5 things you'll never buy once you make them yourself...

I'm lying low at the moment with a chesty cough so I thought I'd make use of my time and clear out some of the 'draft' blog posts that I've never got around to finishing. There are about 15 of them that for various reasons haven't seen the light of day. Some are controversial and I'm not brave enough to post them (the one about using your kids on instagram for instance!), others started off well and didn't go anywhere...and then there was this one. The reason it didn't get published is that I could only think of 4 things...until today when I remembered my amazing Pavlova recipe. So here you go....a digression from dresses and shoes. I hope you enjoy!

1. Guacamole
This is the easiest thing to make and tastes so much better than shop bought - it doesn't have that gloopy texture you get with mass produced - probably to do with preservatives as it doesn't last well and needs to be used up the day you make it. A bit like the Granola recipe below, it's not a gram by gram fixed recipe, it's a case of adding as much or as little to taste. I tend to prefer less garlic and more coriander - so it's up to you. Another bonus of this one is that apart from the avocado, the other ingredients are store cupboard if you invest in frozen herbs and garlic and bottled lime juice. 

  • 1 x Avocado
  • Chopped coriander - I use about a tablespoon of the frozen one but if you have fresh, you can use a small handful of this instead. If you only have dried coriander, it works too, though use about half the amount.
  • Half a clove of Garlic - crushed.  Again, I use the frozen crushed garlic or fresh crushed garlic which you keep in the fridge.
  • Lime Juice - 1-2 tablespoons depending on the size of your avocado. I use bottled lime juice.

Scoop the avocado out of its skin, discard the stone. Add the rest of the ingredients to a high sided tupperware container and blitz with a hand held blender.
You can opt to add in extra ingredients like fresh chilli/cayenne pepper/salt/pepper as you wish but I find the 4 ingredients perfectly adequate and delicious...and simple!

2. Granola
Another one that I make most weeks and we can't get enough of it in our house. What you'll notice one you start making it is how much sugar is in shop bought granola - I can't deal with the latter anymore. AND it's so expensive!!
I've shared this recipe on social media before and have always declared up front, it's not mine. I got it from a friend Lynne who used to have a blog and luckily, I screenshotted it before she stopped blogging. It's the recipe I go back to again and again.

  • 2 x cups of Mixed Nuts - I get mine in Lidl or Holland & Barrett
  • 250g Porridge Oats
  • 1 x cup of desiccated coconut
  • 1 x cup of mixed seeds - Tesco do a good bag of this in their cooking aisle and I use about half of a bag for each batch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp of Cinnamon
  • 25ml Oil
  • 250 ml of maple/agave/honey/golden syrup as you wish. The maple is lovely but expensive so sometimes I mix them up or use the ends of whatever I can find in the cupboard.

Mix all of this together in a bowl until it's a loose consistency with all the dried ingredients incorporated into the liquid. It should be crumbly looking - not unlike the finished granola but it won't be crunchy ..... yet!
Spread on a baking sheet, cook at 160C for 15 minutes, take it out, mix it up and re spread it and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until it's golden brown.
Remove from the oven, add in cranberries or raisins (if desired) and leave to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. It will keep for about 7-10 days. Serve with fresh fruit and yogurt or with milk as a cereal.

3. Flapjacks
This isn't massively different to the granola recipe so I usually make them at the same time. I will warn you that they are so delicious, you will want to eat them all yourself as soon as they come out of the oven! I have adapted this recipe from Annabel Karmel's as I used to make them for the twins from her book when they were toddlers. Her recipe is a bit plainer and has rice krispies.

  • 170g Butter
  • 180g Brown Sugar
  • 100g Maple/Golden Syrup
  • 250g Porridge Oats
  • 1 x Cup of Desiccated Coconut
  • 2 x Cups of Chopped Mixed Nuts
  • 1 x Cup of Mixed Seeds (like above)
  • 2 x Cups of dried fruit
  • 1/4 tsp salt 

Melt the butter over a medium heat in a saucepan with the brown sugar and maple or golden syrup..honey will work here too. Watch like a hawk or it will turn too sticky!
Meanwhile in a bowl, add 250g of porridge oats, a cup of desiccated coconut, 2 cups of chopped nuts, 1 cup of mixed seeds and 2 cups of dried fruit - apricots, raisins, cranberries or a mix of all three and a pinch of salt
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix to coat all the dry ingredients with the stickiness. Press into a lined & greased tin and cook for 20-25 minutes at about 180C until golden brown (or darker if you like a really crunchy flapjack)
Once out of the oven, score into the shape & size you want and leave to cool a bit more before re-scoring. Once they've solidified enough to take out of the tin, cool on a rack and then move to an airtight box (if they make it that far!)
You can swirl white & dark chocolate over them if you want to use them for a party or a special occasion....or if you just like chocolate.

4. Pavlova
This is my go-to recipe for a special occasion. It's always a hit with everyone and looks so impressive. If you've never made one before, you won't believe how easy it is! You can adjust the size by increasing the egg whites and doubling the sugar so 6 egg whites with 12 oz sugar or 4 egg whites with 8 oz sugar etc. I don't adjust the cornflour/vinegar unless I'm massively increasing or decreasing.

  • 5 egg whites
  • 10 oz Caster Sugar
  • Tablespoon of Cornflower
  • Tablespoon of White Vinegar
  • Cream and Fresh Fruit to top as desired
Separate your eggs and set the yolks aside. Use the freshest eggs you can find and don't allow even the tiniest bit of yolk to get into the mix. If you're not used to separating eggs, do each one over a bowl first to ensure no yolk escapes.
Use a stand mix to whip your whites until they're fluffy and foamy. You should be able to tun the bowl upside down and the mix won't move. If it slides up the side of the bowl, it's not ready and needs more whisking. I don't have a stand mixer so I balance my hand mixer on a biscuit tin with a tea towel to stabilise it. This is probably not recommended but it works for me!
Once you've got your stiff peaks, keep the mixer running and add in the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time. This will create your glossy white meringue mix.
After the sugar is all mixed in, sieve in the cornflower and add the vinegar with the mixer still going. 
Spread the mix over lightly greased parchment on a round tray - I use one of our pizza trays. The mix will hold its shape well and you'll be able to create a bit of a dip in the middle, bringing more mixture up the sides. Don't mess about with it too much though, it's meant to be a bit swirly and messy.
Cook in a cool oven at 130C for 45 minutes then turn off the oven and leave the pavlova in there until you need it - overnight even. For best results, fill with the cream, coulis, fresh fruit etc only when you're about to eat it.

5. Pizza 

Last but not least, this is our Saturday evening staple that the kids love. So if I'm ever out on a Saturday night, I have to promise to make it on the Sunday instead. You will honestly never buy a shop pizza again after this - the dough is so light and crispy and making it yourself means that everyone in the house gets exactly what they want, for instance, one of the twins loves cheese, the other hates it...go figure! These quantities make 5 pizzas for us if I roll them out really really thin - 2 small ones, 2 medium ones and 1 large one but you can adjust proportionally.

  • 400g strong flour
  • Pinch Salt
  • Olive oil - tbsp
  • 250ml warm water 
  • 1 x Sachet Yeast
  • Toppings - cheese/pepperoni/peppers/anchovies etc
  • 2 x jars of pizza topping sauce (or make your own with passata & herbs)

Add all dry ingredients into a food processor, don't let the yeast and the salt connect (it's cooking science) add the olive oil and water and switch on. It will come together into a lump of dough within 30 seconds.
Remove and knead until smooth on a floured surface - about 5 minutes is good. Put in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place (or longer if you have time). I usually put my oven on for 5 minutes to warm it up and then turn it off and put the bowl in.
After it's well risen, knock it back, cover it again and leave it at room temp for a second proof - this takes about 30 minutes too and during this time, I assemble the ingredients for the toppings and turn the oven up to 200C - it needs to be good and hot before you put your pizzas in,
Divide the dough, roll out, place on lightly greased pizza trays and cover with your choice of topping.
To get the perfect crispy base, cook each pizza for about 8-10 minutes (depending on the topping) then slide off the tray directly onto the rack in the oven for a final few minutes of cooking. This may be harder if it's a very heavily loaded pizza and in this case, you might have to cook for longer or leave it on the tray. Total cooking time is about 15 minutes - though it may take longer with multiple pizzas in the oven and the opening/closing while you manage all of them.
Yeah, it's a bit more work than flinging 5 frozen pizzas in the oven but they're much healthier, way more delicious and it's a great way to get the kids involved in cooking.

So there you go - my 5 things I no longer buy because I can make them better....do share if you have anything that fits this category. I've never made pesto and I've a feeling that could be a contender...do share if you have a great recipe.



  1. AnnaC23:16

    I was about to say pesto! So easy; 1 pack basil, 1 garlic clove, 1tbsp each of parmesan and pine nuts and 2.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Blend up.

    Am definitely going to try the granola, thank you!

  2. Johan W15:43

    Thanks Avril - I’m going to try these! I’ve been making your granola every week since you first put it up and we all love it! ����

  3. I want to make all of these immediately! x


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