Tomato and Za’atar Couscous

I love a simple recipe, something that can be whipped up quickly but tastes delicious like you spent hours making it. I especially love a simple but delicious dish on a sunday evening when you are faced with the prospect of returning to work in the morning, the fun of the weekend is almost over and the sun is starting to dip. For me couscous is a saving grace of many a lunch or dinner. It takes only a couple of minutes to prepare (boiling water and some seasoning) and you can add almost anything to it.

On this particularly sunny Sunday I decided to raid the somewhat bare cupboard and see what I could make from the sparse looking contents. As is always staple in my cupboards I found chickpeas, but of course chickpeas!! they bulk out many a meal so why not add them to my couscous. Throwing in a mix of herbs and a good helping of Za’atar I had myself  a fresh couscous salad that was going to make a lush dinner and of course enough for lunch in the week ( a good lunch is salvation to being locked in an office when the sun is out).

This is a super quick salad, and can be adapted to include a range of other things depending on what you have in the fridge and cupboard. You can serve it warm or cold if making it in advance or taking it for lunch the next day.

Tomato and Za'atar Couscous Salad

Ingredients

100g couscous ( dried)

Boiling Water

1 chicken or vegetable stock cube

1 tin of chickpeas (400g)

2-3 sundried tomatoes

handful of mini plum or cherry tomatoes ( if using big ones 1/2 should be fine)

2 teaspoons of Za’atar

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 lemon ( juice)

olive oil to drizzle

1. Put the couscous in a large bowl, sprinkle the stock cube over the couscous and cover with boiling water ( twice as much water as couscous). Mix with a fork and then cover for 5 minutes ( or as the packet instructions).

2. In a smaller bowl put the drained chickpeas and then sprinkle over the za’atar and herbs, lemon juice and drizzle with the olive oil. Give it a good mix. Put to one side.

3. Chop the sundried tomatoes and fresh tomatoes into small pieces and mix into the chickpeas. Taste at this point and add more za’atar if necessary.

4. Once the couscous is cooked, give it a stir with a fork to break it up ( it should be nice and fluffy), then mix in the chickpeas. Taste and season if necessary.

There you have it a fresh and delicious salad that took no time at all.

Tomato and Za'atar Couscous salad

Serve it with some fried halloumi and roasted vegetables. It will also go well with a green salad. A fabulous summer salad full of flavour that takes as long to cook as a microwave meal!

Enjoy xx

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Chorizo Sausage Rolls

The sun is out, spring is here which can only mean one thing, summer is on its way and picnic season is upon us!

I love a picnic, it’s all about grazing, sitting in the sun and grazing as you watch the world go by. Hell, I like any meal that’s about grazing maybe that’s why I end up in the local Lebanese a little too often. I was inspired to make these fabulous chorizo sausage rolls after an afternoon tea at the Ham Yard Hotel, I had never had them before but combined some of my favorite things, sausage, chorizo and pastry! I immediately went home and started looking at recipes.

Depending on what equipment you have, you can blitz the chorizo up with the sausage meat or dice, depends whether you want a full on red roll or just chunks. Adding the chorizo just adds another layer to home made sausage rolls. If you get a good quality chorizo you will have those wonderful spices, the deep red running through the meat and of course that sweet paprika smell.

This is a fairly easy recipe and the best thing is you can freeze them so you have a supply ready at all times. See no excuse not to be whipping up a batch!
Ingredients

Filling

25g butter plus extra for greasing

dash of olive oil

150g peeled shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tsp granulated sugar

450g pork sausage meat

2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley

100g cured chorizo cut into small cubes

1 tbsp fresh soft breadcrumbs

black pepper

Pastry

375g sheet of ready rolled puff pastry

plain flour for dusting

1 large beaten egg to seal and glaze

1. For the filling heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and add the shallots. Gently fry for about 5 minutes until they have softened. Sprinkle in the sugar and continue to cook over a low heat for another 10-15 minutes until they have caramalised. Remove from the heat and allow them to cool.  At this point pre heat the oven to 200 degrees/180 degrees fan. Lightly grease a baking sheet and line with baking paper.

cook the onions until they are sweet and caramalised

cook the onions until they are sweet and caramalised

2. Put the sausage meat in a large mixing bowl and add the parsley, chorizo and breadcrumbs and season with black pepper. Then mix it all together really well so the chorizo is well dispersed.

