Gruffalo Biscuits (recipe)

In case you haven’t noticed, World Book day is almost upon. Here is my very easy and most favourite chocolate biscuit recipe with a little Gruffalo twist.

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You need:

225g Margarine/Butter

115g Caster Sugar

225g Self raising Flour

2 tbsp (tablespoon) Cocoa Powder

1tsp (teaspoon) Vanilla Extract

50g Flacked Almonds

Pre-heat your oven to 180oC and grease a baking tray.

  1. Cream the margarine and sugar together until well mixed. Add vanilla extract.
  2. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder. It should now be thicker than a paste but more sticky than a dough.
  3. Roll into small balls (you should be able to make 16-20) and place them spaced out on your baking tray (you may need a couple of trays depending on size). Push down gently with your fingers so they are a little less ball like and more biscuit like (you can see the ridges in the picture). These do spread in the oven so don’t completely flatten them.
  4. Now it’s time to add the claws. Take 3 flacks of almond and put them into the front of the biscuit. Repeat until you have ‘clawed’ all of the biscuits.
  5. Bake in the oven for 13-15minutes. When they come out, leave them to cool for 5 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack. They need time to set slightly. If you try and lift them off too early, they will crumble (if they do crumble, they make a really nice crumbly ice-cream topping, so it’s not the end of the world!).

There you have it. Your own Gruffalo Paw Biscuits!

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Banana Cake

I’ve heard this called ‘Banana Loaf’, ‘Banana Bread’ and ‘Banana Cake’. Whatever you call it, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s very yummy. It’s very easy to make which makes it perfect for doing with children and freezes well, meaning you can make it well in advance.

IMG_20140312_130319156Ingredients:

4oz  Margarine

6oz  Sugar (can be any kind. I use the Demerara sugar as I like the flavour)

8oz Self Raising Flour

2 Eggs

2 large or 3 medium Banana’s (it’s best to use very ripe, almost brown banana’s)

Pre-heat your oven to 180oC

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Mash the banana’s in a bowl with a sturdy fork and then put to one side.

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In a separate  bowl, cream the butter and sugar.

IMG_20140312_105442380Once it’s mixed together, add the eggs and mix.

IMG_20140312_105546953Then add the banana’s that you’ve already mashed.

IMG_20140312_105647131Mix together.

IMG_20140312_105803912Add the flour.

IMG_20140312_105842660Mix until it comes together.

IMG_20140312_110100780Put it in a loaf tin. If you aren’t using a silicone loaf tin like I am here, you will need to line your tin. I like my silicone tin as, as long as you are careful, you can ease it out without needing to line it. It’s worth noting that my tin won’t give you the perfect loaf shape as the sides move slightly.

IMG_20140312_130227890Cook for 40 minutes at 180 oC then turn the oven down to 150 oC and bake for further 30 minutes.

IMG_20140312_130319156Take out and turn out onto a cooling rack. Resist the temptation to eat it straight away (it smells really yummy)!

Yummy Chocolate Brownie Recipe

I’ve decided that I want to add a few things to my blog as believe it or not, I do enjoy other things apart from crochet! I realised as I was looking back through my blog that I haven’t post any recipes for a while so I’m going to be adding a few of my favourites over the next few months. The first one is for these yummy chocolate brownies. Now I’d love to take credit for these but they come from a friend whose family is famous (well in their circle of friends) for these brownies. They are fairly easy to make but there are a few steps. Believe me though, they are well worth it.

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Ingredients:

100g Butter (don’t be tempted to opt for margarine, this gives a much better flavour)

100g dark chocolate

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

350g soft light brown sugar (again, don’t be tempted to opt for white caster sugar, this one gives a better flavour)

150g Self Raising Flour

25g Cocoa Powder

150g of Milk and White chocolate (I usually use 100g of milk and 50g of white as hubby isn’t a massive white chocolate fan but you can do whatever you like).

 Grease and line a 20cm by 20cm square cake tin and pre-heat your oven to 180oC.

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Chop up the dark chocolate.

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Put the butter and dark chocolate into a pan and over a medium heat, melt.

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Leave to cool on the side.

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Chop other chocolate into chunks (I usually cut each small square into quarters).

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Whisk the eggs and salt until foaming and then add sugar and vanilla extract.

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Whisk until roughly mixed.

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Pour the cooled chocolate and butter unto the rest of the mixture and mix roughly.

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Sift in flour and cocoa powder and fold in gently.

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Add the chocolate chunks.

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Pour into tin and cook for 35-40min.

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Test whether it’s ready by sticking a knife in. It should come out slightly moist as though not quite cooked. If it still looks completely uncooked, try another again, just to make sure you haven’t hit one of the chocolate chunks!

