So the Bank Holiday Monday went without a hitch.  Well we nearly had an issue with the helium balloons and only just made it to the shop in time to get them filled, but otherwise, aside from Oli not being there, it was perfect.  My menu went without issue, and was insanely tasty, compliments all round, I was incredibly proud.  We planted a Eucalyptus in our back garden, writing notes to be buried under the roots and wrote messages on the balloons to be released into the sky, all for the love of Oli of course, and creating new memories.  'O' has asked about 'Onkie' so much since, which has been really lovely for me, telling him all about his Uncle in the sky.  Such a nice weekend, such lovely memories and so nice to have the story continuing even if he's not here to share in it.  Following the weekend, I've had another forage in Mum and Dad's garden, poaching several blackberries (they have such a huge early crop), raspberries, apples, a courgette, marrow, tomatoes and my all time favourite, runner beans!  I cannot overstate how much I love muffins, they're just so ridiculously tasty, can be passed off as healthy and don't need to be smothered in icing.  So here is a rather easy recipe for Blackberry and Apple Muffins, why not?  Blackberries are soon ripening in the wild, as are apples, and as I've said before, muffins can be frozen in abundance ready for packed lunches, speedy breakfasts or just those desperate snack times!
Blackberry and Apple Muffin, RoseyHands 2013
Makes 12 cupcake sized muffins, takes 20-25mins to cook in the oven heated to 170'c.

170g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
110g caster sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
75g unsalted butter
1 egg
100ml milk
100ml yoghurt
1tsp vanilla extract
50g cooking apple, peeled and roughly grated (my grater was nowhere to be found to I just used a knife to 'peel' off slithers)
100g blackberries

  • Preheat oven to 170'c.  Line a cupcake tin with cases.
  • Sift flour, baking powder, caster sugar and cinnamon into a bowl.
  • Melt the butter.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the egg, melted butter, yoghurt, milk and vanilla extract.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of flour etc, mix well.
  • Quickly fold in the grated apple and blackberries.
  • Spoon the mixture into the cake cases.  Pop into the oven and cook for 20-25mins, until a skewer inserted through the middle comes out clean.
  • Cool in the tray for 5mins then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

These are demolishable, my rather fussy toddler, who normally avoids 'cakes with fruit' couldn't resist these.

After the busiest weekend, gallivanting, entertaining and more gallivanting, we've all been so tired this week.  I have reluctantly let 'O' have a couple of lunchtime naps and we've all been to bed early and up late (well, as late as toddlers and babies get!).  We did however manage a superb afternoon out at Kirby Hall.  It was just so stunning, the weather was sunny but not too warm, the ruined building felt ominously grand and the grounds rolling and welcoming.  The boys and I loved it, especially with all the beautiful Peacocks roaming, it was almost majestic.  So, onto the muffins.  I love a savoury muffin, I can't remember how I came upon them, but I get so bored of breakfast cereals and toast that it is always handy to have a quick alternative stashed in the freezer and muffins always hit the spot.  Savoury muffins are also great in picnics or packed lunches and go lovely with soup, they're a bit more interesting than a sandwich or round of toast and not to mention perfect for fussy eaters avoiding veg and for the littlest as they're easy to hold and not too crumbly.  Winners all round!  I still have a little amount of marrow to use up so I thought I'd do marrow instead of courgette, then parmesan, tomato and pumpkin seeds to liven it up a bit, as the flavours mesh so well.
A flying Peacock at Kirby Hall. RoseyHands 2013
Makes 12 muffins, takes 25mins with the oven at 150'c.

150g plain flour
50g oats
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1tbs toasted pumpkin seeds
200g grated marrow
50g chopped cherry tomatoes
50g grated parmesan
1 egg
2tbs yoghurt
5tbs olive oil

  • Heat the oven to 150'c.  Line a muffin or cupcake tin with muffin cases.
  • In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients, flour, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and toasted pumpkin seeds.
  • In a second bowl, mix the marrow, tomatoes, parmesan, egg, yoghurt and olive oil.
  • Put the wet ingredients into the dry bowl and mix well.
  • Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and put them into the oven for 25mins, or until the top is golden and a skewer inserted through the middle comes out clear.

Awesome!  They can be frozen and take very little time to defrost, so they do make a very quick, on the go, breakfast or snack!

Raspberries are still in season (just), so we traipsed off to a PYO earlier this week and now I'm avidly hunting down delicious looking recipes to use them up.  Biscotti are one of those totally undervalued biscuits in my house, normally overlooked by the ginger snap, or anything with chocolate in, but I do absolutely love Pink Lemonade so I was curious to try out a lemon and raspberry biscotti.  I'll admit, I've also always been thrown by the thrice baked thing, they are a labour of love, no doubt about it.
Makes about 26 biscuits, takes a total of 40mins in the oven, heated to 160'c.

90g fresh raspberries
1tbs caster sugar
115g butter
125g caster sugar
1 large egg
zest of 1 lemon
250g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
1tsp baking powder

  • Heat 1tbs sugar with the raspberries in a saucepan, stir till they start to bubble away, then reduce by 1/3 and set aside to cool
  • Cream butter and sugar together.
  • Add the egg, lemon zest, add the cooled raspberry sauce, flour and baking powder to the creamed butter and sugar, mix well.  It should be a light dough texture.
  • Put the bowl of mixture in the fridge for about 10mins.
  • Flour a surface, divide the dough mixture into two even sizes.  Roll each half into a sausage shape about the length of your baking tray (12").
  • Either grease the baking tray, or use teflon.
  • Put both dough sausages onto the baking tray and flatten so that they are each about 3" wide, there should still be at least a 2" gap between both sausages.
  • Bake for 30mins until firm but not crisp.
  • Put the biscotti onto a cutting board and using a serrated knife cut the biscotti into 3/4" slices.
  • Put the biscotti back onto the baking tray, cut side down, cook for a further 5mins.
  • Turn each biscotti over and cook for another 5mins.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely before transferring to a tupperware.

Truly delicious, crunchy biscotti.  I'll be taking them to a picnic tomorrow, along with some raspberry cupcakes I made, Yum!

There is something so scrummy and easy about a crumble, but given I've made one just recently I thought I'd try my hand at pastry making and a pie.  I know it's a bit autumnal, but it won't be long before blackberries are in full glory again and we see the last of the summer.  Mmmm, I might even give my own custard a go to serve (or not, I've had too many failed attempts to mention!).  Mum brought round some amazingly huge early blackberries from their garden and not many people don't love a blackberry and apple combo, so here it is: Blackberry and Apple Pie, straight from the oven, my house smells amazing!
As you know, I made my pastry in advance, and I only used half the quantity to make the pie, the other half is in my freezer for another impromptu pudding when we have visitors.  I'd say the pie I made would serve 4-6 adults depending on the size of the belly in question!

500g plain flour
60g icing sugar
250g cold butter, cut into small cubes (I actually bought some in for this!)
zest of 1 orange
2 eggs, beaten
splash of milk

  • Put the flour, icing sugar and butter into a bowl, using fingertips, rub until it resembles a fine crumb, try to be quick so the mixture stays cool.
  • Add the orange zest.
  • Make a well in the centre of the mix, add the eggs and splash of milk.
  • Using your hands, work the mixture together until you form a dough, be quick and don't work the pastry too much or the pastry will be less crumbly and more chewy.
  • Make the dough into a rough ball shape, flour, then wrap in cling film and pop it in the fridge to rest for at least 30mins.
  • For making the pie, as below, split the dough into two even sized balls, put one in the freezer, floured and wrapped in cling film.

The Pie
25g butter
50g caster sugar (although the end result is really rather sweet, I'd probably want to use 30g next time I make it)
1 large bramley apple
1 gala apple (I had one in that wasn't about to be eaten any time soon)
large handful of blackberries
1 egg, beaten
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tbs demerara sugar

  • Remove the pastry from the fridge.
  • Peel, quarter and core the apples, chop each quarter into bite-size pieces.
  • Put the apple, butter and sugar into a small saucepan with the lid on.  Slowly cook for 5-10 minutes until the apples are soft, add the blackberries and leave to cool.
  • Butter your pie dish, (approx 10" diameter, shallow dish)
  • Roll out half your pastry to cover the pie dish (approx 5mm thick), lay the pastry over the dish and push gently to fit.  Trim the excess pastry off the edge of the dish.
  • When the fruit is cooled, strain through a sieve, reserving the juice.
  • Put the cooled fruit into the pie base adding back half of the reserved juice.
  • Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.
  • Roll out the remaining half of pastry to cover the pie, lay over gently, trim excess pastry and press together the edges of the pie with fingers or a fork.
  • Brush the top of the pie with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle over the ground cinnamon and demerara sugar.
  • Cut a few slits into the top of the pie.
  • Put the pie in the oven, 170'c, for about 40minsm until the top is golden brown and crisp.

Tah Dah!  Beautiful Blackberry and Apple Pie, fabulously smelling house and rather full bellies!

Update:  We had this for pudding earlier, served with a spoonful of yoghurt, and it was immense.  Pastry was perfect, the middle wasn't too sweet, as I suspected it might be, so I'm really rather impressed.  Looking forward to demolishing the rest of this one with a cup of tea tomorrow and making a few more as autumn starts to draw in and the air turns chillier.

My husband would live off very few ingredients if he could.  He is a man who, I'm sure, would quite happily have the same three meals day in day out.  When we first started dating he ate poached eggs on toast every day for breakfast and either pasta with cheese and grilled chicken smothered in mustard, or mushroom stroganoff, for tea.  Neither of which I was (or am) particularly keen on... something had to change!  Anyway, very quickly we varied the meals, but I can still rarely get him to eat any other flavoured cakes than chocolate, the old staple.  So, chocolate cupcakes it is, with a pretty, twisty, top.
Makes 12 cupcakes

100g plain flour
21/2 tbs cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
11/2 tsp baking powder
40g butter (or like me, olive spread... I just rarely get butter in!)
120ml whole milk
1 egg (I use large)
1tsp vanilla extract

  • Line the cupcake tray with cases.
  • Put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, butter, 60mls of milk, egg and vanilla extract into a bowl, and beat well with an electric whisk.
  • When smooth, add the remaining milk, scrape the sides and whisk again until fully incorporated.
  • Either spoon from the bowl, or poor the mixture into a jug (it is quite runny) and pour straight into the cupcake cases.  Fill each case about 2/3rds.
  • Cook for about 15mins on 150'c (fan oven), or until a skewer, inserted through the middle of one of the cupcakes, comes out clear.
  • Cool in the tin for about 5mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

300g icing sugar
100g butter (yep, I used olive spread again)
1/2tsp vanilla extract
2tbs whole milk
1tbs cocoa powder

  • Put the icing sugar, butter, vanilla extract and whole milk into a bowl, beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
  • Take out half the icing, put it into a clean bowl with the cocoa powder, beat until smooth.
  • Using separate spoons, spoon alternating icings into a piping bag with nozzle.
  • Squeeze out the icing into a swirly pattern onto each cooled cupcake.

Super.  Actually, I halved the icing quantity when making my cakes as I never usually bother with piping, subsequently, half of my cakes are un-iced, boo, luckily 'O' is not quite so fussy with sweet as he is with savoury, so I'm pretty sure he'll eat those without noticing there is icing missing!

My littlest, 'H' is so enjoying his food at the moment, he's coming up to 6 months soon and we've been 'weaning' of sorts for about a month.  I'm following BLW with 'H', so in principal it means that the little one helps helps himself to whatever I'm eating, and obviously some things are easier to eat (get hold of) than others.  Unlike 'O', he revolted at the first taste of ice cream, far too cold, but he does love a good sweet.  Please don't think I'm fattening him up on puds, he gets plenty of savoury too!  This crumble, far from original in idea, is incredibly tasty and proved very popular with the little man.
I'm very ad-hoc with crumbles, it takes very little time to prepare, 30mins in the oven (at 150'c) and serves two lots of two adults and two toddler/babies.

1 large bramley apple
small punnet of raspberries
juice of half a lemon
1tbs brown sugar
3tbs water

100g plain flour
50g butter (although again, I used olive spread)
50g sugar (I used 25g brown and 25g demerara for extra crunch)
20g oats
10g ground almonds (I had them to use up)

  • Peel, quarter and core the apple.  Cut each quarter into small bite-size pieces.
  • Put the apple, raspberries, lemon juice, brown sugar and water into an oven proof dish.
  • To make the crumble, put all ingredients into a bowl and rub together with fingertips until a rough dry crumb is formed.  It doesn't need to be uniform, all lumps and bumps add texture.
  • Spoon / pour the crumble mix over the filling.
  • Pop the crumble into the oven for about 30mins, or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling though.

Serve with ice cream, brilliant!
I absolutely accept that August is not the month to be doling out beef casserole, but, I've got nothing in the freezer by way of quick meals and today, with both little ones gainfully occupied, 'O' with crayons and a vast amount of paper, and 'H' being his beautifully normal routined self, I've embarked on re-stocking.  Normally with a pack of stewing beef I love to make Jamie's America (Jamie Oliver) Chilli-con-Jamie, which is just amazing if you've not tried it, packed with flavour and really robust, goes a long way too, which helps!  Anyway, with my littlest, 'H', having a tendency to rub his eyes whilst eating, I'm thinking that perhaps a chilli isn't the best way to go for a few months, and although I do love other Jamie casseroles, I thought I'd try an adaptation from Tamasin's Kitchen Bible.  I'm frugal, so my key change is to up the veg quantity so I can make more meals with the same amount of meat, and of course sneak those important veg's into my babies bellies!
Takes 11/2 hours, plus prep time, I've split mine between two tupperwares, so it will serve 4 adults and 4 toddler/babies.

1tbs olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 large carrots, cut into fingers
1 celery stick, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1tbs plain flour
1tbs tomato purée
500g beef, stewing steak, cut into bite-size pieces
1 can Guinness (440ml)
2 bay leaves
1tbs mixed fresh herbs, I used parsley, thyme and rosemary
1 strip orange peel
salt and pepper
2 large handfuls of frozen peas

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic, fry till the onions are a little soft and get some colour.
  • Add the plain flour, continue to fry for a minute then add the tomato purée and the beef.
  • Slowly pour in the Guinness, add the bay leaves, herbs, orange peel and salt and pepper.
  • Bring to the boil then add the peas and transfer to an oven proof dish, cover and cook for 11/2 hours, or till the beef is all tender and falls apart.

I then transferred mine into two tupperwares to be popped into the freezer when cool, I hate having no frozen meals ready for those days when I really can't be bothered to cook any thing! 

I'd serve this casserole with mashed potato and probably some more veg, I quite fancy the idea of spinach with it.

I've had this half-a-packet of brown rice lurking in my cupboard for years, we rarely venture from white basmati or arborio, so tonight I thought I'd try and use it up.  As if to prove a point, the rice went out-of-date in November 2012, but who's looking?!  Anyway, Mum kindly gave me about 6 raw beetroot last week and I have a third of a block of feta to use so a quick google of beetroot and feta I settled on inventing a salad with the rice too.  Bear with me, I did not make a note of any quantities, I'll do a guestimate and make some completely uneducated suggestions...

The family verdict, I thought it was really tasty, Hubby was a bit put out by my sneaking in the celery but otherwise ate it without complaint, 'O' ate the rice, apple and cheese and 'H', as he does, shovelled in handfuls of whatever he could grasp (I left his feta in a large chunk).  So all in all, I cleared out some rice I would otherwise still be staring at, made a nutritious meal for the whole family!  Yay for families eating together.  It is also worth noting that I stripped both boys down to just nappies prior to eating... not worth risking the washing with beetroot!!
Takes 1hr (roasting the beetroot) though this can be done in advance, 25 mins for the rice and the salad veg can be prep'd whilst the rice is cooking.  Serves 2 adults, a fussy toddler and a baby.

