30 Jan 2014

Mushroom Soup - Recipe

Mushroom soup garnished with finely chopped fresh parsley
Making soup from just a few ingredients is a very cost effective way to feed ourselves and our families during the winter months, although I am more than happy to eat soup all year round.  I find a bowl of soup at lunchtime is filling and keeps me going until dinner.  Another reason I like to eat soup - it helps me to keep my weight at a sensible level so that I don't have to diet.  The recipe serves 4 people and works out at approximately 25p a bowl.

The soup can be frozen in soup bags after cooling or a more cost effective way is to pour the soup into a muffin tin and place in the freezer.  After the portions are frozen remove the muffin tin from the freezer and let them start to defrost around the edges. Remove the soup portions and either wrap them individually in cling wrap or thaw the portions at room temperature.

Okay better get started with the soup 
You will need:
50g diced onion
50g diced celery
50g diced leek
50g butter
1tbsp olive oil
50g plain flour
1 litre hot chicken stock
200g white mushrooms chopped
100ml semi-skimmed milk
Parsley, finely chopped to garnish

1. Melt the butter and oil in a large pan. add the diced onion, celery and leeks.  Cook gently to soften without colouring.
2. Add the flour to the pan and cook gently.  Gradually add the hot stock whilst continuously stirring, bring to the boil to thicken.
3. Add the chopped mushrooms, season.
4. Simmer for 45 minutes.
5. Cool the soup.
6. Liquidise.
7. Pour the liquidised soup through a strainer into a clean pan.
8. Add the milk and season if necessary.

I thought I'd share a few snapshots of the 'new kitchen'.  I'm really pleased with it and will put a few posts on the blog sharing my thoughts about using a Steam Combination Oven, induction hob and warming drawer.

25 Jan 2014

Devil's Food Loaf - Annie Bell

Dark, sticky chocolate cake with a tender crumb
I wouldn't make this cake for children it's too dark and chocolaty - the icing is also too dark and chocolaty for children! My cake is so good I don't really want to share it with anyone - although I've made an exception and let hubby enjoy a few slices.  The cake cuts well and is a keeper too - I made this cake last Monday, stored it in a 'Lock and Lock' box and today (Saturday) it is still fresh.

The recipe is by Annie Bell, one of my favourite food writers, her Devil's Food Loaf recipe caught my eye in last weekends Daily Mail You Magazine. I've always enjoyed making her recipes because I can trust them to turn out well.

I love that this is a cake-cum-dessert and a dollop of creme fraiche or ice cream are the perfect partners for the cake.

If you love chocolate cake, you'll definitely fall head over heels for this one. A great cake to make for Valentine's Day and all you have to do is scatter some heart decorations over the icing.

17 Jan 2014

Chocolate and Beetroot Mini Cakes - Recipe

Chocolate and Beetroot Mini Cakes
Mini cakes that look cute make eating mini portions a pleasure and I also like an excuse to use my mini loaf baking tins.  January is the month to measure our food intake and these mini cakes are delicious.

I'm not suggesting for one minute these are healthy mini bites but mentally they definitely lift the spirits on a dull, grey, rainy, January day.

The Craisins are used in the batter mix and I decorated the loaves with them too. Craisins are dried cranberries and a registered trademark belonging to Ocean Spray.

Makes 12 mini loaves
Spray the tins with cake release and it shouldn't be necessary to line the bases
I wasn't sure how many cakes I'd get but guessed if I filled the tins three quarters full I'd stand a chance of them rising enough to produce 12 cakes.

Good guess - it made 12 mini loaves
Decorated they will keep for a couple of days, without icing they can be frozen.

You will need:

75g dark chocolate
75g chopped Craisins
150g grated Beetroot
175g self-raising flour
40g cocoa powder
175g soft brown sugar
250ml vegetable oil
3 large eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 170ÂșC.
2. Place the chocolate into a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water until it has melted, stir and cool.
3. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a bowl, add the sugar, oil, eggs and melted chocolate.  Whisk together and stir in the grated beetroot and Craisins.
4. Pour the batter into the mini loaf compartments until they are three quarters full.  Bake for 25 minutes and allow them to cool in the pans.
5. Remove the loaves from the pan and decorate with icing and extra Craisins.

14 Jan 2014

Making the Most of Local Produce - Bridgnorth Market

Fresh veg from the market
I never make New Year resolutions and why would I want to start the year making resolutions that only serve to make me miserable.  If I had vowed to cut out coffee, eat less cake and do without the odd biscuit, this wouldn't be a good start to the year.

I decided this year it would be great if I could make more effort and visit Bridgnorth Market to stock up on local vegetables.  We visited a stall under Bridgnorth Town Hall and bought dirty carrots, dirty local potatoes and dirty parsnips! - a snip at only £1 per bag.  Red onions, white onions, sprouts on the stalk complete with sprout leaves, purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and a cauliflower.  The total sum spent was £7.50.

Opposite the veg stall is the meat stall run by one of the local butchers shops.  Here I bought a loin of pork and a pack of ten chicken breast fillets - amount spent £16.50.  Next stop the flower stall and two bunches of flowers for £2.00.

We moved to the high street stalls and bought 6 huge baking potatoes, a bunch of grapes and bananas for £4.00.

After this we made a beeline for one of the fabulous local independent coffee shops, a swift walk along the high street, well it was really cold, and made our way home.

Storing the vegetables is important because I can't let all of this go to waste.  I use a variety of ways to store my fruit and vegetables to help keep them fresh.  The carrots are stored in a trusted Tupperware vegetable keeper which I have had for many years.  Other vegetables I want to store in the fridge are placed into Stay Fresh Longer bags which I buy from Lakeland.

The onions, dirty potatoes and baking potatoes are stored separately in these Stay Fresh vegetable keeper bags which I store in a large drawer in my kitchen.  I bought my bags from either the Kleeneze or the Betterware catalogue.

I often use my local greengrocer for my fresh produce but the market was a more cost effective approach and it was fun too.

Now I have to plough my way through this lot........wish me luck!