Exciting News!

Where to begin…

So now Christmas has passed and we’re into our third month of 2019 I thought it was about time to sit and write a little for This Is Me! I’ve been busy sorting our little cottage out after three years of neglect while I studied, recently having my official graduation allowing me to catch up with all the lovely ladies and gents I trained with. I graduated with a first class honours degree and walked the length of Canterbury Cathedral in front of a few hundred friends and family of the graduating class of 2018. I spent most of it in fear of landing flat on my face instead of taking in the moment. Thank goodness I didn’t know we had to do a mile walk before turning up as I may have thought better of it! However I can honestly say it was a wonderful day shared with James and my parents whom sat proudly watching on. I began this journey such a long time ago that it felt like it took a lifetime to get there!

Now as for other events in the Varnals household we entered into our second term of Toby’s first year of school. He has progressed incredibly well in both his behaviour and speech! I look forward to picking him up and hearing all about his day although it takes much coaxing often beginning with ‘I can’t remembeeeer’! He read his first book to me and has shared in many more academic achievements proving his time spent at school has been a great success thus far.

I always look forward to taking Olivia and Toby to school especially after the stressful morning routine but always miss them as I turn to leave. Crazy I know, I’m sure there will be some of you thinking I’m mad but as a working mum I find myself longing to be with them when I’m not. I spent so long away from them whilst I trained and missed many school performances and mile stones in Toby’s development that now even in the moment’s they are driving me round the bend I know I’d much rather them drive me around ten bends if it means I’m with them!

In my very first post on ‘This Is Me’ I wrote about finding a balance with life and I so hoped it would arrive once completing my nursing degree but I’m now coming to realise that no matter what I choose to do the balance has yet to arrive. I’ve been a stay at home mum longing to begin a career and then a full time working mum longing to be at home with Olivia and Toby. Now I work from home with odd hours here and there always around for the school runs and I can honestly say I’m not sure what it was I thought would arrive! I’ve suddenly found myself bemused by life and discovering that the balance that I thought I would find and longed for may never come, and maybe just maybe that’s ok! Instead I find moments to enjoy life making many happy memories with friends and family!

I spent a wonderful evening recently entertaining some good friends with a pudding night, allowing us to indulge in some overly naughty treats all whilst drinking far too many Kir Royale’s and giggling the night away! I showcased some of my new creations, one Bailey’s Tiramisu Trifle to be worked on (messy unset custard, delicious none the less) whilst the rest were a huge success! It left me thinking about how we entertain and why we spend more time out of our lovely homes in restaurant chains serving up foods that we could make so easily at home! How often do we leave these style of restaurants feeling like we really had a delicious meal? Why are we less likely to host at home? Is it busy lives, working too much or are we just uninterested? I feel so much more relaxed in my home or at a friend’s, you stay longer enjoying many laughs, not worrying about others around you having a quiet meal, you can have music of your choice and foods created with love and flavour. I’ve become disinterested in visiting restaurants either lacking in creative flair, offering poor service and atmosphere. It’s rare to find one offering all and doing it well! We all work hard for our money so why part with a day’s wage and leave feeling less than satisfied? We’ve moved into an era of convenience losing moments together that used to be an event, a gathering of friend’s, loved ones all to share in a moment of great food, great atmosphere and laughter allowing us special moments and memories to share in! I will always remember occasions spent at home or at a friends with a few wonderful individual restaurants in London that are getting it right! The rest are lost in a jumble of memories spent in lacklustre restaurants with no standout moments!

So… with all that said I need to tell you all of my new business venture, ‘D’licious’. I will be setting up a new from ‘my home to yours’ pudding night, serving up cocktails and maybe an entrée or two. The idea is you create your perfect at home experience and I’ll do all the work for you! You can enjoy your time with your guests whilst relaxing and indulging in wonderful food and drinks. I’m not a caterer, just a little party giver that can help you create memorable experiences with your friends and family. I’ll come with all that you need and even do the clearing away! I have much to do before launching but I hope that once I’m up and running you’ll all fancy a night at home!

A little recipe to leave you with…

My Hot Chocolate Pot

8-10 servings

200g 70% dark Chocolate (Green and Blacks)
100g Milk Chocolate (Green and Blacks)
200g Unsalted Butter
Pinch of sea salt
100g caster sugar
200g Soft Brown Sugar
6 free-range eggs (I use organic)
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

For the topping
Crème Fraiche or Clotted cream – My Vanilla cream can be found on previous post (Butter Milk Pancakes with Vanilla Whipped Cream)
For extra indulgence add a drizzle of salted caramel sauce ( Supermarkets offer great ready- made sauces just to make it all a little easier)

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C/325 degree F.

Place all chocolate (broken into pieces) in a heatproof bowl along with the butter and sea salt. You can either heat over simmering water or use the microwave. 30 second bursts stirring in between (it will depend on microwave, if unsure do 20 second bursts). Once melted and smooth, allow mixture to cool for 10 – 15 minutes

Place all sugar and eggs into a mixer. Mix on high speed until mixture is thick and fluffy in appearance. Turn the mixer on low and pour in cooled chocolate mixture along with vanilla. Once combined, pour into ramekin dishes or heat proof teacups. Fill each half way. Place all puddings into a roasting tin/baking tray, pour boiling water into roasting tin/baking tray until half way up the side of pudding dishes.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, remove from oven and take each pudding out of boiling water to rest on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Now dollop on your cream of choice and drizzle over your favourite indulgent sauce.

Enjoy

George xx


Festive Bakes


Christmas Pudding Cupcakes

Makes 16-18 cupcakes

16-18 muffin cases
2 x 12 Muffin Tins
200g Unsalted Butter (At room temperature)
100g Soft Brown Sugar
100g Caster Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
250g Plain Flour
220g Mincemeat (Mince Pie Filling)

Pre-heat oven to 160°C for fan assisted or 180°C non fan assisted. (320°F)

In a mixer/ mixing bowl place the butter and both the caster and soft brown sugar, turn the speed to medium/low until all ingredients are creamed together and pale in colour. Turn the speed to low and add one egg at a time followed by the vanilla extract. In separate bowl sift together the flour and baking powder then slowly add it to the wet cake mix. Once combined on a low speed add the mincemeat. If mixing by hand fold into cake batter.

Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop the batter into each muffin case. Place in the oven to bake for 15 minutes (This may vary depending on oven). To check press finger onto top of cupcake, if it springs back they are ready. Once baked take out and leave to cool for a moment in pans, then transfer to wire wrack to cool.

