Raspberry Jam Muffins

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This is another attempt at a healthy muffin for breakfast. After the Nutella muffins, I thought I would try a spoonful of jam instead. You can use any jam you like, but make sure it is a good quality one as it does make a difference. To enhance the raspberry taste further, I added some freeze dried raspberries to the mixture and then to try and make it healthier I used half plain flour and half wholemeal flour. I didn’t use just wholemeal flour because it can change the texture and make it a little dryer and the aim is to make muffins that are healthy but also tasty.

I was very pleased with how these muffins turned out. The jam works really well because it provides a lovely moistness to the muffin. I was most impressed with how few calories there were in each muffin – just over 150! This was a massive improvement on the Nutella muffins and are equally as tasty.

1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup caster sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup no fat Greek yogurt
12 tsp raspberry jam

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a muffin tin with liners
  2. Mix together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder and freeze dried raspberries
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the vegetable oil, eggs and yogurt
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined

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  1. Fill the cases half way with mix and then add a level teaspoon of jam into the middle of each muffin. Cover the jam with the remaining muffin mix

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  1. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until a cocktail stick comes out clean

These are another really simple and quick recipe. They also freeze really well so you can get them out the night before and they’ll be defrosted ready for your breakfast.

Gluten-Free Sundried Tomato Bread

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I made this recipe when my friends from uni came to stay for the weekend as my friend Zoe has Coeliac disease. I usually buy her a little loaf from the shop but decided I wanted to have a go and see how it turned out!

She recommended a Good Food recipe to me because he had tried it before and she knew it was nice. The recipe was incredibly easy, far easier than bread using flour with gluten as it doesn’t require any kneading.

The bread doesn’t rise a lot so don’t be alarmed if it looks quite flat. I haven’t tried any gluten-free bread before so was intrigued to see what it would be like. It was very different to bread I am familiar with as it seemed to have a softer texture more like cake than bread. Zoe said it was very tasty and she recommends toasting it to give it a bit of a crisper crust.

200g gluten-free white flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp gluten-free baking powder (most types are gluten free but check)
284ml buttermilk 
3 eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
50g sundried tomatoes in oil (approximately 6-8) coarsely chopped
25g parmesan
1 tbsp tomato puree

  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC or 160ºC in a fan oven. Grease a 2lb loaf tin with a small amount of olive oil. Grate the parmesan and chop the sundried tomatoes

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  1. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, tomato purée and oil

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  1. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and then add the sundried tomatoes and half of the parmesan
  2. Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top and bake in the oven for 50-60 mins until a skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool

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The sundried tomatoes I bought were in a lovely olive oil with herbs so instead of using ordinary olive oil, I used the oil from the jar to give extra flavour. It isn’t the sort of bread that you would use to make a sandwich really because it does make quite small slices, but cut into slices with some meat and cheese makes a lovely lunch.

Zoe has said that in general, gluten free bread isn’t that great and can be a bit boring. The sundried tomatoes and parmesan give this bread a lovely flavour which makes it one of the best recipes she has tried.

The original recipe can be found at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2070/glutenfree-sundried-tomato-bread

My Christmas menu & first event

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As I have mentioned before, I have been very busy recently with a Christmas menu I put together. It is a list of treats that I thought would be perfect for people to enjoy over Christmas or to give as gifts. The first items I came up with for the menu was chutneys. As you know I had already made my apple and sultana chutney which I knew was tasty so I decided to include it in the menu. One of my favourite shop bought chutneys is caramelised onion which we love to eat with Camembert so I decided I would like to give it a go and see if mine was as good as ones you can buy. The final chutney I decided to make was Mary Berry’s Christmas Chutney – it was a no brainer.

I started making the chutneys back in September because I knew they needed time to mature and get even more delicious. I stared by ordering and making 36 jars of chutney. Once I had started advertising the chutneys to friends and colleagues, it quickly became clear that I needed to order more jars! I was very shocked at how popular the chutneys became and realised last weekend that yet again I needed to order more jars! I’m not going to lie, I hate peeling tomatoes and I have peeled more onions that I would care to imagine, but it is a great feeling to know that something you have made is so popular.

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I wanted to include little treats that would look good displayed in cellophane bags. Fridge cake was an obvious choice as it is so popular when I make it – it lasts 5 minutes at work. I have always referred to it as fridge cake but some people know of it as rocky road.

Cat Fridge Cake 2 copy

 (Photo by Betty)

I decided to put a spin on my cheese straws that are so popular by turning them into chilli cheese stars. I originally saw the idea on Food Network when Jonathan Phang was making them and thought it was a great idea. Instead of using his recipe, I stuck to my usual cheese straw recipe but added fresh and dried chilli powders before cutting them into stars. I didn’t want to make them too hot so didn’t use the West Indian hot pepper sauce that Jonathan used. Mine have a lovely gentle heat that I think is suitable for everyone’s taste.

Cat Stars 1 copy

(Photo by Betty)

I wanted to have some fudge on the menu; one chocolate and one vanilla. I found a lovely dark chocolate and pistachio fudge recipe by Nigella that turned out really well but I had no such luck with the vanilla fudge. I wanted a fudge with a creamy texture and after four failed attempts I gave up. Two attempts made what people told me was very nice Scottish tablet but this was quite crumbly so not what I was looking for. Another attempt tasted lovely and creamy but it just didn’t harden up enough and was very sticky. The final attempt with the 4th recipe was a complete disaster so I finally gave up!

