Icelandic Marriage Cake.

Whenever I go on holiday I like to find out if there are any traditional local cakes either to try  or to recreate at home.  Last month we went to Iceland for four days as a stopover on our way to Canada.  I didn’t eat any cake or sample any Icelandic baking but was curious to know if Iceland has any traditional cake recipes.

On our flight back from Edmonton to Keflavik flying with IcelandAir I was looking through the menu card for the inflight meals and snacks.  They were offering what looked like a flapjack bar with jam in the middle called a Marriage Cake.  Although I didn’t eat one, I thought I’d Google it when I got home and see if I could make one myself.

Looking up about the marriage cake was interesting, there were lots of recipes around but nothing mentioned the origins of it and why it was called marriage cake. Maybe in years gone by it might have been one of the first things a newly married wife would bake for her husband to please him. It seemed quite an easy recipe so, maybe if the new wife wasn’t used to cooking.  I don’t know.  Maybe it contains aphrodisiacs?!!  Anyway, most recipes I came across had a few things in common. They tended to be baked in a circular cake tin with a crumble type base. There would be a layer of mixed raspberry jam with rhubarb, then the remains of the crumble mixture would be sprinkled on top.

Eventually I came across this recipe on the Delicious Magazine website:

http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/happy-marriage-cake/

The recipe uses a mixture of rhubarb and strawberry jam in the filling. I didn’t have any of that jam in my cupboard, although Mr SmartCookieSam sometimes loves MacKays Rhubarb and Ginger Jam on his toast for breakfast. I used some Bonne Maman Blueberry Jam instead. It wouldn’t have been that authentic but I didn’t want to go out buying more jam when I had plenty in the cupboard.

I chose to bake the Marriage Cake in a square tin instead of in the circular loose bottom tin like other recipes suggested. I wanted it to be cut in bars instead of slices so I used a tin I use a lot for when I bake brownies and shortbread. To prepare the tin, I greased it with some Wilton Cake Release, which I swear by.

In a large mixing bowl I creamed together some softened butter and light brown muscovado sugar. I thought that if this was meant to be a crumble type mixture then you would need to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Instead this sounded more like baking biscuits! I followed the recipe anyway and then added a beaten egg to the creamed mixture. Once this was added in, then I put in some plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and some porridge oats. This did look more like a cookie dough at the end of it.

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Two thirds of the crumble mixture was pressed into the tin to form the marriage cake’s base.

The middle of the cake was made up of blueberry jam, although this was a bit runny!
The final layer was the topping which was the last third of the crumble mixture. Very rustic looking but it was all in the taste.
The Marriage Cake cooling on the rack before being cut into bars,
Cut into 12 bars, the Marriage cake was a little too sweet for me.

 On the day that I baked the Marriage Cake I was in a funny mood.  The weather was lousy and every time I tried to start something I would get interrupted.  Not by my kids, though, they were both out at the time but by cold callers phoning!  Then as soon as I got the cold caller off the phone,  the phone went again.  The warmth of my kitchen is my sanctuary, where I go to relax and unwind.  It was having the opposite effect today.  Soon though, the delicious smell wafted through the house from my oven.  I was meant to be dieting but with the rubbish weather I felt like I needed something full of carbs. I could hardly wait for them to cool down.

To be honest I was a little bit disappointed.  The blueberry jam made the Marriage Bars far too sweet. Maybe if I had used the rhubarb jam, which is more tart then it wouldn’t have been so sickly.  I took a bite out of one of the bars and that was all I had.  This is unheard of for me, I began to wonder if I was ill! Me finding something too sweet?  I left the bars out on the worktop and when my kids came back in they had one each.  Funny how they would usually turn their noses up at most things but they enjoyed these.

What was so funny was that I posted a photo of the bars on Facebook later and then put the bars into a plastic tub in the fridge.  Mr SmartCookieSam who only goes on Facebook to spy on me and the kids saw the post about the Marriage Cakes  a couple of days later and commented “I haven’t seen these!” Funny how the man I’m married to was the only one  who hadn’t seen the cakes. I told him to look in the fridge but found a completely empty box!  My kids never wash out empty boxes, they just leave them there for me to clean! Such is life!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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

Celebrating Mother’s Day with Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Flavoured Cocoa Powders and Icing Sugars.

I’m always up for trying out new baking products, especially those which add an extra dimension or an extra special something to my bakes.

