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July 26, 2017 / mintcustard

Anniversary cupcakes

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Anniversary cupcakes

Celebrating any event necessitates the making and consuming of cake. Our 25th wedding anniversary this week was no different. Except that I didn’t get to eat the cakes I made. They went to work with the husband to be shared with his work colleagues. I’m on school summer holidays so no one in the staff room to share my cakes with. These simple cupcakes were made a little more special by using silver cupcake cases (it’s our silver anniversary!), silver glitter spray, vanilla buttercream frosting and a few silver balls.

Anniversary cupcakes. – makes 12

2 eggs

weight of the two eggs in self raising flour.

weight of the two eggs in caster sugar.

weight of the two eggs in soft butter

1 tbsp milk

vanilla powder

12 cupcake cases

Icing

5 oz soft butter

10 oz icing sugar

milk to slacken if needed

  • Pre heat the oven to 180c
  • Place cupcake cases into a muffin tin.
  • Beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar until light and airy.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  • Fold in the flour gently. Add a splash of milk if you need to slacken the mixture to dropping consistency (the batter falls of the spoon without the need to shake it!)
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the cake cases and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and springs back when gently pressed.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before icing.
  • To make the icing, beat the butter until very soft and then beat in half the icing sugar. Once combined add in the second half of the icing sugar. Again, if the icing is too stiff to pipe, add a little milk to the buttercream mixture to loosen it.
  • Using a star nozzle pipe swirls onto the top of the cold cakes. Spray with a little glitter and sprinkle with a few silver balls.
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July 24, 2017 / mintcustard

Milk and chocolate knotted breakfast bread.

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Milk and chocolate knotted breakfast bread.

Baking bread is a sure fire way to get me to my happy place. Add into that a plait or a knot and I’m there even faster. Many people have a set routine for breakfast. Same drink,  same food at the same time. Not me, I like to ring the changes. Which is why, this morning I made a loaf of milk and chocolate knotted breakfast bread. Sweet but not too sweet milk bread twists around a deep cocoa enriched dough to liven up your morning. Ideal for a weekend treat.

Combining a chocolate dough with an enriched milk bread, this bread is delicious buttered, toasted, made into french toast or simply nibbled with a cup of coffee.

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Using a half mixture from this recipe from My bread and brot I then knotted the bread in a four strand knot.  I egg washed the loaf before baking. The loaf was baked at 190C for 40 minutes.

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Baked and ready to slice.

Tastes delicious and looks pretty too. The next project I have is making my own butter. Any helpful suggestions or hints?

July 23, 2017 / mintcustard

Summer gin cocktails.

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I haven’t posted much recently at all. I’ve really missed blogging and I’m so glad to be back. I’ve spent the last half term working full time, I had fun doing that but now I’m returning to writing.

In the last two weeks of term I was offered the chance to try a few gin cocktails featuring Hayman’s Gin. To be honest, offering a teacher gin at this point in the year could go one of two ways. Luckily  for me, it was a great way to relax without being hard to get up in the morning in for school.

I made and enjoyed a Hayman’s Victorian Mojito and a Hayman’s English Ruby Fizz.

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Hayman’s English Ruby Fizz.

Hayman’s English Ruby Fizz.

Semi-sweet, refreshing and with an eye-catching pink tint, the English Ruby Fizz is the ideal al fresco cocktail.  The sweet taste of the raspberries partners perfectly with the spicy ginger notes.

Makes: 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 50ml Hayman’s London Dry Gin
  • 20ml lime juice
  • 10ml sugar syrup or Grenadine
  • 4-8 fresh raspberries (I picked mine from the garden) or raspberry syrup
  • Ginger Ale to top with
  • Lime wheel and fresh raspberries to garnish

 

Method:

  1. Fill a highball glass with plenty of large cubes of ice
  2. Set aside the ginger ale and garnish, and combine all remaining ingredients in a shaker with the ice
  3. Shake well for approximately 12 seconds
  4. Double strain into the highball allowing the liquid to run over the ice
  5. Top with ginger ale
  6. Garnish with a lime wheel and raspberries

Hayman’s Victorian Mojito

Nothing says summer like a sun lounger, a good book and a refreshing minty mojito in the back garden.   The Victorian Mojito combines Hayman’s London Dry Gin with fresh mint and lime juice balanced with sugar syrup to create an ideal English classic.

