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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Ice Cream Cupcakes

I think we've seen the back of Summer for another year now. I can't believe that just a few short weeks ago people were complaining that it was too hot and now we're wondering whether August is too soon to put the heating on!

If you've stocked up on ice cream cones over the summer but nobody wants ice cream as it's now too cold, then put the cones to good use and bake some cupcakes in them. Amazingly the cones don't burn in the oven, and the cake bakes evenly inside. You can then top them off with buttercream swirled with raspberry jam or Nutella. 

Ice Cream Cupcakes Ice Cream Cupcakes Ice Cream Cupcakes Ice Cream CupcakesIce Cream Cupcakes

You can find the full recipe and directions how to make these, along with some of my other recipes that I've been commissioned to write, on the Great British Chefs website here.

Home Baked Ciabatta topped with Mozzarella, Tomato & Rocket

We live in an area of very hard water, and on a daily basis the stainless steel sink and drainer is covered in a layer of limescale. Sometimes the water tastes so bad it makes a cup of tea undrinkable if I haven't used filtered water to fill the kettle.

A few days ago I shared details of the winners from a contest to cook with filtered water, who are now going ahead and selling their produce at the Big Feastival, and sharing the benefits of cooking with filtered water with others.

Wherever I can, I try to cook with filtered water myself, just because I don't want the taste of my food to be ruined by all the nasty chemicals that can be found in household water, more details of which can be found here. We're lucky enough to have a filter built into the water dispenser on our fridge, as well as on the tap at the kitchen sink, making the availability of filtered water easy to us (as long as we remember to change the filters!)

Home Baked Ciabatta

I don't always remember to use the filtered water when I bake bread, but as this was my first attempt at making ciabatta I wasn't prepared to take the risk, so filtered water it was. Thankfully my first ciabatta making experience was a success, although I must admit that when I put it into the oven I wasn't feeling very confident as the dough was quite flat - after watching The Great British Bake Off AFTER I made mine, I realised that firstly I shouldn't have proved it in the airing cupboard, and secondly that I should have used a smaller box (mine was approx 30cm x 30cm, far too big!) - lessons learnt for next time. I did, however, use flour and semolina on the work surface to stop the dough from sticking, which I learnt during the last series when making breadsticks.

I found two recipes, both by Paul Hollywood, and both different to the other, so I improvised a little and adjusted quantities here and there.

Home Baked Ciabatta

- makes 2/3 loaves

250g '00' flour
2 x 7g packets of dried yeast
approx 275ml water

250g '00' flour
7g salt
25ml olive oil
approx 175ml water

extra flour and semolina for the work surface
  • In a large bowl, beat 250g flour, yeast and enough of the 275ml water to make the dough into the consistency of a loose cake batter
  • Cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature overnight
  • Add the dough to the bowl of a food mixer along with the other 250g flour and salt
  • With the beater attached and motor running add the olive oil and enough of the water to make a sticky stretchy thick cake batter consistency
  • Keep beating for 5 to 10 minutes - it should be very elastic and stretchy
  • Add the batter to a greased plastic box and leave to prove for around 2 hours
  • Add plenty of flour and semolina to your work surface and turn the dough out onto it
  • Slice into 2 or 3 loaves with a sharp knife or dough scraper and lift onto baking sheets covered with more flour and semolina
  • Set aside whilst the oven preheats to 220C
  • Bake the dough in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and crispy 
Home Baked Ciabatta Home Baked Ciabatta

I used a few slices of ciabatta loaves to make a delicious lunch, which was quick and easy to make.

Ciabatta topped with Mozzarella, Tomato & Rocket - serves 2

100g mozzarella
1 clove garlic, crushed
Extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of ciabatta
4 vine ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh rocket
black pepper
  • Slice the mozzarella into 4
  • Mix the garlic in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil
  • Add the slices of mozzarella to the bowl
  • Lay the ciabatta slices onto a baking sheet or grill pan
  • Drizzle a little of the garlic oil over the bread & lay a slice of mozzarella on each piece of bread
  • Top with 2 tomato halves 
  • Place under a hot grill for a few minutes, until the cheese starts to melt
  • Remove from the grill, top with rocket and ground black pepper and serve immediately
Home Baked Ciabatta topped with Mozzarella, Tomato & Rocket Home Baked Ciabatta topped with Mozzarella, Tomato & Rocket Home Baked Ciabatta topped with Mozzarella, Tomato & Rocket

I was provided with a supermarket voucher to cover the cost of ingredients used

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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

What are your #SchoolMealMemories ?

My primary school days are a long time ago, but there are a few things that I remember about school meal times :
  • The youngest children in the school were served their meals by the eldest children in the school
  • Mashed potato was lumpy
  • Meals were traditional - meat & 2 veg, stews, pies
  • Puddings were filling - spotted dick, crumbles, sponge and custard
  • Custard was lumpy
  • Cream was not real
  • Everyone had school dinners, nobody took sandwiches
  • Chocolate cake and Chocolate Cracknel was served with green mint custard
  • Meals cost 75p per week

By the time I went to middle school I was taking sandwiches, so I'm guessing I wasn't too keen on the dinners. I know one thing that I wasn't keen on was that green custard. I have no idea who invented that stuff or even why, but squares of chocolate sponge and mounds of chocolate cracknel were always served amid a sea of green. This is probably where my dislike of mint chocolate chip flavoured foods comes from. Anyway, I may have disliked it but many others loved it, so I thought it was about time I introduced my own children to it, so they could have a taste of what school dinners used to be like.

1970's Chocolate Cracknel & Mint Custard

1970's Chocolate Cracknel & Mint Custard
110g golden syrup
100g caster sugar
150g margarine
30g cocoa powder
175g cornflakes

  • Heat the syrup, sugar, margarine and cocoa powder in a pan over a low heat until melted together
  • Stir in the cornflakes
  • Using an ice cream scoop form mounds onto a baking tray
  • Place in the fridge until set

Mint custard
packet of instant custard powder
few drops of green food colouring
few drops of peppermint essence
  • make the custard up according to the directions on the pack (for a creamier custard use boiling milk instead of boiling water)
  • Add the food colouring and essence until desired colour and taste is reached (you may want to leave a few lumps for authenticity)
1970's Chocolate Cracknel & Mint Custard

As of the new school term next week Jack will be having school dinners on a daily basis, as part of the new Department for Education scheme to provide free school meals for every child aged 4-7 (school years reception through to year 2) in state funded schools in England. School dinners are not as they used to be, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables on offer, as well as menus to cater for vegetarians and special diets.

A sample school meal might now consist of the following :

Beef Moussaka or Summer Vegetable Lasagne
Garlic Bread
Courgettes, Spring green cabbage or Salad
Apple berry fool, Fresh Fruit salad or yogurt
Water or semi skimmed milk

The Children's Food Trust ensures that every child in England receives a balanced diet in their early years and at school by providing advice, training and support for anyone who provides food for children.

Will your child now receive the free school meals?

What memories do you have of your own school meals?

commissioned post

#WeirdestPlaceToSleep Competition with Carpetright

My eldest would often fall asleep with his head in his dinner when he was a baby. He would also fall asleep standing up leaning on a bed or sofa, or slumped in a shopping trolley, he wasn't really bothered where he slept as long as he slept. He's 13 now and still loves his sleep!

Have you or a family member or friend ever fallen asleep in a weird place?

asleep photo:  641fd20d.jpg

If the answer is yes then this #WeirdestPlaceToSleep competition from Carpetright is for you.

 #WeirdestPlaceToSleep Competition with Carpetright

There are some fab prize up for grabs - a £700 voucher to spend on a new bed, as well as a runner up prize of an amazing glamping holiday at Mill Farm Luxury Holidays - this place has to be seen to be believed, there is even a range stove in the tent!

To enter :

Tweet, Facebook or Instagram your picture, tagging Carpetright and using the  #WeirdestPlaceToSleep hashtag. 

You can find more details and rules on the Carpetright website here.

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