Advertisement feature – the best homemade chicken korma with Simply Cook

Chicken korma recipe kit Simply Cook

Things are a bit slow on the ‘eating out with friends’ front at the moment aren’t they? (She says, making the understatement of the year.)

It’s a shame, because eating out with friends is one of my best hobbies. If 2020 has made me realise anything it’s that I’m actually a lot more sociable than I give myself credit for. I do enjoy my own company, but I miss seeing people so much.

What’s surprised me the most is that I miss everybody, not just good friends, who I’ve made an effort to see when I can, but all of those other people, the people you maybe only see once or twice a month at events or groups, but who you always enjoy a chat with. These kind of small interactions seem inconsequential but they have a big impact.

And I miss the food. I’m not going to pretend it’s ALL about the people.

I miss eating things I’ve never tried before and having someone else cook it AND wash up for me. I miss trying new flavours and generally eating things that aren’t chicken nuggets and jacket potatoes and spaghetti Bolognese. You get stuck in a rut when you’re at home all the time don’t you? Eating out isn’t just good fun in itself, it inspires me to cook different things at home too.

Today though I did COOKING! Hoorah!

I made a Moghul chicken korma using a spice kit from Simply Cook. There are three individual pots of specially blended pastes, powders and potions* each in recipe box, along with a recipe card with a handy tear off shopping list so you know exactly what to buy to create your delicious, restaurant quality dinner. View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature in association with Tesco

Tesco bauble cake

There’s no getting away from the fact that Christmas is going to be a little different this year. There’ll be no crowds of people gathered around the bandstand performing hearty renditions of Oh Come All Ye Faithful, no jostling for position at the front of the mulled wine queue on a group trip to the Christmas market, none of those extra things that give you those warm, festive feelings.

However, Christmas is far from cancelled.

If anything, it’s been wonderful to see the number of people jumping on the festive bandwagon early, getting the tree up, tucking into mince pies and bejazzling the front of their homes like they’re auditioning for Deck The Halls. If any year needed us to raise the festive bar it’s 2020. View Post

Follow:

I may not have quite gotten around to learning to play the trombone or turning my vagina into a bespoke candle or whatever it is that Gwyneth Paltrow would have us do at times like these, but if there is one lockdown activity that I’ve well and truly bought into it’s banana bread.

In fact I was on the banana bread wagon even BEFORE the pandemic, but then we’ve always known I’m a trend setter haven’t we? ‘Finger on the pulse’ is a phrase close family often use to describe my approach to fashion and current affairs.

Just to keep ahead of the lockdown banana bread curve then, I decided to crank things up a notch last week and take my banana bread exploits to the next level. I did this in two ways.

First, I added chocolate chips. I know, mind blown. You can literally add chocolate chips to ANYTHING and it’s better. I feel like you could add chocolate chips to a bath and it would be a win.

Second, I went MINI. Everyone knowns that making normal sized things SMALL is a sure fire way to improve them. Think of all the things you know and love and imagine teeny tiny versions of them. It’s adorable isn’t it? It doesn’t work with wine, but that might be the exception.

Bish bash bosh – mini chocolate banana loaves. We’re saved! November’s lockdown is going to be okay! (I mean it’s still shit, but at least you’ll have cake and something to do for half an hour.)

To make mini banana loaves you will need:

  • 140g soft margarine
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Splosh of vanilla essence
  • Big handful of chocolate chips
  • 2-3 ripe bananas.
  • Extra chocolate and banana chips for decoration should you feel so inclined

Whisk everything except the chocolate chips and bananas up together into a delicious looking cake batter. Stir in the bananas and the chocolate and transfer to a tin.

You’re done.

That was easy wasn’t it? I had quite fancy eggs, with brightly coloured yolks, so my mixture was quite a vibrant yellow colour. Fitting for banana bread I thought.

easy banana bread recipe View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature in association with Thorner’s Farm Shop

Okay, so not just pies, but that’s the beauty of this giveaway from Thorner’s Farm Shop – if you did want to spend your whole £50 prize on pies then you could. No one’s judging. Their pies are award-winning after all.

The idea behind this competition is that we all need a bit of a pick me up don’t we? Winter is coming, the nights are drawing in, (I’ve banged on so much about dark evenings on Instagram that I’m boring even myself), and really, a pie WOULD HELP. There’s no getting away from it, when the weather turns nasty, a cheeky cheese and leek pie can do wonders.

