Very Tasty Mushroom Stroganoff

First off, a bit of a digression:

So I wanted to share with you. I did a bit of ‘good parenting’ yesterday. This is kind of a big deal. It doesn’t happen often (and may not happen again). But I decided to do some baking with the girls. “You crazy person!” I hear you exclaim. Yeah, kind of. But my kids watch a fair bit of tv, so I figured anything that wasn’t telly would be good. Even if it killed me.

So this is them:

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Let’s try that again:

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Okay, one last time, just in case:

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That crazy one in the middle is Alice. And yes, we do actually refer to her as the ‘crazy one’. Or ‘quirky’ if we’re being nice. Mostly crazy. And Hannah on the left, Lucy on the right. The odds of getting three 3 year olds to stand in a line and smile nicely? I think the phrase is ‘…like herding cats’.

So I approached this like a military operation. It was a 6oz cake mix, thus easily divisible by 3, so each got to add 2oz of ingredient, plus crack an egg each (Hannah – fairly good, delicate even; Lucy – a bit more cracked, bit more messy; Alice – totally squished within her tiny paw). They then got to fill the cake cases:

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Admittedly, a fair amount of mixture didn’t make it to the cases. But they were baked. And iced. And then decorated (by the girls, obviously). And this was the result:

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And I can sleep easier feeling like a good parent. Result!

So, down to the actual recipe (apologies for the detour). This is a great midweek meal. I try to cook at least one veggie meal a week – it’s better for the purse if nothing else – and this has become a firm favourite. It comes from BBC Good Food (such a reliable recipe source), and it’s extremely quick and easy. Which I like.

Ingredients

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
2 garlic cloves, crushed / 2 heaped tsp frozen garlic/garlic paste
about 300g mushrooms, chopped
150ml beef or vegetable stock
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, or vegetarian alternative
1 large tbsp soured cream / creme fraiche

As usual, I used frozen chopped onion and frozen chopped garlic. I tend to buy closed cup and chestnut mushrooms in the weekly shop, but I also bought some shiitake mushrooms to add, and made up the 300g with a mixture of the three (the amount of mushrooms is flexible, don’t feel you have to stick rigidly to the 300g). I also tend to have some creme fraiche in the fridge as it’s great for adding to ‘stuff’, so I used that instead of soured cream. The original recipe calls for 1 tbsp paprika. I like to use smoked as it has such a lovely flavour, and you don’t need as much – but you can obviously use paprika if you’d prefer.

1. Heat the oil in a pan and soften the onion over a medium heat. Add the garlic and the paprika, mix well and cook for a minute or two.

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2. Add the mushrooms and let cook for about 5 minutes, until they’ve softened.

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3. Pour in the stock and Worcestershire sauce, bring to the boil then let simmer for about 5 minutes – or as long as it takes to cook your rice/veg, whatever you need to do.

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4. Once ready, take the pan off the heat and add the soured cream/creme fraiche.

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I served this with rice and some green veg (I’m a bit of a broccoli fan).

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If you’re not a big veggie recipe fan, or you cook for someone who isn’t, do give this a go. It’s really good, and you honestly don’t miss the meat. Unless you don’t like mushrooms. Then, as they say north of the border, “nae luck”.

Happy cooking!

Spaghetti Carbonara (A Lighter Version)

So the weekend has been and gone. We had friends staying with us, so there was a certain amount of ‘entertaining’ – read into that, lots of food, and equally lots of drink. In fact we did very little this weekend apart from eat and drink! A couple of meals I’ll blog later this week, including a very yummy pudding.

I’m getting very used to photographing everything I cook. I’ll be taking photos of my breakfast next, just out of habit. I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on how to photograph food, how to make it look more appetising, hoping it might help. I’ve advanced from my phone to the Husband’s fancy schmancy DSLR. He put it on a setting, told me I could make the backgrounds ‘fuzzy’ by twiddling a knob (ooh er), and let me go. Hopefully my photos have improved at least a smidge? I will add that the Husband is being very patient, considering he is having to wait some time to get his meals at the minute, some of which are a tad cooler than they would have been, had I not spent at least 5 minutes trying to get the ‘perfect’ shot. I’m telling him it’ll all be worth it when I’m making millions from the recipe books and tv deals :D.

