Category Archives: cooking

Christmas Canapés

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Christmas Canapés

For our early family Christmas dinner, I was responsible for starters and desserts. For starters I decided to do canapés, so people could eat as much/little as they liked, and still leave space for a huge turkey dinner.

Of course, stupidly I decided to make everything from scratch, rather than buying some from M&S!

Whilst each individual canapé was easy to make, it did end up being very time consuming. Most of them had aspects that could be made ahead, leaving just simple assembly on the day, so that helped. And I know that I’m biased, but they were delicious.

Our menu was:

  • Beetroot and goats cheese napoleons
  • Pears with blue cheese and prosciutto
  • Goats cheese and asparagus frittata
  • Scotch quails eggs
  • Caprese bites

In terms of make-ahead, I did the following:

Bake beetroot, Boil and peel quails eggs (fiddly!), Make frittata (but leave whole, and cut up on the day). I also made the scotch eggs the night before, but didn’t bake them until the next day.

All of the recipes are online, and I’ve just given my tips/thoughts below.

Beetroot and goats cheese napoleons

These went down an absolute storm, with adults and children alike. They are so delicious! I made them a little too ahead of time, so the goats cheese filling went a bit pink too. When they are freshly made the white goats cheese contrasts beautifully with the beetroot. I am definitely going to make these again with beetroot from my allotment, where I grow a range of different types of beetroot.

For speed you could make them with those packets of pre-cooked beetroot. I also used whatever vinegar I had in the cupboard as I didn’t have rice vinegar. I also didn’t bother with the dressing. And I put skewers in the stacks to help with eating.

Recipe from Saveur.com – check it out here

Pears with blue cheese and prosciutto

These are very simple, and lovely and fresh. I used dolcelatte cheese, which is quite mild, and I didn’t bother adding in the rocket. I also didn’t bother with the lemon juice because I was serving them straight away.

Recipe from Realsimple.com – you can find it here

Goats cheese and asparagus frittata

Super simple and quick to make. I didn’t have as many eggs as the recipe said, so I just used what I had and made it in a small pan. I added random herbs from my garden. You could add any veg or cheese you like.

Recipe from thecooks pyjamas.com – see here

Scotch quails eggs

No photo for these – I forgot to take one, and they had disappeared by the time I remembered!

It’s nice to have a hot canapé as well as the cold ones. And these are perfect two bite scotch eggs. The recipe is for 12 eggs, but I used a pack of 6 sausages, and managed to make 20 scotch eggs.

I made them up to the point of frying, and then baked them just before we needed them.

A top tip when putting the flour, egg and breadcrumbs onto the sausage covered eggs is to have one hand for wet and one hand for dry. So (for example), with your left hand toss the egg in the flour, then pick it up with your left hand and drop it into the egg. Pick it up and toss it with your right hand, then pick it up with your right and drop it into the breadcrumbs. Toss it with your left hand and then pick it up with your left and drop it into the frying pan.

I used a frying pan and a small amount of fat. I do think it would be better to deep fry them to get a more even colour.

Recipe from Good Housekeeping. Recipe here

Caprese bites

Super simple, super quick and popular! Just thread a cherry tomato, a bocconcini (tiny mozzarella ball) and a basil leaf onto a skewer.

I served them on a large wooden platter, and bought some nice bamboo cocktail sticks from Amazon to make them look a little more special. They disappeared in no time, and I was really pleased with how they looked and tasted.

Related posts: Tiny Gingerbread Houses, Cherry and Amaretto Pavlova, Chocolate and Blackberry Fraisier

Low Syn Rice Pudding – two ways

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Low Syn Rice Pudding – two ways


I completely love rice pudding. And as rice is free on the slimming world plan then I thought I would experiment with trying to get the lowest syn, tastiest rice pudding possible. This is basically my low fat rice pudding recipe tweaked to make it slimming world friendly, and with the syns calculated.

I have two options- so take your pick. Or try both and see which you like best. Both serve 4 and take around two hours to make (well 5 minutes making and 2 hours in the oven!). And I’ve frozen rice pudding made with milk before, so I imagine the both would freeze well.

Both assume you are using the milk as your healthy extra A, (HEXA), but I’ve also given the syns in case you are not.

Option 1 – with almond milk  – 9 syns for the whole thing, (2.25 syns per serving). Or 14 for the whole dish syns (3.5 per person) if not using milk as HEXA

120g pudding rice

4 level tbsp Sweet Freedom Fruit Syrup (8 syns) I prefer this to sweetener as it’s natural and doesn’t have an aftertaste. I don’t like it too sweet, so you may need to add more. You can always add more at the end.

1 litre unsweetened almond milk. I used Alpro as it was on offer for £1 in my local Coop! (This whole litre can be your Healthy Extra A, or you can syn it – 5 syns for the whole litre)

1tsp vanilla bean paste (1syn) or use vanilla extract and save yourself a syn (as that’s free), but I like the paste as it makes things taste amazing and you get the little vanilla bean flecks in your food.

Chuck it all in a pot, give it a stir and cook at 150degrees for about 2 hours. Give it a stir half way through. For a runny rice pudding reduce the cooking time.

This is yummy, but you can definitely taste the almond. So if that’s not for you, try this…

Option 2 – with skimmed milk – 9 syns for the whole thing, (2.25 syns per serving). Or 29 for the whole dish syns (7.25 per person) if not using milk as HEXA. So definitely one you would want to use your HEXA for. It doesn’t use the whole of your milk allowance (250ml if you have 1/4 of the pudding) so still 100 ml spare for other things.

120g pudding rice

4 level tbsp Sweet Freedom Fruit Syrup (8 syns)

1 litre skimmed milk

1tsp vanilla bean paste (1 syn)

Chuck it all in a pot, give it a stir and cook at 150degrees for about 2 hours. Give it a stir half way through. If you like it runny cook for less time.
And if you want to switch it up – here are some other options:

Semi skimmed milk – same quantity. Would use up all of your HEXA allowance for the day if you had 1/4 of the pudding

Seeetner instead of sweet freedom – would reduce the syns to 3 syns for the dish or less than 1 per person) as its only 1/2 syn per tablespoon

Sugar instead of sweet freedom – would increase the syns to 13 for the whole dish (3.25 per person) as its 3 syns per tbsp.

Vanilla extract instead of paste – saves you one syn on the whole dish

Choc shot to make a chocolate rice pudding – replace the sweet freedom with choc shot – would be the same syn value.

Make it sweeter – each tablespoon of Sweet Freedom is 2 syns.

Sweet and Spicy Plum Chutney

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Sweet and Spicy Plum Chutney

With 3kg of Victoria plums from my little plum tree, I thought I’d turn some of them into chutney.

The recipe is from here and it’s a Nigel Slater one. I translated it into metric and omitted the mustard seeds (2tsp if you want to add them) as I didn’t have any.

750g plums

350g onions

Handful of raisins

350g light muscovado sugar

1/2 tsp dried crushed chilli

1 tsp salt

300ml cider vinegar

Cinnamon stick

Destone and quarter plums, roughly chop onions


Chuck it all in a big pan


Give it a stir


and simmer until it’s nice and thick. When you run your spoon across the bottom of the pan it should stay separated. That’s when you know it’s ready.

As it comes towards the end keep stirring as it sticks to the bottom and burns really easily (apparently!).

It’s got quite a nice chilli kick, so if you’re not keen on chilli, maybe just go for a 1/4 tsp of chilli flakes.

In terms of quantity it made one 8oz and two 4oz jars.

If I do it again I might go for red onions and sweat them down for 15 mins before adding the rest as they are still quite crunchy.

Other recipes I’ve seen include ginger (fresh or ground), ground coriander and/or cumin, so they might be worth exploring too as the cinnamon stick didn’t impart masses of flavour. Red wine vinegar would give it a different colour and flavour. And of course the plums you use will alter the flavour and colour (Victorias are quite light – this would be lovely with a nice dark plum).

Dad’s Birthday Hamper

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Dad’s Birthday Hamper

I made a lovely little hamper of goodies for my Dad’s birthday recently.

Cute little hamper from Hobbycraft

Labels for the sweets were also from Hobbycraft.


In the basket is:

– Strawberry jam

– Wild strawberry jam

– Raspberry jam

– Fig and onion marmalade

– White chocolate and almond fudge

– two types of dark chocolate truffles

– two types of white chocolate truffles

– dark chocolate covered dried cherries

– chocolate covered salted almonds

Here are the recipes, I made a few adaptations as I went along. And I definitely don’t recommend making truffles on the hottest day of the year!

