Category Archives: Recipe

Recipe: Chilli Cheese Hot Dog Casserole

AD – I was sent some Ye Olde Oak Hot Dogs to create this Chilli Cheese Hot Dog Casserole recipe with. All images and opinions are our own. We have not been paid for this post.

I’m a big fan of cookery programmes and in the time before I got a proper job, I used to watch an awful lot of American cooking shows on Food Network. They generally made dishes fit for cowboys and truckers, but there was the odd recipe which really took my fancy.

In America they seem to be quite fond of something called a sandwich casserole. This is essentially a load of bread roll sandwiches put in a baking dish, brushed with butter and baked in the oven. I liked this idea, I liked it quite a lot, so when I was sent some Ye Olde Oak Hot Dogs I figured now was the time to make my American style sandwich casserole dreams come true.

Recipe: Chilli Cheese Hot Dog Casserole

They are really very easy to do. They’re great to make ahead and just bung in the oven for a quick feed. They make a lovely casual meal; ideal for play dates or if your BBQ has been rained off. They best thing is, you can mostly make them out of things you’d have in the cupboard already.

ye olde oak hot dogs

My recipe makes 6 hot dogs, but you can very easily double up, or triple up if you’re feeding a lot of hungry people.

Chilli Cheese Hot Dog Casserole

Ingredients
A packet of hot dog rolls
1 tin of Ye Olde Oak Hot Dogs
1 tin of tinned chilli (or homemade if you have it)
A packet of burger cheese slices
100g cheddar cheese, grated
50g butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Pepper, ground
2 good pinches of dried mixed herbs or finely chopped fresh parsley

Recipe: Chilli Cheese Hot Dog Casserole

How to make your Chilli Cheese Hot Dog Casserole

You will need a large oven proof dish. Melt your butter in a pan or microwave, add the crushed or minced garlic, a very good grind of pepper and your dried or fresh herbs. Using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of the dish with the melted garlicky butter and then put it to one side for later.

Slice your hot dog buns open, but not all the way through. Put a slice of burger cheese in each bun, then put a Ye Olde Oak Hot Dog on top of the cheese; top with some chilli. Fill the oven proof dish with your loaded hot dogs, nestle them in together so they’re almost spooning, but don’t squash them up too much.

Once you have filled your dish with chilli cheese hot dogs, brush the remaining garlic butter over the bread buns. Top with the grated cheddar cheese and cover the dish with foil.

Put into a pre-heated oven at 180°c for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 5 minutes or so; until the cheese is melted and everything is bubbling and delicious looking. Remove from the oven and serve.

Recipe: Chilli Cheese Hot Dog Casserole

This Chilli Cheese Hot Dog Casserole got the big thumbs up from my boy. You can top them however you want really, but the chilli and cheese combo is a winner! I was really impressed with how they came out of the oven; the bread bun was slightly crispy on top, but soft underneath. I’m so glad I tried the sandwich casserole idea, it’s one I’ll be playing with in various forms over the summer and beyond.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like to try these pizza hot dogs.

Recipe: Chilli Cheese Hot Dog Casserole

Retro Recipe: Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Custard

I think I sometimes look back on school dinners with misty eyes. I’m not sure my memory of them being the highlight of my school day is always accurate. In reality I think we remember the highlights more than the low points. I don’t think many people look back with much fondness at bowls of rice pudding and prunes; it’s more the thought of cornflake tart and chocolate cake with chocolate custard which bring back the good memories.

I’m not sure modern day school dinners are based on quite so much stodge, but sometimes stodge is good and you need a comforting hot pudding and custard. I’m usually a packet custard kind of girl, but this chocolate custard recipe is really simple and it works so well with the chocolate cake.

