Coq Au Vin

There are many days when all I want to do  is throw together a stir fry and eat something light and tasty but there are other days when I feel like settling into the kitchen and putting time and effort into preparing something a bit more complicated. This was one of those occasions.

Some people are a bit funny about eating meat on the bone, but if you’re one of them, just make this in advance, and give yourself time to pull the meat off the bones. Often it’s easiest to do that when it’s stone cold, and you can use your fingers instead of a knife.

For this tasty treat, you will need:

10 shallots

4 carrots

1 packet of smoked bacon lardons or about 3 thick slices of pancetta, cubed

2 cloves garlic

Around 8 chicken thighs and legs

Around 12 button mushrooms or chestnut mushrooms

Salt and pepper

1 beef stock pot

3/4 bottle drinkable red wine

A few sprigs of fresh parsley and rosemary

2 tbsp plain flour

Recipes using bacon lardons

  1. Trim off any of the excess fat on the bacon lardons that you don’t like the look of, then add them into a large stock pot or casserole on a low heat to let the fat render a little, then turn up to brown.  Remove the bacon from the pot when it’s looking tasty.chicken thigh recipes
    2. If there’s alot of fat still kicking about in the pot, carefully use a piece of kitchen towel to mop up the excess.  With the heat still on high, add 4 of the chicken pieces to the pot, skin side down to start with, and brown on both sides.Recipes using chicken thighs  3.  When golden, set aside on a plate to cool.  Add the remaining 4 chicken pieces and brown on both sides.  Set those aside.
    Hoe to cook chicken thighs    4.  Next, it’s time to prepare the vegetables. Skin and half the shallots and add them into the pot, turning the heat down to medium.
    Recipes using shallots  You should be able to do some of the vegetable chopping while the bacon and chicken are browning.

5. Finely chop the garlic and add it to the pot once the onions are getting on their way to of shallots  6. Peel and chop the carrots into chunks and add them to the pot.

recipes using carrots 7.  Let the vegetables cook gently for 10 minutes or so.

8.  Then add back the bacon and chicken, pour in the wine and dissolve the beef stock pot in the pot.  The meat and veg should be nicely covered by the liquid.  Season and add the fresh herbs.  Now leave the whole thing to simmer for around half 20 minutes, with the lid on.

Coq au vin recipe

9.  After 20 minutes, add the smaller mushrooms whole and halve or quarter any larger ones.  Put the lid back on and allow to simmer for another 20 to make coq au vin 10,  when it’s just about ready, the sauce should have turned from red to brown and the meat should be starting to fall away from the bones, but your sauce will still be quite thin.  To thicken it, simply put the flour into a mug, cover with cold water and mix into a paste.  Add to the pot, stirring constantly until it comes through the boil.  Cook out for a few more minutes to get rid of any floury textures.

 11.  Serve up with green vegetables and potatoes or wholegrain pasta.  It reheats really well but it’s easiest to do so once you’ve taken any remaining meat off the bones.

Coq au vin

Bon appetit!How to make Coq au Vin

Lemon Drizzle Baby Shower Cupcakes

Last Friday night after work we had a bit of a ‘do for a girl who is leaving in a couple of weeks, as well as a baby shower for another who is heading off on maternity leave.  as I have done for baby showers in years past, I agreed to make a batch of baby themed cupcakes for the occasion.  I actually had to make them on Wednesday night as I had my first wedding dress fitting on the Thursday so I had to choose a cake that would stay relatively moist (sorry) by the time Friday night rolled around.  Due to the baby boy cupcake cases I had being white and pale blue, I thought the obvious chocolatey choice would be too dark and hence would show through the cases so I settled on a much more baby-friendly lemon drizzle – a family favourite with a lemony syrup to keep the sponge tasting fresher for longer.

