Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Halloween (& Our Party)

It's only a couple of days until Halloween – are you all ready for some trick or treating or guising? 

We decided to host our Halloween Party last weekend and it was SO much fun. I got a little carried away with decorating but it added to the party and got everyone in the 'spirit'!! Unfortunately I didn't manage/forgot to get photographs of everyone all dressed up and of the food (disaster I know!) but I have included some menu suggestions below and lots of pictures of the decorations.

Happy Halloween – I hope you all have a spooktacular time!!

Menu Ideas

Vampire Juice 
(I use my recipe for Cranberry Fizz and omit the alcohol for a Mocktail version)

Slime Dip
Bat Wings
Trolls Toes
Deviled Eggs (no recipe)
Zombie Fingers (Sausage Rolls - no recipe)

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Witches Hair with Bugs
'Zombie Arm' Meatloaf (no recipe)

Creepy Crawly Mud Pie Cupcakes
Orange Jelly Pumpkins
Pumpkin Cupcakes

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I recently made these Pumpkin Cupcakes and I just had to share them with you! Whether you are a fan of Halloween or not these are the perfect cupcakes for Autumn/Fall although I would be tempted to make them year-round! They are absolutely perfect served with a cup of tea for a decadent little treat to warm you up.

This recipe was taken from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook – my baking bible!

Makes 12 Cupcakes

120g plain or all-purpose flour
140g caster or fine sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
a pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
120ml milk
2 large eggs
200g tinned pumpkin puree

Cream Cheese Icing:*
315g icing sugar sifted
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g cold cream cheese

To Decorate (optional):
Halloween Sprinkles
Edible Glitter

Preheat your oven to 170C/ 325F/ GM 3 and line a cupcake tin with medium sized paper cases.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and butter into the bowl of a KitchenAid (or other freestanding mixer) and using the paddle attachment mix slowly until everything is combined and you have a sandy consistency (if you don't have a KitchenAid use a hand-held electric beater). While the mixer is running, slowly pour in half of the milk and mix until it's just incorporated. Add the eggs to the remaining milk along and continue beating until it's mixed in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is properly mixed but be careful not to over beat the mixture. Add the pumpkin puree and mix on a low speed until evenly combined. (The original recipe says to stir the puree by hand, but I found it a lot easier to evenly disperse it using the mixture – just keep it on low speed. If you prefer however just use a spoon or spatula to gently mix it in.)

Evenly spoon the cake mixture into the cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until the sponge bounces back when touched (the recipe states 20 minutes – mine take 25, perhaps even a couple more but it will depend on your oven and where you live) and a skewer comes out clean with put into the centre of the cake. Leave to cool for a few minutes then transfer the cupcakes onto a wire rack.

While the cupcakes are cooling make the icing. Sift the icing sugar into the bowl of a free-standing mixture or large bowl, then add the butter and beat on a low setting until it comes together. Turn the speed up a little and continue beating until it is well mixed. Add all of the cream cheese and mix until it is well combined and smooth, then turn up to a higher setting and beat for roughly 5 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy. Be careful not to overbeat the mixture though as it can turn runny quickly!

Once the cupcakes are completely cold decorate them with the icing then finish with a light sprinkling of cinnamon or if you are making them for Halloween, some Halloween inspired sprinkles or other decorations.

*I have added a little extra sugar to the cupcakes as we find it needs a touch more sweetness to it. If, however you prefer your cream cheese icing to have a bit of tang to it then use 300g of icing sugar instead.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Creepy Crawly 'Mud Pie' Cupcakes

These are the perfect little treats to make for Halloween that both kids and adults alike will love. They are so easy as really they are just Chocolate Cupcakes but they look so great and are a fun treat to make. If you can't get or don't have the little silicone terracotta pots you can use any little cup or plastic container you can find – they will still look great! For a final touch you could also add a little sprig of greenery (some fresh herbs work great) but for Halloween I like the earthy, dark look! Have fun and make them your own – it's what it's all about!

As always this is my trusty cupcake recipe that I always use which is taken from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.

