Tuesday, 26 June 2012

rhubarb muffins

yesterday we were given some rhubarb from a friend's garden so we came up with these yummy little muffins.
the kids LOVED having these for pudding last night and breakfast this morning!
preheat the oven to 180F.
while the oven is preheating, roast for 15mins (or until soft): 250g rhubarb (chopped) with 4 tsp caster sugar sprinkled over it

meanwhile melt 150g butter and leave to cool

mix 200g plain flour, 100g brown flour, 100g caster sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon 

in a separate bowl whisk 2 eggs, 300ml cream and the melted butter
put the cooked rhubarb on a plate to cool for a few minutes

fold the dry ingredients in to the wet ingredients and gently stir in the rhubarb

put in lined muffin cases and bake for 30mins

Saturday, 23 June 2012

quick & delicious quiches

Quiche is always on sale in the supermarkets and i always used to fall for it because i totally love quiche until i realised i was disappointed every time and in fact found the taste pretty gross. each time i hoped it would taste better and it never did. so i decided to make my own. i found an amazing recipe and cooked it for a visitor - it took hours and we ate dinner at about 10pm. it tasted good but was so involved and complicated that i gave up on home-made quiche.... until i came across Clare's brilliant recipe over at Lovely Things to Make & Bake. It is so quick and easy and totally delicious... it met all my quiche expectations! i made it in a huge hurry in order to take it on a picnic with family. as usual i got the idea in my head to make quiche for our picnic tea for the kids in a National Trust House with beautiful rose gardens. i didn't leave enough time but could not possibly abandon my romantic idea of taking home-made quiche so i ploughed on with gusto - manicly throwing in ingredients. i let the kids help for about 5 minutes and then got too flustered and turned on the tv for them. i picked up my sister very late (she understood - she does the same thing when she gets a good notion) and we set off at high speed - we got lost, almost ran out of petrol in the middle of nowhere, got stuck behind a tractor and both kids fell fast asleep for the whole drive (=bedtime nightmare!). We arrived to find my sister-in-law and kids in an overflow parking field next to the stately home. it had closed half an hour before. ugggh..  we made the most and laid our blankets at the edge of the field as it slowly emptied of cars. there was in fact a sweet river (with face-height barbed wire) and lovely long grass for playing in. as the kids crawled and hid and lept and made paths and rooms in the long grass we reminisced about how much we all adored playing in long grass (when we were young, haven't done it much lately) - there is something magical about it. perhaps the kids will remember the long grass more than they would the beautifully manicured rose gardens. i will remember the quiche. even my kids loved the one i stuffed with sweetcorn and cheddar. 

here's how to make two quiches (this way you can do different fillings or pop one in the freezer. however you will want to eat a whole one yourself when you taste it):

combine and then mix together with your hands to form a dough: 250g plain flour, 100g butter and 3 tbs cold water. divide in to two balls, roll out and put in your quiche dishes

Fill the dishes with whatever vegetables and cheeses take your fancy. I did the following:
Quiche 1: lots of tinned sweetcorn, some crumbled feta cheese, sliced tomato and chunks of cheddar cheese (grate if you have time)
Quiche 2: large handful of spinach, lots of chunks of feta cheese, sliced tomatoes
Whisk 4 eggs and mix with 1/2 pint milk. season with salt & pepper. pour half of the mixture over each quiche filling and bake for about 30mins or until just turning golden.
still warm when we finally arrived
here is our spot - not too bad after all
the river
the long grass

i find it very satisfying packing picnics
cheese & avocado sandwiches (my & the kids favourite)
i hate unpacking picnics when you get home tired and have to scrape soggy smelly leftovers out of tupperware

Friday, 22 June 2012

american pancakes

it's 8pm and my exhausted kids are messing around - like yoyo's in and out of bed. much as i am desperate for them to go to sleep it warms my heart hearing them creeping out of bed and chuckling together. i even let them try sharing the top bunk at their request only to return to their lamp on, both kids sitting up, and Mr Z giving Little Miss M an earnest "lesson all about shadows". So i separated them on to their own bunks but Mr Z got completely obsessed with Little Miss M sleeping in his bed.... howling so hard and begging on and on.. nothing would quel his desperate soul. I said NO many times, explained Little Miss M was too little and would just keep messing around, said NO, got cross, explained why ... and then i gave in... good parenting lesson #1 - keep saying No and when they've screamed & begged long and hard enough give in and say Yes! i just couldn't quite resist the cuteness of him wanting his little sister to sleep in his bed... and by now it was so late i thought they'd probably pass out. it's all quiet so far..and i can't wait to peek at them asleep together on the top bunk.

i think tomorrow will be a slow pancake morning. american pancakes & bacon is the best start to a weekend. when we were first married Sam and i used to have this every saturday morning. it's nice to keep up the tradition when we have energy for it. my mother is american and used to make these for us all the time.

1.5 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp melted butter
1 cup milk (or yoghurt)
1 egg (lightly beaten)

fold the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients. stir very gently and briefly to combine. don't worry if there are big chunks of dry ingredients - the less stirring the better.
heat a fry pan to medium heat and melt a tiny bit of butter. for each pancake pour 1/4 cup of pancake mixture in to the pan. 
 when the pancakes have risen slightly and are starting to bubble, flip them with a spatula 
 do not add any more butter to the pan - just keep cooking and flipping your pancakes on a low/medium heat until they are golden brown
stack them on a plate in a low oven until you have used all the batter
serve in a stack with butter, greek yoghurt, fruit and maple syrup... and bacon if you're feeling adventurous
leftover pancakes are deeeelicious toasted with butter & jam and a cup of tea at 4pm

Thursday, 21 June 2012

apricot & apple cake

the second cake i made for my sister, to go with morning coffee, was inspired by a bowl of organic apricots that needed eating 
this cake has grated orange rind in it which Little Mr Z thought was the funniest and most ridiculous thing ever. he kept telling everyone that we put orange SKIN in the cake! - how crazy is that?? it is fun to make with kids because there is lots of nice fruit and veg chopping, grating, zesting and squeezing.

preheat oven to 180C

Mix 200g spelt flour, 1 tspn baking powder, 1 tspn bicarb of soda and 1 tspn cinnamon together in a large bowl
add juice of 2 oranges, 150ml agave syrup and 5 tbsp vegetable oil and mix well
add 150g grated carrot, 1 apple (peeled & chopped), zest of 1 orange, 8 fresh apricots (chopped)
mix well and spoon in to greased cake tin
sprinkle some brown sugar on top of the cake(optional)
bake for 45 minutes

be sure to let the cake cool before attempting to take it out of the tin otherwise it will fall apart which is what happened to me. i stuck it back together and covered it in cream cheese and honey icing and flowers from my brother's garden.

dark chocolate & beetroot cake

It was my little sister's birthday recently and, since being diagnosed with cancer, she is trying to cut down on her wheat and sugar intake. she's also been increasing her superfood intake. So i thought i would attempt a couple of birthday cakes - the first being full of beetroot and adapted to include very little wheat or sugar. although there is some debate about spelt flour - i think it is an ancient form of wheat so much better for you than normal flour but not good for people allergic to wheat.
i was in a bit of a rush with this cake so it is very quick & easy. it is not super-sweet which i really like (i am a dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate person - how about you?) and it tastes great served with creme fraiche.

i have a terrible time getting cakes to rise so this one i poured  in to a very small (15cm) cake tin and hooray - a nice big fat cake - rather than a rather sad-looking thin one. 

Here's how i made it:

heat oven to 190C
grate 2 medium beetroots in to a bowl
add a pinch of salt and
200g spelt flour
100g cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
3 tspn vanilla extract
100ml agave syrup

Mix well
pour in 200ml vegetable oil while mixing
add 100g dark chocolate broken in to small pieces and mix

Pour in to a greased cake tin and bake for 1 hour

little helper enjoying the batter

this cake followed a first course of artichokes - with mayonnaise for dipping
and a second course of salmon, potatoes, green beans, spicy lentils (stir-fry onion & red peppers with lots of turmeric and add puy lentils - yum!) and greek yoghurt
so our first course was accompanied by mayonnaise, second course accompanied by greek yoghurt and dessert accompanied by creme fraiche. i started feeling a little sick of white slimy sauces by the end of the meal and could feel my satisfied (or horrified?) arteries pumping away.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

rice krispie treats

These are the easiest things in the world to make - 3 ingredients and no cooking - a truly quick and easy treat. i don't have a sweet tooth so was expecting them to be pretty gross & sugary but i actually found them really delicious & moreish.  the kids loved making and eating and sharing them with friends.  Mr Z loved sticking all the tiny chocolate eggs in to the mix and when he was eating them exclaimed loudly "i LOVE finding treasure". rice krispies and marshmallows are two of Mr Z's favourite things, along with ice-cream and chocolate so these babies with a chocolate milkshake and he would be in heaven.

Melt in a saucepan on low heat: 1 tablespoon butter and 20 marshmallows

 Add 3 cups of rice krispies and stir until the rice krispies are well coated
 pour the mixture in to a dish with baking paper in it
 decorate with little chocolate eggs and leave to cool
 cut up in to squares to serve

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

chipolata & chickpea curry

a comforting, wholesome and simple curry - you can adapt the ingredients to fit what you have in the fridge or pantry. i like to make big curries to use up food or if i can't think of anything to cook with the ingredients i have. i try to always have a tin of coconut milk in the cupboard at the ready. This curry is probably for the grown-ups, unless your kids are good with spicy food. You can of course make it as spicy or mild as you like.

here is a recipe that feeds 4 (i put a batch of it in the freezer - for an uninspired cooking day of which i have many!). it is a little more fiddly than most of my recipes but i think still pretty straight-forward
1. heat the oven to 180F
2. chop and roast for 20mins - 2 potatoes  and 1 butternut squash, both cut in to cubes
3. in a separate roasting pan, drizzle honey and oil on 8 chipolata sausages and roast until light brown, stirring occasionally
4. chop 1 onion, 2 spring onions & 1 green chilli and saute for 3 mins
5. add 1 tspn of each - cumin, paprika & coriander seed - saute for another 3 mins
6. add in the roasted sausages, potatoes & butternut squash, stir well and saute for 3 mins
7. add 1 tin coconut milk and 1/2 cup of hot water and simmer for 15 mins
8. add 1 tin of drained chick peas and lots of large chunks of broccoli and simmer for 3 mins
9. add salt & pepper
10. serve with warm naan bread

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

chocolate milkshake

this can cheer up any child and lift a boring afternoon. it feels deliciously summery too - come on back those hot May days!
mix a tablespoon of hot milk with 2 teaspoons of hot chocolate powder. add 1 cup of cold milk and 1 big scoop of vanilla ice-cream. let your kids mix well with a whisk and enjoy the peace & quiet while they sip, slurp, gulp ... until the sugar rush hits ... and then put on some loud music and do a milkshake dance!