I'm not a huge chocolate fan, therefore I normally bake goodies which aren't exactly chocolate-orientated. However, even as an on-the-fence chocolate admirer, I must admit there is something about chocolate lamingtons that make them rather tempting. I had this recipe in my file for ages. It's one I shared on an old Easy Parenting column, so when I stumbled upon it and suggested to Millie we give it a go, she was pulling the ingredients from the press before I had the chance to change my mind. My slight reluctance was somewhat heightened when I remembered making them last, and just how messy I had found them to assemble, however later that night, when I was tucking into one with a large cup of tea, I deemed them worth the hassle. Chocolate and coconut always work so well together, but they're particularly nice when paired with a slightly chocolatey cake. These chocolate lamingtons are lovely and light, and are perfect with a cuppa or parcelled up to bring along to a winter picnic in the park.  




Ingredients

225g butter, softened 
225g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large free-range eggs
250g self-raising flour, sieved
25g cocoa powder, sieved 

To Assemble 
100g raspberry jam
200g milk chocolate 
100g desiccated coconut 

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas mark 6. Prepare a 20cm x 30cm swiss roll tin with a high lip by greasing with a little butter and lining with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang to help with removing the cake from the tin.
2. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl and cream together for about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time with a little flour- to prevent the mixture from curdling. Mix well after each addition.
4. Add the remaining flour and cocoa powder and mix to combine. 
5. Pour the mixture into the swiss roll tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown in colour. If unsure, test using a skewer - if it comes out clean, the cake is baked. Cool on a wire tray.
6. When completely cooled cut into 24 squares. Then cut each square in half diagonally.
7. Spread one side of each mini cake with jam and sandwich the cake back together. 
8. In the microwave or over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. 
9. Place the coconut into a bowl. Dip each square into the chocolate and then using two forks dip them into the coconut. Turning the squares to evenly coat. Place some kitchen paper under the wire tray and transfer the coated squares back onto it. Allow to set before serving.

During the summer, my talented son, Jack, converted, with the permission of New Island Books, my cookbook, Apron Strings, into an ebook. If you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited, it’s free to read, otherwise, it’s currently on sale for £2.99. I would just like to note, as the book is a 'print replica' it is not compatible with all Kindles. The book is available to read via the Kindle app on phones, tablets, iPad and computer. The list of compatible devices is available on the book’s Amazon page, which can be found HERE

I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has contacted me again over recent months to say they're still cooking from Apron Strings. I really appreciate your continued support and words of encouragement. 

This chicken noodle broth recipe is one I've previously shared in my Irish Country Living Column. It's a real favourite of mine, as it merges deliciously fresh ingredients into something tasty and wholesome. It can be prepared and made with little effort and time and it is packed with lots of lovely nutrients. 





Chicken Noodle Broth

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red chilli, finely sliced
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
900ml chicken stock
1tbsp soy sauce
2 chicken breasts, very finely sliced
100g fine egg noodles
150g sweetheart cabbage, finely sliced
Handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped

To Serve
A handful of raw cashew nuts
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Coriander leaves

Method

1.    Heat the oil in a large saucepan, over a medium heat. Add the onion. Turn down the heat and cook for a few minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and red chilli, and stir through for about a minute. Season with a little sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
2.    Pour in the hot stock and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
3.    While the broth is cooking, place a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cashews, and dry-fry them for about five minutes until lightly toasted. Toss occasionally to avoid burning. Transfer to a plate and roughly chop. 
4.    Add the chicken to the saucepan, and bring the broth back to a simmer. Place the lid on top and simmer gently for about 5 minutes.
5.    Add the noodles. Stir well to combine and continue to simmer for 5 minutes, before adding the cabbage and simmering for another minute or two.
6.    Just before you're ready to serve, add a handful of roughly chopped coriander. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
7.    Serve straight away. Ladle into four bowls and top each with a few slices of fresh red chilli and scallion, plus a scattering of cashew nuts and a few coriander leaves. Enjoy.

Even though this Halloween was like no other, as a family, we still managed to have a lovely fun-filled evening. Sweet treats and scary movies were obligatory, and we even managed to squeeze in a few old-fashioned party games. My mind is already meandering towards Christmas recipes, but I've one last Halloween bake to whip up. I shared the recipe for these delicious pumpkin muffins last year, or possibly the year before, in my Irish Country Living column, and I thought I must share it here, in case somebody is searching for something scrumptious to make with their Halloween pumpkins. You may even be lucky enough to have a few left growing in the garden. If so, I'd urge you to give these muffins a go.


Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

These muffins are deliciously moist, due to the addition of the pumpkin puree. They are also incredibly effortless to make, simply adding the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, making these muffins the perfect treat to make with young cooks.

