Category Archives: Recipes

The Great Cake Pops Disaster

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I’m a busy Mum whose son turned three recently and is having a birthday party on Sunday and I enjoy baking.

You’d think this was a great mix, especially when I get inspired by lovely things I see online. Like cake pops. Little balls of cake on sticks, coated in chocolate and then decorated with all manner of things. Every time I see a blog post about these little morsels, they look so simple and everyone extolls how easy they are to make.

Stupidly, I took them at their word. And that’s how The Great Cake Pop Disaster came to pass.

Directions for making cake pops:

  1. Bake a cake. Just a plain Victoria sponge cake. Easy.
  2. Break up the cake into chunks while young son looks on with horrified expression on his face at the seemingly wanton destruction of perfectly good cake. So far, so good.
  3. Use my blender to break down the chunks of cake into crumbs while son screams, “No! My cake! My cake!”
  4. Open a large jar of Nutella. Oh, Nutella, you gorgeous jar of choco-nutty deliciousness, you!
  5. Add very generous dollop of Nutella to the cake crumbs and mix well till it all start sticking together nicely.
  6. Roll into chocolatey-cakey balls and try not to start singing Chef’s Song out loud in front of son who is too young to know about South Park.
  7. Poke little holes in chocolate balls (you’re still humming Chef’s Song, aren’t you?) with a lollipop stick and melt the chocolate.
  8. Dip the ends of the lollipop sticks in the melted chocolate and then stick them in the chocolate balls (yup, still humming that tune!) and pop them all in the fridge so the chocolate will anchor the sticks in place.
  9. Look on in dismay as a drop of water gets into the chocolate and ruins the whole lot of it – all four bars. Kick yourself as you dump the irredeemable mess in the bin.
  10. Melt another lot of chocolate – one bar at a time just to be sure you don’t waste four bars like last time – and dip your first cake pop in.
  11. Try not to swear as it breaks and falls off the stick into the chocolate.
  12. Try not to swear again as each and every one of the cake pops comes off its stick in the chocolate.
  13. Sacrifice your pastry brush in the hopes that brushing the chocolate on instead of dipping the cake pops in will make a difference.
  14. Fail in the trying-not-to-swear stakes as you realise you’ve ruined your pastry brush and the cake pops are STILL all coming off their sticks.
  15. Carry on painting the chocolate onto the cake pops and pulling out the sticks to drop them in the rainbow-hued sugar strands.
  16. Panic when you realise you’ve run out of sugar strands and still have half your cake pops to cover.
  17. Dig around in the baking cupboard and actually cheer when you find a bag of desiccated coconut and use that for the rest of them.
  18. Pop them all in the fridge to set and give the broken ones to hubby and child to polish off.
  19. Decide you’re never making cake pops again as they’re just too much hassle.
  20. Finally clean up the mess that is covering the entire kitchen.

I really hope the kids at the party appreciate the damned things.

We’ve decided to call them truffles.

Recipe – Bread

There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread wafting from your kitchen, and with bread-making machines available at more and more reasonable prices, it’s never been easier to make bread at home.

But what if you don’t have a machine? What if you simply don’t have room for one in your small kitchen, or you fear you wouldn’t use it regularly and it would be a waste of money? Well, you can still make bread the old-fashioned way – by hand. And it’s easier than you might expect!

Simple Hand-Made Bread Recipe
Ingredients:

  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 1.25 tsp salt
  • 7g (1 sachet) dried yeast
  • 25g butter
  • 300mls warm water (use 1 part boiling to 2 parts cold)
  • flour for kneading

Directions:

  1. Mix together the strong bread flour and salt, rub in the butter, then stir in the yeast.
  2. Stir in the water and mix to a soft dough by hand.
  3. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead for 10 minutes by hand (or 5 minutes in an electric mixer with a bread hook) till the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Cover and rest the dough for 5 minutes
  5. Shape the dough and place in a greased 2lb bread tin or on a greased baking tray.
  6. Cover with a clean, wet cloth and leave in a warm place to rise for 1.5 – 2 hours.
  7. Uncover and bake in the oven at 230C for 30-35 minutes. (If it sounds hollow when you knock on the top, it’s ready!)
  8. Immediately turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  9. Wrap in greaseproof paper when cool and store in the breadbox. It will be fine in there for several days, but I guarantee it won’t last that long!

