Banana, chocolate and raspberry muffins

Banana, chocolate and raspberry muffins

Sometimes baking inventions come from slightly healthier intentions. We have been eating a lot healthier and going to the gym 4-5 times a week. We actually have a couple’s gym membership (although I categorically deny that we sit side by side on the exercise bikes!) As such, there has been a lot more fruit and vegetables in our shopping basket. Enter these muffins. I had some raspberries that needed eating and a hankering to adapt a tried and tested muffin recipe. After all life is about balance and a little of what you fancy does you the world of good.

To make 13 muffins you will need:

3 bananas (slightly overripe is best)

2 large eggs

113g butter, melted

150g caster sugar

230g self raising flour

150g raspberries (fresh or frozen)

150g milk chocolate chunks

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tray with cake cases. Mash your bananas and the eggs together until there are only small lumps of banana. Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly. Add the sugar, flour and butter to form a nice batter. Once it is mixed in with no dry bits add the raspberries and chocolate.

Put the mixture into the lined cake cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out of your test cake clean.

Best enjoyed

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Ginger Whisk Cookery School – A Review

Ginger Whisk Cookery School – A Review

If you love food I’m sure you can appreciate that even the most confident cooks sometimes benefit from a bit of help and guidance to improve in certain types of cooking. Personally, I find using pastry a challenge (curse my naturally warm hands). As such I was absolutely delighted to attend a Pork Pie making class 2 Saturdays ago at the Ginger Whisk Cookery School in Chiswick, West London.

The Cookery School hosts a wide range of classes ranging from baking; teaching university students to cook; children’s cookery classes; soap making; food photography and many more. The class list is diverse and classes are run by a range of people and can include guest teachers.

The pork pie class was hosted by Lucy Cufflin, one of the founders of Ginger Whisk and Lucy Lee-Tirrell. Both were excellent teachers, friendly, encouraging and open to questions. The class sizes are small which gives them both opportunity to offer tips to individuals in an area where they may have been struggling. For example, I have been rolling out pastry too aggressively for years which has led to slightly shrunken pies and tarts as the pastry sprang back in the oven.

The small class sizes gave a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and it was lovely to spend time with other people who enjoyed talking about food as much as I did. As it turns out pork pie making, which previously I was wary of, is actually pretty methodical and it is a pretty perfect thing to make around Christmas time or for a celebration. As somebody who is collecting ideas for a wedding it quite literally gave me food for thought and home made pork pie might make an appearance on the menu in the course of the day.

It was a lovely touch that not only did we get to sample a range of pork pies and local beer.; we also had cheese and wine from Lucy and Lucy’s recent travels to France. As well as being a great way to learn about cooking on an individual basis, attending a cookery class would be a fun idea for a date or even a great corporate team building event. Not only does Ginger Whisk offer cookery classes, there is opportunity for prop hire and a photography studio – used in food magazines and in the production of cook books. So if you’re the next Delia or Jamie Oliver get in touch with Ginger Whisk.

I had a great time during my trip to London and I left with a large pie and instructions on adding the jelly which was a fun post pie activity. I actually made a video of my visit which will be appearing on my Youtube channel soon!

Thank you so much for my invite to your lovely cookery school. I had a great time!

Click here for details of classes.

For information on prop or studio hire click here.

For any general enquiries or business enquiries click here.

I was kindly invited to visit the Ginger Whisk Cookery School to review a class. All opinions stated here are my own.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be constantly productive?

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be constantly productive?

Do you ever get the same feeling as me that you’re constantly running behind? Like you have a long to do list, you complete 90% of it and yet you still have a niggling feeling like you should have pushed that extra bit to get everything done. Sometimes you do have the energy to finish everything off or but some lucky stroke things take less time than you imagined. On those days the sense of achievement is pretty great, but it leaves me asking a question, why do some of us put so much pressure on ourselves?

I don’t actually know where this drive to be busy came from. If I’m honest at times I was a bit of a sloth. I was happy idling my time away, spending time binge watching Game of Thrones and expecting nothing more from my free time than just relaxing and seeing the boyfriends I had at the time.

I’ve noticed most of my female friends and a lot of the blogging community seem to be reluctant to give themselves a break. I don’t know if its crept up on me as I’ve got a bit more mature or whether its actually finding a job that I’m pretty good at and a pretty cool niche in blogging that I really enjoy. I’ve found myself in breaks at work keeping on top of blog emails and wedding research. If I stop my brain feels like its literally breathing a sigh of relief. Perhaps that’s why spa days are so immensely popular?

I am surrounded by so many wonderful people in my life stuck in the same predicament, some tired mothers who accomplish so much; some people managing multiple jobs and people running their own businesses who seem to achieve so much. Everyone seems to have the same worry that they’re not productive enough , not doing enough.

