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!
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!
Cakes – makes 10-12 big plus 10-12 small
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
40g brown sugar
4 tbsp honey
1 large parsnip
50g stem ginger, plus extra for decoration
100g icing sugar
splash of ginger syrup from the stem ginger jar
Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan) and prepare a muffin tin with cupcake cases and a fairy cake tin with cases.
Grate the parsnip, and chop the stem ginger into small chunks.
With a spoon, mix the flour and ground spices in a large bowl.
Put all the other ingredients apart from the parsnip and stem ginger into the bowl and mix with a mixer until well combined.
Add the parsnip and stem ginger and fold in with a spoon until evenly distributed.
Fill the cake cases to about three quarters full.
Bake for about 25 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, mix the ingredients together for the icing until smooth.
Put into a piping bag and pipe onto the cooled cakes (big ones only!) in whatever design you wish.
Finish with a small chunk of stem ginger on top. Perfect!
This week in the veg box we got 3 different sorts of root veg – carrot, parsnip and suede. I decided to make a chunky and hearty soup, which we ate with some crusty bread. The two flavours that I picked to go with the vegetables were honey and cumin, because I think these go particularly well with root veg. Until recently I haven’t been too keen on having honey with main course dishes – I’ve always thought of it as something to put in sweet eats. But as I’ve got more into parsnips, which I used to also find weirdly sweet for a vegetable, I’ve mellowed to the idea of having a hint of honey with them. It’s funny how your tastes change as you get older (or at least that’s what I’m finding!)
The recipe is really very simple, with not many ingredients at all; you just bung it all in the slow cooker and blend it when cooked – I kept it quite chunky so didn’t blend it too much. Here it is….
4 medium parsnips
1 small suede
2 medium carrots
1 litre hot vegetable stock (I use low salt)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp cumin seeds
ground pepper to season
Cut the vegetables up into rough chunks – they don’t have to be very small or even.
Put the veg, stock, honey and cumin seeds into the slow cooker pot and cook on low for 6 hours.
Using a stick blender, blend the contents of the slow cooker pot until some of the veg has pureed but there are still some chunks left.
Season with a grind of pepper to taste.
Serve immediately with crusty bread. This also freezes well if there is any left over.
I’ve been thinking about baking a beetroot cake for a while now, since I saw the idea somewhere online – I can’t actually remember where exactly I saw it, but the picture looked good and I didn’t hang around long enough to look at the recipe in detail as I think I was looking for something else at the time. We’ve had beetroot a few times in the veg box, but as it’s usually just the right amount of veg for a week of meals, I haven’t felt like using some of it in a cake. However, since I was ill last week and didn’t eat anything for a couple of days and then moved on to a plain toast diet for a couple more, we had a bit of a glut of veg, including some beetroot, so I seized this opportunity now that I’m feeling better to have a go at what I’d wanted to do for a while.
From my googling, I figured out that there were 2 ways in which people recommend using beetroot in cake: 1) similarly to carrot, by grating it raw and baking it in a fairly light sponge; or 2) pureeing it when cooked and adding it to chocolate cake to make a very moist and dense sponge. I thought the second option looked the most yummy, so I went for that. The recipe I came up with is loosely based on Nigel Slater’s recipe which I found on the BBC Food website.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the finished cake, though I’d seen it written online that this kind of beetroot cake doesn’t have much, if any, traces of beetroot taste, rather it’s a fudgey chocolate cake in taste but the beetroot gives it a lot of moistness. And now that I’ve made one myself, I concur with this description – it is incredibly moist and dense without being greasy like some fudge cakes. If I didn’t know it had beetroot in, I wouldn’t have guessed that it does, though the slight red tinge in the right light gives it away a little.
You could try and argue that this is a good way to get kids (or adults) to eat some veg, but I’m not sure whether the almost equal quantity of chocolate to beetroot really makes it that ‘healthy’ (‘everything in moderation’ is my approach to a balanced diet). I personally love beetroot simply roasted in some olive oil, though I can’t sand it pickled in vinegar (*shuddering at the thought*). Andrew has been known to eat it and refuse it, and in general we can’t complain at how much fruit and veg he eats, so I’m not about to give him this cake just because I think he needs a veg top up…. he can have a slither as a treat anyway.
Here’s the recipe. It’s not the simplest cake I’ve ever made, with quite a few stages and techniques, so make sure you give yourself enough time if you have a go yourself.
300g raw beetroot
250g dark chocolate
4 tbsp milk
150g plain flour
5 eggs, separated
225g golden caster sugar
120g icing sugar
few drops vanilla essence
Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan). Grease 2 medium cake tins (I have silicone moulds so I didn’t grease).
Cut the beetroot into small chunks and boil for about 8 minutes until just tender.
Blend the beetroot with the milk in a food processor to a rough purée.
