Strawberry Milkshake Traybake.

Strawberry Milkshake Traybake as made for an event in my local village hall.

A couple of weeks back we had an event in my local village hall.  I was asked to bake a couple of things to take along.  I was surprised to be asked as it was an evening event.  Usually cakes and bakes are meant to be eaten during the day but not alongside wine and nibbles.  I presumed this was because there would be children there.

So with this in mind I got baking one Saturday afternoon.  I started with some flapjacks, then some Oreo Cookie Brownies and then decided to make a traybake.  Traybakes, to me are perfect for big gatherings as they take no time at all to prepare and a little goes a long way. I thought a plain vanilla sponge would go down well and thought about a suitable topping.

I went completely overboard with the heart shaped sprinkles and the purple edible glitter.
Traybakes always go down well- a little always goes a long way.
I also baked flapjacks, which go down well with people of all ages.

I use a lot of Sugar and Crumbs’ natural flavoured icing sugars and their cocoa powders.  Every now and again I get a few packets and stock up, trying out new flavours.  Or I go back and repeat buy flavours I know everyone loves. This is what happened with their Strawberry Milkshake flavour.  Last year I tried making some cupcakes with strawberry milkshake flavour buttercream. This time I decided to make up some buttercream and put it on the top of the traybake.  I also had some pastel coloured heart sprinkles and some edible glitter to finish off the decorations.

As expected the traybake went down well with the children and not so much with the adults.  After all, who wants to eat cake with wine?  I had also eaten my dinner quite late that afternoon and was still full up from then. There were a few bits left. I was still happy with the result though and will make another traybake like this another time for a coffee morning.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Portuguese Pork and Rice- Mary Berry Everyday.

Those of you who are parents will know how frustrating and irritating it is when you try your hardest to cook interesting and delicious meals for your family.  Only for them to turn their noses up at something they haven’t even tried yet. Mr SmartCookieSam is the same as he has definite likes and dislikes. I like to try cooking different things for dinner and get bored of eating the same old meals day in day out.  Last Wednesday I had been working just for the morning so I had more time to cook and try out something new from Mary Berry’s latest cookbook “Everyday”. I had done my food shopping on the weekend and Mr SmartCookieSam had spotted some pork fillet in the fridge. He said it would be nice stuffed with black pudding. No it will not!  When I told him that it was going to be chopped up into slices to be made into Portuguese Pork and Rice, he was not impressed!

Portuguese Pork and Rice is a fantastic one pot dish that reminds me of a cross between a paella and a risotto.  I guess you could also make it with chicken or prawns if you don’t like pork.  The pork fillet I had bought was a lovely piece of meat and I sliced it carefully into bite sized strips.  These were seared in a pan with some olive oil first.

To add depth and colour to the dish there are a variety of vegetables to chop and put in.  I love the addition of banana shallots which I had never used before. I had used the little ones which remind me of pickled onions but not these.  They had a pinky purple hue to them as well so this made the dish look pretty.  Added to this was some strips of red pepper and some crushed garlic. These were softened for a few minutes.

It was then time to add the smoked paprika which is an ingredient I love using, followed by some long grain rice, a can of chopped tomatoes and a little bit of chicken stock.  To stop the liquid from boiling away and everything burning I had to put a lid on the pan. This made the moisrure stay in and the rice grains soaked up all the stock.

Towards the end of the cooking time the pork went back into the pan along with some pitted black olives.  As this was being prepared I warmed through slices of ciabatta bread and made up a side salad.

Even though both Mr SmartCookieSam and my son had originally turned their noses up at the thought of Portuguese Pork and Rice, I had a pleasant surprise.  They both tucked in with gusto.  It’s incredible how even the thought of something can turn people off until thay actually try it! For us, it was a perfect midweek dinner dish but Mary reckons it is also “great for feeding the family or for a summer lunch with a dressed salad on the

side,”

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Now what I didn’r norice until a day or so after I had posted a photo of my meal on Instagram was the position of the black olives in my dinner.  What does it look like to you?

