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Category Archives: snack

Strawberry and prosecco jam

Here in the UK seeing an abundance of plump strawberries doesn’t just mean summer is here, but that it’s Wimbledon. Did you know they get through more than 23 tonnes of strawberries every year at the tennis tournament?

Strawberries have been know in Europe since Roman times when they were used to help bad breath and labour pains. They have anti-inflammatory properties, are an excellent source of vitamin C and have a good amount of potassium. Do you need any other excuses to eat them?

Strawberries and Jam

Well, when I was sent a selection of recipes to try from Tate & Lyle, the first one that jumped out was strawberry and prosecco jam. How could that combination not be delicious?

I’d never made jam before but knew that some fruits, like strawberries, cherries and grapes, only have small amounts of pectin making it more difficult for the jam to gel. But Tate & Lyle have solved this issue with their Jam Sugar which has added pectin to ensure a perfect set.

I’ve discovered making jam is actually easy! And having a few jars of homemade jam on hand is great not only for lazy Sunday breakfasts but perfect to impress your guests for afternoon tea, either dolloped on scones or in a Victorian sponge.

Strawberry & Prosecco Jam -low

Being a novice jam-maker, I did rather a lot of reading about jam-making. There’s quite a lot of debate about how much sterilising is needed for the jam jars as well as how to seal them properly.

Whatever method you use, you do need to sterilise your jars properly, and it’s also important to put the jam into hot jars while the jam is still piping hot.

I boiled my filled jars of jam. Many people online say this isn’t necessary to properly seal the jars and that it’s enough to turn the jars upside down while they’re still hot and leave them this way until they’re completely cool. I wanted to make sure any bacteria that might have gotten into the jar while filling them was killed as well as ensuring a tight seal on the jars.

To boil your filled jars you just need to put them in a large pot, completely cover them with water, bring to the boil and then boil for 10 mins. Carefully take them out of their water bath and leave to cool. As they cool, you’ll hear pops as the air comes out and the jars completely seal.

Whichever method you use, check the seals on the jars when they’re cool and use any that haven’t sealed well first.

But how does this jam taste? Absolutely delicious! While the added prosecco is subtle, it gives the jam another layer of flavour. And the added bonus is you’re just going to have to drink the leftover alcohol – what a shame!

Strawberry and Prosecco Jam

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15-20 mins
Makes 5 x 450g jars

150ml prosecco
1kg Tate & Lyle Jam Sugar
1kg strawberries, hulled

Put the prosecco, sugar and strawberries into a large heavy-based pot and place over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Increase the heat and boil steadily for 10 minutes, taking care to keep an eye on the jam to ensure that it doesn’t boil too rapidly.

Meanwhile, sterilize your jars by washing them in hot soapy water, rinsing well, then placing them in a low oven at 150°C/Fan 130°C/Gas Mark 2 for 10 minutes.

Test the jam for setting point. To check, remove the saucepan from the heat, spoon a little jam onto a cold plate and leave for 2 minutes – it should wrinkle softly when your finger is pushed over the surface. If this point has not been reached, return the saucepan to the heat and continue to boil for another 2 minutes. Test as before until setting point is reached. (You may need to test several times, though be patient, as this testing is crucial to achieve the correct consistency).

Pour the hot jam into the warm sterilised jars. Leave to cool, then seal and label.

Store in a cool dark place. Once open, keep in the fridge.

StrawberryandProseccoJam

Tip: Chill a stack of small plates in the fridge, so that you have a few lined up for checking the setting point. You can also use a thermometer; the setting point for jam is 105c (220F).

More yummy Tate & Lyle recipes using their jam sugar can be found here.

Disclosure: I received a packet of Tate & Lyle’s Jam Sugar to try out this recipe. My opinions are honest and my own. 

Olive oil granola – the lazy way

OliveOilGranola2

I love a good crunchy granola for breakfast, balanced with some tangy yogurt and topped with sweet fruit like strawberries – yum! Making it yourself is not only easy, but means you can tailor  it to perfectly match your taste buds (or adapt it to fit what you have in your cupboard).

There are many recipes out there for olive oil granola and mine is very similar – start with your oats, add a selection of yummy nuts and seeds plus some spice of your choice then top with olive oil and sweetener.

What is different is how I prepare it, in a very lazy way, avoiding extra bowls and jugs to wash as well as keeping my hands clean! I think it’s also a quicker way to get all the granola goodies together and who doesn’t want to save time?

OliveOilGranola1

Of course measuring out ingredients uses bowls, but once you’ve made this once or twice you can be brave and do it by sight without measuring. And this is a recipe where you don’t have to be exact in the quantities.

You can use whatever nuts and seeds you like; stay simple with just a few or add lots of different ones. I prefer almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, but also add cashews and golden linseed sometimes. Walnuts and pecans, broken up a little, work well, as do flaked almonds.

You can also easily add some dried fruit, like raisins, sour cherries or goji berries, at the end to the toasted mixture.

Olive oil granola – the lazy way

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 40-45 mins

300g rolled oats, preferably jumbo
75g skin-on almonds
50g pumpkin seeds
25g sunflower seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
100ml extra-virgin olive oil (or melted coconut oil)
100ml sweetener of your choice (I use 50ml each of maple syrup and honey)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 150C.

Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Spread the oats evenly on the prepared tray. Add the almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and cinnamon, and mix with a large spoon or spatula.

OliveOilGranolaPrep

OliveOilGranolaPrep1

Pour over the olive oil, sweetener and vanilla and mix well.

Spread the mixture evenly over the tray and put in the oven for 20 minutes.

Take the tray out of the oven and mix the granola to keep it toasting evenly.

Put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes or until it’s golden to your liking.

OliveOilGranolaPrep2

Leave to cool. Break up any large chunks if necessary and store in an airtight container.

Eat with milk or a dollop of yogurt and top with your favourite fruit, or simply devour it as is!

Variations:

  • try different spices like ginger or cardamon
  • add dried fruit such as dried sour cherries, goji berries, raisins, etc after the toasted granola has cooled
  • add a pinch of salt when adding the spices

 

What’s your favourite way to eat granola?

International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2014

Pirate Pucco

Ahoy me hearties!

Yo ho ho and shiver me timbers, today be t’ best day o’ t’ year. Arr, aye, today be ‘International Talk Like a Pirate’ Day!

T’ celebrate I made Captain Nicholas a swashbuckling lunch with an extra surprise for snack time. Aye, dressin’ up like a pirate be one o’ his favourite things t’ do, so he was happy with his booty. Later he told he especially loved the jolly roger flag.

pirate lunch

pirate apple - aarrr!

The pirate schooner and sail are cut from a ham, cheese and spinach sandwich with a cheese mast on a sea of lettuce. I drew a jolly roger and the portholes with edible ink pens, and added a side of cherry tomatoes.

I precut the apple to make it easier for Nicholas to eat and put the pieces back together held with a rubber band to stop the pieces going brown. I then drew on the pirate face with an edible ink.

Batten down t’ hatches and happy Pirate Day to ye!

Eats-Amazing-Fun-Food-Friday

I’m linking our pirate lunch up to Eats Amazing’s Fun Food Friday, a weekly round-up of fun and creative food.

 

Frozen fruit pops

Frozen fruit pops

Summer has come and gone in the UK. It wasn’t a bad one at all this year, in fact I got a tan during a British summer for the first time! However I’d be lying if I said I was anything but ecstatic that we’re finally away on holiday enjoying a very hot sun on a wonderful beach.

During our summer at home, Nicholas and I got into a regular habit of going to a park a little way from home that’s much bigger than our neighbourhood ones. For warm days its paddling pool was perfect. Our ritual was paddling pool followed by a lie in the sun, moving to the large sand pit followed by all the other playground attractions. Then we’d go find the ice cream man and have a run round the park before coming home.

Of course a British summer wouldn’t be a British summer without some rain, and not just a summer shower but days of torrential rain! (I wrote my cheeky views of the summer in the UK here.)  When we couldn’t go outside and enjoy an ice lolly, we’d improvise a picnic inside and eat frozen fruit pops to make the day sunnier.

There really is nothing simpler than frozen fruit pops. Well you could just throw some fruit pieces into the freezer, but then you’d be missing the fun aspect of the stick. Why does putting food on a stick much it so much better?!?

You need plastic cake pop sticks or wooden ice lolly sticks. Don’t use wooden skewers as these can be dangerous for little ones and they’re not as easy to hold on to.

Next chop up some fruit into bite-sized pieces. We used strawberries and grapes. You can also use banana, watermelon (cut in chunks or balls), raspberries, blueberries and mango.

Thread your fruit onto the sticks, put on a freezer-proof plate or tray and put into the freezer for at least 2 hours. Once they’re frozen you can keep them all together in a freezer bag.

A healthy fun treat for summer days, or when you’re wishing for the return of summer days.

What were your favourite things to do together this summer?

Aussie saltbush damper

This week’s Great British Bake Off was all about bread, something I have a love/hate relationship with when it comes to baking it.

I used to love baking bread and wasn’t too bad at it, then came a period where it never seemed to go right. The only bread I tend to make at the moment are these bread rolls which are super easy and very slightly adapted from my friend Barbara’s recipe. If you’re at all interested in baking bread you must check our her wonderful blog all about bread and things that accompany it.

I tried to face my bread demons with an attempt at baking an amazingly pink beetroot bread. What I learnt was I must always check the type of yeast I’m using and how it’s meant to be activated! My bread was a fabulous colour but didn’t rise properly and so didn’t cook properly.
My beetroot bread failure

I wasn’t sure I’d manage to try some more bread as we’re going on holidays at the weekend, so there’s the usual pre-holiday panic of packing and getting on top of work. But when I was putting away the Aussie herbs and spices hubby brought back from a business trip quite a while ago, the jar of saltbush caught my eye, in particular when I read the label explaining its use in damper.

Damper is a traditional Australian bread, typically baked in the coals of a campfire and gets its name because the fire is damped to then cook the bread amongst the hot coals. Damper can also be wrapped around a stick and cooked over a fire.

Originally made by stockman who might be in the outback for weeks or months with only basic provisions, it consisted simply of flour and water without any raising agent. Now people tend to use self-raising flour or add baking powder, as well as add butter and milk to the dough.

Saltbush is a very hardy long-living shrub that doesn’t mind droughts and is very common in the dry inland of Australia. As its name suggests, its dried leaves have a salty ‘herby’ taste which were used in the past along with the ground roasted seeds by indigenous Australians mainly to flavour damper.

I decided to do a dairy-free take on a modern damper recipe using the saltbush for an authentic outback flavour.

dairy-free

AUSSIE SALTBUSH DAMPER

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30-35 mins
Makes 8 servings

250g plain self-raising flour
200g wholemeal self-raising flour
2 tsp saltbush
1 tsp salt
100ml oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
300ml cold water
1/4 tsp saltbush, extra

Heat the oven to 200C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

In a food processor, combine the plain and wholemeal flours, saltbush, salt and oil until the oil is fairly evenly distributed.

With the motor running, pour in the water a little at a time until the dough has just come together in a ball (you might not need all the water).

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and very briefly knead (about 1 minute) then form into a round shape.

Place the dough onto your prepared tray. Dip a sharp knife into flour and score the top in a star pattern to create 8 wedges. Sprinkle the extra saltbush over the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden and when you tap the bottom it sounds hollow.

Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes.

Best eaten warm as a large chunk in your hand, with lashings of butter and perhaps some good cheese or a bowl of soup on the side.
dairy-free damper bread

Variations:

  • omit the saltbush (difficult to get outside Australia) and replace with chopped fresh rosemary
  • sprinkle with Parmesan before baking
  • add chunks of cheese to the dough when kneading for a cheesy damper
  • use beer instead of the water to get a yeasty flavour
  • use your hands instead of the food processor to mix the dough (great for little ones to get involved)

Please share some of your easy/foolproof bread recipes so I can beat my bread demon!

I’m joining in with the Great Bloggers Bake Off. Visit Mummy Mishaps to see some more successful attempts than mine at leavened bread!
gbbo-badgesmallI’m also linking up to Supergolden Bake’s #CookBlogShare party.
cookblogshare

Cheesy spinach crackers

Week two of the Great British Bake Off was all about biscuits and this was the perfect excuse for me to revisit making savoury crackers.
the crackers say it all!

I don’t make these Wholemeal Wheat Thins nearly enough, especially when we’re all big cracker fans, and since I first made them I’ve wanted to try adapting the recipe to use olive oil instead of butter to be a bit healthier.

I’ve made these crackers using both fresh and frozen spinach with the same great result. If you’re using frozen spinach, run it under cold water for a minute or two to defrost and then squeeze as much liquid out as you can before putting it into your food processor.

The preparation is super quick and easy – just throw everything into your food processor! What will take up most of your preparation time is rolling and cutting.

cheesy spinach crackersThe secret to getting a lovely crisp cracker is to roll out the dough as thinly as possible (2-3mm is ideal).

Nicholas and I had lots of fun cutting out different shapes – small letters, circles and wavy rectangles. Small fiddly shapes can be time-consuming (although kids will love them), but even cutting random straight lines across the dough will give you some fun shapes.

If you get sick of rolling and cutting, the dough freezes very well!
cheesy spinach crackers

CHEESY SPINACH CRACKERS

Prep time: 15-20 mins
Cook time: 5-10 mins (depending on the size of the crackers)
Makes about 120 Ritz-size crackers
Store in an airtight container for up to a week

100g spinach
200g grated cheddar
150g wholemeal plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
60ml extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oven to 200C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

Put the spinach into a food processor and blend until evenly broken up.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until the mixture comes together into a ball.

Take the dough out of the processor and divide it in half. Roll out one half of the dough as thinly as you can (I put the dough between two pieces of cling film to avoid it sticking to the bench or rolling pin, which saves on cleaning up time!). The thinner you can roll it, the crisper your thins will be.

Cut out shapes using a cookie cutters or a pastry wheel.

Place the shapes close together on your prepared tray and use a skewer or toothpick to poke some holes into each one to stop them puffing up.

Bake for 7 – 10 mins until golden brown and crisp (keep a close eye on them as they cook quickly).

Variations:

  • use white plain flour for a lighter textured cracker
  • omit the cheese for a dairy-free cracker
  • add onion or garlic powder to the mixture
  • add some dried herbs such as thyme, sage or rosemary to the mixture

Tip: if your stored crackers start getting soft, pop them back into the oven to crisp up for a couple of minutes.

To join in the Great Bloggers Bake Off or to see the other baking efforts, visit Mummy Mishaps.
gbbo-badgesmall

I’m also linking up to Supergolden Bake’s #CookBlogShare party.
cookblogshare

 

Banana and nutella muffins

Hannah at Mums’ Days has made a fabulous list of recipes to use up browning bananas. Her 10 ways to use up old bananas includes banana milkshakes and smoothies, banana gelato, banana pancakes, banana bread and also my sugar-free flapjacks (which is without a doubt the most popular recipe on my blog).

Yesterday I needed a ‘pick-me-up’ and seeing the bananas in my fruit bowl that looked like they were very close to walking to the bin on their own, I thought of Hannah’s list, especially The Londoner’s Nutella swirl banana muffins. Perfect!

Banana and nutella muffins

Even though I wanted to eat something indulgent I couldn’t help myself from trying to make Rosie’s original recipe slightly healthier. So I reduced the sugar by a third and substituted some of the white self-raising flour with wholemeal. For muffins, the slightly heavier and denser cousins of cupcakes, you can definitely get away with adding some healthier wholemeal flour.

My taste-testers made no comment about the lack of sugar (and hubby ALWAYS comments if something I make isn’t sweet enough in his opinion). The fact that very ripe bananas are super sweet, plus the addition of Nutella makes it very easy to reduce the sugar content significantly without losing the necessary sweetness needed for it still to be a sweet treat.

I do love Nutella, in particular for how little you can add of it to make something seem much more indulgent than it is. I like adding it to porridge as only half a teaspoon makes the porridge taste wonderfully chocolatey and incredibly indulgent.

When I showed the muffins going into the oven yesterday on Instagram, one of my lovely IG friends asked if I’d tried Lindt ball muffins. I’d forgotten seeing them and was very glad I had! But if you need a more indulgent muffin, why not try popping a Lindt ball into the centre rather than the Nutella; I’m sure they would be divine.

BANANA AND NUTELLA MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins
Makes 12 muffins

115g unsalted butter
80g wholemeal self-raising flour
150g white self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp Nutella, at room temperature

Gently melt the butter (I prefer to use the microwave) and leave to cool.

Heat the oven to 180C and lightly grease your muffin tins (or line with paper cases).

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the wholemeal and white flours, the sugar and salt.

In a jug (or smaller mixing bowl), whisk together the melted butter, beaten eggs, mashed bananas and vanilla extract.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (mixing too much can make your muffins dense and chewy).

Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin tin holes (they’ll be about half to three-quarters full depending on the size of your tin). Add a small dollop of Nutella on top of each muffin and use a skewer (or knife) to swirl it through the muffin (not too much or you won’t see any swirls).
banana and Nutella muffins

Bake for 20-25 mins until golden and cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Variations:

  • instead of Nutella, place a piece of chocolate (or Lindt ball!) in the centre of each muffin before baking to make oozing chocolate banana muffins
  • add 1 tsp of ground cinnamon to the mashed banana
  • make banana and Nutella bread/cake by cooking the mixture in a loaf or cake tin

Tip: if your Nutella is still rather hard at room temperature, either place the jar into a sink of hot water or pop the jar (without its lid) in the microwave and zap at a low temperature for intervals of 10 seconds each until it’s slightly runny.