Lotus Biscoff Caramel, Chocolate and Walnut Tart – September’s BakedIn Baking Club Recipe

There are so many things I love about BakedIn: their products are simply amazing and produce gorgeous results every time, their staff team is so friendly and supportive, and they have a fantastic Baking Club.

This month’s Baking Club recipe was absolutely divine! I always get excited when the bright green BakedIn box lands on my doormat, and I love opening it to find out what the recipe is each month, as it is kept secret until you receive it. I have to admit to letting out a squeal of delight when I saw the recipe card on top of the ingredients in this month’s box. I am a MASSIVE fan of Lotus Biscoff … biscuits and spread, so I was over the moon to see this recipe included both! Lotus biscuits, spread, caramel, chocolate, walnuts – heaven!

The recipe cards included always give you an indication of how much skill is required for each bake. They are often around the 2 out of 5 level, but this one was a 4 out of 5 (with 1 being super easy and 5 being tricky). This excited me too as it meant it would be more of a challenging bake. I love these most of all, as they take you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to try new techniques.

So what exactly was so special about this recipe? Let me tell you exactly what it was. (I say “was” as it didn’t last long in my house at all)!!! Imagine a crispy pastry base, with a thick layer of gooey Lotus Biscoff caramel sauce smothered over it, with chopped walnuts sprinkled all over that, covered with a rich fudgy chocolate filling, topped with a sweet caramel icing and finally decorated with crushed Lotus Biscoff biscuits. You’re drooling now, aren’t you? The sweetness of the caramel balances so perfectly with the richness of the dark chocolate filling. It would be the perfect dessert for any occasion!

There is always a tip on ways to enhance your bake, and this month it said you could serve it with double cream to make it extra indulgent. I decided to pipe some on top rather than pour some over it. Wow, what a treat this was!

I am so so happy to have this recipe forever in my collection now, as I will definitely be making this time and time again. There were a lot of steps involved to make it, but the end result was so worth it.

The Baking Club has a wonderful Facebook group where we all talk about the bakes and share photos of our creations. It has been so lovely this month to see some people saying this was their first time making pastry. Their bakes all looked amazing and they have picked up a new skill along the way. This is what I love most about the Club… it allows people to create something wonderful, no matter how long they have been baking for, and that sense of achievement is priceless!

If you would like to join the Baking Club and receive a new recipe and ingredients every month, CLICK HERE to sign up.

If you would like to make this scrumptious tart, (and therefore have the recipe to keep forever too) you can buy the kit HERE. It includes all the dry ingredients you need, as well as the Lotus spread and baking paper to use. Hurry though, as it will only be available to buy until the middle of October 2018 (unless it sells out sooner).

Happy baking!

 

 

 

 

Pink Gin and Lemon Cupcakes

(DISCLAIMER: Contains an Amazon Associate link – I earn from qualifying purchases).

Unless you have been living in a cave lately you will have noticed that pink gin is everywhere at the moment. Social media is full of various types of pink gin with lots of different suggestions of ways to enjoy it.

My partner decided to buy some for me as he knows I love trying new things, so he came home with a bottle of Gordon’s Pink Gin. I couldn’t wait to try it but have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of tonic water so wanted to find another way to drink it. A quick Google search led me to my new favourite drink for the Summer… pink gin and lemonade. All of the versions I found of this included chopped strawberries in the glass. If you are looking for a nice refreshing fruity drink for a hot day, this is it. Half fill your glass with ice, add as many chopped strawberries as you want, pour in 50 ml of pink gin, and top up with lemonade. The fruitiness of the gin (raspberry, strawberry and redcurrant), combined with the lemonade and fresh strawberries makes a delicious choice for a warm Summer evening.

Every time I try a new drink my mind automatically starts thinking about how a cake or cheesecake would taste in that flavour, and this time was no exception. Straight away I imagined a lovely zingy lemon sponge, with pink gin buttercream, and chopped strawberries to decorate. It would also be amazing in cheesecake form so I will be making one of those very soon too.

I make lemon drizzle cupcakes regularly, and thought the sponge used in those would be perfect to use for pink gin cupcakes. I didn’t want the gin buttercream to overpower the lemon, I wanted it to be quite a delicate fresh flavour. If you would prefer a stronger gin flavour though, just add another spoonful.

For the buttercream I would strongly recommend using butter. This might sound obvious but I know some people use products like Stork or margarine. They really wouldn’t work in this recipe and would give a very sloppy result. I always use unsalted butter. It doesn’t need to be an expensive brand; supermarket own brand is just perfect.

PINK GIN AND LEMON CUPCAKES – Makes 12

FOR THE LEMON CUPCAKES

125 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

175 g caster sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

finely grated zest of 1 large lemon, and the juice of the lemon in a separate cup

175 g self raising flour, sifted

pinch of salt

4 tbsp milk

70 g icing sugar

 

FOR THE PINK GIN BUTTERCREAM

200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

400 g icing sugar, sifted

2-3 tbsps Pink Gin, depending on taste

pink food colouring – in gel or paste form (I used Wilton Icing Colour)

 

TO DECORATE

Fresh strawberries, washed

 

  • Preheat your oven to 180C. Place cupcake cases into the 12 holes of a muffin tray.
  • Cream together the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs and lemon zest and beat well.
  • Gently fold in the flour and salt until it is all combined, and then add the milk. Fold carefully until the mixture is smooth.
  • Divide the mixture between the 12 cupcake cases. (You can use a spoon but I find it easier to use an ice cream scoop to ensure evenly sized cupcakes).
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden and springy to touch.
  • While the cakes are baking, put the lemon juice and the 70 g of icing sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently until the icing sugar has dissolved. Leave to one side until the cakes are ready.
  • When the cakes are baked, remove from the oven and pierce each one all over with a cocktail stick while still in the muffin tray. Spoon the lemon juice syrup evenly over each cupcake so that it soaks into the sponge.
  • Place the cupcakes on to a wire cooling rack and leave until completely cool.

