Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they weren't fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.
“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head, and whispered to her neighbor . . . "Winter is dead.”
~A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cillet Bang and a Giveaway



I was recently sent the neatest thing to test out. The Cillit Bang All in 1 is the latest cleaner in the Cillit Bang arsenal of cleaning products. The All in 1 comes in a very handy pump dispenser that means every bottle is tough on dirt and economical to use.

I am quite familiar with all of the Cillit Bang products and use them in my home often . . . I use the stuff for in the laundry to make my whites whiter (and it works) and I use the spray cleaner for the bath and also for the kitchen. All of their products work quite well in my opinion and deliver what they promise . . . but could this???



The starter kit comes with one bottle of the all in one surface cleaner, an automatic dispenser and the batteries needed. The dispenser under the tap activitates automatically delivering the exact amount when you wave your sponge beneath it. It's quite neat to watch.

The first thing I did with it was try to tackle the baked on mess on my hob top.



Umm . . . I am almost embarassed to show you this. But . . . well for the purposes of illustrating just how good this stuff is I will! You can see that there is quite a bit of cooked on grime there! Yuck!! It's not hard to tell which burners I use the most!



I simply waved my damp sponge beneath the nozzle and then I applied it all over the top of my hob. I let it sit for about 10 minutes, and then I scrubbed it all off. It took very little elbow grease and this is what I ended up with:



It's not perfect, but it is a vast improvement on what I started out with! I expect it will take more than a few passes to get all of the grime, but I was quite impressed.

Do you remember those tasty oats I cooked ???



Here is the pot after cooking. I even let it sit overnight so that it would dry on even more. You can even see a scorch on the side of the pot due to the gas flame licking up the sides of the pot, from an earlier cooking session. I could never get it to disappear.



I waved the pot beneath the dispenser and got one squirt and then I filled the pot with warm water and let it sit for about 15 minutes . . .



Presto Chango! It looks like a new pot! Even the scorch mark is gone!

All in One has been specially formulated for use on dishes AND surfaces. Its intelligent cleaning agents react to different surfaces, giving you a versatile solution to tackle stains and food residues all over the kitchen.

The result? Sparkling dishes and gleaming surfaces from one product. Gentle enough on your hands for everyday washing up and wiping down, but powerful enough to cut through grease and baked on stains. Even pure oil is no match for All in One Dish & Surface cleaner.

Plus it's concentrated liquid promises to be 2 X more efficient than regular washing up liquid, so you use less.

The All in One Dish and Surface cleaner comes with a clever dispenser which senses your sponge and automatically delivers just the right amount in a measured dose – so no more wastage due to over-squirting. And because the dispenser can be used again and again, all you need to do is order refills once it runs out. Each contains up to another 160 doses.

On surfaces the product cut through dirt just as well as it did on my dishes but 1 pump was enough to clean and any more meant that you were spending time rinsing the lather off. A little goes a long way and as each refill dispenses up to 160 doses the retail price of currently £7.99 for 3 refills it looks like an economical alternative to buying several separate products for your cleaning needs.

All in all I would call this handy product a winner, hands down!

Would you like to be able to try the Cillit Bang All in 1 yourself??? I will be giving one away to one lucky reader who comments on this post. Unfortnately, the UK only. In order to be in on the giveaway all you have to do is leave a comment at the end of this post and on Monday, March 5th, 2012, I will draw one lucky winner using a random number generator. Good luck everyone!

Many thanks to Rachel and Cillit Bang for affording me this opportunity!

I am giving away one Cillit Bang All in One Starter Kit to one lucky person who comments on this entry.

Cherry Bakewell Breakfast Oats.



I think one of my favourite British flavours has to be the Cherry Bakewell Tart . . . and Bakewell Pudding. Bakewell Tart is an English confection consisting of a shortcrust pastry with a layer of jam and a sponge filling with almonds. The Bakewell Pudding on the other hand is a flaky pastry, with a layer of jam and an egg and almond filling. Some versions of the tart are covered with a layer of fondant. I do confess I love them all . . . the tarts, the pudding and the fondant!



