Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

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Delicious soup which is full of flavour perfect for lunch or as a light dinner.

As you may already know, I am incredibly fussy with many things; soup being one of them. When I was a child I had a bad experience with tinned soup and since then I have tended to stick to homemade soup.

I have a soup maker which makes the whole process of making soup so much easier and quicker; if only for the fact it blends the soup as well as cooking it which means less washing up! It also means I can use the base ingredients and quantities to come up with lots of different soups depending on what vegetables I have in the fridge that need using.

This Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper soup is a staple in my house. I roast the vegetables to give them more flavour in the soup, but if you want to make this really quickly you can miss this step out and go straight to adding everything to the soup maker. If you do this, I would reduce the garlic to 1-2 cloves though.

This recipe will make three generous portions which keep well in the fridge for a couple of days or can be frozen. If frozen, you can either defrost the soup or heat it from frozen. What is even better about this soup is each portion is only roughly 150 calories which makes it fantastic for those people trying to be healthier in the new year; or for people who just like tasty soup!

If you don’t like the idea of having tomato seeds in your finished soup, you can either de-seed your tomatoes before you roast them or pass the soup through a sieve after it’s been blended. Personally I don’t mind the seeds so I just leave it as it is.

5 large tomatoes
2  red peppers
3 cloves of garlic
300ml semi-skimmed milk
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
Sprinkling of frozen basil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC. Chop up the peppers and tomatoes and add to an oven proof dish along with the garlic cloves, salt, pepper and thyme. Spray a couple of times with spray oil. Put the vegetables in the oven for roughly 30 minutes
  2. Take your vegetables out of the oven and add to your soup maker/pan with the stock and milk

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  1. If using a soup maker, set to the smooth setting and leave the machine to do the work
  2. If using a pan, cook for approximately 15 minutes and then blend until smooth

 

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Honey Glazed Gammon

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This is one of my favourite things in the world to eat.

Amazingly moist gammon with a deliciously sweet and crisp crust. You will all be fighting for the end piece!

As with a lot of families, we always have gammon around Christmas – traditionally on New Year’s Day. My Grandad (aka Granda) used to come and stay with us for Christmas and New Year and he would bring a huge gammon with him. It used to be a much bigger gammon in those days so mum would boil it first before putting it in the oven and then putting the glaze on it. I cook much smaller versions so you can cook it just in the oven.

I look forward to our New Year’s gammon a lot more than the Christmas roast. Although I love all of the trimmings, turkey isn’t my favourite of meats – especially cold! As soon as my Mum had finished cooking the gammon I would loiter in the kitchen waiting for the change to sneak an off cut. My Mum always serves this with creamed mashed potatoes, vegetables and a parsley white sauce. I don’t like the parsley sauce but the rest of the family rave about it! I do keep the rest pretty much the same though as it is such a delicious combination.

This is so delicious you will keep going back for more!

Smoked boneless gammon joint (1.5kg)
50g demerara sugar
70g clear honey

  1. Line a roasting tin with plenty of tin foil or use a disposable foil tray. Place the joint on the tin and cover with more foil. Cook the joint for 30 minutes less than the time specified on the cooking instructions
  2. When the joint has 30 minutes left of cooking time, remove it from the oven and dispose of the foil
  3. Cut off the rind and the majority of the fat leaving a couple of millimeters. Score the fat with a knife diagonally one way and then the other

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  1. Mix the sugar and honey together in a bowl and then pour over the fat of the gammon. Put the gammon back into the oven uncovered for the remaining 30 minutes of cooking

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  1. Take out of the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes loosely covered in foil before carving

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Frangipane Mince Pie Slices

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Mince Pies but without all the fiddly pastry! These Frangipane Mince Pie Slices have all the flavours you’d associate with mince pies but in a tray bake instead of an individual little pie.

Mince Pies may not be something you are aware of if you’re not from the UK. They are little sweet pies filled with mincemeat which is a sweet filling consisting of dried fruits, spices and spirits. Although I love a mince pie, mincemeat does divide people and it’s not everyone’s thing!

For me it isn’t Christmas until the mince pies have been made. However the traditional way of making them is a little fiddly as you have to cut out circles of pastry before filling with mincemeat and then topping with more pastry. At a time of year when there is always so much going on, a quicker version is always welcome!

I thought about making a tray bake as a way to speed the mince pie process up. I have come up with this recipe which includes the added extra of frangipane and after a couple of tester bakes sampled by my friends at work, I have come up with the below recipe. I like a good thick layer of mincemeat but feel free to use a bit less if you would like. You could also scatter the top with flaked almonds before putting it into the oven.

These Frangipane Mince Pie Slices freeze really well so make a batch and freeze some ready to whip out the night before you have guests coming. You will then have a lovely home baked treat for your guests without any last minute stress!

Enjoy and remember to thank me when you’re no longer cutting out circles of pastry!

For the shortcrust pastry
175g plain flour
75g butter 
2 – 3 tbsp cold water 

For the frangipane
150g butter, softened

150g caster sugar
60g plain flour
90g ground almonds
2 ½ large eggs, beaten
¼ tsp almond extract
½ an orange zest, grated

600g mincemeat 

  1.  Start by making the pastry. Measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
  2. Add enough water to form a soft dough. Add it gradually because you might not need to add all three tablespoons
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Roll the dough out on a slightly floured surface and line the bottom of the tin with it

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  1. In another bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the rest of the frangipane ingredients and mix until combined

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  1. Spread the mincemeat evenly across the pastry making sure you get right to the edges

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  1. Dot spoonfuls of the frangipane on top of the mincemeat and spread evenly

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  1. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes and then allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so before turning out onto to wire rack to cool completely. Then cut into squares and enjoy!

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Sweet Potato, Leek & Rosemary Soup

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Deliciously thick and comforting, this soup is perfect for a winter’s evening.

I’m a little bit obsessed with soup at the moment. It is so quick and easy as I have a soup maker that not only cooks the soup, but then blends it if you want a smooth soup. Fresh, tasty soup in 21 minutes – perfect.

Making soup is so much better for you than buying tins or fancy soups from the chilled aisle in the supermarket. I know you can get ‘light’ or low calorie soups in the shops, but when making them yourself is so easy, why buy them?

I was looking through Pinterest, as I seem to spend half my life doing, and saw a pin for Sweet Potato, Leek and Rosemary Soup. The suggestion of the flavour combination was all I needed and I set about to create my own recipe using those three ingredients.

I use my trusty soup maker, but you can always make this in a standard pot. Just cook until the vegetables are tender and then blend using whatever you have whether that is a blender or a stick blender.

The quantities below are for two portions simply because I can only fit between 2  – 3 portions worth in my soup maker. I think cooking smaller quantities can be a good idea because if you make a big batch you either sicken yourself by eating it for days on end or freeze it. Don’t get me wrong, I still make soup and freeze it because it’s great to have when you haven’t had time or the ingredients to make it from scratch. But by making smaller batches, I now have lots of different flavours of soup rather than loads of one flavour.

My boyfriend isn’t usually the biggest fan of soup. He likes it but he would never opt to have it instead of a sandwich for example for lunch. As this was my first time making this recipe, I asked him to try it and I have honestly never seen him so excited over a savoury dish I have made. He wanted to eat some there and then (even though he had just had his lunch); and was distraught when I said I was going to freeze it. Over the next day or two he ended up eating all of it so I didn’t get a look in! He really liked it when soup is thick and the sweetness of the sweet potato are what makes him like this soup so much.

350g sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 leeks (approx 200g), sliced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
300ml semi skimmed milk
500ml water
1 vegetable stock pot
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

  1. Chop up all of the vegetables and add to your soup maker/pan with the rest of the ingredients
  2. If using a soup maker, set to the smooth setting and leave the machine to do the work
  3. If using a pan, cook until the vegetables have softened and then blend using a stick blender or pour into a blender to blend until smooth (could I have said blend any more times!)
  4. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add a little bit more water until it is the thickness you like

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Rhubarb Crumble

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Not pretty, not fancy but a really tasty and comforting pudding. This is a perfect recipe for a cold winter’s evening.

I’m sure people will tell me that you can make crumbles look pretty but that isn’t what I want from my crumble. They remind me of home cooked meals which are rustic and simple and above all else; delicious. Part of a crumble’s charm is when the rhubarb escapes from under the crumble topping and bubbles up so don’t worry if this happens!

This rhubarb crumble uses rhubarb from my Boyfriend’s Nan’s garden. When she gave it to me, I didn’t to use it immediately so I cleaned it and cut it into roughly 5cm lengths. I then bagged it up and froze it ready for a later date. That later date came when Rien’s Nan was coming to stay for the weekend, so what better time to make a rhubarb crumble?!

The recipe is by Grey Wallace from the BBC Good Food website.

500g rhubarb
100g caster sugar
3 tbsp port 

Crumble topping
140g self raising flour
85g butter
50g light brown sugar

  1. Cut the rhubarb into thumb length pieces and add to a saucepan along with the port and sugar

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  1. Cover and simmer the rhubarb on a low heat for 15 minutes. Taste and add some more sugar if it isn’t sweet enough

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  1. When the rhubarb is soft, pour it into a medium baking dish

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  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC or 180ºC fan
  2. Make the topping by putting the flour and butter into a bowl and rub the ingredients together with your fingertips until you have a soft crumbly texture

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  1. Add the sugar and mix together with your hands. Scatter the crumble topping over the rhubarb and bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown

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No-bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

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Gloriously indulgent and pure peanut butter chocolatey goodness. These bars will change your life.

Ok so maybe that was slightly dramatic, but they will mean you don’t need to buy Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups again! These bars are everything you want when you get the craving for peanut butter and chocolate. You will find it incredibly hard to have just one!

This recipe is from a fantastic blog  which I have featured before – Sally’s Baking Addiction. Make sure you go and have a look at the recipe on her blog as there is a video showing you exactly how she makes them. I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly by using digestive biscuits instead of graham crackers and milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate. Here in the UK we do not have graham crackers, so digestives are our closest alternative. The chocolate was simply because I like milk chocolate more so feel free to use which you would prefer.

Apart from how amazing these bars taste, they are also fantastically easy to make and you don’t even need an oven! Don’t get put off by the simplicity of the ingredients, they really do taste like Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. I was more than slightly dubious about the digestive biscuits as I thought there was no way biscuits would provide the right flavour or texture. I was definitely pleasantly surprised!

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115g salted butter, melted
1 cup (approximately 120g) digestive biscuits, crushed
120g icing (powdered) sugar
185g + 30g smooth peanut butter
180g milk chocolate

  1. Line a 20x20cm baking tin with parchment paper
  2. Melt the butter in a heatproof bowl in the microwave and set aside. Blitz the digestive biscuits in a food processor into a fine crumb and add to the melted butter along with the icing sugar and 185g peanut butter

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  1. Spread the mix evenly onto the bottom of the prepared tin
  2. Melt the chocolate along with 30g peanut butter in  heatproof bowl in the microwave making sure you check and stir the mix often

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  1. Pour the melted chocolate and peanut butter mix over the biscuit base and smooth out evenly

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  1. Allow to full cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Cut into small squares and enjoy!

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Yorkshire Puddings

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So incredibly big, fluffy and delicious! These are so quick and simple you will never use ready-made Yorkshire Puddings again!

I came across this recipe as a video that came up on my Facebook timeline. The recipe is from Pinch of Nom: Slimming World Recipes so I thought I definitely had to try it if it was a healthy Yorkshire! So I made the extremely easy batter and they turned out great – so light and fluffy. I then wanted to work out just how healthy they were because I don’t use Slimming World so didn’t know what 1.5 syns meant. After working it out, each Yorkshire Pudding has around 65 calories; so not really that healthy.

I then asked my Mum how she makes her Yorkshires which was interested in itself. She learnt how to make them from her Mum and doesn’t measure ingredients but makes the batter by eye. Hers are always fantastic, but I need something with measurements to make sure I get it right as I don’t have the years of practice my Mum has. She did say that her recipe only uses one egg and not two and she uses oil instead of spray oil. Simply changing to spray oil would reduce the calories significantly which is always a good thing!

After speaking to my friend that does use Slimming World I found out that they are considered a good option because eggs are ‘free’ or something like that so you don’t count them therefore the Yorkshires are a healthier option in their diet.

Ignoring whether they are healthy or not, these Yorkshires are delicious. A lot of the frozen and ready made Yorkshires you can buy do have fewer calories but they tend to be smaller and in my opinion thinner and crisper instead of light and fluffy. Personally I would rather have one of these Yorkshire Puddings every now and then rather than a ready made one more frequently. Try these and you will definitely understand why!

This recipe makes 4 Yorkshire Puddings.

spray oil 
30g plain flour
2 eggs
pinch of salt
75ml semi-skimmed milk

  1. Spray a muffin tin with the oil and heat in the oven at 210ºC until the oil foams
  2. Add all of the ingredients and whisk until smooth

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  1. Pour the batter into the muffin tins and bake for 10 mins at 210ºC and then reduce to 190ºC for 5-10 minutes until golden and fluffy

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Flourless Chocolate Cake

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This cake is incredibly chocolatey and deliciously rich – the perfect cake for any chocoholic!

What initially drew me to this recipe is that it keeps in the fridge for up to a week. Now I know that sounds like a really stupid reason to want to make a recipe, but I was looking for something to make for a family BBQ. I’d never catered for 20 people before and didn’t want to leave everything to the last minute and get myself in a bit of a flap. So when I saw that this cake would keep well in the fridge for a week I thought it was perfect. And it was chocolate which is always a winner.

This cake is very dense. As you can see from the photo it doesn’t have a crumb-like texture at all. This also makes is very rich so although it is delicious, I would recommend a modest slice and to not leave out the raspberries and cream which help cut through all of the chocolate.

I came across this recipe in Delicious magazine, but unfortunately cannot find the recipe online to link to. This is not my own recipe and I take no credit for it 🙂 (but I do definitely recommend making it!).

250g unsalted butter
300g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
5 medium eggs, separated
250g caster sugar
125g ground almonds

To serve
Cocoa powder for dusting
Raspberries
Double cream

  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan) and line a 23cm spingform tin
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer for 3-4 minutes until the butter starts to turn brown and smell like biscuits

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  1. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and then whisk in the egg yolks. Transfer to a large mixing bowl

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  1. Using a stand or hand held mixer, whisk  the egg whites to soft peaks. The peaks should droop when the beaters are removed

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  1. Mix the sugar and almonds into the chocolate mixture and then using a large metal spoon, fold in the egg whites

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  1. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 40 – 45 minutes until a cocktail stick pushed into the cake comes out clean

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  1. Allow to cool completely in the tin and then chill until needed

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  1. Just before serving, dust the cake with cocoa powder and scatter with fresh raspberries. Serve with double cream

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Guacamole

 

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Healthy, fresh and a great accompaniment to so many things. This is my sister’s favourite guacamole recipe that is really quick and packed with great flavours.

My sister, Ally, is definitely a fan of avocado. She had this tasty guacamole when she went to Wahaca in London and raved about it. She then ‘Mexican Food Made Simple’ by Thomasina Miers so she could make the guacamole herself as well as other tasty recipes.

Ally made this recipe for our Mexican Feast we cooked our Mum for Mother’s Day (I’ve been meaning to blog this recipe for a while as you can see!). The guacamole went perfectly with the nachos, chilli con carne and quesadillas we made as part of the feast.

Avocados are packed with healthy fats, vitamins and fibre which makes guacamole a perfect healthy snack.

1 – 2 green chillies, finely chopped
½ red onion, very finely chopped
1 small garlic clove
1 – 2 tsp sea salt
3 ripe Hass avocados (the dark green bumpy skinned ones)
juice of 1 – 2 limes
small handful of coriander, chopped
1 ripe tomato, de-seeded and diced 
freshly ground black pepper 

  1. Test the heat of your chillies by biting the tip off one. If they’re quite hot you may want to use less or remove the seeds
  2. Put a quarter of the onion, the garlic, half the chili and salt into a both and mush with a fork
  3. Remove the stones from the avocados and scoop out the flesh and add to the bowl with the roughly mashed ingredients. Mash the avocados adding half of the lime juice as you go. When you have a good rough texture, add in the rest of the onion, lime juice and chillies along with the coriander and tomato
  4. Season with plenty of black pepper. Taste the guacamole and add more lime juice, salt and coriander if needed

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Slow Cooker Fiesta Chicken

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Melt in your mouth chicken packed with loads of delicious flavours; this dish is quickly becoming a new favourite!

My sister has been trying to convince me to get a slow cooker for a long time. I was reluctant because in my head I thought it was cheating and taking out some of the fun of cooking. Obviously I was wrong! She bought me one for my birthday after finally giving in and saying I would give one a go – and now I love it!

The first thing I attempted to make were cinnamon rolls. They really didn’t turn out well at all! However this wasn’t the slow cooker’s fault but mine as the part of the recipe that specifically warned me to be very precise, I wasn’t. I decided to leave the desserts alone for a while and focus on savoury dishes.

I’d seen a few recipes using chicken and Mexican flavours so used them to create my own interpretation which I decided to call Fiesta Chicken! My main inspiration came from one of my favourite bloggers over at Skinny Taste. I tweaked her Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken recipe.

This recipe is really flexible. Add more of what you want, less or none of what you don’t and make it your own. I happened to have some chicken thighs and a couple of breasts in the fridge so I decided to chuck them both in. I love chicken thighs as they have so much flavour but until recently I have always tended to buy breasts. Since I’ve got a chest freezer I now go a little crazy and buy thighs in bulk and have a mass de-boning session. Last week I de-boned approximately 80 thighs ready for BBQ’s. They are definitely me favourite cut of chicken but use whichever you fancy!

I used a combination of chilli powders that I have bought on my trips to Borough Market. Don’t let not having them put you off making this dish! Use whatever you have – chilli powders, cayenne pepper, paprika etc. and add more if you like a bit of heat. The quantities in the recipe below are more to add flavour than heat, so adjust as you wish. I added a tin of flame roasted mild green chillies which I bought from Tesco maybe a year ago. I’d seen a few American recipes where they included tinned tomatoes with mild green chillies, so when I saw the tin of chillies in the World Food’s aisle I bought them. This recipe was finally a reason to use them! You’ll notice I haven’t included them in the recipe though as since making this dish, I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. I’ve even searched online for them and it seems you need to order them from America which isn’t the cheapest option, so I decided it was better to miss them out, however sad this made me feel.

I was so impressed with how tasty this recipe was and it was such minimal effort. I did find that there was too much liquid when I made it so I have reduced the amount slightly. That is the only thing I have found with slow cookers, because you are cooking with the lid on, they keep all of their liquid and it doesn’t evaporate. If you want to try and thicken the dish without using cornflour (or as well as) just take the lid off for the last 30 mins cooking to help some of the water evaporate.

The recipe below made enough for 7 large portions – 6 of which I will use for dinner and then I split the last one into two smaller portions for lunches.

approx 500g chicken
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp Mexican oregano
2 tsp chilli powder (I used a mixture of ancho, guajillo and chipotle)
1 tsp garlic powder
2 x 400g tins tomatoes
400g tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
340g tin sweetcorn, drained
1 pepper, sliced
300g chicken stock
3 spring onions, sliced
1 tbsp cornflour (if needed to thicken)

  1. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, oregano and the chilli powders

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  1. Add the tomatoes, black beans, sweetcorn, pepper, stock and spring onions to the slow cooker and stir to mix
  2. Lie the chicken on top of the ingredients and put the lid on the slow cooker

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  1. Cook for 10 hours on low or 6 hours on high
  2. 30 mins before serving, remove the chicken onto a board and shred using two forks. Return to the slow cooker and stir through

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  1. If there is too much liquid, in a glass mix the cornflour with just enough water to make a liquid and add this to the slow cooker and continue cooking for the 30 minutes
  2. Serve with rice sprinkled with grated cheese and spring onions

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