Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Breakfast Bran Muffins

Lots of my Meal Planning Monday readers expressed an interest in these muffins so I thought that I'd share the recipe with you! It actually worked!

I made these because I wanted something to have between breakfast and lunch to save me succumbing to crisps or a chai latte and caramel waffle from Starbucks. I am a little and often eater, so need to graze, but often don't graze on the right things! Lately I have been having a smoothie or carrots and salsa which haven't quite hit the spot, so I gave these muffins a go.

Hummingbird describe it as "having cake for breakfast" but they do actually feel more virtuous and definitely kept me "topped up" til lunch.

This recipe is from their "Cake Days" book. 

Breakfast Bran Muffins
(makes 10-12)

180g plain wholemeal flour
50g rolled oats
50g All Bran (note - NOT Bran Flakes!)
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
20g raisins
20g sunflower seeds
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
pinch of salt
120g soft light brown sugar
250ml whole milk
2 eggs (large, at room temp)
80g butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 170degC and line a muffin tin with muffin cases
Put the flour, oats, All Bran, orange zest, raisins, seeds, baking powder, bicarb of soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl or mixer and mix together.
Pour the milk into a jug and crack the eggs into it, whisking it all together.
Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and whilst mixing at a slow speed, pour the wet ingredients in slowly. When the ingredients have come together, increase the speed to medium and pour in the melted butter.
Once it is all incorporated, spoon the mixture into the cases, filling them about 3/4 full.
Bake in the oven for 18 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and springy


They are delicious - I am most definitely back on speaking terms with Hummingbird Bakery! They taste wholesome, the raisins and seeds providing nice texture. They are not too sweet either, yet feel like a treat. I might make a new changes next time, perhaps adding grated carrot or a pinch of cinnamon. 

Have you got any elevenses favourites?
post signature

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Auntie Vi's Honey Chilli Chicken

My husband sacrificed a lot to come and settle in Somerset when we got married - he left his job, his family and friends, and the country he was born in! But most important and sacrificial of all were the foods he left behind, staple favourites which cannot be found here in England. Namely:
Pear-picking Porky and Polly Pineapple ice lollies from Dale Farm (no, not the travellers' site, it's a dairy!)
Veda bread (malted bread, no fruit, delicious toasted with butter and cheese)
Tayto crisps (cheese and onion crisps that taste like no other!)
Fifteens and top hats (tray bakes which grace the table at every single child's birthday party)
Sausage and egg sodas (no, not a drink - sausage and egg on a toasted soda bread)
And..... honey chilli chicken

Honey chilli chicken can be found on any Chinese takeaway menu in Northern Ireland. It is one of the most popular dishes, and yet it seems to be exclusive to Ulster. Since moving to England hubby has yet to see it served in any Chinese restaurant either here or in Devon where my parents live. He has had frequent tantrums about this, believe me. So in a vague attempt to shut him up placate him, we have endeavoured to make our own. This recipe is from his Auntie Vi, so it is authentically Norn Iron! There is a lot of chopping and preparation but I personally love that. Once it is all ready this dish is fairly simple to make.

Honey Chilli Chicken
(serves 4 - 6)
Cut up some chicken - you can use any type you want. Auntie Vi recommends drumsticks, we used thighs. You could use breast as well. As long as you have enough for 4-6 portions (we used 12 thighs). Cut it up nice and small so it is bitesized, then toss it in some flour seasoned liberally with salt and pepper.

Heat 3 TBSP sunflower or groundnut oil in a wok or deep saucepan. Fry the chicken in batches and then put in an ovenproof dish. The flour will make it nice and crispy. Just fry it til it is brown and then transfer to a 150degC oven to keep warm. 

Discard the oil from your wok, give it a wipe, and put in 2 TBSP of fresh oil. Fry 2 chopped onions, 3 crushed garlic cloves, and 3 tsp grated ginger until soft. Add 5 TBSP honey, a diced red pepper, a diced green pepper, and 2 chopped red chillis (we deseeded ours, you might feel a little more brave!). Fry for a few moments.

Mix 1 TBSP soy sauce, 4 tsp cornflour, 2 TBSP lemon juice, 3 tsp hot chilli powder, and 1 pint water in a jug (we did this beforehand so it was ready to go) and pour into the wok. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the sauce has thickened. Give it a taste to see if you want to add more honey or chilli. 

Pour the sauce over the chicken and put back in the oven for 10 minutes to bubble and thicken.

Serve with boiled rice. 

