29 September 2014

Double fun apple and custard crumble

I'm very excited. This is the awe-inspiring creation that was pudding tonight. I had some plain crumble mix leftover in the fridge that needed using (great tip by the way, always make too much crumble mix and then it's ready to go for next time), so I bought a few seasonal Bramley apples to use with it. But I wanted to try something new. I had a tin of my favourite Devonshire custard in the cupboard (I may be an enthusiastic cook, but I'm not crazy enough to make my own custard!). I had an idea. Why not put the custard inside the crumble, thus eradicating the need to heat it up separately and pour it on. Also this creates one less item to wash. 

What. The. Heck. Was I crazy?! 

I ran the idea past Artie, my 4 year old, who thought it sublime. He now has a newfound respect for me, as the resulting pudding blew our minds! He was very complimentary, whilst he was hoovering a large bowl down and telling me I had created a masterpiece (except in 4 year old type words). He even came up with the fab name: Double fun apple and custard crumble! Double fun indeed my boy!

You could use whatever crumble topping you favour. I used a classic (flour/butter/white sugar) one here, but feel free to replace 1/4 of the flour with oats or whatever you fancy. If using oats, and making in a processor, whizz the flour and butter, add sugar, whizz and then stir (don't whizz) the oats!

Serves: enough for 6 people
Prep time: 10 minutes (including the crumble making, which I had done ahead)
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
Total time: 40-50 minutes

150g plain flour
50g butter (cold from fridge)
50g granulated sugar 
Pinch salt
2 Bramley apples, peeled, sliced thin-ish (about 1cm)
Sprinkling of sugar
1 x 400g tin of custard

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. 
  2. First make the crumble (double up and save half the mixture in the fridge, it'll keep for about a week). The easiest way to do it is in a food processor. Simply roughly chop the butter and whizz with flour, then add sugar and a wee pinch of salt, and whizz again. Or make by hand: rub flour with cubed cold butter until crumb-like. Mix with sugar and pinch of salt. 
  3. Simply slice the peeled apples into a medium baking dish. After one layer is in, sprinkle with sugar. Do another layer of apple and then sprinkle again. 
  4. Tip the custard on and smooth over. 
  5. Top with crumble mix. Bake for 30-40 minutes. The longer you bake, the softer the apple will be. 

28 September 2014

Banana pancakes

It's a bit of a cliche to say that you cook to make other people happy. And also one that I didn't really understand until I had kids. You see, before kids, mainly I cooked to make me happy! But now, nothing gives me a warmer, fuzzier feeling than seeing my son and daughter really, truly enjoying something I have made them to eat.

They really enjoy their food, but they are still kids - and that means they do turn their noses up at quite a lot of perfectly nice food. But when they do love something, ah, that's such a joy to see. They went a little bit wild over these babies this morning. It was an impromptu kitchen creation. But one of the best ever, if I do say so myself.

These pancakes are definitely going to feature regularly on the brekkie menu from now on. I have quite a few pancake recipes in my repertoire, a few are on here (like this Blueberry yoghurt and maple bacon one and that older multigrain one). So I was considering sharing this one on my new lifestyle for mums blog, Still You. But because it is sooo good, I wanted to give it to you guys - I feel this is where it belongs. No, no, really - you deserve it...

My son has gone off bananas, so I decided to mush them up and fold them into the batter. Whoa, am I glad I did! It makes for such a soft, gooey centred pancake. Crisp on the outside, meltingly soft in the middle. All you need to do is to top with a little knob of butter, a few slices of banana and a drizzle of maple syrup and you are in breakfast heaven my friend.

Please try this recipe with your family next weekend. I give you my word, they will love it! My tip is to double up, make twice the amount stated below as I did today - but without the mashed banana in - and pour half into a jug to stash in the fridge. Mash the banana into the batter you are about to use. Pancakes two days on the trot? Let the good times roll...

Makes: About 8 side plate sized pancakes (2 each for a family of 4)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 6-8 minutes per batch (few minutes each side)

100g plain flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 bananas, mashed
150ml milk
3 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
Small pinch of salt
Large pinch of sugar


  1. Melt the butter and beat your egg. Once the butter has cooled off a little, beat the two together. 
  2. Mix the yoghurt and milk with a fork. Add the vanilla extract. It's all curdled looking, but don't worry, it's fine. 
  3. Combine the dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, bicarb. Then mix the wet (yoghurt/vanilla/milk and eggs/butter) into the dry and give it a good whisk. 
  4. Fold in the mashed bananas just before using. 
  5. Heat a heavy bottomed pan until it gets quite hot, and add a large knob of butter. Let it sizzle and froth, then add a ladle's worth for each pancake. Let it sit for a few minutes. You'll see bubbles appearing. Let a few more appear till there are lots - a few minutes on each side should do it - and gently (they are delicate) flip with a fish slice. Give it a few more minutes on the reverse side. 
  6. Either serve them as they cook (this is always how it goes down in my house), or keep them all warm and serve together if you are more civilised. 
  7. I like a little knob of butter on each one, some more sliced banana and a generous drizzle of maple syrup. 

25 September 2014

Cowboy (sausage and bean) pie

I've mentioned a few times that I am working with netmums, testing their most popular recipes and then photographing them. This one has been on the list for some time. And, if I'm honest, I wasn't particularly looking forward to it. In fact, I kind of avoided it for a while! I just wasn't that excited about a 'casserole' made of sausages and beans! Do you know what? I really enjoyed it, as did my daughter, who woolfed a huge portion down. So, here it is for you guys, in its slightly tweaked and fully tested form. 

As it's topped with mash, rather than served with it, I like to call it a pie rather than a casserole. I think poking the sausages out of the top makes it really fun. You could even make this for Halloween and called it finger pie? Too weird..? Sorry!

The curry powder element is totally optional - all it does is give a slightly curry flavour, very gentle. Funnily enough Heinz actually do a tin of beans with curry flavour now, so that's proof positive that beans and curry do work!

Serves: 4 adults (or 2 adults and 2 children)

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes

6-8 sausages (depends on how big they are)
1 onion, diced small
2 carrots, diced small
1 tin baked beans (400g)
250ml beef stock
Pinch of curry powder
1 tablespoon of tomato paste or ketchup
600g potatoes, peeled, cooked, mashed
50g (handful) of grated cheddar cheese
Large knob of butter (for mash)           
2 tablespoons of olive oil 

I used a medium sized baking dish, one that serves 4.

  1. Peel then boil your potatoes to make mash. Once cooked, mash with a large knob of butter and the grated cheese. Season lightly with pepper.
  2. Preheat oven to 180C.
  3. Heat a little oil, and brown the sausages off in a pan, whole. Should take about 10 minutes. Set aside once brown and chop some into bite size chunks, saving 2 or 3 to cut into halves – these are going to decorate the pie by peeking out the top.
  4. Add a little more oil to the pan, and add the diced carrots and onion. Soften for about 10 minutes. 
  5. Tip in baked beans and stock. Add a pinch of curry sauce and a tablespoon of tomato paste or ketchup and stir well. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add sausages to the baking dish, saving 4 or 5 sausages halves back, and top with the beans/sauce. Top with mash. Poke the sausage halves through so they are peeking out. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned on top - without the sausages browning too much!

22 September 2014

Courgette carbonara with wholewheat spaghetti

We had this for lunch last week. We had some cream in and it needed to be used. I'm a real cream sauce kind of a girl, but it has to have depth. Nothing worse than a cream sauce that just tastes of cream. When we were growing up, we used to eat out at an old fashioned Italian restaurant called San Remo and me and my mum always used to order a big bowl of creamy carbonara. A carbonara sauce is a glorious thing, when done well - it can be terrible though. I recommend the River Cafe version of a classic carbonara.

But before you go off and do that, do this! This is a little veggie version. (But feel free to add lardons of pancetta, get them all crispy, before you grate in the courgette.) The depth of flavour comes from the garlic, and also using plenty of parmesan. The sauce is rich with egg yolks, too.

Grating courgette is a genius way to introduce them into pasta. My friend got me into it. Kids don't even notice them in there, so they slurp up all the pasta whilst, unbeknownst to them, eating green veggies at the same time. Score! Wholewheat pasta works well here, and in my experience kids never know the difference. Double score!

The sauce is made in the same time as the pasta boils, which is an absolute TRIPLE score in my opinion.

Makes: enough for 3 adults (or 2 adults and 2 kids)
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 13 minutes

2 courgettes, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
250ml double cream
100g parmesan, grated
3 egg yolks
300g wholewheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

More parmesan to serve


  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add salt. Tip in pasta and cook till al dente. Drain - but reserve some pasta cooking water in a mug. 
  2. Grate the courgettes and, using a clean tea towel, tip the courgettes onto it, then squeeze to take out extra water. 
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Gently soften the crushed garlic for a few minutes. Don't let it brown. 
  4. Add the grated courgette and cook that too, without colouring. It won't take long at all. 5 minutes should do it. You can take it off the heat when you think it's done. 
  5. In a mixing jug, add the yolks (you could use the whites for meringues or an egg white omelette), and mix the cream and parmesan. You're not going to cook this sauce - it 'cooks' on the hot pasta. 
  6. Tip the courgette and garlic mix into the cooked and drained pasta, and add the cream/cheese/egg mixture. Using tongs or similar, toss the pasta, combining it well. Season. Toss again. Use a little pasta water, just a small splash, to prevent the creamy sauce going claggy. Let the pasta sit, maybe with the heat on very low, whilst you keep tossing - the sauce needs to soak into the pasta and takes a few minutes. 
  7. Serve with lots of black pepper and more parmesan. I cut my kids' spaghetti up with scissors to make it easier to eat. 

18 September 2014

Butternut squash and stilton soup

In my opinion the easiest way to get veg into kids is to make lots of simple homemade veggie soups. This simple soup has celery, onion, carrot and squash in, not to mention garlic which is great for boosting immune systems. Yes, it has stilton in, but you'll be surprised how little it tastes like stilton - instead it just gives a salty and creamy edge and a richness. My daughter loved it. I find most kids like soups, for some reason. The act of dipping bread in seems to appeal. This one's silky, smooth, probably one of the best soups I've ever made. Perfect for an Autumn lunch.

Soup making is so easy. If you don't have a blender, which is what I use, then you can get a hand blender stick one quite cheaply, like this hand blender from Amazon. There are some kitchen tools that are worth buying as a mum if you want to make fresh and healthy food, and a soup blender is one of them. You can houmous with these too...

I topped mine with simple croutons, made by dicing up a few slices of normal brown bread and frying in a little oil and butter, then seasoning.

I made mine using my beloved Instantpot electric pressure cooker, which halved the time, but of course you could make yours in a normal pan, instructions for both below.

Serves: 4 adults, generously 

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes  

With Instant Pot:
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes 

1 small-ish butternut squash, diced into 1inch chunks
2 stalks celery, diced small
2 carrots, diced small
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
700 - 800ml veg stock (depends on how thick you want it)
100g stilton, crumbled or diced
Pepper and a little salt

Normal instructions: 
  1. Soften the garlic, onion, carrots and celery in a little oil over a medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, until very soft. 
  2. Add the diced squash and cook for a further few minutes. 
  3. Now pour in the hot stock. Let it come to boil then simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all vegetables are cooked through. 
  4. Time to add the cheese. Just crumble in and stir. Whizz using a blender of some sort. Eat with crunchy croutons!
Instant Pot Instructions: 
  1. Set the IP to Saute. Add some oil and soften the garlic, onion, carrots and celery in a little oil about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the diced squash.
  3. Now pour in the hot stock. Put the lid on and press Cancel. Set the IP to Soup and decrease the time from 30 (it's default) to 10. It will say On, then start counting down. Cancel once finished. 
  4. Once it's done, release steam and crumble in the cheese. Transfer to a blender and whizz.