Ham, Cheese, Tomato and Pesto Parcels

It’s now my second week back in work after lockdown.  My working days have changed and it has made me have to be really organised.  Before lockdown I worked on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but for now I am in work on a Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

On a working day I finish at 6pm on two days and don’t get in from home until 6.45pm. The last thing I want to do is to think about cooking dinner.  On a work night it’s usually something I’ve prepared earlier or something easy to put together which Mr S or my daughter can make. The other day before the pandemic started was my college night where I used to go straight from work to  my patisserie course. On that night I would eat a sandwich for my tea in the car before going into college.

I love  The Batch Lady  (aka Suzanne Mulholland) I bought her book back in March and  used it loads of times.  My family have really enjoyed everything I’ve made out of her book and always ask me to  make her Farmer’s Wife Plait (basically a giant sausage roll) on a regular basis. I think The Batch Lady book has revolutionised my meal planning, especially as I love to cook but do not like to be spending ages doing it when I’m tired.

On Sunday afternoon just after I had popped our roast beef into the oven for our dinner that night, I started to prep Monday night’s dinner as well.  I had some ready rolled puff pastry in the fridge so I looked in The Batch Lady  book to see which recipes she had which used puff pastry.  Apart from the aforementioned Farmer’s Wife Plait, there was a recipe for Chicken, Cheese and Ham Lattices.  I only had chicken in the freezer and I hadn’t got a lattice cutter.  But I thought I’d adapt the recipe to suit what I had in the fridge.

I found some mature cheddar, some ham, tomatoes and half a jar of pesto sauce in the fridge which needed using up.  I thought they would make a delicious combination for a savoury lattice parcel. I could prep them up and put them on the baking tray ready in the fridge. All  Mr S or my daughter needed to do was to pop them in the oven and to stick some veg on to go with it on the Monday night.

I unrolled the puff pastry sheet and cut it into four quarters.  Then, I spread some pesto sauce on the bottom of the pastry but not quite to the edges. I then put a piece of ham, a piece of cheddar and two slices of tomato on one side of the parcel. Although the cheddar was a delicious one I’d bought off the deli counter in my local Morrisons, it was dead crumbly and made a right mess!

Once the filling had been put in, I then folded the parcel over and crimped the edges with a fork. I also made three diagonal slits in the top of the pastry.  Finally, I brushed it all over with some beaten egg. They looked very rustic but I was going for taste, not looks here!

On Monday I had had a really busy day and was exhausted.  I was so glad I had prepared the parcels the night before. As I literally crawled in through the door on my knees, Mr S had made some mashed potato and cooked some peas and sweetcorn to go with the parcels.  I was so grateful for this.

Both Mr S and my daughter said they really enjoyed the parcels.  There were four of them and we ate the fourth one between us. I had wanted to take it for my lunch on Tuesday but there it was lying all alone on the plate looking at us after we had finished our dinner. I have been told I have to make this again, which I’m definitely up for doing.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t got a photo, well that’s down to me forgetting to take one before we finished eating it! Oops!

Stay Safe!

Love Sam xx

 

 

 

Home-made Pizza

It’s been ages since I’ve made pizza. Last Sunday night I was planning out our shopping list when I was thinking about what we could have for our dinner. We all love pizza, although Mr S doesn’t really like shop bought ones. I like the thin and crispy ones but can’t stand anything deep pan or stuffed crust.

It’s easier to do things like this on a Monday while there’s the four of us still at home and when I’m not out at work. The dough can be got ready as and when you need it. Also, my two grown up kids enjoy making their own pizzas and sticking their favourite toppings on. Mr S asked if I could buy some prawns and anchovies for his pizza. Yuck to the anchovies but I got ham and pepperoni as well as lots of grated mozzerella and a carton of passata.

The pizza dough recipe I use is one by Annabel Karmel from her Children’s First Cookbook. I’ve had this cookbook years! It was bought when my kids were little and also got used when I ran an after school cookery club. Virtually most of the recipes had been adapted in one way or another. In fact I made pizzas loads of times throughout my time as a teacher but it was always Annabel’s recipe we used for the pizza dough.