Hubby declared it a success, and although it still doesn't beat a takeaway from Little Fat Buddha in Ballyhackamore, it's a close second!

post signature

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Pot Roast Meatloaf

I promised you this recipe and here it is. This meal was amazing, you need a bit of time to prepare it but it is well worth it.

It is from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food book, which Jewhurst got as a Christmas present from his mum. I like Jamie's recipes - he likes to use lots of ingredients to get maximum flavour, and his style of writing is easy to read.

Meatloaf is one of those dishes I always pictured to be processed and nasty, until I went to America and had some for Sunday dinner with garlic mash and green beans. I realised that meatloaf is a wholesome and tasty dish, made with pure minced beef rather than offcuts and fillers. It's basically a giant homemade beef burger, and therefore it didn't take much to convince Jewhurst to make it!

Jamie Oliver's Pot Roast Meatloaf (Jewhurst Family Version!)

Pre-heat your oven to full whack. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry off one onion, along with a teaspoon each of ground coriander and ground cumin. Once soft, put in a large bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, crush 12 Jacobs Cream Crackers in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or blitz in a food processor. Tip into the bowl of onions, and add 2 tsp dried oregano, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, and 500g minced beef. Crack in one egg and some seasoning, then with clean hands mix well. 

Place the meat mixture in a baking dish and mould into a fat rugby ball shape. Smear with some olive oil and put in the oven, turning the temperature down straight away to 200degC. Bake for 30 mins.

Meanwhile fry another onion in some olive oil, along with some garlic and a chopped red chilli. Sprinkle 1 tsp smoked paprika and some seasoning. When soft, tip in 2 tins chopped tomatoes, 2 TBSP each of Worcestershire Sauce and balsamic vinegar. I also added a sprinkle of sugar. It is here that Jamie adds chickpeas, but instead we opted for parboiled new potatoes cut into small chunks. Bring the mixture to the boil, then simmer on a low heat.

After the meatloaf has been in the oven 30 mins, bring it out and spoon the sauce around the edge. Put 12 rashers of streaky bacon over the meatloaf and the sauce, and return to the oven to cook for another 10-15 mins or until the bacon is crispy.

Slice up and serve with the sauce, and a nice dressed green salad.

Snapped just before Mum got stuck in!

This should serve 4 - 6, although there was 4 of us and not much left over.....! We are definitely making this again, not just because it is great for visitors but also because I reckon it would freeze brilliantly. No doubt you will see this on Meal Planning Monday posts in the future!

post signature

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Coconut and chocolate flapjacks

I had the most appalling night's sleep the other night. I was pretty much awake from 1.30-5am, spending half of it lying in the darkness and the other half downstairs with a hot chai latte and "Bloody Tales from the Tower" on National Geographic. Anyway, I think I might have had a touch of insomnia-induced delirium because at about 3am I took a sudden notion to make flapjacks. I resisted, knowing that the sound of the KitchenAid would probably wake my husband if not our neighbour as well. I did get as far as looking up a couple of recipes and last night I made them at a much more sociable hour.

This recipe is a mix of Good Food and Mary Berry, and like the Pollo Alla Cacciatora earlier it was not without its issues. But the end result is lovely :)

Coconut and chocolate flapjacks

Throw 250g porridge oats and 55g desiccated coconut into a bowl or freestanding mixer. Meanwhile melt 125g butter, 125g soft brown sugar and 3 TBSP golden syrup in a saucepan. 

Pour the melted caramel into the oats and coconut and mix thoroughly.

Gratuitous KitchenAid shot? Why not!

Allow the mixture to cool SLIGHTLY - don't leave it too long or it'll go hard (yes, I am speaking from experience). Mix in 100g chocolate chips/chunks then transfer to a greased baking tin. A medium one will be fine, mine (a Jamie Oliver brownie tin) was far too big.

Bake at 170degC for 20 mins or so, keep an eye on it though - it may need more or may cook quicker depending on the size of your tin.

Once out of the oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into pieces (again, how many depends on the size of your tin). Allow to cool in the tin for another 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack.

Coconut and chocolate flapjacks
They are lovely - slightly crunchy but with a nice chewy texture too. Excellent with a cup of tea!
post signature

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Pollo alla Cacciatora (Hunter's Chicken)

I was in 2 minds about whether or not to blog about this or not. I was a bit disappointed in the taste to be honest. But Gary encouraged me to blog about it anyway so I could say what I would different, so here it is.

