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Banana and Caramel Upside Down Cake

Sweet and Sticky and perfect served warm with ice cream…
Sticky Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch

What a wild weekend, right? Hopefully – wherever you’re reading this from – you escaped the worst of storm Dennis (the Menace). Here in Cardiff we’ve experienced the worst flooding in at least forty years. The Taff was the highest that I’ve ever seen it, Bute Park and Pontcanna Fields became a swamp on Sunday morning, and the water slurped so far beyond its normal level that swans were seen strolling down streets in Grangetown. Thankfully my house is on a hill, but other’s haven’t been nearly as lucky. It’s been a bizarre and sad weekend, and one best spent cosying up indoors with a good book and plenty of cake. Good thing I whipped this baby up on Friday!

I feel like bananas are a bit of a divisive fruit. I know people who will absolutely no way – under no circumstances – go anywhere near them, and then there are those who find them… a’peeling (har de har). I absolutely love them; I’ve always got a few banging around in my fruit bowl – and whether they’re soft and freckled, or practically green, they’re hands down the star of this Caramel and Banana Upside Down Cake. With a sticky, sweet and slightly crisp caramel crust on the outside, the cake itself is moist and crumbly and slightly spiced with cinnamon (and rum, if you’re feeling it!). Topped with sliced bananas, you can scoff it cold, or even better, slightly warmed with either cream, ice cream or custard.

…I know what you’re thinking. “Hey Nia, where’s the rest of the cake?” Well, funny story. Whilst the cake itself is very, very easy to make – you can’t rush it out of the tin (no matter how good it smells!). Which is exactly what I did and I ended up with hot caramel all over my kitchen counter. Oops. Do yourself a favour; leave the cake to completely cool in the tin before you turn it out and flip it onto a plate. 😉

Sticky Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Bloggers

Sticky Banana Upside Down Cake

Ingredients

For the Banana Caramel Topping:

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 90g butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 large bananas sliced lengthways

For the Cake:

  • 150g self raising flour
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g softened butter
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 150ml yogurt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 100ml dark rum (optional)
Sticky Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Welsh Bloggers
Method
  1. Set your oven to 170C. Lightly grease a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin.
  2. To make the caramel, gently heat together the butter, dark muscovado sugar and caster sugar (don’t stir yet!) until melted and combined. Stir in the vanilla bean paste. Pour a little into the bottom of your cake tin, then arrange the bananas (sliced side down) on top. Pour in the rest of the caramel.
  3. To make the cake, cream together the butter and sugar, then stir in the whisked eggs. Sift together the flour, salt and cinnamon, then pour it into the bowl and mix with the butter and sugar. Finally stir in the yogurt (and rum).
  4. Pour the cake batter into the tin on top of the caramel and bananas, then bake for 50 minutes (or until an inserted skewer comes out clean).
  5. Important bit! Lightly run a knife around the edge of the cake, and then leave the cake in the tin to cool (if you release it from the tin at this point then the whole thing will collapse and spew molten caramel EVERYWHERE… Speaking from experience!).
  6. Once the cake has completely cooled, turn it out onto a plate with the bananas and caramel facing up. Serve with cream, custard (or ice cream!).
Sticky Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Food Blogger

Have a great week! 🍌🍌🍌

5 Things I've Been Loving Lately

My January and February Favourites, from books, to food, to TV…
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It’s been a while since I’ve done a bit of a round up of all the things I’ve been enjoying lately – and what better day to show a little love for my daily loves than on Valentines Day? I mentioned in this post that I enjoyed a very slow, quiet January of self care and gratitude for the little things that make me smile every day, and February has started in much the same way… just with a few more plans scribbled into the ol’ diary and goals for the year ahead. I saw a meme going around saying that January 2020 was a free trial month – well, now I’m officially subscribed and ready to go. Anyway, here are a few things that I’ve been really enjoying lately. 🙂

Pho Cardiff - The Cardiff Cwtch

Pho

I can thank my husband for this one. We’re both big fans of Asian Food – ramen in particular – and a few weeks ago he stumbled into Pho looking for something different to take back to the office for his lunch. He came home that night gushing about the bowl of awesome sauce that he ended up slurping down at his desk, insisting that I had to try it – and that I’d love it more than Ramen. Challenge accepted.

If you’ve never tried Pho before (pronounced “Fuh”), then it’s basically a Vietnamese Noodle Soup with lots of fresh herbs and vegetables including bean sprouts and coriander. It is a lot like Ramen, but it’s lighter and fresher.

Anyway, we popped to Pho on a date night, I ordered the Spicy Chicken Pho and – whaddya know? – I did love it. And now I’m obsessed. I had a craving for it the other night and picked up one of the Blue Dragon Pho Meal Kits and it was a pretty good dupe for what I had at Pho.

Pho Cardiff - The Cardiff Cwtch - Spicy Chicken
Les Parisiennes - Anne Sebba - The Cardiff Cwtch

Parisiennes

You guys know how much I love Women’s History – my shelves are packed full of biographies about History’s most badass babes – and early in January I ended up watching Inglorious Basterds for the hundredth time (I’m also a big Tarrantino fan FYI) and kind of fell down a French Resistance hole. I picked up “Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s” by Anne Sebba to read up a little bit of what it was like for the women of Paris under the Nazi Occupation during World War 2, and so far it’s been a really interesting read. Lots of stories of survival and bravery – as well an interesting dive into why women chose to collaborate with the Germans. I’ve nearly finished reading, if you want a full review, let me know in the comments.

Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base

I feel like I kind of escaped the dreaded winter skin until recently. It’s been a really mild winter until the past couple of weeks where the weather’s been a bit whacky, and in terms of my skin? Everything suddenly started to dry out and give up. (Thank God for the Elemis Facial I had last week!) I’ve had to double down on hand creams, lip balms – and I’ve even had to fish out the old anti-dandruff shampoo. But in terms of my face, I’m actually doing okay – and I think that’s all down to this tub of magic.

I mentioned the Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base in my Best of the Decade Skincare post – I had a small tester of the stuff after picking it up at a Bobbi Brown Makeup Masterclass last year, and completely fell in love with it. A couple of weeks ago I decided that I couldn’t live without it and bought a tub of the stuff. It’s gorgeous stuff. It smells like grapefruit, smooths on over my usual moisturizer, and as well as sinking into the skin quickly and creating the perfect base for my makeup (and a lot more staying power), it also provides an extra boost of moisture. Also, you don’t need a lot of it – a small blob goes a long way!

Patriot

I don’t know about you, but I’ve kind of been stuck in TV limbo recently – there’s been absolutely nothing to watch. Vikings is limping towards its finale (it’s just not as good as it used to be), I’m patiently waiting for the new season of Outlander to start (can’t wait!), and for Westworld to return… but in the mean time, it’s been slim pickings. And that’s meant that Sunny and I have been spending night after night of scrolling through the TV Guide/Prime/Netflix trying to find something – anything!- to watch. PAINFUL. And then we stumbled on Patriot. No, not the cheesy Mel Gibson flick.

Patriot is unlike anything I’ve ever watched. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s weird – and those are all boxes I like ticked when it comes to TV. The series follows John, who works off the books for the Government (for his Dad) as a spy. He’s asked to get a job for a company that send their employees overseas to sell piping in order to prevent some kind of arms deal with Iran (…or something, I’m a bit sketchy on the deets). But John’s father uses him like a machine when all John really wants to do is sing country music (he writes his own songs which often feature sensitive spying info). Anyway, he gets into all kinds of sticky situations having to pretend to be an employee of a pipe company (most notably from the bloke he pushed under a car in order to steal the job from him in the first place…!), all the while continuing to work as a spy. Definitely worth a look if you fancy something a bit different.

Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Bungle the Golden Catch

Morning Walks

Simple, but probably my favourite daily love at the moment: taking Bungle into the field for his morning walk. Until recently, Sunny and I have been walking him on the lead around our village – which is fine for Sunny, but not so much for me because Bungle just doesn’t behave on the lead. He pulls, he lies down, he humps… it’s a struggle. Anyway, just before Christmas Bungle put on a few pounds and so we decided that he needed to run a bit more, rather than just settle for a stomp around the block. I’ve been taking him in the field to run off the lead every morning and – as well as being far easier – it’s quite possibly one of my favourite parts of the day. Bungle loves it, I love it – and we’ve scored some pretty funny burst shots out of it to boot! 🙂

Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Bungle the Golden Catch Fetch

Happy Friday, guys! Enjoy the Valentines Day weekend whatever you’re up to! ♥

Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes

Dinky, delicious… and downright dangerous.
Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes - Valentines Day Bakes - The Cardiff Cwtch

Valentines Day, Galentines Day… Love Yo’self Day… whichever one of the above you celebrate, the week of looooooove is upon us once again. Sunny and I actually celebrated a couple of weeks ago (here in Wales we celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day instead on the 25th of January) – so I’m totally free this Friday to celebrate the other loves in my life – and that includes myself. I’ve got a hot date with a bathtub, some gin and a good book, and I cannot wait. I’ve also got at least one of these Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes still bashing around in the fridge; I’ve been saving it to scoff during my soak. 😉

I feel like my go-to for a homemade Valentines Day treat always involves a pack of Blood Oranges. It’s kind of becoming a tradition. Last year I made Blood Orange Curd, as well as this Heart Shaped Blood Orange Upside Down Cake. And who could forget those Blood Orange-Glazed Doughnuts I made the year before that? I think they’re quite possibly my all time favourite.  Part of the reason I pick them is because they just happen to be in season this time of year – they’re definitely one of my favourite things to spot in the supermarket during January – but they also happen to be my favourite citrus fruit because I usually find that they’re sweeter and juicier than your bog standard orange. Oh, and lastly, they’re pink, and they’re pretty to look at and photograph. Duh.

These miniature cheesecakes are a bit of a throwback to the horrendously 80s cheesecake that my Mum and Dad used to buy down the freezer aisle when I was a kid (…and they still do to this day). You know, the one with the bright orange jelly and tangerine segments on top? The parts are all there, I’ve just shrunk it down to cupcake size and given it a bit of a face-lift. The base is made from blitzed Biscoff biscuits, the creamy, baked cheesecake filling has that slightly tangy New York Cheesecake flavour, and then it’s all topped off with a vegetarian blood orange jelly and a candied blood orange segment. They’re really easy to make and are a sweet way of treating your favourite people this Valentines Day.

Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes - Easy Cheesecake Recipes - The Cardiff Cwtch

Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes

Makes 10
Ingredients

For the Cheesecakes:

  • 24 Biscoff biscuits (around 180g)
  • 30g melted butter
  • 360g full fat cream cheese
  • 70g sour cream
  • 110g caster sugar
  • zest of one blood orange
  • 2 eggs, whisked

For the jelly:

  • juice of one blood orange (about 100ml)
  • 200ml cold water
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 sachet of veggie gel

For the candied Blood Orange segments:

  • 1 blood orange, thinly sliced
  • 200ml water
  • 200ml caster sugar
Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes - Cheesecake Cupcakes - The Cardiff Cwtch
Method
  1. Grab a muffin tray and line it with ten muffin cases. Heat your oven to 180°C (fan).
  2. First, make the cheesecake base: blitz your biscuits in a food processor until they’re soft and grainy (…and look a lot like sand!). Stir in the melted butter, and then spoon a little bit of the mixture into each muffin case. Gently press down to a create a level base. Make sure you don’t pack it down too much or your base is going to be hard when it sets. You want it to crumble a little.
  3. To make the creamy cheesecake filling, whisk together the cream cheese, sour cream, caster sugar, eggs and blood orange zest. You want an airy, smooth texture (no lumps!); the smoother it is, the creamier the cheesecake. Divide that mixture equally between the muffin cases, and then bake for 20 minutes. The cheesecakes will puff and rise in the oven, and they’ll probably crack a little. You’ll know they’re done when they start to tan a little on top. Leave them in the muffin tray in their cases to cool.
  4. While your cheesecakes are cooling, make the candied blood orange segments. Sounds difficult, but it’s actually really easy. First, grab a deep saucepan, pop your sliced blood orange segments into it and then cover them with water. Bring them to the boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes until the peel goes soft. Remove the blood orange segments and pop them in a bowl of cold water. Don’t throw away the water in the saucepan – it’s packed full of juice and you’re going to use it to make the syrup. Measure 200ml of that juice and then pour it back in the saucepan with the caster sugar. Dissolve the sugar on a low heat, and then pop the blood orange segments in. Allow them to simmer on a low heat in the syrup for 30 minutes – turning them occasionally to coat both sides. Once done, fish them out and then leave them to cool on a piece of baking paper.
  5. Once your cheesecakes have cooled completely, make the jelly. Again, not as tricky as it sounds! Combine your blood orange juice and 200ml of cold water. Stir in the caster sugar until it dissolves, and then do the same with the veggie gel (watch out for lumps!). Pour the mixture into a saucepan and bring it to the boil – and then divide it between your cheesecake cups. Top each one with a candied blood orange slice.
  6. Put the cheesecakes in the fridge to set and cool for at least 2 hours before scoffing. 😉
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Have a lovely week!

Thursday Through My Camera Roll

Fog, a Facial and Frank’s…
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Even though I absolutely love my old Nikon DSLR Camera (it’s almost ten years old and still going strong), sometimes you just can’t beat the off-the-cuff candids lurking on the ol’ mobile phone camera roll. That’s where real life happens, right? All the snaps that never make it onto Instagram, never fling back and forth via Whatsapp and just end up cluttering your camera roll for all eternity. So, I thought I’d unleash them and show you the kind of behind the scenes snaps that get saved into my camera roll on the daily. These are all from yesterday, which started off with a very foggy walk in the field with Bungle.

The light was kind of eerie up there, and whereas usually there’s a great view over Cardiff Bay, yesterday I could barely see a couple of feet in front of me. Bungle stayed close, got very muddy (as usual), and was happy to pose for a photo as the sun started burning through the fog.

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By the time I got dressed and headed into town (leaving Bungle fast asleep on the sofa…) the sun was out and it had turned into one of those perfect crisp and clear winter mornings. Every hometown looks stunning in the sunshine, but Cardiff especially 😉

I parked the car and headed off to Elemis for a facial. I’ve had some items gifted to me from Elemis in the past and have absolutely loved pretty much everything I’ve tried (especially their Peptide Thousand Flower Mask) – so my Mum and Dad booked me a facial for my birthday back in November. I saved it up, knowing I’d probably need it by the end of January and I was right! I had the Superfood Facial Treatment (with products from their Superfood and Pro-Collagen Range) and and it was absolutely lush. My skin felt glowy and glorious afterwards. 🙂

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Fresh out of my facial I killed a bit of time in Oliver Bonas and quite fancied this book by Felicity Cloake about her culinary journey around France via bike. It’s going straight to the top of my reading list once I’ve finished the books I had for Christmas…

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Next, I headed to Cardiff Market and met up with Sunny for a bit of lunch. We went to Franks for proper hotdogs. HOW is it possible that there’s been a hotdog joint in Cardiff for two months and I’m only now getting around to visiting it??? Everyone who knows me knows that I bloody love a hotdog – the filthier the better – and Franks was absolutely well worth the wait. Franks dogs are juicy, generous and downright delicious – and I should probably add that they’re only filthy in so far as that I added to my Elemis facial with a fresh layer of ketchup round my chops (yum yum) because they’re all made with outdoor-reared pork (they also have a vegan dog on the menu). Hands down, the best hotdog I’ve had in a loooooong time – and it’s really good to know that I can finally scratch that hotdog itch I get every week so often.

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Waved goodbye to Sunny and then headed back home (via Bakestones) to take Bungle out for his lunchtime walk. We did another lap around his favourite field (in the sunshine this time!) and then came in for a cup of tea and a couple of lemon curd Welshcakes (soooo good!) from the Bakestones ladies in Cardiff Market.

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My favourite tree on the evening dog walk is starting to blossom – finally! Feels like spring is just around the corner (even though it’s forecast to drizzle all weekend here in Cardiff – gross 😦). Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Cheat's Sourdough Pizza

Mamma mia! No more faffing around with sourdough starters – just soft and chewy (and scoffable) pizza in a snap…
Cheat's Sourdough Pizza - The Cardiff Cwtch

Look, you can chuck whatever the hell you want on top of a pizza – pineapples, mushrooms or just plain old cheese and tomato, it doesn’t bother me – it’s the base that’s always been the deal breaker for me. It’s got to be thin and slightly crisp underneath (if you’re one of those people who are partial to deep dish then you can just go ahead and let yourself out right now). It’s got to be evenly cooked all the way through (how many times have I made pizza at home only to end up with a soggy middle?). And lastly, the crust has got to be soft and chewy – the archetype for a good sourdough pizza. The best sourdough pizza I’ve ever eaten was at Franco Manca back when I lived in London. Sunny dragged me to this tiny canteen in Brixton, shoved a menu under my nose and then quietly informed me that no other pizza would ever compare to what I was about to eat. And he was right. If you’ve ever been to Franco Manca then you’ll know they’ve got quite a small and specific menu; it’s all about stripping pizza back, using only top quality ingredients and instead of doing lots of different flavours and toppings pretty well – they do only three or four, but do them to perfection. And the sourdough base? Oh lordy.

Since then (and since moving far away from Franco Manca…) I’ve been desperately trying to come up with a sourdough pizza dupe that I can make at home. Trouble is, it’s near impossible to replicate that soft and chewy texture and crisp underside without a proper pizza oven. Still, I wanted to see if I could find a way around that slight handicap. I’ve tried sourdough starters (too much faff), I’ve tried pizza stones, I’ve tried about fifty different doughs, and I have stretched and tossed (behave) until my arms have ached… Have I ever come anywhere close to replicating that pillowy soft vehicle for cheese and tomato? Have I heck. Until now! It’s pretty damn close, and pretty damn good. Even better, it doesn’t involve keeping a jar of flour, water and yeast alive for at least a week beforehand (I mean I have a dog, I don’t need another pet to feed), nor does it require any vigorous stretching or acrobatic throwing. Just some light kneading, an hour to prove and that’s it. Part cook it on a hot skillet to crisp up the base, and then finish it off under the grill. Easy. 🙂

Sourdough Pizza without a Sourdough Starter - The Cardiff Cwtch

Cheat’s Sourdough Pizza

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 tsp dried active yeast*
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 75ml warm water
  • 200ml warm semi skimmed milk
  • 150ml plain yogurt
  • 50ml sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • olive oil

*make sure you use dried active yeast instead of instant yeast for this recipe – it creates a softer, chewier dough with a better rise.

For the toppings:

  • Tomato Passata
  • Mozzarella
  • Handful of chopped basil leaves
Easy Sourdough Pizza - No Sourdough Starter - The Cardiff Cwtch - Chewy Pizza Base
Method
  1. Pour the warm water and honey into a large mixing bowl, and then stir in the yeast. Leave the yeast to activate for ten minutes (you should start to see tiny pin-prick bubbles across the surface of the water or a slight brown foam when it’s ready).
  2. Next, stir in the warm milk, yogurt, sour cream, salt and flour. Stir together to create a sticky (very sticky!) dough. Oil your hands with some of the olive oil, then turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. It’ll be sticky, it’ll be messy – but persevere with it, it’ll be worth it in the end!
  3. Pop the dough into a lightly oil bowl, cover with clingfilm, and then leave somewhere warm for an hour until doubled in size.
  4. Split the dough (this recipe creates plenty of it, so wrap tightly whatever you’re not going to use with clingfilm and stick it in the fridge) and then turn it out onto a floured surface. No need to stretch it or work it, just roll it out thinly into whatever shape of pizza you’re going for.
  5. Heat up a frying pan, or flat skillet until it’s burning hot. Lightly brush one side of the pizza with olive oil, then place face down onto the frying pan. Heat for a couple of minutes on one side, and then lightly brush with oil and flip it. You’ll know when to flip because bubbles will start to rise on the surface of the dough as it cooks. Cook for no more than a minute and then take it off the heat.
  6. Spread the tomato passata across the bubbled side of the pizza, followed by the mozzarella (as well as whatever other toppings you fancy), then cook it under the grill in the oven for about 3-5 minutes until the cheese starts to bubble. Sprinkle with basil, then scoff!

Have a lovely week! 🍕🍕🍕