Apple & Almond Crumble

Last weekend, Edie & I drove past a tin wheelbarrow at the side of the road.  I quickly checked out the house behind the wheelbarrow and spotted an apple tree.  I pulled up and Edie ran the 50meters to the tin barrow, filled her arms with fruit and ran back to the car.  She was so thrilled she’d collected three, fat baking apples.  Our Sunday baking was sorted!  While everyone in the baking world, steamed up their Christmas puddings…Edie and I rolled our sleeves up and made Apple & Almond Crumble.

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Ingredients

Apple Mixture
3 fat apples
100g golden caster sugar
50g unsalted butter

Crumble Topping
40g porridge oats
2tbs ground almonds
40g unsalted butter
40g plain flour
20g golden caster sugar

Peel and core the apples, chop into chunks, throw in to a large pan, cover with water and add the sugar. Let the apple mixture simmer for ten minutes until the mixture starts to go a little mushy and melt the butter in the pan.   Transfer the mixture to a tin and prepare your crumble topping.

For this, literally add all the ingredients in bowl and rub with your fingertips until it represents crumble. That’s it.  Literally, it’s that simple!  Add the crumble to the top of apple mixture and bake for 25 minutes at 180C.

Serve up with fresh custard or a dollop of double cream  Enjoy!

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Old Favourite Toad In The Hole

It was 6.40pm when I checked my watch from my desk.  I don’t know where the time had gone from 1.30pm to 6.40m?!.  I quickly typed out my last email of the day and jumped in the car, asking the question I always asked myself at this point in the day ‘What’s for dinner?.  I could remember accepting a rather posh packet of sausages from the Ocado delivery man and wondered what I could knock up with those…

When I did get home, I quickly read Horrible Histories to Edie & Freds (who had been in their pyjamas and dressing gowns since 4.30pm and watched home Home Alone), I settled them in to bed and waltzed (not literally!) in to the kitchen.  Aaron wasn’t feeling well – and therefore wanted comfort food…so I went for Toad In The Hole.  I once had a recipe for this classic dish with a red onion, thyme and mustard twist, but unfortunately I set that particular recipe book on fire (another story for another day!).

Ingredients

1 x packet of six sausages
1 x red onion (I always buy pre-sliced)
1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
1 x splash of Olive Oil
100g of plain flour
1 x egg

Start by mixing your batter – I always like my batter to settle for at least 30 minutes before pouring in to the oven (same for Sunday Yorkshire Puddings too).  Sieve the flour in a bowl, make a well in the centre and place you egg, start mixing gradually adding the milk until all the milk has gone.  Mix in the mustard – add thyme at this point if you have any (I didn’t) and season, leave to stand.

Chop your onions – mine are already pre-sliced, but if yours aren’t, chop them in to quarters and add to the bottom on an ovenproof dish.  put the sausages on top and splash with Olive Oil.  Roast in a pre-heated oven (200C/180 fan) oven for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes add the batter mix as quickly as possible and leave in the oven for another 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, the house will smell amazing, you’ll be starving and you can serve up this winter-warming dish!

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Nutty Caramel Slice

img_6179On Sunday, I gave my family (husband and two children, aged 6 and 7) a choice; sweet or savoury. All three of them picked savoury and wanted me to make sausage rolls, which of course, I did.  However, I couldn’t help but feel a little upset.  I’m a self-confessed sugar junkie and I wanted sweet!  So inspired by my client working-lunch last Friday, tonight when I got home from work (unexpectedly early), I knocked up a tray of Nutty Caramel Slices.

Oh my….

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INGREDIENTS:

Base
190g Butter, chopped
85g Caster sugar
250g Plain Flour

Caramel
200g Butter
4 large squirts of Golden Syrup
3 Tablespoons of Caster Sugar
1 x 397g Condensed Milk

Topping
Approx, 250g of mixed nuts and dried fruit (I bought the Waitrose one)
Small handful of salt flakes

WHAT TO DO:

a) Line a square tin (mine was 9in x 9in) with baking paper.
b) Cream the sugar and butter together for the base until smooth.  The mix should be soft, but slightly crumbly.  Press this in to the bottom of the tin. I smoothed over with the back of a metal spoon.  Put in a pre-warmed over (at 180C/160C fan) and bake for 20 minutes – the colour should just start to turn a lovely golden.  Once baked, leave to cool.
c) Meanwhile melt the milk, butter, sugar and syrup until it reaches boiling point and the sugar has dissolved.   Keep stirring.
d)  Once the sugar has dissolved, whack up the heat and stir constantly for about six minutes. Once the mixture has turned a darker, golden colour and thick in texture it’s ready.  Pour the mixture on the top of the shortbread base.
e)  Whilst the mixture is still warm, scatter sea salt flakes on the top of the caramel.  Don’t shy away from the salt – I could have added double to mine!
f)  For the final part, add the nut and dried fruit mixture (I always think pistachios add a great colour to things like this!) and bung in the fridge for a couple of hours until set.