4 raw beetroot
olive oil
1tsp fresh thyme and rosemary
brown rice (I used enough for two generous adult portions)
1 stick celery
8 cherry tomatoes
1 apple
handful of fresh parsley and mint
juice of half a lemon
1/3 block of feta

  • To roast the beetroot, I washed them, left them whole, with stalks and all and put them in a small roasting tin, added about 1tsp olive oil, a teeny pinch of salt and the thyme and rosemary.  Popped these in the oven, heated to 180'c for about an hour.
  • When cooked, top and tail the beetroot, peel and cut into bite-size pieces.  Leave to cool.
  • Put the rice in a saucepan of water with another pinch of salt, bring to the boil and cook for 25mins.
  • Whilst the rice is cooking, finely chop the celery, apple, tomatoes parsley and mint, into a bowl.
  • When the rice is cooked, drain and add to the bowl of chopped veg.
  • Squeeze over half a lemon, stir well and divide between the serving bowls.
  • Add feta and beetroot to each bowl, and we're done!

Ridiculously easy, colourful and tasty.

There is nothing quite like a rainy day to get me in the kitchen, I don't think I comfort eat as much as I boredom cook!  So today I made a rather exciting Chocolate Marble Cake. Delicious!  I'm honestly looking forward to eating this a little later with a cup of tea, and 'O' wants it for pudding.

Makes 1 loaf tin, and rises very well.  This can easily be frozen.

100g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
120ml milk (I used whole)
110g butter or margarine (actually I used olive spread)
140g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
225g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
55g crème fraiche

  • Preheat the oven to 150'c (I have a fan, so you may have to heat it a bit more if you don't), and line the loaf tin with greaseproof paper or Teflon.  My tip is to scrunch the greaseproof paper into a tiny ball, wet it and wring it out, it is now fully mould-able to fit your tin.
  • Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together until pale and fluffy, beat in the eggs one at a time
  • Add the self-raising flour and baking powder, crème fraiche and 60mls milk, beat well.
  • Put half of the cake mixture into a separate bowl.
  • Melt the chocolate with the remaining 60mls milk, I did this in the microwave.  I heated for 30s on full, stirred, then another 20s.
  • Add the chocolate mixture to one half of the cake mixture, mix well.
  • Using one spoon for each bowl of cake mixture, blob alternating cake mixtures into the loaf tin, to create the marbled cake.
  • Cook for about an hour, or until a knife inserted through the middle comes out clean.  I had to put tin-foil on the top of my cake after 40mins to prevent it from burning on top.
  • Remove from the oven, leave to cool in the tin for about 10mins, then lift out of the tin using the greaseproof paper.  I found the paper peeled off easily, so the cake could finish cooling on the wire rack.
So I thought I'd try and use up the vast amount of chard, kindly given to me by Mum, and given the flavours worked so well with pasta, I thought I'd give risotto a whirl.  When I told 'O' he bluntly told me he'd rather have sausages as he doesn't like chard...  I will not be thwarted by a toddler!

Searching for a recipe on the web proved fruitless so I adapted an age old recipe for a basic risotto.  In my opinion it worked; hubby ate it all and low and behold, fussy toddler ate the rice, the cheese and some veg.  Even 'H' munched a couple of squished handfuls.

1tsb olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
Dash of vodka (yep, I had no wine or such like in!)
200g arborio (risotto) rice
1pt veg stock
1tsp fresh thyme (yay for summer herb garden)
250g chard, stalks chopped to about 5mm thick pieces, leaves as you like
1/2 tin chickpeas
60g feta

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan, when hot, add the onion, celery and garlic, turn the heat down.  Fry slowly till soft but not coloured (about 5 mins)
  • Add the rice to the pan, turn the heat up, stir for a few mins, until the rice starts to glisten
  • Throw in a splash of vodka, or what ever you think might add some flavour, I quite liked the nuttiness it added, stir until the vodka is absorbed
  • Ladle in some stock, stir until absorbed
  • Toss in the fresh thyme and the chard stalks, with another ladle of stock, stir until absorbed
  • Keep adding more stock, ladle by ladle, when the rice is almost cooked add the chick peas and the chard leaves.
  • When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat, break up and add the feta, give it another good stir and serve.

All in all, it takes about 40 mins, I found it made enough for two large adult portions, a decent toddler portion and a baby portion.  Yummy, fairly quick and certainly made use of mums garden!