Fuss-free Easter eggs


Yesterday I tried out this little Easter egg recipe from http://www.carnation.co.uk.  You just blitz (or grate) shop-bought Madeira cake, mix with Carnation tinned chocolate sauce, make the mixture in to balls, roll them in sprinkles and refrigerate for 30 mins (or overnight). Hello Easter eggs!


You could push lolly sticks in to the Easter eggs if you fancy, but they are perfectly fine without.  Don’t expect perfect balls – expect slightly clumsy looking homemade charm!   This is a nice recipe to make with kids, although mine were too comfortable on the sofa…

Happy Easter!

Fuss-free Easter eggs (makes approx 25 smallish eggs )

300g Carnation chocolate filling and topping

400g Madeira cake


Break up the Madeira cake and tip into a food processor. Blend until you have fine crumbs, or grate the cake on a fine grater. Tip into a large bowl, then spoon in the Carnation Chocolate filling and topping gradually and mix with a spoon until combined.

Pour your decorating sprinkles in to a small bowl.  Roll the cake mixture into round balls and then roll in the sprinkles until evenly covered.

Press a lolly pop stick or skewer into each coated ball if you fancy.  Refrigerate the balls/lollies for 30 minutes or until they are firm to touch (overnight is fine).  Enjoy over Easter!

Hummingbird cake (fruity deliciousness)


Hummingbird cake originates from the American South and has apparently been passed down many generations.   It is totally delicious and straightforward to make (trust me on this – I have never made a complicated cake and don’t plan to!)  The main flavours are the pineapple, banana (which are both blitzed to a puree before mixing with the other cake ingredients), pecan nuts and a touch of cinnamon.  There is icing in the middle and on top, with lemon zest for extra flavour.  The whole ensemble is fruity, moist and creamy.  I attempted to make a pecan brittle for the top which failed so let’s just call it sugared pecans – they were still good and looked pretty!  I also made a big cake then cut it in half but you could make two smaller cakes to sandwich together instead.

Allow about 2 hours in total (15 mins prep, one hour cooking, 15 mins icing and a little time in the fridge).  Lasts a few days in the fridge.


Hummingbird cake (serves two greedy people and many more with self control)

For the cake mixture

250g plain flour

250g caster sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

200ml oil e.g. vegetable oil/sunflower oil/olive oil

2 eggs

250g drained canned pineapple (200g pureed in a food processor and 50g in little chunks)

2 medium sized bananas, pureed in a food processor or mashed

100g pecan nuts

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the icing

200g soft cheese

100g butter, softened

400g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

Zest of 1/2 lime or lemon

Optional – for the sugared pecans

Small handful roughly chopped pecans

Sugar and a splash of water

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees.

Mix together the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt.  In another bowl mix together the oil, eggs, pureed pineapple and banana, pecans, vanilla essence and cinnamon.  Add the flour mixture and mix everything together well.  Pour the mixture in to two greased (with butter) small-medium cake tins (if making two cakes to sandwich together) or a large cake tin (if cutting the cake in half horizontally once cooked).  Cook the cake/s for about an hour, until golden brown on top and a knife inserted comes out clean (check after 40 minutes then every 5-10 minutes thereafter).  Once cooled, and if cooking just one cake, use a sharp knife to cut the cake in half horizontally (a bread knife works well).  Remove the top half by placing a plate on top for support.

To make the icing mix or blend the soft cheese, butter, icing sugar, vanilla essence and lime or lemon zest until fairly thick and smooth.  Spoon and spread the icing on to the middle of the cake (ensuring it is cooled!) and on top.  Don’t worry if it runs down the sides a little – just put the whole thing in the fridge asap to help it set quicker.

If making sugared pecans, pour a generous amount of sugar in a pan with a splash of water and once combined and loosening up add the pecans until coated.  Pour out quickly to cool then sprinkle on to the top of the cake (breaking in to smaller bits if need be).  Eat more than you intended.


