Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lebkuchen - Christmas Biscuits

Lebkuchen is a traditional German-Austrian christmas biscuit.  Whilst you can buy them in Lidl, these home made versions are super deliciously yummy and well worth a try :)

This recipe is adapted from Australian Womens Weekly "Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits"

You will need:

60g Butter
2 tablespoons Golden syrup
250g Plain Flour
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Cocoa powder
1 tablespoon milk
Jam - raspberry or blackberry
100g Dark Chocolate


1. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the golden syrup and bring to boil.

2. Remove from heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes

3. Add all the dry ingredients and milk. Stir well until smooth

4. Cover and leave to stand for an hour and half at room temperature, to allow mixture to form into a thick dough.

5. Once ready, turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead lightly, working in some of the flour until it loses its stickyness.

6. Using a rolling pin, roll out to about 8mm thick.  Cut out into your desired shape (hearts are best!) and place on a baking sheet, lightly greased and with baking paper.

7. Using the end of a wooden spoon, gently poke a dent into the centre of the biscuit.  Fill with half a teaspoon of jam.

8. Bake in the oven, Gas Mark 5 for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool on tray.

9. Once cold, melt the chocolate in a pyrex bowl over a pan of boiling water.  Dip the base of the biscuit into the chocolate, and smooth off the excess choco with a knife.

10. Place jam side down on a foil lined tray and place in the fridge till choco is set.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Banana Bread

This recipe is from my second attempt at making Rory's favourite banana bread.  His instructions were for it to be thick, bananary and moist - and this recipe achieves it perfectly :)  It is my adapted version of a banana bread recipe I found in "Australian Women's Weekly - Cakes and Slices" book.

You will need:
Rory ate it so quickly I could only get a photo of half of it!

125g Butter
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence
180g Castor Sugar
2 Eggs
4 Mashed Bananas
230g Plain Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
(Optional - you can also add chopped nuts or raisins if  you like that sort of thing. about 100g)


1. Cream butter and sugar together, mix in the vanilla essence.

2. Beat in the eggs one at a time

3. Stir in half the mashed bananas and half the dry ingredients (flour, etc), mix well then add the second half and stir until its all combined.

4. If you are putting in additional bits like nuts/raisins fold them in now.

5. Pour mixture into a greased and lined baking pan.

6. Bake about Gas Mark 4 for 45mins to an hour.  Cooking time depends on the pan you use, a flat pan will need less time, or a big one like mine will take up to an hour.  You will know when its done if you poke in a knife or cocktail stick and it comes out clean (ie no raw mixture on it)

7. Leave to cool before eating. Enjoy!

Chicken with Pesto and Mozzarella

I stole this pic to give u a rough idea ;)
This is one of my favourite dinners of mums own recipes.  The pesto and mozzarella provide a delightful flavouring to the chicken whilst the pesto juices that run off make a delicious sauce which is scrumptious when poured over the mash potatoes.  yummys :)

It is easy to make as it only requires a few basic steps, and enough time whilst you wait for it to cook to whip up a cake or do other things.

You will need:

1 Chicken Breast per person
Pot of Green Pesto
125g Mozzarella
Knob of Butter

This is best served with Mash, so get some Potatoes too (and some parsnips / butternut squash / swede if you like magic mash)


1. If making mash, you may want to prep the veg first and place it in a pan of water, cover and leave to simmer away whilst you cook the rest of the meal (for about 25mins until soft)

2. Heat up the knob of butter in a frying pan on the hob

3. Add the chicken and cook for 5 mins on each side at a medium heat

4. Turn the heat down and cook for a further 15 minutes, or until it is cooked through and the juices run clear.

5.  Once done, spoon two or so teaspoons of pesto on each bit of chicken

6. Next gently place a few generous slices of mozzarella cheese on the top of the pesto

7. Transfer pan to a grill, and cook at a high heat for about 5 minutes or until all the cheese is nicely melted and browning. 

8. Whilst its browning under the grill, sort your mash out.  Drain the water off (and save it for veg stock if your super efficient), add a knob of butter, a splash of milk and mash with a potato masher.

9. Serve next to your mash, and don't forget to pour the pesto juices from the pan over the top too!

10. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Practical Guide to Skipping / Dumpster Diving / Bin Raiding / Freegan

i.e. Finding edible waste food in bins

Inspired by my last post, and my reminiscing on having found my first ever haggis in a supermarket skip, I thought I'd write a quick guide of how to source out and find good quality food in the bins of shops that throw it away.

