Autumnal Eve’s Pudding with Spiced Toffee Sauce 

I can hardly believe almost six months have passed since my last post. Summer came and went in a whirl and here we are enjoying some of the best autumn weather we’ve had for a few years. Crisp mornings, crunchy leaves underfoot and that rich, low sunshine we only get this time off year. Perfect for hearty warming comfort food and this twist on Eve’s pudding certainly fits the bill. A total mash up between three of my favourite flavours, apples, pumpkin spice and toffee, you’ll have to have some pretty impressive willpower to resist seconds of this indulgent treat. 
Ingredients for the pudding:

3 large bramley apples, peeled cored and finely diced 

350g butternut squash, peeled and chopped

150ml vegetable oil

2 large eggs

250g soft light brown sugar

180g self raising flour

1 tsp bi-carb soda

Pumpkin spice mix made by mixing 3 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp ground ginger, 1 whole grated nutmeg and half a tsp ground cloves. 

For the toffee sauce:

250g butter

250g light brown sugar

400ml double cream 

2tsp pumpkin spice mix

Method:

Put the squash in a bowl with a splash or two of water. Cover with cling film and microwave on high for 5 minutes. 

While it’s cooking grease a large oven safe dish and put the apples in the bottom. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of the spice mix. 

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until they are the same consistency of a thick milkshake. By now the butternut squash should be tender. Put it in a blender with the oil and whizz until you have a smooth puree. I used my nutribullet which works a treat. 

Fold the flour and bi-carb along with 1 rounded tablespoon of the spice mix into the eggy milkshake before gently folding through the butternut puree. 

Pour the mixture on top of the apples and bake at 160oC (fan) for approximately 50 minutes until a skewer comes out of the cake clean.

To make the sauce, melt the butter, sugar and spice mix together until totally combined then pour in the cream stiring constantly. 

Serve with custard and the toffee sauce! Divine! 

White Chocolate Cigarello Birthday Cake

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I have a lovely friend who is celebrating a birthday today. She’s one of those rare gems who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She spends so much time looking after everybody and is so generous in every sense of the word she definitely deserves to be spoilt on her birthday. I wanted to make her a cake that reflects her: beautiful, elegant and very special. Cue the cigarellos…

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These rolled chocolate straws instantly add a little sophistication to any cake. I used these from the Chocolate Trading Co.

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I like making cakes that have three thin layers of sponge as I think they look lovely when cut, and allow for more filling (which incidently is very forgiving should you accidentally over bake them. The extra filling helps moisten the sponge). I just used a basic Victoria sponge recipe which you can find here, on the BBC Good Food website. If you’re doing three layers I suggest reducing the oven temp to 160oC, and the time to between 12-15 mins.

Once cooled, fill your cake with whatever you want. I used seedless raspberry jam this time.

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Now you’re ready to proceed with the decorating. Make a generous amount of buttercream using a pack of unsalted butter, icing sugar, a couple of tsps of vanilla bean paste and a few splashes of milk to loosen. The consistency should be spreadable, but still fairly stiff. Secure your cake to the cake board using a dollop of buttercream. I find it easiest to pipe the buttercream onto the cake, starting with the gaps around the edges.

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Once you’ve filled the gaps in, continue piping until the entire cake is covered with a thick layer. This doesn’t have to be neat.

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Now take a palette knife and smooth the surfaces down. Again, don’t worry about getting perfect edges as it’s all going to be covered with the cigarellos and fruit.

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Wipe away any stray smears of buttercream off the board. Now you’re ready to start attaching the cigarellos by gently pushing them into the buttercream, which is effectively used as glue to hold them in place. Start at the back of the cake if you’re adding any additional decoration to the front (a name on the board for example). You will end up with something similar to this:

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I decided to top mine with strawberries and raspberries. Wash and hull them and dry well on paper towels. Take the largest strawberry and cut the point off the end. Push a candle in and add a dollop of leftover buttercream to the bottom before securing it to the middle of the cake.

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Now add the rest of the fruit, strawberries first to avoid crushing the delicate raspberries. Crush a couple of cigarellos in your hand and sprinkle over the fruit as a final flurry!

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The birthday girl was happy!

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Baked Sweet Potato Onion Bhaji Kebabs

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A couple of weeks ago a friend shared a Slimming World recipe for sweet potato onion bhajis with me. Baked rather than fried, I thought they were worth having a bash at and I’m so glad I did! Delicious moist, and not dripping in grease, these bhajis will certainly have you coming back for seconds.

I’ve been craving Persian style kebabs; the long, spiced minced meat ones on sticks, but wondered whether the bhajis would make a good vegetarian alternative. They did. Here’s the recipe (I changed it slightly from the original and obviously don’t use the oil if you’re following the Slimming World plan)

Slice 3 large onions and fry until soft with 4 minced cloves of garlic. Once softened add in 1 tablespoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon curry powder (I used hot madras) and a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes. Keep on the heat for another couple of minutes to allow the spices to release their flavour.

Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Whilst it is cooling, peel and grate 2 sweet potatoes. Add them into the onion mixture, and once cooled mix in two beaten eggs, a generous pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, take a large handful of the bhaji mixture and shape into a rough sausage shape on the tray. The mixture will be fairly wet, but don’t worry, just form it as best you can on the sheet. This mixture made 6 decent size kebabs. Bake at 170 fan for 30 minutes until golden and crunchy around the edges.

I served these on chapattis spread with a dollop of mango chutney, shredded iceberg lettuce, cucumber batons, finely diced red onion and chilli, a generous sprinkle of chopped coriander and a cooling drizzle of minty raita. Delicious!

Thai Inspired Crab Noodle Soup

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Having just returned from my parent’s home in beautiful Pembrokeshire, my freezer is now stocked with a plethora of home-caught crustaceans courtesy of my fisherman father. He put the boat to sea for the season while we were there, and P and I were on board for the first lobster pot pull up! Here she is enjoying the ride.

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I decided to dress one of the edible crabs as well as a spider crab to use some of the white meat in this humble yet incredibly satisfying crab noodle soup.

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Firstly, dress the crabs. If you’re unsure how to do this Delia’s step by step photographic instructions will guide you through it. The most important thing to remember is don’t eat the gills, or dead man’s fingers as they’re more commonly known. Although not actually poisonous, they’re very tough and hard to digest.

Once you have a bowl of nice white flakes of meat in front of you you’re ready to proceed with the soup.

Firstly, I boiled the shells in a pan of water for a good hour to give me a nice light stock.

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I drained the boiling stock, through a sieve and into a jug which had a bundle of flat rice noodles in it. The reason for soaking the noodles in stock rather than plain water is because, in my opinion, it allows them to absorb extra flavour as they soften.

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While the noodles were soaking I fried off some finely minced lemongrass, galangal, garlic and shallots in a little coconut oil.

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Once softened I added a couple of minced Thai chillis (don’t go overboard as you don’t want to drown out sweet and subtle flavour of the crab).  Once the noodles were soft, I fished them out of the stock and put them in a bowl before pouring the stock into the pan. At this point I added a tablespoon each of fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and light soy sauce, some lime leaves, a small chunk of rock sugar and about 100ml coconut milk. Simmer to allow the flavours to get to know each other before seasoning further with lime juice, salt and pepper. For extra protein I threw in a handful of frozen prawns (fresh would be best in this instance, but unfortunately I only had cooked in) and some of the crab meat.

Once I’d ladelled the broth over the noodles, Thai basil, chopped coriander, spring onions and a sprinkling of red chilli finished it off nicely. Delicious! Even our 5 year old enjoyed it!

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Growing the Gift

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Hattie May Wiatt

Have any of you heard of Hattie May Wiatt and the story of the 57 cents? Hattie was a young girl who lived in Philadelphia in the 1880’s. She attended a baptist church not far from her home, but the Sunday school room was so full of children she was afraid to go in for fear of being trampled. Often tickets were issued before the services to avoid overcrowding, imagine that! On voicing her concerns to her Pastor, Russel Conwell, she was told that one day, when they had enough money, a new, larger church and Sunday school room would be built. Sadly, in 1886 Hattie May died. After her death, Hattie’s mother gave Pastor Conwell a little purse with 57 cents in it, explaining that Hattie had been saving to help the church build a larger premises. Pastor Conwell was moved. He changed the 57 cents into 57 pennies and sold them to his congregation.  Church members made donations, and cheques came in from far and wide. The 57 cents turned into $250.  The Wiatt’s Mite Society was formed and was dedicated to making Hattie’s original 57 cents grow further.  The amount of money raised was a sizable investment towards the building of a new Sunday school and church building, and eventually a university and hospital too.  It’s amazing what can come of 57 cents and faith! Today Grace Baptist Church is still going strong and you can check out their website here.

Why am I telling you this? This weekend, out of the blue, a friend of mine gave a gift to our church to put towards hosting a team of people from Pulse Ministries, who we’re partnering up with to run a holiday bible club for local kids in August.  This gesture blessed us immensely.  The family doesn’t attend our church and their children aren’t at the age where they will be old enough to attend the club in the summer, yet they chose to bless us with a gift. It humbled us.  It encouraged us. However, most importantly of all it revealed their compassionate hearts and kingdom building mindset. They’ve realised the potential this bible club could have in our community. 70 children, many unchurched, being taught the gospel, for 5 hours a day, for 5 consecutive days…that is bound to be a game changer. This isn’t just about a week. Foundations will be laid for lives being built and lived out on solid biblical truths, seeds will be planted which will sprout and grow into blossoming relationships with Jesus Christ. This is kingdom building folks, and that is powerful stuff.

22317_imPOSSIBLESo, we’re asking you to invest: Not in Ste or me, not in Full Life Church or Pulse Ministries, but in growing God’s kingdom here on earth, in the wider church. We’ve changed our friend’s gift into £1 coins and we want to sell them, just like Pastor Conwell did with Hattie May’s 57 cents, at a profit. We’re in the process of setting up a Just Giving Page where you can donate an amount of your choice in exchange for one of the original £1 coins (If you’re not local, message me your address via our Facebook page if you’d like me to post you your £1 coin!). Alternatively you can do a bank transfer into the church account.
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Interestingly, the Bible is full of stories about investing and multiplying, the parable of the talents being the one that springs to mind in this instance. The Message version of it is below for you to read, but for now I’ll say thanks, in faith, for buying a £1 and investing in the bigger picture!

The Story About Investment – Matthew 25: 14-30

14-18 “It’s also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money.

19-21 “After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

22-23 “The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

24-25 “The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’

26-27 “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

28-30 “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’

 

 

Foolproof Potato Rosti

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Soggy rosti. Rosti that falls apart. Worst of all: grey rosti! I’ve had them all. Finally I’ve figured out a foolproof way which seems to work a treat. Boil the potatoes in their skins first.

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Grate (the skins will come off as you grate them) and season well with whatever herbs/spices you fancy. I kept it simple work just salt, pepper and garlic.

Shape into little patties and they can be fried, as is traditional, or baked, which is what I did, until golden and crispy.

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I served ours on wilted spinach and leeks, with salmon, crispy skin, a poached egg and garlic and lemon mayo made from whisking a large egg yolk with half a teaspoon of dijon mustard, and drizzling in rapeseed oil a little at a time until you have a creamy mayonnaise consistency. I then added a crushed clove of garlic, lemon juice to taste and salt and pepper. Delicious!

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Spaghetti Soup

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Firstly, apologies it has been so long since I last posted. Life has been hectic! But, today after a great walk with the family, in the freezing British February sunshine, I was feeling refreshed and inspired, and in need of something simple, warm and hearty for supper.

We all have our own versions of chicken noodle soup, and this is mine. Warming and satisfying, my four year old always comes back for seconds and it’s a great way of cramming in extra veg.

Because we eat so little meat, I tend to buy packs of organic chicken legs, cook them in the slow cooker on high for about 3/4 hours and the meat just falls off the bone. I don’t add anything to the raw meat initially. Literally throw the legs in the slow cooker, put the lid on and turn it on. The meat will produce it’s own liquid. Once cooked, I take the legs out, remove the skin and shred the meat, putting it in a container in the fridge to use throughout the week in salads, summer rolls or sandwiches. I put the bones back in the slow cooker, top up with boiling water and cook overnight to make a delicious stock.

For this soup, sauté a finely chopped leek, carrot and stick of celery, with 4 minced cloves of garlic until soft. Stir in half a teaspoon of turmeric, a pinch of saffron and a good grind of black pepper. Now add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Of course, if you don’t have homemade stock use shop bought, or boiling water and a stock cube will be fine too. I also stirred in a teaspoon of vegetable buillion for extra flavour. While the soup is coming to a boil, snap 150g spaghetti into one inch pieces, then add to the pan. Boil until the spaghetti is tender, then throw in a large handful of chopped baby spinach, and the shredded chicken. Check the seasoning, adjust as needed and serve. Simple, but oh so delicious.

Baked Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

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A very happy belated New Year to you all! If you’ve re-boarded the proverbial healthy eating/weight loss train after the festive indulgences, you might want to chug on past this post. Biscuits, cheese, chocolate, butter… Deliciously naughty! I hasten to add that the only reason this is adorning my table is that we have family visiting from New Zealand this weekend. I wanted a show stopper and a friend had given me a spare chocolate orange (who has spare chocolate oranges?!). I had a look at a few recipes, but couldn’t find one specific one I liked, so I’ve pinched bits from various sources and come up with this.

Preheat the oven to 150oC and put a baking tin with some water in it at the bottom. The steam will help prevent the cheesecake from cracking.

Firstly melt 100g good quality orange flavoured dark chocolate in a bain marie. Once melted set aside to cool a little.

For the base, whiz up 300g chocolate digestives with approximately 50g melted butter (more if it doesn’t clump together enough) and the zest of half an orange (you’ll need the other half for decoration later). Press into a springform tin as so:

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Now, beat 600g full fat cream cheese together until smooth. Add in 150g light brown sugar, four eggs, the zest of two oranges, the juice of one orange, 2tsp orange extract and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Once combined fold in the melted chocolate gently and pour in top of the base.

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Bake on the middle shelf for about 40 minutes until it’s slightly risen around the edges and has a slight wobble in the middle. Open the oven door, leaving the cheesecake there to cool slowly. Once cool remove from the tin.

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Mix two tablespoons of sieved icing sugar and 1 tsp orange extract into 150ml soured cream. Spread on top.

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Gently melt three segment of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange and drizzle on top.

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Use a skewer to marble it by gently dragging it through the chocolate.

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Decorate with the remaining chocolate orange segments and the zest. Chill for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight. Enjoy!

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Chia & Weetabix salmon fingers

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Yes, I hold my hands up. I am one of those mothers. One of those irritating, slightly OCD mothers who makes her own fish fingers. With chia seeds no less.

Right, now that I’ve lost half my audience I’ll show you how. It really isn’t as time consuming as you might think.

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Firstly grab two or three wheat breakfast cereal buscuits, we use Aldi’s cheapo ones and really can’t tell any difference to the leading brand. Put in a large bowl with three tablespoons chia seeds, pepper, any fresh herbs you want and some garlic salt. Scrunch the biscuits up until they resemble breadcrumbs. Of course you could just use breadcrumbs if you prefer, but I like the fact I don’t have to get the food processor out with the wheat biscuits.

Now, skin your salmon if it’s not already skinned, using a very sharp knife. If your family is anything like mine, you’ll need to save the skin to bake with the fish fingers to make crispy skin.

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Slice the salmon into fingers a couple of centimetres wide. Lightly whisk a couple of eggs, dip the fingers in the egg, then into the crumbs.

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Put them on a lined baking tray, with the skin, which is delicious when lightly sprinkled with salt.

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Bake at 190oC for 10-12 minutes. Serve with tartare sauce. We enjoyed ours with roasted flower sprouts, broccoli and sweet potato, and peas sautéed with leeks. Delicious and healthy midweek meal.

Meringue Christmas Trees

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We had a text from school today asking for cake donations for the kids Christmas party in two days time! There’s nothing like a bit of notice is there?! Anyway, it was our day off, and I happened to be at home, so I had time to rustle something up. I wanted something easy, and straightforward, which didn’t require many ingredients, but at the same time, something the kids would love, and that looked festive. These simple little meringues were just the ticket.

When making meringue my general rule of thumb is 1 egg white to 50g caster sugar. I whisked 2 egg whites until frothy before adding in 100g caster sugar a dessertspoon full at a time. Halfway through adding the sugar I added a couple of blobs of green food gel.

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Once the meringue was stiff and glossy I put it into a piping bag with a large nozzle and piped little Christmas tree shapes on a lined baking tray. I got 17 out of this batch.

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I put them on the middle shelf of the oven, which I’d preheated to 100oC. The key to these meringues is to cook them low and slow. That way they’re crispy and light all the way through. I cooked these for two and a half hours, then turned the oven off leaving the door shut until they were completely cool.

Once cool, I melted 50g each of milk and dark chocolate in a bain marie and dipped the bottoms of the trees in. Now, had I had any rolos in the house, I would spooned a little melted chocolate on top of an upturned rolo, and stuck the tree on top to give the effect of a trunk. But, I didn’t have rolos, so dipping had to suffice.

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I put the remaining choc in a pipping bag and used it as glue stick on little decorations. Edible glitter and dust gave them a final flourish.

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No doubt the kids will love them…not sure the same could be said for the parents come bedtime!