Happy New Year, peeps! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas break and have come back refreshed. I have to say, I was quite delighted to get back to the routine… and then I got back to the routine and decided it wasn’t that great after all. Hey ho.
So what does 2015 have in store? Most excitingly a trip to New Zealand is in the pipeline this December. Yup, Christmas 2015 will be spent on the South Island with Husband’s brother and his family, which is something to look forward to, and a motivating factor in my quest to get fit and healthy.
So, time permitting, I am getting back into running and have already been several times during the last couple of weeks. Of course, it’s fitting it in around the family and work that’s the issue, especially given that it’s dark in the morning and the evening, which I don’t find very motivating. But I have also built more walking into my daily commute, which is good for my health, and has the added benefit of being cheaper, too. I have been listening to the (very gripping) Serial podcast as I walk, which helps pass the time.
We’ve been making lots of delicious smoothies and healthy breakfasts, including overnight oats, here at OH HQ, too (more to come on this soon!), and both Husband and I have been doing loads of cooking from various cookbooks – new and old, which has been lovely.
I am LOVING our new KitchenAid, and so Littlest and I spent the afternoon making a chocolate cake because, well, just because really! She loved cracking the eggs, sifting the flour (although she did get bored half way through) and stirring and mixing. A great way to pass a winter’s afternoon with a little one.
Come on, it’s time to fall off that sugar-free wagon in style. Just a small slice…
Moist Rich Chocolate Cake
This recipe is slightly adapted from The Guardian’s ‘Guide to Baking’, which was given away with the newspaper way back in 2007 and this chocolate cake is simply incredible. The icing is from Nigella’s Feast, and is the icing she uses on her Chocolate Guinness Cake. Nothing healthy here, I’m afraid, it’s pure indulgence!
You will need:
375ml boiling milk
100g dark chocolate, chopped (I just broke into chunks tbh)
275g caster sugar
225g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder
¾tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 large free-range egg, plus one yolk
75ml sunflower oil
25g golden syrup
2tsp vanilla extract
What to do:
- Heat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) and line the base of a 20cm diameter, 9cm deep round cake tin (or the closest you have to this) with baking parchment.
- Melt the chocolate into the boiling milk and allow to stand and cool for 15 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile, weigh and sift all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl (I used the KitchenAid bowl).
- Whisk together the eggs, oil, golden syrup and vanilla and then beat into your milky-chocolate mix from step 2.
- Whisk this liquid into your dry ingredients for 30 seconds (this is where I used the KitchenAid) until smooth, and pour the batter into the tin.
- Bake for approx. 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Allow to cool before topping with the below.
For the topping you will need:
150g Philadelphia cream cheese
75g icing sugar
60ml double cream
Cocoa powder for dusting
What to do:
- Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth – I used the KitchenAid to do this (because I love it).
- Sieve over the icing sugar, and then beat both together.
- Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Spread over the top of your cake and sprinkle with cocoa powder from a fine-mesh sieve.
Exciting things are afoot on the blog; it is being redesigned *as we speak* which means that pretty soon I will be unveiling the new look for Spring/Summer 2015 on The One-Handed Cook website. Woo hoo.
In other news, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been and gone, which means that Christmas is practically upon us. I’ve made a list, I’m checking it twice, and yes, I still need to buy about 800 presents. I have started an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the gifts, which feels a bit too organised, even for me.
What else is new? Well, my son is obsessed with Match Attax trading cards, my daughter with her Tiny Tears doll and my husband with his new KitchenAid, which he was given for his birthday. A beautiful red KitchenAid just for me him.
In the meantime, here’s something for you: a soup recipe to help chase away the November blues. It’s a recipe my grandma – a wonderful home cook – used to make, and my mum has passed it on to me. Like all my soup recipes, it’s dead easy to make, and completely delicious. You can make it in stages – make the soup and liquidise it later, if needs be. It also freezes really well, so make double if you have the energy – and freeze half for later. Steaming hot, silky smooth, deliciously fragrant Carrot and Tarragon Soup on a cold winter’s day; what could be nicer?
Carrot and Tarragon Soup
A delicious soup for the whole family. Omit the salt – and go easy on the pepper – if serving to babies and toddlers. If serving to grown-ups, the soup looks good served with a swirl of cream and a bit of chopped parsley on top. It will keep in the fridge for several days and freezes well in an air-tight container.
Makes 8–10 portions
You will need
2tbsp light olive oil
1kg carrots, chopped into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 largeish potatoes, peeled and cut into eight
1.5 litres (approx) vegetable stock (I use Marigold bouillon)
1tsp freeze-dried tarragon flakes, or 1tbsp fresh tarragon, washed and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
What to do
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I use a Le Creuset), add the onions and cook gently for a few minutes.
- Add the carrots, stir well with the onions and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes or so.
- Add the stock, the potatoes and the tarragon. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20-30 mins. Check that the carrots are cooked.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Liquidise in a blender, keeping an eye on the thickness of the soup. (Sometimes you have too much liquid and other times you may have to add a bit of water.)
- Season to taste. Reheat the quantity you need and pour into bowls.
Life has been far from perfect of late, purely in terms of how busy I am, husband is, and indeed we all are. What with a work trip, the new term and associated school admin, sorting out jobs that need doing to the house, piles of washing, getting up really early in an attempt to Get Things Done, oh, and having a cold for three weeks, sometimes it all feels a Bit Much.
But busy isn’t always bad, and I’ve managed to fit in some fun stuff, too, including a lovely session with an amazing food stylist I met through work who has given me some fantastic tips for the blog (more on that soon), plus it’s Mumsnet Blogfest next month, which I am sure will be pretty perfect. It’s a great chance to get inspired about various aspects of blogging (although I am not sure I will ever ‘change the world’ with a pasta recipe, but hey ho), swap blogging stories, have a laugh, drink some sparkling wine and get a nice goody bag. What’s not to like? I am looking forward to hearing one of my fave authors, Rachel Joyce, speak, learning how to make my blog better and, best of all, meeting fellow bloggers old and new. Whoop.
In the meantime, I have learnt how to make the *perfect* poached egg. (I know!) Eggs are wonderfully comforting, and a simple soft poached egg served with a slice of buttered toast and a mug of tea can do a lot for a busy, frazzled parent in need of some TLC. Preparing something so simple and nourishing, in (hopefully) a moment of calm while baby naps or the children are at school, or simply for breakfast, can be a very pleasant interlude. And as for that satisfying moment when the yolk spills out on to the toast, well, it can be quite therapeutic, particularly if it is soft, runny and cooked to perfection.
Free-range eggs are also a great nutritious dish for the whole family (babies should be over 1 if you are serving the yolk soft) – they’re packed with protein and B vitamins, they’re easy to prepare and cook and frankly, the perfect dish for a quick, healthy energy boost – perfect for anyone on the go. What’s more, if you can crack an egg one-handed, poached eggs and toast can easily be prepared with one hand while a) holding baby, b) filling in yet another form/cheque/reading book record for school, or c) typing an email on your phone to your boss with the other. If you have a Spork, you can even eat it one-handed too. Perfect.
Perfect Poached Egg for one
The trick with the vinegar I learnt from my food stylist friend Rosie. It works a treat!
You will need:
1 free-range egg
White wine vinegar
One slice of sourdough bread, toasted and buttered to serve (my favourite butter is this Brue Valley Butter which I get in my Riverford box every week; it is delicious)
What to do:
- Bring some water to the boil in a small saucepan (fill it about two thirds full).
- Take a teacup and pour in a centimetre or so of white wine vinegar, swill it round, then return the vinegar to the bottle. Crack the egg into the teacup.
- Once your water is boiling, create a whirlpool in the water by stirring it with a small wooden spoon. Add the egg to the centre of the whirlpool, reduce the heat slightly and cook for 2 ½ minutes for a soft yolk.
- Once cooked, remove the egg using a slotted spoon and put on a plate. Use a teaspoon to remove any of the ‘frothy’ white (it comes away easily) to ensure your poached egg has a nice regular shape.
- Place the egg on top of your toast and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
This fruit salad came together by accident – I had a lime that needed eating up and having had lunch at Mexican eatery Wahaca earlier in the week I felt inspired to give my fruit salad a bit of a Mexican twist, and we all loved it. We had it for breakfast outside last week – super-healthy and so delicious. The colours are simply amazing – look!
Warm weather seems to make it easier to eat more simply than usual and I’ve been whizzing up smoothies, throwing together delicious salads and keeping family food simple, just using delicious ingredients such as these fresh strawberries and ripe mangoes.
We’ve also been enjoying some lovely al fresco food on local picnics here in our little corner of south-east London, as well as barbecues on our recent camping trip to the New Forest, when we also toasted marshmallows and ate ice-creams every day. We were very taken with the wild ponies – what a beautiful part of the world!
Much-needed holiday to Spain soon – life’s been so busy lately, and we need a break. Catch up when I’m back 🙂
Quick 3-Fruit Salad
Enjoy making this – it’s so quick and easy and an absolute winner!
1 ripe mango, diced
1 punnet strawberries, hulled and diced
1 punnet blueberries
Juice of ½ lime
1 tablespoon maple syrup
What to do:
This one couldn’t be easier: simply toss together the fruit, squeeze over the lime juice and stir in the maple syrup. Let it sit for 20 mins before eating, so the flavours combine really well. Stir again before serving.
As mentioned in a previous post, I absolutely love summer berries and fruit – from strawberries and raspberries to blueberries and cherries – there’s just so much to enjoy! So when I was given the chance to try OXO’s new Strawberry Huller and Berry Bowl Set as well as some delicious Sweet Eve Strawberries I was delighted to test them. And what’s more, OXO have given me a set to give away to one lucky reader! Scroll down for info on how to enter and for my Summer Berry Cream Pots recipe.
