Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Banana Breakfast Cakes

... or 'Wakey Wakey Cakey' as they're cutely named on the website where I discovered this recipe!

Whilst my 12 month old baby-led-weaner enjoys his food and remains a relatively adventurous eater, breakfast is a bit of a non-event for him.  Our co-sleeping breastfeeding relationship means that he spends much of the night snacking at 'the best restaurant in town' so when we get up at about 8am he is rarely hungry.  He might nibble on the odd piece of cereal, but is generally happy not to bother.  However by mid-morning he is definitely ready for some food, a potentially inconvenient time as we are usually out and about by then.

He is a huge fan of the 'Goodies' baby oaty bars made by Organix (and I am too, they're delicious!), but while I appreciate the convenience of these pre-packaged baby/toddler foods, I am always more inclined to try and make my own versions.  I did experiment with my own oaty bar recipe, but so far have only managed to make bars that are crumbly rather than chewy (I will continue to experiment though, so watch this space!), but I wanted a portable snack that wouldn't make quite so much mess.

Some food-forum advice, plus some internet searching brought me to this recipe on the Baby Led Weaning website, and I have now made 2 batches with slight variations, both well received.

The basic idea is this:

Mash up one Weetabix, one ripe banana, 100ml of milk and 20g of cornflakes.  Add a second Weetabix and stir until you have a 'cement-like' mixture (which sounds so appealing!).  Then divide into 6 greased fairy-cake trays and bake at 190 degrees for approximately 30 minutes until firm and beginning to brown.

I have taken this very much as a template and played with it somewhat.  We didn't have cornflakes in the house so I used oats instead (I like to use oats for their slow-release energy).  I also didn't have full-cream milk so used a semi-skimmed plus a large dash of double cream (to make sure he gets enough fat).  For the first batch I added some very ripe strawberries mashed in with the bananas, and in the second batch I used extra banana as I had 2 that were turning black, and also threw in a handful of raisins.  With both batches I just added some extra oats to get what I thought was the right consistency.  I also used a very shallow jam-tart tray so ended up with 12 'discs' of cake rather than 6, and therefore they only needed about 20 minutes' cooking.

They turn out as a slightly chewy, cakey creation...  I'm not entirely sure that I'd recommend anyone without small children to make them for adult consumption, but they're not bad to eat, (although obviously I'd rather have some real cake!).  I like the fact that they're basically what you might have for breakfast; cereal, milk and fruit.  Weetabix does contain some sugar, but you are not adding any extra, so I think they're generally a 'good' option for a toddler snack.  They hold more-or-less together without crumbling messily into thousands of pieces, but are still soft enough for gumming.

And despite the serious face, this one-year-old thinks they're good too!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Epic Roast Chicken Salad

I belong to a couple of 'foodie' groups on Facebook, and I love to look at other people's food photos and hear what they've been cooking.  I often find that this inspires me to make something similar, and this is exactly what happened last week.  A friend posted that she had made and loved Jamie Oliver's Epic Roast Chicken Salad, and as the weather was set fair (gloriously sunny actually!) an epic salad sounded just the thing!  The recipe was from a Jamie book that I don't have, and I couldn't seem to find the exact recipe online.  However, I did find a lovely blog by a lady called Elspeth who had also created a fabulous chicken salad, based on the Jamie recipe.  I ended up using this as a basis (thanks Elspeth!) but made a few changes myself.

I actually made this using chicken leftovers as we had roasted a large chicken the night before.  I had both the breasts left, so began the layering of the salad by tearing these up, cold, and putting them on a large plate. 

I topped the chicken with the roasted tomato layer.  I had roasted these simply in a slug of olive oil with a handful of garlic cloves, and laid slices of streaky bacon over the top so that the bacon fat would flavour the tomatoes.  I also laid the leftover chicken skin on top of the tomatoes to re-crisp.  For the last 10 minutes of the tomato roasting time, I tore up a small ciabatta loaf and tossed it into the tomato pan, letting it soak up all the tomatoey and bacony juices before going back into the oven to crisp up.  This glorious pan-full was tipped over the chicken, breaking up the now-crispy bacon and chicken skin as I did so.

Some simply steamed green beans were added, hot, to the top of the heap, before the whole lot was dressed with the mix of wholegrain mustard, fresh mint, lemon juice (I subbed this for cider vinegar) and olive oil described in Elspeth's recipe.  

To finish I scattered over the toasted salted pumpkin seeds that I had prepared earlier.

This was a fabulous supper, and was also enough for me to have leftovers for lunch the following day.  I think it's important to eat the ciabatta croutons while they are still warm and crispy, so I made myself some fresh ones to go with the leftovers. 

I don't know how far away this is from the 'original' Jamie Oliver recipe, but to be honest I think it's a formula that can be successfully adapted according to the ingredients you have to hand.  Some chopped spring onions would be a nice addition for example, and perhaps fresh basil in place of the mint?  But definitely a recipe that I will try again.

Lemon and Elderflower Self-Saucing Pudding

I've recently started borrowing lots of recipe books from our local library.  Our cookbook shelf is full, and I have far too many books that I haven't cooked enough from, so I'm trying a) not to buy any more, and b) to use the ones I've already got.  But sometimes I feel the 'need' for a fresh crop of recipes to inspire me, so using the library is a perfect option.

Last week I picked up a really nice little book from the 'My Kitchen Table' series entitled '100 Foolproof Suppers' by Audrey-Hepburn-hairalike Gizzi Erskine.  Lots of my foodie friends had been raving about her recipes recently so I was keen to see what all the fuss was about.

First impression?  Brilliant!  I found myself jotting down a long list of recipes that I'd like to try, which is always a great sign.

First off was the Nasi Goreng, or fried rice.  We had been longing to try to recreate this at home as it was one of our very favourite dishes in Brunei.  I don't actually think it's possible to replicate this exactly without a fierce gas-flame and a well-seasoned wok, but this recipe worked  fantastically well with our crappy electric hob and a non-stick frying pan.  We've copied out the recipe to keep, but if you fancy trying it it's online in the Amazon preview of this book

Tomorrow I'm trying her Fish Goujons with Mushy Peas and Sweet Potato Wedges, and next week I'm having a go at the Aubergine, Artichoke and Lamb Bolognese (we had roast lamb at the weekend so I'm giving it a few days before we have lamb again)...  but what I REALLY want to blog about is the most amazing pudding which I made last night:

The recipe is actually entitled Lemon and Passion Fruit Self-Saucing Pudding, but my search for passion fruit juice proved, er, fruitless.  I did find a carton of it, but as it was only about 10% passion fruit juice, I thought it wasn't quite right.  Instead I decided to replace the passion fruit juice with Elderflower Cordial.  We've just made a batch of it, as we do most years, and as it's made with lemons I thought it would complement the lemon flavour of the pudding very well.  And, well, I was right; it's perfect.

The recipe can be found on the My Kitchen Table website - just follow this link.  I'm certain that the passion fruit version would be fabulous, but I can whole-heartedly recommend the elderflower.  The only slight issue that I had was that after 45 minutes' cooking the pudding looked perfectly done, with the sponge topping lightly browned.  However, when I dug beneath the surface the custardy sauce was still quite liquid, rather than the texture of lemon curd, as it should have been.  Too impatient to put the whole pudding back in the oven, we simply spooned out portions into bowls and gave each one a minute in the microwave on high, and bingo, the sauce thickened beautifully.

Not exactly the most photogenic of desserts perhaps, but who cares.  We served it with lashings of double cream.  Thanks Gizzi.

Edit:  Having polished off the final portion of this pudding last night, my husband announced that it was lovely, but 'a bit too sweet'.  He probably has a point as the elderflower cordial is very sugary. Perhaps next time I'll cut the sugar in the pudding mix down (by a couple of tablespoons?) to compensate for the addition of the cordial.