Friday, 15 October 2010

Prawn, Avocado and Pecan Herb Salad

After too many lunch times consisting of the same sandwich or tortilla wrap day after day I decided it was time for a change and with Hubby working from home it was a perfect opportunity to make something special. What better way for a change than with a heart healthy recipe from Sally Bee’s The Secret Ingredient? This dish proved that salads do not have to be boring! The prawns cooked with the garlic, spring onion and soy sauce combined wonderfully with the avocado and pecans to deliver a great tasting, warm and full of texture salad. This is a recipe I will certainly make time and time again! It would also make a great healthy starter.

Prawn, Avocado and Pecan Herb Salad

Serves 2

drizzle of olive oil
2 salad onions or spring onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
8 (or more) uncooked king prawns
mixed salad leaves
1 ripe avocado
2 tomatoes, sliced
juice of 1 lemon
handful of fresh basil, torn
handful of shelled pecan nuts

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped salad onions or spring onions, crushed garlic, soy sauce, black pepper and raw prawns. Sauté until the prawns have turned pink all the way through.

Arrange the salad leaves, watercress, avocado and tomatoes in a big dish, then pour over the prawns and other cooked ingredients. Squeeze over the lemon juice, sprinkle with torn basil and pecan nuts and serve.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

It’s National Chocolate Week from the 11th to 17th October and the perfect time to bake and eat lots of chocolate! I decided to keep it simple as I'm watching my waistline, (ha who am I kidding but seriously I am) and bake this Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake from Nigella Kitchen. I adore the choc/orange combination and find it totally irresistible. This loaf cake may look plain but it was very moreish and didn’t last longer than a day! The sponge was fluffy, light and very moist, with the chocolate and orange blending together delightfully!

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

150g soft unsalted butter, plus some for greasing
2 x 15ml tbsp golden syrup
175g dark muscovado sugar
150g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
25g best-quality cocoa powder, sifted
2 eggs
zest 2 oranges and juice of 1

1 x 900g (2lb) loaf tin

Preheat the oven to 170oC/150oC fan oven/gas mark 3 and line your loaf tin with baking parchment or a paper loaf-tin liner.

Beat the already soft butter with the syrup and the sugar until you have a fairly smooth caffé Americano cream, though the sugar will always have a bit of grit about it.

Mix the flour, bicarb and cocoa powder together, and beat into the syrup mixture 1 tbsp of these dry ingredients before beating in 1 egg. Then add another couple of spoonfuls of the dry ingredients before beating in the second egg. Carry on beating in the remaining dry ingredients and then add, still beating, the orange zest and finally, gradually, the juice.

Pour and scrape into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes, though check 5 minutes before and be prepared to keep it in the oven 5 minutes longer if need be. Leave to cool a little in the tin on a wire rack, then turn out with care and leave on the rack to cool.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

Did you all have a lovely weekend? My weekend was nice but busy around the house. Dare I mention it but with Christmas around the corner I like to give the house a good de-cluttering and sort out before the madness begins. Then I have free time to bake, cook and enjoy the festive season; of course the daily housework will always be there! So our weekend kicked off the start of our autumn clean up project. I did however manage to find some time to get into my kitchen for a spot of baking and baked these wonderful Apple and Cinnamon Muffins from Nigella Kitchen. The smell of these muffins while baking was divine and they reminded me of all the wonderful xmas scents to come. As I expected these muffins were beautifully moist from the apple chunks and had so much flavour and texture. Hubby and I both agreed these muffins are definitely a must bake but you should seriously try them served as a pudding with lashings of custard, we did!

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

Makes 12 (I ended up with 18)

2 eating apples
250g plain flour (or spelt flour)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
125g light brown sugar, plus 4 tsp for sprinkling
125ml honey
60ml runny natural yoghurt
125ml flavourless vegetable oil
2 eggs
75g natural (unblanched) almonds

Preheat the oven to 200oC/180oC fan oven/gas mark 6 and line your muffin tin with papers.

Peel and core the apples, then chop into small dice (about 1cm) and put them to one side.

Measure the flour, baking powder and 1 tsp of the ground cinnamon into a bowl.

Whisk together the 125g brown sugar, the honey, yoghurt, vegetable oil and eggs in another bowl or jug.