Makes: 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 50ml Hayman’s London Dry Gin
  • 25ml freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 20ml sugar syrup
  • Premium tonic water or soda water
  • Freshly picked mint leaves

 

Method:

  1. Fill a highball glass with cracked or crushed ice and a few fresh mint leaves
  2. Pour in the Hayman’s London Dry Gin and let it run down over the ice
  3. Add the lime juice and sugar syrup
  4. Churn vigorously ensuring the ingredients are well mixed
  5. Top with the tonic water or soda water
  6. Garnish with a mint sprig

Both cocktails are light and just right for a warm, balmy summer evening.  Now, If anyone can conjure several of those up in the next week or so I shall be eternally grateful.

I was sent a sample of gin to use to make the cocktails. I was not paid to write this blog post. All photographs are my own. I was not asked to write a positive review.

June 3, 2017 / mintcustard

Making sushi – an ideal way to change up your packed lunch.

Home made sushi!

I am a lover of any kitchenalia. You know, those bits and bobs that fall into your basket when pottering around the kitchen section of shops like IKEA, Tiger or Williams-Sonoma. The USA has some amazing things you never knew you needed, the bacon bowl maker being top of the list of items I’ve bought in Walmart and never used! Which is how I came to make sushi.

Sushi bits and bobs!

I had the equipment.

I had all the gear.

I also had no idea.

So I set about rectifying the situation ASAP.

The gear you need by the way is fairly minimal, and can now be purchased in most reasonably large supermarkets. If you do have a specialist supermarket close by I’d go there as the variety of products will be greater and you may well get helpful advice from the shop staff.

To make maki or rolls you need a bamboo sushi mat that you have wrapped in cling film, a sharp knife, a chopping board, some nori (seaweed sheets), cooked sushi rice, wasabi and sushi su (seasoning for the rice).

You will need ….

Cook the rice according to the pack or box. I use a rice cooker but a pan and a stove top does just as well. Allow to cool a little and then season with the sushi su whilst still warm

The three main types of sushi I make are:

  • Hosomaki (a thin roll using half sheets of nori)
  • Futomaki (a fat roll using a whole sheet of nori)
  • Uramaki (an inside out roll, where the rice is on the outside and often sprinkled with sesame seeds)

Sushi rolls

The technique is basically the same. I’ll explain it here but you could also look at a wide variety of clips from YouTube or this exhaustive site Eat Japan.

Get a bowl of warm water so you can wet your hands as you go along.

Lay out your cling film covered mat.

Place a sheet of nori rough side towards you. Wet your fingers. Taking a ball of rice in your hand, press it onto the nori in a thin even layer. Leave a margin of a centimeter or so uncovered at one long edge. Add more rice to cover the nori if needed. You can wet your fingers again if needed to, to push out the rice.

Smear a little wasabi onto the rice from one end to the other. Place your favourite fillings on top; Cucumber, salmon, tuna, crab, pepper, omelette and the list goes on.

Using the bamboo mat, and starting away from the margin, roll up your sushi, tightly. The margin you left will seal the edge of the sushi roll. You may like to wet it a little just before rolling as this will allow the nori to stick better making a seal.

Taking a sharp knife, cut the roll into equal slices.

Serve with pickled ginger, additional wasabi and some Japanese soy sauce.

Sushi is addictive. Making sushi is also addictive. You don’t need the gubbins I have to make sushi, just the mat, rice, nori and a sharp knife. However making rice balls in the shape of a panda or using a mould to get hard-boiled eggs into the shape of a star has a certain draw does it not…..

 

May 27, 2017 / mintcustard

Streusel topped blueberry and pumpkin seed loaf cake.

