Category Archives: Baking & Desserts

Gingerbread Ice Cream

Its the weekend and sometimes you just need a little cake and ice cream.  In this case together…in one dessert.  My gingerbread ice cream recipe uses leftover Hot Water Gingerbread cake (though you could use store bought gingersnaps if you were in a pinch) to make a delicious frozen custard.  Best of all, you don’t need to have an ice cream maker to do this recipe.

If you’d like to make this recipe, check it out on my recipe blog by clicking HERE.

Enjoy!

ice cream 5gingerbread ice cream 2.1

Pescatarian Paleo

Okay, like soooooo many others, I’ve jumped on the Paleo bandwagon this January.

But here in the UK the Paleo diet is not quite so much a ‘thing’ yet. In fact, if I had a nickel for every blank look I’ve received when I’ve said I’m doing Paleo, well, I’d have a few nickels at least. (But hey, I live in the UK, so what good are nickels to me?)

So, what IS the Paleo diet? Well, its based on the premise that our guts haven’t really evolved much in the last 15,000 years so we’re really better off eating what our Paleolithic ancestors ate, including fish, grass-fed pasture-raised meats, eggs, vegetables & fruit, fungi, roots and nuts. Things you can’t eat are grains, legumes, dairy, (white) potatoes, refined salts and sugars and processed oils. (Processed oils? Yeah, I know, all oils are processed. I use common sense here: pasture-fed butter, organic raw coconut oil and olive oil are the only cooking fats I keep in the house. If I ate red meat, lard would be on that list as well.) This way of eating isn’t just about weight loss. Done properly, its helped a lot of people with autoimmune issues (Crohn’s, Coeliac, etc) and leaky gut, as well as people with inflammation issues caused by food intolerances they may not even have been aware of before.

The thing is, I’m pescatarian. I don’t eat red meat or poultry, but I do eat fish, so I can’t strictly be called a vegetarian or an omnivore. So I contacted Dr Loren Cordain, an expert on the Paleo diet about whether I could adapt this diet as a pescatarian. I received a fairly prompt, blunt and unhelpful response setting out that in no uncertain terms would they advocate not eating meat. It threw me a little bit, but only for about 2 minutes until I thought about it logically. Whats not to love about this way of eating and why did I need commercial validation to do it anyway? My diet is now filled with brightly coloured vegetables and greenery, fresh organic fish, organic free-range eggs and healthy fats & nuts – lots of unprocessed foods. All I have eliminated from my diet is a vast amount of sugar – by this I mean sugar in the form of bread, pasta and grains, not just refined sugar. So, I say boooo to Dr Cordain and I’m just enjoying doing Paleo the way that works for me.

So, have I lost any weight with the diet? Well, its only been 3 weeks and as I don’t have a functional set of scales, I honestly couldn’t tell you. What I can say is that my stomach is much flatter, I feel overall much more toned and my energy levels are much higher than they were.

Have I cheated? Well, yes. I have. Several times. And I’m okay with that. There have been a couple of mornings when I have really missed my oatmeal, cooked with coconut cream and sweetened with apple and raisins – so I made it. I didn’t feel the worse for having it. I’ve also continued to have a bit of organic milk in my tea and the odd bit of sheep or goat milk cheese. For me its not a competition about being ‘right’ – its a process of finding out what works best for my lifestyle and what makes me feel the healthiest. I lived a low-fat lifestyle for years, but now my diet is full of plenty of healthy fats – yes, including some saturated fats – and as a result, I’m staying full throughout the day and my usual mid-afternoon hypoglycaemic episodes appear to have disappeared.

What do I eat? You know, its much MUCH easier than I thought it would be. For lunch I might pack a tupperware box filled with organic baby spinach, a small baked sweet potato with a tad of feta crumbled on top, a grated carrot salad with raisins, a small bag of nuts as a snack and a couple of pieces of fruit. Or a half an avocado on a bed of quinoa with some greens on the side or cooked kale with a lemon wedge to squeeze over it all. Because I work in an office, I tend to save eating fishy things for dinner at home or restaurants – at the moment I’m really into Alaskan wild salmon, though also am trying to eat more local sustainable fish and also sardines. I’ve also found a fantastic recipe for cauliflower pizza that I have adapted by putting sheep feta in the crust and grating some St Helen’s hard goat cheese (a version of cheddar) on top.

