Easy Homemade Pesto

I came to the Pesto Party a bit late in life (I’m a peculiar sort of person who doesn’t eat pasta) but it’s the ultimate accompaniment to any summer meal. It works with meat, fish, potatoes and even cheese on toast (try it!)

It turns out it’s also incredibly easy to make. There are two methods you can use – the blender or the pestle and mortar. The blender is by far the easiest to use and will create the kind of pesto you are used to picking up in the supermarket. The pestle and mortar is the more traditional method and creates a chunkier pesto with stronger flavours.

For either method you should adjust the quantities below according to your taste preference:

2 Packs of Fresh Basil (or 2 bunches)

30g Pine Nuts

4 Cloves Garlic

7 Tsp of Grated Parmesan

Pinch of Salt & Pepper

Drizzle of Olive Oil

I’ll start with the blender method as it’s the easiest:

  1. Blend the basil until it’s finely chopped
  2. Next add the pine nuts and blend until they are coarsely chopped
  3. Add the garlic (whole cloves) and blend again
  4. Add in the seasoning and olive oil and mix to combine
  5. Stir in the parmesan

If you’re using a Pestle and Mortar, it takes a little bit more work:

  1. Grind the Pine Nuts until they reach a paste-like consistency
  2. Next add the garlic. You can do this as a whole clove (skin off) or to speed things up, use a garlic press.
  3. Add the Basil in small batches and grind
  4. Sprinkling Salt in between the batches will help the basil to break down more easily, but be careful not to over-salt.
  5. Stir in the remainder of the Seasoning and the Parmesan
  6. Stir in the Olive Oil

For both methods, remember to taste the mixture once all of the ingredients have been added – if it’s too nutty, add more basil, if it’s too peppery add more cheese.

Finally, if you aren’t using the pesto immediately, transfer it to a jar, tap it down and cover the top with a generous layer of olive oil. This will help preserve it and should mean it lasts for a few weeks in the fridge.

Pot Au Chocolat

This is a super simple recipe for little chocolate pots that will rival anything you can buy on the desert aisle in the supermarket.

It’s no-bake, no-hassle and uses only 4 ingredients.

Make 8 when using ordinary sized ramekins as pictured.

1 standard pack of Oreos (154g)
Unsalted Butter (50g)
2 packs of Dark Chocolate (300g)
1 tub of double (heavy) cream (300ml)

Step 1) Blitz the Oreos in a blender.

Step 2) Melt/soften the Butter and add this to the Oreo-mix in the blender. Blitz again.

Step 3) Using a teaspoon, line the bottom of your pots with the Oreo mixture (approx 4 teaspoons worth) and compress it.

Step 4) Warm the cream in a saucepan until it just bubbles.

Step 5) Break up the chocolate and put in a heat-proof jug. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for 30 seconds.

You’ll need to work quickly for this next bit…

Step 6) Stir the chocolate/cream mixture until all the pieces have disolved.

Step 7) Once you have a smooth creamy mix it will begin setting so quickly pour it into each of the pots – distributing evenly so that you have at least the same amount of cream as biscuit base.

Step 8) Smooth out the surface then leave to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

If you prefer a softer, less rich mixture add more cream in or decrease the amount of chocolate. Alternatively, leave the deserts to stand for 5-10 minutes at room-temperature before serving and the ‘set’ will loosed up slightly.

Something for the Weekend: Harewood House Food Festival

Yesterday, Cali and I ventured to Harewood House to sample the delights of their food festival.

Cali had such a great time and we’ve both decided we’d like to move in – she has expensive taste! (Having Cali is somewhat like I imagine having a child would be – she’s into everything and very sociable. I’ve started walking her on a harness so I don’t lose her!)

I’m not going to waffle on with this post because Cali and I are heading out for our next big adventure today and we can’t wait to make the most of the bank holiday sunshine!

Details of the food festival here. It runs today and tomorrow. Entry is £10 (seems a little steep but you do get access to the gardens and grounds included in that.)

Dress: Tallgirls.co.uk (bought from their pop-up shop and seemingly not available online)
Shoes: Primark
Sunglasses: F&F

Easter Nests with a Twist

It’s finally here. The weekend chocaholics dream off all year… Well, since Christmas anyway!

I’m talking of course about Easter. Ever since I was little I’ve made Easter nests. They’re one of the first things you learn how to make in school, and a super fun activity for kids (my favourite bit was licking the bowl!)

For those who haven’t made them before, simply melt chocolate, stir in cornflakes, put into paper cases and leave to set in the fridge. Yum.

But now that I’m a “grown up” I’ve started experimenting a bit… and today I’m sharing some twists on an Easter classic.

Change up your Chocolate
Easter nests are traditionally a milk chocolate affair, but as we all know Dark Chocolate is healthier so why not change it up a bit? Or melt two batches and go half and half – the best of both worlds!

Get Fruity
I love Chocolate Raisins – they’re my snack of choice on road trips. Try mizing them in with your cornflakes, the mixture of textures is great too.

Another combination I like is Chocolate and Orange. After you’ve melted the chocolate, grate in some orange zest and stir in before coating the cornflakes. You could even try grating ginger in for a bit of spice.

Go Nuts
I always finished the nests off with Cadbury’s Mini Eggs but chocolate and yoghurt coated nuts would make a great addition.

Cookies & Cream Chocolate Brownies

Brownies are something I consider myself to be a bit of an expert on. I’ve been experimenting with different recipes for a long time and this has to be one of my all-time favourites.

Lorraine Pascale’s cookery show was addictive viewing for me and I couldn’t wait to buy her books afterwards. These brownies seemed a little fiddly at first, but it was surprisingly easy once I got going. They came out perfectly textured and full of fudgey goodness – perfect for a chocoholic like me!

You can find the recipe here and you can buy Lorraine’s book here.

Castlefield Market

Last weekend when the rain was pouring down and my stomach was rumbling, I headed into Manchester in search of something to eat. I’ve wanted to visit Castlefield Market for ages but it’s only held on the first weekend of the month and for one reason or another I’ve never been able to make it before. And I have been missing out!

The indoor market is full of handmade crafts and homemade produce. With plenty of street food stalls providing sustenance along the way. I loved the relaxed vibe – a DJ was playing music in the corner and everyone ate along big communal dining tables while making new friends. 

It was a hard decision, choosing where to buy lunch from, but in the end I went for a jerk chicken sandwich with the most amazing mango salsa from The Blackbird Pantry. Followed by what has to be the best brownie I’ve ever eaten. The stall holders were all enthusiastic and happy to chat about their products. There were lots of ‘tasters’ on offer too – an added bonus!

Outfit: Blazer – Zara | Top – Warehouse | Jeggings – M&S (exact ones here) Shoes – Primark | Clutch – Dorothy Perkins
(Note to self – take a bigger bag next time!)

Jewellery – Handmade by Emma
Cards, etc – Mint to Be
Bread – Hunters Artisan Bread
Cakes – Glamarang

(For a full list of stalls appearing each month see the Castlefield Market Website)

Something for the Weekend: Cocktails In The City

Cocktails in the City is a new pop-up event which brings together the best cocktail makers in your area. A few weeks ago I went along to their Manchester night at the AMC Warehouse. The organisers mix spectacular drinks with amazing street food vendors and a fab DJ – basically it has all the ingredients for a brilliant night out!

Their next event is in London on 18th and 19th of July (they also have one in Edinburgh toward the end of October) and you can book tickets here. If you are in the city you need to go. 

Additional info: My ticket cost £10 which included entry and 1 drink token. You can buy additional tokens once inside for £6 each.

Professional Photo by Cocktails in the City

Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

As I’ve mentioned before, we have a penchant in our family for handmade gifts (as demonstrated here). So with Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday in the UK I’ve been mulling over what to make. I thought this recipe I came up with for Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Bread would be perfect, after all my mum is forever telling me I need to eat more fruit and veg… Unfortunately my mum has decided to give up chocolate for lent so it’s back to the drawing board for me but I hope you all get chance to try this delicious recipe for yourselves. If any one asks, it’s one of your 5 a day!

DSC_0120

Recipe:

200g (1 cup) Golden Caster Sugar
120g (1/2 cup) Soft Margarine for baking
250g (2 cups) Self Raising Flour
2 Eggs
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
3 Bananas
200g (1 cup) Chocolate Chips

1) Preheat the oven to 180°C
2) Grease and line a loaf tin
3) First, cream together the sugar and margarine (can be done with an electric beater). If you don’t have margarine you can use softened unsalted butter, but I’ve found it makes the mixture heavier.
4) Beat the eggs and add them to the mixture, then fold in the flour, baking powder and salt. (Plain flour can be used but you will need to add an extra tsp of baking powder to help it rise as this is quite a heavy mixture.)
5) Mash the bananas then add them to the mixture.
6) Finally, stir in the chocolate chips (I tend to use a mixture of Milk and Dark)
7) Fill the tin by 3/4 and bake for 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

This mixture is also great for cupcakes/muffins – just reduce the baking time to 20 minutes.

DSC_0084

DSC_0097

DSC_0106

DSC_0116

Coconut and Lime Cake

It’s Father’s Day today in the UK and it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I think my Dad is pretty damn amazing.

In our family we do things a little differently when it comes to commercial holidays. Whenever they roll around the rule is that all cards and gifts have to be hand-made (because it’s the thought that counts!)

It’s fair to say that, over the years, the ‘no shop bought gifts’ rule is something which has backfired on my parents once or twice… There was the time my sister made my mum a pair of “binoculars” by cellotaping two cardboard loo-roll tubes together, the year I got made redundant and each parent just got a hug, and let’s not forget the Mother’s Day when I broke my arm (long story) and we ended up in A&E for the rest of the day. But now that I’m older and wiser I’ve learned to stick to what I’m good at. So this morning I have been baking up some goodies for my Dad – who loves nothing more than homemade cakes (usually of the fruit variety).

This recipe which I found on Delia Smith’s website takes a bit of extra prep but the results are well worth it – it’s a perfect, light, cake for summer.  I altered it very slightly by sandwiching the cake halves with buttercream and just using the water-icing on top. I also had to leave out the dried coconut milk powder (whatever that might be!) but I don’t think it suffered for it.

DSC_1393

DSC_1397

DSC_1398

DSC_1399

DSC_1402

DSC_1405

Click here for the recipe