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Updated: 2018-03-07T02:16:13.533+00:00


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The Iron Cupcake Challenge: London


Response.Status="301 Moved Permanently"
The Caked Crusader
creator of all manner of baked goods has a mission in life to spread the word that cake is good. As life missions go this is a pretty good one!

To spread the word she is organising the first Iron Cupcake challenge outside of the USA with the theme being chocolate.

Full details are here, in short turn up on the 1st June with 12 chocolate cupcakes baked to the same recipe, have a drink, look at and sample other's cupcakes! There will be a chocolate themed prize for the winning cupcakes. Admission / entry fees are £5.

I think that I will be on holiday, but will hopefully be at the next challenge.

Black Bean & Butternut Squash Tortillas


(image) I spent all day at the Decanter New World Fine Wine Fair and I was desperate for something simple and speedy to soak up the alcohol when I got home, I had half a butternut squash in the fridge and beans, peas, corn and tortillas in the freezer. From start to plate these took about 15 mins and I have enough filling to freeze for another meal.

The earthiness of the black beans works well with the sweetness of the squash and absorbs any flavourings or herbs that you add. The griddled tortilla is crispy with a soft fluffy filling. I also added some liquid smoke for a BBQ flavour if you do not have any (it is not easy to get hold of in the UK) add some smoked paprika or smoked salt.

I have no exact quantities for this recipe as it really is a use-whatever-you-have-to-hand general idea rather than a recipe, any beans would work, use different vegetables; any root vegetable would work in place of the squash.

Black Bean & Butternut Squash Tortillas (Serves 2)

Handful black beans
Handful aduki beans
½ small butternut squash
¼ green pepper finely chopped
¼ yellow pepper finely chopped
Handful peas & corn
1 chopped pickled chilli
1tbs Sunflower oil
Dash soy sauce
Dash liquid smoke

2 tortillas

(image) Peel and chop the squash into ½” cubes, put in a bowl,cover and microwave for 3 or 4 minutes until soft. Whilst the squash is cooking fry the vegetables and beans (I fry my beans straight from the freezer, they defrost soon enough in the pan) until the beans are soft, add the squash and give it all a good mash until the beans and squash are squidged together. Add liquid smoke, soy, spices, salt and pepper to taste and remove from the heat.

Oil a griddle pan (or a clean frying pan) and put on the hob on the hottest ring at full blast. Meanwhile spread a dollop of the mixture over half of each of the tortillas (If you get these out of the freezer when you start cooking they would have defrosted by now) fold over and press firmly.

Fry on each side (about 2mins) until they are crispy, keep a close eye on them as they go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds. Serve with chutneys and some salad.

Apple & Blueberry Gyoza with a Hot Peanut Butter Sauce


I love gyoza and whenever I go to Chinatown I buy a few packets of wrappers to keep in the freezer until I next have a gyoza craving, I could make my own wrappers, but frankly life is far too short and the ready made ones are delicious, cheap and fuss free. Gyozas (or potstickers) are little pastry wrapped parcels that are fried and then steamed and eaten with a dipping sauce. Gyozas are usually savoury, but recently I saw sweet gyozas on the menu at Root-Master and thought that it was a brilliant idea and set about recreating it at home. I filled them with stewed apple and blueberry and served them with a warm peanut butter sauce. Apple and Blueberry Gyoza (makes about 20) 1 packet Gyoza wrappers 2 apples 1 tbs sugar Handful blueberries (2 or 3 for each gyoza) Stew the apples by peeling, coring and chopping and cook with the sugar and a dribble of water until they are soft and mushy I usually do this in the microwave. Allow to cool. Stuff each wrapper with a teaspoon of apple and a couple of blueberries, wet the edge of the pastry and fold over and crimp and pleat to close (video here). I have a gyoza press (photos wtih a different filling) that I bought very very cheaply at the Japan Centre. Put the stuffed gyoza on a board, pressing down lightly to give it a base so it sits upright. To cook the gyoza fry them in oil (light olive or sunflower) until they are browned on the base and both sides (I find it easier to work with 2 smaller frying pans), stand them up in the frying pan turn the heat right up and carefully pour about 1/3 mug of water over them. The water will furiously bubble and turn to steam, when the water has all evaporated the wrappers will start to look translucent. Take off the heat and serve immediately. Hot Peanut Butter Sauce Equal quantities of: (I used one heaped dessert spoon of each) Peanut butter (smooth of crunchy) Sugar (I used soft brown) Marge or butter (I used Pure Soy) Gently heat stirring all the time until the marge/butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Serve warm. Spare uncooked gyoza can be frozen. [...]

