University of Birmingham graduate with a passion for food & cooking as part of a healthy lifestyle

Twitter: @EatRainbowLove
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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Tagliatelle with pesto and green beans

As I've said maybe a million times, I love pasta and I love pesto so I'm always throwing them together; it is my ultimate comfort food. I usually love it with bits of bacon and lots of red onion and maybe a dash of cream too, but this seems to be a new favourite and healthier (although I wouldn't say no to the bacon or cream...) This is so simple to make but tastes delicious. I got the idea from the Zizzi's menu a while back - although I just checked and I don't think they do it anymore ahh! Think it was pasta twists with green beans and a very creamy pesto sauce which was scrummy but rich, so I adapted it slightly with what I had in the fridge. This is a really good way to boost getting your 5-a-day for those of you who don't like eating green veg on its own, or who are just bored of doing so. If I have spinach in the fridge I will nearly always put a big handful on my plate and then put whatever I'm eating on top (nearly everything goes with spinach aha) because although I don't like to eat spinach raw, I don't like it when it's all wet and slimey, so this way it wilts perfectly from the heat of the pasta mm mm. Adding bacon and lots of parmesan would make this dish perfecto.
Serves 2
- 200g tagliatelle
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 150g button mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 pack of fine green beans, trimmed and cut in half
- 1/2 - 3/4 a jar of green pesto (size of the Sacla or Napolina ones)
- handful of fresh spinach leaves (optional)
- handful of parmesan, grated (optional)

1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions in salted water (around 10 mins)
2. Fry the onions in the olive oil until softened and add the mushrooms
3. Add the green beans to the pasta water after about half the cooking time (so after 5 minutes)
4. Once cooked, drain the pasta and beans and return to the pan, adding the onions and mushrooms as well
5. Return to the heat, and stir in the pesto (this is where you would also add cream)
6. Serve on a bed of spinach leaves and top with some freshly grated parmesan (and even some fresh basil!)

Don't forget you can add anything to this like chicken or bacon or both, and cream or creme fraiche if you like more of a sauce rather than just a coating! I'm sure other vegetables would be nice in this too, not just green beans, like sugar snap peas, asparagus, brocolli, or peas!

I loved this meal so much that I made it again a week later, but this time with smoked salmon in as well, and wholewheat penne instead of tagliatelle, mm I want everyone else to share the deliciousness!!

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Incredibly gooey chocolate brownies

I've decided to accept that although my brownies never look the most appealing - they always taste delicious. I always have problems getting brownies right (especially when I tried to cook the oreo brownies in a broken oven...) when I follow recipes, so I adapted a few and came up with something extremely chocolatey, gooey and crisp on top - a-mazing! The different textures work so well together. You have got to try these if you love gooey, moist brownies. You can change the recipe yourself - you don't have to use 3 different types of chocolates, just keep the quantities the same. These are best eaten with a fork! (Try and grab an end piece because these are the fudgiest and the edges have a texture like soft cookie mm)

Makes 24
- 100g dark chocolate, 50g milk chocolate, 50g white chocolate, broken into pieces
- 175g butter
- 50g margarine 
- 150g caster sugar
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 50g dark muscovado sugar (optional - you can use more golden, caster sugar)
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 75g plain flour, sifted
- 1 tsp baking powder

- large square or rectangular baking tin

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180 degrees. Grease and line a baking tin with grease-proof paper.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a pan over a low heat, stirring constantly until melted.

3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and combined. Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture and add the vanilla essence.
4. Gently fold in the flour and baking powder, and stir thoroughly until combined.
5. Pour the mixture into the baking tin
6. Bake in the oven (middle shelf) for around 30 minutes. Mine was probably in for about 40 minutes.
Enjoy :)

Monday, 16 April 2012

Strawberry, peach and yogurt trifle

 This is a delicious snack or dessert that is healthier than it looks! I named it a trifle purely because of the way it looks - it doesn't contain sponge, jam or whipped cream unfortunately, but it is a perfect substitute if you don't want to be so naughty or spend lots of time putting together a dessert. Although I made this with plain, natural yogurt, the syrup from the tinned peaches sweetens it so it doesn't taste bitter or bland. The fresh strawberries compliment the peaches well - the colours also make this look amazing! I topped it with full fat crème fraiche because it was all we had in the house, but opt for reduced fat if you want it to stay healthy. Do not be sceptical of a healthier dessert - this will seriously satisfy your sweet tooth! If you are craving chocolate you could grate some dark chocolate on top, or melt it to drizzle over the top. Don't forget that the tinned peaches in syrup will be quite high in sugar so don't be fooled in thinking this is perfectly healthy. The glass I used was quite big so I had half as a snack and am saving half for dessert later. It was hard to resist eating it all at once I must admit...
Fills 1 large glass
- 1/4 tub of low fat natural yogurt (I used Sainsbury's less than 2% fat probiotic natural yogurt)
- 1/3 tin of sliced peaches in syrup
- 5 or 6 strawberries, sliced
- small dollop of crème fraiche
- dark chocolate, grated or melted (optional)

