My First Attempt at Soda Bread with Mostly the Wrong Ingredients….

Soda bread, for me, is a bit like olives or red wine – it has one of those tastes that I associate with being a grown up; that once you become a grown up your taste buds will suddenly change and you’ll love to eat all these things that as a child you found revolting!

My dad loves soda bread so we always had it in the kitchen; it was always sitting there in the bread bin when all I craved was a nice squidgy soft white loaf or perhaps an English muffin or bagel. Over the years I tried soda bread, often as a last resort to help me get my marmite fix but I just didn’t get it; why was it so cakey and oddly sweet?

Fast forward a few years and I’m at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, specifically sitting in the cafe of the Guinness brewery, and I am marvelling at how delicious the soda bread is that they’ve served alongside the shepherd’s pie. Now I’m sure this had nothing to do with the pint I had just finished, but was all to do with how I finally understood the need for the slightly stodgier consistency and the sweetness and nuttiness of the soda bread. It perfectly complimented both the beer and the pie and was part of one of the nicest lunches I’d had in a long time.

It’s been a while since our trip to Dublin but I’ve finally gotten round to giving soda bread a go. Except I had all the wrong ingredients! I couldn’t find buttermilk so I bought whole milk and I didn’t pay attention to what kind of flour to use. In the end the loaf came out ok but I think the consistency was slightly too cakey, even for this type of loaf. I also need to add a bit more salt next time. It looked good though!



Sandie’s Lemon Drizzle

I’ve always loved a lemon drizzle but for some reason have never made one. Then along came Ovengate and put a stop to all baking. Now that I’ve got the power of the oven back again, I’m determined to bake all those recipes I never got around to.

This week my lovely friend Sandie posted some delicious-looking photos of her lemon drizzle cake and I knew that’s what I had to bake next! She kindly leant me her recipe, given to her by a friend years ago.

I tried searching online for the history of this oh-so-perfect cake but found nothing. Whoever it was that first decided to flavour a sponge with lemon and then pour gorgeously sweet and citrusy sugar syrup over the top is a genius who I think needs to be remembered and celebrated!

Sandie’s recipe was quick and easy to follow; she usually bakes a round lemon cake whereas I decided to go for the loaf tin approach, but the recipe still fit. If you don’t have a Sandie in your life to share her lemon drizzle recipe, there are loads online, including an article in the Guardian that compares and contrasts all manner of variations on the traditional recipe.

The cake came out and looked so good I couldn’t help but have a piece straight from the oven! It was delicious: lemony, soft and with a nice density to it, not too much as it still crumbled slightly but enough to keep the slice in one piece. The best bit is when you get a slice where the syrupy lemon sugar has pooled in the sponge, it’s just so sweet and moist and lemony! Yum!


Introducing PPB: Peanut Butter You Can Eat on A Diet

When I asked Tom what he would choose if he only had one meal left on earth, he asked for a peanut butter sandwich and ready salted crisps. My boy likes simple pleasures, and he loves his peanut butter! But when you’re on a diet, peanut butter is not your friend; or is it…?

Introducing PPB: Powdered Peanut Butter. With 70% less fat than other nut butters, no trans fat, and no added oils, it means you can enjoy peanut butter but without the calorie guilt! I thought this sounded too good to be true before I tried it and I wondered whether the taste would be as good as full-on peanut butter. Well, let me tell you, it tastes just like it! I mixed up a small amount to try with some bread and it was so tasty.

With the peanut butter in powdered form, it means there are so many ways you can add the flavour to recipes. Add the powder to your curry sauce for a take on satay; mix it with bananas and yoghurt for a sweet, nutty smoothie; add some PPB to batter for biscuits and cookies; or pimp up your vanilla ice cream with a sprinkling of peanut powder!


I finally have a working oven and now that I do, I wanted to satisfy my baking craving and my cookie craving! My first foray into baking with PPB comes in the form of these delicious, chewy, slightly crunchy-edged peanut and choc chip cookies.

Sweet, nutty and crunchy, these biscuits went down a storm with the girls at work. I think next time I would increase the amount of PPB to amp up the flavour, but I was really happy with this first attempt. Next time I’m going to try a peanuty, satay dish and I also fancy trying my hand at peanut butter whoopie pies!


