Thursday, January 26, 2017

Apple Cake

Apple Cake


I am usually really good at finding interesting ways to use up any bananas that are on the turn (see here for my banana recipes). But, when it comes to apples, I don't have that many recipes at my fingertips. You can make crumble with leftover apples but it's much better with cooking apples than eaters.

When I remembered that a few eating apples were lurking under a big bunch of bananas in our fruit bowl, and that they were a bit past their best, I wasn't sure quite what to do with them. I decided to make an apple cake to use them up, rather than let them go to waste. I was very pleased as the apple cake turned out beautifully, all golden brown with little pieces of apple peeking out of the top. It has a lovely, soft texture and the apple pieces make it very moist.

This apple cake works very well with slightly softened, eating apples (ours were Galas). If you wanted to use cooking apples, you would need to chop them quite small and cook them down a bit with a little sugar.

I was originally intending it to be a cake, cake,  the kind of cake that you eat a slice of with a cup of tea. It's actually even better as a dessert cake, the kind you have warm with a big slosh of cream or a jug of custard. We have tried it with both, just to be thorough in our testing! It's a perfect, simple, winter dessert.


Apple Cake Pinnable image




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Seeded Wholemeal Bread Rolls

Seeded Wholemeal Rolls


Do you ever make your own bread? I first made some when I was at university and I remember being very proud of it! It was a lovely white crusty loaf.  The only problem was that the crust was quite salty and I suspect that I hadn't followed the recipe I was given correctly. I was a bit slap-dash in those days!

I didn't make bread all that often after that day but, when I was getting married, I took the opportunity to put a breadmaker on my wedding gift list. My lovely sister and brother-in-law were kind enough to buy it for me (ahem, I mean us!). It was one of my most favourite gifts and it made me so happy when my sister was pregnant and craving cinnamon, that I could make her a home-made cinnamon raisin loaf.

It took me a little while to brave making bread rolls, because I was a bit scared of trying things that weren't baked in the breadmaker, particularly getting the second rise of the dough right. It's actually not that scary, you just need to tackle the kneading with confidence and find a suitably warm place for the bread to rise again (not my freezing cold kitchen, then!) 

This weekend I made some seeded wholemeal rolls. I wasn't perhaps as careful as I could have been when making the roll shapes, so some of them are a bit rustic looking! I used various seeds that I like in the mixture, but you could switch any of them for a different seed that you personally prefer. We really enjoyed them this week for our work lunches, filled with Very Garlicky Slow Cooker Lemon and Rosemary Chicken, a little mayo and some cherry tomatoes. So delicious!

Don't be scared, have a go- you can do it!

Seeded Wholemeal Rolls Pinnable image



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Slow Cooker Lamb Madras

Slow Cooker Lamb Madras


You just can't have enough curry recipes in my opinion, especially slow cooker ones. They help to get the absolute best out of those cheap cuts of meat which absorb all the delicious spices. So with that in mind, I was inspired by a pack of diced lamb that I got on special offer, to do a slow cooked lamb madras.

Madras comes in many styles and originates from South India. The name madras for the curry however, is a British invention, like most of the curry names that we know and love.  Madras is a red curry with plenty of chilli used to make it hot. It usually has a sour element included such as lime juice or vinegar, and sometimes will have yoghurt added to cool the heat.

I used both fresh chillies and chilli powder to make this slow cooker lamb madras and add lime juice for the sour flavour. It thickens up beautifully and packs a decent punch in the spice department! 

It will freeze well too, so it's well worth making a nice big batch. Don't forget that if it's been left over night or frozen, the heat will increase.

An added bonus is that is a great deal lower in calories than your average curry take away. I had to check the calories 3 times, because I didn't believe the number at first!

This slow cooker lamb madras is syn-free on Slimming World (if you ensure to trim all visible fat from the lamb). This recipe is approximately 180 calories per person (plus the calories for rice).


Slow Cooker Lamb Madras Pinnable image


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Slow Cooker Rosemary Chicken Stew

Rosemary Chicken stew ingredients in the slow cooker

Well the weather here has certainly turned. Below zero temperatures and even some of the white stuff! The change in temperature had me craving something warm and comforting, so I made a nice big batch of chicken stew in the slow cooker last week. Chicken stew is full of flavour just cooking in its own stock, but I wanted to boost that even more by adding rosemary.

Chicken and rosemary are a classic flavour combination- so delicious together. The smell of the rosemary floating up the stairs, while it was cooking during the evening, was torture. I had to close all the doors to stop us from drooling! When we could finally eat it the following evening, it didn't disappoint and the rosemary flavour totally makes it, if I do say so myself! I'm sure that using the slow cooker really helps the depth of that flavour as well. I had made a great big batch, so the rest was swiftly split between plastic containers ready for lunches.

