20 minutes or more

Granola Muffins

So. It has started. The new regime. And tbh, I’m impressed with myself. We’re only on day two, but so far it has been a resounding success. What am I so heartily patting myself on the back for?

Sprouted hummus

I don’t mean to make your life more difficult. I mean, what’s wrong with shop bought hummus, anyway? Why do you need to make your own and sprout the damn chickpeas too?

Fennel, aubergine and tomato stew

I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about the weather, but I can’t help it. What is going on? It feels like January. I am ruing my rash decision to swap from winter to summer duvet, and even contemplating getting the parka down from the attic, I am that bloody cold.When you have children weather becomes more important. You are constantly outdoors and, bound by school holidays, you can’t suddenly go to Morocco for some winter sun in mid-January. I am currently in talks (well, it is a monologue really) with my husband about how we need to move somewhere hotter, like San Francisco, before my toes fall off from hypothermia, or my nose falls off from snivelling.  But he points out annoying flaws in my plan, like our lack of jobs, visas and savings. What a spoilsport. Along with some sunshine (and our massive Vitamin D deficiency continues, according to this Guardian article yesterday) I am craving carbs. Pie. Mash. Chips. Crumble. Anything heavy and old-fashioned, but am trying to resist with warming but healthier alternatives instead. Last week I made a vat of minestrone and this week I am going to make in bulk this gorgeous fennel, aubergine and tomato stew. I used to make it loads, but then forgot about it, in the way that you do. I don’t know why, it is very easy (just lots of chopping really) and very tasty, especially when served with a Greek salad and crusty bread. It hails from the Greek mainland and I found it in a book called The Spice Routes by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott. Pelion Spetzofai Start...

Ale Fruit Loaf

It is my youngest’s birthday on Saturday and we are celebrating with a Harry Potter party at home. There will be 15 children for whom there will be jelly and ice cream and a smattering of adults for whom there will be cheese and this easy but delicious cake. I made it last night, so there is no room for last minute panic, and it is really delicious. I think it is a bit like Aunty Joy’s Tea Cake but with alcohol. And Claire, said that recipe couldn’t be improved!I learnt the recipe at Eric Lanlard’s Baking Mad cookery class – which I reviewed for the Looking to Cook, cookery school website.   Ale Fruit Loaf Start to finish: 10 mins prepping, leave overnight, 1 ¼ hours baking   390g mixed dried fruits 250ml bottle of Youngs Chocolate Ale (couldn’t find this the second time I made this, so just used Banana Bread Ale instead. Equally good) 100g dark muscovado sugar 75g self-raising flour 100g wholemeal self-raising flour 3tsp mixed spice 2 eggs Put the dried fruit in a large pan and cover with the beer. Gently heat until hot but not boiling, Remove from the heat and leave overnight. Next, add the sugars, flours, mixed spice and eggs to the fruit mixture. Stir well until all the ingredients are combined. Pour the mixture into a greased 500g loaf tin (use a paper loaf case if you have one!). Bake for 1 ¼ hours, at 160 degrees, until risen, pale brown and firm to the touch. Cover with a tea towel and leave on a wire rack to cool. Wrap tightly...

Soup Saviour

This is my friend Anna and her little boy Owen. I met up with her the other day and she told me about a wonderful soup she cooked up for her kids when she was worried about their five a day. After the excesses of Easter and all that chocolate I felt there were probably lots of us in that boat at the moment, so I asked if she wouldn’t mind reproducing the recipe for us here. Turned out she didn’t mind at all, although she may not feel the same way when she sees that I’ve used a picture of her…Hope you don’t mind Anna, you both look lovely in it! “When I weaned my first son, I felt so proud. Whether it was spinach puree, avocado milkshake or florets of brain boosting broccoli, he gobbled it all down. He loved his vegetables. Other mothers would comment on it while their own children toyed with a pea. I was going to rear the nation’s healthiest child. I had won the battle. Then he turned two. He woke one day and began a vegetable elimination campaign. One by one all the things he had previously eaten were rejected. Now, at the age of three and a half, the only acceptable vegetable is cucumber. That and a roasted vegetable soup that I came across in Waitrose Kitchen. It’s easy to make, super healthy and for some reason it gets the thumbs up from under-threes. His younger brother is a fan too. By my books, that makes it a saviour; a soup hero to recommend to the world. I make this...

