Leek and butternut squash soup

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Adpated from Delia Smith’s Leek and Butternut Squash Soup

I eat a lot of soup.  Most days this is what I have for lunch and there a few reasons for this.  Firstly, if you make a big batch of soup it’ll last you 3 days (assuming you don’t mind eating the same thing several days in a row).  When you’re pressed for time there is great value in this, and if you vary the toppings and/or accompaniments (bread, breadsticks, cheese shavings, garlic croutons, chives, yogurt swirls, chilli oil, olive tapenade… the list is pretty much as endless as you want it to be), then you are almost eating a different soup every day.  Secondly, I’m feeding a pre-schooler and you can get all sorts of veggies in them via soup.  Not that C has a problem with vegetables in their original format, but there’s limits to how much she will eat and you know, every little helps.  Lastly, you can do a lot more damage to your calorie intake eating a cheese sandwich every day, so soup is often a more sensible option, especially if you also bake as much as I do.  This soup has a delicate flavour and the almond milk gives it a comforting texture akin to a cream of soup.

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Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

It’s been misty in the mornings this week.  C has started pre-school.  The leaves are turning and the the nights are drawing in.  Summer is officially over.  Ho hum.  Best make some yummy kid-friendly food to cheer everyone up.  I’m a stickler for (some) rules and this pie is definitely shepherd’s because I use lamb mince – if you use beef it is cottage pie, so there.  I like to fancy mine up a bit and sneak in vegetables all over the place.  This is a recipe that I’ve been making for years but it has evolved over time.  I’d like to say that following the birth of my daughter I decided we needed more vegetables and I’m sneaking them in for her.  Unfortunately this is not true and the only adaption I’ve made for her is to reduce the amount of salt I add (I use reduced salt stock powder and season more lightly these days).  The sneaky vegetables are me being completely lazy and not wanting to make a side dish as well as the main event.  A one pan meal (eventually).  And that’s a hang over from when I worked in one of those office type jobs, where you leave the house early and get home late and then still have to knock up a proper dinner.  Fact is that shepherd’s pie from scratch is a bit of a faff, so I would rarely make it midweek, but even though I really like eating (clearly) I’d usually rather spend precious weekend time making cakes and desserts.  So, through design it probably doesn’t need a side vegetable but if you did want something else I can recommend a little steamed broccoli.  To attempt this mid-week I’d absolutely be using leftover roast lamb and leftover mash, which you should do if you have this to hand.  The instructions here though, are assuming you’re starting from scratch so you need to give yourself an hour to get this done.

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Banana butterscotch fudge muffins

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Adapted from Nigella’s Banana Butterscotch Muffins

We’re all about banana at the moment.  This is the third recipe in a row containing this most useful of ingredients but it’s just how things have shaken out recently.  After torturing my guinea pigs (hello long-suffering friends!) with all sorts of trial bakes in a variety of sorry states I owed them something good.  Step in the banana muffin.  I usually do these with a chocolate chip (and you can certainly substitute those if you’d rather) but I thought I’d go a slightly different direction with these.  Pottering around the internet I found that Nigella has a recipe, but her butterscotch morsels are, I think, those found in the US which have the consistency of white chocolate chips.  (I’ve seen peanut butter morsels too – am very jealous).  I thought briefly about using a chopped Caramac bar, as I figure this is the most likely UK equivalent.  But further online delving suggests the Caramac is laced with gluten.  Delicious!  Not.  So I went to the ‘ole faithful’ that is Waitrose.  Here you have a choice of butterscotch pieces, which are hard, not soft, and bubble up crazily creating molten hot streaks of sweet crunch in the muffin, or fudge chunks, all soft and melty.  Neither are quite like the butterscotch pieces originally used in all likelihood, but both will create a very satisfying muffin.  You could try mixing the two in one muffin, or splitting the batch and doing half and half.  Any way you decide to go you will not be disappointed.  Please note though that both the butterscotch pieces and fudge chunks I’ve used contain condensed milk, and so this recipe is not dairy-free.  Since the proportion of lactose in the final portions is likely to be very small I’ve gone with it.  Also, both are made using glucose from wheat syrup, which Coeliac UK states is suitable for those avoiding gluten but will not be for those with a wheat allergy.

