Baking: Citrus Loaf with Mojito Marmalade

Ah September. The month of cosy jumpers (thought not this year!), Great British Bake Off, and horrible house spiders. When I’m not brandishing a hoover, shoe, or heavy object I’ve been baking this month – bake off always puts me in the mood for something yummy, and there’s only so many nights that a jar of nutella can keep me company. Quick bakes are something I’m always looking for due to working full time, and this fits the bill perfectly. Stir up the mix whilst my dinner is cooking, bake whilst I eat, then let the icing set and cake cool whilst I clean up after myself. My kind of cake.

 photo 11a1e97a-4b3b-48ae-b101-7f6f76ec7c17_zpsb9e6897d.jpgI love baking with all things citrusy, since moving away from home the vast majority of my food comes seasoned with zingy lemon as it’s a substance banned from my family household – my sister is seriously allergic. Yep, we’re the weird allergy family. No tomatoes for me, no citrus for her (including cleaning products) and even my mum has joined in, with reactions to dairy, fish and strawberries. Safe to say mealtimes can sometimes be tricky! But no matter, because away from home I indulge my citrus passion.

 photo dad5a366-ad7a-4bb1-aa49-29c1e237d0c8_zps22cbb439.jpgThis weekend I finally had the opportunity to bake with some Mojito Marmalade* I was sent ages ago from Funky Food Gifts (my new favourite site – I’m desperate for these, these and this). I have to say I was a littleeeee disappointed. It actually just tastes like a lemon curd with bits – no lime zing, no minty hit. Certainly no alcoholic punch, so if you’re after a mojito flavoured cake I’d wait til I publish the recipe I’m working on. But its a nice lemony flavour, and I’d definitely buy lemon marmalade to make this cake again.

Now, onto the bake! Grab from your cupboards:

  • A jar of lemon marmalade – about 1/3 to go in the cake, and the rest on top.
  • 175g very soft butter
  • 90g sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon (and you’ll need the juice too)
  • 3 eggs
  • 190g flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • And for the topping – the rest of the marmalade, 2-3 tablespoons of sugar, and a knob of butter

 photo c5f67bad-5426-4a84-975f-19d8f0a472ef_zpsafaa4b36.jpg photo 7994fc70-6b4c-4c5d-ab7a-647bcd4e4dd4_zpsca158f04.jpgStart by beating your sugar, butter and zest together until light and fluffy. I go for the wooden spoon – my thinking is the more calories you burn through the baking, the more cake you can eat.

 photo a6a699d2-aea1-4bae-b746-5fc6668018d9_zpsa6f2dde1.jpg photo d1fb67eb-d2b7-46ba-ad31-3614585bbc04_zps8c28122c.jpgBeat through the eggs, then add the marmalade and lemon juice.

 photo b7a8ccb2-2f74-4524-95c4-4108cea41882_zpsc089110a.jpgSift the flour and baking powder together, into the mixing bowl, and stir lightly to combine everything.

 photo a352033c-5a6d-410f-9931-1f7611c23c94_zpsbfa6a444.jpgPour into a greased loaf tin, and bake at 175g for about 30 minutes. Due to the marmalade content, you may want to cover the top as it does catch a little (I also haven’t gotten used to this oven – hence the burnt edge!).

 photo 76fdeadf-3c83-4a80-838e-71b150470530_zpsa115c8f4.jpgOnce its risen and golden, remove from the oven, cool for ten minutes then untin onto a plate. Heat the marmalade, stir through the knob of butter and sugar, and pour over the cake. Leave to cool – the icing is sticky, so it won’t completely set.

Eat and enjoy – it’s a moist and sticky loaf, full of lemon flavour, and it keeps wonderfully well in a tin. Well, it would if your boyfriend wasn’t eating it for breakfast…

Have you been baking along with Bake Off?

