Friday, 17 July 2015

Sugar Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

I baked this.

Best thing I ever baked. Which is the reason I haven't posted on here for, wow, almost two years. Sorry. I've been busy.

I'm kind of glad I haven't written about this past year. There aren't the words to explain. The biggest year of my life. The hardest. The most funny. The most terrifying. The most joyful. And pretty tasty.

For anyone who knows me, you know I show my love through food. Thinking about food, planning and preparing food, and sharing it. And now I have a little person to feed with love. It's an amazing adventure and it presents new challenges every day.

My son became obsessed with chocolate cake after I (stupidly) gave him a tiny taste of a particularly delicious slab of chocolate fudge cake in a cafe. He went nuts for it, of course. I had to pry him off my fork. The problem is, little people shouldn't have too much sugar. I'm not puritanical about it, by any means. He can have a slurp of my squash or a bite of a sugary biscuit. But a whole slab of cake...nope not yet. So in the mean time, I needed something that would satisfy his chocolate cake obsession but wouldn't rot his tiny teeth right out of his head. 

I also wanted to sneak some vegetables in there.

I'm not keen on 'sneaking' vegetables into food as I worry it sends the wrong message. Ideally I'd like him to enjoy eating veggies in their natural form. But he just doesn't at the moment. He used to, and I'm confident he will again, but right now he's just not keen. He's in a generally picky phase right now. So I keep offering vegetables at every meal and he keeps ignoring them and in the meantime I've started slipping them past him in the form of fritters, blended pasta sauces or... muffins.

These muffins were a bit of an accident. I made these ridiculously simple 3 ingredient Nutella muffins which led me to make my own hazelnut chocolate spread by blending nuts, cocoa powder and agave which led me to thinking that I could make healthier muffins which led to the 'secret veggies' plot and bob's your uncle we ended up with:

Sugar Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins 

Makes 12

1/2 cup ground almonds
1 cup self raising flour
1 cup grated courgette and carrot (squeeze out excess liquid)
2 eggs
4 tbsp honey
4 tbsp oil (I used coconut)
4 tbsp cocoa powder

Squeeze out as much excess liquid from the vegetables as possible into a towel - you will be amazed how much liquid comes out. Mix all ingredients together, pour into muffin cases, top with whatever you want (I had chopped hazelnuts and chia seeds to hand) and bake for 15-20 mins at 180 degrees.

You can see from the photo that they are pretty dense little things, not a huge amount of rise. With less veg they'd be fluffier but my son isn't quite sophisticated enough to be put off by the density of the crumb or whatever. What he cares about is: is it cakey (yes) is it chocolately (yep) is it sweet (yeah) okay fine I'll eat six.

These muffins are not the best thing I've ever baked. I'll eat one, sure. Under duress. But they're not really for me. They're for him. Designed just for him with love and thought and anticipation of the look on his face when he munches down. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Top Hat Photoshoot

So. I haven't been blogging that much lately. Partly that's because I've been busy and haven't been cooking as much at home. And partly it's because a big part of my job is blogging about food! I run the Top Hat Catering blog and all the online content (facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc) for the company. So I've been getting my online blogging foodie fix through my job which is awesome.

I'm loving my job right now. Last week we did a gorgeous photoshoot of some of our best starters, main dishes and delicious desserts. And I just need to share because I'm really happy with the images we produced.

I'm really proud of how these photos came out. I think I'm getting better with the company camera (an amazing Canon SLR beast) and learning how to get the best shots from it. For this one of Roasted Quail on Spring Vegetable Salad I fashioned a simple but elegant table setting in natural light and I think it came out beautifully - honestly the camera did all the work.

I've been taking photographs for Top Hat Catering for the last year and so far I'm really chuffed with what we've accomplished. I've been working with Mega Head Chef Janine who makes delicious food that looks beautiful and together we have been gradually updating Top Hat's image gallery. It's looking really good. Check it out if you don't believe me. This Aged Fillet Steak with Pont Neuf Potatoes was another favourite.

I think this shot is my overall fave. A wonderfully smooth and luxurious Dark Chocolate Tart with Gold Leaf. And yes, it tasted as delicious as it looks (ahem, we got to chow down on all this food after the shoot...)

Loving my job right now.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Rosemary Lemontini

Here's a quick one. It's been hot in London lately. Really really hot. And this simple cocktail is a great way to cool off after a sweaty day.

Rosemary Lemontini

First make a simple syrup by combining 1 cup of lemon juice, 1 cup of sugar, half a cup of water and a sprig of rosemary in a pan over a low heat. Bring it just to the boil then turn off the heat and leave to cool and infuse. When cooled, discard the rosemary spring and decant into a bottle or jug.

In a cocktail shaker, shake one part syrup with one part vodka with lots and lots of ice. Shake it really well. Pour into a low ball glass filled with ice. Top up with spritz of soda water or lemonade if you want to make it a longer drink. Decorate with small sprig of rosemary and a slice of lemon.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Breakfast Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

Breakfast. Salad. 

Salad. Breakfast.

Does this qualify as fusion food? In my book, yes. And if you squint, it almost looks like a healthy option (it's not really, but who cares...)

Breakfast Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

Soft boiled eggs, halved
Crispy bacon, diced
New potatoes, sliced and sautéed
Crisp salad leaves - I used romaine
Dressing - yellow mustard, honey, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, whisked until emulsified

Nom etc.


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Coffee Semifreddo with Salted Caramel

There are no words. This dessert is dangerously easy to make. No churning. No elbow grease. No faff. No stopping me from eating the whole tin. Dangerous. 

I have an icecream maker but to be honest I find the whole process a little involved. It requires a bit too much prep and hovering. And our freezer is pretty small so I can't keep the bowl in there all the time so when I do suddenly get inspired to make icecream I can't. So this recipe is perfect. It's so close in texture to icecream - amazingly smooth for a semifreddo. I think the addition of the booze helps in keeping the ice crystals small. 

Now, I'm late to the party on this I know but holy cow salted caramel is out of this world. Why didn't anyone tell me??? 

Coffee Semifreddo with Salted Caramel

For the semifreddo:

2 tbsp instant coffee
2 tbsp Kahlua (or coffee liquor or brandy or whatever you like)
3 eggs
100g golden caster sugar
250ml whipping cream

For the salted caramel:

75g light brown sugar
75g butter
50ml cream
Large pinch of salt (to taste)

(When I say no elbow grease, there's actually quite a bit of whisking. But nothing strenuous...)

First make the caramel by melting the butter and sugar over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Be very careful that it doesn't burn. When it is no longer grainy, stir in the cream. Keep stirring until it is bubbling again and then remove from the heat. Add salt to taste. Allow to cool while you make the semifreddo.

For the semifreddo:

Line a loaf tin with cling film. Separate the eggs and beat the whites to stiff peaks. In another bowl combine the yolks, sugar, coffee and liquor and beat until the coffee is dissolved and the mixture is thick. In a another bowl beat the cream until it holds it shape. NB If you beat the ingredients in this order you won't have to wash the whisk in between.

Fold the coffee into the cream, then fold in the egg whites. Be careful to keep as much air in as possible. Fold the cooled caramel through the mixture a few times until it's marbled then pour into your tin. Cover the surface with cling film then wrap the whole thing in tin foil. Freeze. It will keep for 6 weeks. But seriously, it won't last that long.

You can serve it by scooping or by turning out onto a platter and slicing. Or just eat straight from the tin. Like me.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Red Cabbage Coleslaw Light

A head of cabbage goes a long way. So do a bag of carrots. A quarter head of red cabbage and two large carrots made a tub of coleslaw which lasted us for days. 

Oh yes, this is a light version of coleslaw. No mayonaise to be seen. No, sir.

We're on a bit of a health kick (apart from the brownies I made last week, ahem) so I'm trying to find simple substitutes for the more calorie laden ingredients. So, mayonaise be gone. Long live greek style yoghurt. 

Substituting yogurt for mayonaise for all our salad dressings makes a huge difference and you don't have to compromise on taste. Jamie Oliver has been saying this for years and he's so right.

Red Cabbage Coleslaw

Quarter head of red cabbage
2 large carrots
Handful parsley, chopped

For the dressing:

4 tbsp greek style yoghurt
1 tbsp vinegar (whatever's handy) or lemon juice
1 tsp mustard
1 tbsp worchester sauce 
Tasbasco to taste
Salt and pepper

Just shred the cabbage and carrots in a food processor (or slice cabbage very thinly and grate the carrot) and mix with the parsley and dressing. Eat. 

Monday, 28 January 2013

Speedy Supper: Chorizo, Chickpea, Spinach and Black Olive Hash

Speedy Supper alert! Sometimes the quickies are the besties. This speedy dinner for two takes 15 minutes.

6 inches of chorizo, diced
Can of chickpeas, drained
Tsp garlic puree 
Tbsp red pepper pesto
12 black olives, halved
Few handfuls of spinach, chopped 
Pinch of chilli flakes
Zest of half a lemon
Bulgar wheat, cooked as per instructions

Sautee chorizo until it releases orange oil. Add chickpeas. When they are warmed through add garlic puree, red pepper pesto, chilli flakes, olives and lemon zest. Loosen with a couple of tablespoons of water if needed. Mix through the spinach and when it has just wilted serve the hash on top of hot bulgar wheat. Easy!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

What I do when I'm not doing this

My day job rules.

Oh, yeah. I haven't really mentioned my day job on this blog before. Well. Today's the day. I work for a London and Wiltshire based catering company called Top Hat Catering. Our Beloved Leader, Top Hat MD Hattie Mauleverer-Jones, employed me in June and it's been an educational, funny, exhausting, brilliant six months so far. Far too much fun for a day job.

I wear quite a few different hats at Top Hat. My primary role is running the company's marketing. I manage Top Hat's online presence (blog, facebook, twitter, pinterest) and compile marketing materials. I also put on an Event Manager hat for some of Top Hat's jobs, which means I get to boss people around and sometimes hold a clipboard - two of my favourite things. Sometimes I am 'cheffing' on an event which means I prepare the food on the job - constructing canapés, or assembling a buffet lunch, that kind of thing. This is a lot of fun. And on some days I get to work in the kitchen! Last week we were making our Christmas Hampers and I made several hundred handrolled Chilli Chocolate Truffles (see photos below) and a batch of Dill Sauce. My idea of total bliss. 

I could ramble on about all the Top Hat food for pages but I think a picture speaks a thousand words. Or in this case, a bunch of composite photos. 

Disclaimer time. I wish I could say I cooked all of the food in these photos. Nope. 'Fraid not. 

Most of our food is made by our Head Chef, Janine King (affectionately known as Ja) who is quite simply brilliant. As well as being a phenomenal chef who cooks some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten (her Beef Wellington is unbelievable) she is also one of the loveliest people I have ever worked with. I love Ja's attitude to food. She loves food wholeheartedly and loves making people happy with her cooking. She is passionate about using sustainable produce and reducing waste in our kitchen. She's brings an infectious energy to the Top Hat kitchen and her food is fresh, flavourful modern and exquisite. Magic. I'm hoping some of her talent rubs off on me.

Top Hat can cater just about anything. Champagne and canapé receptions, dinners, buffets, christenings, weddings. From minute to monumental, friendly to fancy, modest to lavish, and many other adjectives, Top Hat are here to help. Having a Christmas party? Check out our menus.

Here's the Chilli Chocolate Truffles that I mentioned. I made a lot of them. Hand rolled. It was awesome messy fun. See?

And a few weeks ago I got the chance to try my hand at fresh pasta which Ja made into ravioli starter for a 3 course dinner. I got messy again and it was ace. 

Do you understand why I love my job? This is why.

So for all your catering needs, be it an intimate at-home three course dinner, a cheery Christmas buffet, a country wedding, or a chic canape party - get in touch with Top Hat Catering.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is done and gone. I missed it. I was busy. But the weekend came and I was craving some kitchen time. So I loaded up a bunch of Food Wishes videos for inspiration. Hey presto, Pumpkin Pie.

This recipe is a combination of Chef John's recipe, the recipe on the side of the Libby's pumpkin can, and something of my own creation. The big difference is that I substituted a mixture of coconut cream and coconut milk for the condensed/evaporated milk called for in the other recipes. A happy accident really - I forgot to buy any - but it really seems to work. The pie is still creamy and smooth and there's no heavy coconut taste noticeable because the spiced pumpkin flavour is so strong. I also reduced the amount of sugar and added honey instead because I usually find American recipes a little sweet for my palate. And it really was a success. One of those 'I can't eat less than 2 slices' kind of success.

Now listen. This is my first pie. Of any kind. So I'm feeling a little smug right now. More than a little. But please, indulge me. Making a homemade pie feels like some kind of milestone for me. Like I became a proper grown up. Like I said, please indulge me.

So here's the blow by blow...

For the crust:

I used Chef John's recipe for an easy homemade pie crust. I did it in two batches because my food processor is a tiny compact.

12 oz plain flour
200g butter (ice cold from the freezer)
1/2 tsp salt
7 tbsp ice water
1 tbsp white vinegar

NB. It's really important to use ice cold butter straight from the freezer. 

Combine the water and vinegar in a small bowl. In a food processor, pulse together the cold butter, flour and salt until you get something that looks like crumbs. Add half of the water/vinegar mixture and pulse again to get a courser crumb texture. Finally add the rest of the water and pulse until it is just starting to clump together. See in the photo below, my mixture was still pretty crumb-like but when I pressed a handful together it formed a dough. This is perfect. 

Dump onto a floured surface and form it roughly into a ball. Do this quickly and don't be tempted to knead it! Cut the dough in half. Flatten each half into a disk, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 30 mins. I rested mine for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180 C (mine is an excitable fan oven so I set to 160) and grease a 9 inch pie dish or baking pan. I didn't have a pie dish so used a shallow cake tin and it worked great.

When it's rested, roll out one disk on a well floured surface. The other half you can freeze for a future pie - it will last up to three months. If you've rested the dough for as long as I did (2 hours) the rolling might take a while as the dough will be quite firm. Persist, flouring lightly to stop it from sticking, until you have a circle that will fill your dish/tin. Don't worry about cracks or craggy edges, it all gets turned into the rim of the pie.

To get your crust into the tin, roll it on to your rolling pin then roll it out over your pan. Gently work the dough into the tin, using a ball of well floured dough to press into the edges. 

Squash the excess dough together to form the rim and crimp with your fingers. Prick the base and sides of your crust with a fork to prevent it puffing up in the oven. Beat an egg in a small bowl (you can use the one from the pie filling) and brush the rim thoroughly. Line with crumpled baking parchment and fill with baking beads (I used rice) and blind bake for 8 minutes. Remove the beads/rice and bake for another 8 minutes or until it's lightly browned. While it's baking you can get your filling ready...

For the filling:

400g can of pumpkin
160ml can coconut cream
6 tbsp coconut milk (use the cream from the top, not the water)
4 oz sugar
4 tbsp honey
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl combine the pumpkin, coconut cream, coconut milk, sugar, honey, egg (you can use the one that you used to egg wash the crust) and egg yolks, spices and salt. Mix together really well - the mixture needs to be really smooth. Pour into the blind-baked pie crust and bake at 180C (160C for hyperactive fan ovens) for 45-50 minutes.

To test if it's done, insert a knife a few inches from the crust and check if it comes out clean. The very middle may still have a wobble but that's okay. Allow it to cool completely in the tin before serving.

It had more cracks than I would have wanted but for a first attempt I was very very happy. It was delicious and the texture was almost perfect. Soft, velvety and not too sweet. There was no coconut flavour that I could make out, it just tasted creamy and beautifully spiced.

And it didn't last long...

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Halloumi Salad

Halloumi is one of my favourite foods at the moment. I always have a couple of blocks of it in the fridge and one of my favourite ways of eating it is piled on top of a salad of tomatoes, beetroot, avocado and almonds. A drizzle of olive oil, maybe a toasted pitta bread and dig on in. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Orange Curd - Video Recipe

Okay, folks. Here's my second attempt at a video recipe. I made this orange curd to fill my version of my mum's Curd filled Layer Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache - recipe for that coming soon, promise. This recipe makes enough curd to fill one cake. It's basically a jar's worth. Recipe text below. 

Lemon is the most popular of the curds, I think, but I really like the gentle mellowness of a curd made with orange and it really works with the sharp chocolate ganache. I add the juice of half a lemon to give the curd a slightly more citrussy tang. Amazing filling for cakes. Also great on toast...

75g sugar
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
Juice of half a lemon
2 eggs, well beaten
50g unsalted butter, cold

Put a glass bowl over a pan of barely simmering water (or use a bain marie) making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.
Combine sugar and zest in one bowl, eggs and juice in another. Add wet to dry and combine.
Put mixture into the warm glass bowl and add the cold butter chunks. Stir stir stir and stir. After 15-20 minutes the curd will have thickened.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Darjeeling Macarons with Honey Buttercream

These were far from perfect. They had a crisp shell but they were too fragile and crumbled at the edges. They had wonderful little 'feet' but they weren't particularly uniform, and the base was a bit gnarled. The buttercream had an amazing texture but was too sweet.


For a first attempt I was VERY happy. More than happy. Very very happy. Ecstatic. 

I was terrified but they were delicious. You should totally try making them. Ignore the fear. Do it anyway. I followed this recipe to the letter (with the exception of using Darjeeling rather than Earl Grey) and watched this how-to video and this how-to video, which were SO helpful. Check them out for step by step instructions on macaron technique, which is a complicated affair.

The buttercream filling was a bit too sweet to my taste and I think I'll tone down the honey next time as it overpowered the subtle tea flavour in the macaroons. But all in all this felt like a personal victory for me. Macarons are notoriously difficult but they turned out pretty good for a first attempt. It's obviously an art. There's a lot of instinct involved but now that I'm over the fear I'm taking flavour suggestions for the next batch. Anyone got a good macaron recipe for me?

Thankyou Yoo-Eatz, for this great recipe!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Celebrity Bake Book

Earlier this year I was asked to contribute to the Celebrity Bake Book in support of the Ben Kinsella Trust. I was really happy and honoured to be part of this initiative, which launched last night. And look what I got in the mail!

I have two recipes in the book: Lemon and Almond Loaf Cake and Chocolate Orange Muffins.

Do grab a copy if you can. It's stuffed full of recipes by chefs, tv folk, politicians and generally cool people. All royalties go to the Ben Kinsella Trust, an amazing organisation that promotes knife-crime awareness and educates young people about the consequences of knife crime.

Buy it on Amazon here!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Blueberry Scones

Can you believe I'd never made scones before? Frankly, neither can I. 

Blueberry Scones

200g self raising flour
50g butter, cold
125ml milk
25g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Good pinch salt
1 beaten egg, for brushing on top
100g blueberries

Preheat oven to 220C. 

Rub the butter into the flour. Stir in sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk and slowly incorporate into a loose dough. As it starts to come together, add the blueberries. Don't over work the dough! Just bring it all together into a ball and knead very gently on a floured surface. Roll into an inch thick circle. Cut into rounds with a cutter if you have one - I didn't so I used a small glass. A good tip is to dip your cutter in flour to stop it sticking. Put your scones on a greased baking sheet or silpat. Bake for 10-12 mins until golden. Allow to cool on a rack. (We are impatient and didn't wait for them to cool so they kind of disintegrated as we cut them...but they were still yum)


Monday, 6 August 2012

Raspberry Orange Almond Cake

Some recipes come to you in a flash. And sometimes they really work. This evening, as the bath was running, I got the idea for this cake. It took me the time it took to run the bath to rustle this cake together and get it in the oven, so I could soak as it cooked. I took some quick snaps of it but I didn't expect it to be anything special, and certainly not blog-worthy. We munched slices with dollops of creme fraiche and after a few bites we realised it was a winner. Essentially, if this Strawberry Cake spent a passionate night with this Lemon and Almond Loaf, the unplanned but happy result would be this dessert. Now there's an image that will haunt my dreams. As with a lot of my recipes, it won't win any beauty contests but it's flippin' good, if I do say so myself. Also, it's really easy to whip up. 

This unassuming little cake packs some serious flavour, and it leans towards almost the texture of a pudding. It's very moist because of the almonds but surprisingly light. It's a sweet batter but the puddles of tart raspberries and fragrant hit of orange zest keep it from being sickly. The sugar on top is optional, but it helps gives the top a bit of a crunch which is a nice contrast to the super soft fruity sponge. Like with the Strawberry Cake the fruit sinks into the batter and using frozen berries helps them to keep their shape rather than dissolving. Not muchos pretty, but muchos tasty. 

This one's going in the book. 

Raspberry Orange Almond Cake

Weigh three large eggs, still in their shells. Whatever they weigh, use this as your measurement for the butter, sugar and almond/flour combination. My eggs weighed in at 155g, so my recipe is as follows (obviously, yours will be different depending on your egg weight)

3 large eggs
155g butter, at room temp
155g caster sugar + 2 tbsp for dusting top of cake
155g ground almonds and self raising flour mixed together (two thirds ground almonds, one third flour)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 2 oranges
Large handful of frozen raspberries (frozen hold their shape better, but you can use unfrozen) 
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 200C. Cream butter and sugar with a hand mixer. Add eggs one by one. Add zest and vanilla extract. Add ground almonds and flour. Beat until just combined. Pour into lined baking tin. Place raspberries over the top of the batter. Sprinkle the top with 2 tbsp caster sugar. Bake for 25-30 mins, until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10/15 mins then turn on to a rack. Serve with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream. Nom.