Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Random Recipes - Hummus from Claudia Roden

God bless Dom for extending the deadline for Random Recipes by an extra day!  I ran out of time over the weekend but now I can get an entry in, even if it's a really quick and simple one (although that was dictated by the book I chose and not my laziness/tardiness, believe it or not).  

The theme this month is "first and last", because Dom quite rightly recognises that the very first and very last recipes in a book often get ignored in favour of the more glamorous recipes in the middle! Due to our impending house move, our stuff is very disorganised at the moment and there are cookbooks scattered all through the house, but the first one that came to hand was A Middle Eastern Feast, by Claudia Roden (who has never written a bad recipe - I think this is an extract from the much heavier tome A New Book of Middle Eastern Food) and the very first recipe was Hummus Bi Tahina which is one of my favouritest things to eat, I can scoff it by the bucketload.  


I whipped up a batch in about twenty minutes, including cooking the chickpeas (if you have dried, unsoaked chickpeas, throw them in a pressure cooker, bring up to full pressure and cook for 15 minutes).   This recipe is adapted very slightly from Claudia's.


250g tinned chickpeas (I used about 150g dried chickpeas and cooked them as described above) - drain them but keep the water they were packed/cooked in
150g tahini (I didn't have that much left so used about 70g, but that was plenty)
2 or 3 cloves of garlic 
Juice of a couple of lemons
Salt (I use Maldon)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Paprika and chopped parsley to garnish (optional)

Crush the salt and garlic in a pestle and mortar.

Blend the chickpeas roughly in a food processor (or you could use a potato masher if you don't have a processor).  Add the other ingredients, including the crushed garlic, and process again to mix it all together.  The mix will probably be quite thick, so add enough of the cooking water (or water from the tin) to loosen it up.  I like my hummus a bit lumpy but if you prefer it to be much smoother, just keep the motor running till it's the consistency you like. 

It really is simplicity itself!  Serve with carrot and celery sticks, crusty bread or flatbread, whatever you like really.  I'm having some for lunch today in a sandwich, made with some crusty bread with black onion seeds, hummus, grated carrot and rocket.  Not sure I can even wait till lunchtime.

Claudia suggests garnishing with chopped parsley, but as you can see my parsley plant isn't being very prolific at the moment!

Thank you to the ever wonderful Dom for hosting every month :)

Here's a bonus cat photo of Pokey looking like she's up to no good.  She was very interested in the hummus!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Coffee chocolate ripple ice cream (for Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream)

For a while now I've been wanting to take part in Kavey's Bloggers Screan for Ice Cream, which makes me drool every month. Last month's theme was sorbet and I was really intending to make the effort but time got the better of me. This month, the theme is chocolate, and while I love chocolate I actually really dislike chocolate ice cream (weird, I know!) so I had to think of some sort of ice cream that involved chocolate in some other way. And it couldn't be stracciatella because I've done that before
What I came up with is rather in keeping with a theme that's been prominent on my blog over the last couple of weeks - coffee! But this has nothing to do with the other challenge I'm taking part in, this is strictly for BSFIC. I love coffee ice cream but it's really difficult to find in the shops, and when you do find it usually it's really not very nice at all (unless you happen to be in Italy), so again the diet has gone out the window and I've made some coffee chocolate ripple ice cream.

I use a Magimix Le Glacier 1.5L machine, having upgraded from the Kenwood 1.1L I used to have because I wanted a bigger capacity, but I think the mix will be fine for a smaller machine. I would kill for an ice cream machine with a built-in freezer but the budget unfortunately won't stretch that far! This recipe comes in two parts, but both parts are very easy so please don't feel put off. 

Big one for the ice cream, little one for me.



250ml semi skimmed or whole milk
Approx 150ml strong black coffee (I used a whole six-cup Bialetti pot)
4 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 tsp cornflour
300ml whipping cream

Before you start, fill the sink with cold water and add some ice cubes.

Put the milk, coffee and the seeds from the vanilla pod in a saucepan, whisk together and heat until just before it boils.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a big bowl.