 

Recipe(s): Chorizo & Prawn Risotto and Pizza Breads with SACO Apartments*

Having lived in student halls for nine months too long (bad experience) I know just how difficult it is to cook with a dodgy oven, little space, limited food storage and below-par equipment, so when SACO contacted me about their latest challenge I couldn’t not accept. They wanted bloggers to create a two course meal for two, under £20 and only using equipment found in their holiday apartments. Got to say, those apartments are better stocked than the kitchen in my halls was! Most look pretty cool too!

 photo 2014-09-17184532_zps5ce3fe8e.jpgI decided to go for something relatively simple, something I’d cook often but with a summery twist. Plus they compensated the cost of ingredients, so I couldn’t resist splashing out on chorizo and prawns. I planned a paella, but I had the wrong type of rice, the wrong type of pan. Plus I burn things easily. Risotto it was. As for the starter, this was something born out of an accident last year when I ended up with extra mozzarella. I love it, and quite often eat it for dinner (after an office lunch at Prezzo) or cold in my lunchbox. I also wanted something that would work well alongside the risotto if timings get difficult (they often do away from home), so I’m happy to say they go together perfectly. A really yummy meal!

Now I didn’t weigh anything, and got on with it straight from work. I had two courses on the table in under an hour – so it’s a pretty quick dish. Here we go;

 photo 2014-09-17180111_zpsabd40eaf.jpgGet in, throw your bags on the floor and preheat the oven to 180C. Dice a small onion and soften in olive oil over a low heat.

 photo 2014-09-17180342_zpsa1036e17.jpg photo 2014-09-17180732_zpsce3a1551.jpgSlice a part-baked roll (one for each person) in half, spread each half with a teaspoon of red pesto, and top with slices of mozzarella. Throw in the oven, they want 15-20 minutes; keep an eye on the cheese as you don’t want it to burn.

 photo 2014-09-17181228_zpsc50c255a.jpgBy now the onions should have soften. Tip in some chorizo (I’m loving the pre-diced little packs from Sainsburys at the moment, as it means I’ll actually eat the amount before it goes off) and let it release its oils. Add sliced garlic, paprika and whatever herbs you have to hand. Stir a spoonful of the red pesto in too.

 photo 2014-09-17181533_zpse50f4d93.jpgTip in the risotto rice (150g is good for two portions) and stir constantly for two minutes. Pour 1/2 pint of boiling water into a jug, then add 1/3 of this to the pan. Stir well, cover with a lid and leave for about ten minutes.

 photo 2014-09-17184352_zpsd6264d85.jpg photo 2014-09-17184526_zps4014002a.jpgAdd another 1/3 of the stock, stir well, leave for ten minutes, then repeat. Leave the lid off for the last ten minutes, add a handful each of prawns, and stir as often as you can bear to. You want it to be slightly less wet than a usual risotto, a little more paella like.

 photo 2014-09-17183607_zps77f92627.jpg photo 2014-09-17184532_zps5ce3fe8e.jpgCheck the rice is cooked to your liking, season to perfection (is it Jamie Oliver that says that in virtually every recipe?!) and serve up.

Disclaimer: I was invited to take part and reimbursed for my ingredients. I wasn’t expected or asked to add an opinion on SACO apartments, and I’m not affiliated with them in any way. 

What do you cook on holiday?

 

Baking: Peanut-aires Shortbread

 photo 2014-09-01191654_zpsc5e6aa72.jpgWhy have ordinary Millionaire’s Shortbread when you can add peanut butter? If you haven’t already guessed, I love the nutty, salty, crunchy spread, great on toast but it also makes a fabulous baking ingredient. I often find that traditional Millionaire’s Shortbread is too sweet and sickly for me, so I decided to make it more to my tastes by adding peanut butter. Of course, I then forget to sort out the caramel part, and this recipe was born. In fact I now prefer this one – not to mention it’s easier to make, less messy to eat andddd I can eat multiple pieces without feeling too sick. The perfect bake in my eyes…

 photo 2014-09-01191624_zpsfdd03a55.jpgI planned for this recipe to be mini – only making a few servings, so halved my existing shortbread recipe (it’s one I got in Food Tech when I was about 12) and used my smallest baking dish. Turns out I still got eight decent sized squared out of it so I’m going to give it to you in those quantities…

Ingredients

  • 90g butter
  • 120g plain flour
  • 40g sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 120g chocolate

 photo d89dbf37-2b55-4344-83b6-1064549205e4_zpscf8e6088.jpg photo 2014-08-31155032_zpse23bb7a5.jpgStart by rubbing the flour and butter together, until it looks a bit breadcrumb-y like. It won’t be as breadcrumb-y as pastry as there’s a little more butter, but it should look something like my photos.

