Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with St. Patrick's Day Frosting

We love St Patrick's Day in this house. It's always a big family day and an excuse to eat some lovely Irish food, watch the parade in town and maybe (just maybe) have a little tipple (or two).This year we have the added bonus of babysitting my two little nieces also, so we will be baking these cupcakes in the morning for their arrival!

I trial-baked these cupcakes on Sunday with my daughter to share with her cousins on a playdate. We made 12, and they went down so well that I actually didn't have one to myself at all. I had to rely on family taste reviews to let me know that they were good. Very good I'm told. Too good my mother said!! I used Rachel Allen's recipe for chocolate cupcakes from her book Cake; and just added 100g of chocolate chips. I tried to make the frosting as green as I could. I ended up using a full tube of green gel food colouring.

Where ever you are celebrating St Patrick's Day, I hope it's a safe and fun day for everyone. Fingers crossed for good weather. (nothing worse than parade watching in an unbrella jungle)



  • 100g soft butter
  • 150g of vanilla sugar (sugar in a jar with vanilla pods)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125ml milk
  • 175g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 100g chocolate chips
St Patrick's Day Frosting
  • 100g very soft butter
  • 225g icing sugar, SIFTED
  • 30ml milk
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 tube Dr Oetker green food colouring (or any colour). The more colouring you add the deeper the colour of your icing.

To Decorate

  • Chocolate stars (or smarties, chocolate shavings, sprinkle, to name a few)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a muffin tray with 12 paper cases.
  2. Using a hand whisk (or electric) cream the butter, add the sugar and whisk until light and fluffy.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a bowl and then slowly add them to the butter, whisking all the time.
  4. Pour in the milk and beat until mixed.  
  5. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.
  6. Add the chocolate chips and gently fold stir until the flour mix is incorporated in.
  7. Divide the bun batter between the 12 cases and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool on a wire rack in the tray for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely. They need to be completely cooled before icing, otherwise you will have a runny mess.
  9. To make the icing, whisk all the icing ingredients together, either using a hand held whisk or an electric mixer.
  10. You can decorate using a piping bag, but I prefer a more 'homemade, rustic' finish and used a warm palate knife.
Enjoy and Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Banana & Maple Granola Cups

I was inspired to make these cups after seeing a video on Proper Tasty facebook page. They are a great inventive way of getting some slow releasing energy oats into you the morning, as well as looking oh so pretty.In addition to being nutritious and good looking, they are very versatile and keep in the fridge in a sealed airtight container for up to a week.

Even though I was inspired by the video in the above link, I did change a few ingredients and also part of the cooking method. I found from cooking the cups in the muffin trays they had a slightly 'soggy bottom', so for a final five minutes in the oven, I took them out of the muffin tray and turned them upside down on a baking sheet, to crisp up the base of the cups, so no soggy bottoms in sight!

I'm very excited to get my guests reviews on them when I open our bed & breakfast Sika Lodge next week.

Here's how I made them

Makes 12 cups


  • 250g rolled oats ( I used jumbo oats)
  • 150ml pure maple syrup
  • 2 mashed bananas 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt

Example of toppings

  • 0% fat strained Greek Yogurt
  • Berries
  • Mango puree
  • Compote
  • seed mix
  • Stewed fruits


  1. Mix the maple syrup, vanilla extract, and bananas thoroughly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, cinnamon,and salt.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
  5. Oil the muffin holes of a 12 muffin tray.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin holes and using the back of a spoon spread the mixture up the walls of the muffins holes, creating the cup shape.
  7. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and the muffin tray and invert the granola cups on a baking sheet. 
  9. Bake for a further 5 minutes to crisp up the bottom of the cups.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  11. Add a generous dollop of thick Greek yogurt and top with your choice of berries, compote, dried fruit or mixed seeds. It's your call!
Tip: A drizzle of honey certainly wouldn't go astray either on these!!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Roast Squash & Goats Cheese Quinoa Pizza - A Pizza Not Just for Weekends

Big big fan of pizza,who isn't?, well except my daughter (THE fussiest toddler on the planet) But it's usually keep for weekends as I'm thinking of the fat, calories and carbs!!! But then the other day I was reading my new Donna Hay book, Fresh and Light, where a quinoa crust tart was featured, so I got to googling quinoa pizza. I was thinking, if a tart base can be made from quinoa, then surely a pizza base can be fashioned in relatively the same manner.

I stumbled across a website called Simply Quinoa, and I was blown away by the variety of recipes on the website, all of which contain quinoa. If you are a fan of quinoa or looking for some ideas to replace your carbs with quinoa, then I suggest you check out the website. I'm highly impressed!!!

It's from Simply Quinoa that I got the recipe for my pizza base. I did use red quinoa (though apparently white quinoa is better), as this was all I had in the house at the time, but it worked out brillantly. I've used gluten free pizza bases in the past, and most are disgusting. I was very skeptical of the result in using quinoa would have on the finished product, but I needn't have worried. I kept saying to my husband 'wow,wow, I can't believe it' as I was eating the pizza. What's more,Alan (fearer of all that is alternative and healthy) agreed it was pretty tasty.

So here is the recipe as taken from Simply Quinoa for the basic base Simply Quinoa's Ultimate-quinoa-pizza-crust/

Serves 2 (or Serena)


For the Pizza crust

  • 3/4 cup of quinoa, soaked for 6-8 hours
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

For the pizza topping

  • 1 tbsp of passata
  • Roasted cubes of butternut squash
  • 50g soft goats cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated mozzarella
  •  1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp  black pepper
  • Pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and lay oiled baking paper on a baking tray.
  2. Rinse the quinoa and put in a blender along with the other ingredients. I used my Nutri Ninja, making it the work of mere moments. The mixture is like a pancake batter.
  3. Pour the batter out onto the baking paper trying to keep a circle shape.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn it over and bake for a further 15 minutes.
  5. Spread the tomato sauce over the base and scatter the toppings over the sauce. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until the pizza is ready. Then enjoy.
You can use any ingredients once your pizza base is made, everyone has their one favorite pizza toppings. 

I'm even thinking that this crust would also work as well sweet as it does savory, so watch out for my quinoa apple tart or a nutella smore pizza!!!!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Nigella's Italian Steak n' Chips - A New Take on a Classic

In my hungover state yesterday I found myself indulging in my ultimate guilty pleasure - watching hours of the Food Network. I love Nigella Lawson, so I  was delighted with a double bill of Nigellisima. In the episode I watched, she made Tagliata and Tuscan Fries. I was positively drooling. And knew that that would be the hangover cure meal for the coming evening, So I pulled out my Nigellisima book and sent my husband off to the shops to get the ingredients.

This is her Italian take on steak and chips, and I'm completely converted and actually very excited to recreate it again next weekend for our Valentine's dinner. I do not have a deep fryer, so I opted for her style of making the chips in a pan with hot oil. I was absolutely terrified making the chips as I can be quiet clumsy in the kitchen and it requires the utmost concentration, so as not to scald yourself. But it is most definitely worth it. Though in hindsight, with a crazy hangover and a hyper toddler running around the kitchen, it was a bold choice.

The idea of marinating the steaks after cooking is sheer brilliance, resulting in an extremely tasty steak, full of flavour and punch. In  Nigella's book, she states that one steak is plenty for two people. In fact stating this is a wonderful way of stretching a steak to two people. Now if Nigella tells you something is enough, then I should have believed her. Greedy guts here cooked two steaks (it would have certainly done four people at a dinner party).  In saying that, me and my husband had no trouble eating everything.

I didn't have the herbs she called for in the Tuscan Fries recipe, but I substituted the sage with basil, and it worked really well, especially seeing as this is an Italian recipe anyway.

With Valentines approaching, this is a stunning elegant steak and chips recipe to make for that someone special.

Serves - 2 greedies/4 adults


For the steak

  • 1/2 tsp of dried chili flakes
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 2 tsp of red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 2 sirloin steaks

For the chips
  • 4 large rooster potatoes, skins on and cut into thin chips
  • 2 litres of vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic in skins
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves
To serve

5-6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bag of rocket (or designer leaves as Nigella would say)


  1. Start by putting the chips in a deep pan of oil, cold oil. Turn the heat up high and cook for 15 minutes. using a tongs and oven glove to stir every so often. Some of the chips will stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir frequently so you don't loose too many to this fate.
  2. After 15 minutes, carefully drop in the garlic and herbs and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so. The chips tend to float to the top with cooked. Try to get a really brown crispy finish.
  3. Transfer the chips to a warm oven to keep hot while you cook the steaks. The steaks go cold quickly so that's why I suggest making the chips first and keep warm. As trying to keep the steaks warm whilst trying to wait for the chips to cook, will only result in an over cooked steak.
  4. Heat a grill pan until searing hot.
  5. Combine all the steak ingredients, except the steaks, in a shallow baking dish.
  6. Lightly oil the steaks and sear in the pan, 2 minutes a side. The steak will be rare but this is what we want. 
  7. Transfer the steaks to the baking dish with the marinade and let them rest for 2 minutes a side in the marinade.
  8. Remove the steaks to a board and slice very thinly on the diagonal. Meanwhile, put the cherry tomatoes, cut side down. in the marinade and stir them around a bit.
  9. To serve, scatter a serving dish with the rocket. And randomly scatter the slices of steak over the rocket, along with the cherry tomatoes. Pour the remaining marinade over the dish, not wasting a drop of flavour.
  10. Serve with the crispy Tuscan fries.
Tip for the Fries: Chips in my opinion cannot be eaten without salt and vinegar. For these chips, I recommend coarse salt and balsamic vinegar. Delish!!!!!!

Thank you Nigella, as always, you rock!!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Homemade Chocolate Spread - A Healthy Nutella Alternative

I've been absent on the blog lately with two babies to take care of and home renovations to complete before re opening the bed and breakfast. Today is Nutella Day so I  thought what better day to write my first blog post of 2016. As usual the start of a new year,  a new healthier eating plan (well good intentions anyway). Here is a an indulgent chocolate spread, but being homemade, it's ten times better than the shop bought alternative. Everything in moderation, right!?

We love Nutella in this house and  I'm constantly including it in baking recipes, especially for the Bed and Breakfast. Last summer, through trial and error, I developed my own take on Nutella, recreating it from scratch at home. It is indulgent, but gives me piece of mind to know that I made it at home myself so I know exactly what's in it. Here is the recipe and all the photos that have me drooling today.


  • 150g of hazelnuts
  • 150g of dark chocolate, melted
  • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp of icing sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of cocoa powder


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Place the hazelnuts on a roasting tray and roast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes, until they have browned and blistered.
  3. Once the hazelnuts are roasted, put in the tablecloth and rub vigorously to remove as much of the skins as possible.
  4. Place the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor and blend to a paste.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth. The mixture will be a bit grainy, not as smooth as regular chocolate spread, but that is the charm of this spread.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Apple, Cranberry & Coconut Pies - The Mince Pie Alternative

These are real simple kick ass recipe for an alternative to mince pies, but still has the Christmasy vibe. They can be whipped up in a flash and can be frozen before baking in a tray or frozen once baked and cooled, making them a lifesaver when unexpected guests descend.


  • 1 sheet shortcut pastry
  • 100g fresh cranberries
  • 2 eating apples, peeled and diced
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 25g desiccated coconut
  • 1 egg


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees, and grease a muffin tin.
  2. In a mixing bowl, toss together the cranberries, sugar, apple, and coconut
  3. Roll out the shortcut pastry, and cut out 12 circles. Roll up the off cuts and roll out thinly again. This should give you 12 stars
  4. Place each circle of pastry into the muffin holes and fill each hole with the cranberry and apple filling.
  5. Top with a star and brush with some beaten egg. Finally sprinkle each star with a little sugar and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  6. When the pies are cooked, remove from the oven and place the tray on a wire rack. Immediately, gently go around the outsides of each pie to loosen from the edges. Then wait 10 minutes before removing from the tray and cool completely on the rack. 
  7. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Parsley, Chilli & Garlic Pesto

I've never been a fan of store bought jars of pesto and sauces. I'm  very conscious of additives and sugars in processed food, and I always like to know exactly what I'm eating. It is for this reason I like to make my own sauces and pesto. I normally just make a bog standard basil pesto (excluding the cheese), but last week I decided to make some pesto with a bit of a twist. I've used parsley instead of basil, and blanched almonds instead of pine nuts. I've also upped the 'kick' of the pesto with a deseeded whole red chilli and a large clove of garlic.  I prefer my pesto pulsed rather than blitzed smooth, the texture adds much more to a dish.

I find that this pesto lasts up to two weeks in the fridge, and it's not only good with plain pasta, I used it last week to pimp up a roast chicken,brushing the pesto all over the chicken before roasting in the oven, and the  other day I brushed it over some thick cod fillets before baking in the oven. Today I'm using it as a sauce for my homemade wholewheat sweet potato gnocchi. There are so many more possibilities with this pesto, I find myself reaching for it in the fridge time and time again.

  • I bag of flat leaf parsley
  • 1 fat garlic clove, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 100g of blanched almonds
  • Salt & pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
  • Extra Vigin olive oil, approx 100mls (add more if you want a 'wetter' pesto)

  1. Simply add all the above ingredients to a mini food blender and pulsed until you get your own desired consistency. Add more oil if you wish.;
  2. Store in a sterilized container or jar.

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