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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Rainbow cake Tutorial

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We recently celebrated Little Miss’ first birthday. It was a lovely time even though she was too little to remember it. Still, I wanted to mark the occasion so I made her this birthday cake. I first saw it on one of these ‘awesome cakes I want to make’ type facebook links and I loved it. However when I came to make this, the link no longer worked so I can’t direct you to the original post. I know that the original post was just a picture not a walk through, so I already knew I had to make it up as I went along (It’s worth noting here that there are probably much better ways of doing this as I actually made it up as I went along, I have never ‘learnt’ how to make or decorate cakes). Would you like to see how I did it?

IMG_20140329_093230517First make 2 Madeira cakes (you can find the recipe in most cake books or online as it’s a basic for occasion cake baking). Level the top of each cake so the are flat.

IMG_20140329_093511858Cut each cake in half.

IMG_20140329_093124988In two of the halves, cut a rough oval shape. Make sure you have cake around the sides so that the cake remains stable once finished. These will be the middle layers of the cake. We’ll fill this hole later with M&Ms 🙂

IMG_20140329_100004070Take the bottom layer and cover with butter icing.

IMG_20140329_100050077Put the first middle layer on.

IMG_20140329_100139735Cover this with icing.

IMG_20140329_100205302Put the second middle layer on top.

IMG_20140329_100242581Fill hole with M&M’s.

IMG_20140329_100341861-001Put more butter icing on top.

IMG_20140329_100351523_HDRAdd the final layer.

IMG_20140329_100407363Turn on it’s side so it’s up the right way.

IMG_20140329_101843876Now cover the outside with butter icing.

IMG_20140329_102112203This will stick the icing to the cake.

IMG_20140329_102208656Now roll out your blue icing. I didn’t buy blue icing (although I know you can get it). I bought some white icing from tesco and some blue food colouring and worked it in until I got the shade I wanted. If you want to do it like this, my top tip is to use a cocktail stick to apply the food colouring as you don’t need very much of it.

IMG_20140329_102608766_HDRNow pick it up (I used the rolling pin to carefully roll and carry it then unwrapped it onto the cake).

IMG_20140329_102843519Smooth down with a cake smoother (it’s worth getting one of these if you want to get a smooth finish). Cut off the excess carefully. It doesn’t matter if the corners at the front are a bit messy as these will be covered up with small marshmallows later.

IMG_20140329_104412290_HDRNow to make you rainbow. Choose the colours you want and mix them if necessary. Then roll out a sausage in each colour, starting with the top colour (in my case, the red). You can see that close up, it isn’t that neat. Next time, I’ll work on getting it neater but by this stage I was starting to run out of time!

IMG_20140329_154245340Finally, using a little butter icing to start, pile up white mini marshmallows and add candle and edible glitter if desired. When you eventually cut into the cake, make sure you cut a big slice to get the full effect of the hidden M&M’s!

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!)

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.