Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Homemade Sausage Rolls plus a cheat's version

So this week's Great British Bake Off was pastry.  Oh how we love the challenges of pastry!  According to my family I inherited my grandmother's talent for pastry-making.  Whilst the bakers dealt with pasties, Kouign Amann (I SO have to try making those!) and eclairs, I had a look back through previous challenges.  My ten year old daughter is a Bake Off fanatic so we seem to always be watching some form of the show.  There was a Comic Relief final on the other day with Angela Griffin, the reporter (who won it) who I've seen on the One Show and a Radio 4 presenter.  Their technical challenge was Paul Hollywood's sausage rolls.  

I decided that I needed to try making them.  It looked fairly simple, with the hardest element being the rough puff pastry.  You'll find the recipe I followed here 

The first thing I discovered was that the dough was far too sticky - in fact I had to add a whole lot more flour.  But once I'd done that, it was surprisingly easy - all that rolling and re-rolling succeeded in distributing the butter to make lots of layers.  

The chutney also took slightly longer than I expected but again was well worth it, and even though it took about ten minutes more to make, it's not difficult, and is little more than stirring.

As for the sausagemeat, the pack I bought was 500g so I bought two sausages from the meat counter at Waitrose to make up the weight.

Once the pastry and chutney is made, really it's just an assembly job.

Ready to go in the oven.

I regularly make homemade potato wedges (wedges of potato tossed in oil and salt and then put in the oven for 30 minutes) so served these with them and some spaghetti hoops at the kids request.

This is not the best picture and this wasn't the prettiest roll, but they were devoured so fast I only had time to take one photo!  Oh my they were so tasty I never want to buy another sausage roll again!  The kids loved them (although not the onions so much) and REALLY liked the pastry.

So, tonight I thought I'd make them again, but what with the baby's jabs today and not feeling 100% I thought I'd try a cheat's version.  The children really loved these, including the pastry, and I left the onions out (although if you wanted to you could put some Branston (or other brand) pickle in.

You need:

A 375g pack of ready rolled puff pastry (such as Jus-rol or own brand equivalent)
Approximately 600g sausages (the pack I had was 681g)
An egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 220°c
Roll out the dough and cut into 6 equal rectangles
Skin the sausages and squish two together (6 times) to get 6 bigger sausage shapes
Place the sausage shape at one of the short edges of the pastry (this is where you'd add a spoonful of pickle, if you wish) and roll up, so the join sits underneath.
Place the six sausage rolls on a baking tray and brush with beaten egg
Slash the tops of the rolls 6 times-ish
Put into the oven with potato wedges if you like, and as I did tonight, corn on the cobs
Bake for 30-35 minutes

You can see that they look like sausage rolls, and I can vouch for the fact that they taste like sausage rolls too!  I actually preferred the sausages to sausagemeat as it seemed juicier.  

Try both and tell me which you prefer?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Kiddylicious New Treats

As I have mentioned in a previous post Alfie (number 3 child, aged 4) loves Kiddylicious treats.  His favourites have been the fruit wriggles, and whilst he is excited about having hot school dinners now he has started 'big school' he has insisted that I still buy these for after-school treats (rather than his lunchbox staple).  His siblings also enjoy them, so they make a nice store-cupboard addition.

The oh-so-kind people at Kiddylicious sent us some more goodies to sample last week, as they've expanded the range.  We received Wibble Wobble jelly pots, crispie tiddlers and gingerbread buddies.  

So let me tell you a bit about each one.  The wibble wobble jelly pots are exactly that - we had the apple and blackcurrant variety, so each pot contained blackcurrant jelly with chunks of apple in.  Aimed at younger children such as babies moving onto more solid foods, they also come in pear & raspberry and peach & strawberry varieties.  Alfie enjoyed his pot but actually it was his older sister (aged 10) who liked them the most. 

The gingerbread buddies are little gingerbread people-shaped biscuits which all three children enjoyed immensely.  According to the Kiddylicious website, they are made with reduced fat and sugar, with no artificial flavours or colours.  