I really want to make this again.  I can see me eating it in the summer sat outside on the patio with a large glass of rose on the side.

Love Sam xx

Hummingbird Cake- Mary Berry Everyday.

As soon as I saw Mary Berry’s new book Everyday I had to bake the Hummingbird Cake recipe from the book. A while back I’d made some Hummingbird Cupcakes which had been very popular with everyone who tasted one.  So I was keen to test out a big cake version of this “Southern US classic which takes banana cake up a notch,” according to Mary’s recipe introduction.  Mary also states that “It makes for a moist, substantial cake, beautifully offset by the tangy cream cheese icing,”

Baking the Hummingbird cake would also be a great way of testing out some Sugar and Crumbs Banana Split icing sugar I had got in my baking cupboard. I had bought it before Christmas and wanted to use it in something but not had the chance. As banana is one of the key flavours in a Hummingbird Cake, along with pineapple, this banana flavour would be a perfect additional dimension to the cream cheese icing.

Into a large mixing bowl went all the dry ingredients. Self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon, caster sugar all went in as well as some chopped walnuts.  I mixed them all up together and then put them to one side to prepare the rest of the cake.

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In another bowl I mashed up two large, ripe bananas. These were then added to another mixing bowl along with some drained and chopped pineapple chunks, two beaten eggs, a spoonful of vanilla extract and some sunflower oil.

Both bowls were combined together and dry mixture was folded in carefully.  The mixture reminded me of a muffin batter.  This was then divided between 2 greased 20cm/ or 8″ diameter circular tins.  The cake baked for about 25 minutes in my fan oven. When it came out it had risen beautifully and smelled fabulous. I went off to put some laundry away and to do some hoovering.  By the time I’d finished that job it was time to take the cakes out of the tin and put them on a wire rack to cool down.

The Hummingbird cake does not need much decoration.  It’s all in the taste of the cake.  In the illustraion Mary uses a cream cheese frosting for the filling and the top of the cake. I wanted to add a little bit more yet I didn’t want to overdo things.  In the end I chopped up some more walnuts and sprinkled them on top to finish off.

The cream cheese frosting is made with softened butter, full fat cream cheese, vanilla extract and icing sugar. As mentioned before I substituted the plain icing sugar for the Sugar and Crumbs’ Banana Split icing sugar. I left out the vanilla extract.  This gave the cream cheese mixture a delicate banana flavouring. It was wonderfully creamy and so easy to spread on the cake.

As the icing contained cream cheese I chose to put the cake in the fridge to keep and this helped enormously.

A huge hit with everyone but the worst thing was that I kept craving more. I longed to have another slice and having the cake in the house tested my weakening willpower to breaking point.Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Curried Beef Samosas

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As soon as I got my hands on a copy of Mary Berry’s latest recipe book “Everyday” I wanted to test out loads of the recipes.  Of course being a baking addict I always go straight to the cake recipes in her books but it was actually a savoury recipe I made first.

Last weekend we ended up having Mary’s Curried Beef Samosas with a salad.  I got out the mango chutney as well.  Normally samosas are deep fried and I love them from our local Indian takeaway.  But these were baked.

Mary’s recipe introduction tells  us: “With their delicious spicy filling and crispy texture , these are guaranteed to go down well. Perfect for sharing either as a canape or a starter,”

The recipe makes 14 large samosas. As I had never made samosas before this was going to be a really tricky challenge for me.  It would be like doing origami for me with fiddly filo pastry.

The first task was to prepare the spicy beef filling.  I heated olive oil in my large frying pan and added finely chopped onion, red peppers, dried chilli flakes, garlic and tiny pieces of carrot.  Once all the vegetables had softened after a few minutes, I added in some minced beef. This was then browned carefully.  After the mince had browned I added some medium curry powder, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a spoonful of mango chutney. All this was left to cook for a few minutes until it was time to add in some frozen peas.

