The greatest love of all…

Raw carrot cake bites

I never thought I'd say this but I believe Whitney Houston was right. "Children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way..."

This rings true in so many ways but least not in how we teach our children to cook and look after themselves with food.

A few months ago I was privileged to be asked to run some food workshops at Bristol's first Children's Literary Festival, which actually took place yesterday. Children's authors and illustrators held talks and signed books, whilst I shared my passion for food!

In 4 half hour slots I saw over 50 children and we made pasta and raw carrot cake bites, which is a recipe I created especially for the festival. I regularly hear that parents are looking to think outside the box with children's snacks and these are simple, fun and delicious. Perfect for the summer!

I believe teaching our children how to cook and create food from simple ingredients is a life skill that will help them nurture themselves and their families in the future. An opportunity to introduce them to a love for food is a gift that may not be appreciated right now but may spark an interest to last them a lifetime!

Equally, I know that getting children to help with the cooking isn't always the easiest of tasks when there a deadline to feed the family! So over the summer in our Fuss Free Foodie community on FB, I will be sharing some of the simple recipes I cook with children in my school workshops. So come join our group here and we can share our ideas!

Let me know what you think!

Raw carrot cake bites

  • 35g porridge oats
  • 35g Medjool dates (2)
  • 35g raisins
  • 30g desiccated coconut
  • 50g grated carrot
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 rasps of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Extra few tablespoons of coconut for rolling the balls in
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a blender until it wants to start to form a ball.
  2. Take a teaspoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Optional, roll it in coconut and set aside.
  3. Once all rolled chill in the fridge.
  4. Feel free to double up the quantities and freeze some and fully defrost before eating.
  5. To make into a small dessert, make a slightly bigger version and top with a cream cheese frosting. 100g cream cheese mixed with 1 tbsp of maple syrup (or more to taste!)

 

 

 

A beast of an Easter biscuit

Chocolate Easter Biscuits

Fasting time is over

It's now time to crack on

and have an Eggs-cellent Easter

And eat chocolate all day long!

Easter is a favourite of mine because of the 4 day break!  Unless it's planned to rain for those 4 days, of course. So I thought I would share this great Easter biscuit recipe that I made with a group of year 4/5 children which went down a treat! So if you're in need of an extra indoor activity this Bank Holiday remember to share this one with your foodie friends...

I'm keeping it brief this week, as although I'm not one for giving things up.... a slight Easter digital detox is what I need!!

Happy Easter and thank you for being here on this Fuss Free journey! To keep up with what I get up to keep an eye on Instagram or the FFF FB page!

Lisa.

Chocolate Easter Biscuits

• 75g dark chocolate, broken

• 100g butter

• 110g plain flour

• 125g light brown sugar

• 1 tsp bicarb of soda

• 1 large egg

• 50g milk chocolate, broken

• 100g yellow marzipan

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/355 fahr/gas 4

2. Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl, and place over a simmering pan of water to melt. When melted put to one side

3. In another bowl measure out the flour and bicarb. Then add the egg and sugar to the slightly cooled chocolate and butter mixture

4. Bring the wet and dry mixtures together, and mix until just the flour has just disappeared. Let the mix sit for a few minutes to firm up

5. Prepare a baking tray with parchment and place a tablespoon of mixture on the tray making sure they are well spaced apart. Better to cook them in two batches and spread them out!

6. Bake for 9-10 minutes and when ready leave to cool for a few minutes on the tray to firm up, and then cool them on a cooling rack

7. Prepare your marzipan eggs by making them between blueberry and hazelnut size

8. Melt the milk chocolate in a pan or in the microwave on a medium heat so as not to burn it. Place a small blob of melted chocolate in the middle of the biscuit and set the eggs on that.

9. Then drizzle milk chocolate over the biscuit.

Original recipe idea from GoodtoKnow

Pick me up Tuscan style

Tiramisu:

My first trip to Tuscany was so eventful, I'm amazed  I ever wanted to go back! Amidst the stress of manoeuvring through the tiny Italian side streets and almost getting locked outside the city walls and having to hitch a lift back in, added to the holidays' charm!

People are often surprised that I haven't spent more time in Italy, and Italy is deep-rooted in my soul but France always seemed to capture my heart. But I think that may be about to change.