So this carbonara is a major fixture in the HC house. It’s one of the few meals I know we can sit down to as a family, and everyone will eat. Clear plates all round. It’s a winner. It’s actually a Slimming World recipe I found years ago, thus it’s pretty low fat into the bargain. And it’s (honestly!) really quick and simple. You can make it with as little as four ingredients – I used six as I love mushrooms and the kids love peas.

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Ingredients

360g spaghetti
4-5 rashers of smoked back bacon, diced (fat removed if you like)
60g parmesan, grated
3-5 eggs, depending on size
frozen peas
mushrooms, sliced

Note: For pasta, I tend to use 50g per child, and 80g per adult. I find with this amount of spaghetti, the quantities above work for us. However, the bacon, cheese and veg (if using) are all flexible. Use as much or as little as you wish. I used 5 eggs as they were small, but for bigger eggs you’d get away with fewer (i.e. 3 large, 4 medium).

1. Boil the spaghetti in a large pan of salted water until it’s as soft as you like it. Right before you go to sieve/drain it, add the frozen peas (this stops them from overcooking and keeps them lovely and fresh).

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2. Whilst the pasta is cooking, break the eggs into a bowl/jug and whisk until mixed. Add the cheese and season as desired (I tend to only add a bit of pepper here as the bacon is pretty salty already).

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3. Add a little oil to a wok/large pan and fry the bacon – I tend to use a wok as it holds everything once you’ve added in the spaghetti.

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4. Add the mushrooms if using and fry until cooked/soft.

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5. Once both the pasta and bacon/mushrooms are cooked, turn the heat off completely (both pans), sieve the pasta (with peas), and add it to your bacon. On top of that, chuck on the egg/cheese mix.

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6. Stir this into the pasta, getting it all good and covered. This can be easier with a couple of forks. The egg mixture will cook, simply from the heat of the pasta.

Note: if you’re using an issue military cooker, remove the wok/pan completely from the ring you were using, as it’ll still be hotter than the sun and might scramble the egg.

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If you’re a creamy carbonara lover, this may not be quite to your taste (although I guess you could throw some cream into the egg/cheese mixture before you chuck it on the pasta). But if you’re after a lighter version, one that is lovely and cheesy, but not blatantly trying to clog your arteries, then this could be for you.

I’m sold, mainly because my kids devour it and look for more. That’s good enough for me.

Happy cooking!

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Quick & Simple Lentil Soup

This is a very quick post because: it’s after 8pm; I’ve just finished bedtime with the kids (alone as the Husband is working); and I’ve a hot date scheduled with Phil (& Kirsty). But I wanted to blog about this lentil soup as it’s so ridiculously quick and easy, and yet gorgeously warming and filling.

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Ingredients

1 onion, chopped (or the equivalent amount of frozen onion, like which I used)
450g diced carrot & swede (don’t do this yourself, just buy a bag, I beseech you)
200g red lentils
3 ham or veg stock cubes
1 litre of boiling water
salt & pepper, as required

1. Throw  all the ingredients into a large pan and bring to the boil.

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2. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes until the veg and lentils have softened (so that you can’t see the lentils anymore) – or ask the Husband to turn off the cooker for you after 30 minutes because you have to go out; which he forgets to do; so you return, over 90 minutes later, to soup burnt to the bottom of your pan. Moving on.

3. Once it’s cooked you can either leave it lumpy or blitz it with a hand blender, or in a liquidiser. And that’s it. Job done.

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Lucy says hi by the way (she was desperate to get in on these photos)….

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Sometimes I’ll throw some ham into this soup whilst it’s cooking, if I’ve got some leftover from a roast. Using three stock cubes makes this soup fairly salty to start with, so taste it before you add any seasoning.

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It’s a pretty thick soup, but just add some more water to thin it down if you’d prefer. My kids absolutely love this soup, and I use it as an easy (and pretty healthy) dinner when I just can’t be arsed cooking. These quantities don’t make a huge amount of soup, but just double/treble the recipe as required. By using the frozen veg, this is such an easy option.

So that’s the post! Its such a good job you can’t see me as I’m sat here in my pyjamas and the fluffiest red jumper ever, drinking tea, and eating Ferrero Rocher. Winner.

Happy cooking!

African Peanut Stew

The girls have been a bit unwell recently. It seems to be the way that one will fall ill, then the other two will follow, one after the other. They don’t all go down together. Upside: we don’t get three unwell, grouchy 3 year olds all at the same time. Downside: an illness that would last 2-3 days, takes over a week to get through. And they don’t suffer in silence. Oh boy, no they don’t. Three times the joy; three times the amount of times you’re gotten out of bed at night to a wail of “muuuummmmmyyyyy” (I have a love/hate relationship with that word). Many a 3am has seen us contemplating selling off one/all of our children (we figure triplets, especially identical, have got to be high value??). And the person who said, when you have more than one child, you have no favourite? Wrong. Very wrong. But luckily ours changes daily. Sometimes hourly.

Thus my patience levels are currently minimal, and my need for comfort food is high. The health kick hasn’t materialised, and ‘Dry January’? Ha ha ha ha ha. Bloody ha. So this dish, a mix between a stew and a satay, hit the spot perfectly. I only came across it recently (Pinterest. Obviously). Anything with peanut butter will catch my eye. I love it. Like, really love it. And this was good. It does taste a lot like a very saucy satay. If you like peanuts, I’d recommend giving this a go.

Ingredients

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp oil
150g peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, it’s up to you)
300ml chicken stock
550g chicken thigh fillets (boneless & skinless)
3 tsp garlic puree / frozen garlic or 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp pureed ginger / frozen ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
1 large sweet potato (about 450g)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
salt & pepper
approx. 40g roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)

I did take a photo of the ingredients, but once I’d actually made the stew there were a few added ingredients, and some changed, so it became a bit null and void. So sorry, no pic. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it didn’t seem too bad once I was cooking.

1. Throw the onion into a large pan with the oil over a medium heat and cook until softened.

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2. Whilst the onion is cooking, spoon the peanut butter into a bowl, and cover it with the chicken stock. Slowly stir this until the peanut butter has dissolved into the stock.

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Top Tip: Use a bigger bowl than I did for this!

3. Once the onion is soft, add the garlic and ginger, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the chicken.

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I used chicken thigh for this dish as it has more flavour than chicken breast. But you could happily use chicken breast, not a problem.

4. Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes, then add the cayenne, cumin, coriander and chillies. Add as much chilli as you like, this is totally to your taste. And you can use fresh chilli, or Lazy Chilli, whatever you have in the cupboard. Or leave it out completely (although the creaminess of the peanut butter lends itself really well to a bit of a kick). Cook this for a few minutes.

5. Add in the sweet potato, tomatoes and peanut butter/stock mix.

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When I do this again (which I most definitely will), I think I’ll add more veg here – courgette, aubergine, pepper, mushrooms. In fact, you could make this completely veggie if you liked, just omit the chicken.

6. Put the lid on the pan and leave to simmer until the sweet potato is soft and the chicken cooked. Give it a stir every so often to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

7. Once it was cooked I added in the chopped roasted peanuts to give it a bit of crunch. You could leave them out if you’d rather, or if you’ve used crunchy peanut butter. It just adds a bit of extra texture to the dish. Check the seasoning at this point. It probably won’t need much salt because of the peanut butter/roasted peanuts. But add a decent amount of pepper to give it some good pepperiness (an actual word).

I served the stew with rice and green veg, but it would also be lovely with cous cous, or flatbread/naan bread. We love curries/tagines in this house, and this fits into that mould perfectly. This served both of us, with two portions to freeze (it’s a pretty rich dish, so you don’t need masses).

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Funnily enough I didn’t attempt to feed this to the munchkins. If you can get your kids to eat food like this … wow. Just wow. The girls still eye rice with great suspicion.

Happy cooking!

Banana & Sultana Cake

I have a notebook, which I’ve called my ‘Baking Bible’. It sounds a bit twee (which it probably is) but it’s where I add baking recipes once I’ve discovered the recipe-to-end-all-recipes. There are thousands of recipes out there for the same things: millionaire’s shortbread; brownies; chocolate chip cookies etc. And I’ve tried a fair few. But I’ve been disappointed with many. So when I hit upon a recipe that, to me, seems to be perfect, it goes in the Baking Bible. I’m hoping *fade to black & white with soft music playing* that this notebook will be passed down the generations, and be lovingly used by future HC generations. It may even feature on an episode of Antiques Roadshow one day……

Banana and Sultana Cake - Lots of banana and juicy sultanas keep this cake gorgeously moist and really delicious. | thehecticcook.com

This banana cake was a recipe I got from a friend a few years back. It has the right quantity of banana, the juicy sultanas to add texture, a lovely hint of cinnamon, and is sweet enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. If you need to use up a few ageing bananas, this is a perfect solution.

