Pear Brownies

It feels like an age since I wrote a post for the blog. This is probably because we were camping last week down in sunny Dorset, which you may well have seen from my Instagram page. The break from technology that our camping trip enforced was very restful, but that said I must admit that I am not a natural camper. I find the change in routine when the children refuse to settle until 9pm frustrating. Luckily for me, Simon is ridiculously calm and takes all these changes in his stride and doesn’t let little things like small children deciding that bedtime is not longer applicable when camping bother him.

My first thought when we arrived home was yippee we are back, now I can make cake. Then I realised we had no eggs and the children were sound asleep as it was 9.30pm. So I was grown up and patient (yes patient, it is rather surprising) and decided to send Simon to the supermarket for eggs wait until the morning.

This morning it took me all of around 2 minutes to decide what we would make. We bought some chocolate spread while on holiday for easy sandwiches for the kids (yes unhealthy, but I am ignoring the guilt that is threatening to emerge as it was a camping treat along with chocolate cereal…) and it was only half used. I decided we would make brownies to finish the chocolate spread and top it up with the Nutella from the pantry as we didn’t quite have enough leftover. In all honestly, the pears were added as a small nod to healthy eating and a balanced diet, as who doesn’t love chocolate with pear?!

Note to self, PLEASE remember cooking with the kids the morning after returning from a camping trip is not the wisest idea as the aforementioned children may tend towards grumpiness due to over tiredness. Bickering may well ensue over who gets to help out with which bit of the activity and a couple of deep breaths from the adult supervisor may well be required. Oh yes and a strong cup of coffee. I want to stress that no children were harmed during the making of these brownies, and all children left the table with extremely chocolatey faces and fingers and huge grins plastered across their tired, but happy faces.

Ingredients

  • 400g chocolate spread (we used half Nutella and half plain chocolate spread)
  • 50g butter/margarine (we used Flora)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 140g wholemeal self raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 100g chocolate chips
  • 1 pear, cored and sliced
  • 1tbsp runny honey

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°c fan and grease and line a brownie tin.
  2. Spoon the chocolate spread out of the jar and place it in a large mixing bowl keeping a beady eye on crafty children who may decide to try and divert spoonfuls into their mouths rather than the bowl.
  3. Crack the 3 eggs into the same bowl and add the butter. Whisk with an hand mixer until all smooth.
  4. Add in the flour and cocoa powder and mix with wooden spoons until fully combined.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and mix again.
  6. Pour and spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and gently smooth the surface.
  7. Remove the pear’s core (I did this bit for the children) and slice into long thin pieces.
  8. Gently place the pear on top of the brownie mixture (don’t push down or they will end up underneath the batter).
  9. Brush all the exposed bits of pear with a bit of honey and place in the over for 40-45 minutes. A skewer should come out coated with some batter for a slightly squishy brownie. Cook for longer if you want a firmer brownie.

These brownies have a slightly cake-like texture, but are 100% yummy. We cut them into 16 squares. The children enjoyed theirs as pudding after lunch, I preferred mine with my mid-morning coffee as I had to check that they were edible before distributing them to the children! Well that’s my excuse anyway…

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Lavender, Lemon and White Chocolate Biscuits

I love a homemade gift. It gives me a legitimate reason to be in the kitchen with the kids making mess and enables me to create new recipes with new flavours (for us) all in the name of creating a nice gift.

We have these beautiful lavender plants in our front garden. They are a luscious shade of purple, smell lovely and never fail to attract bees. All of the children have at some stage enjoyed watching the bees on the lavender plants and it was here that Seb first said ‘bumbleey bees’ which always makes me happy. If I am honest I struggle to call them bees now as bumbleey bees sounds so much better!

I have been intending to make lavender biscuits for a couple of years, but they never quite made it to the top of my list. This year they finally did. I took some lavender, washed it and dried

Before the lemon zest was added.

it out in the pantry and then one day when Seb and Atticus were at their daytime activities I took the opportunity to make some lavender infused sugar for biscuit making. I left the lavender on its own in the sugar and then decided lavender and lemon would work well so also added lemon zest to the sugar and lavender. I found the scent of the lavender and lemon remarkably comforting.  When Seb helped me make the biscuits I had him smell the infused sugar first to guess the scents. He identified the lemon easily, but found the lavender harder to place.

We made these biscuits with gluten-free flour and regular flour. The regular flour biscuits were more moist and preferred in this house, but I have been informed that the gluten-free variety were tasty despite the more crumbly texture the gluten-free flour brings to the recipe.

