If an opportunity arises I’m firmly of the belief that you should take it. Always better to say “yes” and then have to do a little panicking about how something can be achieved, than regretting not being able to participate in an exciting opportunity.
Which is how I came to be sitting in a very steamy kitchen in Bristol watching a photographer trying to find the best side of a Christmas pudding. By the end of that afternoon, I had tried 23 different puddings, given them scores and tried to understand why on Earth you might want a bright pink gloopy sauce redolent of Calpol with your gold encrusted Christmas pud.
If you haven’t yet bought or made your own pudding you might like to see what we thought of these puddings. Eight of those we tasted were gluten free, so if you have a guest at Christmas who would require one of these puddings we can help there too.
Remember, say yes whenever you can. You might just have an adventure, make a memory and in my case a surfeit of Christmas puddings.
Dark chocolate and ginger tiffin.
I adore tiffin. It was one of my mum’s go to cake recipes as a child. She made it with the biscuits from the biscuit tin so it was a game of culinary roulette when you took a bite. You might get a taste of Garibaldi, custard creme or the hot tang of a ginger nut. As the weather turns colder that ginger heat is great as a sweet treat. The addition of small chunks of crystallised ginger depth charge the chocolate square even further. I added a little Christmas bling, not because I feel you should start celebrating in November, simply so that I can post a recipe that you might like to add to your Christmas get together when December arrives.
175g digestive biscuits
75g ginger nuts
50g crystallised ginger, cut into small dice
125g butter (melted)
1 tbsp golden syrup
150g/200g Dark chocolate, if this is too dark for your family then add in some milk chocolate too.
6″ x 6″ tin, buttered or lines with a double layer of cling film.
Golden bling to decorate the tiffin if you wish.
How to …
- In a mixing bowl, using the end of a rolling pin, crush the biscuits into crumbs. You could use the fill a plastic bag and whack with a wooden spoon method if you want. You could use a food processor but that takes all the fun out of it. Chop the ginger into small shards and add to the crushed biscuits.
- In a large saucepan melt the butter, cocoa and syrup together to make a sauce.
- Pour the chocolate sauce onto the biscuit crumbs and ginger pieces. Combine thoroughly.
- Tip the chocolaty rubble into a 6″ x 6″ tin and press down. Put into the fridge to set.
- Once set melt the chocolate and pour over the biscuit base. Sprinkle with the bling. Refrigerate once more until the chocolate is set. Cut into 16 pieces and serve. This is best served from the fridge as it is only the cold that holds it together.
Much like Marmite, goats cheese seems to divide the nation. To be honest I really don’t mind the goaty overtones but others can’t abide it. I know, I live with some haters. Yesterday I had the house to myself. It was wet, windy and miserable so cheese on toast was my comfort food of choice. I had a secret round of goats cheese stashed away, so my mind was made up.
I decided tomake a batch of caramelised red onion jam to go under the cheese, although a jar of the bought stuff would work just as well.
I took a red onion, two tsp of olive oil and a tsp of sugar and on the lowest heat possible cooked the onion down for about half an hour until soft, sticky and unctuous. This yielded enough jam to spread on two rounds of toast. If the jam looked as if it was beginning to cook too quickly I added a tsp of water, slowing the process and encouraging an emulsion in the sauce.
Goats cheese and caramelised onion toasts.
After that it’s simple. Preheat the grill. Cut the cheese into rounds about 1.5 to 2cm thick. Take two pieces of seeded bread and toast lightly. Spread the toast with the caramelised onions. Place the goats cheese on top of the onions, cut surface upwards. Place on a baking tray under the grilland cook until the goats cheese has softened and become molten. Allow to cool a little and then tuck in.
I was incredible pleased to be invited to a Christmas showcase by Nudge PR a couple of weeks ago. We were a small select bunch, and as ever I had huge dose of imposter syndrome. Everyone else in the room seemed younger, had much shinier blogs than mine and probably had almost as many followers on social media as an up and coming boy band, (Oh yes, I checked, tell me you wouldn’t too). I have none of the above, however I am greedy and enthusiastic, so I went along.