Ingredients

110g butter / buttery spread
110g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
4 bananas
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
140g sultanas

Note: I went through a stage of only using butter in my baking. I was doing the whole ‘parental guilt’ thing, worried about how much rubbish my kids eat, and thought I could at least bake with butter, then I’d be ‘filling them with goodness’.

Ha. Whatever. The buttery spreads you can buy, yes they contain some ingredients that most certainly didn’t come from a cow, but when it comes to actually baking, it’s very hard to tell the difference. Plus they’re actually easier to use as they’re already soft. And they’re cheaper. So funny old thing, I’m back to using buttery spreads in my baking. The kids will be fine. I’m sure. I hope. Anyway…

1. First off, cream together the ‘butter’ and sugar until the mixture has paled a bit. This adds air into your mixture, which will help to make the cake light, so creaming is an important step and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. I don’t kick the arse out of it, but I’ll give it a jolly good beating for about 4-5 minutes.

2. Add the eggs and give another good beating.

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3. Mash three of the bananas and chop up one (in the pic I’d only sliced up the fourth banana, but do chop it up a wee bit more).

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Add this to the mixture and give it a good stir.

4. Add the dry ingredients (I read recently that sifting flour for cakes is basically a waste of time, so I’ve given that up) and fold into the mixture.

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Then add in the sultanas and mix.

5. Pour the mixture into a greased, lined 2lb loaf tin.

Note: I’ve got two tins, one is smaller than the second, but both pretend to be 2lb loaf tins. I put this mix into the smaller one and it was too full, so then had to pour into the second. Loaf tins can be tricky like that. I didn’t grease either as I’ve got lovely loaf tin liners for the smaller one, and as the second is silicone, it doesn’t need to be greased (but I do place it on a baking tray to make it easier to take in and out of the oven).

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6. Bake this in a preheated oven of 160C (fan) for about 1 hour, checking it from around 45 minutes that a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

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Now, I have a love/hate relationship with loaf cakes. I love the ease – especially with the loaf tin liners, no greasing/lining, just make the batter, chuck it in the tin and bake. Simple.

However. I find baking a loaf cake a bit of a pain. They take an age to cook. I’ve reduced the temp for this recipe and increased the cooking time. It means you don’t have to worry about the cake browning too much (and thus having to cover with foil), but it does take at least an hour (mine actually took 70 minutes) and it didn’t have a lovely crunchy crisp top. If you really want your cake to have the crunchy crisp top, cook it at 180C (fan) but you’ll probably have to cover it after about 40 minutes. And it’ll still probably take around an hour. But as everyone’s ovens are different, baking is usually a bit of trial and error anyway.

Banana and Sultana Cake - Lots of banana and juicy sultanas keep this cake gorgeously moist and really delicious. | thehecticcook.com

This doesn’t need anything added to it – it’s not bread, so it doesn’t need butter or anything. It’s lovely just as it is.

Banana and Sultana Cake - Lots of banana and juicy sultanas keep this cake gorgeously moist and really delicious. | thehecticcook.com

Happy cooking!

Traditional Scottish Stovies

So this could be a highly contentious post. I once read that if you asked one hundred Scots folk how to make stovies, you’d get one hundred different recipes. This is so very true. Stovies are a dish that probably every Scottish person recognises. It’s a national dish, but one that gets less international attention than the likes of haggis or battered mars bars. You get stovies served at parties; at weddings; basically any Scottish social gathering. They’re that awesome.

Traditional Scottish Stovies - The ultimate comfort food, Scottish Stovies are loved by a nation for good reason. So simple to make and really delicious | thehecticcook.com

I always think of stovies as the perfect comfort food. It’s a potato based dish, to which you can add pretty much any type of meat, although mince or corned beef are most popular. My recipe is not traditional. But it uses what I tend to have to hand in the cupboard, and is pretty bloody tasty (if I do say so myself). The kids lap it up and it always results in empty plates. So it’s a staple meal in the HC house. Just please don’t lynch me because its not ‘how mummy used to make it’ (it’s not even how my mum makes stovies, it’s just how I’ve come to make them).

Traditional Scottish Stovies - The ultimate comfort food, Scottish Stovies are loved by a nation for good reason. So simple to make and really delicious | thehecticcook.com
 Ingredients

potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp oil
1 beef stock cube / stock pot
1 beef oxo cube
1 tin of corned beef, cubed
salt & pepper

I’ve not given a quantity for the potatoes as I tend to go by how many I’m cooking for. I’ll assign a small potato each to the kids, then a couple for every adult, plus an extra couple to be safe. If I’m just cooking for the kids I’ll only need half an onion and half a tin of corned beef. You can freeze corned beef. If there’s leftovers (not including what I eat whilst I’m dishing out) then that’s a billy-bonus.

