Recipe: Black Pudding & Goats Cheese Pizza

Being allergic to tomatoes means finding pizza recipes can be a bit of a trial, all too often white pizzas can be a bit heavy, overly cheese or (particularly if pesto is used) way too greasy. Franco Manca has satisifed my craving for a fresh, lighter, summery topping, but I wanted something a bit more ‘dirty’, something that wouldn’t make me feel left out when eating next to my sister’s double pepperoni.

 photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 6_zpsuxsgkjtd.jpg photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 5_zps16hlavsa.jpgAnd this is it. This, guys, is my new favourite pizza. It’s meaty, it’s carby, it tastes properly bad for you. It’s exactly what a pizza should be. Made on a proper base (none of the faffing around with cauliflower!) it is the perfect pizza for sitting in front of a movie – we first made this whilst attempting to watch all the Harry Potters in a weekend. We failed, but had fun trying! It also goes really, really well with a good side salad. Crispy leaves, fresh spinach, crunch red chicory, these all cut through the richness well. The chicory was a bit of a revelation for me, actually, now I can’t get enough of the stuff. It seems to make my salads just a little more autumnal, something I’m loving right now. I’m still torn between lighter summery food, and bowls of comforting stodge. Give me a few weeks and I’ll be addicted to stew and dumplings again…

Back to the pizza! Yes, it’s rich, but not overwelmingly so. Using creme fraiche as a base keeps it fresh, and the black pudding has just the right level of crispiness to give it an extra texture. Mozzarella gives it a classic ‘pizza’ feel whilst goats cheese adds both tang and compliments the ‘funkiness’ of the black pudding. It’s meaty, slightly spicy, cheesy, indulgent. Delicious.

 photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 2_zpsebhrfq6g.jpg photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 3_zps23m1corj.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 2 large pizza bases
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and slice in half
  • 2 large tablespoons of creme fraiche
  • 1 pinch each black pepper and dried thyme
  • 2 handfuls grated mozzarella
  • 50g black pudding, skin removed and sliced
  • 100g soft goats cheese

Rub the pizza base with the cut side of the garlic. In a small bowl, mix the creme fraiche with the pepper and thyme – add a tiny bit of olive oil to loosen if you like. Spread over the base. Scatter over the mozzerella, crumble over the black pudding (try to get the pieces small – it helps them get crispy, and slightly burnt black pudding is heavenly), dollop over small spoons of the goats cheese. Pop into a very hot (220C minimum) oven for around 10 minutes, then slice and devour. W recommends topping with chicory just after baking if you don’t fancy a full salad.

 photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 1_zpsnq2hdkre.jpg photo Black Pudding and Goats Cheese White Pizza 4_zpsv7okd4jo.jpgWe ‘cheated’ here and used good quality ready-made bases. Mainly because we didn’t want to disturb our movie time, but also because I tend to make my homemade bases more soft and sourdough-y and I’m not too sure that would work as well here. The crisp crunch is definitely needed! However I do have another pizza recipe coming your way soon, with my perfected base and a lighter veggie topping – so pizza fans keep your eyes peeled!

Are you a pizza lover? What’s your favourite topping? I used to love a good pepperoni before my tomato allergy took hold! Ever had a white pizza?

Recipe: Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes

What do you cook when you’re fed up of salads, still want something light, and it’s too warm to bear several pans boiling on the hob? These are certainly a good suggestion!

 photo Sweetcorn Pancakes_zpsmrt4uypq.jpgGetting fed up with the usual carby-sides of potatoes, wanting something a little lighter than rice and pasta, we thought up these whilst wanting something to go with some Bacon & Maple Syrup Sausages from Tesco (which, FYI, were yum!). I’d made a few fritter-type things before (Courgette & Feta being my favourite) but for these we spiced things up a bit. Sweetcorn can be, well, sweet and the spices help to counteract this.

