Friday, 16 October 2015


Regular readers of my blog will know I am a huge fan of cheese and I am very partial to mac and cheese - in fact I have 3 different versions on my blog already. It is not the healthiest and so I decided to try a recipe for quinoa mac and cheese that I had found on Pinterest…..which is slightly better for you. I have saved so many recipes here but I rarely use them as they are all American measurements and American ingredients, however it actually wasn't difficult to covert and nowadays you can buy lots of American ingredients in shops here or over the internet.

Ingredients for 4 people:

1 small butternut squash, chopped into bite size pieces
1 tbsp of dijon mustard
60ml milk
160g uncooked quinoa
200g grated cheese (I used a combination of Parmesan and Cheddar)

Preheat the oven to 190 C.

Peel and de-seed the butternut squash and then chop into bite size pieces. Put in a saucepan of boiling water and boil for around 15 minutes until tender.

After about 5 minutes cook the quinoa according to the packet's instructions. My quinoa needed to be rinsed first and then I put 160g in a saucepan with 800ml of boiling water. I covered the pan and left it to simmer for 15-18 minutes until all the water had been absorbed and the quinoa was tender.

Drain the butternut squash and transfer to a blender. Next add the milk and Dijon mustard and blend on high until silky smooth and creamy. If necessary, add some more milk, the texture should be thick but pourable.

Pour into a bowl and add the quinoa and cheese and stir until combined. Keep a big handful of cheese to one side. I have to admit it did not look appetising - more like vomit to be honest - but don't let that put you off! 

Transfer to a ceramic baking dish or even mini ramekins, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until bubbling.

Remove from the oven, cool slightly and then enjoy immediately.

I was worried Arabella would turn her nose up at this as there was obviously no pasta but she really enjoyed it, as did I. It surprised us. You can taste the butternut squash quite strongly but it goes brilliantly with the cheese and the quinoa is much lighter than pasta. We will definitely be making this a regular meal, perfect for this time of year and I might even try the quinoa with some other of our favourite pasta dishes…..quinoa carbonara anyone?!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


It is turning into a regular occurrence that I decide to cook something for supper but then it takes a lot longer than I was expecting and I try to do too many things at once - I need to learn to concentrate on one thing at a time! My phone is becoming my own worst enemy as I am constantly texting or speaking on it and ignoring the job in hand and this was certainly the case here. Anyway despite a few errors and a few forgotten ingredients this was a great mid week supper.

Ingredients for 4 people:

4 tortillas 
1 x quesadilla spice mix
200g cheddar cheese
1 x 198g can sweetcorn, drained
1 x 160g can tuna chunks in brine, drained
1 x red or yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 tbsp oil

Guacamole and salsa to serve - you can buy this ready made or I prepared it myself:

15 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

1 avocado, mashed
3 cherry tomatoes, quartered
Half a small red onion, chopped (I didn't have this)
A bunch of coriander, chopped (I didn't have this)
Juice of half a lime
Salt and Pepper

To start prepare the salsa and guacamole - basically just mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and season to taste. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the peppers for 2-3 minutes.

Add the sweetcorn and tuna, and sprinkle over the quesadilla spice mix and 100ml water. Then stir together.

Preheat the oven to a low heat, this is to keep the first quesadilla warm while you cook the second.

Brush a large frying pan with the oil.

Add a tortilla and spread with half the tuna and sweetcorn mixture, salsa and cheese. Then place another tortilla on top and press down slightly.

Cook for a few minutes on each side until the tortilla browns and the cheese melts. Flipping the tortilla is not an easy process, I used a plate and a fish slice and managed not to drop it….just! Definitely don't attempt this while on the phone!

Repeat the process with the remanding ingredients.

Finally serve with a dollop of guacamole and enjoy.

I do love a quesadilla and these were fantastic, I will definitely be making them again. Arabella apparently isn't such a fan however she did polish off her plate so they can't be too bad. If you are vegetarian you can swap the tuna for courgettes and aubergine and I might even substitute the tuna for prawns next time….watch this space!

