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P1020405

I have to say, these are the most delicious things I have ever tasted. I made them for the P.T.A. cake-sale, and the school have no idea how lucky they are that I didn’t just scoff the lot and send in some Mr Kipling confection as a substitute.

Blondies are basically a white chocolate version of brownies. There are countless recipes out there for blondies involving peanut butter and macadamia nuts, but I just wanted to keep things simple.

Incidentally, there is nothing healthy about this sweet – I have never seen so much sugar in a recipe. But it was love at first bite. I could happily get fat on these.

Ingredients

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 350g soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line and grease a baking tray. My tray is 25 x 16cm.

Melt the butter in the microwave in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, honey and vanilla extract and whisk together.

Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then add the eggs, and whisk again.

Sieve in the flour, baking powder, salt and half the chocolate. Stir gently until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Spoon the mixture into your lined tin.

Sprinkle the white chocolate over the top. (If you want to add some nuts, here’s the place to do it.)

Bake for around 25 minutes. You want a skewer to come out clean.

Blondies should be soft and chewy on the inside, just like brownies.

MAKES 18, or so.

 

 

P1020397

Life might be too short to stuff a mushroom, but these stuffed peppers were well worth the (pretty small) effort. And to be honest, this filling in a nice fat portabella would be equally delicious. If you’re worried about the ethics of using quinoa, you could replace it with bulgar wheat or couscous. Either way, this is a lovely, tasty version of a vegetarian classic.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp vegetarian Swiss Bouillon stock powder
  • 100g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 baby leek, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 courgette, finely chopped
  • 2 red peppers, sliced in two and de-seeded
  • 2 tbsp soft goats’ cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaved parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 150C.

First of all, cook the quinoa on the hob over a low temperature. Add a little bouillon for extra flavour. In general with quinoa, you use double the amount of water to grain. If necessary, add a little more water. You know it is cooked when the grain separates into a tiny kernel, and a tiny threadworm.

Gently cook the vegetables until soft and golden. Mix them into the cooked quinoa. Spoon into the peppers. Sprinkle a little goats’ cheese on top.

Bake on a moderate heat for 15-20 minutes, until the pepper is cooked. If the filling starts to burn, cover with tinfoil.

Sprinkle with flat-leaved parsley.

SERVES 2, or can be used as a vegetable side.

P1020399

This is a variation of mini chicken roulades. They are fiddly, but a little bit special – and low in calories.

Ingredients

For the roulades

  • 4 boneless, skinless free-range chicken breasts
  • 100g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 small leek, finely chopped
  • 1 small courgette, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • 1-2 tbsp low-fat fromage frais

For the sauce

  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 300ml skimmed milk
  • 2 tbsp cornflour

The roulades

Set the oven to 180C

Place the chicken fillets between two pieces of cling film and bash flat, using a rolling-pin.

Chop the vegetables finely. Cook them in a tiny bit of oil, until just soft. Put half the vegetables to one side to use later in the sauce.

Now turn to the vegetables for the filling:  add enough fromage frais to bind the vegetables together.

Put a teaspoon of the filling on each chicken breast, and roll up, securing with a cocktail stick.

Place the chicken rolls on a piece of tin-foil. Pour over a tablespoon of chicken stock and wrap tightly in the foil (you might want to remove the cocktail stick at this stage).

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes.

The sauce

Cook the remaining vegetables in the stock until it has almost completely reduced. Remove from the heat.

In a large jug, pour a little of the milk into the cornflour and mix well. Add the rest of the milk to the jug.

Pour the milk into the vegetable/stock mixture and slowly build up the heat, stirring continuously. Bring to the boil and simmer for two-three minutes.

SERVES 4 (I usually halve the recipe)

P1020390

No-one needs a recipe for rice crispie cakes, but I thought Beth looked cute in the photo and I wanted to celebrate the fact that we’ve finally finished the Easter eggs, yay! We melted the last ones down this afternoon.

Ingredients

  • chocolate
  • rice crispies
  • marshmallows

Melt the chocolate. Pour in some rice crispies. Stir. Spoon into cake cases. Decorate with marshmallows. Refrigerate. Done.

P1020383

P1020344

This is the easiest thing in the world to make. The children sometimes make it as an end-of-term gift for their teachers.

Ingredients

  • 125g softened unsalted butter
  • 300g chocolate, broken into pieces – I used 200g of dark chocolate and 100g milk chocolate
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 1 tsp icing sugar, for dusting

You could also try adding popcorn, dried fruit, chopped nuts or even Maltesers.

The first job is to line your tin. This recipe is just fine for my tin which is 25cm x 16cm.

Then, gently melt the chocolate, butter and syrup in a thick bottomed pan. Don’t allow it to get too hot, or you’ll melt the marshmallows.

Whilst the chocolate etc. are melting, put the biscuits in a plastic freezer bag and bash with a rolling-pin. Don’t go mad, you do want a bit of chunk in your tarmac.

When your chocolate has completely melted, stir in your marshmallows, cherries and any other ingredients. I sprinkle a few mini marshmallows on top, just to look pretty.

