Category Archives: Recipes/Cooking

Matcha cupcakes

Matcha is a type of green tea, and I can now confirm that it tastes great with chocolate…


A Confession

It’s time that I admitted my addiction. As these things go, it’s a fairly harmless one, but it has been taking up an increasingly substantial proportion of my time, and it’s only fair that I acknowledge it.

You see, I LOVE baking. I’m especially addicted to making bread, of every kind, from the fluffy white milk loaf to the rustic sourdough. There’s something so magical about the transformation of a few simple, uninspiring ingredients – flour, water, yeast, salt – into a supple, silky ball of dough, and then into a loaf of warm crusty bread. Yes, it can be frustrating, especially with sourdough bread, when your much-loved, doted-on starter suddenly lets you down and presents you with a leaden brick, but such failures only spur a true addict on to the next loaf.

It’s hard to decide what my favourite part of the whole process is – I thoroughly enjoy the kneading and shaping of the dough, something that many people dislike – but on balance I have to say that I take particular delight in The Crust. And yes, it deserves those capitals! A good crust is a thing of beauty to look at, especially on a gloomy winter’s day…

FREE Graze snack box – a review and free code!

Note: I have not been paid by Graze to review this product!

Someone offered me a free box from Graze the other day – free food? Who’s going to say no?! The idea of Graze boxes is that they contain healthy, nutritious and tasty snacks to keep you going without resorting to biscuits and chocolate! You can choose from a range of ‘themes’ so if you want an especially healthy box tailored towards a particular diet you can get it. I on the other hand ordered the ‘nibble’ box; it seemed the easiest way to get a good selection.

So, what did I get? Top left: Orange and ginger flapjacks – orange isn’t usually my favourite flavour but these taste pretty good, and they’re definitely moreish!

Top right: ‘Lemon meringue pie’ aka lemon-infused raisins, yoghurt-coated peanuts and mini meringues. It’s an interesting mix and one that I would probably prefer if I liked raisins or peanuts! Even allowing for that I’m halfway through already…

Bottom left: Sweet Goan Curry Crackers – my favourite of the selection. And all gone! They’re little rice cakes with a sweet but spicy curry flavour, and ever-so-slightly addictive. I had intended to save some for T but somehow that didn’t work. I’d definitely have them again.

Bottom right: Chanachur panch phoron – cashew nuts, goji berries, green sultanas and chilli-and-lemon chickpea noodles, according to the description. It’s a nice mix and I like the berries in there, while the noodles are really tasty. My only comment would be that after I’d been picking at this container for a while I started to get a bitter taste – not sure if that was the phoron or if it was just a bitter berry or something like that! Overall I wouldn’t mind having it again.

So, the overall verdict? I liked the ‘special occasion’ of getting mystery snacks through the letterbox, even more so as it was free! I thought it was an interesting and generally good mix, and the bits I was less keen on I can just make a note of on the site and I won’t receive them again – so it really isn’t a problem. I also like that all the packaging is recycled/recyclable. The website is ridiculously easy to use and there’s no catch with the offer I used: it’s one box free, the next – if I want it – half price (about £1.30) and after that they’re about £3.50 each. You can cancel any time without the usual palaver of explaining why you want to cancel etc etc, and you can get the box delivered to anywhere – I think the idea is you get it delivered straight to your office. As I work from home at the moment I doubt I’ll make it a permanent thing, but if I worked elsewhere I might consider it.

If you fancy giving it a try you can use this code to get the same offer as I used – one box completely free! And really, you might as well because it’s not often you actually get treats free in the post! Go to the Graze site and use the code 624X7RTM (or click here) and see what you get.

The Greatest Breakfast Known to Man!

…or this woman at least. Fluffy American-style pancakes with crispy smoked bacon and Marks and Spencer’s finest maple syrup…a dish made in heaven! I’ve loved the combo for a while but for some reason have never got as far as making American-style pancakes – until last week! I discovered how quick and easy they are, and now I plan to make them a more regular feature of our menu (and in fact, I don’t put sugar or butter in the mix, and use more yoghurt than milk, so they’re positively healthy!) Today, however, was the first time that I have put together that perfect combination of salty bacon, fluffy pancakes and sweet maple syrup in my own house, and I felt I should mark the occasion with a blog and recipe post.

Ingredients: 6oz self-raising flour; 2 level tsp baking powder; 2 eggs, separated; 200ml yoghurt; 50ml milk

Stir the baking powder into the flour; make a well and add the egg yolks and milk/yoghurt mix. Stir until smooth. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold into the flour mix until a thick fluffy batter is formed. When ready to cook, heat a pan over a medium heat and add a knob of butter, then quickly pour in a ladle of batter. The batter will not spread far and will begin to bubble within 30 seconds or so; flip the pancake over after about 90 seconds (or when you are able to turn it) and cook so that both sides are golden. The pancakes can be kept warm on a wooden board in a low oven until ready to eat.

To anyone who hasn’t tried bacon and maple syrup with pancakes – go, do it now! You won’t regret it…



Blender-free Mango and Coconut pudding!

I’ve had my eye on a pair of mangoes that have been sitting in my fruitbowl steadily getting riper and riper, trying to think of something interesting to do with them. Usually I just eat them fresh or add  them to a stir-fry, but I had the urge to attempt something a bit more adventurous! A quick rummage in the cupboard uncovered a tin of coconut milk and a lonely sachet of gelatine, at which point I knew exactly what I wanted – mango and coconut jelly!

