Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Sausage and Apple Filo Roll

Sausage & Apple Filo Roll
After I started writing out the ingredients to this recipe I realised this could have a number of names. I immediately christened it Sausage & Apple Filo Roll because I wanted to highlight the apple in it but I could have easily called it Sausage, Sage & Onion Filo Roll. Essentially it is a jumbo sausage roll that is easy to make, quick to cook and ensures clean plates from all the family.

The main elements I found in the reduced section of the supermarket and was able to freeze them. The filo sheets were 39p and the sausagemeat was £1.14.

The dried apple should been £2.49 but for some reason Sainsbury's had reduced all the 250g packets to just 25p. I'm not sure if this was due to them changing the packaging or discontinuing them all together. I hope it's the former as they've become quite a find. Although they are described as 'dried' they're not the dehydrated hard slices you find in cereal mixes. Instead they are more like jelly sweets. This makes them perfect for baking with as they still hold their shape rather than going to complete mush that fresh apple has a tendency to do.

The thrifty nature of this new family favourite meal means I will be submitting it for Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All's Credit Crunch Munch which is being hosted this month by Janice at Famersgirl Kitchen.


Equipment: 1 baking sheet, greased or with non-stick liner.


500g Sausagemeat (1 'roll')
2oz (50g) Dried Apple
1 Onion, chopped
1 tsp (5ml) Sage
1 Pack Filo pastry (5 sheets)
½ oz (10-15g) Butter, melted


1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/ Gas mark 5.
2. In a large bowl mix together the sausagemeat, apple, onion and sage until well combined.

3. Lay out 2 of the filo sheets on the baking tray.
4. Spread the sausagemeat mixture across the filo sheets but leave enough space around the edges to fold over.

5. Place the other 3 filo sheets on top and fold round.
6. Brush the top with the melted butter.

7. Cook for 20 minutes.
8. Serve with potatoes and vegetables of your choice.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Rhubarb, Lemon and Ginger Cake

Rhubarb, lemon and ginger cake

I can't seem to stay away from the rhubarb in our garden at the moment. Nor can I seem to stop combining it with some lemon and ginger. However this is all in aid of of a good cause namely being the Recipes for Life challenge set by Vanesther at Bangers & Mash for the Swallow charity.

recipes for life
I had the perfect opportunity to make this cake last weekend as it was my local Clandestine Cake Club meeting which had the theme of 'Cakes from the vegetable patch'. All I can say is that when I went to pick out the going home samples there was only one piece of my cake left.

It's quite a pleasure being able to cut the rhubarb, bring it into the house, wash it and then use it straight away. If if don't have any rhubarb in your garden there's plenty about in the supermarkets at the moment. Quite often it's reduced because I don't think people know what to make with it. Now you have no excuses!

I like to call this a 'right way up, upside down cake'. The faff of having to turn a large cake over in order to get it out the tin scares me a bit so instead I just put the rhubarb on top to cook. Basically, I don't do difficult.

There were a few pieces of rhubarb left in the syrup so of course I scoffed them. If you don't want to bake the whole cake and just want a simple pudding then just make the topping. It would make a simple summer dessert served with some natural or Greek yoghurt.

Equipment: 8in (20cm) loose-based or springform cake tin, greased and lined, large frying pan.


9oz (250g) Rhubarb (about 4 sticks, mine weighed 254g)
3½ oz (100g) Caster sugar
Juice and zest of 1 Lemon
7oz (200g) Unsalted butter or baking spread
5oz (150g) Dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp (30ml) Honey
¼ pint (150ml) Milk
2 Large Eggs
10½ oz (300g) Self-raising flour
2 tsp (10ml) Ground ginger
2 tbsp (30ml) Crystallised ginger, finely chopped


1. Grease and line the baking tin. I use reuseable non-stick liners.
2. Pre-heat oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4
3. Chop the rhubarb into 4cm pieces (Yes, I used a ruler).
4. In the frying pan put the rhubarb pieces along with the caster sugar, 2 tablespoons (30ml) of lemon juice and 3 tablespoons (45ml) of water.
5. Bring to the boil and then bring the temperature back down to a simmer.
6. Cook the rhubarb until it has soften but not falling apart.
7. Put the rhubarb and the lemon syrup mixture to one side (do not get rid of the syrup!)
8. In a saucepan put the butter/baking spread, muscovado sugar and honey. Heat gently until the butter and sugar have melted. Put to one side.
9. In a large bowl lightly beat the milk and eggs together.
10. Add the butter/sugar mixture to the eggs and milk. Then stir in the flour, lemon zest, ground ginger and crystallised ginger.
11. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
12. Place the rhubarb on top of the cake batter (it's a very moist cake). Keep the syrup still!
13. Bake for around 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean.
14. Leave the cake in the tin and pour over the lemon syrup. Leave to cool completely in the tin before turning out.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Oat and Sultana Cookies

Oat and Sultana Cookies but you use raisins, cherries or apricots.
These cookies used to be staples of the holiday baking sweet treats that I used to take away with us. The 'us' in those days used to be me, my Brother and my Dad. A couple of years later we were joined by my Husband and then a big gap before the kids arrived. I'm not sure why they went out of favour. I can only think that they got shunted out by lemon drizzle cakes and Bara Brith.

