Speedy Hot Chocolate

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This creamy, silky hot chocolate recipe is a big treat and takes the edge off the suddenly very cold weather!  It only takes a few minutes to make and can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.

To make it extra special top with marshmallows or whipped cream; for an extra kick go Mexican and add a pinch of chilli powder; for a boozy drink add brandy; and for alternative flavours try substituting the cinnamon with ground nutmeg or ground cardamom.

Speedy hot chocolate (serves 2)

600ml semi-skimmed milk
142ml tub double cream
100g chocolate, broken up (use milk chocolate or dark chocolate, depending on your taste)
Optional – 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pour the milk, double cream and broken chocolate into a pan. Bring gently to the boil, whisking or stirring until smooth. Pour in to a flask or mug and drink!

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Bakewell Tart – a British classic!

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Bakewell tart is a British classic and consists of shortcrust pastry and a layer of jam topped with frangipane and flaked almonds.  This awesome recipe (based on one by Mary Berry) is surprisingly straightforward to make. If you have never made pastry before don’t worry as it is pretty simple here, and if the rolling out isn’t going great you can just cheat and press the pastry in to the tin with your hands. Or you can buy ready made shortcrust pastry instead.

The filling really is just a case of mixing everything up and leaving it to puff up and get crunchy during the baking.  Then feeling really snazzy when it comes out of the oven.

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The bakewell tart looks gorgeous and tastes authentic.  Eat with cream or ice cream!

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Bakewell tart

For the shortcrust pastry
175g plain flour
75g chilled butter
2-3 tbsp cold water

(or buy ready made shortcrust pastry from the shop)
For the filling
2 tbsp raspberry/strawberry jam
125g butter, soft (I soften mine in the microwave)
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
1  egg, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
50g flaked almonds

To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and mix in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.  Attempt to roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface and use to line a 20cm flan tin or similar.  If the rolling out doesn’t go too well just use your hands to press the dough to the bottom and around the edges of the tin, covering up any cracks.  Leave in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (180C fan).  Line the pastry case with foil and fill to the top with baking beans.  If you don’t have baking beans use dried beans or rice instead (this is to stop the pastry puffing up).  Bake blind for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil and cook for a further five minutes to dry out the base.

For the filing, spread the pastry generously with jam.  Melt the butter in a pan, take off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add the ground almonds, egg and almond extract. Pour into the flan tin and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown on top. If the almonds seem to be browning too quickly, cover the tart loosely with foil to prevent them burning.  Eat with cream or ice cream.

David’s 1950’s Style Berry Sundae

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This tasty and fun 1950’s Berry Sundae recipe was passed on by David, my ‘pensioner cooking for one’ friend and fellow food enthusiast.  We often exchange recipes, and he has some great waste saving tips.  This is his version of a 1950’s favourite and it is an indulgent treat.  All of the ingredients here come from cans so if you stock up, then you can whip it up with no notice needed!

You could always make smaller portions if you wanted to.  And feel free to experiment with the ingredients, as detailed in the recipe below.  Some crushed meringues and a sprinkle of toasted flaked almonds on top would work well too.  You could even get the kids to choose what to put in and help make it.

Allow about 15 mins to make 3 Berry Sundaes, and use any glasses you like – wine glasses and tumblers work fine, as long as you can see the layers of deliciousness!   Check out the photo of my son below.  I think he liked it…

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David’s 1950’s Style Berry Sundae (serves 3)

8 ginger nut biscuits (or any biscuits you like – amaretti biscuits would be nice too)

Tin of mixed berries in syrup/juice (or fresh fruit is fine e.g. berries/chopped peach/chopped banana)

Vanilla ice cream (or any ice cream you like)

Tin of evaporated or condensed milk/custard

Jelly (either set or straight from the packet)

Roughly crush the biscuits in to small bits and divide them between the three glasses.  Divide the packet of jelly in to three portions, keeping the marked cube shapes, or put a heaped tbsp of set jelly in to each glass.  Drain the syrup/juice from the berries and put the berries to one side.  Pour 2 dessertspoons of syrup in to each glass over the biscuits and jelly.  Put 3 dessertspoons of ice cream in to each glass.  Then 2 dessert spoons of berries in to each and finally top with a tbsp of the evaporated or condensed milk.  Eat!