Chop the almonds roughly and add half of them to the flour mixture, and put the other half into a small bowl with the second tsp of ground cinnamon and the 4 extra tsp brown sugar. This will make the topping for the muffins.

Now fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Add the chopped apple, and stir to combine but don’t over mix.

Spoon this bumpy batter into the muffin papers, then sprinkle the rubbly topping mixture over them.

Pop the tin into the prepared oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, by which time they will have risen and become golden.

Take the tin out of the oven and let it stand for about 5 minutes before gingerly taking out the muffins and placing them on a wire cooling rack.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Pasta Bake

On Friday evening we had our son Jake and his girlfriend Sophie over for dinner. I miss Jake and a huge hole has been left in my life since he moved out but I refuse to be one of those mothers that try and hold him back for my own reasons. I didn’t count on my son moving out so soon and even more so starting a family of his own but I can only admire and be so proud of the man he is becoming. We are all so excited about the arrival of the baby which could be any day now and I can’t wait to meet my grandson! Whenever Jake comes over I always make the food he loves and enjoys, so when I saw this Pasta Bake that Jan at A Glug of Oil blogged about it seemed the perfect choice for Friday nights dinner. We love pasta and this recipe is very similar to one I make which always goes down well. This pasta bake was full of flavour, really delicious and we all thoroughly enjoyed it! This recipe is a keeper, thanks Jan for sharing this wonderful pasta bake!

Pasta Bake (adapted)

Serves 8

500g gigli pasta (or pasta of choice)
500g minced beef
500g minced pork
extra virgin olive oil - a few glugs for frying
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400g tin of good quality Italian chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato purée (paste in the USA)
350ml of red wine
a good pinch of dried oregano
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the white sauce:
750ml of whole milk
100g of unsalted butter
55g plain flour
100ml double cream
plus a good handful of grated extra mature cheddar cheese and Parmesan to sprinkle over the top

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F or Gas 4

You will need a large frying pan, a large saucepan and a 2.5 litre oven proof dish. And also a balloon whisk and a wooden spoon.

In a large frying pan heat a about a tablespoon oil over a medium heat. Fry gently the onion and carrot for about 10 minutes, moving it around from time to time. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Then set this aside while you cook the meat.

Add another glug of oil to the frying pan, turn the heat up and fry the beef and pork to brown it, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Keep it moving so it browns evenly. When it's browned nicely, now you can put the onion mixture back into the frying pan with the meat. Give it all a good stir. Add the tomato purée and cook for one minute then tip in the tin of tomatoes including the juice, oregano and red wine. Add a little salt and pepper to season. Still stirring, allow it to come up to simmering point. Once everything is simmering away nicely, leave it to cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes. Be sure to give it a stir now and then so you know it's not going too dry. By now you should be well on the way to having a nice thick, reduced concentrated sauce, that has very little liquid left in it. If you haven't - no worries just leave it for another 10 minutes or whatever it takes - you might have the heat a bit too low. Have a taste to check the seasoning, when you're happy with the thickness of the sauce, put the pan to one side and make the white sauce.

Put the butter and flour into a large thick-based saucepan and put it over a medium heat whilst stirring with a wooden spoon. Let the flour and butter cook for a minute or so (or the sauce will be lumpy). Now, remove from the heat and using a balloon whisk, add the milk in a little at a time, whisking all the time. Once all the milk is in, put the saucepan over a gentle heat and whisk continuously until the sauce comes to simmering point and thickens nicely. Add some salt and pepper to season and have a taste to make sure it's okay. Don't leave the salt out or the sauce will have no taste. Then, with the heat as low as possible, continue to cook the sauce for about 10 minutes. When it's nice and thick, remove from the heat and stir in the cream, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Once that's done you can turn off the heat and cook your pasta - following the instructions on the packet. Go for very slightly undercooked 'al dente' because the pasta will continue to cook when it goes in the oven.

Drain the pasta and reheat the white sauce, stirring all the time. Tip the pasta into your meat sauce and gently give it a stir to coat it well - you don't want the pasta to break up.

