These cheese straws are rather moody looking. Kind of designer straws. But they’re not in any way moody to eat. I can’t stress enough how much joy these bring. They take very little time to knock up, deliver lots of flavour and are a perfect snack for younger members of the family as well as being loved by the older red wine drinkers of the family. READ MORE
I try and schedule blog posts, I really do. I try to be organised. Like with this chocolate flapjack recipe – well it’s a bit off the cuff because I never meant to blog it. I just made it one day because I was in a really bad mood about some sticker printing issues I am having with Mrs Bell’s Brownies. I was so angry I needed to bake. And I wanted something that felt like a breakfast item with added naughtiness. And this recipe for pecan and hazelnut chocolate flapjack was born. READ MORE
Now I made a similar pie to this on This Morning and it was easy, oh so easy. You just stirred it on the hob, covered it in raw sliced potatoes, covered it and left it in the oven until your stomach couldn’t stand waiting any longer. It was a week night pie that everyone likes. My 9 month old son especially loved it and started to jump in his high chair when faced with a plate of lamby potatoey pea based goodness.
But I know you lot. I know that although you like fuss free recipes, you’re also the types to like a bit more of a challenge. I know you do buy puff pastry, but also reserve the right to make your own pie coverings when the mood takes you. So this is the weekend version of the one I made on This Morning. The lamb is stewed that little bit longer for depth of flavour. The pie lid isn’t potato, it’s flaky homemade rough puff. The stuff I made on the Bake Off that made Paul Hollywood say something vaguely positive about one of my bakes. I urge you to make it. Go on…
I made this pie using the Kenwood Chef Sense which is available here. The full video of the recipe is below and can also be viewed here, plus some top tips on getting really crisp pastry without a soggy bottom in sight here.
Place the butter (apart from 50g of it) and lard into the freezer an hour before you start making the pastry.
Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. To make the pie filling toss the lamb in the flour, black pepper and salt. Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat and fry the lamb in 3 batches to brown, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove from the pan and add to a casserole dish with a fitted lid.
Dice the onion using the Kenwood and fry in the remaining oil until just starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the stock, mint, thyme and nutmeg and allow to simmer for 2 minutes before pouring into the casserole dish. Add the lid and oven bake for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so.
Put your flour into the mixer bowl and add the 50g of room temperature butter , using the K beater, mix the butter into the flour for a couple of minutes until you have a breadcrumb consistency. Remove the frozen butter and lard from the fridge and grate it using the grating attachment into the floury butter mixture. Using the K beater mix again until all the strands of frozen butter and lard are coated in flour – this should only take a few turns. Next add the vinegar and the water very slowly with the K beater at the lowest setting. Just as the pastry comes together into clumps stop.
Flour your work surface well and pull the pastry together with your hands forming a square flat shape. Then flour the top of it and roll into a long rectangle about 4mm thick. Mentally divide the pastry into thirds, then fold the right side over to meet the first third and the left side over to do the same so you have a piece of pastry with three layers. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes. Repeat this step three more times using flour each time, then chill for an hour before rolling to use on the pie.
When the lamb is tender and the sauce has reduced down remove from the oven and add the frozen peas. Stir and leave to cool. Place into a 22cm pie dish (metal preferably) at least 3cm high and chill the pie dish complete with filling.
Roll the pastry out to about 2mm thick onto a well floured work surface and then cut a circle about 2cm larger than the pie dish. Use any off cuts to cut into strips to stick to the pie rim with egg wash. Then egg wash these strips and attach the pie lid to the top of the pie. Cut a cross in the middle for steam to escape and egg wash the top of the pie. Then bake in a preheated oven at 200C/gas mark 7 for about 50 minutes until the pastry is golden brown, puffed up and the pie filling is piping hot.
This whole book malarkey has crept up on me. It seems like forever that I’ve been explaining that the book isn’t out just yet, but soon, honestly soon. And then here I am preparing for the book being out very soon indeed – next week in fact. (The 17th to be precise.) Huge thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered (I’m hoping it’s not just my Dad?) and if you want to try before you buy here’s a recipe from the book just for you. It’s from the ‘Presents’ chapter – lots of recipes for giving to those you love. Or keeping for yourself.
If you want to read about the book and find out what’s in it have a click here. If you are veggie (or thinking of buying for a veggie) and want to know if the book is suitable have a click here. (It is.) Or if you’re a gung ho type of a person and just fancy ordering it then click here. Oh and if you want to see me in all my post natal glory then tune into Loose Women on Wednesday 9th at 12.30pm on ITV.
