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November 21, 2015 / mintcustard

On eating 23 Christmas puddings in one sitting.

If an opportunity arises I’m firmly of the belief that you should take it. Always better to say “yes” and then have to do a little panicking about how something can be achieved, than regretting not being able to participate in an exciting opportunity.

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Which is how I came to be sitting in a very steamy kitchen in Bristol watching a photographer trying to find the best side of a Christmas pudding. By the end of that afternoon, I had tried 23 different puddings, given them scores and tried to understand why on Earth you might want a bright pink gloopy sauce redolent of Calpol with your gold encrusted Christmas pud.

If you haven’t yet bought or made your own pudding you might like to see what we thought of these puddings. Eight of those we tasted were gluten free, so if you have a guest at Christmas who would require one of these puddings we can help there too.

Remember, say yes whenever you can. You might just have an adventure, make a memory and in my case a surfeit of Christmas puddings.

November 20, 2015 / mintcustard

Dark chocolate and ginger tiffin.

Dark chocolate and ginger tiffin.

Dark chocolate and ginger tiffin.

Dark chocolate and ginger tiffin.

I adore tiffin. It was one of my mum’s go to cake recipes as a child. She made it with the  biscuits from the biscuit tin so it was a game of culinary roulette when you took a bite. You might get a taste of Garibaldi, custard creme or the hot tang of a ginger nut. As the weather turns colder that ginger heat is great as a sweet treat. The addition of small chunks of crystallised ginger depth charge the chocolate square even further. I added a little Christmas bling, not because I feel you should start celebrating in November, simply so that I can post a recipe that you might like to add to your Christmas get together when December arrives.

Dark chocolate and ginger tiffin ingredients.

Dark chocolate and ginger tiffin ingredients.


175g digestive  biscuits

75g ginger nuts

50g crystallised ginger, cut into small dice

125g butter (melted)

1tbsp cocoa

1 tbsp golden syrup

150g/200g Dark chocolate, if this is too dark for your family then add in some milk chocolate too.

6″ x 6″ tin, buttered or lines with a double layer of cling film.

Golden bling to decorate the tiffin if you wish.

Dark chocolate and ginger tiffin, all blinged up!

Dark chocolate and ginger tiffin, all blinged up!

How to …

  1. In a mixing bowl, using the end of a rolling pin, crush the biscuits into crumbs. You could use the fill a plastic bag and whack with a wooden spoon method if you want. You could use a food processor but that takes all the fun out of it. Chop the ginger into small shards and add to the crushed biscuits.
  2. In a large saucepan melt the butter, cocoa and syrup together to make a sauce.
  3. Pour the chocolate sauce onto the biscuit crumbs and ginger pieces. Combine thoroughly.
  4. Tip the chocolaty rubble into a 6″ x 6″ tin and press down. Put into the fridge to set.
  5. Once set melt the chocolate and pour over the biscuit base. Sprinkle with the bling. Refrigerate once more until the chocolate is set. Cut into 16 pieces and serve. This is best served from the fridge as it is only the cold that holds it together.
November 15, 2015 / mintcustard

Goats cheese and caramelised onion toasts.

Goats cheese and caramelised onion toasts.

Goats cheese and caramelised onion toasts.

Much like Marmite, goats cheese seems to divide the nation. To be honest I really don’t mind the goaty overtones but others can’t abide it. I know, I live with some haters. Yesterday I had the house to myself. It was wet, windy and miserable so cheese on toast was my comfort food of choice. I had a secret round of goats cheese stashed away, so my mind was made up.

I decided tomake a batch of caramelised red onion jam to go under the cheese, although a jar of the bought stuff would work just as well.

I took a red onion, two tsp of olive oil and a tsp of sugar and on the lowest heat possible cooked the onion down for about half an hour until soft, sticky and unctuous. This yielded enough jam to spread on two rounds of toast. If the jam looked as if it was beginning to cook too quickly I added a tsp of water, slowing the process and encouraging an emulsion in the sauce.

Goats cheese and caramelised onion toasts.

After that it’s simple. Preheat the grill. Cut the cheese into rounds about 1.5 to 2cm thick. Take two pieces of seeded bread and toast lightly. Spread the toast with the caramelised onions. Place the goats cheese on top of the onions, cut surface upwards. Place on a baking tray under the grilland cook until the goats cheese has softened and become molten. Allow to cool a little and then tuck in.