Jon Thorner's pie competition

(Confession: this is a picture that I pinched from the Thorner’s website because even though they sent me a pie to try, amongst other delicious treats, I got over-excited and ate it before I remembered I was meant to take a picture. Also this is way better than anything I could take, so.)

Although the Thorner’s pies are award-winning and delicious in every way, they are about much more than pies. They are a butcher, so sell all kinds of fresh meats, as well as deli meats. When I was little my mum says that, in a bid to get me to eat, she used to leave little plates of ham and cucumber around the house so I would happen upon them and eat them, so I know a good ham when I eat it.

They sell cheese, quiches, fruit and vegetables, even fresh ready meals, and the beauty of it is that it’s all online, so you get all the wholesomeness of a farm shop without having to get your shoes muddy.

They also make cakes, and although generally I’d consider myself more of a homemade biscuit girl, the toffee apple slice is a think of magic and wonder. Put one of these in your virtual basket and you won’t regret it.

(I also make an exception for this ricotta and raspberry cake but you do have to make that yourself, sorry. Unless you want to pay me to make it and bring it to your house.) View Post

Follow:

I’m a sucker for love in all its forms, from Reese Witherspoon and her childhood sweetheart in Sweet Home Alabama to the ‘Be Mine’ on a love heart.

You know what they say though, you have to love yourself before you can really love someone else*, so I decided to create a twist on the classic love heart – the self-love heart. The self-love heart is basically a positive affirmation, but in treat form. Edible Pinterest if you will. I thought the benefits of this could actually be multiple, as it would also serve to specifically counteract any guilt you might feel about eating the treat the first place.

Newsflash guys: life’s too short. Eat the treats.

Love heart biscuits

Anyway, I had no idea how to make real homemade love heart sweets, and I’m not sure I really like them aside from the sentiment, so I decided to make self-love hearts in biscuit form instead, inspired by a set of tiny letter stamps that I found in Taunton’s new Hobbycraft.

To make my self-love heart cookies I also used a baking sheet and some heart shape cutters that I was sent as a gift from Judge. Judge has a really amazing bakeware range, and they sent me a view bits recently to try out because they know I like a little potter about in the kitchen. The quality of everything I’ve used so far is top notch, and it’s not expensive, so do check them out. I’m particularly excited about using my new mini loaf tin soon to make some teeny tiny banana loaves.

As my biscuit base I used the same recipe as for my homemade party rings – it’s a sort of light, soft shortbread texture. Very tasty and easy to make. I already had some ready to roll fondant icing, which I coloured with tiny bits of pink and yellow food colouring, but you can make your own fondant icing very easily – just mix tiny quantities of water with icing sugar until you have a dough like consistency that you can knead and roll, a bit like playdoh.

View Post

Follow:

If you like a bit of sweet chilli jam, where you don’t particularly taste the chilli but it’s a nice dollop of something extra in your cheese sandwich, then this post may not be for you.

If, however, you buy shop bought sweet chilli jam and think to yourself ‘seriously? What even IS this pathetic excuse for a chilli jam?’ then STRAP IN my heat loving friends, as this homemade hot chilli jam is going to blow your socks off.

Hot chilli jam recipe

It’s pretty simple to make, although you might want to crack a window as the heat does get to the back of your throat a bit in a confined space. My recipe makes two jars, so scale up if you want to make a bigger batch. This homemade chilli jam would make lovely Christmas presents for friends who like a bit of spice in their life, or perhaps an enemy at work that you’d like to see spend some time on the toilet.

(Not literally SEE. No one wants that.)

My homemade hot and spicy chilli jam goes very nicely with a bit of cheese and some crackers, or even as a side to something like steak and chips. If you want to be terribly avant garde, you could even have it with a scone or two and make a savoury cream tea. NOTE: Generally I don’t approve of savoury cream teas as a concept but I’m not going to disown you or anything. View Post

Follow:

passionfruit curd recipe

When Belle was a toddler I used to walk her down to Taunton farmers’ market every Thursday in the pushchair. She would get an oat and raisin cookie from the bakery that only used spelt flour and I would always stop at the stall that sold lemon curd. The lemon curd maker – preservatier? curdmonger? – would give me little bits of lemon curd to taste on the end of a thin, wooden stick and honestly, it was a delight.

