Recipe: Coffee & Walnut Cupcakes

Over summer I had a *massive* craving for coffee ice-cream. It’s a flavour I absolutely love, but avoid making or buying as W doesn’t react well to caffeine – and believe me nor do I when he keeps me up all night after having some! When I finally got round to grabbing some coffee, we had the classic British problem of ‘it went cold’ and so ice-cream went out of the window and these cupcakes were born.

 photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes_zpstohzuo5f.jpg photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 15_zpsde4gi9re.jpgCoffee and Walnut is a classic sandwich cake combination, but I wanted to keep these a little daintier. I find cupcakes are far easier for sharing at the office too! These cupcakes are light, fluffy, full of coffee flavour, topped off with a delicious vanilla buttercream – giving a really creamy finish that reminds me of fancy coffee drinks. They are quite strong on the coffee front, as I used plenty of coffee grounds (Illy is my brand of choice, gifted as part of my Degustabox collaboration) – however keeping the topping coffee-free ensures, for me at least, they aren’t too strong. A perfect coffee hit, but not bitter or overpowering. Perfect as an afternoon snack!

 photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 9_zpsmhb8dmtv.jpgRecipe (makes 9 cupcakes)

  • 100g soft butter, at room temperature
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp instant coffee, mixed with 100ml/3½fl oz boiling water, then cooled
  • 25g walnuts, chopped, plus more for topping
  • For the frosting – 200g mascarpone, 2 tbsp golden caster sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract

Line a  bun tin with 9 fairy cake cases. Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the egg in gradually, beating well. Add the flour and fold in, followed by around 4 tsp of the coffee and a pinch of salt until creamy. Stir through the chopped walnuts, then evenly spoon the mix into the cases. Bake for at 180C for around 20 minutes, then allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, pop the mascarpone, vanilla and the sugar into a large bowl, then beat together. Spread a dollop of the frosting onto the top of each cake, then finish with some more walnuts. Enjoy – though don’t do as I did and enjoy as an evening snack at gone 10pm!
 photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 7_zps2asjutb4.jpg photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 14_zpsr2997ttr.jpg

Are you a fan of cupcakes, or do you prefer a slice of a larger cake? 

Recipe: Dips for a Dinner Party

One of my favourite things to do, although admittedly we don’t do it nearly as often as I’d like, is to have friends round for dinner. Our dream is to actually one day host a supper club for charity, although I think we’re a way off doing that right now. I love it all – the meal-planning, conversation-starter planning, the enforced cleaning of the flat. I’m also a feeder, so filling people up with food I’ve prepared just makes me happy!

 photo Dinner Party Dips_zpsmeqryxh2.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 3_zpsrpgij66k.jpgI’m a fan of trying to keep things as relaxed as possible (whilst W is good at the fancy stuff – egg yolk ravioli being a memorable starter he once made – I like to keep things simple). My ideal starter is a mix of bits and bobs for guests to pick at, and this post is all about my go-to options right now. These recipes came about when we had another couple round for a Thursday night dinner. It was in the middle of the heatwave so I wanted to avoid having another hot thing to eat, but I wanted something to go vaguely with our Middle Eastern main (a roasted carrot dish). A trio of dips and various breads did just the job.

I think if you’re doing something like this, you do need at least three dips. Keep them different (no point doing three variations on hummus, no matter how tasty it is!), keep them interesting. Add in some spice, some creaminess, some zing, some freshness. Keep it exciting. Here’s three of my favourites…

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 11_zpsmg5uchoc.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 8_zpsznmkpicg.jpgRoasted Courgette & Tahini

  • 1 large courgette
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • juice and zest of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • handful of mint, leaves only, chopped

Wrap the whole courgette in foil, then put in the oven and roast for 30 minutes at 220C, or until soft when pricked with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely – I did this in the morning, then just left them to cool whilst I was at work during the day.

Put the cooled courgette in a food processor (no need to peel), with the garlic and blend. Add the tahini and lemon juice and season, then blitz again. Transfer to a bowl, then stir through the yogurt and a little of the mint. Season to taste, and scatter over the remaining mint to serve.

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 9_zps6czpge6c.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 16_zpsbfmjyqvw.jpgTurmeric Spiced Hummus

  • 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground chilli
  • 2 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp tahini

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then add to a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until warm. Tip into a food processor and add the spices, lemon zest and juice, tahini and garlic. Blend whilst the chickpeas are still hot, then gradually add the oil and water until you have the consistency you want. Season to taste, then serve drizzled with a little extra olive oil.

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 19_zpsblrpn8mk.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 7_zpsc31viznm.jpgWhipped Feta

  • 200g feta cheese
  • 200g plain Greek yoghurt
  • Half a lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground sumac

Crumble the feta into a bowl, then add the yoghurt and whisk until the cheese is completely broken up and becomes creamy. You can do this in a blender, but I find the texture best if done by hand. Add the lemon juice and mix again. Put the ​dip in a serving bowl and dress the surface with the olive oil and then sprinkle over some sumac.