Whilst they bake, prepare your vanilla syrup to brush over the top of cupcakes once baked and still hot. This will prevent a crunchy top to your cupcakes. Recipe can be found on previous blog post ‘It’s the season for pumpkin picking!’

Brandy Butter Cream Frosting

250g Unsalted Butter (Room Temperature)
450g Icing Sugar (Sifted)
60ml whipping cream or double cream
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
40ml Brandy

Place the butter in mixing bowl with the speed on low now gradually add the icing sugar. Once combined add cream, vanilla extract and brandy. Now mix on medium/high speed until fully combined and smooth.

Once cakes have completed cooled, pipe frosting onto cake or using a spatula smooth over each cake. Now decorate festively.

All that’s left to do is have a cup of tea and a well deserved Christmas Pudding Cupcake!

Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies

350g Unsalted Butter (At room temperature)
220g Caster Sugar (Plus extra for sprinkling)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
450g Plain Flour
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

75g White Chocolate (Melted to drizzle over for decoration)

Pre-heat oven to 160°C for fan assisted or 180°C non fan assisted. (320°F)

In the bowl or using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon and salt, then add them to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.

Now place the dough onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Once chilled roll the dough 1cm thick and cut biscuits with preferred cookie cutter (I used a star). Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the edges begin to brown. Now transfer onto wire wrack to cool to room temperature. When the biscuits are cool drizzle over the white chocolate (I use a piping bag with a 2-3mm hole for more control).

Now to enjoy!!

The Festive Brownie

Basic Brownie Recipe

125g Unsalted Butter
100g Milk Chocolate (I use Green & Blacks)
75g 70% Dark Chocolate (I use Green & Blacks)
2 Eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee Powder (I use Nescafé Azera, Americano)
100g Caster Sugar
50g Plain Flour

1 teaspoon Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
100g Milk Chocolate Chips. (In a bowl add a tablespoon of flour to the chocolate chips and mix. This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the brownie mixture)

Now you have three options. Stick with the basic brownie mix or try my festive bakes – a Salted Caramel Brownie or a Chocolate Orange Brownie with a Grand Marnier kick.

Salted Caramel Brownie

Add 2 x Lindt Salted Caramel Bars (chopped into small pieces) fold through the brownie mixture for an extra indulgent Brownie.

OR….

Triple Chocolate Orange Brownie with Grand Marnier

Add the zest of 1 Orange and 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Both the orange zest and Grand Marnier can be added to the chocolate mixture as it’s added to the dry ingredients.

Pre-heat oven to 160°C for fan assisted or 180°C non fan assisted. (320°F) Grease or line a 6”x 9” baking tray.

Melt together the butter, the milk and dark chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water.
Now allow the chocolate mixture to cool slightly. In a large bowl stir gently together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature. In another medium bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the cooled chocolate mixture. Now add floured chocolate chips, folding them gently through batter until evenly distributed.

Pour everything into the baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes, then tap the baking tray against the oven shelf to allow the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie mix.
Bake for about 15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
Be careful not to over-bake! Allow to cool and cut into 12 large squares.

I decorated with a little gold dust for a festive feel!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas

Enjoy!!

Much Love

George xx


It’s the season for pumpkin picking!!!

97D8AD35-8D4C-4E13-88DC-AA33ED87C2BCAfter an exhausting summer I’m looking forward to autumn and what it has to offer. I’ve already got the chunky knits out from the depths of my walk in and have enjoyed a few cozy nights in front of the fire, whilst watching strictly and enjoying one or two glasses of red wine. It’s one of my favourite times of the year. Not only because it means a new pair of boots (sorry James!) but Halloween, bonfire night (Rye, East Sussex bonfire is always one we frequent, definitely worth a trip out! ), my birthday and of course the lead up to Christmas!! Don’t panic, I shall leave the Christmas subject there!

However the planning of Halloween and the costumes have been the talk of the household since the end of summer as has the frequent question “Muuuummmm!, when are we picking our pumpkins?” We are fortunate enough to live a mile away from the fabulous Pick Your Own Pumpkin fields and often pass by when out and about. So of course on opening weekend we all headed out to find our pumpkins. Toby and Olivia loved roaming through the sea of orange to find their perfect pumpkin to carve but before all of that we got stuck into the wood fired pizza’s on offer. Had I not had such a busy afternoon ahead I would have indulged in a glass or two of prosecco. The converted horse boxes supplying pizza and drinks are a perfect addition to the pumpkin fields meaning families could make a fun filled afternoon on the pumpkin fields.

Now a few months ago, Gemma, the owner of Pick Your Own Pumpkin had asked me to come up with some recipes for all her eager pumpkin pickers to try. So I have come up with some classics but thrown a few spicy treats into the mix as well. I share these recipes with you all in the hope that your autumn days have a little extra pumpkin fun this year!!

@pickyourownpumpkinsevington                                                Pickyourownpumpkin.farm 

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Pumpkin Puree

1 Medium Sized Pumpkin (Cut into 3 cm wedges, leave skin on)

2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

50 ml Maple Syrup

Place pumpkin wedges onto baking tray and rub with oil. Place in a 200 degree oven and roast for 25-30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle peel away the pumpkin skin and cut into 3cm cubes or small enough to blend. Now place pumpkin cubes into food processor and blend. As blending pour in maple syrup, continue until smooth and puréed.

Pumpkin Spiced Cupcake with Cinnamon Maple Frosting

24 Cupcakes/2 loaves

PRE HEAT OVEN 160 DEGREES C FOR FAN ASSISTED OR 180 DEGREES C FOR NON FAN ASSISTED

24 Muffin Cases (I use muffin cases as they are slightly bigger and will allow the frosting to sit well on the top of the cupcake.)

200g Unsalted Butter (Room Temperature)

100g Caster Sugar

200g Light Brown Sugar

3 Large Free Range Eggs

200g Pumpkin Purée (Recipe above)

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

100ml buttermilk

100ml Maple Syrup

300g Plain Flour

1 ½ Tablespoons Baking Powder

1 ½ Teaspoons Cinnamon

½ Teaspoon Nutmeg (I freshly grate a nutmeg)

(Sift all the dry ingredients)

200g Raisins

In a mixer with a paddle attachment cream together on a medium high speed the unsalted butter and both sugars until pale in colour (This can be done by hand but may take a little longer). Turn the mixer on low adding 1 egg at a time until combined with sugar and butter mix, follow with the pumpkin purée, buttermilk and maple syrup now add the sifted flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Once the batter is mixed add the raisins until evenly distributed through the cake batter.

Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop into muffin cases, place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Once baked take out and leave to cool for a moment in pans, then transfer to a wire wrack to cool.

Vanilla Syrup

300mls Water

3 Tablespoons Caster Sugar

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Place all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil swirling the pan every now and then, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to reduce by half. Brush over cupcakes whilst still hot, making sure to cover. This will ensure a moist cake and a soft top to the cupcakes instead of a crunchy top. Be careful not to moisten too much, brush syrup over only once!

Cinnamon Maple Frosting

150g Unsalted Butter (Room Temperature)

150g Cream Cheese (Room Temperature) (I use Philadelphia)

600g Icing Sugar (Sifted)

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

½ Teaspoon Cinnamon

100ml Maple Syrup

Cream together the butter and cream cheese, now slowly add the sifted icing sugar. Once combined add the vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup.

When the cupcakes have cooled smooth over the frosting, to decorate take a pinch of cinnamon and dust slightly.

Roasted Pumpkin Chilli

This would be a great addition to any Halloween or Bon fire party!

Serves 6-8

Vegan

I used two different types of pumpkin for this recipe…however one type will work too.

1 Medium Pumpkin (Cut into 3 cm wedges, drizzle with olive and salt and pepper, roast in a 200 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until tender. Peel/ cut pumpkin skin off and dice pumpkin into chunky cubes.)

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 White Onions

4 Cloves of Garlic (Crushed)

1 Tablespoon Chilli Powder (I used a mild chilli powder)

¼ Teaspoons Chilli Flakes

1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (exclude if too hot)

1 ½ Tablespoons Cumin

2 Red Peppers (slices into 2 cm cubes)

2 Green Peppers (slices into 2 cm cubes)

2 Corn on the Cob (Corn removed from cob)

1 Bay Leaf

200mls Freshly Brewed Coffee or 1 Teaspoon of Instant Coffee Pranules (Trust me!, I use Azera coffee)

800g Tinned Chop Tomatoes

1 ½ Tablespoons of Tomato Purée

300mls Water (I use the tinned tomatoes tin to measure water and retrieve the left over tomato juice)

Tablespoon Fresh Basil (chopped)

Tablespoon Fresh Coriander (Chopped)

Tablespoon Fresh Parsley (chopped)

1 Tablespoon Sea Salt

½ Tablespoon Pepper

In an extra large heavy based saucepan place the olive oil and onions, sauté on a medium heat until translucent. Now add the garlic, chilli powder, chilli flakes, cayenne pepper and cumin, cook for 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin, red peppers, green peppers and corn, cooking for a further 5 minutes, then add bay leaf, coffee, tinned tomatoes, water, tomato purée, salt and pepper. Allow to simmer gently for 30 minutes until sauce has slightly reduced and thickened. Just before serving add in your fresh herbs, basil, coriander and parsley.

To Serve

Tortilla Wraps

Smoked Paprika

Olive Oil

Take an oven proof bowl, brush with olive oil (I use a cereal bowl, it’s a perfect size for tortilla) and place your tortilla in the middle, now make four folds in the tortilla allowing it to form the shape of the bowl, now brush the olive oil over the tortilla and sprinkle a dusting of smoked paprika over. Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 160 degrees C until slightly golden.

Remove carefully from the bowl and spoon a good helping of the pumpkin chilli into the tortilla bowl followed by generous helpings of your selected trimmings, I used;

Sour cream

Cheddar cheese

Guacamole (Recipe can be found on “An All Time Family Favourite” blog post)

Or simply serve on your favourite rice!

Roasted Pumpkin and Cumin Soup

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Yellow Onion (finely diced)

2 Pinch of Chilli Flakes

2 Carrots (finely diced)

2 Celery Sticks (finely diced)

2 Garlic Cloves (Crushed)

2 Teaspoons Cumin

1 Pumpkin (Cut into 3 cm wedges, drizzle with olive and salt and pepper, roast in a 200 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, until tender. Peel/ cut pumpkin skin off and dice pumpkin into chunky cubes.)

1 litre Vegetable Stock (I use 2 knorr vegetable stock pots)

1 ½ Tablespoon of Sea Salt

1 Tablespoon Pepper

2 Tablespoons Coriander (freshly chopped)

200ml Crème Fraiche

In a large heavy based saucepan add the olive oil, onion, chilli flakes, carrot and celery, allow to soften for 10 minutes on a medium to low heat. Add the garlic and cumin and cook for 2 minutes. Now add the dices pumpkin and mix together with other vegetables, add the stock, salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove from stove and blend using a hand blender (This can be done in batches in a blender however take care as very hot.) Once completely smooth check the season by tasting, then add chopped coriander and crème Fraiche. Return the soup to the stove and heat through.

To serve swirl through some crème fraiche. I served with a toasted tortilla instead of bread.

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A quick party idea….

Baked Pumpkin Camembert with Sage and Thyme

Serves 10-12

1 Small-Medium Pumpkin

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic (Finely Sliced)

1 Teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

5 Sage leaves (finely sliced)

2 Camembert

Slice the top off the pumpkin, 3cm from the stalk, remove all the seeds and fleshy membrane. Rub with olive oil and bake in a 180 degrees C oven for 30-35 minutes, now remove from oven and reduce temperature to 160 degrees C. In the mean time place olive oil, garlic, thyme and sage into a frying pan. Over a low to medium heat sauté until garlic turns slightly golden on edges. Now take a Camembert and place in the bottom of the pumpkin, pour over ½ the olive oil sauce and place the other Camembert on top now pour remaining oil over. Return the pumpkin back to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove once Camembert is golden and bubbling.

To serve, place the pumpkin into the middle of a large serving platter and surround with your favourite crusty bread, crackers and jar of chutney. Have plenty of spoons to hand and get your guests to help them selves.

Enjoy!

Much Love

George xx


A Perfect Dinner Party…

I love to spend time with friends and family and more often than not that involves some sort of food and drink. Throughout my twenties I spent many evenings catching up with friends and trying out new restaurants but due to the quiet nature of the old market town I live in our options were limited. Although Ashford is fast becoming somewhere you would like to spend evenings out with lovely country pubs providing gastro cuisine and the development of the town centre opening up opportunity for new restaurants, I’m still one for a good old fashioned dinner party where friends and family often become my tasting panel. I recently hosted one to thank friends for house sitting and taking care of our beloved pooches Ozzie and Rufus!

A4FE82DA-343E-447A-8E05-2C20FD5D049AI always lean on the side of an Italian menu as this is loved by so many and holds a special place in my heart after we spent a wonderful vacation in the beautiful town of Spoleto, where James and I invited 28 of our closest friends and family to join us for our wedding in the Umbrian mountains of Italy. It was such a magical moment in our lives, not just because of the setting but the people and of course the food creating such wonderful memories for us all to share.

The night before our wedding we hosted a rehearsal dinner for all of our guests, it was an unforgettable feast where we drunk many bottles of the delicious Sagrantino wine, which we had discovered days earlier at a wonderful vineyard known as Antonelli’s where they create beautiful wines and olive oil like no others we had tasted before.

Whilst we sat in the mountains drinking and eating far more than we should have, I remember through my Sagrantino haze the laughter and love at the table. It is this precious memory that I think of when I host a dinner party with the aim to create atmosphere, ambiance, wonderful food and most of all laughter and love!

Now, that evening I had a wonderful chef create a feast for us but at home in my cottage kitchen I have to think ahead of time how the night will run. I do not want to spend all of my time at the stove creating a dish, so making a menu that has little prep whilst your guests are at the table is a must, make life as easy for yourself as possible, you need to enjoy your evening too!

The Table – KEEP IT SIMPLE

I always lay the table before guests arrive; napkins are a must especially with hands on food such as bruschetta and pasta dishes. Lay out wine glasses, water glasses and a jug of iced water, with sliced lemons and limes for a little twist. Cutlery for each course you are offering and a simple vase of flowers will add a little extra to your table. Candles are a must; it makes the whole table feel a little extra special. When James and I designed our house, I had our electrician put dimmer switches in every room, including in the small dining area. Being able to dim the lights creates the ambiance you need for a dinner party.

Music is always playing and as someone that loves all genres of music I am sure not to have my old skool garage classics playing but something with a softer edge such as, Adele, Sam Smith, Emilie Sandae and yes the Buble makes an experience every now and then, usually around autumn, winter time and Christmas, James is often a little fed up of him come January!

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Red Pepper and Sun blushed Tomato Brushcetta.

To begin a Red Pepper and Sun blushed Tomato Bruschetta. I prepare the topping of the bruschetta ahead of time; it packs a real punch and has your guests wanting more!

Serves 4-6

THE PESTO

120g Sun-blushed tomatoes (I get these from the deli counters in supermarkets)

1 Roasted red pepper from antipasti range (I use cooks&co roasted red peppers)

1 clove garlic (peeled and halved)

6 Large Basil leaves

2 tablespoons pine nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the sun-blushed tomatoes, roasted red pepper, garlic clove, basil and pine nuts into a food processor and process until resembles a paste now add Parmesan and olive oil and blitz.

1 Ciabatta loaf (sliced into 2cm thick pieces)

2 tablespoons Olive oil (I use a Tesco finest Sicilia olive oil)

1 garlic clove (peeled)

6 Tomatoes deseeded and diced

8 large basil leaves (I place each one on top of the other and role into a cigar and then thinly slice)

shavings of Parmesan to finish off

Now take each slice of ciabatta and brush with the olive oil, place each slice onto a griddle pan and toast over a high heat for one to two minutes each side (if you do not have a griddle pan use the grill on your oven to toast). Once toasted rub one side of the toasted ciabatta with sugar ledge of the garlic.

Spread over a generous layer of pesto and top with diced tomato, Parmesan shavings and basil.

To serve I drizzle over some olive oil.

Mushroom, Pecorino and Chilli Pappardelle

For the main… A luxurious creamy pasta that indulges your ‘comfort food’ desire but gives you an unexpected spicy kick.

Serves 4

Olive oil

2 garlic Cloves (Sliced)

½ Teaspoon Dried Chilli Flakes

300g Mixed mushrooms of your choice (I used Chestnut and Shiitake, quartered)

200mls Dry white wine

Mushroom stock (I used a knorr stock pot, no water needed)

250ml Whipping Cream

¾ Cup of pecorino Cheese (Grated)

2 Tablespoons Flat leaf Parsley (Freshly chopped)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Pappardelle fresh or dried. (I used a Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference)

Place the olive oil, garlic cloves, chilli flakes and mixed mushrooms in a large heavy based pan, this needs to be big enough so the mushrooms are not crowded as they need to sauté gently and not sweat and soften. Once mushrooms are slightly golden add the white wine and allow to simmer gently until reduced and alcohol has been cooked away. Now add the mushroom stock to the wine reduction, followed by the whipping cream, stir continuously to prevent the cream from splitting.

Prepare your pasta…

(THIS CAN BE DONE WHILST YOU’RE PREPARING YOUR SAUCE)

Once pasta is cooked drain, saving a small amount of pasta water (this is to add to sauce) now add pasta directly into mushroom sauce and mix coating the pasta, now add pecorino cheese and parsley (save a little parsley to garnish dish) mix throughly over a low heat allowing the cheese to melt into the creamy mushroom sauce. Now add a 2-3 Tablespoons of the pasta water helping the sauce to become silky.

Serve with your favourite bread or simply enjoy with a crisp rocket salad!

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Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

To finish, a fresh and delicious cheesecake hitting all the right spots, this recipe is adaptable and if chocolate orange is not your idea of heaven then switch out the Gran Marnier and orange for Baileys or Kailua and add a teaspoon of instant coffee powder, for a mocha inspired pud!

Serves 12

300g Triple Chocolate Cookies (you can use a cookie of your choice however I used Tesco Finest Triple Chocolate cookies)

60g unsalted butter (melted)

900mls Double Cream

560g Cream cheese (I use Philadelphia, this needs to be at room temperature)

1 Cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

3 tablespoons Grand Marnier

200g Dark chocolate (Melted and cooled) (70% cocoa solids, I use green & blacks)

1 orange (Zested and juiced)

To begin place cookies into a food processor and blitz until you have a fine crumb now add to the melted butter and mix until all crumbs are coated with the butter. Transfer the mixture into a 20cm springform cake tin. Lightly press the crumb base into the edge of the tin creating an even cover across the base. I use the back of a measuring cup, be careful not to compact the mixture as this will create a dense biscuit base rather than crumbly and won’t be as easy to slice and serve. Now place in the fridge whilst you prepare the cheesecake filling.

Place the cream, cream cheese, caster sugar, vanilla and Grand Marnier, into a food mixer. Mix on high speed until you have soft peeks, now fold in cooled, melted chocolate, orange zest and juice. Allow cheesecake filling to firm up, forming stiff peeks. Now place mixture onto the cookie base and smooth out. Place in the fridge for at least 6 hours to set.

Once set, remove from the tin, I run a sharp knife around the edge of the tin before I release the spring.

