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Five Delicious Vegetarian Comfort Food Dishes

I turned vegetarian when I was 13 and there’s not a lot I miss, but on a cold winter night I do sometimes hanker after the slow cooked, deep flavoured chilli my Nan used to make. Thankfully after lots of practice I’ve finally nailed the recipe and managed to make it vegetarian too.

Most of the warming comfort food dishes from my childhood were meat based – family roast dinners, my Nan’s amazing beef chilli, corned beef hash, shepherd’s pie and bubbling stews cooked so long the meat almost melted in your mouth.

There’s something about cooking up some comfort food which makes you feel like you’re showing your family some extra love. I enjoy throwing a few things in the slow cooker and knowing that by tea time there will be a delicious meal ready for my family.

Vegetarian comfort food can feel a bit hard to come by, so I’ve created and shared some of our favourite family recipes on my blog, here are five of my favourite vegetarian comfort food recipes – 

Vegetarian Galletes

vegetarian comfort food

These are a recent addition to my comfort food repertoire. They’re really easy to make, utterly delicious and once you get the hang of it you can fill them however you want. I made a Goats Cheese, Caramelised Onion and Quince Galette and a Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette. Both were absolutely bang on and real crowd pleasers.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

vegetarian comfort food

Now autumn is here my soup making pot is starting to see some serious action. Cauliflowers are cheap and plentiful in the shops, so I recreated my favourite soup, but with a cheesy twist. Try my very delicious Norwegian inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup.

Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

vegetarian comfort food

I’d had it in my head to make a big Spanish style bravas sausage casserole in my slow cooker for a while. This summer hadn’t been up to much and I was desperate to start rustling up comfort food dishes, and this was the first one of the season. I made my sausage casserole with Quorn sausages, but you could very easily make them with your favourite meaty sausages if you’d prefer. I made the sauce in the slow cooker and let it bubble away gently to itself for a few hours. The recipe is really simple and it’s now a firm family favourite.

Authentic Armenian style Imam Bayildi 

vegetarian comfort food

Imam Bayildi is basically stuffed, baked aubergines. They’re simple to make, you can prepare them ahead of time and then cook them when you need them and they are melt in the mouth gorgeous. I like to use good quality ingredients in this recipe as every single mouthful zings flavour. Fresh vegetables and herbs are essential, they’re packed full of flavour and these sunshiny aubergines are a little bit of summer on a cold autumn evening.

Easy Microwave Jam Sponge

vegetarian comfort food

No vegetarian comfort food round-up would be complete without a pudding. This incredibly easy to make and very quick to cook microwave jam sponge is just the ticket to warm your cockles on a cold winter evening. All you need are a few store cupboard ingredients, ten minutes of your time and you’ve got a good pud that’ll make your family smile.

Voucherbox.co.uk have a great blog post about the five healthy foods that can actually save you money, and if you want even more money off your online shop they also have plenty of Sainsbury’s vouchers which you can use.

vegetarian comfort food

Kitchen Essentials: Fail-Safe Sponge Cake Recipe

As a parent one of the key skills you need is the ability to quickly knock up a tray of cakes for the school bake sale, or for a party you’ve forgotten about, or maybe just because it’s Thursday and you and your brood fancy some cake.

Before I became a mum I was a competent cook, but a terrible baker. After several years of trial and error and a bin full of failed bakes, I’ve finally found a recipe and method which works every – single – time for me. 

sponge cake recipe

Over the years I’ve tried everything; Delia recipes, Nigella recipes, recipes passed down through the generations. I’ve tried a thousand different bakes and finally hit upon this – it’s my “Works Every Time” Sponge Cake Recipe. And it does, it really does.

I use this recipe as the basis for every sponge recipe I ever make now. If I’m baking buns or cupcakes, I just cut the recipe down by a third (so 200g of sugar instead of 300g etc). This is enough to make a three layer show-stopper of a cake, over the weekend I used this sponge recipe to make two lemon drizzle cakes in loaf tins – much to the delight of my family.

If I find myself with too much cake batter and not enough tin, then it’s just an excuse to make a few little buns on the side for a teatime treat for the boys. 

Malteser Butterfly Cakes

One of the key things you need to do is to really, really beat your butter (or margarine) and sugar together until they are really light and fluffy. This makes a massive difference to the texture of your cake (trust me, a Dutchman who made incredible cakes give me that tip).

sponge cake recipe
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Works-Every-Time Sponge Cake

If you need a sponge cake recipe which works every single time - try this. You won't regret it!

