Mini Apple Crumbles

We love dessert, but then who doesn’t? Sometimes when you get home from work though cooking dinner feels like enough effort, and dessert seems like just too much bother for a weeknight. It doesn’t have to be! This apple crumble is so easy to put together and then gives you about thirty minutes to relax with a coffee or a glass of wine while it cooks and you end up with a simple, comforting pudding to round off your meal.

All you need for this is 1 apple (cooking apples work best but we’ve used different varieties before and they’re all fine), flour, butter and sugar. Everything else is optional, we added some oats and a little cinnamon to our crumble topping but you can make it as simple or complex as you like. You could use almost any fruit for this, or even a mix – apple and blackberry, raspberries, pears, peaches – you name it, you can crumble it!

Preheat the oven to 170°C. To make the crumble topping simply rub plain white flour into around 2 tbsp of butter until you have a large breadcrumb consistency. You don’t want to add too much flour, this is a more buttery mixture so some larger lumps are normal. To this add a couple of tbsp of sugar, we wanted ours quite sweet to contrast with the tart apples but if you were using a sweeter fruit then maybe tone down the sugar a bit. We then added a handful of oats and around 1/2 tsp of cinnamon because it works beautifully with apples. That’s the topping done!

Don't worry about those lumps... it's buttery goodness!
Don’t worry about those lumps… it’s buttery goodness!

So just chop the fruit into a medium dice, coat with a little sugar if it’s a tart fruit and place in ramekins – you want it to be at least 2/3 of the way up, it will shrink down a lot when cooked. Sprinkle your crumble topping on top, we pile ours high! Put it on a baking tray and in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden-brown. Let it cool for a moment and then tuck in.

Crumbly mountains
Crumbly mountains

This would have been even better with some cream or ice cream but it was a pretty spontaneous dessert so we didn’t have any in. Give it a try for an indulgent moment with minimal effort.

We had ours after bangers and mash... what will you have yours after?
We had ours after bangers and mash… what will you have yours after?

One Pan Spanish Chicken

We told you it wouldn’t be long before we were back with the recipes! This one is one of our favourites, we have been known to have it every other week sometimes if running low on inspiration. It’s another one-pan wonder (neither of us are fans of washing up) and the ingredients can be swapped around -there are several different variations which we will share with you at a later date.

This one is the Spanish version, it feels particularly Autumnal but is gorgeous any time of the year.

Ingredients (for 2 hungry adults):

  • 4 chicken thighs – bone in and skin on
  • About 5-80g of chorizo – you can choose normal or picante depending on how spicy you like things – cubed
  • 1 410g tin of butter beans
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1-2 red peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 orange
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic (we forgot to buy any for this time and it was still nice without it)
Guess where we shop.  Other food retailers are available.
Guess where we shop. Other food retailers are available.

Grab your chopped vegetables and place in a large roasting dish along with the butter beans and the chorizo. Make up the chicken stock and squeeze in the juice from the orange and then stir in 1tsp of the smoked paprika. If you’re using the bulb of garlic leave it whole but remove as much of the papery skin as possible so that each individual clove is exposed. Place this in the middle of the roasting dish nestled amongst the vegetables.

Don't forget the garlic.  D'oh!
Don’t forget the garlic. D’oh!

Pour the stock/orange/paprika mixture over all of the vegetables trying to get everything coated, then place the chicken thighs on top (skin side up) and sprinkle them with sea salt. Put this in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 40 minutes, checking about halfway through to make sure the pieces near the edge aren’t burning. After 40 minutes mix the remaining 1tsp of paprika with 1tsp of olive oil and brush this over the chicken thighs which will have started to go beautifully crisp by now. Whack this back in the oven for 10 minutes and you’re done!

One of our absolute favourites!
One of our absolute favourites!

We love this meal not just because it’s ridiculously tasty but it’s low maintenance, you can get on with other stuff while it cooks and it will forgive you if you overcook it because the stock keeps the chicken really moist.

Give it a go and keep an eye out for the other variations!