Retro Recipe: Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Custard

When I shared my photo of this chocolate cake with chocolate custard on Facebook, there were many people saying it needed to be green, mint flavoured custard, or even pink strawberry custard. I think all schools were different, mine did chocolate crunch and mint custard, something I might make at some point soon.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Custard

Ingredients
250g baking margarine or unsalted butter
250g golden caster sugar
4 medium eggs, beaten
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp dark cocoa powder
50g dark chocolate chips or dark chocolate, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
100mls milk, warmed slightly

For the chocolate custard
300ml whole milk
300ml double cream
4 large egg yolks
3 tbsp golden caster sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp cornflour

Retro Recipe: Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Custard

How to make your Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Custard

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a square 20cm cake or brownie tin with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together until soft, light and fluffy; I use an electric hand mixer for this, but a wooden spoon or a stand mixer work just as well.

Add the eggs one by one, beat well after adding each egg. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into the mixing bowl and mix well, once combined, add the chocolate chips or grated chocolate and stir through.

Add the vanilla extract and enough of the warm milk to create a smooth mixture with a dropping consistency. Pour into the tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Once baked, pull it out of the oven and leave to cool a little on a baking tray. This cake is good served warm or cold.

To make the custard, heat the milk and cream together in a saucepan until it is almost boiling, stir often. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar, cocoa and cornflour, then carefully and gradually pour the hot milk and cream over the top. This bit is really important as you don’t want the hot milk to scramble the eggs, so make sure you whisk it really well and add the hot milk gradually. Whisk well, then return to the pan.

Cook the mixture over a low-ish heat, stirring constantly until it forms a custard that thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon.

To serve, cut into 8 equal squares and serve warm with the chocolate custard poured over the top. School uniform optional!

Retro Recipe: Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Custard

Recipe: Really Simple Mocha Cake

When all the coffee shops are shut and you’re missing your favourite mocha, what’s a girl to do but bake a mocha cake? This week there were two birthdays in our family; for the first, I produced a rocky road and for the second I whipped up this delicious mocha cake.

I looked all over the Internet for a mocha cake recipe I liked, but I couldn’t find one. The ones I’d looked at seemed a bit faffy for what is essentially a coffee and chocolate sponge cake. I do make good sponge cake, so I made up my own mocha cake recipe and thankfully it turned out well, much to the delight of my family.

Recipe: Really Simple Mocha Cake

Simple Mocha Cake

Ingredients

225g soft butter or baking margarine like Stork
225g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 large eggs
4 level tsp instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water

For the coffee icing
150g soft butter
300g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
20g cocoa powder
4 level tsp instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line the base of two deep 20cm sandwich cake tins.

Beat the butter (or margarine) and sugar together until pale and fluffy. I used an electric hand whisk, but you can use a wooden spoon if you prefer. Add the eggs, cocoa powder, vanilla and coffee mixture and mix together. Gently tip in the flour and baking powder and combine until it’s all smooth.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two greased and lined baking tins.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes until cooked through. I tend to open the oven door and leave my cakes in for five minutes so the shock of coming out of the oven is less. Maybe I just bake sensitive cakes.

Turn your cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool fully. If you’re in a rush, you can pop them in the fridge for half an hour or so.

Recipe: Really Simple Mocha Cake

To make the buttercream icing, sift the icing sugar and mix with your softened butter in a mixing bowl until smooth. Beat in the dissolved coffee and cocoa powder with the vanilla essence.

When they are cool, put a blob of the buttercream icing on your cake plate or stand; place the first layer of your sponge cake on top. The blob of buttercream will anchor the cake in place and stop it from sliding about. Smother the top of your first layer with about half of the buttercream, then sandwich the second layer on top of that. Swirl the rest of the buttercream on the top layer. I topped that with some grated chocolate, but you can leave it plain if you prefer.

I was very generous with the buttercream. If you think it’s far too much, then use what you want and put the rest in the fridge for topping cupcakes or whatever at a later date.

This mocha cake is really light, but rich. Full of lovely coffee chocolate flavour and a great family bake. To make mine even more family friendly, I made mine with decaf instant coffee, so there should be no sleepless nights in my house!