No-bake booster bars

 

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These booster bars are simple to make, packed full of goodness and energy and are also sugar free.   The honey and dates provide the sweet hit, the nuts add crunch and the lemon/orange zest give extra flavour.  They are great for trips out and as an after-school snack for ‘starving’ children (their words, not mine).  You can also be flexible with what dried fruit/nuts/seeds you use – see the recipe for more info!

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Allow 15 mins prep plus an hour max to set in the fridge.  The bars will last a few days in a sealed container.

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No-bake booster bars (makes 15 bars)

200g dates, roughly chopped or 200g raisins/dried cranberries
170g roughly chopped nuts (any is fine – I used mixed nuts)
30g seeds e.g. linseeds/pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds
100g oats
100g honey
85g peanut butter
Grated zest of 1 lemon/orange

Melt the peanut butter and honey in a saucepan on a low heat, then add the other ingredients and mix well.

Line a smallish baking tray with greaseproof paper and spoon the mixture in, patting it down so it is evenly spread and tightly packed. Once cooled put in the fridge for an hour or so to harden, then cut in to bars. Will last a few days in a sealed container.

 

Summer berry and almond clafoutis (10mins prep/40 mins baking)

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Clafoutis is a delicious French dessert, made by arranging fruit in a dish, covering it with a sweet batter and baking until puffed up and golden brown.  It is traditionally made with cherries but you can make it with any fresh or frozen berries e.g. blueberries/raspberries/strawberries/blackberries, and halved and stoned plums also work great.  I used the cheapest frozen mixed summer berries I could find plus 1/2 can of pitted cherries, and added ground almonds to the batter.

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Clafoutis is laughably simple to prepare – just 10 minutes using a food processor, plus approx 40 mins baking in the oven.  And it looks pretty!  Eat it with cream, ice cream or custard.

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Ingredients

Oil or butter, for greasing

350g frozen or fresh fruit e.g. cherries/blueberries/strawberries/raspberries/blackberries/plums.

For the batter

50g ground almonds

2 tbsp plain flour

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

250ml double cream

1/2 tsp almond or vanilla essence

Heat oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5. Oil or butter an oven proof dish (not loose bottomed) and scatter the fruit over the bottom.
Whizz all the batter ingredients in a food processor/blender until smooth, pour it over the fruit and bake for 35-45 mins until slightly puffed and golden brown. Serve warm with cream, ice cream or custard.

 

Lilla’s Raspberry Mousse

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Lilla’s Raspberry Mousse is a rather special recipe.  It was shared with me by David, who I have enjoyed delightful food chat with over email for several months now.  David’s late wife, Lilla (a wonderful cook), used to make this mousse as a treat for Sunday lunch, and he describes it as ‘a taste of heaven’.  It uses just three ingredients – jelly, evaporated milk and raspberries, but you could vary what flavour jelly and what fruit you use (blackcurrant jelly with prunes is lovely too apparently).  It tastes great, especially with the tart raspberries dolloped in to the light and sweet mixture.  You could make it ahead if need be.

On top of this, David and I have been swapping other recipes, and he has shared with me stories of growing up in post-war Britain during rationing, when his aunt would be creative with what they had and fry bread in butter before sprinkling it with sugar.  He has never forgotten the donuty taste of it. My kids love this too!

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When making the mousse, if you blitz the evaporated milk in a food processor for 7 minutes it will aerate and give it a light, consistent texture.  If not the jelly and milk will separate a bit when setting – still delicious but not faithful to the original recipe!  Thanks David for sharing Lilla’s recipe.

Lilla’s Raspberry Mousse (makes around 7 small mousses)

One packet raspberry jelly

Small tin evaporated milk

Small tub fresh raspberries or a tin of raspberries

Put tin of milk in fridge for 2 hours.  Put the broken up jelly in to a saucepan with 1/2 pint of hot water (or if using tinned raspberries, mix water with the drained syrup up to 1/2 pint and use this).   Dissolve the jelly on a low heat, stirring well, then put aside to cool.

Take the tin of evaporated milk from the fridge, put in a food processor and run for 7 minutes – it won’t get thicker but will get aerated to give the mousse a lightness.  Then pour the cooled jelly liquid in and blitz further until the colour runs deep.  Pour into either a large dish or individual dishes (recycled ramekins or small glasses are perfect), then just drop the raspberries in (we put six in each ramekin).  Put the mousses in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours (or overnight).

You can substitute the raspberries with either strawberries or oranges, with the appropriate jelly. Or blackcurrant jelly with prunes.

 

Fuss-free Easter eggs

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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

Sprinkles

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!