Now could you make this a whole lot easier and less effort by buying Carnation Caramel.  However, I didn’t have any in my cupboard so I did this the old fashioned way.   Truth be told, I burnt the caramel slightly (easily done), but nothing about these little beauties tasted burnt!

Enjoy! 😉

 

 

Little Effort Sausage Rolls

This morning, I posed the question – sweet or savoury?  Sausage Rolls or Nutty Caramel Slices (inspired by a working-lunch buffet last week).  I would always go for sugar over anything savoury, but everyone else in the house wanted Sausage Rolls…so I rolled (no pun intended!) with it.

I’ve made these a few times before and generally they’re gone the same day I make them.  Unluckily (for my husband), I only had enough pastry in the fridge for four – however, these are chunky meaty feasts and only a beast could eat more than one (take note Aaron!)

450g of Sausage Meat
1 x Ready Rolled Puff Pastry (it’s little effort!)
Fresh Thyme
Onion Chutney (which I had in the fridge!)
1 x egg

Unroll the pastry and lay flat at room temperature for about ten minutes – cut in to four equal rectangles – width ways.  Brush a teaspoon of the onion chutney on to each rectangle.
Beat one egg lightly.
Mix up the sausage meat with thyme and season with salt and pepper.   Roll the sausage meat in to…sausages shapes, I guess?!?!?  The sausages will be a lot thicker than your average Walls sausage.  Place the sausage at one end of the pastry and wrap the sausage in the pastry, literally roll the sausage.  Once the sausage is fully wrapped, brush the end with the egg to secure and place the rolled sausage on to a baking tray covered in baking paper.
Brush the whole sausage roll with egg and slice the pastry, three or four times diagonally. Put in the over at 200c for 30 minutes – take out once golden and allow to cool (or not!).

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Sausage Roll for one… Little Effort Sausage Rolls

Enjoy!

 

After-Disco Sticky Prawn Rice

Today, my day started at 5.00am – I have been with a client all day and I stupidly left all the documents for my meeting in the office.  So, at 5am I get up – travel into the City, pick up the documents, get home for 6.30am, drink two rounds of coffee and get the kids up.  By 7.50am, I am leaving the house, kids in tow ready for 8am drop off at Gymnastics.  Once that’s done, I can start my “normal” day.

After a five-hour meeting, I travel the 78 miles back home and rush to the school hall where a disco is being held. My daughter is getting glittered up to the max at the tattoo bar, my son is hitting the dance floor with some ninja-style moves and my husband is slumped in to a dark corner with a bag of sweets from the children’s sweet stall.

When I finally arrive at home at 7.20pm you can imagine how much I want to cook.  But given that I’ve survived on caffeine pretty much all day and my husband has been eating e-numbers constantly for the last two hours, I figured I must do something.  So off to the fridge and freezer I go…

Freezer; (pre-cooked) prawns and rice.
Fridge; sliced mushrooms (always), onions (pre-diced, always) and garlic (pre-crushed, always).
Cupboard; Oyster sauce, Soy sauce, a couple of eggs and Jasmine rice (staple)

I can work with this….

Quick defrost the prawns (in cold water for about an hour).  Mix up a couple of eggs with a splash of water. Pull out the wok.  Heat the oil, and throw in the eggs.  Cook until bubbling and flip over, once cooked, take out and leave on a plate to cool.  Whilst the wok is still hot throw in the onions and garlic until softened, followed by the mushrooms – fry until brown. Add the prawns, stir for a couple of minutes until heated through and then add the mushrooms.  Leave to gently cook for five minutes, keep stirring.   Add two shakes of Oyster sauce and one shake of Soy sauce, slice up the cooked, cooled eggs and add the frozen peas leave again for a few minutes.  That’s it!

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Serve in a bowl, eat, catchup on The Apprentice and sleep….

Enjoy!

 

Bite-Sized Cheesy Scones

Picture the scene.  Sunday morning, Radio 2 (Steve Wright, Sunday Love Songs), village church bells ringing and sun streaming through the kitchen window.  You know the type of misted, yellow sunlight that’s only captured by an Instagram filter, that was happening, right there, in my kitchen. My morning could have only improved with a little impromptu baking. Despite the build up of laundry, the un-polished children’s school shoes and the sick husband lying on the sofa, I decided to throw caution to wind and bake.

