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Apple and Cinnamon Rolls - FFTO October Challenge

Monday, 31 October 2011
This months Fresh From The Oven was hosted by Claire from Things We Make and she challenged us to make Cinnamon Rolls.  Being slightly non-conformist, and having some apples that needed using up, I decided to make Apple and Cinnamon Rolls.

Here's Claire's recipe:

400g Strong White Bread Flour

2 Sachets of instant yeast (14/15g)

200g Plain Flour

2 Egg Yolks

250ml Lukewarm Milk

50g Melted Butter

1Tbsp Sugar

1/2 tsp Salt


150g Very Soft Butter

50g Brown Sugar - muscovado or demerara

1Tsp Cinnamon

A Handful of Sultanas (optional)

Icing (optional*)

2 Cups of Icing Sugar

1 Tblsp Melted Butter

1/4 Tsp Cinnamon

1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Water to Mix

In a jug mix the yeast, warm milk and tablespoon of sugar.

Leave to froth for 10 minutes if you have time then add the melted butter and egg yolks.

Mix this into the flours, with the salt.

Knead for 5-10 minutes on a floured surface or in your food mixer with a dough hook for 5 minutes.

Put in a large bowl with a plate on top and leave in a warm place until doubled in size (1-2 hours)

Knock down and flatten out until it's about the size of a large baking tray.

Slather with the very soft 100g ofbutter.

Sprinkle with the mix of brown sugar and cinnamon, and the sultanas.

Roll up so you have a long swiss roll type thing.

Slice into 2" slices and place in a deep cake tin

I used a 26cm Kaiser tin, with a bit of butter rubbed into it.

Allow to rise for another 1/2 hour. Tuck in any sultanas so they don't burn.

Bake at 200c for 10 minutes

Cover loosely with foil and bake for another 15 minutes or so.

At this point I brush it with a little melted butter and put it back in if not quite cooked through but it's probably not necessary. I am a born fiddler.

Tip out straight away - using a plate to tip it onto then back onto a 2nd plate.

Top with the warm buttery icing and leave to cool....as long as you can bear it.

They are still good on day two (and even better when warmed for 20 seconds in the microwave)

* Claire said "Most recently I made this with just a drizzle of plain icing (made with water) on top, which is good and quick but doesn't keep the bread so gooey and soft."

Here's my Apple and Cinnamon Rolls

I followed Claire's recipe, apart from adding some apple chunks, and used a drizzle of plain icing as I knew they would be devoured really swiftly since it was Half Term.  The were indeed devoured swiftly by my daughters, and my huband - yes the neighbours got some too! LOL

Roasted Vegetable Bake

We were given a dozen eggs by our neighbour and I was having a can't be bothered cooking kind of day.  This is a great vegetarian supper that is really quick and easy.  The only faff is chopping the vegetables.  All the family ate this in record time and were disappointed there wasn't enough for second helpings.

1 tbsp olive oil

2 small red onions, sliced

1 large red pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks

150g open cup mushrooms

2 courgettes, sliced

6 large free range eggs

3 Tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or thyme, or you can used 2 - 3 tsp dried mixed herbs

Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas Mark 6. Put all the vegetables in a square baking tray or roasting tin, add the oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss well to mix everything together. Roast for the vegetables for 15-20 minutes or until they're golden and tender.

Beat the eggs together until smooth and well mixed.  Stir in whichever herbs you are using and add the eggs to the pan of roasted vegetables.  Return the pan to the oven and bake for a further 10mins or until the egg is cooked and set. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 mins before cutting into wedges and serving warm with salad and plain or garlic bread.

I also like to have a bit of chutney or relish available for those who need some. You could use my Quick and Easy Tomato Relish recipe to make some and keep it in the cupboard or give as Christmas gifts.

Pataks and Blue Dragon Products Review

Saturday, 29 October 2011
I was recently sent some delicious Pataks Curry Pastes and Blue Dragon products to review.  I must confess I do use these sauces occasionally when I can't be bothered cooking from scratch and they are a great quick fix dinner solution.

I love the Pataks curry pastes as you can adjust the flavour of your curry by adding coconut milk or cream to make the dish milder for those who don't like too much spice or heat.  The curry sauces are SO versatile! You can use them with vegetables, chicken, beef, lamb or even fish.  There is a recipe on each jar, but for more delicious meal ideas you can check out the recipe section of the Pataks website.

I also use Blue Dragon sauces for a quick weeknight stir fry or asian inspired meal when time, and energy and tempers are short.  There is a fab recipe section on the Blue Dragon website as well as a brilliant Cooks Guide that's full of information to help you prepare superb Oriental cuisine, suggestions for using seasonal produce and useful tips. It even has a product focus section which explains what things are and how to use them.

I totally recommend both Pataks and Blue Dragon products as they are one of my standby meal ingredients when I really need a quick fix dinner or am totally lacking culinary inspiration. 

Here's my favourite Slow Cooker Chickpea Curry recipe from the Pataks website:

1 tbsp vegetable oil

500g boiled or canned chickpeas

150g onion, chopped

200g canned chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp Patak's Tikka Masala Paste

1 tbsp Patak's Madras Curry Paste

½ tsp sugar

200ml water

1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onions until light golden brown (about 3 - 4 minutes).

Add the Patak's Tikka Masala and Patak's Madras Pastes and sauté for a further one minute.

Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 1 minute.

Add the cooked chick peas, sugar and water and mix well. Transfer to your slow cooker and cook on high for 1½ - 2 hours.

Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve with warm Chapattis.

Chickpea Curry - In the Slow Cooker

Here's one of my favourite Blue Dragon recipes from their website:

 Squash and Sweet Chilli Pasta

1 squash, peeled and deseeded

A few spigs thyme, freshif possible

Splash of white wine

salt and pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

500g penne pasta, cooked according to pack instructions

12 rashers streaky bacon or pancetta, chopped into small pieces

2 large handfuls spinach leaves, washed and prepared

1 block feta cheese, chopped into bite sized pieces

3 tbsp Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce (or to taste)

Peel and deseed the squash and cut into small bite sized cubes. Place in a baking tin with 3 tbsp olive oil, a splash of white wine and salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the thyme and roast for 30-45 mins at 200'c/400'F or until soft and caramelised.

Meanwhile, boil the penne pasta in salted water until al dente. Set aside.

In a frying pan, add the chopped pieces of pancetta or streaky bacon and fry until crisp.

When cooked add the pasta to the frying pan with the bacon, along with the squash, spinach, feta and sweet chilli dipping sauce. Cook over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes until the cheese starts to melt and spinach starts to wilt then serve.

Squash and Sweet Chilli Pasta

New Covent Garden Soup Soup of the Month Competition

Friday, 28 October 2011

We’ve always been huge fans of autumn at New Covent Garden Soup. Crunchy leaves and winter coats all wrapped up warm, not to mention the fact that a hot bowl of soup is so much better when the wind is howling outside!

Since we launched our Soup of the Month competition there's been a fantastic response. We’ve had a really excellent bunch of recipes so far, some wacky, some wild, but all with a love for soup.

