Banana and pineapple loaf

I’ve really started enjoying fruit recently. I have a (somewhat deserved) reputation as a chocoholic within my friendship group, but I feel my fruit consumption of late might have redeemed me. I got sent a selection of Nature’s Finest fruit pots a little while ago and it was just a bit too easy to take the majority of them to work for lunch. I also appreciate anything that stops me having to wrestle with a pineapple, or decipher when a mango might be ready.

Anyway, we always have a stash of bananas in the house and I sometimes think simple is best I made a more tropical themed banana loaf (especially in time for the first week of the Great British Bake Off cake week). It turned out pretty beautifully because the banana and pineapple kept the cake soft, even after 40 minutes of baking. I made this last night and D has been eyeing it up for hours while he was waiting for me to get in from work.

To make a banana and pineapple loaf you will need:

140g butter

140g caster sugar

2 large eggs

2 bananas (slightly over ripe is best)

140g self raising flour

200g pineapple chunks (keep back the juice)

50g icing sugar

Approx 20g dessiccated coconut

Heat the oven to 180°C. Line a loaf tin. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the bananas and eggs (if doing it by hand mash the banana first). Once the wetter ingredients are mixed beat in the flour to form a creamy mix. Finally, add the pineapple chunks.

Add to the loaf tin in a smooth layer. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes, until a skewer comes out of the cake cleanly. Allow the cake to cool.

To prepare the icing add about a teaspoon of the juice the pineapple came in to form a smooth paste and thinly cover the loaf with this. To finish, sprinkle over the coconut.

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Usefully, this cake keeps for several days in an air tight tin, if you can keep the people you live with’s hands off it for long enough!

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Natures’ Finest fruit is available in most big supermarkets. It comes in coconut water or fruit juice, rather than syrup so it makes it a preferable baking ingredient and a healthier snack when you’re on the go. I was sent samples of this to try. For more recipe suggestions visit here.

Sausage, sweet potato and spinach lasagne

This recipe is one for those days when only something a bit more carb heavy and comforting will do, but at the same time you don’t want healthy eating to go completely out of the window. It was actually born because me really really craving lasagne but only having sausages in and not really being entirely enthusiastic about the whole rigmarole of making bolognese and bechamel sauce on a Thursday night. Still out of laziness comes a lot less food waste and overhearing D telling his friend about a really night lasagne I had made for him, so the recipe seems to have been successful in our house.

To make enough lasagne for 4 people you will need:

1 red onion

1 clove garlic

400g pork and leek sausages removed from their skins

3 large handfuls sweet potato chunks (I used frozen sweet potato)

3 large handfuls fresh spinach

1 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

150ml creme fraiche (I used low fat but all types work)

20g parmesan (plus extra for the top)

Salt and pepper

Approx 230g passata infused with herbs

125g buffalo mozzarella

4-5 lasagne sheets

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel and chop the onion and peel and crush the garlic. Fry on a gentle heat until soft. Add the skinned sausages and sweet potato chunks and season with the salt, pepper, marjoram and chilli. Cook over a medium heat, breaking up the sausage to smooth out, until the sweet potato has started to soften and the sausage is cooked.Add the spinach, creme fraiche and parmesan and stir until the spinach has wilted and the parmesan has melted into everything.

In a medium casserole dish make a smooth layer of this mixture. Top with your lasagne sheets (no need to pre cook). Pour over your passata. Break your mozzarella over the passata and grate over more parmesan and pepper.

Cook for about 20-25 minutes until the cheese on the top is golden.

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I think this will become part of our regular repertoire.

Seamore pasta. Sustainable. Gluten free.

The other week we got sent some Seamore seaweed pasta to try. Although excited to try out a new recipe, I must admit I was a bit dubious to try this one. I am happy trying new ingredients but I was a little wary about how this one would taste and what the texture would be like (I think I had had a stressful week, it always makes me wary about my cooking skills). However, this was a dream to cook (I just followed the instructions on the pack), the texture was good, it had a slight bite to it and it wasn’t overpoweringly seasidey tasting. I think it would be a great alternative for people with coeliac disease as I am aware gluten free pasta can get quite soft.

Now the benefits of Seamore are so numerous they provided me with this helpful inforgraphic for you. After all a picture paints a thousand words.seamore infographic

Anyway, as a sea themed meal, I served my Seamore pasta up with baked seabass for a quick weeknight meal.

For baked sea bass and Seamore pasta you will need:

1 sea bass fillet per person

1 preserved lemon

Olive oil

Chilli Flakes

1 handful cherry tomato halves per person

1 serving Seamore pasta per person

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Boil your kettle and start cooking the Seamore pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Place your sea bass skin side down on a baking tray. Sprinkle over the chilli, chop your preserved lemon and tomatoesand disperse evenly over the fish. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for approx. 15 minutes until the sea bass is opaque.

Serve the fish, lemon and tomatoes on a bed of your seaweed and enjoy!

We both really enjoyed this recipe and trying something new. Sometimes its good to get out of your comfort zone.

Seamore pasta is available to buy online and at Wholefoods stores. For more information click here.

Afternoon Tea at Blackpool Tower Ballroom

Visiting Blackpool always gives me a lot of Nostalgia. While it wasn’t somewhere my family visited as frequently, I have very specific memories of the place. Getting stuck on top of the big wheel on the pleasure beach in the pouring rain with my mum, windy games of crazy golf and going on a school trip to the tower as a very little girl. Part of the school trip involved us eating our packed lunches in the ballroom so you can understand why I jumped at the chance of reviewing their afternoon teas on here.

I brought my lovely friend Mrs E with me for this trip. As as being a fellow Yorkshire resident; she also comes from Lancashire, so she also has memories of the place. We both wholeheartedly enjoyed eating sandwiches and cake watching different couples dancing. As somebody who has never properly learned how to dance with a partner apart from the odd waltz around the living room with her father, I was impressed by the couples gliding gracefully across the dance floor. Forget Strictly, I was imagining a time when young couples met up in that very ballroom in the not too distant past.

While this wasn’t the most luxurious afternoon tea I have ever eaten, it ranks pretty highly in both taste and atmosphere. The ballroom itself is beautiful and the music from the Wurlitzer organ was very pleasant (and no, there was no rendition of “I do like to be beside the seaside). In fact, we were so distracted by the scones and tea we stropped noticing the music being quite as loud. I think its good to note that while most of the visitors were older, it is something that is lovely for all younger people too and is especially suitable for families (you can buy Slush Puppies at the bar which are a personal favourite!) For those of you who don’t know; in the Tower at Blackpool there are several attractions including the Blackpool Tower Dungeon, the Circus and the Eye at Blackpool so the Ballroom afternoon tea is an ideal place to chill out in between these and would also make a more tranquil setting for an afternoon tea for those of you considering a girls day out in Blackpool (as we were).

For those amongst you wanting finer details of the food – you could tell everything was freshly made. I don’t know what brand the tea was but we both liked it. The sandwiches were made with a pleasant variety of fillings. The scones were sultana scones and were pleasantly soft rather than crumbly. The jam provided was in those little jars and was a high quality conserve and the clotted cream was also excellent. I particularly liked the variety of little cakes (although we saved these for later as we were both too full to properly enjoy them). We had tiffin, a fruit meringue, a freshly baked miniature apple pie and a miniature cheesecake. The cheesecake was so creamy! (D’s reviews of the cakes were also very positive).

I think from this post you can tell we really did have a wonderful time and appreciate being invited to visit so much. The staff were very kind and boxed up uneaten cake for me to take home (which D enjoyed later). The only downside of the entire trip was that I happened to pick a Saturday when the weather was so horrible and stormy we were completely soaked by the time we reached the Tower. (That’s weather in the North West for you!)

For full details of Afternoon Tea and the Blackpool Tower click here.

For further details of the attractions of Blackpool Tower visit here.

We followed this visit with a trip to the Sea Life Centre and a game of crazy gold. Which I lost. Spectacularly.

Our visit to Afternoon Tea in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom was a press trip so everything was complimentary, but all views are my own. Thank you for inviting me!

Walkers Bugles (playing with my food)

Bugles

As I child I was frequently told off for playing with my food (its probably why I started enjoying baking to be honest!) Anyway, the rerelease of Walkers Bugles allowed be both to appreciate some fine crisps and also the above image of a 5ft 8 dragon and castle structure. That’s certainly impressive given that it is 5 inches taller than me! Made with 21500 Walkers Bugles and taking over 200 hours to make, I do marvel at the patience that went into making this.

We got sent some Bugles and while I attempted to make my own structures, I will wholeheartedly admit that I was even more impressed given that I had trouble stacking more than 2 of the things together.

Anyway, here are some fun pictures I created (I decided to give up and go 2D). Massive thanks to D for his Lego Avengers Crisp village suggestion!

Also, you just can’t eat Bugles without making your own claws! (I am the bad influence on my friend’s children).

