pretzels in container

I should be making doughnuts this week.   I really really should be making doughnuts.   Or at least a  fruit loaf.   You see, I have been baking along with the Great British Bake Off and trying to make something with the same theme as the show each week.  It’s fun, but I’ve started to feel like I have deadlines and that is never a good thing.

After bunking off and doing no baking last week, this week, I’m still rebelling.    Not completely as this is still Bake Off related.   I remember seeing the contestants make pretzels last year, or maybe it was even the year before!   Anyway, I’ve been wanting to make pretzels for a long time but only now have I wanted to make them enough to actually make them!

You see, I was sent some lovely French rock salts by Culture Vulture and so I really wanted to make something that would make the most of the salts.  The salts were Truffle and Black Pepper Salt and Fig, Onion and 5 Peppers Salt.  Both came in beautiful jars and look so much more inviting than everyday salt.   The pretzels I’d been thinking of making for all that time suddenly became something I really wanted to make.

I hadn’t make pretzels before or any bread that involves boiling first but I was pleased by how easy they were to make and also by how well they turned out.   Maybe I’ll be having a go at bagels soon!  I did take a short cut and use the breadmaker for the dough and it was fine in it.

The salts were lovely although I couldn’t really taste the individual flavours that were in them.  The purplish lilac colour of the fig, onion and 5 peppers one looked especially pretty on the pretzels and these are definitely lovely salts to use on breads or biscuits which have salt sprinkled on the outside.  Of course, if you don’t have these salts, any good quality rock salt would still work on the pretzels.


The recipe is adapted from a Paul Hollywood recipe and can be found on BBC Food.

Ingredients – Makes 12

500g strong white flour

7g sachet yeast

10g salt

40g softened butter

1 tbsp soft brown sugar (replacement for malt extract)

280ml milk

21g bicarbonate of soda

20g rock salt

How to Make Pretzels

1. I put the yeast, flour, salt, brown sugar and milk into the breadmaker and set it to the dough setting but if you don’t have a breadmaker then follow the instructions here.

2. Put the oven on at 200C. Cut the dough into 12 evenly sized pieces.   Roll each one between your fingers until it reaches a length of about 40cm.

3. To make the dough into pretzel shapes, make a U shape then bring each end into the middle, cross them over each other and press them into the side of the U.  You should then get a pretzel shape with 3 holes.

4. Bring a large pan containing 7 liters of water to the boil.   Add the bicarbonate of soda and then add the pretzels, one at a time for 5 seconds each.

5. Sprinkle a little salt on the top of each pretzel.   Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.   Cool on a wire rack and eat on the same day.

truffle and fig salt


I am linking these to Bake of the Week at Casa Costello.


Lamb Meatballs


lamb meatballs

Where would I be without Jamie Oliver? This month I struck lucky for Random Recipes when the book I ended up with was Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals.  I definitely haven’t cooked from this book enough.  There are some lovely recipes in it and although they generally (always) take a little longer than 15 minutes, they are still pretty quick to prepare and then get out on the table.

One of the good things about this recipe was that most of the ingredients are things that are in the store cupboard anyway.   I love fresh coriander leaf and I often have that at home too so the only thing I needed to make an effort to buy was the lamb mince.

Normally I am not a big fan of lamb.  I love it in a curry but generally I only like it if it is served with lots of other strong flavours so it doesn’t taste too much of lamb.  Yes, I’m afraid I disguise it!

It has to be said that I was a bit disappointed at first to have picked this recipe.    I considered picking another, but then decided I’d better stick to the rules.   After all,  I love all the other ingredients and there was at least a little spice in the recipe to rescue it.  I was pleased I made it in the end.   It was very easy and quick to do and the meatballs were really tasty.   I could even have eaten more.   Why didn’t I made double and freeze some?   Next time.

Ingredients – Serves 2

200g lamb mince

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 red chilli pepper

Handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

400g tin chickpeas

300g passata

2 spring onions, sliced

How to Make Lamb Meatballs

1. Using your hands, mix the garam masala and turmeric into the mince and then make into small meatballs, about the size of large grapes. Put the meatballs in a frying pan with a little oil.

