Banana loaf with honey icing

photo(2)I’m not a massive fan of baking it tends to make me have a meltdown in the kitchen. If the measurements of the ingredients are slightly off then disaster, and don’t even get me started on salted/unsalted butter major disaster. I’m much more of a add a bit of this and a bit of that cook, but since doing the blog I’ve been more inclined to measure my ingredients. Anyway, I’ve had some bananas in my kitchen which have gone past the mid morning snack stage, so decided I would put my baking skills to the test. A banana loaf is the best way to use up the bananas and the honey icing is the perfect thing to top it off. So, if you’ve got some unattractive bananas in your kitchen then give this recipe a whirl.

Notes on the Recipe

  • If you’ve not got the ingredients to make the icing then still go ahead and make the loaf it’s still delicious without the icing.
  • I keep the loaf in the fridge I quite like it cold rather than room temperature

Ingredients

For the banana loaf:

  • 3 over ripe bananas
  • 75g butter
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 170g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the honey icing:

  • 200g full fat cheese
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey

Recipe

Preheat the oven to 180C. Mash the bananas in the bowl and add the butter, egg, sugar and bicarbonate of soda, mix well. Continue to sieve in the flour and mix. Put into a well greased and lined loaf tin and put into the oven for 1 hour. Meanwhile for the icing put the cream cheese into a bowl and sieve in the icing sugar. To finish the icing stir in the honey and keep into the fridge until ready. When the loaf is ready put a skewer or knife in, if it comes out clean then the loaf is ready, take out the oven and leave to cool. When the loaf is cooled spread the icing over the top.

Sweet pumpkin soup

photo-4It being Halloween and all I thought I would buy a pumpkin and get cooking. My mum gave me the idea for the recipe, last time I went home I took her a pumpkin – don’t ask! We had about 20 going spare in work but thats another story. Anyway, she used the pumpkin to make soup with the honey and she assured me it was delicious so I thought I would give it a whirl. The best thing I found with this recipe is it cost me £1 to buy my pumpkin and has supplied me with lunch for the last few days. This soup is proper comforting with the tasty pumpkin and the honey, it has an incredible sweetness and smells like Autumn in a bowl!

Notes on the Recipe

  • Don’t throw away the seeds just pop them on a baking tray in an oven at 180C and cook for 15 – 20 mins. Perfect snack to nibble on or a good breakfast topper!
  • If you fancy a soup which has a bit more spice, instead of adding the honey add some grated ginger, it gives a great heat to the soup.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 x medium pumpkin
  • 2 x white onions
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 x cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp creme fraiche
  • salt and pepper
  • bread to serve

Recipe

Start by finely chopping the onions and pop into a large saucepan with the butter, cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Whilst your onions cook, get cracking on the pumpkin. Start by cutting off the top, scoop out the stringy flesh and seeds, peel off the skin and cut the remainder into 1 inch cubes. Add the pumpkin to the onions along with the honey, cinnamon stick, grated nutmeg and vegetable stock. Turn the heat up until everything it boils and then turn the heat down to low and pop a lid on. Leave the soup to simmer away for about 45 minutes, When ready take off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick, then, blend the soup so there are no lumps. Stir in a tablespoon of creme fraiche and season again. Serve the soup with some nice fresh bread. Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

Ginger Flapjacks

photo(1)I’ve never particularly been a fan of flapjacks. The ones you buy from the supermarket are buttery, sticky and over sweet. They have no flavour they just taste like they’ve been dipped in butter. This flapjack recipe is absolutely great it just has enough butter and the stem ginger adds a great zing. That’s right zing it’s the best word I can think of to describe the ginger in this recipe.

Notes on the recipe

  • If you have a bit of a sweet tooth add some chopped chocolate into the recipe when you add the stem ginger.
  • Wait for them to cool before you cut them otherwise you can end up with a crumbly mess, trust me I learnt the hard way.

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 400g oats
  • 200g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 3 pieces of stem ginger finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp syrup from the jar of stem ginger
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Recipe

Preheat the oven 180C. Start by lining a baking tin with baking paper.

In a saucepan melt the butter, when melted take off the heat and add the honey and ginger syrup. In a bowl mix the oats, sugar and spices and add the wet contents of the saucepan to the dry mix in the bowl. Finally add the finely chopped stem ginger and give everything a good mix. Put the mix into the baking tin and press down so all the mixture is packed in. Put into the preheated oven for 25 – 30 mins. When ready leave to cool and cut into about 12 pieces. Enjoy with a nice cuppa!