Recipe: Really Simple Mocha Cake

Party Recipe: Jam and Cream Sponge Cake

This week sees the 75th anniversary of VE Day and many people across the UK and beyond will be marking the date. We will be taking part in a community zoom celebration, so I’ve been busy baking a lovely Jam and Cream Sponge Cake to have with a nice pot of tea.

I baked this deliciously light sponge cake filled with lovely purple (the royal colour) mulled wine jam. I’d like to think the Queen would approve of my simple but very yummy jam and cream sponge cake.

Patriotic Jam and Cream Sponge Cake

To find out how to make my Jam and Cream Sponge Cake, read my recipe below…

Patriotic Jam and Cream Sponge Cake

Serves 16
A classic Victoria Sponge layered with Mulled Wine Jam and Chantilly Cream.

Ingredients
300g caster sugar
300g softened butter
6 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk
300g self-raising flour
1.5 tsp baking powder

For the filling
1/2 Jar Mackays Christmas Preserve (mulled wine jam)
200ml double cream
1 level tablespoon of icing sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Instructions
Heat your fan oven to 190c. Butter 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.

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 through. Remove from the tins and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

To make the Chantilly cream, beat the cream, sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy. I used my hand mixer for this and it took just a few minutes.

To assemble the cake, choose the most attractive of the three sponge cakes and save that one to go on the top. You may need to cut the top of some of your layers to make them flatter so they sit more comfortably on each other. Put the bottom layer on your serving plate or cake board. Put a teaspoon of jam on the plate and put your bottom layer on that. It will help it stick to the board. Cover that first layer with your jam and put the second layer on top. Gently press the layers together. Top your second layer with the cream and put your top layer on top, sprinkle with icing sugar or decorate as you wish.

Notes

The cream is fresh so the cake will need to be eaten fairly quickly or refrigerated. If you want to keep it for a few days it might be best to not have the cream in between layers, maybe kept in the fridge to indulgently dollop on the side.

My Patriotic Jam and Cream Sponge Cake would make the prefect addition to a celebratory street party or a refined afternoon tea round at Buckingham Palace. It’s so quick and easy to make, it’ll leave you plenty of time to make a few plates of cucumber sandwiches and mix up a jug or two of Pimms for the party!

Patriotic Jam and Cream Sponge Cake

What’s your favourite celebratory bake?

Patriotic Jam and Cream Sponge Cake

I have to say, this sponge recipe is absolutely magic, I use it as the base for all my sponge cake bakes now; from butterfly cakes, cupcakes, sponge puddings and good old Victoria sponges, it’s light every single time. I can’t fault it.

Jam and Cream Sponge Cake

Recipe: Wild Garlic and Parmesan Focaccia

Being in lockdown isn’t easy. Some days I find myself going a little stir crazy, some days I’m listless in bed, other days I’m bursting with energy. I’m trying, where I can to just go with my mood rather than force myself to do things. Over the weekend the sun shone a little and I managed to leave the house and take the dog for a short walk on the field by my house. Along one shady side of the field is a path which in the spring in fringed with wild garlic. I can never resist pulling a few leaves and taking them home to make wild garlic scones or something equally lovely with them. Whilst it was quiet, I grabbed a handful of wild garlic, then headed home to bake some wild garlic and Parmesan focaccia, because everyone else is baking bread during lockdown, so why shouldn’t I?

Recipe: Wild Garlic and Parmesan Focaccia

Focaccia is a pretty simple bread to make, it just takes quite a lot of time. From picking my wild garlic, to pulling my bread out of the oven took the best part of five hours, but it was five hours very well spent. Before I began I checked in with my lovely Italian friend, Sherwin. He is a keen baker and gave me some top tips for tip top focaccia. His advice was as follows…

Focaccia is a high hydration dough so it is sticky and wet. Use oil instead of flour when hand kneading the dough on a work surface and preferably a slow first rise of 12 hours in the fridge, but an hour at room temperature will do. Use well oiled hands  when transferring and shaping the dough into a baking tray making sure not to knock out too much of the air. You can put rosemary, olives, cherry tomatoes, courgette or cheese. Enjoy!

