RICH CHOCOLATE POTS

Chocolate pots

I used to think that these little pots of chocolate were the height of sophistication. To be fair I was only about 5 years old and they were a ‘left over’ treat from my parent’s dinner parties.  My mum made these a lot and this is her recipe. They are still a treat, dark, very chocolaty, rich  and easy to make. Just take care to melt the chocolate slowly and to combine the ingredients gently.  With such a simple recipe it is easy to make more and they can be made ahead of time and frozen-all my boxes are ticked.

If you can the flavour is even better if you make them the day before so a little restraint is needed-(you can always like out the bowl to keep you going!)

NB please note that the recipe contains uncooked eggs.

RICH CHOCOLATE POTS

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CREAMY FISH PIE FOR EASTER

 

Here is a extra special creamy fish pie for Easter an ooh and aah moment at your Easter celebrations. Everyone loves a pie and because they take a bit of extra time to make we don’t make them so often hence the oohs and aaahs. This one is extra special with leeks, smoked fish, prawns and eggs. 

Making a white sauce:

It is so simple to make a white sauce using the microwave method and much easier to get rid of lumps.  Add some extra butter at the end and I can’t really tell the difference. If you don’t agree I have included the instructions to make it with a roux ie melting butter, stirring in the flour and then whisking in the hot milk. It seems a palaver to me but I guess it isn’t if you are used to doing it this way and take a hard line on the ‘right’ way to do things!

If you want to make it ahead of time just cool it quickly and open freeze. When it is frozen you can protect it with a freezer bag. To eat the pie take it out of the freezer in plenty of time for it to defrost and then cook as before.

I’m having a large family gathering this year so I’ll be making this ahead of time to leave lots of time for chocolate Easter egg eating. Got to get your priorities sorted after all.

Happy Easter!

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SIMPLE OATY BISCUITS TO BAKE AT HOME

 

 

Fiona's Oaty Biscuits
Fiona’s Oaty Biscuits

Simple oaty biscuits to bake at home?  Simple is great and it’s a shame that simple is often thought to be boring.

My mother is a Scot and I was brought up eating lots of oats, porridge, oat cakes, haggis, muesli, flap jacks, oaty bread, oaty biscuits and a delicious pudding called cranachan, a creamy mix of raspberries, toasted oatmeal and whisky. I have to admit to preferring porridge made with rolled oats (not pinhead), milk (not water) and sugar (not salt). We were subjected to ‘proper’ porridge on visits over the border to see grandparents and I still shudder at the memory. Our rolled oats of choice was Scott’s Porage Oats. Who could resist the athletic, kilted Scots man on the packet about to release his shotput over the glorious highlands?.

Oats are healthy to eat, high in fibre, cheap to buy, nutritious and their slow release, wholegrain goodness will keep you going until lunchtime and beyond…what’s not to love?

This recipe for oaty biscuits comes from a Scottish (of course) friend Fiona, have a go they are simply delicious!

FIONA’S OATY BISCUITS

125g  Plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

125g rolled oats

125g  unrefined caster sugar

125g  block margarine or butter

Generous tablespoon golden syrup

Splash of milk

Prepare a baking tray with baking paper.  (It is helpful to have two trays if you have them as the biscuits take up quite a lot of space in the oven)

 

  • Put the flour, baking powder and oats in a bowl and mix together.
  • Melt the sugar, margarine and syrup in a small pan and then add to the dry ingredients.
  • Stir until incorporated. The mixture should be quite stiff but add a very little milk if it doesn’t come off the spoon easily. Drop approx. a small desert spoonful of mixture onto the baking sheet, it helps to use a teaspoon to push the mixture off the spoon.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes in a medium oven at approximately 160C, Gas mark 2. When golden remove from the oven, allows them to cool a little and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

NOTE: It is easy to put too much too much mixture on the tray, the biscuits need room to spread or you will end up with one large (but equally delicious) biscuit!

BOSTON BAKED BEANS for Bonfire night

These sticky pork Boston Baked Beans are just the ticket for Bonfire night.

I love it when the nights start to cut in and there is the lovely sweet smell of autumn in the air. I can’t wait to get the log fire going and look forward to cosy evenings. I have always loved Halloween and Bonfire night -maybe because my mother always made an effort to celebrate them and I have never forgotten about them. Halloween involved dressing up and anxiously searching the sky for witches and Bonfire night was always at home with a bonfire in the garden and my mums food. My ‘food memories’ are still clear in my mind; almost impossible to eat toffee apples, homemade tomato soup in a mug, sticky parkin (well, I am from Yorkshire), sausages and jacket potatoes cooked in the fire. I think I recall even doing this the day after bonfire night, the embers were so hot! I thought it the most exciting night of the year. I think I may have blocked out all the rainy nights when we couldn’t do them but I do recall tears… Organised firework displays have never done anything for me at all -perhaps because the food was as important as the fireworks.

These Boston Baked Beans are the sort of thing I would cook nowadays for either a Halloween or Bonfire party but my recipe is perfect for comfort eating at any time. So batten  down the hatches and give it a go. This dish won’t spoil if it is left and it’s even better the next day.

BOSTON BAKED BEANS

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MARINATED COURGETTE WITH DILL

Courgette & fresh dill pickle
Marinated courgette with dill

Summer time and the plot is bursting at the seams…and the courgettes are intent on a veg patch take over. Will we ever learn not to put in so many-no, probably not because ‘you never know’ what may happen.  Some plants may not make it through the minefield of growing your own vegetables………………… too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet slugs, hapless gardeners, mildew, pests etc etc. Once they get past the danger times they grow at an alarming rate the beautiful, orange flowers start appearing and, magically, they develop into tiny courgettes. It is best to pick them small but beware turn your back, they have grown into huge marrows. ‘What shall I do with them’ ? is a common cry.

I like mine sliced into rounds and simply fried in olive oil but there are lots of other options -roasted in the oven, made into soup, spiralised into salads or pasta and baked in various cakes and scones.  After you have exhausted all the usual ways to deal with them try this very simple dish. It is easy to grow the delicious herb dill alongside your vegetables or it is pretty enough to go in the flower beds as well. It is my favourite fresh herb and simply used with courgettes a summer treat for me. Don’t forget it isn’t a pickle and you have to eat it fresh although it will last until the next day.

MARINATED COURGETTE WITH  DILL

2/3 Small courgettes

50ml rice wine vinegar (+water)

Approx. 1 teasp. sugar*

Fresh dill

Seas salt and freshly ground, black, pepper

  1. Using a ‘T’ vegetable peeler remove long, fine ribbons along the length of the courgette. Move around in quarter turns and then discard the middle bit. If you have to use an older courgette I would remove half of the peel as it will be tough.
  2. Put the vinegar in a small pan with 3 tbsp. water. Add *some of the sugar. Briefly simmer and then leave to cool. Taste- it shouldn’t be too sweet or too vinegary.
  3. Finely chop the dill-you can do it with the stalk unless they are tough. In this case you can take them off and just chop the feathery bits.
  4. Put the courgette, vinegar mix and dill in a small bowl and mix together.
  5. Leave for an hour and then drain before eating.

 

 

 

 

SAUSAGE & EGG PICNIC PIES

 

 

 

 

Sausage & Egg Picnic Pies

 

School holidays and sunshine (well it is here in the West, sorry East but it is usually us in the rain and cold!). Time to head out for a picnic-these portable, Sausage & Egg Picnic Pies are scrumptious. They are  a bit more of a fiddle to make than a cheese sandwich but they don’t curl up around the edges when you leave them out in the sun and……………they are delicious. If you can get hold of a nice, meaty, sausage rather than a more processed one that is better.

So head off in to the great outdoors or just down to the bottom of the garden or local park and have fun in the sun! Toodle pip

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ROAST CHICKEN WITH STICKY CARROTS

Roast Herby Chicken with Sticky Roots
Roast  Chicken with Sticky carrots

Well it’s been a while…I’m thinking ahead to a simple Sunday lunch or  easy get together meal with the family and this roast chicken with sticky carrots fits the bill. Roast chicken is always a safe bet (and economical) so it’s my go to family, weekend, roast. My Christmas turkey always sits on top of a ‘trivet’ of  vegetables & herbs  to help keep it moist by raising it off the base of the roasting tin and adding extra flavour to the chicken. It also helps to make the best gravy ever so I have used this trick with the chicken. Try to get hold of  to a higher welfare chicken if you can it is much better not just in terms of flavour but more because of the meaty texture-not the ‘cotton wooly’ texture  of meat from many factory raised birds.

