Miss Friday's Weekly Pick

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Autumn: the perfect season – and Jamie’s PBJ Brownies

Call me barmy, but autumn is definitely my favourite season; the sound of the rain lashing down on the window pane whist the day creeps into night, the crisp golden leaves blowing in the wind. There is something quite wonderful about this moody weather when you are tucked up in bed with the feather duvet wrapped around you, heating on and a lovely cuppa in hand. Utter bliss.

The colours of autumn really are magical, rusty orange leaves, plump pumpkins and nutty brown pine cones, in contrast to the cold weather it makes me feel all warm inside. Should the beautiful colours not be enough to make you feel warmed through, pulling on your thick woolly tights, hats and gloves will surely do the trick.

As the autumn gets into full swing I've many projects up my sleeve, some crafts for the kids, calving pumpkins and baking cookies for bonfire night, we will explore Bluebell Woods, which is a beautiful woodland close to our home (albeit the bluebells will be long gone), but in their place we will discover acorns, berries and squirrels jollying about. I had an idea for autumn leaf collages; they can stick the leaves together and pop them into frames for their bedroom wall, what could be better than displaying the beautiful crimson and golden leaves to mark the turning of the seasons?

But, undoubtedly, the thing I love most about this time of year is the food. Country casseroles and puffed up pies with thick bubbling gravy; what’s not to love? Richard bought me a copy of Jamie’s Comfort Food for my Birthday – perfect for this weather. Not so perfect for my Slimming World... but a few recipes here and there surely couldn't hurt. I made Jamie’s PBJ brownies – and they are delicious... recipe below.

The other, perhaps more obvious reason, I love the autumn is that we inevitably start to see the supermarket shelves fill with mince pies and advent calendars. I smile to myself every time I hear someone groan that it’s only October and why do the supermarkets feel the need to bring Christmas to us so early. I can’t help it, I love it. It’s the anticipation of it all. I love to shop for presents, I love to wrap them and I love to set about making something delicious and festive in the kitchen.

This year I’d like to do lots of baking – sausage rolls, mince pies and many other delicious treats to offer friends and family over the festive season, not to mention the mulled wine! Anyhow – enough about Christmas for the time being, here is the PBJ Brownie recipe... I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Why I’ve Joined Slimming World

I've decided that enough is enough, my poor waistline can no longer cope with all the indulgence I can’t seem to help myself from eating. I've always loved food, but since starting this blog that love of food has turned into an obsession, mostly an unhealthy one. It’s true, I love butter... but it’s time I had a break from cakes and creamy pasta dishes. I've gained a stone in weight since I moved in with my boyfriend a year ago – that’s contentment for you, but I'm not happy that my jeans are tight and I feel sluggish and lethargic sometimes.

I’d been thinking about joining Slimming World for a while, so I finally got round to making the plunge. I was very nervous walking into that village hall full of slimming ladies, who all seemed to know each other. The ‘newbie’ feeling, we've all had it at one point or another, but it doesn't get any easier does it? That feeling that everyone is staring at you. But, honestly the group is so lovely, the ladies are so welcoming and two weeks in I already feel completely at ease.

I’d built up an idea in my head that slimming or dieting was going to be so difficult, but the SW plan makes it feel fuss free and like you are not depriving yourself of the foods you love, just cutting down and making healthier more informed choices. Never in my life have I felt the need to diet before, but at 10st 1.5lbs and only 5ft 2inches tall it’s quite necessary. My BMI suggests that I'm verging on being overweight, a scary thought! All in all, I have 1st 1.5lbs to loose, which is pretty much 10% of my body weight! 

I made the rather silly decision to start SW the week of my Birthday, so as anticipated I didn't do so well the first week, I over indulged on fish and chips and far too much alcohol. I went to the group weigh in fearing the worst – but I’d actually lost 1lb. Harrah! Okay, so it’s only 1 measly pound, but a loss is a loss, and I’ll take that! This week I've been much better than last so I'm hoping I’ll have lost a bit more.

I won’t bore you with the ins and outs, but essentially SW is about food optimising, having lots of healthy foods like fruit, vegetables and lean meats, potatoes, rice and pasta. Yes pasta! And cutting back on your wheat (bread) and dairy (milk and cheese), then there are your syns, the things like chocolate and wine, which you can have, but in moderation.