I followed his excellent advice. I chose to prove my dough for an hour in the warmth of my bedroom and then topped it with wild garlic and Parmesan. The result was like the best garlic bread you’ve ever had.

Wild Garlic and Parmesan Focaccia

Ingredients
500g strong white bread flour
1 and a half teaspoons of salt
2 sachets dried easy blend yeast
Olive oil, lots
400ml cold water
More olive oil for drizzling
20g wild garlic leaves, washed and finely chopped
30g finely grated Parmesan
A sprinkle of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Recipe: Wild Garlic and Parmesan Focaccia

Method
Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and the water into a large bowl. Gently mix together with your hand to form a dough, then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes.

Next you need to stretch and knead the dough by hand in the bowl for about five minutes.

Tip the dough onto a very well oiled work surface and then knead some more for about five more minutes. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover and leave somewhere warm to rise until doubled in size, this takes about an hour. I put mine on my bed as my bedroom is the warmest room in the house, but whatever works for you.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and flatten the dough onto the tray, push the dough into the corners, cover with a large plastic bag or cling film, making sure it does not touch the top of the dough, then leave to prove for one hour.

Preheat your oven to 220C or Gas mark 7.

Using the tips of your fingers, dimple the focaccia all over, so it is covered in little dents. Sprinkle over the wild garlic and Parmesan, adding a generous twist of freshly ground black pepper and some sea salt. Drizzle over some more olive oil and then put in your pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.

Once it’s baked and out of the oven; drizzle with a little more olive oil and it’s ready to eat, hot or cold.

It is the most delicious bread I’ve made and if you can get your hands on some wild garlic, it’s well worth making yourself.

Recipe: Wild Garlic and Parmesan Focaccia

Recipe: Easy Easter Chocolate Tart

One of my favourite (and incredibly easy) things to make is an indulgent chocolate tart. Made with dark chocolate it is a delicious and pretty adult dessert. If dark chocolate isn’t your thing, you can swap it out for milk chocolate and enjoy a more family friendly pudding. I’ve jazzed up my usual chocolate tart for Easter and, well it was so popular that is disappeared within the hour!

Easter is undoubtedly a time for chocolate. If you can’t indulge your sweet tooth now, then when can you? This chocolate tart is really very simple to make, especially if you cheat and buy ready made pastry, and would be fun for kids to join in with too.

Recipe: Easy Easter Chocolate Tart

Easy Easter Chocolate Tart

Ingredients:
For the pastry –
4oz plain flour
2oz butter, cubed
A pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons of cold water
-or- a packet of ready rolled shortcrust pastry

For the filling –
150g single cream
2 tablespoons of sugar
150g good quality dark chocolate, or milk chocolate if you prefer

2 bags of mini eggs to decorate, 3 if you’re a nibbler!

Recipe: Easy Easter Chocolate Tart

Method:
Tip the flour, salt and butter in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Use a knife and stir in just enough cold water to bind the dough together. Do this gradually as you don’t want your pastry to be too wet. Once you’ve made the dough, cover the bowl and chill it in the fridge for 15 minutes or so before rolling out.

Or if you’re using shop bought, ready rolled pastry, take it out of the fridge about half an hour before you want to use it.

Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 5 or 190°

Take your pastry and roll it out to the thickness of a pound coin. You can either roll it out on a floured surface, or between two pieces of baking parchment. I find the baking parchment method quicker and a lot less messy.

Grease a 20cm tart tin and carefully put the pastry in the tin, pressing it against the sides. Let the pastry hang over the sides of the tin, you can trim it later. Prick the base all over with a fork. Top the pastry with a sheet of baking parchment and cover with baking beans, bake in your pre-heated oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the baking beans and parchment and pop back in the oven for another 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool, carefully with a sharp knife trim the pastry so it is flush with the top of the tin.

While your pastry is cooling, warm up your cream and sugar in a saucepan. Finely chop the chocolate and once the cream is simmering, turn off the heat and add the chocolate to the pan. Leave for a minute and stir until the mixture is smooth, like really thick hot chocolate.

Carefully fill the tart case with the melted chocolate mix, level it off and make an artistic swirl or ripple on the top if you want. Decorate with your mini eggs however you want. Put your tart in the fridge for a minimum of two hours, or overnight if you wish.

This chocolate tart is very, very rich, so a little goes a long way. It also makes an excellent pudding for Easter!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might like these mini egg cookies or these peppermint crunch slices!

Recipe: Easy Easter Chocolate Tart

Vegetarian Recipe: Aubergine Bruschetta

AD/Complimentary ingredients. Aubergine is probably one of my favourite vegetables. Admittedly it took me a while to warm to it, if it’s not cooked properly it can be pretty disgusting. These days I am probably cooking with aubergine once a week. My recipe for imam bayildi is a firm family favourite, as well as the delicious dip, ikra, but I’ve also added Aubergine Parmigiana to my repertoire.

If I’m cooking a casual lunch for friends, I like to make a few simple things to go with a big salad. One of my favourite things to make are these tasty aubergine bruschetta. They’re packed full of vegetables, they’re pretty healthy and they always go down a storm.

Vegetarian Recipe: Aubergine Bruschetta

This week I ordered a Local Box from Creamline Diaries. With the Creamline Best of Local Box scheme, you can get brilliant locally produced food from independent producers delivered to your door. The meat is from my local butchers, the bread is from a fantastic local baker and fresh fish from the fishmongers. The fruit and veg are fresh from the market each day and you can even stock up your store cupboard. 

Vegetarian Recipe: Aubergine Bruschetta

My Creamline box was brilliant and contained pretty much everything I needed to make this delicious aubergine bruschetta. It’s just the thing if you want to shop local, but don’t really have the time to visit all your local shops, or if you just can’t carry all your shopping home. 

Aubergine Bruschetta

Ingredients:

1 large aubergine
1 medium onion, finely diced (I prefer red, but a white onion works too)
2 cloves of garlic
1 pepper, finely diced. It’s traditional to use green, but I used red for colour
Olive oil
12 ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered
Big handful of chopped parsley
Tomato purée, if you think it needs it
1 teaspoon of sugar
Salt & pepper
Ciabatta bread
A ball of mozzarella cheese.

Method:

I find it best to chop all the veg before I start cooking, so finely dice your onion and pepper, quarter your cherry tomatoes and put to one side while you prep the aubergine. Cut the aubergine in half lengthways and finely dice one half. With the other half, slice lengthways it in thick, 1cm slices.

Add a generous glug of olive oil to a deep sided frying pan, add the onions, pepper and aubergine and begin to soften the veg. This should take around half an hour on a low heat, stir occasionally. Add a splash of water to help the veg soften. After you’ve been cooking this for around 15 mins, add your tomatoes, garlic and a generous amount of salt and pepper. It’s cooked when all the veg are soft and the aubergine is melty and isn’t woolly. Once cooked, throw in a handful of chopped parsley and stir.

Vegetarian Recipe: Aubergine Bruschetta

As ever, taste the aubergine and add more seasoning if you think it needs it. I sometimes add a little bit of chilli sauce to add a bit of spice, but that’s up to you.

Meanwhile, take your aubergine slices and put them on a baking tray, add a very generous amount of olive oil and cook in a 200c oven, loosely covered in foil until they are soft and floppy, this will take about half an hour, turn them over about half way through.

To assemble your aubergine bruschetta, toast or griddle thick slices of ciabatta brushed with olive oil, top with your aubergine and veg mix, then artfully decorate with your slices of aubergine, some torn mozzarella and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. You can eat this hot or cold, though I like them still warm, but not piping hot.

For more information about Creamline Dairies, visit their website.

Vegetarian Recipe: Aubergine Bruschetta

Note, we were sent this box in exchange for a blog post mentioning the box scheme. 

