07 May 2009

Smartie cookies

I think everyone has a soft spot, and recipe, for Smarties cookies. I adore them and so do my children. After all these years they still get excited when they see these cookies in the biscuit tin and they always disappear quickly.

I can't remember exactly where I got this recipe from, I think it it was 'Good Food' magazine but I can't be sure, it was scribbled down in my hand written recipe book years ago and has been used many times.

Smarties cookies

100g/ 4oz butter
100g/ 40z soft dark sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
150g/ 6oz s/r flour
85g/ 30z Smarties

Pre-heat oven to 180c/ gas mark 4.
Beat butter and sugar together in a bowl until creamy.
Beat in the syrup.
Work in half the flour, stir in the Smarties, add remaining flour and bring the dough together with your fingers. Divide into 14 balls.
Place well apart on a baking sheet, do not flatten them.
Bake for 12 minutes until pale golden on the edges. Cool on a wire rack.

This recipe makes a soft, chewy cookie. I get 14 good sized ones from this amount of dough but you can divide the dough further to make thinner, chewier cookies from the dough if you wish.
I think the reason I love this recipe is it reminds me so much of my Mam's gingersnaps. No-one ever made gingersnaps like my Mam, soft, chewy not crisp like my Granny's, I realised today that if I get rid of the Smarties and add ginger they would be my Mams biscuits. I love 'food nostalgia', hopefully my kids will one day look back at this recipe and feel the same about these cookies.

20 April 2009

Hello stranger!

Long time no see! It's been quite a while since my last post, why?, I'm not sure really.
I lost my mojo, wasn't really inspired to cook at all, let alone think of blogging, and as always, life has a way of creeping up on you and taking over. I still haven't got that spark back but as I felt a little inspiration to stir up some treats in the kitchen I thought I'd share them with you.

Lunchbox treats

50g milk chocolate
150g rice malt syrup (I used a less healthier golden syrup)
55g butter
60g rice crispies
30g cornflakes (I crushed them a little)
40g quick cook oats
75g sesame seeds

Melt the chocolate, syrup and butter gently in a heavy-based saucepan.

Add all the other ingredients, turning to coat everything well.

Using your hands (encased in CSI gloves), shape the mixture into walnut-sized balls. You should get about 25; you could also make this using a 12-bun muffin tin lined with muffin papers to get 12 larger cupcakes.

Let them set in the fridge for an hour or so, and they will keep quite happily in there for a week of treats.

I spent the day pottering about and decided I wanted to bake but without the mess, some light weighing and stirring, these lunchbox treats from Nigella Express sounded perfect. Nigella says these are a ideal wholesome snack, including rice malt syrup, seeds and cereal. I can see how that is a healthy snack option, I had no rice malt syrup, so I substituted for good old unhealthy golden syrup. I imagine this substitution made quite a difference to the flavour of these treats and dare I say, for the better. These moreish bites were a cross between a Toffee crisp bar and a Lion bar (remember them?) delicious. Nigella does say that they will last up to a week in the fridge, this batch lasted a few hours, they disappeared in a blink of a eye.

21 February 2009

Jammy coconut mallows

It's no secret that I love baking and one of my favourite parts of baking is taking something old fashioned and easily bought in any shop and recreating it at home. For example I am always baking biscuits and lets be honest, unlike cakes and puddings, it is very easy to buy in good quality biscuits very cheaply, especially here in Britain, we love our biscuits here.
Custard creams, digestives and shortbread are firm family favourites and you can buy them in any corner shop but nothing compares to the real deal.

Flicking through this months Good food magazine I came across these mallow biscuits, a reworking on a old fashioned favourite. The original versions were a square shortbread biscuit covered in two rows of coconut dusted mini mallows with a row of raspberry jam running down the centre.
This recipe makes coconut biscuits sandwich together with jam and melted marshmallows, the biscuits are then rolled in jam and coconut, a new twist on a old favourite....a taste of my childhood.

Jammy coconut mallows

For the biscuits:
250g butter, softened
140g golden caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
100g desiccated coconut
For the middles and coating:
about 175g raspberry jam
18 large pink and white marshmallows, cut in half across the middle
25g desiccated coconut

Heat oven to 190c/ gas 5.
Beat butter, sugar, egg and vanilla together with a pinch of salt until smooth. Fold in the flour and coconut to form a dough.

On a floured surface, shape the dough into a round, then roll to the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut into rounds using a 6cm cutter. Lift onto baking sheets, then bake for 14 minutes until light golden. Cool for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

To sandwich the biscuits, lay half out on a baking sheet, under-side up. Put half a teaspoon of jam on each one, and top with a piece of marshmallow, then bake for 2 1/2 minutes or until just melted. Remove from oven, then quickly top with the other biscuits, pressing down so that the marshmallow sticks them together and just oozes out.
Cool for 10 minutes. Put the coconut and remaining jam onto plates, dip the edges in the jam, them roll in the coconut.

