I’ve had a think about it, and I’ve decided that having Mother’s Day and my birthday on the same day is the way to go. I appreciate it’s not something I can dictate, but it made for such a wonderful weekend – full of my favourite people, some delicious food, and many laughs – that I think I’m going to try and swing it from now on. We started the Mother’s Day/birthday weekend (or should that be the Motherbirthday weekend?) with a trip to the cinema to see Beauty and the Beast. Oh, I loved it – I adore Emma Watson anyway and Beauty and the Beast has long been my favourite Disney movie, so the combination of the two of them, along with my three favourite men plus being able to sip a glass of wine (the Odeon MK has a gallery area where you can order a drink before your film) while I was watching was possibly the best thing ever.
I’ve been fiddling around a lot lately with this recipe. The boys have (mostly) been willing testers, although one of the batches tasted ‘kinda like chocolate pizza’, which wasn’t really the result I was aiming for. What I have been aiming for is a really soft white finger roll – you know, like the ones you buy in a bakery, smothered in gooey icing. I think the best ingredient in getting these soft iced buns as light as possible is actually time – they need to rise slowly, then be shaped, then rise slowly again. The perfect rainy-day occupation, then. And there have been quite a few of those recently (although yesterday I made them while the sun was shining and the kitchen door was open – and that’s good too.) Read more
I’m just not really a breakfast person. I’ve tried hard to change this, but the most I generally eat before about 11am are copious cups of tea and maybe a biscuit or a banana. So when Breville came along with their Blend Active Diary Challenge, bandying about phrases like ‘a smoothie a day’, and phrases like ‘lesser used vegetables’ and ‘superfoods’, I was a bit worried I wouldn’t enjoy my challenge week. Still, I’m always up for a bit of experimentation, and let’s face it, an entire healthy meal in a glass sounds like a lazy person’s dream come true. Here’s how I got on:
I’ve had this recipe for ages. It’s my go-to for any time when I want to make a quick Sunday lunch dessert (or if I need to take something relatively impressive to someone else’s house). Every so often I think that I should properly write the recipe out for you (piecing together the scribbles from my recipe notes), and guess what – I’ve finally got round to it! This easy biscuit pie crust is literally just pressed into the baking tin, and the filling can be as simple as a tin of cherry pie filling, or just some grated dessert apples (I’ve given some more suggestions below). Here’s how to make a really easy cherry pie with an easy biscuit pie crust.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Korean food is having a bit of a moment. It’s not a cuisine I’ve really explored but I keep reading about it, and it turns out that Korean food is really healthy and colourful, with lots of vegetables and simply cooked, good quality meat forming the basis of many dishes. I tried a Korean crispy lamb recipe from Simply Beef and Lamb, and it’s so easy, it can be on the table in about twenty minutes. This dish uses Gochujang (Korean chilli paste), which I was initially a bit worried about tracking down, but it turns out you can buy it in Waitrose and loads of places online. If you can’t find any, just use any other punchy chilli paste. As usual when choosing lamb, I always look out for a quality mark like the Red Tractor logo – I need to know that it’s responsibly produced, and the logo tells you that you’re buying farm assured, quality meat).
Here at number one, we say everything with cake. Passed an exam? Congratulations, here’s a cake. Miserable because it’s cold and rainy? Have some cake. Birthday? Christmas? Just because? It’s always cake. So when the lovely people at Denby asked me to create something special to celebrate their latest collection, Natural Canvas, and, as Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, well, it had to be a cake, right? A romantic one. And you can’t honestly get more romantic than this strawberry and Cointreau layer cake with coconut cream: it’s light, fluffy, fruity and sweet, whilst managing to be just a teeny bit intoxicating, a bit squishy, and more than a tad eat-with-your-fingers messy . The perfect match.
We get through tons of granola here at number one. Mr E and I both like it for breakfast, and the boys scoff enormous bowls of it whenever they’re hungry and often when they come in last thing at night, so it’s really important to me to buy great quality granola (we’ve all bought those ones that are a bit – well, ‘sawdusty’, haven’t we?). I use granola in quite a few different ways, and I thought I might share them with you. So here are a few different breakfast ideas using our fave Nature’s Path granola, including these really easy and yummy coconut and chia seed granola bars, plus the chance to win a lovely gift for you too!
I’ve always thought that music and food go hand in hand, but that could just be because we’re all huge music lovers in this house and, with the boys both studying music production, you can imagine there’s always a pretty strong baseline booming out of one room or other here at number one. If I’m in the kitchen, the radio will always be on. For me, the kitchen is the warmth and heart of our home, and it’s important to me that it’s filled with fun, bright colours and delicious treats, and there’s often someone having a little boogie around, so you can imagine how much we’re loving the new Sainsbury’s #fooddancing ad – it was basically just made for us – food and music are both just simple pleasures, and the kitchen’s the perfect place for a bit of dancing! If you haven’t seen it yet, the advert features families dancing around their kitchens while cooking and comes with a pretty catchy tune too:
I think when the weather is cold and bleak (let’s face it, January’s not the greatest month is it?), it’s even more important that there’s fun, laughter, music and good food all around, so to warm us up, I cooked up a delicious, warming spiced berry, rhubarb and lime crumble from the Sainsbury’s website:
Berry, rhubarb and lime crumble
You will need:
50g porridge oats
50g golden caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, diced
125g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g rhubarb, roughly chopped
500g frozen black forest fruits, defrosted
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
½ tsp cinnamon
Firstly, preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
Weigh out the oats, caster sugar, butter, flour (I used a tiny bit more than the recipe suggests as I made one large crumble rather than four small ones), then rub them together, adding the vanilla in as well, until you get a breadcrumby texture.
Then just slice the rhubarb and add to the defrosted fruit along with the lime zest and juice and the cinnamon. Either pile into a large bowl, or divide into four smaller bowls, and sprinkle with the crumble topping.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve with custard or double cream.
Now isn’t that worth dancing for?!
It’s SO cold!! I know we should probably all be ‘clean eating’ or whatever it is that we all do to make ourselves feel even more miserable’ at this time of year, but for me, mornings start best when they involve baked goods and a bucket of tea. These vanilla breakfast muffins use real butter and that old fashioned ‘wet into dry’ method. Feel free to add whatever you like to the recipe: chocolate chips are a favourite here. I like to add blueberries, then top the muffins with a sprinkling of granola, which makes them feel extra breakfasty. Remember, with a muffin recipe, you need to assemble the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients, then stir the wet into the dry, making sure you don’t overmix (a bit of flour visible is absolutely fine).
I love this lazy time at home between the hustle and bustle of Christmas, and the excitement of the New Year. We’re lucky, nobody is working and we’re all enjoying spending time at home together, watching films and eating too much chocolate. Yesterday we went to the Royal Albert Hall with my Dad for the Christmas Spectacular. It was wonderfully festive – there was a bit of ballet, a bit of opera and some modern classics like John Williams’ incredible Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Today we’re just pottering at home (see what I did there?). I wanted to share this really lovely, easy recipe with you. It’s a half rye/half strong white flour mix (I find rye a bit overpowering), scented with oranges (or at this time of year, leftover clementines) and sweetened with honey. I think 2017 is the year we’re all going to be embracing our homes and families, simplifying our lives and counting our blessings, and pottering in my beloved kitchen, baking those I love a delicious, home made treat comes high up in my priorities. Here’s how to make my orange and sultana rye bread:
So here it is, my very last post before Christmas! I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years now (I know!) and every year, I say the same thing: if you’re cooking the Christmas lunch – and getting stressed about it – remember it’s your Christmas too. I’ve got loads of tips here to make the day as stress free and laid back as possible for you, so you can enjoy your Christmas day with your family and friends. So find a quiet corner, Treat yourself to my perfect frozen whipped cream hot chocolate, grab a notebook, have a read through and take few minutes to make a plan. And remember, it’s basically just a big roast dinner, and this guide will help you do most of the work on Christmas Eve so you can spend as much time as possible with the family, and as little as possible in the kitchen on the big day!
You can’t have Christmas without a Christmas ham. This recipe works with ANY sized joint. Multiply it up and down as you see fit and as suits you. I think ham makes a wonderful Christmas feast. This recipe makes a delicious sweet, salty, softly textured ham that’s fabulous hot with creamy mashed potatoes, or cold with chutneys and cheeses and a hunk of crusty bread. I always cook one the week before Christmas, and always end up having to cook another one because it gets scoffed! This spiced and glazed Christmas ham is poached in Coke, and you really can’t underestimate the delicious, caramel sweetness that it infuses into the meat. It’s better for your ham than your teeth, that’s for sure!
I guess as a writer, I should be more creative than most with my language, but when it comes to food, I’m pretty stuck with the old favourites and find myself describing things as ‘delicious’ and ‘nice’ probably more often than I should. According to new research by Sainsbury’s, as a nation, we now spend an average of something like 16 hours a week planning, talking, and thinking about food (that’s almost six years of our adult lives) and yet despite this, we’re still using the same old words, with most of us using about six to describe their meals each week. My lovely chums at Sainsbury’s love their food, and to expand our foodie vocabulary, they’ve enlisted lovely linguist Susie Dent to help them create ‘The Taste Dictionary: 101 ways to describe each mouthful’. The dictionary includes some fabulous words, like ‘lickerous’ (meaning: sweet and tempting), and my own favourite: ‘uliginous’ (yoo-lij-uh-nuh s – say it slowly – it almost oooozes…), meaning creamy, soft and smooth to taste. So to celebrate my new favourite word, how about trying the very epitome of uliginous food, a soft, creamy, luscious (ooh, there’s another one!) chocolate and peanut butter mousse, decorated with some salted peanut brittle, for a little crunch.
I’m so excited to share this recipe with you. We’re a huge fan of chilled, filled pastas. They’re absolutely great to have tucked away in the fridge, so convenient for last-minute meals and feeding unexpected guests (or hungry post-pub revellers). They’re so simple and quick to prepare (they take less than three minutes to cook) and are such a great way to feed the family this Christmas – completely stress free and absolutely delicious. It’s authentic Italian pasta – the ultimate quick and simple comfort food, and this whole dish takes literally minutes to prepare. I’ve teamed a pack of Giovanni Rana Simply Italian Creamy Mozzarella & Smoked Pancetta Ravioli with a tasty sage butter, some pan fried shredded sprouts and some crisp, smoked pancetta.
I love the idea of making Christmas cake. Honestly, I do! But I never seem to manage to bake one in November or whenever everyone else is doing it, and even if I do, it then gets lost in a cupboard somewhere and I forget to feed it and take care of it (it’s ‘Fluffy’ the sourdough starter all over again). This lovely cranberry, apricot and orange Christmas cake recipe is full of delicious fruit, and even better, you can just make it the week before Christmas (or even Christmas eve) and it will be delicious and moist and scented and Christmassy, even if you do nothing at all to it.
Some people are just REALLY DIFFICULT to find presents for, don’t you think? Let’s face it, we’re all lucky enough to have more or less everything we need, so we have a bit of an unwritten rule in our family that gifts have to be useful (and/or useable), and I think edible gifts fit really well into this category, so when Ryvita Thins set me the challenge of creating a Christmas gift hamper, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. If you have friends and family that are real foodies, this is such a lovely idea: a gift of inspiration, and the starting point to easy Christmas nibbles if they’re entertaining over the festive season (or just lovely snackage for in front of the TV if they’re not).
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- Alcohol Awareness Week: my Drinkaware Challenge November 15, 2017
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