You will need:

250g salted butter, at room temperature

250g golden caster sugar for the cakes plus 150g for the drizzle

3 large eggs

250g self-raising flour

2 tablespoons double cream

3 unwaxed lemons

For the buttercream:

200g salted butter, at room temperature

400g icing sugar

zest of one unwaxed lemon

4 tbsp double cream

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

blue food colouring (optional)

appropriate sprinkles

additional decorations or cupcake picks


baby shower cupcakes

1. Preheat the oven to 160c fan, with the shelves nice and low so that you can slide your pan into the centre of the oven.  Weigh out the butter and give it a good old whisk up with an electric whisk (or a wooden spoon if necessary).  It helps if the butter is at room temperature but you don’t want it to be melting.

baking recipes  2. Add the sugar…
how to make cupcakes  3. …and whisk it up again.  Give it a few minutes to allow the ingredients to combine and become really soft and fluffy.  Next, crack in and combine the eggs one at a time.cupcake recipe  4.Whisk again for a good 5 minutes or so until the batter is really light and fluffy.  This is your best chance of achieving an aerated batter.  how to make cupcake batter  5. Carefully fold in the flour until everything is just combined (too much mixing and you’ll end up with hard, dry cakes). Then add the zest and juice of one lemon, plus 2 tablespoons of the double cream.  Mix until just combined.

lemony cupcake recipe6. Set out 12 cupcake cases into a 12 hole muffin tray and fill each case about 2/3 full.  This is quite a generous recipe so I actually had enough batter left for another 2 full-sized cakes and a half-sized chef’s perk morsel, although you may wish to divide the extra batter between the 12 cases for extra large cakes.  Some people like to use an ice cream scoop to get their portion sizes nice and even but I generally just freestyle it and risk my eye judgement being a little off.

how to make cupcakes. Slide the tray into the oven for around 20 minutes, or until risen, slightly golden and springy to the touch.

These are the cases I used, by the way – I bought them a couple of years ago at a local cake shop, but you can find them all sorts of places, including the good old interweb, or just use plain blue if you can’t find baby themed ones.  Of course, you can make these cakes for any occasion, just change up the decoration.  They’d be lovely for Easter actually.

baby boy cupcakes
8. Meanwhile, add the juice of 1 lemon and the zest of 2 lemons to the rest of the caster sugar and mix well. This is your drizzle. lemon drizzle recipe

lemon cupcake recipe

9. When the cakes have cooled to being just warm to the touch, pierce holes into the top of each cake with a cocktail stick then gentle drizzle a few teaspoons of the drizzle mixture onto each cake, giving it time to soak in. If you go too quickly it might slide right off again.

lemon drizzle cupcakes

10. Whilst you’re allowing the cakes to cool to room temperature, you can prepare the butter icing.

cupcake icing recipe

11. Weigh out the butter and whisk it up until soft then add the icing sugar, zest of one lemon and 4 tablespoons of double cream along with 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or extract. To avoid the sugar clouding up too much, you might want to start mixing everything together with a spoon, or grab a clean tea towel to drape over the mixer and bowl. Whisk until light and fluffy.

easy buttercream recipe

12. Add a few drops of food colouring if desired

blue buttercream recipe

Then spoon into a piping bag (or you can freestyle with a spoon or knife and get spreading).

how to decorate cupcakes

13. Pipe even swirls onto each cake starting from the outside, working inward to a peak.

cupcake recipes

14. Sprinkle on your chosen sprinkles – I used pale blue, green, white and yellow sugar coated chocolate beans (like mini smarties) from the supermarket.    baby shower cupcake recipes

If you’re feeling extra creative (or flush) top with homemade cupcake picks or fondant decorations, or buy some sugar decorations form a local cake shop.  There’s a DIY instructional on my blog as to how I made the cupcake picks.

baby shower cakes

Now you’re all set for your shower or party!

Homemade Chocolate Truffles

 This recipe has been in my family for years and years so I decided it would be apt if we use it for our wedding favours. As a dry run, and to work out how many batches we’ll need, I decided to make some for mothers’ day and thought it was the perfect time to share the recipe with you. 

