Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Mom's Banana Apple Bread

I am entering this Banana Apple Bread into the Banana Bread Bakeoff event at Not Quite Nigella.

Earlier this week I received The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, a book with superb reviews. I knew instantly that I needed this book and I wasn’t wrong, this book has page after page of the yummiest bakes. I sat down that evening and was just drooling upon reading one delicious recipe after another. This is one of those books that make you want to get in the kitchen and bake! One of the many recipes that caught my eye was Mom’s Banana Apple Bread; I know there are many recipes out there for banana bread. But this recipe folks is different to any other banana bread recipe you’ll ever experience. You’re probably asking yourself what makes this bread so different? This banana bread is extra-special and it’s all down to the bits of caramelized apple throughout, giving this banana bread so much extra flavour.The sweet apples just meld wonderfully into the spiced bread. Give it a try and you’ll see!

Mom's Banana Apple Bread

Makes one 1½ -quart loaf pan (2lb/900g)

For the apples:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the banana bread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups very ripe mashed bananas (2 to 3)

Before you start:Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/180oC. Lightly butter and flour a 1 1/2-quart loaf pan.

To make the apples:Preheat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and brown sugar and heat until bubbling. Add the apples and cinnamon and sauté until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

To make the banana bread:-In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the orange juice and vanilla.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the orange juice mixture, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each flour addition. Stir in the mashed bananas until combined. Then stir in the reserved apples.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool further.

*Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The banana bread keeps well wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Defrost (still wrapped) at room temperature.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Afternoon Tea Slices and an Award!

I had a friend stay over at the weekend and she gave me this gorgeous bunch of flowers, my kitchen smells so lovely. I just adore having flowers in my kitchen. Thanks Marja!

I came across these wonderful looking Afternoon Tea Slices at Vi’s Pantry (a forum I belong to), Gail posted the recipe and pics. I immediately was drawn to them and couldn’t wait to try them out. They are a different take on Anzac Biscuits and are absolutely more-ish and one slice just won’t be enough! They are the perfect snack! Thanks Gail for sharing this great recipe.

Afternoon Tea Slices

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
2 tblsp golden syrup
125g butter
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tblsp hot water
300g dark chocolate, melted ( I used milk chocolate)

Preheat oven to 160c. Combine oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl. Place golden syrup and butter in a saucepan over low heat and cook until melted. Mix the bicarb with the water, add to golden syrup mixture and stir to combine. Add to oat mixture and mix well. Press the mixture into a lightly greased 20cm x 30cm cake tin lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 mins or until golden. Allow to cool in tin. Pour over the melted chocolate and refrigerate until set. Cut into squares.


Priscilla at A Peek in Priscilla's Kitchen has kindly passed on this "You Make my Day Award" to me. She has a lovely blog and you really need to check out the pics of her beautiful chocolate labrador puppy, Lewis. His just soooo adorable, as is Priscilla for giving me this award. Thank you!

I am going to pass this award to the following:

Rosie at Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake.
Brenda at Tea and Wheaten Bread.
George at Culinary Travels of a Kitchen Goddess.
Anna at At Anna's Kitchen Table.
Kelly-Jane at Cooking the Books.
Pixie at You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato.

Friday, 25 April 2008

American Pecan and Chocolate "Coffee Cake"

I have baked this cake for hubby’s last badminton match of the season, which is this evening. The lady who organises the food for the matches sent an email last week asking if hubby could bring his usual delicious cakes. So I was more than willing to bake and provide the cake again, I love baking and being able to provide home-baked goodness whenever I can. Plus it’s a great excuse to try out new recipes, which is what I did today. I’ve been dying to make this cake after it caught my eye in my new book, Divine Heavenly Chocolate Recipes with a Heart. This American “coffee cake” doesn’t actually contain any coffee but gets its name because it’s traditionally served with coffee. The cake itself is definitely “divine”; the sour cream gives it a wonderful moist texture, with the streusel layers adding an amazing deep flavour of pecan nuts, dark chocolate, cinnamon and muscovado sugar. This cake will be sure to keep happy those tired badminton players after their match. I bet there isn’t a crumb left!!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Really Rich Chocolate Loaf Cake~Happy Birthday Rosie!

Happy Birthday Rosie!!

