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Ham and Pea Risotto – baked in the oven to have more time to play!

Here is a guest post from the lovely mummykins.  She writes about all things baby and toddler as she experiences day to day life with her little girl.  Oh, and she also happens to be one of my best friends!

Here is a delicious recipe for small people and us bigger people:

Risotto is a lovely comforting food.  It’s great for older babies and toddlers too – babies tend to pick up whole handfuls and stuff it into their mouths, and its thick texture is good for toddlers learning to feed themselves with a spoon.  However it can be tricky to cook using the traditional method of adding a ladleful of stock at a time and continuously stirring when you have little ones underfoot.  Here is an alternative way to cook risotto in the oven.  This is a baby friendly recipe so it doesn’t include any salt or white wine, though of course you can add these if you wish.

Serves 3 adults.

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 25g butter, preferably unsalted
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 250g risotto rice
  • 6 slices good quality ham, chopped
  • 250g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • parmesan cheese, grated

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Heat the olive oil and butter over a medium heat in a large ovenproof dish until the butter is melted.
  3. Gently fry the onion for a few minutes until softened.
  4. Stir in the risotto rice until it is coated with the oil and butter.  It should go slightly translucent.
  5. Pour in all the stock and give it a good stir, then bring to the boil.  Cover and put into the oven.
  6. After 10 minutes, add the ham and peas and stir well.  Recover the dish and put it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
  7. Add the parmesan cheese and season if desired, giving it one final thorough stir.  Allow to rest for a couple of minutes so the cheese melts.
And here it is:

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American themed birthday cupcakes

As I mentioned in my last post, it was 2 of my best friends’ birthdays this week.  For Sasha’s birthday she had an American themed party at her house (as her and her husband have recently been to New York).  I dressed up as Sandy from Grease!  Here I am with Sasha (I’m on the left!) eating a slice of cheeseburger flavoured pizza (I didn’t even know that existed!!):

I wanted to make cupcakes as they’re very ‘New York’ – after watching Sex and the City.  So I was trying to think how to make them even more ‘American’ so I thought red, white and blue and stars.  So I spent ages cutting out all these stars from regal icing:

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The Hummingbird Bakery cupcake recipe is by far the best tasting cupcake I’ve ever had.  Here is the recipe:

4½oz/120g plain flour

5oz/140g caster sugar

1½ tsp baking powder

A pinch of salt (I left this out but used slightly salted butter)

1½oz/40g unsalted butter, at room temperature

4½floz/120ml whole milk

1 egg

¼ tsp vanilla extract

1 quantity vanilla frosting – see below

Stars to decorate!

A 12-hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases

  • Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3.
  • Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a free-standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a hand-held electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  • Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
  • Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
  • Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched.
  • A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the vanilla frosting (see next recipe) on top and decorate.

And here is recipe for the tastiest frosting

Vanilla frosting

Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes.

9oz/250g icing sugar, sifted

3oz/80g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1fl oz/25ml whole milk

A couple of drops of vanilla extract

Food colouring to suit (optional)

  • Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a free-standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a hand-held electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
  • Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time.
  • Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.
  • Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.
 Here they are pre-star decoration:
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The frosting tastes divine!!  And here they are all glammed up:
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Thank goodness for my little star plunger cutter!!
These went down so well at the party, I think everyone had one in the end, and Sasha was sad there wasn’t many left over at the end of the night for her to eat!
I actually find the cakes themselves are very moist and so satisfying 🙂
Give them a try, you won’t regret it.
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Heart shaped carrot cake

This week is birthday central for me!!  It is 2 of my best friends’ birthdays and my brother’s birthday.  My brother doesn’t live in ‘baking distance’ so I am not baking him a cake, but that left 2 lots to make this week 🙂

The first was my friend Hannah.  I had it on good authority (from her husband) that she likes carrot cake best, so that’s what I made.

I used trusty Mary Berry again.  Here is the recipe:

225g (8oz) self raising flour

2 level teaspoons baking powder

150g (5oz) light muscovado sugar

50g (2oz) chopped walnuts

100g (4oz) grated carrots

2 ripe bananas (mashed)

2 large eggs

150ml (5 fl oz) sunflower oil

Topping

175g (6oz) full fat soft cheese

50g (2oz) softened butter

100g (4oz) icing sugar

few drops vanilla extract

walnuts to decorate

1) Pre-heat oven to 180C or gas mark 4.  Grease a 20cm (8in) cake tin.  Line base with baking parchment.

2) Measure all the ingredients for the cake into a large bowl and beat well until thoroughly blended and smooth.  Turn into the prepared tin and level the surface.

3) Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 50-60 mins until the cake is well risen and shrinking away from the sides of the tin.  Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

4) For the topping measure all the ingredients except the walnuts, into a bowl or in food processor.  Blitz until smooth.  Spread over the top of the cake, swirling the top with the spatula for a decorative effect.  Decorate the top with the walnuts.  Store in the fridge as the topping is soft.

I made a smaller cake so was able to fill the centre and make some bonus cakes in addition!

