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July 27, 2016 / mintcustard

Celebrate the Rio Olympics and Paralympics by baking some tasty treats.

Olympic snacks and treats.

I have always loved The Olympics, and at London 2012 I fell in love with the Paralympics too. Last time round I was lucky enough to attend the games on several occasions. This time, sadly, I will have to make do with watching on the TV. That means snacks will have to be consumed to keep me going late into the night (Rio is 4 hours behind the UK).

First up, of course, are the Olympic Torch cupcakes for the opening ceremony. Originally created for the day my husband ran in the Torch relay.

Olympic torch cupcake

Fancy a slice of Brazillionaires Shortbread? Sorry about the really awful photo, I’ll be remaking this soon with a much better image. Millionaires shortbread with brazil nuts in the caramel and the colours of the Brazil flag stirred into the white chocolate topping.

 

Brazilionaires Shortbread

Brazilionaires Shortbread

All the colours of the Olympic flags in one slice of cake. Originally made to celebrate the Sochi Winter Games, and designed to be an Olympic zebra cake. This Sochi cake is fun and tasty too. Sochi cake.

 

A slice of Sochi cake

A slice of Sochi cake

As well as sweet snacks you are bound to buy a bag or two of salty treats too. What happens to the last few left in the bag or bowl? Tip them in the bin? NO! Make yourself a batch or two of compost cookies. Sweet, salty and utterly delicious.

compost cookies

compost cookies

I will be making more Olympic and Paralympic themed foods as the Olympics progress, keep an eye out and pop back to Mintcustard to see  what I come up with. Sit back and enjoy others working hard and reaping their rewards for all their efforts.

July 25, 2016 / mintcustard

Challenging and changing habits with Weetabix #SportingStarts. A great idea for the school holidays.

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Zara, with Denise Lewis and Ian Grant.

There are times when my girls are unhappy that I blog (“Does the world need to know what we had for dinner Mum?”) and there are times they are only too willing to help out. The chance to take part in a Weetabix #SportingStarts coaching session with Denise Lewis and coach Ian Grant was an opportunity my elder daughter jumped at. As 2016 promises us a summer of sport, now is the chance to take up a new challenge perhaps.

Throughout July and August, the nation’s leading breakfast cereal Weetabix are running a ‘Summer of Sport’ Campaign and every pack purchased gives you the chance to receive a free or 2-4-1 Sports session plus the chance to win a money can’t buy prize. Top rewards consist of sporting experiences with athletes, including Denise Lewis herself, and other rewards such as team kits and biking sets.The intention of the activity is to inspire Brits throughout the summer and aim to help us rise from the sofa and undertake a new sport. The theme behind this is not restrictive – it doesn’t have to cost the earth, it doesn’t have to wear you out and it doesn’t have to take up all of your time. All you have to do is start something new, with the aid of Weetabix!

So on a (rare) but sunny day at Lee Valley Athletics Centre in London, with the help of coach Ian Grant, Denise Lewis OBE was on hand to giver her tips, advice and insider knowledge in everything Heptathlon – inspiring the nation to get up and get active. My daughter Zara, who enjoys any and every sport, had an amazing time discussing athletics and also cricket with Denise. As part of the #SportingStarts campaign Weetabix challenged Denise to take up a new sport. Cricket.

My daughter went along to the coaching session and spent a fantastic morning trying out the different events that make up a Heptathlon.  She felt that she learned so much from the time she spent at Lee Valley Stadium. Now I need to get my trainers out of the cupboard and change a habit or two of my own.

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With the school holidays just around the corner and parents always in need of some  entertainment inspiration; it’s the perfect time to pick up a pack of Weetabix, grab your free sports session and start something new!

Denise commented; “What I think is important for most children is that when we first go into an environment like that is that they’re having fun.”

Which sport would you take up? I rediscovered a love for rounders this summer. Beware next year everyone, I WILL have been practicing!

I was not paid to write this blog post, my daughter spent a morning being coached as part of the Weetabix #SportingStarts campaign.

July 24, 2016 / mintcustard

Pink pickled turnips and bread and butter pickles.

Pink pickled turnips and bread and butter pickles.

Pink pickled turnips and bread and butter pickles.

I am very partial to a pickle. Sadly, I’m the only one in my family who is. Not really much point me making them really as I can buy a small jar for my own indulgence. That was until I was offered homemade turnip pickles to accompany some delicious falafel at a recent school fair. Being cheeky I asked for, and was given the recipe by www.daddy-can-cook.com. Here it is to share with you, he did say I could!

Pink pickled turnips in falafel.

Pink pickled turnips in falafel.

Pickled Turnips

Makes 1 litre jar

All you need is

1 small beetroot, trimmed, peeled, quartered

1 red chili, uncut, for some heat

1/2 kg small turnips, trimmed, peeled, quartered or sliced like french fries

125 ml red wine vinegar

325 ml water

2 tbsp salt

1 tsp sugar.

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How to…..

  • Combine beetroot, chili and turnips in a 1 litre heatproof jar.
  • Bring vinegar, salt, sugar and 325 ml water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  • Pour pickling liquid over the turnip mixture and let cool.
  • Cover and chill for at least 1 week before using.
  • Depending on type of beetroot and the maturity the colour will vary from pale pink to deeper pink.
  • For ultimate taste, chill for 2 weeks before consuming, if you can wait that long that it!
Just after pickling.

Just after pickling.

Should last a couple of months in the fridge. I’m told that this is the Lebanese way to pickle turnips.

The second jar in my fridge contains bread and butter pickles. A cucumber based condiment I recall making in my teens. Sweet and salty with thin slithers of onion, they liven up everything from a plate of cold cuts to a simple slice of bread and butter. Hence their name. I can’t recall the recipe I originally used in the 1980’s but this recipe from BBC Good Food works fantastically.

Snack cucumbers are ideal for bread and butter pickles.

Snack cucumbers are ideal for bread and butter pickles.

Now what to pickle next?

 

 

July 12, 2016 / mintcustard

Herby roasted tomato and cheese swirls.

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Herby roasted tomato and cheese swirls.

Apologies for the lack of posts in the past week but the teen has had a shoulder operation and I have been juggling work, nursing duties and the usual end of term madness. Term hasn’t ended yet but I’ve got back into some sort of routine. Cooking food that is tasty, nourishing and easy to eat with only one working arm is harder than you’d think. Add to that it has to be teen friendly too and it can get complicated.

Lunches have been of the zap in the microwave variety. I wanted to start making meals that would be better than that. This is where the herby roasted tomato and cheese swirls come in. They can be eaten with a salad, dipped into a chunky vegetable soup or topped with ham, salami or some sliced mushrooms and turned into a pizza.

Herby roasted tomato and cheese swirls.( makes 9 swirls)

6 tomatoes cut in half

1 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

250g strong white bread flour

150 ml warm water

1 tsp dried yeast

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

a handful of grated cheese

1 tbsp oil

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A tsp of herbs added to the flour.

How to …….

  • Turn the tomato halves in the 1tsp of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes in a 200c oven for 10 to 15 minutes until cooked through. Allow to cool, skin and mash to a smooth pulp.
  • In a jug combine the sugar, yeast and water. Allow to stand for 15 minutes until the yeast activates and begins to foam.
  • Sift the flour into a large bowl, add in the salt and the dried herbs. Stir in the yeast mixture and using your hands bring the dough together.
  • Knead for 10 minutes, place in an oiled bowl and leave to double in size. This take about an hour to an hour and a half.
  • Pat out the dough to a rectangle about 6″ by 8″.
  • Cover with the roasted tomato and a good handful of grated cheese.
  • Roll up along the long side and cut into 9 equal slices.
  • Place on a baking tray lined with parchment and leave to rise again for an additional 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 220c.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the tops of the buns are golden brown.
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Cheesy!

Ideal for picnics, with soups and for teens with a shoulder injury.

July 3, 2016 / mintcustard

Summer salad.

Summer salad.

Summer salad.

For the most part I heartily agree with Julia Child when it comes to how food looks. “It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.” However I recently discovered the work of Amber Locke. She takes fruit and vegetables and turns them into edible works of art. Not simply salads but soups and raw main courses too. Her instagram is amazing, do take a look. Truly a modern day Archimboldo.

Sainsburys are wanting to inspire the nation to be more creative with their vegetables after seeing a massive upturn in sales of vegetables with Avocado (147%), asparagus spears (118%), broccoli (40%), courgettes (30%) and bunched beetroot (25%) leading the way.

As I’ve been trying very hard to move from #FatToFitter it may just be the way I can keep the salads I eat interesting. I chose the vegetables for my salad on both taste and also on their looks. This one salad has already refreshed my buying habits. We all get stuck in a rut, and to look at ingredients from a different perspective reintroduced me to sprouting seeds and crisp, crunchy radish too.

I took a quick trip around the fruit and vegetables aisle at Sainsburys and picked up a selection of vegetables. Some old favourites and a few new additions. The combinations of flavours I knew would be fine, but balancing the colours, textures and shapes created a salad that was quite new to me. Delicious and pretty. Win : win.

A wide variety of ingredients, just right for my salad.

A wide variety of ingredients, just right for my salad.

There really isn’t a recipe. Pick fruit and vegetables you love, add in a few you haven’t eaten in a while. Take a plate and make it look good.

Enjoy.

I was sent a voucher by Sainsburys to cover the costs of the ingredients in this salad. All words and images are my own. I was not asked to create a blog post or write a positive review.

June 26, 2016 / mintcustard

Taste of London – a delicious day out.

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Last Sunday the teen and I hopped on the tube up to Regent’s Park. I have visited Taste previously but the teen? Never. As a food and drink enthusiast and armed with her ID, she was determined to find out all she could. Fortunately for us the sun shone a little and the rain stayed away. Whilst busy, the event didn’t seem overly crowded and the producers all had time to not only talk about their products but really discuss them. Neither of us felt there was any hard sell either which makes a change.

We ate at Shake Shack (I was with a teen remember) and as we have never managed to eat at the Covent Garden Shake Shack this was a great opportunity. The burgers were slider sized but with a generous addition of bacon and Oh My the cheese sauce…… The house lemonade was much needed as there was to be much tasting of gin (and other beverages) later.

The whole place smells amazing. From wafts of the most amazing dishes being prepared by the restaurants to perfume from the huge floral displays dotted around the park, the assault on the senses was enormous.

We ate, we were educated and we shopped, oh how we shopped.

The deals at the show meant we came back home laden with bags and bags of goodies.

I don’t usually do “shopping porn” posts but I thought I’d share what we bought, and a few things we intend to buy as well.

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Shopping haul from Taste of London.

Popcorn features heavily. The flavours from the Portlebay Popcorn stand were fab, my personal favourite being wasabi and ginger. We had already bought a bag of Marmite popcorn from the masters of popcorn flavours Joe and Seph, caramel and marmite flavours at the same time. Personally I love it. A selection of coffee from Percol, we don’t do instant coffee in our house and Percol makes coffee that we enjoy in our French Press.The Clonakilty black pudding is a treat for me and came with a matching white pudding that is in my fridge and I forgot to add it to the haul. The sauces and bao bowl are for the teen to take away to Uni, but a bargain at 2 pounds.

Gin was everywhere. London gins, strawberry gins and ice lollies laced with gin. Good job I love gin. We watched a demonstration or several but my favourite was a talk from Sweetdram, the makers of Escubac, a modern liqueur. Not only was the rise and possible curtailing of the popularity of gin explained but we were introduced to Escubac. Trying it both neat and with tonic I was so sad to be driving home from the tube!

It is distilled using 14 aromatic botanicals, including caraway, cardamom, nutmeg and citrus. Then lightly sweetened with raisins, vanilla and a small amount of sugar. Finally it is coloured naturally with saffron. Developed over 18 months at the Sweetdram workshop in east London and made in France at Distillerie Combier, on antique copper stills. On my list of things to buy.

Taste returns to London in November, this time to Tobacco Dock, in all its festive finery. I hope the teen or the older one will come with me, if only to help carry the shopping!

AEG kindly gave me two free entry tickets, I was not asked to post about the event. I purchased all the products myself. All words and photographs are the author’s own.

 

June 23, 2016 / mintcustard

Pimms drizzle loaf cake with Pimms icing.

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Pimms drizzle loaf cake.

Schools run on caffeine and sugar. Not necessarily in that order.

On INSET days our staff room resembles the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Cake club has arrived. Those who wish to make a cake to share, makes one. Everyone, of course, is welcome to eat. My contribution was a Pimms drizzle loaf cake, with Pimms icing. As we know, as well as sugar and caffeine, most teachers occasionally need alcohol too.

Sadly I didn’t get a picture of the finished loaf cake. Never get between a cake on the staff room table and staff after a staff meeting.

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Pimms drizzle loaf cake, with dried strawberries.

This vanished very quickly and I have been asked for the recipe, so here it is.

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Pimms drizzle loaf cake with Pimms icing.- ingredients.

3 large eggs

200g butter

200g caster sugar

200g self raising flour

grated zest of a lemon

grated zest of an orange

100g dried strawberries, chopped, dusted with a little flour.

4 sprigs of mint, leaves stripped and finely chopped

50 ml Pimms

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Dried strawberries, chopped

Drizzle

2 tbsp orange juice

2 tbsp lemon juice

4 tbsp granulated sugar

Icing

1 cup icing sugar

Enough Pimms to make icing thick as double cream

How to….

  • Preheat the oven to 180c
  • Line a loaf tin with parchment or a loaf tin liner.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in an egg at a time, add a spoon of flour with each egg to prevent the mixture splitting.
  • Fold in the flour, orange and lemon zest and the chopped mint.
  • Stir in the chopped strawberries with the Pimms.
  • Scrape out of the bowl into the loaf tin.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the cake.
  • Mix together the drizzle and pour over the cooked cake as it is cooling in the tin.
  • Once completely cool, make up the icing. Make sure the top of the cake is covered,if the icing falls down the sides, all the better.

Take into the staff room, and stand back!

 

 

June 20, 2016 / mintcustard

Rocky road compost fudge

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Rocky road compost fudge – using up leftover snacks.

Got lots of odds and ends of sharing bags knocking about? That’s what usually happens in this house. After any long sporting event there are always a few pretzels, a half bag of nuts and a third of a bag of M and M’s waiting to go stale in the kitchen. This summer don’t let that happen. Use up all your leftovers and make them into a tray of delicious rocky road compost fudge.So simple, it will only take about 15 minutes to make and about 5 to eat!

Rocky road compost fudge – ingredients

1 x 397g can of condensed milk

400g chocolate – you can use a mixture of whichever bars are on offer.

2 good handfuls of leftover snacks – not the cheesy or pickled onion ones!

1 handful of marshmallows

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Rocky road compost fudge -how to….

  • Line a 6″ by 12″ tin with parchment or a double layer of cling film.
  • Melt the condensed milk and chocolate together over the lowest flame. Keep stirring all the time until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is completely melted.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the leftover snacks.
  • Now stir in the marshmallows.
  • Pour into the prepared tin, you may need a spatula to get out the last little bits.
  • Level out and place in the fridge to set.
  • Cut into squares, place in a a bowl and find more sport to watch on the TV.
June 13, 2016 / mintcustard

Neff Cookaholics Kitchen – paying for my meal with a recipe.

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Neff #cookaholicskitchen starter.

You know, occasionally you just have to hit “send”. A short while ago a friend sent me a link to the Neff facebook page where you could submit a recipe and be in with a chance to win a table for two at a restaurant. The best part was the recipe would be accepted as payment. Stacie Stewart, a Masterchef finalist, had designed the recipes and was going to be there to oversee the cooking. Neff are searching for their #NEXTCOOKAHOLIC , could it be you (or me?)

So I shared my pesto and tomato swirled loaf.

Into my inbox popped an email congratulating me on my recipe and letting me know that I’d won a table for two. Yes!

We trotted up to the Waitrose Kitchen in King’s Cross, a beautiful venue, joined our fellow diners and were treated to a fabulous meal.

We started with a quinoa salad with toasted nuts and sumac, served with gluten free sweetcorn fritters and an avocado salsa. They were so pretty too, have a look at the image at the top of this post.

Using the Neff range of Slide and Hide ovens in the cooking of these dishes made the Spatchcock chicken Provencal with Boulangere potatoes incredibly moist. The Beef Rendang was possibly my favourite dish, although it was a VERY close run thing. Unctuous and gently spiced it melted as I ate. I could have dived into the bowl……

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Beef Rendang

Finally a luxury fish pie won this non fish lover over. The ingenious twist on a crumble that used both black pudding and oats to top the creamy fish beneath took me by surprise.

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The black pudding crumble top to the luxury fish pie was inspired!

Finally a faultless flourless chocolate torte with pistachio cream finished this most delightful of meals.

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So tempting I started to eat it BEFORE I took a picture. Food blogger fail.

Stacie is certainly a cook who creates with passion, Neff have teamed up with her to find the next #NEFFCOOKAHOLIC. A person who feels the same way about the food they make. There is no such thing as following the rules, they are looking for someone who adds a twist, dash or sprinkle of this and that to create a special dish. A dish that brings loved ones to the table and inspires the cook to continue creating new and innovating meals.

I’ll be submitting a recipe to the NEFF website and I urge you to do the same. Two finalists will take part in a live cook-off at The Big Feastival in the Cotswolds 26th to 28th August. Go on, press send, what have you got to lose?

I won a table for two at the #cookaholicskitchen by entering a competition on Twitter. I was not paid to attend, have not been asked to write a review and all words and images are my own.

 

June 12, 2016 / mintcustard

A CafePod flat white and an espresso brownie.

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Visiting The London Coffee Festival seems to have become an annual outing. This year every family member went (not all together, Heaven forbid!) but we do seem to be caffeine fiends here. As a consequence, we have a variety of different ways we use to get that coffee hit. A French Press, an Italian stove-top espresso maker, a Tassimo machine, a Dolce Gusto machine and a tin of good instant coffee for when time is of the essence. Something for everyone, you might think? Not always so. If you have the espresso makers you can craft your own coffee, but I don’t have a steamer so I rely on the machines to make me a latte, cappuccino or a macchiato. That’s where I sometimes have a (very First World, middle class I admit) problem. As there are tie ins to coffee shops and brands the coffee flavour profiles tend to be very safe and a little similar.

This is where CafePod come in. Having met the team behind the brand at The London Coffee Festival I was so pleased to find that they produce compatible pods for Nespresso and Dolce Gusto machines, and one of their lines is for a Flat White. My favourite and not a drink produced by any other coffee pod maker for the Dolce Gusto I have yet to find. Choice is, after all, the way to tempt customers in

I bought a box of the Flat White pods to try whilst at the show and have been very kindly sent a box of the Americano and Flat White pods to top up my supply. Coffee should not simply be seen as liquid fuel. That may be it’s role but you can at least enjoy the different flavour profiles as it speeds you onwards during the day. The American CafePod has a rich and full-bodied blend of Sumatran and Southern Indian coffees with cocoa, hazelnut and red berry hints. The Flat White is a South American, Indonesian and Indian blend, with notes of chocolate, warm spice and a slightly smokey finish.

If you’d like to try these pods for yourself CafePod have very kindly offered readers of Mintcustard a 20% discount off their first order (except subscription) until 31st July when you enter MINTC20 at checkout.

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I’ve used a little of the Americano coffee to make a batch of coffee brownies using a recipe from Lesley Waters. I used this recipe as it differs from most brownie recipes by creaming the butter and sugar together rather than melting the butter and chocolate. I’ll let you know how it went.

I bought my first pack of Flat White Cafe Pods at the London Coffee Festival and was then sent two packs by the company to review. I was not asked to write a positive review. All the words and images are my own.

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