Roasted Vegetable and Harissa Pasta

Roasted vegetables, harissa and pine nuts served with pasta

I quite often stir a spoonful of harissa into couscous or rice to give it some flavour so why not pasta?   It’s also quite normal to just stir a spoonful of pesto into a bowl of pasta so why not harissa?  Exactly.

I had been planning to make this pasta all month long.  I made it last month but a really simple version with just harissa and pasta.   It was one of those days when I didn’t feel like cooking but just wanted to make something quick, easy and tasty.  I was surprised by how much liked it.

This time I made it I wasn’t feeling quite so lazy as before and I also wanted to make the dish a little more interesting and so added some roasted peppers and onions as well as a few pine nuts.   That was all.   You don’t need to do anything else, although if this is too simple for you, I’m not stopping you from making your own harissa.  Whether you do or not, this pasta recipe is really easy and perfect for a lazy week night.  It’s hot and spicy from the harissa and if you love hot pasta sauces I promise you, you’ll love this.

Well, back to my inspiration for this dish, a couple of months ago I made a lovely olive and dukkah pasta for the Secret Recipe Club from Rachel Cotterill’s blog.   That dish was probably the dish that got me thinking about mixing up Middle Eastern and North African flavours with pasta and that led me to using harissa on the pasta dish I mentioned earlier.   When I saw that Rachel was hosting this month’s Pasta Please and that the theme was fusion, I felt I had to take part.

Ingredients – Serves 2

200g pasta

1 red pepper, sliced

1 red onion, cut into 8 chunks

2 tbsp pine nuts

2 tbsp harissa paste

How to Make Roasted Vegetable and Harissa Pasta

1. Put the onions and peppers on a roasting tray and drizzle on a little olive oil.   Roast in the oven at 200c for 20 minutes.

2. Put the pasta on to boil.  At the same time put the pine nuts in another pan and heat them gently so they brown slightly.

3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pan with a little of the water.    Add the roasted vegetables and harissa and heat through.

4. Serve the pasta with the pine nuts sprinkled on top.

This month Pasta Please is hosted by Rachel Cotterill and is run by Tinned Tomatoes.

Pasta Please

Vegetable Chilli Stuffed Marrow

Baked Marrow stuffed with vegetable chilli

Marrows marrows marrows. Marrows have been my discovery of the season this year. I’ve gone from imagining they were boring and bland to absolutely loving stuffing them to make healthy and delicious meals.  If only I’d discovered them a few years ago I could have been a marrow recipe expert by now!

What’s that?  You don’t share my love of marrows?   You might be scared of coming to my house in case I serve you up three courses of marrow?    Hmmm, I think that might be a good idea.   Maybe I could serve a marrow ratatouille on crispy bread with fresh herbs and olive oil for a starter, followed by one of my delicious stuffed marrows and then for dessert I could concoct a yummy moist chocolate cake with marrow in it.   I’m sure you’ve had carrot cake so don’t turn your nose up.

To tell you the truth, I haven’t made a marrow cake yet and I think it might be a  bit late now but the idea is brewing.   I WILL get back to you about that one.

But, going back to this recipe.   It’s basically just a vegetarian chilli  inside a marrow.   Nothing could be simpler.   What you do need is good hot chilli peppers, if you like your food hot that is.   Use whatever your favourites are or even just use some hot sauce instead but it is important that the chilli has lots of flavour.   The flavour will then soak into the marrow and make it just as delicious.   I loved the cheese on top too.   Cheese goes so well with tomatoes and chillies and makes this a really comforting dish too.   I didn’t have any coriander when I made this but if I’d had some, a little fresh coriander stirred into the chilli just before putting it in the marrow would have been lovely too.

Ingredients – Serves 6

1 marrow (overgrown zucchini)

1 red onion, finely diced

2 green chillies, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 peppers, sliced

1/4 aubergine, diced

400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed

400g tin chopped tomatoes

Black pepper

Olive oil

A little grated cheese to serve (optional)

How to Make Vegetable Chilli Stuffed Marrow

1. Cut the marrow in half and scrape out all the seeds from the middle.  Place on a baking tray, season and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake in the oven at 180C for an hour.

