Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Chocolate Chip Muesli Bars

This month the We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Chele from the Chocolate Teapot blog and the theme is "Health Conscious".

Chocolate and healthly don't often feature in the same sentence, at least not when I'm talking about them, so this was a bit of challenge as the usual things I would usually associate with chocolate - cookies, brownies, cheesecakes - were out of the running straight away.  In the end I decided to combine chocolate with lots of good stuff like oats, seeds and dried fruit to make a pretty healthy, and tasty, muesli bar.  Ok, the ratio of chocolate to everything else is not particularly high but it's definitely there so I think it just about qualifies for the challenge!

Chocolate Chip Muesli Bars
(adapted from Everyday by Bill Granger)

350g/12oz porridge oats
30g/1oz dessicated coconut
50g/1 3/4oz flaked almonds
30g/1oz sesame seeds
35g/1 1/4oz sunflower seeds
55g/2oz chopped dried apricots
185ml/6 fl oz honey
55g/2oz soft brown sugar
125ml/4 fl oz vegetable or sunflower oil
100g/3 1/2oz chocolate chips (milk or dark)

1) Preheat the oven to 130c/250f/ gas mark 1.  Line a 35 x 25cm tin with greaseproof paper. Put the oats, coconut, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and apricots into a bowl.

2) Put the honey, sugar and oil into small pan and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Pour this over the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix together until everything is well combined.

3) Mix in the chocolate then press into the tin. Bake for 50 minutes or so until golden brown.  Cut into bars while still warm.

Makes 16

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Pasta with Bacon & Vegetable Sauce

This recipe comes from Tana Ramsey's recent cookbook, which I picked up on a whim for the bargain price of £3 in one of the discount bookstores.  I really shouldn't have but at that price I just couldn't resist.

I'm welcoming my weak will on this occasion, though, as it is a very nice book with lots of great-sounding recipes suitable for all the family.  This one is the first I've tried so far and on the whole it was a success (my eldest was a bit sniffy about the aubergine).  The best part of the dish for me was the bacon as this one of my favourite things to pair with pasta.  It effortlessly adds bags of flavour and texture.  This is a great everyday pasta recipe that I'll definitely be using again.

Pasta with Bacon & Vegetable Sauce
(adapted from Tana's Kitchen Secrets by Tana Ramsey)

2 tbsp olive oil
150g/5 1/2oz fresh breadcrumbs
50g/1 3/4oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp finely chopped basil leaves
400g/14oz spaghetti, or pasta of your choice

For the sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 courgette, cut into half moons
1 small aubergine, diced
8 rashers of smoked bacon, diced
400g can tomatoes
12 button mushrooms, halved
salt and pepper

1) First make the sauce. Put the oil into a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion, chilli (if using) and garlic. Fry gently for 5 minutes, until the onion has softened but not coloured.  Add the courgette, aubergine and bacon and cook for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  Add the tomatoes, mushrooms and basil and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

2) Bring a large pan of water to the boil ready for the pasta.  Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan over a high heat and toss in the breadcrumbs, stirring constantly until they are toasted a light golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the parmesan and basil. Set aside.

3) Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack. Drain and drizzle over a little oil.

4) Serve the pasta in warmed serving bowls or plates and spoon the sauce over the top, then top with the toasted breadcrumbs and a little more chopped basil.

Serves 4

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Another year, another look!

Yes, I know I changed the design of this blog just a couple of months ago but while I did like some aspects of the new design I also missed some of the features from my old blog.

So, I decided to start afresh with a new design.  The green theme still remains, but with a bit more colour, and I've now been able to put back the ingredients list on the right hand side and other elements such as links to Facebook and Twitter and my followers list.  I've added some new links at the top which take you to my About Me page and Recipe Indexes and hope to add some more in the near future.  These pages were included in the previous design but, for some reason, were showing up on some computers and not others.  Another reason I decided to make the change.