I think I mentioned nearly 2 years ago about having to take a hiatus from blogging and I had to pull back from work as I pretty much worked myself into the ground during a stressful time at work. The day in A&E that followed was at best hilarious as it was so surreal and at worst a warning sign about overdoing it.

So, to all the worriers, the list makers and the people who upon completing their to do list add another 5 things to it. You’re doing a pretty great job, keep it up. The world needs more people who care. But don’t be afraid to sit down and have a tea break, the world won’t stop if you don’t finish everything.

Plus, you can maybe cross a couple of the more unattainable tasks off the list and get some sleep?

Healthy alternatives: wholemeal pizza bases

Healthy alternatives: wholemeal pizza bases

We love pizza in this house. Frozen pizza, takeaway pizza, proper Italian pizza, pizza when drinking, hangover pizza, this list goes on. However, I think its pretty common knowledge that pizza isn’t the healthiest option and anything that increases the nutritional benefits of our Friday night favourite has a big fat thumbs up from us.

On top of the nutritional benefits homemade pizza is an absolute steal compared with buying pizza from a takeaway or restaurant and taste better than supermarket pizza so it is better for household economising. It is also a fun thing to make with children as it would allow them to pick their own toppings so there are lots of benefits to making your own.

Pizza dough is so easy to make, even for notice bakers. The only advice I can give is to really follow the instructions about water temperature and yeast and also to allow plenty of time for the dough to rise.

We made steak and rocket pizzas, but obviously mix it up as you wish.

To make 4 pizzas you will need:

500g strong wholemeal flour

2 teaspoons of salt

25g butter, cut into small cubes

13g (1 sachet of dried yeast)

250ml tepid water

For the topping

Passata with garlic and herbs added

1/2 ball buffalo mozzarella per pizza

Parmesan cheese

1 sirloin steak per 2 pizzas or 1 frying steak per pizza

Rocket

 

In a jug, mix together the lukewarm water and yeast. To a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt and butter. Add the water and use your hands to mix this together into a rough dough. Once the flour and water is mixed, remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. At this point you can half the quantity of dough if needed and freeze for a later date. Return to the bowl and least it rise for an hour, or until the dough doubles in size and springs back when poked.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Split into 2 and roll out the dough so that it is about 1/2 cm thick. Top the dough with the passata and cheese and cook for around 15-20 minutes or until the base is cooked. While it is cooking grill or fry your steak. (Leave this to rest before cutting). When the pizza is cooked stop with the steak, Parmesan and rocket.

This pizza tastes delicious but is slightly more difficult to eat in slices so you may want to consider using a knife and fork.

Dane actually told me that this pizza was one of the best ones I have made for him, which is high praise indeed.

 

Something for the weekend: George’s, Leeds

Before I properly start this blog post there are 2 things you need to know:7

  1. The photo quality does not do this restaurant justice.
  2. It is embarrassing that after nearly 5 years of blogging that after 5 minutes D took better photos than me. Bravo my darling, bravo.

If you’re looking for a venue that can produce a classic British dish and put a contemporary twist to the same high quality; Georges is probably the place for you. This place came highly recommended to us from several of Dane’s work colleagues and upon visiting, we could see why. This place is a fun cross between a seaside town and a cocktail bar, with the restaurant booths being decorated like beach huts which was a lovely touch.

We visited on a Friday night after work as D was reviewing Miss Vincent at the Key Club. The staff were lovely, really attentive and pretty interested when D told them they’d be appearing here! The food came really quickly, essential for us as we didn’t really have time to linger. I definitely got the impression that it wasn’t the sort of place you’d be rushed out of though as the cocktail menu was impressive and extensive.

I wasn’t really paying attention when I ordered my drink and was delighted when the below concoction appeared in front of me. This is a Candy Baby – a non alcoholic cocktail. The first time in around 15 years i have had candy floss.

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Dane samples the wild ocean hake in onion bhaji batter. He raved about this, and the batter really was like proper onion bhajis. This was the perfect spin on British fish and chips, but obviously also allows you to enjoy some Indian flavours at the same time.

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My eyes were slightly bigger than my stomach (which they often are after a day in the labs at work) and I ordered a stacked fish burger with cheese croquettes. Both burger and croquettes were delicious. The fish was beautifully cooked. I wasn’t so struck on the deep fried gherkin and picked onion though. (This is more personal preference rather than the way it was cooked). I did feel like I slightly over ordered, and I would say that never time I would order a lighter side with this burger as it was pretty sizeable, and I could not finish everything.

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If you happen to be in Leeds (or Newcastle/Nottingham) and you want somewhere that will appeal to those who want a more traditional menu, without ignoring those who like trying new things this is the place for you. The menu is pretty varied, there are options for meat lovers, and those who want a lighter meal.

