Sweet & Salty Choc-o-nut Cookies

Delicious, delovely, delectable, divine! To quote the utterly degroovey Deee-Lite. The surprising friendship of salty nuts and sweet chocolate is a true delight…though I can’t take credit for its conception.

My middle child, who has always had a knack for sensational flavour twists, fancied doing a bit of baking. These moreish morsels were his winning creation.

Normally, I find it hard to stop at 1 or 2 cookies, but the salty nuts make these gorgeously satisfying. And this, my friend, is a good thing because one bite of these and you will be hooked.

Choc-o-nut Cookies

Ingredients

  • 50g soft butter
  • 25g peanut butter
  • 160g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 125g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 60g salted peanuts

Method

  • First of all pop your oven on to 180C / 160C fan. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.
  • Beat your sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  • Now beat in your egg and vanilla.
  • Gradually add the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa (we added 1/3 at a time).
  • Finally stir in the chocolate chunks and nuts.
  • Now just dollop tablespoons of the cookie dough onto your prepared baking sheets, leaving a few centimetres in between each cookie.
  • Pop them in the oven for 10-12 minutes.
  • Once they’re baked to perfection, remove from the oven. Give them a few minutes to cool slightly before you move them to a wire rack.

Super Simple Salmon Chowder

Chowders are like the posh cousins of the soup family. A good fish chowder feels a bit grander than, say, a classic tomato soup or a chicken broth. To me, it’s a bit of an indulgence. I dare say a proper restaurant chowder would indeed be somewhat of a treat with lashings of cream and butter. This version, while tasting divine is, brilliantly, rather good for you. A definitively lighter rendition – posh and saintly.

Made mostly with chicken stock, it finds its delicate creaminess from a good glug of milk added near the end of the cooking. I tend to use full fat milk for this but I can’t imagine semi skimmed would taste noticeably inferior. I wouldn’t advise skimmed milk though, unless you want the creaminess in colour only. But then, why bother?

If you want to boost your veg intake, add sweetcorn, peas or chopped spinach. And finally, don’t scrimp on the bread. Big hunks of wholemeal or granary are spot on with a fish chowder.

Super Simple Salmon Chowder

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced quite finely
700ml chicken stock
300ml whole milk

1 pack of smoked salmon, chopped
1 lemon – zest of whole lemon and a squeeze of juice to taste
A handful of parsley, chopped
A few sprigs of dill, chopped (optional)

Method

Pop your potatoes, onion and hot stock in a pan and simmer for about 15 minutes with the lid on.

Once the potatoes are tender add the milk, heat through over a low heat then add the smoked salmon and lemon zest. Gently simmer for a couple of minutes.

Turn off the heat and add a spritz of lemon juice and the herbs. If you can wait, leave the chowder to sit for a few minutes so that all the flavours can merrily mingle.

Serve with an extra scattering of herbs and more lemon juice if you like.

Fabulous Filo Leftover Pie

This is more of a suggestion than a recipe, because you could use any leftovers you want to make this pie. As long as you have a few sheets of filo kicking about the kitchen you’re onto a winner.

I had made way too much curry on Friday night and I was all set to do my usual and turn it into soup. But as I opened the fridge I spotted 3 sheets of filo pastry. I’d used the rest of the pack to make samosas and just couldn’t decide what to do with the rest.

And so this happy collision of leftovers was born. I added a couple of handfuls of couscous to my leftover curry just to make sure this was a hearty enough pie for us hungry lot.

My curry was sweet potato and chicken, but like I say, you could use whatever curry you have leftover, or use up bolognese or bean stew or a creamy fish dish or a fiery chilli. You get the idea, just experiment with what you have. I don’t often have leftovers as we are a hungry household. But this is so good, with a satisfying crunch and a flavour packed filling I’d be tempted to make extra curry just so I know I’ll have enough leftover for this easy pie.

Fabulous Filo Leftover Pie

Ingredients

  • Leftover curry (or chilli or bolognese or stew)
  • A couple of handfuls of couscous (if you want to bulk up your sauce a bit)
  • A few sheets of filo pastry (enough to scrunch up over you dish), I used 3
  • A little oil or melted butter
  • Sesame seeds

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 160 C / gas 3.
  • Reheat your curry and chuck in the couscous, if you’re using it. You could also add a couple of handfuls of frozen peas, chopped spinach or some canned sweetcorn.
  • Pour the sauce into a heat proof dish.
  • Brush your filo sheets with a little oil or melted butter then scrunch up and pop atop the curry.
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 30 minutes. When it’s cooked the pastry will be crisp and lightly golden brown.

Happy Pancake Day

Today is a very happy pancake day indeed. Why? Because it’s the first time in years that I have remembered to cook pancakes on pancake day. Although it almost didn’t happen… again. Last night I told the kids we would have pancakes for breakfast. So I got up this morning and starting making a fruit salad. Luckily my son breezed into the kitchen and cheerily mentioned pancakes.

