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August 27, 2016 / mintcustard

My first Vlog – and it isn’t a recipe! Go on. Do it. I dare you!

I have a face for radio. Check out the vlog and you will see I’m not kidding. Nor do I have the skills or quite frankly the desire to wander around public places, holding a camera and talking to myself. At 5 minutes notice last year, whilst helping to run the AV side of a Rotary conference, I was asked to fill a gap in the programme as a speaker was running late. OK I said, I can do that.

I was nervous, I was unsure and I had no idea really what I was going to say. This is the stream of consciousness that emerged. Think it went well. What do you think?

August 26, 2016 / mintcustard

Barbecuing with Branston, no it really isn’t just for sandwiches!


Tex-Mex chicken tacos - Branston pickle in the marinade.

Tex-Mex chicken tacos – Branston pickle in the marinade.


Say Branston to most people brought up in the UK and their first thoughts may well include cheese and pickle sandwiches or a dollop on the side of a Ploughman’s lunch. Give me either of those and I’d be extraordinarily happy. A trip to The London Barbecue School on Monday, however, showed me there was more to that jar of dark brown chunky deliciousness than simply a way to pimp a cheese toastie.


Following a day wandering around London buying bits and pieces for the Student to take to University we were both ready to find out more.

The London Barbecue School is set under the arches of Peckham Rye station. On a warm sultry evening, when the lights began to twinkle, it was quite magical. The food made with Branston was delicious and surprising too.

We began by making the Tex-Mex chicken tacos. Using the small chunk Branston pickle as an ingredient, it dawned on the student and I that this chicken tacos recipe was a simple, inexpensive and tasty way for Freshers to feed themselves. Most will have a jar of pickle lurking somewhere and what better way to ensure none gets left in the jar. We also thought you could make the meat filling and then use little gem leaves as a wrap. So your 5 a day doesn’t have to rely on you having a kebab on the way back to Halls!

Next up we cooked steaks and brushed them with the glaze take from this Beer braised brisket recipe. Served with the smoky chipotle and tomato relish it went down a storm. The coleslaw recipe here  is just amazing too.

Finally, we cooked the Sticky pork chops, the recipe calls for baking in the oven, but as we had super duper barbecues that could act as both an oven or a grill we were able to continue cooking over charcoal. Branston sweet chilli relish was used to add heat and sweetness to the marinade. Again, a real lesson for the Student. Marinades add flavour and can tenderise meats before cooking, making those less expensive cuts of meat so tender and delicious.


What happens when you really fancy cooking a burger and your friend drops the V word. Vegetarian….. The grilled Portabella mushroom burger may well be an answer. With all the usual accompaniments to a burger, including the Branston caramelised red onion relish, this recipe keeps everyone happy.

I was asked to attend the Branston BBQ event at the London Barbecue School. I was not paid to attend nor was I asked to write a positive review. The photographs are either my own or by Kaye at I’m sure you can tell which are which!

August 25, 2016 / mintcustard

Stocking a Freshers food cupboard – a list of essentials.

The A Level results are in, you are busy buying all the student essentials your little one (!) needs to keep themselves warm, clean and fed whilst away. If you haven’t started this yet then I have a blog post that might help here, What do you take to Uni?

After all that excitement, reality sets in when you and they cotton onto the fact that kebabs, discounted Domino’s pizza and vodka don’t make for a balanced diet and some cooking will have to happen at some time. All students need some help so that they don’t subsist on microwave meals either, that takes some discussion – my tips are here. How to stop your student from starving.

The key to making food varied and tasty is a well stocked pantry. This is a little unrealistic for students but give them a hand by putting together a box of basics that no student cook should be without.

Student pantry list

Salt and pepper (in a mill – not that dust!)

Dried herbs – useful to add to basic pizza bases, into omelettes, on top of spag bol

Chilli flakes – turns mince into chilli, adds heat to cheese on toast

Stock cubes -add flavour to rice, meals, as a soup base.

Tinned tomatoes – adds flavour to chilli, spag bol or simply on toast at 3am

Baked beans – with an egg, in a baked potato, on toast , straight out of the tin – I’m not judging.

Tinned pulses and beans, bulk out a meal with meat, no need to soak, look in the world food aisles as they are usually much cheaper there.

Tinned tuna – as with beans but you can make a pasta bake too.

Rice, long grain (and risotto)- make sure they know how much to cook at one time. Use a portion measure, make your own.

Pasta – shapes and spaghetti – ditto make a measure to get the potions right. Egg noodles to add to stir fries.

Plain flour – for pancakes and white sauces – there are recipes for these to come on Mintcustard.

Oats – for porridge, for flapjacks or for coating chicken for a change.


Mustard – on your burger or in your sauce for cauliflower cheese

Ketchup – do I need to explain this?

Pesto – on pasta, in a soup, on top of a basics pizza base

Soy sauce

Spices you are familiar with as a family – the taste of home.

Tea and coffee


This is NOT an exhaustive list. If you need to add HP sauce, sea salt flakes or jars of tahini as essentials then be my guest. Let me know what you would take as an essential.



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


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