This is a Nigella Express recipe, adapted for the slow cooker. You can see the original recipe here.

Pollo Alla Cacciatora
(serves 4)

Heat some garlic oil (or oil and a bit of garlic) in a pan, then add 6 chopped spring onions and 75g of bacon lardons. Sprinkle some dried herbs and fry for a few moments.

Add 3 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces, and brown in the pan for a few moments. Transfer to a slow cooker and add 400g chopped tomatoes, 110ml white wine, 2 bay leaves and a teaspoon of sugar. Cook on low heat for 8 hours (or if you are pushed for time, 6 hours on medium or 4 hours on high).

Add a 400g tin of canellini beans for the last 30 minutes - crank the heat up to high as well. If it is too watery take the lid off and cook on high til it is reduced.

Serve with crusty bread, rice or pasta.

Pollo Alla Cacciatora

As you can see, it looks lovely. I just found the taste rather bland. I have a few theories:
  • I used cheap tinned tomatoes which usually doesn't make a difference but in this case I think I got what I paid for;
  •  A bit more sugar would bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes, instead they tasted quite bitter
  • The bitter taste might have also been down to the wine, perhaps adding it to the pan to cook out a bit rather than pouring into the slow cooker would work better next time
  • A splash of Worcestershire sauce, or tomato puree, might have lifted the flavour a bit
  • Ditto a sprinkling of Parmesan and some basil
Anyway, live and learn. Give it a go and see what you think - don't let my experience/lack of cooking skill put you off!

Oh, and by the way.........

Handed in this morning. Hooray!

post signature

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Guest post - Sour cherry and chocolate hot cross buns

So Easter is upon us and with it comes the usual treats of Easter biscuits, chocolate, and the good old hot cross bun. I love hot cross buns but I have never felt the urge to make them myself. So I was really pleased when my lovely friend Alice - my best friend from secondary school - agreed to write out the recipe for me to put on the blog. Over to Alice!

This is a recipe that I found in a free Waitrose recipe book about five years ago and they just appealed to my inner chocoholic!! I don’t like a lot of the shop brought hot cross buns as I don’t like the peel in them, so thought why not make my own!!! I have done them every Easter since and have become a firm favourite amongst my family!!! I love the zing you get from a sour cherry when you bite into it and the starting to melt chocolate inside. They are best eaten on the day you make them, but if you eat them the day after split them in half, pop on a baking tray and toast under the grill (not in the toaster) and serve spread with a bit of butter, they taste divine!!! Hope you enjoy as much as I do.

Sour Cherry and Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

(makes 12)

1) Sift 450g of very strong flour (white) ½ tsp of salt and 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon into a large bowl and lightly combine the ingredients. Add 50g caster sugar, 1 packet of 7g fast action dried yeast, 2 x 80g packs of Forest Feast Sour Cherries and 100g of dark chocolate chunks (I buy the dark Green and Blacks and chop into small pieces) and then stir until just combined.

2) Gently melt 50g butter in a small pan, add 250ml of semi-skimmed milk and heat for a minute until tepid. Pour in one large beaten egg and then stir enough of the milk mixture into the flour mixture to form a soft dough. Don’t panic if it feels really wet, it will become more elastic when you knead it.

3) Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 mins until smooth and elastic. Divide it into 12 equal pieces and shape into balls. Make sure at this point you push and chocolate or cherries into the middle of your dough so it doesn’t ooze out when you bake it. Transfer onto two large baking sheets which you have lined with grease proof paper and cover with lightly oiled cling film. Leave to prove in a warm place for about 1-1 1/2 hours (I put mine in my airing cupboard). They should double in size

4) Preheat the oven to 190 Celsius, gas mark 5. To decorate the crosses, put approx 50g of plain flour in a bowl and gradually add 5-6 tbsp cold water until you have a smooth paste, you want it like wall paper paste, but not too runny. Spoon this into a piping bag with a small/medium nozzle (the recipe said if you didn’t have one to use a plastic food bag and to cut the end off but I tried this once with disastrous results!!!). The neatly pipe a cross over each bun. Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins (I swop shelves and turn them around after 10 mins) until golden in colour.

5) While they are baking, make the glaze by placing about 3 tbsp of semi-skimmed milk in a small pan, about the same of cold water and ½ tsp of ground cinnamon and 50g caster sugar and heat gently for 2-3 minutes, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. When they are cooked, transfer to a cooling rack and brush the glaze over each one twice (do this straight away).