Your three main ingredients, sausage meat, chorizo and lots of parsley

Your three main ingredients, sausage meat, chorizo and lots of parsley

Mix everything together

Mix everything together

Until it is well combined

Until it is well combined

3. Lay out the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface and cut in half lengthways. Divide the shallot mix in half and spoon one portion onto each piece of the pastry in a 5cm wide strip lengthways down the centre. Divide the sausage meat mixture in half and shape each into a sausage shape as long as the length of pastry. The lay it on top of the shallots. Brush the long edges of each pastry piece with beaten egg then take one long edge and roll around the meat and shallots to encase. Pinch the pastry together to join and cut away any excess. Turn each roll over so that the join is underneath.

spread the caramalised onions onto the pastry

spread the caramalised onions onto the pastry

then top with the sausage meat

then top with the sausage meat

and roll that bad boy, roll!

and roll that bad boy, roll!

4. Brush each roll with beaten egg and cut the long sausage into pieces. I got about 8 small sausage rolls out of each roll but you can make them as big or as small as you like. ( If you are going to freeze them then do not do the egg wash just cut them up and wrap them up and pop in the freezer, only egg wash when you are read to cook them)

Cut to your desired size

Cut to your desired size

5. Place the sausage rolls onto the pre prepared baking sheet and bake in an oven for 25-30 minutes. Make sure you give them space on the baking sheet as the pastry will puff up and you don’t want them sticking together.  Once cooked all the way through and golden brown remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.

Golden brown gorgeous sausage rolls!

Golden brown gorgeous sausage rolls!

Yum!!

Yum!!

Serve these delicious sausage rolls as a snack or with a salad or accompaniment to a fabulous picnic.

Enjoy xx

Easy Peasy Victoria Sponge

The first cake I always remember being in our house as children is the good old victoria sponge cake. Its moist vanilla sponge, the jam and the buttercream filling – yum! Its one of the first things I learnt to bake and its one of my favourite still to make and of course eat! I

This recipe is one my mum uses and she taught me to use and is incredibly adaptable should you want to make it a marble cake or chocolate sponge, or make little fairy cakes instead. This is the easy peasy all in one sponge mix – its quick, its easy and you can adapt it to your needs. It’s perfect as a weekend baking treat, or if friends are popping by.

Ingredients

For the Sponge

225g Self Raising Flour

225g butter

225g caster sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp baking powder

For the Frosting

Icing sugar

80g butter

25ml milk

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1. Line and grease a two sandwich tins (20cm) and pre heat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl add all your ingredients, the flour, sugar, butter, eggs and baking powder and mix them with an electric mixer or spoon until just combined. Be careful not to over beat the mix as you will knock all the air out and you won’t get a good rise.

so easy, all the ingredients in one bowl together

so easy, all the ingredients in one bowl together

3. Spoon the mixture evenly into the two tins and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and the sponge springs back when you press on it lightly.

4. Once cooked take out of the oven and allow to cool completely. While the cake is cooling you can make the frosting. Mix the icing sugar and butter together in a large bowl and once it comes together add in the milk and vanilla and turn the hand mixer up to full and mix until the frosting becomes light and fluffy ( you can leave it in the fridge until its needed).

Victoria Sponge5. Once the cake has completely cooled you can assemble it. Take one of the sponges and spoon the jam on – as much or as little as desired. Make sure the whole base is covered. Then spoon on the butter cream frosting and smooth over the whole base again. Then carefully place the second sponge on top. To finish dust with a little icing sugar.

Cover with jam - strawberry works well or maybe try blackcurrent!

Cover with jam – strawberry works well or maybe try blackcurrant!

Then top with light and fluffy buttercream

Then top with light and fluffy buttercream

Delightful Victoria Sponge

Delightful Victoria Sponge

There you have it, a quick and easy pleasing victoria sponge cake. Its light and fluffy and one everyone will love!

Enjoy! xx

Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes

Who doesn’t love a sweet fix? Especially when its cold and wet outside. When you get in from a long day at work, wet and resembling a drowned rat you want a reward for making it through the day, and for me that reward comes best in the form of cake!

With cupcakes being so easy and quick to make yourself I find it hard to believe more people do not do it themselves. Ok yes its easy to pop out and buy a cupcakes and I am guilty of this on many counts. If I am out shopping or wandering around London and I come across a new cupcake shop or even and old one I feel the need to go in and treat myself. After eating my delicious fluffy cupcake and sweet light frosting I think to myself I cannot believe I just paid that much for 1 cupcake when I could make a batch of 12 for pretty much the same price!!

So with this in mind, the below recipe is one of the best as you can modify it depending on your ingredients. Its one I have used before in different forms, you can make it vanilla, just miss out the cocoa and add a few drops of vanilla extract to the mix! For more variations you can check out my topsy turvey cupcakes.

Ingredients

120 g plain flour

140g caster sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp (heaped) cocoa powder

a pinch of salt

40g unsalted butter at room temperature

120 ml whole milk

1 egg

For the frosting

250g icing sugar, sifted

80g unsalted butter

25ml whole milk

1.Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in bowl and mix with an electric handheld whisk and beat on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

Dry ingredients.....

Dry ingredients…..

mix until sand like consistency and then add half the milk... we are starting to look like cake mix!

mix until sand like consistency and then add half the milk… we are starting to look like cake mix!

2. Whisk the egg, vanilla and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and combine.  Mix until the mixture is smooth. Do not over mix.

adding the wet ingredients and you end up with your cupcake batter

adding the wet ingredients and you end up with your cupcake batter

3. Fill the paper cases with the rest of the mixture ( fill them 2/3 full). Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray and then turn onto a cooling rack.

quick! fill those cases, the sooner in the oven the sooner they come out and you can eat them"

quick! fill those cases, the sooner in the oven the sooner they come out and you can eat them”

4.Let the cakes cool completely before you frost them.

Out of the Oven!

Out of the Oven!

For the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter together with a handheld electric whisk in a medium slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.  Then add the milk to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the milk is incorporated turn the whisk but to high-speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier it becomes. Top the cupcakes with the frosting and then add the sprinkles of your choice – go crazy!

and the frosting! the crowning glory of any cupcake, sweet, light and fluffy!

and the frosting! the crowning glory of any cupcake, sweet, light and fluffy!

the best part of baking, the decorating! top those chocolate badboys with vanilla frosting

the best part of baking, the decorating! top those chocolate badboys with vanilla frosting

and then go crazy with sprinkles!

and then go crazy with sprinkles!

These are such simple and pleasing cupcakes to make and great to share with friends or a cheeky one to yourself at your desk one afternoon!

Enjoy!

Kitchen Sink Blondies

It always happens when you have a cupboard full of baking goods, you get to the point where you have small quantities of stuff left over as you didn’t need to use it in previous recipes, a handful of different kinds of nuts, random bits of chocolate or dried fruit. Well I have a cupboard solving recipe for you – kitchen sink blondies. These bad boys use up all the last bits and pieces of the baking stores and create a scrummy treat for everyone to enjoy and they are the perfect treat to whip up at the weekend!

The best thing about blondies is they are the best of both worlds – cake and brownie!

Ingredients

350 grams Self-raising flour

1 1/2 teaspoons Bicarbonate of soda

200 grams  Unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1 inch cubes)

280 grams  Soft dark brown muscovado sugar

2 Large eggs

2 teaspoons Pure vanilla extract

400 grams  of left over nuts, chocolate, biscuits and marshmallow’s (Use whatever you have to hand, quantities needn’t be specific)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees ( fan oven) and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking tin. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter this too. Set to one side.

