Monday, 27 September 2010

Spooky Spider Cupcakes

These are really simple to make and great for Halloween.

4 oz plain flour
4 oz caster sugar
4 oz butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

You will need:

Cupcake casings
strawberry shoelaces
chocolate flakes
writing icing
a quantity of chocolate butter icing

Turn the oven on to 180C

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale.

Beat the eggs and vanilla essence together.

Sift in a small quantity of flour, then egg and mix the batter.  Continue doing this until all ingredients are added and mixed well.

Divide the batter into 12 casings and cook for 12 - 15 minutes, until the cakes are golden and spring back when touched.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

When cooled, first cover the cakes with a good dollop of icing.

Pour the chocolate flakes into a bowl and tip the cupcake upside down into this.  Make sure all the icing is covered with flakes.

Using the writing icing, add a couple of eyes and some teeth.

Cut 8 legs out of the laces and gently press this into the icing.

Alternatively, you can just cover with icing and draw on a cobweb and spider with the writing icing.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Punctured Dreams

The hubby and I had been contemplating our future, and more importantly Bob and Boo's future.  With Bob starting pre-school we asked ourselves whether now was the time for us to move from our little home to a bigger house - our dream house.  A forever home.  There are many pros and cons to these plans.

Pros: we could move further away from the city and buy a bigger house.  Bigger kitchen.  Garden. Smaller village so the kids can cycle everywhere and feel safe. 

Cons: Smaller schools, further commuting, have no idea where to move. 

Where we are at the moment the schools are excellent.  We are lucky.  We have good neighbours and we have carved out a life.

We got the estate agent round to value the house and see whether we could move.  Luckily the house has gone up a little in value, so theoretically we could move.  But we decided against it.  Instead we would extend, we thought.  Build a bigger kitchen right here.  Access the great schools and consider moving in, say, 5 years or so.

Happy with our decision and filled with renewed vigour at the possibilities before us, off we set to the mortgage companies to see what we could do about releasing some equity. 

And then the dreams got punctured as easily as if they were bubbles made of soap. 

With no one lending money, and house-to-loan ratios being so low we can't afford to do anything.  We can not release equity.  We can not move.  We are stuck in limbo.  Noses rubbed up against the glass panes of our wishes, like kids watching thunderstorms, waiting for the rain to stop so we can finally go out and play in the sun again.

But reality soon hits. 

Bob and Boo giggle about the house.  My children are healthy.  We live in our own home.  We have good friends.  And amazing neighbours. 

Life is good. 

Even if the kitchen is small.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

New Beginnings

Bob started pre-school today!  He walked in, found his peg for his coat, ran around a bit and then waved us off with not so much as a backward glance!  I can't believe how grown up my little man seems, and yet he is still only 3.  So young. 

We celebrated at lunchtime by making Bob's favourite meal to cook - scrambled eggs.  Whilst Boo crawled around our ankles Bo cracked the eggs, added the milk, stirred it all and then stood on his steps next to me as I cooked it over the cooker.  On the weekend he made us all pancakes!  He sifted flour, cracked eggs, stirred in milk and made the batter.  What a pro!

Yesterday we made a million dollars!  Okay not real money, but millionaire's shortbread in coin shapes. How to feel rich quick!  Bob made the shortbread.  He is very good at squishing butter and making breadcrumbs.  

Miss Boo is now refusing to eat anything unless she can feed herself.  She turns her nose up at anything that resembles early baby food staged puree and is now all about the toast, sandwiches, vegetable batons and diced fruit.  This last week she has had cous cous, watermelon, peach, peas and cod fish fingers as new foods and loved them all.  It's hard to believe that in just 3 months she will be a year and can eat pretty much everything we eat.  

Pretty soon Boo will be helping out in the kitchen too and I will have two little chefs to help me out in the morning. 

I wonder if I can make 'making breakfast for mummy in bed' a new and exciting game? Hmmmm........

