Mars Bar Slice

Mars Bar slice – really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

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The plague has come to the HC house. The plague I tell you. Well a crappy virus at least. My little germ factories (aka the children) brought it home originally. They all fell ill, one after the other, then both the Husband and I came down with it too. He’s been away with work though. I’m not sure what is worse. Being ill away from home, or being ill with 4 children to look after. I, at least had the cavalry (my mum) for a couple days which helped a lot. But all-in-all, it’s been a fairly miserable week for all of us.

So what could possibly make the week a little brighter? Well, lets start with this Mars Bar Slice. This is so friggin simple, but so ridiculously tasty. I can’t have this in the house as I tend to sneak a square every time I go into the kitchen (and I practically live in the kitchen). Aside: Does anyone else have to covertly eat sweet things, without their kids catching a whiff? – usually at the barest crinkle of a wrapper, or opening of a tupperware my 4 kids are on me like a pack of hyenas.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

This has become my favourite treat to take to parties and barbecues. I can throw it together in a morning, it’s so bloody simple, and yet folk seem to love it. It’s a crowd pleaser.

Before we start on the actual making of this slice, we need a serious chat about chocolate. Now I love most kinds of chocolate. I’m not really a chocolate snob. For baking I’ll use the supermarket own stuff because it is really tasty, cheap, and has no real distinctive flavour. As much as I love Cadbury, I find it’s unique flavour can be a bit overwhelming on certain cakes and traybakes. So more often than not, I would recommend using an unbranded milk chocolate. However. In this case I cannot over stress the need to use Galaxy chocolate to top this Mars Bar slice. Obviously both Mars Bar and Galaxy are the same brand, so using the same chocolate to add a thick chocolate coating to the top of the Mars Bar slice, properly takes them to the next level. It may sound insignificant. It is not. That is all.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

Ingredients

9 Mars Bars, cut into small slices
170g unsalted butter, cubed
1tbsp golden syrup
170g Rice Krispies
390g Galaxy chocolate

Note: I use 9 Mars Bars because you can buy a pack of 9. If it’s cheaper to buy two packs of 4, that will be fine. The amount of Mars Bars can be variable, just don’t vary too far from 9 as you want your Mars Bar slice nice and chewy. Also, I use the 390g bar of Galaxy, hence the random quantity.

1. Melt the Mars Bar slices with the butter in a large bowl in the microwave.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

I do this in 30 second blasts, stirring in between. The Mars Bar will remain a little lumpy due to the nougat, but as long as all the butter is melted, you’re done. Add the syrup and stir in.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

2. Add the Rice Krispies and mix well.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

Don’t do what I always do and forget that I need to use a bigger bowl.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

3. Once the mixture is mixed thoroughly (really mix it to ensure all the cereal is coated with chocolate), flatten the mixture into a lined tray. I use a 9″ square silicon tray, so I don’t have to line it. I find this is a good size for this amount of mixture.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

 

Refrigerate this for at least an hour to harden.

4. Break up the chocolate for the topping in a bowl, and melt it in the microwave (again, 30 second bursts).

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

 

Pour this over the tray of Mars Bar slice, sprinkle with some sprinkles to decorate if desired (who doesn’t need sprinkles in their life?), and pop back in the fridge to firm up – but not too long as it’s easier to slice if not rock solid.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

 

Slice and eat serve.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

This tends to lose its ‘crunch’ the longer you keep it. So don’t keep it too long. Eat it. Eat it all.

Happy cooking!

 

One-Pot Mexican Chicken Rice

One-Pot Mexican Chicken Rice – a gorgeously flavoursome one pot recipe of rice and chicken that brings Mexican flavours to the kitchen but requires minimal effort.

I know I’ve mentioned before about my kids’ fussy eating (mostly the girls to be fair) but this evening Alice actually claimed not to like a fish finger sandwich. A fish finger sandwich for fecks sake. I had a little cry. There’s me giving them something a bit naughty, and a lot awesome, thus making me a most excellent parent, and one doesn’t friggin like it. Bollocksy children.

There’s not a chance in hell then that I’d offer this Mexican Chicken Rice dish to the little angels. That would be such a waste of a really tasty dish. So I save this for the Husband and I, and pretty much every guest we’ve had since I discovered it. I love this recipe. I love Mexican food. This is basically my version of the Burrito Bowls you see recipes for on Pinterest. But I’m a little nervous to call it a Burrito Bowl as I have no idea whether it actually is or not. So I’ve played it safe. Whatever its name, this is a really tasty rice dish with the gorgeous flavours associated with Mexican food.