We arrived at the music venue, perhaps not the oldest in the audience, but definitely the fullest people there!

Thank you to the staff who were so friendly and really made us feel welcome.

I’d love to return to try some of the exciting looking cocktails. I’m sure we will be returning soon.

For more information on Georges including booking information click this link.

If you’re interested in the band D was reviewing this link takes you to one of their music videos.

Have a great weekend!

Wedding planning part one

Wedding planning part one

As I mentioned in my recent travel posts D and I are engaged and planning our wedding. Full disclosure; there hasn’t been any major stresses and we have disagreed on approximately 3 things. These were centred around the usual minor things; the food, the music etc etc.

I have a very helpful fiance who has done a lot of work organising. With music being a major influence in his life he was never going to let me organise wedding entertainment (although I have input) just like I was never going to let him have the final say on the flowers.

I have to say, I haven’t found the initial stages of wedding planning particularly stressful, when you plan a wedding in 11 months its more efficient to be decisive and do your homework. We had already planned and discussed what we wanted while we were away and as such it has been relatively straightforward to put everything into place.

So far the venue is organised, the registrar is booked, we have one band booked (with a few more to consider) and we have a guest list. D is doing a lot of homework with his photographer and music contacts (what a love!)  We have a cake organised. I am wedding dress shopping in a few weeks with my mum, although I have absolutely no idea what type of dress I want.

I am by no means a wedding planning expert. I feel like we’re sort of making it up as we go but in a good way. My only tips so far are:

  1. Wedding planning doesn’t have to take over, our way of tackling it is to have regular check ins but not have it all consuming.
  2. On the back of this is is important to make time to be a couple. It doesn’t have to be expensive, a movie night at home or a gig won’t set you back much. Having fun together sets some good foundations for your marriage (or so I’m told).
  3. Work out what (if anything) you want to DIY. Price it up, eBay is your friend, but also consider how much you’re prepared to do. Do you actually enjoy crafting? How will you feel having to tie 100 ribbons and just how handy are you with a glue gun? If you like arts and crafts this is your time to shine, but don’t feel like you have to make anything if its not your bag.

Its all getting very exciting! I might even try to get D to write some tips on picking a wedding band.

The Hobbit Themed Chocolate Birthday Cake

The Hobbit Themed Chocolate Birthday Cake

Hobbits are well known for their love of food. So is my family. As the Hobbit is one of my Dad’s all time favourite books it seemed pretty fitting to have a birthday cake themed around the part of the Hobbit; although the execution of it was something of a lucky fluke. Fortunately although it is not an exact replica of how Smaug or his hoard looking in the film, or how I imagined it in the book, it is a pretty good approximation.

This cake is a perfect birthday cake for any chocolate lover. You wouldn’t necessarily have to make this exact cake, you can adapt this around other themes as you wish.

To make this cake you will need:

170g caster sugar

170g butter

150g self raising flour

20g cocoa powder

3 eggs

For the filling

100g white chocolate

50g double cream

For the ganache topping

200g dark chocolate

200ml double cream

50g milk chocolate

To decorate

3-4 packs of chocolate fingers

Chocolate such as Malteasers, Minstrels or similar

Kinder Eggs (basically I wanted a Minion from one)

Gold lustre cake spray

Gold cake decorations

To make the cake preheat the oven to 180°C and line 2 medium cake tins. Whisk your eggs and sugar until light and fluffy so they leave a trail on the surface of your cake mix. Melt your butter and fold this into the mix, along with the flour and cocoa powder. Bake for around 12 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean and the cake is springy to touch. Once cooked set aside to cool down. It is nigh on impossible to decorate a warm cake.

While the cake is cooking make the chocolate ganache and filling. To make the white chocolate filling melt the white chocolate and cream together. Set aside to cool. Take the same approach with the darker and milk chocolate and cream to make the ganache topping. Melt the chocolate and cream together until thick and glossy and then leave to cool before putting on the cake.

Once the cake and ganache are cold sandwich together the 2 cakes using the white chocolate filling. Cover the cake and the sides with a smooth layer of ganache. Line up the chocolate fingers on the side of the cake (this looks attractive and hides the fact that decorating cake sides tidily is a chore). Half the Kinder egg and place on top of the cake as a cracked egg. Add the chocolates as treasure at random, however bear in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect and most people will want a bit of chocolate topping on their cake. Spray with gold lustre spray and add your cake decorations.

Put in the fridge to chill to firm for several hours before serving. Add a dragon if one is available.

Serve as part of second breakfast, elevenses or similar. Hobbits need to know there is decent fare in the pantry at all times.