TO MAKE THE BUTTERCREAM AND DECORATE

  • Place the butter into a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until soft. Gradually add the icing sugar a few spoonfuls at a time and continue to beat until it is all combined and smooth.
  • Add 2-3 tbsps of pink gin and again mix until combined and smooth. You might want to taste a little bit to make sure it is as strong or delicate flavoured as you would like, and add more if desired. Add a tiny bit of pink food colouring and mix until the buttercream is evenly coloured.
  • Spoon the buttercream into a large piping bag fitted with the piping nozzle of your choice (I use a 1M nozzle), and pipe a large swirl on to each cupcake.
  • Cut the strawberries into halves or quarters and place one piece on the top of each buttercream swirl.
  • Enjoy!

I hope you like this recipe as much as I do. My partner adores the lemon drizzle cupcakes I usually make but after eating one of these pink gin ones he said he prefers these! I think I have to agree ūüôā

How do you enjoy your pink gin? Let me know in the comments. I’m intrigued to try new ideas with it.

Happy Baking!

If you can’t get to a shop to buy the gin, you can buy some from Amazon HERE

Dark Chocolate and Baileys Fondants – The Quick Recipe Way

The wonderful people at HARTS OF STUR recently sent me a set of 2 ramekins from the new QUICK RECIPE range of cookware. I had never heard of this range before so I was curious to see what was so special about them. I was so impressed, I just have to tell you about them.

The Quick Recipe range includes lidded casserole dishes, various sized and shaped roasters, and these ramekins. Each item in the range also includes recipes created specifically for that item, so that the ingredient quantities are the exact amount you need. What makes these different from any other though is that the recipes are obtained by scanning a QR code which is on the bottom of each item!

Most people nowadays have a smartphone, whether it is the latest top branded one or a cheaper version. It really doesn’t matter. If you have an iPhone, you can just hover your camera over the code. If you have an Android phone (as I do) you will need to install a QR code reader app first. There are so many to choose from on the Google Play Store, at no cost. Then you just open the app and scan the code. When you have scanned the code, a pop up will allow you to access the relevant Quick Recipe page on their website, taking you directly to the recipes designed for your item. No more having to keep recipes in folders, or scouring the internet for inspiration. Simply scan, check you have the ingredients, and bake! I really think this is a fantastic idea, especially for busy people who don’t get much time to search for recipes. Here’s a little video showing you how they work: http://youtu.be/PQS2BLhqjbM

The ramekins (and the rest of the range) are made from fully vitrified porcelain, making them freezer, microwave, oven, and dishwasher safe. They have a pretty herringbone style design on the outside which looks so stylish that they are perfect to go straight from oven to table. They are very strong and you can tell they are really good quality.

I decided to scan the code and see what recipes I could make in my ramekins. Although the others looked amazing, I absolutely love Baileys so was excited to see a recipe for Dark Chocolate and Baileys Fondants. I checked the ingredient checklist and was happy to see I could tick them all off (yes you can actually tick them off on the list). The recipe tells you how long you will need to get the preparation done (in this case 25 minutes), and how long it will take to cook (10 minutes). I like that detail, as it lets you ensure you have enough time before you begin. So many times I have found a recipe but the preparation has taken so long I’ve barely had enough time to get it all done. This takes the guesswork out of that. There is also a handy video to watch on each recipe showing you how to make them, so you know you are doing it correctly.¬† It actually took me less than the 25 minutes so in less than half an hour I had 2 piping hot desserts which were sheer indulgence.

The outside was a beautiful chocolate sponge and the middle was molten chocolate with a heavenly Baileys taste. It is one of those desserts that you just can’t help but close your eyes as you take the first mouthful so you can just enjoy the flavour and gooey texture. If you are making a romantic meal for someone, THIS is definitely the dessert you need.

I have discovered over time that not all ramekins are the same size, so a recipe that might be good for some ramekins might not be good for others. It is good to know that the recipes found by scanning the code are EXACTLY right for these. As you can see from the above photo, the fondants rose to fit the ramekins absolutely perfectly. No overflow, no gap at the top. That is what sets this range apart from any others.

I also love the fact that the recipes are for 2 ramekins. Obviously if you buy 2 sets you just double the quantities. So many times though I have wanted to make a scrumptious dessert for me and my partner, while my son has wanted something completely different. I have found wonderful sounding recipes but they are all for 4, 6 or even 8 ramekins. So you think that’s ok, I’ll just halve the ingredients. And then you see the dreaded egg quantity. For example, the recipe needs 3 eggs for a 4 ramekin dessert. Straight away that recipe has to be abandoned as you obviously can’t halve an egg. These Quick Recipes take all the hassle out of converting recipes to make just two. They really are perfect for busy lifestyles.

If you would like to buy these ramekins they cost just £6.95 and are available HERE from Harts of Stur.

