Chocolate fruit and nut Simnel cake

Simnel cakes are light fruit cakes that are traditionally made at Easter. Many people in my family are not fans of rich fruit cake, but throw some chocolate in and they come running for it! I hope you like this twist on the traditional. Use whatever dried fruits and nuts you prefer, just keep the quantities the same.

150g butter, softened (I use salted)

220g caster sugar

120g sour cream

4 medium eggs

180g self-raising flour, plus 2 tbsp for dusting the raisins (see tip)

40g cocoa powder (sifted if lumpy)

½ tsp baking powder

100g toasted skinned hazelnuts, finely chopped

20g toasted blanched almonds, finely chopped

100g raisins

300g white marzipan

100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped, plus extra for shavings, if desired

FOR THE CHOCOLATE ICING

70g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

120g butter, softened

100g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

EQUIPMENT

2 x 20cm round cake tins

1 Preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C/350F/gas 4) and line the cake tins with baking parchment. Put the butter, caster sugar, sour cream, eggs, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, hazelnuts and almonds into a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the raisins with the extra 2 tablespoons flour.

2 Tip this raisin and flour mixture into the main bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined. Then, using a spatula, divide the cake mixture between the lined tins and level the tops. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean, and the cakes have shrunk slightly from the edges of the tin. Once the cakes are cooked, remove them from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins.

3 When the cakes have cooled, make the chocolate icing. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie by setting a heatproof bowl over a small pan of simmering water, making sure that the water in the pan does not touch the base of the bowl. If it does it can ‘seize’, making the chocolate very grainy and unpleasant to use. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave in 40-second blasts, stirring well after each blast until smooth. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool a little. Now, put the butter in a bowl with the icing sugar and beat together until light and fluffy, then add the slightly cooled, melted chocolate to the mixture little by little, mixing to combine as you go.

4 Remove the cakes from the tins and place one on a serving plate with a blob of the chocolate icing underneath to stop it from moving around. Spread with a nice thick layer of the chocolate icing and then place the other cake on top, bottom side up so that it is nice and flat.

5 Spread the top of the cake with a thin layer of the chocolate icing and then set this aside. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of the icing to stick the chocolate covered marzipan balls on top of your lovely cake!

6 Dust the work surface with a little icing sugar and then roll out two-thirds of the marzipan to the thickness of a £1 coin (about 3mm). Using a small, sharp knife, put the 20cm round cake tin on top and use it as a stencil for a circle of marzipan.

7 Remove the cake tin and set aside and then place this marzipan circle on top of the cake, pressing it down with a little gentle pressure. You want it to be nicely smooth and even. Then crimp the edges to decorate using your thumb and forefinger, or you can just mark the edges with a fork for a pretty pattern.

8 Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and set this aside. Melt the 100g chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave, as before. Leave to cool a little and then roll the rest of the marzipan into 11 equal-sized balls.

9 Take a marzipan ball on a fork and dip it into the melted chocolate, then remove it, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Place the chocolate-coated marzipan ball on the baking parchment. Repeat with the rest of the balls and then, using small blobs of chocolate icing, stick the balls around the cake an equal distance apart.

10 When you are ready to serve, lightly dust the cake with the icing sugar. You can also sprinkle over chocolate shavings, if you fancy it.

Big love

LPx

Protein Packed Vegan Buddha Bowl with black Sesame

Can’t get enough protein on a vegan diet? Well this dish should solve that problem for you. This Buddha bowl is packed with protein and all the good stuff. A perfect dish for your meat free Monday, Vegan vibrant and quick. I chose a balsamic ginger dressing but feel free to dress with whatever you like.  It is snowing outside, but having  just spent the last 24 hours travelling, I was craving something fresh and clean. So I battled the elements to buy these ingredients and throw them all together. Here are five reasons why you should make this salad for you next weekday lunch. For the dressing add 1 part balsamic to 3 parts oil and then grate in some ginger. Season with salt and pepper and then drizzle over the salad. If you have a juicer you can juice the ginger and add that to your dressing instead.

It is Vegan

Even if you are not a vegan, having a meal or two away from meat is only a good thing. I am a part-time vegan which comes in to play as the mood suits.

There are more anti-oxidants in black beans than in any other legume

There are lots of anti-oxidants in this dish but black beans are my go-to when I fancy a legume. Not only are they they highest in anti-oxidants but they also are very high in protein and lower in carbs too.