Sardine & Caper Pate



This is perfect for a light mid week lunch, either with or without soup. The amount pictured is half the recipe and was perfect for me, giving the perfect amount of pate for 2 pitta breads. It is such a simple recipe; made from store cupboard and fridge ingredients and takes less than 5 minutes to put together, it barely warrants blogging about, but I was quite pleased with the photo!

Sardine and Caper Pate (serves 2)

1 tin sardines (in either oil or water) drained
2 tbs mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice*
2 tsp capers (I use salted rather than the ones in brine as the flavour is far more intense)

Simply put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well together using a fork to break up the sardines. Garnish with some chives and serve.

* Fuss Free Tip: I buy my lemons several at a time and juice them and freezer the juice in an ice cube tray. 1 frozen lemon cube is perfect here.

Lavash Crackers


I am currently playing Daring Bakers catch up; the September challenge hosted by Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl made history by being the first “alternative” Daring Bakers challenge being vegan with a gluten free option. There are many alternative Daring Bakers, who all have to use every ounce of skill and wit to adapt the already challenge recipes to vegan, gluten free or what ever their needs are. Being increasingly occasionally omnivorous I was delighted to see a vegan challenge that was also savoury.The Lavash cracker recipe comes from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, and I have copied it below from the Daring Bakers' website.The key to a great Lavash cracker is to roll out the dough very thinly. I made nornal non gluten free crackers in two batches one with smoked salt from Brown and Forest (who make wonderful smoked eels and other goodies) and the other with chilli flake. Both were served with guacamole; in my flat guacamole is a food group!Many thanks to Natalie and Shel for hosting the challenge and apologies for being so appallingly tardy about posting, I did make them in September last year but life took over and I didn't post them.The crackers were amazing; in fact that I had forgotten just how good and am off to make another batch right now!Lavesh Crackers* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.2.: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the window pane test and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).4.: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to [...]

Chocolate Valentino



2009 To Cook List


I did very badly on my 2008 To Cook List so here is hoping for a better 2009 and the list of cuttings in the "To Cook" file.

First Courses, Soups and Side Dishes

Braised chicory with orange and juniper
Roasted beetroot, coconut and lime soup
Pea filled potato cakes
Celery gratin
Lentil pate
Butternut falafels


Fig and dolcelatte pasta
Pea parsley and lemon risotto
Smoked haddock gratin
Creamy mushroom and chestnut filo pie
Sweet soy pork hocks


Ginger Meringues with Passion Fruit
Red pear and marzipan tarts
White peaches in muscat
Passion fruit curd tard


Apricot buttermilk cake
Breton Gateau
Parmesan sables
Cheddar and mustard soda farls
Chocolate, cranberry and orange cake
Gingerbread house


Perfect crumbly fudge

Easy Peasy Ginger Cake



This is one of my favourite cake recipes, made entirely from non-perishable store cupboard ingredients. The recipe is very forgiving so you can vary quantities and really is a genuine bung it all in the food processor and whizz then bake recipe.

Although delicious fresh from the oven the cake keeps well and actually improves with age, the top becomes wonderfully moist and sticky after a few days in a tin. It reminds me of shop ginger cake the texture is similar to the Lyle's one in a green foil wrapper – but with fewer additives and more flavour. I far prefer baking using oil rather than fat as I think that it gives a far moister cake.

For extra zing in the cake add a dash of chilli powder, I often add a handful of dried dates or figs for extra texture and flavour. The seeds of the figs provide a slight popping crunch to the otherwise soft cake. If you do not have treacle, golden syrup, dark maple syrup or molasses would work well in its place.

One Step Ginger Cake (makes 16 x 2” pieces)

350g Plain Flour
225g Sugar (I use soft dark brown for colour and flavour but any would work)
100g Cooking oil (Sunflower or rape/canola)
2 – 3 tsp ground ginger
1tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch salt
About 60g treacle *
225ml boiling water

½ – 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
½ – 1 tsp ground all spice (optional)
Dash chilli powder (optional)
Handful dried dates or figs (optional)

Place all the ingredients into the food processor bowl and whizz until you have a smooth golden brown batter. Pour into 8” square pan lined with greaseproof paper and bake at GM4/180C for about 35 - 40 mins until risen and a cocktail stick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

* When weighing the treacle I put the spoon into a jug on the scales, then zero them, use the spoon to dollop the treacle into the jug without scraping the spoon I then rezero the scales and weigh 225g of boiling water into the jug which will dissolve all the treacle which saves any sticky scraping for spoon to food processor bowl. As the recipe is so forgiving accurate measuring is really not necessary.