Because I have a sweet tooth, I also sometimes make an um…healthy(ish) sundae for dessert. To do this, I whiz up 1.5 frozen bananas in the food processor with a tablespoon of maple syrup. If it needs more liquid to get creamy, add a tablespoon of coconut water or coconut milk. That makes the ice ‘cream’, which is like the texture of soft serve. To make the chocolate sauce, you’ll need to open a can of full fat coconut milk which has been in the fridge for at least 24 hours (I always keep a few in the fridge now – the coconut cream rises to the top of the can and hardens and delicious coconut water remains at the bottom of the can, so you can use both) and scoop a heaped tablespoon of the coconut cream into a small saucepan. On a low-med heat, melt the coconut cream and whisk in a couple of teaspoons of a dark cacao powder along with enough maple syrup or coconut sugar to sweeten. It will make a thick, fudgey hot chocolate sauce to pour over your ice ‘cream’. Delicious!

There are some wonderful bloggers out there who inspire me with a regular dose of Paleo friendly recipes for meals, packed lunches, cakes, cookies & muffins. Here are my favourites! (And please don’t knock the Mommy Bloggers – these women channel their energies into creating delicious food for their amazing websites and have a better grasp on social media than most FTSE500 companies!)

Against All Grain

Primal Palate

Coconut Mama

Elana’s Pantry

Nom Nom Paleo

The Paleo Mama

The Paleo Mom

Paleo Newbie

In general, I guess while there is a lot I’m enjoying about this way of eating, I’m a little cautious about cutting significant food groups from the diet and probably lean a bit more toward the Weston A Price dietary guidelines than strict Paleo, but we’ll see how it goes. By my next post I may have eased off the Paleo thing a bit. Its not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m not convinced that its necessary to eliminate properly prepared grains from the diet but rest assured there are some tasty recipes in the wings and more adventures of dining in London to come.

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

You know, I can take or leave most sweeties. Cakes & cookies. Pies & palmiers. Trifles & tortes. Biscuits & brownies. I like them, but could easily live without them. I do have a sweet tooth but it its usually reserved for my one special love: ice cream.

Which has always been a real shame for me, because most ice creams and frozen yogurts on the market are pumped full of either refined sugar (a toxin) or worse, aspartame (a neurotoxin). I also find that frozen dairy (UPDATE 2018: I’m vegan now) never sits that well in my tummy and as I’ve been experimenting with raw vegan recipes lately, I’ve noticed a trend amongst the food blogging community for throwing frozen fruit into the blender and serving it as soft serve ice cream. I’ve totally followed the crowd on this one. But why not? Its so much tastier and healthier…and MUCH easier to make than the process of churning homemade ice cream I remember from my childhood, which involved pre-freezing the metal canister, making a custard, then waiting AGES for the ice cream to finish churning around.

This recipe is vegan, free of refined sugars and naturally fat free. It is also “raw” if you use the cacao powder option and leave out the maple syrup, but I’m not too bothered about that.

I’ll admit…its not a great photo, but quite frankly, I was far less interested in food styling my dessert than I was in eating it!

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 over-ripe medium organic bananas
  • 1.5 to 3 Tbs dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably organic) or cacao powder…whichever is fine
  • 2 Tbs organic maple syrup

Step One

Peel 3 medium sized over-ripe bananas and freeze them overnight.

Step Two

Once the bananas are frozen hard, take them out of the freezer and give them a rough chop, toss them into your high speed blender or food processor* along with the maple syrup and cocoa powder. If you want a milk chocolate appearance – like old fashioned soft serve – use 1.5 Tbs of cocoa powder. If you want a rich uber-dark chocolate appearance like an Italian gelato, use 3 Tbs of cocoa powder.

Step Three

Whiz everything around in a high speed blender* for about 2-3 minutes. It will be loud and crashy-bashy sounding, but at the end, you’ll end up with smooth, rich ice cream which you can either eat right away or put into a tupperware and freeze for a hard ice cream later on.

If you want to make it look like a soft serve ice cream for children, just pop it in a piping bag with a wide star tip piping nozzle and immediately pipe into the cone or dish.

Its so easy. Its so sweet. And its so healthy. Just give it a go…

blending the ice cream



 

 

 

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links to Nutri Ninja, the brand of blender and food processor I’ve been using for a few years now, so if you shop using my link you won’t pay anymore, you’ll get free next day delivery and you’ll be helping to support my blog.