2. In a saucepan heat a little oil then add the garlic, spring onion, chilli pepper, the spices and half of the coriander.   Stir fry for 30 seconds then add the passata and chickpeas.  Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Add the meat balls to the saucepan and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

4. Serve with yoghurt, flatbreads and salad.  Scatter the remaining coriander on top of the meatballs when serving.

I am linking this to Random Recipes hosted by Belleau Kitchen.

random recipes new logo

Review of Olives Et Al Products

Olives et al

Earlier this month I was sent a lovely selection of products to try from Olives et al – Mojo Pink Grapefruit Dressing and Marinade, Smokey Chipotle Chilli Olives, North African Style Red Chilli Harissa and Sweet Chilli Billy Jelly.

We ate the olives first and they didn’t last long.   The oil was flavoured with chipotle chilli so the olives themselves were not too spicy, just gently smoky.   I could happily have eaten the whole jar by myself.   The oil they were in was really tasty drizzled on salads and bread afterwards too.  It would have been a crime to have thrown it away!

Along with the olives, my other favourite was the harissa.  It is a bold spicy harissa with lots and lots of flavour, possibly my favourite harissa ever.   I’ve been enjoying it in couscous, as a chicken marinade, on salads, on tortilla chips, in fact almost any way you could imagine.

We then tried the pink grapefruit dressing.   I had high hopes for it but have to admit that I was a little disappointed.  As a marinade it tenderised the meat but didn’t leave a lot of flavour in it.    As a salad dressing it was also a little bland.  I was hoping for a sharper zingier grapefruit flavour which I didn’t get.  I felt I needed to squeeze some lemon over it!   The way I did really enjoy it though was as a dipping sauce for bread.

The final jar contained the chilli billy jelly.  It’s nice and has a decent kick as well as being sweet.  It’s not really my type of thing but I enjoyed the bit that I had.  If you like sweet chilli sauces you would love this.

Disclosure: I received free samples of the products but the opinion in the review are my own.




Marinated Paneer Salad

paneer salad

I often make salads with cheese and I often cook Indian food.   I often marinate the meats I am using, but I forget to treat the vegetarian options with as much care at the preparation stage.  I decided it was time I tried paneer again and give it the type of marinade I might use on a piece of chicken.

Admittedly, I was also inspired by an @SaveraPaneer recipe card and adapted this from their chermoula marinated paneer, apricot and rocket salad.   The ingredients for the marinade go quite a long way and after I’d picked the cubes of paneer out to cook them, the remaining marinade was really delicious stirred into the yoghurt with some cucumber to make a raita.   I hadn’t cooked paneer like this before and I found it was slightly dry if I ate it by itself but eaten with some of the raita it was so so tasty.

Paneer is often an ingredient I forget about but after making this, I’d love to have a go at some more paneer recipes.   Maybe I’ll go for the classic of spinach and paneer next time.  This time I wanted to make something slightly different as this month’s Spice Trail, hosted by Bangers and Mash has the theme of Indian.   I’ve made loads of curries so I wanted to be a bit more adventurous, maybe not adventurous enough to try an Indian dessert, but at least to try something a little different from my usual Indian cooking.

Ingredients for the Marinade

225g paneer

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

2 cloves of garlic

Large handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)

Juice of 1 lemon

Extra virgin olive oil


Extra Ingredients for the salad

Rocket leaves (argula)

1/3 cucumber, diced

Pomegranate seeds

250ml Yoghurt

How to Make Paneer Salad

1. Put all the ingredients for the marinade (except for the paneer) into a food processor.   Blitz.   Add extra olive oil if it is too stiff.

2. Coat the paneer in the marinade and refrigerate for a few hours.

3. Heat a tiny bit of oil in a frying pan and fry the paneer, letting it brown slightly then turning it over.   I cooked it on about 3 sides.

4. While the paneer is cooking, mix the cucumber and the remains of the marinade into the yoghurt.

5. Serve the paneer on top of the rocket leaves, with a sprinking of pomegranate seeds and with the yoghurt and cucumber raita on the side.

