A-Z Foodie Challenge – D is for Dates

Of course dates had a special offer on them when I went into the shop didn’t they?! So, unable to resist a BOGOF, instead of one recipe this month, I’ve actually tried three of them – and still have a whole bag of dates left over!

With some help from great birthday presents and from Kev’s Aunt Kate, I’ve got a good variety of treats this month.

My lovely daughter bought me the new Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking and a quick look through it brought forth the recipe for Oat & Honey Flapjack Cookies. These contain 100g of dried fruit and nuts…dates being one of their suggested fruits. To this I added pistachio nuts and dried cranberries to make up my 100g. I think they were the most successful thing I’ve made on this challenge so far – well successful apart from the fact I ate a few bits that had fallen off the side straight out of the oven and was a bit stressed by the sound of my tongue sizzling! Lesson learned – til next time!

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Second birthday present to come in very handy was a great little set called The Preserving Kit, a gift from my sister. From that I chose a recipe for Peach & Date Chutney which they suggest will be “a good accompaniment to ripe, creamy Brie, full-fat soft cheeses and roast poultry. Perfect for serving with your cold roast Christmas turkey”. Sounds good to me!

I halved the amount of ingredients used partly because I wasn’t sure if we would like it and partly because I’m quite short of jars at the moment. It resulted in 2 Kilner jars full of great smelling chutney which only have to sit for 2 weeks before we can try them. Bring on the Brie!

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Finally (until I start again with the second bag of dates!) I used the website suggested by Kate to find a savoury recipe – http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/collections/date+recipes  From there I chose Date, Gorgonzola & Prosciutto Tart as I’d always fancied trying to cook something using a sheet of puff pastry. Unfortunately I couldn’t find Gorgonzola cheese in town and had to opt for Feta instead, which didn’t melt as well of course. Had a bit of a panic when the pastry rose in the middle when it wasn’t meant to, but other than that it worked out okay and tasted really good. I’ll look around for the correct cheese and give it another go at some time in the future I think.

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Linda went a bit Nigella had a sticky date herself! Read all about it here http://lindasmakes.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/d-is-for-culinary-alphabet/

 

 

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A-Z Foodie Challenge – C is for Chocolate

So we’re a little late, but honestly who feels like chocolate when the weather’s as hot as it was in July? Okay, perhaps don’t answer that. I didn’t feel like chocolate at all when it was hot but, in the spirit of things Googled “world’s easiest chocolate recipes” on 30th July and “cooked” Chocolate Fudge from a very easy (we’re talking a total of 7 minutes including prep and cooking) recipe on the 31st!

It really was that quick….well, apart from having to wait for it to go solid. I’m not a fudge fan but this is actually pretty good. I don’t think it has the texture of traditional fudge, but as that’s the bit I don’t like about fudge, that’s just as well! It is however very melty, hard to cut without leaving fingerprints and needs to be kept in the fridge. Of course this means that every time you open the fridge…..

Linda decided to cool things down a bit (very sensible given how hot it’s been) with her chocolate and banana ice cream – stop her to buy one here http://lindasmakes.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/c-is-for-culinary-alphabet/

So, here it is. Waiting to see photos from Frances and will post them as they’re added. (No, I’m not nagging!). This month’s date is with….dates!

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A-Z Fun Foodie Photo Cooking Challenge!

With our month of selfie photos rapidly coming to an end, we had a bit of a think as to another challenge to keep us busy over the coming months. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we’ve come up with a combined cooking and photo challenge…..with my cooking skills it really will be challenging!

We debated several ways to do it, but have finally come up with the idea of an alphabet cooking challenge. Each challenge will correspond with a letter and we’ll cook using an ingredient beginning with that letter and post the photos to share. Now, if you’re already thinking about how many letters there are in the alphabets and how many months it will take to complete this challenge, let me save you the brain power by telling you that if this challenge were on a monthly basis, it would run until June 2016!! So the thinking is, rather than monthly, we’ll let each other know when we’ve cooked with the ingredient, share the photos and move onto the next letter – hopefully it’ll speed things up!

The ingredients we have chosen are all (no, make that mostly!) fairly simple and are all veggie friendly too. I’m very much doubting that my recipes will stay veggie though, to keep my family happy.

So, here’s the list we’ve compiled…..

A – Asparagus
B – Butternut Squash
C – Chocolate (bring it on!)
D – Dates
E – Eggs
F – Flour
G – Goat’s Cheese
H – Hazelnuts
I – Icing
J – Jam
K – Kale
L – Lemons
M – Mushrooms
N – Noodles
O – Oranges
P – Pears
Q – Quorn
R – Rum
S – Spinach
T – Tofu
U – Ugli Fruit
V – Vanilla
W – Walnuts
X – Xigua
Y – Yoghurt
Z – Zucchini

That’s quite some shopping list! The emphasis is going to be on the photos and will hopefully help improve my food photo skills – at the moment I take a photo quickly, eat all the food even more quickly and then check the photo and find out it’s rubbish! I WILL get over that thanks to this challenge….I hope! So, bring on May and bring on the asparagus!