Ingredients

Depending on biscuit size, this recipe will make around 20 biscuits

  • 200g butter or margarine (we used Flora)
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 8 sprigs of fresh lavender washed and allowed to dry
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 250g plain white flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • 1tsp baking powder (ensure it is gluten-free if required)
  • 100g white chocolate chips

Method

  1. It is nice to put the lavender flowers removed from the stalks and lemon zest into the sugar in an airtight container a day before you need to use it. However, if you don’t have time to do so just blitz them together a food processor briefly before using. We infused the day before and then pulsed them in the food processor too. Both and both flavours were present and not overwhelming.
  2. Heat the oven to 170°c and line two baking sheets with silicone mats or baking parchment.
  3. Cream together the butter and the sugar infused with the lavender and the lemon until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the flour and the baking powder and squish and squash with your hands to form a dough.
  5. Add the white chocolate chips and ensure fully combined.
  6. Divide the mixture into 2 equal pieces and make 10 biscuits from each pile by rolling them into balls and then gently squishing them flat on the baking tray with you hands (Seb used his fingers held together, but I used the palm of my hand and both worked fine.
  7. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking for 12-15 minutes until they are starting to  become golden (and any chocolate chips near the surface are bubbling.
  8. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for around 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Nicely presented in boxes.

These biscuits went into school and nursery for end of year presents for the staff who have worked with the boys this year. From the comments, they were well received!

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Four-Cheese Baked Fondue

This week Simon and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary. I managed to convince Simon, a couple of months ago, to host a party at home for some close family and friends to celebrate. The fact that this falls the week after our daughter’s birthday and the weekend directly after Seb and Atticus finish school and nursery respectively means this week is crazy busy. Add to that a long list of savoury items and an even bigger list of cakes I want to make and we mustn’t forget about preparing the house!

I have, upon reflection, reduced the amount of food I had originally planned, but only because I don’t physically think that we could make or store any more! Initially I was planning to serve just cake, but Simon insisted that we couldn’t risk sending our guests off in a sugary coma. There will definitely be a blog post about this in the near future on this so keep your eye out.

After all the cake at Ophelia’s birthday, I decided that it was time to make something savoury again and to take advantage of Atticus being at home, something that will happen less and less as he starts school in the autumn. Out of the savoury items we make, the ones which comprise of copious amount of cheese are generally more successfully with the children. Cheese is a popular snack and we seem to go through a mammoth amount every week. I have no concerns about my children’s’ calcium intake!

I wanted to capitalise on this love of cheese to let the kids try some new types of cheese and what better way to do this than make fondues?! We enjoyed smelling the cheese and poking it as they all have different scents and textures. We did add fig relish to the bottom of these fondue pots and we put sliced fig on top, however, Atticus and Ophelia were not fond of the fig or the fig relish. Next time we make this for them, we shall leave out the fig relish for them and add it for the grown ups.

Ingredients

Makes 4 ramekin-sized fondues
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food

  • 200g brie, rind sliced off and cut into pieces
  • 100g emmental, grated
  • 100g cream cheese
  • 30g parmesan, grated
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 2tsp cornflour
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • Seasoning
  • 4tbsp fig relish and 1 fig, quartered (optional: if your kids like fig or if the grown ups want it!)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 140°c fan.
  2. Slice the rind off the brie and chop and grate the emmental and the parmesan.
  3. Put the brie, emmental, cream cheese and half the parmesan into a food processor with the milk, the cornflour, the thyme and the seasoning and pulse until all combined.
  4. Optional: put a tbsp. of fig relish in each ramekin and spread evenly.
  5. Divide the cheesy mixture between the ramekins and then sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
  6. Place in the oven to cook for 15 minutes until bubbling. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before putting a piece of quartered fig on top and enjoy. You will need to remind your children that the cheese will still be quite hot. Mine enjoyed blowing on it to cool it down before dunking soldiers into it.

Atticus and Ophelia had these for lunch with some sliced pear and buttered toast. They could equally be served for a dinner with vegetable sticks, crusty bread or anything else you want to dip in them! My kids would probably enjoy dipping cocktail sausages in them. I enjoyed mine with olive bread, baby corn and sugar snap peas.

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Rhubarb and Caramel Cake

It has been a particularly busy 10 days or so, with Simon away for work for some of it and school winding down for the year for one and the whole induction process starting for another child. I am a great planner. I love a list and ticking things off it and I thought this would be the best way to cope in Simon’s absence. My problem, however, is that I tend to try and cram too much into a tiny or even miniscule amount of time and end up getting stressed or upset when it doesn’t go to plan and I don’t achieve any of the fun stuff. So I had big plans for wonderful cooking projects with the kids this week in daddy’s absence, but they didn’t come to fruition the way I had hoped or expected.

Guess what lifted my mood? Something came and turned my frustration at the week around. Well I doubt you will guess, so let me tell you. I found some more reduced rhubarb in the supermarket! Yes, it is earth shatteringly exciting news and is such a non-event that I should gloss over it and claim the idea came to me some other amazing way, but alas no.  Three sticks of humble rhubarb managed to turn my week around as they gave me a reason to do some more experimenting in the kitchen with Atticus and Ophelia. We also have a jar of dulce de leche which has been peering at me from its position in the pantry (next to the honey and the Nutella if you are curious as to where we keep it) and longing to be loved and used in a recipe. These two ingredients sounded like a good match with the sweetness from the dulce de leche contrasting nicely with the sharpness of the rhubarb so I set about developing a recipe to combine the two.

Now Atticus’s track record with Rhubarb isn’t great. Both Ophelia and Seb liked the rhubarb in the Rhubarb and Strawberry Flapjacks, but Atticus wasn’t as keen. On the other hand, his track record with cake is particularly good (no surprise there) so maybe combining the two might lead to success? My hope was that Atticus would enjoy the rhubarb in this recipe and then it would be the beginning of a long and happy lifetime enjoying rhubarb-based puddings. And before you ask, yes I do  think about food, how to encourage my children to eat and try new foods and what I can make next most with them. But, while the kids and I are both enjoying ourselves, I believe it is a pattern that will continue for the foreseeable future.

Ingredients

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 170g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml Greek-style natural yoghurt
  • 60g dulce de leche
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 450g self raising flour
  • 100g fudge chopped into small pieces
  • 3 sticks of rhubarb sliced and mixed with 50g light brown sugar
  • Icing sugar for serving

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°c fan and grease and line a 23cm circular cake tin. Atticus had fun trying to draw around the tin although it did need tidying up!
  2. Place the sliced rhubarb in a small bowl with 50g of light brown sugar and let it sit.
  3. Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl mix the yoghurt, the dulce de leche and vanilla extract together and then add to the egg mixture and mix until fully combined.
  5. Gently mix in the flour.
  6. Chop the fudge into small pieces and add them to the cake batter and then add the sugar coated rhubarb and fold them both in.
  7. Put the mixture in the tin and gently flatten with a spatula. Then place in the oven for 40-50 minutes until a cake skewer comes out clean. Check the cake after the first 20 minutes as it may need to be covered to prevent burning.
  8. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a bit. Take out of the tin to finish cooling and sprinkle some icing sugar on top before serving through a sieve. It is much harder to get a nice effect when you let a four year old try and do it alone!

Despite the yumminess of this cake, Atticus is yet to revise his opinion of rhubarb. I shall have to try harder to find a way to convince him.  However, seeing as the rhubarb season here in the UK is coming to an end, I guess it will have to wait until next year.

 

 

 

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Cherry and Basil Cake

After my delight with our cherry crop from the garden, I spent all of around ten minutes deciding whether to just eat them or to bake them in something. It is no surprise that I chose to bake with half of them and gobble the rest up!

Fresh from the garden.

There are so many classic recipes with cherries and I must admit to having been somewhat overwhelmed by the choice. I started researching what flavours might go well with cherries as I was in an experimenting mood and read somewhat incredulously that basil and cherry go well together. This idea really tickled my fancy as I had some leftover basil from another recipe and I was happy to be able to use it for something special (read a bit different and out there!).

Atticus and Ophelia didn’t bat an eyelid when I said we were going to put the basil in the cake. That said, Ophelia isn’t really old enough to understand that it might be an unusual ingredient for a sweet treat! When I told Simon what I had used them for, there seemed to be a small sigh on the other end of the phone, the sound of resignation and of course you wouldn’t do anything normal with them, Kat!

When it was out of the oven we eagerly took it to a friend’s house for lunch. She may well have been taken aback by the contents of the baked goods, but when we tried it for pudding we were both pleasantly surprised. Simon also agreed that it was quite nice. For one of my stranger ideas, this is high praise from him.

The recipe may need a few tweaks as it was my first time making it, but I wanted to share it with you anyway to let you see what I did with the cherries from the garden that I posted a picture of on Facebook and Instagram.

Ingredients

  • 125g butter or margarine
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 100g of cherries, stones removed
  • 3 sprigs of basil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180º fan and grease and line your tin. We used a loaf tin, but you could also use a round or square one.
  2. Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder into a large bowl and mix together until fully combined.
  3. Mix the stoned cherries with a tbsp of flour and add them to the mixture.
  4. Cut the basil into the bowl using scissors and mix until everything is combined.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes until the cake is springy to the touch or a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Wait for it to cool before removing it from the tin and slicing it.

If you do try this flavour combination, please do let me know how it works out as I am interested to see if others enjoyed it too. I am sure I will be back with another unusual flavour combinations sometime in the near future!

 

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