Sunday 31 August 2014

Alphabakes 2014 Roundup: P

I've been pretty busy this month moving house twice- we sold mine at the beginning of August, but the people whose house we were buying refused to complete until the end of the month, so we stayed with my boyfriend's mum for three weeks. So between putting all my stuff in storage and trying not to make a mess of someone else's kitchen I haven't done much baking this month! Luckily there are plenty of you who were able to and it was great to see so many entries in a summer month when perhaps you are away on holiday or it's too hot to put the oven on.

My mum makes a cake every week almost all year round so this month was no change; here is Jacqueline's peppermint sponge. There is peppermint flavouring in both the sponge and the icing.

She also sent a savoury dish, a prawn and smoked fish pie. I love fish pie and this looks like it has cheese melted on top... yum!

I went for something very summery after treating myself to Lakeland's new sandcastle cake mould. I thought about what flavours would best represent the beach and went for pineapple and coconut, and decorated the sandcastle with candy melt sea shells (also using a Lakeland mould) and sprinkled golden caster sugar around the edge. So here is my pineapple and coconut sandcastle cake.

Keeping it in the family, the next entry was from my sister Clare. She made cherry profiteroles - I've only ever come across chocolate ones before but think these sound - and look - great. Clare said that the recipe was supposed to make 12 but she only ended up with 6, so they are quite big!

My Alphabakes co-host Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker was also packing to move house this month, so like me wanted to get her entry in early, though it now looks like she will be completing on her house in September. She said she baked this and had it up on the blog within an hour! Having recently seen the Great British Bake Off contestants make swiss rolls I think Mary and Paul would be pleased with the spiral on this spiced pumpkin and cream cheese swiss roll.

 Our next entry comes from Kerene aka The Dream Baker, who made Pandan Chiffon Cupcakes. She explains that pandan is "an aromatic tropical plant that is used widely in Southeast Asia cooking as flavouring (through the use of its leaves or extracts). Pandan is the star component (flavour) of these cupcakes that never fail to remind us of our home, our Singapore!" She now lives in the US and was unable to get fresh pandan leaves so instead created this recipe using pandan essence. Kerene says these are soft and fluffy and I love the colour!

Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker realised she had already baked something that began with P, but not blogged about it yet, so now was the perfect time. And these dark chocolate and peanut butter cornflake cookies look divine. Ros made them with ingredients a friend brought back from America - which reminds me, my boyfriend's mum is going in a few weeks and I need to put in an order!

Peanut butter is also the 'p' ingredient in these super nutty granola bars, from Manpreet at Healthy Eats For All. She has experimented with different combinations to make snack bars that are filling, tasty and healthy and points out they need to be the right texture to actually hold together as a bar. I think she has done a really good job!

These beautiful pear and chocolate puddings come from Jean at Baking in Franglais, based on a recipe by Rachel Khoo. Jean says the puddings had a gooey middle and the flavour of treacle, one of the ingredients, really came through. These would be a lovely way to finish off a dinner party.

More chocolate now in these Overloaded Chocolate Party Brownies from Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than... She made them as a treat for colleagues at the end of a work placement - lucky people! These contain Malteaser Bunnies, Minstrels, Munchies and Nuteella - no wonder she calls them overloaded!

 More party food! Here's Kate, the Gluten Free Alchemist, with her marshmallow party bites. They are very simple to make and you can decorate them any way you like, dipped in melted chocolate and sprinkles or sweets. They would be very popular at a children's party and I think with adults as well!

It's nice to not have to put the oven on when you want sweet treats sometimes in the summer, so these no bake chocolate and peanut butter pinwheels from Stuart at Cakeyboi are just the thing. What's more, he says they contain no 'bad fats' or refined sugar so they are a bit higher up the healthy scale than they might be!

Sarah at Tales From the Kitchen Shed made these simple but perfectly formed pitta breads. I made pittas on a cookery course a few months ago and was amazed at how they puff up in minutes in the oven. She gives loads of helpful tips for how to make them and recommends using them for chicken kebabs - yummy!