I am also linking this to No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen, and on alternate months by Tinned Tomatoes.

spice-trail-badge-squareNo Croutons Required



Vanilla Ice Cream and Affogato


I may have mentioned in an earlier post that I love vanilla ice cream.   I would much rather have vanilla than chocolate or caramel or cookie dough or whatever else is popular.  The best ice creams are either fruit flavoured or vanilla.  And that’s a fact.   Even if you don’t agree with me.

I planned to make this to go with the Austrian Chocolate Cake that I made last week, but only actually managed to complete it on day 3 with our last piece of cake.   That’s what children have done to me.   And that’s why I usually avoid recipes with too many stages. This one is easy but it does take time to make.  It’s worth it though and I promise you it’s one of the best vanilla ice creams you will ever taste

Anyway, I got up on Sunday morning and made a coffee.   I looked in the fridge but there was no milk.  I looked across at my husband who was putting his last  mouthful of cereal into his mouth.   I peered into his bowl but there wasn’t even a drop of milk left.

Would I have to have black coffee?   I don’t mind black coffee, but I wasn’t quite in the mood for one that morning.   And then I remembered the little bit of homemade vanillla ice cream that was sitting in the freezer.  It would have to be the day for affogato, which I only thought about as I had been planning to make it earlier this summer for Kavey Eats’ Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream Challenge.   I didn’t have time to make it that particular month but I hadn’t forgotten about it so when I saw that the theme this month was Anything Goes, it seemed like perfect timing.

The recipe is very slightly adapted from BBC Good Food.


250ml double cream

300ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)

115g caster sugar

1 vanilla pod

3 egg yolks

How to Make Vanilla Ice Cream

1. Put the milk, cream and about 60g of the sugar in a saucepan.   Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod and add them to the saucepan too.  Chop the vanilla pod into three pieces and add that to the pan too. Bring it slowly to the boil and then take it off the heat and leave it to cool for 30 minutes.

2. Put the rest of the sugar and the egg yolks in another large bowl and beat until light and pale. Pour in about 125ml of the cream mixture and beat in too.

3. Return the pan to the heat and bring it back to the boil.   As soon as it boils, take it off the heat again and pour on top of the egg yolk mixture, stirring.

4.Pour the custard back into the pan and return it to the heat again.   Heat it gently, stirring all the time.   It should soon thicken and when it does, it is ready.   Pour it through a sieve to remove the bits of vanilla pod and into a large measuring jug.  Leave it to cool in the fridge.

5. Let it cool for at least 2 hours or overnight then pour it into an ice cream maker.   Alternatively follow the instructions here if you don’t have an ice cream maker.

How to Make Affogato

Make some strong black coffee, ideally espresso.  Put a scoop of ice cream in the bottom of a cup and pour the coffee over the top.   Serve immediately.

cake and vanilla ice cream

I am linking this to Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream at Kavey Eats and to Tasty Tuesdays at Honest Mum.


Mary Berry’s Austrian Chocolate Cake

Mary Berry's Austrian Chocolate Cake

Last week we were on holiday and I didn’t manage to do any baking along with the Bake Off but this week things are back to normal and with European Cake Week it’s just as well.   I love cake.   I could eat cake every day.   I could even eat it for breakfast, and although that may be normal in some places, it is not a typical breakfast in the UK.

There were so many things I could have made this week.  I used to live in Germany and Poland and both countries have some delicious cakes.  I have also had some very nice almond and orange cakes in Spain so that was another possibility, but at the end of the day, how could I turn down this chocolate cake?  The recipe is from Mary Berry’s Desserts and I’d had my eye on it for a while.

It’s a rich chocolaty moist brownie-like cake and although it is a cake, it’s the type of cake you could serve for dessert with some cream on the side, which we did, or some custard, which we did the next day, or some ice cream, which we eventually managed with our final slice.  Yes, it took me three days to turn the cream from cream into custard and then into ice cream, but that’s another story.