Lamb Casserole with Cous Cous - For both Weaners and Screamers

300 gm Lamb, diced
1 Leek, washed, trimmed and sliced about 1 cm thick
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
450 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
100 gm cous cous
1 tbsp olive oil

Turn the oven on to 170C.

Pour a little olive oil into a pan and heat over a medium heat.  Roll the diced lamb in the flour and add to the pan and cook gently until browned.  Add the spices and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Add the lamb, vegetables and stock to a casserole dish and place in the oven.  Cook for 2 - 2.5 hours.
Remove the casserole from the heat and allow to cool slightly on the side.

Boil a full kettle.  Place the cous cous into a ceramic bowl and add the olive oil.  Pour over enough water to cover all the cous cous and a little bit more. Cover with cling film and leave for 5 minutes.
Remove the cling film and fluff the cous cous up prior to serving.

For very young babies you can puree the casserole and stir in some cous cous.  For older babies you can simply mush up the casserole as all the vegetables and meat should be tender enough. 

Stir in the cous cous and serve. 

Monday, 20 September 2010

Cheesy, Crusty, Herby Courgette

1 Large courgette, cut into batons (no more than 1 cm thick)
2 slices of semi-stale white bread
1 tbsp unchopped fresh dill
1 tbsp unchopped fresh coriander
25 gm/ 1 oz grated parmesan
2 eggs, beaten
3-4 tbsp flour
A little ground black pepper to season

Turn the oven on to 200C.

In a food processor, whizz up the bread, cheese and herbs until they resemble very fine breadcrumbs.

Roll the courgette in the flour and then place in the beaten egg.

Roll in the breadcrumbs until well covered and then place on a baking sheet.

When all the courgette is covered with breadcrumbs pop them in the oven for 20 minutes until they are cooked through and soft all the way through.

These taste great dipped in a little tomato ketchup.

Millionaire's Shortbread Coins

This is an indulgent treat but so yummy!

For the shortbread:
150 gm flour
100 gm butter
50 gm caster sugar

For the caramel:
50 gm Butter
40 gm Light muscovado sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tin of condensed milk

For the topping:
150gm Milk chocolate

Turn the oven on to 170C.

Grease a deep holed muffin tin with some butter.

In a bowl, mix the flour and the sugar together before adding the butter.  Rub the butter in until you make breadcrumbs.  When the butter is firmly mixed in firmly press the mixture together until you get a firm dough.

Split this into 12 and press firmly into each hole of the muffin tray.  Prick once with a fork and place in the oven, cooking for approximately 20 minutes, until the shortbread has turned golden.

Remove from the heat and score around the shortbread with a knife to ensure it can come out later when finished.

Allow to cool completely.

To make the caramel sauce: melt the butter and sugar in a pan over a low-medium heat.  When the sugar and butter have melted, add the condensed milk and continue to heat, stirring all the time.  Allow the mixture to reach a boil but as soon as you see the first bubble remove from the heat, stirring continuously to avoid any burning or caramelising at the bottom of the pan.

Pour the caramel onto each shortbread.  Discard any remains in a food waste bin (not down the sink).
Allow to cool.

To make the chocolate topping:  Break the chocolate into squares and place in a heatproof bowl.  Place this atop a small pan of boiling water and gently stir the chocolate until it melts completely. 

Pour this over each shortbread coin.

Place in the fridge and allow to cool and harden.

Score around with a knife once more and serve.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Cauliflower Cheese

1 Cauliflower head, chopped into florets
25 gm/1 oz flour
25 gm/1 oz butter
295 ml/1/2 pint milk
2 oz Cheddar cheese, grated
A little grated parmesan (optional)

Turn the oven on to 200C.

Bring a pan of water to boil.  Place the cauliflower in the water and cook for 10 minutes, until the florets are soft but not too mushy.

Meanwhile, in another pan make the white sauce by melting the butter and whisking in the flour with a metal whisk.  Remove from the heat and add a little milk.  Whisk until you have a roux and then return to the heat, adding the rest of the milk whilst whisking through.  Continue stirring until the sauce thickens and comes to the boil. 

Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for a minute before adding half of the grated cheese.  Stir through until the cheese has melted into the sauce.

Drain the cauliflower and place in a suitable sized casserole dish.  Pour over the sauce and cover with the remaining grated cheese, adding a little grated parmesan if desired.

Cook for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and turned golden.

This meal is great for both weaners and screamers as the cauliflower softens up for very young mouths as well as bigger ones.

Crusty, cheesy, herby fish.

These are great as small fillets or cut into fish fingers.  Can be stored in the freezer and cooked from frozen too.

500 gm white fish (about 4 fillets)
4-5" of left over crusty baguette or 2-3 slices of semi-stale white bread
1 tbsp unchopped fresh dill
1 tbsp unchopped fresh coriander
25 gm/ 1 oz grated parmesan
2 eggs, beaten
3-4 tbsp flour
A little ground black pepper to season

In a food processor, whizz up the bread, cheese and herbs until they resemble very fine breadcrumbs.

Cut the fish up into either mini fillet shapes or fish fingers, whichever you prefer.

Roll the fish in the flour and then place in the beaten egg.  Leaving it for about 2 minutes each side, so that the fish is fully covered in the egg mix.

Roll in the breadcrumbs until well covered and then place on a tray or plate.

When all the fish is covered with breadcrumbs pop them in the fridge for about 15 to 20 minutes, or freeze in batches for later.

You can either cook the fish in a little vegetable oil for 5 minutes each side, until the fish is cooked through and the crust has turned golden brown, or in an oven at about 210C for 10-12 minutes.

If cooking from frozen add a further 5 - 10 minutes to ensure the fish is properly cooked.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Fish Curry

This is a mild curry, but can be made slightly hotter by adding more chilli. 

You can use any fish you like.  I use cod and salmon, but haddock, pollack and coley would all work just as well.

500 gm fish (about 4 fillets)
280 gm large prawns
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
100 ml of hot water
1 fish stock cube
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tin of coconut milk
1/4 of a long red chili (optional)
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft and transluscent. 

Add the ginger and chili and cook for a further couple of minutes.  Add the spices and cook for a further minute.

Dissolve the stock cube in the hot water.

Add the coconut milk and fish stock to the pan and give it a good stir, releasing the colour and flavours.

Place the fish in the pan and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the fish.

Add the prawns and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir through the coriander.

Serve with rice.

Party Treats - Mini Jacket Potatoes

These are a great savory option for parties, but work just as well as a lunch box food or side dish for toddlers.

1 Packet of new potatoes, washed.
Olive oil for drizzling

Turn the oven on to 210C

Place all the potatoes in a large baking tray and drizzle over the oil, ensuring that all the potatoes are covered.

Cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes, turning halfway.  The potatoes are cooked when dark and crispy (not burnt!) on the outside and soft in the middle.

Remove from oven and using a slotted spoon, place onto a piece of kitchen paper. 

Allow to cool for 5 minutes or so before cutting crosses into the tops of the potatoes.  Squeeze the sides a little so the potatoes open up and then add the filling of your choice.  Butter, cheese, baked beans, sour cream - the list is endless.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Vegetable Pasta with grated cheese

This is a simple way of adding texture and calories to simple purees.  I use baby pasta, which can be bought in most supermarkets. 

1 Carrot, peeled and sliced
1 Courgette, washed, trimmed and sliced
1 Parsnip, peeled and sliced
1/4 tsp Ground coriander
40 g baby pasta
A little grated cheddar cheese

Place all vegetables and coriander into a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until al the vegetables are cooked through and soft.  Drain and reserve the liquid.  Puree, adding enough liquid to make it to the desired consistency.

Meanwhile, cook the baby pasta according to packet instructions. Drain.

Mix in the baby pasta and divide the pasta puree into portion sizes for storing/freezing.

Before serving, add a little grated cheddar cheese and stir in until cheese has melted slightly.