A Summery Pavlova of epic proportions and an accident

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Summer. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with it. I would love to be a sun worshipper, but my fair complexion can’t take it. Not to mention I’m prone to getting sun stroke. it’s not much fun. So as much as I would love to lie on the beach all day when the temperature hits 22C and beyond, I tend to cover up and sit under a parasol while browsing shopping websites such as one of my favourites Dotcomgiftshop.com. They currently have a Summer sale on – why not head on over and take a look? There are lots of lovely goodies at bargain prices – I love the tartan satchels and the children’s gardening sets! I have the retro glass bowls – I use them constantly and they are a steal at 3.95 for a set of five!

There’s one thing about Summer I really can enjoy with wild abandon – all the beautiful seasonal fruit. Strawberries, cherries, blackberries, peaches, raspberries. I adore them all.

In my mind, here is no finer way to showcase seasonal fruit than in a Pavlova. All that cream and fruit piled on top of the sweet meringue, crisp on the outside and marshmallow-
like softness inside – is there anything more beautiful and dreamy to eat?

Now I must confess that making this pavlova wasn’t all plain sailing. I originally made a larger version of this recipe. It was one mammoth meringue. I was so proud. Here it is before disaster struck -

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The pavlova of epic proportions

And after -

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Sob! :-(

I dropped it. I very nearly cried.

But I didn’t. Instead I pulled myself together and made another one. A smaller version, but maybe that was no bad thing. I think if I hadn’t dropped the first one we would have Still been eating pavlova for breakfast, lunch and dinner….

note: I halved the original recipe. Please feel free to double the ingredients if you want to have a go at the Pavlova of epic proportions, but just be aware it needs to bake for 4-5 hours. In this case you would need to draw a 20cm circle on the baking paper.

Peach Melba Pavlova

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
1/2 tsp cornflour

For the topping
250ml double cream
75g Greek yoghurt
A splash of vanilla extract
1 tbsp icing sugar
2-3 ripe, juicy peaches
150g raspberries
25g icing sugar

Simply whip the cream, yoghurt, vanilla and icing sugar together until you have soft peaks.

Puree the raspberries and icing sugar together in a food processor. Sieve the puree over a bowl. Try and get as much raspberry juice as you can. Taste the puree in case it needs more icing sugar.

Preheat the oven to 150C.

line a sturdy baking tray with baking paper. Using a cake tin or similar, draw a 16cm circle in the middle. This step isn’t really essential, but I find it really helps.

Using a very clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Still whisking, slowly add the sugar, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the meringue is very stiff and shiny.
Stir in the cornflour.

Pile the meringue high on to the circle, and smooth the sides with a spatula. Make a little dip in the centre. Place in the oven and immediately turn down to 120C. Bake for 2 hours. When the time is up, turn off the oven and leave the meringue to cool completely.

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When the pavlova is completely cold, pile with the cream, peaches and drizzle some of that raspberry sauce over. Carry to your table with pride :-)

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In case you’re wondering, the broken pav did not go to waste. I’ll be revealing what I did with it in a day or two……;-)

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Mint choc chip ice cream

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Ever since I was gifted an ice cream maker, I’ve become quite obsessed with making different ice creams. I know you can make perfectly good ice cream without one, but it certainly makes the process easier. I love my kitchen gadgets anyway, anyone who enters my kitchen can confirm this!

Mint choc chip is a big favourite in our house and my boys couldn’t wait to try this. It is definitely worth the effort – it tastes miles away from the supermarket stuff, and making your own gives you complete control over what is going in it – no nasty preservatives!

If you aren’t a fan of food colouring, you don’t have to add it. But in my mind, mint ice cream just wouldn’t be right without the colour! The amount you need to use is miniscule anyway, especially if you are using the food colour paste or gels. Just add a tiny amount using the tip of a knife and stir until incorporated and the colour is even. If it isn’t strong enough add a teeny bit more.

This recipe doesn’t make a very large amount of ice cream, so if your ice cream maker is bigger than mine (my model only makes 750ml ice cream at one time) or if you are making it by hand, please feel free to double the recipe. Ours is all gone already so I’ll be making another batch very soon!

