Christmas hamper: apple chutney

Well, the festive period has already got the better of me. I’m two Christmas get togethers down and still have another three (or maybe it’s four – I’ve lost count!) to go before the day itself.

Not that it’s an excuse, but I just haven’t got round to posting as regularly as I’d hoped to this month…something I hope to rectify over the next few days. Especially as I’ll be making some more hamper bits!

First batch 🍏

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This apple chutney couldn’t be simpler to make and the ingredients only cost about £10 in total. It made 9 jars worth (280ml size), so just over £1 per jar!

I used this recipe on the BBC website – I also added a grating of nutmeg, 1tsp of ground cinnamon and 1tsp of cumin.

I’ll be giving this chutney out as gifts – some will go in hampers and the rest will go to friends who enjoy food as much as I do!


Simple things…


Sometimes the simple things provide the most pleasure. This is definitely true of this delicious, quick and, most of all, healthy breakfast.

On mornings when I wake up hungrier than normal, I like to indulge in a nice creamy bowl of porridge. But, recently I have decided to cut down on dairy for multiple reasons.  I was worried my morning porridge would become mundane and tasteless, but I was wrong… Coconut milk (not the stuff you put in curries, but free-from milk alternative) and raspberries to the rescue!

I love raspberries an inordinate amount and decided they’d taste great cooked into porridge. I wasn’t wrong. They break down and become almost jam-like. Yum. Oh and I did I mention this recipe is vegan friendly, filling and full of goodness? Try it for yourself and see…


  • Organic porridge oats
  • Any milk alternative – I personally like coconut milk, but you could use soy or nut milks – plus water to cook the oats
  • Handful of raspberries per person
  • A few tablespoons of chia seeds
  • Cinnamon and agave syrup to serve


  1. Cook your porridge oats as normal, with the coconut milk and water
  2. Add the raspberries and chia seeds half-way through (when the porridge begins to bubble)
  3. When it is creamy, turn off the heat and serve into bowls
  4. Sprinkle cinnamon liberally (it has many health benefits!) and squirt on agave syrup to taste (this is what keeps it vegan) – et voila, quick and delish brekkie!



Chocolate and raspberry puds


This is a dessert I go back to time and time again when I want to make something delicious and impressive looking, but is easy to prepare and not particularly time consuming i.e. my kinda cooking. I really like making these for friends, as they’re always surprised when I tell them just how easy these delights are to throw together.

I’m also on a secret mission to demystify food and cooking.  It doesn’t need to be complex or fancy to taste and look good. Anybody can do it – and in my view should be able to – cooking and understanding food is a life-skill which has been continually eroded in recent times. Anyway, I digress. Considering how luxurious this dessert looks and feels when you taste it, you really don’t need to spend that much to make it – bonus!

I think my favourite thing about these little puds is the combination of rich, oozy chocolate in the middle plus the almost jam-like raspberries in the bottom. It’s both incredibly rich yet palate cleansing at the same time. It’s kind of a hybrid between a fondant and a soufflé; to be honest, it doesn’t matter what it is when it tastes that bloody good.

So, if you need a stress-free dessert for a dinner party or you just fancy a treat one night, then why not try knocking these up? Let me know how you get on or if you throw together any exciting flavour combinations.

Ingredients (makes 6 ramekins/small pots worth)

200g dark chocolate, melted
60g unsalted butter plus extra to grease the ramekins
3 eggs, separated
100g golden caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Vanilla essence
Orange zest (optional)
Cocoa powder for dusting the ramekins
Cream to serve


1) Preheat your oven to 180 (gas mark 5)

2) Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water (make sure it doesn’t boil or touch the bottom of the bowl)

3) When melted, take off the heat and stir through the butter – I would add my flavourings at this point e.g. salt, vanilla, orange, as the residual heat will bring out the flavour

4) Separate your eggs into two bowls

5) Whisk up the yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy

6) Using an electric hand whisk (it’s quicker and easier!!!) beat the whites until firm, enough so they hold but not as firm as you would for meringue

7) When the chocolate is cooled, pour in the yolk and sugar mixture and stir through

8) Next, fold in the whites until combined and you have a nice smooth thick mixture – be careful not to knock out the air so use a plastic or silicon spatula or metal spoon and don’t beat it once the whites are mixed in

9) Butter your ramekins then put a bit of cocoa powder in each one and tap it round to cover the whole dish – this gives it something to cling on to as it rises

10) Place some raspberries in the bottom of each dish – I completely cover the bottom so about 6-8 raspberries

11) Spoon the mixture on top then bake for about 15 minutes

12) The puds should rise up quite a lot, be cracked on the top but gooey in the middle – serve with loads of cream or ice cream…or whatever you prefer! YUM.