 photo 2014-08-31155039_zpsf593ae55.jpg photo 2014-08-31155313_zps46646099.jpg photo 2014-08-31155421_zps707e2fb1.jpgAdd the sugar and rub that in too.

 photo 2014-08-31163450_zpsc9c2a15e.jpgTip into a tin (lined with tin foil if you are lazy about greasing) and use a spoon to press down and into the corners – you want it nice and compacted. Prick lightly with a fork. Bake at 160C for about 25 minutes, until crisp and lightly golden. Let cool.

 photo 2014-09-01191642_zpsa932263c.jpgMelt the peanut butter slightly and spread over the shortbread. This is where using crunchy peanut butter made things slightly tricky, so I’d suggest going with smooth. Then melt the chocolate, drizzle over and smooth out. Sprinkle over some peanuts – make some caramelised ones if you’re feeling fancy!

 photo 2014-09-01191632_zpsc3e82980.jpgThats it – simple, effective, yummy and perfect for sharing. Or eating by yourself whilst Bake Off is on, which wasn’t what I was doing last night…

Do you like peanut butter?

Baking: Autumnal Blackberry Brownies

 photo 3cc0736f-e26a-4a47-a57a-21e10786dc75_zps27620964.jpgI love autumn. I can’t be the only one who’s starting to long for pretty scarves, chunky knits, and lovely boots. Actually, I’m not longing for boots as I can’t find any that fit – if anyone knows of any affordable wide-calf-narrow-foot brands I’ll pay with brownies… On my walk to and from walk I pass by a long hedgerow that’s absolutely brimming with blackberries and plums. Sounds idyllic, although the reality is it’s right next to a trainline, and right under Gatwick’s flight path. But for those few moments I could be on a country walk, and so after a week of waiting for blackberries to ripen (and moaning when others got there first) I came home with a small handful. A good wash and they were as good as any I’ve picked from a field.

 photo 2014-08-21083403_zps5a2e9b2d.jpg photo 2014-08-21083320_zpsd8818175.jpg photo 2014-08-18083254_zpsfe4444fd.jpgI debated making a crumble, but lack of ripe fruit meant that was a no-go, and I wanted something I could share. Half my love of baking is sharing the goods around, so a crumble doesn’t really fit the bill. Then I remember the raspberry cheesecake brownies from Edinburgh, and decided to do something similar. Sans cheesecake.

 photo ed98a75c-345b-40ed-903b-fe6668b4059e_zpsdc01713c.jpgI ended up loving the combination of dark, fudgy chocolate brownie with the burst of sharp blackberry, the crunch of the seeds adding a welcome element too. The brownie mix is adapted from my Mayonnaise Brownies; I’ve made it simpler, easier, less washing up. Whilst here I did add a little nutella, I’m not too sure its necessary, and if I’m honest these were a little too fudgy. Just use your judgement – if its looking dry, add nutella!

I’m now convincing myself that using a low-fat brownie mix, and adding fruit, means it’s acceptable to eat four of these in a day. Agreed? Here’s the recipe to convince you…

Ingredients

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 pinch of baking powder
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 220g sugar
  • 1/3 mug of hot water
  • 1 egg
  • 150g mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tsp of nutella, if needed
  • 1 handful of blackberries, though I wish I’d had more!

 photo 2014-08-20182138_zpsdc448439.jpgMelt your chocolate in the microwave, and leave to cool.

 photo 2014-08-20182641_zpsd25ae499.jpgMeanwhile mix the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and sugar together in a bowl.

 photo a041942d-61ec-41a9-94e0-eac3006540df_zps5ca06735.jpg photo 3274b40a-e9a9-4d6d-92b8-2f3003c99040_zps3071bb9c.jpg photo cfb47624-4c67-4915-91b5-6c9e98e79c28_zps24c6b28a.jpgOnce the chocolate is cool, pour it into the dry mix, along with the mayonnaise and egg. Mix together, don’t overbeat. Add the water gradually until you have a gunge-y mix – add nutella if necessary.

 photo 3cc0736f-e26a-4a47-a57a-21e10786dc75_zps27620964.jpgStir through your blackberries, tip into a prepared tin (lined and greased – or just covered in tin foil if you’re lazy like me) and bake at 180C for 25-ish minutes.

 photo c987daed-3407-4bbc-97ed-1057a80e6e3e_zps3986e105.jpgAs with all brownies, do your best to wait until they are completely cool before cutting, or they will fall apart. Then stuff your face with five of them. After all, they are pretty damn healthy 😉
 photo 2014-08-18083341_zps2deef1f7.jpg

Are you an Autumn lover?