Put half of the mixture into your oven proof dish (2.5 litre in size) and spoon over a little of the white sauce. Don't fuss about the evenness of it, just pour over randomly. Add the rest of the pasta and meat mixture. Now pour the rest of the white sauce over to cover the pasta as best you can.

Sprinkle the top with a good amount of grated cheddar and Parmesan.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Banana Chocolate and Pecan Loaf

Hi everyone I’m back from a lovely restful weekend at the lodge. The weather wasn’t the best and it rained on and off but we made the most of it. When the weather was dry we picked more cooking and eating apples, chopped up wood to bring back for our open fires and enjoyed our walks around the woodland and open field we have at the lodge. It was a very productive weekend and I came home with 2 gorgeous new tablecloths and matching napkins that my mother in law made with the fabric I recently bought from eBay. My Lemon Curd and Blueberry Loaf Cake was thoroughly enjoyed and didn’t last beyond Sunday evening, it’s definitely a must bake! In addition I also made this scrumptious Banana Chocolate and Pecan Loaf, I couldn’t go away for the weekend and leave the sad looking bananas in my fruit bowl. I adapted this loaf to my taste and added chocolate instead of raisins and Total Greek Yoghurt instead of buttermilk. The end result was a moist, chocolatey, nutty and very yummy banana loaf.

Banana Chocolate and Pecan Loaf

100g softened unsalted butter
140g light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
3 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 450g/1lb total weight)
50g pecans, roughly chopped
50g milk chocolate, chopped (or raisins)
150ml buttermilk or Total Greek Yoghurt
280g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to fan 160C/ conventional 180C/gas 4. Butter a 20 x 13cm loaf tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time (don't worry that the mixture looks curdled). Stir in the mashed bananas, pecans, chocolate and buttermilk/Greek yoghurt.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda on top of the banana mixture, then fold in until evenly mixed, taking care not to overmix. Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes until a skewer pushed in the centre comes out almost, but not quite, dry. Remove from the oven and leave for about 10 minutes, then turn it out of the tin on to a cooling rack to cool.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Lemon Curd and Blueberry Loaf Cake

Hubby is back tomorrow morning and I’ve missed him! I know he misses being away from home and looks forward to coming home to my home-baked goodies and me. So today I’ve spent a lovely day baking and making delicious cakes for hubby’s return. As you know I have a fridge load of Total Greek Yoghurt and thought I’d kill 2 birds with 1 stone and find something yummy to bake for my man that also incorporated the yoghurt. I didn’t have to look far and found this absolutely amazing Lemon Curd and Blueberry Loaf Cake. The yoghurt makes this heavenly citrusy cake light and incredibly moist. We are off to the lodge again this weekend and I have a feeling this cake and the Banana Chocolate and Pecan Loaf (I will blog about it over the weekend) I also made will go down a treat! Have a great weekend everyone. x

Lemon Curd and Blueberry Loaf Cake

175g softened butter , plus extra for greasing
500ml tub Greek yogurt
300g jar good lemon curd
3 eggs
zest and juice 1 lemon
200g self-raising flour
175g golden caster sugar
200g punnet of blueberries
140g icing sugar
edible flowers , such as purple or yellow primroses, to serve (optional)

Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Grease a 2lb loaf tin and line with a long strip of baking parchment.

Put 100g yogurt, 2 tbsp lemon curd, the softened butter, eggs, lemon zest, flour and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl. Quickly mix with an electric whisk until the batter just comes together.

Scrape half into the prepared tin. Weigh 85g blueberries from the punnet and sprinkle half into the tin, scrape the rest of the batter on top, then scatter the other half of the 85g berries on top.

Bake for 1 hr 10 mins-1 hr 15 mins until golden, and a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.

Cool in the tin, then carefully lift onto a serving plate to ice. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and stir in enough lemon juice to make a thick, smooth icing.

Spread over the top of the cake, then decorate with lemon zest and edible flowers, if you like. Serve in slices with extra lemon curd, Greek yogurt and blueberries.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Smoked Salmon and Pea Pasta

Hubby's gone to Singapore on business again this morning but thankfully this is a short trip and he is back Friday morning. I hate it when he goes away and miss him terribly, so I keep busy around the house, cleaning, baking and making yummy meals for one! Comfort food is something I always crave when I am home alone and I found it in this recipe for Smoked Salmon and Pea Pasta. This recipe definitely delivered comfort; it’s low fat and incorporated Total Greek Yoghurt! A heart healthy, speedy meal packed with omega-3s and ready in 20 minutes.