Line 3 baking sheets with non-stick greaseproof paper. Cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and creamy using an electric mixer or wooden spoon. Adding a little at a time, gently beat in the flour until well combined. Mix in the egg to bind the mixture. Wrap in cling film and chill for 1½ hours.
Roll the shortbread out on a lightly floured surface until about 3/4cm thick using a floured rolling pin. Using a 7cm-wide circular cookie cutter, cut circles from the dough. Place the circles on the lined baking sheets about 2cm apart.
Then find something that is just smaller than the cutter that you used – either a smaller cutter or a glass that is at least 6cm-wide – and lightly press down on the centre of each button to make an indent, to represent the inner circle of the button. Do not press hard enough to cut through the dough. Use a skewer or the end of a straw to make 4 little holes in the middle of each biscuit in a grid fashion and then chill on the baking sheets for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 6. Bake the biscuits for 10–12 minutes in the middle of the oven until just starting to brown at the edges. Remove the buttons from the trays and leave to cool on a wire rack. Place a few in a gift bag and tie with a pretty ribbon, or thread some thin ribbon through the holes if you’re feeling extra genteel.
So 13 days ago I gave birth to a baby boy. Our third little boy who is a pleasure and a delight. I’m so in love all over again with the children I feel a little drunk. Love drunk and blessed. Number three is a relaxed little chap who sleeps well, feeds well and likes to take it all in through his very dark blue eyes. He’s as delicious as these biscuits.
Cream together the butter and sugar until really light and creamy looking – about 4 minutes in a stand mixer, about 6 with a handheld mixer of 8 – 10 by hand with a wooden spoon. Add the egg dribble by dribble, beating well after each addition. Lastly add the flour and baking powder and mix until combined. Use your hands to pull the mixture together, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 40 minutes.
Use a little flour to dredge the work surface and coat a rolling pin then roll the biscuit dough to about 3 – 4mm thick. Cut out shapes and pop onto a baking tray (you can line with non stick parchment though these biscuits didn’t stick on my baking trays without it) then chill the whole tray in the fridge for 15 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. (The chilling is what keeps the shape of the biscuits, as does the preheating of the oven – you need cold biscuits to hit a hot oven and immediately bake. Skipping either step can result in biscuits that spread. They’ll still taste fine but won’t look so pretty.)
Bake the chilled biscuits for 10 -12 minutes until they’re just starting to brown at the edges. Leave for 5 minutes to cool on the tray then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Either serve as they are or sandwich together with buttercream/jam.
NB: This recipe makes a LOT of biscuits. Maybe think about freezing some of the dough or even cutting out the biscuits and freezing them in their little shapes. Pop in a freezer bag and bake from frozen allowing 5 minutes extra baking time.
It’s half term. In fact, it’s half time of half term. Meaning either you’re staring into a large glass of wine and wondering how little babies turned into such mischievous creatures… or you’re wondering whether a move to another country where the kids start school later and allow more bonding time might be just the ticket.
Whether you’re basking in half term glory or cowering under the dining room table covered in poster paint you might be in need of a little activity to keep everyone busy. You don’t need biscuit recipes from me. You don’t need cupcake recipes from me. You can find them in this blog for sure, but really, at the moment, what you need is granola. Put the little darlings to work making something that’ll sustain you through the next two weeks of early starts and that might also bring a little smile to your face. And just for the record, I have no proof this stuff is good for you. It looks like it is though, right?
Makes a large kilner jar that holds 3 litres of liquid
80g brown sugar
200g porridge oats
30g sesame seeds
150g whole almonds
70g jumbo raisins
160g chopped dried figs
Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3 and spread 2 baking sheets with non stick baking paper. Melt the brown sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan until just molten. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Here’s where the angels come in; ask the kids to weigh the oats, seeds and almonds and then mix in a large bowl. Add the melted butter and sugars being careful not to splash anything hot on little people. Ask the helpers to mix well and then spread carefully over the baking sheets in one thin layer.
Bake for 15 minutes then turn the granola mixture over using a slice/spoon and bake again for another 20 minutes, checking for any burning periodically. You are looking for a golden brown colour to develop. Take the trays from the oven and press the granola down with a potato masher then return to the oven for 5 – 10 minutes until a lovely brown slab of granola has developed.
