Fast Flapjacks – Mary Berry Baking Bible


I’ve tried a lot of different flapjack recipes but still in search of the elusive ‘perfect’ flapjack. I wanted to bake something quick for the boys packed lunches last night so decided to give Mary’s ‘Fast Flapjack’ recipe a go. In her recipe she urged bakers to be careful not to overbake so I set the timer for 5mins less than her baking time to check and of course they were already a little overcooked (see pic above) ūüė¶

They taste good, firm and chewy. I think maybe a little less sugar as well as slightly less baking time next time. I did hit on an ingenious way of weighing the golden syrup without making a mess of my weighing pan. I weighted out the sugar first, made a well in it then adjusted the weight and added golden syrup until the right amount was added. The whole lot then slide of the scale pan into the saucepan very easily. Not a life changing trick I admit but I was quite pleased with it.


  • 225g (8oz) butter,
  • 225g (8oz) demerara sugar,
  • 75g (3oz) golden syrup,
  • 275g (10oz) porridge oats


  1. Preheat oven to 160 degC / Gas 3.   Grease a 12 x 9″ tray/roasting tin
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan with the sugar and syrup then stir in the oats.  Mix well and turn into the prepared tin and press down flat with a palette knife or back of a spoon.
  3. Bake for 35 (25-35 mins) mins or until pale golden brown.  Remove from oven and leave to cool for 10 mins before marking into squares.  Leave in the tin to finish cooling.
  4. Turn out of tin and cut into pieces

Spaghetti with herby pork meatballs – Rachel Allen Home Cooking

I’ve made meatballs before and the tomato sauce is a standard tomato pasta sauce but I’ve never made pork meatballs so decided to follow Rachel’s recipe to the letter. I liked the way she laid out the steps made it very quick to make the meal. They were lovely and herby. I find the suggestion of mozarella or parmesan odd as these are such different cheeses, I personally wouldn’t use mozarella.

Ingredients for meatballs

  • 450g (1lb) minced pork
  • 1tsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1tsp thyme leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and crushed or finely grated
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-tbsp olive oil
  • 300g spaghetti
  • grated mozzarella or Parmesan to serve

Ingredients for the herb and tomato sauce

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion peeled and sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 x 410g tins chopped tomatoes or 900g fresh ripe
  • tomatoess skinned
  • 1tsp caster sugar
  • 3tsp finely chopped marjoram or 2 tsp finely chopped sage


  1. Place the minced pork, parsley, thyme, garlic and egg into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix well together.
  2. Using wet hands, for the mixture into 16-20 tiny little meatballs, each about 2cm in diameter and then place in the fridge (up to 24hrs) or store in the freezer (defrosting well before use) until you are ready to cook them.
  3. Next, prepare the sauce, heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion and garlic on a gentle heat for about 6 mins until soft and slightly golden.  Add tomatoes, sugar and 2 tsps of the marjoram or sage and season well with salt and pepper.  Simmer sauce gently, uncovered for about 30 minutes until reduced and thickened.
  4. When you are ready to cook the meatballs, pour the olive oil into a large frying pan on a medium heat, add the meatballs and fry for 12-15 mins, turning regularly until evenly browned and cooked through.  Alternatively, fry them for a minute all over until well browned and transfer to the oven preheated to 230 degrees C, Gas mark 8 for 10 minutes until cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in a large pan of slightly salted boiling water for 8-10 mins until al dente. Drain well.
  6. To serve, pour the sauce over the cooked spaghetti and add the meatballs.  toss everything together and serve with a scattering of mozzarella or Parmesan and the remaining marjoram or sage.

Peanut Butter Smoothie

A peanut butter smoothie is definitely one for peanut butter fans although it didn’t have an overpowering peanut butter taste.


  • 150ml milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 ice cubes (if banana not frozen)

Ideally you should use a frozen banana, however be aware this needs to be peeled before it is frozen! Blend together.

Strawberry Smoothie

I can’t quite believe I’d never realised how easy a way smoothies were to get kids to ‘eat’ fruit. My boys are quite good about eating fruit during the week in their packed lunch but not so good at the weekend. This is a very simple smoothie.


  • 150ml milk
  • 1 banana
  • 8 strawberries

Blend together.

Spicy fried Cashew Nuts – Ken Hom’s Fast and Easy

These are very easy to make. Ken’s version has 300ml ground nut oil so the cashews are semi deep fried, we’ve always stir fried with just a small amount of oil. Experiment with different levels of spices to suit you. I’ve made some to take as pre dinner nibbles at a friends house tonight.


  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 200g raw cashews
  • 1 tsp ground sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp 5-spice powder


  1. Heat oil in a wok or a heavy base frying pan.
  2. Fry cashews in oil for about 2 minutes or until starting to turn brown. Keep them moving with a bamboo spatula.
  3. Put a sheet kitchen towel on a plate and tip cashews onto plate to soak up excess oil.
  4. Put cashews into a bowl, add salt and spices and make sure cashews get covered in it.

Chicken and Asparagus Soup – New Covent Garden: A Soup for Every Day

The news reports may be saying this is not a good year for asparagus but our asparagus bed is producing more asparagus than we can get through so I thought I’d best make some soup. The New Covent Garden Soup book has several asparagus soup recipes but the Chicken and Asparagus soup sounded the most appealing and was the easiest to source ingredients, if I have more asparagus to use up I’ll try one of the other recipes. I had just under a kg of asparagus so multiplied the ingredients accordingly. Soup had a lovely fresh asparagus flavour and was a nicer shade of green than it looks in the photo. Took about 1/2hr to make.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • a knob of butter
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 2 small potatoes, diced
  • 250g asparagus


  1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add the chicken breast and fry gently turning occasionally for 15-20 minutes until fully cooked through. Cool slightly and shred (using 2 forks), then set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onions, then cook gently for 5-10 minutes
  3. Add the stock and potato, bring to the boil, and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cut the asparagus into 5 cm lengths. Add the asparagus pieces (reserving the tips) and cook gently for a further 5 minutes
  5. Blend until smooth
  6. Add asparagus tips and shredded chicken. Reheat gently, season to taste and serve.

Fast Spicy meat Sauce for Noodles – Ken Hom’s Quick and Easy

Ken Hom’s Quick and Easy cookbook is a slim volume and surprisingly it’s the only chinese cookbook we own despite all of us loving chinese food. Part of the reason why we don’t have any others is because Jon can cook chinese without a cookbook after spending a number of years living in Hong Kong as a teenager. This recipe is one we make often. I suggest you find your local chinese supermarket to get the sauces rather than your local supermarket the chinese brands taste better.

This quantity serves 4-6 people. Serve with either plain rice or noodles. We usually stir fry broccoli with ginger and garlic to serve alongside. I had a spare green pepper in the fridge so sliced it and added it the pork at the same time as the garlic and spring onion.


  • 1.5 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp coarsely chopped garlic
  • 3 tbsp coarsely chopped spring onions
  • 2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh root ginger
  • 450g minced pork
  • 1 tbsp chilli bean sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsps rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar


  1. Heat a wok, then add oil.
  2. Add garlic, spring onions and ginger and stir fry for one minute.
  3. Then add the pork and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the chilli bean sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, hoisin sauce, salt and sugar and continue to cook for another 5 minute.

Coffee and Walnut Cake – Mary Berry Baking Bible

Jon loves coffee and walnut cake but don‚Äôt remember ever making one. No idea why not as it‚Äôs really not much more effort than a basic Victoria sponge and I even have coffee essence in the larder. I think it must be because until I started this challenge to start working through my recipe books I was having difficulty moving outside of my comfort zone. So it was time I tried one and where better to start than with one from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. My sandwich tins are 20.5cm/8in whereas Mary’s recipe calls for 18cm/7in sandwich tins. I very obviously didn’t have enough cake mix so I added 1/2 as much again for all the ingredients. My quantities in brackets. Surprisingly though my cakes were very definitely ready when I checked them after 40 minutes and should probably have come out of the oven 2-3 minutes earlier. With the right quantity mixture I’d be looking at baking for about 30-35 minutes.

Taste is perfect coffee and walnut cake, texture just very slightly on the dry side (I knew i should have removed the cake just a few minutes earlier).

Ingredients for the cake

  • 100g/4oz (150g) soft butter
  • 100g/4oz (150g)¬†caster sugar
  • 2 (3) large free-range eggs
  • 100g/4oz (150g)¬†self-rasing flour
  • 1 (1.5) tsp baking powder
  • 50g/2oz (75g) chopped walnuts
  • 1 (1.5) tbsp¬†coffee essence

Ingredients for the filling and topping

  • 75g/3oz (110g) butter, softened
  • 225g/8oz (345g) icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 (3) tsp milk
  • 2 (3) tsp coffee essence
  • 8 (12) walnut¬†halves, to decorate


  1. For the cake, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line the bases of two 18cm/7in diameter sandwich tins with baking parchment.
  2. Beat together all the cake ingredients in a large bowl with an electric hand whisk until well combined and smooth.
  3. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and gently spread out with a spatula.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  5. Allow to stand for five minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool. Peel off the parchment paper.
  6. For the filling and topping, beat the butter and gradually add the icing sugar. When all the icing sugar is added, add the milk and coffee essence and beat until smooth.
  7. When the cakes have cooled, spread half the coffee icing on one cake and sandwich together with the other half Ice the top of the cake with the remaining coffee icing and decorate with walnut pieces.

Chicken Schnitzel with Bacon and White Wine – Nigella Express

We’re all bored with eating the same limited range of meals so whilst I’m not working¬†I want to vary family dinners. Since¬†last nights Nigella Express dinner was good I thought I’d try another. I’m trying to work through the freezer as well and pulled out a potato gratin so I needed something to go with that and this looked suitable. This also looked nicer than it does in the photo. I used chicken breasts which I cut into thin slices rather than chicken escalopes so the pieces of chicken weren’t as tidy looking as in her picture. This was simple to make, although it did take longer than Nigella has said. Maybe she sears everything at a very high temperature ? The family consensus was this was good and worth making again.


  • 1 teaspoon garlic oil
  • 4 rashers streaky bacon
  • 4 chicken escalopes approx. 125g each
  • 100ml white wine


  1. Put the oil in a frying pan and add the bacon.
  2. Fry till the bacon is crisp and the pan is full of bacony juices. Remove the bacon to a piece of foil, wrap it and set it aside for a moment.
  3. Fry the chicken for about 2 minutes a side, until there is no pinkness when you cut into a piece. Make sure the pan’s hot so that the escalopes catch a little, turning beautifully bronze.
  4. Remove the chicken to a serving plate and quickly crumble the bacon you’ve set aside into the pan, then pour in the wine, letting everything bubble up, and, finally, pour over the chicken pieces.

Banana and Nutella Smoothie

I thought I’d try Nigella’s smoothie recipe from her Nigella Express cookbook as a snack for my boys after school. But I didn’t read the recipe properly and it needs Ovaltine which I don’t have. So I improvised and made my own. The boys liked this, I had a sip and it was good, there was a subtle taste of honey but mostly chocolate & banana.


  • 150ml milk
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 banana
  • 1 generous dessert spoon of nutella

Blend together.