Ingredients

  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 300 g softened butter or margarine (I use Stork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 300 g self-raising flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder

Instructions

  1. Heat your fan oven to 190c. Grease three 20cm sandwich tins. In a large bowl, beat your butter and sugar together until fluffy (I used a hand mixer). Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and combine, then add the flour and baking powder and mix together until you have a smooth batter.

  2. Divide the mixture equally between the three tins, you can weigh them to make sure they're fairly equal if you'd like. Bake in your pre-heated oven for around 20 mins until golden and they're cooked. Remove from the tins and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

I’ve made quite a few things with this sponge cake recipe. Looking back I’ve not really blogged many of those bakes, but here they are some examples of great bakes…

Recipe: Malty Malteser Butterfly Cakes

In my family, September is birthday month and this week it was my brother’s turn to blow out the candles. We weren’t having a big bash for him, but you can’t successfully have a birthday without cake. My brother loves Maltesers, so I thought I’d make him some quick and easy butterfly cakes, but with a Maltesery twist.

I’ve had a jar of malt extract lurking in my cupboard for a little while now, so I knocked up a standard sponge recipe and added a big dollop of the lovely malty stuff. Baked my buns until they were golden and whipped up a chocolate buttercream icing complete with a big bag of smashed up Maltesers. There was no room for candles, but at his age they’re verging on a fire hazard anyway!

Malteser Butterfly Cakes

The little Malteser Butterfly Cakes came out a little darker than a plain sponge would. This is because the dark malt extract makes the mixture darker. They’re not overdone, that’s their natural bronzed colour.

This recipe makes around 12 malteser butterfly cakes.

Malteser Butterfly Cakes

4oz Butter or margarine
4oz sugar
1 dessert spoon of malt extract
2 medium eggs
1 teaspoon of baking soda
4oz self raising flour

For the buttercream:
4oz butter
4oz icing sugar
1 tablespoon of drinking chocolate powder
10oz of Maltesers

1. Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and the stir in the eggs and malt extract.
2. Carefully fold through the baking soda and self raising flour until combined.
3. Dollop into cake cases, there should be enough to make about 12 buns.
4. Bake in a preheated oven at 190c for around 15 minutes. Once cooked leave to cool.
5. To make the buttercream, beat the butter, icing sugar and hot chocolate powder until soft and fluffy. Bash up the Maltesers and gently fold in.
6. Carefully cut a circle out of the top of each of your cooled cakes, cut the circle in two, dollop a teaspoon of buttercream into the hole and top with the halves to make them look like butterfly wings.

Malteser Butterfly Cakes

If you love butterfly cakes, you might also enjoy my Peanut Butter Butterfly Cake recipe.

Casa Costello

My top five best bakes (for Christmas)

I was chatting about baking to a mum in the playground yesterday, we discovered a shared love of fairly unusual continental recipes, the kind Paul and Mary would give to Bake Off contestants to try and baffle them into submission. It got me thinking about some of my favourite things I’ve baked and blogged, so I thought I’d choose my top five best bakes and give them another airing.

I promise you they’re all easy, I lack the patience, time and skill to do anything too fancy and time consuming; but they’re all delicious. 

Lebkuchen Cake 

Traditionally a moreish soft biscuit, I decided to attempt a German Lebkuchen Cake with considerable success. The recipe is easier than it looks to make and the results are truly scrumptious!

Lebkuchen Cake

Joulutorttu

Traditionally Joulutorttu are made with puff pastry and a special Finnish prune jam. However I made mine with a Christmas preserve, but it does need a good firm set jam. Try plum or prune conserve for authenticity. They look a bit tricky to make, but it’s ready-roll puff pastry and jam and  a bit of arty twisting of the pastry.

Joulutorttu

Birnenpfannkuchen

Birnenpfannkuchen is a German Pear & Ginger Pancake. This is a brilliant store cupboard standby, and a real family favourite when you need a quick pud. It’s a bit like a fruity toad in the hole, only better!

Birnenpfannkuchen

Cinnamon & Raisin Shortbread

I originally created this shortbread recipe in 2013 in celebration of the Great British Bake Off and it’s still popular today. Cinnamon and raisin are a great combination and this lovely crumbly shortbread is a great bake.

shortbread

Microwave Jam Sponge Pudding

I’ve always hated the thought of “baking” in the microwave, but I’ve cracked it with this delicious sponge pudding. From mixing bowl to table in under ten minutes – perfect for busy families.

jam sponge

So that’s my little round up of my five best bakes. What would you have in your top five?