Recipe: Haggis Carbonara

As you may know I’ve holidayed in Edinburgh for the past two years; I adore the city, and I really love what I’ve seen of Scotland. One of my dream holidays in the next few years is to finish a stay in Edinburgh with some form of road trip around the country.  photo e190fe4e-8204-4b32-8fc2-b3c1d33ec858_zps411437dc.jpgOne of the things I love about Scotland is the food. Nothing too fancy, but everything is tasty, hearty and well seasoned – too many people are shy with the salt and pepper! When Sykes Cottages asked me to come up with an interesting Haggis recipe I was embarrassingly excited; I love haggis but have never cooked it myself. I was actually quite shocked at their statistics; nearly two-thirds of people wouldn’t order haggis if they saw it on the menu. I’ve got to say there are things I’d place ahead of haggis, but its definitely not a no-go area for me!  photo 2014-06-19123753_zps47344773.jpgThinking about my recipe, I wanted something quick and easy, but still comforting. Haggis isn’t meant to be light and healthy really! I’ve actually never had it ‘as it comes’, I’ve eaten it stuffed inside a chicken breast (pretty good) and in a fritter. A word about the Fritter – I highly recommend you visit Maison Bleue if you find yourself in Edinburgh. Pretty damn good set menu at roughly £30, but £15 if you’re a student and its a Tuesday. One of the most interesting (in a good way!) meals I’ve had, and they definitely don’t skimp on portions. But yes, I highly recommend their Haggis Fritters. Anyway, all the times I’ve enjoyed Haggis it’s been in quite a complex form. I didn’t want that, so I thought about the flavours – peppery and meaty. Then I realised it would be pretty nice in a carbonara. I was right, it was fantastic. I used a pattie of haggis as it was the easiest option for one. So cheap too!  photo 2014-08-15185358_zpseaec30eb.jpgJust to let you know, my regular carbonara comes very highly praised by my boyfriend. I’ve never planned to publish it on here and its not a dish that takes kindly to sitting around being photographed, but here it is. Aren’t you lucky?! To make it haggis-less, just fry chopped bacon until crisp, and add a good amount of pepper to the cheese mix. Ingredients

  • Decent knob of butter
  • 1 round of haggis
  • 1 egg
  • Cheese – I went for parmesan and a good grating of a Scottish cheddar
  • Pasta – spaghetti is best really

 photo 6140c989-1c95-4cd0-beeb-9556e103bb9c_zps9cb39dfd.jpgFirst of all put your pasta on to boil. I find 10 minutes is about right for most pastas. Meanwhile fry your haggis in butter – I crumbled mine up completely, but you could leave it in bigger chunks. I’d say crumbled is easier if you’re just starting out with haggis though!  photo 9165dc89-d6c5-4481-a929-a8ecd30145f3_zpsd692627e.jpg photo 1247502f-ff31-422b-94aa-18f4eafdfef6_zpsed6ad2e6.jpg photo 2e9a0b09-1f59-4853-9e22-a024294de140_zps221ca805.jpgAnd while that’s frying, crack and egg into a bowl, beat and add your grated cheeses.  photo 0e45a5cb-9383-47ae-bb5a-f6b69b99c878_zpsffde082f.jpgNow my secret for carbonara – take a tablespoon of the boiling pasta water (while the pasta is still cooking) and dribble it into the egg-cheese while beating with a fork. Do the same with another teaspoon. The water should just melt the cheese, make a smooth mixture, and lighten the end sauce.  photo 1c6b3cc2-9b19-4cbf-8222-4b910668aaaa_zps19571434.jpgOnce the pasta has boiled, drain, and tip straight in with the haggis. Toss together.  photo e190fe4e-8204-4b32-8fc2-b3c1d33ec858_zps411437dc.jpgTurn the heat off, and wait a few minutes. Tip the egg mixture gradually (tossing well between additions) into the pasta. If it starts to scramble don’t add any more; wait another minute. Once all the egg is in, if its not quite cooked enough to your liking (I’m not fussy about really runny egg!) put the pan back on a very low heat. Then serve, and eat as quickly as possible. Trust me, cold carbonara isn’t a good thing!  photo 84e5815d-9720-4a82-95fb-07b7137274ee_zps2b3c0a3e.jpg

Disclaimer: I was sent the personalised apron and £15 to cover ingredients costs (treated myself to posh parmesan!) by Sykes Cottages, but all opinions are my own. I genuinely love haggis!