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Streusel topped blueberry and pumpkin seed loaf cake

This blueberry and pumpkin seed loaf cake has been a real hit. Chocolate cake is my absolute favourite. I know it doesn’t happen very often but when the weather is as hot as it has been recently, I needed a new go to flavour of loaf cake that would be enjoyed by everyone.

I love blueberries and wanted something crunchy to add to the mix. I thought about poppy seeds but don’t like having them in my teeth for the rest of the day, so plumped for pumpkin seeds instead. I used dried blueberries as they keep their integrity better than fresh ones and don’t make the cake too wet.

Streusel topped blueberry and pumpkin seed loaf cake.

3 large eggs weighed in their shells
An equal weight of  butter or margarine
An equal weight of golden caster sugar
An equal weight of self-raising flour
2 tablespoons milk

50g pumpkin seeds

75g dried blueberries

streusel topping

25g flour

85g demerara sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

50g cold butter

1 dsp dried blueberries

1 dsp pumpkin seeds

 

Icing

125g icing sugar

50g fresh blueberries, pureed and sieved

water to slacken

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How to….

  1. Weigh the eggs in their shells and weight out equal quantities of butter, sugar and flour.
  2. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together well. Continue creaming until the butter and sugar mixture becomes paler in colour.
  3. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add half of this beaten egg into the mixture, and stir it in well. Add in a couple of tablespoons of the flour, then the rest of the egg, and beat again.
  4. Taking a metal spoon very gently fold in the rest of the flour.  Use a cutting and folding movement to combine the flour without losing any air from the mix. When all the flour is combined add in two tablespoons of milk, the blueberries and the pumpkin seeds
  5. Put this mix into a paper lined loaf tin.
  6. Rub together the ingredients for the streusel topping, in the same way that you would make a crumble. Place this topping onto the unbaked cake
  7. Bake for 45 to 50  minutes at 180 C until firm and golden brown.
  8. When cooked cool for a short while in the tin..
  9. Add the blueberry puree to the icing sugar. Add a little more icing sugar/water to make a thick cream consistency. Drizzle over the cake and allow to drip down the sides. I use piping bag to do this but a spoon and a steady hand works well too. Scatter with a few extra pumpkin seeds and dried blueberries to decorate.
  10. Devour.
May 7, 2017 / mintcustard

Yo! Boxpark Croydon

I love Croydon. Love it. Not really something you would expect many people to admit to, but times are changing. It would be fair to say that over the years Croydon has had a pretty bad press. It would also be fair to say that some of the bad press was justified.

With the Fairfield Halls and the Whitgift Centre it always was a useful urban hub. From the Purley Way, during a sunny summer sunset, the hazy view of Croydon could be compared with that of Manhatten.

Croydon is hyper connected too. You can be in central London in 14 minutes and the south coast in under 40! Gatwick Airport is a mere quarter of an hour away and West Croydon’s “ginger line” connects the town to every bustling square inch of south east London – from Peckham to Shoreditch.

However, in recent years, further changes have begun to happen. First there were the trams, then came the regeneration of the run down blocks of flats and disused office blocks into luxury living spaces. After that BOXPARK arrived. Nestled beside East Croydon train station (so you can visit here without actually going into Croydon itself!) this version is entirely given over to food and beverage outlets. Using the excuse of having to collect someone from the station we popped in last Sunday for a bite to eat. There are so many choices it may take you a while to make up your mind. I’d already decided to visit the Yo! Street Food pop up, as I love Japanese food and wanted to give their new menu a try. Others in our little group chose Sri Lankan food and Mexican dishes so all bases are covered.

 

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All really rather delicious and quite different. I loved the sticky and melt in the mouth pork buns, the sushi was amazing and the edamame beans are salty, spicy and fun to eat.

I urge you to go, visit Croydon and spend some time dispelling the myths that surround this much maligned town. Pop along to Surrey Street market with an empty bag and come away with fruit, veg and flavours from around the world, drink craft beer from the Cronx brewery or spend time in Matthews Yard with a coffee and the papers. Croydon will surprise you, put aside your prejudices and visit. Soon.