Monday afternoon was not good dough making weather though. We up in North Yorkshire have not had the nasty storms and rain (yet) but the weather has been very muggy. My hands were hot as a furnace and no matter how much flour I dusted on the worktop and on my hands, the dough stuck to the worktop and to my hands. I got more and more flustered. Even having the windows open in my kitchen which gets the full sun in the afternoon wasn’t helping. I put my hands under a freezing cold tap but even that didn’t make a difference.

Eventually after 10 minutes of kneading I did get the dough into a bowl and left it proving. I didn’t need to find an especially warm place, it was warm everywhere! I was so fed up at that time that I wished I’d bought the pizzas and not made them from scratch.

For the tomato sauce I usually use a carton of passata. The only thing is it’s not full of sugar like some readymade pizza toppings are but we honestly didn’t miss it. I know you can make up a tomato sauce with tins of tomatoes, etc but I was seriously in a I can’t be bothered mood that day.

When it was time to get the pizza bases ready I got the dough out of the bowl, knocked it back and then cut it into four quarters. Now for the rolling bit. Once again the dough wasn’t in the mood for it and I found myself getting hotter and more anxious. No matter what flour I put on the rolling pin, my hands or the worktop, it just stuck. My hands were hotter than a raging inferno. In the end I had to get my daughter to roll out the bases. I was just expecting her to do that but she ended up doing the whole lot. In the meantime, I had gone for a cold shower! I came downstairs to find my delicious pizza waiting for me with its thin and crispy base. Just how I like it!

We each had different pizzas. Mr S didn’t get his anchovies for his pizza (haha) as I “forgot” to buy some! But he had garlic and prawns on his: reminiscent of a delicious pizza eaten on holiday in Menorca several years ago. I had ham on mine and the others had pepperoni ones.

I didn’t get a photo of everyone else’s pizza but here’s mine! It was delicious and we all said we definitely have to make it again. Maybe on not such a hot day and also if I can find yeast in the supermarket again. I’m down to my last sachet of my pre-lockdown yeast now.

Do you like making pizza? If so, what are your favourite toppings?

Stay Safe!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Yeast Free Naan Bread

With a shortage of strong bread flour and yeast in the shops the other day, I’ve been making my own naan bread. I’ve always loved naan bread but the beauty with this recipe is that it doesn’t need yeast or strong bread flour to make it.

This naan recipe contains self raising flour and full fat natural yoghurt. This helps to leaven the bread slightly. The dough does not rise but instead ferments and you have to allow for this. Instead of cooking the naan in a traditional tandoor oven, these naans are cooked under a very hot grill.

Makes 8

Ingredients:

250g self raising flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 rounded tbsp full fat natural yoghurt

115ml lukewarm water

40g unsalted butter

1 clove garlic

2 tbsp any spices or herbs

  1. Mix the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the yoghurt and the warm water to the bowl. Do this a little at a time and work the dough together first with a knife and then using your hands.
  3. The dough will be a little bit sticky and rough but this is to be expected. Leave it to ferment for an hour in the mixing bowl. It should be covered with cling film or a damp tea towel.
  4. After an hour take the dough out of your bowl. Remember it won’t have risen because it doesn’t have any yeast in it.
  5. Flour your fingers and the work top and divide the dough into eight equal portions. Make each portion into a ball. Flatten, then stretch out the dough into an oval either with your hands or using a rolling pin.
  6. Preheat your grill to the highest setting. When it is hot enough, grill the naans for roughly 1 1/2 minutes each side. They should be puffed up. I cook mine in two batches of four as they won’t all fit under my grill at the same time.
  7. While your naans are grilling, melt the butter in a small saucepan on the hob. Add the chopped garlic and any herbs or spices you may want to add.
  8. When the naan bread is ready, brush them with the melted butter mixture and serve straightaway.

Variation:

In the baking aisle of my local supermarket, I found a sachet by Allinson’s called Baking Additions which had wild garlic and herbs in it. When I used it with the naan bread, I have had added half a sachet to for each batch of naan bread and it was really delicious.