 

 

Happy Valentines Day!

As I’ve said, ask me a question and I feel honour bound to answer…. So when Cottage Delight asked about Valentines menus and how you’d use their products, of course I had to rise to the challenge!

We’re very lucky to have a supplier of delicious Cottage Delight products quite close to us – you might have one too, check out the handy Local Stockists section of their website. I thought I’d take two of my favourites of their ingredients and see what I could come up with….. here’s the results.

The great thing about Cottage Delight products is that you can often pick up leaflets and delicious recipe cards, so they’ve done the hard work for you!

YUM!!!

YUM!!!

This time, however, I thought I’d go it alone with my recipes using, firstly, Caramelised Onion Chutney. Thinking along the Valentines theme, I decided that having my first attempt at palmiers, given their heart-ish shape, would be a good idea.

If you fancy a try it’s very easy and pretty effective looking too – as well as being delicious of course! If you’d like to use make-your-own puff pastry then, please, be my guest! Ready made is, however, far easier and has equally great results so I went with that.

Take your pastry square from the fridge and bash it hard with a rolling pin! Yes, really! See, you’re liking this recipe already! The palmiers don’t actually need to “puff” much so mistreating the poor old pastry on this occasion is a plus, not slapped wrists from Mary Berry time.

Now roll out your bashed pastry to approx 30 x 35cm and spread with your Caramelised Onion Chutney. Crumble cheese over the top. I used Blue Stilton given the strength of its taste, but you could use whatever you wanted.

Turning the short end of your pastry towards you, roll each of the long sides towards the middle of the pastry rectangle, so they kiss (this is Valentines remember) in the middle. Brush whisked egg along the join so that they stay together. Place the whole lot in the fridge for 30 mins to allow the pastry to harden. After the time’s up, take the rolled up pastry out and cut it into thick pieces (about 1cm wide). Lay them on a greased baking tray and spread with lots more of the egg. Bake them in an oven heated to 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crisp. They should look something like this….

Caramelised Onion Chutney and Blue Stilton Palmiers

Caramelised Onion Chutney and Blue Stilton Palmiers

Okay, better speed things up or it will be Easter by the time you’ve finished reading this, let alone Valentines Day!

I’ve decided to serve these with Beetroot Risotto…here’s the recipe…

500g fresh beetroot
2tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
1 heaped tsp Caramelised Onion Chutney
1 finely chopped red onion
1 finely chopped garlic clove
250g risotto rice
150ml white wine
700ml hot veg stock
Grated Parmesan

Heat the oven to 180 degrees (fan). Peel and chop beetroot into large wedges, toss in 1tbsp of olive oil, place on baking foil on a baking tray and place in the oven for an hour until soft.

Heat the remaining oil with the butter in a large frying pan. Saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Stir in the rice, ensuring it’s well covered with the butter/oil. Pour over the wine, add the chutney and allow to bubble for a short while. Stirring again, add the stock and allow the mixture to soak into the rice, softening it. Keep stirring as you go.

Remove the beetroot from the oven and blitz them or chop them into very small pieces and then stir into the risotto mixture with the Parmesan. Serve with palmiers….

Tastes as amazing as it looks!

Tastes as amazing as it looks!

Okay, moving on to the second of my favourite Cottage Delight’s products – Lemon Curd and a Lemon Curd Cake.

The ingredients are:-
100g margarine
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
175g self raising flour
1 jar of Cottage Delight Lemon Curd (I leave 2 tsp in the bottom of the jar to eat later….!)
1 level tsp baking powder

If you’re lazy like me, shove it all in your food processor and whizz it until it’s mixed together nicely! Or, the proper way mix it all together for about 5 mins. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (fan).

Pour the cake mixture into a greased (or, lazy me again, one with a paper case) 2lb loaf tin.

Bake for approx 35-40 mins until browned.

Serve drizzled with honey or maple syrup and top with ice cream or clotted cream. Oh, and champagne given the day of course!

Lemon Curd Cake - more amazing colour from lemon curd and free range eggs!

Lemon Curd Cake – more amazing colour from lemon curd and free range eggs!

Happy Valentines Day and thank you very much to Cottage Delight for the inspiration! I would love to hear if you give any of the recipes a go.

Energise Me!!! (Please!)