My favourite chocolate cake

Apologies there isn’t a proper picture to go with this post. Officer, the evidence is in my tummy. I unintentionally ate the whole cake before managing to take a picture. I kept thinking, just one more slither, and before I knew it the whole thing had disappeared. But it was definitely the best chocolate cake I have ever made. It was round and brown, with rough and slightly shiny icing. The top half was slightly bigger than the bottom and it undulated slightly on one side. Its beauty was in its imperfections. It was moist and rich, with a deep chocolate flavour, that comes when you use a WHOLE pot of cocoa. That is seven tablespoons. Despite that, it was not cloying, perhaps because the butter icing was loosened slightly with milk, which also made it easier to spread. I took eight slices to share with some other mums (and a dad) on a school trip to Bracknell’s Discovery Centre yesterday, although it got slightly squashed in transit, it went down well. I found the recipe in the Waitrose Magazine and it is definitely a keeper. I will make it again, perhaps for Easter, studded with mini-eggs or Smarties. Or both. Serves: 10 Prepare: 20 mins, cook 20 mins   Best-ever chocolate cake 175g soft unsalted butter 175g light brown sugar 3 eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tbsp milk 150g self-raising flour 4 tbsp cocoa   Icing 150g soft unsalted butter 150g icing sugar 2 tbsp milk 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 3 tbsp cocoa   Grease and line 2 x 18cm cake tins. Preheat oven to 180c. Cream...

Macaroons – why bother?

This isn’t one of those posts where I start off saying one thing, then answer my own question and end up persuading you that making macaroons is actually very important. Nope. I am simply asking why you’d bother to make them? Notoriously difficult and fiddly, don’t we all have better things to do with our time? If you really like them, why not buy them? That’s my advice to the sane among you. Now, I’m not insane, but I was literally forced – at palette-knife point – to make some. Against my will and better judgement. The initial results were appalling and, after stuffing my face with the bits I could chisel off the grease proof paper, made me feel quite sick. I then had to make some guided by an expert, and those are the ones you see here (which I have to add, did taste pretty lovely). So here, for the masochists among you, is a recipe for macaroons. And in true crumbs spirit, it is relatively easy (relatively easy), but really, I’d recommend sitting down with a good book and a cup of tea instead. Macaroons Ingredients for about 15 macaroons Start to finish: bloody ages 180g icing sugar 140g ground almonds 3 large free-­range egg whites 75g caster sugar For the filling 150g butter, softened 75g icing sugar Flavouring or food colouring 1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. 2. Whizz the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor to get a very fine mixture, then sift into a bowl. If you have nuggins of nuts in the sieve at the end you can...

Chocolate and beetroot cake

There are few things in life better than a two year old’s birthday. Mainly because they can’t really speak, so can’t ask for anything, so you can do what you damn well please. I took the opportunity to make a lot of cake. And, to be honest, if B could speak, he would probably ask for a lot of cake. I made a crunchy lemon drizzle, fairy cakes decorated with lavender and blackberries, their icing perfumed with rose water. I made raspberry friands and I made Pimms. Well, a girl’s got to drink. But the show stopper was the beetroot and chocolate birthday cake I made from Fiona Cairns’ Bake and Decorate book. With so many sugary confections, I really felt that I needed to make at least one hearty cake, and the beetroot cake certainly falls in to that category – in a good way. It was amazing to make, there’s something incredible about the colour of beetroot, even when mixed with chocolate. And it was hugely popular, pretty much devoured immediately, as you can see from the picture, well before the friands and fairy cakes. Chocolate and beetroot cake Serves 10 Start to finish: ooh, an hour in the oven and 5 minutes icing. 180ml sunflower oil, plus more for the tin 190g self raising flour 60g cocoa powder 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 250g golden caster sugar (I used normal) 250g cooked (not pickled!) beetroot 3 eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract For the icing 200g icing sugar Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Lightly oil a 23cm diameter round tin, using a kitchen towel. Line the base...

streetparty# recipes: Victorian Mess

Are you feeling a little unloved at the moment? Are people taking you for granted? Try walking into a room holding one of these. You will get attention, I promise. Admittedly, probably the same type that women with big busts complain of, when entire conversations are aimed at their breasts. But bring it out at your Royal Wedding streetparty and I promise the neighbours will be inviting themselves over for a cup of tea sometime soon. I’ve christened it Victorian Mess as it is a Victoria sponge with Eton Mess on the top. I know. Decadent and delicious. It’s perfect for a streetparty or a big ‘do’. It’s absolutely not the sort of thing to have hanging around in the fridge because a) the double cream icing won’t last long, b) neither will your waistline. Victorian Mess Start to finish: 15 mins prep, 35 in the oven. Serves: A street? It’s quite big, as I’ve made it with fairly hefty proportions 230g softened butter 230g self-raising flour 1 rounded tsp baking powder 4 eggs 230g golden caster sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract Topping 300ml double cream 5 strawberries, sliced into 4 or 6 pieces each 50g ready-made meringue Preheat the oven to 180 degree C (170 if you have a fan oven). Grease and line a 20 cm cake tin, allowing for a 8 cm rise. Alternatively, slightly more time consuming but probably a bit more delicate, prepare two 20cm sandwich cake tins. This way you can put a layer of jam between the two (or even the Eton mess mix, if you’re feeling truly decadent). Put all the cake...

Mummy to the rescue!

I’ve been longing to get myself invited back on the girls’ blog, so whilst Lucy and Claire are desperately working out how to vlog (these youngsters!), and are up to their necks in virtual videotape, trying to upload their first film, I’m going to  slip in a recipe or two. As the weather’s still quite hit and miss at the moment, I thought you might like to hear of the pork and apple dish we had for dinner last night – it’s real comfort food. If you’re not familiar with the tenderloin cut, it’s very lean with great flavour and is found underneath the backbone of the pork loin – tender is definitely the right word for it. Pork and apple with rice Start to finish: about half an hour (with a bit of help from the sous-chef) Serves: 2 1 pork tenderloin, about 300g 1 eating apple, cored and sliced – you don’t need to peel it 1 sliced onion 50g butter and some olive oil Flour to coat pork Salt and pepper ¾ teaspoon ground ginger ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg ½ cup cider or stock Serve with:  rice, carrots and green beans First cut tenderloin crossways into six medallions, you can then pound them until about 6 or 7mm thick if you wish although I am afraid I didn’t get round to that last night.** They would have probably cooked a bit quicker if I had. Cook onions gently in the butter and oil then when nearly cooked, add the sliced apples trying not to let them break up. Once softened put the apples and onions on a plate in a...

Something for the weekend – crowd cooking

I find it overwhelmingly stressful cooking for lots of people so when entertaining only make dishes that can be done completely in advance. So more often than not this is what I cook when I cook for lots of people…. roast chicken with herbs, potato dauphinois, Petit Pois a la Francais and trifle for pudding, if they’re lucky. It all looks and sounds quite posh, so guests will think you’ve made a big effort, but it only takes ten minutes to prepare and is really ever-so-easy. I am sure I don’t need to tell you how to roast a chicken (although I would advise getting one killed and pre-plucked, not like our feathered friends here) but the rule of thumb is an initial 30 mins at 180c plus 20 mins for each extra 0.5kg. I squeeze a lemon over mine, stick the husk inside with a handful of fresh herbs (whatever I have to hand, normally thyme), smear it with butter and season with salt and pepper. The potatoes take an hour and 15 mins at the same temperature to cook and, now I’ve discovered how to use my food processor’s mandolin attachment, about two minutes to prepare. You simply slice 500g of potatoes no thicker than a penny using a food processor or a knife. Rinse them in cold water and pat dry. Layer them in an ovenproof dish which has been rubbed with a garlic clove and buttered liberally. Season with salt and pepper and then pour 300ml of double cream over the top and bake until golden. Watch both dishes, as you may need to put...

Skew me! Sizzling swords

This is a great recipe for that tricky post-school tea slot. It needs to be warm and hearty, at the same time as being quick to prepare. This is from my friend Karen Harmer who has two little boys, aged 9 and 6. “In the Harmer household victory over chaos can only be secured on full tummies. With two limitlessly energetic sons, military precision is required to juggle their muddy, fractious, hungry demands while simultaneously fending off assaults from flying Beyblades and Lego pieces. So I take to the battlefield armed with Ma Harmer’s sizzling swords! This is a hot, nutritious meal that can be quickly prepared and cooked between goals and ging-gang-goolies. These weapons of mass destruction can be knocked up in minutes and devoured in seconds. Supervision required for younger warriors though, since the skewers double up as a handy tool with which to assault your brother…Sizzling swords Serves: 2 hungry children Start to finish: 15 minutes 2 Chicken breasts Red pepper 1 large mango 6 baby corn 2 wholemeal pittas Cucumber to serve Skewers Chop all the ingredients into bite sized chunks and thread onto skewers alternating between items. Drizzle with a little runny honey and olive oil and grill under a medium hot grill for 10 minutes, turning regularly. Drop a couple of wholemeal pittas in the toaster whilst the skewers cool a little and serve with slices of cucumber (or, as popular in our house, cut with a peeler to create long ‘snakes’). The result – clean plates all round and minimal washing up. Mission...

The Crumbs Family Cook

Crumbs Screen Shot "The Crumbs Family Cook book has arrived and brings with it quick, unpretentious recipes and a relaxed, guilt-free message" - The Times

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