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Mint choc chip ice cream Adapted from a recipe by Lakeland
Makes 500ml

375ml double cream
3 egg yolks, beaten
75g caster sugar
2 tbsp peppermint extract or creme de menthe if children aren’t going to be eating it!
50g dark chocolate chips
A tiny amount of green food colour paste

Place the cream, egg yolks and sugar in a medium saucepan over a medium heat, stirring frequently. Gently bring to the boil, stirring the whole time. When the mixture has noticeably thickened (not too much though) take off the heat and set aside to cool completely.

When the custard is cool, stir in the peppermint extract, green food colouring and chocolate chips.

Churn in your ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively, you can make by hand – pour into a suitable container and place in the freezer. Take it out every hour for three hours and give the ice cream a vigorous beating. If you have a food processor or mixer it saves your arms from aching!

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One pot pasta with courgettes & mushrooms

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I made this one pot pasta for the first time tonight and I was kind of bowled over by it. The idea of boiling up all the ingredients together seemed quite strange to me – but I was naturally curious. I came across the recipe online a couple of days ago via Facebook and shared the link on my page. This version included linguine, tomatoes and basil. I didn’t realise at the time, but my lovely friend Joost of The Vegetable Chopper recently blogged this recipe and was really impressed by it.

Yesterday afternoon I was chilling out in my garden, sitting under a parasol (I don’t cope with heat very well!) browsing through recipes on Pinterest when I came across another one pot pasta dish. Apparently they have been creating quite a stir in the food blogging world lately. Where have I been???

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The method is so embarrassingly simple and easy I just had to try it. So that’s just what I did…..

The verdict?

Holy moly I love this recipe! It really does work. The addition of cream and parmesan at the end (although I used Philadelphia light in place of the cream) makes it so delicious and creamy. For me, making a pasta dish often involves sauteeing the veg in oil/butter for around 10-20 minutes – none of that here! But the flavour is not sacrificed one bit. I promise. Give it a try and prepare to be impressed!

You’ll find the original recipe right here at Damn Delicious – here is my adapted version.

One Pot Pasta with courgettes and mushrooms
Serves 2-3

200g Spaghetti
One courgette, thinly sliced and quartered
A handful chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
A handful green beans – I used frozen
A sprig of fresh thyme
A small bunch of Greek basil, if you have some
A grinding of salt and pepper
450ml cold water
Two tbsp grated parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
50g Light Philadelphia with garlic and herbs
A splash of milk

Place all of the ingredients above except for the parmesan and Philadelphia in a large pan. Pour in the 450ml cold water.

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Turn on the heat and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the liquid has reduced. Keep an eye on the pan and give it a little stir now and again. When all the water has reduced and the pasta is cooked through, take off the heat and stir in the parmesan, Philadelphia and a splash of milk to bring it together. sprinkle with the extra parmesan and serve immediately.

would I make this again? Damn right I would!!

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I shared this post over at recipe of the week at A Mummy Too.

Raspberry & Peach Friands

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These little beauties have been causing a stir in my foodie friends circle for some time now. They are called Friands which is French for “little cake.” They seem to be extremely popular in Australia and New Zealand. They are made from egg whites and ground almonds and taste totally delicious. I’ve been feeling a bit out of the loop because I don’t own a Friand tin, but I thought why not try using muffin tins? So that’s what I did and they turned out fine – the trick is to grease the muffin tin well. I did have a small issue with the one on the bottom left of the picture above – it got a little stuck! I ate that one first – just because something doesn’t turn out perfectly in baking doesn’t mean to say it won’t taste delicious!

My cakes may not have the lovely oval Friand shape, but they do taste lovely. A proper Friand tin is on my wishlist!

Raspberry & Peach Friands
Makes around 8

5 egg whites (they should weigh around 150g in total)
150g butter, melted
75g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
50g plain flour
100g raspberries
One large ripe peach, cut into small chunks

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a Friand or muffin tin (or use cake release spray)

Lightly whisk the egg whites to combine. Add the melted butter, ground almonds, icing sugar and flour and stir well to combine. Fold in the fruit, keeping a few berries and peach chunks for placing on top of the friands. Pour the mixture into the tin, filling each hole no more than two thirds full.

