Mini Egg Rocky Road Bars

You can make an almost infinite variety of rocky road bars. The key thing is include lots of different textures.

I used mini eggs because they are basically my crack cocaine. My other more recent addiction is Bishoff biscuits. I’ve used these here, but you can use any type of crunchy biscuit or cookie you prefer.

Ingredients

400 Grams Chocolate (I used half milk and half dark chocolate, but use what you prefer)

125 Grams Bishoff biscuits

100 Grams Marshmallows

250 Grams Mini Eggs

3 Tbsp Golden Syrup

50 Grams Butter

Method

  1. Break the chocolate in to chunks, and add to a microwave proof bowl along with the butter and golden syrup. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the butter and chocolate have melted
  2. Place the biscuits in a freezer bag any bash with a rolling pin (if you don’t have one a tin can will do). The biscuits should be be broken into bits but not too small or all crumbs. Put the broken biscuits in a large bowl
  3. Add half the mini eggs to the freezer bag and bash these too. Add to the broken biscuits and add the Marshmallows
  4. Pour two thirds of the chocolate mix into the bowl and stir until combined. Line a 12cm X 18cm dish with baking paper and transfer the rock road mix into it. Spread evenly.
  5. Cover the rocky road mix with the chocolate you held back. I use a wet palate knife to smooth the top (an ordinary knife is fine if you don’t have one, as rocky roads are bumpy)
  6. Sprinkle the remaining half of the crushed mini eggs and refrigerate for a minimum 1-2 hours before cutting into slices

Hummingbird Cake

I’ve loved this cake ever since I tasted it in the States years ago. Not only does it have a cool name but your house will smell unbelievable.

This is also a good way to use up over ripe bananas if you can’t face banana bread (this is much nicer). Cinnamon can be swapped for ground ginger if you’re not a fan.

Ingredients

For the cake

130 Gram Tin of pineapple in natural juice (chop the pineapple finely, and keep the juice)

2 Ripe bananas (mashed)

280 Grams Caster sugar

210 Grams Self raising flour

2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

60 ml Pineapple juice (from the tin of pineapple)

170 ml Oil

2 Eggs

For the frosting

60 Grams Butter

120 Grams Cream Cheese

180 Grams Icing sugar

75 Grams Pecan nuts (Chopped)

Grated zest of one lemon (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease a 20 cm (8 inch) cake tin and line with baking paper
  2. Add the banana, chopped pineapple and sugar to a large bowl and mix until combined. Add the flour and cinnamon and mix well
  3. Whisk the oil, eggs and pineapple juice together before adding to the banana mixture. Stir until properly combined
  4. Transfer the cake mix to the baking tin and bake for 1 hour or until you can insert a skewer in the centre and it comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for another 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before topping with icing
  5. To make the icing, whisk the butter and cream cheese together (I use an electric whisk). Gradually add the icing sugar and orange zest.
  6. Spread the icing evenly over the top of the cooled cake and sprinkle with pecans

Coconut and Jam Sponge

This is a real reminder of school dinners for me.

If you aren’t confident with desserts this is really easy. All the ingredients for the sponge are dumped in a bowl and whisked together before being baked. The topping is simply ready made jam and coconut.

The sponge also freezes really well, so if you’re super organised make a double batch of the mix. Bake two sponges, and when completely cool, wrap one one of the sponges in cling film and freeze, top with jam and coconut once thawed.

I’ve used margarine in this (Mary Berry claims it’s better for sponge cakes, and who am I to argue), it’s also cheaper. Feel free to use butter if you prefer

Serve custard with for the perfect comforting dessert.

Ingredients

For the sponge

225 Grams Self raising flour

225 Grams Sugar

225 Grams Margarine

4 Eggs

For the topping

200 Grams Jam

25 Grams Dessicated coconut

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients for the sponge in a bowl. Mix with an electric whisk for 5 minutes until light and fluffy
  2. Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees
  3. Line a 30cm x 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment. Transfer the sponge mix into the tin and spread evenly with a spatula
  4. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, and allow to cool
  5. Stir the jam and if it’s too thick to spread add a table spoon of hot water and mix well
  6. Spread the jam evenly across the sponge and sprinkle with coconut

Cheese and Broccoli Soup

Serve with chunky croutons for some crunch

I don’t make soup that often (some soups are a little dull).

Anything with cheese in it gets my vote, and this is rich and satisfying.

Ideal for anyone following a low carb diet, this is also delicious with crusty bread.  I made this with vegetable stock so it’s suitable for vegetarians but you can use chicken stock if you prefer.

