Monday, 15 December 2014


This bread is so simple but so impressive when finished, once you know how to get the pattern you'll be coming up with all sorts of fillings.  The loaf in the first picture has red pepper pesto and pine nuts but the first one I saw was on my friend Karen Lake's face book, she'd made a Nutella loaf for her friends at work which was apparently devoured in minutes and I'm not surprised.  

I've also made the chocolate version and another with Lotus caramelised Biscuit Spread, but really sweet or savoury most things work as long as you can spread it on.  St Agur Soft Blue cheese with walnuts sprinkled on was another great version or try it with dried cranberries for a festive variation

Once your dough has had it's first rise, divide it into two equal pieces.  Roll the first one into a 10" round and place it onto your baking sheet or stone.  Spread your choice of filling on top leaving a small edge as you would a pizza.

Roll out the second piece of dough and place on top.  Now make eight equal cuts into the dough leaving a gap in the middle.  You should now have eight triangular sections.

Finally cut each of the triangles in half.  Take two adjacent sections and twist them in opposite directions twice.  Repeat till all the sections are twisted.  Cover and leave to rise for another hour then bake as usual for 15-20 minutes at 200C

Basic Bread Recipe

500g Strong White Bread Flour
14g Dried Yeast
10g Salt
50g Olive Oil
320g Warm Water

Use a freestanding mixer to form your ingredients into a dough.  Tip out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for 10 minutes.  Place back in the mixing bowl and cover with cling film or a shower cap.  Leave to rise for 1 hour.

Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it onto a lightly floured surface and form into your loaf.  Leave to rise again for another hour then bake for 15-20 minutes at 200C

Cheers Karen Xx

Monday, 17 November 2014


A few years ago now I entered the Women's Institute Cook of the Year Competition, it was in November and entrants had to create an alternative Christmas menu.  It was to be judged by Brian Turner and I had to cook the meal in front of an audience at the Good Food Show in Birmingham.

It was all very daunting but the most difficult part for me was coming up with something that could top trifle or Christmas pudding.  as far as I'm concerned they are the puddings you have on December 25th and they should not be messed with.  In the end I thought about what Brian might like and decided he's quite a traditional man with very classic taste.

My dessert was this Christmas bread and butter pudding made with mince meat and a touch of advocaat in the custard for and added yule tide touch.  It's so very comforting and cosy, he loved it.

45g Butter
8 White Bread Slices
360g Mincemeat
300g Milk
50g Double Cream
50g Advocaat
2 Eggs
2 tbsp Sugar
Cinnamon to Dust

Use some of the butter to grease the base and sides of a 2 pint oven proof dish.

Use the remaining butter to spread over the slices of bread.  Divide the mincemeat into 4 and make sandwiches with it.  Remove the crusts and cut the sandwiches into 1/4's then place them into your buttered dish.

In a jug, whisk together the milk, cream, Advocaat and eggs then pour it over the bread.  Sprinkle on the sugar and cinnamon and leave to stand for 30 minutes.  This will allow the custard to soak into the bread.

Bake in the oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes till set, brown and crunchy on top.

My winning pudding, thanks Brian Xx

Monday, 3 November 2014


These are ideal for packing away and taking with you to watch the fireworks, the apple and cinnamon give you that winter warming taste that pre-empts christmas and they are excellent with a glass of milk or hot chocolate.

I made them originally with the toffee mixed in but found that they oozed all over the baking tray so placing them on top means you don't lose all their caramel tastiness.  Fudge works just as well and are easier to cut, especially if children are making them.

Makes 12

100g Butter
150g Sugar
1 Egg
150g Plain Flour
50g Ground Almonds
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tbsp Milk
40g Dried Apple chopped
40g Soft Toffee or Fudge chopped

Line a baking sheet and heat the oven to 180C

Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the egg, flour, ground almonds, cinnamon and baking powder and mix well to combine.

Now fold in the milk and chopped apple..

Place spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking sheet leaving room for them to spread when cooking.  Top each mound with a few pieces of toffee then cook for 12-15 minutes or untill they are brown.