You may remember last year that I took part in a brilliant challenge suggested by those clever people at Whittard? I created a cake in a mug….cooked in the microwave! Yes, really! Check back to October 2013 if you don’t believe me!

Well, Whittard have issued another challenge via their Blog – a Healthy New Year Blogger Carnival 

I think you ought to have a go…..

I have!

By far my best discovery so far this year is Whittard’s amazing Cinnamon & Orange Superior Tea Pyramids. They’re a flavoured Green Tea – and we all know how wonderful Green Tea is for you. It’s loaded with antioxidants and nutrients which do you masses of good – go ahead and Google if you don’t believe me (honestly, are you already not believing me for the second time in this one post. Humph!). Anyway, from the very second you open your pack of Cinnamon & Orange tea bags you KNOW you’re in for a special treat and, I swear, you’ll heave a huge satisfied sigh and put the kettle on immediately.  Here, let me tempt you further….

Try it now!

Try it now!

It’s okay, it doesn’t come with a funny sticky out aerial, I just took the photo of it in front of my radio…

So, what does this have to do with cookery and healthy recipes? Well, I decided that I needed a bit of an afternoon energy boost to go with my delicious cuppa so wondered about making some flapjacks (oats are good for digestion, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, helps control blood sugar levels, helps maintain a healthy weight fact fans – I Googled this time!) …..soaking the dried fruit in my Cinnamon & Orange tea before using it! I know – genius right?! And you know what, it worked!! It was delicious…..so delicious that I nearly ate all of the fruit before putting it in with the rest of the ingredients. So, here’s the recipe in case you’d like a go for yourself.

150g oats (I used organic jumbo oats)
45g dried fruit (I used cranberries brought back to life by soaking in Cinnamon & Orange tea)
40g seeds (I used sunflower seeds)
2 apples (I used Pink Lady….sorry, I’m being very specific aren’t I?!)
A quick glug of oil (Virgin Olive in this case)
3tbsp honey
1tbsp cinnamon (yes more, I know but yum!)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of salt

After heating the oven to 170 degrees (fan) chop your apples and then zap them in a food processor until they’re very finely chopped.

Slop a glug of oil into a saucepan, add the honey and vanilla and heat gently. Add the apples when the mixture is runny and warm and mix together well.

In another bowl mix together the oats, fruit, seeds, salt and cinnamon then add the apple mixture to them.

Press the mixture into a greased/lined tin and bake for 15-20 mins (mine needed 20) until they’re a lovely golden brown.

Turn them out and leave them (if you possibly can!) to cool and then cut them into HUGE pieces…..or normal sized slices if you’re anyone other than me!

Put the kettle on, get a lovely cup of Cinnamon & Orange on the go, sit with your feet up and go AHHHHHH very loudly….. Feel a bit smug and very happy!

Ha, managed to miss the aerial out of this photo!

Ha, managed to miss the aerial out of this photo!

 

 

Mad MAOAM Mummified Moggie!!

Okay – RIGHT at the start, no kitty was hurt during this process….!

Those very nice people at MAOAM raised a challenge on their Facebook page and, as you may have already guessed, if there’s anything I enjoy it’s a challenge, a chance to be creative and…maybe….a little bit of madness on the way!

MAOAM’s instructions were “Send a photo of MAOAM sweets or packaging in a Halloween setting in an image which is fun and where you have used your effort and imagination to create the image” – FUN!!!!!!!

Well, naturally, the first idea that popped into my head was to mummify the cat….. Before I hear the howls of protest, I did have our cat doorstop in mind.  Here’s the poor guy before the process started

Bare, naked kitty doorstop

Bare, naked kitty doorstop

As my daughter’s a big fan of Decopatch we thought that perhaps we could eat lots and lots and lots of yummy MAOAM sweets (yes, you can see why we like a challenge can’t you?!) and then Decopatch (or stick on paper in bits to you and I) the empty wrappers.  Here they are!

HOW many MAOAM did we eat?!

HOW many MAOAM did we eat?!

They look good just like that don’t they? The Decopatch glue is great as you glue under and over the object you’re sticking, as normally you’d use smaller pieces and layer them slightly,  and then your finished work has a nice shine afterwards too, without the hassle of varnishing.

I have to say that I’ve never really done much of this before, whereas my daughter’s a bit of an expert, especially at being frugal with what she does with her glue. As a result her sheets were dry within hours, whereas mine were still a bit damp and sticky several days later!! I had wondered how that little pot of glue had lasted her years with the amount of sticking she does!! She’ll need some new now though!

After the sheets were, eventually, dry I cut them into strips and then “bandaged” up kitty….and here’s the result! For people who are still a bit freaked out about a covered cat LOOK, I left a space for him to breathe through his nose, even though he’s an inanimate object – I’m not a complete monster!!