You’ll need cream cheese and a stronger flavoured cheese.  I used a mix of mature cheddar and parmigiana, blue cheese works really well too, but use what you have.

This rich creamy soup is even tastier topped with crunchy croutons, or crispy bacon (if you’re not vegetarian)

Ingredients

1 Large head of broccoli (roughly chopped)

1 Small onion, or 3-4 spring onions/scallions (chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

750 ml Vegetable stock (I used a stock cube)

200 Grams Cream cheese

50 Grams Strong flavour cheese (grated)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot, and add the onion. Fry over a medium heat until soft but don’t brown
  2. Add the broccoli and vegetable stock. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes or until the broccoli is soft
  3. Add the cream cheese and stir until it has melted. Using a blender or hand held blender, blitz until the the soup it is smooth (how smooth you make it is up to you)
  4. Return the soup to the pot and add the stronger flavoured cheese. Heat for a further 5 minutes and stir well to make sure all the cheese has melted. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed

Beignets (New Orleans style donuts)

Mardi gras didn’t really happen this year, but this time of year reminds me of New Orleans.

I was talking to a friend last week about places we had really enjoyed visiting and the food that reminded us of them and it sparked a memory of New Orleans.

About a million years ago when I was a student I worked in a US Summer camp and went travelling afterwards. I ended up in New Orleans and everyone recommended I try a visit to Cafe du Mond in the French Quarter. Their signature dish is a little plate of 3 beignets (little oblong donuts, doused in icing sugar) and a cafe au lait. The place is an institution and recalling it had me craving them. I had my very own Marcel Proust moment eating these, it was amazing (Rememberance of Things Past, is quite a dull book but is famous for passage about how food triggers memories)

This is probably best made at the weekend due to the amount of time you need to prove the dough, but other than that the beignets are pretty simple to make.

I used evaporated milk because I think it makes a richer dough, but ordinary milk is fine if you don’t have it.

N.B. When deep frying, cook at a medium heat. They will brown very quickly because of the sugar in the dough, but the first few I made had raw dough in the middle which was disgusting. I cooked rest at a lower heat and they were fine.

Ingredients

430 Grams Flour, I used strong bread flour, but plain flour is fine

125 ml Evaporated milk (ordinary milk is also fine)

175 ml Warm water (about skin temperature, not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast)

1/2 Tsp Dried yeast

50 Grams Sugar

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Egg (beaten)

30 Grams Butter (melted, and allowed to cool a little)

Icing sugar for dusting

Vegetable oil for frying

Method

  1. In a large bowl, add half the water, a teaspoon of sugar, and the yeast and stir, leave in a warm room (I use an airing cupboard because there are drafts) for 15 mins. The mix start to form a froth on top.
  2. Mix in the rest of the water, sugar, salt, milk and the egg and mix well
  3. Stir in half the flour, and then add the melted butter and remaining flour and mix well. The douch will be pretty sticky so transfer to a greased bowl and cover with cling film and keep in a fridge over night or at least 3 hours
  4. After dough has proved in the fridge its time to roll out. I’ve tried flouring the surface and rolling pin and found it stuck really badly. So the next batch I tried using a thin layer of oil on the surface and rolling and for me it worked better (I know some people prefer using a floured surface so work with what works for you
  5. Roll the dough in to an oblong and trim the edges. I use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 18 oblongs (you can use a knife, but I found this worked well
  6. Heat your oil, until its warm enough that a cube of bread will sizzle when you drop it in. Cook the beignets in small batches, turning after a minute or two. You really need to pay attention to these as the colour very quickly. As I said early don’t let your oil get too hot or you’ll end up with raw dough in the middle
  7. Drain the cooked beignets on kitchen paper as soon as you take them out of the oil and then sprinkle liberally with icing sugar for a proper taste of New Orelans

Sweet Arancini, (Deep Fried Rice Pudding Balls)

I tried these out these because I misjudged the amount of rice pudding I was making (in my never ending quest to use up things that have hanging around my cupboards). 

The up shot is that I had a big load of rice pudding that I didn’t want to throw away so I came up with these as a way of using it up.  Turns out pretty much any type of fried carb is delicious.  These also make a lovely dessert for anyone who needs a gluten free option. Yes, they might be a bit of work but you can make the rice pudding ahead of time. I would class this as weekend cooking.

Getting ready to coat the rice balls, cornflour, then egg, then rice crispies.