SWEETENED VANILLA CREAM

200mls Doubles cream

½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract

½ Tablespoon icing sugar

2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier (Optional)

Chocolate shavings to garnish

30g milk chocolate or Terry’s chocolate Orange (melted)

Transfer the melted chocolate into a disposable piping bag, snip a small whole in the end of the bag no bigger than 2mm in diameter and pipe the chocolate across the top of the cheesecake, moving back and forth turn the cheesecake and pipe in the other direction continue this until you have your desired pattern.

Place the cream, vanilla and icing sugar into a food mixer and whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks (Keep an eye on the cream as it turns very quickly for stiff peaks to a buttery consistency which you do not want! Transfer the cream into a piping bag and nozzle of your choice (I use a 2D). I pipe in circular motions around the top edge of the cheesecake then to finish I sprinkle some chocolate shavings over the cream.

If not wanting to pipe the cream simply serve the cheesecake with the cream on the side and drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of the cheesecake.

I hope this menu inspires you to invite your fabulous friends and family over to create some wonderful memories with much love and laughter!

THE COTSWOLDS

As promised in my last blog here is a little insight into our time spent in the beautiful Cotswolds. We visit two or three times a year and have made many wonderful memories with the children. James and I have been visiting the Cotswolds as a couple for over 10 years, although he has spent many moments throughout his childhood running through the fields with his cousins and enjoying family Easter’s walking and creating memories, we now spend time there with our children, family and friends enjoying what the Cotswolds has to offer!

We stay in the wonderful Cotswolds village, Coln St Aldwyns around a 15 minute drive from the beautiful town of Cirencester. We visit the town each time we go, usually sorting our winter and summer wardrobe for the children and ourselves, there are lovely boutique shops and regular chain stores such as House of Fraser, Joules, Crew etc my favourite shop to visit is Octavia’s, 24 Black Jack Street, an enchanting children’s bookshop where James and I take Olivia and Toby each visit to choose a new book for their book shelf at home, it’s become a fond family tradition. There are some wonderful places to grab a bite to eat, one of my favourites is the King’s Head Hotel on the high-street with beautiful décor and a feeling of grandeur, they serve up tasty classics with a vibrant modern twist.

From the cottage we stay in you can take a 2 mile walk across the fields to the beautiful idyllic village of Bibury, popular with many walkers and their dogs. After your hike take a rest in The Swan Hotel for a delicious lunch out in the courtyard or enjoy some drinks in their luxurious country bar, although get in early otherwise finding somewhere to perch after your walk can be tricky. If that wasn’t enough you can now take a trip around the Bibury Trout Farm where the children can feed the trout and enjoy a delicious local ice cream.

We are fortunate enough to have The New Inn, a 5 minute walk from where we stay, so we often head up there for a breakfast or dinner if we’ve had a busy day exploring, they also offer takeaway fish and chips if you fancy a night in! Rooms here are often sought after so book early.

A great afternoon out for the children can be found at Bird world, in Bourton on the Water, offering a great array of birds to discover and even a dinosaur walk around, Toby spent a good 45 minutes digging for bones and discovering all species of dinosaurs throughout the charming forest. Earlier in the year we visited this bustling town with friends and enjoyed a sumptuous lunch in The Dial House, this is well worth a visit. Bourton on the Water is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, bringing in many visiting tourists meaning the town car parks get full early in the day, make a day of it and get in early!

Finally one of our favourite spots in the Cotswolds is the picturesque town of Burford, a medieval town on the River Windrush, offering many shops and eateries. With charming Cotswolds Pubs but most importantly the delicatessen that is the Cotswolds Cheese Company found in other areas too but one of our main reasons for us visiting. James and I often enjoy a cheese and chutney dinner when in the Cotswolds, usually on our last night when we are exhausted and I don’t wish to cook. It’s delicious, they offer a Cotswolds Brie that is to die for! A visit to The Angel pub down one of the side streets of Burford is a perfect place to grab a bite to eat but book early as its very popular!

One last tip, the Cotswolds Wildlife Park is a must see with beautiful gardens and dog friendly grounds it’s a great family day out!

I hope this gives you some ideas of what to do if you are visiting the Cotswolds. I have only touched on a few of the places we enjoy but they are all wonderful so now all there is to do is visit and enjoy!

BEFORE I GO…

One last snippet I need to tell you, my next blog will be a Halloween recipe special. I am very fortunate to live in a wonderful farming town where we have great local produce and in the next village over from where I live the Pick Your Own Pumpkin fields can be explored in Sevington, Ashford, Kent. Please visit pickyourownpumpkin.farm for all details.

They have been up and running for 5 years and after they selected and supported our Twinkling Stars Project a few years ago raising a substantial amount of money for our project, I have continued to enjoy taking Olivia and Toby to pick their own pumpkins each year, however this year they will be more than a candle holder to spook trickle treaters as I will be discovering and creating new recipes using a variety of different pumpkins and will be sharing my creations with you all very soon.

This year the team at pick your own pumpkin have added a few more ‘P’s for you to enjoy, so come along and pick your pumpkin whilst enjoying a glass of Prosecco and a Pizza, so get those wellies on for a fun family day out!

Enjoy!

Much Love

George xx


A little update on where I’m at with life…

We’ve just started summer break and for the first time in 3 years I’m free to enjoy it with my family. I’ve spent many moments over the past 3 years wishing I had given more time to Olivia and Toby feeling the pull of being a full time working mum. Having previously spent 5 years at home with an odd job here and there to then working as a full time student nurse has enabled me an insight into both worlds, I can honestly say that both have challenging times and finding a balance where you feel your doing the best for the whole family has left me feeling guilty, lonely at times and overall frustrated! I felt unsure of my decision to study with such a young family but having now achieved a first in my degree, knowing that I worked so incredibly hard makes our three year journey worth while.

Along side this I have continued to support my two sisters in reaching our goal of completing the stillbirth bereavement suite within our local hospital and on Thursday 26th July 2018 I not only had my final day as a student nurse but we officially opened the bereavement suite. It was a momentous day and after many highs and lows through out our Twinkling Stars journey we were able to invite local people whom supported the charity project to share in the occasion, although my hope is for it not to be used, it is a devastating journey that some families have to live through and therefore my only wish is that in the darkest times the unit will bring a safe and comfortable space for them to spend time with their babies whom were born sleeping. I would like to extend my thanks to all that supported the Twinkling Stars Project, whether you attended our events, gave generously to our fundraising or helped to spread knowledge and understanding of stillbirth, all of you have enabled Charlotte, Leigh and I to work along with East Kent Hospital Charity and SANDS to deliver greater maternity bereavement services. With all this said our journey only began because our family had lost and because of our precious Blake we have achieved it, his life was short but has made the greatest impact!