Experiment with different types of flour – wholemeal, brown and white – or even try mixing half and half of two different types to see what works best for you. Different brands will give different results, as will different types. I find wholemeal gives a denser bread, whereas white tends to rise a little better and results in a “lighter” loaf. To get the best of both worlds, I like to mix a little wholemeal flour in with the white. It tastes gorgeous!

Xan can’t get enough of my homemade bread, which is great because I really enjoy making it. It’s definitely worth the time it takes, although to be fair, it doesn’t take much dedicated time really, as the initial prep only takes about 10-15 minutes and the rest of the time you leave the dough to do its own thing and then pop it in the oven. Easy!

Foodie Fridays

Foodie Fridays is a weekly meme hosted by Diary of a Domestic Goddess.

The aim is to share a recipe or a favourite food each week so that everyone else can try it.

If you take part, please leave a link in the comments!

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Last week I was far too busy for any blogging at all, so to make up for it, I thought I’d give you all another of my favourite soup recipes. Seeing as how the weather here has been as far from the expected for summer as possible, soup seems to be particularly appropriate to warm us all up again while the rain pours down outside! This recipe will serve four people as a starter, or will do two or three very generous servings as a meal in itself. It’s a delicious, silky-smooth soup with a hint of sweetness and spice that will delight your taste buds and even kids who won’t eat their veg will enjoy it. It’s also really cheap to make, especially if you generally have squash and sweet potato in your kitchen – you don’t have to buy in anything special for this one!

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup
Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • small drop / spray of oil
  • 1 pt water
  • 1 stock cube
  • Salt and pepper to season to taste

Directions:

  1. Finely slice the shallots and mince the garlic, then lightly saute in a little oil in a large pan.
  2. Peel, de-seed and roughly dice the butternut squash
  3. Peel and roughly dice the sweet potato.
  4. Add butternut squash and sweet potato to the pan with the balsamic vinegar, ground mixed spice, stock cube and water.
  5. Simmer till vegetables are tender, then use a hand blender or food processor till soup is smooth, adding more water if required to reach desired consistency.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with crusty bread and / or croutons.

Notes:

  • For added depth of flavour, roast the butternut squash, shallots and garlic (it takes longer, but you can now skip the sauteing)
  • For added indulgence, serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and garnish with a sprig of parsley.
  • I tend to use a ham stockcube as I love that added depth of flavour, but it tastes just as good with a chicken or vegetable one.
  • If preferred, you can leave out the balsamic vinegar – I just happen to love the stuff and always have it in my kitchen!
  • For an extra kick, try adding a dash of Worcestershire or Tabasco sauce.

Foodie Fridays

Foodie Fridays is a weekly meme hosted by Diary of a Domestic Goddess.

The aim is to share a recipe or a favourite food each week so that everyone else can try it.

If you take part, please leave a link in the comments!

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At the weekend, we discovered that my sister had squillions of blackcurrants ready to pick in her garden. Since she doesn’t like blackcurrants and I’m no fan of eating them as a fruit, something had to be done. There was NO way we were leaving them all to rot on the bush or get picked over by the birds, so I came to the conclusion that I had to learn to make jam. Immediately.

So we picked 6 lbs of blackcurrants and then figured we could, in good conscience, leave the rest to wildlife as there was just no way on the planet we could pick them all (we were literally just reaching into the bushes and stripping off handfuls of berries, some almost the size of grapes!).

During my quick research, I discovered that blackcurrants are naturally high in pectin, so I wouldn’t need to add any. All I needed was the fruit, sugar and water – I was assured that I could not possibly fail with blackcurrants as it ALWAYS sets. This made me feel a whole lot more confident, as I’ve never made jam, and I hadn’t seen anyone make it since I was a very small child!

I knew I had to make the jam in several batches, as none of my pans were big enough to deal with all 6 lbs of berries, plus the water, plus the sugar that was required. Just as well, really, or I might have risked ruining the entire lot!

