Mumma’s feel good orange hot chocolate

Sometimes everyone has needs a good pick me up. This hot chocolate is the answer. It is zesty, warming and chocolatey, like a big hug in a mug. 

Mumma's orange hot chocolate.JPG

Mum’s are pretty special beings. They are a bit magic. They put up with you at your very worse and at your very foulest. They are the phone call you constantly forget to return, but they are still there to pick up the pieces when you decide you need them. My mum knows when to send me a picture of my cat Mr Pigley (she just about knows how to use the camera…) She is 150 miles away, yet is still always just around the corner if I need her. She knows how hem a dress, don a Thai Chi ball, fix an ailment, but best of all, even after a long day helping even more people at the hospital (told you they are magic), she knows how to cook.

I don’t know what it is that turns you from just making dinner to being able to cook. But Susie has it, whether it’s an old favourite, a new adventure or a feel good pudding, it makes my tummy smile. Cue- my mumma’s feel-good orange hot chocolate. When she came down to Bournemouth last weekend she equipped me with the weapons to make this hot cuppa-chocolate.

It is simple and effective. Chocolate releases endorphins and reduces your blood pressure. Cinnamon is one of natures natural healers, and orange boosts your immune system and evokes that nostalgic feeling of a cosy winter.

To serve 3 cups you will need:

  • 70g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70% coco solids, don’t go below 65%)
  • 400ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • zest of half an orange
  • 2 tbs juice from that orange
  • 2 tbs golden caster sugar- this is optional and adjustable to taste

Mumma's orange hot chocolate.JPG

1) break up the chocolate into tiny pieces and start melting it in a pan over a low heat. Then pour in a little bit of the milk until it all starts to become a runny paste.

2) Add half of the rest of the milk, the cinnamon, the orange juice and the orange zest and continue to heat over a low flame. Keep stirring, it must not boil but needs to start steaming.

3) After 5 mins add the rest of the milk and add the sugar and continue to stir until it is piping hot, but again do not burn it! Take your time, like a witch brewing a potion.

4) Pour into your favourite mug, or if your feeling adventurous scoop out the inside of the orange and pour it into that. I warn you this is tricky, I made a hole in mine and it didn’t make a great mug, but it looks cute. Sort of. It’s rustique ok.

Enjoy and share with the people you love. And never under-appreciate the power of your mum!

Mumma's orange hot chocolate

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta, it tastes good, looks good, and is full of iron.

It was one of those Sundays where time passed as life between meals. It is my favourite kind of life.

My stomach was a bottomless pit, and I had little else to do but cook lots. And lots. I made a cake too, but that was not enough.

Sometimes I like a challenge, so I chose this, inspired by GHK food again. It looks visually like a lot of work! Truth is it isn’t that much work at all, just some serious stuffing skills.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta

You will need:

  • 450g fresh spinach
  • 125g ricotta
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 25g grated parmesan
  • 225g conchiglione shells or large enough pasta to stuff, I used this
  • 25g each grated parmesan
  • Your favourite tomato sauce recipe
  • 1 tbs cream cheese

1) Make the sauce (I fry off 2 cloves of crushed garlic, add 1 tsp oregano, one can tinned tomatoes, pinch of sugar and a splash of Worcestershire sauce). Then set the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

2) Wilt down the spinach in a large pan and squeeze out most of the moisture. Run the spinach under some cold water first if you are squeezing it with your palms!

3) Chop the spinach finely, then stir in the the ricotta, egg, nutmeg and parmesan.

4) Cook the pasta for 10 minutes, then use a teaspoon to fill each pasta shape with the spinach and ricotta filling.

5) Pour the sauce into an oven proof dish, stir in the cream cheese then arrange the shapes.

6) Grate over more parmesan or cheddar if you prefer, and bake for 20-25 mins until bubbling and slightly golden.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta

Creamy Pasta Bake

When I am at home, I mostly live off the Good Housekeeping diet. I.E 9/10 meals which I consume come from the magazine.

It it my mums cooking bible, but for good reason- every recipe they publish works perfectly and tastes good. It is her (and now my) go-to source of family meals. It is where my favourite halloumi bean stew was born from.

Mum and dad both work at the hospital for the NHS, this means our dinner conversations often revolve around what has happened there that day, it’s not quite Holby but has it’s moments. It also means they work long hours, so tonight I thought I would sort out tea. Cue, Good Housekeeping for this pasta bake.

Creamy Pasta Bake- The Vegaquarium

I adapted the recipe slightly to include some of my favourite things, and changed the white sauce recipe to my staple one. Speaking of white sauce, once you can make it you can make so many dishes! So it’s worth learning.

You will need:

  • 75g butter
  • 75g plain flour (always match the quantities of butter and flour)
  • 900ml milk
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 500g pack of your favourite tortellini, or GHK suggests spinach and ricotta
  • 150g peas
  • 4 freshly chopped chives
  • 1 small broccoli tree
  • 3 x salmon or white fish fillets, skinned and cut into chunks
  • 50g cheddar to top

1) Set the oven to 180 degrees C, gas mark 6.

2) Melt the butter in a heavy bottom pan on medium heat, then stir in the flour. Remove from the heat and start to pour in the milk a little at a time while stirring so it all combines and there are no lumps. Stir in the mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

2) Add the tortellini to the white sauce. I used a 400g pack and made up the rest with regular pasta, I also used scissors to cut the tortellini in half and it worked nicely.

3) Take off the heat and fold in the fish, peas, broccoli and chives before pouring into an ovenproof dish. Top with cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 20 mins or until bubbling and golden.

4) Serve to your hungry, tired family for brownie points!

Custard Tarts

Custard Tarts

Ready, set, BAKE! The Great British Bake Off is back and I am obsessed. Each week, the Bafta award winning show grips the nation as Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood whittle out good crumbs from the soggy bottoms.

Baking is fun, but baking disasters are all part of the process. I once used cumin instead of cinnamon to flavour my baked apples in an FT lesson; safe to say I have now learned to read labels properly…  Watching other people’s baking disasters is also very nerve wracking, especially when your favourite contestant has just used salt instead of sugar, or has watched the middle fall out of their uncooked cake.

The technical challenge is one that is usually full of a few disasters. Contestants are given a recipe, but all technical aspects and methods are excluded from the instructions. Last week we watched in vain as bakers tried their hand at custard tarts. Removing the tarts from the tray proved difficult, and there was soggy bottoms and uncooked custard all over the bake-off kitchen. Things were tense!

Having never made a custard tart myself, I was intrigued. I took up the challenge under the safety that Mary and Paul’s harsh tongues wouldn’t judge me. The secret is making sure that the pastry is cooked but the egg custard isn’t over done. By following Paul Hollywood’s recipe below, everything went pretty much to plan, however if you are making smaller tarts, you will need to watch your cooking times.

Ingredients

For the sweet pastry

  • 165g/5¾oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 25g/1oz ground almonds
  • 120g/4¼oz chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 55g/2oz caster sugar
  • 1 free-range egg

For the custard filling

  • 700ml/1¼ pint full-fat milk
  • 7 free-range egg yolks
  • 90g/3¼oz caster sugar
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Make the pastry:

1)   Cut the cold butter into cubes and rub it into the flour and almonds with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.

2)   Break in the egg and use your fingers to mix it together to form soft sticky dough. Put the dough ball onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a ball and flatten it into a disk with your fingers. Then pop this in the fridge in cling film to chill for 30 minutes.

3)   Now preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas 6.

4)   Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, then use an 11cm/4.5 inch fluted cutter to cut out 12 discs. Line the muffin tray with the circle ensuring that the pastry overlaps the top of the mould by a few millimetres.

 

For the egg custard:

1)   Warm the milk. In a separate bowl, beat in the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

2)   Pour the milk onto the egg yolks and stir well to create little bubbles. Now transfer this into a jug and fill each pastry case with custard.

3)   Sprinkle each tart with nutmeg and bake them for 10-15 minutes at 200C. Now turn the temperature down to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 10 minutes.

I used sneaky greaseproof tabs so I could remove them easily
I used sneaky greaseproof tabs so I could remove them easily

4)   Look for a golden pastry and a slight dome in the custard, which indicates it is baked. Too much dome means the custard is overcooked so watch out!

Custard Tarts

Spicy Prawn Creole

I write regularly for a local magazine called the Moulsham Times, and last month this was my recipe! I wanted to make something seafoody after our trip to cornwall. (It seems so long away now, sob!)

Spicey Prawn Creole

Some of the best prawns I ever ate were eaten on this holiday when we rewarded ourselves with fish and chips at Rick Steins fish shop after a big walk to Padstow. The chips were amazing, a perfect mix or squishy and crispy. I had king prawns with garlic mayonnaise instead of the usual battered cod and instantly knew I had made the right decision, they were juicy and the mayonnaise was AMAZING! Very garlicky…

This recipe is adapted from one of the Leon recipe books. The books are full of healthy, hearty and easy food so I highly recommend them to a cooking family!