Smoked Salmon and Pea Pasta

Serves 2

175g fusilli or other pasta
100g frozen peas
125g pack cooked smoked salmon fillets
3 rounded tbsp 0% Greek yogurt
2 rounded tsp horseradish sauce

Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water according to pack instructions, adding the peas for the last 3 mins. Meanwhile, flake the salmon and set aside, then mix the yogurt with the horseradish, salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta, then return to the pan and stir in the salmon and yogurt, letting the heat of the pasta warm the sauce. Tastes great with a crisp green salad.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Prawn Curry

Last week I received an email from the lovely people at
Total Greek Yoghurt asking if I would like to receive a sample of different variants of Total Greek Yoghurt. Having seen other bloggers that have also been selected to trial the range I immediately sent an email back saying YES! I received my huge delivery from Ocado this morning and my fridge is now bursting with small and big pots of natural Greek yoghurt, 0%, 2% and natural ones with honey.

I couldn’t wait to put my yoghurt to use and decided on this Prawn Curry that I have adapted in order to incorporate the 0% Total Greek yoghurt, which also made it low fat to suit my needs. This curry is mild, creamy and has a hint of mango sweetness from the chutney. A thoroughly enjoyable experience, although I will probably add a stronger curry powder next time as I only had mild. Watch this space for more recipes incorporating yogurt.

Prawn Curry

Serves 2

225g king prawns, rinsed
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp plain flour
300ml chicken stock or fish stock
1 tsp tomato puree
1 tbsp mango chutney
½ lemon, juice only
3 tbsp 0% Total Greek Yoghurt

Fry half the onion in a little vegetable oil over a low heat for 2-3 minutes until transparent.

Stir in the curry powder and fry gently for 1 minute.

Blend in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Gradually add the stock and stir until the sauce thickens and comes to the boil (3-5 minutes).

Add the tomato purée, chutney and lemon juice. Simmer for 5 minutes, then strain the sauce through a sieve.

Heat the other tbsp of oil in a frying pan and fry the remaining onion until soft, then add the prawns.

Blend in the curry sauce and bring to the boil.

Stir in the 0% Total Greek Yoghurt and remove from the heat.

Arrange the prawns in the sauce on top of boiled rice and serve with naan or poppadums.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Chilli Con Healthy

I recently purchased Sally Bee’s cookbook, The Secret Ingredient: Delicious and Easy Heart-Healthy Recipes that might just save your life. At the age of 36 Sally suffered 3 heart attacks in a single week, she had never smoked, didn’t drink and was fit and healthy. But she was to find out that she had a rare heart defect that had gone undetected, SCAD (spontaneous coronary artery dissection) and is usually diagnosed post-mortem! Sally survived against all the odds. Determined to stay alive, she revolutionised her diet and through this book she now shares her secrets about healthy eating for life. The recipes in the cookbook are all eye pleasing, easy, filled with fresh ingredients and flavoured with herbs and spices. I’ve booked marked many recipes but decided to try out the Chilli Con Healthy first. I love chilli but for years have always used the same recipe, I have now been converted and will be using this recipe here on in. This chilli was amazing and my idea of comfort food. I served it along-side basmati rice and dollop of low-fat crème fraiche, which gave it a creamy texture. A must-try!

Chilli Con Healthy

Serves 4

450g extra lean mince beef
extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
400g can chopped tomaotes
1 level tbsp tomato puree
600ml beef stock
freshly ground black pepper
400g can red kidney beans, drained
chopped fresh coriander, to serve
low-fat natural yoghurt or crème fraiche (optional), to serve

In a large, lidded saucepan, dry-fry the minced beef until brown over a hight heat. Drain off any fat. Turn down to a medium-low heat and add a splash of olive oil and then add the onion and garlic and cook gently until softened.

Add the chillies and all the spices and continue frying, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes.

Add the canned tomatoes, tomato puree and stock. Stir well and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is slightly reduced.

Season with pepper and add the drained kidney beans. Cover and heat through gently for another 30 minutes, adding a little extra stock if required.

