to be ‘Good Eggs’.  During the Easter school holidays, Waitrose are asking people to share their Easter photos on social media - from all the delicious food they’re enjoying to fun Easter egg hunts with the kids – using the hashtag #GoodEgg to support Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

Throughout the initiative, Waitrose will be surprising and delighting lucky participants with Easter gifts, including Heston’s Golden Easter Eggs, hampers, cases of wine, Waitrose vouchers and Waitrose Cookery School vouchers.

Waitrose will also be making a charitable donation to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, as well as delivering chocolate eggs for the children to enjoy at their Easter party.

For ideas, inspiration and recipes, Waitrose have created a dedicated Easter section online to help you plan the perfect Easter and have a Kids Easter ideas page here which has step by step guides to creating your own DIY Easter eggs and other edible Easter treats.

I decided to bake a 4 layer Chocolate Mud and Caramel Easter Cake which my children dubbed the Epic Easter Cake when they saw it after they had arrived home from school and spied the cake on our kitchen counter.

The cake is best served in thin slices as it is very rich and a proper sugar rush.  I was thankful that the weather was good as I sent the kids outside to play after taste testing as it was like rocket fuel as an after school snack.



Chocolate Mud Easter Cake

225g butter, cubed
360g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Green and Blacks)
165g light soft brown sugar
180ml water
150g plain flour
35g self raising flour
2 Tblsp cocoa powder
2 medium free range eggs

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Grease and line a 22cm/9 inch cake tin, ensuring the paper comes 2 inches/5cm above the top edge of the cake tin.

Combine the butter, chocolate, sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat.  Stir until mixture is smooth.  Cool this mixture until it reaches room temperature.  Mix in the flours, cocoa and eggs.  

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes until cake is cooked and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the tin for 15 minutes to half an hour before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Split the cake horizontally into 4 layers. Alternate ganache and caramel between layers, finishing with ganache on the top of the cake.



Chocolate Ganache


300g dark chocolate, I used Green and Blacks
200ml double cream

Put the cream in a saucepan over a moderate heat. Heat until almost boiling, remove from the heat and stir through the chocolate until a smooth mixture forms. Leave the ganache to cool until it reaches a spreadable consistency.



Caramel

50g butter or margarine
50g light muscavado sugar
1 x 397g tin condensed milk

Measure the butter and sugar into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the condensed milk and stir until completely combined.  Bring the mixture to the boil.  As soon as the mixture boils turn the heat right down so the mixture simmers very slowly.  Ensure you stir the mixture continuously.  Heat for about 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool until it is a spreadable consistency.  


I've had feedback from a couple of people who have baked the cake recipe above that the cake didn't rise enough and they couldn't cut it into layers.  I tested the above recipe three times before blogging it and it worked fine for me each time, including for my 12yo's birthday.  In an effort to ensure that everyone who wants to bake a cake like this can do so, here's another chocolate cake recipe which I have baked more than a dozen times that should be fail safe.  

Chocolate Layer Cake

200g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder
125g softened butter
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 2 tsp vanilla extract
275g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
160ml lukewarn water

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Grease and line a 22cm/9 inch cake tin, ensuring the paper comes 2 inches/5cm above the top edge of the cake tin.

Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat with a stand mixer or electric hand held beaters until mixture is smooth.  Beat for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture is lighter in colour.  Pour mixture in to prepared cake tin and level the top.  

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes until cake is cooked and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the tin for 15 minutes to half an hour before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Split the cake horizontally into 4 layers. Alternate ganache and caramel between layers, finishing with ganache on the top of the cake.


** I was compensated for my time and expertise devising this recipe for Waitrose **

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Apple and Fudge Hot Cross Buns

I always make our Hot Cross Buns and enjoy tinkering with flavours to make even tastier buns.  This time I decided to make Apple and Fudge Hot Cross Buns, they were delicious and very moreish.

My children took them to school as their baked treat and I did have several kids and parents asking for the buns or the recipe so they were rather popular.



Apple and Fudge Hot Cross Buns

This recipe makes 12 Hot Cross Buns.

250ml/1 cup warm water
2 Tblsp caster sugar
1 sachets instant yeast 
375g/2.5 cups plain flour
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
80g bag small fudge chunks
100g dried apple, chopped finely
25 g softened butter
1 free range egg

You can make these buns by hand or using a stand mixer.  