I love the flavours so much that I adapted them to create my very own Cherry Bakewell Whoopie Pies a few years back, and I have to confess they were just about the scrummiest whoopie pies I have ever eaten! I've also created Bakewell Scones, and Raspberry Bakewell Cake, quite successfully and I adore them both!



Today for breakfast I decided to take the Bakewell flavours that little bit further and I created Cherry Bakewell Breakfast Oats! Just imagine it now . . .



Wholesome and hearty oats, rich and creamy . . . flavoured with the scrummy tastes of sour cherries, toasted almonds and dark cherry preserves . . .



The oats so filling and nutritious . . . cooked in milk . . . with just a touch of almond extract . . . stogged full of dried sour cherries . . .



Topped with a swirl of beautiful dark cherry preserves and a scattering of toasted flaked almonds, nutty and sweet . . .



Oh how moreish . . . oh how wonderful . . . this is the type of food that Enid Blyton made me dream about when I was a child!



As I sat there this morning devouring every delicious mouthful, I could almost imagine tucking into a scrummy bowl of this with my mates . . . storing up much needed energy for the adventures that the day ahead might hold . . .
Except there is no parrot named Kiki to amuse us . . . just a mad Cocker named Mitzie, who is in all truth probably quite a bit easier to handle and put up with.



Cherry Bakewell Breakfast Oats. Try some today. You won't be sorry you did and I dare to hazard a guess that it will become a firm favourite in your home as well. We loved this . . . we truly did.

Oh I am a very clever clogs to be sure . . .




*Cherry Bakewell Breakfast Oats*
Serves 2 generously
Printable Recipe

All the flavours of your favourite tart in a beautiful breakfast indulgence.

500ml of milk (2 cups)
80g of rolled oats (Old fashioned)
40g dried cherries (1/4 cup)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 TBS black cherry jam
2 TBS toasted flaked almonds

Combine the milk, oats, dried cherries and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir and bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, until the oats are softened and the mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the almond extract. Spoon into heated bowls. Swirl a TBS of cherry jam into each and then sprinkle with some toasted almonds. Serve immediately. Delicious!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Marshmallow Madness




As you know, from time to time I am sent cookery books to review. This time Matt from the PGUK Publishers Group sent me a cute book entitled Marshallow Madness, written by blogger Shauna Sever, Piece of Cake.

It's a really pretty little book, with a delightfully bright cover, which is kind of puffy, just like a marshmallow! Inside you will find anything you ever wanted to know about making marshmallows but were afraid to ask. Shauna's concise instructions and hints and tips make it seem like a doddle . . . and actually, having made marshmallows before myself, I can tell you with authority that it may be a bit of a sticky venture, but not as hard as some would suppose, and all of her hints, tips and knowledge will make it all that bit easier.



There are delightful chapters filled with lots of lovely sounding recipes . . . the classics, fresh and fruity, happy hour, for the mallow connoisseur, kids in a candy store and fluffy, puffy desserts! Each recipe includes a really scrummy picture that makes you want to lick the page.



Check out some of the tasty puffy, fluffy marshmallow flavours . . . Stawberry and Vanilla, Buttered Rum, Root Beer Foat, Maple Bacon . . . but that is not all! No, that is not all!!

There are also easy recipes for homemade graham crackers, drinks for mallow dunking and a host if irrestible desserts, including a bevy of whoopie pies and some tasty squares and cupcakes!



If you are in to Marshmallows and sticky treats, then this is the book for you. I can only see one drawback to it . . . and that is that over here in the UK, not all of the ingredients are readily available . . . but they can be found at a price. (There are a few companies here that deal in American products that have such things as corn syrup. You can use golden syrup of course, but it may change the look and taste of the finished product somewhat.)

I liked the drinks section at the end of the book, which contained several tasty sounding beverages that are perfect for going with your homemade marshmallows . . . drinks such as Malted White Hot Chocolate and Sassy Spiced Hot Chocolate to name but a few. We here at Casa de Rayner are quite fond of a warm bedtime bevvie, something like Horlicks or Ovaltine . . . we found two mugs of this delicious Five Spice Vanilla Milk went down a real treat the other night!



*Five Spice Vanilla Milk*
Serves 2
Printable Recipe

Makes a tasty change from the usual bedtime drinks.