Turn out carefully onto a cooling rack to cool. Once completely cooled, cut into brownie sized pieces.

IMG_20140228_113657311(Hubby decided he wanted chocolate brownie instead of a birthday cake, hence the candle!)

Happy Birthday Little Man

Little Man has turned 4 (where has the time gone?!). What with Christmas, starting back at nursery and his birthday he has been a very exciting little boy. He loves the Gruffalo so you can imagine, he got quite a few themed presents including a Gruffalo child costume which he insisted on wearing until nursery, only to swap it in time for nursery, for Gruffalo jogging bottoms; a Gruffalo jumper; a Gruffalo top; and Gruffalo hat and mittens. It was quite a sight but if you can’t do it when you are four, when can you do it?

The Gruffalo also made an appearance on his birthday cake. I was pretty pleased with how it turned out in the end, although it was a bit of a nightmare making it!

IMG_1929The cake itself was actually really easy to make, but I had a number of ‘drama’s’ on the way. I say drama’s, they weren’t really but they were frustrations. First I couldn’t find one of my tins; then I found the right amounts for the size tin I could find, only to forget to double it. Then I ran out of flour….all this with an excited little boy who want to help make a gruffalo cake with sweets inside.

IMG_1931I managed to find a cake shop that sells these edible pictures and the Gruffalo ribbon, made two Madeira Cakes and iced it with fondant icing. I then stuck the picture to the top. See, easy.

IMG_1942Ok well not quite that easy as Little Man decided that he wanted secret sweets inside. Saying that it really wasn’t that much harder. If you haven’t made one of these before (and I hadn’t) all you do is cut a disk of sponge out of each cake (I used pastry cutters), not going all the way through to the bottom and in the middle, leaving enough cake around it to give a good portion when cut. Then cut a smaller disk in the middle of one of the disks, going all the way through. This creates a small hole to pour the sweets in so keep the small disk of cake you have just cut out. Using butter icing, sandwich the two cakes together forming a hidden cavity in the middle and the small hole going into it in the top. Pour the sweets in (I used M&M’s) and gently push into the gaps. Plug up the hole with the disk of cake you saved the ice it however you have chosen. When you cut into it, make sure the first slice is large enough for the sweets to tumble out through.

Little Man, after having fun helping me make it, was very pleased with the end result and I was happy that it turned out ok.

Happy Birthday!

Last month saw my little man 3, right in the middle of the snow! There was a hairy moment when we thought we’d have to cancel his party because people wouldn’t be able to get there, but thankfully the snow cleared enough to make it ok. I wouldn’t have minded if this wasn’t the first year he had been talking (non stop) about having a party. We went to his Nanny’s party back in November and since then the idea that people have parties at their birthday has stuck. He was very definite about who he wanted to come and what kind of cake he wanted (he didn’t even ask, he just said ‘at my party I’m having a such and such cake’ – you’ll see in a minute what he wanted!). Thankfully he had a lovely time and is still talking about his party with all his friends and family (as well as the cake – I feel proud that he remembered the cake because it’s not that amazing).

So I thought to celebrate, I would share quickly the last few years of cakes he’s had (you are very privileged, as last years was a bit of a disaster, as we’d all been ill and I was exhausted – it didn’t turn out how I wanted it to at all – so I didn’t share it). Here’s this years:

IMG_4528 If you aren’t sure what it is (and I don’t blame you!) it’s Neep from Abney and Teal. His most favourite character from his most favourite programme. Neep is apparently a Scottish word for turnip (does that make it a little clearer? lol). I have to say Neep has given me no end of troubles because as of yet they don’t make Neep toys but he has a free gift from a magazine which he takes to bed with him every night and I’m so worried he’ll lose it or something. Anyway the cake itself was very easy to make. I baked a rectangle Madeira Cake, drew Neep on a piece of paper and cut around the template. I then covered it in butter icing and rolled out ready made fondant icing. I then made a nose, two arms and two legs. Finally I painted food colouring onto the icing. I couldn’t get the exact colour but Little Man seemed thrilled by it, so I suppose that’s the main thing!

img_3704This is what he had for his Second Birthday as at the time he loved In the Night Garden. You can’t really see it but the main part of the carousel (or gazebo – there is some debate as to what it actually is), is a basic Madeira Cake covered in butter icing. I wasn’t too pleased with this on as I couldn’t get a proper round lolly pop to go on top and I went to the trouble of baking the top cake in a bowl, and cutting it into sections so I could shape it, but promptly forgot to shape the top before covering it in butter icing. Oh well. Little Man seemed happy at the time, so I guess it didn’t really matter that much.

img_3160This is the cake I made for his first birthday. It’s probably my favourite one out of all of them and also the one that he won’t remember at all! The hardest part was making the man but the book I got it from (50 Easy Party Cakes by Debbie Brown) shows you how to make him. The cake itself is made from 2 Madeira Cakes with butter icing in the middle. I used chop sticks for drum sticks.

