Tomato & Basil Soup

Ingredients

Garlic infused olive oil
2 sticks of celery
1 carrot
1 handful of fresh basil leaves
10 large ripe vine tomatoes
1 litre vegetable stock

Method

Rinse your tomatoes, celery, carrot and basil.

Peel and chop your carrot, chop the celery and basil.

Put your carrot, celery and basil in your soup pot and coat with your garlic olive oil. Braise the vegetables for about 15 minutes until soft.

Chop your tomatoes and then add these to the rest of the vegetables, sprinkle a little salt and pepper then stir to mix together, then add the vegetable stock.

Leave to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Once the vegetables are soft and your soup is to your taste (you can add more seasoning i.e. salt, pepper, basil as you see fit to), turn off the heat then leave to cool.

Once it is cool enough you can blend with a handblender until smooth.

This soup makes approximately 6-7 servings of soup – so you can make for your family, or keep some to eat and freeze some for a later date. You can also double the quantity to make more if you need to.

24 days of Christmas: Chocolate Berry Panettone (by Laura Anne)

Laura Anne is the real name of the blogger sometimes known as ‘BrunetteKoala’ who blogs here at Learning from Sophie. Over the last year she’s been trying out new recipes in a bid to get better at baking and cooking. She loves chatting, meeting her blog & twitter friends ‘in real life’, Jesus, cupcakes and Santa. 

Chocolate Berry Panettone

For the first time last year, I got to contribute to Christmas dinner. This was a BIG deal since usually no one except my mother is allowed to be in the kitchen on Christmas Day. Quite a bit of planning was involved in choosing a dessert that would be liked by all the family. Since my smallgroup have enjoyed Pandoro with homemade Chocolate fudge sauce several times, this was what I made for Christmas Day last year. This should serve 8 people!

To make your Chocolate fudge icing…

3 oz dark chocolate (for this I used Green & Black’s Maya Gold)

3oz milk

2 oz caster sugar

1 oz unsalted butter

Method: Put milk & sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then turn heat down slightly and stir for 5 full minutes. Take saucepan off the heat and add butter & chocolate, then stir until melted. Place in a bowl or jug and allow to cool.

And now to create your Chocolate berry panettone…

500g chocolate chip panettone

400g berries

300 ml whipping cream

1-2 tbsp caster sugar

Method:

Slice your panettone into layers.

Set some of your berries aside for garnishing the top of the panettone.

Whisk your whipping cream and sugar together in a mixing bowl until it is stiffened. Then add your berries folding them into the whipped cream.

Spoon the berry cream onto the bottom layer of the panettone, then add another layer of panettone and repeat until you have a layer of berry cream between each panettone layer.

Add the chocolate fudge icing to the top of the panettone stack and garnish with your berries that you set aside.

Place in the freezer for 4 hours.

Remove above 10-15 minutes before serving.

It should be noted, that because of the lack of freezer space, we weren’t able to do these last couple of steps, and had to settle for putting it in the fridge instead. In fact we might just have served it pretty much straight away. And I’m terrible at cutting things equally too. As a result, our panettone didn’t look quite so picture perfect – but it still tasted AMAZING. :)

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This post is one in a series of posts over the Christmas period as many of my friends join me for another blog party which I hope you’ve all been enjoying! Please feel free to comment on the recipe and I’d love to hear from you if you try it out. Please haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

24 days of Christmas: Homemade Christmas Gifts (by Katey)

 Katey blogs about food at Edinburgh Eats, enjoys baking and cakes a little too much and loves Christmas in Scotland. 

Homemade Christmas Gifts – Florentines

I love giving homemade gifts at Christmas – it’s a meaningful way to show that you care enough to make something you know that friends and family will enjoy. There are plenty of crafty ideas on the internet and one of my favourite places for inspiration for edible homemade gifts is here. Something Christmassy that I’ve been making recently are these florentines. These are crunchy caramel fruit and nut biscuits*, coated in chocolate. They’re surprisingly easy to make, taste delicious and you’ll be hailed as a baking genius. I recommend baking them in a muffin/cupcake pan if you have one, silicon if possible otherwise make sure it is well greased with butter. This will give your florentines a perfectly round and uniform shape and will make the coating in chocolate easier. Otherwise, you can drop teaspoons of them onto non-stick baking paper and go for a more freestyle look. Try and measure the ingredients as accurately as possible, digital scales are ideal for this.