Nova Scotian Hot Water Gingerbread

rain gearAfter three weeks in the 30-odd degree sunshine of Guatemala and Belize, I have returned to an England which might not be unfamiliar to the Bronte sisters. Its late May, but there has been snow in some parts of the country. In London its 9 degrees Celsius and its raining; its been this way – more or less – over the last fortnight.

The good news about the cold, rainy weather – the only good news about the cold, rainy weather – is that I have an excuse to wear my new wellies A LOT and I get to eat porridge for breakfast every morning. (By now I would normally have switched to a bircher muesli for the summer) The café in my building makes excellent porridge. I know, I could make it myself at home for pennies – but for £2.50 I get a pot of porridge, a skinny cappuccino and a chat with Alvin, fellow foodie and café manager.

I had been desperately hoping to host a BBQ this coming long weekend. In anticipation of that, I had a builder come round last Saturday to construct a wooden deck in the back garden and I employed my husband to put together the John Lewis BBQ we were given as a wedding present last autumn. The rattan outdoor sofa set with matching coffee table has been artfully arranged on the deck and I’ve attempted to give the place that smack of Pottery Barn style with conch shells, pillar candles in glass hurricane vases and throw cushions…none of which have any business being outside in cold, wet English gloom. And as its now looking less and less like BBQ weather, I may be trading in prawn kebabs and sunscreen for central heating and comfort food. In fact, I might make some gingerbread.

This is old fashioned Nova Scotian gingerbread. I’m fairly sure it came off the back of a packet of something or other sometime back in the 1950’s because my best friend Sarah’s grandmother’s recipe is exactly the same as my own grandmother’s recipe.

Hot Water Gingerbread

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Crosby’s fancy molasses (Brits – you’ll need to use a blend of golden syrup & dark treacle here)
  • 1/2 cup hot water (near boiling)
  • 6-8 Tablespoons melted butter

1. Mix dry ingredients.

2. Beat egg and add molasses, sugar and hot water.

3. Combine the dry and wet ingredients.

4. Add butter

5. Pour in 8 by 8 inch square cake tin.

6. Bake 350 for 45 minutes.

Sarah’s Mom says that this recipe doubles really well (their family is much bigger than mine). Also the old, dark metal tin which used to belong to Sarah’s Nana has gone missing, so if you see it, please send it back to her.

Bad Wife Cupcakes

The funny thing about marriage is that whatever action one spouse decides to take, it has an impact on the life of the other.

For instance, if Mr Harris decides to spend all day Saturday holed up in the living room with a case of Corona and a bag of pretzels watching the last leg of the Six Nations, it kind of affects my plans to spend a romantic afternoon, hand in hand, perusing Borough Market day.  And if I decide to catch up with some girlfriends for dinner at the Covent Garden Hotel one evening after work, that means Mr Harris orders a takeaway Chinese and eats it on the sofa in front of the TV while feeding prawn crackers to the dog has had his day impacted by my actions.

So at 4 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon when my husband excitedly pointed out to me the recipe for Skinny Red Velvet Cupcakes he had found on a foodie blog, I was…well, slightly taken aback by the sudden interest in cupcakes, but happy to go with his plan to stop by Sainsbury’s to buy the ingredients.  Mr Harris – on the rare occasions he does visit the kitchen – never bakes or cooks using what’s in the cupboard.  Any recipe requires a major shopping trip and an entire restock of our pantry WHETHER IT NEEDS IT OR NOT.  At quarter to five when we arrived home, the sudden passion for making cupcakes had somewhat disappeared and the lure of watching a week’s worth of CSI episodes on Sky Plus had become a far more attractive alternative.  It was at this point that I found myself in a kitchen full of mixing bowls and muffins tins, elbow deep in pink batter.

So, I made the cupcakes.  And they turned out fine.

It was at this point that Mr H wandered into the kitchen and interest in the recipe suddenly reignited.  He decided to take over the real man’s work – frosting.  He insisted that I leave ‘his’ kitchen while he prepared the cream cheese frosting.  I felt distinctly nervous about the whole thing for several reasons.  Mainly because Mr H didn’t have much experience eating cream cheese frosting, let alone making it.  The whole thing smelled of disaster.  With a self satisfied look on his face, he proudly produced a bowl of thin, gloopy…not frosting…possibly icing?  It tasted of cream cheese and wasn’t really all that sweet.  Worried he’d predict my lack of faith and duplicitous nature, I waited until he’d gone back to the living room before quickly grabbing what was left of the icing sugar, dumping it in the bowl and rapidly transforming the sweet soup into a slightly thin, but acceptable form of frosting.

