Sticky Toffee Pudding (vegan/non-vegan)

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I always assumed that Sticky Toffee Pudding was a bit of a technical feat, but not so.  It’s super easy to make and tastes wonderful!  This recipe comes courtesy of vegan entrepreneur Tegan The Vegan, a lady who lives local to me and has built a very loyal following since starting her vegan food business.  The pudding can be made with either regular dairy or vegan butter.   Eat it with regular custard or vegan custard or cream (available in some supermarkets and health food shops).

Thank you Tegan!  (Check out http://www.facebook.com/teganvegan or @teganveganLDN for more info about her vegan treats).

Sticky Toffee Pudding (serves 10)

For the cake

200g pitted dates
100ml water
250ml soya milk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
115g dark brown soft sugar
115g regular butter or vegan margarine/butter  (vegan marge/butter can be found in some supermarkets/health food shops)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
200g self-raising flour

For the toffee sauce

150g butter or vegan margarine/butter
200g dark brown soft sugar
100g golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.

To make the cake, chop the dates in half, cover with the water and soya milk in a small saucepan and simmer until the dates are soft (around 10-15 minutes). Take off the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda. It will froth up, but that’s okay! Leave to cool while you make the rest.

Beat together the 115g of sugar and 115g of the margarine, then add the date mixture. Mix in the spices, then fold in the flour and mix. Spoon in to an approximate 20cm x 20cm greased cake tin (any shape is fine), and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the sponge bounces back when pressed and a knife inserted in the cake comes out pretty much clean.

For the sauce, melt the rest of the butter in a saucepan and add the sugar, golden syrup and vanilla essence. Gently simmer for around 5 minutes, stirring until well combined.

Prick the cooked cake all over then use half the sauce to pour over it. Reserve half of the sauce for serving with the pudding alongside some custard or cream. Devour!

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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.

Greek salad (15 mins)

In my humble opinion Greek salad is one of the most delicious summer salads EVER.  The crunch of the cucumber and red onion, sweetness of the tomatoes, salty creaminess of the feta and the fresh tasting dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil and herbs are absolutely gorgeous!  I like to eat Greek salad piled on top of a toasted pitta.

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Finely chopped red onion is an excellent addition to add crunch and flavour to lots of dishes.  As well as salads it is great in macaroni cheese and tuna pasta bake.

In Greece they tend to serve Greek salad with a slab of feta cheese on top, but I think it is best chopped up and mixed with the other ingredients.  Thank you to The Guardian for inspiring me to use capers in the recipe, which are apparently a Greek salad staple in certain parts of Greece!  Allow 15 minutes to make the salad.

Greek salad (serves 2)

Large handful cherry tomatoes, chopped in half

1/3 cucumber, chopped small

1/4 red onion, chopped small and thin

12 kalamata olives, chopped in half (regular pitted black or green olives also work fine, but kalamata olives are particularly authentic)

Optional – heaped tsp capers

150g feta cheese

For the dressing

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs/oregano

Mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olives and capers together in a large bowl.   Mix the dressing ingredients together.  Arrange the salad in bowls and sprinkle over the feta.  Pour over the dressing and eat with toasted pitta bread in the sun!

Easy Easter tea bread

Re-blogging this post seeing as Easter weekend 2016 is nearly here!

katielovescooking

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!

Ingredients

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…

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Marshmallow crispy squares

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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.

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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.

Cookbook review: ‘Make It Easy Cookbook’

I was recently asked to review ‘Make It Easy Cookbook: Foolproof, Stylish and Delicious Do-Ahead Recipes’ by Jane Lovett.

The first thing I did when the glossy, untouched book arrived in the post was to have a good look through it. I immediately liked the balance between more traditional English recipes and the array of more unusual and international ideas. The intro from the author Jane Lovett is warm, passionate and she assures us she has tried and tested the recipes many times and likes to cook great food for friends and family with minimum fuss.

