Sunday, 29 April 2012

PIE FUNNELS - A Few Of My Favourite Things

This week a few of my favourite things are these lovely pie funnels that look like little chimney pots.  I have the black bird and even a blue bird but when I saw the chimneys they had to be mine.  They come in different heights so you can use them in dishes of varying sizes but I have been known to use all three in a fish pie so they look like ship funnels.

My son Archie made a delicious corned beef pie this week which didn't really need a pie funnel but they are far too much fun to resist.

 I got my pie chimneys from Jamie At Home

Friday, 27 April 2012


With the love of all things baked on the increase and the need to have afternoon tea, everyone is wanting beautiful ways to display their delicious selections of cakes and scones, something sumptuous that's going to entice everyone even more.

Making cake stands from old crockery is very popular.  It's a fantastic way of using that last piece from a set which is dear to you but has lost it's companions.  However, if you want something different, I have just the thing.

Old vinyl is increasingly collectable and as most people no longer have the means to play them you can put them to other uses like my bowls and cake stands.

I've been selling mine at food and craft fairs and from May they will be available from  Staacks in West Kirby if you'd like one for yourself contact me by email at and I can arrange delivery by post.

Sunday, 22 April 2012


So there we were, eating our supper watching The Hairy Bikers when low and behold, they started to cook our meal.  It was like 5D TV, we could see it, touch it, smell it, eat it and taste it!  Great minds think alike is all I can say.  Si and Dave were in Italy making Stromboli, I was on the Wirral eating it.

Stromboli is basically an olive oil bread dough topped with pesto, parma ham, mozzarella and basil then rolled up like a swiss roll and baked. This was the kind of supper my husband and I would have pre-children, in one big bowl with two forks.  The bread is served warm from the oven, cut into chunks and added to salad.  The only dressing you need is some olive oil and balsamic which soaks into the bread making it even more lush.

In a bowl weigh:
500g Bread Flour
12g Dried Yeast
10g Salt
50g Olive oil
320g Water

Mix till it's all combined.  It shouldn't be dry so add a little more water if necessary. Remember, the softer your dough, the softer your bread.  Now tip it onto the surface and knead till it's smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.

Leave to rise in a bowl covered in cling film (or a shower cap) for an hour to double in size.

Next divide the dough into 2 and roll each into rectangles.  Cover with:
Pesto or Sun Dried Tomato Paste
Parma Ham
Grated Buffalo Mozzarella
Fresh Basil,Rocket or Spinach

Roll the dough along the longer edge like a swiss roll and put onto a lined baking sheet.  Make some slashes along the top and leave to rest for another hour. Lastly Bake at 200C for 20-25 minutes.

Eat your heart out Ingrid Bergman x

Friday, 20 April 2012

CHOCOLATE BUTTONS - A Few Of My Favourite Things

I've decided that sharing recipes is not enough - for too long I have kept some of my favourite kitchen utensils / gadgets / stuff secret because I didn't want everyone else having them too, they are my special things, but that's just selfish really and quite frankly the world needs to know about these brilliant items.  They make me go weak and compel me to stroke them in a loving way while I say 'Precious'  in a slightly sinister way.  It's not healthy is it, so in the name of self help I'm going to share.

I'm starting with my chocolate button moulds. You can't not love these.  I saw them on the first series of GBBO when Miranda Gore Brown used them on her tiered cake chocolate cake.  I trawled the internet and bought a mould but now there are two sizes!  You can have giant buttons which look like they should be worn on a coat by Kirsty Allsopp.  They are silicone so the buttons just pop out and they are easy to clean.

Two of my favourite things combined, chocolate and buttons, can't go wrong really.  They are great to decorate cakes like this Black Forest cup cake - one big button finishing it off, there's nothing cuter.

Or you can just have them as chocolate.  I always like to take a gift when I'm invited round for supper and these do the job nicely. I have made this selection for my lovely friend Elaine, she's very funky and will squeal with delight when she sees them.

If you want to get your hands on the moulds for yourself, I got them from Sew White but beware when you visit their web site - you will want to buy lots of other beautiful things.

Next week A Few of My Favourite Things will be - Pie Funnels

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Over the half term break I actually managed to get some work done on the allotment so I'm feeling very self righteous.  Previous to this sudden burst of enthusiasm my visits have been few and far between so there's not very much going on really but what I did manage to harvest was some rhubarb.

I'm not really a fan of rhubarb it has to be said apart from the Roobarb that comes with Custard of the cartoon variety but I do love crumble so here goes.

Cut 500g Rhubarb into 1 inch pieces and put in a pan with 100g Sugar and 1 Star Anise.  Cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes till it starts to become tender.  Be careful at the start that it doesn't burn before the sugar melts and the juices are released from the fruit.

Transfer the cooked rhubarb to an ovenproof dish and make your crumble topping.

In a bowl rub 85g Butter into 140g Plain Flour then stir in 3 tbsp Soft Brown Sugar, along with 60g Porridge Oats and 30g Flaked Almonds.  Use the crumble mix to cover the rhubarb in your dish.  I like quite a thick layer of crumble but you don't have to use it all and it freezes well ready for next time.

Bake your crumble at 180C for 35-40 minutes till it's gorgeously brown and bubbling at the edges.

Rhubarb crumble is a classic but you could also fill a pastry shell and top it with meringue for a beautiful pie or just add it to yoghurt for a breakfast treat.

Friday, 13 April 2012


Well it's been a bit of a lamb fest recently - Spring, Easter, what can I say.  On Easter Sunday we had slow roast lamb which I covered in one of those 'Life's Too Short' pastes from the supermarket.  You know the one's in the fancy spices and sauces section that's already done for you.  M&S and Tesco have a particularly good range.  Anyway, I covered our boned leg in a Moroccan Tagine paste and slammed it in the oven for 6 hours on 150C.

It was quite delish and needless to say far too much for 2 adults, 1 child and 2 children who think they're veggies cos they only want sausages.  So the leftovers went into my home made kebabs.  I have to admit I am rather partial to old elephants leg especially since our local kebab shop started delivering - How bad is that, getting your kebabs delivered.

Anyway, that is what became of the surplus lamb along with some home made flat breads.  I've flavoured mine with a mix of whatever spices I had to hand, cumin seeds, chili flakes, garlic flakes, and coriander seeds ground roughly in a pestle & mortar.  You could also use one of those grinders you get with a mix ready made for you.  Nigella seeds are great too, nothing to do with Ms Lawson though, it's the flavour you get in naan breads and I always put them in my flatbreads and samosa's.

Flat Breads

500g Strong Bread Flour
15g Yeast
15g Spice Mix
5g Nigella/Black Onion Seeds
10g Salt
50g Oil
320g Warm water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl then add the oil and water.  Combine well till it all comes together to form a dough.

Tip it onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes till it becomes smooth and elastic.  Return the dough to the bowl and cover with cling film (or - genius top tip,  a disposable shower cap) and leave to stand for 1hr till doubled in size.

when the dough is ready divide it into roughly 16, 50g balls.  Roll each one out to the size of a side plate, it will be quite thin, then cook each side on a hot griddle pan, hot plate or frying pan.  Cook the first side for about 3 minutes till it starts to bubble then flip it over to finish.

I served mine warm with the lamb, some salad and a little tzatziki - not an elephants leg in sight!

Monday, 9 April 2012


I've had a real craving for lamb recently, it's my favourite meat and I suppose quite traditional at this time of year.  In fact, my local supermarket ran out of mint sauce this week, luckily I had an emergency pot stashed away - am I the only person that does that?  Anyway, This lamb recipe uses mince and Harissa paste.  Most supermarket sell this spice mix now, usually in their fancy spices/sauces section.

Harissa is a chili paste used in North Africa.  The main ingredients are a mix of chili peppers along with garlic, coriander and caraway.  It is a standard ingredient in food from Morocco and the inspiration for this dish.

I’ve also added cinnamon, cumin and smoked paprika which all have an earthiness that completments the harissa adding to the moroccan influence.

Serves 4

500g Lamb Mince
1 Onion Chopped
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
Pinch Ground Cloves
1 Large Bunch Coriander Chopped 
1 Egg
Vegetable Oil
2tbsp Harrisa Paste
400g tin Chopped Tomatoes
4 Tomatoes Chopped
400ml Chicken Stock
1 Cinnamon Stick

Using your hands mix the lamb, onion, cumin, paprika, cloves,  half the coriander leaves and egg till well combined.