Stir the water and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, add the instant yeast and mix in the dried fruit, then make a well in the centre. 

Pour in the water, add the eggs and the softened butter. Mix until combined with a wooden spoon and then turn out onto a floured bench and knead the dough lightly. 

This is a fairly moist dough so add extra flour if you need to during the kneading process. Knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes until it’s smooth.

Or put all the dry ingredients and the dried fruit mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. 

Start the stand mixer on a low speed to mix the dry ingredients before slowly adding the water, eggs and softened butter. Knead on a low speed until everything is well combined and then knead for 10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.

Put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with greased cling film. Leave in a warm place till dough doubles in size, this should take around 45 minutes. 

I usually leave the dough to rise in my stand mixer as it has a handy plastic cover that seals the bowl and provides the perfect place for the dough to rise. Be careful though, if you leave the dough to rise for too long it may overflow your mixer bowl.

Once the dough has risen, knock it back and then give it a quick knead. Divide the dough into 12 portions and shape into buns. Put the shaped bunnies onto a greased oven tray and cover with the greased cling film. Leave them to rise for around half an hour, whilst your oven preheats to 200C, and until they’ve doubled in size.

Top the Hot Cross Buns with crosses made by combining:

1/4 cup/40g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder 
1 Tblsp butter
2 or 3 Tblsp of water

I make the crosses mixture whilst the buns are rising. Mix the butter with some hot water so that it melts and combines. Leave for about 10 minutes to cool and then mix into the flour and baking powder.

The mixture needs to be soft enough to be piped but not too runny, add a little extra flour or water to if necessary to get a good consistency. If you haven't got a piping bag, put the mixture into a plastic bag, squeeze it down to one corner then snip a tiny bit off the corner of the bag. Squeeze the mix through the hole making crosses on the top of each bun.

Bake the buns at 200°C for 15 minutes then brush with sugar glaze and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.

To make the Sugar Glaze dissolve 2 Tbsp Sugar in ¼ cup (60ml) warm water.

Cool the Hot Cross Buns on a wire rack and then either eat them, give them to friends or freeze them for later in a sealed, airtight bag.



Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Easter Cookies

I was asked by the lovelies at Sainsbury's to share an Easter recipe that other families could bake and enjoy together.  I of course asked my family what they would like to bake and after much debate it was decided that we would bake cookies.

I used my standard cookie recipe and added spice and raisins for an Easter twist.  The recipe makes 50 cookies, you can easily halve the recipe should you not need/want to bake so many.  The cookies are delicious, great for having with a cuppa or as a lunchbox treat and a welcome gift for friends or for sharing at coffee mornings.  My team of taste testers on the school run, along with a few teachers, declared them to be delicious and very tasty indeed.  Result!



Easter Cookies

Makes 50, recipe easily halved

225g unsalted butter, softened
330g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
1 dollop vanilla bean paste or 2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground mixed spice
370g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g seedless raisins

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.  Line a few oven trays with non-stick baking paper.  

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy in a large bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, along with 2 tablespoons of flour with each egg, and beat well after each addition.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix until completely combined.  Stir through the raisins so they are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

Place heaped teaspoonfuls on your prepared trays, allow room for the cookies to spread.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12 - 15 minutes until the cookies are starting to turn golden brown around the edges.  Once baked, cool the cookies on the trays for 5 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack until completely cool.  Store in an airtight container.




* I was compensated for my time and expertise creating this recipe **

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Not Cross Bunnies

We always make our own Hot Cross Buns every Easter.  They are so easy to make and taste much better than shop bought ones.  I bake them in bulk because they make great treats for friends and are also most welcome at coffee mornings.  You can bake these at any time of year, just leave off the crosses.  

For a bit of fun we decided to shape the buns into bunnies.  It was lots of fun, the buns kind of look like bunnies, they were very tasty indeed.

You can make these Not Cross Bunnies by hand or use a stand mixer.  If you want to make normal Hot Cross Buns just shape the dough portions into buns instead of bunnies.



Not Cross Bunnies

This recipe makes 10 bunnies or 12 Hot Cross Buns.