Monday, 12 October 2015


Arabella bought me the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook a couple of Christmases ago, however she has been complaining we don't use it enough. I have made the delicious frosting / icing several times and I think the cakes and pies look phenomenal but they also look pretty complicated. Thankfully this weekend Arabella chose to bake blondies which are a bit like a white chocolate brownie and pretty simple to make. They took about 50 minutes in total plus cooling time.

Ingredients for around 12 portions:

150g white chocolate, whitely chopped
125g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
a pinch of salt
120g shelled pecan nuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 170 C, gas mark 3.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper - the recommended size is 33 x 23 x 5cm but just use what you have!

Put the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Stir occasionally until it is melted and smooth.

Remove from the heat and then add the sugar and stir until incorporated. I had to move the ingredients into a bigger bowl.

Add the vanilla extract and then the eggs, stirring briskly as you don't want to allow time for the eggs to scramble. Arabella helped here by cracking the eggs and doing some brilliant stirring!

Add the flour, salt and pecan nuts and stir again until all mixed together and the pecans are evenly dispersed.

It's good to have a helper!

Spoon the mixture into the lined baking tray and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes - I did 35 - you want it to be golden brown but still soft in the middle.

Once cooled, cut into squares and tuck in.

This was very easy and really good - it wasn't too sweet or particularly naughty and so perfect for an afternoon snack. Arabella and our lovely friend Ceri both really enjoyed it - I would have liked to add raisins but this idea was completely vetoed!! A great lighter alternative to brownies…..I can almost convince myself they are healthy!!

Sunday, 11 October 2015


I made a real error today by deciding to cook risotto. Arabella and I had enjoyed a very busy fun weekend with friends and so Sunday was dedicated to homework, reading, piano and flute practise, supermarket shopping, washing etc etc. Arabella also wanted to do some baking. Therefore with so much going on, spending an hour cooking lunch wasn't the best idea however it was worth it.

Ingredients for 4 people:
3 red peppers
1 litre vegetable stock (I only had beef which seemed to work)
1 onion. finely chopped
350g risotto rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)
300g goat's cheese (or you could use Camembert)
5 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

First things first, preheat the grill.

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds, stalk and inner membrane. Drizzle oil over the peppers and sprinkle with salt. Then place them in a roasting tin, cut side down and grill for about 10 minutes until the skins are blackened and blistered. I probably should have done mine for a bit longer!!

Transfer the pepper halves to a bowl using tongs and cover with cling film - this will apparently help the skins to steam off. Leave to cool completely, then peel away the skins and discard. This wasn't as easy as it sounds and I only ended up peeling only half the skin off….not that it mattered.

Roughly chop the peppers and place in a food processor. Mix with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, season and blend to make a smooth puree. Set aside until later.

Heat the stock in a pan and bring to a gentle simmer. (I used beef rather than vegetable stock).

Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a heavy based pan and then cook the onion for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute until the oil has been absorbed and the rice grains are translucent. 

Now for the time consuming part! Add a ladle of simmering stock to the pan of rice and onion and stir continuously until the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding ladlefuls of the stock, stirring all the time, and making sure that the previous addition has been almost absorbed before adding the next. Repeat this until you use up all the stock.

Preheat the grill again for the cheese.

After about 18 minutes, when the rice is nearly cooked and the stock is used up, stir in the red pepper puree and cook for a few more minutes, still stirring. Season generously.

Meanwhile cut the goat's cheese into slices, season with black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Place under the grill for a couple of minutes until bubbling.

Finally divide the risotto between four bowls and top with the melting cheese.

Even though this took a while to make and needs constant attention, it was worth the effort and it even got the thumbs up from Arabella. Although not surprising as she loves anything with goat's cheese and this was particularly good as we stirred all the melted cheese in with the rice. Camembert or brie would work just as well. Great flavours!

This is a recipe from Ainsley Harriot's "Just Five Ingredients" recipe book….every recipe requires 5 ingredients other than the usual store cupboard accompaniments like oil. I love it as I hate having to buy random ingredients never to be used again so expect to see some other supper ideas from this book!!!