Sausage rolls

These are really simple to make so are perfect for people wanting to try something quite easy. For something like a sausage roll, I don’t really see the point in spending ages making your own pastry when you can buy ready rolled good quality pastry from the shop. It means making them is far quicker and easier, which is always a plus! You can use different sausage meat to make a variety of flavoured sausage rolls.

400g sausage meat or 6 sausages
320g ready rolled puff pastry
2tbsp milk
spray oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC and spray a baking tray with oil
  2. Cut the pastry in half lengthways so you have two long thin strips
  3. If you are using sausages (this makes it even easier), remove the casings and line three sausages along the centre of each strip of pastry. If you are using sausage meat, roll this into two long strips and place in the middle of each strip of pastry

2014-04-27 10.24.20

  1. Brush one of the long edges of pastry with milk and fold the other side of the pastry over to form a seal. Press down with a fork to make sure it is completely sealed
  2. Cut the sausage rolls into lengths as big or small as you like and put them on the baking tray

2014-04-27 10.30.16

  1. Brush the sausage rolls with some milk and make a few cuts with scissors across the top
  2. Put them in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown

2014-04-27 10.51.29

Eat warm from the oven or allow to cool and enjoy later.

Mississippi Mud Cake

For Easter I knew I wanted to make a huge chocolate cake to celebrate being able to eat chocolate again. Tash at work made this cake and brought the spare third cake in for us all to eat. It was amazing! She gave me the recipe which she had got from a blog called Sunday Baking (http://www.sundaybaking.co.uk/pigs-in-mud-cake-mississippi-mud-cake-recipe-with-kit-kats/). They created a pigs in mud cake which looks amazing with the pigs made out of fondant. I am not that creative and have never used fondant before so decided that because it was for Easter, I would make a chocolate nest in the middle.
Ingredients for the cake:

(This makes 3 cakes but you only need to use 2 for this cake)

250g unsalted butter
600g caster sugar
3 large eggs
470g plain flour – sifted
140g cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
375ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
375ml boiling water

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan) / 180°C and line three 20cm cake tins
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy and then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in-between
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in a separate bowl
  4. Mix the buttermilk and vanilla extract together in a jug
  5. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the bowl with the butter and sugar and mix until completely combined
  6. Add 1/3 of the buttermilk mixture and again mix until completely combined. Repeat these steps until all of the ingredients are combined
  7. Slowly add the boiling water. At this stage I thought the mix looked incredibly wet, but keep mixing and the water does become combined and the mix becomes slightly thicker

2014-04-19 14.41.34

  1. Divide the batter evenly between the three cake tins

2014-04-19 14.47.15

  1. Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes. After 35 minutes, I found the cakes were still too runny inside when I tested them with a toothpick. I put them in for another 5 minutes, the toothpick wasn’t coming out clean, but this is the sort of cake that needs a slightly gooey centre
  2. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes or so to cool slightly and then remove from the tins and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting

2014-04-19 15.35.10

The frosting inside the cake

150g icing sugar – sifted
50g unsalted butter, softened
20g unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsp whole milk

  1. Beat together the icing sugar, cocoa and butter until the butter is completely mixed in and then gradually pour in the milk
  2. Once combined, beat until light and fluffy. Spread evenly on top of one of the cakes – I turn one of cakes upside down so that what will turn into being the middle of the cake was originally the bottom. I do this because it makes a flat surface to spread the frosting on and also makes it neater when you put the other cake on top

2014-04-20 12.41.36

2014-04-20 12.45.48

For the chocolate ganache

250ml double cream
400g milk chocolate

  1. Put your cream in a pan over low heat and keep stirring until small bubbles start to appear as soon as this happens take off the heat
  2. Add the chocolate which has been broken into squares and keep stirring until you have a smooth, shiny sauce
  3. Leave to cool giving it a stir every so often

Up until now, the recipe is fairly simple. It is now you need to take your time and not rush or else the whole cake will look a mess!

  1. You need the Kitkats to be in two fingers so if you have the four finger variety, break them in half
  2. Once your ganache has cooled and is a custard consistency, smear it on the sides of the cake using a spatula. Don’t use too much, but just enough to act as a glue for the Kitkats
  3. Now you need to stick the Kitkats on the side of the cake which can be a little tricky. Work quickly positioning the Kitkats around the whole cake making sure they are touching without gaps. If your Kitkats keep falling, stand them at a slight angle

2014-04-20 14.19.59

  1. Wrap the ribbon around the cake, any Kitkats that were at an angle will be brought up close to the cake with the ribbon. Tie it tightly in a nice bow

2014-04-20 14.24.29

  1. For the next stage, the ganache needs to be nearly solid, I put it in the fridge for around 45 minutes until it was only just liquid. When it is at this stage, pour it onto the top of the cake and spread carefully to create an even covering
  2. Put the cake in the fridge to set the ganache. Once it is set, add any decorations you like. I created a nest using Flake, Mini Eggs and Lindtt eggs

2014-04-20 16.23.01-1

The cake is very rich and a piece the width of two Kitkats is probably enough for most people (unless you are Rien or my brother-in-law!) I knew it must be good when my Mum said she had only once come across a cake that was as good as this one and that was baked by her Mum. The cake is lovely and moist and the combination of the ganache on the top and the frosting in the middle is really great.

It is best kept in the fridge because if you leave it out the ganache will start to melt and the cake could collapse! It also keeps for quite a few days which is good because you will want to keep going back for more!

2014-04-20 16.37.38

Vanilla & Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

For around 5 years, my parent’s have had chickens which are great egg-layers. On Good Friday we all went to choose a few more to add to the coop which was quite fitting for Easter. I always thought one egg was similar to another but after trying the eggs my parent’s chickens’ lay, there really is no comparison. It really is worth buying free range eggs – you will notice the difference!

2014-04-21 16.44.18

 This is the original chicken I chose – the Ginger Ninga; Mamma Bimbawaki or Bimbles for short.

Like I said before, Easter is definitely the time to do lots of baking which is exactly what I did. I spent 4 days in a row baking one thing or another to give as presents. Rien’s family love cupcakes so I decided to do two variations for them; chocolate chip and vanilla.

For the vanilla cupcakes, I used the recipe I have previously posted. For the chocolate chips cupcakes I used a recipe I found on a woman called Eileen Goodall’s blog (http://eileengoodall.hubpages.com/hub/Chocolate-Chip-Cupcake-Recipe). The only change I made was to use milk chocolate chips instead of plain. They turned out really well and I will definitely be using the recipe again!

For the cake
100g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
100g milk chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat your oven to 190ºC
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then add the vanilla extract
  3. Add the eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly in-between
  4. Add the flour and when completely incorporated, add the chocolate chips

2014-04-17 19.21.39

  1. Spoon the mix into 8 large cupcake cases, I use an ice cream scoop to get even amounts in each case and I find it easier. Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins. When a toothpick comes out clean they are done

2014-04-17 19.22.46

2014-04-17 19.24.34

  1. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack

For the buttercream
I used half the quantity of icing I used in the vanilla cupcake post. I used a green gel colour because I wanted to create a grass effect which I acheived by using a Wilton 233 tip. I then finished them with a Malteasers bunny and a few Mini Eggs.

2014-04-17 21.29.39

 

I decorated the vanilla cupcakes with a large star nozzle tip to give a grooved affect to the butter cream. I then finished them off with a Mini Egg. You can’t really see from the photo, but I used Easter egg printed cupcake cases.

2014-04-18 21.55.35

Everyone seemed to really like the cakes and I think it is sometimes nice to have a cupcake to break up all of the chocolate that gets eaten over Easter!

Hot Cross Buns

I love Easter because to me it is the baking holiday! There are so many different things to bake that really lend themselves to being Easter themed even if that is sticking a mini egg on a cupcake. I’m glad we have four days off work because I am going to need it for the amount of baking I have planned.

Hot cross buns are an essential at Easter in my opinion. There are lots of different recipes out there with slight variations but I decided to go with this one by Paul Hollywood because I liked the idea of putting apple in them. The original recipe can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/hot_cross_buns_74750.

My Mum searches the shops for hot cross buns that don’t have peel in them because she hates it; every year Dad ends up buying them some with peel in saying “he forgot”. I am slightly risking it by trying to convert her with this recipe. I bought a big bag of mixed fried fruit which has a selection of raisins, sultanas and a small amount of peel. I’m going to not mention the peel and see if she notices because there really is such a small amount, but if notices I’ll try and see if Dad’s excuse works! Fingers crossed!

For the buns:
300ml whole milk

500g strong white flour
75g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
7g sachet fast-action yeast
50g butter
1 egg beaten
230g mixed dried fruit
1 apple, cored and finely chopped
2 oranges, zest only
2 tsp ground cinnamon
oil for greasing the bowl

  1. Bring the milk to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature. Keep watching it until small bubbles start appearing and then take it off the heat – don’t let it get too hot
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, butter and egg together in a bowl, then slowly add the warmed milk until it forms a sticky dough

2014-04-16 19.36.12

  1. Add the dried fruit, finely chopped apple, orange zest and cinnamon and mix. It is a little tricky to mix all of the fruit into the dough but don’t worry as you will be able to mix this in more thoroughly when you knead it. Tip out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface
2014-04-16 19.36.44  2014-04-16 19.46.34
  1. Knead the dough for five minutes, or until smooth and elastic
  1. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise for approximately one hour, or until doubled in size. I like to use spray oil for this because it is very low in calorie and its quick and easy to spray the bowl and cling film

2014-04-16 19.51.27

  1. Lightly flour your surface and roll the dough into a long sausage shape and divide it into 12 pieces. Roll each section into a round ball and place them on a lined baking tray. Leave enough room so they have enough space to rise. leave to prove for another hour

2014-04-16 20.51.15

2014-04-16 20.56.12

  1. Heat the oven to 200ºC

For the cross:
75g plain flour

  1. Mix the flour with five tablespoons of water, add a spoonful at at a time and mix. You’re looking for a thick paste consistency so don’t add all of the water if you don’t need it
  1. Spoon into a piping bag with a small, circular nozzle. Pipe across each bun and then pipe in the other direction to make a cross. This isn’t like piping butter cream – the flour and water are really elastic and I found the easiest way of finishing your cross was with the help of some scissors to cut off the paste

2014-04-16 22.12.47

  1. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown

For the glaze:
3 tbsp apricot jam

  1. Heat the apricot jam on a low heat in a pan and then sieve to remove the chunks. While the jam is still warm, brush over the top of the buns to give a lovely shine

2014-04-17 20.41.56

Throughout the process of making these, the smell of the fruit and cinnamon is amazing! We did sneak one straight out of the oven before I did the glaze and the butter melted instantly and they really did taste lovely. They do take a bit of time and effort – from start to finish took approximately 3 1/2 hours but it was enjoyable and worth it in my opinion.

Pumpkin Cake Bars

2016-11-20-14-57-02

If you haven’t tried pumpkin cake before, imagine carrot cake but different. I realise that isn’t helpful but this recipe has the familiar flavourings of cinnamon and the moistness of carrot cake, but the pumpkin provides something slightly different.

I hadn’t tried pumpkin until an American friend I used to work with brought in pumpkin bars for Thanksgiving. I’d never had anything like them, they had such a unique taste and of course because it’s an American recipe they had a lovely cinnamon flavour. Becky was kind enough to give me the recipe so I could make them myself.

These are by far my boyfriend Rien’s favourite cake I have made. He loves carrot cake but he really loves these pumpkin bars and would like me to make them more than the once a year I do.

When I’ve mentioned the pumpkin bars before people automatically assume I spend hours preparing the pumpkin from scratch, but the recipe uses pumpkin puree from a can so it really couldn’t be easier. Libby’s pumpkin puree was recommended to me to be the best to use because it is what Americans use. You can’t get it in every shop so you might have to look around for it. I think Waitrose stock it all year, I have seen it very occasionally in Aldi and I found it the last time in the ethnic food isle in Tesco.

2016-11-20-11-04-44

When Rien has taken my carrot cupcakes into work before, his colleagues were surprised that they actually had carrot in them. They then gave me the challenge to see if I could bake with other vegetables and for it to taste good. I knew Rien loved these bars and they were a tested recipe so I decided to make these. No one guessed that they were pumpkin bars but everyone thought they were delicious. I think I passed their test!

The measurements are in cups because it is an American recipe. If you want to make the recipe but don’t have cup measurements, I advise you invest in some as trying to convert the measurements to grams would just cause you a headache and you’d wish you spent the couple of pounds on some cup measurements in the first place!  Check out an article on one of my favourite blogs; Sally’s Baking Addiction, to get some tips on how to measure correctly – it’s not as easy as it sounds!

For the cake
1 2/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup sunflower oil

1 can pumpkin puree
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC and line a baking tray with baking parchment
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly and pour into the baking tray. Use a spatula to ensure the mix is level and right to the corners

2014-04-08 19.42.25

  1. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Test with a tooth pick, when it comes out clean the cake is ready

2014-04-08 20.14.04

  1. Cool on a wire rack
  2. When the cake is completely cool, frost

For the frosting
3oz full fat cream cheese
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar

Mix all of the ingredients together and spread evenly across the cake. Cut into bars and then watch as everyone keeps coming back for more!

2014-04-08 22.03.53

2016-11-20-14-57-28

Mary Berry’s Pork Fillet Stroganoff

2015-02-24 19.33.42

(using reduced fat soured cream)

I found this recipe when I was looking for ways of using soured cream. In my house, one of our regular meals are fajitas because Rien is obsessed with them – and no obsessed isn’t too strong a word to use. I always seem to have half a carton of soured cream lurking in the fridge and I feel guilty throwing it away. So when I saw this recipe by the legend that is Mary Berry I thought I would give it a go!

The original recipe can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/porkfilletstroganoff_73432 and includes onions and mushrooms – a proper stroganoff, but I am really not a fan of these so have left them out. I will leave them in the recipe in case anyone wants to make this recipe the way it is intended to be! You can make it with reduced fat soured cream and it still tastes as good but the sauce won’t be as thick and it might look a little split. If you’re making it for yourself and don’t mind how it looks then this would be fine but if you’re making it for guests then I would recommend making it with full fat soured cream because it does look better!

Serves 3-4

350g pork fillet
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp sunflower oil
25g butter
1 onion, finely sliced
2 tsp paprika
225g button chestnut mushrooms, halved
140ml carton soured cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
  1. Remove any membrane from the pork fillet and cut into thin strips on the slant. Season the meat with salt and pepper

2015-02-24 18.57.29

  1. Heat a large pan until hot, add a little oil when very hot and add the meat. Stir fry really briskly until brown, keep watching it because this doesn’t take long. Lift out with a slotted spoon onto a plate

2015-02-24 19.18.04

  1. Add butter to the pan followed by the sliced onions, cook over a low heat until the onions are really tender. Sprinkle in paprika, stir in the mushrooms, turn up the heat and toss for a minute, add meat to the pan with the soured cream, allow to bubble gently to heat through, add lemon juice and serve straight away

2015-02-24 19.20.03

2015-02-24 19.21.44

People always ask me how I manage to cook meals from scratch when I come home from work and not end up eating really late. This recipe is a great example of how cooking from scratch doesn’t have to take ages and can actually be really simple.

I served it with potatoes and carrots cooked in my trusty Actifry. You could also have it with rice or mashed potatoes as Mary Berry suggests. It was really delicious, even though I missed out half of the ingredients! This is what I love about cooking, you can adapt recipes to match your tastes and preferences. It didn’t go down quite as well as fajitas but Rien did really like it so I can see us having this quite often.

2014-04-10 19.29.18

 (using full fat soured cream)

Raspberry Bakewell Cake

I made this cake for my sister’s birthday last week. I knew I wanted to make her a cake but she doesn’t like cream and isn’t a fan of buttercream and jam. I’m still not eating chocolate so I didn’t even have that as an option! When I came across this recipe I thought it would be perfect and looked really easy.

I’ve not been able to make what I call a ‘proper’ cake before as I haven’t had any cake tins which is why I tend to make cupcakes. My Mum treated me to some loose bottomed 8″ (20cm) cake tins and a 2lb loaf tin so now I can lots of different cakes. I have so much cooking equipment now that at the weekend we had to go and buy a new cupboard as I have completely run out of room in my kitchen for everything. But now that I’ve got more space, I’ll probably just find more things to buy!

140g ground almonds
140g butter, softened
140g golden caster sugar
140g self-raising flour
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g raspberries
2 tbsp flaked almonds

  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC and line a loose bottomed 8″ (20cm) cake tin. I used a cake tin liner from Lakeland and then used a small amount of butter on the sides to make sure the cake wouldn’t stick

2014-04-03 20.04.55

  1. Mix the ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract together until well combined

2014-04-03 20.14.53

  1. Spread half the mix over the cake tin and smooth over the top. Scatter the raspberries over, then put the rest of the mix on top and spread out. I found this easier to spread with my fingers
2014-04-03 20.19.38  2014-04-03 20.21.09
  1. Scatter with flaked almonds and bake for 50 mins until golden

2014-04-03 20.27.29

  1. Allow to cool on a wire baking rack. When cool remove from the tin. I find this easiest to do my running a knife around the edge of the cake and then putting the cake on a jar. You can then remove the edge of the cake tin easily

2014-04-03 21.56.14

2014-04-03 22.24.37  2014-04-03 21.58.38

White bread rolls

I’ve wanted to have a go at making bread for a while. and rolls seemed to be a good place to start. I have never met anyone that likes bread as much as Rien. He will make everything into a sandwich and I have no doubt that if he had to pick his last meal it would be a sandwich! So I knew he would give me an honest opinion. After a few bites, he was staring at his plate waving his hands around saying “I don’t get it, these are perfect. They’re amazing.” I think I am forgiven for dragging him to Ikea on a Saturday and I have a feeling I will be making a lot more bread from now on!

500g bread flour
7g (one sachet) fast-action yeast
1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp salt
300ml luke warm water
3 tbsp olive oil

  1. Mix the flour, yeast, salt and caster sugar together in a bowl
  2. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water and olive oil. Gradually mix in the flour with a knife until it comes together into a dough

2014-04-05 16.19.16 2014-04-05 16.22.23

  1. Lightly flour the work top and empty the dough onto it. Knead the dough for ten minutes. I push the dough with the palm of my hand then pull it back and keep repeating and turning the dough

2014-04-05 16.30.18

  1. Put the dough in a large lightly oiled bowl, then cover. It should feel smooth and elastic. Leave to prove for an hour

2014-04-05 16.35.04 2014-04-05 18.29.35

  1. After an hour knock back the dough. This is the process of removing the air from the dough. I do this by first punching the dough down in the bowl and then kneading it for another ten minutes
2014-04-05 18.30.31
  1. Roll the dough into a long sausage and divide into eight sections. Roll each section into a bowl and place on a baking tray to prove for an hour making sure you cover it
2014-04-05 18.38.32 2014-04-05 18.41.33
  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC and bake for 10-15 minutes. To test if they are ready, tap the bottom and if they sound hollow they’re done
2014-04-05 19.33.50 2014-04-05 19.54.24

You can also make the dough up until the first prove and and put it in the bowl in the fridge over night.

I decided to use the rolls to make my own version of a Nandos burger. I marinated chicken thighs in the medium Nandos marinade and put in the rolls with lettuce and mayonnaise. According to Rien it was even better than Nandos!

2014-04-05 20.01.39

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

2015-03-20 21.27.38

I thought for many years that I didn’t like carrot cake. When my friend Tash brought her homemade carrot cake into work a while ago, everyone started raving about it. After trying a piece I saw what all the fuss was about! I came across this recipe on Baking Mad http://www.bakingmad.com/carrot-cupcake-with-cream-cheese-icing-recipe/ and since the first time I made them, people are always asking me when I am going to make them again. My Dad doesn’t really have a sweet tooth, but he is always the first person to ask me to make these. I have been told they are the best carrot cake people have eaten and my favourite was “that’s a cracking bit of carrot cake” by one of Rien’s colleagues.

I have slightly adapted the original recipe.

Ingredients for the cupcakes:
300g light brown or muscovado sugar
3 free range medium eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp (heaped) cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
300g grated carrot

  1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Mix together the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla extract
  2. In another bowl, mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together
  3. Gradually add the dry mix to the wet mix stirring as you go. Add the carrots and keep stirring until thoroughly mixed. Don’t worry the mix is quite wet

2013-11-16 14.23.44

  1. Fill each case two-thirds full and bake for 20 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack
  2. Once completely cool, frost the cupcakes

For the frosting:

450g icing sugar
185g full fat cream cheese
75g unsalted butter

If like me you do not have a mixer (yet), the best way I have found to mix the frosting is to make sure the butter is really soft. Gradually add the icing sugar, only adding more when it is fully combined. When you have added approximately half of the icing sugar, add the cream cheese and begin gradually adding the icing sugar again.

Previously I have added all the ingredients together and ended up over beating the frosting trying to get all of the lumps out leaving it far too runny. The photo below is what my first attempt at these cupcakes looked like. As I am conscious with calories, I used low fat cream cheese thinking that this would be a good way of making them slightly healthier. As you can see it did not work! You need the fat content in the cream cheese in order to make a thick frosting and not a runny mess. Now I always use full fat ingredients, but adjust the size of the cupcakes and make them slightly smaller if I think they are particularly high in calories.

2013-11-06 21.31.20

Once the frosting is complete, fill a piping bag and decorate your cupcakes. Below are a few examples of the finished carrot cupcakes I have made. The first photo was for my Mum’s birthday recently, the middle photo was for my Dad’s birthday in December and the final photo was for Valentine’s day for people at work.

2014-03-23 15.03.56  2013-12-30 15.56.41 - Copy  2014-02-15 17.21.19