Tag Archives: Cooking

Five Ways to Make Your Kitchen the Social Hub of Your Home

When the kids get older, it can be hard to keep a sense of family in your home – especially with conflicting schedules and teenage angst. I find that being a parent of both a toddler and a teenager means that life really does get in the way of you spending quality time with the ones you love even though you live in the same house. But bringing the clan together could be easier than you think…

Here are five ways to use the busiest area in the home – the kitchen – to get the family socialising together, spending some quality time.

Curry with Tilda Rice

Food, glorious food

There could be no better place to start than with food; the true focal point of the kitchen. The promise of a big, family meal is the best catalyst for getting everyone in one room. There’s also something very satisfying about everyone eating the same meal, taken from big sharing bowls in the centre of the table.

When looking for some simple meal ideas that could provide to be tasty as well as worthy of a gathering, you can find inspiration from Jamie Oliver – including a yummy veggie chilli recipe – and a great selection from Netmums that keep to a strict budget. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a family meal together, and cooking in batch can provide a selection of meals for the next week or longer if you freeze.

Cosy vs open plan

If your home has a garden or yard off the kitchen, you have the option of creating a transitioning space. Bifold doors offer the option of keeping your kitchen as a cosy haven filled with warming foods – especially good in winter – or you can open up the doors to create an open plan space where your garden and kitchen become one large area. Wrap up warm and you could have a BBQ for the family or even enjoy a small fireworks display, with enough room for extended family and friends to join in on the fun.

The ability to change up your living space is a great way to ensure that kitchen is the go-to place for the family congregating.  We have a balcony off our lounge that backs on to the kitchen window which means that in the warmer weather we can just pass dishes through the window and enjoy some alfresco dining.


Making the most of breakfast

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not make this the consistent, steady meeting time for your brood? With so many after school/work activities going on throughout the year, having a family breakfast could be the easiest option for quality family time.

Going all out with pancakes or a full English could be a little ambitious, but simply having your dining table packed full of cereals, toast and jams will be enough to entice them out of their beds and into your kitchen to fuel for the morning ahead.

And remember, time is your friend so try to prepare as much as possible in advance, especially if you fancy mixing things up a bit. This article from Buzzfeed is great for some time-saving ideas and unusual breakfast ideas.

philadelphia whipped

Gatherings to remember

It may seem as though this article is attempting to get you to bribe your children with food and fun to spend time with you, but these ideas are merely a starting point to getting everyone in one room communicating and enjoying themselves.

The fourth tip is to have regular gatherings that establish your home and your kitchen as a place to socialise and relax. You can mix it up with tea parties, garden parties, themed food nights – Mexican, French, Italian etc – or even drinks and nibbles for a cheap Saturday night in. Another great idea is to have a small buffet that leads to the main event: the dessert station. The idea of ‘make your own’ is so appealing to children and adults alike, and can be as simple as offering three or so desserts with a selection of accompaniments and toppings. A little glutinous, but definitely a crowd pleaser!

Mini Gourmand Tiramisu

Whipping up a storm

Even though we’re back to food (it is the best use of a kitchen after all), cooking, baking or learning the ropes is a great excuse to get the family together. Teach the little ones how to make cakes, or work with the older children to try out brand new recipes that excite the whole family. An afternoon in the kitchen together will provide an opportunity to make lasting memories, whether they be of burnt cupcakes or casserole triumphs!

This activity will also provide your children with the cooking skills that everyone should have when they leave home and begin feeding themselves. A few key recipes can be the difference between healthy eating and a constant dependency on the local takeaway…

*Sponsored Post

Cook Your Way To A Healthy Smile

When I plan my meals for the week I don’t just have to think about myself I have three other people to consider.  I need to make sure that what I’m cooking is both healthy and nutritious and something my family will like and enjoy – sometimes that isn’t always easy.  Over the past week I’ve been cooking my way to a healthy smile and my family have been eating their way to a healthy smile, I’m going to show you how to eat your way to one too.

healthy smile

So what foods can help our dental health?  I think we all know that tea, coffee, red wine, sugary foods and fizzy drinks are a no no or at least that’s what my dentist always tells me.  I always seem to get told what I shouldn’t be consuming but not what I should be which I would find far more beneficial.


The infographic above lists some great ingredients that are not only healthy but have some great properties that can help your teeth and I’ve included some of them in my dishes below.  I will be publishing all of the recipes during the week so please subscribe if something takes your fancy so you don’t miss it.

celery Soup

The first dish I made was Celery Soup, this is incredibly simple to make and all of my family including Baby Gourmand love this soup.  It might seem strange to have apple in a soup but it adds a sweetness which works incredible well with the heat of the pepper.  The best thing about this soup is you can pop it all in a slow cooker and leave it until you’re ready to blend and serve.