Fruit Compote


I have childhood memories of my mother making a dried fruit compote, which I used to take great childish delight in calling Fruit Compost. Despite my childhood name for it, it is not at all compost like and is delicious for a pudding served with cream or Greek yoghurt or for breakfast with my “perfect” porridge.

Like many of my recipes it is highly adaptable and sort of dried fruit can be used; chopped finely and soaked in ordinary tea overnight. The tea is partially absorbed which plumps and softens the fruit, and forms a lovely rich syrupy sauce with no added sugar. I used plain old PG tips – or builder's tea – as we call it, Earl Grey would work well, but I think a fairly robust tea is needed to be tasted above the fruit. Interesting the day after I made this I found a recipe card in Waitrose that used fruit tea to soak the dried fruit.

Dried Fruit Compote (Serves 4 for a pudding or 8 portions as a porridge topper)

12oz dried fruit roughly topped (I used a mix of apricots, prunes, plums & figs)
½ pint strong black tea

Put the dried fruit in a bowl and pour over the hot tea and leave for 12 hours. Serve chilled. The compote will keep in the fridge for several days.

(image) Photo of the dried fruit before soaking for comparison.

I have just made another version of this, which was even easier as I put the tea bag into the bowl of dried fruit and then covered with boiling water and left to infuse overnight.

Roast Carrot Dip


(image) This simple healthy dip is packed with flavour and is lighter on the calories as I used water rather than oil to thin it; roasting the carrots and onion concentrates the flavour and makes a sweet tasting delicious dip which will count towards your 5 a day, the addition of sesame oil adds a nutty flavour. Serve warm or make in advance and keep in the fridge for a few days

Roast Carrot Dip
(Serves 2 as an appetiser)

1lb carrots - peeled and roughly chopped
1 large onion - peeled and cut into quarters
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the carrots and onions in a roasting tin and toss with the oils and season with the salt and pepper. Roast in a moderately hot oven GM5/190C/375F for about 40mins until the carrot and onion are starting to caramelise. Scrape into the food processor and blitz; adding water if needed to thin, make a textured purée, season to taste, garnish with fresh herbs and serve with pitta bread strips and crudités.

Red Lentil & Sweetcorn Soup


This filling and delicious soup is a very pretty pale pastel salmon colour, and is mainly made from store cupboard and freezer ingredients and one fresh onion; so is perfect for when you do not have many vegetables in. The fried caramelised sweetcorn adds texture and a hint of sweetness.

Red Lentil & Sweetcorn Soup (serves 2)
1 onion
4oz red lentils
6oz sweetcorn (frozen or rinsed tinned)
1 pint vegetable stock (I use Marigold)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika

Roughly chop the onion and fry in the oil until translucent, add the lentils, paprika and the stock and simmer for about 15 mins until the lentils are soft and losing their shape. Add half the sweetcorn and blitz. Fry the remaining sweetcorn until it starts to caramelise and serve on top of the soup.

Avocado & Sunflower Seed Dip


One of my food resolutions for 2009 will be to eat more raw food, I have been reading around raw foods and the reported health benefits seem almost too good to be true; whilst I am not intending to eat solely raw incorporating more raw foods into my diet surely cannot be a bad idea as at the very least more raw will mean less processed foods.

I had seen several recipes for sunflower seed cheese and decided to combine this with my much loved avocado to make a healthy (and almost) raw and delicious dip. I thinned the dip with water rather than the usual olive oil to cut down on calories and fat.

Avocado & Sunflower Seed Dip

1½ oz sunflower seeds – soaked in water for at least 4 hours
1 ripe avocado
2 tbs lemon juice
Small glug olive oil
1 tbs fresh coriander
1 spring onion
2 or 3 pieces of sun dried tomato
Fresh green chilli to taste (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Rinse and drain the sunflower seeds and place all the ingredients into the food processor (reserving some of the spring onion for garnish). Whizz and thin the dip with a little water until it is at the desired consistency.

Serve with crudities. (I know I cheated and used crisps in the photo!)


Once the dip is ready add some pumpkin seeds to the processor and briefly pulse to add some crunch and texture.

