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Monday, 24 October 2016

Bloodied Bones Halloween Cake

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. 
All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

Halloween is a week away, but many people are celebrating it early this year and having a Halloween half term week, with end of term Halloween themed school discos and parties galore. Kids love dressing up and what better excuse do you need to join them. I usually don my black cape and witches hat or mask to surprise the trick or treaters when they call, and decorating the doorway gets us into the spirit (excuse the pun) of things.

I've already shared some ideas for simple Halloween party treats , but with some additional effort this Bloodied Bones Cake can form an eye catching centrepiece for your party. Full of blood clots and puss, it really is mouthwatering!

Bloodied Bones Halloween Cake

If you don't want to bake your own cake, you could buy a plain chocolate or vanilla cake and decorate it yourself. I made my own, using my go-to chocolate cake recipe, and for the meringues I used powdered egg white, which is very handy to have in the cupboard for the times that you feel the urge to make meringues, but don't want to use all of the eggs.

Dr Oetker Free Range Egg white powder can be found in the baking aisle of most supermarkets, including my local Tesco which has a very good range of baking ingredients. (You can also find a chocolate cake mix for just 99p in the same aisle).

Tesco baking aisle

Bloodied Bones Halloween Cake

175g Stork for baking
175g Soft Dark brown sugar
150g Self Raising Flour
25g Cocoa Powder
1 tbsp Baking Powder
3 Eggs
100ml Greek Yoghurt

frosting & filling
300g Full Fat Cream Cheese
300g White Chocolate Spread
250g frozen cherries, thawed & lightly crushed
  • Beat the Stork & sugar together in a bowl
  • Sift the flour, cocoa & baking powder together
  • Add the dry ingredients to the bowl along with the eggs & yogurt
  • Beat well until combined
  • Divide mixture between 2 x 8" round pans that have been greased & lined with baking parchment
  • Bake in a 180 C oven for approx 25 minutes, until the tops are springy
  • Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tins & allowing to cool fully on a wire rack
  • Beat the cream cheese & white chocolate spread together 
  • Sandwich the 2 cakes together with some of the icing and a few cherries, and use the rest to cover completely
meringue bones
1 packet of Dr Oetker egg white (4 sachets)
225g caster sugar
1tsp white wine vinegar
1tsp cornflour
  • make the egg white up according to the directions on the pack
  • whisk to soft peaks with an electric whisk or stand mixer
  • gradually add the sugar whilst whisking, until it has all been added
  • keep whisking on a high speed until it forms stiff peaks, and then whisk in the vinegar and cornflour
  • spoon the meringue into an icing bag fitted with a small round nozzle
  • pipe your bones onto baking sheets lined with baking paper
  • preheat the oven to 150C and turn down to 100C once you place the baking trays in
  • bake for approx 1 hour and then turn the oven off, leaving the door ajar, until the meringues are completely cool
  • take care when removing from the baking sheets as they can be quite fragile
  • just before serving, decorate the cake with your bones and drizzle some cherry 'blood and clots' over the top
  • serve extra bones with bowls of puss (cream cheese & white chocolate spread) & blood (blended cherries) to dip into

Bloodied Bones Halloween Cake Bloodied Bones Halloween Cake Bloodied Bones Halloween Cake

additional Halloween items :
Light up Pumpkin : Waitrose
Eyeballs, rats, fingernails & bats : Tesco

Have you found any really cool items for Halloween, or made any grizzly looking food?

Kerb appeal : 6 ways to improve the appearance of your home

Buying a home is likely to be one of the biggest investments in our lives. Once we've saved for a deposit and paid moving costs, the investment doesn't stop there though. 

Older houses may require renovation which can be quite costly, and instead many people opt for a new build. We bought a new build 13 years ago, and for a while it was great, with the only major costs being for our new conservatory and ensuite bathroom. The outside is now beginning to look a little tired though, and we've been looking at ways to spruce it up and improve the kerb appeal of our home. I'm working with a local company that specialises in double glazing in Stafford to share a few ideas on kerb appeal, and ways that you can improve the appearance of your home.

Kerb appeal : ways to improve the appearance of your home

Front Door & Door FurnitureIf your front door is looking a little tired, then it may just need a lick of paint, but if you want to change the look of your home without any ongoing maintenance in the future then composite doors are the way forward. Not only can they change the whole look of the front of your house, they offer increased energy efficiency, weatherproofing and security over standard PVCu entrance doors. It may also be worth investing a little more in quality door furniture to give your home that extra wow factor.

