Marzipan pigs in blankets

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and as usual my girls and I have been busy creating a whole array of edible gifts. We’ve made pretty bottles of sloe syrup (with sloes we picked and froze back in the autumn), candied orange slices and all kinds of chocolates and truffles.

We actually made these dinky marzipan piggies as presents for family and friends last year, and they were a huge hit. They are of course inspired by the classic pigs in blankets, one of the best bits of the traditional British Christmas dinner, where little chipolatas are wrapped in bacon and roast around the turkey.

Continue reading “Marzipan pigs in blankets”

Easy bean casserole with HECK vegan sausages

November has been World Vegan Month, and while I’m a long way off from becoming a full-time vegan, I have been enjoying experimenting with more vegan dishes and am keen to make a greater proportion of my diet plant-based.

Not all my family are with me in this though – my husband and youngest daughter in particular. So mealtimes can invariably be quite a divisive affair. Anything meat-free or a meat-alternative will usually get frowned upon and tutted at, and generally scoffed at rather than scoffed.

But not this bean casserole, which has become a familiar and easy staple this autumn. Hearty, tasty, one pot cooking – it’s simple and satisfying.

bean casserole 2

When HECK sent me samples of their new vegan range of sausages to try out, I reckoned they’d be the perfect accompaniment to this casserole.

HECK say the recipe for their new sausages has been four years in the making and, as well as being plant-based and gluten-free, they’re all high fibre too. What I really liked about them – and possibly what my husband and daughter didn’t – is they’re not ‘fake meat’. I really don’t like those veggie sausages that pretend to be meat. That fake meat texture really doesn’t do it for me. Bleurghh! With these sausages, you really taste the veggies, pulses and spices – they’re the stars here.

bean casserole and vegan HECK sausages 4

At £3 for a pack of six sausages, the range includes four recipes:

  • Sweet Fusion: fragrant Thai pesto, sweet potato & sticky rice
  • The Beet Goes On: beetroot, carrot, chilli and horseradish
  • Super Greens: quinoa, spinach, kale, ginger and mint
  • Bollywood: cauliflower, green lentils, pulses and seeds, spiced with chilli, ginger, cumin and turmeric.

The spicy Bollywoods are my favourites, while the teenager is rather partial to The Beet Goes On, with a cheeky kick of horseradish. The Super Greens are great too, but a rather alarming colour…

But as I say the others weren’t impressed, and wanted to know why they couldn’t have ‘real’ bangers. Ah well, you can’t please everyone all the time I guess.

Easy bean casserole

Serves 6

3 tbsp olive oil
3 large celery sticks, sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 large leeks, trimmed and sliced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 large courgette, roughly diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
750ml vegetable stock
100g kale, stalks removed and leaves roughly chopped
410g tin of borlotti beans, drained
410g tin of cannellini beans, drained
half a lemon
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large heavy pan over a medium heat. Add the celery and carrots and cook for five minutes or so, stirring often. Then add the leeks and cook for another couple of minutes or so before stirring in the caraway seeds, courgette, oregano and garlic.

Give it another five minutes, before adding the tomatoes and stock. Stir in the kale, then bring to the boil and then simmer without a lid for around half an hour. Stir every now and then. Cook until the vegetables are just tender.

Tip in the beans and warm through for a few minutes. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste.

Serve with some tasty vegan sausages, a bowlful of hot, fluffy rice or a big pile of garlicky mashed potato.

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If you’d like to try out more vegan recipes, you’ll find some delicious ideas on the The Vegan Society’s website, along with info on their new app VeGuide app with everything you need to start your own vegan journey.

Disclosure: I was supplied with complimentary samples for review purposes. As ever all views expressed are mine and only products I genuinely like make it onto my blog – and I’ll let you know if not all the family agree with me!

Vegan pumpkin spice cookies

The kids are out and about, hopefully not terrifying the neighbours too much with their Halloween antics, so I’m home alone – answering the door to a steady flow of creepy (and quite cute) trick or treaters.

I think I got the better deal. It’s a chilly night and has just started to drizzle, while I’m sat here, warm and cosy with a big mug of tea and a couple of these delicious pumpkin spice cookies. My oldest baked them today to take over to her Halloween sleepover. Her friend’s mum is vegan and she was keen to make them dairy-free so everyone could enjoy them. I’m sure they will!

Vegan pumpkin spice cookies

Makes around 15

175g plain flour
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
60g vegan spread or margarine
90g demerara sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp golden syrup (plus a little more for fixing the icing in place)
250g orange ready to roll icing
coloured writing icing (we used black, green and red)
icing sugar (for dusting)

Sieve the flour into a large bowl and stir in the spices and baking powder.

Add the margarine in small chunks and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then stir in the demerara sugar.

