Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Pumpkin and White Chocolate Cookies

This recipe comes from my latest feature for Crumbs magazine (check it out here), but I thought I should also share it with you dear readers. Mostly because I'm feeling guilty for not blogging in a very long time. 

Now pumpkins are a pain in the ass. I know that. So in my kitchen, the only thing that will lure me into wrestling with these orange beasts is the promise of a batch of puree that will taste miles better than anything you can buy in a can, and that I can keep in the freezer to later turn into warm pumpkin and walnut bread; a batch of spiced pumpkin muffins; a classic pumpkin pie; or these soft and chewy pumpkin and white chocolate cookies. 

So, once you have done battle with your almighty vegetable – or should that be fruit, technically speaking? - place the pumpkin flesh into a large saucepan with a cup of water (use as little as possible to avoid a finished puree that is too soft). Bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer for around 20 minutes. If you only want to use your puree for sweet recipes, then I like to throw in a cinnamon stick during the process, for added flavour. It also makes your house smell wonderfully wholesome and Autumnal. 

Then whizz with a hand-held blender and separate into batches. From two medium-sized pumpkins, I’m usually able to get around 750ml of puree, which I separate into three 250ml batches – each of these being equal to one American cup sized measurement, which is rather handy seeing as many pumpkin recipes seem to be American.

Now you have your puree, here's the simple recipe for my cookies. What else will you make?

Makes 12-15 large cookies
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
100g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
50g soft brown sugar
250ml (one cup) pumpkin puree
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g bar of white chocolate, broken into small chunks

Preheat your oven to180°C.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla and combine thoroughly.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to this, and stir in the chocolate chunks.
Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.
Cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Raven

It's officially the season of pie. And gravy.

Which, if you're in Bath on a cold rainy night, demands a visit to The Raven pub for a Pieminister and a pint.

You can choose from a selection of pies and homemade gravies, and can have it with mash or chips (although who seriously chooses chips over mash when there's pie involved?) 

I'm not sure why I even bother looking at the menu as I always order the Beef Raven Ale Pie with Guinness and Red Onion Gravy (and mash, naturally) and a glass of Raven ale to wash it down.

Pair with a cosy jumper and a good friend, for a perfect Winter's evening.  

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Lunch with Friends

Today - lunch with some very dear friends. These boys could not possibly get any cuter than they were today.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Sausages with Warm French Lentils

Ahhh Autumn - the days get shorter, the evenings chillier, and cravings of sausages for dinner become infinitely more justifiable. 

This dish is one that I often find myself returning to at this time of year. It gives you all the curl-up-in-your-pyjamas-with-a-glass-of-wine comfort of sausages and mash, minus the feelings of over-indulgence afterwards. 

The lentils are cooked with onion and carrots, and dressed in a french vinaigrette. I also add some chopped spinach at the last minute, to up the nutritional content and make it a complete meal. I adapted the recipe from this original one by Ina Garten. If you have any lentils leftover, they'll make a delicious cold salad for lunch the next day. 

I won't give you any instructions for cooking the sausages - because that would be silly and, quite frankly, I expect more from you! But I will say this: I prefer to use good quality chipolatas for this recipe - they somehow make the whole dish a little more refined and, dare I say it, French. 

     Makes 4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and 1/2-inch-diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup brown lentils or green Puy lentils
  • 1 whole onion, peeled finely diced
  • a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper


Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saute pan, add the onion and carrots, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 1 more minute, and then set aside.
Meanwhile, place the lentils and 4 cups of water (or vegetable stock, if you have it) in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are almost tender. Add the chopped spinach, as well as the onion and carrot mixture, for the last few minutes of cooking. Place all of this in a medium sized bowl and add the butter.
Meanwhile, whisk together the 1/4 cup of olive oil, the mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour this over the lentils, stir well, and allow the lentils to cool until just warm, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. (The longer the lentils sit, the more salt and pepper you'll want to add, so beware of this).
I hope it soon becomes an Autumn staple in your kitchen! 

Monday, 11 November 2013

A Day to Remember

My Sunday involved: a sunny morning lie-in; a trip to the Vintage and Antiques Market in Bath, where I felt all Christmassy and nearly bought a make-your-own gingerbread house kit; an equally Christmassy and rather wonderful turkey, stuffing and cranberry pasty; some Christmas present shopping; and being very moved by the Remembrance Sunday parade through town, which made me both humble and thankful that any of the fun stuff I get to do is even possible. 

Lest we forget.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Banana and Bacon Waffles with Homemade Pancake Syrup

Well now, isn't this an indulgent looking breakfast? But I say if you can't allow yourself a little indulgence at the weekend then you really have to question your life choices.

We had our toasted waffles with good quality smoked streaky bacon, sliced banana, and my homemade syrup - if you can't bear the price of maple syrup sometimes then try making this, I think you'll love it:
  Simply put 1 cup (in American measurement - it equates to 250ml) of light soft brown sugar into a saucepan. Add just 3-4 tablespoons of water to the pan, then bring to the boil and leave it to boil for 1 minute - don't stir it or it may start to caramelise! Then remove from the heat, decant into a fancy jug, and there you have it - almost instant syrupy indulgence. Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Vitamin Boost

As much as I love this time of year, it's also the time when all sorts of horrible bugs and sniffles start to spread. So I'm keeping a bowl of satsumas out on the kitchen table to make sure that we remember to keep up our vitamin C intake. Good idea, right? 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Cupcakes and Cocktails

At the weekend, we made a pilgrimage across the the country to Norwich to join in my sister-in-law-to-be's hen celebrations. As much as I love her and was excited to be part of her special weekend, I have to be honest - the promise of an evening of cocktails and cupcakes was a major incentive!

After getting ready with a few glasses of Prosecco, we headed to TALC (Tea and Little Cakes) in the centre of Norwich - an adorable cafe that holds private cupcake decorating parties in the evenings. I didn't know what to expect, but I have to say I was impressed - we were greeted on arrival by a long table laid with freshly made cupcakes, piping bags of different coloured butter-creams, pots filled with paintbrushes and icing pens, shape cutters, and tubs of edible glitter. It was like a baking enthusiast's wet dream.

Just as the giggling excitement in the room was beginning to feel palpable, jugs of cocktails were served - including a delicious pear, elderflower and limoncello concoction. We then took our places to begin our session, which turned out to be something of a masterclass in decoration, as our friendly instructor managed to keep us quiet long enough to show us some tricks of the trade. 

The best way of making us concentrate, of course, was adding the competitive element - and with the promise of a bottle of bubbly to the winning cupcake, things suddenly got serious.  

(Just kidding - it's very hard to be serious around so many cupcakes)

Halfway through the proceedings the chef brought out a generous array of canapes, including sticky pork skewers, fresh crusty bread with homemade houmous and tapenades, mini samosas and pesto and mozzarella toasts. It was just the energy boost we needed for the final 'freestyle' round!

I was extremely proud of my little box of creations, but I have to say that my other favourite was this striking resemblance to the happy couple - made by the bride-to-be herself. And they really are as happy in real life as they are in their cupcake alter egos. 

Thanks to the lovely staff at TALC for a very silly - yet strangely informative - evening. And thank you to Lucy for being such a gracious hen (you know you loved wearing that veil really!) x

Sunday, 27 October 2013


Today is mostly about coffee and dissertation planning - although my cat clearly thinks that my notes are better used for sleeping on. That, or she's just trying to get my attention.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Great Bristol Bake Off!

What happens when you take a group of over-excited girls, a table heaving with cake, and a highly anticipated Great British Bake Off Final? A sugar fuelled evening of tea drinking, screaming, crying and hurling abuse at the TV, that's what. At least that's what happened this week when we threw our own Bake Off party to see off the final episode of the series with an icing-sugar-dusted bang.

Entries included cupcakes, shortbread, a very dubious attempt at macaroons, banoffee pie, homemade marshmallows and rocky road, and the joint winning entries: a lemon and raspberry cheesecake and my Hummingbird Bakery carrot cake!

If you want to make the (ahem, *joint*) winning entry then you can find below the Hummingbird Bakery carrot cake recipe that I used. It's actually the first carrot cake I've ever made so I haven't yet decided if it's the recipe I'll refer back to in future - it was deliciously moist and the spices just right, but it does make an enormous three tier cream-cheese-covered monster, so perhaps next time I'll opt for a more low key affair. On this occasion though, this carroty brute was a champion among cakes.

Hummingbird Bakery Carrot Cake

For the cake

300g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract 
300g carrots, grated
Zest of half an orange (not in the original recipe, but my little addition!)
100g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus extra, to decorate

For the icing
600g icing sugar 
100g butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, cold

Preheat the oven to 170C. 
Prepare 3 x 20cm cake tins with loose bottoms by greasing then lining the bottoms with greaseproof paper.
Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed (don’t worry if it looks slightly split). Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, orange zest and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed.
Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts by hand. Pour into the prepared cake tins and smooth over. Bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes (mine actually took 35 minutes) until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins, before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment again until well mixed. Add the cream cheese, then beat again until well mixed. Turn the speed to high and continue to beat until light and fluffy but stop when you reach this point; if you over beat it the mixture will turn runny.
When the cakes are cold, spread about one-quarter of the cream cheese icing over it with a palette knife. Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the icing over it. Top with the last cake and spread the remaining icing over the top and sides. Decorate with walnut pieces and an extra sprinkling of cinnamon. 

So it looks like I'll have to start trying out some more carrot cake recipes...purely in the name of research, of course. Any recommendations?

Sunday, 20 October 2013


Today we made some Autumnal inspired art - and I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, me or Little P.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Crumbs Supper Club

On Monday evening, I went along to Crumbs Magazine's Supper Club as part of the Great Bath Feast celebrations that are happening throughout the city this October. Komedia on Westgate Street proved to be the ideal venue - after a glass of Prosecco and a chat at the bar, myself and the other guests made our way through to the the main auditorium to take our seats at the beautifully laid table, in the grand surroundings of the old cinema. 

The chef had put together his take on a classically French menu, using locally sourced ingredients in order to show the best of what our area has to offer. We also had the choice of either Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon to match the food, and our glasses were duly topped up throughout the evening (although I was still suffering from the weekend, so went easier on the wine than perhaps I usually would have!) 

Starter: Chicken liver parfait with pickled beetroot and Bath Bakery bread - and a very generous amount of decent butter, which is always well received in my book.

Main course: the chef's take on Beef Bourguignon, served with a rather wonderful celeriac and mustard mash.

Dessert: Pear Tarte Tatin, using locally sourced pears cooked in a warming spice infusion of cinnamon, star anise, cardamom and a touch of ginger.

After enjoying our meal and feeling full, satisfied and a little sleepy, we made our way to the balcony above where we watched the cult 'foodie film' Babette's Feast and finished our wine. 
  It was great to meet some more of the Crumbs team, and a deliciously indulgent way to spend a rainy Monday evening. I will try to attend some more Great Bath Feast events before the month is through, so stay tuned...

Monday, 14 October 2013


I'm going to be honest with you now - I've been feeling a little uninspired in my kitchen lately. Mostly it's because my days have gotten busier, my workload a great deal heavier, and I've had my head stuck in books of the non-cooking variety. In need of a little inspiration boost, I treated myself to Nigel  Slater's new book 'Eat'- his fresh ideas, enticing recipes and effortless approach has given me the motivation that I needed to get back into kitchen. First up? I think perhaps the Vietnamese Prawn Baguettes...but the Chicken Skin Popcorn also gets me very excited indeed, and could prove to be the ideal study partner. Good work Nige. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013


Sometimes - and especially when you're hungover - you just need a massive Sunday roast, and a catch up with an old friend. Love Sundays. 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Autumn Weekends

I realise that I seem to be blogging mostly about my weekends lately...perhaps it's because the weeks have become so busy again. But I will try to work on that, I promise. In the meantime, here's a little of what we got up to at the weekend in the beautiful sunny Autumn weather: late breakfasts; watching the hot air balloons and collecting conkers in the park; a country walk; an enormous Sunday roast; apple and blackberry crumble with blackberries from our garden; watching the new series of Homeland.


But for now, it's back to a new week and I have a lot of work to do..*sigh*. 


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