Chicken and chorizo jumbalaya...

I'm a big fan of easy cooking. When I get in from work in the winter, the last thing I want to do is spend hours slaving over a stove. That said, I don't like cooking out the freezer, so I'm constantly on the look out for ideas for easy weekday suppers. If I can throw it all in a pot and leave it for a while then I'm happy, and that's why I love this jumbalaya recipe that I came up with a couple of nights ago. I had a chorizo and crayfish jumbalaya a few weeks ago and I wanted to recreate that, but with chicken instead of crayfish to keep the cost down.
This recipe serves four easily, and it keeps in the fridge for a few days too so it makes a lovely leftover lunch.

You'll need:
- An onion
- 2 bell peppers (I used green, you can use whatever colour)
- 4 chicken breasts
- Half a chorizo ring
- Tsp chilli powder
- Tsp paprika
- Tsp oregano
- Tsp thyme
- 1 1/2 cups brown rice
- 2 chicken stock cubes in 3 cups boiling water
- Tin of chopped tomatoes

There's hardly anything for me to write here. Just chop up the onion, peppers, chicken and chorizo and fry it in olive oil for about five minutes on a medium heat. Then throw the rest of the ingredients in and leave it to simmer covered for about half an hour or until the rice is cooked. That's it!

Oreo cupcakes...

For the cupcakes: 
- 3 heaped tbsp of cocoa powder
- Splash of milk 
- Handful of dark chocolate chips
- A packet of Oreos

For the frosting: 
- 50g butter
- 250g cream cheese
- 600g icing sugar
- Half a pack of crushed Oreos

Follow my basic cake recipe, then add the cocoa powder, milk and choc chips. 
Roughly chop half a packet of Oreos and fold it in to the mixture. 
Line a muffin tin with 12 cases, and put an Oreo in the bottom of each one. 
Fill up the cases with the cake mix and pop them in the oven for 25 minutes at gas mark 5. 
Whilst they're in the oven, start on the frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese until it's soft and combined. 
Keep beating the frosting, and sift in the icing sugar gradually. 
When all the icing sugar is mixed in, stir in the crushed Oreos. 
Put the mixture in a piping bag and pop it in the fridge until your cakes are out of the oven and cooled fully. 
Pipe the icing in lovely big swirls and pop a mini Oreo (or jammy dodger, in my case) on top.
It's best to leave them uncovered for a few hours so that the icing hardens up on the outside. 



A heart-shaped jam & almond sponge...

This is the simplest recipe and it's delicious! It looks a bit like a car crash though, so I always pop it in a heart-shaped tray to make sure that it looks a bit prettier. I actually used a silicone tray for this that I picked up at Ikea a few months ago, I can't find it on their website but it looks like this and there are tons of them on eBay.
As always, I followed my basic cake recipe and folded in 100g of ground almonds and a tbsp of almond extract. Once the cake mix was in the tray, I added around 5 big tbsp of homemade strawberry jam and swirled it around a little bit. It's a pretty big cake, so bake it for around 40 minutes on gas mark 4. Enjoy!

Tiffin (or fridge cake)...

Excuse the rubbish iPhone photo, but this is a lovely lovely tiffin that I made last weekend. The great thing about this recipe is that you can add and take away from it as you like. We just like ours with raisins or sultanas, but you might like yours with glacé cherries or marshmallows, or with a thick layer of dark chocolate on top, or with white chocolate chips or Oreo cookies instead of digestive biscuits. You can add what you want to the basic recipe. It's so easy to make and change and depending on what you put in it, you can make it a brunch time treat or an impressive dessert. 
This recipe has been passed down to me by my mum, who doesn't believe in measurements – just 'a teacup' or 'a heaped tbsp' or 'enough to fill up a mug'... As long as you proportion it right it'll be fine. Here it is:

You will need:
- 3 heaped tbsp of butter or margarine
- 2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 heaped tbsp hot chocolate
- 3 tbsp golden syrup 
- A pack of digestive biscuits (or whatever other biscuits you like) 
- Raisins, glacé cherries, chocolate chips, dried fruit, fresh fruit, chocolate, marshmallows, peanuts etc or whatever it is that you want to put in!)

All you need to do is put the butter, cocoa powder, hot chocolate and golden syrup in a microwavable bowl and pop it in the microwave for a few minutes. If you're anti microwaves, do it on the stove but in my humble opinion, you're wasting your time. When it's melted give it a good stir to mix it all together and return it to the microwave for another minute. Voila, you've got the basic 'binding' mixture that will hold all your other delicious goodies together.

Smash up a packet of digestive biscuits (or other biscuits, if you like) with a rolling pin and stir them into your mixture. Add your raisins, cherries, chocolate or whatever and give it all a good mix. 

Press it all in to a loose-bottomed tin, making sure it's all tightly packed. Pop it in the fridge and it'll be ready in a few hours. Enjoy!


The Cosy Club, Bath

I've heard nothing but good things about The Cosy Club, and it lived up to it's reputation - it was amazing! I was surprised to learn that it's actually a chain and there are a few dotted round the country. I don't usually expect much from chain restaurants, but it's well worth a visit if there's one near by! Check out their website for some more info.


Victoria sponge...

I love cake, and of all the fancy cakes in the world, nothing beats a good victoria sponge. My mum's is the best, but when she's not around I try to recreate it. I use my basic cake recipe, and I add a good splash of vanilla extract to the batter. 
For the filling, use a good quality jam. I like raspberry but I think strawberry is traditional. I find it tastes so much better if the jam is homemade too! The buttercream is just 100g unsalted butter with 300g icing sugar.
If you like this, you might also like the mini victoria sponges that I made a while back :)

Roman Baths

The past few weeks have been so busy (this has become like a generic introduction to all my posts.)
 We've had loads of lovely visitors, most recently my aunty and my cousin from Scotland. This weekend I wanted to show them all the touristy things in Bath (that I haven't seen either!) so I actually ended up ticking a few things off my summer to-do list. It was such a good weekend and I can't believe it's come to an end already! Anyway, here are some pics of the Roman Baths, the fashion museum, my wonderful family and the beautiful city that I live in:


What I'm listening to this week...

Lucy Rose- Lines
This is another one that I heard on Sunday Brunch. I haven't been able to get it out of my head all week.

An easy banoffee pie recipe...

When I went out for dinner a few weeks ago, we had the usual 'what dessert to have' debate. Part of me wants to experiment, but part of me knows that I love Crème brûlée and cheesecake. After much debate, we decided to share a banoffee pie... Not my favourite dessert in the world but ok, it'll do. Anyway, it was delicious and I've wanted to make one ever since. 
I made it with a Hobnob base rather than the usual digestive base, purely because I like Hobnobs more than digestive biscuits. I don't know whether they're called Hobnobs the world over, but they're just oaty biscuits for any international readers! 
Also – I didn't make my own caramel. If you want to, go ahead, but I wouldn't waste your time. 
It's pretty big and probably has around 8 good servings. I made it in a 24cm loose bottom cake tin. Find the recipe below, and enjoy!

You will need:
- 2 packets of Hobnobs (or any oaty biscuits, you can even use digestives if you're boring)
- 80g melted butter/margarine
- 397g tin caramel (I used Nestle Carnation)
- 3 large bananas
- 284ml pot of whipping cream
- 1tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/fan 170c.

The best part of this recipe is bashing up the biscuits. Just put them in a food bag, squeeze out the air, tie a knot and smash them up with a rolling pin. You could also use a food processor if you have no stress to let out... 

Mix the biscuit crumbs with the melted butter and press it into a greased loose bottom cake tin in an even layer. Build up the edges around 5cm high. Pop the base in the oven for around 15 minutes or until the base has set. You might have to remove it half way through and press the base down with a spoon as it rises up.

Leave the base to cool and then pour the caramel over the base. Cut your bananas into thin slices and layer them over the caramel. Put it in the fridge until the caramel is set. 

Whip up your cream with a tbsp of icing sugar and spoon it on top of the caramel and the bananas. Pop it back in the fridge until you're ready to serve it up.

If you like this recipe, then you'll probably also like my Lemon Crunch recipe that I posted ages ago!

Weekday dinners: pancetta & courgette linguine

There seems to be a bit of a theme running through the few posts I can get up on my blog lately, and that's quick and easy weekday dinners.
I made the pasta a few weeks ago and it's been sitting in the freezer just waiting for a meal like this! You can find my pasta recipe (I promise it's not as hard as you think!) in my butternut squash and gorgonzola ravioli post, and the recipe (serves 2) for this pasta below:

You will need:
- Fresh pasta
- 2 courgettes
- An onion
- 1 crushed garlic clove/a spoonful of lazy garlic
- Small pack of pancetta lardons 
- 50ml double cream

This is probably the easiest and tastiest recipe ever. 

First of all, place 2 whole courgettes in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil.

Whilst you're waiting for them to cook, finely chop and onion and fry it in a liberal drizzle of olive oil.

Throw in the garlic and the lardons and cook until the onions are starting to brown. 

When you can put a knife into the courgettes easily, take them out of the water. When they're cool enough, cut them into cubes and throw them in to the frying pan. 

When it's all sizzling away, throw the pasta into a pan of boiling water (if it's fresh pasta it should only take a few minutes, if you're using other pasta then make allowance for the cooking time.)

Take the frying pan off the heat and stir in the cream and add salt and pepper. 

When your pasta is cooked, stir in the sauce and you're done! 

Easy butternut squash and gorgonzola ravioli recipe...

For the pasta dough: 
- 2 cups of 00 flour
- 4 eggs
- Tbsp olive oil
- Tbsp water

For the filling:
- Gorgonzola cheese
- Butternut squash
- Olive oil
- And a bit of chorizo if you like

There's a lot of rambling in this recipe, so I'll bold the important bits... 

There are two ways of making pasta- the Italian way and the no-faff way that I did it. If you want to do it properly, then you should probably go to Lauren's Latest (where I go the dough recipe from).
However, to do it my way, pop all the pasta dough in a mixer with a dough hook and leave it for around 10 minutes until it's all kneaded for you. Call me lazy, but I'm making Friday night dinner, not preparing a meal for the Queen. You could also do this in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon and knead it, it's really up to you. I highly doubt it makes any difference to the finished product. 

Anyway, leave the dough to rest for around 20 minutes. In the mean time, cut the butternut squash into cubes, season it and put it in a microwaveable bowl. Cover the bowl in clingfilm and pierce a little hole in the top. Put it in the microwave for 10 minutes. 
(If you're one of those people who doesn't like to use microwaves for whatever reason, you can boil it. I am a microwave advocate, they're brilliant.) When it's done, take it out, add a bit of olive oil and mash it up.

Flour a work surface and and rolling pin and start to roll out the dough. You want to get it super thin, as thin as you possible can with a rolling pin. It helps to pick it up and stretch it out. The dough is quite sturdy so don't worry too much about it breaking. 

Cut the rolled out dough into strips, around 4 inches thick and as long as you can get it. 

Spoon the butternut squash mash and gorgonzola filling on to half the dough, then fold the dough lengthways and press around the filled pockets to remove any air bubbles. 

Cut the ravioli in to shape and press the edges with a fork to keep all the filling in. 

Pop into a pan of boiling salted water. It's done when it rises to the top. 



An alternative: strawberry, blueberry and frangipane mini tarts

You might remember last weeks frangipane extravaganza. Well, I had some leftover frangipane in a jam jar in the fridge and I always keep some shortcrust pastry in the freezer, so I decided to whip up these little tarts. I got the tiny tins from TK Maxx a couple of months ago for £2.99! A total bargain. The home section in there is really under-rated. You can get loads of pretty home accessories as well as great baking/cooking supplies!
Anyway, the recipe is the same as last week. I have to say, if I was to make them again, I'd only use the tiniest bit of frangipane as it came right up and completely covered the pretty fruit decorations I had made. I used strawberries and blueberries but raspberries would also be delicious! I covered the pastry case in raspberry jam, the tartness goes really well with the almond in the frangipane. Enjoy!


Mama's fish pie...

Last weekend I went home to stay with my parents  and although I usually object to anything other than a roast on a Sunday, last week everyone was just too busy to faff about roasting a chicken and doing all the trimmings. So, my mum decided to make one of her fish pies. It's super quick and easy and it's so tasty.  Find the recipe below:

You will need:
- 5 potatoes
- A good tbsp butter
- 1 large onion
- A good chunk of chorizo
- 1tbsp plain flour
- 300ml milk
- Tbsp mustard
- A handful of frozen peas
- 2 packs of fish pie mix (we're complete cheats! It includes salmon, haddock and cod. Tesco's is great!)
- A pack of fresh uncooked prawns
- A good sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese (to top)
You could also add: muscles, capers, calamari, most other fish!

Start by peeling your potatoes and putting them on to boil for your mashed potato topping. When they're soft to poke with a knife. Strain them and mash them up with a big dollop of butter. 

In a medium saucepan, fry off an onion and add in chopped chorizo. Cook until the onions are starting to brown, then sift over the flour and continue to stir over the heat for a few minutes. 

Start to gradually add in the milk, making sure that the sauce is thickening as you do. When the milk is all stirred in, pop in a bit of mustard and add a handful of frozen peas. Simmer on a low heat whilst you prepare the fish. 

Either dice your fish to inch cubes, or take it out the pack and put it in a large oven proof dish. We always use a deep one, but it'd work just as well in a lasagna dish.

