Friday, December 21, 2012

Quick n'Lazy Cranberry, Raisin & Walnut Relish

For anyone who's put off from the thought of making relishes & chutneys thinking they are way too complicated, then this cranberry relish recipe is the perfect solution for you. The recipe couldn't be simpler and its an absolute piece of cake to make. This relish can be a great accompaniment to the turkey dinner Christmas Day or even nicer with those famous turkey sandwiches Christmas Night. 

I recently teamed the relish with spiced quail and cous cous and it was a marriage made in heaven. 

The relish can be made, and jarred and kept for up to a week in the fridge in a sterilized jar. I've made a batch and put them into Kilner jars and wrapped the jars as gifts for my mom and mom-in-law. I just love to make homemade gifts, it really adds a special touch I think.

To sterilize the jars, I just put them in the dishwasher on a high heat.

  • 200ml of orange juice (not from concentrate)
  • 200g of soft brown sugar
  • 500g of fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 150g of raisins
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon 
  • 100g of chopped walnuts
  • Salt & pepper

  1. Pour the orange juice and the sugar into a saucepan
  2. Stir to dissolve the sugar
  3. Put on a low heat and add the cranberries.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the majority of cranberries have popped. Don't worry if it looks too watery at this stage, the mixture thickens very quickly.
  5. Add the raisins, salt, pepper, cinnamon and ginger.
  6. Stir to combine and cook for a further minute.
  7. The add the walnuts, cook for a final minute before removing from the heat.
  8. Pour into your sterilized jars and seal.
  9. Use within a week of making.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Goats Cheese, Pecan, Cranberry &Thyme Festive Pizza

This pizza ticks all the boxes for me sweet versus tangy!! Awesome. Homemade pizza is a family all-rounder, as kids love to help making them and the toppings can be customised to suit even the fussiest of eaters. Take my house for example, my husband is afraid of veggies and for him, pizza is all about getting the most amount of meat possible on a pizza.

 I on the other hand prefer nuts and salad and rarely have meat on my pizza. Hence for my pizza, I've created a festive vegetarian friendly pizza. It has the sweetness and sharpness from the cranberries, the crunch from the pecan nuts, the salty tang from the goats cheese and I make it even sweeter then by drizzling the pizza with balsamic vinegar and honey just before serving.

Don't waste any pizza dough though when finished. As I only made two pizzas I put the remaining dough in a resealable box and popped it in the freezer. Now I know that more homemade pizzas can be at my finger tips and won't require the same dough making effort the second time round. Just defrost at room temperature until completely defrosted, Then work the dough and make your pizzas.

Basic Pizza Dough Recipe

Makes 4-5 pizzas


  • 500g of strong white flour (for bread making)
  • 1 7g sachet fast acting yeast
  • 330ml of warm water
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of salt


  1. Sieve the salt and flour into a bowl.
  2. Add the yeast and oil to the water and leave to stand for a few minutes
  3. Make a well in the flour and add the liquid.
  4. Work the dough into the liquid and kneed until you have a smooth springy dough.
  5. Dust a clean large bowl with flour, and place the dough in the bowl.
  6. Wet a tea towel and cover the bowl completely with the tea towel. Set the dough in a warm part of the kitchen for an hour to double in size.
  7. After an hour, dust some flour on your work surface and turn out the dough.
  8. Kneed for 10-15 minutes to knock out the air.
  9. When you are happy with your dough, using a knife divide the dough into equal pieces for pizzas.
  10. Using a roll pin, roll out the pizza try to maintain a neat circle if possible. (Though don't get too hung up on the perfect circle, these are homemade after all and the more rustic the better.)
  11. Place the rolled pizza dough on a floured baking tray.
  12. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
  13. At this point the pizzas are ready to be adorned with their toppings.

Goats Cheese, Pecan & Cranberry Festive Pizza


  • 1 rolled pizza dough on a floured baking tray (recipe above)
  • 2 tbsp of passata
  • 1/4 ball of buffallo mozzeralla, shredded
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme leaves
  • 50g of goats cheese,sliced
  • 50g of pecan nuts
  • 50g of fresh cranberries
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • Honey for drizzling
  • Balsamic Vinegar for drizzling 
  • Peppery rocket for garnishing


  1. Spread the passata over the dough and then scatter the pizza with the mozzeralla, goats cheese, pecans and cranberries.
  2. Scatter the thyme leaves over the pizza and drizzle with the oil.
  3. Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the base has browned.
  4. Before serving, scatter the rocket over the pizza and drizzle with some honey and balsamic vinegar.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Festive Cranberry, Pecan & Orange Muffins

It's beginning to look alot like Christmas.....

More festive baking going on in Sika Lodge today, with our ole faithful muffins, adapted to give a festive twist. They are the perfect snack when needing a break from wrapping presents and writing Christmas cards.  I especially made these for our new next door neighbours who recently moved in, as a way of introducing myself and breaking the ice, however my fear is that they will be all eaten if I don't take them over soon.

This recipe is the same basic muffin recipe as all my other muffins recipes!


·         400g Plain flour
·         150g Caster sugar
·         85g Butter
·         2 eggs
·         1 tbsp Baking powder
·         Zest of an orange
·         260ml Buttermilk
·         Salt
·         150g of fresh cranberries
·         50g of chopped of pecan nuts


1.       Sieve the flour into a bowl, along with the baking powder, salt and sugar.
2.       Melt the butter over a low heat.
3.       Zest the orange over the flour mixture
4.       Lift the flour mixture high from the bowl and let it fall between your fingers, do this maybe 10 times. This helps to lighten the flour.

5.       Beat the eggs in a jug with the buttermilk and add the melted butter once its cooled slightly.
6.       Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
7.       Add the cranberries and nuts and gently fold.
8.       Have the oven preheated to 200 degrees.
9.       Line a muffin tray with 12 paper cases and using a dessert spoon fill each case.
10.   Bake in the oven for 23-25 minutes.
11.   Remove and cool on wire rack.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dips n' Chips for Christmas Drinks

It’s the drinks party season, and when I usually have friends over for a few glasses of wine, I normally whip up some homemade dips to go with toasted pitta crisps and shop bought tortilla chips. For me once the second glass of wine is in the belly the munchies set in and the dips go down a treat.  With a mini blender they are super-fast to prepare or simply just using  a potato masher, and if you wish to be a bit more health conscious, then why not chop up a few crudités of red pepper, carrot and cucumber to use as your dipper instead of chips.

My top 5 dips for chips/crudités are:

·         Hummus
·         Guacamole
·         Refried Beans (black eye bean mash)
·         Olive Tapenade
·         Spicy Tomato Salsa

Here are a few of my favourite dip recipes, tried, tested and approved!

Refried Beans


·         1 tin of black eye beans, drained and rinsed
·         1 garlic clove, grated
·         1 red onion, finely diced
·         3 slices of jalapeno chilli
·         2 tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley
·         3 tbsp of olive oil
·         1 tbsp of cumin powder


1.       Fry the garlic and onion in a little oil and cumin powder.
2.       Add the beans and heat through.
3.       Finely chop the jalapeno slices and add to the pan
4.       Stir for a minute or two and then take off the heat.
5.       Using a potato masher, mash the mixture well, adding more oil if necessary.
6.       Stir in the parsley and season well with salt and pepper.
7.       Transfer to a serving bowl.



·         1 ripe avocado, chopped
·         ½ garlic clove, minced
·         2 spring onions, finely chopped
·         4-5 slices of  spicy jalapeno peppers (from a jar is fine)
·         Juice of a lime
·         Salt and pepper
·         1 tbsp of olive oil
·         3 tbsp of chopped coriander


1.       Add every ingredient to a bowl and stir well to incorporate the mixture well.
2.       Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

Harissa Hummus


·         1 tin of chickpeas,  drained and rinsed.
·         1 tbsp of spicy harissa paste
·         ½ tbsp. of ground cumin powder
·         3 tbsp of olive oil
·         Salt and pepper
·         ½ a garlic clove, minced
·         Zest and juice of a lemon
·         3-4 tbsp of chopped coriander


1.       Add every ingredient to a mini blender and blend until smooth.
2.       Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Cookies Decorations

It’s only the start of December but already the Christmas season has begun. The shops have been promoting Christmas for a whole month and the Christmas TV adverts are now in full swing. This has led me to put up our Christmas tree a week earlier than I normally would. Christmas just seems to give you a lift and that’s exactly what putting the tree up did for me. So much so that I got inspired to make some cookies to hang on the tree.

However I don’t expect the cookies to last, already they seem to be disappearing from the tree, and of course freshly baked cookies are irresistible. It will be an excuse to make another batch in a few days. These are great gifts to bring to friends and neighbours also, a great novelty and very thoughtful, meaning you’ll climb to the top of their Christmas list.

The cookies taste wonderful, but I must admit my artistic decorations is not my strongest point. Decorating cookies I found to be extremely challenging, however I can guarantee that they will taste great! If you have little ones, then decorating the cookies is a great way to get them involved in the baking process. It would be worth going to the store and picking up a few Christmas cookie cutters, just to make the cookies more festive. I didn’t have any at the time of making the cookies, but certainly my next attempt with involve Christmas cookie cutters and a paint brush for a more professional finish.


·         350g of plain flour, sifted
·         125g of butter, softened and cubed
·         1 tsp of bicarbonate soda
·         Pinch salt
·         1 tsp of ground cinnamon
·         175g of soft brown sugar
·         1 large free range egg, beaten
·         5 tbsp of golden syrup

To decorate

·         100g of icing sugar, mixed with a little water
·         Red food colouring
·         Icing sugar for dusting
·         50g of chocolate, melted


·         Add the flour, bicarbonate soda, salt, and cinnamon to the bowl of a food processor and mix until combined.
·         Add in the sugar and mix well.
·         Add the butter and mix until the ingredients resemble breadcrumbs.
·         Add the syrup to the beaten egg and mix to combine.
·         With the food processor on the slowest setting, add the egg/syrup mixture and incorporate into the dry ingredients.
·         Tip the dough out onto a floured surface, knead lightly to bring the dough together and wrap in cling film.
·         Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 180 degrees
·         Prepare a baking tray by lining it with baking paper.
·         When the dough has had its 15 minutes remove from the fridge and roll out to a thickness of 1cm.
·         Using a cookie cutter, stamp out the cookies and place them on the baking tray, allowing for plenty of room in between each cookie.
·         If you are intending to hang the cookies, using a skewer, insert a ting hole for the string to hang.
·         Bake in the oven for 13 minutes.
·         Allow to cool in the tray for 10 minutes on a wire rack before placing them on the wire rack individually to cool completely.

To Decorate

(Note: I’m rather crap at this part, but I’m sure the average person would fare better than me.) When in doubt dip in chocolate.

To make red icing paste, sift icing sugar into a bowl and add a few drops of water at a time. Add 4 drops of food colouring.
To decorate I used a small piping bag, its important to have thick icing paste though, so if it’s too watery add more icing sugar.

To melt the chocolate, simply break the chocolate into pieces into a bowl and microwave at 60 sec bursts, stirring in between. Then just dip the cookies into the chocolate and allow to cool.

I dusted the cookies with icing sugar, but you cool add sprinkles or edible stars or whatever you fancy. There are no rules when decorating be as adventurous or as subtle as you wish.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Choc- Chip & Orange Christmas Buns

For those of you looking to get ahead this holiday season, here’s a twist on my muffin recipe, perfect for the Christmas season ahead.
I plan on making these and bringing them to friends and neighbours houses I’ll be visiting over the Christmas holidays. Its all grand to bring a tin of Caburys Roses or a box of Lemons Season Greetings as a house gift…..but I think a home baked gift is a much more thoughtful present.

These are perfect Christmas treats for kids as they look like traditional Christmas puddings, however they don’t taste as heavy as a pudding and of course do not have any alcohol. Well, they are hardly innocent….but I can guarantee they are light & fluffy and chocolate-y!!! Perfect for little ones, and also for the kid inside all of us when it comes to Christmas.

To ensure I get them muffins perfect, I wanted to practice them now so come Christmas; I’ll be making batches in my sleep!!!! Plus if you are anything like me, you will have something on every weekend in the month of December and pulling your hair out trying to find the time to get all prepared.

If you have small little kids at home, this is a great recipe to get them involved in the kitchen, and they will love to be Chief Decorator!!!

Makes 12 muffins


·         150g Caster Sugar
·         400g Plain Flour
·         1 tbsp Baking powder
·         260ml Buttermilk
·         2 Eggs
·         Salt, pinch
·         85g Butter
·         Zest of 1 orange
·         100g of chocolate chips


·         100g White Chocolate
·         12 Raspberries


1.       Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and grease a muffin tray.
2.       In a food mixer sieve in the flour, sugar and baking powder.
3.       Add in the orange zest
4.       And mix on a low setting for 30 seconds to incorporate everything.
5.       In a jug, crack the eggs and add the buttermilk and melted butter.
6.       Whisk to combine.
7.       With the food mixer on the lowest setting, slowly add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients.
8.       With a metal spoon, stir in the chocolate chips, and your bun mixture is complete.
9.       Spoon the mixture in even quantities into the muffin tins. 
10.   Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
11.   Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing the buns to a wire rack.
12.   Melt the white chocolate in the microwave. Break up the chocolate into square and microwave on a low heat in 40 second blasts, stirring each time until you have a smooth consistency.
13.   To decorate the buns, using a teaspoon to spoon a the melted chocolate over each bun. We are not looking for neatness, in fact the more the chocolate drips down the sides the better, as this will give the appearance of icing on a Christmas pudding.
15.   Before the chocolate sets, place a raspberry in the centre of each bun.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Italian Inspired Slow Cooked Shoulder of Lamb

When holidaying in Sicily I had the good fortune one night of choosing the lamb dish on the menu in a local trattatoria, the lamb was so divine I vowed to try to recreate a similar dish when I got home. The cut was a lamb shank and the meat was so juicy and tender there was no need for a knife at all; and you just knew it had been cooking for hours.

On my trip to my butchers to buy the lamb shanks to try to recreate the dish, I was disappointed to learn that they wouldn’t have shanks this week. Being one never to give in, and one who hasn’t an atom of patience I decided to get a shoulder of lamb boned and rolled instead. I wasn’t going to let a lack of shanks scarper my plans for dinner!!

I decided to pair the lamb dish with a white bean mash instead of pasta or potatoes, much to my husbands disgust! He saw the lack of potatoes (spuds) as ludicrous. However he was singing a different tune when he tasted the bean mash. So I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. I got the inspiration for this from a Nigella Lawson episode.

I don't claim this to be an authentic Italian recipe, but this is my take on a wonderful meal I had in Sicily.

 I would add some juicy black olives to the end dish normally, but as this was a birthday dinner for the hubbie, (who hates olives) I decided to leave them out). 
So here’s how I did it, my Italian Inspired Slow Cooked Shoulder of Lamb; the perfect Sunday winter warmer!!!

