Cooking with a Superfood

This weekend, after a hectic few weeks and prior to lots of exciting summery plans that we have coming up, I had absolutely nothing to do. Tom was off out on Saturday night and apart from begrudgingly going for a run at some point (must keep up with this), I had kept the weekend clear, and I was so excited! I decided that with all this lovely time on my hands I should tackle something more challenging than my usual Victoria sponge or choc chip cookies.

I gathered up my recipe books and started looking for something exciting to try and make. The first recipe I came upon was from the Hummingbird Bakery and was a blueberry and pecan crumble loaf. I’ve tried loaves in the past and struggled to get the mix to cook all the way through, but I decided the flavours sounded delicious so it was worth braving! I then saw a recipe for mini blueberry bakewells from the Great British Bake-Off cookbook which just looked too adorable not to turn my hand to! Also, it meant I could use a lot of the same ingredients, always a winner!

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You can find the recipe for the blueberry loaf in the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook Cake Days and it was really easy to follow. I did have to cook the loaf for a bit longer to ensure the middle was cooked all the way through and I think this made it dry out a bit. It has a bit of a strong crust but the flavours are really nice! Plus the marbled blueberries throughout look so pretty!

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I think with a drizzle of cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream this could be a real winner! I’m also pondering whether I could use slices of the loaf in a bread and butter pudding, that could be pretty good!

Next up this weekend was my biggest ever baking challenge: mini blueberry bakewell tarts. This recipe called for me to make my own blueberry jam, pastry, and frangipane, all for one teeny tiny adorable tart! Luckily the recipe is broken down into manageable stages and it was actually fairly easy to do. In my head frangipane was a terrifying baking term, mainly because I had literally no idea how to make it!

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I have to say I’m so pleased with how these have turned out! Probably my proudest baking moment to date! They’re a bit rough and ready compared to the incredibly neat ones pictured in the cookbook but I kind of like their quirky little wobbles and splurges of blueberry, makes them look all the more homemade! I will definitely make these again but might swap the blueberries for raspberries or maybe a lemon version with some curd at the bottom instead of jam. These little tarts would be perfect at an afternoon tea party or birthday tea, they’re so cute and look so pretty laid out on the plate. For this recipe, check out the first GBBO cookbook: How to Bake

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Prawn Tagine & Tomato Bread

A few months ago my mum and I went away for a weekend break to stay on a farm in the gorgeous Yorkshire countryside. We stayed in a lovely little cottage, went for long country walks and ate chips in the local pub, it was bliss!

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On the way we visited some friends and they took us to the Jordan’s mill where I went a bit mad and bought lots of lovely produce; jams, oatcakes, spices, and two bags of bread flour. I couldn’t resist the tomato and garlic or the multigrain flour, so obviously bought both!

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Last week I attempted to recreate a dish that I had at Honey & Co a few weeks ago: Prawn and Orange Tagine, which I served alongside some homemade tomato and garlic bread. I fried onion and garlic with cumin, coriander and turmeric spices, added orange juice and chopped tomatoes and let it simmer. When it had reduced down I added the prawns and slices of orange until everything was cooked through and delicious.

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To go with the tagine I baked a loaf using the tomato flour so we had something to dip in the orange sauce. The loaf had a good strong crust but I need to work on getting the crumb right, it was still a little doughy at the edges but the middle was getting there! I just need to keep practising, next up: a multigrain loaf

Oh, and Honey & Co was amazing! I’d recommend it to everyone! Such friendly service and the food was incredible – it’s small so make sure you book!

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Thinking of Theo

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My work colleague Lucy and her family are raising money to help fund life-enhancing therapies to help her son Theo. Theo was born at full term but suffered a complicated birth by emergency Caesarean section where he was starved of oxygen for a considerable amount of time. After several attempts at resuscitation, ventilation, 72 hours of cooling and pneumonia, Theo has survived to tell the tale.

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Gorgeous little Theo now lives with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, secondary dystonia and cortical visual impairment. Theo’s family are aiming to raise £50,000 in order to pay for special therapies and equipment that Theo can use to help him move better and learn to play. And so to help Lucy in her fundraising efforts we recently held a cake sale at work with the promise that the company would match what we raised. We also held a pub quiz in the local, with our resident company quiz master. We raised just over £900 which was a fantastic effort from everyone and I’m sure we’ll raise even more next time to help Theo with his progress.

Every little bit that we can raise will help towards Lucy’s target. For more information about Theo and his progress, visit his page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1411664319070885/ or if you would like to donate, please visit wwww.justgiving.com/thinkingoftheo

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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!

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Lemon curd

A few weeks ago I had the urge to bake or make something in the kitchen but our oven has really started to fail me now, so I had to choose a recipe that I could do on the hob or grill! I chose to make my own lemon curd as I’ve been meaning to have a go for ages. It’s such a simple recipe and looks really impressive! Sadly though, I couldn’t bake any scones to go with it! I hope you enjoy the pictures, I love the blue gingham against the bright yellow

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Peach Melba Cheesecake

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Last week was Tom’s birthday and he placed a request for cheesecake. They are easily his favourite! I decided to make him a peach melba cheesecake, as the recipe I found seemed really easy to follow – I was hopeful I couldn’t mess this one up. Recently all of my cheesecakes have curdled, and even though Tom still eats them and says they’re nice (bless him!), I’m not so sure!

This was the recipe I used, the only bit I didn’t do was the raspberry coulis: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2320639/peach-melba-cheesecake

Peach Melba is a classic dessert, designed by French chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel, in honour of Nellie Melba. It is a combination of peaches and raspberries, served with vanilla ice cream. I love how raspberry ripple looks, the soft swirls of pink through creamy ice cream, it always looks so pretty! I love the colour combo of orangey yellow peach with the hot pink of raspberries – looks great, and tastes great. The cheesecake is a simple mix of soft cheese, icing sugar and double cream, with raspberries scooped through to get the ripple effect. Once the cheesecake mixture starts to set I laid slices of peach in a swirl in the centre of the cake, topped with a handful of raspberries.

For the biscuit base I would usually use plain old digestives as they’re a classic cheesecake base and always taste good but the recipe suggested butter biscuits so I managed to find some buttery crunch biscuits which added a bit more texture to the base, but also a bit more sweetness.

This was a delicious and easy recipe to make, we ate it when it hadn’t really set properly so it was more like an eton-mess-esque serving but I didn’t have enough time to wait for it to set. This didn’t affect the taste though, it was creamy, fruity and sweet – lovely for summer!

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