Milking it with milkshake – wot so funee?

It’s started: Andrew now knows exactly how to cause us embarrassment when out and about by people watching and saying what he sees. He has the observational and vocabulary skills to speak his mind, but lacks the social skills to know what is acceptable. So on our day trip to Birmingham this week, we had a few close encounters with the general public. First of all on the train, there was the person asleep by the window as Andrew went and sat on Granny’s lap on the neighbouring aisle seat: “That one’s asleep!”. Not anymore if you shout that at them. Then there was the girl eating her lunch across the aisle: “That girl’s got a sandwich!” Luckily this passenger thought his observation was rather cute and laughed it off. And then there was the man with the Mohican hair in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery tea room: “That’s funny hair!” Well that’s what we were all thinking but only a toddler would air his views with such volume and openness.

One of the best bits about going to Birmingham (from Coventry) on the train, if you’re a plane-mad 3 year old that is, is the view of the airport runway and terminals on the way. On the way there, he spotted that big tower that controls the air traffic and exclaimed excitedly: “Look, it’s the remote control tower!” I find this interesting linguistically – he’s obviously heard us say remote control as well as just control for the thing you zap channels with on the TV, and I presume he’s also applied this to the tower that he’s heard us call the control tower. On the way back from our day trip, I spotted the airport first (go me!)…

Me: Look Andrew, there’s a plane over there, at the airport.

Andrew: Ooooh, it might be Fireflash! 

Yet another Thunderbirds reference, this is our world at the moment.

In last week’s wot so funee? post, I shared lots of foodie funees. This week there were fewer, and here’s the first and probably funniest… To set the scene, we were having a bit of rough and tumble play, which usually involves me getting down on the floor and getting sat/trampled on by the boys. At one point I stuck my leg out and Andrew sat on it like he does with Daddy or male grandparents sometimes, expecting me to lift him up and down as if he were riding a horse. I can’t actually manage that these days with his weight, but he accepted a compromise – me chanting the rhyme ‘ride a cock horse’ instead. So I recited the rhyme all the way up to the last line, and thought I’d pause to see if Andrew could say the key word. Here’s how it turned out…

Me: …with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have……

Andrew: PASTA!

Me: [giggling] erm, I don’t think she will have pasta, can you remember the word that comes here in the rhyme?… she shall have……

Andrew: PIZZA!

Me: [laughing] I don’t think it’s any kind of food actually

Andrew: err raisins?

Me: Still food

Andrew: errr….curry?

Me: nevermind. It’s MUSIC, she shall have MUSIC wherever she goes!

Andrew: Aaaahhh

We’ve all had various symptoms of a cold this past week or so, including a sore, froggy throat for Andrew. He’s generally not one to let a bit of illness get him down, but one afternoon after his nap he was very groggy. So Granny suggested that he might like a special chocolate milkshake to help his poorly throat, which of course he downed in no time. But then he caught on, and even when he was clearly feeling better, he tried to milk it (pun intended) and get more chocolatey drinks by pulling a sad face and insisting that he was poorly. This came to a head one evening just after bath, which is always supervised by Daddy.

Andrew: Can I have a milkshake please Daddy? I’m poorly [sad face :(]

Daddy: I’m not sure that you’re really that poorly anymore Andrew. Shall we ask Mummy to see if she thinks it’s a good idea.

Andrew: OK!….[walks to top of stairs and shouts down to the kitchen]….Mummy! Can I have a milkshake please?….[walks back to bathroom]….Mummy says I can have a milkshake!

Daddy: Really?!

Andrew: Yes!

What Andrew failed to realise is that Daddy knew I was in our bedroom feeding Joel. Got to give him points for being clever enough to try and play us off against each other like that. But it didn’t win him any milkshakes this time.

For a just turned 3 year old, Andrew is quite adept at letters of the alphabet, and enjoys reading letters on anything and breaking down words into sounds. He’ll quite often come out with the phrase ‘A for Apple’ or whatever it is that he’s referring to – “B for Ball”, “J for Jumper”, “M for Mummy”….even “CH for cheese” (recognising that ‘ch’ is a sound that’s made up of 2 letters) and the classic “T for ‘tato”. Had to laugh at that one, but I know it’s normal – he’s picking up the stressed syllable as that’s what most English words start with, just a shame that potato doesn’t.

