Friday, 11 March 2011

mini chocolate cake

I sometimes struggle with that post-dinner urge to have something sweet but don't like the thought of eating something from the local shop, especially when I am sure that I can make something better myself! The smell of a freshly baked cake really is something else. So last night I came up with a smaller version of my usual chocolate sandwich cake, with cream. Instead, this recipe is a quick alternative which serves four, or two very sweet-toothed individuals (believe me, this cake is so light and airy that you really won't be able to stop yourself!)

SERVES 2 - 4


80g wholemeal self-raising flour (or ordinary self-raising flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
30ml honey (or 30g caster sugar)
30ml rapeseed oil (or 30g unsalted butter)
1 egg, beaten
50g milk chocolate / dark chocolate drops
* If you are using the caster sugar and butter option you may have to add a dash of soya milk (or semi-skimmed milk) in order to make the batter moist.


Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and line a small cake tin with parchment paper.

In a medium sized mixing bowl whisk the honey and oil together, then add the egg. Whisk until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Then add the self-raising flour, salt, baking powder, cocoa powder and whisk until the batter comes together. Stir in the chocolate drops.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 20 minutes.

Cool and dust with icing sugar. Serve with strawberries and single cream!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

pancake day without the pounds

I love fluffy American pancakes, who doesn't? They're so filling and yet strangely uplifting that one is never really enough. Here's my version of those feel-good delights, which are great fun to make with the kids.

Also, if you don't already have wholemeal plain flour in your pantry don't worry, use plain flour and just remember to buy some next time you go grocery shopping - it really does make all the difference to the whole family.



100g plain wholemeal flour
30g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey (or maple syrup, or half and half)
140ml soya milk (or buttermilk or semi skimmed milk, whichever you prefer!)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil (or olive oil)


Sift the flours, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. In separate jug or bowl beat the egg, and then whisk in the milk, honey and oil.

Heat a non-stick pan and brush with a little oil. Then, using a small ladle, pour the batter onto the pan (you should be able to get three small pancakes in at the same time). To avoid the pancakes getting cold, place a warm plate in the oven and keep the pancakes in there until the rest are ready.

Serve with maple syrup and fruit... and maybe even a little whipped cream for a more indulgent breakfast. Milk chocolate drops sprinkled on top are also a favourite with kids!

* Wholemeal / wholewheat flour contains more nutrients than white plain flour, which extracts around 60% of the nutrients when bleached, including bran, which is very important for the body as it contains vitamins B1, B2, B3 and folic acid, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, copper and iron - that's a whole load of vitamins! The fiber in wholemeal can also help maintain a healthy body weight.
* Honey has numerous health benefits, including acting as an antioxidant, anti-bacterial agent and can give a boost to the immune system.

Monday, 7 March 2011

flu buster soup - spicy roasted red pepper, butternut squash and spring green soup

With most of the family unwell this week I decided to make something which was packed in as many immune boosting vitamins as possible. My task was made easier because everyone in my house loves soup, so what better way to give them all that they need to get better!



3 tablespoons palm oil (or olive oil)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of fresh garlic, sliced in half
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, finely sliced
1 tomato, washed and chopped
1 red pepper (bell pepper), washed and chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced, and washed
3 cups of spring greens, chopped and washed
500 mls chicken stock (or vegetable stock will also do)
1 green chilli (you can add more if you can take it slightly hotter)
A handful of fresh mint leaves, washed and chopped
A handful of fresh corriander leaves, washed and chopped
The juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground corriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Roasted red peppers

Turn on the grill to high heat. In a non-stick pan pour a little oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon crushed corriander and a little black pepper. Then add the red peppers and mix together. Put this under the grill for ten minutes, making sure you turn them over half way. Once they are slightly dark around the edges they are ready. Take from under the grill and leave to cool.