You can make these plain, or add some crunch or booze to make them a bit more interesting. 

chocolate recipes

To make 36 truffles, you will need:

300g good quality dark chocolate

300ml double cream

50g salted butter 

Optional: dessicated coconut, grated chocolate, cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or additional chocolate for melting to coat the truffles 

Also optional: chopped nuts or dried fruits soaked in booze – I did half the batch with raisins soaked in dark rum and half the batch with chopped glacé  cherries soaked in brandy. You might also want to use Cointreau or baileys on their own added to the mixture if you prefer it smooth.

double cream  

1. Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and add the butter. 

homemade chocolates  

2. Stir and warm until the butter is melted abs the mixture is just about at simmering point. 
homemade chocolate truffles  
  3. Break up the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and pour the cream over it. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the ingredients have combined to a thick glossy mixture.  
  4. I decided to use boozy fruits for my recipe so the night before I put around 4 tablespoons of raisins into a ramekin and covered with about 50ml of dark rum, and added around the same quantity of chopped glacé cherries into another ramekin and covered with brandy, then covered them both and left overnight to macerate. 


 how to make chocolate truffles 
  6. Using a teaspoon, scoop out truffle sized portions of about 2 teaspoons of the mixture at a time. Roll up in your hands and set out on a piece of greaseproof paper. Repeat with the other flavour, keeping them separate from the batch you’ve already rolled.chocolate truffle recipe 
  7. Time for the coatings! I used 2 flavours and 4 coatings for these truffles. The easiest way to go about things is simply to roll the truffles in dessicated coconut, chopped nuts or grated chocolate.  
 Simply pour your desired coating into a plate or wide bowl, roll the truffles around in the bowl until well covered and set back on the greaseproof paper. homemade coconut chocolate truffles Grated chocolate works really well too, especially if you use a contrasting chocolate type. 

grated chocolate covered truffles 
  8. The most professional finish comes from costing the truffles in melted chocolate. Around 100g of chocolate should be plenty to coat 9 truffles – I did 9 with white chocolate and 9 with milk chocolate.white chocolate recipes  

A cocktail stick helps with this stage!
how to make homemade chocolates  

9. Break the chocolate into a glass bowl set over a saucepan of just simmering water, making sure you don’t let the bowl touch the water.


 9. Stir the chocolate over the heat until only just melted. Set aside to allow it to cool for a few minutes to make sure the heat won’t melt your truffles.

white chocolate dipped truffles 
  10. The cocktail stuck is essential here! Spike it into each truffle in turn, using it as a handle to dip and cover each truffle. Hold over the bowl for a few seconds and twirl the cocktail stick a little to help the excess run off. The chocolates will taste and look best with a fine, crisp chocolate coating. homemade dark chocolate truffles 
  11. Use a clean cocktail stick to spike and drag the chocolate around to give an uneven texture which looks a bit more authentic. milk chocolate truffles 
  12. Repeat with the milk chocolate. Allow to sit for a couple of hours until everything has set nicely and then you can package them up in gift bags or boxes, or just scoff them if you like!rum truffle recipe     

Let us know if you make them and which flavours you try! 

Dealslands UK Review


Sorry about my lack of contribution to the blog recently. As Alyson has said countless times, I am beavering away trying to get our house built. Progress is a bit better this week but still plenty to get on with.

While we both have our own places, moving into our own house is proving to test our wallets with the wedding etc. costs all mounting. Can you believe they charge £305 for a civil servant to come and read some boring legal mumbo-jumbo to people!

About a week ago, we were contacted by Dealslands regarding a sponsored post. In that time, I have been looking at several items to purchase. Ranging from shower trays to ovens. Even though we are not quite ready to buy things, a good coupon/voucher site is often handy to know about. I have been pleasantly surprised about how good they are. They might even find a place on my bookmarks list!

There have been a few things I have enjoyed about using Dealslands in the last week:-

  • A lot of these companies bombard you with “vouchers”, that are actually just an advert that they are having a sale. Dealslands do have these but they always seem to be below that actual coupon codes.
  • The site is very clearly laid out without a mountain of spam links here, there and everywhere. It is pretty refreshing to be perfectly honest!
  • I also like the categories section, I am looking at some gardening equipment and with it not being an area of expertise, I don’t know which retailers are about, so if I can be presented with the ones that are having sales and good offers then it will save a fair bit of time.

The only real negative I have found is that if you search for a store and the site doesn’t recognise it, it just reloads the homepage and this caught me out a time or two, re-searching it again.

It would be totally disingenuous to be pushing a brand that served no purpose and I can genuinely say that there have been a few coupons that I plan to use. – There is a Currys promo code for £30 off on purchases over £299, which will be helpful for an oven that Alyson and I both think will be ideal! I almost used a Matalan offer to buy a couple of shower trays until they asked for £72 deliver to deliver them!

Given that I am ageing rapidly and Alyson STILL hasn’t bought me some slippers, I very nearly used the Mahabis discount code, but I saw that the bloke on their website had a man bun and was immediately put off a pair. Disappointing!


They also have some really good Nike discount codes that are worth checking out

I will let you into a cheeky secret I have discovered that works a lot more than it should – If you type VIP15/VIP10/VIP5 into the discount code section of an online purchase, it is amazing how often it works!

If you are ever going to buy something online, take 10 seconds to load the Dealslands UK page and check there isn’t a discount code you can fire in. It’s so easy and as they say, a penny saved is a penny earned!

Sweet Potato and Salmon Fishcakes

Fishcakes are something that look and sound relatively appetising and healthy ( well, not to Charles as he doesn’t eat fish) but in the end they turn out to be much less good for you than you would think when you take into account all those potatoes, the butter or milk you add to the mash, the breadcrumbs and the oil those crumbs suck up while you’re getting them crispy. 

This recipe, made with lower carb, higher vitamin sweet potato mash and not crumbed or coated in the slightest, will just about fulfill that fishcake craving without any of the guilt, as well as being much simpler to make. 

 Salmon and sweet potato fishcakes 
 You will need:

2-3 sweet potatoes 

2 boneless salmon fillets

1/2 onion

1 clove garlic 

2cm fresh ginger

2 tbsp olive or groundnut oil

Salt and pepper 

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp chilli powder 

Handful frozen peas 

A few leaves of fresh parsley or coriander (optional)
recipes using sweet potatoes
  1. Cut the sweet potatoes in half and place cut side down on a foil lined baking tray and put into the oven at 180c for 25 minutes to half an hour. When they’re ready you should be able to squeeze the flesh out of the skins relatively easily. 
 salmon recipes 
  2. Sprinkle some smoked paprika onto the salmon fillets, place on a foil lined tray and cook at 180c for 8 minutes or until just cooked. healthy recipes 
  3. Chop the onion and grate the onion and garlic. Cook off in a little oil until the onions are translucent and allow to cool a little. salmon recipes 
  4. Remove the salmon fillets from the oven. Mash up the sweet potatoes with a fork – you’ll find this much easier than making mashed potato – then mix in the salmon, onion mixture, spices and seasonings. fishcake recipes 

 5. Add the frozen peas straight from the freeze then add in the herbs and mix it all together. how to make sweet potato cakes 
  6. This is where things got a bit messy for me! Because you aren’t using starchy potatoes as the base for your fishcakes, the mixture will be quite wet and sticky so I found it easier to turn the mixture into parties immediately before frying it up – if you put them down while you make the others they’ll just stick to everything and be quite difficult to pick up again. 

healthy meals 
  7. Set out a medium frying pan with a tablespoon of your preferred oil in it, set into a high heat. Fry each fishcake in turn until nicely brown on both sides.healthy fish recipes 

Then serve with lots of lovely vegetables (and add a poached egg if you like your protein!).