Thursday, 13 December 2012

Nina and Olav's Gingerbread House

This is anything BUT slimming, but still worth including for this time of year. 

Once made, the dough can be baked straight away, or kept for a few days in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge. It is best to make the house over two days: the first day you bake and decorate the pieces, the second day assemble them. If you try and decorate them after the house has been assembled, the icing runs – great for icicles, not so good for patterns.

According to the recipe, you can use brown or white sugar – I used unrefined caster sugar. I also found that I needed almost three times as much icing as they suggested. The dough makes more than enough for the house and the base, with plenty extra for trees, men, stars and other biscuits to nibble on while you wait for Demolition Day!

For the dough:
225g sugar
375g syrup
1½ tsp ground ginger
4½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom
225g butter
2 eggs
3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
750-850g plain white flour

For the icing:
400ml icing sugar
1 egg white
a few drops lemon juice

For the 'glue':
250ml sugar

Place sugar, syrup and spices in a saucepan and bring to the boil (It is best to use a large saucepan for this, as the mixture starts to foam and expand as soon as you add the bicarbonate of soda. ). Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir until it is becomes frothy. Place the butter in a bowl and add the hot sugar mixture, stirring until the butter has melted. Add the eggs and leave to cool. When the mixture has cooled, gradually add the flour, stirring well between each time (I used a food mixer for this).

I found the dough was easier to use after 10-15 minutes, rather than immediately after it was made.

Roll out the dough directly on the baking plate (I used greaseproof paper on top of the tray) to a thickness of around 3mm, and cut out the pieces using the templates (including the holes for the window and doors – the door gets bakes separately). Make two of each piece, plus a base large enough to take the finished house. 

Bake the pieces, leaving enough space between each piece for them to expand slightly, at 180°C for ten minutes. Leave to cool before decorating.


When the biscuits have cooled completely, decorate with the icing. Mix together all the ingredients and stir well, then pipe out the pattern – the only limitation here is your imagination! Add Smarties or any other colourful candy while the icing is still soft, pressing them firmly into the icing. Leave the icing overnight to set completely. 


The following day, melt the sugar on a wide pan and dip the pieces in the sugar on the edges they will be joined with another piece. It is best to have two people do this – one to dip and the other person to hold the pieces in place as you join them. Just be very careful you drip hot sugar on your assistant – as it WILL burn and blister the skin (as my husband found out)!

Once the house is all assembled you can touch up with any icing to create snow, icicles and cover up any cracks etc. 

 The house is assembled, but I think it needs a little snow on the ground.

The house will keep well for at least a couple of weeks and still be OK to eat.

Vegetable Couscous with Spiced Yogurt

This is a great way of using up leftover vegetables – anything will do as long as it is chopped finely enough. 


½ cup giant couscous
½ red pepper, chopped
2 onions, chopped
½ savoy cabbage, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
½ courgette, chopped
1 tbsp bouillon powder
1 tub 0% fat free plain yogurt
1-2 tsp harissa paste

Cook the couscous according to the packet instructions, adding the onion, pepper, cabbage and celery. Just before the cooking time is up, add the courgette.

Swirl the harissa paste into the yogurt, and serve with the couscous.
Has-Bean Cottage Pie

A cottage pie with a difference. I love anything made with minced beef, especially cottage pie. I also love baked beans, so combining the two was a winning combination for me. 


Serves 4
Syn Free on Extra Easy

500g extra lean minced beef
3 onions
1 tin baked beans
250ml passata
bouillon powder to taste
1 swede
1 butternut squash
1 tbsp bouillon powder

Sauté the beef and onion in Fry Light until the onion is soft and the beef is cooked. Add the passata, baked beans and bouillon powder.

Peel, dice and boil the swede and squash until tender (the swede will take longer than the squash, so cook them in separate pans), then mash together with a potato masher, adding the bouillon powder and a little of the cooking liquid if the mixture is too dry (unlikely).

Place the beef and bean mix in an oven-proof dish and top with the swede and squash mash. Bake at 220°C for 15-20 minutes until slightly browned on top and cooked through. Serve with vegetables of your choice and Slimming World chips.
Hoi Sin Turkey with Noodles

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

300g lean turkey meat, diced
2 onions, sliced
150g baby sweetcorn, halved lengthways
4 baby courgettes, quartered
150g noodles, cooked
4 tbsp hoi sin sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce

Stir fry the turkey and onions in Fry Light for ca five minutes, then add the sweetcorn and courgettes. Continue cooking until the turkey is cooked through and the vegetables are done to your liking. Add the hoi sin and soy sauce, and the noodles and cook, stirring, until everything is well mixed and heated through.

Spicy Bean and Tomato Soup

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tun baked beans
2 tsps sweetener
1 tsp bouillon powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsps ground cumin
chilli powder to taste

Whizz the tinned tomatoes in a food processor or liquidiser until smooth. Heat in a pan with the beans, and add the spices. Stir and enjoy.