Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Easy Chocolate Fudge Cake

Easy chocolate fudge cake pinnable image


Chocolate fudge cake is a classic indulgent cake and a popular choice is for dessert or an afternoon treat in restaurants and cafes everywhere. It's a very rich chocolate cake which is made with real chocolate rather than cocoa powder and it is filled and topped with an even richer, thick chocolate ganache. What's not to like?

If I'm not sure what to order for dessert, I will usually plump for the chocolate fudge cake because it's reliably delicious. Unless you're not a chocolate lover, it's pretty hard to resist all the deep chocolate deliciousness that's involved. 

If you want to make a chocolate fudge cake at home, this is an easy recipe and produces a reliably good result. It has a light, almost powdery-soft sponge and the icing is thick and fudgy. There are no tricky techniques or ingredients as it's an all-in-one method. Just throw everything in and whizz it all together. My only recommendations would be to make sure that your butter has been allowed to soften well, before you get started and to make sure that you use good quality dark chocolate. It makes all the difference.

You can have it on its own as a slice of cake with a cuppa, or serve with thick cream, marscapone or ice cream and have it as a restaurant style dessert. You'll want to cut an enormous slice because it looks so delicious, but I'm warning you, even the most avid-chocoholic would struggle to eat a big wedge of this cake. It's really, very rich!

Easy Chocolate Fudge Cake pinnable image


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Bolognese Bake

Bolognese Bake pinnable image

You'd think that now we're in the summer holidays, I would have all this spare time for making fancy, elaborate dinners. Doesn't seem to quite work out that way somehow! 

This bolognese bake fitted the bill of a comforting pasta meal on a rather cool summer evening last week, with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. Pasta, mixed together with a rich, meaty bolognese sauce and topped with grated mature cheese, makes a very tasy dinner. I find that mature cheese is essential to really complement the flavour of the bolognese. It makes a delicious meal, especially when served with a salad and some garlic bread. Just look at the cheese when it's all melted and crspy around the edges!

Bolognese Bake with cheese melted on the top

I tend to keep my bolognese sauce fairly simple and reasonably close to traditional, but if you're trying to sneak some extra veg in for your children, go ahead! Mushrooms, carrot or peas could easily be added to up the veg factor. 

This recipe is Slimming World Friendly and syn free if you leave out the red wine, use spray oil and save your HEX A for the cheese (reduced fat cheddar). If you use lean mince instead of extra lean, then it will be 2 syns per portion.

Bolognese Bake pinnable image

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Smoked Paprika Roasted New Potatoes

Smoked Paprika Roasted New Potatoes pinnable image

The weather is decidedly changeable and unsummery for July  at the moment, but I am determinedly still wearing sandals, still carrying my sunglasses in my bag, and still cooking summery dishes. Maybe I can bring it back by sheer force of will!

I made a big batch of my Very Garlicky Slow Cooker Lemon and Rosemary Chicken this week and was looking for something different to serve with it. I tend to stick to the same old potatoes and veg with dinner, especially during the week, and I just get very bored of them. 

I had new potatoes in the cupboard- the perfect summery accompaniment, but I wanted to add more flavour. The smoked paprika roasted new potatoes that I ended up making were just perfect; crispy on the outside and gorgeously fluffy on the inside, with a bang of flavour from the smoked paprika and the chilli. The best thing is that they are very easy to make, with just 5 basic ingredients and virtually no prep, so you could easily do them on weeknights to jazz up any meal.


If you love easy dishes that you just throw on a baking tray- these are for you!

Smoked Paprika Roasted New Potatoes pinnable image


Saturday, July 01, 2017

Feta Cheese Salad with Balsamic Dressing


The Improving Cook- Feta Cheese Salad


With the warmer weather over the last few weeks (and the heatwave that I really wasn't a fan of), all I have wanted to eat is salad. That has encouraged me into looking for a bit more variety in my ingedients. Lettuce, tomato and cucumber on their own gets old fast, and there's really no excuse for a boring salad!

This weekend, I was in the mood for something Greek-style and I had a block of feta cheese in the fridge. I added a few delicious salady bits to contrast with the soft saltiness of the feta, whipped up a garlicky balsamic dressing and hey presto- a simple feta salad. The feta really is the star of the dish. If you can't be bothered to roast the peppers you can either put them in raw, or buy roasted peppers in a jar. It's absolutely delicious served as a starter, or with some crackers for lunch, or as a side dish at a BBQ. 

Strictly speaking, a Greek salad doesn't include any lettuce, but I'm a big fan of the baby leaf kind, so I put it in everything. It would also usually have a lot more olives, but I only used them as a garnish. I did only say Greek-style right...? You can always throw in more if you're a big olive fan.

The balsamic dressing is easy to make in whatever quantity you need and will keep in the fridge until it's finished. It really tops off the dish.


The Improving Cook- Feta Cheese Salad  pinnable image

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Crusted Cod Bites with Garlic and Rosemary New Potatoes

Crusted Cod Bites with Garlic and Rosemary New Potatoes on a plate


The recipe I am going to tempt you with today is Crusted Cod Bites with Garlic and Rosemary New Potatoes. A lovely summer meal that requires only a small amount of prep.

I love fish, really love it. I will happily eat any fish put in front of me. I even still love fish fingers. I have fond memories of sitting in my nana's back garden in Cumbria, in a den she had made out of sunloungers and a picnic blanket, eating fish finger sandwiches with my sister. Happy times!

I usually buy cod and salmon when I fancy some fish, but I am happy with the much cheaper cobbler or pollock as well. Cod is a lovely meaty fish, but it can be a little bland. For this recipe, I added flavour to the cod bites through the chunky breadcrumb crust with garlic and chilli and served it up with some oven roasted new potatoes with yet more garlic and some rosemary. It was light and just perfect for a warm summer's day. I'd venture that the crusted cod bites would be pretty delicious served on their own dipped into tomato sauce or tartare sauce- yum!

These home-made crusted cod bites would be perfect to serve up to kids. If you think the chilli won't go down well, you could switch it for paprika.

Crusted Cod Bites are syn free on Slimming World if you use spray oil on the baking tray and use the bread for your Healthy Extra B.


Crusted Cod Bites with Garlic and Rosemary New Potatoes pinnable image



Friday, June 02, 2017

Mediterranean Summer Salad

Mediterranean Summer Salad pinnable image

I am SO excited about this Summer Mediterranean Salad recipe! It's fresh and so full of summery flavours, I could eat it all day and not get bored. The inspiration for this salad came from a recent visit to a brasserie (The March Hare, Guildford) with my parents. It was a really hot day, and their 'Summer Salad' was the only thing that appealed as a starter in that sort of heat. When it came, I couldn't believe what I was eating because it was so delicious. How excited can you really get about a salad? Pretty excited as it turns out! I left determined to create my own twist on the idea.

After a week of tossing ideas around in my head, I came up with the Mediterranean Salad recipe I wanted to use. It uses the base idea from The March Hare salad of starting with bulgar wheat and lentils and topping the salad off with roasted red peppers, but I have added several other salad ingredients and made my own dressing to twist the flavours towards the more acidic side, rather than sweet. It's choc-full of Mediterranean ingredients.

I'm going to put it out there from the start- this is not a recipe that you can sling together on a Monday morning for your take-to-work lunch. It's perfect as a starter before dinner, or as a side at a BBQ, or when made in bulk on a Sunday ready for work lunches, but it does require around 45 mins of your time to get it all together.

The processes you'll need a little time for are: roasting the pepper, cooking the lentils and the bulgar wheat and making the dressing. Don't be put off though. If you're short of time, there are some short cuts you can use, such as buying pre-roasted peppers in a jar and using shop-bought dressing. If you do want to roast your own pepper, there's an excellent guide here: Don't Feed After Midnight

The result of your hard work will be a very tasty, filling salad, packed full of nutrients. Not one of those salads that leaves you feeling hungry half an hour later! Fibre, iron and protein from the lentils, protein and magnesium from the bulgur wheat and Vitamin C, B9 and potassium from the beetroot to name just a few of benefits. If you wanted to make the salad regularly and keep it interesting, you could change it up with a touch of goats cheese, some olives or some chargrilled chicken. The possibilities are endless!

While the sun's shining and the weather's warrm, this is the salad that you need. Try it- you won't be disappointed!

If you're following Slimming World, this is a syn-free salad if you switch the dressing for a syn-free branded one. With my dressing, it would be 6 syns. You could keep it down to 2 if you reduce the olive oil right down to 1 tsp.


Mediterranean Summer Salad pinnable image


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Chocolate Chip Ginger Cake

The Improving Cook- Chocolate Chip Ginger Cake

I love ginger cake. I love ginger in general, but ginger cake really is gorgeous, and dark chocolate accompanies it really well. The slightly bitter chocolate taste complements all that sticky golden syrup and sugar, add some chocolate buttercream and mmmmm, you've got yourself a winner!

A little while back I made a chocolate chip ginger sandwich cake, for one of my husband's colleagues who was leaving. It went down very well, lasted about 5 seconds according to my husband, but I never remembered to take any photos. I had some time spare this weekend, so I decided to have a bit of a baking/cooking day and make it again.

This chocolate chip ginger cake recipe makes a pretty foolproof sandwich cake. The ginger sponge is feather light and just slightly sticky. The only thing you need to watch out for is when you come to turn the cake out. It will stick and crack at any opportunity, so make sure that the tin is well greased and let the cake cool for several minutes before trying to turn it out!

The Improving Cook- Chocolate Chip Ginger Cake pinnable image



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