Recipe: Courgette Risotto

Perhaps a bit late in the year, this post, as the courgette glut tends to happen in late summer, but so damn delicious I couldn’t help share. I can’t believe how behind I am at posting recipes; it seems like I make something, photograph it and then it’s months before it makes it’s debut on the blog. Whoops! I’ll definitely have to try and be prepared for the Christmas themed recipes I have planned…

 photo Courgette Risotto_zps6n6dzibs.pngThis Courgette Risotto, admittedly not the easiest thing to photograph, was born out of desperation for risotto. I’ve talked about my favourite-ever-meal before, mushroom risotto, and how it’s my go-to meal when I’m stressed, ill, tired, need cheering up or just fancy treating myself. I love it. And W hates mushrooms. I’ve tried converting him. I’ve tried sneaking them into things. It’s not worked; he hates the taste, despises the texture and I’ve not made mushroom risotto since moving out of uni in June. I was craving it so much in my first week of work I spent an hour researching different risotto recipes and proposed this one. Admittedly it was quite a bit of work for an after-dinner meal, and on one of the hottest days of the year I was certainly sweating over the hot stove, but it was delicious.

I was worried it was going to be a bit bland, but actually the gentler, subtle flavours really worked well together to create a rather tasty dinner. The mix of textures was spot-on, the seasoning just right and I felt it was quite possibly the perfect risotto consistency. Calorific, yes, but well worth it. Oh, and it can easily be made veggie by using veggie stock and checking the label on your cheeses.

 photo Courgette Risotto 1_zpswfg13ri5.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 50g butter, split in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, again split in half
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 150g arborio rice
  • 2 medium courgettes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • Handful fresh basil
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons mascapone

First, prep the veg. Finely dice the onion and celery, finely chop the garlic. Coarsely grate 1 whole courgette, and around half of the other. Chop the remaining courgette into 1cm chunks. Melt half the butter in a pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil, then sweat the onion and celery until softened. Make up the chicken stock and add the basil – this infuses it and adds a delicate herby taste.

Turn the heat up and add the garlic, grated courgette and rice. Fry, stirring constantly, for one minute then add the lemon juice (and a splash of white wine if there’s a bottle open). Stir until the liquid is absorbed, then add a ladleful of stock. Again, stir until absorbed (or at least every minute or so), adding ladlefuls gradually, until the rice is soft and creamy. I found it took around 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir through the Parmesan and macapone along with plenty of black pepper. Cover with a lid, off the heat, for around five minutes.

Whilst you wait, heat the remaining oil/butter over a high heat and add the diced courgette. Fry until slightly softened and golden. Vigorously beat the risotto and divide into warm bowls, and scatter over the fried courgette. Drizzle over some buttery pan juices, then enjoy with a crisp green salad (watercress and rocket works particularly well).

 photo Courgette Risotto 2_zpslzqwzso4.jpgWe both really enjoyed this risotto, the light flavours worked perfectly and it really showcased how delicious courgette can be. I know I love this vegetable, but a lot of people (other than trendy courgetti) don’t really know how to use it. I’ll definitely be making this again – and I’m a lot more open to experimenting with other risotto flavours now. I’m thinking a rather Autumnal butternut squash and sage version next…

Are you a fan of risotto?

Recipe: Ginger & Lime Biscuits

Every year I say I want to do a GBBO Bake Along. Every year I fail. This year I’ve gotten part of the way. Whilst I haven’t managed to bake and blog along (hats off to those that have!), I have managed to be pretty good at baking something inspired by the show most weeks.

 photo Ginger Lime Biscuits_zpsysaa6606.pngThis bake is a bit of a mish-mash between the first two weeks; it coincided with moving week, and with baking bits all over the country it seemed like a good idea to skip the first week. We then decided to merge the slightly citrus tone from Week 1 into the Biscuits. The result was a wonderfully spicy gingerbread, with warmth from cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, half covered with a zingy-sweet lime icing. The bake of the biscuit was pretty much spot on, crunchy, a good snap, but not something that was so brittle it hurt to take a bite. A mish-mash that worked, I reckon these Ginger & Lime biscuits would, messy icing aside, definitely impress Paul & Mary!

 photo Ginger amp Lime Biscuits 7_zpsz61gxcoz.jpg photo Ginger amp Lime Biscuits 1_zpso8yocuyp.jpg photo Ginger amp Lime Biscuits 3_zpsbydqrlw5.jpgIngredients

  • 125g flour, plus a little extra for rolling
  • ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 60g butter
  • 85g soft brown sugar
  • 1 small egg
  • 2tbsp golden syrup
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 6tsp lime juice
  • Lime zest, to decorate

 photo Ginger amp Lime Biscuits 9_zpstufppxja.jpgSift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a bowl. Add the butter and rub together until the mix looks a little like breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and golden syrup together, add to the flour mix and stir until the mixture holds together. Tip the dough out, knead for a short time until smooth, wrap in clingfim and chill in the fridge for 15 or so minutes.