I joined my husband in the living room several minutes later.  “See?” he said, with a self-satisfied look on his face.  “I told you it would be fine and YOU didn’t think I could do it.”  I apologised and told him I was wrong.  I told him his frosting was excellent.  And quickly returned to the kitchen to finish decorating the cupcakes before he suspected the truth – that I am a bad wife.

So, I return to my original point.  The funny thing about marriage is that whatever action one spouse decides to take, it has an impact on the life of the other.

Oh, and by the way, by the time I was finished with these cupcakes, they weren’t ‘skinny’ anymore.  Here’s the recipe.  With good cream cheese frosting.

Bad Wife Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 cup moscovado sugar

1 tbsp unsweetened dutch-process cocoa

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp white vinegar

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce or mango puree

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg

2 egg whites

2 tsp vanilla

1 1/3 cup light buttermilk

1 tbsp red food colouring

1.  Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake tins with liners.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together flours, salt, cocoa, and baking powder.

3.  In another large bowl beat sugar, applesauce and butter. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

4.  In a separate bowl mix baking soda and vinegar. Add half of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, mix well. Add buttermilk, red food colouring and mix well. Add the remaining dry ingredients and fold in vinegar and baking soda.

5.  Pour in prepared cupcake liners 3/4 of the way.

6.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool, then frost with low fat cream cheese frosting.

Good Cream Cheese Frosting

300g Icing Sugar, sifted

50g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

125g low fat Cream Cheese, cold

1.  Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.

2.  Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed.

3.  Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.

Upside Down Breakfast Cake

They say you should start the year as you mean to go on.

me 3I don’t know about that; that sounds like a challenge for tomorrow morning. But if how you end it says anything, I should worry.

My shoulders are permanently knotted from work stress and they make a range of snap, crackle, pop and clickity noises whenever I move my head, neck, arms or shoulders.

My memory is so bad, I have a near total dependence on the Google function of my iPhone to recall the most basic of facts. (“That actor who was in that movie…he was also in that…other movie. With the other guy. I can’t remember his name either. Hang on, let me Google this…”)

Yesterday I spent 10 minutes – 10 solid minutes – nattering on to my husband about various train/tube/overground routes and the lack of consistency in Oyster charging policy across the Greater London TFL network yesterday. (At this rate, I fully anticipate by the end of 2013 I’ll be standing at the end of Platform 1 at London Bridge station with my pencil and notebook in hand, engaging in heated debates with my new – and by then only – friends, the other trainspotters: “Clapham Junction; its just not a junction!”)

And finally, this morning I appear to have left the house dressed, well…really not that dissimilarly to Mr Tumnus (tweed jacket, cashmere turtleneck jumper, long scarf and carrying a cane umbrella). Possibly a side effect of watching too much Narnia on Channel 4 this Christmas.

One good thing, however, is that I started the day with a slice of my excellent upside down breakfast cake.  And unlike the name of that actor who was in that movie with the other actor, I actually have this recipe committed to memory.

Ingredients

3 oz butter
3 oz low fat crème fraiche
6 oz caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz flour
½ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp baking powder
A quantity of cut fruit, a few small extra knobs of butter & 3 tbs dark brown sugar

Method

Step One: Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition, followed by the crème fraiche and vanilla extract.

Step Two: Sift the flour and baking powder and add the salt. Fold the liquid with the dry ingredients and mix only until the ingredients are moistened and there are no flour lumps left.

Step Three: Prepare two small loaf tins by greasing the sides. (I also line mine with a long strip of parchment, the width of the loaf tin, to help the cake avoid sticking to the sides when turning the loaves out.)

Step Four: If the fruit you are using is a small berry, such as a blueberry, use it whole, but larger fruit, such as apples or pears will need to be cut into small manageable chunks. Place the fruit in the base of both tins, around an inch thick, and then evenly scatter a few small knobs of butter and 1.5 tbs of dark brown sugar on top of that, so it can create its own caramel as its baking. Pour the batter on top of each loaf tin.

Step Five: Bake the loaves, undisturbed, in an oven at 190C for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let sit for no less than 5 but no more than 10 minutes before inverting onto a baking rack or serving plate. Let cool before slicing into thick slices – a perfect accompaniment to a cup of strong black coffee.

Cake

No really, it was just a trifle

I make an excellent trifle…though I do say so myself…

A full on view of my sherry trifle

A full on view of my sherry trifle

Four years ago I bought a beautiful LSA crystal trifle bowl at the John Lewis on Oxford Street.  The first reaction of my then boyfriend, was that I would never use the trifle bowl and it was a waste of £40 and precious storage space.  At that time, we lived in a one bedroom flat in Bermondsey; a beautifully designed home that by all rights should have been the perfect pied a terre for city professionals with a large country home in Norfolk or Wiltshire.  Just like us…minus the large country home in Norfolk or Wiltshire.  With the absence of any storage whatsoever, it was absolutely essential that each item we owned had to serve a purpose, if not several purposes.

So in order that I would always have the moral upper ground, as least as far as my frivolous purchase was concerned, my trifle bowl spent much of the year, serving as an urn for displaying leafy Spanish mandarins, bright knobbly Sicilian lemons, shiny and jewel-toned pink pomegranates or really whatever happened to be in season.  And once a year, at the great family gathering in Sussex on Christmas or Boxing Day, my trifle bowl would display its true splendour and serve its intended use.

As, I have discovered, trifles are surprisingly sturdy.  I have preassembled and carried them across the home counties on trains, in the boot of my car (bumping wildly over country lanes), and I have jostled them along London streets, wedged into a hemp Whole Foods carrier bag.  It always survives and always looks a masterpiece when displayed on the table or the sideboard.

Eventually the time came to prepare to sell our flat and my boyfriend took great pleasure in placing my beloved trifle bowl in storage.  In fact, last Christmas I never even had an opportunity to use it, as it was locked away over the holiday period.  (While I describe him like a pantomime villain, he really is very nice, and I did in fact eventually marry him, despite his general disrespect for my trifle-related paraphernalia.)

So this year, when friends invited us to their home for Boxing Day dinner…their large country home in Wiltshire, I might add…I didn’t hesitate to shamelessly offer to bring the trifle.  Through politeness, or perhaps a lack of opportunity to refuse, our hosts appeared grateful and accepted.

After feasting on gravadlax on rye toasts, spatchcocked poussin and creamy dauphinoise, my trifle made its appearance.  No one usually holds very  high hopes for trifle.  (I’ve seen many a layered Jell-O, pineapple and Cool Whip creation lurking on British supermarket shelves, claiming trifle status.  I can appreciate the general cool attitude towards it.)  I was offered by my host to be mother, and I took the opportunity, assertively spooning equal proportions of the deep layers into each of the dessert bowls.

“Oh, Kelly” my host gasped, in what I think was genuine surprise, “from now on, you are in charge of all things sugar.”  And I blushed with much false modesty.

So, with some hesitation, I share my precious, yet simple, trifle recipe with you:

Trifle Top

Jewel-like red currants, crowning my sherry trifle on Boxing Day

Ingredients

12  trifle sponges (around 300 g)

1 medium (100 g) sponge flan base (optional)

1 litre of custard (homeade or store bought)

1 litre of whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks

1 x 400 g bag frozen raspberries

200 g fresh blueberries, raspberries or blackberries

1 small jar (around 300 g) raspberry conserve

A quantity of Amontillado sherry, to taste

Fresh raspberries or red currants, to decorate

Method

Step One:  Cut all the sponge fingers in half and make small jam sandwiches with them.  Arrange these in the base of the trifle bowl and drizzle liberally with a good glug of Amontillado sherry – around 4-5 tablespoons.  (You don’t want the sponge fingers to become too wet, though, as the raspberry juices will need to be soaked up later.)  You can do this step the night before, should you wish.

Step Two:  Create an even layer of frozen raspberries on top of the sherried sponges.  This is where I pause if I am taking this dish to someone else’s house.  Placing the raspberries on the sponges around lunchtime will mean that the raspberries will have thawed by dessert, later that evening, and the juices will have soaked into the sponge.

Step Three:  If you have a medium sponge flan case, place it on top of the now thawed raspberries, and fill it with the remainder of the jar of raspberry conserve and the 200 g of fresh berries.  It should help contain the custard and create a layer of sponge which isn’t as soggy as the bottom layer.

Step Four:  I wouldn’t do this step until probably an hour or two before serving.  Pour the custard over the sponge flan & berries and spread the softly (unsweetened) whipped cream in an even layer atop the custard.  I usually finish mine with a small crown of fresh raspberries, cape gooseberries or red currants (as shown).