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Apple and Berry Bread Swirls

Tuesday, 30 October 2012
I made these for pudding the other night after picking the berries on a morning walk with my daughters and one of the last apples from our tree in the back garden.  We used some of the berries in pancakes and I made these tasty morsels with the rest.  They were devoured in minutes!  My husband ate two before be paused for breath and my daughters complained that there weren't more of them.  They are really easy to make and are great for a pudding or afternoon tea treat. 

125ml warm milk
7g dried yeast, 1 sachet
2 Tblsp caster sugar
1 free range egg
300g plain flour
60g butter
100g fresh berries or frozen berries that have been slightly thawed
1 apple peeled, cored and diced
150g mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tblsp icing sugar
Chocolate for drizzling (optional)

Combine the milk, yeast, egg and sugar in a bowl or jug then whisk to thoroughly combine everything. Put the flour and butter in a bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer and rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the liquid ingredients then mix until combined. Knead the dough for 3 - 5 minutes then cover and set aside in a warm place for 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 180°C.  Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 - 3 minutes to knock it back.  Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out the dough to a 30 x 40cm rectangle.  

Combine mascarpone, vanilla and icing sugar then spread it evenly over the dough.  Scatter over the berries and diced apple.  Starting with the longest side closest to you, roll the dough up firmly to form a log. Cut crossways into 8 - 10 slices.

Arrange the slices, cut-side up, side by side and just touching on the lined baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.  I drizzled ours with some melted dark chocolate to make them a little more decadent for pudding.

Before the Apple and Berry Bread Swirls were doused in chocolate, and after, just before they were devoured.

Our Meal Plan Week Of Half Term 29/10 - £70

Monday, 29 October 2012
I was given some vouchers by Asda to try out their Price Guarantee and Butchers Selection 3 for £10 Meat Offer as part of our Meal Plan this week.  Having been to the Butchers Selection launch event I knew the meat was great quality and was keen to see if the meat from my local store was equal to the standard we were served at the PR evening. 

As it is Half Term Week all 3 girls will be at home, and I will be childminding another 3 children for one of the days.  This means that extra supplies will be required and as a result the cost of our Meal Plan this week is £70.

I used My Supermarket to compare the price of my shopping elsewhere and my items would've cost £78.01 at Tesco and £86.86 at Sainsbury's.  So Asda was more than 10% cheaper, as per their Price Guarantee.  However, at the moment Asda have a promotion running which means that if you shop at Asda, either online or instore, and check the Price Guarantee website they will give you a £5 voucher off your next shop over £40.  You can check out the promotion here.

I am making some of the dinners stretch over two nights which means leftovers are used effectively and also cuts down on the amount of cooking required in the evenings when I shall no doubt be rather weary after entertaining children all day.  My 3 daughters get bored watching telly after about half an hour and much prefer to be crafting, playing or making things so holidays can be rather tiring.  I am hoping a visit to the library for a large amount of reading and craft books to read and new cosy blankets will keep them chilled out long enough for me to have a nice hot cuppa and some respite from activities occasionally.                   

Lunches will be filling and easy to prepare, and I shall be getting my 3 girls to help.  My daughters love cooking and it keeps them busy with a tasty result, what more could you want?

Breakfasts will be porridge to fuel us for the busy day ahead and keep snacking at bay until morning tea time.  I have included plenty of fruit in the meal plan and we will be making our own yoghurt which will be flavoured with homemade fruit compote or jam if need be.

There will of course be some baked treats, no doubt we will have friends drop in for a cuppa throughout the week.  Again I will get my daughters to chose what we bake and to help as much as they like.  I will blog baked treats separately throughout the week.

As usual I will be baking all of our bread, rolls, tortillas, bagels, etc with more help than usual so have included the cost of flour and other ingredients in the Meal Plan.  We are also using greens from the garden as much as possible and I have included the cost of those as well because not everyone has access to fresh greens from the garden.

Lunches


Easy Thrifty Vegetable Soup - soup mix soaked overnight then drained and combined with with 3 sticks celery, 2 leeks and  3 carrots all finely sliced, 1 crushed clove of garlic and 1.5 litres vegetable stock.  Simmer until soup mix and vegetables are tender then serve.

Comforting Chorizo, Bean and Vegetable Soup

Twice Baked Potatoes

Quick Cheese and Herb Bread and Cornbread

Savoury Scone Swirls

Hotdogs - Cooked sausages and onions served in rolls with tomato sauce and/or mustard.

Macaroni Cheese

500g pasta shapes
1 onion – finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 pepper, diced
2 Tblsp butter
2 Tblsp flour
350ml hot milk
200g grated cheese
300g frozen mixed vegetables

Preheat oven to 180C. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, adding the frozen mixed vegetables for the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking time. Whilst the pasta is cooking, sauté the onion, pepper and garlic in a little oil.

In a separate saucepan slowly cook the butter and flour stirring constantly. When mixture looks a bit like biscuit crumbs add the hot milk and whisk until the mixture thickens. Add 200g of grated cheese and simmer for 5 mins, stirring frequently. Add the softened onion, garlic and pepper mixture to the cheese sauce and mix well to combine. Pour the cheese sauce mixture on to the drained pasta and mixed vegetables and stir through until combined. Serve as is or with a side salad.


Dinners


Bean Burritos – Meatfree Monday

8 - 10 tortillas/flat breads
2 tins chilli beans
3 fresh tomatoes, sliced
diced cucumber
lettuce leaves
small pot of sour cream or plain yoghurt
1 cup (120g) grated cheese

Heat chilli beans in a pot whilst tortillas are warming in the oven. Put chilli beans onto tortillas and top with tomato, cucumber, lettuce, a little sour cream and a sprinkling of cheese. Fold up and serve.


Sausage Casserole (2 nights)

1 tbsp olive oil
12 fat pork sausages
25g butter
2 large onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 large leeks, washed and sliced thinly
3 granny smith apples
2 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp cider vinegar
2 litres vegetable stock
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 x 400g can borlotti or cannelini beans

Brown the sausages in a large pan then set aside. Add the butter to the pan containing the cooking juices srom the sausages and sauté the onions, garlic and leeks for five minutes until the leeks soften and the onion becomes transparent.

Peel the apples and cut into 8ths. Add the apple pieces to the onion mixture and scatter the flour over everything, stirring well to thoroughly coat the vegetables with the flour mixture.

Add the cider vinegar and use it to deglaze the pan. Add the stock and mustard then bring to the boil.

Add the sausages and drained tins of beans to the casserole. Cover and bake at 180°C, or simmer on the stove for 40 minutes.

Season with sea salt and pepper then serve with greens and some crusty bread or mash.


Cheesy Root Vegetable Bake

2 medium-sized potatoes peeled and cut into 3cm dice
1 medium-sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3cm dice
300g pumpkin or squash,
2 carrots, peeled peeled and cut into 3cm dice
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced (optional); 2 tbsp olive oil

Cheese Sauce:
2 tbsp plain flour
40g butter
500ml milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Put the potatoes and sweet potatoes in a saucepan of water. Bring to the boil and cook for three minutes to par-boil them. Drain. Put them in a small roasting dish.

Cut the carrots into 1 cm slices and add with the remaining vegetables to the potatoes. Drizzle with oil and bake for 40 minutes in the oven. From time to time, toss the vegetables well to coat them in oil and to help them crisp up a little.

While the vegetables are baking, make the cheese sauce.  Put a medium-sized saucepan over a moderate heat and add the flour and butter. Mix well to combine and cook it, stirring constantly for three minutes. Add the milk all in one go and use a whisk to stir it well. Keep stirring until all the lumps are gone and the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in some seasoning to taste and two-thirds of the cheese.

Remove vegetables from the oven and pour the cheese sauce over the them. Stir it gently to cover the vegetables in the cheese sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and put the dish back into the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and turns golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 – 10 minutes before serving with a salad or greens.


Slow Cooker Meatballs (2 nights)

24 ASDA Butcher's Selection Beef Meatballs (730g)
2 large onions, finely diced
2 peppers, finely diced
4 carrots, finely diced
3 sticks celery, finely sliced/diced
500g homemade or store bought pasta sauce
500 ml beef stock or water

Turn the slow cooker on to low to preheat whilst you chop all the vegetables.

Put the onion, pepper, carrot and celery Into the slow cooker. Mix together the cook-homemade pasta sauce and beef stock then pour into the slow cooker. Stir to mix thoroughly with the vegetables.

Put the meatballs in to the sauce in the slow cooker and then cover with the lid. Cook on low for 6–7 hours or on high for 3–4 hours. Serve with mash/pasta/baked potatoes and steamed mixed vegetables.


Chicken Stir Fry with Noodles

500g breasts cut into thin strips
1 pack fresh egg noodles
2 packs stir fry vegetables
1 pack stir fry sauce

Cook according to packet instructions.


Shopping List

Cost of 50 items: £70.00 from Asda on 28/10/2012

Packets and Cereals
1x ASDA Smartprice Porridge Oats (1Kg) 75p
1x Wholefoods Cornmeal (500g) 74p
1x Asda Conchiglie Italian Wholewheat Pasta (500g) 75p any 2 FOR £1.50
2x Asda Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.20
1x ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Chosen by You Wholewheat Fusilli (500g) 75p any 2 FOR £1.50
1x Great Scot Vegetable Broth Mix (500g) 68p
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 64p
2x ASDA Wholefoods Brown Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £2.56

Frozen
1x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) 75p

Tins, Jars and Cooking
2x ASDA Borlotti Beans in Water (290g) 78p
2x ASDA Cannellini Beans in Water (300g) £1.28
2x ASDA Chosen by You Chilli Beans (290g) £1.36
3x ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn (326g) 96p
1x Blue Dragon Stir Fry Sauce - Chow Mein (120g) 65p
1x ASDA Double Concentrated Tomato Puree (200g) 48p
2x ASDA Extra Special Passata Chunky (700g) £2.56

Dairy and Eggs
1x DaleFarm Lakeland Live Cultured Buttermilk (250g) 52p
6x ASDA British Whole Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £6.00
1x ASDA Free Range Medium Eggs (12) £1.98
2x ASDA Smartprice Salted Butter (250g) £1.96
1x ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g) 55p
2x ASDA Chosen by You English Mature Cheddar (400g) £4.00 any 2 FOR £4.00

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Fruit (500g) 64p
2x ASDA Smartprice Pears £1.80
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) £1.36
10 ASDA Tomatoes by Weight (100g) £1.99
20 ASDA Butternut Squash by Weight (100g) £1.80 was 10.7p
10 ASDA Sweet Potatoes by Weight (100g) £1.00 was 12.8p
1x ASDA Round Lettuce 57p
1x ASDA Celery 89p
1x ASDA Parsnips (500g) 50p
2x ASDA Trimmed Leeks (500g) £2.00
1x ASDA Baking Potatoes (2.5Kg) £1.42
2x ASDA Garlic Loose 30p
2x ASDA Smartprice Apples (650g) £1.80
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.25
1x ASDA Smartprice Brown Onions (2Kg) £1.17
1x ASDA Spinach (350g) £1.00
4 ASDA Granny Smith Apples by Weight (100g) 72p
1x ASDA Carrots (1.2Kg) £1.00
1x ASDA Oriental Stir Fry with Edamame and Peppers (340g) £1.00 any 3 FOR £3.00
1x ASDA Water Chestnut and Bamboo Shoot Stir Fry (420g) £1.00 any 3 FOR £3.00

Bakery
2x Discovery Mexican Plain Flour Tortillas (8) £1.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x ASDA Butcher's Selection Sausages (20 per pack - 1.14Kg) £3.33 any 3 FOR £10.00
1x ASDA Butcher's Selection Beef Meatballs (730g) £3.33 any 3 FOR £10.00
1x ASDA Chorizo Cooking Sausage (200g) £1.85
1x ASDA Butcher's Selection Chicken Breast Fillets (450g) £3.33 any 3 FOR £10.00

Ready Meals
1x ASDA Free Range Egg Noodles (495g) £1.00 any 3 FOR £3.00

Prices were correct as of 28 October 2012 on Asda section of the My Supermarket website.


** This is a sponsored post as I was given vouchers in order to purchase my groceries from Asda**

Comforting Bean and Chorizo Soup

This soup is quick to make, packed with flavour, and contains a decent amount of vegetables which makes it perfect for a comforting Half Term Holiday lunch in Autumn. 

2 chorizo sausages, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
1 pepper, finlely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tblsp tomato paste
400g tin chopped tomatoes
400g can cannellini beans, borlotti beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
500ml vegetable stock
2 generous handfuls of spinach or greens

Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate. Add the onion, celery, carrot, pepper and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onion softens. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the chorizo, beans and stock then stir to combine. Bring to the boil.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup thickens slightly.  Add the spinach or greens and stir through so it wilts.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in bowls with crusty bread.


This soup is bubbling away and we are eagerly awaiting lunch.


Roast Vegetable Cornbread

Sunday, 28 October 2012
I usually use up leftover roast vegetables in a frittata or pasta bake.  However this time I decided to do something different.  I used them in cornbread chopped finely with fresh thyme.  It was delicious!


125g fine cornmeal
125g plain white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
l/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 Tblsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup finely chopped leftover roast vegetables
2 medium free range eggs
1 Tblsp golden syrup
150g buttermilk
150ml milk
25g butter, melted and cooled

Line a 23cm square cake tin with baking paper.  Preheat your oven to 200C Fan/220C/Gas Mark 7.

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl, including the thyme and chopped leftover roast vegetables.  Stir to combine then make a well in the centre.  



Whisk together the wet ingredients and pour them into the dry ingredients.  Mix until everything is just combined, make sure you don't over mix it or the cornbread will be tough. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and then get it into the oven as quickly as you can.  

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the cornbread is golden and has shrunk back slightly from the sides of the tin.  Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.  Cut into squares and serve warm.  This is great as a side dish with soup.




I've entered this recipe into the River Cottage Rocks Challenge hosted by the lovely Jo who blogs at Jo'sKitchen. The theme this month was Bread.  Check it out her blog for the next challenge and join in.


Our Gardening Adventures - The Lurgy Edition

Friday, 26 October 2012
Earlier this week my friend Lucy and I spent an hour eating soup and toast, having a natter then planning what we were going to grow in each raised bed in the Spring.  We then dragged ourselves out in the foggy and damp weather to weed, spread compost and generally tidy up the raised beds. 

There has been a bit of a brassica masacre courtesy of slugs so we have used some organic slug pellets in an effort to stop anymore of the plants being chewed to stems.  About 30% of the seedlings we have planted had been moderately damaged by the slugs so we are hoping some recover from being munched.

The final raised bed that was waiting to be tamed will have to wait a bit longer as we could only stand an hour out in the damp and fog before the desire for a cuppa and the warmth of the house became too much and we scurried inside whinging about the weather.


All we did was weed this bed and spread compost out on it.
Our excuses for being non hardy gardening types are that I have tonsillitis and my broken foot is still a little sore, and Lucy had worked crazy hours the previous few days so was exhausted.  It is Half Term School Holidays this coming week so we are all taking a week off from the gardening sessions.

We are determined to tackle the last raised bed though so bring on the session after Half Term, assuming we won't turn into iciles whilst weeding! LOL


The untamed raised bed on the left of the picture is what we will tackle next, weather permitting.

How do you keep up your gardening motivation when the weather is cold, damp and generally awful? Any tips for how to beat the inclement conditions?


Taylors of Harrogate Coffee Visit

How far would you go for a decent cup of coffee?



I have a confession to make, I am a coffee snob.  I don't drink instant coffee and much prefer a cup brewed from freshly ground beans.  Coffee keeps me going, I cannot and will not function without a decent brew.

When I was invited by Taylors of Harrogate to a coffee event I was very excited to go along, even when they told me it would be a 4hr train journey each way.  I am that fond of decent coffee.  And besides I hadn't been that far up North in the UK so I thought why not go on a bit of a journey.  It was all I expected and much more!

The visit to Taylors was fab!  We had a gorgeous lunch followed by a coffee tasting session led by the extremely knowledgeable and friendly Emily who wasn't in the least but phased by some tricky questions posed by us bloggers.


Typical bloggers, despite being ravenous we have to take pics of lunch before we eat it! LOL

Taylors ensure they pay fair prices for their coffee from suppliers with many varieties certified as Fair Trade and we were shown a presentation detailing the production of coffee and how it is grown, processed, transported and prepared.  It is a very labour intensive and time critical process.


Emily talking us through the coffee growing, processing and transportation process

We were all instructed on the art of the slurp in order to properly taste the coffees on offer.  I found the citrussy flavoured coffees to be too weak and not to my liking at all.  I loved the Rich Italian (don't we all!) and Hot Lava Java varieties, both were strong and full bodied coffees.


Tasting the many and varied coffees on offer
We even got a tour of the factory, it was fascinating and well worth having to wear paper hair nets and coats.  We watched the coffee being roasted, ground and packaged.  It was like a live "How It's Made" programme, great fun!
Taylors have produced a handy Selection Pack of four coffees in exactly the right measures to use in an 8 cup cafetiere.  This means you can try a few different coffees without having to buy a whole bag of each one.  Genius!




The Selection Pack would be a great gift, along with an 8 cup cafetiere, for a coffee lover in your life.  Give it a go, the coffee is fab!

Many thanks to Taylors for their hospitality and for a brilliant and informative visit.  Everyone we met at the company was lovely, we were fed really well and I had a great time.


** Taylors of Harrogate paid my travel expenses to enable me to attend this event. **

More Cakes, great for a cuppa with friends

Wednesday, 24 October 2012
There's nothing like a cuppa to soothe frayed nerves and a cuppa with friends is even better.  I do like to bake a cake to have with our cuppa when friends come over, especially if there is a crisis that needs sorting or a rant to be had.  I don't want to spend hours faffing over a cake, I like maximum flavour for minimum effort. 

Here are three cakes I made recently for cuppa and natter sessions:

Apple and Sultana Cake

I used Granny Smith apples in this cake, freshly picked from the tree in our back garden.  You could use eating apples or bramley cooking apples, whichever you have.  If you use eating apples the cake will be slightly sweeter than if you use cooking apples.

225g butter, softened
180g light soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 free range eggs
300g self raising flour
2 apples peeled, cored and diced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 handful sultanas or raisins
200ml creme fraiche

Topping
1 apple peeled, cored and sliced thinly
2 Tblsp caster sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to180C.  Grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin with baking paper or a liner.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, either with an electric beater or stand mixer.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour and spices to the creamed mixture alternating with the creme fraiche.

Fold through the diced apple then pour the batter into the prepared cake tin.

Smooth the top then arrange the thinly sliced apple slices over the cake batter.  Mix together the sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle over the sliced apple.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes until it is golden, shrinking away from the edge of the tin and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

We had ours with some creme fraiche mixed with a little icing sugar and drizzled over the slightly warm cake.  It was delicious!


apple sultana cake cuppa autumn snack treat cinnamon


Cinnamon Sponge

180g caster sugar
75g butter
2 free rang eggs
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
200ml semi skimmed milk

Icing
200g icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180C then grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy with an electric beater or stand mixer.  Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.

Mix the flour, baking powder and spices together then add the to the creamed mixture alternating with the milk.

Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin and level the top.  Bake for 30 minutes.  The cake should be golden, shrinking away from the edge of the tin and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.



Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Mix the icing sugar and vanilla with enough water to make a pourable icing then pour over the cake.  Before the icing sets dust over some cinnamon.


cinnamon sponge cake autumn treat cuppa afternoon tea


Slow Food Kids Event - In Association With Grana Padano

Monday, 22 October 2012
I recently attended an event for Slow Food UK (in association with Grana Padano) and took my two eldest children and friend Lucy with me.  We were going to cook with renowned Italian chef Francesco Mazzei (founder of London restaurant L’Anima and father of two children, aged two and five) who has teamed up with Slow Food Kids to try and get families cooking and eating together.

Slow Food Kids is a non-profit organisation which aims to encourage children to engage with food using all five senses and to tap in to their natural curiosity to develop an appreciation of food and where it comes from.  Slow Kids have formed a partnership with Grana Padano Cheese to bring the Slow Food Kids’ Taste Adventure to festivals and community events throughout the country.

The Slow Food Kids’ Taste Adventure is a fun and interactive activity which brings the senses to life. It is aimed at 4 to 11 year olds but loved just as much by the big kids among us!

The adventure encourages children to think about food as they journey through five interactive zones, based on the five senses: taste, sight, touch, smell and hearing. Kids collect stamps on their Slow Food Kids’ Taste Adventure passports as they explore their senses and make new food discoveries.

You can have a go at the Slow Food Kids’ Taste Adventure online by clicking here.

On arrival we were greeted by lovely ladies from Slow Food UK and my daughters loved the activities on offer.  There was face painting:



We could all try out the Slow Food Kids’ Taste Adventure:



And we ate loads of these flavour packed, light and extremely moreish cheese balls:



The children made two delicious recipes, including gnocchi from scratch, and had a fabulous time!


Oven Roasted Vegetables With Fresh Hazelnuts

200g Beetroot
200g Fennel
200g Butternt squash
200g Purple Aubergine
2 Red onions
2 teaspoona tomato paste
50ml Extra Virgin Olive oil
50g Fresh hazelnuts or cobnuts
Salt & Pepper
2 Tablespoon honey
500ml Raspberry vinegar
50g Grana Padano 21 Months shavings
Fresh Herbs for decoration (Chervil, Basil, Cress)

Place the beetroot in a pan of cold water; bring to the boil to cook the beetroot for a few minutes. Let it cool down in the water.

In the meantime reduce the vinegar to 2 tablespoons, add the tomato paste, honey and salt and pepper.

Cut the vegetables into four pieces, season and roast in the oven at 185C until they are nice and tender (approx 25 minutes).

Cut the vegetables into smaller pieces if desired and place on a plate with the sauce, Grana Padano shavings, hazelnuts and herbs on top.




Aged Grana Padano and Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage

100g mashed potatoes (use 2 large potatoes)
100g pumpkin mash (1 butternut squash)
100g Grana Padano 21 Months (or good quality parmesan)
100g 00 flour
Pinch of Nutmeg
1 egg yolk
50g butter
1 teaspoon shallots
20g Sage (4 leaves)

Cook the potatoes and pumpkin in boiling water for 20-25 minutes, or until soft, then drain.  Mash well and place in a large bowl.

Make a well in the centre and add the egg, salt and freshly ground nutmeg, ¾ of the grated Grana Padano and flour.  Mix by hand to form dough, and then knead for a few minutes.  Cut the dough into smaller pieces.

Roll each piece into a cylinder and cut into 2.5cm/1in pieces.  Cook the gnocchi into boiling salted water.

When they rise to the top, remove from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and refresh in iced water. Drain, drizzle with olive oil and keep warm.

In the meantime deep fry the sage leaves in a deep fryer or in a pan with very hot oil.  Separately sweat the shallots and butter in a pan and then sauté the gnocchi.  Serve with extra Grana Padano and crispy fried sage leaves.


Thank you so much to Slow Food UK and Grana Padano, along with Francesco Mazzei for a brilliant day.  Do check out Slow Foos events if there is one near you, I totally recommend it as a great way to get kids, and adults, ejoying good food cooked with love and care.


** Our travel costs were paid to enable us to attend this event **

Easy Cakes for Baking Week

Thursday, 18 October 2012
There's nothing like a delicious piece of cake with a cuppa for an afternoon pick me up.  I love cakes that I can share with friends and family that look impressive and taste delicious but are really easy to make.

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

I recently attended an event for Chobani Yoghurt which is a delicious and creamy fat free Greek style yoghurt.  I used some to make this cake for an afternoon tea with friends.

2 lemons
250ml oil 
2 free range eggs
350g caster sugar
250ml yoghurt, I used Chobani
250g self-raising flour

Preheat the your oven to 180 C and grease an 8-cup ring tin.  To check the capacity of your tin, fill it with cups of water before you begin baking. 

Finely grate the zest from the lemons and squeeze out the juice.  Put the lemon zest into a large bowl. Add the oil, eggs and sugar before beating with an electric beater or mixer until the mixture is thick and well combined.

2.Add the yoghurt and 3 Tblsp of lemon juice.  Beat the mixture briefly to ensure everything is completely combimed.

Fold in the flour, using a metal spoon, and pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown, the cake is shrinking away from the sides of the tin, and the centre springs back when pressed gently.

Put the cake, in its tin, onto a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before trying to turn it out.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.




Quick and Easy Afternoon Tea Cake

3/4 cup caster sugar
50g butter, softened
1 free range egg, beaten
1½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
180ml milk

Cinnamon and Sugar Topping

1 Tblsp butter, softened
2 Tblsp caster sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the sugar and butter together in a bowl with a wooden spoon. There's not enough to cream with a mixer so exrecise those muscles and cream it as best you can.

Beat in the egg, ensuring everything is well combined.  Fold in the flour and baking powder, alternating with the milk, mix gently until a smooth batter forms.

Spoon the mixture into a well-greased and lined 20cm springform cake tin.

Bake at 180°C for 40 minutes or until the cake is golden, shrunk away from the side of the tin, and a skewer comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a cake rack to cool completely.

Whilst the cake is hot, spread the softened butter over the top and sprinkle over the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

While the cake is still hot spread the top of the cake with the extra butter and sprinkle over the sugar and cinnamon.



More Gardening Adventures - The Still Limping Edition

Tuesday, 16 October 2012
As I mentioned previously, I have a small fracture in a bone in my right foot due to an unfortunate rolling pin incident.  It didn't stop me from gardening today, I leaned on the shovel to dig instead of using my sore foot to press on it.  I also pulled out loads of weeds and was able to rake up debris.  Carrying 70 litre bags of compost did prove challenging though and after the first few I resorted to using a wheel barrow instead of the firemans lift technique.

There were 3 of us Mums at the gardening session today, our friend popped in to offer encouragement and have a cuppa but weekends are better for her so she'll come and do some gardening then.

We achieved a great deal this afternoon.  The bed that was planted out last week was covered with fleece to stop pesky pigeons nibbling our seedlings.  The remaining 3 vegetable beds were weeded, one of the beds still has work to be done as we were running out of time and energy by that point.

The weeded beds were covered with rotting leaves and compost which was then dug through.  We covered the beds with fleece weighed down with sticks so they can be dormant over winter ready for us to plant vegetables and in the Spring.  The bed we didn't have cover for was covered in cardboard which was then coated with rotting leaves and compost.  The leaves were from the local supermarket carpark as my friend asked the contractors cleaning up the leaves if she could have bags of them this time last year.  She is most resourceful and fantastic at scoring useful freebies for the garden such as leaves, cardboard and cuttings.  We purchased the compost and it was delivered on Monday afternoon in 10 large bags which are rather heavy to haul about.

From this . . . . . .

to this!

We had a very valuable helper too in the form of an enthusiastic 2yo boy who normally sleeps through our gardening session but was awake and enjoying digging today.  There were loads of nettles which needed to be cleared before he was let onto the garden beds, we all have loads of stings on our arms and legs.

Two beds planted out and covered, two beds dug over and covered, one bed to go.
Next week we will finish weeding the last raised bed, cover it with leaves and compost then dig them through.  After that we'll probably just keep an eye on the beds over Winter, weeding as necessary.  It's a good excuse for a buttie and cuppa too! ;o)


Our Favourite Lunchbox Treats

Sunday, 14 October 2012
I like to include a small baked treat in our household lunchboxes, my daughters particularly enjoy an energy boost midway through their school day.  I also usually take along an after school snack to keep them going on the (short) walk home.  Most often after school snacks consist of a piece of fruit or crudites accompanied by a small baked treat. 

I like "bung it all in and mix it up" recipes which are low faff and produce really tasty but not too sugar laden treats.  I try to add some dried fruit where possible and also use breakfast cereals for added crunch and vitamins.  I am certainly not proclaiming any of these recipes to be healthy, they are treats, and as such small servings are recommended.

Here are the recipes I use most often for lunchbox and after school snacks:

Vanilla Cupcakes

This recipe makes 12 muffin size and 12 mini-muffin size cupcakes.  I normally put the larger cupcakes in lunchboxes and take the smaller ones for an after school snack.

2 cups self raising flour
150g soft butter
¾ cup white sugar
3 large free range eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tblsp milk

Preheat your oven to 180C.  Line your cupcake/muffin tins with paper cases. 

Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl or stand mixer and beat until completely smooth, approximately 1 – 2 minutes is usually sufficient.  The mixture should be a soft dropping consistency so add a little more milk if necessary.

Spoon the mixture into your prepared tins and bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the cupcakes are well risen and golden.  Carefully remove the cupcakes from the tins and allow to cool on a rack.  Store in an air tight container until they are ready to be eaten or iced.

Glace icing – for decorating

1 cup icing sugar
1 Tblsp lemon juice or a drop or two of flavouring such as vanilla or peppermint extracts.
Food colouring, if you want coloured icing
As much water as you need to make a spreadable icing

Combine the glace icing ingredients, using only as much water as you need to make a spreadable icing. Ice the top of each cupcake with icing and leave plain or decorate however you like.  Sprinkles, chocolate beans, sugarpaste shapes and edible glitter are favourites in our household - thankfully not all at once.



Chocolate Cupcakes

1 2/3 cups plain flour
1½ cups white sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ cups milk
100 g melted butter
2 large free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180C. Line your cupcake/muffin tins with paper cases.

Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl or stand mixer and beat until completely smooth, approximately 1 – 2 minutes is usually sufficient. The mixture should be a soft dropping consistency so add a little milk if necessary.

Spoon the mixture into your prepared tins and bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the cupcakes are well risen and golden. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the tins and allow to cool on a rack. Store in an air tight container until they are ready to be eaten or iced.


Rice Crispie Bars

My daughters absolutely love these bars, however I don't make them too often as they are high in sugar.  They are great for kids parties, cake stalls and can be frozen for up to a month.

125g butter
80g marshmallows
100g rice crispies
handful of dried fruit
50g chocolate chocolate, for the topping

Line a square 20cm x 20cm cake tin with baking paper.

Melt the butter and marshmallows together in a large saucepan over a moderate heat or put them into a heatproof bowl and microwave for 1 minute on HIGH.  Use a whisk to stir the melted butter and marshmallow mixture together until well combined.  You will need to stir quite vigourously, this helps burn off the calories the finished bars contain.

Add the rice crispies and dried fruit to the melted mixture and stir well to completely combine.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon.  Refrigerate the mixture for two hours to ensure it is completely set.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until it has completely melted.  Using a teaspoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of the set rice crispie mixture mixture and chill in fridge for a further 30 minutes.  Remove the rice crispie cake from the tin and then slice it into 10 evenly sized bars.

Wrap up each bar tightly in kitchen foil and freeze them for up to a month, or store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.


rice crispie slice lunchbox snack kids party treat

Flapjacks

125g butter
125g sugar
1 Tblsp golden syrup, honey or treacle
175g rolled oats
100g dried fruit and seeds, use whichever dried fruit and seeds your family prefer

Preheat your oven to 160C and line a 20cm square cake tin with non-stick baking paper.  Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a large saucepan over a moderate heat and stir until the butter has melted and everything is well combined. 

Take the saucepan off the heat then tip the rolled oats, dried fruit and seeds into the saucepan and stir together ensuring that the oats, fruit and seeds are thoroughly coated with the melted butter and sugar mixture.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and press down firmly to form an even layer, I use a potato masher to do this bit but you could use the back of a spoon.

Bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and score slices to make cutting the flapjacks easier once they have cooled.  Leave the flapjacks to cool completely in the tin.



Dried Fruit and Cornflake Cookies

125g butter
130g light soft brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 free range eggs
275g self-raising flour
150g dried fruit, I usually use dried apricots or raisins
80g cornflakes

Preheat your oven to 180C.  Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until everything is thoroughly combined. Gently fold in the flour and dried fruit completely incorporated.

Pour the cornflakes onto a plate or tray and roll tablespoonfuls of the cookie mixture through the cornflakes so that the cornflakes coat the outside of the cookies.  Put the cookies, about an inch apart (to allow room for spreading), onto the prepared baking trays.

Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies are lovely and golden.  Remove from oven. Cool the cookies on the baking trays for 5 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Bake Me, I'm Yours... Chocolate: Over 25 Excuses to Indulge

Saturday, 13 October 2012



I don't need an excuse to indulge in chocolate, dark chocolate is my favourite.  I was delighted to be sent this book which details 25 gorgeous projects that will wow everyone before they indulge in your chocolate creations.

This book is a brilliant introduction to working with chocolate and livening up your home baking, and help to make it look stunning.  It is more of a cake decorating book than a baking book.  There are recipes for a chocolate sponge cake with options for various sizes, chocolate cupcakes and chocolate brownies.  However, the book mostly contains instructions for decorating your baking with chocolate creations including intricate orchids, delicate blossoms, easy and impressive Christmas tree decorations and chocolate jewels, just to name a few.  To make some of the creations in the book you will need some moulds and tools but these can be bought online relatively cheaply and there is a list of suppliers in the back of the book.  There are appreviations next to the items in the ingredients lists to show which supplier the ingredients can be obtained from which is very handy indeed.

My favourite treats from the book, and those I am sure to make are:

Floral Centrepieces, Going for Gold Cake, Snowflake Cups and Sunny Delight Cupcakes.

Photos used with kind permission of publisher.

There are so many gorgeous treats in this book which are achieveable with the instructions given.  You are sure to impress friends, family and party guests with any of the creations you make from this book.  I would buy this book for friends and family who are keen to try cake decorating techniques, it's not really a childrens book but they could make some of the moulded treats with supervision.  You can purchase the book for £2.99 on offer here.  Head over and grab a couple of copies to give as Christmas Gifts, and also to help you make some delicious and gorgeous homemade Chistmas Gifts.

Flora Cuisine Event - with Jean Christophe Novelli

Thursday, 11 October 2012
I recently attended a Masterclass with Jean Christophe Novelli in association with Flora Cuisine.  Jean Christophe was as charming and swoonworthy as ever and remembered me from the last time we met at his Cookery School, I have an excellent and memorable piping technique and palate apparently. *snigger*

The event was to highlight the versatility of Flora Cuisine and celebrate the launch of the new Flora Cuisine Cook Book.

The book was created by Mums and Dads for Mums and Dads using recipes submitted to the Flora Hearts Facebook Page by keen cooks up and down the UK.  Flora Cuisine decided to collate those recipes into a cookbook.

Hundreds of recipes were whittled down to 30 recipes by Flora Cuisine judges and Jean Christophe Novelli. The final recipes featuring in the book were chosen based on originality, ease of preparation, taste and appearance.

The recipe book will be available in October through the Flora Hearts Facebook Page. However, customers at Asda will receive a free copy of the book when they purchase three bottles of Flora Cuisine from 5th October to 27th December.

The recipes Jean Christophe cooked for us from the Cook Book were:

Chocolate Beetroot Cake by Katy Buxton

Serves: 10 – 12
Preparation time: 25 mins
Cooking time: 40-50 mins

For the cake:
200ml Flora Cuisine
250g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
100g plain chocolate, broken into pieces and melted in a heatproof dish over a pan of simmering
water
100g plain flour
100g self-raising flour
100g drinking chocolate (not cocoa powder it's too rich)
1 tsp baking powder
200g cooked beetroot, roughly chopped and whizzed in the food processor until very finely chopped
(almost pureed)

For the filling:
2 tbsp raspberry jam
150ml whipping cream, whipped until thick

For the ganache:
115ml whipping cream
100g plain chocolate, broken into pieces

Preheat oven to gas mark 5/190°C /170°C fan/375°F.

Beat together the Flora Cuisine, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until mixture is smooth; about half a minute in the food processor should do it.

Add melted chocolate and mix together thoroughly.  Sieve the plain and self-raising flour, drinking chocolate, and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl.

Make a well in the centre, add in runny chocolate mixture and fold the mixture together. Fold in the finely chopped beetroot.

Divide the mixture among two greased, lined 18cm (7 inch) prepared cake tins. Bake in the oven for 40 – 50 minutes until cooked through.

Cool on wire rack and remove greaseproof paper from the base of each cake.  Sandwich the two cakes together. If necessary, level the top of one cake off by using a sharp knife and slicing off any prominent risen peak. Spread the newly levelled top with a nice thick layer of jam. Turn the other cake upside-down and spread the whipped cream evenly over the base before turning it the right way up again and putting it on top of the jam-covered layer.

To make the ganache, place the cream in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.  Add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture combined. Pour into a bowl and whisk until fluffy and cool. Spread the ganache smoothly and evenly over the top of the cake.

TIP FROM KATY BUXTON: I use Flora Cuisine to grease and line the cake tins which is perfect. I also line the base of each with a circle of greaseproof paper which I then grease and coat with flour.


Photo courtey of Flora


Mum's Cod and Vegetable Parcels with Lemon and Lime Butter

Serves: 4
Prep:15-20 mins
Cook: 30-35 mins

4 x 100g portions of boneless cod fillet
2 spring onions (finely sliced)
2 red peppers (finely sliced)
1 courgette (finely sliced
1 carrot (peeled and finely sliced)
1 clove of garlic (finely chopped)
25ml Flora Cuisine
Salt and pepper
1 lemon (juice and zest)
1 lime (juice and zest)
25g Flora Spread

In a frying pan add the flora cuisine and gently fry the vegetables and garlic until tender add the lemon and lime juice and zest.  Keep to one side

Tear 4 sheets of tin foil and grease each with Flora Cuisine, place the cod fillets on top, spoon over the vegetables and juice mix top with a knob of Flora Spread and wrap up to form a foil parcel.

Bake in a hot oven (approx 200°C, 180° fan) for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cod is cooked through.  Serve in the foil parcels and let the guests break into them to release the fragrant steam.


Photo courtey of Flora
The recipe book will be available in October through the Flora Hearts Facebook Page which also has loads of offers, additional recipes and event information. Customers at Asda will receive a free copy of the book when they purchase three bottles of Flora Cuisine from 5th October to 27th December.

** The travel expenses I incurred attending the event were reimbursed **

More Gardening Adventures- The Limping Edition

Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Yesterday I had the misfortune of dropping a large wooden rolling pin on my foot.  It fell end first off the kitchen table and has left me with a bruised, swollen and painful right foot.  I may have broken a small bone in the aforementioned foot but am stubbornly limping about in denial of my damaged foot.

However, there was the small matter of our regular garden session to attend to and I was not going to let a ore foot stand in the way.  My friend Lucy and I have been the only ones working on the garden for the last couple of sessions so I felt duty bound to attend.  It has been a bit of a "Little Red Hen" story for 3 sessions now with only 2 of us dilligently tending to the garden.  Despite Lucy badly burning her thumb at lunchtime we soldiered on and managed to double dig two beds and cover one in topsoil we were given by a neighbour.  We trekked it over one wheelbarrow at a time. 

We also managed to plant out one bed with cabbages and onions after making sure plenty of manure was dug through, along with some egg shells under each plant to deter slugs and provide calcium which cabbages love.  We also sprinkled eggshells around each cabbage plant that has so far managed to deter slugs on the other bed of brassicas.  There are at least 6 frogs and a large toad that we have spotted so I hope they are feasting on slugs before they get to our plants.

Here's the result of our 3 hours of hard work this afternoon:


We have a lot of work still to be done.  There are another 3 beds that need clearing and compost dug through ready to be covered over for the winter so that they are ready for planting in the Spring.  There are some leeks, chard and rhubarb in the beds, surrounded by copious amounts of weeds.  Once we are able to harvest the leeks we shall also move the rhubarb crowns and chard to the lovely prepared bed that is currently empty.  Next week we shall be weeding, clearing and then digging in 12 huge bags of compost that are being delivered later this week.


The rest of the beds that need sorting out.
We are looking forward to next week, ripping out weeds and digging in compost.  The soil is really hard and clumpy so we spend quite a bit of time breaking up large clumps of soil and trying to ensure that it is aerated and fine enough for plants to take root in.  Gardening is an excellent workout and we feel like we have been working hard the next day with sore muscles and feeling rather tired.  It is really fab exercise in the Autumn sun and the best bit will be when we harvest our produce that we have nurtured.

We also planted out some of the seedlings in my backyard on Saturday evening, compete with sprinkles of egg shells.  My 2 girls helped with the planting and we are looking forward to devouring more kale, tatsoi and purple sprouting broccoli.  We have more greens planted in the flower beds and in other containers around the back yard that are keeping us in greens until these ones grow big enough to harvest.


Anyone else gardening at home, at a communal garden or have an allotment?  What are your top tips?

