Raw bounty (coconut) balls

Last weekend Seb achieved another ‘first’ – he finally had enough hair to warrant his first haircut. It’s only taken a month short of 2 years to have enough hair to make it worthwhile, but he got there in the end. We took him along to Trotters in Chiswick where they had a large fish tank for him to look at and plenty of books to keep him occupied just long enough for the hairdresser to cut his hair. Seb kept remarkably still the entire time (for once!), maybe it was the sharp scissors round his ears that encouraged him not to move a muscle.

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The other ‘first’ was making these flavor-full raw coconut bounty balls. I’ve tried them in health food cafes and thought they couldn’t be overly difficult to make at home when you think about the ingredients that are involved. In fact, there are only 4 ingredients in total that you need to make them so you don’t need to go out with a long shopping list either.

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I can imagine this is the sort of snack that is going to split the audience like marmite does… you’ll either love it or hate it. I obviously fall into the love it category and Will falls into the ‘don’t even think about asking me to try one’ camp. I was never a fan of Bountys though, so don’t let the name put you off.

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When a box of Celebration chocolates comes out at Christmas, there is still no way I’m going to pick out a Bounty (those are left for Mum – being the only one who likes them). Surely everyone just goes for the Maltesers which are far superior to any of the other chocolates in the box.

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But whilst these are obviously reminiscent of a Bounty chocolate, these are far superior in all forms. The texture is more luxurious, the chocolate is richer, the coconut more pronounced but in a really beautifully natural way. If it was a competition between Maltesers and these – well that would be a harder pick.

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They are packed full of goodness, taste like a real chocolate treat and I think you’ll love them.

Raw bounty (coconut) balls

Makes approx. 12 small balls

Ingredients:

Coconut centre:

½ cup dessicated coconut

¼ cup melted coconut oil

2 tbs of maple syrup ( honey, agave nectar)

Chocolate coating:

6 tbsp melted coconut oil

5 tbsp raw cocoa powder

3 tbsp of maple syrup

Extra dessicated coconut to sprinkle on the outside of the balls

Method

For the coconut centre:

Mix your ingredients in a food processor until it starts to come together a little. Add a little more oil if you don’t feel it is and place in the fridge for 5 minutes to harden up a little – this will make it easier to make the balls.

Remove from the fridge and make round balls from your mixture – you’re aiming for a bit smaller than a table tennis ball but don’t worry too much! Place the balls back in the fridge for a few minutes whilst you make your chocolate coating.

For the chocolate coating:

Place all your ingredients in a saucepan and mix together, remove from the heat.

Remove your balls from the fridge and coat them with chocolate before placing them on baking paper to harden up in the fridge again.

I repeated this process a few times so that I got a thicker layer of chocolate on the balls.

On the final layer of chocolate sprinkle on some extra dessicated coconut if you like.

Posted in Baking, Biscuits and Cookies, Breakfast, Desserts, Recipes, Snacks | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Raw Chocolate Mint Milkshake

For as long as I can remember all I wanted to be was a tennis player when I grew up. Maybe it was being born on Wimbledon Women’s Finals Day or maybe it was hours spent at Broxbourne Tennis Club in Hertfordshire where both my elder brothers played regularly. I imagine it was the natural progression that I would also pick up a racket but who knew the bug to play would be quite so powerful.

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I have many happy memories of time spent at that tennis club although oddly the ones that really stand out aren’t of being on the tennis court but are in fact of feeding the ducks by the stream and collecting conkers in the fields that surrounded the courts. Each time I take Seb to feed the ducks at Barnes pond it really reminds me of my childhood.

Whilst I had a crack at tennis, it was unfortunately not to be and new dreams had to be created. It could be said I’ve flitted a little bit since leaving university and whilst I’ve had some success with producing some pretty memorable events, I can’t quite help get past the dream of having a local coffee shop in Barnes.

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In my mind I can see the big glass front looking so inviting with beautiful treats in the window making you stop to take a second glance before the inevitable happens and you walk through the front door.

There will be cool tiling on the walls and a counter adorned with the colours of the rainbow but not using paints, instead bowls of heaving salads that leave you salivating.

There will be juices and smoothies to wash it all down and of course a stunning coffee machine serving the most fabulous freshly ground coffee under the advice of a great friend who knows her coffee. In fact she knows her coffee so well she’s started up her own coffee business called Bell and Rigg making beautiful coffee accessible to all. Take a look!

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It’s all there in my mind and one day, I’d love to make it happen.

And in the mean time, I’ll continue to try out beautiful salads and experiment with different smoothie flavours that I think might just make it up on that menu one day.

Often smoothies have banana added because of its smooth texture and sweetness, but there are other fruits like avocado that can also achieve this. (Yes, avocado is a fruit and not a vegetable! I fancied a chocolate mint combo but in a form that was fresh, filling and delivered a smack of flavor and I like to think I achieved it with this.

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The avocado produced a filling smooth texture and a bucket load of good fats. The raw cocoa provided that rich chocolate flavor without it being sickly sweet. And the mint give a real freshness against the raw chocolate that meant you couldn’t help but taking another sip.

