Friday, 29 February 2008

Sausage and Tomato Pasta

In our home we love pasta and it plays a weekly repertoire, it's one of those dishes that are the answer to a quick and easy meal or a big affair like a lasagne for entertaining friends or family. This recipe is one of many favorites in our home. I like using different shaped pasta and today I've used Festoni pasta which I bought at Waitrose. I also use the thinner sausages which I grill instead of frying, before cutting into bite sized pieces.

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
4 thick pork sausages, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200ml/7fl oz medium white wine
1 tbsp tomato purée
400g can chopped tomatoes
500g pack rigatoni or penne
Handful of basil leaves, torn, (optional)
Parmesan, to serve

1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan (preferably not non-stick) and add the sausages. Fry for about 8 mins until golden and cooked through. Tip in the garlic and fry for 1 min. Pour in the white wine and boil until it has reduced by half.

2. Stir in the tomato purée and tomatoes, and season to taste. Simmer for 15 mins until the sauce is rich and thick.

3. While the sauce cooks, boil the pasta according to pack instructions and drain. Stir in the basil if using, and cooked pasta into the sauce, then serve in bowls with grated or shaved parmesan.

Lime Drizzle Loaf~She put the lime in the coconut and baked up this yummy loaf..

I want to thank Rosie from Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake for sharing this wonderful recipe, thank you so much sweetie! Yesterday while chatting on MSN she showed me this recipe and we both decided that we had to make this asap. It sounded so good and I was drooling reading the recipe, let alone viewing the picture. Well folks this cake IS drool-worthy and absolute tropical heaven. If you love citrussy cakes with the added flavour of coconut, then this is the cake for you! I will be making this cake again and it will be especially good served in the summer ;o)

For the cake
175g (6oz) self-raising flour, sifted with a pinch of salt
175g (6oz) butter, diced
175g (6oz) golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
50g (2oz) sweetened and tenderised coconut (you can use dessicated coconut)
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1tsp baking powder

For the icing
1 lime
125g (4oz) golden icing sugar, sifted
1tbsp sweetened and tenderised coconut (or dessicated coconut) to decorate

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven) mark 4. Line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with a greaseproof loaf liner.

2 Put the flour, salt, butter, sugar, eggs, coconut, lime zest and juice and baking powder in the bowl of a freestanding mixer, fitted with a K beater. Mix together slowly, gradually increasing the speed and mixing for 2min.

3 Pour the mixture (it'll be quite runny) into the tin and bake in the oven for 45-55min or until golden, well risen and cooked through - a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. Leave to cool for 10min then lift out the cake, keeping it in the liner.

4 To make the icing, finely grate the zest from the lime and cut away the white pith. Chop the lime flesh, then put in a mini processor with the zest and whiz for 1-2min until finely chopped. Add the icing sugar and blend until smooth. Pour over the cake then sprinkle the coconut on top to decorate.

Breakfast Bars

I bought Nigella Express last year and this was one of many recipes that I had book marked to make but I had completely forgotten about (that's what happens when you have so many cookbooks), that is until I was browsing the wonderful world of food blogs and came across this recipe on various blogs. So I decided that it was high time I also tried them after hearing great reviews. Well all I can say is I have been missing out big time; these are so good and yep addictive. They were so easy to make too, even if they do take an hour to bake but let me tell you they are worth that long baking time! I have a feeling that these babies won't be around to see the end of the weekend, especially considering my son has his friend staying over today!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Nice Matters Award x 2

I had the most wonderful surprise today when Rosie from Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake awarded me the Nice Matters Award. I feel so touched and it really is a great feeling knowing you have friends that appreciate and admire what you bring to the foodie blog world. I would like to also dedicate this to all my fellow bloggers who are ALL deserving of this award!

Please feel free to attach this award to your blog ;o)

Thanks so much Rosie!

Dell from Cooking and the City has also kindly passed me the Nice Matters Award. Thanks so much sweetie, this really means a lot to me!

Blueberry and Lemon Muffins

A light and healthy treat for breakfast, lunch or snack time. These blueberry muffins have the added flavour of lemon, which really brings out all the flavours wonderfully.

Blueberry and Lemon Muffins

175g plain flour
75g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs
50g butter, melted
175ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon rind
150g blueberries

Preheat oven to 200oC/180oC fan/gas 6. Grease or line 12 muffin tins.

Sift the flour, caster sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

Lightly whisk the egss in another bowl, then add the melted butter, milk, vanilla and lemon rind and stir until combined.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Using a large metal spoon, stir until the flour is moistened and incorporated but not until the mixture is smooth.

