Monday, 24 December 2012

Chocolate-chestnut mousse pots

Chestnuts are synonymous with Christmas in my family. I am already salivating at the thought of the chestnut stuffing my aunty makes every year to fill one end of the plump, golden turkey that adorns our dinner table on the big day. I think I could quite easily forgo the turkey for a big slab of this stuffing covered in lashings of gravy and adorned with all of the appropriate accompaniments. 

But anyway I think I am getting a little distracted! As well as the many savoury uses of chestnuts (including my gnocchi recipe) they are also great in sweet dishes and these little pots of baked chestnut and chocolate mousse are a great (and very easy to make) festive treat. They can also be made in advance and popped in the fridge until needed so won’t take up extra time during the busy Christmas entertainment period.

This recipe was only very slightly adapted from an original recipe at Canadian House and Home magazine to suit the quantities of ingredients I had so go check out the original too!


120g good quality dark chocolate
220g chestnut puree (can be bought ready-made or follow my instructions to make your own)
160ml whipping cream
4 eggs, separated
75g golden caster sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Place the chocolate, chestnut puree and whipping cream into a saucepan, place over a medium heat and stir until the chocolate has melted and the ingredients are well combined. Then remove the saucepan from the heat and place to one side.

In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites, gradually adding the sugar as you do until the mixture begins to stiffen and resemble soft peaks.

Beat the egg yolks together in a small bowl and then slowly add to the cooled chocolate mixture until fully incorporated. Then add the Cointreau (or other liqueur of choice) to the chocolate mixture.

Finally gently fold the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture.

Divide the mixture between 6 ramekins.

Take a deep roasting tin and place the ramekins into this then fill the roasting tin with boiled water so that the level of the water is half way up the sides of the ramekins before placing into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes until the top of each little mousse has risen up (but don’t worry if the mousse doesn't seem fully set, these taste really good of still a little gooey in the middle).

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before wrapping each pot in cling film and placing in the fridge for at least a couple of hours (overnight is best) before tucking in. And these pots will keep for a couple of days in the fridge if you want to make in advance.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Gluten Free Chickpea Crackers

These little crackers are really easy to make and provide a great gluten free alternative to most other savoury biscuits.  These are perfect dunked into tapenade or topped with sour cream and smoked salmon….perfect as a little canapĂ© when entertaining this festive season. And to add to the festivities rather than using the normal round cutters why not try something a little more appropriate, like my little stars!?!


1 can chickpeas (drained)
1 tablespoon basil pesto
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon gluten free baking powder
50g gluten free flour
25g black olives (chopped into tiny chunks)

Pre-heat oven to 160 deg C / 320 deg F

Place the chickpeas, pesto and olive oil into a liquidiser of food processor and blitz until a smooth paste is formed.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and combine with the remaining ingredients to form a firm dough.

Liberally dust the work surface with gluten free flour. Carefully roll out the dough until about 1/2cm thick. Then cut out crackers into your desired shape using an appropriate cookie cutter.

Transfer the little crackers to a baking tray lined with non-stick baking parchment and place in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.  Once cooled the crackers can be kept into an air tight container for a couple of days until required.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe at Gluten Free Goodness .

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Sweet Potato Mince Pie Pastry

I really must apologise for not posting any new recipes for ages. I have been manically busy at work and then I got distracted by a rather lovely wedding back over on the other side of the Irish Sea from me! Whilst back in Liverpool I also had the chance to catch up with lots of old friends including Jo, for whom the original chocolate chickpea cake recipe that kick started this blog was made. Jo has successfully made a few of the recipes from the blog but requested a mince pie recipe that would fit in with her wheat and egg free diet. Never one to refuse a challenge (especially when it involves yummy Christmas treats) I got back into the kitchen on my return and came up with a gluten free vegan pastry that suits the purpose as mince pie pastry perfectly. Combined with my vegan zesty mincemeat recipe Jo can now enjoy mountains of mince pies this festive season along with the rest of us!


125g gluten free, wheat free flour (I always use Dove’s readymade blend)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100g soya spread
200g sweet potato mash (I microwave my sweet potatoes with the skins on for approx. 5 to 6 minutes until soft, allow them to cool before peeling and mashing).

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.

Add the soya spread (alternatively use margarine or butter if you are not following a vegan diet) and rub into the flour mixture using your thumbs and forefingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Finally add the mashed sweet potato and use your hands to bring the mixture together into a firm ball (it may seem a bit sticky at this point but don’t worry too much about that!) Wrap the ball in cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour until it is well chilled.