Finally we had some crispie tiddlers, which are little fishie shapes made from raspberry puree and puffed rice. Alfie ADORES these and I think they may just replace the fruit wriggles as his favourite.  There were some banana ones included too but Alfie was steadfast in his love of the raspberry ones.  

The children all ranked the goodies we received and put the crispie tiddlers at the top, the gingerbread buddies next and the wibble wobble pots last.  I wonder if this might change as Theo (child number 4, 3 months old) joins in the fun in the future.

The thing that I like about the Kiddlicious range, as a parent, is that as well as being handy to chuck into a change bag or handbag, are a great alternative to chocolate or crisps, and have a variety of textures and flavours to explore.  The website has information on their entire range, along with dietary and allergan advice.

Go and check them out here, there's information on where to buy too (all the main supermarkets and Boots stores)

DISCLAIMER - I have not been paid to write this post, but I was sent the products to review.  All opinions are mine alone - apart from those belonging to Alfie, Megan and Lewis.

Monday, 1 September 2014

This week

Now that the school year is beginning again, it's time I turned my attention back to baking/cooking.  I've decided that it would be helpful to know what I'm attempting to make or have made on a weekly basis. 

After the successes of last week's baking (Miranda Gore Browne's dark chocolate and courgette cake from her new book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can) and oatmeal and raisin biscuits of my own, and fudge from Sweets Made Simple, along with disasters (gyoza and sushi) resulting in a takeaway, this week I aim to be making:

caramel and walnut cake from this months BBC Good Food magazine

Homemade sausage rolls

Homemade pizza

and I might attempt the disastrous gyoza/ potstickers and sushi again!

All last week's successes (and failures) will be written about in due course.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Quick no-bake cookies

I have a recipe obsession.  Every month I scour every cookery magazine I can get my hands on, reading and rereading the recipes looking for the ones which will appeal to my family.  I reread my cookery books regularly, especially when I've attempted something more accomplished - I go back through and find recipes I liked the look of but thought were too tricky for me.  Ditto when I try a new ingredient.  It's quite amazing how your tastes change when you're pregnant or as you get older. 

Anyway, apart from the magazines and books, I love Pinterest.  The recipes on there are for the most part American.  Slightly less so than when I first joined, but even so, mostly American.  This isn't a bad thing, you understand.  Their posts are the ones I've tried the most, as their ideas are the most intriguing.

I can't tell you how many have worked, although they've needed tweaking, adapting, or ended up as a complete new recipe, sometimes the inspiration of a Pin alone is enough.  My homemade sweet and sour chicken is a case in point, I've completely altered the ingredients for the sauce, added extra elements to the dish and the finished dish isn't the same as the dish on the Pin yet it's now a firm family favourite. 

There are a few that haven't worked, such as microwaved potato crisps.  Yes, I know.  BUT in my defence they were so cleverly described and I could sort of see it working, yet it really didn't.  We just ended up with hot, raw potato slices.  I'd try it out again to see if I could get it to work but actually the kids prefer Walkers at any rate.  Similarly we tried to make 's'mores' mini cups which worked but looked NOTHING like the pictures.  Even though they worked I don't class them as success as I've never been tempted to make them again.

I came across the recipe for these no bake cookies in several separate posts.  All slightly different, yet all essentially the same.  And also, because they all appear in American posts, measured in cups.  Now I love the cup/spoon way of measuring, so that's how I made them, with only a quick check online to find out the weight of a "stick" of butter.  They are the work of a few moments to make, although if I'm honest, I'd eke out the recipe to make more than the 24 it should, as they are so very full of sugar and quite filling.  I certainly can't eat more than one, and I am a breastfeeding mother who had a "healthy" appetite to begin with.

Apologies for the fact that there are no 'making' photos, but it's so quick there wasn't time!

No Bake cookies

2 cups sugar (I used granulated)                      450g
1 stick butter                                                    110g
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk                                                     110ml
1/2 cup peanut butter                                        approximately 120g
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups oats                                                        420g

Add the sugar, butter, cocoa and milk to a large saucepan and melt together.  Once it's all melted and the sugar has dissolved, boil it for 1 minute and then take off the heat.

Add the peanut butter and vanilla, and mix it quickly until the peanut butter melts.  Add the oats (I used gluten-free oats, as that's what I had in the cupboard) and mix well.

