What I've been cooking #5: The Roasting Tin

Rukmini Iyer has taken such a simple concept and made it into a masterpiece with her cookbook The Roasting Tin. Every single recipe has been created to be cooked or baked in the humble roasting tin. We are obsessed with this book in our house. My boyfriend is in charge of all the cooking during the week as he gets home from work first and he loves the fact many of the recipes have minimal prep and then they can be shoved in the oven and forgotten about whilst he watches the next episode of the Big Bang Theory. Rukmini is always really active over social media and often will chip in with some tips or if you're having problems with some recipes. I honestly couldn't recommend this book enough and it's in my top three of my collection. I have over 100 books so it's a pretty high accolade.

Coconut, Raspberry and chocolate cake
Sunday is often my day to bake so it means Monday I go into work armed with a tin of cake. This was one bake I've taken into work and it went down a treat with everyone. I loved the mixture of flavours and it all worked so well together. It came out quite gooey but I think that was my fault rather than the fault of the recipe.

Super-simple plain sponge
You can't go wrong with a sponge. I had a ready made tub of chocolate icing in the cupboard so I didn't use any of Rukmini's suggested toppings. But the sponge came out really light which is always a winner. It doesn't quite beat my Hairy Bikers favourite but it's still worth making if you have the book.

Simple roast chicken and red pepper tray bake
This is one of our favourite dishes to make for dinner and have the leftovers for lunch. It's really simple but it just works perfectly together. The chicken is always so juicy and we love to add chorizo to give it a little something extra. This is such a staple in our house and we always make it at least twice month. A big deal when we mostly only try recipes once before moving onto the next one.

Tarragon roast chicken with potatoes, onions and garlic
My parents don't always enjoy my cooking but this is one dish they always gobble up. You can't never go wrong with a roast chicken to impress parents and this one is delicious. The potatoes cooked under the chicken are perfection and so addictive. Make sure you overindulge with the butter on the skin as the crisper it is the better. I used Thyme this time which works just as well!

Goats cheese, red pepper, mushroom and pesto tray bake
This is our number one favourite recipe in the book. Sometimes I make it on a Sunday afternoon to have as lunches throughout the week. It's a pure hug in a bowl, such comfort food. There's something about pasta bakes that just cream autumn don't you think? The pesto and goats cheese taste glorious together.

Bulgur wheat with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, feta and pine nuts
This is another dish which we made for work lunches. I love meal prepping on a Sunday afternoon as it saves you from thinking about lunch for the first couple of days of the week and helps you get into a routine. Saves me from opting for a Pret! This dish is delicious both hot and cold. It's pretty filling but I think I'd add some salad leaves in the future just to trick my head into thinking I'm padding it out.

Crispy baked gnocchi with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and pine nuts
This is perfect for a cosy night in. It's so comforting and there's something about crispy gnocchi that just sings to me. Make sure you go for the gnocchi at the edge as they're the best bits! This doesn't taste quite as nice cold as it does hot so it's better to eat on the night that you make it.

What I've been cooking #4: John Whaite Bakes at Home

Another cookbook review. And another baking book. Last time I vowed to use a savoury cookbook but once again got sucked in by the gorgeous cakes in John Waites Bakes at Home. John Whaite won GBBO in 2012 and this is his second cookbook. I follow his Twitter and Instagram so when I spotted this book in a charity shop I picked it up for a couple of quid. It's full of both savoury and sweet bakes and I'd say it was a book for the slightly more adventurous. I'd been stuck in a bit of a rut with only baking simple things like carrot cake, banana loaf and lemon drizzle. All delicious but nothing ground-breaking. I fancied pushing myself a bit and this book was just the ticket.

Mojito cake
I baked this for my mum's birthday and slightly changed the recipe to include both lemons and limes because that was what I had to use it. It tasted exactly like a mojito and was absolutely delicious. At first I was a bit annoyed at the presentation as it didn't quite come out how I wanted it to. But the more I look at at, I actually feel quite proud. It was out of comfort zone and I'd pushed my baking skills quite hard for this cake. I made the lime curd from scratch and made the infused mint & rum filling. I vowed to really try new things this year in baking and feel like this was me keeping my promise. I'd definitely make this again.

