Chocolate Courgette Cake

Thanks to my future father-in-law, I found myself with a mini-glut of courgettes. My fiancé isn’t overly keen on them, so after dishing up ratatouille and roasted courgettes, I figured I needed a different approach.

I’d heard of chocolate courgette cake, but never tried it myself. I put the idea to the other half, who looked less than impressed, it must be said, but nevertheless, I pressed ahead, determined not to let these lovely veggies go to waste.

After trawling the web, I found this recipe, which I followed, apart from I used 1tsp of ground mixed spice, as I couldn’t seem to find ground cloves anywhere. I used the two 23cm round tin method and they needed the best part of an hour to cook, so keep checking with a skewer after 40minutes of baking.

When it came to what to fill the two sponges with, I was at a loss for a while, but after rummaging through the fridge and cupboards and realising the shops had closed as it was after 4pm on a Sunday, I decided to just make something up.

Armed with half a block of butter, half a pack of cream cheese, the leftovers from the tub of soured cream and some icing sugar and cocoa powder, I set to making a form of sorts of butter icing. I blended the butter, cheese and soured cream together before adding a couple of dessert spoons each of the icing sugar and cocoa powder, before beating together again. After tasting, I thought it still tasted of cream cheese, so added more of the two dry ingredients. After another mix, I really liked it, so put half the mixture on the first sponge, sprinkled with some chocolate chips (which I confess, along with the walnuts I’d forgotten from the original recipe!) and topped with the second sponge, before spreading the rest of the icing on top.

I found this a lovely, moist sponge and very tasty – even my courgette-hating fiancé enjoyed it. Now that has to be a recommendation surely!!!

chocolate courgette cake

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Big Breakfast Omelette

My fiancé loves an omelette to set him up for the day, especially what I call the Big Breakfast Omelette.

Start by heating a frying pan and melt a bit of butter. Slice half an onion – we prefer red – and add that to the melted butter, along with a few cherry tomatoes. Season with pepper. I don’t use salt as the bacon will be salty enough.

Give these a little time to soften and then add some chopped mushroom and bacon of your choice. You could also add some sausage slices.

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Once everything has started to cook nicely, whisk four eggs in a bowl and add to the pan. Let the egg sit still for a good minute or so, until you start seeing bubbles on the surface.

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Gently pull the edges back with a fish slice and allow the raw egg from the top of the omelette to run down underneath.

You may like to add a little grated cheese at this point and also some chopped spring onions. If you like your omelette well done, you could pop it under the grill, just to firm up the top. If not, fold it in half in the pan, don’t worry if it breaks, we’re not on TV(!) and allow the heat to just cook the middle a little longer, before transferring to a plate.

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For me, I prefer something a little lighter and my filling of choice is smoked salmon – I just by the trimmings from the supermarket, which are a fraction of the cost of the posh stuff.

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Chicken & Mango Curry

Now, I’m not usually one to blow my own trumpet, but before I start with this recipe, I would like to say that my fiancé has said this is ‘the best curry he’s ever tasted’!! Not that I’m chuffed with that or anything 😊

This is a simple curry, it does take about an hour to make, but it’s really worth it.

Start by chopping two chicken breasts into bite sized pieces and toss them in a little ground turmeric, ground cumin and a tiny bit of salt. (Do one chicken breast per person, so it’s easily stretchable for more serving).

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Heat a large and deep non-stick frying pan with some coconut oil on a medium-low heat. Finely chop either two small onions or one large onion – red or white, it doesn’t matter. Sprinkle a little ground turmeric and cumin on the onions and give them a good stir to coat. Now take a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger and peel – I find the best method is with a teaspoon, honestly, it works really well. Finely chop and add about a fifth to the frying pan, mixing it in. Put the rest in a large bowl or jug.

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Pop the chicken and spices into the frying pan and give a good stir. Take a large, fresh mango and cut into rough cubes – I favour the hedgehog method for getting into my mangoes. Add the flesh and as much juice as you can to the jug with the ginger and blitz with a handheld blender. Now add in two small pots of korma paste (I used Pataks), two chicken stock pots, some more ground turmeric and cumin, garlic powder and a can of coconut milk. I use full fat, but if you’d like to use light, I’m sure it would be fine 😉 Blitz the lot together until you have a smooth texture and add to the frying pan, again stirring.

Allow this all to bubble together for a while and add some ground almonds to thicken the mix – omit if you are serving to anyone with a nut allergy. Grind in some fresh, black pepper and add a little ground coriander. Mix again. Cut up another mango and add the flesh to the curry.

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Now is a good time to put some rice on to boil. Whichever you prefer. I also throw a few mushrooms in the water to cook at the same time. Keep tasting the curry and add anything you feel is missing. When the rice is cooked, the curry should be ready to serve. Enjoy with poppadoms, naan bread and any other Indian extras you like.