Such a good thing that even Mary Berry uses ready made filo pastry. Life is far too short to make your own.  I draw the line at making your own shortcrust though. I had this packet of filo pastry in my freezer left over from Christmas. Making these samosas would be the perfect excuse to use up the pastry.

Trouble is filo pastry and I don’t really get on.  I find it really fiddly to use and it always rips on me.  It’s like an edible version of tissue paper. The air was blue in my kitchen as I tried my hardest to unwrap the pastry.  I had to have a long, thin strip of pastry which was about 10 x 40cm in size to make each samosa with.  My pastry was completely the wrong size for these dimensions so I had to make do.

The pastry was quite dry even though Mary warned in her everyday tips at the end of the recipe that this might happen.  You need to work quickly brushing each layer with melted butter.  The butter soaked in quickly and I found the pasty quickly broke several times.

Samosas are meant to be a triangular shape but because my pastry kept breaking I struggled with this.  In some cases they looked like uneven parcels or spring rolls.  All I could hope for was that Mr SmartCookieSam and my son were put off by their awful appearance.  I didn’t care though, so long as they tasted great.I  did make the 14 samosas like Mary’s recipe said but half were what I would have called a walking disaster area. I won’t be getting a job in my local takeaway or restaurant making the samosas.

When I served up the samosas I thought they looked nothing like I’d eaten but then they had been oven baked and not deep fried.  The pastry looked unappetising but once I bit into the samosa I was pleasantly surprised. The beef curry filling was spicy yet not too overpowering and there was just enough of it.  I ended up having two samosas with some salad.  Mr SmartCookieSam ate a couple for lunch the day after.

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The better out of the Samosas. Believe me they did taste better than they looked!

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The samosa rejects. The picture speaks for itself!

Would I make these samosas again?  In all fairness, probably not.  I was put off by the fiddliness of using the filo pastry and I found it far too tricky to make the triangles up with out the filling oozing out all over the place.  So for me, not something I would make for an everyday meal.

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books- March 2017.

It’s been a long time since I did my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge. Every month for a few months back in 2014 I chose a book and aimed to bake or cook one or two recipes from each chapter throughout that month. It meant that any book I’d bought and let gather dust on the shelf would get some use out of it.

Or so that was the plan…

A couple of weeks back I bought Mary Berry’s new cookbook “Everyday”. There’s so many recipes in there I want to try out and it’s not all about baking.  Especially as if I bake, I end up eating it.

Mary+Berry+Everyday

The original idea in the Cooking The Books Challenge was to choose at least one recipe from each chapter of the book I was using that month.  It could vary depending on the amount of chapters and what sort of things were being cooked. With a Mary Berry cookbook and also one which featured family meals, I knew that the Everyday book challenge wouldn’t be so hard after all.

The strapline for the book is to “make every meal special”.  I cook most of my dinners from scratch but we do have the odd takeaway and use shortcuts. I don’t have time after a busy day in the classroom to make every meal special.  In fact if I have been working as with a lot of working families, it’s what you can grab at first.

So as I opened the book I laughed my head off to see the contents of Everyday’s first chapter: Food For Sharing.  Mary does love her dinner party food with canapes and little nibbles.  The only time I do anything remotely like this is at Christmas. Do people really have nibbles and bites like this everyday? Perhaps I’m missing out.

The rest of the book is divided into eight other chapters and to me  they include more of your everyday foods and meals. This does do what it says on the book cover.  The recipes are mainly every day meals but with a special twist. Also there are ideas which look very fancy but actually don’t take as long to cook as they first appear.  I was keen to try out a few recipes on my family.

What is going to be tried out in the SmartCookieSam kitchen over the next few weeks?

Food For Sharing:  I won’t be holding any fancy dinner parties this month. I’m far too busy.  But I do love the sound of the two Samosa recipes in this chapter; Curried Beef Samosas and Spicy Mexican Samosas.  I’ve got some filo pastry in the freezer I’ve not managed to use up. I might try out the Guacamole with Coriander and the Olive Tapenade if I have time one weekend.

First Courses and Light Lunches: Often at work I take along a salad, a Mug Shot, yoghurt and fruit or a sandwich.  I sometimes take soup.  Or if I’m forgetful I end up rushing out of the house and forget my lunch meaning I have to stop off at the M&S at the local garage near me.  Better get my act together.  There’s a mouthwatering recipe in this chapter for a Winter Vegetable Soup.  I also fancy trying out Mary’s Crispy Bacon Rosti one Saturday lunchtime.

Beef, Pork, Lamb and Game:  I can’t stand lamb but don’t mind venison.  There is a twist on the Cottage Pie recipe here by using minced venison in place of beef.  It looks delicious but I’m not sure whether Mr SmartCookieSam and our son will eat it. I know they will love Mary’s special Chilli Con Carne,  the Fillet Steak with Peppercorn Sauce and the Sausage  and Herb Plait.  I’m really keen to try the Portguese Pork and Rice too.

Poultry: As with lots of people, we love chicken in our house. It’s a joke that when Mr SmartCookieSam cooks it’s always Garlic Chicken.  My son said until recently, “If Dad’s cooking, it’s garlic chicken!” Though recently hubby has started cooking curries.  Now my son says “Dad’s cooking curry again!”  I’m grateful for hubby cooking and he is a great cook but sometimes I like to try different things.  So I’m going to test out Marsala Mediterranean Chicken Thighs, the Chicken Stir Fry with Teriyaki Sauce and Chicken Dijon on them. I might even try more.

Fish:  I’m not a huge fish lover though I’m doing my best to eat more fish and seafood.  I had a lot of bad experiences as a child with my Nana Margaret’s terrible cooking and it’s put me off for life.  Even smelling kippers now at breakfast in a hotel room makes me want to throw up. But I’m not going to throw up testing out Mary’s Very Posh Fishcakes, her Yuzu Salmon with Buttered Leeks and her Fragrant Light Prawn Curry.

Vegetarian: I was really struggling with this chapter.  Not because I didn’t like any of the recipes.  It was more about what on earth my carnivore mad hubby would eat.  Any recipes which contain courgettes, aubergines or are risottos are out!  I think I might have to try out the Sun dried tomato pasta with Mozzarella and the Potato, Leek and Cheese Pie though.

Sides and Salads:  Lots of variety to choose from here but I think the two different salads with bulgar wheat in as well as the Satay Chicken Salad look delicious.Once again what I would eat and what Mr SmartCookieSam would eat is another thing!

Puddings and Desserts: Now for an everyday occurence, I definitely don’t have puddings and desserts.  I’ve even stopped having out weekly Sunday lunch dessert.  This is mainly because my son now works on a Sunday so we don’t eat our dinner until late. Eating a pie or a crumble late in the evening gives me indigestion so I don’t bother. All of Mary’s pudding recipes look scrumptious and I’m so tempted by her Apple and Lemon Galette and her Blackberry and Apple Crumble Pie.  But when would we eat it though?

Teatime: Now as you all know I’m a baking addict and I confess to always looking at the baking chapter first in a book like this.  As Mary Berry is the baking queen herself, her baking recipes never disappoint.  I’ve seen several recipes in this chapter I want to try but of course if I bake them, I eat them.  I would love to try out Mary’s Hummingbird Cake, her Pistachio Shortbreads, the Lemon Meringue cupcakes and her Chocolate Reflection Cake.

Watch this space and read on throughout the next few weeks to see how many recipes I actually do get to try out.

Love Sam xx

 

 

Sun Dried Tomato and Mozzarella with Spiralised Veg (Mary Berry Everyday)

I have a massive addiction to Lakeland. It’s very hard for me to come out of one of their stores empty handed. I see so many fantastic products on their shelves that I wish I just had the money or the room for in my kitchen.

At half term week I met up with my mum at Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield.  My mum and I both love cooking and baking. I’ve been trying to lose some weight and so far have lost 1 1/2 stone since last July.  I know I need some carbs in my diet but I would like to reduce this.  One way I can do this is to use a vegetable spiralizer instead of using pasta.  Ar first I thought, what’s wrong with a bit of pasta>  But then after going to a restaurant and trying courgetti for the first time, I actually found I liked it.

