Sticky toffee pudding

sticky toffee pudding

When I was little, I really enjoyed school dinners. Strange I know, as most people seem to have terrible memories of the stuff dished up in the school canteen. In particular, I enjoyed the puddings, with the exception of school rice pudding which was truly ghastly and has succeeded in putting me off for life. But I did love the old fashioned sponge puddings, served up with thick custard, especially when it was the pink variety.

My children go to a small village school where they only have hot school dinners twice a week as they have to be brought in from a neighbouring school. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I find myself interrogating the kids to find out what they ate that day and am always very jealous when I hear they had a hot pudding with custard.

We didn’t really eat those kinds of puddings at home when I was a child, although occasionally I’d be treated to one of those sponge puddings that came in a large tin. That’s why I really appreciated visits to my grandparents in Lancashire, as my Nana Barbara makes the best puddings ever.

When Nana came down to visit at Christmas, she brought some of her wonderful sticky toffee pudding with her, and I was in seventh heaven. Nana presented me with a large tray of the dark brown sponge cake to go in the freezer, with a jar full of toffee sauce. It’s been such a treat to be able to warm some up in the microwave at the end of a busy day at work and enjoy a bowl of blissful, homemade sticky stodginess.

Nana was kind enough to let me have her recipe, and because I’m a generous soul, I’d like to share it with you too. Enjoy!

sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee pudding

Feeds 8

200g dried dates, stoned and chopped
300ml water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g dark brown sugar
80g butter, softened
2 large eggs
vanilla extract
175g self raising flour

For the toffee sauce

150g butter
220ml double cream
150g dark brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Put the chopped dates and water into a saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until gorgeously thick and sticky. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda and leave to cool.

Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs and add a few drops of vanilla extract, and beat it all together well. Carefully fold in the flour, followed by the gooey dates.

Grease a baking tin (20cm square) and line with greaseproof paper. Spoon in the mixture and bake for around 40 minutes until the sponge is firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a board and slice into 8 portions.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and then stir in the cream and sugar. Cook gently until the sauce has thickened and turned a glossy, dark caramel colour.

Serve the warm sponge cake in bowls and pour over the toffee sauce. It’s very good as it is but, if you want to push the boat out, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or perhaps a drizzle of cream.

This article was first published in the Wells Journal on 20 March 2014.

Chinese sausage and noodle soup

This is not an authentic Chinese soup recipe by any stretch of the imagination. It’s something I concocted using ingredients from the store cupboard in an attempt to liven up another Savoy cabbage to arrive in the veg box.

It also features slices of Chinese sausage, which you should be able to get from an oriental supermarket, but if not feel free to substitute with any cured sausage that takes your fancy.

I made up the dish as I went along and was really rather surprised at just how tasty and moreish it ended up and have made it several times since. As it takes only half an hour or so to rustle up, it’s an excellent contender for a quick mid-week dinner when you don’t want to spend all evening in the kitchen.

Chinese sausage and noodle soup

Serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
½ onion, peeled and finely chopped
3cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Chinese sausage (I used a skinny one about 20cm long), thinly sliced
½ Savoy cabbage, shredded
1.5l hot chicken stock
50ml light soy sauce
50ml Chinese rice wine (Shaohsing) or dry sherry
25ml black rice vinegar
80g egg noodles (I use either medium or fine)

In a large pan heat the oil and gently fry the onion until golden. Add the ginger, garlic and sausage and fry together for a couple more minutes.

Throw in the cabbage and stir-fry for a minute.

Pour in the hot stock, soy sauce, rice wine and vinegar and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to cook for 10 minutes.

Add the noodles and simmer for another three minutes or according to the packet instructions. Serve and enjoy.

I’m also sharing this soup at the Fantastic Foods Friday supper party over at Justa’s Kitchen.

Pappardelle with courgette and basil

In the last year we have dramatically reduced the amount of meat we eat in the Bangers & Mash household. Don’t get me wrong, I could never give up meat entirely. I enjoy it far too much.

But there is no getting away from the fact that meat is expensive, both on the pocket and as a global resource. Good quality meat that has been responsibly reared and farmed is not cheap to produce. And I refuse to buy cheap meat because I dread to think what conditions the animals have been kept in.

So a major part of reducing the cost of our weekly meals has been to reduce the amount of meat we consume: less of it but good quality stuff when we do. I’m sure this must be much better for us from a health point of view too.

At first it was difficult, especially I think for my husband who has taken a little while to convince that you can have a fully satisfying meal without any meaty component. But for me it’s turning into quite an adventure, discovering a whole new world of vegetarian cuisine.

This pasta dish, pappardelle with courgette (zucchini) and basil, is one we eat quite often, particularly in the summer when courgettes are in abundance. I have actually been making it for years – it has been my staple dish whenever veggie friends came over for a meal. Now we eat it with or without the vegetarian guests.