Gently fold the blueberries into the mixture with a metal spoon until they are evenly distributed.

Spoon the mixture into the tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Mincemeat Tealoaf

I was visiting Mrs B's Baking Blog and came across her delicious looking Sunshine Tealoaf and it gave me the idea to bake a tealoaf for the hubby (my hubby loves tealoaf) and at the same time use up some of my left over home-made mincemeat from xmas. This loaf is moist and full of flavour, perfect to accompany a cup of hot tea/coffee. I have a feeling this won't last long!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

THE Best Carrot Cake

My in laws are coming over tomorrow for Sunday lunch and I was really tempted to make Dell's Buttermilk Lime Cake but as I've made a Lemon Tart for dessert I didn't want to over-do it with the citrus, so I went for what I can only describe as the best carrot cake recipe I've tried so far. I have made this carrot cake many times and it's always gone down a treat, with many compliments. The cream cheese frosting is divine and this is the perfect cake to serve with tea on a Sunday afternoon with the in laws!

Carrot Cake recipe:

4 eggs, lightly beaten
250g caster sugar
185ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
400g carrots, peeled and grated
55g chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting:
180g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
180g cream cheese
3 drops vanilla extract
Walnut halves to decorate (optional)

Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas4. Grease and flour a 24 cm springform tin or bundt pan. Whisk eggs and sugar until creamy, then whisk in the oil. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon. Add this to the eggs and whisk. Add the carrots and nuts and mix together. Scrape into tin and bake for an hour. Once the cake has cooled; For the icing whip the butter and icing sugar together until its stiff. Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla. Spread over the cake. And decorate with walnut halves.

The recipe is by Tessa Kiros and if you have never come across any of her books then you are missing out. Two of my favorite books by her are Apples for Jam and Falling Cloudberries, they are so beautifully illustrated and full of recipes inspired by her childhood and family.

Lemon Tart

This is my first attempt at Lemon Tart and I will confess that I've cheated and this recipe is from Delia's new cookbook, How to Cheat at Cooking. I'm not going to pretend to enjoy doing my own pastry all the time and I believe in an easy life and buying ready-made pastry is not a "bakers" crime. Pastry chefs train for years to perfect the art of making pastry and more celebrity chefs nowadays are using ready made. In this recipe you buy the M&S all-butter sweet pastry case and then make the filling, bake it, cool it and then chill it. And voila you have a gorgeous Lemon Tart!

I have my in laws over for Sunday lunch tomorrow and I have made this tart for dessert. I will be serving it with Crème fraîche and strawberries.

Lemon Tart

195g large all-butter sweet pastry case (M&S)
312g jar Tiptree lemon curd (or any good quality lemon curd)
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons half-fat crème fraîche
Unrefined icing sugar, for dusting

Pre-heat oven to 170oC/gas 3. In a large bowl, mix together the lemon curd, lemon zest, lemon juice, beaten egg and crème fraîche. Place the pastry case on a baking sheet, pour the lemon filling into the pastry case.

Bake the lemon tart for 20-25 minutes, until it is set and feels springy. Leave tart to cool, then chill in the fridge for 1 ½ hours. Lightly dust with icing sugar. Serve with crème fraîche.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Excellence Award :o)

I am happy to post my first ever blog award!! The lovely Dell from Cooking and the City has kindly passed on this award to me, and it's made my day. Thank you so much Dell, it really means a lot to me and it is so nice knowing you have friends all over the globe.

I am going to be a rebel here like my friend Rosie from Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake and not award this to just 5 people but to everyone who has a blog and shares the same passion for cooking and baking. There are so many wonderful foodie blogs out there that are deserving of this award of Excellence, so feel free to attach this award to your blog.

Btw both Dell and Rosie have excellent blogs and worthwhile visiting, if you haven't already ;o)

Blackberry and Apple Loaf

I've wanted to make this loaf for some time after spotting it in my Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes book and I bought the blackberries with the sole purpose of this recipe! I think blackberries and apple are the perfect marriage, whether in a crumble, pie or cake they bring out the best in each other. This loaf is the perfect example of that, with the added touch of cinnamon and orange zest, and the crumble topping finishes it off wonderfully. If you would like to re-create this yummy loaf I have added the link below.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

I've been MeMe'd

The gorgeous Pixie from A Sweetart has tagged me for this MeMe ;o)

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Ok well to start off I was still in my 20's. My son was 5 and at Primary school (gosh and now his towering over me and taking his GCSE's in May). I was preparing to say a sad goodbye to my parents who decided it was time to sell up and move back to Spain and retire. I was living in London and in a flat.

What were you doing 1 year ago?
Preparing to move the "beep" out of London flat and into a Surrey based house with a garden, garage and all the trimmings!

Five snacks you enjoy:
1) Fruit (who am I kidding)
2) Crisps
3) Home-made bread with butter
4) Chocolate
5) Ice Cream

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1) Buy a huge house in the country with a huge kitchen
2) Buy my hubby an Aston Martin DB9
3) Give my family money and see them right
4) Take a world cruise
5) Become the next Imelda Marcus (my hubby claims I'm already there)

Five bad habits:
OK were moving into dangerous grounds here..hehehe
1) I suck my thumb to relax ("blush")
2) I'm true to my star sign (Virgo), a perfectionist
3) Must be the spanish in me but I have a fiery quick temper
4) Impulsive shopper
5) Lose patience with people who walk slow in front of me (aarrgggggg)

Five things you like doing:
1) Shopping
2) Cooking and Baking
3) Listening to music
4) Did I mention shopping?? Ok, ok. Visiting National Trust places (yep were members)
5) Entertaining and eating out.

Five things you would never wear again:
1) Puff ball skirts, omg I think the 80's has to be the worse fashion era of my life-time.
2) The green manky school uniform, we couldn't wait to get to year 11 when it changed to black.
3) Bleached jeans and wait for it the ones with zips at the bottom!!!
4) White frilly ankle socks.
5) Anything neon, especially the tight lycra mini dresses, like the ones Whitney Houston wore in one of her music videos.

Five favorite toys:
1) Cupcake, my pink Kitchen Aid, I love her!
2) My computer
3) My ipod
4) My Treo PDA Phone
5) My Canon digital camera

The five people I am tagging are the following:

Indigo at Happy Loves Strawberry

Dell at Cooking and the City

Ruth at Ruth's Kitchen Experiments

Sandy at My Baking Blog

Janice at Farmer Girl Kitchen

Praline Cake

Whilst browsing the blog world, I came across this recipe via an amazing blog called Happy Loves Strawberry, by the very talented Indigo, who has a gift with words, and not to mention amazing pictures of her bakes. When I spotted this recipe I knew instantly that I had to make this asap. I showed my son and he said, "mum you have to make that", and I knew my instinct had been right. Come on who could pass up a slice of this cake? Certainly not an experienced or novice chocoholic. I would describe this cake as chocolate heaven and more-ish. Indigo I hope I have done your grandmother's recipe justice and thanks so much for sharing your family recipe ;o)

Recipe for Praline Cake

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Cheese-Crusted Cottage Pie

A cottage pie oozes flavour and makes a simple but sensational family meal. It is the perfect winter warming food and a classic british dish. This is one of my family's favorite Cottage Pie recipes, with the added bonus of a cheese crust. I have included the link if you would like to re-create this winter warmer.

Cheese-Crusted Cottage Pie

Comfort in a Bowl~Carrot Soup

Although the weather has been sunny, it is still cold, especially in the evenings, brrrr. I love home-made soups and there is nothing better to warm you from the inside than a bowl of hot soup served with buttered bread, for dipping. I came across this simple vegetable soup in March's edition of Delicious magazine. If your looking for comfort in a bowl, then look no further. If you would like to re-create this delicious soup then click on the link below.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

All-Star Vanilla Custards

One of the many things I love about weekends is that for me it is the perfect time to make some type of dessert or pudding for the family, when time is on your side and the hectic schedule of the week is behind you (at least for 2 days). So this weekend I decided to try a new recipe, All-Star Vanilla Custards, from The Weekend Baker (did I mention how good this book is?). These custards are different from a crème brulee; they are firmer in texture and less rich. The flavors and sweetness are gentle and soft and it soothes and satisfies you with every spoonful.

Nut-Crusted Chocolate-Banana Swirl Cake

After a long week of baking I was looking for something simple and quick to bake for this weekend, so I opted for this nut-crusted chocolate-banana swirl cake from The Weekend Baker. This cake is another good excuse to use your overripe bananas and they must be very, very ripe. I used my new silicone Bundt pan which I purchased at TK Max for the bargain price of £6 (gotta love that store). Plain chocolate is stirred into half of the buttermilk-banana batter, and the two batters are gently swirled together in the pan. The nut crust topping makes this cake an elegant coffee cake to present to guests or family.