What to do when you find yourself with a collapsing bundt cake…

….turn it into pudding!

I couldn’t have been more excited today, because guess what readers, our oven is fixed! Annnnd, I’ve had this oh-so-gorgeous bundt cake mould just waiting to be used, so it seemed like the perfect time to try it out.

I don’t know if anyone has ever found this when cooking a bundt cake, but I did the clean knife test, and let it cool before attempting to turn it out; and that is when disaster struck! As I eased the cake out of the mould the bottom half came away perfectly, sadly the top half did not!

Tom came and tried the sponge and declared that it was delicious and I wasn’t to waste it, so with a sudden burst of inspiration, I found a can of condensed milk in the cupboard which I thickened into a sauce. I layered up chocolate sponge with sticky sweet caramel sauce to make a tasty pudding. It’s not what I set out to make today but it tastes pretty darn good, and that’s the main thing!


Winter salad

On Thursday, Tom and I went to see the legend that is David Gray at a small, intimate gig at The Emmanual Centre in Pimlico. Before the gig we stopped off at one of the pubs on Tom’s list of must-visit drinking establishments. Along with our drinks, we succumbed to their awesome looking burgers.

I had no regrets, it was delicious, but Friday came and I felt the need for a healthy dinner. And yet, I still wanted a meal that was filling and full of flavour. I decided to make a warming winter salad of spinach leaves, crispy bacon, roasted butternut squash, crumbled feta and toasted pine nuts.

I love this salad and I’m definitely going to be making it again – you get the saltiness of the bacon, the crunch from the pine nuts, the freshness of the spinach leaves and the creaminess of the squash and feta. It also looks wonderful, with the bright rich orange against the deep green of the spinach: wonderfully inviting on a miserable, rainy night.




Italian Beef Stew

From BBC GoodFood, this Italian beef stew is perfect for a quick hearty dinner when the weather is still so miserable. I probably could have cooked it for longer but Tom and I were getting too hungry!

Braising steak, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs come together to make a rich flavoursome stew that can be served with rice, bread, broccoli or, as we had it, with couscous. I topped our dinner with some half fat creme fraiche to add a touch of creaminess to the dish – yum! Also, this dish comes in at 328 calories including the couscous and creme fraiche, so it’s perfect for all you healthy eaters out there!




Malteser Fridge Cake

Whatever your preference when it comes to tea, whether you like it black, with a splash of milk, with three spoonfuls of sugar, or, as pale and weak as my mum used to have hers: “just wave the tea bag in the general area of the mug, that’ll be fine”; and whatever your preference when it comes to your choice of biscuit, be it a ginger nut, custard cream, Jammy dodger, or a choccy bourbon, there’s nothing nicer than a cup of tea with a biscuit ready for the dunking.

Over the years there have been debates and experiments about which biscuit is best for dunking. What is the biscuit’s durability? How many dunks can it survive before it gives way and collapses into your cup of tea? You know, those all important life questions. I seem to recall that the hobnob is often nominated for the Best Dunker Award when these biscuit debates come about. But, for me, it’s always the humble digestive that I reach for when I get that tea and biscuit craving.

As early as 1851, if not earlier, there are records of recipes for digestive biscuits, recipes about how to make that semi-sweet, malty biscuit that we’ve all come to know and love. Now, the digestive might not be the best dunker in the world, but it’s got many hidden talents. I’m aware that the title of this post is Malteser Fridge Cake, and I promise I haven’t forgotten about it, but I wanted to pay a quick homage to the digestive, it may be plain and simple in the biscuit world, but its comforting taste, and its multi-purpose makes it a firm favourite for me. Not only is it a great biscuit for tea time, but whizz it up and you’ve got a perfect cheesecake base, serve it with your Stilton and cheddar and you’ve got a great cracker for the cheeseboard, and mix it with melted butter and chocolate and you’ve got today’s fridge cake.

The recipe for today’s blog entry is one of Nigella’s, and can be found here. This is another speedy recipe for a tasty treat that will always go down well and is great for me while I wait for the oven to get fixed!

