Tag Archives: easy recipe

Easy Recipe: Mother’s Day Sparkly Chocolate Cups

I love getting homemade cards and gifts from my son on Mother’s Day (and any other day he wants to make me something). As you can probably imagine, we’re quite big on baking at home and we bake for almost any occasion. I’m a firm believer in making life easy for myself. Whilst I’m happy to bake a fairly complex cake, there’s definitely space in my kitchen for incredibly simple recipes. I’ve made these Sparkly Chocolate Cups for Mother’s Day. They’re very, very easy to make and perfect for kids to make with a little adult supervision.

Easy Recipe: Sparkly Chocolate Cups for Mother's Day

Not only are they great for kids to make, if you lack confidence in the kitchen, these are so easy to make and look pretty impressive too.

Sparkly Chocolate Cups

250g of good quality dark or milk chocolate
Cake decorating sprinkles, stars, silver balls, whatever you fancy

You will need:
A saucepan, a glass bowl which will sit in the pan, but so it doesn’t touch the bottom, a metal spoon, some cupcake cases – I used silicone but paper ones are fine.

How to make your chocolate cups:
Boil some water and pour the water into your pan so it’s about 3cm deep. Carefully place the glass bowl in the pan making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. This is called a bain marie.

Break your chocolate up into small pieces and put it in the glass bowl, the water in the pan needs to be at a gentle simmer, not bubbling and boiling. Stir the chocolate until it is melted.

Once the chocolate is melted, with a spoon scoop about two dessert spoons of melted chocolate into each cupcake case. Gently shake each one so the chocolate settles.

Once you’ve used all of your chocolate, take your chosen sprinkles and sprinkle as much or as little as you like over the top of each chocolate. Leave them to cool for at least two hours.

Easy Recipe: Sparkly Chocolate Cups for Mother's Day

Once they’re cool you can either take the chocolates out of their cases and put them in a nice gift box or cellophane bag, or you could just present them as they are in their pretty cupcake cases.

They’re so easy to make and they look impressive, whoever you give these to will be as pleased as punch!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like these super-easy love heart jam tarts.

Easy Recipe: Sparkly Chocolate Cups for Mother's Day

Recipe: Indulgent Chocolate Barleycup Tart

Last year I seriously cut down on my caffeine intake and now I just drink a couple of cups of tea or coffee a week. These days I seem to be very sensitive to caffeine and if I have a cup of coffee too late in the day, I just won’t sleep at night. I don’t want to cut it out completely, but I do have to keep an eye on just how much I drink. With this in mind, I was sent a jar of Barleycup to try.

I’ve swapped my lunchtime coffee for Barleycup and I’ve hardly noticed the difference. Barleycup is made from roasted cereal grains and chicory roots and is free-from caffeine and contains no artificial additives. Barleycup is also gluten-free and certified by Coeliac UK.

Recipe: Indulgent Chocolate Barleycup Tart

Recipe: Indulgent Chocolate Barleycup Tart

Not content with just drinking it, I wondered if it would be any good to bake with. It turns out that it was. I made a variation on a chocolate and coffee tart, I made a deliciously indulgent Chocolate and Barleycup Tart which was every bit as good as the original. Here’s my recipe…

Chocolate and Barleycup Tart

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
2 tablespoons of Barleycup powder dissolved in 4 tablespoons of boiling water


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 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.

Recipe: Indulgent Chocolate Barleycup Tart

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. Add in your Barleycup mixed with water and stir until combined.

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

To serve, garnish with raspberries or chopped nuts. It is very rich, so a little goes a long way.

I can confirm that Barleycup is a great coffee substitute in baking. It works really well, adding a slight bitter note and complexity to the tart. I’ll definitely be baking with it again, I wonder what a Barleycup and walnut cake would be like?

Recipe: Indulgent Chocolate Barleycup Tart

Note: I was set a jar of Barleycup to bake with. I have not been otherwise compensated for this post.


Recipe: Delicious Armenian Red Cabbage Salad

For our wedding anniversary a few weeks ago, my husband and I went to the Armenian Taverna in Manchester for dinner. We used to go there a lot in the days before we became parents, partly because the food was absolutely fantastic and partly because my husband is half Armenian and it’s good to celebrate those roots. We feasted on the beautiful mezze plates and chatted like the old days and we both fought over the small but delicious portion of Armenian Red Cabbage Salad, a dish I’ve decided to recreate at home because it was that good!

Mezze is always my favourite part of any Armenian meal. I love piling my plate with little heaps of good salads and sides, with dollops of rich hummus served with still warm lavash bread. Delicious.

Recipe: Delicious Armenian Red Cabbage Salad

This Armenian Red Cabbage Salad is and always has been one of my favourite dishes. The saladIt’s really simple to make and keeps for a few days in the fridge. I like to make a big bowl of it and serve it with almost anything. We had it this week with lamb koftas with a little salad and some lavash bread. It was so good I polished the rest of the bowl off for lunch.

It is better if you can make it the day before you need it as it really allows the flavours to develop. It’s so simple and I think a really flavoursome and slightly healthier alternative to coleslaw.

