Coffee, Maple and Walnut Cake

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It was my Dad’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and so – of course – I baked him a cake.  He’s a big fan of coffee and walnut cake, and so I decided to bake him one of those – but fancied levelling up the flavours a little.  I have a candle in my kitchen called “Coffee Break” (a TK Maxx bargain!) that I like to burn in the morning while I’m making breakfast or cleaning; I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t drink coffee but absolutely LOVES the smell of it.  Anyway, this candle smells like an American Coffee Shop in the best kind of way; it gives off a kind of nutty, syrupy, dark roast smell and I love it!  I kind of gave myself the challenge of making the cake taste like that candle smells – which is a very weird thing to do, I know – but I think I kind of pulled it off!  I added in a good glug of maple syrup and some brown sugar and that seemed to do the trick! Nutty, syrupy, coffee(-y) – it’s the perfect bake for Father’s Day! 🙂

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Coffee, Maple and Walnut Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 2 egg whites
  • 150g butter
  • 150g ground walnuts (just blitz them in a blender until they look like wet sand)
  • 50g dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 75ml milk
  • 2 tbsp coffee granules

To decorate:

  • 50g ground walnuts
  • 200g salted butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  1. Set your oven to 170°C and grease and line a small, round, spring-form cake tin (less than 20cm).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar, then pour in the eggs and egg whites.  Mix until well-combined and fluffy.
  3. Next, warm the milk in the microwave and mix in the coffee granules.  Leave the coffee mixture to cool before stirring it into the batter (you don’t want to scramble the eggs!).  Stir in the maple syrup.
  4. Next, sift all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl (that’s the flour, salt, baking powder and ground walnuts), then gradually add the mixture to the batter – stirring until well-combined.
  5. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 50 minutes – or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool.
  6. Once the cake has cooled, carefully slice into two or three layers (depending on how dab-handed with a knife you are!).  Sandwich the layers together with buttercream, then ice the cake with whatever you’ve got left.  Sprinkle with ground walnuts and decorate with whole nuts and fresh flowers. 🙂

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Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there, but mostly to my awesome Dad.

Spaghetti with Fried Tomato and Mozzarella Balls

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I’m a pasta FIEND, but I hardly ever get to make it at home because Sunny’s not a fan (I know, what the hell did I marry???).  My absolute favourite pasta dish is Spaghetti Pomodoro, which most people would label the most boring thing on the menu – but you know what?  I love that it’s simple.  It’s pasta in its purest form and throws the focus on the quality and flavour of each ingredient.  Sweet tomato sauce, spaghetti, fresh basil and mozzarella (…the best bit!).  I love it!  It’s my go to whenever I’ve got a craving for some fresh pasta.

Last week, Sunny was away with work which meant I had a couple of days to get my pasta fix in.  I saw the idea for these fried tomato and mozzarella balls on Pinterest and just had to give them a go and see if they could level up my basic pomodoro.  I mean, deep fried mozzarella, amiright?  Yuuuuuuuuum.

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Spaghetti with Fried Tomato and Mozzarella Balls (serves 2)

Ingredients

For the balls:

  • 125g of Mozzarella Pearls
  • 220g of Cherry Tomatoes (I used about 20 piccalo tomatoes)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • plain flour
  • 100g breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Kebab Skewer

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 200ml of Tomato Passata
  • 1 clove of Garlic, minced
  • Tomato Pits, salted
  • Fresh Chopped Basil
  • 1 tsp of Maple Syrup

To serve:

  • Chopped Basil
  • Enough Spaghetti for 2
  • (More cheese, if you’re a total glutton like me 😉 )
  1. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the pits (set them aside, they’re going to go into the sauce later!).  Fill each tomato with a mozzarella pearl and then set them aside.
  2. Heat up the vegetable oil in a deep saucepan (you’ll know it’s ready for frying when you can drop a small bit of bread into it and see it fizzle).  Batter up!  Create a bit of an assembly line with the whisked egg, flour and breadcrumbs in separate bowls.  Take one of your filled tomatoes and skewer it with one of the kebab skewers (it’ll keep everything together for the next step).  First, coat it with a little flour, then dunk it into the whisked egg, and finally coat it with breadcrumbs.  Deep fry each ball until golden brown, removing each one from the skewer as you go along.
  3. To make the sauce, heat up your olive oil in a saucepan on a medium heat.  Fry the garlic for a minute (careful not to burn it!) and then pour in both the tomato passata, pits and fresh basil. Pour in 1 tsp of Maple Syrup – sounds ridiculous, right?  But trust me, it’ll take away the acidic taste from the tomatoes. 
  4. Simmer for twenty minutes, then season and serve with the fried tomato, fresh basil, mozzarella balls and spaghetti.