Rhubarb, white chocolate and thyme traybake
Rhubarb was a fruit I'd never tried before and traybakes are my jam so this was always going to be made. It was very simple and took hardly any time at all. I loved the contrast of the gooey white chocolate with the tart rhubarb flavour. It went down an absolute treat at work with everyone declaring it was the best bake I'd make yet! Definitely a recipe that I'd rustle up again. It was fun to be a bit more adventurous with ingredients.

Giant jam tart
It always makes me nervous when I attempt a recipe and it doesn't have a picture. I've eaten enough jam tarts in my life to know what one looks like but still no pictures fills me with dread. This was extremely simple and used ready-made pastry - a god-send! It was my first time making jam, I was supposed to use both raspberries and blueberries but alas, my raspberries were rotten. A day before the best before date! I stupidly didn't reduce the sugar so the jam was extremely sweet. Note for the future!

Chocolate and pistachio torte
This was my first time attempting a torte. I'm not a huge chocolate fan but my boyfriend is so I always end up backing a type of chocolate dessert at home. This was a bit more of a faff than I originally thought it would be. But it was simple enough. I'm not sure my version really tastes like a torte but my friend commented that it tasted a bit like a brownie. Which I'll take! After all, who doesn't love a giant brownie? My chocolate drizzling leaves a lot to be desired but that helps to add to the rustic, homemade feel right?

Loaded Mac and cheese
Mac and Cheese is one of my last day on earth meals. If I knew I only had one day left then I would scoff this until I felt sick. So far Jamie Oliver's version is my favourite but I'm always keen to try new  versions of the dish. After skimming through the ingredients list I knew I had to make this. It looked like pure indulgence and perfect for a Sunday dinner. I was right! Three types of cheese made this absolutely heavenly and I adored the added veg of asparagus, mushrooms and spring onions. I think John may have push Mr Oliver from the top spot!

If you want to see more of my cookbook reviews, just click the tab on the right hand side of this blog.

What I've been cooking #3: Rachel Allen's Home Baking

I seem to have rediscovered my love for baking since I moved out from my parents. One of my favourite things to on a Sunday is to spend all day in kitchen, trying my hand at new recipes. The last few weeks I have been working my way through Rachel Allen's Home Baking cookbook - I was sent her book through work as I look after the food page so featured some of the recipes online. I'd read a few reviews that her recipes are foolproof so I was looking forward to great things. It turns out her recipes - no matter how difficult they sound - really are simple. The book is full of detailed recipes that cover everything and exciting bakes. I tried my hand at some out of my comfort zone and they turned out perfectly. It's definitely a book I'll be coming back time to time again. I haven't had a bake requested so much from friends than when I made her chocolate orange brownies for a few house gatherings!

Banana and date loaf
A classic banana loaf is one of my favourite things to make. So I was keen to see if the addition of dates could improve a bake that I already think is tasty. Turns out they do! The dates helped to add a delicious richness to the loaf. It's so simple and the perfect cake to have on a weekend afternoon when you have guests round. Such a crowd pleaser!

Chocolate orange brownies
I don't have a very good track record with making brownies. But I was determined to finally make an edible batch.  I did cook these for a touch too long as they came out more cake-like rather than fudgey. But they were absolutely delicious! The orange zest really gave them something special. I took them to a baby shower and they went down a treat. The second time I cooked them I think they could have done with a couple more minutes. But the gooey inside was delicious! Third time lucky and I'm sure I'll get them right.

Lemon and poppy seed loaf
The original recipe called for muffins but I don't have a muffin tin in my house yet so I turned it into a loaf. I added a simple glaze of lemon juice and sugar as you can never have enough lemon right? It took around 50 minutes for it to cook as a loaf apposed to the 25 minutes predicted for muffins. It's quite a dense cake but utterly delicious. It's a good loaf to have in a tin for when people come round for a cuppa. I'll definitely be making it again.

Baked doughnuts
I'm a bit of a safe baker. I stick to classic cakes that I know I can do rather than try my hand at different things. So in an attempt to try and get out of my comfort zone I tried my hand at making some doughnuts. I promised myself this year would be the year I tried to use yeast - and be successful. Now these doughnuts are basically a whole day's job. They're not quick and certainly not simple so a lazy Sunday would be the time to try them. I think waiting for the dough to rise, cooking and decorating, it took around four hours. They came out tasting quite bready which I think is because they were baked rather than fried. Despite being a bit of a time suck, they were pretty simple to make. It's just a lot of waiting around. They were really tasty but I'm not sure I'll make them again.

Spiced ginger cakes
Instead of making 16 individual cakes, I made one large round one. This was absolutely delicious and so simple to make. Just a shame some of the top came off when I peeled off the tinfoil halfway through cooking. I usually make a Levi Roots recipe but the added ingredients of black treacle and golden syrup gave this one the edge for me. It has such a great punchy flavour thanks to the ground ginger and crystallised ginger. Definitely one I'll be making time and time again.

Chocolate and coconut flapjacks
This was my first time baking flapjacks so I was little nervous. It turns out I didn't pat them down hard enough so they came out a bit too soft for my liking. Luckily they hardened up a fair bit as they cooled down. So my tip is to be very sure they are really compact. I couldn't really taste the coconut so I'd add a bit extra next time I make them. As there will be a next time! The would be great if you dipped half in melted chocolate for a little something extra.

What I've been cooking #2: Mary Berry's Baking Bible

So this cookbook series didn't really go very well did it? I only reviewed one book and it was another Mary Berry one - who said I'm a creature of habit? I just find her recipes so simple and effective. I'm going to try and start this series up again as my cookbook collection has gotten out of control and soon I will have my own kitchen! I find spending a Sunday in the kitchen really relaxing and have been trying to keep that day aside each week to try and chill out after a hectic week. So without further ado, here is what I baked from Mary Berry's Baking Bible...

Madeira Cake
This is such a classic and one I can't believe that I have never baked before. The beautifully dense cake is one of my favourite afternoon treats. Loaf cakes are one of my favourite things to bake as they're just so simple. This was no exception to the rule. Just keep an eye on it as I feel like 30 minutes is a little too long to be in the oven. It cooks very quickly and I popped some tinfoil over it after 10 minutes. I'll definitely be rustling up a Madeira again.

Blueberry Muffins
Yet another classic. This American muffins are a great sweet treat for breakfast.Make sure you fill the cases up the top as they don't seem to rise as much as I think they should. It will help you get the 'muffin' look. The finished muffin is gorgeously light and perfectly tart, making it impossible to stop at just one. Another recipe I'll be making again. Can Mary Berry do any wrong?

Date and chocolate loaf
I had high expectations for this and mixed thoughts when I finally tasted it. The chocolate was a little bit non-existent but the date flavour was lovely. It tastes very similar to malt loaf and is made much better with a slick of salted butter. Everyone else raved about it so maybe it was just my fussy ways. I'm not sure I'll make this one again...

Maple syrup cake
I loved the maple syrup and orange combination of this cake. It had the perfect amount of sweetness. But I wasn't too keen on the American style frosting which was basically whipped double cream. Give me buttercream icing any day. Whilst I'm glad I tried this cake, it's not one I'm going to be adding to my regular list any time soon.

Irish soda bread
I'd never made any type of bread before having been easily intimidated. But I decided to try my hand at some soda bread as a treat for my Irish boyfriend. Despite forgetting to add the salt, I KNOW!, I added some salted butter and it actually tasted really nice. I imagine it'll taste even better when I remember to put in one of the most important ingredients. It was so, so simple to make and came out with such a gorgeous crust. I'll definitely be rustling up one of these on a regular basis.

Fruit scones
How can you go wrong with some scones? I've always made my scones from Mary Berry and they've always came out great. I alternative the type of fruit I use every time and each variation is tasty. The recipe never usually makes as many as she says it will so always double up. You can never have too many!

So my thoughts on Mary's baking bible? Like all the other Mary books I've tried, this is flawless. She just has a knack of producing really simple, traditional recipes that always come out trumps. I've yet to have a real disaster and another I haven't liked is just due to personal taste. She is always my go-to when it comes to a good classic cake. It's a great cookbook for a lazy Sunday afternoon of baking as you never have to concentrate too hard on a recipe. Another success from the Bezza! 

What I've been cooking #1 - Mary Berry Absolute Favourites

As I mentioned in this post, I've been making a conscious effort to use my cookbooks and where better to document my progress than here! This time I worked my way through Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites. I'm a massive fan of Mary's bakes but I'd never tried her cooking recipe - turns out they're just as good! Full of hearty, traditional classics, the cookbook is perfect to run to when you have guests who aren't really to experimental - parents! Each dish was so simple to make and the instructions were easy to follow. Nothing was too overwhelming to try. There's still so many recipes I want to try.  I wouldn't necessarily say they were mid-week dishes because they're not quick but I'm sure over time you can speed them up again. So, what did I end up making?

Cottage pie with crush potato topping
A classic in my family, cottage pie is always a crowd pleaser. But this time Mary added crushed potatoes instead of mash which made a welcome changed to a traditional British meal. I didn't follow the recipe exactly as I cooked my mince meat first in a pan with all the ingredients before popping it in the oven with the topping. The recipe says to cook it in the oven for 90 minutes but I've just never made it like it. It still came out perfectly tender the way I did it. The red wine gave the meat such a wonderful, addictive flavour. Served with steamed veg and cabbage, it was a great winter warmer when the cold weather hit. I'll definitely be pulling this one out the bag again over the next few months.

Sticky chicken
Out of everything I cooked, this was my least favourite. But it went down well with everyone else! I should have left the sticky sauce to caramelise for longer so it wasn't as runny but I was too scared about burning the pan. I paired it with rocket drizzled in olive oil and a bowl of potato wedges because what's a dinner without any carbs? I don't think I'd make this again.

Meatballs in tomato and basil sauce
I'm still dreaming about this sauce. So simple yet so blooming delicious. I'd make the sauce on its own and keep it in the fridge for other dishes. Admittedly this was a major faff as I attempted it on a Monday night after I got home from work late and we didn't eat until after 9pm. So don't attempt it on a week night. But once I bit into that first meatball, it was well worth the effort. The meatballs wasn't the most flavoursome I've had but it was all about that sauce. So skip the meatballs and just cook ALL the sauce.

Roasted sausage and potato supper
My household is a massive fan of sausages so I knew this was going to be a winner before I event tried the recipe. The recipe only called for peppers and onions but it didn't seem enough for me so I pumped for a whole host of different things to help make it more substantial. Aubergines, courgette and tomatoes all made the cut. The great thing about this is when you've chopped everything up, you literally leave it in the oven and forget about it. It only takes about 30 minutes to cook. Definitely one to add to my list of things to make again!

Pork stroganoff
Not the most photogenic of dishes but one of my favourites. I have such a soft spot for stroganoff, it's always so simple to make and tastes great too. This recipe was no different. I loved the addition of paprika - although I would personally have added more. Next time I'm going to serve this alongside mash for the ultimate comfort meal.

5 of my favourite cookbooks

Cookbooks are my jam. I don't even want to count how many I have. I absolutely love buying them, settling down in bed flicking through the pages and rustling something up that looks vaguely like the picture. I am addicted. But these five are my current favourites.

1. Levi Roots Reggae Reggae Cookbook
Caribbean food is up there with one of my favourite cuisines and this cookbook is perfect for beginners. The recipes are so simple to make, ingredients aren't too tricky and everything tastes utterly delicious. I love the fact the book tells you all about Levi Roots and the journey he's made to get to where he is today. The Jamaican Ginger Cake recipe is perfection. Next on my list is the coconut cake and sweet potato pudding. Best start baking!

2. Lola's Forever
Every single recipe in this book looks mouth-watering. I've had a Lola's cupcake before in London so was over the moon when I was kindly treated to this book from the mother. It has every different type of cupcake, tray bake and loaf you can imagine. And then some more. Some recipes are quite time-consuming so it's best to set aside a lot of time for the kitchen. But they always come out perfectly and taste great. The rocky road cupcakes are bookmarked for my next baking session.

3. Mary Berry's Baking Bible
How could I not include the Queen of baking eh? The recipes always use simple, wholesome ingredients - nothing worse then wondering where the hell to get certain bits and pieces - and Mary always break down exactly what you need to do perfectly so there's not room for error on your part. She has everything covered. The cakes aren't anything too fancy but they're old favourites and always hit the spot. The Frosted Walnut Layer Cake has been calling my name for a while!

4. Jamie's Ministry of Food
I have a soft spot for Jamie Oliver but sometimes he gets a bit too fussy and includes recipes that take forever. That's ok on a lazy Sunday but who has time for that midweek when you feel like your stomach is about it eat itself? This is an oldie but a goodie. It's got some great British classics and lots of hints and tips to help you get to know your way around a kitchen. It's a fantastic option for those who are just starting to experiment. I still can't believe I haven't made the Baked Camembert Pasta. I'm slacking.

5. The Hairy Bikers' family Cookbook Mums Know Best
I wish I could employ the Hairy Bikers to be my full time cooks. These men are my heroes! They always create such hearty dishes with a slight twist to help keep them feeling fresh. After all, how many times can you have Shepherd's Pie eh? This one features all different types of cuisines but they all have a slight British twist to them which means they'll suit even the fussiest of eaters. Nothing to too intense. The cheesy cottage pie is such a crowd pleaser and always gets a nod of approval from guests. I think the curried salmon will be my next dish I tackle!

What are your favourite cookbooks? I'm always after suggestions! 

A few favourites #2

Mary Berry Baking Bible
I was very kindly given this by my sister-in-law for Christmas. I just adore Mary Berry - she's such a babe and whenever I follow her recipes I always have such incredibly tasting cakes. Admittedly I haven't made anything out of this yet as I've just not had time to think since the festive period. But things should calm down soon and I have the cheese straws and Swiss Roll at the top of list of things to bake.

Matalan Pink Initial Scarf
My mum bought my dad his own version of this scarf just before Christmas and kindly treated me too when I expressed an interest. I love things with my initial/name and I kind of feel a little like High School Musical in it. It's very warm and the £10 goes straight to Alder Hey charity. Not only do you look good but you do a good deed at the same time!

Topshop Forest Green Tunic
I've been on the hunt for suitable tops for jeans for what feels like my whole life. Okay slight exaggeration there... But in an era of crop tops, they're like a needle in a haystack. I'm quite fussy and like tops to cover my bum and to be long and flowing.  Thankfully Topshop have come up trumps with this tunic. I love the colour and it skims perfectly past my rather large booty - winner all round! I might have to get it in the oxblood colour too.

No7 Pop and Glow Cream Blush Stick
I bought this with a No7 voucher, used it once and then popped it in my make up drawer and promptly forgot all about it. Fast forward to a day where I was determined to finally get a hold on my mountain of stuff - never did - and I came across it. Since then it's barely left my cheeks. Although the colour looks a touch scary, it's the perfect shade to build to your tastes and has great staying power. I'd love to try other shades in the range.

Rimmel Apocalips Lip Laquer Big Bang
Over the last few months I can seem to get enough of a red lip and this is one of the top contenders that I reach for. It can be a little tricky to apply as it's so easy to be heavy handed with it. A lip liner might help to keep it under control. But it really does pack a punch.

Enrapture Totem Styler 
I asked for this a few birthday's ago when it reached the dizzy heights of the blogger hype. Everyone and their dog seems to have one. Again it had been pushed to one side for a good few months - sense a theme? I need to detox my room. But I picked it up before Christmas and instantly remembered how much I loved it. I adore the fact you can adjust the curl depending on your mood and it really does lasts on my dreaded heavy hair. Perfect!


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