Goats cheese and caramelised onion toast, cooling before eating.

Goats cheese and caramelised onion toast, cooling before eating.

November 8, 2015 / mintcustard

All I want for Xmas – a few food lovers treats.

Pomora chilli oil gave these bloody mary shots a real kick.

Pomora chilli oil gave these bloody mary shots a real kick.

I was incredible pleased to be invited to a Christmas showcase by Nudge PR a couple of weeks ago. We were a small select bunch, and as ever I had huge dose of imposter syndrome. Everyone else in the room seemed younger, had much shinier blogs than mine and probably had almost as many followers on social media as an up and coming boy band, (Oh yes, I checked, tell me you wouldn’t too). I have none of the above, however I am greedy and enthusiastic, so I went along.

I’m so glad I said yes. I was able to spend time learning more about three staple of my diet. Wine. Olive oil. Fine chocolates. See. I could easily live on those foods alone.

I was able to taste some of the finest Italian olive oils with Pomora who also provided canapés. In addition, Pomora hosted a tasting session to showcase the vibrancy and freshness of Pomora’s quality extra virgin olive oil. They also took the time to explain their olive tree adoption programme. As well as the olive oil you also get sent a variety of flavoured oils from your trees. The lemon oil was simply magnificent. Should you need a gift for a friend who loves food, (ahem….)then I suggest you take a look at the Pomora site and see what they have to offer.
All lined up ready to taste.

All lined up ready to taste.

Whilst chatting to fellow bloggers I also enjoyed aglass or two of world-class rosé courtesy of Mirabeau en Provence. Created by Englishman Stephen Cronk who switched the suburbs of south west London for Provence in 2009. Really delicious.
Wine and chocolates.

Wine and chocolates.

Finally I had the chance to chat to Paul A Young. He was on hand showcasing his new festive collection. The renowned flavour alchemist has taken classic Christmas flavours and brought them bang up to date. He sampled his new festive bars. His Persian Christmas bar, white chocolate with pistachio, nutmeg, cinnamon, green cardamom and rose petal is something I do hope Santa puts into my stocking. The milk and dark bars are also worth putting on your list if you’ve been good.  I’d also like a few of his chocolate popcorn baubles to hang on my tree too.
We had the chance to sample the marmite and peanut butter chocolates. I love marmite so the battle was already won, but they are exquisite.  Thank you to Paul for giving me a couple to take home for my daughter – needless to say she was chuffed!
Please Santa!

Please Santa!

I was not paid to attend this event. I have not been asked to write about this event or these products in a positive light. I was invited to attend and did so at my own expense. All photos are my own.

November 6, 2015 / mintcustard

Spicy lamb koftas. Something different for a Bonfire supper.

Spicy lamb kofta, with yogurt and chilli sauce.

Spicy lamb kofta, with yogurt and chilli sauce.

Standing in your garden or trudging back from a local park this weekend having watched some fantastic fireworks your next thought is bound to be food. Mine always is. A hand held, yet filling meal is what you want. I’ve tried soups, sausage rolls and various riffs on the baked potato. This year, however, we had spicy lamb koftas. Easy to prepare before you leave to watch the fireworks, quick to cook on return and everyone, of any age can eat them. The older ones just eat more and those who like spice simply add more spicy sauces to their own wraps. For me, trying to cut down on the calories, I simply had more salad.

Spicy lamb koftas. (makes 8 large patties)

500g lamb mince



1 clove chopped garlic

chilli flakes to taste

To serve

pittas or mediterranean wraps


chilli sauces of various temperatures

plain yogurt

How to….

  • In a large bowl combine all the kofta ingredients. You need a good pinch of salt and really work the mince with your hands as this breaks the proteins down and makes the meat stick together as it cooks.
  • Form the mince into sausage shaped patties.
  • Place onto a plate and refridgerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Heat a heavy based frying pan until fairly hot. Do not add any oil as the lamb mince will release plenty.
Kofta patties cooking.

Kofta patties cooking.

  • Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side until crusted and cooked through.
  • Allow each person to customise their own koftas.
  • Warm the pittas in the oven, split and fill with patties, salad, yogurt and chilli sauce.
  • We used a coriander and garlic sauce and a spicywhole chilli sauce from ‘All things Saucy”. They were selling their sauces at my husbands workplace recently and he bought three bottles. Very tasty they are too.
All things saucy sauces.

All things saucy sauces.

Once filled with food and warmed up again, pop back out into the garden for a few sparklers.


November 1, 2015 / mintcustard

Cursed cookies – using just one of my collection of cookie cutters

Cursed cookies. Stamped and decorated.

Cursed cookies. Stamped and decorated.

I love a good cookie cutter,although to be fair I love a bad one too. I have so many I am still waiting to use my disco cookie cutters and my Ninja bread cutters from my haul last Christmas. No doubt my Star Wars cutterswill make an appearance before the new movie release as well.

My Halloween cookie cutter collection.

My Halloween cookie cutter collection.

At Halloween I have few to choose from. In the past I have made Gingerdead men and skeleton cookies too. This year it was the turn of the cursed cookie.

The Gingerdead men and cursed cookie cutters are made by Fred. They consist of a cutter and an imprint maker. You can leave the cookies with the imprint or ice them. It is really up to you. The skeleton cutters are from Williams Sonoma, picked up on a trip to Virginia two years ago.

I chose to ice the biscuits. I’m no artist so the actual biscuit needs to be simple to make, giving me time to decorate. When making biscuits with designs stamped on them it is wise to factor in time to chill the stamped dough. This helps the design to remain on the cookie as it bakes as well as giving the biscuit a crisp, clean edge.

Cooled and iced. More cursed cookies.

Cooled and iced. More cursed cookies.

Cookies for stamping and icing.

150g plain flour

100g butter – softened

50g caster sugar

  • Preheat the oven to 160c.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until well combined.
  • Add in the flour, you may find your hands are the best tools for this. Don’t overwork the dough.
  • Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, roll out on a lightly floured surface. Cut out your cookie, stamp any pattern, place on a baking tray and chill for a further 30 minutes.
  • Bake for 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of your cookie. They need to be just a little golden.
  • Cool on a wire rack. Decorate when completely cold.

Do you have favourite cookie cutters? Let me know so I can add them to my wish list and hopefully my collection.


October 30, 2015 / mintcustard

Halloween purple carrot cake


Purple and orange carrots.

At this time of the year many of the major supermarkets in the UK have heritage carrots. Mostly these are purple, although you can find yellow, white and even multicoloured ones. In the past I have used the purple carrots simply to ring the changes on our dinner plates. However, as I’m keen on cake, and I’m on a regime change, I though why not make a cake using purple carrots. We have the Dutch to thank for refining the carrot strain to bring the orange to the fore but I’m so pleased the other colours lingered on in the carrot DNA ready to pop up at unexpected moments.

Want to see what happened?

Keep scrolling.

Mixing in the grated purple carrots.

Mixing in the grated purple carrots.

I used a BBC GoodFood carrot cake recipe, which can be found here. I tweaked the recipe a little. I obviously used the purple carrots in mine. Also as I have a raisin hater I swapped the raisins in the recipe for walnut pieces, keeping the quantities the same.


Purple carrot cake.

One other joy of this recipe is that the icing is cream cheese free. Not only does this mean the cake lasts longer but it also reduces the calorie count somewhat. Handy.

October 25, 2015 / mintcustard

Vegan Quorn? Vegan Quorn!

Hot and spicy vegan Quorn burger.

Hot and spicy vegan Quorn burger. (Photo B.T.)

It isn’t often that I get to be the first to try a new product. To be honest, I rather like hanging back a little and let others take the first bite. Not last week. I was fortunate to be invited to the launch of a long awaited product.

It isn’t often that I get to be the first to try a new product. To be honest, I rather like hanging back a little and let others take the first bite. Not last week. I was fortunate to be invited to the launch of a long awaited product. Vegan Quorn.

DSC_9636 (1)

I have to confess I am neither vegetarian nor am I vegan, however the geek in me was intrigued to find out how Quorn had managed to bind the mycoprotein using only vegetable matter. No meat and no dairy? It appears this is no problem for Quorn Vegan.

