January’s Family Foodies challenge: hidden goodies


We all want to feed our little ones good, healthy food, and yet that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. As parents and carers, we play a huge role in shaping our children’s attitudes towards food but the individual child’s tastes and character play a big part too.

Take my two daughters, for instance. Our first daughter Jess is nearly nine, and will eat practically everything you put in front of her. Everything that is, except mushrooms for some reason. But overall she is an absolute joy to feed and cook for and she’s always been this way, ever since weaning. She has an adventurous and curious approach towards food and is always eager to try new things. A lover of strong, bold flavours, Jess delights in being able to eat chillies almost as hot as those my husband and I can eat.

So my husband and I were rather proud about this little foodie we assumed we had created. And then our second daughter comes along; Mia, who is now nearly six. While she will eat quite a varied diet, it is only after a great deal of coaxing and cajoling. And disguising. Mia likes meat and plain foods. Bangers and mash is one of her favourites, or a straightforward roast dinner; sweet puddings and chocolate. You can see the look of suspicion instantly appear in her eyes when I serve up anything different, or smelling of spices, or containing a heavy quota of vegetables.

Yet our children have had exactly the same influences, have grown up being fed the same foods and tasting the same tastes and yet their whole response to food is at such polar opposites.

That’s why I’m thrilled to be hosting this month’s Family Foodies challenge, calling for your favourite family recipes featuring Hidden Goodies.

HIDDEN GOODIESWhile I’m not a big believer of making special food for children and would much rather they ate the same good food as the rest of us, we do need to acknowledge that sometimes children need a little extra persuasion to enjoy new foods, tastes and flavours. And yes sometimes, at the end of the day, all we care about is making sure our kids get something nutritious inside them, whether they realise it or not.

So that’s this month challenge. What are your cunning ploys and devious devices for getting some of the good stuff into your kids – be it fruit, vegetables, fibre, nuts or pulses? What are your favourite recipes containing hidden goodies? At the end of this month’s challenge, it would be fantastic to have a store of ideas to share with other parents looking for creative ideas on how to tackle this age old problem.

Win a delicious juice and smoothie recipe book

At the end of the Hidden Goodies Family Foodies challenge, one lucky winner will receive a recipe book from Passion 4 Juice, featuring an inspiring collection of tempting juice and smoothie recipes created by Trish Tucker May. Trish launched her mobile juice bar at the Glastonbury Festival back in 2003 and since then thousands of festival goers have experienced her amazing taste sensations, both here in the UK and in her native Australia.

passion 4 juice

Family Foodie Entry Guidelines:

  • You may submit any recipe on your blog that fits this month’s theme, new or from the archive, and feel free to enter as many times as you wish. You’re also welcome to submit the post to other challenges too. If the recipe is not your own, please give the appropriate credit.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Tuesday 28 January 2014.
  • Display the Family Foodies badge (below) on your recipe post, with a link back to both Eat Your Veg and Bangers & Mash, as well as details of this month’s challenge.
  • If you’re on Twitter, then please tweet your post to myself @BangerMashChatand Lou @Eat_Your_Veg and include the hashtag #FamilyFoodies. We’ll retweet all that we see.
  • You may enter from anywhere in the blogosphere, and we’ll happily post out any prizes.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe. The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries. Winners will get to display a Family Foodie Winner annotated badge on their blog if they wish and their recipe will go through to the Family Foodies Hall of Fame on each of our sites.
  • All entries will be added to the Family Foodies Pinterest Group Board.

I’m really looking forward to seeing your Hidden Goodies entries!

January’s entries…

  1. Turkey Sliders from Mamacook
  2. Spinach and Potato Bites from Mamacook
  3. Broccoli Frittata from Mamacook
  4. Chocolate and Beetroot Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting from Selma’s Table
  5. Spicy Chicken Burgers from Caroline Makes
  6. Chicken Cutlets with Veggies from Happiness is Homemade
  7. Chorizo and Vegetable Stromboli from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families
  8. Smoked Mackerel Fish Cakes from Mamacook
  9. Broccoli, Courgette and Stilton Soup from Caroline Makes
  10. Veggie Sausageless Rolls from The Crazy Kitchen
  11. Chicken, Pearl Barley and Veggie Stew from Eat Your Veg
  12. Slow Cooker Turkey Supreme from JibberJabberUK
  13. Chocolate Avocado Mousse from Eat Your Veg
  14. Mini Calzones with Asparagus from My Tasty Adventures
  15. Avocado Oat Cookies with Raisins and Chocolate from Veggie Desserts
  16. Creamy Green Chicken Curry from Dip’s Diner
  17. Roast Cauliflower Cheese Soup from Bangers & Mash
  18. Lamb & Potato Bake from JibberJabberUK
  19. Green Olive & Date Breadsticks from How to Cook Good Food
  20. Parsnip, Carrot & Lentil Soup from Tinned Tomatoes
  21. Beef Pie with Hidden Carrot (and Other Vegetables) from Gluten Free Alchemist
  22. Apricot, Coconut & Plain Chocolate Cookies from Eat Your Veg
  23. Carrot & Courgette Fritters from The Spicy Pear
  24. Jerusalem Artichoke Cake from Chocolate Log Blog
  25. Jerusalem Artichoke and Rosemary Soup with Jerusalem Artichoke Crisps from Allotment 2 Kitchen
  26. Leftover Rice Balls from My Tasty Adventures
  27. Roast Vegetable Sauce for Pasta from Bangers & Mash
  28. Slow Cooker Carrot & Coriander Soup from JibberJabberUK
  29. Vegetarian Canneloni from Spurs Cook
  30. Fig and Honey Smoothie from Bangers & Mash
  31. Beef Ragu from Feed My Family!


Snowflake tear and share iced buns

snowflake Collage

These snowflake iced buns would make a fun teatime centre piece when friends and family are gathered together over Christmas, particularly if there are children in the equation. They are very easy to make as well, and the children will love to get involved in the baking as much as the eating.

Flavoured with cinnamon and lemon and sprinkled with a tiny touch of confectioner’s glitter, the buns are sticky, sweet and wonderfully festive but without the rich heaviness of many of the cakes and puddings around at this time of year. Perfect with a cup of afternoon tea.

snowflake iced buns

This recipe is based on one I found on the Delicious website.

Snowflake tear and share iced buns

250g strong white bread flour
250g plain flour
1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
2 tsp salt
50g soft butter
2 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
100ml semi-skimmed milk, warmed
1 egg
200ml tepid water
400g icing sugar
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
confectioner’s glitter

Sift the flours into a mixing bowl along with the yeast and salt. Make a well in the middle, and add the soft butter, sugar, cinnamon milk and egg. Bring all the ingredients together using a wooden spoon, adding the tepid water just a little at a time until you have a wet dough.

Dust your work surface with flour, and then knead your dough for a good 10 minutes until smooth and stretchy. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for an hour or so, until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

Knock back the dough by giving it a decent punch. Pull off small pieces of dough, approximately palm-sized and roll into the various components of your snowflake shape. You’ll need eight longish buns for the main ‘spokes’ of the snowflake and eight slightly shorter ones for the V-shapes at the end of each spoke. Don’t make them too fat; remember they will rise again. Arrange the buns, almost touching on a lined baking tray. I had extra dough left over, so I made a further six traditional shaped buns and placed these on a separate tray.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.

Cover the buns with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for another hour to double in size.

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until risen and a beautiful golden colour. Carefully lift the snowflake onto a wire rack to cool. Don’t worry though if it does break apart. It’s easy to put it all back together on a plate before icing.

To make the lemon icing, simply sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and mix in enough lemon juice until you get a thick but slightly runny icing. Using a tablespoon, drizzle a generous amount of icing over each bun and sprinkle over a little confectioner’s glitter for some festive sparkle. Leave for a minute or so to set, then place on a serving plate. And off you go – tear and share!

snowflake iced buns

My Spice Trail challenge for December has cinnamon as its theme, so of course I have to enter these sticky iced buns.

spice trail badge square

The buns are great to bake with and for kids, making them ideal candidates for December’s Family Foodies hosted by Eat Your Veg, where the theme is Kids Christmas.

family-foodiesAnd as the chosen letter is X over at the Alpha Bakes challenge, hosted by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes, I think these buns would be a good entry as they are perfect for your Xmas parties.

AlphaBakes Logo

Family Foodies: top lunchbox ideas

Lunchbox Collage

If you ever feel stuck in a rut when it comes to preparing your children’s lunchboxes, you’re sure to find a few new ideas here. I know my children would be over the moon to discover any one of these tasty treats in their packed lunches, and I’m sure they would be the envy of the school dining hall.

So without further ado, I have great pleasure in bringing you this month’s Family Foodies lunchbox round-up. We’ve lots of tasty savoury bakes to get things started, including some clever ways to sneak a few veggies into  the kids.

savoury vegetable cake

Savoury Vegetable Cake from Allotment 2 Kitchen

These savoury cakes from Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen look just the ticket for satisfying growling tums and will ensure your little ones are well on their way to their five-a-day, with their filling of carrots, French beans and cauliflower florets.

Apple & Smoked Cheese Pasties from The Garden Deli

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who doesn’t like a homemade pasty, and children in particular seem rather partial to a stuffed pastry creation or two. Smoked cheese is popular in our house, which happens to be the filling of these wholesome pasties from Sarah at The Garden Deli, along with her homegrown apples and sage for a fantastic flavour combination.

mini pasties

Mini Lunchbox Pasties from Bangers & Mash

More pasties, this time from me. These mini pasties are filled with minced beef, carrot and hard-boiled egg and flavoured with a dash or Worcestershire sauce and a little black treacle. I’m rather addicted to using treacle with beef, since discovering it recently in a Higgidy Pie recipe for chilli beef.

Chilli Corn Chocolate Muffins

Chilli Corn Chocolate Muffins from Chocolate Log Blog

When I first read the name of these, I have to admit I assumed they were going to be sweet muffins but I was completely wrong. These inventive bakes from Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog feature Cheddar cheese, manzano chilli, paprika, garlic, 100% dark chocolate (“for extra umami”) and sweetcorn for a gorgeously chewy texture. Intrigued? I certainly am.


Pumpkin, Walnut & Poppy Seed Muffins with Cheddar Cheese from Lavender & Lovage

More savoury muffins up next from Karen at Lavender & Lovage, and again featuring Cheddar cheese but this time with the seasonal addition of pumpkin with walnuts and poppy seeds. My girls would be thrilled to find these in their lunchboxes, although I can also see myself serving them up at home with a big bowl of hot soup.


Cheesy Pumpkin Scones from Eat Your Veg

Lou at Eat Your Veg uses more pumpkin in this next entry, and here she succeeds in sneaking it into these incredibly tempting cheese scones. I like the idea of scattering pumpkin seeds on top for a delightfully crunchy topping.

cheese and apple scones

Cheddar Cheese, Apple & Sage Scones from Bangers & Mash

Savoury scones are a regular lunchbox filler in our house, so here’s another scone idea from me. Like Sarah at The Garden Deli with her beautiful pasties, I’ve gone for a cheese, apple and sage combination. This recipe makes around 12 scones, which ought to see you through quite a few lunches, but in actual fact they were all eaten within the day here.

sausage plait

Honey Mustard Sausage Plaits from Mint Custard

I often have cravings for sausage rolls, and when I saw both these sausage plaits from Becky at Mint Custard (and the next entry) I couldn’t stop thinking about sausage rolls for ages. I’ve never thought to include sausage rolls in a lunchbox before, but what a sound idea, although I am thinking as much of my own lunchbox as my children’s.

sausage bacon apple rolls

 Gluten Free Sausage, Bacon and Apple Rolls from the Gluten Free Alchemist

Lunchboxes can be even more of a challenge when you have to stick to a gluten-free diet, so this recipe from Kate aka the Gluten Free Alchemist will be something of a Godsend for many. Made with homemade gluten-free shortcrust pastry (using potato and gram flour) and filled with bacon, apple (more apple – hurrah!) and gluten-free sausage meat, I am literally drooling as I include this entry…

mini tarts

Mini Tarts from Bangers & Mash

You might have gathered I’m rather fond of mini what-nots for lunchboxes. As well as mini pasties, these mini tarts always go down well with my children. They’re very versatile and you can fill them with just about anything you (or the children) fancy. Or whatever you happen to have lurking in the fridge.


