Parisian Hot Chocolate – “Chocolat Chaud”

“YO YO, make yourself a wicked cup of COCOA…”

Happy first of November! I don’t know about you – and I’ve definitely seen a few people talking about it over on Twitter and Instagram – but as soon as the clocks go back and Halloween hits, it feels like time suddenly puts pedal to the metal and zooms right on through all the celebrations from now until the New Year. We don’t get a break! Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving (if you’re American), Christmas, New Year – bam, bam, bam! There are loads of birthdays in my family this time of year too – from my husband (who’s hitting a ripe old age tomorrow) to my brother, and then on to me! Oh, and then there’s the General Election (*groan* and that’s about as much as I’m going to comment about it on here). With all that rushing around in the weeks ahead, it’s definitely important to steal a few quiet moments when you can just to chill and stop your head spinning for a bit. And my preferred method is definitely stealing away with a slab of chocolate, a hot drink and a good book or magazine.

While I’m most definitely a tea fanatic, I do love the odd hot chocolate this time of year – and usually in the evening. But let’s be clear, we’re not talking about the powdered stuff you reach for in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep – the stuff we’re talking about is made with real chocolate and is basically the great granddaughter of the so-called “Drink of the Gods” that all the nobility were obsessed with in the 18th century.  It was brought over to Europe by the Spanish Conquistador Cortés and it became so popular so quickly (once they’d sweetened it with a little sugar) that it was even served up during the auto-da-fé of the Spanish Inquisition, and women became so obsessed with it that they insisted on swigging it during church! Lots of those Spanish noblewomen ended up marrying French noblemen and so the obsession spread. Parisian Hot Chocolate (“Chocolat Chaud”) is much thicker, and much richer than your regular cup of cocoa (yo yo), and pours into the cup like lava. It’s literally melted chocolate that you can drink. It’s so easy to make; too easy in fact, especially given that the traditional recipe calls for both whole milk and double cream before you even get around to adding in the chocolate. My recipe is a slightly skinnier version and uses just three ingredients, but it’s just as dreamy as the original and makes enough for two large cups (or four small taster cups). Even better, flask it up and take it along with you on bonfire night! Once you’ve cracked the base recipe, you can get creative adding flavoured syrups and spices – or even give it a go using different types of chocolate. 🙂

Parisian Hot Chocolate – “Chocolat Chaud”

You’ll never drink the instant stuff again (and you’re going to hate me for it)…
Ingredients
  • 450ml skimmed milk
  • 150ml double cream
  • 150g of whatever chocolate you fancy (I really like Dark Milk Chocolate for this recipe; it’s got a higher cocoa content and so isn’t too sweet, but still has that creamy taste you’d expect from a bar of milk chocolate.)
  • Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if you’re feeling fancy – or just enjoy as is.
Method
  1. This recipe is so easy it should be criminal. First, pour the skimmed milk and double cream into a saucepan and then crank up the heat, stirring gently until you start to see small bubbles forming around the outside. Whatever you do, you don’t want the mixture to boil – so as soon as you start to see those bubbles, turn the heat down as low as you can.
  2. Next, throw in your chocolate and stir until it’s completely melted into the milk and cream mixture.
  3. Pour into cups and enjoy! It’s that easy! 😉

Have a cosy weekend guys, it’s going to be a gloomy one! 🙂

5 “Fakeaways” to try This Week

Did somebody say “Just… Make it Yourself”? Oooooh!
5 Easy Fakeaway Recipes - The Cardiff Cwtch

Alright, alright – I know that trudging off to the kitchen and just cooking something yourself kind of defeats the whole object of a Takeaway, but y’know what, sometimes there’s the rare evening where you really fancy takeaway food but just don’t want to fork out for delivery (…because *maybe* you forked out on a brand new silk shirt earlier in the week – naming no names, itwasme). Maybe you planned for a takeaway, but – boo – it’s that one day of the week where your local’s closed. Maybe you’re on a healthy eating kick and the thought of the obligatory oil slick at the bottom of an Indian takeaway pot puts you just a little bit on edge. Or, maybe you just fancy cooking something from scratch. Hey, it can happen!