Like most people, I knew about skipping for a long time before I ever tried it.  It sounded like a great idea, but I was nervous about the quality of the food avaliable and whether it was really edible.  However, once I gave it a go, I realised just how fine it all was and I regretted not doing it sooner! It is truely shocking that food in such good condition gets thrown away everyday by supermarkets, especially when so many people are hungry/ homeless.  You will be amazed at what you will find, and with often so much avaliable you can be as picky as you like in deciding what to take.

The advantages to skipping are
  • It cuts down your food bill massively
  • It encourages you to try new types of food
  • It makes you more inventive with your cooking
  • You don't know what you'll find, so its more fun than normal shopping
  • You'll feel great about helping to reduce the amount of food that is wasted by supermarkets

Where to go 

There are many great places to look for your food.  Up-market shops are normally much better, as they are less bothered about throwing away perfectly good food.  So Marks & Spencer's and Waitrose are brilliant for skips.

Other good places are Co-operative, health food places (like As Nature Intended), any independent bakery, Iceland, occasionally Tescos, fruit/veg markets plus many more! Instead of going into your usual shopping place, have a look round the back instead :)

It is often better to go at night, as you are less likely to be seen by anyone, and they throw most of the food away at the end of the day.  However, in desperate times you can have a look in the daytime / late afternoon.

What to take

Remember to use your common sense when picking food - use your senses to determine if the food is going to be okay to eat. Smell - if it smells rank it'll probably taste it so leave it in the bin! Look at the packaging, if its meat/dairy then if the packaging is swollen up like a bubble, then its off - leave it behind.  Also remember to check the dates, sometimes food is just a day off, or a few days so it'll be fine... occasionally it'll be months and months off, so be careful.  The more you do it the better you will get at judging whether its edible or not.

Best options are:
  • Fruit and Veg -  because you can see clearly the state they are in.  
  • Meat and Dairy - if they are just a day or two past their dates they can be frozen or eaten straight away
  • Bakery goods are usually fine, the common term for them is 'gack', usually because if they are all merged together and become one big squishy sweet mess (its delicious!).
Remember you only have to take the things you feel happy about.  Even if you just skip one loaf of bread every few days, then its better than nothing! The first few times you may be a bit squeemish about it, but as you get used to it you'll get more stuck in. Usually if you dig down deep you'll find a treasure cove of many wonderful things! Soon youll be in there head first with someone holding your ankles as you rummage :)


There are a few basic rules of etiquette when skipping.
  1. Never leave a mess. Always make sure you tidy up nicely when you are done, leaving no rubbish.
  2. Always leave some stuff behind as someone else might skip there after you and its unfair to take it all
  3. Only take as much as you need. (As tempting as it may be to take lots, ask yourself will you really use twenty avocados..?)

The Law

In the UK, skipping is technically stealing, but don't let this stop you because its easy to avoid any confrontation with the law.  The main thing is access: if you have to climb over a fence or wall to get to the bins then it counts as trespass, which you can be arrested for.

Don't worry too much though, as if the police ever do find you raiding the bins, then you can easily talk your way out of it by explaining that you're hungry, by showing them the quality of the food and that it is going to waste, and even by offering them some too.  This will pretty much work with anyone who catches you.

I have only heard of one person being arrested for skipping, and it was because he climbed over a fence to access the bins, and the coppers only took him in because he wasn't on record already, and he got just a caution.  If you are worried, just only ever go to bins where there is open access and you'll be fine :)

Good luck and happy skipping :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ode to Haggis

This is not a recipe, instead I am going to try ad convince you to try haggis because it is just delicious!

Most people have heard horrible things about haggis, and the idea of it being boiled in a sheeps stomach is enough to turn most people off it.  However, most modern haggis is in casing rather than a stomach, and if your still unsure then why not try vegetarian haggis!

The main reason I like haggis so much is because its delicious, its super easy to prepare (can microwave it in minutes), its cheap, its lovely and meaty and it tastes like the nicest stuffing in the world!  You can eat it on its own, or have it with mash potatoes and veg.

My first experience of haggis was fairly recently.  Some friends of mine found a vegetarian haggis in the bins outside M&S in a skipping mission.  One of my friends who was already a fan highly recommended it, and I thought well because its vegetarian, whats the worst that can happen.  Well, I was very pleased I tried it because it was so nice!  I am a really big fan of stuffing - I always insist we have as many types at xmas as possible, and I often taste test different flavours on the run up to xmas - and the haggis I tried was just like a rich, filling, flavoursome, perfect stuffing! Yum yums

So after that I was converted, and I was especially excited to try a meaty haggis to see if it was as good.  Luckily, a few weeks later my friends skipped a proper haggis, and after boiling it up on the camp fire for about half and hour it was ready!  It was amazing! So meaty, and filling, and warming and tastey.