*editors note for the American readers: biscuits = cookies

 Florentines (makes 12)

Ingredients:

50g golden syrup

50g butter

50g caster sugar

50g plain flour

40g mixed orange and lemon peel, chopped into small pieces

20g glace cherries, chopped into small pieces

40g flaked almonds

150g dark or milk chocolate, broken into small pieces

 Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170c Fan/190c/ Gas Mark 5.

2. Measure out the golden syrup, directly into a medium sized pan. Add the butter and sugar to the pan and heat over a medium heat until the butter is melted.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the flour, fruit and nuts. Stir well to combine.

4. Divide the mixture between the 12 recesses of a silicon muffin/cupcake tray (well greased with a bit of butter if not using a silicon tray), it will be approximately a heaped teaspoon measure each. Using the back of the teaspoon gently encourage the mixture to cover the base of each.

5. Place into middle shelf of the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown, starting to crisp around the edges and looking a little holey! A strange instruction however if you bake them you’ll know what I mean.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the trays. They’ll be soft when they come out so leave them alone to harden up (about 10 minutes) before you pop them out of the trays onto a wire rack. Beware – they will be very hot at this stage!

7. If using a silicon tray, wash this out whilst the florentines are finishing off cooling as they’ll be greasy from the florentines and we need them for the chocolate stage.

8. Melt the chocolate in short 30 second bursts in the microwave.

9. If using a silicon tray, place 2 teaspoons of melted chocolate in the base of each recess and spread across the bottom using a spoon. Drop each florentine back into the tray on top of the chocolate and place in the fridge – once set, you can pop them out quite easily. If not using a silicon pan, just use a knife to paint a chocolate coating onto the back of the biscuits and leave to set on a wire rack. With this method you can use a fork to make a wavy pattern on the back too.

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Katey’s post is one in a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on the recipe Katey has shared (we’d love to hear how you get on trying it out at home!), and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

Honey and Spice Cake

This recipe is a bit of a marmite one. I’ve discovered people either really like this cake, or they really don’t like this cake. This will make you 12 muffin sized cupcakes, or the cake in the picture above which was baked in a 9″ (24 cm) cake tin. Apologies for the yellowness of the picture, the lighting in our wee kitchen sucks big time – plus I forgot to take a picture before we started eating it.

For the cake:

Ingredients

200g unsalted butter

200g self-raising flour

100g light muscovado sugar

2-3 tbsp honey

4 eggs

1 tsp all-spice

½ tsp baking powder

Method

Line your cake tin with greaseproof paper on bottom and grease the sides with a little bit of butter.

Preheat your oven to 150 C.

Melt butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan on a low heat.

Beat your eggs.

Once butter, sugar and honey is melted, and your eggs and whisk together.

Sift flour, baking powder and all spice together then stir into your butter/sugar/honey/egg mixture in a bowl to create a smooth batter.

Pour into cake tin (or divide equally among muffin cases).

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden, then place on wire rack to cool.

For the icing:

Ingredients

75g butter

175g icing sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp all spice

2 tsp honey

Method

It helps if you leave your butter out of the fridge while the cake is in the oven/cooling before you make the icing.

Place butter in a bowl and beat until soft and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar sifting it through a sieve (to prevent you getting lumpy icing!)

Add the vanilla extract and honey and beat until you get a thick, creamy and smooth consistency.

Once your cake is cool, you can spoon the icing onto the top of your cake and spread evenly across the surface of your cake.

Apple & Raspberry Porridge

Since I first posted the ‘Apple & Strawberry Porridge’ recipe, I discovered that raspberries work much much better. Over the Autumn/Winter, I’ve been using frozen berries/summer fruits in place of the fresh berries. So I thought I’d repost this recipe with a few edits!

because we know bears love porridge…

It’s only right that I have a wee bit of Scottishism in grained in these recipes. But this one is the first one inspired by the  Hungry recipe book by Innocent. (By the way, if you are taking part in Bringing Sexy Back I totally recommend Hungry for helping you have healthier eating habits. They even have great tips in how to get the whole family involved – especially kids).