Super quick to make, needing only one bowl and one pan, these seem bound to become a favourite with us. The perfect mix of spicy and sweet, these sweetcorn pancakes felt light and healthy, but were substantial enough to satisfy even W. A slightly long ingredients list, but things we always have in the cupboard, I’m planning on trying a brunch recipe using these very soon!

 photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 4_zps0s9uyi2b.jpgIngredients for Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes

  • 150g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp chilli powder – or 1 small red chill, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 350g/1 tin sweetcorn
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil

Pop the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl. Add the egg, lemon juice and 125ml of water, before beating to a smooth pancake-style batter. Add the corn and spring onion; stir to combine. Heat the oil in a frying pan and spoon in 2 heaped tbsp of the mixture for each fritter. Flatten slightly and cook for around 2 minutes each side until golden, cooked through and slightly crispy. Keep the pancakes warm in the oven whilst repeating with the remaining mixture.

 photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 8_zpscbhcvl8h.jpg photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 9_zpsif2nynuo.jpgThese sweetcorn pancakes were definitely lighter than some of our usual sides, and went perfectly with the sausages. I can imagine them being lovely alongside chicken (especially Southern Fried), but also delicious served on their own with a poached egg. The combination of spices gave them a great kick, though next time I’d definitely think about adding some fresh herbs for a bit of green – and I’d definitely fry them for longer/over a higher heat so they are a bit crispier. Other than that, they were yum!

What’s your favourite carby side dish?

Recipe: Jerk Chicken, Rice & Beans, Zingy Chopped Salad

A.K.A a delicious meal.

In fact, one of the nicest meals I’ve cooked in a long time. And, amazingly, one of the first meals I’ve cooked entirely by myself for W ever. In the whole almost-six years we’ve been together, I’ve rarely cooked solo for him. He’s always helped out, chopping things, cooking an element, with me being more the sous chef. I’m a lucky girl really!

 photo Jerk Chicken Dinner_zpsiqbauwv4.jpg photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 3_zpso2ziiiep.jpgThe entire meal here was influenced by one of Jamie’s Thirty Minute Meals. Let me tell you this, half an hour is a lie. This took me well over an hour, although having said that it was relatively stress free, didn’t take too much washing up, and I reckon with practice should be easily done on a work night. And it was certainly special enough to make for guests too – it looked great, and it was damn yummy.

This does have, however, one of the longest ingredient lists of any of my recipes. Generally I’m not hugely comfortable with such meals, as I find them expensive and fiddly. This one isn’t too bad as there’s no specialty ingredients, and we actually had everything minus the chilli and fresh salad ingredients. If you don’t have everything, particularly the spices, do what I did during my first year of university – build up my spice cupboard gradually by buying one with each (or every other) shop.

 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 5_zpsmnxh10eo.jpgIngredients for 2 (Chicken & Rice)

  • Two skin-on boneless chicken breasts – or thighs to make it cheaper, as I will be doing next time!
  • 1 tbsp runny honey – or a big squeeze from a squeeze tub
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 150g rice, we used Basmati
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 tin black beans

Ingredients for 2 (Sauce)

  • 4 spring onions
  • Small bunch of fresh thyme (use some for the chicken)
  • 1tsp each of ground cloves nutmeg and allspice
  • 2 tablespoons golden rum
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chilli
  • 3 cloves of garlic

Ingredients for Lots (Salad & Yoghurt, served 2 for dinner, then lunch the next day)

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 red chicory
  • 1 romaine lettuce
  • 1.5 limes
  • 2-3 spring onions
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander
  • 250g natural yoghurt
  • few sprigs of fresh coriander
  • Half a lime

 

 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 6_zpsnbdu4rve.jpg photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 1_zpsjyl9bmkl.jpgMAKE THE JERK SAUCE Trim and roughly chop the onions and put into a mini chopper with the leaves from most of the bunch of thyme. Add the spices, rum, vinegar, honey and 2 teaspoons of salt. Remove the stalks and seeds from the Scotch bonnet chilli and add to the chopper with the garlic and blitz to a smooth paste. Mine was more liquid than paste, so I have reduced the liquid quantities in my recipe.

FRY THE CHICKEN Meanwhile put the chicken breasts on a plastic board and halve each one, leaving them joined at the top of the breast. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, then rub all over both sides of the chicken. Put into the hot griddle pan, skin side down, and leave to cook. Once the undersides are golden, turn the chicken over. Pour the jerk sauce into a  baking dish and lay the chicken on top, skin side up. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of runny honey and scatter over  the remaining thyme sprigs. Put on the top shelf of the oven and cook for 15minutes, at 220C.

RICE & BEANS Put a saucepan with a lid on a medium heat. Trim and finely slice the spring onions and put in the saucepan with the cinnamon stick, a good tbsp of olive oil and a big pinch of salt & pepper. Stir and let soften for a minute or so, then add the rice and stock. Drain and rinse the beans, add to the pan and stir gently. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a medium heat. Pop the lid on and leave for 12 minutes.

