Spice of Life to spice things up

Spice things up with Life of Spice

Disclosure: I was sent these spices for the purpose of writing this post, however all words, photos and opinions are my own.

The older I get, the more I realise I’m a creature of habit.

I find myself falling into routines and patterns with things like the meals we eat, and end up having the same things week after week.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, I really love the meals that we eat, especially with my husband cooking for us more.

It is good to spice things up now and then though.  To try some new recipes and some new flavours.

So when I was offered some spice and rub collections from Life of Spice to try out I couldn’t wait to open them up and get cooking with them.

 

I was sent both the Italian Collection and the American Rub Collection gift sets to try out.

The Italian Collection comes in a lovely gift box which is a big plus if you want to give a set to someone as a present.

Inside the box are three metal tins of spice blends.

The Italian Job is a mixture of salt and Italian herbs (basil, thyme, oregano).  Italian Herbs is a classic mix of oregano, thyme and rosemary, and Pepper Smurf is a peppered rub with rosemary, basil, marjoram and citrus.

 

I love that this collection has 3 different types of seasoning blend, so you can use them for so many different types of cooking.

The Italian Herbs and The Italian Job are great to use in pasta sauces and would also work really well with things like roast potatoes or wedges.  The Pepper Smurf rub is perfect for rubbing into meats before grilling or barbecuing.

 

The second collection I was sent was the American Rub Collection, which has 5 different tins in the box.

Memphis Belle is an authentic Tennessee BBQ rub, while Kansas City Rib Rub brings the flavours of the Midwest.  Much Adobo About Nothing is an adobo spice blend which is perfect for fajitas and chilli.  Savannah Gold is a vibrant spice blend with mustard and garlic, and Sweet Home Alabama is a rich and smoky Southern spice rub.

 

When you open up the tins the smell you get is amazing, and what’s great is that each mix is distinctive enough from the rest of the collection.

 

A few of the rubs are labelled as being ‘barbecue’ rubs, and they would be absolutely amazing to use on all sorts of meats to go on the barbecue in the summer.

The real beauty of these rubs though is you don’t have to use them for barbecues.  Or even meat for that matter.

You can use them to give amazing flavour to roasted vegetables and they’d be great for adding flavour to tofu.  And the Much Adobo About Nothing would be perfect to use in a veggie chilli or to give a bit of a kick to a shepherd’s pie made with vegetarian mince.

 

I knew exactly what I wanted to make though, as soon as these spices arrived.

I used the Kansas City Rib Rub to spice up some slices of halloumi.

 

This rub is a gorgeous burnt orange shade and has a lovely smokey barbecue smell to it.

It was ridiculously easy to use too.

I just sliced up some halloumi and rubbed the spice mix into both sides of the slices.

Then I heated some oil in a pan and cooked the halloumi slices for a few minutes on each side.  You could hear the spices sizzling in the oil as they cooked and the whole kitchen smelt amazing!

If you wanted you could layer some of the cooked halloumi slices in a bun with some mayo and lettuce and have it as a burger, which actually I think I’ll have to try next time.

What I did this time though was serve it with cous cous, which is something Steve and I used to have all the time when we were first living together.

 

I cooked the cous cous then added some of the Italian Herbs from the Italian collection for a bit of added flavour, then stirred in some chopped peppers.

Keeping the cous cous quite simple meant that the star of the show, the spiced halloumi, could really have it’s moment.

And oh my word it was good!

The saltiness of the cheese together with the smokey flavour and bit of heat from the rub worked so well together.  I would say I can see this become a new regular fixture on our weekly menu, but actually I think we could still keep things interesting by using a different spice rub each time!

 

Special reader offer:

If you want to try the Spice of Life spices for yourself, or get some for the foodie in your life as a present, then I have a great offer to share with you.

Buy any of the collections from the Spice of Life website and use code LOS–NDBLG at the checkout to get an extra tin of spices absolutely free!

 

So what are you waiting for?  Go break out of your food rut and spice things up!

brownie-recipe-001

Simple brownie recipe

Brownies.

Ahh, brownies.

Honestly, can you beat a good brownie when you need a chocolate fix?!

I’m not sure you can!

