Monday, 29 December 2014

Brie and cinnamon sugar pastry swirls

Being the holidays, I have more time to make lunch. I saw this recipe on the 'halfbakedharvest' blog and thought, well it contains some of my favourite ingredients so why not. As mentioned on the blog, I was also a little skeptical about using cinnamon sugar for a savoury lunch but somehow it really does work. The recipe was easy to follow and these are delicious hot or cold. 

Makes 12

You will need: -
One pack of shop bought puff pastry (yes I cheated)
4 tbsp melted butter
1/2 pack of brie
50g dried cranberries
1/4 cup of cinnamon sugar (1/4 cup caster sugar with 2tsps of cinnamon mixed in)

(These measurements have been adapted slightly to make buying in England easier.)

How to make them: -
1. Heat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Unroll the pastry and brush with 1tbsp of melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (make sure you save some for after it is rolled).
2. Soften the brie in the microwave them cut up and spread a little over the pastry. Sprinkle the cranberries on top evenly (I forgot to do this and had to unroll mine - very annoying).

3. Roll the pastry up lengthways as tightly as possible. Brush the outside with the remaining butter and sprinkle on the last of the cinnamon sugar. 

4. Cut slowly with a sharp knife into 1.5cm slices and put on a prepared baking sheet. They spread so make sure you leave gaps between them. Bake for 12-15minute until golden. Keep them on the baking tray for 2 minutes before removing and leave to cool a little. Yum!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Berlin Christmas markets

Berlin's Christmas markets were so festive, cultural and lively, They put the English versions to shame. My two favourites were, firstly 'Gendarmenmarkt' just off Friedrichstrasse (the main shopping street). It was 1Euro to get in but very worth it. It filled the area that is usually a main square surrounding by some of Berlin's finest architecture. At night, it was magical. The stalls were twinkling and the buildings were illuminated by lights, even with a tasteful mirrorball. There was a great selection of handcrafted gifts, hot food, traditional entertainment on the stage and a vibrant atmosphere at all times of the day. We liked this market so much that we went back a second time, this time for dinner. We both had a not so traditional pizza which seemed to have every vegetable they could find in the kitchen on top but it was good all the same. For pudding, we had some delicious samples of various ginger biscuits. 

The other favourite market was north of town on Stredzkistrasse called 'Kulturbrauerei'. This had more of a local feel but had the size an charm to rival any market I have visited. The hand crafts felt well made and tasteful, the clothing and accessories were unique, there was a cork firing range for children and all the food you could hope for, including cheese fondue and every kind of wurst (German sausage). It was in an area usually supported by a cinema, interior design shop and offices but the giant Christmas tree and festive crowd was the crowd pleaser. (my camera decided not to work at this point so sadly no photos.)

Other markets included the Potsdamer Platz market whoch lined the street with it's Christmas crafts and biscuits. This still had the usual wursts and wooden tree decorations but also had a sledging slope - very popular with the children. Also conveniently located by a shopping mall for a break form the cold. 

The market at Alexanderplatz had a large ice skating rink in the middle of the market stalls. They had very strong but delicious mulled wine. They serve it in a mug but if you return the mug then you get some of your money back. They had the usual stalls but a bigger market than most. A short walk down the road was another market, slightly tackier but they had performers doing a dance on the skate rink. 

Another market called 'Weihnachtsmarkt' was next to a very busy shopping area (the equivalent of Oxford Street in London). It didn't have as good a vibe but still plentiful with stalls. 

Our dinner choices were not very cultural (after trying wursts, stollen and mulled wine of course). We had the best burgers I have had at 'Hans im gluck'. I was surprised at 10 vegetarian options for burgers but that worked out well for me. The interior felt like you were in the middle f the woods but when yiou worked you way to the centre, there was a bar. It seemed very popular with the Germans. 

We also had a very filling lunch at 'Kaffeehaus Sowohialsauch' near the Kulturbrauerei market. T had meatballs which, to his shock, were not served in a tomato sauce. instead they were massive plain meatballs. I had eggs cooked with spring onion, peppers and goats cheese, both served with a selection of fresh baked bread. A great stock up for busy walking days in the cold. 