(I don’t know if you’ve ever been on extended maternity leave with a child who dislikes being more than zero cm away from you? You learn to enjoy the simple pleasures.)

It was because of that little window of happiness every Thursday that I added ‘make my own lemon curd’ to my list of 40 things to do before 40. The taste of it had been so magical all of those years ago that I think I imagined the process to be something complex and mysterious, only to be undertaken after years of curdmongery training. Turns out it’s not though, and homemade lemon curd is actually very quick and easy and barely magical at all, other than the results of course.

Homemade passion fruit curd then? Just as easy. The only thing with passionfruit curd rather than lemon curd is you do have to buy quite a few passionfruit and so it’s not necessarily cheap, but then that’s hardly the point is it? If someone asks what you did with your day, which would you rather say – ‘Oh I made my own passionfruit curd’ or ‘I bought a cheap jar of passionfruit curd.’

Exactly.

I decided on passionfruit curd after something Bee said a few months ago. ‘Have you ever had passionfruit curd?’ she said. ‘It feels like something I would like.’

It did feel like something she would like, so I decided to make her some for her birthday in July, and it went down very well, so here we are, in this blog post. View Post

Follow:

A friend asked me recently what my favourite thing is to do on my blog and I immediately showed her the pictures of the chocolate teacakes I had made the week before.

You know when you start to talk about something and you just kind of glow, and you know it’s something that makes you happy? I felt like that about the chocolate teacakes.

homemade chocolate teacakes

Although I don’t like the tedium of having to cook actual meals day in day out, I do love baking. I find it completely absorbing, I don’t think about anything else, my mind is focused on the weighing and measuring and pouring and mixing. I find I can get into a lovely, relaxed sort of trance state with baking, where I just waft around the kitchen in a cloud of flour, the world shrunk down to the size of a 9 inch cake tin.

It’s not even about eating it afterwards, (although I do eat a lot of mixture as a go – finger fulls of cake batter or melted chocolate and pinches of sweet biscuit dough), I just love the process.

I particularly enjoy recreating things that I know already, like when I made those homemade party rings, do you remember? Blimey, they turned out so much better than I ever thought they would. Or the homemade jammie dodgers? I was really pleased with those. View Post

Follow:

A couple of weeks ago, on what seemed liked a perfectly ordinary Friday, a miracle happened in my kitchen.

I got a cake to rise.

Everyone was surprised, not least me when I tried to take it out of the oven and realised it had risen into the shelf above it. I managed to untangle it though, and took it out without dropping it or it collapsing or anything, so we were all good.

I am notoriously bad at getting large cakes to rise. I don’t know why, I follow all the tips, but they just don’t like me. My Victoria sponges come always come out looking more like giant biscuits and for the girls’ birthdays I’ve been known to make several cakes and stack them all on top of each other, just to try and create a normal looking birthday cake.

This rapsberry and dark chocolate ricotta cake though, I don’t know what it was, but wow, it was the height of an ACTUAL cake. A baking miracle.

raspberry and chocolate ricotta cake recipe

Look at that! Proper chunky.

This cake is slightly different to cakes I’ve made before in that it’s made with a tub of ricotta. Not JUST ricotta obviously, we’re not playing sandcastles, just ricotta as an extra. The ricotta does make for a a very soft, moist sponge, so perhaps this helped with the rising? Who knows. I’ll be making it again, that’s for sure.

The lemon zest is only one lemon but it goes a long way and is the perfect balance to the richness and sweetness of the dark chocolate and raspberries, even if I do say so myself. I like the raspberries and the chocolate being on the top of the cake – I think it makes it look fancy. View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature – easy chilli con carne with Simply Cook

easy chilli con carne recipe

Everyone makes their chilli con carne with a branded wooden spoon yes?

I’m a sucker for anything that means I have to spend less time thinking about what to have for dinner because to be quite honest after 25 years of cooking for children I’m done with it.

‘What’s for tea?’

‘I didn’t like my packed lunch.’

‘This cucumber is too spicy.’

No thanks.

I do like the ease of the meal box schemes where all the ingredients arrive at your door, but I’m less keen on the amount of packaging that comes with them, like individual eggs in plastic boxes and masses of ice and insulation just for a couple of chicken breasts. I also find I can end up with a lot of fresh ingredients that need using up way too quickly.

Simply Cook is the perfect compromise.

Simply Cook sends you a selection of carefully chosen and blended spices and seasonings, along with a recipe card, and you buy the fresh ingredients at a time that suits. It means you have the basics of a restaurant quality meal in the cupboard, ready to inspire you when you need it, without masses of plastic packaging or potential food waste.

And it fits through the letterbox. Boom. View Post

Follow:

This is a paid advertorial with Tesco

Today I’m putting Tesco Clubcard Plus to the test to see just how easy it is to save money on your supermarket shopping. With Tesco Clubcard Plus you can save up to £40* on your in-store grocery shop and 10% on selected Tesco brands, including clothing and homeware. Read on to find out how it works.

 

There were a lot of things I liked about the early days of lockdown.

I liked not having to GO anywhere and then not feeling like you were missing out because you knew that everyone else was just at home making banana bread and watching reruns of Rosemary and Thyme too. (That wasn’t just me right?)

I liked having a break from work without that feeling of ‘oh but I should really be doing x, y and z’. Although I do love the flexibility of being self-employed and wouldn’t swap it, there’s a lot to be said for the paid holiday that comes with a regular job. I got a lovely tan in the first month of lockdown and read more books than I had in the whole year before that.

I also liked not spending money. Some friends have said they actually ended up spending more because of shopping online, but I don’t do so much of that. Most of my spending outside regular bills is going out related – days out, coffees, lunches and dinners in restaurants – and overnight this just stopped. It sucked that my work took such a down turn and that I didn’t qualify for any government support, but once I’d got things like the mortgage payment holiday in place, I found that my drop in spending was enough to mean I could tick over. Hence the tan.

I know that I could just not spend that money, lockdown or not, but it doesn’t really work like that does it? Not for me anyway. It’s a bit like eating and drinking – if the opportunity is there then normally I take it.

Would I like to go out for brunch? Why yes, yes I would.’

Now then, with the country tentatively reopening its doors for brunch fun times, I’ve found a little bit of worry starting to creep in about how my spending is going to increase. I try generally to keep as relaxed an attitude to money as I can muster – you can’t take it with you, it doesn’t buy you love etc etc – but sometimes it will sneak up on me, that feeling of it seeping away, of not being as in control as I might like.

It’s similar to the feeling I get on my sixth Jaffa Cake and it’s not good.

As I don’t want to not go out for brunch – what horror – I’ve had to look for other, easier ways to save money. One of them is Tesco Clubcard Plus.

I already had a regular Tesco Clubcard of course, because I’m a sucker for earning points and feeling like I’m part of a club, (I think it comes from not having many friends at school…), but Tesco Clubcard Plus cranks things up a notch in terms of membership perks. I’m talking actual cash in your pocket, not just a self-laminated certificate. (Definitely never done that.)

How do I set up Tesco Clubcard Plus?

It really couldn’t be easier to start saving money with Tesco Clubcard Plus.

Step one – subscribe to Tesco Clubcard Plus. It costs £7.99 a month but there is no minimum term so you can cancel any time you like. Although honestly, why would you want to voluntary stop saving money every month?

Step two – download the Clubcard app.

Step three – start saving money! Hoorah!

I found the whole process took just a matter of minutes and the app is very intuitive to use. View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature in association with Belling

Hulk ice cream sandwiches

Never let it be said that I don’t enjoy a challenge.

When British cooking appliance brand Belling, who’ve been helping families create tasty, nutritious meals since 1912, asked me if I fancied creating a superhero themed recipe as part of their latest campaign to get kids excited about cooking then of course I said yes.

Belling has actually created an entire recipe book of superhero themed recipes, which you can get completely free here. All of the recipes in the Belling campaign are healthy twists on foods linked to superhero films, including treats like rainbow smoothies inspired by Bruce Wayne’s smoothies in Batman Begins and the picnic sandwiches that Billy Batson enjoys in Shazam.

How hard could it be?

‘Not a problem,’ I said.

‘How about some Hulk themed ice cream sandwiches made with Hunka Hulka Burning Fudge ice cream?’ I said.

‘Excellent!’ Belling replied.

And there I was.

If you’re an Avengers fan then you may already have spotted the extra dimension to my challenge – the fact that Hunka Hulka Burning Fudge is actually a completely made up ice cream flavour. Here’s the Hulk tucking into it in Avengers: Endgame: View Post

Follow: