Davina’s Sugar Free Chicken Sinks

22 Apr

Regular readers will know I like to dip in and out of various eating plans with varying degrees of success quite often – basically if there is a bandwagon rolling by I will almost certainly jump on it (Remember Gwyneth Paltrow’s Detox Week? I do!)

I’ve been aware that we all need to cut back on sugar for ooooh years now and so happily snapped up Davina McCall’s new tome ‘5 Weeks to Sugar Free’ thinking it would help me do just that.
I don’t really have a sweet tooth – I’d much rather snack on crisps and nuts than chocolate and doughnuts – but still know there is plenty of hidden sweet stuff in the ready meals I have to eat regularly (because I would starve if I had to rely on my own cooking every day).

The recipes looked quite easy and because I already had some chicken and some yogurt thought a good place to start would be the Yogurt-Marinated Chicken (no flies on me). It really is quite simple, just add things like lemon juice, ginger, garlic, curry powder and onions to yogurt and marinade pieces of chicken in the mix overnight before baking in the oven.

How simple is that? Almost as simple as my meat and veg tray bake signature dish!

Anyway, me being me thought I would add something else to it – just to muddy the waters – and because I had one going a bit soft popped a red pepper in too. So I assume it was this that turned my expected crispy coated dish into a sunken mess?

Look at this, where has all this water come from? And why has it all congealed into one lump?

YogchickenThis is what it is meant to look like, sorry Davina:

FullSizeRenderWhat I managed to rescue from the chicken swimming pool actually tasted ok, but I couldn’t help thinking it lacked something in the presentation?

Still – sugar free – go me! I must try something else one day.


Creme Brûlée Hooray!

2 Apr

Regular readers will know how much I love a cooking ‘kit’, those packets that give you all you need to create a specific dish. I know better cooks than me will obviously sniff at such things but hey – I’m a self confessed rubbish cook so I’ll take all the help I can get.

So… I was very pleased to try out the Creme Brûlée kit sent to me by Sainsbury’s to try out.

Creme Brûlée is one of those mystery puddings, if I was pushed I’d find it hard to describe what was in it or how to make it. I sure do love eating it though and so does my son and so he agreed to help me make it.

FullSizeRenderI agree this doesn’t look too inspiring. But to these two little packets you just add some double cream and semi-skimmed milk and you should end up with four little tasty puds.


Put the main mix in a pan with the cream and milk and bring to the boil while stirring continuously. First job for the little lad to do.

This eventually turns into a thick custard and smells absolutely delicious!

You pour this unctuous stuff into four little ramekins (those little glass tubs you save up from the GU puds) and put them in the fridge for four hours or until set.

And here are mine going in – admittedly there are some little burnt bits from the bottom of the pan in here making them look a bit bumpy – but I figured it would all add to the flavour? Brûlée means ‘burnt’ right?

FullSizeRender[2]After a few hours take your firm puddings out of the fridge and sprinkle the dark sugar over the top and then grill them until the top crinkles and turns into a crust.

Now, I have to admit I do not have a working grill currently – the one in the oven and the one in the microwave are both so smoky when turned on it renders them useless. Don’t ask why I don’t clean them because I do but they then seem to end up more chemical and worse than ever. So we do not grill anything in my house.

Of course as I never read a recipe to the end before I embark on my cooking adventure I didn’t know a grill would be involved until I was already committed to the custard.

However ALL WAS NOT LOST because they were great just with some sugar sprinkled over the top – in fact they tasted absolutely lovely. And to make up the effect I did try and burn a bit of the sugar with a lighter but then I burnt my fingers so really DO NOT TRY THAT AT HOME. See my efforts here:


But I am totally chalking this one up as a success because:

  • My son and I got to do some simple cooking together
  • I never make puddings because I find them too mysterious
  • They tasted absolutely luscious and what’s not to like about sweet baked custard?
  • This is a cheap and easy way to make something that could be rather impressive – if you have a working grill of course

More Cooking Kits Successes:
Mary Berry’s Christmas Cupcake Mix
Witches Hats on Trial for Halloween 

Baked Beans Baked

13 Mar

FullSizeRender-3So this has happened.

Apparently you CAN’T cook baked beans in an oven. The clue is NOT in the name, they DO NOT like being baked.

They are already baked beans. So folks please do not bake your beans, or you too will end up with this bean pancake. Which is far removed from nice baked beans.

I really hope someone somewhere is learning from my mistakes?



Eggs do not a Stir Fry make

25 Feb

I have a problem with boring food, I always try to jhush it up a bit (well how do YOU spell that word?) which often leads to my downfall.

Take this recent stir fry that went on in my kitchen. To be fair it was barely even that, being just some noodles and raw broccoli in a wok with some oil and soy sauce. I was trying to be good, eating bland, basic food after a weekend of indulgence.

All was going well (boring) until I just thought I had better crack an egg into it all. Why? What’s an egg going to do? It’s hardly going to elevate my boring noodles into a sumptuous Pad Thai is it?

Well I did it anyway and then worried I would end up with raw egg in the broccoli florets and so overcooked the whole lot until it was little more than dry noodles with some crispy scrambled eggs over the top. The broccoli however managed to stay raw – how does it do that?

I ended up eating a Grab Bag of crisps, so indulgence continued…

IMG_2830 (3)

Not a Pad Thai. Sadly.