Ingredients (serves 1)

½ cup of oatmeal (rolled oats)

1 cup of apple juice (try to use pressed rather than concentrate)

1 cup water

1 cup raspberries (you can also use frozen berries as an option when they aren’t in season!)

Method

Put your oatmeal, apple juice and water in a saucepan.

Bring to the boil, stirring the mixture continuously.

Once you’ve brought it to the boil, leave to simmer on a low heat, stirring occasionally for approx. 8 minutes

While your porridge is simmering you can get out your fresh strawberries & give them a wee rinse and chop them up into bite-size pieces in between stirs. You might want to make a drink of your choice too (a wee bit herbal tea? coffee? orange juice?). **If you are using frozen berries – add them after about 3-4 minutes. It will probably turn your porridge pink!**

Once the porridge is done, pour into a bowl, add your raspberries, give it a wee stir and serve!

Obviously, please beware that when leaving your porridge to cool a little (because you don’t want it to burn your mouth), you should not leave it unsupervised. You just never know if Goldilocks might come in and eat it all up before you get a chance.

Or a bear for that matter…

Disclosure: I don’t ever recommend things for the sake of recommendation, but yes, I’m part of the Amazon Associates programme, so if you purchase the book through that link I may get a small percentage of the profit or something like that! But really, I don’t care how you buy it or where you buy it. I think it’s a great recipe book for anyone – the 2.4 kid family, the students, the semi-grown up marrieds or the singletons like me!

Banana Breakfast Muffins

This recipe has been requested by Lynn. Sorry it took me so long to get it up!
Ingredients:

3 ripe bananas

4 fl oz semi-skimmed milk

3 eggs

4 oz unsalted butter

2 tbsp honey

8oz self raising flour

4 oz of bran flakes

4 oz porridge oats

2 handfuls of raisins

2 handfuls of chopped nuts

Method

Preheat oven to 150 C

Melt butter and honey in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally (do not let it boil!!) 

Peel, then mash the bananas in a mixing bowl. Put bran flakes in a plastic bag (I usually use a freezer/sandwich bag) make sure the bag is closed then bash with a rolling pin to crush the bran flakes – then put to one side.

Add milk, eggs, melted butter & honey to the bananas and whisk together.

Add the flour, crushed bran flakes, oats, nuts and raisins and stir it all together. You do not want to stir too much, just enough so that everything is mixed in to create your muffin mixture.

Divide equally between 12-16 muffin cases. The muffins will not rise much, so you want the cases fairly full (fuller than you’d have for cupcakes).

Put in oven for around 25-30 mins where they should be golden on top.

If you put the muffins in a sealtight container, they can keep for up to a week. They work great as a snack as they full of fibre and more complex carbs for slower-release energy in place of a chocolate bar! Also useful for the mornings where you sleep in and don’t have time to make breakfast, or when you are about to go to the gym and your stomach is rumbling it wants tea and is threatening to ruin your workout. :) The use of honey, bananas and raisins means they still taste sweet, but the sugar is more natural and better for you than refined sugar used in cakes (and most definitely better than artificial sweeteners – please insert my usual rant about so-called ‘diet’ drinks and people putting sweetener or faux sugar in their tea or coffee here).

Very Berry Smoothie

Ingredients

1 banana

1 cup of apple, cranberry or boysenberry juice

Approx. 1 cup (?) nautral yoghurt (I buy the small tubs and use 1 whole tub at a time!)

2 handfuls of raspberries

2 handfuls of blueberries or strawberries

Method

Peel your banana, chop into pieces put in the blender

Spoon your yoghurt into the blender

Pour your fruit juice of choice (usually whatever is already open if you are me!) into the blender

Rinse & drain your berries. If you are using strawberries, make you remove the green planty bits and you may need to chop them up. Once you’ve done that – pop them in the blender.

Put your lid on the blender….and blend until you’ve got a purplish drink.

Pour into glasses…and serve!

NB – A quick way of cleaning the blender after you’ve used it – fill your blender half-full with warm water & a dash of washing up liquid. Put the lid back on, give it the warm water & washing up liquid a bit of the blending action (makes great frothy bubbles). Take it over to your kitchen sink, remove lid and get in there with a plastic brush and maybe a cloth/sponge. Rinse out with hot water and leave your now clean blender & lid to dry. This literally takes a couple of minutes, and is makes your blender much easier to clean than if you leave it for ages and have to come back to it later! I promise.