It’s simple, it’s addictive, it’s a mint aero in a jar.

You can’t argue with that.

Raw Chocolate Mint Milkshake

You could easily turn this into a smoothie bowl by adding a little less milk and topping with whatever you fancy. I imagine some crunch granola and coconut chips with some fresh raspberries would be delicious.

Serves 1

Ingredients

½ avocado

2 tsp raw cocoa

bunch of fresh mint (5-6 sprigs – just the leaves)

350ml almond milk or milk substitute of your choice (feel free to add more or less depending if you want to make a smoothie bowl or you like it thinner in a smoothie

4 or 5 ice cubes

Method

Put all your ingredients in a blender and blend!

 

 

Posted in Baking, Breakfast, Creamy Desserts, Desserts, Lunch, Recipes, Smoothies, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cocoa-Coconut Granola (low-carb, refined sugar free)

When we went on holiday, we unfortunately had a couple of hours delay at the airport which resulted in us not arriving at our villa until about 10pm. This meant Will had to nip out to the local supermarket that evening to get a few essentials for breakfast the next morning.

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Seb’s morning breakfast essentials include milk, eggs, yoghurt, bananas, toast and butter (we took a jar of his much loved marmite with us). For me it was yoghurt, strawberries and granola and for Will it was Frosties! Frosties, seriously?! It really made me laugh that he reverted back to his 10-year-old self and picked a children’s cereal as his preferred breakfast option for the week.

It took me back thinking about the cereals we used to eat when we were little like Rice Krispies, Honey Monster Sugar Puffs, Coco Pops and of course Frosties. When I was a little older I graduated onto Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and Special K, but nothing of course beat the sugary laden cereal we were all brought up on. Of course back then parents were being led to believe they were providing a fortified breakfast for their children, totally unaware of the endless teaspoons of sugar that was being added.

Do you remember Pop Tarts too? I used to LOVE those. The only problem of course is that you were toasting jam, which meant EVERY single time you burnt your mouth down to the core. Never did I learn the lesson of waiting long enough to prevent it happening.

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Today of course we know only too well how much sugar is in cereal and actually it’s probably one of the worst things you can feed your kids to start the day. The same goes with most granolas on the market, where sugar is added to sweeten it and to create those clusters of oats that you always search for in the packet.

From doing some research, Rude Health is producing probably the healthiest off the shelf granola with no added refined sugar but it obviously comes at a price.

Seb oddly doesn’t like any cereal at all. He likes his overnight oats soaked in yoghurt or almond / coconut milk, and he likes Rude Health coconut & chai granola on Greek yoghurt but that’s really about it. He’d rather have some scrambled eggs, pancakes or toast, which is just fine with me.

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I, however, love granola and as I said Rude Health is quite pricey when it’s honestly one of the easiest things to make at home. Plus, when you make it yourself, you realise you can add pretty much whatever you fancy to it.

I’ve never added any cocoa to my granola before, but when I was thinking about those Coco Pops and how they turned the milk all chocolatey, I thought I’d see if I could recreate it but in a healthy version.

Raw Cocoa Powder is a super powder! It’s pure cocoa before the nutrients have been destroyed by the heating process used to produce cocoa (found in conventional drinking chocolates or chocolate bars). It’s jam packed with magnesium, iron and calcium and plenty of other vitamins too. It’s slightly more bitter than the dark chocolate you might be used to so you only need a small amount and it really goes a long way in terms of flavour.

I made the granola into a couple of different breakfast options this week:

Raspberry Granola Layers

I alternated layers of frozen raspberries and granola and topped it with almond milk. This turned the milk that lovely chocolatey flavour too… this is what I like to think of as your healthy version of coco pops.

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Greek Yoghurt topped with Granola and drizzled with maple syrup

170g of Total 0% Greek Yoghurt topped with Cocoa-Coconut Granola, Goji berries, blueberries and a drizzle of maple syrup. This is delicious on a warm day and is full of protein and good fats. A great way to start the day.

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The options really are endless, I plan on adding it to the top of some porridge this weekend to add a bit of texture and crunch to those satisfying sweet oats and it also works as a great snack on the go when you just fancy something a little bit sweet and chocolatey to nibble on.

At a fraction of the price (when you make a batch like this) of your regular sugar filled cereals it’s worth a try. Plus, you get all those health benefits too, so it’s a win-win for you.

Cocoa-Coconut Granola (low-carb, refined sugar free)

Makes a large kilner jar

Ingredients

100g rolled organic oats

150g activated buckwheat groats

50g coconut flakes

100g flaked almonds

100g agave nectar

50g coconut oil

3 tbsp raw cocoa powder

1tsp vanilla extract

Method

Heat your oven to 170 degrees c.

Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Mix all your dry ingredients excluding the cocoa powder (oats, buckwheat, coconut flakes, almonds) in a large bowl.

Put the agave nectar, coconut oil, cocoa powder and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over a medium heat and melt and stir to combine.

Add your wet mixture to the dry ingredients and coat well so that all your dry ingredients are covered with the chocolate mixture.

