Roasted Vegetable Couscous

A simple and easy recipe for couscous with roasted vegetables. This is great eaten on its own or you can make it into a meal and serve as a side dish. Colourful, healthy and ready in less than 30 minutes! 

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Eating healthy and sticking a budget each week can sometimes seem tricky. I always believe delicious and nutritious food doesn’t have to be expensive, hard to make or take an eternity to prepare.

Couscous is one of my favourite ingredients to use in savoury cooking because it’s so convenient. I always have it in my kitchen cupboard along with rice and pasta. If you’re not familiar with couscous, it’s a grain that’s common in North African cuisine and is usually served with tagine and stews.

Preparing couscous is really simple and unlike most recipes I don’t even worry measuring out the water/stock I add. I usually just place the couscous in a bowl, crumble over a vegetable stock cube and then just pour enough boiling water to cover the top. I’ve always used this method of making the best fluffy couscous and it hasn’t let me down yet. What I love most about making savoury recipes is the fact you can freestyle unlike baking which is a science and where the measurements have to be exact.

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Roasted vegetables are my family’s favourite and recently we’ve all made a concerted effort to eat less meat (and cake!) each week. Lately our meals have been based around using fresher ingredients and we’ve been exploring healthier vegetarian options.

I usually get fed up of vegetables like broccoli, carrot or peas that we eat so often with roast dinners. I eat roasted veggies probably two or maybe three times a week. They’re pretty much a staple part of my diet nowadays! I just love the vibrant colour and beautiful flavour when they’re all golden and roasted.🙂

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We love serving this roasted vegetable couscous with either chicken or halloumi. Both of which would be super tasty served with my homemade tzatziki! Also, I think the couscous would be fabulous to bring to a late summer BBQ, potluck or even as part of a mezze platter.

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(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 mixed colour bell peppers, deseeded and cut into medium chunks

8-10 small mushrooms (such as button or chestnut), cleaned and quartered

1 red onion, chopped into small chunks

1 courgette, halved lengthways and sliced into 1/2 inch quarters

Salt and black pepper, to taste

200g (1 cup) dried couscous

1 vegetable stock cube (optional)

Boiling water (see method for instructions)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C / 180 Fan / 400°F / Gas Mark 6. Evenly spread the vegetables out onto a large baking tray. Drizzle with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables until they’re all coated well in the oil. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until soft and starting to colour slightly.
  2. Once the vegetables are near enough cooked, start preparing the couscous. Place the couscous in a large bowl that will be big enough to mix up all the vegetables in too. Crumble the stock cube over the top of the couscous, season with salt and pepper and pour over just enough boiling water to cover the top of the couscous. Cover the bowl with some clingfilm/plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes (I always leave mine for the full 10 minutes).
  3. Now using a fork, fluff the couscous and then mix through the roasted vegetables. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature. Couscous can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Recipe Notes:

  • You don’t have to use olive oil when roasting the vegetables, you can use any light flavoured oil you have in such as canola/vegetable oil.
  • If you’d like you can season the vegetables with your favourite herbs and spices before roasting. Sometimes I add some garlic powder or a pinch or two of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika. Dried oregano and thyme would also taste great with the vegetables.
  • The vegetable stock cube is optional. I find it adds extra flavour to the dish but feel free to leave it out if you want.
  • Swap around the vegetables. If you’d prefer to add more of a certain vegetable that will work just as well.
  • Just an idea, you could crumble a little bit of Greek feta cheese into the couscous prior to serving. I’m going to try that next time I make this!

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Enjoy!

jess

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Lemon Drizzle Cake

Luscious lemon drizzle cake. Fluffy buttermilk sponge cake soaked with a lemon sugar syrup and drizzled with a tangy lemon icing. Lemon dessert lovers, this cake recipe is for you! 

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Lemon drizzle cake is a British classic. I’ve grown up enjoying this cake and it holds a special place in my heart. The cake is very popular here where it’s sold at most bakeries, tearooms and is commonly found on many afternoon tea menus. As much as I love this cake there are many recipes out there that are a tad bit lacklustre. I’ve tried a good few and often found them too dry or simply lacking a real lemon flavour punch. But this recipe is the exact opposite. It’s fresh, summery, lemony and lip-smacking good!