Ingredients (Serves 4 adults)

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
4 chicken breasts, cubed
2 tsp garlic paste / 2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chilli powder/flakes
1 tsp salt
240g long grain rice
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
500ml chicken stock
1 tin of black eye beans, drained and rinsed
sweetcorn
100g cheddar cheese

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat (I used my cast iron casserole dish – mainly for aesthetics – but a normal pan is fine as this dish is fully made on the hob). Add the onion and cook to soften, about 10 minutes.

Chicken Mexican Rice | thehecticcook.com

2. Add the chicken and let it cook for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and again cook for a couple of minutes.

Chicken Mexican Rice | thehecticcook.com

3. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika (if using, although it adds a lovely smoky flavour which I personally like), chilli and salt, and cook for a few more minutes.

Chicken Mexican Rice | thehecticcook.com

4. Add the long grain rice – I tend to use Basmati rice mostly, but for this dish I only use long grain rice as it holds its form better and won’t go all squishy like Basmati. Mix the rice into the chicken.

Chicken Mexican Rice | thehecticcook.com

5. Add the drained beans, tinned tomatoes, stock and sweetcorn. You can use any beans you like for this dish. I really like the Black Eye Beans (which I get from Asda), but kidney beans, cannellini beans, haricot beans, whatever you fancy, will work too.

Chicken Mexican Rice | thehecticcook.com

Bring the pan to a gentle simmer and pop the lid on. Cook for about 20-25 minutes, until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pot. If you think the dish is drying out too much, you can always add a little more water.

Chicken Mexican Rice | thehecticcook.com

Chicken Mexican Rice | thehecticcook.com

6. Once the rice is cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and top the chicken mixture with the cheese. Pop the lid back on and just leave to melt, without stirring, for about 5 minutes.

Chicken Mexican Rice | thehecticcook.com

You can then spoon out your servings with the cheese melted and gooey on top. Its a versatile dish. Change the chicken for beef steak, pork mince, Quorn pieces, or just add more beans and keep it veggie. Add salsa, guacamole, salad, soured cream, whatever extras take your fancy. It’s a gorgeously flavoursome dish, and so simple!

One-Pot Mexican Chicken Rice - a gorgeously flavoursome one pot recipe of rice and chicken with Mexican spice | thehecticcook.com

Happy cooking!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:16]

Slutty Brownies

Erm what diet…?

I was first introduced to these brownies by my lovely friend Sarah, who shares both my passion for cooking, and my love of eating. This sometimes gets us into trouble. A typical ‘Girls Night’ usually includes a bottle (or two) of Prosecco, several tubs of Ben & Jerry’s, and multiple bags of Cadbury chocolate. She’s such a bad influence…

I was, however very grateful for this introduction. The original idea was that of a blogger by the name of The Londoner (the woman is a culinary mastermind). The name comes from the fact that these brownies are oh so easy, and a good bit filthy. And boy are they easy. Now, I like to make life simpler at every opportunity. However, I’m a bit of a baking snob, and think the instant mixes you can buy from the supermarkets are a waste of money. Baking is generally not that difficult, and not actually a great deal more effort than these mixes require.

However. In the case of Slutty Brownies, much of the attraction to the recipe – apart from the promise of a truly decadent cookie/brownie combo – was the use of the instant mixes. The original recipe is a layer of cookie dough, a layer of Oreo cookies, and a layer of chocolate brownie. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t make the cookie and brownie from scratch. If that’s what you want to do, go for your life (I have a damn good cookie recipe, and an equally good brownie recipe on this blog). I just couldn’t be bothered. That’s a fair amount of work, and the whole allure of this slice is its simplicity.

This recipe has been added to a little – it was Sarah’s suggestion to add the caramel (see what I mean about a bad influence??). And I had a tub of Marshmallow Fluff so I had to throw that in for good measure. Feel free to leave these out if you’d rather (although why you would…?).

Ingredients

1 packet of cookie mix
1 packet of brownie mix
2 packets of Oreos (double stuffed are even better!)
1/2 tin of caramel
‘some’ marshmallow fluff
1-2 eggs
oil/butter

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

1. Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas 3. Make up the cookie mix as per the packet instructions, but add a little more butter/oil (depending on make). About 5g/1tsp more will suffice, enough to keep the cookie moist as it is baked for longer.

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

Also add about 5ml more water. I used a 275g packet mix from Morrisons, to give you an idea of quantity.

