Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Spiced Caramel Squares (and How to Make Caramel!)



It's a Christmas miracle!

This is a really momentus moment. Like, super exciting for me.

I made caramel. REALLY GOOD CARAMEL. AND IT WAS REALLY EASY!!!

This is a big step for me. I’m ecstatic. And of course, the idea came from my cooking inspiration, my nanny.  As a kid, I’d remember looking though her cupboards, always searching for one thing – a can with its label removed (boiled off). And when I found that, the question I’d ask would always be the same- “...nanny, can we make banoffee?”

So, what my brilliant nanny does to make her caramel for banoffee is boiling tins of condensed milk. Basically, plop a few tins of condensed milk in a pan, and pour over enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 2.5-3 hours. The longer you boil it, the darker and thicker it will be. The only thing to be careful of is not letting the tins boil dry – because then they will explode and there will be a huge mess. I was a bit paranoid the first time, so I was checking the tins every 15 minutes and topping the water up every 30 minutes or so, so that all the parts of the tins were constantly submerged. I’m renting, I cannot deal with caramel on the windows.

Once you’ve cooked for the allotted time, remove the tins from the water and allow to cool completely before using. I cooked 3 at a time because that’s the most that would fit in my pot- plenty to be getting on with! The cans should last for a few months, but really take a day of prep by the time you cook and cool, so just get them cooked whenever you have a spare few hours. These are an absolute cupboard staple for me now.

Bubbling away




And of course I had to try some caramel on a recipe that basically had my name written all over it. 

Caramel squares are my second favourite thing to get in a bakery back home (first is peppermint squares) and when I saw a recipe with a delicately spiced base it was love at first sight. There isn’t much more to say except these taste amazing and you’re welcome and let's get this festive season of baking underway with a bang!



Sunday, 4 December 2016

Sausage Cassoulet



Winter is well and truly here, and I don’t know about you all, but I need some pure comfort food. I’m talking meat, I’m talking root vegetables and I’m talking one-pot so you don’t have much cleaning to face afterwards, when you’re all full and cosy.

Well hello, cassoulet.



This is a cosy winter stew if ever I saw one. Except, it’s better than a stew (not a huge stew fan, sorry Ireland). It’s flavourful and colourful and warming and filling and only a little stodgy, in that good way that you need sometimes when you’ve come in from the rain and Christmas shopping and you’re all cold and hungry and in need of rejuvenation.

I basically threw in whatever veggies I had, and it made one really simple and delicious meal. For an authentic French experience (this dish has its origins there, after all) serve with a hunk of baguette.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Coconut Flour (Gluten-Free) Pancakes!



I’m determined to get through this box of coconut flour! It's a frosty Sunday morning, and I know what I'm having for lunch (breakfast, since I woke up late?)..

The box of coconut flour came with a recipe on the back for pancakes,but it was a bit too “clean” for me – I smother my pancakes in sugar or Nutella, as a rule, so I’m just not about to make them with coconut oil and agave nectar. Coconut flour is a little tricky to work with given that it is just so good at soaking up liquid, so I used the box’s proportions of wet to dry, but subbed in my own preferred ingredients.



These are a lot denser than my preferred pancakes, they’re not fluffy, but not wet like a crepe either. The coconut flour adds a wonderful nutty flavour that really sets off the finished product. I was trying to be “good” (HAH!) so I didn’t have it with Nutella, but I can only imagine it would taste like some kind of Bounty Bar dream if you liberally coated it in Nutella. Next time!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Apple Cinnamon Scones

My mouth is watering

I'm posting this now so you can make them for your Sunday morning breakfast. I'm feeling rather poorly and rather sorry for myself, so I thought I'd share the ultimate comfort food.

Scones are something I’ve always found difficult to make. Which is terrible, because they are delicious, and most delicious when you eat them freshly warm from the oven. I’ve tried for years to make the perfect scones. My mum makes great ones, but I’ve never been able to mimic them using her recipe. I’ve had issues with every recipe I’ve tried, even Mary Berry’s (sacrilege!), even the Guardian’s “How to make the perfect..”

So, in order to get to the root of my problem, I had to look at where I was going wrong. The main issue was that they were just too sticky and I was unable to lift them from the floured surface to the baking tray. Now, scone dough is meant to be sticky. So you can’t just fix it by bunging a load more flour into the mix.

Then I discovered a method called “chaffing,” where you coat the dough in flour, and fold it, turning it 90 degrees as you do so. Do it quickly and don’t overwork it. Paul Hollywood has an excellent video demonstration.

This has transformed my scone life! I’m still on the lookout to get a bit more volume into the scones, but it’s not a bad place to start from! I’ve whipped up some apple cinnamon ones, but the choices are endless now. Plain scones, cheese scones, nutty scones.. The possibilities are endless to beef up this classic scone recipe. There’s no stopping me now:

So, like the day after making the apple scones, I made a double batch, half plain, a quarter apricot and a quarter coconut and white chocolate. The coconut ones in particular were incredible

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Butterbean, Pasta and Pesto Salad



What are Mondays for, if not starting off with good intentions?

I’m not a big salad fan, but I do like butterbeans, pesto and pasta a great deal. So I decided to whip something up that would be a bit more interesting (and better for me) than a ham sandwich lunch.

This is really simple to make, and can easily be made out of leftover pasta if you happen to have made too much (which always, constantly happens to me). I am using my homemade pesto, but feel free to use any that you like. It takes 2 seconds to whip up, makes about 4 portions, and makes meal prep reeeeeally easy.

Feel free to play around with the flavours, or leave out the pepperoni to keep veggie. Speaking of veggies, I have a fairly limited repertoire of ones I actually like, so I’m happy with what I’ve put in, but feel free to go wild and add tomatoes or carrots or whatever you crazy salad-lovers fancy.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Tomato and Sweet Potato Soup




Winter is here! The nights are dark and the weather is absolutely BALTIC. My duffel coat feels like it is permanently attached to my body, and I don’t leave the house without thick socks.

This is firmly soup weather.

And it's good timing, as I've just realised that I haven't posted anything savoury to the blog since August. That's a little embarrassing.. but I love sugar!!

I do enjoy soup, but for me to look forward to making and eating it, it has to be absolutely delicious. Otherwise it can feel a little like a runner up dinner. Luckily, this soup is really delish, and uses up a lot of my cupboard/fridge staples. It’s thick and creamy and full of nutritious veggies, a perfect wholesome dinner for those days when you go out for breakfast and then manage to have a massive slice of cake and a mocha as well. 



Everything in moderation!

The chorizo on top is a nice little smoky treat, but feel free to skip it if you’re feeling veggie, or add something else like diced scallions or buttery sweetcorn.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Orange and Ginger "Raw-eos"



Well, I had a box of medjool dates left over from my last “raw” cooking kick, so I thought I’d try something that I’ve been thinking about for a little while. While these don’t taste anything like Oreos, they look a bit like them and they’re kind of delicious in their own way. I’m a sugar addict, I’m not going to go all “clean” on you guys and say how these taste even better than the real thing. They don’t, BUT they’re actually pretty damn delicious, and sweetly flavourful.

The biscuit-y bit is actually really similar to those Nakd bars – the only one I like (choc orange). I think the little addition of bits of ginger chocolate gives it a real pop and works well with the orange. I’m a fan.



Raw cooking is something which I’m just dipping my toes into, and adjusting to my own tastes. Feel free to play around with the flavours, or just leave the ginger choc/zest out entirely. The other great thing about these is that you don’t need the filling, you could easily roll them a bit thicker (like an inch) and just eat them as-is. Versatile and yummy!