MAOAWWWWW!

MAOAWWWWW!

But, but, but….that’s never enough once you start an idea is it?! After that I thought I’d make a sign to go behind kitty for our final display. I hand drew this, and whilst drawing the “M”‘s realised they looked a bit mouth like….. Okay, so bring on a MAOAM pumpkin then!

I really like the M shaped eyes and mouth – they work very well

Please see below for a recipe to make your own ectoplasm!

Please see below for a recipe to make your own ectoplasm!

I think! However, that was a bit dull for us really wasn’t it?! Why not have the pumpkin’s brain’s dripping out in some ectoplasm?! Why not indeed! As our usual ectoplasm supplier is currently busy with other Halloween duties, we decided to make our own. We melted some MAOAM in the microwave (BE CAREFUL if you try this, it only takes seconds and the results are MOLTEN hot – don’t stick your fingers in it!). To this we added some green food colouring and some of the pumpkin seeds. It’s a pretty icky result isn’t it?! Absolutely ideal!!!

We decided that, as well as offering trick or treat callers MAOAM from the handy skull called Ozzle, which we borrowed from my mother (you see, it’s hereditary!), we’d make them up some cupcakes too! I’m VERY pleased with how these turned out. We wrapped the cake cases with more of our decopatch style paper, used unwrapped MAOAM as eyebrows and then a Cyclops style eye in the middle!

Eye spy MAOAM!

Eye spy MAOAM!

You’ll be pleased to hear that we really did think it was time to stop after all this crazy creativity, and put the whole scene together (before Halloween was over and done with!)…… so here’s the final result….. Hope you like it!

HAPPY MAOAM HALLOWEEN!

HAPPY MAOAM HALLOWEEN!

…and by night…..!

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Oh, you Mug!

So, have you heard of Cakes in a Mug before? Using a microwave? Yes, really! If you’ve not been initiated to this AMAZING art yet, then read on dear friend (if you already know all about it, read on anyhow, you might learn something, or be able to comment and teach me something!).

I’m not sure how long microwave mug cakes have been around – when Googling in an effort to find out I did come across an article entitled “Magic Chocolate Mug Cake Microwave Recipe” dated 2008….and I think the concept is every bit as magical today.

Bringing up right up to date, those terribly clever people at Whittard have decided to celebrate the magic with a Cake in a Mug Blogger Carnival. As they say in their article, cake in a mug is a perfect solution for someone who really fancies a little cake without the time and effort involved in baking an entire cake. So, with this spirit in mind, here’s my recipe. Some of the ingredients may seem a little “different” but I PROMISE you that they make a wonderful cake.

The ingredients are in such small amounts that I’ll just run through them as part of the method:-

Optional for decorating purposes later……melt a little dark chocolate in a small bowl, dip in a strawberry and place it on a plate in the fridge to cool (now melt the rest of the chocolate and eat the rest of the strawberries…..if you’re me….).

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter into your (microwave-proof) mug (if you’ve never melted butter in the microwave, please be aware this only takes seconds – my poor nan tried to soften butter in the microwave once, setting it for a minute, then had to try to harden it back up in the freezer!)

Mix in 2 tablespoons of sugar until well combined, then stir in a medium egg.

Add 2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt (yes, really – makes it tasty!).  Then add 4 tablespoons of self raising flour together with a little bicarbonate of soda (I use just less than 1/4 teaspoon).

This is the point that you should add any other ingredients that you fancy. For this particular cake I added a tablespoon of Whittard Luxury White Hot Chocolate Powder and some chocolate drops. You could add cocoa, vanilla or any other flavour essence…whatever takes your fancy.

Pop in the microwave. I blasted my cake for 1 minute 30 seconds in our 850w oven. If that doesn’t seem long enough and your cake looks a little underdone put in for a while longer – but only go 10 seconds at a time as you can really ruin the texture if you overcook it.

Put on the kettle and make a lovely pot of tea. Take your cake out of the microwave and decorate as you wish…… And here’s one I made earlier!

Choco-Strawberry Micro Cake!

Choco-Strawberry Micro Cake!

I recommend eating it immediately, from the mug with a spoon, while the chocolate drops are still hot and runny…. Then do the brilliantly little amount of washing up that you’ve created, have a meal ready for your family when they get home from work/school and eat a tiny portion, claiming to be on a diet….. Go on, I’ll keep your cake eating a secret!

This post is an entry to the Whittard of Chelsea Cake in a Mug Blogger Carnival

UPDATE!

Delighted and absolutely over the moon to say that I was a runner up in Whittard’s Mug Blogger Carnival! The results are online and I’m most definitely going to have a go at some of the other entries – they look lush! Please let me know if you’ve had a go at a cake and how it came out!