The Crazy Kitchen: May 2014

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Friday, 30 May 2014

Garden Salad with Grilled Fennel, Tomato & Balsamic

When I was first asked by Higgidy Pies if I would like to grow my own salad to accompany some lovely pies I was a little bit dubious to say the least. You see, I am not very green fingered and I wasn't feeling at all hopeful that I would manage to grow enough salad for one person, let alone the family. I can grow potatoes, rhubarb and wild strawberries, but they pretty much grow themselves.

Just before Easter I received a package of seedlings from Sarah Raven, but as we were going away for the weekend, and I hadn't got anything to grow them in at that point, I left them in their paper and popped them in a container with water in and crossed my fingers.

Thankfully, when we returned from our Easter break the seedlings were still alive, and off we went to find a home for them. One large wicker planter and 6 bags of compost later the seedlings were planted, and just a week later looked like this... 

Garden Salad

It was all looking hopeful. We had plenty of sun and I religiously watered my salad every day, and they were growing nicely.

Then the sun all but disappeared and the rain came, and just a month later my salad planter was like a jungle.

Garden Salad  Garden Salad

The rocket did grow some pretty flowers though.

Garden Salad

Garden Salad

To accompany some Higgidy quiches -  Spinach & Roasted Red Pepper, Balsamic Onion & Cheddar and Smoked Bacon & Cheddar - I made a salad of grilled fennel, tomato and balsamic. I would like to say that I grew the tomatoes myself, but sadly mine are still very much at the seedling stage!

Garden Salad with Grilled Fennel, Tomato & Balsamic

Garden Salad with Grilled Fennel, Tomato & Balsamic

Fennel bulb, thinly sliced
cherry tomatoes on the vine
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Selection of garden salad leaves

  • Rub a little olive oil onto the fennel slices and tomatoes
  • Cook on a griddle pan over a high heat until slightly charred and softened
  • Make a dressing with equal parts of balsamic and extra virgin olive oil
  • Arrange the salad leaves in a bowl with the fennel and tomatoes, and drizzle with the dressing just before serving
Garden Salad with Grilled Fennel, Tomato & Balsamic Garden Salad with Grilled Fennel, Tomato & Balsamic Garden Salad with Grilled Fennel, Tomato & Balsamic

I was provided with salad seedlings and a selection of pies and quiches free of charge

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Blackberry and Elderflower Cupcakes

I haven't made cupcakes for a little while, but when I opened up my latest Degustabox and spotted the Blackberry and Elderflower teabags they were crying out to be used in a cake, so off I popped to the supermarket and picked up some lovely juicy blackberries. This year I intend to find some blackberry bushes and take the kids blackberry picking, just as I used to when I was a child.

Blackberry and Elderflower Cupcakes

Blackberry and Elderflower Cupcakes - makes 12

6 Blackberry & Elderflower teabags
200ml boiling water
1 large egg
4 tbsp sunflower oil
4 tbsp milk
225g plain flour
200g caster sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g White chocolate spread
200g Philadelphia cream cheese
Fresh blackberries
  • Pour the boiling water onto the teabags and leave until cold
  • Discard the teabags and you should be left with approx 150ml liquid
  • Beat in the egg, oil and milk
  • In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb
  • Mix the wet ingredients into the dry
  • Divide the batter between 12 cupcake cases in a muffin tin
  • Bake in a preheated 180C oven for approx 15-20 minutes, until springy to the touch
  • Allow to cool on a wire rack before icing
  • Beat the chocolate spread and cream cheese together until smooth and use to decorate the cooled cupcakes

Blackberry and Elderflower Cupcakes Blackberry and Elderflower Cupcakes Blackberry and Elderflower Cupcakes

I could have left this post at that, with pictures of nice pretty cupcakes. 

However, in the world of food blogging things don't always go to plan.

In my head the deep pink of the tea made these cakes a lovely pretty pink colour.

In reality they were a kind of khaki green on the outside and a pinky brown on the inside......