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With such a hectic time for the Varnals family I have had little time to spend on my blog and I have missed it enormously… I have many recipes that I wish to share with you all including some new and exciting projects that James and I are undertaking which I will be sharing with you very soon. I am also spending time posting moments via my Instagram page ‘this_is_me_winging_it’. Keep a look out and please stay in touch, share recipes and add comments. My next blog will be discussing some moments spent over this past weekend in the Cotswolds. I’ll be reviewing some family attractions and places to eat in and around the cottage we stay in. I’m all for a staycation with the whirl wind that is our Toby…but that is for another blog on another day.

Much love

George xx

My Mexican Eggs

I’m always looking for new, exciting recipes to add to my collection so when on my wonderful friends hen weekend in the Cotswolds two years ago our lovely host served up a Jamie Oliver recipe for brunch. I absolutely loved it and knew that James would enjoy it too. We later holidayed in Dartmouth that month so I tried a version that I had thought of and to great success as James adored it and was most disappointed when the pan was empty. It has gone on to be a recipe that I use for family brunch and tea time. The kids enjoy it and I always know that it will all be eaten with little to no waste, especially as Toby is pushing for burgers and pizzas for most meal times.
With busy schedules I do my best to batch cook and freeze portions of the main sauce so I can grab out of the freezer on a busy day and serve up a tasty supper.

Ingredients for sauce…

2 x Tablespoons of good Olive oil
2 x Red peppers (cut into 0.5cm slices)
2 x Roasted red peppers (Jarred antipasti roasted peppers also found on deli counter, cut into 0.5cm slices)
1 x white onion
2 x large garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1 x fresh chilli (finely chopped)
1 x teaspoon chilli flakes (optional depending on heat)
2 x whole dried chillis
2 x Fresh bay leaves (use dried if no fresh available to you)
2 x Tinned Tomatoes
5 x Glugs of Worcestershire sauce
1 x tables spoon of good sea salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper

To prepare for serving…

6-8 eggs
3-4 medium Fresh Tomatoes (sliced)
6-8 Large tortillas
Take a heavy based skillet pan or large frying pan. Add the olive oil, all red peppers, all chilli’s, bay leaves and onion and sauté off gently until onions are translucent and peppers have softened, around 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so. Now add the tinned tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Cook on a low simmer for a further 20-25 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Lay fresh tomatoes over the top of the sauce now make small wells in sauce with the back of a spoon and crack the eggs into each well. Cover with a lid or tin foil until eggs have fully poached depending on the heat you are using this can take up to 8-10 minutes. I cook them so the yolk is still runny.

To serve

I lightly toast the tortilla wraps in a dry frying pan, 10-15 seconds each side until golden.
Now place 1-2 cooked eggs along with a decent portion of sauce over tortilla. I then have family style trimmings of

Avocado (sliced)
Cheddar Cheese
Coriander (chopped)
Natural yogurt
A hot sauce of your choice for extra heat.

The kids love building their own Mexican eggs. I hope this is a great brunch or tea time option for your family to enjoy!


‘Orange Soup, Please Mummy!’

Today was a day to relax and enjoy my Toby’s company. He has me going stir crazy most of the time but there are many moments through out my days with him that in the midst of the madness he melts my heart. I sat with him this morning in a local coffee shop where he devoured a pain au chocolat and smoothie while I sipped my large americano still trying to wake and recover from the hectic morning getting Olivia and Toby out the door to make a successful drop off at school. This also involves 8 muddy paws, breakfast clear up, washing on, avoiding the never ending explosion of hot wheels across my ground floor whilst trying to make myself look presentable enough to show I’m holding it altogether! I asked him what he fancied for dinner. I awaited his usual response of sausages or pizza when he confidently replied ‘orange soup, please mummy!’ Taken back I laughed and pondered what he meant, wracking my brain what soup he always enjoys, ‘ahhh you mean butternuts squash.’ He looked at me as if I were mad and said ‘Yes Mummy, orange soup!’

So here it is Toby’s inspired Butternut Squash, Red Chilli and Crème Fraiche soup.

Butternut Squash, Red Chilli and Crème Fraiche

Serves 6

2 Tablespoons of good Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon of Butter

2 Onions chopped

2 Celery Sticks chopped

2 Carrots chopped

2 Garlic Cloves finely sliced

2 Red Chilli’s (Use 1 if not keen on spicy food) finely chopped

1 Butternut Squash chopped into 1.5cm cubes

1 Tablespoon of Sea Salt

1 Teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

600mls Vegetable stock (flavour of soup will depend on quality of stock used)

1 Tablespoon Parsley chopped

150g Crème Fraiche (I used Yeo Valley ½ fat which comes in 200g tubs leaving you with 50g to serve soup)

Use a large heavy based saucepan, place olive oil and butter into pan and heat on a medium to high heat. Add onions, celery and carrots, sauté for 5 minutes until onion is translucent now add garlic and chilli, cook for a further two minutes. Add butternut squash, place lid on and turn heat down to a low to medium heat, cook for 10 minutes until butternut squash is slightly softened, check now and then that its not catching to bottom of the pan. Now add salt, pepper and vegetable stock, simmer for 20 minutes until butternut squash is tender.

Take off the heat and blend until smooth. I use a hand blender, a regular blender can be used for this but you may have to do it in batches. Once smooth add crème fraiche, parsley and check seasoning. Heat through when ready to serve. I swirl a Tablespoon of crème fraiche through each portion to serve.

Enjoy

Much Love

George xx


Buttermilk Pancakes with Whipped Vanilla Cream

The Ultimate Buttermilk Pancakes

Serves 4

300g (2 Cups) Plain Flour

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons Sugar

560ml (2 Cups) Buttermilk

80ml (1/3 cup) Milk

2 Eggs lightly beat

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

3 Tablespoons butter melted and a little more for the pan/griddle

Pre heat pan/griddle on medium to low heat. Turn oven onto 100 degrees C. Have a baking tray ready to place cooked pancakes on.

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar now add buttermilk, milk, eggs, vanilla extract and butter. Combine all ingredients until you have a batter. The batter should have small lumps so don’t over mix trying to get rid of them.