I tried to keep these varied – different colours, different flavours, which worked really well. Each had something different to bring to the party. The Roasted Courgette dip brings some freshness, whilst the Turmeric Hummus was full of flavour and subtle spice. The Whipped Feta – well, it brings cheese which makes everything better! Served with some pitta bread, some crispy baked pitta chips and some breadsticks I could have eaten this for hours!

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 10_zpshi9dblhc.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 15_zps4kwk2ksx.jpgI warn you, though. Dips and breads are dangerous if you’re like me – I ate far too much of these and couldn’t finish the rest of my meal!

Are you a fan of dips and breads? Which one of these would be your favourite? I’m in love with the Whipped Feta!

Food: Recent Eats #4

It’s been a month or so since I did a Recent Eats post, and in that time there’s been a fair few exciting things we’ve tried. Admittedly the last few weeks have been a case of eating from the freezer in an attempt to save pennies (weddings are expensive) but we’ve still managed to try a fair few new things. On the drinks front, Gin in Rose Lemonade (found in a can in Sainsburys) was my go-to drink of choice for much of September, though I’m now slowly sinking back into my red wine habit of last winter…

 photo Recent Eats 4_zpsyuvn5fla.jpgMore Tomato Free Pizza From Waitrose

It looks like my favourite ‘trout and samphire’ pizza is no longer available (why do I always fall in love with the limited edition items?!) but it’s replacement for Autumn is also tomato free and also *really* tasty. The pumpkin and porchetta sourdough pizza is the perfect combination of salty meat, sweet pumpkin and creamy cheese – all on a delicious base. I’ll be filling my freezer with these for sure!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Crumble

Combining my favourite Autumnal/Winter pudding with peanut butter is definitely an inspired idea – it’s turned it super-comforting, super-yum and I can’t get enough. Recipe will be up over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled! in the meantime, have a read of my classic crumble recipe

Soft Boiled Eggs & Buttered Toast Soldiers

Having a cold and feeling sorry for myself in late September meant this was my breakfast/lunch/dinner of choice (particularly when I was home for the weekend and had my mummy to make it for me!) – so comforting.

 photo Recent Eats Oct18 1_zpsdfnqljrs.jpgA ‘Pot Pasta’

Having gotten through four years of student life without eating any kind of Pot Noodle, I ended up having to try a Carbonara ‘pot pasta’ on the night we dropped my sister off at university. It surprisingly wasn’t too bad – fairly creamy, soft pasta and reasonably filling. My main issue was the lack of cheesy taste – it SMELT super cheesy, but the overriding taste was vegetable stock peppered with a small amount of bacon.

Raspberry Marshmallows

Without a doubt, my favourite product from September’s Degustabox* was the Raspberry Mashmallows from Mallow & Marsh. Coated in quite a bitter dark chocolate there were fruity, soft, gooey and made for a really delicious Tuesday night (Bake Off night!) snack.

 

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Really Good Salads

Towards the end of summer,  when I wasn’t quite ready to stop eating salads but wanted something filling we came up with some cracking recipes. The one in the photo above was my absolute favourite, inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe. Shredded leftover brisket fried until hot and slightly crispy, tossed with lettuce, apple, pear and mint. We drizzled over a blue cheese dressing, added some fresh chilli slices and made some cheesy croutons too. Absolutely stunning, and something I’ve craved ever since eating it.

Completely Homemade Tacos

Talking about Bake Off, this series we’ve been trying, as far as possible, to bake along with the theme each week. For bread week I decided to dust off our tortilla press and make the tacos for our taco night – and they were delicious. Beautifully soft and so much more flavourful that the ones we usually pick up from Sainsburys.

 photo Recent Eats Oct18 2_zpsxz1oyawv.jpg

Hot Chocolate

Colder evenings have called for a warm drink before bed, and hot chocolate is of course my favourite. Again Degustabox* has come to the rescue with that – in August we received a tub of Cadbury’s Hightlights, and last month was a tub of Oreo Hot Chocolate. Both we have really enjoyed!

Chicken Tikka Masala

One of the things I *really* miss is a good Indian takeaway. I can make some fairly decent curries, but so far nothing has quite matched up to the takeaways I remember from my childhood and teenage years. The recipe in the first photo of this post, however, has pretty much cracked it. Inspired by a recipe in September’s issue of Delicious, it is thick and rich, heavily spiced without being chilli-hot and the perfect Friday night supper. I’m working on perfecting the spicing a little, and then I’ll be sharing the recipe…

And that’s it, just a little round up of the yummiest things I’ve eaten recently. No duds this time!

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?