In another bowk, mix the oil and golden syrup together. Gradually stir this into the rest of the mixture, then use your hands to bring it all together to form a dough. Knead until smooth.

Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 170ºC / gas mark 3. Grease and line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Flour your surface, and then roll out the dough to about 5mm thick. Use a sharp knife to carefully cut out pumpkin shapes.

Transfer to the lined baking trays and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. After a few minutes, transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely before decorating.

Dust your surface and rolling pin with a little icing sugar, and roll out the orange icing until it’s as thin as you can get it. Cut out pumpkin shapes, slightly smaller than the cookies. Fix into place by brushing with a little golden syrup. Draw on your pumpkin faces and little green stalks with the coloured writing icing, and leave to dry for half an hour or so.

World Cup snacks with Aldi

Between you, me and the goal posts, I’m not the world’s biggest football fan. While I’m proud to say I can actually explain the off-side rule, I’m not one to get in a frenzy about a full month of coverage of the beautiful game. The last time I got vaguely excited about watching the World Cup, I was 15 back in 1990 and for some reason I did get rather swept along by the nation’s response to England’s roller coaster performance. If I were ever asked to name English footballers, the only names I’ll be able to come up with are the likes of Lineker, Platt, Gascgoigne, Pearce and Beardsley. So no, I really don’t know much about football.

However, introduce the notion of food to the prospect of watching a match, and my interest is piqued. When Aldi invited me to create a menu to accompany today’s Denmark versus France group stage game, there was a challenge I couldn’t resist.

Food for a footie feast really doesn’t need to be overly fancy, but it’s got to be tasty and easy to eat. So finger food it had to be. Here’s my menu…

I’m a big fan of Aldi. While I don’t do my full weekly shop there – mainly because they don’t offer online delivery – I do pop into our local store on North Street at least once a week, as I really like their fresh fruit and vegetables and their range of meat is pretty good too. Aldi has great value deals on meats, fruit and veg every week as part of their Super 6 deals. And did you know Aldi recently won The Grocer of the Year at the Grocer Gold Awards 2018? Not surprising when you consider I picked up all the ingredients for my menu for less than £25. And there were some top notch products in there, including a Somerset Crunchy Vintage Cheddar, which won Silver in 2017 British Cheese Awards no less, and some very delicious smoked salmon. The brioche rolls are very good too.

For my Danish / French inspired snacks, I decided to keep things as simple as possible yet packed full of flavour. My croque monsieur mini tarts are insanely moreish – something to do with that gorgeously salty Somerset Cheddar I’d say. Yes, I know croque monsieur should really be made with Gruyere, but it’s good to include a little West Country twist too. Hot dogs are an easy option too and always a crowd pleaser. Topped with either gooey brie or sweet tangy agurkesalat (sweet pickled cucumber which apparently Danes eat with just about anything), the humble hot dog becomes a tad more interesting.

And of course the Danes are famous for their smørrebrød or open sandwiches made with dark rye bread. My mini nearly bite-sized versions are topped with a creamy smoked salmon tartare, fresh and zingy crushed peas with tarragon, and one of my favourite dips – beetroot and mint; such a bargain at just 95p a tub. I can pretty much guarantee they’ll have been devoured well before half-time.

Best of luck to both France and Denmark today. Let’s hope I’ll be as impressed by your skills on the pitch as I am your snacks from the kitchen. Although I’d be surprised!


Mini croque monsieur tarts

Makes 12 – 16 mini tarts

1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
100g strong Cheddar cheese (or Gruyere), grated
150ml creme fraiche
1 tsp Dijon mustard
100g cooked, sliced ham, roughly chopped
1 sprig fresh flat parsley, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200ºC / gas mark 6.

Roll out the puff pastry and use a cookie/scone cutter to cut out vol-au-vent size circles. Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Using a slightly smaller sized cutter, gently score an inner circle but be careful not to cut all the way through the pastry. Gently prick this inner circle with a fork – again not all the way through.

Brush the pastry circles with the beaten egg.

In a large bowl, mix together the cheese, creme fraiche, mustard, ham and parsley. Season to taste.

Place about a desert spoonful of the cheese and ham mixture onto the inner circle of each of your pastry tarts.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden. Delicious served warm or cold.

Crushed pea and tarragon smørrebrød

Makes around 12 mini open sandwiches

100g frozen peas
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
2 sprigs of tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
2 large slices rye bread
cream cheese
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Cook the frozen peas in boiling water for a few minutes until just cooked, and leave to cool.

Place the peas in a blender with two tablespoonfuls of lemon juice and the tarragon. Whiz for a few seconds until roughly chopped. Season to taste, and add more lemon juice if needed.

Slice the rye bread into smallish squares and spread generously with cream cheese. Carefully spoon the crushed peas on top of each one. Serve with wedges of lemon and another grind of black pepper.