YOGHURT Tip the yoghurt into a small serving bowl. Finely chop a few sprigs of coriander and add to the bowl with a pinch of salt and a good lug of extra virgin olive oil. Finely grate over the zest of 1/2 the lime and squeeze in the juice. Stir in.

SALAD Deseed and roughly chop the red pepper. Pop the chicory and lettuce on top and keep chopping until everything is fairly fine.  Pour in a few lugs of extra virgin olive oil and squeeze in the juice of the limes. Finely slice the onions, season to taste, then toss everything together. Tear over the coriander to finish.

 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 4_zps2s5wxjvi.jpgTO SERVE Take the lid off the rice after 12 minutes and give it a stir. All the liquid should have been absorbed. Taste and season if necessary. Take the chicken out of the oven, and sprinkle over some coriander if there’s any left. Plate up, spoon over the jerk sauce from the bottom of the baking dish.

The chicken was tender, the skin crisp, coated in the most delicious sauce. Said sauce was spicy, spicy enough to make your nose run, but not inedible, and combined with complex flavours and a good whack of herbs. The rice and beans were so, so simple, yet we both loved them. Such an easy was to add plenty of flavour to a side of rice, I’ll definitely be making them again. And the salad was also lovely, zingy, hot from fresh chilli, sharp from coriander, crunchy with pepper. All finished off with a lime and coriander yoghurt (gratefully received to take away some of the heat), this was a dinner I was proud of.
 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 2_zpslriujq3e.jpg

Have you cooked anything particularly good lately?

Recipe: Spicy Lamb Flatbreads

Easter Sunday saw W arrive in Canterbury armed with flowers, creme eggs and a rather large leg of lamb to feed four people. Consequently my living room looks so much more cheerful, I managed to satisfy my creme egg craving (though they are definitely not as good as they used to be), and we had a lot of leftover roast lamb to get through.

 photo Leftover Lamb Flatbreads 6_zpsgnwrkxxy.jpgWhilst the stew and pie filling I made (gravy infused with about half a bottle of red wine and plenty of mint) was delicious, these lamb flatbreads absolutely stole the show. Based on my favourite lahmucun from teenage Turkish holidays, topped with yoghurt, mint and salad, these are spicy, soft, crunchy and so very fresh. The perfect way to use up leftover lamb in the summer!

The base is also pretty special; it’s my go-to pizza base recipe. Crisp base, good flavour from a slow rise, and the soft chewy texture that only the best pizzas have. The recipe is based on Rosie’s, but I’ve altered it slightly to my tastes (and laziness). The amounts make two filling lamb flatbreads – perfect with a salad as a dinner for the two of us.

 photo Leftover Lamb Flatbreads 9_zpsr0oynysd.jpgAs I was using leftover lamb, I whizzed up a sauce from a roasted red pepper, garlic, half an onion, plenty of chilli and a drizzle of honey, spiced up with cumin and a little cinnamon. I’ve made versions before with fresh lamb mince, where the mix is drier; simply onion and flavourings with the mince. I preferred the peppery version here, as I felt the sharpness cut through the rich lamb. I imagine it would be great scattered with a bit of feta too…

Ingredients

  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 5g salt
  • 5g yeast
  • 170ml water
  • 1 roasted red pepper, whizzed until smoothish
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp each of chilli and cumin
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1-2 good handfuls of leftover roast lamb, shredded
  • Pine nuts, completely optional, I just had some floating around in my cupboards from making pesto!
  • Small pot greek yoghurt
  • Handful fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • Crunchy salad, to serve

 photo Leftover Lamb Flatbreads 3_zpsj0haqlta.jpgProbably the longest ingredients list I’ve used in a while, I promise it’s worth it!

In the morning, start on your dough pop the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl, and then pour in the water (it should be warm, but not hot). Stir with a knife until a rough ball forms, and then tip it onto a lightly floured work surface and bring it all together. The dough will be sticky, so traditional kneading won’t work – I go with the throw and slap technique for a few minutes (James Morton explains it far better than me!). Once the dough is noticeably smoother, throw into a bowl, cover with cling-film and pop in the fridge.

Make the sauce whenever – fry the onion until soft, add the garlic and spices and fry for a minute, then stir in the red pepper paste and honey. Taste, season and leave to cool or use immediately.

