Simple Beef Stew for #crocktober!

Crock-Pot 4.7L Countdown Slow Cooker

Over the last few weeks I have been testing out the Crock-Pot 4.7L  Countdown Slow Cooker for the month of #Crocktober! Alongside I have also been testing out the Crock-Pot Food Warmer which is the ideal way to take your leftovers to work, especially if you do not have a microwave nearby.

I immediately impressed with the slow cooker when I set out to make my simple beef stew (recipe below) in it for the first time. Slow cookers that I have had in the past seem to ages to warm up and get going. This one was hot within 10 minutes of me turning it on. The stoneware pot is removable so you can take it to the table to serve the contents easily. The pot is very easy to clean either by hand or in dishwasher and if stuff gets stuck to the bottom, it is very easy to scrub off.  As well as making the beef stew in this slow cooker, I have cooked chilli con carne, chicken stew and slow cooked a gammon joint in it too. This coming weekend, I am planning on slow cooking a beef brisket joint in it. I can see me doing a lot more slow cooking in the future which is exactly what I need being a busy working mum of two little ones.

Crock-Pot Food Warmer
The Food warmer is a very handy piece of kit to take your lunch into work. All you have to do is put cold contents in at home (leftover beef stew for example!), seal it up with its plastic lid and tight fitting screw top, then take it into work and plug it in about 2-3 hours before you want to eat your lunch. The food warmer then heats your food up gently and it is ready to eat when you want it to be. Soup is quickest thing to heat up (about 2 hours) but the food warmer will heat up chills, casseroles, stews, curries – basically anything you can cook in a slow cooker! In the picture above there is home-made carrot soup in it (recipe to follow in next blog post). I think this will be very well used by me to take my lunch to work in as it saves me money (not having to go to the work canteen!) and is excellent way of ensuring that I use any leftovers up.
I know #crocktober is nearly finished so who’s up for #slowvember?
simple beef stew
Simple Beef Stew 
Ingredients (serves 4 -6)
For the stew:
  • 400g diced stewing beef
  • 2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2/3 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped into rounds
  • 500ml of beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato Ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dumplings

  • 125g plain flour
  • 60g suet
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • a splash of water to form a dough

To serve alongside the stew and dumplings

  • 6-8 large peeled and cooked potatoes, chopped into big chunks


  1. Put all the stew ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir and then cook on high for 6 hours. Stir the stew every 30 minutes or so once the first two hours of cooking have finished.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Mix the plain flour, suet, salt and pepper together and add a splash of water and until it forms a stiff dough. Roll into 8 small balls then aside.
  3. When 30 minutes of cooking time are remaining, add the dumplings into the slow cooker and replace the lid.
  4. Once the time has finished, serve the stew and dumplings alongside the potatoes. Eat and of course, enjoy! (Don’t forget to take any leftovers to work in your food warmer!!)

Disclosure: I was sent a slow cooker and a food warmer for review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review


Slow Cooked Challenge

Family Fever

Great Bloggers Bake Off: Chocolate Piñata Cake

Piñata cake

Wow! What a great final it was in the Great British Bake Off! Who guessed that Nancy was going to win? My money was on Richard but the luck was not with him during the final unfortunately. For the last great bloggers bake off, Jenny from Mummy Mishaps has challenged us to make our own showstopper.

Piñata cake

Therefore, I would like to present you with my technical showstopping chocolate piñata cake! I am calling it a technical showstopper as during the final, the bakers had to make 12 mini Victoria sponges as part of the technical challenge. A piñata cake is basically a Victoria sponge with a hole in the middle and some extra decoration to make it look really special. I have seen them for ages on Pinterest and always thought they might be quite hard to make, however I could not believe how easy and quick it was to do. Daniel was in the kitchen with me and happily played in his walker while I got on with it.