2. Put a little oil in a saucepan.   Cook the onion, chillies and garlic gently until soft then add all the other vegetables including the kidney beans and tinned tomatoes.   If it is a little dry, add a little water too and then leave to simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Spoon the  chilli into the marrow and return to the oven for 20 minutes.

4. Serve with a little grated cheese on top.   Any leftover marrow can be frozen.

The marrow was picked at Garsons, which is my local Pick Your Own farm and so I am linking this to Shop Local at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.  I am also linking to Simple and in Season hosted by Ren Behan. Finally I am linking to Credit Crunch Munch, hosted by A New Addition, as picking your own vegetables is much cheaper than buying them in the shops. Credit Crunch Munch is run by Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food for All.

Shop Localsimple and in SeasonCredit Crunch Munch

Salmon Miso Soup with Soba Noodles

Salmon miso noodle soup

This is the type of meal you want to make if you are trying to be super healthy.  Just eating, even slurping it makes you feel good.   Healthy salmon, green vegetables and brown soba noodles in a miso broth.  Of course, you could use rice noodles or egg noodles instead but there’s something about brown carbs that just makes you feel virtuous – brown pasta, brown rice, chocolate cake.  Sorry, not all brown carbs, not chocolate cake, chocolate biscuits or treacle tart.  Or anything with caramel in come to think of it.

Oooops.  Now I’m stuck thinking about the wrong kind of carbs. If only they had a different name.  Well, it’s not really a problem for me, I’ve already eaten this lovely soup.  I was virtuous at the time.  It’s you I’m worried about – I don’t want to ruin any healthy eating plans you’ve got before you’ve even started.

For me, this soup was a new challenge.   I’ve made a lot of noodles soups in the past but usually with lots of chilli and garlic in.   This time I left the chillies in the fridge and decided to experiment with miso as I had a jar of Yutaka Oraganic Miso Paste I wanted to try.  I’m definitely not an expert at Japanese food.   It’s probably one of the cuisines I know least about. I rarely cook Japanese food and I don’t eat out at Japanese restaurants very often.   This means I haven’t had many miso soups and so I didn’t want the miso flavour to be overwhelming.

I don’t often do subtle flavours but that’s what I wanted this time so I just used 1 tablespoon of miso paste but you could use more or less depending on how gentle a mood you are feeling in.   I couldn’t be altogether meek and mild though and couldn’t resist throwing in some ginger and garlic and a little sesame oil on the noodles which also added extra flavour.   As I said at the start, you do feel healthy eating this soup, the miso flavour is subtle but it’s still a flavourful soup.  It might have been my first miso soup but it will not be my last.

Ingredients – Serves 2

1 tbsp Miso paste (I used Yutaka Organic Miso Paste)

1/2 tsp vegetable stock powder

Small piece of root ginger, finely diced or grated

1 clove garlic, crushed

150g piece of salmon

5 or 6 mushrooms, sliced

2 large handfuls spinach

Soba Noodles

2 tsp sesame oil

How to Make Salmon Miso Soup with Soba Noodles

1. Put 600ml water from the kettle into a saucepan.   Add the stock powder, ginger and garlic and bring back to the boil. Lower the salmon gently into the water and simmer until the salmon is just cooked and begins to flake when you touch it with a fork.

2. At the same time cook the soba noodles according to the pack instructions.  When they are ready, drain them, toss them with a little sesame oil and put them in the bottom of the soup bowls.

3. Lift the salmon out of the water.   Add the mushrooms and spinach.  Cover the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.

4. Divide the salmon between each bowl. Ladle some of the soup and vegetables into each bowl

I am linking this to Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and also to Tasty Tuesdays at Honest Mum.

Souper SundaysTasty Tuesdays

Disclosure: I was sent a free sample of the Yutaka Oraganic Miso Paste

The Ultimate Halloween Cake

Red velvet halloween cake with cream cheese icing and chocolate ganache coating

I love reading, or if not reading at least flicking through all the supermarket food magazines.  I’m often tempted by the pictures first and that was exactly what happened with this Halloween cake.  It’s the cake that was pictured on the cover of this month’s Waitrose Kitchen magazine.   Every time I caught sight of the front of the magazine I wanted to make this cake.   Well, I wanted to eat it, and if I was going to have a chance of eating it, I had to make it first.

How could I resist it?   Three layers of chocolaty red velvet cake sandwiched together with sweet cream cheese icing and smothered in a dark chocolate ganache.   It sounded as wonderful as it looked.   Normally I just don’t have time to make these type of cakes. I need to be seriously seriously tempted and that is exactly what I was, plus some friends were coming round for lunch and that is always an excuse for cake.

I can’t help saying this but every time I make a cake with any kind of decoration on at all I have such a good time and immediately want to make another cake just so I can play with decorating it.   This cake gave me the chance to  pipe with chocolate for the first time. I’m glad it was just a spiders web as I know it would have been impossible for me to pipe anything that needed a more controlled design.  The chocolate came out really quickly so I just needed to move the piping bag round and round.   My web does look a little more spindly than the one in the magazine but it was fun to do and I was impressed by how good the cake looked in the end.  Maybe if I’d been a little more ambitious I would also have tried piping a spider climbing up onto the cake but I didn’t want to ruin what I’d done.

Yes, the cake looked good and I was a little proud of myself but it also tasted good.  The cake was moist, not just in the middle but all the way to the edges, the icing in the middle was lovely  but not too thick and the chocolate ganache coating was like eating chocolate truffle.   The only thing that I was slightly disappointed about was that the red velvet colour was very very subtle.   I think you’d only know it was red velvet if someone told you.  Well, at least that is only cosmetic.  Apart from that, this is possibly the best tasting cake I’ve ever ever made.  If you have time before Halloween to have a go then do, and if not, why not make it after Halloween anyway.

Ingredients for the cake

350g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2.5 tsp cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

200g butter

375g sugar

3 eggs

1.5 tsp vanillla extract

284ml buttermilk

1tbsp white wine vinegar

20g red gel food colour

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Icing

120g butter

120g cream cheese

120g icing sugar

Ingredients for Chocolate Ganache Icing

300ml double cream

250g dark chocolate

1.5 tbsp liquid glucose

50g white chocolate

How to Make the Ultimate Halloween Cake

1. Put the oven on to 170c to preheat.  Grease and line a deep 20cm cake tin.

2. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cocoa and salt.

3. Cream together the butter and the sugar.   I used an electric food mixer.  Beat for about a minute.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time and keep beating after each one. Then add the vanilla.

5. Add about 1/4 of the dry ingredients.  Beat together then add 1/3 of the buttermilk. Repeat until you have beaten all the dry ingredients and the buttermilk together.

6. Finally stir the food colour and vinegar together and add them to the cake mixture.  Beat in until the mixture has all turned a pinky red colour without any streaks.

7. Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for about an hour.  It is ready when a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

8. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

9. Make the cream cheese icing by beating together the butter, cream cheese and icing sugar.

10. Take the cake out of the tin and slice into three layers horizontally.

11. Spread the icing on top of the bottom and middle layers.  Put the layers back together and put the cake in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes for the icing to set.

12. To make the chocolate ganache icing put the dark chocolate, cream and liquid glucose in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.  Keep giving it a stir until all the chocolate has melted.  At the same time melt the white chocolate in a different bowl.

13. With the cake on a wire rack, pour the dark chocolate icing over the cake and use a palate knife to smooth it over the top and sides of the cake.

14. Put the white chocolate in a small piping bag or a plastic food bag. Snip off the corner and starting in the centre of the cake, pipe a chocolate spiral onto the top of the cake.

15. Using a cocktail stick or a thin knife, drag it through the chocolate starting in the centre of the cake.

16. Put it in the fridge to set.  Before serving, take the cake out of the fridge to come to room temperature.

I am linking this to Chocolate Log Blog’s We Should Cocoa, hosted this month by Honey & Dough.  I am also linking to Recipe of the Week at A Mummy Too and Tasty Tuesdays at Honest Mum.

We should cocoaRecipe of the 'WeekTasty Tuesdays

 

Review of Gousto

Although I usually revert to a takeaway at least once a week, I love to cook most of our meals myself at home, avoiding ready-made sauces and using individual herbs and spices to get the flavours I’m looking for.

Gousto logo

I was recently asked if I would like to try Gousto, a company that delivers weekly meal kits containing everything you need to cook three dinners from scratch at home.   I received the ingredients to make Chicken Pad Thai, Persian Lamb Couscous and Parmesan Crusted Pork.  Everything came in just the right quantities to cook dinner for two people, although you can order the dinner kits for 4 people too.   There were icepacks in with the meat and refrigerator items so they stayed cold and everything, including the herbs looked very fresh.  I was even impressed by the reusable and sustainable wool packaging.

full gousto box contents

The pack included clear step by step instructions with pictures including exactly what to do at each stage of making the meal.  Even as a more experienced cook I found them useful and feel that they would really help a more novice cook feel confident about cooking the recipes.   The fact that everything comes in just the right quantities is also fantastic for someone who may want to have a go at say a pad Thai but not have ingredients like tamarind paste or fish sauce at home.   This way you don’t need to buy a whole bottle or jar which may end up going to waste later if you don’t use it up.

Of course, the most important thing is the taste.   Are the meals any good?   Well, I was impressed.   I especially liked the Pad Thai and the Persian Lamb Couscous.  I followed the recipes exactly and the pad Thai contained more sugar than I normally put in it but I actually liked the sweetness.   The only thing it lacked was a few crushed roasted peanuts.   Of course, I could have added a few from my own supplies if I’d really wanted.

Gousto pad thai

The Persian lamb was very easy to make.  I loved the flavours in the baharat spice mix and the crispy bits on the lamb mince.  It’s definitely something I’ll be making again at home and using this method but varying the types of mince and seasonings.

gousto persian lamb couscous

The final dish was the parmesan crusted pork and this was good too, but it wasn’t something I’d rush to make again.  This was the last dish I made and I made it on the ‘enjoy by’ day.   I found the parsnips had gone a little soft and bendy but they still tasted fine as mash.    The other vegetables and herbs were fine.

gousto parmesan pork

So overall, the pros were:

  • Great tasting meals that were full of flavour as well as balanced and relatively healthy
  • Easy step by step instructions
  • Quality ingredients including organic vegetables
  • Exact quantities are provided so there’s no food waste, no need for weighing or measuring and of course no need to go shopping for everything yourself
  • 10 varied meals to choose from each week, including vegetarian options
  • It encourages home cooking as once you’ve bought the meal kit you are less likely to resort to a ready meal or a takeaway

The cons:

  • If the week turns out to be busier than you expected, you might not have time to cook the three meals before the best before date.
  • It could work out expensive, although there is an introductory offer so you save on your first box.   The website claims that it is cheaper than using a supermarket but I’m not sure how this has been worked out.
  • You still have to be willing to spend time preparing the meals including washing and chopping up the vegetables.

Would I use it again?

Well, I’ve looked at the choices for this coming week and there are three things I would love to eat: Baked Chicken Tikka, Ras el Hanout Chicken and Mexican Beef Tacos.   So am I going to?   Well, as a food blogger I also have lots of other food plans so I know I just wouldn’t have time to eat these as well. I also have a fridge and cupboards full of half-used jars and seasonings which I enjoy experimenting with.  However, were it not for this, I would be seriously tempted.

If you’d like to win a free Gousto box then Gousto are running a selfie competition at the moment.  Just tweet a foodie selfie using the hashtag #GoustoGorge

Gousto box

Spiced Pumpkin Cookies

soft cakey pumpkin biscuits

I picked a pumpkin last week and I think I might spend all of October eating it.   I carve a bit off and it still looks almost as big as it was before.  It wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of this household loved pumpkin but at the moment it seems that me and Master Spice are the only ones who like it, and Master Spice only began eating a week ago so I can’t rely on him to eat much.

Although I love pumpkin and would like to make lots of roasted vegetable dishes I think I might be the only one eating them.   My lovely husband was not quite as lovely as normal the other night when he actually refused to eat my delicious pumpkin creation and went and got a pizza out of the freezer.  Well, more for me, although pumpkins are pretty big so that means a lot lot more.

It seems I’m going to have to disguise the pumpkin and add it to cakes and biscuits instead of savoury dishes.  Rather appropriately, this month’s Random Recipes at Belleau Kitchen has the theme, ‘something sweet’ and instead of using a recipe book we have to pick a random recipe from an internet recipe search.  Even without Random Recipes I would probably have resorted to the internet to find a pumpkin cookie recipe.  With this in mind I decided to search the internet for ‘pumpkin cookies UK recipe’, as I knew lots of US recipes would come up and I’m lazy and didn’t want to have to convert cup measurements.  This was the first recipe in the list and is from All Recipes.

I admit that I did adapt the recipe very slightly.   I used half the amount of sugar as it looked like it would make very very sweet cookies.  I also used mixed spice instead of individual spices.  Even with half the sugar, the cookies were still sweet enough for me and if you put a little icing on the top it makes them even sweeter.

I was hoping the recipe would give me lovely moist maybe slightly chewy cookies. What I got was lovely moist light cakey cookies.  The consistency was definitely more cake than cookie.  Now, that wasn’t a problem as I love cake and even if it comes in the disguise of a cookie, I won’t complain, but I do feel it’s fair to warn you, in case you also have two thirds of a huge pumpkin staring at you across the kitchen.   And just in case you are rather particular about the consistency of your cookies.

As you can see, I attempted to make a spider’s web decoration with the icing on top of some of the cookies.   If you want, you could try and decorate these for Halloween, but I’ll admit that I ate most of them plain.

Ingredients

300g plain flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

3 tsp mixed spice

150g caster sugar

125g butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g pumpkin puree

To decorate (optional)

Icing in a tube

How to Make Spiced Pumpkin Cookies

1. Turn the oven on to 180C.   Line 4 baking trays with baking paper.

2. Put the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice in a bowl.

3. Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together.   Add the egg, vanilla and pumpkin puree.   Beat together.

4. Add the bowl of dry ingredient to the bowl of wet ingredients and mix together.

5.  Using a tablespoon, put spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking trays, leaving a  gap around each cookie as they will spread in the oven.

6. Bake for 15 -20 minutes.   Mine were ready after 15 minutes.

7. Leave the cookies to cool on a wire rack and if you want, decorate them.

As well as Random Recipes I am also linking these to Treat Petit at The Baking Explorer and on alternate months by Cakeyboi, Tea Time Treats hosted by Lavender and Lovage and on alternate months by The Hedgecombers and also to Lets Cook for Halloween at Simply Food.

I am also entering these into a Halloween baking competition that Cakeyboi is running along with Kleeneze.

random recipes new logoTreat PetitTea Time TreatsLets cook for Halloween

 

Butternut Squash and Spinach Stuffed Pasta with Sage Brown Butter

Pasta stuffed with butternut squash and spinach and served with a drizzle of sage brown butter

Last week I went vegetable picking at the pick your own again.   In summer when I used to go it was full of people, most of them picking strawberries and other berries.  This time it was deserted.  Little Miss Spice, Master Spice and I were the only ones there gathering squash and brassicas.  It was strange, but in a good way.   We came away with cauliflower, cabbage, butternut squash, a pumpkin, a marrow and a kohlrabi – enough to last a couple of weeks.

The only decisions now are how to cook and eat all these lovely local vegetables.  At the time I was also searching through my assigned Secret Recipe Club blog, Flavours by Four.   I was torn between sweet and savoury – red velvet chocolate chip cookies or Greek pizza.   Just to make the decision more difficult for myself,  I decided to search my assigned blog for recipes using the vegetables we’d picked.  I came across these yummy looking stuffed pasta shells and my decision was made, well after considering the sausage and butternut pasta bake too!

I easily found all the ingredients I needed except the pasta shells.  Could I make it without pasta shells?  What about lasagna?  Well,  it would taste the same but could I get the right look?   I ambitiously decided that maybe I could fold the lasagna sheets around the filling to make them look like shells.

I cooked the lasagna sheets and then began to try and fold them around the filling.   I needed more hands.   As soon as I moved onto another shell the one I’d just arranged would begin to fall apart.   I gave up.   I’m sorry, I know it is possible but today was not going to be that day.   I decided to just roll the lasagna sheets around the filling like cannelloni.   Perfect.  I also put a little of the filling on top of the pasta to make it as similar as possible to the original recipe.   It may not look quite the same but trust me, it is and it definitely worked.  The roasted butternut squash, spinach, lemon and sage are a delightful earthy but sweet combination of autumn flavours.  It’s probably not the healthiest of dinners but it is very comforting and perfect as the nights begin to get longer and colder.

Butternut squash cannelloni

Ingredients – Serves 4

1 butternut squash (mine was on the small side), peeled and cut into cubes

Olive oil

2 large handfuls of spinach

280g ricotta

1 egg

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Zest of 1 lemon

3 tbsp grated parmesan

Black pepper

8 sheets of lasagna

About 16 sage leaves

knob of butter

How to Make Butternut Squash and Spinach Stuffed Pasta with Sage Brown Butter

1. Put the butternut squash in a roasting tin, season with salt and pepper and then drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

2. Put the spinach in a saucepan with a little water and let it wilt.  Take it out and leave it in a colander to drain.   When it is cool enough to handle, use your hands to squeeze the excess water out and roughly chop.

3. Cook the sheets of lasagna.  When they are ready, put them in a bowl of cold water so they don’t stick together and so they are not too hot to handle.

4. In a large bowl beat the egg.  Add the ricotta, garlic and lemon zest and beat together with a fork.   Add the spinach, butternut squash and 2 tablespoons of the parmesan. Season with black pepper and stir to combine all the ingredients.

5. Coat an oven-proof dish with a little oil  Mine was approximately 20cm x20cm.

6. Take one sheet of lasagna and spoonful of the filling.  Put the filling at one end and roll up the lasagna sheet around it.  Put the filled pasta in the oven-proof dish and repeat until all the sheets of lasagna have been filled.

7. Spread any extra filling over the top of the pasta and sprinkle on the extra tablespoon of parmesan.

8. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 180C.

9. Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the sage leaves.  Cook until the butter begins to turn brown and the sage leaves are going crispy.   Spoon a little of the butter and sage leaves over each portion of the pasta as you serve it.

9. Serve with some more green vegetables.

To see what other SRC participants have made, click on the link below:

 

I am also linking this to Tasty Tuesdays at Honest Mum.

Tasty Tuesdays

Cake Balls

Cake balls or cake pops

Cake balls.   Cake pops.   Balls.  Pops.  Balls.  Whatever you want to call these, they are fun, tasty and absolutely morish.  We didn’t have these when I was a child but even so, they remind me of the type of treats we used to get a children’s parties.

You may be thinking that they are just for kids.   Or even that they are something I made with Little Miss Spice.   Oh no.  Sometimes I want to play at being a child all on my own. I want to be able to have fun in the kitchen without a little person grabbing things and deciding what the finished product is going to look like.

I know that Little Miss Spice would love mixing up cake and melted chocolate with her hands.   She would also love dipping the cake balls in the liquid chocolate and rolling them in the sprinkles

The truth is, I also wanted to do all those things, and I wanted to do them by myself for once.   Cake balls may look like a kid’s thing, but I don’t know many adults who would say no to one of these.

They are surprisingly easy to make.   If you had leftover cake they would take next to no time to make.   But honestly, who has leftover cake?  Most of the time I am wishing I had cake!

Of course I had to make cake.   I made a beautifully simple Madeira cake from Cake by Rachel Allen.  It is made with soft dark brown sugar which makes a lovely moist cake with a caramel taste that goes so well with all the chocolate that you need later when you turn it into cake balls.  I used sticks to put the cake balls on which makes it easier when you are coating them in chocolate and rolling them in sprinkles but you could easily not bother with the sticks.   Don’t feel you have to buy anything specially to make this recipe.  Well, apart from sprinkles, chocolate, cake or cake ingredients.

Anyway, going back to the name.  Balls.   Pops.   Balls.   It had to be balls.  You may have heard of the #FeelingNuts movement, encouraging all men to become more aware of testicular cancer and to regularly check themselves.   Well, today the movement will be at the Urban Food Fest in Shoreditch and along with a number of other bloggers I have made my own ball related food.  If you’d like to know more then follow @check_one_two on Twitter.

If you just want to make cake balls then read on.

Ingredients for the Madeira cake

175g softened butter

175g soft dark brown sugar

5 eggs

275g self-raising flour

How to Make the Madeira Cake

1. Turn the oven on to 180C.  Grease or line a cake or loaf tin.   I used a round 20cm cake tin.

2. Beat the butter with a whisk until it is soft and then add the sugar and continue to beat until it is well combined and is light and fluffy.

3. Whisk the eggs briefly in another bowl and then pour them into the butter and sugar mixture slowly as you beat it.

4. Sift the flour into the bowl and then fold it in.

5. Pour the cake batter into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 35 – 45 minutes.   Mine was ready after 35 minutes.

6. Let the cake cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then take it out and cool it on a wire rack.

Ingredients for the Cake Balls – Makes 20 (Recipe also from Cake by Rachel Allen)

350g Madeira cake

175g white chocolate

400g milk chocolate (I found this was way too much so you could probably get away with using 300g)

Your choice of spinkles to decorate with

How to Make the Cake Balls

1. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

2. Melt the white chocolate in a large bowl in the microwave.  Put it in for 1 minute to begin with and then for 20 seconds at a time.  Keep opening the door to check it and to stir it.

2. Crumble the cake into the bowl with the white chocolate.   Use your hands to mix the chocolate and the cake together and roll handfuls into balls.   Press the mixture together so the balls are quite dense and then place them on the baking paper on the baking tray.

3. If using sticks then push a stick into each ball.   Put the baking tray in the fridge for the cake balls to set and harden.  Leave for at least 30 minutes.   I left mine overnight.

4. Get the sprinkles ready by putting them in bowls.   Have a teaspoon for each bowl too.  Also line another 2 baking trays with baking paper.

5. Melt the milk chocolate in the same way as you melted the white chocolate.   Dip each cake ball in the chocolate.   You may need to use a spoon to make sure the ends with the sticks in also have chocolate on them.  Spoon the chocolate on if you are not able to get it on just by rolling the cake balls.  If any of the sticks come out then just dip the end in the chocolate to help it stick and push it back in.

6. As soon as you take the cake ball out of the chocolate, roll it in the sprinkles.   Again, use a spoon to spoon sprinkles onto the bits of the cake ball around the stick.

7. Lay the cake balls down on the baking trays and put in the fridge to set.

As the cake contains dark brown sugar I am linking these to Love Cake, hosted by JibberjabberUK.   The theme this month is ‘dark’.  I am also linking to the Biscuit Barrel Challenge at I’d Much Rather Bake Than….  The theme is comfort foods.

Love CakeThe Biscuit Barrel Challenge

Coca Cola Chilli Chicken

cola chicken

I’ve always been fascinated by recipes that use coca cola.  There’s something a little naughty about cooking with a drink my mother wouldn’t let me drink as a child. Maybe it’s also the fact that it’s such an artificial but addictive flavour that makes it seem just a little edgy.  A glass of orange juice may be just as sweet but wouldn’t seem half as wild.

To be honest, I don’t often drink cola and when I do I usually have the diet versions, but for cooking you need the sugar that’s in the real thing.   I  have no idea what it would be like made with Diet Coke but I’m not going to risk spoiling a meal by having a go.  If you do, please tell me.

In essence, this is a Chinese style dish with a sweet and sticky sauce like so many Chinese dishes have.   The only difference is where the sweet and sticky sauce comes from.  The dish doesn’t actually taste of cola but it does give a rich flavour to the sauce. It is sweet, but not too sweet luckily as I’m not a fan of sweet savoury dishes, which makes me question why I wanted to cook with cola in the first place.   It must be that rebellious streak in me.

I’ve read a lot of cola recipes online over the last few years but this was the first one that I read and then went out and bought a can of coke just so I could make it.   I found it on Milk and Honey and not only did it sound fantastic, the pictures were amazing too.  I’ve adapted it a little by adding more vegetables, more coriander and a little less soy sauce so please do have a look at the original recipe too.

Ingredients – Serves 2

300g chicken, cut into thin slices

1 tbsp cornflour

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 birds eye chilli, sliced

1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 can Coca Cola

Large handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Handful of cashew nuts

About 300g vegetables – I used sugar snap peas and baby corn

1 tsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water

How to Make Coca Cola Chilli Chicken

1. Put the chicken, cornflour and soy sauce in a bowl.   Stir well and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour before you make the rest of the dish.

2. Put a little oil in a pan and add the chilli, ginger and garlic.   Fry them for about a minute and then add the chicken.

3. Keep stirring the chicken so it doesn’t stick and when it is beginning to brown, add the cola.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

4. While the chicken is simmering.   Heat a dry frying pan and dry fry the cashews.   Keep shaking the pan so they turn over and don’t burn.

5. Add the vegetables and most of the coriander to the pan with the chicken and continue to simmer for about 3 minutes.

6. Add the cornflour and water mixture and stir to thicken the sauce.

7. Serve with rice and top with the cashew nuts and the extra coriander leaf.

As this is my first attempt to cook something using Coca Cola I am linking it to Our Growing Edge, hosted this month by Jules at the Kiwi Diaries.

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Our Growing Edge September 2014 Round up

The last few days have been very hectic so it has taken me slightly longer than I hoped to put together the round up for Our Growing Edge, which I have had the pleasure of hosting this month.   Our Growing Edge is a fantastic event designed to take you out of your cooking comfort zone in whatever way you choose, using a new ingredient, a new technique or even just making something you’ve always wanted to make but never quite got around to having a go at.

I love trying new things and each month I try to push myself in some way or another in the kitchen and love to find inspiration in the recipes other people make too.   Our Growing Edge is the brainchild of Genie at Bunny Eats Design so do take a look if you’d like to enter next month.

The first entry, an Oreo Dirt Cake, came from Everyday Life of a Mother and Wife.  How could anything with that name not be delicious?

oreo dirt cake

My entry was next.   After watching the Great British Bake Off I was inspired to make a 3d biscuit scene.  My little girl loved our 5 Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day Biscuits.

5 little ducks biscuitsWe then had this delicious and easy sounding Mango and Chia Seed Pudding from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous.

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This was followed by a rather unusual but delicious sounding apple and pumpkin crumble by Cook it Fit.

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Jules at the Kiwi Diaries made this delightful lemon cake.

lemon cakeCaroline at Shrinking Single made these delicious Spicy New Orleans Sprimps using liquid smoke – something I’d love to try using one day.

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Caitlin at Foraged Dish made a Curried Pork Stew with Apples and Collards – just perfect for this time of year.

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Brynne at By: The Common Cook made lentils with yoghurt and basil for a tasty lunch.

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Genie at Bunny Eats Design made Peking Duck for Busy People.  Why get a takeaway if you can make something that looks this good?

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Andre’s The Home Baker made this tempting Chocolate Mocha Chiffon Cake.

chocolate mocha chiffon cake

Audrey at Rice & Kai made one of the most beautiful cheesecakes I have ever seen decorated with edible flowers. Have a look at her Pineapple Cheesecake with Coconut and Flower Jelly.

cheesecake with flowers

Ksenia at Saffron and Honey contributed this lovely warming roasted tomato and carrot soup.

tomato carrot soup

Chandler from the International Poor Chef School Project then linked up this fascinating post about how to make Moroccan Tea.  It brought back lots of good holiday memories for me.

moroccan tea

Denica at D’s Bistro made this pretty Pistachio Pavlova with Kiwis and Nectarines.

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Finally Leah from Sharing the Love with Food made these lovely pillowy gnocchi in a green sauce with ham.

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Thank you everyone for entering.   Next month Our Growing Edge will be hosted by Jules at The Kiwi Diaries.

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