Just A Quickie…

Just a quick post about GDPR.

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Hi everyone.

This is literally a very quick post. I imagine you’re all sick to death with GDPR (not another email…!!) but this is just to let you know that if you’re receiving this as an email, it means you’ve subscribed to my blog The Hectic Cook at some point. The only information I have of yours is your email address, and you’ll receive an email every time I blog a new post (as sporadically as that may be, sorry!). I will never use your email address for any other reason, and will definitely not pass it on to any 3rd party for any reason, unless I am required to by law. I’ve updated my Privacy Policy, so you can take a gander at that too if you’d like (if you’re not sleeping well maybe). If you’d rather I didn’t have your email address, you can either unsubscribe (at the bottom of any email you’ve received from me there will be an option to unsubscribe) or send me a message at admin@thehecticcook.com and I’ll remove you from my list.

And as they say in the cartoons, that’s all folks!

White Chocolate ‘Bread & Butter’ Pudding

Before we get to the recipe, I thought I’d share this, especially after what I said in my Mushroom Stroganoff blog. My girls go to nursery for a couple of days during the week. They bring a LOT of ‘artwork’ home – which I’m obviously treasuring. In the recycling bin. Ahem. They’re latest creations were ‘Caterpillar Hats’. This is them:

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I’ll give you a second to find the hat made by Alice….

She dances to her own tune, that one! And if you can’t see anything ‘different’ in the photo, you’d get along great with my eldest daughter 😉

So today’s blog is all about pudding. I wish I could make pudding every day. I just love pudding. But unfortunately my ‘metabolism’ won’t allow it. Anyone else have this problem??

This is a take on the traditional bread and butter pudding, made a bit more fancy schmancy with the addition of white chocolate and the use of a sweet bread. The original recipe is by Phil Vickery (I have his condensed milk pudding recipe book – it’s amazing!) which you can find here, but I’ve changed the dark chocolate to white, and used panettone (in this instance) instead of croissants, plus simplified the cooking method slightly. I have made the original recipe before which is absolutely fantastic too, in case you feel like giving it a go.

But onto this recipe.

Ingredients

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Sweet bread*
200g white chocolate
300ml milk
600ml double cream
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
4 egg yolks
170g condensed milk

* I used panettone this time as I had some leftover from Christmas. However, had I not, I would have used either croissants or brioche, and added a couple of handfuls of sultanas sprinkled over. You could even use simple buttered bread, again adding some dried fruit. And quantities are pretty flexible – I tend to just fill the dish I’m using. But generally, 6-8 croissants/brioche rolls would be about right.

1. Butter your ovenproof dish (at least 2.4 litres/4.25 pints capacity). I’ll admit that I find buttering anything is easiest using my (clean, obv) hands.

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And chop up the chocolate into fine shards. Basically get it quite small so that it melts easier.

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2. If you’re using croissants/brioche rolls, cut them in half lengthways and arrange them in your dish. I just tore my panettone slices into large pieces and overlapped them a bit in the dish, then chucked the crumbs over. Don’t be fussy, just try to get your layer(s) even. Mine looked like this for comparison:

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Nothing neat about that!

3. In a saucepan, gently heat the milk, cream and nutmeg until almost coming to the boil.

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Whilst this is warming, put the egg yolks and condensed milk in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Then top with the white chocolate.

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4. Pour the hot milk/cream over this mixture and stir until the chocolate has melted. Pour this over the bread and  push everything down to get it nice and soaked. Leave this to stand for about an hour (if you can – if you can’t, any ‘standing’ will do).

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5. Pop this into a preheated oven, 160°C (fan)/325°F/Gas Mark 3, for about 25-30 minutes. You want this mostly set, but still with some sauce.

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I served this with ice-cream, but it doesn’t really need anything else (although I’d still serve it with ice-cream. I love ice-cream).

It’s a fairly flexible recipe. Change the bread; add fruit, chocolate chips; change the white chocolate to dark (you’ll only need 100g); spread the bread with nutella – whatever takes your fancy. Just keep the milk/cream/eggs the same,  and go for your life!

Happy cooking!

Slow Cooked Chilli

I watched a program the other day on BBC One, called Eat Well For Less? It looks at a family’s spending habits in the supermarket. The family featured were spending over £350 a week(!) on groceries. It was fascinating watching. It interested me that an apparently well-educated couple relied so heavily on jars and convenience food – don’t get me wrong, I am totally not dissing the use of jars and convenience food. I usually have some in my stores cupboard for when I want a quick fix. But to fully rely on them is so expensive and often not the healthiest option (compared to cooking from scratch).

The family on this show had four kids, the mum was pushed for time (we can all relate nowadays) and hated cooking (I didn’t realise this was possible??). To be fair, she didn’t trust her cooking skills. So she relied on jars of sauces a lot, including chilli con carne sauce. I was a little surprised (ok, pretty incredulous) that the TV show, instead of teaching her to cook a chilli from scratch – which is so friggin’ simple – they introduced her to cheaper jars? Now it just so happens that I was planning to cook a chilli that day (I know! What are the chances?! 😜).