Chocolate Piñata Cake
Ingredients (makes 1 large 8 inch cake)
For the cake
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 4 large free range eggs
For the filling and outside decoration


  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 100g milk chocolate, melted
  • 1 large bag of Minstrels
  • 2 large bags of Skittles/Smarties for the filling and the top



  1. Grease and line two 8 inch sandwich tins and set aside. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. In a food processor, add in all the cake ingredients then mix until combined.
  3. Divide the cake evenly between the two tins and then bake for 20-25mins until a knife comes out clean from each cake. Leave in the tins then set aside until completely cool.
  4. Meanwhile, make the buttercream. In a food processor, add in the butter, icing sugar and melted chocolate until combined. Add a splash of water if needed until you have a spreadable consistency. Set aside.
  5. Once the cakes have cooled, remove them from the tins and using a chef’s ring (or a cup/small saucer) draw a circle on both cakes with a sharp knife. Do not cut all the way through the cake. You only need a tiny bit. Remove some cake from both these circles but do not remove too much otherwise your cake will fall apart.
6. Add some sweets into the middle of one of the circles. As much as you can fit in and still get other cake on top. Then spread buttercream on the outer edge next to sweets then put other cake on top. Using a palette knife, cover with buttercream and then decorate with the rest of the sweets. Allow to set at room temperature then eat and enjoy!
* you may not want to go to dentist immediately after eating this cake LOL!
Thank you to Jenny for organising the Great Bloggers Bake Off again!






Start the Party Season With a Pimms Mojito!

Pimms Mojito

The Christmas and New Year party season will be here before we know it! There are only 65 days until the big day itself. Now, I do not know about you but I start planning for Christmas well in advance. I will have my Christmas menu sorted at least 6 weeks before the big day and this year, as I am not pregnant (unlike last year!), I have started thinking about the Christmas drinks too. is a website dedicated to the art of cocktail making. If you like a particular spirit, then you are bound to find at least a few new cocktails that you have never tried before on the website. If you are a member, you can submit your own cocktail recipes to website too. Whatever the occasion, will have the drink(s) to match.

In terms of cocktails, I love the summer and my favourites are the Mojito and a Pimms and lemonade. I decided to combine the two and see what happened when my two favourite drinks met in one glass. To give it a bit of twist, I used mint sugar (recipe below) and lime juice to combine both drinks together and make it even more refreshing. I hope you will try this one over the festive season or at any other occasion. It really is that good, however if you plan on drinking more than a couple of them, then you may want someone else to look after the kids for the night so you can have a lie in in the morning!

Pimms Mojito

Ingredients (makes 1, although you can easily double/triple quantities to make more!)

For the mint sugar

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 8-10 mint leaves

For the cocktail

  • 2 teaspoons of mint sugar
  • the squeezed juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 25ml of white rum
  • 50ml of Pimms
  • 150ml lemonade
  • Selection of fruit to serve (I used oranges, limes and strawberries)
  • Crushed ice, to serve


  1. To make the mint sugar – in a food processor, add in the sugar and the mint and whizz together until combined. Set aside until you are ready to make your cocktail.
  2. Put 2 teaspoons of the mint sugar into a large glass or jam jar if you would like the same effect as the above picture, then add in the juice of 1/2 a lime and stir together.
  3. Next, add in the white rum, Pimms and lemonade and stir again to combine.
  4. Finish with crushed ice, fruit and extra mint leaves (if desired) to garnish.
  5. Drink and of course, enjoy!


This recipe was commissioned by

For other cocktail recipes please see:

Tinned Tomatoes

Fuss Free Flavours


Hunt for UK’s Best Oriental Young Chef is Back for 2015

Leading Oriental grocer Wing Yip has launched its annual search for the UK’s top Oriental Cookery Young Chef.

Now in its third year, Wing Yip’s Oriental Cookery Young Chef of the Year competition offers the country’s finest culinary talent the opportunity to showcase their skills before a renowned panel of judges.

As part of the prize the chefs will battle it out to win an exclusive trip to Hong Kong where they will sample the region’s culinary delights, work in Michelin-starred restaurants and explore the vibrant street food scene.

Last year’s competition attracted an array of talent from across the country, with House of Commons chef Robert Hall taking the title after battling against contestants from Eton College, University College Birmingham, City of Liverpool College and Bentley Motors.

Reflecting on his Young Chef experience, Robert said: “The competition was fierce and I’m overwhelmed to have won. I can’t wait to travel to Hong Kong in October where I will be fortunate enough to work alongside Michelin-starred chefs. The experience and skills I will gain at this early stage in my career will be invaluable.”

Putting the contestants through their paces will be Peter Griffiths, head judge and President of the British Culinary Federation, Glynn Purnell, Michelin-starred chef and owner of Purnell’s in Birmingham and Larkin Cen, 2013 MasterChef finalist and director of Asian food innovation Hokkei.

Peter Griffiths said: “Getting your first break in the catering industry can be difficult and taking part in competitions like Young Chef can boost your credibility and open doors to a successful career in the industry.

“Each year we look to raise the bar in terms of standard of entries and last year we attracted a raft of culinary talent from some of the UK’s most renowned establishments and colleges, we hope this year will attract even more as young chefs look to build their skills, knowledge and experience.”

Glynn Purnell said: “Learning and competing in the field of Oriental cuisine is a great challenge and confidence booster as it requires contestants to think outside the box. It’s an impressive skill to have and even for those who strive for a career in a different style of cooking, competing in other arenas is extremely beneficial and creates a multi-skilled chef.”

The competition is open to applicants across the UK, aged between 18 and 25 years, who have a flair for Oriental cuisine and are studying or employed in the catering and hospitality industry. The first stage requires contestants to design and submit an Oriental inspired menu using ingredients of their choice.

The most mouth watering menus will be shortlisted and successful applicants will be invited to a Masterchef-style cook-off at the University College Birmingham on Monday 16th February 2015. Finalists will execute their dishes before the panel who will award marks for technique, creativity, presentation and most importantly the use of authentic Oriental ingredients and cooking styles.

Mr Wing Yip, Chairman of Wing Yip, said: “The number of top quality UK restaurants serving Oriental cuisine in the UK continues to grow.

“Each year I am impressed with the level of talent demonstrated by the contestants and we are extremely proud to support young chefs and encourage them to experiment with the wonderful variety of ingredients and cooking styles found across Oriental cuisine.”

The winners will be announced at an official awards dinner at the University College Birmingham following the competitive cook-off.

For further information and to download an entry form please go to

For my write up of the 2013 awards, please see here.



Great Bloggers Bake Off Week 8: Enriched Fruit Loaf

I cannot believe that next week will be the semi-final of the Great British Bake Off, where is the time going? This week, the bakers had to make a free form enriched fruit loaf, doughnuts and a European cross between a bread and a pastry. As always, time is of the essence so I cheated slightly this week and used my breadmaker to make the loaf (Sorry Paul!!) It is the first time I have used my breadmaker to make a sweet loaf so I was very interested to see the results. It came out a bit doughy in the centre so it obviously needed a bit more cooking. It was however very tasty and definitely something I will make again. Thomas loved it too!
Enriched Fruit Loaf
Ingredients (makes 1 500g loaf)
  • 350g strong bread flour
  • 30g sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp easy blend yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 80g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 170ml milk
  • 100g mixed dried fruit
  • 50g glaice cherries
  • 25g mixed peel


  1. Follow the instructions on your breadmaker and add the ingredients in. I used the sweet bread setting on mine and added in the dried fruit, cherries and mixed peel 15 minutes into the knead cycle when the machine beeped.
  2. Cook the bread according to the breadmaker instructions. I advise using the slightly darker crust option to ensure the bread is cooked through.
  3. Allow to cool then slice and serve with butter then enjoy!!




Product Review: Thornton’s Red Wine Hamper

I was recently contacted by Thornton's asking if I would like to try one of their new ranges of hampers. Being a bit of a fan of chocolate, I obviously said yes! I was even happier when I discovered that you could chocolate and wine together in a hamper.
I decided to try the red wine hamper as I was curious to know if red wine and chocolate complimented each other or not. The wine is a 2013 Berri Estates Merlot and it is sent with two packs of Viennese truffles, perfect for sharing as a couple while you enjoy the wine. The truffles were very rich and I could not of eaten many of them on their own. The Merlot cut through the richness of the chocolate and complimented it perfectly. The wine has a deep berry fruitiness and has hints of cocoa too, making it ideal with the chocolate. Although it is really early, I highly recommend this as an ideal Christmas gift for any chocolate and wine loving couple you know!
Disclosure: I was sent a red wine hamper for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review


Celebrating 20 Years of Freedom Food With Sainsbury’s – Spicy Sausage Pasta

Spicy Sausage Pasta

 I was recently contacted by Sainsbury’s asking if I could help celebrate 20 years of Freedom Food by making a recipe to feed a family of four for £10 or less. I believe greatly that all the animals we eat deserve a higher standard of living before they reach our plate and Freedom Food goes a long way in helping us achieve that. Sainsbury’s has the most Freedom Food products on its shelves than any other supermarket in the UK.


I was challenged to make a recipe using Freedom Food Sausages. There are a vast range of sausages in the Freedom Food range at Sainsbury’s and I was keen to show them off in my recipe to full effect. I decided on ‘Spicy Sausage Pasta’ and the ingredients and the costings for the recipe are below.

Taste the Difference Ultimate Pork Sausages £3.30 for 6 or 2 packs for £5 (used 3 sausages from the pack)

Taste the Difference Chorizo Style Pork Sausages £3.30 for 6 or 2 packs for £5 (used 3 sausages from the pack)

Fresh Egg Penne £1.20 (use whole pack for 4 people)

Chopped Tomatoes with basil, oregano and chilli 70p

1 large red onion £1 (for three)

2 cloves of garlic 30p for a bulb

Small bunch of Parsley £1.25 (used half)

Total cost to feed a family of four: £5.95

Well under budget as you can see. You even have enough to buy some garlic bread to serve with it or something delicious for pudding afterwards. It is really simple to make to so is perfect for an after work/school midweek meal. Here is how you make it:

Spicy Sausage Pasta

 Spicy Sausage Pasta

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
  • 400g chopped tomatoes with basil, oregano and chilli
  • Small pinch of sugar
  • 3 pork sausages and 3 chorizo style sausages, cooked according to packet instructions and chopped into chunks
  • Small bunch of parsley, stalks removed and finally chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh Penne pasta, cooked according to the packet instructions


  1. In a large pan, add the olive oil and then fry the onion and garlic until softened
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, a small pinch of sugar and a splash of hot water and allow to simmer away gently while you cook the pasta.
  3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and set aside. Then, add the sausages and parsley into the tomatoes, stir and then season to taste.
  4. Add the pasta into the sauce, stirring gently then serve in pasta bowls with garlic bread and a glass of red wine, if desired.

This recipe was commissioned by Sainsbury’s












Guest Post: Family Mealtimes Made Easy!

Family life is often busy, with barely a moment to spare. For some hectic households, family meals can be few and far between and while making do or grabbing a bite on the go may be indicative of modern life, snacking and skipping meals can lead to unhealthy eating habits.

By adopting bad eating habits, your children may miss out on essential nutrients. As such, it’s important to make regular, balanced meals part of your daily routine. Dinnertime needn’t be difficult though, and the following top tips are guaranteed to help make family meals easy and inexpensive.

Breakfast is best

Sticking to regular mealtimes not only eliminates the temptation to snack, it also creates a reassuring routine. The best way to start the day is with a healthy, balanced breakfast. This is the most important meal of the day and helps to give the body an all-important boost.

Enjoy eating together

Children learn by example and enjoying mealtimes together is the ideal way to instil good eating habits. Turn off the TV and take the time to talk to one another. If it’s not logistically viable to eat together at every mealtime, try to set aside a particular day that’s dedicated to your nearest and dearest.

Plan meals and save pennies

When doing the weekly shop, planning ahead can help to save pennies so make a meal plan for the week and watch your ingredients go further. Bulk cook and freeze portions for later in the week and remember that it’s perfectly possible to enjoy essential nutrients without purchasing fresh produce.

Canned, dried and frozen foods can all be just as healthy as fresh produce – not to mention easy to prepare and long-lasting. They also reduce the risk of waste and save you time and money.

Similarly, swapping traditional homemade roast spuds for easy to cook oven versions such as McCain roast potatoes can make cooking a Sunday roast a doddle. Classic family meals become even easier to prepare with these crispy roast potatoes – giving your kid the nutrients they need without handcuffing you to the oven for the entire afternoon.

Get your tots involved at teatime

Allow your children to get involved at dinnertime and encourage their input. From laying the table to deciding what to have for dinner, your children’s involvement and interest will make mealtimes much easier for all involved and ensure that they’re ready and eager to eat the second you dish up.




Great Bloggers Bake Off Week 3: Ciabatta

This week was the third week of the Great British Bake Off and the bakers had to make bread. They had to make rye rolls, ciabatta and filled centrepiece loaves. I do not like rye loaves and although I wanted to make a filled loaf, time is as always short so I made ciabatta instead. Ciabatta is my husband’s favourite and I have made it a couple of times before at bread courses I have been too.

I looked in my recipe books and online to find the best ciabatta recipe for me. Based on my previous experience, some of the recipes seemed over complicated so I looked to the Master, Mr Hollywood himself and found this recipe here. I made no changes to the recipe except for making it in my Magimix CS 4200 XL food processor. The food processor has a bread mixer which, according to the instructions, can make and knead bread in a minute or so. I was slightly sceptical about this so left for about 2 minutes in the machine and then took it out and left it to rise. Taking it out of the food processor was the hardest job of the entire procedure. It’s a very sticky dough and it was hard to move it from the food processor bowl to a normal bowl for rising.

I left the ciabatta to rise for 3 hours despite the recipe saying to only leave it for 2 hours. During the show, Paul Hollywood told the bakers to be patient and the one who left it the longest to rise was the best in the technical challenge so I took his advice. My electric fan oven is quite fierce so the ciabatta only took 20 minutes to bake. The ciabatta was delicious and perfect for dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar or for making into a steak sandwich for dinner, like we did on the day I made them. I will definitely will be making this ciabatta recipe again soon. It was easy and so quick to make!

As always I am linking to Mummy Mishaps and Supergolden Bakes

Disclosure: I was sent the Magimix food processor for review. All options are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Great Bloggers Bake Off Week 2: Nut Free Florentines

This week was the second week of the Great British Bake Off and the bakers were challenged to make biscuits. They started with savoury biscuits, had to make Florentines for the technicial challenge and finished with a 3D biscuit tower! I am baking along with the bake off again this year, along with Jenny of Mummy Mishaps and Lucy of Super Golden Bakes and many others.

Due to time constraints, a 3D biscuit tower was a bit beyond my reach and savoury biscuits are not really my thing either, so I settled on making Florentines. The only problem is that I do not really like nuts which are one of the main ingredients in a Florentines. After a bit of internet searching, I discovered that a few people had used oats instead of nuts. I also added in a bit of extra dried fruit into my recipe to give extra flavour and make up for lack of nuts. The traditional way of covering the Florentines with chocolate is to use a spoon to put it on the back and then make a swirl pattern with a fork. As my Florentines were anything but traditional, I decided to go for the dunking/smothering half the biscuit in chocolate approach. The majority of my Florentines are probably the fatter cousin’s of traditional Florentines, however a couple of them did have the lace effect that they normally. You just need to only put a small amount of mix for each one and flatten it slightly before baking. My NCT friends loved the biscuits and box was devoured in record time!!!

Nut Free Florentines

Ingredients (makes 12-14 biscuits)

  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 10g plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 65ml double cream
  • 80g jumbo oats
  • 50g candied peel
  • 50g mixed dried fruit
  • 25g glacé cherries, chopped
  • Milk chocolate, melted (I used 2 small child’s Easter Eggs worth but use what you have in the house)



  1. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C and line two baking trays with baking parchment or grease proof paper
  2. In a heavy base saucepan, melt the butter, sugar and flour together then add the double cream. Keep stirring throughout
  3. Add the remaining dry ingredients (except the chocolate) into the saucepan and stir well
  4. Place teaspoons of the mix on the lined baking trays, well spaced apart and flatten down slightly
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 – 14 minutes (mine took 14 minutes) and then remove. Allow the biscuits to harden on the grease proof for a few minutes before putting onto a wire rack to cool completely. (I carefully removed the greaseproof paper with the biscuits on off the hot tray then used a palette knife to move them onto a wire rack).
  6. Once cooled completely, dip or spread the chocolate over them and allow to cool again so chocolate can set. Eat and enjoy with a cup of coffee and good company

Thank you to Getting Personal for my fabulous new personalised board from the Jamie Oliver range. I love it!!


Disclosure: I was sent the personalised board as a review item. A full review will be appearing soon. All opinions are my own.







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