These really took me back and boy, were they popular, more so with the adults than the children. These biscuits will be a regular in my biscuit tin

17 February 2009

Raisin and cinnamon milk loaf

I came to bake this bread by chance really, I set out to make the Cornish saffron bread from Rachel Allen's Bake.
This recipe intrigued me as it uses warm milk infused with saffron to give a lovely colour to the loaf. The only problem was that on eating this loaf I discovered that I have a intolerance (I don't like to use the term allergy here) to saffron.
Weeks ago I developed a ever so slight rash on my face (after eating paella) it faded quickly and I thought nothing of it, until now. As soon as the loaf was cooked and had cooled enough to eat I took a slice, withing minutes the same rash again developed on my face. Trying to convince myself that I do not have a saffron intolerance I later ate another slice, as you do, and the rash worsened. It covered my whole face, so saffron is now off the menu at my house.
However, apart from giving me a nasty rash we all thought the bread was very good, it had a different texture to regular bread, I put this down to the milk and my daughter commented that the crust was delicious, she hates homemade bread crusts. My only gripe with the recipe was it needed a extra something....cinnamon.
So, the following day I made the loaf again, I omitted the saffron, and instead infused the milk with a cinnamon stick, and added ground cinnamon to the flour. I also used a smaller tin than the one Rachel recommends. The loaf was perfect.

Raisin and cinnamon milk loaf

350g strong white flour, sifted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g caster sugar
100g butter, softened
75g raisins
1/2 cinnamon stick
200ml cold milk
1 x 7g sachet of fast acting yeast

1 lb loaf tin.

Grease and line the loaf tin.
Place flour, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl, mix well. Rub in the butter, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the rasins.
In a small saucepan, bring the cinnamon stick and milk to the boil over a low heat. Remove from the heat, cool to body temperature, remove the cinnamon stick, then add the fast acting yeast.
Pour liquid into the dry ingredients, mix well then knead for 10 minutes.
Place in a large bowl, cover, and leave to rise until it had doubled in size.
Knock back the dough, knead again and place in the prepared tin. Cover again and leave to rise for another hour.
Preheat oven to 180c/ gas mark 4, when the dough has doubled in size bake it in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

I must admit I did prefer the second version of this bread and will make it again. I love the idea of using warm milk in the dough, the dough was fabulous to knead, in fact to look at, it reminded me of choux pastry, it had a lovely feel. The cooked bread had the texture, almost, of brioche, so, so light and fluffy. A perfect fruity loaf.

13 February 2009

Half term baking - Valentine's cookies

It's half term here and with the weather looking decidedly bleak the obvious way to kill a few hours is with some home baking, Valentine's day is a obvious theme right now. Cut out cookies it was to be but the 'problem' with cut out cookies and children is that children love to 'play' with their piece of dough. It gets rolled, shaped, crumpled up, re-rolled, re-shaped and so on after a while it becomes tough and inedible - for the children - personally I don't eat the re-rolled creations, I simple admire the work of my little angels.
In my quest to find a good workable, child friendly dough I tried a much recommended one from Martha Stewart, her sugar cookies. This dough was great, I found it a little wet to start with and added a extra 3/4 cup of flour but apart from that it was a dream to work with. We started off with heart shaped cookies, moving onto champagne flutes - quite fitting for Valentine's day, before long my son was cutting out palm trees and flamingos - wishful thinking for a drab and dreary February.

Sugar cookies
from The Martha Stewart cookbook
Makes approx. 2 dozen cookies

2 cups of all purpose flour (I needed a extra 3/4 cup)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 pound butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp brandy - I swapped for milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together the dry ingredients. In a electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light; add the egg, brandy and vanilla and beat well. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time and mix until well blended
Wrap and chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
Preheat the oven to 400f. On a lightly floured board, roll out one third of the dough at a time. Roll to about 1/8inch thick and cut out with cookie cutters. Put shaped on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Do not allow to burn. Cool on racks.

Decorate as your children choose to do so.

This dough was incredible, very robust but still came out of the oven light and crisp, they went down a storm, a great recipe.

27 January 2009

Oat, seed and raisin cookies

There is nothing flash or fancy about oat and raisin cookies, indeed I'd go as far to say that they are home baking at it's best. Simple, wholesome ingredients, yet still deliciously addictive.
I have been baking oat cookies for my kids for years and years and everyone loves them, this slightly healthier version proved just as delicious.
This recipe, from Annabel Karmel (fabulous kids food expert) includes sunflower seeds alongside the oats and raisins. It's a great way to get extra seeds into the children's diet, they didn't realise the seeds were there at all and really enjoyed the cookies.
I have to say I loved the addition of the seeds the cookies tasted very much like Hob-nobs and to say there is relatively little sugar in the recipe they taste as though the have been drenched in syrup.
Chewy, crunchy and (sort of) good for you....what more could you wish for in a cookie.