It’s based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. He makes it with tagliatelle but I tend to use whatever pasta happens to be in the cupboard. Pappardelle is my favourite for this. Oh yes, and I use much more garlic than Jamie.

Pappardelle with courgette and basil

5 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 courgettes, sliced very thinly
juice of 1 lemon
handful of fresh basil, torn
400g pappardelle (or pasta of your choice)
salt and pepper
100g parmesan cheese, grated

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Gently fry the garlic in 4 tbsp of olive oil for a minute, then add the sliced courgette and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and basil and cook for a few more minutes until the courgette is tender.

When the pasta is ready, drain and combine with the courgette. Season to taste, add most of the parmesan and remaining olive oil and mix well. Serve with some more torn basil and a sprinkling of parmesan.

Pork, black pudding and apple pie

I remember my Nana Barbara taking me to Bury Market when I was a little girl. I must have been about six or seven. What I remember most was seeing a pair of the most amazing sparkly, silver, strappy shoes. With heels. And I wanted them so, so much. But of course I didn’t get them. If I did, it wouldn’t be one of those memories that stayed with me forever I suppose.

If you took me to Bury Market these days, I don’t think I’d be looking at clothes or shoes, even of the silver variety. It would be the food stalls that would receive my undivided attention.

One item in particular I couldn’t leave without would be some proper Lancastrian black pudding. So it might be one of those food stuffs you don’t want to think too much about what goes into (it’s largely pork blood and fat, if you were unsure), but it’s a food I’ve loved since I was a child, especially as part of a cooked British breakfast. It’s probably due to my northern roots on my Dad’s side.

When I saw a recipe featuring black pudding on my Twitter timeline recently, I knew immediately I’d have to try it. @seldom_seen_boy had seen Brian Turner cook a pork and black pudding pie on that British institution of daytime television known as This Morning. I made a mental note there and then that the next time we had roast pork, I’d use the leftovers to make this pie.

So that’s precisely what I did, and it was very, very good. I wasn’t 100% sure whether the rest of the family would like it. My husband’s never been all that keen on black pudding and I thought the kids might turn their noses up at it too. Overall though it got a thumbs up. Only my seven-year-old was a little unsure, and about halfway through she started picking out the black pudding. But at least she had a go.

Personally I loved it. Who needs silver shoes when you have a black pudding pie, eh?

Pork, black pudding and apple pie

Serves 8

1 tbsp vegetable oil
30g butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large carrot, grated
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
300ml chicken stock
350g roast pork, shredded
250g black pudding, diced
2 apples, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
500g ready made shortcrust pastry
1 egg, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6.

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan, and gently cook the onion, garlic and carrot until they start to colour.

Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and simmer gently without a lid for 15 minutes. Stir in the shredded pork.

In a separate pan, fry the black pudding and apple until slightly browned. Then stir this into the rest of the pie filling. Season, bring to the boil, and then leave to cool.

Roll out half the pastry into a thin circle the same size as an ovenproof dish. Grease the dish and then lay over the pastry. Pile on the pie filling.

Roll out the second half of the pastry into a circle the same size as the first. Egg wash the rim of the pie and lay the lid over the filling. Press the rim, scallop the edges and cut a tiny air hole in the centre of the pastry. Brush with egg wash and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with mashed potatoes and onion gravy.

Maple syrup and banana cupcakes

My two girls almost ate us out of house and home during the Easter holidays. And now that they are back to school and nursery, they are coming home in the afternoon absolutely ravenous. There’s no way they can keep going until tea time without a quick snack as soon as they get through the front door.

These maple syrup and banana cupcakes are perfect, and they’re also good as a lunch box treat. They contain wholemeal flour and fruit so they’re also vaguely healthy!

Maple syrup and banana cupcakes

Makes 12

150g self-raising flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
50g Demerara sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
1 tsp cinnamon
60g margarine, very soft
2 large ripe bananas
50g sultanas
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6 and line a bun tin with 12 paper cake cases.

Mix together the self-raising and wholemeal flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the soft margarine and mash it into the flour using a fork until well combined.

Mash the bananas using a fork and stir this into the mixture, along with the sultanas.

Add the beaten eggs, maple syrup and milk and beat until the mixture is well combine and dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and sprinkle a little Demerara sugar on top of each one.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool. Eat them as they come or make into more of a pudding by eating warm drizzled with more maple syrup.

 

Apple crumble muffins

We’ve got another cake sale coming up soon at my daughter’s primary school. These are definitely one of the PTA’s most successful ways to raise funds. You should see the number of homemade cakes the parents bring in. It’s very impressive.

I have a couple of standards I usually bake, which I know always get snapped up. The first is the banana chocolate cupcake, which I’ve featured here before. And the other is the scrumptious apple crumble muffin, the recipe for which I’ve taken from Linda Collister’s excellent book ‘Baking with Kids’.

I like to think of both these cakes as being vaguely healthy since they contain fruit. Obviously they also contain lots of butter and sugar too, so I don’t think you can really claim they’re a substitute for one of your child’s five-a-day!

The apple crumble muffin is a big hit in our house. The perfect combination of cake and pudding.

And as they contain apple, I’m entering this muffin into February’s In Season Challenge over at Make It Bake It, where the theme this month is any recipe containing apples.

Apple crumble muffins

Topping:

50g butter
50g sugar
50g plain flour
50g ground almonds

Cakes:

275g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
175g caster sugar
1 lemon
150g butter
2 eggs
100ml milk
2 eating apples

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

To make the topping, cut the butter into small pieces and put in a mixing bowl with the other ingredients. Work them together until it looks like crumble mixture.

For the cake mixture, sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and mix in the sugar. Stir in the zest from the lemon and make a well. Pour the melted butter, beaten eggs and milk into the well, and mix gently.

Spoon the mixture into paper muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tray. Core and roughly chop the apples and scatter on top of the muffin mixture, then sprinkle over the topping.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy with a cup of tea or a glass of milk!

Roast vegetable lasagne

Lasagne has always been one of my favourite foods. I loved it when my mother cooked it when I was little and I now love making it for my own children.

It’s not a quick dish to prepare though. In fact I used to think it was a bit of a faff. But these days, when I’m juggling work and family, it’s one of the meals I’ll make once the kids are tucked up in bed and I have the kitchen to myself, generally listening to Jo Whiley on Radio 2, all ready to eat the following evening. There’s nothing nicer than getting back from work and simply having to pop supper in the over and it’s all done.

We’re trying to eat less meat in our house. It’s partly to save money, partly for environmental reasons and partly to eat more healthily. And this is one of those vegetarian alternative meals where you really don’t miss the meat. It’s packed with big bold flavours and the aubergine and courgette give it lots of substance.

Because this meal is such a favourite with my clan, I’m submitting the recipe to The Pink Whisk Challenge, which is dedicated to raising awareness of Save the Children and the Hidden Hunger campaign.

Save the Children is asking everyone to Name a Day, a day when they will do just one thing to help save children’s lives. And they are asking David Cameron to do the same. It is a terrible fact that we live in a world with enough food for everyone, yet hunger is still able to kill 7,000 children every day.  Can you help Save the Children put an end to this Hidden Hunger?

All the recipes gathered for the Pink Whisk Challenge will be collated and published in a Save the Children e-book to be sold to raise awareness and funds for the campaign. Do you have a family favourite to add? Please do. You have until 31 March 2012. Full details over at The Pink Whisk.

Use lots of fresh rosemary and keep the vegetables nice and chunky

Roast vegetable lasagne

Serves 6

For the roast vegetables

1 small onion, peeled and quartered
3 courgettes, chopped diagonally into thick slices
2 aubergines, chopped into large chunks
1 red and 1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced
6 cloves of garlic, skins removed
handful of cherry tomatoes
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
olive oil

For the cheese sauce

50g butter
40g plain flour
450ml milk
100g Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 x 400g tins chopped plum tomatoes
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

250g lasagne sheets
Extra grated cheese for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 200°C/gas 6.

Begin by roasting your vegetables. Place them all in a large roasting tray along with the rosemary and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper, pour over some olive oil and toss together to cover the vegetables well. Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes, turning the vegetables halfway through, until they are tender and beginning to brown.

The roast vegetables with garlic and rosemary smell sensational

While the vegetables are roasting prepare the two sauces.

The tomato sauce is very simple. Fry the onions in the olive oil until golden. Add the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and stir together. Simmer gently for around 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.

A very simple tomato sauce

For the cheese sauce, place the butter, flour and milk in a saucepan. Whisk over a gentle heat until it has thickened. Then stir in grated cheese until it has melted into the sauce. Again, season to taste.

When the vegetables are roasted, place a layer of these in the bottom of a large ovenproof dish. (Mine isn’t particularly large so I use a medium sized one and a small one.) Make sure you pull out the thick rosemary stalks. Nobody likes chewing on twigs.

Pour some tomato sauce over the vegetables and then cover with a layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat this process until you have filled your dish, ending with a layer of vegetables and then sauce.

Now pour over the cheese sauce. I like to wiggle the dish from side to side a little to make sure the cheese sauce seeps down the sides and through all the cracks.

Finally scatter some grated Cheddar cheese over the top. Place in the oven for about 30 minutes until the cheese is browned and bubbly and a knife inserted goes easily through the pasta.

Perfect served with a salad and some homemade garlic bread.

Who can resist the molten cheese on top of a big bowl of lasagne?