Roll the dough out (0.5cm thickness) on a lightly floured surface. Cut out your chosen shapes (we went square, you could go traditional gingerbread men!) and place on a lined baking tray. Bake for 14-16 minutes at 175C, or until lightly golden-brown. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

When cooled make the icing and decorate. Simply beat together the icing sugar and lime juice until smooth, pipe/spoon onto the biscuits and scatted over the zest. Leave to set before boxing up – I didn’t and had a bit of a sticky mess the next day!

 photo Ginger amp Lime Biscuits 6_zpsozctiwdc.jpgI found these Ginger & Lime biscuits were delicious served with a cuppa – I really enjoyed taking one (or two!) to work for my 4pm pick me up. Naughty, but really rather nice…

Have you enjoyed #GBBO2016? Has it inspired you to get baking?

Recipe: Red Wine Braised Ox Cheeks

There’s few things I dislike about Autumn. Spiders are one of them (I HATE the things, some of the monsters in the Lake District were certainly scream-inducing!), and my craving for comfort food is another. It’s not that I don’t love Autumnal food. I do. It’s just that so often it takes a good few hours to cook, and that’s just not possible after work. So I stick to quicker things, dinners far less comforting, and get grumpy as a result.

 photo Ox Cheeks_zpsxujzazec.pngAll that’s changed.

Thanks to Debenhams, I’m now the proud owner of a pressure cooker*. And it makes stews in around half an hour. Add in the chopping, a bit of frying, thickening the sauce and making the mash/dumplings and you’ve got a heart bowl of comforting food in well under an hour. Boom.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 9_zpsndjrtnxv.jpg photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 1_zpsywqzxyuj.jpg photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 3_zps0plqwrqr.jpgI have to admit, the pressure cooker scared me at first. This is by far and away the most technical bit of cooking equipment I have ever used. The strict safety warnings made me worry I was going to create something explosive. It just looks intimidating. It makes horrendous noises when letting the pressure out at the end of cooking. It took us no less than four attempts to do the ‘initial steam’ before first use. But it was worth it.

Boy, was it worth it. By cooking Ox Cheek in a pressure cooker we were able to break down the tough meat quickly, with the result so meltingly tender we divided it up with a spoon.Cheeks are a budget cut of meat (ours worked out at around £1.50 for a massive portion) that are made for slow cooking, and using a pressure cooker cuts this time down massively – I reckon this would take at least five hours normally. We cooked a whole cheek weighing half a kilo and that needed just over an hour to break down, cut into pieces you could do it in 30. Then there’s the sauce. So, so good. The braising gravy is infused with so much tasty flavour and then pureed (my new favourite trick!) to transform into a thick, glossy sauce that coats the meat, soaks into mash and begs to be mopped up with bread or just slurped with a spoon. I have no shame when it comes to gravy like this.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 2_zps7u5mttki.jpgIngredients (Served two greedy people with leftovers)

  • 3 tbsp oil, separated
  • 1 large ox cheek (around 500g)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 3 carrot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1½ tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1½ tsp mustard
  • 400ml beef stock
  • 125ml red wine (we went for the cheapest Sainsbury’s had)
  • plenty of black pepper and salt, to season

Prepare the beef cheek: cut off any large, fatty membrane. Pat dry then cover with plain flour (seasoned with salt and pepper). Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Sear the beef cheek on each side until nicely browned.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 4_zpszvubq49w.jpgTurn down the heat to medium and heat the remaining  oil. Add the onion and carrots. Sauté for 3 minutes until the onion isstarting to soften, then add the celery and garlic and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes. Pop the veg mixture into the cooker and place the beef cheek on top. Pour the wine into the frying pan and return to heat. Turn the heat up to high, bring to boil and let bubble for 1 minute whilst scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the wine into the cooker, then all the remaining ingredients and season well.