The first simple recipe I found called for 2 lbs of blackcurrants, 3 lbs of sugar and 1.5 pints of water. I found this recipe rather too sweet for my tastes and the jam set extremely thick, so I decided to tweak it a little. The second batch had 2 lbs of fruit, 2 lbs of sugar, 1.5 pints of water and 1 tbsp of lemon juice. This tasted way better. The third batch was made with 2tbsp of lemon juice, but I found this made no significant difference to it (although I have a marginal preference for the second batch, the recipe for which is below).

Kell’s Simplest Possible Blackcurrant Jam
Ingredients:
(makes 4 x 1lb jars jam)

  • 2 lbs blackcurrants
  • 2 lbs white granulated sugar
  • 1.5 pints water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Method:

  1. Simmer the blackcurrants in the water for around 45 minutes till the fruit is soft.
  2. Add lemon juice and sugar.
  3. Bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes and test to see if it will set (drop a little on a refrigerated plate – if it wrinkles when you push it around, then it’s ready!)
  4. Pour into still-hot sterilised jars (boil jars and lids for 10 minutes) and seal immediately if using screw tops, or top with wax paper disks and let it cool before sealing with cellophane toppers.

The jam should be kept in a cool, dry place (and refrigerated after opening) and should b good for 6-12 months.

I plan to go back to my sister’s house to pick all her blackberries for jam when they’re ripe, and a colleague of my hubby knows where there are cherry plums almost ready for picking. I can see my jam-making continuing for many years to come!

Oh, and I’ll be getting hold of a jam funnel ASAP, as I made a bit of a mess trying to pour the jam int othe jars!

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Foodie Fridays

Foodie Fridays is a weekly meme hosted by Diary of a Domestic Goddess.

The aim is to share a recipe or a favourite food each week so that everyone else can try it.

If you take part, please leave a link in the comments!

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This week I have no recipe or favourite food to share with you. Instead I thought I’d share some tips that I wish I’d been taught in Home Economics when I was at school, something that is becoming more important in many homes while we’re in the grip of economic depression – how to make food go further.

1. Check Out the Cheap Stuff
Many of the supermarket own brands, and even their super-cheap versions, are made in the same places and by the same people with almost identical ingredients to name brands. When it comes to basics like pasta, you may be better off buying from the basics range. And if they don’t taste quite as rich as the bigger brands, they can be made to do so with minimal adjustments to recipes, such as adding a little tomato paste, herbs and spices to a basics range pasta sauce.

And don’t be afraid to check out the food that’s nearing expiration date. If you can use it (or freeze it and use it) within the expiration date, then you may be able to pick up premium range items at knock-down prices.

2. Divvy Up
As soon as you get your groceries home, divide all your perishables into individual portions and freeze them! I mean it – as soon as you get in! This way you will only ever need to cook exactly what is required and will have far less waste. Just take out what you need the night before and let it defrost overnight on the bottom shelf of your fridge. Come dinner time the next day, your food will be ready to cook.

3. Make Lists and Rotate
Regularly check the expiration dates on everything in your cupboards and move those nearing the end to the front for soonest use. Do this every week the day before you do your grocery shopping and you will always know what you have and what you need. You can now plan your menus for the coming week and only buy what is required.

4. Cook in Bulk and Freeze Portions
Whenever you’re cooking a big meal, cook one or two extra portions and freeze them for future use. Get yourself some of those tin foil cartons with cardboard lids and you can write on them the contents and the date it was made. They also stack really well in the freezer so you get maximum storage usage. And if you have a friend with similar tastes, swap one night a week. Agree several recipes between you and a specific night of the week, then cook an extra portion on top of your own one, then swap a meal. You’ll get a bit of variation and a night when you won’t have to cook from scratch. A crock pot or slow cooker is great for this kind of thing!

So there you go – four very simple tips to help you stretch your food a little further, saving on waste, money and time.

Do you have any handy hints to share? I’d love to hear them, so please leave a link in the comments below!

Foodie Fridays

Foodie Fridays is a weekly meme hosted by Diary of a Domestic Goddess.

The aim is to share a recipe or a favourite food each week so that everyone else can try it.

If you take part, please leave a link in the comments – I’d love to see what you’re cooking up in your kitchen!