White Chocolate and Almond Fudge. 


http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2016/07/microwave-fudge-recipes/

This is really delicious. I converted the amounts to grams, and altered it a bit (see below). Other than that I followed her method, except I toasted the almonds.

400g of white chocolate (I used green and blacks)

1 tin condensed milk (I could eat it be the spoonful!)

Pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

See link for the method nits a piece of cake.

Red Onion and Fig Marmalade
This is a Thane Prince recipe from  Perfect Preserves. It is reproduced here:

http://shows.stv.tv/this-morning/food/294321-prepare-perfect-preserves-in-time-for-christmas-with-thane-prince/

I inadvertently bought re-constituted figs (not dried ones) and I only used 250g. I also just used 1 chilli and just the juice of the Orange, not the rind. It’s yum!
Dark Chocolate Truffles (cherry brandy truffles and amaretto truffles)

I made the recipe in full, then split it in half to make two different flavours. I added a good slug of amaretto to one half and a good splash of cherry brandy to the other.

The recipe is in Green and Blacks Chocolate Recipes book, and is online here:

http://www.foodwine.com/food/ild/2005/1005/micah.html

I rolled the cherry brandy ones in cocoa powder (with added gold glitter dust for extra bling) and dipped the amaretto ones in melted milk chocolate (after freezing them overnight).
White Chocolate Truffles (champagne truffles and lemon truffles)

Same as above – I made the full recipe, and split it in two. One half I put some Sicilian lemon essence in (from Sainsbury’s). About 3 capfuls. It needs a good stir to incorporate. The other half had Marc de champagne added. Most people think champagne truffles are made with champagne, but it’s usually Marc de champagne, which is a brandy made from champagne.

I researched a lot of white chocolate truffle recipes, and ended up kind of making up my own.

I used 300g of white chocolate and 100ml double cream. I put the cold cream and the unmelted chocolate together in a bowl by mistake, so I just shoved it all in the microwave until it melted, and then gave it a good stir. It worked perfectly fine!

Just cool in the fridge until firm and roll into balls. I covered the lemon ones in icing sugar (with silver edible glitter dust added) and the champagne ones in melted white chocolate (freeze the truffles overnight first so they don’t melt when you dip them in chocolate).

Jam (raspberry jam, strawberry jam and wild strawberry jam)

I have previously blogged about making jam. You can find my blog post here. I’m increasingly a fan of using  jam sugar as it helps jam set quickly and retain its fruity taste and bright colour.

Salted chocolate almonds

Healthier Treat: Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Almonds.

Oh my god, these are amazing. I used almonds without the skins on because that was what I had.


Chocolate cherries

I had some chocolate left over after making the almonds, and I had a bag of dried cherries (from Holland and Barrett) lying around, so I chucked those in the chocolate and pulled them out individually with a fork (just like the almonds). They are beyond amazing. If you like Green and Blacks cherry chocolate, then you will love this. Would work equally well with dried apricots (whole or chopped up).

Raspberry Ice cream

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My daughter is a complete sucker for raspberry ice cream. So as raspberries are in season at the moment, I promised to make her some.
It was actually difficult to find a raspberry ice cream recipe online that wasn’t made with coconut. But I found a deliciously Ella recipe for black raspberry ice cream (find it here). I roughly translated it into UK weights and measures, and used an ice cream maker (which you don’t have to). She adapted it from a recipe here.

400g raspberries

300ml double cream

150ml semi skimmed milk

1tsp vanilla bean paste

3 large egg yolks (I used 4 medium ones)

130g sugar

60g cream cheese

Heat the raspberries till the juice spills and then mush them. Let them cool.


Mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Mine was quite thick and sugary still.

Heat the milk, cream and vanilla until it just boils. Add a bit to the sugar/yolk mix to loosen it. Then gradually whisk the sugar/yolk mix into the milk/cream mix.


Gently heat, whilst stiring until it’s thick and coats the back of a cream. It is very very sweet. Don’t worry as it will be balanced out by the raspberries.

Add in the raspberries and cream cheese.


And stir together until the cream cheese melts.


Let it cool and then freeze in an ice cream machine or freeze and stir every 20 mins until frozen.

Ta da…


It really is delicious. Not too sweet and not too tart. Yum! Maybe my daughter won’t get any!

And I reckon would be amazing with dark chocolate chips in it or made with some Chambord (black raspberry liqueur).


And here it is with chocolate orange meringues (see my recipe here) made from the left over egg whites and fresh fruit from the garden. Deeeelicious!

Elderflower Cordial

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Elderflower Cordial

My local park has an abundance of elderflowers, so I decided to have a go at making elderflower cordial.

There are loads of recipes on the Internet, and I have Pam Corbin’s fabulous ‘Preserves’ book, so I kind of meshed together a couple of recipes to make my own.

I took about 50 elderflower heads, chopped of most of the stalks, and added the zest of 3.5 quite large lemons and 1 lime (because that’s what I had!). I shook the elderflowers to remove bugs, and chucked away any that were brown.

I then sliced the lemons and lime and added them to the pot.

  

Then I poured about 3 litres of boiling water over the flowers they went a bit brown, so if I did it again I would let the water cool a bit first.

I then left it to steep overnight. With a tea towel over the top. 

I then strained I through a drive with pieces of kitchen paper in it. I replaced the kitchen paper a couple of times as it got quite clogged.


Look how cloudy it is. And look at what was left over….


This is it once strained. Much clearer.

I then added 2kg of sugar and 2 generous teaspoons of citric acid that I bought off the internet.
  

I then brought it to the boil and let if boil for a little while (10 mins?) to make sure it was nice and hot and would be better preserved (so in theory last longer)


I then decanted it into Kilner flip top bottles that I bought from Wilkinsons. The larger ones are half a litre, and the small ones quarter of a litre.  I put them through the dishwasher and then in a 150 degree oven to sterilise them (without the stoppers in the oven – I put them back on once the bottles were full).

I needed a tiny funnel for the small bottles as the necks are narrow. I guess you could use a jug, but I find funnels to helpful for filling bottles.

I didn’t have enough bottles, so I’ve put some in a jug that will go into the fridge. If you are working out how many bottles you need, just look at how much water you are adding. That will be roughly how much cordial you will get. I’m waiting for it to go cold to mix it with sparkling water, but I did taste it and it is wonderfully floral and not too sweet.

I think it’s dark because I used hot water which browned the flowers. Another time I will try the cold soaking method, and see what results I get. Have you tried the cold soaking method? How did it work out?

Low Fat (Low Syn) Frozen Yoghurt 

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Low Fat (Low Syn) Frozen Yoghurt 

I’m always on the look out for low fat/low calorie versions of my favourite foods, and I recently bought an ice cre maker so I can make low fat frozen yoghurt.

For the first one one I thought I would use  Choc Shot, which is my new favourite thing. It’s a chocolate flavoured syrup made with ‘Sweet Freedom’ which is a sweetener made from fruit. It has 14 calories per teaspoon, and I love it drizzled over fruit and yoghurt.

There are three flavours.: chocolate, chocolate and coconut (like a liquid Bounty bar) and spiced orange chocolate (which to me tastes like Green & Blacks Maya Gold).

I decided to use the coconut one for the first outing of my ice cream maker.


I had some Yeo Valley 0% fat plain yoghurt, which I strained overnight through a sieve with a piece of kitchen paper in it. This was to thicken it up, as it’s quite runny. You could use Greek yoghurt instead, and of course it doesn’t have to be low fat or fat free if you don’t want it to be!

I had about 200g of yoghurt, and I added 1tbsp of choc shot. Which I guess is about 40 calories?  In Slimming World terms it’s 2 syns for 1 tbsp, and the yoghurt is ‘free’. So only 2 syns for the whole lot!

A quick mix and it looks like this, and tastes pretty good as it is!  It still has that tartness that comes with plain yoghurt, so you might want to add more choc shot if you want it more chocolatey, or serene of some kind (maybe sweet freedom) to take away the tartness.      

A quick whiz in the ice cream maker. (It’s this Andrew James one – isn’t it pretty?! – I got it from here, and into the freezer to firm up.


I forgot to take a photo before I ate some of it, but here it is.. I put it in the fridge to soften for a couple of hours before eating it to get it to scoopable consistency. And it was delicious! Creamy texture, a bit tart and chocolatey, coconuty yum.