Herb Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

Hi there, as I look out of the window I can see it’s ‘Cloudy – with more than a chance of Meatballs, for dinner!’ I know, very bad joke but I couldn’t resist.  The same way I couldn’t resist making Meatballs today after seeing someone cook them on TV yesterday!!!

Yummy, bites sized herb meatballs in a simple tomato sauce.
Yummy, bites sized herb meatballs in a simple tomato sauce.

I haven’t a clue which, if any, recipe they were following, these Herb Meatballs in a super Simple Tomato Sauce are my own creation!  Let’s hope they are a hit with the family, when served with spaghetti later?  Oh who am I kidding?  Hunger default status is always STARVING with our family when Meatballs are on the menu!!

I’ve used a combination of beef mince and pork sausage meat for these little Meatballs.  I have made them using all beef, but I find them a bit heavy (even using breadcrumbs & egg to lighten them).  I’ve also made Turkey meatballs, but that’s a whole kettle of fish ( not that they contain fish!)!!!!!

Just a quick note : There is a bit of prep work involved in making these meatballs, but the tomato sauce is so quick it really takes no longer than making a bolognaise sauce and the meatballs really do make a delicious change – so I think it’s worth it?  If you try this recipe I’d love to know how get on?


Recipe : This serves 6-8 hungry people!

For the Meatballs

1  Large Onion

1 tbsp  Olive Oil

1 1/2lb  (750g)Beef Mince (pref. less than 10% fat content)

1lb  (500g) Pork Sausage meat

1  Large Garlic Clove

2  Fresh Sage Leaves (1/4tsp dried sage)

3  Fresh Thyme Sprigs (1/4tsp dried thyme)

1tsp  Sea salt (1/2tsp free flowing salt)

1 tsp  Freshly Ground Black Pepper

For the Simple Tomato Sauce

2 x 400g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes

2tbsp  Tomato Puree

2  Sprigs Fresh Thyme (1/4tsp dried thyme)

1/2tsp  Sugar

1/2tsp  Sea salt (1/4tsp free flowing salt)

1/2tsp  Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Method : Making the Meatballs

Chop up the onion as finely as possible.  Add the oil to a frying pan and sauté over a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent, but not browned.

Sautéed onions, ready to cool down.
Sautéed onions, ready to cool down.

Set the pan aside and allow the onions to cool down.  Place the minced beef, sausage meat, cooled onion, salt, pepper, minced garlic and freshly chopped (or dried) herbs.

All the meatball ingredients in the bowl together!
All the meatball ingredients in the bowl together!

Using a fork, gently combine all the ingredients together.  I’ve found, if I squish them together using my hand (I like squishing, it’s fun – so if I could, I would!!!!) the meatballs end up too dense.

Using a fork to gently combine all the meatball ingredients.
Using a fork to gently combine all the meatball ingredients.

Next, scoop about a teaspoonful of mixture and lightly roll into a ball in between your hands – wet hands make the job easier!  Continue until all of the meatball mixture is used up – I managed 54 meatballs!!

Not perfect spheres but they'll taste just fine, once cooked!
Not perfect spheres but they’ll taste just fine, once cooked!

Heat the pan that you used for sautéing the onions on a medium heat – I didn’t add any more oil, but feel free if yours isn’t non stick.  Add the meatballs so they only form one layer in the pan (overcrowding the pan means the meatballs won’t have contact with direct heat and won’t brown properly). Leave them for 1-2 minutes and then gently turn, repeating the process until the meatballs are nicely browned all over (as they were so small I found it easier to turn them in the pan using 2 desert spoons instead of tongs). Remove from the pan and place on a clean plate.


Making the Simple Tomato Sauce

Using the same pan as before, discard any remaining oil safely – it will be hot so allow to cool and wipe the pan with a handful of kitchen roll.  Now add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes, refilling each tin, roughly halfway with water, swill around to catch every bit of juice a pour into the pan.  Add the tomato purée, herbs, sugar,salt and pepper.  Bring to a  simmer and leave to bubble away gently for 30-40 minute.  The Simple Tomato Sauce is done!!

Super easy, super simple tomato sauce.
Super easy, super simple tomato sauce.

Place the meatballs in a large, ovenproof dish and pour over the tomato sauce.  Heat through for 30-40 minutes, until piping hot and then serve with pasta, rice, crusty bread or even a salad!!

Yummy, bites sized herb meatballs in a simple tomato sauce.
Yummy, bites sized herb meatballs in a simple tomato sauce.

This can easily be a GLUTEN AND DAIRY FREE dish if you use sausage meat – without rusk or wheat added (I buy mine from www.graigfarmirgaincs), as no breadcrumbs or egg are added to the meatball mixture.

A delicious dish that everyone (well not vegetarians I guess) that can be shared and feasted on by friends and family!

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Turkey and Leek Pie

Hi there, thank you for stopping by to take a look at my Recipe for Turkey and Leek Pie, topped with mountains of Mash.  This is a fantastic recipe for using up leftover Turkey after Christmas or Thanksgiving!

Crunchy mash topped pie, hiding chunks of Turkey in a delicious sauce - pass me a plate I'm hungry?!!!!
Crunchy mash topped pie, hiding chunks of Turkey in a delicious sauce – pass me a plate I’m hungry?!!!!

The News has been awash with statistics and reports of how much food we throw away, or waste as a nation.  Now I’m not suggesting you try to make a pie  out of the gooey apple, fermenting at the bottom of the fruit bowl – however, lots of us eat Turkey over the holiday period and Roast Chicken (which makes a great substitute for this pie) throughout the rest of the year.  This recipe will show you one, easy way to make a delicious meal with leftover Turkey!!

Yesterday we had a roasted Turkey crown for Sunday dinner.  It was seriously yummy!  But, I was left with one complete Turkey breast, cooked and in the fridge!!!  What to do??

Today I decided to make a Turkey and Leek pie, topped with Mashed Potatoes instead of pastry.  Alternative toppings for this pie could include : sliced potatoes,  flaky pastry, savoury crumble topping, herbed breadcrumbs.  If you try any of these please let me know how you get on?

Recipe : This Pie will serve 6 people

1 1/2 – 2 lb  (750g- 1Kg) Cooked Turkey cut into 1 inch chunks

2  Medium Leeks

4 oz  Butter (split in two)

1 tbsp  Olive Oil

2 tbsp  Vermouth or White Wine

1 tbsp  Plain White Flour

1/2 of a Chicken Stock Cube

3 tbsp + extra  Whole Milk

1.5 Kg  Peeled Potatoes (Maris Piper/Desiree or any floury potato suitable for mashing)

2  Sprigs Fresh Thyme

Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Method :

Peel and chop the potatoes, place in a saucepan and cover with water.  Add  a pinch of salt, bring to the boil and then simmer until tender when pierced with a knife.  Drain the potatoes, place them back into the saucepan with 2 tbsp of butter and milk. Clamp on the lid and leave off the heat for 5 minutes.  Next, adding a good grinding of black pepper, mash the potatoes, set aside to cool.

Place 2tbsp of the butter and the Olive oil into a frying pan over a medium heat.  Chop the leeks into small dice, rinse thoroughly, pat dry and add to the melted butter and oil in the frying pan.

Bright green, uncooked leeks. They fill the pan!!
Bright green, uncooked leeks. They fill the pan!!

Ensuring the mash reaches the edges of the pie dish will help stop the sauce from leaking out during cooking.

