Vegetarian Ramen with Grilled Sweetcorn

…for all the hopeless (flu-infected) ramen-tics out there…

Tell you what, I might as well paint a massive red “X” on my front door to ward off all potential visitors, because the winter lurgy finally came a-knocking last week. Sunny became a walking fountain of mucus first, and then – even though for a while it looked like I was going to dodge it – I got that tell-tale scratching feeling at the back of my throat and knew I was doomed. I’m currently writing this bundled up in my dressing gown, ponging of Olbas Oil and chained to a box of tissues. Breathing through your nose is such an underrated luxury. I miss it.

There’s nothing quite like a massive bowl of ramen when you’re sick, is there? I mean, any and all soups are pretty good when you’re a walking plague victim, but ramen – for me anyway – is the ultimate winner, and I’ll tell you why. All soups are warm and comforting, but ramen goes one step further. It’s full of healthy fresh greens (which you can pick and choose), it’s packed full of flavour (enough to get through to those flu-muffled taste buds), the noodles are filling (so you feel like you’ve actually eaten more than just a bowl of hot water), I defy anyone not to smile at the sight of a perfectly gooey soft boiled egg floating in front of them… and the added chilli garnish will do wonders for a blocked nose.

Now, normally I’d either cart myself down to Wagamama for a bowl of their Shirodashi Ramen (YAS), or pick up a one of the Blue Dragon Ramen Kits, but last week before my cold spiralled out of control and I was still more or less functioning – I felt like making some from scratch. Anyway, I came across a picture of a ramen bowl with grilled corn in it and I was intrigued. I’d never thought of putting sweet corn in a bowl of ramen before, but tell you what – it was a game changer. The sweetness, the crunch, the buttery charred bits… oof. It was exactly what my noodle bowl had been missing all this time. Added to the mushrooms, spring onions, cabbage and obligatory soft boiled egg, it was a winner. πŸ™‚

Vegetarian Ramen with Grilled Sweetcorn

Serves 2
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp ginger paste
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp yellow miso paste
  • 600ml water
  • 500ml good quality vegetable stock
  • handful of spring onions, sliced
  • 1 large corn cob
  • handful of shittake mushrooms
  • handful of sliced red cabbage (throw it in as late as possible otherwise it’ll turn your broth blue!)
  • two dried noodle nests (or enough for two)
  • 2 soft boiled eggs
  • handful of Ito Togarashi or chilli flakes to serve
Method
  1. Warm up your wok or a deep pot on a medium heat, then add the sesame oil. Next create the base for your broth by throwing in and stirring together the mirin, rice wine, soy sauce and miso paste, as well as the garlic and ginger pastes.
  2. Next add the vegetable stock (the better the quality, the better the broth!) and water. Throw in your shittake mushrooms and half of your spring onions. Bring the broth up to the boil, then turn the heat down to low, cover and then leave to simmer for at least half an hour.
  3. In the meantime, slice up your garnishes (that’s the rest of the spring onions and the cabbage) and prepare your corn cob. Slather the corn cob in butter, then wrap it in foil and cook it in the oven at 200Β°C for 20 minutes. Once cooked, slice into strips.
  4. Check the packet instructions for the noodles – usually you’ll add them to the broth about 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat.
  5. To serve up, first use some tongs to take out the noodles at pop them in the bottom of the bowl. Then ladle the broth over the top. Lastly, garnish with your fresh spring onions, cabbage, corn, soft boiled egg and chilli.
  6. Slurp away!

Have a great week! 🍜🍜🍜

London Fog Cake

…a moist Earl Grey enriched sponge with creamy vanilla sponge –
London Fog Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch

Tell you what, my 2020 so far has been bloody spectacular (…are you picking up on the sarcastic subtext of that statement?). Firstly, a new year dog walk around the block with my mother-in-law resulted in a five hour wait in A&E after Bungle bolted and dragged her up a hill by the wrist. Not a day after the house emptied and a bit of normality resumed, Sunny went down with the flu. And a day after that, the other hairy bloke in my life caught bog-eye from shoving his face in too many butts (…I’m talking about Bungle, in case that wasn’t obvious). Then yesterday, the council oh so kindly informed me that pulling into a bus lay-by to drop your husband off for his Christmas Party is not cool and will result in a Β£75 fine. Awesome.

It’s been a howler so far, and so I shouldn’t really have been surprised that my first bake of the year turned out to be howler too. I’ve made plenty of cakes in my time – enough to be honestly surprised when one goes tits up – but the science behind it all still kind of eludes me – it is all just chemistry after all. All the basic ingredients need to be there and need to be balanced in a very specific way before you even get around to adding flavours and fillings. For example if you put too much structure-building flour into a cake, then it’s going to be dry. And sugar is responsible for more than just its sweet taste; sugar plays a huge part in the soft, spongy texture of cakes due to the way sugar crystals trap little pockets of air. Too little sugar and your cake’s not going to have a soft texture. Aaaand, if you put too much liquid into a cake – which I found out when I tried to make this London Fog Cake – then your cake’s going to be heavy and dense and is probs gonna end up going straight in the bin. I knew I’d put too much liquid in it as soon as it came out of the oven – but hindsight’s 2020, innit? (Badump tshhhh.)

London Fog Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - January Baking - January Cakes

Anyway, I managed to turn this baking fail into a baking win by making it my mission to read up a bit into the science behind good cakes, and now – hopefully – none of my future cake experiments will end up in the bin. I went back to the drawing board, and I have to say, my second attempt was much, much better. Pretty damn good, in fact.

If you’ve never heard of London Fog before (Just a heads-up, I’m not talking about the weather in London…), it’s basically just an Earl Grey Latte. Lovely bergamot-infused black tea made with frothy, hot milk. The perfect drink for glum (and sometimes foggy) January days. This cake is essentially the drink in cake form – a black tea-enriched sponge, with a creamy, vanilla-flavoured frosting.

London Fog Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Tea-Enriched Sponge - Easy Tea Cakes

London Fog Cake

Ingredients
  • 3 Earl Grey teabags
  • 75ml boiling hot water
  • 3 large eggs, whisked
  • 175g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 175g self-raising flour, sifted

For the buttercream icing:

  • 400g icing sugar
  • 200g butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
London Fog Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Earl Grey Latte Cake

Method
  1. First things first, make some tea! Empty the contents of the teabags into a cup, then pour on the 75ml of boiling hot water. Leave to steep, then cool.
  2. Set your oven to 170Β°C and grease a small, loose-bottomed cake tin.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Pour in the eggs, then stir to combine.
  4. Pour in the flour and tea mixture, alternating between the two. Stir to make a soft batter.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes, then leave to cool. Meanwhile make the buttercream by whipping together the icing sugar, butter and vanilla bean paste.
  6. Decorate the surface of the cake, then scoff (…with tea πŸ™‚).
London Fog Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Earl Grey Enriched Cake

Have a lovely week! How’s 2020 treating you so far? πŸ’“

Almond and Raspberry Cake

Long live The Crimbo Limbo…
Almond and Raspberry Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch

The Crimbo Limbo, Twixtmas… whatever you call it, the gap between Christmas and New Year’s a bit of a weird one, isn’t it? I used to hate it as a kid; even though there’s still the New Year celebrations to come, Christmas is officially over. All the presents around the tree are gone, the family and friends who’ve come to stay are gone too and there’s about half the Sainsbury’s Cheese Counter and a Turkey carcass shoved into the fridge. It always felt a little sad to me as a kid, but now? I LOVE IT. Fridge full of cheese? Um, yes please. Enough leftovers to save me cooking for a week? Banging. A Bond film on the TV every night? Don’t mind if I do. Cake for breakfast? Why the hell not.

It’s the one time of year where adulting officially goes out the window and – even better – nobody’s going to think any less of you for it or worry that you’ve gone a bit mad. Brilliant! I was tempted to just whack my coat on over my Christmas PJs to take Bungle for his walk this morning, but changed my mind at the last minute. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere, I guess, and for me that line falls somewhere between the neighbours seeing me in my jammies and scoffing cake for breakfast. Specifically, this Almond and Raspberry Cake – which I whipped up last minute on Christmas Eve and was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a total winner. It’s pretty enough to decorate a festive table, moist enough to last through the limbo, and slightly sour enough to be a fresh change when you’ve dipped into the tub of chocolates a few too many times. Eat it warm with fresh cream or cold for breakfast, that’s totally up to you – I won’t tell! πŸ˜‰

Christmas Golden Retriever - Raspberry and Almond Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch

Almond and Raspberry Cake

Ingredients
  • 250g Raspberries
  • 125g Butter
  • 175g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 100g Self Raising Flour
  • 50g Ground Almonds
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 100ml Milk
  • 25g Flaked Almonds
Method
  1. Set your oven to 170Β° and grease a 20cm open bottom cake tin.Β  Sprinkle with a little flour and then set aside.
  2. In your mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar.Β  Stir in the egg.
  3. In a separate bowl sift together most of the dry ingredients; that’s the flour, ground almonds and salt.Β  Combine with the wet ingredients to make a very dry batter (don’t worry, it’ll come together during the next step!).
  4. Stir in the milk.
  5. Pour the batter into your cake tin and smooth over the surface.Β  Arrange the raspberries (hole down) on top, staring in the middle and working your way out to the edge.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, scatter with flaked almonds and powdered sugar and then serve up with cream. πŸ™‚

Hope you’re having a lovely Crimbo Limbo/Twixtmas!

5 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas for Christmas Day

Fast and filling recipes to get you through ’til Turkey Time!

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Christmas morning’s a bit of a pickle breakfast-wise innit?Β  I mean, even if you find the time to squeeze it in and shovel down a couple of slices of toast in between unwrapping stockings and opening presents – there’s a whole turkey, trimmings and puddings (as well as a whole tub of Roses…) to save some stomach real estate for later.Β  I can count plenty of Christmases where I’ve either skipped breakfast or made do with the satsuma rolling around at the bottom of my stocking… or indulged in an orange of the Terry’s variety in front of a film (oops!).Β  It’s so unlike me, because I love breakfast! It’s my favourite meal of the day – every day! – and – of all the days in the year – Christmas is big one to skip, especially if you’re hosting; you need the fuel!

The trick, I’ve found – and this is true of most things – is to do the grunt work the day before.Β  That way, breakfast is sorted and you can relax knowing you can go and get it whenever you want.Β  Recipes that can be prepared ahead of time with minimal fuss and then popped in the fridge or covered with cling film are a winner (and pretty useful to have tucked up your sleeve for whenever the occasion calls for a short cut). Minimal effort, maximum impact. πŸ˜‰

5 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas for Christmas Day - The Cardiff Cwtch - Parfait Pots and Porridge Pots

Parfait and Porridge Pots

If you’re looking for individual breakfast helpings that you can whip up the night before that saves guests scrambling around in cupboards and jamming up your sink with dirty plates – then you can’t go wrong with Parfait Pots and Porridge Pots.Β  Grab yourself some jam jars and then layer them up with fresh yoghurt, sliced or tinned fruit, nuts, honey and granola to make an easy, fridge-friendly parfait pot.Β  Porridge pots are just as easy – just fill your jam jars with porridge oats and water – as well as whatever toppings, flavours and fillings you fancy – and then leave them to soak and puff up overnight in the fridge. The next morning, all you’ll need to do is stir in a little milk and let the microwave do its magic! πŸ™‚

Recommended Recipes:

Cherry & Almond Parfait Pots
Perfect Porridge

5 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas for Christmas Day - The Cardiff Cwtch - Breakfast Burritos and Wraps

Breakfast Burritos and Wraps

I am a BIG fan of the breakfast burrito in all forms and all its glory.Β  Not only can they be made months in advance, wrapped and then stored in the freezer, but they’re filling and can be stuffed with any number of ingredients – meat or vegetable – and whatever you’ve got bashing around in your fridge and cupboards.Β  They’re perfect for Christmas morning because – joy to the world – NO DIRTY DISHES.Β  Fish one out of the freezer or fridge and then either warm it up in the microwave (remove the foil first!) or in the oven. Simples!

Recommended Recipes:

“I Haven’t Got Time for Breakfast” Breakfast BurritosΒ 
“On The Go” Huevos Rancheros Wraps

5 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas for Christmas Day - The Cardiff Cwtch - Pancakes and Dutch Babies

Pancakes and Dutch Babies

If you’ve got a little bit of extra time in between unwrapping presents and getting dressed, then you can’t go wrong with a good stack of pancakes, or some crispy, fluffy dutch babies – ripe to be filled or topped with whatever you fancy.Β  Whip up the batter the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight (pancake batter is always better if it’s been left overnight) and voila, breakfast sorted! You can even go festive with your fillings and toppings – you can’t beat apple and cinnamon, or why not try using some mince pie filling and brandy cream? Yum!

Recommended Recipes:

Pancake Party
Banana and Custard-filled PancakesΒ 
Easy Dutch Baby

5 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas for Christmas Day - The Cardiff Cwtch - French Toast

French Toast

Just like pancakes, good French Toast can easily be made up the night before and then left in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it.Β  And there are so many different and fun ways to make it (Have you ever tried making it using Croissants?) and flavours to try – from fillings to toppings (Have you ever battered it with Frosties? SO WRONG, SO RIGHT).

Recommended Recipes:

“Extra” French ToastΒ 
French Toast Four Ways (including battered French Toast)

5 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas for Christmas Day - The Cardiff Cwtch - Battered French Toast5 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas for Christmas Day - The Cardiff Cwtch - Filled Halloumi Loaf

Filled Breads

If you just don’t have the time or the desire to faff around in the kitchen on Christmas morning and are quite happy with a slice of toast – then why not try making a filled loaf a couple of days before?Β  Not only will it sort you out for breakfast on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but you’ll also have a great twist on those all important Turkey Leftover Sandwiches! Savoury or Sweet is totally up to you. πŸ™‚

Recommended Recipes:

Halloumi Bread (great with fig jam!)
Indian Potato and Cauliflower Fried Flatbreads (Aloo Parantha)
Sunny’s Orange and Cinnamon Swirl BreadΒ 
Bara Brith

Nadolig Llawen (Merry Christmas!) pawb! Have a good one! πŸŽ„

 

Sunny’s Orange and Cinnamon Swirl Bread

What do you get when you cross a Toasted Tea Cake with a Cinnamon Bun?

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So, my husband has decided to get into baking – more specifically, baking bread – which I am absolutely over the moon about because I love scoffing bread. Soft and doughy homemade bread? Even better. The trouble is, I’ve never been very good at baking it myself; I’m too experimental and slapdash when it comes to measurements and ingredients, and I just don’t have the patience or the muscle for kneading into being the perfect, pillowy soft dough that makes a good loaf. I feel like there’s an exact science and math to bread making that just doesn’t suit my free and flippant style in the kitchen (Maths, ew!). Sunny, though? He’s exactly the opposite; baking bread suits him perfectly. He’s logical and precise to the ounce, patient enough to follow a recipe to the letter, and he’s got the knuckles and gun-show necessary for flinging dough around.

…Enough gushing about my husband’s arms.

A couple of weekends ago he tore my kitchen apart making his first ever, sweet loaf – this Orange and Cinnamon Swirl Bread, which would make the perfect addition to any Christmas breakfast table. It’s a soft dough, but slices well – and the flavours kind of remind me of toasted tea cakes and cinnamon buns (both bread items that I absolutely love!). It’s definitely a keeper… along with the hubs. πŸ˜‰

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Sunny’s Orange and Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Ingredients
  • 30g dried active yeast
  • 200ml lukewarm milk
  • 85ml smooth orange juice
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 30g soft butter
  • 550g strong white flour
  • pinch of salt
  • zest from one orange
For the filling:
  • 85g demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 30g melted butter
Orange and Cinnamon Swirl Bread - The Cardiff Cwtch
Method
  1. Set up two mixing bowls. Into the first, activate the yeast with a little of the warm milk – and into the second, pour in the orange juice, butter and beaten egg with the rest of the milk. Stir the yeast gently until it’s dissolved (you should start to see a few bubbles).
  2. Into a third bowl, sift the flour with the sugar, orange zest and salt. Make a little well in the middle, then pour in the contents of the other two bowls. Stir together to make a soft, sticky dough – then turn it out onto a clean surface and knead for at least 10 minutes. (A lot people like to flour their work surface – but I don’t like adding more flour to my dough, so I just oil my hands and prepare to get a little sticky! Perseverance is key; the dough will come together!)
  3. Pop the dough into a greased bowl, cover with clingfilm or a damp (but clean!) tea towel and then leave somewhere warm to double in size for at least an hour.
  4. To make the filling, mix together the demerara sugar, cinnamon, mixed spice and melted butter.
  5. Knock back the dough and – using a little flour this time – roll it out into a rectangle. Spread the filling right to the corners, then roll tight like a swiss roll. Pop it onto a lined baking tray – seam side down, with the ends tucked under. Leave it somewhere warm to rise again for another 20 minutes or so.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes at 190Β°C. πŸ™‚

Have a great week!