1. Stir some of the peach syrup into the yogurt in a separate bowl to sweeten.
2. Spoon some yogurt into the bottom of a large glass, layer 2 or 3 peach slices on top. Spoon another bit of yogurt over the peaches. Top with some sliced strawberries. Repeat again.
3. Dollop some crème fraiche on top and garnish with some chopped peach and strawberry - delicious!
Enjoy :)

Smoked salmon pitza

Try this for a flavoursome, light lunch! I called it a pitza as it's pizza style, but uses pitta bread instead. I made this for lunch today because I wanted something more exciting than just a boring smoked salmon sandwich. This is super simple and it looks and tastes great too; everyone knows smoked salmon and cream cheese is a match made in heaven! If you want this for dinner instead of lunch, then you could fry up some onions to add on top, make a big salad to go with it, and have two pitza's instead of just one! You're probably thinking ah but smoked salmon is so expensive - but it doesn't have to be! It tastes just as good when defrosted from the freezer, so look out for deals on smoked salmon (they often do really good quality packs for half price) and buy them even if you don't want to eat it asap. Or, if you're a student like me, then buying Tesco value smoked salmon trimmings is amazing! If I remember correctly it is only around 90p, and although there is the odd grey bit and fish bone, it really isn't bad at all. Trimmings are perfect for topping on pizza, adding to scrambled egg and salads etc.

Serves 1
- 1 large wholemeal pitta
- large dollop of cream cheese (I used Sainsbury's light soft cheese)
- sprinkling of mixed herbs
- smoked salmon, cut into strips
- cucumber, sliced

Spread the cream cheese on a toasted pitta, sprinkle on herbs and top with smoked salmon. Serve with cucumber.

Enjoy :)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Peach and raspberry smoothie

 It can be really difficult to get your 5-a-day - I know that I've noticed that most days I'm only reaching 3 and some days none at all! I used to be really focussed on eating lots of fruit & veg, but recently it has slipped my mind. I was really craving a sweet, fruity drink and since we didn't have any fresh fruit in the house I had to improvise. So there was no banana, no natural yogurt, no fruit juice - all the ingredients that always make up the base of my smoothies. Instead, I used an Activia fig yogurt, some milk, frozen raspberries and tinned peaches, and I'm glad I did, because it was scrummy! Really thick and sweet. It wasn't the healthiest of smoothies, since the Activia yogurt wasn't low fat, but you can use low fat yogurt if you choose. This only contained 2 of my 5-a-day, but with sweetcorn at lunch and two different veg with dinner I am there! And I will try to keep this up, will keep you all updated...

Makes 1 large smoothie
- dash of milk
- 100-150g frozen raspberries (not entirely sure of quantities!)
- 1 Activia fig yogurt (or any flavour, any brand etc.)
- 1/3 tin of peach halves

Simply blend everything together in a food processor, and pour into a glass! Drink, or use a spoon.

You can blend the raspberries from frozen, but I let them defrost for about 20 minutes first so there weren't bits of ice in my drink. Using frozen is perfect for getting the smoothie refreshingly cold.
Taste the smoothie as you make it, and stir to check the consistency - this way you can add any other ingredients to change the flavour or texture. For example, if you have plain natural yogurt you may need to sweeten the smoothie with some honey, or if it is too thick add some water or juice!

Enjoy :)

Friday, 13 April 2012

Buttercream truffles

 Leftover buttercream? The way I see it is that you now have two options - either freeze the buttercream and defrost within a couple of months to use again on cakes, or make some deliciously mouth-watering truffles! (Throwing it away is not an option...) I made a very chocolatey, chocolate finger cake for my friend's birthday the other day with chocolate frosting - the recipe is here. I had quite a bit leftover so decided to have some fun making truffles. Be warned - they can be very rich and sickly, so make them small and only have a couple at a time! The truffles look so cute and way more difficult than they are so they are bound to impress - perfect for any celebration or party.
Oh, and I hope you noticed my new plate (yay) from Matalan, I love the pattern it matches my wallpaper!