Tag: Something For The Laydeez

Hello, Bird here! The lovely Kate from leadwiththehips tagged me (my very first tag – I’m a bit giddy)  so I am going to answer her probing (ooh-err) questions for you. By the way do NOT check out her blog if you fancy hanging on to your cash, too many pretty things!

This is more of a post for the ladies I’m afraid so I am firmly in control for this one (Fats lost interest as soon as I told him lipstick was involved). I do apologise in advance for some of the shoddy answers, I’m not a glamorous style/hair/beauty blogger so my answers will probably be less than inspired. Don’t worry, we’ll be back with the recipes very soon!

1) What is your ideal cake?

Ooooft right in there with the hard hitting questions! This is so tough, it changes on a daily basis really but I think my ultimate twist-on-a-classic favourite would be a super sticky beautiful lemon drizzle cake (Mary Bezza style) but with some lavender infused into the lemon syrup.

2) What are your top 5 items of your wardrobe (clothes, shoes and accessories all included)?

1. My number one favourite thing is a necklace left to me by my grandmother. It is completely unique, it was taken from a sketch she did, and she wore it every day. It’s kinda ugly-cute but I love it and wear it all the time.

2. I have a bit of a thing for a good coat so numbers 2 and 3 will both be coats. Firstly is my  cream wool coat from Zara with a massive hood thing which you can pull down over your shoulders or up around your neck if you want to be really snuggly, or if you happen to be in Paris, it starts snowing and you don’t mind looking like a bit of a prat you can pull it over your head as a hood!

3. My other favourite coat is my faithful old trenchcoat from H&M. It was only a cheapy one and it’s been with me for four years now so has seen better days but I throw it on over everything, it fits beautifully around the waist and it will be a very, very sad day when I have to replace it.

4. Next up is shoes. I’m not really a shoes girl, due to dodgy joints I can’t wear heels so a lot of stunning footwear options are written off immediately. Anyway, I have the cutest pair of gold studded suede Chelsea boots which have been subject to very heavy use over the last year and definitely deserve a place in my top 5.

5. Last but not least is my gold scarf. My parents brought this back from India nearly 35 years ago and for some mad reason decided they trusted me with it. It is so thin, so soft and slightly moth eaten but it still gets good use in the spring and autumn and hasn’t fallen apart yet.

3) Think of the last thing you ate. If you had to eat this every day for the rest of your life, how would you feel?

I’m actually eating right now (I wrote this at lunchtime) and I have a chicken, quinoa, feta and pomegranate salad (with all the usual lettuce, tomato etc suspects). It’s really tasty and I would feel very virtuous if I had to eat this every day for the rest of my life but bloody bored.

4) What is your favourite smell?

Freshly cut grass, no competition! My dad is a gardener and so to save on childcare in the summer holidays he used to take me to work with him. So many happy hours were spent under a tree, lost in a book listening to the hum of the lawnmower and smelling that amazing smell.

5) What 3 people (famous or not, living or dead) would you most like to have at a dinner party?

I feel like I should put 3 impressive philosophers or something but honestly, the most fun I can imagine would be Fats, my mum and my grandma. Fats never got to meet my grandma which is such a shame because she was an amazing lady and I think she would have loved him. If I think of what I want out of a dinner party (hilarity and a total loss of manners) I think these three would come out on top!

6) And what would you serve at that dinner party?

Seeing as this would be a casual affair I’m going to skip the scallops with samphire foam and go for a full on Thai spread. My mum makes amazing Thai food and has passed a few of her skills on to me, it’s a real crowd pleaser and everyone can just share and get stuck in. Some of the dishes we would probably make would be grilled chicken marinated in white pepper and fish sauce, spicy minced beef with roasted rice powder served in lettuce leaves, pad thai, spicy (can you see a theme here?) pork with cauliflower, spicy (we like our spice!) beef with chilli and holy basil paste to name a few. Let me know if you want the recipes for these and we will obey!

7) Name your favourite lipstick and describe the colour.

I am not a beauty blogger so I apologise in advance for the utter naffness of the descriptions coming up… my favourite at the moment is a Max Factor one in Pink Brandy (awful name) – it is a perfect mid-toned coral colour, it wakes up my face but isn’t too shocking so it’s easy to slick on and goes with everything.

8) Summer or Winter? Why?

Summerrrrrrr! Sure, winter has Christmas and my Birthday so that’s when all the presents happen but you end up being shut up indoors staring at the rain, and it’s dark at about 3pm. Give me the light summer evenings and the marginally better weather any day!

9) What is your favourite make up ‘look’?

Pretty simple I guess? I change it about quite a bit but most days you’ll find me in tinted moisturiser, concealer, powder and then a very thin liquid liner, 1-2 coats of mascara for fluttery eyelashes and a coral cheek and lip. In winter I tend to go a bit darker – plum colours etc.

10) Describe your style to me in 5 words.

Almost always covered in flour.

11) Which Olympic sport would you be most likely to win a medal in?

Pahahaha. I am NOT an athlete in any way, shape or form but if I really had to then maybe trampolining? I used to be not awful at it.

Ok, so I now have to tag some people back. Bringing this back round to the food side of things we have some foodie questions and some rather brilliant food bloggers to ask!

So the people I am asking are:

Shaz from HouseofHerby

Jo from YumDimSum

Lisa from Burgers in my Belly

Sam from Colourful and Culinary

and last but not least, the three lovely ladies at Saucy Pans

The questions are:

1. Top celebrity chef inspiration and why?

2. Best fancy dining experience ever?

3. Using 3 of these ingredients as inspiration – what dish would you make? Sea bass fillet, lamb chops, field mushrooms, lemon, watercress, aubergine, quinoa, chilli, thyme and curry powder.

4. If you were cooking a blowout romantic meal for that special someone, what would you cook?

5. Best budget dining experience?

6. Favourite hot drink and favourite cold drink?

7. Best food-associated memory… whether that’s a great meal out with someone, cooking your first cake with your mum, anything!

8. Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry?

9. Worst meal anyone has ever cooked for you?

10. Ideal weekend breakfast/brunch?

11. If you could visit any country in the world based solely on their cuisine, where would you go?

The Stable – Review

We’ve just got time tonight to write our first restaurant review!  (That is if we can see through the cider haze…)

The Stable is a brand new restaurant/bar on the Bristol harbourside.  Their tagline is “Pizza, Pies, and Cider” and though it would be hard to disappoint with such an awesomely simple concept they really deliver.  It is set inside one of the old warehouses by the harbour.  Inside the spacious, high-ceilinged restaurant long tables are arranged with benches, which really helps to create a west country farmhouse atmosphere.

We both grabbed a cider as soon as we got there, as part of the “Tuck-in Tuesday” special offer – a pizza, a cider and a side salad for £10 (bargain! Living up to my “Fats” moniker) – and ordered a Harbourside Herbivore (West Country blue cheese, spinach, potato, roasted red onion, tomato and mozzarella – Fats) and a West Country Porker (Bath Pig Co. chorizo, mozzarella and rocket – Bird).  Both were delicious!  Thin and crispy bases, incredibly tasty toppings.  This place really stands up for itself as a pizza restaurant in a city where it’s not difficult to find amazing pizza.

The West Country Porker
The West Country Porker

Of course it would be sacrilege to visit without trying the cider, even on a work night…  Between us we tried quite a selection (although we didn’t quite feel up to sampling all 30+ varieties).  Our favourite was Devon Red – tangy and sweet, perfectly refreshing.  We can’t wait to try the rest of them, although we might have to spread it out a bit between visits.

Pizza and Cider - inspired combination!
Pizza and Cider – inspired combination!

The Stable comes highly recommended, make sure you get there soon!

Ultimate Comfort Chilli

We made this dish at the weekend, it was the perfect cheer-up food after a rain soaked Saturday. The smell of it cooking away slowly in the oven was incredible, you have to be very patient!

There are so many recipes for chilli con carne around, this one wasn’t particularly planned, we tend to throw in what we have lying around for a lot of our cooking so feel free to replace things if you don’t like that particular vegetable/spice or if you don’t have it in.