We have really enjoyed these naan breads again tonight with a curry and I’ll definitely be making some again next week.

Stay safe everyone and happy baking.

Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Beef and Beer Pie.

Friday 15th December 2017.

In the run up to Christmas my head was all over the place and I was so disorganised.  I was trying to be organised but it just didn’t happen.  I planned to cook a steak and ale pie for Mr SmartCookieSam,  our son and I but I completely forgot to switch on the slow cooker.  And I was feeling pretty smug as I put the meat into the slow cooker thinking here goes, we’ll have a delicious pie filling!  No way! I wondered why I’d got to 5pm and realised the cooker was stone cold and the meat inside was raw! It serves me right.  So we ended up with a takeaway that night and the beef filling went in the fridge overnight.

Instead of putting the filling into a casserole dish and cooking it in the oven I usually find my slow cooker does it for me when I’m out leaving the meat deliciously tender.  This I did on Saturday morning, keeping the meat on the low setting throughout the day as I was going around doing all my chores.  I put browned braising steak, a chopped onion, bacon lardons, some ale, some beef stock, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, rosemary, button mushrooms and a bay leaf into the slow cooker and left it to do all the work.

Just before the pie was ready to go into the oven I transferred the meat to a pie dish and then made a shortcrust pastry lid for our meat pie.  The recipe in The Great British Bake Off Christmas book also has a shortcrust pastry lid but uses beef suet in the ingredients.  I hadn’t got any so I had to make my pastry with all butter and plain flour.  It didn’t change the taste or the effect though.  I decorated the top of the pie with leftover cut out pastry stars and then brushed the pie top with some beaten egg. It was baked in the oven for about 45 minutes until the top was golden and the filling was piping hot.

On Saturday we became a family of four again as my daughter came back from uni for the Chrismas holidays. We had a perfect first night back dinner as she loves steak and ale pie. I served it with some mashed potato, carrots and cabbage, along with a jug of extra gravy.  It was so delicious there were clean plates all round!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Caramelised Onion and Stilton Tart.

Thursday 7th December 2017.

I love making pies, quiches and tarts but I always worry about the fat and calorie content in the pastry and the fillings.  But nothing beats a homemade pie or tart, especially on a cold Winter’s evening.

I had planned out the meals to cook for this last week but forgot I was a day behind with what needed eating up first in the fridge.  I had some chicken breasts which needed to be used so they ended up being cooked for Thursday night’s dinner.  Being a supply teacher and at the time having no work booked in for the day after, I thought I’d prep ahead just in case I ended up working.  We’d all be starving by the time I got in from work. Not only that but the last thing I’d want to do is to start cooking something from scratch.  I’m glad I was prepared.  I ended up working and didn’t get home until 6.15pm.

The Caramelised Onion and Stilton Tart from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book ended up being our dinner along with some new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn.  It was assembled and cooked the night before and it was reheated carefully the following night.

So, back to Thursday tea time and I’m cooking two meals one after the other.  I started off with the tart and then went on to cooking the chicken breasts in a chipotle marinade with new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn.  Yes I know we had that two nights running but it was what I was trying to use up in the fridge before doing my weekly shop at the weekend.  I began with making up the shortcrust pastry which was fine.  It was chilled in the fridge for half an hour as I was cooking three medium onions in some olive oil and butter. The long, slow and low heat of cooking the onions really helps them to caramelise.

When the pastry was chilled for long enough, I got it out of the fridge and rolled it out to fit it into my tart tin.  There was enough pastry to overhang the edges. I filled the pastry case with baking parchment and my ceramic baking beans so I could blind bake it.  After 12 minutes I had to remove the paper and the beans then pop the pastry case back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

As the pastry case was baking, I mixed together the filling.  I mixed together two eggs and another egg yolk, along with some double cream, some grated Parmesan Cheese and some crumbled Stilton.  I was also meant to add pine nuts to the mixture but when I looked in the cupboard I’m sure I couldn’t find any.  So I left them out altogether.  I’m sure walnuts would have gone well in the tart as well.