Place the mixture onto your baking tray and spread into an even layer. You don’t want a thick layer so if your tray isn’t very big, spread it across two trays.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking every 7-8 minutes and turning the granola over so that it doesn’t burn on one side.

Leave to cool in the tray before placing in an airtight container.

It will last for a week – 10 days.

 

 

 

 

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Dairy-free Caramelised Banana and Dark Choc Chunk Ice Cream

It’s been a little quiet on the blog recently but with good reason because I disappeared off on holiday for a couple of weeks with the men in my life to spend some quality time together in Tenerife. We were all in dire need of sunshine, pool time and family time and I’m pleased to say all three were achieved.

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Will pulled it out the bag again and found us a fabulous villa to stay in which had everything you could desire. Since having Seb, we’ve always ventured down the villa route for our holidays. To us, it just makes sense to have the ability to put Seb down for his lunchtime nap whilst we catch some sunrays in the garden or in Will’s case disappear off to the golf course. And yes we miss going out for delicious 3 course dinners but I’d much rather have a leisurely dinner at home then get stressed trying to entertain Seb in a restaurant when he’s overtired and staying out past his bedtime.

I can understand a lot of people might not like to cook dinner each evening on holiday, but to me it’s not a chore and I’d even say I miss it when I don’t get to. As long as I get out for some brunches and lunches then I’m happy enough.

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Little was achieved on holiday beyond a lot of chill out time at the villa.

The early mornings were spent entertaining Seb whilst the sun came up (which is very late in Tenerife compared to the UK at this time of year), followed by a gym session for me at a local fitness center I found just a few minutes walk away. It could be said that I can sniff out a gym no matter where we are and Will can spot a golf course a mile off.

Late morning was a trip to the local park, beach or out door soft play park before hanging out in the garden till lunchtime. Lunch took place al fresco for Seb in the sunshine and I think he lapped up having some space to run around in.

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Whilst Seb took a lunchtime nap, I sunbathed and Will golfed or hit the range. This was the nearest he was going to get to feeling like a professional golfer! The afternoons were a chilled out affair in the garden, swimming in the pool or playing some football before dinner and nipping out for a tub of ice cream or I’d make some homemade banana ice cream.

I’ve been making banana ice cream a lot for Seb as it takes minutes to whip up and you can add all sort of extras to make it even more nutritious. The simple version contains just three ingredients; frozen banana, whole milk and natural yoghurt, blend and serve. You can sub in crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt or add whatever extras you like in terms of fruit or nut butters. It’s pretty flexible really. What I would say is that if you refreeze it after blending it, you’ll find that it freezes very hard, so I just make enough for what I know will get eaten then.

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On arriving home, I was still in ice-cream making mode so whipped up some dairy-free caramelised banana and dark choc chunk ice cream. A little more fancy than what we’d been consuming on holiday, but really not overly difficult to make – admittedly an ice cream machine is pretty essential though to really make a smooth creamy soft scoop ice cream.

The caramelisation of the banana makes it rich and indulgent and I found using coconut milk makes it much like a custard based ice cream. As it was Easter weekend I couldn’t help but add in the dark chocolate chunks and it really took the ice cream to the next level.

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Sweet caramel bananas against bitter dark chocolate, it just works. 

Dairy-free Caramelised Banana and Dark Choc Chunk Ice Cream

 Ingredients

3 medium ripe banana sliced into 2cm pieces

70g coconut sugar

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 can full fat coconut milk

1 ½ tbsp. granulated sugar

1 tbsp + 1 tsp corn starch

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp lemon juice

100g dark chocolate, melted

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.

Bake your bananas in the oven for 20-30 minutes in a non-sticking baking tray sprinkled with the coconut sugar and coconut oil. Give them a toss half way through to make sure they are well coated and get an even caramelisation.

Once baked and a lovely golden brown, scrape all your bananas and syrup out the pan and place in a blender or food processor.

On a low heat, place your coconut milk, granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Keep stirring so that you don’t get clumps of cornstarch and continue to heat until all the cornstarch has completely dissolved and your mixture has thickened. This will take about 5-10 minutes to do. You are looking for a thick, creamy consistency.

Add your vanilla extract and lemon juice once you have this consistency and mix through before pouring the creamy mixture in with your bananas in the blender.

Blend your mixture until you have a smooth consistency.

Chill the mixture in the fridge for a few hours or overnight before placing in your ice cream machine as per your machines instructions. Your mixture may have become a bit thicker on chilling in the fridge, feel free to whisk it a little before pouring into the ice cream machine. The coconut milk does make it thicker than regular dairy ice cream.

On the last few minutes of churning when the mixture is almost firm, add in your melted chocolate.

Transfer to a freezer container and place in the freezer to firm up.

Leave out to soften a little before serving and add extra chunks of chocolate should you wish!

 

 

 

Posted in Baking, Creamy Desserts, Desserts, Ice Cream, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carrot, pear and pistachio crumble muffins

This Sunday is Mother’s Day… panic sets in if you’ve not realised this already followed by a mad dash to the card shop and a visit to the interflora website. Of course if you have little kids, you’ll need to get out the hand paints and produce an ‘art attack’ card masterpiece whilst preventing any paint / crayons / colouring pens ending up as graffiti on the furniture!