Being the avid cook that I am, I've purchased a few of the recipe books to ensure I stay on track and find it easy to make the right choices. So far I've cooked a whole host of dishes that have been very delicious. Trust me I was surprised, who knew curry without cream and spag bol without parmesan could taste so good. To show you just how delicious the SW meals are I've decided to share this recipe with you, I'm sure they won’t mind (after all it’s good publicity for them)! 

The following recipe is from the SW A Taste of Asia book and it got huge thumbs up from the boyfriend, who was more than sceptical about a ‘healthy’ version of a special fried rice. “It’s better than take-away” he confessed!

Egg Fried Rice

Suitable for vegetarians
Serves: 4
Cook time: Ready in 20 minutes
Total time: Less than 30 Minutes
Syns per serving (on Extra Easy Plan): FREE 


  • Low calorie cooking spray
  • 350g cooked and cooled long-grain or jasmine/Thai fragrant rice
  • 200g frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large British Lion eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 400g fresh bean sprouts, rinsed
  • 6 spring onions, very finely sliced


  1. Spray a wok or large frying pan with low calorie cooking spray and place over a high heat. When it is almost at smoking point, add the cooked rice and stir-fry for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the peas, stir-fry for 5 minutes and season well. Add the beaten eggs and stir-fry for another minute.
  3. Stir in the soy sauce, bean sprouts and most of the spring onion and cook for 2 minutes or until the eggs have set.
  4. Scatter over the remaining spring onions to serve.

Chinese Lemon Chicken

Serves: 4
Cook time: Ready in 30 minutes
Total time:  30 Minutes
Syns per serving (on Extra Easy Plan): 2 syns 


  • Low calorie cooking spray
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 level tbsp cornflour
  • 450g skinless chicken breast fillets, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 3 large lemons
  • 175ml chicken stock
  • 1 tsp sweetener
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Shredded spring onions and red chilli to garnish


  1. Mix the egg white and 1 tbsp of the cornflour together in a ceramic bowl and season well. Add the chicken and stir to mix well. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Spray a wok or frying pan with low calorie cooking spray and heat until smoking. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chicken – stir quickly to stop it from sticking. Return to the heat and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes or until the chicken turns white (do not overcook it or it will be tough). Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
  3. Wipe the wok with kitchen paper and re-spray with low calorie cooking spray.
  4. Mix the remaining cornflour with the lemon zest, juice, stock, sweetener, soy sauce, garlic and red chilli. Add to the wok and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.
  5. Simmer gently for a few moments then return the chicken to the pan. Stir and cook over a medium heat for about 6 minutes, making sure the chicken is coated in the sauce.
  6. Garnish with the spring onions and red chilli before serving. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Fetê du Port, Nice

I’ve already told you lots about my impromptu foodie trip to Nice ‘Food in the French Riviera’– arranged by Your Nice Apartment, but there was so much to tell you, I couldn't possibly explain it all in one post. Today I want to tell you all about the Fetê du Port and famous Chef’s Village (Village des Chefs).

The Fetê du Port is an annual event in the Port of Nice; it happens every September and is well worth a visit. If you are planning a trip to Nice, make sure it coincides with this date, it’s a real party atmosphere and the locals love it. We were advised to get there early as it is so popular, so feeling pleased that we’d listened to this advice, we queued for the Chef’s Village early and were among the first to sample the delicious food on offer. From foie gras to orange and truffle polenta; the food really was to die for. The local paper reported that the turnout was around 40,000, so considering we were among the first 80 people to get stuck in I thought this was great!

Bringing together various top chefs from around Nice and the south of France, you can imagine the standard of food on offer. But, it wasn't just the food that was so exciting, the fete has many other stalls with drinks (wine in particular) and crafts on offer. There is music and a procession with brightly coloured fancy dress outfits, it’s a real show!

So firstly the food pictures, I've added a caption to each explaining what the dish was and what Chef/Restaurant made it. They really did taste as good as they looked. I particularly liked the rich red wine beef stew with orange polenta and shaved truffle. 

Beef Stew with Orange Zest Creamy Polenta and Truffles
Christian et Thomas Millo, Auberge de la Madone

Looking back at this picture is making me remember just how delicious this taster was!