Today, it’s all about cake, and this is indeed a wonderful cake.   You won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients – Serves 8

250g dark chocolate

175g unsalted butter

6 eggs, separated

200g caster sugar(60g for step 2, 140g for step 3)

30g self-raising flour

1 tbsp icing sugar

How to Make Mary Berry’s Austrian Chocolate Cake

1. Put the chocolate and butter in a saucepan and melt over a low heat.  Keep giving it a stir but don’t let it boil.  Take it off the heat as soon as everything has melted.

2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks.  Then slowly add the caster sugar as you whisk until mixture forms stiff peaks.

3. Put the rest of the sugar and the egg yolks in another large bowl and whisk until they go very pale and thick.

4. Continue to whisk and add the chocolate and butter mixture. Then whisk in the flour.

5. Finally fold in the egg white mixture a third at a time.

6. Spoon the mixture into a greased loose bottomed or springform cake tin before putting into the oven at 170C.   I used a 20cm tin and baked it for 40 minutes.  The recipe said a 23cm tin and bake for 30-35 minutes.

7. Test the centre of the cake is done with a skewer.   It should be moist and sticky but not runny.

8. Cool the cake in the tin on a wire rack.   It will have risen in the oven but it will fall back down and crack a little as it cools.

9. Sprinkle some icing sugar on the top when you are ready to serve it.

Mary Berry's Austrian Chocolate Cake

I am linking this to the Great Blogger’s Bake Off, hosted by Mummy Mishaps as well as My Great #GBBO Bake Along, hosted by Super Golden Bakes.  It is also my Bake of the Week at Casa Costello.


Spanish Rice Stuffed Marrow

stuffed marrow 2

I don’t think I’d ever eaten a marrow before until now.   It’s one of those vegetables that everyone has heard of but you just don’t see for sale anywhere, or at least not in supermarkets these days.   I imagine it was different in the past.   Marrows were probably one of those vegetables people lived off.   Also, why pick them as courgettes when you could wait a couple of weeks and have 6 times the amount of food?  Maybe that’s why they have somehow fallen out of favour in recent years.

The only reason I ended up with this marrow was that I was looking for courgettes to pick at Garsons pick-your-own but it seemed everyone else had got there first.   There were almost no courgettes but quite a lot of marrows.   It seems that even when you can pick them yourself they suffer in the popularity stakes.  I decided I should get one to try, but I have to admit to keeping it in the fridge for almost a week before I could decide what to do with it.

I was thinking of doing some kind of spicy minced beef and rice stuffing but then I forgot to buy the mince when I was shopping.   I looked in my cupboard for inspiration and came across a couple of almost empty packets or rice, one basmati and one Spanish rice.  I also had a half-used ring of chorizo sausage in the fridge and that’s how this turned into a more Spanish flavoured dish.

I was expecting to like the stuffing but I wasn’t sure if I’d like the marrow.  I expected it to be a bit watery and bland.   Well, it wasn’t watery and it absorbed the flavours of the rice so it was actually really really tasty.  I loved it.  It would make a perfect base for any strong flavoured stuffing, although I imagine that it would be very bland if not cooked well.

I thought I’d be eating up the marrow for days as my husband doesn’t like courgettes or squashes so I expected him not to like this either.  Well, it might not have been his favourite dish ever but he was quite happy to eat it for two days in a row.  I’m now hoping to go back and pick a couple more marrows if I can before the season ends.  I am most definitely a marrow convert now.

Ingredients – serves 6

1 marrow

200g chorizo, sliced into chunky slices

1 large onion, chopped

1 chilli pepper, sliced

2 green peppers, sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/3 aubergine, cubed

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp turmeric or use a thread of saffron if you have it

150g rice

500ml chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken)


Black pepper

Olive oil

How to Make Spanish Rice Stuffed Marrow

1. Cut the marrow in half lengthways, remove the soft middle by scraping it out with a spoon and then put the marrow on a baking tray.  Season it and drizzle with olive oil then place in the oven at 180C for an hour.