A triple-P entry from Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog with this Purple Plum Pizza. The base is made of pizza dough with the addition of white chocolate and it's topped with homemade plum jam, plums and walnuts. A really creative idea and I bet it tastes delicious!

 A traditional favourite from Suelle at Mainly Baking - pineapple upside down cake. But she's given it a modern twist by using coconut milk and lime in the sponge, for a really summery flavour.

 Here's another upside down cake, the second entry from Kate aka The Gluten Free Alchemist. She made this savoury summer upside down cake - that's right, a savoury cake. The sponge is made from polenta and it's topped with tomatoes, yellow and orange peppers, olives and sweetcorn. I can just imagine sharing this on a picnic and I think it's a fantastic idea!

Another one from my co-host Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker (I thought she was busy moving house - I'm glad she still found time to bake!). This pear and walnut cake has a caramel topping and would be a great way of using up fruit that is a bit too soft.

Shaheen at Allotment2Kitchen was forced to harvest some runner beans after bad weather destroyed the plant and made a savoury Sri Lankan Chilli Coconut Runner Bean pie. She says it has heat from the chilli and sweetness from the coconut and is certainly different. She has been quite clever in pointing out that phaseolos coccineus is the Latin name for runner beans so is using that as her P! Runner beans are also known as pole beans in some parts of the world so that definitely counts.

P is for pumpkin seeds this month over at Vohn's Vittles. They feature in this spiced courgette loaf which would work as much for afternoon tea as it would for breakfast. It looks pretty healthy and very tasty!

Another savoury entry: this grilled veggie lasagne with wild garlic pesto was produced by Elizabeth of Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. It's a great way of using storecupboard ingredients including tinned vegetables, and Elizabeth says this is one of the best lasagnes she's ever made. There are plenty of Ps in this- tomato puree, parsley, red and yellow peppers and of course the garlic pesto.

This peach and bramble meringue slice from Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen came about to use up egg whites from another recipe; she picked the blackberries (brambles) from her farm and says the fruit adds a soft lusciousness and the meringue a light crispy texture. I'm keen to try this one!

Another rustic countryside style cake now: Linzi from Lancashire Food has made this plum and cornmeal cake with plums from her own tree. The cake is gluten free and needs little embellishment or decoration other than a light dusting of icing sugar. It looks like the kind of cake you need when you've been working outdoors in the garden all day.

Corina at Searching for Spice made these parmesan and basil thins inspired by biscuit week on the Great British Bake Off. They are cheesy and crispy and I think would be just as good eaten on their own as they would be eaten with cheese.

Here are some more savoury cheese biscuits, from Fiona at Sweet Thing You Make My Heart Sing. She's treated us to these pecorino biscuits, again inspired by the Great British Bake Off. They also have pumpkin seeds on top, and look very tasty. She's also celebrating handing her thesis in - congratulations, Fiona!

The first of two last-minute entries from me now which I blogged at the end of the month. I've often had physalis as the decoration on a dessert in restaurants but had never eaten it; I bought a bagful in the supermarket for only £1 so decided to incorporate it into a cake. The result was deliciously moist, probably thanks to the yogurt, in this physalis cake on Caroline Makes.

 I also made a passion fruit and mango puree bread pudding (also featuring mixed peel), inspired by Penny's Passion Pudding from a book called Sweet Nothings by Sheila Norton. It was an unusual and delicious take on the traditional dessert.

Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe used potato flour for this gluten-free pastry, which she used to make an apple slice and some sausage rolls for her niece's party. Both of them look delicious and from the other photos it looks like they had a really fun day!

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And finally, a great cake to end the roundup on as it comes from my co-host Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker . Ros is a huge fan of peanut butter and made this chocolate and peanut butter cake using Reece's Cups. It has a layer of peanut butter inside and I've already bookmarked it as one I want to make!

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 Check out her blog on September 1st to find out which letter we are baking with next month!

Thanks to everyone who entered, see you soon!