Rabbit Stuffed with Foie Gras, Nicoise Vegetables and Sweet Spices
Marc Laville, Nice Art Bistrot

If you've never had foie gras you really must try it (just put your guilty conscience aside)
I think you'll agree that the images speak for themselves, the food was divine. But aside from the food there was plenty more to enjoy at the Fetê du Port...

40,000 people turned out!

Wonderful Parade 

Marching Band

Chefs Village

If you missed my last post ‘Food in the French Riviera’you must check it out for details of the gorgeous apartment we stayed in and the wonderful food tour of Nice that we were lucky enough to be sent on.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Review & Giveaway - Nib Nibs

Hand crafted in their North Yorkshire bakery - beautifully presented and reassuringly local.

Who doesn't love a giveaway? It's been a long time since Miss Friday offered a givaway to readers, too long in fact, slaps self on wrist. I shall make more of a concious effort to offer my lovely readers a freebie every now and then. So what's up for grabs? Nib Nibs snack pots - they are premium baked British nibbles - cheese straw bites and nuts. Perfect for those moments when you are oh so peckish. Personally I'm not a huge fan of cheesey snacks and nuts, but my other half devoured the nuts.  

This giveaway is open to UK residents only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Waitrose Mini Lavender & Lemon Drizzle Cakes


Calling all cake lovers - this is a must try recipe from Waitrose. I was working for my cousin on Sunday in his butchers and delicatessen when a customer came in to buy mini loaf cases. They are such a cute product, I asked her what she planned on making - lavender and lemon drizzle cakes she said. Don't they sound delicious! So I decided to copy her -and just look at these little beauties - they taste delicious too!

Recipe makes: 10  


  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 medium Waitrose British Blacktail Free Range Eggs, beaten
  • 4 tbsp semi skimmed milk
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 1½ tsp Bart Lavender
  • 250g butter, softened

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4. Arrange 10 Waitrose Cooks’ Homebaking Mini Loaf Cases on a baking tray.
  2. Cream together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and milk and fold in the flour. When it is completely incorporated, stir in the lemon zest.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the cases. Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cakes.
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, make the topping: blitz 1 tbsp of the granulated sugar with the lavender until finely ground, then stir in the remaining sugar. Stir in the lemon juice and spoon over the warm cakes. Leave to cool completely before serving.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Food in the French Riviera

On Tuesday I had a sharp hit of reality as I sat down to eat my M&S lunch... I was no longer in the sun soaked French Riviera enjoying the most delicious Niçoise dishes and sipping local wine or vin as the French call it. Boy I have the holiday blues!

Feeling sorry for myself aside, I've so many exciting things to tell you about my foodie trip in Nice. From moules mariniere lovingly cooked by my boyfriend in our beautiful French apartment to foie gras eaten at the famous Chef’s village at the Fête du Port – I don’t quite think I've eaten so much delicious food in the space of five days before - my waistline is suffering somewhat.

The best foodie picture I took - just look at those colours!

Complimentary Champagne from Your Nice Apartment

If you haven’t read my previous post and you are wondering what all this is about I was recently presented with an all too exciting opportunity by Your Nice Apartment to explore the wonderful food on offer in Nice. As well as the renowned annual Fête du Port, Richard and I were sent on a Pure Nice Food Tour where we experienced some of the finest local cuisine and learnt about the history of food and wine in Nice. What more could a foodie want?

The wonderful Fête du Port - other review to follow...

Given that I discovered so many wonderful foodie things to blog about in the Côte d’Azur I’m going to split this into a few posts. So, this post will give you the low down on the apartment, the neighbourhood (the Old Town) and the types of restaurants and bars you’ll expect to find in and around the beautiful Old Town of Nice and my humble opinion of them all.

Of course we took up recommendations from the wonderfully detailed guide books we were given, but we also sought out a few other places we generally liked the look of. Subsequently, we actually found the most magnificent restaurant that wasn’t listed in the books we were given – it was a real gem, and it was just outside the apartment.

Our stunning little apartment was located on Rue de la Préfecture, one of the main streets that runs right though the centre of the Old Town. The beautifully bright pastel buildings with their ancient shutters tower above the old maze like pathways casting a wonderfully cooling shade. The bustling streets of the Old Town littered with artisan shops and restaurants are the absolute contrast to the gorgeous promenade and beach just a two minute walk away.  The city couldn’t be a more captivating and exciting place to discover.