Ingredients (makes enough for 4-6 people):

  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped/minced
  • smoked pancetta (you don’t have to add this but it creates a gorgeous base of smokeyness)
  • 500g good quality lean beef mince
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1tsp cumin powder
  • ½tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1-2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1-2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1-2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tins/cartons of chopped tomatoes or passata
  • 1 tin of kidney beans in water
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • around 30g of really good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • rice and sour cream to serve

If you wanted to make a vegetarian version of this dish one obvious substitution would be the meat for Quorn (other brands are available!), but we think it would be more interesting not to take the easy route and to bulk it out with lovely, meaty mushrooms and extra beans instead – some black eyed beans and/or pinto beans would make a lovely addition. To get more of the rich flavour without using beef stock cubes you could add a teaspoon of Marmite – it may sound odd but it gives that deep, savoury kick which you might miss otherwise.

Perfect for practising those knife skills.
Perfect for practising those knife skills.

To start with soften the onion, garlic and celery in a large casserole dish over a low heat, cook for at least 10 minutes but try not to get much colour at all on them, you want them to soften and sweeten. Add the diced smoked pancetta, we used barely any in this so you could leave it out if you wanted to but it definitely adds a little something! Fry this for a few minutes until it has lightly cooked and become fragrant and then add the beef mince, breaking it up with your fingers as you put it in. Immediately add 200ml of beef stock (use a whole stock cube to make it) – by not browning the beef off you’re making sure it cooks really slowly and melts in your mouth. Now it’s time to add your herbs and spices! The amounts listed above are a guide, obviously adjust to your own chilli preference and remember you can always add but you can’t take away. We were a little cautious at first and then added more about halfway through the cooking time.

Kidney beans

Once you have stirred the herbs and spices in add the chopped tomatoes followed by the pepper and kidney beans, give it a good stir, bring to a very gentle simmer and then pop in a really low oven (around 130°C) and leave alone for at least an hour. Cook for 3 hours minimum stirring every hour until you can’t take it any longer and have to eat some!

Right before serving place a couple of squares of dark chocolate on top and drool as they melt into the chilli. Don’t worry, this won’t add any sweetness, just the most fantastic, rich flavour.

Resist the urge to put your face in it...
Resist the urge to put your face in it…

Serve with rice and sour cream and if you’re feeling fancy (we were) some homemade guacamole.

We made a really simple guacamole by mixing 1 ripe avocado with a good pinch of sea salt, 1 diced tomato and a big squeeze of lime or lemon juice. Give it all a mix up and you’re ready for your Mexican feast!

... Now you can put your face in it!
… Now you can put your face in it!

This was the perfect meal to sit down to and ignore the rain lashing at the windows – warming, comforting and pretty healthy too.

Sea Bass and Crunchy Salad

We love fish and try to have it at least a couple of times a week.  Here’s a recipe (inspired by Olive magazine – thanks!) with some interesting flavours in it, but trust us – it tastes amazing!  It’s super-quick and easy and takes hardly any cooking, perfect for mid-week.  This recipe uses preserved lemons which are used widely in middle eastern cooking, they can be found fairly easily now – check out your local deli or Asian supermarket or even posher supermarkets (Waitrose we’re looking at you!).  These keep for around 3 months in the fridge so we will be making some other recipes featuring them so none go to waste.

Start by preparing the salad: take a medium-sized bulb of fennel and finely slice – this won’t be cooked at all so take some time to make it as thin as possible – and throw it in a bowl with a diced preserved lemon (just the peel – remove the flesh).  Add the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil, and half a teaspoon of caster sugar.  Salad done!  Quick or what?  Don’t be put off by the strong flavours at this stage, it will mellow with the grilled fish and complement it perfectly.

These lovelies are what you're looking for.
These lovelies are what you’re looking for.

Now for the meat – we used 2 fillets of sea bass, but any white fish will do (the original recipe used mackerel).  Lay on a baking sheet covered with lightly oiled baking/grease-proof paper so that it doesn’t stick, skin-side up, brush with oil and season with a bit of sea salt.  Place under a hot grill for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets (ours took about 5 minutes), until the skin is nice and crispy.

Raw fish isn't the most attractive thing to photograph... sorry!
Raw fish isn’t the most attractive thing to photograph… sorry!

We served the sea bass and the salad with some homemade wholemeal bread (try our recipe).  If you wanted to omit the bread this could be a lovely light lunch which just cries out for a cold glass of white wine, or it would be great for any nutters doing low carb.  We reckon this would be even more tasty prepared on a barbeque and served in a bun – if only the summer would come back so that we can try it!

Quick, simple and super healthy.
Quick, simple and super healthy.

Just Add Butter

Bread is a fairly recent obsession of ours, we were a bit scared to try it, it seemed overly complicated – what type of yeast? How many times does it have to rise!?

Then, encouraged by Mr Hollywood’s baby blues, we gave it a bash and guess what? It’s. So. Easy! We very rarely buy bread now, we can knock a loaf up in an evening and it is just so much nicer than shop bought.

As part of a gift we got “Paul Hollywood’s Bread” so are going to be baking our way through that and will share any successes, failures and lessons learnt with you. I can’t wait for this as we tend to stick to either white loaves, wholemeal loaves or occasionally something slightly fancier like rye or spelt but we’re excited to branch out into breads from different countries and cultures.

Starting simple this is our (hopefully foolproof) method for making a basic white or wholemeal loaf:

Measure out 500g of flour. You want to use either strong white bread flour, or a mixture of strong white and a wholemeal/seeded bread flour. We tend to use Allinsons but that’s a personal preference. If you bake a whole loaf with wholemeal it can be a bit heavy which is fine for some things but for a good standard loaf that makes amazing toast you’ll want it to be a bit lighter and fluffier. A good mix we’ve found is 200g of wholemeal to 300g of white, or half and half.

To one side of your flour add 1 tsp of Easy Bake Yeast  and to the other side of the bowl add 1 tsp of table salt. The reason for doing this is the salt will kill the yeast if it’s too concentrated so you’ll end up with a pancake, not a loaf.

The magic ingredient
The magic ingredient

Mix the salt and the yeast into the flour, and then rub in 1 tbsp of fat. This can be either butter or oil, we like to use butter for a wholemeal loaf and oil for a white loaf but again, try different combinations out and see what works for you!

It's about to get a whole lot messier!
It’s about to get a whole lot messier!

Once you have a breadcrumb like texture and all of the fat is rubbed in make a well in the centre of the flour ready to add in the water. There is a lot of debate over warm water vs cold water – cold water works absolutely fine for us, if you are in a very cold environment (like our old flat….brrr!) then you might want to add the water warm just to encourage the yeast to start working their magic.

Measure out 300ml of water, and add most of this to your flour. Bring the mixture together either with a spoon, or if you’re anything like us and love to get mucky, with your hand. You’re looking for a smooth dough which comes together nicely and is as non-sticky as possible, 300ml usually is perfect for us but you might have to use a bit more/less.

Now comes the really good bit – the kneading. If you’ve used oil in your dough then lightly oil some of your kitchen surface, or if you’ve used butter then lightly flour it and bash that dough around! I believe it’s scientifically proven that the calories burnt during this upper body workout completely negate any from consuming the bread.

My fairly naff technique, just goes to show it doesn't matter how you do it!
My fairly naff technique, just goes to show it doesn’t matter how you do it!

It needs kneading for about 10 minutes, technique isn’t too important, just bash it around and stretch it out to really get that gluten working. Once it is beautifully soft and elastic and springs back most of the way if you prod it with a finger it’s ready to rise.


Place it in a clean bowl which has been lightly oiled or floured and then cover with cling film and leave it until it’s doubled in size which should take about an hour.

... After!
… After!

Once this has happened we knock it back, so just a light punch or two to get rid of the big air bubbles and then back in the bowl to recover from it’s abuse for twenty minutes or so.

Now you get to shape it, you can either bake it in something (like a loaf tin for a traditional shape), or just shape into a round or whatever other shape you would like with your hands.

For a loaf tin grease and line a loaf tin and then flatten the dough out to a rectangle where the short side is the length of the loaf tin, fold in the sides like a book, flatten again and then roll up tightly and pop it in the tin.

For a round just shape it into a ball with your hands, tucking the sides under as you go to get a nice, tight shape. Then place this on a greased and lined baking sheet to rise.

For what we are using the bread for 2 flat-ish loaves were best so we cut the dough in half and then rolled it with both hands.

Cut bread

This then needs to rise again for another hour. I know this recipe sounds really time consuming, and to an extent it is, but it’s a lovely thing to have going on in the background and it is so worth it!

Once it’s nearly had it’s hour to rise whack the oven on to 220°C and, if you like a good crust on the bread, put an empty tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up. We slashed our bread and put a milk glaze on – olive oil also works nicely but you don’t have to put one on at all. Once the oven is hot and the bread is ready throw a glass of water in the hot tray in the bottom so it creates lots of steam and then put your bread in.

Leave it alone to bake for 30 minutes, don’t open the oven door for the first 20 minutes but you can have a peek quickly after this if the smell is just overwhelmingly sexy (it will be).

Take it out of the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes and then turn it out of the tin/slide off of the tray and leave to cool on a wire rack (please feel free to tap the bottom of it like they do on tv and grin like an idiot when it sounds hollow).


So worth it.
So worth it.

p.s. we are making this bread into bruschetta to have with baked camembert… hopefully we won’t dive in too quickly and forget to take photos!

The Curious Incident of the Giant Magical Teapot

This weekend it was the Harbour Festival in Bristol which is always worth attending if you’re in the area. It’s a riot of sound, colour, smells and people absolutely everywhere! Spread across several key sites alongside the water in the city there is live music, dance performances, street performers, local producers selling their wares, amazing freshly cooked food, local beer and cider tents… sounds pretty good right?

Snapshots of the day
That’s two more Gromits ticked off!

We headed down at about midday on Sunday and were both starving so we got stuck into some burgers fairly quickly, I went for a classic local beef burger and Fats chose a venison burger. They were delicious but gone in no time so after a quick wander we picked up a fresh strawberry and cream tart to share.

Oooh you tart!
Oooh you tart!

One thing I was very excited to see was the giant Clipper tea Magical Teapot and it did not disappoint! There were girls in cute teaspoon embroidered dresses handing out free tea samples of their Big Bright tea and a wheel where you could spin for a chance to win a Clipper mug and guess what?

This image in no way captures how bonkers the display was... there was green smoke and everything
This image in no way captures how bonkers the display was… there was green smoke and everything

We tried the Big Bright tea that night and it was delicious, it’s perfect for summer when we don’t fancy black tea as much because it is light but still with great depth of flavour. We’re already big fans of Clipper (their tea and their ethics) so will definitely be purchasing this when the samples run out.

Flushed with victory we wandered round to the Cascade Steps and spied a new restaurant, The Stable, which we are now desperate to try – it’s right on the harbourside and serves pizza, pies and cider which sounds absolutely perfect for a summer evening. Apparently they have over 60 different types of cider available! Look out for a review coming up very soon I hope. Having just been on their under-construction website it turns out they have an all you can eat toast bar from 8-11 which might just be the most genius idea we’ve ever heard.

Bristol has to be one of the best cities to live in during the summer, we both came here initially as students and we never realised what we were missing during the break – there is a festival of some kind on almost every weekend, but the Harbour Festival is one of the biggest and best. Can’t wait until next year!

Fats and Bird feeling reflective..... geddit?
Fats and Bird feeling reflective….. geddit?

Not so messy Mess

Just a dinky little post to brighten things up on a grey Monday (I initially wrote Tuesday and then Fats depressed me further by telling me it is Monday. Boo). This is a super quick dessert we threw together in the week, I even RAN to the shops in the RAIN for the berries, that’s commitment right there.

This probably took about 5 minutes to make so is perfect for mid week if you have a craving for something sweet.