To make this soup you will need:
1/2 bunch of celery including leaves
2 Potatoes
1 Apple
1 Red Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
1/2 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Mixed Herbs
vegetable stock to cover

Roughly chop the vegetables and place in a slow cooker, add the herbs and black pepper, cover with vegetable stock and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Just before serving blend the soup with a hand blender. Adjust pepper to your own taste.


Curried Fish Pie

This curried fish pie is very different to anything you will have eaten before.  I used a mixture of salmon, cod and smoked haddock and added onions, peppers and spinach to the curry to make a very tasty and nutritious dish.

Smoked Fish with Spinach Mash

Spinach featured heavily in my main meals as you can probably tell. I’m very lucky that both of my children love spinach in all of it’s forms but this particular mash always goes down well. The smoked fish is baked in the oven which in itself is quite plain but when served  with a garliky spinach mash it transforms the dish into something special.

Cheese, apple and potato pie

I took a bit of a risk when making this cheese, apple and potato pie,  I wasn’t sure if it would work, I think adding the fresh thyme to the filling really helped and my family couldn’t get enough of this.

Olive and Walnut Bread

Olive and Walnut bread was a huge hit!  I’ve been baking a lot of bread recently and I actually made 4 loaves before finding this taste combination which really worked well together.  I had originally wanted to make a soft top tin loaf but it just didn’t work, this was my final attempt and is probably one of the best loaves I’ve made.

Apple, Cheese and Brazil Nut muffins

Mini Gourmand made these apple, and brazil nut muffins, we decided to pop some nuts in a food processor so that the muffins would be soft rather than crunchy.  They made a great after school snack and Baby Gourmand had a couple as his mid morning snack.

Spiced Sausage pasta

The spiced sausage pasta was made for Baby Gourmand and Mini Gourmand, I used fresh tomato and herbs to make a sauce and added a little green chilli for a bit of a kick.

Apple and Plum pie

The apple and plum pie I made only lasted two days, now I can’t be sure who it was who kept going into the fridge for more but I know it wasn’t me or Baby Gourmand!

I also made fruit and nut stuffed chicken legs but my family are so greedy they didn’t give me a chance to take a picture before delving right in and devouring them.

Everything that I made with the Abel & Cole meat and vegetable boxes was a huge hit with my family.  By cleaver planning I made a pack of sausages, two chicken legs and a whole host of vegetables last for a whole week which I never would have thought possible!  Not only did my family eat some amazing dishes they also ate food which helped keep their smile healthy.

Were you aware that any of these vegetables could help you have a healthy smile?

*Abel & Cole vegetable box was provided by SimplyHealth for the purpose of this post

Meal Planning Monday (27th April 2015)

It’s been quite a long time since I participated in Meal Planning Monday but I’m determined to write down my meal plan on a Sunday evening in the future to allow me to schedule the family meals.

I’m currently training for the pretty muddy 5k (race for life) so I’m trying to cut out the sugar and saturated fat and keeping my calories down so I can burn off some of my fat – and there is a lot of it!

This week The Gourmand family will be eating:

Monday – Thai turkey koftas with salad

Tuesday – Tempura salmon with paprika wedges

Wednesday – Homemade Pizza

Thursday – Kedgeree

Friday – Lasagna

Saturday – Mushroom risotto

Sunday – Roast Beef with all the trimmings


And that’s our meal plan for this week, pop back next week for Meal Planning Monday.

Meal planning monday

Easy Tasty Magic Alchemical Larder

Easy Tasty Magic Alchemical lader

When the Easy Tasty Magic Alchemical Larder popped through my door I was more than a tiny bit excited, cooking is a huge passion of mine and I love to experiment with different flavours so to find out that this box contained 16 jars of magic was extremely thrilling.

Easy Tasty Magic Alchemical larder

When you remove the lid off the box you are greeted with the most fabulous jars I’ve seen, you would be forgiven for thinking they had come straight out of a Harry Potter prop cupboard.  Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that this box of magic was just made for me, I have some big plans for these little jars and you can be sure that the ingredients will feature in a lot of my future blog posts.

Some people would think £29.95 sounds expensive for a product like this but in this case it’s one of those products that you have to see to really appreciate how fabulous it is, I think I appreciate it so much for a few different reasons, obviously it’s to be used in the kitchen, and as someone who loves to cook it’s a perfect gift because it houses ingredients that I probably would have never gone out and purchased for myself. The jars are beautiful, they are made of glass meaning that once the ingredients have been used up I can wash them and use them to store something else like crafting materials, other ingredients or turn them into candles.  Finally there is a real magical element to this box which starts with the label on the front of the box, some of the ingredient names make your imagination wander and I guess that by using the ingredients in a dish you are creating, inventing and concocting something delicious or even enchanting.