Just like making the savoury version, the rice needs to be cold.   I tried a couple of different versions with different centres. If you’re a chocolate lover, I tried one’s with a chocolate button in the middle which were really good.  However, for my favourite ones I added a teaspoon of jam for the centre, but feel free to experiment with other fillings.

Ingredients

For the rice pudding

200 Grams Pudding Rice

500ml Milk

300ml Condensed milk

For the coating

2-3 Tbsps Corn flour

1-2 Eggs (beaten)

150 Grams Rice crispies or puffed rice (put in a plastic bag and scrunch up to crush the cereal into finer pieces, but not dust)

Oil for frying.

Method

  1. Add the rice, milk and condensed milk to a pot with a lid. Bring up to just before boiling point, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Stir regularly to prevent sticking, cook until soft (the rice I used took just over an hour, but other brands of rice may not take that long. Depending on the rice you use you may need to add more milk/water, but the pudding should be pretty thick
  2. When your rice is cooked, you can enjoy some rice pudding right away. The rest of it should be allowed to cool before transferring to an air tight container and refrigerate (ideally overnight, but at least for a couple of hours)
  3. Take a large tablespoon of chilled rice pudding and flatten in the palm of your hand. Add whatever filling you are using to the centre of the mix and form the rice around it until you make a ball (wetting your hands stops the rice sticking to them)
  4. When you have finished making all the balls, place on a plate and refrigerate for an hour to allow them to set
  5. To prepare the balls, first of all heat your oil (I don’t know the exact temperature to tell you, but my go way to check the temperature is to drop in a cube of bread if it start frying right away you’re probably good to go. Be careful the oil doesn’t get too hot or else the centre of the rice ball will be cold)
  6. In separate dishes, lay out the cornflour, egg and crushed rice crispies
  7. Roll each ball in first the cornflour, then the egg and finally in the rice crispies.
  8. Add to the oil in batches and fry until golden brown (don’t be tempted to cook too many at one time). These are gorgeous served with vanilla ice cream.

Pear and Almond Tart

Some ingredients are just made to go together and pears and almonds are two of the them. 

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with pears.  When they are perfect they’re hard to beat.  The only issue is that they are like granite and inedible, and then turn to mush within about 20 minutes.  They are the ultimate passive aggressive fruit!

Frangipane filling

This recipe is great for using pears that are too hard to eat if you can’t be bothered with the game of chicken involved in waiting for pears to ripen.

This is a pretty rich recipe, but isn’t meant to be eaten every day and looks really impressive if you’re cooking for friends. 

It’s important to blind bake the pastry case first

You can make the pastry case and the frangipane filling in advance, which means you can have more time with your guests. You could even use shop bought pastry if you don’t have time (home made is better though). This is really good on it’s own but a little fresh cream or ice cream also doesn’t hurt if you want to be properly indulgent.

Yummy with ice cream

Ingredients

For the pastry case

200 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter (chilled and cut into small cubes)

1 Tbsp Caster sugar

1 Egg yolk

For the frangipane filling

115 Grams Butter (at room temperature)

115 Grams Caster sugar

115 Grams Ground almonds

1 Tsp Vanilla extract (optional)

2 Eggs

2 Large pears

Method

  1. In a food processor add the flour, sugar, and butter. Whizz until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs (you can run the butter and flour in together by hand if you prefer)
  2. Add the egg yolk and a small amount of cold water and whizz again until the mix starts to come together. Start to press the mix together to form a dough, adding a small amount of cold water if necessary. Form into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  3. Grease a 9in x 9 in loose bottemed flan tin. When the pastry has chilled, place on a floured surface, and roll out in a circle approximately 1/2 cm thick.
  4. Lay into you prepare flan tin making sure that it’s pressed into the edges. Place a sheet of baking paper on top and baking beans (I use old dried rice) to weigh down the pastry and blind bake in an oven pre heated to 180 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes before taking the case out if the oven, carefully lift the the baking paper by the 4 corners taking care not to spill any of the baking beans/rice onto the pastry case.
  5. Return the pastry case to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes before removing from the oven and allowing to cool
  6. To make the filling, add the butter and sugar to a bowl and mix with an electric whisk until light and creamy. Add the vanilla, almonds and eggs and beat in until combined
  7. Peel, core and quarter the pears, before cutting into slices about 1cm thick
  8. Spread the almond mixture into the pastry case. Arrange quarter of the pear so the narrow part is towards the centre of the tin and wider part is towards the outside work as quickly as you can to prevent the pear discolouring
  9. Once you have arranged the pears, return the flan tin to 180 degree oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the centre is just starting to set (it will continue to cook as it cools). Allow to cool in the tin for another 15 minutes before attempting to cut.