  • Malteaster Bunnies, roughly chopped
  • Approx 75g Minstrels, roughly chopped
  • Approx 75g mini Munchies
  • Approx 50g Minstrels, whole
  • Nutella, to finish
  • - See more at:

    Saturday 30 August 2014

    My Front Door and My New Life

    My boyfriend and I have spent the last six months trying to buy a house. I say trying, because everything that could go wrong, did go wrong - between the vendors and our solicitor who equally appeared to dither, delay, they said they had sent things when they hadn't, and right before we exchanged it seemed like the vendors might have changed their minds (and on the day of completion, our solicitor got their bank details wrong so the money nearly didn't go through). That's not to mention the fact that the vendors drew out the process so much that our mortgage offer actually expired and we only secured an extension at the last minute.

    Still, we persevered and had to push through the sale of my house, and ended up moving in with my boyfriend's mum for three weeks until our vendors were willing to complete on their sale. Everything went into storage - several times when I wanted to cook something, I realised the pan I needed was over at Big Yellow and it wasn't worth the trip to go and get it (not that I knew exactly which box it was in anyway!).

    Finally we were able to move into our new house, which really is my dream home. It has four bedrooms, a double garage and is in a private mews road which has no through traffic so is perfect for my cat! Best of all though is the kitchen - a huge open plan area, with a modern induction hob, room for an American-style fridge-freezer (which we are going to order!), space for a dining table and there's a built-in a breakfast bar, where my boyfriend can sit and chat as I cook. The utility room just off the kitchen has more cupboards and will be the perfect place to store my baking and cake decorating equipment. I feel like the last six months have been a real slog, but worth it!

    The vendors left the house in quite a state - every wall had holes and marks from pictures that had hung there for years, and we discovered that in some of the bedrooms, they had only carpeted as far as the furniture, so now they had taken the wardrobes, there are now huge sections of floor with no carpet and only grotty floorboards. So that's more money we have to spend.... but it does mean we can decorate the house how we want. We've only been there two days and we have already painted half our bedroom - it made sense to redecorate before we really unpacked.

    One of the first things we did was change the front door locks of course - you never know who has keys - and bought a Yale lock from B&Q which was really easy to fit and only cost about £10. So we have security and peace of mind, even if we haven't unpacked yet.

    So my front door - my brand new front door, to a house I have only lived in for two days - represents a whole new life for me and my boyfriend. It's our first home together, and has enough bedrooms that we can welcome friends and family to stay - and there is plenty of room if we decide to start a family of our own. My front door is really important to me, as it's a symbol of what I have worked so hard for and wanted for so long. At least, it will be once we have replaced the door, as I'm not keen on the stained-glass effect front - or the doorbell that plays the Lone Ranger theme tune!

    This is my entry to the Yale Door blogging competition.

    Friday 29 August 2014

    Cute Kitten Birthday Card

    Here's a cute birthday card I made for a female friend, using a piece of pretty pink backing paper and some raised puffy stickers of a cat and some flowers. I also added a 'birthday wishes' sticker that has pink wording on a clear background.

    Thursday 28 August 2014

    Low fat Banoffee Cheesecake

    I made this banoffee cheesecake for a Slimming World food tasting, as I don't like bananas so it seemed a good opportunity to try out the recipe (as other people would be eating it!). I should have covered the top completely in sliced banana, I realise now, but I think it still looks OK like this.

    The recipe came from the Slimming World website; it serves 8 and has 6 syns per serving on all plans.

    You need:
    10 reduced fat digestive biscuits, crushed
    5 level tbsp low fat spread
    2 x 12g sachets gelatine
    250g quark
    3 x 175g pots Mullerlight toffee yogurt
    3-4 tbsp sweetener
    1 tsp vanilla essence
    2 egg whites
    2 bananas, sliced

    Preheat oven to 190C. Line a 20cm spring form cake tin with greaseproof paper.

    Crush the biscuits in a food processor or a plastic food bag using a wooden spoon. Melt the low fat spread in a small pan and add the crushed biscuits and stir well to coat. Press into the base of the tin and flatten the surface. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 mins then leave to cool completely.