Pre-heat the oven to 190 deg C.

Grease a mini muffin tin with vegan spread (you can use a larger cake tin but I quite like bite sized mince pies so always go for the mini versions).

Remove your pastry from the fridge and gently roll out on a work surface generously dusted with gluten free flour. The pastry is quite delicate so be careful at this stage, I found it easiest to roll out small portions of the pastry at a time.

Use circular cutters to make rounds and gently transfer these to the mini muffin tin and use to line each indentation. Then place a generous teaspoon of mincemeat into each pie case. Next cut out smaller circles and add each pastry round as a lid to each pie. Brush the pies with water or soy milk and sprinkle with a little caster sugar.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven sprinkling each pie with a little extra sugar and transfer to a wire rack to cool.          

Any extra pastry can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days until you find another use for it, or popped into the freezer for use at a later date.    

Friday, 30 November 2012

Foodie Pen Pals

Yay, it's foodie pen pals time again! Which means I have been receiving lots of yummy things in the post, this month from Victoria. This was the first month Victoria has participated in foodie pen pals and she has started amazingly well with a wonderful package of goodies. So here's what I got...

Biscotti - Which I tucked into straight away with a cup of coffee.

Gingerbread biscuits - These were bought by Victoria in Geneva and are perfect for the festive season.

Cheese fondue - This is another little continental treat and anything containing cheese is fine by me. I haven't tucked into this yet but am looking forward to dunking some chunks of crusty bread into this little pot soon!

Raw chocolate - This was picked up at Green Cuisine (a cafe local to Victoria). Again I haven't tucked into this yet but am saving the cute little bar until I need a pick me up.

Mrs Shah's Curry Mix - This is a great little mixture of spices which I have already made a delicious veggie curry with.

Wahaca chipotle sauce - I added a good dollop of this to home made burritos the other night and it added a gorgeous smokey punch to the dish.

Victoria also enclosed two recipes in the package; one for 'Garbunzo Cake' made with chickpeas and spices, which I really can't wait to try out, and one for a christmassy clementine cake which is flour free, so both perfect for blogging about! So thank you so much to Victoria for the lovely parcel and great recipes, I will be trying these out soon.

So this is normally the point where I blog about a recipe I have made with something from the parcel I have received this month or something I sent in my parcel. Unfortunately due to taking a quick holiday this month as well as being manically busy at work I haven't had time to get busy in the kitchen recently. But I have plenty of inspiration thanks to the goodies and recipes I have received this watch this space because as soon as I get some spare time some yummy recipes will be appearing here!!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Chestnut Gnocchi

So after receiving a special delivery of chestnuts fresh from my parents’ garden I decided to have a go at making my own chestnut flour and was pretty happy with the results (even if it was possibly a little coarser than the flour you may buy from specialist food shops). But after going to the trouble of making my own flour I wanted to make something special with it and so decided upon a gluten free gnocchi recipe. Served up with crispy bacon bits and balsamic roasted figs this recipe is perfect for a chilly autumnal evening.

(And honestly this tastes sooo much better than the picture makes it look!!!)

(Serves 2 greedy people)

300g mashed potato
1 egg

2 fresh figs
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar

4 rashers streaky bacon
1 red onion
6 large chestnut mushrooms
A small bunch of fresh thyme

Combine the mashed potato, egg and chestnut flour in a mixing bowl until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Take small quantities of the mixture to form blunt little sausage shapes and set to one side.

Slice the figs into quarters, place in a small oven tray, cover with the balsamic vinegar and sugar and place into a hot oven for 10 minutes until the figs begin to caramelise. Remove from the oven and place to one side.

Slice the streaky bacon into small strips and fry in a large frying pan over a high heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and set to one side.

Thinly slice the onion and transfer to the frying pan that had been used to cook the bacon. Lower the heat and gently fry until the onions begin to soften and become translucent. Next add the mushrooms and continue to cook, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile bring a large pan of water to the boil. Once the water begins to bubble gently lower the pre-prepared gnocchi into the pan.

Whilst the gnocchi is cooking return the bacon to the frying pan with the onion and the mushroom.

Once the gnocchi rise to the surface of the pan remove with a slotted spoon, drain and transfer to the frying pan. Mix all of the ingredients together, add the figs and chopped thyme to the pan and serve.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Chestnut Flour

I mentioned this time last year that my parents have a garden full of chestnut trees and I grew up enjoying the wonderful free food source of chestnuts every autumn in the form of soups and roasted treats. Unfortunately I now live a few 100 miles from my parents and no longer have a free source of chestnuts on my doorstep. So it was a much appreciated surprise when I received a jiffy envelope stuffed full of chestnuts from my mum the other day (even more so when I saw how much a local supermarket were charging for the tiniest little bag of these tasty morsels)! 