250ml/1 cup warm water
2 Tblsp caster sugar
1 sachets instant yeast 
375g/2.5 cups plain flour
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
150g mixed dried fruit or seedless raisins
25 g softened butter
1 free range egg

Stir the water and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, add the instant yeast and mix in the dried fruit, then make a well in the centre. 

Pour in the water, add the eggs and the softened butter. Mix until combined with a wooden spoon and then turn out onto a floured bench and knead the dough lightly. 

This is a fairly moist dough so add extra flour if you need to during the kneading process. Knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes until it’s smooth.

Or put all the dry ingredients and the dried fruit mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. 
Start the stand mixer on a low speed to mix the dry ingredients before slowly adding the water, eggs and softened butter. Knead on a low speed until everything is well combined and then knead for 10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.

Put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with greased cling film. Leave in a warm place till dough doubles in size, this should take around 45 minutes. 

I usually leave the dough to rise in my stand mixer as it has a handy plastic cover that seals the bowl and provides the perfect place for the dough to rise. Be careful though, if you leave the dough to rise for too long it may overflow your mixer bowl.

Once the dough has risen, knock it back and then give it a quick knead. Divide the dough into 12 portions and shape 10 of them into bunnies.  Use the other 2 portions for the bunny tails.  
To shape the bunnies, first roll each dough portion into a long sausage.  Form the dough into a U shape, twist the dough twice at the bottom leaving two bunny ears at the top.  Place a small ball of dough in the bottom loop for a bunny tail. 

Put the shaped bunnies onto a greased oven tray and cover with the greased cling film. Leave them to rise for around half an hour, whilst your oven preheats to 200C, and until they’ve doubled in size.

Bake the buns at 200°C for 15 minutes then brush with sugar glaze and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.

To make the Sugar Glaze dissolve 2 Tbsp Sugar in ¼ cup (60ml) warm water.

Cool the Not Cross Bunnies on a wire rack and then either eat them, give them to friends or freeze them for later in a sealed, airtight bag.



Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Blueberry Cake

I baked this cake as a treat for us all around Mothering Sunday (Mother's Day) here in the UK.  My daughters made me homemade cards and we had a leisurely day at home relaxing and enjoying each others company.  I was able to sneak an afternoon nap too as bubs had be up just before 5am.

It is a quick and easy bake to make, as most of my recipes are, and is great for an afternoon or morning tea treat.



Blueberry Cake

120g butter
120g caster sugar
1 dollop vanilla bean paste or 2 tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 medium free range eggs, beaten
200g fresh blueberries

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas Mark 4.  Grease and line two 7 inch/18cm cake tins.

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding 1 tablespoon of flour with each egg.  Fold through the rest of the flour followed by the blueberries.

Divide the mixture evenly between your prepared cake tins and level the top.  Bake the cakes for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  

Sandwich the cakes together with buttercream or whipped fresh cream.  I used lemon buttercream.


Saturday, 14 March 2015

December and January Extra Veg Round Up

Apologies for the delay in posting the round up, life has been rather challenging of late.  Thank you so much to all who took part in Extra Veg, there are so many delicious recipes to help us include more vegetables in our meals.  There is a Wholefoods Vegetable Box for an entrant in the linky selected by Random.org. Winner is revealed at the end of this post.

Courgette Soup from Camilla

Make Ahead Leek and Poppy Seed Sausage Rolls from Ren Behan

Pea and Sweetcorn Side Dish from Herbs, Spices and Tradition

Aubergine, Pepper and Bean Casserole from We Don't Eat Anything With a Face


Slow Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary

Beetroot Salad with Freekeh Wholegrains from Maison Cupcake

Incredible Twisted, Meatfree Leftovers from Delicieux

Stuffed Cashew Nut Roast from Gluten-free Alchemist


Makizushi Meal Kit à volonté from By The Way . . . .