Blitz your digestive biscuits and add slightly bashed maltesers. In a bowl melt butter, chocolate and golden syrup together and then add this to the dry ingredients. Combine until everything is coated in the chocolate mix. Squish into a lined baking tray and pop in the fridge to start setting. Melt more chocolate and pour this over the tray bake. To make the white chocolate pattern, simply space out dollops of melted white chocolate in a row on top of the melted milk chocolate and drag a knife through the dollops. Pop the tray back in the fridge to set, a few hours should do and then cut into squares to serve.



The Greenest Pea & Ham Soup You’ve Ever Seen

We’re nineteen days into this dieting malarkey and the pounds we gained over Christmas are slowly making a retreat. I’ve been running every week and even invested in some proper running trainers – they are bright raspberry and pink so that helps!

As you know each week I’ve been making soup to take in to work for lunches and it’s been so good – I’ve spent so much less on food and I’m not snacking anywhere near as much. This week, it is the turn of pea and ham soup. This is one of my favourite soups but quite often, especially if you buy the tinned kind, it’s a weak, grey-green colour and the flavour doesn’t hit you the way a good pea and ham soup should. Peas have such a sweet fresh flavour, when this comes through in a soup, along with the saltiness of the ham, it’s wonderful.


This recipe is from Good Food and can be found here. I’ve found lots of good, low-cal recipes on the Good Food site, I’d definitely recommend having a search on there next time you’re looking for a new recipe. The recipes are often rated and commented on too so you know they’re tried and tested!


I checked the packaging for the split peas and it said to soak overnight, as did the recipe but having not realised this and needing to make the soup today I checked it out online. There seem to be differing opinions on this but as long as you rinse the split peas first, it only really affects the cooking time. If you soak them overnight the peas will cook quicker. I soaked mine for a couple of hours and didn’t have any issues with the cooking time.

I love the contrast of the pink ham and the bright vibrant green of the thick smooth soup, it just looks so good! I’m really looking forward to this week’s lunches!

The comfort of chicken soup

There is something so calming about making a delicious batch of soup. As well as the fact that it’s super easy to whip up, you know it’s going to be good for you and taste delicious. It’s a comforting, homely sort of process too. And chicken soup, well, a properly thick, creamy, flavoursome chicken soup is right up there with the best of recipes. You just know it’s going to warm you right through and give you a pep, especially if you’re feeling under the weather, so it’s perfect for this time of year.

Last week I had root vegetable soup for lunch at work and this week I’m making chicken soup. When I’m sitting at my desk looking at the winter weather outside, it’s going to feel so nice at lunchtime knowing that I already have my tasty soup, and don’t need to brave the wind and the rain to fetch it!

I sweated down potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and smoked garlic with some thyme and chicken stock until it was soft enough to blend. I thought I would bulk it out with some more potatoes but turns out, that can make your soup quite starchy and gelatinous! I thinned mine out with more water and it tastes ok – something to remember for next time!


While the veg was cooking, I poached four chicken thighs in some water. I find that you get more flavour from thighs and wings and they’re a lot cheaper than chicken breast. When the chicken was cooked through, I shredded it ready to be added to the soup.

When you’ve blended the veg, stir in your shredded chicken and add some creme fraiche or single cream, depending on how healthy you’re feeling! Season with salt and pepper and you’re good to go!
Approx. 292 calories per serving


Skinny pizza, skinny me

Pizza. Delicious, cheesy, herby, tomato sauce covered pizza. Pepperoni pizza, tuna and anchovy pizza, margherita, roasted veggie pizza. Pizza Express, ASK, Franca Manca, Fire & Stone, Pizza East, wood-fired pizza ovens – delicious crispy-based and deep-pan pizzas with all manner of toppings are everywhere and seem even more delicious and appealing when you’re on a diet. But never fear, there is a skinny pizza cheat recipe out there for you.

Yes, the Hairy Dieters have done it again – a tasty, quick cheat’s way to eating pizza while on a diet. Ok, so it’s technically not pizza pizza as the base uses a tortilla rather than dough, but you still get that crispy crunch to the base, as if you really were eating a Roman style pizza.

Each tortilla gets a layer of passata:

Followed by a slice of ham:

10g of light cheddar crumbled over the tortilla:

Sprinkle with herb de Provence and put under the grill at a high temp for 1-2 minutes until the cheese has melted.

Top with olives and salad leaves – job done! Great recipe to have on hand when you’re pushed for time but want to stay healthy!