Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Cinnamon Stars - a Christmas biscuit/cookie

It's quite cold and grey outside but cozy at home.  Keith the dog is still active as ever but loves to snuggle up in the evening, especially when we have the fire going in the fireplace.  Outside, at this time of year, he really does blend in quite well with nature :-)

Given that Christmas is getting closer and that this time of year always reminds me of home, I have been baking some traditional German Christmas biscuits/cookies: cinnamon stars or "Zimtsterne" as we call these at home.

These biscuits don't have any flour in them whatsoever, so if you have a problem with gluten, they might be a good alternative to other biscuits.  The dough consists mainly of ground almonds with a lovely hint of cinnamon and the topping is like a meringue.  The end result is a biscuit that's crunchy on the outside but still soft in the middle - delcious on a dark winter's afternoon with a cup of tea!
Cinnamon stars - Zimtsterne

Monday, 25 November 2013

Large chocolate buttons with trail mix

I can't believe it is only a month until Christmas - can't wait!

I have always loved Christmas - for us, it really is all about getting together with loved ones, enjoying some lovely food together and generally having a break.  There are little traditions we have as a family (I am sure most families do), for example, no matter how old we are now, we still have to stand outside the living room door and wait to be called in to admire the tree.  At my mum's, we always have a real tree with real candles - always have done, even when we were all small children.  Needless to say, the candles aren't lit the whole time and never without anyone watching but it just makes it so festive and cosy :-)  And there are always lots and lots of different types of Christmas biscuits/cookies my mum makes for the occasion.  Christmas bakery is very big in Germany and there are some classic recipes like cinnamon stars (Zimtsterne) and other decorated biscuits/cookies.  I will see if I can make some cinnamon stars and share the recipe here - it's a great one as it is gluten free, so watch this space.

Chocolate buttons with trail mix
If you like homemade gifts, then you might enjoy this little edible treat to give away in a pretty jar: chocolate buttons with trail mix.

The ones pictured have the added bonus of protein powder thrown into the mix, making them into little protein treats but they can just as easily be made without.  A quick and easy treat or gift that looks really cute and tastes delicious.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Christmas cake ... it's almost that time of year

Gosh, it has been ages since I posted anything :-(  Being on crutches was definitely not very helpful when it came to cooking but I am pleased to say that I can now walk almost normally and that as of yesterday I don't have to use my sticks anymore!  Hooray!  That in turn means that there will be no holding me back from trying out recipes again and skipping around in the kitchen - well, not so much skipping but you get the idea.

At the weekend I did manage to start making our Christmas cake.  I usually make two cakes - one to take home to the family in Germany and one for us to have when we are back home.  I love this particular recipe as you can make it a few weeks in advance or if pushed for time, a couple of days before Christmas.  I love how the flavours develop when you prepare it ahead of time, so that's what I usually do.  I also use a shallower tin, making a much "flatter" cake than is traditional but I always find that it is quite rich with all that fruit and icing, so smaller pieces are not necessarily a bad thing.  There is a non-alcohol option to this cake, using orange juice instead of brandy (although there is not that much of the latter in there anyway).  The decorations pictured are those from last year - I'm still thinking of what the design should look like this year, so watch this space. 

How to make an easy & tasty Christmas cake

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Banana & oat smoothie with a spice twist

Banana & oat smoothie
It's been a few days since my last post.  I've not really been able to do much exploring of new recipes as I sit here with my leg on ice after tearing my calf muscle.  Cooking whilst on strong painkillers is probably not the best idea, so food is pretty basic these days.  I am hoping that I will get back into it soon though as I do miss my little blog and writing about food.

What I can mention though is this delicious idea for when time is tight but you want something nutritious, even on the go: a banana & oat smoothie made with almond milk, a dollop of peanut butter and finished off with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisked up in the blender it makes for a lovely breakfast or snack before exercising.  You can obviously change the ingredients but I think the spices go ever so well with banana and oats.  Yummy!

Friday, 1 November 2013

It's been quite a busy week and I am looking forward to the weekend with Mr Happy Larder and Keith the dog.  There will be some dog walking (in the rain, unfortunately), a visit to friends

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Bread rolls

Not so much a recipe today as an idea of how to shape some lovely dinner rolls out of pretty much any bread dough (I used my fluffy white sandwich loaf recipe - see here).

Simply roll out the dough with a rolling pin into a round (resembling a large pizza base) - it should be roughly half a centimeter in thickness.  Then, using a knife or ideally a pizza wheel cut the round into what would look like 12 equal pizza slices/triangles.