1. Heat your oil in a large pan then add the onion, and cook it really well so that it gets nicely browned. It’s important you add lots of flavour to your onion so don’t be afraid to overcook it.

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2. Add the sliced potato, the stock cube, the oxo cube and about 300ml of water. Give a good stir.

Note: Traditional stovies are made using beef dripping. This isn’t something I normally have to hand, so I’ve had to add the meaty taste from elsewhere. I find the stock pots really good for this (either the normal beef one or the rich beef – both are good), but a regular beef stock cube would also work. The oxo cube adds colour and extra flavour – I add beef oxo cubes to pretty much everything meaty, it’s kind of my secret ingredient (just not that secret). I love them and think they add a lovely rich flavour to any kind of meat dish (bolognese; stew; I even add them to chicken gravy!). They always feature in my cupboard supplies.

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3. Put the lid of the pan on and let it simmer. Every so often give it a good stir. The potatoes will start to stick to the bottom, so with every stir, scrape the bottom of the pan. This is good, it all adds flavour. As you stir, the potatoes will begin to break up which is what you want.

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4. Once the potatoes have softened and absorbed most of the stock, add your meat. Give it a good stir so everything is combined and check your seasoning. The corned beef can be quite salty, so it’s best to check the seasoning once it’s been added. Season as required.

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This is not a pretty dish. Indeed, I’m sure some out there could be quite inventive in describing just what it looks like. But it’s tasty. It truly is. And its simple. If you like potatoes and corned beef, do give this a go. And let me know how you get on – I love hearing when folk have made anything from the blog! 😀

Traditional Scottish Stovies - The ultimate comfort food, Scottish Stovies are loved by a nation for good reason. So simple to make and really delicious | thehecticcook.com

 

Oh and serve it with a good splodge of ketchup.

Happy cooking!

Traditional Scottish Stovies - The ultimate comfort food, Scottish Stovies are loved by a nation for good reason. So simple to make and really delicious | thehecticcook.com

Nutella Magic Bars

These are honestly, just like the title suggests, pure magic. I only came across them recently, from Pinterest, but they have made a big impression, and will feature in my baking repertoire from now on. A lot. If you like Nutella (or in this case, a supermarket substitute claiming to be the same), and gooey, sticky caramel, this recipe is definitely for you.

Nutella Magic Bars - A biscuit base topped with Nutella and chocolate morsels, encased in a gooey caramel, these Nutella Magic Bars are sublime! | thehecticcook.com

It would appear that ‘magic bars’ are a type of traybake from our friends across the pond. From what I can gather – and do let me know if I’m wrong – pretty much anything and everything can top a magic bar. The key ingredients appear to be a biscuit base and condensed milk poured over everything, then baked.

So let’s get down to brass tacks.

Ingredients

12 digestive biscuits
30g butter, melted
80g Nutella
100-150g chocolate chips
20g toasted hazelnuts, chopped
1 can of condensed milk

Note: The quantity of chocolate is really just a guide. Use as much as you want. It’s your arteries. Like I said before, the toppings are completely your choice. The sweetie aisle is your oyster. You could totally omit the Nutella if you’d like; use desiccated coconut; use white, milk and/or dark chocolate (I personally like a bit of each); use other types of chocolate like M&M’s or smarties (great for kids) or chopped up Mars bars etc. All that’s stopping you is your own imagination.

1. Either throw the digestives in a blender/blitzer, or bash the living daylights out of them in a bag with a rolling pin. Add this to the melted butter in a bowl.

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2. Line a baking tray with baking paper/parchment – by ‘line’, I mean ‘place in’. Nothing fancy. Just put the paper in the tray. My tray was 12″x7″, but a 9″ square would work, or anything of similar size.

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3.  Pour the biscuit mix into the tray and squish it down well and good. Get it really quite compact and into the edges and corners.

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4. Plop the nutella all over this base layer. Just plop it on, as random as you like. Or in nice straight rows for you OCD types.

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5. On top of this, sprinkle all the toppings you want to add. Spread them all over the biscuit layer and Nutella, no need to be fancy, just a nice even layer of loveliness. Then pour your whole tin of condensed milk over that. And then lick out the tin.