2. Cook the chorizo in a saucepan until it releases it’s oil and begins to go a little crispy. Add the onions and chilli pepper.   When the onions are soft, add the garlic.  Cook for a minute and then add the rest of the vegetables, the herbs and spices, and the rice.  Stir in.

3. Add about 3/4 of the stock.  Cover and leave to simmer gently.   After 15 minutes check it and stir in the rest of the stock if necessary.

4. Spoon the filling into the marrow.  You might not be able to fit all the stuffing in.  Return the stuffed marrows to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes.   The extra stuffing can be served alongside the marrows or for anyone who doesn’t like marrow and just wants the stuffing.

Suffed marrow 1

I am linking this to Shop Local, hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.


Coconut Marinated Chicken with Chilli Glaze for the SRC

coconut chicken with chilli glaze

This has been the summer of marinades.  If not on the blog, then at least off the blog. Almost every week I’ve made a different one and this is the first one with coconut milk.  I love coconut milk and usually use it in curries but after this,  I will definitely be experimenting with some more coconut milk based marinades too.

I can’t claim that it’s my own invention, as it is from a recipe I found on On the Move – In the Galley, which was my Secret Recipe Club assignment this month.  There is an extensive recipe collection on this blog and I was impressed that all the recipes appear to be ones the blogger has made on a boat.

Luckily, I didn’t need to jump on a boat to make this, which is just as well as I am not a keen sailor!  The marinade for the chicken was absolutely delicious and it is one I will certainly make again and probably use on fish too.   I also made a chilli glaze to put on the chicken aftewards but it called for sweetened rice vinegar and as I only had normal rice vinegar, I used that and a little sugar.   I’m not sure I got it quite right as the vinegar taste was very very strong so possibly the glaze is only one to try if you can get the right ingredients.   Even if you don’t make the glaze, the marinade makes the chicken so full of flavour I don’t think you’ll feel anything is lacking.

Ingredients for the Coconut Marinated Chicken

2 chicken breasts

100ml coconut milk

Small knob fresh ginger

1 tbsp lemongrass paste

Juice of half a lime

black pepper

1 tsp chilli flakes or hot sauce

2 spring onions

Chilli glaze – See the original recipe here

How to Make Coconut Marinated Chicken

1. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together, except the spring onions and the chilli glaze.   Put the marinade in a bowl or bag with the chicken and leave for at least an hour.

2. Cook the chicken.   I used a griddle pan but you could grill, barbecue or fry.

3. If you want to use the chilli glaze then make it while the chicken is cooking. Serve the chicken with the chopped spring onions and and topped with a little of the chilli glaze.

To see what other SRC participants have made, click on the link below:


Raspberry Blondies

raspberry blondies 2

I had to do some baking this week.   The last cake I made was a fruit cake and my husband doesn’t like fruit cakes.   Unfortunately we have different taste in cakes and desserts and he feels he gets his favourites made far less often than I make desserts using my favourite flavours.   Well that’s understandable isn’t it?

But this week I had to make something for him.   You see, it was his birthday and I promised him I would make something he wanted.   He requested blondies.  He was specifically thinking of the blondies I have made for him in the past. These blondies.

Well, what’s the fun in making something you have made before, even something as delicious as a blondie.   I just couldn’t stop myself, I just had to do a little experimenting and vary the recipe.   In fact, I found a whole new recipe that was just crying out to me to be made.   It was a blondie recipe but for blondies with freeze-dried raspberries in them too.   Now white chocolate and raspberry is a fantastic combination.   I ran the idea past him.

How could he refuse?   I made them quickly before he changed his mind.

I liked them.  I would even have liked a few more raspberry bits in them.  He thought there was enough raspberry flavour.   I loved the soft moist cakiness of them.  He loved the caramelised bits on the bottom where all the white chocolate chips had sunk to.   I love cake and I would say these are my favourite ones.   He still prefers the denser fudginess of my other blondies.

We were never going to agree over cake.  I should have known you just can’t please everyone with one blondie.

Ingredients – Makes 16 Recipe adapted from Bake Then Eat

200g caster sugar

4 eggs

225g melted butter

150g plain flour

200g white chocolate chips

6g freeze-dried raspberries

How to Make Raspberry Blondies

1. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.   Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Put the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until pale.   Pour in the melted butter slowly while whisking.

