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Week 12 - Pancakes

Hayley pancake

Going out on a flat note

I was dreading making pancakes for two reasons. Firstly, the last time I made pancakes it went horribly wrong. It was one of those ready mixes that you just add milk to, but the end result looked like scrambled eggs. Secondly, I was slightly concerned it would go belly up again, like the time I made the batter mix for the toad in the whole recipe; I found a lump of flour sitting underneath the mixture as I poured it in to my hot oil!

Thankfully, this time it went alright. The mix was smooth and I was so proud when I saw a pancake form in my frying pan that I did a little dance to myself before flipping it - yes flipping it over!

The first one was served to my son with chocolate ice cream because he didn't like the filling provided. He loved it! Usually, he has to rely on his dad to make him pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, but not anymore!
Both hubby and I had a pancake with the lemon curd and mascarpone cheese and blueberry filling. Wow - it tasted amazing!

The last 12 weeks have been fun but also a slog as cooking doesn't come naturally to me. However, this competition has had me cooking dishes I would never have attempted in a million years. I feel I've improved but my fate now lies in the hands of the judges at this week's cook off.

Week 11 - Toad in the Hole

Hayley toad

Never judge a cook by its cover

Disaster chef Hayley strikes again with this one I'm afraid.

First of all I managed to pour some of the milk outside the mixing bowl and all over my clean washing sitting in a basket on the floor.

I then nearly sliced the top of my finger off while chopping the onion.

And, as if things couldn't get any worse, as I poured my batter mixture (which was the right consistency) over my sausages I found that there was still a pile of flour sitting underneath it! Goodness knows how that didn't get mixed in!

Tutting to myself and feeling close to tears, I popped it in the oven and hoped for the best, but it wasn't to be.
While the Yorkshire pudding had risen around the edges, the middle was floating with some kind of liquid on the top of the sausages. I can only assume it was oil as when I went to tip it off an “oil like” substance poured out from underneath it.

I tried to serve it up, but the middle of the Yorkshire pudding looked a little sloppy and I was greeted with remarks of, “I'm not eating that” from both hubby and child.

I dished it up anyway and took a photo. It may look good but believe me the toad in a hole was a disaster. Hence the reason for the heading I’ve given this week's recipe.

On the upside the gravy tasted bloody lovely.

Week 10 - Macaroni Cheese

Hayley mac cheese

I haven't had macaroni cheese since I was a eight and it doesn't conjure up good memories.
I remember being asked to a friend's house for dinner and turning my nose up at a bowl of smelly food which looked sloppy and revolting, before being told rather forcefully by her mum to eat it as she didn't believe in fussy eaters. I'm 34 now so you can imagine my horror at the thought of having to sample this recipe.

I followed all the cooking instructions to the letter but still my sauce turned out lumpy so I had to start again. Thankfully my second attempt was better.

Then I misread the instructions and threw the cheese in with the drained macaroni, meaning I had to grate another handful of cheese to go in my sauce – oops!

Once it was all mixed together, I poured everything into a dish but soon had to transfer it all into a smaller one as it was too big. By this point my dirty pots and pans were mounting up rather quickly.

When I took it out of the oven I was pleasantly surprised by how it looked and smelt. As a result I decided it was time to get over my fear of macaroni cheese and quickly grabbed a spoon.

OMG it tasted delicious. I am now totally converted, as is my husband who also hated this dish with a passion until he tasted this version. Thank you Kenwood!

Week 9 - Leek & Mushroom Pie

Hayley pie

Not mush-room for improvement

I'd been looking forward to making the leek and mushroom pie, simply because I love both vegetables.
Shredding the mushrooms and the leeks was easy thanks to the Kenwood Chef Titanium and the smell from them as they were fried off was wonderful.

Making the béchamel sauce was going smoothly (excuse the pun) until I noticed little black bits in it (I hadn't added the pepper by this point). I decided to start all over again but this time the sauce ended up a little lumpy so, I sieved it before adding all the other ingredients to it.

The next part was the pastry. Whoever came up with the idea of readymade pastry deserves a medal! Putting it around the edges of my dish was fine but when it came to laying it over the top I found it a little tricky as it kept sinking in the middle.
Once again my parents were the guinea pigs for this recipe as I cooked it for our Sunday dinner and invited them around.

I served it with mashed potato, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and gravy. It looked nice when it came out of the oven, although I can't say the same for how it was served up. Most portions had the pastry on the bottom and the contents spooned over the top!

Despite the poor presentation everyone ate it. My dad even described it as “top notch.” I truly believe I couldn't have done any better!