Now normally I would tell a nice story about making these with the children and about how much fun we had, but I have a feeling if you’re reading this you actually really just want the recipe.  So, here you go:

 

 

What you need:

  • 150g (5oz) unsalted butter
  • 300g (11oz) caster sugar
  • 200g (7oz) dark chocolate
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100g (3.5oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Handful of chocolate chips

brownie-recipe-001

 

What you do:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees (gas mark 4) and grease and line a cake tin (one that’s about 20in square).
  • In a large pan melt together the butter, sugar and chocolate.
  • Once all that’s melted and mixed together, stir in the eggs and then the flour and cocoa powder.
  • Pour the mix into the cake tin and then sprinkle over the chocolate chips.
  • Bake for just over 20 mins and then check to see how it’s looking.  You want it so it’s just set to get the right fudgy texture, so you need to check every now and then to get it right.  In my oven it takes about 28 minutes to get it just right.
  • Once it’s looking good, take it out of the oven and leave it to cool before cutting into pieces.
  • Sprinkle with some icing sugar if you want to make them look even prettier.
  • Eat.  And eat and eat and eat.

 

These brownies are nice and simple, and so, so good just as they are.

But I’m already thinking of things I can add to have a bit of variety now and then.

 

Here are some of my plans:

  • A layer of After Eight mints in the middle of the batter.  And then some sort of minty glaze on the top.  Oh  yes.
  • More chocolate chunks stirred through the batter.  Some white and dark chocolate would be good.
  • Some fudge chunks mixed in with the batter.
  • Little bits of reese’s pieces stirred in, and then a layer of peanut buttery goodness on the top. You can easily use a great food processor to make any nut butter you like, you don’t have to stick with peanut butter.
  • Get fruity and try these cherry brownies from Mummy Vs Work.

Do you like your brownies classic and simple or are you a more-the-merrier kind of person when it comes to yummy additions?!

Leave me a comment and let me know!

simple-brownie-recipe-uk

 

Perfect simple flapjack recipe

Simple and classic flapjack recipe

Flapjacks are one of my favourite sweet treats.

Nerys loves them too and will often ask for one when she sees them in the shops when we’re out and about.  I hadn’t made them at home for awhile though, so last week I stocked up on oats and golden syrup and made a batch.

These flapjacks are simple and classic and delicious, so keep reading for the recipe if you want to give them a go yourself.

 

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 250g oats

 

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 and line a 7 x 9 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper
  2. Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a pan and melt it all together over a low heat
  3. Once all the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and stir in the oats
  4. Mix everything together really well so all the oats are coated in the buttery, syrupy mixture
  5. Tip the mixture into the lined tin and press it down really well with the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula
  6. Bake at 180 for 18 minutes
  7. Leave to cool for a few hours, or even better, over night
  8. Cut into squares and enjoy

 

Flapjacks are one of those things that seem like they should be foolproof but so often they don’t come out quite right.

I know I’ve made them a few times in the past and they’ve ended up not coming together properly and crumbling everywhere.  Other times I’ve let them bake for a bit too long and they’ve been hard and crunchy when I really want them softer and chewy.

 

The best advice I’ve found for getting flapjacks right is:

  • really make sure you press the mixture down well into the tin
  • bake them until they’re just golden and still feel a bit soft when you take them out of the oven
  • leave them to cool and set in the tin for as long as possible, ideally overnight, before cutting up and enjoying

These flapjacks are classic and so tasty just as they are.

But if you want to you can jazz them up with different seeds, raisins and/or chocolate chips.  You could also add a layer of melted chocolate to the top once they’ve cooled in the tin, then leave that to set as well before cutting into squares.

Merlyn irish cream chocolate truffles

Quick and easy Irish cream chocolate truffles

For the last few years I’ve been making little treats for the children to give to their teachers at Christmas.

We’ve made biscuits and chocolate bark a few times before, so this year I wanted to try something different.  These Irish cream chocolate truffles were the perfect choice for a quick and easy gift to make.

I always thought truffles were quite tricky to make for some reason, but honestly these are so simple to do and so tasty too!

Quick and easy Irish cream chocolate truffles

 

This recipe makes about 40 truffles, and takes around 30 minutes of work to create (with about an hour more needed for chilling the mixture).

What you need:

  • 200 g milk chocolate
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 50 ml Irish cream (I used Merlyn, but any Irish cream will do)
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

Merlyn chocolate truffles ingredients

How to make the truffles:

  • Break the chocolate up into chunks and put into a microwave safe bowl.

 

  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave, in 30 second  blasts until fully melted.  If you’d rather you can melt the chocolate gently in a saucepan, or in a bowl placed over a pan of water on the hob.

 

  • Once the chocolate is melted give it a good stir, then mix in the cream and Irish cream.

 

  • Stir the mixture quickly and thoroughly to combine the ingredients together.

Merlyn irish cream chocolate truffles melted ingredients

 

  • Put the bowl in the fridge for the mixture to chill.  If you want it to chill and set a bit quicker you can transfer it to a bigger tupperware dish.

 

  • Leave in the fridge for about an hour to set.

 

  • Once the ganache is set you can make it into truffles.

 

  • Use a teaspoon or a melon baller to scoop out bitesize pieces of ganache.  Roll them into balls using the palms of your hands, then roll the balls in the cocoa powder to coat them.

 

  • Set them on a plate as you make them, then put the plate back in the fridge once you’ve made them all to stop them getting too soft.

 

  • The truffles are best kept in the fridge, so leave them there as long as possible before serving.  If you’re giving the truffles as presents then make sure you let people know it’s best to put them in the fridge as soon as they can.

Simple Merlyn irish cream chocolate truffles

 

These truffles are lovely and chocolatey, with a nice amount of Irish cream flavour.  If you want a bigger Bailey’s hit though, you can change the proportions to 100ml double cream and 100ml Irish cream.

You can also make the truffles richer and more indulgent by using good quality dark chocolate instead of milk.  And if you don’t fancy they rolled in cocoa powder then you can use chocolate sprinkles instead.  I also think they’d be lovely rolled in finely crushed amaretti biscuits.

 

simple-cheese-pinwheels

Simple cheese pinwheels recipe

We love cheese in our house.  

Between cheese sandwiches, cheesy pasta and homemade pizzas, we get through quite a lot of cheese every week.

So when Wyke Farm got in touch to see if we would like to try some of their limited edition Tractor Ted mild cheddar to help them celebrate the launch of their dvd all about how cheese is made, I said yes straight away!

Simple-Cheese-Pinwheels

After having a little taste of the cheese (yummy, very mild and creamy!) we decided to have a go at making a new cheesy recipe and opted for these simple pinwheels.  I made these with Nerys and to be honest, she actually did a lot of the work herself.  I helped a little, showing her what to do and finishing off a few of the steps for her but she mixed up the dough, rolled it out and cut out the pinwheels.

They might not be instagram-perfect to look at, but they taste great and it made me so happy to see how proud of herself she was for doing it!  If you’re looking for a recipe to help your child learn to make pastry, then this is a great one to try as you don’t have to worry about the end result being too perfect.

 

Here’s what you need:

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 50g butter
  • 1tsp paprika or mixed herbs
  • 100ml milk
  • 50g cheese, grated

 

And here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 220C (200 for a fan oven) and line a baking tray with grease-proof paper or baking parchment.
  • Rub together the butter and flour in a bowl.
  • Stir in the paprika
  • Add 100ml of milk and mix it in until a soft dough starts to come together.  If the dough seems too dry then add a little more milk.
  • Sprinkle some flour on your worksurface and then roll out the dough.
  • You want to roll out the dough into a rough rectangle, about half a centimetre thick.
  • Once you’ve rolled out the dough, sprinkle the grated cheese all over the top.

  • Roll the dough up along the long side, like a swiss roll.
  • Cut into 12 thick pieces.
  • Put the pinwheels on the prepared baking tray, so that you can see the spiral.
  • Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes until they’re golden brown.
  • Enjoy!

simple-cheese-pinwheel-recipe

We used a mix of mature cheddar and the Tractor Ted mild cheddar in our pinwheels, but if you want a stronger flavour then it’s best to go for just mature cheddar.

These were delicious just as they were, but my head is now full of ideas of all sorts of variations on this basic recipe.

Here are some ideas to mix things up a bit:

  • Try different types of cheese.  Gouda, edam or a flavoured cheddar would be good!
  • Sprinkle oregano or mixed herbs over the cheese before rolling it up.
  • Make pizza pinwheels by spreading the rolled out dough with tomato sauce/puree, sprinkling cheese over the top then adding some oregano before rolling it all up.
  • Spread the dough with some pesto and then sprinkle over cheese.
  • Cook up some bacon, cut it up and sprinkle the pieces over the dough with the cheese.

Have you got any more variations on this simple pinwheel recipe?  Leave me a comment if you do, I’d love to hear your ideas!

baileys-rocky-road-marshmallows

Baileys rocky road recipe

One of the things I really love about Christmas is the food and drink that you only ever seem to have at this time of year.

For me, it’s tins of Roses and Quality Streets, the biscuits from Marks and Spencer that are more chocolate than biscuit (it actually says that on the box which I think is brilliant!), my chocolate ginger bites, bacon-wrapped-cheese, mulled wine, and Baileys.

Oh I do love Baileys.  I’ve got 3 different types in the fridge at the moment. Don’t judge me!

And possibly even better than drinking it, is adding it to recipes.

