Sunday, 23 January 2011

The 5 minute (start to finish) microwave chocolate cake in a mug.

Harriet and I completed our last Saturday morning teaching yesterday - Hooray! We deserved cake. So I made some (with the rapid microwave recipe that I'd been meaning to try for a quite a while). It was good. And for something that you can throw together in less than 5 minutes, I might go as far as great!

I bought this over-sized mug in the Whittard sale sale last year, especially for this "experiment". Any microwavable mug will do, although the bigger the better.

You will need:

4 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons sugar (I used golden granulated)
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 Egg
3 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons oil (I used walnut oil because I had it - bit decadent! Veg oil would also work)

1 Mug
1 fork
1 spoon

Optionals (but I recommend)

Small splash of vanilla essence
2/3 tablespoons of chocolate chips


Put dry ingredients in mug. Mix well.
Crack egg into mug. Mix well.
Put remaining wet ingredients into mug. Mix well.
Mix in vanilla (if using).
Stir in choc. chips (if using).

Recipe said take fork out of mug and microwave on full power for 3 minutes. I would actually do less. If you have free-range eggs and are not really worried about (slightly) undercooked mixture, I'd try 2 mins 30. Especially if you have a powerful microwave. Mine is 800 watts. A toothpick inserted came out clean, but a little less time would've meant the centre was more gooey. Melting middle chocolate puddings (Marks and Spencer advert variety) are just cakes with the centre left uncooked (so they told me on my Bordeaux Quay desserts course).

Whilst in the microwave the mixture will rise way over the top of the mug - this is normal. Obviously the more narrow your mug, the more this will happen. As mine was pretty wide, when it sunk a bit upon leaving the microwave it looked like this...

Now, obviously you could go right in with a spoon and eat it straight from the mug (taking care not to burn your lips). However, because Harriet and I were sharing this I turned it out into my stripy bowl (also from Whittard sale) and we grabbed a spoon each. Yum!



Sunday, 16 January 2011

Flapjack, but not as you know it...

I am carrying on with the healthy eating theme and have been busy making "Savoury Flapjacks".
Similar to regular flapjacks in that they are oat based, but made with vegetables and cheese instead of honey etc. Think nut loaf - meets quiche - meets stuffing! Still with me....?

I have been making big batches of these ever since Priya introduced me to them last year.
The thing is, I'm not very keen on raw carrot or courgette, and in these those ingredients are barely cooked but the herbs, cheese and oats kind of drown them out a bit. The fact they are full of oats and therefore slow release energy, make them really filling and pretty healthy too.

You will need:

200g porridge oats
200g grated carrot
200g grated courgette
200g grated cheese (I used half-fat cheddar)
2 small onions (finely chopped)
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp dried mixed Italian herbs (or just thyme, sage or oregano)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

What you do:
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees
Grease a baking tray (swiss roll size)
I use a larger tray and cook them only about 1.5cm thick.
Mix the oats, onion, carrot and courgette in a large bowl

When they are all well combined, add the cheese...

(It is about a whole small block)

Then in a small bowl mix the eggs, dried herbs, salt and pepper and then add this mixture to the big bowl and combine.

Press this mixture into your greased baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set and lightly golden on the top.

It's a bit hard to make these look particularly appetising or glamorous but they are so handy to have cut up in squares in the freezer for a day when you can't be bothered to, or haven't got the time to make a packed lunch.

Recipe stolen from Priya who got it from the "Baby led weaning website". Baby food gurus like Annabel Karmel hold some good secrets to healthy snacks. It can seem a bit strange to eat this stuff as adults but there's a whole world of healthy toddler snacks that are, in my humble opinion, much nicer than chalky cereal bars as a snack.

These broccoli and cheese muffins are also fantastic...


Thursday, 13 January 2011

Get Well Cakes

I have 2 two types of cake making books.

The type that contain thoroughly indulgent, hugely calorific "sweat across the nose" (as Annabel would say) kind of cakes.