Week 7 - Upsidedown Plum Cake

Hayley plum cake


Making the cake mixture stirred up nostalgic memories. It reminded me of how, when I was a child, I used to help my mum mix up the ingredients and lick the spoon, but Edwina Currie's salmonella statement soon put a stop to that! Anyhow, moving on.
Cutting my baking paper like the video didn't go to plan. In the end I drew around the bottom of the tin and cut it out. I then lined the tin and put my plums in.
As I poured in the mixture I realised the tin was probably too big as it didn't quite cover the top of the plums. It's here I should confess I don't own a cake tin and I borrowed this one from my mum (just like all the other bits of equipment I've needed for the competition).
The cake took longer than 30 minutes to cook. Every time I put my knife in and pulled it out it wasn't clean. In the end it took about 50 minutes and when it came out the top looked quite brown.
I flipped the cake over and I was pleased to see that it looked like it should.

I took it to my parents' house to have for pudding following a roast dinner.

I served it with cream as suggested and everyone loved it.

There seems to be a common theme to my cooking though, the dishes look awful but taste really nice. Will I ever get it right?

Week 6 - Sunblush Tomato, Rosemary and Garlic Rolls

Sunblush Tomato, Rosemary and Garlic Rolls by Hayley Robinson

Rising to the challenge

This week's challenge was to make Sunblush Tomato, Rosemary and Garlic Rolls.

Seeing as I'm not much of a cook, I felt the odds were I wasn't going to be much of a baker either.

I made the dough and left it covered in a bowl to double in size for an hour while I prepared the other ingredients. All was going well until I realised normal tomatoes had been delivered instead of sunblush ones. Seeing as it was a Sunday night and too late to go to the shops I decided to slice and dice one of them.

When the dough was ready I ummed and ahhed for ages as to whether I should throw in the tomatoes or not. In the end I threw caution to the wind and went for it. Mixing everything together with my hands was fine to start with but when I started dividing the mixture it felt slimy. Was it all about to go horribly wrong?

I bunged them in the oven, slammed the door, set the timer, crossed my fingers and waited with bated breath until they were ready to come out.

The finished product looked like rock cakes so I was relieved when I cut one of them open to see the inside looked like a bread roll. I put a little bit of butter on it while it was still warm and took a bite...delicious.

Week 5 - Vegetarian Pizza

Hayley pizza

A piece of Pizz-a

My family and I are all massive pizza fans, so I knew if I got this recipe wrong all hell was going to break loose!

Making the dough was pretty easy - the Kenwood Chef took the hard work out of that.

I left the dough covered for two hours before rolling it out and moulding it in to my square baking tray.

I then layered the toppings on to it before popping it in to the oven.

When I took it out 15 minutes later, I had one bellissimo pizza staring back at me. To say I was chuffed with myself is an understatement. The nearest I've ever come to making my own pizza was cutting an English muffin in half, layering it with tomato purée and other toppings, including grated cheddar cheese, and putting it in the oven until golden!

My son Jacob was very impressed with how it looked. Before he bit into it his words were “Mum, you actually made the dough? Wow!”

I divided it in to eight slices and gave everyone just one to start with but within seconds both hubby and child were crying out for more. It didn't even touch the sides.

Even if I'm not crowned the winner of this competition at least I now know how to make pizza properly and that means my family and I will never go hungry!

Week 3 - Eaton Mess

I've eaten a mess!
The Eaton Mess recipe certainly lived up to its name!

The tricky part was separating the white from the yolk. It took three goes before I got it right.

I had to improvise as every time I passed the egg between the shell I broke the yolk! In the end I resorted to holding it in my hand and letting the white fall into the bowl. My kitchen was definitely a mess after that!

When it came to whisking the egg whites in the Kenwood Chef it took a little longer to form soft peaks due to me putting the lid down instead of leaving it up. I was wary about turning the bowl upside down to check if I'd got the right consistency so you can imagine my relief when nothing fell out.

After whisking up the other ingredients I carefully spooned my meringue mixture onto the baking paper and put it in the oven.

I wedged a tea towel in the door as suggested  but as it's not a pull down one I had to prop a glass bowl in front of it to stop it swinging open.

They came out with a slight brown tinge but other than that they looked fine.

I whipped up the cream,vanilla extract, icing sugar and strawberries for the cooked meringues to go into. The mixture didn't look quite right but I persevered and served it up.

As the name suggests it looked a mess but it tasted delicious.

Week 1 & 2 - Four Cheese Quiche & Sausage Plait

Fast forward twenty-five minutes and I'd pulled out an edible looking quiche - much to my husband Dave's surprise. However, when we put it on the wire rack to cool I noticed the side and the bottom looked a little soggy!

As they say, the proof is in the pudding so I served it up for Dave to try it. The verdict - thumbs up!

It might not look perfect but it tasted good and I'm happy with that - especially as it's my first attempt