Soffits, Facias and GutteringThese are the parts of your home that may go unnoticed for many years. That's definitely the case for us, and it's only recently, when the gutters started leaking that we noticed how unloved the soffits were looking. Leaking gutters can start to cause problems with damp if they're not attended to, so it's definitely worth giving them a yearly once over to check for problems. New soffits and facias can really improve the look of a building too; turning a drab and dated house into a modern and stylish home.

Good lighting at the front of your home is essential, especially if you live in an unlit street or have a particularly long driveway. It doesn't just act as a way to improve the look of your home, but also acts as a deterrent to any unwelcome visitors.

Clean windows can make all the difference to the look of your home. If you don't get chance to do them yourself then make a small investment in a window cleaner. We have one that comes every 4 weeks (rain or shine) and keeps our windows sparkling.  If you're losing lots of heat through your old windows, it may be time to replace them. Even if you own a period home with sash or vertical sliders you can now keep that period look with replacement windows that look like the real deal.

Kerb appeal : 6 ways to improve the appearance of your home Greenery
There's nothing more inviting when you visit a home than a well maintained front lawn and neat and tidy bushes. If it's well manicured on the outside then that usually follows through to the inside. Even some simple (well maintained) window boxes can add to the kerb appeal.

Paint Fences

If the paint is peeling off your fence it may be time to give it a quick rub down and a lick of paint. Choose your colours carefully though. You may like purple but does it make your house stand out (and not in a good way) in a street of white picket fences?

This is a sponsored post for Elitis

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Roast Scotch Beef with Watercress, Horseradish & Grana Padano

Last Thursday I ventured to the capital for the biggest event in the food calendar; the annual Observer Food Monthly Awards, held at the Freemasons Hall. 

There are 10 reader categories and 5 categories decided by a Michelin starred panel of judges. Here you'll see big names such as Jamie Oliver winning an award alongside a lesser known fisherman from Padstow. All equally as deserving.

I was invited along as a guest of Scotch Beef, sponsor of the Best Sunday Lunch category, and with whom I've previously worked, on my recipe for Beef Fajita Burgers. It was a night of food and drink, with a little bit of celeb spotting thrown in for good measure. Food for the evening was created by Swedish raised Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster, Harlem (soon to be coming to Shoreditch), and there were cocktails aplenty.

You can find out more about the #OFMAwards, the winners, and photos of the evening at the Guardian online.

As Scotch Beef sponsored the Best Sunday Lunch category I wanted to put together a dish that takes two of the main components of a Sunday Lunch, and give it a twist. The silverside of beef was roasted with a crust of English mustard powder, sea salt and black pepper, as per the Scotch Beef website, before slicing and tossing with a salad of balsamic roasted plum tomatoes, watercress and shavings of Grana Padano, as inspired by a recipe of seared carpaccio of beef in the Jamie Oliver 'Return of the Naked Chef' book. The salad is then served in a jumbo yorkshire pudding!

If this was served on a Sunday in the pub down the road (which, incidentally, was one of the runners up in the Best Sunday Lunch category) I would be straight down there!

Roast Scotch Beef with Watercress, Horseradish & Grana Padano

Roast Scotch Beef with Watercress, Horseradish & Grana Padano - serves 4
silverside of Scotch Beef 

olive oil
2 tbsp English mustard powder
tsp sea salt
tsp ground black pepper

yorkshire puddings
4 eggs (weighed out of their shells)
plain flour
salt & pepper
oil for cooking (I use Trex)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200g baby plum tomatoeswatercress
horseradish sauce (thinned with a little extra virgin olive oil)
Grana Padano cheese

  • allow the beef to rest at room temperature for an hour & rub with a little olive oil
  • mix the mustard powder, salt & pepper together & rub over the top of the meat
  • roast for 25 mins per 450g + 25mins (for medium) in a preheated 180C oven
  • (if you're a little unsure of your oven temperature and want to make sure you don't under or over cook your meat then I would recommend a Thermapen thermometer, which gives an accurate reading in just 3 seconds)

roast scotch beef

  • whilst the beef is roasting, make the yorkshire pudding batter 
  • using the weight of the eggs out of their shells, weigh an equivalent amount of plain flour, milk and self raising flour, and whisk all the ingredients together
  • set aside

roast scotch beef

  • Once the beef is cooked to your liking, leave it to rest
  • turn the oven up to the highest temperature 
  • place some fat into 4 x 6-8" round baking tins and place in the oven for 10 minutes
  • pour the batter into the tins and return to the oven
  • turn the oven down to 200C and cook for 25 minutes, until the yorkshire puddings are puffed up & crispy

roast scotch beef

  • remove the beef from the baking dish and add 2tbsp balsamic vinegar to the juices
  • add the tomatoes to the dish and roast for 15 minutes
  • carve the beef into thin slices or strips
  • add a handful of watercress, some beef strips, roasted tomatoes and some shavings of Grana Padano to each large yorkshire pudding
  • drizzle with some of the balsamic juices and horseradish before serving

Roast Scotch Beef with Watercress, Horseradish & Grana Padano Roast Scotch Beef with Watercress, Horseradish & Grana Padano Roast Scotch Beef with Watercress, Horseradish & Grana Padano Roast Scotch Beef with Watercress, Horseradish & Grana Padano

If, like me (before conducting some research) you don't know the difference between 'Scotch Beef' and 'Scottish Beef' this will explain all. 

Scotch Beef

It explains why the quality of beef you get from a Scotch Beef PGI butcher is so good. Where to buy.

this is a commissioned post for Scotch Beef

Monday, 17 October 2016

5 Halloween Party Treats {using SKIPPY peanut butter}

5 Halloween Party Treats 

Autumn is well and truly upon us, and Halloween is fast approaching. Over the past decade or so Halloween in the UK has become a much bigger deal, but I'm not sure we'll ever catch up with America, who manage to celebrate the Halloween/Fall season so much bigger and better.

Another thing that seems to be a lot more popular in America is peanut butter. Whether it's peanut butter cups, peanut butter crackers, or pb & j sandwiches (peanut butter & jelly [jam] for those that were wondering), there's no escaping the peanut butter in America. I absolutely love peanut butter, as do all 3 children, and I'll add it to my cooking at every given chance (TIP: stir a spoonful of smooth peanut butter into a curry to thicken the sauce).

SKIPPY is an authentic American peanut butter that's widely available in the UK, in both smooth and crunchy varieties, including a whopping 1.1kg jar that I recently spotted on a trip to London. 

These Halloween treats all use SKIPPY smooth peanut butter, and they can be made quickly, as well as being prepared in advance, leaving plenty of time for trick or treating.

5 Halloween Party Treats
Halloween Party Treats

Spider Cookies - makes approx 18

240g smooth SKIPPY peanut butter
160g caster sugar
1 medium egg
mini peanut butter cups
edible googly eyes
black icing

  • beat the peanut butter, caster sugar & egg together until combined
  • roll into balls and place onto a baking sheet, spaced well apart
  • press down gently with the back of a fork to flatten a little
  • bake in a preheated 180C oven for approx 12-15 minutes
  • cool on a wire rack
  • decorate by sticking the eyes to the peanut butter cup with icing, and sticking to the centre of each cookie
  • ice the legs on either side of the body

Halloween Party Treats Halloween Party Treats

False Teeth

slices of red apple
smooth SKIPPY peanut butter
mini marshmallows
  • spread one side of each pair of apple slices with peanut butter
  • stick marshmallows onto half of the slices, and top with the other apple slice

Halloween Party Treats Halloween Party Treats

Graveyards - makes 6

2 tbsp smooth SKIPPY peanut butter
4 tbsp double cream
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Oreo cookie, roughly crushed
3 Lotus Biscoff (or similar shaped biscuit)
black icing
  • beat the peanut butter, cream, cream cheese, sugar & vanilla together until smooth
  • divide the mixture between 6 shot glasses
  • top with dirt (Oreo cookie crumbs) and a gravestone (half a Biscoff with 'RIP' iced on)

Halloween Party Treats Halloween Party Treats

Bloodied Mummies - makes 8

ready rolled puff pastry sheet
smooth SKIPPY peanut butter
raspberry or strawberry jam
caster sugar
edible googly eyes
  • cut 8 rectangles from approx 2/3 of the pastry sheet
  • slice the remaining pastry into thin strips, approximately the same length as the width of the rectangles
  • spread each rectangle with peanut butter, and top with jam
  • lay the strips of pastry onto each rectangle to look like Mummies bandages
  • sprinkle with caster sugar & place onto a baking sheet
  • bake in a preheated 200C oven for approx 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden
  • whilst still warm, press the eyes into the sticky jam

Halloween Party Treats Halloween Party Treats

Ghastly Ghosts - makes 6

3 small bananas
1 tbsp smooth SKIPPY peanut butter
1 tbsp coconut oil
desiccated coconut
edible googly eyes

  • slice the bananas in half, making sure that they stand up
  • warm the peanut butter and coconut oil in the microwave for a few seconds, and stir until smooth
  • spoon the peanut butter sauce over the bananas and coat with coconut
  • stick the eyes onto the ghosts and place in the fridge to set

Halloween Party Treats Halloween Party Treats

For more Halloween inspiration, take a look at my Halloween Pinterest board and follow the #SPOOKYSKIPPY hashtag on social media

this is a commissioned post for SKIPPY


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