Serve hot, sprinkled with chopped coriander leaves and a dollop of yoghurt or crème fraiche, and accompanied by basmati rice or a fresh salad.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Dorset Apple Cake

When we were at the lodge a few weekends back I came home with a bag full of cooking apples from the trees in the garden. There is something really satisfying about picking your own and then using your apples to make something truly delish, rather than just buying them in your local supermarket! After much thought on what to make I decided on this Apple Dorset Cake. I love Dorset and have spent some lovely camping holidays there, 2 of my favourite haunts are studland beach and durdle door. We were hoping to have gone back there this summer but with hubby away on business a lot and family over from Miami and Oz we missed out this year. This traditional apple cake can be found everywhere in Dorset and is utterly scrumptious. Hubby brought a large wedge to work and the slices did not last long on the plate. This cake has juicy apple chunks within a soft, moist, lemony almond sponge and would work equally well as a dessert with hot creamy custard.

Dorset Apple Cake

Serves 12

225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
450g bramley apples
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
225g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3 large free--range eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
25g ground almonds
1 tbsp Demerara sugar
Clotted cream to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Grease a deep 23-24cm-springform-cake tin and line with baking paper. Peel, core and cut the apples into 1cm pieces, and toss with the lemon juice.

Using an electric hand whisk, cream together the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, adding a little flour with each addition to keep the mixture smooth.

Sift the remaining flour and the baking powder into the bowl and gently fold into the butter mixture with the ground almonds. Stir in the apple pieces.

Spoon the cake mix into the prepared cake tin, level the top and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until well-risen, brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. If the cake starts to look a little too brown, cover with a sheet of baking paper after about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the tin and place on a serving plate. Dredge heavily with the extra caster sugar. Cut the cake into generous wedges and serve warm with a spoonful of clotted cream, if you like.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Moroccan Chicken with Sweet Potato Mash

Last night hubby and I enjoyed another healthy dinner, Moroccan Chicken with Sweet Potato Mash. It is a recipe from this month’s Good Food magazine, which I have had my eye on. It ticked all boxes for my healthy eating objectives. The dish delivered so much flavour for a relatively basic recipe. The caramelised onion sauce added depth of flavour to the spiced chicken seated upon the sweet potato mash. I thoroughly enjoyed creating and eating this. Another successful day in the Goddess’s Kitchen!

Moroccan Chicken with Sweet Potato Mash

Serves 4

1kg/2lb 4oz sweet potatoes, cubed
2 tsp ras el hanout, or a mix of ground cinnamon and cumin
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
200ml chicken stock
2 tsp clear honey
juice of ½ lemon
handful green olives, pitted or whole
20g pack coriander, leaves chopped

Boil the potatoes in salted water for 15 minutes or until tender. Mix the ras el hanout with seasoning, then sprinkle all over the chicken. Heat 1 tbsp oil in large frying pan, then brown the chicken for 3 mins on each side until golden.

Lift the chicken out of the pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 mins until softened. Add the stock, honey, lemon juice and olives, return the chicken to the pan, then simmer for 10 mins until the sauce is syrupy and the chicken cooked.

Mash the potatoes with 1 tbsp oil and season. Thickly slice each chicken breast and stir the coriander through the sauce. Serve the chicken and sauce over the mash.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Chicken and Broccoli Noodles

I’m really proud of myself, I have stuck with my healthy eating for a whole week without falling off the wagon. I for one know how hard it can be to get back into the swing of things when you’ve spent the last couple of weeks indulging in not so healthy food. But I’ve gotten through that craving food all the time cycle, which was getting ridiculous and I’m starting to feel better again. I’m actually having fun looking for and planning new recipes to make and realising once again that cutting down on fat doesn’t mean you have to miss out on delicious food. Last night for dinner we enjoyed this Chicken and Broccoli Noodles, another instalment from 101 Low-Fat Feasts. It was quick, very tasty and one more to add to my definitely will make this again list!

