Tag Archives: easy

Award winning (!) Kiwi, Lime and Ginger Cheesecake

28 Jul

The cheesecake (minus the kiwis!!)

This recipe (save for some tweaking) appeared on my blog when it started, just over 3 months ago.

When I saw the Ocado World Recipe Challenge (to celebrate the world cup) I just had to enter this recipe which is a delicious and easy crowd pleaser. And I am pleased to say, that with the help of some friends, my lovely blog readers, and the enduring love affair that most of us have with cheesecake, the recipe ‘won’ the challenge, and was the most popular recipe out of the finalists. If, like me you are an Ocado shopper, then click the link here to the recipe, and in one easy click, you can add the ingredients to your shopping basket.

My reward, apart from bringing the secret of a quick and easy dessert to the time-pressed, is £200 to spend on a Virgin Experience Day.  I am currently debating between a chocolate making workshop, a case of wine or a day at a spa. Decisions decisions.!

In case you missed the recipe the first time around, I have published it again here. If you do give it a try, and I would love your comments letting me know how you got on.

For this recipe you will need

A round 23cm springform tin, greased and lined

250g ginger nut biscuits or 100g digestives or shortbread biscuits and 150g ginger nuts

100g melted butter

1 tin condensed milk (yes really – condensed milk. Just trust me on this one)

2 x 250g tubs mascarpone cheese

5 unwaxed limes

Method

Make biscuits into crumbs either in the processor, or by placing them in a large (strong) clean plastic food bag and pulverizing them mercilessly with a heavy implement, like a rolling-pin. This can be quite satisfying. Mix with the melted butter. Press into base of tin, then put in fridge to set for at least half an hour, or if you are running late, try 10 minutes in the freezer.

While that is chilling, zest 2 of the limes (I use the microplane) and then extract the juice from them all. Limes can be awkward little devils, and reluctant to give up their juice. When they are warm, you get more juice out, so I often pop them in the microwave to warm them up.5 or 10 seconds per lime. I would probably put them all in and zap for 30 seconds altogether.

Empty mascarpone into a large bowl. Add condensed milk and lime juice and zest. Mix until combined and smooth (do not overmix or it becomes a little thin). You can do this by hand or with the electric beaters (about half a minute works for me).

Empty mixture into the tin, over the biscuit base. Cover with clingfilm, then place in fridge for at least 4 hours. Remove from tin once set and place on serving plate (I often leave it on the tin base, rather than risking a collapse).

Serve

Stand back and wait for the compliments. They will come. I promise..

Alternatives

If you don’t like limes you can make this the traditional way, using lemon juice and lemon zest (juice of 2 lemons, zest of 1), and plain digestives.

The gingernut biscuits are quite hard and make the subsequent base quite hard. As a result I tend to combine them with digestives or shortbread biscuits to alter the texture but retain the ginger taste, which contrasts well with the lime.

If like me, you make the mistake of only buying one tub of mascarpone, I have used half cream cheese. The result is a bit less firm, but still delicious.

Taste the mixture before you place it in on to the base. If you prefer a bit more zing, add the juice of another lemon or lime.

Go on, treat yourself. You deserve it

Advertisements

Chocolate Chunk Cookies – Now!

26 May

Chocolate Chunk cookies, fresh from the oven

My attempts to clear out the cupboards did not stop with the end of the spendthrifts challenge. I am still trying to clear the cupboards of all the weird and wonderful ingredients that are lingering on in a number of our kitchen cupboards.

I tend to prefer using dark chocolate in my baking, which means that for some time I have been wondering what to do with the bars of milk chocolate for cooking that I seemed to have stockpiled (no doubt when they were on offer)

The answer came courtesy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His fab choc chunk cookie recipe was recommended on a couple of foodie sites, so yesterday, my two year old and I made these, as a gift for a friend that we were visiting for a playdate and tea (with a few left over for us to test, for quality control purposes of course!)

Chocolate Chunk Cookie anyone?

The joy of these is their simplicity. The ingredients list are all store-cupboard staples, you need no fancy equipment to make them, and they take less than 10 minutes to make, and only 10 minutes to bake.