Next form the meat into walnut sized meatballs - I made about 20, then brown them in a pan with a little oil.

Remove them from the pan and add the harissa.  Cook the paste for a minute then add the tomatoes, stock and cinnamon.  If you snap the cinnamon stick in half it helps to release the flavour.

Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes then return the meatballs  and simmer for a further 20 minutes until cooked.

To finish, stir through the rest of the coriander.

I have served the stew with pasta but steamed cous cous, rice or mashed potato all work well with the thick rich sauce.

Friday, 6 April 2012


So, imagine you've made your hot cross buns and you actually have some left over, this is a twist on bread and butter pudding which is great for using them up.  The hot cross buns and custard already have enough fruit and sugar which means you don't have to add any more. It's really quick to throw together and I have to confess to having this for breakfast but don't tell anyone x

6 Hot Cross Buns
Butter to Spread
2 Eggs
200ml Milk
250g Ready Made Custard
2 tbsp Demerara Sugar

Split the hot cross buns and butter both sides.  Place the bottoms in a buttered baking dish.  Combine the custard with the eggs and milk and pour over half.  Now add the tops and pour over the remaining custard mixture.

Leave to stand for 20 minutes allowing the custard to soak into the bread.  Sprinkle over the sugar and bake at 160C for 30 minutes till the custard has set.


Monday, 2 April 2012


Ooh, there's nothing like warm hot cross buns straight from the oven with lots of butter slathered on top so it's all lovely and melty.  Easter seems to give us loads of baking opportunities but this is my favourite.  I've thrown caution to the wind here and messed with a classic recipe but I think it really works.  My inspiration came from Natural Selection Foods and their cinnamon cranberries, they are the perfect addition and you could try them for yourself if you enter my giveaway.  The winner will be chosen on Thursday 5th April

The lovely people from Natural Selection are offering 1 lucky winner an extremely generous hamper of baking goodies that will keep you very busy.  You can also 'like' their face book page and print a £1.00 Off voucher to spend at Asda or Sainsbury's.

The hamper includes:

3 Packs Chopped Apricots
3 Packs Dried Cranberries
3 Packs 5 Fruit Mix
3 Packs Crystallised Ginger
3 Packs Cinnamon Cranberries
3 Packs Chopped Dates
2 Packs Crimson Raisins
A Natural Selection Apron
A Rolling Pin
And A Copy of The Great British Bake Off How To Bake Book


All you have to do is :             a) Leave a message on this post
                                                           b) Spread the word on Face Book & Twitter
                                                                c) 'Like' Natural Selection Foods on Face Book


500g Bread Flour                                              CROSSES 
15g Yeast                                                            2 tbsp Plain Flour
60g Butter                                                         1 tbsp Sugar
40g Sugar                                                          Water to Mix
10g Salt                                                              
1tsp Cinnamon                                                     GLAZE
1/2tsp Nutmeg                                                     1 tbsp Sugar
1/2tsp Cardamom                                                 1 tbsp Water
100g Cinnamon Cranberries                     
250ml Warm Milk
2 Eggs
1 tsp Orange Extract

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and rub in the butter and fresh yeast if your using it.  Now add the warm milk, orange extract and eggs.  Because it is such a sticky dough I start it off in my freestanding mixer using the dough hook.  When it has all come together tip it onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 8-10 minutes.  If it sticks to the surface dust your hands with flour till it stops.
It's important that you don't add too much flour so dusting your hands rather than the surface will reduce this.  Remember, the softer your dough, the softer your buns will be - ooh err misses.

Return the dough to a floured bowl and cover with cling film or, GENIUS TIP ALERT! A disposable shower cap - the one's you get free from hotels.

Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 hour then remove it from the bowl, divide it into 12 pieces and shape into buns.  Put them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, cover with a clean t-towel and leave in a warm place for another hour.

Your buns should be lovely and plump now so mix the batter for the crosses.  You want it pipeable but not so runny it just slides off your buns.  First brush each one with egg wash then pipe on the crosses.  Bake them at 220C for 15-20 minutes.  Keep an eye on them though as sweet bread tends to burn quite easily.

While they are baking warm the sugar and water till the sugar melts.  As soon as they come out of the oven brush the tops with the glaze to give them a gorgeous sticky shine.