You know a bake is going to be good when the recipe starts with a whole big block of butter. I have a few secrets of how to make the best lemon drizzle cake. Firstly, I like to add just a touch of buttermilk to my cake batter. The tanginess from the buttermilk works really well with the lemon flavour and it helps keep the cake moist and fluffy for several days.

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Another way I make my lemon drizzle cake differently, is I make my own lemon sugar. I’ve always liked vanilla or cinnamon sugar, but I would definitely say lemon sugar is my favourite out of the three. The sugar is super easy to make, all you have to do is rub the sugar and grated lemon zest with your fingertips. Doing this helps release the natural oil from the lemon and it really enhances the lemon flavour in your finished bake.

I’ve made this cake twice within the last week. With the first I thought I would freeze a few slices ready for when I fancied a piece of cake, but let’s just say those few slices of cake soon disappeared from the freezer and found their way onto my plate…😉

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This gorgeous cake is delicious served with a scoop or two of ice cream, clotted cream, yoghurt and fresh berries  

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Joseph Joseph

Making this cake also gave me the opportunity to test out the latest Joseph Joseph samples from their new range. I have always been a fan of the Joseph Joseph kitchenware. I particularly like the Shake It™ which comes with an integrated rocking handle and this cleverly stimulates the process of tapping the sieve with your other hand. I used it to sift the dry ingredients (flour and baking powder) into my cake and also to sift the icing sugar when I made my drizzle icing to decorate the cake. Whiskle™ which isn’t just your ordinary whisk as it has a silicone bowl scraper attached, which helps make sure you get every single bit of the batter into your cake tin and it also helps save time on washing up! The Fin™ works in the same way as it makes sure you can get every last bit of your cake batter into the cake tin so there no wastage. The Glaze™ can be used to brush the lemon sugar syrup over the cake, but I’m also looking forward to using it when I make homemade pastry or even for brushing vegetables or meat with oil before roasting.

Ingredients:

Lemon Cake – 

250g unsalted butter or margarine, softened

250g caster sugar

Zest from 2 large lemons

4 large free-range eggs, at room temperature

275g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon (6g) baking powder

100ml buttermilk

Juice of 1 large lemon

Lemon Sugar Syrup – 

150g caster sugar

Juice of 1 large lemon

50ml water

Lemon Drizzle Icing – 

100g icing (confectioners’) sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice (add more less depending on your preferred consistency)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 160 Fan / 350°F / Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin with butter and parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl combine the sugar and lemon zest. Using your fingertips, rub the sugar and zest together until combined.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat together the softened butter/margarine with the lemon sugar until creamy and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Make sure you scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure all the ingredients are getting incorporated.
  5. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and beat again until just a few lumps of flour remain. Finally, add the buttermilk and lemon juice and mix again until they’re combined into the batter fully.
  6. Spoon the batter into the cake tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester when inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean without any uncooked batter remaining. All ovens are different so the cake may need 5-10 minutes longer in the oven. If the cake is colouring too much cover the top with a piece of tin/aluminium foil.
  7. Once the cake is baked completely, leave it on the side to cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, make the lemon sugar syrup. Heat the sugar, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Once dissolved, take off the heat. Poke holes all over the cake using a skewer, then pour the hot lemon sugar syrup all over the top of the cake. This step must be done when the cake is still warm. Now leave the cake to cool completely, then once cool remove from the tin.
  8. Make the lemon drizzle icing by sifting the icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and mix until you have a thick, runny icing. Adjust the consistency to your preferred liking with less or more lemon juice. Drizzle the cake with the icing.

Recipe Notes:

  • The cake will keep for up to 1 week stored in an airtight container.
  • The drizzle icing is optional, but I think it really makes this cake!
  • This lemon drizzle cake is delicious served on its own, but we especially love it with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream, clotted cream, some yoghurt and fresh berries.

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Enjoy!

jess

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Strawberry Oat Smoothie

If you love strawberries and cream then you’ll really enjoy this healthy strawberry oat smoothie! Bursting with juicy strawberry sweetness, energising oats and creamy protein-packed yoghurt – this quick and easy recipe is sure to become your new go-to nutritious breakfast or snack! 

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I’ve been on a bit of health kick lately after overindulging on my summer holiday. For my birthday this year I received a smoothie maker and ever since then I’ve been making lots of smoothies like this Detox Green Smoothie. However, this time I wanted to experiment with some new flavours and ingredients. My friend and I recently had a catch-up dinner and after a yummy main course we wanted to treat ourselves to something for dessert. There were many decadent desserts on the menu like chocolate fudge brownie, pecan pie and classic sponge cake with cream and jam, but it was a strawberry milkshake we both picked.