My Daughter isn't a fan of dried fruit so may be that's why I haven't made them in a while. When I say a while it has to at least 2½ years as my Son has never tried them and he loves dried fruit. Therefore when this month's Tea Time Treats, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked, announced its theme as biscuits and cookies I knew it was time to make them again.


The reason I like these cookies is not only do they taste great, obviously, but also because once you have mixed everything together you put spoonfuls of the mixture onto trays and just cook. No chilling, no rolling up to be sliced and no rolling and cutting out. I also usually burn biscuits but these are thick enough to stop such disappointments and frustrations.

I use sultanas because they are the only dried fruit in a single form I keep in the larder in at all times. If you want to substitute them for raisins, cherries or apricots then go ahead.

Makes 24

Equipment: 2 baking trays either non-stick or greased/lined to stop the cookies from sticking.


80g Butter, softened
75g Demerara sugar
65g Granulated sugar
1 Large egg
½ tsp (2.5ml) Vanilla extract
50g Porridge oats
85g Plain flour
¼ tsp (1.25ml) Baking powder
¼ tsp (1.25ml) Bicarbonate of soda
130g Sultanas


1. Prepare the baking trays by greasing/lining them if necessary.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/Gas mark 5.
3. Cream the butter with the two sugars. This may take longer than usual as they are both quite coarsely grained sugars.
4. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat in.
5. In a separate bowl mix together the oats, flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
6. Add the creamed mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
7. Stir in the sultanas.
8. Spoon a little of the mixture onto the baking trays. These spread when cooking so leave a gap in between each one.

9. Bake for around 12-15 minutes. I turn the tray round halfway through. The cookies should be golden but not quite hard.
10. Leave them on the trays for about 5 minutes before moving them to wire racks to cool and harden.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Rhubarb, Lemon & Ginger Friands

Rhubarb, lemon & ginger friands
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the tidy-up we had in our garden and one of the things I was looking forward to was the rhubarb growing so all the family could enjoy it in some tasty treats. All four of us are rhubarb fans and the brilliant thing about rhubarb is that it is so easy to grow. The variety we have is Timperley Early but due to the seemingly constant snow in the past months it hasn't been as early as usual. Despite living in Yorkshire we don't force it but simply let it die down at the end of the season and then wait for it to come back up the next year. That's it. The perfect crop for a lazy gardener.

I've recently acquired 8 mini loaf tins which I have been desperate to use. Therefore I decided to posh up my usual style and make some friands. You can buy special friand tins but these tins have worked just as well. My tins measure 9cm x 6cm around the top and have a depth of 4cm. You can also bake these in muffin cases. If you do use muffin cases or another sort of tin just make sure the mixture doesn't come any further than two-thirds of the way up the sides.

This month's Recipes for Life challenge for the Swallow charity is rhubarb, lemon and spice and since these contain the magical trio I will be submitting them to Vanesther at Bangers & Mash.

recipes for life
With the seasonal rhubarb I will also be sending this to Ren Behan for Simple and in Season. Although, I expect she is probably sick of the sight of rhubarb recipes by now. I'm sorry.

My tip for this recipe is don't melt the butter until you need it otherwise it will cool and turn back into its original state. Obviously this was done purely for recipe testing methods...If you are wondering what to do with the leftover 5 egg yolks I make a rich scrambled eggs with mine. Alternatively you could also buy cartons of egg whites in the supermarkets now. I've never tried them but I have heard very good reports about them.

Equipment: 8 friand/little loaf tins or muffin tin lined, electric whisk.


2½ oz (75g) Plain Flour
7oz (200g) Icing sugar
1 tsp (5ml) Ground ginger
4½ oz (125g) Ground almonds
Zest of 1 lemon
5 Egg whites
6oz (175g) unsalted butter, melted
1 stick (about 2oz/50g) Rhubarb, chopped into 1cm pieces.


1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.
2. Grease the friand/loaf tins or line a muffin tin with paper cases.
3. In a large bowl sift the flour, icing sugar and ground ginger.
4. Stir in the ground almonds and lemon zest.
5. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until frothy – not stiff peaks!
6. Melt the butter.
7. Fold in the egg whites and butter into the dry ingredients.
8. Spoon the mixture into the tins or cases.
9. Place the rhubarb pieces on top of each friand.
10. Bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

11. Leave in the tins for about 5 minutes to cool slightly and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, 10 May 2013

London, baby!

