Round Up: May’s Recipes for Life challenge

rhubarbCollage

I knew when we announced the three ingredients for May’s Recipes for Life it would prove a popular month for the challenge, and I wasn’t wrong. Faced with a trio of rhubarb, lemon and spice, food bloggers demonstrated just how creative they can be in the kitchen, concocting both sweet and savoury dishes from fools and muffins, ice creams and sorbets to curry and cous cous and even spaghetti!

Let’s take a look at each of those lovely seasonal rhubarb dishes in turn…

rhubarb compote

I got the rhubarb party started with a simple Rhubarb Compote. It’s very good as an accompaniment to roast duck, pork or lamb, and if you make a little too much, use up the rest in a big thick cheese sandwich. My compote is flavoured with ginger and mixed spice, but you could go with whichever spices take your fancy really.

rhubarb-fool

I love a good fool and this Rhubarb, Ginger and Lemon Fool from Claire at Under The Blue Gum Tree looks especially good, don’t you agree? Tracking down fresh rhubarb in South Africa proved something of a challenge but I admire Claire’s dedication to the cause as she succeeded eventually in finding “a few gnarly sticks” at her local grocers which she was able to transform into this delectable entry.

rhubarb-lemon-scones

Next comes the turn of Sarah at The Garden Deli who brings us these Rhubarb and Lemon Scones as a tempting teatime treat. They sound incredibly easy to make, which is always a bonus in my eyes, and I can just imagine they’d be perfect served straight from the oven with some butter and jam. I’m making myself hungry just writing this…

funasagranrhubarb

I’ve discovered that rhubarb infused with star anise is one of my favourite flavour combinations of all time, which is exactly the combination brought to us by Fun as a Gran with her Rhubarb, Lemon and a Spice entry. It looks a great pudding for anyone watching their sugar intake, as both the sponge cake and stewed rhubarb are made using agave sugar.

rhubarb jam with sconesMichelle at Utterly Scrummy Food for Families made the most of the glut of rhubarb on her allotment by whipping up a big batch of this utterly scrummy Rhubarb and Vanilla Jam. I’ve never tried making jam with rhubarb before and so didn’t realise that it is rather low in pectin, which is what generally helps jam to set. I was interested to hear that Michelle uses lemon juice and the pips in a muslin bag to increase the pectin levels. I’m storing that tip away for future reference…

rhubarb crumble muffins

I’d considered attempting some Rhubarb Crumble Muffins myself but when I saw these beauties from Chez Foti I knew mine would never be able to compete. Don’t they look so good and sweetly satisfying? And they’d be just as good for breakfast as they would at teatime or as an after-school snack. Yes, I can imagine munching one or two of these at just about any time of day!

rhubarb and lemon sorbet

So instead of making muffins, I came up with Spiced Rhubarb and Lemon Sorbet with Cinnamon Cookies. They’re both incredibly easy to make and there is something just so magical about the perfumed flavour of star anise with the sharp tang of rhubarb. I could eat this all day. And all night.

rhubarb ripple ice cream

Another icy treat comes in the fabulous form of this Rhubarb Ripple Ice Cream with Hazelnut Oat Clusters from Elizabeth’s Kitchen. Doesn’t it look sensational? I can just imagine how good that creamy rhubarby ice cream tastes alongside the nutty crunch of the hazelnut clusters. Oh yes, this is my kind of dessert.

rhubarb friandsIt’s the turn of Ness at JibberJabberUK to tempt us next with her pretty Rhubarb, Lemon and Ginger Friands. There’s something very cute about mini loaves; I think I might have to get myself some mini loaf tins so I can have a go at these. They look perfect for a properly civilised afternoon tea.

spicedlemoncheesecake

It was a delight to welcome Rich In Flavour to the Recipes for Life challenge for the first time and what a wonderful first entry! This Spiced Lemon & Rhubarb Cheesecake looks simply gorgeous and I love the sound of the lemon syrup flavoured with star anise and Szechuan pepper. I simply must try this recipe!

rhubarb lemon muffins

Janice from the Farmersgirl Kitchen baked us another batch of muffins; this time Spiced Rhubarb & Lemon Muffins, featuring cinnamon and “little nuggets of intense crystallised ginger”, which sounds right up my street. They look lovely and moist and as with the earlier muffins from Chez Foti, I can easily picture myself consuming a few of these with a mug of coffee for a lazy Sunday morning brunch.

rhubarb syllabub

Fun as a Gran returns with a second entry next; a very creative Rhubarb Syllabub served with a lemon meringue, which I imagine would bring a perfectly light crunchiness to complement the smooth creaminess of the rich syllabub.

Rhubarb-ginger-cream

Laura at How to Cook Good Food always comes up with heavenly creations and this Lavender Poached Rhubarb with Ginger Custard Cream is no exception. It sounds like Laura has been getting through quite a lot of rhubarb recently from her allotment, including rhubarb vodka which I’m rather intrigued by, as well as raw rhubarb in an Ottolenghi sour salad. But this poached rhubarb is definitely the one I want to try first. Simply beautiful.

fennel rhubarb

There is nothing remotely foolish about this Fennel Rhubarb Foolish from Mel at Edible Things. She flavours her rhubarb fool with fennel seed and it is garnished with candied fennel. This sounds to me like an incredible flavour combination; one Mel was inspired to come up with after eating fennel-flavoured sausages with roasted rhubarb as part of a rhubarb tasting menu at the Rollende Keukens festival in Amsterdam. Love it!

rhubarbicecream

We have a second helping of  Rhubarb Ripple Ice Cream now, this time from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen and served with Mini Spiced Lemon Cookies. As Helen says herself, this is “bloody gorgeous”!

curry

I really wasn’t expecting to see a curry amongst our entries this month, but here it is, a Pork and Rhubarb Curry with Lemon Pilau Rice from Spurs Cook. Martin says he got the idea of using rhubarb in a curry by a certain celebrity chef who stir fries pork with rhubarb. He decided to go in a slightly different direction and came up with a curry. Inspired!

moroccanlamb

Here’s another delicious savoury rhubarb dish – The Crazy Kitchen’s Moroccan Lamb & Rhubarb with Lemon & Coriander Cous Cous. Helen freely admits she’s not completely convinced rhubarb even grows in Morocco but it’s the cinnamon and dried fruit in this dish that give it a wonderful Moroccan flavour. It’s an incredibly easy recipe, mostly throwing things in a pan and leaving them to do “their thing”, which is the kind of cooking I adore, and I know my family would really go for these flavour combinations.

rhubarb lemon and ginger cakeBack to baked goodies next with this Rhubarb, Lemon and Ginger Cake, a second tasty entry from JibberJabberUK. Ness made it for her local Clandestine Cake Club meeting and it was completely devoured save for one slice. And those clandestine cake makers certainly know their stuff!

rhubarbcustardpizza

Why do pizzas have to be savoury? This is the question posed by Helen at The Crazy Kitchen as she delivers a fabulous Rhubarb and Custard Crumble Pizza. Isn’t it a great idea? Another lovely simple recipe from Helen that I can’t wait to try out.

lemonpudding

Not content with three rhubarb dishes, here comes Helen at The Crazy Kitchen with entry number four! She offers us a scrumptiously rib-sticking Lemon and Rhubarb Pudding that reminds me of an old fashioned pud my Nana often makes. I’m starting to drool slightly thinking about just how satisfying this would be. Nom nom!

tart

Guess what? Here’s The Crazy Kitchen with her fifth (yes, I said fifth!) entry for May’s challenge! This time she’s rustled up a Cheese and Rhubarb Chutney Tart – is there no end to Helen’s culinary talents when it comes to the humble rhubarb?! I’ve been thinking I should make a rhubarb chutney to use up some of the bags of rhubarb stocking up my freezer, and now I have the perfect recipe.

rhubarb ice cream

I’m really pleased to welcome another first-timer to the Recipes for Life challenge. The Grumbling Tummy has created another tempting Rhubarb Ice Cream which she serves with Lemon Spiced Biscuits – I can’t believe this is the first time Hazey has made her own ice cream as it looks fantastic.

Rhubarb_spag

I was surprised to receive a curry recipe this month, and I was equally surprised when Matt and Corpy told me they were planning on making Poached Rhubarb Spaghetti as their entry. I was totally intrigued to see how it would turn out and the two dads didn’t disappoint. Doesn’t this look so good? I know my girls are going to love it when I give it a go very soon.

rhubarb cinnamon cake with Splenda
Finally here is another entry from yours truly – a simple Rhubarb Cinnamon Cake which I made the other weekend for a friend with diabetes using a sugar alternative. It’s not half bad and we ended up eating some the next day for breakfast. How many times have I mentioned eating cake for breakfast in this post now I wonder?

So you see what I mean? A truly eclectic assortment of wonderful rhubarb recipes and not a single crumble in sight, unless you count crumble-topped muffins, which I don’t. Who’d have thought rhubarb could be so very versatile?

Now it’s time for the announcement you’re all waiting for… The winner of May’s Recipes for Life challenge…

The cookery group at SWALLOW found it nigh on impossible to settle on a single winner, and so we have two – one for a savoury dish and one for a sweet.

The winner of the sweet category is The Garden Deli for her beautiful Rhubarb and Lemon Scones. We all thought these looked so deliciously delightful, yet so simple to make too, which is what we look for in Recipes for Life. Congratulations Sarah!

And the winner of the savoury prize? Well, it had to be The Crazy Kitchen for her incredible Moroccan Lamb and Rhubarb with Lemon and Coriander Cous Cous. Another dish that’s simple to prepare and absolutely packed full of flavour, this had to win top place – even though it means Helen has now won three months in a row! This woman is on a serious roll! But seriously Helen, you totally deserve it and we’ll all been staggered by the support you have shown this challenge. Thank you!

Thank you also to everyone who entered May’s Recipes for Life. I was blown away by the number of entries this month, every one a winner its own right. If you’re stuck with a glut of rhubarb, you can’t fail to be inspired by this little lot!

Watch this space for details of the three ingredients for June’s challenge – I’ll be announcing the next lot very soon and I really can’t wait to see what you make of them. Until next time!

recipes for life

Rhubarb cinnamon cake

rhubarb cinnamon cake

We had people over lunch on Sunday, including one friend who has diabetes. Apparently she loves puddings and is always naughty and ends up eating sugary things she shouldn’t. So I resolved to come up with a pudding suitable for diabetics. The other criteria was that it required lots of rhubarb. Ever since I mentioned at work that I’m featuring rhubarb recipes on the blog, everyone is bringing in their homegrown rhubarb for me, which is wonderful but the freezer is beginning to feel the strain.

There are lots of ideas for diabetic-friendly desserts on the Diabetes UK website. I came across an apple cinnamon cake, that I liked the sound of. It uses a sugar alternative called Splenda and wondered if it might work with rhubarb instead. My husband was not enthusiastic when I told him about the fake sugar cake, and so I decided to make two versions, one with Splenda and one with normal sugar to test whether there was any perceivable difference.

