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Monday, 21 September 2015

Pistachio, Honey and Banana Muffins (sugar free!!)

It seems to me that everyone is trying to cut down on their sugar intake this year and I'm not surprised after watching the recent 'Jamie's Sugar Rush' programme. It's shocking how much sugar is added to our store bought foods - most of the time without us even knowing! ( Sorry didn't intend to use that much sibilance there, must be the english language student within me.) Anyway, my tastebuds and no doubt yours too are now accustomed to foods that are packed full of sugar and so of course we are naturally going to miss it if it's taken away.

I'm suddenly a lot more aware of how much sugar I'm consuming on a daily basis and I feel although I'm not planning to lose any weight, it can surely only be a good thing for my teeth, skin and overall health if I cut it down every now and then (well at least try where I can...)

As a (mostly) dessert blogger it can be a struggle for me to do this. I LOVE cake. And as we all know cake needs sugar. That means in order to make it sugar free we need a replacement. There's now lots of alternatives out there but I've never really been drawn to those mysterious sweetener substitutes... Stevia being one - you get the gist. I know that honey will have natural sugars but hey ho it still contains antimicrobial properties and causes less of an increase in the blood glucose levels. I'll have some of that please! 

The banana is also there to give the muffins their natural sweetness and I thought the pistachios would be a good edition to give it some crunch plus they have some great health benefits too (high amount of protein, fibre and heart friendly). What's there not to love?!

I enjoy the warm, citrusy spice that you get from cardamom which goes nicely alongside the banana's creamy sweetness but you can omit it if you prefer. I recommend using a strong pure natural honey because it saves you using too much and the quantities below match just this. Oh and by the way...if your banana is not very ripe then their natural sweetness will not be as strong. And it's bloody hard to mash them up too. 

Just a heads up, the muffins are really moist, contributed by the honey and banana. You can leave out the frosting which is simply cream cheese flavoured with yes, you guessed it. More honey. But I think the muffins go really nice with it. Just saying. Well I would since it's my recipe. If you don't have pistachios you could replace them with walnuts or brazil nuts. 

These muffins are perfect for breakfast and the banana will help to boost your metabolism and provide you with energy for the day ahead. 

Sugar  Free  Pistachio,  Honey  and  Banana  Muffins 


275g plain  flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ ground nutmeg
¼ ground ginger
4 cardamon pods
2 large ripe bananas
55g butter
110g honey
1 egg
240ml milk
50g pistachios

For the frosting:
150g full fat cream cheese
2 tsp honey
40g pistachios to decorate


Preheat your oven to 180°C/ 350°F / gas 4. Line a 12 hole standard muffin tray with paper cases. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger and crushed seeds from the cardamom pods together. 

In another bowl beat the butter until smooth and creamy and then add to this mashed bananas, honey and egg. Mix well and then pour in the milk. Mix again until well blended.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Chop the pistachios into small pieces and add to the mix, then with a wooden spoon or spatula mix until all is just incorporated. The banana and pistachio can often leave little lumps which is fine. 

Divide the batter between the 12 cases and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are golden and when a skewer is inserted comes out clean. 

While the muffins are cooling on a wire rack it's time to make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy then add the honey, you may want to add a little at a time so you can adjust the sweetness, also depending on how strong the honey is in strength. I prefer 2 tsp. Beat the honey into the cream cheese until thoroughly blended and keep in the fridge until using. 

Chop the pistachios for decoration and then once the muffins are cold spread a little frosting over each and sprinkle over some chopped pistachios. 

The muffins freeze well without the frosting on! 
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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Roll up...roll up: Mango and Passion Fruit Swiss Roll

There's something so tempting about a swiss roll. What you see is not what you get until you are ready to break them and uncase all their hidden treasures within. That's what I like. 

Yet I couldn't quite resist to pipe decadent swirls of light and fluffy buttercream on top adorned with a sprinkling of fresh mango cubes and a drizzle of curd. I know I know, it's the art student within me which tries to make it look as show-stopping as possible, but I have a particularly sweet tooth so I was desperate for something sweeter to curb the sharpness of the curd. Then there's fresh mango, being a rather oozy culprit with all it's tropical juices, I felt it was best to keep this as far away as possible from the sponge itself to prevent it from becoming a haphazardly soggy heap!

This one is a variant on the genoise sponge which is rolled around a sweet but sharp mango and passion fruit curd, not homemade - I admit, but yummy nonetheless. If your eagerness surpasses me then go ahead and make your own but I'm sorry that I couldn't meet your great expectations and provide you with a recipe for it. That you will have to do yourself. Just remember to allow ample time for it to thicken in the fridge before using so it won't pour out the sides. 

Mango  and  Passion  Fruit  Swiss  Roll

Recipe adapted from Ruby Tandoh's 'Crumb. The Baking Book.'