Quorn have succeeded by using a potato based starch and a carageen based gel. Both the products I tasted at the launch seemed no different from the non vegan product. At present there are two lines on offer in Asda and Waitrose. The hot and spicy burgers are really tasty and the meat free pieces perform as you’d expect. They soak up the flavours added to them and are a versatile base for a number of dishes.

Peter Harrison, marketing director at Quorn said: “The Quorn Vegan Range has been over three years in development and during that time, weve seen a real shift in the number of consumers choosing to adopt a vegan lifestyle and a massive increase in demand, particularly apparent
across our digital channels. We have been particularly impressed by four consumer-led petitions in support of a Quorn Vegan Range.
Quorn Vegan Pieces will be available at Asda from October 2015 in packs weighing 280g, RRP £2.49.
One recipe I tried on the night was the Szechuan stir fry using the Quorn vegan pieces. Delicious.

Quorn vegan pieces : szechuan stir fry

Szechuan stir fry - with Quorn Vegan pieces.

Szechuan stir fry – with Quorn Vegan pieces.


Serves : 4

Preparation Time : 10 minutes (+ 30 minutes to marinade)

Cooking Time : 10 minutes

Calories/Serving : 227 kcal; 1.4 g sat fat

280g Vegan Quorn Meat Free Pieces, defrosted

Ingredients for the Marinade

  • 2 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
  • ½ tsp dried crushed chillies
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Chinese five- spice powder
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed

Ingredients for the Stir Fry

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ small onion, sliced
  • 100g sugar snap peas, cut in half lengthways
  • 100g baby corn, cut into quarters, lengthways
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp corn flour, dissolved in cold water
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • Salt and black pepper to tast


  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and add the defrosted vegan pieces. Mix well to ensure that all the vegan pieces are coated in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
  2. Bring a pan of water to the boil then blanch the sugar snap peas and baby corn for 2-3 minutes. Drain well. To make the stir fry, preheat 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil in a wok or a large frying pan, add the Quorn Vegan Pieces and stir-fry over a moderate heat for about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Preheat the remaining oil, add the onion and fry for 4-5 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the sugar snaps, baby corn and carrots and continue to stir-fry for another 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the stock into the pan and bring to the boil then add the corn flour mixture and stir until the sauce thickens. Continue to cook for a minute then season and sprinkle the spring onions over.

Enjoy with rice or noodles.

I was invited to attend the Quorn Vegan launch. I have not been paid to write this post. All opinions are my own. The first photograph in this post (B.T.) Other photographs were Taken by Tomas Preston of Preston Perfect Photography (


September 17, 2015 / mintcustard

Purple sauce from Premier Inn

I was recently sent a bottle of Purple sauce from Premier Inn. I love brown sauce, hate ketchup and could easily use Worcester sauce every day, so purple sauce intrigued me.

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Made with chilli and blackberry it looks beautiful on the plate, especially when splodged onto bacon. As well as using this condiment to enhance a breakfast I also used it to marinade some pork loin steaks. Served with beans, potatoes and roasted squash it made a simple yet tasty mid week family meal.

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I have to also say that topping a bacon sandwich was great place to put it too.

The sauce’s base is blackberry, and includes a range of natural ingredients – including cracked black pepper, crushed chillies, toasted cumin and smoked salt.  According to Premier Inn, Purple Sauce goes perfectly with British sausages and tasty back bacon, whether on a full English or in a juicy sarnie. The sauce has no artificial colours or flavourings, is suitable for vegetarians and the purple is a natural shade that reflects its blackberry base.

The sauce is only available in Premier Inn hotels for a limited 6 month period, and is apparently proving very popular.

If you happen to be staying at a Premier Inn then do try this sauce. I thought it was very tasty indeed.

I was sent a bottle of this sauce to review by Premier Inn. I was not paid to review the sauce, either in cash or kind. I was not asked to review the sauce positively. All images are my own.

August 22, 2015 / mintcustard

Meat free barbecue recipes with Quorn.

I have said many times in the past that I am not, and don’t ever envisage becoming, a vegetarian. However I do often cook meals without meat. I am trying hard to lose some weight and lower my blood pressure, eating leaner and cleaner is helping. Quorn is lower in fats and calories so is ideal as a #fattofitter recipe ingredient. As it acts a a flavour sponge Quorn readily takes up marinades and bastes so beloved of the barbecue chef.