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Hale & Hearty banana brownies: product review

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I’ve not posted a product review on this blog yet – mostly because that’s not what I’m here to do, by my choosing, and people don’t send me free stuff!  And I’m more of a fan of making things from scratch, because taking a ‘normal’ recipe and removing the gluten, or finding something delicious that is naturally gluten-free is just more interesting to me.  This is therefore likely to be one of very few indeed.  But I have recently been away a little bit, (term has now started so normal service will shortly be resumed), pretty much for the first time since going gluten-free and where “self-catering” has been the order of the day.  Although I think I’ve found a flour blend that works for most cakes, and a different one that works for most cookies, I still find myself dipping into various jars when I’m testing out how to convert a recipe.  No one would take 10 different flours on holiday, would they?  So what should you do when you’re not familiar with an area, and are not sure what the local shops will sell you, but being gluten-free means you’re unlikely to just find brown rice flour at the nearest corner shop?  I also think this sort of box mix might be the middle ground answer for anyone catering for someone gluten-free who doesn’t want to buy something ready made, but doesn’t want to spend money on a ton of different flours they’ll likely not use again.  Usual disclaimer stuff – I didn’t get the product free, I’m not being paid, and I don’t know anyone who works for the company.

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Date, honey and walnut cake

Date, honey and walnut cake

Adapted from Walnut, date & honey cake by Mary Cadogan at BBC Good Food

I’ve adapted this recipe primarily to test out for the next camping trip to the Isle of Wight.  Upon arrival a nice cup of tea and a restorative slice of cake is required to ensure the smooth erection of a tent!  Chocolate cake does not go down well with this audience so I’ve been investigating other options, and in this case something with dates and walnuts, which should meet with approval.  It is also super easy so I should be able to whip it up, get it in the oven, cooled and spread with a little honey topping before I set off for our afternoon sailing.  Then we can have a nice fresh slice on arrival.  Yum, yum.  This cake, as with many other gluten-free cakes I’ve found, looks a little like it is curdling after you’ve whisked it up.  Don’t panic!  If you find you’ve left it in the bowl a bit too long before tipping it into the tin, just give it another quick whisk before pouring it in.  It’ll be fine – just trust me!  You should wait until this loaf is completely cold before spreading the honey on top or it’ll just slide right off AND before cutting it so you get the best texture.  I bet you don’t hold out long enough… :-)  This cake also doesn’t keep terribly well so you’ll have to just eat it all.  Such a shame!!

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“None of this would have been possible without…

So I’ve been very lax in the awards department and have now racked up three nominations!  Thank you so much to Poppy over at Poppy’s Patisserie | Bunny Kitchen for nominating me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award, to Cakey Kate for nominating me for the Best Moment Award and finally to Nell at I Need a Feed! who nominated me for A Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  Here is my acceptance of all three, and my following of the specific rules for each.  My reticence in dealing with them immediately is perhaps because it makes me talk about myself instead of the infinitely more interesting topic of food!  No excuse for my tardiness though really.

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Mediterranean potato bake with prosciutto wrapped cod

Mediterranean bake with parma ham wrapped fish

This is one of those ‘bung in what you’ve got’ recipes that was good enough to keep and write down.  It is probably out there on the interweb in some form, but in my head it came from a desire to use up some of a packet of prosciutto, a couple of fish fillets and some new potatoes.  I imagined the ham wrapped fish nestling on a spicy potato stew, somewhat like patatas bravas.  Hence I’m going with the word ‘Mediterranean’ in the title.  Poor thing doesn’t know where it’s really from…  You can, of course, use any firm white fish that comes thick enough to wrap with the prosciutto.  Whatever is fresh, ethically sourced and a good price on the day you buy.  This is also another good way to use up leftover boiled new potatoes.  I rarely boil half a bag, as I figure if I cook them all in one go I’m saving energy and getting C and myself that much closer to a finished meal.  Another thing I’d say is that although black olives look prettier in the finished dish (you can’t see the green ones in the photo above now, can you?) you should put in either what you have or what you prefer.  I’m ALL about fat, green olives.  So that is often what is knocking around in my fridge.  The choice is yours though.  This is super quick to knock up and makes a nice change from the grilled fish, new potato, steamed veg combo I seem to make 90% of the time!

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