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This week I want to share something of an experiment with you. It’s a very simple recipe for a raspberry and apple sauce that I threw together out of sheer desperation…

Earlier this week I found myself craving pancakes (crepes, not Scotch pancakes or drop scones), but I had no lemons or lemon juice in the house, so I couldn’t have them with my customary simple topping of lemon juice and sugar this time. I did, however, have some fresh raspberries and apples, so I thought I’d try making a coulis, which I’d never done before. Here’s the extremely simple recipe.

Raspberry and Apple Sauce
Ingredients:

  • 1 small punnet of fresh raspberries
  • 1 large apple
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • enough water to cover

Directions:

  1. Peel, core and finely dice the apple.
  2. Wash the raspberries
  3. Pop the apple and raspberries in a pan with 2 tablespoons sugar and enough water to just cover everything.
  4. Simmer till the apple is cooked and the desired consistency is achieved (adding more water if required).

Now, you can use a sieve to remove the seeds if you like, but I left mine in. And if you want your apple to be left in chunks, you can just dice it a little larger and not simmer it for so long, but I wanted my apple to mush into it. It was delicious!

As you can see, I popped plenty on those pancakes (you can find the recipe I use for those HERE at the Be-Ro website).

But I had some of the sauce left over – what should I do with it? Well, I decided to try another experiment. I knew that the fruit sauce (which I’d made rather thick) wouldn’t soak into bread for a proper summer pudding, and I really couldn’t be bothered making a tiny amount of pastry to bake it into a pie, so I compromised and did a kind of hybrid of the two:

Mini Mock Summer Berry Pie
Ingredients:

  • 2 slices bread
  • raspberry and apple sauce
  • small knob of butter
  • small sprinkling of sugar

Directions:

  1. Cut one slice of bread in a circle large enough to line a small ramekin dish, and the other in a circle to become the lid.
  2. Butter the larger slice and place it butter-side DOWN in the ramekin dish, pushing it to the very bottom to shape it.
  3. Pour the raspberry and apple sauce into the ramekin dish.
  4. Butter both sides of the small lid circle and place on top of the raspberry and apple sauce.
  5. Press down firmly at the edges and weight it with another ramekin dish for half an hour or so, leaving it in the fridge for the duration.
  6. Sprinkle with a little sugar and pop in the oven at 200C until the bread turns golden on top.
  7. Serve hot.

It was a yummy result. I ate it (and shared it with Xander) as it was, but it would be just as nice with custard or a dollop of whipped cream on top.

I also suspect that if I’d thickened my sauce just a little further, I would have had a lovely jam for my toast tomorrow morning!

Foodie Fridays

Foodie Fridays is a weekly meme hosted by Diary of a Domestic Goddess.

The aim is to share a recipe or a favourite food each week so that everyone else can try it.

If you take part, please leave a link in the comments!

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This week isn’t so much a recipe as a food recommendation. If you haven’t already tried it, it’s my mission to make you change your mind and give it a go – sushi!

Now before some of you start saying, “Yuck! Raw fish – no thanks!” let me reassure you that I cannot eat raw fish myself (I can’t even eat smoked salmon because it feels “raw” to me) and so I stick completely to the vegetarian versions or make it with tinned tuna.

You can buy ready-made sushi, or go to one of the many sushi restaurants that are popping up these days, but I suggest you try making it yourself. It’s not as fiddly or difficult as you might expect.

If you’ve never tried before, I heartily recommend purchasing a sushi kit, which you can buy from most supermarkets. The kits contain everything you need for basic sushi – the rice, rice vinegar, nori (seaweed), pickled ginger and soy sauce, as well as a rolling mat. All you have to do is add whatever filling you fancy!

My favourite filling is tuna, sometimes with some thinly sliced carrot, cucumber or red pepper in the centre, but really, you can let your imagination go wild.

(And yes, that is sushi I’ve made myself in the picture to the left here!)

A typical serving of sushi with tuna filling, complete with pickled ginger to cleanse the pallet after each bite, comes to around 330 calories, but I swear, if you have this for lunch, you won’t need an afternoon snack as you’ll feel satisfied right up till dinner time.