Roll each of the pieces up, starting from the widest end and you will get these little "croissant" shapes.  Bake in a hot oven for about 10 minutes or until golden.

Aren't they cute? They'd look lovely in a bread basket when you have guests and go ever so well with soup, pate...you name it.  A nice change from just the usual round dinner rolls.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Spanish tortilla with sweet potatoes & spinach

We've had some epic storms over the last couple of days but luckily, our part of the world appears to have escaped the worst.  I took the dog down to the beach as our usual walk in the park - a park full of old trees - just didn't seem safe.  Keith loved chasing around in the sand despite the rain and eventually the sun came out to say hello. 

I woke up really early this morning - not woken by the storm but by dreaming of scrambled eggs on toast.  It must have made me hungry in my sleep and that woke me up.  I wonder if other people dream of food the way I do - I can smell and taste it even when I am asleep :-)

With a craving for eggs there was only one thing to do - I made a Spanish tortilla for lunch but with sweet potato instead of "normal" ones.  It was delicious and very quick to make, so if you are ever after a fast meal, I can recommend this one.  Plus it's nutritious and filling - can't be a bad thing.  I had mine with a simple tomato & chive salad - yum!  The 2 pieces on the photo are half the tortilla (erm - I ate the rest of it too :-))

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Cauliflower pizza...whaaat?

Cauliflower pizza
Isn't it funny how every now and again a new food fad appears out of nowhere?  First, we had goji berries, then chia seeds and now it is the humble cauliflower that is hitting the headlines with even Jamie Oliver making cauliflower "rice".  I must admit I was intrigued when I heard about cauliflower pizza and had to give it a go.  Stop that bandwagon - I am jumping on!

Believe it or not but the result was a really tasty pizza!  I couldn't quite believe it myself, especially since it didn't taste of cauliflower.  The base was probably not quite as crispy as a conventional pizza, so it could have done with a few more minutes in the oven but I was hungry, so I had to have it there and then :-)  

It was very tasty - what a great way to have more vegetables! And you can still have your favourite pizza toppings and freeze the pizza before the final bake if you want to have it another day.  Perfect!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Fruitcake cookies/biscuits

Brrr - it is horribly wet out there!  Feeling very fortunate that after getting soaked on the dog walk first thing this morning we could return to a warm and dry house. 

Fruit cake cookies / biscuits
I guess it is no wonder that I am starting to feel very Christmassy and the recipe I found at the weekend reflects that perfectly: fruitcake cookies/biscuits.  These delicious treats are full of yummy dried fruit and nuts and warming spices - perfect on a cold and/or wet day!  I saw these made on Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa" TV show and knew they'd be just the right thing for us: the perfect cookie/biscuit to go with a warming cup of tea :-) 

The dried fruit is best left to soak overnight if you want a stronger flavour and the dough also needs to rest in the fridge to firm up, so best to plan ahead when making these.  They are definitely worth the wait!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Rum truffle cake balls - a delicious treat made from leftovers

I was really struggling to give today's recipe an appropriate name but I hope rum truffle cake balls describes roughly what they are :-)  These are actually quite popular in Germany (they are called "Rumkugeln" there) and I first came across these in my uncle's bakery when I was a little girl.  Traditionally made from leftover cake, they are the perfect way to avoid food waste whilst making something delicious. 
Rum truffle cake balls
When my cake went dry very quickly the other day, I knew immediately what to do with it - turn it into these little treats!  You can use just rum flavouring if you want to keep the alcohol content down (and serve to kids) but with just 2 tablespoons of rum for the whole lot, you are not going to get drunk eating these :-)

They remind me of my uncle and of sleepovers at the bakery - happy times!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Sweet potato bake

Sweet potato bake
I've recently started doing hot yoga classes - sweaty stuff.  Doing exercises in a room heated to 37 C sure makes for a hungry tummy afterwards.  Yesterday, I prepared my dinner before going out to the class which was great because when I got back all I needed to do was put the dish in the oven and wait for 30 minutes. 

I made a sweet potato bake - slices of sweet potato with chorizo and vegetables in a creamy sauce, baked in the oven and served with homemade garlic bread (see the recipe here) and some salad.  You could also use "normal" potatoes for this dish or a mixture of both and serve it as a side dish rather than a main meal..  Simply chuck in any leftover vegetables, bits of ham or whatever you fancy or turn it into a vegetarian dish by leaving the chorizo (or any other meat) out.  Easy & tasty - my kind of meal!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Tikka masala curry

It's been a busy weekend with lots of socialising, catching up on long overdue phone calls, exercising, the usual housework...you get the picture.  It also was Keith the dog's second birthday on Saturday - happy birthday furry friend! 