Sunday, 7 September 2014


My family and I spent the last week of September on a hill in Somerset with the most glorious views of the Cheddar Valley on the edge of the Mendip Hills.  For this trip I wanted to make meal times all about the camp fire and not just the usual barbecue, so before we went I searched for ideas and these are some of my favourites.

This post may be a little late in the year for some but we have been known to camp for halloween before now.  You could of course just save them for next summer and get ahead of the game.

All the recipes have ingredients that don't take up much packing space or can be easily sourced in most supermarkets or grocery stores that you would find near your camp site.


Anything with cinnamon is good in our house so having these freshly baked was always going to be a winner.  You use the 'Jus-Rol' Cinnamon swirls and it makes about 8 or nine depending on how deft you are at slicing.

The original idea I found suggested unrolling them and wrapping them round your skewers but I found this got a little messy.   As you get more into the roll the cinnamon butter would be on both sides of the dough and it was also easier to burn before the dough was cooked.  So slicing and pushing through 2 skewers to make it easier to turn was the way forward for me.

They take roughly 5-8 minutes and puff up beautifully.  Everyone cooked there own which make it all the more satisfying to eat.


Hot dogs is of course de rigueur on a barbecue but these come ready wrapped in their buns thanks to 'Jus-Rol' (yes again) croissant dough.

Pop the roll open and unravel the first two croissants keeping them in tact, ignore the dotted cutting line and cut them into four long strips

Push a skewer through your hot dog and then wrap one of the strips around it stretching it slightly as you go.

Hold the sausages well above the heat turning regularly to give the sausages a chance to cook through.

You can also make dampers with the same dough.  Traditionally these are bread dough wrapped around a twig but for fear of poisoning us with the wrong type of twig I've gone with skewers and stuck with the croissant dough.


This is where foil truly comes into it's own.  This trip has made me realise that I really can't do without it when camping.

For this dish I took potatoes that I'd baked at home and we had them on the first night but you can now buy frozen jacket potatoes in the supermarket - I've always been appalled at this idea but for this it has it's benefits.

Cut slices into the potato without cutting all the way through and fill each cut with cheese and ham,  in fact I've used buffalo mozzarella and chorizo.

Wrap the potato in a double layer of strong foil and then sit it in the coals of your fire.  I gave it about 10 minutes by which time the spud is hot and the cheese has melted, voila!


You've got to have pudding and even I get a bit bored of toasted marshmallows and S'mores.  I really can't tell you how delicious this is, I can see me building fires in the garden just so we can have it again soon.

Use a double layer of strong foil, place a generous tablespoon of soft brown sugar in the centre and top with fresh or tinned pineapple

Cut up a ready made madeira cake into cubes roughly the same size as the pineapple chunks and add those to the foil.  Now form the foil into a a pouch scrunching the top to seal it all in.

Place the parcels onto the hot coals for 2-3 minutes.  The sugar will melt and make a delicious syrup along with the juices from the warm pineapple and soak into the sponge.

A healthy blob of clotted cream finishes it off nicely.

My children loved this one.  It's such a genius idea, why did I not think of this before!  We always have popcorn in and we all have our favourite toppings.  Icing sugar and cinnamon (I told you), Salt & Pepper, Peri Peri Salt, you choose.

Yet another use for foil - how did I manage without it!?  make a pouch with a double layer of strong foil and pour in a dessert spoon of oil, add a tablespoon of popcorn kernels and seal the pouch well making sure you leave enough space for the popcorn to pop.

Stick the pouch into the coals and wait for the noise.  Use some tongs to give it a shake ever now and then till the popping stops then remove from the heat, unwrap and sprinkle with your favourite topping.


Thursday, 21 August 2014


Now I have to say that I can't take the credit for this first pie, I saw it in the food department of Marks & Spencer and thought it was such a genius idea that I just had to make one.  I thought nothing could beat the invention of the giant yorkshire pudding which essentially becomes your plate and perfectly contains all the ellements of a roast dinner expertly soaking up any meat juices and gravey for the finale.  But I have to say that this fish supper could possibly take the gold.

It got me thinking though, there must be other classic meals that you could shove in a pie.  So this is the start of a small series of recipes of dinners All In One Pie .

I have no idea of the M&S recipe but this is my version.  I've used the same recipe from my fish finger sandwich for the mushy peas in the base and topped it with oven chips as I found they cooked well in a shorter time and the fish won't dry out.  I like to use packs of fish pie mix from the fresh fish section of the suparmarket for the variety of cod, salmon and haddock but you could just stick with cod if you prefer.

390g Fish Pie Mix
Oven Chips

350g Shortcrust Pastry OR
200g Plain Flour
80g Baking Margarine
20g Lard
Cold Water to mix

Mushy Peas
250g Frozen Peas cooked
2 tbsp Sour Cream
1 tsp Mint Sauce
Boil the peas in hot water, drain and pulse them in a processor with the remaining ingredients leaving some texture.

Tartar Sauce:  4 tbsp Mayonnaise,  1 tbsp Capers Chopped, 2 tbsp Tiny Gherkins Chopped, 1 Shallot Chopped,  1 tsp Horseradish, S+P.  Chop everything finely and mix it all together. 

Make the pastry by rubbing the margarine and lard into the flour.  I use a little lard to make a crisper pastry.  When you can no longer see the lumps, use a knife to stir in enough water to form a dough.  Now use your hands to bring it together.  Divide into 4 then roll each one out and line your pie dishes. (I used the 4" foil ones).

Make the mushy peas and divide between each pie case.  Make the tartar sauce and fold the fish into it.  Now fill each pie with the fish mixture making sure each one gets a good variety of fish.  Lastly finish with enough oven chips to cover. Bake for 25 minutes at 180C Fan


Don't forget the vinegar Xxx

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


These are the most delicious melt in the mouth biscuits.  They're so light that it's difficult to understand how they could possibly be bad for you and surely the lemon curd must count towards your 5 a day........ no?

Gently cream together 250g Butter and 50g Icing Sugar then add 250g Plain Flour along with 50g Cornflour and 1tsp Lemon Essence.  The cornflour is what makes them so melty and light.  Carefully combine everything till you have a soft thick mixture.

put your mixture into a piping bag with a large star nozzle and pipe rosettes or fingers onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake in the oven at 180C for 10-15 minutes till they look golden brown.  Cool for 5 minutes in the tray before transferring them to a cooling rack.  Once cooled spread one biscuit with Buttercream and the other with Lemon Curd.  Dust with icing sugar to finish.


This is basically one of my favourite sandwiches in a pie, where can you go wrong.  Tuna and sweetcorn is such a classic combination and I really love it as a toasty so this is really just the next step up.  We had this one served with baked beans, proper comfort food, yum.

I have used lard in the pastry because I think it makes it a little shorter and crisp but you could just use butter if you wish.

300g Plain Flour
100g Butter
75g Lard
1 Egg beaten
Cold Water
Egg to Glaze

2 x 185g Tuna  in Oil drained
200g Sweetcorn
100g Chedder Cheese grated
1 Red Onion finely chopped
5 large tbsp Mayonnaise
Black Pepper
1 tbsp Fresh Parsley chopped

Preheat the oven to 160C Fan while you make your pastry.  Cut the butter and lard into the flour then rub it in till there are no lumps and it resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the beaten egg and enough water to form a dough.  Use half the dough to line a 23cm pie plate leaving an over hang around the edge. Brush the edge with water.

In a bowl combine the drained tuna, sweetcorn, cheese, onion and mayonnaise and parsley.  Season well with black pepper and fill the pie case.

Roll out the remaining pastry and cover the pie.  Seal the edges together and trimn off the excess.  Brush with egg glaze and cut a cross in the centre.  Bake for 30-35 minutes till colden.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


This is another quick and simple recipe to throw together for supper when you don't have much time. It's packed with flavour thanks to a tube of ready to use Harissa Paste from Sainsbury's and it's also a great way of making a packet of your favourite sausages a bit more interesting and go a lot further.

Start with your meatballs.  Remove the skins from a packet of sausages and cut each sausage into 3.  Roll the meat in the palm of your hand and form them into balls.  Place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment (much easier to remove and less washing up time) Now bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 180C.

For the sauce, cook 1 Onion chopped in a 1 tbsp of Oil along with 2 large teaspoons of Harissa (you can adjust this to your own taste and add more if you like. Then add 1 Pepper chopped into chunks.  I used a 4 mini peppers, 2 red and 2 orange for the colour. Cook until soft and starting to brown. Add 1 Garlic Clove crushed and cook for a further 2 minutes. I now add 1 Courgette peeled and grated (this gets a bit of extra veg into the children without them knowing) Cook everything till it all becomes soft and the courgette starts to mush.    Finish by adding in 1 Tin of Tomatoes and 1 tbsp of Tomato Puree.  If the sauce is too thick pour in half a tin of water or if you have some wine handy you could use that instead.  Leave it to cook for 20 minutes so the flavours can develop and check for seasoning.

Once the meatballs are cooked and brown, add them into the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes.

 We had it with rice but it's also great with pasta or flat breads

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Cheating is something that I do a lot during the week when it comes to cooking family meals.  I'd love to have the time to cook everything from scratch but that's just not practical when you work full time.  I don't mean cheating in a ping it in the microwave sort of way, I mean using ready made or prepped ingredients that are going to aid in a speedy dinner.

One of my favourite things to have in are these herb and spice paste tubes from Sainsbury's that you keep in the fridge ready to give a flavour boost to your dish.  I'm always buying fresh herbs for things, using half then scraping them from the bottom of the salad box.  These tubes last for a month in the fridge once you've opened them.  I always have the chilli and ginger tubes in but for this recipe I've tried the Thai Herb Paste.

Everything I used in this recipe were things I either had in the fridge of store cupboard and it took less than half an hour to put it all together - didn't someone write a book about recipes like that!   My other convenient ingredients were a tin of coconut milk and a bag of frozen mixed seafood that you cook straight from the freezer.  You can freeze the remaining coconut milk for next time.

Getting the veg ready was probably the most time consuming. I served mine with a stir fry of pak choi, spring onions, red and orange peppers and carrot but there's no reason not to buy one of those ready prepped stir fry packs.

Mixed Seafood Thai Curry

(Serves 2)

1 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Sesame Oil
200g Frozen Mixed Seefood
2 tbsp Thai Herb Paste
1/2 Tin Coconut Milk
1 tsp Fish Sauce

Put your rice on to cook whilst you make everything else.  In a pan or wok heat the oils then add the seafood and herb paste, keep string till the prawns turn pink then add the coconut milk and fish sauce.  leave on a very low heat to keep warm while you cook the veg.

Heat a pan or wok with 1/2 tbsp oil and 1 tsp sesame oil.  When it starts to smoke add your stir fry veg.  This takes just a couple of minutes to cook and they should be slightly charred and still a little crisp.

Serve everything with a scatter of fresh coriander.

We ate this with a Vino Verde, also from Sainsbury's which went superbly with seafood.  It had a light fresh summery taste that calmed the heat from the curry perfectly.  I'm no expert on wine, but those who are have given it 3 awards recently
. It's also a winner on price at just £4.75

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


I'm sure you would agree that every child deserves a birthday cake and I have recently been working with a UK charity called Free Cakes For Kids who are a great group of volunteers that donate a birthday cake for children whose families would usually find it difficult to provide one.
Children are referred by local groups and organisations with details of the child's gender, age and interests and a volunteer from their local community makes the cake.

There are Free Cakes For Kids groups all over the country which you could get involved in.  You are under no obligation and can bake as little or as much as you like and don't worry about your decorating skills not being up to parr, a child receiving a birthday cake will love it.  There are other ways to help too, perhaps delivering a cake or promoting your local group.  Or do you know a group that could work with FCFK.

It such a lovely cause to be part of and brings so much happiness.