Cat choc fudge 2 copy

(Photo by Betty)

Mum has a Mary Berry Christmas book so I had a look through there and saw these lovely snowflake shaped iced biscuits. They’re simple to make but really tasty and look very pretty. Someone said to me that they weren’t planning on ordering the biscuits but when they saw the photo they looked so pretty they decided they had to have them.

Cat Star Cookies

 (Photo by Betty)

I had to include mince pies because to me its not Christmas without them – I am a huge fan. My friend Millie told me that if you eat a mince pie on every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night (6th January) you will have happiness for the next 12 months. I thought this was a very cute idea and any excuse to eat mince pies is valid in my opinion!

Cat mince pies 2

(Photo by Betty)

For something that wasn’t too sweet I decided to make some fruity biscotti which a lot of people associate with Christmas. The recipe I chose is packed with cranberries, raisins, almonds and pistachios. I find it slightly dry, but it is traditionally drank with black coffee in Italy.

Cat Biscotti 2 copy

(Photo by Betty)

Finally, I decided I wanted to include some form of sweet. After watching Sweets Made Simple on BB2, I saw how easy cinder toffee was to make. Although it is quite simple, it looks really impressive. I thought you would need all sorts of fancy equipment to make it but liquid glucose is the only ingredient you will need to buy, everything else you’ll already have in your cupboard.

Cat Honeycomb

(Photo by Betty)

The lovely and very talented Betty photographed my Christmas menu for me and made everything look fantastic. She staged the photographs beautifully and gave them a great Christmassy feel. I have had a number of people say to me that the photographs are what made them decide what they wanted to order as they were too tempting to resist! Please visit her website www.greedybetty.com to see more of her fantastic photography.

I initially saw the Christmas menu as a way of friend’s ordering my food, but as the popularity has grown I have put posters up at work and even did my first little event the other day! My friend Tula invited a number of people to her house for what she called her Christmas Extravaganza. I was very excited that she had asked me but also slightly nervous because this would be the first time people that didn’t know me would be trying my food and I would be able to see their reactions.

My Mum came along with me and with her help, I was able to put together a table that I was very happy with and people even commented on how professional it looked. This had a lot to do with my Mum’s help with the food labels and the amazing bunting she made for me. My Mum has spent hours making all of the labels for each item and they would not have looked anywhere near as good if I hadn’t had her help. She is very creative and has been a massive help from the start.

I was nervous about the chutney because although I had tried it once I had made it, I hadn’t tried it when it had matured. I asked my Mum to try it first because I knew she would give me an honest opinion, and luckily she said it was delicious! I was very happy with how many people said how tasty they were and bought them as gifts and for themselves.

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I am so pleased with how successful my menu has become and the upcoming events I have. I am going to have a very busy few weeks!

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Broccoli Soup

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We are well and truely in what I am calling Soup Season. Although the weather isn’t as cold as it usually is at this time of year, a lovely soup is still perfect on a cold, dark evening.

Soup has for many years been something I have been incredibly fussy about. I had a bad experience with some Heinz tomato soup when I was a lot younger and it has stuck with me. I don’t eat soup in restaurants and I have only found one bought soup that I liked which was Covent Garden chicken soup; but then to my disappointment they changed the recipe.

My Mum knows how fussy I am when it comes to soup so for Christmas last year she bought me a soup maker. The one I have is the Morphy Richards Sauté and Soup Soupmaker and is fantastic. Instead of following different steps and waiting for the soup to come up to the boil and then liquidising, this soup maker allows you to put all the ingredients in the machine at the start. It then does all of the work itself taking 21 minutes for smooth soup or 28 for chunky soup.

Since getting the soup maker, it has made making soup so much easier and quicker. It has also meant I have been able to experiment with even more flavours and am quickly expanding my soup repertoire – I’ve even made tomato soup!

The following recipe is the original one my Mum always used when she made her broccoli soup. It was from a microwave cooking book which looked like it was from the 70’s by Jill Spencer. Cooking soup in the microwave doesn’t sound particularly gourmet, but trust me this soup is delicious!

1 small onion
25g butter
25g plain flour
600ml hot chicken stock
230g broccoli florets
300ml milk
salt and pepper

  1. Chop the onion and put it in a 1.5 litre oven proof dish along with the butter. Cook in the microwave for 2 minutes
  2. Stir in the flour and then add the finely chopped broccoli, stock and salt and pepper. Cook in the microwave or 6 minutes, stirring twice
  3. Allow to cool slightly and then liquidise. Add the milk and the reheat in the microwave for 1 minute
  4. The soup can keep for up to 3 days in the fridge and just reheat in the microwave

Rien isn’t a fan of broccoli but when I first made him this soup he kept saying how delicious it was. Coming from someone who isn’t forthcoming with compliments about food, this must have meant he liked it! When we were next having soup for dinner, he automatically assumed it was broccoli soup and he was a bit gutted when he realised it wasn’t!

I really recommend trying this soup – you won’t be disappointed!