Put blobs of the mixture onto greaseproof paper - like I said, the versions I read on Pinterest described a yield of 24 cookies, but I think you could get 30 easily without making them too small. 

Once the mixture has been placed on the paper, refrigerate until set.  In cooler weather you could just leave them on the side to set, but as it's warm at the moment here, and we get flies quite a bit, I prefer putting them in the fridge.

Have you tried any recipes from Pinterest?  Any fantastic failures or stupendous successes?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Soreen Malt Loaf and Banana Fruit Loaf ideas

It's fair to say we like a snack in this house.  With four children (although Theo can't be counted yet, on account of him only being 7 weeks old) a gannet of a husband and myself (breastfeeding, so in need of extra sustenance) plus plenty of visitors, you can correctly assume we go through a fair bit of snack food.

I bake cookies, bars, traybakes and cakes when I can so that I know what we are putting into our bodies.  We eat a sizeable quantity of fresh fruit too, especially the children, but we buy a good amount of snack food too.  One of our favourite store cupboard must-haves is malt loaf.  It doesn't ever last for very long, and until recently I didn't really know that there were several different flavours available.  In fact it was only when I received an email from Soreen, who by happy coincidence are the brand of malt loaf we favour, that I discovered them all.  The email asked if I would like some Soreen to create some recipes with.  And so a sunshiney yellow box of Soreen arrived, full of malt loaf and their banana fruit loaf.

Now a quick peruse of the Soreen website gives you all the yummy facts on the different flavour loaves available, along with some recipes for you to try.  I'll be brutally honest and say that the loaves don't usually last long enough in our house to make recipes with, so I was *really* stringent this time (also, I hid the loaves from the rest of the family).

Mr L is a flapjack fanatic; which has passed on to our children, so when I saw that recipe on the website it was too good to resist making it.  You can find the recipe here and there's also a video here 

The children devoured them pretty quickly, and our resident flapjack connoisseur, AKA Mr L, said they were very tasty and that the malt loaf added a lovely texture.  Here they are in all their chocolatey, oaty, soreeny glory:

I had high hopes for the banana loaf, with several ideas floating around in my head for fancy concoctions.  However, one didn't turn out as I imagined and then the kids kept nicking the bits that were left.  We had great fun however, making fruit kebabs with cubes of the banana loaf which the children thought would be great fun in their lunchboxes.  We used blueberries, strawberries, bananas, grapes and the banana loaf and the children liked making them look like traffic lights.

We also played around with an idea which we thought might work as either a fruity pudding or even a breakfast idea.  Cut the banana loaf into cubes, or tear into lovely squidgy pieces, and place into a bowl.   Then pile on whatever fruit you like; we chose strawberries, fresh banana, grapes and blueberries, and added them.  Then we topped it with yogurt.  We used plain, but Greek yogurt with honey would taste DIVINE with it (I just didn't have any at the time) - it was devoured in short order and I thought it was fruity and filling.

My children all said they'd eat the banana loaf just as it was, as they do the malt loaf, and we've now got to try some of the other variations too, as they've investigated the list and seen all the different loaves available.  It's also spurred them on to think about using these loaves as ingredients rather than as the final product.  And HOPEFULLY I'll get the recipe idea for the banana loaf to work and then I can post a follow up recipe for you all to try.

*Disclaimer: Soreen provided me with the loaves, but the opinions are that of mine and my family*

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Kiddylicious treats

My children are akin to a plague of locusts.  They eat and eat and eat AND EAT.  Thankfully they 'mostly' eat healthy things, and our fruit bowl is filled every week and every week they empty it.  I swear the four year old would turn into an apple, the amount of them he eats.

I try to get them a range of snacks and lunchbox treats to give them variety, but sometimes I struggle.  So when Alfie started pointing out the Kiddylicious adverts on TV I thought I'd find some for him.  Now he loved the fruit wriggles, just on their own in his lunchbox.  He's actually quite obsessed by them.  But he wasn't so keen on the tomato flying saucers (sorry kiddylicious people) or the smoothie bites. 