Oat and raisin cookies

75g butter
85g golden caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
75g raisins
50g sunflower seeds
50g plain flour
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp salt
40g porridge oats

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients until completely combined.
Shape into walnut-sized balls and flatten slightly by pressing in the centre with your fingers.
Place in an oven pre-heated to 180c for 12-14 minutes until golden.
Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12-15 biscuits.

Pacific lime chicken

I wasn't going to blog about this chicken dish, mainly because I find it impossible to take a half decent picture of chicken portions, I don't know why, I just can't make them look nice, I really need to work on my plating up skills, lol. However as soon as I tasted this dish I knew I had to post about it as it is, by far, the most delicious chicken recipe I have tried in a long while.

The recipe comes from Diana Henry's Cook Simple, a fantastic book that I have lusted over for months and finally picked it up. I have heard many good things about this book from other bloggers and on foodie forums and new this would be a great book for me, I'm not disappointed, in fact it is one of the few books I own that I could quite easily cook everything in it.

This is the very first recipe in the book and as I had everything to hand I gave it a go, so glad I did, everyone raved about this chicken, in fact my son and I resorted to spooning the leftover cooked marinade out of the dish stove-side, we couldn't get enough. I have mentioned before of my love of sticky chicken, this is super sticky and the limes really come though, I find that a lot of marinades don't really penetrate the meat, this really did and I only left it a few hours, overnight marinating would be spectacular.

Pacific lime chicken - serves 4

8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on

wedges of lime, to serve


5 tbsp runny honey

5tbsp dark soy sauce

juice of 4 limes

3tsp soft brown sugar

3 garlic cloves, crushed or grated

leaves from 5 sprigs of thyme

black pepper

Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Make incisions in the underside of the chicken and pour the marinade over it. Cover with cling film. If you have time, leave the chicken to marinate - anything from 15 minutes to the whole afternoon - in the refrigerator, turning the chicken pieces every so often.

Lift the chicken out of the marinade and put it in a small roasting tin or shallow gratin dish; it needs to lie in a single layer. Roast in an oven preheated to 190c/ gas mark 5 for 35-40 minutes, basting every so often with the leftover marinade and cooking juices until cooked through. If it gets too dark in colour, cover the dish with foil. The finished dish will be sticky and glossy. Serve with fresh limes, cut into wedges or halves.

20 January 2009

Luscious lunch

I am not a girl who can skip lunch, or any other meal for that matter, I need breakfast as soon as I wake up and then spend hours dreaming of lunch time. This recipe comes from the first Cook yourself thin book and it is meant to be a tasty side dish, but it's great for cabbage lovers (like me!) as a really quick cook lunch. The original recipe is shredded savoy cabbage with toasted pine nuts and crispy prosciutto. I often chop and change it, any green cabbage will do and the prosciutto is often swapped for Serrano ham, as I used today, or my favourite, crispy pancetta....drool. The only thing I never change is the toasted pine nuts, I adore pine nuts and often I'm so hastily wanting to eat them I don't toast them properly, as in the picture, lol.

Shredded savoy cabbage with toasted pine nuts and crispy prosciutto

250g savoy cabbage

20g pine nuts

35g prosciutto - or other continental meat

1/2 tsp olive oil

2 sage leaves, finely chopped - I omit these


1/4 tsp white pepper - I prefer to use black

Serves 2 - as a side dish

150 calories per serving

Take the outer leaves off the cabbage from the outside in and, using a sharp knife, remove the core. Roll the leaves up like cigars and slice into thin ribbons. Give them a quick wash under the tap and set aside without bothering to dry them too much.

In a large dry frying pan, toast the pine nuts over a medium-heat until golden. When toasted and lovely, remove them from the pan and set aside. Next add the prosciutto, laying it out flat in the bottom of the pan for 4 minutes until it has shrunk slightly and gone crispy. Set aside with the pine nuts.

Heat the pan up and pop in the olive oil, sage and cabbage. Stir-fry this mixture for 5 minutes, then put in 1 teaspoon of water, turn the heat off completely and place the lid on for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the prosciutto in little shards and pine nuts before serving.

19 January 2009

Date bars

After my subtle hints for Rachel Allen's new book, Bake, for Christmas fell on deaf ears I decided that for my birthday I'd drop subtle as a sledgehammer hints for this book, it worked, after receiving some lovely gifts for my birthday what fell through the letterbox but Bake, it was well worth the wait.

