Christmas tree biscuits for a rainy day

christmas tree biscuits

Here is a festive little activity to do with the kids (or not!) All you need are some basic ingredients, Christmassy spices (ground ginger and cinnamon) and a Christmas tree biscuit cutter. We didn’t have anything to decorate the trees with but the possibilities are endless (those squirty icing pens, little edible balls or stars). Kids (including toddlers) can enjoy mixing the ingredients, rolling the dough out and then cutting the shapes and transferring them to the baking tray.  Allow 20 minutes for the dough to harden in the fridge before rolling.

The biscuits should keep for a few days.  For an alternative biscuit recipe that can be hung on the Christmas tree click here:

christmas tree biscuits

christmas tree biscuits

Don’t worry if the biscuits don’t look perfect – some of ours weren’t even recognisable!

Christmas tree biscuits (makes approx 12)

225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon and ground ginger (or 3/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp ground all spice)
115g light muscovado sugar/caster sugar
115g unsalted butter
1 medium egg, beaten

Start by preheating the oven to 180°C/ gas mark 4.
Mix the flour, spices and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter, if necessary rubbing it in using your fingers. Add the beaten egg and mix into a stiff dough. Make a big ball and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes to harden a bit.  Knead lightly and roll out on a floured surface until it’s approx 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into Christmassy shapes and place onto non-stick baking trays.  Pop them in the oven for about 15 minutes, swapping the trays around halfway through, until golden brown.
Leave the biscuits to cool then decorate with whatever you fancy.

My first magazine article!

I am very excited to announce that I recently had my first feature in Waltham Forest Is London magazine, which was delivered to every home in Waltham Forest.  I am really pleased with it.  For the full online article, including more about how I got in to cooking, my work in the local community and a recipe using locally sourced ingredients, click here!

My fella’s low-calorie roast sweet potato, broccoli and prawn salad (40 mins prep)

If you read my blog regularly you will know that my fella normally only gets excited over Rustlers burgers and biscuits.  Not so anymore.  He has been on a low-calorie health kick and – shock horror! – might actually be getting his five (veg and fruit) a day.  In his quest to eat delicious and filling low-calorie meals, he discovered that you can eat loads of veg and prawns without racking up many calories (in this case we reckon about 300 per portion).

sweet potato broccoli prawn low calorie salad

This salad is a one-tray meal so it saves on washing up. We both agree that roasting sweet potato, broccoli, asparagus, prawns, garlic and chilli flakes in olive oil then squeezing over fresh lemon juice is really tasty and satisfyingly filling.  In my fella’s words ‘it’s so nice I can literally eat it’.  I’m quite annoyed that one of our most regularly eaten dishes was invented by him and not me…

There are lots of alternative ingredient options for this dish – cauliflower, carrots, parsnips and onions are also delicious roasted; soya beans could be heated separately and added at the end; you could top the salad with seeds, spring onions or herbs; and if you don’t eat prawns you could scatter on shaved parmesan or crumbled feta before serving.

To offset this superfood meal, I am collaborating with a cafe to bring you an Algerian omelette recipe – naughty, unique and definitely NOT low in calories.  Watch this space!

My fella’s low-calorie roast sweet potato, broccoli and prawn salad (serves 2)

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in to small chunks
Head of broccoli, roughly cut in to florets
6 asparagus tips, chopped in to 1 inch pieces
180g cooked prawns (any kind), drained
Handful pine nuts, toasted (you can do this yourself by heating in a hot, dry non-stick pan for 1-2 mins, shaking regularly until lightly browned)
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Small sprinkle chilli flakes

Juice of 1 lemon
Large glug olive oil

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees.  Put the sweet potato chunks in a non-stick roasting/baking tray, coat in a large glug of olive oil and mix. Put in the oven for approx 30 mins, turning every 5-10 minutes to avoid burning. Once tender, add the broccoli, asparagus, prawns, garlic and chilli flakes and roast for a further 10-15 mins, turning regularly. Add a little olive oil if necessary. Once everything is cooked through and slightly browned, take out of the oven and add the lemon juice.  Mix.

Serve in bowls topped with the pine nuts.

Kids’ favourite – 7 minute noodles in a cup!

7 minute noodles cup kids meal

This is hardly a ground breaking dish.  But it is quick, tasty, healthy and, most importantly, has the novelty of being served in a cup!  Kids like this.  Mine really enjoyed the ‘oodles of noodles’ and even ‘drank’ the last bits out.  It has a good splash of soy sauce to give it flavour and a bit of saltiness, which also tends to appeal to kids. The possibilities to vary what you put with the noodles are plenty – instead of peas and sweetcorn you could try pepper, spring onions, carrots, broccoli or cauliflower.  Instead of marinated tofu (from a pack – delicious) you could use prawns, flaked smoked mackerel, pre-cooked sausages or chicken.

7 minute noodles cup kids meal

Be prepared for a bit of mess due to all those long, wriggly noodles.  In my opinion this is half the fun but you could always cut them up if you want!

7 minute noodles in a cup (serves approx 4 people depending on appetites)

160g medium egg noodles

100g peas

Small tin sweetcorn

250g Cauldron marinated tofu pieces (or cooked prawns, flaked smoked mackerel, chopped cooked sausages or chicken)

Big dash soy sauce

Boil the noodles and peas together in a pan for 5 minutes, making sure you separate the noodles with a fork while they cook so they don’t stick.  Drain and add the sweetcorn and marinated tofu.  Mix up and add a good glug of soy sauce, to taste (be careful not to overdo it!)  Carefully load in to cups and serve.

Seasonal pumpkin, blue cheese and watercress lasagne

When I saw this seasonal recipe I thought it looked unusual. The roast pumpkin, cinnamon, chilli flakes, garlic, blue cheese and watercress compliment each other perfectly and it makes an interesting change from a more traditional tomato-sauce-based lasagne. It would make a good veggie Christmas dinner option too (although you might need to use butternut squash instead).

pumpkin watercress blue cheese lasagne

You need to allow about 1 hour 45 minutes to make this, but at least 1 hour of that is cooking in the oven so it is not all graft! You could prepare the roast mix in the morning and then layer the lasagne and cook it later on.

The recipe is based on one from Guardian Cook but I have adapted the quantities and used danish blue cheese instead of gorgonzola as it is cheaper. Next time I might try topping it with chopped walnuts.

pumpkin watercress blue cheese lasagne

Instant dry chilli flakes are great by the way – they might not be fresh but they are still delicious! I often use them in salad dressings and when roasting veg. In fact I would even go so far as to say they are an *exciting ingredient* (see the ‘exciting ingredient’ category on the right hand side for more ideas).

For a more traditional veggie lasagne (my signature recipe!) check out this link:

Pumpkin, blue cheese and watercress lasagne (serves 4)

1 medium sized pumpkin or butternut squash, cut in to wedges and skin chopped off (pumpkin is easier to cut!)
4 garlic cloves, skins on
1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 pinches dry chilli flakes
Salt and black pepper
A glug of olive oil
60g grated parmesan
6-8 dried lasagne sheets
150g danish blue, gorgonzola or stilton cheese, crumbled
2 bunches watercress, roughly chopped
200ml double cream

Heat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4. In a large bowl mix the pumpkin, garlic, cinnamon, chilli, salt, pepper, glug of olive oil and a splash of water. Place on a non-stick baking/roasting tray and roast for approx 30 minutes, until soft. Stir regularly to avoid sticking.

Pop the garlic out of their skins, finely chop and put back with the pumpkin mixture and then add 40g of the parmesan. Mix together. Turn the oven up to 190 degrees/gas mark 6.

Layer the lasagne dish. Start with the lasagne sheets, then the pumpkin mixture, half the danish blue cheese and half the watercress. Layer again with the lasagne sheets, pumpkin mixture, remaining danish blue and watercress and then pour over the cream. Sprinkle the lasagne with the remaining parmesan then bake for approx 40 minutes, until the top is bubbling and golden. Serve with salad.

Mussels with cider, leek and shallot sauce (ready in 25 mins)


Now it is blustery and cold outside I can’t stop eating brothy comfort food, and the great thing about this dish is it is filling yet low in calories. The tender mussels sit in a subtly flavoured sauce of cider, leeks, shallots, garlic, parsley and creme fraiche. There is something quite therapeutic about washing the mussels during the preparation and then messily prizing them out of their shells in order to eat them. Bread (ideally baguette) is essential for soaking the sauce up as you go along and wiping the bowl clean at the end!

This recipe is based on one by Sainsbury’s but I have adapted it slightly. Allow just 25 minutes to make this dish and make sure you have an extra bowl at the table to put the empty shells in!

Please excuse the lower quality photo above – my boyfriend’s camera is away this weekend…

Mussels with cider, leek and shallot sauce (serves 4 with bread)

1kg fresh mussels
Olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 leek, trimmend and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed/chopped
300ml cider (original recipe specifies Somerset cider but you don’t need to be too specific – just don’t use really cheap stuff!)
1 heaped tbsp lighter creme fraiche
1/2 x 28g pack parsley, chopped
Baguette or bread, to serve

Wash the mussels under cold running water, removing the beards and any dirt. Discard any mussels that are open. Heat a large glug of oil in a pan and add the shallots and leeks. Cook for 5 mins until softened then add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Pour in the cider and cook for a further 5 mins.

Tip in the mussels, cover with a lid and cook for 4-5 mins, shaking/stirring occasionally until all the shells have opened. Discard any that remain closed.

Stir in the creme fraiche and half the parsley and season with ground black pepper. Ladle in to bowls and top with the remaining parsley. Serve with bread to mop up the sauce.

Based on a recipe by Sainsbury’s

Cheat’s banoffee pie (ready in 30 mins)

easy banoffee pie

How heavenly is caramel from a Carnation tin? I treasure this stuff. A buttery biscuit base, Carnation caramel, chopped bananas and whipped cream makes an absolutely gorgeous, classic dessert – banoffee pie. I have added toasted almonds for a little crunch and bitterness.

It takes 5 minutes to prepare the banoffee pie base, 10 minutes to top with the caramel, bananas, whipped cream and almonds, 15 minutes to chill and possibly only seconds to eat.

Cheat’s banoffee pie (serves 6-8 people)

150g digestive biscuits, crushed
75g melted butter
397g tin instant caramel (I used Carnation’s)
2 ripe bananas, chopped in to rounds
250ml whipping cream, whipped until thick
A handful of toasted flaked almonds (to toast them yourself simply heat on a dry frying pan for approx 1 minute until golden, shaking regularly to avoid burning)

Mix the biscuits and butter together and press in to the base of a 20cm cake tin. Spread over the caramel, put on the chopped bananas, spoon on the whipped whipping cream and top with the flaked almonds. Chill for 15 minutes in the fridge. Eat.