Remove and leave to cool. When cold ask clean little hands to break the granola up into bite size pieces and mix with the dried fruit. Pour into jars and enjoy with yoghurt/milk/fresh fruit or whatever you fancy.
Please note that if you can’t find any of the seeds simply substitute with another seed or more oats. Also as one reader has pointed out linseed and flaxseed are the same thing – the linseed I buy comes in seed form and the flaxseed is powdered and adds bulk. But on the seed front add whatever you fancy.
We’ve only gone and done it. We’ve completely and utterly joined the ranks of the middle classes by booking a camping holiday to France. It’s just so bloody typical I can feel my cheeks reddening as I tell people. Of course we’re not proper middle class or we’d actually be camping, you know, in one of those tents where you can stand up and they have actual rooms and a fridge and everything.
No. That is not for us. We are going for the wimps version. We’re staying in a (gulp) VIP chalet. What that means is we are staying in a static caravan with Ikea style decor and an iPod dock. A total campers cop out, I know. I’m awaiting my sons to ask why we aren’t sleeping in a tent or even one of the treehouses.
We almost did. My hand hovered over the last treehouse available to book. If I’d had one more glass of wine that evening it may have happened. Alas, my husband is the voice of health and safety in this house and pointed out that youngest kamikaze son would probably not return alive such is his sense of ‘adventure.’ So a caravan holiday it is. Only without the penny arcades of the Mablethorpe of my youth.
So if anyone has any tips, advice, thoughts on how best to enjoy a static caravan holiday masquerading as a camping holiday in the Loire Valley please do speak up. In the meantime here are some orange butter biscuits I made for a pal who always holidays in France and always does it in a tent. She is what one calls a proper camper. (She has a trailer.)
Makes 16 – 25 dependant on the size of the cutters you use
240g self raising flour
100g vanilla infused caster sugar
100g salted butter
Zest of one orange
1 large room temperature egg
Mix the flour and sugar well, then rub in the butter until you have a fine breadcrumb consistency. (You can use your KitchenAid at speed 1 with the flat beater to do this, ensure butter a little soft though.) Then use a blunt knife to mix through the orange zest. Lastly use the egg to bind. Wrap the biscuit mixture in clingfilm and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes. I left mine in the fridge overnight and baked first thing.
Roll onto a lightly floured surface using a floured rolling pin to a thickness of about 3mm. Cut out shapes and bake in a preheated oven at 180C/Gas 4 for about 12 minutes until the biscuits are lightly browned. Leave to cool a little on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. These biscuits would LOVE to be drizzled in chocolate if you had any spare. (Ponders… who has spare chocolate?)
NB: Try to only re-roll the scraps from the first batch of shapes you cut out once more as the more you handle this dough the tougher it becomes. Also, if you’re very worried about the biscuits holding their shape then chill the cut out shapes on the baking tray for 20 minutes before baking them.
I love Autumn, in fact I love Winter too. Spring’s good. Summer I am shy of. It’s the need to bare flesh and drink white wine rather than red that just doesn’t sit too well with me. But Autumn with your ’70s brown and orange colour scheme and your leaving the house cold air slap in the face and your chin skimming scarves and your comfort blanket roast dinners and your warming, lip staining red wine and your scalding crumbles and your crack and crunch toffee apples and your oohs and aahs at the fireworks that last all of 2 minutes. Autumn, I love you.
Is there anything more Autumnal than oats, apples and blackberries? Here’s a little video I made with Sainsbury’s of these flapjacks. I *may* have taken two trays home from the shoot. They were that good.
150g salted butter, cut into cubes
75g demerera sugar
120g golden syrup
300g porridge oats
50g apple, cut into chunks
100g blackberries (fresh or frozen)
Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas 4. Grease a 20cm square baking tin and line with baking parchment.
Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together in a large saucepan. Stir in the porridge oats and fold through the apple and blackberries.
Pour into the baking tin and bake for 25 mins until golden. Cut into 16 squares while hot and then leave to cool in the tray.
If you like flapjacks but want to make your mix go a bit further you can save money by making these flapjack balls. (Also loved by kids, it might be their miniature nature.) Or if you want to make your flapjacks a little bit different adding jam to the middle is delicious. And my favourite alternative to regular flapjacks has to be this no bake version using muesli, butter and toffees. It’s very easy and very moreish. Dangerous!
I’m a mum of 3 boys, a cookbook writer and also a finalist on the 2011 Great British Bake Off.
I’ve decided to record the recipes I use, partly to save them somewhere and partly in case someone else might like to use them...
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