Next it will be Comedy clubs, coffee shops and curated spaces , ah wait…… that’s already happening!

April 22, 2017 / mintcustard

Mushroom and chicken ramen – A Japanese evening with the neighbours.

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Ready for ramen.

Every year since our houses were built (1998) we have had a street barbecue. We set the date well ahead of time and invariably seem to pick the chilliest and dampest summer evening of the year. Not that this is a problem as it means the fire pits can be dragged out and lit, keeping the evening going well into the small hours of the morning. You’d have to say that as a group of neighbours we all love our food. Last year it was decided that we shouldn’t have to wait a whole year to get around the table, we ought to get together to share a meal more often. Taking a country each for inspiration, we have travelled from Spain, to Greece and then onto Italy. When it came to my turn I decided we needed a little long haul travel and took us all to Japan for the evening.

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Home made sushi!

Home made sushi to start, followed by mushroom miso ramen with chicken and home made mochi for dessert. I supplemented the dessert with bought mochi and some Chupa Chups sweet sushi too!

Mushroom miso ramen with chicken  –  serves 4

  • 15g/½oz dried shitaki mushrooms
  • 1.4 litres/2½ pints just-boiled water
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 4 tbsp brown miso paste
  • 200g udon noodles
  • 2-3 tsp sunflower oil
  • 4 large free-range eggs, 2 tbsp dark soy, 1 tbsp mirin and 1 tsp water
  • 1 100g pack of speciality mushrooms (enoki, oyster etc)
  • red pepper finely sliced
  • 2 pak choi, roots trimmed, leaves separated, washed and halved
  • 100g/3½oz fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
  • 6 spring onions, trimmed, very thinly sliced
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Teriyaki marinade

How to …..

  • Place the dried mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and pour over enough hot water to cover. Leave aside for 4 hours to re-hydrate.
  • Coat the chicken breasts in teriyaki marinade and leave in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
  • Place a pan of water onto boil, take the eggs from the fridge and place in the barely boiling water.Boil for 6 minutes exactly and then plunge into iced water. Leave to cool and then peel.
  • Combine the soy, mirin and water in a zip lok bag and pop in the eggs. Place in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
  • Drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Trim the mushrooms to remove the hard stalks and slice finely.
  • Place the liquid, stock cube and boiled water into a large saucepan. Stir in the miso paste and add in the finely sliced re-hydrated mushrooms.
  • Grill the chicken and finely slice. Keep warm.
  • On a platter, arrange the beansprouts, mushrooms, halved marinated eggs, spring onions and red pepper.
  • Cook the noodles as directed on the packet.
  • Place noodles into the bottom of a bowl. Pour over the soup. Add in the vegetables, egg and chicken as desired.
  • Invite the neighbours and enjoy.
April 2, 2017 / mintcustard

Dragon egg nests – A spring recipe.

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Dragon egg nests.

Whilst I’m no expert, I’m pretty sure that dragons must follow the crowd and lay their eggs in the springtime. Having made more variations on chocolate nests than I can contemplate; shredded wheat, All bran (!),  cornflake, rice krispie, rocky road, melted chocolate, cocoa and syrup and filled with foiled eggs, mini eggs, jelly beans or peeps. The time had come, or so I thought, to grow up a little and start to make individual simnel cakes.

Then I spotted the golden eggs in the shops and they made me wonder what creature could have laid them. Dragons, only dragons or perhaps a phoenix could lay a golden egg. Then I started to wonder what a dragon’s nest would look like. I have a mind that wanders, what can I say! Probably brightly coloured and possibly a little sparkly? So I set out to make a new variation of the classic chocolate Easter or Spring nest. Dragon’s nests are a great way to use up the odds and ends in those jars of sprinkles that lurk in the cupboard.

Dragon’s nest rice krispie cakes – makes 12

50g butter

1 tbsp golden syrup

100g marshmallows

100g rice krispies

odds and ends of sprinkles (about 3 dsp) plus a few to scatter over the finished nests

2 bags of golden eggs (or foil wrapped eggs if you can’t source these)

muffin cases in a deep muffin tin

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Dragon egg nest

How to…..