You can’t beat a well-timed Takeaway, but then again, a quick and easy homemade dupe – a “Fakeaway” – can be just as satisfying. With that in mind, I’ve trawled the archives to find five of my favourite homemade takeaway dupes, most of which can be whipped up pronto tonto using ingredients bashing around in the back of your cupboard or the bottom of your freezer using a few nifty shortcuts. No delivery charges, no grease. Noice! 🙂

Cheat’s Mango Chicken

Easy Mango Chicken Fakeaway Recipe - The Cardiff Cwtch

I think this quick and easy recipe for Mango Chicken has to be top of the pops (in my book, anyway) when it comes to a good Fakeaway. If you’ve got twenty minutes to spare, some frozen chicken nuggets and a jar of mango chutney banging around at the back of your cupboard, then you’re sorted. Sweet, sticky and oh so satisfying, give it a glow-up with some diced, fresh mango and sliced green onions – and you can even swap out the chicken nuggets for quorn or battered cod if you’re so inclined. Yum!

Easy Green Thai Noodle Soup

Green Thai Noodle Soup - Homemade Takeaway Recipes - The Cardiff Cwtch

Do you remember those cheapo packets of instant noodles from the supermarket? The basic ones that came with a little flavour sachet in either chicken, vegetable or curry flavour? I used to be absolutely obsessed with them when I was in sixth form (many, many years ago when I knew how to cook instant noodles, scrambled egg and that was about it – good times!) – they cost about 30p a pack (back then!) and made such a quick and easy lunch. Well, believe it or not, they’re the star of this show. The flavour sachet makes a cracking base stock for this Green Thai Noodle Soup, along with a can of coconut milk and Thai Green Curry Paste. Thow in some spring greens and a few sliced mushrooms, and you’re done!

Korean Chicken Dak-Galbi

Easy Homemade Korean Takeaway - Stripped Back Simple Dak Galbi - The Cardiff Cwtch

I’m still very much a beginner when it comes to Korean Food, but what I’ve tried so far I absolutely love – and if you’re a fan of chilli-based Asian food then I’m sure you will too. Dak-Galbi is basically Korean Pub Food. You’ll need to get your hands on a jar of Gochujang Chilli Paste (usually to be found on Amazon) which makes up a big part of the sweet and spicy sauce, but everything else is pretty simple and creates a cracking mid-week recipe to pull out of the bag for whenever you fancy a stir-fry that’s a little bit different.

Spicy Singapore Noodles

Takeaway at Home Recipes - Easy Singapore Noodles Recipe - The Cardiff Cwtch

I can’t order a Chinese Takeaway without a super spicy serving of Singapore Noodles making the list. For me, the bright yellow, curried vermicelli is a must-order, and even better blitzed in the microwave for lunch the following day. It’s such a favourite of mine that I had to learn how to make it myself. As long as you’ve got a pack of dried noodles (rice are obviously best, but use whatever you’ve got/fancy), some curry powder, rice wine and soy sauce then you can whip up the marinade in no time. In terms of veg and meat (or no meat), it’s entirely up to you what you throw into the wok. A great recipe for making using of what you’ve got.

Sticky Honey Chicken

Fabulous Fakeaways - Sticky Honey Chicken - The Cardiff Cwtch

Here’s a new way to scoff the classic chicken dipper (although this recipe would be just as good with quorn or, hey, even some diced halloumi would work well). The hardest part of this recipe for Sticky Honey Chicken is whipping up the sauce – but even that’s a doddle, and can be made ahead of time using a few bottled ingredients in your cupboard. Once the chicken and rice are cooked, it takes less than ten minutes to put together – the perfect Fakeaway solution to a Monday night in!

Let me know what your favourite takeaway (or Fakeaway!) meal is in the comments below – I’m always looking for new recipes to try out! Have a great week! 🙂

Sticky Apple-filled Cinnamon Buns

“My Anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon…”
Easy Apple Cinnamon Buns - The Cardiff Cwtch

So, I’ve gotten a bit obsessed with Conspiracy Theory Podcasts. I know, I know! See, my favourite women’s history podcast (Queens, in case you’re wondering – it’s completely brilliant) is kind of between episodes at the moment and so I went hunting for something else to listen to on the morning dog walk (read: muddy trudge in the drizzle to the local park). I found an episode about Amelia Earhart and conspiracy theories concerning her disappearance (THE WOMAN JUST VANISHED) and woops! I kind of fell down a hole. But you know what? They’re kind of perfect listening for gloomy Autumn days and even darker nights in. A bit of history, a lot of mystery… and, sometimes – yeah – a heavy helping of nonsense.

