A chance to showcase my baking skills…

Emerald Street and the Hummingbird Bakery are having a cupcake competition – a chance for aspiring bakers to show off their talents at coming up with new cake recipes. The idea is to come up with an American themed recipe that, if you win, the Hummingbird Bakery will bake and sell in their shops.

I came up with 2 ideas I wanted to try out on my lovely colleagues at work – Apple and Pecan pie, with caramelised apple slices inside, and a Salted Caramel, Pretzel cake with a peanut butter sponge.

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IMG_4233Both cakes have a cream cheese frosting; the apple one with chopped pecans in the sponge, apple slices in the centre, and a sprinkling of crumble on the top; the peanut butter sponge has a salted caramel sauce and a jauntily placed pretzel on the top.

I took the cakes into work and tried them out on my colleagues – they loved them! Even my friend who doesn’t like peanut butter thought the pretzel cupcake was delicious – which is great news as this is the one I chose to submit! I felt it would stand out a bit more from the crowd and was the favourite at work. We’ll see how I get on but I’ll definitely make them both again, and start trying out more exciting cupcake ideas!

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Rolled Bread from Jamie Oliver

My Aunty and her partner came over to visit us in our flat this weekend and I wanted to make something a bit different for brunch to the usual bacon, eggs, sausage etc that make up our classic Full English.

Over Christmas, Tom’s mum Sue made this delicious brunch-inspired bread from a Jamie Oliver recipe – rolled bread of parma ham, with cheese, eggs and basil. I thought it would be perfect for a wintery Sunday brunch and so I decided to give it a go.

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Jamie’s recipe can be found here. It uses a basic bread recipe for the dough, which you then roll out to a metre long (or so, can be smaller), rectangle. Then you fill the middle of the rectangle lengthways with the ingredients. I laid out the parma ham, then spaced out the hard-boiled eggs, scattered over the chopped sundried tomatoes, grated over some cheese, and drizzled with olive oil and then some salt and pepper. I forgot the basil leaves, but I don’t think this mattered too much. Once you’ve added all the filling, roll the dough over so that everything is rolled up and then bring the two ends together to meet, in a circle shape. Leave the dough to rise and then bake at 180 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

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I think it’s best to eat the bread fresh out of the oven, when it’s still hot and the cheese is all melted. We served our loaf with a simple green salad. You could always add some olives to the middle of the bread or anchovies, to give it a saltier kick, or you could try a sweet version, and add chunks of chocolate and raisins to the middle, for a melted, gooey chocolate loaf.

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Hairy Bikers’ diet, day 21. . .

. . . tonight we had the Hairy Bikers’ healthy chicken and smoked ham pie.

“Chicken pie, healthy?” I hear you cry – yup it really is and it’s delicious! The main concepts of the Hairy Bikers’ diet are to reduce the amount of oil you use when cooking, substitute particularly fatty ingredients for lower fat alternatives, and to reduce your portion sizes.

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This pie is low in calories because it uses a small amount of oil, brushed around the frying pan; only a small amount of filo pastry, ruffled and crinkled up on top of the sauce; and a low-fat creme fraiche sauce rather than a thick creamy white sauce.

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That, combined with our reduced portion sizes, means we can have our pie and eat it too without worrying about calories!

I also made the Bikers’ low calorie bacon flan with onions and peas. This recipe also uses a small amount of filo pastry to reduce the calories compared to a usual shortcrust pastry. The quiche mixture is lower in fat as it uses cornflour as a thickener, mixed with some skimmed milk and then 3 whisked eggs. This is great as you can add whatever veg you have left and it ends up looking really colourful and delicious!

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Creme fraiche chicken with leftover shredded gammon

Tonight we’re having chicken with left-over gammon, cherry tomatoes, onion, and mushrooms in a low-fat creme fraiche sauce – tasty and healthy! It’s Summer-in-Winter chicken – a recipe from Mary Cadogan with a few additions of extra veg and anything I have leftover in the fridge!

Served with a small portion of baked beans, for Tom, and some sweetcorn on the side – delicious and incredibly quick! It’s a great recipe to have on hand as you can edit it to fit whatever you have in the cupboard/fridge and to use up leftovers.

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Use a pastry brush to lightly cover the pan with a small amount of olive oil and then fry the onions,
later adding the mushrooms and the chicken – don’t forget to season – we got some delicious salt pinch pots for Christmas – onion salt, garlic salt and chili salt – so good!

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Once the chicken is cooked through add the leftover gammon (or fry up 2 rashers of bacon) and
then add the halved cherry tomato

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Once the tomatoes have started to show a touch of colour and the edges are turning, add
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche and stir through

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Make sure everything is cooked through and then serve – if on a diet/health kick serve with some salad,
or green beans, otherwise you could serve with some new potatoes

Despite using leftovers in this meal, thanks to our cut-down on portion sizes, we’ve still got leftovers. So I’ve made me and Tom salads for lunch using the leftover chicken and gammon. Yum!

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New year, new me!

In September, we’re heading to Venice with my family – a place I have wanted to visit since forever; most especially since reading Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli, and studying Turner’s Venetian paintings for my art course. I can’t wait to wander around the gorgeous city eating gelato, to sit at a little table outside a pizzeria, to enjoy some crisp Italian wine in the evening – basically I can’t wait to indulge in the food and drink of one of my favourite cuisines while taking in all the history and culture of the city.

My aim (and Tom’s), our new year’s resolution – one which I hope we stick to – is to lose weight and get fit and the trip to Venice is a time frame to aim for – I really want to feel good in my summery clothes and I can then treat myself to the tasty food in Italy!

So Tom and I have started the Hairy Bikers diet and it is so good! The recipes are great – we still get to enjoy cooking proper meals that taste delicious but we’re reducing our calories and watching our portion sizes. So far we’ve cooked paprika chicken; stuffed peppers with hazelnuts, breadcrumbs, mushrooms and sundried tomatoes; chicken jalfrezi; bacon, pea and onion flan; and skinny beef lasagne – yum yum! 3 weeks in and we’re still enjoying the diet and feeling healthy – we’ve also started circuits to boost our fitness – hopefully we’ll keep up with that too!

This is the healthy flan we made and everyone loved it so we’ll definitely be making it again!

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A misty, magical, Midwinter Feast

In October I received an email from River Cottage telling me all about their upcoming events and offers. Tom and I are pretty big fans – we watch the River Cottage programmes, cook the recipes, collect the handbooks and just generally lust after the whole lifestyle – living down on a farm in Devon growing and catching your own food. So when I saw that River Cottage HQ were doing Christmassy winter feasts I thought it was the perfect present for Tom…plus I’d get to go too!

The whole experience is amazing from when they pick you up in their tractor and drive you down the winding track into the valley to the mulled cider and canapes, the chance to wander around and be nosy, the delicious meal and drinks, including the River Cottage nettle beer, and the general atmosphere – it’s so much fun!

Here are some snaps from our lovely Christmas trip down to River Cottage HQ

ImageThe yurt where we were greeted with mulled cider and canapes – smoked mackerel pate on sourdough and mini beefburgers with home-made brown sauce

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the gorgeous lighting in the temporary event venue at HQ – so pretty!

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Eeeee! Tom outside River Cottage!

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Yup that’s me – standing in the River Cottage kitchen! 

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ImageWinter veg risotto in a teacup

ImageBeef that was hung for 6 weeks, salted, then cooked for 24 hours – so good!

ImageCitrus sponge pudding with custard – so perfectly English and wintery

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 Happy New Year!