Pour the hot milk/coffee mixture onto the egg mixture slowly while constantly whisking (if you pour it all in too quickly it will cook the eggs!), and then return this mix to the saucepan. Heat it gently while stirring constantly until it thickens up enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (don't boil it, or it will curdle). What you have just made is a thin coffee custard. Pour it back into the bowl you used to whisk the eggs, add the cold whipping cream and whisk it in, and stand this in the sink full of icy water - this will stop the custard cooking. Leave it there till it cools down enough to go in the fridge, and then chill till it's really cold - preferably overnight. 

With some extra sauce drizzled over the top...


CHOCOLATE SYRUP (makes 2 jam jars full)


1 cup of cocoa powder
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 tsp cornflour, mixed together with 2 tsp cold water

Sieve the cocoa powder into a small saucepan. Add the sugar, salt, water and vanilla and whisk it all together. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Pour in the cornflour mixed with water, and whisk it in - the mixture will thicken up. Take off the heat, pour into jam jars and let cool before putting in the fridge until completely cold.

Now churn your ice cream in your ice cream machine, or if you normally just freeze it in a tub and take it out every few hours to give it a mix around, that's fine too.

When it's ready (it should still be quite soft), scoop it out into a tub and do the next bit by hand. Add a few tablespoons of the chocolate syrup to the tub and swirl it all around with a fork. Don't mix it in completely, you want to see a nice chocolatey ripple going through the ice cream. You can add as much syrup as you want.

Now stick the tub in the freezer and leave it there for another couple of hours until it's firmed up enough to scoop out and eat!

I'm sorry this recipe looks quite long, but honestly it really is very easy and the bits where you're actually involved (ie making the custard and making the syrup) probably take no more than 15 minutes for both - the syrup takes five minutes at most and is so incredibly versatile that it's worth having some in your fridge at all times to drizzle over ice cream, swirl through yoghurt or, best of all, to add a few spoonfuls to a glass of cold milk for some instant chocolate milk that's as good as the stuff you used to get when you were a kid :)

Thanks to Kavey for running such a great blog challenge, I can't wait to see everyone's recipes.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sue's chocolate chip coffee muffins

This post is dedicated to my lovely friend and workmate Sue. When I first told her about Lavazza's Coffee,Set, Match challenge, she immediately decided that I needed to make some coffee chocolate chip muffins, and for weeks afterwards she regularly harangued asked me when they would be forthcoming. 

Sue is such a sweetie that I would hate to disappoint her, so coffee chocolate chip muffins were made and delivered to work, and while a few of them were shared with other workmates, most of them accompanied a gleeful Sue home - they were most definitely enjoyed! (I may or may not have eaten one for breakfast myself.)

I decided to use some cupcake cases I found in Poundland. I really love the 1960s style pattern on these, but unfortunately you do tend to get what you pay for and during the baking process they soaked up a lot of grease and went a bit see-through - not a good look. I'm on the lookout for some nice Jubilee-style cupcakes but I live miles from the nearest Lakeland - has anyone seen any good ones in the supermarkets?

Not the best quality but what a fab pattern.

Anyway, here's the muffin recipe. If you have unexpected visitors or a cake sale you've forgotten about till the last minute, these are ideal as you can be taking them out of the oven half an hour after deciding to make them! And like my fudge recipe, this is very adaptable. Leave out the coffee, use white chocolate, and add a big handful of frozen raspberries (don't defrost them first) for a lovely summery treat.


280g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Good pinch of salt
90g caster sugar
1 egg
250ml plain yoghurt
90ml semi skimmed or whole milk
90ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 shot of espresso (I used a Lavazza Caffè Crema Lungo Dolcemente pod)
100g chocolate, chopped (I used milk chocolate as I wanted a bit of sweetness to counterbalance the coffee, but dark would be fine, as long as it's a fairly low cocoa content)

Preheat the oven to 225ºC and get your muffin tin ready with paper cases.

Sieve the flour, bicarb and salt into a large bowl (or tip it all in and give it a whisk to get rid of any lumps).

Beat the egg and sugar together in a big measuring jug. Add the yoghurt, milk, oil, espresso and vanilla, and give it all a really good mix with a fork or small whisk.

Pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff, and fold it all together with a big spoon. Don't overmix - you want it to stay lumpy. Finish by folding in the chopped chocolate.

Divide the mixture between the paper cases (you should get 12, but if you use smaller cases like I did you might end up with 14 or 15 - if so, and you can't fit two tins in the oven, you could bake a couple in silicone cases which will hold their shape in the oven without needing to be placed into a muffin tin).

Place in the oven, immediately turn the heat down to 200ºC, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the muffins from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes till you can handle them, and then put them on a wire rack to finish cooling. They are lovely eaten while still a bit warm, as the chocolate chunks will still be melty and gooey!

Don't forget - you can win prizes  from Lavazza too!  Look out for instant win details on promotional cups of takeaway Lavazza coffee, or enter online HERE.

Prizes include pairs of tickets to Wimbledon, Lavazza A Modo Mio Favola Plus Wimbledon Limited Edition coffee machines and exclusive sets of espresso cups created especially for the tournament. 

1950s Royal Doulton espresso cup which is one of my favourites

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Delicious mocha fudge (for Coffee Set Match)

Our friend Mike, whose birthday it is today, is a big fan of fudge. I made some rum & raisin for a sweetie stall I was running at the local Christmas fair, and he devoured a bag of it in about five minutes. Normally I make him a birthday cake, but this year I thought I’d make him some fudge instead, and as he loves coffee and I’m trying to think of lots of interesting things to do with coffee for Lavazza’s CoffeeSet Match, instead of bogstandard vanilla (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), tonight Mike will be receiving a big bag of mocha fudge! 


Whatever kind of fudge you’re making, I have a few little tips for you:
  1. Use a big pan. Seriously. When you boil sugar, it bubbles up to quite a height. I started off with my biggest non-stick pan and it boiled over and made a horrible mess, so I poured it into my 6.5l pressure cooker to finish it off.
  2. Use a sugar thermometer, and make sure it works (dip it into boiling water, it should say 100 degrees C, or 212 F).
  3. If you overcook or overbeat the fudge and it goes too hard or too grainy, don’t fret. You can probably rescue it. Tip it back into a clean pan along with half a cup of water, heat it slowly till it all dissolves, and boil it back up again to soft ball stage (118 C). It might come out a bit darker than usual, but it’ll be fine.

This recipe is infinitely adaptable. You can replace the coffee with a shot of any booze you like, vary the type of sugar (granulated for vanilla fudge, dark muscovado for something like rum & raisin), leave out the chocolate or add a different type, add dried fruit or nuts or marshmallow or just about whatever you fancy. But for the purposes of Mike’s birthday, we’re sticking with mocha!


1 large tin of evaporated milk (Carnation is 397g, the Co-Op own brand stuff I used is 410g – it varies from brand to brand but just get something around that size)
450g Demerara sugar
100g butter, cut into small cubes
120ml milk (full fat or semi skimmed, NOT skimmed)
A 30ml shot of espresso
100g white chocolate, chopped (I love the 200g bars from Lidl in the purple packaging)


Place the evaporated milk, milk, coffee, butter and sugar in your biggest saucepan and heat slowly over a low heat while stirring with a wooden spoon until everything dissolves. It will look very runny but don’t worry, it’ll thicken up.

It's not easy to stir boiling fudge and take a photo at the same time!  Keep your fingers out, it's VERY hot.

Turn the heat up and bring to the boil. Continue to boil while stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon (important! It will catch if you don’t and you’ll have horrible burnt-tasting black bits). You need to keep it boiling until it reaches 118 degrees C or 240 F on a sugar thermometer – this will probably take about 15 or 20 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can boil it for about 15 minutes and then try the soft ball test – drop a little bit of the mixture into a glass of cold water. If it forms a soft ball that you can roll together with your fingers, it’s done. If not, keep boiling and check again in a few minutes).

Waiting for it to set... 
When it reaches the magic temperature, take it off the heat, add the chopped chocolate, stir till it’s melted in and let it cool for a few minutes. Then beat it and beat it and beat it some more with the wooden spoon. As you’ve already been stirring for about 20 minutes, you’re probably exhausted by now so if you have a willing helper, now would be a good time to enlist their assistance! Alternatively you could put it in a food mixer with the paddle beater on a low heat, but keep an eye on it as if you over-beat it will go very grainy. The mixture will thicken up. Pour it into a greased tin (I like using silicone bakeware for fudge) and put it in the fridge for an hour or two to firm up. Then turn out, cut into squares, and try to resist stuffing it all into your mouth at once as it’ll probably make you sick.

The recipe I’ve given here makes a cupful plus some… 

My lovely assistant

…although it’s a very big cup!


Let’s hope the birthday boy likes it.

Don’t forget to enter the competition at Lavazza to win lots of Wimbledon goodies, including pairs of tickets to Wimbledon, Lavazza A Modo Mio Favola Plus Wimbledon Limited Edition coffee machines and exclusive sets of espresso cups created especially for the tournament.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Cake class

I just found these photos on a memory card and thought I'd share them with you, even though they're really rather poor.  

A month or two ago I attended a class at Sugar Celebrations in Swindon, which was a belated Christmas present to myself.  It was an all day class where we learned how to carve a cake, stack it up with dowels and buttercream, decorate it with sugarpaste/fondant as well as some royal icing, and do a bit of modelling.  Lots of techniques in one day.  I was quite pleased with the results; I just wish I had a close up of the little people to show you because I really liked their little faces!  I had to buy a 30cm tin from Lakeland to bake the cake in because I didn't have one big enough, but hopefully I'll get plenty of use from it.

The cake accompanied my husband to work on the Monday morning where it was devoured by his colleagues!

I've done plenty of very simple one-tier cakes, but now I have a better idea of how to stack them, I really fancy doing a wedding cake or multi-layer birthday cake.  Perhaps I should throw a party just to have an excuse to make a big, awesome cake - what do you think?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

FoodBeats - the sound of crab risotto?

If you're anything like me, you probably like to listen to music while you cook (in fact if you're anything like me, you'll sing along loudly and dance around the kitchen). Recently I was asked to have a go at using FoodBeats which is a new online tool launched by Lurpak. It's based around Last.fm and uses Foodily to provide recipe ideas. It's very simple but really quite clever: you just type in the name of the dish you want to cook, and enter a time for how long you think you'll be cooking, and it will generate a playlist for you, as well as offering some recipe ideas and tips based on what you're making. 
Tell it you're cooking something Spanish, and it will let you listen to something Spanish!  Click for a closer look.

I was quite intrigued and was looking forward to trying it out, and I have to say I'm really quite taken with it. I was making a risotto and FoodBeats decided that people who cook risotto like to listen to Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole which suited me absolutely fine. It'll be interesting to see what it comes up with for all the coffee recipes I'm planning! Give it a go, it's really rather cool (and free, which is always good).

Risotto, by the way, is a staple in our house. If we can't be bothered thinking of something to cook for dinner, we almost always end up making a mushroom risotto - it's so simple that even my kitchen-phobic husband can make it without too many tears. Last night I really fancied risotto but wanted something other than mushroom for a change, so after a quick rummage through the cupboards this is what I came up with (and please excuse the Instagram photos, I just snapped them quickly as an afterthought).

Crab, chorizo and roasted red pepper risotto (serves two, but can be easily multiplied)


140g arborio rice
2 banana shallots, or 1 small onion, diced finely
100g chorizo (the cooking sausage type, not the thinly cut salami-type stuff), diced into small cubes
About 8 roasted red peppers (eg piquillo) from a jar or tin, chopped quite finely
Approximately a pint of hot chicken or vegetable stock
A small glass of white wine (optional, but if not using you might need a bit more stock)
A 170g tin of white crab meat (I used John West)
Olive oil


Pour about a teaspoon of olive oil into a cold, heavy-based pan (I use cast iron), add the diced shallots or onions and chorizo, place on a medium-low heat and give it a stir. The chorizo will release lovely red oil as it heats up. Let the shallot sweat in the chorizo oil for a few minutes till it has softened.

Tip in the risotto rice and give it a good stir for a minute or so until it's coated in the oil.

Add the white wine, if using, or a ladleful of stock, let it simmer, and keep stirring and stirring with a wooden spoon until the rice has soaked it all up.

Keep adding stock, a ladle at a time, and stir and stir and stir until it's all been taken up by the rice, and the rice is looking nice and fat. I don't measure the liquid for risotto, I just do it by eye, but you're looking for the rice to still have just a little bit of bite to it without actually being crunchy. You can leave it a bit soupy if that's how you like your risotto, or you can cook it a bit longer so more liquid evaporates and you have a slightly drier risotto - up to you. I prefer something in between. 

When you think the rice is just done, add the crab meat and red peppers, stir them in well, and cook for a minute or to just to heat them through. Taste your risotto and season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

This is a great Friday night supper - it uses mostly stuff you might have lying about the kitchen and only takes about half an hour from start to finish with not too much chopping up of ingredients - and not too much washing up either!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Fat-free chocolate espresso brownies - for Coffee Set Match

As you may have seen from my previous post, I'm currently following Weight Watchers and have so far lost two stone. Now I have no intention of only creating Weight Watchers-friendly recipes for the Coffee Set Match challenge, but I thought I'd kick off with something a little bit less guilt-inducing than usual, so we can all save a few extra calories for when we really need them! It's our friend Mike's birthday on Monday and we are going for a yummy Indian meal so I'm trying to be good for a few days beforehand and save myself... anyway do give these a try, they don't taste anything like diet food whatsoever! 


100g self raising flour
60g cocoa powder (I like Bourneville)
Pinch of salt
75g soft brown sugar
2 whole eggs, beaten
2 egg whites
1 shot of espresso (I used a Lavazza Appassionatamente capsule), left to cool a bit

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease and flour a square 18cm tin. I've been using Dr Oetker Cake Release Spray recently which is very good indeed and can be found in Tesco etc.

Sieve the flour, cocoa powder and salt together (or if you're lazy, like me, tip it all into a bowl and use a whisk to mix it all together which will get rid of 95% of the lumps). Mix in the two beaten eggs with a big spoon, followed by the shot of espresso. The mixture will be very thick.

Take a separate bowl and make sure it is free of grease. Rubbing a cut lemon over the inside is a good way to make sure there's no trace of grease - a little tip for you! Whisk the two egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Tip in the sugar and continue to whisk until the stiff peaks look lovely and glossy. Resist the temptation to eat the lovely beige-coloured raw meringue, difficult though it may be.

Add a third of the meringue to the rest of the mixture and fold it in gently. This will loosen up the mixture. Fold in the remaining two thirds, nice and gently, being careful not to overmix as this will knock all the air out of the meringue.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 14-15 minutes. The top should be set but still just slightly squidgey. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out and cut into squares. 

These are yummiest when still warm from the oven, but do try and eat them on the same day as you make them (yes, I'm sure you can manage this difficult task) as they do stale quite quickly. However they freeze extremely well, wrapped in cling film, and if you zap a frozen brownie in the microwave for thirty seconds it will be defrosted and warmed to perfection.

I hope you enjoy these brownies, but check back soon as I also plan to make some cappuccino brownies next week that are most definitely not diet friendly!

Don't forget to enter Lavazza's competition to win some fab prizes!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Coffee Set Match - a new challenge!

I'm so excited to tell you about a really fun event I'm taking part in! To celebrate Lavazza's second year as the official coffee of Wimbledon, it's running a challenge called "Coffee, Set, Match" - it has invited a group of bloggers (including yours truly!) to come up with lots of different coffee recipes, and just like Wimbledon we will be judged in different rounds and a lucky winner will eventually win tickets to Wimbledon or a trip to Italy - but to honest it all seems like such good fun that I'm happy just to be taking part - if you know me in real life, or read my blog regularly, you'll know that I am an absolute coffee fiend. 

It's not just us bloggers that can win awesome stuff though - so can you! More on that below.

To help me come up with lots of lovely coffee-based recipes, Lavazza have been kind enough to provide a shiny A Modo Mio machine, which uses pods and is simplicity itself to use (by the way, unlike another market leader which sells its capsules online only and charges for delivery, you can actually buy these pods in Waitrose!) and I have guzzled a few cups already. 

I have tons of ideas already for recipes, but I am happy to take requests, so if there's something you'd like me to make please let me know and I'll do my best to come up with a recipe for you. I've already made some treats and I will share the recipe just as soon as I've written it up - but watch this space for something that's delicious, gooey, chocolatey AND virtuous!

Now if you love your coffee as much as I do, you'll want to know how you can get your hands on some goodies too. Look out for instant win details on promotional cups of takeaway Lavazza coffee, or enter online at http://promotion.wimbledon.lavazza.com/. Prizes include pairs of tickets to Wimbledon, Lavazza A Modo Mio Favola Plus Wimbledon Limited Edition coffee machines and exclusive sets of espresso cups created especially for the tournament. 

Coffee tastes better with a piece of fudge! 

Look out for twitter hashtag #coffeesetmatch to see what other bloggers are up to!

Monday, 14 May 2012

My whereabouts!

Oh my goodness... I keep thinking "I really need to get back to my blog, it's been weeks since I last posted".  So I just signed in and realised that it hasn't been weeks - it's been MONTHS!  Five of them, to be precise.  That's terrible.  I am a neglectful blogger.  
Gone but not forgotten...

To be fair, there have been reasons why I've vanished from the face of the earth, with the main one being that I've been on a major diet (Weight Watchers, actually) and have been avoiding anything to do with baking, cakes, temptation etc - unfortunately this also has included staying away from a lot of my favourite food blogs for a while.  I've been doing very well, and in fact have lost about two stone (26.5 lbs, for the Americans), and am right now wearing the jeans I wore when we first moved to Wiltshire and that for a long time would not go past my thighs.  I still have a way to go, but I'm getting there.  However it's been occurring to me that perhaps people might actually like to see the nice Weight Watchers food I've been making.  I have some WW cookbooks, but I've also been adapting other recipes and old favourites to lower propoints versions, and I think I'm going to start blogging about some of them.  Now and then I have an occasional blowout, but hey - I'm human.

No more lovely deep fried churros!

In other news, we found out we were being kicked out of our current house by our nightmare landlords - and about two days later had an offer accepted on a house we wanted to buy.  We are hoping to move in at the end of June.  It's a real fixer upper and I'm really looking forward to putting my own stamp on it, assisted by my awesome husband who has always been very good at fixing stuff and finding ways to solve a problem, but he has also been taking classes at B&Q which are very good and very reasonably priced, and hopefully he will be able to do all the tiling, fit wooden floors, new bathroom etc.  

HOWEVER... the kitchen isn't in the best state, and we plan to build a small extension and fit a brand new kitchen, but we won't be able to afford to do it for a while.  So we are going to do a cheapo fix up job on the existing (tiny) kitchen so I can live with it for a year or so, and I've started to collect ideas on Pinterest.  Below is a photo of my kitchen-to-be, isn't it horrible?  If you have any ideas for what I can do with it, please let me know!  We plan to install a new (cheap) floor, new (cheap) tiles, and repaint the cabinets.

Anyway, now I've gotten over the worst of the weightwatching, and have almost finished my exams for now (Spanish and financial services, I am a glutton for punishment aren't I?) I'm hoping to pick up where I left off.  Except perhaps with a bit less butter.
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