Hedgehog Rolls from Eat Your Veg

I often find that when kids have helped to cook something, they’re much more likely to eat it and I can’t imagine many children not enjoying making and eating these cute little hedgehog rolls from Lou at Eat Your Veg. And not just hedgehogs, but tortoises, flowers and snails too!


Luchito Honey Glazed Ham from Eat Your Veg

Lou also offers us this majestic glazed ham, which I am definitely bookmarking to make at Christmas. Her children enjoyed thick slices of this to fill hedgehog rolls in their packed lunches. What incredibly lucky children!

bento sushi rice

Bento Sushi Rice Shapes from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary

Elizabeth offers us a whole array of lunchbox ideas in her entry, including ingenious ‘ants on a log’, but it is her sushi rice shapes that I can’t wait to try first. They’re so simple but so effective; my daughter’s response when I showed her the photo was “Wow! Can we have those?”

Sweet treats

And now it’s time for some sweet treats. I like to think when I include a little sweet homemade something in their lunchboxes, it’s as if I’m sending a hug to my children while they’re at school. A bit twee perhaps, but I can be like that sometimes.

bread pudding

Bread Pudding from The Crazy Kitchen

I’d never have thought of including bread pudding in a lunchbox but after seeing this post from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen it suddenly seems like a very good idea, and one that would keep the kids’ tummies full all afternoon. I’m not sure my bread pudding would end up looking quite this beautiful though…

choc orange cranberry cookies

Chocolate, Orange & Cranberry Cookies from Utterly Scrummy

Just looking at these cookies makes me feel all Christmassy – what a great idea of Michelle from Utterly Scrummy to use chocolate orange (from her husband’s not-so-secret stash I might add) along with cranberries for a fabulously festive flavour. Personally, I think these would be far too good for the children, and would probably end up hiding them away in my own secret stash…


Super-Fruity Banana Loaf Cake from Eat Your Veg

For someone who says she’s not a baker, I’m always so impressed by the cakes Louisa posts over at Eat Your Veg. Doesn’t this fruity loaf cake look delicious? Plus it’s pretty good for you too, featuring no less than three bananas, dried apricots, sultanas, wholemeal flour and she replaces the usual butter with coconut oil and yoghurt. A perfect sweet treat for the kids’ lunchboxes I reckon.


Spiced Muesli Cake from The Crazy Kitchen

More festive baking next, this time in the form of a spiced muesli cake – a second brilliant entry from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen. It’s great cold in lunchboxes, but also makes for a comforting pud served warm from the oven with ice cream or custard. This cake really wouldn’t last very long in our house!


Soul-Cakes from Lavender & Lovage

These pretty Soul-Cakes from Karen at Lavender & Lovage are a cake-cum-biscuit, traditionally made on All Soul’s Day (just after Halloween) and were distributed by the rich to the poor of the parish. They are very easy-to-make and would be perfect with your afternoon cuppa, but do make sure you save a one or two for the children’s lunches.

lime cake

Easy Iced Lime Cake from Fab Food 4 All

My children’s school provides hot meals twice a week and when I ask them on those days what the best thing they ate was, it’s invariably an iced sponge cake of some description. So what a good idea to include it in their packed lunches too, and this iced lime cake from Camilla at Fab Food 4 All looks just the recipe to try.

spiced pumpkin and chocolate cupcakes

Spiced Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins from Leeks & Limoni

These muffins look really rather decadent but according to Katharine at Leeks & Limoni they’re actually quite virtuous. They contain no butter at all and only a little sunflower oil, and of course there’s the pumpkin too. What’s more they’re incredibly easy to make. I’m sold!

fruit and nut balls

Dried Fruit & Nut Balls from Bangers & Mash

These fruit and nut balls sound so virtuous, you really wouldn’t expect them to taste good but trust me, they really do. Although a little part of me is wondering how they’d taste if they were dipped in some gorgeously dark chocolate… By the way, my girls’ school is OK with nuts (as ingredients in cakes and biscuits etc) in packed lunches, but do check your school lunch policy before sending these in.

So there you have it, our Family Foodies’ round-up of tasty recipes to help you put some pizzazz in your lunchboxes. But there can only be one winner.

And the winner is…

Our guest judge this month is Caroline Job, the mum of three behind the inspiring website that is Lunchbox World. You should pay the site a visit as it’s packed full of lovely recipes and helpful hints and tips, plus lots of cool lunchbox-related products. So Caroline knows a thing or two about what makes a good lunchbox filler.

This is what Caroline had to say:

“I was delighted to be asked to judge this month’s round-up.  Having set up the Lunchbox World business back in 2009, when my three kids started having packed lunches at school, lunch boxes are never far from my thoughts. Helping you put the fun back into packed lunches has always been my mantra!

“When I look out for new lunch box ideas, I am always thinking: they have to be fun, something the kids will eat, nutritious and above all, attractive and easy for them to eat. If they can be bite-size or in their very own portion, I feel it goes down into their tummies that much quicker! If we think it’s boring, the kids will too, so it is always worth the time and effort to make it FUN! I aim for the kids to bring home those lunch boxes empty (ie eaten), which then puts a smile on my face, as I then think “job well done”.

“There were so many fun, tasty, and nutritious entries, it was a tough decision. It would have been great to taste them all! But there were three that jumped out at me. The hedgehog rolls from Eat Your Veg are such fun and I am sure any kid finding them in their lunch box would gobble them up immediately! But I hesitated as the prep/cooking time was a long one. I was also drawn to the bite-size mini tarts by Bangers and Mash, but I was looking for something a bit more festive for this time of year.

Then bingo! I saw the delicious cranberry, orange and chocolate cookies made by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy. These tick all the boxes for me and they’ve got the festive flavour too.


So because it’s Christmas, I have a fun prize for Michelle. Hopefully every time you use it you’ll think of Lunchbox World. A fun dotty lunch box with matching picnic mat, that folds up into approximately A4 size, so very portable. Don’t feel you have to wait until spring though, you can picnic indoors as well as outdoors!

Thanks again for inviting me to judge your competition. If you are looking for more lunch box ideas, tips, hints and recipe ideas, do have a look at the Lunchbox World blog, where there are posts on family fun too, and the main Lunchbox World website, which is all about the world of lunchboxes!”

Congratulations Michelle on your thoroughly deserved win. Drop me a line with your address and your prize will be winging its way to you very soon.

Thank you to all our bloggers for sharing their lunchbox recipes. December’s Family Foodies challenge is now open over at Eat Your Veg and the theme this month is, rather appropriately, Kids Christmas. Louisa and I look forward seeing your fun and festive family recipes!


November’s Family Foodies challenge: lunchbox ideas


Hot on the heels of The Spice Trail, today I bring you news of a second blog event I am hosting here on Bangers & Mash this month.

Family Foodies is the brain child of Lou at Eat Your Veg and I was thrilled when she invited me to co-host this recipe-sharing challenge with her. October was the inaugural month and the Weekend Slowies theme attracted a fantastic array of tempting recipes, providing lots of ideas for delicious family food to cook when you have a little more time to spend in the kitchen.

Now it’s my turn to host the challenge and for November the theme is Lunchbox Ideas.

Every parent and carer knows how easy it is to get stuck in a rut when it comes to thinking up tasty and appealing fillers for packed lunches. So come on fellow food bloggers – let’s get together and pool our ideas for easy, healthy ways to fill our children’s tummies, make sure they get their five-a-day, tickle and tantalize their taste buds, all while giving them a loving, foodie ‘hug from home’.

Whether it’s suggestions for nutritious sandwich fillings or different types of homemade bread or wraps, new takes on salads or dips, or inspiring twists on muffins, flapjacks or other home-baked goodies – we want to know what your children love to eat in their lunchboxes and how to give them them the energy boost and brain power they need for the afternoon ahead.

Oh, and there just might be a prize for the best lunchbox idea at the end of the month too!

Family Foodie Entry Guidelines:

  • You may submit any recipe on your blog that fits this month’s theme, new or from the archive, and feel free to enter as many times as you wish. You’re also welcome to submit the post to other challenges too. If the recipe is not your own, please give the appropriate credit.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Thursday 28 November 2013.
  • Display the Family Foodies badge (above) on your recipe post, with a link back to both Eat Your Veg and Bangers & Mash, as well as details of this month’s challenge.
  • If you’re on Twitter, then please tweet your post to myself @BangerMashChat and Lou @Eat_Your_Veg and include the hashtag #FamilyFoodies. We’ll retweet all that we see.
  • You may enter from anywhere in the blogosphere, and we’ll happily post out any prizes.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe. The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries. Winners will get to display a Family Foodie Winner annotated badge on their blog if they wish and their recipe will go through to the Family Foodies Hall of Fame on each of our sites.
  • All entries will be added to the Family Foodies Pinterest Group Board.

I’m really looking forward to seeing your entries!

November’s entries:

  1. Bread Pudding from The Crazy Kitchen
  2. Savoury Vegetable Cake from Allotment 2 Kitchen
  3. Apple & Smoked Cheese Pasties from The Garden Deli
  4. Chocolate, Orange & Cranberry Cookies from Utterly Scrummy
  5. Bento Sushi Rice Shapes from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary
  6. Super-Fruity Banana Loaf Cake from Eat Your Veg
  7. Spiced Muesli Cake from The Crazy Kitchen
  8. Soul-Cakes from Lavender & Lovage
  9. Honey Mustard Sausage Plaits from Mint Custard
  10. Gluten Free Sausage, Bacon and Apple Rolls from the Gluten Free Alchemist
  11. Cheesy Pumpkin Scones from Eat Your Veg
  12. Easy Iced Lime Cake from Fab Food 4 All
  13. Mini Lunchbox Pasties and Tarts from Bangers & Mash
  14. Spiced Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins from Leeks & Limoni
  15. Chilli Corn Chocolate Muffins from Chocolate Log Blog
  16. Luchito Honey Glazed Ham from Eat Your Veg
  17. Pumpkin, Walnut & Poppy Seed Muffins with Cheddar Cheese from Lavender & Lovage
  18. Cheddar Cheese, Apple & Sage Scones from Bangers & Mash
  19. Hedgehog Rolls from Eat Your Veg
  20. Dried Fruit & Nut Balls from Bangers & Mash

Wells Food Festival and double baked Cheddar cheese soufflés

Double baked Cheddar cheese souffles

Soufflés have something of a reputation for being a little on the tricky side. If any of the Master Chef contestants ever say they’re going to bake a souffle, there’s always a sharp intake of breath and concerned expressions. But really, they’re not all that hard to do. Admittedly this was only the second time I’ve ever attempted them but both times they’ve been a great success. So you see, if I can make them, anyone can.

I used a lovely local Cheddar cheese in these soufflés. Dan Holland who owns the Queen Street Deli in Wells recommended Montgomery Cheddar, which is handmade on Manor Farm in North Cadbury. It’s a traditional, unpasteurised Somerset Cheddar, matured for 12 months to give it a gorgeously deep, nutty flavour.

Montgomery Cheddar

The Queen Street Deli is another local business taking part in the Wells Food Festival on Sunday 20 October. Dan is organising the cheese stand at the festival, which will highlight the fantastic wealth of Somerset cheeses we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep.  During the day, local cheese makers will take turns on the stall to share their knowledge and passion with visitors.  Dan is also selecting and sourcing the cheese for the Somerset Sunday Lunch in the town hall, which he describes as a great honour and a chance to showcase a few of his favourite and most popular cheeses.

Queen Street Deli

The Queen Street Deli is a small friendly shop, offering the best of local and continental food.  Dan opened it in 2008 when he decide to leave teaching maths at the local school and went for a complete career change, working with food – something that had been a bit of a dream for a while.

Despite the recession, he has managed to grow the business over the last five years, thanks to the support of his very loyal customers. “The greater percentage of our customer base is people who live in and around Wells, rather than tourists, which is great and hopefully means we are getting it mostly right!” Dan tells me. “Recently the opening of new supermarkets in Wells has created more challenging times but we are looking forward to a busy Christmas period and will be taking the usual orders for cheese, ham and hampers.”

I asked Dan what he thought this first Wells Food Festival means for the food and drink of Somerset.

“Hopefully it will reinforce and build on the reputation that Wells and Somerset already have as an area that produces and creates excellent artisan food and drink,” says Dan. ” It will certainly emphasise the diversity and range of quality products that we have all around us and be a real opportunity for the local businesses to promote themselves to a wide audience.”

So what are Dan’s personal favourites when it comes to Somerset’s food and drink?

“Obviously I have a slight bias towards cheese,” Dan replies. “We have some great Cheddars such from the likes of Barbers, Keens and Montgomery but I still think Westcombe is my fave.  I also really love the range of cheese produced by the Somerset Cheese Company in Ditcheat. Their Rainbows Gold is very popular in the deli at the moment; rich curd made with Channel Island cows milk then washed in Golden Chalice ale from Glastonbury.

“Beyond cheese I really like Mendip Moments Ice Cream and James Chocolates, two very local companies that produce interesting and tasty products that everyone loves. My latest top recommendation for eating out is Matt’s Kitchen in Bruton. There’s no menu as such – everyone eats what Matt is cooking that night, there’s a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and lovely food.”

Armed with a decent chunk of Montgomery Cheddar, I returned home all inspired to bake my soufflés to hopefully celebrate a true taste of Somerset. The recipe is based on one I found in Mary Berry’s New Aga Cookbook for Swiss Double Soufflés, substituting her Gruyère for the Cheddar. It’s a perfect dish to cook in the Aga, but don’t worry – instructions for conventional ovens are also included below.

As the name says, these soufflés are double baked: first in ramekins in a bain-marie, and then again in a the cream sauce. So it’s no great disaster if your soufflés flop a little, as the double baking means they won’t end up all puffed up anyway. But they still taste beautifully light and airy, albeit rather rich and luxurious at the same time. They made for the perfect Saturday lunch, served with crusty bread and a simple salad, and they went down well with the children too – despite them containing spinach, which is not Mia’s favourite vegetable.

cheese souffles

Double baked Cheddar cheese soufflés

100g spinach, washed and finely shredded
300ml milk
40g butter
40g plain flour
salt and pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
50g mature Cheddar cheese
3 eggs, separated
butter for greasing

50g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
300ml double cream

If you’re using a conventional oven, preheat to 220°C/gas mark 7.

Place the spinach and milk in a pan and bring to the boil. Stir well, remove from the heat and leave to one side.

Melt the butter in a large pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour. Return to the heat and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the spinach and milk, a bit at a time, and bring to a gentle boil, stirring all the time. Simmer to thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat and mix in the salt, pepper, a good grating of nutmeg, and Cheddar cheese. Once these are well mixed in, stir in the egg yolks.

In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff and then carefully fold into the sauce.

Generously butter six small ramekins and spoon in the souffle mixture. Place them in a small roasting tin and pour boiling water into the tin until it is halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

If you’re cooking in an Aga, place the bain-marie in the roasting oven on the grid shelf on the oven floor for 15-20 minutes. After 10 minutes of the cooking time, when the soufflés are a good golden brown colour, turn the tin around and slide in the cold plain shelf on the second set of runners. Cook until they are springy to the touch.

If you’re cooking in a conventional oven, simply place the bain-marie in the oven for 15-20 minutes and cook the soufflés until golden and are springy to the touch.

Remove from the oven and leave for 5-10 minutes in the ramekins to allow the soufflés to shrink back a little.

Butter a shallow ovenproof dish which is just big enough to take the soufflés without them touching. Sprinkle half the grated Cheddar onto the bottom of the dish.

Carefully remove the soufflés from the ramekins using a small palette knife and place in the ovenproof dish. Season the cream and pour over the soufflés. Sprinkle the remaining Cheddar on top and bake in the roasting oven if you’re using an Aga, this time without the cold plain shelf, or in your regular oven, for 15-20 minutes until the soufflés are golden brown.

Serve with bread and salad.

Double baked Cheddar cheese souffles


As these double baked soufflés are not to be rushed and are best made when you have some time on your hands, they definitely fit the bill as a Weekend Slowie, which is the theme this month for the Family Foodies challenge over at Eat Your Veg. So here you are, Lou – hope you like them!