I got into a discussion on Twitter the other night about how to balance the need to rustle up tasty home-cooked food when you’re short of time. I don’t believe that dashing about like a mad thing after a long day at work is the answer, so I’ve decided to make this blog post a collection of Top Tips to help you get the food you want without the rush. I’m going to concentrate on evening meals, when everyone needs to be fed quickly and properly. That being said, this will be a blog post with almost no recipes. Suggestions, guides, places to look for inspiration and help in the organisation, yes – but no actual recipes as such. What is favourite in my house might not suit everyone, but you can make timesaving versions of your own family favourites with some help from these guidelines.
I chose to name the blog Time To Cook for the many ways that those three words can be interpreted. It is a line in the sand. It is time to cook – not to press a button and zap a plastic covered atrocity in the microwave. Time to cook for yourself – because ready meals and junk food are either hideously expensive or packed full of artificial colours/flavours and frequently both. Cooking takes time, but with just a little forethought, that time doesn’t have to be intrusive or all-consuming. Also, cooking for yourself is a life skill – right up there with swimming in my opinion, and should be encouraged for all. Make time to cook and it will become a joy, because you will hve used your time well to feed loved ones the food they deserve.
Planning ahead is the key to stress-free evening meals.
- Decide in advance what you’re going to be eating and when.
- Cook meals in advance, so all that you need to do when you get in is heat them up.
- Do as much preparation as you can beforehand.
If you’re lucky enough to have a freezer, then this will make planning and organising meals so much easier.
- Deliberately make extra, with the intention to freeze some later.
- Cook specifically to freeze.
When freezing food, you need to decide whether to freeze individual portions or whether to freeze family-sized portions. Smaller portions thaw more quickly, and you can use as many or as few portions as you require, depending on circumstances. Great for unexpected or last minute guests!
I tend to be a ‘deliberately make extra’ person, so we eat some and freeze the rest, but that is because I don’t go out to work. Your own circumstances will dictate whether this approach is workable, or whether you feel happier cooking specifically to freeze.
There are certain dishes that are almost tailor made for preparing ahead. Most curries develop a much richer flavour if made one or even two days before and kept in the fridge or frozen. Sometimes one item can be used for a number of different dishes. Here are some examples:
Can be made into a big batch of tomato-based meat sauce (go full Bolognese if you like, or keep it more vague for maximum versatility), which can then be used over pasta, or made into lasagne, cottage pie, chilli, pasta bake, turnovers, pasties or pies or stuffed into vegetables. Meatballs in gravy is another speedy freezer-to-table option.
For a lot of chicken recipes, the first thing you’re instructed to do is to cook the meat, so I tend to cook whole chickens, strip the meat from the bones and portion it up into meal-sized quantities, and freeze. This gives you a head start when making it up into a meal. Add a sauce, either a plain white sauce or a veloute (half milk, half stock) and you’ve got the basis for a chicken pie (add some cooked vegetables and a pastry lid) or chicken with mushroom sauce to serve over pasta, or with a baked potato, or with rice, or with some sweetcorn, a wonderfully thick and creamy chowder. I cook the chicken (or chickens if there’s a special offer on) either in the slow cooker (see below) or in the oven. Mary-Anne’s oven roast chicken recipe: Put chicken(s) in roasting pan, cover with foil, put in oven at 120C for 6 hours. That’s it. The foil covering means the chicken stays moist and becomes fall-apart tender and the no fussing around with herbs or flavourings means the cooked chicken is deliciously chicken-y and can then be used for a wide variety of dishes. There’s even enough chicken juices to make gravy.
Pork, lamb, beef: All ideal for long slow-cooked dishes such as stew, tagine, curry, goulash, stroganoff: make extra into pies & turnovers.
Sausages and bacon
Can be made into casserole, cowboy hot pot, pie, ragu, breakfast casserole for supper, sausage gravy on baked potatoes
Remains of Sunday roast, or any other large joint of cooked meat.
Trim all fat and gristle. Cut down into bite sized portions and freeze separately on a tray, then bag – the individual cubes thaw quickly and you can grab just what you need. OR pour over the remains of the gravy to make a ready pie filling to be topped with mashed potato or covered with pastry that will be ready in 25-30 minutes.
You can make these specifically or use extra left from a meal: wrap individual slices in foil and freeze – no need to unwrap, just put in hot oven as is to defrost/heat up.
If it’s hearty enough, a soup can be a meal in itself. If you think it’s a little too light, add salad & bread. Or make toasty cheese sandwiches for dipping.