Welcome to 21st century baking ūüôā

 

DISCLAIMER: I was sent the ramekins at no cost in exchange for a review. This in no way affects my opinions. I will not ever recommend products or services I don’t personally like, so if I put a review on my blog, it means I really genuinely like the product. All views are my own honest opinions.¬†

 

 

“Practical Herbs” Tea Tour – Some Herbal Tea Recipes and Their Benefits, Including Relief From Hayfever

I was recently lucky enough to be sent a fantastic book called “Practical Herbs 1” written by the Finnish herbalist Henriette Kress. This book, as well as “Practical Herbs 2”, has just been published by AEON Books, priced at ¬£19.99 each.

The books are packed with information about identifying herbs when foraging, how to pick them, how to dry and store them, and all the different ways you can use them and what benefits they give to your health and wellbeing. I have to say I was completely engrossed! I actively look for natural remedies for ailments that sometimes come my (or my family’s) way, so was very impressed to see that there were plenty of remedies included that were for problems we have experienced.

As today is National Tea Day I was asked to specifically try one of the tea recipes included and share my thoughts on it. I decided to try 3 different ones as they sounded like they would help to sort me out with a few little niggly issues.

ROSES

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a bit obsessed with roses, their beautiful appearance, their wonderful fragrance, and their sweet heavenly taste. I was over the moon to see roses featured in Practical Herbs 1. There are lots of new ideas of ways to use roses that I had never heard of, but will definitely be making! Rose petal elixir to calm nerves, rose honey paste to soothe sore throats and lift your spirits, rose beads for when you need to feel special and calm… the list goes on. There are a few different tea recipes for roses but I decided to try the Rose Petal Tea, as I have a permanent supply of dried rose petals in my cupboard. You can use dried or fresh petals for this recipe.

Obviously you can’t just use any roses, as most shop-bought ones have been sprayed with various nasties to get rid of pests and to help them bloom. If you grow your own in the garden and haven’t used any chemicals on them, they should be fine to use. The book does state though that many hybrid roses we grow in our gardens have no scent, and these are not suitable. You need roses with a beautiful strong fragrance. Alternatively you could buy dried edible rose petals, but again they must be fragrant.

 

ROSE PETAL TEA

1 tsp dried rose petals, or 2 tsps crushed fresh petals

250 ml boiling water

  • Pour the boiling water over the rose petals, steep for 10 minutes and then strain.
  • Drink 1-3 cups a day.

Rose petal tea is a relaxing tea that lifts your mood. It also helps to ease menstrual cramps and mild stomach cramps. if you let it go cold, you can also use it as a face wash!

This tea really did lift my spirits. The wonderful aroma and the sweet rose taste are enough to clear any clouds away. I loved this tea and have been drinking a cup every day.

 

RED RASPBERRY 

I always knew raspberry leaf tea was great for women near the end of pregnancy as it helps to strengthen pelvic organs and is packed with minerals. I didn’t know though that it is a fantastic tea for women in general. The book says that it can help to sort out many menstrual problems, such as pain, frequency, and amounts. I was most interested in it though for another purpose. For reasons unknown to anyone, in all the years I have been having cervical smear tests I have only ever had 1 result come back with no issues. This means I have to have tests every year, and it tends to be at least 2 a year. No one enjoys having them but they are vital to detect any early signs of problems, so we all go through them. As I am typing this, I have a letter to my side inviting me for another smear test as my last one a few weeks ago was inadequate. Henriette Kress says in this book that Red Raspberry Leaf tea is great for women with cervical issues. She states that if a smear test result comes back with problems, drinking this tea for a few weeks can often mean the next result comes back clear! (Obviously this isn’t saying it is a cure for cancer, so please don’t read it as such. There are a whole host of issues that can cause problematic smear results). Needless to say I am drinking this tea twice a day until my next test so fingers crossed!

You can make a tea out of the berries, but that helps to ease a fever. I used the raspberry leaf recipe which is why the tea doesn’t look red.

 

RED RASPBERRY LEAF TEA

1 tsp dried red raspberry leaves, or 2 tsps fresh leaves

250 ml boiling water

  • Pour boiling water over the leaves and steep for 10 minutes.
  • Strain through a coffee filter.
  • Drink 2-3 cups a day for several weeks for full benefit.

Henriette explains that the undersides of red raspberry leaves are covered in tiny spines that can irritate mucuous membranes if swallowed, which is why you must strain this tea through a coffee filter to remove them.

I quite liked the taste of this tea. It is hard to explain what it tastes like but I found it to be quite pleasant. It certainly doesn’t bother me drinking 2 cups of this a day.

 

STINGING NETTLE

The final tea I tried was made with stinging nettles. I chose to try this one as it is the best one for a condition I suffer from terribly every year… hayfever! I love Spring and Summer but I dread the puffy eyes and streaming nose that come with it. Flowers don’t bother me, it is grass and tree pollen that cause me problems. Some people who have drank nettle tea from Spring to Autumn have been able to come off hayfever medication altogether! I hate taking tablets so a natural remedy for a problem I have suffered from since childhood sounds perfect.

Stinging nettles have a huge amount of benefits. I won’t list them all here as the book takes a few pages to cover them all, with each needing different parts of the nettles. As well as recipes to eat and drink, the book also tells you how they can be used in your garden as a fertiliser, a pest repellent, and a compost starter; and as part of your beauty routine by using as a hair conditioner and a softening footbath! So many uses for one plant!

I bought dried stinging nettle leaves to make into a tea, but in the future will be picking some now I know what to look for and where is best to pick from.

