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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Blackberry Gin (for Christmas!)

This week, I will mostly be making Blackberry Gin. You can substitute the gin for vodka, and the blackberries for damsons*, sloes*, plums* or raspberries. If you have a sweet tooth (I have a gin tooth not a sweet one), use 500g of sugar instead. Don't forget you can always add it later though.

Take a big, clip top (or screw top) jar and fill with the following:

1 litre of gin (not the good stuff)
675g blackberries
375g sugar

Seal jar.
Give it a good shake.
Keep shaking every few days until sugar dissolves.
Keep the jar in a dark place for about 3 months.

Strain the gin from the fruit (save it to make a grown up pudding at Christmas).

Test gin extensively before rebottling to make sure it's sweet enough. If it's not add a bit of sugar.

*If using damsons, sloes or plums, shove them into the freezer overnight before making this recipe to avoid staining your hands and stabbing yourself with a fork (you need to break the skins first).

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Chickpea and apricot curry

I've tweaked another Jack Monroe recipe to make it Slimming World friendly. My husband saw me with the recipe book out and was pleased to see we'd be having it for dinner, so I hope my version lives up to the original!

1 can chickpeas
5 apricots
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 carrot
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp spicy paprika
1 carton passata
1 veg stock cube
Fresh coriander, to serve

Finely chop the carrot, onion and garlic (I actually grated them today as I'd already got the food processor out to make these delicious falafels - just leave out the flour and use a little chickpea water to help bind them).

Fry the onion, garlic, carrot and chilli together until soft along with the spices.

Add the passata, the stock cube and a little extra water if necessary.

Drain the chickpeas (reserve the liquid to try some of these recipes) and add to the pan, leaving to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Just before serving, stir through the apricots.

Serves 2

Thursday, 17 March 2016

SP Vegetable Curry

I've recently found some success following Slimming World, and in particular the plan which advocates lots of veg and protein. It's surprisingly easy to follow and I've been eating very well!

I've adapted my pork and aubergine curry to take account of what I had in the fridge, and I've replaced the potatoes in the original recipe with butternut squash (on cheap in Asda).

Both recipes are inspired by Monroe's (or Jonaki's) Baba Gosht.

2 diced onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
350g each of carrot and butternut squash, diced
2 aubergine
1/2 tsp each of ground ginger, cinnamon and tumeric
1 tsp ground cumin
a pinch of salt
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Half a tin of water
8 blocks frozen spinach
fresh coriander

Spray a large frying pan with frylight. Add onion, carrot and squash and fry until softened.

Reduce heat and add spices. Add a splash of water, then add the chilli and garlic.

Add the tomatoes and half a tin of water.

Add the spinach. Bring it back to the boil for a minute, add the chunks of aubergine, cover and simmer for 20min or so until tender.

Serve with fresh coriander if you have any in!

Serves 4-6

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Pork and Aubergine Curry

I'm not one for food fads, but I am a sucker for a good cookbook.  I read them like novels sometimes, and it's a rare thing indeed for me to regularly cook several recipes from one author's books.

My favourite cookery writer at the moment is Jack Monroe, who essentially writes delicious budget conscious recipes that don't use ridiculous ingredients.

I've got some great ideas from Monroe's books and blog. On a very chilly walk home from the park this afternoon, I found two wrinkly aubergines for 35p each. Instead of pork chops for tea, I thought an adaptation of Monroe's (or Jonaki's) Baba Gosht was in order.

2 diced onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
3 pork steaks (about 300g), diced
1 aubergine
1/2 tsp each of ground ginger, cinnamon and tumeric
1 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
a pinch of salt
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin new potatoes
200ml water
fresh coriander

Spray a large frying pan with frylight. Add bay leaves and cook until fragrant.

Reduce heat and add spices. Add a splash of water so it looks like curry paste, then add the onion, chilli and garlic. You may need to add a little more water at this point. Cook on a low heat for 5-10 min and stir now and again.

Add the meat (doesn't have to be pork - anything you have to hand: quorn or chunks of mushroom) and the aubergine. Cook on a low heat until meat is sealed, then pour over the tomatoes and half a tin (200ml) water. Bring it back to the boil for a minute, add the tinned potatoes (sliced) then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30min or so.

Serve sprinkled with coriander.

Serves 3

Monday, 15 February 2016

Easy Pasta Bake

I cooked a massive chicken on Sunday and managed to have some left on Monday despite Wonder Boy adoring all kinds of meat. I know it was cooked the Slimming World way because I'd skinned the chicken before cooking it in the slow cooker so it was steamed/poached really.

I had 3/4 of a bag of pasta in the cupboard and some ratatouille in the fridge.