  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 2 red peppers, diced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 tin whole tomatoes
  • 1 bag prawns
  • 3 medium chillies, chopped
  • 2 tbs tomato puree
  • 1 tbs soft brown sugar
  • 400 ml fish stock
  • Corn on the cob, rice and a dollop of sour cream to serve.
  • Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6
  • First fry off the onions, peppers, chillies and leek in a big glug of olive oil until partly soft. Adjust the type and amount of chilli pepper to suit your taste.

Spicey Veg

  • Add the tinned tomatoes, fish stock and sugar and mix together. Then leave on a medium heat for 25 minutes to simmer.

Bubbling Veg

  • Transfer the spicy vegetable mix into a heatproof dish and cook in the oven for 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile cook your rice and corn on the cob so they are ready to serve with the creole.
  • Remove from the oven and leave the mix to settle while you serve up the rice and sweet corn. Dowse your sweet corn in butter, and spoon the prawns and sauce onto the rice. To cool the dish down a bit, use a spoonful of sour cream.

This dish is great all year round. You could BBQ the sweet corn and serve the prawns with light peach couscous while you eat alfresco in whatever remains of the summer, or warm up from a cold walk in the winter, by serving it with warm buttered fresh bread.

 

Spicy Prawn Creole

Zingy Lemon Curd Bars

If you are feeling a bit sour, and need a bit of zing in your life, these lemon curd bars are just waiting to make your tummy happy.

While flicking through this little Leon cookbook, these bars instantly took our fancy. I love lemon cake, lemon muffins, lemon on pancakes, and it seems now I love lemon curd bars! You cut them into squares so they’re good for taking on picnics. I took mine as a snack for work.

lemon bars

  • 280g plain flour plus an extra 35g for the lemon topping
  • 80g icing sugar
  • 225g butter, cold and cubed
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 350g sugar
  • 120ml fresh lemon juice
  • 1tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Icing sugar to finish (I forgot this bit)

1) Set the oven to 170C. Put the flour, icing sugar and butter into a bowl, use a hand blender or food processer and mix it all together untill it creates a bowl. I didn’t think this was going to happen because the mix looks like sand! But persevere and it will work, once it starts to make big clumps of dough use your hands to push it together into a ball. Make sure the butter is cold!

Lemon bars

2) Press it into a baking tray and bake it for 20-25 mins, until golden and set.

3) Place the eggs into a bowl and whisk until fluffy. Then add the sugar, lemon zest and juice and continue to whisk. Finally add the flour and baking powder and stiiiiiir it up to combine it all.

4) Pour the mix onto the base, it will be sloppy. Then place it back in the oven at 170C to cook for 25-30 mins until set, however mine still wobbled in the middle!

5) Finally leave it to cool, and when it has dust it with icing sugar (as I said I forgot this part). This is probably because I also served it semi-hot before it had cooled, when the base and the topping was all squidgy so it was a little like a lemon sponge pudding, it was yum.

Lemon curd bars

Prawn Pomodoro Linguini with Creme Fraiche

I love vegetables but I also love prawns, especially in pasta with tonnes of garlic. This dish is light and perfect for summer dining on the deck!

Make sure you buy good, happy prawns, your tummy will benefit and so will the sea!

Prawn Linguini

You will need:

  • 450g tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 glug worcestershire
  • 1 clove garlic
  • linguini
  • bag of fresh or frozen prawns
  • 1 tsp creme fraiche
  • Fresh basil to garnish

1) Slice up the tomatoes and place them in a large pan with a glug of oil to start stewing. Add the sugar, the red chilli, the worcestershire sauce and the clove of garlic and simmer intill the skins start to come away from the tomatoes.

2) Boil a large pan of water and add your linguini. Boil for 12 mins.

3) Meanwhile, add your prawns to the tomatoes in the pan and cook until pink if they are frozen, if not cook for about 3-5 mins.

Prawn Linguini

Prawn Linguini

4) Drain your pasta and serve with a generous helping of prawns and tomatoes, stir though a teaspoon of creme fraiche and garnish with fresh basil.

Bon apetit mon petit pois!

Prawn Linguini

Day 5- The Final Leg

400 miles, 72 gel bars, 12 water bottles, 14 tires, 7 cyclists, 5 hotels, 1 support team, 1 trailer and 1 very much unappreciated skip-on-a-bike (see picture below) it took us to get from the city of Chelmsford to the coast of Cornwall. It was hard, there were tears, a few grazes, and a lot of bike grease! But it has been an amazing experience of which I am so glad I did and I am glad to have been a part of it. Go team!