Magical Germany

IMG_3657Driving across the Alps and up through the Black Forest was a great insight into Germany. I have never been to Germany before and had no idea what to expect from the culture, people and cuisine. Needless to say this was in some ways the best part of the trip for me.IMG_3587 I sampled some great food, wine, beer and was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. As soon as we got off the motorway and drove through the Alps it was just breath-taking. The villages we drove through were exactly like you see on the front of Christmas cards. It was all just so pretty, the houses had delicate hand paintings and were draped in flowers. After a rather long and stressful drive we arrived in a lakeside town called Lindau. We didn’t get to experience the delights of this little town, but we did get to sample some great German beers. I’m not a massive beer drinker but I think when in Germany it has to be done.

IMG_3625From Lindau we drove to Triberg, the capital of the cuckoo clocks, and what an incredible little town. After spending the afternoon climbing to the top of a waterfall, buried in the depths of the forest, we stumbled upon a Cafe claiming to have the “best Black Forest Gateau.” As soon as we walked in the waitress obviously spotted we were tourists and was bringing us over a coffee and a piece of Black Forest Gateau. It was hands down the best gateau I’ve ever had, definitely IMG_3629beats the frozen version from Iceland that you have at a family occasion. After sampling this delight, we continued to explore the lovely little shops all along the town which were all jam packed with hand crafted cuckoo clocks.

From Triberg we drove deep into the black forest, through little villages and ended up in Frieberg. I had read about a hotel, Oberkirch, in the centre which had a great restaurant serving authentic German food. So after an afternoonIMG_3705 of sightseeing through the vibrant city I dragged my other half to the restaurant. I think this was one of my favourite food experiences on holiday. After never experiencing proper German cuisine I’m so glad we ate in this restaurant. There was an exotic mushroom speciality which they were raving about to have as starters. I had them cooked with a generous amount of butter, garlic and fresh herbs served alongside toasted ciabatta. My other half had the mushrooms cooked, also with butter, garlic and herbs, but in the form of an omelette. The “speciality mushrooms” were simple but super tasty, they were so good I IMG_3708even tried to recreate them (see recipe below.) For mains, I went for Veal with spatzle which was a regional speciality. It is basically a cross between an egg noodle and dumpling often mixed with cheese and onion. An eggnog type ice cream and liqueur coffee topped off the evening very nicely. It was the perfect meal to end a perfect roadtrip.

My German herby mushrooms

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 300g mixed exotic mushrooms (I chose Buna and Shiro Shimeji mushrooms)
  • 2 x garlic cloves crushed or finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme
  • 25g butter
  • salt and pepper
  • toasted ciabatta to serve

Recipe

Start by giving your mushrooms a bit of a wash to get any dirt or grit off. Heat a saucepan on a moderate heat and add half the butter. When melted add the mushrooms along with the crushed garlic. Cook for about 5 – 8 minutes stirring occasionally. Finish by turning off the heat and adding the remainding butter, the fresh chopped herbs and season well. Serve alongside some toasted ciabatta.

Pretty Riva del Garda

IMG_3561Pretty Riva del Garda was our final stop off in Italy before we ventured into Germany. After days of sightseeing in Florence and Tuscany this was a great place to stop off and just relax. Luckily the hotel had great facilities, so we pretty much enjoyed a few lazy afternoons by the pool with a beer in hand. We enjoyed some great prosecco and pizza whilst staying here, however we enjoyed an amazing meal in the the hotel we were staying in, Lido Palace.

The whole setting for the meal was so pretty it was on the balcony over looking the lake. IMG_3540This was our “blow out” meal so we totally indulged in a taster menu with matching, local Italian wines. We started with a super tasty Bellini, which I have to say was nearly good as Harrys Bar in Venice (the home of the Bellini.) As we began our meal we were served with a shot of gazpacho. I’m not a fan of a chilled soup normally, but this was rather tasty and refreshing. The first course was poached lobster served with a IMG_3543panzanella salad (pictured right.) It was deliciously light and tasty whereas some panzanellas can be stodgy and tasteless but this was pretty spot on. To follow we were presented with perfectly cooked scallops wrapped in prosciutto served with a raspberry vinaigrette. For the pasta course we had cannelloni stuffed with fish and pesto sauce. I’m glad I only ate a small amount of the pasta course because the meat and dessert course to come were truly perfect. We were served with a veal fillet wrapped in prosciutto and served with ‘purple potatoes,’ wild mushrooms and jus. I’m still not 100% sure what was in the purple potatoes but they were pretty damn good. The final course (pictured above left) was a selection of puddings: a liquorice creme brulee, kiwi parfait and and mint chocolate mousse. The kiwi parfait was my personal favourite it was a perfect finish to the meal. This entire meal was perfect from start to finish it was nice to indulge in some Italian fine dining along with some great local wines. All finished off in the bar listening to the piano player with a large amaretto.

Italian beef ragu

4

 

Following last week’s blog, I had the most delicious, hearty beef ragu when I was away. I’m sure I cannot completely do it justice, but I have made this recipe which I think is a strong competitor. If you fancy a change to your regular spag bol or lasagne, but still fancy your Italian meaty meal, than this recipe is for you.

 

 

 

Notes on the Recipe

  • Don’t skimp on the quality of the ingredients good beef, good italian red wine and good beef stock will transform this dish from being pleasant to incredible!
  • Don’t forget to take out the sprigs of herbs and bay leaves before serving.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the beef ragu:

  • 500g topside beef
  • 2 x onions
  • 2 x carrots
  • 2 x sticks of celery
  • 2 x garlic cloves
  • 300ml Italian red wine
  • 250ml good quality beef stock
  • 2 x tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 x sprigs thyme
  • 2 x sprigs oregano
  • 2 x bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

To serve:

  • 300g parpadelle
  • parmesan to serve

Recipe

Preheat the oven to 150C. Finely chop the onion, garlic, carrots and celery and put into a large saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil, on a moderate heat. Cook for 10 minutes and stir occasionally. Cube the beef into 3cm squares and lightly dust in flour. Preheat a frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and brown the meat. You want the meat to have a touch of colour, when browned take off the heat and put aside. Meanwhile, add the tomato puree to the pan with the vegetables and stir. Pour in the red wine and turn the heat up high for a couple of minutes until the liquid reduces slightly. Pour in the beef stock, the meat, herbs and season well. Bring everything to the boil and then convert to a casserole dish (with a lid) and cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Stir the ragu about an hour in.

When the ragu is nearly ready, bring a saucepan of salty water to the boil and cook the parpadelle according to the instructions on the packet. When ready serve the pasta with a scoop of beef ragu and a generous amount of grated parmesan. Enjoy!

So … Florence

     IMG_3514 So … Florence what can I say about lovely Florence. We travelled to Florence along the Italian riviera, from the South of France, which was great in itself. The first morning we were in Florence, after finding a great cafe for a cappuccino and pastry, we were ready for a full day sightseeing. Even though Florence was packed full of tourists and we seemed to que for the half the day it was totally worth it. The whole city just oozes art and culture I could have happily just walked around the streets for the entire day. We stumbled upon the IMG_3378central market which lined with hanging meats and counters of cheese. Stalls full of fresh bread, fruit and salads it was simply divine. Nestled in the corner of the market was a great little cafe, where I enjoyed a great mozzarella, tomato and basil salad simply drizzled with olive oil. It was simple, but incredibly good.

The following day, armed with a car full of petrol and a cool bag full of goodies from the market we spent the day driving around Tuscany. We drove directly down to Siena and then back up through the Chianti IMG_3455region and ended in San Gamignano, the medieval skyline. It was one of my favourite drives from the whole holiday. The scenery was incredible, there were just rolling hills and trees wherever we looked. Obviously we couldn’t leave without buying a bottle of Chianti. I chose a random bottle from a wine shop and have to say, after drinking it last week, it was pretty damn good. So amongst the tasty meals and picnics we enjoyed there was one meal which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was in a great little place which was half restaurant IMG_3518and half pizza bar. We dined in the lively restaurant where, to start, I had a tuna carpaccio which was served with a orange salad. My other half enjoyed melon and proscuitto, sounds simple, but he thoroughly enjoyed it. We’re right back to simple and good produce proves a winner. For mains, I chose a slow cooked beef in chianti served with penne pasta, which I have to say hit the spot for my pasta craving. For pudding we both shared a dessert platter for two. Which turned out to be a hefty portion and was obviously meant for the table of eight next to us. The highlight on this selection for me was a great lemon tart sprinkled with almonds it was fab, all washed down with a great Italian dessert wine. I’m a great fan of a dessert wine and this one really hit the spot compared to the usual French wine we order. This meal proves what I love about Italian food – proper hearty, tasty and fresh.