About an hour before you want to eat, remove the dough from the fridge and whack the oven on to around 220C. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into two and shape into rough circles – Rosie suggests holding it, spinning it and letting gravity do the work. I agree – and it means one rolling pin less to wash up! Once stretched, heat a dry frying pan over a high heat, then pop the first bit of dough in. Turn the heat to medium and fry for 1-2 minutes, until crisp underneath and starting to brown. Flip and do the other side, then repeat with the leftover dough.

Top your part-cooked bases with the sauce, followed by the lamb and pine nuts. Bake for around 10 minutes, until the base is completely cooked and crunchy. Top with salad and drizzle with minted yoghurt.

 photo Leftover Lamb Flatbreads 7_zpshr7b7oyk.jpgI imagine these would be perfect made ahead then thrown in the oven for a summer BBQ type thing – something a bit different, but still easy peasy. And of course, the pizza base is just made for all sorts of toppings. My current favourite is a white sauce made with creme-fraiche and parmesan, topped with mushrooms, ham and plenty of mozzarella. Divine!

Are you a fan of pizza? What would you do with leftover lamb?

Food: Round-Up for National Pie Week (& A Sausage Roll Disaster)

I love a good sausage roll, with Gregg’s ones being my ultimate treat on a Saturday afternoon shopping as a teen. I’ve long since graduated onto ‘better’ varieties (there’s a local bakery chain in Northampton that does the best sausage rolls, though flaky pastry isn’t the most elegant of snack choices!). One thing I hadn’t tried, however, is attempting to make my own.

 photo National Pie Week_zpsstzoqbas.jpgUntil now that is! Challenged by Jus’ Rol to create an interesting ‘pie’ to celebrate National Pie Week (the best week in my opinion). I decided on creating my very own ultimate sausage roll. And it was delicious – if a bit ‘deconstructed’…

 photo 2016-03-08 20.05.13_zpsfktsfjx8.jpg photo 2016-03-08 20.05.26_zpsqhudexta.jpgIf you’re interested, to make my sausage ‘roll’ I rolled out 100g puff pastry, spread with 1tsp mustard, and topped with carmelised onions (soften half a sliced onion in a little oil until golden, then add 1/4 tsp sugar and quickly fry until sticky). I then squeezed the meat out of two sausages, rolled a little thinner, placed on top of the onions and attempted to roll the pastry round the filling before baking at 200C for around 20 minutes. Turns out that I hadn’t rolled it quite thin enough, quite wide enough. So the pastry stayed open, then came completely undone in the oven. Learn from my mistakes people! Or eat a very yummy, very messy, pastry slice and sausage meat filling…

(As a sidenote, I think I’ve finally, finallyyyyy perfected my recipe for tomato-free baked beans. I’ll be posting the recipe soon!)

Now we’ve got that disaster out of the way, let’s talk pies.

For me, the ultimate pie is sold by a local butcher here in Kent; stuffed full of chicken and ham, with a thick and creamy sauce and crisp golden pastry, it’s comfort food at its best. For those of you unable to get to my butchers, I created a super-easy cheat’s version using condensed soup and ready-rolled pastry. Whilst it’s not quite so indulgent, it definitely still hits the spot!

 photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers6_zpsovrjemwl.jpg photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers7_zpspzn87trh.jpgSpeaking of chicken pies, I’ve got a huge amount of other chicken pie recipes in my go-to list. One of my little sister’s favourite meal is my Chicken & Chorizo Pie, and I have to admit it’s the perfect combination of spicy, flavourful and comforting. Will also made some amazinggg Harissa Chicken Pasties…so good!

Then there’s the no-pastry pie. As a mashed potato lover this is always a good option (though pastry would win, every time). I don’t think anything can beat a good cottage/Shepherd’s pie, and I made the absolute ultimate version back in the summer. I admit it took a good three hours (plus the Sunday roasting time) but it was absolutely, completely and utterly worth it. And of course, Jamie’s Fish Pie, packed with veg and lighter than your traditional version, is a firm favourite in my recipe list.

 photo Roast Lamb and Ultimate Shepherds Pie 4_zpsmcceoy4o.jpg photo Roast Lamb and Ultimate Shepherds Pie 6_zpsaotkxtt4.jpg photo 2015-02-01 14.33.16_zpswlgno1lz.jpgBut of course, any pie is always a good shout!