Alchemy Ingredients row 1

Alchemy row 2 Alchemy row3 Alchemy row4

A couple of these ingredients really stand out for me the first one being Cacao Nibs, I found a recipe for a Cacao and Lamb pizza recipe which I would love to put my own spin on so that’s one use for this ingredient.  When I saw the Baies Roses I just knew I had to try out Pink Peppercorn brownies which sound a bit strange but look incredibly delicious.  I love cooking with Lavender and have made scones in the past which went down well but I really want to try a Lavender Creme Brulee and I now can thanks to my pot of Mediterranean Lavender.

All of the ingredients in the Alchemy Larder are suitable For Vegetarians however some ingredients contain Sesame and Celery.

Contents: Pink Peppercorns (Brazil); Carnal Sin Rub: Sea Salt(32%), Rose Petals, Pink Peppercorns, Beetroot, Sumac (Blended in UK); Cocoa Nibs (France); Devil’s Penis Chilli (Uganda); Grains Of Paradise (Ghana); Furikake: Sesame Seed, Nori, Sea Vegetable Condiment (Blended in Japan); Lavender (France); Salt of the Earth: Sea Salt, Lemon Peel, Black Pepper, Peony Petals, Celery Seed, Larkspur, Spice of Angels (Fennel Pollen), Marigold Flower, Cornflower (Blended in UK); Nutmeg (Sri Lanka); Renaissance Stardust: Sea Salt (23%), Cane Sugar (46%), Cinnamon (Blended in UK); Rose Petals (Iran); Saffron (Greece); Smoked Paprika (Spain); Sumac (Turkey); Orange Peel (Spain); White Mischief Rub: Sea Salt (28%), Jasmine Flower, Orange Flower, Ginger, Lapsang Souchong, Facing Heaven Chilli, Sichuan Pepper (Blended in UK).

I noticed that the Alchemy Larder is currently out of stock on the Harvey Nichols website but if you’re wanting an alternative to this for a Christmas gift you should check out the amazing range of hampers that they stock, I currently have my eye on the Dandy Christmas Hamper.

* I  received the product mentioned free of charge to review from my own perspective. All words, experiences and opinions are entirely my own.*

A Month Without Supermarkets

When I decided to join Liz from Margot and Barbara in her month without supermarket challenge I was under no illusion that it could turn out to be harder than I had initially anticipated, would I be able to resist Waitrose tempting me with flyers through the door?

My reasons for taking part are quite simple really, it’s not just about wanting to feed my family the best possible ingredients it’s also about supporting my local stores, supporting independent retailers, finding out where my produce has come from and taking time to choose what I want rather than just throwing something in my shopping basket because I’ve used it before.

After talking to my family about the challenge Mini Gourmand asked if I would also be boycotting online stores, it would obviously be cheating if I did an Ocado shop as it defeats the point of the challenge but I don’t think there is anything wrong with ordering a veg box online, buying Asian ingredients from an independent online store or ordering welsh cheese from a family website in wales.

I’m lucky because I live in an area that has an excellent butcher, a greengrocer and some great farmers markets so it’s not hard to get your hands on great produce.  I order my bottles of milk, orange juice and yoghurt from my milkman 3 times a week which supports both himself and the local dairy, this is something I started doing a couple of months ago as I think it’s important to keep our milkmen in a job some of them have been doing for years.

I can get locally baked fresh bread from the deli section in my butchers if I need to but I’ve decided that when I have time I will bake my own (my breadmaker has recently gone pop so I’m making it by hand at the moment) I would love to find a great place to order my flour from so if anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them.

There are so many vegetable box schemes and I’m struggling to find one to suit us, I can’t eat certain vegetables so a scheme that doesn’t take allergies into consideration can’t be used by us, do you have any favourite companies that allow amendments to be made?  Companies that can provide both fruit and vegetable boxes would be preferred but I’m happy to purchase separately if needed.

Coventry is only a ten minute drive away and there is an abundance of international food stores featuring Chinese, Thai, Indian, African and Polish produce which is really handy for the type of meals that I cook, it’s also a good excuse to visit one of my favourite Afghan restaurants!

