Chocolate Coated Peanut Butter Flapjacks with Crystallized Peanuts

homemade_flapjacks

Silky milk chocolate coated peanut butter flapjacks

How many recipes have you made in your lifetime? How many more do you think you might still? And just how many are left languishing inside eagerly acquired cookbooks, on pages torn from magazines, on bookmark bars and Pinterest boards, never to see the light of day as you return to tried, tested and trusted recipes you’ve always enjoyed?

According to a poll commissioned by the Good Food Channel last year, the average British woman can cook just seven meals from scratch, with eighty percent admitting to churning out the same thing over and again, and only two percent turning to cookbooks or online for a source of inspiration. I don’t know about you, but as a member of that minority percentage, my problem is less how to get out of a cooking rut and more deciding what to make next from the ever-growing reams of recipe ideas accumulating in print, online and in my head. Continue reading

Homemade Garlic Bread Baguettes

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Crusty homemade bread with wedges of creamy garlic butter

Garlic bread. The ultimate in comfort food, this simple snack was elevated to superstar status back in 2003 by Bolton-born Peter Kay’s famous sketch. Since then, it’s become nigh on impossible for people in the UK to pass a packet, produce a plate or merely mention the stuff without some smart arse chipping in with a round of ‘Garlic bread?’ intoned in a slightly nasal Northern accent.

Kay may have had his reservations, but there are few things more satisfying than the simple combination of good bread and garlic. Bruschetta made from toasted bread straight off the barbeque –  rubbed with garlic and drizzled in olive oil – is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but for something with a little more rib-sticking clout, it’s hard to beat a buttery stick of good homemade garlic bread. Continue reading

Gingerbread & White Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Golden spiced gingerbread & rich, smooth ice cream

As resident little loaf in this household, I’m understandably pretty partial to anything with the word ‘sandwich’ in the title. Any excuse to enjoy bread is always welcome, and there’s such certain comfort in something delicious sandwiched between two slices of thick-cut homemade bread.

After getting an ice cream maker for my birthday this summer, I began experimenting with numerous flavour and texture combinations, accompanied by my trusty ice cream bible, The Perfect Scoop. Following in quick succession came a trip to Sicily with a group of girlfriends at the end of August, where I strolled the streets looking for the best gelato available, feeling like a kid in a candy store when presented with such choice and quality. Continue reading

Marmite Croissants

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Can you guess the secret ingredient?

You’ll either love this recipe, or you’ll hate it. Such is the divisive power of Marmite.

Or so their ad men would have you believe. In reality, the lines of this savoury stand-off are slightly more blurred. Of course you get the obsessives who buy into the brand at every level – from crisps and cheddar bites to Marmite-flavoured chocolate – and the haters, who recoil at the mere mention of the word. But there are also a small percentage of people who fall into a murky middle ground, who’d never choose to spread it on their toast, but would nibble on a Twiglet or stir the occasional spoon into gravy. Continue reading

Simple White Tin Loaf

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Simple crusty white loaf with a soft, buttery crumb

One of the things I love about bread is its versatility. Even a shop bought loaf can be used in a dozen different ways, from slices of toast to sandwiches, breadcrumbs to bread and butter pudding, the savoury crunch of a crouton or stirred through smooth sweet ice cream. And when you start to bake your own, the combinations are endless – crusty loaves and fluffy rolls, baguettes and baps, sprinkled with seeds, or run through with olives and cheese, fruit, nuts and more.

When I first started writing this blog, I made it my mission to bake my own bread on a regular basis. I’ve since experimented with various different flours and techniques, but the staple loaf I return to time and again is a simple mix of wholemeal and malted grain flour. The latter is fairly forgiving, lending the loaf a lovely lightness of texture and depth of flavour. I tend to do my baking on a Sunday afternoon, and each week a freshly baked loaf of bread makes getting up on a Monday morning just that little bit easier. Continue reading

Double Chocolate Cardamom & Rose Cake

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Lightly spiced chocolate cardamom cake with white chocolate rose buttercream

One of my all-time favourite photos comes from a book of cakes. But it’s not just any old food photograph. This is a picture of my big brother as a toddler – all beaming smiles and golden curls – sitting in front of a giant drum-shaped birthday cake, two batons clutched in his hands. The photo was taken for a book written by one of my mum’s friends, Cakes for Kids, and provides the perfect snapshot of what baking and birthday cakes are – in my mind – all about; the pleasure of creating something to share with others, something that will bring joy long after plates are licked clean and memories are all that remain. The look of glee on my brother’s face says it all. Continue reading

Wholemeal courgette flower pot bread: August Fresh from the Oven challenge

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Homemade wholemeal courgette loaf…in a flower pot

When I first started writing this blog just over six months ago, I set myself the challenge of baking real bread on a weekly basis. As a self-confessed bread addict and self-styled ‘little loaf’, it seemed madness not to be making my own dough, especially when the average British shop contains such a sad little cardboard collection of bland, sugar-laced loaves.

Since then, I’ve started to eagerly anticipate the ritual of Sunday morning baking; dusting down the work surfaces with flour, kneading and shaping the dough, waiting patiently for it to rise, then slinging it into a super hot oven to bake as delicious smells begin to waft through the house. I’ve experimented with different flours and flavours, from fluffy focaccia to crusty white bloomers, seeded spelt, nutty wholemeal, flatbreads, buns and even croissants. But recently, with six months’ baking under my belt, I felt the need to inject some new inspiration into my bread, so I decided to join the Fresh from the Oven community.

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Chewy chocolate brownies

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A fudgey layer topped with a shiny, crispy crust

When I was young, an old lady at the bottom of our garden used to bring us brownies. Not literally, of course – she lived on the next street along and her house backed onto ours – but I used to love the silly image this reference conjured up; a little old lady tucked away amongst the shrubs and fairies, happily baking brownies somewhere between the garden shed and the compost heap.

This neighbour of ours lived alone – her kids had worked abroad, eventually settling in the States – and every so often she’d come round to babysit, armed with a plate of dark, chewy brownies. I don’t know if it was something to do with the seeming exoticism of her far flung family, but I always associated these treats with America. I knew they were brownies, but their crisp crust and chewy texture felt a far cry from the cakier, fudgey version I sometimes made with my Mum.  Continue reading

Hazelnut cupcakes with dark chocolate buttercream

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Light hazelnut cupcakes with dark chocolate buttercream

I don’t know about you, but my baking goes through phases. While chocolate is a fairly reliable constant in my recipe repertoire, I love to try new flavours and textures; once I’ve discovered an ingredient or technique, I like to explore all the different possibilities it might hold. Dulce de leche was a recent find – once I realised how easy it is to make yourself I was adding it to everything from pecan and banoffee pies to ice cream sundaes, cookies and even brownies (recipe here).

A couple of weeks ago I posted a recipe for Gianduja ice cream chocolate chip cookie sandwiches.  It was the first recipe I’ve made with my brand new ice cream maker (another slight obsession), and got me seriously excited about hazelnuts as an ingredient for the first time. Although I’ve been a lifelong fan of Nutella, I hadn’t really considered the flavours of a simple roasted hazelnut outside the context of this chocolatey, sugary spread. Continue reading

Homemade sausage rolls with fennel seeds & paprika

sausage_rolls_with_chilli

Homemade sausage rolls with fennel seeds & paprika

This week I finally made it down to da Polpo, the latest outpost in Russell Norman’s ever-expanding fleet of New York-inspired, Venetian-style bàcari. I had a great time, and the food was good, but I’m not planning to post a review as I’m pretty sure you’ve heard it all before; thanks to the owner’s prolific presence on Twitter (@polpo), the opening of da Polpo a couple of months ago was one of the most talked about, tweeted and trending topics in the online foodie world.

What I am going to post is a recipe. It’s not for meatballs or pizzette (if that’s what you’re craving, see my earlier post here) but it does involve pork. Salty, spicy, perfectly piggy pork. This recipe is a combination of flavours influenced by two of the highlights of our meal – golf-ball sized pork and fennel meatballs, doused in ever-so-slightly sweet tomato sauce, and pork shoulder pizza, rich and salty with the slight sharpness of pickled peppers. It’s a British interpretation of the Venetian tradition of little snacks or cicchetti; bite-sized mouthfuls of salty goodness to enjoy with a crisp, cold drink. Slightly less glamorous, perhaps, but every bit as delicious.

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