*Post in collaboration with Jus Rol, all opinions are my own as always. I just really, really love pie.

Are you a fan of pies? What’s your favourite pie filling?

Recipe: Thai Chicken Cakes & Satay Noodle Salad

I love the spicy, fragrant flavours of Thai food, and this meal has got to be one of the most enjoyable I’ve made lately. It felt like such a treat meal, yet it was pretty painless to make and definitely left me feeling completely virtuous.

 photo Thai Chicken Cakes and Satay Noodle Salad 2_zpslh4xg3qv.jpg

 photo Thai Chicken Cakes_zps2zp4irg5.jpg

The Thai Chicken Cakes are full of flavour, a moist but well-textured ‘burger’ that are spicy and filling. I found it such a different way to enjoy a chicken breast, without too much more effort. Definitely a little lighter than my standard Thai Green Curry too! They do take a bit of time to make (and a lot of washing up) but are totally worth it. You do need to use a decent curry paste though, I’ve been using one from Blue Dragon* recently and it’s so good – a decent kick of chilli, but a good tang and fragrance to it too. Yum!

And the noodle salad. Oh, so good! It’s fabulous cold, great with both chicken and prawns. The combination of rice noodles and peanut butter combine to make an almost creamy dressing that’s full of zingy, spicy flavour. Rice noodles are my new favourite thing, but this will also work well with easier-to-find egg noodles.

Together, these noodles and Thai chicken cakes make the perfect Fakeaway meal, great for a date night, a lazy Friday evening, or even for cooking and cooking for lunchboxes.

 photo Thai Chicken Cakes and Satay Noodle Salad 4_zps3et5bgep.jpg photo Thai Chicken Cakes and Satay Noodle Salad 1_zpszvccywsa.jpgIngredients (for 1)

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1-2 tablespoons Thai Green Curry Paste (depending on your spice preference)
  • 1 teaspoon line juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 50g rice noodles
  • 1 carrot, spiralized, julienned or peeled
  • Around 1 inch cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • Dressing: 1 teaspoon each of honey, lime juice, fish sauce and peanut butter, plus a dash of soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds

Now, the chicken cakes do need some time to chill so it’s best to make them anywhere from 2 hours in advance. Simply chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and pop into a food chopper along with the paste, lime juice and fish sauce. Season well with salt and pepper, then process until just combined. Spray a plate with oil, then using wet hands roughly shape the mixture into cakes and place on the plate. Spray the tops with a little oil, cover then chill for 2-24 hours.

When ready to cook, heat a little oil in a pan and fry the cakes on both sides until lightly golden. Transfer to a tray and cook at 180C for around 10 minutes. Meanwhile soak the noodles (I add the carrots for the final two minutes), prep the veg and shake all the dressing ingredients together.  Toss the dressing into the noodles, before adding the rest of the salad ingredients. Serve scattered with sesame seeds, alongside the chicken cakes.

 photo Thai Chicken Cakes and Satay Noodle Salad 3_zpsaybmkttb.jpgI know I’ve already said it, but this was such a good meal. I was dubious about the combination of green curry alongside a satay flavour, but it really does work. I’ve kept the salad dressing free of spice as I prefer my cakes super spicy – but go with what you fancy. I’m also planning on trying the cake recipe with prawns instead of chicken – yum yum!

*This post is an entry to the Foodies100 Chinese New Year recipe challenge sponsored by Blue Dragon. The range of Blue Dragon products is available in all major supermarkets at an RRP from £0.69. To find out more, visit www.bluedragon.co.uk

As you might have guessed, I’m a huge fan of Asian flavours! What’s your favourite style of cooking?

Recipe: The Weekday Breakfast

Breakfast is the bane of my life. I know how important it is to eat well in the morning and I love weekend brunches (as all the #yolkporn on my Instagram shows!) however the daily breakfast continues to evade me. I do have a few ‘go-to’ breakfasts though.
 photo Breakfast_zpszecel1x7.jpg

For me, the ideal weekday breakfast has to be quick, healthy, filling – and preferably warm in the winter. But equally I get bored of the same damn thing day in, day out. I like to mix it up a bit! Here’s what I’ve been loving lately…

 photo 2016-01-26 08.21.56_zps5ihyh5qh.jpg

Porridge

This is my standard breakfast, particularly with how chilly it is at the moment! I mix oats and chia seeds and cinnamon, microwave with water then stir through a mashed banana to sweeten before topping with mixed seeds, cocoa nibs, and frozen raspberries. Oh, and a sneaky small spoon of nutella…Because nutella.