I found a great little recipe I'd like to share with you because it's ideal for those busy times when you just need dinner to (mostly) cook itself.  I love meals that you can just throw into a pot without much preparation needed.  This one is a tikka masala curry, cooked on a low heat in the oven whilst you can get on with other stuff.  Making a batch or two of this at the weekend to have later in the week or keep in the freezer will save a lot of time and hassle and you can be sure to have a delicious meal to hand when you are short of time.

The one I made was with chicken breast but it would be equally nice with chicken thighs, lamb or beef.  Or why not make a vegetarian option with potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower etc?  We enjoyed our chicken one with rice and steamed broccoli on the side - it wasn't greasy like curries can sometimes be and had lots and lots of flavour.  We'll definitely be having this again and next time I will double the amount and put some in the freezer as well.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Have a good start to your week!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Update! Chocolate plum cake with cinnamon...autumn, here we come!

Update!  Since writing this post a couple of days ago I have noticed that the cake has dried out really quickly despite being wrapped in foil and kept in a special cake container.  Very disappointing indeed!  Maybe it would have been better to let the fruit juices seep into the cake after all rather than using the suggested ground almonds.  I thought I'd let you know!
I guess I will use any leftovers to make something my baker uncle used to do when he had spare cake...I will write more about these naughty little treats next week in a new post.  In the meantime, have a good weekend!

Temperatures here have dropped by quite a bit but with the sun still out, it's been a lovely couple of days.

With autumn in the air I was very excited to find a recipe for a lovely chocolate plum cake.  I amended this slightly and added some cinnamon which I think goes very well with both the fruit and chocolate and also with this time of the year.  I could imagine this cake with apricots, peaches or maybe cherries instead of the plums - yum!
I also learned a new trick when I made this - the recipe suggested sprinkling ground almonds onto the dough before putting the fruit on top.  That way the cake doesn't end up soggy with the fruit juice seeping from the plums during baking - great idea I think and it would work well with other cakes too.  I'll have to remember this.

Chocolate plum cake with cinnamon

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Creamy chicken soup...winter warmers

Lovely socks
It's slowly getting colder here and so I was very excited to receive a parcel from my mum with a pair of socks she had knitted for me.  Her socks are simply the best and keep me nice and warm - I am sure it's because of the love she knits into them :-)  They will come in handy on the long dog walks and for snuggling up on the sofa.

Just as warm and comforting is the dish I cooked for lunch today: creamy chicken soup with rice.  This is so easy to make, doesn't cost the earth and is filling and comforting.  And using a couple of shortcuts makes this a very quick meal to put together - what more does one need on a cold or rainy day?
Creamy chicken soup with rice

Monday, 7 October 2013

Cheesy herb bread - no need for kneading

I spent some time at the weekend looking for new recipes to try.  It's one of my favourite things to do and this time I got so excited about a bread recipe I found that not only did I have to make some straightaway but I was also back in the kitchen at 6:30am this morning to try another variation.  The result, a cheesy herb bread, will go perfectly with soup and is also great for sharing with family and friends.  The secret ingredient in this is beer!  Yes - I couldn't believe it either but it does work very well and doesn't taste the slightest bit beer-y (although I must say I found it a bit difficult to smell beer that early in the morning...brrrr).

How to make cheesy herb bread
The original recipe was for a cheesy garlic version of the bread which I baked in a loaf tin - even quicker to make and slightly less messy (given that the dough is rather sticky).  It made for a delicious toasted sandwich for my lunch today - filled with pesto, slices of chicken breast, lettuce and tomato.  Yum!  I guess that's my lunches sorted for this week, although I will be putting some of both breads into the freezer.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Pizza? Quesadilla? Pizzadilla!

I love pizza and I also love Mexican food, so when I came across this idea on Pinterest, I simply had to give it a go: pizzadilla.  If like me you prefer a thin crust pizza to a deep pan one, than this will definitely be up your street.  It's a sort of pizza quesadilla or tortilla pizza and absolutely delicious!

The idea of filling a tortilla bread with pizza ingredients is great but I also love that you can make it into a healthier meal by adjusting the amount of cheese you'd normally use on a pizza.  It'll still taste full of cheesy yummy goodness but by adding most of the filling to only one half of the tortilla and then folding it over, you save on calories and fat but definitely not on taste. It's totally up to you what you want to put inside this lovely snack food...perfect! (I topped my tomato base with spinach, cooked chicken breast, bits of bell pepper and some grated cheddar cheese - yum!).