Add a pinch of salt and sauté over a low heat. You don’t want the leeks to colour,  just to become soft and slightly translucent.

The sautéed leeks have lost their bright colour and shrunk in the pan as they've cooked!
The sautéed leeks have lost their bright colour and shrunk in the pan as they’ve cooked!

Next add 1 tbsp of flour, stirring so the chopped leeks are covered in the flour. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes – this will ensure the finished sauce doesn’t have a floury flavour.

The flour mixes with the butter and oil to thicken the sauce once the liquid has been added.
The flour mixes with the butter and oil to
thicken the sauce once the liquid has been added.

Add a splash of Vermouth or white wine (if you prefer to not use alcohol, just skip this stage).  Mix thoroughly over a low heat, cooking for a couple of minutes – this stops the finished sauce from tasting floury!  Next add a good splash (30-40mls) of milk.

The sauce will have a very thin consistency. Keep stirring!!!
The sauce will have a very thin consistency. Keep stirring!!!
After a couple of minutes the sauce will thicken.
After a couple of minutes the sauce will thicken.

Crumble in half of a chicken stock cube. When fully incorporated into the sauce, have a quick taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to season.  Next strip 2 fresh Thyme sprigs and add the Thyme leaves to the leek sauce.  Set to one side and allow to cool.

Cut the cold, cooked Turkey (or chicken) into 1 inch chunks and place into a pie dish. Cover the Turkey with the leek sauce.

 

Turkey chunks covered in leek sauce, flecked with Thyme leaves.
Turkey chunks covered in leek sauce, flecked with Thyme leaves.

Now you can cover the Turkey/Leek mixture with mountains of Mashed Potato. Pile the mash up high and then, using a fork, ruffle up the surface (this will ensure an extra crunchy topping when cooked!).

Ensuring the mash reaches the edges of the pie dish will help stop the sauce from leaking out during cooking.
Ensuring the mash reaches the edges of the pie dish will help stop the sauce from leaking out during cooking.

At this stage the Turkey and Leek Pie can be wrapped in cling film and placed in the fridge for a couple of days until needed.  Or double wrapped in cling and popped into the freezer for up to one month – defrost overnight in the fridge before reheating.

To cook the pie, preheat the oven to 190C  (175C fan), place the pie dish on a baking sheet.  Place in the middle of the oven and cook for 1hour, until bubbling around the sides, golden and crunchy on top and piping hot all the way through.

Scrumptious......
Scrumptious……

The ultimate winter comfort food Turkey and Leek Pie, perfect for sharing and sure to put a smile on the face of those who try it!!!!!!

Until next time I hope I’ve inspired you to get creative with leftovers, smile and have fun.

Sammie xx

 

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Baking and Why I Love it?

Hello, I hope you are having a good day. Why do I love baking?

The BEST Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.
The BEST Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Firstly and above all other reasons, I find it really relaxing.  I’m constantly amazed that I really can have a batch of cookies, a cake or loaf of bread baking in the oven in literally minutes!

Secondly I’m always surprised when recipes turn out well.  I’m not sure why this is – as I do have a tendancy to ‘interprete’ recipes, as opposed to following them strictly.

I'm amazed every time I bake these Pecan & Sultana sticky buns. They are scrummy!
I’m amazed every time I’ve baked these Pecan & Sultana sticky buns. They are scrummy!

Thirdly, I have learnt, over the many years of baking and cooking to trust my nose.  Following on from my bad habit if not entirely following recipes to the letter, I also very rarely time things as they are baking or cooking!  I know, sooo bad.  But, since I’ve started my blog I’m getting better.  It’s a work in progress!!!!

Not enough pastry for a Sausage Plait, so made a huge Sausage Roll a cut a diamond pattern to make it look pretty!!
Not enough pastry for a Sausage Plait, so made a huge Sausage Roll a cut a diamond pattern to make it look pretty once baked!!

Next (fourthly didn’t sound quite right?!) I love the smell emanating from the oven as something is nearing it’s cooked stage.  In fact it is this very thing that stops me from timing how long something takes to bake.  My nose alerts me, with alarming accuracy!

As with planting a seed, caring and watering the plant that grows, then picking the produce or flowers, so too, in all types of cookery and baking, the ‘magic’ of turning a wet, lumpy mess into moist, delicious muffins never, ever fails to thrill me.  Yes I make mistakes, but I am all the better for it, tweaking ingredients, methods etc. It’s fun!!

A sticky, wet, Morello Cherry and Almond batter....
A sticky, wet, Morello Cherry and Almond batter….

Once cooked, cooled and sliced looks like this…,.

A moist, cooked cake, with a scrumptious Morello Cherry centre!!!!
A moist, baked cake, with a scrumptious Morello Cherry centre!!!!

Baking and cooking allow me to explore the creative side of my nature and I am never short of taste testers who give me the honest feedback I value.

Lastly and following on from the previous point, I get to share! l love the reaction from anyone I share my food with, whether it be the latest homemade ice cream flavour, devoured by our children and their cousins, or an individual portion of lasagne, given to one of my best friends, after a days serious walking (we’re talking 6-10miles here people!!!), knowing, she not only doesn’t have to think about what to have for dinner, but half an hour in the oven and a home cooked meal is ready.

Sharing is such an important part of who I am and so it naturally translates to my baking and cooking.

Made for sharing, totally delicious & good for you!!! Well they contain fruit......
Made for sharing, totally delicious & good for you!!! Lemon iced baked fruit buns.

Many people’s diet is restricted by the fact that they live alone.  If I’m making a Chilli for five of us it’s not any bother to make it for 6 people and it is always greatly appreciated.

None more so than by me.  The week following our eldest daughter’s birth, neither my husband or I cooked.  Family and friends brought round a main meal, everyday of that week.  Now I can honestly say we’ve probably tried every single type of Shepherds pie ever made!  But do you know what?  To a nursing mum (me) and a severely sleep deprived couple, who had absolutely no idea of what parenting was all about, each evening meal was truly wonderful.  I was constantly hungry and my gorgeous hubby has never, ever been a fan of cooking and our needs were met.

Beautiful Pink Cupcakes, made by my wonderful Mummy, for our Daughter's Birthday. Love you Mummy xxxx
Beautiful Pink Cupcakes, made by my wonderful Mummy, for our Daughter’s Birthday. Love you Mummy xxxx

I have never forgotten the love and practical kindness shown to us, during the earliest days of parenthood (where bathing the baby would take over an hour – I’m not joking!!!).

My aim is to now show that same practical love to others and in doing so encourage others to also share.

Handing my shopping delivery man a cupcake. Thank you for carrying all my heavy shopping through to the kitchen.
Handing my shopping delivery man a cupcake. Thank you for carrying all my heavy shopping through to the kitchen.

It’s amazing how many people you can make smile, just because you take a moment to notice them and share with them!

Try it.  I’d love to know how you get on?

Sammie xx

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Almond and Cranberry Cookies

Hello, thank you for stopping by to take a peek at my blog and the recipe for these scrumptious Almond and Cranberry Cookies.

Almond and Cranberry Cookies - delish xxx
Almond and Cranberry Cookies – delish xxx

Just because Cranberries are naturally in season over the holiday period, doesn’t mean you can’t use the dried version any time of the year!

Pop the kettle on - I need to be dunked!!!
Pop the kettle on – I need to be dunked!!!