Blackberry and Elderflower Cupcakes

Now don't laugh.....

but this is what can happen if you overfill your cases, so make sure you only fill them two thirds full!

 photo leakedcupcakejpg_zps9b09e642.jpg

I did tell you not to laugh!

Despite the slightly khaki colour they were delicious, so if you are going to make these, just make sure you serve them after dark and nobody will be none the wiser.

Anyway, back to the Degustabox....


This month the contents were as follows :
  • Taylors of Harrogate Blackberry & Elderflower teabags
  • Finn Crisp crispbread
  • Dr Oetker cake release spray
  • Raw sugar free chewing gum
  • Kettle Chips sweet potato crisps
  • Cawston Press sparkling cloudy apple
  • Cirio Passata & tomato puree
  • Garofalo pasta
  • Hornsby's crisp apple cider and strawberry & lime cider
  • Elizabeth Shaw cocoa crunch flutes

totalling over £21

I have a discount code which will entitle readers to a £3.00 discount off their box when registering - regular price £12.99 including p&p.

code : HFVNR
You can follow Degustabox on Facebook and Twitter or check out their website here.

I was provided with a Degustabox free of charge

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Britmums Live 2014 and me

In a little over three weeks time it's time for Britmums Live. Whilst I attended both last year and the year before, I have never attended for the full event before.

It's going to be an exciting time, as not only am I a finalist in the Food category in the BiBs for the third year running, but I am also going to be working with Rangemaster on their stand at the event, along with Emily from A Mummy Too!

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If you're going to Britmums Live please do come and say hello to myself and Emily, as we drool over the brand new Nexus cooker, with its traditional cooking methods and contemporary style. You never know, you may even win a cooker of your very own!

 photo nexusroomjpg_zps3c4f6a26.jpg

Rangemaster is the world's oldest cooker manufacturer, with the first model built in 1830 revolutionising how people cooked. All these years later they still manufacture all of their cookers in their plant in Royal Leamington Spa, in my birth county of Warwickshire.

Not only do range cookers look great but they are also practical, with so much more cooking space than conventional built in ovens, as well as being available in a range of colours with co-ordinating appliances. They have so many features including griddles, grills, handyracks, multi-ring burners and rapid response, eliminating the need to preheat the oven.

I cannot wait to get my hands on the Nexus, I just wish that I had the room for one in my own kitchen!

 photo rangemastercollagejpg_zps58b10d12.jpg

Thank you to Rangemaster for inviting me to be a brand ambassador, and for sponsoring me to attend Britmums Live.

Lakeland Pasta Machine {review}

Up until a few weeks ago I had never made pasta. It just seemed like one of those things that took a lot of effort for something that could be bought very cheaply in a supermarket.

I suppose it's a bit like pastry really, and until you make it for yourself you are quite happy with the shop bought stuff. I have only made puff pastry once but what I liked about making my own was that you could add flavours of your own into the actual pastry, something that you can't do with shop bought. The same applies for home made pasta, although I haven't yet tried it, and I quite fancy the idea of adding herbs and spices right into the pasta to give it some flavour.

The first time I made pasta was for a lasagne, and I perhaps rolled it a little thinly, with the help of my new Lakeland Pasta Machine, and it kind of melted into the lasagne a little, rather than having a bit of a bite to it.

The next time I made ravioli, which turned out a lot, lot better. This time I rolled the pasta sheets out only as far as the second to last setting on the machine, making it thick enough to hold the filling but not too thick that it would be doughy.

 photo sausageravioli3jpg_zps3f47f3c6.jpg

The pasta machine is a really sturdy piece of kit, which clamps to a work surface for stability, and an attachment for cutting tagliatelle and fettucine.

 photo lakelandpastamakerjpg_zps8576a344.jpg

It's really simple to use, and with a bit of practice it's easy to roll out sheets of professional looking home made pasta. Yes, it does take a little time, especially to make ravioli, but if you make a large batch and dry it you can enjoy home made pasta instead of shop bought - that's going to be my next challenge.

I was sent the Lakeland Pasta Machine for the purpose of this review. rrp £22.99

Barbecued Fruit Sundae

Where did all that sunshine go? A couple of weeks ago the weather was glorious and now it's just back to miserable British weather again. Despite this unpredictable weather we have been using our barbecue quite a lot, mainly because it saves on the washing up, as well as keeping those lingering cooking smells outside. We have a gas barbecue which is really handy, come rain or shine, as it heats up in minutes as well as having a lid to keep the rain off the food!

Whilst I was cooking up some chops the other day I decided to pop some pineapple and banana on for dessert.

I sliced the banana, lay it on foil and drizzled it with a little Maple syrup and sprinkled over some cinnamon.

I sliced the pineapple lengthways, lay it on foil and drizzled with Maple syrup.

Barbecued Fruit

The foil parcels were tightly wrapped and placed on the barbecue whilst the meat was cooking. Once the meat was done I turned the barbecue off and left the parcels on to keep warm until they were needed.

To make the sundae the fruit was layered up in a sundae glass, with a scoop of ice cream and then topped with squirty cream and some of the syrup from the cooked fruit. The kids practically inhaled them!

Barbecued Fruit Sundae

I was provided with some Clarks Maple Syrup to use in my cooking

Monday, 26 May 2014

Strawberry Ice Cream Flan

We've just enjoyed another great bank holiday weekend with great friends. Admittedly the weather wasn't great, in fact it was pretty poor, but a few heavy downpours wasn't going to stop us from enjoying ourselves.

The weekend started on a drizzly Saturday morning with a trip to Sainsbury's to stock up on some Prosecco and a lovely Mum/Daughter coffee stop. Whilst in there we spotted a few picnic accessories which I couldn't resist. 


It was then back home to make a chocolate cake before our guests arrived.

chocolate cake with strawberries

We spent a fun filled weekend with a good blogging friend, and her family, as well as another friend and her family. The kids all got on so well together, and, despite the miserable weather when we went to Alton Towers, never moaned a bit.

fun with friends

We managed to buy a huge amount of strawberries between us, some of which were used in our Saturday night Pimms, some for our Sunday night Prosecco and even after the children were let loose on them with a chocolate dip, there was still some left, although they were a little on the soft side by then.

I picked out the 3 best looking strawberries and then made the rest into a sauce for a simple to make ice cream flan.

Strawberry Ice Cream Flan

Strawberry Ice Cream Flan

250g strawberries
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 sprigs of mint

115g butter, softened
115g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
115g plain flour

300g vanilla ice cream (approx)
cream - whipped or squirty
  • Place the strawberries, sugar, vanilla and mint into a small saucepan
  • Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes, mashing the strawberries down gently
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool
  • Remove the mint and discard
  • Make the cake by creaming the butter and sugar together
  • Beat in the eggs
  • Fold in the flour
  • Pour mixture into a lined 24cm cake tin
  • Bake in a preheated 180C oven for approx 15 minutes, until springy to the touch
  • Cool on a wire rack
  • Assemble the cake by spreading the cooled cake with some of the strawberry sauce, adding scoops of ice cream on top, more sauce, cream and strawberries
  • Serve immediately

Strawberry Ice Cream Flan Strawberry Ice Cream Flan Strawberry Ice Cream Flan

I was provided with some Nielsen Massey Vanilla Extract to use in my cooking

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Ginger, Pear and Walnut Coleslaw

After seeing Steph's lovely Waldorf style chicken lettuce wraps I was reminded that I hadn't had Waldorf salad for ages and planned to make it the very next day. Sadly someone *looks in the direction of the husband* had eaten the last of the apples, and I didn't have any celery anyway. I did, however, have a couple of pears that would have turned to mush had they been in the fruit basket a moment longer, and decided to make a pear/ginger/lemon/cabbage/walnut combo.

Ginger, Pear and Walnut Coleslaw

Ginger, Pear and Walnut Coleslaw - serves 4/5

1/2 white cabbage, sliced
2 pears, cored & sliced
1-2 tbsp Mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp ground ginger
handful of walnuts

  • Add the cabbage and pear to a large bowl and toss together
  • Mix the mayonnaise with the lemon juice and ginger & pour into the bowl and mix well
  • Stir in the walnuts

Ginger, Pear and Walnut Coleslaw Ginger, Pear and Walnut Coleslaw

We enjoyed the coleslaw with bbq pork loin steaks. The rest of the family had a baked potato with it, I had courgette 'spaghetti' with garlic and chilli.

Ginger, Pear and Walnut Coleslaw

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Home-made Tikka Burgers and Southern Fried Wedges

Some weeks I meal plan and some I don't, and other weeks it's somewhere in between. This week is one of those weeks that I haven't planned, although I did have a few ideas in my head when I did a last minute online shop Friday night.

Last night was going to be a meatball or bolognaise night, as I had some pork mince in the fridge, and then this lovely little hamper of goodies arrived


OXO Shake & Flavour pots are an easy way to add flavour into your meals, and they come in a range of flavours :

Rich Beef
Roast Chicken
Southern Fried
Garlic & Herb

I was provided with a few recipes for inspiration, such as Chinese Pork Spare Ribs, Lime & Coriander Chicken, Southern Fried Chicken, Chilli & Lime Chicken Burger, Chilli, Garlic & Thyme Steaks & Garlic & Herb Potato Wedges. I decided to use my pork mince, along with the Tikka Shake & Flavour and make some burgers to be cooked on the bbq.

Home-made Tikka Burgers

I didn't add anything else to the pork mince apart from the seasoning, making them really quick and easy to make - in fact next time I will get the kids to make them as they were so easy.

Pork Tikka Burgers - makes 5

750g pork mince
3 tbsp OXO Tikka Shake & Flavour
little olive oil

  • Mix the pork mince with the Shake & Flavour
  • Shape into burgers and chill for at least 30 minutes
  • Rub each side of the burger with a little olive oil to make sure they don't stick, and cook on a barbecue for a few minutes each side, turning once - make sure that they are cooked through before serving

Home-made Tikka Burgers

I served the burgers with some Southern Fried Potato Wedges. Despite these being oven baked Sam said that they tasted like fried wedges from that popular fried chicken shop, but better, much better!

Southern Fried Wedges

Southern Fried Potato Wedges - serves 5

approx 1kg of potatoes
glug of olive oil
OXO Southern Fried Shake & Flavour

  • Cut the potatoes into wedges
  • Wash and drain the wedges & pat dry
  • Place in a large bowl and add some olive oil and toss to coat the wedges
  • Sprinkle with a generous amount of Southern Fried Shake & Flavour
  • Toss the potatoes to coat with the flavouring
  • Bake in a preheated 220C oven for around 45 minutes until crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside
Home-made Tikka Burgers and Southern Fried Wedges Home-made Tikka Burgers

All served with home-grown salad leaves and pink lemonade - a perfect midweek family meal.

 photo OXOmealjpg_zps6f87d214.jpg

This post is part of a BritMums project with OXO Shake & Flavour. Shake & Flavour seasoning granules can be sprinkled into food during cooking or before serving. Find out more about the Shake & Flavour varieties on their Facebook page here.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Football, Family & Flapjacks

We've just had a great weekend with lots of family time accompanied by great weather, which always helps.

We started on Saturday morning with both boys going to football whilst I prepared a picnic and made some flapjacks. We were then off down the M6 to meet up with my cousin for a picnic and a game of football in the park before going to a birthday party and then onto my parents house for a glass or two of wine whilst the kids again played football in the park with Pop Pop and his brother. It was then back home, up the M6, to watch Britain's Got Talent and bed.

rhubarb flapjacks

Sunday morning was spent enjoying the sunshine in the garden before Hanna went to the school Duck Race with friends and we headed to Lichfield for a nail-biting football match.

It was then back to the local to meet up with Hanna, count a few ducks (of the plastic variety), quick pint and then home, and a chance to sit in the garden whilst the sun was still shining. Oh and did I mention that we also managed a trip to the pet shop to buy a new hamster!

 photo weekendcollagejpg_zps1df33c3f.jpg

An early lunch was called for on Sunday so I decided it would be a nice easy one, courtesy of Princes who sent us some of their Jumbo Hotdogs. To celebrate the upcoming World Cup in Brazil Princes also included a recipe for Hot Dog with Chilli Bean Salsa, inspired by the Brazilian version of the hot dog - 'Cachorro Quente'. The kids don't like food too spicy so I made a simple tomato salsa instead, minus the chilli and added a slice of cheese! If you're feeling braver than my kids the recipe is below - load up those hot dogs with toppings - the more the better!

Cachorro Quente

I managed to make two batches of flapjacks over the weekend, with a layer of home-made rhubarb jam in the middle (made using my first crop of home grown rhubarb!). If you don't have any rhubarb jam, any jam will do.

rhubarb flapjacks

Rhubarb Flapjacks

200g Butter or margarine
200g caster sugar
200g Golden syrup
400g Oats
150g Rhubarb jam
  • Add the butter, sugar and syrup to a pan
  • Heat gently until everything has melted and the mixture starts to come to the boil around the edges
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the oats
  • Add half of the mixture to a lined and greased 13"x9" pan & press down
  • Spread the jam evenly over
  • Add the remaining oat mixture over the jam & smooth over
  • Bake in a preheated 170C oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown
  • Allow to cool fully in the tin before slicing into squares

rhubarb flapjacks rhubarb flapjacks

Chilli Bean Salsa

125g drained & rinsed cannellini beans
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 small green chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
4 cherry plum tomatoes, diced

optional toppings
potato sticks
2-3 jalapeno sliced peppers
mashed potato with wholegrain mustard
  • Roughly mash the beans with a fork
  • Stir in the olive oil, lemon juice, chilli and garlic until combined
  • Stir in the coriander, spring onions & tomatoes

To serve - place a hot dog in a roll & top with fried onions & peppers & generously spoon on the chilli bean salsa

Cachorro Quente

Friday, 16 May 2014

1-2-3 with a BLT (and C)

Since I started using a Yumbox for Jack's school lunches he has become so excited over what's going to be in it that day. Every morning when he asks me I say 'you'll have to wait and see, it's a surprise' - to be honest, it's often the same as it was the day before (and the day before that) but it doesn't stop him being excited. 

If you have a fussy lunch eater who, like Jack, gets bored very easily of the mundane ham sandwich it may be worth making the sandwiches a little bit more exciting - it doesn't have to be fancy, and it doesn't have to take a long time - just use a shaped cookie cutter!

Here is my '1-2-3 with a BLT' with the addition of some Squeezy Cheese

1-2-3 with a BLT

2 slices of bread
Primula Squeezy Cheese
3 rashers of crispy bacon
4 slices of tomato

  • Generously spread the cheese onto one side of each slice of bread
  • Lay the rashers of bacon onto one slice
  • Top with lettuce & tomato
  • Place the second slice of bread on top (cheese side down)
  • Squash down a little and use your cutters to cut out some shapes - or just slice in half end enjoy

Don't worry, there doesn't need to be any wasted sandwich if you use the cookie cutters - just think of those scraps as being a reward for being such a good Mum (or dad)!

To celebrate National Sandwich Week (which is this week if you didn't already know) Tots 100 have a competition to win a two night luxury break, and all you have to do to enter is to make a sandwich - how easy is that!

You can read more about the competition here, but basically you need to make a sandwich using Primula Squeezy Cheese, take a photo of it, share on Instagram or Twitter tagging @tots100 using the hashtag #PrimulaSandwich and then leave a comment on the Tots100 post with you Instagram or Twitter ID .

 photo primula1jpg_zps7b546d98.jpg
Primula contains the lowest salt, fat, calories and highest cheese and calcium content of any branded spreadable cheese on the market. The new Primula Kids Mild Squeezy Cheese also contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives – making it a great, healthy choice for the whole family! Primula Kids Mild Squeezy Cheese is available in Tesco stores nationwide from just £1.15.

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