And the type that have cakes and bakes that nod in the direction of healthy eating (as much as cakes can, anyway).

I am writing about the latter today. Partly because I am on a healthy eating roll for January (and hopefully beyond) and partly because I am taking some to Kellie tonight who has been really ill :(

I've lost count of the number of times I've made these cakes. Jeremy at work rolls his eyes in disbelief when Priya and I compare grades, colours and types of flour, seed choices and alternative fruit combinations. I would be offended, but Jeremy will never fall into my target audience 'cake-wise'; he makes the right noises when taking and eating of my cakes, that'll do.

2 muffins coming up, that are healthy because:

They have ground almonds as the 'fat' replacement (instead of butter or oil).
They have a vegetable in them.
They have fruit in them.
They have seeds in them.
I use 50/50 of a white/wholemeal flour.

Lemon, Sunflower seed and Blueberry Muffins

You may be slightly surprised to hear that a batch of these muffins contain 250grams of raw courgette.
Don't worry though, you can't taste it one bit and they keep the cake moist (much the same as carrot does in carrot cake.)

You will need:

2 large unwaxed lemons (I often only have one, it's fine)
3 medium free-range eggs
160g caster sugar
250g of topped, tailed and finely grated courgette.
180g rice flour (I adapt this to use 90g white spelt flour, 90g wholewheat flour)
160g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
60g sunflower seeds
150g fresh blueberries

A 12 hole muffin tin
12 muffin cases (Dr Oetker are a good size)


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line the muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Finely grate the lemon zest onto a plate

3. Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk for a full 3 minutes until pale and creamy coloured.
Add the grated courgette and lemon zest and beat again. Set beaters aside. With the help of a spatula beat in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, bicarb and salt until they are all mixed in. Work quickly. Then, continue to work quickly to fold in the sunflower seeds and blueberries.

4. Spoon the mixture into paper cases, original recipe says makes 8, it always makes 12 for me though. Bake for 35 mins (until a toothpick comes out clean or they bounce back when gently pressed).

5. Remove tin from oven and leave to cool for just a minute or two to hold heir shape. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to allow them not to sweat in the tin.

Extra things to note: Because of the high water content in these they freeze brilliantly.
They can be soggy if you store in an airtight container so I would leave to rest in open air a few hours before eating (and similarly would allow them to defrost in the open air).


These are not the best ever blueberry muffins I've made (the struessel topping ones with cinnamon are) but these aren't too far behind. I love the texture that sunflower seeds add to the muffins too.
My slightly adapted "Plum, sunflower seed and cinnamon" variation that I invented was pretty nice too...

At the back of the cookbook I am using, the nutrition information is listed for items too, therefore if you make 12 cakes they are just 170 calories each... no guilt needed there!

Peach and Poppy Seed Muffins

So, the health benefits of these muffins are similar to the others but this time they have peach, poppy seed and... sweet potato! They are perfect for breakfast with the sweet potato (and wholewheat flour) providing slow-release energy. As mentioned in the book, the peach season is short but I use nectarines (and tinned peaches if I have to). I've given these out at tennis matches instead of biscuits and after their initial fear of a "sweet potato cake" they wolfed them down.

You will need:
2 medium free-range eggs
120g caster sugar
200g peeled and finely grated sweet potato
100g white rice flour (again I went 50/50 wholewheat)
100g ground almonds
1 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 small peaches cut into 1/2 cm cubes

A 12 hole muffin tin
12 muffin cases


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line the muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Whisk the eggs and sugar for 3 minutes until fluffy. With the help of a wooden spoon, beat in the grated sweet potato, flour, ground almonds, poppy seeds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt until well incorporated.

3. Fold in the cubes of peach, then fill the cases right up to the top.

4. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until risen and golden.

5. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Extra things to note: I always sift flour into baking recipes, even if the box says "no need to sieve" to put as much air in as possible, why take the chance? The wholewheat grains don't do through my sieve so I have to throw those in afterwards. Book says 176 calories in a batch of 9 muffins, therefore if you make 12 like I would... 132 calories per muffin (nothing!) :)

And now to stack them up...