- leftover buttercream (can be any flavour) click here to find my chocolate buttercream recipe
- dark chocolate 
- decorations (I used sprinkles and chocolate crunch balls)

1. Make sure the buttercream is really cold from the fridge. This can get quite messy as the buttercream will begin to go soft when you start to handle it (try and make sure your hands are cold first)
2. Gently shape the buttercream into small balls with your fingertips and place on a plate. Put in the freezer for about 20 minutes so they harden and go cold.
3. Melt some dark chocolate and roll each ball in, fishing out with a fork. Place the chocolate covered buttercream balls onto a tray with grease-proof paper on.
4. Immediately decorate with sprinkles or whatever you prefer before the chocolate hardens. If you want to drizzle white chocolate over, or dust with cocoa powder, there isn't as much of a hurry! Have fun with this, experiment with different decorations.

Enjoy :)

Chicken with katsu sauce

First of all I have to apologise for the photo - I didn't get one which really shows the sauce and it all looks a bit unclear and messy - I think I was just far too excited about eating it to worry about the photo! I got this from Lisa Faulkner's book again, and just like the macaroni and cheese dish from her book (here), it was very yummy! The sauce was mild which was perfect for me considering I don't like spicy food, although it did leave my mouth feeling hot. The sauce was also nice and sweet from the apple, it tasted so delicious mixed in with the wholegrain rice. And last but not least, the chicken! Who doesn't love crispy chicken!? It really is so simple to breadcrumb your own chicken and actually quite fun dipping it in the egg etc. It was perfectly moist chicken with crunchy crumbs, which complimented the smooth sauce and soft rice brilliantly. I was very weary about cooking this because I have never made any type of curry sauce in my life and had no clue of the consistency it was meant to be or anything - I still don't know if I did it right, but my boyfriend really loved it and suggested that next time there should be more sauce. So either he's just greedy with sauce, or I made it too thick haha...

Serves 4 (I halved it)
- 4 chicken breasts
- seasoned flour, for dusting
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 75-100g dried breadcrumbs
- oil, for frying
- wholegrain rice, to serve

For the sauce
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 1/2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 200ml chicken stock
- 200ml water
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 2 small apples, peeled and grated
- 1 tsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
- salt & pepper

1. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic until softened and slightly brown. Add the turmeric, curry powder and ketchup and stir. Add the stock, water, soy sauce and grated apple, season with salt & pepper, and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. Add the cornflour paste and cook for a further 2 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
3. Blend with a hand blender or food processor until smooth and set aside until needed.
4. Meanwhile, wrap the chicken in cling film and flatten with a rolling pin.
5. Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in 3 separate shallow dishes. Dust each chicken breast with flour, dip in egg, and coat in breadcrumbs.
6. Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken over a medium heat for about 7 minutes each side until cooked through. Don't forget to boil or microwave some rice!
7. Reheat the katsu sauce gently and serve with the chicken and rice. I served with broccoli as well.

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Extremely chocolatey, chocolate finger cake

 I made this cake for my friend Mia's birthday (hence why the below pictures say Mia on the cake). I altered a chocolate cake recipe from Lorraine Pascale's Baking Made Easy book (will link at the bottom of the post), and it has worked out really well. It didn't rise as much as I had hoped but once you spread on all the chocolatey buttercream it increases the size, and I love the towering effect that the chocolate fingers have, like a crown on the cake. I used the double chocolate cadbury's fingers to make this cake even more rich and indulgent - a perfect treat for chocolate lovers. The sponge was moist and dense like a brownie, and perfectly complimented by the rich chocolate frosting and crunchy fingers - absolutely delicious! It is also really versatile as you can use whatever you want to decorate the cake. Piling on fruit such as strawberries or raspberries, in the middle would look very classic and add lots of bright colour. You could also top it with marshmallows, or more chocolate such as malteasers, or just decorate it with sprinkles or tons of candles!
Serves 10-12
- vegetable oil
- 125g butter, softened
- 75g margarine
- 150g caster sugar
- 50g golden caster sugar
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 140g self-raising flour
- pink of salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- dash of milk
- 2 packs of cadburys double chocolate fingers
- 150g butter, softened
- 400g icing sugar
- dash of milk
- 75g dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4. Line an 8 inch cake tin with baking paper, and brush with the oil.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar, add half of the eggs and half the flour and beat well. Add the rest of the eggs, four, cocoa powder , salt and baking powder. Beat for a few minutes until smooth and combined. I always add a dash of milk at this stage to make the mixture more smooth and creamy.
3. Dollop the sponge mixture into the prepared baking tin and bake in the oven for 30-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean after being inserted into the centre of the cake. Leave to cool in the tin.
4. Meanwhile, to make the buttercream, cream together the butter and icing sugar until smooth, add some milk (optional), and the melted chocolate and stir well until combined and smooth.
5. Once the cake is completely cool, remove from the tin and spread the buttercream generously on top and on the sides of the cake.
6. Gently push the chocolate fingers vertically into the sides of the cake. The decorations are now completely up to you - have fun with it!

Enjoy :)

Happy Birthday!

I modified the recipe for the 'I can't believe you made that' cake in Lorraine Pascale's above cookbook! I changed some ingredients and quantities, and used different decorations. I would recommend this book as even if the recipe isn't exactly to your taste, it provides lots of ideas and inspiration. And it isn't just a book about cakes and other sweet treats, it also has recipes on savoury baking - bread, pies, roasts etc.

Pesto mash

This mashed potato was deliciously creamy and rich, despite not having any cream or crème fraiche in. I decided to use pesto because I've had pesto and cheddar on a jacket potato before and it was so yummy, so I knew that it would taste good in mash as well. I served this with chicken wrapped in pancetta (see previous post) and green vegetables. It's amazing that just by adding a few dollops of green pesto, you can transform a boring mash into something delicious and luxurious! You should definitely try this if you like pesto.

Serves 2
- 450-500g potatoes (I used desiree and vivaldi)
- pinch of salt
- dash of semi-skimmed milk
- knob of butter
- 1/2 small jar of green pesto (or less, or more)
- handful of cheddar, grated

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20-25 minutes, or until soft.
2. Drain and return to the pan. Add some milk and a knob of butter and mash for a couple of minutes until smooth.
3. Add the pesto and stir in, then continue to mash - adding more butter and/or milk depending on the taste/texture you desire.
4. Put the cheddar in and continue to mash. Season to taste, and serve.

Enjoy :)

Chicken legs wrapped in pancetta

This chicken had loads of flavour, was really moist, and went perfectly with the crisp, smoky pancetta. I roasted onions with the legs for extra flavour, and served it with pesto mash (see next post), and green vegetables. I do prefer using chicken breasts and stuffing them with ingredients such as spinach and feta, or gorgonzola and cranberry, and then wrapping in bacon - but this is a good alternative - and less fiddly!
Serves 2
- 2 large chicken legs
- olive oil
- paprika
- garlic granules
- salt
- 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
- 6 rashers of pancetta

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees.
2. In a roasting dish, drizzle olive oil and rub the chicken legs until coated. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and garlic granules.
3. Place the onion chunks in the dish around the chicken, and brush with olive oil.
4. Wrap each chicken leg with 3 rashers of pancetta.
5. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the pancetta is crisp

Enjoy :)

Monday, 9 April 2012

The best macaroni and cheese

I had never even made mac n cheese before the other night, which shocked me because it is such a delicious meal. I hadn't actually eaten it for a couple of years which also came as a shock, and probably added to the reason why I loved it so much! I bought Lisa Faulkner's new cookbook (which is absolutely amazing by the way, will post a link at the bottom) the other day, and I found this recipe in there, and it worked perfectly. I was sceptical at first about using leeks in this dish as I'd never heard of it in mac n cheese before, and I wasn't even sure I liked leeks. But honestly, the leeks work so well in this - and they don't have an overpowering flavour like I thought they would - they are just soft which mixes well with the roux sauce. I'd never even made a roux sauce before and everyone always barks on about how difficult it is because it can get lumpy etc. But I had no problems with the ratio of milk, butter and flour, or with the method in this book. The sauce was so smooth, silky and cheesy that I practically ate half of it before it even went in the oven! This recipe has pancetta/bacon in, but of course it would be just as lovely without if you are vegetarian. The only complaint me and my mum had about this dish was that we wanted more! So definitely try this recipe, because it is hands down the best mac n cheese I have ever tasted....
(Sorry for the long intro and that the pictures aren't that clear/great. Need to invest in some fancy square white plates!)

Serves 4-6  (I halved it)
- 300g macaroni
- 75g pancetta, cubed (or bacon)
- 2 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 50g butter
- 50g plain flour
- 600ml milk
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- a dash of Worcestershire sauce (like Lea & Perrins)
- 225g cheddar cheese, grated
- 75g parmesan cheese, grated
- 65g breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper

Few notes: definitely make sure you stick to the ingredients because they really do all add different flavours and textures to the dish which make it so delicious. Particularly the flavour of the Worcestershire sauce, and the texture of the crunchy breadcrumbs on top!
Also, don't be afraid of making a roux sauce, just stick to the method!

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees. Cook the macaroni for 10 minutes in salted water, then drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, brown the pancetta over a medium heat, add the leeks and fry until softened. Set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, beating with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Cook this for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Add the milk gradually, stirring all the time until the sauce has thickened. Add the mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce and salt & pepper. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheeses (saving a little to sprinkle on top)
5. Mix the leeks and pancetta into the macaroni then spoon into an ovenproof dish. Pour over the cheese sauce and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs. (My sauce was quite thick so I mixed the sauce with the macaroni, leeks and pancetta, and then spooned into the dish - I'm sure the other way works just as well though!)
6. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until bubbling and crisp on top

Enjoy :)

Amazing book - definitely recommend - so many different recipes to suit all different styles and tastes. Love how it is separated into Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, rather than starters, mains etc. Her mini intros of each recipe really make you inspired to try them. I sat for about 2 hours reading it from cover to cover!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Easter cupcakes

I made a combination of sponges - vanilla sponge, vanilla sponge with cranberries in, and chocolate sponge. Then I made a huge range of different frostings and toppings - creamy chocolate, vanilla buttercream, buttercream with various different colourings, mini eggs, crushed twirl bars, and crispy cakes (see previous post!). Although this took a lot of time, attention to detail, and washing up, it was definitely worth it! They look so cute and I think will put a smile on everyone's face on Easter Sunday tomorrow :) I will post all the recipes below, hope you give them a try! Don't forget that these aren't just for Easter, you can make these anytime - they are brilliant, versatile cupcake and frosting recipes!
Sponge recipes - makes 12-14 cupcakes
- 125g margarine
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 125g self-raising flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- cocoa powder
- dried cranberries

1. Cream together the marg and sugar until well combined. Gradually whisk in the eggs and vanilla essence.
2. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and fold in, stirring well.
3. Fill this vanilla sponge mixture into cupcake cases - I filled 5 cases.
4. Take half of the rest of the cake mixture and place in another bowl. Mix with a few handfuls of dried cranberries, or other dried fruit (put as much as you want in), and fill another 5 cupcake cases.
5. Sieve some cocoa powder into the remaining mixture and combine until brown in colour. Spoon into the remaining cases. (For me, this was another 4 cases)
6. Bake in a preheated oven (gas mark 5/190 degrees) for around 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wired rack.

Frosting recipes

Chocolate cream cheese frosting (used on 4 cupcakes)
- Half a tub (80g) of Cadbury's chocolate Philadelphia 
- small bit of icing sugar
- small knob of butter, melted

Combine everything together in a bowl, fill into a piping bag with a star shaped nozel, and pipe onto the cupcakes. I piped onto 2, and spread on to the other 2. I topped with mini eggs and crushed Twirl bars.

Vanilla buttercream (used on 10 cupcakes)
- 125g butter, softened
- 200g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tbsp warm milk
- various food colourings

Beat everything together until smooth, and lighter in colour (feel free to add more of anything depending on consistency, flavour and colour). I iced 4 cupcakes with plain vanilla frosting, then used pink food colouring for 2, green for another 2, and yellow for another 2. This requires a lot of different bowls to transfer the icing too! (It is worth it though, so pretty) You can either pipe these onto the cake or simply spread with a knife. For the yellow and the green frosting, I used a piping bag and nozel to dot the icing on making flower shapes - prefect for Spring!

Enjoy :)

Easter nest crispy cakes

 These are really quick and easy Easter treats to make! Everyone has probably eaten or made a chocolate crispy cake before but I thought I would post a recipe that I used today so you can all whip these up tonight or tomorrow to finish off the Easter weekend nicely. They are not just for Easter however, these are yummy treats all year round, with or without the mini eggs. I used cornflakes but you can use any cereal really, such as rice crispies, special k etc. I used some summery cupcake cases to brighten these up and get in the Easter/spring spirit!
Makes about 8
- 30g butter
- 50g milk chocolate
- 25g dark chocolate
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp runny honey
- few handfuls of cornflakes (or other cereal)
- Cadbury's mini eggs, to decorate

1. Melt the butter and chocolate over a low heat.
2. Once melted, turn off the heat and stir in the sieved cocoa powder and honey.
3. Stir in handfuls of cornflakes at a time until completely coated in the chocolate mixture.
4. Spoon into cupcake cases, placing a mini egg in the middle of each.
5. Refrigerate for half an hour or until solid!

Enjoy :)