Dried cranberries have a sweet/tart flavour and work wonderfully well in these cookies as they are not too sweet.  Most supermarkets stock Craisins (by Ocean Spray) otherwise I’ve found reliable stockists of dried Cranberries on Amazon/eBay.

Recipe :  Makes 20 – 30 cookies

5 oz  Caster Sugar

8 oz  Unsalted Butter (at room temp)

1/4 tsp Salt (I use Kosher – no additives)

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 tsp. Almond Extract

1  Large Egg Yolk (free range if possible)

2 oz  Ground Almonds

8 oz. Plain White Flour

4 oz  Dried Cranberries

2 oz  Flaked Almonds

Method :

Preheat the oven to 160C fan ((175C conventional oven).

Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper (if the trays aren’t non stick).

Cream together the butter, sugar and salt, using either an electric whisk (much easier!!) or wooden spoon, until pale and smooth to touch (rub a little of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger, it should not feel grainy).

Whisk/beat in the Egg Yolk, Vanilla and Almond extracts.

I now always switch to a spoon for mixing the dry ingredients, this way I can ‘feel’ when everything is combined and avoid overworking the flour (this can lead to tough cookies).

Add the Plain White Flour, Ground Almonds, Dried Cranberries and Flaked Almonds.  Mix until all the ingredients are just combined.

This dough looks yummy enough to eat!!
This dough looks yummy enough to eat!!

Using a teaspoon form small balls (the size of large marbles) of the mixture, approx 12-14 balls – this will use approx half of the mixture.

Place the cookie dough balls, spaced evenly, onto the baking sheets.  Lightly press the balls to form 1/4 inch thick disc.

Put both baking trays into the preheated oven and cook for 18-25 mins.  They are cooked when they have turned a light, golden colour.  Do not expect the cookies to be hard, they will firm up on cooling.

Leave to cool fully on the baking tray.

These taste even better the next day.  I had to hide them to find that out!!!!
These taste even better the next day. I had to hide them to find that out!!!!

With the remaining cookie dough, wipe your worktop with a clean cloth and place at least 14 inches of cling film onto the worktop.  Where the worktop is damp it will anchor the cling film in place!!

Place the cookie dough onto the cling film, form into a roll (approx 1 1/2 inch diameter).  Wrap with the cling film and place in the fridge, it will keep fresh for up to one week.  Or you can place in the freezer for up to one month.

Defrost the dough overnight in the fridge.  To bake, preheat the oven and remove the dough log 20 minutes before slicing – this allows the dough to warm slightly and will help stop the cookies cracking when being cut.

Slice 1/4 inch (1cm) discs from the dough log, place on baking sheets as before and bake for 18-25 minutes.  The time will vary depending on the diameter and thickness of your cookies.

Again they are cooked when lightly golden.  Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

These cookies make lovely gifts.  Pack a few up in a cellophane bag, tied with a pretty ribbon, reuse a Christmas chocolate tin and fill with Cookies, or pop some into a Kilner jar!

A super present, people can see what they're being treated to!!!!
A super present, people can see what they’re being treated to!!!!

Not only are these so easy to make, you can keep the dough stored in the fridge to whip out when unexpected guests arrive and have freshly baked cookies, ready to share with a smile and a cuppa!

Food really does taste better when it’s shared!!

 

 

 

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Meet Our Penguins!!!!

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVE

Hello, big apologies for not posting recently.  Birthdays (mine included!!!), Christmas preparation, children breaking up from school, flu bugs etc have simply left me with zero time to write.  So I thought I’d let you Meet Our Penguins!

Hello, I'm Super Daring Penguin!!
Hello, I’m Super Daring Penguin!!

But I’m back and have been up since 4.30 this morning – so I thought I’d finally get round to icing our Christmas cake.  I had already iced and decorated and delivered my parents – in – law’s cake, but not had the time, or energy to do ours!

A simple shooting star, outlined with sparkly, silver, dragée balls.
A simple shooting star, outlined with sparkly, silver, dragée balls.

So their cake was my second attempt at fondant icing.  The bottom of the cake wasn’t brilliant so a silver ribbon secured with a pearl pin covered all my mistakes and my Ma and Pa – in – law were delighted!!  It must be said, I have yet to meet anybody who loves Christmas cake as much as they do, so it’ll be interesting to see if it has made it all the way to Spain!!!!!

Today I woke up early and popped downstairs, in the beautiful, peaceful, quiet of a sleeping house and set about decorating our cake and more importantly, giving our Penguins and Snowman a playground!

Ice skating Penguins, watched over by the Snowman!!
Ice skating Penguins, watched over by the Snowman!!

I will take you through, step by step, the fun I had decorating this years Christmas cake.

For the cake recipe itself, please see

Recipes: Christmas Cake.

For the smaller cake, I used half the cake mixture. Both cakes were covered in marzipan and the fondant in exactly the same way – although the smaller cake obviously used less!! The smaller cake, being only my second attempt at fondant icing, wasn’t finished very neatly at the bottom, where the cake meets the board.  This was solved by the addition of a pretty, silver ribbon, strategically placed around the rim of the cake and secured with a pearl topped pin!!!!

PREPARING THE CAKE : 

Place your Cake onto the cake board (not the cake stand as I did initially and then got myself covered in jam as I realised my mistake and transferred it to the board!!!!).

Heat approx 3 large tablespoons of apricot jam in a saucepan, on a low heat, until the jam is slightly runny.  At this stage you can then sieve the jam to remove any lumps.  I didn’t bother as the jam I’d bought was fairly smooth – and it was 5am and I really couldn’t be bothered!!! But feel free to sieve if you want to – remember, it’s just there as a ‘glue’ for the Marzipan to stick to, so no one will see it!!!!

Warm over a low heat until the jam just starts to loosen and become more liquid.
Warm over a low heat until the jam just starts to loosen and become more liquid.

Next, using a pastry brush, completely slather the top and sides of the cake with the jam.  Don’t worry if some drips on the board as this can be wiped off later.  It really is important to cover the cake thoroughly as the jam will act as the ‘glue’ to which the marzipan sticks.

If you look carefully you can spot that my cake is not on a cake board - very sticky mistake!!!!!
If you look carefully you can spot that my cake is not on a cake board – very sticky mistake!!!!!

 

COVERING WITH MARZIPAN :

Unfortunately Marzipan isn’t as flexible as fondant icing.  It has a tendency to tear when rolled into a large disc and draped over the cake, which is the method I use for fondant.  As the marzipan will be covered by the fondant icing, I use a different method!

Firstly make sure that you have the cake tin  in which you baked you cake to hand.  This will be used as a template for the top of the cake and a rough guide for the sides.

On a clean board or worktop place a light dusting of icing sugar, also dust your rolling pin.  Take the Marzipan out of the packet (I used a 500g packet each for both cakes. My in- laws love marzipan so I just rolled there’s thicker!  Lightly dust your hands with icing sugar a gently knead the marzipan so that it becomes softer and more pliable.  As a guide at this point I divide the marzipan into 2 equal balls.

Roll out the first ball, taking care to make sue the marzipan does not become stuck to the worktop.  When it looks roughly the size of the top of the cake place the cake tin on top of the marzipan.  If it’s not quite big enough roll a little more until you have just over the size of the cake tin.  Then using the cake tin as a template, place on top and cut around with a knife.

Using the rolling pin to drape the marzipan over, place the marzipan disc on top of the sticky cake.

Don’t Worry – if the disc isn’t centralised the jam will make it easy to slide the marzipan into the correct position!!!

Next shape the I the half of the marzipan into a square and roll until youhave a long strip of marzipan, using the side of the cake tin as a guide.  It’s very hard to get an even length, but don’t worry you then just trim the sides before placing the strip of marzipan around the side of the cake.

Use your hands to press and mould the marzipan to the cake.
Use your hands to press and mould the marzipan to the cake.

If there are any small gaps, use the off cut pieces of marzipan to fill them.

 

Patching holes with scraps of marzipan!
Patching holes with scraps of marzipan!

COVERING THE CAKE WITH FONDANT ICING :

Now that the cake is covered in marzipan, the hard bit is over!!! Covering with fondant is going to be a doddle!!!

Firstly, completely clear and wipe down your worktop or board and rolling pin.  When you’re working with white fondant, the tiniest speck of anything will show up – that said DON’T STRESS!!  Decorations can always be used to hide the odd speck!!

To cover the large cake I used 750g of White Fondant icing.

One 500g block and approx half of another block, left over from the smaller cake & wrapped in cling film to prevent drying out.
One 500g block and approx half of another block, left over from the smaller cake & wrapped in cling film to prevent drying out.

Knead the fondant with hands lightly dusted in icing sugar. When nice and pliable form into a ball.

Fondant is very sticky, so keep your hands, worktop & rolling pin well dusted with icing sugar.
Fondant is very sticky, so keep your hands, worktop & rolling pin well dusted with icing sugar.

Pat the ball into an even disc shape. Using your rolling pin, roll outwards from the centre of the disc, turning the disc by a quarter before rolling again. Ensure there is plenty of icing sugar on the worktop so that the fondant moves freely.

Roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin.
Roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin.

Using the cake tin, again, as a guide, roll out the fondant so that it is wide enough to cover the top and sides of the cake, allowing a good extra couple of centimetres all round to allow for the added marzipan layer.

Using the tin you can roughly guess the final size of the fondant.
Using the tin you can roughly guess the final size of the fondant.

If you prefer to be more exact with your measurements, add the width ( diameter = D) of the tin plus 2 x the height (H) of the tin plus 2cm.

D + (2 x H) + 2cm = Total width of rolled fondant.

Ensure all measurements use the same unit  ie – cm.

Use your rolling pin to drape the fondant over and carefully centralise over the top of the cake. Moving swiftly drape the fondant over the cake.

Note: if the fondant tears badly, remove and start again – the thickness should be that of a £1 coin. Too thick and the fondant will be too heavy and tear, too thin and the fondant will not be strong enough to take the weight of draping.
I hadn't quite centralised the fondant, but I got away with lightly lifting it a moving to the left!!!
I hadn’t quite centralised the fondant, but I got away with lightly lifting it and moving to the left!!!

Working swiftly, use your hands to smooth the fondant over the top and sides of the cake.  I found I almost had to ‘tuck in’ the sides of the cake. There will be excess around the sides, just keep smoothing and gradually a beautiful smooth, snow coloured,  cake will begin to appear!

Using a small, sharp knife, cut away the excess fondant from the base leaving a good 1-2 cm of excess  attached.  Pat and tuck this fondant until the side of the cake is completely covered and using the fondant press down to form a seal with the cake board.  This will help to keep your cake fresher for longer. However if, like me with the smaller cake, you have an uneven finish around the base, remember you can always cover it with ribbon!!!!

A beautifully fondant covered cake. Clean the board with a piece of damp kitchen towel.
A beautifully fondant covered cake. Clean the board with a piece of damp kitchen towel.
DECORATING YOUR ICED CAKE:

Now the real fun begins!!!

For the smaller cake I cut out a shooting star, using a cutter dusted with icing sugar. I dipped my finger in warm water and dampened the back of the shooting star, this allowed me to ‘stick’ it to the top of the cake. Then using edible glue I outlined the star with silver dragée balls. An elegant and travel friendly decoration (thanks Delia for the inspiration!).

A shooting star, simple, but effective.
A shooting star, simple, but effective.

PENGUINS AND SNOWFLAKES :

Seeing as I decided to go ‘off piste’ with my icing this year – usually I use Royal Icing but on a whim, I decided to live dangerously and opt for Fondant.  Chuckle you may, but given that one of the Christmas cakes was a gift and I’d actually only ever used Fondant icing once before, I would say that counts as dangerous. But then I like to live life on the edge!!!!!

Seriously, or not, though, is bought the 6 super cute Penguins, The Snowman and for some strange, whimsical reason, thought it’d be fun to have the Penguins skating on an iced lake with The Snowman watching over.  That was as organised as I got with the decoration!!!!

So at 6am Christmas Eve my vague idea started to take shape.  Firstly I took a blob (approx 70g) of pale blue fondant, kneaded it until soft and formed it into a rough ball shape.  Then I rolled it out, a little haphazardly! The shape you see on the cake is literally the shape I ended up with!!!

The irregular pattern seems more natural than a perfect oval - and the penguins seem to like it!!!!!
The irregular pattern seems more natural than a perfect oval – and the penguins seem to like it!!!!!

Then using 3 different sizes of snowflake, plunge cutters (designed for sugar craft) I cut out different sizes of snowflakes. I attached them and the blue, ice lake using edible glue.

NOTE : Use icing sugar to dust your cutters to prevent the fondant from sticking – it only took me half a dozen goes before I realised this!!!!

I placed the snowflakes in an irregular pattern around the side of the cake,  allowing some of the smaller snowflakes to edge the top, some falling over the edge.  As the lake was an irregular shape, visually I think this worked better than a regular pattern.

I mixed up a thick paste of icing powder, a teaspoon of meringue powder and a little water, to make royal icing.  This would ensure the Penguins and Snowman stuck firmly to the cake and board.

Using a small knife I pasted a small amount of the Royal icing to the base of the Snowman and Penguins and placed them on the cake.  Honestly this was the best bit!  As I was adding the Penguins they all seemed to have their own little personalities.  Yes I know we are talking about inedible cake decorations – just look at their little faces and you will see what I mean!

These two are a bit shy, so they huddle together, on the edge of the lake, watching the others!
These two are a bit shy, so they huddle together, on the edge of the lake, watching the others!

Overall the cake, in my opinion, just has a balance to it. Whilst it isn’t symmetrical it is balanced, but most of all FUN! I’m so glad you got to Meet Our Penguins!

Most of all, I would like to wish everyone a Happy, Peaceful Christmas and Fun, Exciting 2015.   Sammie xxxxx
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Double Chocolate Brazil Nut Cookies

Ooh Delicious Double Chocolate Brazil Nut Cookies, sound scrummy, taste amazing!!
Double Chocolate Brazil Nut Cookies a perfect way to use up nuts after Christmas and totally delicious to boot!! www.feastingisfun.com
Double Chocolate Brazil Nut Cookies a perfect way to use up nuts after Christmas and totally delicious to boot!! www.feastingisfun.com
Today’s activities have been dictated by the weather!!!  Actually not such a bad thing.  I decided originally to make jam today, however it’s not raining and will be later on today, tomorrow, the next day, so on and so forth.  Jam is most definitely a wet weather activity at this time of year – especially as I hadn’t yet put my Daffodil bulbs and Viola plants into the front garden flower bed.

I had actually resigned myself (given the very sorry state the Viola plants were in) to not being able to get this last bit of gardening done this year.  My back has been playing up and as long as I’m  up and about my priority for any given day is to try and get dinner sorted – in the morning, if possible, as my pain levels increase during the day.  Also if I can get a wash load on that’s a bonus.

I know it sounds pathetic, but that simply is how it is.  I always try and focus on the positive aspects of the day.  If I started to look too closely as what I’ve not achieved I think that could lead me into a downward spiral – and that’s not the person I chose to be. Don’t get me wrong, there are days (weeks) that are harder than others and it does occasionally get me down, but I’m an optimistic person by nature, so I chose to look at the good things in my life.

 

I’m loved, more than I could ever imagine by The Most Amazing God, I have a wonderful family who also love and accept me.  Friends that love and accept me despite my inability to be reliable or commit properly to something.  I have a lot to be thankful for.

So today was the day for jam making,  Except the weather’s good and jam  can be made on rainy days!!  I didn’t abort all cooking attempts though and decided to see whether some ‘left over’ chocolate covered Brazil nuts would make nice cookies? Oh yeah they do!!

Double Chocolate Brazil Nut Cookies

Recipe:

5oz  Dark Brown Muscavado Sugar

8oz  Unsalted Butter – room temp

1  Egg yolk – pref free range

1tsp  Vanilla Extract

1/4tsp  Salt

6oz  Plain White Flour

2oz  Cocoa Powder

2oz  Shelled Brazil Nuts – chopped finely, to the same consistency of ground almonds

6oz  Chocolate Covered Brazil Nuts

(or 3oz  Shelled Brazil Nuts and 3oz  Milk Chocolate Chunks)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 175C (160C fan)

Place the sugar and butter into a large bowl (I’ve used a clear glass jug as it’s easy to check that all the dry ingredient have been mixed in, later on).

The dark muscavado sugar gives the cookies a lovely depth of flavour, without tasting too sweet!
The dark muscavado sugar gives the cookies a lovely depth of flavour, without tasting too sweet!

Whisk (or beat vigorously) the butter and sugar together until completely combined and paler in colour.  Whisk in the egg yolk, salt and vanilla extract.

The whisked mixture will be darker than when using white sugar.
The whisked mixture will be darker than when using white sugar.

Now take the 2oz of shelled Brazil nuts and  either using a mini-chopper or food processor, chop finely until it has the same texture of ground almonds.  Add these finely chopped nuts, the cocoa and the flour to the bowl.

In this recipe I've substituted 4oz of flour with 2oz of both Cocoa powder and finely chopped Brazil nuts.
In this recipe I’ve substituted 4oz of flour with 2oz of both Cocoa powder and finely chopped Brazil nuts.

Now chop the chocolate covered Brazil nuts roughly (do the same for plain Brazils if using).

Don't chop too finely as you want some nice, nutty crunch to your finished cookie!!
Don’t chop too finely as you want some nice, nutty crunch to your finished cookie!!

Add the roughly chopped Brazils and gently mix all the dry ingredients into the sugar/butter mix.  Make sure you combine all the dry ingredients that have dropped to the bottom of the bowl.  Once everything is combined STOP!! If you overwork the mixture the dough will become tough and will affect the finished cookie.

Next, using a desert spoon and eating knife, drop golf ball sized dollops of the cookie dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Aim for a roughly circular dollop of cookie dough!!
Aim for a roughly circular dollop of cookie dough!!

Dampen your hand and gently press down on the cookie dough to slightly flatten it.  This mixture is very sticky so you may need to rinse your hands, in cold water, in between squishing the cookie dough.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for 20-25 minutes.  Keep a close eye on your cookies whilst cooking, it’s much harder to tell if chocolate cookies are burnt by sight!!  the cookies are ready when the tops have a sugary, slightly shiny surface.  When cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely and firm up on the baking sheet.

Double Chocolate Brazil Nut Cookies- the perfect way to use up leftover Christmas nuts www.feastingisfun.com
Double Chocolate Brazil Nut Cookies- the perfect way to use up leftover Christmas nuts www.feastingisfun.com

It’s time to pop the kettle on!!!  Place the cold cookies in an airtight container, or pop a few into cellophane bags tied with pretty ribbon and give as gifts

I’m sharing mine with my official ‘Taste Tester’ the Green Goddess, whose honest feedback and encouragement is invaluable.

It really is so much more fun sharing what you’ve baked with others – and they enjoy it too!!

Sammie x

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Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake

Hello there, thank you for stopping by to read my blog.  I hope it inspires you to make this delicious, very economical, Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake – covered in a scrummy Cheese Sauce!

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted anything for a few days, unfortunately my body has been very uncooperative and I’ve been struggling with a lot of pain.  Not looking for sympathy, just explaining.

Anyhow this morning, once I was up and dressed I was determined to make the Christmas cakes ( I know this blog is about the Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake – but I have to tell you the whole story, so bare with please??!!).  One cake for us and a smaller cake for my lovely hubby’s Ma and Pa.  They love Christmas cake like no other people I have ever met and since I love them and making cakes I thought I’d bake them a cake as well!

Once the cakes were happily baking away in the oven I turned my attention to dinner.  I happened to have 8 rashers of streaky bacon in the fridge and thought ‘You know what, I’ll make Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake’.  Not only that, but as I have tended to be a bit lazy with my savoury recipes, I also made a note of exactly what I used and took some photos to show you how to make it yourself!!

This recipe is for 6 people!

Recipe:  Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake

For the bacon and tomato sauce you will need –

1tbsp  Olive oil

1tbsp  Butter

8 x rashers streaky bacon (smoked or not the choice is yours) – any rind removed

1  Large White Onion

2  Sticks of Celery

1  Green Pepper

6 – 8  Chestnut or Button Mushrooms

3  Bulbs of Garlic

2  Tins Chopped Tomatoes and their juice

1tbsp  Tomato puree

1tsp  Mixed Dry Herbs

1/2tsp  Sea Salt (1/4tsp free flowing salt)

1/4  tsp Nutmeg – freshly grated

1/2tsp  Black Pepper – freshly ground

1/2tsp  Sugar

For the Cheese Sauce :

2tbsp Unsalted Butter

2tbsp Plain White Flour

500ml/1.25 pints Whole Milk

175g/6oz Strong Cheddar

1/4tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg

Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Method

In a large saute pan (or shallow casserole dish) melt the Olive oil and Butter together over a medium heat.  Add the finely chopped Onion and Saute until translucent (approx 5-8 mins).  Add in the Bacon – I usually snip this into approx 1/2″ pieces, directly into the pan, however you can chip up the Bacon with a knife and then add it.

Let the bacon sizzle until it had rendered out some of it’s fat, but not so much that it goes crispy.  Add in the Celery and Carrot ( which have both been finely chopped and cook for another 5 mins.

Sautéing the bacon, onions, carrots and celery.
Sautéing the bacon, onions, carrots and celery.

After 5 mins add in the finely chopped Green Pepper and the Mushroom ( I slice the mushrooms fairly thinly, then cut the slices in half – it just looks nice in the dish!).  Add the crushed (or finely chopped) garlic and continue cooking for another 5-10 mins, until all the vegetables are slightly softened.

Green Pepper and Sliced Mushrooms added. How chunky or fine you chop your veg is entirely up to you!!!).
Green Pepper and Sliced Mushrooms added. How chunky or fine you chop your veg is entirely up to you!!

 

Once the vegetables have started to soften add the tinned, chopped tomatoes.  Rinse each tin out with cold water (fill the tin to just over half with water and swish the tin to dilute any tomato juice left, into the water) and add the tomato purée.  Add the seasonings next: salt, pepper, sugar, nutmeg and mixed herbs.  The sugar balances out the tartness of tinned tomatoes and makes a very real difference to the finished dish.

Allow the bacon, vegetables and tomatoes to bubble away, uncovered, on a low-medium heat for at least an hour.
Allow the bacon, vegetables and tomatoes to bubble away, uncovered, on a low-medium heat for at least an hour.

The Cheese Sauce:

Melt 2tbsp butter on a medium heat in a saucepan.  Once melted add 2tbsp of plain white flour and mix thoroughly, lowering the heat very slightly.

Cook the flour and butter together for a couple of minutes to get rid of the 'raw flour' taste.
Cook the flour and butter together for a couple of minutes to get rid of the ‘raw flour’ taste.

This flour/butter mixture is now called a roux.  Now gradually add (50ml at a time at the beginning) whole milk to the flour/butter mixture, stirring constantly.  As the milk warms it will gradually become incorporated into the flour/butter. In the beginning, for the first few milk additions, the mixture will be very thick and stiff to stir.  If you find the milk is not incorporating into the mixture, or it is very lumpy, it’s fine to switch to a whisk, this will ensure a beautiful, lump free, smooth sauce. Add 450-500ml of milk until your sauce has the consistency similar to custard.

Lump free, smooth white sauce!! Easy!!
Lump free, smooth white sauce!! Easy!!

Add a pinch of salt, a good grinding of black pepper, 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg and mix thoroughly.  Off of the heat add a good 2 handfuls (4-6oz) of grated mature cheddar cheese.  Mix thoroughly until the cheese has melted into the sauce.

The Pasta

I have used penne rigate pasta for this dish.  Basically pasta tubes, cut on a slant with ridges in the outside!  I like penne rigate as it holds firm, the sauce not only goes into the pasta tubes, but also the sauce clings to the outside ridges of the pasta.  I cooked about 3/4 of a 500g packet (350g if my maths is correct??).

I said earlier, this is such an economical dish – 8 bacon rashers, bits of veg you have in the fridge, a couple of handfuls of mature cheddar and not even a whole packet of pasta!!  Not only that but it tastes fab and is easily transportable, so ideal to give individual  portions to friends/family or pop in the freezer!!

Once the pasta is almost cooked (not quite al dente) drain and add to the bacon sauce.

The pasta dumped on top of the bacon sauce.
The pasta dumped on top of the bacon sauce.

Mix the sauce and pasta together.  If serving a separate portion to give away, remove a generous portion of the pasta/bacon mix, ensuring you get a good mix of the sauce, bacon, veg and of course pasta.

Not the most elegant container, but foil containers make transporting, or freezing the individual portions sooooo easy!!
Not the most elegant container, but foil containers make transporting, or freezing the individual portions sooooo easy!!

Spread the rest of the bacon pasta evenly into an ovenproof container.  Tap the individual portions to settle the pasta and remove any air bubbles.

Cover your pasta dishes with a good dollop of the cheese sauce.  For added prettiness (and because the cheese sauce didn’t reach the edges!!) I sliced ripe, ruby red tomatoes and placed them around the outside edge of the pasta.

Beautifully decorated - and no one knew my secret!!!!
Beautifully decorated Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake
Slightly overstuffed, once the cheese sauce was added, so just wrapped in foil. One individual portion ready to go!!!
Slightly overstuffed, once the cheese sauce was added, so just wrapped in foil. One individual portion ready to go!!!
So a super tasty, super economical meal to eat and share!

For a bubbly,scrumptious meal, ready for the table:  Cook the large Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake at 180C for an hour until thoroughly heated through, 1/2 hour at the same temp for the individual portion.

An amazingly tasty, versatile dish that’s easy on your wallet and tasty on your tongue.

Have fun, feasting and enjoy sharing your meal!!

Sammie x

 

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Leek and Potato Soup

Hi, thanks for stopping bytoday.  I hope you are well?  I on the other hand have a rotten sore throat (plus the high temperature etc that go with these horrid virus’).

I need soup! Not any old soup – Super Easy Leek and Potato Soup!  I love this soup, it’s the one thing I can eat when I am feeling unwell and haven’t got an appetite.  When I’m unwell this is what I feast on.

Ooh it's like a hug in a bowl. Yummy x
Ooh it’s like a hug in a bowl. Yummy x Leek and Potato Soup

So I make a big batch of this soup when I’m well, then I freeze it in single portions.  That way if I’m not feeling bril, like today, all I have to do is grab a portion out of the freezer, reheat and eat!

Recipe: Leek and Potato Soup

0.5Kg  Leeks

0.5kg  Potatoes – I’ve used King Edwards, floury potatoes work best in this recipe.

1tsp  Nutmeg – freshly grated

1/2tsp  Sea Salt – I use Maldon

1/2tsp  Black Pepper – freshly ground

1  Vegetable Stock Cube

1  Tbs  Butter – for sautéing leeks

50mls plus a little extra Double Cream

Method :

Place a large, heavy based saucepan on the hob, add the butter and melt on a slow heat.

Trim the top and bottom of the leeks.  Make a slit down the entire length of each leek.  Wash each leek thoroughly under cold water, making sure that any dirt, trapped between the layers, is washed out. (This is best done under a tap of cold running water – or you can chop the leeks, place in a bowl filled with cold water, swish about to dislodge any dirt and drain.)

Chop the leeks into roughly 1/2″ dice.

Add the chopped leeks to the melted butter in the pan.  Then add half of the salt and stir ( the salt will stop the leeks burning).  Sauté the leeks for 5-10 minutes on a medium/low heat until translucent (the dark green parts of the leek won’t change, don’t worry that’s ok!).

Sautéing the green and white parts of the leeks together, gives the finished soup a beautiful, finished colour.
Sautéing the green and white parts of the leeks together, gives the finished soup a beautiful, finished colour.

Whilst the leeks are sautéing peel and chop the potatoes (1″ dice for the potatoes).  Place the prepared potatoes into a bowl and cover with cold water.

Once the leeks are translucent add the potatoes and the water they have been stored in.  Pour over enough recently boiled water, from a kettle, until the potatoes and leeks are completely covered in liquid.

The potatoes added.
The potatoes added.

Turn the heat up and bring to a boil, immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the stock cube, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Hold back on adding the rest of the salt, stock cubes vary in their saltiness.  Better to add a the salt later, than have an over salted ruined soup!!!

Adding freshly grated nutmeg really enhances the flavour of the soup.
Adding freshly grated nutmeg really enhances the flavour of the soup.

Cook the soup on a gentle simmer for at least an hour.  This slow cooking breaks down the tough fibres found in the dark green tops of the leeks, enhancing not only the colour, but, importantly the flavour of the soup.  I’ve made this soup before leaving it to simmer happily, on a low heat, all morning.  Not only did it taste delicious, the house had a wonderful, welcoming, warm aroma!

When the soup is fully cooked it’s time to blend! There are various ways to do this:  A potato masher can be used to simply ‘mash’ the potatoes and leeks into the liquid.  This will not give the smoothness achieved by using a blender, but creates a wonderful textured soup.

 

An immersion blender is quick and allows you to control the texture of the soup.
An immersion blender is quick and allows you to control the texture of the soup.

I’ve used an immersion blender for my soup.  As can be seen from the photo, make sure you move your pan away from direct heat whilst blending.  The soup is completely blended until super smooth.

Other ways of blending including using a liquidiser or food processor.  I personally would not liquidise the soup until it has cooled.  Whatever you decide, ensure you follow the manufacturers instructions for your appliance.  Just looking out for your safety xx.

When you have your soup at the desired texture, stir in 50mls of double cream.  This makes such a difference.  If you are seriously counting the calories (or are allergic to milk products), check the soup for seasoning and eat as is.  However, I don’t skip the cream stage!!! Once this relatively small amount of cream has been added it enriches the soup, rounds out all of the flavours and takes the soup to a whole other taste experience – basically it’s worth adding the cream!!!!!

It's only 50mls of Double Cream! Go on, you're worth it!!!
It’s only 50mls of Double Cream! Go on, you’re worth it!!!

Then serve yourself up a big bowl, with a little extra swirl of cream, should you desire and enjoy.

Yummy, soothing, smooth, velvety Leek and Potato Soup.
Yummy, soothing, smooth, velvety Leek and Potato Soup.

A warming feast to enjoy in the colder months.  Excellent for soothing sore throats.

This soup freezes very well for up to 3 months.  Pour into single serving, freezer proof plastic containers.  Perfect for sharing if one of your friends or family members fall ill.  Once frozen it is very portable, so a bowlful of homemade soup is just a quick drive away!

See even simple easy soup can be shared.

Sammie x

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Walnut and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Hi there, thank you for stopping by to read my blog.  I hope it inspires you to try this recipe for Walnut and Chocolate Chunk Cookies, have fun and share your feasting with others!

These smell, look and taste delicious. The ground Walnuts give the cookies a real Walnut flavour.
These smell, look and taste delicious. The ground Walnuts give the cookies a real Walnut flavour.

Sooooo….. Walnuts!!  Just done a lil bit of research and it seems they are very good for you.  The BBC report I read claimed that, out of the most commonly eaten nuts, Walnuts had twice the number of antioxidants in them compared to the other nuts tested!!

Well I’m not going to argue with the Beeb! I also don’t really know what antioxidants are, or what they do, but it seems they are good to have in your body.

Now some, could say these Cookies are a ‘health food’ based on this evidence.  I couldn’t possibly make such a claim!!!!! What I do believe and feel quite strongly about is this: As part of a healthy balanced diet, a couple of homemade cookies are better for you than eating lots of processed (especially  low fat, low calorie, so called diet food) products that contain a myriad of stabilisers, hidden sugars, mould growth inhibitors etc, so they can have a longer shelf life in the shops.

Anyhow enough of my opinions on food!  What really counts and makes it worthwhile baking something is TASTE! These cookies taste Delish!  The recipe came about as I had run out of normal plain white flour, so I had to improvise!  Fortunately they turned out fab. So if you want to try them, here’s the recipe:

8oz  Unsalted Butter – room temp

5oz  Caster Sugar

1/4tsp  Salt (I use Kosher)

1  Large Egg Yolk – room temp and pref free range.

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

6oz  Walnuts

6oz  00 White Flour (8oz Plain White Flour works fine, I’d just run out!!!!)

2oz  Corn Flour (omit if using Plain White Flor)

6oz  Milk Chocolate Chunks (or chips)

Method:

Using an electric whisk, or wooden spoon, cream the butter, sugar and salt together until pale and fluffy.  The usual check can be applied, which is to rub a small amount of the creamed mixture between your forefinger and thumb, if no grittiness is felt the sugar is completely combined with the butter.

TIP:  This is an important part of creating a Cookie with fab texture. When I first started baking, I would mix the butter and sugar together until combined.  My cookies were Ok!  Then one day when following a Nigella recipe, that I’d made before I actually whisked the butter and sugar (as stated in the recipe – sorry Nigella for neglecting that bit before) and not only did the Cookies turn out much better, but the mixture made any extra 4 Cookies!

Next whisk/beat in the egg yolk and Vanilla Extract until fully incorporated.

Take 2oz of your Walnuts and process in a food processor (or mini chopper)to a similar consistency as ground Almonds,  so they are fine like flour.

Add the processed Walnuts, Corn flour and 00 White flour to the creamed mixture.  Now add you Chocolate Chunks and the rest of the Walnuts (roughly chopped).  Using a spoon gently mix until all the ingredients are combined.

Lay some cling film on top of a damp work top (see Mars bar Cookies/Easy Shortbread Cookies for detailed photos), place half the Cookie mixture onto it and form a log shape.  Wrap in the cling film and refrigerate.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Allow to chill in the fridge for at least an hour ( but the unwrapped dough log can be kept, refrigerated for up to 5 days).

When ready to bake remove 1 dough log from the fridge and leave at room temp for 10-15mins to warm up slightly.

During this time Preheat the oven to 175C (160C fan).  Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

Using a sharp knife slice the dough log into 3/4cm discs – each log should yield 10-14 Cookies. Place the discs on the baking sheet spaced evenly apart.

These cookies have been cut thicker as they contain chunks of Walnut and Chocolate.  Scrummy!!!
These cookies have been cut thicker as they contain chunks of Walnut and Chocolate. Scrummy!!!

 

Place the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until Golden brown.  The house should be filled with the nutty smell of toasted Walnuts – breathe deeply and enjoy.

Allow to cool on the baking trays until they hold together when handled (20-30mins). Then you can transfer them to a cooling rack – or you can cool them completely on the baking trays.

These smell, look and taste delicious. The ground Walnuts give the cookies a real Walnut flavour.
These smell, look and taste delicious. The ground Walnuts give the cookies a real Walnut flavour.

If you know someone who’s nuts about nuts, especially Walnuts, now is the time to share!  Stack a few cookies in cellophane bags,  tie with a pretty ribbon or some raffia and give as a gift!

Remember you still have a dough log in the fridge, so there’s plenty to go around.

Feasting is fun and food always tastes better when it’s shared.

 

 

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Almond and Morello Cherry Bundt Cake

Hello there, thank you to everyone who has been reading and leaving comments on my blogs. I’m hoping you love this Almond and MoreIlo Cherry Bundt Cake Recipe?

A moist, cooked cake, with a scrumptious Morello Cherry centre!!!!
A moist, cooked cake, with a scrumptious Morello Cherry centre!!!!

I hope, to all those of you who have been leaving helpful comments, especially regarding targeting more people to read my blog, thank you.  However I will only approve and reply to one of each blog.  I get a lot of identical blog comments!

I’m very happy to steadily build my site, confidence and readership numbers. I know SEO (site exposure optimisation!) is important to a lot of people and I respect that.

My website and blog is a creative outlet for me (especially as I am bed-bound for days on end – not asking for sympathy).  I enjoy life and as part of that cooking, baking and most importantly having fun and sharing.  So the very act of
sharing my recipes, ideas, thoughts, beliefs through my website and blog, is, I suppose, practising what I’m preaching (without the preaching, more chatting really!).

Talking of sharing, my lovely mummy recently bought me a small Bundt pan from Aldi.  I hadn’t used it until today and although there were a few things I learnt from my first go, it wasn’t half bad!  The cake turned out (literally) extremely well – was a bit worried bout that bit and it tasted good.  So all in all a success.  Thanks mummy xx.