Serves 4


·         1kg shoulder of lamb, boned, rolled and tied (by your butcher)
·         Olive oil
·         Salt/pepper
·         4 sprigs of rosemary
·         2 cloves of garlic, diced
·         1 white onion, chopped
·         4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into wedges
·         1 tbsp tomato puree
·         2 glasses of white wine
·         1 tin of chopped tomatoes
·         Pinch of sugar
·         2 Bay leaves

White Bean Mash


·         2 tins of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
·         ½ tsp of chopped rosemary
·         ½ a clove of garlic, minced
·         Salt & pepper
·         A knob (or 2) of butter
·         2-3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.


1.       Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
2.       Season the shoulder well with salt and pepper
3.       In a large frying pan, add the oil and sear the meat on all sides until browned
4.       Add the rosemary and toss to infuse the meat
5.       Remove the meat to a casserole dish.
6.       Deglaze the pan with the white wine and allow to bubble for a moment or two.
7.       Add the garlic, onion and tomato puree. And sauté for a few moments
8.       Add the carrots, rosemary, sugar, and tinned tomatoes.
9.       Refill the empty tomato tin with water and add this to the pan.
10.   Once the liquid has come to a boil, then pour over the lamb into the casserole dish.
11.   Cover the dish and put in the oven for 2 ½ to 3 hours.
12.   To make the mash, sauté the garlic in a little oil with the rosemary.
13.   Add the beans and warm through.
14.   Using a potato masher, mash well ( I like it chunky)
15.   Add the seasoning, butter and oil and mix well.
16.   Keep warm until needed.

I must apologise for the end dish pictures. The problem I find with slow cooked meats is it can be quite a task to make them look super pretty & attractive and plated up in a mega fancy way. This is what it is, which is a modest and delicious home cooked dish - no frills, no beauty contest winner, just seriously good meat.

*** Rest meat for min. 15-20 minutes under some tinfoil before cutting****

Monday, November 12, 2012

Blueberry Buttercream Sponge Cake

What better way to test drive my brand new Artisan Kitchen Aid mixer, than to bake a cake! I got the Kitchen Aid from my husband as a birthday present a few weeks ago, and no better start than to make his own birthday cake with the maiden voyage.

I'm new to cake baking, but with the Kitchen Aid, I have found it very easy. I've also found this recipe to be very adaptable......I made a Strawberry Buttercream Sponge Cake for my mother's birthday a few months ago, using the same recipe just substituting the strawberries for blueberries and using whipped cream and strawberry jam as the filling instead of the buttercream icing, as I have here.

Basic Sponge Recipe


  • 175g of caster sugar
  • 175g of butter
  • 175g of flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and butter 2 round cake tins (20cms diameter)
  2. In a food mixer, add the butter. 
  3. Soften the butter by turning on the mixer to the lowest setting. Add the sugar gradually whilst the mixer is going, until all the sugar and butter are fully incorporated.
  4. Whilst the mixer is still going add the eggs one by one, allowing to each egg to be mixed in, add the vanilla extract also
  5. Sieve the baking powder and the flour into the mixer and just mix until incorporated.
  6. Divide the mixture equally between the two cake tins.
  7. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes before allowing to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Blueberry Buttercream Frosting

  • 150g of butter, softened
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 50g of blueberries, blitzed
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp of blue food colouring

  1. In a food mixer, completely blend the butter and while the mixer is on its very lowest setting, add the icing sugar a little at a time allowing each scoop to be incorporated into the butter before adding the next scoop.
  2. Add the blueberry puree and vanilla extract and mix into the buttercream.
  3. Finally add the food colouring and give a final mix to blend everything together.

Assembling the Cake

  • 20-30 blueberries to decorate required

  1. Place one sponge on a cake stand or plate
  2. Using a spatula, smooth on a layer of buttercream, and spread evenly.
  3. Top with the other sponge, and spread the top with another layer of buttercream.
  4. Using a warm spatula, spread the buttercream around the sides and even and smooth it out.
  5. To decorate the cake, place a line of blueberries around the edge of the cake. You may wish to repeat this with many smaller circles into the centre of the cake, however I just used a simple love heart design as the cake was for my husband.(and I ran out of blueberries)


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