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

2. Line an 8×8″ tin (or equivalent size) with greaseproof paper (i.e. place paper in the tin, nothing fancy).

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

3. Flatten the cookie dough into the tin with your hands. It’ll be quite thin, but that’s how it should be.

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

4. Arrange the Oreos on top of the cookie dough. Sixteen Oreos will fit perfectly in an 8×8″ tin, so requires 2 packets. If you just have one packet, space the biscuits out a bit more.

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

5. Splurge the caramel over the Oreos – I filled the holes between biscuits then spread over the top. Half a tin will be enough.

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

 

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

6. I then added dods of marshmallow fluff. This was pretty superfluous, you don’t need to. But I have a serious addiction to marshmallow, so this seemed like a good idea (and it was). It’s completely up to you though if you follow this.

 

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

 

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

7. In the same bowl as before (lets not make more washing up than we need to) make the brownies exactly as per the packet instructions – mine required 30ml of oil, 45ml of water and 1 egg).

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

Cover the caramel coated Oreos with the brownie mix, smooth it over and than pop this into your preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Slutty Brownies | thehecticcook.com

If at all possible, leave the brownie in the tin until it has completely cooled, then pop it in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up before trying to cut it. Alternatively you can just go at it with a spoon straight from the oven. Add some ice-cream and you have a winning dessert!

Slutty Brownies - ridiculously easy and unbelievably delicious, these Slutty Brownies need to be tried! | thehecticcook.com

The first time I made this I actually had to make half with caramel and half without. Have I mentioned the Husband’s weird dislike of caramel? Anyway, in my humble opinion the caramel takes it to a whole different level (thank you Sarah!).

Happy cooking!

Slutty Brownies - ridiculously easy and unbelievably delicious, these Slutty Brownies need to be tried! | thehecticcook.com

 

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:13]

 

 

 

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – Warming, healthy and delicious, without the need to cut up a squash!

To me, soup is one of those dishes that I could not be without. It’s a life saver. Seriously. As a busy mum, who has a penchant for the easy life, in those moments of ‘I really can’t be arsed cooking’, soup is my go-to meal. It’s quick; it’s simple; I’ve usually got some in the freezer (or a tin in the cupboard – my kids go gooey eyed over Heinz Tomato Soup, it’s a proper love affair). And the real bonus is that you actually feel like you’re giving them something healthy (maybe not so much in the case of Mr Heinz). A little bit of effort in a moment when you’ve got some energy (fleeting I know, but I’ve got to catch them when I can), and you can feel smug even when Mr Motivation has left the building (not really sure why all these different male characters are popping up).

My kids favourite homemade soup is the lentil soup I’ve blogged before. But this is a good alternative (just go easy on the chilli). It has a lovely sweetness that is offset by the cumin. And the real bonus (certainly in my eyes) is that you don’t have to peel and cube a butternut squash. I think I originally found the recipe in BBC Good Food (it was a while ago and I can’t find it again). But I ended up changing it a bit as I wasn’t satisfied with the end result. I can’t be the only one who is often disappointed by soup? Too bland? No flavour? I’ve made some in the past that really haven’t cut the mustard – I once made ‘Roast Chicken Dinner Soup’. It was boggin. Never do it.

Ingredients

1 butternut squash (about 900g)
40g butter
350g potatoes, diced
2-3 carrots, sliced
1.2ltr vegetable/chicken stock
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed (or 2 tsp paste)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
seasoning

1. Pre-heat your oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3.

2. Cut the squash in half lengthways (you’ll need a big knife, but it’s not actually that hard; if I can do it with my puny arms I’m sure you’ll manage). Scoop out the seeds and discard (or if you’re being all Jamie Oliver you can wash them, and roast them).  Place the squash in a roasting tin and dot it with 25g of the butter.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup | thehecticcook.com

Bake for about 1 hour until softened and caramelising.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup | thehecticcook.com

3. Melt the remaining butter in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook until softened and beginning to colour.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup | thehecticcook.com

I’m all about making life simpler and so tend to use frozen, diced onion a lot. It may seem is fairly lazy, but I don’t really give a monkeys as it’s a lot easier throwing in some ready chopped onion that I can have to hand in the freezer, than crying over an onion.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup | thehecticcook.com

4. Add the garlic (I used paste), ground cumin, chilli flakes, potatoes and carrot. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the stock, cover the pan, and leave to simmer until the veg is soft – approx 25 minutes.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup | thehecticcook.com

Just for a bit of reference regards quantities, this was how much carrot and potato I used.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup | thehecticcook.com

5. Once out of the oven, allow the squash to cool a little before scooping the flesh out of the skin and adding it to the pan of soup.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup | thehecticcook.com

6. Liquidise the soup either using a hand blender or in a liquidiser, then taste and season as desired (it will most likely need some salt and pepper).

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup - Warming, healthy and delicious, without the need to cut up a squash! | thehecticcook.com

It doesn’t really matter what kind of stock you use with this soup. I went to use vegetable stock cubes (4 Knorr stock cubes in this case) and found I didn’t actually have any, so used chicken instead. Still tastes like it should. You also don’t need to add bacon and crème fraîche, I was just trying to make the photo pretty. However, as the Husband said, ‘almost everything is better with bacon in it’. So there you go.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup - Warming, healthy and delicious, without the need to cut up a squash! | thehecticcook.com

Happy cooking!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:12]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey & Bacon Pie

This turkey and bacon pie is a lovely warming dish for the cold winter evenings. This is a highly versatile pie, great for using up leftovers, that won’t have you slaving away in the kitchen for hours.

I’ve decided that the going success rate of my dishes (obviously with the kids) is 50%. Two out of four will undoubtedly not eat whatever I’ve dished up. Unless it’s covered in cheese, encased in pastry, or all of the above (see tonight’s Facebook post). I’m learning not to take this personally. So what if I’ve slaved away in the kitchen for an hour? Selflessly creating some gastronomic masterpiece that would be received with rapture by most? Giving my heart and soul into these dinners…?

Ok, so maybe overplaying this slightly. But it’s slightly depressing when you find yourself binning a substantial amount of the meal you’ve just made. And they’re not consistent. Oh the little buggers don’t even give me that. Lucy doesn’t eat potatoes. Alice doesn’t eat chicken. Oh wait a minute, no that’s Hannah not eating potatoes tonight. And Alice has just polished off a plate of chicken. I give up. Henry is my little soldier, mostly eating what I give him. Apart from onions. And sometimes chicken. Give me friggin strength.

This dish was a ’50 percenter’. However, they did all eat some of it at least. And in my book that’s a success. It’s a HC household staple (oh yeah I just keep on making the same shit, whether they eat it or not, they’ll never drag me down…). It’s a hugely versatile dish. For this occasion I made it with turkey, bacon and mashed potato topping. But you can easily substitute chicken for the turkey; leave out the bacon; use pastry to top it. I often make this with a puff pastry base and top – a true pie. Your hips will never forgive you, but your belly will love you.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tbsp oil
2 turkey breasts  
4 slices of back bacon 
green pepper, diced
potatoes, peeled and cubed
50g butter
50g plain flour
400ml hot chicken stock
1 tsp tarragon
white pepper
dash of lemon juice

Note:

The turkey breast weighed approx 700g – those things are friggin massive! I used smoke back bacon, but it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t actually add the green pepper this time as it was for the kids, and they’re fussy little buggars. I tend to use one medium potato per child, two per adult – but use however many you think you’ll need.

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the turkey and brown.

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Add the bacon and cook through. If you’re using green pepper, add it at this point and let it soften. Move the meat (and green pepper) into your ovenproof dish that you’ll be using to assemble the pie – this is simply to save on dishes as it’s all going to end up here anyway. Make sure you save all the juices that will have come off the meat.
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2. Whilst you cook the base of the pie, get your potatoes on to boil. Once they are soft (about 10 minutes) drain them well, then leave them to dry out a bit (without a lid). Mash them really well (the more you mash, the smoother the mash) adding a little butter and milk, plus some seasoning. Set this aside (if you have time, usually I’m juggling both pans at similar times).

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3. To make the sauce, melt the butter over a medium heat, in the same pan as before (you’ll pick up any tasty bits that might have been left from the meat).

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Add the flour, and let cook for a few minutes to cook the flour.

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4. Start adding the hot stock gradually, using a whisk to stir (this gets rid of any lumps). Once you’ve added all of the stock, ensure there’s not lumps – if there are any just keep whisking – then switch to stirring with a wooden spoon (this makes sure you get into the edges of the pan). The sauce shouldn’t take long to thicken.

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5. Once the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and add the tarragon, white pepper and a splash of lemon juice (I always have bottled lemon juice in the fridge for recipes like this). Return the meat (and green pepper) to the pan and stir it through the sauce.

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Pour this into your ovenproof dish (a casserole dish works fine) and top with the mashed potato – I tend to dollop it on in bits then smooth it out with a fork.
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It does look better with a bit of lovely green pepper through the base – mine looks a bit anaemic, thanks kids.