Whats your opinion of haggis?

Student Summer: Simple Sunday Chicken

One of the things I missed most when I moved to university was a good Sunday lunch. Well, a roast dinner – they aren’t just for Sundays really! Sure you could go to your nearest ‘Spoons (or as I did – the local cafe that did roast dinner baguettes) but it wasn’t quite the same. In the end I turned to my own oven, and after nearly two years of experimenting I’ve come up with a basic Sunday Roast Chicken that doesn’t break the bank, and doesn’t take an awful lot of skill. Perfect for students really!

 photo 2014-08-09203043_zpsf27a197c.jpgThe best thing about this is that it is completely and utterly adaptable. Sausages going spare? Throw them in! Fancy something more summery? Add tomatoes and some lemon juice. In the mood for spice? Rub spice mix into the chicken. If you want more traditional roast potatoes then you’ll probably want to use a large dish so they aren’t covered by the chicken – but I think they are pretty great as they are. Another great bonus is that pretty much everything is ready at the same time – all you need to do is cook some green vegetables, and you can do that whilst things are resting. Exactly as the title says, simple!

On a savvy-spendy note, chicken thighs are super cheap compared to breasts, and I’ve actually started really liking them now I appreciate crispy skin. They are also really difficult to dry out, so a bonus if you forget about them in the oven!

 photo 2014-08-09203447_zpsad055189.jpgIngredients

  • Chicken thighs – 1-2 per person depending on appetite. You can use any leftover meat the day after, or freeze it for a bit.
  • New potatoes – chopped into bitesized chunks
  • Garlic – 2 cloves per person
  • Salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you fancy
  • Olive oil

 photo 2014-08-09175130_zps5643c4ed.jpg photo 2014-08-09181122_zps80ba6ee8.jpgTo start off, par boil your potatoes in salted water for five minutes. Drain and toss with the garlic (don’t bother to peel) and olive oil. Season.

 photo 2014-08-09195552_zps1f0caab7.jpg photo 2014-08-09195645_zps99b0fcd4.jpgPlace the chicken skinside up ontop of the potatoes, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Use your hands to rub the olive oil over the skin, then season again.

 photo 2014-08-09203054_zps0e474cd6.jpgPop in a pre-heated oven (200C) for 45 minutes – the chicken skin should be golden and crisp. To check – remove a piece of chicken and place on a plate, then piece the thickest part and press down. Juices should run clear without any pink; if not your chicken isn’t quite cooked. Cover with foil and rest for 10 minutes whilst you prep and cook any other veg, then serve up.

This recipe is so quick and easy, plus so tasty and reminiscent of home. It’d be a perfect dish to make if you and housemates joined up for meals – my second year house tried to do Sunday dinner together, although we rarely did a full roast, and it was definitely a highlight of the week! When Currys asked me to produce a recipe for their student cookbook this was the first thing I thought of – so I had to share!

Are you a lover of the Sunday roast?

Baking: Chocolate Chip Muffins

In honour of Great British Bake Off this evening, here’s something you can easily knock up to devour whilst watching! Admittedly I’m on the wrong week as apparently its Biscuit Week, but I’ve never liked being told what to bake/cook…

 photo 2014-07-23162139_zpsc6f469f4.jpg photo 2014-07-23162135_zps71dfbcdf.jpgI’ve made muffins a couple of times before; Nutella & Banana Oaty ones; zesty Citrus Drizzle ones; Cinnamon Swirl ones; Peanut Butter & Jelly ones.. I love both these recipes, but a few days ago I wanted to make something slightly more classic. I stuck to the simple idea of chocolate chips, and other than adding two types of chocolate I was pretty restrained. The result was some (slightly overbaked) moist muffins, just the right size, and nice and light. Yum yum.

 photo 2014-07-23154024_zps16525f6d.jpgIngredients – for 12 decently sized muffins