So, I hope you like the new look.  Tell your friends!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Fusilli with Glorious Green Spinach Sauce

Look at this for a colourful dinner! I was trying to decide what to do with a tub of mascarpone that was speeding towards its use-by date when I came across this recipe that I'd pulled out of an edition of Good Food Magazine some years ago.

Now I've made it I don't why I waited so long as this is a lovely dish. I guess the sound of a green spinach sauce isn't particularly appetising but don't be put off.  There's enough mascarpone to make a really creamy sauce that isn't overpowered by the spinach (although if you really hate the stuff this may not be the dish for you) and the parmesan adds it's usual cheesy flavour.  It's surprisingly child-friendly too, considering the colour - I had one complete plate-clearance and one half finished which, for a new dish, is pretty good going!

And, of course, it's easy to make.  As you can see from the instructions below, it's just a two-step job with minimal chopping and faffing involved.

Fusilli with Glorious Green Spinach Sauce
(from BBC Good Food Magazine)

400g/14oz fusilli pasta
225g/8oz bag baby spinach
1 garlic clove
250g tub mascarpone
juice of 1/2 large lemon
30g/1oz grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
55g/2oz pine nuts, lightly toasted

1) Cook the pasta according to the instruction.  Meanwhile, put half the spinach in a food processor with the garlic, mascarpone, lemon juice and parmesan, then whizz to a smooth sauce.

2) Drain the pasta thoroughly and return to the pan over a low heat.  Stir in the sauce, pine nuts and remaining spinach, until the spinach has just wilted. Season and serve with extra parmesan.

Serves 4

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Caramel Salmon

I have to confess that up until now I haven't been a big fan of salmon as I find the flavour a bit too rich, although I do try to cook it from time to time as it's so good for you.  However, following the discovery of this recipe salmon will definitely be making a much more regular appearance in my shopping basket in future.

This is an incredibly simple dish from Bill Granger's book, Every Day, that takes just minutes to cook and you end up with the richest, stickiest sauce with an amazing salty sweet flavour.  There was quite a bit of sauce left over but I couldn't bear to throw it away so ended up mopping it all up with a slice of bread - heavenly!

I've changed the original recipe as it suggested using 800 grams of salmon for four people, or about 2 fillets each, which seemed like way too much to me.  I just used a pack of two fillets from the supermarket for two of us (and halved the other ingredients) and this was just the right amount.

Caramel Salmon
(adapted from Every Day by Bill Granger)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 salmon fillets
1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
115g/4oz soft brown sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lime juice

1) Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat.  Cook the salmon, skin-side down, for 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon until nicely browned.  Turn it over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes or so until the salmon is cooked but still has a line of translucent, darker pink flesh in its centre,  then remove from the pan.

2) Reduce the heat to medium and a little extra oil to the pan if needed.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the soy sauce, sugar and fish sauce.

3) Return the salmon to the pan and cook for 1 minute, or until the sauce is rich, dark and syrupy.  Season with black pepper and lime juice.

4) Serve with rice and green with extra lime wedges on the side.

Serves 4

Monday, 9 January 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 9th January 2012

It's been ages since I last did a meal-planning post but after a short spell of post-Christmas exhaustion my meal-planning mojo has returned and the coming weeks are beginning to be filled with lots of new recipes.

So the next few days look something like this...


Pasta with my go-to Tomato and Pancetta sauce


Caramel Salmon with rice


Smoked Mackerel Salad


Chicken Breast Baked in a Bag with Mushrooms, Butter, White Wine & Thyme


Some sort of quiche and salad


Lemony Chicken


Stir-fried Pork with Hoisin and Greens

I'll do my best to report back about any successes.

As always, if you'd like to share your plans for the week either leave a comment or log your post on Mrs M's blog, At Home with Mrs M.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Gingerbread House

I know Christmas has come and gone now but while we're still finishing off the Christmas Cake and the last handful of chocolates from the jar I just wanted to tell you about the Gingerbread House we made a couple of weeks ago.  I've been meaning to try one for years now and this year I finally found the time to devote to it.

I used the recipe from Rachel Allen's book, Bake as it looked so pretty.  It was pretty straightforward to put together but owners of the book should be warned that the template shown isn't correct as the roof dimensions are too small.  The link below takes you to the online version of the recipe but still, while these revised dimensions do work, next time I might add an inch to the length and width of the roof sections to give the nice overhanging effect you can see in the book.

Assembling one of these houses isn't something you can do in a hurry however if you have a bit of time to devote to it, it's pretty straightforward.  I ended up tackling it in two stages, making the gingerbread on one day and assembling it the next.  This meant I had plenty of time to spend on making, cutting out and cooking the gingerbread and it was nice and cool for the following day's construction work.

Putting the house together was easier that I was expecting as the icing held the parts together nice and firmly and didn't take too long to set.  We all then had lots of fun sticking on the different sweets and sprinkles.

All in all this was a brilliant way to spend a couple of afternoons in the run up to Christmas and both my children really enjoyed helping.  I should point out that you will end up with LOTS of gingerbread (as well as the house I also had enough for lots of gingerbread men, angels, Christmas trees etc), so you'll probably need to enlist some help when it comes to breaking it apart and eating it.

You can find the recipe here.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

East Anglian Food Events - January to March 2012

Here's my updated roundup of upcoming foodie events in East Anglia over the next three months.  A couple of Farmer's Markets are taking a break this month but everyone seems to be back to normal from February.  At the moment I'm loving the sound of the Secluded Food Blogfest in March and I've also got my eye on the Elveden Estate Restaurant's Pudding Night which would be an ideal birthday treat! 

If anyone has anything they'd like me to include then please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email.


Farmers Markets
14th - Rickinghall Farmers Market, Mid Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm
14th & 28th - Woodbridge Farmers Market, East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm
21st - Aldeburgh Farmers Market, Village Hall, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm

28th - Easton Farm Park, East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm (£5 car park charge redeemable against purchases)

Every Saturday - Wyken Vineyards, West Suffolk - 9am to 1pm

Other Events
25th - Elveden Estate Restaurant - Burns Night Dinner 
29th - The Secluded Tea Party - Afternoon Tea with Unwanted Xmas Gift Swap, Cambridgeshire - 2pm to 4pm


Farmers Markets
4th - Snape Maltings, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 1pm
4th - Jimmy's Farm Produce & Craft Market, East Suffolk - 10am to 2pm
11th - Rickinghall Farmers Market, Mid Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm
11th & 25th - Woodbridge Farmers Market, East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm
18th - Aldeburgh Farmers Market, Village Hall, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm

TBC - Easton Farm Park, East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm (£5 car park charge redeemable against purchases)
23rd - Snape Malting Christmas Market, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 1pm
Every Saturday - Wyken Vineyards, West Suffolk - 9am to 1pm

Other Events
5th - Top Secret Tea Parties - Afternoon Tea Party, Peterborough - 2pm to 4pm
11th - Elveden Estate Restaurant - Alternative Valentine's Night Dinner
16th - Snape Maltings - Children's Pizza and Pasta Making Workshop - 10am to 12pm or 2pm to 4pm
18th - The Secluded Tea Party - Afternoon Tea with Twitter Basics,Cambridgeshire - 10.30am to 12.30pm
25th - Elveden Estate Restaurant - Pudding Night


Farmers Markets
3rd - Snape Maltings, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 1pm
3rd - Jimmy's Farm Produce & Craft Market, East Suffolk - 10am to 2pm
10th - Rickinghall Farmers Market, Mid Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm
10th & 24th - Woodbridge Farmers Market, East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm
17th - Aldeburgh Farmers Market, Village Hall, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm

TBC - Easton Farm Park, East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm (£5 car park charge redeemable against purchases)

Every Saturday - Wyken Vineyards, West Suffolk - 9am to 1pm

Other Events
2nd - 4th - Feast East Food & Drink Festival, Cambridgeshire
18th - Top Secret Tea Parties - Mother's Day Tea Party, Peterborough - 2pm to 4pm
24th - The Secluded Tea Party - The Secluded Food Blogfest,Cambridgeshire - 10am to 2pm