May 29, 2009

Blueberry Crumble Cake

Blueberry Crumble Cake

Sadly the blueberries used for this cake weren’t from our blueberry bush, which we’ve had for about 3 years and it’s never given us a single berry! I keep reading that we need at least 2 different plants so they can pollinate each other, so it looks like we’ll need to get a little friend for our sad little blueberry bush.

Anyway, I love cakes with a crunchy topping, so I used a basic cake recipe and then topped it with a nutty crumble topping – it went down a treat! It would be great served as a pudding with cream or custard too!
I used fresh blueberries but I’m sure you could use frozen ones, especially as they’re only £1 at Tesco’s at the moment!

  • Makes: 16 squares
  • You will need: an 8 or 9 inch square tin, lined with greaseproof paper
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
  • Cooking time: 40-50 minutes 

  • 15g (2 Tablespoons) plain flour
  • 35g (3 Tablespoons) soft brown sugar
  • 50g (3 Tablespoons) butter/Stork
  • 50g rolled porridge oats
  • 40g mixed nuts, chopped
  • 175g butter
  • 150g light muscavado sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 200g (1 box) blueberries, washed and dried 

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
  2. First make the topping: by putting all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you have a lumpy crumble. Set aside.
  3. Then make the cake: by putting the butter and sugar into the food processor and whizzing until creamy and it is light in colour. Then add the eggs, flour and baking powder and whizz until well combined.
  4. Spread the cake mixture into your tin, then scatter the blueberries on top. Top with the crumble then press down slightly.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40-50 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  6. Cool in the tin and then cut into 16 squares.

Oven Baked Risotto

Oven baked risotto

Oh. My. God. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to discover this wonderful method of cooking risotto! OK it’s not got the same exact creaminess of risotto that you’ve spent ages stirring on the stovetop, but the speed and easiness of this method more than makes up for that and the texture of the rice is brilliant. I suppose you could add some cream, but I personally don’t think it needs it or the extra calories!
  • Serves: 4
  • You will need: an ovenproof dish or pan with a tight fitting lid
  • Cooking time: 30-35 minutes
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C 

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small chorizo sausage, chopped
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 sweet orange peppers
  • 300g/10oz risotto rice
  • ½ glass white wine (optional)
  • 700ml/1¼ pint stock
  • some leftover roasted butternut squash 

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C.
  2. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in your pan and gently fry the onion until soft. Add the chorizo and fry until crispy and it has released its oil.
  3. Add the mushrooms and peppers and fry for a few minutes.
  4. Add the rice and mix until well coated in the oil. Fry gently until the rice has turned slightly translucent.
  5. Pour in the wine if you’re using it, then cook for a couple of minutes until it’s absorbed.
  6. Add the butternut squash and the stock and bring to the boil.
  7. Then cover with the lid and bake in the oven for 18 minutes.
  8. I like to leave the rice to sit on the countertop for about 10 minutes, with the lid still on. This is enough time to crank up the oven to Gas 7/220C/425F and cook some roasted broccoli to serve with it.


GranolaMUNCH RATING: 4/5

The first time I made granola I used Alton Brown’s recipe, which worked very well, but it used up all of the maple syrup we had and it took 1 hour to cook.

So this time I replaced the maple syrup with golden syrup and I cooked it at a higher temperature for half the time. The result was even better as the mixture produced more yummy clusters.

So this is my recipe for granola:
  • Makes: This amount will fill a 1.5 litre (6 cup) canister, but it’s difficult to say exactly how many servings it will provide as I mix this with Rice Krispies and sliced banana for breakfast. Plus there are so many other things you can add to it like dried fruit or pumpkin seeds. 