Beautiful bright pastel buildings - opposite our apartment

Your Nice Apartment

Our apartment ‘Anna’ was a stunning little one bed on the first floor of an old French apartment block. Entering through the main door straight off the busy street is a welcome serene feeling as you climb the cool marble steps. Through the old heavy apartment door you’ll find a surprisingly spacious one bed holiday let, perfect for a couple enjoying a long weekend in the city. The folks at Your Nice Apartment really have thought of everything to make your stay as homely as possible, but with delightful added extras. We enjoyed a complimentary bottle of Champagne which was the perfect way to start our foodie trip in France.

'Anna' - Your Nice Apartment

The apartment was stocked with tea and coffee, milk, fluffy towels and lovely little toiletries to make our stay that little more comfortable. There were two fans and an air conditioning unit to keep the apartment nice and cool - a washing machine/tumble dryer and an all important hair dryer and iron. After all, no one wants a creased dress in Nice!

At the risk of this sounding like a hard sell, if you are considering a break in the sun drenched French Riviera then check these guys out. They specialise in stylish apartments and luxury villas in and around Nice – the pictures speak for themselves.

Distillere Ideale, 24 Rue de la Préfecture 

Given that this brasserie was just across from our apartment block it was an obvious choice for a daily tipple. But, it was the popularity of this authentic little place that attracted us. Anywhere that is that busy all the time must be good right? They have happy hour between 6pm and 8pm every day, offering local wine for €2.50, much cheaper than anywhere else in Nice. It has a typical French brasserie feel, complete with an old copper brewery. With small outdoor tables lining the perimeter of the building it’s the perfect place to enjoy the cool shady cobbled street and escape the sun for a while.

The waiter in the picture is Thomas, the best waiter in Nice (or so we decided).

Richard enjoying a beer at the Distillere Ideale

The best waiter in town - Thomas

La Plassa, 1 Rue Place Vieille

This restaurant was the shining star of this week for me. Located just behind our apartment – we’d seen that it was a fairly busy place, and as a general rule we all know somewhere that’s that busy all the time has to be good. It was - delicious in fact. It’s located in a beautiful little square in the Old Town. Earlier in the day I’d been explaining to Rich about the best steak I’d ever eaten (in Paris), this place changed my mind! We both ordered the Cote du Boeuf which only cost us €18 each – we couldn’t believe how cheap this was for Nice. We had wine and coffee and our whole bill was only €56. The pictures speak for themselves.

Cote du Boeuf at La Plassa - the 'new' best steak I've ever eaten!

De Gesu, 1 Place du Jesus

Tucked away in a small square in the heart of the Old Town, this place was recommended to us by our food tour guide Gustav. “It’s where the locals eat” he said. “It’s cheap”. Who were we to argue? We headed off to get a table. We waited a while because they were so busy. Again, a great sign. The food was mainly Italian (being so close to the border this is common place in Nice) and it was indeed cheap. Rich had a calzone and I had one of my old favourites, spaghetti carbonara. The food was nice, I wasn’t blown away and I was slightly baffled that my carbonara had cream in it!!! Very odd! All-in-all this place offers a great location, friendly service, a limited but cheap menu and nice food.

Du Gesu - where the locals eat.

The Fish Market on Place St François

We bought some mussels here, they even threw in the parsley (a simple gesture, but one you don’t get at home) – the simple things keep me happy.

Beautiful fish market - not to be missed!

The Town of Villefranche and the best beaches

The town is accessible by bus from Place Garibaldi, or the Port across from the church (bus number 100). We ate wonderful pizza at the La Tavola restaurant on Rue du Poilu in Villefranche. Remember, being that close to Italy pizza is a popular choice at restaurants. One of my favourite dishes is spaghetti puttanseca – imagine my surprise when I realised they were serving puttanseca pizza! The beaches here are wonderful, but so busy – I’d get there early to find a good spot on the beach.

