Butterbean and Beetroot Hummus with Pita Chips

We much prefer a starter to a desert (though frequently have all three courses). This is a quick, easy and impressive starter if served in individual ramekins, a tasty lunch or a buffet/mezze style starter.  Hummus is everywhere at the moment, on restaurant and bar menus, we put a spin on it with butter beans rather than chick peas as the main ingredient.

Ingredients

  • 1 tin of Butterbans
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Beetroot
  • Garlic oil
  • Fresh chives
  • Granary pita breads
  • Garlic oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Drain the butterbeans, but leave a little excess liquid in the can
  2. Empty into a food processor
  3. Add two cloves of garlic and start the food processor
  4. After about thirty seconds, start adding the garlic oil until the mixture becomes thick and smooth
  5. Add the chives so that there is a smattering of green in your mix
  6. Keep whizzing until the mix is smooth and not too watery – just like the consistency of hummus!
  7. Chop the beetroot into small chunks and then fold into the mix. Fold gently – do not stir madly as you do not want the Beetroot to completely mix with  the butterbeans
  8. Decanter into a serving bowl or ramekins and then straight to the table, or to keep in the fridge for a day or two
  1. Cut the pita chips into little squares / triangles / whatever shapes you want, but make sure you separate the two sides. You should also remove any pappy soft clumps that might be in the middle.
  2. Arrange these on a baking tray evenly and cover (or spray) with your oil and then season to taste. Salt and pepper work a treat, but you might want to be a bit more adventurous. Bake at 170°C until chip-like (about 15 – 20 minutes)

This is a great cheap and easy starter that is bound to impress with its festive colours, rich textures and soft flavours.

Tomato Soup

So if like us you are feeling a bit distressed that the weather has taken a turn for the worse, then perhaps some tomato soup could warm you up. Tomato soup holds memories for me of being of school sick as a teenager, now I love how quick, easy and nutritious a bowl of homemade tomato soup is…

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 jar of passata or 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh basil
  • 350ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Chop and fry your onion in olive oil until soft and slightly brown, add chopped garlic
  2. Add your chopped carrot and celery and fry all together until soft, add water if it gets too dry
  3. Once this is softened, add your passata or chopped tomatoes, season with salt and pepper
  4. Add vegetable stock and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, add some fresh basil
  5.  Whizz the soup and it is ready to eat, if it seems a little too thick, add some more water
  6. Season with salt and pepper, sometimes I even ass a little pesto. Ideally serve with homemade bread!

Sticky Toffee Cupcakes

If you love Sticky Toffee Pudding then these cupcakes will be just your thing. They are deeply satisfying and any caramel lover will adore them.

Ingredients

  • 200g pitted dates, chopped
  • 180ml boiling water
  • 80g butter
  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 180g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 1tbsp caramel (Carnation Caramel or Dulce De Leche)

And then for the frosting

  • 160g butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 50ml whole milk
  • 100g caramel
  • Mini fudge to decorate

Method

  1. Put the chopped dates in a bowl with the boiling water and leave to soak for 30 minutes
  2. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line your muffin tin, this makes around 14 cupcakes
  3. Beat the butter and sugar and then add the eggs one at a time and beat
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and vanilla essence
  5. Pour in the date and water mixture
  6. Beat until smooth and add a tablespoon of caramel
  7. Fill your cake cases and bake for 20 minutes
  8. Allow to cool whilst you make your frosting
  9. Beat your butter and icing sugar, add the milk and then the caramel and beat until smooth and icing like
  10. Spread on to your cakes and decorate with mini fudge pieces
  11. Eat and enjoy comments from your friends/colleagues

Azerbaijani Chicken Plov

We do love The Eurovision Song Contest every year, and this usually involves watching the event with friends and copious amounts of food and drink inspired by the participating countries.

As we were hosting this year, I made the national dish of 2012 hosts of The Eurovision Song Contest, Azerbaijan.

A staple of the people of Azerbaijan is Plov, a sort of paella with a very different method of cooking. I went with the Chicken variety, but Lamb is probably more popular in the restaurants of Baku.

Ingredients

  • 500g Chicken thighs
  • 500g Long grain rice
  • 150 – 200ml vegetable oil
  • 500g carrots
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 hot chillies

Method

  • Before you start, soak the rice in water and it will have lost most of its starchy-ness by the time it is needed.
  1. Fry the chicken thighs in the vegetable oil until they start to brown
  2. Cut the onions into rings and add to the pan and cook until these brown too
  3. Cut the carrots into little crudité shapes and add them to the pan and keep cooking on a high heat until the carrots start to soften and brown slightly
  4. Add half a tablespoon of cumin and stir well
  5. Cover the mixture with hot water and leave to simmer until most of the water is absorbed
  6. Drain the rice and pour in over the mix to cover it completely DO NOT STIR!!!
  7. Add more hot water so that the rice is submerged and still refrain from stirring and salt well
  8. Keep the gas high and add more water if necessary
  9. When all the water is absorbed and the rice is still slightly al dente, place on a low heat and steam for about 20 minutes. Place the whole chillies and garlic head in the rice layer while it all steams.
  10. Remove the chillies and garlic and stir the mixture
  11. Allow to rest for a minute or two before piling high on a serving plate and adding the chillies and garlic back to the pile for that final touch
Delicious hot or cold, Sizin ərzaq zövq alın!

Jammie Dodger Cakes

These little cakes are perfect for any upcoming Jubilee plans you may have, they look very  British. Sainsbury’s also have cupcake cases with the Union Jack flag on for some extra Jubilee glitz. Inspired by something I saw on sale on Fortnum and Mason, this recipe was free styled.

Ingredients

  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 200 self raising flour
  • Half a teaspon of baking powder
  • Jar of Strawberry or Raspberry Jam
  • Mini Jammie dodgers
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 160g butter for icing
  • Splash of milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees
  2. Cream the butter and sugar and then add the eggs one at a time and beat
  3. Add the flour and baking powder and beat well
  4. Add a few teaspoons of jam into the cake mix
  5. Add a splash of milk if the mix seems to stodgy
  6. Now spoon some cake mix into your cake cases
  7. On top of that spoon a teaspoon of jam and then put more cake mix on top
  8. Bake for around 15-20 minutes or until golden brown
  9. One the cakes have cooled, on to the icing! Beat the icing sugar and butter, add some milk if needed, add some strawberry jam to give it a lovely pink colour
  10. Pipe or spread your icing on your cakes and decorate with a jammie dodger!

Hazelnut Praline Cakes

This is another Hummingbird Bakery  inspired recipe, I would recommend the ‘Cake Days’ cookbook again to any keen baker, it has become my baking bible. These bad boys are great for Nutella lovers!

Ingredients

  • 300g plain flour
  • 145g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 large eggs
  • 85g melted butter
  • 150g chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella)
  • 30g chopped hazelnuts

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees and line a cake bun tin with cases, this recipe makes around 10-12 muffins
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, 115g of the caster sugar and baking powder
  3. In a jug break the 2 eggs, add the whole milk and vanilla essence and beat until mixed
  4. Melt the butter, I used the microwave on a low heat
  5. Add the wet and dry ingredients together (so now in a bowl you have the flour/sugar mix, butter, milk and eggs)
  6. Beat in the hazelnut spread, the mixture should become smooth
  7. Spoon the cake mix into the cases
  8. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts and caster sugar on top of the cakes
  9. Bake for 25 minutes or until the muffins bounce back when pressed

I have to admit that I ended up smearing more Nutella on these muffins when eating them, yes I am very gluttonous!

Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes

This recipe comes with inspiration from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and has become a household favourite of ours. Funnily enough these go really well with a cup of earl grey tea!

Ingredients for the sponge

  • 3 earl grey teabags
  • 3tbsp just boiled water
  • 80g butter
  • 240g plain flour
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200ml whole milk

Ingredients for the earl grey frosting

  • 50ml whole milk
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 160g butter

Method

  1. Pour 3tbsp of just boiled water on top of the three earl grey teabags and leave to brew in a cup
  2. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees
  3. Mix the butter, sugar, flour and baking powder together until it looks like breadcrumbs
  4. Beat the milk and eggs together in a jug and then pour this into the breadcrumb like mixture and beat well
  5. Add the earl grey tea mixture. Keep the earl grey tea bags in the cup and add the whole milk for the frosting
  6. Once the cake batter is smooth, fill your cupcake cases. The recipe makes around 12-16 cupcakes
  7. Bake for around 20 minutes
  8. Once cooled make your icing by beating the butter, icing sugar and the earl grey milk mixture
  9. Ice your cakes and eat them, they are both interesting and delicious