Make it both customisable and fun by having a range of toppings to hand so that everyone can garnish their bowl to their own taste:
Baked Potato Soup is great for this DIY approach, but it works with other types of soup too. Here are some suggestions of things that can be added:
- Grated cheese
- crumbled cooked bacon
- croutons – cube stale bread and bake dry, or lightly fry in oil or herb butter.
- Chopped herbs such as – parsley, coriander, mint, rosemary, chives, pepper flakes.
- sour cream, crème fraiche, yoghurt.
- mini pasta shapes, egg noodles, spaghetti, gnocci.
- mini meatballs – make sure they’re fully cooked before using: beef is fab in tomato soup, turkey/chicken in vegetable-based soups, remove the skin from sausages and roll the meat into mini balls.
- croutons baked from pastry offcuts,
Other meal-in-a-bowl soups include:
- Bacon and beans
- Leek and potato
If you’ve got a slow cooker, then it is almost priceless in terms of having a hot meal ready for you when you get in.
The obvious dishes that spring to mind are stews, casseroles (I’m never quite sure what the difference is between those two!), curries, goulash, tagines – but they are also great at cooking large joints of meat including whole chickens
Whole chicken in a slow cooker: Put 1 onion cut in half, 2 sticks of celery and 3 carrots in the bottom of your slow cooker and put the chicken on top. Put the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours. There is enough liquid in the vegetables and the chicken to keep everything moist. The chicken will be fall-apart tender. The skin will be a little pale, but we don’t eat that anyway and I always ‘dismantle’ the chicken and put the meat onto a dish to serve.
Baked Potatoes in a slow cooker: Rub each potato with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt. Wrap potatoes in foil. Cover; cook on Low 8-10 hours (High: 2 1/2 to 4 hours).
- ‘baked’ in the microwave – no crispy skin, but done in 10 minutes. Downside is that the more you cook, the longer it takes. Still quicker than an hour in the oven, though.
- Slow cooker baked potatoes – also no crispy skin but can cook during the day.
- Quick potato gratin
- Boulangere potatoes – like the above recipe, but with stock and sliced onions instead of milk.
- Mashed potatoes
- Potato cakes – like fishcakes but with seasoned mashed potato, crumbed and baked/fried
- cook and freeze in individual portions
- oven baked risotto
- Noodles and Rice – fabulously tasty, great ‘shelf life’ in the fridge and reheats beautifully in the microwave
- Cook and freeze or cook and store in the fridge overnight (must be covered to prevent drying out). Drop into hot water or microwave to thaw/heat. Mix with sauce before freezing to have a 1 dish meal all ready to go.
There are several approaches to vegetables to help with cutting down meal delivery times. Don’t think you have to chain yourself to the kitchen sink till the wee small hours preparing vegetables – turn the radio on (Radio 4 Extra has a great selection of comedies and dramas) have a seat at the table and be entertained while you work. Alternatively, take a leaf out of my mother-in-law’s book, take your bowl through to the sitting room and watch your favourite tv show – then peel/chop etc while the adverts are on. You’d be amazed how quickly it gets done!
- Wash/sort/trim the night before & leave ready to chop/slice when you get in
- Peel/chop/dice the vegetables the night before, or first thing in the morning, depending on your schedule. Store in ziplock bags in the fridge.
- Wash/peel/slice root vegetables and potatoes and keep them in bowls, covered in cold water.
- Prepare and slightly undercook vegetables the night before. In order to keep their bright, fresh colour you MUST plunge them into very cold water once done in order to stop the cooking process. When cold, bag and store in the fridge. A quick blast in the microwave will heat them up when required.
- Prepare, cook, season and mash potatoes and root vegetables the night before. Store in the fridge.
- Peas, sweetcorn, broad beans – all are prepared and frozen within hours of being harvested. Their flavour and tenderness is excellent and all cook in just minutes in boiling water.
Top Tip: I have a rather battered but still useful steamer saucepan set – a regular saucepan with two ‘colander’ saucepans that stack on top. It is great for cooking all your potatoes/vegetables in one. I put potatoes in the bottom with the water and cook the vegetables in the top two pans – usually root vegetables in the middle pan and green vegetables (that need less cooking) in the top pan. You can easily remove the pans with the vegetables in when they are done. Helps keep steam levels in the kitchen down too! I highly recommend getting a set of these pans if at all possible.
- Wash/sort/trim the night before/early morning & leave ready to chop/slice when you get in.
- Leaves should be wiped free of dust/dirt with just a damp cloth – dunking in water will make them sad and soggy.