Now place a small knob of butter on your pan/griddle and place ½ cup/small ladle measure of batter onto pan. When the pancake has small bubbles on the top and a little dry around the edge it is ready to flip. Cook for a further minute or so until golden in colour. Now place finished pancake into your baking tray and place in the heated oven. Repeat until all batter has gone. I stack onto a large warmed plate for family style breakfast where we all help ourselves and build our perfect pancake stack.

This batter lends itself to add all sorts of treats from blueberries to chocolate chips for an even more luxurious pancake stack. My little family always love warmed pancake syrup/maple syrup, vanilla cream and fresh fruits.

As its pancake day on Tuesday I ordered from amazon Aunt Jemima Original Pancake Syrup as a little treat for Olivia and Toby. However a nice quality maple syrup is just as good.

Whipped Vanilla Cream

300mls Whipping Cream

1 tablespoons Icing Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk on high speed until it forms soft peaks. Now dollop over your pancakes and maple syrup for the ultimate pancake experience.

Enjoy

Much Love

George xx


One Pot Chicken and Chorizo with Red Peppers and Sun-blushed Tomatoes

Good on its own or served with rice or crusty bread.

Serves 6

2 Tablespoons of Good Olive Oil

4 Large Chicken Breasts cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

1 Chorizo Sausage Sliced

1 Brown Onion peeled and cut into eighths (wedges)

½ Teaspoon of Smoked Paprika

1 Glass of White Wine, always use one you would drink

2 cloves of garlic

½ Cup of Sun-blushed tomatoes chopped (8-10 tomatoes)

2 Red Peppers

400g of New Potatoes Sliced

1 400g Tin of Chopped Tomatoes

2 Tablespoons of Tomato Purée

1 Lemon Freshly squeezed

2 Tablespoon of Parsley freshly chopped

1 tablespoon of Dried Oregano

500ml Good Chicken Stock

½ Tablespoon of Ground Black Pepper

¾ Tablespoon of good Sea Salt

1 400g Tin Cannellini beans

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Take a large heavy based pan adding olive oil heat over a medium to high heat. Add chicken and cook for a few minutes now add chorizo, onions, smoked paprika and cook for a further 5 minutes until onions are soft and chicken has changed in colour, add garlic stirring for 1 minute. Now add the white wine and allow to reduce until half the liquid is left. Add the sun-blushed tomatoes stirring together allowing to cook for a minute or so now add red peppers, new potatoes, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, lemon juice, parsley and oregano mixing thoroughly. Now add chicken stock, salt and pepper. Reduce to medium to low heat enough to simmer gently, cover leaving a small gap for liquid to evaporate. Simmer for 15 minutes . Add cannellini beans and simmer for a further 10 minutes until sauce has thickened. Serve with a little chopped parsley to garnish.

Enjoy

Much Love

George xx


Who needs a slice when you have a cupcake!

I’ve been baking for years and cupcakes were some of my first experimental bakes. They haven’t always turned out how I would have liked and many have ended up at the bottom of the bin but as I progressed so did my cupcakes and now I have a few original recipes that I love! My classic vanilla is super lovely but my chocolate left a little to be desired so I have stepped up the recipe for a more indulgent rich cupcake. Sadly this does no favours for the waste line and yes girls I have the muffin tops to prove it, I say a little of what you fancy just not the whole batch of cupcakes!

Before beginning my nurses training I baked a little to earn some extra money and I loved it… I haven’t given up on my dream of baking my own creations to share but the realities of life lead me down a new path so nursing became my direction for the past few years but now I’m ready to tie that apron on and get baking again. As I branch out into new baking realms I shall share what I create with you.

So a little about my week…

I’ve been preparing for a presentation the past few weeks that has brought much stress and head against the wall moments but yesterday I presented it along with a some of my friends (colleagues) and I can tell you the relief knowing one part of my work is over and presented, leaving just one presentation to go and a gazillion other assignments to complete! I’m being dramatic, we have five months left but I feel it could be the most intense yet. It is in those overwhelming moments that I find baking helps. For an hour or so I can just breathe and concentrate on creating something that is away from all the stresses of study and of course indulge in a treat or two!

I’ve had a wonderful meeting with Toby’s nursery this morning where they tell me he is doing well and much improved from the previous year where his speech was a little delayed and his listening skills poor, for my little man it did not come as easy. James and I spent many moments pulling our hair out but now I feel we have turned a corner. In those moments I found baking and cooking with Toby helped with his communication and listening skills, he adores helping ‘mumma’ and all to often helping himself to more than one goodie off the cooling wrack. This morning made all those feelings like I’m the worst parent ever simply disappear as I heard, ‘you have a lovely, caring, funny little Toby!!’ Proud Mumma moment!

To finish my week my lovely sisters and I are hosting one of our Twinkling Stars events, raising money for our project at our local hospital where we have raised funds for a Stillbirth Bereavement Suite. We started fundraising after my sister, Charlotte lost my nephew, Blake to stillbirth back in September 2014. There are no words to explain the devastation felt throughout our family but through the heart ache we founded The Twinkling Stars Project. The first event we held was a charity screening of the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ film back in 2015 and we are now concluding our journey with Twinkling Stars hosting the final film in the trilogy for a fun ladies night out. We have 213 ladies joining us for many surprises and fundraising most of whom have supported our cause over the three years and for that we are forever grateful! The bereavement suite is almost complete and the girls and I could not be prouder of one another and the support from our friends, family and local community. The biggest part of this journey has been the awareness that it has brought to stillbirth in our local community. I can only hope that in the darkest moments of a families life the comfort of the new suite will allow them the time to spend with their beautiful Twinkling Star!

I share this recipe with you in the hope that if you try it, you will find a needed moment!

My Chocolate Cupcake

Makes 24

24 Muffin cases

3 free range Eggs

1 Cup Caster Sugar

1/3 Cup of Soft Brown Sugar

1 ¾ Cups of Plain Flour

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee powder

1 Cup Cocoa (I use Green and Blacks)

Pinch of Salt

1 Cup Sour Cream

½ Cup of Whole Milk

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

200g Melted butter

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. 160 degrees C for fan assisted.

Place muffin cases in muffin pans. Split egg yolks from egg whites. Place egg whites into electric mixer bowl with both caster and brown sugar. Set on high speed and whisk until forms stiff peaks. Put egg yolks into a measuring jug adding sour cream, milk and vanilla extract mix until all combined and set aside. Sift Flour, baking powder, coffee powder, cocoa and salt into a large bowl. Turn mixer onto lowest speed adding a third of the flour mixture then the wet ingredients, then more flour mixture and so on until gone then add cooled melted butter. Mix on low speed until all combined. You may need to fold mixture with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula ensuring all is well combined. Now use a 1/3 cup measure to scoop mixture out into muffin cases until all filled. Place in oven for 25 minutes.

Once baked take out of oven and rest in muffin trays for 10 minutes. Using a pastry brush glaze the top of cupcakes using vanilla syrup making sure all cupcake top is covered, careful not to soak as you will have soggy cupcakes. Place cupcakes on cooling wracks. Once totally cooled you can frost the cupcakes. I use a piping bag and 2D piping nozzle this creates the rose effect on the top of the cupcake. This took me many attempts to perfect so trial it on a plate before piping cakes. You can always put the piped icing from the plate back into the bowl and reuse. If finding a little tricky you can use a small spatula or spoon to swirl the frosting onto top of cupcake. Depending on the flavour of the cupcake I choose a topping to show what the flavour is before someone eats it. I decided on a chocolate Lindt ball for this style and I always love some edible glitter for fun. Be creative and find your own style!

Vanilla Syrup for glazing cupcakes

½ Cup of Water

2 tablespoons of caster sugar

1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract

Place small saucepan on hob over a medium to high heat enough for mixture to simmer. Put water, sugar and vanilla extract in saucepan and reduce down by half until a thin syrup texture has formed. Set aside until cupcakes are ready.

Chocolate Frosting

250g Unsalted Butter at room temperature

500g Icing Sugar

1/3 Cup of double cream

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

100g of Good Quality 70% Cocoa Chocolate (I use Lindt or Green & Blacks) Melt and cool before adding to frosting. I melt in microwave using 30 second bursts mixing well after each 30 seconds. Total time 60 seconds.

Take a large heavy bowl. Place Butter and icing sugar in bowl and cream together until smooth and fluffy add cream and vanilla extract mixing well until combined. Now add melted chocolate again mixing until combined. Set aside until ready to ice cupcakes.

Enjoy!

Much Love

George xx


A good old catch up and a bowl of meatballs!

IMG_3267Every now and then I try and catch up with friends that I’ve neglected due to my very busy timetable, whilst I try to become a qualified nurse! And last night it was my good girlfriends from the town I grew up in. We’ve spent great times together and last night was another one to add to our collection. We always have lots of giggles and spend time discovering what’s new in each other’s lives. We’ve shared many years seeing one another through the ups and downs of life but at the end of it all we always have one another and now a good bowl of meatballs with the wine!

I spend many hours cooking and trying to find meals that my family love and Italian food is always one that goes down well. Meatballs are a firm favourite, trying many ways to make them but last nights was hands down the winner! I have moved on from browning them in a frying pan as its time consuming and messy, I now oven bake them and find they turn out perfectly! I make large batches each time and freeze them ready for a night when I have little time to whip something up, I sometimes put the meatballs into a good old store bought jar of sauce like ‘Llyod Grossman’s Tomato and Chilli’ if I’m really stuck for time otherwise I like to make the sauce as it adds to the flavour of the meatballs. The tomato and Chianti sauce better known as a Marinara sauce goes perfectly with the meatballs as I use the Chianti in both the meatball and the sauce.

The Mocha Baileys Icebox Cake…I had never made one before Monday evening, so was taking a little risk if it didn’t turn out so well but I can honestly say it was delicious!!! It will be added to my little book of recipes that I am developing for Olivia and Toby along with my meatballs in Chianti and Tomato sauce. This is a book I keep up on the shelf with all the recipe books I have accumulated over the years that nestles next to Jamie Oliver and Rachel Allen where I write my creations that my children and James love. I will give both of them a copy when they fly the nest, which isn’t for many years as they are only 3 and 9 but I assure you ‘Mumma’ will be left heartbroken but at least I’ll know that they always have their favourite meals and puddings in a book for them to create and hopefully pass on to their children! I give these recipes for all the Mumma’s that want a family fun meal that I promise the family will Love!

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Oven Baked Meatballs

Serves 12 portions, Half recipe for smaller portion or bag up and place in the freezer once meatballs have been cooked and cooled.

1kg Good Quality Minced Beef Steak

850g Good Quality Minced Pork

1 Cup Parmesan

1 Cup Bread Crumbs (I use a rustic Mediterranean loaf from Tesco to add flavour)

1 Red onion finely chopped

2 Cloves of minced Garlic

2 Tablespoons of Fresh Parsley finely chopped

¾ Cup of good Red Wine (I used a Chianti)

½ Cup of Water

2 large eggs whisked

2 Teaspoons of Sea salt

½ Teaspoon of Pepper

Good Olive Oil

Quick Tip: I use a food processor to chop onion, bread, parmesan.

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees C. Place the beef and pork into a large bowl and break up with a folk, add the parmesan, bread crumbs, red onion, garlic, parsley, red wine, water, eggs, salt and pepper and mix well with you hands until combined. Take two large baking trays. Role lightly 1 ½” inch balls of the meat mixture placing them onto the trays as you go, this can take a little time. Drizzle with olive oil and place into the oven for 25 minutes until browned and thoroughly cooked. Once cooked take out of trays and put into sauce of your choice. Simmer in the sauce for 20 minutes on a low heat. Now enjoy!

Tomato and Chianti Sauce

Serves 6

2 tablespoons of Good Olive Oil

1 Yellow Onion finely chopped (I used food processor as I had it out for the meatballs)

2 Cloves of minced Garlic

1 Cup of Good Chianti

2 (600g) Tins of Chopped Tomatoes

1 Tablespoon of Chopped Parsley

1 ½ Teaspoons of Sea Salt

½ Teaspoons of Black Pepper

Heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Now its ready for meatballs to be added.

Mocha Baileys Icebox Cake

Serves 12

3 Cups cold double Cream

500g Mascapone

¾ Cup of caster sugar

¾ Cup of Baileys

3 Tablespoons of good quality Cocoa Powder (I use Green & Blacks)

1 ½ teaspoons of Vanilla Extract

1 ½ teaspoons instant Espresso powder (I use Nescafe Azerra)

20 Large thin Chocolate Chip Cookies such as Millies Cookies. (If you would like to make your own follow the cookie recipe on my previous blog however exclude cocoa powder and switch white chocolate chunks for milk chocolate chunks or use 400g of Lindt chocolate bars and chop into chunks.)

Shaved Dark Chocolate to garnish once finished

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the double cream, mascarpone, sugar, baileys, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks.

To assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch spring form pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. Break some cookies to fill in the spaces. Spread a fifth of the mocha baileys whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut in wedges, and serve cold.

Enjoy!

Much Love

George xx