Here’s one of my favourites – Baileys rocky road.

baileys-rocky-road-recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 100g condensed milk
  • 50ml Baileys
  • 25g butter
  • 75g chocolate (white, milk or dark, whatever you fancy), chopped
  • 75g digestive biscuits
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 50g raisins

baileys-rocky-road-ingredients-1

baileys-rocky-road-ingredients-2

And here’s what you do:

  1. Prepare a tin by lining it with greaseproof paper.
  2. Crush up your digestive biscuits.  Either by putting them in a bag and bashing them with a rolling pin, or by putting them in a bowl and crushing them with the end of a rolling pin.
  3. Melt the chocolate, condensed milk, Baileys and butter together.  You can do this in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, or do what I do and just gently heat it all together in a pan until it melts.  Just make sure you keep stirring it while it melts.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and let the mix cool a little bit.
  5. Stir in the crushed biscuits, chopped white chocolate, marshmallows and raisins.
  6. Press the mixture into your prepared tin.
  7. Leave it to set.
  8. Cut up and enjoy.
  9. If you want to you can melt some more white chocolate and drizzle it over the top, or dust the rocky road pieces with icing sugar to make it a bit more festive!

I made a little video showing how to make this yummy treat, if you want to check it out:

How easy is that?

And it tastes so nice.  I find it really hard to stop after just one piece of this stuff.

But that’s fine, it’s Christmas after all!

 

 

Mr and Mrs T Plus Three
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
simple all-butter scones

Simple all-butter scones

In the middle of a wet and windy week, what could be better than baking some simple all-butter scones?  Baking them with your toddler that’s what!

My husband’s been nagging me for ages to make some scones and so Nerys and I decided to spend a rainy day at home baking.

simple-all-butter-scones-recipe

I have to admit that the resulting scones aren’t quite as tall as they would normally be, but I know that’s down to a few factors, including me running out of self-raising flour and clearly not adding enough baking powder to my plain flour.

Nerys had such a great time mixing these up with me though, so I really don’t mind that the end result wasn’t perfect!

I just love baking with my children, knowing that they’re learning so much while having fun.

Simple-butter-scone-recipe

Nerys really was my little helper the whole time making these, weighing everything out with me, mixing it all together and even brushing the tops with milk at the end.

She actually surprised me with that last one, because she really was gentle with the brush rather than just squishing the scones with it which is what I kind of expected her to do!

simple-butter-scone-recipe

It was so hard to resist these when they came out of the oven, but I made myself wait till they’d cooled a little before spreading one with some butter and jam, so good!

If you’d like to have a go yourself, here’s the recipe for these simple all-butter scones:

Makes 12 scones

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 60g cold butter, cut up into small pieces
  • Pinch of salt
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 50g raisins
  • 120ml milk

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and either grease a baking tray or line it with greaseproof paper.
  2. Measure out the flour and salt and tip into a mixing bowl.  Add the cold, cut-up butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir in the sugar and raisins.
  4. Add the milk to the mixture and stir everything together.  Ever so gently knead the mixture together with your hands until you have formed a stiff dough.  Try not to handle it too much though.
  5. Gently roll out the dough until it is 2cm thick.
  6. Cut out shapes with biscuit cutters.
  7. Put the scones on the baking tray, brush them with milk and cook them for 12-15 minutes.
  8. Leave them to cool a little before tucking in!

 

One of the important factors in making great scones is using proper butter, nice and cold from the fridge, and rubbing it quickly into the flour so that it doesn’t melt too much.  When the scones bake, the butter then melts, creating steam which adds more oomph to your end result!

I think this might be another factor in why mine were a little flat, because I had so much help from Nerys the mixture was handled a little more than it should have been!  But, she had great fun and they still taste really good.

We used the newly rebranded Wyke farms butter in our scones, and then used some more to spread on top with some jam, so yummy!

wyke-farms-butter

Wyke farm have put a lot of thought into the look of their butter, and I think it looks great; it really celebrates Wyke farm’s British heritage with images of Prince the farm horse, the Somerset compass and the iconic oak tree that sits on top the hill outside the dairy at Wyke Champflower on it, as well as highlighting its credentials with the 100% Green logo and the Red Tractor stamp of assurance.

The butter looks really high quality, and the taste lives up to expectations.  It’s great to use in baking, and just perfect on warm scones with jam!

It’s been a while since we’ve had ‘proper’ butter at home and now I’m wondering why I stopped buying it!  Our poor neglected butter dish has now been retrieved from the cupboard though, and my morning toast is just so much tastier – you really can’t beat real butter can you!

 

I received some Wyke farms butter for the purposes of writing this post, but all words and opinions are my own.