I used chicken breasts for the Rosemary Chicken Stew because I had some spare. You can see in the pictures that I cut them up into big chunks. It would have been much better to just cut them in half or quarters at the most, so that they don;t shred to easily. That's what I would recommend.  It would also be excellent if you made it with skinless thighs.

The sad thing about stew, is that it's not much of a looker when it's cooked!  You can't get many beauty shots of it. What I really need is some smellovision, so you could smell the deliciousness!

Put this one on your go-to list of winter dinners. It's fantastic for batch cooking ahead of time!

This recipe is syn free and Slimming World Friendly. If you are following a calories controlled diet such as My Fitness Pal, it's around 300 cals per portion (if using chicken breasts).


 Slow Cooker Rosemary Chicken Stew pinnable image




Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Oaty Double Chocolate Loafcake


Slice of Oaty Double Chocolate Cake


I had a bit of a dilemma when I was designing this recipe. I wanted to make a double chocolate loaf cake BUT... it's January. I'm trying to be healthier, most people are. Is it really a good time to be posting double chocolate cake?! 

So, I fiddled about with the recipe to try and make it a bit less indulgent and was really pleased with the result when I added porridge oats. The oats in this cake made it a denser, more filling cake, so a single slice is all you need. You still get a delicious chocolate hit from the cocoa and the chocolate chips too! Everything's automatically healthy if it has oats in. I'm pretty sure that's the rule...

I had a slice with a cup of tea, whereas my husband really enjoyed a big thick slice with hot custard (slightly undoing my attempt to up the healthiness of the recipe!) I think it would make a great after school treat. A slice could probably be split between two children and easily keep them going until teatime!


The Improving Cook Oaty Double Chocolate Cake Pinnable image



Thursday, January 05, 2017

Choc-Chip Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding

Choc-Chip Panettone bread and butter Pudding


Did you get a Panettone as a gift this year? It's a pretty popular gift these days at Christmas, but until a couple of years ago, I had never really come across one, never mind eaten one.

This sweet, enriched bread, full of dried fruit, has been made in Italy since the middle ages and has grown in popularity throughout Europe in recent years. Did you know that Panettone are hung upside down when baked, so that their dome shape doesn't get cracked and spoilt? No- me either! 

To enjoy Panettone traditionally, you slice it like a cake and serve with butter and/or jam to spread on top and have with coffee. Alternatively, you can tilt it sideways and slice circles from the end so that they will fit in the toaster. Apparently, it's amazing toasted but I haven't tried that yet.

The only problem with Panettone is that they are quite large, especially if there's just two of you, and if you are lucky enough to be given more than one, they can be quite hard to finish off before they dry out or hit their use by date. So, what to do with some delicious left-over Panettone? Make bread and butter pudding of course! And to make it even more delicious, I have added chocolate chips- mmmmm!

Panettone makes a fantastic bread and butter pudding. It works very well with this recipe which uses full cream but, if you're trying to be a bit less indulgent post-Christmas, you can switch it for a milk of your choice.

If you make my Choc-Chip Panettone pudding, you won't be disappointed; it's rich, chocolatey and delicious. I like it on its own, as it's essentially cooked in its own custard, but my husband likes to add more custard to his. I'm pretty sure it would be fab with ice-cream too!


Choc-Chip Panettone bread and butter Pudding- pinnable image


Monday, January 02, 2017

Satsuma and Yoghurt Bundt Cake

Satsuma and Yoghurt Bundt Cake


It was my Dad's birthday last week and a great excuse to give my Christmas present, a NordicWare Bundt tin, a trial run, by making him a cake.

I decided to make a Satsuma and Yoghurt Cake, given all the satsumas that were available post-Christmas. I know many people will find this an unsual idea, but satsuma juice is absolutely delicious and makes as good a citrus cake as any other citrus fruit. It's a great way to use up any spare satsumas that you have to hand. 

The tricky part about using satsumas is the zesting. Satsumas don't have really firm skin like lemons, limes and full-size oranges. But, if you're careful, you can zest it. The first thing is to choose satsumas that aren't loose in their skin. You want the ones that would be annoying to peel, because they won't come away in nice big pieces. Then use your zester gently to grate the zest from the skin. You can't go at it hard, like you would with a lemon, so restrain yourself! Using a really good zester will help a lot, so if you haven't treated yourself to a microplane-style zester before today, now is the time! Ordinary graters just aren't as good.

The Satsuma and Yoghurt Cake you will end up with is moist with a light texture thanks to the yoghurt and the citrus drizzle. The drizzle is added while the cake is still upside down in the tin, which might seem a bit odd at first. This works because the drizzle sinks into the bottom and the middle of the cake. Then the icing is spooned over the top, once you have turned the cake out, and you have citrus flavour through the whole cake!

If you don't have a bundt tin, you could make this as a large loaf cake, but it will take longer to bake.


Satsuma and Yoghurt Bundt Cake- pinnable image



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