Place the remaining raspberries and peaches on top of each friand and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Once the Friands have cooled, dust with icing sugar.

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Overnight Bircher Muesli with peaches

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Recently I discovered a wonderful thing – bircher muesli. I’ve never really been very good at doing breakfast, despite my best intentions. I religiously start my day with a cup of coffee (with another wonderful thing I’ve fallen in love with – almond milk) and I make the boys breakfast, which at the moment is cereal. I’m usually so busy I don’t really think about feeding myself – I’ll get something later, I’ll tell myself. Next thing I know it’s 11.45am and I still haven’t eaten. I know it’s bad for me.

I’ve heard of bircher muesli before but I wasn’t sure it would appeal to me – soaking oats in milk overnight? Hmmmm. I thought it would be like eating cold porridge – no thanks! But the idea of preparing it the night before made me think that this could be the solution to my skipping breakfast issue – so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to give it a go.

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The first recipe I tried was from Ottolenghi. The recipe says to use it as a blueprint – change it up and add whatever fruit/nuts/seeds you like. I used grated apple, chopped dates and hazelnuts – and I loved it. Delicious. You can find the basic recipe right here.

Another recipe I’m sharing with you today is this overnight bircher with peaches. I found the recipe in the brilliant new book “A modern way to eat” by Anna Jones. I adapted the recipe to suit what I had available in my cupboard. I was so impressed by the taste of this – and I’m very pleased to report – very far away from anything resembling cold porridge! I can now see why people have been raving about Bircher for years! But I do think the good quality vanilla bean paste works wonders here. I use Neilson Massey.

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Overnight Bircher with peaches
Adapted from “A modern way to eat” by Anna Jones

Serves one hungry person!

50g rolled oats
1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
150ml almond milk
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
a little squeeze lemon juice
A couple of ripe peaches (I used doughnut peaches) – if you aren’t a fan of peaches just use any other fruit you desire

The evening before, place the oats and seeds in a bowl. Pour over the almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla bean paste and lemon juice. Stir well, cover and place in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, remove your bircher from the fridge. Slice your peaches or whatever fruit you’re using and tumble on top of the bircher. Top with Greek yoghurt and a extra dash of maple syrup, if you like!

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Happy 4th July!

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Whenever I’m not having the best of days, I usually try and make it better by doing some baking. I know many people who say you should never bake when you are stressed because all your negative feelings will somehow permeate their way into whatever your making, resulting in failure. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I find baking in stressful times really relaxing, but only if you give yourself enough time and don’t rush – I find things tend to go wrong when I’m trying to rush myself and have fifty other things going on in my head.

Since it’s American Independence Day, I couldn’t resist making something to suit the theme – and here we are – I give you my vanilla and orange flavoured sponge with lemony cream and berries. Admittedly, this cake recipe is actually very British but with those red and blue berries peaking out under the white cream I think it looks quite fitting :-)

I used this recipe for the sponges and added 1 tsp orange extract. You could easily swap the extract for the zest of one grated orange if you like.

I sandwiched the cakes together with strawberry jam and a lemony double cream (made by whipping 180ml double cream them folding in 70g Yeo Valley lemon curd yoghurt)

I wish all my American friends a very happy and peaceful 4th July! xxx

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Easy Flatbreads in a flash!

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These flatbreads couldn’t be easier or quicker to make – there is no yeast involved, no hanging around waiting for the dough to rise and they taste brilliant. I like to brush mine with garlic oil before cooking, or sometimes I brush them with melted butter as soon as they come off the pan..slobber!

Last night we ate these flatbreads with a chicken and vegetable curry. They didn’t hang around for very long!

