Cookbook giveaway! {Closed}

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giveaway! I know! Valentines weekend seemed like the right time to do this, because nothing says love quite like gooey, indulgent baked goods. CookbookGiveawayYou can keep your temporarily wildly overpriced roses – using brownies as a weapon, the quickest way to anybody’s heart is through the stomach. But cookbooks make a pretty good aid, too.

It’s a common affliction, for people who love books: there comes a point when your flat is more pages than bricks and mortar. The piles – loved, to-read, to-donate – become the bones of your home, in the same way that the stories and recipes themselves become part of the structure of you.

But in a home, you sometimes have to knock a wall down to create a little light, right? My desk drawers at work have books in them, ones that I’ve finished but haven’t yet re-homed. One of my flatmates trained as a chef, so we have a packed bookcase in the living room, and there’s another in the corner of my room. The space above my clothes in the wardrobe is populated by hardbacks. I like to imagine that they hang out when I’m away, much like you assumed your dolls did while you were at school, only less creepy. Maybe the magicians speak to the astronauts and the secret societies. Hopefully the octopuses preside over it all, arms waving like so many conductors.

I digress. It’s time to knock down a wall. And you get to reap the benefits! Continue reading

The people who make me hungry: my top 15 food Instagrammers

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ou know how they say you should never go to the supermarket on an empty stomach? I’d like to modernise that a little: never go on Instagram on an empty stomach, or there’s a risk you’ll have doughnuts for dinner. I envy people who are capable of meal planning and then sticking  to those plans. As a person who is totally at the mercy of whims and fancies, and often just forgets meals, the answer to What did you have for dinner, Hannah? is, on most weekdays, along the lines of Well, I forgot to eat, but I remembered eventually and had fish fingers, followed by jelly, and then some roasted carrots. It’s all kinds of embarrassing, but makes the victory all the more sweet when I pull together what my mother would consider to be a proper meal.

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The Best of The Littlest Bakehouse – an ebook

TLB BOOK COVEROne of the things that always baffles me when I come home is my mother’s recipe collection. Dozens of cookbooks, a folder full of ripped out magazine pages, some of them decades old, and a bunch of hand-written recipes. It’s extensive and spans at least 30 years, going by the design and crispy edges of some of those magazine pull-outs, and tells stories without trying. Even the style of recipe writing has changed in that time, no-nonsense instructions from Mrs Beeton giving way to seductive adjective-laden notes from Nigella.

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Music to cook to

music

So here’s the thing. Cooking and baking aren’t just about cooking and baking. They’re not wholly centred on the outcome, at least for those of us who take pleasure in flour explosions and licking our fingers to dab up the crumbs of cheese that have somehow escaped the grater.  It’s just as much about zoning out from the stresses of day to day life, concentrating on weighing ingredients and not dropping egg shell into your mix.

When I step into the kitchen, knowing that I’ll likely be there for hours, this is the playlist that comes with me. It doesn’t always run in this order and I’m adding to it all the time. There’ll always be a little bit of Celine Dion – belted out horribly, and loudly – and some dancing about in the square metre of floorspace to Walk the Moon. A touch of funk from Betty Davis, followed by possibly the oddest selection of music I could have put together.

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New year nibbles

Christmas may have passed, but for most of us it’s not yet time to put down the whisks and sieves to sit back and plan how we’re going to lose this festive flab. But before we have cause to mourn the foods that a January diet disallows, there’s still one last night of blissful indulgence to go. But by the time new year rolls around, no-one wants to cook a full spread. Just a few little bites to keep guests from partying a little too hard. So here’s a few easy-to-whip-up recipes for new year party nibbles.

Rice Krispie cakes (above)

My mother was cursed blessed with three quite awkward children, a fact which is spectacularly clear around this time of year. One doesn’t like Christmas pudding, another doesn’t like sponge, and I don’t like chocolate flavoured desserts (strange, I know). All that this means is that no-bake Rice Krispie cake is a staple in our house, whether it’s made in round tins and stacked like a birthday cake or cut into bite size squares.

Ingredients: equal weights marshmallows, toffees, butter, Rice Krispies.
E.G. 100g each.

Method: Melt together marshmallows, toffees, and butter. This can be done in the microwave using a large microwavable bowl, or on the hob in a large saucepan. The mixture will grow as the marshmallow melts, and I find it easier to keep an eye on this when cooking it in a saucepan. Stir in the Rice Krispies, pour into a lined tin or lipped baking tray and smooth using the back of a spoon. Refrigerate.

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Mango cocktail sausages

Ingredients: 1 pack cocktail sausages, 1 jar mango chutney.

Method: Place cocktail sausages on a greaseproof-lined baking tray, and cook for 10 minutes at about 160C. Remove from oven, and coat with mango chutney, using a tablespoon or two of water to thin the chutney. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve as-is or on cocktail sticks to avoid sticky fingers!

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web2Stuffing bites

Makes 9 ramekins/18 bites

Ingredients: 180g stuffing mix, 9 rashers bacon (smoked or unsmoked), any fillings of your choosing.

Method: Line ramekins (about 1.5 inches tall, 3.5 inches across) with foil, leaving enough over the sides to fold over the top when full. Line this with bacon, with the “upper” part of the rasher hanging over. Create your stuffing mix, adding any extra fillings, according to instructions, and divide between the ramekins. Fold the bacon over the top, and scrunch the overhanging foil over to cover it all. Cook at 160C for 20 minutes and switch off the oven. Fold out the foil, and put in the oven for a further 10-15
minutes to allow the bacon to crisp up. Allow to cool, and slice in half.

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Two-cheese biscuits

Got some cheese and nuts left ever from Christmas? Why not make these two-cheese biscuits?

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Happy New Year, everyone!

Love letter to Speculoos

lotusYou know when you do something even though you know it’s a bad idea? A terrible, brilliant idea? I did that when I bought biscuit spread/Speculoos, knowing full well that it’s 65% biscuit and I have a weakness for biscuits like some women have a weakness for men with big arms.

On the top of the jar there’s a little “TRY ME” sticker, on which you’re invited to write at least 15 words about the spread and send them to the company and get a nice little cheque for the price of the spread. “Ahha!” I thought. “I can do better than a mere 15 words! I’m a writer at heart after all!” Despite the fact that I’ve not written any poems since I was forced to at school about seven years ago, I started to think of fun things while I stirred my porridge and by the time I got on the tube to go to work, I had a seven-verse poem, with rhymes and everything.

 

 

I bought this spread for baking
But never got that far –
I accidentally ate it all
Straight out of the jar.

From the first wee nervous nibble
It made me gasp and wonder,
But I was on a diet then
And cursed it as a blunder.

But not a full week later
I put some in my shopping
And knew right then that come new year
My buttons would be popping.

I had such good intentions
To make some wholesome bakes
But now it’s in my tummy
Instead of in a cake.

I wrote this to say thank you
For this lovely biscuit dream,
But now that I have eaten it
I can’t fit in my jeans.

But please send me a little cheque
So I can buy some more,
And munch it using just a spoon
Upon my kitchen floor.

For you lot have created what
My waistline’s come to dread.
Despite it all, I’ve no regrets:
I love you, Lotus spread.