Since then I’ve been keen to get a spiraliser. There were about 5 or 6 different ones to choose from on the shelf in Lakeland, ranging from a hand held simple one to a massive one which had different interchangeable blades.  The one I chose sits comfortably on the work top. It  stays put with suction pads and has four different blades of varying thicknesses.  I thought that I would get a lot of use out of it, especially when my daughter is back from uni in her holidays.  Once I got the hang of using the spiralizer I was really enjoying it.  My first attempts were a bit messy and both the courgettes and carrots came out in short strips instead of the curly, long spirals I had seen on other peoples’  Instagram and Twitter pics. I made far too much for one person really as neither Mr SmartCookieSam or my teenage son like courgettes. Though I did mix in a few carrot spirals in with their spaghetti.

I decided to make Mary Berry’s Sundried Tomato Pasta sauce from her new Everyday book which is just out.  Not a success at all.  I didn’t chop the sun dried tomatoes up enough and Mr SmartCookieSam pushed them to the side of his plate. After that he said “I can’t eat this, sorry,” and put his knife and fork together.  I agreed with him but not only did the pasta dish taste vile, it looked vile as well.  The mozzarella was meant to be cut into little pieces on top of the sauce but it was so grainy and bitty that it was in large clumps.  It wasn’t the spiralised veg, they were lovely. It was the disgusting sauce.  So sorry to say this time but this is the first Mary Berry recipe which didn’t go down well in our house.

After we had tipped the disgusting food in the bin I went and found the biscuit tin. Mr SmartCookieSam asked for some cheese and crackers. So much for trying to eat healthily and cut carbs. I had four cream crackers with Brie on top.  Ooops, better luck next time!

Christmas Leftovers- Mincemeat Loaf Cake.

I know it’s New Year now but I can’t bear throwing things out or wasting things.  As I’ve been doing Slimming World up to Christmas and hoping to start back at my local group on 4th January, I can’t really be baking things or eating leftover cake and mince pies.

But what to do with the two spare jars of homemade mincemeat which were sat taking up space in my cupboard? Mr SmartCookieSam said it would last until next Christmas but I’m not always so sure.  So I had a look through my recipe books and spotted an ideal way of using up a whole jar of mincemeat without taking too much time and effort up.

This Mincemeat Loaf Cake recipe comes from Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection. The recipe actually makes two small loaves.

As Mary says in the recipe notes: ” These are great to have on hand at Christmas time. They freeze superbly and make a nice present…. the mincemeat adds spice and moisture to the cakes,”

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The idea that the cakes freeze well was a real winner for me.  I don’t want to be eating cakes right now but there is room in my freezer to put the loaves away and bring out for another time.  They’re always useful if one of my friends pops round for a cuppa or for taking into work to share with colleagues.

The recipe was simple to make.  I mixed mincemeat, softened butter, light muscovado sugar, 2 beaten eggs, self raising flour, currants and raisins together in a large mixing bowl.  To this I also added an extra teaspoonful of ground mixed spice. This was all mixed together and put into two loaf tins lined with special loaf tin liners.

 To finish off I needed to stud whole almonds into the top of the loaves.  I realised I didn’t have any whole almonds left, only flaked ones.  I sprinkled some flaked almonds on and also added some whole glace cherries before sticking the loaves in the oven.  They baked for about 1 1 /4 hours while I got on with the ironing.  As I was doing the ironing there was a lovely smell wafting about the kitchen, very tempting but not helpful when trying to lose weight!

The loaves didn’t look that big compared to what I was expecting, I would have preferred to have baked one big loaf instead of two tiny ones.  It smelled wonderful though and once it had cooled down I was tempted to cut one of the loaves open and see what the inside looked like.  I didn’t eat any, honest!

Wrapped up in cling film they’re now in the freezer.  Let’s hope I don’t forget I’ve made them!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx