Honey and coconut flapjacks

Honey and coconut flapjacks

It’s an odd time of year at the moment – not quite summer, not quite autumn, at least weather-wise! These honey and coconut flapjacks I made a couple of days ago are quite a nice expression of this seasonal limbo, with the oats being decidedly autumnal/wintery and the coconut and honey adding a splash of sunshine.

It was a very easy recipe to make, which is just what I wanted after a long day at work. It was just a case of melting the honey, sugar and butter together, then stirring in the remaining ingredients. I didn’t have quite as much as demerara sugar as called for in the recipe, so I used half demerara and half golden granulated sugar.

Honey and coconut flapjacks

Oddly enough for me, I refrained from adding more coconut than specified. I KNOW. I felt that this would overwhelm the honey flavour somewhat, so I managed to hold myself back.

I used a slightly smaller tin than the recipe asked for and you can see this from the height of the flapjacks. They were definitely done within the specified cooking time, though.

I really like these flapjacks – the honey flavour is fairly delicate but definitely there, while the coconut is, of course, a lovely addition. The original recipe says you can use dried fruit or nuts in place of the coconut, and I can imagine this would work well too.

The recipe

Adapted from this recipe on BBC Food.

Makes 15

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 100g golden granulated sugar
  • 200g honey
  • 400g porridge oats
  • 50g dessicated coconut

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a 8 inch x 12 inch tin (I used a 7 inch x 11 inch tin and it was still fine).
  2. Melt the butter, sugars and honey in a very large saucepan, stirring frequently.
  3. Stir in the oats and coconut and mix well. If your saucepan isn’t very big, transfer the melted butter mix to a large bowl before adding the other ingredients, as there are a lot of oats to stir!
  4. Spoon the mix into the tin and flatten the surface, making sure it’s relatively even.
  5. Bake the flapjacks for 15-20 minutes. They should be golden around the edges but still pale and a bit soft in the middle.
  6. Cool the flapjacks in the tin then cut into 15 squares.

Soured cream and walnut brownies

Soured cream and walnut brownies

We held a bake sale at work to celebrate the start of the Great British Bake Off a few weeks ago (any excuse, eh?). I probably should have planned something elaborate from the show, but instead I faffed for a bit and then decided to rustle up some completely unrelated soured cream and walnut brownies at the last minute. To be fair, brownies have popped up on the show before!

The brownies are pretty simple – they’re basically chocolate and walnut brownies with a moreish frosting made from melted chocolate and soured cream.

As always, I adapted the recipe I had quite a lot to accommodate the ingredients I actually had in the cupboard. There was a worrying shortage of dark chocolate, but I had more than enough of my lovely Milka chocolate and some white chocolate to make up the difference.

Apologies for the lack of pictures and very short post, but I only just remembered to take the single photo above seconds before my hungry colleagues descended on the table! Rest assured that these are some seriously amazing brownies – definitely a treat for adults to keep hidden from sugar-starved little ones…

The recipe

Makes 16

For the brownies:

  • 55g butter
  • 115g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp strong coffee, cooled (I used good quality instant, if there is such a thing)
  • 85g plain flour
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 30g walnuts, chopped
  • 50g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • grated white chocolate, to decorate

For the frosting:

  • 115g milk chocolate (or plain if you prefer!), broken into pieces
  • 150ml soured cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and line a square 20cm brownie tin.
  2. For the brownies, melt the plain chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, being careful not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Set aside to cool.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs together until pale and thick. Fold in the chocolate and butter mixture and the coffee, and mix well.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt, and fold in.
  5. Fold in the walnuts and white chocolate.
  6. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until set. Leave the brownies to cool in the tin.
  7. Make the frosting by melting the chocolate and beating in the soured cream until thoroughly combined.
  8. Spread the frosting over the cooled brownies and grate some white chocolate over the top to decorate.
  9. Leave to set in a cool place (half an hour in the fridge should do!) and cut into squares.

Chapattis, or how I finally defeated my nemesis

Chickpea curry and chapattis

Up until fairly recently, I had a love-hate relationship with chapattis (or chapatis). I absolutely LOVE eating them, especially when they’re freshly made by my mum, but I used to hate trying to make them myself.

For one, I could never get the dough right because my mum is rubbish at giving proper weights and measures for anything food-related (“Add one spoonful of oil.” “But how big is the spoon?” *shrug*). Secondly, I was TERRIBLE at making them come out completely round. You might think it’s a bit stereotypical, but the scenario with the daughter of Indian immigrants struggling to obtain her mum’s approval due to an ever so slightly wonky chapatti – or something resembling a map of India, in my case – is very much real, folks.

So, what changed? Well, it seems all I had to do was move out of my mum’s house, put together a recipe that made actual sense, and practice, practice, practice.

Chapatti dough

Chapatti dough

First, the dreaded dough. Neither I nor my mum think you can get away with just chapatti flour (or atta, as it’s also called) and water, although this is fairly traditional thinking. The secret to the perfect chapatti is almost certainly the little bit of fat that you add to the dough – a bit of sunflower oil and some sunflower spread rubbed in.

(My mum’s top tip for buying chapatti flour, by the way, is to look for anything with ‘Gold’ in the name, e.g. East End Gold Chapati Atta, to ensure a quality atta. Seriously. I LOVE MY MUM.)

The other key to getting the dough right is to not in any circumstances add too much water. Always, always go slowly when adding it, otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy dough and the vicious circle that is adding flour to counteract the sogginess, then adding water because it’s too dry again, etc etc.

Chickpea curry

Chickpea curry

Once you’ve given the dough a good knead, cover the bowl and leave it to rest while you prepare the curry to eat with your chapattis (assuming you’re going to make a quick vegetarian curry as I usually do, rather than spend hours on a luscious lamb curry). I made my favourite, chickpea curry, when I took these pictures and you can find the recipe for that below along with the chapatti recipe.

Then it’s time to roll out and cook the chapattis while the curry is simmering. The trick is to use plenty of flour in the rolling out process so that the chapatti turns by itself while you’re rolling it out, and to keep adding more flour as soon as it starts to stick. This is something my mum neglected to explain to me, hence my complete inability to turn out anything vaguely round when I was a teenager. It also helps to have a chapatti rolling pin that’s tapered at each end, although it’s not essential.

Chapatti tava

Chapatti tava

Now for the cooking. Again, it helps to have a special chapatti pan called a tava or tawa, but you can get away with a frying pan just fine. Luckily, my mum gave me loads of kitchen equipment when I bought my house, but you can buy Asian equipment at pretty much any large Indian grocer or cash and carry.

First, lay the rolled-out dough on the hot tava…

Chapattis

…then wait until it’s nicely puffed up…

Chapattis

…before flipping it over. The underside should have brown patches, like so:

Chapattis 4

Then all you do is leave to cook for a bit longer before transferring it to a plate:

Chapattis

And that’s it! Smear some butter on the warm chapatis and you’re good to go as soon as you’ve put the finishing touches to your curry.

It seems so simple now but believe me when I say the above pictures are the result of years of struggling to get it right. Luckily, now I’ve found out how to do it you can skip straight to the nice, round chapattis with your curry without the pain!

As it just so happens to be bread week on the Great British Bake Off, I’m submitting this to the Great Blogger Bake Off organised by Laura at I Love Crafty. I expect to be fully upstaged by both the other participating bloggers and the contestants’ amazing bakes on the show tonight!

The recipe – chapattis

Makes 4 (to serve 2 people) – easily doubled

  • 125g chapatti flour, plus extra for rolling out
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 60-70ml warm water
  • 1 tsp sunflower spread (I use Vitalite)
  • butter, to serve

Method:

  1. Stir the salt into the flour, then add the oil and 60ml of the water.
  2. Mix everything together until you get a fairly soft dough. Add more water if needed, but do this a few drops at a time.
  3. Rub the sunflower spread into the dough and knead for a couple of minutes until soft and smooth. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to stand for 15-20 minutes, ideally while you make the curry.
  4. Put the tava or frying pan over a medium-high heat to get very hot.
  5. Split the dough into four equal pieces and roll each one into a ball. Gently flatten each one between your hands to create fat ‘discs’.
  6. Liberally sprinkle the surface with flour and roll the first disc out into a circle, always making sure there’s enough flour to keep it turning by itself under the rolling pin. Make sure the rolled-out dough is evenly thin – you’re looking for a thickness of around 2mm maximum.
  7. Cook the dough circle by placing it on the hot tava, making sure there are no bumps or wrinkles. Leave to cook for 1-2 minutes (roll out another chapatti while you’re at it!) until the top puffs up quite considerably and the underside has brown patches, then flip it over and cook for another minute.
  8. Transfer the chapatti to a plate, place the next dough circle on the tava to cook, and roll out another circle while it’s cooking. Repeat until all the chapattis are done. Spread a little butter over the top of each chapatti and serve with a piping hot curry.

The recipe – chickpea curry

Chickpea curry and chapattis

Serves 2 (easily doubled)

  • 1-2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 0.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 0.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 small white or red onion, chopped
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped (note: I like my curries very hot so you might be better off with half a chilli if you don’t!)
  • a 1-inch cube of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
  • 0.25 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • half a tin of chopped or peeled plum tomatoes (if using the latter, squish them with your fingers to break them up a bit)
  • 0.5 tsp solid jaggery goor (unrefined cane sugar) or 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 400g tinned chickpeas (or red kidney beans or butter beans, or even parboiled chopped potatoes and some frozen peas)
  • a splash of lemon juice
  • 0.5 tsp garam masala
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds.
  2. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the chopped onion and fry gently for a couple of minutes, being careful to not let the seeds burn.
  3. Add the bird’s eye chilli, ginger, garlic, red chilli powder and turmeric and cook – still very gently – for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
  4. Add the tomatoes and jaggery or brown sugar, and simmer for another couple of minutes before adding the chickpeas and covering the pan. Keep on a low simmer while you roll out and cook the chapattis (about 10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the lemon juice and garam masala, stir and then turn off the heat.
  6. Stir in the coriander, season with salt as you see fit, and serve with your nice, round chapattis.

Anzac biscuits

Anzac biscuits

I realised after watching this week’s excellent episode of Great British Bake Off that it’s been a long time since I last made biscuits. I thought I might try a fancy biscuit involving pistachios, but after nearly fainting at the price of a bag of pistachios in my local supermarket, I decided to make do with what I already had in and bake these delightful Anzac biscuits.

Anzac biscuits

Anzac biscuits are so-called because they were made by the wives and girlfriends of Australian and New Zealand troops going off to fight abroad during World War I. Any food sent to the army at that time had to be sturdy enough to withstand the journey while also being able to keep for a long time without spoiling. Add to that the fact that key baking ingredients like eggs were in short supply and you can imagine the conundrum facing the soldiers’ other halves!

Anzac biscuits

Luckily, they came up with this easy recipe for Anzac biscuits, which consists of oats, dessicated coconut, flour, butter, sugar, golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda mixed with a little boiling water. It looks like the recipe I used is pretty much exactly the same as the one that was used during the war, which surprised me as it really is a lovely biscuit and I tend to imagine soldiers’ food as being pretty grim (I’m reading Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks at the moment and the soldiers in the war don’t exactly get well fed).

Anzac biscuits

The method involved mixing together the dry ingredients, stirring the syrup into melted butter, then stirring the bicarbonate of soda and water mixture into the butter and adding the whole lot to the dry mix. Easy! I found that the biscuits were definitely done after 9 minutes on the top shelf of my gas oven. Like most biscuits, they seem quite soft to begin with, but harden once cooled on a wire rack.

Anzac biscuits

The biscuits are extremely delicious thanks to the heavenly combination of oats, coconut and golden syrup. I can imagine that these would have sustained the Anzac troops rather well! In peacetime, the biscuits are lovely as a mid-morning or afternoon treat with a good, strong cup of tea.

The recipe

Can be found on the BBC Good Website here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3803/anzac-biscuits

Ultimate Victoria sponge AKA why the WI is wrong

Victoria sponge with fresh strawberries

I’m the kind of person who easily gets a bee in her bonnet about seemingly small things. People walking slightly too slowly in front of me, misplaced apostrophes, sales assistants who place my change directly on top of the receipt before handing it to me instead of giving me the change and receipt separately… they all annoy me. However, I’m sure we can all agree that cake is NOT a small thing. Especially the matter of how to make a Victoria sponge ‘properly’.

I’ve always made it in what I firmly believe to be the only way you should – two airy sponges sandwiched with something creamy and something fruity (ideally buttercream and strawberry jam respectively, but anything else that’s creamy and fruity is fine). So I was aghast when I learned that the Women’s Institute, that veritable paragon of ‘proper’ baking, tells impressionable bakers who may not know any better to forgo the ‘something creamy’.

I hasten to add that they do this as standard in their recipe, but then add a note saying to use cream on a “special luxurious occasion”. My response to this is…. NO. A Victoria sponge without a lovely layer of creaminess isn’t worth having, special occasion or not. What on earth is meant to offset the airy sponge and sweet fruit if not something creamy? Where’s the FUN?

Victoria sponge with fresh strawberries

Butter. Cream.

I’m not the only one who feels this way – I was heartened to read that Felicity Cloake of the Guardian also agrees with me (and in fact she pretty much sticks her tongue out at the WI by adding double cream to her buttercream), as does Great British Bake Off series 2 winner Edd Kimber. Unfortunately, the unofficial patron saint of British bakers Mary Berry confuses things by posting a cream-free recipe on her website along with a photo of a cake bursting quite rudely with cream.

If anyone has an argument for doing it the WI way, other than the frankly rubbish argument that you consume fewer calories, I’m all ears. But I’ll still do it the right way.

Victoria sponge with fresh strawberries

JUST LOOK AT THE CREAMY JOY

Now that I have my rant out of the way, here’s a Victoria sponge I made recently. I gave it a little twist by adding sliced fresh strawberries to the filling of buttercream and not as much strawberry jam as usual, and it was bloody lovely, even if I do say so myself. It’s just the perfect summer cake and one that’s quite timely if you’re planning to bake it in the next few days, as it just so happens to be National Afternoon Tea Week. That obviously doesn’t matter if you don’t need an excuse to take afternoon tea, like the Queen, who has it daily. And why the hell not?

The recipe

Adapted from this BBC Good Food recipe.

Makes 1 cake that can be cut into 8 or 10 pieces

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

For the buttercream filling (or use whipped double cream):

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 110g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 drops vanilla extract

For the fruit:

  • handful of sliced strawberries (or any other summer berries)
  • 1 tbsp strawberry jam (or any other berry jam)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 5/190C/fan 170C. Grease and line the bases of two 20cm round cake tins.
  2. Put all of the cake ingredients into a big bowl and beat until smooth. That’s it!
  3. Divide the mixture between the two tins and level the tops.
  4. Bake the cakes on the same shelf of the oven, if possible, for 20 minutes or until golden and springy to the touch. Cool the cakes on a wire rack.
  5. Make the buttercream (if using) by beating the icing sugar into the butter a bit at a time, before stirring in the vanilla extract.
  6. Spread half of the buttercream on one side of one of the cooled sponges and press the sliced strawberries into the buttercream.
  7. Spread one side of the other sponge with the jam and top with the remaining buttercream.
  8. Sandwich the two cakes together so that the filling is all in the middle. Sift icing sugar over the top to decorate.

Cherry cheesecake muffins

Cherry cheesecake muffins

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the trend for combining two baked goods to make something new, like the cronut and so on – isn’t it all really just a fad? However, when I discovered a recipe for strawberry cheesecake muffins in my trusty BBC Good Food book a while ago, I knew I was very much onboard with that particular combination! I decided to make them with a few tweaks of my own to accommodate the ingredients I actually had in, resulting in these cherry cheesecake muffins.

Cherry cheesecake muffins

They look pretty innocent on the outside, but bite into one of these beauties and you’ll come across a lovely filling of sweet cream cheese and a fresh cherry. Yum!

Cherry cheesecake muffins 7

They’re really not as hard to make as you might think. Creating a filled muffin simply involves half-filling the muffin cases with the cake mix, dropping the filling on top and then covering it up with the rest of the cake mix.

Cherry cheesecake muffins - mid-preparation

The cherry on top! Or in the middle, technically.

So, for these muffins, I half-filled the cases, placed a destoned cherry in the middle of each one and then covered each cherry with a teaspoon of the cheesecake mix. Then I covered it up with a dollop of muffin mix.

Cherry cheesecake muffins - pre-baking

Ready for the oven…

I did find that the muffins rose so splendidly in the oven that they came out over the edges of the cases. There was no harm done to the oven, but a couple of the muffins did look decidedly toadstool-like!

Cherry cheesecake muffins

Despite this, I was pleased to see that there was no leakage of the cherry cheesecake filling, which is always a bit of a worry. I had one of the muffins the next day with a big cup of tea (the rest were for my boyfriend, as it was his birthday), and thoroughly enjoyed it – the cheese is lovely with the fresh cherry and cakey muffin, and makes a nice change from a traditional cheesecake (which I always struggle to make anyway!) or a standard muffin. If you want to make them look a bit nicer you could always ice them, but I thought they were great just as they were.

Cherry cheesecake muffins

The recipe

Adapted from BBC Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes

Makes 12

For the muffin mix:

  • 350g plain flour
  • 1.5 tbsp baking powder
  • 180g golden caster sugar
  • finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • 85g butter, melted

 

For the filling:

  • 175g soft cheese
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 12 cherries, halved and destoned

 

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas 6/180C fan. Place 12 paper cases in a muffin tin.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the sugar, lemon zest and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together and stir in the butter.
  4. Gently stir the wet mix into the dry ingredients, taking care not to over-mix. It should still be a bit lumpy with visible bits of flour.
  5. In another bowl, beat together the cheese and sugar for the filling.
  6. Place a heaped tablespoonful of the muffin mix into each paper case, then press two cherry halves into the middle of each one and top with a teaspoonful of the cheese mix.
  7. Spoon the remaining muffin mix over the top, making sure that the mix completely covers the cheese and cherries.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then remove them and place onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Adapted from BBC Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes.
Adapted from BBC Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes.

Mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins

Mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins

I fully intended to make some of my favourite courgette and mozzarella muffins for my baking turn for work recently, but had to change my plans slightly when I discovered that the courgettes I had in the fridge were in a less than pleasant condition. After rooting around on the internet, I found a similar courgette-less recipe that adapted to make these mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins.

Mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins

I kept some of the ingredients the same as the courgette version of the muffins, but also added sundried tomatoes and took out some of the ingredients in the recipe I found on the web.

Mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins

The muffins were pretty easy to make and baked to perfection within the stated time. With muffins, the hardest bit is really just making sure you don’t over-stir the mix, otherwise you’ll end up with some hard, dry baked goods!

I found that the amount of sugar stated in the original recipe was way too much, so my recipe below reduces this to just 1 tablespoon. I’ve also upped the amount of chilli and paprika as I couldn’t really taste them (but that may have been due to the sugar!). Overall, though, these were some excellent muffins that I’d make again if I have a craving for savoury muffins but no courgettes to hand.

Mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins

The recipe

Adapted from this recipe

Makes 12

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 250g mozzarella, diced
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 240ml milk

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 6/200C. Place paper cases in a 12-hole muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, chilli flakes, paprika and parsley.
  3. Gently stir in the mozzarella and onion.
  4. In a separate bowl/jug, whisk together the egg and butter, then beat this into the milk.
  5. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mix, being careful not to overmix to prevent the muffins from becoming dry and dense. There should still be some lumps and bits of flour.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cases in the muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes until risen and golden.
  7. Cool the muffins in the tin for 10 minutes, before removing them and placing them on a wire rack to completely cool.