I should admit that for some reason gelatine and I do not in general get on – the last time I attempted a gelatine-based pudding (in my head at least, a delicious vanilla-latte panna cotta topped with a layer of coffee jelly) it failed disastrously, and I have steered clear since. This time I am pleased to report that the recipe worked well and I’m pretty happy with the result – sure, I’ll probably fiddle with it a bit next time round but I will be making it again!

I browsed a few different recipes for this but as usual what follows is a mixture of several different recipes with my own twist (the result of my not having certain ingredients or tools!) Every other recipe I have seen recommends blending the mango to a puree, but seeing as our blender is broken that wasn’t going to happen, and I have to say I like the texture of this.

Ingredients: 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and finely diced; 100ml water; 250ml coconut milk; 100g sugar*; 4tsp gelatine powder. [I think 75g sugar would be adequate.]

Method: Bring the water to the boil, remove from the heat and sprinkle the gelatine over the surface, whisking quickly to dissolve. Add the sugar and stir again to dissolve. Add the chopped mango with any juice, together with the coconut milk, stir, and pour into moulds. Chill for at least 3 hours or until set, and serve with a drizzle of coconut milk.

This would be a lovely dessert on a hot summer’s day, especially after a spicy meal – much as I enjoyed it last night, it wasn’t really suited to the central-heating-and-gales combination. I think it would be good with something slightly tarter to lift the taste a bit, perhaps some lime sorbet, or something minty? I also think it could be nice with a hint of cardamom, I did intend to simmer the coconut with a couple of cardamom pods yesterday but had already added the gelatine before I remembered. Maybe next time.

Second time lucky?

Not that the first time was so bad, but I’d thought I’d give the Chinese-style steamed bread another go, this time with some special flour from the Chinese supermarket. I followed the instructions on the packet rather than the recipe I used last time, but I think I’ll try again with the new flour and the old recipe to see which works best!

These buns have a slightly different texture to the last lot, they’re not quite so light although they are still fluffy. The flour was a lot finer, it felt more like icing sugar than flour, but I think the dough really needed to be somewhere slightly warmer than our kitchen…It rose, but the instructions seemed to think that ‘room temperature’ was 28C (if only!) which it decidedly was not. Anyway, they still tasted good, and this time the filling stayed in the middle like it was supposed to, which is a lot more aesthetically pleasing!

I did add a little decoration this time… Not quite so perfect as my inspiration for this little piggy but still cute. And the red food dye used to colour the dough does come off your fingers…eventually.

Lingonberry Rye Bread and Spicy Root Veg Soup

Oops…It’s been a while since I posted, sorry about that. Things have been quite busy over the past few days, I’ll try not to leave it as long next time though.

I went to Ikea on Saturday, was very restrained, and managed to get through the main checkout with only two items – a record surely! Unfortunately I then went to the food bit to get meatballs (do they put some sort of addictive chemical in those things?!) and came across something I’ve not seen before – Lingonberry bread mix! Now, usually I prefer to make my bread from scratch, but I’ve been meaning to try rye bread for a while and having had good experiences with every other foodstuff I’ve had from Ikea I thought this could be worth a try.

The verdict? This bread was easy to make – mix, knead, rise for 30 mins, shape, rise again and bake – and I’m pleasantly surprised by the result. It’s not too heavy or dark  – I’m not a fan of the ‘black’ rye breads – but has a good nutty flavour and a slightly chewy texture. The only complaint would be that for a product sold as ‘lingonbrod’ there were hardly any berries in the mix – I counted about 4 in the whole of one loaf! Aside from that, I like it, and I’ll definitely get more next time I go.

Since I had some fresh bread, and the temperature is distinctly frosty, I thought I’d make some warming soup for dinner. The following recipe is one that I make on a fairly regular basis,  varying the vegetables depending on what I happen to have, but I do like it when I have sweet potato to add to the mix. I also like to use butternut squash, swede, white potatoes, turnips, and also fresher veg like courgette and aubergine – but today I had to keep the list of ingredients to what I had in the box!

Ingredients: 1 red onion, finely chopped; 2 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped; 3 carrots, diced; 2 parsnips, diced; 1 sweet potato, diced; 1 star anise, 2-3 cloves, 2 cardamom pods, crushed; 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds; 1 1/2 tsp cumin; 1 tsp cinnamon; 1/2 tsp turmeric; 1 tsp chilli paste; approx. 700ml chicken or vegetable stock; 1 tbsp tomato puree; 1 tin chickpeas.

Gently saute the onions in olive oil for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and coriander seeds and stir. Add in the diced carrot and parsnip, stir and cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the sweet potato. Cook for another couple of minutes, then add the stock (enough to cover the vegetables) and bring to the boil. Meanwhile add the other spices, chickpeas, tomato puree and black pepper to season (you shouldn’t need salt as there will be plenty in the stock.) Simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender, check that the seasoning is to your liking and adjust if necessary, then serve with plenty of buttered fresh bread. Perfect for a wintry weekday night, and it freezes well too so you can always have some to hand.

Ps – this is the first time I’ve linked up to another blog, but I’m sure making this bread for the first time – hopefully signalling a start to a new era of more adventurous breadbaking – qualifies me for ‘Meaningful Monday’?