Now because I was a bit flustered at my forgetfulness I made these slightly differently from the recipe I usually use for 2 reasons. Firstly, I usually add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the batter, but I forgot (it didn’t seem to matter a jot). And secondly I thought I’d try using self raising flour instead of plain, with less baking powder. These beauties puffed up a treat so I won’t look back.

So hoorah and huzzah we feasted on a pile of pancakes this morning. Pretty impressive for a Tuesday morning. These are lovely and simple, both to make and in flavour, which means they present themselves as the perfect carrier for any delightful topping you might fancy. I will always go for blueberries and maple syrup but around the table there were artful combos made from peanut butter, chocolate spread, honey, bananas etc etc.

This recipe makes a lot of pancakes. There are 5 of us and we all love to eat. One of us ate 7 pancakes this morning, you know who you are. So if you are a little less greedy than us you could reduce the quantities or just make them all and freeze your leftovers or, if you’re feeling generous share them with your neighbours.

Classic Pancakes

Serves 5 greedy people


Ingredients

  • About 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 450ml whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 330g self raising flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • A couple of tablespoons of sugar (optional)

Method

  • First, in the pan you are going to cook your pancakes in, melt the butter then take off the heat and leave while you whisk the other ingredients together.
  • Whisk the milk and eggs before adding the dry ingredients and keep whisking until there are no lumps.
  • Now pour in the melted butter and whisk again .
  • Heat your pan (it really needs to be non-stick) over a medium heat and add big dollops of pancake batter and leave to cook without touching until little bubbles start to appear on the surface. Flip and cook on the other side for a minute or so.
  • You can eat these as they are ready or keep them warm in a low oven while you finish cooking the whole batch.

Winter Warmer Apple, Date & Almond Porridge

It’s blooming freezing outside but joy of joys it’s been snowing. So before heading out into the winter wonderland a warming, hearty breakfast is a must.

This porridge is a triumph. Apple cubes partner perfectly with earthy, warming cinnamon. And all topped off with chopped nuts and deep amber maple syrup. Heaven.

This will have you warmed through and ready to face the chilliest of days.

Winter Warmer Porridge

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • A big cup of porridge oats
  • Milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 6-8 dates, chopped
  • A big handful of almonds, chopped
  • Maple syrup

Method

  • Pop your oats into a pan and pour over enough milk to cover them. Cook over a medium heat, stirring every now and then. Add more milk if it’s getting too thick.
  • Meanwhile chop your apple and pop them, along with the dates, into the pan so that they warm through with the porridge.
  • Once everything is nicely cooked, pour or dollop into bowls, sprinkle with the chopped nuts and drizzle with maple syrup.
  • Feel the warmth radiate.

A Kind of Shakshuka (eggs cooked in spiced tomato sauce with feta)

One of my loveliest friends recently gave me a wonderful cook book by Madeleine Shaw. I sat down one rainy day this week with a mug of tea to devour the pages.

You won’t be surprised that a Shakshuka recipe caught my eye. Ms Shaw’s is a green version, packed with nourishing veggies. As is often the case with me I set out to rustle this up for lunch only to discover I didn’t have half of the ingredients I needed. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail blah blah blah.

Gladly, I’m not so weak as to be grasped by failure’s clutches at the first hurdle. Or rather I was really hungry and had already gathered the eggs and feta in anticipation.

So this delicious lunch is a hybrid Shakshuka. The eggs are cooked in a deeply delicious tomato sauce but there is a lovely bit of spinach tipping it’s hat to the glorious green Shakshuka that never was.

Serve this with toast, my top choice bring sourdough, but any kind of bread will add the requisite crunch and of course, the means to scrape up every last bit of this saucy delight.

Final note: when I was finishing this off I scattered over a bit of fresh thyme, simply because I have some growing rampant on the window sill. I also sprinkled a pinch of sumac and chilli flakes over the eggs just before serving. All 3 of these are completely optional. If you don’t have them hanging around your kitchen this will still be glorious. And if you decide to play around with the flavours let me know how it turns out.

Shakshuka (eggs in spiced tomato sauce with feta)

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • About a tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • A couple of handfuls of spinach, chopped (or use a couple of frozen spinach blocks)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 pack of feta, roughly chopped or crumbled up
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • A couple of pinches of chilli flakes
  • A couple of pinches of sumac

Method

  • In a frying pan that has a lid, heat your olive oil over a medium heat and fry your onions until they are nice and soft. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  • Stir in your spices then pour over the tomatoes.
  • If you’re using frozen spinach you can chuck that in too.
  • Let your sauce simmer away gently for about 10 – 15 minutes to let all the flavours come together and the sauce thicken. Give it a stir every now and then.
  • Add a little salt and pepper (and the spinach if you’re opting for fresh rather than frozen) to the sauce then make 2 little wells in your sauce and crack the eggs in.
  • Pop a lid on the pan and simmer gently for about 7 minutes or until the eggs are cooked to perfection. I like mine with a runny yolk.
  • Now just scatter over the feta and thyme. If you like you can pop the lid back on for a minute so that the feta warms slightly.
  • Serve with a little pinch of sumac and chilli flakes if you fancy and, of course, a pile of hot buttered toast.