Close up the pressure cooker, following all instructions, then cook on ‘high’ for around 1 hour – we used the ‘Stew’ setting on our cooker. When done, release the pressure and leave until ready to open before testing the meat. If the meat doesn’t fall apart when pressed with a spoon, give it a little longer.

Open the cooker and ladle out around half the veg. Discard any thyme stems and bay leaves. Use a blender to puree the veg, then add back to the cooker and stir well – it should thicken the sauce well. If it’s still a little thin, puree a bit more veg, if it’s too thin add a little stock or some water. Taste taste and season if necessary, then serve with mash and plenty of green vegetables.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 6_zpsfdkqtp3e.jpgIn just over an hour we had a gorgeous comforting meal on the table, and having played around with the pressure cooker a little more we figured out cutting the meat up would give us the chance of cooking a stew in under 30 minutes. Can’t get better than that!

What’s your favourite comfort food? Have you tried using a pressure cooker?

Recipe: Nutella-Stuffed Cookie Dough Cake

Yep. I’ll say it once more. Nutella-Stuffed Cookie Dough Cake. Doesn’t that sound like the stuff of dreams?!

 photo Giant Nutella Cookie_zpsir8no8wr.pngOne of my weaknesses is Nutella. There’s something so comforting about a spoon slowly melting into a bowl of creamy porridge or over a stack of pancakes. But it has to be proper Nutella. Over the past few years I’ve tried to (mainly) stick to cheaper supermarket varieties for budget reasons. I’ve been lucky enough to receive some Jim Jams low refined-sugar hazelnut spread. For me, nothing has come close to actual Nutella. Sure, other brands are nice enough, but they’re never quite right. They melt too thinly, don’t have a balanced a flavour, aren’t creamy enough. The biggest decider for me? Whether I can eat it by the spoon, straight out of the jar. Don’t judge…

 photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 6_zpsewsz05zy.jpg photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 8_zpsgvukjpit.jpgI’m not the only one with such a weakness for Nutella; my younger sister loves it too. And because excellent GCSE results deserve baked goods, I created this gooey, oozy, chocolatey treat a few weeks back. A Nutella-Stuffed Cookie Dough Cake. She’s not a fan of cake so I know she was worried when I said I was baking her a well-done treat, but I reckon I got this pretty much spot on. I got told I could make it again, so I must have done something right?!

Slightly reminiscent of Pizza Hut’s Cookie Dough Desert, this is crispy, chewy cookie on the outside. Gooey and molten cookie dough inner. A layer of sticky, warm Nutella to sandwich together. A sprinkling of sea salt to keep it from being too sickly. A handful of chocolate chips, because you can never have enough chocolate. We ate it on its own, but I can imagine it would be perfect with some cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

 photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 1_zpsmb9ukqcy.jpg photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 5_zps8r0kcqzs.jpgIngredients

  • 110g salted butter
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 125g plain flour
  • ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g pack chocolate chips – I used milk, but I reckon dark would work better
  • 4 tablespoons of Nutella, warmed slightly so it’s not too solid
  • ½tsp flaked sea salt

Beat the butter in a large bowl until softened, then beat in both of the sugars. Beating the butter singularly first helped to combine the mixture, I also find it reduces the chance of the batter splitting. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again until just combined. Stir through the flour and bicarb (you may want to mix them together first) but don’t overmix. Finally stir through around half of the chocolate chips.

Add half of the cookie dough to a 20cm dish lined with baking paper – make sure the dish is relatively deep as I found mine rose rather more than I expected! Spoon over the nutella (having it melted slightly makes this a lot easier) and spread over the cookie dough base. Scatter with a little sea salt. Top with the remaining dough, scatter over the rest of the chocolate chips and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes at 180C, then cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes more. I found this timing gave me the perfect gooey cookie, but cook for longer if you fancy a harder, more fully-baked cookie ‘pizza.’ To reheat the next day, cover with foil and pop in the oven (120C) for around 10-15 minutes. This remelts the nutella, increases the gooeyness and makes it just as good as the first day. Dangerous I know!

 photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 11_zpsehx6epo1.jpg photo Nutella Stuffed Giant Cookie 9_zpsizj51sdt.jpgAnd though this is pretty much perfect as it is, I’m tempted to try a peanut butter version soon. Or a smores cookie dough cake, complete with melted marshmallows…

Are you a Nutella fan? What’s your favourite way to eat it – in a baked good, on toast or just by the spoonful…?