Mum’s fruit salad


My mum makes these wonderful fruit salads that have so much more flavour and texture than I ever thought possible.  She gave me the recipe, and I tweaked it a little (sorry mum!)  You basically use any combination of fruit (but including a banana) and mix it with orange zest, orange juice, raisins, ginger and toasted nuts.  The nuts are the star ingredient as they add a kind of charred, slightly bitter crunch.  As long as you have the essential ingredients then you can decide what quantities to use.  The whole thing must be eaten in silence and with concentration as it is so delicious!

Mum’s fruit salad (serves however many you want)

Any combination of chopped fruit e.g. banana, kiwi, apple, satsuma, mango, pear

Sprinkle of orange zest (use a grater)

A little orange juice

Raisins (ideally soak them for at least 30 mins in warm water to plump them up)

Walnuts or pecans, dry toasted for a few minutes in a saucepan (move lots to avoid burning!)

Ginger (you can use finely chopped fresh ginger, finely chopped stem ginger from a jar or you can crumble ginger biscuits on top of the fruit salad)

Optional – chopped dates or chopped dried apricots

Optional – chopped fresh mint

Mix everything together.  Eat!  Great with a dollop of Greek or natural yoghurt.


Marshmallow crispy squares


These marshmallow crispy squares are a great kids treat, contain four ingredients and are really easy to make.  You mix melted marshmallows with rice crispies, vanilla essence and butter then put the mixture in the fridge to harden.  I found the recipe on http://www.allrecipes.co.uk when I was looking for very low effort school fair recipes!  The school fair organiser said anything topped with a chocolate button or sweet sells instantly, hence the smarties.


Marshmallow crispy squares (makes around 12)

50g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g marshmallows
100g rice crispies (or similar)

Grease a smallish baking tray with butter or margarine, or line it with greaseproof paper.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the vanilla. Melt the marshmallows into the butter, stirring. Add the rice crispies when the marshmallows have melted and stir until they are coated. Quickly pour into the prepared tin and press down tightly and evenly. Top with chocolate buttons if you like!
Let set for 2 to 3 hours. Cut into squares.

Eggy bread (10 mins)


Eggy bread is one of the standout treats of my childhood.  Lovingly made by my mum.  You soak bread in beaten egg, fry each side until golden and slightly crispy then top with sugar and ground cinnamon.  You could also eat it with a little honey on top and bacon on the side.  This time my boys helped plonk the bread in the saucepan (with supervision!)

Nothing beats using demerara sugar as the granules are large and crunchy so you get a little nugget of sweetness.  But any sugar will do.  Comfort food in 10 minutes!


Eggy bread (serves 2)

2 pieces bread

1 large egg, beaten

Splash of milk


A little sugar

A little ground cinnamon

Beat a large egg, mix in a splash of milk then pour in to a shallow bowl.  Put both pieces of bread in the bowl to soak, turning them over so they evenly absorb the mixture.  Heat a little butter in a pan  until melted and bubbling slightly then add the bread.  Fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.  Eat topped with sugar and cinnamon!

No added sugar banana bread


I have probably made this sugar-free banana bread recipe more than anything else.  My kids love it and think the raisins and vanilla essence make it sweet enough. It takes just 12 minutes to prepare (plus 50 mins baking time), lasts a few days in a tin and can be frozen in portions.  We eat it on it’s own or lightly toasted with butter.  It’s brill!


Sugar-free banana bread

5 ripe bananas, mashed

50g chopped nuts (could be any – I normally use walnuts or pecans)

1 egg, lightly beaten

100g raisins (or other dried fruit such as dates, dried apricots, cranberries – whatever!)

75g porridge oats

150g plain flour

1 tsp vanilla essence

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5. Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. The consistency should be moist. Spoon in to a greased loaf or cake tin and bake in the oven for 45-55 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 mins. Delicious on it’s own or with butter!

Ginger creams with pistachio brittle

This fancy ginger cream with pistachio brittle dessert is thankfully much easier to make than it sounds.  The result is a delicious and creamy sort of creme brûlée with subtle ginger flavour.  The pistachio brittle adds crunch and class.   You can make the ginger creams up to four days in advance and the pistachio brittle will keep for weeks.   The whole thing looks well impressive!


Top tip – don’t be overwhelmed by the state of your saucepan after making the brittle!  I panicked but then found out you just soak the pan in very warm water, then the stickiness dissolves and you can wash it.   Also don’t worry if you use a mismatch of containers.  I used a combination of recycled ramekins and silicone muffin cases.

The recipe is from a great new cookbook called ‘Make It Easy’ by Jane Lovett (full review coming soon)!  Allow about 50 mins preparation time plus overnight setting in the fridge.  Oh, and I reckon the pistachio brittle would work great with ice cream too.

Ginger creams with pistachio brittle (makes 8)

6 tbsp ginger preserve (available at supermarkets)

6 egg yolks

450ml double cream

175g granulated sugar

3 tbsp water

100g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.  Put 8 ramekins (or any small container which can go in the oven) in to a deep roasting tin.  Boil a kettle of water.

Whisk the ginger preserve and egg yolks together in a mixing bowl until pale (I am lazy so did this for 2 mins max).  Bring the cream to just below boiling point and pour over the egg mixture, whisking all the time.  Transfer to a jug and pour in to the dishes.  Put the dishes in to the roasting tin then carefully pour enough hot water from the boiled kettle in to the tin, to come about halfway up the sides of the dishes.  Cook for 20-25 mins (or longer if necessary) until just set with a slight wobble in the middle (they will harden more after cooking).  Remove the dishes from the water, cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.

While the creams are cooking make the brittle.  Lightly oil a baking sheet or greaseproof paper.  Put the sugar and water in to a saucepan (keep kids away!) and cook over a low heat, giving the odd gentle stir, until the sugar has dissolved.  Turn up the heat and boil fast until the sugar caramelises in to a deep golden colour (this may take several minutes).  Quickly add the pistachios, stir and tip out immediately on to the baking sheet or greaseproof paper, spreading the mixture thinly.  Leave to cool.

Serve the creams straight from the fridge with the snapped brittle on top.

Lemonade scones

lemonade scones

Yep!  You can make scones with lemonade.  Flour, cream and lemonade.  My friend Carol showed me a video of someone doing it and we wondered whether it was a joke, so I tried it and it worked!  They looked a bit clumsy but were pretty tasty, hot out of the oven and with some butter and jam on top.

Top tip – make sure you always have lots of flour on the surface you are using to cut out the scones, to prevent sticking, and a dish of water nearby to rinse your hands when you need to. Allow about 15 mins prep plus up to 30 mins cooking.

lemonade scones

lemonade scones

Here is a link to the video in question, and the written recipe below!  Courtesy of Monique Bowley, who was apparently a former contestant on Australia’s Greatest Bake Off:  https://www.facebook.com/debriefdaily/videos/1061942157179139/.

lemonade scones

lemonade scones

Ingredients (makes approx 12 scones)

480g self-raising flour

300ml double cream

Can of lemonade (they are usually 330ml)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

Pour the flour in to a mixing bowl then add the cream and lemonade.  Gently mix with a spoon (be careful not to overdo it) until it becomes a dough.  If it feels too wet and sticky gradually add more flour until you are happy with the consistency.  When ready, flour a surface, and pull and pat the dough together in to a ball shape.  Then pat it gently down more and use a cup or cutter to cut out scone shapes.  Or just use your hands if that is easier (that’s what I ended up doing!)

Place the scones on a lined baking tray (they can be pretty close together) and bake for between 15-30 mins until golden brown on top.  The original recipe said just 15 mins but mine took 30 mins so I guess it depends on the size of the scones and the individual oven.  Eat with jam and, ideally, clotted cream!

Pumpkin and honey flapjacks (healthy deliciousness!)

pumpkin and honey flapjacks

My attempt at pumpkin pie didn’t go well. So I decided to try making flapjacks with grated pumpkin in them instead, and luckily they were more successful!  The flapjacks also contain honey, sesame seeds, mashed banana, orange zest, raisins and, of course, porridge oats. There are pretty nutritious and the honey and raisins make them sweet enough without sugar. My son described them as ‘yummy!’ and reminded me that ‘you can make flapjacks with different things’. This is true. We have also made them using grated carrot instead of pumpkin; chopped dried apricots or cranberries instead of raisins; pumpkin seeds or linseeds instead of sesame seeds; and peanut butter instead of banana. We eat them as an after school snack, when out and about or as dessert.

Small seeds such as sesame seeds and linseeds (very cheap to buy!) help the mixture to stick together. Honey, mashed banana and peanut butter also act as a good binder. It’s easiest to cut the pumpkin in to large chunks and then grate (don’t grate the chunks too thin or you might lose some skin!)

pumpkin and honey flapjacks

pumpkin and honey flapjacks

This recipe makes 16 flapjacks, which will last a few days in a sealed container. Allow about 10 minutes to prepare the mixture and 45 minutes to cook. Hope you like them!

pumpkin and honey flapjacks

Pumpkin and honey flapjacks (makes 16)

150g butter

100g honey

200g grated pumpkin

1 mashed banana

150g raisins

50g sesame seeds

Zest of 1 orange

250g porridge oats

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees/gas mark 3.

Put the butter in a pan and heat gently until it is melting, then add the honey. Once all melted take off the heat and add the pumpkin, mashed banana, raisins, sesame seeds, orange zest and porridge oats. Mix well. You want the mixture to be thick but still be able to stir it with a spoon (with a bit of effort).

Line a smallish square or rectangle baking tin with foil and spoon in the mixture. Flatten it out and squash the mixture down with the back of the spoon to help it stick together. Bake for 35-45 mins, until it’s firm and deeply golden at the edges and sides. Take out and leave to cool. Carefully lift out the foil with the flapjack mixture inside it then cut in to pieces with a sharp knife.

Oat, apple and banana pancakes (gluten-free and ready in 20 mins)

oat, apple and banana pancakes

These pancakes are packed with goodness, gluten-free and take about 20 minutes to prepare and cook.  They are made from oats (which you blitz to a flour in a food processor), walnuts (also blitzed), apple, banana, milk and cinnamon.  They have a slightly thicker and grittier consistency than more traditional pancakes but are still delicious with honey on top.  Don’t worry if they look a bit scruffy – it’s all part of their charm!

oat, apple and banana pancakes

My kids enjoyed making a tower of the pancakes and then devoured them – we ate them American-style with blueberries, and yoghurt.  I will have to make another batch and use as an after-school snack soon too (with honey, obviously).  If you are a pancake traditionalist or don’t have a food processor you could leave out the oats and walnuts and simply use plain flour instead!

oat, apple and banana pancakes

Oat, apple and banana pancakes (makes 10 small pancakes)

80g oats

50g walnuts, pecans or almonds

OR replace the oats and walnuts with 120g plain flour

1 apple, grated

1 banana, broken in to a few bits

150ml milk

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Put the oats into a blender and blitz until you have a rough scruffy flour.  Put the nuts, milk, apple and banana into the blender and blitz until combined.  (Alternatively, use 120g plain flour instead of the oats and nuts and mix with the apple, finely chopped banana, milk and cinnamon without using a food processor).

Heat a non-stick pan on a medium heat and add a little butter, until there is a thin melted coating of butter gently bubbling in the pan.  Add the pancake batter (1 tbsp = 1 pancake) to make small pancake rounds. Cook for 2–3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Eat messily and happily.