Recipe: Fig, Honey & Cinnamon Sponge Pudding

I love figs, they still seem like a decadent kind of fruit, a rare globe of loveliness, rich, versatile and hard to come by. I like to have a tin of figs in syrup in my cupboard to bake a form of Birnenpfannkuchen with, but fresh figs are a rare and wonderful treat. I was shopping in Aldi this week when I noticed they had 4 figs for 59p in their super 6 offer, and at that price it’s rude not to, so I slipped a couple of boxes into my basket and started plotting a pudding.

Fig, Honey & Cinnamon Sponge

I couldn’t find a recipe for what I wanted to make, so I experimented a bit instead. What I wanted was a honey baked fig in some light sponge spiced with cinnamon, and ideally some sultanas soaked in tea, but we didn’t have any, we’ll add those next time. 

Fig, Honey & Cinnamon Sponge

Fig, honey and cinnamon sponge puddings
Serves 6
A lovely, quick little pudding, gently spiced with cinnamon and making the most of fresh seasonal figs.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
343 calories
45 g
103 g
17 g
4 g
10 g
108 g
267 g
29 g
1 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
108g
Servings
6
Amount Per Serving
Calories 343
Calories from Fat 151
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 17g
26%
Saturated Fat 10g
51%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 103mg
34%
Sodium 267mg
11%
Total Carbohydrates 45g
15%
Dietary Fiber 2g
8%
Sugars 29g
Protein 4g
Vitamin A
12%
Vitamin C
1%
Calcium
14%
Iron
8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 3 fresh figs
  2. 6 teaspoons of runny honey
  3. 4 oz butter or margarine
  4. 4oz of caster sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  7. 2 eggs
  8. 4oz self raising flour
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 190.
  2. Grease six ramekins. Halve the figs and place one half in a ramekin and drizzle round a teaspoon of honey.
  3. Beat the butter or margarine and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the baking powder, cinnamon and eggs and mix together. Once combined gently stir in the flour and equally divide between the six ramekins.
  4. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190 for 20 minutes, or until the sponge is cooked through.
  5. Once cooked, run a knife around the edge of the ramekin and tip out.
Notes
  1. Serve with custard, ice cream or cream. Best eaten when warm.
beta
calories
343
fat
17g
protein
4g
carbs
45g
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HodgePodgeDays http://hodgepodgedays.co.uk/
It’s a really, really simple little pudding to make and takes less than half an hour. If I can get my hands on more figs this will be a regular pudding for us until the season is over.

I love the way the honey and fig juices soak into the sponge and make it sticky and unctuous, without making it too sweet. Next time I would throw in some soaked dried sultanas, but it works really well without them. This is a glorious pud and I had to fend off request for seconds (because I wanted them). Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Fig, Honey & Cinnamon Sponge

Recipe: Posh Cheese on Toast

Back in July I got to be a Judge at the International Cheese Awards and I came home with enough cheese to make a colony of mice very happy indeed. Between us we’ve been slowly working our way through the South Manchester Cheese Mountain, with me commandeering the lovely Brie type cheeses I generally adore.

We seem to have a surfeit of cheddar style cheeses, which is fine, they’re a good multi-purpose cheese and a nice mature cheddar always has a place in our fridge. It’s tempting to cook up a big extra cheesy macaroni cheese or something similar, but when it comes to it, I don’t think you can beat a plate of cheese on toast. Not just any cheese on toast though, but posh cheese on toast.

Posh Cheese on Toast

This is one of my favourite quick meals. Take the comforting loveliness of cheese on toast, add a bit of frippery and it suddenly becomes more of a meal. It’s easy too and doesn’t take much longer than your bog standard cheese on toast.

Posh Cheese on Toast

Posh Cheese on Toast (feeds one hungry person)
One individual ciabatta, split in two lengthways
A handful of rocket 
A dollop of your favourite relish, I’ve gone with Ballymaloe original relish
Some Seriously Strong Extra Mature Cheddar

Method
1. Toast one side of your ciabatta (the crust side), once toasted remove from grill and spread over your Ballymaloe relish on the untoasted side. Thinly layer your rocket (or baby spinach if you prefer) on top, then evenly cover with Seriously Strong Extra Mature Cheddar. Pop under the grill.
2. Grill until the cheese has melted to your satisfaction.
3. Remove from the grill, leave for a minute to cool slightly, then devour.

Posh Cheese on Toast

Posh Cheese on Toast

Posh Cheese on Toast

It’s simple, but the best things often are. I guess in some ways it’s a bit like a pizza, but quicker and for my money nicer.

Note: We were given a block of Seriously Strong Extra Mature Cheddar Cheese to try free of charge on the proviso I used it in a recipe and blogged it. All images and opinions are my own.

Peanut Butter Oreo Ice Cream Recipe

I have received product from Oreo for this post. It is an entry to the Foodies100 Wonderfilled recipe challenge sponsored by Oreo, which marks the launch of two exciting new flavours: Peanut Butter and Golden. The delicious new flavours are available in all major supermarkets at an RRP of £1.08. To find out more, visit facebook.com/oreo

When it comes to peanut butter, you either love it or hate it. I am firmly on the love side, whilst hubs is staunchly hate, which only means one thing…. more for me! The summer holidays so far have been a bit meh, and I’ve been having to come up with new and exciting indoor things to do. One boring morning we decided to whip up a batch of Peanut Butter Oreo Ice Cream, the small boy loves helping out in the kitchen almost as much as he likes eating the results.

I was sent two new and different flavours or Oreo cookie to try, the Golden Oreo which is a lovely crunchy vanilla flavoured cookie and the limited edition  Peanut Butter Oreo. They were both crying out to be whizzed up in a milkshake, but I thought it was time to ring the changes and try some no churn Peanut Butter Oreo Ice Cream.

peanut butter oreo ice cream

Peanut Butter Oreo Ice Cream
Ingredients
1/2 jar smooth peanut butter (I used reduced fat)
2 tablespoons hot water
1 tin of condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint of double cream (whipped)
1 packet of Peanut Butter Oreos

Method
1. Put your peanut butter in a large bowl and add two tablespoons of hot water, stir thoroughly as this will help to loosen the peanut butter making it easier to work with. Once mixed, add your tin of condensed milk and vanilla extract to the peanut butter and combine.
2. In a separate bowl whip your cream until it forms peaks, gently fold your cream into the peanut butter mixture.
3. Chop up, or bash up a packet of Peanut Butter Oreo cookies and gently stir into your mixture, making sure the pieces are well distributed.
4. Pour into a tub and freeze for 6-8 hours. We also made peanut butter oreo ice cream popsicles with some of our mixture which worked very well.

You could also make this with normal Oreos if you can’t get hold of the peanut butter Oreo cookies.

peanut butter oreo ice cream

This is such a great recipe to make with kids, it’s incredibly simple and because it’s no eggs, no cooking, no fuss, it’s quick and easy to put together – the hardest part is waiting for it to freeze!

peanut butter oreo ice cream

The recipe made a lot of ice cream – nearly two pints of it, so it was ideal for making into popsicles and also for spooning into a tub. It is very rich, so a little goes a long way. Don’t forget to take your tub out of the freezer about 10 minutes before serving too.

It is so simple and utterly delicious, if you love peanut butter then you’ll love this recipe! If you try it let me know what you think.

peanut butter oreo ice cream

Easy Recipe: Microwave Jam Sponge

In the early 1980s my Grandma (who was a professional cook) got herself a microwave and dedicated her retirement to figuring out how to use it. Her microwave cheffing was never considered a success. You could break your teeth on her sponge cakes and her scrambled eggs bounced. Everything which came out of her microwave was a disaster, which was enormously disappointing for someone who could make patisserie that would make French Chefs weep with jealousy.

I have shied away from microwave cookery, bar reheating leftovers, pinging ready meals and giving jacket potatoes a head start; the thought of baking a cake in the microwave sends me straight back to 1985 and I was resolved never to try it. That was until I was sent a jar of Duerr’s Rhubarb and Custard Homebaking Jam, the jam has been formulated to behave itself when heated, so it doesn’t go chewy like other jams might. Additionally it tastes just like those rhubarb and custard sweets I used to be addicted to as a child.

We decided it would be best to make a jam sponge and custard with this really lovely yummy jam (I had already liberally smeared some on a croissant for quality control purposes). I love steamed puddings, but who has the time? So I decided it was worth me tentatively experimenting with a microwaved version, what’s the worst that can happen?