In a previous wot so funee post I described how Andrew likes to make up adjectives to stick on the end of the phrase ‘it’s a bit…’. This week’s offerings on this front include the following. When referring to Daddy’s new coat that we bought him one day as a belated birthday present (he said he wanted to think about exactly what type he wanted for his new job and commute), Andrew said: “It’s a bit coaty….and it’s a bit cosy!” That’s very true. When referring to a mini table football ball with the classic hexagon pattern, Andrew said: “It’s got blacky bits and whitey bits.” Or you could just say it’s got black bits and white bits, could you not?

To end with, I have something that’s rather cute as well as funny. One of his latest phrases, as I wrote last week, is “I like you, Mummy/Daddy/Grandad/Granny etc.” This week he came out with a beautiful one: “I like you Joel, you’re my best friend!” Awwww 🙂

Wot So Funee?

Creamy cheesy celeriac with salmon – #slowcooked

Firstly let me apologise for there being no pictures in this post – not great for a foodie post, but it was so yummy that I totally forgot to take pics before we devoured it 😉

It’s been a while since I wrote up a slow cooker recipe. It’s not that I haven’t been slow cooking, but more that I haven’t found the time to write about it as well as all the other things I’m doing, and recently I have been sticking with recipes I’ve done before rather than experimenting with new things. But this week we had a celeriac in the veg box, and I haven’t had one for quite a while, so this got me thinking about how I could slow cook it.

I remember I enjoyed a dish once (I can’t actually remember where or when!) that was a bit like a celeriac dauphinoise, with a creamy cheesy sauce around slices of the root vegetable. So this hazy memory formed the basis of my slow cooker creation. I made a simple creamy sauce out of milk, soft cheese and a small amount of flour. The celeriac formed the main bulk of the solid part of the dish, though I added a bunch of purple kale that was in the box, as well as a tin of pink salmon for more protein beyond the dairy ingredients.

It turned out very well, and generally the boys were impressed, although Andrew wasn’t too keen on the taste of the celeriac – I think it’s quite an acquired taste and I’m not sure when he last had it. We served it with rice because the boys had eaten quite a lot of pasta in the days before we ate this, but pasta would work well with it too I think.

Here’s the recipe, which is very simple but give very yummy results!

Ingredients

  • 1 pint milk
  • 200g tub soft cheese with herbs/onion/garlic
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 celeriac
  • 1 tin salmon
  • 1 bunch purple kale
  • rice or pasta to serve

Method

  1. Cut the stalks of the kale off and chop the leaves into smaller pieces.
  2. Peel the celeriac and cut into slices about 1cm thick, and then each big slice into smaller pieces.
  3. Place the slices in layers in the slow cooker pot, sandwiching some purple kale between each layer of celeriac.
  4. Mix the milk, soft cheese and flour in a jug, then pour the mixture into the pot – it should just come up to the top layer.
  5. Cook on high for 5 hours.
  6. About an hour before the end of the cooking time, drain the tin of salmon and flake the fish, then add it on top of the celeriac in the pot.
  7. About 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, cook some rice or pasta to serve it with.

Cheesy red & green mini muffins

In general, Joel seems to be loving food, there’s not much he hasn’t eaten when we’ve given it to him. I’m sure he’ll get fussier as he gets older, but hopefully he’ll be similar to Andrew and like most things despite the odd fuss here and there. One thing in particular that both boys like is extra mature cheddar cheese – Joel would eat loads of this if I let him (I’m watching the salt), and Andrew would polish off the rest! And a couple of things that Andrew is less good at (unless they are cooked in something) and I hadn’t tried Joel with are spinach and tomatoes.

Mini muffins cheesy

So I decided to make some savoury mini muffins packed with cheese, spinach and tomatoes. Having been searching for a while for a cheap silicone mini muffin mould, I eventually found one last week at a homeware store that opened a while ago near our local supermarket but I’d never heard of the brand and assumed it was an expensive one (we live in Cambridge, this is the norm). But as I walked past it the other day, I took a closer look and realised it was in fact a Wilkinsons-style shop – ever since we moved here 7 years ago I’ve missed having a Wilkos to get bits and bobs from.

This recipe would also work in a fairy cake tin (mine have seen better days, hence my search for a new silicone mould) or a normal-sized muffin tin. I just like the mini-ness of them for little fingers to grasp. And these muffins were very much devoured by the little mouths on the receiving end of the little fingers’ grip.