My bird is fragrant with rosemary, roasted garlic, juicy with lemon and sweet, sticky carrots AND roasted all in one pan so not much washing up-can you resist?

Here is my;

ROSEMARY AND LEMON ROAST CHICKEN WITH STICKY CARROTS

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LEMON CURD

Gorgeously citrusy lemon curd
Gorgeously citrusy lemon curd

This delicious lemon curd is truly the the food of the gods and takes just 20 minutes to make.  You could use it fill a light, fluffy sponge cake or lemon roulade, dollop onto freshly baked scones or use as a decadent filling for dainty sandwiches-white bread, no crusts of course. Personally, I found it very difficult not to eat the whole lot directly from the jar……not just me..I had to wrest it from my husband as well.

The curd is made in small jars as it doesn’t keep well although this is academic as you won’t be able to resist it for long

 

Try it and you will never look at a bought jar of bright yellow, gloopy lemon curd in quite the same way.

Lemon Cake

LEMON CURD

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MOTHER’S DAY CAKE for a special mum

Mother's day cake
My special Mother’s Day cake

A special cake for a special day-what could be a nicer gift than a home baked one made with love? This is a rather special mother’s day cake which, ditching the bunting, you could use for all sorts of celebrations-the crystallized rose petals giving it a very pretty, vintage look.

I have a long history of making cakes for Mothering Sunday..with various degrees of success..for some reason my sisters and I thought it would be a good idea (and perfectly feasible) to get up very early in the morning bake a cake AND ice it….yes, you can imagine what happened but I’m sure my mum looked at the wonky cake with the icing sliding down the sides and thought it was the best present ever!

Nowadays we have ready made fondant icing  which is very easy to use and gives a perfectly smooth professional looking finish -it’s as easy as child’s play to put it on just have a look at some You tube videos to show you how. I confess I am not a fan of eating it and I think that the synthetic, vanilla flavour is over sweet and spoils my lovely cake! It is a waste as I cut mine off before I eat it.. I could be harsh and say it often is used to cover up a poor quality cake and, from a business point of view, gives it a very long shelf life.

Home made marzipan is a revelation to convert even the most ardent ‘I hate marzipan’ brigade and I confess to being quite evangelical about singing it’s praises.  It is easy peasy to make just stir the sugars together and bind with egg and it doesn’t have the sharp, chemical after taste of bought marzipan. Almonds are expensive so it makes commercial sense not to use too much and then to get the ‘almond’ flavour by adding a cheap, artificial flavour.

I made the bunting for a special Mother’s day message, it was a fiddle although you can buy the little paper flags from a craft shop. These I glued onto the ribbon (using a high tac glue that dries quickly and clear) and tied the ribbon onto some paper straws. Move them around to get the right ‘hanging effect’ before you sink them into the cake. also used crystallized fresh rose petals which look so..oooooooooooooooo pretty. You can also crystallise primroses, violets or forget me nots, the loveliness is endless. I did try it with snowdrops one year, they looked ok but are really too fleshy to do properly and you really need a flower with an ‘open’ face. Give it a go and you will be amazed at how easy it is.

 

A simply iced cake for any celebration
A simply iced cake for any celebration

Here is my mother’s day  cake-appropriately for Mothering Sunday I have used my mother’s own recipe for it. I used a Madiera cake as it is quite firm so a good base if you want to cover it with marzipan and icing. The cake has a dense texture and lemony flavour and traditionally it was served topped with very thin slices of crystallized lemon peel.

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ESPRESSO COFFEE CAKE

Coffee & Tia Maria cake just for the grown ups!
Coffee & Tia Maria cake just for the grown ups!

Grown up’s espresso coffee cake with ‘Tia Maria’

If I’d known you were coming I would have baked you a cake…tra la la so it goes and what could be nicer to give to someone but a home made cake? This espresso coffee cake is a sophisticated marble cake with ‘Tia Maria’ liquer rather gorgeous and strictly for the grown ups. Hands off my little ones this is all mine. I’m not really one for the strict New Year resolutions viz a viz the ‘great cake eating/healthy eating debate’ so I’m going for the ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’ standpoint. Much more successful with me at any rate-what about you?

I have decorated the cake with chocolate covered coffee beans – you can find them on the counter in some of the larger coffee shops or in Italian type  delis etc. They are worth searching out to decorate this cake. Here is my recipe:

ESPRESSO COFFEE CAKE WITH ‘TIA MARIA’

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