Today we split into two teams. Me, mum and Ellie cycled down a long disused railway line, and then on the bumpy roads of Cornwall to Polzeath via Rock for a well deserved coffee stop. Whilst the boys took the slightly longer route all the way to lands end! Helmets off to them.

I guess in my mind the only way I can describe coming down the final hill into Polzeath, is by comparing it to when Marlin finds Nemo, after battling sharks and jelly fish. Yep. (I did originally make a Lord of the Rings reference…)

We have celebrated tonight with an understated Mexican in the garden, a few beers and Pimms, and a stroll on the beach; a perfect way to end 5 long days of a lot of peddling! Plus with no horrific hill climbs on our agenda tomorrow, I can assure you that I will be up ready for a Papa Smole style breakfast and a day of sun and surf!

I know a lot of you have been reading this every day, Polly Wicks especially! So thanks so much for taking an interest/ checking up to confirm we were actually insane. If anyone is off on a cycling holiday soon, I wish you the best of luck and recommend a lot of bum padding!

The boys at Landsend- not the skip on Matt's bike!
The boys at Landsend- not the skip on Matt’s bike!

 

Iced coffees at rock
Iced coffees at Rock
Route planner Susie
Route planner Susie
Next years travel option?
Next years travel option?

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Susie Q with a well earned beer- pints followed don't worry!
Susie Q with a well earned beer- pints followed don’t worry!

Polzeath

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photo (6)

Day 4- Collumpton to Bodmin

Unfortunately I was MIA from the action this morning as my every mysterious allergic reaction flared up and I had to go to the pharmacy. In a way I am a little glad, apparently it was hills, hills, hills. It was not Susie’s favourite leg of the journey. The hills were steep, long, and apparently it is the hottest day of the year so far! So big well done to them for cycling 28 miles in that. If you don’t believe me when I said it was hot, Konrad and Ellie managed to print their hands in the tarmac!

Hollywood boulevard
Hollywood boulevard

I joined and we continued along a converted railway. It was flat, hooray! And have some lovely views. We also saw a mr and a mrs stoat! But they quickly ran off. We met some challenging terrains, boulders, long rock paths, but amazingly nobody fell off! The only downside of all the flats were the flies that flew into my mouth. I ate two of them. I spat one out so I think I should still count as vegetarian?

We are now in Bodmin, which is officially in Cornwall! Plus I had haloumi for dinner, so all in all life is good!

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Day 3- Frome to Cullompton

As the days have gone on, cycling has got tougher! Me and mum did 30 miles today before hopping in the car with the lovely support team. Dad, Konrad and Matt carried on to do about 60 all together, which is amazing in 31 degrees heat!

While I complain about the hills, the surrounding area has become more scenic on the rides… minus a few dead badgers. Everything is green and hobbit like, with rolling hills, thatched roofs and old cottages. We’ve passed cows, sheep and even alpacas!

On our travels we bumped into a fellow cyclist. He must have been at least 65, and was braving the bumps and inclines of the countryside himself. He helped us with directions, and made me feel a little more human for not being such a pro at the hill climbs. I hope he enjoyed the rest of his ride and rewarded himself with a hearty plate of food when he got home. What a cutie.

The last stretch I did took us down a long A-road to Glastonbury! I have never been there but it is exactly as I expected. Shops filled with runes, mystic stones, palm readers and dream catchers. A real hippy haven. I had a strawberry gelato, a bit like a sorbet but creamier, and it hit the spot perfectly.

The Glatonbury Tor. Would love to climb up the hill some day, but after this bike ride is not the best time…!

The boys carried on through the hills down to Taunton where they were picked up and driven to devon to meet us at the pub where we are staying. At the end of the day, this a holiday, we aren’t letting down any sponsorship so we don’t want to kill ourselves with too many miles in the heat!

Once again, dinner was wolfed down with not a chip left standing.

Tomorrow we reach cornwall! I can’t even contain my excitement!!! the 6 am starts, hill climbs, hill falls and hot days will finally pay off. We will be just 20 miles from Polzeath and more importantly, surf and cheesy chips.

Sam, my boyfriend, also joins us tomorrow evening for the final day and a taste of my favourite place ever! He has recently caught the bike bug, I blame papa smole. He has a snazzy new bike and has been practicing on the horrible hills of sheffield. I say horrible, he may disagree. Even so, I rekon after this week I could still beat him at an endurance race.

Bikes
Bike prepping at 7am this morning, seems like days ago!