6. Pop your pie into the oven (180°C/350ºF/Gas 4) and cook it for about 20 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the sauce is bubbling.

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Serve with some nice bright veg to make your plate look less beige. For an added spot of colour you could add some sweetcorn or peas to the sauce just before pouring it into your ovenproof dish. You can also make this with leftovers. If you have turkey leftover from Christmas, just add it straight into the sauce and warm through. Add cooked ham in the same way, just miss out the first stage of cooking the meat. Play about with the ingredients and make a pie that suits you. The sauce is the key to this dish, and it’s bloody scrummy.

Turkey and Ham Pie

Happy cooking!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:6]

 

Moroccan Meatballs

An alternative take on classic meatballs, with a Moroccan twist. A simple and quick meal, perfect for midweek, that will add some spice to your cooking repertoire without slaving over a hot stove for hours.

Christmas has come and gone, and the goose is still fat. Oh dear. Anyone else ready to cut their wrists this January? I have limited willpower at the best of times, but during the festive season, what little willpower I do have, ups and scarpers off on holiday. So here we are (again), trying to lose some poundage. This means that baking in the HC house is out-of-bounds, and dishes are of a much healthier persuasion. No cheese sauces; no pastry; limited carbs… Bloody dull, but when needs must (cries silently into her vegetable soup…).

I’ve made a deal with myself to get blogging more frequently this year, so for about the first month at least, my servings will be on the less calorific side – I can usually manage a month, then it all goes pitifully downhill. Watch this space. So no macaroni cheese; no cheese & bean pastry; no homemade pizza etc etc. You’ll know the diet is over when pudding starts reappearing.

This is a recipe I’ve been making for many years. It’s nigh on impossible to find low fat lamb mince, so if you’re being religious about your healthy eating you might want to buy some lamb leg steaks and blitz them in a food processor. I’m never that religious (can we start to see my problem?) so regular lamb mince does just fine. These meatballs are a lovely Moroccan twist on the usual, and a really quick and simple dish to prepare.

Ingredients (serves 4 adults)

1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp clear honey
zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
50g breadcrumbs
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
500g lamb mince
cous cous to serve

1. In a large pan heat the oil, then add the onion and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft and golden.

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2. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the ground cumin, the honey, lemon juice, tomatoes, stock cube and 300ml of boiling water. In most recipes I would tend to use bottled lemon juice as I always have some in the fridge, but this recipe requires zest, so only a real lemon would do.

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3. Bring the sauce to a boil and then simmer, uncovered whilst you prepare the meatballs.

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4. In a bowl moisten the breadcrumbs with the milk – I often have a small bag of breadcrumbs at the bottom of the freezer but on this occasion I didn’t, so had to blitz a piece of bread. I tend to also freeze the ends of bread for times like this. Saves waste too.

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To the breadcrumbs mix in 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin and cinnamon, the lemon zest and the mince. Season well.

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5. Shape this mix into approximately 32 small meatballs and drop them into the simmering sauce. Cover your pan and simmer for about 5 minutes.

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6. Remove the lid and simmer for about 10 minutes more (timings are fairly flexible here, you can leave it to simmer for longer, just keep an eye that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much – if it does, add a little water and pop the pan lid back on).

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7. Prepare the cous cous by adding hot stock to the cous cous in a bowl, and covering it with clingfilm for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Definitely use stock to make your cous cous, otherwise it’s fairly tasteless.

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8. Serve your Moroccan meatballs on a bed of cous cous.

Moroccan Meatballs - a gorgeous alternative using the spices of Morocco | thehecticcook.com

On that note, I’m off out tonight so the Husband and the kids are getting pizza 😛

Happy cooking!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:5]

Macaroni Cheese

A step-by-step guide to cooking this simple and delish family staple.

My girls turned four at the weekend. Four! Woo bloody hoo!! Four just seems better; more independent; almost human. Life is definitely getting easier. Let’s not get carried away, it’s not easy. Three young children constantly asking questions, wanting your attention simultaneously, fighting and squabbling over trivia. But we’re getting there (fist pumps the air).

We had a bit of a get-together to celebrate. I cooked some stovies and made a cake. The kids played pass-the-parcel (20 friggin layers of paper). And the adults drank wine. We didn’t take many photos, but the Husband took some of the girls blowing out the candles on their cake.

The Hectic Cook | thehecticcook.com

That’s the best one. Seriously. We do have 3 daughters. What’s that saying about if you want something doing right…?

Talking of my kids (seamless link), macaroni cheese is one of those dishes they get a fair bit. It’s an old faithful. Plus I always have the ingredients in the cupboard. There is absolutely nothing fancy about this recipe. Many of you will have your own recipe, it’s a classic, and you’ll possibly make it differently. But this is how my mum taught me to make macaroni cheese. So this is how I do it.

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Ingredients (Serves 2 adults / 4 kids)

200g macaroni
30g butter
30g plain flour
300ml milk
80g grated cheddar cheese, plus a little extra for the top
White pepper (optional)

Note:

These quantities can be easily doubled.

1. Cook the macaroni (or whatever type of pasta you wish/have). I find I have to add the macaroni to a boiling pan of slightly salted water, then give it a stir every few minutes to stop it all sticking to the bottom of the pan. It’ll take around 15 minutes.

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2. Whilst the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese ready to go before you start to make the sauce, then there’s no fear of sauces burning.

3. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the flour and stir to fully incorporate (to make a roux).

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Let this cook for a few minutes to cook the flour.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

4. Start to add the milk. I tend to add a bit at a time and stir it into the roux. Use a whisk to stir your sauce as it’ll get rid of any lumps that might arise, but take a spoon once around the edge of the pan after you’ve added all of the milk in case there’s some solid mixture lurking at the bottom.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Keep whisking until the sauce begins to thicken. This should all be done on a medium heat, and don’t leave it for any length of time as the sauce will burn to the bottom of the pot fairly quickly (if WW3 breaks out in the living room whilst making the sauce, just let them get on with it).

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

5. Once the sauce has thickened, take your pan off the heat and add the cheese. The amount of cheese is subjective. We like our macaroni cheese fairly cheesy, so 80g works for us. But add some and taste. Work out for yourself how cheesy you like it.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Stir in the cheese until it has melted, then add a little white pepper if desired (I often leave this out because if I’m heavy handed with it, the kids aren’t happy). Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce and transfer to a heatproof dish. Top with some extra grated cheese.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

6. Pop this under a hot grill for about 5-10 minutes until the cheese on top has melted and started to turn golden.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

And serve.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

I love the simplicity of macaroni cheese. And yet it’s bloody tasty. You can serve it with sausages; with fish fingers; stir through gammon or bacon; or eat it blissfully on its own. However you serve it, just one word of warning. Don’t save leftovers. Second day macaroni cheese is totally boggin’.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

 

Happy cooking!

 

Quorn Chilli Burrito

A really simple family-friendly meal that makes a bit of a change to the usual meals I dish up to the kids.

So it would appear that having four children home for seven weeks straight does not leave much time for doing anything other than basic survival activities (I am so sick of bleedin’ parks). Who would have thought?! However, the summer holidays are (finally) over, and the little darlings are back ensconced (for at least a couple days a week) at school/nursery. Is that fanfare and trumpets I hear?

So I have some time to myself. Some ‘Me’ time – you know, time to drink a hot cup of tea; time to take a shower for longer than 3 minutes; time to take a poo without constant screaming and interruption. Aah, yes. Me time.

And time to get back to my blog. In all honesty, our meals over the summer haven’t been terribly exciting. Lots of meat, chips and salad. But as the weather gets cooler I always find I cook more. And bake more.

This recipe is one that I approached with trepidation, regards the kids. You never know what’s going to go down well, and what isn’t. However, this went down great! I think if you put anything in a bread item – wrap, bap, pitta etc – my kids will eat it. And they seem to prefer Quorn mince to beef mince – I think it’s a texture thing.  If you’re looking for something a little different, but not too different, give this a go.

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, crushed / 2 tsp garlic paste
1 tbsp oil
300g Quorn mince (1 whole packet)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1-2 cans of beans (kidney beans, cannellini beans, barlotti beans etc), drained & rinsed
1 oxo cube, crumbled
∼ 200ml water
tortilla wraps
grated cheese

1. Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes without burning the garlic. As an aside, I don’t buy heads of garlic anymore, it’s either the paste or frozen. I realise this isn’t very economical, but boy is it quicker.

Quorn Chilli Burrito | thehecticcook.com

2. Add the packet of Quorn to the pan and stir through the garlic.

Quorn Chilli Burrito | thehecticcook.com

Quorn Chilli Burrito | thehecticcook.com

3. Now add all the remaining ingredients, bar the cheese and the wraps. I used two tins of beans as I wanted to bulk it out, but if you only want to add one, that’s fine. I like to add smoked paprika to my chilli, as it gives a lovely subtle smoky flavour. But if you don’t have any, just leave it out. The cumin and chilli powders are what add the real ‘chilli’ flavour.

Quorn Chilli Burrito | thehecticcook.com

 

 

Stir together all of the ingredients, pop the lid on and let cook on a low heat for about 30 minutes. Quorn doesn’t really need much cooking, but this will give it enough time for all the flavours to strengthen.

Quorn Chilli Burrito | thehecticcook.com

4. Once the chilli is cooked you need to assemble your burritos. Place a couple of spoonfuls of chilli into the centre of a tortilla wrap – don’t try to over fill it as it’ll just spill out and you’ll end up in a bit of a mess. Add a sprinkling of cheese if you so desire – with my kids, cheese is essential. Fold opposite sides in, one on top of the other, and then the other two opposite sides, to make a parcel (I don’t have a photo, but I figure you’ll work it out).

Quorn Chilli Burrito | thehecticcook.com

 

5. Heat a frying pan to a medium-high heat – there’s no need for oil, these are dry-fried. Place as many burritos as you can into your pan without overcrowding them – you need to be able to turn them over. I used a couple of pans as I was making 7 burritos (the Husband ate two). I made the kids first so that they had a chance to cool whilst I made ours.  

Quorn Chilli Burrito | thehecticcook.com

Quorn Chilli Burrito | thehecticcook.com

 

Let cook for a few minutes, but keep a close eye so they don’t start to burn. Using a fish slice, turn the burritos over to toast the other side for a couple of minutes, again being careful not to burn.

Quorn Chilli Burrito | thehecticcook.com

 

On this occasion I served the burritos with rice and salad, plus a dollop of soured cream.

Quorn Chilli Burritos - a quick and tasty vegetarian dinner for busy weeknights | thehecticcook.com

 

And that’s it! This is a fairly quick and very simple meal, a bit different from the usual kid-friendly dishes I tend to serve up. And it’s versatile – change the Quorn chilli for beef chilli, chicken chilli, chicken fajita etc. If I have any leftovers I’ll eat them for lunch next day, it’s so quick.

Happy cooking!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:3]

Cheese & Bean Pastry Pie

Cheese and bean pastry pie is incredibly quick and surprisingly delicious, just don’t consider the calorie content!

So it’s been hotter than the sun here today. No exaggeration. I’m Scottish. I don’t do heat. I’ve spent the whole of today sweating. No, that’s not a pretty look. On days like today, spending a lot of time in the kitchen is to be avoided. Unfortunately should you have children, there is a certain requirement still to feed them – seemingly not to is regarded as neglect?

This recipe is not going to win me any prizes. It’s neither cordon bleu cooking, nor is it particularly nutritionally virtuous. But it is stupidly quick and simple. If you can bear to put the oven on in this heat, you’ll be spending minimal amounts of time in the kitchen preparing this dish. But the kids should be happy with the result. As a ‘go-to’ meal, this ticks a lot of boxes. Just maybe don’t feed it to them every day.

Ingredients

500g block of puff pastry 
1 tin of baked beans
∼ 100g cheddar cheese

DSC_0180

1. Flour your surface and roll out the pastry into a large square until it’s about 0.5cm thick. I tend to keep a block of puff pastry in my freezer as it comes in useful. Just remember to take it out to defrost if you’re planning on making this.

DSC_0183

2. Transfer this to a lightly oiled baking tray and prick it all over with a fork, leaving about a centimetre around the edge. This should stop the middle from rising too much, although it’ll probably rise a bit.

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3. Cover the pastry with the tin of beans, spreading it out all over, again leaving a border around the edge. Choice of beans is not important. Honestly. Use whatever beans you want. Don’t feel any ‘bean pressure’ to use a particular brand.

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4. Sprinkle the cheese over the beans and then bake in a preheated over, 180°C/350ºF/Gas 4, for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry has turned golden and the cheese is bubbling. You could egg-wash the edge, but I didn’t, and it’s just adding more faff to an otherwise faff-less meal.

DSC_0197

 

Cheese and bean pastry pie - incredibly quick and easy, just don't worry about the calorie content | thehecticcook.com

5. Slice up and serve.

Cheese and bean pastry pie - incredibly quick and easy, just don't worry about the calorie content! | thehecticcook.com

Like I said, this recipe is not going to win prizes. If you haven’t thought of this dish already, you’ll wonder why not. But with only 3 ingredients, and minimal effort, it’s the kind of meal to keep in the back pocket for days when you really can’t be bothered – and don’t really care about the nutritional intake of your kids. Oh and this tastes pretty good, so if you don’t have kids, make this for yourself and don’t think about the calories 😛

Happy cooking!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:2]

Strawberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake

A gorgeous cheesecake encompassing the smoothness of white chocolate with the sweetness of strawberries. A delectable combination.

I love pudding. But I don’t get to make it often. They’re bad for you. Full of sugar, and butter, and everything else that makes bad food taste really good (unhappy face). I’ll make a Sunday pudding now and again, mostly in the winter, justifying it by the fact the kids will grow up with lovely, homely memories of Sunday pudding (these memories are obviously slightly fuzzy, in black and white, and we’re all wearing 1940’s clobber). The only time I can really justify the ‘exuberance’ of making pudding is if we’re entertaining (see White Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding). I especially love it when my Father-in-law visits. Here is a man who truly appreciates pudding. If he is visiting, pudding is a forgone conclusion – blatantly I’m just using him as an excuse here, but heh ho.

So the last time he and my Mother-in-Law visited I made this cheesecake. Its an amalgamation of a Phil Vickery cheesecake, and a BBC Good Food recipe. Both originals are really good, and probably needed no alteration. But I’ve never let that stop me before.

Ingredients

200g Hobnob style biscuits, crushed
75g unsalted butter, melted
300g white chocolate, melted
200g soft cheese
250g mascarpone
285ml double cream
300g strawberries
2 tbsp strawberry jam

1. Line and grease an 8″ deep-sided cake tin (a removable base, or springform tin are essential here). I use those pre-cut greaseproof paper circles you can get from the likes of Lakeland, as they make life a lot easier. I just use a small splash of groundnut oil to grease the tin, using my (clean – honest!) hands to cover the inside of the tin. Or you can use some melted butter.

2. Melt the butter – in a bowl, in the microwave or in a pan on the stove; and crush the biscuits – I use a small hand-held blender, but in a plastic bag with a rolling pin also works.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

Hobnob-style biscuits give a lovely oaty taste to the base of this cheesecake, but you could use any biscuit – digestives, shortbread, custard creams. Whatever takes your fancy.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

3. Mix the biscuit crumbs into the melted butter, and then press this into the base of your cake tin.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

Squish it down really well, making sure its fairly compacted. Put this into the fridge to chill whilst you make the filling.
Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

4. Melt the white chocolate. Be careful with this as it can burn quite easily. In the microwave, give it short blasts and stir each time. Or melt in a bowl over a pan of boiling water on the stove – just don’t get water into the chocolate as it really doesn’t like it. Let this cool slightly.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

 

5. Meanwhile, chop up most of the strawberries, leaving a few aside for decoration, and add these to a blender or food processor with the jam. Blend well to make a jam-like sauce.

 Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

6. In a large bowl add the soft cheese, mascarpone and cream.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

Do not be tempted to buy low-fat mascarpone as the cheesecake won’t set (been there, done that). Mix this well (a hand mixer is useful here).

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

Then add the white chocolate. The mixture will stiffen up considerably, just make sure the chocolate is well mixed through. And try not to eat it.

  Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

7. Now to start layering. Spread about a third of the cream mix onto the base, then top with half of the sauce.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

Add another layer of cream, and then sauce. Finish off with a final layer of cream. This is a bit tricky, as trying to get smooth layers is fairly hard, and it does end up looking a bit messy. Well it did for me at least.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake | thehecticcook.com

 

You can just do a layer of cream, then sauce, then a final layer of cream. It will be cleaner than my end result. I just prefer the extra layer of cream and sauce.

8. Chill this for at least a couple of hours before serving. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the tin, then slowly push the base up, or unhinge. An extra pair of hands can be useful if you’re using a tin with removable base. Cut a few of the saved strawberries in half – keeping the hull in looks a bit more ‘artistic’ or something. Top the cheesecake with these, and serve.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake - a devilishly gorgeous dessert, creamy and delicious | thehecticcook.com

The final product might not be the pretty layered creation I’d hoped for, but it tasted pretty damn fine. You should get about 12 servings from this, depending on how generous you are.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake - a devilishly gorgeous dessert, creamy and delicious | thehecticcook.com

 

We had it two nights running. It’s worthy of an encore. And the kids liked it too – surprise, surprise.

Happy cooking!

PS I’ve added a new printable recipe box below, so hopefully you can print off a copy to keep. Obviously having read the entirety of my waffle post 😉

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:1]