Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Foodie Pen Pal Parcel - Flourless Poppy Seed Cakes

Oh yes people it is foodie pen pal parcel time again. If you don’t know what this is yet where have you been? Well it basically involves wonderful foodie loving people sending and receiving little parcels of culinary wonders each month.  This is still the highlight of my month, not only due to the delight of receiving a parcel full of unknown goodies but also compiling an individualised parcel for someone else.

This month I sent a parcel to Kim and you can see what I sent to her at her blog For The Love Of Post

I was then lucky enough to receive a parcel from Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt and just look at all the goodies I was sent. There were so many things to pull out of this parcel it kept me entertained for a considerable amount of time!!!

White Tea and Raspberry – I am a massive fan of white tea and the fruity addition to this blend is really summery and delicious.

Mini Gingerbread Men – Yum…and soooo cute!

Kinder Pingui – I love all things coconut and hadn’t come across this Kinder variety before…will definitely search out this chewy bounty like treat in the future.

Olive and Pine Nut Crackers – These were homemade by Carol Anne and were really mourish, great dunked in a little tapenade!

Organic Hot Chocolate – Well who isn’t a fan of a good hot chocolate…, and this really is a good hot chocolate…smooth, rich and creamy.

Wild Garlic Salt – Thanks to the Foodie Pen Pal parcel scheme my salt collection is starting to look rather health. I added a good pinch of this to a watercress soup I made the other week and it proved to be the perfect seasoning.

Limoncello – Another homemade item from Carol Anne. I was determined to wait until a real summer’s day before I enjoyed this one (and in Northern Ireland we don’t get all that much Italian style weather). But my patience paid off and the sun finally emerged for one whole afternoon last week!!! So I savoured this tipple whilst sitting on the patio in the sunshine…it was pure summer in a glass and I will definitely be following Carol Anne’s recipe and making my own batch of this.

Stodka Chwila – A warm Polish cherry drink…I think I followed the directions correctly (well I copied the pictures rather than the wording on the back of the packet!!)

Dip Dab – I used to love these as a kid…and well I still love them now, woot woot for a good old retro sweet shop classic.

Grape tic tacs – I didn’t know there were varieties of tic tac beyond the white the orange and the green ones! But according to Wikipedia 57 different flavours have been produced world wide…am going to have to start to work my way through all of these!

Almond and Arrack essence – These cute little bottles of flavourings were from a local Polish store…a great little addition to my store cupboard.

So I think you will agree this really was the most amazing little box of wonders. And you may have noticed there was quite a selection of Polish goodies as Carol Anne had been raiding a local Polish shop. So I thought it was only right to find a Polish recipe to test using some of the ingredients sent. After a little bit of an internet search I came across a few poppy seed cake recipes containing the arrack essence and so my own take on these classics developed and poppy seed cupcakes with arrack and white chocolate icing were born!

Thanks sooooo much to Carol Anne for the wonderful parcel and the inspiration for this flourless recipe!

Flourless Poppy Seed Cakes


150g butter
5 eggs, separated
225g caster sugar
175g ground almonds
175g poppy seeds
60g sesame seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon arrack essence (you could replace this with vanilla extract if you can’t get your hands on arrack!)
½ teaspoon salt

Makes 24 cup cakes

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F and line a cup cake tin with paper cake cases.

Put the poppy seeds and sesame seeds into a large bowl, cover with warm water and allow to soak for 1-2 hours.

After soaking drain the seeds using a fine sieve, return to the bowl and add the ground almonds.
In a separate bowl beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Then add the egg yolks and arrack essence and continue to beat until well combined. Then add the poppy seed mixture and stir together until the seeds are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites together with the baking powder and salt until light and stiff, forming stiff peaks.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the rest of the mixture.

Then spoon the mixture into the cake cases and put the tins into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown. Then remove from the oven, transfer the cakes to a wire rack and allow to cool.


100g white chocolate
140g butter
200g icing sugar
1 teaspoon arrack essence (again use vanilla extract is you haven’t got arrack)

Break the white chocolate into chunks and place in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Allow the chocolate to start to melt before gently stirring the mixture until smooth and lump free and remove from the heat.

Beat the butter and icing sugar together in a bowl. Once light and fluffy add the melted white chocolate along with the arrack essence and continue to beat until smooth and thick.

Once the cakes are cooled pipe the icing on top and then sprinkle with a few extra poppy seeds to complete the decoration.

Recipe adapted from Poppy Seed and Black Sesame Cake recipe at She Shimmers 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Vegetarian, Tomatoless and Gluten Free Lasagne

I had some friends round for dinner last week for a simple mid-week meal prior to heading out to the local pub quiz. A simple but delicious dinner was called for and I decided on making lasagne. I really love a good lasagne and as I am normally just cooking food for myself I don’t often get around to making this Italian classic so this dinner provided the perfect opportunity. As my housemate is allergic to tomatoes I had already thought about how best to make a tomatoless version but then I found out that one of my other dinner guests is wheat intolerant. After really setting my heart on making a good lasagne (developing an ever increasing craving for the dish) I wasn’t about to let a little bit of gluten get in my way. And so I set out to make a tomatoless and gluten free lasagne which also turned into a vegetarian dish to assist with making a dent into a bit of a veggie mountain that had been growing in my fridge. And I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised with the results and I think my guests shared my enjoyment as four very empty plates were left at the end of the evening!

Serves 4


180g rice flour
85g tapioca flour
55g powdered yam
40g gluten free flour mix
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons water

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add the eggs and olive oil. Using a fork slowly bring the flour mix into the centre of the bowl to combine the wet and dry ingredients together.

Start using your hands to bring the mixture together and add a little water if required to produce a smooth dough.

Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.


1 red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
2 red peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped 
3 carrots, peeled and diced
50ml red wine
300ml vegetable stock

Place a large saucepan over a medium heat, add a splash of olive and the onions and cook until they begin to soften. Then add the garlic and bay leaves and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the pepper and carrots. 

Continue to cook for another 5 minutes before adding the wine and stock.

Bring the mixture to the boil before reducing to a gentle simmer and leave for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Fish out the bay leaves, add the mixture a food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


35g butter
20g corn flour
550ml milk (warmed)
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
100g grated parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan placed over a medium heat.

Reduce the heat, add the corn flour and stir vigorously until a smooth paste is formed.

Add half of the milk and again stir vigorously (a whisk may work better than a spoon) until a smooth paste is formed.

Add the remaining milk, increase the heat and continue to stir until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken forming a smooth sauce.

Remove from the heat and season with the nutmeg (as well as salt and pepper to taste). Add the cheese and stir until it has melted.


1 aubergine, chopped into large chunks
1 courgette, chopped into large chunks
1 red onion, chopped into large chunks
2 peppers, deseeded and chopped into large chunks
1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
150g mozzarella

Now pre-heat the oven to 220 deg C / 425 deg F

Place a large saucepan over a medium heat, add a good glug of olive oil and the onion. Cook until softened then turn up the heat a bit and add the rest of the veg (you can use any selection of veg you like, I just used up what was kicking around in my fridge) and continue to cook until all the veg becomes tender.

Once the vegetables are cooked add the tomatoless sauce to the pan and heat through. If the sauce seems a bit think add a little water to thin it down to ensure all of the vegetables are coated in the sauce.

Remove the pasta from the fridge. Liberally flour the work surface and a rolling pin with gluten free flour. Cut small chunks from the pasta dough and carefully roll out into thin squares. This will require a bit of patience and quite a lot of extra flour to stop things sticking but after attempting to put the mixture through my pasta roller I realised that the lack of stretchy gluten in the dough makes this impossible. It is however possible to roll the dough out pretty thinly with a rolling pin, honest! So keep rolling out the pasta using small portions each time.

Now take a square or rectangular oven proof dish. Spread 1/3 of the tomatoless mixture in the bottom of the dish and then cover with pasta sheets, creating a patchwork until all of the tomatoless mix is covered. Next take 1/3 of the cheesy sauce and spread over the pasta until the past is covered by the sauce. Repeat this process twice more until three layers of tomatoless sauce, pasta and cheesy sauce are piled on top of each other in the dish. (You may have some pasta dough left over, but don't worry you don't need to use it all and any leftover dough can be frozen for later use).

Finally break the mozzarella into small chunks and scatter across the top of the lasagne. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the mozzarella has melted and turned golden brown and the lasagne is volcanically hot and bubbling.

Remove from the oven, cut into 4 large sliced and tuck in and enjoy!

(Apologies for the slightly lengthy recipe but if you have the perseverance to get through this one I think you will agree with my dinner guests that it tastes pretty good)!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream

Last month I participated in ‘Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream’ for the first time. This is organised by Kavey of Kavey Eats and each month she sets a theme to inspire a multitude of bloggers to get into the kitchen and create appropriate ice cream recipes. This month the theme was ‘condensed milk’. Now ice creams based on condensed milk aren’t meant to require any churning and at the most basic level simply contain cream and condensed milk. So without the need for an ice cream maker and with no eggs needed to make a custard base as in many other ice creams there were already two ‘things missing’ making it a perfect month for me to take part again.

This isn’t actually the first time that I have attempted to make a condensed milk based ice cream. A little while back I made a dark chocolate version that also contained corn flour as an ingredient. But everything turned out as a bit of a disaster and I was left with a big frozen block of chewy fudgyness. It generally tasted ok (most things with chocolate in taste pretty good) but if there is one thing you don’t want ice cream to be it is chewy. So that was one kitchen experiment that didn’t make it onto the blog. When I saw the theme for this month’s BSFIC however I decided to bite the bullet and give condensed milk ice cream another go, and I’m glad I did because it couldn’t be easier and the results were rather tasty.

I started with a basic recipe from the Good Food website but wanted to jazz it up a little and so decided on a mint choc chip version. This is one of my favourite ice cream flavours but I was prompted to go for a minty version for this particular challenge after winning a box of after eight mints in my local pub quiz a few weeks back…what better way to use them up!!!


1 tin of condensed milk (397g)
600ml double cream
50g fresh mint sprigs
50g caster sugar
200ml of water
15 After Eight mints (about half a box)

Begin by stripping the mint leaves from the springs. Put the leaves to one side for later. Chop up the stems from the sprigs and place in a saucepan with the water and sugar. Place the pan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and allow to simmer gently for 15-20 minutes until the sugary syrup has reduced.

Add the mint leaves to the syrup and leave for a couple of minutes then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once the syrup has cooled blitz in a liquidiser until fully blended. Then pass the syrup through a sieve to remove the mint stalks. Add the condensed milk to the syrup and stir until fully combined.

In a large clean bowl whisk the cream until it becomes thick and starts to stiffen up forming soft peaks.

Fold the syrup and condensed milk mixture into the cream mixture before chopping up the After Eight mints into small chunks and folding these into the mixture as well.

Once the After Eight chunks are evenly distributed throughout the mixture transfer to a freezer proof container and bung in the freezer overnight.

Then scoop into a bowl and enjoy.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Vegan Soda Bread

I think one of my most exciting culinary discoveries since moving to Northern Ireland has been finding buttermilk available everywhere (small things and all that). A simple enough ingredient but one that I always found difficult to get my hands on back in England. And there are a surprising amount of recipes that call for buttermilk as an ingredient, including numerous cake and pancake recipes, that I have always been keen to try out. And the lack of buttermilk in my local supermarket no longer stands in the way of me producing such baked goods.