Chicken and Broccoli Noodles

Serves 2-3

250g packet egg noodles
350g broccoli florets
2 tbsp olive oil
2.5cm/1inch piece fresh root ginger, grated
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
bunch of spring onions, trimmed and cut in half horizontally, large ones cut in half again vertically
3 tbsp soy sauce
200ml chicken or vegetable stock

Cook the noodles in a pan of salted boiling water for 5 minutes, adding the broccoli for the last 2 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat a wok or frying pan until very hot. Add the oil, then stir in the ginger and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Add the chicken strips and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until tinged brown. Add the spring onions and stir briefly to heat through.

Mix the soy sauce and stock together and stir into the pan. Tip the drained noodles and broccoli into the pan, season with black pepper and toss everything together. Serve immediately.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

National Cupcake Week ~ Vanilla Cupcakes

This week has been National Cupcake Week to celebrate our love of cupcakes and the many wonderful and delicious recipes. I have a serious love affair with cupcakes and my kitchen is testament to it, I even named my pink kitchenaid mixer Cupcake. I haven’t baked any pretty cupcakes in a while and I wasn’t going to miss out on this perfect opportunity. I have tons of cupcake cookbooks but there was only one recipe in my mind and one that I felt that was only right that I baked, the Vanilla Cupcakes that Jules aka Rosie presented for our monthly bake at Sweet and Simple Bakes. Jules was a cupcake lover too and these cupcakes will forever remind me of my dear friend whom I miss. So I dedicate these cupcakes to her memory. As you can see these cupcakes are pink, girly and totally delish!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 12

175g (6 oz) self-raising flour
1½ level tsp baking powder
175g (6 oz) butter, softened
175g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
3 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Buttercream Icing
150g (5oz) butter, softened
300g (11 oz) icing (confectioners) sugar, sifted
1 tbsp milk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Edible food colouring(s) of choice, optional
Sprinkle(s) for decoration of choice

You will also require 12 holed muffin tin lined with 12 paper muffin cases


Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Sift the self-raising flour and baking powder into a large bowl, and then add the butter, caster sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Beat together until well mixes, trying not to over mix the mixture. Spoon the mixture equally into the prepared paper cases and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out to completely cool on a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter until soft. Add the icing sugar and stir until it’s just mixed in, then add the milk and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Divide into as many bowls as you want different colour(s) and add edible food colouring (you only require a few drops). This is purely optional should you wish to leave out the edible food colouring(s) and keep the buttercream natural. Spread the icing on thickly with a palette knife on top of each cupcake or put the icing into a piping back and make a large swirl on top of each cupcake. Decorate each cupcake with your chosen sprinkle(s).

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Prawns with Tomato and Feta

I have a confession to make, remember my healthy eating mission? Well for the past few weeks I’ve done terrible! So I decided after feeling bloated, unhealthy and my clothes starting to feel tight I needed to get back on track. I needed some motivation and found it in the Good Food 101 Low-fat Feasts cookbook that was nestled amongst the other cookbooks on the shelf. I immediately found lots of great recipes which looked yummy and I choose this Prawn and Tomato with Feta dish for dinner. This Mediterranean inspired recipe was super easy and quick and the feta bought a new dimension of flavour to all the other ingredients. I served it alongside rice but it would be equally at home with pasta. Hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed this and it felt good to know I was eating healthy food again.

Prawns with Tomato and Feta

Serves 2-3

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
350g large peeled prawns, thawed if frozen
100g feta
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Rice or pasta to serve

Heat the tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan, add the onions and fry gently for about 7 minutes, until softened and light brown. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of sugar and simmer for 5 minutes.

Throw in the prawns, season and cook gently for 5 minutes until the prawns are thoroughly hot.

Serve spooned over rice or pasta. Crumble over the feta and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Autumn Damson Crunch Cake

I’m feeling a little better, yet still not 100% but my gorgeous hubby has been working from home this week and been looking after me. I decided to venture into my beloved kitchen today, there is only so much I can take of laying in bed watching TV, and made this Autumn Damson Crunch Cake. Plus I needed to use up the damsons we bought home from the lodge before they go off. This cake is moist, moreish and has the most wonderful, crunchy sugarplum topping. Although I couldn’t quite bring myself to use the amount of sugar the recipe states for the topping, I only used half and omitted the rough sugar pieces and it was sweet enough. Wishing you all a lovely weekend and watch this space for cupcakes coming soon!