I wasn’t planning to blog it though. I figured everyone has their own chilli recipe so they didn’t need mine. But maybe there’s more folk out there who don’t realise how easy it is to cook a chilli from scratch? Who use jars of sauce too? If I could help one person to make a chilli – without the use of any jars – who hasn’t before, I’d feel like a pig in the proverbial (my mum’s told me I have to stop swearing on here 😳).

So here it is. My chilli recipe. I slow cook it but you could cook it on the stove, just cook it on low for a couple of hours – mince needs a long, slow cooking to be really good, in my humble opinion.

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Ingredients

550g beef mince (apologies for the crappy, half-empty tray)
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp garlic
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin kidney beans
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
1 oxo cube
~ 200ml water
salt & pepper

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Because I’m incredibly lazy, I literally just threw all the ingredients into the slow cooker, gave them a good mix, turned it to high and let it cook for about 4-5 hours (low for 6-8 hours). Give your chilli the odd stir whilst it’s cooking, and add more water if you feel it looks too dry. Job done.

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However. Not browning the mince first, does give it a slightly different texture. This doesn’t particularly bother me, especially when it’s just for the family. But if you’d prefer, brown the mince off first in a pan on the stove before tipping it into the slow cooker and adding the other ingredients – if you’re making this on the stove then you might as well brown off the mince first. I’m more inclined to brown the mince first if I’m making it for guests!

A couple of notes:

I used Sainsburys chopped vegetables instead of an onion. I love this product, it’s chopped onion, carrot and celery. I tend to add it to all my mince dishes as you’re adding veg, which practically disappears by the time it’s cooked. Great with kids!

I also added a tin of haricot beans (baked beans without the tomato sauce) because it bulks out the chilli a bit more, and I can sell it to the kids as ‘mince and beans’. I’m always looking for ways to ‘sell it to the kids’ – I sometimes use cannelini or barlotti beans, depending what I’ve got in the cupboard. I only used mild chilli powder, again because of the kids, but obviously make it as spicy as you like. And if you want it a bit more meaty, bacon is a great addition (add when browning the mince).

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And in case it interests anyone, I worked out my chilli cost £4.95 in total – but that’s with the extra beans which you could leave out (haricot beans are 60p a can!). And it wasn’t the cheapest mince. It served 2 adults, 4 children, and with a portion to spare. I’m not a ‘budget cook’ per se, but I like to think I don’t spend astronomical amounts unnecessarily (we need all the spare pennies for the wine….). Less than a fiver to feed the family, with lunch for me the next day, I count that as fairly economical. Result!

Happy cooking!

The ‘Best’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t make the claim in the title lightly. I’ve made a lot of chocolate chip cookies in my time. Different recipes, all claiming to be great. I found this recipe on Pinterest, it’s from the New York Times. They claimed it was the best, and by jove, I fully agree!

However, this does depend on what you’re looking for in your cookie. Are you looking for a lovely, crunchy edge? A buttery, chewy middle? A wealth of chocolate chips? Yes? Then these are the cookies for you! I like to think of them as the classic American chocolate chip cookie (American friends, please don’t shoot me down in flames here). But regardless of all of that, these are a good cookie. Make them, and tell me what you think!

Ingredients

image140g unsalted butter, softened
140g soft light brown sugar
110g granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
240g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
200g chocolate chips (or whatever you fancy; smarties, M&M’s, cranberries & white choc chips)

Cream the butter and sugar together. I used my mixer for this, but you could do it with a hand-mixer, or even by hand. Creaming isn’t as important for biscuits as it is for cake. Really just give them a good old mix.

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Next beat in the egg and the vanilla essence.

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Sift the dry ingredients (flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt) into the bowl, then add the chocolate chips and give it a good mix.

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If you’re doing this by hand-mixer or by hand, you’re probably as well getting stuck in with your hands as the mixture becomes quite stiff.

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I tend to spoon this out of the bowl onto clingfilm and roll it into a sausage (you need a fairly big piece of clingfilm to do this), before popping it into the fridge for at least a couple of hours. The dough will keep quite nicely in the fridge for days. Or you can even freeze the dough.

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You need to refrigerate the dough before baking it, otherwise the cookies will spread too much.

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When you’re ready to bake the dough, preheat your oven to 170C (fan). Take the dough out of the fridge and cut it into slices.

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Roll each slice into a nice little ball, and lay on baking parchment/paper on a baking tray. Space them nicely apart as they will spread a fair bit (even after refrigeration) once in the oven.

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Pop them into the oven for about 10-12 minutes. Keep an eye, as they don’t take long and you want to get them out just as the edges are starting to brown. I’m still getting used to my oven, and would say that mine are slightly overcooked (oops!).

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I got 38 cookies out of this mix (excuse the hand of an overeager 3 year old!). My cookies slightly vary in size – obviously because I’m catering for adults and children alike (ahem).  These will keep in an airtight container for at least a week – if not longer, they’ll just get a bit harder.

I hope you find these as ridiculously good as I do. Now all I’ve got to do is not eat them all….

Happy cooking!

‘Skinny’ Veggie Lasagne

The new cooker is awesome! It does this amazing thing, that when you turn the heat up, it gets hotter! And when you turn the heat down, guess what? It cools down!! Like, immediately – no waiting half an hour for it to return to a temperature cooler than the sun! Amazing. I’m one very happy camper.

So tonight we had another ‘adult’ meal, and I made veggie lasagne (the kids had mac’n’cheese). The ‘skinny’ in the title is slightly misleading. By ‘skinny’, I mean relatively, when compared to normal lasagne. I probably wouldn’t go so far as to class this as diet food – but it’s definitely not as bad for you as the meaty, cheesy originator of the name. I try to include one veggie meal in the weekly menu – it definitely helps to reduce the weekly budget a bit, and hopefully we’re doing our bit for the planet as well?

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There’s a fair few ingredients in that there photo. But it’s mostly veg. It’s totally up to you what you put into your sauce, which is just a bolognese really. On this occasion I had some veg to use up (see the little bowls), plus I chucked in the leftover pizza sauce from the other day (the white lidded tupperware). I’m a great believer in ‘chucking stuff in’. Any leftovers, if you can use them, fantastic. I hate waste.

I didn’t have any chopped tomatoes so I had to use passata. Again, use what you’ve got. This is why I love cooking, you don’t need to have every little ingredient in a recipe. You can often change to suit what’s in your cupboard.

Sauce

your choice of veg
Quorn mince (I used this to bulk this dish as I was feeding the Husband, but it’s really nice with just veg)
tinned tomatoes (or passata)
Oxo cube (if you’re a genuine veggie, this could be substituted with a veg stock cube)
0.5 tsp sweet smoked paprika (an amazing spice I add to a LOT of meals. If you haven’t got it, it’s totally worth buying!)
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp oregano
0.25 tsp chilli flakes (or depending on taste)
olive oil
salt & pepper

Today I had carrot, parsnip, aubergine, courgettes, onion, sweet red pepper, mushrooms, green beans and butternut squash (which I buy ready prepared – I honestly can’t be arsed peeling and cubing a squash). I cut them all up into small cubes and placed in a roasting dish with about one tablespoon of olive oil.

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I kept the beans, mushrooms and pepper out for the first ten minutes, as they take less time to cook. This all takes about 25-30 minutes to roast. Take them out a couple of times and give them a good shake before they’re done. At this point my camera roll is interrupted by this:

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The joys of children.

Once your veg is roasted, heat about one teaspoon of oil in a pan and add your Quorn mince (if using). I used the whole bag of Quorn mince, but I only used half the resulting sauce (I’ve frozen it for next time). Start it cooking then add all of the remaining sauce ingredients plus some water to make it ‘saucy’ (a technical term I’ll have you know).

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This is what mine looked like. I then let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Unlike with meaty mince, you don’t need to simmer Quorn forever (it’s pretty soft already), and all the ingredients here were cooked, so it didn’t take long.

Remaining Ingredients

8 tbsp creme fraiche (I used the 3% fat one, which is yum, but use whatever kind you like)
30g grated parmesan
lasagne sheets

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Layer up, starting with the sauce, then lasagne, then sauce, lasagne etc. I used 4 layers of lasagne. After the last layer of lasagne I spread over the creme fraiche and sprinkled with the parmesan.

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Chuck it in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is lovely and browned.

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Because I was serving the Husband a veggie dish, I always feel I’ve got to compensate with something else (food wise I’m talking!). So I made some garlic bread using the same pizza base dough recipe from the other day (in the breadmaker), slathered it in a mixture of butter, garlic, parsley and salt (the parsley really only adds the green bits) then sprinkled over some of the cheese leftover from the pizza. Et voila.

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And wine was consumed. Obviously. It was Saturday night after all, and we have kids, so this is about as rock’n’roll as we get.

Happy cooking.

The Hectic Cook Begins Blogging….

I love cooking. There is honestly no place I am happier than in the kitchen cooking something up. I take a lot of pleasure from seeing people enjoying something I’ve cooked for them. And, to be honest, it’s something I’m pretty good at. I can’t sing, I can’t draw, but I can cook.

It strikes me though that it’s something a lot of folk out there can’t do. Which I think is really sad. If you can cook, but don’t enjoy it, fine. But if you’ve never been taught to cook, so have never had the chance to enjoy it, then you’ve been sold short.

So I thought I’d start a blog, with all the recipes I like to cook. Nothing complicated, I’m a woman on a time limit, so simplicity is usually key. I’ll warn you now, my food isn’t usually that pretty, and I can’t photograph to save myself. But it should taste good – which is really all that matters, right? I cook for my family of six – husband, son aged 5, and 3 year old triplet daughters (yes, you read that right, triplets!) – hence the ‘hectic’ part of the title. So I’ll be blogging about what I cook for them. Sometimes the husband and I have ‘adult’ meals which the kids won’t eat – they might be a bit more interesting, but still pretty straight forward. I’m not strictly a ‘budget cook’, but cooking for 6 I do try to keep it cheap. However, I often rate speed over budget, so please don’t judge me for that.

Me

So, this is me. I hope you enjoy my blog – happy cooking!