The rolling hill landscapes of Tuscany, stunning architecture, churches and piazzas of places like Siena and Lucca are what I recall of my time in Tuscany. But now there is somewhere else I want to visit!

Roughly midway between Siena and Pisa, there is a small town called Volterra. There you will find the oldest shop in town which specializes in perfectly crafted pastries of the region. Lucky for me, I was able to witness their traditional Italian cake being made a couple of weeks by Giancarlo the 2nd generation patissier from the Giovannini family when they visited the UK.

He and his wife Fabiola who set up the shop almost 25 years ago having joined his father in his pastry business when he was 14.  Decades of skill displayed before me, I was mesmerised watching Giancarlo. With dexterity, he assembled his handmade mille-feuille style pastry filled with pastry cream, fresh berries and topped with cream.

Tempting beyond belief....and tasted out of this world!

Dario, his son and daughter in law, Vera work in the family business and demonstrated their skill too as they made their family recipe for Tiramisu. A classic fuss-free Italian dessert that I have made twice since meeting them!

This has unleashed my desire to return to Tuscany and visit the Giovannini family and their stunning villa and land where they also produce their own olive oil too. It turns out they are only 25 miles from the beautiful pinewood coastal town of Cecina which we also came across 15 years ago and will be great for family beach time!

So now I'm off to call Jo from award-winning Bookings for You  (turns out we know each other form 20 years ago as it is!) to find us a villa with a pool so we can bring this vision to reality. All being well for this year too!

Jo founded the company 7 years ago and has over 350 properties in 8 regions of Italy (and has a small portfolio in France now too), so I'm confident our paths crossing again will be the intersection to new holiday adventures!

Tiramisu

This is super simple and fuss free, just follow my top tips along the way! This is easily doubled to make enough for 12.

Serves 6

4 eggs
60g caster sugar
250g mascarpone cheese
250g ladyfingers/boudoir biscuits
5 tsp. coffee
300ml hot water

Dish approx. 20cm by 15 in size with a depth of approx 6cm

1.Separate the eggs into two separate bowls. Making sure that you have as little egg white as possible in with the egg yolk
2. Using a hand mixer, start to whisk the egg whites until it becomes meringue-like. Gradually add 30g of the caster sugar slowly to the mixture whilst whisking until it forms stiff peaks
3. Clean the whisk and start whisking the egg yolks until the yolks go lighter in colour. Then gradually start to add the remaining 30g of sugar to the egg yolks whilst whisking until it grows a little in volume.
4. Add the mascarpone cheese to the egg yolk mixture and continue to whisk until it is smooth
5. Add a spoonful of egg white to the egg yolk mixture, to loosen the mix. Fold in SUPER GENTLY. Add two more spoonfuls and fold in SUPER GENTLY! A figure of 8 folding here is good. Continue until all the egg white is incorporated
6. Add the coffee granules to the hot water. Take a boudoir biscuit and dip it in the coffee, spinning it round in the coffee for about 8 seconds or less if your fingers are burning! Place it on the bottom of the bowl and repeat until you have a complete layer of biscuits on the bottom of the dish
7. Pour over half of the mascarpone/egg mixture over the biscuits. Repeat the dipping in coffee and place on top of the mascarpone mixture to make another layer. This time as the coffee has cooled spin for up to 10 seconds!
8. Once you have another full layer of biscuits, if you have any coffee leftover gently drizzle it over this layer of biscuits until it is all gone
9. Add the final half of the cream over the boudoir biscuits and make a level top without losing the volume of the mixture
10. Leave to set in the fridge overnight and sieve over cocoa powder before serving

If your mixture is loose, don't worry. With my first attempt, this happened, and it just meant it didn't hold its shape as well, but certainly didn't impair the delicious flavour!

If you are concerned about giving raw egg to children, pregnant women or the elderly please read the new advice released last year by the Food Standards Agency.

I look forward to sharing more recipes from my day with the Giovannini family and Bookings for You in the future and want to thank them for hosting me on a such a wonderful day.

Confessions of a young Valentine

Fuss free chocolate fondant

I fear I may have put them off Valentine's day for life by being a world class B. It wasn't my intention. This happened a long time ago.

The first scenario was at Primary school. I hadn't realised that this boy had admired me from afar. So part of my response, I think, was shock. However.  He was the most talented artist even at age 10, and he had drawn this beautiful card on a folded piece of white A4 paper. He had drawn the world in pencil with such accuracy, carefully coloured with appropriate blue water and green land and there stood a person. At the top written in angled bubbled writing was 'I think the world of you'.