  • You will need: a large bowl and a baking sheet
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C 

  • 45g (¼ cup) light muscavado sugar
  • 90g (¼ cup) golden syrup
  • 60g (¼ cup) vegetable oil
  • 300g (3 cups) rolled porridge oats
  • 75g (½ cup) mixed nuts, finely chopped (I used a food processor) 

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
  2. Mix the sugar and golden syrup in a large bowl and melt either in the microwave or over a saucepan of simmering water, then add the oil and mix well.
  3. Add the oats and nuts and mix until well combined.
  4. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake in the in the lower half of the oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even browning and pressing the mixture down before you return the mixture to the oven.
  5. Leave to cool, then store in an airtight container.

May 23, 2009

Pork Balls in Batter with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Sweet and Sour Pork Balls


When I first made this batter recipe it worked incredibly well. But ever since then it hasn't worked as well as the batter has been too runny. I think I might have converted the quantities incorrectly when I downsized the original recipe, so I need to investigate the problem and I will rewrite the recipe. I'm sorry if you have tried this recipe and it has been a disaster! But the sauce recipe is definitely good and I have used it when I tried a tempura recipe.

I asked my Dad to ask his friends who own a Chinese take-away how they make the batter for pork/chicken balls. Their response was:
Dry the meat and season with salt and pepper. Dust with plain flour. Make a batter by mixing self-raising flour (Green Dragon is the brand) with enough water until you get the consistency where it easily falls from the whisk. Dip the meat into the batter and then deep fry until pale golden brown and the 'balls' have formed their shape. In the take-away they will leave them like this until a customer makes their order and then the balls are re-fried until they are dark golden brown.

So I've got a couple of recipes to test out and will post the results asap!

  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) tomato ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (100g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (45g) brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon corn flour
  • 1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) cold water

  1. To make the sauce: in a small saucepan combine the first 6 ingredients and bring to a boil whisking constantly.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer stirring for 2 minutes.
  3. In a small cup dissolve the corn flour in the cold water until smooth, then add to the simmering sauce stirring constantly.
  4. Cook for another 3 minutes stirring until bubbly and thickened.
  5. I served this at room temperature. You can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for probably about a week.

** 5th April 2010 - Ignore this recipe! It needs updating! **

  • 2/3 cup (80g) plain flour
  • 2/3 cup (80g) corn flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) cold water
  • oil for deep frying
  • 1.1lb (500g) pork, cut into small cubes (I used Spare Rib Chops. You could also use chicken breast).

  1. To make the batter: in a large bowl combine the flour, corn flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and water and mix until smooth.
  2. Put the pork pieces into the batter and mix thoroughly to evenly coat them. (I did this about ½ hour before I was ready to cook them as I find batter benefits from time to rest).
  3. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or large deep saucepan to 375 degrees (I used oil about 3 inches deep in a saucepan. To test the oil was hot enough I dropped some batter in and if it puffed up and sizzled then it was ready).
  4. Then drop the pieces into the hot oil piece by piece and fry until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. (Don’t put too many pieces into the fryer otherwise the temperature of the oil will drop too much, I fried about 10 at a time).
  5. Remove and drain on a paper towel and keep warm in a low oven whilst you fry the rest.

May 19, 2009

Homemade Pizza

Pizza cooked


It’s been a while since my last attempt at cooking with dough (Chelsea Buns in March) and I thought I’d try something a bit simpler, so I found this pizza recipe on the BBC Good Food website.

The dough was incredibly easy to make and had a really good texture, so I’ll definitely be making it again. I imagine these would taste even better if cooked on a pizza stone!

This might seem like a really long recipe, but so many things can be prepared in advance and apparently the dough can be frozen.

The original recipe called for passata for the sauce, but I didn’t have any and we had some tomatoes that had gone soft, so I used those instead to make my own sauce. Unfortunately my basil hasn’t grown big enough otherwise I would have added some! I would of also added garlic, but I’d run out! Plus I was making this pizza with Steve’s mum in mind and as she doesn’t like garlic I was trying to make it as plain as possible. She doesn’t normally like pizza as she doesn’t like the tomato sauce, but she tried some of my sauce and said it was very nice! I had some sauce leftover and this was great mixed with some creme fraiche to make a sauce for pasta.