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6. Pop this in a preheated oven – about 170C fan – for about 25 minutes, until it’s bubbling and golden. I might have slightly over done mine (again I’m still using the excuse of a new oven, although that’ll get old soon). Let it cool pretty much completely before you take it out of the tray and slice it up. If you can. Mine was still pretty warm when I started into it.

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I might have eaten three squares in the process of cutting it up. It’s just that good. It can’t be helped. Well unless you’re weird like the Husband who, ‘doesn’t like caramel’ – weirdo. So I had to offload a fair bit of this to my friend Laura to save me from myself. Sorry Laura – she’s a lot skinnier than me though, so I don’t feel too bad.

Nutella Magic Bars - A biscuit base topped with Nutella and chocolate morsels, encased in a gooey caramel, these Nutella Magic Bars are sublime! | thehecticcook.com

If you don’t like this, I’m not sure I can be your friend (I have to let the Husband off as we have four kids together…). Enjoy!

Happy cooking!

Smoked Haddock Chowder

I mostly have to do my grocery shopping online. Supermarkets do not, willingly, provide triple trolleys (there is such a contraption though!). And anyway, trailing 3×3 year olds around a supermarket sounds like a fate worse than death. I think I’d rather stick hot forks in my eyes. I’m eternally grateful to online shopping. I have no idea what I would have done over the last few years without it (what did folk do before it – seriously?!).

But it’s not perfect. Indeed, sometimes it’s far from it. Sometimes what you think you’re ordering, isn’t actually what you’re ordering. Quantities can go majorly wrong. I’ve got a friend who managed to order her whole shop twice (in the same order). And substitutions? I think the grocery packers get bored, and fill their time with trying to make the most ridiculous substitutions – like the customer who ordered condoms, and received KY jelly (not me I may add).

So when I ordered the fish for this recipe, I thought it was skinless. It looked skinless on the pitiful thumbnail sized picture they let you see. It wasn’t. So I had to cut the skin off. Which is a crap job. There really is no point to this story other than I’m having a whinge about having to de-skin a fish.

Anyway, onto the recipe. This is a lovely dish. It’s a soup, but it’s also so thick and warming and lovely, it’s a whole meal in itself.

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Ingredients

350-450g smoked haddock
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 an onion, chopped
20g butter
peas/sweetcorn/carrot, cubed
300ml fish or vegetable stock
100ml of white wine
300ml milk
75ml double cream
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp tumeric
salt & pepper

This served 3 adults – ok it didn’t, because the Husband went back for seconds – but if you wanted it to serve more, simply double/treble etc the amounts.

1. Melt the butter over a low heat in a large pan, then add the onions and let them soften gently until they’re turning translucent.

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2. Add the stock, wine, potatoes and herbs and bring to the boil.

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3. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked, then lightly mash them but still leaving a lot cubed.

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4. Add the fish, veg and milk, stir well, then leave to simmer for about 5 minutes until the fish is cooked through.

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Note – I was using up veg leftovers, so my carrot, peas and sweetcorn were already cooked and I added them at this stage. However, if you were using raw carrot, add it with the potato and cook until both are soft. Your veg choice here is completely up to you. I like the added colour of the carrots and peas, but you could just add sweetcorn if you wanted, or no veg at all. It’s completely up to you.

5. Add the cream and warm through, but do not boil (this can split the cream). Season well (taste it until you’re happy), and serve.

This is lovely served with fresh, crusty bread. Like I said, it’s a whole meal in itself, and there’s just something really warming about it.

Happy cooking!

Crispy Coated Chicken Nuggets

As a busy mum, I think convenience food is essential. I always have some fish fingers and turkey dinosaurs, or some such fare in my freezer. This blog may be about home cooked food, but I’m human, and sometimes even simple cooking is beyond me and I just can’t be bothered.

But for days when I can be bothered, these chicken nuggets are super simple and go down extremely well with the little cherubs. I always have Rice Krispies in the cupboard (or more likely Crispy Rice, or Rice Crackles, or whatever name the supermarket have called their own brand). They’re a useful cupboard staple, for breakfast as well as cooking (oh Mars Bar slice, how I adore thee).

There are a couple of ways I make these, it just depends what’s to hand really. First you need your crispy rice puff cereal stuff. You can bash this to within an inch of it’s life with the likes of a rolling pin; you can take out some aggression with your bare hands; or you can blitz them in a blender. It doesn’t matter, you’ll just get varying degrees of crunch. I used my little blender.

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Regards quantities, I probably used about 80g of cereal, but a ‘couple of bowls worth’ should also give a good idea. This is good as it is, but you can also add some extra flavour if you’d like – parmesan, paprika, seasoning etc. This time around I just added a small amount of seasoning and some parmesan, but I often leave it plain.

You then need something to coat your diced chicken breast. Sometimes I use mayonnaise which is a nice change and super quick. This time I used a beaten egg.

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Slop the chicken into the egg (I tend to throw it all in), then put it into the cereal mix a few bits at a time, and cover it good and proper.

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Get it nicely coated then place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof/baking paper.

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Pop the tray into a preheated oven, about 190C for 20-25 minutes. The nuggets should be looking nicely toasted on the outside, and thoroughly cooked on the inside.

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My monkeys got their nuggets with some chips, peas/corn and a healthy blob of ketchup. I got 4 empty plates back. Funny that?! Sometimes simple food is the best food where kids are concerned.

Easy, huh? Happy cooking!

Red Wine and Balsamic Vinegar Lamb Casserole

Major blogger fail this time. I forgot to take a photo of the dish before I served/ate it (unhappy face). What a plonker. In my defence, I was dealing with trying to get a meal out, whilst also making a pudding, whilst one child tried to eat a glow stick (those things do not taste good apparently, and stink! But are thankfully not toxic…). The Husband actually carted said child off to wash out her mouth and her hands, whilst trying not to retch at the smell – he’s not very good with bad smells (nappy changing was always entertaining). And that was in addition to the usual chaos going on around me. So I forgot. Sorry. But there were leftovers, so I’ve taken a photo of them, it’s just not as pretty (again, unhappy face).

So this was a slow cooker meal. Have I mentioned my love affair with my slow cooker? In fact, *whispers* I have two! A 3.5 litre and a 6 litre. I tend to use the 3.5 litre more, but the ‘big yin’ is great for whole chunks of meat. A slow cooker can make even the cheapest, toughest meat melt in the mouth. You do a bit of prep, chuck it all in, and then leave it, and your evening meal is made. Magic! And seemingly it only uses the same amount of electricity as a lightbulb, so economical too. Love it!

If you don’t have a slow cooker though, this can be done in the oven. It can either be cooked all day at a lower heat (about 6 hours at 130C), or for a couple of hours at 180C. This should serve about 4 adults.

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Ingredients

700-900g lamb
1 red onion, sliced
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp plain flour
100ml red wine
20ml balsamic vinegar
1 tin chopped tomatoes
300ml lamb or chicken stock
veg of your choice
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp garlic

When it comes to meat, I’m not particularly knowledgable. I tend to go by quantity and price. For this I bought a whole boneless shoulder of lamb. It meant I had to cut it up, and remove a reasonable amount of fat, but as it was a Sunday morning, I could allow the time. You could easily use cubed lamb for ease, and choose leaner lamb if you’re trying to be good (although a bit of fat gives more taste, typically). As it’s being slow cooked, the meat will become tender whatever cut you choose, so choosing a cheaper cut is the bonus of slow cooking.

Once you’ve prepped your meat (if necessary) pop it into a plastic bag with the flour and seasoning. Give it a good shake to coat (this is what will thicken the sauce).

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Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and throw in your meat to brown. I tend to do this in a couple of batches otherwise the pan gets too overcrowded. Once the meat is browned, pop it into your slow cooker (or your ovenproof dish).

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You’ll be left with a pan looking something like this. You want all that meaty goodness that’s stuck to the bottom of the pan, so add another tablespoon of oil, then the onion. Let it start to soften a bit (only a few minutes, the onion doesn’t need to fully soften at this point), then add the garlic for a minute. Add to that the tomatoes, vinegar and wine. For small measures like the vinegar, I have a handy little measuring jug:

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Let the mixture come to boil then simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring it often, until you can feel the bits stuck to the bottom start to loosen. Pour this into the slow cooker or dish, with the veg (chopped into large chunks) and the rosemary, and season. Cook in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low, or 4 hours on high – or in the oven as mentioned above.

I served this with lovely buttery mash and green veg. But this is the only photo I have of the finished product:

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It doesn’t look particularly pretty, but it was bloody lovely. Perfect for a wintery Sunday. If you like lamb, definitely give it a go.

Happy cooking!