Very Easy Flatbreads Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe

250g self raising flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
250g natural or Greek yoghurt
Garlic oil, optional

Place a frying pan on the hob to heat up (I like to use my ridged pan) Blitz all the ingredients together in a food processor or stir well with a wooden spoon until you have a dough. Knead for a minute on a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough into six equal portions, then
roll each one out until fairly thin. When the pan is nice and hot, lightly brush each piece of dough with garlic oil, if using, and drop in the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes until they start to turn golden, lightly charred in some parts and look puffy. Turn over and cook for another minute or so. Keep them wrapped in a tea towel to keep warm :-)

Any leftover flatbreads can be frozen. To reheat simply wrap in foil and place in a warm oven or pop in the toaster.

Cadbury Daim Bar chunk cookies

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It took me years to find a perfect cookie recipe. I like my cookies crispy around the edges and soft in the middle. Many recipes were tested and many of them were okay, but they weren’t the one.

The following recipe is the closest I’ve ever been to cookie perfection. To me, they are ideal – they have those crispy edges and a soft, chewy centre. Yum.

The Daim bar chunks really take this cookie to another level, but you can use any chopped up chocolate bar you want – Terry’s chocolate orange would be wonderful. So would Galaxy.

Or you could add smarties or chocolate chips. I’ll leave it for you to decide :-)

Cadbury Daim Bar chunk cookies
Adapted from “Passion for baking” by Jo Wheatley

200g soft butter
150g soft light brown sugar
125g demerara sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
400g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g Cadburys Daim Bar chocolate, chopped up (or any other chocolate bar of your choice)

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a couple of baking trays.

Cream the butter and sugars together until very light and fluffy. Slowly add the beaten eggs until the mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir into the batter just until everything is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate.

Using an ice cream scoop, drop spoonfuls of the cookie batter onto the lined trays. You can roll the mixture into balls using your hands (this cookie dough is a dream to work with) but I find I get the best results using an ice cream scoop. This way you’ll have perfect, evenly sized cookies (which pleases my slightly OCD tendencies!)

Bake for 5 mins, then remove the tray from the oven and sharply (and carefully!) bang the tray down on a solid work surface. Return the cookies to to the oven and bake for a further 7-10 minutes or until golden around the edges. The cookies will still be quite soft in the middle, so leave them on the baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Slow cooker pulled pork with brioche buns

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Pulled pork has to be one of my favourite things to eat right now. Soft, tender meat cooked so slowly you can literally pull it apart with a fork – I love stuffing the meat into a soft, fluffy bun. Give me some BBQ sauce and coleslaw and I am one very happy gal!

I’ve made pulled pork in both the oven and the slow cooker. The slow cooker is definitely the easiest way, since you can just throw all the ingredients in the pot and forget about it for 12 hours or even 24 if you need to. The recipe I’m sharing with you today requires a slow cooker. So if you were given/inherited one years ago which has since been gathering dust in the cupboard, I urge you to dig it out and give this recipe a go. You can thank me later ;-)

The following recipe will give you a ton of pulled pork. But if you’re family is anything like mine, that won’t be a problem. Even if you don’t feel like eating pulled pork for a few nights in a row (I’ll be giving you a few ideas for using up the leftovers at the end of this post), you can always freeze some for later use, providing your pork shoulder wasn’t already frozen before you cooked it.

Slow cooker pulled pork

About 2kg (or thereabouts) boneless pork shoulder joint
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
Few drops of Chipotle tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper
150ml fresh apple juice

Set the slow cooker to slow.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, smoked paprika, fennel seeds, crushed garlic, chilli powder and tabasco. Add 1 tsp salt and lots of ground pepper. Rub this mixture all over the pork.

Place the pork in the slow cooker and pour the apple juice around the joint. Place the lid on top and cook for a minimum of 12 hours. The longer the better really. I cooked mine for 20 hours and it was perfect.

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20 hour slow cooked pulled pork - at this stage I can't wait to dive in!

I made brioche rolls to have with the pulled pork – I found the recipe from the July issue of BBC Good Food magazine. I couldn’t find the recipe online so I’ll share my adaptation with you :-)

Brioche buns

250ml water
3 tbsp milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter
450g strong white flour
1 tsp fast action yeast
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 Large eggs plus one beaten egg to glaze the buns
Sesame seeds

Place the water, milk and butter in a small saucepan and warm gently over a low heat until the butter has almost melted. Take off the heat and stir until the butter has completely melted. Make sure the mixture isn’t hot, you only want it warm otherwise it may kill the yeast. If it is a little on the hot side, leave to cool down for a few minutes.

Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Keep the yeast and salt at separate sides of the bowl. Roughly mix to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the warm liquid and the eggs. Use your hands to mix to a dough. It will be very sticky and wet. But don’t be tempted to add more flour. Very lightly oil your hands and work surface and knead the dough for a good 10 minutes. This is when the humble dough scraper proves to be very useful! Or if you’re lucky enough to own a food mixer, save your arms and use it! When the dough is very smooth, soft, bouncy and elastic, it’s ready. Place into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove for 1-3 hours, until doubled in size.

When the dough is ready, knock the air out by kneading for a minute. Divide the dough into 10-12 even pieces. Roll into balls (a lightly floured surface comes in handy here) and place on lined baking trays. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave for around 45-1 hour until they have doubled in size again. While you’re waiting, Heat oven to 200C and place a baking tray at the bottom of the oven.

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When the buns have proved, brush them all over with the beaten egg glaze and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Pour a cup of water into the baking tray you placed at the bottom of the oven
earlier (this will keep the buns moist while baking and give them a lovely soft crumb.) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until nice and golden.

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Serve with BBQ sauce and coleslaw. My slaw of choice is Nigella’s New Orleans coleslaw

Here are a few ideas for using up your leftover pulled pork.

*On a pizza

*In a ragu – add the pork to a herby tomato sauce and serve with pasta

*In a baguette or soft roll with apple sauce

*Stirred into a risotto

*Quesadillas

*Piled on top of a baked potato

The following pictures are recipes from Jamie Oliver’s new book “Save with Jamie”…first up is cajun pork tacos – these were absolutely gorgeous! It’s so worth making the pulled pork so you can make this recipe :-)

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Dim sum pork buns…another stunning recipe. We loved these!

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Apologies for the rather long post, but if all this doesn’t make you want to rescue your slow cooker out from the dark depths of the cupboard and make yourself some pulled pork, I’m not sure what will! ;-)

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I shared this post over at A Mummy Too for #recipe of the week.

Frozen banana and peanut butter smoothie

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A couple of years ago I read about a tip that changed my life. And also saved me a few pennies. You see, I have a thing about overripe bananas. I can’t stand them. I don’t mind a few brown speckles, but anything beyond that makes me slightly queasy. We eat a fair amount of bananas in our house, but I ended up buying more than we could eat in a few days and before I knew it, I would be faced with more black bananas than I could possibly bake with or stomach sitting on my kitchen counter. Which led to them being guiltily thrown in the bin. Unloved and unused.

That scenario happened on an almost weekly basis in my kitchen until I read about freezing bananas. When they are turning too speckled for your liking, slip off the skins, slice them up into fairly small chunks and freeze for later use.

This was a revelation to me. Who knew?
Now I’m glad to say that my days of throwing bananas in the bin are long behind me!

This is a great recipe for using up your overripe bananas. It makes a great energy giving breakfast or after-school refreshment on a hot day. If you are doing the latter, my simple oat biscuits or these apple and oatmeal cookies would be a lovely accompaniment!

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Frozen banana and peanut butter smoothie
Enough for two people
500ml milk
Two chopped up bananas, frozen (of course it’s fine to use unfrozen but in that case I would add a handful of ice cubes)
3 tbsp smooth or crunchy peanut butter *start with two tablespoons then taste the smoothie. You choose whether or not to add the extra tablespoon. You may find it perfect as it is. I love peanut butter so I say the more the merrier!*
Handful of linseeds (optional)

In a blender or smoothie maker, whizz up all the ingredients until smooth. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

*If I’m not on a health kick I sometimes add a scoop of ice cream to this smoothie for a treat – in fact it has just
dawned on me that a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s peanut butter cup ice cream would take this smoothie to another level! I’m so trying it this weekend!*