I’ve also recently been experiments with adding raw cacao powder along with agave syrup. I’ve not quite got the balance of bitter and sweet right yet, but I’m loving it for more of a treat breakfast. I actually can’t believe how rich and chocolatey this stuff makes things!

“Something” & Nut Butter

Oh nut butter, where would I be without you? I’m a big fan of not only peanut butter, but almond and cashew butter too. I also received some very yummy pecan nut butter for Christmas which I’m pretty much in love with – it’s almost caramel like in flavour! I love nut butter spread on a rice cake or homemade bagel, or even onto slices of apple. And yes, I can eat it by the spoonful too…
 photo Overnight20Oats4_zpsz0cycec8.jpg

Overnight Oats

This is what I make for those days where I have a 9am lecture; I just hate eating whilst rushing out of the house. My fav overnight oat combo is banana and peanut butter, super creamy and filling. I could definitely eat it for desert!
 photo How to Cook Eggs 4_zpspizdt17c.jpg photo How to Cook Eggs 3_zpspbdtg4sf.jpg

Dippy Egg & Soldiers

My all-time favourite! I always think it’s a bit extravagant to have this on a weekday, however it really does only take a few minutes and it’s like a hug on a plate…plus it definitely makes for a good Instagram. I’ve finally, finally managed to perfect the boiling of an egg so the yolk is perfectly dippable – you can have a read of my foolproof method here.

What’s your go-to weekday breakfast? And more interestingly, what’s your favourite weekend breakfast treat?

 

Recipe: Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

With everyone doing ‘veganary’ and the usual ‘new year new me’ this recipe perhaps is a little out of place right now. However I’m a very big believer in the 80:20 rule – so a slice of cake is by no means out of the question. In fact, a life without cake is not a life I’d want to lead. Especially when said cake is this one, complete with peanut butter frosting…

 photo Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting 5_zps8vxkg5c4.jpgSpeaking of the frosting, this stuff is divine. Like, squeeze the icing bag straight into my mouth yummy. (I definitely didn’t do that). It’s creamy, sweet with a salty kick, and has just a hint of the cloyiness that peanut butter gives. It’s also super easy to make, no more hassle than a standard buttercream. And it’s just YUM.

The cake is also pretty good. Based on a super simple recipe I shared ages ago (that I won’t link – the pictures are horrific) it’s rich, almost brownie-like, and chocolately without being heavy. The perfect partner for the frosting.

 photo Bake Box Monthly Subscription1_zpsugydvttx.jpg photo Bake Box Monthly Subscription2_zpseicsqrim.jpg photo Bake Box Monthly Subscription4_zpswtvihmra.jpgSharing this cake (which almost knocks my favourite peanut butter cake off top spot!) also coincides with a rather exciting time – the launch of bi-monthly Bake Boxes*. I’ve never been one for subscription boxes, turns out I was super-excited to open this one. For £14.99 per box you get at least £40 worth of bits and bobs; definitely worth it in my opinion. I loved the style of the box, though it’s debatable how much the theme of ‘Spots and Stripes’ was reflected in all the items. Even so I reckon a subscription would be the perfect gift for a keen baker. I’m very tempted to carry on with mine!

Fun fact: this post was meant to be a bundt cake made with the item in the box. This was an epic fail due to the cake sticking dramatically – so bundt cake recipe still to come!

 photo Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting 1_zps7unbxpb5.jpgIngredients

  • 3 eggs
  • Self-raising flour
  • Cocoa powder
  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • For the frosting: 225g smooth peanut butter, 110g butter, 225g icing sugar, splash of milk

For the cake, the weight of the ingredients depend on the weight of the eggs. Simply weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out that amount of flour, butter and sugar. Pop around 75g of the flour back and replace with cocoa powder, and spoon back a tablespoon of sugar.

Start the cake by creaming your butter and sugar together. I always find it easier to beat the butter a little first, and of course doing it by hand means calories burnt = more cake later. Beat in the eggs one by one, before sifting in the flour and cocoa. Thin out with a little milk, then smooth into greased/lined sandwich tins and bake at 170C for 15-20 minutes.