INGREDIENTS LIST

  • 125g unsalted butter (I used salted. No complaints were received)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 75g soft light brown sugar (I only had 20g brown left so topped up with caster sugar)
  • 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g dark or milk chocolate, chopped into smallish chunks

METHOD

As this is Hugh’s recipe, I have attached a link to the instructions  here.

TIP

The mixture spreads when it bakes so leave a large gap in between each cookie. I cooked 6 on each baking tray.

DISCLAIMER

I ate 2 of these, but as I was full of a summer cold, I could not taste them (not sure why I ate 2?!!) All reports came back positive, and they didn’t see out the day, so I am relying on anecdotal evidence that they taste as good as they look. I may have to make some more when my taste buds get back to work!

Gift wrapped and ready to go

Happy Chickens Moroccan Style (Day 5 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

22 May

Todays Menu  

  • Breakfast. Cereal and yoghurt and fruit
  • Lunch. Wraps with cream cheese for the kids. Leftover pizza heated in toaster for mummy
  • Snack. Banana Iced Yoghurt
  • Dinner – kids – chicken thighs with couscous and broccoli
  • Dinner adults – Spicy chicken legs, chickpea and coriander couscous, morrocan style carrot salad.

 

 

 Banana Iced Yoghurt  

Did you know you can freeze bananas? I didn’t until I had a glut last year and threw a few in the freezer to see what happens. They freeze brilliantly. You can even leave the skin on. It will go black, but keep them all pristine inside, and ready for action when you want to bake banana bread or, some banana iced yoghurt.  

While I was rummaging in the freezer looking for inspiration for dinner, I came across some long ago frozen bananas. So, when the kids wanted a mid afternoon snack, it was delivered, courtesy of the blender.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • 4 medium sized bananas, broken into chunks (they should break easily, no kit needed)
  • 200ml plain yoghurt/greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • juice of half a lemon
  1. Blitz banana using ice function on the blender.
  2. Add yoghurt/vanilla and juice until you have a slightly melting ice cream consistency.
  3. Serve

    Slightly melting Banana Iced Yoghurt

     

  

Total prep time. About 2 minutes. From the taking of the bananas out of the freezer to the placing the used blender in the dishwasher. Now that’s what I call fast food! The bananas are so sweet you don’t need to add sugar. My kids love this as a snack. I tell them its ice cream, while secretly feeling quite pleased that they are eating just a piece of fruit with some pro-biotic yoghurt.  

DINNER  

The food stocks are getting low, as is this weeks kitty, so I was getting a bit concerned about dinner. Then I remembered one of my staple after work meals when I was working. Seasoned chicken legs, Couscous, Salad. Very little prep time required, and on the whole a very thrifty dish. M&S quite often do a promo on their organic chicken legs at 4 for a fiver, so not really a budget buster. In fact, this is a great dish to serve up if you are feeding a large group, as the preparation is minimal, and the ingredients are not too expensive.  

Happy Chickens  

Chicken with Ras El Hanout

 

I was vegetarian for over 20 years until about 5 years ago. When I gave up meat, ‘free-range and organic’ were nowhere to be seen in my little corner of South-West London. When I finally started to eat meat again I vowed only to eat meat where the animal welfare standards were high. That raises a bit of a dilemma when you are invited to lunch and are asked if you have any special requests. Its sounds a more than a little picky and snooty to say ‘I’ll eat your meat but only if it’s up to my standards’. So unless I know people well, I either say I am veggie or offer to bring some food along.  

Which brings me on to todays food. Happy Chickens. The Organic Free Range kind are not cheap. So when I see them on offer I tend to stock the freezer. Obviously I took this step 9 months ago, with a batch of chicken legs that I found, this morning, lingering in the back of our ‘spare’ freezer. Sell by date 29 August 2009. Eaten by date, today 21 May 2010!  

If like me, you are using previously frozen chicken, do make sure it has defrosted fully. I left mine out on the worktop today (I am sure the health inspectors would be tutting) and it was still cold but thoroughly defrosted.  

I have a selection of spices in the cupboard like Cajun, Sumac, and todays choice, Ras El Hanout. Its a lovely, fragrant moroccan spice blend. To prepare the chicken you need do nothing more than to rub a little oil on the chicken legs. Sprinkle with the seasoning. Cook for about 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees. Thats it.  

The couscous  

I love couscous. I always keep a supply of this in the cupboard. Boil the kettle. Pour on water. A few minutes later and its ready. What could be easier? Today I decided to add a few ingredients and flavourings from the cupboard, but it was simply an add, mix and cover with boiling water exercise.  

I have made this, and variations of it so often, that I tend to just add, mix and taste rather than following any strict recipe.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • Couscous. Enough to fill the bottom of a soup bowl by about 1cm. Maybe 300g
  • Vegetable bouillon. A dessertspoon. Add and mix
  • Raisins. A large handful
  • Chickpeas. A standard tin, drained and washed.
  • Cumin (seeds not ground). 1 dessertspoonful
  • Pine nuts (toasted if you have time) 25g
  • Chopped coriander (from freezer)1 tablespoon
  • Butter. About 25 g

METHOD  

  • Mix all ingredients in bowl
  • Pour over boiling water until mixture is just immersed a little in the water
  • Agitate mixture with a fork
  • Cover with a cloth or plate for 5 minutes or so
  • Fluff with a fork and serve

Moroccan Style Carrot Salad. Inspired by Stephanie Alexander.  

Moroccan Style Carrot Salad

 

If you have not yet discovered the cookery genius that is Stephanie Alexander, then you have been missing out. I was introduced to her only last year by my foodie friend Annmaree. This is not a glossy, picture filled cookery book. It is a tome. A reference book filled with a lifetime of cooking knowledge.  It is arranged alphabetically by ingredient (why aren’t all cookery books organised that way?). So, when you have a weird or wonderful, or perhaps just a very boring ingredient that you want to use up, look it up, and Stephanie will provide you will a selection of ideas and recipes for it. Today I was wondering how best to use the carrots in the fridge, when Stephanie came to the rescue, and gave me the inspiration for this dressing.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • about 500g carrots, grated
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 dessertspoon toasted cumin seeds
  • 1 dessertspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Large glug of olive oil (1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 dessertspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chillis

METHOD  

  1. Place cumin, garlic, salt, sugar in pestle and mortar and crush to a paste
  2. Add olive oil and lemon juice. Mix until you have a glossy dressing.
  3. Check taste and adjust seasoning
  4. Grate the carrots.
  5. Add the coriander and chilli and mix throughly
  6. Add dressing making sure salad well coated
  7. Serve

The biggest effort today, was not the cooking. Each dish probably took about 5 minutes preparation. The real effort was putting a little thought and imagination into the food available, and making an appetizing meal from it. The carrot salad exceeded all my expectations. It was not something I had tried before, but will definitely be one to use again.  

Dinner is served

 

DAY 5 SUMMARY  

A great use of some very neglected food from my freezer. 2 days of the challenge left. I am missing chocolate, and not at all optimistic that I wont go over budget. Food (or chocolate) donations anyone?  

Chickpea Couscous

Supper for a Song (Day 4 of The spendthrifts challenge)

21 May

   

Carrot and Coriander Soup with Creme Fraiche

 

Day 4 dawned, and I am starting to get slightly concerned at the dwindling cereal stocks, especially the children’s cereals which are almost empty.  By some miracle, they have just started taking to eating bran flakes. They think they are ‘Daddys Shreddies’ and I have yet to put them straight. I think I can just about stretch it out for another few days.   

Lunch was no effort at all as I managed to retrieve some Carrot and Coriander Soup from the freezer that I had made in February in a Martha Stewart moment , along with a couple of ready to bake rolls. 
 
I was more concerned about what I should make for dinner.  My daughter was having a friend over for a playdate and my usual freezer supply of meatballs and sauce had run dry. A quick stocktake last night led me to the answer. I have about 10 types of flour in the cupboards. I also have a few cans of tomatoes and passata. There is spinach and garlic in the freezer, butter, dolcelatte and feta in the fridge. The answer was obvious. Pizza. I just needed some mozzarella and maybe a topping or 2 for the grown ups.  Additional expenditure, £1.49. £1 for a large packet of Galbani Mozzarella (on offer at Sainsburys) and 49p for a large Aubergine in Lidl.  No wonder the pizza chains have done so well in the recession.  They are so cheap to make, they should blush when they present the bill.
 

Home made Pizza

 

We have for some time now been having a ‘Pizza Night’ at least once a month at home.  It’s not the fastest meal to prepare, as you have to allow time for the dough to rise, and to do a little prep for the toppings, but if you have a dough hook for your mixer, and a dishwasher to clear up, its easy, very cheap, and quite a lot of fun. With the money you save on the cost of eating out, you can have a bottle of wine (or discount fizz), buy in some dessert, rent a movie, and still have a stack of change compared to the usual bill you would face in a pizza restaurant.  In fact, if you are feeding a crowd, and don’t mind spending a bit of time in the kitchen while they are there, this has to be one of the cheapest meals you can make. And once you have tried the home-made variety, the ready to heat or takeaway version can never be considered as anything other than the poor relation.   

There is of course the faster method of making pizza that I have referred to in Pizza Pronto.  But if you want dough balls too, you are going to have to make the dough.  If you have a mixer with a dough hook, this is nothing much more than weighing and adding some ingredients together and allowing the mixer to do the work. You have to leave it for about an hour to rise then knock it back and you are ready to go.  In fact, I have quite often made the dough first thing, then covered it in oiled cling film and left it in the fridge all day to do a slow rise, then it is ready to go just when you need it. At the moment, I tend to employ the recipe and method  provided by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall  (HFW) in his book River Cottage Everyday. Most of the ‘celebrity’ chefs offer a version of pizza dough. I have followed a few recipes, and I have found that there is not a lot between them taste wise, so try one out and see how you like it.   

    

Dough Balls, and other shapes too!

 

 Dough Balls are a must in this house, although they should perhaps more accurately be described as dough shapes when the children have a hand in the preparation.  These are a great way to get the children involved, as the worst that can happen is you have a few odd shapes.  

Home made garlic butter

 

 I generally make a double portion of HFW’s dough, as we are quite greedy, and any leftovers can go in the freezer. We probably use about half a portion of the dough for the dough balls.  While they are cooking in the oven we make the garlic butter. If your butter isnt soft, try it for a minute on defrost in the microwave, keeping a close eye on it. Mash in some pre chopped garlic from the freezer (to taste, but as a guide I use about 3 tsps for 1/2 packet of butter)  

For the sauce, heat 2 tbsps olive oil in a pan, gently fry a dessertspoon of the garlic, a tsp of salt flakes and sugar, and add a 500ml carton of passata. Simmer for 5 mins. Sauce is ready  

 A few tips   

  • Pre-heat the oven and get it as hot as you can
  • Roll out the dough as thin as possible.
  • Place dough on pizza stone or baking tray before adding toppings. Or you have no hope at all of transferring the topped pizza without it collapsing or turning into a Calzone
  • Go easy on the sauce. Less is more. More is a soggy, not so nice pizza.
  • Scatter your toppings. Dont crowd the pizza. Too much and the base wont cook.
  • Drizzle with a little  oil before you bake. It does make a difference.

I just love making these, as it’s the perfect opportunity to clear out the fridge of all those odds and ends that look like they will never find a home. A couple of slices of salami, some cheese drying out around the edges. The end of a jar of chutney. Today we had the following combos   

A Pizz a Heaven!

 

   

Margherita Pizza for the kids

  • Tomato sauce and mozzarella
  • Spinach with Dolcelatte and Walnuts
  • Red onion chutney with feta and aubergine
  • Tomato sauce, feta and aubergine

Thanks to the unexpected warm end to the day, and the equally unexpected appearance of Mr Mummyinahurry at the children’s tea time, we were able to eat these in the garden. I am convinced that everything tastes better when you eat it in the sunshine.   

Day 4 Summary    

As a result of my week of thrift, we have completely run out of rice cakes and breadsticks, the after-school snack of choice in this house. The completely unexpected upside of this has been a sudden interest in carrots from the children. Yes carrots. Which they ate reluctantly yesterday because nothing else was on offer.  Today when I offered carrots after school I was greeted with shrieks of delight, only previously heard in conjunction with the words ‘crisps’ or ‘chocolate’. These are the same carrots that I have served up several times a week for the past few months that have always been rejected. Well I never!   

   

   

 

Happy Eggs and Fabulous Fishcakes (Day 3 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

20 May

Keeping a close and slightly anxious eye on the challenge budget, last night I decided to bring the bread maker out of retirement, and before I went to bed put in the usual flour, yeast and water and left it to work its magic while I dreamed of a night of unbroken sleep. It was just a dream!  

This morning I descended the stairs, half asleep, nose in the air like the bisto kid,  inhaling the irresistable aroma of freshly baked bread. Every time I use the bread maker I am struck by its genius, and wonder why I don’t use it all the time.  

Breadmaker Bread

 

Dippy Egg and Soldiers

 

LUNCH – Dippy Eggs and Soldiers  

The fresh bread was a helpful head start to our quick and thrifty lunch of ‘dippy eggs’ (soft-boiled eggs to the uninitiated). This is one of my favourite midweek lunches with the children and is on our menu at least twice a week. Quick, easy, nutritious. A sure-fire winner for any busy person.  

The Egg Cooker

 

I am, I confess, a bit of a kitchen gadget collector, but in my defence, I only keep the things I use. One of my favourite and most used pieces of kit is the egg cooker that I bought from Lakeland last year. I am eggstatic about it! While I know that in theory, it doesnt take a genius to boil an egg, I used to always get distracted and get the timings wrong. Since the egg cooker found a home here we always have perfectly cooked eggs.  

Now for a little word about the eggs. For eggs that I am poaching, or soft boiling, or putting in a salad, I favour those from Clarence Court above all others. We usually have their pretty pastel coloured Cotswold Legbar eggs, or alternatively Burford Browns. They are unrivalled by any other brand I have tried. They have the most incredible deep orangey yellow yolk. They tend to induce a fit of nostalgia, reminding me of the eggs my Gran used to serve up in my childhood.  

I prefer to use freshly baked bread (from a bakery or the breadmaker) for the ‘soldiers’. With butter. Lots of butter.  

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes

 

   

DINNER – Smoked mackerel fishcakes  

My fridge was looking very bare this morning, and I was starting to suffer from ‘almost empty fridge’ anxiety. A quick chat with a good friend, Rita, gave me the inspiration for using up the half  bowl of mash left over from Monday. Smoked mackerel fishcakes. Cheap, tasty, and full of good stuff.  

A quick dash up to Sainsburys after lunch found me in possession of 252g of mackerel for only £1.87. Could I be any more thrifty?!!  

I can honestly say I have never made these before. I had gained a rough idea of the framework for Rita’s recipe, then adapted that to suit the fridge contents. It took about 10 minutes in total to make them, then probably another 10 minutes or so to fry them in the pan.  

INGREDIENTS  

Fishcake Ingredients

 

  • 560g cooked mash
  • 250g smoked mackerel
  • 10g wilting chopped parsley (the fresh unwilting kind will do just as well!)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 dessert spoons chopped chives
  • 2 dessert spoons crème fraîche
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • breadcrumbs (from freezer). If you don’t have any, or are short of time, you can miss these out
  • 1 egg, beaten with a dash of milk
  • I almost forgot. I had half a cooked salmon fillet from yesterday left over so I added that in too)

METHOD  

I get the kids to wash their hands while I am gathering the ingredients together. They take a while and it gives me a chance to get everything out before they start bickering!  

The mix

 

  1. Take skin off fish, and using fingers check for bones. Then rub the fish between your fingers until it flakes.
  2. Put fish in large bowl with mash (or split between 2 bowls if you have 2 kids to save arguments)
  3. Mix the mustard with the crème fraîche, then add and mix to the potato/fish mixture
  4. Combine all the additional ingredients, tasting as you go
  5. Shape into patties, then dip in egg and coat with breadcrumbs
  6. Fry in a little oil and butter on a gentle/medium heat for 5 mins each side.

This made 11 medium-sized patties. Enough to fill a few hungry stomachs.  

I served this with broccoli and cucumber for the kids. Mr Mummyinahurry and I ate ours with the remains of the spinach and beans from Monday, some beetroot (the vacuum packed kind) , a couple of lemon wedges and a generous dollop of mayo.  These freeze well so you can always make a double batch and freeze them ready for a quick supper another day.  

Fishcakes, bean salad and beetroot

 

The children loved making these, and despite my reservations about the overly fishy taste, they literally licked their bowls clean when we had finished the prep, then ate all their dinner and asked for seconds.  

So, day 3, a great success. But the kitty is not looking so good, and I am wondering if I can really do this….  

  

 

Haddock with a herb and parmesan crust

12 May

This dish is one that satisfies both fussy children and demanding adults, and is a perfect way to engage the children in a little activity on a cold or rainy afternoon.

My inspiration for this recipe comes from Donna Hay, who sets the standard when it comes to the preparation of fresh, flavourful meals that are simple to prepare, and don’t leave you spending hours in the kitchen. And thanks to the fantastic offer at the fish counter at Sainsburys today, which allowed me to buy a very large (over 500g) haddock fillet for £2.58, this is a great choice if you are keeping an eye on the family food budget too.

First of all a few words about the buying of the fish. Sadly I don’t have a local fishmonger, as he has gone out of business. I have, however, been making use of the fish counter in the supermarket which has been the best alternative I can find at the moment.

Take a close look at the choices on offer. Often (as I did today) you can save yourself quite a bit of money just by choosing an alternative cut and asking the ‘fishmonger’ (?) to do the work for you. Today I had the following choice. Skinless haddock loin, boned, £14.99 a kilo. Haddock fillet £4.99 a kilo (it was on special). So, I chose the latter, and asked the friendly assistant to skin and pin-bone it for me, which he did without a second glance. Result, I saved £5 on the total spend, and bought myself strawberries and chocolate for dessert.

INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2 BIG PEOPLE AND 2 LITTLE PEOPLE)

All this fish for only £2.58!

500g approx haddock, or any firm white fish

200g fresh breadcrumbs

70g Parmesan, grated

10g chopped fresh parsley

1 or 2 dessert spoons chopped chives (to taste)

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

2 dessert spoons plain flour, lightly seasoned with a sprinkle of salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp sunflower oil

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees (180 for a fan oven)

Herb and Parmesan breadcrumb mixture

Mix the breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon zest and parmesan together. Set aside half the mixture into a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer for another day.

With the remaining mixture, add the oil and mix so that the breadcrumbs are thoroughly coated.

Set up a conveyor belt type operation with 3 bowls in a row. The first with the

The conveyer belt

seasoned flour, the second with the egg and the last with the breadcrumbs.

Chop the fish into desired sizes. I used the thin end for the children’s chunks and fingers, and left two large fillets for me and Mr Mummyinahurry.

Fish fingers and fillets

Get the children to dip the pieces, first in the flour (dusting off any large clumps), then into the egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture, pushing the mixture gently onto the fillets. Follow the same process for the larger fillets.

Kids at work

Place on a baking tray. and cook for 15 minutes, turning once. (This cooking time holds good for the adult portions, in case you are cooking them separately)

Serve

The finished product

I often cook the childrens serving first, reserving the adult portions for a later evening meal. This a a great dish if your other half is working late, as you can leave theirs in the fridge, uncooked and covered in cling film ready for a late supper.

I tend to serve this with one of my favourtie sides, fresh spinach with garlic. A bit more salt and pepper to season the adult portions, some lemon wedges on the side (from the lemon I zested) and a dollop of good quality mayonnaise. Yum!

Feeding time for mummyinahurry

TIPS

The Breadcrumbs

I make these myself. Shop bought are generally overly dry and extortinately priced They are so quick and easy to make, and you can freeze them in small portions. If you are watching the pennies, then just pick up a fresh baked loaf at the supermarket when its reduced to clear, let it dry out a little for a day or two, then tear into chunks and blitz in the processor or liquidizer until you have breadcrumbs. If you dont have stale bread, cut the bread into thick slices and place in a low oven for about 15 minutes to dry it out.

Fresh spinach with garlic

This is sooo easy and sooo good. Rinse spinach. Heat frying pan and on a low heat soften 1 dessertspoon of chopped garlic (I used the ready chopped frozen variety). This will take a minute or two. Turn up heat, add spinach, and turn regularly for a minute or two, until it is wilted. Strain. Add a little butter, and salt and pepper. Serve.

All in all, the activity time of this with the children was about 10 minutes. It was a bit more mess than if I had done it alone, but they loved it, and they ate all their dinner too. For the adult meal, while the fish is cooking, lay the table, and pour a glass of wine. Relax for 10 minutes. Take fish out and leave to rest for 5 minute. Plates can go in oven to warm while you make the spinach. Thats it. And having made an extra serving of breadcrumbs ready for the freezer, you can make some more soon, in even less time.

Nigella’s Never Fail Victoria Sponge

10 May

Let me dispel a few myths. You don’t need to be any sort of domestic goddess to make a good Victoria sponge. You don’t even need much time. If you have all the ingredients in the house, you should have it all prepared and in the oven in under 5 minutes. And the washing up is  courtesy of the dishwasher.

I am not sure that any cook can honestly claim the rights to a ‘recipe’ for a Victoria Sponge, as the ingredients and quantities seems to be almost identical in a number of cook books. On this subject I am slavishly devoted to the teachings of Ms Lawson in her first (and to me her best) book, How To Eat. Since I first made this speedy, all in one, processor method of making a Victoria Sponge, I have resisted the siren call of all other cookery prophets and remained loyal to this easy peasy never fail recipe.

To those of you that buy your cake in the supermarket, or make your cake from a packet mix, I would like to prevail upon you to cast aside your prejudice and to try this, just once. You will not look back. You are likely to have everything you need without even stepping into a shop. Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, vanilla essence, Jam. All storecupboard staples.

Just follow a few simple rules and you cannot go wrong

  • Use the size of tin that is recommended or the cooking times will change
  • Know your oven temperature. They can vary widely. Cooking it at the right temperature is key.
  • Relax. Even if it does not look as pretty as a shop perfect cake, the first bite will have you hooked.
  • To make life easier I use pre-cut cake tin liners. This saves the step of greasing and lining the tin..

So successful and easy has this cake been, I have made it on numerous occasions, to cheer up a sad friend, to fuel a tired new mum, and when I am calling in on friends for coffee and realise I have not even a packet of biscuits to take.  And I made it for myself twice a week, when I was an almost sleepwalking tearful and tired new mum, just to give me something to look forward to in the afternoon.

A few tips

  • The recipe suggests room temperature/soft butter. Not many people are so well prepared that they get the butter out of the fridge a day early in anticipation. I use the defrost facility on the microwave, until it gets soft but not runny and melted. It takes about 60 seconds on defrost in my microwave. Try it in 20 second bursts. You are looking for a glossy, gooey, about to melt texture.
  • I recommend keeping your eggs in a cupboard at room temperature, then you don’t have to remember to take them out in advance.
  • If you are using fridge cold milk I would recommend 15 seconds in the microwave to take the chill off.

You can find Nigella’s recipe at page 26 of her book.

I have adapted the quantities to suit the size of tins that I have (18cms)

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (or 160 degrees for a fan oven)

INGREDIENTS

6 oz  or 170g plain flour

6 oz  or 170g soft unsalted butter (but you can use salted if thats all you have – it just alters the taste a little)

6 oz 170g sugar

3 large eggs – if you only have medium eggs just add a little more milk

2tbsps (ish) milk.

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not essence)

Place all ingredients into processor. Blend until combined, adding enough milk to give the mixture dropping consistency.

Put in oven for 25 minutes. If you are not sure if it is cooked put in a skewer (or knife if you don’t have one). If it comes out clean (ie without sticky cake mixture on it) it is done.

Just out of the oven

Once the cakes are out of the oven, leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn out on to a cake rack (or grill rack if you don’t have one)

Allow to cool for about 45 minutes.

On the rack

Add jam to one sponge then put them together. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Serve

I don’t generally add whipped cream, unless I know it will get eaten that day, as it doesn’t keep well.If you have just used jam, it will keep in an airtight container for a few days.

Ready to eat