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August 22, 2016 / mintcustard

What do you take to Uni?


With the second one off to University in September, we are back to building a mountain of bits and pieces that need to be carted to and from a distant city at least three times in the next three years. The mountain will only grow, so don’t go wild (especially if you only have a Fiat 500 to transport it in.

First, before you buy anything, check what the Halls provide so you don’t have to search for receipts to take that iron back! Check the bed size too.


mattress topper, duvet and two sets of covers, bottom sheets (get a dark colour!!!) pillows, storage (underbed boxes for shoes), desk lamp, throw or blanket, pictures from home (you can hide them but…), air freshener (not a plug in), desk organiser, door wedge, extra hangers, Extension cable, laundry bag (a big Ikea bag or shopping bag is ideal), airer, dustpan and brush, rug as the floor will get grubby.


towels, toilet rolls, tooth mug, storage for toiletries (plastic basket), flip flops (if not ensuite), bathroom cleaning products if ensuite, bath mat if ensuite.


Crockery (minimum 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 dinner plates,) Cutlery set, extra tea spoons, mugs, glasses (pint or high ball), shot glasses, 1 large pan, 1 small pan, 1 frying pan or wok, plastic lidded storage for leftovers (old take away containers are ideal), reusable shopping bag (well it saves 10p!), cling film and foil, baking tray, small gratin type dish (for shepherds pie etc – the enamel ones are rugged), chopping knives, peeler, masher, slotted spoon, fish slice, bottle opener, corkscrew, strainer or sieve, measuring jug, portion measure (make your own.), washing up brush.


Homemade dry rice and pasta portion measure. Ideal for new students.


First aid kit, chargers, pens and pencils, sewing kit, sharpie to put your name on your bottle of milk!, scissors, wind up torch, pot to keep your pound coins and 50ps in for the laundry, passport, passport photos, printer, laptop, some way to play your music, box of biscuits, sports kit, musical instruments.

I’m certain I will have forgotten about something so please let me know and I’ll gladly add this to the list. I’m planning future posts on “stocking a student food cupboard” and some basic recipes you can then tweak to make a variety of meals. Any recipes you’d especially like?

Big stores such as IKEA, Wilkos, Robert Dyas and most supermarkets sell sets of pots and crockery. Just beware buying the very cheapest as you may find you have to buy a second set quickly after the first. It may be a false economy. Also, it doesn’t all have to match, whatever your child may say. Look out in sales and online too.

Good luck!



August 21, 2016 / mintcustard

Homemade handy portion measure for rice and pasta.


Homemade dry rice and pasta portion measure. Ideal for new students.

Following last week’s A level results, we now have another teen to get ready for University. Lists are being made, wristbands are being bought and some panic is setting in when I realise my nest will suddenly be empty!

It’s fun and exciting to collect together all the bits and pieces she needs to take with her. She is able to cook, so that’s one less worry but she’s casting her eye around my kitchen for familiar things she could “borrow”. I have an old and battered cup that I use to measure out dry pasta and rice as it shows a dry portion by volume.


“Can I take the pasta cup Mum?”

Errr, well, no. I use it often. Then I thought, if pasta and rice are tricky for me to get the portions right, it will certainly be hard for an inexperienced cook. Students especially need to get the portions correct, either because they can’t afford to throw away cooked pasta or they must eat enough to fuel an often hectic lifestyle.

I know they could make a pasta salad with the leftovers, (we are talking students here guys….) and I’m not going to encourage her to use up leftover rice, it can make you very ill. So I needed a new measuring cup for her to take. Volume is easier as not many students have a set of scales.

You could mark the volumes on a plastic measuring jug, but the volume of rice is quite small so this is what I did.

You need.


  • An empty plastic soup or pasta sauce tub
  • Sharpies or permanent marker
  • dry rice and pasta
  • a measuring jug

How to ….

  • Take a plastic tub that has contained soup or pasta sauce.  Wash it out and dry thoroughly.
  • Then measure out half a pint of dried pasta (one adult portion) and tip into the tub.
  • Take a Sharpie and mark a line to show the top of the dried pasta. Tip the dry pasta back into the pack.
  • Label the line ‘dry pasta’.
  • Measure out 75 ml of dried rice (one adult portion), again tip into the pot and mark a line around the tub to show the top of the rice.
  • Label the line ‘dry rice’.
  • If you use pulses or other grains regularly than measure and mark an adult portion of these in the same way.

Hope this helps in some way to keep both your stomach filled to the right level. It should stop you throwing your food (and by extension your money) into the bin. More for you to spend on that bottle of Vodka for pre drinks. Enjoy!

August 20, 2016 / mintcustard

Roopa Gulati at Borough Market #DemoKitchen.


To paraphrase Jona Lewie, “You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties.” Which is exactly what it felt like last Thursday, when I was invited by Borough Market to a preview of their new Demo Kitchen residencies.


Chef Roopa Gulati gives us a taster of Demo Kitchen at Borough Market.

With a lovely chatty, relaxed style Roopa introduced us to a taster session taken from her upcoming Demo Kitchen featuring the vegetarian street food of Gujarat. We were to help make and also got to eat the most delicious mushroom and paneer samosas.

That all sounds very simple but in the hour that Roopa was sharing (I can’t say teach or demonstrate as the whole process was certainly a collaborative experience) I learned about the pastry types favoured for samosas by those who live in different regions of India. I realised that  paneer is a cheese I could easily make and masala paneer especially will feature in my kitchen soon. I began to understand how recipes are passed from family member to family member and that the politics involved to extract a recipe for garam masala from your mother might need support from UN negotiators.

Add to this that I can now fold a samosa using two different methods, got to eat the samosas with an amazing mint chutney and wash it all down with a lovely spiced cordial too, I think I won!

A good teacher does many things and Roopa certainly is a great teacher. She enthused us, encouraged us and enabled us to go back to our own kitchens and recreate these samosa and chutney recipes. If you are anywhere near Borough Market on Thursday lunchtimes (12.30  – 2) I urge you to go along. It’s free and I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Following Roopa Gulati there are further residencies from equally exciting chefs.

In October Borough Market then has National Chef of the Year 2013, Hayden Groves whose theme is Autumn entertaining: sea spray and tidal marsh, forest and orchard fruits

In November, Jenny Chandler, UN FAO Special Ambassador for the International Year of Pulses )  will be cooking with pulses in all their varieties.

In December Katherine Frelon will be helping everyone prepare  for Christmas and winter festivities.

I was invited to this Demo Kitchen event by Borough Market. I was not paid to attend nor was I asked to write a positive blog post. All words and photographs are my own.


August 15, 2016 / mintcustard

Sticky soy sauce, honey and mustard coated sausages with sesame seeds


A very simple but firm favourite.Who doesn’t love sausage and chips? Baking the sausages in the oven is the way I prefer to cook my sausages, draining off any excess fat as I go. Simpler than turning them under the grill and much less heart stopping then frying them. To jazz up a plain sausage I cover them in a marinade for the last 5 minutes of cooking, until it becomes sticky, sweet and little spicy from the mustard. English mustard is really the best to use in this dish, but if all you have is a milder mustard then use that.

A word to the wise, line any roasting tin with a double layer of foil before pouring over the glaze as it turns to toffee and is a real horror to try and get off the tin once it cools.

Sticky soy sauce, honey and mustard sausages.

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp english mustard

1 tbsp sesame seeds.

How to ….

  • Double line your roasting tin (you have been warned!)
  • Bake the sausages in the oven according to the pack instructions.
  • 5 Minutes before the cooking time is finished, drain off any fat and pour the glaze and place back in the oven.
  • Once the cooking time is up, shake the sausages in the tin to make sure they are well coated in the glaze.
  • Scatter with sesame seeds.
  • Serve with wedges.

You can make this dish with cocktail sausages and allow to cool for a very sticky but delicious party snack.

August 11, 2016 / mintcustard

Traditional moulded shortbread – using my Mum’s shortbread mould.


Traditional moulded shortbread waiting to be baked.

Ideally I’d use the school summer holidays to get all those jobs done that have been nagging at me since September last year. Today I completed one such task and I’m so glad I did. I found, right at the back of a cupboard where they have probably been for many years, some of my Mum’s old kitchen equipment.


A pair of butter pats, a cookie press (I nearly bought one in Lakeland recently – so glad I didn’t), a chinois strainer, many glass jelly moulds and a shortbread mould too. I do vividly remember my Mum using this shortbread mould, so of course I had no option but to bake shortbread this afternoon.

I brushed the mould and wiped it out with an almost dry damp cloth to remove any dust.I left it to dry as I mixed up the dough.

Traditional moulded shortbread – makes 2 6″ rounds.

2 oz granulated sugar

4 0z cold butter

6 oz plain flour

Flour to dust the mould.

How to …..

  • Preheat the oven to 200c
  • Place the flour and sugar into a deep bowl and gently combine.
  • Cut the butter into the dry ingredients and rub in.
  • When rubbed in bring the dough together with the warmth of your hands. Once a dough has formed, stop and flour the mould.
  • Add a tablespoon of flour into the mould and coat the whole of the mould, concentrate on the nooks and crannies!
  • Tip out the excess flour, but save for the second round. Take half the dough and press gently but firmly into the mould.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment. Tip the mould over the parchment and tap hard to release the dough – you may need to do this several times. Be brave.
  • Reflour the mould and repeat.
  • Bake the shortbread for 5 minutes and then turn the oven down to 150 and bake for a further 10 minutes.


  • Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with caster sugar if you like.
  • put on the kettle and enjoy!

I will make some butter soon and use the pats although I really don’t remember them being used at all. As for the chinois and cookie press, I’m thinking ….

Tea Time Treats Lavender and Lovage

I have decided to add the iced buns to the Tea time treats linky hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and also co-hosts Manjiri from Travels for Taste and Jo from Jo’s Kitchen! I don’t think I’ve seen a cheeseburger at an afternoon tea yet (never say never but…) Pop over and take a look at the other treats cooked and linked up by bloggers from around the globe.


August 10, 2016 / mintcustard

Juicy lucy meatballs.


Juicy lucy meatballs.

Mention the word meatballs and this song pops straight into my head.

On top of spaghetti, All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball, When somebody sneezed.

It rolled off the table, And on to the floor,
And then my poor meatball, Rolled out of the door.

It rolled in the garden, And under a bush,
And then my poor meatball, Was nothing but mush.

The mush was as tasty As tasty could be,
And then the next summer, It grew into a tree.

The tree was all covered, All covered with moss,
And on it grew meatballs, And tomato sauce.

So if you eat spaghetti, All covered with cheese,
Hold on to your meatball, Whenever you sneeze.

These Juicy Lucy meatballs aren’t covered in cheese, just filled with it. Melty, oozy mozzarella to be precise. If you’d prefer blue cheese, cheddar cheese or no cheese that’s fine. Just make these delicious meatballs for supper and try your hardest not to sneeze!


Ingredients – Juicy Lucy meatballs (make 12 meatballs)

500g minced beef

1 clove of garlic grated

1 chicken stock cube grated

pinch chilli flakes

1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

12  x 2cm cubes of hard (grating) mozzarella

a grind or two of black pepper

680g jar of passata

How to…..

  • Preheat the oven to 190 c
  • Place all the ingredients, except the tomato passata and cheese, into a large bowl.
  • Mix together until well combined.
  • Divide into 12 equal sized meatballs.
  • Take a cube of cheese and press into the centre of the meatball. Close the edges of the meat around the cheese and roll to regain the spherical shape. Repeat for each meatball.
  • Place the meatballs into a gratin dish or similar. Pour over the passata. Add a splash of water to the jar to rinse out any remaining tomato and to thin the passata a little. Pour over the meatballs.
  • Place in the dish into the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Leave to cool for 5 minutes and serve with spaghetti and perhaps a grating of cheese if you wish.



August 8, 2016 / mintcustard

Pasta mista – a fun and frugal way to reduce food waste.

The Italians are masters of the art of  frugality. They can produce the most amazing dishes from a handful of pasta, a few tomatoes and a parmesan rind. Nothing is thrown away if it can be used in some way. Which brings me to Pasta mista, I always bring a bag back from Italy. A motley collection of different types of dried pasta. When they were younger the girls loved the different shapes they would get in one bag.

pasta mista

How many shapes can you see in this pasta mista?

Can’t get it here so I’ve decided to get a jar and create my own. All the ends of bags of pasta collected together. Snap large pieces down so the pasta is a similar size and cooks at the same rate. Fun and prevents food waste. What do you think? If it’s good enough for the major pasta producers in Italy, why not try to make your own.

Pasta Mista

August 7, 2016 / mintcustard

Copacabana cookie bars – an Olympic treat.


Copacabana M&M cookie bars.

It’s going to be a trying few weeks. This family is, for the most part, sports mad. That means that there will be many late nights or very early mornings depending on your point of view. I spied two kinds of themed M&Ms (peanut and regular) in the shops recently and I knew they had to make their way into my baking somehow. This Copacabana cookie bar recipe contains the regular variety but the peanut version would be just as delicious I’m sure. Soft on the inside but crisp enough to hold together. A snack to boost your sugar levels and keep you going through the night as you watch Team GB battle for medals.It will also calm my annoyance too. As a bit of a pedant I refuse to use the nouns “medal” and “podium” as verbs and these Copacabana cookie bars will soothe me.

Copacabana cookie bars – ingredients


  • 170g butter
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp Ndali vanilla powder or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 160g M&Ms (in Brazil flag colours of possible)

How to ….

  • Pre-heat the oven to 190c.
  • Line a 13″ x 6″ tin with baking parchment.
  •  Beat together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar  until pale and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and vanilla. Beat these into the mixture.
  • Sift in the plain flour and bicarbonate of soda .
  • Sprinkle in 120g of M and Ms or similar. Fold in the flour and chocolates until just combined. Do not over work the very soft dough.
  • Press gently into the lined tin and scatter the remaining chocolates on top.
  • Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Find the remote control. Make a big pot of coffee, slice a big chunk of Copacabana cookie bar and settle in for a late night watching the Rio Olympics.

August 6, 2016 / mintcustard

Touring the world, one supermarket at a time.

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Ok, admit it, if you are any sort of food lover one of the things you do on holiday is take a trip around a supermarket and buy a stash of ingredients you find hard to source at home. We aren’t away this summer (shoulder surgery, A level results, decorating – etc, etc) but that hasn’t stopped me building a pile of treats that don’t usually figure on my shopping list.

I really enjoy going to do a big food shop. I know many people prefer to have their shopping delivered for a whole variety of reasons, not me. I relish the prospect of poking around and coming across new (to me) products. Many supermarkets have aisles dedicated to foods from around the world and this is a great place to start. Jars of pickles and sauerkraut, tins and packs of pulses and blocks of jaggery have all recently landed in the bottom of my trolley. Cans of pop and a big bottle of raspberry cordial also came home with me. Mixes of seasonings and spices are all the kinds of things I bring back from abroad but these authentic packs are now available in many major supermarkets. Now I’d agree that they don’t have a wide range but this movement seems to be expanding out from the ambient ailes into the chiller cabinet too. Cartons of smetana, hunks of smoked ham and the biggest tub of natural yogurt I’ve seen outside a cash and carry have come home with me.

If I want to make a recipe that contains Matzo meal or cracker crumbs then I know which supermarket locally has a Kosher foods aisle. Others have a large Polish or Turkish section.  What a supermarket has selections of I’m sure reflects the local community.

I’m urging you to step away from your usual shopping list by one degree. Go armed with your list but perhaps substitute one or two of your regular ingredients with something different. You may well find they are less expensive (can of coconut milk), sold in larger quantities (whole black pepper) and possibly a complete new experience (tins of mango pulp).

What you won’t find in these large supermarkets that you often find in a specialist shop are the recipe tips and help of your fellow shoppers but…. Go, try, taste.



August 4, 2016 / mintcustard

Blackberry and lime cordial.


Blackberry and lime.

The annual blackberry harvest has begun. For as long as I can remember I have loved picking and using blackberries in my cooking. I blame my grandparents. Despite living in London all of their lives, they were great foragers. We never went anywhere without a Tupperware box and walking stick. The box was to collect the blackberries but the walking stick? To pull down the higher brambles to reach the plumpest berries of course. Why not take advantage of nature’s bounty and preserve these wonderful flavours in a cordial.

I have made so many different recipes using blackberries in the past. What to do with the 500g of berries I had sitting in the fridge after a quick 5 minute picking the other day?

I decided on a cordial. Blackberry and lime to be precise. So versatile. Topped up with sparkling water on a warm day, added to a glass of prosecco for an evening in the garden or added to a mug of hot water on a chilly, misty Autumnal morning.

Blackberry and lime cordial.

500g blackberries

zest and juice of 1 lime

350g caster sugar


sterilised bottle for the cordial

How to ……

  • Place the blackberries, lime zest and juice in a large pan and place over a low heat for 10 minutes until the berries burst and give up their juice.
  • Allow to cool a little and then strain the juice from the pips into a jug or bowl using a fine sieve. You can push the juice through using a wooden spoon to speed things up.
  • Measure out the blackberry juice and make up to 500ml with water.
  • Pour the juice into a pan and add the sugar. Bring to the boil. Take off the heat and cool. You may need to skim the top of the cordial.
  • Pour the cooling cordial into the sterilised bottle.

Use for cold drinks, hot drinks, sparkling drinks and it tastes great poured over vanilla ice cream too!




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