Recipe: Beer’n’Bacon One Pan Mac’n’Cheese

A few weeks ago I was asked what I would choose my final meal to be. I didn’t hesitate; W’s cheesy pasta bake, made with frankfurters and bacon. I’ve posted the recipe before; it’s a rich, comforting dish that requires a lie-down after eating. And it’s utterly delicious. It hasn’t, however, stopped me making virtually ever new mac’n’cheese recipe I come across.

 photo Beer MacnCheese_zpsxhe0gorz.jpgI’ve done a One-Pan version, a Healthy Twist, one to use up a Leftover Cheeseboard. This one is a new favourite. Based on the BBC GoodFood recipe, we found the original version wasn’t quite cheesy enough, was a bit watery, the cooking times were way off and it lacked bacon. Our version is majorly cheesy, with a thick sauce and dotted with salty bacon. It’s definitely richer, but the beer element cuts through the cheese and adds a lightness which works well. Surprisingly well.

The ale adds a sweetness, but also a sharpness. This particular one was also a little citrussy. It feels as though it shouldn’t work, but it does. With a huge amount of cheese in the sauce it needs the beer to prevent it being too heavy. It makes the sauce smooth and creamy, without being overly rich. The bacon adds a salty crunch, though of course could be left out for a veggie option. Most of all, though, this is just a delicious meal. Well worth it!

 photo Beer MacnCheese2_zpso7mme39g.jpg photo Beer MacnCheese6_zpsmfk3k6el.jpgIngredients – Served 2 as a side to Fried Chicken

  • 2 rashers bacon
  • 35g butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large handful of spinach
  • 250ml milk
  • 125ml pale ale – we used Brewdog’s Dead Pony Club, which I actually really enjoyed as a shandy alongside dinner!
  • 120g macaroni
  • 100g cheddar, grated
  • 100g mozzarella, grated

Melt the butter over a low heat with the garlic, and slowly cook until soft and just beginning to turn golden. Pour in the milk and beer and bring to a gentle bubble. Add the pasta and stir occasionally for around 10 mins until the pasta is cooked and covered in sauce. As it is cooking, grill the bacon until crispy, then leave to cool slightly.

Remove the pasta from the heat and stir in the bacon (torn into bitesize pieces), spinach, most of the cheddar (leave around 25g) and half the mozzarella until melted. Sprinkle the remaining cheeses on top and pop until the grill under golden and slightly crispy.

 photo Beer MacnCheese8_zpscqfwzpxc.jpg photo Beer MacnCheese10_zpsehs9ptd1.jpgEnjoy with plenty of salad, some fried chicken, and the rest of the beer. Ideal for a Friday night treat – this slightly lighter version will definitely be my summer mac’n’cheese recipe of choice!

Are you a mac’n’cheese fan? What would be your last meal?

Recipe: Mum’s Classic English Scones

First off, it’s a scone, pronounced s-cone. As in police cone. Not a s-con.

 photo Mums Classic Scones_zpsffpxbynw.jpgNow that’s cleared up, it’s onto my mum’s scone recipe. Whilst my mum isn’t a massive baker, there are some things she does really, really well. I’ve yet to try a Pear & Raspberry crumble as good as my mums, her Victoria Sponges are far more reliable than mine, and then there’s her scones. The first thing I asked her to make for our engagement party. You’ve had my dad’s recipe for his Malteser Blondies, now it’s mums turn.

And these are well worth waiting for. A good outer crust, soft within and just the right side of crumbly, these are my perfect scone. They virtually split themselves, are light enough to not be overwhelming when piled with clotted cream, just sweet enough to taste good without contrasting the (raspberry) jam. So yep, the perfect scone. Even better served warm enough for the cream to melt into the scone…

 photo Classic Scones 2_zpsvxob2bsy.jpgIngredients

  • 8oz flour (self-raising works best)
  • 2oz butter
  • 1oz sugar
  • 5fl oz full fat ‘blue’ milk

Tip the flour into a large bowl, and stir through a pinch of finely ground table salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar, then use a knife to stir in the milk – you will end up with a soft dough. Turn on to a floured work surface and knead very lightly – don’t overwork as this makes the scones tough to eat, and they will also fail to rise. Pat or roll out to  2cm thickness. Stamp out rounds (we use a 5cm cutter) and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat to use up all the dough.

Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk. Bake for at 200C 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve with jam and clotted cream.

 photo Classic Scones 1_zpsakujf7l6.jpgThis amount make a good eight scones if you like them on the large size, or perhaps 12 more dainty sized afternoon-tea portions. Apologies for the imperial measurements, that’s just what my mum sticks to – she will even convert recipes from metric to imperial!