Smoked salmon tartare smørrebrød

Makes around 12 mini open sandwiches

100g smoked salmon, roughly chopped
small shallot, finely chopped
2 sprigs of dill, chopped (plus more for garnish)
zest of 1 lemon
1 pickled gherkin, finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
150ml soured cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 large slices rye bread
1 lemon, cut into wedges

In a medium bowl, mix together the salmon, shallot, dill, lemon zest, gherkin, mustard and soured cream. Season to taste.

Again, slice the rye bread into little squares, and generously spread with the smoked salmon tartare. Garnish with dill and serve with lemon wedges.

Beetroot and mint smørrebrød

Makes around 12 mini open sandwiches

2 large slices of rye bread
1 pot Aldi beetroot and mint dip
Green olives

This really doesn’t need a recipe. Simply slice the bread into small squares and top with the dip and an olive. And scoff!

Danish pickled cucumbers – agurkesalat

1 large cucumber
table salt
80ml cider vinegar
40ml water
30g caster sugar
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 sprigs fresh dill, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Slice the cucumber as thinly as you can – I used a mandolin on its finest setting – and place in a large bowl. You then need to salt the cucumber.

Sprinkle generously with salt and place a small plate on top, weighed down with any heavy items to hand in the kitchen, such as tin cans. Leave for 20-30 minutes or so. Place the cucumber slices in a colander and rinse well with cold water. Wrap in a clean tea towel and squeeze out the water.

Place the cucumber slices in a large, clean jar.

In a jug, combine the vinegar and water and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and add the coriander seeds, dill and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Pop on the lid and place in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Great in sandwiches or use as a relish on hot dogs or burgers. Or straight from the jar using your fingers, if you’re my sister-in-law!

Danish dog with agurkesalat (pickled cucumber) and French dog with brie

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Aldi commissioned me to develop these recipes, and supplied all the ingredients. As always, all opinions are completely my own and I only ever work with brands I genuinely like.

Adopt an olive tree for Christmas and a recipe for garlic and sage focaccia

If you’re having trouble finding the perfect Christmas present for the foodie in your life, then look no further. With Pomora, you can adopt an olive tree in Italy (either Sicily or Campania) on their behalf, and every quarter they’ll receive three cans of delicious olive oil direct from their grower.

What’s more, readers of Bangers & Mash can receive a brilliant 25% off the first quarter of an adoption. Continue reading “Adopt an olive tree for Christmas and a recipe for garlic and sage focaccia”

Autumn half-term baking with kids

I’m off work this week to spend the half-term school holidays at home with the kids and – what a surprise – the weather is truly miserable. So yes, we’re resorting to our favourite rainy day activity: baking. We’ve been having fun experimenting with edible decorations from Dr Oetker and have come up with three tasty bakes you might like to try out with your gang the next time rainy day boredom sets in. Continue reading “Autumn half-term baking with kids”

Spanakorizo – Greek spinach and rice

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve been on holiday abroad I always tend to bring back with me at least one new dish to try out at home. This year my family enjoyed a wonderful week in Corfu, and the dish I most enjoyed discovering and which I promised myself I’d cook again was this very simple spanakorizo – a kind of Greek pilaf, made with rice, spinach, feta cheese and lots of lovely fresh dill. I’d never come across it before but it’s quickly becoming a family staple – particularly now the weather has turned, and a regular reminder of warmer climes is very welcome. Continue reading “Spanakorizo – Greek spinach and rice”

Easy tagliatelle and summer berry tarts

Recently we’ve been eating rather a lot of tagliatelle. Tagliatelle with sweetcorn, peas and bacon. Sometimes twice a week, and maybe again at the weekend. Oh, and fruit tarts too. Lots and lots of fruit tarts. That’s what happens when one of your kids makes it through to the finals of a young chef competition. You have to get in an awful lot of practice. Continue reading “Easy tagliatelle and summer berry tarts”

Burgers with Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce

I keep reading articles announcing the arrival of the barbecue season. However, for us Brits, there really is no such thing as a barbecue season. It’s much more of a grab-the-opportunity-when-you-can season, as you just never know how long the sun is set to shine for.

I’m pleased to confirm the sun is most definitely shining this weekend here in Bristol though, and so the perfect time to bring you a very easy but very tasty burger recipe for the next time you get the chance to fire up the barbie. Continue reading “Burgers with Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce”

Homemade KFC

After several failed attempts and a fair bit of tweaking, I’m very pleased to finally bring you this recipe for baked KFC-style chicken. For ages my family and I have been talking about coming up with our own homemade alternative to KFC, as the kids have had it drummed eating them that the real thing from the fast food chain simply isn’t allowed. There are a number of reasons for this, namely that it’s not the healthiest of foods and they have KFC has a terrible track record when it comes to animal welfare. Continue reading “Homemade KFC”