Bangin’ books: Chop Sizzle Wow, plus my girls cook penne with meatballs

PENNE WITH MEATBALLS

This tasty and very satisfying pasta dish is brought to you courtesy of Chop Sizzle Wow; a new cookbook bringing together 50 quick and easy classic Italian recipes from the bible of Italian home cooking, The Silver Spoon, in a fun and engaging cartoon format.

chop sizzle wow front

I was sent a review copy, and as the press release said it is perfect for cooks young and old, I decided to put the children to work testing out one of the recipes.

Our chosen recipe was rigatoni with meatballs. Except we didn’t have any rigatoni, nor did the corner shop, so we went with penne instead. Jess and Mia loved the cartoon concept of the book and found the recipe fairly easy to follow, but they definitely needed some adult assistance from time to time; such as when they couldn’t get the meatballs to fry and brown without them disintegrating. At this point I stepped in and cooked up the meatballs in a separate frying pan.

But all in all the dish was a resounding success and the end result was very good. I think it’s one the kids will want to cook again. Oh, and they also have their eye on several recipes in the desserts section, such as the Chocolate Delight and the Stuffed Peaches.

The recipes in Chop Sizzle Wow are brilliantly simple and very easy to follow, although you probably do need a little kitchen nouse to fill in some of the gaps.

The book is divided into five sections: appetizers, pasta, main courses, deserts and baking, and extra stuff. There’s also a witty introduction giving an overview on how Italians cook and eat.

The illustrations by Brazilian illustrator and artist Adriano Rampazzo (a recent graduate of London’s Central St Martin’s art college) are fantastic and I’m sure this book will appeal to comic book fans, as well as those looking for an easy introduction to Italian cookery. I think it would make a great Christmas present for students returning to their uni digs after the holidays.

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If you’d like to try those tasty meatballs yourself, here’s the recipe…

Pasta with meatballs

300g minced meat (our pack was 400g and we used all of it)
Half a clove of garlic (we used a full one – who saves half a clove?)
1 onion
1 carrot
1 celery stick
1 sprig parsley (we decided this wasn’t enough, and used a small bunch)
1 sprig rosemary
1 egg
350g rigatoni (we used penne)
plain flour for dusting
3 tbsp olive oil
400ml passata
25g grated Parmesan

Serves 4

Thinly slice the onion.

Chop the garlic.

Chop the carrots and celery.

Chop the parsley.

Chop the rosemary.

Lightly beat the egg.

Mix the meat, parsley and garlic. Then season and mix in the egg. Shape into small balls. Dust with flour.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a low heat.

Cook the onion, carrot, celery and rosemary for five minutes on a low heat.

Increase the heat to medium and add the meatballs. Cook until lightly browned all over. (This is where I had to jump in and rescue the meatballs because they were falling apart. I fried them in a separate pan and then added them back to the vegetables.)

Season and add the passata. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta for 10 minutes, or according to packet instructions.

Drain the pasta, then add to the meatballs. Gently stir together and serve, topped with pasta.

Delizioso!

Chop Sizzle Wow is available from the Phaidon online store and costs £12.95.

family-foodies

As this dish is a perfect one for older children to make themselves, I am entering it into the Family  Foodies challenge, which I host with Eat Your Veg, where the theme for October is Cooking With Kids.

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary copy of Chop Sizzle Wow from Phaidon Press for review purposes. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

Roast beetroot with labneh, nectarine and cumin

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There is nothing that shouts out autumn to me more than beetroot. You might have gathered by now I’m ever so slightly addicted to this perfectly purple vegetable and I reckon the best way to eat it is simply roasted, when it goes all sticky and sweetly caramelised. Just delicious.

Roast beetroot is the predominant ingredient in this gloriously robust salad. It is inspired in part by a recipe by Tom Hunt’s from his brilliant cookbook The Natural Cook and also by a Riverford recipe which partners the roast beetroot with slices of nectarine, which is just the most brilliant pairing. Continue reading

Halloween ghost cake pops

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My last Halloween offering definitely wasn’t going to win any awards in the most attractive bake category (despite how much fun the kids had creating them), but these little spooky cake pops are much, much cuter.

