Saturday, 3 March 2012

Easy weekend baking: Rock Cakes

Ages ago, I bought myself a Kenwood mixer, promising myself I would use it. To this day, it's been used a grand total of four times. This shocking behaviour will change as I have now made it my mission to bake every weekend, realising that it doesn't have to be complicated and fussy with me standing over the oven all day, but rather quick easy and with scrumptious results. By the end of the year, I'm hoping my mixer will be begging for mercy.

Nothing is easier than rock cakes. These little beauties take no time at all, fill the kitchen with wondrous smells and may even get your kids to eat fruit.

Ingredients                      Makes 12. Time taken: 30 minutes

225g self raising flour
75g caster sugar
100g butter-cold and cubed
125g mixed fruit
50g glacé cherries
1 med egg
2 tbs milk
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp vanilla essence


Heat oven to 180° and line baking tray with parchment paper

Mix the butter and flour together till they resemble a fine breadcrumb mix. Add the sugar, then quarter the cherries and add them along with the mixed fruit stirring well to integrate them.
Beat the egg and milk together and add to the mix. Add essence and spice and stir well until mixture gets 'gloopy'. It should be at a state where if you hold a spoonful upside down it doesn't drop.

Take a large heaped tablespoon full of mixture and drop it onto the baking tray. Make sure you leave enough room for the mix to spread while baking.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until browning nicely. Remove and sprinkle with demerara sugar while warm.

Make large cup of tea, sit and enjoy.

K x

Thursday, 1 March 2012

'Crispy' Chicken Casserole

'Crispy Chicken Casserole'

'Crispy Chicken Casserole'

One of those dinners that never fails with kids, is the 'throw it in the dish, cover it in a sauce and top with cheese' dish. And if you top it with crisps to give it that 'naughty' touch, it's unbeatable.

I've been adapting this over the last two years since I found it in a recipe book I was given for a Mother's day pressie. It's almost unidentifiable from the original now, which I feel is how home cooking should be: see an idea, try it and then play with it till it's right for you.

I usually separate this into two dishes and then the adults and 'bigger' kids can have the spicier cheese while the smaller members of the family have the mild topping. This dish works really well if you want (or need for dietary reasons) different versions for different tastes.


6-8 skinless chicken breasts                                 2 tsp dry mixed herbs   
4 large peppers various colours                            Juice of one lemon
3-4 med sticks celery                                           1 clove garlic, minced
1 lge onion                                                           rapeseed oil
1 lge courgette                                                     white wine vinegar
4 tins condensed chicken soup                             Worcestershire sauce
3 heaped tbsp mayonnaise                                   Hot sauce
1 tsp chilli flakes/piri-piri seasoning/chipolte seasoning
kosher/flaked salt and ground black pepper
large bags of high quality crisps
mild grated cheese or a spicy mix if available

Serves 8-10

In a splash of oil brown the chicken on a med-high heat. Dice onion and celery into sml pieces. When the chicken has started to brown, sprinkle on a third of chilli based seasoning and season with salt and pepper. After a few minutes turn the chicken. Chop the peppers and courgettes into pieces about twice the size of the onion and celery mix. When the chicken has started to crisp remove from the pan and leave to rest. (Don't drain on kitchen towels as the juices are needed later)

De-glaze the pan with a splash of white wine vinegar and add the garlic, onion and celery and soften, stirring occasionally to stop the garlic from catching and the onions from browning. When the mix has started to get that transparent look, add in the peppers and courgettes. Cover, and let soften for about 5 minutes.

While the veg is softening, chop the chicken into 1" cubes. Don't worry if still pink at this point as the chicken will cook when added back to pan). Add to the pan and stir through and pour over the 'resting' juices. Now add the remaining seasoning and more black pepper to taste. Let cook through for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat off underneath and leave to cool slightly before adding the soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and dashes of Worcestershire and Hot sauces.

Distribute the sauce evenly into chosen dishes. Crush the crisps* in their bags, add half the cheese to the bag and shake to mix. Sprinkle the crisp and cheese mix over the sauce. Add more cheese at this point if you like it really gooey and calories aren't an issue. Place in the oven at 180°  for ten minutes or under the grill if you prefer, until the top is bubbling and the cheese melted. Be careful not to let the crisps catch and burn.

Serve with plain rice or a salad and enjoy.


*Any flavour of crisps is fine, but the I find the best are either onion based or any brand of spicy chicken. Like the cheese, it's all a matter of personal taste and using what's out there.