Take the berries – we used a small pack (about 150g) for 2 people – and put them in a small saucepan with about 1 tsp of water and sugar to taste. We used raspberries but this would be equally lovely with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants etc or even something like peaches, nectarines or plums. Because of the meringue and ice cream we added barely any sugar so the berries were really tart to provide a contrast but obviously do this to your personal taste.

Cook them for around 5 minutes on a medium heat until they have squashed down nicely and there is lots of beautiful bubbling sauce in the pan.

Raspberry bubbles foreverrrr
Raspberry bubbles foreverrrr

Pop a meringue (or two… we don’t judge!) in the bottom of a bowl. These ones were kindly given to us by Fats’ mum on a recent visit – food gifts will always be so well appreciated in our house!

Hi Fats' mum! Your baking is famous!
Hi Fats’ mum! Your baking is famous!

Then spoon over about half of the berry sauce, put some ice cream on top (this one is Häagen-Dazs Vanilla) and then pour the rest of the berry sauce over so the ice cream starts to melt. We also reserved a few berries before cooking them to pop on at the end for a bit more of a fresh taste.

It's about to get better...
Häagen-Dazs ist gut ja?

Ta-dah! So so easy it feels like cheating, and a lovely end to a meal – sweet, tart, hot, cold, gorgeous!

A rare shot of the elusive finished article.... usually whisked away too quickly to snap.
A rare shot of the elusive finished article…. usually whisked away too quickly to snap.

Pimped Pesto Mac and Cheese

Hello and welcome to our first ever post! We thought we would skip the cheesy intro and get stuck in with some cheesy food.

Mac and cheese is having something of a revival at the moment with it popping up on the menu at restaurants across the country. We just cannot turn down anything involving pasta and copious amounts of cheese so this is our take on it:

What you’re going to need (for 4 people)*:

Macaroni (around 200g)
Cheese – any kind is good, we used parmesan, freshly grated (around 60g)
Goats cheese (around 200g)
Butter (15g)
Flour (15g)
Milk (around 1 pint/568ml)
Green pesto (1 heaped tbsp)
Smoked bacon/cubetti di pancetta (around 40-50g)
1 shallot

*These might be a bit off – we usually don’t measure anything so this is guesswork. If it’s a baking recipe we will definitely include correct amounts, and in future we will try to remember to weigh things.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Chop your bacon or pancetta into very small pieces, and slice your shallot into fine half-rings. Put these in a frying pan with a drop of olive oil on a low heat and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly golden and the shallot is softened. Put these to one side once cooked.

Meanwhile put a pan of water on for the pasta to cook, once it is boiling cook the macaroni until al dente (this took about 8 minutes for us).

Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough for the macaroni to fit in once cooked, and when it has melted add the flour and stir to form a roux. Continue stirring this over a low heat for around 2-3 minutes to cook out the flour.

Then start to add your milk – some people say this works better if the milk is warm, we’ve never found this makes much difference and as we don’t have a microwave this is a bit of a ball-ache so we used cold. Add the milk slowly stirring well in between each addition to keep the sauce smooth (you can switch to a whisk if it helps) and keep adding the milk until you have a smooth fairly thin sauce as this will thicken up later. Continue cooking the sauce, stirring every minute or so, for about 10-15 minutes until it has thickened up and is gorgeous and glossy.

Now comes the fun bit, adding the cheese! Take the sauce off the heat and throw in your grated cheese (see below for highly necessary demonstration):

It's a shame you can't see this because it's sexy.
I wish I had the magical ability to produce cheese from my hand.

Then stir in the pesto, and add the macaroni stirring well so that each piece is well coated.

I might frame this and put it on my wall.
I might frame this and put it on my wall.

Then tip half of this sexy, cheesy mixture into a lightly buttered oven-safe dish, put the bacon and shallot mixture you made earlier as evenly as you can over it, chuck the other half of the macaroni on and top with slices of goats cheese.

Pop it in the oven for around 20 minutes, and then under the grill for a few minutes to get really golden on top.

Don't you just want to dive right in? We did.
Don’t you just want to dive right in? We did.

We had ours with a simple lettuce and tomato salad with a balsamic dressing, sorry there are no plate pictures, we were too desperate to eat!

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