The colander in the Berry Bowl Set is just the right size for a punnet of fruit – so rather than having to get out the large colander just to wash a few berries, this a great compact version. What’s more, once you’ve washed them, there’s no more dripping water everywhere, you simply sit the red colander in the white bowl – complete with rubber-grip base – and because it all looks so nice, you can take it straight to the table. If you don’t eat all the berries, you can tip them into the bowl, and store in the fridge with the lid on. I think this is a brilliant bit of kit. Perfect for Wimbledon fans 🙂
The Strawberry Huller is designed to easily remove the stalk from your strawberry. It is completely amazing – you just stick it into the top of the berry and twist, then pull out the whole stalk. If your strawberries are firm, it works a treat. Would be particularly useful if you were making jam or similar, and needed a lot of berries.
Berry Cream Pots
I used my berry kit to make Berry Cream Pots, very easy and very delicious! Littlest and I ate them outside in the sunshine. Summer heaven.
The lovely folks at OXO UK have given me a Berry Bowl Set and a Strawberry Huller kit to give away on the blog. If you’d like to win one, please comment on this post. To be in with a chance of winning a berry kit, you have to leave a comment below telling me your favourite way of serving strawberries – include pics!
OXO have other bloggers giving away berry kits, too, and once they have ALL the winners in, those winners will go forward to get the chance to win a year’s supply of strawberries! (This part of the competition will be administrated by OXO.)
THE GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED NOW AND I WILL BE SELECTING A WINNER SHORTLY.
Good luck and happy berry eating!
With thanks to Oxo UK for the prizes. All opinions on the blog are my own.
The small print:
1. Entry in to the prize draw will be deemed as acceptance of these rules.
2. The prize draw is open to any UK resident, aged 18 or over, who leaves a comment below telling me their favourite way of serving strawberries.
3. The competition ends at midnight on 15 July 2014.
4. One winner will be selected from all valid entries. The winner’s name will be given to OXO who will supply the prize and put the winner’s name forward to win a year’s supply of strawberries.
5. One entry per person.
6. The prize is one OXO Berry Bowl Set and one OXO Strawberry Huller.
7. The prize is non-negotiable, non-transferable, and there is no cash alternative.
8. The prize will be posted to the winner’s home address within 30 days.
9. If a response is not received by the winner within 30 days they will forfeit their right to the prize.
10. No purchase necessary.
If you’re after a super-quick delicious muffin recipe, read on!
I just love rhubarb – it’s often forgotten in discussions about great fruit (although strictly speaking, it’s actually a vegetable, but let’s not worry about that), but it’s usually around this time every year, when my mum informs me that her rhubarb patch has gone wild and asks if I’d like some, that I remember just how much I like it. Rhubarb does require quite a lot of sugar to make it palatable, which is a downside, given my efforts to reduce the sugar intake here at OH HQ, but then the tang of rhubarb is an unbeatable flavour, and these muffins offer a delicious and easy way to bake with rhubarb.
This recipe was inspired by a recent visit to new artisan bakeshop Kitchen in Langport in Somerset, on our half-term travels, where we tasted rhubarb & raspberry muffins for the first time and they were declared ‘delicious’.
I hadn’t thought of using rhubarb in muffins before, but it’s great, particularly with raspberries. What’s brilliant is that you don’t need to cook the rhubarb beforehand – you just stir it into your mixture – which means these muffins literally take about 10 minutes to make – perfect for the time-pressed parent.
I am into coconut oil at the moment (I use Lucy Bee coconut oil, which I bought in my local health food shop) so I tried it in this recipe and it worked a treat, although you could also use melted butter.
These were a complete hit here – both children loved them. They are great for a weekend brunch, an afternoon snack or even in lunchboxes or for a picnic, now the weather’s cheered up a bit!
Rhubarb & Raspberry Muffins
Makes approx. 10 muffins
200g self-raising flour
½ tsp cinnamon
90g golden caster sugar
80g melted coconut oil (I used the microwave)
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 or 3 stalks of rhubarb, sliced into ½ cm pieces
Handful of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
Flaked almonds, for sprinkling
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
What to do:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F, and line your muffin tin with muffin cases.
- Sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl, and stir in the sugar
- Stir the wet ingredients (melted oil, milk, eggs and vanilla essence) into the dry ingredients and mix, but don’t overmix – lumps are fine.
- Lastly, stir in the chopped rhubarb and the raspberries (if they’re frozen, straight from the freezer is fine)
- Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, and sprinkle a little demerara sugar on top of each one for crunch.
- Finish each muffin with a good sprinkling of flaked almonds.
- Bake for about 30 mins – test with a skewer – and allow to cool on a wire rack.