...and bag them up!

A cake box seemed a bit try-hard for these modest muffins.
Me? try-hard? Don't know what you mean...!

Muffin recipes are adapted from:

"Red velvet Chocolate Heartache" by Harry Eastwood.

Harry Eastwood was one of the blond ones from Channel 4's "Cook yourself thin" if you ever saw it.

Her recipes are amazing, the food photography is some of the cutest you'll ever see and the recipes are also good for specific dietary requirements. If you can get past the fact that she gives each cake a bit of a cringing "personality" you'll be glad.

Book (hardback) looks like this:

I bought Pin-head a copy for her belated birthday present from Amazon...

Don't click on it if you're reading Pin-head, or you'll see how much I paid.

And an example of that cute photography I was on about:-

Strawberry and cream cupcake (also courgette based) on some doll's house furniture, adorable!

So, I'm off to deliver my cakes to the patient, in fact I used the ice-cream scoop she bought me for Xmas to portion out the mixture into cases. A release mechanism ice-cream scoop is perfect for this.

Get well soon Kel; enjoy the cakes!

J :)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Super Sandwiches

Not the best start to 2011 (due to losing my voice and catching a horrible bug) but on the days I did eat, I ate well. I'm posting details of the sandwiches that are to be part of my healthy 2011...
Roasted butternut squash, feta, onion marmalade, toasted pumpkin seed and rocket sandwich.

(This takes a little bit of prep as you need to roast some butternut squash but it was really worth it!)

You will need:
2 slices of wholemeal bread
A few generous cubes of feta cheese
12ish pumpkin seeds or 24ish sunflower seeds
a few chunks of roasted butternut squash
onion marmalade
small amount of rocket leaves

I reckon with 25g feta and 20g onion marmalade that it was about 350 calories.

Peel the butternut squash (this is easier if you microwave the squash (whole) for a minute or so) and cut up cubes (about 1-2 cm). Put in roasting dish with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven - check after 8-10 minutes, they won't take long being that small!
In a small pan lightly toast the pumpkin seeds (no oil needed), not for very long.
Spread a small amount of onion marmalade on both slices of the bread.
Arrange rocket leaves on top of one layer of bread.
Scatter the roasted squash and crumbled feta over the rocket, then finish with the toasted pumpkin seeds.

I didn't have pumpkin seeds so I used sunflower seeds and it was delicious, pumpkin seeds would be a bit more appropriate as they are in the same family as a butternut, but sometimes I know I'm too fussy and I made the compromise...

Wow, what a sandwich, (3 compliments on it's presentation at work and I didn't even prompt for them)

Tuna, Houmous, Red Pepper, Carrot and cumin seed Roll

I know, I know, it sounds weird; it tastes brilliant, though. The cumin seeds have this magical way of adding a background note of curry to the tuna that makes it kind of meaty and the houmous is a nice alternative to using spreads or mayonnaise. I was sceptical, I needn't have been.
Here is what you’ll need:
2 slices of wholemeal bread or a bread roll

Tinned tuna (in brine or springwater is healthiest)
Cumin seeds
Houmous (I like Marks and Spencers as it has olive oil and rapeseed oil, cheaper ones have vegetable oil so not as good for you)

Grated carrot (optional - only v. small amount)
Red pepper (finely sliced)

Assemble the parts - *you only need a light sprinkling of cumin seeds.

And finally,

         Falafel, harissa mayonnaise, onion marmalade, tomato and baby spinach sandwich

I was soooo looking forward to this one, I love falafels. To give you an idea of how much, my sister is trying to get her child to call me "Aunty Falafel". Let's hope it doesn't take off, I'm not earthy enough to warrant this title and I want something much more "edgy" than that!

I debated for ages with Nicola as to whether shop-bought falafels needed heating before eating. I've since checked several packets and luckily they don't, which is brilliant, you can crumble them up into sandwiches or plonk them straight in your mouth - excellent!

