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April 30, 2016 / mintcustard

Caramelised onion, tomato and goats cheese tart.

tomato tart

Caramelised onion, tomato and goats cheese tart.

Yesterday evening I was home alone. On evenings like this I often have poached eggs or perhaps a bowl of pasta. However, having remembered the goats cheese in the fridge I came up with a plan. All those foods that others sometimes turn their noses up at,but I love, were going into a supper dish. A supper dish just for me. Nothing out of the ordinary, but tomatoes with the skins on, onions and goats cheese just aren’t everyone’s favourite around here.

I had some puff pastry in the fridge but shortcrust would do equally well here..

Caramelised onion, tomato and goats cheese tart. Feeds 2 with a salad.


2 red onions – finely sliced

ready made ready rolled puff pastry (half a pack)

half a dozen small tomatoes, sliced. A mix of colours works well.

A small goats cheese cut into pieces.

Pepper to season

1 tsp olive oil

How to ....

  • In a small saucepan pour the olive oil and place over a very low heat. Add in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 40 minutes. the onions will become sticky and sweet. If the onions are catching on the pan, add a tablespoon or two of water.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 180c.
  • Take a sandwich tin or a 6″ by 6″ tin and line with parchment.
  • Roll out the puff pastry and place in the tin. Don’t worry about making the edges pretty by trimming them. Leave it rustic. Prick the bottom of the pastry before you bake it.
  • Blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
  • Fill the bottom of the pastry case with the onions. Top with sliced onions and the goats cheese pieces.
  • Season with black pepper and a little dried oregano.
  • Place back in the oven and cook for a further 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked through and the cheese has melted a little.
  • Allow to cool until luke warm, serve with a salad and a glass of cold white wine.



April 29, 2016 / mintcustard

Slow braised short ribs with an Asian twist.

short ribs1

Slow braised short ribs with an Asian twist.

Looking back at my blog posts you’d be forgiven for thinking all we eat are cakes, slow cooked comfort food and vegetable soups. Salads and fish finger sandwiches happen at Mintcustard Mansions too.

However, another slow cooked recipe today. Slow braised short ribs with an Asian twist. Short ribs are making more and more of an appearance in supermarkets in the UK. They may be in the prepacked secion or even on the butchery counter. Butchers, of course, will be able to source them for you too.

Slow cooked beef, with it’s dark sticky richness, lends itself to the sweet and spicy flavours found in Korean beef dishes.

Slow braised short ribs with an Asian twist.

Marinade for up to 4 short ribs

2 ripe conference pears, peeled, cored and chopped.

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp gochugang paste or 1 large red chili, chopped

1 thumb length garlic peeled

200 ml dark soy sauce

1 cup soft brown sugar

splash of sesame oil

1 tbsp hoisin sauce


1 large short rib per person

1 tbsp flavourless oil to oil the casserole dish

large lidded casserole dish


How to …..

  • Place all the marinade ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Place the short ribs in a large plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight if possible.
  • Preheat the oven to 150c.
  • Oil the bottom of the casserole dish. Remove the short ribs from the marinade and place in the casserole dish. Pour over the remaining marinade and put the lid on. If it isn’t that tightly fitting, place a layer of foil over the dish before fitting the lid.
  • Braise for 4 to 5 hours, basting the short ribs every 45 minutes or so. If the marinade is reducing too quickly and becoming too thick to baste, add a small glass of water to the pan and stir.
  • Once cooked, serve with broccoli, rice and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.


April 24, 2016 / mintcustard

Orange drizzle cake – fit for a queen.


Iced orange drizzle cake.

When I heard that Nadia was baking The Queen’s birthday cake I was pleased for her and sad for her too. Pleased, because she deserves every opportunity she is offered and sad because if you make a cake for someone like The Queen, you are unlikely to get a slice to take home. All that work and  you just get is to lick the bowl. Nadia’s cake also reminded me that I have a citrus cake tin that needed using again, and what better excuse than a cake for The Queen.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t share this cake, simply make sure you get a slice too.