I made my usual sponge recipe and popped it in the microwave for four minutes, checked it, decided it needed another two minutes and it was perfect. It was by far the lightest, fluffiest sponge pudding we’ve had in a long, long time. It took ten minutes from weighing the ingredients to pouring custard over the finished pudding and filling our faces. It is in short the perfect pudding if you need something quick, warming, universally popular and drowned in custard.

jam sponge

Microwaved Jam Sponge Pudding (serves 6)
Ingredients:
4oz Sugar
4oz Butter or Margarine (I always use Stork)
2 medium eggs
4oz self raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Half a jar of Jam (I used Duerr’s Rhubarb and Custard Homebaking Jam)

Method:
1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir through the eggs.
2. Sift in the flour and baking powder and gently combine.
3. Dollop your jam on the bottom of a large microwavable bowl, gently (very gently so as not to disturb the jam) dollop the sponge mixture on top of the jam and smooth it so it’s fairly evenly distributed.
4. Microwave for six minutes (check this often as it’s really easy to quickly overcook things in the microwave).
5. Once cooked, remove carefully from the microwave and eat while it’s still warm.

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream, or whatever takes your fancy.

This is ridiculously quick and easy, incredibly tasty and really, really popular. I think my Grandma would be really proud that I finally cracked the mystery of microwave baking.

Recipe: Easy Peanut Butter Butterfly Cakes

I’ve been doing a lot of baking recently which can only mean one thing, I’m happy. I’m not sure why I’ve been blessed with the gift of temporary inner peace but I’m going with it and enjoying the cakey results. Yesterday on a whim I whipped up an experimental batch of Peanut Butter Cakes. They turned out to be pretty darn good, so I’m sharing the recipe. It’s really easy, if I can bake it then so can you.

Peanut butter cakes

Easy Peanut Butter Butterfly Cakes (makes approx 20)

Ingredients:
8oz Butter or margarine (I used stork)
8oz sugar
4 large eggs
2oz peanut hottie powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
6oz self raising flour

For the icing:
2 big scoops of Betty Crocker vanilla buttercream style icing
2 heaped dessert spoons of Chocolate Peanut butter hottie

Method:
1. Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and the stir in the eggs.
2. Carefully fold through the peanut hottie powder, baking soda and self raising flour until combined.
3. Dollop into cake cases, there should be enough to make about 20 buns.
4. Bake in a preheated oven at 180c for 15 minutes. Once cooked leave to cool.
5. To make the icing (yes this is cheaty, but you can make your own buttercream if you want), beat the buttercream until soft and thoroughly mix in the chocolate peanut hottie powder, add a drop of hot water if it feels too stiff.
6. Carefully cut a circle out of the top of each of your cooled cakes, cut the circle in two, dollop a teaspoon of buttercream into the hole and top with the halves to make them look like butterfly wings.

Resist the temptation to eat them all in one go.

So there you have it, really, really easy peanut butter cakes, they’re something that would be great to bake with children, or just by yourself if you’re in your happy place like me.

Kitchen Basics: Versatile Tomato Sauce

One of the staple dishes in our kitchen is a really simple tomato sauce. I make a batch almost fortnightly and it’s used in a few different ways, from spaghetti and meatballs, in lasagne, with baked vegetable dishes and topping pizzas, it’s so simple to do and the basis of so many meals it is one of the first things I’ll be teaching the boy to cook. Using some of the Cirio tomato products I’ve been sent, I knocked up a batch of sauce for a quick and simple meal this week.

Versatile Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:
1 large onion (or two small ones) finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 bottle of Cirio passata
1 pod of Cirio tomato purée
1 teaspoon of oregano or mixed herbs
1 teaspoon of pesto, tomato pesto if you have it (optional)
Olive oil
Sugar
Salt & pepper

Method:
1. In a frying pan heat up a splosh of olive oil (about a tablespoon) and gently soften your finely chopped onion. Stir frequently until soft and then add your crushed garlic and warm through for a few minutes, don’t let it burn or it’ll go bitter.
2. Once your onion is soft, add the passata and warm through. While it’s bubbling away gently, add the tomato purée, herbs, pesto (optional) and salt and pepper. To balance out any bitterness from the tomato add a good pinch of sugar to taste.
3. Leave to simmer gently for ten minutes or so, stirring frequently.

To serve as I have done, toss through some cooked spaghetti and serve with meatballs and a sprinkle of cheese. Alternatively layer into your lasagne, or cook for longer until it thickens a bit more and use as a pizza topping.

tomato sauce

This tomato sauce is incredibly versatile and I know that even if I serve it just with some plain pasta it will be a meal the small boy will devour in one sitting. As it’s made from tomatoes it is one of his five a day and is probably healthier than what I could buy in a jar.

tomato sauce

I like to use Cirio passata and purée where I can because of the quality of the tomatoes they use, you can tell by the colour, texture and flavour of the raw ingredient that anything you make with them will be tasty.

Note: I was sent some Cirio tomato products to try out in some of my recipes. All images, opinions and recipes are my own.