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Mushroom egg cups - a lovely breakfast idea

I've been exercising a lot these last few weeks - it's great fun, I have heaps more energy and feel stronger.  I am also quite hungry a lot of the time, especially after doing resistance (weights) exercises and therefore always on the lookout for tasty recipes that won't break the calorie bank.  After all, I don't want to undo all my hard work :-)

Portobello mushroom egg cup
That's where this little recipe idea comes in: portobello mushroom egg cups.  I came across this a few days ago and just love the simplicity of it.  Simply cut the stem out of a portobello mushroom and crack an egg into it.  Season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven at 220 C for 10 - 15 minutes (depending on whether you want your yolk runny or not).  Serve hot on top of a slice of toasted bread (or have it without the bread).  You can also line the mushroom with a few spinach leaves like I have done or a slice of ham before adding the egg. 

This recipe takes a little longer than just scrambling an egg but is a cute breakfast idea that is also nutritious.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Spicy prawn pasta

Prawn pasta in tomato sauce
It's Tuesday evening and I am sitting here with a cup of tea and a belly full of dinner - not a bad place to be, if you ask me. 

I've been really hungry all day and had to eat much earlier than normal this evening - and it had to be quick.  Luckily, I had some penne pasta in the freezer from last week which could be warmed up very quickly.  With a spicy tomato sauce and king prawns it made for pretty much instant food - tasty and healthy. 

I can't believe I used to buy pasta sauce jars when they are so easy and quick to make.  Simply fry a little onion and garlic, add tomato puree and water, season with salt, pepper and dried herbs (basil, oregano) - it couldn't be easier.  With this one I added a few dried chilli flakes, threw in the prawns and pasta and dinner was on my plate in minutes.

Ideal midweek supper, I'd say.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Gyoza dumplings

I can't believe it's Saturday already!  How did that happen?  And I can believe even less how quickly summer has turned into autumn here!  I even have to put the lights on when I get up in the morning which is a sure sign that we are moving into the latter part of the year.  Mind you, I love all the seasons for different reasons (quite the poet today :-)) - now I'm looking forward to wooly jumpers and eating stews by the fireplace.

Before I get to more winter warmers though, I should write about the gyoza dumplings we had recently.  Now, if you can lay your hands on some ready-made wonton wrappers, these will be done sooo quickly and easily.  Stuffed with minced chicken, ginger, spices etc they are finger-licking good with a simple dipping sauce  - you could also fill them with crab meat, veggie mince or tofu.  I believe that traditionally they are fried on one side and then steamed but we actually preferred them fried on both sides - it made them nice and crispy on the outside yet soft in the middle.

I couldn't get any wonton wrappers, so made the dough from scratch - it was worth it though, especially since I made enough to pop some leftover gyozas in the freezer for another time.  In fact, I think we'll have those tomorrow :-)

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Sesame chicken for an easy midweek supper

After a wonderful few days with my friend, it is now back to reality.  But not without a smile on my face because we just had the most lovely time.  It's funny, isn't it - when you have really good friends, it's just easy to spend time together and it doesn't matter when you last saw each other...you just pick up where you left off.  Lots of chatting, dog walking, laughing and relaxing...and of course eating - just tasty stuff like fish pie (see the recipe link here) and roast dinners, prepared together.  Perfect :-)

Sesame chicken
But now, I better had caught up on posting a few recipes .  How about this one: sesame chicken

Mr Happy Larder and I had this as part of our anniversary dinner the other day and with a few tweaks we turned it into a quick and simple yet tasty meal.  Served on rice and veggies, this is not just for special occasions but can easily be made as a midweek meal for the family when you need to feed everyone quickly.

The trick with this is to dust the meat with cornflour prior to frying - this keeps it incredibly soft.  I do this with all types of meat in stir-fries or casseroles and it always works a treat (added bonus: the cornflour also thickens the sauce).

I hope you'll enjoy this one! xx

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Simple fish cakes using up leftovers

Gosh, where have the last two days gone?  I've been meaning to write a post and then never got round to it as there was too much going on.  We had a lovely anniversary dinner on Friday and I'll write more on those recipes later this week - just to tickle your taste buds: we had gyoza dumplings with a dipping sauce, followed by sesame chicken...yum!

Anyway, it's been a busy few days which has meant that food had to be quick, especially at lunchtime.  And what better way to use some simple ingredients from the larder and some leftovers than to make some fish cakes?   