When the pastry case came out of the oven, I mixed the filling, along with the caramelised onions together. The mixture was poured into the case and I popped the tart back into the oven.  I always put the tart case onto a flat baking tray in case it leaked out all over the oven floor.

The following day, when we chose to eat the tart, I asked Mr SmartCookieSam to put it back in the oven to reheat through for half an hour.  The result was absolutely delicious.  I’m sure it was hugely calorific, what with all the cheese and cream in the filling not to mention the butter in the pastry as well.  But it simply melted in the mouth.  What’s more is that as the tart was so big there was enough left over to eat cold the next day for lunch. It was a big hit and a recipe I’ll definitely be making again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pineapple Upside Down Bundt.

Who remembers having Pineapple Upside Down Cake as a child?  Did you have it for school dinners? I did, although when I was little I didn’t like the pineapple and left it. I remember a very strict teacher at our Infant School telling me off for not eating it and making me sit there at the table until I’d eaten every last mouthful! I’m surprised it hasn’t put me off pineapple for life!

I’ve had the NordicWare Pineapple Upside Down Bundt pan for a couple of years now.  I spotted it on Ebay from the US and just HAD TO HAVE IT! I love how you already have the shape of where to stick the pineapple rings and the cherries in. Alternatively as with other bundt pans, you could bake a pineapple flavoured cake and the pretty pattern will come out on top of the cake when you take it out of the tin. Personally, I’ve not got round to trying this out yet, but maybe one day?

To be honest I’ve not had much chance for blogging recently so this cake was baked over a month ago.  It was my 19 year old daughter’s last day at home before going back to uni for her second year. She was moving into a new house and would be going back early to work on a film shoot.  As with the last year before she left for uni we had a family meal at our house.  My Dad and step mum came over and I cooked a roast  chicken dinner followed by either Pistachio and White Chocolate Blondies and the Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  What would you serve with it? I went for a choice of double cream or vanilla ice cream.

As for the recipe used, I tried googling for a recipe specifically for the Nordicware pan but could I find one? No such luck, so I tried adapting a recipe I’ve used before. Nigella Lawson has a lovely recipe in her Express book, but the cake comes out a lot smaller. I doubled the quantities of the cake mixture itself and that seemed to work. I had to keep an eye on the time in the oven though. As it was over a month ago I can’t remember the exact time but my guess is it took me about an hour to bake.

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The bundt pan has been greased in the usual way. I put the cherries and the pineapples in the right places and then sprinkled sugar on the top of them to help make them caramelise.

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The finished Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It was perfect for a Sunday lunch dessert.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Tomato Provençale Tart.

The SmartCookieSam family have just come back from our summer holidays in the South of France.  It’s been 9 years since we last went to France.  We’ve always loved going there and as I speak French, it always feels like a special place to me.  Of course part of going to France is to enjoy all the lovely food and wine and our holiday  was no exception.

We stayed in a beautiful villa outside the medieval town of Flayosc near Draguignan and for most of our shopping used the huge Carrefour supermarket on the edge of Draguignan.  I was blown away by the sheer quality of the fruit and vegetables for a start.  Tomatoes never taste the same in the UK as they do in the mediterranean countries, to me.

The day after we got home I had to head up to our local supermarket to stock up.  I’d been so taken by all the Provencale type foods and dishes I’d seen, I was keen to make something  French for our dinner.  My son was over at his girlfriend’s house and he balks at anything with tomatoes in it unless it’s ketchup! I was looking in one of the Great British Bake Off books and found a mouthwatering sounding recipe in the book to accompany the 2013 series The Great British Bake Off Everyday.  There was a recipe for Roast Tomato Tart.  It captured all the typical Mediterranean flavours and could be adapted to have pesto sauce  in it in place of mustard.  I chose to stick with mustard.  The tart is a shortcrust pastry base infused with rosemary, baked blind and then spread with Dijon mustard and grated Gruyere cheese.  Then the tart is topped with sliced tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and then salt and pepper.

The recipe makes a tart in a circular 1 x 23cm loose based quiche tin but I chose to try out a rectangular flan tin I’d bought in John Lewis last year and never used.  I found I had slightly too many tomatoes to go in the tin but I just added them to the side salad I was serving with the tart.

Ingredients:

200g plain flour

1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary (I used dried, as I didn’t have fresh)

140g butter chilled and diced

3-4 tbsp iced cold water

800g ripe tomatoes

1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard or pesto sauce

175g Gruyere or Emmental cheese, grated

1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

A couple of pinches of herbes de Provence

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, you make up the rosemary shortcrust pastry.  This can be done in a food processor or by hand.  I thought that by the time I’d faffed about getting the food processor out, I could have made up the pastry.  But if you have one and it’s not a pain getting it out of the cupboard, it makes making pastry so much easier.  Rub the butter into the flour until it makes fine breadcrumbs then add the water little by little.  Form into a ball with the end of a round bladed knife.  It should be a soft but not sticky dough.  Wrap the dough into cling film and put in your fridge to chill for about 15 minutes.

Flour your work top with some plain flour or if you’re like me, pour too much out so it goes all over the kitchen floor.  When you have done that, get the dough out of the fridge and roll the pastry out to fit the flan tin allowing extra to overhang because of shrinkage.

Then the oven needs to be heated up to 190oC/

 

Excuse the awful pictures but I was taking the photos in a hurry.  Especially doing them before Mr SmartCookieSam saw me taking the pictures and would say he didn’t “want to see his dinner on bloody Facebook!”

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Payday Millionaire- Cheesy Potato Pie.

img_0903A few weeks ago  PaymentSense  approached me,  along with several other food bloggers to see if we could help.  The idea was for us to come up with a recipe to serve four people that would cost £5 to make. It could also be a meal which was able to be divided up and either serve 2 people over 2 days or be ideal for eating as four individual portions. asked some food bloggers if they would like to share their favourite go-to recipes. These had to be created with a budget of no more than £5 for 4 people in mind, Payment Sense  provide card payment services benefitting small businesses with their special rates and better customer services. We were not paid for our contributions.

 On their website PaymentSense also have some interesting and thought provoking articles. One article which is very relevant to my post is this one:

10 Truths About The Rise And Fall Of A Payday Millionaire

A few weeks ago  PaymentSense conducted some research into looking at how fast people are spending their disposible income once they have been paid and what their own situations can be like as they get closer to the end of the month.  The term “payday millionaire” means that once you are paid, people tend to act like money is no object, going around splashing the cash on unnecessary purchases and buying rounds of drinks.  I’m guilty of this, how many times have I gone out and bought a new pair of shoes or treated myself to a new Nordicware Bundt tin when I’ve just been paid. What was interesting was that the research showed that about one third of the people changed their eating habits in order to help budget their money until payday. So they would scrimp and scrape cooking on a budget or some may even attempt a diet!

I was approached, along with several other food bloggers to see if we could help.  The idea was for us to come up with a recipe to serve four people that would cost £5 to make. It could also be a meal which was able to be divided up and either serve 2 people over 2 days or be ideal for eating as four individual portions.

It didn’t take me long to choose which meal I would submit to the campaign. My Cheesy Potato Pie has been a firm favourite for many years.  I first started making it as a student about 25 years ago.  I also cooked it frequently for my own family as my two children were growing up. Now it has turned full circle and my daughter is now making the pie at uni.  Money was tight at home when my children were very young and I often behaved like a payday millionaire.  I still do but nowadays I have to be more careful.  I work as a supply teacher in my day job and the money comes in dribs and drabs according to when there is a demand for a supply teacher.  When it is the school holidays when I don’t have money coming in or when it is close to payday I rely heavily on meals like this.

My Cheesy Potato Pie is simple and quick to make.  It is served with a layer of baked beans on the bottom of the dish. The baked beans don’t have to be an expensive brand like Heinz. I only had Heinz in the picture as I’d bought a pack of 4 cans which were on special offer in the supermarket a couple of weeks before.  The same goes for the cheese topping. I  sometimes use the budget cheese or whatever’s on special offer at the time. To add a bit of  extra something to the pie, you can serve it with a side of bacon or sausages or even veggie burgers which my daughter prefers.  I even like eating the pie on its own and it’s a perfect choice of comfort food.  I know I’ll be making this lots once all the Christmas food has been eaten up, until our bank balances have had a chance to recover!

CHEESY POTATO PIE

Ingredients:

5-6 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks

1 x400g can of baked beans

100g grated cheddar cheese

butter and/ or milk to mash the potatoes with

8 sausages/ rashers of bacon or other accompaniment.

  • Put a large pan of water onto boil.
  • Peel and chop the potatoes and put into the pan of boiling water. Boil until soft.

  • Mash the potatoes with a knob of butter or with milk if you prefer. Or even use both!
  • Put the baked beans into a large ovenproof dish and spread them around, covering the bottom of the dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 180oC or Gas 4.

 

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Put the baked beans into an ovenproof dish.

  • Spread the mash evenly on top of the baked beans.
  • Grate the cheese and sprinkle it on top of the pie.

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Here’s the pie ready to be popped into the oven.

  •  Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the topping is crispy and golden brown.
  • While the pie is in the oven, cook the bacon or sausages in your preferred way.
  • Serve immediately.

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I chose to cook some sausages with my cheesy potato pie. The ones featured in the picture are frozen Slimming World ones which I found in Iceland a few weeks back.  I tend to get the best quality sausages I can find for the cheapest price but these were bought while I was following Slimming World leading up to Christmas.  Back to it in the New Year!

This pie could be made in four individual dishes or in two smaller ones which serve two people. It keeps well in the fridge overnight and can be frozen.

The cost of this dish is roughly about £4.00 including the sausages which makes this a very economical meal.

Annabel Karmel’s Busy Mum’s Cookbook- A Review.

The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is the latest publication from food writer Annabel Karmel and was published a couple of months ago. My family have grown up with Annabel’s recipes right from when I started weaning my daughter back in 1998 using purees from the Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. I’ve bought several of her books over the years from her Family Meal Planner, to her Kids In The Kitchen inspired books, to her party recipe one. I’ve kept all the books though I don’t think my kids would appreciate butternut squash purees now! Having said that, I regularly go back to recipes from the Family Meal Planner, which has been my lifesaver in the kitchen for the past 16 years.

So, when Annabel brings out a new book which isn’t directed at babies and toddlers, I’m always keen to buy it. I was very impressed with the Busy Mum’s Cookbook as it fits into my lifestyle. I work most days as a supply teacher, a job I love but I’m always shattered when I get in from school.  All the recipes I have tried out of the book so far have fitted into the slot of being suitable for busy parents and not just Mums!

The introduction states: “Many of us stick with what we know and trust when it comes to cooking, especially when our lives are busier than ever! Yet the result is often a collection of six or seven failsafe recipes that families rely upon week in week out!” 

I have easily fallen into that trap. I think I’ve cooked chilli con carne or chicken curry every week for the past year but I do it because I know my son will eat it. Annabel Karmel’s own children have always been a massive part of her cookery career, she tests recipes out on them and there used to be photos of them in her earlier books. Now they are grown up but they still influence her recipes, just like I do when I try to recreate my own dishes at home. 

The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is split up into seven sections each featuring a stack of recipes to suit all lifestyles. 

Roasted Tomato and Pesto Pasta.
Chapter One is called “20 Minute Recipes” and features plenty of recipes which can be cooked in a very short time. Last Monday evening I tried out the Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto on my family. It says the cooking time is 10 mins and the preparation time, 8 minutes. I had to roast the cherry tomatoes in the oven with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar which took all of 10 minutes. While the tomatoes were roasting the pasta was cooking on the hob. When it had cooked I added pesto sauce to the pasta and mixed it with the tomatoes and mozzarella pieces. Ideal for a a quick weeknight supper.