Blue Whales, 1 Rue Mascoinat

A late night bar in the Old Town – when there is nowhere else open this place will be. Mix with the locals and enjoy the live music (mainly from English musicians).  This place is responsible for my hangover on the way home!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

3 Minute Beef Noodles

I'm certain I'm not the only one who often has leftover roast beef knocking about in the fridge from Sunday. There are only so many roast beef sandwiches one can eat - and nine times out of ten the meat ends up in the bin. I can’t stand throwing food away, so last week I decided to reinvent my leftovers into these delicious 3 minute beef noodles.

Considering they really only take 3 minutes to cook they are packed with pungent Asian flavours that are truly delicious. The recipe is just perfect for a Monday (or indeed a Tuesday following Bank Holiday) when you can’t be bothered to slave away cooking dinner.

  • 1 nest medium egg noodles
  • 2-3 slices leftover rare roast beef
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
Cooking Directions:
  1. Add the nest of noodles to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, or according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile mix together the sweet chilli, soy, vinegar and honey in a bowl.
  2. Drain the noodles and add the beef. Return the noodles to the saucepan and add the sauce mixture, heat over a medium heat, stirring to combine for a further 30 seconds. Top with the chopped coriander and serve.

Basic White Bread (and poppy seed loaf)

Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 4 hours (inc rising time)
Yield: 2 loaves

  • 700g strong white flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp easy-bake dried yeast
  • 25g cold butter, cubed
  • 450ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp milk
Cooking Directions:
  1. Sift the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a large bowl, then using your index and middle finger and thumbs rub in the cold butter until you have a bread crumb consistency.
  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and slowly pour in the water forming a sticky dough, continue until you have used all of the water. The dough will feel really sticky, but don't panic, this is normal.
  3. Lightly flour the work surface and begin to knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and pop in a warm place to rise until doubled in size. I use the airing cupboard and normally leave it for around 2 hours.
  4. Once the dough has risen to double the size, knock it back by punching down the dough to deflate it. Remove it from the bowl and knead vigorously for a couple of minutes.
  5. Shape the dough to the desired shape and size and place in a lightly oiled loaf tin if using. Leave covered by a tea towel for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. This second rising shouldn't take as long as the first.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230C.
  7. Brush the loaves with milk and scatter over the poppy seeds.
  8. Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the bread has risen and is golden brown on top.
  9. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Ever had a baking disaster?

I can’t believe it’s that time of year again already. The Great British Bake Off is in full swing and the hunt for Brittan’s next best amateur baker is on. There is something quite magnificent about a group of people who share a passion for baking coming together under one roof (or marquee as it were) and battling it out to be crowned The UK’s Best Amateur Baker. It’s TV gold. From builders to actresses, designers and students, this year’s line up is as diverse as ever.

So, having been inspired to get baking, I set about making some bread in the hopes of producing a light and delicious loaf, only to find it had a disastrous outcome. I realised that I’d forgotten the salt in the first batch of dough I made, so that ended up in the bin. Then for my second attempt, the bread didn’t rise particularly well to start with, but I persevered. It looked and smelled wonderful – just like a freshly home baked loaf should – but let me tell you – it was the densest loaf ever. I was the laughing stock of my household for a week. I’d used a pot of yeast that had been open and lurking around in the cupboard for who knows how long, it was over a year passed its use by date and as I’ve learnt yeast won’t work if it’s stale.

My partner joked that it’s a known fact that men are better bakers than women. No I thought, I’m not standing for this – says who? Okay, so my first two attempts were rubbish, but it was the yeast’s fault, not mine. Anyhow this failure and his comment spurred me on to ensuring bread success. I stuck with it and made another loaf (using freshly bought yeast) and I cracked it.

There’s nothing more satisfying that admiring a gorgeous loaf of bread you made, well I guess there is – smothering it with butter and eating it!

Having ruined various batches of dough, but actually managing to master the technique of bread making – even if it did take a while, I feel compelled to share with you my top tips and tricks to bread success:

  • Use the freshest ingredients, yeast that’s been sitting about for ages simply won’t work.
  • Knead, knead, knead – and then knead some more – if you’ve got the ratio of flour and water right your dough will start out really sticky. The more you knead it the more elastic and smooth it will become - really put some elbow grease into it.
  • Be patient – something Paul Hollywood advised on last week’s programme. Leave the bread to rise, just leave it until it’s doubled in size.
  • Master the basic white loaf before you experiment with other flours, flavours of toppings – don’t run before you can walk. It took me three attempts to even get the basics right.