Ingredients

125g plain flour
125g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
250g light muscovado sugar
4 free-range eggs
200ml sunflower oil
250g pumpkin puree, see below
1 tsp vanilla extract

For Icing
100g cream cheese
50g butter, softened
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g icing sugar, sieved

To Decorate
50g pecans     

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/Gas 5.
2. Sieve the flours, baking powder, spices and sugar into a large bowl. Tip into the bowl whatever remains in the sieve from the wholemeal flour.
3. In another bowl, add the eggs and lightly beat with a hand whisk. Add the sunflower oil, pumpkin puree and vanilla extract, and combine.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir well until all the ingredients are combined together.
5. Divide the mixture between 16-18 muffin cases.
6. Bake the muffins, in the preheated oven, for 25 minutes and they are risen and golden.
7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire tray.
8. To prepare the pecans, add them to a baking tray and place them in the oven for 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and once cooled finely chop.
9. While the muffins and pecans are cooling make the creamy topping by combining the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract and icing sugar in a bowl. Beat together until smooth and creamy. Scoop into a piping bag ready for decorating the muffins.
10. When the muffins have completely cooled, pipe some of the cream cheese topping on each and add a generous sprinkling of chopped pecans.


Pumpkin Purée

Tinned pumpkin purée is hugely popular in the US, but I've found it rather difficult to source in my part of the country. There are however any amount of fresh pumpkins to buy in the shops, and turning one into a purée easily achievable in a few handy steps. A small pumpkin, approximately 2kg in weight, when roasted and pureed will provide enough puree to make at least three batches of these delicious muffins. Just be sure to use a nice fresh pumpkin. 

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6. 
2. Cut one small pumpkin into half and then each piece into four. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and pulp from each piece. 
3. Place the pumpkin pieces on a large baking tray and place in the hot oven for about 40 minutes, the pumpkin will be tender and it will be slightly browned. 
4. Take from the oven and once it has cooled a little, peel away all the skin, and any bits that may have charred, and pop the pumpkin pieces in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool before using in the muffin recipe. 
5. The pumpkin purée will keep well for 3 days when covered in the fridge. Alternatively, it can be frozen in small batches.






This nutritious and filling spicy tomato mixture is so versatile. It can be made a day ahead, and used for topping baked sweet potatoes or simply served alongside brown rice or pasta. A good grating of parmesan cheese also makes for a delcious topping.  

Spiced Tomato Topped Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients
2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 leek, peeled and finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
Sea salt and black pepper
2tbsp Thai red curry paste
2 x 400g tin of tomatoes
1tbsp sugar
4 medium-sized sweet potatoes
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Handful kale, tough stalk removed, roughly chopped
200g plain natural yogurt

To Serve
Fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/ fan 200°C/gas mark 7.
  2. Add one tablespoon of the olive oil to a large saucepan, and place over a low heat. Add the onion and leek and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the celery, red pepper, and carrot. Season with a little salt and pepper. Stir to combine and sauté for a further 3 minutes.
  4. Stir through the curry paste and add the tomatoes and sugar.
  5. Bring to a simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes, but regularly stir to avoid the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  6. To prepare the sweet potatoes, scrub them well, and cut them in half, diagonally. Drizzle the cut side with a little olive oil, and place, cut side down, on a baking tray. Place in the hot oven for 35-40 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. When cooked, they will be caramelised on the edges and if you were to squeeze them, cautiously, they’d have a little give.  
  7. To the saucepan, add the chickpeas and kale. Stir to combine and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Before serving, stir through 150g of the natural yogurt.
  9. Once cooked through, take the sweet potatoes from the oven. Place two halves on each plate and top generously with the spiced tomato mixture. Sprinkle over some of the chopped parsley and add a dollop of natural yogurt.


A daily nutritious shake can provide much-needed vitamins and minerals, while also helping to keep us well hydrated. Frozen ripe bananas make a great addition to shakes as they add a delicious creaminess and lots of sweetness. Freezing bananas is also a great way to store them especially when you have a surplus of ripe ones. Simply peel, chop, and place in a freezeproof container.



Orange & Carrot Smoothie

Ingredients
1 ripe banana, peeled, cut into chunks and frozen overnight
1 orange, peeled and cut into chunks
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
Pinch cinnamon

Method
1.     Place all the ingredients into a high-powered blender and blitz until smooth.
2.     Enjoy straight away.

At the turn of the century, Dr. Bircher-Benner developed the recipe for bircher muesli, as an alternative breakfast for his patients who had difficulty eating. The Swiss doctor was one of the earliest promotors of the raw-food diet, and his revolutionary recipe was simply based on grated raw apple and oats. Worldwide, many recipes have derived from the original. It's loved by many, but I find its mild flavors make it particularly enticing to anyone with a queasy tummy. It can be prepared in minutes and left overnight in the fridge to enjoy as a tasty and nutritious breakfast.



Bircher Muesli

Ingredients

Serves 2
50g oats
1 large, red apple, cored but not peeled, coarsely grated
200ml apple juice
1 tbsp honey, plus extra to serve
50g live natural yogurt, plus extra to serve
50g blueberries, or fruit of choice
A sprinkling of sunflower seeds or granola

Method
  1. Place the oats, grated apple, and apple juice into a medium-sized bowl. Stir to combine. Cover tightly with cling film or a lid, and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. The next morning, before serving, thoroughly stir through the honey and yogurt. Spoon into a bowl and add an extra dollop of yogurt, a few blueberries, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds or granola and a drizzle of honey.