Batch cooking for the entire family – baby and all

Now I’m not talking hundreds of portions of shepherd’s pie that will take up your entire freezer space and leave you, well quite frankly, fed up with shepherd’s pie. But, picture this. You come home from a long day at the office, the kids need help with their homework, they need bathing – oh and there’s that jigsaw puzzle you promised to help your child finish. You then spend an hour cooking dinner, washing up and by the time you sit down in the evening you’re frazzled and falling asleep. Sound familiar? Sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Batch cooking will make your life a little easier. I love to make extra portions that I can pop in the freezer for those times when I’m rushed and cooking is the last thing I have the time or energy for. Not only does batch cooking save you time and energy, it generally works out to be much cheaper, and it can even help you to eat healthier, more nutritious food.

My boyfriend would probably say I have an obsession with batch cooking; I’m always saving ‘a bit for lunch tomorrow’, or cooking extra to see us through the week. Recently, this obsession has stepped up level. I’ve just started weaning my daughter Jemima, something I think I’m enjoying more than her. She is actually a really good little eater and I’m determined to ensure that she tries as many new foods as quickly as possible. Having done my research on the subject, it would appear that this approach is less likely to result in a fussy eater. I’m not sure I’d cope with having a child that is a fussy eater.

To ensure I’m giving my baby the very best start in life, I’m applying a ‘no jarred or packet food rule’ – if it isn’t fresh, she doesn’t have it. Both Richard and I are in agreement on this. We often comment when we see parents giving their babies chocolate buttons and such. Why on earth would you feed a baby chocolate? They don’t know what it is until you introduce it, so why subject your tiny baby to so much sugar so early in their eating experience? It will most likely put them off wanting other things, such as broccoli. Who wants to eat broccoli over chocolate given the choice? I’m certain this will provoke a lot of debate, but ultimately it’s your choice as a parent what you feed your child; I just want to make sure she’s getting the healthiest start I can give her. Chocolate buttons can wait until she’s that bit older.

I digress. I’ve made the decision to go back to work fairly early. Jemima is not even five months old, so I had to ensure that she had enough meals at the ready and that jarred food wouldn’t become a quick go to for the childminders. She’s spending her week between nursery and various family members, so being prepared is the way forward. I’m not going to be getting the blender out every night to make her lunch for the next day! To make up a months worth of various vegetable and fruit purées probably took me less than 90 minutes. Surely that’s worth spending the time over a weekend. You’ll save a shed load of money too!


If you are beginning the process of weaning, I’ve found that some of the best foods to start with are potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot, broccoli, stewed apple and pear. And, you can start by mixing any of these with baby rice or breast/formula milk to create more of a familiar taste for baby too. Sweet potato is definitely Jemima’s favourite so far.

Happy batch cooking folks!


Fruit Purée Ice Lollies

Despite the fact that it’s July, the weather seems to have been rather horrid. The past couple of days we’ve seen torrential downpours and intolerable sticky humid nights. Typically, the few sunny days we have had have been during the week when most of us work. Nevertheless, it is July; it is summer, even if the weather is hell bent on convincing us otherwise. Having said that, this week is set to be the hottest of the year so far…
Remember those plastic ice lolly moulds you had as a kid? Yep – you know the ones I mean, almost everyone has one of these lurking somewhere at the back of a cupboard or drawer. Perhaps it’s lost at the back of the ice box in the fridge? If you’ve got one – find it. If you’ve never owned one – buy one and get making these delicious fruit purée lollies.
Today’s recipe is ice lollies of course, or popsicles if you are from across the pond. Not just any old ice lollies either – healthy fruit purée lollies to help keep your bikini body in shape. These fresh and fruity lollies couldn’t be easier to make and you really can pick which ever fruits you like. I choose Mango and Raspberry. You do need to add a little sugar to the raspberries as they can be quite sharp, add sugar and taste to ensure you get the balance right. You can also add a little fresh orange juice to the raspberries to dilute the tart flavour.
These lollies are simply delicious and so refreshing on hot and sunny day – the kids love them too. They will keep in the freezer for a good few months. Next I’m going to try coconut and raspberry lollies with natural yoghurt and coconut milk for a creamier lolly.

Is it just me, or are Mangos slippery little blighters? I still can’t cut one without a struggle, so hats off you if you’ve mastered it. Mangos have a flat long pit in the centre, the trick is to try and cut around this, a good guide for cutting them can be found here.

Mango & Raspberry Ice Lollies

1 mango, diced
1 punnet of raspberries
3 tspb of sugar
Place the mango into a large glass jug and blend into a purée using a stick blender. Do the same with the raspberries, except this time add the sugar as you blend.
Pour the mango purée into the ice lolly mould, making sure you leave room at the top for the raspberry purée . Place the mould into the freezer for 1 hour, remove the mould and add the raspberry purée – place the full moulds into the freezer and leave for at least 4 hours.

Raspberry & Coconut Cupcakes

Much like last week, I find myself writing a Friday post on a Thursday. But, essentially it’s Friday due to the Bank Holiday, which brings me to bid you all a very happy Easter. I’ll hopefully have an interesting post for you next week as I’m off camping this weekend. I know, I’m totally mad in this weather, but I was watching the snow from my window the other day and suddenly had a craving for a nice sausage casserole so I’ll be making sure I’m prepped for that on my little trip, that’s sure to keep my body warm and spirit high.
Anyhow, enough about this dreadful weather. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m really not much of a baker, but when I read about these little beauties I couldn’t resist trying my hand at them. I think you’ll agree, they are rather cute and make for an impressive looking cupcake. I know, I know, cupcakes I hear you moan. They are so last year, or the year before for that matter, but who cares? And anyway, I’ve never been one for ‘on trend’; I make what I want, when I want.
Raspberries and coconut are two of my favourite things, so when I heard about them being used together, in a cupcake, let’s just say it was one of those vivacious moments. This recipe is a mixture of a few I’ve found floating around the internet, I first read about them over at a blog I love to read Emily’s Recipes & Reviews, definitely worth a view by the way. Despite her fine looking recipe, I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to embark on making the icing with egg whites, call me a lazy cook if you will, but I decided to look for an alternative, the alternative being butter icing.
With this recipe, I loved the idea that you place raspberries in with the cake mixture meaning that when you bite into the cupcake you get the sweetness from the icing and delicious sponge that completely off sets the sharpness of the raspberries. Make sure you save the prettiest raspberries for the decoration.
Happy Easter everyone.
Makes 12 cupcakes
120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
40g unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
120ml coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
200g of raspberries (you’ll need 48 in total)
For the icing and decoration:
80g unsalted butter, softened
25ml coconut milk
250g icing sugar
25g desiccated coconut
12 raspberries
Preheat the oven to 170°C and place the paper cases into a muffin tray.
Add the flour, sugar, butter, baking powder, salt in a bowl and use an electric mixer to mix until light and fluffy, or mix it by hand if you’ve enough will power in you. In a separate bowl, mix the coconut milk and vanilla extract; beat into the flour mixture until well combined.  Add the egg and ensure it’s mixed well.
Add three raspberries to each of the paper cases then spoon the cupcake mix over the top until almost full and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until light, spongy and golden brown in colour. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully.
To make the icing: Beat the icing sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until well mixed. Turn the mixer down to a slow speed and gradually add the coconut milk. Once the milk has been fully added, turn up to high speed and continue beating for a further 5-10 minutes until the icing is very soft and fluffy.
Spoon the icing onto the cooled cupcakes and top each one with desiccated coconut and a raspberry.


Banish Blue Monday: Blueberry Smoothie

Today is the third Monday of January, considered to be the most depressing day of the year; commonly referred to as Blue Monday. The excitement of Christmas has undoubtedly worn off, you’re back to work and you know that monstrous credit card bill will drop through the door any day. What with all that, and this disastrous weather, it’s no wonder we’re feeling like the month will never end.
However, most scientists (and me) believe its complete and utter nonsense. The way I see it, I’ve already had the most depressing day of the year, so things can only get better, for me the end of January brings with it all the promise of spring and it’s only going to get better and better. But, if you are feeling a little low today why not try this quick and delicious blueberry smoothie, guaranteed to give you that pick me up.
1 over-ripe banana
150g fresh blueberries
200ml apple juice (make sure it’s nice and cold)
5 tbsp low-fat natural yoghurt
Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth, pour into a glass and serve. 


Apple & Blackberry Pie

There is something quite joyful about apple and blackberry pie at the best of times, but when feeding guests, one has a tendency to go overboard with the portion size – my inner greediness.  I’d say this recipe would serve eight hungry people or perhaps ten modest portions, so it’s certainly one for a large dinner party. In fact, it makes an ideal dessert for feeding a large number as you can prepare it a day ahead and pop it in the oven 40 minutes before serving. Paired with a generous portion of custard, or indeed ice cream, you have yourself a stress free impressive homely dessert.

The decadent aroma of apples and sweet pastry drifting though the house is just heavenly, you’ll hardly be able to wait until it’s cooked through. And you can get creative with the pie top, which is just good plain fun if you ask me. Having recently purchased some star shaped cookie cutters I was rather pleased with my little work of art.
As I needed such a large pie I decided to make it in a stoneware roasting tray, rather than a traditional pie dish, the dimensions of which are: 32 x 23cm. Of course, you can half the ingredient quantities below for an ordinary 23cm pie dish.
Firstly preheat the oven to 200⁰C.

For the pastry

NB: This is a sweet pastry for desserts
500g plain flour
350g unsalted butter (must be cold)
125ml cold water
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg
Start by combining the butter, flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Rub the mixture between your thumbs and forefingers to create a crumb like mixture. There should be no large lumps of butter; you are looking for a breadcrumb consistency.
In a separate bowl mix the egg together with 125ml cold water, add to the flour mixture and kneed until combined. Form the pastry into a ball and wrap in cling film. Store this in the fridge whilst you make the filling. The pastry is easier to work with when cold.

For the filling

200g caster sugar
300g blackberries
6 cooking apples
2 tbsp corn flour
1tsp ground cinnamon

To make the pie filling, add the sugar, cinnamon and corn flour to a large bowl. Peel, core and slice the cooking apples into large chunks, add these to the bowl along with the blackberries. Using your hands, carefully mix together ensuring that all of the fruit is coated with the sugar mixture. Set this aside while you roll out your pastry.

On a floured surface, roll out half of the pastry to slightly larger than your pie dish; you want the pastry to be about 3mm thick. Lay this into the pie dish ensuring the pastry comes all the way up the edges. Spoon the fruit mixture into the pastry lined dish.
Cover the top with the rolled out remaining pastry, tucking the edges under to meet the sides. Crimp the edge with a folk and decorate the top with any left of pastry.
Cut a few slits in the top to allow the steam out whilst cooking.
Place in the centre of your pre-heated oven for 25 minutes. Remove the pie after 25 minutes and cover with foil to prevent the pastry from burning. Place back into the oven for a further 25 minutes.