Recipe: Cheesy Courgette & Spinach Muffins

Yet another courgette recipe from me! I just can’t get enough of this vegetable, so versatile and great for bulking out dishes and adding a little bit more towards your five-a-day.

 photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins_zpsjhp3wsfg.jpgThese muffins are the perfect rainy day snack. Best served warm (I zap in the microwave at work), they’re delicious split in half and spread with salted butter, or perfect alongside some soup. Having said that they do work quite nicely at room temperature along with a platter of cured meat, more cheese and some salad, so they’d be great for a picnic. I can imagine them being a hit with children too, just maybe grate the courgette finely and chop the spinach really well if they’re particularly veg-phobic!

 photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 5_zpsdeuqun4z.jpg photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 17_zpswy7jwulf.jpgUnfortunately this recipe doesn’t use a *huge* amount of courgette so it won’t be that great if you’ve got a glut of it in your garden, but it does use around 1 small one and the muffins freeze well for a couple of months which helps!

 photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 21_zps0hog0daz.jpg photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 27_zpssqnywgbp.jpg photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 19_zps2kp3vbat.jpgRecipe – makes 12 muffins

  • 125g courgette
  • 50g feta cheese
  • 75g cheddar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 75g baby spinach
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 250ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp dried herbs, I used a mix of basil and oregano
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, for sprinkling

Coarsely grate the courgette into a large mixing bowl. Crumble the feta into the bowl and sprinkle over 75g grated cheddar. Roughly chop the spinach, and add along with the flour, baking powder, salt, herbs and plenty of black pepper. Beat the milk and eggs together then stir into the bowl; lightly mix until everything is just combined. Spoon into the muffin cases (around 2 tbsp in each) and sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds and extra cheese.

Bake for around 30 minutes at 180C until firm, golden and a skewer comes out cleanly. Allow to cool for 10 minutes;  then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

 photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 20_zpsna12sqkc.jpg photo Cheesy Courgette Muffins 18_zpsdo0qnr9e.jpgI reckon you could easily switch these up. Add some extra hints of summer with some dried-tomatoes, add some finely chopped crispy bacon. I also think you could use this recipe to make a riff on cornbread – add some spices, stir through some corn and bake as normal. Yum!

Are you a fan of savoury muffins?

Recipe: Pork, Lemon & Dill Casserole with Parmesan Dumplings

This was one of my favourite recipes that I developed last winter. Originally inspired by this recipe in Delicious Magazine (seriously the best foodie magazine – we’ve loved every issue we’ve read), it’s both rich and indulgent whilst still feeling fairly fresh thanks to the lemon and dill.

 photo Slow Cooked Pork with Lemon Dill and Parmesan 11_zpscxgnpqez.jpgSlow cooking pork is something I rarely do, however I know I’ll be hunting down more recipes this Autumn as it was impossibly tender, full of flavour and a bit of a bargain. Even splurging out and picking up the meat at the butchers gave us plenty of change from a tenner (and the big pot easily made six servings, and would have served more had we managed to be more self-restrained). It does, I think, require a bit more care than beef as the browning is crucial to the colour and flavour of the final dish, but it’s well worth it.

The rest of the casserole is filled wih veggies – carrots, shallots, leeks and celery. It’s braised in a combination of chicken stock, sherry and lemon juice, with a small amount of dream stirred in near the end of the cooking time along with a handful of dill. The dill sounds unusual, but trust me on this – it totally works. And the dumplings are a revelation. I usually make mine with suet, but these are lighter – yoghurt, flour, parmesan and more dill combine to more pillowy dumplings and when scattered with more Parmesan crisp up beautifully (even if you forget to take the lid off the pot and turn the oven up – hence my slightly pale looking ones!). Whilst I’ll never abandon my belowed suet toppings for a good old beef stew, these are definitely good. And if you don’t fancy them? This stew is equally as delicious with mashed potato (ideally with mustard) or some good bread.

 photo Slow Cooked Pork with Lemon Dill and Parmesan 5_zpsngmgvi1e.jpgRecipe (serves at least 6, freezes well without the dumplings)

  • Olive oil for frying
  • 
1.5kg diced pork shoulder, tossed 
in 3 tbsp plain flour mixed with 1 tsp mustard powder and plenty of black pepper
  • 6 banana shallots, halved lengthways
  • 5 large carrots, halved, sliced diagonally into 1cm pieces
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 3 celery sticks, sliced into 1cm pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 150ml dry sherry
  • 750ml chicken stock
  • 
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 
40g plain flour
  • Zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 
60ml single cream
  • 
Small bunch fresh dill
  • 30g parmesan, grated
  • For the parmesan dumplings – 
150g self-raising flour, 
150g full-fat greek yogurt, 
25g parmesan, grated, 1/2 bunch fresh dill (reserve the rest for scattering over when serving)

Heat a glug of oil in a casserole pan and try the pork in batched until browned all over. Transfer to a bowl using 
a slotted spoon, before adding a little more oil to the casserole along with the vegetables. Fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the 
vegetables are starting to soften. Add the garlic and fennel seeds and fry for 1 minute, then return 
the pork to the casserole with 
any resting juices. Add the sherry and bubble for 5 minutes until slightly reduced, then add the 
stock and wholegrain mustard. Put the lid on the casserole and transfer to the oven, cooking for 2 hours at 160C.

When the two hours is nearly done, mix the 40g plain flour with the lemon zest and juice, then add a little water to form a smooth, creamy paste. Stir the paste into 
the casserole when the 
2 hours’ cooking time is up, then allow to cook for 10 or so more minutes whilst you make the dumplings.