Makes 12

For the Chocolate Cupcakes:
100g plain or all-purpose flour
20g cocoa powder
140g caster or berry sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
120ml milk
1 egg

For the Chocolate Buttercream:
300g icing sugar
40g cocoa powder
100g unsalted butter, softened
40ml milk

To decorate:
8-10 plain chocolate biscuits of your choice, crushed finely (although it's ok to have different sizes)
Edible glitter (optional)
Jelly worms and spiders

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cookbook Review ~ Simple Dinners by Donna Hay

I am a huge fan of Donna Hay. I have the majority of her books, I always buy her magazine and quite often you can find me looking on her website as well. But it occurred to me that maybe I am just a fan of her simple, clean style and amazing, drool-worthy photographs since I rarely (and I mean rarely!) have cooked from her books. I have no idea why not, especially when I spend so much time staring at the beautifully photographed pictures, so I decided it was time to remedy that and finally put one of her books to the test. In the end I picked the latest book of hers that I have which is Simple Dinners. I picked this book for a couple of reasons (and not just because it's the most recent one to add to my collection) as having just started working part time and my husband away a lot I need easy meals that are quick to prepare, will be liked by whoever is eating them and also don't cost a fortune to make by requiring expensive ingredients. This book seemed like a good fit.

The book has 13 chapters devoted to recipes and are divided up by ingredients which I happen to like. Included within those chapters are 'Eggs', 'Noodles & Rice', 'Chicken', 'Fish & Seafood' and 'Chocolate'. I tested 4 recipes from this book with many more bookmarked for future meals.

The Tested Recipes:

Pork Meatballs with Chinese Noodles
Cheat's Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage Butter
Lamb and Feta Burgers
Spiced Yoghurt Grilled Chicken Skewers

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Curried Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

This recipe came to be because I literally had a sweet potato and squash in the pantry and I wanted a warming Autumnal soup to make for a family Saturday lunch. It is so quick and easy to make and is a really homely, comforting soup that tastes great. I teamed it up with my delicious savoury Cheese and Spring Onion Scones which were warm from the oven and slathered with butter. It was the most perfect lunch for a rainy, grey Saturday spent indoors with my family!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp curry powder, plus extra for serving
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
½ butternut squash, roughly chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
Salt & pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan then once the butter has melted and is sizzling add the onion. Cook for roughly 5-7 minutes until softened but not coloured then add the garlic and curry powder and cook for about 1 minute before adding the carrot, squash and sweet potato. Stir everything well together then pop on a lid and let the vegetables 'sweat' for around 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. 

After 10 minutes add the stock and some seasoning and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and a knife can cut into them easily. Leave to cool for a bit before blending until super smooth and silky.

When ready to serve gently reheat the soup and taste to check the seasoning, adjusting if necessary. Sprinkle over a touch of curry powder and serve at once.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cheese & Spring Onion Scones

As I've already mentioned (in my last post) right now is one of my favourite seasons ever - Soup Season! Cold days and steaming hot bowls of homely, filling and nourishing soup go hand and hand but when you really want to turn a piping hot bowl of soup into a meal, you can't beat a little something on the side! For me it's almost a necessity to have something to dip into my soup and favourites include things as simple as some thickly sliced fresh bread slathered with butter, an oozing Cheese Toastie or these Cheese and Spring Onion Scones. They are so easy to make and don't take long at all and really are the perfect accompaniment to a hot bowl of soup on a crisp Autumn day. They are also great on their own and would make a perfect accompaniment to an Afternoon Tea Party, Picnic or light lunch, filled with some good mature cheddar, chutney of your choice and some rocket. Either way they won't last long!

450g all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
150g cold butter, cut into cubes
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
4-6 spring onions (depending on how big they are), finely sliced
150g strong cheddar cheese, grated
150-175ml milk, plus extra for brushing

Preheat the oven to 400F/ 200C and lightly dust a baking tray with some flour then set aside.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl then add the cubes of cold butter. Using your finger tips gently rub the butter into the flour until you have coarse crumbs. Stir in half of the chilli flakes (if using), the spring onions and 100g of the cheese. Mix it all together then gradually add 150ml of milk until you have a soft dough. If you need to add the remaining little bit of milk.

Dust a large chopping board or other work surface with flour and turn the scone mixture out onto the surface. Knead the mixture together gently until it just comes together then roll out (or you can gently press it out with the palm of your hand) until it is a thickness of roughly 2.5cm. Using a 6cm (2 ½ inch) round pastry cutter cut out the scones until you have 12 (just re-roll the trimmings until you have 12).

Place the scones on the prepared baking tray and brush each one with a little milk. Sprinkle over a touch of the remaining chilli and the last 50g of cheese then bake in the preheated oven for 12-18 minutes* until golden.

Once ready transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool slightly before splitting and filling as you like (see above) or simply slathering with butter and dipping into a hot bowl of soup!

*The time needed will vary on your oven and where you live but for me it takes longer. Start checking after 12 minutes and go from there until they are raised, golden and covered in melted cheese!

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