Pasta with basil pesto was one of the first things my daughter ate after she moved onto solid foods – one day she just helped herself from my plate – although she now prefers sun dried tomato or red pepper. Throw in some sweetcorn and peas, a few shreds of chicken or ham, a sprinkling of cheese and it’s a superfast meal in minutes.
Fantastic for whipping up something quick.
Scrambled egg with salmon bits, tuna, any cooked fish – or spice things up with chorizo or Italian spiced sausage
Omelettes either plain or with fillings such as ham, cheese, bacon, cooked sausage, chorizo, salmon, herbs, vegetables
Frittata Basically, a more substantial omelette or a quiche without pastry. Great for using up all those little bits of cheese, vegetables, herbs, meat and fish from the fridge which, on their own, don’t amount to much. Chop, slice and lightly fry any vegetables, toss in any ham/bacon/fish, whisk and season some eggs and pour over, sprinkle with grated cheese/herbs and either cook over a low heat or bake in the oven until the eggs are set.
Breakfast Casserole – breakfast for supper! Prepare in the morning & then bake at night – takes an hour to bake, but there’s no mad dash round the kitchen.
Mini Quiches – Line a cupcake tin with shortcrust pastry and drop in any suitable fillings – ham/cheese, diced and cooked vegetables, salmon trimmings, cooked sausage. Whisk some eggs, season them and pour over the fillings. Bake for 15 minutes at 180C Fan.
You can taste the time taken in cooking – the richness of caramelised onions, slow-roasted vegetables and gravy made from slow-cooked meat juices. So having these to hand means you can create the wonderful depth of flavour of a meal long in the making – in just a matter of moments. Save and freeze whatever you have extra, or when you have the time, make batches and freeze in small portions – ice cube trays for example – then bag the frozen cubes for later use. The small size means they de-frost quicker.
Food building blocks suggestions
- Grated Pecorino/Parmesan cheese in the fridge – a little goes a long way and having it ready grated is a real time saver.
- Tomato Sauce – useful for sauces, soups, pizzas
- Unmixed pastry – Just flour with the fat rubbed in to breadcrumb size. It can be used as is for pastry (just add water), or add sugar and oats for a crunchy crumble topping.
- stewed/cooked fruit
- breadcrumbs – for toppings on pasta bakes, macaroni cheese etc and for thickening casseroles that are a bit watery.
- chopped sautee’d veggies – Great time-saver. I use the same basic formula to jump start batches of soups/sauces/stews/casseroles, but it can also be varied according to season and preference. Also fab for sneaking in extra vegetable content to soups and sauces. Just remember 1, 2, 3, 4 – 1 onion, 2 carrots, 3 celery sticks, 4 cloves of garlic. Whizz everything in the food processor (or chop finely by hand) and tip into a large pan with 2tbs oil. Cook over gentle heat until you no-longer see steam rising from the pan – this means that all the water has evaporated and all that is left is concentrated, delicious flavour. Cool, then pack into ice cube trays and freeze, decant into a large freezer bag when frozen. Other vegetables to include or swap in: parsnips, swede, turnip, courgette, aubergine, leeks, parsley, sprouts, cabbage,
- caramelised onions
- stock – I find 300ml (1/2 pint) batches the most useful size
- grated cheese – freezing makes cheese crumbly, and having it grated means it’s not too noticable. Freezing also alters the texture of the low fat cheeses like Edam, which makes them a bit more palatable – improves the flavour too. If you find your frozen grated cheese has stuck together in a lump, just give the bag a couple of whacks on the counter top to loosen it up.
Where to find recipes
The internet is your friend – use it to find recipes that can be scaled up easily
The following sites are searchable collections of recipes. The bonus is that the recipes are rated by the people who make them – no need to fret over whether an untried recipe is good or not, when in doubt, do what I do and go for the most popular version!
Not quite as wide ranging, but still good and with rated recipes is
The following two recipe sites are great if you’re seeking inspiration – gorgeous photography from the people who make the dishes themselves. The recipes aren’t rated, so in effect, you’re just going by the photo/blog post – but there are options to see the most popular submissions of the week/month/all-time, which helps.
How to make this happen
Organisation and preparation are the two main factors in getting good food to table quickly. All of the above might seem daunting, but here’s a suggestion on how to go about making a start.