This month we’re getting back to the roots of Britain with our Best of British theme and celebrating all the things about this quirky little island that make us who we are. Yorkshire puddings and roast beef, pork pies, bunting, the Royal Family, queuing in orderly lines, inventing sports and then being terrible at them, rain, rain, rain and more rain!

Think about what YOU love about Britain and see if you could translate that into a winning recipe – get creative and get experimental – is it even possible to turn a pork pie into a soup!? Maybe you could find out!
Submit your recipes here.

Here's my recipe for Leftover Roast Beef Soup with Potato Dumplings

400g leftover roast beef

1 Tblsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced 

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 Tbsp paprika

1 large potato, peeled and diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

200g beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths

400g tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

500ml (2 cups) beef stock

Potato Dumplings

1 cup leftover mashed potato

1/4 cup plain flour

1/3 cup spring onions, finely chopped

3 Tblsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 free range egg

To make the dumplings, put all the ingredients in a bowl, season if necessary, then squish it all together until well combined. Roll the dumpling mix into a dozen balls then leave them on a clingfilm covered plate in the fridge whilst you make the soup. 

Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook it for 2-3 minutes or until it softens and  starts to turn golden.  Then add the crushed garlic and paprika, stirring for a few moments until the paprika is fragrant.  Add the diced potato, diced carrots and chopped beans then cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then you can add the leftover roast beef, kidney beans and stock. Stir everything together well and bring the soup to the boil.  Once it's boiling reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Cook the dumplings in a pan of salted boiling water for about 10 minutes. Serve the soup in large bowls with a few dumplings on top or each bowl of soup.

Win a personalised Innocent smoothie bottle

Thursday, 27 October 2011
Innocent has perfected the traditional Fruit Machine game to ensure everyone wins when they spin. And 10 lucky winners will be able to create their own unique smoothie bottle where they choose what is written on the label.

Give the Fruit Machine a spin and you can win all kinds of prizes from shopping vouchers to spa days, gig tickets to cookery classes and, of course, lots of delicious innocent smoothies. If you win one of our special unique smoothie bottles, you just have to think of what you’d like the label to say and we’ll create it. Just for you.

The Innocent Fruit Machine is offering so many prizes that if you don’t like what you win you can give your prize to a friend and spin the machine again.

The Innocent Fruit Machine is ready to be spun on the Innocent facebook page, so pop over there now and get ready to win.

Versatile No Cook Cheesecake

This is such an easy recipe, great if you've got a crowd for dinner or just want a simple dessert that you can make in advance.  You can vary the flavour of the cheesecake by choosing different jelly flavours each time, just make sure the jam compliments the flavour of the jelly.  Sometimes I put some frozen or fresh berries into the cheesecake mix and sprinkle some on top as well, just use what you have available.

250g rich tea (or plain chocolate) biscuits, crumbed

125g melted butter

85g packet flavoured jelly

250ml boiling water

500g softened cream cheese

80ml cup thickened cream

2 cups icing sugar

2 Tblsp jam of your choice

A little water to mix

Grease a 3cm-deep, 20cm x 30cm traybake tin. Line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper, allow a decent overhang on all sides.

Bash the biscuits until they're crumbs or use a food processor.  Add the melted butter and mix it well by hand, or use your food processor.  Press the mixture firmly over the base of the lined  traybake tin.  Cover it with clingfilm and put it in the fridge for about half an hour while you make the topping.

Meanwhile, put the jelly in a heatproof jug and add the boiling water.  Stir it well to dissolve the hjelly into the hot water.  Once it has dissolved, put it to one side to cool completely.

Using a had held electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until it's smooth, add the thickened cream and beat again so that the mixture combines well.  Slowly beat in the jelly mixture  Pour this mixture over the chilled biscuit base. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours or until the cheesecake has set.

Just before you want to serve the cheesecake, mix the jam and icing sugar together until you get a spreadable icing mix.  Gently spread it icing mix over the top of the cheesecake.  Put the cheesecake back in the fridge for about 20 minutes until the icing sets.  Cut into small rectangles to serve for pudding, remember to keep some for the next day to enjoy with a cuppa.

Freezable Beef and Haricot Beans Bolognese Sauce

I tend to make a double batch of this just to freeze it for later or have on hand in case a friend needs an emergency dinner.  It is so quick to make and so versatile, you can have it with pasta ot baked potatoes - we've even had it on toast when the cupboards were bare.  Give it a whirl!

500 g beef mince

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed (I cheat and use the frozen cubes, or Very Lazy Garlic)

150ml red wine

400g can diced tomatoes

2 Tblsp tomato paste

400g can haricot beans, rinsed and drained

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp dried basil

Heat a small glug of olive oil in a frying-pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft and transparent.  Crank up the heat a bit and then add the beef mince, break up any large pieces and brown it well.  Add the red wine and wait for the hissing to stop.  The alcohol should evaporate and leave the flavour of the wine to enrich the sauce.

Add the tin of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, drained tin of haricot beans, and dried herbs. Give everything a good stir and then let the sauce simmer for at least 20 - 30 minutes.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is simmering, you can cook some pasta to accompany it in a large pan of salted boiling water, according to instructions on the pasta packaging.

Toss the sauce through the drained cooked pasta and serve with some steamed greens.
If you wantto freeze the sauce for later, make sure that you only freeze the sauce and not the pasta.  You can defrost the sauce overnight in the fridge and reheat it thoroughly whilst cooking the pasta, or defrost the sauce in the microwave.  Either way I know I can get dinner on the table within 20 minutes from whine to dine. LOL

Cafédirect is giving away a £500 gourmet experience

Ethical hot drinks brand Cafédirect is searching for the perfect pairing of coffee and dessert!

For everyone addicted to the Great British Bake Off or who fancies their chances on Come Dine with Me, Cafédirect could have the perfect foodie competition.

The ethical hot drinks brand is challenging Britain to create the perfect dessert recipe to pair with a cup of coffee for the chance to win £500 worth of vouchers for gourmet London cooking school L’atelier des Chefs. The winning recipe will also star in Cafédirect’s limited edition Coffee and Dessert Matching Cookbook.

Just as different wines have distinctive regional characteristics depending on elements such as the soil, climate and altitude, so the same is true for coffee grown in different locations across the world. Wine is often matched with food by sommeliers to enhance the flavours of both – and Cafédirect is encouraging the public to explore coffee in the same way.

It is pioneering a unique coffee matching experiment, asking coffee lovers everywhere to pair their award-winning single origin coffees with desserts to create a whole new after-dinner experience.

All people need to do to win is to submit an original dessert recipe to match with one of Cafédirect’s single origin coffees.

Theirry Akroman, Cafédirect’s own coffee connoisseur, notes: “Choose from the citrusy notes of Kilimanjaro or the vanilla hints of Mayan Palenque, the rich chocolate undertones of Machu Picchu or the sweet spiciness of Cloud Forest – or enter one for each! Whether it’s a simple lemon tart or a sumptuous chocolate roulade we’re looking for the best flavour match with their chosen Cafédirect coffee.”

The winner will receive £500 to spend at the famous London cookery school L’atelier des Chefs, which has a host of courses to inspire any foodie, from the novice who’s never picked up a rolling pin to the seasoned pastry chef. The winner’s recipe will also become part of a limited edition Coffee and Dessert Matching Cookbook, which will also feature the top 16 desserts and coffee combinations as picked by the discerning panel of judges.

Plus the winner will also get travel and a night’s accommodation in London for two.

Visit the Cafedirect Faceboook Page for tasting notes and tips from Thierry on what flavours match each coffee and to enter your recipe.

Photo courtesy of Cafedirect

Are you and your family Drinkaware?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011
I was very glad to be able to attend an event run by Drinkaware to talk about alcohol education.  Drinkaware is an independent charity and invited us parent bloggers to an event to publicise their new campaign which aims to encourage parents to talk to their children about alcohol. Drinkaware want to change the drinking culture and the website is packed full of useful advice for parents trying to talk to their children about alcohol. The hope is that the age children start drinking (currently thirteen) can be raised through education both at school and at home.  However, don't expect your child's school to pass on the alcohol education message because it is not a compulsory part of the curriculum and not all schools have sessions on the topic.

My eldest daughter will be turning 12 next year, my middle daughter will be turning 8 and my youngest will be turning 6 towards the end of the year.  My main parenting strategy when dealing with tricky subjects like alcohol is to keep communication lines open so they feel that they can discuss things with me.  I have had discussions with them about alcohol and I'm really open about it.  There have been questions put to me about why I drink when I know what it did, and still does, to my Dad who is an alcoholic.  My answer to my children is that drinking alcohol can be enjoyable and can make you feel good but not when you drink to excess and are irresponsible with it.

I was shocked to learn that research has showed that only 17% of adults have a plan about how to talk about alcohol with their children.  Research also shows that parents have the most influence on young people's attitudes to alcohol, this is especially the case if parents start conversations about alcohol early, before the teenage years when peers become a much bigger influence than parents.  Thankfully there is help for us parents negotiating the minefield that is alcohol education and trying to talk to our kids about it.  Drinkaware has launched a new toolkit to help parents discuss the issue of alcohol with their children.  Just as well because there's so much confusion among parents  over "the right approach". 

Research has proven that the ‘Continental’ approach of allowing children to drink at home from a young age doesn't work.  In fact, research shows that the earlier a child starts drinking, the higher their chances are of developing alcohol abuse or dependence. Apparently, rates of Cirrhosis of the liver are twice as high in France as they are in the UK and I was gobsmacked when I was told that binge drinking is just as prevalent in France as it is here in the UK. If you want more information the Observer published a superb article about it. 

It's all too easy to get carried away with statistics of doom and gloom.  We need to remember that not all young people are out drinking themselves senseless every weekend and being treated in hospital for alcohol poisoning.  In fact, the attitude towards alcohol in children between the ages of 8-10 is pretty negative.  This obviously changes as they get older, more curious and independent, and their peers have a greater influence on their behaviour.  Chatting about alcohol doesn't have to be a big deal or lecture session.  Remember, offering a listening ear is just as important as telling your child the facts.  

The most useful tips I gained from the Drinkaware event and website are:

As a parent the worst thing you can say about drinking is nothing at all.

You might think being too strict could mean children rebel. But research shows if parents set rules about drinking, young people are less likely to get drunk.  Work together to agree boundaries around alcohol. Agree on realistic consequences if they break the rules, and follow through if necessary, but reward them if they keep to the rules.
Building confidence and self esteem helps children to say no in a wide range of tricky situations and gives them tools to stand up to peer pressure.
Help your children find a get out clause or an excuse not to drink.  Saturday morning dance/drama classes or sports matches that they need to be hangover free for are a great way for them to get out of drinking on a Friday night.  
Target your approach to giving advice and facts to your child's individual needs.  Specific facts like alcohol being a diuretic so it dehydrates the body and can make skin look pale and grey, may appeal to vain teenagers and make them think twice about drinking too much.
More help, information and resources

There's a wealth of information on the Drinkaware website for Parents and Schools

The Parents section has loads of great resources, including a video where you can practise tricky conversations about alcohol with a 13 year old. You can also order the parents' leaflet Your Kids and Alcohol which we were given at the event - it's well worth a read.

Let you child's school know that teachers can get free primary and secondary resources, including lesson plans.  There is a new programme called In:tuition that aims to build the esteem, confidence and decision-making skills of students aged 9 to 14 so they can make informed choices when faced with a range of issues – including alcohol, sex, relationships and health.  The website has a video promoting the programme and schools can contact In:tuition if they want to be part of the pilot project.

Basic Sponge Cakes

Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Here are a couple of my never fail sponge cake recipes.  To be honest, I usually make the bung it all in version unless it's a really special occasion.  Give them a whirl!

Rather Fiddly Classic Sponge

50g cornflour

50g plain flour

50g self-raising flour

4 x 60g eggs, at room temperature

150g caster sugar

Grease 2 x deep, 20cm round cake tins and line the bases with non stick baking paper. Sift all of the different flours and 1/4 tsp salt together twice to get loads of air into it.

Preheat oven to 180C. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed for 6 minutes, or until mixture is thick, pale and has roughly trebbled in volume.

Gradually sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold in with a large metal spoon until just combined. Divide the mixture between  the two prepared tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cakes have shrunk away from the sides slightly and spring back when gently touched in the middle.

Turn out on to baking paper-lined wire racks. Carefully peel away the baking paper from the cakes and  then leave them to cool.

The Bung It All In Together Sponge

225g butter, softened

225g caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

2tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Grease and line 2 x 20cm (8in) round sponge cake tins with non stick baking paper.
Put the softened butter, caster sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs and vanilla extract into a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk until thoroughly blended, pale and creamy.  Divide the mixture between the two lined cake tins and gently level the surface. Don't bang the tins on the bench or you will knock the air out of the mix.

Bake for 20-25 mins until the cakes look golden brown and spring back when you lightly press them in the middle with your fingertip. Leave in the tin for 2-3 mins, then turn out on to a cooling rack and peel the non-stick baking paper off. Leave to cool completely before sandwiching them together with jam & cream or buttercream.


As regular readers of my blog will know, I am a member of the Wordfoods Fusion Taste Team and this week is Malaysian Week.  I cooked a delicious chicken dish using WORLDFOODS MALAYSIAN CHILLI COCONUT MARINADE.

The recipe we were given was as follows:

To make Ayam Percik, chicken is coated in the spicy coconut marinade before and during cooking over a charcoal fire, or here in the UK - under a grill or in the oven.  Ayam Percik literally translates as "chicken splash" - this is because as the chicken is cooking over the fire, or in the oven, more marinade is spread over the chicken to strengthen the flavour.

Serves 4-6


6 chicken thighs

1 tablespoon cooking oil

2 tablespoon deep-fried shallots, finely chopped

Marinate chicken with WORLDFOODS MALAYSIAN CHILLI COCONUT MARINADE for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat grill or BBQ.

Cook meat on medium heat, turning occasionally until done and slightly charred, about 20-30 minutes depending on size. Occasionally spread on some more marinade.

Serve hot with white rice or bread.

To make the dish less spicy:

Use less of the sauce, add in some coconut milk or yoghurt to make it less intense. Taste the sauce before you marinade the chicken to make sure it is at the level of spiciness that you want.

If you're vegetarian or you don't want to use chicken, feel free to use it to marinate something else.

Marinating overnight will produce stronger flavours in your chicken, fish or tofu.

Our version:

This was a great dish that the whole family enjoyed.  I added some coconut milk to make the marinade a little milder so that it wasn't too spicy for the children, just really flavoursome with a little chilli heat. There was no way I was going to deep fry diced shallots so I left them out.  I cooked the chicken in the oven, basting it occasionally with more marinade, and served it with some of our usual vegetable rice, the recipe is below.  Here's a pic of our delicious chicken dish:

Lightly Spiced Vegetable Rice

I use this rice recipe whenever I need to serve a dish with rice.   It's so easily adaptable, just leave out the tumeric and cumin if you need plain rice without spice, or add herbs for a completely different flavour.  You could also use plain water instead of vegetable stock if you wanted too, although it does taste a little bland without the vegetable stock.

700ml boiling water (from a just boiled kettle is fine)

1 vegetable stock cube

1 pepper, diced

200g can sweetcorn, drained

1 onion, diced

2 Tblsp olive oil

350g easy-cook long grain rice

100g frozen mixed vegetables

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp tumeric

Dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion and pepper,  Gently fry them for around 3 minutes.  Add the rice and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring it all the time so the rice doesn't burn.  Add the drained sweetcorn, frozen mixed vegetables, turmeric and cumin then cook for a further minute or so until the spices are fragrant. 

Add the stock and stir well, mixing everything together well. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 3 minutes.

Put the lid on the saucepan then remove it from the heat and leave to stand for 20 minutes.  DO NOT take the lid off during the 20 minutes of standing time!
Give it a good stir or fluff it up with a fork before serving.  .

Don't forget you can follow Worldfoods Fusion Taste Team on Twitter @fusiontasteteam and don't forget to check out the Wordfoods Facebook Page.

Versatile Vegetable Soup

Monday, 24 October 2011
This is such an easy and filling soup. You can use sweet potato instead of pumpkin, and add frozen mixed vegetables instead of the tin of sweetcorn. The recipe is easily adjusted to feed more or less people and is great to take in a flask as a warming packed lunch when the weather is cold.

1 Tblsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

650g butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled and diced

1 red or yellow pepper, diced

750ml (3 cups) reduced-salt vegetable stock

750ml (3 cups) water

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed

1 x 420g can four bean mix, drained and rinsed

1 x 270g can sweetcorn kernels, drained

hadful of thin spaghetti or other dried pasta, broken into pieces

1 cup/handful baby spinach

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, garlic, pumpkin/butternuet squash and red or yellow pepper then cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for 2 - 3 minutes.

Pour in the vegetable stock and water before adding the small pieces of pasta, lentils, 4 bean mix and sweetcorn.  Bring everything to the boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir through spinach and allow it to wilt before you serve the soup with a slice of crusty wholegrain bread or a bread roll.

Cafédirect Coffee Tasting and Dessert Matching Evening

Sunday, 23 October 2011
I was delighted when Cafédirect invited me to an evening of Coffee Tasting and Desserts - two of my favourite things!  The event was held at L’Atelier de Chefs Cookery School in Central London.

The Masterclass, where we learned the art of  coffee tasting - or more correctly "cupping", was led by the very tall, handsome and knowledgeable Thierry who truly has the best slurp I have ever heard.

We tested three Cafédirect single origin fairtrade coffees. Aaaaaahh coffee! How much do I love thee?! During The Masterclass the lovely Thierry explained that there are 7 areas of interest when cupping coffee.  The 7 areas are:

Fragrance - This is the smell of the coffee before water is added.  After shaking each cup of coffee grounds we inhaled through our nose, exhaled through our mouth and desperately tried not to sniff up, or blow away, any coffee grounds.

Aroma - This is the smell of the coffee after water has been added.  Hot water was added to each cup, and the coffee left to brew for 3 minutes.  With the back of a spoon we had make a scooping motion backwards three times and inhale the aroma.  Thankfully I managed to do this without slopping coffee on the table or getting my hair in it as we had to get our noses REALLY close and have a decent sniff. 

Acidity, Body, Flavour, Aftertaste and Balance (how everything comes together) which all conveniently come under Taste - We had to carefully use two spoons to clear away any foam from the top of the cups before we got to savour mouthfuls of the delicious coffees.  To properly taste the coffee you have to slurp it up like a turbo hoover without choking on it, easier said than done. *cough, splutter* Apparently, similar to wine tasting, the idea is to quickly draw a small amount of coffee into your mouth whilst drawing in air so the flavours are properly released.  You then move it around your mouth, let it rest on your tongue briefly, and spit it out gracefully into a cup.  Yeah right! I drunk it, there is no such thing as wasting perfectly good coffee in my world! LOL I don't think I shall be slurping and swooshing coffee in my local Costa or Cafe Nero, best save that bit of fun for the privacy of my own home where the only people who will be looking at me strangely will be my own family - no change there then!

During the tasting process I found the body easiest to define, but articulating the flavours was quite difficult.  Partly due to not having a sufficiently posh coffee tasting vocabulary words and partly due to my tastebuds being used to a wide range of *cough* cheap high street coffees *cough*

Now, on to the puddings!

Before our cupping Masterclass we were paired up and challenged to create a dessert to match one of the three coffees we would be tasting.  We were given a bag of ingredients that matched the flavours of the coffee and asked to create a delicious dessert.  No pressure but the Head chef of the cookery school Andre Dupin and our coffee tasting expert Thierry were going to judge the desserts once they had been made. 

I was paired with the lovely Emma who blogs at Poiresauchocolat and is currently studying Pâtisserie at the Cordon Bleu School in London.  I hadn't prepared a recipe but happened to have my famous chocolate brownie recipe in my head (I wonder why!) so we used that.  To compliment the delicous chocolate brownies we were baking, we were given some Machu Picchu coffee.  This deep flavoured, rich tasting coffee is produced at altitudes of 1500-2000m in the Valle de la Convencion, deep within the Inca heartland of the Andes, and close to the sacred city it's named after.  It has a full-bodied, easy drinking flavour, and as the lovely Thierry said, it is the red wine of coffee - it certainly went down well with me LOL

These are the chocolate walnut brownies that we baked:

Here are the other delicious puddings that were made on the night:

Rhubarbandrose and 21stcenturyhousewife (Also known as Team April) matched Mayan Palenque coffee with Spiced Vanilla and Honey Cake.

What Kate Baked and Food for Think matched Kilimanjaro coffee with Dried fruit chocolate bark

Fuss Free Flavours and A lovely lady who won a competition to be there also matched Kilimanjaro coffee with their dessert of Apple filo strudel with lemon and lime posset

Slow Food Kitchen and Tales of Pigling Bland matched Machu Picchu coffee with a Flourless Chocolate cake accompanied by almond and pecan praline

It was a really enjoyable evening and learning more about Cafédirect coffee was fabulous, especially the "cupping" process that now means I can savour coffee more than I did before.  Of course it's always great to meet other foodie bloggers, some who I am getting to know well, and others I had never met before.

A HUGE thank you to Cafédirect for their fabulous hospitality.  You can find loads of delicious recipes on their website, as well as chatting to them on Twitter and Facebook.

Win a Kitchen with Philly!

Saturday, 22 October 2011
Philadelphia has just launched a competition on their Facebook page to win a kitchen! If you are in desperate need of a new kitchen, go and take a look!  All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning is visit Philadelphia's Facebook Page before 11th November, watch the video and tell them what happens next.  What could be simpler?! What are you waiting for?!

Good Luck!

Worldfoods "Get Saucy” Competition

Friday, 21 October 2011
It’s competition time! Want to win a selection of WORLDFOODS sauces and a video camera to become their next review star? To enter, like Worldfoods on Facebook and comment under the competition post on their wall with the words “I want to get saucy with WORLDFOODS!”

You can also tweet Worldfoods on Twitter with the following:

"I want to #getsaucy with #WORLDFOODS & become their next star. RT my tweet to enter the #competition. Read more here: http://on.fb.me/g2r1Ou"

The competition runs until 9th November and the 4 winners will then be picked at random from all entries. Terms and conditions can be found on the WORLDFOODS website here.

Good luck!

Don't forget you can follow Worldfoods on Twitter and also "like" Worldfoods on Facebook.

Total Greek Yoghurt Needs Your Recipes for an E-Book

TOTAL Greek Yoghurt today announced that it's producing a healthy recipe e-book, with all proceeds donated to the UK charity Action for Children.

Food enthusiasts are being encouraged to visit TOTAL Greek Yoghurt’s Facebook page to submit their recipes featuring the delicious and versatile creamy yoghurt product.  The recipes chosen for inclusion in the e-book will be voted for by TOTAL’S Facebook community. The recipe with the most votes will earn its author an iPhone 4S and iPad 2 complete with smart cover. The runner up will receive an iPad2.

In addition, all participants voted into the recipe e-book will receive a free cool bag and a published name credit in the book.

The new digital cook book will be available to download on Amazon as a Kindle e-book from early 2012. The deadline for recipe submissions is Friday 20th January 2012.

All money raised by the e-book will be donated to the UK charity Action for Children which works tirelessly to support the UK’s most vulnerable and neglected young people. One of the signs of child neglect is hunger. The effects of hunger can be devastating, from daily pain and poor health to low educational achievement and bullying. Action for Children looks to combat this by early intervention.

Join in the TOTAL Greek Yoghurt conversation:

In Praise of Welsh Lamb, aided by a brilliant chef and a hot farmer

Thursday, 20 October 2011
Last week, I attended a fabulous event at Odette's in Primrose Hill to promote  Welsh Lamb.  We had an amazing feast cooked by chef Bryn Williams who was very chatty and enthusiastic about Welsh Lamb as it's the only lamb he will use in his restaurant.  He introduced the meal he had prepared for us by saying that "We go in and only buy certain cuts but we should be eating lamb from nose to tail."  He is absolutely right! I use what are considered unusual cuts of lamb quite often, coming from New Zealand - we do have rather a lot of sheep to chew our way through LOL

Most Brits buy lamb shoulder or leg to roast, lamb chops, and perhaps lamb mince for quick dinners but don't tend to buy cuts like neck fillets, lamb breast, ribs or fillets.

A revelation for me was that Welsh Lamb is actually at its best and most flavoursome now, in the Autumn, whereas we tend to think of lamb being Spring meat.  Bryn also told us that one of the reasons Welsh Lamb is so special, apart from the care taken by the farmers, is the Welsh environment.  Bryn joked that the fact it seems to rain most of the time adds to the flavour of the lamb, because it generates decent grass perfect for grazing and makes the lambs work harder walking about on soft ground so builds the muscle of the lambs which makes them more meaty.

We were also able to chat to the rather HOT lovely Myrddin Davies who is a farmer from North Wales and the ‘Face of Welsh Lamb’ – which means he's an ambassador for the brand.  He's 29 and his 180 acre farm, Nant y Wrach Bach (which translates as valley of the little witch) lies in the parish of Pandy Tudur, south east of Conwy, North Wales.  He has a blog on the Welsh Lamb website.  It was great to be able to swoon over talk to a farmer about how the lambs are raised and what methods are used so that you're able to know that you're buying a quality product and the animals, as well as the environment, are well cared for.

I was also rather pleasantly surprised to learn that the European Commission (EC) has awarded Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef the coveted status of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).  The EC’s protected food name scheme aims to preserve and promote special foods that are unique to their terrain – foods that have character, that are lovingly-crafted, that have an unbreakable connection to the land they come from.  Needless to say the Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef promotional organisations are quite rightfully very chuffed about it.

Anyway, on to the feast!  Bryn Williams cooked us a magnificent five-course tasting lunch that showed us the versatility and delicious flavour of Welsh Lamb.  Most of the dishes were quick, economical family meals but there was one slow-cook dish that is perfect for a lazy Autumn weekend lunch.

Don't read the rest of this post if you are hungry because here's the details of the dishes we were served:

Welsh Lamb Spare Ribs: These were cooked in a sweet and sticky BBQ style sauce.  The meat was literally falling off the bone.  Bryn said that these lamb ribs were considered 'off-cuts' by butchers and would therefore be relatively cheap to buy. His advise was, "If you can't get hold of them, start asking for them because it's supply and demand. If people want them, then butchers will stock and sell them." Very wise words indeed and I shall be nagging like mad asking the local butcher for some.

Welsh Lamb Koftas: These were served in very cute little burger buns with a lovely yoghurt/mayo dressing.  Really soft and moist patties flavoured with a little cumin and mint.  I make Koftas often and was able to get a few flavour tips from Bryn so my Koftas will be legendary before long LOL

Welsh Lamb Fillet and couscous: Oh my word! We were presented with the most succulent strips of lamb that had been pan-fried for only about three minutes in total.  It was so flavoursome and the lamb is ready in less time than it takes you to make the couscous.  Bryn flavoured his couscous with chicken stock, parsley, mint and lemon juice.

Welsh Lamb chop and chickpeas: What I loved about this dish was that the lamb chop was not mucked about with, the full flavour of the lamb was the star of the dish.  The chickpeas were full of flavour and had a thick broth with them but it didn't over power the lamb at all. A stunning and easy dish to wow the family with.

Slow roast Welsh Lamb shoulder and potato cake with gem and mint salad: Bryn bought out the roasting tray with the lovely layered potato and onion underneath with two large lamb shoulder joints on a rack above.  The fat from the lamb renders down onto the potatoes over the 6 hours it takes to slow cook and gives the potatoes a really rich flavour.  The lamb and potatoes were served accompanied by a gem lettuce and mint salad.  The salad freshened up what could have been a rather heavy dish.  Bryn said "If anyone says they can't cook, I'd challenge them on this one because the oven does most of the  work."

I stumbled away from the event chock full of fabulous food, and a little wine.  I fully support the campaign, not just because they fed me delicious food, but because it's about time people realised and were convinced that if they only buy certain cuts they are missing out on wonderfully easy, tasty and cheap lamb dishes.  I think the main reason for the "only certain cuts" mindset is that people feel really daunted by different cuts and it takes them way out of their cooking comfort zone. 

We need to spread the word and show people how to cook different cuts of meat which would broaden their culinary horizons and also make their pennies stretch further.  Learning how to buy and cook meat differently is simple, read blogs, google recipes, look at cookbooks from the library or chat with your local butcher.

Another popular opinion, that was evident when I discussed the event with friends and neighbours, is that lamb is a roast or chops on a BBQ.  Although you can quickly cook up lamb chops and steaks, most people save lamb for a roast or make curries and stews from cheap, poor quality supermarket stewing lamb.  There are so many ways to cook lamb quickly, cheaper cuts that are delicious when cooked the right way, and people need to realise that lamb doesn't have to be an expensive huge lump of roasted meat reserved only for special occasions.

And, as Bryn said "I don't cook Welsh Lamb because I'm Welsh and it's Welsh, I cook it because it's the best lamb and is consistently good." He prides himself on only using the best produce in his restaurant and I can attest, it's DAMN GOOD!  Give Welsh Lamb a try, Waitrose stock it and when it's on offer, it's reasonably priced.  Failing that, have a chat to your local butcher and see what's available.

You can also find Welsh Lamb on Twitter and Facebook.

Nairn's Sweet Red Pepper Oatcakes Review

Tuesday, 18 October 2011
I was recently sent some Nairn's Oatcakes to review, they were the new Sweet Red Pepper Flavour.  I really like Nairn's Oatcakes as part of a packed lunch or a quick snack and my favourite way to enjoy them is with some extra light flavoured cream cheese or homemade hummus.  I  have tried the Herb and Punpkin flavour in the past and was curious to see if I liked the new flavour just as much.

There are 5 packets of 6 crackers in each box, great to put in lunchboxes as there's just the right number of crackers for a decent snack.  I took some to London with me on the train to an evening event as I knew I would be hungry.  I had mine without a dip, just accompanied by cup of coffee to wash them down.  They were full of flavour, moreish and rather delicious, they satisfied my hunger pangs without leaving  me feeling too full.

Apparently, Nairn's Oatcakes are naturally nutritious because oats are high in soluble fibre and this means they're packed full of slow release energy carbohydrates and this means that you feel fuller for longer and hopefully snack less.  I was more  concerned about how they taste, rather than all the health benefits, because if they taste good we're more likely to enjoy eating them. 

According to the packaging, Nairn's oatcakes are also wheat free and contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.  

There are loads of great recipes for toppings and how to use Nairn's Oatcakes in meals and kid friendly suggestions on the Nairn's Oatcakes website.  You can also find Nairn's Oatcakes on Facebook and Twitter.

Give them a go, they're delicious!

Discover Organic Cookbook Review

Monday, 17 October 2011
Discover Organic, is the new cookbook by the Organic Trade Board’s Why I Love Organic campaign, and can be purchased from Waitrose stores across the UK (RRP £14.99).  I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this fabulous cookbook to review.

It's a beautifully illustrated cookbook that features 70 delicious recipes from well-known personalities and TV chefs including BBC presenter Kate Humble, Boxer David Haye, Chefs Raymond Blanc and Lorraine Pascale, and former F1 World Champion racing driver Jody Scheckter.

In the Discover Organic cookbook, celebrities, chefs and home cooks share their passion for organic food, and show just how easy it is to eat organic. Their stories and recipes demonstrate how eating organic doesn’t have to be difficult, exclusive or expensive - which is the main thing that stops people like me from regularly buying organic food, although we do get an organic fruit and vege box delivered each week. 

Talking about her involvement in the new cookbook, BBC Presenter Kate Humble commented; ‘Food is our daily fuel and our children’s future, so as consumers and as citizens, it’s important to make the right food choices. When I buy organic it's because of the wildlife factor. I am 100% in favour of farmers looking after wildlife and many farmers do that. But with organic you get the extra reassurance on the label."

Here are a couple of delicious recipes suitable for Meatfree Monday from this fab cookbook:

Roasted Carrot and Hummus Dip

This dish makes a tasty change to traditional hummus and is perfect for a light lunch, snack or autumn appetiser. Not to mention the fact that the high vegetable content of this recipe puts you well on your way to eating your 5-a-day.

Serves 4

For the Hummus:

350g organic carrots, washed, trimmed and cut into 2cm chunks

3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

2tsp cumin seeds

2tbsp olive oil

1 tin of organic chickpeas in water, drained

Juice of 1 lemon

For the crudités:

1 carrot, peeled and cut into batons

1 green pepper, cut into batons

10 cherry tomatoes

10 mushrooms

1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC, Gas Mark 7.

2. Place the carrots in a small roasting tin, add the garlic, cumin and 1 tbsp of the olive oil, and toss to mix.

3. Place the garlic under the carrots and roast for 15–20 minutes or until the carrots are tender and lightly charred.

4. Add the chickpeas to the roasting tin and stir well to coat them with the cooking juices.

5. Remove the skin from the garlic and discard.

6. Transfer the ingredients to a food processor, add the remaining oil and lemon juice, then use the pulse setting to blend to a creamy pureé. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a bowl and serve with the vegetable crudités.

Toffee Apple Yogurt Cake

Serves 6

For the cake:

175 g unsalted butter, softened slightly

175 g golden caster sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling on top

3 large free-eggs, beaten

200 g self-raising flour

½ tsp ground cinnamon

45 ml organic toffee yogurt

1 Cox’s apple, cored and diced

For the icing:

75 g butter

175 g icing sugar

2 tbsp organic toffee yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, Gas mark 4.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

3. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a teaspoon of flour if the mixture begins to curdle.

4. Sieve and then fold in the flour and cinnamon, followed by the yogurt and apple.

5. Divide the mixture between two greased and lined 17.5 cm sandwich tins and cook for 20–25 minutes until golden and springy to the touch.

6. Turn the cakes out of their tins and cool on a wire rack.

7. To make the icing, beat the butter until fluffy then gradually add the icing sugar, stirring until smooth. Add the yogurt and mix well, being careful not to over-beat.

8. Sandwich the cakes together with the icing, and sprinkle the extra caster sugar over the top.

Tip: If toffee yogurt’s not your thing, try using organic Greek-style yogurt with honey or natural yogurt with vanilla.

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches - Review

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches is written by Susan Russo, who writes for NPR's Kitchen Window, and also blogs at Food Blogga. Susan Russo's Encyclopedia of Sandwiches includes everything from "recipes to history to trivia for everything between sliced bread."

This cookbook offers recipes for over 100 sandwiches from the Vegetarian Caprese Sandwich, to the artery hardening All-in-One Breakfast Sandwich made with waffles, bacon, hash-browns, eggs and maple syrup, to the deliciously decadent Muffinwich, Poundcake Sandwich and Banana Split Sandwich.