Golden Syrup and Ginger Loaf Cake
Annabel’s baking recipes are just divine and I must admit I always looked at the baking and dessert chapters first when I bought her earlier books. For every special occasion dinner I must have made Annabel’s naughty but nice version of Tiramisu and baked a lot of her cakes and cookies  for children’s parties. I know sweets and desserts get a bad press but to be honest I can’t see the problem in having the odd treat here or there. So it was great to see a handful of delicious recipes at the back of the book in the Sweets chapter.  Last Sunday I tried out the Golden Syrup Ginger Cake which is described as a “deliciously moist, gently spiced cake (which is) perfect for an afternoon tea treat.” 

 To me it sounded like McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake which I used to eat as a child for tea at my Nana Margaret’s house. I’ve not had it for years. So I was tempted to try baking the cake to see if it was the same. I used my Nordicware Gingerbread Man Loaf Bundt pan which has only been used once before, great to give it another outing. I greased the pan well with Wilton Cake Release.  Flour, caster sugar, cinnamon and ginger were combined in one bowl. In another in went eggs, sunflower oil and golden syrup. They were then mixed together and the batter poured into the tin.  It tasted lovely even though I could have done with more mixture to fill the tin! It looked very small! 

Three Tomato Bruschetta, although only one type was used in my version.
Last Friday night was perfect to sit out and enjoy the gorgeous sunny weather. I had loads of tomatoes to use up and had the idea of making the Three Tomato Bruschettas for my family. Though we only had one type of tomato, this recipe was a lot more fiddly than I thought. I had to peel and de-seed a whole punnet of cherry tomatoes which took a lot of time. The Bruschetta recipe is in the Lunchboxes and Snacks chapter.  Lunchboxes is something I never get right. When my kids were at primary school they had Lunchboxes and I used Annabel’s own Lunchboxes book for ideas when my daughter first started in Reception. Her pasta salads and fruit salads with dips would come back untouched and she used to say “Why can’t I have fruit winders in my lunchbox?” Or “……has Cheesestrings in hers, why can’t I?” I tend to be a bit disorganised with my own lunches, I end up with half a carton of soup or a noodle pot. If I’m feeling really lazy then I buy a sandwich from a local garage with an M&S food shop attached to it. Same goes for my husband, when he’s working in his office, he’s across the road from a fantastic bakery so he nips there for a sandwich or a pasty. The kids follow what their friends are doing in town. So unless I sort myself out, I can’t see myself using the lunch box recipes much!

Chocolate and Oat Cookies

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love baking biscuits, hence my blog name SmartCookieSam. Last Friday I had some spare time and decided to bake some of Annabel’s Chocolate and Oat Cookies. My son is going through his GCSEs at the moment and my daughter has been busy in her college course. What better than a sweet treat to start half term off? The cookies were very simple to make using butter, brown sugar, flour, an egg, some vanilla extract, baking powder, a small amount of ground ginger, porridge oats and dark chocolate cut into chunks.  No sooner than they had been put on the cooling rack, then half of them disappeared! That’s a good sign. If they’re still there in the biscuit tin a few days later that’s when I start getting worried. 

Pasta Arrabiata

My son and husband aren’t massive pasta fans but they liked the Pasta Arrabiata recipe. It was a perfect standby storecupboard supper to knock up after a busy day at work. It went very well washed down with a couple of glasses of wine! I forgot to tell hubby that Arrabiata sauce has chillies in it! 

There was another chapter in the book dedicated to Entertaining. Well I can’t remember the last time I had friends round for dinner. It was probably about 10 years ago. Ever since I went back to work doing dinner parties is the last thing on my mind. Though I have had several parties and get togethers. This usually ends up being buffet food or a BBQ or maybe cakes and lots of drink though! I can’t see me cooking any recipes from the Entertaining chapter soon,  though! 

So, to sum up I was extremely impressed with Annabel’s book. It is going to be well used in the next few years I bet as it was the case with her baby and toddler feeding books. I can wholeheartedly recommend it! 

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx