Easy Easter tea bread

easy tea bread nigella lawson

Thank you Nigella for this easy tea bread recipe, which makes a nice alternative to all that Easter chocolate!  It is a bit like fruit cake, with the moistness of currants, marmalade and tea, and is particularly good with butter.  Soak the mixed dried fruit the night before if you can, to get them really plump, then it only takes 5 minutes to mix all the ingredients together before baking.  Accompanying cup of tea is essential.  Happy Easter!


1 mug cold tea (no milk)

8oz (225g) mixed dried fruit (if you don’t like peel just use sultanas and currants)

8oz (225g) self-raising flour

4oz (125g) caster sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp orange marmalade

Grease a loaf tin.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.

Place the fruit in a small bowl and pour the cold tea over the top.  Soak overnight if possible, or until the fruit swells.  In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, egg and marmalade, then pour in the fruit and any tea left in the bowl. Stir thoroughly.  Put into loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour.  Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin.


Hurry up spring stew!

veggie spring stew

I had planned to post this recipe at the end of March thinking that the freezing weather would have buggered off and the blossom would be properly making an appearance.  Well spring has not really sprung yet, but I am confident it is very near so here is the recipe anyway!  This stew is full of green veg and light minty spring flavours.  And tinned artichoke hearts, which I didn’t realise you could get.  I always thought artichokes only came in expensive antipasti jars!

Top the stew with some triangle cheese on toasts for a complete meal.  Or some bacon.  Serves 4 and takes only 20 minutes.


1 leek, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed/chopped

300g broad beans

300g peas

Can artichoke hearts

200g spinach

300ml veg/chicken stock e.g. Oxo

Bunch chopped mint

Bunch chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the leek, onion and garlic in some oil in a saucepan until softening, for approx 5 – 10 mins.  Add the broad beans, peas, artichoke hearts, spinach and stock and simmer for approx 5 – 10 more mins until the peas and beans are cooked through and the spinach has wilted.  Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Recipe is a simplified version of one by Jamie Oliver

Nutmeg-roasted peaches

nutmeg roasted peaches

Hurray!  Here is another dessert that takes minimal effort but looks and tastes superb – peaches roasted with butter, honey and nutmeg.  It takes about 5 minutes to prepare plus 15 minutes to roast.  Fresh or ground nutmeg is fine.  The nutmeg flavour of the peaches is superbly complimented by something creamy on the side, such as creme fraiche, ice cream or, for extra sophistication, vanilla panna cotta (simple recipe here: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/vanilla-panna-cotta-with-raspberry-sauce-20-mins-prep-plus-1-hour-for-panna-cotta-to-set-2/).

The peaches recipe is from the recent Spice Trip cookbook from the TV series.  It’s got some lovely recipes and ‘beneficial therapies’ that all include either chilli, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cumin or pepper.  The TV series is proper food porn..!


4 firm peaches, halved and stoned

50g butter

1 tbsp honey

1/4 fresh nutmeg, grated or good sprinkle ground nutmeg from jar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.  Place the peaches in a shallow r0asting tin and dot with the butter.  Drizzle with the honey, cover with the nutmeg and roast for approx 15 minutes, or until the peaches are just tender and lightly browned.   Serve with cream, creme fraiche, ice cream or panna cotta.

Mini toad-in-the-holes

lorraine pascale mini toad in hole

This is one of those recipes that instantly sounds good, and then when you open the oven door and see it bubbling away you know you’ve found a winner.   The fact that they are mini makes them a bit different, and perfect for a Sunday roast.  You can use meat or veggie sausages.  Make sure you allow time for cooking the sausages first while letting the batter stand (approx 30 mins) before combining it all in a muffin tray and popping it in the oven.  This is a good recipe if you have little time as you can cook the sausages/prepare the batter in the morning then assemble and cook them just before lunch.  Don’t forget you need a muffin tray!  Serves 4-6 people.

You can make an easy and fantastic Sunday roast by eating the mini toad-in-the-holes alongside a vegetable gratin (recipe here – https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/how-to-tart-up-your-leftover-veg/) or carrots and potatoes gremolata (recipe here – https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/velvet-cupcakes-plus-a-great-veg-side-dish/)  And if you’re really pushing the boat out try this veggie gravy recipe, which can be prepared the night before https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/gorgeous-veggie-gravy-5-mins-prep-and-1-hour-simmering/ .

Ingredients for mini toad-in-the-hole (from Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy)

Vegetable oil, for oiling

1 egg

60g plain flour

Optional – mustard powder, to taste

Pinch of dried herbs

75ml soured cream

75ml milk

12 sausages (meat or veggie is fine)

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6. Oil the muffin tin.  Whisk the egg in a large bowl until frothy. In a separate bowl, put the flour, mustard and herbs, then make a hole in the middle. Gradually add the soured cream and milk. Mix together lightly. Add the egg and stir a little to combine, then leave the batter to stand for atleast 30 minutes.  Meanwhile cook the sausages according to the pack instructions, chop each one in to three, then put aside.

When you are ready to cook, stir the batter for 10 seconds, then pour the mixture into a measuring jug (makes it so much easier to pour into the muffin tin). Divide the mixture among the muffin holes (it makes around 12) then put 3 sausage chunks into each hole. Cook in the oven for 20–25 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown. As soon as they are cooked, remove from the oven, leave for 1 minute then bang the tin on the surface to loosen them from the holes. Serve with gravy.

How to tart up your leftover veg!

leftover veg gratin

If like me you often have a few leftover veg in the fridge at the end of the week, then making a gratin out of them is speedy and delicious.  Gratins are a satisfying meal in their own right with a side salad, but also work well as a side dish for Sunday roast alongside some meat or fish.  If you make sure you always have 150ml double cream or creme fraiche (which normally lasts a few weeks in the fridge), some stock cubes and dried herbs available then you can easily rustle up a gratin (measurements based on a meal for 4).  Simply boil your veg until tender and very nearly done and then mix up with the cream/creme fraiche, 150ml water with two veg stock cubes dissolved in it, some dried herbs, 1 clove of garlic (optional) and salt and pepper. Top with breadcrumbs (and some grated cheddar/parmesan if you wish) then bake at gas mark 6 for about 30 mins until golden and bubbling.  Finish off under the grill if you need to.  Yum!  So far I have made gratins out of various combinations of sweet potato, parsnip, onion, red pepper and broccoli.  For extra goodness you could add a can of chickpeas or cannellini beans.

spinach chickpea grATIN

Here is one of my all time favourite recipes, for spinach and chickpea gratin: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/hearty-spinach-and-chickpea-gratin-20-mins-prep45-mins-oven-cooking/.  And for more ideas for using up leftover veg, check out my previous soup special: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/fantastic-variations-on-a-roast-autumnwinter-soup/.

Veggie meatballs with tomato sauce and pasta

veggie meatballs

Thank you to my friend Cynthia for recommending these vegetarian meatballs (yes I know that is a contradiction!)  They are simple to make, especially if you use tinned lentils, and make a great, wholesome family meal when combined with tomato sauce and pasta.  Cynthia also likes to eat them with potatoes or rice.  You could buy shop-bought tomato sauce or make your own by frying a clove of garlic, 4 torn anchovies and some parsley/basil or dried herbs in olive oil until the anchovies are  dissolved, and then adding some chopped tinned tomatoes/fresh tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmering for a few minutes.   You can fry the meatballs but I prefer to bake them as you can leave them to it!  The recipe takes about 15 mins to prepare and up to 20 mins to cook (if baking).

Ingredients (serves 4)

200g dried or tinned lentils
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped/crushed
Optional – 1/2 chilli, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
100g ricotta or cream cheese e.g. philadelphia
30g breadcrumbs (I just whizz bread up in a blender)
50g finely grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
Cook the lentils if dried/open and drain the tinned lentils.  Whizz in a blender.  Add the onion, garlic and chilli,  ricotta/cream cheese, breadcrumbs, parmesan, seasoning and mix.  Bind the whole mixture together with egg, and add a little olive oil if it is too dry. You might need to get stuck in with your hands!  (The mixture can be used straight away, or covered with cling film and kept in the fridge overnight/for a few hours until needed).  Form the mixture into balls, and fry on medium heat, or bake in the oven at gas mark 6/220 degrees for about 20 mins , turning them so that they brown evenly.
Serve in tomato sauce with pasta, rice or potatoes.

Butterbean salad (10 mins)

butterbean salad

I love tinned beans because they are so cheap, easy and versatile.  This really healthy salad contains tinned butterbeans with kale, carrots and the beautiful, mellow anniseed flavour of caraway seeds.  It is based on a recipe by Aaron Craze, one of Jamie Oliver’s former employees.  Caraway seeds are the latest in my *exciting ingredients* category – they add an unusual, interesting dimenson to food.  They work particularly well with cabbage, meat and cheese apparently.  I ate this salad with some trout on top but I reckon it would also go brilliantly with sausages (chopped up and mixed in perhaps) or goats cheese.

butterbean salad

Watch out soon for an onion and gruyere tart with caraway pastry recipe – my first attempt at homemade pastry.  If it actually works..!  Here is the recipe for the butterbean salad, which serves four if you are adding extra ingredients or as a side dish, or two as a main dish.


2 tins butterbeans

2 – 3 carrots, finely chopped

3 handfuls kale

1 clove garlic, crushed

Fresh coriander, chopped

Red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Fry the butterbeans with the carrots, kale, garlic and most of the coriander in some olive oil for approx 5 minutes.  Toss the mixture with a splash of  red wine vinegar, more olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Top with some fresh coriander leaves.