Autumn, Food

Quick Slow Cooker Meals

On Friday last week we seen the first cold, windy and dull day of Autumn here in the North East. It was also the day my slow cook officially came out of storage full-time rather than being used here and there over the past month or two. I honestly think a slow cook is an invaluable piece of equipment to have in your kitchen, especially during the Autumn and Winter months as sometimes after a long hard day at work the last thing you want to do is cook yourself a meal from scratch. With a slow cooker though you literally just throw everything into the pot in the morning, pop it on a low setting and leave it until you return home later that evening and wallah! A piping hot meal is ready and waiting to greet you with possible left overs for you dinner the next day.


BBQ Pulled Pork 

  • 1.5-2kg pork shoulder, fat removed.
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 500g / 600g passata
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to season

Measure the passata, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, balsamic vinegar, two crushed garlic cloves and sugar into a pan and stir. Pop it on the hob and let it simmer for 10/15 minutes until it thickens slightly.

Remove all of the visible fat from the pork shoulder, pop it into a hot frying pan and sear all sides of the meat to lock in the flavour. Once this is done, transfer the pork shoulder into your slow cooker, pop the sauce from the pan on top and cook on the lowest setting for 8-12 hours.

After 8-12 hours, remove the meat from the slow cooker and shred into bite size pieces using two forks. It should practically fall to pieces as you are doing so, I then drizzle a little bit of sauce over the top of the pulled pork.

I usually pair this with tacos, microwavable mexican rice, salsa, refried beans and guacamole for a quick but filling tea!

Chickpea Curry

  • 500g / 1 can of chickpeas
  • 500g / 1 can tinned tomatoes
  • 500g / 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 onion
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach or kale
  • 3 tsp gram masala
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • fresh coriander

Pop all of the ingredients into the slow cooker in any order you like and top up with 1 pint of either vegetable or chicken stock.

Cook on the lowest for 8 – 10 hours. If the sauce is thin then remove the lid from your slow cook and leave for another 30 minutes. Serve with rice and poppadoms.
You can freeze any leftovers.

Note: You could replace the chickpeas for beef, just make sure you coat the stew and steak in plain flour and fry it off in a frying pan to brown the meat before adding it to the slow cooker. 

Butternut and Coconut Curry

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 green chillies
  • 150g red lentils
  • 500g / 1 can coconut milk
  • 100g ginger (grated)
  • 200g spinach
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 500g butternut squash
  • coriander

Fry the onions until they are starting to brown and then add the chillies, ginger, garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes before adding the curry powder and cooking for a further minute.

Transfer this to your slow cooker and stir in the red lentils, butternut squash, coconut milk and 350ml of water. Pop the lid on and leave  to cook for 8-10 hours on low. This can be served with rice or with just a naan bread. You can also freeze any leftovers.

Mushroom and Barley Stew

  • 8 mushrooms
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small onion
  • handful of spinach
  • 500g / 1 can tinned tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 pint veg stock

Sweat your onions over a medium heat until soft before adding the mushrooms, carrot, celery and garlic to the pan and leaving for a few minutes*. Transfer the contents of the frying pan into the slow cook and add the tinned tomatoes, pearl barley, spinach and vegetable stock. Pop the lid on and leave to cook for 4-6 hours on a low setting, I recommend checking after 4 hours and topping up with water if needs be. You can freeze any leftovers.

** you can skip this step and pop all of the ingredients straight into the slow cooker to save time, but I recommend this step just to add extra flavour.  

Leek and Potato Soup

  • 4 potatoes
  • 4 slices of smoked bacon
  • 3 medium leeks
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 750ml water

Fry / sweat the onion and bacon in a frying pan until the bacon is cooked and the onions are golden. Add the leeks and potatoes for a few minutes and crumble the stock cubes over the vegetables and stir.