  •  280g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 120g soft brown sugar
  • 180g chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml sour cream (such an annoying amount – but don’t be tempted to dump the whole tub in!)
  • 75g butter, melted, plus 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 or 2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180C, and pop muffin cases in your muffin tray.

 photo 2014-07-23154355_zpsf875786b.jpgSift together the flour, baking powder and salt. You need to do this in a large bowl, as this makes a lot of mix!

 photo 2014-07-23154529_zps73e2572e.jpg photo 2014-07-23154927_zps9bd3d78f.jpgStir through the chocolate chips and the sugar. Make sure there’s no lumps of sugar, and the chocolate is relatively evenly distributed. Make a well in the middle of the mixture.

 photo 2014-07-23154847_zps297fa47c.jpgBeat the eggs in a jug, and mix in the sour cream, butter/oil and vanilla extract.

 photo 2014-07-23154944-6_zps32cc6eeb.jpg photo 2014-07-23155021_zps12629b29.jpgPour the wet ingredients into the well.

 photo 2014-07-23155141_zpscd1f3090.jpg photo 2014-07-23155144_zps20ec8350.jpgMix until just combined. Don’t beat, and don’t over mix. Fill muffin cases with the mixture. They should be about 3/4 of the way full, but just divide the mix between the 12 cases. Bake for 15 mins (not 20 like I did…).

 photo 2014-07-23162135_zps71dfbcdf.jpgThats it – overbaked aside I reckon Paul Hollywood wouldn’t have too many bad things to say…and there would possibly be a ‘scrumptious’ from Mary Berry too. Now, I must remember that I’m not in a student house this year and I can watch real-time TV…

Are you baking for Bake Off? How do you like your muffins – fancy or simple?

Baking: Cherry Bakewell Tart

I’m not a huge jam-lover, but I do love it in bakes and when I was sent a selection of conserves from Mackays new Hand Stirred range arrived my whole family was instantly clamouring about what to make first. In the end my parents vote won, and a Bakewell Tart was made up with the Cherry Conserve*.

 photo 2014-07-26184519_zps1a23b789.jpgCompletely different to the kind found in packets (covered in icing with a glace cherry on top!), proper bakewell tart is crisp pastry spread with jam, and topped with an almond filling which is then baked. Pretty simple, but it looks spectacular. I’m afraid I have no pictures of the making process as my dad actually did the baking for this one; I was busy packing ready for the start of my placement year!

 photo 2014-07-26184624_zps9403d933.jpgIngredients

  • Pastry case – we used a ready rolled sheet of pastry, but adapt this recipe here by replacing the savoury ingredients with a spoonful of sugar if you want to make your own!
  • 2 tablespoons of cherry jam or conserve
  • 1/2 cup each of – butter, caster sugar, and ground almonds
  • 1 egg
  • Almond extract (if you have it, we didn’t!)
  • A handful of flaked almonds

 photo 2014-07-26184605_zpsf3376978.jpgHow to make Bake!

First you want to prep your pastry case. Line your chosen flan dish with the pastry, and blind bake; top with baking paper, fill with baking beans and bake for 10 mins, then remove the beans/paper and continue until golden and crisp. Let cool, then spread the pastry with the jam. Use more/less depending on your judgement!

Now for the almond filling. Melt the butter, and then let cool slightly. Stir in the sugar, followed by the ground almonds, egg and extract. Pour into the pastry case, scatter over the flaked almonds, and bake at 200C for 30-35 mins, covering in things are browning too quickly. There’s no pictures of the inside of our tart as it was slightly underbaked, but still pretty yummy!

 photo 2014-07-26184528_zps5a730d9f.jpgAs for the jam, the unanimous decision was that it was nice, but nothing special. It didn’t seem to have much of a definitive cherry flavour, and instead just tasted of a generic fruit jam. Perhaps a little disappointing, but it was well-rounded with a good balance of sharp and sweet. The texture was also pretty spot on – thick and sticky, but not dry. A bugbear of mine is runny jam, so even for someone on the gate about jam this was pretty good! I’m looking forward to baking with the other flavours – raspberry next!

What do you like to bake with jam?

Recipe: Boyfriend’s Cheesy Pasta Bake

CheesyPastaBake photo CheesyPastaBake_zps5b08a68c.jpgThere’s a running joke that my future children will all be fat, and there’s a very good reason for this. My boyfriend is an amazing cook, in fact our mutual love of baking and cooking was one of the things we bonded over nearly four years ago. He likes to think he is better than me, and whilst sometimes he probably is I’ll always deny it. Neither of us are particularly intrigued by the healthy craze that seems to be taking the food blogging world by storm at the moment (cashew vegan “cheese” anyone?) and so today I bring you one of the most unhealthiest things I eat. Comfort food at its finest, and a recipe we both plan to be sure to teach our children to make as soon as they are tall enough to use the hob. And no vegan fake cheese in sight…

This cheesy pasta bake is rich, it’s filling, it’s hearty. I can rarely finish my portion (no matter how good we try to be, we always make too much). Its so, so cheesy, a teeny bit spicy, with good texture coming from both the grill and the meat. Its just utter perfection, and I can still remember the first time my boyfriend made it for me early on in our relationship. And I am not ashamed to admit that, on more than one occasion, he has offered to cook me a romantic meal and I have requested this.

Ingredients – for two greedy people

  •  Meat – we usually go for bacon and frankfurters.
  • Cheese – lots of it. At least two big handfuls of a strong mature cheddar. You could get posh and mix up your cheeses, but we rarely do.
  • 80g of pasta each – cooked and ran under a cold tap to cool.
  • Around 50g butter.
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour.
  • 500ml-ish of milk.
  • Seasoning – salt, plenty of black pepper, and some spicy (Cajun is particularly good here).

How to make my boy’s signature dish…

CheesePastaBake3 photo 2014-04-16194826_zpsc41b5099.jpgCheesyPastaBake4 photo 2014-04-16195144_zpsdeaff155.jpgCheesyPastaBake10 photo 2014-04-16195607_zps1f38ac81.jpgPrepare the meat. Dice the bacon, slice the frankfurters and fry in a little oil/butter until crisp. Add the spices (Cajun, not salt and pepper) to the meat just before it’s done, then mix this with the cooked and cooled pasta, and put into a baking dish.

CheesyPastaBake1 photo 2014-04-16194630_zps10a5533d.jpgCheesyPastaBake7 photo 2014-04-16195500_zps8fbc19ce.jpgGrate the cheese. When you think you have grated enough, grate some more. You’ll nibble at it whilst you make the sauce!

CheesyPastaBake5 photo 2014-04-16195420_zpsaba020d3.jpgCheesyPastaBake6 photo 2014-04-16195451_zps45e102a7.jpgCheesyPastaBake8 photo 2014-04-16195555_zps79bcdda2.jpgCheesyPastaBake9 photo 2014-04-16195557_zpsd31e8b1b.jpgCheesyPastaBake11 photo 2014-04-16195639_zps1a16ad73.jpgNow it’s onto the sauce. So many people shy away from make a classic white sauce in favour of the all-in-one method, but I’ve found that never tastes quite as good…Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once it starts to foam, tip in the flour and stir continuously until golden brown. Turn the heat as low as it will go, and gradually add the milk in stages, stirring continuously. When all the milk is added season with salt and pepper, turn the heat up and stir continuously until thickened. Add the cheese and continue stirring. Then pour over the pasta/meat mixture. Use a fork to make sure all of the pasta is covered, top with some extra cheese (slices work best here) and grill for around 5-10 minutes until bubbling and slightly crispy.

CheesyPastaBake photo CheesyPastaBake_zps5b08a68c.jpgLet cool slightly, then serve up. As a small concession to the health-police – eat this with a salad. Its especially good with fridge-cold red peppers and crunchy lettuce. This is my all-time favourite, the meal I would request as my ‘last meal’ if I could.

What’s your absolute favourite meal?

 

Recipe: Homemade Pizza

Pizza. Definitely one of my absolute favourite foods, and one which I’ve not let my tomato allergy stop me from enjoying. White pizzas are just as popular over in Italy, and in my opinion just as delicious (plus you get extra cheese – why wouldn’t you want that?!). The lack of tomato sauce really lets the freshness of ingredients shine through; my favourite combo is a simple courgette, fresh basil and goat’s cheese mix, but adding broad beans and prosciutto is also insanely good…

 photo Pizza Dough_zpswwofx8v6.jpgPlease note that this recipe has now been updated (and, to be honest, much improved!), and can be found here along with some rather yummy topping suggestions.

Are you a fan of pizza? What’s your favourite topping?