Crab cakes using leftover mash
We had some leftover mash potato which needed using up and was ideal for these.  For the sweet potato version, I quickly boiled and mashed one large potato - they seem to cook so much faster than "normal" potatoes.  The rest is really easy:  take a tin of crab meat or tuna, mix with the mash and add the spices/seasoning you would like.  I went for spicy cakes, using cumin, turmeric and a bit of chilli as well as some grated ginger and finely chopped spring onions.  Job done!  You can add a little beaten egg to bind everything together but I don't think it's strictly necessary.  Form the cakes and bake in a moderately hot oven on a baking sheet for ca. 25 minutes.  One tin of fish and 200g potato made seven smallish fish cakes.

Tuna sweet potato cakes
The great thing with these is that you can just use what you have - chuck in a bit of leftover sweetcorn, chop up a little bell pepper...whatever you have to hand.  Oh, and you can fry them if you prefer.

Serve with a simple salad or this easy yogurt dipping sauce - plain yogurt, coriander/cilantro and a bit of salt.  Oh, and if you don't like fish, you can make  vegetarian cakes by simply omitting the fish and adding a few more veggies.

Right, off to take the dog out for his morning walk and then I need to prep a cake - we have a very dear friend visiting for a few days and I think that calls for a sweet treat :-)

Friday, 13 September 2013

Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies

It's our 5th wedding anniversary today :-)  We will be celebrating with a lovely meal tonight - I have a couple of great ideas in mind for a yummy starter and main course and will share the recipes next week.  I hope they come out well!
Raspberry cheesecake brownie

In the meantime, since it is Friday and almost the weekend, it must be treat time, mustn't it?  I don't know about you but I find it really difficult to make the choice between chocolate cake and cheesecake or the healthy option of fruit.  Well, how about having all rolled into one finger-licking cake: a raspberry cheesecake brownie?  This one has the added bonus of a good swig of Amarula liqueur but you could use any cream liqueur or none at all.  With a handful of fresh raspberries giving a good contrast to the rich cake, I think this is just yummy.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Adzuki Bean Falafel with Tahini dressing

I had a good work out this morning which I am pleased about - the only thing is that I am now really hungry and will be wanting to eat everything I can lay my hands on.  I'll try not to undo all the good work :-)

Falafel wrap
Just as well that I made a batch of falafel yesterday which made for a very tasty and healthy choice for lunch today. 

Stuffed in a tortilla bread (shock, horror - this one was shop-bought :-)) and drizzled with a tahini dressing, these little bean balls were delicious.  Instead of the usual chick peas I opted for tinned adzuki beans because that's all I had - I reckon you can use pretty much any type of canned bean such as kidney, black,...  As with so many things, the secret is in the seasoning - I found that ground cumin was essential in this recipe and if you are using beans canned in just water (rather than salt water), remember to add a bit more salt.

Most recipes suggest using a food processor to mash up the beans but to be honest, I found that a good old potato masher or large fork and a bowl work equally well (easier to clean afterwards as well).  The falafel can be eaten hot or cold and would make a great addition to any lunchbox.

Luckily, I have a few of these leftover in case I get the munchies later on.... :-)

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Delicious pasta bake

Sometimes I find a new recipe and I can almost feel my arteries clogging up as I read it - heaps of butter, cream, cheese, more cheese.  Now, I like rich food and could quite easily munch my way through a whole baked Camembert cheese but I know that these can only be occasional treats in an otherwise balanced diet.

Salmon & broccoli pasta bake
I came across a salmon & broccoli pasta bake that I loved the sound of - but with much less of the suggested fat added to it.  I cooked my version of it last night and it was delicious (even if I say so myself :-)) - creamy but not over the top. 

I guess that's the beauty with cooking - you can always change the recipe into something you'd prefer to eat, so please feel free to play with this one.

Right, I guess I had better updated the much-neglected recipe index - I am still trying to find a better way of listing all the recipes in a more user-friendly way.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Quinoa patties - a quick & healthy lunch option

Not impressed
Keith the dog wasn't too impressed with me when I took him out for his walk in the pouring rain.  For a water-loving spaniel it is quite remarkable just how much he hates the rain :-)

We've had a relaxing weekend with long walks on the beach and plenty of yummy food - one of our new favourites is the Malaysian curry I wrote about a little while ago, so we had that on Saturday night.  I'll be making up another batch of curry paste later today to pop into the freezer - it's the ultimate fast food and healthy, especially when made with reduced fat coconut milk and plenty of vegetables.