So, if you’ve been thinking about baking for a while, now’s the time to dust off your apron and get stuck in. The Great British Bake Off is such a source of inspiration. I’ll be fixed to the TV every Wednesday at 8pm over the coming weeks to see what showstopper and signature bakes look good enough for me to replicate. I’ve earmarked Luis or Martha for winner.

Bread Baking Techniques

Kneading, proving and knocking back – what’s it all about?

If you’re a novice baker like me, you might well find all these terms very confusing.

It’s all very well someone telling you to ‘knock back your dough’ – but if you haven’t the foggiest idea what they are talking about it can all be very baffling. 

My advice is to get yourself a good reference guide, such a decent baking book and spend some time doing your homework. If you get to grips with these terms before you set about making the bread you should have a decent head start.

Start with a simple recipe, such as a basic white loaf and learn the techniques before you attempt to use other flours or flavours. For instance, some wholemeal or rye flours take more kneading than others. There I go, doing exactly what I didn’t want to do – assuming you know what these terms mean.

I wanted to give you a brief overview of a few of the basic bread making terms, but I’m certainly no expert and I won’t pretend my advice is worth noting, so I’ll leave it to the experts.

The following techniques are taken from Paul Hollywood's website


Always put the flour in your bowl first, then add the salt and the yeast to opposite sides of the bowl. This is important as the salt can kill the yeast. Next add fat if you are using and then add three-quarters of the water. Then using your hands, ‘scrunch’ all the ingredients together, incorporating all the flour and adding more water until you have a soft dough. This can be very messy, sticky and wet. However, it will all come together when you start the kneading process.


The kneading process helps work the gluten in the flour to create a smooth, elastic dough. When kneading, you need to stretch the dough out and then fold it back on itself and flatten it, and then repeat the process, making sure you turn the dough round between stretches. It can take between 5 and 10 minutes until the consistency of the dough changes and it becomes smoother and more elastic. Eventually, it will begin to hold together in ball and develop a soft skin.


Put the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film or a clean tea towel to protect it from draughts that might cause a skin to form. Leave it anywhere in the kitchen. The dough needs to rise until it is at least doubles in size. When it is fully grown it will start to develop crease marks on top and it may start to collapse on itself. Do not leave it any longer than this. You can let the dough rise for a second time at this point if you wish.

Knocking back the dough

After rising, the dough needs to be ‘knocked back’. This process makes it easier to handle and shape and helps create a uniform texture to the dough. Take the dough out of the bowl and put it on a lightly floured surface and fold it repeatedly in on itself using the heels of your hands, until it is smooth and all the air is knocked out of it.

Shaping the dough

You can experiment with different shapes, choosing anything from a simple round loaf to a decorative plait.


During this final stage, the shaped bread is left to rise before it can be baked. Covering the dough during this stage with a plastic bag helps prevent the dough from forming a skin. You can tell when the dough is ready by gently pressing it and seeing if it springs back. If the dough starts to crease and slump slightly, it has over-proved. If this is the case, knock it back and shape the dough again, and let it prove once more.

Baking and cooling

When your bread is ready, it should be a good brown colour with a crisp crust. To check if it’s ready, take it out of the oven and tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready; if it doesn’t, put it back and check again in 5 minutes. After baking your bread, it should be allowed to cool completely on a wire rack before eating. Whilst it cools it will let  out all its steam and finish cooking.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

English Muffins with Hot Oak Smoked Salmon and Poached Egg

Breakfast is always a carnival in my house, at weekends anyway. There’s always plenty choice, from bacon and eggs, to tea and toast – we start the day the right way – with full bellies. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning I’m ready to eat and love creating a bustle in the kitchen at this time of day.

When Richard’s kids are here for the weekend they love soft boiled eggs with soldiers and bacon sandwiches. Max likes Rich to make him pizza toast, with basil – yes, he is quite particular about it. If there is no basil he doesn’t want it. I love that they enjoy their food so it’s no fuss to get different pots and pans out for everyone.

If we are not having breakfast in our kitchen we pop across the road to the local cafe – they serve up huge breakfasts, the kind you need with a fuzzy head. The liver and bacon breakfast is my fav with a huge mug of tea.

I found some hot oak smoked salmon lurking about in the fridge the other morning so I decided to have it for breakfast. This one couldn’t be simpler. Toast and butter an English muffin, top with the salmon and a poached egg, sprinkle with chopped parsley and tuck in.

It’s the simple things in life that make me happiest, sitting down at the kitchen counter on a sunny morning with a delicious treat for breakfast and a deadly silence in the house because everyone else is sleeping, utter bliss.

I’d love to hear your favourite breakfast recipes, am I missing out on the best breakfast?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

My Foodie Tour of Nice

Image used from http://misadventureswithandi.com

Becoming a food blogger was probably one of the best personal decisions I’ve made. It’s enabled me to become a better cook, experiment with food and flavours and delve further into the online world of culinary expertise. Blogging has become a profound hobby, one which has blossomed immensely over time.  

It allows me to share my passion for food and offer my recipes and advice to others. It’s also presented me with various opportunities, such as food competitions, product and equipment reviews. All of which I have a genuine desire to be involved with; why would I not want to try the latest product on the market or test culinary treats?

I’ve recently been presented with the best opportunity yet, a foodie trip to Nice in France. Imagine my surprise. So in anticipation of my trip I wanted to share with you what I’ll be doing on my trip and where I’ll be staying.

The trip will comprise of a 4 night stay in a beautiful apartment in the traditional centre of Nice, close to the market square and surrounded by restaurants and shops. I’ll be there over the first weekend in September, which happens to coincide with the Fete du Port, with its amazing 'Chefs Village' –which I’m told is a must for all foodies.

Every year in September, the Port of Nice Festival is organised by the French Riviera Chamber of Commerce, and offers thousands of people an opportunity to enjoy specialty foods, entertainment and concerts - the perfect opportunity to taste French and local cuisine.

As if that didn’t sound brilliant enough, I’ll also be embarking on a gourmet walking tour - Pure Nice Food Tour organised by Your Nice Apartment. On the tour, I’ll get to taste local specialities and get a feel for the flavour of Niçois cuisine, whilst learning about the unique history and culture of Nice. During the tour we will sample: the ultralight and delicious orange blossom fougasse sickly sweet candied fruit. Socca, the only true Niçois fast food Tourte aux Blettes les Petits Farcies—literally "the little stuffed ones" Pissaladière—there is no such thing as too much onion! Swiss chard in a way you'd never imagine it, the humble side of Riviera wine, the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine, local art at Gallery Lyl plus various surprises.

I promise to take plenty of pictures and blog about the food tour and the festival upon my return...

Friday, 15 August 2014

Butternut Squash & Feta Quinoa Salad

When I've nothing scrumptious left over from dinner the night before, or simply don’t have time to make lunch I pop to the supermarket in search of a ready-made salad or sandwich. Let’s face it, from time to time most of us end up eating packaged flavourless and quite often disappointing lunches we've grabbed on the way into the office. However, a few weeks back I was pleasantly surprised by a Tesco packaged salad – it was utterly delicious, but at £3 a pop it’s a little over-priced.

I decided I’d have a go at making it myself – and it was just as good. I didn't follow the ingredients list exactly; as you well know these supermarkets love an ingredients list that’s as long as your arm. But, I ensured all of the big flavours were captured and it really was great.

The best thing about this salad is that its part of the Tesco Healthy Living range, so we know it’s good for us. I made a big bowl as a side dish for our barbecue and everyone loved it. This salad is so easy to prepare, the only cooking involved is the roasted vegetables. I bought the bulgur wheat and quinoa already cooked, so it’s really just a case of assembling the ingredients. What could be easier than that?

Cooked Bulgur Wheat and Quinoa (I used a mixed bag)
500g butternut squash (about half a large squash), cubed
Pack of feta cheese, cubed
100g cooked soya beans
1 can chickpeas, drained
Half a red pepper, diced
Half a yellow pepper, diced
Two handfuls of raw spinach, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g low fat natural yoghurt
Bunch of mint, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by placing the peppers and butternut squash onto a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and season. Place in the centre of a pre-heated oven on 180⁰C for 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile re-heat the bulgur wheat and quinoa and place in a large bowl. Add the soya beans, chickpeas, spinach, red onion and half of the mint – season well and mix to combine. Once the peppers and squash have cooled add them to the bowl too. Top with the feta and mix carefully to ensure you don’t break the feta up. The salad is now ready to serve.