Here is the cake (with some bonus cupcakes!) without the walnuts:

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And here they are decorated with chopped walnuts:

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As carrot cake is also my husband’s favourite I made him some small cakes.  I included the vanilla extract bottle so you can see the proportions – such diddy little tins, I love them :

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I’m off to the second friend, Sasha’s, fancy dress birthday party tonight but don’t want to ruin the surprise of the American themed cupcakes so will post these later this weekend!  I may even include a picture of me dressed up – but the outfit is a bit unforgiving so we’ll see!!   Wish me luck!

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Is it a cake, is it a crumble…?

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it hard to come up with dessert ideas for the family.  My daughter doesn’t like drinking milk so I’m always looking for ways to get rice pudding, custard or yoghurt into her.  But with a dairy intolerant husband, that tends to leave poor S with no dessert!

My husband loves raspberries and we had a lonely-looking cooking apple in the cupboard so I put those ingredients into google and found this link:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1585637/raspberry-and-apple-crumble-squares

I used soya milk and dairy free margarine instead of milk and butter, of course.  I don’t have a square or rectangular cake tin so had to go for the traditional round cake tin so mine didn’t look quite like the one on the BBC website!  I also had to cook it for about 20-30 minutes longer as my tin was quite deep.  The cake at the bottom was nice and stodgy, and the crumble was lovely and … crumbly!!  The flavours of the apples and raspberries really complimented each other.  Most importantly, my husband loved it – and so did I.  As I can eat milk more than S can, I had ice cream with my slice, which melted beautifully and went perfectly with this dessert.

Here is a picture of my (very different to the above!) crumble cake:

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I hope to buy a square/rectangular cake tin soon so I can try this recipe as it was intended, but in the meantime I will continue to make my lovely stodgy version!

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Weight Watchers Chicken Noodle Soup – with added zing

Sorry for my absence lately, I’m not even sure what I’ve been doing to be honest.  Just a busy bee – and doing fair bit of cooking of course!

I thought I’d share a healthy yet very tasty fail-safe meal.  My daughter hasn’t been keen on noodles up until now, but she seems to like them all of a sudden which is great news for this recipe

Here is the recipe:

http://www.weightwatchers.co.uk/food/rcp/index.aspx?recipeid=71741

I add 1 red chilli, a thumb sized piece of ginger and 2 chopped garlic cloves for extra ‘zing’ and it really makes it taste very fresh.  My husband loves this dish and I’m always in the good books when I’ve made this for him 🙂

Here it is cooking away:

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I hope you try it out and enjoy it!!

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“Happy Birthday to me, lots of cakes for me”

As I wrote in a previous post, I was a bit concerned about cake over-load this birthday as I’ve been baking cakes for all my close friends and family for every occasion in 2012.  I thought they might all repay the favour at once!!  Luckily 4 lovely friends/family members bought or baked for me 🙂  This was still quite a lot to get through, but we managed of course and they were delicious.  Here they are half way through:

There’s a Victoria sponge my mother-in-law and daughter made, carrot cake and cherry/date squares two of my friends made and a Forever Friends cake my best friend bought.

As I am sure is the case in most places of work, if it’s your birthday you are expected to provide cakes for your work colleagues.  Our team at work has grown significantly in the last couple of years, so I was looking at a total of 20 people to bake for!  I did a poll on favourite flavours and they came up with lemon and chocolate as the main two.

So I went for chocolate cup cakes, lemon drizzle cake and chocolate chip cookies to cater for all tastes.  Here is a picture of my desk today:

My manager claimed she was floating on a ‘chocolate cloud’ after eating the cupcakes.  They are crazily rich and chocolatey!  They’re the same recipe as in my previous post https://leannecookingforthefamily.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/party-cupcake-time/  from the Hummingbird recipe.  These are such a fail safe recipe, everyone loves them.

The lemon drizzle cake is from Mary Berry’s baking bible – you can’t go wrong with good old Mary’s recipes!  Half the cake was gone by the end of the day – some people had 2 slices 🙂

Crunchy Top Lemon Drizzle Cake

100g/4oz softened butter

175g/6oz caster sugar

175g/6oz self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs

4 tbsp milk

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

For the topping:

juice of 1 lemon

100g/4oz caster or granulated sugar

1) Pre-heat oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas 4.  Grease an 18cm (7inch) deep round cake tin then line base with greaseproof paper.

2) Measure all ingredients into large bowl and beat for 2 mins until smooth.  Place mixture into the tin and level the surface.

3) Bake for 35-40 mins or until the cake has shrunk slightly from the sides of the tin and springs back when lightly pressed.

4) For the topping, measure the lemon juice and sugar into a bowl and stir until blended.  When the cake comes out of the oven, spike the cake all over with cocktail sticks (this is my own adaptation to ensure the drizzle soaks into the cake) then spread the lemon paste over the top of the cake while the cake is still hot.

I doubled this recipe and put plain butter icing in the middle.

I’ll save the cookie recipe for another time 🙂

I wonder how much cake will be left tomorrow at the end of my working week (yes I only work 2 days a week – but I am a mum the rest of the week!).

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