An ode to avocadoes


Oh avocado, let me count the ways. My love is by no means new, but it is most definitely growing by the day. The silky, soft texture is a delight on the palate. Sometimes sweet and always buttery: it never fails to make me smile. No matter how it’s served, whether in a sandwich or salad, hot or cold, it’s all good. I’m not fussy.

So, I thought I’d share some of my favourite combos with you… If you’re not already on the bandwagon, hopefully one of these ideas will persuade you!

1)   Use slices of avocado to take a humble bacon sandwich from simply ordinary to divine… The saltiness of bacon is the perfect match for the creaminess of avocado. I would suggest some yummy spelt or granary bread (preferably homemade or from a nice bakery) or some crusty white, spread with REAL butter with half an avocado sliced up plus 2-3 rashers of smoked sweet cure bacon. Perfection.
2)   GUACAMOLE – not the weird processed stuff in a jar or a bottle, but the real, delicious, homemade concoction that takes about 5 minutes to knock up. You can use a pestle and mortar, blender or just chop into cubes, mash half and stir the other half through (if you like it chunky, otherwise mash it all up, using a fork). Any combination of ingredients can be added, depending on your personal preference. I like a lot of chili, garlic, coriander, pepper, spring onions and sometimes diced tomatoes too. It’s so good for you and goes with so many things, why not try it with fish tacos or pulled pork and a bowl of slaw.
3)   Baked. Yes, that’s right baked. It’s not something I’ve tried many times, but it is delish. Scoop out the flesh mix with ingredients of your choosing (unsurprisingly bacon featured in my trial), scatter with some cheese et voila. Half each with a little salad is a great starter – and it may be something your guests haven’t tried before!
4)   On toast. One of the quickest and most filling breakfasts of all time. You can either baked the avocado and spread it on, or my preferred method is to roughly mash half an avocado onto a piece of top, squeeze over some lemon, plus tobasco and black pepper. Perfect, every time.
5)   This list wouldn’t be complete without my ultimate favourite – avocado plus eggs; whether poached, scrambled or fried. It simply doesn’t matter. A bit of tobasco or cayenne and some black pepper doesn’t go amiss, whatever way you choose to do your eggs.

And one that I will hopefully soon be adding to this list is raw chocolate mousse… Yep avocadoes can even be used to make vegan (healthy!!) desserts. The recipe I intend to use is from Honestly Healthy, which is an alkaline diet and one of the most interesting food books – I couldn’t recommend it more!

So, there you have it. Avocadoes are simply amazing; if you’re not already a fan, try something different… you may just be converted.

Mary Berry’s banana loaf


Bananas can be divisive: like marmite a lot of people either love them or hate them. I am one of those strange people who sits somewhere in the middle; in other words I’m fussy. I’ll eat a banana if it’s firm, but if I come across even one patch of bruising I instantly feel nauseous; cue Mary Berry’s foolproof banana loaf recipe. The perfect solution for all those squidgy bananas sitting in your fruit bowl (or you could try my spiced pancakes)!

I used to be skeptical of banana cake, put off by fake banana taste put into yoghurts etc. but a few years ago I made my first loaf and was instantly converted. Since then I’ve tried countless recipes; some have been too dry, banana-y, bland, dense…the list goes on. But, this recipe from Mary Berry’s Simple Cakes (p74) is unbelievably easy and comes out perfect every time.

I personally like a bit of spice in my banana loaf so I add cinnamon and mixed spice to my batter. It is also delicious served with some caramelised / roasted bananas and cream cheese frosting (but that’s a real treat). I also think it would work very well with dark rum, dark chocolate chips in the cake or ganache on the top. Ingredients and method below, happy baking!