When it came to serving the cakes after our Sunday lunch (roast pork accompanied by, yes of course, a rhubarb compote), I started to wonder why I hadn’t opted for an easy, tried-and-tested pudding. But thankfully the cakes turned out well, although for some reason despite cooking them at the same time and rotating them in the oven, the two cakes were completely different colours. The Splenda cake was a lovely golden colour, while the normal sugar version was a deep brown.

And both cakes got the thumbs up. No-one could taste any significant difference between the two, including Marge, our diabetic friend, who ironically decided to have a big slice of both! It’s a very moist, squishy cake, and served warm it’s really much more of a pudding than a cake, especially when you have it with creme fraiche or ice cream as we did.

Have you baked with Splenda or some other sugar alternative? How have you found it?

rhubarb cinnamon cake with Splenda

Rhubarb Cinnamon Cake

a little oil for greasing the tin
100g plain flour
8 heaped tbsp Splenda granulated sweetener or ordinary caster sugar
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
6g baking powder
3 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp skimmed milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
75g low fat spread, melted
250g rhubarb, chopped into 3cm chunks

Preheat the oven to 200°C / Gas Mark 6. Grease a cake tin (around 23cm) with a little oil

Sift the flour into a large bowl and mix in Splenda or caster sugar, baking powder and cinnamon.

Make a well in the middle and whisk in the eggs and milk, followed by the melted low fat spread.

Gently fold in the rhubarb.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until golden or brown (depending on what sugar you use it seems) and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Turn out onto to cooling rack and leave to cool just a touch before serving.

recipes for life

As these cakes feature rhubarb, lemon and spice I’m entering them into this month’s Recipes for Life challenge for the charity SWALLOW, which you may recall is hosted by me!

SimpleinSeason

And as rhubarb is such the seasonal fruit of the moment, I’m also entering it into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season blog event, where you are guaranteed to find a whole host of delicious seasonal delights.

Spiced rhubarb and lemon sorbet with cinnamon cookies


rhubarb and lemon sorbet

“Rhubarb. Rhubarb. Rhubarb.”

“Rhubarb. Rhubarb. Rhu-barb!” 

“Rhubarb?”

“Rhubarb!”

Back in the day, when I was a young thespian-type, this is the noise you’d hear coming from all us extras on stage attempting to emulate the murmur of chit-chat. And it’s exactly how Twitter and the wider blogosphere sound right now. Yes, it’s rhubarb season and recipes and conversations about rhubarb abound. Oh, and of course, there are quite a few mentions of

“Asparagus?”

and the occasional

“Wild garlic….”

and perhaps a slightly hopeful

“Strawwwwwwwberry!”

I’m partly to blame of course for the fascination in all things rhubarb, as this tart and tasty perennial is one of the three set ingredients for May’s Recipes for Life challenge I’m hosting, together with lemon and spice. We’ve already seen some delicious rhubarb recipes entered, from ice cream and fools to scones and muffins – you can take a look at all the entries submitted so far here.

This fragrantly spicy rhubarb and lemon sorbet is my second entry. It’s incredibly simple and absolutely delicious, and so ideal for Recipes for Life, as we’re trying to come up with a selection of easy recipes for SWALLOW members, all adults with learning difficulties, to prepare during their cookery lessons and ultimately to feature in a charity cookbook.

cinnamon oat cookie

I served my sorbet with an oaty sultana and cinnamon cookie on the side; a perfectly crunchy, slightly chewy biscuit with which to scoop up your sorbet.

rhubarb lemon sorbet

Spiced rhubarb and lemon sorbet

250g rhubarb, washed and trimmed and cut into 5cm chunks
110g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ a lemon
75ml water
1 star anise
Half a cinnamon stick

Place the rhubarb, caster sugar, lemon zest and juice, water and spices in a saucepan and cook over a gentle heat for around 10 to 15 minutes until soft.

Leave to cool. Remove the star anise and cinnamon stick, and then blend the rhubarb in a liquidizer until smooth.

Pour into in an air-tight container and place in the freezer. Give it a good stir every hour or so to prevent ice crystals forming. Keep doing this until the sorbet is set, which will take around four hours. If you have an ice cream maker, which I don’t – sadly – then I guess it’s even easier and you can leave it to churn itself.

Serve your sorbet with an oat cookie on the side…

Cinnamon oat cookies

125g butter
200g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
150g rolled oats
125g plain flour
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
75g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease and line two baking trays with baking parchment.

Put the butter in a large saucepan and melt over a low heat. Remove from the heat, add the sugar and combine well.

Add the beaten egg and mix it in. Next add the oats, flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and sultanas and mix it all together thoroughly.

Use a tablespoon to spoon the cookie mixture onto the baking trays, making sure they are spaced out well. Squish the mixture flat with your fingers.

Bake the cookies in the oven for around 15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool for a few minutes on the tray before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Stored in an air-tight, they’ll keep for up to five days. As if they’ll get the chance!

rhubarb lemon sorbet

I’m entering this sorbet into May’s Recipes for Life challenge, as well as Ren Behan’s wonderful Simple and in Season community blog event, where I think you may find a fair few rhubarb recipes this month!

recipes for life

SimpleinSeason

May’s Recipes for Life challenge: cooking with rhubarb, lemon and spice

rhubarbCollage

Take part in the Recipes for Life challenge and you could see your dish featured in SWALLOW’s new charity cookbook!

We are now well and truly into rhubarb season, as Sarah who works for SWALLOW knows only too well. She has a huge patch of rhubarb in her garden and she doesn’t know what to do with it. So this month we are using the Recipes for Life challenge to help Sarah out by providing her with lots of delicious ideas on how she can put her rhubarb to good use.

Of course, the rules of the Recipes for Life call for a trio of ingredients, and so we’re teaming the rhubarb with lemon and spice – ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, chilli, cardamom, star anise – whichever spices take your fancy and tickle your taste buds. All you have to do to enter the challenge is to combine these three ingredients to make a tasty, simple and wholesome dish and post it on your blog. Make sure any other ingredients you include are easy to come by.

We’re using Recipes for Life to come up with a stock of easy recipes for members of SWALLOW’s cookery club to make in their sessions. SWALLOW is a fab charity based in Midsomer Norton in South West England, supporting adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives. The challenge is running for six months and at the end, the best recipes will be included in SWALLOW’s new cookery book to help raise much-needed funds for the charity.

recipes for life

Recipes for Life: how to enter

  1. Display the Recipes for Life badge (shown above) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  2. You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they are based on the three main ingredients selected for this month and accompanied only by everyday items.
  3. 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 May 2013.
  4. If you tweet your post, please mention #RecipesforLife@BangerMashChat and@SWALLOWcharity in your tweet and we will retweet everyone we see.
  5. Feel free to republish old recipe posts, but please add the information about this challenge and the Recipes for Life badge.
  6. As entries come in, links to these will be added to this page and at the end of the month there will be a round-up of all entries received.
  7. SWALLOW staff and members will choose their favourite recipe at the end of each month, and the winner will receive a small prize.
  8. A selection of recipes entered each month will be featured in the SWALLOW cookbook to be published later this year, helping the charity to raise much-needed funds for its ongoing work.

As my first entry, here’s a very simple rhubarb compote. It’s lovely served with roast duck, pork or lamb, and I’m also rather partial to it in a big thick cheese sandwich.

rhubarb compote

Rhubarb compote

knob of butter
small onion, chopped
1 tsp chopped ginger
½ tsp mixed spice
150g rhubarb, chopped
handful of sultanas or raisins
2 tbsp apple juice
2 tbsp lemon juice

Melt the butter in a pan and gently cook the onion and ginger until soft and golden. Stir in the mixed spice and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the rhubarb and dried fruit and mix well to coat the fruit in the spicy butter. Cook for a few minutes before adding the apple and lemon juice. Stir and allow to stew gently for around ten minutes until the rhubarb is soft and mushy but still holds its shape. Serve at room temperature.

rhubarb compote with roast duck

May’s entries

  1. Rhubarb, Ginger and Lemon Fool from Under The Blue Gum Tree
  2. Rhubarb and Lemon Scones from The Garden Deli
  3. Rhubarb, Lemon and a Spice from Fun as a Gran
  4. Rhubarb and Vanilla Jam from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families
  5. Rhubarb Crumble Muffins from Chez Foti
  6. Spiced Rhubarb and Lemon Sorbet with Cinnamon Cookies from Bangers & Mash
  7. Rhubarb Ripple Ice Cream with Hazelnut Oat Clusters from Elizabeth’s Kitchen
  8. Rhubarb, Lemon and Ginger Friands from JibberJabberUK
  9. Spiced Lemon & Rhubarb Cheesecake from Rich In Flavour
  10. Spiced Rhubarb & Lemon Muffins from Farmersgirl Kitchen
  11. Rhubarb Syllabub from Fun as a Gran
  12. Lavender Poached Rhubarb with Ginger Custard Cream from How to Cook Good Food
  13. Fennel Rhubarb Foolish from Edible Things
  14. Rhubarb Ripple Ice Cream with Mini Spiced Lemon Cookies from The Crazy Kitchen
  15. Pork and Rhubarb Curry with Lemon Pilau Rice from Spurs Cook
  16. Moroccan Lamb & Rhubarb with Lemon & Coriander Cous Cous from The Crazy Kitchen
  17. Rhubarb, Lemon and Ginger Cake from JibberJabberUK
  18. Rhubarb and Custard Crumble Pizza from The Crazy Kitchen
  19. Lemon and Rhubarb Pudding from The Crazy Kitchen
  20. Cheese and Rhubarb Chutney Tart from The Crazy Kitchen
  21. Rhubarb Ice Cream with Lemon Spiced Biscuits from The Grumbling Tummy
  22. Poached Rhubarb Spaghetti from The Good Stuff
  23. Rhubarb Cinnamon Cake from Bangers & Mash

Round Up: April’s Recipes for Life Challenge

It’s been another fantastic month for the Recipes for Life challenge. I must admit, when I was first told the three ingredients the SWALLOW cookery club had decided on for April, I wasn’t sure how many recipes we’d receive. But as ever you lot have excelled yourselves and we’ve ended up with an incredibly varied and mouthwateringly tempting array of dishes all using the three set ingredients of pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes.

recipes for life

So without further ado, let’s take a look at those delicious dishes and, most importantly, announce this month’s winner…

pork chops

I got things started with these Rosemary and Garlic Pork Chops with Roasted Corn on the Cob and Spicy Tomato Relish. Roasting the corn gives it an extra sweet intensity and make sure you serve it with lots of lovely mashed potato to soak up the juices from the pork and the butter from the corn.

sausagesweetnsour
Slow cooker sweet and sour sausages

Don’t these Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Sausages from The Crazy Kitchen look good? The list of ingredients might look long, but don’t be fooled – this is a quick and easy dish to prepare, just perfect for a midweek supper. And what’s more it’s a very frugal dish, making one pack of sausages go a long way.

sausage-chilli-2
Sausage chilli

We had to bend the rules slightly for this Sausage Chilli from The Garden Deli. Sarah was very keen to take part in the challenge but as Sarah is vegetarian, we really couldn’t make her cook with meat. So Sarah entered her sausage chilli using veggie sausages and then I (or rather my husband) tried out her recipe with pork sausages – see below. And we can confirm it works superbly both ways! Here’s how ours turned out:

sausage chilli
Sausage chilli – mark two

The whole family loved it. Sarah’s chilli is a feast of colours, flavours and textures, and perfect for little ones as it has just the right level of spice without being too hot.

ribs
BBQ pork ribs with sweetcorn salsa

Next up is a dish that’s making me yearn for summer! Doesn’t your mouth just instantly water when you look at Under The Blue Gum Tree’s gorgeous photos of her sumptuous BBQ Pork Ribs with Sweetcorn Salsa? The ribs are smothered in a simple BBQ sauce made from store cupboard ingredients – the trick is not to marinade the ribs but instead to pour the sauce on for the last 10 minutes of cooking time – and served with a zingy salsa made from roasted corn and fresh tomatoes.

porkcreole
Slow cooker pork Creole

JibberJabberUK has come up trumps with this satisfying Slow Cooker Pork Creole – as she says it might not be 100% authentic, but it’s a great way to add a bit of spice to your family’s food. It’s an incredibly versatile dish, so you can throw in whatever vegetables you happen to have in the fridge or freezer.

sausagepasta
Sausage pesto pasta

You may recall that Helen from The Crazy Kitchen entered not one, not two, but three dishes into last month’s Recipes for Life. And she’s worked her magic again! This Sausage Pesto Pasta is her second entry for April’s challenge and I know my own family would absolutely love this. The recipe is simplicity itself but you just know it’s packed with flavour and would satisfy even the grumbliest of tummies.

ovenbakedtortilla
Oven baked tortilla

And for her third offering, Helen from The Crazy Kitchen brings us this ever so easy Oven Baked Tortilla – a great one-pan meal, which Helen says is one of her favourite dishes to prepare when they’re away on holiday as it’s just so simple to do.

Pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes with vermicelli rice noodles
Pork, sweetcorn & tomatoes with vermicelli rice noodles

The brilliantly named Fun as a Gran came up with a wheat, egg, dairy and gluten-free dish of Pork, Sweetcorn & Tomatoes with Vermicelli Rice Noodles. I love the fact there is “no fancy measuring” and the recipe can be adapted up or down at the drop of a hat to cater for any number of people staying for dinner.

pulled pork
Pulled pork wrap with tomato and chorizo salsa and sweet sweet sweetcorn

Here’s a great first-time entry from Spurs Cook: Pulled Pork Wrap with Tomato and Chorizo Salsa and Sweet Sweet Sweetcorn. I’m a big fan of slow-cooked pork, especially when it’s seasoned with a whole host of rich, warming spices like paprika, cumin, cayenne, chilli and fennel, and I’m intrigued by the idea of the sweetness of the sweetcorn intensified even more with the addition of honey. Got to give it a go!

retro pork
Very retro sweet and sour pork

How about this for a taste of summer sunshine? Chez Foti’s Very Retro Sweet and Sour Pork looks just glorious and I bet it tastes every bit as good as it looks. Sweet and sour flavours are always a firm family favourite and this looks so much better for you than the horrible battered version with a gloopy sauce you so often find in takeaways. Like Louisa, I think I might add a touch of chilli too in the adult version…

ciabatta pizza

My Cheat’s Ciabatta Pizza is the next entry and to be honest hardly deserves to be described as a recipe as it’s just so easy to make. It’s simply sliced bread with your favourite pizza-style ingredients chucked on top and either grilled or baked in the oven. A quick and easy dinner to throw together when you don’t have time to make your pizza dough from scratch.

red rice
Red rice accompanied by pork, sweetcorn and tomato

And last but most certainly not least is a second entry from Fun as a Gran – Red Rice Accompanied by Pork, Sweetcorn and Tomato – another dish that’s easily adaptable depending on what you happen to have in. It features lovely nutty red rice served alongside pork steaks in a sauce made from a can of chicken or mushroom soup. It reminds me of some of my favourite student recipes!

Well, who would have thought pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes could lend themselves to such very different dishes? I look forward to working my way through these over the coming weeks.

But of course, what you’re waiting to hear is the name of this month’s winner. And so I’m very pleased to announce that the winner of first prize in April’s Recipes for Life challenge, as chosen by SWALLOW’s cookery club, is…

Helen from The Crazy Kitchen for her Oven Baked Tortilla!

Huge congratulations to Helen for her well-deserved win, particularly as this means she’s now scooped first place two months in a row! The guys at SWALLOW said they liked her tortilla because it features a good selection of veggies and was just a little bit different.

Special mentions also go to Under The Blue Gum Tree’s BBQ Pork Ribs and Chez Foti’s Retro Sweet & Sour Pork, which the group said both looked and sounded gorgeous too.

So well done again to Helen – a little gift will be coming to you in the post in the next few days. Watch this space to find out the three set ingredients for May’s challenge, and let’s see if we can knock Helen off the coveted top spot – surely she can’t make it three in row? Or can she?!

recipes for life

If you’d like to find out more about the work of SWALLOW and perhaps get involved in their Twenty for 20 appeal as part of the charity’s 20th anniversary celebrations, please take a look at their funky new website.

Sausage chilli

sausage chilli

I feel a bit of a fraudster posting this sausage chilli on my blog.

Firstly, it’s not actually my recipe. It comes from Sarah over at The Garden Deli, who is as talented in the kitchen as she is in the garden. Sarah really wanted to enter April’s Recipes for Life challenge – the three set ingredients this month are pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes. As a vegetarian, she obviously found the pork element a challenge too far. And so we agreed that Sarah would create a vegetarian dish and I’d then try out her recipe to see if it would also work with meat.

The second reason I’m feeling a little fraudulent is because I wasn’t even the one to try cooking Sarah’s dish. I handed that honour over to my husband Jason. This means Sarah’s recipe received a proper testing. Not that Jason’s a bad cook. He’s actually a very good cook indeed and is probably one of the main reasons I got into cooking in the first place. No, it’s not a case of him being useless in the kitchen and needing clear instructions. It’s just that he is very thorough and precise and when he’s following a recipe, rather than his own instincts, he’ll follow it to the absolute letter.

The verdict? We all loved Sarah’s sausage chilli and can wholeheartedly confirm it works just as well with pork sausages as it does with vegetarian ones. Jason found the recipe instructions absolutely faultless (although his hands are clearly much larger than Sarah’s when it comes to measuring coriander by the handful) and he had no problems on that score. It’s a feast of colours, flavours and textures, and perfect for little ones as it has just the right level of spice without being too hot. This is my kind of tasty, healthy, family food and a recipe I’m sure we’ll be coming back to again and again. Thank you Sarah!

You can find Sarah’s original Sausage Chilli recipe here. We hardly played with it – simply substituted the vegetarian sausages for pork ones, and used frozen sweetcorn instead of tinned.

sausage chilli

Cheat’s ciabatta pizza

Now that I’m working full-time again, the only chance I really have to play around in the kitchen is at the weekends. But then if I spend too much time in the kitchen, I feel bad that I’m not spending enough time with the kids. So wherever possible I try to involve Jessie and Mia in the cooking too.

On Saturday, after spending the afternoon in Bath shopping for new clothes (my girls are growing so blinking fast at the moment!), we rustled up some quick ciabatta bread pizzas for an easy tea. And the girls enjoyed deciding on their own toppings.

PizzaCollage

I’m not really sure whether to call these posh open grilled sandwiches or ciabatta pizzas – I guess they’re somewhere in between. And they don’t really warrant a recipe. I simply spread some passata on sliced ciabatta (you may prefer French bread or even a slice of cottage loaf) before the girls got going with their own special creations. Up for grabs was whatever we found in the fridge; leftover tinned sweetcorn, ham and salami, some chopped wild garlic leaves we’d picked from the hedgerows, black olives, capers and of course lots of mozzarella cheese.

Mia likes to play safe when it comes to food and kept her pizza topping simple. She isn’t a big fan of strong flavours like olive and capers. Despite that, she did go crazy with the wild garlic, and ate it all quite happily.

ciabatta pizza

Jessie, on the other hand, has always been much more adventurous with food, and went for everything on offer. If there had been raw chillies, she’d probably have thrown some of those on there too.

ciabatta pizza

Cheat’s ciabatta pizza

Serves 4 (2 adults, 2 children with leftovers perfect eaten cold for breakfast!)

4 small part-baked ciabatta, sliced widthways
350g passata or crushed tinned tomatoes
3 x 125g mozzarella cheese

And any toppings you fancy – we went for…

cooked ham, roughly chopped
salami, roughly chopped
tinned sweetcorn
pitted black olives
capers
wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped (or any other fresh or dried herb)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Smother the ciabatta with passata and decorate with your chosen toppings. Tear the mozzarella and place on top.

Place your ciabatta pizzas on a lightly greased baking tray and pop in the oven (or alternatively under a medium grill) for 10 to 12 minutes, until the bread is lightly toasted and the cheese has melted. Easy as.

ciabatta pizza

As our ciabatta pizzas feature ham, salami, sweetcorn and tomatoes, I’m entering them into this month’s Recipes for Life, a challenge hosted by me and run in conjunction with SWALLOW, an amazing charity supporting adults with learning disabilities. Each month we set three ingredients and challenge bloggers to use these to come up with tasty, healthy and easy to cook dishes that can be made by SWALLOW members in their cookery class and at home. And this month’s three ingredients just happen to be pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes…

recipes for life

If you like this, you might also like to try…

The full English pizza
The full English pizza
Slow roasted tomato and oregano pizza
Slow roasted tomato and oregano pizza
Spaghetti with wild garlic pesto
Spaghetti with wild garlic pesto
Wild garlic risotto
Wild garlic risotto

April’s Recipes for Life challenge: get cooking with pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes

Take part in the Recipes for Life food bloggers challenge and you could see your dish featured in a new charity cookbook!

We’re already into month three of the Recipes for Life challenge and I’m rather excited about the three ingredients we’ve been set for April by the SWALLOW cookery club. They are: pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes.

Like last month, they might not at first appear the most obvious of culinary combinations. But give it a few moments’ thought and I’d be surprised if a whole host of tasty meal ideas don’t start whirring around your brain!

The rules of the challenge are the same as before; simply come up with a wholesome, delicious and easy-to-cook recipe featuring this month’s three key ingredients, and which members of the cookery club at SWALLOW can cook themselves.

Through its Fit for Life programme, SWALLOW runs cookery courses for adults with learning disabilities, giving them the skills and confidence to prepare simple, inexpensive and nutritious meals. They are looking for new recipes to cook on the course, and ultimately to include in their new cookbook.

So what meal could you rustle up with pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes? You can use any pork-based product you fancy – a whole joint or chops, bacon or ham, sausages or mince. The sweetcorn can be fresh, on the cob, tinned or frozen. And the tomatoes can again be fresh, tinned or perhaps sun-dried – you might even get away with a puree or passata. So you see, it’s really a rather versatile shopping list this month.

Recipes for Life: how to enter

  1. Display the Recipes for Life badge (shown above and below) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  2. You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they are based on the three main ingredients selected for this month and accompanied only by basic store cupboard items.
  3. 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 23 April 2013.
  4. If you tweet your post, please mention #RecipesforLife, @BangerMashChat and @SWALLOWcharity in your tweet and we will retweet everyone we see.
  5. Feel free to republish old recipe posts, but please add the information about this challenge and the Recipes for Life badge.
  6. As entries come in, links to these will be added to this page and at the end of the month there will be a round-up of all entries received.
  7. SWALLOW staff and members will choose their favourite recipe at the end of each month, and the winner will receive a small prize.
  8. A selection of recipes entered each month will be featured in the SWALLOW cookbook to be published later this year, helping the charity to raise much needed funds for its ongoing work.

Pork chops are a firm favourite in our house – they’re almost as popular as sausages. When I was told the trio of ingredients for April, I knew I’d have to get in there first with some chops. So here’s my entry to get things started…

Buy your pork chops from the butcher and ask for them to be cut nice and thick – they stay much more moist and succulent that way.

I like to roast my corn on the cobs in the oven in a little butter with whatever herbs I have available; the end result is so much sweeter and tastier than if you simply boil them.

corn on the cob

The spicy tomato relish includes some optional extras such as olives and capers but don’t worry if you don’t have these or you don’t like them – the relish tastes just as good without. And some simple mashed potato on the side is perfect for soaking up all those delicious buttery, meaty juices.

Rosemary and garlic pork chops with roasted corn on the cob and spicy tomato relish

Serves 4

4 thick pork chops
3 sprigs rosemary
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon
salt and pepper

4 corn on the cobs
50g butter
fresh or dried herbs (I used fresh thyme and sage)
salt and pepper

For the tomato relish

1 tbsp olive oil
Half an onion, chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp red wine or cider vinegar
2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
30g capers (optional)
30g black olives, roughly chopped (optional)
Handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped (optional)

Start by preparing the marinade for the pork.

Place the pork chops in a large dish. Pull the rosemary leaves off the woody stems, roughly chop and give them a good pounding with a pestle and mortar. Put the rosemary in a bowl with the crushed garlic and olive oil. Chop the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Chop up the lemon skin, give it a good bash with the pestle and mortar and add to the bowl with a little salt and pepper. Mix it all together before pouring onto the meat.

Get your hands in and rub the marinade all over the chops so they are well smothered. Cover and leave for a couple of hours.

Prepare the corn on the cob by firstly placing them on large sheets of foil. Generously smear each cob with butter, season and sprinkle over your chosen herbs. Wrap the corns in the foil, leaving a little room for the steam.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

When the pork is marinated, place on a wire rack over a roasting tray and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on how big your chops are. Turn halfway through the cooking time. The chops are cooked when there is no sign of pink inside and are nicely browned on the outside.

Roast the corn in the oven at the same time, placing them directly on the oven shelf. They should take around 20 minutes. Test the corn with a sharp knife and remove from the oven when they are just tender. Leave wrapped in foil until you’re ready to serve.

While the chops and corn are cooking, make the tomato relish. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently soften the onion until it is golden. Add the paprika and cook for a minute or two before stirring in the chopped tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. If you are using, also add in the capers and olives. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes until the relish has thickened. Mix in the coriander right at the end.

Keep the relish warm until the pork chops and corn are ready and serve on warmed plates, ideally with some mashed potato on the side. That’s what I call proper family grub – it’s definitely finger licking good!

April’s entries

  1. Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Sausages from The Crazy Kitchen
  2. Sausage Chilli from The Garden Deli
  3. BBQ Pork Ribs with Sweetcorn Salsa from Under the Blue Gum Tree
  4. Slow Cooker Pork Creole from JibberJabberUK
  5. Sausage Pesto Pasta from The Crazy Kitchen
  6. Oven Baked Tortilla from The Crazy Kitchen
  7. Pulled Pork Wrap with  Tomato and Chorizo Salsa and Sweet Sweet Sweetcorn from Spurs Cook
  8. Pork, Sweetcorn & Tomatoes with Vermicelli Rice Noodles from Fun as a Gran

  9. A Very Retro Sweet and Sour Pork from Chez Foti
  10. Cheat’s Ciabatta Pizza from Bangers & Mash
  11. Sausage Chilli (Again) from the Garden Deli and Bangers & Mash
  12. Red Rice Accompanied by Pork, Sweetcorn and Tomato from Fun as a Gran

Round Up: March’s Recipes for Life Challenge

Beetroot, carrots and cheese. Those were the three ingredients selected by the cookery club at SWALLOW for this month’s Recipes for Life challenge. And they did indeed present quite a challenge.

But I should have known I could rely on you food bloggers to deliver the goods. We received a surprisingly diverse range of recipes this month, showing just how versatile these humble ingredients can be…

Sarah from The Garden Deli got the ball rolling with this sumptuous Carrot and Beetroot Soup with Cheesy Croutons. Featuring garlic and cumin, this beautiful soup is a proper winter warmer and I love the croutons for dunking topped with one of my favourite cheeses, Wensleydale.

I experimented with some Beetroot and Carrot Pancakes for my first entry and, while they tasted pretty good – particularly with the herby mascarpone on the side – I was a bit disappointed the pancakes didn’t turn out pink like the batter!

Last month’s challenge winner, Chez Foti came up with this fantastic Roasted Roots and an Easy Roasted Roots Pizza. Louisa’s dish brings together sensational seasonal roasted root vegetables on top of a quick and easy wholemeal scone pizza base, not forgetting lots of lovely mozzarella. Yum!

Helen from The Crazy Kitchen really did go crazy with not one, not two, but three entries for Recipes for Life. Anyone who was stumped by the three set ingredients this month – look and learn! First up were these incredible Baked Cheesy Meatballs with Beetroot Sauce. Now don’t they look good? And a crafty way to sneak vegetables into unsuspecting children…

Another fiendishly clever way of disguising veggies comes in this gorgeous Two-of-your-five-a-day Chocolate Cake – the second entry from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen. “It’s sooooo good!” was the verdict of Helen’s 10-year-old, beetroot-hating daughter! Say no more!


There’s been a lot of talk on Twitter and food blogs recently about the 5:2 diet. So much so, my husband and I are both giving it a go. This Beetroot, Carrot and Cottage Cheese Salad, the final entry from The Crazy Kitchen’s Helen would definitely make a delicious lunch for a 5:2 fasting day and I plan to give it a try very soon.

I love the look of this Roasted Vegetable and Goat’s Cheese Risotto from Under The Blue Gum Tree. It sounds so simple to make but you just know it’s going to be absolutely packed full of flavour, with the gorgeous creaminess of the goat’s cheese a perfect partner for the earthiness of the root vegetables.

I wish I could bring you pictures of this Beetroot, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Tatin from Martin at The Tempest Arms as it sounds simply divine and should look stunning. But I promise to make it very, very soon and I will post photos when I do.

Meeting the lovely Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog was one of my highlights from the Bristol Blog Summit earlier this month, which also gave me the perfect opportunity to persuade her to enter Recipes for Life. She promised she’d try, and I was very pleased to see she was true to her word with these ingenious Beetroot, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Muffins. As with all Choclette’s recipes, there’s some chocolate in there, as well as a little kick from a touch of cayenne pepper. I look forward to trying them out.

This is a dish we eat quite a lot in our house, so I just had to enter it – my Beetroot, Carrot and Feta Cheese Salad. It’s ever so simple and ever so tasty, and a great way to create a summery-feeling salad with winter vegetables.

The final entry came in at the very last minute but I was so glad to see it – a Carrot and Beetroot Cake with a Cream Cheese Topping from Lucy at The Bell Inn. Again I sadly don’t have photos of this one but when you read the recipe you just know it’s going to taste good and I absolutely adore beetroot and carrot in cakes. Another one to try very soon.

But of course, what you’re waiting to hear is who did the SWALLOW cookery club choose as this month’s winner? Well, Lucy at The Bell Inn came a very close second with her Carrot and Beetroot Cake but first place goes to… Helen from the Crazy Kitchen for her scrumptious Baked Cheesy Meatballs with Beetroot Sauce. The group said they particularly liked the sound of the oozy cheese in the middle of the meatballs. Me too!

So a huge congratulations to Helen for her well deserved win – a small prize will be arriving in the mail very soon. Thank you so much to everyone who entered their wonderful recipes this month, and watch this space for the next set of three ingredients for April’s Recipes for Life challenge.

Beetroot, carrot and feta cheese salad

Today is the last day to enter the March Recipes for Life challenge. So if you’re sitting on a delicious dish featuring beetroot, carrot and cheese – well, I hope not literally as that could get a little messy – then today is the day to let me know about it! Details of how to enter this month’s challenge are here.

For my last-minute entry, I bring you a fresh and zingy salad – one that we eat regularly in the Bangers & Mash house, or variations of it at least. It’s a surprisingly summery salad considering its winter root vegetable ingredients. This version uses of course beetroot and carrot, but you could also try it with turnip, swede, celeriac or any kind of red or green cabbage. It’s based on an Ottolenghi recipe and I love it for its versatility and its slightly sweet and sour dressing which is just mouth-wateringly tasty.

As I made it at the weekend for Recipes for Life, I tried it with some feta cheese this time. It worked extremely well – the soft tanginess of the feta is a perfect contrast to the earthiness of the beetroot and parsley. You can use whichever herbs take your fancy. The original recipe used parsley and dill but I went with parsley and coriander, simply because those are what I had in the fridge. It also features capers but you could leave these out if you don’t have or like them, or perhaps use olives or chopped gherkins instead. I left out the dried sour cherries from Ottolenghi’s version; sometimes I’ll use another dried fruit instead or chopped apple. But not this time, as I thought there was probably enough going on. Go experiment!

By the way, I use organic vegetables so I don’t bother to peel them for salads like these. But if you’re not sure what your veggies have been grown in, it might be best to peel them first.

Beetroot, carrot and feta cheese salad

Serves 4 to 6

3-4 medium beetroots, scrubbed and grated
3 large carrots, scrubbed and grated
large handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
large handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
200g feta cheese, cut into small cubes
30g capers
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

This is so simple. Place the grated beetroot and carrot in a large mixing bowl with all the other ingredients (keep back a few pieces of cheese to place on top at the end) and mix together well using your hands. Ottolenghi describes it as ‘massaging’ the ingredients, so that the vegetables get the chance to absorb all the delicious flavours.

Leave the salad in the fridge for at least an hour before serving, when you can throw in the last few pieces of brilliantly white feta, which I think look fabulous alongside the pink pieces.

This salad will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. I think it tastes even better the next day. I like to eat mine in a tortilla wrap with hummus and cold meats. How will you eat yours?