Apple Crumble Muffins

This is another recipe scalped from one of the Great British Bake Off cook books.

I have included the original recipe, but you can change it up.  I’ve tried using different fruit like pears or raspberries and it was delicious.  You can also add some nuts to the topping for some added crunch, or a teaspoon of cinnamon in the base mix for an extra kick of flavour.

These keep for 3-4 days in an airtight tin

Ingredients

For the topping

50 Grams Porridge oats

50 Grams Caster sugar

50 Grams Plain flour

50 Grams Butter (cut into small cubes)

For the base

250 Grams Plain flour

25 Grams Porridge oats

175 Grams Caster sugar

2 Tsp Baking powder

Zest of 1 Lemon (finely grated)

150 Grams Butter

2 Eggs

100 ml Milk

1 Large eating Apple (peeled, cored and cut into 1.5 cm chunks)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees, and line a muffin tin with paper muffin cases
  2. In a bowl, add all the crumble ingredients, rubbing in the butter until all the ingredients are combined. Set to one side
  3. In a separate bowl, add the flour, oats, baking powder and lemon zest and mix to combine (dry mix)
  4. Gently melt the butter (either in a pot or the microwave), and allow to cool slightly. In a small bowl beat the eggs and milk together and then add the melted butter (wet mix)
  5. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir gently until just combined
  6. Spoon the base mix equally into the muffin cases. Top the muffins with the cubes of apple, and then add the crumble topping (try make sure there is an equal amount of apple and crumble mix on each muffin
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes and allow to cool on a wire wrack (although these taste fantastic when they’re still warm)

Pecan and White Chocolate Blondies

Pecan and White Chocolate Blondies

I really enjoy coming up with my own recipes. But, sometimes I just want to make something that I know will turn out well and taste delicious.

For these Blondies I’ve used a recipe featured one of the Great British Bake Off cook books. I don’t know who the contestant was who came up with these beauties, but they taste fantastic.

Ingredients

175 Grams White chocolate

150 Grams Pecans

115 Grams Butter

100 Grams Caster Sugar

2 Eggs

1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract

125 Grams Plain flour

1/2 Tsp Baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and line a 9in x 9in brownie tin with grease proof paper
  2. Cut the butter and chocolate into chunks and add to a heat proof bowl. Put the bowl over a pot of warm water and stir until melted
  3. Add the sugar, (it might look curdled but don’t panic). Allow to cool.
  4. While the chocolate mix is cooling, put the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl and beat with a fork until frothy, and stir in to the cooled chocolate mix
  5. Sift the flour and baking powder together and mix into the chocolate mix along with 100 grams on the pecans
  6. Transfer the mix to your baking tin and top with the remaining pecans
  7. Bake for 25 minutes, allow to cool in the tin
  8. These should stay fresh for 3-4 days in an airtight tin

Cinnamon and Apple Blondies

It’s cold, dark, and miserable outside, I’m having a “big” birthday and there is nowhere open to go out and celebrate.

Combine the cake mix thoroughly before adding the apples.

To try and stave off the impending dispair this will bring, for the mean time I’m all about the comfort food.

Toss the apples in a little flour before adding to the mix.
Apple should be folded into the mix with a metal spoon.

I’ve made blondies before and they have a similar texture to brownies but as they don’t use chocolate, they have more of a caramely flavour. This works really well with apple and cinnamon. This time of year these are the flavours I love.

Yummy with ice cream

These are great with a cup of tea or coffee, but they’re also fantastic with custard or ice cream as a dessert. These freeze well, and will last 2-3 days in an air tight tin.

Ingredients

2 Apples (peeled, cored and cut into 1cm cubes)

1/2 Tsp Baking powder

100 Grams Soft brown sugar

100 Grams Caster sugar

1 Tsp Cinnamon

275 Grams Plain flour

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Egg

100 Grams Butter (melted)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees, and line a 8 in x 8 in baking tin
  2. Add the eggs and sugar to a bowl and mix with an electric whisk until light and fluffy
  3. Gradually whisk in the melted butter (allow to cool a little before adding)
  4. Hold back 2 tablespoons of flour, but gradually add the rest of the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and fold into the sugar and eggs mix with a metal spoon
  5. Once you have peeled and chopped the apples toss the pieces in the 2 tablespoons of flour
  6. Fold the chunks of apple into the batter until evenly distributed
  7. Transfer the mix to the baking tin, and bake for 50 minutes. Check . Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before cooling on a wire wrack