To make the dressing, mix the yoghurt, lemon zest, juice and remaining mint in a smaller bowl. Serve this on the side. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Hasselback Potatoes – the best way to cook spuds

I adore hasselback potatoes, there is something quite fun about the look of them, plus they are super tasty. 

I first discovered the hasselback potato about two years ago, a Nigella recipe I believe. I thought they were wonderful, light and fluffy on the inside and a skin that gets so crispy and delicious – just like a baked potato. They are perfect served with steak, they make a nice change from chips and I guess they are a little healthier too. I believe these little fanned spuds are named so after a Swedish Restaurant ‘Hasselbacken’ in Stockholm, where they were first served.

Don’t they just look wonderful?


2 tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
Medium sized Maris Piper potatoes (as many or as little as you like)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly chopped rosemary
Freshly chopped thyme


Pre-heat the oven to 200°CWash and dry the potatoes.

Pop each potato onto a slightly curved wooden spoon, using a sharp knife cut through the potato every few millimetres, making sure not to cut all the way down and through the potato. The wooden spoon will prevent that from happening, the knife cannot cut any further then the upward-facing curves of the spoon. 

Place the potatoes into an oven proof dish and drizzle with some olive oil and a little butter if you like. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and add a generous sprinkling of freshly chopped rosemary and thyme.

Put the pan into the oven and bake the potatoes for 40 minutes, giving them a shake after about 20 minutes. The little potato fans will pop open during cooking. 

These are great served with meat or fish, or as a snack with some sour cream and chives.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Jamie Oliver’s Steamed Asian Chicken & Cabbage Parcels

I have a slight obsession with recipe books; in fact I’m running out of space for them in my kitchen. I’ve discovered that the only place to buy them is a charity shop. Indeed, all of the charity shops in my town sell 3 books for £1 –even large hardback recipe books. I’ve recently found various Jamie Oliver books lurking amongst the shelves. Why someone would get rid of a Jamie book is beyond me. I’ve always found his recipes to be so inspirational. I love the different elements he brings to them, nothing is served without an accompanying salad or side dish, and it’s really creative.

This recipe is from Jamie’s Kitchen – one of his earlier books – I can tell this by the young, fresh faced lad with a cheeky grin on the cover (sorry Jamie). The book is brimming with recipes that look delicious; I can’t wait to test more of them.

This recipe really appealed to me, those of you who read my blog often enough will know this is because of the pungent Asian flavours. I love the idea of little parcels that can be dipped in the sweet chilli sauce – for me that is food that is fun – and totally delicious.

A Totally Delicious Asian Treat


1 medium savoy or Chinese cabbage
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
6 spring onions, white and light green parts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves
1 to 2 fresh small red chillies
1 tablespoon fish sauce
4 trimmed boneless skinless chicken thighs, roughly chopped
1 small can water chestnuts, drained
2 tablespoons juice and 2 teaspoons grated zest from 2 limes
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Serve with either sweet chilli sauce or soy for dipping


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Remove and discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, then slice off the root end and separate the leaves. Plunge them into the boiling salted water to blanch for 2 minutes, then remove to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside. Pour out all but a couple inches of water in the bottom of the pot and place a steamer on top of the pot.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the garlic, ginger, spring onions, coriander, red chillies, fish sauce, and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt until everything is minced. Add the chicken, water chestnuts, lime zest and juice, and sesame oil. Process until completely pureed; the result will be a kind of meat paste.

Lay out the leaves of cabbage on a chopping board and place a small amount (2 tablespoons) of the chicken mixture onto the root end of a cabbage leaf. Fold the leaf over once to enclose the chicken, fold both sides in, then roll it once again so that the seam side is down. Repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves and chicken.

Bring the water in the bottom of the steaming pot to a boil, then place the parcels seam side down into the basket. Cover and steam until the chicken is cooked through, 6-8 minutes depending on their size.

Serve with the dipping sauce and the toasted sesame seeds scatted on top.

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