Strawberries and cream desserts will forever be my favourite!🙂

The milkshake was delicious, but I’m sure it was loaded with lots of naughty things. That’s why I decided it was time to create a smoothie inspired by the yummy milkshake and for those times when a sugar craving strikes!

This healthier alternative is creamy, smooth and just as delicious as my favourite strawberry milkshake, minus all the bad stuff. And the best part you ask? It’s also a great way of getting towards your 5 a day.

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I like to use strawberry yoghurt for even more intense strawberry flavour and it also makes this smoothie a great healthy option because it’s packed with protein and healthy ingredients. You can use any flavour yoghurt you like, I used a small pot of bio yoghurt which doesn’t have any refined sugar added. Also, my strawberries were super sweet so I didn’t need to add any sweeteners, but if you feel like your smoothie needs an extra touch of sweetness you can add a little bit of honey.

It’s only recently that I’ve started adding oats to my smoothies. Adding oats means this smoothie is great for breakfast and it also helps create the perfect consistency. Strawberries are quite watery so it’s essential to add oats to make a nice creamy and thick smoothie.

Since developing this recipe I have been making it practically non-stop. I love it first thing in the morning or for a snack after coming home from a tiring day at work. You wouldn’t even guess it’s good for you because it tastes amazing.

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A healthy strawberry shake that can be ready in less than 5 minutes – means you can have extra time in bed! I don’t know about you but I’m liking the sound of that!😉

(Makes 1)

Ingredients:

25g (1/4 cup) oats

200g (1 cup) fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled and halved

1 x 120g pot (1/2 cup) natural or strawberry flavoured yoghurt

60ml (1/4 cup) almond or semi-skimmed milk

Method:

1. Place the oats in the blender and process until they are finely ground. Add the remaining ingredients and process again until smooth. Adjust consistency of smoothie with more milk then pour and serve in a glass.

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Enjoy!

jess

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Eivissa: Exploring Ibiza

I’m sharing a non-food blog post today! I’m back after spending an amazing, relaxing fortnight in Ibiza. I’ve enjoyed a break from blogging to have some well-earned time off after passing my end of year cookery exams and starting a new job. Here is a collection of my favourite photos from our time away. We love nothing more than getting away from the tourist trail and heading further afield to discover the hidden gems – that’s always the best way to set about travelling! My mind keeps drifting back to the stunning island and I cannot wait to plan my next visit sometime soon. I hope you enjoy looking through my pictures from beautiful Eivissa!

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I went and did what every foodie loves to do when they’re in a new place, discover and try some of the local food. We rented a villa and as I’m a chef I wanted to use the kitchen at the villa to cook lots of delicious dishes for my family because it’s often cheaper than going out for a meal at a restaurant. I was super happy to get the chance to try ensaïmadas again, I first had these in Mallorca a few years ago and I love them. The pastry is best eaten freshly baked from a panadería (bakery) and dusted generously with icing/powdered sugar. 

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It wouldn’t be a trip to Spain completed without tasting some churros. Churros con chocolate are Spanish doughnuts served with a rich chocolate sauce. The churros are served freshly fried, then they’re sprinkled with sugar and then you can eat them as they are or dunk into a thick hot chocolate dipping sauce. Spaniards eat churros for breakfast along with café con leche (coffee with steamed milk) or Spanish hot chocolate. We got these churros pictured from Cafeteria Royalty in Santa Eulària des Riu, the café promotes the perfect setting to sit back, soak up the sun and watch the world go by.

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Views of Ibiza Town 

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A visit to the Dalt Vila (Ibiza Old Town) on the South East coast of the island. We braved the sweltering 40 degree heat to walk all the way up to the top to see some breathtaking views looking back down on the town and the deep blue sea.

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Santa Eulària des Riu – a great setting for an evening walk and helado (ice cream) from Miretti which serves delicious Italian-style gelato

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Cala Xarraca

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The villa owner, Toni and his wife Pepita have gorgeous flowers and blooms in the garden area of the villa. So perfect for capturing some flower pictures.

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All images included in this blog post are copyrighted. Please do not use any of the images without prior permission.

jess

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Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread

Cornbread with a delicious savoury addition of mature Cheddar cheese and spicy jalapeño chilli peppers. Dunk into a warm bowl of chilli con carne, soup or spread with butter. 

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Cornbread is the epitome of summer picnic food for me and I love that it pairs well with so many different dishes, dipped into a bowl of chilli con carne, served alongside barbecue ribs, grilled chicken or simply served as it is.

Cornbread isn’t really that popular where I’m from, but I don’t know why as this classic American quick bread is truly amazing.

I first made this recipe about a year ago, I was enjoying a lazy day watching a Barefoot Contessa marathon and on one of the episodes Ina was preparing cornbread with a twist. The delicious twist was the addition of sharp, mature Cheddar cheese, spicy jalapeño and spring onion (scallions). As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to bake some for myself as I loved the sound of all those flavours combined together.

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I especially love this cornbread served warm with butter. It’s incredibly tasty! 

Even though I’ve said this cornbread is brilliant for packing up for a picnic, it’s also fantastic in the cooler months enjoyed with a bowl of chilli or soup for those times when you’re in need of some comfort food. Cornbread is pretty much perfect for all seasons, which is especially great at the moment as the UK summer seems to have mysteriously disappeared yet again and all I’m craving is warm winter foods.

I’ll have my fingers crossed hoping summer will make a reappearance sometime soon…😉

This cornbread has just the right balance of sweetness and it’s deliciously moist without being too crumbly like some cornbreads tend to be. I’ve spent some extra time with this recipe translating the cup measurements into grams as everyone needs a good, trusty cornbread recipe in their repertoire and it definitely needs to be this one!

(Makes 12-16 large pieces)

Ingredients:

360g (3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour

125g (1 cup) cornmeal or polenta

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

50g (1/4 cup) caster or granulated sugar

480ml (2 cups) milk

3 large free-range eggs

225g (2 sticks/1 cup) butter, melted and cooled slightly

225g (8 ounces) mature Cheddar cheese, grated

4 or 1/3 cup spring onions (scallions), chopped – use both white and green parts

1-2 large jalapeños, seeds removed and minced (you can add more if you’d like)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 160 Fan / 350°F / Gas Mark 4. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking tray with parchment paper then set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, cornmeal/polenta, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the milk, eggs and melted butter until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until no lumps of flour remain. Be careful not to over mix.
  4. Fold through 2/3 of the grated cheese along with the spring onion (scallion) and jalapeño. Leave the cornbread batter to rest for 20 minutes.
  5. After resting spread the cornbread batter into the baking tray and top with the rest of the grated cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean without any uncooked batter remaining. Leave to cool completely in the baking tray, then slice up into 12-16 large pieces or alternatively pieces of any size you like. Cornbread will keep in an airtight container for 2-3 days. Serve cold or warm.

Recipe from Barefoot Contessa at Home

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Looking for more bread recipes? Try this Rosemary Sea Salt Focaccia next!

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Enjoy!

jess

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecakes

This blog post was created in collaboration with Magnum Ice Cream. All views and opinions expressed are entirely my own.

These mini cheesecakes are for all peanut butter fans out there! Chocolate biscuit base topped with a layer of peanut butter cheesecake, followed by a drizzle of double chocolate ganache and a sprinkle of chopped roasted peanuts. 

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They’re any peanut butter lover’s dream dessert. It’s a mix of sweet and salty flavours and the perfect treat for anybody who loves cheesecake.

This year Magnum has launched the new Magnum Double. It’s available in 3 flavours, Magnum Double Chocolate, Magnum Double Caramel and Magnum Double Peanut Butter.

These delicious cheesecakes are based on the distinct layers included in the Magnum Double Peanut Butter. This truly decadent dessert combines and captures all the things I love about the Magnum Double Peanut Butter ice cream into a simple dessert that’s easy to make and delicious.

It’s no lie that I am a big fan of sharing cheesecake recipes on my site and I am currently having a lot of fun creating mini cheesecakes. Because they’re mini, it means you can indulge in more than one cheesecake.

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The mini cheesecakes consist of a buttery chocolate biscuit base that is followed by a layer of sweet peanut butter cheesecake. They take just 10 minutes to prepare and only 20 minutes to bake. Once they are completely chilled each cheesecake is topped with a generous spoonful of double chocolate ganache.

When I am in need of a yummy reminder of these cheesecakes, I like to have a pack of the Magnum Double Peanut Butter in my freezer ready for when a peanut butter craving strikes! My family and I have been fans of Magnum ice creams since I was very little. I remember warm summer days and hearing the jingle from an ice cream van arriving down the road where we live. I would beg my mum and dad for ice cream and a Magnum would always be what I would pick.

Are you a fan of Magnums? If so, what is your favourite flavour and why?

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I love the layers in the new Magnum Double Peanut Butter ice cream. I can’t think of a better treat to enjoy on a hot summer day! 

(Makes 12)

Ingredients:

Biscuit Base –

9 (approx. 150g) chocolate biscuits (mine were coated in chocolate)

60g (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Peanut Butter Cheesecake –

450g/1lb (16 ounces) cream cheese, softened

125g (1/2 cup) smooth peanut butter

130g (2/3 cup) caster or granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large free-range eggs, at room temperature

Double Chocolate Ganache –

175g (1 cup) mix of milk and dark chocolate

120ml (1/2 cup) double (heavy) cream

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C / 150 Fan / 325°F / Gas Mark 3. Line a 12-hole cupcake/muffin tin with paper cases and set to one side.
  2. To make the biscuit base: Crush the biscuits until they’re fine crumbs. In a small bowl, mix together with the melted butter until coated. Divide the crumbs between the paper cases – approx. 1 tablespoon in each. Press down slightly until firm, then bake for 5 minutes until toasted. Leave to cool whilst you make the filling.
  3. To make the cheesecake filling: Beat the softened cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla and the eggs and mix until incorporated. Divide the cheesecake filling over the top of the prepared biscuit bases. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set. Leave to cool in tin completely, then remove and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
  4. To make the ganache: Finely chop the chocolate and place in a medium sized bowl. Gently heat the cream in a small saucepan then take off the heat once it’s boiling. Pour the hot cream over the top of the chocolate and leave for 5 minutes. Now stir until smooth and no lumps of chocolate remain.
  5. Spoon the ganache over the top of each cheesecake. Sprinkle with peanuts and chocolate chips if you desire before serving.

Enjoy!

jess

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Oven Roasted Corn

Buttery baked sweet corn roasted in the oven until tender. Easy and delicious – this will make a great BBQ side dish. 

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I love food that transports me back to holidays. I first tried this corn in Cyprus last summer and I’ve been hooked on it ever since. I remember seeing street vendors selling corn and one evening I couldn’t wait any longer and I decided to try some out for myself because it seemed so popular with the locals.

The experience of watching the corn be prepared was not like any way I’d seen it done before. I watched as the man removed the cooked corn from a large pot of water then he started to charr it on a grill. The next step is what left me completely puzzled, the man started to use a hairdryer! Presumably this is used to help speed up the cooking process and make the corn crisp?

So after all that malarkey I finally got a chance to try it and it was love at first bite. I adored the sweet and salty flavour and the caramelised butter. We enjoyed it so much that every time we headed to the supermarket to get groceries I would pick up some sweet corn and recreate the corn I had from the street vendor. Even my sister who used to dislike corn now can’t get enough of it, that’s why I knew this recipe was a winner and one I wanted to share in time for the summer.

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To prepare it take each corn and place in a piece of aluminium foil, season generously with salt and pepper and then top with a tablespoon of butter. Wrap it all up and then bake for 20 minutes in the foil, then uncover and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until it’s starting to colour slightly.

My corn recipe is a much easier and simpler version of the original. It doesn’t require much effort to make and the oven does all of the work, which means you can spend more time outside enjoying the weather rather than being stuck inside a hot kitchen. If you want you can cook it on the barbecue, it will be equally as delicious.

This corn makes a great side dish for the upcoming BBQ season. It goes brilliantly with burgers, chicken and ribs. I love this simple and inexpensive recipe and so will you – you’ll be making it all summer long!🙂

Ingredients:

4 sweetcorn or 8 cobettes

4 tablespoons butter

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C / 180 Fan / 400°F / Gas Mark 6.
  2. Line a baking dish with aluminium foil and evenly spread out the corn. Top with butter and season well with salt and black pepper. Cover and seal the corn in the foil, then roast for 20 minutes. Uncover the corn and continue to cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the corn is lightly coloured and the butter is starting to caramelise.
  3. Before serving brush corn with excess melted butter. Serve immediately. The corn is delicious served both hot or cold.

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Enjoy!

jess

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This blog post is in conjunction with a project FourWalls have set-up to celebrate National BBQ Week.