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I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure you could substitute the chicken for prawns or a veggie alternative.

Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding

Nothing beats a proper roast on a Sunday and this week, we splashed out had had roast beef. The joint was too big for just the two of us, so I took a sharp knife and cut it in half, popping half in the freezer for another week.

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Beef should always be cooked from room temperature, so be sure to get it out of the fridge early enough.

Start by pre-heating the oven to 220C (fan) and put a roasting tin with some goose fat in it, in the bottom – this will get nice and hot for the roast potatoes. Whilst the oven is heating up, peel and chop the potatoes (I do mine quite small for crispiness) and par-boil until just soft to the touch. Drain and carefully pour into the hot fat in the roasting tin. Sprinkle with rosemary and cracked black pepper and mix them around, so they all get covered in the fat. Put the potatoes in the bottom of the oven and now turn your attention to the beef.

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Rub olive oil over the beef and then sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, salt and a pinch of thyme. Pop in the oven at the high heat for 15mins and then turn the oven down to 170C.

After half an hour, check the meat is getting on ok and baste with any juices that have come out. Pop in another roasting dish with some lard in it – this will be for your Yorkshire pudding. You can also add some carrots to the roast potatoes at this time.

Whilst the meat continues to cook, make your Yorkshire pudding – 140g plain flour, 4 eggs and 200ml of milk whisked together until you have a light batter. Allow the batter to rest until the meat is cooked.

When the beef has had an hour, I took it out – this was a medium-well done roast – and turned the oven back up to 200C. Take the Yorkie’s dish out and get the batter in as quickly as you can and get it back in the oven. Do not open the oven door now until it is time to take the Yorkshire out.

Put the beef on a plate and cover loosely with foil and allow it to rest. Pour the juices from the roasting pan into a jug and add some instant gravy granules (yes, I cheated today).

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The Yorkshire pudding will take around 25mins to really puff up and it really will! You’ll need to have it on a low shelf in the oven. Just before it’s done, finish the gravy with boiling water, any other juices from the rested meat and a splash of red wine.

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Serve everything up and enjoy!

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Oaty Baked Chicken

It was another experimental dinner last night for Mr Fiancé. Like me, he’s on a slim down for the wedding, but is quite happy eating his carbs, which I’m cutting back on. He’s big into his chicken at the moment, but after having it with rice a lot, he asked me to whip him up a tasty chicken sandwich, that was still healthy.

Challenge accepted!

I started by pounding a chicken breast to make it equal thickness and then coated in flour, dipped it into beaten egg and then into my special oaty mix. This mix was simply basic porridge oats, cayenne pepper, hot chilli powder, chilli flakes, garlic powder, paprika and cracked black pepper. Yes, my fiancé likes things hot and spicy.

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Once I made sure the chicken was nicely coated with oats, I popped it onto a lined baking tray and put it in a pre-heated oven at 190C for around 25minutes – check it’s cooked through before serving.

To serve, I got some crusty bread, made a sweet chilli mayo with just a mix of these two condiments and smothered the bottom piece with that, layered up with salad and chicken and put some mango chutney on the top layer.

Apparently, it was a very good dish – too spicy for me! – but well worth a try I think.

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Simple Blueberry Smoothie

The health kick continues, as the wedding slim down gets into full swing. So far, so good – I’ve lost 1.5lb in the first week. Slowly but surely! I do have eight months to get there.

This morning, I figured it was time to get back into smoothies. They’re so easy to whizz up.

I had a small punnet of blueberries.

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Add a banana and a splash of milk and just blended it with a hand blender until smooth.

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Ta-da! Easy breakfast, that’s tasty and healthy!

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Healthy Warm Chicken Salad

Like most people, I don’t enjoy dieting. However, with my wedding now all booked for this year, the clock is well and truly ticking for me to lose the 2 stone that’s been haunting me for the past two years.

I’m currently running – on the spot indoors admittedly – for an hour a day, which my pedometer says is around 7miles. On top of that, I’m doing sit ups, crunches, leg raises, planking and squats. I can’t say I’m enjoying any of it, but needs must.

Food is a struggle for me too, because I love tasty things! I’m being very good though and going for high protein where possible and avoiding chocolate, which isn’t easy.

I’ve been turning to my warm steak salad a lot and tonight, I opted for a warm chicken salad. Quite simply, I just cooked a chicken breast, cut it into pieces and served on a bed of mixed salad leaves, tomatoes, spring onion and avocado with just a small crumbling of cheese for added texture and flavour. Instead of a dressing, I used just a little balsamic vinegar and walnut oil.

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