500ml of whole milk (2 cups)
3 TBS honey
1/2 vanilla bean, or 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 star anise
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt



Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat just to the boil, stirring occasionally. (You can tell when it's just to the boil as little bubbles appear all around the edges.) Remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Reheat briefly and then strain iinto two mugs. Serve immediately. (I added some marshmallows to the top, which looked quite pretty. I sliced them into petals with my kitchen scissors.)

Recommended Marshmallow pairings: Classic Vanilla, Apple-Cinnamon, Spiced Cherry, Pumpkin Spice. (All recipes are in the book.)


Marshmallow Maddness by Shauna Sever
Published by Quirk Publishers
ISBN 978-1-59474-572-0
Available in the UK for pre-order here
at the low price of £8.51

Many thanks to Matt from the PGUK Publishers Group for sending me this delightful little book to review!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Crusty Chicken Pot Pie Buns



We had the missionaries over for supper the other night and I roasted a couple of chickens and did a nice roast dinner for them. There was lots of veg, and mash and stuffing . . . and for dessert, sticky toffee pudding with cream. Todd said to me, that's a lot of chicken . . . but you know . . . I like to have leftovers. Two chickens equals 4 drumsticks as well, and you know lads and drumsticks!



Anyways, I had all this leftover chicken and was wanting to do something different with it . . . something not like the usual chicken casserole, or chicken sandwiches, enchiladas . . . or whatever. I wanted to something really different.



Then I had a brain storm. WE do like chicken pot pie. We do like chicken sandwiches . . . hmmm . . . the wheels started to turn. What if I put the two things together???



I think it was a few years ago when I shared my Crusty Lasagne Buns with y'all . . . they're wonderfully delicious! I thought to myself . . . why not a Crusty Chicken Pot Pie Bun???? Just the idea sounded fabulous, and I found myself thinking why had I not thought of this before!!!!



I just happened to have some crusty rolls in the house as well . . . also leftover from the roast dinner. I didn't have any leftover gravy . . . so I used cream soup instead, but you could use leftover gravy and it would be even better!!! (I like my pot pies made with leftover gravy. They're the bees knees!) I just used frozen mixed vegetables, thawed out, but if you had leftover vegetables that would be good too.



I had leftover stuffing and so I crumbled some of that on top and it was oooooooohhhh so scrumdiddlyumptious, but you could just make some buttered bread crumbs from the bread that you pull out of the rolls and that would be fine too.

All in all, I decided that these were totally awesome as the kids would say!!!! (DO kids still say that?? I dunno!!)



Nice crusty rolls filled with a scrummy chicken pot pie filling and topped with crumbly stuffing bits and baked until the whole thing is bubbling delish and the stuffing bits are nicely browned on top. No faffing about with pastry or dumplings. Easy peasy lemon squeasy.

Todd says they are a new favourite. I call them fabulous. Sometimes I even surprise myself!



*Crusty Chicken Pot Pie Buns*
Serves 6 - 8 depending on the size of your buns
Printable Recipe

Chicken Pot Pie without the pastry . . . served up in your very own crusty roll. Deliciously different!

1 tin of condensed cream of chicken soup (415g or 10 3/4 ounces)
(In the UK this is the Batchelor's Brand of soups)
1 soup tin of milk
1/2 tsp savoury
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 large mug fulls of cubed cooked potato
2 large mugfuls of cubed cooked chicken
2 large mugfuls of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed (the one with peas, carrots, corn and beans)
salt and black pepper to taste
6 large crusty rolls (8 if they are not overly large)
leftover stuffing, crumbled, enough to top each bun, optional (can use buttered cracker crumbs, or even
the bread removed from the centre of the buns, crumbled and mixed with a bit of melted butter

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. Have ready a baking tray.

Mix together the soup, milk, savoury, sage, marjoram, onion and garlic powders, cooked potato, cooked chicken, and mixed vegetables. Season to taste with some salt and black pepper.

Using a serrated knife, cut a sliver from the top of each bun. Using your fingers hollow each one out, by plucking out the soft bread inside, leaving a shell of about 1/4 inch all round. (Use the plucked out bits and tops to make bread crumbs or treat the birds.) Stuff each empty bun with the chicken mixture, allowing it to come a bit above the top. Place on the baking tray as you finish stuffing each one. Crumble the stuffing over top of each. (If using buttered crumbs sprinkle them over of each.)