The topping sounds really weird but the eggs stabilise the yoghurt and prevent it from curdling. It's now my go-to recipe to use instead of white sauce: it works every time, it's much less faff and it's good for you!

This was brilliant comfort food, and quite happily sat in the fridge for 24hours. I've frozen these types of bakes before too - cooked and uncooked.

Cook the pasta (slightly under cook it)
Drain, and mix with chopped chicken and ratatouille.
Thoroughly mix together the ff natural yoghurt and eggs.
Spread the yoghurt/egg mix over the top of the bake.
Sprinkle the mozzarella (I used 120g) on top.

Bake for 20 - 30 min on 180°C

Ideally this should be served with a big salad.

Serves 3 (or 2 adults and 2 hungry children) generously.

1 x Healthy extra A per portion

Sunday, 14 February 2016

100% wholewheat bread

I love this recipe for 100% wholewheat bread from the Canadian website Robin Hood, but I find it too sweet for my taste so I've adapted it slightly.

It's a good way of smuggling fibre into small people (when I made bread with a class of 7year olds they preferred brown to white) particularly when there's no other choice of bread!

The eggs help it to rise and be less dense than some other brown breads.

I have a Panasonic breadmaker where you have to add the yeast first then the flour, but I could have used my Kenwood with the dough hook or my hands.

The advantage of using the Kenwood or hands is that you can add more water if you need to - if a dough looks too wet you just might need to knead it for longer so the flour absorbs the water.

This time I used the breadmaker on the pizza dough setting, but after it finished the dough looked too 'tight' so I added a drop more water and set it on the cycle again. Doesn't seem to have harmed the finish!

2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast (I used Dove's farm)
6 cups wholewheat flour
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 cup water
2 eggs
2 tbsp oil (not olive oil, I used sunflower)

Check the instructions on your breadmaker if you're using one - with mine I add it in the order I've listed the ingredients then set it to the shortest dough setting (pizza, 45min).

Once it's made, shape into rolls, pinch some for pizza or put the whole lot in a well greased loaf tin. (Use this - just using oil meant the bread nearly stuck in the pan!)

With rolls or loaves, leave them to prove (rise) for about an hour if you can.

This dough made pizza for a permanently hungry boy, and a large loaf.

I baked the loaf on 200°C for 10 min, then reduced the heat to 180°C for about 35min.

A loaf (or roll) is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. If you're making rolls reduce the cooking time.

The pizza got thrown in a hot oven on its highest setting for 10min and only didn't burn to a crisp because Wonder Boy was starving and wanted to see if it was ready.

Slimming World followers, I count 60g of this bread as a healthy extra b.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Malted Granary Rolls

I was lucky enough to go on a Waring's Bakery Masterclass in December, and it gave me a renewed love of hand baking* bread. Consequently, we've enjoyed plenty of yeasted bakes over the Christmas period which maybe hasn't been so good for our waistlines. We do have a very full freezer though!

*When I say hand baking, I learned a fantastic hand baking method from the course, which was great in a kitchen where I didn't have to do the washing up or have someone hovering around trying to make a cup of tea/sandwich/get in the way. At home, I have a Kenwood Mixer with a dough hook, and I'm trying to apply some of the principles I learned on the course to using the dough hook.

One of the tips I picked up was that if the dough looks too wet when you first knead it, it could be that you haven't kneaded the dough enough. It's amazing how kneading it for a little longer means that the dough comes together better and changes in texture.


25g fresh yeast, stirred into 160ml water

2 tbsp malt extract

600g Granary Flour

100g Wholemeal Flour

1.5 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

25g  butter, diced

200ml water


Stir the fresh yeast into 160ml of lukewarm water and set to one side for a few minutes.

Add the flours to the mixing bowl along with the sugar, salt, malt extract and butter.

Add the yeast and water mixture and start the machine kneading on a low speed (using the dough hook).

Gradually add most of the rest of the water. Increase the speed of the machine and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough starts to come together and away from the sides of the bowl.

Leave the  dough to prove for about an hour until doubled in size (I reckon mine increased in size by more than that!)

Shape the dough into equal pieces. Make each roll smooth, keeping any seams or joins on the underside of the roll.
I made a baker's dozen (13), and the rolls were a fairly decent size. The smaller the roll, the quicker it will take to cook.

Leave to prove again for about half an hour. Space them out on a baking sheet allowing them room to rise without touching each other. I leave mine to prove on the hob whilst the oven is heating.

Place in a preheated hot oven for 20 min (mine is a fan oven and I heated it to 200 degrees C). Turn the trays of rolls around after 10min to ensure they cook evenly.

When they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, they are cooked!

Cool on a wire rack under a damp teatowel for about ten minutes so that they're not too crispy.