Quinoa patties
Another healthy recipe that would make a nice change for lunch is for these quinoa patties. One of the latest foods to be labelled a "superfood", quinoa is surprisingly high in protein, magnesium and other nutrients compared to other grains (although apparently it's not really a grain as such).  It's easy to cook and very versatile - a great alternative to rice.  You can even get in precooked in a pouch which might be a good option if you are trying it for the first time and don't want to buy a whole bag of the stuff.  Always nice to try something different, so maybe these little patties will find their way into your lunch box one day.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Easy tray bake recipe

Isn't it funny how some conversations can give you energy and others leave you feeling drained?  I have had lots of lovely chats this week - with family, Mr Happy Larder but also with people I don't know or at least not very well.  And with the great comments here on the blog there is a real feeling of community which I love, so thank you to everyone who has made my week special - I hope I have been able to return the favour :-)

Talking of things that make me smile, how about this easy to prepare jam tray bake I made for the weekend?  I came across this recipe on Pinterest and simply had to try it - the original recipe can be found on Marie's fabulous blog "The English Kitchen".

This is a simple but very tasty cake and it'll definitely be featuring on our plates again :-)  I made half a tray's worth and froze a few pieces - just to stop us from gobbling up the lot.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Easy chicken burger recipe with a twist

Minding his own business
Doesn't he look cute, our cheeky dog?  No mishaps on this morning's walk, I am happy to say.

It's still quite warm and sunny here - the last few summer days.  I fancied something for my dinner yesterday that would somehow match the weather and made these lovely chicken avocado burgers.

Chicken burger
Packed with minced chicken, cubes of creamy avocado and crunchy tortilla chips, they had an additional kick from a squeeze of lime juice, a handful of coriander (cilantro) and  a bit of chilli.  Such an easy burger recipe but a nice change from the usual.
I think they would also work well with a bit of sweetcorn or black beans added to the mix, so I might try that next time.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Fluffy white sandwich bread

Isn't it great when your dog manages to completely embarrass you? :-)  Keith the dog decided to interrupt someone's personal training session in the park this morning by running off with some of the equipment they were using.  Luckily, I got it back relatively quickly but not without having everyone concerned in stitches with laughter.  Thanks Keith :-)

Soft white bread
Now, back to the recipe I promised to share for a fluffy white sandwich loaf.  It's probably my best attempt at making this type of bread so far.  I used a technique I hadn't heard of before but came across in my search for the ultimate white bread.  The unusual ingredient or technique is called "tangzhong" and is used in Japanese milk bread recipes.

Basically, it's a mix of water (and/or milk) and flour which gets heated to a custard-like consistency (like a roux but more liquid), then cooled and added to the bread dough.  I am not 100% sure why it works so well but it is helping to keep the dough moist and results in a fabulous texture.  I have since made a wholemeal version of this and it worked equally well, although it was slightly denser (but not much).  You could easily make this into soft rolls for burgers or a sweet cinnamon or raisin bread.  Yummy!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Sweet bread

I have to have a little rant today about sugar in unexpected places.  Well, what happened is that we fancied some soft brown rolls for our lunch at the weekend and as we were out doing our food shopping, we picked up a packet of wholemeal rolls.  Lunch was to be a roll filled with lovely ham from our deli with a bit of lettuce, a smear of mayo and lots of sugar. What?  No, the latter hadn't been the plan but you wouldn't believe just how sweet those bread rolls were.  When I looked at the list of ingredients, sugar was listed in third place, even before yeast and salt.  There is absolutely no need to add sugar to bread and especially not that much.  Needless to say that we didn't really enjoy our lunch that much :-(  What makes me really mad is that a lot of this stuff is labelled as healthy food - even those rolls had a big sticker on the packaging declaring the wonderful amount of fibre they contained.  I am sure they have a lot of fibre from the wholemeal flour but what about all that sugar? 

Next time you buy ready-made stuff from your supermarket or shop, have a look at the ingredients and you'd be surprised what items have been sweetened: soup, bread, so-called low-fat cereals and "healthy" yogurts.  Before you know it, you will have eaten several teaspoons of sugar without even realising you've done it.  Don't get me wrong, I love to have a sweet treat now and again and you will find plenty of cake recipes on my blog.  But the thing is that I'd like to decide myself when I have something sweet.

Anyway, rant over!  Guess I will just have to try to make even more stuff from scratch and where I don't or can't, I need to read the labels even more carefully.

The positive result of all of this is that I have since discovered a wonderful recipe for a fluffy sandwich bread that will satisfy when we crave soft bread - minus the sugar.  I will share the recipe for that tomorrow, so watch this space...here's a picture to get you drooling :-)
Soft white sandwich bread

Friday, 30 August 2013

A weekend treat...super easy sponge cake

It's almost the weekend and what could be better than having a nice treat to serve up with a cup of tea or coffee?