Courgette and Potato Soup with Pasta from My Little Italian Kitchen

Skinny Creamy Celeriac and Apple Soup from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary 


Jerulsalum Artichoke, Chestnut and Mushroom Soup from How to Cook

Quick 5 A Day Mince One Pot from Madhouse Family Reviews

Vegetable Medley in Veloute from East West Realm

Vitamix Pea Soup with Cheese and Chives from Maison Cupcake


Spicy Roots Soup from Lancashire Food

Roasty Smoky Brussels Sprouts with Chickpeas from The Taste Space

Steamed Cauliflower and Salmon "Risotto" - from Fuss Free Flavours

Vegetable Cottage Pie topped with Sweet Potato Mash from East Your Veg


Warm Spinach, Kale and Bacon Salad from Munchies and Munchkins

Sausage, Apple and  Bean Casserole from The Gluten Free Alchemist

Forgotten Veg Soup from Jo's Kitchen

Cannellini Bean Dip with Butternut Squash from Maison Cupcake


Spinach, Mint and Lemon Soup from Feeding Boys and a Firefighter

Roast Tomato and Pepper Soup from Maison Cupcake


Kale and Cauliflower Samosas from Bangers and Mash


Chicken Garbure from Delicieux

Spiced Lentil, Carrot and Roasted Tomato Soup from Choclette

Carrot Soup from Juggle Mum

Cucumber and Noodle Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing from Searching for Spice


Sausage and Roasted Vegetable Tray Bake from Family, Friends, Food

Mushroom Spinach and Barley Bake from Family, Friends, Food

Sausage, Roasted Pepper and Pea Frittata from Feeding Boys and a Firefighter

Baked Salmon with Spinach and Basil Pesto Pasta from Proware


The winner of the goodies from Wholefoods is:

Entrant number 13 which was Jerulsalum Artichoke, Chestnut and Mushroom Soup from Laura at How to Cook.  Congratulations Laura, we'll be in touch regarding your prize.

Do check out the current linky for March over at Elizabeth's Kitchen.


Saturday, 7 March 2015

Vegan Banana Loaf - Cake for breakfast

What happens when we run out of eggs, milk, cereal/oats, and I've not baked bread? We have cake for breakfast! Yup, that's right, cake for breakfast. Don't say I don't spoil my loved ones.  

This morning I discovered that we were out of everything I would usually use to make breakfast on the weekend.  I decided to use the over-ripe bananas we had in the fruit bowl and make a banana loaf, vegan style.  I amended my usual recipe for Banana Loaf and left out the eggs, added an extra banana to compensate, and substituted oil for butter.  I ended up making two loaves and adding chocolate chips to one so we could have it for afternoon tea either later today or tomorrow.  The cake was served with chopped apples, satsuma and kiwifruit for breakfast.



Vegan Banana Loaf

3 large or 4 small over-ripe bananas
1/3 cup/80ml oil
1/3 cup/75g light soft brown sugar
1 large dollop vanilla bean paste or 2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups/225g self raising flour, plain or wholemeal or a mixture of both
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
80g chocolate chunks (optional)

Grease and line a 1lb/900g loaf tin.  Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.

Mash the bananas then add the oil. sugar and vanilla.  Beat until well combined.  Add the rest of the ingredients then stir gently until thoroughly incorporated.  How easy is that?! A quick measure and mix then it's ready for the oven.  Pour the mixture into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes until cooked.  To check if the loaf is cooked, insert a skewer into the centre of the loaf, if it comes out clean then the loaf is cooked.




Tuesday, 3 March 2015

I'll be back soon . . . . . . hopefully





Apologies for being AWOL from my blog recently.

I've had a sinus and eye infection for 3 weeks.  The rest of the family have also had a cold virus that has been hard to shift and my usual cheerful, smiley and jovial bubs is teething. This means disturbed sleep, a very unhappy bubs and a very tired me.  Hubby has also gone back to work, which is great news but he's really tired getting back into the swing of things.

Poor bubs has been so grumpy and clingy with teething and his cold.  I can't leave him to grizzle, it breaks my heart. I do like all of the extra cuddles despite getting slightly panicked about not being able to do much else other than feed and cuddle bubs and keep the house ticking over.  He also had his immunisations once his cold was almost better which meant he's got another temperature and is once again very cling.

I have a backlog of recipes and other posts to publish when I can get some time to sort them out.  Quite a few are half written in a few minutes snatched here and there when bubs is sleeping.  Hopefully bubs will be his happy self again soon and all the other ills of the house will disappear so I can get my blog back on track.