As our hotel didn't include breakfast, we frequented 'Coffee and Cookies' on 'Stressemannstrasse'. They offered a traditional German breakfast (bread, meats, cheese, fresh fruit) with extra treats. I had some lovely muesli with yoghurt and fruit. A good start to the day. The interior was modern with wood cuttings and a minimal but cosy feel and friendly staff. All in all Berlin is a great city to walk around. Good atmosphere, great shopping, fine architecture, plentiful museums, a vast selection of restaurants and importantly for the trip, some festive and joyful Christmas markets. Happy holidays everyone. 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Festive ginger shortbread

Christmas time! I am still a big kid at heart when it comes to Christmas - the fairy lights twinkling, the buzz in all the shops and the overly decorated shop displays.. such a wonderful time of the yeeear! This Christmas was extra exciting as we went to Berlin to see the magical Christmas markets, the trip was definitely worth it! More about that next time though. This blog is about some very festive ginger shortbread that I made just before going. 

The basic recipe was taken from the British Bake off book but it has been adapted slightly. These shortbreads had just the right amount of ginger in to be warm but not over powering. They tasted much better on day when the flavours had fully developed. 

Makes 14 fingers

You will need: -
150g plain flour
150g plain wholemeal flour
50g oats
1tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
12g light brown muscovado sugar
7 chunks of crystallised stem ginger
125g unsalted butter

Brownie tin
greaseproof paper and butter

1. Heat the oven to 180C. Tip both flours, the oats, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and stem ginger (cut into tiny pieces) in a food processor and mix until even. Add the butter in lumps and blend until the mixture looks like crumbs. 
2. Keep 3 tbsps of mixture separate then tip the rest of the mixture into a brownie baking tin lined with greaseproof paper. Press down until the mixture looks solid and even. 
3. Sprinkle the crumbs that were kept back on top and bake for 35 minutes until golden brown. 
4. Put the tin on a wire rack and cut into 14 fingers. leave to cool before removing from the tin. 

#ginger #shortbread #gingershortbread #festiveshortbread 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Festive cinnamon and cranberry brownies

We have seen a good few Christmas markets the last few weekends - they all seem to have come out of hiding! Or the elves have expanded the business... We went to Nottingham yesterday which is where I went to uni. I hadn't been beck for about 7 years and was surprised to see how many shops had changed. Tesco Express has taken over! The Christmas market was very impressive though - lots of food stalls AND an ice-skating rink: the mecca of all good markets. Nottingham is a lovely place with a lot to offer, it was very strange to see it not as a student. 

I do love a good brownie and have tried may recipes. This one has to be my favourite. Deliciously moist, rich and chewy. The basic ingredients were from the Bake Off cook book but they been Christmassed up with spices and cranberries. The spices are subtle but not over powering to the chocolate. An ideal accompaniment to a chai latte or hot chocolate. 

Makes 16

1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
50g pecans
50g dried cranberries
100g plain flour
370g caster sugar
65g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
175g butter

1. Turn the oven on to 180C. Put the pecans on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes. 
2. Put the butter in a pan and melt. Remove from the heat and sift in the cocoa powder then stir until even. Sift in the flour, add the cinnamon and nutmeg and stir using a wooden spoon until there are no streak.

3. Mix the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl then add into the cocoa mixture and stir. 
4. Roughly chop the pecans and slice the cranberries into smaller pieces. Put then into the mixture and stir again.

5. Prepare a brownie tin with greaseproof paper and pour in the brownie mixture. Spread until it is even and out in the oven to bake for 35 minutes. It is ready when a knife pulls out clean between the centre and edge. 
6. When they are cool, cut into 16 squares. 

Happy holidays!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Double chocolate crunch cookies

I am very excited about Christmas partly because of the Christmas markets. Last weekend we went to see the markets on the Southbank (London) and were pleased to see a goo range of food stalls. Some traditional German sausages (different names on 'wursts'), mulled wine, lots of beer, very cheesy toasties (Emmental - I regretted my choice after seeing a Wahaca van further down when  trying to recover from cheese overdose). There was sadly no stollen but a new treat called a 'chocolate kiss'. A new addition to my Christmas market visits but a delicous dome of marshmallow covered in a chocolate in a range of flavours. The usual craft stalls were there including the powder that magically turns into 'snow', wooden ties to buy your secret Santa at work, scented candles and wooden toys. The ski lodge style stalls always excite me as they make me think of the mountains... and snow! 