Rather than reaching for a packet of shop-bought biscuits, why not make this quick sponge cake that can be filled with cream & jam, a fruit mousse,...?  I couldn't believe how easy it was to make this - it was mixed and baked within 30 minutes!
Easy sponge cake
Have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Looks good enough to eat...Korean sweet & spicy sauce

When I was a little girl I liked nothing better than sitting on the sofa looking at the pictures in my mum's cookbooks.  I still do it!  I love recipes with photos - it helps me imagine what the dish will taste like if that makes sense. 

Korean sweet & spicy tofu
I often go online and do a recipe search by image - that's exactly what happened a couple of days ago when I needed some inspiration for a tofu dish.  Not being a vegetarian, it's not something I have much experience cooking with and to be honest, I have had tofu that tasted more like a wet sponge than anything else, so I was a bit wary of what I might end up with. 
Well, this recipe for Korean sweet & spicy tofu (continuing yesterday's theme of world foods) was a revelation!  Before you recoil in horror, this would work equally well with chicken, pork or prawns :-)  The tofu was crispy thanks to a coating of cornflour applied before frying, the sauce was sticky, sweet and spicy and I demolished the lot in seconds.  The sauce is probably one of the best I have made - we will have this again soon with chicken and stir-fry vegetables! 

Monday, 26 August 2013

In 80 meals around the world...Vietnamese spring rolls & spicy peanut dipping sauce

I moved to London in the early '90s and over the next few years got to experience so much food from around the world that I had never had before.  My first Indian curry gave me the hiccups as I wasn't used to the spices and heat from the chilli but I loved every hiccup-y mouthful.  My first Thai food almost had me in tears with delight at the delicate fragrant flavours.  Since then I've eaten Japanese, Mexican, Korean, South African, Tanzanian,...the list goes on.  I feel incredibly lucky to have tasted so many delicious cuisines and can't wait to try many more.  My dream trip would be travelling around the world with Mr Happy Larder and eating in every country of the world - I'd die one very happy & full woman :-)

Spring rolls with spicy peanut dipping sauce
I guess where I live "unusual" ingredients have become so much more accessible and whilst I try and watch out for food miles, I also love trying out new things.  The latest is Vietnamese rice paper wrappers.  These thin rice papers are used to make spring rolls and make a fabulous change from having sandwiches for lunch.  You can have them as they are or fried/baked - on this occasion I tried the "original" version.  Simply soak the papers in warm water for a few seconds, then stuff with your favourite filling and roll up tightly. folding over the sides to create a sealed roll.  I had mine filled with fresh salad veggies, cooked brown rice and some salmon. These little buddies went especially well with my homemade spicy peanut dipping sauce - you can find the recipe below.

Mhm, which country will my culinary journey take me to next? 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The quest for a great veggie burger

I've been trying to go running a bit more regularly and have managed 3 outings this week, straight after the dog's morning walk.  I can feel that the exercising is doing me good - the only thing is that I want to eat all the time. ;-)  Guess my metabolism has been jump-started, so not to undo my good work I have been looking for healthy recipes to satisfy my hunger.

One thing that falls into this category and that  I love is a good veggie burger but finding one that doesn't have a mushy, baby food texture is not that easy. 

Well, I think I may have found at least one answer to this: chopped nuts - adding a few of those gives a great crunch and lovely taste to the burger.  Next time I may also add some grated carrot for an even better texture and to include more veggie goodness but these did turn out lovely just as they were. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

I am hungry - now! ... Easy miso stir-fry

Miso stir fry
It's been a busy day today, so when it got to 6pm I was absolutely starving and needed food quickly. And luckily I already had this dish in mind - super fast, tasty and healthy: stir-fry vegetables, salmon, rice and miso soup.  The miso broth came from an instant sachet from our local health food shop - all natural ingredients, so I didn't mind using it (anyway, I wouldn't even know where to start making miso soup from scratch).

This was done in minutes (thanks to the cooked brown rice I already had) - you could also easily use quick cook noodles to make this satisfying dish.  I felt really full afterwards (in a good way) and will definitely make this again.  My kind of fast food!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Slow cooking the Mexican way - chicken mole

Keith the dog has been busy helping to put the finishing touches to the new kitchen over the weekend.  Not that he has been that helpful but who can be angry with such a cute bundle of furry enthusiasm? :-)

I've been meaning to write a post about a recipe I recently tried:
Chicken mole
Mexican chicken mole

It's a slow cooked dish with a deep rich sauce ("mole") - we had it with tortilla breads and guacamole and it was absolutely delicious!  As with many recipes there are lots and lots of versions for this dish but this one worked well for us.