Pour the sauce over the fish and give it a good stir, before topping with the mashed potato and sprinkling with cheese. 

Pop it in the oven on gas mark 5 for around 40 minutes and enjoy!

Lemon meringue pie...

Sunday's are made for two things – baking and Sunday dinner. Today I decided to have a go at a family favourite, lemon meringue pie. The meringue was deliciously fluffy and light in the middle, just like marshmallow and the contrast with the really sharp lemon was to-die-for. I think I ate almost half of it! Find the recipe below, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

For the pastry you will need:
-225g plain flour
- 110g butter
- 110g caster sugar
-3 medium egg yolks
Use one 500g block of ready-made shortcrust pastry

For the filling you will need:
- 2 tbsp cornflour
-100g caster sugar
- Zest and juice of 3 lemons
- 100ml orange juice (with juicy bits)
- 90g butter
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg

For the meringue you will need:
- 4 egg whites
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 tsp cornflour

To make the pastry, rub together the flour and the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar and make a well in the centre. Beat the eggs and add them to the well. Then, start to bring the dough together with your hands, kneading gently until it forms a ball. Roll out the pastry to about 0.5cm and put into a greased loose-bottom baking tin. Cover in tin foil and pop some baking beans in. Bake on gas 5 for 15 minutes.

In the mean time, heat the cornflour, caster sugar and lemon zest in a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir for a few minutes. Add the orange juice and 100ml of water. Don't worry if the mixture starts to look a bit thin, it will soon thicken up! Heat until the mixture starts to bubble, then cut the butter into cubes and pop it in the pan. Stir until all the butter has melted, then add the beaten egg yolks and whole egg. Continue to heat and stir the mixture until it's thick enough to 'plop' off the spoon when dropped. Remove from the heat and set to one side. 

By now, your pastry should be cooked. Remove the foil and the baking beans and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and lightly browned. 

To make the meringue, whisk up the egg whites until they stand in peaks. Then add the caster sugar slowly. Be careful not to over beat the meringue. Fold in the cornflour and then put together your pie. 

Fill the pastry case with the lemon mixture and put the meringue mixture on top, making sure to start from the sides and then go into the middle. 

Lower the oven to gas 4 and pop the pie back in for 20 minutes until the meringue is cooked on top. Leave to cool before removing the tin. Reheat for 5 minutes on a low heat in the oven before serving. 


Pear, frangipane and raspberry jam tart...

Being Father's day and all that, I decided to indulge my family in their favourite thing – frangipane. Now I've never made frangipane before but I was surprised by how easy and effective it is. Here's the recipe, slightly adapted from Delicious, I hope you enjoy it as much as we all did!

Shortcrust pastry:
  1. 225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  2. 110g butter
  3. 110g caster sugar
  4. 3 medium egg yolks
  5. *OR* Use one 500g block of ready-made shortcrust pastry

  6. Frangipane:
  7. 125g margarine or butter
  8. 125g caster sugar
  9. 2 eggs
  10. 100g ground almonds
  11. 1tsp almond extract
  12. 1 tbsp plain flour

  13. Poached pears:
  14. 250g caster sugar
  15. 4 pears
  16. 1 cinnamon stick

  17. And: a good raspberry conserve
To make the pastry, rub together the flour and the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar and make a well in the centre. Beat the eggs and add them to the well. Then, start to bring the dough together with your hands, kneading gently until it forms a ball. Wrap in cling film and pop it in the fridge. 

Now, on to the best part, the frangipane (it's even a nice word to say...) Cream the butter and the caster sugar until lights and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat. Fold in the ground almonds and the plain flour and pop into the fridge.

Peel the pears and cut them into small slices around 0.5cm thick. It depends if you want them to look fancy on your tart as to whether you should take time over this. I just chopped it up! To poach, bring 500ml of water to boil and add the caster sugar and a cinnamon stick. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved then add the pear slices. Simmer for around 10 minutes. You don't want them to be too soft. 

Place your pastry in a greased loose-bottom tin. I used a 15" but you can adjust this recipe to whatever you've got. Cover the pastry with greaseproof paper and pop some baking beans in, before blind-baking for around 15 minutes.

Then add the filling as pictured below. Don't go over the top on the frangipane! It rises and will completely cover your pears if you're not careful. It will come up around 1cm so be careful.

Bake on gas mark 5 for around an hour, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is just slightly wobbly in the centre. Leave to cool then carefully remove the base and enjoy!:


© REINDEER & BEAR. All rights reserved.