Armenian Red Cabbage Salad

1 small red cabbage, or half a large one
1 dessert spoon of caster sugar
2 dessert spoons of Balsamic vinegar
1 dessert spoon of good olive oil
A handful or sultanas or craisins
A good handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt & pepper
Walnuts, optional

Finely slice your red cabbage and toss in a bowl to separate all the slices. In a small jar add your sugar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and some seasoning. Put the lid on the jar and shake it hard until its well combined.

Pour the dressing over the red cabbage, add in your handful of sultanas or craisins and stir. Give the salad a taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs it. Over the bowl and put in the fridge overnight.

Before serving, remove from the fridge to bring it up to near room temperature. Stir through the chopped parsley and taste again to check the seasoning, adjust if you think it needs it. If I have any walnuts I sometimes like to chop them up a little and throw them into the salad too.

Recipe: Delicious Armenian Red Cabbage Salad

Serve however you want. We like our Armenian Red Cabbage Salad served with a mezze lunch or it’s great with lamb or this traditional Armenian Imam Bayildi recipe. This Armenian Red Cabbage Salad hits so many delicious sweet, sour and crunchy notes, I’m sure it’ll become a family favourite of yours too!

Recipe: Delicious Armenian Red Cabbage Salad

Recipe: Alcohol Free Champagne Jelly

About ten years ago we went to a very smart restaurant in the Lake District and had a pretty fantastic meal. For pudding my husband had Champagne Jelly and I was incredibly jealous of his light and refreshing pud. Being a vegetarian I was unable to tuck in, but he assured me that it was as good as it looked. Ever since then I’ve thought about making a veggie friendly Champagne Jelly but I’d never actually got around to doing it. This week I bit the bullet and made a beautiful, Alcohol Free Champagne Jelly using Eisberg Sparkling Rosé.

Eisberg Sparkling Rosé is a light and refreshing alcohol free sparking wine which is bursting with fresh, fruity flavours. It has 33 calories per 125ml serving and the alcohol is not more than 0.05%vol; making it great for those who might be counting calories, pregnant ladies who fancy a glass of fizz or for people who are just avoiding alcohol. This is also a drink, or a pudding which children could enjoy on a special occasion too. No one needs to feel like they’re missing out!

Alcohol Free Champagne Jelly

Alcohol Free Champagne Jelly Recipe 

Ingredients (serves 4):

30g caster sugar
500ml Eisberg Sparkling Rosé
1 sachet of Dr.Oetker Vege-Gel (19.5g)
A handful of raspberries, or any fruit you like


Measure out 500mls of Eisberg Sparkling Rosé and pour 200mls of the wine into a saucepan, add the 30g of caster sugar and start to heat through, stir to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved, sprinkle the packet of Dr.Oetker Vege-Gel, bring to the boil and whisk the whole time.

The Vege-Gel sets very quickly, so once it’s dissolved, add the remaining 300mls of wine and whisk. Take it off the heat when it starts to thicken and carefully pour into glasses or serving bowls, or whatever you’re serving them in.

You might want to put a few raspberries into your glasses before pouring the jelly in on top. My jellies set very quickly, so you will need to move fast.  But you might want to pop them in the fridge for a few hours to make sure they’re set firmly. 

Alcohol Free Champagne Jelly

This was a really speedy dessert to make, with none of the faffing which comes with gelatine. Because it was vegetarian and alcohol free, we could all enjoy it, even my son! I love that it sets so fast it manages to capture some of the bubbles in the jelly.

The Alcohol Free Champagne Jelly was an incredibly light and refreshing end to our meal. It would be perfect for a summer barbecue or a party. The fizz itself is delicious, I was very pleasantly surprised as I’m not usually a fan of rosé, but this is something I would happily serve my guests this summer, either as a drink or as a lovely fruity jelly.

You can find out more about Eisberg Sparkling wines on their website.

Alcohol Free Champagne Jelly

Note: I was sent some alcohol-free Eisberg Sparkling wines to try, all images and opinions are my own.

If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, you might also like my recipe for alcohol-free slow cooked beef in red wine.

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).

Works-Every-Time Sponge Cake

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

  • 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
  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


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.



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!


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.


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. That’s how I came up with this recipe for Fig, Honey & Cinnamon Sponge.

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.

3 fresh figs
6 teaspoons of runny honey
4 oz butter or margarine
4oz of caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
2 eggs
4oz self raising flour

Pre-heat your oven to 190. Grease six ramekins. Halve the figs and place one half in a ramekin and drizzle round a teaspoon of honey.

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.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190 for 20 minutes, or until the sponge is cooked through.
Once cooked, run a knife around the edge of the ramekin and tip out.

Serve with custard, ice cream or cream. Best eaten when warm.

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 these Fig, Honey & Cinnamon Sponge puddings will be a regular treat for us until the fresh fig season is over.

Fig, Honey & Cinnamon Sponge

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 make these Fig, Honey & Cinnamon Sponge puddings 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.

Recipe: Fig, Honey & Cinnamon Sponge Pudding

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

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.