Just in case you’ve not seen one before, I took a couple of pics to show you what my Bundt tin looks like!

The inside of my Bundt tin!
The inside of my Bundt tin!
The outside of the Bundt tin - showing the moulded shape the cake will have once cooked.
The outside of the Bundt tin – showing the moulded shape the cake will have once cooked.

My Bundt tin is quite small, but perfect for the recipe I used.  It’s dimensions are approx  6.5″ wide x 3.5″ deep.  You can buy all different sizes of pan: the common theme is that the pan has a moulded shape, to give a decorative finish to the cake and a central tube, allowing the inside of the cake to be cooked thoroughly (& allowing the finished cake to be filled with cream, fruit, patisserie creme or any number of delicious fillings).

A straight sided, round, flat bottomed tin, is an Angel Cake Tin.  These are for making an entirely different type of cake (Angel cake!), where, when cooling, the tin is inverted (turned upside down) until the cake is completely cool.  Don’t worry it’s on my birthday/Christmas/I must have this else my life will not be incomplete list!!!!!!

So my first attempt making an Almond and Morello Cherry Bundt Cake (as seen in the following photos) went something like this:

Firstly in the excitement – bare with, it’s the lil things in life that I enjoy – of taking all the wrapping/instructions etc off, I didn’t read them, so I could wash my new tin ready for use, I realised  I had no idea if the tin is non-stick!  It looked non-stick (please don’t ask me to describe?).  But I thought I’d play it safe and butter it.  Straightforward yes?  Nope!!

The beautiful shaped cakes mean the Bundt tin has lots of dents, curves, nooks & crannies.  Buttering a loaf tin with 5 straight sides is a breeze, how do I butter this gazillion sided round tin (being round does that mean it can’t have gazillions of sides?  Answers on a postcard……

Aha, a moment of pure inspiration, I’d melt the butter & brush it on with a pastry brush.  Genius!!!!

Me buttering the gazillion sided Bundt tin with melted butter.  Seriously you'd have thought I'd invented the wheel.......
Me buttering the gazillion sided Bundt tin with melted butter. Seriously you’d have thought I’d invented the wheel…….

Feeling very smug and having an excess of melted butter, I also buttered my loaf tin this way today!  Very satisfying to see a smooth(ish) layer of butter cooling in both tins!

Next it was time to decide what cake to bake?  I’ve seen some beautiful chocolate marble cakes made in Bundt tins, on Google images, but to be honest after all the chocolatey cakes made for birthdays recently, I wanted to think outside the box, or Bundt tin in this case!

So I thought I’d ‘try’ an Almond flavoured sponge.  A flavour that goes down well with all the family & crucially my official taste tester ‘the Green goddess’!

Good start but bit boring, so I had a peek in my cupboards & plucked out (the cupboards aren’t chickens in case you wondered!!) Almond flakes & Morello Cherry Jam – super.

Recipe : Almond and Morello Cherry Bundt Cake:

6oz  Unsalted Butter – room temp

6oz  Caster Sugar

Pinch of Salt (I use Kosher- no extra additives,  but  ground sea-salt is fine)

3  Large Eggs – room temp (pref free range)

1/4  teaspoon Almond Extract

1  teaspoon Vanilla Extract

6oz  Self Raising White Flour

2oz  Flaked Almonds (lightly toasted)

4  tablespoons Morello Cherry Jam

Method:

Preheat the oven to 175C (160C fan gas mark 3).

Cream the sugar & butter together using a wooden spoon or electric whisk until pale and creamy.

Add the salt, vanilla & Almond extract.  Mix well.

Crack the eggs into a separate bowl. Add one half  of the flour and 2 eggs, gently mix until almost combined.  Add the remaining egg & flour.  Gently mix until the mixture is completely combined.

Using a desert spoon place spoonfuls of the cake batter into the bottom of the Bundt tin.  Using the spoon spread the mixture so that it covers the bottom of the Bundt tin.  Building the batter up slightly towards the centre and outside edge.  This creates a dip where the filling will go.

Making the dip in the batter should stop the jam from reaching the tin sides, causing the cake to stick.
Making the dip in the batter should stop the jam from reaching the tin sides, causing the cake to stick.

Sprinkle half the toasted Almond flakes on top of the batter.

I didn't toast my Almonds - but I will next time!
I didn’t toast my Almonds – but I will next time!

Next using a small teaspoon, carefully spoon the jam into the centre dip of the cake batter, taking care not to touch the sides.  Smooth the jam out carefully.

I'm pretty sure if the jam spreads to the edges, no amount if ingeniously buttered tin will stop the cake from sticking!!!!
I’m pretty sure if the jam spreads to the edges, no amount if ingeniously buttered tin will stop the cake from sticking!!!!

Sprinkle the last of the flake almonds over the jam, then dollop the remaining cake batter over the top, ensuring as you smooth it out you don’t press the jam toward the sides of the tin.

The cake batter completely encases the jam.
The cake batter completely encases the jam.

Place the Bundt tin in the preheated oven for an hour.  The cake will look cooked approximately 15 minutes before it is, however the centre will not be cooked through.  Continue cooking until the cake has cooked for 1hr 5 mins.

Remove the Bundt tin from the oven and place on a cooling rack.  It is important to let the cake cool completely in the tin.

Looks like I guessed the right quantities for this Bundt tin!!
Looks like I guessed the right quantities for this Bundt tin!!

When the cake feels completely cool, including the centre,  turn the cake out onto a pretty plate.

Or baking rack, will explain later!!!!
Or baking rack, will explain later!!!!

Now you can pop the kettle on (obviously I don’t mean you wear it just, fill & switch on!!!!!), then slice into this beautiful cake.

The jam is contained within the cake and it looks scrummy!
The jam is contained within the cake and it looks scrummy!

I popped the slice above round to my Green goddess friend who wasn’t feeling quite the ticket.  It was received with thanks and thoroughly enjoyed.

See, I had fun making this and sharing with a wonderful friend, who sat with a cuppa, feasted and enjoyed (before my children & hubby came home & almost demolished the rest!).

Now what really happened:

The cake  was removed from the oven after 45 mins.  It was left until slightly warm & turned out onto a cooling rack (don’t ask me why? It seemed like a good idea at the time!!!!).

I then took the photo of the turned out cake, thankfully!!  When I looked closely I realise the centre of the cake wasn’t completely cooked – whoops!

I turned the oven back on, tried to place the Bundt cake on a baking sheet, in doing so part of the cake collapsed – about a portion.  So I attempted to squish the cake together, popped back in the oven & cooked for a further 15-20 mins until the centre was just cooked.

I removed the cake from the oven, allowed to cool until barely warm, cut the slightly collapsed portion out (which I feasted on with a cup of tea!). Then I sliced my friends portion and popped it round to her (2 doors down).

So I’ve adjusted adjusted the cooking time to 1hr-1hr10 mins.  If the top of the cake – which will become the bottom when turned out – is browning too quickly just cover with aluminium foil, removing 5 mins before the cake is completely cooked, so that your cake does not have a soggy bottom!

The cake was rescued, tasted yummy and was feasted on & shared with family & friends.

Until next time keep sharing, you will be  surprised how much it makes YOU smile and it’s FUN!

Sammie x

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