Easter Nests

Easter Nests

Easter nests; a firm family-favourite and as far as I am concerned the only good use of shredded wheat!

This recipe made nine nests.

Ingredients
100 g bar 70% Dark chocolate
1 tablespoon Golden syrup
25 g Butter
150 g Shredded wheat

(at least) 16 ‘mini-eggs’ or similar – I used Traidcraft little speckled eggs which are delicious and ethically sourced.

Method

Line a muffin tin with paper cases – pretty ones if you have them.

Slowly melt the chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a bowl over boiling water. The bowl shouldn’t touch the water.

When the above is melted and combined, crumble the shredded wheat into the bowl a bit at a time and stir in until well coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spoon into the paper-cases, making a little ‘well’ in the middle for the eggs.

Place in a cool place; try not to scoff them all immediately  so that the has time to chocolate set!

Dairy-free Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Biscuits

These Peanut Butter Biscuits are dairy free, delicious, and pretty healthy as biscuits go.

As you may be aware I have given up supermarket shopping for Lent. This has in general been a positive experience so far; however, right now when I haven’t been shopping for a few days it it is a bit of a pain because I have run out of what I usually consider to be a ‘basic’ baking ingredient – butter. Biscuits are required this evening because I have people coming over for a meeting, and having nothing to offer would be plain rude! However, every challenge is an opportunity and having successfully baked using olive oil in little cakes a few days ago I decided to trawl through my recipe books to find something I could easily adapt.

I used groundnut oil for this recipe because I happened to have some in the cupboard and I thought it made sense with the peanut butter, you can substitute in different oil if you like. Whilst on the subject of substitutions, the recipe which I (loosely) based these biscuits on asked for brown bread flour whereas I used Rye flour, again, because that is what I happened to have in the storecupboard.
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Ingredients

Makes about 20.

  • 3 tablespoons Peanut Butter
  • 140 ml Groundnut Oil
  • a few drops of Vanilla Essence
  • 1 Egg
  • 125 g / 4 oz demerara sugar
  • 125 g / 4 oz White Bread Flour
  • a pinch of Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 125 g / 4 oz Rye Flour (or wholemeal)
  • 100 g Dark Chocolate, chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Whisk together the peanut butter, oil and vanilla essence and then beat in the sugar. Add the egg plus a teaspoon of flour and beat well.

Sift in the white bread flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and fold in.

Mix in the chocolate followed by the rye flour and knead until the dough holds together.

Roll small pieces of the dough into balls and place on oiled baking tray, leaving room for spreading. Flatten with a fork in a criss-cross pattern and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

peanut butter cookies
peanut butter cookies

January Challenge ‘de-brief’

I am almost exactly a month into my life as a food blogger, and I have to say that this is definitely the most difficult post that I have written so far. Those of you who have been following me for the last month will know that I set myself a challenge at the beginning of January to ‘cook using only what I already have in my cupboards and freezer, plus what I can buy for £5 a week’;  you will also know that I like to communicate what I have been cooking with minimal ‘waffle’. Now that February has arrived it is time to reflect on my January Challenge and I really hope that I can do so in a concise and interesting way. Please leave me a message if you make it all the way to bottom!

Most importantly, I must say that I have really enjoyed giving myself a ridiculous budget for a month; it reminded me of how much fun it is to be creative with my cooking, and in addition it ‘reset’ my shopping habits and prevented me from producing any food waste.

What I would really like to get across to you is how well you can eat on a small weekly budget if you keep a few ‘core’ things in your storecupboard. If you are not used to this style of food shopping and cooking then there will be some upfront expenditure (but not much, see below how much I spent on topping-up my cupboards at the end of the month); but once you have initially stocked up there will just be a small ‘rolling cost’ as you replace things.

So here goes a short retrospective on my January Challenge:

What did I buy with my £5 a week?

My first £5 was spent on onions, carrots, mushrooms, some good British sausages, a lime & soda from my local pub, and some reduced bread for my freezer.

Lesson #1 – lime & soda is totally pointless and a waste of money!

During the second week I spent the princely sum of £4.88 on free range eggs, carrots, new potatoes, frozen peas and a British lamb shank.

Lesson #2 – a box of mixed-sized eggs is considerably cheaper than buying a box of identical eggs, and unless you are doing high-precision baking they are just as good.

For the last couple of weeks of the challenge I was more ‘bitty’ in my shopping (I didn’t have time for a ‘big’ £5 shopping trip!) and I was not quite so disciplined in writing up what I had bought; in summary I topped up the onions, potatoes, mushrooms and carrots, and I had a cup of tea at a church coffee morning for a whole 80p – decadent!

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What are my new favourite recipes?

As I mentioned above, one of the best things about giving myself a ridiculous budget was re-discovering my creative ‘make-it-up-as-you-go-along’ cooking flair! I think that my favourite was probably the Roasties with Garlic & Coconut Dip – this was a very spur of the moment ‘snack’ using some coconut yoghurt that a friend had left in my fridge, I will certainly be making it again.

If I had to choose another top creation it would be a difficult choice between the vegetable curry and spaghetti with tomatoes and poached egg.

Lesson #3 – if you don’t allow yourself to ‘pop to the shops’ for additional ingredients you will discover new and exciting (or sometimes just ‘interesting’) recipes!

Please do let me know what your favourite recipe has been so far, and do do do give them a try and let me know how easy or otherwise they are to follow!

What did I run out of?

Early Grey tea – disaster! Tonic water – disaster! Garlic – disaster! Cheese, milk, almond milk, vegetable stock, pasta…

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… and, as the observant amongst you will note, cheap gin! Don’t worry, I haven’t yet stooped to cheap gin; the reason I require it is to make Cranberry Gin… a recipe for another day. (Retrospectively, here is the Cranberry Gin recipe)

Despite making a show of being organised, I actually managed to forget the shopping list when I went for my ‘top-up shop’ – so in the end I forgot a few things, got a few extra things, and spent about £30 (including the gin). Not bad.

What is in Kitty’s Storecupboard?

Having set myself a ridiculous budget for a month I have concluded that the following constitute the ‘core’ storecupoard ingredients which I would be hard-pressed to do without (although I’m sure I’d cope!); I hope that I have demonstrated over the last month that very little is needed in addition to these things to cook some rather delicious meals.

‘Dry Goods’

  • Lentils (Puy and Red-split lentils)
  • Rice (brown and white)
  • Pasta
  • Couscous
  • Oats

Tins / jars / cartons

  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Tomato purée
  • Chickpeas
  • Butter beans
  • Pesto
  • Milk (‘cow’ or otherwise – I am rather fond of Almond Milk)

Baking ingredients

  • Plain flour
  • Self-raising flour
  • Margarine
  • Sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Baking powder
  • Bicarbonate of Soda
  • A selection of nuts and dried fruit

Freezer

  • Peas
  • Stock
  • Cooked vegetables for soup (from when I got portion sizes wrong!)
  • a bit of meat and/or fish, usually from the reduced section of the supermarket

Spices

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What can I say? A picture says a thousand words!

However, I would say that the ‘core’ herbs and spices for me are:

  • black pepper;
  • chilli flakes;
  • mustard seeds;
  • cumin seeds;
  • ground coriander;
  • mustard powder;
  • cayenne pepper; and
  • oregano, or some kind of mixed green herbs.

Garlic and onions are also very important!

and for my next challenge? I’ll keep you posted. In the mean time I have a number of January recipes to share with you which I ran out of time to write last month.

Well done for getting to the bottom of the page!

‘over and out!

Kitty

Spaghetti with tomatoes and poached eggs

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Cheap, quick, easy and yummy – four of
my favourite things!
This fed two adults and a child (approximately 1/2 a tin of tomatoes per person and an egg each).

Ingredients:
1 Onion, chopped
1 Clove garlic, crushed
A few mushrooms, chopped
Black pepper
1 tsp Oregano
1 & 1/2 Tins tomatoes
A couple of squirts of tomato puree
3 eggs
A handful of grated cheese
Spaghetti

If I had them I might also have included bacon or anchovies, olives or capers.
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Method:
Fry the onion, garlic, black pepper and herbs in olive oil until beginning to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and mushrooms and simmer until the mushrooms have cooked.

While the sauce is simmering away put the spaghetti on to cook, following the instructions on the packet for the quantity and cooking time.

When the pasta is nearly done crack an egg into a mug, make a little well in the sauce and pour in the egg; repeat so that there is one egg per person. Note, if your pan is not non-stick you will probably need to put a bit of oil in each well before you add the egg.

After about a minute, turn each egg with a spatula and then sprinkle the cheese over the sauce.

Drain the pasta and divide between shallow bowls. Put an egg onto each serving of pasta and then share out the rest of the sauce.

Enjoy!

Nutella Biscuits

This is a fantastic store cupboard recipe with very few ingredients. These particular yummy looking (and, I can report delicious tasting) biscuits were made by my favourite little neighbour and she would like to share the recipe with you in her own words.wp-1453045864132.jpeg

Ingredients:

  • 200g Butter (softened)
  • 150g Plain Flour
  • 100g Granulated Sugar
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Method:

Preheat heat the oven to 180C.

Then, cream the butter and the sugar until smooth.

Add the flour and mix to a soft dough, you may have to add more flour to get the right texture.

Next, make the dough in to little balls about the size of a walnut. Put about half of them on a greased baking tray and push down with the back of a tea spoon, making a dent for the Nutella .

In the dent put about a third of a tea spoon of Nutella and cover with another piece of flattened dough. Sprinkle with some demerara sugar.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy with a cup of tea and Doctor Who.

£4.88 well spent

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It’s that time again already – my weekly trip to Sainsbury’s (other supermarkets are available!) to spend my allotted £5 on food.

I went shopping and I bought…

  • 6 free range eggs (mixed sizes);
  • a big bag of carrots (reduced);
  • some new potatoes (reduced);
  • a British lamb shank (also reduced!); and
  • frozen peas

… all for the princely sum of £4.88.

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Buying mixed-sized eggs is a lot cheaper than buying either medium or large eggs; in the same way, cheaper vegetables tend to only differ from the more expensive ones because they are not in perfect uniformity. Who needs perfect uniformity?!

The lamb shank had today’s sell-by-date. It is already in my slow-cooker along with some onions, miss-shaped carrots (of course!), more frozen cider, frozen redcurrants from my mum’s garden, a little bit of ham stock from my freezer, pink pepper corns, a bay leaf and a little bit of wholegrain mustard. My kitchen is going to smell fabulous in the morning!

Finally, it is probably worth mentioning what I have left over from my £5 shop last week which will ‘carry over’ into this week. As you have probably noticed I still have onions; there will be enough to last me another week. I still have quite a few mushrooms which look as good as the day I bought them, so I must have done something right with how I stored them! There are also still two of the sausages and most of the loaf of bread in the freezer.

I hope I am beginning to convince you that, with a well stocked storecupboard, it is possible to eat rather well with a small weekly expenditure. I will write a post before long on what I have in my storecupboard and what the ‘upfront cost’ would be to stock the core things; once those magic ingredients are in your cupboards it won’t cost you much each week to keep your kitchen well stocked with the ingredients for some fantastic meals.

Happy cooking! If you have a go at any of my recipes please please do send me some feedback on how easy (or otherwise) they are to follow, and do send me pictures of your creations!

ta ‘ra for now,

Kitty x

Carrot, Lentil and Cider Soup

It’s time to use up the rest of the carrots before my next shop, so it’s soup time again! This particular pot of soup fed me for two meals.wp-1452710058423.jpeg

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion/ a couple of small ones
  • 5 carrots (approx)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Curry Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 pint vegetable stock
  • approx 1 cup of cider (I used some frozen home made cider; made into ‘ice-cubes’ in the same way as the turkey stock mentioned previously)
  • almond milk (you can substitute in any other type of milk)
  • seasoning

Method:

Peel and chop the onions and carrots and cook in some olive oil (just enough so that they don’t stick) along with the spices for about 5 minutes, keeping an eye on it and stirring occasionally.

Add the cider and cook on a medium heat for another 5 minutes.

Add the lentils and stock and simmer on a low heat for 10-15 minutes, adding more liquid if required.

Transfer to a blender and whizz until smooth, adding almond milk until the soup is nearly the right consistency. Pour the soup back into the pan, using some more of the almond milk to swill out the rest of the soup from the blender so you don’t waste any.

Bring the soup slowly up to temperature. Taste. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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