I’m looking forward to having an excuse to make  2 cakes a year soon. Hopefully by the time Little Man and Little Miss are old enough to remember their cakes, I will have been able to practice a bit more and improve!

In other news, I’ve lost my camera. Which is a shame because I’ve been a busy crafting bee since Christmas and I have lots of new projects I want to share with you. I will upload as soon as I either find it or work out how to use hubby’s swishy camera.

Weekend Warmer Recipe: Beef Casserole

Last time I made this, my husband came home from work and commented that the house smelt like Bonfire Night. I know it’s not November yet, but we are very close to Bonfire Night, so I thought I’d save this recipe for last as it is the perfect thing for warming you up on a chilly night (in fact I often do this for him when he come home from watching the footie – a couple of hours in those stands can be quite cold!)

To remind us of those chilly nights and in honour of Bonfire Night in a few weeks, here’s a nice picture of our Town Fireworks display.

Ok back to cooking!

As usual, you can do this in a saucepan on the hob or in a casserole dish in the oven but you will need to change the cooking time. Also choose a more tender piece of meat if doing it on the hob because it will cook quicker.

You will need:

Beef (I use casserole cuts as the meat cooks so slowly that it becomes really tender and there isn’t much point wasting a better cut).

Onion

1 good size Parsnip

1-2 Carrots

1/2 a Beef stock cube

100ml of boiling water

1 tin of chopped tomotoes

mixed herbs and pepper to season

A little flour to thicken.

Serves 2-3 people.

A quick note: you can use whatever root vegetables you like, I just use these because I love the flavours they give (especially the parsnip).

1. Chop and brown your onions in a frying pan. Add to Slow Cooker.

2. Brown the beef in the frying pan (this will stop the meat drying out and keep it nice and tender) and add a little flour to coat the beef (this will thicken the sauce).
Add to the Slow Cooker.

3. Add tinned tomatoes, herbs, pepper and the stock (made from the stock cube and boiling water).

4. Peel and chop the root vegetables into roughly the same size (so they cook evenly). Add to Slow Cooker and stir.

5. Cook on ‘Low’ for at least 4 hours.

Serve with Jacket Potatoes; Pasta; or Bread.

Weekend Warmer Recipe – Scrummy Curry

Now before I start this, let me say that I’m not pretending to be an expert on curry, in fact I might as well be honest, I know nothing about curry, I’ve just found this works and is really nice. Part of the reason I like it is because my hubby is allergic to chilli, and I have eaten enough Korma for the moment! It has become a firm favourite in our house, so much so that we have ‘Curry Night’ most weeks. I Have cheated and used curry paste, but it saves so much time, why not?

In my last post, I mentioned how hard it is to take nice photo’s of slow cooker recipes, so here is another Autumnal picture. It’s one of my favourite places to walk the dog, although I have to keep an eye on her as there are so many squirrels at this time of year, I have lost her for 45min before!

Right back to cooking!  You can do this in a casserole dish in the oven, or in a saucepan on the hob but you’ll have to change the timings.

Ingredients:

Onion

Whatever meat you fancy (I find Chicken thighs or Lamb works really well but I often use chicken or turkey breasts).

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon of Tandorri Paste (I use ‘Pataks’)

1/2 a tablespoon of Tikka Masala Paste (again, I use ‘Pataks’)

Either 1 tin of Coconut Milk or half a block of a Coconut block, made into a paste with boiling water.

1 small handful of sugar

Serves 4.

1. Fry 1 chopped onion in a pan and brown/white meat. Add to slow cooker and pour in Chopped Tomatoes.

2. Mix in the Tandorri and Tikka Masala paste and add the coconut.

3. Add sugar stir and leave to cook (for 4+ hrs on ‘Low’).

Serve with rice, popadoms or nann bread. It can also be frozen (an even easier meal for next week!).

Weekend Warmer Recipes (or Scrummy Slow Cooker Recipes)

Well Autumn is well and truly here now. The weather is starting to get colder (I’ve been able to start wearing my new hats); the evenings are getting shorter; the leaves are are turning and starting to fall off the trees and we’re starting to get that beautiful Autumnal light, shining through the multi coloured trees. For me, it’s also the time of year where we start cooking stews and casseroles again. There is something particularly lovely about coming home to the smell of a stew cooking in the slow cooker. I thought over the next few blog posts, I’d share with you 3 of my favourite slow cooker recipes, which I am going to call my ‘Weekend Warmer Recipes’. You can do them in a casserole dish in the oven, or in a saucepan on the hob but you’ll have to change the timings. Casseroles are really hard to take good photo’s of, so, as I like photo’s on my blog, here are a couple of ‘Autumn’ shots of our local area.

I love my slow cooker; we use it all the time. It’s great because I can get the dinner ready, whenever is easiest and just leave it to cook. It also means that little man can eat the same thing as my hubby and I, even though we eat at different times, as I can just take his portion out and leave ours safely in there. I saves me cooking two teas! In fact, because these are pretty much ‘throw it all in together and let it go’ recipes, Little Man often helps me with the cooking, which means that he is more interested in eating the end result (we’re going through the fussy toddler phase at the moment).

Right the first Weekend Warmer Recipe I’m going to share with you is my Sausage Casserole (serves 2-3)

I haven’t given exact amounts for some things like meat and onions as people like different amounts.

Ingredients:

Sausages (the key is to use good quality sausages – I usually find supermarket ‘finest’ ranges work well as they have a higher Pork content).

1 Tin of Chopped tomotoes

100ml of boiling water

1/2 a pork stock cube

Onion

Mixed herbs, a bay leaf and pepper to season.

Tomato purée to thicken if needed.

1. Fry onion in a frying pan and add to slower cooker.

2. Pour over 1 tin of chopped tomatoes and the stock (made from the water and the stock cube).

3. Add the sausages and add some mixed herbs, bay leaf and pepper. Thicken with tomato purée (I just squeeze it in until it seems to have done the job) if you need to.

4. Cook on ‘high’ for 2-3 hours, until the sausages are cooked or if you want to leave it on all day, just stick it on ‘low’.

5. If you want to, an hour before serving chop the sausages up (I do this for little man).

Serve with pasta, jacket pots, bread or cous cous.

Easter Baking

Easter is always a big deal in our house. I think food is always a big part of any celebration and in our family, I love making food! Here are a couple of my favourite Easter treats:

These are a firm family favourite. For the rest of the year we use cornflakes but at Easter we substitute them for shredded wheat and add little chocolate eggs. I like this recipe as you make your own chocolate. If you make these by melting chocolate and mixing in the shredded wheat (another way of making them); the shredded wheat can be a bit crispy. The chocolate in this recipe, soaks in slightly so it isn’t so brittle! It’s perfect for making with little ones as it is a very simple recipe that doesn’t involve much cooking and has no eggs (so they can lick the bowl at the end!). I’m not sure exactly where the recipe originally came from as I’ve been making ever since I was very small. Here it is, if you fancy making it yourself:

Easter Nests

Shredded wheat (8 large ones)

2oz cocoa powder

8oz icing sugar

6oz margarine

2oz golden syrup

Prepare cake cases (This recipe should make 24 cakes; I use silicone cake cases). Break up the shredded wheat in a separate bowl (there shouldn’t be any clumps, just lots of tiny sticks). Melt the margarine and the syrup (I do it in a heat proof bowl in the microwave, it takes about a minute). While you are doing this, measure out the cocoa powder and icing sugar (you can sieve it so that there are no clumps later). Mix in the melted margarine and syrup and stir until the mixture has thickened slightly, is smooth, with no lumps. Add the shredded wheat and stir until all the tiny ‘sticks’ of wheat are covered with chocolate. Spoon the chocolate mixture into cake cases and make a slight dip in the middle (so it looks a little more like a nest). Place 2-3 chocolate eggs in the middle of each ‘nest’. Leave to set (it won’t take very long), then enjoy!

Here is another Easter favourite:

I won’t post the recipe as it is very long winded, a real labour of love. It is a variation of an Easter Cake but mini. It is my husbands favourite cake, but unfortunately as it is so time consuming, he only gets it once a year. Still it is very yummy and well worth the time and effort!

Merry Christmas everyone!

As the last post of 2011, I thought I would share some pictures of our decorations. As you can see, we’ve gone for the ‘homemade’ feel this year!

Apparently the ‘Scandinavian’ look is very fashionable this year. As luck would have it, a few years ago my sister in law, who lives in Denmark gave us this lovely red heart. I think it works really well.

Very simple but effective decoration. A bowl with spare baubles in. I’ve put it by the window as the light catches the glitter and reflects off the bowl. I like it because it actually looks good during the day.

Stars and trees, tied together with brown string. Little man loves looking and pointing at his stars saying; ‘Stars! Stars!’

Finally, our nativity scene: it’s what Christmas is all about after all! Merry Christmas everyone!