My daughter Jessie and I made these for her school bake sale and from all accounts they were a big hit. The girls say they’d all sold out before they even made it into the school hall.

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Cake pops are always a hit with children but I avoid making them too often. They’re not at all difficult, just a little long-winded and involved. So if you plan to have a go at these, do make sure you leave yourself plenty of time.

The good people at Dr Oetker kindly sent me a big bag of ingredients in order to make this cake pops recipe, developed by Juliet Sear who is part of their Even Better Baking Team. The recipe is below and for more practical hints and tips, you can watch the video tutorial over on YouTube.

The cake at the centre of these wee little ghosties is a delicious chocolate fudge brownie, which this recipe has you making from scratch. If you want to make life a little easier, you could always use a shop-bought chocolate cake – just make sure it’s a nicely moist and squidgy one. The brownie balls are covered in a layer of white chocolate, before being dressed in their ghostly regal icing robes.

Halloween ghost cake pops

Makes 20 cake pops

For the cake balls
120g Dr Oetker 72% Cocoa Extra Dark Fine Cooks Chocolate
150g soft unsalted butter at room temp
200g Light Muscovado Sugar
3 medium free range eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp Dr Oetker Madagascan Vanilla extract
125g Plain Flour

For the cake pops
2 X 100g bags of Dr Oetker White Chocolate Chips melted for sticking the balls onto the sticks & coating the cake pops
20 cake pop sticks

To decorate the ghosts
1 pack of Dr Oetker White Regal Ice
icing sugar for rolling out
Dr Oetker White Designer Icing for sticking the regal ice to the cake pops
Dr Oetker Jet Black Gel Food Colour

Preheat the oven to 140°C / gas mark 1).

Grease and line an 18cm (7 inch) square cake tin.

To make the fudge brownie mix, melt the extra dark chocolate in a microwave on medium power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time until melted, or in a heatproof bowl on a gentle heat over a bain marie. Leave to cool.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Gradually add the eggs a little at a time, mixing until combined.

Add the cooled chocolate stirring continuously. Add the vanilla extract and stir. Gradually fold in the flour until just combined. Take care not to over beat.

Pour the mix into your cake tin and bake for around 40 mins. Check it with a sharp knife or metal skewer. You want this to be slightly under baked, so the knife should come out with a nice paste stuck to the knife.

Leave the cake to cool, then turn out into a bowl and crumble with your hands to a fine, fudgy crumb.

To make the cake balls, take a handful of fudge cake mix and squeeze together tightly – you are aiming for little balls about the size of a large walnut, approximately 30g each. If the mixture is dry, the addition of a little melted chocolate or vanilla butter cream will help the mixture stick.

Melt the white chocolate chips in the same way as the dark chocolate earlier.

Dip the end of a stick into the melted white chocolate and push the stick into a ball, about half way in. Hold the ball to stop it splitting open when the stick goes in. Continue with all the balls.

Once all the cake pops are ready, pop them into the freezer for 30 mins, so the balls are firm enough to hold when dipping in the coating. Keep the melted white chocolate in a warm place to stop it from setting.

When the cake balls are firm, plunge each one into the white chocolate until completely covered. Tap the cake pop gently on the side of the bowl to shake off the excess.

To decorate the ghosts, roll out half the white regal icing into a large rectangle using plenty of icing sugar and a large plastic rolling pin. Roll fairly thinly – 2 to 3mm thick. Squeeze a little Designer Icing onto the tops of the cake pops or brush with some melted white chocolate to keep the icing sheet in place.

Using a cake cutter or small bowl, cut out circles of regal icing and place on each of the pops, smoothing down with your fingers to create the white sheet effect.

Decorate each one with a ghostly expression using the black gel food colour and a fine brush.

Halloween ghost cake pop

 

These spooky cake pops are perfect for making with little ones and so I’m entering them into this month’s Family Foodies ‘Cooking With Kids’ challenge, a month bloggers event hosted by Eat Your Veg and me, Bangers & Mash.

family-foodies

Disclosure: I received complimentary ingredients from Dr Oetker in order to try out this recipe. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

Mango and chilli chutney

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One of the things I like most about an Indian meal is all the condiments that come with it. And one of my all-time favourites is mango chutney. There happened to be an offer on mangoes at the supermarket and, rather than turning them into smoothies for the girls, the thought occurred to me to have a go at making my own mango chutney.

The end result was really very good, even if I do say so myself. I made it when Mum was staying with us the other weekend and she took a jar back home to Spain and has been raving about it, so you see, it’s not just me that thinks so.

spices web

It packs a punch, flavoured with a whole bunch of aromatic spices and a healthy hit of fresh chilli, partnered with the sweet red onion and the even sweeter, sticky, gooey mango. With a big pile of poppadoms in front of me, I could probably work my way through an entire jar in one sitting. Easily. It’s possibly a little too fiery for the children, although our nine-year-old might be brave enough to give it a go. But I rather hope she’s not too keen. All the more for me then.

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Mango and chilli chutney

Makes 3 jars

1 cinnamon stick or a few pieces of cassia bark
1 whole nutmeg
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp whole cloves
½ tsp white peppercorns
1 Indonesian long peppercorn (optional)
3 large mangoes (slightly under-ripe are best)
juice of 1 orange, plus the rind of 1 quarter, finely chopped
2 red onions, finely chopped
250ml white wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 red chillies, finely chopped (I kept the seeds but you might want to remove these)
450g demerara sugar

Place all the spices in a piece of muslin and tie with string to form a little spice bag.

Peel, stone and chop your mangoes – keep half of the flesh big and chunky, and cut the other half into smaller pieces. We all have different approaches to cutting mangoes and I generally end up hacking mine to pieces. But for more professional tips, check out a YouTube video – there are videos on YouTube for absolutely everything, aren’t there?

Reserving the sugar and larger mango pieces until later, put the rest of the ingredients, including the spice bag, in a really large stainless steel pan. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes until the mango and onions are soft.

Throw in the rest of the mango and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Then increase the heat and boil until the mixture becomes thick and jam-like, stirring every now and then.

Remove from the heat and take out the spice bag. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, which gives you enough time to sterilise your jam jars. Wash them in soapy water, rinse clean and dry. Then pop the jars in the bottom oven of the Aga or a conventional oven preheated to 110°C / gas mark ¼ for 20 minutes.

Pour the chutney into the hot, sterilised jars and seal.

As well as being a traditional accompaniment to Indian food, mango chutney is delicious with cold meats and very good in a Cheddar cheese sandwich.

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I’m entering my mango and chilli chutney into the Spice Trail challenge, a monthly food bloggers event which I host and is this month celebrating spiced preserves and pickles.

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Green goo iced buns for Halloween

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I always say this, but when I cook with my children, I have to be in just the right mood. A laid-back, chilled-out, hey-it’s-fine-to-wreck-the-kitchen kind of mood. Because cooking should be fun, right? For all of us, kids and parents alike. Which also means I won’t be too precious about what the end result actually looks like.

Green Goo Halloween Iced Buns4

Take these Halloween iced buns for example. Who in their right mind wants to eat something smothered in black icing? Well, my daughters it would seem. Especially when covered in hundreds-and-thousands and oozing with green jam – or green snot as my two like to call it. Delightful pair. Continue reading

White chocolate, beetroot and cardamom mousse

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Look away now if you’re on a diet. While this mousse might contain a generous helping of roast beetroot, I can make no claims for it being at all healthy. It’s rich, indulgent and highly calorific. Which is why it tastes so darn good.

Isn’t it the most amazing colour? You can imagine the look on my girls’ faces when they first saw it. Continue reading