The make ahead tips are an excellent bonus, as it is very clear if the tasks can be broken up and done in advance to save doing everything in one go. There is also useful advice about where to find certain ingredients or alternatives. My only tiny criticism is there were a few recipes without photos, and I like to be able to visualise every single one!

As for trying out the recipes: the spanakopita (Greek feta and spinach pie) was very simple to prepare and with only a few ingredients. It smelled amazing and tasted like salty, fragrant comfort food. We ate it hot for dinner and cold for packed lunch the next day. The parmesan-baked fennel was a subtle and classy side dish that was very easy to make and the touch about decorating it with the fennel fronds was lovely. The oriental salad was crunchy, zingy and only took 20 minutes to prepare. I loved how it encourages you to decide what quantity of each ingredient to choose, and think it is a really versatile dish. The salmon en croute with lime and coriander sauce is an interesting twist on a classic dish. So impressive and succulent and yet again it took only 20 mins to prepare!

I absolutely loved the plum frangipane tarts, which are a seriously great fancy dessert staple to have up your sleeve. They were much more straightforward than I expected and looked like something out of a French patisserie! I think I will add a little vanilla essence to the frangipane next time. The ginger creams with pistachio brittle were also totally manageable and very impressive. It was my first time making caramel and it worked! I will also use the brittle recipe to top shop-bought ice cream. I had to increase the flour content in the blue cheese and poppy seed biscuits but once cooked they were a big hit in our house. We ate half and froze half to enjoy later over Christmas.

Other recipes which I plan to try are: Tom Ka Gai (brothy soup); mushroom, thyme and taleggio galettes; Swedish salmon; quick creamy smoked haddock, saffron and chive risotto; baked vietnamese sea bass; tartiflette; crispy straw potato galettes; spiced roast root vegetables (similar to something I make lots at home); panzanella; pineapple and lime carpaccio; spiced orange panna cotta with blueberry compote; lavender and lemon shortbread and soda bread.  I don’t eat meat but there are plenty of meat recipes to choose from too.

Overall, ‘Make It Easy’ pushed me to try recipes I might have written off as too complex, which was a great thing. Those I tried were both simple and delicious!

‘Make It Easy Cookbook: Foolproof, Stylish and Delicious Do-Ahead Recipes’ by Jane Lovett is published by IMM Lifestyle Books.  It can be bought online at http://www.immlifestylebooks.com/page/detail/Make-it-Easy-Cookbook/?K=9781504800549 and from many other online book retailers or well known high street shops.

Spanakopita (Greek feta and spinach pie)

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Perhaps it’s foolish writing about a non-Christmassy recipe so close to Christmas.  But I made this spanakopita dish a few days ago and it was such straightforward comfort food that I wanted to share the details!  Spanakopita is a Greek spinach and feta pie with a hint of nutmeg.  This one is made using shop-bought filo pastry for extra ease.  The dish tastes lovely, is quick to prepare (about 15 mins plus cooking time) and and can be eaten hot or cold.

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The recipe is based on one from a lovely new cookbook called Make It Easy by Jane Lovett (full review coming soon!)

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Spanakopita (serves 6)

200g cooked spinach

200g feta cheese

Salt and pepper

Ground nutmeg

3 eggs, beaten

70g butter, melted

1 packet filo pastry

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach and chop roughly.  Put in to a bowl, crumble in the feta and season with salt and pepper and a good shake of nutmeg.  Add the beaten eggs and mix together.

Melt the butter and brush a little in to an oven proof dish.

Unroll the filo pastry, remove a sheet and drape it in to the dish.  Brush with butter.  Repeat this with another 2 filo sheets, brushing each with butter.  If bits tear just cover them with another bit of pastry.  Spoon the filling in to the dish and spread evenly.  Cut off any overhanging pastry.  Butter another 3 sheets of pastry and arrange on top to enclose the pie.  Tuck the edges in at the sides ( you may need to tear some off to  make space).

Brush the top with melted butter and cook for 45-55 mins or until golden brown and puffed up.  Eat with a salad.  Can also be eaten cold the next day!