The recipes posted here were created by Quorn for a recent barbecue event I attended at The London Barbecue School.

Sticky Skewered Quorn Sausages, are perfect for when the sun comes out and packed with flavour.
Serves 3 | 15 mins cooking time | 243 cals per serving | 1.1g sat fat per serving
  • 250g pack Quorn sausages – use your favourite flavour, if using frozen allow to defrost thoroughly.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 rounded tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2 tbsp mango chutney
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into chunky dice
  • cherry tomatoes
  • skewer sticks – soak wooden sticks in water for a few minutes before grilling or barbecuing to prevent burning
1. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and mango chutney together in a bowl. Coat the sausages with the glaze, cut into bite sized pieces.
2. Thread the onions, onto the skewers or kebab sticks alternating with the Quorn sausage, peppers and tomatoes.
3. Place the skewers onto a barbecue and cook turning frequently until vegetables are cooked and sausages are piping hot throughout, brushing with any remaining glaze.
4. They are equally good roasted in the oven 200C, Gas Mark 6 for 10-12 minutes.
Instead of reaching for a beef kebab that can be high in fat, give our succulent Quorn Meat Free Swedish or Italian meatballs versions a try. Ready in just 10-15 minutes.
Serves 4 – 6 | 10 – 15 mins cooking time | 253 cals per serving | 5.3g sat fat per serving
Quorn Swedish style meatball kebabs.

Quorn Swedish style meatball kebabs.

  • 1x 300g pack Quorn Meat Free Swedish Style Balls
  • 3 tbsp vegetarian red pesto
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 142 ml carton of Greek style yoghurt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley or coriander
  • 1 green or yellow pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 6 cherry tomatoes and 6 button mushrooms
  • kebab sticks – if using wooden kebab sticks soak in water for about 15 minutes before using.
1. Place the vegetarian pesto, tomato puree, 2 crushed garlic cloves, sugar and seasoning in a mixing bowl. Add the Quorn balls and mix thoroughly to coat the balls evenly. Cover and leave in the refrigerator until required.
2. Make the dip by mixing together the Greek yoghurt, lemon juice, parsley, the remaining crushed garlic clove and seasoning. Cover and chill until required.
3. Cut the peppers into 2.5cm pieces and the onion into similar sized chunks.
4. Thread the peppers onto the skewers or kebab sticks alternating with the Quorn balls, onion, mushroom and tomatoes using 3 or 4 balls on each kebab.
5. Line a grill pan with oiled foil, place the kebabs onto the foil and grill for 10-15 minutes on a moderate heat turning regularly and brushing with any remaining marinade or oil if required.
Also good on the BBQ – cook for a few minutes*, adjust rack height if necessary to avoid burning the marinade.
*BBQ cooking time is a guideline only
If you like your burger recipes to pack a punch, try our Quorn Meat Free Chilli burger recipe with chipotle salsa for added oomph.
Serves 2 | 10 mins cooking time Z 426 cals per serv
ing | 5.3g sat fat per serving
Quorn chilli burgers with a chipotle salsa.

Quorn chilli burgers with a chipotle salsa.

  • 2 Quorn Chef’s Selection Classic Burgers
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 ciabatta roll
  • Handful of pea shoots
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp sliced red jalapeno peppers
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 200g sweetcorn
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste, or to taste
  • 1 tsp fresh coriander, chopped
1. For the chipotle salsa heat the oil in a pan and cook the sweetcorn for 2 – 3 minutes or until jusstarting to brown, stir in the chipotle paste. Cool then stir in the coriander and tip into a serving dish.
2. Lightly brush the burgers with a tsp of the oil and grill or BBQ for 8 – 10 minutes (as per back of pack instructions), turning frequently.
3. Meanwhile, slice the ciabatta in half horizontally; brush the cut side with remaining oil and place under a hot grill or on the BBQ to toast.
4. Place the pea shoots on the base of the bread, top with the Quorn burger and add some slicesof red onion. Finish with jalapeno peppers before seasoning with freshly ground pepper.
5. Serve with the corn chipotle salsa.
I was invited to the Quorn barbecue event, I was not paid to attend and have not been asked to give a positive review of the food or the evening. All photographs and opinions are my own. The recipes have been sent to me by Quorn UK and are their copyright.

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