You will need:

Rose Harissa (Amazing stuff!) It's pricey but if you've tasted this and the other harissa pastes on offer it's a no-brainer. You only need to use small amounts of it and it keeps for ages in the fridge.
Of Tunisian origin, this fiery chilli-based item has rose petals in it too..

2 slices of wholemeal bread
3 cherry tomatoes (halved)
Onion marmalade
Baby spinach

Mix a little harissa paste into some mayonnaise to taste. Don't taste harissa on it's own - it'll blow your head off! Ratio of 4 parts mayo to 1 part harissa is good I think.
Spread one slice of bread your "harissa mayo" (I measured 15g of low-fat mayo - it is January!)
Spread the other slice with a small amount of onion marmalade (10g = 25 calories)
Chop the cherry tomatoes in half and arrange on a slice.
Layer baby spinach on top of one slice.
Crumble 3 falafels on top of the spinach.

All ideas adapted and stolen from the "Fresh" range of sandwiches on sale in Boots.
Here they are, plus other examples...
Sandwich fillings can get a bit routine and I'm pleased with the new options I've found.
They're not everyones choice, but they're my choice!
(I put that in especially for Karen - that was a very good episode of Gavin and Stacy!)
J :)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Pretty Amazing Popcorn

A couple of weeks ago Nigella served up some celery in a vase. It was such a cute idea I temporarily forgot that I don't like celery and wanted to nick her idea. Priya was a little more cynical and said that she "was merely making space to 'chow down'", bit harsh perhaps, but then again, she (Nigella) did take a wok to bed in an episode the week before....!

I did use the vase idea though (and I stole some style from David this time) who served us up flavoured popcorn in a vase at his last dinner party.

To accompany the New Years Eve cocktails at my house yesterday we had:-

Caramel Corn with Salted Peanuts
Adapted from DamGoodSweet, by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel

A few notes to help you along:

Be sure to have a whisk and a rubber spatula close at hand. You’ll need them both on short notice.
Before you begin cooking the caramel, measure out the baking soda and the vanilla, and chop the peanuts. You won’t have time to do it later.
Do not try to make this recipe without a candy thermometer.
You will need:

1 pack of salted, butter popcorn (for microwave) - if you burn it, even slightly, chuck it and start again; this is too much effort to risk bodging it up with burnt popcorn!

1 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup golden syrup
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (85g)
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. bicarb
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup lightly salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 250°F (120 degrees Celsius).
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pop the popcorn according to the package instructions. Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and dump the popcorn into the bowl, taking care to pick out and discard any unpopped kernels.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, golden syrup, butter, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer, whisking often, until the mixture reads 250°F on a candy thermometer, about 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. Quickly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn, taking care to distribute it as evenly as you can. Stir in the peanuts, and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning the popcorn with a spatula every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn, and serve.

(I gave it 30-40 minutes - more than enough to get the caramel all over the popcorn!)

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days (or thereabouts). did look very nice in that vase I think.
I've also made this popcorn several times to give away as presents (I had to start getting some use out of buying a candy thermometer!)

Oops, made a bit too much to fit it all in the mason jar...

I was also going to make a curry flavoured popcorn and put it into another vase as an alternative savoury option but I ran out of time (and bought crisps).
And I was also going to share the amazing cocktail recipes that came from Annabel and my sister but I cannot find the enthusiasm for discussing them with the thumping head that I am left with - (they were worth it, but the recipes will have to keep for another time).

Happy New Year!

J :)

P.S. Annabel got these Matryoshka (Russian dolls) that are, ingeniously measuring cups for cooking from her Secret Santa (Cyril) and I was so impressed I got myself some.

The heads are 1, 2/3, 1/3 cup
and the bottoms are 3/4, 1/2,1/4 cup
So clever!

And they've already been put to good use... with the soft brown sugar for the popcorn! Brilliant!

Fantastic piece of design, I'm sure you'll agree...