Saute the onions until golden, then add the garlic and ginger. Then add the tomatoes and all of the spices and fry until the mixture comes together. Then add the butternut squash and saute for five minutes. Then add the roasted red peppers and saute for a further five minutes. Then add the chicken stock and bring the boil. Once it has boiled turn down the heat, cover and leave to simmer for 20 minutes or until the squash quite literally begins to squash and the water thickens. Then add the fresh corriander, mint, green chilli, spring greens and lemon juice. Cook for 5 minutes - make sure you do not cook the spring greens for longer than five minutes otherwise they will start to develop a rank smell and flavour.

Take the pan off the heat and put into a blender (you can also use a food processor, it works just as well but a little more bitsy) and blend. Pour back into the pan and cover for 5 minutes.

Serve with warm, toasted bread.

* One red pepper contains more vitamin C than an orange, and also has a substantial amount of beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant and is converted into vitamin A once absorbed by the body. Vitamin A helps to fight of viral infections, and is also great for the eyes.
* Butternut squash is another great source for vitamin A and C and is also good as an antioxidant.
* Spring greens have a substantial amount of vitamin C and are a good source of folic acid.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

brown rice pudding

I've always really liked rice pudding and the South Asian version, 'kheer' but I've always found it a little too sweet to take more than one serving. I decided to search online for a less sugary alternative and came up with a few versions, but unfortunately they didn't turn out very well so I had a go at making my own recipe. The process itself is super easy, but it does take a slightly long time, so I'd keep about five hours to cook this in total. This type of recipe might not be to everyone's taste, but it didn't sit in the pot for too long in my house!

SERVES 8 - 10


1/2 cup washed brown rice (I used brown basmati rice for my version)
1 litre unsweetened soya milk
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup for a more toffee-like flavour)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sultanas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cardamom extract (optional)


Start by soaking the rice for about 2 hours to soften them. Then, once they have been soaked, drain the water and pour into a large saucepan. Add half of the milk, honey, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla extract, and salt and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally to ensure the pudding does not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the mixture becomes thick and the liquid has lessened add the remaining milk.

After one hour add the sultanas and simmer for a further one hour, add one or two gl asses of boiled water as the mixture will start to become very thick. The rice will take approx two hours to cook. If you want the pudding to be really creamy, continue to cook for another hour with the lid on top, and again, add some more water - don't worry at any stage about the amount of water you have added, the beauty of cooking pudding with brown rice is that it will soon become thick again!

Can be served warm or cold.

* Brown rice is a good source of fibre and manganese

Friday, 4 March 2011

banana loaf

I made this to take to a friend's house as a post-lunch treat... and a treat it was!



2 ripe bananas
2 medium eggs
1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup for a more toffee-like flavour)
1/2 cup soya milk (or normal semi-skimmed milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil (or 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter)
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
1 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons toasted wheatgerm (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sultanas / dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat the oven to 170 degrees c.

Peel and mash the bananas with a fork to a pulp. Then add the eggs, honey, milk, vanilla extract and oil and whisk until they come together. The mixture will be runny.

In a separate bowl mix together the flours, toasted wheatgerm, salt, soda, and baking powder. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in the sultanas.

Pour the mixture into a loaf tin lined with greaseproof paper and sprinkle with the chopped walnuts. Bake for 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the loaf to cool in the tin before removing it. Slice, and serve with ice cream or warm custard.

* Wheatgerm is an excellent source of Vitamin E and B vitamins (Folic acid in particular), Magnesium, Calcium and Phosphorous
* Walnuts have a substantial amount of Omega 3 fatty acids

water is not organic

Yes, it's true. Water is not organic, and you read it here first. Well, not exactly... I first heard about Organic Water being sold in the US by a company called 'O' which many of you may have heard of. The company branded the new drink as a healthier alternative to drinking plain and simple tap water, declaring it free from pesticides, antibodies and growth hormones. The company claimed no genetic modification took place to create the new water. But hang on a second, how can water even be organic? Well the truth is it can't, not really. Water is one of those substances that cannot claim to be organic. Water claiming to be 'organic' is only organic in the sense that it has been sourced from organic land, or soil. There is nothing in it that makes it any different to the water coming out from your tap. And that's it I'm afraid!

Assume however, that all of the recipes I share here contain organic ingredients, unless they are unavailable... such as water I mean ;P