Melt the chocolate in a microwave or over a pan of hot water on the hob.
Cut the margarine into small chunks, and stir into the molten chocolate until it too melts. Leave to cool slightly.
Separate the eggs.
Beat the yolks in a bowl, then stir them into the chocolate and margarine mixture.
Add the beetroot, flour and sugar to this mixture, and mix until well combined.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed.
Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, being careful not to over mix and lose all the air you whisked into the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Leave to cool completely and remove from the tin/mould.
Meanwhile, make the icing by beating the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
Spread the icing over the top of one cake, and place the other cake on top to make a sandwich cake with icing in the middle.
Eat! You can also freeze this – it makes quite a big cake, so you might have to!
Although I knew you could put pearly barley in soups and stews to give a thicker texture, I’d never thought of making a meal in which pearl barley was the main ingredient, used like rice to make a risotto, until I saw it used like this in a recipe in my slow cooker cookbook from which I’ve taken inspiration for various recipes that I’ve come up with. The barley gives it a slightly different taste and texture compared to ordinary risotto with rice, and I like having this for a change. Plus barley is supposed to be good for breast milk production.
The recipe for pearl barley risotto in my book isn’t really my cup of tea because it contains blue cheese, which I don’t like. So I’ve changed all the ingredients except the pearl barley and created a risotto that’s more to my taste. I included a tin of chopped tomatoes because, for risottos in general, I’m into using chopped tomatoes as part of the liquid for cooking the rice – it gives it a good flavour without having to use as much stock, which is great in terms of salt reduction for little ones, and Andrew isn’t too keen on raw tomatoes but will happily eat cooked ones from a tin in sauces on pasta and rice like this. The vegetables in this risotto were those which came in our veg box this week – all our meals these days are planned around what veg we get, and I like this because it makes me think of new things rather than always buying the same kinds of veg week in week out. I also chucked in a tin of canellini beans as the protein in our meal. The final touch was a sprinkling of grated mature cheddar to give an extra boost of flavour.
My boys approved, and Andrew even asked for seconds of ‘zotto’, so it must have gone down well. This recipe was enough for 2 meals for us, so that’s 2 evenings of not having to cook just at the time when we’re all tired and irritable. Result!
230g pearl barley
half a large savoy cabbage, finely chopped
1 medium leek, finely chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
900ml vegetable stock (I use low-salt for toddler)
400g tin canellini beans, drained
3 tbsp dried oregano
50g mature cheddar, grated
Put all the ingredients except the cheddar into the slow cooker pot and stir to mix them together.
Cook on low for 8 hours.
Stir well before serving with a sprinkling of grated cheese on top.
Recently I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of slow cooking. It’s very handy when you have two small children because you can do the prep whenever you get 10 mins or so earlier in the day – usually around 9am or lunchtime for me – and then you just leave it to cook during the day or afternoon and it’s ready for dinner, so there’s no need to be slaving over a hot stove at that often fractious time of day when everyone’s tired.
Last week I chucked some veg that we had in our veg box into the slow cooker pot, along with some dried lentils and stock, and made some cheesy dumplings, to create a yummy and satisfying meal for us all (including my mum-in-law who is wheat-intolerant – I used wheat-free flour, though not wheat-free stock as she is fine with small amounts of wheat, it’s not a full blown allergy, rather an intolerance).
I was going to blog it, but then realised that in our haste to eat the steaming pot of yumminess, I’d forgotten to take any photos, so I thought I’d have to scrap the post. But then I thought that this would be a real shame because it really was yummy (even Andrew agreed, and toddlers give genuine compliments 😉 ). So when we got similar veg in our box this week, I thought I’d take a photo of the ingredients instead, as well as one of the tupperware of leftovers, which, although it doesn’t do justice visually to the meal we enjoyed, will do justice to one of our tummies one day when we need a quick meal from the freezer.
This week I’ve tried the recipe for macaroni cheese from Aly over at 2.4, mainly because we seemed to have quite a lot of milk with not a very long date on it. I adapted the recipe by using fusilli instead of macaroni, and broccoli instead of spinach, because those were what we had in. I’m hoping to blog more slow cooked recipes over the coming months. I’m linking this one up to Mediocre Mum’s Slow Cooker Sunday linky.
Anyway, enough of an intro……on with the recipe!
Ingredients – makes 6 portions
150g dried red lentils
1.5 litres hot vegetable stock (I use low salt for the boys)
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp cornflour
150g wheat-free self-raising flour
75 g vegetable suet
100g mature cheddar cheese
Dried mixed herbs
Chop all the veg into round chunks about 1cm thick and quarter the mushrooms; put them all in the slow cooker pot.
Wash the lentils thoroughly and add to the slow cooker pot.
Add the stock, mustard and cornflour (mixed to a paste with a little cold water); stir everything together.
Cook on low for 6 hours.