    Dissolve the gelatine in 5 tbsp boiling water. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.

    Then whisk in the quark, yogurt, sweetener and vanilla and finally the gelatine liquid.

     Spoon over the biscuit base, smooth the top and chill for 5 hours or overnight until set.

    To serve, decorate with sliced bananas.

    Wednesday 27 August 2014

    Restaurant Review: Hot Pink Grill, Wimbledon

    The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
    It isn't just one of your holiday games;
    You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
    When I tell you, a cat must have three different names.

    In my head I'm still singing jellicle songs for jellicle cats and humming along to "oh, well I never was there ever a cat so clever...." - and marvelling at the fact that the musical Cats is almost as old as I am. I'd wanted to see it for about 20 years but never went while it was on in the West End - the run finished in 2002. So when I saw that a touring production was coming to Wimbledon just after my birthday I dropped a few hints to my boyfriend and he got us tickets. The show is a feast for the senses- the dancing and costumes are as impressive as the singing, and it's easy to see why the show has stood the test of time. It's a high energy, fun and polished performance and something I'm glad to finally be able to tick off my bucket list.

    We went on a Thursday night straight from work - I'm always surprised at how long it takes to get to Wimbledon on the district line from the City. We didn't have a great deal of time for dinner beforehand so I had a quick look online for fast/casual dining options, hoping to avoid a chain restaurant I'd been to before as I like to try different restaurants whenever I can.

    So it was by chance - well, by Googling - that I came across Hot Pink Grill. It could have been invented for my boyfriend and me- there are diner-style burgers and fries and milkshakes (his ideal dinner) but also lighter options including fish (my ideal... who am I kidding. I love burgers, but I need to lose weight). And they have cocktails so it's win win all round.

    The restaurant was directly opposite the theatre too, which was a big plus. It's diner-style in that you order and pay at the counter, but your food is brought over by a waiter. Predictably, my boyfriend ordered the Hot Pink burger (£6.75) - so-called because that's how the patties were cooked, though I ordered his medium as he doesn't like them too rare. Cheese and bacon were added as extras (for another 75p for the cheese and £2 for the bacon) and the burgers also come with a "secret sauce". The fries on offer were either skin-on or curly so he chose curly - why they are a pound more expensive (£4) I'm not sure. He said the burger was tasty and juicy but not as good as Byron, which is one of his favourites.

    The advantage over Byron however is the breadth of the menu. Hot Pink doesn't have a huge menu but it covers quite a spectrum. It's divided into sections - meat, chicken, fish and non-meat. Rather than the burger take centre stage, it's just one of three things under meat - obviously you can customise it with cheese, bacon, jalapenos, meaning there are technically more menu items - the other two in this secion being a cumberland sausage or steak. The chicjen section offers a chicken burger, marinated chicken skewers or a half chicken, and under non-meat you have a choice of veggie sausage, falafel burger or halloumi and 7-veg stacker (like a multi-layered burger, but without the bun). It's the fish section that is most unusual for somewhere that resembles a burger diner like this. 

    You can have a fish finger roll, which was very tempting, or a salmon steak sprinkled with lime and pepper, or a whole seabass stuffed with rosemary and grilled. It's not often I get the chance to have something like that while my other half is chowing down on a greasy burger and thick milkshake, so I ordered the seabass (£9) and really enjoyed it. I had it with sweet potato wedges (£3) which were so good I wondered why I don't see them on menus more often, and indeed why I don't make them at home. The milkshakes and in particular the alcoholic milkshakes look to die for, and I love the fact that Filtered London Water appears on the menu, free of course, with the message "Sorry we don't believe in selling mineral water as it puts a huge demand on our planet". Great tasting food, with both dirty burger and healthy options, and a social conscience to boot - what's not to like? This is a great little restaurant that I'd definitely use again if I was going to the theatre or shopping in Wimbledon.


    Tuesday 26 August 2014

    Sweet Chilli Turkey Burgers

    These sweet chilli turkey burgers are low fat and really zingy, they make a lovely change from a beefburger and are very easy to make.

    Allow about 100-120g turkey mince per person. Mix the mince in a bowl with some chopped red onion, chopped spring onion, 1/2 tsp oregano per person and 1 tsp sweet chilli sauce per person. Combine well and shape into patties with your hands.

    Place on a foil lined tray and cook in the oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

    Serve with rocket, and tomato if desired, in a crusty bread roll or burger bun.

    I'm sending this to the Spice Trail Beach Barbecue Challenge, hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash.

    Monday 25 August 2014

    Meal Planning Monday 2014 - Week 35

    We finally get to move into our new house this week! It's been a long time coming - our offer was accepted at the beginning of March and even though there were only three parties in the chain (us being the one in the middle) it has taken an incredible amount of time. We even had to sell my house and move in with my boyfriend's mum for three weeks until our vendors were willing to complete on their house. And at the time of writing it hasn't actually happened yet, so cross your fingers for us!

    Monday - bank holiday
    Lunch - mackerel in mustard on toast
    Dinner - rest of chicken traybake from Sunday or cod fillet which I will jazz up somehow

    lunch - chicken and couscous
    dinner -  chicken in breadcrumbs and chips or cod if I didn't have it yesterday

    lunch - sandwich
    dinner - taking my boyfriend's mum out to say thanks for having us to stay

    lunch - probably waiting in a van with the removal men as we complete on the new house today so might have to buy a sandwich
    dinner - our first night in our new house, if all goes to plan! I think my boyfriend is very keen to do the first night in a new house tradition of fish and chips eaten out of the paper.

    lunch - day off, unpacking so will probably go out and get a sandwich
    dinner - after a hard day's unpacking I expect my boyfriend will want to order a pizza but as I get weighed at Slimming World first thing on Saturday I don't think that's a very good idea! I could just have some pasta as it's easy.

    lunch - beans/macaroni cheese on toast
    dinner-  chicken Maryland from Good Housekeeping recipe book

    lunch - bacon sandwich for the other half, mackerel in mustard on toast for me
    dinner -steak and chips

    Sunday 24 August 2014

    Food From Fiction: Penny's Passion Pudding (Bread Pudding)

     Not long ago I picked a book in the charity shop called Sweet Nothings by Sheila Norton. It wasn't a great read - a bit predictable, and I think aimed at an older generation than myself. It's about a woman called Penny who is frustrated with her husband and fancies someone at work, and is tempted by an affair, and is also campaigning for a local bypass.

    She gets interviewed on the radio about the bypass but is also asked how she manages to keep the passion her marriage alive after however many years, and mentions that her husband loves her bread pudding. She ends up a local celebrity with everyone wanting to know about "Penny's passion pudding".  There is a recipe at the back of the book for the bread pudding so I decided to give it a go.

    The name made me want to add passion fruit as well, which is a bit different to a traditional bread pudding, but this recipe included dried apricots so I thought why not. I also bought a large tin of mango puree on a whim at the supermarket and decided that mango and passionfruit would be a nice fruity combination for a summery bread pudding.

    So this is what I used, for I suppose what you would call Caroline's Passion Pudding.

    8 slices stale bread
    2 eggs
    100ml milk
    200g sultanas and/or raisins - equal quantities of each if you like
    50g French glacé cherries
    55g mixed peel
    2 tsp nutmeg
    2 tsp cinnamon
    2 passion fruit, scooped out
    200g mango puree
    Sprinkling of brown sugar

     Preheat oven to 175C.

    Place the bread slices in a large shallow bowl. Beat the eggs with the milk and pour over the bread. Leave to soak in for ten minutes.

    Grease a large oven proof dish and layer the bread with the other ingredients as equally as possible until you have used everything up. Sprinkle the top with brown sugar.

    Bake in the oven for about an hour - 1 hour 15 mins. Serve warm.

     I'm sending my Passion Pudding with passion fruit, mango puree and mixed peel to Alphabakes, as the letter this month is P.