This year to make a break from the usual soups (as well as the burgers and chocolate treats I made last year) I decided to turn my chestnuts into chestnut flour thus opening up a number of alternative recipes for me to try with this ingredient.

In my excitement to get experimenting with my chestnuts I didn’t properly weigh or measure ingredients when making my flour but thought it would still be useful to describe the basic principle on how to make your own chestnut flour as I have a plan on how I am going to use this ingredient in a recipe that I will be sharing on the blog soon!


Fresh chestnuts (enough to fill a jiffy envelope!!!)

Set the oven to 200 deg C

Slice the bottoms off of the chestnuts and spread across a large roasting tray.

Place the chestnuts into the oven for about an hour.

After an hour remove from the oven and allow to cool until you are able to handle them. Then peel the chestnuts, place them back on the roasting tray and return to the oven for another 30 minutes to allow them to dry out.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Once cool transfer the chestnuts to a food processor and blitz until a fine powder is produced.

Store in an airtight container until ready to be used.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Foodie Pen Pals Parcel – Pumpkin Butter

Woot woot for another exciting month of Foodie Pen Pals. This month I received some wonderful goodies from Tamzin (who has a great blog over at Salad and Sequins, all about her love of healthy living, which you should check out for some healthy eating tips). I’ve been really busy at work this month so explained to Tamzin that I haven’t had a lot of time to bake and cook as much as I would normally like to. I’ve also found that when I have been putting in the extra hours in the lab I’ve been reaching straight for the chocolate to keep me going so Tamzin came to the rescue with lots of healthy goodies for me to munch through instead!

Nakd Cocoa Loco Bars – I’ve tried a few of the Nakd bars but haven’t had this variety yet so it’s great to be able to try these.

Banana, Mango and Brazil Bars – a great combination of flavours in these cereal bars.

Pomegranate Bar – I love pomegranate and tucked into this straight away, it was really rather moreish.

Pineapple infused raisins – two of my favourite things combined together…genius!

Apple crisps – These are a great alternative to the traditional potato variety.

Mixed fruit and nuts – Which proved to be the perfect energy source when I recently when on a hike into the Mourne Mountains.

Rosehip Syrup – Tamzin suggested this could be used in some baking. I haven’t had time to get busy in the kitchen with this yet but have my eye on a rosehip and olive oil cake recipe that I am keen to try so will keep you updated when I get around to baking that one.

So thanks for all of the lovely things packed into this months will definitely keep me going for  a while :o)

I sent a parcel onto Sarah this month. Sarah mentioned that she is a big fan of spices like cinnamon and ginger as well as loving things like pumpkin. This suited me perfectly as I am a massive pumpkin fan and have been saving up quite a few recipes to try once pumpkins started to appear in the shops and so I squeezed in some experimental kitchen sessions and shared some of the resulting pumpkin products with Sarah. As well as making Spiced Pumpkin Syrup I also made Pumpkin Butter. This thick, sweet puree is great spread on toast, swirled into plain yoghurt or used in autumnal baking and I hope Sarah enjoyed this slightly more unusual pumpkin product.

180ml cranberry juice
2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
150g brown sugar

Put all of the ingredients into a large saucepan, place over a gently heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Increase the heat slightly and continue to stir until the liquid begins to evaporate from the mixture and the Pumpkin Butter starts to thicken. This takes quite a lot of elbow grease as I found the mixture had to be stirred for about 30 minutes before the desired consistency of a thick paste was reached.

Let the mixture cool a little before transferring to sterilised jars.

The Pumpkin Butter is best kept on the fridge to ensure it lasts.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Dairy Free Spiced Pumpkin Cake

So it turns out that ‘Something Missing’ is 1 year old today! I can’t believe that I have been blogging for a whole year; it seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in the pub after work when a colleague suggested that I should do something with all the slightly crazy recipes I was creating. Amazingly not only did I agree that maybe I should start to share these recipes with the world, but the next day once the beer induced fug had receded I actually turned on my computer and set about creating a blog. Since stating with an experimental recipe that resulted in a flourless, gluten free, vegan chocolate cake (it really is amazing what you can do with a tin of chick peas) I have posted 60 recipes, embarked on a journey into (what I now believe to be) the wonderful world of twitter, joined up to the quite brilliant foodie pen pal scheme as well as discovering so many other great foodie blogs that are out there on the world wide web.

To mark this anniversary I thought it was only right to celebrate with a cake. And as Halloween is fast approaching I decided upon using a seasonal recipe containing pumpkin. The cake is also dairy free using my tofu based buttermilk replacement. I then went and ruined the dairy free element of the cake by smothering it is cream cheese icing. But hey it is my blogging birthday so I think I can just about get away with this one can’t I?!?


160g soya margarine
225g caster sugar
2 eggs
150ml pumpkin puree (see my pumpkin bread recipe for a pumpkin puree recipe)
280g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
150ml vegan buttermilk (see my previous recipe)
100g raisins
100g chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts would work well)

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F

Grease two 22cm diameter sandwich tins and dust with flour.

Beat together the margarine and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and pumpkin puree to the bowl and mix until all the ingredients are well combined.

Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into the bowl and gently fold the ingredients together. As all of the ingredients come together and the mixture begins to thicken up gradually add the buttermilk and continue to mix well.

Finally fold in the raisins and chopped nuts until they are evenly distributed through the mixture.

Then pour the mixture into the two tins, splitting the mixture evenly between the two tins. Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before sandwiching together with icing, and spreading the top of the cake with icing too.

I added dairy to this otherwise dairy free cake by decorating with a cream cheese icing (by beating 200g of icing sugar into 120g cream cheese) but to keep it dairy free you could follow my cinnamon icing recipe as found here.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Gluten free sweet potato crackers

I’ve been a bit slow on the blog updates of late, a change of season cold and general PhD studentness have been getting in the way. I seem to have been spending so much time in the lab that I haven’t had the chance to cook anything more exciting than beans on toast. I really miss having the time to cook up a big fat mess in the kitchen so as soon as I found I had an evening to myself I indulged in a big fat, comforting bowl of sweet potato gnocchi. As I enthusiastically threw myself into this cooking bonanza I managed to overestimate the amount of sweet potato mash I was going to need so with the leftovers I got creative and conjured up these sweet potato and paprika crackers. I went for stick shaped biscuits with the idea of dunking them in gallons of creamy hummus but I think larger biscuits would also work well as an accompaniment for cheese.


100g cold mashed sweet potato
45g margarine
150g rice flour
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 220 deg C / 425 deg F

Mix the mashed sweet potato with the margarine until fully combined (I microwaved the sweet potato and once cool enough to handle I peeled the potatoes and mashed using a potato ricer).

Add the paprika and seasoning to taste and then gradually stir in the rice flour with a wooden spoon. As the mixture come together use your hands to form a smooth ball of dough.

Dust the surface with rice flour and roll out the dough until approximately ½ cm thick. Then use a knife to slice into evenly shaped sticks or alternatively use a cookie cutter to achieve the desired shape.

Transfer the crackers to a baking tray lined with grease proof paper.

Place the baking tray into the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes. Do not allow the crackers to brown too much otherwise they will dry out.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Vegan Coconut Ice

Due to circumstances out of the control of my foodie pen pal parcel sender I am yet to receive my parcel this month but fingers crossed some goodies will appear soon!

So in the mean time I thought I would share the recipe for one of the treats I sent in my parcel to Christine this month. When I inquired as to the sort of things Christine might like to receive in her parcel she informed me she was vegan so it provided the perfect excuse to devise a new recipe that would be ‘Something Missing’ worthy. For some reason I had been having a real craving for coconut ice recently. This sweet treat reminds me of child hood holidays by the sea side where I would frequent traditional sweet shops and splurge my pocket money on sickly slabs of fudge, nougat and the pink and white treat that is coconut ice. This confectionery is usually made with condensed milk but I substituted this with coconut milk to make a vegan version of this sickly, sugary sweet.


200ml coconut milk
450g icing sugar
150g desiccated coconut
Red food colouring

Place the coconut milk and icing sugar into a large saucepan and place over a medium heat. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved.

Then stop stirring the mixture but bring it to a gentle simmer and heat until a soft ball temperature of 113 deg C or 240 deg F is reached.

Once 113 degrees is reached remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the coconut until well combined.

Pour half of the mix into a mixing bowl and add a couple of drops of red food colouring, stir until the desired pink colour is achieved.

Line a 20cm square cake tin with non-stick baking paper and spread the pink half of the mixture into the bottom of the tin. Then spread the remaining white mixture on top and smooth out.

Leave over night to set then turn out of the tin and slice into bite size chunks.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Gluten Free Cauliflower Pizza

Once again the wonderful world of the internet has opened up my eyes to the endless flour substitutes that can be used to make normally gluten packed foods gluten free. A great source of gluten free (as well as dairy free and vegan recipes) is the wonderful website Deliciously Ella. I stumbled across this website after it was nominated for a Cosmo Blog Award, and it is easy to see why it was up for the prize as it is packed full of healthily mouth-watering recipes with a website bursting with beautifully bright and colourful photographs (so if you get a chance go and check it out). It was on Deliciously Ella that I first stumbled across a gluten free pizza base made with cauliflower as a flour substitute. This led me on a further trawl of the internet where I discovered that the cauliflower pizza base is a pretty popular recipe. And with a cauliflower in the cupboard waiting to be used up I developed my own version of this unlikely use of the cauliflower, although I must admit I deviated from the original recipe I found on Ella’s website and added an extra dairy kick by using cheese in this cauliflower base (as well as using cheese in its more traditional form on top of the pizza).


350g cauliflower (approximately ½ a large cauliflower head)
50g tapioca flour
60g hard cheese (I used 30g parmesan and 30g of mature cheddar)
1 egg
1 tspn fresh oregano

Makes 1 large pizza

Pre-heat the oven to 220 deg C / 425 deg F

Chop the cauliflower into small florets and then place into a food processor and blitz until the cauliflower resembles fine bread crumbs.

Place the cauliflower crumbs into a colander and place over a pan of boiling water and steam for 10 minutes. Then remove the colander from the pan of boiling water and leave to cool, allowing excess steam (and moisture) to escape from the cauliflower.

Place the cauliflower crumbs into a large mixing bowl and add the tapioca flour, grated cheese, beaten egg and oregano. Mix until well combined, the mixture will probably appear a bit wet and sticky rather than appearing like traditional dough but this is fine.

Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking parchment and spread the cauliflower mixture onto the baking tray until an even thickness is achieved. Then bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the mixture is crisp around the edges and firm in the middle.

Remove from the oven and top with any pizza toppings as desires. I covered mine with olives, peppers, mushroom and brie. Do be aware that if using a tomato sauce on top ensure it is well reduced, thick and relatively dry otherwise the sauce can cause the base to go a bit soggy.

Then place the pizza back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until the topping is hot and cheese is melted and bubbling (but do keep an eye on the pizza to prevent the exposed edges of the cauliflower base from overcooking).

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Vegan Omelette

After a recent raid of the Chinese supermarket I overestimated the amount of tofu I could physically consume and found large quantities of the food stuff languishing in my fridge. After exhausting my usual repertoire of marinated tofu and noodle soups I started trawling the wonderful world of Google to find an alternative use for the soy based substance. And this is when I stumbled across an eggless omelette! So I gave it a go and although it took longer to cook as a normal eggy omelette and the result was probably more similar to a pancake than an actual omelette it tasted pretty good and helped me get through my tofu mountain!


170g silken tofu
30g corn flour
1 tsp marmite
1 tsp English mustard
1 tblsp soya milk
Salt, pepper and paprika to taste

Makes 2 omelettes

Add the tofu, corn flour, marmite and mustard to a food processor and whizz to produce a smooth batter.

Pour the batter out into a bowl and season to taste.

The batter should be the consistency of a thick pancake batter but if at this stage it is a little thick add the milk to thin it out a little.

Place a large frying pan over a high heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and allow to heat until very hot.

Pour half of the batter into the frying pan and spread out with a spatula. Leave the mixture for approximately 5 minutes until it begins to firm up.

Use a spatula to loosen the edge of the ‘omelette’ and then flip it out onto a plate and return to the pan to cook the opposite side. Again leave for about 5 minutes to allow the second side to cook. The exact time to cook may vary depending on how thick your batter is but it is quite obvious once the mixture becomes firm.

If you want to stuff your omelette cook up the filling prior to cooking the omelette (I fried tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach together) then top the ‘omelette’ in the pan with the filling and carefully fold the omelette in half over the filling (be careful the ‘omelette’ is quite delicate).

Then transfer to a plate and enjoy.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Dairy Free Banana and Cinnamon Cupcakes

A little while ago as I was exploring the wondrous aisles of a local Chinese supermarket when I spotted a little bottle of coconut oil (of the culinary variety as opposed to the oil used for hair slicking purposes!) I had seen coconut oil used as an ingredient in numerous recipes on line, providing an alternative to butter for dairy free recipes, so popped the little bottle into my basket and later stashed it in my cupboard for future use. And there it sat in my cupboard until last week when I noticed that there were a couple of rather sad and squishy looking bananas in the fruit bowl. Brown bananas automatically means banana bread or cake in my mind and I decided it was time to crack open the coconut oil too. So I combined the two to create mini banana and cinnamon cupcakes with a dairy free icing recipe to top off these perfect little bite-size morsels.

Makes 20 mini cupcakes


75g plain flour
50g brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
60ml coconut oil
170g mashed ripe banana (approx. 2 large bananas)
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F

Line a mini cupcake tin with mini cupcake cases (or use normal sized cupcakes but be aware this will make fewer cakes!)

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined.

In a separate bowl mix the remaining wet ingredients together until combined.

My coconut oil was a solid mass within the bottle so to be able to get the oil out of the bottle I placed the bottle in a large glass measuring jug and poured boiling water into the jug. I then left this for a few minutes before carefully removing the bottle. The oil inside had now melted down so could be poured out of the bottle.

Now add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix again until a smooth mixture is produced. Spoon the mixture evenly between the cupcake cases.

Place the cakes in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden in colour and springy to the touch.

Allow to cool a little in the cupcake tin before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely on a cooling rack.


100g icing sugar
50ml of coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and stir together until a smooth icing is produced.

If a little thick add a couple of drops of water to loosen up the mixture (be aware that the mixture will firm up a bit as the melted coconut oil solidifies).

Spread the mixture onto the top of each cooled cupcake and then tuck in!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Barley Risotto

A few months ago (I am a bit slow at keeping the blog updated at times!) I headed south of the border to Galway. I had never ventured to this part of the Emerald Isle before and had a wonderful time exploring the city, meandering along its colourful streets and generally enjoying the craic. Whilst searching for a restaurant for dinner one evening the heavens suddenly opened and my friend and I were driven into the closest eating establishment that we came across. Luckily we had stumbled into the delightful Ard Bia, a warm, cosy and quirky little place, that prides itself on using the best local produce and finest Irish ingredients in its food. I chose a fish dish that was accompanied by a barley risotto, where the traditional rice is replaced by pearl barley. This wasn’t something I had ever tried before but I was pleasantly surprised by its smooth and creamy texture, providing just a little more bite than a regular risotto.

After visiting Galway I continued further south to The Burren, a stunning area of Ireland famous for its impressive karst landscape, where I was fortunate enough to be staying just up the road from the BurrenSmokehouse. As a self-confessed foodie I was like a kid in a sweet shop as I wandered into the smokehouse’s shop and found myself filling my bags with beautifully smoked meats and fish to bring back to the north!

Returning from my travels with bags stuffed full of smoked mackerel and memories of my delightful meal at Ard Bia I decided to have a go at a rice free risotto myself using my recent purchase as one of the main ingredients…so here is the result.


½ onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
100g mushrooms, sliced
150g pearl barley
½ litre warm vegetable stock
50ml white wine
2 smoked mackerel fillets
100g peas
Handful fresh parsley

Serves 2

Place a large saucepan or wok over a medium heat, add a good glug of olive oil and then gently sweat the onions along with the bay leaf in the pan until the onions begin to soften.

Add the mushrooms until they begin to colour and then add the barley and stir so that all of the ingredients are mixed well together.

Turn the heat up a little and add the white wine, stirring until the liquid is absorbed.

Add a ladleful of the stock to the mixture and allow to cook gently adding another ladle of stock as the mixture begins to dry a out. Continue cooking the mixture this way for about 30 minutes (the barley takes longer to cook than risotto rice).

After about 30 minutes add the peas to the mixture and flake in the mackerel. Add any remaining stock and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.

Season to taste and just before serving add a large handful of freshly chopped parsley.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Foodie Pen Pal Parcel - No added sugar fruit and seed bars

It's foodie pen pal parcel time and as I have been waiting in eager anticipation for my parcel to arrive FPP fever seems to have spread to a number of my colleagues (there may be a few new recruits to the scheme soon!!). In fact I think they may have been more excited than me as I tore in to my parcel to see what my Foodie Pen Pal Sheila sent me this month. Luckily Sheila didn't disappoint....look at what I got!

An Eccles Cake - Sheila lives in Salford and this is a local product. I haven't had an Eccles cake for years so am looking forward to tucking into this (possible as Sheila suggests, smothered in lots of custard!)

Strawberry Chocolate - Another local treat from a shop in Ramsbottom. Not a combination of chocolate I have seen before and a really yummy treat.

Black tea with sunflower blossoms - I love any slightly unusual tea and can't wait to try a cup of this might even make a good accompaniment to the Eccles cake.

Zatar Spice Mix - This  spice mix is full of wonderful little sesame seeds (I think it is fair to say I regularly declare my love for all things sesame on the blog) and smells delightful so can't wait to find an exciting use for this one....the tin has a recipe for spiced flat breads on it that I may have to try!

So thanks Sheila everything in the parcel is really lovely :o)

And now onto the parcel I sent this month. This month I sent my first international parcel to Christien in the Netherlands (check out her blog to see what I sent her). Christien asked for healthy treats that she could eat at work so amongst some of my favourite bars and treats available in the shops over here I decided to make some fruit and seed bars which contain no added sugar or fat to send in the parcel too. I was really pleased with the result and I hope Christien enjoyed them too!


280g of unsweetened apple and pear spread (I used Suma’s spread which is made from concentrated apple and pear juice and nothing else!)
50g dried papaya
50g dried pineapple
50g sunflower seeds
40g pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons of poppy seeds
100g rolled oats
40g desiccated coconut
100g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C /400 deg F

Line a rectangular (28cm x 22cm) baking tin with greaseproof paper

Spoon the fruit spread into a large bowl and add the dried fruit and seeds and mix together until well combined.

Next add the oats, coconut and flour and continue to mix before finally adding the eggs and stirring so that all of the mixture is well combined and the fruit and seeds are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread out so it is evenly distributed.

Then pop the tin in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack. Finally cut into bars and enjoy!

This recipe was inspired and adapted from the beautiful recipes at Roxana's Home Baking

Friday, 24 August 2012

Sous vide steak

In the past couple of weeks my post-olympics / pre-paralympics TV void has been nicely filled by the return of Great British Bake Off and Celebrity MasterChef. The kitchen skills employed by the celebrities currently embroiled within the latest series of MC have yet to reach the level of molecular gastronomy but if like me you are a regular viewer of anything that features Gregg Wallace, Michel Roux Jnr or Heston Blumenthal I’m sure you will be familiar with the concepts of making ice cream with liquid nitrogen or the creation of foams with CO2 loaded canisters.

Another technique that seems to have been adopted on TV cookery programmes in the last few years is sous vide cookery. If you don’t know what sous vide cookery is it basically involves cooking food in sealed plastic bags which are placed in a water bath at a specifically set temperature, which allows the food to be cooked for long periods of time without overheating and overcooking. By cooking for a longer period of time at a lower temperature than in an oven or under a grill the core of the food reaches the desired temperature without overcooking the outside and this is meant to help food retain its juices and flavours. Since the rise in popularity of this cooking method (despite it being first described in 1799 by Sir Benjamin Thompson…so Wikipedia informs me!!!) sous-vide machines for the domestic kitchen are now available but with a price tag in excess of £200 they probably aren’t classed as an essential kitchen gadget by the majority of people no matter how foodie obsessed they may be!

There are however numerous examples on-line of DIY versions of sous-vide cookery, often involving cool boxes or slow cookers. And so I was inspired to embark on the world of sous-vide cookery without the aid of fancy gadgets or machines but simply a slow cooker, some sandwich bags and a digital thermometer!

I think the obvious choice for sous vide cookery is steak and so after a quick trip to my local butchers I returned with a couple of sirloin steaks all ready to go!


Slow cooker
Digital kitchen thermometer
Large sealable sandwich bags


Begin by choosing the temperature at wish you would like to cook your steak, which will of course depend on how you like to eat steak! The following table should give an indication of the temperature you should be aiming at;

Medium-well done

Now you need to fill the slow cooker with water at the appropriate temperature. I did this by boiling a kettle and half filling the slow cooker with the hot water before adding cold water to achieve the desired temperature using the digital thermometer. Then I set the slow cooker to the ‘Warm’ setting to try and maintain the temperature of the water.

I found that during the cooking process the water temperature in the slow cooker did slowly creep up so I began by setting the temperature of the water at the lower end of the temperature range I required (e.g. for a medium-rare steak begin by getting the water to 55°C).

Next place the steak into a sandwich bag. I cooked 2 steaks at once in my slow cooker but placed each in a separate bag. To expel all of the excess air from the bag take a large bowl filled with cold water and slowly lower the sandwich bag containing the steak into the water until the opening of the bag is just above the water level. This should force the air out of the bag so that the bag can then be sealed up.

Then take the sealed up steak and lower into the slow cooker before placing the temperature probe part of the thermometer into the water and placing on the lid and leaving to cook for 2 hours.

As I explained I did find that the temperature of the water slowly crept up over the cooking period and didn’t remain constant as it would do in a real sous vide machine. So I kept checking the thermometer reading throughout the cooking process and as it began to near the upper limit of the medium-rare cooking range (60°C) I would add a little more cold water to reduce the temperature back down to 55°C. Handily my digital thermometer has an alarm that sounds when the desired temperature is reached so I was quickly alerted to an undesired rise in temperature and was able to adjust the water temperature when needed.

But apart from the odd addition of a cup of cold water you do just leave the steak cooking away for a couple of hours which left me with plenty of time to get on with preparing the all important accompaniment of chunky chips!!!

After 2 hours turn off the slow cooker and remove the steak containing sandwich bags. Take a large frying pan and place over an incredibly high heat and leave until the surface of the pan is volcanically hot. Then remove the steaks from the sandwich bags and place in the pan searing the steaks on each side to produce a nice brown and caramelised finish. This last cooking stage should really only take a matter of seconds on each side and just provides a little extra colour as the steaks are perfectly cooked on removal from the makeshift water bath.

And there you are…a sous vide style steak ready to serve up alongside those chunky chips and perhaps a good dollop of English mustard!!  

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Yoghurt, honey and pistachio lollies

After tales of the child labour imposed on my brother and I during our summer holidays in my last blog post (sorry mum!!) this time I am recounting much happier summertime memories.

My mum taught me how to cook and most of my culinary skills were taken from watching her at work in the kitchen. Another incredibly important skill that I learnt from my mum was how to be resourceful in the kitchen!! One particular example of this culinary resourcefulness occurred on a particularly hot and sunny day back in those days when we actually got proper summers. Our stock of ice pops in the freezer had been depleted and my brother and I were desperate for a lolly! Due to living at the top of quite a big hill the ice cream van never ventured as far as our house and we were limited on alternative ice cream sources. So my mum came up with the ingenious idea of sticking teaspoons into petit filous that were sitting in the fridge and bunging the little yoghurt pots into the freezer for a couple of hours before removing from the freezer and ripping off the yoghurt pot to be left with a frozen yoghurt on a spoon….genius!

As the bloggers scream for ice cream challenge set by Kavey at Kavey Eats this month is lollies I thought I would take inspiration from my mum and those glorious summer days and have made a slightly more grown up version of the original frozen yoghurt lollies. And the great thing about these is that you don’t need any specialist lolly making equipment or moulds….just some empty yoghurt pots, some tea spoons and some cling film.


The exact quantity of ingredients needed will depend on the size of the yoghurt pots used as moulds but this recipe is based on used 125g yoghurt pots.

Makes 4

4 125g empty yoghurt pots
4 teaspoons
Cling film
500g Greek yoghurt
4 tablespoons honey
80g pistachios
½ teaspoon of orange blossom water or rose water (depending on taste)

Place the yoghurt and honey into a bowl and mix until well combined.

Add the orange blossom water or rose water to the yoghurt mixture and stir together (I thought that traditionally rose water combines best with the pistachio and yoghurt combination of this lolly but I sometimes find rose water a little overpowering so I also tried the recipe out with orange blossom water as an alternative and it worked really well too…so the choice of flavouring is up to you!).

Put the pistachios into a food processor and pulse until the nuts are chopped into small chunks then fold the nuts into the yoghurt mixture until they are evenly distributed throughout the mix.

Distribute the mixture evenly between each of the yoghurt pots and place a teaspoon in each pot.

When we made these as children we always left the lids on the yoghurts and inserted the spoons through the lids to help keep the spoons in place while the lollies are freezing. In this instance because empty yogurt pots are being used as moulds once the spoons have been placed into the pots cover each pot with cling film carefully pushing the end of the spoon though the cling film. Tightly wrap the cling film around the top of the pot so that the spoon is held up vertically. Then place the yoghurt pots in the freezer.

Leave overnight and then remove from the freezer. Remove the cling film from the top of the pots and then with the aid or a pair of kitchen scissors cut away the yogurt pot (I did try to remove the lollies from the yogurt pot moulds without damaging the pots but found it really difficult so ended up just cutting away the pots…but seeing as these are already recycled items I didn’t think it mattered too much!).

Then tuck in and enjoy!

This recipe was inspired by my mum!