 Just recently I have discovered Sugar and Crumbs who make a range of natural cocoa powders and icing sugars to enhance your bakes and to turn them into something really special.  Not only this but they also sell a great range of crumbs and sprinkles to finish off the top of your cakes with a pretty touch.  Sugar and Crumbs sell their products online through their own website but they also have a really useful local stockist search facility on their website.  If you type in your postcode it comes up with who stocks the Sugar and Crumbs products nearby.  As I live in North Yorkshire I was pleased to see that Sugarcraft Supplies in Garforth sells them!  I know where I’ll be heading on my next day off from work!

I belong to to the Clandestine Cake Club and a few of my cakey friends had bought Sugar and Crumbs products to try out in their cakes from a stand at The Cake and Bake Show last year. They were absolutely delighted with them and I was intrigued to try the products out for myself.

From coconut to lime and from Black Forest to Cherry Bakewell there is a flavour to suit everyone’s taste buds.  I even noticed there is a chilli flavoured cocoa powder on the website which I would love to try out in the future! Though what I do wish to see is a mint flavour cocoa powder and icing sugar as that is my overall favourite and I would buy it by the shedload!

So when Sugar and Crumbs set me a challenge to bake with a goodie bag of their cocoa powder and icing sugars I jumped at the chance.  Mother’s Day is coming up and what better occasion than to bake a cake or something delicious for your mum?  I’m a mum of two teenagers myself but I love baking cakes for my own mum. She came to visit me when it was half term so I thought it was a great excuse to get out the cake tins and come up with some treats to share for Mother’s Day.

Sugar and Crumbs offered me a choice of cocoa powders and icing sugars from their wide variety of flavours and extensive range.  I chose to go with the Chocolate Orange Natural Flavoured Cocoa Powder which was accompanied by two different icing sugars.  One was the Jaffa Twist Natural Flavoured Cocoa Icing Sugar and the other was the Orange Zest Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar which all came in the most gorgeous pink or white resealable pouches. So pretty, just made me want to open it straightaway and get baking!   I was very impressed with the packaging and I felt you got a lot in a packet,  especially with the cocoa powder as it would last for a couple or several bakes depending on what you were making.

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My pretty goodie bag which came from Sugar and Crumbs. All beautifully packaged in a pink parcel!
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The Sugar and Crumbs products I was sent to try out. From left to right: a packet of orange natural icing sugar, a bag of chocolate orange cocoa powder and last but not least, a bag of chocolate orange flavoured icing sugars. Designed to compliment one another. All packages are easily identifiable in their pink or white colour schemes with colour coded flavour stickers so you know instantly what flavour you have.

Those of you that read my SmartCookieSam blog regularly will know that I’m addicted to baking bundts and have started collecting Nordicware bundt pans.  So my Mother’s Day bake just HAD to include a bundt cake somewhere. I adapted the recipe from the latest Hummingbird Bakery recipe book which is just out called Life Is Sweet.  On page there is a recipe for the Tunnel of Fudge Bundt Cake which I turned into a Jaffa Orange Cake instead.  Not only this but I wanted to see what else I could create with my big bag of cocoa powder and hit upon the idea of baking some chocolate orange cookies at the same time.

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Instead of the plain cocoa powder needed in the recipe I subsituted the same amount of Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Flavoured Jaffa Orange Cocoa powder. I also chopped up a large bar of orange infused plain chocolate bought in Marks and Spencer the day before to give the cake it’s huge chocolate orange hit.

The smell coming from my oven was just so enticing.  I chose to bake the cake in my Heritage Bundt pan which always produces excellent results so I thought I would try and see how the Sugar and Crumbs products worked when baked in a bundt!

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The cake batter also needed some icing sugar added to it to give it a delicious fudgy texture. Instead of plain icing sugar, the Sugar and Crumbs orange zest icing sugar went into the mix to give it an even better zesty flavour.
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The finished Jaffa Orange Bundt ready and waiting to be iced.
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The view from the top!

Meanwhile I attempted to bake some cookies using some more of the Jaffa Orange Cocoa Powder.  I adapted a recipe from a trusty cookie book I have had for a few years now, called The Genuine American Cookie and Muffin Book.  In this book there is a recipe for double chocolate cookies.  This gave me a great idea to adapt the recipe using the cocoa powder and also to sprinkle some Orange Zest natural icing sugar on top of the cookies for an extra orangey hit.  The batch baked two dozen mouthwatering cookies to complement the Jaffa Orange Bundt Cake.

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Not a very good photo of the Chocolate Orange cookies but I assure you they tasted divine!

Meanwhile I had to finish off the bundt.  This was done by creating a chocolate glace to adorn the top of the cake.  I used the chocolate orange icing sugar accompanied with some sugar and mixed it all together with a little bit of butter to form a paste.  This was then drizzled carefully in the grooves on the cake.  Before it had chance to set I sprinkled on cut up pieces of mini Jaffa Cakes and then some whole ones on top.  I used Marks and Spencers’ own ones which are retangular, not round.

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Sugar and Crumbs’ chocolate orange flavoured icing sugar ready to be turned into the glaze for the bundt cake.
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The chocolate orange glaze.
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Sneaky early Mother’s Day treats all round- some delicious Chocolate Orange cookies.
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The finished Jaffa Orange Bundt as seen from the top.
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The bundt as seen from the side. As with the cookies I put some of the natural orange flavoured icing sugar into my dredger and sprinkled some on top of the cake.

The extra flavour that the Sugar and Crumbs cocoa powder and icing sugars added to my bakes was phenomenal.  My whole family, including my mum said you could definitely taste the orange in the cake and the cookies.  We had a small slice of cake and a cookie each. They tasted absolutely delicious.  If there is cake around in my house it always disappears like lightning so I chose to take the rest into one of the schools I teach at to share out with the staff.  I hope they liked their treats!

After my Mother’s Day baking session I was pleased I still had most of one of the icing sugars left to use up and also a small amount of Jaffa Orange cocoa powder.  I ran out of time to bake more last Sunday but have earmarked  a couple of the recipes featured on the Sugar and Crumbs website.  There are numerous useful recipes including a mouthwatering sounding brownie recipe.  I am definitely going to try that one out.  There are also other recipes for fudge and for meringues amongst lots of others though I know that my mum would love a box of homemade fudge!

Here is a link to the Recipe section of the website:

http://www.sugarandcrumbs.co.uk/recipes/

So can I recommend the Sugar and Crumbs products to other bakers?  Yes I can and I can’t wait to try out the other varieties as and when my busy day job allows!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding- The Great British Bake Off Everyday

Last weekend I was delighted when our neighbour popped round to see us with a couple of carrier bags full of apples picked from their tree.  I was pleased as my own apple tree hadn’t produced anything this year. This was disappointing as although it is a small tree, I did manage to get a few good apples off it last year.  One bag from my neighbour’s stash was full of small apples ideal for my daughter’s horse to chomp on, the other was full of crisp apples perfect for cooking and baking with.

As we had my Mum staying with us last weekend I chose to cook a Sunday roast- a large chicken followed by a naughty but nice pudding involving apples.  I didn’t want to make something I had already made before, though.  I also didn’t want to make a steamed pudding as I have never made one before and wouldn’t know where to start!

Once again I turned to my copy of The Great British Bake Off Everyday as I remembered there being a Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding recipe in there.  It seems like I am doing a lot of baking from this book at the moment but I suppose I go through fads and phases.  Upon reading the recipe, the introduction said it was a “very simple all-in-one sponge mix.. a good way to use slightly tart windfall apples”.  This was good news to me, I didn’t want to spend ages faffing about.

To be honest I wasn’t really in a baking mood as I had been up half the night worrying about my daughter the night before. She had been to a concert and was staying overnight at her friends’ house. I wanted to know that she was back safely at her friends’ house but my stomach was churning so much, it took me until 3am to get some sleep.  I also woke up with a sore throat which wasn’t good news as it has not been long since I had a cold! I had to produce something for Sunday lunch though.

I chose these four beautiful apples for the pudding.
I chose these four beautiful apples for the pudding.
The apples were peeled, cored, chopped into quarters and then into large chunks.
The apples were peeled, cored, chopped into quarters and then into large chunks.
I weighed out some walnut halves and broke some of them up to make them a little smaller.
I weighed out some walnut halves and broke some of them up to make them a little smaller.
Butter, sugar, flour and eggs were creamed together in a large mixing bowl.
Butter, sugar, flour and eggs were creamed together in a large mixing bowl.
The walnuts and apples were then folded into the mixture.
The walnuts and apples were then folded into the mixture.
The mixture was then spooned into a greased baking dish.
The mixture was then spooned into a greased baking dish.
While the pudding was baking I made some toffee sauce. Sugar, butter and double cream were heated together.
While the pudding was baking I made some toffee sauce. Sugar, butter and double cream were heated together.
This is what the sticky toffee apple pudding looked like when it came out of the oven.
This is what the sticky toffee apple pudding looked like when it came out of the oven.
The toffee sauce is put into a separate jug. It is a pale colour as I had run out of brown sugar, only had caster sugar left!
The toffee sauce is put into a separate jug. It is a pale colour as I had run out of brown sugar, only had caster sugar left!
A serving of the Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding with the toffee sauce poured over. We also had it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Leftovers for another day!
Leftovers for another day!

We all really enjoyed the pudding and the apples were a great addition to the mix.  My son said “Why do you have to ruin it with apples?” and “I don’t like it when apples are cooked” but he did eat all the sponge and sauce part.  Everyone else enjoyed it and it made a huge portion. The recipe stated that it served 6 but I thought it was nearer 10-12!  I thought the portions were generous too.  I will definitely bake this again and might try it with pears instead.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Saturday Suppers- The Hairy Dieters’ Beachside Paella

 

 

 

 

The Seafood Paella all ready to serve.
Paella.

On Saturday night I TRY to cook something a little bit more special if we have time.  We have been back from our holiday in Spain for two weeks now and the time has gone so fast.  The weather has been up or down and on Friday and Saturday I began to wonder what had happened to our summer.  I began to think back to the hot, sunny climate of Spain and how every meal was sat outside.  The rest of the time being spent in the pool trying to cool down. Last Saturday I looked out of the window, seeing the rain lash down and felt a sudden need for something Spanish and holidaylike!

Moraira Harbour on the Costa Blanca in Spain
Moraira Harbour on the Costa Blanca in Spain

So what better than Paella?  My hubby and kids never seemed to want to try the paella when we were away so I couldn’t have it unless we were somewhere that did individual portions!  Last year on holiday in Ibiza I saw two blokes tucking in to a huge paella dish which was the side of a Sky Satellite dish!

At Alicante airport I went mad buying things in the Duty Free shop. Usually if I try to buy it in the supermarket with hubby watching I get the “What do you want that for?” but I wanted to buy some Turron to keep for Christmas. I spotted some paella rice and some pimenton so that was sneaked into the basket quickly.

A 500g bag of authentic Arroz for paella and a jar of pimenton.
A 500g bag of authentic Arroz for paella and a jar of pimenton.
I chopped two chicken breasts up into bite sized chunks.
I chopped two chicken breasts up into bite sized chunks.
The chicken breasts were fried gently in a pan with a spoonful of olive oil.
The chicken breasts were fried gently in a pan with a spoonful of olive oil.
I chopped two onions, a red pepper, a yellow pepper and 4 cloves garlic to go in the paella.
I chopped two onions, a red pepper, a yellow pepper and 4 cloves garlic to go in the paella.
The onions and garlic were gently fried in the pan.  The chicken had been removed once it had been browned.
The onions and garlic were gently fried in the pan. The chicken had been removed once it had been browned.
Then the peppers and a tin of green beans (drained) in water were added to the onions and garlic. These were cooked for a few more minutes.
Then the peppers and a tin of green beans (drained) in water were added to the onions and garlic. These were cooked for a few more minutes.
I made up a litre of hot chicken stock. It was made with a Knorr Stock cube.
I made up a litre of hot chicken stock. It was made with a Knorr Stock cube.
A couple of pinches of saffron and some pimenton were added to the pan to cook in the veg.
A couple of pinches of saffron and some pimenton were added to the pan to cook in the veg.
Then the rice was added until it was coated well in the oil and started to shine.
Then the rice was added until it was coated well in the oil and started to shine.
Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan.
Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan.
Both my frying pans are small ones so I had to make two paellas!
Both my frying pans are small ones so I had to make two paellas!

Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan.
Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan. This would also have some prawns added towards the end of the cooking time.
The paella begins to thicken up as the rice grains swell. Every now and again I ladelled in some more chicken stock.
The paella begins to thicken up as the rice grains swell. Every now and again I ladelled in some more chicken stock.
To the other paella I added seafood from a pack bought in Morrisons. This was for my hubby as he loves squid and mussels. I can't stand them!
To the other paella I added seafood from a pack bought in Morrisons. This was for my hubby as he loves squid and mussels. I can’t stand them!
A crafty Mojito to drink while I was cooking- cooks' perks!  I felt like Keith Floyd glugging down the wine!
A crafty Mojito to drink while I was cooking- cooks’ perks! I felt like Keith Floyd glugging down the wine!
The Seafood Paella all ready to serve.
The Seafood Paella all ready to serve.

 

I used the recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ Diet Book, (the first one with a white front cover) which is a huge favourite in our house.I cook a lot of meals out of it although I had not attempted their paella recipe. Their recipe is called Beachside Paella and serves 6. There was only 4 of us so we had far too much left over.  My children picked out bits they did not like. For me and my hubby we had two large Mojitos and shared a bottle of red wine.  I was rather sloshed after it so it defeated the object of being a “diet” meal! Get a grip, Sam!  I will definitely make this again but will save it for when we have visitors or friends over, it’s quite time consuming when you’re cooking it but it’s worth it!

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx