Fresh blueberry flapjacks

Fresh blueberry flapjacks I was feeling a little bored last Sunday evening, so, of course, I decided to bake something. I just wanted to make something quick and easy, but also something vaguely good for you. As I had some blueberries in the fridge, I decided to go with these incredibly simple but delicious fresh blueberry flapjacks.

I found the recipe online on the Vegetarian Living website, and followed it to the letter – sort of. I didn’t have quite enough oats, so I made up the difference with oatmeal. I don’t think the substitution made much of a difference to the flavour or texture of the flapjacks!

Fresh blueberry flapjacks
I really like the use of lemon zest in this recipe – lemon and blueberry is such a classic combination, and goes really well with the sweet oats.

Fresh blueberry flapjacks
My fresh blueberry flapjacks went down a storm when I took them into the office the next day. Ok, so this recipe is only half healthy – fresh fruit and oats and oats are all very well, but when you sugar, butter and golden syrup the bad-for-you foods seem to cancel out the good-for-you ones… oh well! The flapjacks are still super tasty and very easy to make, and surely they’re still a better option than a sponge cake bursting with cream and jam…?!

Triple chocolate and coconut cookies

Triple chocolate and coconut cookies I had a real craving for chocolate last weekend, but I didn’t want to expend too much effort on baking something wonderful, so I trawled through my saved recipes on Pinterest before I found a simple-looking recipe for double chocolate and coconut cookies that I immediately revised so they would become triple chocolate and coconut cookies (and why not?!).

Triple chocolate and coconut cookies
This is a great little recipe if, like me, you’re one of the few people you know who would *never* leave the Bounty chocolates in a box of Celebrations to the end (I tend to save that fate for the Milky Ways). I guess these are technically quadruple chocolate cookies, because there’s milk, white and dark chocolate AND cocoa, but ‘triple’ rolls off the tongue a bit more easily.

I followed the original recipe fairly closely, but have listed my own take below if you want to go as chocolaty as possible. You could always focus on one of the types of chocolate if you like, but having all three in there does make the cookies a bit more decadent!

Triple chocolate and coconut cookies
Triple chocolate and coconut cookies recipe

Makes 26 cookies

  • 75g butter, softened
  • 160g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 150g chocolate, roughly chopped (I used 50g each of dark, white and milk, but use any combination you like)
  • 50g dessicated coconut

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas 4/180C. Line 1 or 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until well combined.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat again.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder, then fold through gently until combined.
  5. Stir in the milk, followed by the chocolate and coconut. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Transfer spoonfuls of the mixture to the baking tray(s), spacing them well apart as they’ll spread in the oven.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of your spoonfuls (mine were somewhere between teaspoon and tablespoon size, and were baked in 15 minutes).
  8. Cool on the tray for a few minutes before carefully transferring the cookies to a cooling rack (they’ll still be soft, but will harden as they become completely cool).

Chocolate tiramisu cake

Chocolate tiramisu cake My fiancé finally returned from more than 2 months away at work last weekend, so I decided to make a celebration cake to, er, celebrate. And what could be more celebratory than a massive pile of chocolate sponge, mascarpone, double cream and sugar, AKA chocolate tiramisu cake?!

I found this recipe on the Delicious magazine website, and followed it to the letter as much as I could. It was slightly faffy, but not as much as you might expect for what is essentially a four-layer gateau – bake two chocolate almond sponges, make an espresso and amaretto syrup, whip up a load of dairy products into icing and squish the whole lot together. That’s it!

Chocolate tiramisu cake
I cannot stress just how decadent the icing is. It called for 500g of mascarpone (!), 225ml of double cream, amaretto and icing sugar – and that’s in addition to the butter and buttermilk that went into the sponge! Basically, if you’re allergic to ANYTHING or would like to avoid diabetes/a heart attack, this cake isn’t for you.

Chocolate tiramisu cake
But my, is it delicious! The syrup is perhaps the star here – it soaks into every layer of the cake and adds a nice contrast to the super-rich icing. You really can’t eat much more than a thin sliver of this cake at a time, but that means you savour the flavours all the more.

Chocolate tiramisu cake
If you know someone who’s a fan of tiramisu, you really can’t go wrong with this cake as a wonderful surprise!

Jamaican ginger cake

Jamaican ginger cake
Like many people, I have fond childhood memories of my mum bringing home a certain brand’s Jamaican ginger cake from the shop as a treat, before we all demolished it rather quickly over a nice cup of tea. I’ve made a few ginger cakes before that recall the unique flavours and/or texture of Jamaican ginger cake, but I thought it was about time that I actually attempted to bake the real thing!

I used a recipe from my Delia’s Cakes book for this – it’s also available online on her website. I stuck to it faithfully, except for substituting dark brown sugar for dark muscovado – I don’t think it made that much of a difference, really.

Jamaican ginger cake
The only other thing I mistakenly did is use a too-large loaf tin. I’m so used to baking with metric measures that I mistook Delia’s instruction to use a 2lb tin for an instruction to use a 2kg tin! As it’s the only loaf tin I own, I pressed ahead and just removed the cake from the oven a little early to prevent over-baking.

The method for making the cake itself is really straightforward. I was most excited by the array of spices that go into the cake – not just ginger, but also cinnamon and nutmeg. Not to mention the inclusion of both golden syrup and black treacle. Oof!

Jamaican ginger cake
The resulting bake really was just like the Jamaican ginger cake from my childhood – but nicer! I seem to remember the shop-bought version as being quite soft in texture with a large crumb, while Delia’s take makes for a more close-textured cake that’s still incredibly moist. The top of the cake is still nicely sticky, as it should be!

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry Happy new year! It’s been a while since my last post, which isn’t just because I spent the Christmas break sitting around playing video games and stuffing my face with mince pies (I totally did, though). I haven’t really baked anything new in a while, so I thought I’d make my first post of 2016 all about this delicious and super healthy sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry I made tonight – perfect for those well-intentioned new year’s resolutions.

This is another variation on my staple curry recipe, with some small tweaks to tip the spicing towards a heady note. I made a similar curry for my other half a while ago, and he was obsessed with the clove flavour coming through from the garam masala (which I make myself). My current garam masala blend isn’t quite so clove-y, so I’ve added some ground cloves to this recipe, along with extra ground cumin.

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry
The great thing about this recipe is how flexible it is – you can swap out the sweet potato and/or carrot for butternut squash or standard potatoes (top tip: red potatoes work best in curries, as they seem to soak up the flavours better than the white variety), leave out the spinach if you don’t have any to hand, throw in some split yellow lentils or even chickpeas instead of the red lentils… Just adapt it to whatever you have in the kitchen!

Did I mention that this curry is super healthy? Yes? Well, I’ll say it again – this is so good for you. I’m pretty sure you get your five a day with this recipe, and the vegetables are packed with all sorts of lovely vitamins. If you stick to my measures, the curry itself clocks in at around 400 calories, with yogurt and whatever carbs you fancy (chapatis or naan are ideal, but rice works fine as well) adding a bit extra on top. I had a mini naan from Tesco with mine (I couldn’t quite face making chapatis after my first day back at work!), which only added 127 calories to the total.

Do give this a go if you want something comforting during the winter months, but without the fat. I promise that it’ll cheer you up! In the meantime, I’ll think about something interesting to bake for the next post… all suggestions are welcome!

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry
Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry recipe

Serves 2, easily doubled

Approx. 400 calories per serving, not including rice/bread

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 0.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 0.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 small white or red onion, chopped
  • 1 thin green chilli, finely chopped
  • a 1-inch cube of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
  • 0.25 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 80g red lentils
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered, or 1-2 larger tomatoes, chopped
  • 160g frozen spinach (or approx. 100g of fresh spinach)
  • 0.5 tsp ground cloves (or 4-5 whole cloves)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • yogurt and rice/chapattis/naan, to serve

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. If using whole cloves, add those too.
  2. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the chopped onion and fry gently for a couple of minutes, being careful to not let the seeds burn.
  3. Add the green chilli, ginger, garlic, red chilli powder and turmeric and cook – still very gently – for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
  4. Stir in the sweet potatoes, carrot, red lentils and tomatoes.
  5. Pour in enough hot water to just about cover the contents of the pan and bring to the boil, before putting a lid on the pan and simmering on a low heat for 20 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, and top up with water if required (but try not to, as the spinach will release water anyway).
  6. Add the spinach and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Take the pan off the hob and stir in the ground cloves, ground cumin, garam masala and coriander. Season with salt to taste.
  8. Remove the whole cloves if you used them (but don’t worry if you can’t find them – just warn any guests!). Serve with a dollop of yogurt and naan, chapattis or rice as desired.

Spiced honey tea loaf

Spiced honey tea loaf After a few weeks of making lots of little things, I fancied baking something nice and large last weekend. After flicking through some recipe books, I settled on this rather lovely spiced honey tea loaf from Luis Troyano’s Bake It Great.

It’s incredibly easy to make – if you remember to soak the dried fruit in the tea and honey the night before! I ended up soaking it for around 6 hours during the day, and this seemed to be just about long enough, as I could taste the tea in the fruit when I had a warm slice just after removing the tea loaf from the oven.

Spiced honey tea loaf
The recipe calls for the fruit to be soaked in Lady Grey, but as my teabags were looking a bit old, I used loose leaf Earl Grey instead. For the fruit itself, I used raisins, chopped prunes and dried cranberries. Once most of the tea and honey has been soaked up, all you have to do is add some flour, an egg and mixed spice before tipping the lot into a loaf tin and baking. Once it’s out of the oven, glaze the top with some more honey.

Note that there’s no butter in this recipe, making it more like a loaf of bread than a loaf cake!

Spiced honey tea loaf
I was a bit concerned that my tea loaf didn’t seem to rise very much, but it was definitely cooked in the middle, so I was happy. I had my first slice with butter and it was LOVELY. Luis also suggests trying some with cheddar and chutney (like you might with a fruitcake), but it was good enough with butter for me!

Spiced honey tea loaf
Unfortunately, the recipe doesn’t seem to be online anywhere for me to link to, but it’s well worth buying Bake It Great anyway – there are so many fantastic recipes, and this one is actually in a chapter dedicated to honey! There’s also another section on Spanish baking with some intriguing-looking bakes. If that sounds like your cup of tea, consider making the investment.

Banana and Malteser spread muffins

Banana and Malteser spread muffins As usual, my first thought on realising that my one remaining banana was too far gone to eat was: “What can I bake this into?”. I decided to adapt my trusty recipe for banana and Nutella muffins by swapping out the Nutella for…. *drum roll* Maltesers Teasers spread. Et voila! Banana and Malteser spread muffins.

If you haven’t yet seen this wondrous creation in the shops, the Maltesers spread is basically a jar of chocolate spread with lots of little malty bits in it.

*gets a spoon*

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on

I KNOW.

Anyway, the muffins were very easy to make, as always. There were only two issues: 1) I should have made more than 8 muffins, because some of them had a really pronounced muffin top, even for actual muffins. 2) The Maltesers spread wasn’t particularly malty after the muffins had baked, which was a shame. But they were still nice.

Banana and Malteser spread muffins
I think that if I was to make these again, I wouldn’t combine the spread quite so well with the rest of the mix as I did the first time. Keeping the spread as big solid lumps of chocolatey, malty loveliness should make the muffins a bit more Malteser-y… hopefully!

Banana and Malteser spread muffins
Still, as you can see from the photo above, the muffins turned out lovely and moist, and they tasted very much of both banana and chocolate, which is always a good thing. Just be sure to follow my instructions below if you want to detect a bit more of the malt.

Banana and Malteser spread muffins
Banana and Malteser spread muffins recipe

Makes 8-12 (depends on how much mix you end up with!)

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 4 tbsp Maltesers Teasers spread
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g melted butter
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 6/200C/180 C fan and line 8-12 holes of a muffin tin with paper cases or squares of baking paper.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
  3. Beat together the egg, vanilla extract, butter and milk in a separate bowl or jug.
  4. Add the egg mixture and banana to the flour mixture and stir until only just combined (you should still see streaks of flour in the mix).
  5. Spoon half of the mix into the muffin tin, then divide the Malteser spread equally between each hole, dropping the spread into the middle of the mix.
  6. Spoon the rest of the mix over the spread in the muffin tin.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then finish cooling on a wire rack.

Mince pies

Mince pies I’ve been using Dan Lepard’s quick mincemeat and extra rich pastry recipes for my mince pies for the last few years. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve already made two batches to this recipe this year (what can I say? I’m keen!), but I decided to go with a straightforward sweet shortcrust pastry for my third batch earlier today, mainly due to running out of ground almonds!

Mince pies
For this, I adapted a Nigel Slater recipe I found online, while using the last of the mincemeat I made to Dan Lepard’s recipe (albeit with a few variations – see below). Nigel Slater’s recipe is largely fine except for two things: 1) there’s no sugar in it and 2) he doesn’t call for the pastry to be chilled before rolling out. I added some light muscovado sugar and chilled the pastry for 20 minutes just to make doubly sure all would be well… and it was!

Mince pies
As you can see above, I’ve also been making sure to properly fill my mince pies this year – not that I’m usually stingy with the mincemeat, but as I tend to make slightly thick pastry, it’s always nice to balance it out with a generous helping of the filling.

Mince pies
I have to say, the mince pies turned out very well indeed. The pastry is lovely – crisp, buttery and not too sickly (even with my addition of sugar!). The mincemeat I made this year was properly boozy, but also sharp and flavoursome, which is pretty much perfect in my eyes! I need to make some more, but I don’t think I’ll stray too far from my tried-and-tested formula.

Mince pies
Mince pies recipe

Makes approx. 15 pies

  • 150g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 300g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
  • 50g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
  • 375g mincemeat (I use Dan Lepard’s recipe – this year I substituted the cherries for dried cranberries and used Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale, as well as 2 tbsp dark rum and 2 tbsp calvados for the spirits at the end. The recipe makes enough for around 3 batches of mince pies.)
  • icing sugar, for dusting

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Stir in the sugar, making sure to break up any large lumps.
  3. Add the yolk and 1 tbsp of the milk to begin with. Mix and press together until the mixture resembles a rough dough. Add another tablespoon of milk if it looks dry.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead briefly until it comes together properly to create a smoother dough.
  5. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Grease a muffin tin. Cut some baking paper into strips that you can place in each hole of the tin to help you get your pies out more easily (see the third photo above).
  7. Unwrap the chilled pastry and roll out on a floured surface to around 3mm thick. It’s easiest to split the dough into two or three pieces and roll each bit out separately.
  8. Use two cutters to cut out two discs of pastry for each of pie – one large disc for the base of the pie and a smaller one for the lid. I use 68mm and 88mm cutters for this, but the sizes you use will depend on your muffin tin. It’s best to cut one big disc, then one small disc, then one big disc, and so on, to make sure you have enough pastry for the same number of base and lid discs.
  9. Gently place the larger discs in the holes of the muffin tin (ensuring that there’s a strip of baking paper underneath), pushing them down to the bottom and ensuring the sides are level. You should have baking paper sticking out on opposite sides of each pie.
  10. Fill each pastry-lined hole with mincemeat, trying to be as generous as possible without overfilling (keep the filling level with the edges of the pastry).
  11. Brush the edges of the pastry with cold water, then place the pastry lids on top, pressing around the edges to close any gaps.
  12. Use a skewer or the tip of a knife to cut a small hole in the middle of each pie.
  13. Bake the pies in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, until they start to brown on top.
  14. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then use the ends of the strips of baking paper to lift each pie out of the tin and onto a baking rack.
  15. When the pies are nearly cool, sift a little icing sugar over them and serve.

Dark fennel seed cake with orange zest icing

Dark fennel seed cake with orange zest icing
My fiancé has been asking me to make this cake ever since I obtained Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet years ago. The recipe in the book is called dark aniseed cake, but I substituted the aniseed for fennel seeds as suggested in the recipe, hence the different name of dark fennel seed cake. I stuck to the recipe for pretty much everything else, and ended up with one of the most surprising, delicious cakes I’ve had in some time.

There were a few new ideas for me to grapple with in this cake – especially using spelt flour and baking with fennel seeds – and I also had to use a round tin instead of a square one as stated in the recipe, because my square tin wasn’t deep enough. So, there was plenty that could have gone wrong (especially as it calls for ale, which meant I had to drink what I didn’t use…)!

Happily, the only thing that went wrong was the consistency of the icing (made with orange zest and juice), which was a bit too runny and slopped over the sides rather messily, hence the lack of a photo of the entire cake. But runny icing really doesn’t matter when you have a delicious cake that manages to combine the liquorice flavours of fennel seeds and treacle with the fruitiness of prunes and orange, topped off with the comforting heft of the spelt flour.

Dark fennel seed cake with orange zest icing

Let’s admire my Wonder Woman mug for a minute…

We honestly couldn’t stop eating this cake. It’s such a good autumn cake thanks to the spicy flavours, but it’s a world away from your normal ginger or fruit cake. I would really recommend this recipe if you love autumnal flavours in your baking, but want to try something a little bit different!

Chilli paneer

Chilli paneer
Ok, so this is clearly not a baking effort, but I made this chilli paneer for the first time last week and was rather chuffed with how it turned out, and a friend asked me to post the recipe, so here it is!

If you’re not familiar with paneer, it’s one of the few cheeses that originate in India and is similar to halloumi in firmness and texture, but with a milder taste. I believe chilli paneer is actually based on Chinese cooking, which is quite an intriguing fusion! It’s a hugely popular dish where the paneer is cubed and cooked with tomatoes, peppers, copious amounts of chilli and the not-so-secret ingredient of tomato ketchup.

I’m a big fan of my mum’s chilli paneer, but as she doesn’t do recipes, I had to make it up as I went along. I found a recipe online that I used a couple of ideas from, but the rest is based on my own instincts as a now-experienced maker of Gujarati curries. It turned out pretty much the same as my mum’s chilli paneer, which I’m very pleased about! Be warned, though – my recipe is very spicy!

There’s not a lot of sauce with this curry, so it’s best eaten with naan bread or chapatis (see my recipe for chapatis and chickpea curry, which you could also serve as part of an Indian feast) rather than rice. Paneer is now widely available in supermarkets (I get mine from Tesco) and also from Indian grocers/cash and carries, so you should hopefully be able to find it pretty easily – or you can make your own.

Enjoy!

Chilli paneer recipe

Vegetarian
Serves 2; easily doubled

  • 2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 200g paneer, cubed
  • 4 tbsp cornflour
  • 0.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 0.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 thin green chillies, finely chopped (use less if you don’t want it very spicy – 1 chilli will still be quite hot)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric
  • 1 pepper, chopped (I like to use a mixture of colours)
  • 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • splash of soy sauce
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 0.5 tsp ground cumin
  • handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • naan or chapatis (recipe), to serve

Method:

  1. Toss the paneer in the cornflour and half a teaspoon of the red chilli powder.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan. Cook the coated paneer over a medium heat until brown, stirring occasionally. This should take 5-10 minutes. Set the cooked paneer aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil. Add the cumin seeds and black mustard seeds and cook over a low to medium heat until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add the onion and peppers and cook until softened.
  4. Add the chillies, garlic, ginger, remaining half a teaspoon of red chilli powder and turmeric. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the cooked paneer and stir. Cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomato ketchup, soy sauce, garam masala and ground cumin, then mix in the coriander and take off the heat. Season with salt to taste and serve.