Friday, 31 January 2014

Coconut & lime tea loaf


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Does anyone else love to put a bit of condensed milk on strawberries? I do! But then I’m always left with almost a full tin of condensed milk. Normally I use condensed milk to make a granola bar tray bake, but as I’d already made one this month, I was on the lookout for something else. I happened upon the Carnation website when looking up recipes using condensed milk. I chose to combine two Carnation recipes: coconut & lime cake and cream cheese frosting.  I enjoyed this cake – both its’ flavour and texture. I found the frosting tasty but was a little runny. I think I would chill it a bit to help make it more firm next time. You could use the recipe for lime icing that goes with the coconut & lime cake recipe. I just didn’t have enough limes to do this. I’ve included the recipe at the bottom of the post.


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For the cake:

Ingredients
175g buttery spread (70% fat spread), softened
3 large eggs, beaten
250g condensed milk
55g desiccated coconut
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
175g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder


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Method
1.  Preheat the oven to 170°C, (150°C for fan ovens).
Line a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment
2. Whisk the cake ingredients in a large bowl until pale and creamy.
3. Pour into the tin and bake for 55-65 minutes spring and cooked through.
If the top becomes too brown cover the cake with a piece of parchment.
4. Cool the cake slightly then remove from the tin to cool completely.


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For the cream cheese frosting:

Ingredients
200g icing sugar
55g butter, softened
Few drops vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp condensed milk
85g full fat cream cheese

Method
Beat the icing sugar, butter and vanilla with the condensed milk and cream cheese until very thick and creamy.


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Lime Icing:

Ingredients
100g icing sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lime

Method
Simply mix enough lime juice into the icing sugar until you have a thick pouring consistency.
Drizzle over the cake using a spoon or piping bag and finish with strands of lime zest.


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Credit

Banoffee cupcakes

I have to share this recipe with you that I tried this month. The banana muffin is tasty and full of banana flavour with a lovely texture. And oh my, the caramel buttercream is divine. I was surprised at how good this tasted and will be making these again!


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I had some very brown bananas and set myself the challenge of using them up in new recipes.  I tried making Paul Hollywood’s Banana muesli bread and Primrose Bakery’s Banoffee pie cupcakes. The prior isn’t good enough to share the recipe but the latter certainly is! I’ve had The Primrose Bakery Book for a long time but haven’t tried much from it. After this success, I’ll be consulting it more often!





For the banana cupcakes:

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter, room temperature
250g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
4 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin cases.
2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric hand mixer until the mixture is pale and smooth.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing briefly after each addition.
Gradually add the flour and the baking powder and beat again until well combined.
Do the same with the bananas.
3. Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cases, filling each case to about two-thirds full.
4. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave the cupcakes to cool in their tin for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack.
5. When the cupcakes are completely cool, ice them with the caramel buttercream.


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For the Caramel buttercream icing:

Ingredients

90g unsalted butter
135ml (9 tbsp) semi-skimmed milk
330g light soft brown sugar
360g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

1. Combine the butter, milk and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and put on the hob over a high heat.
Stirring continuously, bring the mixture to a boil.
Allow it to boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and stir in half of the icing sugar.
2. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then add the rest of the icing sugar and the vanilla extract and stir until it thickens to the desired consistency. It will have a slightly runny consistency, which works well with the cake.
If you leave it and it starts to set, just transfer to a microsafe bowl and soften it for a few seconds in the microwave before beating again, and if necessary, add a little double cream.
3. Store any unused  icing in the fridge, where it should keep well for up to a week. If using straight from the fridge, you will need to let it come to room temperature and beat well.


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Chocolate making with Kenspeckle (25/1/14)

I love to try new experiences with Leigh. We went on a chocolate making workshop with Kenspeckle at Lynemouth in Northumberland this month. I got this half price Groupon offer for Leigh’s Christmas present.

We’ve been on a chocolate making workshop before with Chocolating (again a Groupon offer) last June. You can see photos here. We learnt how to make chocolate curls, handmade orange flavoured truffles and peppermint chocolate bark.

chocolating

I thought it would be fun to do another workshop together as we’d enjoyed the first one. I also knew that Kenspeckle’s one would be a different experience, as I’d seen them do a demo at a British Sugarcraft Guild meeting. They make enrobed chocolates as have tempering machines. This keeps the chocolate tempered (at a constant temperature). You can make crisp and smooth shells using moulds this way. At the previous chocolate making workshop, there was no tempering machine, so we made chocolates by hand rolling. Enrobed chocolates tend to look more professional (I think!) than hand rolled ones. The first workshop was more practical for learning how to make chocolates at home. The second workshop was more of an experience day, where you got to produce some posh looking chocolates to take home. You know you wouldn’t be able to reproduce these at home.

tempering machines

chocolate shells

finished chocolates

We had the opportunity to make two different chocolates with a filling of our choice. Leigh chose to make a dark chocolate ganache flavoured with chilli and caramel. I chose white chocolate flavoured with pistachios and toffee for my ganache centres. The shells were made with milk chocolate then decorated with white and dark chocolate. These flavour combinations turned out really well!

I would go back on this workshop, as would like to try other flavour combinations for the ganache. I think it is too expensive at the full price of £64. However, we felt it was definitely worth the £32 we spent for two people for a three hour workshop and for the quality of the chocolates you got to take away. If you buy posh artisan chocolates in shops, you would be paying a lot of money for them.

Carrot & coriander soup

I don’t make soup often but have tried a few different ones in the past. I’ve made butternut squash soup a few times and last year had a go at making potato & leek soup and broccoli & stilton soup, both of which were successful.

I had leftover fresh coriander in the fridge after making Mexican guacamole and a glut of carrots that needed using up. So, I looked up recipes for carrot & coriander soup on the internet. Then selected this BBC Food recipe, as I had all the ingredients needed.

I got myself a new stick blender for making this soup, as I just used a food processor in the past and it didn’t always produce a good smooth result. The stick blender is fab – it’s so easy to make soup smooth now! I recommend owning one if you don’t already.

This soup is full of flavour and very satisfying, considering it has so few ingredients. My freshly made bread topped with sesame seeds complemented the soup perfectly. Leigh said that this was an “utter delight to eat!” It made such a lovely and warming meal for a Winter’s day. I will definitely be making this one again! I also came across carrot, orange and ginger soup recipes whilst searching for this one. I fancy trying this combo next time.


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Ingredients

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
450g / 1lb carrots, sliced
1 tsp ground coriander
1.2 litres / 2 pints vegetable stock
Bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 
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Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions and the carrots. Cook for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften.
  2. Stir in the ground coriander and season well. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Whizz with a hand blender or in a blender until smooth. Reheat in a clean pan, stir in the fresh coriander and serve.
 
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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Peanut butter & chocolate chip cookies

I have been asked for this recipe many times and apologies for not getting it on here sooner! So, here it finally is! These peanut butter & chocolate chip cookies are my favourite thing to bake. The recipe is taken from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and it is the best peanut butter cookie recipe ever. Go try it now!




Ingredients:

225g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
200g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
240g crunchy peanut butter
340g plain four
2 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
75g chocolate, chopped or use chips/drops


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Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC / 325ºF.
Line 4 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
2. Cream the butter and sugars together in a bowl until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time,
mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a spatula after each addition.
Turn the mixer down to slow speed and beat in the vanilla extract and peanut butter.
3. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix well until a smooth dough is formed.
Stir in the chocolate until evenly dispersed.
4. Arrange 6 equal amounts of cookie dough on each prepared baking tray.
N.B. I roll the dough into little balls and squash down to flatten slightly on tray.
Make sure that the cookies are spaced apart to allow for spreading while baking.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges and quite flat.
5. Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the trays before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
The cookies should be soft and chewy.


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This recipe is an oldie but definitely a goldie.
I'm linking up with #CookBlogShare Challenge over at Kerry Cooks in August 2015.



Meet up with Laura @ Tea Sutra (24/1/14)

I met up with an old friend Laura this month. We used to go to university together over 4 years ago when we did the MA in Community & Youth Work. We haven’t met up over this time but have been in touch online. It was great to meet up and we’ll not leave it so long the next time!

We met up for a cuppa at Tea Sutra in Newcastle. I’ve been before a few times and enjoy the relaxed and cosy vibe there, as well as the massive choice of teas. It’s somewhere a bit different and an nice alternative to the big chain-coffee places like Starbucks. I always feel like I need to return many times again, so I can try out more of their teas! It was Laura’s first time and she rated it highly too. I got myself a White Monkey green tea whilst we caught up.


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Laura blogs over at Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish and also blogged about our meet up. She is such an inspirational person! She was one of the reasons why I started blogging in the first place. Check out her blog if you’re interested in healthy eating, recipes, fitness, interior design and fashion. Laura’s really knowledgeable about the blogging world and it was really helpful getting some tips off her :-)

Granola bar tray bake

I've found myself baking a lot this month of January. Maybe it's the grey and cold weather keeping me indoors and I find myself after something sweet to lift the mood!

One of the first things I baked was my granola bar tray bake. It’s one of my all time favourites. I hadn’t made this in a while and fancied it as an addition to our packed lunches. I froze half the batch to have at a later time.

I use Nigella Lawson’s recipe for breakfast bars and adjust the ingredients to whatever fruit/nuts/seeds I have at the time. I also tend to increase the amount of fruit and decrease the amount of seeds/nuts. I find this makes a better bar as it is less dry and crispy. You can experiment with your own fruit/seed/nut combinations – as long as you keep the overall quantities the same! You’ll find something that works for you.

I substituted some of the seeds/nuts for milk chocolate chips for the first time. The result was decent – it added another dimension to the bar. You can leave the chocolate out like Nigella does if you want a healthier bar.




Ingredients:

1 x 397 grams can condensed milk
250g oats
75g desiccated coconut
100g dried fruit
125g mixed seeds
125g mixed nuts


Granola bar Collage


Method:

1. Preheat oven to 130°C/250ºF.
Grease and line a 23 x 33 x 4cm / 9 x 13 inch baking tin
Weigh out dry ingredients and mix together in a bowl.
2. Warm up condensed milk in a pan then pour over the dry ingredients.
3. Mix the condensed milk through the dry ingredients.
4. Place mixture into baking tin. Pat the mixture down to flatten.
5. Bake in preheated oven for an hour.
Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes.
Then cut across x 4 and down x 4 to make 16 chunky bars.
Cool completely.

Afternoon tea @ The Morritt (11/1/14)

I started off January 2014 with a lovely treat. A pick me up after the blues that come when Christmas celebrations are over. Leigh had gotten me a Gourmet Society card for my birthday present (in December) and it came with a free gift of an Afternoon tea voucher. We decided to redeem it at the closest venue to us, which was at The Morritt Country House Hotel in the market town of Barnard Castle in County Durham.

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Market town of Barnard Castle

Me and Leigh like to see historical sites (we’ve seen quite a few!), so we went to a couple of ruins nearby before afternoon tea. We went to Barnard Castle and Eggleston Abbey.

The afternoon tea was perfect for warming up after walking around in the chill all day. The sandwiches, scones and petit fours were delicious. The scones had been freshly baked, so were still warm when we ate them. The stand out petit four for me was the hibiscus flavoured one (in a shot glass). This really challenged my taste buds – I was not expecting it to as much as it did! My mouth just popped alive with so much unique flavour.

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Afternoon tea at The Morritt

Sandwiches, scones and petit fours


The decor and service was pleasant at The Morritt and we both thoroughly enjoyed afternoon tea there. We only had to pay for one person, as I had a voucher for the other. So, it worked out to be really good value for what we got.

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Petit fours

I would recommend popping over to The Morritt if you’re around in the area. We want to go back another time and try the restaurant menu, which has been awarded two AA rosettes. The rooms look nice too, so we may pair dinner with a stay in the hotel.

Overall, we had a lovely day out. It’s been a while since we got ourselves out the house and doing something together. Hopefully, we start this the new year as we mean to go on! :-)

Sunday, 26 January 2014

All time favourites: cooking

Hope you enjoyed reading my previous post rounding up my all time favourite bakes!

Here, I look at the three cuisines I like to cook the most. These are Chinese, Indian and Italian.

Chinese


I learnt everything I know about Chinese cooking from my parents. The types of Chinese dishes I cook are more like what my mum cooks at home. My dad's dishes are more of what you see in a Chinese restaurant, as he used to be a chef in one.

I usually don't follow a precise recipe when cooking Chinese, e.g. use exact quantities of seasonings. It's more to do with techniques, i.e. part-cooking veg by boiling and then finish off cooking by frying, and the types of seasonings used, i.e. rice wine and oyster sauce is usually used for veg. You get a feel for it over time and adjust quantities of seasonings to your taste.


Pak choi


My favourite meat dish that I like to cook for people, is my mum's Soy sauce chicken wings. It has a secret ingredient of Coca Cola! Shhhhh... This dish is easy to do (you just need the right sauces!) and you always end up with juicy flavour-packed chicken!


Soy sauce coke chicken wings, stir-fried veg and ribs

Indian


Before I met Leigh (over 7 years ago), I rarely ate Indian food. It wasn't that I didn't like it, it's just that my parents hardly ate it at home. We would occasionally have a Korma from the supermarket if it was on special offer. I was probably less into spicy foods back then than I am now. Leigh's family often eat Indian food and getting to know Leigh, I found myself eating and enjoying more of it!

The best thing that Leigh makes is his Indian curry and Mushroom pilau rice. He makes the curry from scratch and it takes some time; but it's worth it in the end! I can't make these without his help, as he works between two recipes - a dopiaza and a madras one. I'm always trying to get him to combine the two recipes into one and write it up; so we can share it and anyone can follow it! One of these days I will be successful!


Leigh's Indian curry and Mushroom pilau rice.
Served with my handmade chapatis.


I was interested in finding something to cook that didn't take as long as a curry from scratch. I came across Madhur Jaffrey's Karhai chicken wings, Karhai broccoli and Coconut rice from her Curry Easy book. I like her recipes as they tend to use ingredients that I either have or can easily get hold of. They're also simple and straightforward too. I've made these dishes a few times now and they always turn out good.


Karhai broccoli

Coconut rice

Karhai chicken wings served with (store-bought) pilau rice and peas.

 Italian


One of my fave things to make is my bolognese/lasagna! Leigh taught me how to make these - I've ran with it and now put my own take on it. I've had lots of compliments for my lasagna - it makes excellent party food! Not strictly Italian, but I also enjoy making (and eating!) meatballs/beef burgers.

Bolognese/Lasagna

Meatballs


Mmmmm... i'm getting hungry now!! Haha ;-) What are your favourite things to cook and bake?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

All time favourites: baking

Thanks for visiting my new food blog! Hope you got to know me a bit better from reading my introduction (part 1 and part 2).

I've been baking for about 7 years now and wanted to share with you my all time favourite bakes. I thought, what a better place to start this blog, than on a high! These are tried, tested and trusty recipes that I go to time and time again that never fail to impress! I doubt these are going to change any time soon, if anything I will probably add to them over time. I'll be sharing these recipes in future.

Peanut butter & chocolate chip cookies


These cookies have to be my most requested and popular bake. Every time I've made them, they've always went down well. I even had one girl take a bite then ask me if there was peanuts in them, admit she had an allergy, but (despite my protests for her to stop) kept eating and finished it 'cause it tasted so good!  I've made this so many times and it's pretty easy to do. This is the recipe that I've had the most requests for - from friends and Instagramers.


Peanut butter & chocolate chip cookie with a cuppa


Pecan & butterscotch cheesecake


A close contender to the cookie for first place. And another winner whenever I make it. I once made it for a Christmas dinner party for friends. Several of which claimed they didn't like cheesecake but went and had some anyway, ended up loving it! I've made a tweak to the original recipe to include Oreo biscuits instead of digestives in the base. This makes it so much better! Cheesecake isn't difficult to make but it is time consuming, as you have to wait for stages to be chilled/cooled down before you go onto the next stage. Therefore, I make this less often than the cookies. But it is worth it in the end! If you like pecans, butterscotch and Oreos - you will like this!


Pecan & butterscotch cheesecake


Sticky toffee pudding


I got this recipe from my eldest cousin Minda, so I like to think of it as a family recipe, that I can hand down to my kids and so on. I've compared this recipe to other sticky toffee pudding recipes and there are a couple of key differences (that I think) make all the difference to the taste! The addition of Ovaltine to the spice mix and use of black tea instead of just water to soften the dates are a couple. It's also simple to make that even the kids at work found it easy (and really yummy)!

You can follow Minda's blog of her food adventures in Australia here.


Sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce
and (shop bought) dulce de leche ice cream 


Butternut squash cake


At the time, I thought I would attempt a butternut squash cake, as it's a bit different to a carrot cake but produces similar results. It worked so I've stuck with it. I like to think of this as one of my 'healthier' bakes because of the veg in it, haha. You cannot tell that you're eating veg though! This is a very delicious and moist tea loaf and vanilla buttercream icing goes well with it. I find that you can substitute butternut squash for carrot in a carrot cake recipe, though I tend to use this one that is meant for butternut squash. Like the sticky toffee pudding, it's great to make for for an Autumnal treat.


Butternut squash tea loaf 

Butternut squash cupcake


Mars bar cake


This is a recipe that I learnt from Leigh and one that he learnt from his mam. A really easy tray bake that is super tasty (if not super bad for you)!

Mars Bar cake


Granola bars


I was really pleased with myself when I discovered this recipe for granola bars. This is another traybake that is really easy to make! I find it relatively healthy compared to other granola bar/flapjack recipes. There is no butter or golden syrup but uses condensed milk to bind it all together. It's a good way of using up any leftover dried fruit/ nuts/seeds. And you can substitute these  ingredients freely as long as you keep the quantities the same. The granola bars make a fantastic addition to packed lunches. I have a work colleague, who is a keen cyclist tell me that these would also be great for when he and his fellow cyclists do competitions. Good for providing energy, full of goodness as well as being tasty!


Granola bars


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Intro: part 2

Influences


I watch a lot of cookery and baking TV shows. The internet is also great for picking up new techniques and inspiration for my home cooking and bakes. I also mentioned in my previous blog post how much Instagram has influenced me over time.

People


A lot of my background in home cooking and baking comes from the people around me. My mum, partner Leigh and mother-in-law Sandra are the people that have influenced me most.

Around the time I started home baking, Sandra began attending cake decorating classes. Here is one of the earlier cakes she decorated in class that she made for us for Valentine's 2007.

Our Valentine's cake made by Sandra, 2007

Over the years she has made and decorated many cakes for family and friends. Sandra just keeps improving and wowing everyone. The most notable cakes that Sandra has made for me and Leigh is for our Engagement and Wedding. The elegant Engagement cake was decorated with white chocolate curls and handmade white chocolate roses in 2010. Our stunning wedding cake of five layers was decorated with damask detailing and handmade porcelain flowers. The flowers and foliage reflected those in the wedding bouquets perfectly.


Our engagement cake made by Sandra
May 2010

Our wedding cake made by Sandra, July 2012
© Henry Aarvold Photography


Me and Leigh make quite a balanced duo when it comes to home cooking. I love cooking with him , though I don't get to as often as I'd like! He works many hours as a teacher, so I cherish the time we do spend together in the kitchen. We're both interested in trying new things and refining the things we cook regularly. It's always fun! I taught him about Chinese home cooking and he taught me about English home cooked food. He learnt how to cook vegetables Chinese style and which sauces/seasonings to use for meat. Whilst I learnt how to make a bolognese, homemade chips and cook steak. Over time, we've over taken each other in some things. He cooks Chinese style vegetables better than me and my bolognese is tastier than his!

Eating out


Since the beginning of our relationship, me and Leigh like to eat out and try different restaurants/cuisines. We've owned a tastecard and Gourmet Society card from time to time, which provide discounts at restaurants in the UK. This has helped fuel our love of eating out.

Food is an important part of Chinese culture. My family eat out often at big family meals, which is always a special experience. Leigh has learnt a lot about traditional and authentic Chinese food this way. It's very different from the stuff you get from Chinese takeaways in Britain. Being with me has certainly helped expand his mind and taste buds!

Granny's birthday meal at Blue Moon, Newcastle
September 2013


This blog will include reviews on eateries and foodie experiences. Something I've wanted to do for a while and will get to do now. Yay!


My style


I find cooking and baking a relaxing experience (generally!). I put on my apron, get in the zone and it's 'me' time. I find it also builds my self-confidence when I make something that turns out successful. I get a lot of satisfaction when I cook for and share my bakes with other people. It's great when family and friends request their favourites to be made for celebrations!

I like to bake things that my mother-in-law Sandra doesn't bake. This way, between us, we have a wide ranging repertoire for special occasions that we can successfully make time and time again. Sandra makes a good pavlova, carrot cake and Christmas fruit cake. I make a good cheesecake, butternut squash cake, cookie and basic bread. My peanut butter & choc chip cookie is always a winner!

My signature cookie: Peanut butter & choc chip
October 2013


I tend to go for recipes that have ingredients that I either already have or are readily available. I tend to shy away or dismiss recipes that have a lot of ingredients I can't easily get hold of. I like to work with what I have at home. I don't like to waste food and will try to make something new with any leftover ingredients. I wouldn't class myself as a creative person, but I do find myself having to be creative when it comes to home cooking. I see what ingredients I have, look up a recipe on the internet, and give it a go! I like to experiment with the goal of always improving! Part of being creative is trying something new and having a safe space to fail. You only get better through making mistakes right?

The other week I was thinking of what I could make for lunch. Savoury tarts came on the TV on Rachel Allen: Bake! I had leftover roasted veg from the night before, mozzarella & parmesan reggiano leftover from Christmas, and I had the ingredients to make shortcrust pastry. So, a roasted veg & three cheese tart was born. I'd not made one before but gave it a go, working with what I knew already. I can improve on the pastry crust, which I will try to do next time. This savoury tart was very tasty but there is still room for improvement! :-)


Roasted Veg & three Cheese Tart, January 2014

Dream


I am currently a part-time youth worker and something I like to do as part of my job, is to cook and bake with the young people I work with. I find this a really enjoyable and rewarding aspect of my job. Young people get to experience new things and develop in such an important independent living skill. And I get to learn more about food through teaching!

When I first started working with young people 8 years ago, I did Latin & ballroom dancing regularly. This was my passion at the time and my dream then was to teach Latin & ballroom dancing to young people. This has been overtaken by my passion in food.

I don't have any professional qualifications in food but would like to one day get paid to do the one thing I love: baking! And if I could combine that with working with young people and in the community, that would be even better!