Spiced Triple Orange Muffins


It's been a while, I have been sick, unemployed and have been suffering from dreadful RSI that has sent my whole back and right arm into agonising spasms and lead to my physio banning me from the kitchen and laptop. This all served to make me somewhat miserable and I have been hiding from the world, neglecting myself, my friends and my blog and all my lovely food blogger friends. There are 549 new posts in my RSS feed to read, drool over, comment upon and bookmark for later cooking, which is going to take me some time!

To celebrate my return to food blogsphere I present Spiced Triple Orange Muffins! These are bursting with orange cinnamon and allspice, like most of my baking they are vegan and by adding bran I can pretend that they are vaguely healthy! Detailed muffin instructions are here.

Spiced Triple Orange Muffins (Makes 6)

Wet Ingredients

2 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
2 oz soy or other milk
2 oz vegetable oil

(image) Dry Ingredients

4½ oz plain flour (I would have used half plain and half spelt but had run out of spelt)
1 ½oz sugar (I use soft light brown)
Zest of one orange
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground all spice
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs wheat bran
pinch salt

Orange Marmalade

Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well, briefly whisk the wet ingredients and add to the dry. Mix together; the mix should be slightly lumpy and you need no more than 15 folds.

Pour into muffin cases or a silicone mould and put ½ a teaspoon of marmalade on top of each muffin. Gently push the blob of marmalade into the batter so it is almost covered.

Bake for 20 to 25 mins GM4/180C/350F until risen and golden brown.

Microwaved Date and Fig Steamed Pudding


Winter is upon us; it seemed as it rained all day yesterday and I am ashamed to admit that I did not actually leave the flat as it was so grey and damp. Instant comfort food was necessary to combat the bad weather blues. I had recently been reading about making microwave cakes and this was the ideal moment to find out if a microwaved steamed pudding was in fact as easy and as good as a quick Google would lead one to believe.

For the uninitiated a steamed pudding is a traditional British pudding - a sponge cake cooked in a pudding basin in a water bath. You usually put syrup or jam in the base of the basin and then when the pudding is cooked you turn it out then sweet sticky sauce pours over / soaks into it

I am happy to report that the steamed pudding was a huge success; far better than my quick photos make it look; and indistinguishable from a traditionally cooked steamed pudding and it took me 6 minutes to make from start to finish. There are two tricky things about this recipe – the first being cooking it for the right amount of time – all microwaves are different so cooking times will vary; the second being what flavour of pudding to make. Happily both are easily solved, the first time you make the pudding cook it in a pyrex pudding basin (so you can see what is going on) and check it every 30 seconds. And the second – well winter is long and there are lots of opportunities for trying different flavours. I made a date and fig pudding using date syrup from my local Middle Eastern shop for the sauce.

And it being Vegan Mofo this pudding is also vegan.

(image) Microwaved Date and Fig Steamed Pudding (Serves 2 on a wet afternoon)

4 oz plain flour
3 oz sugar (I used soft dark brown)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
2 oz vegetable oil
4 oz soya milk
3 dried figs – chopped finely

3 tablespoons date syrup

Put sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and figs into a bowl and stir well. Whisk the oil and milk, pour onto the dry ingredients and stir until you have a batter.

Thoroughly grease a 1½ pint pudding basin, add the date syrup, spoon the batter over the top. Cover the bowl with clingfilm, then prick the film a few times. Then microwave on full power until done It took 4 mins in mine, but as all microwaves are different cook in 1 min bursts until it it risen and a cocktail stick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Put a plate over the basin and flip it to turn the pudding out. Serve immediately.

Teacups would be ideal for making individual puddings in.

Vegan Month of Food


(image) October is Vegan Month of Food. Organised by Isa Moskowitz & Terry Romero creators of the Post Punk Kitchen and authors of three awesome vegan cookbooks – Vegonomicon, Vegan with a Vengeance and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. The aim of Vegan MOFO is to blog as much as possible about vegan food during the month of October, as it is now the 6th October and I have missed 6 days of Vegan MOFO I will keep Fuss Free Flavours vegan until the 6th November.

Although I am not vegan I eat vegan about 90% of the time; my motivation for this is largely health and environment driven, I feel fabulous eating a plant based diet, there are very very few things I actually miss out on, vegan food is healthy, but there are all manner of treats that you can make, cakes and biscuits and comfort food. It is not all cabbage and lentils. Tofu, tempeh and setian all sound scary but they are all delicious and easy to cook.

I will write more about the environment and health and vegan diets later in the month, but in the mean time please try a new vegan dish. Cook tofu or tempeh, switch to soy milk, try and bake egg free and realise that there are so many healthy vegan options out there that you wil not feel deprived. More importantly please use the month to examine your diet and where your food comes from, thinking about your health, the environment and animal welfare.

Fried Oatmeal


Mrs W wrote about fried oatmeal the other day, which she described as a breakfast for people that do not like porridge; I was intrigued and puzzled. I do like porridge – sometime – and I like to have a good variety of breakfasts, which are low GI and filling and give me at least one portion of fruit or vegetables to set me on the right track for the day. A quick google later I realised that fried porridge in various guises is in fact more common that you might think.

I adapted the basic idea to make a savoury breakfast that is also diary free. A little organisation is needed here as the oats need to soak overnight. The recipe is identical to my scrambled tofu breakfast with the soaked oatmeal being used in place of the tofu. Despite the not very attractive photo it was delicious and more importantly kept me full all morning.

(image) Fried Oatmeal – Serves 1

½ Cup (2oz) rolled oats
½ Cup (3oz) milk (I used soy)
2 heaped teaspoons flour

Glug Olive oil
Chopped vegetables
Soy Sauce to taste
S&P to taste

Mix the oats, milk and flour together in a small bowl and leave to soak overnight. By morning the mix will be thick and gloopy.

Chop and fry the vegetables in olive oil for a few minutes using a good non stick pan, turn out of the pan on to a plate, add some more olive oil and heat, pour the oat paste into the pan and fry, stirring from time to time and scraping from the bottom of the pan (it does stick, but if you use a non stick pan you can easily nudge the crispy stuck bits with a wooden spoon). When the oats are slightly crispy and in clumps return the vegetables to the pan, add some soy sauce to taste and serve and enjoy straight away.

My boyfriend tells me that he thinks that this recipe is just plain wrong, he has a more traditional ideas as to what to eat for breakfast than I do.


A little organisation is needed here as the oats need to soak overnight. You can use which ever vegetables you have to hand, I had mixed peppers and spring onions in the fridge so used them.

Baked Tomato, Mackerel & Chickpea Risotto with Pea Puree


Kathryn at Limes & Lycopene is having a pantry challenge, challenging fellow bloggers to product a healthy meal from a list of 15 ingredients that she feels that most of us will already have in our cupboards, fridges and freezers. I am hugely excited by this, I certainly have most of the items on the list in my kitchen most of the time and I am looking forward to seeing what other foodbloggers come up with, and what ideas and inspiration I will get for those evenings when I think that I have nothing to eat and end up phoning for a takeaway. Kathryn's 15 Foods Are:- 1 Olive oil 2. Tinned tomatoes 3. Tinned legumes or beans 4. Soy sauce 5. Frozen vegetables 6. Flour 7. Pasta 8. Tinned fish 9. Eggs 10. Rice 11. Bread 12. Vinegar 13. Fresh onions 14. One spice or spice mix 15. One dried herb or herb mix When presented with a list like this my immediate thoughts turn to all sorts of dishes that use everything PLUS ONE OTHER not allowed ingredient. For some reason I was desperate to be allowed to include lemon in my recipe; but Kathryn's rules were very firm on this point. “You don’t have to use all the ingredients but your recipes must only use these foods. No tweaking the list and no adding in extra sneaky ingredients” So that would be a no to the lemon then... I eventually came up with a simple (chuck it in the oven) baked tomato risotto with mackerel and chickpeas, with a pea puree for a splash of colour. I have to confess that there was one cheat here in that my chickpeas were from my freezer rather than from a tin, but the recipe would work equally well with tinned chickpeas, I just prefer to cook mine from dried than buying tins. Baked Tomato, Mackerel & Chickpea Risotto with Pea Puree (Serves 2) For the Risotto ½ large onion – chopped finely glug olive oil 4oz/100g (half a cup) risotto rice ½ tin chickpeas – drained and rinsed 1 tin tomatoes – roughly chopped 1 small tin mackerel – drained well Soy sauce Mixed herbs For the Pea Puree ½ onion 4oz/100g (half a cup) frozen peas 1tbs olive oil To make the risotto fry the onion in the olive oil over a low heat until it starts to turn golden, add the risotto rice and fry until the rice is translucent. Place in an oven proof dish. Add the chickpeas, and mackerel (breaking the flesh up) and a tin of tomatoes. Add a good glug of soy sauce and a sprinkling of mixed herbs and give it a rough stir. Top the dish up with boiling water so all the rice is covered and bake for about 25 mins at GM54/180C/350F checking from time to time and adding more water if needed. Just before the risotto is ready, fry the other half of the onion and when it is soft add the peas to the pan together with an egg cup full of water. Allow the peas and onions to simmer until the peas are defrosted and most of the water evaporated. Blitz with the olive oil in the food processor until they are a smooth puree, seasoning with pepper and salt to taste. Serve immediately on top of the risotto. [...]

Prune and Walnut Muffins


Blogsphere is full of posts about smoothies at the moment, I have also recently starting having a smoothie most mornings for my breakfast which I am really enjoying. My favourite smoothies currently all have prunes in them, which thicken, and add flavour as well as colour. I have wanted to make a prune breakfast muffin for sometime; and last night had the idea of blitzing the prunes into the wet ingredients in the style of a smoothie, rather than just having pieces of prune within the muffin. It worked a treat – the muffins were moist and a glorious chestnut colour and packed with flavour – I added more chopped prunes and some crushed walnuts for extra flavour and texture. I think that as the muffins are so moist the recipe would easily take a spoonful or two of bran and the fat content could be reduced (I used 25% less than I normally would for a muffin). Like many of my muffins these are diary and egg free. Prune and Walnut Muffins (makes 6 medium muffins) Wet Ingredients 4 ½oz milk – I used rice milk – soy or diary would both work well 1 ½oz sunflower or rape oil 6 prunes (stoneless) – I use the semi dried ones that are lovely and fat and juicy* Dry Ingredients 5oz Plain flour 1oz sugar (I used Light brown soft sugar – but any would work) ¼ tsp salt 1 tsp baking powder 4 prunes – chopped – I fine it easier to use scissors and to cut them up 6 walnut halves – chopped – again I used scissors ½oz rolled oats Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well, blitz the wet ingredients with a stick blender in a separate jug (They will be quite thick) . Fold wet ingredients into the dry (no more than 15 folds) to make a batter (some lumps are fine). Pour into muffin cases or a silicone mould. Sprinkle some rolled oats and lightly press into batter. Bake for 20 to 25 mins GM4/180C/350F until risen and brown. *If using dried prunes cover with boiling water and leave for 5 mins to rehydrate slightly before draining and then adding the prunes to the wet ingredients [...]

The Great Service Charge Rip Off


Do you think that the “optional” Service Charge on a restaurant bill is going to the staff? Well think again.

I am not anti tipping – far from it, if a job is done well then I am more than happy to tip the staff in a restaurant, many are on minimum wages, spend all day on their feet dealing with members of the public; some of which can be quite rude and unreasonable.

However at some restaurants that “Optional Service Charge” listed on the bill in fact goes to the company or individual that owns the restaurant and is not given to the staff as a tip on top of their wages. Sometimes it is used to supplement the staff wages up to the minimum wage, sometimes the management just keeps the service charge. In my opinion this practice is at best misleading and at worse downright morally bankrupt as most people assume that the service charge will go to the staff as an extra to their basic wages and it is not used to further line the restaurant owners’ pockets. (One establishment has the nerve to charge a cover charge per person and to then also pocket the service charge, they also have declined to answer my e-mails to them questioning this practise).

The law is due to change and in the UK all service staff will be paid the minimum wage as basic, stopping employers making wages up to the minimum with service charges and tip.

So, now whenever I eat out I always ask if the service charge goes to the staff, if not I ask to speak to the manager and explain to them why I will not be paying the service charge and ask them to take it off the bill, I then check that a cash tip will go to the staff as an extra above their wages.

Generally I try and pay the tip in cash separately to the main bill, rather than pay the service charge, tips paid as part of the bill by card are generally added to wages through payroll (and the company make take a % of tips paid by card as an admin fee) and can be liable for National Insurance as well as tax deductions, cash tips go directly to the employees.

So next time you eat out, please ask where the service charge goes, and if possible tip by cash. If you are told that the service charge goes to the company, please decline to pay it and contact the company to make your feelings known.

Frugal Spinach Risotto


I bought a bag of salad spinach in Sainsbury’s the other day and when I got home it had already started to turn slightly with some of the leaves going slimy. This annoys me as it was well within date and food is not cheap and the supermarkets make massive profits. I salvaged the good leaves for a salad and put the rest of the bag in the freezer to cook with at a later date, and resolved to e-mail Sainsbury’s to complain (my tomatoes from the same shop were also turning).

I used half the frozen spinach very successfully in a “Frugal” or waste not want not Risotto which made a simple and delicious week night supper.

Lots of risotto recipes call for constant stirring and gradual addition of the stock to the rice until it is absorbed, and some writers even say that its relaxing to stand and stir for 20 minutes. Frankly after a day at work I want my supper with the minimum of attention from me giving me time to catch up on my e-mails or a few chores whilst it cooks. My risotto solution is to bung most of the stock in all in one go and cook on a diffuser over a low heat, giving it a stir every 5 mins, adding more liquid as needed which allows me to get on with something else. This recipe is adaptable so use whatever you have in the fridge or freezer.

“Frugal” Risotto for 2

1 small onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 small red chill finely chopped

Glug olive oil

5oz / 125g risotto rice

¾ pint stock – I use Marigold boullion
Glug of white wine or vermouth

Handful spinach (mine was from the freezer)
1 tbs capers (drained)
Handful frozen sweetcorn
1tbs Nutritional yeast to taste (See notes on this post)

Fry the onion, garlic and chilli until soft, add the rice and fry until it starts to turn translucent at the edges. Add the stock and wine. Set the heat so the stock is just bubbling around the edges of the pan.

Check and stir every 5 mins, adding some more stock or water as needed.

After 15 mins add the spinach, sweetcorn, capers and nutritional yeast and cook for another 5 mins.

Check and adjust the seasoning and serve.

Tofu on a Tuesday*: Scrambled Tofu


*but posted on a Wednesday

I have two bloggers to thank for inspiring this post – firstly Lizzie who is both a fellow Londoner and tofu addict and whose blog has a regular “Tofu Tuesday” spot and secondly Kathryn who is writing an excellent series on 31 Days to a Better Diet with a new and inspirational post every day throughout August. The theme for August 10th was eat vegetables with every meal even breakfast. I make this scramble on a regular basis, and it almost seems too everyday to be worthy of blogging.

I have never been a toast and cereal for breakfast type of person, it simply does not suit my metabolism, too many starchy carbs and not enough protein lead to my blood sugar level crashing mid morning and leaves me rushing to the vending machine, I am sure that my body knows what is best for it; and my tastes have developed accordingly.

Tofu scramble is a very easy and adaptable breakfast recipe that can use whichever vegetables are in the fridge, it’s quick to put together and can be made from fresh or previously frozen tofu, and is more than happy to be reheated in the microwave making it portable and perfect for work. Scale the amounts and flavours up or down according to numbers and hunger.

Tofu Scramble (for 1)
Piece Tofu – (about the size of a pack of cards for each person)
Chopped peppers
Spring onion
Good glug soy sauce
2 tsb Nutritional yeast*
Glug Olive Oil

Lightly fry the peppers and spring onion in the olive oil until soft, roughly chop the tofu and add, stirring all the time to slightly break the tofu up. After a few minutes add the soy sauce, nutritional yeast (or substitutes) and a splash of boiling water. Cook for another minute. Stir in the spinach and serve when wilted.

Use any other vegetables, mushrooms, grated carrot, spring greens all work well.

* A word about nutritional yeast. It is hard to describe this salty, cheesy, yeasty goodness to those that have not had it before. Nutritional Yeast or “Nooch” as it is know by legions of Vegans the planet over has to be tried to be appreciated. I think that it can be likened to marmite; but without the intensity and the saltiness and with a big cheesy kick. I cannot believe that it took me 35 years of my life to discover this wonderousness and can quite happily eat it straight from the tub with a spoon!

Its not wildly available in the UK but Marigold have their own brand Engevita and their customer services are hugely helpful in pointing you in the directions of your nearest stockist. If you not have any just add some chilli flakes and salty and pepper instead – and then go and find some nooch and be prepared to be an addict!

Taste & Create: Cinnamon Crackers


A good few weeks ago it was Taste & Create time again and I very belatedly cooked and am even more belatedly posting my dish. Apologies to both Nicole and my partner Laurie as the deadline for this month’s challenge that I am skipping is in only a few days.When I saw I was paired with Laurie who hosts the wonderful (and wonderfully named) Heaven is Chocolate, Cheese, and Carbs, I was looking forward to the challenge despite the fact that I am trying to cut down on diary and I knew that the recipes would set off cheese cravings. Happily Laurie is also a keen baker and there were plenty of diary free bread recipes to keep me happy.In the end I chose to make cinnamon-sugar crackers, I had been reading about Snickerdoodles on the internet and was craving cinnamon so these were perfect. Easy to make from stuff in the store cupboard, delicious and possibly not too bad for me. Everyone at work hoovered them up the next day and they are definitely on my cook again list, along with some of Laurie’s other recipes. I used a ¼ of the recipe for a first try and have converted the whole amount it to weights to make it easy for those in Europe without cup measures, I think I probably added far more cinnamon to the dough than listed.Cinnamon Crackers10oz / 280g plain flour2 tablespoons sugar1 teaspoon cinnamonGenerous pinch salt4 Tbs olive oil1/3 pint / 180ml cold waterFor sprinkling on top3 tablespoons sugar1 teaspoon cinnamonPreheat oven to 400F/GM6/200C. Mix the dry ingredients together well, add the oil and half the water and mix, slowly adding enough water to make a rough dough. Turn out and knead until it comes together. Divide the dough into 4. Mix the sprinkling ingredients together in a separate bowl.Roll out each ball of dough on parchment paper (I used a silicon baking sheet) until it is as thin as you can get it, cut into diamonds and prick well with a fork. Sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mix over and lightly press into the biscuits. Bake for about 15 mins or until golden brown (on a few of my crackers the sugar had melted and caramelized) when cool snap apart. Repeat with the rest of the dough.[...]

Dairy Free Breakfast Smoothie


Having made the connection between permanently having a large amount of mucus at the back of my throat and eating dairy I have been looking for new ideas to avoid diary in my foods. Although I drank huge quantities of milk as a child (only starting to drink both tea and coffee in my late teens), as an adult I completely stopped drinking milk to the extent that I really dislike the smell of milky coffee or tea. Oddly; and sadly for my waistline, my adult aversion to milk has not extended as far as cheese until last weekend where I had a plate of cheese after supper and really did not want to eat any of it.

I need to be careful to what I eat at breakfast as I tend to have wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels and there are only a few things that I can eat where I am not starving hungry by 11am, leaving me both grumpy and ready for lunch. This smoothie seems to do the trick, the addition of oats not only lowers the Glycaemic Index but makes the smoothie thick and creamy, I am also getting 2 portions of fruit in my breakfast, setting me well on my way to my five-a-day. This makes quite a large smoothie, around ¾ of a pint, enough to make it a complete breakfast meal to keep hunger pangs at bay until lunch.

Diary Free Smoothie – Serves one for breakfast or 2 to accompany breakfast

20g / ¾oz oats
1 banana - chilled
300ml / ½pt soy milk (I use homemade with no additives – but use your preferred brand)
Handful mixed berries – chilled or frozen

Pour the oats into a container and cover with the soy milk and leave in the fridge overnight. In the morning peel and add the banana and berries and whizz with a stick blender adding more soy milk if needed.

I make mine in a Lock and Lock container (my latest kitchen discovery as whatever you do to them with normal use, they will not leak) first thing in the morning and take it to work. Frozen berries whizz easily with my stick blender and mean that my smoothie is still chilled even after an hour’s commute in the summer.

Soak dried prunes, figs or dates with the oats, these are delicious but can give your smoothie a slightly unappetising brown tinge!

Sesame Crusted Baked Tofu


My love affair with tofu continues. Here I baked; rather then fried, my tofu to concentrate the flavour, baking the tofu also makes it chewier and firmer, the sesame coating adds crunch and more texture.

A lemon, soy sauce and sesame marinade make this tofu perfect with a summer salad. Leftovers are also great cold in a packed lunch.

Sesame Crusted Baked Tofu (serves 2)

1 block tofu

Juice one lemon
Same quantity of soy sauce
1 tbs sesame oil

2tbs sesame seeds

Salad to serve

Press the tofu for about 20mins by wrapping it in a clean tea towel under a chopping board with a couple of cans of beans on top (I use my fruit bowl), you will be amazed at how much water comes out. Slice the tofu into thinish slices (about 1cm) and then cut each slice diagonally to get 2 triangles.

Place in a container and pour the marinade over, leave for at least 20 mins, turning over half way through if the marinade does not completely cover the tofu.

When marinated roll each piece of tofu in the sesame seeds and place onto a greased baking tray (I use a silicone mat on a tray which does not need greasing). Bake for 20 to 30 mins at GM5/375F/190C until the edges are browned turning half way through cooking.

Serve on a bed of salad – I used baby spinach leaves with baby plum tomatoes and pepperdew peppers and garnished with chives, from my window box, and tahini dressing.

Next time I make this I am going to add some chilli to the marinade.

Other Tofu Recipes
Asparagus with Fried Tofu and Charred Caper Dressing
Crispy Chilli Soy Tofu
How to make home made tofu
Spinach Tofu