So at the risk of sounding like a broken, pastry obsessed, record; tarts are pretty standard weeknight fare for us. Although pastry is not particularly healthy I feel that the amount of vegetables makes up for this somewhat. Anyway, this is perfect for when you fancy something delicious in less that 30 minutes.
To make ham, goats cheese and rosemary tart you will need:
1 puff pastry sheet (or 1 block of puff pastry)
1 -2 large handfuls fresh spinach
About 10g butter
A splash of milk
Salt and pepper
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 handful ham (I used Yorkshire ham)
Approx 100g goats cheese
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Roll out your pastry to the size of your baking tray and use a fork to pierce holes in it. Melt the butter and brush over the pastry. Cover with the spinach and use a peeler to make thin slices of courgette over the tart. Tear your ham and rosemary into small pieces and scatter over the tart. Beat your eggs and milk and pour over the tart. Cut your cheese into small pieces (about 1cm) and top your tart with this along with the salt and pepper. Bake the tart for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisped up.
I should possibly thing of more whimsical names for my cakes. However, I’m not sure its quite me to call this something like “Fingerlicious chocolate cake” or “Chocolate decadence”. Anyway, this cake tastes dreamy, looks impressive and can be made by even the least confident of bakers. The only 2 pieces of advice to be given when making this is 1. make sure the sponges are cool prior to decoration and 2. don’t eat the chocolate fingers before you’re finished decorating. You might run out.
To make your own version of this cake you will need:
3 large eggs
170g caster sugar
155g self raising flour
15g cocoa powder
50g dark chocolate
300g icing sugar
Chocolate fingers (I used 2 1/2 packs but you may need more)
Any sweets you fancy – I used M&Ms, Magic Stars and silver balls
Preheat the oven to 180°C, cut some baking parchment to the size of your cake tins to line them. Using an electric whisk beat your eggs and sugar until they leave a trail of mixture over the surface. Sift in your flour and cocoa powder and fold in.Melt your butter and fold in, until your mix is smooth.
Separate into two cake tins and bake for around 12 minutes, until a skewer comes clean when you poke in into your cake. Set aside your cake to cool.
Make your marscarpone icing by whisking together the icing sugar and marscarpone. Melt your chocolate and slowly whisk it into the mix.
Sandwich together the 2 sponges using some of your icing. Use a pallet knife to cover your cake in a smooth layer. You’ll have made too much icing, but I freeze any excess for future baking (one day I plan to make cupcakes with a range of icing on them to use them up).
Place the chocolate fingers tightly around the edges of the cake (this makes the cake look so tidy, you’ll feel impressed with yourself).
Top with your sweets. I finished mine off by studding with the silver balls but any other cake decorations would work equally well.
Place the cake in the fridge to firm up before serving so it doesn’t squidge too much when you cut it. I made this for my friend Miss S’s birthday party and it went down a storm. So this is possibly one of the best all ages birthday cakes you can make – perfect for adults and children alike.
I’ve mentioned before that like most couples, when one of us eats out the one who’s still at home tends to eat what the other is indifferent to (or dislikes). When D is left to his own devices he likes hotdogs, I usually have prawns or mushrooms. So last Friday night I decided to have a vegetarian meal for once.
To make your mushrooms and their stuffing you will need
2 portobello mushrooms
30g blue cheese (I used Harrogate blue)
10g butter (softened)
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper
20g chopped hazelnuts
(This one goes out to all you mushroom lovers out there!)
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Remove the stalks from your mushrooms and wash them. Mash together the cheese, butter, garlic and hazelnuts. Top the mushrooms with this and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked through. I had mine with toast, but this would go well with most things.
Sometimes we all need to eat something delicious when we have a solitary meal.
It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention and lately this has been true of my weeknight cooking. Being busy at work means I’m constantly on my feet in the lab which means I’m coming home more tired than usual. Its easy under these circumstances to shove something in the oven (or even give into the temptations of the excellent chip shop down the street). However, there is something stopping this becoming a nightly occurrence and that is that I am stubborn. I don’t want to get out of the routine of cooking something decent and healthy after work and the satisfaction that gives me. Fortunately, that’s where the wonders of the internet come in, I saw these a couple of times online and decided to give my own version a whirl.
To make Mini Frittatas I used
A muffin tray (if you have a silicone one you don’t need to line it, otherwise use cake cases to stop the egg sticking)
Eggs (1 per every 2 muffin sections)
Splash of milk
Cherry tomatoes (1 per muffin section, halved)
A handful spinach
Sundried tomatoes, cut into small pieces
Salt and pepper
(These are so flexible though so feel free to mix and match the ingredients)
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the spinach at the base of the muffin tray then split the bacon, cherry tomatoes and sundried tomatoes between your desired number of muffin sections crumbling over your cheese last.
Beat together the eggs and milk and split between the muffin cases. Top with salt and pepper. Bake the eggs for 20 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through.
I served mine with sweet potato fries and more salad. I made extra as the leftovers can be eaten cold for breakfast or lunch.
Today I came to the shocking realisation that its 11 whole years since I collected my GCSE results. Congratulations to anyone who has just got theirs (or their A Level results). I’m sure they were excellent and reflect a lot of hard work and application. I clearly remember collecting my GSCE’s with my Dad and then walking around the Millgate Centre in Bury eating toffees after enrolling at my Sixth Form.
Anyway, off the topic of food for a day, I was thinking of what i was like at 16. I was certainly less sure of myself than now and uncertain of trying new things. I think if the last 11 have taught me anything its to throw myself at opportunity when I can, life is too short to look back over past events wishing you’d done things differently. So maybe that’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned since properly growing up and moving away – nobody cares what you look like half as much as you unless they’ve nothing better to worry about. Possibly the second best thing I’ve learned over time is; if a male you don’t know is talking to you when you’re out with the girls and they won’t take the hint, there’s always the option of hiding in the toilets for a few minutes.
