Bolognese Pasta Bake

Bolognese Pasta Bake

Now the evenings are drawing in and there’s a little chill in the air at night, it’s lovely to come home to a bowl of comforting pasta. So when Sainsbury’s asked food bloggers to get creative using some of their SO Organic own label range for #OrganicSeptember, I thought it would be a good idea to make a Bolognese Pasta Bake. With over 250 SO Organic products available, there’s plenty to choose from. My Bolognese Pasta Bake has a rich and intense meaty bolognese sauce flavoured with Cabernet Sauvignon and oregano. It was a real success with all the family, so I’m pleased to be sharing it with you.

Bolognese Pasta Bake

Here’s my recipe for Bolognese Pasta Bake

Ingredients (Serves 4 to 6)

2 small onions*
1 large carrot*
4 medium mushrooms*
1 tablespoon olive oil
500g mince beef (15% fat)*
150ml Cabernet Sauvignon* or other red wine
250ml passata*
400g chopped tinned tomatoes*
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar*
Salt and black pepper
400g penne pasta*
50g mature cheddar cheese*
25g Parmesan cheese

*From the SO Organic range


1. Heat the olive oil in a large lidded casserole pan. Finely dice the onions and carrot, then sauté in the oil until beginning to soften.

2. Chop the mushrooms into quarter slices and then add to the pan. Add the mince beef and brown all over.

3. Add the wine and bring the bolognese to the boil, keep on a high heat for 5 minutes stirring frequently.

4. Then, add the chopped tomatoes, passata, balsamic vinegar and oregano. Season well with salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer with the lid partially on for 1 hour. Stir every so often to check it’s not catching on the bottom of the pan.

5. Meanwhile, cook the penne pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for about 8 to 10 minutes (you want the pasta under done).

6. Pre heat the oven to Fan 180c. Drain the pasta and add to the casserole pan of bolognese sauce, stir to combine. Grate the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses and then sprinkle on top. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the top begins to crisp. Enjoy with a green salad and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Bolognese Pasta Bake

To make life a bit easier the pasta bake can be prepared earlier in the day and stored in the fridge until ready to bake. I’d suggest increasing the baking time to ensure it is heated through properly.

Bolognese Pasta Bake

Until next time.


Disclosure: Sainsbury’s sponsored me to write this blog post and provided me with a selection of SO Organic ingredients. All opinions are honest and my own. The recipe is my own.

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I’ve entered this recipe into #CookBlogShare at Supergolden Bakes.

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Pasta Masterclass with Giovanni Rana

Giovanni Rana Pasta Masterclass

I was totally thrilled when I received an email saying that I’d won a place for me and a guest at a Pasta Masterclass with Giovanni Rana in his London restaurant. The competition was organised in conjunction with Foodies 100 and required entrants to create a dish using Giovanni Rana’s Italian Indulgence fresh pasta. Take a peek at the my competition entry, Chicken with Rosemary Ravioli with Tomato, Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce.

My mum and I headed into London to the Giovanni Rana restaurant located in the newly developed area of Regent’s Place. The restaurant is contemporary styled and perfect for a city lunch or family meal. I didn’t realise but I managed to snap Mr Rana sitting down when I took the photo of the outside of the restaurant.

Mr Rana lives in Verona, Italy and had come over especially for these masterclasses. He doesn’t speak any English but his very lovely daughter in law Antonella acted as translator and demonstrator for the class. We were shown how simple it was to combine two ingredients, flour and eggs and turn them into fresh pasta dough.

Giovanni Rana Restaurant

It was great fun participating in a small and friendly class environment, I really felt that I learnt a lot about making fresh pasta by hand. As I kneaded the dough, Mr Rana who was stood next to me said ‘Perfetto’, which I was delighted with.

As were going to make tortellini and ravioli, we made a tasty filling of fresh spinach and ricotta cheese. We then proceeded to roll out the dough into a large circle and cut out smaller circles for the tortellini to fill and shape. We later made ravioli using the same filling. For some reason I found the tortellini much easier to learn, so I’m planning on creating my own recipe soon.

As a wonderful treat we then dined in the restaurant enjoying an amazing three course meal and of course a glass or two of wine.

Our starter was a selection of Italian cured meats and cheeses served with a fruit chutney, which was sublime. I also got to try Porchetta for the first time.

For my main, I opted for the Pappardelle with Duck Ragu as I’d heard duck ragu was delicious. I wasn’t disappointed, it tasted divine and was not like any other ragu I had eaten before.

We were then brought a selection of sweet filled ravioli, one of which had an apple sauce filling that was simple gorgeous and a chocolate filled ravioli too. Then, followed a tasty apple cake and a chocolate lovers dream dessert, a jam jar filled with white chocolate panna cotta.

After an inspiring and truly enjoyable day, we didn’t leave empty handed we were given a fab goodie bag filled with lots of wonderful products. Thank you so much to Giovanni Rana, Antonella Rana, everyone at the Giovanni Rana restaurant, Wildcard and Foodies 100 for the most incredible experience.

I’m hoping that I can make some fresh pasta very soon, so watch this space.

Until next time.


Golden Multiseed Crown Loaf

Golden Multiseed Crown Loaf

With baking fever gripping the nation once more as the Great British Bake Off competition hots up, there’s no better time to get baking. Not one to miss a baking opportunity I jumped at the chance to try Sainsbury’s new Taste the Difference Golden Multiseed Bread Mix. Based on their award winning Taste the Difference Multiseed Loaf, the bread mix contains a blend of premium wheat, rye and oat flours with linseeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

I tend to bake lots of soda bread but not really yeasted bread. I’ll be honest, I’m sometimes put off by the amount of kneading required. Although, I did make this loaf by hand, there’s no reason why you can’t make it in a mixer using a dough hook. Saving those arm muscles in the process!

Golden Multiseed Crown Loaf

The resulting loaf was incredibly light with a subtle caramel taste (just as the packet said). My children adored this loaf asking for more the next day. I was pretty impressed too, it’s definitely a show stopper bake for me.

Here’s the recipe for Golden Multiseed Crown Loaf

Ingredients (Makes 1 loaf)

500g Sainsbury’s TTD Golden Multiseed Bread Mix
320ml water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Extra flour for kneading
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
A little milk for brushing
Butter for greasing the tin


1. In a large bowl rub the bread mix with the olive until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2. Gradually mix in the water,

3. On a floured surface knead the dough for 10 minutes until you get a soft stretchy dough. Placed the dough back in a clean bowl and cover with lightly oiled cling film.

4. Leave to rise for 1 to 1.5 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

5. Knead the dough again, then weigh the dough and divide into 12 balls (weighing 75g approx).

6. Grease a 20cm sandwich tin. Then arrange 4 balls in the centre and the remains 8 balls around them.

7. Cover loosely with the cling film and leave to prove for 30 to 40 minutes until increased in size.

8. Meanwhile pre heat your oven to Fan 210c. Remove the cling film. Brush the loaf with some milk then sprinkle on the sunflower and pumpkin seeds on alternate balls. Then bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.

9. Once baked remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

Golden Multiseed Crown Loaf

Here’s a few bread baking tips.

Knead the dough well, longer than stated if you are new to baking bread.

Don’t forget to pre heat your oven as you would with any bake, then bake your bread until you get a good golden brown crust.

To check the bread is baked properly, tap underneath and it should sound hollow like a drum.

Happy Baking.


Disclosure: Sainsbury’s sponsored me to write this post. Sainsbury’s provided the Taste the Difference Golden Multiseed Bread Mix and additional flour. All opinions are honest and my own. The recipe is my own, although based partially on the packet instructions.

Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Apple and Blackberry Crumble

I’ve been told this is the yummiest crumble I’ve ever made. Using seasonal tart blackberries and glorious Bramley apples made this a delightful crumble to be enjoyed with custard (my preference), ice cream (the kids favourite) or cream. This mix of fruit has the perfect balance between sweetness and sharpness. I promise, you won’t be disappointed with it.

We enjoyed our crumble after our non traditional Sunday lunch of sausages and mash, it went down a treat with everyone. I hope you enjoy it too.

Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Here’s my recipe for Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Ingredients (Serves 6)

Crumble topping

225g plain flour
75g unsalted butter (cold and cubed)
65g light muscovado sugar
35g golden caster sugar
50g porridge oats

Apple and Blackberry filling

450g-500g Bramley apples (I used one very large apple)
1 tablespoon water
225g blackberries
75g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon


1. Peel and slice the apple, place in a saucepan with the water and heat gently until beginning to soften. Then transfer to a shallow pie dish.

2. Meanwhile, make the crumble topping by rubbing the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then, stir in both types of sugar and the porridge oats.

3. Scatter the blackberries over the apple.

4. Mix golden caster sugar and cinnamon together, then sprinkle over the blackberries and apple.

5. Pre heat the oven to 180c Fan. Spread the crumble topping across the sugared fruit so it’s completely covered. Then bake the crumble for 40 minutes until the top it’s golden and the fruit is soft. Enjoy with custard, ice cream or cream.

Apple and Blackberry Crumble

I’ve got a funny feeling I’ll be making it again this weekend.

Until next time.


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I’ve entered this recipe into #CookBlogShare at Supergolden Bakes.

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Vanilla Cupcakes plus Dr Oetker Cake Decorations Review

Vanilla Cupcakes with Dr Oetker decorations

If like me you are an enthusiastic baker then you probably have one or two Dr Oetker baking products in your kitchen cupboards. So when the lovely people at Dr Oetker offered to send me some of their new products I was delighted. Of course it was the perfect excuse (like I needed one!) to whip up a batch of my vanilla cupcakes.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Dr Oetker decorations

I was sent the following varieties of cakes sprinkles: Eton Mess (meringue pieces with freeze dried sweetened strawberry pieces), Lemon Meringue (lemon flavoured sugar with meringue pieces), Sugar Stars, Violet Crystals (coloured sugar crystals), Ocean Pearls (coloured soft sugar balls). As you can see from the pictures the decorations are very pretty and set off the cupcakes beautifully. I particularly liked the Eton Mess and Lemon Meringue sprinkles, as they tasted lovely and looked great too.

Dr Oetker decorations

I also received some amazing chocolate decorations, Zebra Chocolate Triangles and Cocoa Crunch Chocolate Squares. Both are most definitely worthy of gracing any show stopper cake or tart. I’m planning on using them very soon.

Dr Oetker decorations

Did you know it’s National Cupcake Week? Even more reason to bake some cupcakes.

Vanilla cupcakes with Dr Oetker decorations

Here’s my recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes.

Ingredients (Makes 12)

Vanilla Cupcakes

160g caster sugar
160g unsalted butter (softened)
3 medium eggs (beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
160g self raising flour
2 tablespoons semi skimmed milk

Vanilla Buttercream

200g unsalted butter (softened)
400g icing sugar (sifted)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoons of milk
Red gel food colouring
Dr Oetker sprinkles


1. Pre heat the oven to Fan 165c or a conventional oven about 180c. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Gradually add the beaten eggs a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. If you think the mixture looks curdled add some flour.

4. Beat in the vanilla extract.

5. Carefully fold in the flour, I usually do this half at a time.

6. Gently stir through the milk to achieve a dropping consistency in your mixture.

7. Using two dessert spoons, spoon the mixture into the cases.

8. Place into the pre heated oven for about 20 minutes.

9. The cakes are ready when they are lightly golden and springy to touch. You can test by inserting a cocktail stick or a piece of dry spaghetti into the centre of a cake; if it comes out clean then they are done.

10. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

11. To make the buttercream, beat together the butter and icing sugar until the mixture is light and airy.

12. Then, beat in the vanilla extract and milk, the desired consistency is not too stiff but firm enough to hold its shape. To make the buttercream pink add a few drops of the red gel food colouring and mix well.

13. Using an icing bag and a large star shape stainless steel nozzle, pipe a swirl of buttercream onto each cupcake and immediately decorate each cupcake with your choice of Dr Oetker decorations.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Dr Oetker decorations

I hope I’ve inspired you to get baking and of course enjoy a cupcake or two.

Happy Baking.


Disclose: I was sent free samples of Dr Oetker’s cake decorations to review. All opinions are honest and my own. The recipe is my own.

Top 10 Tips and Cheats for Baking Success

Cherry Bakewell buttercream cupcakes

Have you noticed how much I like cake, biscuits and cookies? It really is my weakness. Of course it goes without saying I’m a huge Great British Bake Off fan. As a self-taught home baker I’ve gained confidence in the kitchen and learnt a lot over the years. Although I’m not an expert these tips and cheats have helped improve my baking considerably.

Chocolate and Ginger Cookies

Seeded Wholemeal Soda Bread

Here’s my Top 10 Tips and Cheats for Baking Success.

1. If baking a cake ensure all your ingredients are at room temperature, take eggs and butter out of the fridge the night before or at least 2 hours before you begin baking.

2. To soften butter easily and quickly, put it in the microwave for 10 second blasts. It will probably only need to go in once or twice at the very most.

3. Invest in a silicone spatula, there’s no point baking if you can’t get all the mixture out of the mixing bowl.

4. Baking is a science, carefully weigh and measure your ingredients. Get yourself a set of digital scales with a spare battery, as the scales will not weigh accurately if the battery is low.

5. Always pre heat your oven your oven 10 minutes beforehand. It’s the first thing I do when I walk into the kitchen.

6. Get all your ingredients, mixer, scales, baking tins, cupcakes cases, baking parchment, spatulas, spoons, knife etc out ready, so you’re not hunting around the kitchen looking for stuff.

7. Read through the recipe from start to finish, that way you are less likely to forget something or misunderstand the recipe.

8. Remember basic hygiene practises, especially when handling raw eggs. Make sure the work surfaces are clean, especially if you are kneading bread dough and cutting out biscuits.

9. When baking a cake don’t open the oven door until the cake is at almost done according to the recipe, otherwise it will sink.

10. To test if a cake is cooked insert a metal cake tester into the centre of the cake, if it comes out clean it’s done. Alternatively, use a piece of dry (uncooked) spaghetti instead, it works really well.

Pretty Pink Birthday Cake

I hope those tips and cheats are helpful, do let me know if you have any baking tips and cheats of your own.

Happy Baking.


Blackberry and Apple Smoothie

Blackberry and apple smoothie

With such an abundance of blackberries around at the moment I’m planning on using them in lots of recipes this month. I thought this autumnal fruit smoothie might just hit the spot. My girls loved it, I hope you enjoy it too.

Here’s my recipe for Blackberry and Apple Smoothie.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

250g blackberries
300ml pressed apple juice
4 tablespoons 0% fat natural yogurt
1 tablespoon runny honey


1. Carefully wash the blackberries and place in a blender with the apple juice, blitz until as smooth as possible.

2. Sieve the puree into a jug and then discard the seeds.

3. Rinse out the blender and return the puree to the blender, add the yogurt and honey. Blitz until fully combined and smooth. Enjoy!

Blackberry and apple smoothie

If you have a super powerful blender you might not need to sieve the puree at all. I’m not sure I can justify an upgrade at the moment as my kitchen cupboards are bursting with cake tins and kitchen gadgets. So I’m sticking with my trusty old blender for now.

Until next time.


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My Kitchen Cookbooks: Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect

My kitchen cookbooks

Every year as autumn approaches there always seems to be a flurry of new cookbooks hitting the book shop shelves. So like any true Great British Bake Off fan I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Mary Berry’s new book titled Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect, which features all new recipes. Published officially on 1 September by Dorling Kindersley with a RRP of £25, I pre ordered it online. However, the estimated delivery date was far too long for me to wait so after spotting it in a bookshop ahead of the publication date, I cancelled my online order and bought it straight away.

The book is divided into sections Soups, First Courses, Fish and Shellfish, Poultry and Game, Meat, Pasta and Rice, Vegetables, Salads, Puddings and finally Cakes, Small Bakes and Bread.

I feel this book is probably aimed more at the novice / intermediate cook. However, don’t take that as a criticism or let it put you off if you are more a more experienced cook. Each recipe is accompanied by a large photograph with clear step by step instructions. In addition, there are ‘Keys to perfection’ along side each recipe to help you achieve perfect results. If you are watching the calories you’ll be pleased to see each recipe has a calorie count per serving too.

I’m quite partial to banana cake, so was very keen to try my hand at baking Mary’s Banana Loaf with Honey Icing.

Banana cake with honey icing

The banana loaf is moist and the chopped pecans provide a lovely contrast in texture. For me, the special part of the cake is the drizzle of honey icing on top which is delightfully sweet and works perfectly. If you want to bake a cake for a coffee morning with friends then this is the cake to bake, it’s a simple recipe and tastes absolutely delicious.

Banana cake with honey icing

I’ve book marked lots of other recipes to try out including Curried Lentil and Spinach Soup, Quick Haddock with Tomato and Puy Lentils, Steak and Guinness Pie, Greek Lamb Pilaf with Orzo, Spiced Dorset Apple Traybake and Hot Cross Bun Loaf.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this instalment of My Kitchen Cookbooks. Do let me know if you have the book too and if you have tried any of the recipes.

Until next time.


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Rocky Road Bars

Rocky road bars

To my mind my rocky road bars are not a thing of beauty, well not to to look at anyway. Thankfully they taste good, extremely good. These rocky road bars are full of all the yummy treats I could find, cherries, Turkish delight, marshmallows, dried mango and crunchy amaretti biscuits. All smothered in a mix of milk and dark chocolate, honestly what is there not to like about these.

My daughter helped me make these and had great fun bashing the amaretti biscuits into chunks. Making and of course eating the rocky road bars was a great way to mark the end of the summer holidays. I’ve decided September is going to be a month of home cooking, I’m planning on making warming soups, casseroles, cottage pies and fruit crumbles. Ultimately my aim is to get my youngest to eat more fruit and veg, I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Here’s my recipe for Rocky Road Bars.

Ingredients (makes 16 or 20 depending on how large you want them)

200g dark chocolate
200g milk chocolate
150g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons golden syrup
200g glacé cherries
175g crunchy amaretti biscuits (crumbled)
100g mini pink and white marshmallows
75g assorted Turkish delight (chopped into 1cm chunks)
50g dried mango pieces


1. Grease and line a 30cm x 23cm (12″ x 9″) traybake tin with baking parchment.

2. Melt the butter, golden syrup and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.

3. Once melted and cooled, stir in the glacé cherries, amaretti biscuits, Turkish delight and mango pieces.

4. Transfer the mixture to the tin and then refrigerate until set.

5. Using a large sharp knife cut into 16 or 20 bars depending on how big you want them. Enjoy!

Rocky road bars

Until next time.


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High Tea at Fortnum & Mason

I was recently very, very lucky to enjoy high tea in the exquisitely decorated Diamond Jubliee Tea Salon at Fortnum and Mason. Undoubtably my most favourite way to enjoy an afternoon, I couldn’t resist booking a table when I discovered the children ate free, making this special treat for the whole family much more affordable.

The taking of tea between lunch and dinner became a formal ritual amongst the upper classes of English society is credited to the Duchess of Bedford. Afternoon tea is now a pastime enjoyed as a special treat usually including finger sandwiches, scones and fine cakes. High tea includes a slightly more substantial savoury beginning course.

We decided to eat from the high tea menu, I chose a delicious lobster omelette victoria served with lobster bisque and shaved truffle and my husband opted for chicken in butter puff pastry with baby leeks. Then followed by freshly baked warm scones with raspberry preserve, lemon curd and clotted cream. Finishing off with a plate of dainty individual patisserie. Meanwhile, my children had a delightful selection of sandwiches, including corn fed chicken, honey glazed ham, free range egg mayonnaise and cress and of course cucumber sandwiches. The children’s afternoon tea is charming with its character chocolate cakes, jammy dodgers and macarons.

Not forgetting the tea itself, which you choose from a tea menu. I prefer breakfast tea but for true tea connoisseurs there is an exceptional choice of tea blends available. On paying our bill we were given samples of Fortnum & Mason’s afternoon tea blend in mini canisters, which I think is rather lovely.

Fortnum & Mason

We thoroughly enjoyed our high tea, every mouthful tasted amazing. Even with a mischievous toddler the staff were very attentive and helpful. Tea at Fortnum & Mason is truly a wonderful experience, I highly recommend you try it for yourself. Do look out for the children dining free offers that run every so often.

Until next time.


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