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Poor Beth’s been off school with chicken pox, so we made these together as a spotty treat to keep her entertained.



What’s not to like? Rather weirdly, I’ve been hankering after nettles for ages. Today we went for a walk in the woods and I was compelled to have a little forage. I think it is probably too late in the season to be picking nettles, but I made sure to just pick the very youngest of leaves. The children thought I was crazy, which secretly amused me no end.


  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • a bag of fresh nettles
  • a knob of butter
  • a swish of cream
  • ground black pepper

Wash the nettles, I’ve tagged this recipe as vegetarian, but I have to tell you that there were a few little green-fly fluttering around. (Incidentally, it is wise to pick your nettles above knee height, for obvious reasons!)

Gently fry the onion, allow to soften. Add the leek and garlic and cook until completely soft, but be careful not to brown. Add the vegetable stock, then the nettles. Wilt.

Whizz it together in a food processor and return to heat.

Add a little butter and a swirl of cream.




Of course these don’t need to be pirate cakes, but I made them for the school disco, and I thought they would make a change from the usual pink fairy cakes. These are a delicious chocolate cup cake, made with hot chocolate powder instead of cocoa, and a chocolate ganache topping. The pirate decorations were from Sainsbury’s. The recipe is very slightly adapted from Milk Chocolate Cupcakes in Annie Bell’s Baking Bible, a cook book I find I’m turning to more and more.


The cakes

  • 1 heaped tablespoon of hot chocolate powder, dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 110g self-raising flour

The ganache

  • 125g milk chocolate
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp milk

For the cakes

Pre-heat the oven to 200C

Make the hot chocolate/hot water mixture first, to give it time to cool.

Whisk together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, little by little, then the cooled chocolate mixture.

Fold in the flour.

Spoon the mixture into muffin cases and bake for around 20 minutes.

For the ganache

Once the cakes have cooled you can turn to the chocolate topping.

Break the chocolate into small pieces, add in the butter and melt, very slowly in the microwave.

(Most people will tell you that you should melt chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water. I’m not patient enough for this, and as long as you take it very slowly, this method usually works, but please feel free to do it the proper way.)

Whisk in the milk.

Add a spoonful onto each cake. I added the chocolate decorations when the ganache was still warm.



Of course these can be any shape you like, but the children wanted to be involved in the Valentine’s Day celebrations. We also made love-stars and moonstruck biscuits, which Beth decorated beautifully, as you can see below.


  • 90g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Prepare two oven trays by lining with baking parchment.

Cream together the butter and sugar, add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk again.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt and combine until you have a soft dough.

Roll into a ball, wrap with cling-film and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

Roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness and cut into the lovingest of heart-shapes.

Lay the shapes onto your prepared baking sheets – allow room for  the biscuits to spread a little during cooking.

Cook for about 7 minutes – but keep an eye on them – don’t let them burn!

Sprinkle with a little sugar whilst they are still warm. Or allow too cool and decorate as extravagantly as possible.



I wanted to make something healthy (or at least pretend-healthy) for the children’s lunch boxes. Beth and I made these together yesterday. Then she told me she doesn’t like nuts. Then Sam told me he doesn’t like nuts (this is not true). They wouldn’t eat them. They each have a penguin biscuit in their lunch box today. I am eating the granola bars. And they are lovely.


  • 120g sultanas
  • 30g cranberries
  • 200ml apple juice
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 200g oats (I used an oat/bran mix)
  • 25g toasted sesame seeds
  • 75g toasted sunflower and pumpkin seed mix
  • 25g toasted almond flakes
  • 25g chopped pecan nuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

First of all, put the sultanas and cranberries in a small pan, cover with apple juice and simmer for about 12 minutes.

Toast any nuts or seeds as required – make sure they don’t burn!

Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Line a small baking tray.

Melt the butter and sugar together, add the honey. Then add the oats, nuts and seeds, fruit and vanilla extract. Stir well.

Pour the mixture into a your lined baking tray and press down well.

Bake for 25 minutes or so.

Allow to cool before cutting into squares.



New year, old bananas. I have a freezer full of bananas, as usual. So when I needed to make something for the school lunch boxes, it had to be something banana-based. This tray-bake is very, (very) loosely based on my staple banana cake recipe, but I have added some orange and a dark chocolate drizzle, and omitted the cream cheese topping, among other things.

Incidentally, in addition to the banana cake, Sam is getting a fresh banana in his lunch box tomorrow.


  • 125g softened butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bananas
  • juice of one orange
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 25g dark chocolate for drizzling
  • You could, if you like, add chocolate chips to the above ingredients

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Grease and line a baking tray (mine is 28cm x 18cm).

Whisk the butter and sugar together, add the honey and orange zest. Beat in two eggs, and then two bananas.

Add the juice of the orange, whisk again.

Add the self-raising flour (and if including, now would be a good time for the chocolate chips). Mix until the flour is fully incorporated into the batter.

Pour the mixture into your baking tray.

Bake for around 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Once the cake has fully cooled, drizzle some melted dark chocolate over the top.

If you want to be really adventurous, you could use melted Terry’s Chocolate Orange instead of normal dark chocolate.

Makes about 12 squares.


Over the summer we travelled to France by ferry. Sam was very impressed with the pasta box which we bought in the on-board restaurant. Since he so rarely enjoys tomato-based sauces, I did my very best to re-create it once we got back home.

We call it ferry-box pasta because we bought it on the ferry, and it was served in a box.

Obviously the idea behind cutting up the vegetables so small is to cunningly disguise them. I like to keep a few vegetables big enough to pick out so the children have the illusion of control.


  • olive oil for frying
  • 1/4 onion, very finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp demerara sugar
  • a dash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 chicken breast, chopped
  • about 5 small brown mushrooms – finely diced, but keep a couple to one side and cut them into bigger chunks
  • 1/4 courgette, very finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, very finely diced
  • 200ml passata
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • a sprinkle of herbes de Provence
  • a handful of pitted black olives
  • 200g pasta (dry weight)
  • some chopped parsley and basil

Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

Meanwhile, fry the onion over a low heat, until it begins to caramelise. Add the demerara and balsamic vinegar and turn up the heat a little.

Remove the onions from the pan. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until browned.

Now add the mushrooms, courgette and garlic. Cook until they too are nicely browned. Return the onions to the pan.

Add the passata and chicken stock. Reduce. Throw in a handful of olives.

When the pasta has cooked, drain and stir it into the pan with the sauce.

Sprinkle over some chopped parsley and basil.



It has taken me forever to hone my recipe for the simple flapjack. I have struggled to find that perfect chewyness for far too long. I thought the secret was in the length of the bake but finally I have stumbled across the solution: just add sweetened condensed milk. Of course you can add sultanas, cranberries, ginger, but I like my flapjacks plain.

I make these for the children’s lunch boxes. I pretend they are healthier than chocolate biscuits. But once you’ve seen the butter and sugar melting together in the pan, you’ll know that there is nothing healthy about flapjacks.


  • 200g butter
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 397g (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
  • 500g porridge oats

Set the oven to 190C.

Grease and line a baking tray – mine is about 16cm x 16cm.

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan. When the sugar is no longer grainy, pour in the oats. Stir until the buttery, sugary, syrupy mixture has coated the oats.

Pour into the baking tray, and pat down.

Bake for about 10 minutes until the flapjacks start to turn golden.

Remove from the oven, when they have cooled just a little, mark out the squares and remove from the baking tray.


I saw these on a Sainsbury’s recipe card, and thought it would be a fun thing to make with the children. But when I came to look at the recipe I saw, horror of horrors, that the first ingredient is a 225g pack of basics sponge mix! I think we can do better than that. So here’s our version of the Sainsbury’s travesty.


  • 100g softened butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 125g raspberries
  • 1 nectarine, stoned, sliced
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Set the oven to 180C.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating continuously.

Sieve the flour and fold into the other ingredients.

Set 12 raspberries to one side. Fold the rest of the fruit into the cake mixture.

Spoon the mixture into cake cases.

Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes.

While the cakes are still warm, brush the honey over each cake and top with a raspberry. Dust lightly with icing sugar.

We loved them served warm. These are best eaten on the day they are made – they can get very soggy by day two.



I always find pasta-making a great school holiday activity and we had four egg yolks left over from the figgy meringue pudding, so tonight’s supper was a no-brainer. Pasta-making is (at least) a two-person job, and Sam is a great helper and enthusiastic handle-turner.


As a general rule, use 100g flour for each egg, and 100g flour per (adult) portion. My quantities are slightly different because I had left-over egg yolks, but this worked just fine.

  • 200g pasta flour
  • 4 egg yolks and 1 whole egg
  • a splash of water
  • squid ink (optional)

Put the flour in large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the egg. Give a little stir with a knife, then let the kids in to work the ingredients together with their grubby little hands.

Add a splash of cold water and bring the mixture together into a doughy ball. Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate for an hour or so.

Now it is time to bring out the pasta machine.

Sprinkle some flour on the table.

Squeeze the dough through the pasta machine, rolling it thinner and thinner each time. If necessary, cut your sheets into two. Allow a little rest, I think the pasta sheets benefit from a little drying out (but not too much!). Now it is time to run it through the cutters.

Throw the pasta into boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain.

We served with salmon and broccoli.


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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