Sunday, 10 July 2016

Ready iced carrot cake

So again I have failed to keep up with my promise of monthly blogging but this year just seems to be zooming by! I do have a couple of recipes in the bag that I will get around to posting soon, including my new personal favourite ‘French buttercream’.

But until I get around to compiling all of my top buttercream making tips here is another firm favourite of mine…carrot cake. Thanks to a secret family recipe passed down from generation to generation (well passed down from my mum to me) I think I make a pretty mean carrot cake. The problem I find is that I am ridiculously impatient when it comes to letting the cake fully cool before lathering on the lightly whipped up cream cheese icing. This results in the icing warming up, beginning to melt and generally slipping off of the cake as I attempt to scoop it up from the sides and pile it back on top. Now this problem could be solved with me just waiting a little bit longer before icing the cake…or alternatively bake the carrot cake with the cream cheese topping already applied!!

So here is a recipe for a mascarpone topped carrot cake bar. My recipe was inspired by this recipe over at le crème de la crumb. I, possibly controversially, added raisins, which I don’t think any good carrot cake should be without, as well as adding a few nuts. Unlike Tiffany, who on the original recipe managed to produce a lovely cream cheese swirl effect on her carrot cake, I just ended up with a layer of the mascarpone mix covering the whole of the cake surface. But is looks nice sliced up still and adds a different texture to the top of the cake.

So what are you waiting for…give this a go!


1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
180g plain flour
1 cup of grated carrot (I used 3 carrots to get this)
75g raisins
50g walnuts (roughly chopped)
225g caster sugar
50g melted butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

120g mascarpone cheese
60g caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
25g flour

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a 12”x9” baking tray (or similar)

Sift together the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and set aside.

In a separate bowl mix the carrots, raisins, walnuts, sugar, melted butter, eggs and vanilla essence and mix together. Then gradually fold in the flour mix until fully combined. Transfer the batter to the greased pan and spread out evenly.

In a clean bowl mix the mascarpone, sugar, egg, vanilla and flour together before dolloping on top of the carrot cake mix. At this point you can either use the tip of a knife to create a swirl effect, or as I did just smooth a layer of the cheese mix over the whole baking tray.

Bake for 25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool (a little) before tucking in!!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Strawberry and nectarine swirl ice cream

Last weekend summer hit the west coast of Ireland. I braved the sea for my first swim of the year, white pasty legs were on display everywhere and beach space was at a premium. I also successfully managed to consume my body weight in ice cream The full on continental temperatures may have receded a little but signs that summer is here are all about. Whilst on a little work trip to Cork I managed to find a few spare minutes to venture to the English Market where I bought an incredibly large quantity of sweet smelling Irish strawberries as well as what can only be described as a large sack of nectarines. And so on my return home, where the sun was trying to break through the clouds again, I set about making a strawberry and nectarine swirl ice cream.

This is following my trusted swiss meringue ice cream base which uses just egg whites to create a no churn ice cream mix, great for anyone that doesn’t have an ice cream maker or the time to whisk up a custard based ice cream mix every hour to stop those pesky large ice crystals forming in the mix!!This mixture contains a strawberry and nectarine syrup the you swirl through the final mixture to create a fruity, summery delight. The syrup does contain two slightly unusual ingredients but trust me it works. First off balsamic vinegar (just a little bit) is added and this really brings out the gorgeous sweetness of the strawberries and nectarines as well as providing a slightly sharp contrast to the sugary ice cream base. Then a little vodka is added to prevent the mixture freezing completely solid once added to the ice cream. I used Black Cow vodka in this recipe, which is an amazingly creamily smooth tasting vodka that is made using the whey from milk….so it seemed to be appropriate to add to this dairy delight…if you can’t get your hands on Black Cow (although it you like your vodka I recommend you try) any other vodka will work too.


For the syrup:
3 nectarines, diced
200g strawberries, diced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon vodka (I used Black Cow vodka, but any other vodka will be fine)

For the ice cream:
3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
310g caster sugar
100ml water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
320ml double cream
You will also need a sugar thermometer for this.

Begin by placing all of the ingredients for the syrup apart from the vodka into a medium saucepan, place over a medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble and then reduce the heat and allow the mixture to reduce to a sticky syrupy consistency. Once reduced remove from the heat and allow to cool then add the vodka to the mix.

While the fruit syrup in reducing but eh egg whites into a large clean cowl and whisk using an electric whisk until the egg whites start to look foamy. At this point add the cream of tartar and then continue to whisk until stiff peaks are formed…this is the point when you take the whisk out of the mixture and a peak of egg whites is left that doesn’t collapse.

Set the egg whites aside and place the sugar and water into a large saucepan. Swirl the mixture slightly to allow the sugar to dissolve into the water, but don’t stir the mixture. Place the pan over a medium heat and once the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear stick the thermometer into the mixture, raise the heat and allow the mixture to bubble quite rapidly until it reaches 112°C/234°F is reached.

Remove the sugar syrup from the heat and begin whisking the egg mixture again at a slow speed.

Very carefully begin to pour the sugar syrup into the egg white mix, continuing to beat the mixture the whole time. Once all of the syrup is added the mixture will look glossy and smooth but continue to beat the mixture for another 10 minutes until the meringue has cooled down to room temperature.

Now in a separate bowl place the cream and vanilla bean paste and whisk until the cream is thick and has doubled in size.

Add a third of the cream into the meringue mixture and gently fold in until combined. Continue adding the rest of the cream bit by bit until well combined by try not to over beat the mixture as some of the air will be lost from the mixture.

Transfer the ice cream mixture to a freezer proof container and place in the freezer for a couple of hours until it starts to firm up.

After a couple of hours remove the ice cream from the freezer and swirl through the cooled fruit syrup. I find it best to dollop big blobs of the syrup on top of the ice cream and then draw a swirly pattern across the ice cream with a fork to distribute the syrup throughout.

Return the mixture to the freezer for another couple of hours until fully set then tuck in and enjoy!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Wild Garlic Pesto

So my plan of trying to write at least one blog post a month this year seems to be slipping but I’m getting this one in quick before April disappears! And I had better get this out there quick as I partook in a little foraging recently, collecting handfuls of sweetly pungent bundles of wild garlic during a stroll in a local woodland. But wild garlic season doesn’t last forever so you may have to be a little more proactive than myself if you also want to foray into the world of foraging. Wild garlic is a great place to start though, as although this green leafy plant can sometimes be mistaken for lily of the valley (a toxic plant) on looks alone, it is pretty distinctive when it comes to aroma. Just walking through the local woods my nostrils realised I was surrounded by the stuff before I had spotted the garlic plants. So the best way to identify this plant is to pick a leaf and rub it between your fingers to release the smell of garlic, although a slightly more thorough guide on identification can be found here.

Now onto how to use it. There are lots of things you can use wild garlic for, including in salads, omelettes, risottos, savoury muffins, pasta dishes, oils (more on that here)…the options really are endless. I decided to go for the slightly more classic wild garlic pesto, as the garlic leaves make a great substitute for basil. Although I didn’t stop there on the substitutions and instead of pine nuts I used pumpkin seeds in this recipe. This recipe is so simple to whizz up and will keep in the fridge for about a week. I just made a small little tub but quantities can be adjusted depending on how much wild garlic you managed to gather whilst out foraging.


60g wild garlic leaves (it is best to use the small, younger leaves, and try to pick them away from areas of frequent human or animal traffic, but regardless wash thoroughly before use)
30g pumpkin seeds
30g parmesan cheese
80ml good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shred the garlic and then place all of the ingredients into a blender.
Whizz up until a smooth paste is formed.

Store in an air tight container in the fridge and use in any recipe that calls for traditional pesto.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Apple juice and butter milk hot cross buns

I’ve mentioned my family’s competitive spirit and our Good Friday hot cross bun bake off in previous years and have blogged about my tropical and my no added sugar hot cross buns. This year I’m staying on the Emerald Isle for the Easter weekend and not heading home to join the family for all of the food based celebrations but this won’t stop me baking this seasonal treat and competing with myself!! In fact this year the thought of eating my body weight in hot cross buns motivated me through a 10 mile run this morning….I’m definitely entitled to eat at least 2 now, maybe 3!

So I wanted to try a slightly different recipe and turned to one of my favourite bakers Dan Lepard. This recipe was originally posted in the Guardian and you can find the original here. In this recipe cider is used as one of the main liquids but I replaced this with apple juice (an oversight when out shopping and missing the alcohol aisle!!). I then went on to make a couple of further replacements including using buttermilk instead of cream and spelt flour instead of wholemeal but the result was delicious and I think if I had been at home I would have trounced the competition!!

Makes 12

150ml apple juice
7g fast-action yeast
75g spelt flour
150ml buttermilk
2tsp mixed spice
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
50g honey
300g mixed dried fruit
400g white flour
25g cornflour
1 tsp salt

 150g plain flour
50ml sunflower oil
125ml water

 25ml water
25ml sugar
1/2tsp mixed spice

 Makes 12

Mix the apple juice (which you want to be at room temperature), yeast and spelt flour in a bowl and set aside. Then place the buttermilk, spices, eggs and honey into a saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring until just warmed. Add the warm buttermilk mixture to the yeast mixture, add the dried fruit and stir until well combined.

Add the flour, cornflour and salt to a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir together to form quite a sticky dough and set aside for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes oil a work surface, tip the dough out and knead for about a minute (Dan reckons you only need to knead this for 10 seconds but I normally stretch it to a minute!). Then return the mixture to the bowl, cover with a clean cloth and set aside for an hour until the dough has risen. Then divide the mixture into 12 pieces, shape into balls and put them onto a baking tray lined with non-stick paper. 
Again cover with a cloth and leave to double in size, which should take between 1 and 2 hours (or the time it takes me to run 10 miles!!!)

Finally pre-heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/GM7.

Mix the flour, oil and water for the crosses together and either transfer to a piping bag, or a sandwich bag and then cut the corner of the bag off and then pipe crosses onto the buns before transferring to the oven. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden in colour.

While the buns are in the oven put the water, sugar and spice into a small saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has melted. When you remove the bins from the oven baste the buns with the sugar syrup and then allow to cool a little before consuming 1 or 2…or 3!!

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Vegan Banana Malt Loaf Recipe

After my long awaited return (well I’m not sure how many people have been waiting with baited breath but if you missed be or not I’m back) to blogging this month, and whilst it is still January I thought I would post another vegan recipe for anyone still on for completing veganuary! This time a sweet treat in the form of a sticky banana malt loaf. After spotting a jar of malt extract in my local greengrocers I had a sudden craving for a malt loaf so added the jar to my basket and when I got home started rooting around for my trusted banana malt loaf recipe. But alas I couldn’t find it! Now it may not be one of my absolute regular turn to bakes but it was a recipe that was always a success. So I turned to the trusted interweb for help instead and came across this recipe over at the Guardian. A few little alterations later, including the addition of banana, as well as a lot of flour as my mixture seemed very wet, and voila I had malt loaf.

The real challenge with this bake is to not tuck in as soon as the loaf is out of the oven. This is a teatime treat that gets better with age so wrap it up in baking parchment and pop in an airtight box and leave it for a few day. If, as me, you only have tinfoil in your cupboard grease this a little before wrapping up your loaf otherwise you will spend considerable amounts of time picking little bits of foil out of your malt loaf before you can actually eat the bloomin thing!

So there’s my second blog for January, I’m on a roll (gives self a premature pat on back…will look back on this at the end of April when I haven’t blogged since January and sigh!!). But until then hope you enjoy this sticky, stodgy and vegan delight.


350g malt syrup
75g treacle
200g dates, roughly chopped
150ml strong black tea (I used earl grey)
50g caster sugar
1 large ripe banana, mashed
200g plain flour
150g rye flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/GM4

Put the dates into a heatproof bowl and add the malt extract, treacle, sugar and tea. Allow to sit for about 15 minutes so the fruit can soak up some of the liquid. 

After 15 minutes add the banana and mix together thoroughly before adding the flours, baking powder and salt. Fold all of the ingredients until well combined and transfer to a lined loaf tin. 

Bake for an hour until firm to the touch. And don't panic if the mixture looks like it has sunk a little.

Once the loaf has cooled remove from the tin, wrap it up in greaseproof paper and leave for at least 3 days to allow the loaf to mature and become a little more stodgy and sticky before tucking in!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Vegan sweet potato and soya burgers

It's been a long time since I lasted posted anything on the blog, a really long time, 9 months in fact. The only excuse I have is life got in the way a bit. In that time I finished a PhD, spent a while job hunting, moved to a foreign country and started a new job (in said foreign country). And although life hasn't stopped me being busy in the kitchen it has got in the way of me actually documenting what it is I have been baking up. I thought the excuse of life getting in the way a bit was a fairly good one but at least one of my blog reading regulars disagreed (you know who you are!!!!). So here I am back blogging and I am going to try a blog a bit more this year, although after my hiatus from the blogging-sphere last year I don't think I could do an awful lot worse....but maybe I shouldn't tempt fate. But for now I'm back blogging and I will try (I promise) to keep this up.

As I make this resolution to blog a little more (although don't hold me to it) lots of other people are trying to stick to their New Years Resolutions. Whilst quite a lot of people are trying to keep off the booze for January other people are giving up meant and Veganuary has become a thing. Whilst I haven't given up my carnivorous ways just yet I thought I would kick off my blogging year with a vegan burger to help those that may be sticking to their resolutions a little more successfully than me!

Serves 2 (very generously)

2 medium sweet potatoes
100g dried soya mince
50ml boiling water
1 teaspoon marmite
1 teaspoon tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper
50g wholemeal flour
a splash of olive  oil for frying

Begin by pricking the sweet potatoes with a fork and placing in a microwave for 2 minutes on high. After 2 minutes give the potatoes a squeeze and if they still feel firm zap for another minute.

Remove the potatoes from the microwave and set aside to cool.

Place the soy mince in a heatproof bowl, add the hot water, marmite, tomato puree and seasoning, stir so well combined and set aside until the soy mince has absorbed all of the water.

Meanwhile (once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle) remove the skin from the potatoes and mash. Then add to the soy mix and mix until fully combined. Then add the flour and use your hands to bring the mixture together. NOTE - I have made these burgers twice and the second time the mixture was much wetter so required a bit more flour, but add more flour as needed until you can shape the mixture into a burger shape.

Divide the mixture in 2 and shape into 2 burgers, either free style of as I like to by squishing the mixture into a large biscuit cutter to create perfect rounds.

Place a frying pan over a medium heat with a splash of oil. Once the oil is hot transfer the burgers to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes on each side until golden in colour.

I ruined the veganess of the dish by serving my burger in bun with gherkins and a big slice of melted cheese on top but without the extra dairy this recipe is perfect for a veganuary treat!