Making a start
- Download the meal planner chart and print off 2 copies: Meal Planner
- Fill in the month and number the days with the correct dates. Do this for the following month as well, so you can still be planning ahead as the month draws to a close:
- Investigate what you currently have in your fridge/freezer and if you already have some meals, pick a day when you’re going to serve them and write them onto the planner. Start with the current week, but there’s no need to cram everything onto the planner as soon as possible. Just having made the decision on what to have on a particular day will eliminate a lot of stress and help focus your mind on that particular day.
- If there are any odds and ends that won’t make a meal in themselves, add them to the ‘Freezer Extras’ section. It’ll act as a reminder to plan something that will use them up.
- Stick the planner on your fridge/freezer where it’s easily seen.
Filling the gaps
Now decide how you’re going to fill in the gaps.These are examples only – choose what your family likes.
- Pick a family favourite to make a large batch e.g. Bolognese sauce.
- Decide how many batches you’re going to make (e.g. I would make 4, because I have some large saucepans) and write them in on the planner. A double batch of a regular recipe is probably easier. If you don’t want to eat it every week, then write it in every other week – this is where having the second month already printed out comes in handy.
- Make the planned batch. I’d put 2 portions in the freezer and make 2 portions into lasagne. Don’t forget to label clearly.
- Repeat until most gaps are filled in.
- Write in the side dishes (potatoes/vegetables/salad) so that you know what to set aside/defrost when doing prep work.
If you’ve got the time/energy/inclination, you can have one massive cooking session over a weekend and get a huge number of meals prepared in one go. This might be too exhausting, so take things gradually. Your fridge/freezer stock-take will hopefully have given you a bit of breathing space in order to get some meals into the freezer. While you’re pondering, boil some rice and/or cook some pasta for the freezer. Caramelise some onions – it’ll take about 45 minutes with occasional stirring – the smell is amazing.
Suggested meals and their follow-ups.
- Roast chicken (oven or slow cooker) -> Chicken and ham pie/ chicken in mushroom sauce/Chicken Divan/ chicken fried rice/Chicken and Corn chowder.
- Beef joint -> cottage pie/beef and mushroom pie(top crust only)/turnovers and pasties/Beef fried rice.
- Lamb joint ->shepherd’s pie/lamb pasties/lamb risotto/curry
- Pork Joint ->pork turnovers & pasties/pie with gravy/pork fried rice
More suggestions for filling in the week’s suppers. As you can see, each ‘theme’ can be interpreted a number of ways, which keeps the family thinking you’re eating something different each night. Together with the above suggestions, there’s more than enough to ring the changes for a whole month. If something comes up and you don’t eat what has been planned (spontaneous take-away/meal out – I’ve heard they do sometimes happen in the magical land of NotInThisHousia), be sure to re-write the meal in on the planner for a later date:
1. Mince – in gravy, as a pasta sauce, dry curry, meatballs in sauce or gravy
2. Eggs – frittata, omelettes, mini quiches, scotch eggs, breakfast casserole
3. Fish – baked/fish pie/fishcakes (made with extra cooked potato)
4. Sausages/fish fingers/burgers – grilled, casserole, gravy
5. Cauliflower cheese/macaroni cheese/oven baked risotto
6. Home-made Takeaway: pizza/curry/stirfry/chicken nuggets
7. Meal-In-A-Bowl Soup with DIY toppings and/or toasty sandwiches
There’s bound to be errors and mistakes, things that need some extra explaining, so PLEASE leave a comment – helpful suggestions too! This is going to be very much a work in progress, and it will only get better if you tell me where I’ve messed up.
Hope this helps! M-A :D
Remember that tutorial I put together for Choux Pastry?
Well here’s a yum idea for taking things a little further than chocolate profiteroles – cheesey, savoury Gougères!
You can pipe them or, as I prefer, just use a couple of teaspoons to roughly shape a ball of dough. They can be enjoyed as is – the addition of the cheese makes for a more substantial filling that the sweet variety, or, as I’ve done here, glamoured them up with the addition of puff pastry and a deliciously savoury cheese filling.
I shamelessly stole the puff pastry idea from a clip I saw on the Food Channel – the ones I saw were for sweet cream puffs, but they work just as deliciously with the savoury ones as well. Simply cut out small(8cm) squares of puff pastry and then pipe/spoon a walnut-sized blob of choux pastry into the centre. Fold the four corners into the middle, around the choux pastry, and bake as normal. The puff pastry forms a crisp, flaky cup into which the choux dough expands and makes for an awesome added texture that contrasts so well with the cooked choux.
Serving suggestions: With the puff pastry or without, with a filling or without, with both filling AND pastry, or without either. Absolutely up to you.
1 batch of Choux Pastry from here, up to the point where ‘dropping consistency’ has been achieved, then:
80g Gruyere cheese, grated 
1 tsp dry yellow mustard powder
salt and pepper
- Add the cheese, mustard, salt and pepper to the choux dough and stir well to combine.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan
- Roll out – or if you’ve got ready rolled pastry, then unroll – the puff pastry and divide it into squares of about 8cm. The pastry should be about 4-5mm thick.
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, then lay out the pieces of puff pastry. Make sure there is about 3cm between each piece to allow for the pastry puffing up during cooking.
- Using 2 teaspoons ( or a piping bag with a 1cm plain tip if you prefer), place walnut-sized blobs of the cheesy choux dough in the middle of each piece of puff pastry.
- Fold the four corners of the pastry squares inwards, towards the blob of choux paste, until they almost meet in the middle.
- Brush the outsides with beaten egg white and sprinkle with additional cheese if liked.
- If you run out of pastry squares, just spoon the extra choux onto the baking paper and cook them as regular gougeres.
- Cook each tray at 200°C, 180°C Fan oven for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 175°C, 155°C Fan to continue baking/drying for 20 minutes more. NO PEEKING! If you open the door to check their progress, you let out all the heat which means no steam which means no puffing up.
- Check for done-ness at 25 minutes (10 mins + 15 mins). These choux buns will be a DEEP golden brown when done, and the puff pastry puffed, flakey and golden. If you’re not sure, remove just ONE bun and cut it open and see for yourself.
- Immediately poke a hole in each choux puff to let out the steam and help prevent them deflating as they cool.
- The choux will keep in an airtight box for a couple of days – ‘refresh’ them in a 100°C, 80°C Fan oven for 10-15 minutes to crisp them up again before eating.
You can serve the gougères immediately, still warm from the oven, or you can add a filling. Here are a couple that I particularly like, one warm, one cold. Use a piping bag with a long nozzle to add the filling, or slice off a lid and just spoon it in.
Cold fillings: Beat some cream cheese with a little creme fraiche and add some coarsley grated black pepper and some fresh herbs – I used lemon thyme in the photo at the top of the page. Alternatively, you could stir in some finely chopped ham instead of the herbs. The contrast of the warm, crisp pastry and the chilled filling is delicious.
Warm fillings: A thick cheese ‘custard’ completes the cheesy experience of each puff – great for indulgent, gourmet snacking!
30g plain flour
50g Parmesan cheese – grated
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp dry yellow mustard powder
- Whisk all the ingredients together and bring to a simmer, whisking continuously.
- Simmer for 1 minute to ‘cook out’ the flour.
- If the mixture seems a little thick, add a little more milk and stir thoroughly.
Sweet Version – see pic below
Proceed as above without adding any cheese/seasoning and spoon/pipe the plain choux onto the puff pastry squares.
Fill each cooked puff with creme patissière and finish with a dusting of icing sugar.
 Gruyere cheese has a lovely strong, nutty flavour and also melts really easily. You can use any strongly flavoured cheese that you like though – if you’re using hard Italian cheese (parmesan, grana padano etc), then use just 50g.
 Top Tip: The taste of anything cheesy can be improved by the addition of a little dry mustard powder. In the UK, the most familiar brand is made by Colman’s and is sold in an iconic bright yellow tin. The quantity isn’t enough to overpower, but the spiciness adds a subtle piquancy that sets off the cheese flavour beautifully.
 Feel free to make your own, but to be honest, for this recipe I used ready made. Also, the strong cheese flavour of the gougères means you can get away with buying the cheaper type of puff pastry – as opposed to the ‘all butter’ type – *gasp* I know, right? Sacrilege! If you’re going to make the sweet version cream puff, then my recommendation would be that you don’t scrimp – use the all-butter puff pastry. The ready rolled packs are a great time-saver.
There’s been a lot of traffic to the blog lately for Apple Rose Tarts – not sure whether it’s been the return to our screens of The Great British Bake Off or what, but it just goes to show that people like pretty things to bake.
So that got me thinking about how I could put a twist on the prettiness of the tarts but in another form
and shamelessly cash in on their popularity.
I’m a big fan of buns – buns don’t get half as much press as they should, in my opinion: more robust than a cupcake, less sugary sweet and much more satisfying. However, they can all too easily tip over into heavy, claggy lumps of stodge, thick with stickiness – which becomes a logistical nightmare to try and eat.