I’m so glad I said yes. I was able to spend time learning more about three staple of my diet. Wine. Olive oil. Fine chocolates. See. I could easily live on those foods alone.
I was not paid to attend this event. I have not been asked to write about this event or these products in a positive light. I was invited to attend and did so at my own expense. All photos are my own.
Standing in your garden or trudging back from a local park this weekend having watched some fantastic fireworks your next thought is bound to be food. Mine always is. A hand held, yet filling meal is what you want. I’ve tried soups, sausage rolls and various riffs on the baked potato. This year, however, we had spicy lamb koftas. Easy to prepare before you leave to watch the fireworks, quick to cook on return and everyone, of any age can eat them. The older ones just eat more and those who like spice simply add more spicy sauces to their own wraps. For me, trying to cut down on the calories, I simply had more salad.
Spicy lamb koftas. (makes 8 large patties)
500g lamb mince
1 clove chopped garlic
chilli flakes to taste
pittas or mediterranean wraps
chilli sauces of various temperatures
- In a large bowl combine all the kofta ingredients. You need a good pinch of salt and really work the mince with your hands as this breaks the proteins down and makes the meat stick together as it cooks.
- Form the mince into sausage shaped patties.
- Place onto a plate and refridgerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat a heavy based frying pan until fairly hot. Do not add any oil as the lamb mince will release plenty.
- Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side until crusted and cooked through.
- Allow each person to customise their own koftas.
- Warm the pittas in the oven, split and fill with patties, salad, yogurt and chilli sauce.
- We used a coriander and garlic sauce and a spicywhole chilli sauce from ‘All things Saucy”. They were selling their sauces at my husbands workplace recently and he bought three bottles. Very tasty they are too.
Once filled with food and warmed up again, pop back out into the garden for a few sparklers.
At this time of the year many of the major supermarkets in the UK have heritage carrots. Mostly these are purple, although you can find yellow, white and even multicoloured ones. In the past I have used the purple carrots simply to ring the changes on our dinner plates. However, as I’m keen on cake, and I’m on a regime change, I though why not make a cake using purple carrots. We have the Dutch to thank for refining the carrot strain to bring the orange to the fore but I’m so pleased the other colours lingered on in the carrot DNA ready to pop up at unexpected moments.
Want to see what happened?
I used a BBC GoodFood carrot cake recipe, which can be found here. I tweaked the recipe a little. I obviously used the purple carrots in mine. Also as I have a raisin hater I swapped the raisins in the recipe for walnut pieces, keeping the quantities the same.
One other joy of this recipe is that the icing is cream cheese free. Not only does this mean the cake lasts longer but it also reduces the calorie count somewhat. Handy.
It isn’t often that I get to be the first to try a new product. To be honest, I rather like hanging back a little and let others take the first bite. Not last week. I was fortunate to be invited to the launch of a long awaited product.
It isn’t often that I get to be the first to try a new product. To be honest, I rather like hanging back a little and let others take the first bite. Not last week. I was fortunate to be invited to the launch of a long awaited product. Vegan Quorn.
I have to confess I am neither vegetarian nor am I vegan, however the geek in me was intrigued to find out how Quorn had managed to bind the mycoprotein using only vegetable matter. No meat and no dairy? It appears this is no problem for Quorn Vegan.
Quorn have succeeded by using a potato based starch and a carageen based gel. Both the products I tasted at the launch seemed no different from the non vegan product. At present there are two lines on offer in Asda and Waitrose. The hot and spicy burgers are really tasty and the meat free pieces perform as you’d expect. They soak up the flavours added to them and are a versatile base for a number of dishes.
Quorn vegan pieces : szechuan stir fry
Serves : 4
Preparation Time : 10 minutes (+ 30 minutes to marinade)
Cooking Time : 10 minutes
Calories/Serving : 227 kcal; 1.4 g sat fat
280g Vegan Quorn Meat Free Pieces, defrosted
Ingredients for the Marinade
- 2 tbsp wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 3 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
- ½ tsp dried crushed chillies
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
- 1 tsp Chinese five- spice powder
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
Ingredients for the Stir Fry
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ small onion, sliced
- 100g sugar snap peas, cut in half lengthways
- 100g baby corn, cut into quarters, lengthways
- 1 large carrot, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 200ml vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp corn flour, dissolved in cold water
- 4 spring onions, sliced
- Salt and black pepper to tast
- Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and add the defrosted vegan pieces. Mix well to ensure that all the vegan pieces are coated in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
- Bring a pan of water to the boil then blanch the sugar snap peas and baby corn for 2-3 minutes. Drain well. To make the stir fry, preheat 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil in a wok or a large frying pan, add the Quorn Vegan Pieces and stir-fry over a moderate heat for about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Preheat the remaining oil, add the onion and fry for 4-5 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the sugar snaps, baby corn and carrots and continue to stir-fry for another 5 minutes.
- Pour the stock into the pan and bring to the boil then add the corn flour mixture and stir until the sauce thickens. Continue to cook for a minute then season and sprinkle the spring onions over.
Enjoy with rice or noodles.
I was invited to attend the Quorn Vegan launch. I have not been paid to write this post. All opinions are my own. The first photograph in this post (B.T.) Other photographs were Taken by Tomas Preston of Preston Perfect Photography (https://www.facebook.com/PrestonPerfectPhotography)
I was recently sent a bottle of Purple sauce from Premier Inn. I love brown sauce, hate ketchup and could easily use Worcester sauce every day, so purple sauce intrigued me.
Made with chilli and blackberry it looks beautiful on the plate, especially when splodged onto bacon. As well as using this condiment to enhance a breakfast I also used it to marinade some pork loin steaks. Served with beans, potatoes and roasted squash it made a simple yet tasty mid week family meal.
I have to also say that topping a bacon sandwich was great place to put it too.
The sauce’s base is blackberry, and includes a range of natural ingredients – including cracked black pepper, crushed chillies, toasted cumin and smoked salt. According to Premier Inn, Purple Sauce goes perfectly with British sausages and tasty back bacon, whether on a full English or in a juicy sarnie. The sauce has no artificial colours or flavourings, is suitable for vegetarians and the purple is a natural shade that reflects its blackberry base.
The sauce is only available in Premier Inn hotels for a limited 6 month period, and is apparently proving very popular.
If you happen to be staying at a Premier Inn then do try this sauce. I thought it was very tasty indeed.
I was sent a bottle of this sauce to review by Premier Inn. I was not paid to review the sauce, either in cash or kind. I was not asked to review the sauce positively. All images are my own.
I have said many times in the past that I am not, and don’t ever envisage becoming, a vegetarian. However I do often cook meals without meat. I am trying hard to lose some weight and lower my blood pressure, eating leaner and cleaner is helping. Quorn is lower in fats and calories so is ideal as a #fattofitter recipe ingredient. As it acts a a flavour sponge Quorn readily takes up marinades and bastes so beloved of the barbecue chef.
The recipes posted here were created by Quorn for a recent barbecue event I attended at The London Barbecue School.
- 250g pack Quorn sausages – use your favourite flavour, if using frozen allow to defrost thoroughly.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 rounded tsp wholegrain mustard
- 2 tbsp mango chutney
- 1 red onion, cut into wedges
- 1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into chunky dice
- cherry tomatoes
- skewer sticks – soak wooden sticks in water for a few minutes before grilling or barbecuing to prevent burning
- 1x 300g pack Quorn Meat Free Swedish Style Balls
- 3 tbsp vegetarian red pesto
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
- 2 tsps sugar
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 142 ml carton of Greek style yoghurt
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley or coriander
- 1 green or yellow pepper
- 1 red onion
- 6 cherry tomatoes and 6 button mushrooms
- kebab sticks – if using wooden kebab sticks soak in water for about 15 minutes before using.
- 2 Quorn Chef’s Selection Classic Burgers
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 ciabatta roll
- Handful of pea shoots
- 1/2 red onion, sliced
- 2 tbsp sliced red jalapeno peppers
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 200g sweetcorn
- 1 tsp chipotle paste, or to taste
- 1 tsp fresh coriander, chopped