My dear friend Rosie from Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake is celebrating her birthday today. Happy Birthday Rosie, hope you have a lovely day! In celebration of her birthday I had to make a choccy cake, as Rosie is a true chocoholic. This cake is just irresistible and sure to impress. The richness of the cake comes from the dark chocolate, and the soft moist crumb from the sour cream. The topping is a scrumptious dark chocolate frosting, finished off with chocolate sprinkles. This is definitely a chocoholics idea of bliss! Above is a pic of my darling Madison with his pink feather toy, he wanted to wish his auntie Rosie a happy birthday too ;o)

Really Rich Chocolate Loaf Cake

Makes 1 loaf cake

For the cake mixture:
2 x 100g dark chocolate
200g unsalted butter, very soft
200g caster sugar
4 large free range eggs, at room temperature
100ml sour cream
200g self-raising flour

For the topping:
1 x 100g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon golden syrup
25g unsalted butter
200g sifted icing sugar
Sprinkles of your choice

Heat the oven to 180/350/Gas 4.

Break up the chocolate bars and melt gently. Remove the bowl from the heat and leave to cool until needed. Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of a food mixer and beat until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir in the sour cream, on low speed, followed by the flour and finally the melted chocolate, mixing gently until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture into a 900g (2lb) loaf tin (greased and base-lined). Bake in the heated oven for about 1 hour until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes then remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the topping: break up the chocolate and melt gently. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the syrup and butter and then add the sifted icing sugar. Leave to cool and thicken slightly. Spread the topping thickly over the cake and decorate with your choice of sprinkles.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Peanut Butter Oat Bars

Spring has finally arrived, what a beautiful sunny day! It was a lovely change waking up to a glorious day and walking into my kitchen with the sun shining away in the garden. The kitchen is one of my favourite places in my home, it’s where all my creations are born and made. So to celebrate the change in weather I decided to bake Peanut Butter Oat Bars, a favourite in our home. These oat bars are deliciously filling, and perfect to put in your kids or hubby's pack lunch box or for when they come home ravenous. No true peanut butter lover would be able to resist!

Peanut Butter Oat Bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz./113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Position oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with butter, then line it with parchment paper, letting it hang over 2 sides. In a bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking soda and salt and stir with a whisk until well blended. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar and peanut butter on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Turn off the mixer and add the flour-oat mixture. Beat on low speed just until blended. Using the rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the pan and spread it evenly. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake until the top of the cookie is golden and looks firm, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the baking pan from the oven and set it on a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely. Lift the cookie from the pan, dust it with confectioners’ sugar and cut it into 1 x 4-inch bars.

Makes 16 bars.

Monday, 21 April 2008


My wonderful friend Rosie from Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake has awarded me with this award. I am so touched and feel so honoured to have received this. I enjoy and love blogging and it was Rosie who encouraged me to start my own blog, I am so happy I took her advice. She is a true inspiration to me and she never ceases to amaze me with her beautiful creations. I just wish we lived near so I could sample those creations! Thank you so much Rosie for not only being a good friend to me over these years but for believing in me! Love and hugs, xxx.

There are so many blogs out there that are deserving of this award and that inspire me everyday! But I would like to pass this award onto the lovely Vicky from A Healthy Appetite, who only recently started blogging. She has a lovely blog with wonderful photos of her food, if you don't beleive me then take a peek for yourself. So Vicky may I present you with the “You Keep Me Blogging” award!! Hugs.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Pasta with Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

This pasta dish of meatballs in tomato sauce has to be one of our all time favourites which I have been making for years. It is a Nigella Lawson recipe and features in the Nigella Bites Cookbook. The rolling of the meatball is quite time-consuming but I find it quite therapeutic and I can’t help but feel like an Italian mama in the kitchen. If you are a pasta lover this is definitely a must try, the combined flavours of the meatballs cooked in the passata sauce leaves the tongue craving more, even when the belly is screaming “please, no more”! This is one pasta dish that the “Godfather” himself could not refuse.

Pasta with Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

For the meatballs
250g pork, minced
250g beef, minced
1 egg
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp Oregano
3 tbsp semolina, or breadcrumbs
1 pinch Pepper
1 tsp Salt

For the tomato sauce
1 onion
2 garlic clove
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp Olive oil, (not extra-virgin)
700g tomato passata (sieved tomatoes)
1 pinch Sugar
1 pinch salt and pepper
100ml full cream milk

To make the meatballs, just put everything in a large bowl, and then, using your hands, mix to combine, before shaping into small balls. Place the meatballs on baking sheets or plates that you have lined with clingfilm, and put in the fridge as you finish them.