Recipe for Nut-Crusted Chocolate-Banana Swirl Cake

Friday, 15 February 2008

Caramel Swirl Hunks

I've made these Caramel Swirl Hunks for my hubby's badminton match this evening. The woman who organises the matches and food called him and asked if he could bring along the cakes again! So I decided to bake up a crowd pleaser but something that was quick and simple. These manly-sized squares are beefed up with chocolate chips and pools of dulce de leche. If anyone would like to re-create these "hunks", I have included a link for the recipe below. The recipe comes courtesy from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman, a must have book!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Happy Valentines Day~ Chocolate Heart Sponge Cake

Happy Valentines Day, hope your having a day full of love and romance. My hubby has taken today off to spend it with me and he surprised me with another bunch of red roses, his main gift to me didn't arrive on time and his not too pleased, he was looking forward to presenting it to me (a heart pendant) this morning with my card and roses. So I have that to look forward to and our romantic meal out this evening ;o)

This morning I had to bake this Chocolate Heart Sponge Cake for a client who wanted this made for her husbands birthday tomorrow. The recipe is by Nigella Lawson but I have changed the filling. It is a gorgeous chocolate sponge, with whipped cream and strawberry filling and topped with a chocolate ganache and sugarcraft hearts.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Chocolate Love Hearts

Love is in the air...!! Valentines is a day of expressing love, exchanging gifts, cards, flowers, chocolates and romantic meals. I know many people say it's all commercialism but then again what isn't nowadays? So for Valentines I'm doing what I love to do best, baking! I've baked my boys (hubby and son) these gorgeous chocolate sponge hearts with pink buttercream icing (sorry my decorating skills are not brilliant) and placed a sugarcraft heart on each one. Happy Valentines!

Red Roses and Little Mocha Kisses

Valentines came early for me this year. I woke up this morning to a very special romantic surprise from the most special man in my life. I came across roses all over the house and each one had a post it note attached with a lovely message. I had to find 12 roses in total, each one had been hidden in a different place in the house. The first rose was placed in our open fire place in the bedroom with a pre-Valentines card and inside the card there was a message with, "just to let you know, you have 11 more to find". I had so much fun finding the roses and I had the biggest smile on my face, infact I still do! It was the best thing to wake up to ;o). Who said romance was dead? I'm lucky to say it definitely lives!

Every Valentines I love to bake my hubby something special and as they say food is definitely a way to a man's heart! So after my rose hunt this morning I decided to bake up some of these gorgeous Little Mocha Kisses, filled with chocolate buttercream. These are perfect to serve with coffee after your Valentines meal. Hubby and I have a table booked at our local Italian for a Valentines meal tomorrow evening but these will be a lovely treat for when we get back!

Wishing everyone a day full of romance and love, Happy Valentines!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Pink Flowers and Chocolate Cheesecake

My hubby loves buying me flowers and my favorite colour is pink. Today he surprised me with a gorgeous pink bouquet after popping out to the shops. Below is a pic of one of the gorgeous blooms from the bouquet. Maybe it's the girlie girl in me but the pink of this flower is the perfect pink ;o)

Who can resist a slice of decadent cheesecake? I certainly can not! I love cheesecake. It is the perfect dessert for entertaining guests or family and so easy to make. In celebration of the lovely spring-like weather we have had this weekend I thought what better choice of dessert than a cheesecake, so Chocolate Cheesecake it had to be. My son loves chocolate cheesecake and his been feeling unwell with a cold/sore throat for a few days, and what mother doesn't hate seeing her kid poorly, so I knew this would put a smile on his face :o). Lately with the cold weather, steamed puddings and crumbles with custard have graced our table after our Sunday meal but this cheesecake was a lovely change and a reminder of the eagerly awaited spring and summer.

Oatmeal Cookies with Raisins

What a gorgeous sunny weekend we are enjoying. It's been such a lovely change from the miserable cold weather of weeks gone by, hopefully Spring is not far off. After much debating on what to bake this weekend, I decided to bake my boys some Oatmeal Cookies, a recipe from another of my latest amazon cookbook sprees, Irish Puddings, Tarts, Crumbles and Fools by Margaret M. Johnson. In our home, no cup of tea would be complete without some form of cookie, biscuit or cake. These Oatmeal cookies are VERY more-ish and won't last long in the tin. They are the perfect excuse to make a cuppa.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Cranberry and White Chocolate Flapjacks

My boys are addicted to these flapjacks, they are quick to prepare and once baked you have an oaty, fruity, chewy and delish bar. Not to forget the added bonus of the white chocolate, perfect combination with cranberries. These are great to add to pack lunches, for morning's when your rushing out the door, or to accompany a cuppa. I have made these so many times and they fly out of the tin, but they do store well.

At the bottom of this post I have added the link to the recipe if anyone would like to re-create these highly addictive but healthy bars of deliciousness ;o)