  • Melt the butter together with the golden syrup in a large pan over a very low heat.
  • Tip in the marshmallows and melt into the syrup mixture stirring frequently.
  • Pour in the rice krispies with the sprinkles and mix well until the rice krispies are completely coated.
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cases. Use a wet teaspoon to create a dimple in the middle of the nest to receive the eggs.
  • Top each nest with three eggs and a scattering of more sprinkles or glitter.
  • Dragon’s nest make perfect food for unicorns!

I have linked these up to this months Treat Petite, run this month by The Baking Explorer and alternate months by Cakeyboi

March 19, 2017 / mintcustard

Red nose day tiffin – with added Maltesers.

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I try baking something every year for Red Nose Day. We often have a bake sale at school. Last year it was Red Nose Day Empire biscuits, this year I’m not actually baking but there will still be a plate of delicious morsels at the end of this process.

Red nose day tiffin, with added Maltesers.

200g Malted milk biscuits

50g digestive biscuits

125 g butter

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 tbsp cocoa

1 share bag Maltesers

200g white chocolate

red food colouring

6″ square tin, lined with two layers of cling film

How to…..

  • Line the tin with cling film.
  • Crush the biscuits, I use the end of a rolling pin to do this.
  • Melt together the butter, syrup and cocoa over a low heat.
  • Pour the mixture over the biscuit crumbs and mix well.
  • Add in two thirds of the bag of Maltesers, press into the lined tin and refrigerate until set.

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  • Once set, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Pour most of it over the tiffin but reserve about a tablespoon of it in the bowl.
  • Add in the red food colouring, mix well and place dots of the red chocolate over the white to resemble red noses. Place the remaining Maltesers onto the top too.pressing in well.

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  • Chill again, cut into 16 pieces and wrap up for a bake sale.

You can donate to Comic Relief here.

 

 

 

 

March 18, 2017 / mintcustard

Butternut squash lasagna – completely pasta free.

Butternut squash lasagna sheets

I have said before on countless occasions that I am inordinately greedy. So when a, new to me, foodstuff appears in the shops I love to try it. Not because it is “free from”, not because it is “healthy”, not because it is “clean eating”.No I’ll try it because it might actually taste good. That’s why I eat quinoa, kale and courgetti. It’s also why I eat creme eggs, hobnobs and jam doughnuts.

The same goes for these butternut squash slices (from Sainsbury’s) that can be use in place of pasta in a lasagna. Effectively you make a vegetable gratin, but by using the tastes and flavours reminiscent of lasagna you can build a really delicious dish. When making my dish I chose to make a vegetarian version, but you could just as easily use your regular mince and white sauce recipe and simply substitute the butternut squash lasagna sheets.

Butternut squash lasagna sheets.

Butternut squash lasagna

1 pack butternut squash lasagna sheets

1 carton passata with basil or tomato frito

1 pack baby spinach

4 large portabella mushrooms

1 clove garlic chopped

1 large knob butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 pack cauliflower and kale couscous or similar

white sauce

grated cheddar cheese

Large gratin dish

How to….

  • Preheat the oven to 200c.
  • In a pan gently soften the garlic in the butter, add in the mushrooms and cook until softened also. Add in the baby spinach and wilt down.
  • Oil the bottom of the gratin dish with a tsp of oil.
  • Place a layer of the butternut squash lasagna slices in the bottom of the dish. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle with a third of the passata. Top with the spinach and mushroom mixture and another layer of lasagna sheets. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle with another third of the passata. Top with the cauliflower and kale couscous (you could use cauliflower rice or beetroot rice too here.)
  • Pour over the remaining passata, Top with the final layer of lasagna sheets. Season with salt and pepper. I haven’t given a recipe for white sauce as you may wish to make your own vegan version (mine is crammed with butter and full fat milk!)
  • Give a proper covering of cheese.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Allow to cool a little before serving.

I had this as a stand alone dish but it would be tasty as a vegetable side dish with some simply grilled chicken too.

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