In our household my husband's daily packed lunch always consists of a bagel with the same fillings on it, or leftovers from the previous night's dinner. This book has inspired him to branch out in to more interesting choices, just as long as I make his lunches for him, otherwise he still makes the same thing.  I always try to make the kids lunches interesting and flavourful but my husband has always escaped change, no excuses now for him though.  What is great  about this book is that all the thinking has been done for me.  I can choose a few ideas, using ingredients I already have, or can create feasts simply by adding a few things to my shopping list.  Our packed lunches are much tastier and more exciting since having a good read through The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches over a cuppa.

I really like the fact that each sandwich recipe has some explanation and history.  It makes it an interesting read, not just recipes for sandwiches. I think The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches is a must for makers of packed lunches because the book is not just loads of recipes, but loads of fun too.  Sandwiches are a part of our daily lives, so we should make sure we have a bit of variety and inspiration.  Mix things up a bit, try something different, and make sure we don't keep on eating the same sandwich everyday.

Give the book a read, I highly recommend it!

Lunchbox Filler - Mini Frittatas

These are great for picnics, packed lunch boxes and an easy standby when savoury options for bring a plate functions are needed.  You can leave out the bacon if you want to make vegetarian frittatas, or use small chunks of precooked vegetarian sausages if you like.  You can even use gluten free self raising flour instead of normal self raising flour.

Sometimes I add finely chopped peppers or courgettes and cook those with the onions, adding feta instead of cheddar cheese to vary the flavour.  These are so easily adaptable and you can use whatever you have available in your fridge or cupboards. 

1 large onion, chopped

2-3 rashers bacon, trimmed of fat and roughly chopped (optional)

1 tsp oil

1/2 cup self-raising flour (or use gluten free self raising flour)

3 eggs

1 cup milk

2 potatoes, cubed and cooked

410g can whole kernel corn

60g grated cheese

1 spring onion, chopped (or use fresh chives, parsley or coriander)

salt and pepper to season

cooking spray or a little oil on some kitchen towel

Preheat your oven to 220°C.

Cook the onion and bacon in the oil until soft, and then set aside to cool.

Put the self raising flour in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk and cooled onion and bacon. Season with salt and pepper then beat with well a fork to thoroughly combine everything. Pour this egg mixture into the bowl containing the flour and stir until everything has just combined.  Add the cooked and cooled potatoes, drained can of corn, two-thirds of the grated cheese and the chopped spring onion or herbs.

Spray a 12-cup metal muffin tin thoroughly with cooking spray, or lightly grease with some oil on a kitchen towel, and spoon mixture into cups.  A metal muffin tin will give the best results.

Top with remaining grated cheese and cook at 220°C for 25-35 minutes. Let the frittatas cool for 5 minutes before turning out of the tin or cutting.  Serve with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce, tomato relish or chutney and a side salad.

Tom Yum Soup - Worldfoods Fusion Taste Team Challenge Number 3

Saturday, 15 October 2011
This weeks challenge from WORLDFOODS, using their Tom Yum Paste, was Tom Yum Soup.  This soup is very appropriately named as is incredibly YUM!  It combines hot and sour flavours with fragrant herbs and fresh vegetables.  Typical ingredients are stalks of lemon grass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and chilli - but all the hard work has been done for you with WORLDFOODS Tom Yum Paste.  The soup is usually made with fish or chicken, but you can substitute tofu instead if you're vegetarian.  Mine was totally vegetables with no protein at all, I did however add a few extra mushrooms of different types and some other vegetables to bulk it out a bit.

Here are the delicious recipes we were given to base our dishes on:

May's Thai Tom Yum Goong

serves 2-4

4 tbsp Tom Yum Paste

200ml water

60g shrimps

60g straw mushrooms (or any variety you wish)

(optional 100ml coconut milk)

1. Stir in 4 tbsp of Tom Yum Paste in 200ml of water and bring to a boil.

2. Add in 60g of shrimp, peeled leaving tails on and 60g of mushrooms.

3. Simmer over medium heat until shrimp is cooked.

4. Stir in 100ml of coconut milk and bring to a boil.

5. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Alternatively follow the recipe for our Tom Yum fried rice if you're feeling a little more hungry or have more mouths to feed!

May's Tom Yum Seafood Rice

Serves 2-4

1 tablespoon olive oil

300g (10.7 oz) cooked rice, cooked as per pack instructions

100g frozen mixed vegetables

6 fresh mushrooms (optional), halved

1 thin slice ginger, finely chopped

100g (3.5oz) raw prawns, shelled and deveined

1.5 tbsp WORLDFOODS Thai Tom Yum Paste

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok. Add ginger and stir fry till fragrant.

2. Stir in the tom yum paste and fry for 1 minute until aromatic. Add mixed vegetables, mushrooms, prawns and stir for 2 minutes.

3. Stir in rice and cook for further 5 minutes until heated through.

*Rice for frying can be cooked at least 2 hours in advance or the night before - this ensures that it is slightly less moist and better for stir-frying.  To pad this soup out you could add cooked noodles, barley or rice.

Please pay attention to the paste ratio guidelines - it should be roughly one teaspoon per person. Taste it as you go and if it is not to your liking, add some more water, or more paste. You can also add more or less coconut milk to suit your taste.

Here's a picture of my Tom Yum Soup that I made using the recipe provided above.  It smelt, and was, delicious!

It was much easier using the WORLDFOODS TomYum Paste than making the paste from scratch and tasted authentic.  I made some for a friend and I to eat for lunch as it was a rather miserable grey day and we were both fighting off the beginnings of a cold.  It brightened a rather chilly day, tasted delicious and cleared away some of our minor cold symptoms as well. Result!

Don't forget you can follow Worldfoods Fusion Taste Team on Twitter @fusiontasteteam and don't forget to check out the Wordfoods Facebook Page.

Divine Chocolate Recipes for Chocolate Week

Friday, 14 October 2011
I was delighted to be sent some recipes from Divine Chocolate and be asked to publish them for Chocolate Week.  KitchenAid teamed up with Divine Chocolate to create the following delicious chocolate recipes: Creamy Cappuccino Cheesecake, The Ultimate Choc Chip Cookies and White Chocolate Cheesecake Cake.  All the recipes have been created by Linda Collister for the Divine Chocolate Cookbook.

Creamy Cappuccino Cheesecake

A really creamy and deeply flavoured cheesecake. The base is a dark chocolate mocha biscuit-crumb combination which contrasts with the coffee filling. Look out for Fairtrade instant coffee to flavour the filling and choose top quality full-fat cream cheese.


For the base

1 x 100g bar Divine coffee chocolate

50g unsalted butter, diced

200g digestive biscuits

For the filling

500g best quality cream cheese

125g light muscovado sugar

50g caster sugar

2 rounded teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

1 tablespoon Kahlua (optional)

2 large free range eggs

To finish

Divine cocoa powder for dusting

23cm spring-clip tin, greased, set on a baking tray
Heat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.

To make the base: break up the chocolate and melt very gently with the butter in a large heatproof mixing bowl (see page 16). Remove the bowl from the heat and stir gently until smooth. Put the biscuits into a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin to make fine crumbs.