Playing with food is always fun – partly, I’m convinced, because it is so frowned upon. Diving into Pullapart Loaves, Bubble Bread, Monkey Bread, Tear and Share, Cinnamon Buns or Chelsea Buns – to name but a few – and pulling out a handful of warm, pillowy dough is not only delicious fun, but carries that little frisson of excitement of doing something a little bit NORTY. Still not too pretty a sight, though.
Here, then, is my solution – buns with all the fun of a pullapart, but still delicate and pretty. Soft petals of sweet bun dough gently folded around each other, interleaved with a sprinkling of tangy, lemony sugar and butter.
If you’re prone to the Homer Simpson drools when it comes to fresh-baked carbohydrates, you can, of course, stuff them in your mouth whole. And with buns still warm from the oven this certainly would have strong ‘mitigating circumstances’.
However, today we’re going for – or at least TRYING for – delicate, so picture yourself peeling off each delicious petal one by one and maybe dipping it into a little pot of creamy cream cheese lemon topping for a moment of decadent indulgence.
OK, before we start, there are a couple of Top Tips I’d like to bring up.
Top Tip 1: Using milk either wholly or in part, to mix your dough will make the resulting buns/rolls softer. The downside is that it also reduces their keeping qualities to a couple of days. Then again, who has home-made buns lying around after 2 days anyway?
Top Tip 2: To get even more of that pillowy softness, brush the hot just-baked buns/rolls with milk as soon as they come out of the oven and then cover with a clean cloth. The heat of the dough will turn the milk into steam and the cloth with keep the steam close, softening the rolls as they cool.
Top Tip 3: Dissolving sugar into warmed milk will give you a bun glaze that will dry with a nice sheen. NB The more sugar you add, the shinier (and therefore stickier) the finished effect will be.
Sweet Rose Buns – makes 12
250g strong white bread flour
1 sachet fast acting easy blend yeast
25g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
4tbs caster sugar
- Put the flour, yeast, sugar, butter, salt and egg into a food processor and blitz until well mixed. The mixture will resemble fine breadcrumbs.
- Tip the mixture into a bowl and make a well in the middle. If you have a stand mixer and a dough hook, then use that.
- Warm the milk.
- Add in the water and the vanilla to cool it to blood temperature. To test: stick your finger in it – if you can’t feel it, then it’s at the correct temperature.
- Add the liquid to the dry mix and bring together into a dough.NB It will be rather moist and soft, so if you’re kneading by hand, use a scraper on the surface to help you lift the dough as you knead it.
- Knead the dough for 10 minutes, then set aside, covered, until doubled in size (about 45 minutes-1 hour).
- Grease a 12 hole bun/cupcake tin.
- Melt the butter. Have a pastry brush ready.
- Grate the lemon zest.
- Mix the lemon zest and sugar together.
- Tip out the risen dough onto a floured surface and pat down to press out the air.
- With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until very thin – just under 5mm. NB You will need to work quickly for the next part, because as soon as you stop rolling, the dough will start to rise again.
- Brush the sheet of dough with melted butter.
- Sprinkle the sugar/lemon mix evenly over the butter.
- Using a 5cm plain round cutter, cut out rounds of dough.
- Lay the dough out in rows of 7 circles, each circle of dough overlapping the previous one by half (see diagram).
- Using a pizza wheel cutter or sharp knife, cut along the mid-line of each row of dough as indicated. This will give you two sets of dough pieces, to make two rose shapes.
- Roll up from the left hand side and drop into one of the holes in the bun tin.
- Brush the finished rolls with beaten egg-white.
- Cover and set to rise for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 175°C, 150°C Fan.
- Mix the bun wash by mixing 2tbs caster sugar with 4tbs milk. Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved in the milk, otherwise your glaze will be grainy.
- Bake the risen buns for 15 minutes, turning the tin 180° after 10 minutes, to help get an even colour.
- Brush the hot buns with the bun wash and cool on a wire rack, covered with a clean cloth.
Lemon Cream Cheese Dip
100g cream cheese
Juice of 1 lemon – use the one from the recipe
40g icing sugar
1 tbs milk – Optional
- Beat the cream cheese until smooth.
- Sift in the icing sugar and beat to combine.
- Add the lemon juice and beat again until smooth.
- If the mixture seems a little stiff, add in 1tbs milk to loosen it.
Bonus Post – Flower Tarts
As you know, I’m not great with decorating with fondant or sugar paste or anything like that. I don’t have the steady hands for delicate piping or the patience for sugar-work. I actually much prefer the dish itself to be its own decoration. So these little tarts are right up my street – especially as they require practically no skill whatsoever – Bonus for me!
I’m not including a recipe, because the picture pretty much speaks for itself – this is more of a decoration suggestion.