Today we went to another Christas market, claiming to be one of the best in Europe, in Winchester. The stalls are carefully picked so ensure quality craftsmanship and a good selection. There were some different photography / paintings and a good section for the chutney lover. I was quite impressed at having some new items to look at and the ice rink in the middle was a winner. The food however was limited. There were three meat stalls (pork burger, hot dog and more of the 'wursts') and one stall selling stollen / mince pies. All in all, a good market to peruse for presents but we found a lovely cafe in the centre for our lunch (my first mince pie of the year!)

This week I chose to make some cookies. they are generally simple to make when your don't have a ot of time but these ones had added crunch so I thought why not. They are from the Bake Off book (still woking through it). The book didn't have a picture to show off so I used my creative license to make sure they looked right. 

Makes 16

Ingredients: -
150g dark chocolate
30g unsalted butter
2 eggs
130g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
85g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
50g cornflakes
Packet of giant buttons

Method: -
1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and put in a heatproof bowl. Add the butter then reomove frm the heat and stir until smooth. Leave unitl it reaches room temperature.
2. Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk until thick and frothy. Stir n the chocolat ewith a plastic spatula. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and stir in. when it is mixed thoroughly then add the cornflakes and stir again until spread evenly.Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for 1 hour.

3. Heat the oven to 170C. Put a rounded teaspoon of mixture onto a tray with greaseproof paper. Repeat for the rest of the mixture leaving a good space for the mixture to spread during cooking. Flatten the cookie mixture so each is about 6 cm across. 
4. Bake for 12 minutes then add a chocolate button in the middle of each and push it down gently. Cook for another 2 minutes then remove from the oven and leave to firm up on the tray for 10 minutes. Finally, place the cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Next week I am going to get Christmas involved in the cooking...

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Carrot cake tray bake with mascarpone icing

Nearly December and the Christmas shopping has begun! I love Christmas and all things festive! We saw some good lights around Covent garden yesterday with one of the biggest Christmas trees you will see! You can never hear Mariah Carey too often and even the festive adverts are good this year!

This is a recipe I made during the week. I really like carrot cake but had yet to find a great recipe. This one is fairly easy to make and turns out deliciously moist and full of fruity flavour. I was a bit nervous about adding pineapple AND apricots but it gives a lovely light flavour and a perfectly textured cake. It was taken from British Bake Off book (still working through it) and one I will be doing again.

For the cake: -
100g pineapple
40g dried apricots
50g sultanas
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
150g unsalted butter
270g caster sugar
2 eggs
275g Plain flour
1 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Topping: -
250g mascarpone
150g icing sugar
50g flaked almonds (This is just what I had in the cupboard, you could use chopped hazelnuts / walnuts)

1. Heat the oven to 180C. Grate the carrot and put into a bowl. Add the pineapple and apricots (cut into small pieces) then the sultanas. Squeeze in half the half the juice and zest and stir well.
2. In another bowl, add the butter and sugar and beat well with a wooden spoon. Gradually add the eggs beating in between. Sift  the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon and fold in. Add this mixture to the carrot mixture and put into a tin lined with baking paper. Spread evenly.

3. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes when the cake has turned golden and a knife comes out clean when when tested.
4. To make the icing, put the mascarpone in a mixing bowl then sift in the icing sugar. Add the left over orange zest and and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add some orange juice if the mixture is too stiff. Put in the fridge to chill until the cake is cold.
5. Spread the icing sugar mixture over the cake and sprinkle the nuts on top. Slice to your desired size.

Enjoy the festive season!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Gluten free salted caramel oreos

So, the gluten-free brother and family were coming round for my nephew's fifth birthday which meant novelty fairy cakes and a new gluten free recipe. The simple Bake Off fairy cake recipe worked well with butter icing and pirate flags but I had only made one gluten free recipe before (brownies) so I had to seek out another. As the first was a success, I went back to the same blog that the recipe was from: After scrolling through the delicious ideas, I stuck with these 'salted caramel "oreos"' and they were a good choice. It turns out that rice flour is quite hard to find in usual supermarkets but the Whole foods store at Piccadilly Circus (London) served its purpose. These oreos were worth the effort as they were a great flavour and popular with the brother. I had never successfully made caramel before (head shakingly poor caramel figs) so this recipe was a winner all round.