Bake in the heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until crisp and golden brown and bubbling on the insides. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.



Over in The Cottage today, Hot Cross Muffins.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Eccles Cake . . . yes CAKE!



Last night in bed, I finally got around to reading the January issue of BBC Good Food Magazine. I know . . . me bad! I am way behind on my reading . . . the April issue is due any day now, so that shows you just how far behind I am! I need to get crackin!



I was immediately taken with a teaser on the cover which said . . . "Favourite recipes get a fresh twist!" You know me . . . I love to take traditional recipes and give them my own personal touch, so I was really interested in this article.



"Your favourites made even better" was the title on the page, page number 100. Sarah Cook had taken well loved classics and put a unique twist onto them. The first one I tried was the one here today. And if it is any indication of how tasty the others are we are in for a few real treats. There are recipes for Cottage Pie Bake, Scotch Egg Pie, Doughnut Muffins (I already have my own version of that one. It is possible she reads my blog? One never knows!!) and Bakewell Cheesecake.



First up though was this fabulous Eccles Cake. On the recipe by-line she states the following: "Since creating this cake, I can't seem to stop making it. Christmas, Bake Sales, Birthdays . . . it goes down well on any occasion." And NO SMALL WONDER!!! This is an absolutely fantastic cake!



Now, I am no stranger to Eccles Cakes. Eccles Cakes are lovely little fruity pastries, made with puff paste and a delicious raisin and currant filling. I've showed you them on here before. Wonderful things they are . . . admittedly it's been far, far too long! I first tasted Eccles Cakes out in Suffield, Alberta when we were living there. A little geordie girl named Sheena baked them one afternoon and brought them to the artclub I belonged to and it was instantaneous love. They were beautiful.



So is this cake, which takes that wonderful fruity and spicy Eccles Cakes filling and puts it smack dab in the middle of a buttery moist buttermilk apple cake! Wowsa Wowsa!!



Oh my . . . but I am in love here. The cake on it's own is beautiful . . . so moist and stogged with lovely little bits of apple. The filling is rich and fruity and spicy . . . the topping is sweet/tart with a bit of sugar crunch . . . the three together are very moreish indeed.



In short, this cake is a winner! Run . . . don't walk . . . to the shops and grab the ingredients today. You won't regret it . . . well, maybe your hips might regret it just a tad bit, but what the heck . . . life isn't worth living if you can't indulge yourself once in a while.



The Toddster is a very happy camper. He just adores this Eccles Cake. I think he's found a new favourite!



*Eccles Cake*
Makes one 9 inch round, deep cake
Printable Recipe

All the flavours of a traditional Eccles Cake of the pastry variety, except in a cake! Scrummy!

250g pack of butter, softened (1 cup plus 1 1/2 TBS), plus more for buttering the tin
250g of soft light brown sugar (1 1/4 cup Packed)
2 tsp vanilla
4 large free range eggs
100g of plain flour (1 generous cup)
250g self raising flour (2 1/3 cup)
4 fluid ounces buttermilk (1/2 cup)
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4 inch dice

for the filling:
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice (see recipe in right side bar )
1/4 tsp ground cloves
the zest of one unwaxed lemon
2 TBS melted butter
2 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed
85g of currants (9 TBS)
85g of raisins (9TBS)
50g of chopped mixed peel (2 TBS)

To decorate:
85g of sifted icing sugar ( 10 1/2 TBS)
the zest and juice of one unwaxed lemon
a few sugar cubes, roughly crushed



Preheat the oven to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3. Take a deep 9 inch round cake tin and butter it well. Line the botom and sides with parchment paper and butter the paper. Set aside.

Make the filling by mixing together all of the filling ingredients. Set aside.

Put the butter, sugar and vanilla into a large bowl. Beat with your electric whisk until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then fold in the flours, buttermilk and apples. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter the filling over top, leaving a 1 inch clear border all the way around. Spoon on the remaining batter. I did this by spooning batter into the free edge all the way around and then dolloping the rest over the top of the fruit filling, then spreading it all out evenly.

Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the tin. Once cooled remove.

Whisk together the icing sugar with the lemon juice to make a drizzle icing. Drizzle over top of the cake and then scatter with the sugar cubes and lemon zest. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Banana, Cranberry & Walnut Loaf



One day last year I was baking this lovely loaf and I went out the front door to check on something and the wind from the back door blew the front door shut. This was somewhat of a disaster as if the front door closes and you don't have a key . . . you can't get back in. There I was stuck in the front garden, with a loaf in the oven, a small puppy at large inside, no cell phone on my person . . . and a padlocked 10 foot tall back gate that I had no hope of scaling. Thank goodness it wasn't raining.



I knew the back door was open but I was so worried about Mitzie, who wasn't very old at that point and also the cake in the oven. What to do . . . what to do . . .



In the end, I did what anyone would do . . . I knocked on the next door neighbor's front door and asked him if he had a ladder I could use to get over the back gate. He had a ladder of course, but better than that, he did the climbing! Then he just walked through the house to the front door and let me in. Whew!! You cannot imagine how grateful I was.



Once the cake was finished, and cooled . . . I packaged it up and took it over to him and his wife as a thankyou. I think they were somewhat surprised . . . I don't think it's something that a lot of people over here do, but in North America we are always taking casseroles, cakes and other baked goodies to neighbours as welcome to the neighbourhood gifts, thank you's, helping out when someone has a new baby or has been sick, or when someone in the family has passed away. It's just a neighbourly thing to do.



They must have really liked it because just before Christmas this year he asked Todd if I would be willing to bake them another one that they could take to their sons. They said they would pay for the ingredients, etc. I baked one and gave it to them as a thankyou for all the nice things they do for us through the year . . . keep an eye on our house when we are away, take in mail and other deliveries when we are out, etc. I was quite happy to bake them one and then I thought to myself . . . sometime I better bake one for myself, if it's so delicious!



Today was the day. I had enough ripe bananas and I was in a baking mood.




The recipes comes from a cookbook I have had for quite a while, called Everyday Easy, Cakes & Cupcakes by DK publishing. Everything I have baked from this book has been just fabulous and this beautiful banana loaf is no exception!



It's moist and filled with flavour . . . lovely banana, sweet dried cranberries, toasty chopped walnuts. I'm not surprised that the man next door fell in love with it, for I have too. This has become my favourite banana loaf of all time, and I don't say that lightly! I made two small loaves today and I am struggling with the thoughts of giving one away . . .



The recipe does state that you can freeze it up to 3 months . . . hmmmm . . . should I be selfish and keep them both??? Nahh . . . I have an elderly friend who will just adore this and I think she deserves a bit of a treat! (We all need a little pick me up from time to time.)

I really DO hope you will bake this too. I think you'll find that my claims about it's scrumminess are NOT exaggerated in the least!



*Banana, Cranberry & Walnut Loaf*
Makes 1 large loaf, or 2 small loaves
(one for keeping and one for giving!)
Printable Recipe

A moist banana loaf chock full of sweet cranberries and crunchy walnuts.

4 ounces butter, at room temp (1/2 cup)
175g of caster sugar (3/4 cup)
2 large free range eggs, beaten
1 tsp milk
300g of plain flour (scant 3 cups)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice (see my recipe in the side bar on the right side
of the page)
3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
85g dried cranberries (generous 1/2 cup)
60g toasted walnuts, chopped (scant 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3. Butter 2 small loaf tins, or 1 large loaf tin and line with baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs and the milk, mixing all together well.

Whisk together the flour, salt, soda and spice. Stir this mixture into the creamed mixture. Stir in the bananas, cranberries and walnuts. Divide the mixture between the two small tins or spread into the large tin. Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes for small loaves, or 1 to 1/1/2 hours for the large tin, until well risen and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then lift out onto a wire rack to cool completely. This cake will keep for up to 1 week when stored in an airtight tin.

(Not sure why, but there seems to be an issue with some of my cooking photos. They have disappeared and I can't get them to show up. Finger's crossed that these ones do!! Computers can be so frustrating at times!)