Orange drizzle cake.

3 large free range eggs,

200g softened butter

200g golden caster sugar

200g self raising flour

zest  and juice of 1 large orange

1 tbsp milk

How to ……

  • Preheat the oven to 190 c
  • Either spray the inside of the loaf pan with cake release or butter and flour the pan, making sure you get into all the nooks and crannies.You can use a flat bottomed loaf tin too
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, add a spoonful of flour with each egg to prevent curdling.
  • Zest the orange over the bowl to catch the essential oils into the batter too.
  • Squeeze in the juices.
  • Fold in the juices and then fold in the flour.
  • The batter needs to be a slow dropping consistency so if you need to, add a little milk to slacken the mix.
  • Spoon into the loaf tin and tap down gently to getthe mix into every crevice in the tin.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, check with a skewer at 40 minutes just in case. When it comes out clean the cake is done.
  • Cool in the tin for a good 15 minutes before you turn out.

An un-iced orange drizzle.

I simply ice the loaf with water icing made with orange juice. On occasions I make a juice and sugar topping to give the loaf a crunchy top. But this is a birthday cake so it had to be iced!

April 23, 2016 / mintcustard

No knead loaf – simple and so tasty!


Jim Leahy’s no knead loaf.

I first spotted this loaf on the Paul Hollywood Food Network UK show, City Bakes. I cannot believe how simple and easy this recipe for a No knead loaf from Jim Leahy owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York is. The only real effort involved in this bake is weighing the ingredients and giving the flour, water and yeast a stir.Yes, a stir! I’m so used to kneading for a good ten minutes, looking for the change in the dough structure. As unconventional as it appeared I followed the recipe to the letter, except that I have a banneton so used that rather than flouring a tea towel for the second proving.

I took photos of the process so follow the recipe on the website and have a look at the steps showing my loaf baking too.


This dough has been proving overnight, you can see the way the dough was only roughly mixed.


Turned out of the bowl and lightly shaped. No kneading though.


Into a banneton to double in size again.


Dough shaped and placed into my ready heated Le Creuset casserole pot.


After 30 minutes in the casserole pot, with the lid on.


After an additional 15 minutes in the pan, with the lid off. Now cooling on a rack. look at that crust!


So light, crusty and delicious. 


April 17, 2016 / mintcustard

A taste of Clearspring – sushi, umami and blinis.


Every now and then I’m invited by producers to find out a little more about what they do and sometimes hear the story behind why they do it. This was the case when I was invited to Clearspring UK recently. As an occasional buyer of the miso paste, nori sheets and soba noodles it was a real surprise to discover just what a wide range of products are available in Claerspring’s different ranges. Clearspring foods must be made by traditional methods using time-tested recipes. Indeed, some of the foods Clearspring labels are made using methods and recipes dating back 200 to 500 years or more. It was a real pleasure to watch Matcha tea be ground into matcha powder using a matcha stone grinder.

I’ve tried cooking using ingredients from all over the world, but I have never pr0operly before tried to make sushi. The length of time it takes a sushi chef to become proficient it would be arrogant of me to think I could teach myself at home using YouTube so I have always bought it in the past. Thanks to Clearspring and Mayumi Nishimura, I think I’d now be brave enough to try. Beautifully demonstrated with a cheeky smile and the odd (very discrete) tidbit about Madonna we all tried our hand at sushi making.

In addition to trying our hand at rolling sushi, we had the chance to look over other products that Clearspring UK have added. Lots to entice anyone wanting to try to eat cleanly. I’m really looking forward to the launch of the Umami pastes in May, the photo of the aubergine is not good, mainly as it was so delicious every time I went to take a picture there was a hand grabbing another slice!

One product I have never used but have eaten before is buckwheat flour. Blinis it is then.


Buckwheat blinis (make about 12)

  • 2oz buckwheat flour
  • 2oz plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 100g sour cream
  • 4 fl oz milk
  • 1 large egg (separated)
  • butter or oil to cook

How to …..

  • Sift the flours into a bowl. Add the salt and yeast.
  • Warm the milk and cream in a pan to take the chill off. Whisk in the egg yolk.
  • Stir into the flours, cover with a cloth and leave to rise for an hour or so.
  • Whisk the egg white, fold into the dough and leave again to rise for another hour.
  • Heat a frying pan, add a little butter or oil and cook tablespoons of the mixture. Fry on one side until set, turn and cook on the other side.
  • Eat warm as you would pancakes with butter and syrup or allow to cool and eat with smoked fish, pickles or a sour cream dip.

Thank you Clearspring for inviting me to your day, I was not asked to write a blog post or create a recipe. I was given a selection of products to try. All photographs and words are my own.

April 16, 2016 / mintcustard

Fruity, seedy flapjacks.

fruity fj1

Fruity seedy flapjacks.

Flapjacks are a firm favourite in this house. As a snatched breakfast on the way to school, with a mid morning coffee or with a cup of tea or three in the afternoon. I love to add a few hidden extras into my flapjacks. Sometimes it is simply the odds and ends of bags that need to be used up in the baking cupboard. Dar chocolate chips and dried cranberries works well. Chopped apricots and a tsp of dried ginger is delicious too. Today I had a couple of snack bags of fruits, nuts and seeds so I tipped those in. It’s an experiment I’ll be repeating.

fruity fj2

Adding in fruit nuts and seeds to flapjacks.

Fruity, seedy flapjacks.

175g butter

175g soft brown sugar

175g golden syrup

100g fruit, nuts and seeds

275g porridge oats.

How to…..

  • Preheat the oven to 150c
  • Line a 6″ by 12″ tin with baking parchment.
  • Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a pan over a low heat.
  • Stir in the oats and the fruits, nuts and seeds.
  • Press the mixture into the lined tin.
  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Cool for five minutes and then mark and cut if possible. Do not leave it until cold as cutting the bars will be almost impossible without a chain saw!
April 15, 2016 / mintcustard

London Coffee Festival 2016

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For the third time in as many years, I trundled off up to Shoreditch from deepest darkest south London to visit the London Coffee Festival held in the Truman brewery. From a short, sudden hit of espresso to the iced fruitiness of cold brew, I love my coffee. So it came as a bit of a surprise that much of the focus this weekend seemed to be on tea. Herbal teas, matcha teas and some English breakfast teas, but still teas.

Starbucks UK is launching the TEAVANA range that has been so popular in the USA. My personal favourites from that range include the jasmine tea and also the mint matcha latte. Other stands had plenty of herbal tea blends, many containing matcha. I loved the idea of this tea pouch from Perkolater. They also make coffee pouches for those times when you have booked a hotel room and there isn’t a Nespresso machine (which is every time in my case!)

Alternative to regular milk popped up often too. Coconut milk lattes are delicious but I’m not sure they will help in my weight loss regime. Can you get skinny coconut milk in coffee shops?

Less latte art this year and a bigger focus on flavour, provenance and good quality coffee machines. It was fantastic to see that Cafe Pods now produce pods for the DolceGusto machine, including pods for a flat white. It’s delicious and as it is unique to them, worth seeking out, Waitrose and Sainsburys are good starting places.

Salted caramel was drizzled on, stirred in and mixed through anything and everything you could imagine at the show. The best being the Hotel Chocolat ice cream. Delicious.

If you love coffee (and this year tea) the London Coffee Festival is worth a visit. One added benefit is that the venue, Truman Brewery, is in Shoreditch. A part of the city well worth a visit, if just for a salt beef bagel.

April 11, 2016 / mintcustard

Cherry blossom cocktail


Washington DC cherry blossom

You know spring has sprung when the cherry blossom beings to burst forth on the slender cherry tree boughs all over the northern hemisphere. You might be lucky enough to see the sakura in Japan, the cherry blossom in Washington or simply stumble upon a tree in full bloom as you walk along a street to the train station. Wherever you come across the display it’s bound to lighten your mood and put a spring in your step.

Catching sight of cherry blossom at it’s height in Washington DC this year was astonishing. Not just the beauty of the display, the sheer numbers of people who had ventured out to take in the view was glorious too.

Once back in the UK I decided to try to recreate a little of the joy the cherry blossom brought with a cocktail!


Cherry blossom, Sakura cocktail.

1 measure Bombay sapphire East gin

1 measure morello cherry cordial

3 morello cherries (you could use the cherry syrup instead of getting cherry cordial)

Fever tree mediterranean tonic



How to…

In a cocktail shaker muddle the cherries and the ice together.

Add in the gin and cherry cordial. Shake together and strain into a highball glass.

Top up with tonic, add a little more ice.


April 10, 2016 / mintcustard

Chicken, ham and broccoli potato topped pie.


Chicken, ham and broccoli potato topped pie.

Serendipidy. “Mum, that was really tasty, how did you come up with that dish?” Now, I could easily say that I have been trying dishes out for a month or so, researching pie fillings, making the best sauces and so on. On the other hand I could say that it as what was left over in the bottom of the fridge and needed using up ASAP.

The second answer is the truth. Earlier in the week we had Nigella’s ham in coke for tea and there was a big chunk left in the fridge. A pack of turkey breast pieces and a head of broccoli and bingo we had the basis of the meal. Why potato topping? Well, there were a number of spuds that needed using up, so mashed potato it was. I also am a sucker for the crispy shards on the edge of shepherds pie, why not treat myself to a few more on a different dish.

Chicken, ham and broccoli potato topped pie.


  • Leftover ham chunks (about 400g but less would be fine, you could substitute mushrooms.)
  • 400g turkey breast meat (cooked or uncooked)
  • 1 head of broccoli – cut into florets.
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • large knob of butter
  • flour
  • mashed potato


How to….

  • Preheat the oven to 180c
  • Cut up the ham and or mushrooms into bite sized chunks. If the turkey is cooked then chunk it too.
  • If the turkey is uncooked, cut into cubes and cook off in a little oil, butter and seasoning in a frying pan.
  • Place the knob of butter, a splash of oil and the garlic into a large saucepan. Once foaming add the flour until a thick paste and cook for a minute or so.
  • Slowly add the warm stock, stiring all the time. When all the stock is combined add in the meats and the vegetables.
  • Place the filling into a large pie dish and top with the mashed potato.
  • Rough up the surface of the mash so that you get lots of crispy bits.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
  • Serve with additional vegetables.


Keep the crispy edges as cooks perks, they are the best bits.

April 7, 2016 / mintcustard

Funfetti iced sponge traybake.


Funfetti iced sponge traybake.

Cakes rarely fail to raise a smile. Funfetti cakes are guaranteed to bring pleasure and fun to the table. The only problem is, in the UK, the hundreds and thousands, sprinkles or jimmies – call them what you will, are just too insipid. The colour and therefore some of the fun has been removed from them. That’s not to say this recipe won’t work for you in the UK, it will just be a little paler, more pastel in hue. If you can get your hands on a tub of the more brightly coloured blighters then do. I bought a bucket sized one in the US recently, let the E number fun commence. Simple and unsophisticated, the act of stirring sprinkles into sponge mix lets the sunshine in. Go on, try it and see some smiles.


Brightly coloured sprinkles.

Funfetti iced sponge traybake

3 eggs (large) – weighed

butter (same weight as 3 eggs)

caster sugar (same weight as 3 eggs)

self raising flour (same weight as 3 eggs)

2 tbsp milk

4 dsp sprinkles

vanilla powder or extract.

1 baking tin 6″ x 12″ lined with parchment

For water icing

icing sugar

sprinkles (about 1 dsp)


How to ….

  • Preheat the oven to 180c
  • Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time with 1 tsp of flour.
  • Fold in the flour and vanilla.
  • Slacken the mixture with the milk.
  • Fold in the spinkles, scrape the mixture into the lined tin.

Sprinkles stirred in, ready to bake.

  • Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until risen and golden.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • Ice with simple water icing and decorate with a few more sprinkles.





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