Dark Side of the Pizza

24 Jan

Hello and Happy New Year, if it’s not too late to wish anyone that? Sadly Christmas has been and gone since I last posted here. But guess what? I cooked dinner on the big day and no one died. But do you know what has died a little bit? This blog. I just haven’t had the time. No really in the last few months:

  • I’ve been ill. Properly unable to walk and breathe ill
  • I am doing final edits on my proper big novel, and that’s 85k words long. Phew!
  • I’ve written lots of other blogs for Metro
  • And I have two jobs, two dogs and a schoolboy

Anyway, I am not feeling sorry for myself, just busy!

I haven’t done an awful lot of cooking recently so there hasn’t been much to report on (and I was so consumed with cooking Christmas dinner I kind of forgot to take any photos but trust me it was GOOD), however you’ll be glad to know that we had a little mishap recently with the most basic of items – the frozen pizza. My son loves them bless him.

He doesn’t however like them burnt to a black crisp. This is just a simple matter of not having the oven on too high and keeping an eye on it, I failed. And so I present to you The Dark Side of the Pizza – so called because some creative souls on Twitter alikened it to The Sun or a Burning Star – which I thought was quite poetic really:


Witches Hats on Trial for Halloween

1 Nov


I love Halloween, I love it!

I probably love it more than the rest of the family sadly but they usually humour me. I’ll happily take on anything related to the season and so was happy to be sent these fun little Witches Hat Cake Pops by Asda. I have had great successes in the past with these baking kits (no really they work for those of us who aren’t natural bakers!) but was even more delighted to discover that no actual baking or cooking was involved. Nope, you didn’t even have to turn the oven on but you could still make something quite sweet and impressive and of course fun for the kids to make too.


All these little hats needed was some butter from your own kitchen and you’re off. Mix the cocoa crumb with softened butter and then shape into the provided wafer cones. Fashion some of the mix into the hat brims (not as easy as described) and leave to set in the fridge with the little skewers inserted into them – the box is a handy holder here.

Then spread with melted chocolate before adding some little edible white stars and abracadabra – Halloween witch hats that taste surprisingly lovely and it looks like some actual effort went into them, when it didn’t.

Now that’s magic!



I’m Toast!

13 Oct

Yeah, I’ve still got it. Look:


Sorry for radio silence recently, we have a new little puppy called Robert who is taking up lots of my time. But look at the sweetness:

photo 1And I am writing lots for Metro about lots of TV shows – here – so am feeling almost as burnt out as that toast… which of course went into the bin. Yeah, I’ve still got it.


My Life in a Pan

15 Sep

My life in the kitchen summed up in one picture:


This is a Le Creuset, apparently indestructible and a pan you should be able to keep and use for life.
Well this has been through the dishwasher countless times, has been bleached, boiled, hung out to dry, scrubbed, beaten and cried over. And yet it still retains a burnt patina.

My crap cooking super-power laughs at your durable pan.

It was bread sauce by the way.

Some Summer Holiday Success

4 Sep

Thank goodness it’s all over, am I right mums?
Yes the little loves are finally back to school and no more days spent looking for something to do.
Of course some of those long summer days had to involve cooking – it’s a conspiracy, adverts everywhere talking about easy recipes you can make with the kids, bored children wanting to ‘make cakes with mummy’, it drives me mad but we did partake.

And so here I share with you two actual things that worked out for us this summer holiday!
First up we made these weird ice cream cone cupcakes that came from a £2.50 Asda ready made kit. The fun was more in the making of them because they actually tasted SO SWEET they were inedible. The dog however absolutely loved them:
photo 2-1

And then there was the advert on the TV suggesting we could freeze yogurt into cold, fruity treats, it seemed far too simple to be true, but it really was. My son and I spooned out little dollops of a rather boring strawberry yogurt onto some foil and popped them in the freezer with some toppings, he chose tic-tacs and I chose raspberries.
Going in:
photo 1-2
photo 3

And here are they are after about an hour in the freezer:



photo 2-2

photo 4


The tic tac ones worked better than the fruit ones because frozen raspberries aren’t great – who knew?

The process of freezing made a rather dull fat free yogurt taste weirdly luxurious and creamy.

I became so happy with my new simple summer holiday cooking (or freezing) that I went a bit mad and made loads. After the initial tasting session my son got a bit bored and declared he didn’t want them anymore and so I now have lots left over. Which reminds me I am glad once more the holidays have finished….



How can Italians stay slim?

5 Aug

I’ve just returned from a weeks sojourn in Southern Italy, staying in Sorrento and visiting the wonderful island of Capri. We were surrounded by incredible scenery and very rich and beautiful people. We also ate a lot of amazing Italian food.

In fact I did little more than indulge in all of my favourite things – pasta, pizza, Peroni, Prosecco, panini and other things beginning with P – for the full seven days. And of course throw in the odd Insalata Caprese which is hardly a salad really when it is served up with huge succulent pillowy mozzarella balls the size of my fist.


 (This is a litre of lager, I could have drowned a puppy in it)

It got me thinking though as I shovelled yet more delicious, perfectly made (moist yet crunchy) pizza into my mouth how did all of the Italians surrounding me manage to stay so damn slim when every restaurant table groaned with baskets of bread and bottles of scrumptious olive oil before you’d even opened a menu?

Of course I realise that Italian people don’t always eat what we believe to be ‘Italian food’ – same as the lovely Chinese family I used to work for never ate the takeaway food they sold – but there’s just so much of it and it’s just so good.

But I did come home with a little theory, I am so stuffed with delicious carbs that after a week of it I felt like I wanted nothing more than to eat just green leaves for the rest of my life. In fact if I ever see another pizzeria again it will be too soon. Maybe I’ve started to think more Italian, yes it’s great eating but not for every day right?

italy1(the view from a local restaurant, made me want to eat more)


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