2. Add to the flour, and bicarb of soda and give everything a stir.

3. In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment mix together the butter and dark muscovado sugar on medium speed until you have a smooth, creamy, fluffy mixture. This should take 5-8 minutes. Scrape down your bowl with a spatula.

mix the butter and sugar together

mix the butter and sugar together

mix until creamy and fluffy

mix until creamy and fluffy

4.  Add the eggs to the batter one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down your bowl with your spatula. Add the vanilla extract and mix for 30 seconds longer.

add the flour and eggs and mix together

add the flour and eggs and mix together

5. Add your flour mixture in two batches, mixing until just combined. Add your add-ins and mix for around 10 seconds making sure that everything has been evenly incorporated. The batter will still be quite thick.

choose whatever extras you want - chocolate, nuts, biscuits.....

choose whatever extras you want – chocolate, nuts, biscuits…..

and add to the mix

and add to the mix

6. Scrape the batter into your cake tin and smooth the surface over using an offset spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.

and into the pan it goes

and into the pan it goes

7. Place the tin on a wire rack and leave to cool for 30 minutes. Transfer from your tin to the wire rack to cool completely. Cut into squares and dig in!

out of the oven golden brown and a little bit gooey

out of the oven golden brown and a little bit gooey

Yum!

Yum!

Enjoy!

Homemade Granola

I feel like I may be taking my attempt at being a domestic goddess to a whole new level, I have made my very first homemade granola! I know I was shocked at my dedication to homemade products as well. My weekday breakfasts usually consist of my favourite shop bought granola topped with banana or blueberries, not the most exciting thing but its quick and keeps me going until lunch which is great. So I decided it was time to see if I could make some myself and if it taste as good as the ready-made stuff – it has to right, I am putting time and effort into this and nothing chemical… fingers crossed!

So having trawled my many recipe books and the internet I got a good idea of what ingredients were needed, oats are obviously the base, then you need your liquid elements to make the oats stick and crunch. The options used in many recipes are honey or maple syrup, along with a touch of vegetable oil and sugar. I decided to go with honey, for no other reason than the maple syrup in my local supermarket was £5.99….. what!!! I had a mini rant to myself in the supermarket as I couldn’t believe it. I know maple syrup is expensive but that is crazy!  So with my honey, I headed to the tills. So I have my oats, I have my liquid elements that are going to make the oats stick together and the sweetness, now all I need are the extras. The great thing about making your own granola is adding all the things you like and leaving out the bits you don’t, which you cannot do with supermarket granola. After much deliberation and wandering up and down the baking aisle of the supermarket, I went with dried blueberries, dried strawberry, sunflower seeds, pistachios ( I had them hanging around in the cupboard from my trip to Turkey) and some coconut. Now all I have to do is make it!

Surprisingly for something that seems like it should be complicated to make, it isn’t. It was quick and easy and the results are totally worth it!

Ingredients

300g Oats

50g Sunflower seeds

handful of pistachio nuts

150ml Honey

2 tbsp veg oil

1 tsp vanila extract

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

50g desiccated coconut

100g dried berries

1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper. In a bowl put the oats, crushed pistachios and sunflower seeds ( and any other seeds/ nuts you want to add). In a small pan add all the wet ingredients ( oil, honey, vanilla extract and sugar), heat on a low heat for a couple of minutes until the sugar is dissolved and all the elements are combined. Then pour over the oat mixture and mix until all the oats are coated in the liquid.

Love that you can add whatever you want to this bad boy!

Love that you can add whatever you want to this bad boy!

get all those liquids mixed together to create a sweet and sticky delight

get all those liquids mixed together to create a sweet and sticky delight

get mixing - make sure all the oats are covered in the sweet and sticky mix

get mixing – make sure all the oats are covered in the sweet and sticky mix

2. Pour the oat mix into the baking tray and spread out evenly, pop into the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 mins take the oats out of the oven and add the coconut and berries and mix until evenly distributed. Put the granola mix back into the oven for another 15 minutes.

into the oven we go

into the oven we go

now add those soft fruits and coconut

now add those soft fruits and coconut

3. Take the granola mix out of the oven, it should be golden brown and crunchy. Let the granola cool. Once completely cooled break the granola up and put it into an air tight container, it should last up to 1 month. You now have a yummy, sweet granola, full of all the things you love, so serve it for breakfast or eat it as a snack!

Granola!!!

Granola!!!

Breakfast just got exciting!

Breakfast just got exciting!

Enjoy!