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Have a magnifique week! 😉

How to Make Smoothie Bowls

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So, here’s the thing.  I’ve been absolutely, bladdy awful at getting in my five a day recently.  Truly terrible at it.  I mean, I’d say I get about half that; I’ve never had trouble sneaking a healthy portion of vegetables into my dinner, but for the rest of the day, anything goes.  Fruit just isn’t what I go for when I want a snack.  Five doughnuts, no problem.  Five (squared) custard creams, easy mate.  Five pieces of fruit?  PASS.  I’m not sure what happened, because the truth is I’ve always really loved fruit – and when I do actually make the effort, I really enjoy eating it.  But over the past couple of years – either out of laziness or bad habit – I’ve just stopped reaching for it, and I’ve really noticed a change in my skin and my energy levels because of that.

I’ve been making it my mission recently to find easy ways of sneaking in those missed portions of fruit, and I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that breakfast and the mid-afternoon munchies are when I’m more receptive to scoffing a bit of fruit instead of dipping into the old biscuit tin.  So I started making the odd smoothie bowl for breakfast as a way of rekindling my love of fruit and – d’you know what? – I’ve enjoyed making them so much that I’ve even occasionally swapped out my lunchtime egg on toast for one!  They’re easy to make, can be prepped ahead of time and there are so many different flavour combinations that it’ll be a long, long time before you get bored of scoffing them.  Oh, and did I mention that they’re pretty? 😉

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The Idea

You’ll probably have seen smoothie bowls all over either Pinterest and Instagram and shrugged them off as essentially pretty but pointless – a lot of faffing around for something designed to be inhaled first thing on a Monday morning before you fly out the door.  They’re basically a bowl of blitzed fruit (and sometimes added flax seed or protein powder), mixed with fresh yoghurt (or a dairy-free alternative) and topped with more fresh fruit, nuts and granola. But they’re not as time-consuming as they look; the blended base recipe can be prepped and whipped up the night before, or even frozen for the week ahead.  That way, all you need to do is mix it into your chosen yoghurt and then add whatever toppings you fancy.

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The Basic Base Recipe

The base recipe is simple – provided you’ve got a blender handy – and uses only a handful of ingredients.  It’s adaptable; so if you’re not a banana fan then substitute it with 80g of another fruit, and the yoghurt can be swapped out for any dairy-free alternative (personally, I love coconut yoghurt).  You can also add in protein powder and/or flax, hemp or chia seeds if that’s your jam.  Once you’ve got the base figured out, you can mix it up and get creative!  As mentioned above, it can be blitzed up the night before or on a Sunday when you’re prepping your meals for the week ahead – letting you hit snooze on your Monday morning alarm! 😉

Ingredients (serves one)

  • 1 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 120g of your chosen fruit, chopped and frozen
  • 1 tsp runny honey, agave or maple syrup
  • 100 ml chosen yoghurt
  1. In a blender, blitz the banana, fruit and honey together on a low setting until the mixture resembles ice cream.  If you’re prepping ahead of time and plan on freezing the mixture now’s the time – just pour it into a portion size ziplock and freeze.  Just remember to pop it in the fridge to defrost slowly the night before you intend to eat it.
  2. Once you’re ready to serve up the smoothie bowl, mix in the yoghurt until smooth and combined – then add toppings.  Easy!

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Toppings

When it comes to toppings, there are so many different ways you can go – but a combination of fresh fruit, seeds and/or nuts and some kind of cereal or granola works really well – especially if you flavour-match your fresh fruit with whatever fruit you’ve put in your base recipe.  If you’re feeling particularly extra, you can even pop a couple of edible flowers on top or some grated chocolate.

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Recipe Ideas

By swapping out the base fruit and yoghurt flavour and then adding different combinations of toppings there are literally thousands of different recipes you could come up with.  But here are three I’ve been enjoying lately to get you started… 🙂

Pina Colada

  • 1 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 120g of fresh pineapple
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • 100 ml coconut yoghurt 
  • Topped with: sliced, fresh pineapple, dessicated coconut, poppy seeds and marachino cherries.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

  • 2 large bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 100 ml toffee yoghurt
  • Topped with: sliced bananas, raspberries, pecans and raisins

Strawberry Bakewell

  • 1 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 120g of fresh strawberries and raspberries
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • 100 ml almond yoghurt
  • Topped with: fresh strawberries, almond granola, dried cherries, white chocolate dots, poppy seeds

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Have a smoooooth(ie) week! 🙂

Easy Korean Dak-galbi

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I’d never heard of Dak-Galbi until I stumbled across a recipe for it over on Pinterest (…honestly, where did I go to hunt down new recipes before Pinterest came along? Books?) – but as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to add it to my takeaway dupes repertoire.  It’s a stir fry of spicy chicken and sweet potato and is basically Korean Pub Food; you’ll usually find it served up and sizzling with alcohol.  The marinade is sweet and spicy – thanks to the Gochujang Chilli Paste and Honey – and pairs perfectly with the sweet potato chunks.

I’m pretty sure most Koreans would cry sacrilege at my take on Dak-galbi.  I mean, it’s pretty much just the bare bones of the real deal because you just can’t get a lot of Korean ingredients in your average British supermarket – in fact, I’d be surprised if you found any at all!  The one essential ingredient – and pretty much the base ingredient for any Korean cooking – I had to order off of Amazon.  But as for tteok and perilla leaves?  Forget it.  Still, my stripped back version makes for a tasty, spicy and colourful midweek stir fry and – aside from marinating time – goes from wok to table in under 20 minutes.  Noice!  🙂

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Easy Dak-galbi (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 3 tsbp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp gochujang paste (I *think* Waitrose stock it, but if not check amazon!)
  • 3 tbsp runny honey
  • 3 tbsp rice wine
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • shredded red cabbage
  • grated carrot
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  1. First things first, make the marinade.  In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, gochujang paste, honey, rice wine, curry powder and half of the sesame oil.  Stir until smooth.  Pour in the chicken and stir until it’s thoroughly coated in the marinade – then leave it to rest for at least one hour.
  2. Get your wok smoking hot and pour in the rest of the sesame oil.  Turn down the heat and chuck in the chicken (hold back the marinade) along with the sweet potato.  Cook for ten minutes until the sweet potato has softened and the chicken is mostly cooked; make sure you keep stirring otherwise the honey in the marinade might scorch.
  3. Next throw in the stir fry vegetables – the spring onions, cabbage, carrot and pepper – as well as the remaining marinade and chilli flakes.  Stir fry for five minutes, then serve up with some egg fried rice! 🙂

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Happy four day week! 😉  Oh, and hey – if there’s a takeaway favourite of yours that you’d like to see me take on and come up with an easy to follow recipe for then just let me know in the comments!

Easy Sticky Honey Chicken

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How’s your head, Wales?  Is your hangover still ragin’ after grand-slamming a few celebratory shots on Saturday night?  Sworn off drinking forever?  Sad that the Six Nations are done and dusted for another year?  But what a weekend of Rugby!  If you’re still feeling a bit hanging and wobbling over the idea of just giving in and getting in a takeaway tonight, then have I got the recipe for you – perfect for the Monday after the weekend before. 😉

I’ve been on a kick recently of upping my midweek meal game – particularly when it comes to takeaway dupes – and this sticky honey and sesame chicken is a winner (-winner chicken dinner).  Nail the sauce and the rest is history.  You can either batter your own chicken or pop some chicken dippers (or Quorn Nuggets) in the oven, and then serve it up with some egg fried rice, a sprinkling of sesame seeds and some chopped spring onions.  So easy!

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Easy Sticky Honey Chicken

Ingredients

  • 100ml runny honey
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 125ml water

to serve:

  • a handful battered chicken nuggets
  • sesame seeds
  • chopped spring onions
  1. Whilst your chicken nuggets are cooking, make up the sauce. Pour all the ingredients – except the water – into a mixing bowl and stir well to combine.  Then, add the water and stir.
  2. Pour into a saucepan and bring to the boil; stir until the sauce starts to thicken up, then remove it from the heat.
  3. Drizzle it all over your cooked chicken nuggets, then sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped spring onions.  Serve with egg fried rice and scoff! 🙂

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Have a great week! 🙂