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Mini savoury bread puddings

When we were doing our Kingsmill Great White Challenge, I didn’t just want to eat bread in sandwiches or as toast. After a quick search online for ideas, I decided to try making savoury bread puddings.

Not only are these puddings a brilliant way to use up older bread, but they’re also great to use up any crusts or end pieces that your family doesn’t like eating. I have a few bags in my freezer of crusts leftover from school lunches which I would normally make into sugar-free French toast, but now I think they’ll be made into savoury bread puddings!

Please excuse my approximate amounts in the recipe. This is a very forgiving recipe, so even just 2 sausages would work. The only important thing is making sure there is enough liquid to moisten all of your bread chunks.

I made my savoury puddings in a large muffin pan, but you could easily pour all the mixture into a loaf tin and eat it in slices instead.

To get your munchkins involved in the cooking, forget about cutting up the bread and get them tearing it up instead. And I’m sure they’ll love mixing all the ingredients together too.

cute food

MINI SAVOURY BREAD PUDDINGS

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 30-40 mins
Makes 6 mini puddings

1/2 onion, finely diced
3 or 4 uncooked sausages
1 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tbsp fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme or chives, chopped
salt and pepper
approx. 4 slices of bread, roughly chopped into cubes about 3cm square
oil of your choice (I used rapeseed oil)
extra cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 180C.

Remove the casings from the sausages by cutting down the length of the sausages and peeling off the casings.

Heat a small amount of oil in a medium-sized frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sausage, and cook for about 5 minutes until both are cooked, stirring to break up the sausage meat. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the milk, egg, 1/4 cup of grated cheese, chopped herbs, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add the sausage mixture and then stir through the bread (if the mixture is quite wet and runny, add a little more bread; if there isn’t enough liquid to soak through the bread, add a little more milk).

Allow the bread to soak up the liquid while you lightly grease a large muffin pan.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, sprinkle over a little extra cheddar cheese and cook for 30-40 minutes until golden brown on top and cooked through.

If you want to make your mini puddings into turtles, use half a cherry tomato for the head and pieces of soft cheese triangles for its legs and little tail. His mouth is a small piece of soft cheese and his eyes are cress leaves. I also garnished the plate with cress (grown by Nicholas!).

Variations:

  • Bake the mixture into a loaf tin and eat in slices
  • Add some grated apple while you’re cooking the onion and sausage
  • Use bacon or uncooked ham instead of the sausage
  • Add some chopped fresh spinach to the finished mixture

What do you do with your leftover bread?

Yogurt Week: Beetroot and Yogurt Dip

This is a super easy, super quick and healthy dip, celebrating the versatility of yogurt.

My often fussy little eater kept wanting to taste this as we made it. The wonderfully vibrant colour appeals to little eyes, just be careful of beetroot stains! If serving this to a little eater, give them a variety of foods in different colours to dip in. You can also use it as a spread in sandwiches or wraps.

You still have plenty of time to celebrate Yogurt Week as well as enter the exciting Food Stylist competition (details in my last post). Did you know there is enough plain yogurt sold in the UK every year to make at least 616 million kormas?!

Yogurt Week

BEETROOT AND YOGURT DIP

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cook time: 0 minutes!
Makes 4 servings

250g cooked beetroot, peeled and chopped into chunks
70g Greek yogurt
A pinch of cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Put everything into a mini food processor and blitz until smooth. Taste and add more seasoning and cumin if needed.

Other uses:

  • use as a pasta sauce by stirring through hot cooked pasta
  • serve over rice
  • use as a crepe filling

Yogurt Week 2014Disclosure: I was compensated by The Yogurt Council to promote Yogurt Week.

Yogurt Week: Italian-inspired yogurt cake

Today is the first day of Yogurt Week, the UK’s first celebration of that wonderfully versatile dairy product and everything you can make with it.

Yogurt Week 2014What can’t you do with yogurt? Eat it on its own or add it to both sweet or savoury dishes, it’s a great way to add some creamy lusciousness without adding too many calories. It’s also a perfect first food for weaning babies.

With its power-boosting protein and bone-building calcium as well as a load of vitamins, it’s no wonder that in the UK we spent over £1.2 billion on yogurt in the last year (that’s £38 every second of every day!).

To celebrate yogurt, The Yogurt Council is running a Food Stylist Competition for those of you in the UK, with a £1,000 prize package up for grabs. All you need to do is create and style your own recipe using yogurt. The competition runs until Monday 9 June 2014 and more details can be found here.

Discover more about yogurt, and lots of yummy recipes using it, on the Yogurt Council’s website and follow @loveyogurtuk on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Yogurt Week

Yogurt Week has been the perfect excuse for me to experiment with making something I often ate while living in Italy and have been wanting to try to make for a while.

‘Plumcake allo yogurt’ is eaten for breakfast and also as a snack for little ones. I have no idea why it’s called ‘plumcake’, especially when it has no plums (or anything resembling plums) in it! Aside from the misuse of English, this Italian yogurt cake is lovely and light, and yummy both for breakfast or afternoon tea. If you make it with low or no fat yogurt, you can have absolutely no guilt eating it for breakfast (remind yourself of the protein and calcium you’re treating your body to).

It’s an amazingly quick and easy cake to make, it’s really just beating the ingredients together, and doesn’t leave you with many dirty things to wash. It also freezes very well.

In making my Italian-inspired cake, I’ve only used ingredients that are common here in the UK. I also added some lemon zest as I like the tangy freshness it gives to the cake. (When brutally honest Italian hubby tried it, he quickly pointed out that plumcake doesn’t have lemon!) It’s just as yummy with or without the lemon; why not try both versions and tell me your favourite.

ITALIAN-INSPIRED YOGURT CAKE

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 40-45 mins
Makes 1 loaf
Freezable

250g Greek yogurt
100ml light-flavoured vegetable oil (I use rapeseed oil)
zest of 1 lemon (optional)
3 eggs
140g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 175C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Put the yogurt, oil and lemon zest (if using) into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Beat the eggs until they’re light and fluffy (a hand whisk is fine), then beat them into the yogurt mixture.

Add the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt, and lightly beat until combined.

Pour the mixture into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Tip: if the top of your cake is browning too much in the oven but it’s not cooked, cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil to protect it.

By the way, can you guess what the most popular yogurt flavour is in the UK?

Disclosure: I was compensated by The Yogurt Council to develop a recipe using yogurt and promote Yogurt Week.

 

Carrot and cumin dip

Nicholas, who doesn’t like carrots, has really enjoyed the ‘orange dip’ we’ve been eating for most of this week, as have both hubby and I. We’ve dipped in various vegetables and also had it spread on flat bread.

vegetable

It’s quick and super easy to make, and would be perfect party food as you can easily make a lot of it. This is definitely a recipe I’m going to be making lots more of in the future, and not just because it’s a stress-free way of getting Nicholas to eat carrots.

The original recipe is from Taste.com.au and makes 8 servings using 1 kilo of carrots. I quartered the recipe (if you can say that!) and it produced 2 very generous adult servings.

The amount of cumin in the original recipe and mine is conservative, giving just a mild flavour which is perfect for little ones. If you’re making this for adults, I’d add more.

CARROT AND CUMIN DIP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 5-30 mins (depending on how your cook the carrots)
Makes 2 very generous adult servings
Can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge

250g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
15ml (3 tsp) olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 small garlic clove, crushed
Salt and pepper

Cook the carrots your preferred way (I steamed them in the microwave).

Put the carrot, oil, cumin and garlic in a mini food processor, and process until smooth (this can take a little while and you need to keep scarping down the sides of the bowl).

Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Eats-Amazing-Fun-Food-FridayI’m linking up to Eat’s Amazing Fun Food Friday, a weekly round-up of fun and creative food. Check out the other fun creations on Grace’s blog.

Dairy-free strawberry bread

One of the foods that shouts ‘SUMMER!’ to me is strawberries and when I recently bought too many punnets of them at the supermarket (who can resist a ‘buy one get one free’ offer?), I thought I’d use some of them to bake a lovely sweet treat.

strawberry loaf

This recipe is an adaptation of my dairy-free banana bread although I’ve reduced the sugar content a little (you could reduce it even more if your strawberries are wonderfully sweet). Regular readers will know how much I love to decrease the sugar in recipes before my taste testers can tell the difference ;).

Perfect for breakfast, afternoon tea or dessert, enjoy a little taste of summer to make your day better (I guarantee it!).

DAIRY-FREE STRAWBERRY BREAD

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 40-45 mins
Makes 1 loaf
Freezable

175g self-raising flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
150g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Approx. 300g strawberries, hulled and chopped into small pieces
50g walnuts (or pecans), chopped

Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Take a couple of spoonfuls of flour from your 175g of self-raising flour and put into a small bowl. Lightly stir your strawberries through the small amount of flour (this will stop them sinking to the bottom of your bread while it cooks).

Whisk the sugar, eggs and oil together at a medium speed using a handheld beater or in an electric mixer. Whisk for a few minutes until it’s pale and fluffy.

Sift in the flour and baking powder, and mix until combined using a low speed. Gently stir through the strawberries and walnuts.

Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Variations:

  • Make individual muffins instead of a loaf (easier to freeze if you’re not going to eat all of it)
  • Dust with icing sugar

Dairy-free hot cross buns

This time last year I made my very first attempts at making hot cross buns using a wonderful Paul Hollywood recipe, and I was very proud of the results.

hot cross buns

My not too shabby efforts at making hot cross buns last year.

This year I’ve been experimenting with a dairy-free version as we’re spending Easter with our dearest friends and godson, one of whom is lactose intolerant. I used last year’s recipe as a starting point; it requires quite a bit of time (you need to leave the buns to rise three times) but you do get wonderful buns in the end.

Paul Hollywood’s original recipe is rather tame in terms of spices (there’s just a small amount of ground cinnamon) and also only has a moderate amount of mixed peel (something my hubby loves but I don’t), so in my dairy-free version I increased both, and also added some nutmeg and cloves. The end result was much more satisfying especially the wonderful aroma of warm spices, and I have to admit the extra mixed peel works well.

The recipe uses fast-action or easy-blend yeast, but I’ve successfully used normal dried yeast as well. Look at last year’s recipe for instructions. I also like to soak my sultanas (or raisins) for half an hour in just boiled water before adding them to the dough so they’re lovely and plump, but that’s entirely up to you.

Several weeks ago I saw some amazing hot cross buns on Instagram by Burch & Purchase, a wonderful cake shop in Melbourne, Australia. They had the most incredible crosses on top. Instead of the usual traditional white flour mixture being piped on, it had been brushed on with very evident brush strokes (check out Burch & Purchase’s Instagram feed to see them and their other incredible creations). I attempted something similar with a thinner flour mixture and a brush, but as you can see it wasn’t a great success. I’ve left the instructions for the more traditional method!

EasterI used a sugar and water glaze on my finished buns last year which worked very well. This year I used a sugar and orange juice glaze, so as not to waste the orange whose zest you need. It’s very tasty although stays much stickier than the water version.

DAIRY-FREE HOT CROSS BUNS

Prep time: 30 mins (plus 3 x 1 hour of proving)
Cook time: 12-15 mins
Makes 16 buns
Freezable

300ml non-dairy milk (I used lactose free dairy drink)
3 tbsp vegetable oil (I used rapeseed oil)
500g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
75g caster sugar
7g sachet fast-action or easy-blend yeast
1 egg, beaten
100g sultanas or raisins
75g mixed peel
zest of 1 orange
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

For the cross:
75g plain flour
water

For the glaze:
25g caster sugar
25ml freshly squeezed orange juice

In a small saucepan, bring the non-dairy milk to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the oil. Leave to cool until it reaches a temperature you can put your hand into.

Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a bowl (keeping the salt away from the yeast). Make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm milk and oil mixture, then add the egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix well.

Use your hands to bring the dough together then tip onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in a clean and lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film (to stop the dough drying out) and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Keeping the dough in the bowl, add the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, apple, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is well distributed (this isn’t as easy as it sounds!). Cover and leave to rise for another hour or until doubled in size.

Divide the dough into 16 even pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface.

Arrange the buns on two baking trays lined with baking paper, leaving some space for the dough to expand. Cover (but don’t wrap) with more oiled cling film, or a clean tea towel, and let them prove for another hour.

Heat your oven to 220C (200C fan).

Mix the flour for the cross with about 5 tbsp water to make a paste, adding the water 1 tbsp at a time to achieve a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses.

Bake for 12-15 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.

Gently heat the sugar and orange juice for the glaze either in a small saucepan or in the microwave.  While the buns are still warm, brush over the sugar syrup over the top of the buns and leave to cool.

What are you favourite foods to eat at Easter? Do you have any family Easter traditions?

The ultimate (blue) chocolate cake

Nicholas is now a big three years old (although it depends on what he does or doesn’t want to do whether it’s “mummy, I’m big!” or “mummy, I’m little!”). And I promised myself it wouldn’t take me a year to blog about it (like his second birthday).

When I asked him what kind of cake he wanted on his birthday he very decisively requested a blue chocolate cake. I have to admit cheering loudly to myself. Even though I’m a big chocolate lover, hubby isn’t and has a tendency to sulk if I make anything chocolatey for other people.

We even had an argument one year when I requested a chocolate cake for my birthday but he wanted to make me his pineapple upside down cake (which I do love) because surely I’d be happier if everyone could enjoy the cake (um… I think I’m allowed to be a little selfish one day a year!). Anyway he did come through in the end and made me the yummiest chocolate brownies.

Back to the blue chocolate cake, this was the perfect excuse to make a lovely decadent cake I’ve had saved in my favourites for a while, Angela Nilson’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake. And having made it twice now, this is definitely my ‘go to’ chocolate cake from now on! It’s a deliciously decadent fudgy chocolate cake that stays moist for several days, so perfect to make a day or two ahead. Its richness also means you can serve up smaller slices making it feed more people.

Nicholas and his requested blue chocolate cake
I always read any comments people make when looking at recipes online. In the comments left by people who’d made Angela’s cake there were two very helpful suggestions made by different people: make the ganache that gets poured over the finished cake first so it can cool and thicken in the fridge; the amount of sugar in the cake can be reduced a lot.

It is amazing how much you can often reduce the quantity of sugar in recipes without really noticing a difference. Since I started experimenting with cooking more healthily after having Nicholas, I’ve successfully reduced the sugar for most of my favourite sweet recipes sometimes even reducing it by as much as 25%. Next time you do some baking, why not try taking out some of the sugar and see if you notice the difference.

The original cake recipe has 400g in total of sugar (200g each of light muscovada and golden caster sugars). As suggested, I used 250g in total, a very large reduction, and it was still a very sweet cake! I also omitted the 2 tablespoons of golden caster sugar in the ganache as I thought it was unnecessary and again it was definitely sweet enough. So a slightly healthier version of the original recipe ;).

The original recipe uses dark chocolate in the ganache. I used white chocolate to be able to give Nicholas his requested blue cake and it was a nice pop of colour having some blue sandwiching the cake together.

Being a bit lazy, I cooked my cakes in two separate tins to avoid having to cut through the middle later when decorating it. This also reduces the cooking time (another bonus!).

The ganache recipe makes a lot. I used it to sandwich together the two cakes and poured it over the top, but still had a small bowlful left. You could use the leftovers to ice cupcakes, or warm it a little and pour over ice cream or dollop over frozen berries.

Please try to ignore the big crack on the top!

THE ULTIMATE (BLUE) CHOCOLATE CAKE

Prep time: 30-40 mins
Cook time: 45-55 mins (mixture divided into 2 tins); 1hr 20 – 1 hr 30 mins (mixture cooked in 1 tin)

For the ganache:
200g good quality white chocolate, chopped or broken into fairly small pieces
284ml carton double cream (pouring type)
A few drops of food colouring

For the cake:
200g good quality dark chocolate, about 60% cocoa solids, chopped or broken into fairly small pieces
200g butter, cut into cubes
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
85g self-raising flour
85g plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g light muscovado sugar
125g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
75ml (5 tbsp) buttermilk

To make the ganache, pour the double cream into a small saucepan and heat gently over a low heat until it’s just about to boil. Meanwhile put the pieces of white chocolate into a bowl.

Once the cream is almost boiling, take it off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add a few drops of food colouring and stir through.

Put the ganache in the fridge to cool and thicken while you make the cake.

To make the cake, butter two 20cm round cake tins (if using just one tin it needs to be at least 8cm deep) and line the base with baking paper.

Preheat the oven to fan 140C/conventional 160C/ gas 3.

Put the pieces of dark chocolate and butter into a medium, heavy-based saucepan. Mix the instant coffee into 125ml cold water and add it to the saucepan. Gently melt over a low heat, stirring regularly so the mixture doesn’t burn on the bottom. (Or melt in the microwave on medium for about 5 minutes, stirring half way through.)

While the chocolate is melting, sift the self-raising and plain flours, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder into a big bowl. Add the light muscovado sugar and golden caster sugar and stir getting rid of any lumps.

Once the chocolate mixture has melted, pour it into the dry ingredients and add the beaten eggs and buttermilk. Mix until everything is thoroughly combined and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency. Pour into your prepared tin/s and bake until a skewer comes out clean and the top feels firm (don’t worry if it cracks a bit): 45-55 mins if dividing it between two tins or 1hr 20-1hr 30 mins if baking it as one cake.

Leave to cool in the tin (don’t worry if it dips slightly), then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

If you’ve made one cake, cut it horizontally in half once cold. If you’ve made two, you might need to level the top of the one which will be your bottom piece (if that is the case, you must then eat the bits you cut off to ensure the cake is ok ;)).

Sandwich the pieces together with some of the ganache, then pour more ganache over the cake letting it fall down the sides and smoothing to cover with a palette knife. Decorate as desired.

third birthday 'selfie'

Tip: You’ll have leftover buttermilk after making this cake; use the rest to make wonderfully light pancakes (just do an online search for ‘buttermilk pancakes’).