Courgette and apple cake – #GBBO inspired

This week the Great British Bake Off was all about unconventional baking – using flours that are wheat- or gluten-free, and using no dairy ingredients (like butter or milk). The final round saw the contestants bake a showstopper cake that was completely dairy free and contained a vegetable. They went for butternut squash, carrot or beetroot between them.

As we had a courgette in the veg box this week, and as I’ve been meaning to bake a courgette cake for some time now, I decided that this would be a great time to do it! We also had some cooking apples given to us by one of Tom’s work colleagues who has a glut of them in her garden, so I thought I’d combine the two in a cake with some spices too.

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I googled some courgette cake recipes and adapted one from BBC Good Food (I never follow a recipe exactly, and I wanted to add apple anyway). It came out very well, and actually rose more than I thought it might, given that vegetable cakes can be quite stodgy. It tastes like a fruit cake, but is lovely and moist from the grated courgette and apple. My boys all approved!

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 85g soft brown sugar
  • 1 medium courgette, grated
  • 1 cooking apple, grated
    • (combined weight of courgette and apple around 350-400g)
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g sultanas

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan) and prepare a cake tin (grease and line if necessary – I use a silicone mould that doesn’t need this).
  2. Mix the oil, sugar and eggs together in a bowl, then add the grated fruit and veg.
  3. In another, larger bowl, mix the flour, spices, baking powder and sultanas until evenly distributed.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin/mould and bake for about an hour (vegetable cakes, according to Mary Berry herself, take longer to bake than ordinary cakes), until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and let it cool.
  7. Eat as fresh as possible – you can also freeze this.

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Tasty veg pie with puff crust – #GBBO inspired

This week the Great British Bake Off was all about pastry. It’s not something I bake all the time, but I’m less afraid of it than I once was (after I’d had a bit of a disastrous apple pie with sweet pastry that just went everywhere!), so I like the opportunity to practice and prove to myself that I can in fact do it!

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One of the challenges on the GBBO this week involved puff pastry. Now proper puff pastry takes a long time to make – as Paul Hollywood himself emphasised, it needs a lot of time to get it right. But there is a quick, cheat’s method that gives puffy pastry (even if not as superior a puff as the real McCoy) in much more manageable time frames. So this is what I decided to do for dinner on Sunday night. For once I didn’t choose a sweet bake (I know, shocking), because we had some lovely veg that I thought would work well in a nice hearty pie, and when I mentioned to Tom that I was thinking of making a ‘hearty pie’, he said ‘Oh yes, I like anything hearty, do something hearty, yes please’. Still veggie, of course, so maybe not hearty as some avid carnivores might think of the word, but nonetheless tasty and perfect for an Autumn evening.

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Here’s the recipe, including how to make the rough puff pastry, which I roughly followed from Delia, just played around with quantities and added pepper.

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 450g plain flour
  • black pepper
  • cold water

Filling

  • half a suede
  • about a quarter of a white cabbage
  • 1 onion
  • 4 button mushrooms
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400ml hot stock
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • few drops of tabasco
  • olive oil

Method

  1. Put the flour into a large bowl and grind quite a bit of black pepper into it (depending on your taste).
  2. Cut the butter into chunks and toss into the flour and pepper mix, just coating them with the flour.
  3. Pour the cold water, a little at a time, into the flour and butter and use your hands to bring it together into a dough. Don’t work it too much, just enough to bring it together.
  4. Shape it into a brick on a floured board, then roll it out into a rectangle that is almost twice as long as it is wide.
  5. Then fold it into thirds, bringing the left outside edge into the centre and then the same with the right, so that they overlap, and press down with the rolling pin so that the layers stick.
  6. Rest it for a few minutes, probably a good time to chop the veg, then roll the pastry (which should be back in a brick shape) into a rectangle again, followed by the folding into thirds like you did before.
  7. Leave it to rest again, and then do the same rolling and folding as before. After this third roll and fold, place in cling film in the fridge until you’re ready to use it for the pie lid later.
  8. To make the filling, chop the veg into chunks (as fine or as chunky as you like, though cooking times will vary according to size of chunk), and heat some olive oil in a large saucepan.
  9. Brown the onion, suede, cabbage and mushrooms in the saucepan for about 5-10 minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes, kidney beans, hot stock and cornflour.
  10. Bring to a simmer and cook for about another 10 minutes until thickened.
  11. Add some tabasco to taste.
  12. Leave in the pan until you’re ready to assemble the pie.
  13. About 40 mins before you want to eat, transfer the filling to a large rectangular oven dish and spread around evenly.
  14. Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out to just the right size to cover the filling, and press it down onto the filling gently.
  15. Prick the pastry lid with a fork several times to allow any steam to escape when baking.
  16. Bake in a hot oven 220 C (fan) for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is nicely browned and puffy.
  17. Serve immediately.

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Slow cooked stuffed marrows

It’s been a long time since I blogged a recipe, and a slow cooked one at that. It’s not that we haven’t been eating slow cooked meals, in fact it’s been a good thing to have on during the day in the warmer weather so I don’t have to slave over a hot stove (so to speak) in the evening, but I’ve just been sticking to our favourites rather than thinking of new things. I’ve also had plenty of nappy stuff and editing work to be getting on with, so something has to give.

A work colleague of Tom’s offered him some marrows this week, and,  after consulting me, he accepted them. I remember having marrows stuffed with minced meat and vegetables in France when I lived there for a few months, so I thought that this would be a good thing to try in the slow cooker. I wanted to make it veggie (rather than using minced turkey – I wouldn’t use minced beef anyway), so opted for a butter bean filling with other veg and herbs to add flavour.

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It turned out very well. Tom and Joel wolfed it down, Andrew was less keen, but we know he’s not a big fan of courgettes so was not impressed by the size of courgette that I put on his plate! He ate the filling at least. We have another marrow, and I think I’ll make some soup with that. Here’s the recipe for stuffing, if you fancy having a go…

Ingredients – serves 2 adults and 2 toddlers

  • 1 marrow
  • 1 tin butter beans, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 1 beef tomato
  • fresh herbs
  • 100g grated mature cheddar

Method

  1. Cut the marrow into lengths that will fit into your slow cooker (ours has a divider in the middle so I cut it into shorter bits than I would need to for a non-divided slow cooker).
  2. Half the pieces down the centre lengthways, and cut out the seeded bit in the middle.
  3. Chop the onion, mushroom and tomato into small cubes, and chop the garlic cloves finely.
  4. Roughly mash the butter beans in a large bowl, then add the chopped up other veg and stir until well combined.
  5. Fill the centre of the marrows with this filling and place in the slow cooker pot.
  6. Cook on low for 8 hours, then serve with the cheddar sprinkled on top and some fresh crusty bread on the side: delicious!

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Red veggie crumble #slowcookersunday

This week in the veg box we got some beetroots. Last time we had beetroots in the box, I made a chocolate beetroot cake (it was so much yummier than it sounds!) But this time, as much as I was tempted to make another amazing cake, I decided we really needed a good all in one pot meal from them, that I could prep quickly in the morning and it would be ready for dinner. So of course in came the slow cooker.

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I love crumbles, and think they work just as well as a savoury dish as with fruit in a sweet dish (here’s a previous recipe that I blogged). They are real comfort food, and if you slow cook it, you don’t have the hassle of having to cook it about an hour before you eat in the evening when the kids are tired and hungry and therefore you get some stress mixed in with your comfort. Andrew was also very interested to watch me chop the veg and make the crumble, so I let him ‘help’ rub the crumble together (it was already done really, but he dipped his hands in and copied me for about 10 seconds).

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I was originally thinking of this recipe as a ‘traffic lights’ one – toddler-friendly you see – as it has beetroots, carrots and green pepper in. But once it was cooked, the beetroot colour basically took over the dish and made it look completely red. This was a hit with Andrew, who loves bright colours, though perhaps not so much actually eating beetroot! He didn’t put up much of a fight though, and was easily persuaded to put the exciting looking red bits in his mouth once the offer of some of his favourite fruits was mentioned for pudding, if he ate all his main course. The red colour also makes this savoury crumble look like a more common fruit crumble that has berries in.

As always with my slow cooker recipes, it was so simple to make….

Ingredients

  • 4 medium beetroots
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 100g dried red lentils
  • 900 ml hot stock (I use low salt)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 270g plain flour
  • 100g margarine
  • dried mixed herbs

Method

  1. Wash the lentils thoroughly and leave in water whilst you prep everything else.
  2. Chop the beetroots, carrots and peppers into small chunks.
  3. Make the crumble topping by rubbing the margarine with the flour and a good sprinkling of herbs until you get a bread crumb texture.
  4. Drain the lentils and add them with the veg and stock to the slow cooker pot.
  5. Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water to form a paste, then add to the pot and stir all the ingredients together.
  6. Cook on low for 4 hours.
  7. Then add the crumble topping and cook for a further 4 hours.
  8. Serve as it is – it’s a one pot meal!

Slow cooked colourful veggie risotto with pea pesto

I actually cooked this a couple of weeks ago now, but it was just before we went away for 10 days and I was too busy finishing my posts on cloth nappies for Real Nappy Week (and getting ready to get the four of us off on holiday – that’s no easy feat!) so I didn’t get round to blogging this rather delicious meal until now. Risottos are a great way to use up things in the fridge that have seen better days and/or a great way to chuck in things from the store cupboard if you’re running low on fresh ingredients. These are the reasons why I cobbled this together just before going away, and the result was a yummy family meal.IMG_0678

Needless to say, Andrew loved it, as always. Joel is still not eating much, just a nibble here and there, but when he’s having a go at more variety of flavours and textures, this would be a great meal for him too. I’d say it works for a baby doing baby-led weaning because you can just choose which veg they like or which veg you want them to try, and decide what size of chunks they are confident with when adding ingredients, starting with bigger pieces (maybe not kidney beans like in this recipe straight away). The pea pesto adds a lovely flavour, a sweetness that makes it appealing to kids I think, and a lovely bright colour, which is also appealing, maybe even more so to kids than adults!

And of course using the slow cooker meant I could prep earlier in the day (it took about 10 minutes) and the risotto was ready for dinner at 6.30pm. Easy PEAsy…. have a go yourself if you like!

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 200g long grain rice
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 800ml hot stock (I use low salt)
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 50g Parmesan cheese
  • Glug of olive oil

Method

  1. Chop the carrots into chunks.
  2. Put the carrots, kidney beans, rice and cornflour into the slow cooker pot.
  3. Add the stock and stir.
  4. Cook on low for 3 hours.
  5. After you’ve put the slow cooker on, make the pesto. Start by cooking the peas for 2 minutes in the microwave or in a pan of boiling water.
  6. Put the cooked peas, cheese and a glug of olive oil in a blender and whizz until a smooth paste – add a bit more oil if it’s too thick until you have the right consistency to stir through the risotto.
  7. When the slow cooker is finished, stir the pesto through the risotto until evenly distributed.
  8. Serve immediately; any leftovers can be frozen for a quick tasty meal another time.

Slow cooked beany chilli with chocolate

beany chilli 2A couple of weeks ago I saw a recipe for chilli with chocolate by Chrissie aka Slow Cooker Queen as part of the Slow Cooker Sunday linky. I’ve been meaning to make a chilli with chocolate for a while. We have chilli quite often, and there’s always chocolate in the fridge, so I don’t know why I haven’t done it before now – maybe because on the surface it seems like an odd combination so I don’t automatically think about reaching for a bar of chocolate when making chilli. As we currently have even more chocolate to get through than before Easter, I thought this would be a good time to use some in cooking as well as eating on its own.

This recipe is quite different from Chrissie’s, mainly because I made it veggie, and used my usual ingredients for a veggie chilli. I don’t eat any red meat, I just don’t like it; I will eat chicken and turkey if cooked for me, but in the last year or so I haven’t cooked any meat myself. We eat fish or pulses instead.beany chilli

Despite the perhaps odd combination, it actually works really well. The chocolate flavour is subtle but there, and adds something to my usual simple chilli recipe. It’s a great way to get toddlers to eat vegetables too. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go…..

Ingredients – serves 6 (3 of us ate it and half went in our freezer for another day)

  • 1 onion
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 tin borlotti beans
  • 1 tin sweetcorn
  • 1 carton chopped tomatoes (approx. 400g)
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 50g chocolate
  • 250ml hot stock (I use low salt)

Method

  1. Chop the onion into small pieces, and chop the chocolate into small chunks.
  2. Drain all the tins of vegetables.
  3. Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook for 6 hours.
  4. Put some rice on to boil 10 minutes before it’s ready.
  5. Serve the chilli and rice together, with a dollop of soured cream if you like the spice toned down a bit.

Slow cooked parsnip and suede soup with honey and cumin

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!)soup

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….

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  1. Cut the vegetables up into rough chunks – they don’t have to be very small or even.
  2. Put the veg, stock, honey and cumin seeds into the slow cooker pot and cook on low for 6 hours.
  3. 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.
  4. Season with a grind of pepper to taste.
  5. Serve immediately with crusty bread. This also freezes well if there is any left over.

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Slow cooked pearl barley veggie risotto

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!

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients except the cheddar into the slow cooker pot and stir to mix them together.
  2. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. Stir well before serving with a sprinkling of grated cheese on top.

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Slow cooked parsnip, leek and lentil broth with cheesy dumplings (wheat-free)

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).

The veggie ingredients

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.

Leftover portion for 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

  • 3 parsnips
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 leek
  • 150g dried red lentils
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 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

Method

  1. Chop all the veg into round chunks about 1cm thick and quarter the mushrooms; put them all in the slow cooker pot.
  2. Wash the lentils thoroughly and add to the slow cooker pot.
  3. Add the stock, mustard and cornflour (mixed to a paste with a little cold water); stir everything together.
  4. Cook on low for 6 hours.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Cook for a further hour on high.
  8. To serve, ladle some broth and a few dumplings into each bowl and eat straight away.

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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)!