Food. Travel. Recipes.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Black bottomed cupcakes

The other day, I think it was last Monday, I was in a real baking mood. I think I was looking at a couple of recipes online and then just really really wanted to make cakes. Initially I wanted to make something like biscotti or cinnamon buns but I then thought best to stick with something slightly easier for now! (I will however definitely be trying biscotti and cinnamon buns in the immediate future)

So this cupcake recipe was taken from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Which is a good cake cookbook, I haven’t used it a whole lot, because even the recipes I make more often such as banana bread and brownies (which Hummingbird has) I take from other cookbooks. Though I did make a whole range of different cupcakes from the book last year for my friend Bobby’s birthday : - )

These cupcakes are decadent and creamy, you get the slightly powdery, chocolately base, with a crunch of choc chips and the smooth cream cheese topping. Delicious!

So first off, here is the ingredient list –

Chocolate sponge base –

190g plain flour

120g caster sugar

40g cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

40ml sunflower oil

1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cheesecake filling –

140g cream cheese

60g caster sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

100g milk chocolate chips

You will need –

A 12 hole cupcake tray, greased and lined with paper cases

What to do –

Part 1

Preheat the oven to 170C and grease the cupcake tray and line with paper cases.

For the chocolate sponge case –

Put the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl and mix with a handheld electric whisk on a slow speed until the dry ingredients are well incorporated together.

Put the oil, vinegar, vanilla extract and 125ml of water in a jug and whisk to combine. While mixing the dry ingredients with the handheld whisk, slowly add the contents of the jug, increasing the speed of the blender as the mixture thickens. Continue to beat until all of the ingredients are well mixed together.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full.

Part 2

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, vanilla extract and salt using a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or a handheld whisk OR a wooden spoon if you can beat fast enough!) until smooth and fluffy.

Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. Do not overmix!

Scoop about a tablespoon of the cheesecake filling on top of the cupcake mixture in the cases.

Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the cupcakes are firm to the touch and they have an even golden colour on the cheesecake filling. Don’t overcook as this will make the cheesecake very dry and crumbly.

Leave the cupcakes to cool before enjoying!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Tasty salads!

So I’ve always loved eating salads. A lot of people think they can be boring, and they can be! But it doesn’t take much to spruce up some salad leaves!

I made this a week ago and as I mentioned in the previous post, I am obsessed with avocado. I have no idea why. I am really liking eating healthy stuff which doesn’t seem healthy! Like adding avocado, bean salad and nuts to a salad gives it substance and doesn’t make you think you’re eating something tasteless and not exciting. Avocados are so creamy and I just love the taste of them for some reason. They are good for you too, they contain a lot of natural oils and are great for your hair and skin! They have a ton of vitamins and contain more potassium than bananas! Brilliant! I’m also loving adding fruit to salads, strawberries and mangos are my favourites right now.

So to this salad which had a base of lettuce leaves, I added –

- 1 chopped avocado which I then put in a bowl and mixed in salt, pepper, fresh mint leaves and lime juice

- 1 whole tomato, sliced.

- 1 red pepper

- Some olives

- 1/2 mozzarella ball

- 1/2 mango chopped

- handful of walnuts.

I like to arrange the lettuce leaves and tear them up. Then lay the tomato and peppers on top. Followed by the mango and avocado. Then scatter the walnuts and avocado pieces on top, and drizzle the juice that was in the bowl with the avocado.

I then finished with a dressing which I made from, chilli jam (my favourite new addition to the cupboard, delicious!), olive oil, red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of dried mint.

I love foods that are slightly tangy, with vinegar or mint, which is why I made up this dressing. I also thought it went well with the salad itself, seeing as it already had ingredients like mint and lime.

Another great easy dressing you can whip up is a honey mustard one, using, a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard, dessert spoon of runny honey, and a squeeze of lemon juice!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Chunky chocolate brownies!

Ok so I wanted to do this post but thinking about the next few days, I couldn’t think of when I could fit it in. I am technically supposed to be in bed as I have to get up at 5am! Yes, 5am! But I really really want to keep up with the blogging, I enjoy it and just get a lot of satisfaction talking about food! (And music and other stuff!) And don’t want to not post on one day and then just neglect it for another month!

So these are brownies that I made on Sunday for my friends. They are taken from a student cookbook and are, so far, the best brownie recipe I’ve tried. (Still want to try Nigella’s mint brownies and the Hummingbird bakery raspberry cheesecake brownie recipe though!)

The reason they are “the best”, in my opinion, is because of the fact it contains walnuts! Obviously this is not so great for people who dislike and/or are allergic to nuts, and it’s not even the reason they are walnuts, it’s what they do to the brownie as a whole which makes it more delicious. After melting the chocolate, butter, and stirring in the more floury ingredients, you add chopped up walnuts and then chopped up MILK CHOCOLATE, preferably galaxy so there is a yummy caramel flavour. What this does is clings to the walnuts, so they taste like these huge pieces of ever so slightly nutty half melted chocolate chunks!

So here is the recipe –

Makes 18
Preparation Time 20 minutes
Cooking Time 45 minutes

Ingredient list

200g/7 oz Milk Chocolate
300g/10 oz Plain Chocolate
225g/7 1/2 oz unsalted butter
3 eggs
225g/7 1/2 oz sugar
75g/3 oz self-raising flour
175g/6 oz walnuts (broken)

1. Grease and line a 28 x 20 cm/11 x 8 inch shallow baking tin. Roughly chop the milk chocolate and walnuts.

Melt the plain chocolate (either in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl positioned in a saucepan which is filled very slightly with boiling water) then stir in the butter.

2. Beat together the eggs and sugar, then beat in the melted plain chocolate mixture. Stir in the flour, walnuts and milk chocolate. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake in a preheated oven, 190 C (375 F), Gas mark 5, for about 40 minutes until the centre feels just firm on the crust but soft underneath. Take care not to overcook or the brownies will be dry. Leave to cool in the tin.

3. When cool, turn out the cake and cut it into 18 squares.

So hope you enjoy these brownies, they don’t take very long to make and are incredibly satisfying!

p.s – after Glee on Monday, have been listening to Aretha Franklin and the like non-stop on my computer. Just got the best playlist through Genius on itunes, listening to a mix of Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, India Arie, Lauryn Hill and Al Green right now. Heaven.

Absolutely adore this song -

Monday, 2 May 2011

The best banana bread!

Ok so this is called “the best banana bread”, because I believe it to be the best banana bread RECIPE that I have used. I haven’t gone through a whole lot but when I tried this, there was a definite difference to the texture, density and taste of the bread. It was more squidgy, very soft on the inside but crispier almost and harder on the outside – like an actual crust! And the banana pieces were still in chunky pieces which tasted lovely! There is the addition of a whole tablespoon of vanilla extract in this recipe which I think, and others who have commented, makes a difference in the taste.

I made these yesterday when I had friends over to enjoy cheese, crackers, banana bread and brownies (recipe coming soon). Had a lovely lovely time, playing table tennis and chatting till pretty late.

So this recipe is from Sophie Dahl’s cookbook “Voluptuous Delights”. A wonderful cookbook which is separated into seasons, sharing recipes that are more appropriate to cook depending on the season and also depending on the vegetables and fruits in season.

So this is the banana bread recipe which above all, is ridiculously simple!

Ingredient list –

75g soft butter (plus a little extra to grease the tin)

4 ripe bananas (I usually just use however many I have, have used 2, 3 and 4 in this recipe and it hardly changed anything!)

200g brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda/baking powder

1 pinch of salt

170g of flour

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Grease a 23x13x6cm/9x5x3 inch bread tin.

Mash the bananas in a bowl and put to one side.

Mix the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla extract in one big mixing bowl. Add the mashed bananas and mix.

Add the bicarbonate/baking powder and salt and then mix in the flour last. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour.

So, so simple! And perfect to enjoy with a warm cup of tea, on a rainy day curled up on the sofa.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Tuna meatballs and tomato salsa

Last night, for the second time round, I made these deliciously yummy tuna meatballs with a tangy salsa. I have taken this from Jamie’s Italy cookbook, which I love leafing through and thinking about my time in Italy and the amazing food Italians make.

I have kind of merged two recipes, in that I use the recipe for the tuna meatballs here but use another recipe for the salsa (sausages with green lentils and tomato salsa) which is also in the Italy cookbook. However, I sort of make up the salsa more or less as I go along now as I have made it so many times.

My version of the salsa – (for one person – double up if you’re cooking for more people)

1 red onion, 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)

Generous sprinkling of cinnamon

1 tin of plum tomatoes

1 tablespoon dried oregano



Red wine vinegar

Finely chop the red onion and garlic cloves. Heat up a pan and drizzle some oil in it. When it’s hot enough, add the onion and garlic and fry until soft and with a slight brown colouring. Sprinkle over the cinnamon and mix the onion and garlic in it.

Add the tin of tomatoes, and if you’re using the plum kind, try to chop up the tomatoes in the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the oregano and put the lid on. Simmer until your meatballs are almost cooked.

Once you’re about to plate up, add a drizzle of red wine vinegar to the salsa and mix. Turn off the heat for a minute or two before plating up.

For the meatballs themselves, follow this recipe here. I would highly recommend rolling the meatballs quickly between your palms so the heat keeps them together and then arranging on a plate to keep in the fridge for an hour or so before cooking.

It is delicious, also even better if you make too many meatballs and have to save some for the next day!