Once the cake is completely cool, make the frosting. Simply beat the peanut butter and butter together until creamy, then gradually add the icing sugar, beating inbetween each addition. Add a splash of milk to make it a spreadable consistency, then use to sandwich the cakes together and smooth over the top.

Or get your fiancé to show off his piping skills…

 photo Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting 4_zpsamiisl7s.jpgThis is pretty much my perfect cake – easy and quick to make, no fancy ingredients. And there’s no better combination that chocolate and peanut butter! In fact this would make the perfect Valentine’s bake…

Are you a fan of the chocolate-peanut butter combo? Would you be interested in a baking subscription box?

Cooking How To: Eggs

I thought I’d start up a new little recipe series, based on simple how-to’s, basic cookery bits that will built up a beginners repertoire and hopefully allow they to feel more confident in the kitchen.

 photo How to Cook Eggs_zpspdyuqzck.jpgThe inspiration for this series? I’ve finally, finally managed to learn how to boil an egg. It’s taken a long time. My mum makes the best dippy eggs and soliders, and I crave them when I’m away from home. It’s the first thing I ask for when I get back and she’s tried teaching me countless times. It doesn’t matter if I follow her instructions to the letter, my eggs are always over-done or hardly done at all. I’ve tried numerous methods from the internet, wasted far too many eggs. Every weekend I’ve not seen W since July has seen at least one attempt at boiling an egg. And now I’ve managed it. I finally feel like a cook!

But equally, I’ve also discovered what pretty much amounts to an adoration for eggs. Whilst they haven’t quite replaced porridge of overnight oats as my go-to breakfast, I’ve instead turned to them for lunch. When I’m in the house at midday there’s nothing I like more than a hearty but healthy lunch and eggs are perfect for this. And for the essential weekend brunch of course…

So, here’s my ‘how to’ on eggs, all kinds of ways.
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Boiled Egg

The classic, and the one that took me SO long to learn how to do. It’s embarrassing really! I tried to learn how to boil an egg a few times in my early teens, but it was never quite as good as mum’s so I just gave up. I’ve now picked up a method that’s a little odd, but it really works and does give me perfect eggs anytime.

Pour a small amount of water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil – you want barely half an inch depth. Once boiling well add your egg and immediately place the lid on the pan. Cook for 6 minutes for a room temperature egg, adding another 30 seconds if it’s been in the fridge – I use medium eggs so increase/decrease timings slightly if you have different sizes. Remove from the water and run briefly under a cold tap to stop the cooking, then slice of the top and get dunking your soldiers!
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Poached Egg

This is probably my favourite way to have an egg at the moment. It feels a bit more special than boiled eggs, but doesn’t involve burning my fingers trying to crack the top off. It’s slightly quicker, easier to serve with anything other than toast, and has just the right combination of oozy yolk and barely set white.

I do cheat a little and use the cling-film method – but it works! Bring a small pan of water to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Meanwhile line a small ramekin with clingfilm, and smear with a little oil. Add seasoning if you like (I occasionally like to add some chilli for a spicy twist). Crack in an egg, then seal by twisting two ends together and folding over the middle. Lower into the simmering water, then cook for 3-4 minutes (I go for the lower end of this as I like a justtttt cooked egg). Lift out, gently remove from the film and serve. Make sure you instagram that #yolkporn

Oh – and my perfect Boxing Day brunch was discovered this year. Bubble & Squeak (leftover mash and sprouts fried with bacon), ham and a poached egg. Delicious!
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Scrambled Egg

I adore scrambled eggs. However I’m also very fussy about mine. I like them softly cooked, barely set, buttery, a tiny grinding of pepper and plenty of salt. I also hate them being place on the toast (nothing worse than soggy toast!).

Simply melt a knob of butter in a small pan until foaming. Meanwhile crack two eggs into a bowl and lightly whisk together, along with 1-2tbsp milk (or cream – my treat whenever there’s a little in the fridge) and salt/pepper. Swirl the butter around the pan to coat the base, then tip in the eggs. Immediately turn down the heat to low. Using a rubber spatula, carefully stir the eggs every ten seconds, giving them time to start setting before each stir. Continue cooking until they are set to your liking – I know some people like a firmer set to their scrambled eggs, whereas I pull mine off the heat whilst still a little liquidy!
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Baked Egg

Sometime that took a little bit of time to get right, but these are so worth it. They feel so much more luxurious than any of the other egg-based options, but are probably the least hands-on way of cooking.

