24 December 2012

Seasons Greetings!

Just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas
& a Happy New Year!

Rebecca x

The 2012 Christmas Cake

18 December 2012

Deck the halls with popcorn trees!

I saw these lovely little popcorn trees somewhere at some point & thought they looked fab, they're something really different from the usual Christmas treats I make.  I didn't follow a recipe, I kind of made it up as I went along using melted marshmallows to bind the popcorn together.  The trickiest bit was shaping them into trees, I got myself into a right mess, melted marshmallow could be used as a heavy duty adhesive, it sticks to everything!

I melted around 200g of white marshmallows in a large pan, do this over a low heat & take some time otherwise the marshmallows can brown quite quickly.  I then stirred in a dollop of butter just to loosen it up a bit.  Next I stirred in about 200g of sweet popcorn, the cinema style one not the toffee coated one.  Now, how to handle this big old gooey mess?!  I started with dry hands....didn't work, then I tried icing sugar....by this point I was covered in marshmallow & had nothing resembling a tree!  Then I remembered a tip I'd been given in the past & I sprayed my hands with a little olive oil....bingo, I could easily shape my trees!

I used a digestive to make a base for the tree, then decorated them with coloured icing, sprinkles & stars. 


Voila, a forest full of popcorn trees!


If you're looking for ideas for last minute Christmas treats to make, scroll down for a few from the Rebecca Bakes Cakes archive.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas & prosperous 2013!  Rebecca x







28 October 2012

An tribute to my trusted Good Housekeeping Cookery Book

I'm only a few weeks behind schedule, but this morning I finally got the Christmas cake into the oven!  It has previously featured on the blog as Week 39 in my year of cakes, so I wasn't planning on writing another post about it, but as I reached for my trusty cook book, I thought would share the story of where it comes from.


The recipe comes from The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book which my parents received as a wedding present & Mum has since passed onto me.  The book was first published in 1944, my edition I think is from 1976, it is a fabulous book & and I think a piece of foodie history.  I'm not sure cook books of today provide guidance on purchasing whelks or a recipe for creamed brains?  It is not an all glossy cook book, but instead has 64 pictures scattered throughout the book to showcase some of the recipes.  I think this is my favourite part of the book, the pictures really capture the styling of the 70's. 
 
From the vegetable section, Grapefruit & Prawn Salad, Tomato Salad, Green Salad, Cucumber Salad, Mushroom Salad & Cream Cheese & Celery Salad


 Buttercup Scrambles - Scrambled egg & sausage in a bread case

Celebration Cake
There is even a section on entertaining with this fantastic menu suggestion for a wedding breakfast...

Melon & Grape Cocktail
Cucumber Soup
Boned Duck with Orange Stuffing
Salomon Trout
Salads:  Tossed Green, Dressed Mushroom, Potato & Chive, Tomato with Onion
Lemon Souflee or Strawberry Flan
Wedding Cake & Coffee

I have built up a collection of lovely cook books with mouth watering pictures & recipes from all over the world, but I always fall back to my battered green book for all my cooking basics.  When I forget how to make pancake batter, need to work out cooking time for a joint of meat or just fancy making a classic pud, this is what I reach for.  I'm pretty sure Good Housekeeping still publish a traditional cook book that is more relevant for today, but would I want to swap mine for a shiny new one...no.  As well as being a piece of cooking history it's a piece of family history that I wouldn't want to part with.

So back to where we started and the main legacy of this book for the Hodgson household, the Christmas Cake!  It's still in the oven (& will be for a while yet) filling the house with the most amazing smell, M has already complained that we'll have to wait another 2 months before we can eat it.  We've had this cake every Christmas for as long as I can remember & now the responsibility of making it falls to me (no pressure), I hope we'll enjoy it for many more years to come. 

Isn't it strange how you can become attached to a cookery book?  Till next time, Rebecca x  

16 October 2012

Back for Baking Week with Brownies

I have finally retrieved the laptop from the cupboard under the stairs & managed to breath some life back into it.  Please Santa if you're reading this, I'd love a Mac Book for Christmas, PC's are increasingly driving me to violence against technology...well not all technology, just my rather temperamental laptop!  Anyway, I was shocked to realise it has been almost 3 months since my last post.  So much has happened I'm not sure where to start, so to avoid falling into a long winded waffling, here's the edited highlights.

I left my old job & have started my new one & I love it!

I have been a bit poorly so am experimenting with a Gluten Free lifestyle.

Oh & probably the most exciting thing, I have got engaged...yey!

It's been a fairly busy 3 months, I haven't been slacking, so I hope you'll forgive my leave of absence :-)  It's only been in the last week or so that I've felt settled again after so much change, so I'm back for National Baking Week & what better time to test out my first Gluten Free baking recipe.

When I first went gluten free, I guess I thought 'well that's my baking out the window then', along with any other cakes, biscuits & yummy sweet stuff.  I started off trying a few gluten free substitutes, Sainsbury Free From Digestives, lovely, Tru Free Custard Creams....well I'm not quite sure how to describe them.  But then I never did eat normal custard creams, so why I suddenly had an urge to eat a gluten free version, no idea?

This recipe is one from Dove Farms, the people who make a whole assortment of gluten free friendly ingredients.  (It's getting a bit boring constantly writing Gluten Free, I'm switching to GF, ok!)  I've never baked with GF flour, so I thought now was not the time to experiment, stick to a tried & tested recipe.  This one had really great reviews, you can find it on the Doves Farm website.  There are really only 2 ingredients you need to switch for GF versions, flour & baking powder...I know I never thought baking powder had gluten in it either?

Fresh out of the oven, in my Lurpak Brownie pan...fab freebie!

The result, well they look like chocolate brownies, smell like chocolate brownies & taste delicious, I would challenge anyone to tell the difference!  If you have any other tried & tested GF recipes, I'd love to see them.  I'm not sure if I'll have to stay GF, it's all a bit of trial & error really, but I do know I'm feeling better, so I'm not arguing with that!

These will not last long!

Happy National Baking Week everyone, hope you get to enjoy making & eating lots of cake!  Hopefully this is me back into the swing of this blogging malarkey & I will be sharing my food ramblings with you all once more.  Lucky things!  Till next time, Rebecca x

24 July 2012

Java spiced chocolate cake with coffee cream

So you may remember a few months back I shared the news that I'd quit my job!  Well the good news is that I now have a new job (phew!), so for me I'm currently on a rollercoaster of excitement, anticipation & a bit of blind fear.  But it's also tinged with sadness that I am leaving my current company after almost 6 years.  The team I work with are not just colleagues, they are friends & we've been through a lot together.  Engagements, marriages, break ups, sickness, loss, babies & a fair few cracking nights out.  We've pretty much seen the lot, but its a rare day when we haven't at least had a bit of a giggle along the way.

I hope one of the things I'll be remembered for (forget about my ability as a marketer!) is for my baking, lets face it I fed them cake pretty much every week for 52 weeks during my challenge.  Funny how I didn't get many complaints about that!  So it seemed fitting that I should leave them with a cake & a coffee inspired cake at that.

This is a recipe that has been in my scrapbook for a couple of years but this is it's first outing, I'd hand written it, so apologies that I can't source it.  It's a bit of a twist on a chocolate cake which adds cloves, cinnamon & nutmeg, sandwiched together with a coffee cream!

60g cocoa powder
1tsp ground cloves
3tsps ground cinnamon
1tsp grated nutmeg
100g butter
220g caster sugar plus a little extra
3 eggs
180g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
400ml double cream
1.5 tbsp finely ground coffee beans

1.  Mix the cocoa powder & spice together.  Spoon out 3 teaspoons of the mixture & keep to one side.  Add 200ml of hot water to the remaining mixture & stir well until smooth.

2.  Cream together the butter & sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth & creamy.  Sift in the flour, baking powder & bicarb, mix well, then finally mix in the chocolatey mixture.

3.  Divide between 2 sandwich tins & bake at 180c/GM4 for around 20 minutes until well risen & springy to the touch.  Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then tip out onto a rack to cool.

4.  Whip the cream with a tablespoon of sugar, then stir through the ground coffee.  Use the cream to sandwich the cakes together, I had enough to also cover the top, then sprinkle over the remaining spiced cocoa.


It smelt amazing when it was cooking, a fabulous mix of chocolate & spice.  Guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear what everyone thinks!  I'm not a fan of goodbyes, so instead this is my 'see you later' cake.  So 'see you later' team, it's been a blast.  I just hope they like cake at my new company? Till next time, Rebecca x

1 July 2012

Marmalade cupcakes for Paddingtons Birthday!

Did you know this week it was Paddington Bears birthday?  Well one of his birthdays, as like the queen he has two, Christmas Day & 25th June!  What was one of Paddingtons favourite foods...yep marmalade, et voila this weeks recipe Orange Marmalade Cupcakes.  Ok so this is a bit of a tenuous link but it's been on my list to try for a while & this seemed like a good excuse!

The recipe is also from Cox, Cookies & Cake, the book I featured a few weeks back.  They are a lovely soft buttery cake with a tangy tast of marmalade, topped off with orange butter cream & a final dollop of marmalade if they're not orangey enough for you already! 


So Happy Birthday Paddington (I do realise my excuses to bake cakes are getting a little ridiculous!), here are a few facts you may not know about the bear from darkest Peru...

- The first item to pass through the channel tunnel when the UK broke through to the French side was a Paddington Bear

- The first Paddington Bear book, 'A Bear Called Paddington' was published in 1958. The book series has gone on to sell more than 35 million copies & have been translated into 40 languages!

- 9 different artists have created their own vision of Paddington, but he is always seen with his duffle coat, hat & wellies. 

I loved these marmalade cupcakes, they're a great addition to the repertoire, if you want to try them yourself, just add around 3 tablespoons of marmalade, the zest of an orange & a good dash of OJ to a basic vanilla batter.  Then add some orange zest to a vanilla butter cream, yum!  Till next time, Rebecca x


Our Limited Edition Marmite Paddington, he lives in our fruit bowl!

31 May 2012

There's a corgi on my cake!

A short post from me this week as I just wanted to share this creation with you, my Jubilee Victoria Sponge!  I'm still having problems getting my Victoria Sponge to rise properly, they never seem to work as well as other cakes I make...not sure why?  Anyway, this one was one of my better efforts, topped off with some fab decorations from Not On The High Street.  I've since seen the same kit in Waitrose, so it would be great if you're stuck for something to take to a Jubilee party this weekend.


There's a cut out of Buckingham Palace, some bunting, the Queens carriage, union jack flags, Her Majesty & Prince Philip, two Guards & a couple of corgi's!

So whether you're celebrating the Diamond Jubilee or just looking forward to the extra long weekend, I hope you enjoy it. I for one, will use it as an excuse to eat cake!  Till next time, Rebecca x

22 May 2012

Very very chocolately cookies from Cox Cookies & Cake

Over the last few years as my baking habit has grown, so it seems has my collection of cook books, most of which I have very gratefully recieved as gifts. I love looking through them for inspiration & to drool over the pictures, but if I think about it, it's not that often I actually choose a new recipe from a book & try it out. I have my staple recipes that I pretty much know off by heart, then the rest is a series of experiments, some more successful than others!

So I've decided to branch out, broaden my repertoire & try out at least one new recipe from each of my books. The first is from Cox Cookies & Cake, a collaboration beween baker Eric Lanlard & the designer Patrick Cox.  The book is a technicolour spectacular divided into themed chapters, my particular favourite is the Styling Cupcakes section.  Although where one is meant to find a beach bum mould & skin-coloured edible paste I have no idea, (Cheeky Cupcakes on page 100 if you get a chance to look at the book!)

Easing myself gently into this somewhat eccentric cook book, I decided to make double chocolate & marshmallow cookies, the Man Cakes (page 108) will have to wait for another day.


They really should be called Choc as much choc as you can into a cookie cookie.  They have melted chocolate, cocoa powder & chocolate chips in them, topped off with a good drizzle of melted marshmallow.  The texture was quite cakey rather than crunchy cookie, but oh my god they tasted good!  Next on the hit list for this book is the Orange Marmalade Cupcakes, it's worth a look if you want some more unusual ideas & if anyone knows where I can find a torso mould let me know :-)  Till next time, Rebecca x 


15 May 2012

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun

So what are rules? One of the dictionary definitions is 'the customary or normal circumstances, occurrences, manner, practise, quality etc' Essentially we go through life following these types of rules, work hard at school, work hard at university, find a good job, be loyal & work hard at work, working hard is a somewhat recurring theme.

But what happens when you don't want to follow these rules anymore?

This is not a tale of epic proportions or of great significance, it is a simple story about going against the grain & following your gut. I have a nice job, I work with a lovely team of people, I like the products we make, but ultimately I have been doing the same thing for years & I've grown bored...so bored I've actually had visions of throwing my laptop across the office & flouncing out in dramatic style. I appreciate you may be thinking, stop whinging, do you not know we're in a recession, you're lucky to have a job! But as most of us spend more time at work than with our families, should we have to accept being unhappy at work?

So what did I do?

I quit my job.

I have no new job.

Ooops!

Or as the response of most people I've told has been, wow you're brave, r.e. crazy woman, do you not know we're in recession yada yada yada...

It wasn't a rash decision, (unlike someone I know who shall remain nameless who posted a resignation letter through their boss' door at 10pm then never went back!) I have thought of nothing else for weeks. However the relief I feel having now made my choice is unreal, even my work colleagues have noticed a difference, which makes me wonder just HOW uptight & unbearable I'd been at work?

My gut was telling me it was time to go & bugger me it's probably right...again! This isn't the first tricky (slightly reckless) decision I've ever made, when I was 20 I left a good job to go back to uni & complete my degree, when I was 27 I left my first marketing job with no where to go. At the time there were people around me who said I was making bad decisions that I would live to regret. One particularly supportive boss suggested as a result of my decision I would be, & I quote 'unemployable'. Both worked out fine & led me to where I am now, so at 33 making another significant change, I just have to trust that there's no reason why it won't be ok this time too.

So to the title of this post, it's a quote from Katharine Hepburn, 'If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun'. That kind of sums it up for me, I haven't followed the rules, this isn't what people expected me to do, but I'm excited for the future, it's fun not knowing what is coming next. I feel like a cloud has lifted & after a stress induced baking hiatus, Ive even made some cookies!

The moral of my story, follow your gut & don't feel you have to do what people expect of you. For me, it's onwards with the job search! (I'm an experienced Group Brand Manager with strong commercial experience in case anyone is wondering!?) That said with 5 years working for a coffee brand, there's always Cafe Nero or maybe I'll finally get round to opening a cafe of my own? The world is my lobster! Till next time, Rebecca x

3 April 2012

Make your own Sushi in the Shire

Oops...so somehow it's been nearly 8 weeks since I last posted, I swear it was only a week ago, sorry.  I'm back to share with you the latest foodie experiment from the Shire!

One of our favourite cuisines at the moment is Japanese.  I love all the fresh flavours & simple dishes that don't leave you feeling full of stodge.  There's a great place in Windsor & it was during one of our recent visits that the fated words how hard can it really be to make sushi? were uttered!  So in blissful ignorance, with a shopping list compiled with help from our friend Google, we set out to buy our ingredients.  Three supermarkets later we eventually found what we needed in Waitrose.


We decided on 3 different fillings for our sushi, sweet chilli chicken, sesame salmon & grilled tuna with mango.  Granted I'm not entirely sure how authentic these fillings are?  To start with you have to cook the sushi rice & leave it to cool, then stir in a couple of spoonfuls of mirin & rice vinegar, which we already had in the cupboard.  So far so good!  We cooked the strips of sweet chilli chicken, thinly sliced a fresh salmon fillet then marinated it in a little sesame oil, pan fried a tuna steak until just cooked then sliced it & finally chopped a mango into small pieces trying to avoid ending up with a bowl of puree.

With all our ingredients ready, it was time to start construction...

First up you place a sheet of Nori, dried seaweed onto the rolling mat.  For the observant among you, yes our mat was the wrong way round on the board...you can see where this is heading!
  
 Next spread the rice over the nori, getting it as close to the edges as you can.

Spread the filling over the rice...by this point we realised the mat was the wrong way round for rolling!  Then you use the bamboo mat to roll it all together into a rather unattractive looking green sausage which it ready to be sliced into rolls.

Now through this photo montage you'd think it was quite straight forward, but far from it!  You have to try to keep everything in the roll, make it even & tight enough so it doesn't just fall apart when you slice it...oh & wrapping your own finger in it probably doesn't help!  So the end result, drum roll please....

Not too bad eh?  It's not going to win any beauty awards but it tasted good, we served it with the traditional pickled ginger, wasabi & soy.  Chopsticks proved problematic, the sushi pretty much collapsed in a heap when picked up.  Sushi scooped up with a spoon is probably not how the Japanese intended!  It was fun to make, if not a little frustrating & definitely not easy.  It's going to take a lot of practise before I'm ready to let it loose on anyone else.  For now I think we'll resort back to Misugo in Windsor for our sushi.  Has anyone else had a go at making their own? I'd be interested to hear how you got on & if you have any tips for me?   Till next time, Rebecca x

9 February 2012

Hunk a chunk of choccy love!

I'm not one to get swept away in the commercialism of Valentines Day (that might sound strange coming from a marketeer!) I find it a bit overwhelming the variety of items that are Valentinised all in a bid to 'get us in the mood'. How slapping a few hearts & flowers onto a standard supermarket product is meant to do that I just don't know? That's not to say that I ignore the day, but I'd rather make something myself that feels more personal & special. As is the case for most occasions, I usually bake!

Last year I took part in a Forever Nigella challenge & tried out her recipe for Love Buns (still makes me giggle!) Click here to take a look back at that post.

So keeping with the competition theme, this year I was invited by Baking Mad to go head to head with 14 other bloggers. The challenge was to create my ultimate Valentines treat, using a minimum of 3 ingredients from a mystery box of goodies I was sent.

Where to start? What to bake? Cake? Biscuit? Brownie? Cupcake? Arrghh...too many options! Then inspiration struck me! Now bear with me on this explanation, I'm not even quite sure how exactly my brain worked it's way round to this...

I was listening to my ipod on shuffle, the Elvis track Burning Love came on. If you're not familiar with it, at the end of the song there is a section that goes, 'hunk a hunk of burning love'. My head was singing 'hunk a chunk of burning love', which made me think of chocolate, which lead me onto Rocky Road...et voila, this weeks recipe! In honour of it's inspiration I have named it,

Hunk a Chunk of Choccy Love

The ingredients I selected from my ready steady cook style package were:

A large bar of chocolate
Chocolate heart sprinkles
Giant white chocolate snowies
Pink shimmer balls
Dark chocolate melt & squeeze topping
White chocolate letters

To these I also added:

150g unsalted butter
200g shortbread biscuits (bashed up a bit into chunks)
50g sultanas
50g glace cherries
1tbsp golden syrup

1. Melt the butter, chocolate & syrup together. Stir in the bashed up biccies & fruit & stir well until all combined.

2. Line a dish with baking parchment, pour in the mixture & press down firmly. Leave in the fridge to set for 20 mins.

3. Melt the topping & spread evenly over your base, decorate at will! Pop back into the fridge to set fully.

I didn't leave mine to set for long enough before adding the topping, so some of the butter from the mixture rose up through the topping, making a bit of a mottled effect on the top. Hasn't effected the taste at all, but you might be able to see from the picture it meant the top looked a little uneven.


When it was set solid, I took the slab out of the dish & paper, wrapped it in fresh baking parchment & tied it up with a ribbon!


What I really like about this (other than it's delicious chocolatey biscuity loveliness) is you can cut a chunk as big or as small as you fancy & it lasts for ages in the fridge. It's not like cake that I feel compelled to eat as soon as possible to avoid it going stale!


Hope you like it? I'd love to hear if you have your own homemade Valentines day treats. Thanks to Baking Mad for the ingredients for my recipe. Happy Valentines Day! Rebecca x

4 February 2012

Aspirations of living the Good Life

One of the best things about our new house is that after nearly 4 years living in an apartment, we finally have a garden of our own. With this come aspirations of transforming myself into the Barbara of Eton Wick & living the Good Life! Now our garden isn't exactly spacious so realistically it would barely generate enough produce to sustain a family of Borrowers so I don't think self sufficiency is in our reach just yet. That said we want to try & grow some of our own veg so we did start looking this week at what to plant when.
Our little patch of land...it's a work in progress!

It was this search that brought me to the Eat Seasonably campaign site & a really interesting little gizmo that I thought I'd share. The Eat Seasonably calendar is an interactive tool that shows what's in season when. So for this month it's all about leeks & savoy cabbage. I must admit it's quite enlightening & makes you think about the amount of food miles we must be clocking up to get all produce all year round. Looking at the calendar I realised there's no need, there's an abundance of stuff available right here on our little island. Guess you just need what to look for? Sorry if this sounds a bit obvious, but it was really a bit of an epiphany for me & I'll definitely be paying more attention to the origins of my fruit & veg.



Finally in other news....you may remember over Christmas I ran a Hotel Chocolat competition. Well I'm happy to announce that my lucky winner was the lovely Lisa @cookwitch who has received her chocolate & after showing immense self control by simply admiring the packaging for a while, finally got stuck into it, congratulations! Till next time, Rebecca x

1 February 2012

Afternoon tea with Macaroons from heaven!

I have to travel quite regularly for my work, 99% of the time it's either to Belgium or Holland. I think I've tried pretty much every sweet treat they have to offer, waffles, chocolate, stroopwaffles...mmm I love stroopwaffles. Anyway it made a nice change that I had to travel to Paris a few weeks back. Sadly I didn't get to see much of the city as the office is based in what I can only describe as the French equivalent of the Slough trading estate! So there I was kicking my heals around Charles de Gaulle airport feeling rather unfulfilled with my Parisian experience when I landed on a branch of Laduree!

I had read about Laduree & oggled over pictures of their beautiful multi-coloured macaroons, but had yet to make it to one of their London stores. With an hour to kill before my flight, I stepped in side & set about the challenge of choosing just 8 flavours. I settled on...

Coffee
Salted Caramel
Blackcurrant Violet
Pistachio
Rose
Black Forest
Colombian Chocolate
Raspberry

I carefully (and proudly) transported my macaroons home & stored them safely in the bottom of the fridge as advised.

Now it didn't feel quite right just to crack open the box & scoff one down with a mug of tea, so I held my first afternoon tea in their honour!

Tea from a proper pot, sandwiches with the crusts cut off, little cheesy tarts & some homemade scones (which were actually a bit of a disaster & went out for the birds, nuff said!) The macaroons took pride of place on the top of my cake stand.
In the spirit of sharing, each macaroon was cut up & shared so we could all taste all of the flavours. (must of looked quite ridiculous to an outsider, me carefully dissecting a macaroon no bigger than a 50p!) Clear favourite was salted caramel, pistachio not so much. They are not an everyday purchase at 15.90 euros for a box of 8, but they are a real treat & true indulgence. The insert in the box explains that the Laduree pastry chefs combine almonds, eggs & sugar before adding the final ingredient, a pinch of 'know how' Wouldn't we all love to get our hands on a tub of that? Till next time, Rebecca x

21 January 2012

Getting out of a lunch rut with DIY veg pots!

Sorry that it's a bit late, but Happy New Year everyone! We moved into our first house just before Christmas, to say that it's all consuming is a bit of an understatement. I haven't had much time to cook properly & as for baking, well lets just say that me & my new oven are still getting to know one another! It's quite scary that you only view a house a couple of times then put in an offer to spend the most amount of money you're ever likely to spend. Once you get in you realise that maybe you were originally looking through slightly rose tinted glasses. Don't get me wrong I love our new house, but once it's stripped of all contents only then do you see it warts & all. It's these unexpected (slightly costly!) warts that have led me to the creation for this weeks post.

I find winter lunches a bit of a nightmare, salads just don't cut it in the cold, sandwiches are ok but not everyday & since Christmas I think I've eaten enough soup to fill a paddling pool! I really like the look of all the new types of veg & stew pots available in the supermarket, but at £3-£4 a pop they hardly make for a frugal lunch?

So with a mountain of tuperware at my disposal I thought I'd create my own 'Hodge Pots'! I made 2 different types, but the great thing is they both start with pretty much the same base ingredients. We have...

Rich Ratatouille with Cous Cous

Chilli Bean & Quorn Sausage Stew with Rice. I'm not a veggie, but I like these quorn sausages as they're low in fat, high in protein & not as rich as meaty ones.


For the ratatouille you need:

1 onion
1 pepper
1 aubergine
1 courgette
Handful of chopped mushrooms
Squeeze of garlic puree
Can of chopped tomatoes
Veggie stock cube & a dash of water
Squeeze of tomato puree
Handful of chopped basil
Plain cous cous made up with veggie stock

Roughly chop all the veggies & fry with a little olive oil & garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes & puree, stock cube, water & basil. Mix well & allow to simmer for around 30 minutes until the veggies are lovely & soft & the sauce has thickened up. I layered the ratatouille in a pot with the seasoned cous cous.

For the Chilli bean stew you need:

1 onion
1 pepper
1 courgette
Handful of chopped mushrooms
Squeeze of garlic puree
6 quorn sausages, chopped into chunks
Can of mixed beans in mild chilli sauce (I use Sainsbury)
Can of chopped tomatoes
Veggie stock cube
Squeeze of tomato puree
Mild chilli powder to taste

Again, start by roughly chopping all the veggies, then fry with a little olive oil & garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes & puree, stock cube, beans with sauce. Mix well then taste the sauce, I added an extra 2tsps of mild chilli powder to give it a little more kick. Cover & leave to simmer for around 20 minutes. This one I layered in a pot with cooked rice.

Both are delicious, warming & filling for winter days & by my reckoning work out at around £1 per pot - bargain! Let me know if you have a recipe idea for a lunch pot? Till next time, Rebecca x

P.S. As well as a new house, we also have a new addition to the family....completely gratuitous video of our new cat, but I hope it'll raise a chuckle on a dull January day :-)

video

24 December 2012

Seasons Greetings!

Just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas
& a Happy New Year!

Rebecca x

The 2012 Christmas Cake

18 December 2012

Deck the halls with popcorn trees!

I saw these lovely little popcorn trees somewhere at some point & thought they looked fab, they're something really different from the usual Christmas treats I make.  I didn't follow a recipe, I kind of made it up as I went along using melted marshmallows to bind the popcorn together.  The trickiest bit was shaping them into trees, I got myself into a right mess, melted marshmallow could be used as a heavy duty adhesive, it sticks to everything!

I melted around 200g of white marshmallows in a large pan, do this over a low heat & take some time otherwise the marshmallows can brown quite quickly.  I then stirred in a dollop of butter just to loosen it up a bit.  Next I stirred in about 200g of sweet popcorn, the cinema style one not the toffee coated one.  Now, how to handle this big old gooey mess?!  I started with dry hands....didn't work, then I tried icing sugar....by this point I was covered in marshmallow & had nothing resembling a tree!  Then I remembered a tip I'd been given in the past & I sprayed my hands with a little olive oil....bingo, I could easily shape my trees!

I used a digestive to make a base for the tree, then decorated them with coloured icing, sprinkles & stars. 


Voila, a forest full of popcorn trees!


If you're looking for ideas for last minute Christmas treats to make, scroll down for a few from the Rebecca Bakes Cakes archive.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas & prosperous 2013!  Rebecca x







28 October 2012

An tribute to my trusted Good Housekeeping Cookery Book

I'm only a few weeks behind schedule, but this morning I finally got the Christmas cake into the oven!  It has previously featured on the blog as Week 39 in my year of cakes, so I wasn't planning on writing another post about it, but as I reached for my trusty cook book, I thought would share the story of where it comes from.


The recipe comes from The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book which my parents received as a wedding present & Mum has since passed onto me.  The book was first published in 1944, my edition I think is from 1976, it is a fabulous book & and I think a piece of foodie history.  I'm not sure cook books of today provide guidance on purchasing whelks or a recipe for creamed brains?  It is not an all glossy cook book, but instead has 64 pictures scattered throughout the book to showcase some of the recipes.  I think this is my favourite part of the book, the pictures really capture the styling of the 70's. 
 
From the vegetable section, Grapefruit & Prawn Salad, Tomato Salad, Green Salad, Cucumber Salad, Mushroom Salad & Cream Cheese & Celery Salad


 Buttercup Scrambles - Scrambled egg & sausage in a bread case

Celebration Cake
There is even a section on entertaining with this fantastic menu suggestion for a wedding breakfast...

Melon & Grape Cocktail
Cucumber Soup
Boned Duck with Orange Stuffing
Salomon Trout
Salads:  Tossed Green, Dressed Mushroom, Potato & Chive, Tomato with Onion
Lemon Souflee or Strawberry Flan
Wedding Cake & Coffee

I have built up a collection of lovely cook books with mouth watering pictures & recipes from all over the world, but I always fall back to my battered green book for all my cooking basics.  When I forget how to make pancake batter, need to work out cooking time for a joint of meat or just fancy making a classic pud, this is what I reach for.  I'm pretty sure Good Housekeeping still publish a traditional cook book that is more relevant for today, but would I want to swap mine for a shiny new one...no.  As well as being a piece of cooking history it's a piece of family history that I wouldn't want to part with.

So back to where we started and the main legacy of this book for the Hodgson household, the Christmas Cake!  It's still in the oven (& will be for a while yet) filling the house with the most amazing smell, M has already complained that we'll have to wait another 2 months before we can eat it.  We've had this cake every Christmas for as long as I can remember & now the responsibility of making it falls to me (no pressure), I hope we'll enjoy it for many more years to come. 

Isn't it strange how you can become attached to a cookery book?  Till next time, Rebecca x  

16 October 2012

Back for Baking Week with Brownies

I have finally retrieved the laptop from the cupboard under the stairs & managed to breath some life back into it.  Please Santa if you're reading this, I'd love a Mac Book for Christmas, PC's are increasingly driving me to violence against technology...well not all technology, just my rather temperamental laptop!  Anyway, I was shocked to realise it has been almost 3 months since my last post.  So much has happened I'm not sure where to start, so to avoid falling into a long winded waffling, here's the edited highlights.

I left my old job & have started my new one & I love it!

I have been a bit poorly so am experimenting with a Gluten Free lifestyle.

Oh & probably the most exciting thing, I have got engaged...yey!

It's been a fairly busy 3 months, I haven't been slacking, so I hope you'll forgive my leave of absence :-)  It's only been in the last week or so that I've felt settled again after so much change, so I'm back for National Baking Week & what better time to test out my first Gluten Free baking recipe.

When I first went gluten free, I guess I thought 'well that's my baking out the window then', along with any other cakes, biscuits & yummy sweet stuff.  I started off trying a few gluten free substitutes, Sainsbury Free From Digestives, lovely, Tru Free Custard Creams....well I'm not quite sure how to describe them.  But then I never did eat normal custard creams, so why I suddenly had an urge to eat a gluten free version, no idea?

This recipe is one from Dove Farms, the people who make a whole assortment of gluten free friendly ingredients.  (It's getting a bit boring constantly writing Gluten Free, I'm switching to GF, ok!)  I've never baked with GF flour, so I thought now was not the time to experiment, stick to a tried & tested recipe.  This one had really great reviews, you can find it on the Doves Farm website.  There are really only 2 ingredients you need to switch for GF versions, flour & baking powder...I know I never thought baking powder had gluten in it either?

Fresh out of the oven, in my Lurpak Brownie pan...fab freebie!

The result, well they look like chocolate brownies, smell like chocolate brownies & taste delicious, I would challenge anyone to tell the difference!  If you have any other tried & tested GF recipes, I'd love to see them.  I'm not sure if I'll have to stay GF, it's all a bit of trial & error really, but I do know I'm feeling better, so I'm not arguing with that!

These will not last long!

Happy National Baking Week everyone, hope you get to enjoy making & eating lots of cake!  Hopefully this is me back into the swing of this blogging malarkey & I will be sharing my food ramblings with you all once more.  Lucky things!  Till next time, Rebecca x

24 July 2012

Java spiced chocolate cake with coffee cream

So you may remember a few months back I shared the news that I'd quit my job!  Well the good news is that I now have a new job (phew!), so for me I'm currently on a rollercoaster of excitement, anticipation & a bit of blind fear.  But it's also tinged with sadness that I am leaving my current company after almost 6 years.  The team I work with are not just colleagues, they are friends & we've been through a lot together.  Engagements, marriages, break ups, sickness, loss, babies & a fair few cracking nights out.  We've pretty much seen the lot, but its a rare day when we haven't at least had a bit of a giggle along the way.

I hope one of the things I'll be remembered for (forget about my ability as a marketer!) is for my baking, lets face it I fed them cake pretty much every week for 52 weeks during my challenge.  Funny how I didn't get many complaints about that!  So it seemed fitting that I should leave them with a cake & a coffee inspired cake at that.

This is a recipe that has been in my scrapbook for a couple of years but this is it's first outing, I'd hand written it, so apologies that I can't source it.  It's a bit of a twist on a chocolate cake which adds cloves, cinnamon & nutmeg, sandwiched together with a coffee cream!

60g cocoa powder
1tsp ground cloves
3tsps ground cinnamon
1tsp grated nutmeg
100g butter
220g caster sugar plus a little extra
3 eggs
180g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
400ml double cream
1.5 tbsp finely ground coffee beans

1.  Mix the cocoa powder & spice together.  Spoon out 3 teaspoons of the mixture & keep to one side.  Add 200ml of hot water to the remaining mixture & stir well until smooth.

2.  Cream together the butter & sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth & creamy.  Sift in the flour, baking powder & bicarb, mix well, then finally mix in the chocolatey mixture.

3.  Divide between 2 sandwich tins & bake at 180c/GM4 for around 20 minutes until well risen & springy to the touch.  Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then tip out onto a rack to cool.

4.  Whip the cream with a tablespoon of sugar, then stir through the ground coffee.  Use the cream to sandwich the cakes together, I had enough to also cover the top, then sprinkle over the remaining spiced cocoa.


It smelt amazing when it was cooking, a fabulous mix of chocolate & spice.  Guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear what everyone thinks!  I'm not a fan of goodbyes, so instead this is my 'see you later' cake.  So 'see you later' team, it's been a blast.  I just hope they like cake at my new company? Till next time, Rebecca x

1 July 2012

Marmalade cupcakes for Paddingtons Birthday!

Did you know this week it was Paddington Bears birthday?  Well one of his birthdays, as like the queen he has two, Christmas Day & 25th June!  What was one of Paddingtons favourite foods...yep marmalade, et voila this weeks recipe Orange Marmalade Cupcakes.  Ok so this is a bit of a tenuous link but it's been on my list to try for a while & this seemed like a good excuse!

The recipe is also from Cox, Cookies & Cake, the book I featured a few weeks back.  They are a lovely soft buttery cake with a tangy tast of marmalade, topped off with orange butter cream & a final dollop of marmalade if they're not orangey enough for you already! 


So Happy Birthday Paddington (I do realise my excuses to bake cakes are getting a little ridiculous!), here are a few facts you may not know about the bear from darkest Peru...

- The first item to pass through the channel tunnel when the UK broke through to the French side was a Paddington Bear

- The first Paddington Bear book, 'A Bear Called Paddington' was published in 1958. The book series has gone on to sell more than 35 million copies & have been translated into 40 languages!

- 9 different artists have created their own vision of Paddington, but he is always seen with his duffle coat, hat & wellies. 

I loved these marmalade cupcakes, they're a great addition to the repertoire, if you want to try them yourself, just add around 3 tablespoons of marmalade, the zest of an orange & a good dash of OJ to a basic vanilla batter.  Then add some orange zest to a vanilla butter cream, yum!  Till next time, Rebecca x


Our Limited Edition Marmite Paddington, he lives in our fruit bowl!

31 May 2012

There's a corgi on my cake!

A short post from me this week as I just wanted to share this creation with you, my Jubilee Victoria Sponge!  I'm still having problems getting my Victoria Sponge to rise properly, they never seem to work as well as other cakes I make...not sure why?  Anyway, this one was one of my better efforts, topped off with some fab decorations from Not On The High Street.  I've since seen the same kit in Waitrose, so it would be great if you're stuck for something to take to a Jubilee party this weekend.


There's a cut out of Buckingham Palace, some bunting, the Queens carriage, union jack flags, Her Majesty & Prince Philip, two Guards & a couple of corgi's!

So whether you're celebrating the Diamond Jubilee or just looking forward to the extra long weekend, I hope you enjoy it. I for one, will use it as an excuse to eat cake!  Till next time, Rebecca x

22 May 2012

Very very chocolately cookies from Cox Cookies & Cake

Over the last few years as my baking habit has grown, so it seems has my collection of cook books, most of which I have very gratefully recieved as gifts. I love looking through them for inspiration & to drool over the pictures, but if I think about it, it's not that often I actually choose a new recipe from a book & try it out. I have my staple recipes that I pretty much know off by heart, then the rest is a series of experiments, some more successful than others!

So I've decided to branch out, broaden my repertoire & try out at least one new recipe from each of my books. The first is from Cox Cookies & Cake, a collaboration beween baker Eric Lanlard & the designer Patrick Cox.  The book is a technicolour spectacular divided into themed chapters, my particular favourite is the Styling Cupcakes section.  Although where one is meant to find a beach bum mould & skin-coloured edible paste I have no idea, (Cheeky Cupcakes on page 100 if you get a chance to look at the book!)

Easing myself gently into this somewhat eccentric cook book, I decided to make double chocolate & marshmallow cookies, the Man Cakes (page 108) will have to wait for another day.


They really should be called Choc as much choc as you can into a cookie cookie.  They have melted chocolate, cocoa powder & chocolate chips in them, topped off with a good drizzle of melted marshmallow.  The texture was quite cakey rather than crunchy cookie, but oh my god they tasted good!  Next on the hit list for this book is the Orange Marmalade Cupcakes, it's worth a look if you want some more unusual ideas & if anyone knows where I can find a torso mould let me know :-)  Till next time, Rebecca x 


15 May 2012

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun

So what are rules? One of the dictionary definitions is 'the customary or normal circumstances, occurrences, manner, practise, quality etc' Essentially we go through life following these types of rules, work hard at school, work hard at university, find a good job, be loyal & work hard at work, working hard is a somewhat recurring theme.

But what happens when you don't want to follow these rules anymore?

This is not a tale of epic proportions or of great significance, it is a simple story about going against the grain & following your gut. I have a nice job, I work with a lovely team of people, I like the products we make, but ultimately I have been doing the same thing for years & I've grown bored...so bored I've actually had visions of throwing my laptop across the office & flouncing out in dramatic style. I appreciate you may be thinking, stop whinging, do you not know we're in a recession, you're lucky to have a job! But as most of us spend more time at work than with our families, should we have to accept being unhappy at work?

So what did I do?

I quit my job.

I have no new job.

Ooops!

Or as the response of most people I've told has been, wow you're brave, r.e. crazy woman, do you not know we're in recession yada yada yada...

It wasn't a rash decision, (unlike someone I know who shall remain nameless who posted a resignation letter through their boss' door at 10pm then never went back!) I have thought of nothing else for weeks. However the relief I feel having now made my choice is unreal, even my work colleagues have noticed a difference, which makes me wonder just HOW uptight & unbearable I'd been at work?

My gut was telling me it was time to go & bugger me it's probably right...again! This isn't the first tricky (slightly reckless) decision I've ever made, when I was 20 I left a good job to go back to uni & complete my degree, when I was 27 I left my first marketing job with no where to go. At the time there were people around me who said I was making bad decisions that I would live to regret. One particularly supportive boss suggested as a result of my decision I would be, & I quote 'unemployable'. Both worked out fine & led me to where I am now, so at 33 making another significant change, I just have to trust that there's no reason why it won't be ok this time too.

So to the title of this post, it's a quote from Katharine Hepburn, 'If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun'. That kind of sums it up for me, I haven't followed the rules, this isn't what people expected me to do, but I'm excited for the future, it's fun not knowing what is coming next. I feel like a cloud has lifted & after a stress induced baking hiatus, Ive even made some cookies!

The moral of my story, follow your gut & don't feel you have to do what people expect of you. For me, it's onwards with the job search! (I'm an experienced Group Brand Manager with strong commercial experience in case anyone is wondering!?) That said with 5 years working for a coffee brand, there's always Cafe Nero or maybe I'll finally get round to opening a cafe of my own? The world is my lobster! Till next time, Rebecca x

3 April 2012

Make your own Sushi in the Shire

Oops...so somehow it's been nearly 8 weeks since I last posted, I swear it was only a week ago, sorry.  I'm back to share with you the latest foodie experiment from the Shire!

One of our favourite cuisines at the moment is Japanese.  I love all the fresh flavours & simple dishes that don't leave you feeling full of stodge.  There's a great place in Windsor & it was during one of our recent visits that the fated words how hard can it really be to make sushi? were uttered!  So in blissful ignorance, with a shopping list compiled with help from our friend Google, we set out to buy our ingredients.  Three supermarkets later we eventually found what we needed in Waitrose.


We decided on 3 different fillings for our sushi, sweet chilli chicken, sesame salmon & grilled tuna with mango.  Granted I'm not entirely sure how authentic these fillings are?  To start with you have to cook the sushi rice & leave it to cool, then stir in a couple of spoonfuls of mirin & rice vinegar, which we already had in the cupboard.  So far so good!  We cooked the strips of sweet chilli chicken, thinly sliced a fresh salmon fillet then marinated it in a little sesame oil, pan fried a tuna steak until just cooked then sliced it & finally chopped a mango into small pieces trying to avoid ending up with a bowl of puree.

With all our ingredients ready, it was time to start construction...

First up you place a sheet of Nori, dried seaweed onto the rolling mat.  For the observant among you, yes our mat was the wrong way round on the board...you can see where this is heading!
  
 Next spread the rice over the nori, getting it as close to the edges as you can.

Spread the filling over the rice...by this point we realised the mat was the wrong way round for rolling!  Then you use the bamboo mat to roll it all together into a rather unattractive looking green sausage which it ready to be sliced into rolls.

Now through this photo montage you'd think it was quite straight forward, but far from it!  You have to try to keep everything in the roll, make it even & tight enough so it doesn't just fall apart when you slice it...oh & wrapping your own finger in it probably doesn't help!  So the end result, drum roll please....

Not too bad eh?  It's not going to win any beauty awards but it tasted good, we served it with the traditional pickled ginger, wasabi & soy.  Chopsticks proved problematic, the sushi pretty much collapsed in a heap when picked up.  Sushi scooped up with a spoon is probably not how the Japanese intended!  It was fun to make, if not a little frustrating & definitely not easy.  It's going to take a lot of practise before I'm ready to let it loose on anyone else.  For now I think we'll resort back to Misugo in Windsor for our sushi.  Has anyone else had a go at making their own? I'd be interested to hear how you got on & if you have any tips for me?   Till next time, Rebecca x

9 February 2012

Hunk a chunk of choccy love!

I'm not one to get swept away in the commercialism of Valentines Day (that might sound strange coming from a marketeer!) I find it a bit overwhelming the variety of items that are Valentinised all in a bid to 'get us in the mood'. How slapping a few hearts & flowers onto a standard supermarket product is meant to do that I just don't know? That's not to say that I ignore the day, but I'd rather make something myself that feels more personal & special. As is the case for most occasions, I usually bake!

Last year I took part in a Forever Nigella challenge & tried out her recipe for Love Buns (still makes me giggle!) Click here to take a look back at that post.

So keeping with the competition theme, this year I was invited by Baking Mad to go head to head with 14 other bloggers. The challenge was to create my ultimate Valentines treat, using a minimum of 3 ingredients from a mystery box of goodies I was sent.

Where to start? What to bake? Cake? Biscuit? Brownie? Cupcake? Arrghh...too many options! Then inspiration struck me! Now bear with me on this explanation, I'm not even quite sure how exactly my brain worked it's way round to this...

I was listening to my ipod on shuffle, the Elvis track Burning Love came on. If you're not familiar with it, at the end of the song there is a section that goes, 'hunk a hunk of burning love'. My head was singing 'hunk a chunk of burning love', which made me think of chocolate, which lead me onto Rocky Road...et voila, this weeks recipe! In honour of it's inspiration I have named it,

Hunk a Chunk of Choccy Love

The ingredients I selected from my ready steady cook style package were:

A large bar of chocolate
Chocolate heart sprinkles
Giant white chocolate snowies
Pink shimmer balls
Dark chocolate melt & squeeze topping
White chocolate letters

To these I also added:

150g unsalted butter
200g shortbread biscuits (bashed up a bit into chunks)
50g sultanas
50g glace cherries
1tbsp golden syrup

1. Melt the butter, chocolate & syrup together. Stir in the bashed up biccies & fruit & stir well until all combined.

2. Line a dish with baking parchment, pour in the mixture & press down firmly. Leave in the fridge to set for 20 mins.

3. Melt the topping & spread evenly over your base, decorate at will! Pop back into the fridge to set fully.

I didn't leave mine to set for long enough before adding the topping, so some of the butter from the mixture rose up through the topping, making a bit of a mottled effect on the top. Hasn't effected the taste at all, but you might be able to see from the picture it meant the top looked a little uneven.


When it was set solid, I took the slab out of the dish & paper, wrapped it in fresh baking parchment & tied it up with a ribbon!


What I really like about this (other than it's delicious chocolatey biscuity loveliness) is you can cut a chunk as big or as small as you fancy & it lasts for ages in the fridge. It's not like cake that I feel compelled to eat as soon as possible to avoid it going stale!


Hope you like it? I'd love to hear if you have your own homemade Valentines day treats. Thanks to Baking Mad for the ingredients for my recipe. Happy Valentines Day! Rebecca x

4 February 2012

Aspirations of living the Good Life

One of the best things about our new house is that after nearly 4 years living in an apartment, we finally have a garden of our own. With this come aspirations of transforming myself into the Barbara of Eton Wick & living the Good Life! Now our garden isn't exactly spacious so realistically it would barely generate enough produce to sustain a family of Borrowers so I don't think self sufficiency is in our reach just yet. That said we want to try & grow some of our own veg so we did start looking this week at what to plant when.
Our little patch of land...it's a work in progress!

It was this search that brought me to the Eat Seasonably campaign site & a really interesting little gizmo that I thought I'd share. The Eat Seasonably calendar is an interactive tool that shows what's in season when. So for this month it's all about leeks & savoy cabbage. I must admit it's quite enlightening & makes you think about the amount of food miles we must be clocking up to get all produce all year round. Looking at the calendar I realised there's no need, there's an abundance of stuff available right here on our little island. Guess you just need what to look for? Sorry if this sounds a bit obvious, but it was really a bit of an epiphany for me & I'll definitely be paying more attention to the origins of my fruit & veg.



Finally in other news....you may remember over Christmas I ran a Hotel Chocolat competition. Well I'm happy to announce that my lucky winner was the lovely Lisa @cookwitch who has received her chocolate & after showing immense self control by simply admiring the packaging for a while, finally got stuck into it, congratulations! Till next time, Rebecca x

1 February 2012

Afternoon tea with Macaroons from heaven!

I have to travel quite regularly for my work, 99% of the time it's either to Belgium or Holland. I think I've tried pretty much every sweet treat they have to offer, waffles, chocolate, stroopwaffles...mmm I love stroopwaffles. Anyway it made a nice change that I had to travel to Paris a few weeks back. Sadly I didn't get to see much of the city as the office is based in what I can only describe as the French equivalent of the Slough trading estate! So there I was kicking my heals around Charles de Gaulle airport feeling rather unfulfilled with my Parisian experience when I landed on a branch of Laduree!

I had read about Laduree & oggled over pictures of their beautiful multi-coloured macaroons, but had yet to make it to one of their London stores. With an hour to kill before my flight, I stepped in side & set about the challenge of choosing just 8 flavours. I settled on...

Coffee
Salted Caramel
Blackcurrant Violet
Pistachio
Rose
Black Forest
Colombian Chocolate
Raspberry

I carefully (and proudly) transported my macaroons home & stored them safely in the bottom of the fridge as advised.

Now it didn't feel quite right just to crack open the box & scoff one down with a mug of tea, so I held my first afternoon tea in their honour!

Tea from a proper pot, sandwiches with the crusts cut off, little cheesy tarts & some homemade scones (which were actually a bit of a disaster & went out for the birds, nuff said!) The macaroons took pride of place on the top of my cake stand.
In the spirit of sharing, each macaroon was cut up & shared so we could all taste all of the flavours. (must of looked quite ridiculous to an outsider, me carefully dissecting a macaroon no bigger than a 50p!) Clear favourite was salted caramel, pistachio not so much. They are not an everyday purchase at 15.90 euros for a box of 8, but they are a real treat & true indulgence. The insert in the box explains that the Laduree pastry chefs combine almonds, eggs & sugar before adding the final ingredient, a pinch of 'know how' Wouldn't we all love to get our hands on a tub of that? Till next time, Rebecca x

21 January 2012

Getting out of a lunch rut with DIY veg pots!

Sorry that it's a bit late, but Happy New Year everyone! We moved into our first house just before Christmas, to say that it's all consuming is a bit of an understatement. I haven't had much time to cook properly & as for baking, well lets just say that me & my new oven are still getting to know one another! It's quite scary that you only view a house a couple of times then put in an offer to spend the most amount of money you're ever likely to spend. Once you get in you realise that maybe you were originally looking through slightly rose tinted glasses. Don't get me wrong I love our new house, but once it's stripped of all contents only then do you see it warts & all. It's these unexpected (slightly costly!) warts that have led me to the creation for this weeks post.

I find winter lunches a bit of a nightmare, salads just don't cut it in the cold, sandwiches are ok but not everyday & since Christmas I think I've eaten enough soup to fill a paddling pool! I really like the look of all the new types of veg & stew pots available in the supermarket, but at £3-£4 a pop they hardly make for a frugal lunch?

So with a mountain of tuperware at my disposal I thought I'd create my own 'Hodge Pots'! I made 2 different types, but the great thing is they both start with pretty much the same base ingredients. We have...

Rich Ratatouille with Cous Cous

Chilli Bean & Quorn Sausage Stew with Rice. I'm not a veggie, but I like these quorn sausages as they're low in fat, high in protein & not as rich as meaty ones.


For the ratatouille you need:

1 onion
1 pepper
1 aubergine
1 courgette
Handful of chopped mushrooms
Squeeze of garlic puree
Can of chopped tomatoes
Veggie stock cube & a dash of water
Squeeze of tomato puree
Handful of chopped basil
Plain cous cous made up with veggie stock

Roughly chop all the veggies & fry with a little olive oil & garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes & puree, stock cube, water & basil. Mix well & allow to simmer for around 30 minutes until the veggies are lovely & soft & the sauce has thickened up. I layered the ratatouille in a pot with the seasoned cous cous.

For the Chilli bean stew you need:

1 onion
1 pepper
1 courgette
Handful of chopped mushrooms
Squeeze of garlic puree
6 quorn sausages, chopped into chunks
Can of mixed beans in mild chilli sauce (I use Sainsbury)
Can of chopped tomatoes
Veggie stock cube
Squeeze of tomato puree
Mild chilli powder to taste

Again, start by roughly chopping all the veggies, then fry with a little olive oil & garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes & puree, stock cube, beans with sauce. Mix well then taste the sauce, I added an extra 2tsps of mild chilli powder to give it a little more kick. Cover & leave to simmer for around 20 minutes. This one I layered in a pot with cooked rice.

Both are delicious, warming & filling for winter days & by my reckoning work out at around £1 per pot - bargain! Let me know if you have a recipe idea for a lunch pot? Till next time, Rebecca x

P.S. As well as a new house, we also have a new addition to the family....completely gratuitous video of our new cat, but I hope it'll raise a chuckle on a dull January day :-)

video