6) Allow to cool and enjoy!!!!

They do look absolutely amazing and may well tempt me into making my own next year!

Thanks Alice!

post signature

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Mary Berry's Iced Chocolate Traybake

I thought I would be a good housewife and do some baking while Jewhurst was out at hockey today. Any excuse to use my beautiful KitchenAid after all...! We were given Mary Berry's Baking Bible for a wedding present and I have to say it's one of those cookbooks I would happily read for pleasure not just for baking. I love her old-school style, the way she loves precision, and the fact she is not precious about using organic, expensive, speciality products.

The name of this cake confused me, because where I come from a tray bake doesn't have to have been made in a tray - it's more defined by being bite-size and the fact you have it with a cup of tea - things such as coconut balls, fifteens or top hats. Tray bakes in NI are the key components of a summer camp, church tea or birthday party. However in this context a traybake seems to be a cake made in a sheet pan rather than a round tin. So I was interested to see how it would turn out.

Mary is well known for her precision baking and so I will be writing the recipe in the traditional style of ingredients then method, rather than my more informal style in previous recipes. I don't know about you but even though I like a more relaxed, "slap dash" approach to cooking, when it comes to baking I like to have all my ingredients out and ready, so I know I am following the recipe to the letter.

Iced Chocolate Tray Bake

Ingredients - for the cake

4 level TBSP cocoa powder
4 TBSP hot water
225g softened butter
225g caster sugar
275g self-raising flour
2 level tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
1 TBSP milk

For the icing
4 TBSP apricot jam (I used raspberry and there was no difference in taste)
150g plain chocolate such as Bournville (39% cocoa solids)
6 TBSP water
350g sifted icing sugar
1 tsp sunflower oil


1. Preheat oven to 180deg/Gas Mark 4. Grease a large brownie or swiss roll tin and line the bottom with baking parchment

2. Blend together the cocoa and hot water, and leave to cool. Put the remaining cake ingredients in one bowl or freestanding mixture, pour in the chocolate mixture, and beat until well blended. Turn the mixture into the tray and level the top

3. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 mins (I actually took it out earlier because it was done after 30 mins) or when the cake springs back when touched and has started to shrink away from the sides. Leave to cool in the tin.

I actually let it cool then tipped it onto a wire rack to cool. Shhh, don't tell Mary!

4. To make the icing, warm the jam in a tiny saucepan or a bowl in the microwave, and brush over the cake

You *could* skip this step I reckon. To my mind, it didn't add anything to the recipe, as you are using soft icing rather than fondant which needs to stick. It's up to you, but I will just say that 4 TBSP is too much - I had loads left.

5. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt gently in a saucepan with the water. When smooth and melted, mix in the oil and then leave to cool slightly before mixing into the icing sugar.

6. Pour over the cake and smooth gently with a spatula or palette knife dipped in hot water. Decorate with chocolate shavings from the remaining Bournville (Mary's suggestion) or Malteasers (my suggestion!)

This photo was taken on my phone so apologies for the quality, but it gives you a good idea of the size and consistency and my ridiculously bad icing skills.

It tasted lovely - light, "springy" (Jewhurst's words) and really chocolatey.

Cheers Mary!

post signature

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Recipe Shed - Chicken and Ham Pie

Recipe Shed

It's pies this week on Reluctant Housedad's Recipe Shed, which worked perfectly with our plans for a chicken and ham pie that we'd been thinking of making for a few weeks!

My mum did us a joint of ham at Christmas - my mum's Christmas ham is legendary. She roasts it with honey and cloves, and then makes the most incredible lentil soup with the stock. Unfortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it) she made rather a lot and we had quite a few slices left over even 5 days later. So we threw them in the freezer and set about finding a way to use them up.....and discovered this. It's a Good Food recipe, tweaked a bit to suit our tastes and storecupboard.

Chicken and Ham Pie
(serves 6)

Put 6 cubed chicken breasts in a large pan, along with 3 or 4 cubed potatoes, and a variety of veg (we used frozen peas and sweetcorn but carrots, broccoli or celery would work as well). Add 800ml hot chicken stock, dried herbs, and seasoning. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.