So when the kind people at Kiddylicious asked if I'd like some of their products to play with, Alfie thought it was a great idea.  What he didn't think was great was that he couldn't eat the contents of the box as soon as it arrived.

Seeing as he was less keen on the smoothie bites, I concentrated on making something using them.  I thought about some sort of sweet pizza, but in the end, marshmallow squares were the order of the day.

To make about 12 - 16 squares, depending on how big you want to cut them,  you'll need

20g butter
120g marshmallows (I used mini marshmallows as they seem to melt more evenly)
90g puffed rice cereal
3 packs of Kiddylicious smoothie bites (I used one pack of each - as that's what I had)

Line a tray or tin with parchment or a non-stick sheet.

Melt the butter in a large heavy based saucepan

 Add the marshmallows to the pan and heat gently until they are melted evenly

Stir in the rice cereal until it's all mixed in.  It can look a bit strange and spider-webby as the marshmallow cools as you're mixing it, but stick with it. 

I broke some of the larger pieces of smoothie bites into smaller bits, then fold them into the mixture.  The key here is to move quite quickly before the marshmallow cools too much.  Once stirred, tip the mixture into the tin & refrigerate for a couple of hours.  Cut into squares and share :o)

PS Alfie said they were very tasty, as did my other little (and big) taste testers. 

Friday, 20 June 2014

A bit of a pause in blogging and a new arrival

I logged into my blog account earlier.  I note I have not blogged for a month.  I tried, but in all honesty, I found my love of baking had dissipated - I had lost my mojo.  Those final weeks of pregnancy took their toll on me, mentally and physically, and I focussed on little else other than trying EVERY CONCEIVABLE METHOD for getting my bump shifted.  My eldest was 2 weeks early, my boys were both 3 or 4 days late.  I had convinced myself that this baby was going to be early.  So when it wasn't, I panicked.  Not just because I was getting uncomfortable, or because I was eating into the time before my dad went on holiday (he was to be our childcare when I went into labour) but also because I convinced myself there was a reason the baby wasn't coming out.  I'd never had a sweep, let alone an induction.  I have had a spinal before, and loathed it intently.  The idea of a C-section terrified me to the point of inducing nightly panic attacks.  Then I would get upset as the adrenaline surge and the tiredness would surely be slowing down any movement towards delivering my bundle.  The exhaustion of little or no sleep compounded the issue and it all became a vicious circle.

So, when baby Theo finally put in an appearance at 12 days overdue, I had tried every trick I could think of; walking until I was worn out, drinking raspberry leaf tea, eating curry, bouncing on my birthing ball, sex, nipple tweaking, frantically cleaning, anything and everything I had read on the internet that seemed to do the trick.  I don't like pineapple but I'd even asked Mr L to get me some.  The shop didn't have any, presumably some other pregnant mamas were scoffing them all. 

The internet is a valuable asset.  It's also a bloody curse, and whilst every post about natural induction would come with scores of people saying that the baby would come when it was ready, you ignore them, even though that's precisely the case.  You scour websites looking for that magic action which means hospital inductions aren't necessary.  Of course, if this were true, hospitals wouldn't have to break waters or put you on drips.  All of which was very scary to me. 

Finally, when I did go into labour, it was quick.  So quick in fact, that I went from the midwife telling me she wanted to break my waters (I declined) to being fully dilated within an hour.  And so Theo arrived at 8.29am weighing a VERY healthy 10lb 2oz!  He came naturally (phew) and on the day he was due to be induced.  See? Scare them into it ;o)


Anyway.  Here's the thing.  My anxiety is still there, it's still floating around but not as panic inducing as it was.  But one of the things that's keeping me sane (other than my newborn and my three other chimps) is my cookery books.  All of a sudden my interest seems to be coming back.  Now, a couple of days before I went into labour, my mum suggested I bake something for the kids to distract myself.  I baked them cheesy shapes, a recipe I've made hundreds of times and always turns out great.  They weren't up to scratch and I was disappointed.  A couple of days AFTER Theo's birth, I decided to make some cookies for visitors coming to see us.  Hallelujah! They were a success. 

I'm not saying I'll be baking up a storm each and every day, but I feel more able to bake again, and therefore write some more on the blog.  So there we go.