Whilst we’re talking about baking, who’s been enjoying good old Bake Off?! #GBBO time of the year is definitely the best time of year, I’ve even marked my work diary as ‘busy’ from 5pm on Wednesdays so I know I’ll be back/cooked/washed up in time for a cuddle up on the sofa with a baked good or two. I’m attempting a bit of a bake-long (though unfortunately I’m not able to blog-along due to time constraints – it has resulted in some epic recipes though!) but baking can be SO expensive. Luckily  voucherbox.co.uk has created the Great British Save Off, a weekly price comparison of GBBO recipes and the best value supermarket to buy ingredients from each week. This makes it so easy to save a few pennies here and there (batter week’s cheapest store was ASDA) – making it possible to do even more baking. Can’t go wrong really…

*Post in collaboration with voucherbox, all opinions are my own, apart from the recipe with is (of course!) my mums!

Are you are fan of scones? Where’s the best scone you’ve ever had – I’m desperate for afternoon tea recommendations in London!

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?

Food: Vanilla Cupcakes with Bake Box

With me and W catering a good chunk of our engagement party (though thanks of course goes to my dad for his Malteser Blondies, my mum for her vast amount of scones, and W’s parents for providing salads, cheese, sandwiches and a massive pork pie), we knew we couldn’t go over complicated. So we made homemade quiches, a lot of sweet treats, and a macaron tower…

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes_zpsjdk3n6hm.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 9_zpsh76cegk2.jpgThese were some of the easier bakes. Yes, we ‘cheated’ and used the KitchenAid for the cupcakes and their icing but when it turns the endless beating and creaming into a sixty-second job, why not?! And the final results were damn yummy. In fact, these were some of the best cupcakes I’d made… Super popular with the children at our engagement party, I was also a big fan of these. The vanilla flavour really comes through, making them rich and flavourful without being too sweet. It’s also one of those recipes I’ve memorised, making it my go-to cupcake recipe. You’ll see what I mean when you read the ingredients…

We decorated them in a vaguely floral theme, which was in fact the vague theme I was going for throughout the whole day. I think I managed it, with my dress, the bunting, the garden. A few cute-sy bakes (including the slightly mishapen jam tarts, though they tasted bloody good!) finished it off – all inspired by Bake Box. If you’ve not read any of my other posts about them, Bake Box* is a subscription box with a difference. Think GlossyBox for bakers! It includes recipes, and some more specialist equipment. So far I’ve had a multitude of different moulds, both for bigger cakes and more delicate single serving tarts and jellies. I’ve had biscuit cutters (including the flower shapes used in aforementioned jam tarts), piping outlines, and even edible glitter (in a stunning rose gold shade), food colour and other so-cute-I-audibly-gasped decorations. And it all comes wrapped in an Instagrammable box too, what more could you want? Here we used their flower-themed piping nozzle and edible glitter to decorate – whilst our piping possibly needs a little more polishing (W is far better than I am), I do like the effect. More glitter would definitely have been a good thing though!

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes 1_zps73c5kpat.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 2_zpsucpoh15s.jpgIngredients

  • 175g each butter (at room temperature), self-raising flour and caster sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp each baking powder and vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • Icing: 175 g butter (at room temperature), 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract, 2-3 tbsp milk, 350 g icing sugar

Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat  until smooth and evenly mixed – around a minute if using a stand mixer, I’m afraid it will take a bit longer by hand. Divide the mixture evenly between 12 paper cases in a muffin tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 175C. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Put the butter, vanilla extract, two tablespoons of the milk, and half the icing sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining icing sugar, and pour in the rest of the milk if needed to make the icing the right consistency – it should hold a peak, but still be spoonable. Carefully spoon the icing down one side of a piping bag fitted with a number eight star nozzle (this gives the rose effect). Twist the end of the bag to seal the icing in, then pipe swirls of the icing on top of each cupcake. Scatter with the edible pink glitter and enjoy.

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes 3_zpsixc4iuva.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 6_zpsevehhqll.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 4_zpslsxmkayh.jpgThe perfect party addition, the moist cupcakes topped with the creamy frosting in this classic flavour just can’t be beaten. Whilst I may not be a fan of ‘trendy’ cupcake flavours, something like this will have me saying “yes please” every time!

What is your go-to bake? Are you a fan of classic combos or do you like to mix things up a bit?

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?