The prevelance of buttermilk over here is probably due to the fact that it provides the main ingredient in two of the country’s staples…soda bread and wheaten bread. Neither of these breads contain yeast and do not require time to rise so are really quick and easy to make.

After searching around for recipes to use up some of the local buttermilk mountain that is crying to be consumed I have regularly started baking Nigel Slater’s soda bread producing great results.  But whilst I’m loving being able to easily add buttermilk to everything I produce in my kitchen I’ve realised that anyone with a dairy intolerance, or who follows a vegan lifestyle isn’t able to induldge in these calssic Irish breads. So I set out to make a vegan soda bread, based on the recipe by Nigel Slater which I have been following so far. And whilst there are numerous non-dairy milk alternatives available to substitute the buttermilk with I decided to try something a little bit different and used tofu instead! As crazy as this may sound I was rather pleased with the results and I no longer have to panic when I’m craving soda bread and can’t find that sometimes elusive buttermilk (presuming I can lay my hands on some tofu that is!!).


150g silken tofu
200ml warm water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
225g wholemeal flour
225g plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Set the oven to 220 deg C/430 deg F

Place a medium sized casserole dish with its lid on into the oven to warm up.

Break the tofu into small chunks and place into a liquidiser with the warm water and lemon juice. Blitz until a smooth, thick liquid is produced.

Place all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and combine together using your fingers.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the tofu mixture. Then use your fingers to draw the dry and wet ingredients together. Continue to work together until all of the ingredients are well combined and then shape the dough into a thick round disk about 25 cm in diameter.

Remove the casserole dish from the over, remove the lid and dust the inside with a little plain flour. Then carefully lower the dough disk into the dish, replace the lid and return to the oven.

Leave for 25 minutes until the loaf has risen and has a crips, golden crust.

Remove the casserole dish from the oven but leave the bread inside for a further 5-10 minutes before removing from the dish and allowing to cool on a wire cooling rack. But don’t allow to cool completely before tucking in because as Nigel Slater explains soda bread is best eaten warm’.

Recipe adapted from Nigel Slater’s soda bread recipe.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Gluten Free Chocolate Thins

I’ve been wanting to experiment with making tuiles for a while, especially because it provides a great recipe to use up all of the egg whites I have left over after making ice cream. After watching endless episodes of MasterChef however I have seen the many ways in which such biscuits can fail. Take your eyes off them for a second and they turn into cinder crisps, or attempt to sculpt them into fancy twists with the aid of a rolling pin and if they aren’t the perfect pliable temperature there is a risk of things shattering into a million little pieces. So I thought as an introduction to making this delicate little biscuit I would keep things simple and not attempt fancy shapes or micrometre thinness just little round discs of light chocolate yumminess.

I also decided to make these gluten free, experimenting with a mix of gluten free flour and ground almonds to produce 2 versions of these chocolaty treats. And the results from this experimental baking session turned out alright. In fact I was so pleased that I sent some off in my last foodie pen pal parcel to Elise, who has since asked for the recipe so it wasn’t just me who liked them!


50g butter
50g caster sugar
50g egg white
45g gluten free flour
15g cocoa powder

Set the oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F

Line a large baking tray with greaseproof baking parchment.

Beat the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy then gradually add the egg whites and continue to beat together.

Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and fold the ingredients together until fully combined.

Next place the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes.

After half an hour in the fridge place teaspoon dollops of the mixture onto the baking tray and spread out slightly with the back of the spoon into a circular shape. Ensure that there is plenty of space between each biscuit as they will spread during cooking.

Place the baking tray into the oven for 8 minutes until the edges of the biscuits are just starting to crisp up.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

VARIATION – Almond Chocolate Thins

Follow the recipe as above but instead of using 45g of gluten free flour use a mixture of 20g of gluten free flour and 20g of ground almonds.

Then once the mixture has been spread into circles on the baking tray decorate with sliced almonds before cooking.