Summer Recipes

My blog readers have been awesome in helping my charity raise funds by producing recipe booklets! We started with the Chocolate Recipe book, and then last Christmas we had the Winter Recipe book. (I had to doctor the cover as I can’t name the charity I work for on my blog…!!)

This time (while it’s summer) I’m looking for your Summer recipes! It could be drinks, snacks, mains, desserts…

It is helpful if you have measurements (even if they are estimates like ’1 handful’) so other people can use the recipe more easily. We always put who gave us the recipe and the town they are from. It’s always fun for people to see how far these recipes have come from.

You can send your summer recipe, your name, location & if you like a sentence or 2 about your recipe send it via e-mail. I use Microsoft Word 2004 (so please no .docx files, as I won’t be able to read them).

If you would like a copy of the recipe book when it is done, please send me your address also! (We usually sell copies for £3). And if you would like to be kept up to date with the work of our charity, let me know and I can give you details on how you can do that! :)

Apple & Strawberry Porridge

because we know bears love porridge…

It’s only right that I have a wee bit of Scottishism in grained in these recipes. But this one is the first one inspired by the  Hungry recipe book by Innocent. (By the way, if you are taking part in Bringing Sexy Back I totally recommend Hungry for helping you have healthier eating habits. They even have great tips in how to get the whole family involved – especially kids).

Ingredients (serves 1)

½ cup of oatmeal (rolled oats)

1 cup of apple juice (try to use pressed rather than concentrate)

1 cup water

As many strawberries as you like!

Method

Put your oatmeal, apple juice and water in a saucepan.

Bring to the boil, stirring the mixture continuously.

Once you’ve brought it to the boil, leave to simmer on a low heat, stirring occasionally for approx. 8 minutes

While your porridge is simmering you can get out your fresh strawberries & give them a wee rinse and chop them up into bite-size pieces in between stirs. You might want to make a drink of your choice too (a wee bit herbal tea? coffee? orange juice?)

Once the porridge is done, pour into a bowl, add your strawberries, give it a wee stir and serve!

Obviously, please beware that when leaving your porridge to cool a little (because you don’t want it to burn your mouth), you should not leave it unsupervised. You just never know if Goldilocks might come in and eat it all up before you get a chance.

Or a bear for that matter…

Disclosure: I don’t ever recommend things for the sake of recommendation, but yes, I’m part of the Amazon Associates programme, so if you purchase the book through that link I may get a small percentage of the profit or something like that! But really, I don’t care how you buy it or where you buy it. I think it’s a great recipe book for anyone – the 2.4 kid family, the students, the semi-grown up marrieds or the singletons like me!

You know it’s a good recipe book when the Cookie Monster appears

One of my friends (you know who you are) gave me a book token for my birthday. Just to say I LOVE book tokens, because I love books. I particularly love buying fresh new books. I have a dream of having lots of books in my home, and one of the things I love to do when I go to other people’s homes is browse their bookshelves. And then their DVD collection. And their music collection. The reason I have this dream is not to collect ‘stuff’, but just to have a home that’s filled with knowledge, inspiration, art and wisdom that can be discovered and picked up at any time by a fellow resident or someone visiting!

Anyway. I digress.

One of the things I’d wanted to be better about this year was trying to improve my culinary skills (or lack thereof). I’d seen this in the Innocent newsletter and wondered if it might be the answer…

I didn’t want to buy it until I’d flicked through it. I’ve got a few recipe books, but so many have TONS of ingredients that are not cheap, and some recipes will be pretty time consuming and complicated, and really not taking into consideration my severely limited culinary knowledge. Or the fact I’m one person. And there’s no room to store things in the freezer. Or that a Tesco Value electric whisk & a set of knives are the only kitchen gadgets I have. Plus lots of things that make food really yummy my body takes offense at.

After a successful sports bra shopping expedition, Waterstones just happened to cross my path between Debenhams & the car park…I entered in, found the book and flicked through. My hopes were reality! It was the recipe book I had been searching for! But should I use my precious book token? When I saw this page, I was sold…

When I got home and Elmo got hold of the book, he was so excited (just like I was) to see his Sesame Street pal, the Cookie Monster feature too.

And yes, this book is filled with good ideas to help make my diet a little less samey and boring. Hurrah!