4oz (100g) softened butter
6oz (175g) golden caster sugar – you could use light muscovado which I think would work really well!
2 ripe mashed bananas
2 eggs
8oz (225g) self-raising flour
2tbsp milk
1tsp baking powder
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice


1)   Preheat the oven to 180 or gas mark 4
2)   Grease and line a 9lb loaf tin (standard size) – I used butter and flour, you could use greaseproof or baking paper
3)   Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl
4)   Using an electric hand whisk, beat for approximately two minutes until all the ingredients are combined in a smooth batter


You should end up with a mix that looks like this…
5)   Pour the mixture into your loaf tin and smooth out as evenly as possible
6)   Put in the oven and bake for 50 – 60 minutes
7)   Check cake with a skewer, cocktail stick or a bundt cake thermometer – if it comes out clean your cake is done.
8)   Turn out onto a cooling rack and eat when it is cooled.
Tip: You can check halfway through and cover loosely with a piece of foil if the cake is colouring too quickly – don’t worry it won’t collapse!

Leek and potato / courgette, broccoli and Stilton soup combo


My two favourite vegetable soups are, unsurprisingly, leek and potato, and broccoli and Stilton… Put the two together, with the addition of courgettes, and I’m in heaven.

This all started when I decided to add courgettes to broccoli and Stilton soup. It turned out really well, adding natural creaminess (so no need for milk or cream) and extra flavour, not to mention another one of your ‘five a day’ – I’ve never looked back! Now leek and potato is a delight in its own right, there’s no denying, but I was craving both yesterday and instead of letting indecision push me into an impulsive decision, I put it all into one soup.

Essentially you end up with a delicious green soup thickened by the potatoes and with a cheeky bit of luxury coming from the addition of Stilton. This is hands down my favourite soup; I don’t think anything else can come close. If you don’t like blue cheese you could fry some pancetta/bacon until crisp, sprinkle on top and add a spoonful of crème fraiche for creaminess. Or why not experiment – perhaps you could make cheesy croutons and lay them on top. Or if Stilton is not your thing, use a milder blue cheese (such as Dolcelatte) or maybe a different cheese altogether!

Asides from being a taste sensation, it is also quick and easy to make – it should take you about 45 minutes, including chopping and blending, in total and most of that requires no input; you may spot a theme here, I’m big on minimal effort / maximum flavour, apart from special occasions of course! What’s more the ingredients are relatively cheap and you easy to get hold of. My only tip would be use a potato you’d use to make mash e.g. Maris Piper – this adds to the creamy texture once blended.

If you love the tang of blue cheese and vegetable soups, then there’s no way you won’t like it (I promise!).  Method and ingredients below – happy cooking!

Let me know if you try it out…

Ingredients (serves 2-3 for lunch or dinner  / 4-6 for a small starter, can easily be multiplied for extra servings)

Vegetable oil and butter to sweat the veg
½ white onion, finely diced
1 medium/large leek, cleaned and chopped½ courgette, cut in half then into half moons
½ head of broccoli, roughly chopped
3-4 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ tsp dried thyme
1 garlic glove
1 stock cube (to keep it vegetarian use a stock cube like Kallo Organic veg – I used a chicken one though!)
Enough boiling water to cover everything
Stilton – crumble in about 50g to start with (you can add more on top if you fancy). Make sure you taste before you add anymore! It really depends on how strong it is.
Seasoning (if necessary – I only use black pepper as the cheese is salty).


1)   Heat the butter with the oil to stop it burning.
2)   Add the diced onion, leeks and courgette – sweat over a lowish heat until soft and there’s some caramelisation in the bottom of the pan (about 10 minutes).
3)   Add the herbs, a pinch of black pepper and the garlic clove; keep it whole as you’ll be blending the soup later, so no need to chop. Stir through.
4)   Next add the stock cube (whole it will melt!) and the boiling water. Drop in your diced potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are nearly done (about 15 minutes).
5)   Throw in the broccoli – no precise chopping of florets required – simmer for a further 6-8 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender. You can use the stalk as well as florets, which I quite like, but make sure you dice them up.
6)   Now you’re ready to blend! Tilt the pan away from you and using a hand-held blender, blitz it up – this should take 1-2 minutes to get a lump free soup.
7)   All that’s left to do is stir through the Stilton, taste, check for seasoning and serve!

Spiced banana pancakes

Spiced banana pancakes

These pancakes are my go-to delicious treat brunch. Takes less than five minutes to make the batter and three minutes to cook; what more can a girl want? I’ve had them with bacon and maple syrup and today with berry compote and creme fraiche. Banging.

The recipe is on BBC Good Food – all I had is 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of all spice to the batter. Trust me, it’s delicious. So go on, treat yourself…it’s Friday, why the hell not.