What intrigued me when I first started looking at the different recipes was the use of dark chocolate in the sauce - it gave a lovely richness to the dish.  And being a slow cook kind of recipe it practically cooks itself whilst you can get on with other stuff :-)

Thursday, 15 August 2013

To health with wholemeal bread

It's been a strange few days.  My visit to Germany was lovely but also tinged with sadness as my sister's father-in-law had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, aged 70.  The day after my return he passed away, four short weeks after his initial diagnosis.  A difficult time for the immediate family and everyone who knew him.
For me, it has brought into focus (yet again) just how precious our health is and how we should do everything to protect ourselves from illness. 

It's a bit difficult to find a cheerful link to a recipe but I guess today's recipe is all about health, so that's positive.  I have been looking for a good recipe for wholemeal bread and tried a few - by combining the bits I like most from all the different recipes, I have now come up with one that is not only easy but also super-tasty and good for you.  The most surprising ingredient I found in one of the recipes was half a vitamin C tablet - apparently, it lightens wholemeal bread's texture...I tried it and it does seem to work!

This bread doesn't contain any sugar or other sweetener and yet rises fine by just using the natural sugars (starch) in the flour - another plus for our health.

I hope you enjoy this one!

Friday, 2 August 2013

On the road again...

It's 7:15am and I'm on the train to London to catch a plane to Germany.  I'm very excited to be visiting my youngest sister and her family and to be there for my nephew/godson's 8th birthday.  Yes, it did mean waking up just after 4am today to get the train at 5:27am but it's so worth it.  Mr Happy Larder even got up to take me to the station - best husband ever!  Keith the dog was slightly puzzled to see us so early but pleased nonetheless.

I do have some more recipes I want to write about.  There is the one for chickpea burgers and red pepper hummus I promised but also another one: Mexican chicken mole (mole means sauce & is not to be confused with the blind furry critters answering to the same name & living underground :-)).  It's a one-pot slow cook sort of meal and very tasty indeed - next time I'll tweak it a little as I was a bit conservative with the chilli but I'll write about all of that early next week when I'm back.

In the meantime, have a happy & healthy weekend! xx

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A nice cup of tea...Masala chai made easy

Oh, I love drinking tea and coffee!  There is just something about starting the day with a hot drink.  And whilst I am trying not to overdo the coffee consumption, a nice cup of tea can't be that bad for you, can it?

Masala chai - a spiced tea
For a while now I have been meaning to make masala chai, a spiced milky Indian tea.  Now, from what I understand this is usually quite sweet but in my recipe I cut down on the sugar since I always have my tea and coffee unsweetened.  It was delicious with all those wonderful flavours of the spices and yet I don't have to fear that my new addiction will cost me my teeth.  Yes, after having had just one cup of the stuff I am already hooked :-)  No doubt families all over India have their own recipes for this and I bet it tastes different in every other household.

If you don't have the time to make this from scratch whenever you fancy a cup, why not put ground spices together with a little dried milk in a jar and when you are ready for your fragrant tea, simply pop a tea bag into a mug, add some of the mix and pour hot water from the kettle on top.  Leave to steep and enjoy - couldn't be easier!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Easy-peasy pitta (pita) bread

Pitta pockets
I've not done that much baking lately but put that right over the weekend when I made pitta breads for the first time. 

These little pockets are a lovely alternative to sandwiches, especially when stuffed with all sorts of things - salad, hummus, chicken,...the list is endless.  The version I tried didn't contain any yeast and was therefore a lot quicker to prepare.  I opted for wholemeal flour and am really pleased how these came out :-) 

I turned mine into a yummy lunch with red pepper hummus and a vegetarian chickpea burger - delicious!  I will post the recipes for both soon.  For now, I can highly recommend giving these a try!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Fragrant food...Malaysian curry

I am discovering a lot of new flavours and foods at the moment.  And the more I eat fresh or freshly prepared meals, the more I crave these.  Putting together different herbs, spices and other ingredients and eating fragrant, flavoursome food at the end of it is just pure joy!  Who would have thought that healthy food can taste so good?

Malaysian curry
I found this Malaysian curry recipe which is bursting with flavour and is really simple to make.  Apart from the lemongrass the ingredients were easily available at my small local supermarket - they did have lemongrass paste which I used instead of the fresh stuff and it worked fine.  Anyway, I hope you will be able to find the ingredients easily because this dish is just so well worth making!

I love how versatile it is - I had the curry with tofu but you can use chicken, prawns, just vegetables...your choice!  And instead of rice, noodles would also be great.  Oh, and why not make double the spice paste and freeze half of it in an ice cube tray for another day?  That way you can serve up a yummy and healthy meal in no time.

Have a lovely, healthy weekend!

PS:  I had lots more sauce than the picture shows :-)