To make the dumplings, chop the cheese into small chunks, then mix the flour, suet, cheese and a good sprinkling of the herbs in a bowl; then add some cold water a little at a time and stir until the mixture forms a stiff dough, using your hands for the last bit; shape the dough into 18 small balls.
After the 6 hours of cooking on low, remove the lid and place the dough balls on top of the broth where they will just float.
Cook for a further hour on high.
To serve, ladle some broth and a few dumplings into each bowl and eat straight away.
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…..
120g plain flour
2 tbsp mixed herbs added to savoury batter
2 tbsp chocolate sprinkles added to sweet batter
butter or margarine to fry
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)
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.
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.
Transfer half the batter to another jug and add the chocolate sprinkles; add the herbs to the original jug.
Heat the butter/margarine for the leek filling in a large frying pan and fry the leeks until they are nicely browned and soft.
Take off the heat and stir through the tin of tuna and grated cheese until the cheese is just melting.
Season with black pepper to taste.
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.
Take off the heat and whisk for a couple of minutes until it becomes thicker and glossier.
Leave to cool and thicken in the fridge.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cook for a few more minutes until the new underside is nicely browned.
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.
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.
Crumbles are one of my favourite puddings, especially on a cold day to warm and fill me up, there’s nothing like it. A while ago I came across a vegetable crumble in a magazine, and I was intrigued to know what it was. Was it one of these sweet puddings that you put vegetables in, like carrot or courgette cake that are all the rage these days? No, it was a savoury crumble, with vegetables in sauce as the base, and breadcrumbs and oats for the topping. I thought it looked appetising, but couldn’t help thinking that it wasn’t actually what I’d call a crumble – it didn’t have the classic ‘crumble’ topping that makes a crumble a crumble (wow, lots of mentions of crumble there – can you tell I love them?!) So I thought, I know, I’ll do my own, and do a similar base to the magazine’s suggestion, but use a classic crumble topping of butter and flour (but no sugar) rubbed together to make a breadcrumb like texture before baking.
That was a while ago, and since then I’ve done various fillings with whatever we happen to have in the fridge and cupboards. Just recently I came up with what I think is my best yet, so I thought I’d share it with you on the blog. It’s also a very toddler-friendly food, as the crumble tends to get mixed up with the veggies when served, so it’s a good way to encourage vegetable eating with a tasty starchy topping that will go down easily. Not that we have problems with vegetable eating (yet! I’m not taking it for granted, I know fussy stages happen), but it’s still a good idea to have up my sleeve in case. The lentils give the base a lovely thick texture, and provide protein in a veggie dish (something I’m very aware of as I eat very little meat and no red meat). So here’s the recipe. This would feed about 4 adults, or two adults and a toddler for dinner and then a yummy leftover lunch the next day.
300g plain flour
cumin seeds (or any other herb/spice that you’d like to use)
75g mature cheddar, grated
120g dried red lentils
1 parsnip, cubed
half a large butternut squash, cubed
1 courgette, cubed
500ml reduced salt vegetable stock
3 tbsp olive oil
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the cubed parsnip and squash for about 5 minutes until starting to brown. Add the courgette and continue to fry for a few minutes.
Rinse the lentils and add to the pan.
Add the stock, bring to the boil, and simmer for a few minutes. Take off the heat.
If you feel confident enough, make the crumble topping whilst keeping an eye on the vegetables frying. If not, wait until you’ve completed stage 3 (I tend to flit between one thing and another quite easily, but Tom is of the finish each stage one at a time before starting the next school of cooking). Rub the margarine and flour together until you get a texture that resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in some cumin seeds (or other herbs/spices) to taste.
Pour the veggie filling into a large ovenproof dish. Spread the crumble topping over the top.
Bake in the oven at 180ºC for about 30 minutes until golden. About 10 minutes before the end, sprinkle the grated cheese over the top and leave to melt and brown off in the oven.
Serve as an all in one dish – vitamins, fibre (vegetables), protein (lentils, cheese) and carbohydrate (crumble topping) all together!
Here’s a quick Saturday night tea that I made last weekend. Partly inspired by pizza, which I can’t currently eat due to my bread fast for Lent, and partly inspired by my love of pesto, which is pretty high in salt when you buy it from the shops, but if you make it yourself you can reduce or leave out the cheese which usually makes it so salty. Using rocket for the pesto gives it a really strong flavour so the salt is less necessary for flavouring purposes. If you haven’t guessed from the picture already, I called it ‘Traffic lights’ because it has red, yellow and green things on it!
1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry (you can make it yourself if you have time, but I’ve had bad experiences with pastry before so I only make it when I know I’m not in a hurry – which is hardly ever these days. A decent food processor would help me too)
1 bag of fresh rocket
1 tin of pinto beans
half a tin of sweetcorn
1 large tomato (I wanted to use sundried tomatoes, but when I opened the pot that had been in the fridge, I discovered it had gone mouldy! It hadn’t even been opened long. I’m considering taking it back if I have time.)
Roll out the pastry onto a lined baking sheet. Prick it with a fork several times all over the rectangle of pastry, leaving a border of about 2cm around all the edges.
To make the pesto, whizz up the rocket with a decent glug of olive oil in a blender until you get a smooth paste.
Spread the pesto over the pastry, leaving that 2cm border.
Spread a mixture of sweetcorn and pinto beans all over the pesto until it is almost covered with a few green patches poking through.
Cut the tomato into slices and add to the topping.
Finish the topping by pouring a splash of olive oil over the top to keep it moist and brown the beans.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°c for about 20-25 minutes, until the border is puffed and golden.
It’s that time of year again: my parents’ birthdays are here (one in February and one in March). They have lots of things and I never know what to buy them. So this year I decided to make them personalised cards for a present, because I know they will appreciate something that was hand made. (I also popped some cinema vouchers inside for Mum – I can’t say yet what will be in Dad’s as his birthday hasn’t come yet.) Here’s how I made the card called ‘Granny’s Garden’….
I love making things and this project reminded why I like doing it for other people – I like to see them receive something personalised and made with love. I find it very relaxing and it’s the kind of thing I do when Daddy and Andrew go out together on a Saturday morning. There will be more of this kind of craft coming up on the blog when I get the chance.
When I came across this recipe for Green Risotto, I thought what a great way it is to get toddlers eating the vitamins and iron that are found in spinach and peas, which are not always the most popular of foods amongst our littluns, though I’m glad to say that so far (I’m aware this can change) ours has shown no signs of being fussy, and it surprises me sometimes just how much of all kids of different foods he’ll try and polish off. At the moment for him it’s more a case of he can’t (in great quantities) rather than he won’t eat spinach, because he only has two teeth (I think he’s put all his developmental effort in mastering walking recently), so I have to cut it up very small for him otherwise he can’t seem to ‘gum’ it very easily like he can other foods. But at least he’s not against the flavour. Peas are definitely one of his favourites – not sure whether it’s the fun of picking them up one by one and perfecting his pincer movement, or the flavour, but all I care about is that he eats them.
The veggies are whizzed up in this risotto, so even the most suspecting toddler won’t be able to see actual pieces of veg, just a lovely thick bright green sauce. And let’s face it, bright colours are so appealing when you’re a little person – that’s why all their toys/books/clothes etc. are brightly coloured. I thought it would be a good idea to share this recipe on the blog, for anyone who’s wondering how they can get those all important vitamins and iron into their littluns who might not be too keen on eating visible plant life.
The recipe is based on one from Paddington’s Cookery Book, which Andrew got for his birthday from Uncle Matt and Aunty Helen, along with a gorgeous little kids’ apron for when he’s old enough to help me cook. The book is a fantastic mix of snacks, mains, breakfasts and puddings, all beautifully illustrated with Paddington Bear doing bits of cooking. I’d definitely recommend it if you’d like some child-friendly recipe ideas, for getting them involved in both cooking and eating. This recipe was about half the quantities that it said for 4-6 people, and it served two adults and a hungry toddler just right. It would also freeze well, but I didn’t buy enough spinach this time to make double and freeze half; I’m already planning on doing that next time. I used cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan, because I forgot to buy the special cheese and we always have the ordinary stuff in the fridge – it worked fine. I also replaced the butter with olive oil, because we were running a bit low and I needed it for the other recipe I was making that night (post to follow…) So that’s enough of an intro…. on with the green stuff!
some dried or fresh mint leaves (how much is up to you – depends how minty you want it)
125g frozen peas
500ml vegetable stock (I used reduced salt stock)
50g cheddar cheese
150g rice (I don’t usually buy risotto rice on the grounds that ordinary long grain rice tastes nice too and is considerably cheaper when you’re on a budget like us)
basil leaves (optional)
Wash the spinach and cut off any tough stalks.
Put it in a saucepan of boiling water for just a minute, to blanch. Drain, keeping the water.
In the same water, cook the peas and drain. Liquidise the spinach, mint and peas, adding a little of the cooking water if necessary (whoops I burnt out the motor in my aging liquidiser doing this! Time for a new one I think).
Heat the stock and grate the cheese.
Chop the onion finely. Heat some olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat, and cook the onion until soft. Add the rice and stir for a minute or two. You should hear the rice crackling when it’s ready for the next stage.
Add 2 ladlefuls of stock and watch, stirring often, until it is absorbed into the rice. Carry on, a ladleful at a time, until the rice is almost completely soft but the risotto is still creamy. This should take about 20 minutes.
Now stir in the spinach, mint and pea puree, and half the cheese. Add the basil leaves if you have them.