For the sponge:

3 large eggs
85g caster sugar + extra to dust
80g plain flour

For the buttercream:

75g softened butter
150g icing sugar + more to dust
½ tsp milk

4-5 tbsp of mango and passion fruit curd + a little more to drizzle 
Fresh mango pieces to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/ gas 6. Use baking parchment to line and grease a swiss roll tin or rimmed baking tray, approximately 22 x 33 cm. 

Whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric hand whisk or free-standing mixer until they become thick, lighter in colour and when the whisk is lifted out it leaves a ribbon-like trail that stays on the surface before sinking back into the batter seconds later. Sift half of the flour over the whisked eggs and very gently fold into the batter, being sure to incorporate all pockets of flour hidden underneath which can tend to clump together and sink. Then repeat with the rest of the flour. 

Spoon the batter into the prepared swiss roll tin and bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly golden, well risen and when a skewer is inserted comes out clean. 

Let the sponge cool for a minute or so and then turn out onto a piece of baking parchment (approximately the same size as the sponge) which has been scattered all over with caster sugar. Peel the original paper off the sponge which should now be on top. Roll from short end to short end, creating a log around 22 cm long with the paper in between which stops the sponge from sticking together. Sit with the join underneath to prevent it from unfurling whilst cooling. This helps to later roll the sponge up once filled as it can 'remember' its shape. 

To make the buttercream, cream the butter with the icing sugar and then add the milk and beat again until light and fluffy. Fill into a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle. 

After about 30 minutes the sponge should be cool enough to fill. Unroll it and spread generously with the mango and passion fruit curd and then carefully roll up again, this time without the paper. Sieve a little icing sugar over the swiss roll. Pipe buttercream into an 's' like squiggle all the way down the centre of the sponge. Equally distribute the mango cubes on top of the buttercream. You may want to fill a smaller piping bag with a tbsp more of the curd and drizzle all over.

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Monday, 7 September 2015

Wild Mushroom and Thyme Risotto

Risotto is essentially at the essence of comfort food. Now it's September and getting towards that time of year again when the books are out and pencil cases at the ready for college, it all reminds me that Autumn is well on its way and what better way to eat than with a warm and reassuring bowl-full of all things good with this season to come. Mushrooms! 

I went out picking these bad boys  - did I heck! That was an absolute lie, I'd have no clue what I should and not be picking which is obviously a bit risk'aay. But what I can tell you is that on my visit to Chatsworth Country Fair at the weekend, I managed to bag myself  a bargain with a mushroom market trade stall. I was amazed at how many different varieties there were (I mean I knew there were loads but I'd never seen this many all together) it was like a little sweetie stall and you could pick and mix to your heart's desire...I decided on a mixed box after much deliberation. 

I wanted to keep the mushrooms flavour strong and punchy so to make them the main ingredient to my dish I kept it relatively simple with everything else.

Just a little bit of spinach, onions, garlic and thyme. For texture I fried a little parma ham till crispy for a garnish but if you're a vegetarian or want to go completely meatless for a change then leave this bit out. 

Risotto can be off putting for some people - I get it, it can be annoying to make and even disappointing when ordered in many a restaurant, so I understand that all this can be enough to knock your confidence to cook it at home when even the restaurants can't always get it right. The trick is to add the stock a little at a time when you first start making it, stick with it and don't go off doing something else like answering the phone, right now your main priority is to get it nice and creamy and to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of your pan (even with the best of non-stick it can happen easily!) Just keep stirring and watching it and when all the liquid is absorbed by the rice, add some more. The result will be like you've added cream, silky and inviting (but there isn't even any cream in it. Sshhh!!) 

If you have any leftover risotto, which I bet you probably won't have but just in case you do somehow manage to then why not use it up by making arancini - FYI - little balls of rice coated in breadcrumbs then fried. 

Wild  Mushroom  and  Thyme  Risotto

Adapted from Lisa Faulkner's book 'Recipes from My Mother for my Daughter'. 


Serves 4

125g unsalted butter
400g mixed wild mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
300g arborio rice
1 litre (1 ¾ pints) warm vegetable stock
100g baby leaf spinach
40g parma ham, torn into small pieces
50g parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra shavings to finish
½ lemon 
good quality olive oil, for drizzling


Melt the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan and cook the mushrooms for about 3 minutes seasoning to taste then with a slotted spoon transfer them all to a plate and keep warm. Then in the same pan, gently fry the onion and garlic for a further 5 minutes. 

Add the rice to the pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes over a low heat, stirring to get all the grains coated in butter.

Now slowly pour in a little of the stock at a time, stirring continuously. Wait until all the liquid had been absorbed by the rice and then add some more stock in. Increase the heat to high now and keep stirring until all the stock has been used. After about 15 minutes the rice will be cooked and it will be beautifully creamy. 

In a small frying pan heat a little oil and fry the parma ham pieces until crisp. Then put aside and keep warm. 

Add the spinach, half of the mushrooms and parmesan cheese and mix through the risotto until the spinach has wilted down. Season to taste. Serve the risotto in dishes topped with the rest of the mushrooms with a squeeze of lemon juice, a few crispy parma ham pieces, parmesan shavings and drizzle a little olive oil. 

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