To make the tomato sauce, put the onion, garlic and oregano into the process and blitz to a pulp. Heat the butter and oil in a deep wide pan, then scrape the onion-garlic mix into it and cook over a low-medium for about 10 minutes. Don’t let the mixture catch, just let it become soft. Add the bottle of passata and then fill the empty bottle half full with cold water. Add this to the pan with the pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes. The tomato sauce will appear thin at this stage, but don’t worry as it will thicken a little later. Stir in the milk, and then drop the meatballs in one by one. Don’t stir the pan until the meatballs have turned from pink to brown as you don’t want to break them up. Cook everything for about 20 minutes, with the lid only partially covering it. At the end of cooking time, check the seasoning as you may want more salt and a grind or two more of pepper. Serve with pasta of your choice and a sprinkle of parmesan.

White Chocolate Cookies Studded with Cranberries

It seems that I am on a cranberry mission this weekend. These White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies being the latest creation. I have to admit I have made other versions of these cookies before and was delighted with the outcome. The combination of the white chocolate and cranberry is a match made in cookie heaven. This cookie flavour combination is one of my hubby’s all time favourites and his getting them today as a treat!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Cranberry Maple Muffins

It has been a while since I baked any muffins and waking up this morning to a dull coldish day, muffins seemed like a good idea. I have baked other types of cranberry muffins but these really caught my eye. The maple syrup really does add a luscious touch. There is no sugar added, as the maple syrup gives the sweetness to these muffins. The icing also has a touch of maple syrup, making these muffins even more delectable. I have a feeling they won’t last long, if my hubby and son have anything to do with them!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Sausage and Tomato Linguine and a 6 Word Tag!

I recently found this gem of a recipe in my Good Food 101 Cheap Eats Book and I knew from the get go this would be scrumptious, and I was right! This is a simple dish but the flavour stems from using sausages packed with different herbs. I found some wonderful Pork with parma ham, garlic & red wine sausages at my local store that I knew would suit this dish perfectly. Another choice of sausage that you could use is Toulouse Sausages that are also packed in flavour. My hubby and son enjoyed and loved this pasta dish and it is one that will become part of our monthly repertoire.

Sausage and Tomato Linguine
Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
450g Toulouse or herby sausages
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Pinch of sugar
350g linguine/spaghetti
50g grated parmesan or mature cheese

Heat the oil in a pan, then fry the onion for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden. Remove the skins from the sausages and discard. Add the sausages to the pan and cook for 10 minutes until they start to brown, breaking them up with a spatula.

Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and a pinch of sugar, and season. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes until cooked.

Meanwhile, cook the linguine/spaghetti in salted boiling water according to packet instructions. Drain, then stir into the sausage sauce with half the cheese. Serve hot with the remaining cheese sprinkled over.

6 Word Tag

The lovely Vi from Flowers in the Kitchen has tagged me for a 6 word description of myself.

1. Sensitive
2. Fiery
3. Caring
4. Considerate
5. Mad...but in a good and fun way
6. Strong willed

I am supposed to tag another 6 people but I am going to be a rebel and nominate all my blogger friends and leave it up to you if you want to be tagged.

Rhubarb Spice Cake

Having never used Rhubarb in baking this is a first for me; I remembered seeing this cake on Antonia’s Food Glorious Food Blog (a great blog and worth visiting) and also more recently in my latest edition of BBC Good Food magazine. For me it jumped out as the ideal choice for my first rhubarb based bake. The ginger sponge is a light version of the old-fashioned gingerbread. The edition of rhubarb brings a wonderful moistness to the cake. This cake can be served with tea or even better, our plan for this evening, is to serve with a big dollop of custard. Rhubarb and custard with the spice of ginger, mmmm.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Banana Crumble Cake

This morning I decided to bake this luscious Banana Crumble Cake. The recipe is from my new book The Fairtrade Everyday Cookbook, which is packed full of great recipes. If you care about food and where it comes from and want to support fairtrade farmers and workers, this is the cookbook for you. I had some fairtrade bananas going ripe in the fruit bowl and this cake seemed like the perfect excuse to use up those bananas. It isn’t a big fancy cake but a lovely simple everyday cake, which can be served with your favourite cup of coffee/tea or in bowl of hot custard (my son has requested the latter option for his dessert tonight).

Banana Crumble Cake


55g Fairtrade golden granulated sugar
30g plain flour
½ tsp Fairtrade ground cinnamon
30g salted butter

45g salted butter, softened
75g Fairtrade golden granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp Fairtrade vanilla extract
75ml semi-skimmed milk
110g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 medium (or 2 large) Fairtrade bananas, sliced

Preheat the oven to 190oC/375oF/Gas Mark 5. Lightly grease a 20cm (8in) square or round baking tin.
Make the topping first. Mix the sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl, then rub in the butter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (I use a food processor)

For the cake, cream together the butter and sugar in another bowl.

Mix in the egg, vanilla and milk.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Then add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared tin.

Place the banana slices evenly over the batter, then finish with the crumb topping. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a knife placed in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Chicken Casserole and Malteser Traybake

Today I have cooked a Chicken Casserole for our Sunday meal. My hubby has been requesting this for some time, so being a good wifey his wish was granted and voila Chicken Casserole for dinner. This is another easy to create dish and perfect for a lazy rainy Sunday like today. I will be serving this with creamy mash potato.

Chicken Casserole

4tbsp olive oil
4 leeks, cut into 1cm (½in) thick slices
6 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced
500g (1lb) baby or Chantenay carrots, scrubbed
8 large chicken thighs
4 chicken breasts, halved
3 fresh bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 litre (32fl oz) chicken stock
Fresh thyme (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4). Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large frying pan or a large flameproof casserole dish or saucepan. Sauté the leeks, bacon, and celery for 5-6 minutes, or until they have softened (without browning too much). Add the carrots, chicken pieces, bay leaves, garlic cloves and stock. If you do have some fresh thyme, add a few sprigs of it to the mixture.
2. Bring to the boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 hour. Remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes, or until the chicken is nicely coloured.
3. Set the casserole aside to cool and then divide it into individual portions. Freeze in airtight containers and keep for up to 3 months. Defrost the casserole before reheating in a covered saucepan over a gentle heat.

Malteser Traybake

I present to you this weekend's second installment of traybake but today I have used Maltesers. I have lost count of the times I have made this traybake using Maltesers and it is by far the best no bake treat I've ever made. My son and hubby are addicted to this, infact anyone I know that's tried this has become addicted within seconds of the first bite! I tend to make it every once in a while as a treat (this stuff should come with a health warning, yes its seriously good), I don't want to add to the number of obese cases already hitting the nation, so a little of something naughty every once in a while does us all good. After all what would life be without a little traybake now and then!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Mint Aero Traybake

If you have experienced the Malteser Traybake Phenomena then you will know how highly addictive but absolutely delicious it is. But have you experienced Mint Aero Traybake? I can only describe this as good if not better than those Mint Viscounts! I was very disappointed to discover this week that our Mint Aero Bubbles are no longer green inside but all brown now!! The whole point of mint aero was the gorgeous green colour. I can only imagine that this is all part of the E-Number removal from sweets and chocolates, soon we will have to sign a disclaimer before trying anything, nuff said!

Mint Aero Traybake


100g butter

200g milk chocolate

3 tablespoons Golden Syrup

225g finely crushed digestive biscuits

225g Mint Aero Bubbles or Maltesers

Melt together the butter, chocolate and syrup then add the crushed biscuits and the mint aero bubbles or maltesers. Mix together quickly then pour into a lined swiss roll tin, level with a spoon and chill till set. For a special occasion drizzle with some melted white chocolate. Once chilled, cut into squares.

Pork Chops in Wine with Potatoes, Onions and Apples

This wonderful recipe is another gem from the book, Cook Simple by Diana Henry. In the book the recipe is called Smothered Pork Chops with Mustard and Thyme Butter but I omitted the mustard thyme butter, as this is not essential, but next time I will try it. I love the simplicity of this oven baked dish, the only stove top cooking you do is the browning of the pork chops. The end result was a dish that is packed with flavour and one that my family throughly enjoyed.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Arroz con Pollo y Chorizo

The postman arrived today bearing cookbook gifts from amazon, one being Cook Simple by Diana Henry, a book based on effortless cooking for every day. On opening the book this is the first recipe that jumped out at me. Upon reading the list of ingredients I realized that I had everything to hand so promptly got to work. I have cooked similar recipes to this but enjoyed the ease factor of the oven baked finish. These rice dishes have so much flavour with the combination of chorizo, chicken, smoked paprika, red pepper, onions and rice, I was lucky to have some Spanish paella rice left that my parents bought me over at Christmas from Spain. All in all this dish was loved by my boys and me alike, definitely one that I will make again.

Spiced Apple, Cranberry & Cider Cake

I am showcasing another cake from the amazing Cakes Galore by Valerie Barrett. I can’t rave enough about this book and it would be a book I'd buy to give as a gift to someone who loves to bake good cakes. This fruit cake is mixture of apples, dried cranberries, cider and cinnamon spice, a wonderful blend of flavours. You could easily serve this cake as a pudding with lashing of custard or along-side a nice cup of brew.