Autumn Damson Crunch Cake

2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
140g butter, softened
140g golden caster sugar
140g self-raising flour
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
200g damsons or plums, stoned, half roughly chopped into pieces and half cut into wedges

For the topping
1 ½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
200g golden caster sugar
25g rough sugar pieces (or sugar cubes), roughly crushed

Preheat the oven to 160oC/fan oven 140oC/gas mark 3. Butter and line the base of a 900g/2lb loaf tin. Lightly beat the eggs and egg yolk with a pinch of salt.

Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Pour in the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour with the orange zest and 2 tablespoons of the juice, then fold in the roughly chopped damsons. Spoon into the prepared tin and scatter the damson wedges over. Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack. Mix the remaining orange juice with the lemon juice and caster sugar. Spoon over the cooling cake and sprinkle with the crushed sugar pieces. Cool until set.

Above is a pic of the Damsons we picked from the trees at the lodge.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Coconut and Cherry Banana Bread

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet as I’m not feeling too great today but I felt the need to blog my latest creation from Nigella Kitchen. We had a lovely weekend at the lodge and bought back lots of handpicked produce. Blackberries from the clearing in the woods, apples and damsons from the garden.

Hubby left for Madrid on Monday and was back last night so I kept myself busy in his absence making blackberry and apple jam, damson jam and this Coconut and Cherry Banana Bread. This has been another roaring success from the book, even with the unusual combination of coconut, cherry and banana, which I would never have thought to put together. It actually works beautifully and hubby was more than happy to arrive back to a slice of this home-baked goodness!

Coconut and Cherry Banana Bread

125g soft unsalted butter
4 small-medium bananas
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g dried cherries
100g desiccated coconut

1 x 900g (2lb) loaf tin

Preheat the oven to 170oC/fan oven 150oC/gas mark 3. Put a loaf liner into your tin, or line the bottom of the tin with baking parchment and grease the sides.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, and take it off the heat. Peel and mash the bananas in another bowl.

Beat the sugar into the cooled, melted butter, then beat in the mashed bananas and the eggs. Fold in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Finally, add the dried cherries and coconut.

Fold well so that everything is incorporated, then pour and scrape into the lined loaf tin and smooth the top.

Bake for about 50 minutes, but start checking after 45. When ready, the bread will be coming away from the sides of the tin and feel quite heartily bouncy on top.

Once of the oven, leave it in the tin for 10 minutes. Then carefully slip the cake out of the tin (still in the liner) onto a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

September Plum Cake

September is plum season here in the UK and I was totally inspired to make the Plum Cake from Lotte’s Country Kitchen cookbook when my good friend/neighbour gave me some home-grown plums. I’ve never baked with plums, shocking right? But there’s a first time for everything. This cake was everything I imagined it would be and more, wonderfully moist, juicy, fluffy, full of flavour and totally scrummy. Hubby arrived back from Dubai on Monday and must have missed my baked goodies, there isn’t a crumb left! We are off to the lodge tomorrow for the weekend and I’ve been busy baking Mincemeat Buns and a Chocolate Banana Bread to bring. Have a lovely weekend everyone and see you soon. x

September Plum Cake

Makes one 23cm/9 inch cake

butter, for greasing
8 plums, halved and stoned
225g/8oz butter, softened
225g/8oz soft light brown sugar
grated zest of ½ orange
4 large eggs
175g/6oz self-raising flour, sieved
½ tsp baking powder
50g/2oz ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 180oC/fan oven 160oC/gas mark 4.

Grease the line a 23cm/9 inch springform cake tin.

Place the plum halved, skin side down, on the bottom of the prepared cake tin.

Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest together in a medium mixing bowl, using a wooden spoon or free-standing mixer, until pale and fluffy.

Beat the eggs into the creamed mixture, one at a time. Add 1 tsp of flour to the mixture between each addition. This is quite a runny cake mixture so don’t worry. It might even look a bit curdled, but it’s absolutely fine. The large eggs make for a lovely moist eggy cake that tastes delicious.

Using a metal spoon, fold in the rest of the flour, the baking powder and the ground almonds and pour the mixture over the plums in the cake tin.

Spread the mixture evenly in the tin with the back of a metal spoon and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove, cover loosely with foil and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then turn it out onto a wire rack.