When my sister and I were younger we used to go on these amazing shopping trips with Mum. In those days it was Brent Cross or Bluewater, poor Mum being dragged round the shops laden with bags and not enough coffee stops. It was always fun to be out just the three of us and I think ‘the boys’ (the boys being two elder brothers) used to get a little jealous and actually ended up hijacking a shopping trip to town one weekend. They both went off with Mum round the London shops and my sister and I went off with Dad. Safe to say, the girls did better and I think Dad rather enjoyed a little time out spoiling his girls.

Now that my brothers and I have kids of our own, finding time to spend some quality time with Mum can be a little more challenging. And I think it’s when you have kids of your own you realise just what sacrifices you are willing to make to put your child’s needs first and therefore the measures your own Mum went to for you when you were younger to give you everything they could.

So this Saturday, (to ensure three out of the four siblings could be there – one being in Hong Kong was a little challenging to arrange) we are taking Mum out for lunch. A rare occasion to spend time just the four of us, but time spent like this means more than any bunch of flowers can and will give us the chance to show we do care and we are thankful, even if we don’t say it enough.

On Mother’s Day itself, well who knows what young Seb might have in store… Probably a 6am start and an hour of Dinopaws! But I hope there will be 10 minutes to sit down and enjoy one of these carrot, pear and pistachio muffins.

I’ve been meaning to make these for a while and have been doing a lot of baking for a friend who has a number of rowers coming to stay in a few weeks time. There has been a blood orange and almond cake, a wholemeal lemon bundt cake and finally a blueberry and sour cream loaf all sitting in the freezer ready for them.

However, these muffins felt a little more on the nutritious side for a group of rowers, so they made the list to whip up when I had some spare time. It also meant, I got to ‘taste-test’ a couple, just to make sure they were up to standard for the men taking to the Thames on Boat Race Day.

The only real reason I adapted the recipe from the original apple, carrot and pecan crumble muffins by the Little Loaf, was that this was what I had in the fridge and cupboards, but I’m sure you could sub in other nuts and fruits depending on your preference or what you have sitting round. I must admit I went onto bake a batch of the original recipe later that day too once I’d made it to the shops!

They are lovely and moist and rich with spices whilst packing a big wholesome punch. The crumble topping is what really makes them, giving a golden crispy top hiding a soft healthy yet indulgent muffin underneath.

The muffins are packed full of goodness and are great as a snack on the go not just for a bunch of hungry rowers but also for a tiny toddler in need of some quick nourishment before launching himself head first down the tallest slide at the park… oh that’s just my son then.

Happy Mother’s Day – hopefully you’ll get 20 minutes free to whip these up and 5 minutes to eat one!

Carrot, pear and pistachio crumble muffins

Barely adapted from The Little Loaf carrot, apple and pecan crumble muffins.

Makes 8-10 muffins

For the crumble topping:

25g spelt flour

15g unsalted cold butter

1 heaped tsp coconut sugar (can sub for light muscovado sugar)

2 tbsp giant oats

1 tsp pistachios, half roughly chopped

1 tsp sunflower seeds

1 tsp pumpkin seeds

1 tsp agave nectar / honey

1 tsp water

For the muffin mix:

75g wholemeal flour

75g spelt flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

80ml melted coconut oil / rapeseed oil

2 large eggs

75g coconut sugar

45g caster sugar

1 medium carrot, grated

1 pear, skin on, grated

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g pistachios, chopped

50g sultanas

25g dessicated coconut

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and line a muffin tin with paper cases

To make the crumble:

Combine the flour, butter and coconut sugar in a bowl. Rub the mixture together to form a crumbly mixture. Add your oats, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and stir to mix. Add the agave nectar and honey and stir again so that you have a slightly wet sandy mixture. Keep your pistachios to one side to sprinkle on the top of the crumble.

To make the muffins:

Sift your flours, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and both sugars in a bowl. Add your carrot, pear and vanilla extract and whisk again. Fold through your pistachios, sultanas and dessicated coconut.

Fold through the flour mixture and combine gently, but do not over mix. You will have a lumpy mixture but that’s ok.

Assembly:

Spoon your muffin mixture into your muffin cases and sprinkle on the crumble topping followed by your pistachios.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. You should have a golden crisp top to your muffin and a skewer should come out clean.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

The muffins will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days or can be frozen once they are completely cooled.

 

 

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Chocolate fudge celebration birthday cake

Today Will celebrates his 34th birthday and of course all birthdays must be celebrated with an over the top birthday cake. And what I lack in creative flair, I definitely make up for in chocolate over-load when it comes to this birthday cake.

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Birthdays take on a slightly different meaning as you get older, but as Will kindly likes to point out as he turns another year older, ‘you’re still way older than me’. Harsh, but true. I am and will always be 1 year 4 months older than him.

I asked Will what he’d like for his birthday dinner and true to form it will always be one of two things; steak or pasta. In his ideal world it would be his favourite meal of tuna spaghetti, but as I WILL NEVER EVER eat tinned tuna, this favourite meal is saved for evenings when I’m out. So instead, we’ll be having mac’n’cheese. This might not sound fancy, but Will loves mac’n’cheese, so much so that I bought him a cookbook which only has mac’n’cheese recipes in it and I’ll be testing one out for his birthday dinner.

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We’ve got a long weekend away planned in Bath where I’ve found a luxury family friendly hotel which not only has a kids club, but also offers baby-sitting so that you can enjoy a three course meal at a leisurely pace rather than eating at warp speed which is normally the case with a child in tow. The Spa sessions have been booked, swimmers are packed and I’m ready to get out in the country air for a couple of days.

But before all that there must be cake.

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This is a super simple fudgy chocolate cake, which is easy enough to whip together and fun to decorate however you fancy. It looks far more impressive than it is, and the bonus is that you can cover any misdemeanors you may have with the sponge, with a variety of your favourite chocolates.

You might need a few friends to help you get through it, but I’m sure you won’t be short of people putting their hands up for a slice.

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It’s indulgent, it’s rich and it’s very chocolaty.

It’s all things a birthday cake should be.

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Happy Birthday Willy Rolt xxx

 

Chocolate fudge celebration birthday cake

Makes 1, 23cm layer cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

200g unsalted butter

1 tbsp instant coffee granules mixed with 125ml cold water

140g self-raising flour

90g plain flour

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g light muscovado sugar

200g golden caster sugar

25g cocoa powder

3 medium eggs

74ml buttermilk

For the buttercream:

60g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

100g unsalted butter, softened

200g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract,

Milk, to loosen as required

For the topping and sides:

24 Kit Kats (I used one pack normal and one pack cookies and cream) – you’ll have some spare for you cup of tea

4 packs of Smarties tubes

1 pack of Maltesears

Strawberries dipped in melted chocolate

1 ribbon for the bow

Method

To make the cake:

Butter a 23cm round loose-bottomed cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Heat your oven to 160 degrees C.

Over a saucepan of simmering water, place a bowl with your dark chocolate broken up into pieces. Cut your butter into small cubes and add to the bowl along with the coffee mixed with water. Melt the ingredients, making sure the water in the saucepan doesn’t touch your bowl, or it will burn your chocolate.

Whilst your chocolate is melting (but keep an eye on the bowl), mix your dry ingredients together. Add your self–raising flour, plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, light muscovado sugar, golden caster sugar and cocoa powder to a large bowl.

Once your chocolate is melted, take off the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl beat your eggs and then add the buttermilk to your eggs and beat again so that they are well combined.

Add your egg mixture and your melted chocolate to your dry ingredients and beat together so that it is well combined and smooth.

It will look quite runny, but remember this is more of a fudgy cake.

Pour the mixture into your cake tin and bake in the middle of you oven for 1 hour 15 minutes – 1 hour 30 minutes. When a skewer comes out clean and the top feels firm, the cake is done. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.

Once the cake is totally cool, you can cut into 2 or 3 layers, I did two layers for my cake.

To make the buttercream:

Over a saucepan of simmering water, place a bowl with your dark chocolate broken up into pieces. Once the chocolate has melted, leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Beat your softened butter in a bowl until it is soft and then gradually add your icing sugar. I suggest covering the bowl with a tea towel as well as you beat in the icing sugar to prevent your kitchen turning into an icing sugar cloud.

Add your vanilla extract and beat the mixture again.

Pour in your melted chocolate and fold through. If you find your mixture too stiff then add a tiny bit of milk to loosen until you have a consistency you can spread on your cake. If you add too much milk, add a little more icing sugar.

Assembly:

If you find your cake top has domed or sunk, you can make the top the bottom of the cake so that you have a smooth surface to work on.

Using a spatula or pallet knife, spread a thin layer of butter cream on one half of your cake and place the top of the cake on top again so that you sandwhich the buttercream between the layers.

Then spread the buttercream all round the sides and on top of the cake so that you cake is fully covered. You will only need a thin layer and should just have enough buttercream to do this.

For the decoration:

Stick the Kit Kats all round the side of the cake and press gently so that they stick to the buttercream. Next tie the bow round them so that they are nice and secure.

Next top the cake with your Smarties and Maltesears and fruit in whatever design you desire. I did 3 circles or Smarties round the edge, then an inner circle of Maltesears, followed by some chocolate dipped strawberries in the middle.

You can of course sub the chocolates I have chosen for lots of fruit, or different types of chocolate, the choice is yours!

Serve with double cream, ice cream or as is.

The cake will keep in an airtight container for a few days.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lemon and Mint Shortbread Biscuits

I can’t say I’ve ever been one to celebrate Valentines Day. I always feel slightly awkward about the whole day and when you watch other couples out at dinner in a slightly uncomfortable over forced cheesy setting paying double prices, you wonder what they were thinking?!

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I think it’s far more special and heart-felt to go out on a date night, or to have flowers bought for you on a random day just because, well ‘you wanted to!” Surely that means more than being told, on the 14th February, you must be romantic and spend lots of money on your other half to show that you care and love them.

This week in fact, Will and I celebrated 12 years together. Not 12 years married, but 12 years from making a decision that we’d take a stab at life together and see where it took us. From a dodgy (but much loved!) nightclub in Loughborough, I’d say we’ve come a long way and have had quite the adventure. And I think this adventure is only going to get a whole lot more exciting over the next year.

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Really I should have been baking brownies, or making éclairs for Will to celebrate moving into the teen years, but I instead opted for something quite simple that I could make with Seb on a rainy afternoon. However, that didn’t quite go to plan! We had an attempt at making Cherry and Coconut Chocolate Florentines and whilst they tasted delicious, cutting them out proved to be rather challenging and the chocolate cracked and they looked disastrous. It was a definite case of substance over style!

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I had another think and came up with something even simpler. We’ve got some friends round for dinner on Saturday evening and with lots of lemons left over I decided to make a tangy lemon posset for dessert that would freshen up the pallet after the spicy main course and I just needed something to accompany it. I thought a sweet crumbly biscuit against the smooth creamy posset would work perfectly.

Shortbread biscuits really take no time at all to throw together, in fact most the time is spent waiting for the dough to cool before rolling. I added simple flavours of lemon and mint which pair together beautifully with the citrus adding a little sharpness against the sweet sugary buttery shortbread.

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You can make these with the kids, they love cutting them out and eating them in fact and it’s a nice way spending a rainy afternoon making a homemade gift for that someone special.

This is about as romantic as I can get, heart shaped lemon and mint shortbread biscuits.

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Lemon and Mint Shortbread Biscuits

Makes approx. 24 biscuits (depending on what you use to cut them out)

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter at room temperature

180g plain flour

1 lemon, zest and juice

2 tsp finely chopped mint

65g caster sugar plus extra for sprinkling before and after baking

 Method

Heat your oven to 160 degrees C

Line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment

Beat together your soft butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy.

Add your lemon zest and juice and beat again.

Sift in the flour and slowly mix together before bringing the mixture together using your hands. The mixture should come together to form dough. If it’s easier to create two balls of dough then do that and wrap each with cling film and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Once chilled, take the dough from the fridge and place on a well-floured surface and flour your rolling pin too. Using the palm of your hand initially gently press to form a slightly flatter disc to begin rolling out. You need to be gentle or the dough will just fall apart.

Roll out till about 3-5mm and using your chosen cutter, cut out your dough and place on your baking tray with some space round them, as they will spread a little on baking.

You can gather together your remaining bits of dough and roll out again to make more biscuits. If your dough gets too soft, gather it back together in a ball and place back in the fridge with cling film wrapped round it.

Prick each biscuit using a fork and bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes. They are done when they have a slight golden colour round the edge. Keep an eye on them though as they can go from pale to dark very quickly if you’re not careful.

Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before carefully removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Sprinkle on some extra sugar before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Baking, Biscuits and Cookies, Desserts, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Blood orange, almond and ricotta cake

Sunday lunches are something of an institution at the Smiths, much like many families across the country. Sitting down round a big dining table, food piled up in serving dishes, shouts of ‘pass the roast potatoes’ from one end of the table and ‘I’m getting thirsty’ from the other. There are always the usual early steals of the really crispy roast potatoes and of course the many sneaky picks of meat by the carver, but it wouldn’t be the same without all the family talking over one another and Dad sweating after producing a roast for 15 of us (and that’s just the immediate family!).

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This weekend I asked my parents up for Sunday lunch, a slightly quieter affair with only five of us, but no holding back on the plentiful food that will be served up. With pork belly ordered from the local butchers, with enough for four hungry people (my mum’s a veggie) and one of the five is only 2 foot tall, but we’re a family with a big appetite.

Mounds of cauliflower cheese, minty leeks and peas and some roasties of course are on the menu. But even after all that food, I know we’ll have some room for pudding and I’ve had my eye on a recipe by Smitten Kitchen.

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Blood oranges are in season and if you’re not careful you’ll miss them, something I’ve managed to achieve the last couple of years. But we’ve got a lovely new greengrocer on our high street so I popped in to pick up a few ready for the weekend’s dessert.

Blood oranges are beautiful in colour with their bright red centre competing with that of a pink grapefruit but with a real richness of colour. You might pick them up unexpectedly because the outside shows no hint of what is hidden inside.

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When I saw the picture of this dessert hit my inbox, it looked so inviting it immediately went into my ‘I must make this soon!’ folder. I love desserts that use ground almonds as they keep a cake moist and light and definitely make you think you can sneak an extra slice without needing to undo the top button on your jeans. You know we’ve all been there.

This recipe hails from the River Café cookbook, a cookbook you’ll be surprised to hear I don’t own but I have been lucky enough to have been to the restaurant on a number of occasions (I used to work all of a few hundred metres from the restaurant, so if we could get away with a ‘work lunch’ there, then of course we did!) and I can only rave about their beautiful cooking style. In fact, the last time I went I had a lovely lunch with my parents before spending an idyllic afternoon at the Queen’s Club Tennis Tournament, so it seemed coincidental to be making a dessert that hails from the restaurant.

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Whilst it’s called a cake it really sits somewhere between a cake and a cheesecake because of the addition of ricotta and the lack of flour. It’s beautifully light and frangrant from the strong citrus of the blood oranges. It has the added bonus that you can make it the day before and it keeps beautifully in the fridge, in fact I prefer it cold from the fridge rather than at room temperature with a big dollop of crème fraiche.

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It really is a perfect way to end a lovely Sunday lunch.

Blood orange, almond and ricotta cake

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

90g light brown sugar

1 tbsp of water

3 large eggs, separated

135g granulated sugar

2 blood oranges, ½ to be sliced, 1 & ½ to be juiced to give about 1/3 cup of juice

115g unsalted butter

165 ricotta

180g almond flour

½ tsp fine sea salt

¼ cup apricot jam (optional if you’d like a glossy finish)

Method

Butter a 9 inch cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper.

Heat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius

Stir your brown water and sugar together and pour into the bottom of your tin and spread evenly.

Whip up your egg whites using an electric mixer until you have thick peaks. Set aside for later.

Cut your oranges in half. Use one half of an orange and cut as thinly as you can slice. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, but it helps if your knives are sharp!

Arrange the slices on top of your brown sugar in the cake tin.

Juice your remaining oranges.

Place your granulated sugar in a bowl and zest your oranges. This will help to really infuse the sugar with the orange flavour.

Add your butter to the sugar and beat in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add your eggs one at a time, making sure each is mixed in before adding the next.

Add your juice and ricotta to the bowl and mix till you have a smooth texture.

Add your sea salt and almond flour and gently beat until just combined.

Using a wooden spoon or plastic spatula, gently fold in your egg whites. You want to keep in as much air as possible.

Using a spoon scoop your batter on top of your oranges in the tin – trying not to dislodge the oranges at the bottom.

Bake in a heated oven for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean and then bake for 5 minutes more.

Leave the cake to cool for 5 minutes before running a knife round the edge and invert onto a cake plate. That’s the scary bit!

If some of the oranges have moved or don’t come out, don’t worry; just sneakily put them back in place.

Heat up your apricot jam and brush over the top.

Leave to cool completely before cutting into generous slices and serve with some crème fraiche.

The cake can keep in an airtight container, or is also quite happy in the fridge.

 

 

 

Posted in Baking, Cake, Creamy Desserts, Desserts, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hazelnut and butter porridge topped with grated apple

This past week has been ‘National Breakfast Week’ – shouldn’t every week be National Breakfast Week? I’ve written a few times about my love of breakfast from Autumn Coconut Porridge to Rhubarb Pistachio and Almond Bircher Muesli  and how could I forget Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes! And as difficult as it is to vary your breakfast when it’s eaten on the go, just adding different flavor toppings to oats is an easy way to keep things interesting.

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I’m always taking any opportunity I have to tick off an ever increasing list of cafes round town that I’d like to experience and I’ve had the chance a couple of times to visit a fantastic tiny little café in Covent Garden called 26 Grains, hidden away in Neal’s Yard just meters away from another favourite place of mine Wild Food Cafe which is a raw and veggie establishment.

26 Grains is like an oasis of porridge heaven but it’s not just your usual kind of porridge. They don’t just stick to oats but instead use various whole grains including oats, buckwheat, quinoa and spelt to name but a few. As expected they mix these with a variety of milks but where they really come into their own is their use of spices and toppings. The flavour is just outstanding and it takes all your will power to take the time to snap a quick picture of the most beautiful bowl of creamy porridge before you have to dive in head first.

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They don’t just stick to sweet porridge but also have a selection of savory options; including oats with kale, egg, avocado and sriracha. I know I’m going to have to make it back for lunch soon.

On my last visit, I asked which was the most popular and favourite of the staff at the moment and they declared the ‘Hazelnut and Butter’ Porridge – get me a bowl asap!

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Every mouthful was just magical. Full of gorgeous cinnamon spice, rich with butter and a hit of freshness from the grated apple adorning the top. Simply divine.

On realisng I’ve never actually written a pure porridge recipe on the blog and in honour of ‘National Breakfast Week’ I thought I’d have a stab at recreating the recipe at home.

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I’m sure the recipe creator would correct me on proportions and the sequence of the creation of probably a more complex dish than I realize, but I’d say this was a decent stab at it and it was delicious in my opinion. How can it not be with such a beautiful combination of flavours; decadent crunch hazelnuts, fresh tangy apple, creamy almond oats, a touch of cinnamon and a good sprinkling of coconut sugar. Errr… what is there not to like?!

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A great way to fire up your metabolism in the morning or fuel your muscles after a workout in the gym. And if you happen to find yourself in Covent Garden, make sure you take a detour to 26 Grains, you won’t be disappointed.

Hazelnut and butter porridge topped with grated apple 

Serves 1

50g organic porridge oats

1 tsp hazelnut butter

1 tsp unsalted butter

½ grated apple

Good handful of hazelnuts chopped up

½ tsp cinnamon

250ml almond milk (I like Rude Health Almond Milk)

1 1/2 tsp coconut palm sugar

Place your oats in a saucepan with your almond milk on a medium to high heat and stir. You want to get to a gentle simmer, not boiling.

Cook your oats gently for 5 minutes before adding your hazelnut butter, cinnamon and teaspoon of sugar. Stir to dissolve the hazelnut butter and sugar.

Take off the heat and pour the porridge into a bowl before adding the butter in small chunks so that it melts on the top giving a golden sheen. The porridge should be quite creamy and not cloggy!

Sprinkle on your hazelnuts, your remaining sugar and top with grated apple.

 

 

 

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Nutella stuffed Cookie Blondies

I am one of those strange and probably annoying people that likes to sit down every week and plan out our evening meals for the following week. It’s like a therapeutic task for me where I get the opportunity to sit down with my preferred cookbook, digest all the beautiful pictures and pick out a variety of recipes I’d like to try. Every week I’ll normally pick a different cookbook and find 5-6 recipes from one book that will keep us going and try to vary the recipes so that we have plenty of whole grains, seasonal vegetables, fish, meats and I’ll even try and sneak in a pure veggie meal if I can get away with it. Although the pure veggie meals tend to only get a mouthful down before Will asks the question, “is there any meat in this?!”

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It might seem time consuming to cook like this but to me it prevents the daily question of ‘what do you fancy eating tonight?’ and then going and buying random rubbish or worse, wasting food that you’ve already purchased because nothing really works together to make a meal.

I love spending the time preparing for a meal and it never gets boring to me. How can it when there are so many different recipes to try and the best part is gaining confidence and making small twists to those recipes as you’ve now got the experience to know what flavours and techniques work well together. In my opinion, cooking only gets boring when you fall into the trap of ‘lasagna on a Monday, fish on a Tuesday etc.

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I must admit though, whilst I have an OCD like obsession about choosing meals for Will and I, the struggle with coming up with things for Seb to eat on a daily basis is a real grind! I think a lot of that stems from Seb’s love of ‘one-pan’ meals, rather than eating a piece of meat / fish, a vegetable and some potato for example. In fact, since he’s really started to eat, I’ve yet to manage to get him to pick up a vegetable to eat! Disaster coming from someone who loves all types of food (although I must hold my hands up and explain that this love of all food didn’t come to me until very late in life). Of course, he’ll eat vegetables added into meals like Bolognese, Chilli or anything with a sauce, but getting him to just pick up a pea is a battle I have yet to win. All ideas are welcome to change this pattern – I’m all ears!

I’ve not done a lot of ‘sweet’ baking recently, mainly because I’m trying to prevent there being any cakes and cookies in the house that are all too easy to nibble on when you get a bit peckish or fancy something sweet after dinner. I am all signed up to the ‘if it’s not in the house, you won’t eat it’ philosophy.

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But, it’s nearing the end of January, which must mean all those people that were being so good are thinking it must be time for a proper treat. And I think that a proper treat, really should be a totally mind-blowing awesome treat and it should come in the form of these Nutella Cookie-Blondies.

These are full-fat treats, no unrefined sugar here. Just plenty of butter, light brown sugar and chocolate, which of course makes them truly heavenly. They are a cross between a Blondie and a cookie because they don’t quite have the cake like texture of a Blondie, but still have that flavor you associate with a Blondie. The gooey centre is like an undercooked cookie, which to me is the perfect kind of cookie and the layer of Nutella is really just pure indulgence.

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Get the ingredients in, (although you probably have most in the cupboard already) and bake these on 31st January, you know you deserve it.

Nutella stuffed Cookie-Blondies

Recipe from Ambitious Kitchen

Makes 20-24 bars (depending on how generous your slices are!)

Ingredients

260g all purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp sea salt

230g unsalted butter

400g light brown sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

200g dark chocolate cut into small chunks

16 tsp Nutella

Method

Pre heat the oven to 180 and line a brownie tin (9 x 13 inch pan) with baking paper.

Begin by melting your butter over a medium heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly to prevent it burning. When the butter begins to brown and gives off nutty aromas take off the heat. Leave to cool.

Once your butter has cooled, whisk with your sugar until light and fluffy.

Add in your eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Don’t be tempted to over do it.

Add in your flour, baking powder and salt and slowly combine before folding through your chunks of chocolate.

Spoon half the batter onto your baking tray to form an even layer.

Dollop teaspoons of Nutella on top of your batter so that you have an even distribution to spread using a spatula / back of a spoon to form a Nutella layer. Don’t worry if you can’t make it an even layer, it’ll spread out on baking anyway.

Spoon the remaining batter on top of the Nuttella, trying not to disturb the Nutella layer too much.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the Blondies start to turn a light golden brown, but still have a gooey centre.

Leave to cool in the tin so that they firm up (they will still be very gooey in the middle) before removing to cut up into even bars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Baking, Biscuits and Cookies, Brownies, Desserts, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment