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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.

blueberry streusel1

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



125g icing sugar

50g fresh blueberries, pureed and sieved

water to slacken

blueberry streusel2

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

March 18, 2017 / mintcustard

Pintxos, palaces and puddles – day 2 in Madrid.


Despite the fact that my feet were screaming at me, having walked miles the day before, I pulled on my boots and set off for a second day of exploration in Madrid.

First I needed breakfast. It appeared that the cafes and even McDonalds didn’t open their doors until 10! Thank goodness for Starbucks. One cappuccino and croissant later, I was ready to go.

First stop, in between the showers, was a walk in Retiro Park to find the Crystal Palace hidden at it’s heart. On a sunny day I can imagine the park packed with families enjoying a Sunday stroll. To be fair, on a damp and drizzle day there were many people, walking, cycling and scooting around. Stalls cropped up along the pathways selling bags of snacks, drinks and candy floss. I settled for a coffee in an attempt to defrost!

One surprise inside the Crystal Palace was a sound installation. The person who thought that playing the sounds of Polar ice cracking and moving would be a good idea inside a glass structure knows how to make your mind play tricks on you. Having beaten a hasty retreat from the Crystal Palace a quick trip into the city followed to see the Palacio Real. Closed for an event, I walked back into the centre for more churros and chocolate. I had a wander round the food hall of El Corte Ingles. I do wish I had access to this variety of foods on my doorstep. So much food, such little luggage space.

The evening was spent in the company of beer, tapas and pintxos. The difference between the two? Tapas come in small portions, pintxos are little tastes on pieces of bread, all held together with a cocktail stick.  Doesn’t matter what they are called , they are delicious. Great for anyone who can’t decide what to have on a menu, mix and match.

There was so much I didn’t get to see, or eat, in Madrid. Despite getting stuck in a museum lift and speaking so little Spanish that I had to YouTube how to use the Metro ticket machines I had so much fun I’m certainly going back.

Read more…

March 4, 2017 / mintcustard

Croque Monsieur pancakes with Candice Brown and Sainsburys.

Making Croque Monsieur pancakes with Candice Brown.

Making Croque Monsieur pancakes with Candice Brown.

I’m not the kind of woman to turn down a pancake. Crisp, thin crepes with lemon and sugar? That would be lovely.  A fluffy American stack topped with bacon and maple syrup? No question. A Croque Monsieur pancake cooked by GBBO winner Candice Brown? Hell yes!

This Shrove Tuesday (Pancake day) I was invited along with a number of other bloggers to Food at 52 in London and we made brunch together.

The recipe!

The recipe!

Candice showed us all how to make her delicious Croque Monsieur pancakes. Some of us had more experience of pancake making than others but we all had a great deal of fun. Savoury pancakes wouldn’t have been my first choice but Candice’s recipe has completely won me over. I have a crepe pan I use whenever I make pancakes (which is often!) but the cast iron pan we used at the event was so good. You do need to be brave and allow it to get hot before you pour on the batter. Leave the batter completely alone until the batter sets and bubbles THEN turn the pancake with either a spatula or a palette knife.

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The secret to this delicious dish is, in my humble opinion, the quantity of cheese and the mustard in the bechamel. You may want to pop into your local Sainsburys and take a look at their new homeware range. Much of the cookware we used was taken from the range and very pretty it is too.

Thank you to Sainburys for inviting me to this event. I had a great time and was still full at dinner time that evening!I was not paid to attend the event or write a blog post

March 3, 2017 / mintcustard

Madrid – a weekend of churros, chocolate and culture.



An unexpected weekend away in Madrid enabled me to recharge my batteries and indulge my body and my mind. My husband was busy at a conference, my girls are grown up so I could choose what to do, what to see and where and when to eat.

Despite the fact that rain fell, on and off, for the whole weekend it didn’t dampen my spirits at all. I was able to do all I wanted to do in between the showers.

The trip began with a very quick and easy trip from the airport to the heart of the city on the Metro. As the weather was so unpredictable the Metro was a godsend. Speedy, simple enough for a non Spanish speaker to navigate and reasonably priced too.

Staying out by the Bernabeu Stadium meant that the journey into the city centre was quick and easy. Had the weather been kinder I would have walked far more but it was not to be. First stop was the San Miguel Market, Plaza de San Miguel. A glass or two of wine and a selection of tapas set us up for the rest of the afternoon. The seafood tapas (especially the octopus and bacalao) were amazing as were the selections of olives available. A little crowded on a Friday evening but great atmosphere and a wide choice of foods and snacks too.

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After coffee and a pastry in a cafe the next morning started with mooch around town and a visit to the National Archaeological Museum. Packed to the rafters with artifacts I had a fantastic time looking at everything from Roman mosaics to Moorish decoration via a display of money and coinage! Lunch beckoned and for a while I toyed with the idea of yet more tapas but as the weather had turned really cold and rainy there was only one choice. Hot chocolate and churros!

Chocolatería San Ginés it was then.Open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week this most famous of bars serves a mean churro. Fluffy and crunchy at the same time they cry out to be dipped in the molten chocolate. Despite being packed with tourists all trying to warm up and dry out, the wait for a table was short and there was no rush to get you to leave your table either, once finished.

Later that evening it was onto tapas and beer, but more of that in another blog post.