Shopping locally does take up a lot of my time, sourcing products, writing recipes and meal planning take me over 5 times as long as meal planning whilst browsing Ocado or wandering round waitrose, I’m lucky at the moment because I’ve taken maternity leave from university so although I do work from home I can pick and choose my hours which mean I’m not limited to when I shop, I do think this challenge would be very difficult for me if I worked full or even part time in an establishment.

I spend a couple hours on Thursday writing recipes and deciding on ingredients that I will need to purchase for the week, on Friday I purchase 3 days worth of meat from the butcher and 3 days worth of fruit and veg from the green grocer, I pop back into town on a Monday and Wednesday for any extras I need.

Today marks 13 days since the start of the challenge and although I had to pop to Sainsbury’s at the beginning of the moth for a blog post I only spent the giftcard I was provided with and none of my own money so I don’t think this counts.  I’ve had 13 days of supermarket free eating and it’s been really easy so far, meal planning definitely helps with wastage, I’ve hardly had to throw away any food or packaging compared to the usual piles of binbags I would get through when shopping at a supermarket.

I really do hope to continue this challenge past November so if you have any tried and tested retailers that I can add to my selection I would love to hear about them.


Malteser Cake And A Tray Of Rocky Road

Mini Gourmand has decided that school dinners are a bit rubbish so has converted back to packed lunch for the 10 millionth time which means I can keep an eye on what she is eating, now and again she does like a treat so the past couple of weeks I’ve been practising my traybakes and although they are both very similar in ingredients the taste couldn’t be more different.

Last week I gave Malteser Cake a try, who wouldn’t love this it consists of biscuit, chocolate and maltesers and takes about 3 minutes to make which is perfect for days when you can’t be bothered to make a ‘proper’ cake.

For a tray of chocolate goodness squares you will need:

malteser cake

100g Butter

200g Chocolate

225g Biscuits (I used digestives)

225 maltesers



Melt the butter, golden syrup and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of bubbling water.



Crush the biscuits together in a plastic bag. Once the chocolate has melted pour the biscuits and maltesers into the bowl and mix.

malteser cake

Pour into a lined tin and chill until set.

To make Rocky Road bars substitute the biscuits for chocolate digestives and maltesers for marshmallows, cherries and nuts or any combination you want.

rocky road

Sainsbury’s Back To Basics Challenge

I’ve never hidden the fact that I usually spend an awful lot of money on our weekly shopping, partly because my family are brand snobs and partly because I like to ensure that we eat the best ingredients that we can afford.  When I found out about the Sainsbury’s back to basics challenge I was very eager to take part for two reasons the first being that I don’t buy basics range food from any supermarket and was curious to see how it compared to other brands and secondly because I never shop in Sainsbury’s as I’m a Waitrose girl.

I went to Sainsbury’s armed with my £10 voucher and was surprised at how vast the basics range was, I knew I would only be willing to use certain items from the range so straight away meat, processed food and eggs were out of the equation.  I purchased white rice, digestive biscuits, black pepper, mixed herbs, chopped tomatoes, kidney beans and butter and spent the rest of the money on cooking chocolate, golden syrup and maltesers.

I am of the mindset that by purchasing certain cheaper ingredients you can spend more on other good quality ingredients necessary to your recipe.  I think I made good choices with my selections especially as they were to be used to make cakes, tray bakes and Chilli Con Carne.  The butter, biscuits, kidney beans, tomatoes and herbs tasted exactly the same as big branded products and most were half the price if not more.  Out of everything that I purchased the only item that I wouldn’t buy again would be the rice as it was very stodgy and didn’t cook as well as the basmati rice that I would usually buy.

Sainsbury’s basic range offers fuss-free packaging, lower prices and great quality and with over 500 everyday products there really is something for everyone. Click the video below to see how I used my basics ingredients, don’t forget to check back on Madame Gourmand for recipes.




*Disclaimer: I was sent a £10 sainsbury's voucher for the purpose of the challenge, my review of the basics range is honest and impartial*



Chocolate Beetroot Brownies

beetroot brownies


I’ve been experimenting with vegetables in cakes and sweet treats for years now and Beetroot is always a favourite of mine to use as it adds a special sweetness and earthy flavour to a dish.  I have so many different recipes for Chocolate Beetroot Brownies and never seem to use the same one twice.  Sometimes I like to ice brownies, sometimes I like to add different types of chocolate and sometimes I like to keep them plain.

This recipe is adapted from a River Cottage version, I like to use dark and milk chocolate and golden caster sugar.  My brownies seem to take longer than Hugh’s version but that could be down to my cake tin as it’s not as wide as the one suggested.

You will need:

  • 250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 150g 70% dark chocolate and 100g good quality milk chocolate broken into pieces
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 250g beetroot, boiled until tender, cooled, peeled and grated.  I used mixed beetroot so I had one purple and one pink.



Grease and line a baking tin, I use a square 20cm tin.

Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of hot water until the chocolate and butter start to melt.  One melting has started stir until everything has mixed together and there are no lumps,

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined then beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth. Combine the salt with the flour, sift them over the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in with a large metal spoon. Fold in the grated beetroot until everything is mixed.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes; when the brownies are done, a knife or skewer inserted in the centre should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. If the mixture is still runny pop back in for a 5 min intervals and keep checking for firmness.  Remove the tin from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool before cutting in to squares.



The end result is a very moist brownie that will last for 4 days if you can keep them that long!

The Kids Only Cookbook By Sue Quinn


Mini Gourmand is almost a teenager and is often asking if she can use the kitchen to cook a dish, I’ve tried to show her basic cookery skills but I worry about her when using sharp knives, hot ovens etc.  The Kids Only Cookbook is filled with safety information and advice when cooking and is packed with 50 simple, delicious and fun recipes containing easy-to-follow captions and 300 photos in a unique cartoon-style to inspire children of all ages to get busy in the kitchen.


I particually like the sections which show a how to, each project is original and creative and inspires adults never mind children!  Kids will learn as they go along; each recipe contains a culinary technique such as beating, whipping, piping or baking and ‘Adult alerts’ appear throughout the book and ensure the recipes are all easy and safe to make. This is a book which will become treasured as it helps children to discover the endless fun to be had in the kitchen and to learn skills which will stay with them for life.

Mini Gourmand particularly liked the way the book was written and the colours used, phrases are used like “Epic Fail” which is one of Mini gourmands favourite set of words when something goes wrong!

We were not only provided with a copy of the book but also a kick’n’roll tin can to make ice cream, unfortunately Mini Gourmand went to Portugal on holiday with her grandparents with her camera and memory card containing her video of ice cream manufacture.  It was really quite simple : pack a large tin can with ice and rock salt, insert a sealed ziplock bag containing cream, sugar and vanilla and kick it to the park or the beach…within 25 minutes…homemade ice cream!

Mini Gourmand has already made a number of dishes out of this great book, I had a couple of pictures saved on my phone and have made the video below to give an idea how easy it is for children to follow the instructions themselves.


Once Mini Gourmand returns from her holiday we will share our ice-cream making with you, for now though you can see how it’s done in the video below.


We currently have post it notes stuck on the pages of the book that we wish to cook dishes from, I will try to either get pictures or video footage of Mini Gourmand cooking these dishes.  On our current to try list are Chinese Fried Rice, DIY Fish Parcels, Sticky Toffee Pudding In A Jar, Fancy Lamb, Sherbert Dips and Rocky Road.
If you are looking for present ideas for children age 7+ this would be a perfect choice and hopefully the child in receipt of the book might make you a thank you dish!

*Disclaimer* I was provided with a copy of this book for review purposes, as always my reviews are honest and impartial and all thoughts are my own.

Lamb Kofta and Chapati

The following recipe is extremely simple and doesn’t require a great deal of preparation or cooking time making it perfect for a midweek dinner.



You will need:

300g Lamb Mince

1tsp Ground Ginger

1tsp Garam Masala

1/2 tsp Chilli powder

2 cloves of garlic

handful of mint leaves

handful of coriander leaves

1tsp salt

Place everything in a food processor and blitz until smooth.  With wet hands form the mixture into small balls.  Fry in a hot pan for 7-10 mins until cooked through.  With the last batch fry off some onions and peppers.


This was my first attempt at making Chapatis, I can’t believe how easy they are to make and if you have never tried before I urge you to give it a go!

450g Chapati flour

250ml cold water

Ghee for spreading


Set aside 200g of the flour and reserve for shaping the chapatis.  Add the water to a bowl containing 250g flour, a little at a time, kneading as you go, until you have a soft, elastic dough. The longer you knead the dough the softer the chapatis will be.   Sprinkle a little of the reserved flour onto a flat surface or board. Divide the dough into eight and shape each piece into a ball. Flatten the balls slightly, then place one onto the floured board. Roll it out into a flat disc flouring the board when necessary.

Heat a griddle or a shallow frying pan. Lay the chapati on the griddle or pan and cook for about 20-30 seconds or until the surface is bubbling. Turn it over and cook the other side for 10-15 seconds. As soon as brown spots appear on the underside, the chapatti is done.  Repeat with the other seven balls, using the remaining flour to roll them out. Stack them up as they are cooked, placing a sheet of kitchen towel between each one to absorb any moisture.  Spread melted ghee over one side for added taste.