This recipe made 24 mini muffins, some of which we ate fresh and some of which we froze for later to keep them fresh.

Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g extra mature cheddar cheese (or you could use any strength you like)
  • 100g fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • about a dozen cherry tomatoes, chopped into quarters
  • 180ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 50ml olive oil
  • black pepper

Method

  1. Put the flour, baking powder, cheese, spinach and tomatoes in a bowl and mix until roughly distributed.
  2. Mix the milk, eggs and oil in a bowl until the egg is broken up – don’t over beat, you don’t want to end up with mayonnaise!
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones along with a good grind of black pepper and stir until well combined.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the mini muffin mould so each hole is full.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes at 180ºC (fan).
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool only as much as you need to in order to eat them!
  7. Freeze any that are not eaten within a day or so to keep them fresh.
Link up your recipe of the week

Cupcake of the month (May): After Eight

Continuing my cupcake of the month feature baed on a cupcake calendar that I was given for Christmas, this month we have a mint and chocolate recipe, which I’ve given the name ‘After Eight’ for obvious reasons. The recipe on the calendar didn’t involve chocolate, but I think that mint and chocolate go so well together, particularly dark chocolate, that I couldn’t resist adapting the recipe to include it. I also made the cake mixture itself much less sweet than the recipe in the calendar, because the icing is very sweet – it tastes like butter mints or Murray mints – and the bitterness of the dark chocolate goes well with this.

After eight cakes

If you’d like to make these yourself, and I can assure you that they are yummy particularly after eight and the kids are in bed, here’s the recipe which makes 10.

Ingredients

  • 50g sugar
  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 75g margarine
  • 1 tsp mint extract
  • 75g dark chocolate, cut into large chunks
Icing
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tsp mint extract (depending how strongly minty you like it)
  • green food colouring
  • grated chocolate to decorate

Method

  1. Prepare a muffin tin by placing cupcake cases in the holes.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar together until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg and milk.
  4. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and mint extract and mix until well combined.
  5. Add the chocolate chunks and fold in until evenly distributed.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cases to about 2/3 full.
  7. Bake at 180ºC for about 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool fully.
  9. Make the icing by beating together the icing sugar, margarine and mint extract, and adding the colouring a little at a time until it gets as green as you would like. Mine are quite Shrek-like, but you may want to go for a more subtle green shade 🙂
  10. Spoon the icing onto the top of each cupcake and spread it around (you could pipe it, but I find that using margarine makes it quite runny compared to buttercream icing).
  11. Finish them off by grating a small amount of dark chocolate onto each cake.

Pink pasta – #slowcookersunday

Another week, another recipe with beetroot! As you can probably guess if you’ve read my previous posts recently, we had beetroots in the veg box again this week. I love beetroot, so this isn’t a problem, I just don’t know many recipes that use them, so we often eat them roasted as a side veg. Having already made chocolate beetroot cake and savoury beetroot crumble, I had a brainwave for this week’s beetroot: red + white = pink! I knew that Andrew would love pasta (his favourite food) even more if it was brightly coloured, so I thought why not cook the red beetroot in a milky sauce and add pasta to make a pink dish. The addition of red kidney beans as well as the deep red/purple of the beetroot chunks complimented the pink colour very nicely.

Pink pasta

I’ve not done much pasta cooking in the slow cooker because I’ve heard that it can be very difficult to get it just right in texture between being crunchy and mushy, but I was impressed by how good Aly’s macaroni cheese recipe over at Plus 2.4 turned out when I made it, so was motivated to try one myself. The pasta turned out quite well, though on the mushier end of normal for someone who usually likes quite al dente pasta – next time I would have the pasta in for a little less time. But it was perfect for Joel to try sone, so I wasn’t disappointed. Andrew was very impressed with his pink pasta – he even managed to eat some beetroot, which hasn’t always been his favourite vegetable. So an all round good family meal. If Andrew was into a certain pig called Peppa, I might have called it Peppa Pig pasta! Maybe worth a try if you have a Peppa Pig fan who is a fussy eater?

Here’s the recipe – it did us two meals

Ingredients

  • About 400g beetroots
  • 200ml boiling water
  • 450g pasta shapes – we had shells
  • 500ml milk
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tin red kidney beans
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (optional – we like spicy food)
  • 100g soft cheese

Method

  1. Chop the beetroots into chunks (I left them fairly large) and place in the slow cooker pot with the boiling water. Cook for 2 hours on high.
  2. After the 2 hours, add the rest of the ingredients except the soft cheese and stir well.
  3. Cook on high for a further 2 1/2 hours (more like 2 hours if you want firmer pasta).
  4. When it’s cooked, stir in the soft cheese and serve immediately.

Linking up with Slow Cooker Sunday

Mini (veggie) toad in the hole, aka sausage cakes – #eggmainsinminutes

Before we went on holiday recently, we had some eggs to eat which wouldn’t last until we got back. My first thought for cooking with eggs is always to bake some cakes, but as we already had a large quantity of chocolate from Easter stacked up in the fridge and on the worktop, I decided that a savoury recipe was in order.mini veggie toads

I love a good Yorkshire pudding, but I’m not a big fan of sausages (or any other kind of meat for that matter, I much prefer pulses and fish for protein), so when we do have toad in the hole, I use veggie sausages. This recipe can be done equally well with meaty sausages though. I used to cook it in one big dish, but to make it more fun for Andrew, I’ve recently used a muffin tin to make little individual toads in the hole – or should that be tadpoles in the hole?! When Andrew first saw these, he said ‘Oooooh, sausage cakes!’, so that’s stuck with us now 🙂

They are a real hit with him, as he loves to pick them up in his hands, pretending they are actually cakes. I love the amount of crispiness on the Yorks pud that you get from making it in a smaller tin. I add mustard to the batter to give it a bit of a kick – don’t be too afraid to try this with kids, it’s not overpowering. But then again, I am the mum of a toddler who eats spicy curries and chills without batting an eyelid. Serve it with roasted veg (might as well take advantage of the oven being on!) and gravy (if that floats your boat – I’m not a sauce fan, but Tom loves a splash of gravy).toads 2

One last thing before I get on with the recipe… I can’t cook toad in the hole without thinking of a song which we have on a megamix of kids/funny songs that my Dad put together for us. I didn’t actually know who it was by until I found it on youtube just now. It’s called ‘My Brother’ by Terry Scott, and it’s particularly appropriate now that we have two boys, two brothers. The whole song is funny, but the line that is the link to this recipe is at 21-27 seconds, and it’s hilarious. I’d recommend having a listen!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3ODRbw69vs

Ingredients – serves 2 adults for dinner, or 2 adults plus 2 toddlers for lunch

  • 120g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 120ml milk
  • 75ml water
  • 2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 5 veggie sausages, cut into thirds, or cocktail-size ones (raw)
  • 1 onion

Method

  1. Grease inside the holes of a 12-hole muffin tin and 3 more in a 6-hole or 12-hole muffin tin.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC (fan).
  3. Make the mustardy batter using a blender (either stick or jug) – put the flour, eggs, milk, water and mustard in and whizz them up until a smooth batter forms.
  4. Chop the onion fairly finely, and place a few bits in each hole of the muffin tin to cover the bottom.
  5. Place one sausage chunk or cocktail-size sausage in each hole on top of the onion.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the sausages and onions start to looked coloured.
  7. Remove from the oven and pour the batter into each hole until it’s about 3/4 full and the sausage is surrounded by batter.
  8. Put the muffin tins back in the oven and bake for about another 20 minutes until the batter is golden brown and crispy on top.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before taking the toads/tadpoles/sausage cakes out of the tin.
  10. Serve with roasted veg and (optionally) gravy to hungry tums. Yum!
This is my entry for the #eggmainsinminutes Linky on BritMums, and more info can be found at Main Meals in Minutes.

Eggs mains in minutes badge final

 

Cupcake of the month (April): parsnip and ginger

This might sound a bit wacky, but I promise you it works. Baking cakes with parsnip is no different really from carrot cakes. The cupcake recipe in my calendar for this month was simply a ginger one, but I’d been meaning to have a go at parsnip cake after the success of my chocolate beetroot cake, and I thought the flavour combination of parsnip and ginger would work well. With all the chocolate hanging around at the moment (that makes it sound like the chocolate needs an ASBO – I can assure you that it doesn’t!), these provide a lighter and different alternative.

Apart from the addition of parsnip, I changed the recipe quite a bit from the calendar one: I only put a small amount of sugar in, a third of what it says on the calendar, as the parsnip adds sweetness and I wanted to make some smaller ones to be toddler-friendly as well as some big adult-sized ones with icing on; I added some stem ginger, because in my opinion, if you’re going to have ginger, you might as well have proper chunks of fiery ginger rather than just ground stuff; I used honey instead of syrup, as usual; I made a few other changes too – so it’s nothing like the original really!parsnip&ginger cupcakes edit

The instructions on the calendar said use a cake mixer. I don’t usually bother with one when baking, unless I’m whisking egg whites (I don’t enjoy the muscle ache afterwards when I do it by hand!), mainly because I don’t have one of those super duper fancy gadgets they have on the Great British Bake Off, just a small handheld one that cost about a fiver from Wilkos when I was a student many years ago. But as the calendar put the idea into my head, I was curious to see how the cakes worked out, particularly as I was guessing it would be quite a dense, moist mixture and therefore any extra air I could beat into it would not go amiss. As I suspected, even with the aerating skills of the electric mixer, the cakes didn’t rise massively, but I like the sticky, moist texture anyway, as is often the case with carrot cakes. I would say it’s fine to use either hand or machine in this recipe – whatever mood you happen to be in.

I think that’s all I wanted to waffle on about, so here’s what you do if you want to have a go yourself. Enjoy! Tom’s verdict: de-scrump-tu-licious!

Ingredients

Cakes – makes 10-12 big plus 10-12 small

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 175g margarine
  • 120ml milk
  • 40g brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 50g stem ginger, plus extra for decoration
Icing
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar
  • splash of ginger syrup from the stem ginger jar

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan) and prepare a muffin tin with cupcake cases and a fairy cake tin with cases.
  2. Grate the parsnip, and chop the stem ginger into small chunks.
  3. With a spoon, mix the flour and ground spices in a large bowl.
  4. Put all the other ingredients apart from the parsnip and stem ginger into the bowl and mix with a mixer until well combined.
  5. Add the parsnip and stem ginger and fold in with a spoon until evenly distributed.
  6. Fill the cake cases to about three quarters full.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  9. Meanwhile, mix the ingredients together for the icing until smooth.
  10. Put into a piping bag and pipe onto the cooled cakes (big ones only!) in whatever design you wish.
  11. Finish with a small chunk of stem ginger on top. Perfect!

 Link up your recipe of the week

 

Cupcake of the month (March): vanilla, with little egg nests

cupcakes march 2You may remember that back in February I introduced a new monthly feature on the blog – Cupcake of the month – inspired by a calendar I was given for Christmas with a different cupcake recipe each month. This month the recipe was for vanilla cupcakes, with a slightly more unusual order for combining the ingredients than I had come across before. It’s not exactly the same recipe as appears on the calendar (I always adapt recipes!), mainly in that I halved all the ingredients, used marg instead of butter, missed out the salt, and doubled the amount of vanilla. I bought vanilla ‘flavouring’ instead of ‘essence’ last time I went shopping for it because they didn’t have any essence, and I knew that flavouring wasn’t as strong, so put twice as much in; disappointingly though, they still don’t taste strongly of vanilla, so I won’t be buying that again!march cupcakes

The decoration suggestion on the calendar was a swirl of buttercream icing with mini eggs on top. Although they look very creative, I thought I’d go one step further and combine these relatively plain cakes with another of my favourite things to make and eat at Easter – chocolate egg nests! You can’t beat a bit of shredded what covered in chocolate and honey, shaped into a nest with a couple of mini eggs in it 🙂 Andrew loved helping me make these too, not least because I let him lick the spoon! He was fascinated by the mini eggs and interested to learn about nests and count the eggs into them – he’s very into numbers and counting.right now. We made some small nests (I would make them bigger if we were eating them on their own) that fitted nicely on the top of the cupcakes, held on with a blob of buttercream (that was the ready-made stuff left over from Andrew’s birthday cake).

If you’d like to have a go at these treats for Easter, here’s the recipe……

Ingredients – makes 10

  • 130g self-raising flour
  • 75g sugar
  • 125ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 55g margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 150 dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • shredded wheat
  • chocolate mini eggs
  • buttercream icing (I had some ready-made stuff left over – or you could mix 25g butter/marg with 50g icing sugar)
I don't know how much shredded wheat we used - we just crushed til we had the right consistency
I don’t know how much shredded wheat we used – we just crushed until we had the right consistency

Method

  1. Put 10 fairy cake cases in a fairy cake tin and 10 cupcake cases in a muffin tin.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
  3. Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl, then add the milk and vanilla and stir until smooth.
  4. Beat in the margarine and egg until well combined and smooth.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cupcake cases until they are about half to two thirds full.
  6. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  7. Meanwhile, make the nests…. Melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water.
  8. Stir in the honey.
  9. Crush shredded wheat in your hands over the bowl and keep doing this, stirring it now and then into the chocolate, until the shredded wheat is nicely covered and the mixture is thick enough to spoon into the fairy cake cases.
  10. Spoon a small amount into the bottom of each case, and press two mini eggs into the centre.
  11. Chill in the fridge until set.
  12. Once the cakes are baked and cooled, and the nests are set, assemble by putting a small blob of icing in the centre of each cake and pressing a nest down on top of it.
  13. Store in an airtight container and eat as fresh as possible.
I'm sure more chocolate went round his mouth than in it!
I’m sure more chocolate went around his mouth than in it!

Pancakes: cheesy-leek and choccy-cherry

Wow, it’s Shrove Tuesday again already! Where did that year go?! I know it’s not quite a whole year since last year’s Pancake Day, but still I can’t quite believe what’s happened since. I distinctly remember last year’s Shrove Tuesday because I had just done a couple of pregnancy tests which had come out positive and I was about to embark on months of feeling and being sick. So this year I intended to enjoy my pancakes, and enjoy them a lot!

For tea we had some savoury and sweet pancakes. This week in our veg box we got a couple of leeks (amongst other items), so they formed the basis of our savoury pancakes, sautéed until crispy and mixed with some cheese – a good flavour combination I think. As our protein for the meal, I added a tin of tuna. And to complement these flavours I added some mixed green herbs to the pancake batter. There was some chocolate ganache left over from some cupcakes that we baked recently (blog post to follow), so that became an indulgent filling along with some dried cherries for our sweet treat pancakes. I convinced Andrew that you (or rather ‘he’) only needs a small amount of the chocolate to taste it – any more chocolate an hour before bed could have led to disaster! i love red fruits with chocolate, I think they work really well, but this time of year they’re not in season and I find the ones you can get in the shops now, which are grown abroad, don’t have the same flavour as local ones in the summer, plus they are expensive. So the dried ones that we buy as snacks for Andrew gave us the intense cherry flavour to go with the chocolate.

Here’s how I made each filling, along with the pancake batters that I whipped up…..

Ingredients

Pancake batters

  • 120g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 75ml water
  • 2 tbsp mixed herbs added to savoury batter
  • 2 tbsp chocolate sprinkles added to sweet batter
  • butter or margarine to fry

Cheesy-leek filling

  • knob of butter or margarine
  • 2 small leeks, chopped
  • 75g cheese, grated – I used cheddar because that’s what we had in, but you can use any cheese you like really as long as it melts in nicely.
  • 1 standard tin of tuna (optional)
  • black pepper

Choccy-cherry filling

  • 90g dried cherries (this was the size of the pack we had and we ate it all between us)
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 50ml double cream
I used the ganache that was left over from cupcake icing – there was about one third left of what was originally 150g chocolate and 150ml cream.

Method

Batter

  1. Use a blender – either a jug one on its own base or a stick one in a jug that’s at least a pint in size – to blend all the batter ingredients together. I just shove them all in together in no particular order and then start blending once they’re all in the jug.
  2. Transfer half the batter to another jug and add the chocolate sprinkles; add the herbs to the original jug.
Cheesy-leek filling
  1. Heat the butter/margarine for the leek filling in a large frying pan and fry the leeks until they are nicely browned and soft.
  2. Take off the heat and stir through the tin of tuna and grated cheese until the cheese is just melting.
  3. Season with black pepper to taste.
Choccy-cherry filling
  1. Heat the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan on a low heat whilst stirring, until the chocolate has melted and mixed with the cream completely.
  2. Take off the heat and whisk for a couple of minutes until it becomes thicker and glossier.
  3. Leave to cool and thicken in the fridge.
  4. Put the chocolate filling into a piping bag.

Assembling all together – I did the previous three sections of prep earlier in the day or week so we were ready to roll (or rather flip!) in the evening for tea (I just heated the cheesy leeks in the microwave to serve).

  1. Heat the butter/margarine in a frying pan until it’s sizzling – I use quite a small one as I find smaller pancakes easier to handle, but you can use whatever size pan you want your finished pancakes to be.
  2. Pour some batter into the pan, enough to give a fairly thin pancake, and swirl the pan around so that the batter goes right to the edges.
  3. Cook for a few minutes, checking the underside every now and then, using a fish slice to lift the pancake edge up slightly, until it looks nicely brown underneath.
  4. Then for the flip! If you’re brave, flip it into the air directly from the pan and catch it so the uncooked side is now facing down. If like me you’re a pancake wuss, use the fish slice to flip it over in the pan.
  5. Cook for a few more minutes until the new underside is nicely browned.
  6. Take out of the pan and fill immediately with your filling – spoon some cheesy-leek filling into the centre, or pipe some chocolate filling and add a handful of dried cherries into the centre, and roll up the pancake.
  7. Eat immediately whilst still hot – Tom and I take it in turns to fry a pancake and eat one, rather than cooking them all and then eating them. We find this adds to the fun of our Shroce Tuesday tea-time.
  8. Yummy yummy (as Andrew said)!

Marmorkuchen – Mummy-sized and toddler-sized

One of the presents that Father Christmas brought for Andrew was an Ikea children’s baking set; it has a baking tray, pie tin, biscuit cutters, rolling pin and Bundt tin (if you don’t know what this is, hang on, I’ll explain shortly!) – all perfect mini replicas of my own adult-sized baking equipment. When he opened it, I thought the Bundt tin was particularly cute. This is a circular tin with a hole in it, to make ring-shaped cakes; it is a traditional shape in Germany for certain types of cake, and it’s there that I first saw such ring cakes.

When I was 14 and in Germany on the exchange trip organised by school, my exchange partner and I baked a Marmorkuchen, or ‘Marble Cake’ in its classic shape – the Bundt tin. We went on to become good friends and are still in touch today, albeit less frequently than back then when neither of us had such busy lives. For our wedding, she and her husband bought us some typically German presents, including a Bundt tin and a German cook book with various cake recipes in. I’ve mainly used this tin for baking Marmorkuchen, and when I saw Andrew’s mini version, I thought that this would be the first thing that we’d bake in it. We also made a Mummy (and Daddy) sized one at the same time!

So what is Marmorkuchen (Marble Cake) anyway? Don’t worry, it’s not rock hard, well not unless you do something seriously wrong! It’s a basic sponge mixture, half of which you keep plain (vanilla flavoured) and the other half of which you add cocoa powder to for a chocolate flavour. You layer each half of the mixture in the tin, plain first, chocolate second, and then use a fork to swirl them together, to make a marble effect once the mixture is cooked and you cut a slice from the ring. It’s a simple recipe which looks very pretty and a bit different from the usual sponge you might bake.

I’ve given the recipe below. I’m not sure where to buy Bundt tins in this country, but there must be some lurking online somewhere. It would work just as well in an ordinary cake tin or loaf tin, just without the interesting ring shape. The recipe is based on one in the German cook book that I was given, but slightly adapted – there is no rum in it, which, if I remember rightly, in Germany you can buy in little capsules for using in baking cakes such as these. I think it works without it though, as there is vanilla flouring in it anyway.

Ingredients

  • 300g margarine
  • 275g sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 375g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • splash of milk

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C )fan) and grease the inside of the Bundt tin.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs until smooth.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and vanilla essence and mix until well combined.
  5. Put half the mixture into the Bundt tin and spread it around to fill the ring.
  6. Add the cocoa to the remaining mixture and mix until well combined, and add a splash of milk if the mixture gets too stiff, to loosen it up.
  7. Put this mixture into the Bundt tin and spread it around to make a layer on top of the plain mixture.
  8. With a fork, make circular motions from top to bottom and back to top in the tin, so that the plain mixture below comes up and is swirled into the chocolate mixture and vice versa, all around the circle tin.
  9. Bake in the oven for about 50-60 minutes – check it is cooked by inserting a skewer and it comes out clean.
  10. Leave to cool in the tin and turn it out onto a plate when cool. Enjoy!