Place a colander over a large bowl and drain the contents of the pot. Reserve 1 pint of the hot stock and put the chicken and veg to one side. Rinse out the pot and melt 50g of butter. Add 2 chopped onions and cook out for 5 minutes. Stir in 50g plain flour then begin to add the hot stock a little at a time to make a smooth thick sauce. We used the full pint but on reflection it made the sauce quite watery so perhaps don't use it all. Add 300ml milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat and stir in the juice of a lemon. Put the chicken and vegetables in a large pie dish, along with as much cooked ham as you fancy (we used 4 large thick slices) and cover with the sauce, allowing to cool for a while.

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Take a 500g pack of ready rolled shortcrust pastry (or be really virtuous and make your own) and place it over the top of the pie dish. Add a few steam holes and decorate with pastry leaves, if you are so inclined!

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. We had this on its own but to make it go further you could serve it some more veg, or (Jewhurst's suggestion) chips....!

Isn't it a beaut? It tasted AMAZING. The clove from the ham gave it a nice warmth without overpowering it, the chicken was tender and the potatoes gave an interesting texture to the filling. I also thought that perhaps the filling could be made in the slow cooker to really intensify the chicken and vegetable flavour.
Have a look at some other pies on Reluctant Housedad's blog. What's your favourite pie?

I have also linked this up to Mrs M's Recipe Link Party
post signature

Friday, 6 January 2012

Recipe Shed: Healthy New Year

Recipe Shed

Time to hook up with the Recipe Shed from Reluctant Housedad again, and what better theme to kick off the new year than the healthy stuff! We can all admit to over indulging a bit over Christmas but going healthy is always so much easier when the recipe is a tasty one which is interesting to make and attractive to the eye.

My contribution is from Slimming World, a recipe I nabbed from my mum's SW book. I have no idea about the Syns/points/calories etc., but I am guessing that the absence of fats or dairy products, not to mention the presence of healthy fillers like rice and pulses, means that it's a safe bet for a healthy diet.

Rice-filled Peppers
Serves 1

Chop one red pepper in half and scoop out the seeds and white membrane. Leave the stalk intact to help keep the filling in the pepper (not to mention making it look pretty!). Meanwhile fry a small onion in a little oil - I used coconut oil which is a healthy option - and add 1/4 tsp each of chilli flakes, paprika, and dried mixed herbs. Cook out until the onion is soft. Add a portion of cooked rice, a small tin of kidney beans, and some sweetcorn. Taste for seasoning - I added some Ludlow sauce for tanginess but Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce would also add nice flavour. Spoon the rice mixture into the peppers and bake in an oven for 40 mins at 180 deg.

(Funny story behind this photo - I managed to upend one of the peppers transferring it to the plate. Literally upside down pepper with filling everywhere. You can see a few rogue grains of rice I missed with the kitchen roll...)

If you want to gather a few more ideas for healthy food to balance out the Christmas splurge then head over to Keith's blog and check out the entries!

post signature

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Mars Bar Trifle

Trifle. Love it or hate it? I am not the biggest fan, although I wouldn't say I *hated* it, but I tend to only like the cheap ones with not a lot of fruit or alcohol in them, which kind of defeats the purpose. I saw this recipe in my December edition of Essentials magazine and knew I had to try it immediately. However when there are just 2 of you in the house it is slightly ridiculous to make a pudding that would serve about 6 people, so I saved it for Christmas Eve down at my mum's. I promise you, when you eat this, you will die and go to Heaven....

Mars Bar Trifle
(serves 6... maybe more if you are conservative with portions!)

Slice 12 Mars Bar mini rolls and layer them along the bottom of your trifle bowl. Then pour over 1 tin of caramel - like Nestle Dulce du Leche or similar - and smooth over with a hot spoon. Meanwhile, heat 1 regular sized carton of Ambrosia chocolate custard in a saucepan, then dissolve 3 gelatin sheets which have been soaking in cold water for a few moments into the custard. Pour the custard over the caramel and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Whip up 200g whipping cream, and spoon over the custard. Finish off with chopped Mars Bar (2 is enough) and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Apologies for the spectacularly crap picture. I had to use my phone and the light in my mum's kitchen was poor. Do you like the retro trifle bowl? My mum's, obviously.......... ; )

There are a few changes I would make to the recipe next time. First of all, I would do individual portions, unless I knew I was feeding a crowd. It is a delicious recipe but too big for just 4. You need to give small portions because it is so rich. Secondly I don't know if I would bother with heating the custard and adding gelatin. It made the custard very solid and I didn't like the texture when I was eating it. I guess it is to make a more stable base for the cream but I reckon it would be fine just to chill it, or just add the one leaf of gelatin.

Let me know if you make it and what you thought of it!

post signature