This pork and cider casserole recipe post is brought to you in association with Thorner’s Farm Shop.

pork and apple and cider slow cooker casserole recipe

I don’t know about you but it feels to me like the further we get into this pandemic, the more my life revolves around food.

I’ve always been the sort of person who thinks about what they’re going to have for lunch while they’re eating breakfast, but when food shopping is pretty much the only sort of shopping you can do, and the days and weeks stretch ahead for miles, snacks become EVERYTHING.

Not that I’m complaining. I love eating, and not being able to eat out and get my brunch fix has meant I’ve spent more time trying new recipes and eating delicious things at home. Like last weekend for instance when I had a delivery from Thorner’s Farm Shop in Shepton Mallet and cooked a feast of slow cooker pork and cider casserole and pineapple cake with Malibu frosting. (You heard me.)

I’ve been a fan of Thorner’s since I discovered their award-winning pies recently, and I’ve had my love for them reinforced by the fact that the adorable deli that I walk to across the fields – Gaia Garden – has become a stockist.

Lovely walk through the countryside? Delightful! Pie to take home for dinner? Don’t mind if I do.

Thorner’s stock all kinds of things besides pies though, including an ever-expanding range of local meats. I wanted to showcase the variety of their online farm shop through this post, so in my weekend feast I used a fruit and a vegetable box, local cider, outdoor reared diced pork, local butter and eggs. I also had a very lovely Somerset wine – the Aldwick Estate Buteo – but I have to confess that this was so good that I drank it all before remembering to take a photo. Do go and check it out though. I recommend.

I was particularly impressed with the veg and fruit boxes. My fruit box for example included apples, satsumas, pears, bananas, a lemon and a lime, blueberries, grapes and a whole pineapple. (Hence the pineapple cake.) I think this is really good value for £9.99. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Foodhub

What have you missed most over the last 12 months? I’ve missed food, specifically someone else cooking for me. Belle cooks at home a couple of times a week, which I do really appreciate, but that still involves me helping her decide what she’s going to make, shopping for ingredients and clearing up after her.

Let’s just say it’s not exactly the stress-free restaurant experience.

What I really want is for someone to do everything – the planning, the choosing, the cooking and the washing up – as well as keeping my wine glass topped up. Oh and I want to be surrounded by witty and entertaining people. It’s not too much to ask is it?

The closest we can get at the moment is a takeaway. A takeaway at least takes care of the bulk of the work, leaving me just in charge of wine and Belle having to take on the role of ‘witty and entertaining company.’ She tries. She’s more entertaining than I’ve become in the last year for sure.

As an extended family we miss eating out together too. Pretty much all of our family occasions and celebrations would normally revolve around eating out and we’re notorious for arriving somewhere ‘just in time for lunch’. Lockdown has made it hard to make special occasions feel special – it’s hard to get that ‘treat’ vibe isn’t it?

One way we can still feel like we’re spoiling ourselves is by getting a takeaway and so this week I treated my Mum to a takeaway via Foodhub. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Competition Finder

I don’t know about you, but over the last year my life feels like it has got smaller and smaller.

I not unhappy for the most part, but it has shrunk down until now it’s really just about food, drink, walks, cats and Instagram stories. And let’s face it, even some of the walks and the food is really just about the stories.

It’s quite an exposing state of being when you think about it. I imagine it like a series of concentric circles, with the furthest out ones being all of the things you do and the people you see that you normally engage with the least – in my case gym classes, children* etc – and gradually each layer has been peeled away until we are just left as these exposed inner cores, clinging onto the few keys things that make us human at least. I feel like the connections I do have with people are more real – there’s no small talk, you both know you’re in that park for a reason, so you get right down to it.

Food has become a much more significant pleasure too. I’ve taken to just eating whatever I want, whenever I want, but in an almost spiritual way. I don’t just munch on snacks for fun – I take my time choosing, and I savour the experience. When your pleasures have become fewer, they deserve taking more seriously.

What I do miss about food though is constantly being the one to have to cook it and wash up. Eating out has always been one of my best things, hence brunch club, and I miss the novelty of something new, of not being sure what something is going to look and taste like until it’s on your fork and in your mouth.

If I had endless wealth and lived somewhere cosmopolitan then a substantial part of my diet would be takeaways, but as I didn’t even qualify for any freelance financial support, it seems a bit foolhardy to spend all of the money I’m saving on my mortgage repayment holiday on satay chicken sticks and king prawns with cashew nuts.

I’m rambling. I apologise.

The point of this post is that I’ve teamed up with the competition website Competition Finder to provide you with some lockdown food inspiration and relaxation in the form of a selection of easy recipes and £50 TO SPEND ON TAKEAWAY. View Post

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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