Ingredients: -
"oreos" -
210g rice flour
50g corn flour
90g cocoa powder 
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g unsalted butter, softened
150g granulated sugar
1 tsp sea salt

Salted caramel buttercream -
115g caster sugar
80ml double cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
155g unsalted butter, softened
160g icing sugar


1. For the cookies, whisk the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. In another bowl, beat the butter, sugar and salt until it is fluffy. Add half the dry ingredient sand beat until incorporated then add the other half and beat agin until smooth. Wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge for an hour or so.
2. For the caramel in the buttercream, heat the sugar in a pan on a medium-low heat until melted (don't stir and be patient!). Cook until it starts bubbling and turns light brown then quickly add the cream, vanilla essence and salt. Stir until just combined then leave to cool. 
3. Take the cookie dough out of the fridge and roll gently (this is a fragile mixture) until 1/2 cm thick. Then cut out circles using cookie cutters (the size depends on your biscuit preference). Put onto a baking tray with baking paper on and chill again for 15minutes.


4. Cook for 1minutes on 150C. Take out and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before moving to a wire rack. 
5. to finish the buttercream, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the cooled caramel sauce and beat again. Spread the buttercream between two of the cookies. 

There is a good bit of mixing which I regrettably did by hand with a recovering sprained wrist. All worth it though. Mission completed. Thank you for another recipe.


#londonbakes #oreos #chocolatebiscuits #saltedcaramelbuttercream 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Bakewell or bake, well?

Cherry bakewells have to be one of my all time favourites so when I saw this recipe in th British Bake Off book, I thought I've got to give it a go. I did cheat with the pastry by buying it pre-made but, one thing at a time in this cooking learning curve. While this recipe takes a little longer due to the pastry, it was still quite simple. The pastry ended with a nice crunch; there was a sweetness from the cherry jam and a delicious wholesome flavour from the almond mix. I would love to try this again with mini versions as well. 

Ingredients: -
Puff pastry (pre-rolledpack)
2 eggs
150g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
1tbsp double cream
2 tsp morello cherry jam
1 tbsp flaked almonds
2 tbsp strawberry jam

Method: -
1. Roll out the puff pastry onto a floured surface and line a round tin with it by rolling it onto a rolling pin then into the tin.
2. Heat the oven to 190C. Fill the pastry tin with cling film and rice or baking beans and blind bake for 12-15 minutes. Then remove the cling film and rice / baking beans and bake again for another 12 minutes at 180C. Leave to cool hen it is taken out of the oven.

3. Put the eggs and sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk for 5 minutes until thick and mousse-like. Fold in the ground almonds and cream using a metal spoon. 
4. Spread the jam onto the bottom of the pastry. Pour the almond mixture over the top then sprinkle the flaked almonds evenly. 
5. Bake for 40 minutes until firm when pressed in the centre. Remove form the tin and brush a thin layer of warm jam on top as a glaze. Leave to cool before cutting.

This would also be good with icing sugar stripes to add some extra sweetness. A perfect treat with an afternoon cup of tea.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Brussels - Chocolate and waffles galore

Brussels! What a lovely city - great architecture, great vibe and great food. We started our trip by trying chocolate. It had to be done. The birth place of praline and famous or it's dark and rich delicacies. Brussels is spoilt for choice for chocolate shops. Some are divine and others are a rip so it's best to watch out. We tried Neuhaus first. This was the inventor of praline so that is what we have to try. It was richer and more velvety smooth than any chocolate I've had before. 

We also tried chocolate in Godiva and Passion Chocolate in the Sablon area (the passion fruit chocolate is the perfect balance of a sweet centre complimented by an encasing of dark luxurious chocolate. Pierre Marcolini do a very delicious macaroon in passion fruit also. Most of these are chains and can be found in several places but versions of them can be found around Royal Place. This is a cobbled square where flower stalls and street performers all come to create a lively atmosphere day and night. If the chocolate shops weren't enough, it is surrounded by grand buildings adorned in gold and lit up by night. 

The waffles are another reason to visit Brussels. There are two main types: the Brussels wafle which is lighter and more rectangular; and the liege waffle which is richer and denser and made using an American panckae style batter. Simply delicious. We tried them with chocolate sauce and caramel. Both were a treat. There are a lot of waffle stalls / shops around but we really liked 'Dandoy'. There are a couple of them but the most popular was on a small cobbled street off of Grand Place. 

The other dish we had to try was the unspoken national dish of 'moules frites'. Not traditionally something I would eat but when in brussels... The chips all seem to be similar - smaller than UK chip shops but bigger than fries. We went to La Bonne Faumeur which was a bit out of the centre and in a residential area. They came in a garlic brith with a lot of celery and overall were petty good. 

The Sablon area was a small old style triangle with a church on one edge and an antiques market in the middle. It had all the favourite chocolate shops and a few cafes. A lovely place to be. There is a good flea market at Place Du Jeu Deballe and a few good parks to stumble across interspersed between the abundance of museums. I was also impressed by some of the graffiti. Being the home of the beloved comic 'Tin Tin', a lot of the artwork around the city was based on him. Walking down the narrow streets, your eye would catch on someone hanging out of a window or climbing down an escape route but on second glance you would see that it was artwork. It was clean and fresh and untouched by others. 

One of lunch spots was near Sablon, on Rue de Namur, and called 'Jat'. It was full of baguettes, salads, milkshakes and coffee in a retro style mismatch of chairs and triangular tables. The kind of interior that makes me excited to be in a coffee shop. I was impressed. My baguette with raisin and nut fresh baked bread, goats cheese and rocket was delicious. 

We also tried a bar / restaurant called cafe Belga in Place Eugine Flagey, a large interior full of locals with laptops, groups of friends chatting or tourists like us. I had an unusual but very tasty cauliflower cheese soup. It was off a square with another of the cities many markets. 

Our second dinner was at a more lively restaurant in a quieter neighbourhood called 'L'ultime atome' on Rue St Boniface. It had another large interior and was the closest thing to a pub restaurant but with a reasonably priced menu. It had a lovely front terrace with lot sof seating. 

Overall , Brussels was a hit and a great place to go for a couple of days. 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Cheddar and broccoli pastry Autumn lunch bites

Given that I have a little more time this week, I was seeking out another lunch to make (now that I've eaten the scones - yum). I read some other food blogs and one I particularly like is called This blog is often full of amazing looking food with great photography and so I found this delicious looking recipe for 'extra flakey broccoli cheddar soup mini pies' and delicious they are. they do take a while to make for lunch but they are worth it.

2 tbsps olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 garlic clove grated
1/4 cup of flour (as it is an American blog, the measurements are in cups)
1 can coconut milk
1-2 cups diced mushrooms
1-2 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt and pepper
2-3 cups grated cheddar
2 boxes of ready made puff pastry
1 egg beaten (for the pastry)

I actually halved this recipe and it made 8 mini pies.

1. heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. add the garlic and onion and cook for 5minutes until tender. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3minutes more (it should clump here). Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth.
2. Add in one cup of stock, the broccoli, mushrooms, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 15minutes. then puree in a blender and return to the pan.
3. Whisk in the cheese until it has melted and simmer for 10 minutes until thick. Take off the heat and put the mix into a bowl in the fridge to cool and set for 30minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 190C and lay out the pastry and cut out rounds using a cookie cutter (use the biggest one). Brush egg wash around the edge of half of each circle.

5. Spoon the mixture into the middle of the pastry (1 tablespoon in each) and fold in half (it oozed when I did this but that is fine). Use a fork to seal the edges by pressing down. Put the pies on baking parchment, brush with egg wash and cut in air holes on each pasty, then sprinkle more cheese on top. bake for 20-25minutes.

These are delicious warm and still great the next day after a minute in the microwave. Thank you #halfbakedharvest ! A lovely warn lunch for the turning weather.

I'm very excited today as T and I are going to Brussels this evening! He so kindly bot the trip for my 30th. Naturally the first thing I sought out was the food...Belgium chocolate, waffles, moules frites... until the next post with all things Belgian..