But what do Conspiracy Theory Podcasts have to do Cinnamon Buns, I hear you asking. Absolutely nothing. Except for the fact that they seem to be soundtracking most of my cooking and baking at the moment. For example, as I was baking these very sticky buns the other day, I was listening to a couple of episodes talking about how the Sugar Industry for a long time secretly fiddled scientific studies to throw the blame on fat for Heart Disease instead of sugar. If you’ve got any recommendations on podcasts, I’d love to hear them; I’m always looking for something new to listen to in between episodes of The High Low and Queens. 🙂

Anyway, Cinnamon Buns! I mentioned last week that I’m a big fan of sticky buns in all their forms, but the cinnamon variety are a favourite of mine – especially this time of year. I usually pick up one on my weekly shop as a treat to scoff with a cup of tea when I get back, but I hadn’t quite cracked making them myself. Historically, I’m not the best at baking bread; I’m impatient when it comes to kneading the dough, and even though I’ve got a bread maker to do all the hard work for me – the instant yeast it requires never really creates the pillow-soft dough I’m after. Then last year I started experimenting with Dried Active Yeast and had a bit of a breakthrough on the whole process of making homemade bread when I made this Halloumi Loaf (HEAVEN). Having got the knack of kneading and proving, I moved straight on to buns and finally managed to put together an easy Cinnamon Bun recipe that worked (thanks to The Guardian Food How-To section – always a great place to start when you’re looking to develop your own twist on a classic recipe). A sweet, springy dough perfect for rolling around the sticky cinnamon filling. These doughy buns however, are a little bit extra thanks to the added apple – an easy addition that gives the buns a little something special. Top with whatever topping you fancy – whether that’s cream cheese frosting, sugar glaze, or the cinnamon-spiced icing I went for here – and scoff ideally within a couple of days. As with most homemade bakes, they’re best scoffed fresh out of the oven. 🙂

Apple filled Cinnamon Rolls easy - The Cardiff Cwtch

Sticky Apple-filled Cinnamon Buns

Sticky, doughy and full of cinnamon-spiced apple pie filling. What’s not to like?
Ingredients
  •  3 apples (any variety you fancy)
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 300 ml whole milk
  • 15g dried active yeast
  • 50g melted butter (cooled)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 420g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Cinnamon Rolls with Apple Pie Filling - The Cardiff Cwtch
Method
  1. First things first, make the filling. Peel and finely chop the apples – then boil them in water for about 20 minutes, until they’re soft. Get rid of the water, then mash them. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon, then set aside and leave to cool.
  2. Gently bring the milk to the boil with the ground cardamom. Pour into a mixing bowl, leave it to cool slightly (down to about 37°C) and then sprinkle in the yeast. Put the bowl somewhere warm (I like to pop mine in the airing cupboard!) until the yeast has dissolved and activated (you should see some bubbles or foam forming over the surface of the milk).
  3. Next, stir in the melted butter, sugar and egg.
  4. Gradually pour in the flour and salt, mixing together to make a sticky dough.
  5. Next, knead the dough. If you’ve got a fancy dough hook on your mixer, use that – if not, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves to get to work. I don’t like to add anymore flour, so the dough will be really sticky and impossible to work with at first – but stick at it (stick being the operative word!) and slowly everything will come together to create a smooth, pliable, stretchy dough.
  6. Pop it into a clean, lightly-greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and then leave the dough to double in size in a warm place for about an hour.
  7. Set the oven to 200°C.
  8. Next, roll out the dough into a rectangle about a centimetre thick – then spread with the apple filling. Roll it tightly into a sausage shape, then cut into six equally sized buns. Place the buns into a lined, deep baking tray. Bake for 25 minutes until well-risen and golden, then leave to cool.
  9. Top with cream cheese frosting or icing, then scoff! 🙂
Easy Cinnamon Bun Recipe with Apple Filling - The Cardiff Cwtch

Happy Friday everyone! 💛

Laundry Room Makeover

Spaghetti Stain Removals, but make it stylish…
Laundry Room Makeover - The Cardiff Cwtch

Well hey, it’s been a long time since I’ve done an interiors post here on the blog. A looooong time. What can I say? We got a bit… lazy. You know how it goes, you move into a new house, embark on a sort of decorating blitzkrieg – hitting one room after the next – and then you sit on it and enjoy it for a while… and then bam! Two years fly by, everything goes a bit stale and there’s still a massive hole in the wall where your puppy (who’s now no longer a puppy) charged into it at full-zoomies miles per hour (it’s on the to-do list, okay?). When we first moved in, there were rooms that we didn’t really feel the need to decorate, and so we kind of just accepted them for how they were and let them just… be for a while. Now they’re looking a bit stale and a bit boring compared to the rest of the house, and so when Sunny and I got back from Florida we made a new decorating to-do list and decided on a few rooms that we fancied giving a bit of a makeover. 🙂

Our Utility Room (/ Laundry Room / Mud Room) is straight off the kitchen and even though we use it every single day as access to our back garden, for washing clothes and sorting out Bungle when he’s come in from a muddy walk – it’s been looking more than a bit neglected. When Bungle entered our lives almost three years ago, it immediately became his space. It became his everything room, from his bed and dining room, to – oh yes – his toilet (before we finally nailed the toilet training – phew!) – and as a result the whole room started to look a bit bruised and battered. The floor was grubby, the skirting boards were muddy and the walls especially were in a right state; when Bungle learned how to open doors, he started clawing at the wall. The room literally went to the dogs (or rather, dog). Now that he’s (mostly) better behaved, we decided to give the room a fresh coat of paint and turn it from purely functional, to pretty damn snazzy!

Utility Room Makeover - The Cardiff CwtchLaundry Room Accessories - The Cardiff Cwtch

We had these large, grey metro tiles from Tops Tiles put in about a year ago when we tiled the kitchen, and I absolutely love them! They match perfectly with the grey work surface we chose when we first moved in, and look great next to the brand new (very moody) wall colour. We knew we wanted to go grey, but didn’t really anticipate going as dark as we did! The shade is called Sooty Lashes (I love it! Who comes up with paint names? What a job!) and is by Valspar at B&Q.  The pictures are actually really, really old; we bought them for the kitchen in our first flat in London and they had to come with us when we moved.  They’ll always remind me of that pokey little kitchen overlooking the muddy Thames. 🙂

I picked up the washing powder jar from IKEA’s 365 Kitchen Storage Range. Before we were using a plain plastic tupperware pot which not only looked a bit naff, but was really messy. Now I can actually keep my washing powder and liquid out on the surface for easy access!

Mud Room Dog Bed - The Cardiff CwtchLaundry Room Dog Bed

Even though Bungle sleeps upstairs on our bed now, the Utility Room is still his bedroom really, and he does like to trot off and take a nap there with “Bald Lion” (his favourite toy) whenever he’s feeling a bit antisocial or nervous. It’s his “safe space”. The gap under the counter is actually for a Tumble Dryer, but – since we don’t own one – it’s the perfect place for Bungle’s dog bed and blanket. I’ve got a basket on the counter piled with fresh blankets and towels that are just for him and are easy to access whenever we need to wipe off his muddy paws. The rug (old, from H&M Home) gives the floor a little bit more protection and makes the room just a little bit cosier for him. 🙂

Utility Room Dog Bed - The Cardiff CwtchUtility Room Decor Ideas - The Cardiff CwtchMud Room Decor Ideas - The Cardiff Cwtch

What do you think? Sunny’s been saying for a while that we need to bite the bullet and get a tumble dryer – but I’m pushing back as hard as I can because I don’t want to turf Bungle out of his den! 🙂 Have a lovely week!

10 Autumn Bakes to try This Weekend

Ten banging bakes to fuel you through a soggy Sunday on the sofa…

Batter up! Because, is there anything better than a Baking Day? Don’t answer that; the truth is that most of the time there are plenty of things I’d rather be doing than holing up in the kitchen spilling flour all over the countertops. Autumn is the exception; as soon as those leaves start falling, it’s all I want to do. It’s probably down to the weather. I mean, we’ve swapped those long summer weekends spent out and about in beer gardens and on beaches, with cold and gloomy ones where staying in and dragging the duvet downstairs onto the sofa becomes the best offer on the table. And those are the weekends I’m living for right now. Marathon lie ins followed by lazy breakfasts (check out some of my favourite brunch recipes here) and a day spent pottering about the house. Slowly crossing things off the “To Do” list in between ticking things off the “To Watch” list and baking something sweet and satisfying to curl up with a cuppa and scoff later. 

I’ve done a bit of digging through the archives and picked out some of my favourite guaranteed cosy cakes, breads and bakes to make a list of 10 Autumn Baking Ideas that are perfect for one of those lazy Autumn weekends spent indoors. This one’s set to be a washout (again, ugh!), and so whether you’re planning on a full on Baking Day or just fancy passing the time with a bit of boredom baking, why not give one of these babies a try? 🙂

Orange and Nutella Babka

I’d never heard of the utter genius that is the Babka until this time last year when they seemed to be all over social media. Stuck somewhere between cake and bread, they’re basically a pillowy, sweet dough that’s rolled with any kind of filling you fancy – from chocolate to the oh so Autumnal apple and cinnamon – and then twisted and knotted before throwing it into the baking tin, giving it it’s trademark swirls.

I’m playing around with another Babka Recipe as we speak, but for now here’s last year’s Nutella and Orange-spiced offering.

Apple Pie Cake

If you want to know what I’m up to this weekend, then here’s your answer. I’ve got a mate coming to stay and my parents popping over for a Sunday roast and so one of these Apple Pie Cakes will be going in the oven tonight. If you’re bored of bog-standard apple pies and crumbles, then this is the bake you’ve been waiting for. Sweet, cinnamon-spiced apple pie mix swirled on top of a beautifully moist buttermilk sponge, it’s quite possibly my favourite cake EVER; it’s easy to make and delicious scoffed with custard, double cream or ice cream (or even by itself!). Save now, thank me later.

Biscoff Buns

I’m a total bun-head; I love iced buns, sticky buns, cinnamon buns… My anaconda don’t want none, unless you got buns hun. Especially cinnamon buns. Phwoar. I’m still working on my recipe for whipping them up at home, but until I stumble on the perfect recipe, here’s a twist with a Biscoff filling. If you’re yet to stock your cupboard with a jar of Biscoff Spread, then you’re missing out, my friend! That delicious little saucer surfer of a biscuit is now in spread form and works beautifully on toast, in porridge, and as the filling for this tear and share tray of sticky Biscoff Buns. Yum!

Feeling Blue-berry Muffins

Sometimes it’s nice to just go back to basics and bake something simple and satisfying, right? Well you can’t go wrong with a tray of Blueberry Muffins fresh out of the oven and bleeding blueberry juice all over the shop. The added crunchy topping to these blueberry muffins give them a little something extra.

Banana Crumble Cake

Bog-standard banana bread gets a glow-up with this recipe for Banana Crumble Cake. Hands down one of my favourite recipes with its moist, banana sponge (without the dense mattress texture you sometimes get with banana bread) and crunchy cinnamon crumble topping. You’ll never want waste speckled bananas on anything else!

Chocolate and Praline Dipped Madeleines

Here’s a recipe to keep in mind for party season, when you need to take a plate of something. Madeleines are so simple to make, but add the Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline topping and you’ve got something that not only tastes delicious but looks like it took you hours to make.

(These Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline Muffins are also a winner if you’re looking for something a bit more substantial…)

Leftover Pumpkin Traybake

How many times have you gutted a pumpkin to carve and thrown out all the good stuff? How many times have I said, “I’ll make it into soup or risotto!” and still ended up throwing it all out? Well, if you fancy actually using up your pumpkin guts for once, then you can’t go wrong with this very easy Pumpkin Traybake. Full of spice and topped with a cream cheese frosting, this bake makes use of every part of the pumpkin that doesn’t get turned into a lantern for Halloween – even making use of the seeds for a crunchy topping. 🙂

Bramble Bars

We’re pretty much nearing the end of blackberry picking season now, but if you’ve still got some stored up in the freezer and don’t fancy popping them in a crumble, why not try these Bramble Bars instead? Part flapjack, part bakewell tart – they’re sandwiched with a layer of sweet, blackberry jam. Yum!

Bara Brith (Welsh Mottled Bread)

It’s never going to win any beauty contests, but there’s nothing better than a slice of hot Bara Brith smothered in butter with a cup of tea. For the uninitiated, it’s a spiced tea loaf filled with dried fruit soaked overnight in tea. Very easy to make, Bara Brith is Wales itself in bread form; traditional, homely and full of tea.

Bakewell Tarts

I couldn’t resist picking up a pack of Cherry Bakewell Tarts from Home Bargains the other day and – oops – I’ve already pretty much polished it off. Hey, they’re small, alright?! These homemade Bakewell Tarts are not small, but are just as moreish – plus the recipe is a snap thanks to a few short cuts. Bake at your own peril! 😉

Happy baking! Let me know what your favourite Autumn bake is in the comments section! 🙂