Crack one (or two!) eggs into a small buttered ramekin, topping with salt, pepper, 1tbsp of cream and a teeny bit of grated parmesan. Put the ramekin baking dish, and pour boiling water into the larger dish until it comes to 2/3 of the height of the ramekin. Back at 180C for 12-15 minutes, or until the eggs are set to your liking. Enjoy with plenty of butter toast.
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Fried Egg

I have to admit, I hate frying eggs and if possible it’s something I’ll always get W to do for me (along with grating cheese – possibly the worst kitchen job in existence!). I hate how fried eggs tend to ‘bang and spit,’ it always makes me nervous. That said there’s nothing better than a plate of fried eggs and bacon, and I’ve recently rediscovered the joys of a fried egg sandwich too. 3 rashers of streaky bacon, two lightly toasted slices of ‘plastic’ white bread, a gooey fried egg, all sandwiches together is a piece of handheld heaven.

So, for a perfect fried egg simply get a (lightly oiled) pan nice and hot. Crack in your egg, turn the heat to medium and crack over a little pepper. Then simply leave on the heat until the white is set. I don’t bother with basting the top with fat or trying to get a crispy base, I’m happy with a simple fried egg. As long as it’s got a runny yolk I’m happy!

Carbonara

Ah, my favourite meal. I’ve honed my recipe over several years and I’ve pretty much got it spot on now. It’s my go-to when I’m having a ‘poor’ week as I always have the ingredients in, it’s perfect for nights when I’m short of time,and it’s easily adapted to be a little healthier too.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add your pasta and cook for 9 minutes. Meanwhile dice one rasher of bacon and fry in a little butter until crisp. In a small bowl, finely grate 30g parmesan, 20g cheddar. Crack in an egg and whisk together. After about 7 minutes boiling, stir the pasta and then add around 3 tablespoons of the pasta water to the egg mix, beating well with a fork after each addition. This should partially melt the cheese and stabilise the egg a little. Once cooked, drain the pasta then add to the bacon. Toss together and turn the heat off. Add a little of the egg mixture, toss together, add a bit more, stir well, then add the rest – if it starts to scramble hold off adding any more for thirty or so seconds. Once all the egg is added stir well until thickened, putting back on a low heat if necessary.

 photo How to Cook Eggs 6_zpssa8rbzdj.jpgAnd that’s it – my perfect, simple carbonara recipe, as well as other super-easy ways to cook eggs.

How do you like your eggs, in the morning or otherwise? What other ‘how-to’ guides would you like to see?

Recipe: Mango, Lime & Chilli Ice Lollies

One thing I love is curling up in the evenings, with a good book or girly chick-flick on the TV, tucking into a bowl of ice-cream. I can’t resist (half price!) Ben & Jerry’s, I have a major softspot for Peanut Butter Cup. But ice-cream doesn’t like me.

 photo Mango Chilli and Lime Ice Lollies 3_zpspkydk4oe.jpgFor one, I’m slightly lacto-intolerant. Whilst previously I could avoid milk and indulge every now and then, it does seem to be getting slightly worse. My occasional bowl of ice-cream is now closely followed by a few days of bad skin, and my stomach certainly doesn’t thank for me it. Thankfully I’ve come up with a few delicious alternatives that don’t leave me spotty AND are healthy enough to enjoy a couple of times a week. The first is these ice-lollies.

Sweet, refreshing and slightly spicy, these Mango, Lime and Chilli ice-lollies are perfect to stash in your freezer. Quick and easy to make, and completely delicious – my kind of recipe!

 photo Mango Chilli and Lime Ice Lollies 2_zps1c2wvjtt.jpgIngredients (fills 6 standard lolly moulds):

  • 4 ripe mangoes
  • Half red chilli, very finely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • A tiny bit of sugar to taste (I didn’t include this as my mangoes were super ripe and sweet)

Peel and chop the mangoes, then tip into a blender. Whizz until completely smooth, then pass through a sieve into a large jug. Stir through the chilli and lime zest/juice and taste to decide whether it needs any sugar. Pour into the lolly moulds and freeze until solid.

Perfect as a ice-cream alternative, and these also add in a bit of sunshine to a cold January evening. Though seeing as W got the Kitchen-Aid ice-cream attachment for his birthday I may just have to play around with some dairy-free ice-cream recipes soon…
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Have you even made your own ice lollies? What’s your favourite ice-cream flavour!