Refrigerate overnight.

This is such a rich sweet that you can cut it into pretty small pieces. Dust with a little icing sugar.

Enjoy.

P1020347

This dessert is so pretty, and the picture doesn’t do it justice. I often make it when we have guests, or for example, this weekend when we had a very special Birthday to celebrate. It’s not difficult to make, but it is time-consuming. On the plus side, it can be made in stages in advance; and if you like, you can cheat by buying your own pastry.

Ingredients

For the pâté sucrée pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 90g softened, unsalted butter
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks

For the apple filling

  • 700g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • a few tablespoons of water – added a little at a time
  • 2 tablespoons demerara sugar

For the topping

  • 450g pretty pink or red apples, cored, quartered and sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons of apricot jam

The pâté sucrée

This is the trickiest part of the dish. It can be fiddly to handle, often tears, and I usually end up with a bit of a patchwork pastry base. The good news is, no-one will ever know.

First things first; pre-heat the oven to 190C, then line and grease a loose-bottomed flan case.

Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, and add the butter, sugar and egg yolks. Rub in the butter, sugar and egg yolks with your fingertips, until you get ‘breadcrumbs’.

Using a knife, gather the breadcrumbs into a ball of dough, knead briefly, but don’t overwork it. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the ‘fridge for half an hour.

Roll out the pastry, and ease it into the loose-bottomed flan case. Trim off any excess pastry.

Prick the pastry with a fork, line with baking paper, and scatter baking beans over the top. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or so, until the pastry is crisp.

The apple filling

The important thing here is not to let the apple burn or dry out. If you like you can make the filling the day before, or make it well in advance and freeze it.

Put the apple chunks in a thick-bottomed pan. Add water, just a couple of tablespoons at this stage. Heat gently until the apple is soft. You need to keep an eye on it all the time, adding more water when necessary.

For a really smooth filling, press the apple purée through a nylon sieve. This is a bit of an effort, but well worth it.

Return the sieved purée to the saucepan, add the sugar and bring to the boil. Stir, stir, stir. Be really careful not to burn it. You want to finish up with a quite thick purée.

Allow to cool, then spoon it into the pastry case.

The topping

Arrange the apple slices in circles on top of the tart. Bake for 30-35 minutes – but keep an eye on it – you want the apples to be tender and just a little brown at the edges.

Melt the jam – you could sieve it if you are after perfection – and brush it over the top of the tart. Allow the jam to set.

Enjoy served at room temperature with cream or ice-cream.

P1020333

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall calls this recipe the more prosaic “Pasta with raw tomato”, but I think my title sums up this wonderful vegetarian dish more accurately. It is the perfect summer supper, especially when you can find ripe and tasty tomatoes. I was so pleased when we had a few days of sunshine so I could make this again. The recipe comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s marvellous River Cottage Veg Every Day!. It is my favourite cookery book, and I urge you to buy it.

Ingredients

  • 750g ripe tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • a handful of shredded basil leaves
  • a splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 350g pasta
  • salt and pepper

You can see from the picture that I used spaghetti this time, but only because it is what I had in the cupboard. Normally I would follow Hugh’s suggestion and use penne, conchigliette or oricchiette. He also says to use chilli, which I find too dominant here, and I prefer it without. Hugh tells you to rinse your capers – I don’t, but I wonder if Hugh uses salted capers, where I use pickled capers. Finally, as usual, while I skin my tomatoes, I don’t de-seed.

Prick your tomatoes with a fork and then place in a jug of boiling water. Leave for a minute or so, fish out and peel the skin off. Chop to bite-size, and put in a bowl with the capers, garlic, olive oil and basil.

Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions.

Mix it all together.

Enjoy. No need for parmesan. Sometimes I add some finely chopped fennel.

SERVES 4.

P1020323

This is a lovely, fresh, low-calorie chicken recipe to welcome in the spring.

Ingredients

  • 2 rashers of lean, unsmoked bacon, chopped
  • 4-5 shallots, either left whole, or chopped in half
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size strips
  • 1 baby leek, sliced
  • a splash of white wine (optional)
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • 100g frozen petits-pois
  • 1 baby gem lettuce, finely sliced

Heat the oven to 200C.

Dry fry the bacon in a non-stick oven-proof dish for about a minute, then remove from the pan. Add the chicken and shallots and allow to brown. If you like you could add a splash of white wine here, allow to reduce, then add the leeks and the chicken stock. Return the bacon to the dish.

Put in the oven for 25 minutes. Then add in your frozen peas and allow to cook for another four minutes.

Just before you are ready to eat, add the sliced lettuce.

We served with brown basmati rice.

SERVES 2

Here's one I made earlier

Here's one I made earlier

Hi, my name's Helen and I live in London with my husband and two children. When I started piping the potato on my shepherd's pies, my husband suggested that it might be a good idea for me to find an outlet for my creativity, so here we are. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, the extra twist is that I don't eat meat (I do eat fish though) and Jim, who loves meat, is always on a diet. Here are a few recipes that I have enjoyed making for my family.

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