Anyway, onto a few of my teenage concerns.
My hair. Before I discovered styling products and GHDs I felt like i was constantly battling against my hair which was very wavy during a period when it felt like everybody had identical poker straight hair. The slightest spot of rain left my desperately covering my head – woe betide any drops of water that might make my hair frizzy. Mum if you are reading this I sincerely apologise for the mornings I kept you waiting when you gave me a lift to school because I was busy straightening the front two strands of my hair.
In hindsight these two particular pieces of hair were like straw from overheating.
Never having had a boyfriend. Oh the hours I spent pondering this one! I went through periods of constant angst over my lack of ability to flirt and talk to boys. I think this is a pretty common concern, but really I needn’t have worried. Once I got to college and everyone got a bit more confident and new friendships formed I myself got a boyfriend and I watched as most of my friends did. Now I see my friends happy and settled – some married and some still single and I think of the fun we had. Not just my boyfriend and I, just my friendship group as a whole, and I sort of wish I was less intense about it. Looking back, relationships develop over time and some of my happiest memories are just doing stupid things with my friends and enjoying the last couple of years at home with my mum and dad.
That everyone secretly or not so secretly thought I was weird. This is no longer a worry. Every single boyfriend I have had has confirmed I am weird. I think everyone is and it’s what makes us unique. Embrace how you make up the rich tapestry of life (even I am not sure if I’m typing that with any level of irony!)
Being that one girl in the statistic who mysteriously became pregnant and was in such denial about it that nobody knew until she was giving birth. I can confirm that this did not happen to me. Being busy with so many extracurricular activities, violin lessons and teenage house parties never left much time to miraculously conceive.
Not being one of those cool girls who goes to gigs all the time and knows about all the latest bands. Even at 27 I wonder how I managed to A) meet a music journalist who would invite me into his world B) Maintain this relationship by feeding said music journalist a steady diet of pie, meatballs and cake. Who knew I possessed such charms?
I think these are the worries of most teenage girls in a happy, cosy home. But thinking about all the people I know of collecting results and things I can’t help wonder how their next 11 years will turn out.
Once this post goes live I will be counting down the minutes until one or other of my parents comments on it saying words to the effect of “but you don’t like salmon”. Which is actually pretty true. I eat most things but I’m not a salmon fan by any stretch of the imagination. However, in a bid to continue on our healthy eating streak I decided to make myself try it once more.
Anyway, this recipe is so easy, as long as you have a working oven you can make this while half asleep. Perfect for nights when you really can’t be bothered cooking for too long. The fresh coriander and lime work really well together and quite honestly the combination of flavours made me like salmon just a little bit more. We ate this with rice and peas enjoying all of the omega 3 goodness.
Anyway, to make this beautifully simple dish you will need
Salmon fillets (1-2 per person)
A ginger root (I keep one in the freezer on the advice of my good friend ED, you can grate it into your cooking from frozen)
1/2 lime (I actually have no idea what happened to the other half of this lime!)
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Place your salmon on a piece of tin foil large enough to make a parcel and drizzle over the soy sauce. Grate over a generous helping of ginger. Quarter your lime and squeeze over the juice, place the lime wedges between the salmon fillets. Top with the fresh coriander and wrap into a parcel. Bake for 25 minutes.
Et voila! Proof that healthy eating can be easy to prepare without scrimping on elegance.
I think when it comes to cake simple is definitely underrated. As it was D’s birthday this I obviously made him a cake. Not one to usually do cake making by halves I also made cupcakes to have at his birthday party. Simple vanilla cake is a big favourite with D (and his friends) so I thought I’d use the opportunity to sing the praises of the most versatile cake mix in my repertoire. The techniques for making this are exactly the same for the cupcakes and the full cake, just scaled up for the cupcakes.
To make the full cake you will need
170g self raising flour
170g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the filling
Good quality jam
160g soft butter
320g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk (or as we ran out of milk, i used apple juice)
For 12-14 cupcakes you will need
225g self raising flour
225g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140g butter, softened
280g icing sugar
1 teaspoons milk
Food colouring (I used blue for a Dr Who theme)
Silver balls/other cake decorations
To make your sponge mix preheat your oven to 180°C. Sift the caster sugar into a large bowl, crack in your eggs and add your vanilla essence. Whisk this mix until thick and foamy. Sift in your flour. Melt your butter and gradually whisk this into the mixture until smooth.
Depending upon whether you’re making a cake or several cupcakes either split your cake mix between two larger cake tins lined with baking paper, or between several cupcake cases in a muffin tin. Bake for around 15 minutes or until the cake is golden.
To decorate the cake sandwich together the 2 cakes with the jam.
Whisk together the butter, milk and icing sugar together to make buttercream. If you whisk the buttercream enough it goes a lovely pale colour. I always like to add the buttercream to cakes in excess and then smooth the whole thing over taking buttercream off as I go until its in a smooth even layer.
To finish off add sprinkles and candles.
Serve with an enthusiastic round of “Happy birthday to you”
To decorate the cupcakes just do the same thing but add food colouring to the buttercream (I have just discovered gel colouring and I am a fan, although my nails are now pretty blue). Decorate the cupcakes with a swirl using a flat knife, if like we you’re in a hurry and have no time to pipe. I topped my cakes with silver balls and some Dr Who decorations (we might be 27 now but we’re both big fans).
The only thing left to do under the circumstances is to eat the cake.