I am the first to admit I find Rachel quite uncomfortable to watch on TV, she doesn't seem to have that natural show business flair, but I adore her books, they are all so homely and family oriented and I love the fact that in some of her recipes she will tell you to go and have a cup of tea while you're waiting on something coming out of the oven.

Flicking through the book so many wonderful bakes jumped out at me, in particular the blueberry cheesecake but I settled on these date bars mainly because I adore dates and stocked up on loads of them in the post Christmas sales.

These bars are a cross between a fruit slice and fruit crumble, basically a crumble mix, half of it pressed into the base of a tin, covered in a layer of fruit, and sprinkled with the remaining crumble. They are really delicious, sweet, sticky, light and fruity. My OH wasn't too interested in their appearance but fell in love them after one bite. They would also be fabulous with a apple and blackberry filling which I shall be cooking in the Autumn.

Date bars from Rachel Allen's Bake

250ml water

200g dates (stoned and chopped) I used 150g dates and 50g of prunes that were needing used up.

175g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

175g soft light brown sugar

100g porridge oats

good pinch of salt

175g butter, diced

20 x 20cm square tin

Preheat the oven to 180c/ Gas mark 4. Butter the sides of the cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

Place the water and chopped dates in a medium-sized saucepan and bring up to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, uncovered, on a low-medium heat until the date mixture is very soft and thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Add the sugar, oats and salt and mix well. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, rub it in until moist clumps form.

Press half of the oat mixture evenly over the base of the prepared tin. Spread the cooked date mixture over this, then sprinkle with the remaining oat mixture. Press gently with the palm of your hand to flatten it on top.

Bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown at the edges and set in the centre.

Allow to cool completely in the tin, then cut into bars and serve.

12 January 2009

Persian-style onion soup

French onion soup is a Bistro classic, delicious it may be but it is a faff, then add croutons or bread and a mound of cheese and the calories soon add up. Still recovering from the festive season I am craving some lighter foods and turned to Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite for inspiration. This simple, aromatic and lightly spiced soup immediately caught my eye, I don't know how I managed to overlook it before.

Persian-style onion soup
serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
5 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
sea salt and black pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp dried mint
2 tbsp plain flour
700ml vegetable or chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp caster sugar
few flat leave parsley sprigs, I swapped for coriander.

Place a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Add 2 tbsp olive oil, the onions and some seasoning. Cover and seat for 12-15 minutes until the onions are soft, lifting the lid and stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and increase the heat very slightly.

Add the spices, dried mint and remaining oil, then stir in the flour, cook, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes. Gradually pour in stock, whisking as you do so to prevent any lumps forming. When it has all been added, drop in the cinnamon stick and simmer over a low heat, partially covered with the lid, for 30-40 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice and sugar, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Discard the cinnamon stick. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and scatter over the herbs to serve.

This soup is very good, quick enough to make for a special lunch and uses store cupboard ingrediants. The subtle spices make a wonderfully aromatic base for this soup, I can't get enough of it and I'm planning to cook it again this week.

03 January 2009

As promised here is a little taster of some of the goodies we ate over the holidays, I decided not to show the pile of selection boxes, Quality street and Toblerone's we scoffed, baked goodies only, it was only as I uploaded the pics I noticed they were all recipes from Nigella's books, all very good and I recommend you try them all.
I apologise for the dodgy photography, not my strong point at the best of times but I think these pictures are proof that I hit the Eggnog a bit heavily.

Seasonally spiced nuts, from Nigella Christmas....fabulous!

Star topped mince pies from HTBADG, I made Delia's mincemeat, it is wonderful.

Chocolate Christmas cake from Feast/ Nigella Christmas. As a Christmas cake lover I was wary of this cake, I needn't have been, it is delicious, although I couldn't taste the chocolate in it...and I'd added extra.

Chilli jam from Nigella Christmas....Like a thick set sweet chilli dipping sauce, wonderful! I am adding it to allsorts. Fantastic addition to any sandwich, I will up the chilli ratio next time though, I like to have a small fire in my mouth, this needs more fire.

Christmas pudding bonbons....what a carry on, lol. Thanks to 'Rhyley's granny' for supplying me with the elusive green glace cherries, I cheated and instead of making pudding bonbons I made dark chocolate truffle versions of them. Kitsch, yes, a pain in the backside to decorate...Oh YES!

Christmas cupcakes from Nigella Christmas. My son baked these when he was home sick, child's play to make and eat.

Marshmallow squares from Nigella Express. I made these twice in one weekend, we all couldn't get enough of them, they looked so pretty covered in glitter that hasn't shown up in pics but believe me they were cool.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed soon, I can't wait to get back to blogging and back to normal.