You’ll notice that I haven’t baked for a while…or at least haven’t blogged about it.  I did bake a two tier wedding cake that almost tipped me over the edge, but I’m not ready to blog about that experience yet.  I’m still having a ‘never again’ moment.  Hopefully I’ll get over it as quickly as I got over my first hangover and childbirth!

Anyway, back to Cheesy Scones and the glowing light in my kitchen…

I love scones, savoury and sweet. I am particularly partial to a Cream Tea.  Who isn’t?  However, with summer looming, I thought I’d do two things, a) bake mini scones (to account for the bikini body) and b) bake savoury scones, to avoid the calorific cream.

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What I Used:

225g self raising flour, pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder, 55g butter (diced), 50g of grated, cheddar cheese, 150ml milk.

What I Did:

Sift the flour and mustard powder in to a bowl, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (if you have KitchenAid, use your paddle attachment to do this), mix in the grated cheese.  Gradually mix in the milk until you have a dough (again, if you have a KitchenAid swap the paddle attachment for the dough hook).  Once you have a dough shaped ball, knead lightly on a floured surface and pat the dough until it’s 2cm thick.

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Use a 5cm circular cutter to cut out scone shapes and brush lightly with milk.  Place on a baking sheet and put in to the oven at 220c for 12 minutes.  Once baked, cool on a wire rack.

If you want to add a little kick to your cheesy scones, add a smidge of cayenne pepper (no more half a teaspoon). Add this in with the flour and mustard.

ENJOY!

Get Ahead Spaghetti Bolognese

I was travelling to work yesterday and a debate came on the local radio about children eating too much processed food.  The ‘goodie’ was saying he could rustle up a fresh dinner in the amount of time it takes for the microwave to ping.  The ‘working mum’ was challenging him – she picked her child up from nursery at 7pm and struggled every evening with the night-time routine.  Her only option, (in her opinion) was processed food.

I thought about the two mini pizza’s sat in my fridge and felt a pang of guilt.  To be honest, my children (I think), get a good balance of healthy, homemade food with daily portions of vegetables and fruits (mostly at breakfast and after-school snacking). However, this does require effort, albeit little effort.

As a family, we tend to chill out on Sundays and the grown-ups catchup on the house chores – which includes ‘get ahead’ cooking. One dish that I know my husband and I can enjoy after the children are sound asleep and the children can enjoy after-school, is spaghetti bolognese.   So, on Sunday I pulled the ingredients together and spent 30 minutes cooking up this all-time-favourite dish.

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Get Ahead Spaghetti Bolognese Ingredients…

Once cooked and cooled, I spooned up two portions in ramekins for the kids and scooped the remaining bolognese in a lidded Pyrex dish and placed in the fridge, ready for consumption tonight.

What I Used:

2 carrots, 2 onions (or 1 large one), 500g of lean beef mince, 200g of button mushrooms, 2 sticks of celery, I tin of chopped tomatoes, 6 tablespoons of tomato puree, a teaspoon of dried oregano, a teaspoon of chopped garlic, 6 rashes of bacon, 500ml of beef stock and salt and pepper.  (Of course you also need packet spaghetti!)

What I did:

Get a large pan, this dish will serve a family of four easily – there will probably be some left for lunch the following day.   Add in the lean mince, then chop the mushrooms, carrot, onion(s) – I cut them in to sixths! Snip the rashes of bacon with scissors and finally add the garlic.  Dry fry for ten minutes or so…the veg needs to be turning brown.  Add the stock, tomatoes, puree and oregano, season well then bring to the boil, simmer for 40 minutes.  Increase the heat for the last ten minutes until it’s rich and thick. Keep stirring.  I once made the fatal error of not stirring and ended up with a fine layer of crisp bolognese.  Not pleasant.   That’s it!  Leave to cool and then place in the fridge.   I re-heat for 15-20 minutes on a low heat, cook the spaghetti and serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan and black pepper (I’m a sucker for black pepper!).

I  do empathise with the mother who collects her daughter every evening at 7pm, however I do believe you can ‘get ahead’ with the some great, children’s (and grown-up) favourite dinners. I don’t believe you can cook a fresh dinner from scratch in the time it takes a microwave to ping (although I’d like to be proved wrong and learn some quick-win six-minute dishes).

Enjoy! X (let me know how you get on).

Cadburys Creme Egg Rocky Road…no cooking required

I have never been one of those people who can just have ‘one’. One chocolate, one biscuit or one glass of wine and these bite-sized pieces of pure indulgence are no different.  I have literally had to wrap them up in baking parchment packages and tie them in bakers twine, ready to deliver to friends in the village.  As I was wrapping them, I ate two more pieces….

I originally made Rocky Road a few years ago after reading a recipe from an eight year old in one of the Sunday newspapers.  It sounded easy, so that afternoon I checked out my cupboard for ingredients, of course I didn’t have them all (just like today), so I injected my own creative flair…

Having a blog is time-consuming and planning, it would seem, is essential.  So I added the ingredients to my weekly shop, sat back and felt smug, until they arrived.  Instead of ordering a packet of Mars Bars (for that lovely caramel texture), I ordered Mar Bars Ice Cream. Whoops.   I opened the kids sweet jar and discovered two unopened Cadburys Creme Eggs. Eurieka! 

  

What I Used:

300g of dark chocolate, 100g of unsalted butter, three tablespoons of maple syrup, a large handful of mini marshmallows, 140g of chocolate  bars (I used Maltesers and two Creme Eggs, however Mars Bars and Crunchies work well too) and 135g of Rich Tea biscuits.

What I Did:

I melted the butter, syrup and chocolate in a bowl over hot water. I crushed the Maltesers and chopped the Cadburys Creme Eggs, crushed the Rich Tea and added to a large bowl.  I added a very large handful of mini marshmallows. Once the chocolate mix was melted, I mixed into the bowl of sweet stuff. Make sure the mixture is all covered in chocolate and empty into a 15inch (or thereabouts) square tin (layered with parchment paper or foil). 

  

Place the tin in to the fridge to cool and set.  This takes about an hour. Take out of the fridge and cut in to small squares. They’re now ready for consumption!  Be warned, they’re so moorish, you’ll keep dipping in to the stash until there’s nothing left. I have one left..and it’s eating away at me!

Enjoy! X

Bread Making

Like many, the thought of bread baking was beyond my capability…or so I thought.  And, looking back I don’t know why?  I had mastered some pretty good skills on fairy cakes and cheese scones from the age of 7 or 8, so why did I think I couldn’t master bread?   It wasn’t until years, probably 25 years later that I even tried it.  And I only tried it because I bought a bread making machine from the car boot for a fiver!  For a while the machine worked for me.  So I moved up a gear and bought bread packet mixes and ditched the £5 bread machine.  These worked pretty well too.   I didn’t move on to actual bread making until my late thirties and again, this was because I bought myself a Kitchen Aid (electric blue) and the Kitchen Aid gave me the confidence to make bread from scratch.   Totally and utterly weird thought-pattern, but I’m sure I’m not alone.

Yes, there’s a knack to it, but I think it’s all in the proofing.  You know if you’re going to get a good bake before it goes in the oven…and sometimes my bread still fails.  I’m sure there’s some science to it, but I can’t figure out what it is.  However, if my bread hasn’t doubled in size when proofing, I throw it away and start again.  I don’t get disheartened.

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What I Use:

500g strong bread flour, one packet (7g) of fast-acting yeast, 10g of salt, 15ml of olive oil and 320ml of water (from the warm tap).

What I do:

I place the flour in my basin, the yeast one side and the salt, the other side.  Never let the two meet (apparently this is key).  I pour in the olive oil and half of the water, with my dough attachment I mix the dough for about five minutes, slowly adding the water.   The dough needs to be almost-sticky-like-texture.  I know when the dough is ready because it envelops itself around the dough hook.  Once this happens, I place the dough in a well oiled bowl, put over a fresh teacloth and leave to proof until it doubles in size.  Sometimes, this takes 90 minutes, sometimes it takes two and even three hours.  Once it doubles in size, I flour my surface and and knead the air out of the dough – this takes about five minutes.  I then place on a baking tray, with parchment paper and put in a large bag (the Lidl ones work perfectly). I then let it rest again for 30 minutes, meanwhile I heat up the oven to 220 and boil the kettle.  After 30 minutes, I add one litre of water to a roasting tray and put this on the bottom shelf of the oven (this gives a crisp edge to the bread)  I take my bread from the plastic bag, spray (or sprinkle) with water and add three or four slashes with a sharp knife.   I then put the bread in the oven for 25 minutes, I turn the heat down to 200 and bake for a further 10 minutes on the lower heat.   Once baked, I leave to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes, before moving to a wire rack.

If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again…(or so my Mother would say!).

Enjoy! X