 

NETTLE TEA

2-3 tsps dried nettle leaf, tops, or seed

250 ml boiling water

  • Pour boiling water over the nettles. Leave to steep for 10 minutes, then strain.
  • Drink 2 to 3 cups a day.

I strained this one through a coffee filter too as it was quite powdery. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t like my first taste of this tea. It tastes very very earthy and I didn’t like that. The store I bought the dried nettle from said that you can add some honey or any other natural sweetener if you don’t like the taste of this one. I added some honey and it made such a difference. I can happily drink 2 cups a day now. I’m hoping that doesn’t cut down the benefits that I am praying will come from it and keeping everything crossed for a sneeze-free Summer.

 

If you, like me, are trying to find natural remedies for problems, I would strongly recommend these books. I will be ordering Practical Herbs 2 on the strength of how informative and concise the first book is. Everything is explained in great detail to make sure you get the full benefits. The author has over 20 years experience of treating people with a range of conditions, and she takes care to pass her expert knowledge on in a clear, easily understandable way. The books are perfect for complete beginners to herbs and foraging, to advanced herbalists.

 

To find out more about Henriette Kress, visit her website HERE

To visit AEON Books and order Practical Herbs, click HERE

 

 

 

Cardamom Rice Pudding With Blackberry Layer and Pecan Crumble Topping

I love rice pudding. I’ll happily eat it hot or cold. It brings back so many lovely memories from childhood. The school I went to served it up as a pudding with a spoonful of chocolate curls on top, which was so yummy. At home I used to enjoy it with a dollop of jam dropped into the middle.

When Boddington’s Berries¬†sent me some of their delicious Blackberry Conserve¬†to try, I just knew it would be amazing in a rice pudding, but I wanted to make it an extra special dessert. I decided to combine two of my favourite puddings into one… crumble and rice pudding layered with some of this fruity conserve.

One of the things I love about Boddington’s Berries products is the high fruit content. In fact, for every 100g of conserve, 80g of that is fruit! That equates to the most wonderful fruity taste and texture. It is like eating a mouthful of juicy ripe blackberries! You could use a different fruit conserve if you prefer but I would highly recommend choosing a Boddington’s one as they are such high quality. And the very high fruit content means it is like eating a fruit crumble with rice pudding.

I added cardamom to the rice pudding as it is a flavour I love and it compliments the blackberries perfectly. You can buy ground cardamom but the flavour and aroma is much better if you buy green cardamom pods and grind the seeds yourself. (They are available in little jars in the herbs and spices section of all supermarkets). I love foods with lots of different textures too so added pecan nuts to the crumble topping for extra crunch. I usually bake rice pudding in the oven so it gets that delicious skin on top, but I didn’t want that for this recipe so cooked it on the hob. I wanted the crumble topping to be super crunchy so baked it on it’s own in the oven in a shallow baking pan. You can eat this dessert hot or cold. We ate ours cold and really really enjoyed it. I served it in small tumbler glasses and it made 4 full portions. I like serving cold desserts in glasses, and it is lovely to be able to see the individual layers that way. It is up to you how you layer the different components. I put a thin layer of crumble in the glass first, then rice pudding, followed by a layer of blackberry conserve, with more rice pudding on that, and topped with a final layer of crumble. You could arrange it however you prefer.

The crumble topping is so tasty I made double the amount and used the leftover over the course of a few days as a topping on ice cream and mixed in with yoghurt. (I¬†might¬†have sneakily eaten a little bit on it’s own too but no one saw me so that’s ok).

 

Cardamom Rice Pudding With Blackberry Layer and Pecan Crumble Topping

FOR THE CRUMBLE TOPPING:

90 g plain flour

45 g unsalted butter

30 g caster sugar

15 g demerara sugar

30 g pecan nuts, roughly chopped

 

FOR THE RICE PUDDING:

100 g pudding rice

700 ml milk, plus an extra splash if desired

7 green cardamom pods

2 level tbsps caster sugar

 

4 tbsps Boddington’s Berries Blackberry Conserve

 

TO MAKE THE CRUMBLE TOPPING:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan.
  • Place the flour and butter into a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles crumbs. (Or you can blitz it in a food processor).
  • Stir in the sugars and pecans until evenly distributed, then tip into a shallow baking pan and spread it all out so the layer is as thin as possible.
  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. (It will go even crunchier as it cools).
  • Leave to one side until needed.

 

TO MAKE THE CARDAMOM RICE PUDDING:

  • Press the cardamom pods to make them split open, then remove the seeds from inside. Use a pestle and mortar to grind the seeds as finely as possible.
  • Place the rice, milk, sugar and cardamom into a large saucepan and stir. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, then quickly reduce the heat so it doesn’t bubble over! Cover, then simmer on a low heat for 30-35 minutes, stirring from time to time to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  • Taste a bit of the rice to make sure it is soft. If it is, remove from the heat. If not leave for a further 5-10 minutes.

 

TO ASSEMBLE:

  • The rice will thicken as it cools, so add an extra splash of milk if needed to loosen it up a bit.
  • Stir the Blackberry Conserve in a small bowl to make it easier to spread out.
  • Place a layer of crumble mixture in the bottom of each glass, then add a thick layer of rice pudding to half fill the glass. Spread a tablespoonful of conserve on top of the rice, then add more rice and finish with a golden layer of crumble topping.
  • Enjoy!

As I said before, you can enjoy this dessert hot or cold. If you are serving it hot though, make sure it is not boiling hot or else your glass might shatter! I know I said it is good to have lots of different textures but glass splinters do not count!!!

To see the full range of delicious conserves that Boddington’s Berries has to offer, CLICK HERE¬†to go to their website.

 

DISCLAIMER: I received the Blackberry Conserve for free in exchange for a recipe idea. I only feature products on my blog that I genuinely would recommend, and all my views are my own honest opinions. 

 

 

Coffee Fudge Cake with a Versatile Coffee Fudge Icing

I absolutely love coffee cake. I don’t make it as often as I’d like though as I tend to bake cakes that everyone in my house will eat, and my son detests coffee! Luckily for me, it is a good friend’s favourite cake so I can make one and give her half of it. Sharing is caring, as they say. Whoever they are. But anyway, as I’m in a sharing kind of mood, I thought I’d share this scrumptious recipe with you. I don’t know where the recipe originally came from, but a friend gave it to me after I fell in love with the cake when she made it. She has a huge folder of recipes and this one was handwritten in there from about 20 years ago, so no idea where it is from.

This makes a delicious, fairly dense cake which is flavoured with Camp Coffee, a chicory and coffee essence. It tastes exactly like coffee though. I keep a bottle of Camp Coffee in my house just to make this cake as it is perfect for it. The cake is filled and topped with a coffee fudge icing which I could quite happily eat straight out of the bowl. The icing sets to a fudge-like consistency which is so irresistible. I top mine with chopped walnuts as coffee and walnut is such a classic combination, but you can leave the nuts out if you don’t like them.

As the cake is quite dense, it is ideal for baking in a bundt pan, as it will hold it’s shape beautifully. The icing would pour down over the bundt perfectly and then set in all the crevices. I do usually make it as a bundt but decided to do it in a normal cake tin this time, as not everyone has bundt pans in their cupboards.

A quick word about the icing… the longer you beat it, the thicker it becomes as it cools down. This is fine if you are spreading it on a normal cake. If you want to use it to pour it over a bundt though, you’ll need to beat it until it thickens slightly but is still fairly runny. It will start to firm up as it hits the cold cake, so you don’t want it too thick beforehand. Also, because it sets as it cools, do not make this until your cake is cool and you are ready to use it. It will just go too hard if you leave it on the side while your cake cools.

You could use the icing for many other things as well as this cake. It would be delicious poured warm over ice cream, although you wouldn’t need to make as much. You could use it as a layer in a chocolate and coffee tart or to top a traybake. You could use it as a filling for doughnuts. The list is endless. It is ideal for so many things as it sets so well. You could even let it firm up a bit and then roll into balls, flatten, cover in chocolate and there you have delicious coffee cream truffles!

 

COFFEE FUDGE CAKE

FOR THE CAKE:

170g unsalted butter, softened

170g soft light brown sugar

3 large eggs, beaten

2 tbsps Camp Coffee (or coffee essence)

170g self-raising flour, sifted

 

FOR THE ICING:

55g unsalted butter

110g soft light brown sugar

3 tbsps Camp Coffee (or coffee essence)

2 tbsps single cream

200g icing sugar, sifted

 

TO DECORATE (OPTIONAL):

50g chopped walnuts

 

TO MAKE THE CAKE:

  • Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4/ 180C conventional/ 160C Fan oven. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin, or 2 x 20cm sandwich tins. (I prefer to make it in one deep cake tin).
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs and Camp Coffee/coffee essence. (If it looks like the mixture is starting to curdle, add a spoonful of the flour and continue mixing until it is smooth again).
  • Tip the flour in to the bowl and, using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold it in until it is all combined and there are no lumps of flour.
  • Pour the mixture into your prepared tin(s). If baking it in one tin, bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes until springy to touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If baking it in 2 tins, bake for around 20 minutes, or until springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tin(s) for 5 minutes then turn out on to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • If you have used one tin, split your cake in half horizontally when it is cool.

TO MAKE THE ICING:

  • Place the butter, sugar, Camp Coffee/coffee essence and single cream into a saucepan, and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from the heat and gradually add the icing sugar, mixing well after each addition. Beat with a wooden spoon until all the lumps disappear and the mixture is smooth and silky.
  • Continue beating for about 2 minutes until the icing is thick enough to spread. Use immediately.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:

  • Place one layer of the cake on your serving plate. Pour half of the coffee icing on to it and spread all over evenly. Place the other cake layer on top, and pour the rest of the icing on top of this. Spread evenly to completely cover it. (If the icing is getting too thick, dip your palette knife or spatula in warm water to make the spreading easier).
  • While the icing is still wet, sprinkle the chopped walnuts over, if using.

 

I hope you love this as much as I do. If you like coffee, I think you’ll become a little bit addicted to the icing! Enjoy ūüôā

 

Review of ‘Not Guilty’ by Chef Mick √Člys√©e – including his scrumptious recipe for Plantain Pancakes

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to be part of the blog tour helping to promote Chef Mick √Člys√©e’s new book, Not Guilty. I have to admit, until this tour I hadn’t heard of Mick (sorry), but I am so glad I have now been introduced to his recipes!

Before I tell you about the wonderful new book, let me tell you about Chef Mick √Člys√©e, as his story is inspirational.

Mick grew up in the Republic of Congo, where he loved watching his mother cooking, and sneakily pinching food from the pot when she wasn’t looking. Sadly though, his happy life was soon to be turned upside down. In 1993, at the height of the Congolese Civil War, several of his family were killed. This meant that at the age of 14, Mick arrived in France as a refugee and had to adapt to a new life in an unfamiliar culture. He struggled academically, as he was not used to the French school system, but his passion for food shone through and gave him the strength to get through this traumatic time. He devoted his time to learning all about European cuisine, and in 1997 he was accepted into one of France’s most prestigious culinary schools. There, he began his classical training and worked under Michel Toulousi and Jean-Marc Desclaux. At the age of 22, just 8 years after arriving in France, Mick and his business partner opened a restaurant called La Gascogne, which received critical acclaim.

Today, Mick’s roots in the Congo play a huge part in his life. As well as the influence they have in his Afro-Fusion recipes, he is also passionate about giving back to the communities there. He regularly works with orphanages in Brazzaville and Kinshasa, and with a free school for children with physical and mental disabilities. He also provides cookery workshops for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as educational support to equip them with life skills. What a truly amazing man!

Mick’s long-awaited book Not Guilty was published just a few weeks ago. It features healthy African recipes including starters, snacks, main meals and desserts, as well as stocks to use as bases for other dishes. Every recipe has a beautiful vibrant photograph of the end result as well as step-by-step instructions on how to make them. The photographs are mouth-wateringly tempting, and I’m looking forward to making lots more of them in the near future. The book has encouraged me to look at ingredients I have never used before, and that really excites me. Exotic fruit and vegetables, and meats I have never eaten let alone cooked, this book takes you on a wonderful taste adventure.

I was tempted by lots of the recipes but decided to make the Plantain Pancakes for this review. This is the photograph in the book:

I had never eaten plantain until making these, and the recipe requires 1 very ripe plantain. As I was unfamiliar with cooking with plantain I did a bit of research so I could tell when one was ready to use. I had presumed they would be like bananas as they look so similar, but I was wrong! Plantains are used in both sweet and savoury cooking. Many savoury recipes require them to be very hard and not too ripe. In those cases it would be best to use plantains when the skin is still green. The riper the plantain, the sweeter it becomes. The shop where I bought mine sold them when they looked yellow. These are ripe, but not quite enough. I discovered that they can take weeks to fully ripen, unlike bananas which take a few days. I didn’t have weeks after I had bought mine so I read that you can ripen them quicker by placing them in a paper bag with an apple. The apple produces a gas which aids the process. I did this with one of the ones I bought, and it worked! The one in my main picture is nowhere near ripe enough, even though it is looking a bit blackened. A perfectly ripened plantain has a black skin which looks very slightly wrinkled. Imagine the look of a banana when it is too far gone to even use in recipes… that is how a very ripe plantain looks, and that is how it needs to be for this recipe. I used one like this in the pancake recipe.

To get the fruit out of the skin, simply slice each end off with a sharp knife and cut a slit from one end to the other. You can then easily peel the skin off in one go. Very ripe plantain is soft and a lovely yellowy-peachy colour inside. This means it is really easy to blend in recipes. And speaking of recipes, here is the pancake one for you to try too.

 

PLANTAIN PANCAKES

1 very ripe plantain

2 fresh eggs

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

2 tbsps semi-skimmed, or almond, or coconut milk

1/2 vanilla pod

150g strawberries, cut into chunks

2 tbsps honey

coconut oil, for frying (1 tsp per pancake + 1 tbsp for the topping)

 

  • Split the vanilla pod in half lengthwise, and then use the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds out. Combine the plantain, eggs, cinnamon, milk and vanilla seeds, and blend together until you get a creamy paste. (I did this in a food processor by blending the plantain first until it was lump-free and creamy, then beating in the rest of the ingredients with a spoon).
  • Place a frying pan over a low heat, add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, and fry one pancake until the bottom is golden brown. Flip it over and cook until that side is golden too. Repeat until the mixture is all used up, using 1 teaspoon of coconut oil for each pancake.
  • Using the same frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil. Add the strawberries, stir quickly to coat them in the oil, then add the honey. Cook for 1 minute until the juice reduces slightly, then remove from the heat.
  • Place the pancakes on a serving plate, spoon the strawberries on top, and then finish with the honey sauce.

 

So what did I think of my very first plantain experience? I loved it! The coconut oil adds a wonderful flavour, and the strawberry honey sauce adds an extra hit of sweetness which is just divine. My honey sauce took on the colour of the strawberries and went a lovely shade of red, so it didn’t look like the photograph in the book but it still tasted amazing! I am looking forward to making more of Chef Mick √Člys√©e’s delicious recipes very soon. His Jollof Quinoa and Roast Chicken, and his Papaya Tart recipes are next on my agenda from this book. Yum!

If you would like to find out more about Chef Mick √Člys√©e and his new book, including where to buy it, you can find his website¬†HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate and Baileys Cheesecake

I know we’re 9 days into 2018, but as this is my first post of the year I’ll take this chance to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

The year started badly for me, with all 3 of us getting flu. I’ve had bad colds before but this was my very first time getting flu. Not bad for 43 years, but it is definitely something I wouldn’t want again thank you very much! When I started to feel a bit better I decided to make my favourite¬†CHOCOLATE AND BAILEYS MOUSSE¬†to cheer myself up. It looked yummy as always, but sadly I quickly discovered my taste buds had gone so I didn’t enjoy it. Yesterday I finally got my taste back so thought I would make it again as I missed out before, but when I went to my cupboard I realised I didn’t have enough gelatine. Not to be put off, I made a no-bake cheesecake based on it instead. Oh my word, it was soooo scrumptious! I absolutely love the mousse, but think the cheesecake is even better!

Literally anyone can make this, it is that easy, and no stage of it can go wrong, so you are guaranteed a delicious creamy dessert. The actual preparation is very quick too but it does need a few hours to firm up in the fridge. It can be made the day before you need it, in fact it is perfect if left in the fridge overnight. I had a slice of mine today as a mid-morning treat and it was even nicer than yesterday (and it was amazing yesterday)!

I like a thick biscuit layer on my cheesecakes, but if you prefer a thinner base just use reduce the ingredient quantities that I used. Or, rather than just pressing them on the bottom of the pan like I did, spread them up the sides too and press firmly into place. The advantage of the thick biscuit layer though (don’t judge me for this, I’m only human hehe) is that you can eat a piece of it on the go! Most of the time I am civilised and eat cheesecake with a spoon or dessert fork, but sometimes, just sometimes, I really really want some but am in a rush or busy with a million things to do. So it is perfect to be able to cut a piece and pick it up to eat it just like a piece of cake! Ok I’m a savage, but I’m ok with that ūüôā

 

CHOCOLATE AND BAILEYS CHEESECAKE

FOR THE BASE

250 g digestive biscuits (which is 17 McVities ones)

110 g unsalted butter, melted

 

FOR THE CHEESECAKE TOPPING

460 g full-fat cream cheese

75 g icing sugar, sifted

220 ml double cream

3 tbsps Baileys

3 Cadbury Flake bars

 

FOR THE DECORATION

150 ml double cream

1 tbsp Baileys

1 Cadbury Flake bar

 

  • BISCUIT BASE: Line a 20cm cake pan (springform is best for cheesecakes for easy removal) with foil. Completely cover the inside of the pan, pressing the foil down well to get rid of large creases.
  • Place the digestive biscuits in a food processor and blitz until the biscuits have turned into small crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, place the biscuits in a ziplock bag, press the bag to remove any air before closing, and bash them with something like a rolling pin until you have small crumbs.
  • Add the melted butter to the biscuit crumbs and mix well. Tip the crumb mixture into the foil-lined pan, spread the crumbs to cover the base, and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Make sure you go right up to the edges. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • CHEESECAKE TOPPING: Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and beat until it is smooth and creamy. Add the icing sugar and mix well.
  • In another bowl, whisk the 220 ml double cream until it is quite firm and thick.
  • Add the whisked cream to the cream cheese mixture and fold them together, using a spatula or large spoon.
  • Add the Baileys and continue folding the mixture until it is well combined and smooth. (It will be lovely and thick but with no lumps).
  • While the Flake bars are still in their packets, use your fingers to roughly crush them up. You want to make a mix of sizes of chunks so don’t overdo it. Tip the chocolate into the cheesecake mixture and fold in gently until evenly distributed.
  • Spoon the cheesecake mixture on to the chilled biscuit base and use a small spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it evenly up to the edges. Place the cheesecake in the fridge and chill for at least 3 hours (preferably more or overnight).
  • DECORATION: Remove the cheesecake from the pan using the foil to lift it out, then carefully peel the foil off the cheesecake, and place the cheesecake on to a serving plate.
  • Place the 150 ml double cream and the 1 tbsp Baileys into a small bowl and whisk until it reaches soft peak stage. The cream will be thick but still creamy and when you lift your whisk out, small peaks will form but the tips of the peaks will fold back over.
  • Spoon the cream mixture into a piping bag fitted with your choice of nozzle, and pipe the cream on the top around the edge. I piped 16 rosettes on mine (hold the piping bag vertically with the nozzle just above the cheesecake and squeeze the bag slowly until the cream mixture makes a pretty shape on the top… repeat all the way round).
  • Take the Flake bar out of it’s wrapper and carefully cut it into pieces. Place one piece on to alternating cream rosettes, and crush up the remaining chocolate. Sprinkle this all over the cream decorations.
  • Serve and enjoy! Or return it to the fridge until it is needed.

This cheesecake will keep well in the fridge for a few days, as long as the cream and cream cheese would still be in date. I hope you love this as much as I do!

 

 

 

 

Black Forest Hot Chocolate Recipe

It’s that time of year again when the well-known coffee shop chains have brought out their festive drink menus. A particularly popular one seems to be the Black Forest Hot Chocolate from Costa. I have to admit, this is definitely my favourite! So much so that I even made a cake version of it. You can read that recipe¬†HERE¬†if you want to give that a go.

Sometimes though, you just don’t want to have to go to Costa for one. You want one in the comfort of your own home, with your PJs on and your feet up watching a film. Well the good news is they are really easy to make. Costa have slightly changed their recipe over the past couple of years. They now use a sour cherry syrup on top. I prefer the version they used to make, and so this recipe is for the older version.

You might be surprised to learn that the actual hot chocolate part was flavoured with blackberry syrup, not cherry or Black Forest syrup as you would expect. I did once accidentally make it with cherry, and while it was still gorgeous, it wasn’t as good as it is with blackberry. To get the same wonderful taste that Costa gets, you also need to use the same brand of syrups, Monin. I have been a huge fan of Monin syrups for a long time. They have a huge array of flavours available, but for this recipe you will need just two: Blackberry syrup and Cherry syrup. (I’ll put links up at the end for a great place to buy these at a good price).

I make mine using a Tassimo coffee machine and the Cadbury Hot Chocolate pods. If you don’t have a Tassimo machine though you can just use 215 ml of your preferred hot chocolate. (Or look out for a machine in the January sales – they are around ¬£40 at the moment so will probably be even cheaper soon).

You can make this in a mug if you want, but I think they look fabulous in a latte glass. You can pick these up really cheaply from most homeware shops or Amazon.

My final tip is about the topping. Costa use chocolate curls to decorate theirs. I have done that a few times myself (easily done by scraping a vegetable peeler down the side of a block of chocolate) but we much prefer to just crush up a Cadbury Flake. One full-sized Flake will give you enough chocolate for 3 drinks, or 2 if you like extra hehe.

The recipe below makes 1 drink.

 

BLACK FOREST HOT CHOCOLATE

1 tbsp Monin Blackberry Syrup

215 ml hot chocolate (or 1 Tassimo Cadbury Hot Chocolate pod if using)

Squirty cream

Monin Cherry Syrup

chocolate curls, or broken-up Cadbury Flake to decorate

 

  • If using a Tassimo machine – place 1 tbsp blackberry syrup into a latte glass. Follow the easy machine instructions to make the hot chocolate, allowing it to pour straight into the latte glass with the syrup in. Stir well.
  • If not using a Tassimo – make 215 ml of hot chocolate in a latte glass according to the instructions on the brand you are using. Add 1 tbsp blackberry syrup, and stir well.
  • Shake the squirty cream can well and make a big swirl on top of the hot chocolate.
  • Drizzle some cherry syrup over the cream and then top with chocolate curls or Flake.
  • Enjoy!

I must warn you though, this drink is very filling so don’t have one before a meal.

 

I buy my Monin syrups from Udal Supplies as they are quick to deliver and priced well.

The Blackberry syrup is available HERE

The Cherry syrup is available HERE

I also find that it helps to have a bottle pourer to make drizzling the syrup easier. If you search for ‘Monin Pourer’ on the website you will see a range of them to buy. (I have the black pourer which costs ¬£1.80).

The syrups cost around ¬£6.20 per bottle but the bottles hold 70cl, so you can make around 46 hot chocolates! I’d say around ¬£12.40 for 46 of your favourite hot chocolate drinks is a bargain, especially when you realise that 46 in Costa would set you back over ¬£150!!!!!! You’re welcome ūüôā

 

DISCLAIMER: There are no affiliate links in this post and I receive no compensation in any form from Udal Supplies. It is just my preferred place to buy the syrups so I like to recommend good companies. Likewise I recommend Monin for authenticity and quality; I receive no compensation from them either. 

Ultimate Crunchy Roast Potatoes – Crispy Outside, Fluffy Inside

If I was told that I could only eat one meal for the rest of my life, it would have to be a roast dinner. Melt-in-the-mouth meat, honey roasted parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables, gravy made from the meat juices, and the best part… crispy roast potatoes. My mouth is watering thinking about it!

A lot of people learn how to cook meals from their parents or grandparents. I never had that luxury so it has all been lots of trial and error to find out how to cook things exactly the way I like them. Roast potatoes are my favourite part of a roast dinner but it took me a long time to get them perfect. When I first started cooking I just plonked par-boiled potatoes straight in oil in the oven. They were ok, but not that exciting. Then I read somewhere to shake them in the pan to fluff them up, so I tried that. Much better, but still something missing. Then I think it might have been Jamie Oliver who mentioned using semolina to coat the potatoes, but I’m not sure. Whoever it was, they are a genius!

These roast potatoes are beautifully fluffy inside, but have a really crispy, crunchy coating which tastes soooo good. I used to think that the meat was the best part of a roast, but now it’s definitely the potatoes. You could roast them in whatever fat you prefer, but my preference is butter with a bit of oil to stop the butter from burning. This might disgust some people but I never ever put salt in any vegetables. I know most recipes say to boil them in salted water, but I never do. I’m conscious of how much salt is in all the food we buy so I use it as little as I can. I know chefs say you must always season your food or it will be bland but I strongly disagree with that. These potatoes really need no salt at all, their flavour is simply amazing. If you prefer though you can either par-boil them in salted water, or use salted butter in the roasting pan. It’s entirely your choice.

It is best to use Maris Piper potatoes as they have the best texture for crunchy roasts. I also leave them fairly big when I am cutting them up, as when you bash them around the pan to fluff them up you do lose a little bit of potato. Keep them whole if they aren’t very big. I’m not giving exact weights of potatoes to use, as everyone is different with how many they like with their meal. Aim for around 3 cut pieces per person (best to do more though as they are irresistible)!

 

THE ULTIMATE ROAST POTATOES

Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces (around 3-4 pieces per person)

50 g butter

2 tbsps vegetable/sunflower oil

3 tbsps semolina

 

  • Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan.
  • Put the cut potatoes into a saucepan and cover with cold water (add salt if using). Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain well.
  • While the potatoes are boiling, place the butter and oil into a roasting pan and put the pan in the oven. Remove when the butter has all melted.
  • Keeping the lid on the saucepan with the potatoes inside, and holding the handle with one hand and the lid in place with the other, shake the pan vigorously so that the potatoes bash around against each other. The potatoes should look a bit mashed around the outsides.
  • Sprinkle the semolina on to the potatoes and toss them around in the pan a bit more so that the semolina coats them completely.
  • Transfer the potatoes into the roasting pan, tilt the pan so the fat all runs down to one side, and spoon this fat over each potato.

  • Place the pan in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and return to the oven for a further 20-30 minutes, or until golden all over. Enjoy!