Put the 150g self-raising flour and yogurt in a mixing bowl with the parmesan and chopped dill, then season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, bring the mixture together to form a soft dough, then shape into 8 dumplings. Remove the casserole and turn the oven up to 220C. Stir the cream into the casserole along with most of the chopped dill, then top with the dumplings. Sprinkle the 30g parmesan over the top, then return to the oven for 20 minutes (without the lid) until the dumplings are puffed and golden. Serve scattered with the extra dill fronds and some green veg – it’s delicious with kale or cavelo nero.

 photo Slow Cooked Pork with Lemon Dill and Parmesan 2_zpssg7d2pz7.jpg photo Slow Cooked Pork with Lemon Dill and Parmesan 10_zps35uy0u9d.jpgAnd that’s it – it may be slightly more involved than my usual beef stew recipe, but it’s absolutely delicious. I imagine it would work perfectly well in a slow cooker, then you’d just need to transfer to the oven for the dumplings – or just serve with mash. I also quite like it with buttery jacket potatoes…

Are you a fan of slow cooked stews and casseroles? What’s your go-to recipe?

Cooking From: Blackberry & Custard Biscuits (Sweet by Ottolenghi)

Confession time! The actual recipe in Sweet (by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh) is for Rhubarb & Custard Biscuits and, whilst I’m sure they are utterly delicious, it just isn’t the season for rhubarb. I’ll be making them for sure next spring, but for now we’re using the very much in season (and very foragable, unless you live in London!) blackberry. We actually bought blacberries in our weekly shop, expecting the first weekend of September to be cool enough for a crumble – wrong. The heatwave made a brief (albeit slightly cooler) reappearance and so biscuits it was.

 photo Blackberry Custard Biscuits_zpsox78ji5s.jpgAnd what delicious biscuits they are. Sweet custardy biscuits, made with Bird’s custard powder so that they taste of my childhood. Tart homemade blackberry jam, beaten into buttercream and used to sandwich the biscuits. It all combines beaitfully, with the vanilla-sweetness tempering down the sharpness of the berries. It tastes like a bowl of crumble and custard, but it’s far easier to eat. Almost too easy, as the batch disappeared rather quickly…

And the other recipes in this cookbook are just as good, though I confess we’ve used it very sparingly over the year. It aims to “bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings – including fig, rose petal, saffron, aniseed, orange blossom, pistachio and cardamom – to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream.” It certainly delivers, and in part that’s why we’ve not used this book as much as I’d like. Quite a few recipes seem to request more unusual ingredients, or use a more time consuming method, and quite often we bake as a random, spur-of-the-moment decision. Having tried this recipe, however, I know I need to make more of an effort to thumb through and use it more.

There are around 100 recipes, and a lot of them are very original – you’re not going to find basic brownies. Instead there’s brownies laced with tahini and halva – and as soon as I can find some halva I’ll be making them. There might not be your usual choc-chip cookies, but there are “Chocolate O Cookies” which are said to be the ultimate homemade Oreo. There’s a coffee and cardamon pound cake which sounds delicious. There’s several cheesecake recipes, many desserts we’d prepare for a dinner party (I’ve genuinely already started planning a feast for our next New Year’s Eve dinner – despite not having any guests yet!). Whilst we’ve not really used this, I can imagine it will be a book that will become well-thumbed over the years. Now I just need to get hold of some of Ottolenghi’s savoury cookbooks…

 photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 15_zpssfwr42xd.jpg photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 12_zpsqspu1gi6.jpg photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 18_zpsonjwyria.jpgRecipe (makes around 15)

  • 175g flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 65g custard powder
  • 65g icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the icing: 1 small stick of rhubarb (or 2 handfuls of blackberries – roughly 70g of fruit), 65g unsalted butter, 130g icing sugar, and 1/2 tsp lemon juice

If you making the rhubarb icing: spread pieces of rhubarb on tray and roast at 180C for 30 minutes, or until soft. Remove from oven and cool, then puree in food processor before adding butter. Add icing sugar and lemon juice and continue to process for a few minutes until it thickens. Transfer to a small bowl and let sit in the fridge to firm up. To make our blackberry filling, we popped the blackberries in a small pan with a tiny splash of water and simmered until soft, pureed, passed through a sieve to remove the pips, and then added butter and continued as per the recipe.

For the cookies, cream the butter with the flour, custard powder, icing sugar and salt on low speed til the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 30 seconds until a dough forms. Roll dough into balls about 3cm round – they should weigh about 15g. Place on lined trays about 4cm apart. Dip the back prongs of a small fork in the extra flour and then press firmly but gently into the back of each ball so that the cookie flattens. Bake at 170C on lined baking trays for about 25 minutes, let cool on trays for about 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble, spread 15g of icing on the flat side of a cookie and sandwich with the flat side of another. The forked sides should be facing out. Store in an airtight container if you manage not to eat them immediately.

 photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 8_zpsajnh5wwy.jpg photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 20_zps78yop1qu.jpgThese we found were the perfect afternoon snack for a weekend. Lovely with a cup of tea (I’m favouring Yorkshire’s Biscuit Brew at the moment), they were light, sweet and had a really comforting taste coming from the custard powder. The biscuits really melted in the mouth too! I’m looking forward to next year’s rhubarb season when I can try the full recipe…

Have you tried any of Ottolenghi’s books? Which do you recommend? 

Food: Why Buy a Degustabox Subscription?

Recently I’ve been gifted an ongoing monthly subscription to Degustabox* in exchange for some honest reviews – and whilst I’ve not yet reviewed a full box (you can see an overview of July’s box here, as well as in my Instagram Story highlights on my profile) today I’m going to talk about whether the boxes are worth it.

 photo Degustabox August 4_zpszzgwe8gs.jpgSo, what is a Degustabox?

It’s a monthly box containing new releases or loved favourites from trusted big brands, smaller more independent suppliers and upcoming foodie start-ups. At a cost of £12.99 a month you get a fairly hefty box containing a good selection of items (10-15 according to their site). I do get a combination of the alcohol and non-alcohol box, but even so I’ve been pretty impressed with the quantity of items I’ve received. In the latest box (received at the end of August) we received a box of Dorset Cereals granola, some hemp milk from Good Hemp, some Illy instant coffee, 2 Gunna drinks, some Crooked alcholic soda, 2 packs of Maggi noodles (including a delicious Sticky Duck flavour), a tin of tuna fillets, some LioBites dried fruit snacks and some *delicious* cereal bars from Boka. Not bad if you ask me!

But why exactly do I love receiving my box? Read on to find out…

Discovering New Brands

I’m really quite bad at sticking to what I know. If I was buying coffee I’d rarely stray away from brands that I’ve grown up with (despite knowing it’s not the best coffee). If I was looking for an alcoholic treat I’d generally avoid ‘cans’ as it reminds me too much of being a teenager. However Degustabox has introduced me to some fab brands which I’d never have tried otherwise – both the Crooked alcoholic soda in the August box and the Rosie’s Pig Rhubarb Cider in the July box are going to become firm favourites.

By far and away, however, my favourite brand I’ve discovered is Capsicana. We had a packet of their
Brazilian Smoked Paprika & Spices in the July box – we used it to marinate some yellow-sticker steaks before serving with a black bean and sweet potato salad. It was delicious – a tad too spicy given we used the whole of the packet between two, but we really enjoyed the more unusual flavour profile. We’ll be checking out more of their products for sure!

 photo Degustabox August 1_zpsvrzusd6r.jpgForcing Me To Try New Things

Similar to the point above, I know what I like. I stick to the usual cornflakes and weetabix when buying cereal, if I buy non-dairy milk it’s always hazelnut. The Dorset Cereals has opened my eyes to the world of granola possibilities (I mean, raspberries, toasted spelt and popped buckwheat?! Yum!), whilst trying Hemp Milk has been interesting – it might not be something I’d jump at buying again, but it wasn’t too bad.

Trying Exclusive Products

Whether they are new releases not available in shops yet, or products only generally available for retailers to buy in bulk, there’s been a couple of exciting things pop up in my boxes. As a child I LOVED mixing ribena with lemonade, so the bottles of sparkling Ribena in the July box made me smile. Likewise we’ve also received some lower-sugar Rowntree sweets which I’ve not spotted on the shelves yet…

Rediscovering Old Favourites

It’s not all new and exciting products in the boxes – some are old and exciting too! Whilst a pot of Cadbury’s Instant Hot Chocolate certainly isn’t ground-breaking, having a tub on my desk at work is perfect for when a sweet-tooth hits mid-afternoon. In fact given I’ve been exclusively drinking a rather more calorific Swiss hot chocolate for the last year, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy this lighter version…

The Surprise Factor

Generally our meals are planned with military precision to avoid food waste and minimise our shopping bill – Degustabox gives us a bit of a surprise and allows us to experiment a bit more. Whether it’s a bag of fancy crisps we would never have otherwise picked up (the London Crisp salt’n’vinegar is lush!) or random spice mixes, we know we’ll have something new and exciting to try.
 photo Degustabox August 3_zpscdejk0e9.jpg

*I received a monthly Degustabox in return for some honest reviews and social media posts, but as always all thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wanted to give them a try you can use the code N63R7 to get a cheeky discount!

Are you a fan of trying out new brands and products? Would you subscribe to Degustabox?

Food: All The Courgette Recipes (including a Courgette, Mint & Feta Puff Pastry Tart)

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably have gotten the impression that I love courgette (or zucchini if you’re over the pond!) – and you’d be right! My all-time favourite summer veg, it’s got a weekly place on our shopping list, and I nearly bit my boss’ arm off when he offered me some homegrown in his garden. It’s the perfect vegetable to cram into risottos or pasta dishes, it’s great used to bulk out sauces, it makes delicious chutney and it’s even good in cake. What more could you want in a vegetable?!

 photo Courgette Recipes_zpswmcoregu.jpgA lot of people don’t quite understand my love for courgettes, and when quizzed they’ve only had them boiled (ick!) or roasted, with little flavour added and care taken. Treated nicely a courgette is tender, almost sweet and has the most beautiful subtle flavour. I honestly love them – and this post includes just a few of my favourite ways to use them!

 photo Courgette Fritters 1_zpsttnvfkrw.jpgCourgette Fritters

I blogged about courgette fritters a few years ago, and it’s a recipe I still use to this day. Sometimes I’ll add feta, sometimes I’ll throw in a spring onion. I love adding mint (courgette and mint goes SO well together!), sometimes I’ll spice them up a little. Yum! I also love these cold as a little lunchbox filler…

 photo Courgette Risotto 2_zpslzqwzso4.jpgCourgette Risotto

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that my all-time favourite comfort food is, without question, a risotto. I love the creaminess, the carb overload, the cheesiness. The fact that I can thrown whatever I have in the fridge in and it will always taste good. My Courgette Risotto is subtle but combines lemon and basil along with plenty of Parmesan – lush!

Courgette Pasta

Adding courgette to pasta dishes is my go-to way of using them. I’ve added a couple of grated ones to my tomato-free Bolognese sauce (they cook down to virtually nothing, bulking out the source with even more veg and adding another subtle layer of flavour). My favourite summer pasta recipe is a copy-cat version of a Bella Italia dish, but I also love roasting courgette strips for barely five minutes, then mixing into pasta along with peas, lemon juice and feta…

My favourite courgette pasta dish though? A take on this recipe by Half Baked Harvest. I fried courgette slices for around 15 minutes over a medium heat, sloshed in some wine and garlic, mashed a little with the back of a spoon, and continued to cook (on a lower heat) whilst I boiled some pasta. Adding the pasta with a good ladle of cooking water, butter and parmesan combined it all into a thick and flavourful sauce. Finished with more cheese and some torn basil it was simple, tasty and just the kind of honest bowl of food I like to eat.

Griddled Courgette Salad

One thing I *don’t* like is raw courgette – I find it a weird texture, a tad bitter and just not that enjoyable. However, grill it, dress it, leave it to cool and then serve in a salad is something I can totally get on board with. I like to throw thin-ish slices on my George Foreman (well, fake cheapy one!), then pop into a bowl when soft. Toss with lemon, olive oil and plenty of seasoning then allow to cool (the courgettes soak up this dressing like a sponge) before tossing with salad leaves. Perfect as a side, but I’ll also add a little feta and maybe some pumpkin seeds to turn this into a lunchtime meal.

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Courgette & Orange Loaf Cake

I feel a bit mean including this one, as I’m not actually going to give you the recipe! What I will say is that courgette cake is absolutely delicious, and the recipe is worth waiting for (I’ll post it soon, I promise!). This loaf cake was like a lighter version of carrot cake, less heavily spiced with cinnamon, but zingier from the orange. I took it into work and there was only two slices left at lunchtime, which says it all!

Courgette, Feta & Mint Tart

This is probably my favourite courgette recipe of 2018 – and it’s super simple too making use of ready-rolled pastry. The mint adds such a nice and fresh flavour, but if you’re not a fan you could leave it out, or even try mixing it up with basil or dill. The key is to not arrange the courgette strips ‘prettily’ but pile them on and just ensure they are reasonably evenly distributed around the tart. Some of them will catch and lightly char in the oven, others will soften and caramelise. The feta adds seasoning, and the base of the tart is lovely and crisp. The perfect picnic treat!

 photo Courgette Feta and Mint Pastry Tart 8_zps2gt7ztlm.jpgRecipe (Serves 4 as a picnic snack or light lunch)

  • 2 small courgettes
  • 1/2 pack ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2-3 tbsp creme fraiche, I used low-fat
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • Some fresh mint, leaves only
  • Some feta, as much or as little as you like
  • Some olive oil, for drizzling

First off, simply peel thecourgettes with a veg peeler so you’ve got lots of long strips. Toss through a pinch of salt, then pop in a sieve, put a bowl on top and weigh it down with something heavy (I used a packet of rice!). Leave the courgettes for around 20 minutes, and preheat a baking tray in the oven. When the courgettes are ready, take the pastry and score an edge around 1cm from the borders. Brush the edges with a little beaten egg yolk, then mix the remaining egg yolk with the creme fraiche, spring onions and a handful of chopped mint. Spread the mixture over the middle of the pastry, and then top with the courgette strips. Sprinkle over some feta, drizzle with a little olive oil, carefully slide onto the hot tray and bake at 200C for around 25 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Serve warm or at room temperature – it’s delish!

 photo Courgette Feta and Mint Pastry Tart 5_zpsfrikxu3a.jpgI’m still going mad for different courgette recipes – next I’m hoping to try this frittata recipe to add to my list of lunchbox fillers, I also want to try adding it to a bean burger. I’ve also seen a couple of dips made from courgette around, which I HAVE to try before summer is out. I imagine it will be perfect with homemade pittas…oh, and I love them stir-fried for a few minutes, then dresses in a soy-garlic-ginger dressing. SO good, it’s a great light lunch option served with a little brown rice.

Are you are courgette/zucchini fan? What’s your favourite way to cook them?

Recipe: Vegan Coconut & Lime Ice-Cream

In case you haven’t heard, it’s been HOT in London over the last few days weeks months. It certainly feels like months now! The heatwave well and truly set in around June time, and it seems as though it’s here to stay. Luckily we’ve had a bit of rain and a few days of cooler weather just to remind us we are in the UK, but otherwise it’s been a solid few months of sunshine, sweaty Tube journeys and hiding in each shady spot we find. And eating ice-cream. Lots of ice-cream.

 photo Vegan Coconut IceCream_zps5tu770nn.jpgI’ve been trying to make homemade ice-cream a little more often this summer. I mean, given we have an ice-cream maker (the KitchenAid attachment) we have no excuse! We’ve found it so fun creating our favourite flavours, including an amazing brown-butter caramel drizzle (so, so good!) – but this is the first non-traditional one we’ve tried. We usually make an egg-custard base and go from there, but this is a cheat which involves no heat at all (which is wonderful, really, given it’s been too hot to consider cooking and baking recently). It’s super-simple, super-easy and only takes a few ingredients. Add in some of your time (most of it is spent waiting at the freezer until it’s ready!) and you’ve got some delicious vegan ice-cream that’s the perfect combination of indulgently creamy and refreshingly lime-y.

I’m not at all claiming that this is ‘healthy’ ice-cream, it’s still got heck of a lot of sugar and fat in it, but it does make my tummy happier than your standard dairy ice-cream whilst still being just as creamy and delicious. I also find the zingy-ness of the lime makes it super-refreshing and thirst-quenching, ideal on a hot day!

 photo Vegan Coconut and Lime Ice-Cream6_zpsnexmaszs.jpg photo Vegan Coconut and Lime Ice-Cream10_zpsddzzwabm.jpgRecipe (makes around 6 greedy servings)

  • 400ml coconut milk, shaken well
  • 2 limes, zest and juice
  • 60g sugar, caster is best here as it dissolves easier
  • Optional – some vegan yoghurt, just to increase the creaminess slightly

This recipe is really easy – simply mix all of the ingredients together, making sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Chill for thirty minutes, then churn in your ice-cream machine until frozen and ice-cream-like (around 20 minutes). Freeze until needed, and serve with extra lime zest. It’s also great served with gingerut biscuits!

If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, chill for around 3-4 hours, whisking every half an hour, then freeze until needed.

 photo Vegan Coconut and Lime Ice-Cream7_zpswdltgpal.jpgThis has become a real favourite recipe, and now I’m itching to try other coconut milk ice-creams. Next I’ll be doing a chocolate version, which I’m hoping will be like a frozen Bounty bar!

Have you tried making your own ice-cream?

Food: Recent Eats #3

Given my impromptu break from blogging, I thought I’d do a quick run-through of all the delicious things I’ve been trying lately – and some of the not so delicious too! We’re both quite experimental cooks, so if there’s a particular fruit/veg in season, or some kind of new ingredient we find, we tend to add it to our weekly shop and do *something* with it. Added to this some of the PR gifts I am lucky enough to receive (they’re all clearly marked in this post) and we get to try new foodie bits quite regularly. Some are really, really not to our taste, others become firm favourites. Let’s see what made the cut recently!

 photo Recent Eats 3_zps7lhwsbkq.jpgDegustabox*

In short, Degustabox is a subscription box that sends out a variety of shelf-stable food items, some which are new to the market or are a little bit innovative. Others are well-known, but to be honest that wouldn’t put me off – for example this month we received a tub of Cadbury’s Highlights hot chocolate powder. We all know and love Cadbury’s, but I’m certainly not complaining about receiving that!

More excitingly, we received some Rosie’s Pig Flat Tyre Rhubarb Cider which I really enjoyed – it was fruity, sharp (not overly sweet) and a perfect summer evening drink. I also really enjoyed the raw Salted Caramel Brownie from Pulsin – it was very brownie like, not overly sweet and the perfect non-guilty treat. The London Crisp Company had included a couple of packets, which always goes down well (though W snaffled the salt’n’vinegar, so we’re currently not speaking…). I’m also super excited to try the mixes by Capsicana, I’m still not eating red meat after my illness, but I’m going to find the courage to try the Brazilian spice mix with some beef soon. Not so successful was the Salad Cream. Sorry Heinz, I’m just not a fan!

Other things included a Miso soup mix and some cheesy rice crackers – these have gone to live in my desk at work for when I forget my lunch or need an extra snack. There was also some sparkling Ribena, and an iced coffee with added protein – coffee sends both of us a bit jittery, so I’ll be giving this to a friend who will appreciate it more.

Head over to my Instagram profile and have a look at my story highlights to see everything included in this month’s box!

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Cooking with Pork Fillet

Not a cut of pork I’ve been too familiar with in the past, we picked up a fillet and have done a couple of things with it (one will serve the two of us generously!). We stir-fried it in a Thai dish which was delicious, and we also wrapped it in a mix of spinach and parma ham, encased in pastry and served as a Wellington. Yummy and a lot cheaper than you’d expect!

Jamie Oliver’s Bean Burgers

(Picture by Delicious Magazine Australia, who published the recipe)

I have been wanting to make decent bean burgers for years, but so often they are either too mushy, too bland, too ‘raw spicy’, or just too difficult to fry. However this is definitely the best recipe I’ve tried – it’s got a decent texture, it fries pretty well (and also works from frozen too). I do tend to fry in my oven-proof pan, then throw in the oven when I finish off a salad, and I also tend to leave off the seeds – but they’re still damn good. I love to serve with pink pickled onions in pittas…

Speaking of Pittas, these bean burgers work *really* well in the BFree Pittas.* I find these pittas to be super tasty – not quite as good as homemade, but really good when you want to fill them. They hold together reasonably well, taste almost grilled, and are thin enough so they don’t take over from the main event. I’ve also really enjoyed them filled with a Mexican grilled chicken and salad concoction. They are also wheat and gluten free as far as I’m aware!

Sourdough Bread*

We recently attended another workshop at Bread Ahead Bakery (read about the Doughnut one here) – all about Sourdough. It was quite technical, I came out feeling as though I’d been back to school, but it was wonderful too. We came home with lots of bread, which we enjoyed as a posh chicken sandwich, toasted with avo and (using the rye bread) spread with cream cheese and topped with smoked salmon and cucumber.

I’ll be doing a full review post in a few weeks, but if you’re interested in starting to bake more sourdough then I highly, highly recommend you try this class. If you want a bit of baking fun, maybe try one of their other classes as it was more intense than the Doughnut one.

Ben & Jerry’s ‘Diet’ Ice-Cream

It’s true! It doesn’t sound like it should be right, but our loyal friends Ben and Jerry have indeed launched a Moophoria range which is billed to have 50% less fat that similar ice-creams. I like to enjoy my ice-cream without worrying about calories, so I’d never have bought this, but we tried the Caramel Cookie Fix at SCOOP and really, really enjoyed it. You couldn’t tell it was low-fat and the textures were spot on. I’ll be buying more!

SCOOP, by the way, is an exhibition all about the history of ice-cream. It’s short and sweet (quite literally), but was a good way to spend 45 minutes in Kings Cross and involved spending 5 minutes in a giant freezer (perfect during the heatwave – worth the entry fee for this alone). You get to make your own ‘cheats’ ice-cream, try some glow-in-the-dark stuff and buy some unusual flavours (Dandelion anyone?!) when you’re done. I also learned so much about my favourite cold treat, so it’s well worth it.

As an added extra, my go-to ice-cream this summer has been Sicilian Lemon Curd & British Raspberry Ice Cream from the Co-Op. It’s like a fancy raspberry ripple and is SO good!

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Botonique*

I mentioned this alcohol-free drink for wine lovers a while back, but thought I’d be a little more detailed here. Basically it’s soft drink that’s designed to mimic wine – in that it’s not too sweet, has a more complex flavour and enhances food. It’s also got a blend of vitamins, minerals and amino acids meant to replace those usedup in dealing with alcohol – whilst I’m not overly convinced by the science behind this, I did find the drink super thirst-quenching on a hot afternoon. It is, however, very botanical and fragrant which put my friends off. I was the only person who actually liked this, but I have to say I’d happily buy another bottle. There’s a Rose version too which I’m desperate to try…

Ed’s Milkshakes

When I agree to meet a friend for a drink, the heatwave made us change our minds towards iced coffee. Then nowhere had ice. We ended up going to Ed’s and ordering milkshakes – not only did the metal cup feel wonderful to hold, but my Nutella Milkshake (made with fro-yo rather than ice-cream for apparently 90% less fat – yikes!) was absolutely delicious. Thick, creamy and absolutely full of Nutella flavour. Yum yum yum…

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Trying Our First Ever Chinese

Yep, I’ve nearly reached the age of 25 and I’d never eaten a Chinese before last weekend! Embarrassing I know, but now I’ve tried it I’ll definitely be back! We were invited to try out the menu at Royal China* and on the whole it was a success. There were dishes that weren’t to our taste, but Crispy Aromatic Duck? New favourite thing! I’ll be reviewing the restaurant in full so keep your eyes peeled – but what is your go-to Chinese dish? I need to know what I should try next!

Dr Oetker’s “Yes It’s Pizza” Vegetable Based Pizzas (link)*

This is pizza, but not as you know it. A unique new range of vegetable dough based pizzas, with further tasty toppings create a really vibrant pizza – and I’m not kidding, the beetroot base is BRIGHT! I had to keep checking the packaging to make sure I wasn’t eating tomato!

The pizza doesn’t taste too strongly of beetroot, the cheese is nicely flavoured, and the toppings of courgette, peppers and ham is a really good combo. I certainly enjoyed it and would be happy to eat it again and again!

Cold Brew Tea

I know Twinnings have recently launched something as it’s all over my Instagram (not sponsored – I’ve not been involved with the campaign!), but Sainsbury’s have also launched their own brand rather of cold-brew teabags. The flavour combos are a bit more limited, but they are a *lot* cheaper and I’m a fan. The one with Watermelon and Lime has been a winner so far…

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Courgettes

After announcing loudly at work that courgettes are my favourite vegetable (try living that down in an all-male team…) my boss presented me the next day with some monsters he’d grown himself. Absolutely huge (one only fitted into my fridge at an angle) – so I’ve eaten a lot of courgette recently. Think tarts, soups, pastas and even cake. Of course my Courgette Risotto featured too…I’ll be doing a post with some of my favourite courgette recipes soon.

*Items marked were gifted – but all opinions are my own. No money exchanged hands for this post!

What foodie things have you tried lately? Has anyone tried the new Malteser Buttons? I’m determined to get my hands on some!