I also added lots of extra topping ingredients as I find margherita a bit boring!

  • Makes: 2 pizzas
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 8/450°F/230°C
  • You will need: a large bowl, 2 baking sheets plus 1 in the oven
  • Prep Time: 25 mins plus time if you let the dough rise
  • Cook Time: 10-15 mins per pizza

Ingredients For The Base:
  • 300g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp instant yeast (I used Tesco’s Fast Action Dried Yeast)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 200ml warm water
Ingredients For My Sauce:
  • 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 large tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 100ml vegetable stock
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Black pepper to season
Ingredients For The Topping:
  • 125g ball mozzarella, chopped into small pieces
  • 100g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 sweet orange peppers, sliced
  • cooked Cajun chicken, chopped into small pieces*
1. Make The Dough: Put the flour into a large bowl, then stir in the yeast and salt. Make a well, pour in 200ml warm water and the olive oil and bring together with a wooden spoon until you have a soft, fairly wet dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 mins until smooth. Lightly oil the bowl before you put the dough back into it, then cover with a tea towel and set aside. You can leave the dough to rise if you like, but it's not essential for a thin crust. (I left my dough to rise and the middle photo shows it after 1 hour and the photo on the right is after 2.5 hours).
Dough all
Sauce2. Make the sauce: Put all the sauce ingredients into a saucepan and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and the stock has reduced and you have a nice thick sauce. Pass through a sieve to strain out the tomato skins. Leave to stand at room temperature whilst you make the base.
3. Roll out the dough: If you've let the dough rise, give it a quick knead, then split into two balls. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into large rounds, about 25cm across, using a rolling pin. The dough needs to be very thin as it will rise in the oven. Lift the rounds onto two floured baking sheets. Toppings collage
4. Top and bake: Heat oven to Gas mark 8/450°F/230°C. Put another baking sheet or an upturned baking tray in the oven on the top shelf. Smooth sauce over bases with the back of a spoon. Scatter with your toppings (drizzle with olive oil and season). Put one pizza, still on its baking sheet, on top of the preheated sheet or tray. Bake for 8-10 mins until crisp (mine took between 10-15 mins as I made my bases quite thick). Repeat step for remaining pizza.
* To make the Cajun chicken I took the skin off and deboned 2 small chicken thighs and marinated in 1 Tablespoon olive oil and 1 Tablespoon of Cajun seasoning (I used Bart’s). Then I cooked in a George Foreman grill for about 5 minutes so it was crispy and charred as if it had been on the BBQ!
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May 15, 2009

Granola Bars

Granola bars
This is the latest experiment for the perfect snack bar for Steve to take to work to stave off the munchies!
I’ve called them Granola Bars because they contain the ingredients that I bought to make granola and even though they taste a lot like flapjacks, the fruit makes them soft and chewy, whilst the cornflakes make them nice and crunchy.
These are by far my favourite, but this recipe has quite a lot of butter, sugar and golden syrup which doesn’t make them very healthy, so I’m going to try and cut down on the sugar next time as there’s a lot of sweetness in the fruit.

  • Makes: 16-18
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
  • Cooking time: 20-25 minutes
  • You will need: 12 x 7inch tin (or two 8 inch square tins), lined with greaseproof paper as it makes removal from the tin easier. 

  • 175g/6oz butter
  • 175g/6oz light brown sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 eating apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 75g/3oz dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
  • 75g/3oz dried pineapple, chopped into small pieces
  • 300g/11oz porridge oats
  • 50g/2oz cornflakes, slightly crushed 

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
  2. In a large saucepan gently melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in all the fruit, porridge oats and cornflakes, until well combined.
  4. Tip into your tin/tins and gently press down with the back of a spoon to bind the mixture.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes near the top of the oven until golden brown and firm.
  6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then cut into bars.
  7. Leave to cool completely before lifting them out of the tin.

Thai Massaman Curry

Lamb Massaman Curry
This is more of a stew than a curry, but it’s delicious and there is just enough spice to make your tongue tingle. The sauce is thick and even though it contains the obligatory coconut milk, the tamarind gives it a nice zing, so I don’t find it as sickly as normal Thai Red Curry. Steve doesn’t normally like potatoes, but they’re a common ingredient in this dish, and he really liked them in this as they soaked up a lot of flavour from the sauce and were nice and sweet.

I’ve found that Massaman/Mussaman paste isn’t that widely available in your average supermarket, so I bought mine from (it is also available from Waitrose). I’ve also bought a different brand from a Chinese supermarket, which was better value but wasn't nearly as good as the Barts one. The paste usually contains chilli, shallot, tamarind, coriander and lemongrass and it is Muslim in origin.

I adapted this recipe I’d saved from one of Steve’s Neo Magazines. I slow-cooked this is my Tefal 4-in-1, but you could cook it on your stove top or in the oven for a couple of hours.
  • Serves: 2 very generously with rice (or 4 if serving with starters or other dishes)
  • Tefal 4-in-1 Slow Cook: 6-9 hours
  • Tefal 4-in-1 Rice Cook: 20 minutes

  • 2-3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil for frying
  • 500g stewing beef or lamb*
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 350g new potatoes, washed and cut in half (new potatoes hold their shape better, I used Charlotte’s)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons massaman curry paste (I used Bart’s)
  • 400ml can coconut milk (I used reduced fat)
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons tamarind paste (I used Bart’s)
  • 2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce (or fish sauce)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar

  1. Heat a Tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and fry your meat until brown and sealed. Put into your slow cooker.
  2. Fry the onions, potatoes and garlic until golden brown**. Add these to the slow cooker.
  3. Add a little more oil to the pan, then fry the curry paste on a high heat for a couple of minutes, until it smells really fragrant.
  4. Take the pan off the heat, then add the coconut milk and stir it in really well. Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the stock, tamarind paste, soy/fish sauce and sugar, then boil the sauce for 5-10 minutes to thicken until it has reduced by a third.
  6. Add the sauce to the slow cooker and stir well to coat all the ingredients in the pot.
  7. Close the lid and check you have the slow cooker set for 6 hours cooking time.
  8. Transfer the curry to a large pan and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken the sauce a bit more.
  9. Meanwhile cook the rice in the cooker, which should take about 20 minutes.
*It is most commonly made with beef, but I used lamb as that’s what I had in the freezer. I used 1 inch cubes of frozen lamb, which I cut into smaller 1 cm pieces after I’d browned them in the pan (this makes the meat more tender and it goes further!).

**For the best results it’s important to brown the meat, onions and potatoes. I have tried adding potatoes without browning them first and it just wasn’t as good!

May 8, 2009

Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies

Cranberry and White Choc Cookies

I first tried this combination in San Francisco when Steve and I bought a hot chocolate and cookie from a Mrs Field’s shop (a bit like Millie’s Cookies). The cookie was soft and chewy and this recipe (I adapted it from a BBC Good Food book) is quite a good imitation and were well received by my chief tasters!
I have since found a recipe online for Mrs Field’s cookies, so I’ll try making that next time because it contains oats which I like to use so the cookies are slightly healthy!

This is still a great recipe though, because you don’t need many ingredients and it’s really quick and simple to make. However, they were a bit greasy.
  • Makes: 18-20
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
  • You will need: large baking sheet, lined with greaseproof paper

  • 250g/9oz butter, softened
  • 50/2oz caster sugar
  • 100g/3½oz light muscovado sugar
  • 300g/10oz self raising flour
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 100g/3½oz white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 75g/3oz dried cranberries 

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
  2. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with greaseproof paper (or bake in batches).
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour and milk and mix well until fully incorporated (It might look quite dry to begin with but persevere mixing and it will come together!).
  4. Then stir in the chocolate and cranberries and mix well.
  5. Divide the mixture into 18-20 equal portions and roughly shape each portion into a ball, about the size of a golf ball.
  6. Put onto the baking sheets spaced well apart to allow for spreading. Lightly flatten each cookie with your fingertips.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes (mine took 17 minutes) until the cookies are pale golden around the edges, but still feel soft in the centre. (Depending on your oven, it’s a good idea to rotate the trays halfway through cooking to ensure even browning).
  8. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

May 6, 2009

Fruity Snack Bars

Fruity Snack Bars


Now that Steve has started a new job I thought I’d make him some snack bars to munch on for when he gets peckish. They’re a healthier snack than chocolate as they’ve got porridge oats, fresh apple and dried apricots in them – it’s the only way I can get him to eat fruit! For some reason they tasted of coconut, which is weird but nice, even though I don’t like coconut!

You could use lots of different dried fruit or maybe add some nuts. I’m going to try spreading a layer of jam in the middle next time!
  • Makes: 10 bars
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
  • You will need: 8x8 inch square tin, lined with greaseproof paper 

  • 150g (1 ¼ cups) self raising flour
  • 100g (½ cup) caster sugar
  • 180g (2 cups) porridge oats
  • 1 eating apple, cut into very small pieces
  • 75g (½ cup) dried apricots, cut into small pieces
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 150g butter
  • 1 Tablespoon golden syrup 

  1. Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the sugar, oats, apple, apricots and cinnamon into the bowl and mix.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Once melted, add the golden syrup and mix well. Remove from the heat.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and give it a good stir.
  5. Pour the mixture into the tin and press it down really well to make sure it binds (it’s easiest to use your hands).
  6. Bake in the upper part of the oven at Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C for approx 20 - 25 minutes (until golden brown).
  7. When you remove them from the oven, immediately cut into bars.
  8. Leave to cool on a wire rack before removing the bars from the tin.

They keep really well if kept in an airtight box.

May 4, 2009

No Cook Chocolate Tart

No cook choc tart


I got this recipe from the BBC Good Food website and the original recipe can be found here.

I tweaked it slightly by using chocolate chip cookies for the base, to make it extra chocolatey! There seemed to be a lot of butter in the base mixture, so I used a whole pack of biscuits so that it wasn’t so greasy.
Other people on the website have said that adding the vanilla to the chocolate makes it go funny, so I added it to cream instead as suggested.
This was really easy to make and tasted delicious – it’s very rich though so you only need a small portion!
  • I used a square 8x8 inch tin as the rectangular one they suggested seemed far too big. It’s a good idea to line it with a piece of greaseproof paper which is bigger than the tin so that it’s easier to remove it from the tin.
  • Serves 8 

  • 250g pack chocolate chip cookies (I used Tesco own brand)
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup or honey
  • 100g bar dark chocolate (I used Bournville)
  • 100g bar milk chocolate (I used a Cadbury Easter egg)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar , plus extra for dusting
  • 200ml whipping cream 

  1. Crush the biscuits by putting them in a large, strong, plastic food bag and bashing with a rolling pin. Melt the butter with the syrup or honey in the microwave, then stir in the biscuits. Press onto the base and up the sides of your tin and chill while you make the filling.
  2. Break up the two chocolate bars and put in a large bowl. Melt in the microwave for 2-3 mins on Medium, stirring halfway through, then sift in the icing sugar.
  3. Whip the cream until it just holds its shape. Stir in the vanilla extract, then fold into the melted chocolate. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Chill for at least 2 hrs or for up to 2 days.
  4. Just before serving, remove the tart from the tin and slide it onto a flat plate (loosen edges first with the tip of a small pointed knife). You will find it easier to remove the tart if you leave it at room temperature for 30 mins.
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