GULP.

I'm not sure what it said inside the card. But clearly, a lot of time, effort and thought had gone into this personalised card. So what, you may ask was my response to such an overture of love?

This is really hard to write. And I can't believe this was my response. I was 10 and was probably rather embarrassed.

I ripped it up. Yes. I know. How awful. Not straight away. I clearly have this card etched into my brain so I looked at it for a while. But not long after receiving this card. I ripped it up.

If this happened to one of my boys I would be devastated for them after bearing their heart. So Matt K. I am sorry. I loved what you drew. Thank you. Please forgive me.

And there is more.

Whether it is as bad I'm not sure. But I guess if peoples feeling are hurt,  then there is no sliding scale here.

Valentines occasion number two was in middle school. This particular boy had been asking me out and I had not given him the time of day. As Valentine's day drew near, on the quadrangle at school I conceded and said yes.

The next day he arrived at school. Box of chocolates in hands. Roses to be specific. I gladly took the chocolates and shortly after receiving said chocolates, I unceremoniously relinquished him from boyfriend duties. Dumped on Valentine's day.

Ouch.

Chocolate roses were eaten (my bezzie and I were big chocolate fans) and not a second thought for the other side of the story.  If this happened to one of my boys I would be devastated for them for being brave enough to bear their heart. So Adam S. I am sorry. I loved the Roses. Thank you. Please forgive me.

As I sit here and heal the ghosts of Valentine's past, I feel that 30 years is long enough to have held these stories with me. It is time to forgive that young girl who wasn't so aware of peoples feelings and the impact that this could have. I think part of my reason for wanting to have boys was that girls can be so harsh!  And I was that girl on this occasion.

But what I take from it is that I have two boys who's hearts are open and I can readdress the balance by filling them with a little love each day. This goes beyond a prescribed day to show your love.

This year even my husband doesn't need to buy me flowers as I bought some myself when I recorded this recipe video. So maybe that's the biggest learning of all from this week. Not just showing our love to others but to show it to ourselves as well and not wait for someone to do that for us.

However ever you choose to spend this Wednesday. Enjoy. Why not post up what you cook in our FFF Facebook community?

Chocolate fondant

This recipe will make at least 3 pots. If you are doing a double date and need at least 4, follow the quantities in brackets.

    • 125g butter, chopped (167g)
    • 125g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces (167g)
    • 125g caster sugar (167g)
    • 35g plain flour (47g)
    • 3 eggs (4 eggs)
    • Tbsp of cocoa powder
    • 2 dariole moulds 6fl oz (4 moulds)
    • Butter wrapper or parchment for buttering the moulds

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

  1. Place the butter and chocolate in a bowl and place over a bowl of simmering water and leave to slowly melt
  2. In another bowl break the eggs, add the caster sugar and flour and whisk together to make a smooth mixture
  3. Rub the inside of the moulds with a little of the melted butter and then put the cocoa inside the mould and spin it round so that the mould becomes coated
  4. Once the chocolate and butter mixture is melted add it to the other mixture and whisk until incorporated together
  5. Measure 137g of the mixture into each mould and place in the oven for 13 minutes (If you want to cook them later just set aside until you are ready to cook)
  6. You know the pot is ready when you take it out of the oven and the pot is cooked around the outside and has a sunken uncooked bit in the middle
  7. Turn the chocolate pot out on to a plate, and either drizzle over single cream or a dollop of whipped cream

When a Vegan came to tea……

Sticky Vegan Orange Marmalade cake

I'm only socialising with my vegan friends. It's seemed that way this week as 2 friends in 2 days visiting were Vegan.  Thankfully my new years' resolution to educate and add more vegan recipes to my repertoire was well founded.

But had you told me though that 2/3 blog posts this year were going to be vegan and I'd be discussing my thoughts on Veganism on BBC Radio Bristol yesterday, I would have thought otherwise!

My standpoint on the radio was that if I was single and only had my self to think about I do actually think I could tolerate being Vegan! Maybe even enjoy it!! There is so much more available to be Vegan these days. Let's face it, experimenting with new foods sounds like great fun!

But add 2 children into the mix who've so far been brought up eating meat, and a husband with 4 decades under his belt....I'm not sure I'm up for that task.

But the presenter argued if we took the -ish off selfish.....why wouldn't your family want to support you in your endeavours? I guess if it was a question of health, then I guess it would force my hand and I would have to make that change.

However, as I'm not a big milk drinker or egg eater I am quite happy to eat veggie, vegan and all other foods.  We don't buy mass-produced meat and quite often have meat-free days.....so, for now, I feel in balance with the way we eat. I wouldn't want to feel that there were things that I couldn't eat. To be honest ......I just want to have my vegan cake and eat it too!

I challenge you to make this cake and not love it! EVERYONE who tried this cake this week has been amazed its vegan.....I'm off to make another one...

Let me know how you get on at The Fuss Free Foodie FB group and if you want to see what I get up to when I'm not in the kitchen don't forget to follow me on my FB page. Lisa. 

Sticky Vegan marmalade cake
        • 380g plain flour
          85g dark brown sugar
          285g caster sugar
          12g bicarb
          5g salt
          Zest of 1 orange
          480ml orange juice
          335g vegetable oil
          25g cider vinegar
          5g vanilla extract
          3/4 cup of marmalade
          I used Seville orange marmalade from last week! The bitterness works really well

          1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Prepare x2 24cm springform cake tins. Oil lightly and place a parchment disk in the bottom.

          2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Whisk until thoroughly combined, crumbling the brown sugar with the tips of your fingers if necessary.

          3. In a separate bowl whisk together the orange juice, vegetable oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Quickly mix the wet ingredients into the dry mix and whisk thoroughly. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. If there is a small area that is uncooked in the middle, but the cake is browning, place tin foil over the top and bake for 5 more minutes until it is firm in the middle.

          4. Let the cakes cool for about 20 minutes in the cake pans, then run a knife around the inside of the pan to release each layer. Turn the cake layers out onto cooling racks. Glaze while the cakes are still warm, but not hot.

          5.To make the glaze, put the marmalade in a small saucepan. Warm over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the glaze is bubbling and hot. If it gets too thick add a tablespoon of water. Turn off the heat and immediately glaze the cake.

          6.Place one cake layer on a cake plate. Pierce the top with a toothpick a few times.
          Pour about half the liquid into the saucepan over the first cake layer. Place the second layer on top of the first, and repeat. Spoon the solid bits of marmalade peel on top of the cake.

          If you want to check out the original recipe in 'cups' click here...
          https://www.thekitchn.com/vegan-recipe-damp-orange-cake-136406

           

Made TV-Sticky Gingerbread

Sticky gingerbread

This is another of my go-to Christmas recipes, that I have made to hand out to the children's nursery teachers or taken to a childrens party!  It's another classic from the Nigella Christmas book, which is my seasonal bible!

Have a go and let me know of the FFF Facebook page what you think.  Remember to check out the other recipes that Jamie and I made: Christmas Rocky Road, Mince Pies,  Honeycomb and the edible gifts I made on the Hairy Bikers recently ...including cream free truffles and stained glass window biscuits!

Sticky Gingerbread

  • 150g butter
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 200g black treacle
  • 125g dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 2 x 15ml tablespoons warm water
  • 250ml full-fat milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten to mix
  • 300g plain flour

1 Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3 and line a roasting tin or ovenproof dish (approx. 30cm x 20cm x 5cm) lined with baking parchment (I grease it as well!)

2 In a saucepan, melt the butter over a low-medium heat with the sugar, syrup, treacle, fresh and ground gingers, cinnamon and cloves

3 Take off the heat, add the milk, eggs and dissolved bicarbonate of soda in water

4 Sieve the flour into a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed. The batter will be a very liquid, but that's OK, it will be what makes it sticky later. Give a quick whisk if there are some lumps of flour

5 Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes until risen and firm on top. Try not to overcook, as it is nicer a little stickier, and anyway will carry on cooking as it cools

6 Transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the gingerbread cool in the tin before cutting into 20 squares, or however you wish to slice it!

Made TV-Mince Pies

Fuss free homemade mince pies

Amidst the Christmas craziness of launching the FFF website, my clips airing on the Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas,  I found time to welcome Jamie from Made TV into my kitchen!

After agreeing for him to cook with me, I had a slight panic about letting them all into my home...my sanctuary .....for all to see! But I needn't have worried. Jamie, Ingrid and Tom were a pleasure to work and we were soon relaxed enough to be getting our hands into the same mixing bowl like we'd know each other for years!

Jamie made no bones about the fact that he's not much of a baker, and comes from a long line of non-bakers.  It was at this point I was wondering how the next few hours were going to pan out!

I believe enthusiasm in the kitchen makes up for any lack of skill ...and  Jamie was no exception! As he discovered new things you could just see his mind being blown.... who knew that the flecks in the mincemeat were suet and not rice?!! I could see we were starting to open Jamie up to the magic of the culinary world...

Being from a similar part of the world, we established that despite the decades between us, we had a few things in common.  It turns out he shares my annoyance for chefs on TV who don't fully scrape out a bowl when demonstrating a recipe ...the others I shall reveal over the next few posts alongside the next cooking instalments!

So here is the recipe I cook with Jamie ... Mince pies.  If you have any questions or comments please come and find me on The Fuss Free Foodie Facebook page. Remember to like and follow so you don't miss the next cracking Christmas recipes we cook together! Merry Christmas!!  Lisa

Mince pies with homemade pastry 

  • 340g plain flour
  • 200g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp. caster sugar
  • 2 large free range egg yolks
  • 500g of mincemeat for mince pies
  • 1 whole egg, beaten
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3-4 tbsps. water
  • Extra flour for dusting
  • Rolling pin, cake tray (12), 10cm round cutter, 7cm star cutter
  1. Preheat the oven to 200degC
  2. Sieve the flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt
  3. Add the butter to the flour and rub it in the flour using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs
  4. Stir in the caster sugar, then the egg yolks. Mix with a knife. Add 3-4 tbsp, mix with a knife until you can pull it together into a dough
  5. Press the dough into a flat oval, then wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least 10 minutes
  6. Roll the pastry out to about 3mm thick using a rolling pin. Use a 10cm fluted cutter to cut out about 12 bases and place them in small cupcake tray, pushing the pastry down into the edges of the tray
  7. Put about 1 tsp of mincemeat into the pastry case (don't be tempted to overfill the case!) Cut out the top of the mince pies with a 7cm pastry star. If you need more stars, pull the pastry back together and roll it out again to 3mm. Brush each mince pie with a little-beaten egg
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tray. Then take out and place on a plate or bag up for edible Christmas gifts!

Jamie does Christmas Rocky Road

 

 

 

10 minute chocolate chip cookies

10-minute chocolate chip cookies

It seems that evolving never ends! Once we’ve learned something it doesn’t mean that we never have to work on it ever again!! In blogging about my life as it unfolds, it serves as a great reminder to myself the lessons I’m learning and somehow by writing it down, I hope it will lock it in even further.
I asked myself…. is this my self-discovery this week? I still work on things that I have worked on all my life, and it’s the same with my kids; I thought once I taught them manners that that would be it, but it seems I still have to remind them of their Ps and Qs! We all need to rinse and repeat on certain things!
So I thought; What did I get from this week? I went blank. Nothing. I learned nothing?! Did my creativity dry up? Is it time to just write recipes with no blurb? I decided I would sleep on it.
As I reflected on the week in bed, I acknowledged that this was a checklist heavy week.  Lots got done, and things progressed massively but little yoga was done and the emphasis was more on doing rather than being. And I think I found my learn.
In the past, I have been all about thinking about what I need to do, but most of my evolving has not been about logic, intellect, and thinking. It has been about feeling and hearing what is at the core of my heart, finding the answers that lie within and doing things that make my heart sing. I had slipped back into a comfortable old pattern of being overly productive and not focusing on what I need to do to feel good.
As I finish this I realise that I need to not clean my house but go do some body balance at the gym, less thinking in my head and more being in my body. So my goal for the weekend is to disconnect from the to-dos and connect with the people around me and to do things that make my heart sing. Isn’t that why we were put on the planet?! To enjoy life.
And what better way to do that but by having a batch of quick cookies by your side! Sending love Foodies for a beautiful weekend. Do you know someone who would love this recipe (or a batch of delicious fuss free cookies?!) then please remember to keep sharing the fuss free love bu sharing the link on Facebook or click the share button below  Lisa

10-minute choc chip cookies

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 75g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking  powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 100g dark chocolate chips or chocolate chopped into chunks (or milk if you prefer)
  1. Preheat the oven to 190℃/375℉/Gas Mark 5
  2. Gently melt the butter in a pan
  3. Put both the sugars into a bowl and add the melted butter and stir
  4. Beat in the egg and vanilla
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl, stir, then add the chocolate chips
  6. Spoon heaped dessert spoon sizes of mixture onto a lined baking sheet, leaving about 4cm in between each dollop as they spread!
  7. Bake for 8-10 mins until they are turning pale golden brown
  8. Leave on the tray for a few minutes to firm up, and then cool on a wire rack
Double chocolate chip and hazelnut cookies
  • Substitute 40g of the plain flour for cocoa powder instead
  • Add 75g chocolate chips and add 40g chopped hazelnuts
The original recipe is from River Cottage Everyday by Hugh F-W.

When you lose your path, don’t seek too hard to get back on track….

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Sometimes lifes detours can reveal the best scenery; So if you lose your path, maybe don't try too hard to get back on track. Often what we THINK is what we need isn't always the case and the universe has a greater plan for us! Revealing far many more gifts and learnings than we could ever even imagine.

We have all experienced being diverted from an outcome, whether its day to day or a long-term goal or dream. And as frustrating as it can be, the reality is, it's not always easy to come from a place of gratitude and thanks when it happens!! A period of adjustment, acceptance, grieving or just plain old getting angry may be needed to shift first in order to move into this space. Without pulling out all the cliches, life IS about the journey and not just the destination. If we can arrive at that place of acceptance and allow things to unfold, we may be able to actually see the beauty in this new, less travelled path.

Maybe the deviated journey we will learn something....a new skill, meet a new person who will inspire us in our endeavours or discover something about ourselves that we hadn't realised. Yet had we tried to get back onto the original route we would never have had the chance to experience those things that would help us grow. As long as we are kind to ourselves along the way, and seek to approach the journey in a way that is true to ourselves, the experience and outcome is more likely to be positive.

I heard a saying 20 years ago that "what you will someday be you are now becoming." I understood what it meant back then, but now with a reflective eye over those decades gone by and my own deviations and digressions, I understand the meaning more fully.

There is no point wishing that if I knew then what I know now that I would be further along in my endeavours or realised my passion sooner. It's because of the exploits I went through that I have arrived at this point; I'm sure this isn't THE arrival point, it is a beautiful stop off on the journey!

This week for me was quite different, as I have experienced the sheer beauty of the journey on one side and conversely the scariest of sheer drops on the other. I guess sometimes some of us are lucky enough to be shown both at once.  So I will be focusing my learning this week to help me navigate my way!

This weeks recipe, out of the pure fuss-free simplicity is a Panna cotta. Being led by a 14-year-olds enthusiasm for wanting to turn his hand to make it, I experienced this for the first time this week as well. Enjoyed by him, my kids.....and myself too! It is the easiest of desserts and great to make ahead for a party.

Let me know in the Fuss Free Foodie FB community what you think of Panna cotta and what you serve yours with, or just remember to give a share to add it to your timeline or share some FFF love with your foodie friends! Lisa xx

Vanilla Pannacotta

Serves 6

6 silver dariole moulds or rectangle loaf tin or ice cream tub, lightly oiled

10g leaf gelatin (5 1/2 sheets) (1-11/2 tsp Agar agar powder for vegetarians)
100ml milk
500ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, cut in half to expose the seeds or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
100g caster sugar

1. Fill a bowl with water and add the gelatin leaves to the water and leave
Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to just below simmering point, then remove from the heat. Do not boil
2. Squeeze all the water out of the gelatin and add to the milk. Set aside.
**If using agar agar, add to the milk, stir and you can allow to boil until it melts, which should be 5 minutes
3. Pour the cream into another pan, add the vanilla extract OR the vanilla pod (scrape all the seeds out, add to the cream and then add the pod as well)
4. Bring to the boil over a low heat, stirring regularly. Remove from the heat as soon as boiling point is reached. Remove the vanilla pod
Add the milk mixture to the cream and stir
5. Gently pour into the molds, and once cooled leave in the fridge to set (around 2 hours)
6. To turn out, run warm water around the mould to release the Pannacotta
Serve simply with fruit, with or figs baked with honey. For a flourish and bit of crunch, make a tuile or biscuit! Enjoy!

**I have not yet tried this recipe using agar agar, but based on the equivalents, 1-1 1/2 tsp should bring a nice wobble!

Remember to keep liking, loving and sharing to keep the FFF in your feed, and to spread the fuss-free word!

Seasonal delights: Rhubarb and blood oranges

Rhubarb and blood orange cake

One of the things I love about food and cooking is its seasonality. Just as you are ready for a shakeup, something new seems to come in and changes what you are doing in the kitchen. Now I know that not everyone has time to be influenced down at the veg shop or chat to the fishmonger for 20 minutes, but that is the whole spirit in which I started the fuss free foodie: I am here to be the voice to steer you in the right direction!

January can be a bleak time in the growing stakes, so by the end of the month, like glowing ruby red jewels, we get rhubarb! At this time it's forced (grown in the dark), usually from Yorkshire, so a great British product! It's more slender, and tender than its field counterpart that grows outside in April, although the late season rhubarb can have more flavour. However, grateful for something new I was excited to see it, along with blood oranges, and funnily enough they work together beautifully!

Rhubarb and blood orange cake Mark 2
So after many attempts to make something tasty and fuss free, I am really happy with this final recipe, which is a beautiful Victoria style sponge with sharp rhubarb and sweet orange drizzle. I made 3 different cakes to be precise; The cake picture is mark 2 and this final recipe has the fruit inside the cake, but I gave it away and forgot to picture it! I was so over cake!!

It's a quick cake to make and one that children could help with too. I keep it fast by throwing all the cake ingredients into my blender and just whizzing it up until they are just mixed together. If you have all your ingredients to room temperature (especially the butter), the batter can be ready within a few mins, and then it cooks for 30 minutes.....pretty fuss free! I chose to do a little blood orange drizzle just to infuse a little more sweetness to the sponge, and build the orange flavour.

If a cake isn't your thing, but you still fancy a bit of rhubarb and orange to have with some yoghurt, weekend pancakes or porridge (like my eldest) why not try making this fuss-free rhubarb and blood orange compote. This will also freeze really well, so if you divide it up into portions you could pull it out as and when you need some.... any time of year!!

As always please let me know what you make in the Fuss Free Facebook group or drop a comment below. Happy cooking! Lisa.

Rhubarb and blood orange cake

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees, 23cm springform cake tin, buttered and lined

225g unsalted butter, soft
225g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour, save 2 tbsp to one side
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
300g rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
Zest of 3 blood oranges
Juice of 2-3 blood oranges
100g icing sugar sieved

    1. Have your oven preheated at the right temperature, and cake tin ready, as this comes together very quickly!
    2. Place the butter, caster sugar, self-raising flour, baking powder, eggs, orange zest and 5 tablespoons of blood orange juice into a blender or food mixer.
    3. Mix all the ingredients until they are just incorporated. Dust the rhubarb in the remaining flour, and then fold through the cake batter. Place the batter into the lined tin and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer/cocktail stick comes out clean.
    4. Whilst the cake is cooling slightly, mix 40ml of blood orange juice with the icing sugar until smooth.
    5. Once cooled for 5 minutes, turn out the cake on your cake stand (the right way round; I turn mine onto a plate and then onto my cake stand)
    6. Prick the cake with a cocktail stick, and pour over the orange drizzle to soak into the cake. Serve however you like...just enjoy!

Forget the fuss...

  1. Mixture curdled? Don't worry, your cake will be fine
  2. Butter not soft? Chop it into cubes and place in a bowl in the oven (or top oven if you have one) to warm slightly.....just don't forget about it!
  3. No blood oranges? Just use clementines, or whatever oranges you can find
  4. Cake browning too quickly? Always wait 20 minutes before you open the oven, but if it is browning on the top too fast cover with a piece of tin foil
  5. No blender or food mixture? Go old school: Cream together the butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time with a spoon of flour, fold in the rest of the flour, zest and juice and leave out the baking powder. Bake as above

Rhubarb and blood orange compote

400g rhubarb, cut into chunks
100g granulated or light brown sugar
100ml blood orange juice

  1. Place the rhubarb chunks in a saucepan. Add the sugar and orange juice.
  2. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 25-30 minutes until the rhubarb has reduced. Stir occasionally to avoid it sticking.
  3. When most of the juice has reduced, cool and then refrigerate. Separate into individual portions and freeze if you want to store for another day!