Tip the crumbs into the melted chocolate, mix well and then tip the mixture into the prepared tin. Using the back of a spoon, press the mixture into the base of the tin and halfway up its sides. Chill until needed.

To make the filling: put the cream cheese, both sugars, dissolved coffee, Kahlua (if using) and the eggs into the bowl of a food processor and run the machine until the mixture is very smooth.

Pour the filling into the tin set on the baking tray. Bake in the heated oven for 40 minutes until just set, then turn off the heat and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven. When completely cold cover and chill overnight.

To serve, carefully unclip the tin and set the cheesecake on a serving plate. Dust heavily with cocoa.

Store, tightly covered, in the fridge and eat within 4 days.

The Ultimate Chocoalte Chip Cookies

Rather than using the usual supermarket chocolate drops, these cookies are made with proper chunks of lovely dark chocolate, plus extra cocoa and crunchy nuts. 


1 x 100g bar Divine dark chocolate

100g walnut or pecan pieces

125g unsalted butter, soft

100g caster sugar

100g light muscovado sugar

1 large free range egg

220g plain flour

3 tablespoons Divine cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 non-stick baking trays, ungreased
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Break up the chocolate into squares and mix with the nuts. Set aside until needed.

Put the soft butter and the sugars into the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until soft and fluffy. Scrape down the sides then beat in the egg.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl. Mix well then stir in the chocolate squares and nuts.

Using a heaped tablespoon of mixture for each cookie, roll the mixture into balls then arrange them on the baking trays, flatten slightly with your fingers, spacing the cookies well apart to allow for spreading. Bake in the heated oven for about 12–15 minutes or until just firm, and then remove the trays from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container and eat within 5 days or freeze for up to a month.

White Chocolate Cheesecake


A dark chocolate crumb base topped with a rich and creamy white chocolate filling. The orange and lemon zests, along with the slight saltiness of the cream cheese give a real tang to avoid any cloying.
For the base

2 tablespoons Divine cocoa

75g unsalted butter, melted

150g digestives, crushed

50g caster sugar

For the filling

2 x 100g bars Divine white chocolate

3 tablespoons warm water

600g good quality cream cheese

75g caster sugar

grated zest of 1/2 unwaxed orange

grated zest and juice of 1/2 unwaxed lemon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 large free range eggs

To finish

Divine plain chocolate shavings or cocoa

23cm springclip tin, greased and base-lined, set on a baking tray

Heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.

Make the base first: mix the cocoa with the melted butter then stir in the biscuit crumbs and the sugar. When thoroughly combined tip the mixture into the tin and, using the back of a spoon, press firmly onto the base and about 2cm up the sides. Chill until needed.

Break up the white chocolate and melt gently with the water. Remove the bowl from the heat, stir gently and leave to cool until needed. Put the cream cheese, sugar, orange zest, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and eggs into the bowl of a food processor.

Run the machine until the mixture is very smooth, scraping down the sides from time to time. Add the melted chocolate and run the machine until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into the chilled base, then set the tin (on the baking tray) into the heated oven and bake for 40 minutes. Once cooked turn off the oven but do not remove the cheesecake and leave to cool for an hour. Then remove the tin, leave to cool completely then cover and chill overnight.

When ready to serve, run a round-bladed knife inside the tin to loosen the cheesecake then unclip the tin. Decorate with plain chocolate shavings or dust with cocoa.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge and eat within 4 days.

Frugal Birthday Party Ideas

Thursday, 13 October 2011
I'm absolutely delighted that one of my favourite bloggers, Cass from The Diary of a Frugal Family, has written a Guest Post on Birthday Parties for me.  My 4yo will turn 5 on Satiurday, aside from the shock that my youngest child is going to be 5yo, I needed some inspiration and ideas for the party that are really cheap to keep costs down.

Over to Cass from The Diary of a Frugal Family:

One of the happiest memories from my childhood is of my sixth birthday party - trust me, I have the video to prove it as my dad spent the whole day following everyone around with a giant camcorder with my brother following closely behind him with some sort of lighting attachment. I think that this may be the reason why I love celebrating the children’s birthdays with them so much. Every year since they started school, they’ve both had a party - sometimes big parties for the whole class and sometimes smaller parties with just a few friends. Either way we always have lots of ideas to make sure we have as much fun as possible for as little money as possible:

*As popular as parties at the local bowling alley or go kart track are, I’ve found that children love the good old fashioned parties with the same games that we enjoyed when we were younger.

* Our local church hall costs 30 pounds to hire for a two hour party and holds up to 35 children which means that the whole class can come. We took a CD player and filled the room with about 100 balloons (husband wasn’t happy when he got that job) and let them get rid of lots of energy running round and popping them all before playing pass the parcel, musical statues, musical chairs and pin the tail on the donkey.

* We’ve had a pamper party where my daughter invited six friends round and my friend came and curled all the girls’ hair and did their nails while we had the Wii on in the other room. For about six months after this, every party my daughter was invited to was a pamper party!

* We’ve hired a party fire engine for my little boy and six of his friends and got a good deal as we asked for a shorter ride than the hour that they usually taken them out for. Trust me, half an hour is more than enough for six little boys in an enclosed space with no toilet.

* Last year we had a pink tea party where everyone had to come in pink (it’s OK - they’re all girly girls) and all the food was pink.

* We’ve hired a bouncy castle for the garden at a cost of about 40 pounds which kept everyone occupied for the whole two hours.

* When I was working full time, we also had a few parties at the Wacky Warehouse which works out to about 120 pounds for 20 children including an hours play in the ball pool, a hot meal and a party bag - not very frugal but it still represents good value for money and is always a popular party idea.

Food wise we never go overboard as I find that the kids don’t tend to eat too much while there’s a party going on. I make some ham, egg and tuna sandwiches (I hate sweaty cheese sandwiches), some sausage rolls and mini pizzas, hot dogs on cocktail sticks, crisps and lots of fairy cakes. We usually have strawberries and grapes too although that does tend to use up a lot of the budget so I guess if you’re being frugal you could easily do without them.

I don’t tend to bother making the cake myself now after the last cake I made ended up costing about three times what a cake would have cost to buy - it was fantastic though and sealed my reputation as the school’s premier party throwing parent (not really lol).

My pet hate is party bags filled with sugary things and plastic tat so I always stock up on things just after the kids go back to school and then again after Christmas when you can usually get stacks of things reduced to ridiculously low prices. This year my 9 y/o’s party bags consisted of a light up Hello Kitty pen, a Hello Kitty key ring, a notebook, some bubbles and two packets of sweets - all for under one pound fifty a bag. Oh, and try not to forget to put the cake in the bag like I did ;-)

Whatever you decide to do, take lots of pictures. I always take one of everyone at the party for the kids to keep and if it’s a smallish party I get a copy of it printed out for everyone.

And don’t stress out, the guests won’t care if you forget something or if something doesn’t go according to plan.

Do check out the fab The Diary of a Frugal Family blog for loads of great ideas, recipes and adventures.
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