I blind baked some pastry cases in a mini muffin tin  – filled them with a vanilla creme patissiere (thick custard is fine) and topped them with a single, perfect berry.
The surrounding petals are made out of two rings of sliced almonds poked into the custard – how simple is that? *she says, channelling Ina*
Anyhoo – thought you might enjoy – so enjoy! :D
 I highly recommend getting a pizza wheel if you haven’t already got one – even if you don’t eat pizza! They’re extremely useful for cutting cleanly without dragging/tearing – perfect for this recipe.
 Top Tip 4 To blind bake the mini pastry cases, use mini muffin cases to line your pastry cases and fill them with rice. So much easier than trying to get parchment or foil in there.
Such an exciting post this week!
I’ve been asked to appear at the BBC Good Food Winter Show at the Birmingham NEC in November!
For one day only, Thursday November 29th, I’ll be demonstrating how to whip up the now legendary/infamous Midnight Meringue on the brand new Great British Bake Off stage, and to celebrate, the BBC Good Food Show organisers have offered me three – yes, THREE – pairs of tickets to give away to lucky blog readers!
Come on down! I’ll have my people call your people and we’ll do lunch, dahhhlinks! *mwah, mwah*
(Did you know I was fluent in Luvvie? )
The even better news is, you can enter more than once. And here’s how:
- Follow me on twitter (@wotchers) AND tweet
- “I’ve entered @wotchers @bbcgoodfoodshow giveaway at http://timetocookonline.com”
- Encourage your followers to follow me on twitter, and get them to tell me you sent them! Each new twitter follower I get, gets you another chance to win! Be sure they let me know, otherwise I can’t add you!
- If you haven’t already, ‘Like’ the blog’s Facebook page ( Short Linky! ) AND leave a comment in the Giveaway’s post.
- Tag the blog in a post on your Facebook wall with the following:
- I’ve entered Time To Cook – Online’s BBC Good Food Show Ticket giveaway at http://timetocookonline.com“
- Finally, leave me a comment below. Make sure you leave a valid email address with your comment – if you win, I’ll need to be able to contact you for a postal address.
You can choose to do all five, or just leave a comment below. The more you choose to do, the more times your name will be listed for the draw. No pressure. ;)
Now lets have some fun!
Rules and stuff.
- Competition closes midnight Sunday September 30th. Winners to be announced shortly thereafter.
- All tickets are general admission excluding Saturday. But then, you’ll only be wanting to come on Thursday, won’t you? ;)
- Tickets are non refundable and non-exchangeable. Ticket terms and conditions apply.
- Tickets do not include a seat in the supertheatre.
- Winners will be decided with the help of the Random Number Generator (www.random.org).
- My decision is final.
- Play nice. No bots or automated entries please.
- Erm – can’t think of anything else at the moment – but I reserve the right to add stuff if it crops up! :D
Edit: Thanks to everyone that entered, the lucky winners are: Sophie Barnes (Twitter), Tom Bowden (Facebook) and Tara (Blog). congratulations to all three – hope to see you all at the show!
How was your summer? Did you have fun or did you blink and miss it?
Had a great break in France – SEE my brocante treasures….GASP at my bargain, 8-euro vintage linen bedsheets! – </gloats>
But now I’m back with a vengeance with an absolute corker of a recipe, just right if your home-grown tomatoes are remaining stubbornly green.
Yes! Green Tomato Cake! Hey…where you going?….come baaaack! Did I scare you with the recipe? Fear not – trust me. *breaks into Ka’s song from the Jungle Book whilst doing the googley-eye thing* Trusssssssst in meeeeeeee………….jussssssssssssst in meeeeeee……
You trusted me with Russian Honey Cake and you remember how great THAT was. To be honest, I’m not sure whether Russian Honey Cake could beat this one in a fair fight – it’s seriously that good. I mean – this cake (technically) has FRUIT in it!
Last year I dragged this recipe out of my War and Peace sized BOOK of recipe clippings after Lorraine Stanton over at Vowley Farm got in touch, with a request for something to use up a glut of green tomatoes with something other than chutney. Along with a few other recipes (GT ketchup, GT mincemeat – both yum, by the way) I sent it off, with the caveat that (at the time) I hadn’t actually tried it myself, but would love to know how it worked out.
