I always think that a good crumble makes for a real comfort dessert. My mother regularly made apple crumble and I always loved it. A crumble is a dessert that can be easily made up while waiting for dinner to cook. Alternately you could have the crumble made in advance and simply assemble the dish just before cooking. I prefer to serve it with custard but it is also delicious served with cream or ice-cream.

Mixed Berry and Apple Crumble

For crumble
150g plain flour
60g caster sugar
70g butter
40g porridge oat flakes
For fruit filling
1 large cooking apple, sliced
150g mixed berries, fresh or frozen
A pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Lightly grease an ovenproof dish.
2. To make the crumble, place the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Stir in the sugar and oats.
4. Mix all the ingredients for the fruit filling together.
5. In the base of the prepared dish, place the fruit mixture and top with the crumble.
6. Bake in the oven for 30-40mins until fruits are soft and crumble is lightly browned.
7. Serve hot with custard or whipped cream.

I used to only make croutons on special occasions but now the boys usually put in an order for a bowl of croutons to accompany their soup almost every time I make soup (which is about once a week). I generally give in to their food orders, once they aren't too outrageous, as I am much more content when I know they have eaten a good filling meal. Also, I find it very fulfilling when I have three boys at the table who are really enjoying what they are eating. I simply love to cook and when that cooking is appreciated I never feel like my time spent in the kitchen is wasted.
Generally, I don't stick to exact quantities of veg and use a combination of whatever veg I either have in the fridge or garden. I have been using thyme in my soup recipes as it is the only herb in my garden which has lasted through the tough winter.

I love to use fresh herbs in cooking. For this soup, I used thyme but 
you could also use rosemary or marjoram or a combination of herbs.

Fionn helps to prepare the veg!!

Creamy Vegetable Soup

25g butter
5 carrots
1 small parsnip or half large parsnip
1 onion
The white part of 1 leek
1 large potato
125g mushrooms
2 sprigs of thyme
1 knorr vegetable stock pot, dissolved in 600mls boiling water
Freshly ground pepper
120ml milk
60ml cream

1. Prepare the veg to equal sizes.
2. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the veg, thyme leaves and some freshly ground pepper.
3. Cover with a butter wrapper or a square of grease-proof paper and the lid of the saucepan.
4. Sweat over a gentle heat for about 10mins.
5. When the vegetables are soft, but not coloured, add the boiling stock and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft.
6. Puree the soup with a hand blender or food processor.
7. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
8. Stir in the milk and cream.
9. Garnish with a swirl of cream and a few croutons.

Tiarnan giving a helping hand!!

The finished product
Before decorating

Jack turned eight yesterday, and I made him a cake using a mould I was delighted to receive last Christmas from my brother-in-law John and his wife Petra. It's a train cake mould from Lakeland (a British based store) and turned out to be a very impressive Birthday cake. The cake mould is heavy and of good quality which meant that the individual carriages turned out perfectly, making decorating quite easy. The boys each decorated their own carriages, sticking on as many sweets as possible. I will have to invest in a few more moulds as we were all delighted with the result of this one.

I used my Basic Bun Mixture which worked well.

When I was approximately 9 years old I decided to stop eating meat, apart from some chicken, every now and again. I grew up on a farm and with my siblings being older than me I had the ever-increasing problem of playmates. I did, however, have a great variety of animals to play with. I was under the impression that when a truck came to collect the animals they were being transported to another farm until one day I was left waiting with the driver and he filled me in on where he was actually taking them. I was horrified and in turn, I protested by pledging not to eat meat ever again. My poor mother had a difficult time at mealtimes as I most definitely was going to stand by my principles and not touch meat. As time passed I think I wasn't eating meat, out of habit more than anything else, until at the age of 20 when my husband, who I had only stated to date, served me up spaghetti bolognese. I had never had a boyfriend who cooked for me before and being so impressed by his culinary skills I ate it and partially even enjoyed it. I eventually increased my intake of meat and now enjoy red meat more than any other.

It is, however, easier to be a vegetarian now as there are now so many meat substitutions on the market and ways to have a complete balanced diet without having to include meat in your diet.

A very simple dish I regularly make, either to have on its own with rice or to accompany a meat dish are roasted vegetables sprinkled with cheese. I find this is something quick, tasty and low in fat (depending on what type of cheese you use). Usually, when cooked I drizzle the veg with a little sweet chilli dipping sauce or sprinkle with a few crushed cashew nuts.

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables

1 red pepper
1 onion
1/2 courgette
handful mushrooms
8 cherry tomatoes
50g grated Cheddar cheese/feta (crumbled)
Few basil leaves
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt
Olive oil
Sweet chilli dipping sauce (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180 ̊C.
2. Place all veg, apart from the tomatoes, in a casserole dish. Tear the basil leaves and add to the veg.
3. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle over some olive oil and mix well.
4. Place in preheated oven for 15mins. Take out of the oven, add tomatoes and sprinkle over the cheese.
5. Put back in the oven for approximately 5 mins or until the cheese has completely melted over the veg.
6. To serve either drizzle over a little sweet chilli sauce or top with some crushed cashew nuts.

I love tray-bakes, especially ones that are as easy to make as this one. I tend to line the tin with greaseproof paper instead of greasing the tin as these treats are buttery enough without adding more. This recipe was printed on the back of a Rice Krispie box as far back as the 1950s. If you have a sweet tooth you will love these.

Toffee Krispies

100g (3½oz) butter
100g (3½oz) wrapped toffees or a slab of toffee
100g (3½oz) marshmallows
100g (3½oz) Rice Krispies

1. Put the first 3 ingredients into a large pan. Melt very slowly over a low heat, stirring constantly.
2. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and tip the Rice Krispies into the melted mixture.
3. Stir the Krispies thoroughly so that all of them are well coated with the mixture.
Tip the contents of the saucepan into a buttered Swiss roll tin or a tin lined with greaseproof paper.
4. Press the mixture down, and smooth it level with a palette knife.
Leave the tin in a cool place to set.
5. Drizzle some melted chocolate over the top and let it set before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight tin.