 I cant really describe the wonder of the taste to you! It is so nice you just have to try it yourself! Its avaliable in most supermarkets - but I would recommend better quality ones for a better taste!  If you are low on funds Haggis can be a great way to get your meaty fill on a budget - or better still have a look in your local super market bins - especially after Burns night on the 25th January!

Try it! You wont regret it!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sweet Chestnut and Whiskey Jam

Sweet Chestnut and Whiskey Jam

I found this recipe in an old preserves book, and have made a few up to date changes for it. Its very simple to make, and avoids all that 'setting point' nonsense that fruit jam requires :) Plus it makes a wonderful christmas present!

You will need:

250g cooked peeled chestnuts - I used "Merchant Gourmet hand selected whole chestnuts - roasted and ready to use" It claims to be 200g but when I weighed it it was actually 250g
NB: of course you can use your own foraged sweet chestnuts, tho it is a bit more hassle!

1 Vanilla pod - or vanilla essense

150g Soft light brown sugar

1 Tablespoon of Whiskey

1 small sterilised jar - This recipe doesnt make much, double or triple it if you wish to make tons
- to sterile heat jar in the oven gas mark 4 for 20 mins


1. Put chestnuts in a pan and add enough water to cover. Add either vanilla pod, or half teaspoon of vanilla essence.

2. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cover and simmer for 30 mins. Stir occasionally, and make sure it doesnt boil dry (you can always add a bit more water)

3. Then remove vanilla pod (if used), and strain, but reserve the liquid!

4. Puree the chestnuts with blender, or potatoe masher.

5. Add about 100ml of the liquid back in again. Add half teaspoon more vanilla essense, or if using a pod scrape out and add the seeds

6. Add the sugar and stir. As the sugar disolves it should become a smooth puree

7. Bring to the boil and cook until it thickens. Keep stirring and it should take about 5 mins

8. Remove from the heat and add the whiskey and stir well.

9. Put into sterilised jars, cover with a circle of baking paper and put on air tight lid.

Leave to mature for 2 days in a cool dry place before eating, or store unopened for 6 months :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Easy Peasy Quiche


Easy peasy quichy :) Very simple recipe, and you can add your own flavours to it depending on what you have about

You will need:

For the pastry: 150g Flour, 75g Butter

3-4 eggs
200ml milk
150g grated cheese


1. First the pastry! using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it becomes like breadcrumbs

2. Add small amounts of water and mix until you get a firm dough

3. Roll out and use it to line a well greased pie dish. Prick with a fork 8 times and bake in the oven for 5 minutes at Gas Mark 4

4. In a bowl, mix the beaten eggs, milk and cheese together.

5. Layer up some extra flavours on the pie dish! (see below for suggestions) My favourite is a layer of tomatoe puree on the base, followed by a layer of tinned tuna, couple of spoons of sweetcorn and some broccoli!

6. Pour the eggy mixture over the top and bake in the oven for 40 minutes on gas mark 4, or until it is set and the top is golden.

Ideas for your quiche!

Onions - chop and lightly fry until soft
Bacon - Chop and fry first
Broccoli - boil in water for 5 minutes first
Mushrooms - Slice and fry in butter first
Leek - slice and fry in butter first
Tinned salmon - extra nice if you top with fresh spinach and use riccota cheese
Tomatoes - slice up and place on top of quiche

Mix and match these, or add your own ideas to create delicious quiches. Simples :)

Fast Ginger Beer

Fast Ginger Beer

If you've never brewed your own booze before this is a great way to start! Its a very simple to make and only takes 2 days to brew up! Perfect way to save money on booze at a party :)

You will need:

1/4 teaspoon of yeast
100g caster sugar (can use more sugar if you like, but I found 100g to be sweet enough)
2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 good tablespoon of honey

1 two litre screw top plastic bottle - sterilise with sterilising tablets


1. Using a funnel (or jug) pour the yeast and sugar in the bottle.

2. Mix the ginger, lemon juice and honey together, and pour into the bottle

3. Fill 3/4 with water, put the lid on and shakey shake until the sugars desolved

4. Top up the bottle with water, but leave a 2 inch gap for gas production.

5. Cap it tightly and place somewhere warm (like an airing cupboard) for about 48 hours. Once the bottle is hard with no give it should be ready.

6. Remember to chill your beer for a few hours before you drink it! and be warned! Its very very fizzy so open over a sink or outside!

7. Alternativly, you can poke a hole in the lid of the bottle and fit a bubbler, then leave to brew for a week before drinking.  It will be stronger but less fizzy :)