Suffice to say, based on Lorraine’s feedback I was hotfoot down to the farm shop for some green tomatoes! As per usual, I was unable to restrain myself from tweaking the recipe here and there, and kept sending MrB into work with the various versions in order to gather feedback from his colleagues. Long story short, by the time I was happy with the recipe, one of my husband’s colleagues actually ordered a Green Tomato Cake for his birthday! Huzzah! Alas, in the process, I had used up all but one tiny 300g bag of my green tomatoes – The Precious! – which has consequently been jealously hoarded in the freezer all winter.
And that put me in a dilemma – I really wanted to share this fab recipe, but it would have been too mean to do so when green tomatoes weren’t available. But now they’re here! Even if you don’t grow your own, you can ask around friends and neighbours or, like me, ask for them at a local farm shop – always ask, they might have a ton in the storeroom they think they can’t sell.
So – what’s it like? Well, if you’re a fan of carrot cake, but find that it can be a bit overly-sweet/heavy at times, then this is the recipe for you! Spicy, crunchy with walnuts, and sweet from the sultanas, the chopped green tomatoes keep it light and fresh-tasting. They don’t dissolve into a mush on cooking, but hold their shape and sharpness, whilst taking on the sweetness and aromas of the other ingredients. If you don’t tell people what’s in it, the look on their faces when they try some is priceless (in a good way!). They know that there is an awesome taste party going on in their mouths but they can’t quite put their finger on what it is.
I prefer to bake it as a tray-bake and slather on some lemony cream cheese icing – but again, this can all too easily slip into overly sweet, so in pondering the problem, I had a bit of a light-bulb moment and decided to try and combine the methodology for the light and silky-smooth Depression Era Buttercream to cream cheese icing. It took a few tries, but, to cut a long story short, it worked and its fab! Recipe below!
Convinced you yet? I hope so!
Green Tomato Cake
112g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 large eggs
190g plain flour
2 rounded tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 nutmeg – grated
300g green tomatoes, chopped (not pureed) in a food processor
70g walnuts, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Line a baking tin with parchment. My favourite size is 25cm x 20cm, but any tin will do as long as the batter doesn’t end up being spread too thinly – no less than 4cm.
- Beat the butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and creamy (10 mins or so).
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one.
- Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into a bowl.
- Gradually add the flour mixture to the eggs/butter until well combined.
- Stir in the chopped tomatoes, sultanas and nuts.
- If the mixture is a bit firm, loosen it to ‘dropping consistency’ (i.e. a spoonful drops softly back into the bowl and doesn’t stick claggily to the spoon itself) with a little milk. It’ll make the difference between a moist cake and a dry/stodgy one.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until firm-but-still-springy to the touch, a toothpick comes out clean of cake batter and the cake has slightly shrunken away from the sides of the tin.
- Let the cake stand in its tin for 10 minutes then remove and cool on a wire rack
Recession Cream Cheese Icing
This makes a modest, topping-only (or filling-only) amount. If you’re planning on using it as a filling as well as a topping, double these quantities.
300g cream cheese
3tbs plain flour
150ml whole milk
2-3tbs icing sugar (or to your taste)
zest of 1 lemon
lemon juice to taste
- Heat the milk with the flour, stirring with a whisk until the mixture thickens.
- Continue cooking and stirring for 1 minute after it boils. This extra bit of heating/stirring will ‘cook out’ the flour and ensure that the icing doesn’t taste floury.
- Pour the mixture onto a plate, cover with cling film, to prevent a skin forming and cool. NB Do NOT skip the cooling part – otherwise things will get messy. You can put the covered plate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- When the flour mixture is cold, remove it from the plate and place it in a mixing bowl.
- Add the cream cheese and beat both together until smooth and thoroughly combined.
- Add icing sugar to taste – it really needs very little – no more than 2-3 tablespoons – and the lemon zest and mix thoroughly.
- Add lemon juice if required. NB Adding liquid will obviously make the icing less firm, so proceed carefully. I use the juice from just half of the lemon. If your hand slips and the icing is too soft for your liking, or even borderline runny, then panic not: Put the cake back into its tin (lined with foil so you can remove it easily later – plus, it helps keep the cake from drying out). Slather on the cream cheese icing, making sure you spread it right to the edge, so that no cake is visible (again, this will help prevent the cake from drying out). Put the iced cake into the fridge overnight, uncovered – this is important. The fridge will have a drying effect on the moisture in the icing and will firm it up beautifully by morning.
- When you’re happy with the taste, smooth the icing over the cooled cake and enjoy!
 If you don’t have a baking tray of roughly this size, I would strenuously recommend adding one to your collection – it is the one I use most: traybakes, shortbread, quiche, slab cakes, roasting joints of meat, roasting vegetables etc etc.