Gingerbread Biscuits for Halloween or Thanksgiving

Monday, 8 October 2012


These biscuits are brilliant for occasions such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Birthday Parties.  They can be decorated to suit whatever theme you need and keep for a  week in an airtight container so can be baked in advance then decorated closer to the event.

I used coloured sugarpaste/fondant to decorate the cookies, I used the cookie cutters that I used to cut the cookies to cut out the rolled icing so that it would fit the cookies.  The lovely sparkles are from edible glitter, available at most cake decorating shops and some supermarkets.  I used a very runny mixture of water and icing sugar to glue the rolled icing to the biscuits, just brush a little on the biscuit then carefully place your cut out icing over the top. 

My 3 girls love making these biscuits, they have loads of fun decorating them and it is a great way to spend a rainy Autumn afternoon.

50ml golden syrup
125g butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 cups plain flour
1 Tblsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 190C.  Heat the syrup in a microwave until it is runny, roughly 20 seconds.  In a large bowl or stand mixer cream the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolk and beat in the dry ingredients a little at a time.  Once all the dry ingredients have been incorporated add the warm syrup.

Knead the mixture gently so a smooth dough forms, it will become more moist and sticky with handling.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured bench. Roll out to 3mm thickness, about the same as a £1 coin.

Use cutters to cut dough into desired shapes. Carefully transfer the biscuits to lined baking trays.  Bake at 190C for 10-15 minutes or the biscuits are lovely and golden.  Cool the biscuits on the trays.


Our Family Meal Plan For Week of 08/10 - £62

Please note: This Meal Plan, along with most of the other Meal Plans on my blog, does not include drinks, condiments or the cost of some herbs and spices. I make our jams, chutneys and pasta sauces, and we grow our own fresh herbs and salad greens. I’m also not a nutritionist or dietician so you will need to consult a professional if you have specific dietary or calorie controlled dietary needs.

I am feeling rather poorly and sorry for myself this week. My 3 girls have passed on their cold and along with the usual sore throat and congested sinuses I've had fevers, aches, body shakes, the whole works.  My children have shaken off the cold very quickly and are back to their usuall energetic selves.  Me, not so much!  I am therefore going for a  low faff and comfort food driven meal plan this week.  I am craving loads of vegetables and nourishing meals, luckily with Autumn weather starting in earnest it is just the thing the rest of my family are craving too.

The cost of the Meal Plan this week was £62.47 when purchsed online from Asda via My Supermarket.  As usual I compared the price of my groceries with other supermarkets and they would've cost £72.11 from Tesco and £73.56 from Sainsbury's.

Breakfasts will be porridge with added dried fruit and a banana for afters, if necessary.  Now that the mornings are rather chilly it is great to have a warming and filling breakfast to start the day.

My daughters will be having Calzone, or as my 3 girls call them Bolognese Buns, for lunch filled with red lentil and mince bolognese, along with a piece of fruit, some yoghurt and a small baked treat.  I will still be baking all of our own bread, etc probably using my trusty stand mixer to do the kneading if I feel too lazy crook to do so myself.

Bolognese Buns (Calzone)

1 cup red lentils, uncooked
2 Tblsp oil
1 onion, diced
1 pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250g beef mince (optional)
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 Tblsp tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups grated cheese
2 tbsp grated Parmesan (optional)

Dough
1 sachet yeast
1 tbsp sugar
½ cup lukewarm water
3 cups bread flour, I use 1/2 cups each of brown bread flour and white flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp each dried mixed herbs (optional)

Make the dough first so it has time to rise. If you have a breadmaker this is even easier, just make the dough using the dough setting. If you're making the dough by hand, or in a stand mixer, mix the dough ingredients together well and stir with your fingers, or mixer,  until the dough mixture forms a large ball.

Knead the dough gently until it is shiny and elastic. Drizzle a little oil over the dough and throughout the bowl to stop it sticking. Cover with a tea towel or cling film and set aside in a warm place to rise for at least 30 minutes.

Whilst the dough is rising make the filling.  Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Pour in the lentils and stir them around to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Boil the lentils for 8-10 minutes or until soft.

Heat the oil in a medium pan and sauté the pepper, onion and garlic until softened. Brown the mince then add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and herbs, finally stir in the lentils. Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer uncovered for 15 – 20 minutes until the flavours develop and the bolognese thickens.

To make the calzone, take a small piece of dough and flatten into a small circle shape with your hands. Spoon a measure of bolognese onto one side of circle, leaving an edge.  Top with a tablespoon of grated cheese.  Fold the empty side over and pinch edges together.  You should have a half moon shape. Repeat until all the dough and filling has been used. 

Put the calzone on a couple of lined baking trays.  Brush the calzone with olive oil and bake for 10 - 15 minutes or until they are golden and crispy.

Dinners

Mixed Bean and Kale Soup

400g tin kidney beans
400g tin cannelini beans
200g chorizo sausage, sliced into 1 cm thick rounds
2 leeks, finely sliced
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 bunch kale, finely shredded
leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary sprig
leaves from 1 sprig of oregano
salt and black pepper
400g tin chopped tomatoes
vegetable stock
Put a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add the chorizo.  cook until the fat starts to run then add the leek, onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook for 6–8 minutes or until the onion has softened and the leek has wilted.  The chorizo should have started to crispen up slightly.

Add the kale and beans then stir well to combine.  Add the rosemary, oregano and a good pinch of salt and pepper, the tinned tomatoes, and enough vegetable stock to cover the contents of the soup.

Bring the soup to a very slow simmer and cook, covered, until the beans start to soften and the celery and carrots are tender.  I usually serve this with homemade wholemeal rolls.


Pumpkin and Bacon Risotto

2 cups arborio rice
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup chopped pumpkin (cut in 1cm cubes)
6 thick rashers of bacon or 4 sausages can be substituted
2 litres vegetable stock
parmesan or other cheese, grated
coriander or parsley, chopped (to garnish)

Heat stock in a saucepan and set aside on the stove at a gentle simmer.
In another pan, sauté onion and garlic in oil, add bacon and sauté (keep moving around the pan) until the fat runs.

Stir in the chopped pumpkin and arborio rice. Mix well until rice is coated in the oils and the pan is drying out. Add a couple of ladles full of hot stock and stir occasionally while the stock is absorbed.

Repeat the process until the rice is soft and creamy and the pumpkin tender. Don't be tempted to pour in all the stock in at one go because the rice needs the heat and stirring to release the starch that makes your risotto lovely and creamy. Stir regularly but you don't have to stand there dilligently stirring constantly.

When the risotto is soft and creamy, check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if required. Finish with a sprinkle of grated cheese.  Serve in bowls with some chopped fresh herbs.


Potato and Mixed Bean Chilli Bake

4 large potatoes, scrubbed, cut in 1cm slices
1 tsp oil
1 onion, diced
1 pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
420g tin chilli beans in sauce
420g tin mixed beans
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
100g mature cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Put the potato slices in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Make sure the slices are not stuck together. Boil gently for 4-5 minutes so that the potato slices are just beginning to cook but still hold their shape. Gently drain the potato slices and set them aside.

Whilst the potatoes are cooking, prepare chilli bean filling. In a large pan, heat oil and fry the onion, pepper and garlic until soft. Add both tins of beans and the chopped tomatoes. Mix well and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Spoon a quarter of the bean mixture in the bottom of a 1.5-litre ovenproof dish. Arrange a third of potato slices in a layer over the bean mixture. Continue to layer, alternating bean mixture with potato and finishing with a bean layer. Top with grated cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove dish from the oven and prick the surface deeply all over with a knife. This allows the heat and sauce to circulate through dish. Return to the oven for the remaining 15 minutes cooking time. Serve with steamed greens.


Chop Suey

400g lean chicken, cooked
250g vermicelli
2 Tblsp water
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
2 carrots, sliced thinly
2 sticks celery, sliced thinly
2 Tblsp soy sauce

Remove any skin or fat from the cooked chicken and break into bite-sized pieces.

Put the vermicelli into a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 20 to 30 minutes until softened. Drain and cut into short lengths.

Heat the water in a large frying pan or wok. Add garlic, ginger, cauliflower, broccoli, carrot and celery.

Stir-fry for 4 to 5 minutes or until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Keep the pan moist by adding a little more water if needed.

Add the prepared noodles, cooked chicken and soy sauce to the pan. Mix well.

Heat gently until all warmed through


Pumpkin and Bacon Pasta Bake

1 tsp oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
200g lean bacon, diced
2 peppers, diced (any colour will do)
1 pinch dried chilli flakes
500g diced pumpkin
500ml vegetable stock
1 sprig rosemary
400g can evaporated milk
300g pasta
100g grated cheese
salt and pepper
1 or 2 handfuls of fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
a little extra cheese, for topping

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, bacon, pepper and chilli flakes. Gently fry until the vegetables and bacon are soft.
Add the pumpkin and half the chicken stock, cover and simmer gently until the pumpkin begins to soften. Crush it a little with a fork and then add the remaining stock, the dried pasta and evaporated milk.

Stir well then add the rosemary. Simmer gently until the pasta is tender and the liquid absorbed. If the liquid is evaporating too quickly, cover the pan with a lid. When the pasta and pumpkin are tender, remove the rosemary sprig and stir in the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste then transfer to an ovenproof dish and smooth over the top. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and a little extra grated cheese and brown under a heated grill until golden and bubbling. Serve with steamed greens.


Slow Cooker Spicy Root Vegetable Soup

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 Tblsp oil
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
300g pumpkin, cut into chunks
300g sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
3 Tblsp plain flour
1 tsp salt and a few good grinds of pepper
2 tsp curry powder
1 pinch chilli pwder
1 Tblsp paprika
1/4 tsp nutmeg
750ml vegetable stock
250ml water
fresh mint a handful, chopped

In a large pan heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened. Add the prepared vegetables and the flour and mix as well as you can, allowing the flour to absorb the oil.

Put the whole lot into the slow cooker. Add the spices, salt, pepper, stock and water and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. 

When the vegetables are tender, purée or process the soup until smooth and return to the slow cooker to keep warm.

Adjust the consistency to suit your taste. I like it thick with a little chopped fresh mint sprinkled on top. It’s also good thinned out, if you have unexpected visitors, with come coconut milk and sprinled with coriander.

Red Lentil Dhal

1 Tblsp oil
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp chilli powder (use more or less to taste)
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp mustard
1 cup dried red lentils
2 cups water
a couple of handfuls of greens (spinach, chard, finely shredded kale)
1-2 Tblsp chopped fresh coriander
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion has softened and is becoming transparent. Add the bay leaf, chilli, spices and mustard. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until the spices are fragrant.

Add the lentils and water. Stir to combine everything well then bring the mixture to the boil.  As soon as the mixture boils reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the lentils for about 20-25 minutes until they are tender.  Add the greens and simmer for about 5 minutes until they have wilted.

Stir in the coriander and serve accompanied with your choice of steamed rice or naan bread.


Weekend Lunches

Macaroni Cheese

Chuck It All In Minestrone - using whatever vegetables we have left from our weeks groceries with some pasta.


Shopping List

42 items: £62.47

Packets and Cereals
1x ASDA Smartprice Porridge Oats (1Kg) 75p
2x Asda Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.20
1x ASDA Arborio Risotto Rice (500g) £1.12
2x ASDA Smartprice Pasta Shapes (500g) 60p
1x Great Scot Red Split Lentils (500g) £1.28
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 64p
2x ASDA Wholefoods Brown Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £2.56
1x Ankara Makaroni Vermicelli (500g) 78p

Dairy and Eggs
1x ASDA Chosen by You French Set Yogurts Assorted (6x125g) £1.00
5x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £5.00
1x Nestle Carnation Topping Light Evaporated Milk (410g) 63p
1x ASDA Chosen by You Low Fat Strawberry Yogurt (6x125g) £1.00
2x ASDA Chosen by You English Mature Cheddar (400g) £4.00 any 2 FOR £4.00
1x ASDA Chosen by You Smooth Fruit Yogurts Low Fat (6x125g) £1.00

Frozen
1x ASDA Chosen by You Mixed Vegetables (1kg) £1.10

Tins, Jars and Cooking
6x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) £1.86
1x ASDA Cannellini Beans in Water (300g) 64p
2x ASDA Chosen by You Chilli Beans (290g) £1.36
1x ASDA Smartprice Red Kidney Beans in Water (400g) 27p
1x Amoy Soy Sauce Reduced Salt (150ml) £1.00 was £1.39
1x Kallo Organic Vegetable Stock Cubes (6x11g) 84p
1x ASDA Mexican Style Bean Mix in Water (400g) 53p

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Fruit (500g) 64p
1x ASDA Conference Pears (Approx 800g) £1.00
20 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) £2.00
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) £1.36
20 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) £1.80
1x ASDA Cauliflower Loose 50p
15 ASDA Red Onions by Weight (100g) £1.35
2x ASDA Baking Potatoes (4) £1.70
20 ASDA Butternut Squash by Weight (100g) £1.80 was 10.7p
10 ASDA Sweet Potatoes by Weight (100g) £1.00 was 12.8p
2x ASDA Celery £1.00
2x ASDA Trimmed Leeks (500g) £2.00
2x ASDA Garlic Loose 60p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.37
1x ASDA Spinach (350g) £1.50
1x ASDA Broccoli (335g) 50p

Meat, Fish and Poultry
2x ASDA Butcher's Selection Back Bacon Thick Cut 300g £4.00
4 ASDA Butcher's Selection Free Range Chicken Breast Fillets £5.91
1x ASDA Butcher's Selection British Beef Mince (250g) £1.40
1x ASDA Chorizo Cooking Sausage (200g) £1.85

Prices and special offers reflect those of the Asda supermarket online grocery section of the My Supermatket website and were correct as of 7 October 2012.

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