Transfer to your slow cooker and add 500ml water. Place the remaining 250ml of water in the frying pan and stir, making sure nothing is sticking to the pan, add the water to the slow cook. Cook on a medium heat for 4-5 hours and then transfer the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. If you prefer your soup to be creamy then stir in some Crème fraîche.

And there we go! Let me know if you liked this post or if you would like to see more posts like this in the future, and don’t forget to tag me in any photos if you make the above recipes! Sorry for the lack of photos in this post too, I usually devour my food before realizing I should have taken a photo but I am sure that just shows how tasty these quick meals are!

Autumn, Food, Lavender & Black Bakes

Traybakes and FlapJacks: Date and Walnut Traybake

Here we have the first recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible that I have been avoiding making. Why you may wonder, and I do not know is my answer. I suppose I wrongly associate dates and walnuts with the older generation, and both are foods I actively avoid eating, so the idea of making a cake that would be getting popped straight in the bin didn’t really inspire me when it came to baking it.


After voicing my concerns with a few friends I realized that a lot of people around me of my age group actually like date and walnuts and actively seek them out to purchase, so at least I knew I could palm this cake off on them once it was made (sorry guys!).

I decided to make this recipe after a busy Sunday of writing up this weeks blogs posts for blogtober, so it ended up being quite a late bake. It seemed an easy enough recipe to make; soak your dates, whisk the eggs and sugar together and then add all the dried ingredients and soaked dates to the egg / sugar batter and whisk again before popping it into a tin and baking for an hour or so. Once cooled I spread over a sugar and lemon glaze and topped with some more walnuts. This sounds  like an easy task but I have never seen a date and walnut cake so I wasn’t entirely sure if this looked correct or not, I still don’t.


The next day (I didn’t stop baking until 11.30pm on Sunday evening!) I give the tiniest piece a try as I have a total phobia of eating nuts (no idea why) and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice this tray bake tasted. I did feel it was a little bit dry around the edges but once I got into the middle of the slice the cake was slightly moist and stodgy which I have been told is normal for this kind of cake.

So there we have it. No Mary Berry Bake next week as I am going to start my Halloween bakes now we are getting further into the spooky season, but I will post about whatever I end up baking next week at the usual time! Let me know if you have any Halloween recommendations or recipes for me to try!

Autumn, Food, Lifestyle

Olive & Bean Breakfast

If truth be told I have never been a morning person.
I am unable to wake up and be ready and out the house early, though granted I seem to be getting better at accepting the 7am screams of my alarm clock. So going out for breakfast, or brunch is not something me or little legs have really done over the years, however this summer we set out to change this and made it one of our many tasks to go out and have breakfast together.


Our chosen venue was Olive and Bean which is located in Newcastle city centre on Clayton Street as we had heard many a good thing about their incredible breakfast menu. Little Legs being an incredibly fussy eater (even fussier then me!) hummed and harred at the breakfast offerings but settled on waffles with bacon and maple syrup, I on the other hand instantly chose the Eggs Benedict though it was a close call and Eggs Royale almost stole the show.


Our drinks arrived quickly after we placed our order, and the food followed soon after. At first I was slightly jealous of what lay on LLs plate however the Eggs Benedict was delicious and left me both full but greedily wanting more as it tasted so good. The eggs were poached perfectly and the bacon was exactly as I like it!


LLs actually surprised me as well, his usual distaste for bacon left us with the idea that he could put the bacon to one side and just eat the waffles drizzled with maple syrup but he actually thoroughly enjoyed and ate the majority of the bacon on his plate, even asking if we could from now on get our bacon from Olive and Bean as it was his favourite.

All in all I would fully recommend trying out Olive and Beans breakfast menu, but be warned it gets incredibly busy so I would get down early so to secure yourself a table.


Autumn, Food, Lavender & Black Bakes

Rhubarb & Almond Loaf

Okay, so I’m slightly cheating just a teeny tiny bit this week, as you see this week’s bake isn’t actually from Mary Berry’s baking bible. If truth be told it actually isnt a Mary Berry recipe at all! No, this bake comes straight from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book and is a rhubarb and almond loaf, which I have also adapted and created in cupcake form.

The reason for my betrayal to Mary? Quite frankly I’m uninspired to bake this week’s prune and walnut traybake as I have never ate either of those things nor have I ever wanted to do so, and who wants to make cake they may not eat? Also I didn’t realize until last-minute that I don’t actually have a baking tray the correct size for this recipe.


So yes! Rhubarb and almond loaf. This was a very simple bake and a wonderful way to use up all the excess rhubarb we have growing in the garden. Also added with the cinnamon and ginger this loaf felt like the perfect autumn bake to settle down in front of the GBBO with a large mug of tea.

I promise that next week I will upload two posts on the same day so that I stay on track with my baking challenge and don’t end up falling behind. But here is the recipe for rhubarb and almond cupcakes! Enjoy ☺️


Rhubarb and Almond Cupcakes

For the stewed Rhubarb

  • 250g (9oz) rhubarb
  • 70g (2 1/2 oz) caster sugar
  • 20g (3/4 oz) butter
  • 1 tablespoon of water

For the cake

  • 190g (7oz) butter softened
  • 190g (7oz) caster sugar
  • 140g (5oz) plain flour
  • 50g (1 3/4 oz) ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 large egg
  • 25ml (1fl oz) milk
  • stewed rhubarb
  • flaked almonds
  1. Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 3 / 170oC / 325oF and line a muffin tray with muffin cases or line a loaf tin.
  2. Pop the rhubarb, sugar, butter and water in a pan and cook on a medium heat until the rhubarb softens and becomes jam like. Remember to stir every now and again so the mixture doesn’t stick and burn. Remove the pan from the hob and set it to one side to cool completely.
  3. Begin making your cake mixture by creaming the butter and sugar together until it is pale and fluffy.
  4. Measure and sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and ground almonds together in a separate bowl and mix.
  5. Beat the egg and milk mixture together and add 1/3 of the mixture to the bowl with 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix well making sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding some more of the milk / egg mixture and flour.
  6. Once all the ingredients are combined, stir in the cooled rhubarb and make sure it is evenly mixed throughout the batter.
  7. Either pour the entire mixture into a lined loaf tin or spoon the mixture into the individual cupcake cases and sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.
  8. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, keeping an eye on it for the last 10 minutes (50-60 minutes for the loaf). Make sure the sponge springs back once cooked and that a metal skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool and enjoy with a strong cup of tea!


Autumn, Food, Food, Summer

BlackBerries: Picking and Jam

Did you know that it is currently the most wonderful time of year? No? Well it is true you see. Yes, we are quickly edging towards the end of summer however the beginning of the much longed after Autumn months are just around the corner. The weather isn’t too warm, nor is it too cold, the much wished for rain has returned in fits and starts and you will have seen all the trees, bushes and hedgerows bursting with ripe, juicy ready to be picked treats.

The one indicator that my favourite time of year is slowly approaching is the arrival of the blackberries. I see the little green fruits appear on the bushes everywhere, in my garden, at my local park, on the roads as I walk home, and I wait and wait until the little green berries start to change to a slight blushing red colour to the most juiciest dark purple / black colouring. And then I pounce.

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The reason I love them so much is mainly due to the childhood memories that they hold. I remember picking them in our garden as a small child from the cutting my grandad had given us from his own garden in London and eating the berries before twisting my face at how sour they were! I would then run back up towards the house with my bowl full of treasure for my mam to bake alongside apples in a pie. I also remember being sent to the back of my nannas garden when we were small as we could fit our little hands through the gaps in the fence and forage for berries from her neighbour’s garden, and again our haul was often added to some homemade bake.

So, a few weeks back in the scorching sunshine I decided that I would add to those memories by taking Little Legs to our local park where we stumbled upon the biggest blackberry gold mine I have ever come across! We spent a good hour wandering through the park looking for the biggest, the best and the juiciest looking blackberries we could find. We were also hot and itchy from the nettles and exhausted from our climb up the blackberry covered hill but excited, for our Tupperware box full of blackberries would soon be in a pan being turned into homemade jam!


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Now I have never made jam before in my life. I have watched my mam make strawberry jam on occasions where we have gone strawberry picking and got a little carried away with filling the little basket they give you, but that is the extent of my jam knowledge.

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I crazily decided that I would turn my hand towards my first attempt of jam making on the Saturday night after a long, tiring day at work. I put on a playlist inspired by The Four Seasons (I had just seen the show based about them at the theatre royal) and danced around the kitchen, Heineken in hand waiting for our little haul to boil down in the pan I had placed them in. They quickly did, and after deciding to make seedless jam I poured the contents of the pan into a muslin cloth over a bowl and squeezed all of the hot blackberry juice goodness out and after making the kitchen worktops, floor and my hands look like they wouldn’t be out of  place in a murder scene, I returned the blackberry juice back to the pan and added the sugar and lemon juice and brought the pan to a boil, and continued to follow the recipes instructions.

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I managed to get two good-sized jars of seedless jam from our blackberry pick, one which has almost already been devoured in the space of three weeks! So much for the two jars lasting me until next year’s haul. However! I have caught the jam making bug and I think rhubarb and ginger jam may be the next on my list to make seeing as we have two large rhubarb plants taking over the garden now! Let me know what jams your currently making or what ones I should add to my list to make.


Autumn, Food

Burger Thursday: Fat Hippo Underground

Working in Newcastle City Centre, especially inside the historic Grainger Market, means I am inundated with choice when it comes to choosing what to eat for dinner. This is not always a blessing as some days we end up so spoilt for choice we don’t know what we want to eat at all. First world problems at its finest.

After years of visiting some of these wonderful little restaurants and Cafés I decided why not dedicate a section of my page to the best places to grab some take out lunch on a weekday, which may help you decide where to go if you ever find yourself needing a quick bite to eat if in Newcastle.

So, at work on a Thursday we always tend to run out and grab a burger. For a few months this just meant toddling over to McDonalds to grab a Big Mac meal or whatever else we fancied on that day. However, this week we decided to step up our game and try out the Fat Hippo Underground’s Fast Hippo menu.

The Fast Hippo is a lunch time menu that is available from 12-4pm Monday to Thursday and 11-4pm on a Friday. There are five options on the menu to choose from and as well as a burger you also get a side of hand cut chips. All options are priced at £6 however for an extra £1 you can upgrade your chips to sweet potato fries or to Dirty Fries. Obviously I upgraded for Dirty Fries.


We decided to order the Little Texas burger which was a single 4oz patty, topped with bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce with a side of dirty fries. My life, this was the best burger and fries combo I have had in months! I’m not usually a fan of meat as I always find gristle in whatever I eat, so much so that my parents will tell you I can find fat in a salad. Yet I ate this entire burger and not once did I find anything that would put me off eating it. The burger literally melted in my mouth and was incredibly juicy, the BBQ sauce that again I usually avoid give this burger a wonderful smokey like flavour which combined with the cheese and bacon made this a delight to eat.

The Dirty Fries ended up being a generous sized pot of, you guessed it, fries smothered in Fat Hippo sauce and topped with bacon pieces. I often feel that fries are neglected when accompanying a main dish, yet Fat Hippo Underground have turned them from a dull side order and into dish of their own which is on par with the burger and quite frankly battles to be the main highlight of the meal.

Considering the dirty fries alone on the main menu cost £4.50,  I personally think £7 for both a burger and fries to this high of a standard is well worth the price. The service was also incredibly speedy which is what you need when you find yourself rushed for time on your lunch break.

I am counting down the days and looking forward to my next order from the Fast Hippo menu.