3. Fold in the flour gently until it is fully combined and there are no dry bits.

4.Fold in the chocolate chips and freeze dried raspberry pieces.

5. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.

6. Let the mixture cool in the tin for a while before taking the blondies out and cooling on a wire rack.

I am linking these to Treat Petit, hosted by Cakeyboi and on alternate months by The Baking Explorer.  The theme is Anything Goes.  I am also linking to The Biscuit Barrel Challenge, hosted by I’d Much Rather Bake Than… And linking to Bake of the Week at Casa Costello.

Treat petit newBiscuit BarrelBake-of-the-week

Five Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day Biscuits

5 little ducks biscuits

One of the things I love about cooking and baking is the creativity of making something you’ve never made before.  That’s especially true when any sort of decorating is involved. It’s something I love at the moment and would really like to do some classes in it and get better at it.

Anyway, these biscuits were inspired by the Great British Bake Off.  For the showstopper challenge in biscuit week the contestants had to create a 3d scene out of biscuits.  There were some impressive creations and I knew immediately that I wanted to have a go too. My little girl is currently obsessed by ducks and loves the song, 5 Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day so there was absolutely no question about what I was going to make.

The biscuits are all basically shortbread.  I made the base, the pond, by adding some blue food colour to some of the biscuit dough and then just rolling it out and baking it.  To make the ducks I cut a template out of paper, placed it on the dough and then cut around it as I wanted each of the little ducks to be the same size and shape.  I also made little wings to stick on the sides of the ducks.  I then forgot one of the cardinal rules of baking – small things bake faster.  Unfortunately the wings for the little ducks were all over-baked so only the mummy duck has wings. I planned to draw little wings on the side with the icing but I forgot that too until we’d eaten half of it and it was too late.  As usual with baking, my daughter helped me make the biscuits but I iced them and stood them up on the pond while she was in bed.  She had a lovely surprise in the morning but it did mean we had to have biscuits for breakfast that day!

I am linking these biscuits to Our Growing Edge.  Our Growing Edge is a fantastic event that encourages you to push yourself and try something a little out of your comfort zone.   It could be a new technique, a new ingredient or something you’ve always wanted to make but have never quite got around to.   This month I will be hosting the event.  Have a look at Bunny Eats Design for the rules and to link up your recipes.   I will then be publishing the roundup at the beginning of October.   I can’t wait to see what everyone creates and hopefully be inspired to make something else new.

5 little ducks biscuits 2

Ingredients – Recipe from BBC Good Food

300g butter, at room temperature

140g caster sugar

300g plain flour

140g rice flour

Pinch of salt

Extra Ingredients if making a duck pond and decorating the ducks

Blue food colour

Yellow icing in a tube

Black writing icing

Orange writing icing

How to Make Shortbread Biscuits

1. If you are making ducks or another shape that you don’t have a cutter for, draw the shape first on some clean paper and cut it out.   You can then use this to cut around.

2. Put the butter and sugar in the food processor and blitz until they are combined.   Add the flours and the salt and process again until a dough begins to form.

3. If you are making a duck pond, take about two thirds of the mixture out of the food processor and set it aside.  Form it into a ball and wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for an hour or more.

4. To the mixture still in the food processor, add a little blue food colour.   Blitz it again to combine.

5. Take the mixture out and press it down flat to make a pond shape on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Prick it with a fork and put the tray in the fridge to rest for an hour.

6. Line three more baking trays with baking paper.   Take the dough out of the fridge.   Roll it out to about a centimetre thick.   Cut out the shapes you want and put them on the baking trays.

7. Bake in the oven at 180C/160Cfan  for about 20 minutes.   If some of the shapes are very small they will cook more quickly though so be careful.

8. Cool the biscuits on wire racks.

9. Decorate the biscuits when they are cold.  To make them stand up I squeezed a line of the yellow icing along the bottom edge of the ducks and then used that to stick them to the pond.