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

When school finished on Friday, my son was sent home with a pack of work to keep him busy while the schools are closed. The pack was full of maths and English worksheets, instructions for projects and lots of serious academic stuff. He’s in Year 4 and the emphasis right now is getting them up to speed for a big times tables test. In amongst the serious stuff was a copy of the curriculum for the rest of the year, tucked away in a dark corner were the words “bread making” so I’ve decided to break up the hardcore academic stuff with a series of bread making sessions, starting with these herby flatbreads.

I think that learning to bake bread is a pretty essential life skill. Where I live I’ve been struggling to find bread in the shops, so we’ve been mostly going without. I reckon being able to knock up some simple bread at home will tide us over. Bread making isn’t just about feeding ourselves, you can learn other lessons too, like maths (measuring out) and science (how yeast makes bread rise, etc).

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

Lunchtime was nearly upon us, so bellies rumbling we put together these really simple herby flatbreads. You can make them without the dried herbs if you prefer, but they were so much nicer with them. We ate them with hummus and carrot sticks, but they’d be brilliant with a curry or stew. They’re more snappable than bendy, almost like an Armenian lavash bread than a tortilla. Delicious.

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

Quick Herby Flatbreads

Ingredients
200g plain flour
¼ teaspoon of salt
100ml warm water
2 tablespoons of oil, I used vegetable, but olive or sunflower would work too, plus extra for cooking
1 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs
Ground pepper

Method
Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and trickle in the warm water, mixing as you go. We used a metal knife to mix with, but if you don’t mind getting messy, you can use your (very clean) hands.

Once the flour, salt and water are all mixed together, add the oil, the dried herbs and some black pepper and knead the dough with your hands. If the dough is too sticky, add a some more flour, if it is too dry add a drop more water.

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough for five minutes. Try stretching the doings and folding it back on itself, my son loved punching the dough. You knead the dough to develop the gluten in it, this is what makes the bread springy and nice to eat.

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

Divide the dough into six balls, and on a clean, floured surface roll out each ball of dough using a rolling pin. Try and roll them into circles, but don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. They need to be as thin as you can make them; that way they will cook all the way through and be crispy and delicious.

Heat a frying pan, if you have a pastry brush, brush some oil over the pan; if not, dribble a tiny bit of oil in the pan and swirl it around. Once your pan has heated up a little, put your first herby flatbread in the pan. Cook each flatbread for about two minutes on each side, flip it over with a spatula. Ben said it looked like a bit like a pancake.

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

Once each side was cooked, we gobbled them up with some hummus. Ben said they tasted like the kind of bread we had with curry. If you wanted, you could try making your own butter to go with your herby flatbreads, it’s easy and lots of fun too!

These quick herby flatbreads are really easy to make with children. They’re quick, tasty and are a good introduction to bread making. We have plans for soda bread, focaccia, a crusty loaf and maybe some brioche. He will be a bread making genius by the time he goes back to school!

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

Recipe: Courgette Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

Courgettes are one of my favourite vegetables. They might not be very exciting, but they’re great with pasta and vegetable bakes and as I discovered this week, they’re very good in cakes too. Vegetable cakes are nothing new, but this was the first time I’ve baked a courgette cake and it won’t be the last. My courgette cake was light, moist and delicious; delicately spiced and devoured almost immediately by my greedy family.

Recipes: Courgette Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

Despite what you may think, the cake really doesn’t taste like it’s packed with courgettes, it just tastes like good cake. With the frosting it looks really pretty too, and for my money is a great way to sneak a nutrient rich vegetable into an unsuspecting child.

Courgette Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

Ingredients
150ml vegetable oil
200g soft brown sugar
3 medium eggs
1 lemon, finely grated and zested
200g coarsely grated courgette
1 heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon
250g self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the frosting
50g unsalted butter, softened
85g icing sugar, sifted
pinch ground cinnamon
180g soft cheese

Recipes: Courgette Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

Method
Preheat oven to 180°c or gas mark 4. Grease and line a large loaf tin, I use loaf tin liners which are so much easier. In a large mixing bowl, beat the oil, soft brown sugar, and eggs until smooth. I used my hand mixer, but a wooden spoon works just as well.

Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice and the grated courgette. Tip in the sifted flour and bicarbonate of soda and fold in gently until it’s all mixed together well. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake for around one hour until risen and golden. If you’re not sure, insert a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean, then it’s cooked.

Leave the cake to cool fully on a wire rack for a few hours. The cake has to be fully cool before you pile the frosting on top, or it’ll melt.

With an electric whisk beat together the unsalted butter, cinnamon and icing sugar until it comes together and is smooth. This will take a little while, so persist with it. It will look unpromising and like breadcrumbs for a while. Once it is smooth, add the cream cheese and beat quickly until it’s soft and smooth. Do not over-beat the frosting, or the cream cheese may split and become runny. Spread over the top of the cake with a palette knife or an offset spatula, it might be mice to sprinkle chopped nuts over the top, or more lemon zest if you like. I just made some decorative ripples, then popped the cake in the fridge for the frosting to firm up.

The courgette cake without frosting would happily keep in a tin for a few days, with the frosting it’ll need to be kept in the fridge, or the cream cheese frosting might go off.

Recipes: Courgette Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

If you love carrot cake, or chocolate beetroot cake, try this easy and delicious courgette cake recipe, you’d never know what was in it!

Recipes: Courgette Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

Frugal Food: Cheesy Leek Gratin

The start of the year is always the longest, leanest time for me. There have been many evenings lately that I have peered into the fridge and wondered what I could cobble together for tea.

A few days ago I picked up some leeks from the greengrocers for not many pence, and being leek fans, I decided to throw together a lovely, comforting cheese leek gratin. It’s remarkably simple and fairly frugal vegetable dish and even my fussy about veg 9 year old asked for seconds!

Frugal Food: Cheesy Leek Gratin

Cheesy Leek Gratin

Sliced leeks, I used six, but you can use more if you want
A little butter for frying
50g butter or margarine
50g plain flour, or sauce flour if you have it
1 pint of milk (maybe a little more, maybe a little less)
100g mature cheddar cheese
30g Parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper and dried chilli flakes
Breadcrumbs

Method
Slice your leeks and fry gently in a bit of butter until they are soft.

Whilst your leeks are softening, melt the butter in a saucepan, once melted, tip in the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Mix until it’s a paste and then cook the flour out for a minute. Add a splash of milk and stir until it turns into a paste again. Keep adding milk in splashes and mixing until it starts to turn into a silky sauce. The amount of milk will vary, but I’d say you need at least a pint of milk. If it looks lumpy and unpromising, just use a whisk until it turns into a lovely smooth sauce.

Grate your cheese and add it to your sauce. Set aside about 30g of the cheese to top your bake with. Stir, stir, stir your sauce and season with salt and pepper. I also like to add ground chilli flakes for a bit of a gentle kick, but you can leave that out if you prefer. Taste the sauce to check the seasoning; if it’s not cheesy enough for you, now is a good time to add more cheese. Now is also a good time to pre-heat your oven to 220°.

Once your leeks are soft and your sauce is cheesy and smooth, tip them both into an ovenproof dish and mix together. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon and sprinkle over your reserved cheese. I usually top bakes and gratins with breadcrumbs. It gives a lovely texture and makes it look extra tasty. If I can be bothered I something whizz up some stale bread in the food processor and use that, but I have a tub of ready made breadcrumbs in the cupboard because sometimes life it too short to make your own. I sprinkle whatever I have over the top, use as much or as little as you want.

Frugal Food: Cheesy Leek Gratin

Put your cheesy leek gratin in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the top is brown and the sauce is bubbling beneath. I’ve made this several times now and it’s a regular veg dish as part of a winter roast. It’s great with chicken or sausages, or even on its own with a crusty piece of bread.

If you enjoyed this, you might like my recipe for slow cooker vegetable stew.

Frugal Food: Cheesy Leek Gratin