Microgreens rock

Are unbelievably tasty and have more nutrients then their fully grown brothers. Additionally they are so easy to grow. Remember the mustard microgreens you may have grown at school. I would love to say I picked these fresh this morning from my abundant window planter, but they are actually from M and S.

Short Cut Spiraliser

The courgetti look like they have been spiralised or at the very least julienned. But this handy work is thanks to a serrated edge potato peeler available here. Simply peel the courgette as if you were just removing skin and then keep on peeling. Magic! And no washing and storing of that big old plastic thing.

Black sesame seeds

Not only do they have a load of nutritional benefits such as lowering cholesterol and balancing hormones but they make the tofu taste much better too.

Enjoy!

Lorraine x

 

 

 

 

Chicken and kale mini burgers with Five spice and Chillii

This is the only chicken burger recipe you will ever need. I do not eat lots of red meat and at the moment I am off fish (more about that later), so I am trying to make chicken sexy. Chicken does not taste great on its own it is pretty bland and it needs all of the help it can get from other flavours by way of herbs, sauces, seasoning and the like. So I opened my fridge and was faced with a bevy of chicken fillets, an over purchase. Standing in the supermarket that familiar thought.. ‘Do I have any chicken in the fridge for the day? No, I don’t think I do, let me buy some`. And then two days later ‘Do I have any chicken left over in the fridge or did I cook it? I think I cooked it, let me buy some more’, And so on and so forth and hence, too much chicken in the fridge.

These can be prepared ahead of time and then cooked. You can eat them straight away of course or they are great for packed lunches the next day, cold or hot. I would not keep them past a couple of days though just to be sure.

Turn oven on to 200c. Minced up chicken is an unfavourable sight and so to save your eyes of that trauma, the mincing-up-the-chicken-pic has been omitted. OR I totally forgot to start taking pictures until I had rolled all the balls. I will leave you to choose which answer you think really happened. Pop the chicken in to a food processor with 3 large handfuls of Kale, and depending on how spicy you want it, a few generous shakes of chilli flakes. I then added a tsp of five spice powder  along with salt and pepper. Did you know that the primary ingredient in Five spice powder, well the one I bought from local supermarket anyway, is Sugar? No, neither did I, until now; no wonder it tastes so darn good. Blitz together in the mixer and then roll in to 10 equal size balls and set aside. put the flour along and egg into a bowl , mix and then set aside. In another bowl put the breadcrumbs and yes, set them aside. Flatten the ball first a bit to resemble a little burger, then dip it in to the egg mix and then roll it in to the breadcrumbs and put it back on to the plate. Repeat with the rest of the balls.

Put some oil in a pan and then fry the balls for about 2 minutes per side or until the balls are golden brown as per the picture and then stick them in to the oven. The handle on my frying pan can withstand a very high temperature and so can go in to the oven. If you are unsure whether your pan can handle the heat and do not want to risk reaching in to the oven after the obligatory five or so minutes cooking time only to find the handle has melted all over the shelves, then use some tongs to pop the burger balls on to a baking tray and then in to the oven.

Cook the burgers for about 5 minutes or until they are piping hot inside. I test this by putting a knife in to the centre of one, leaving it there for a minute and then pulling the (blunt) knife out and putting it on my inner wrist. If I say owww then it is piping hot. Kiddies do not try this method at home and grown-up kiddies, Please be careful if you are going to use this method. You can always just cut it open and see if lots steam comes out. This safer way will also tell you if it is cooked or not.

My idea this year is to eat more greens. No, I am not leaning to towards a vegan conversion, but I realise I don’t eat enough of them, especially during the winter months, when all I crave is cheesy stodgy food. I cooked up some asparagus, broccoli and sugar snaps. I chopped up some cucumber and celery, threw in some watercress and rocket and then made a maple and balsamic dressing to drizzle over the top. Although it took me a whole episode of ‘This is US’ to eat it, this salad was well worth every minute. I am binge watching ‘This is US’ on Amazon prime video at the moment and my gosh it’s a bit of a tear jerker. If you fancy a feel good, and slightly tear inducing bit of TV then I recommend it. Highly. Recipe below

375g of chicken breast

3 large handfuls of Kale

1 tsp of five spice

3 shakes of chilli flakes

salt and pepper

oil

For the ‘salad’

2 large handful of broccoli cut in to florets, cooked

1 large handful of asparagus, trimmed and cooked

1 large handful of sugarsnap peas, cooked

3 sticks of celery, sliced

1/2 cucumber, skinned and diced

1/2 baby gem lettuce slices

Dressing

1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tsp of maple syrup, optional

Turn the oven to 200c. Put the chicken in the food processor with the kale, chilli flakes and five spice and blitz until the mixture res

 

I hope you enjoy the salad. Do let me know how you get on with it if you make it. Have a wonderful week.

Big love

Lorraine xxx

PS; If you spot any typos then let me know below and I will correct it.

Quick Mac and cheese with Crunchy Ciabatta topping

Firstly I want to say I apologise for the picture. I was not planning to do a blog post recipe at all, but I put this picture on my Insta Stories and lots of you asked to see the recipe. You know I am all about the healthy food but of course I love to indulge in comfort food and bakes also. Spending the time to make something from scratch be it an indulgent dish such as this one once or twice a week, or something everyday like a fresh salad  or a healthy meal are in my opinion an act of self-care which I encourage you to do also when you can. This is the year of being extra good to ourselves, so we can be our best selves for others too.

I made it at the request of my daughter as she loves a good mac and cheese.  Some of you may have made my recipe in Baking Made Easy which was a full on four cheese extravaganza with pancetta and spring onions. However this one has only 3 cheeses and a bit of thyme but it is super quick to make. Let me know how you get on with it.

400g of macaroni pasta

50g of butter

50g of plain flour

500ml of skimmed milk

300g of a good mature cheddar, grated

1-2 tsp of English Mustard

4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only

Pepper (the cheese is pretty salty so you will not need any added salt)

1 ciabatta roll, ripped up in to bitesized pieces.

60g of parmesan, grated

1 small ‘log’ of goats cheese- optional

oil

Serves 4-6

Put the oven on to 200c.

Cook the pasta according to the packets instructions, once cooked set aside.

As the pasta cooks, put the butter in a pan and allow it to melt, then add the flour and stir well until all of the flour is well mixed in with no lumps. Make sure you get in to the ‘corners’ of the pan where some flour often sits and hides. Take the pan off the heat and then add the milk in four ‘goes’. Stir well between each addition, so that the mixtures does not go lumpy. Once you have added all of the milk. Return it to the heat, but if you feel it is too lumpy then give it a good whisk with a hand whisk before returning it to the heat.

Slowly bring the sauce to the boil. Once it is boiling, let it bubble way for 1 minute making sure that the sauce does not ‘catch’ in the bottom of the pan and then take it off the heat and add the mustard, cheddar and of the thyme and a little bit of pepper and then set this aside.

Pop a little oil in a frying pan and then add the ciabatta bits.Toast them in the frying pan until they just start to brown and then set them aside. I tried to do this in the toaster but it did not end well. I cut the rolls in half down the middle and shoved it in the toaster slots but some bits got too burnt and some bits did not toast at all so I think the frying pan is a much better option.

Get a lasagne dish or a casserole dish and tip in your pasta. Then add the sauce and mix. Scatter the remaining thyme leaves on top of that, along with the bread, and the parmesan. Oh and I put some goats cheese on top which I had in the fridge also.

Pop in the oven for about 15 minutes or just enough time for the cheese on top to bubble and then remove it from the oven and serve.

Big love

Lorraine xxx

Ps: If you see any typos do let me know and I will correct them.

Quick Gazpacho Soup

Although it’s cold outside, I like to eat my all time favourite soup, Gazpacho at anytime of year. I recently had this delicious soup at Six senses hotel in the Maldives (pictured above) but it inspired me to share the recipe for my version (which is untraditionally bread and therefore gluten free).

CROUTONS

1/4 ciabatta loaf cut into large cubes

SOUP

1.2kg vine ripened tomatoes

1 clove garlic

2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves

6tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 tsp of a good sherry vinegar

I tsp (or to taste) of Tabasco

1/2 tsp of sugar

Salt and pepper

Serves 4

Put the bread into a pan with some oil, salt and pepper and pan fry until the bread is well toasted. Then pop onto kitchen towel to drain off excess oil.

Pop all of the Gazpacho ingredients into a blender, reserving a few basil leaves for garnish and blitz until very smooth.

Season to taste adding more Tabasco and some salt and pepper and then serve.

Enjoy

Big love

Lorraine xxx