Another plus is if you eat with chopsticks, you’ll have no problem in recognising when you’re “hara hachi bu” as the Japanese say (eating till you’re 80% full) as it forces you to take your time and gives your body time to register feeling full, therefore you’re less likely to overeat.

Sushi really is a versatile meal and is a dream come true for those who are watching what they eat. Go on, broaden your horizons and give it a try!

Foodie Fridays

Foodie Fridays is a weekly meme hosted by Diary of a Domestic Goddess.

The aim is to share a recipe or a favourite food each week so that everyone else can try it.

If you take part, please leave a link in the comments!

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This week, I thought I’d share a versatile base-recipe I use a lot. It makes a delicious pasta sauce as it is, or you can add some stock to it for a delicious soup which can be served hot or cold. After the recipe, just take a look at all the alternatives I came up with just off the top of my head (all tried and tested – I’m sure you can think of even more!) and tell me, is it not pretty much the most versatile recipe you’ve ever seen?

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce / Soup
Serves 4-6 (approx 80 cals per portion for 4 portions /53 cals for 6 portions )

Ingredients (for sauce):

  • 400g cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 2 large red peppers
  • 4 shallots or 1 med-large onion
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes
  • Pinch basil

Additional (for soup):

  • 1 stock cube
  • 750 mls water

Directions (for sauce):

  1. Split the peppers in half length-ways and scoop out the seeds
  2. Peal the shallots or onion and cut in half
  3. Place the peppers and shallots / onions on a baking tray with the cherry tomatoes and two garlic cloves, spritz with a little low-cal spray oil, and roast in the oven at 230C for approx 30-35 minutes.
  4. Once the vegetables are roasted, squeeze the garlic out of its skin and pop in a pan with the rest of the roasted vegetables.
  5. Add the tin of plum tomatoes and use a hand blender to liquidize everything (you’re after a nice, smooth consistency).
  6. Add a pinch of basil and simmer till it reduces to the required consistency and serve with pasta.

Directions (for soup):

  1. As for sauce, but add stock cube and 750 mls water and a stock cube.

Notes:

  • If you’re a big garlic fan, this recipe is equally delicious using an entire bulb of garlic – trust me!
  • Use a vegetable stock cube and this recipe is vegetarian/vegan.
  • The soup can also be served chilled as a starter for a summer meal – delicious!
  • Try serving the soup with a swirl of creme fraiche for a special treat. This will, of course, add to the calorie count.

Variations to try (these will all change the calorie content):

  • If you like chunky vegetables, you can add these to the sauce / soup after you’ve liquidized the basic ingredients. I often add sautéed mushrooms, courgette, onion/shallot and peppers to my sauce and it’s delicious!
  • Fry off some mince and add to the sauce for a delicious Bolognese sauce which can also be used in lasagna or cannelloni.
  • Try spreading it on a pizza base, then adding cheese and whatever toppings you fancy.
  • Add some mascarpone cheese for a delicious tomato and mascarpone sauce.
  • Add a little paprika and pour over chicken with some chorizo for a delicious Spanish meal.
  • Add some chilli powder, mince and kidney beans for Chili Con Carne.
  • Add some pasta, bacon and chunky veg to the soup for a lovely minestrone.
  • Add some curry powder and a swirl of natural yoghurt to the sauce for a delicious curry sauce. Add whatever meat and / or veg you fancy!

Foodie Fridays

Foodie Fridays is a weekly meme hosted by Diary of a Domestic Goddess.

The aim is to share a recipe or a favourite food each week so that everyone else can try it.

If you take part, please leave a link in the comments!

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To kick-start Foodie Fridays, I thought I’d share a recipe I love and that  I also made today. It’s incredibly easy and because it’s made in a slow cooker, it basically cooks itself while you are free to go off and do other things… important things like, well like life in general, because we don’t all want to be tied to the stove all day long! It’s also low in calories yet very filling, so it’s great for those of us who are watching what we eat…

Split pea & bacon slow cooker soup
Serves 6-8 (approx 85 cals per portion for 6 portions/64 cals for 8 portions)

Ingredients:

  • 1 x large leek
  • 2 x large carrots
  • 400g dried split yellow  peas
  • 3 slices smoked bacon
  • low-cal spray oil
  • 2 x ham stock cubes
  • water to cover

Directions:

  1. Soak the dried split yellow peas overnight (for 8-12 hours) in cold water. In the morning, rinse with cold water and drain.
  2. Wash and finely slice the leek.
  3. Peel and grate the carrots.
  4. Cut the bacon into very small pieces and fry in a few spritzes of low-cal spray-oil till cooked.
  5. Put soaked split yellow peas, grated carrot, sliced leeks and bacon into the slow cooker, crumble the stock cubes and sprinkle them on top.
  6. Boil the kettle and pour in enough boiling water to cover all ingredients with about an inch of water above everything.
  7. Give everything a good stir, then put the lid on and set the slow cooker to HIGH.
  8. Leave on high for 5 hours.
  9. Serve hot with crusty bread and add salt and pepper as desired.

Notes:

  • This will make 8 generous portions (think light lunch) or 6 large ones (good evening meal on its own!).
  • Can be made vegetarian/vegan by omitting the bacon and using vegetable stock cubes. This will reduce the calories per portion to approximately 50 cals (if 8 portions) or 67 cals (for 6 portions).
  • This soup will keep for several days in the fridge (and actually tastes better on the second day after it thickens), and also freezes well.

Focaccia col Formaggio

I saw THIS recipe a little while ago and resolved to try it, but then forgot all about it till this morning, when I suddenly thought, “Ooh, yes, I think I’ll give that a try today!”  However, when I checked it out again,  I decided that a) I didn’t want to make one quite so big, and b)  I was going to change things around slightly to suit my tastes and what I have in the kitchen, so here’s what I ended up with:

Focaccia col Forno (Serves 2)
Ingredients:
200g plain strong flour
pinch of salt (and a little extra for sprinkling)
pinch of mixed herbs
1.5 tbsp olive oil (and a little extra for sprinkling)
100mls warm water
150g grated cheese

Directions:

  1. Sieve flour into large bowl, add salt and oil, stir in water to form a stick dough.
  2. Cover with cloth and leave somewhere warm for half an hour.
  3. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for a few minutes till smooth and elastic.
  4. Divide into two equal parts and put into a bowl. Cover with cling film and leave for 15 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 230C
  6. Roll out half the dough very thinly, place on a floured baking tray and sprinkle the cheese over it.
  7. Roll out the other half of the dough and place on top of the cheese, pressing the edges firmly together.
  8. Drizzle on a little extra oil and sprinkle a little salt on top, then pop it in the oven for around 25 minutes till its golden.
  9. Cut into wedges and eat while still warm.

The changes I made:
The only olive oil I had was lemon and dill infused, but I thought “what the hell?” and used it, figuring it would give a nice flavour to it. I also added a generous pinch of mixed herbs to the dough for some extra kick, just because I like them.

On top of that, even though I was essentially halving the original recipe, I thought 250g was an awful lot of cheese, so I ended up only using 150g and it was, in my opinion, more than enough. I used Cheddar because that’s what we had in the fridge, but I think this would also work really nicely with crumbled feta. I also sprinkled a little more mixed herbs on the cheese before putting on the top layer of dough.

The results:
Overall, this was a really easy recipe to make, but the original recipe lies about preparation time – it states a prep time of only 5 minutes, leading you to believe you could have this on the table in half an hour, but it neglects to mention the 45 minutes of waiting time, so with that and the actual prep, it takes the best part of an hour before you can stick it in the oven.

But is it worth the wait?

Well, in an attempt to actually get mine golden, I popped mine back into the oven a while, which meant it went just a bit too crispy, but it was pretty tasty anyway. The thermostat for our oven is a bit dodgy, so I’ll fiddle with the timing a bit when I try it again.

We had ours as an accompaniment to the rest of our Fridge Soup from yesterday. There was enough for all three of us with some left over!

I think this is a really versatile recipe and you could play around with it a lot to suit your own tastes. I think that next time I’ll try making it like an inverted pizza, spreading a little tomato sauce, then adding the cheese, and perhaps some other pizza toppings too (pepperoni sounds great to me!).