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Walkers Bugles are available to buy in all good supermarkets. I was sent some Bugles to create these images but all opinions are my own.

JimJams’ Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

Anyone who knows me know’s I have a weakness for chocolate spread. I think its one of those foods that turns me a bit greedy to be honest. In fact, I often think if I had to eat my way out of a vat of food I would definitely hope it was some sort of chocolate theme spread..anyway I was very kindly sent some JimJams chocolate spread it was love. With 83% less sugar, this is kinder on children’s (and 28 year old lady’s) teeth than the leading brand. (Which I know also makes it a bit lower in calories but I believe it was developed with dental care in mind).

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Anyway, I was also sent some recipes to try out along with milk chocolate and hazelnut spreads to try so I think it was only polite to test one of them out.

To make a a Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake you will need:

200g rich tea biscuits

80g softened butter

350g JimJams Chocolate Hazelnut spread

500g cream cheese

200ml double cream

Any decoration you fancy – I used chocolate stars

Serves 8

Break the biscuits into crumbs in a food processor and blend in the butter. Press this mixture down into a loose bottomed tin measuring approx. 9 inches in diameter. Set this aside to chill in the fridge.

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Whisk your cream until it forms stiff peaks. Melt the chocolate spread in a microwave and whisk into the cream along with the cream cheese. Spread this into a thick, smooth layer over the buttery biscuit base (you can’t write a cheesecake recipe without using this term!)

Decorate as desired. Place in the fridge for 4 hours to set before serving.

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I actually enjoy cheesecake best on its own, but it would also taste great with some fruit, cream or ice cream.

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As mentioned above I was very kindly sent JimJams to try, but it is available in Holland and Barrett, Tesco and Ocado. See other retailers here. I will certainly be buying more.

Campania, Italy

As I mentioned in my previous post our trip was split between Rome and Sorrento in the South of Italy. The train network across Italy is actually really good and we actually had a lovely journey from Rome to Naples travelling first class on a very peaceful train. However, as I mentioned before the train journey from Naples to Piano di Sorrento (where we stayed) was busy and so hot I could practically feel the beads of sweat forming. I must stress though, none of the rest of our journeys on the Circumvesuviana were as crowded or as intensely warm (although their lateness caused an issue a couple of times). (Also make sure you pay for any Circumvesuviana tickets in Naples with as close to the exact change as possible. The guy in the ticket office is notorious for ripping Tourists off by giving the the incorrect change. I must stress this was not an issue in any of the other stations and the service is very inexpensive in general.

Onto the major positive – we got to visit Pompeii. Both of us had been desperate to visit the site since childhood. We were both absolutely overwhelmed by the size of it as we had underestimated this and were expecting a village rather than a city. Although it is boiling (take a lot of sun cream if visiting in the Summer) and I would urge you to remember a drink there are places to refill your bottles so you needn’t spend a fortune on staying hydrated. Anyway, it was a fascinating place and definitely a place I highly recommend visiting. Although in some ways it was sobering imagining a whole city wiped out within hours.

We also visited the main town of Sorrento and some local beaches which were so beautiful and typically Italian. Although the beach near our hotel was one where you have to pay for its use, this actually made it more secure and we felt comfortable leaving our belongings on our sun loungers while we swam in the sea.

However, one of the holiday favourites was a boat trip around Capri which stopped off at Positano. Both of which are two of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Swimming off the boat with a view of Capri was a wonderful experience. We had a few hours happily looking in all the little shops and exploring Positano. I would love to go back and spend more time in both of these places. I think that’s the thing with travel, it always gives you a thirst for more.

Fortunately, or unfortunately Piano di Sorrento absolutely ruined both of us for pizza. We discovered a pizzeria next to the station called Pizzeria All’Angolo. Popular with locals and tourists alike, we enjoyed some fantastic pizza and local wine. The waiters and the staff were all so friendly and welcoming to us and every time we have had pizza since our return we lament that it is not at this particular pizzeria. (It was also as inexpensive as it was delicious, who says you always have to pay through the nose for unforgettable dining experiences?) Although the restaurant overlooked a station car park we actually had quite a companionable time spotting local cats and giving them names. It’s the simple things in life that provide the most amusement.

All in all Italy is an unforgettable experience and I think a pretty perfect travel destination for D’s first trip abroad. However, 8 days was not nearly enough time to full explore Rome or Campania, let alone Italy as a whole.

Still, not to beat around the bush, the humidity did cause havoc with my hair and there were several days where I looked frighteningly like Hair Bear of the hair Bear Bunch. Still, it was worth it for such a wonderful holiday.