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We all make New Year's resolutions and as we all know, we rarely stick to them. How many times have you heard that recently? We haven't got a chance when we're being told we won't stick to them before we even make them! It almost feels out of our hands, we just have to cross our fingers and hope we've picked ones that are actually doable...  But, start as you mean to go on! Am I about to tell you I am dieting? Not a chance, but I am aiming to keep up with the blog. It's all looking a bit bare at the moment so over the next few days I plan to give you a few recipes to make up for lost time! 
So let's begin with a delicious chicken pie. After having my aunt's gorgeous chicken pie at a Christmas family do, I was left craving more. I decided to have a go and I'm pleased to say it was a good result all round. We all really enjoyed it and my little one even asked for seconds! A major breakthrough considering until now she hadn't really take to chunks of meat. However, it is typical that she likes this particular pie so much seeing as it didn't exactly take half an hour to knock up. I warn you now, this is not an after work pie! It's a cold, rainy Saturday/Sunday pie or fantastic if you're having people round for dinner as it feeds about 8 people (depending on size of appetite). Enjoy!

Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie

Ingredients:
6 chicken thighs
8 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
Milk to cover the chicken (approx. 3 pints)
1 tbsp. olive oil
10 rashers smoked bacon
300g leeks after trimmed and outer leaves removed (about 3 medium sized)
8 chestnut mushrooms
4 heaped tbsp. plain flour plus more for rolling out the pastry
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 block shop bought puff pastry (or make 500g if you have the time)
1 beaten egg

Method:
  1. Place the chicken, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme in a saucepan and cover with
    milk.
  2. Cover, slowly bring to the boil and simmer on a medium low heat for 20 minutes or until the chicken has cooked.
  3. Meanwhile, chop the bacon into bite-sized pieces, the leeks into 1cm rounds and peel and slice the mushrooms.
  4. Fry the bacon in olive oil until it just begins to colour. Add the leeks and continue to fry until beginning to soften. Add the mushrooms until cooked.
  5. When the chicken is cooked, remove from the milk and shred from the bone into the bacon, leek and mushroom mixture. (This takes longer than you may think!)
    6.  Stir in 4 heaped tablespoons of flour and cook over a medium heat for a few 
         minutes.
    7.  Strain about 2 pints of the milk through a sieve into the chicken mixture 
          with the mustard and stir continuously until the sauce thickens. 
    8.   When the thickness of the sauce is to your liking, check for seasoning 
          adding salt and pepper as needed.
    9.  Transfer to a pie dish.
    10.  Preheat the oven to 180C (fan assisted).
    11.  Roll out the puff pastry to the thickness of a pound coin.
    12.  Brush beaten egg around the rim of the pie dish and carefully lay the pastry
           on top. Trim the pastry around the dish allowing a slight overlap.
    13.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.

Delicious served with mash and green beans.
 
 
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I love biscuits. My little one loves biscuits. My other half loves biscuits. In fact, I don't know anyone who doesn't love a good biscuit. They're lovely with a cuppa. Somehow they improve something that already makes every situation just that little bit better. There's a biscuit for every occasion. A pink wafer is the "good girl" biscuit in our house. They do their job well as a last resort to calm a tantrum or to simply encourage her to let me get her dressed more quickly when we only have five more minutes until we absolutely must leave the house and the stubbornness (from both of us) has kicked in. When I've had a tough day (or post-tantrum), my biscuit of choice is the Hobnob. Covered in chocolate of course and with a cup of tea. They remind us that if a simple cup of tea and biscuit can taste this good, surely our problems are not so bad after all and that it will all work out in the end. They're also just plain bloody delicious. We can't buy just one pack in our house. We have to have one each. I'm apparently not allowed one of his and vice versa. But then I realise I've run out. He won't miss one, surely... or two... But he does. I think he counts them; I know I do. They're sacred! The thing is, they don't come cheap. Unless they are on offer, they're an expensive biscuit. Every so often there are a few glorious weeks when Asda sells them for a pound. But it's dangerous. You stock up. You think, I know, I'll fill the cupboard, get enough to last a while and avoid paying full price. But then they're sitting in the cupboard. Do they last? Are you kidding? Not a chance! So how can we get around spending half our salaries on hobnobs? Make them ourselves, that's how. I wasn't sure they'd be any good, surely you can't get better than McVities, but homemade can definitely hold their own. And with the added bonus of making them as big as you want, I prefer them. Below is my recipe for hobnobs. I have experimented with the recipe and I am now happy with it. I hope you enjoy them, any feedback is more than welcome.

Homemade Hobnobs
Ingredients:
125g porridge oats (larger oats are better, I actually find Asda's Savers Oats to be the best for this recipe)
125g strong brown flour
125g brown sugar
115g margarine
100ml vegetable oil
1 tbsp. golden syrup
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tbsp. hot water
150g milk or dark chocolate
Cling film
Method:
  1. Mix the porridge oats, strong brown flour and brown sugar in a bowl.
  2. Place the margarine, vegetable oil and golden syrup in a saucepan and heat over a low to medium heat until the margarine melts and the mixture becomes a liquid.
  3. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the saucepan and mix.
  4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Lay a piece of cling film on the counter and using your hands, bring the mixture into a ball then make into a log shape on the cling film. Make the log as wide as you want your hobnobs to be.
  6. Wrap the dough tightly lengthways. Twist the cling film at the ends of the sausage as much as you can so you end up with a compact, air tight log. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour or up to 2 days.
  7. When you want to bake the biscuits, preheat the oven to 180C.
  8. With a sharp knife cut the dough into discs through the plastic, discarding the ends or use them as "test" biscuits. Each disc should be about 1 cm wide. Place on a baking tray about 2cm apart.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes or until they become golden brown. Allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes then remove on to a cooling rack.
  10. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over gently simmering water. Using a knife, spread the chocolate on to the hobnobs and allow the chocolate to set before eating.
  11. Make a cup of tea.
  12. Eat with tea.
  13. Feel troubles melt away.
  14. Feel smug that you made extra large hobnobs and therefore having only two like you promised yourself is that bit more satisfying.
PS. I promise the next blog is not 2 months away like this one was! I returned to work after maternity leave and wow does it hit you hard! MANY hobnobs were consumed, I assure you.


 
 
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Oooh, what to do for my first blog? It took me quite some time to decide, do I opt for savoury or sweet? A dinner or a snack? Kid's meal or adult's meal?  I decided on a recent discovery that I have been really pleased with, not least because it involves chocolate! I chose Beetroot and Chocolate Madeleines because I hope it gives an idea as to what I will be blogging about in future: basic recipes with a twist. 

I was properly introduced to beetroot a few years ago thanks to an old friend but only recently have used it in baking. Thanks to a fantastic recipe from lovebeetroot.co.uk for chocolate cake (try it), a love affair has begun! I really like the way beetroot can make chocolate cake so moist without the use of oil and that the cake seems to get better with age. I decided to try it in madeleines after being inspired to bake some for the first time last week using a proper madeleine moulds (a brilliant gift from a brilliant friend). Below is the recipe. Enjoy!


Beetroot and Chocolate Madeleines (Makes about 16)

The secret behind a good madeleine is a quick rise in the oven, contrary to the usual principals for a normal sponge. In order to achieve this the batter must be chilled in the fridge and then placed into a very hot oven. Therefore this is a great recipe to make the night before you've got people coming round. All you have to do is fill the moulds and stick it in the oven for 7 minutes! I used actual madeleine moulds but you could also use a nonstick cupcake tin.

Ingredients:
2 medium eggs
90g caster sugar
15g runny honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
75g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
80g butter, melted
80g dark chocolate, grated
125g cooked beetroot (approx one large beetroot)

Method:
Note: I used a food processor for the first stages of the recipe, but it would probably be easier to use an electric whisk or a freestanding mixer if you have one!
  1. First the beetroot needs to be chopped very finely. I did this by blitzing it in the food processor but you could also do it by grating, though be ready for a mess and staining! Transfer it to another bowl for later.
  2. Using the same bowl (I didn't bother cleaning it, it made no difference apart from less washing up!), whisk the eggs, caster sugar, honey and vanilla extract until doubled in size. This takes about 5 minutes, depending on your machine. If using a food processor, the mixture then needs to be carefully scraped into a large bowl. Try to lose as little volume to the mix as possible.
  3. Sift over the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and gently fold into the mixture. Next, do the same with the melted butter, then the grated chocolate and finally the beetroot.
  4. The mixture then needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  5. Preheat your oven to 240C/fan oven 220C and grease the moulds. Fill the moulds to about 3/4 full (approx one heaped teaspoon).
  6. Put the trays in the oven and turn it down to 220C/fan oven 200C and bake for 4 minutes. 
  7. After 4 minutes, turn the oven down again to 190C/fan oven 170C and bake for 3-4 more minutes. I prefer them with a slight crust around the edges.
  8. Run a knife around the edges and allow to cook in the pan. 
  9. Dust with icing sugar if wanted and enjoy! 


They are lovely dipped in a cup of tea. They will keep in an air tight container for a few days though I'm not sure exactly how long as they never last that long!