The Emirates Air Line gondolas from the Royal Docks Terminal
I was born in London, brought up there and if it wasn't for the ridiculously priced houses I would be living there now. Whenever I visit my parents we like to plan something to do so when my Dad mentioned the cable cars by The O2 Arena I thought that sounded like a great idea. Dad said he had previously been on them with his 80 year old brother so I thought it would suit all three generations of our family.

As my parents live in the same road as one of London's suburban train stations getting around London is a doddle by public transport. An All Zones Travelcard currently costs £8.90, which may seem pricey at first but for a day out it proves to be very good value. We stopped off first a couple of stations down the line for breakfast in Raynes Park and once fuelled up we were back on the train to Waterloo. We made our way to the Underground to get on a Tube to North Greenwich. This line is the Jubilee which I have liked since it opened. Benefiting from modern construction and planning it makes travelling with a pushchair very easy (it was a Saturday as well). Every station has a lift, there are clear barriers on the platforms to prevent people falling/jumping/being pushed onto the line and these also show where the doors will open.

Once you get to North Greenwich station it's just a short walk past the O2 to the Thames cable car or to give it its proper name The Emirates Air Line. Looking back from the car park you can see how much this part of London has changed. My Nan was born in the Isle of Dogs in 1908 before later moving to south west London. She used to take my Mum to visit her own Mother most weekends and the pair of them lived with her for a couple of years in the 1960s.
Regeneration of London's East End
The weather wasn't looking too good at this stage and I was a bit worried the service may be suspended due to the threat of thunder and lightning or high winds.
Clouds looking ominous...
Thankfully it wasn't and we were quickly able to purchase our tickets. Since it is part of Transport for London there is a discount if you have a Travelcard, Oyster or Freedom Card. The return fare is normally £8.60 but reduced to £6.40 for card holders. You can buy a '360°' ticket but this means you can't get off at the Royal Docks Terminal and get back on again. You may as well get the return as it is the same price.

Each of the gondolas take up to 10 people and the staff were very good at getting groups into their own cars. I'm not sure this would be the case at busier times but it was appreciated by us. Once up the view was a joy to behold. The dark clouds had suddenly disappeared and the views over London were spectacular. I was surprised there wasn't a commentary or board pointing out the sights. I didn't even spot a guide book on sale. It wasn't a problem for us as we know London well.
Thames Barrier viewed from the Emirates Air Line
I have to admit I'm a sucker for high rise views and spent two weeks in Kitzbühel riding on the cable cars so I wasn't perturbed by the journey. However, if travelling in a metal and glass box suspended by a metal wire which goes up to 90m isn't your thing I'm guessing you didn't even make it to the ticket office. On the way back it did get a bit windy and the gondola did wobble about a bit. My Brother was quite pleased to get back on terra firma.
Up in the air
On the other side of the Thames is the Royal Docks station. We got off to have a little wander about about. There isn't much to do at the moment but it is a fine example of how an area can be changed and improved for the better. It's worth getting off if only for some more photo opportunities.
The O2, The Crystal, Royal Docks Terminal and Canary Wharf in the background

Once we got off we went in search of an ice cream for my Daughter. Although the O2 is full of chain restaurants there didn't seem to be one place we could get an ice cream so we headed back on the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf. By this time we had decided that it was now time for lunch and my Dad knew of a Wetherspoon's pub nearby (easy for large family groups, they serve real ale and they don't charge 'London' prices). The walk across included two sightings of double aperture pillar boxes. I like post boxes and these Type C are usually only seen in London due to the need for high volume postings.
A Type C double apperture pillar box at Canary Wharf
Enough of the street furniture history lesson and we made our way to The Ledger Building. It used to be part of the West India Docks and the ledgers used to work here. It' s a large pub with several separate rooms and we got one to ourselves. I doubt it's like this on weekday but we were pleased to take advantage of the exclusivity.

After our lunch pit stop we popped in next door to the Museum of London Docklands. It forms part of the the Museum of London and has free entry to its standard exhibitions (donations though are obviously encouraged). It gives an excellent account of the surrounding area through the ages and has secured many fine paintings and other examples of social history. Well worth a look if you are in the vicinity. After we had finished in there my Mum said she would like to go over to Poplar to look at the church where her grandparents were married. Onto the Docklands Light Railway at West India Quay and a couple of stops before we got to the appropriately named All Saints station. Sadly neither the grounds or the church were open when we got there. It still looked very fine though in the spring sunshine.
All Saints Church, Poplar
After this there was a request from one of the younger members to go to Hamleys. Mum knew that the number 15 bus could be caught from out the front on the church which would take us to Regent Street. Within a few minutes one had arrived and we were able to get the front seats on the top deck. Forget about paying for a tourist sightseeing bus and just get on a standard double decker. This route goes past the Tower of London, Monument, St. Paul's Cathedral, down Fleet Street and onto Trafalgar Square then round Piccadilly Circus before stopping near Hamleys. It has to be said that Hamleys is a rip-off. Apart from the concessions in there everything seems to be £5 more expensive than anywhere else. They may say its due to the Hamleys' 'experience' but due to the heavy footfall the store is now pretty grotty and the toys are not the quality they used to sell. However, if you are seven it is still a delight.

On the way home we had dinner at The Barrowboy & Banker pub in Southwark near to London Bridge station. We had tried to get served at the Nicholson's Mudlark pub but was told that the upstairs dining room shut at 7pm on a Saturday! The waitress suggested that our group of seven, including two children aged 7 and 2, should try to get a table downstairs in the extremely noisy and packed main bar. We declined. I'm glad we did have dinner at The Barrowboy & Banker. We had a table on the mezzanine dining level overlooking the rest of pub. On the menu was something for everybody and my Son had the most enormous child's portion of fish and chips I have ever seen. At £4.95 most adults would have been pleased to have been served it.

Full up and now slightly weary we made our way back to Waterloo to catch our train home. A wonderful day, new sights seen and more memories to treasure.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Copycat brands - Fab or frustrating?

Take two...Think you know what you're buying? Look again.

Recently a new low cost supermarket opened near me. When I first went into one of their other stores I was amazed – cheap tea, cheap cereals, cheap crisps, cheap chocolate and I hadn't even got halfway down the first aisle. While I glanced the shelves the colours of the packaging all seemed familiar. At closer inspection though things weren't as they seemed to be. They were all the supermarket's own brand but designed in such a similar way to well-known branded products that a busy or less-attentive consumer could easily be fooled in thinking they were buying something else.

This copycat branding is something that Which? has also picked up on recently. They have found that most of the major UK supermarkets plus some other specialist retailers sell their own brands with packaging designed to imitate other well-known and established brands. You don't have to be a cut-price supermarket to cash in on this trend.

Convincing a customer to buy your product once through a bit of trickery may get you a one off sale but will you get them back? The Which? survey on behalf of the Big Brands Group found that a third of those asked had bought an imitation brand by mistake. Of those who responded 38% felt 'mislead' and 30% of shoppers were annoyed. A spokesperson for the Big Brands Group deemed such copycat tactics as 'cynical'. In effect they are getting the benefits of market research and advertising that have previously been paid by someone else. While some supermarkets have denied this practice even exists, Aldi has said that it deliberating uses, “familiar colours and designs to help shoppers find what they want.”
Similar packaging, similar names and even similar slogans!
You may argue that most people could tell the difference between the original brand and a supermarket copycat brand but it is easy to be fooled. So many people seem to be in a rush these days. A trip to buy the weekly groceries can be like an old episode of Supermarket Sweep. Big, multi-packet of crisps with a red background? Well, that could only be one brand couldn't it? Throw it in quickly and don't worry. However, there can be severe consequences to buying the wrong brand. Recently one brand of crisps started putting natural chicken and bacon flavours into their crisps. If you're not a vegetarian you may have not realised that most smoky bacon crisps have never been near a pig so this has serious implications if you pick up the wrong brand by mistake.

Many people think that copy cat brands are actually the same products just cheaper. A lot though have a very different recipe and use other ingredients. Some food restrictions can be a personal or religious choice. The mental and emotional consequences of finding out you have eaten something from a banned food group can be devastating. If your food restriction is due to a medical condition it could end up being fatal. Your usual brand may be nut-free but if the copycat brand contains nuts and you are have anaphylaxis, you concern is not going to be about saving a few pennies.

One way to gain the trust of your customer is through original and quality labelling. Make sure the ingredients are clearly displayed and don't be tempted to use general or vague terms to try and cover up 'bad' ingredients. If the product is suitable for vegetarians but not vegans make that distinction. It is highly infuriating to see a green 'V' on a product but not know which group it covers. The best way to do this is through clear and original design. Mercian Labels are an UK company that for over 40 years have been offering a design and printing service for labels including those for food and produce. 
Show off your product and be unique. Image used with permission from Mercian Labels
While it may be hard to persuade supermarkets to change their selling techniques the chance for independent companies and new businesses to stand out from the crowd has never been more current or needed. So develop those products, be original and get customers who know exactly what they are buying. You never know but one day you may see a similar product in a supermarket near you.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Mercian Labels. The thoughts and views are my own. Photographs used with permission as credited.