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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Avocado Hummus

Ever wanted to know what a mix of guacamole and hummus tasted like? Well this is exactly it! It's dreamily smooth (but a little bit chunky here and there, because who wants a paste? That's just weird.) AND it's unbelievably creamy thanks to the avo, also making it incredibly light.

It seems to be that this is just the start of my hummus experimentation thing'y. After reaching out my hummus horizons by searching for alternative flavourings, I had no idea that there were so many possibilities. Wild garlic & rosemary, kale, parmesan, basil pesto, red pepper (well that one is obvious) but you get the gist... lots and lots of add ins to make hummus that bit different and interesting once again.

I have to confess, I was a bit confused at first whether to cook my chickpeas or not. I read up on the internet that I needed to soak my chickpeas (garbanzo beans if you're American) the night before...yet, I had a can which stored them in water?! They also weren't cooked (I don't know if you can buy cooked chickpeas that are canned in the U.S, but here I can't seem to find that convenience.) So, after much deliberation and thought, I decided it would be best to boil to make them till soft, making for a smoother hummus. And where I slipped up on my last hummus efforts. 

Anyways, I soaked the chickpeas overnight in twice the volume of water and the next day I rinsed and boiled for about 1 hour. After that time they seemed perfectly squishable between two fingers and so I knew they were done! 

Then... after a bit of unnecessary stirring (I can't help myself), I noticed the skins were coming off. What to do!!?? Sit and tediously peel off every single one or leave it...   Well, I don't think I peeled them all off but I certainly did quite a lot. Is it worth it? Yes, I believe it is. For the texture was insanely good and so for the added 10 minutes  - yeah. 

I like to serve with pita pieces, a drizzle of olive oil, extra slices of avocado, a few crispy chickpeas that were leftover for added crunch and of course a leafy green coriander garnish. 

You ask how long does it last? About 3-4 days refrigerated in an airtight container, and it doesn't go brown with the added acidity of the lemon & lime in the hummus - thankfully. It makes a hearty few portions so would be great served the next day for lunch on a rye bread smoked salmon sandwich!

Avocado  Hummus


240g drained can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 ripe avocado, sliced
2-3 tbsp tahini, depending on how strong you like it
½ lime, juiced
½ lemon, juiced
a handful of fresh coriander leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled
pinch of salt and pepper
60ml extra virgin olive oil
pinch of paprika
2 tsp natural yoghurt


If you have uncooked chickpeas, soak them overnight in twice the volume of cold water. 

Drain, rinse well and put into a large pan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for about 1-3 hours depending on how soft they are. Add more water to the pan if necessary so it doesn't boil dry. You should be able to squish a chickpea between your fingers and the skin peels away. 

Leave the chickpeas to cool in the water, drain well reserving about 1 tsp of the water for later. Take off any skins from the chickpeas that you can see peeling away. To make the hummus, put all the ingredients into a food processor reserving a few chickpeas for garnish. Whizz away until smooth and creamy, you may want to add the 1 tsp of cooking water to slacken the mixture down. Season with salt, pepper and paprika to taste. 

To serve, top hummus with fresh sliced avocado, chopped coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and dry fried chickpeas till crisp.  

I was Baking To...

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Friday, 22 January 2016

Food photography inspired by artist - Nigel Humphries

I am always looking for new and interesting ways to improve and practise food photography and this week I have been doing just that with my A level Art coursework.

I have been inspired by the artist Nigel Humphries, his style is a combination of many influences, particularly the techniques of the old masters and their introduction of the earliest still life images around.  I suppose his style would therefore be considered quite traditional but with a quirky element, yet remaining true to the classic still life genre.
Nigel Humphries

The simple arrangement of sweets brings a smile to my face as it transports me back to reminiscent times of visiting the sweet shop as a kid.

I believe the photos are like a historic reference too, food packaging is constantly evolving and as new products enter the market, sadly the old disappears. There's also an element of irony and satire within these pictures. There used to be a real focus on ingredients, fresh apples for example, which the great master Cezanne was arguably most profound for, but now the focus is all about the branding and packaging. The sweets depicting a symbol of consumer society today.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Chai Latte Creams

Drink your chai latte and eat it too with these rich, melt-in-the mouth sandwich cookies...

From when I first put vanilla chai into my cake I knew me and this spiced tea were going to be good friends for life!

This time though I'm varying my chai experiment to the plain simple chai latte powder, using this one.   It's unbelievably easy to use in baking because you just throw it into whatever you're making and it won't alter the consistency of your batter, unlike using regular liquid tea/coffee.

I know you could alternatively haul your spice cupboard out and grind up cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, but seriously who has time for that anymore?! There's a time and place for everything and yesterday just wasn't that day, because when you've got a chai latte mix lying around...why bother?

I think I've found a happy medium here of not too much or too little spice. So it's avoiding that overly subtle barrier but at the same time it's not an overpowering hit, because if you have too much then it all just begins to taste way too aromatically sweet with all that cinnamon in there.

I've not been hooked on this drink of choice for long, not till a year or two back when I first tried it in CafĂ© Nero, from then on I've always been lulled in (especially around Winter time because there's nothing more Christmassy than a bit of cinnamon in your hot milky drink - someone once told me it was like drinking wood, I don't believe it goes to that extent! But it's a funny metaphorical way of putting it.)

This recipe makes 8 sandwich cookies in total, not a lot but they are quite humongous so they do fill that space! If you want though you could leave them just as they are and have 16 plain cookies but I prefer to have the extra spiked hit of chai latte buttercream in between and boy do they taste good with it.

(Or equally you could just make them smaller, when you roll the cookie dough into golf ball shapes, just make teenie weenie golf balls instead - just remember that they cook a tad quicker than the suggested times below.) Then that size would make a perfect petit four, fit for any afternoon tea treat.

Chai  Latte  Creams

Makes 8


170g self raising flour
1 ½ tbsp chai latte drinking powder
100g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1 medium egg

For the buttercream filling
75g very soft unsalted butter
150g icing sugar + plus extra for dusting (optional)
1 ½ tsp chai latte drinking powder


Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas 3. To make the cookie dough put the flour, chai latte powder and sugar into a food processor and pulse for a few seconds until combined. Then add the cubed butter and blitz until the mix comes together and starts to clump into one piece of dough.  At this stage stop the processor and with floured hands remove the dough and place onto a floured work surface.

Knead lightly until it just comes together and then with a knife keep cutting the dough to divide it into 16 equal sized pieces. Flour your hands well then shape each piece into a neat ball. Arrange them well apart to allow for spreading on 2 greased and lined baking trays and bake them in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until firm to touch and lightly golden.

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and leave to cool completely before icing together. To make the buttercream beat together the butter, icing sugar and chai latte powder until smooth, thick and creamy. Then use this to sandwich the halves together, to finish dust with some icing sugar (optional).

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Sunday, 3 January 2016

Apple Custard Tarts

A new year brings new year resolutions, but I'd like us all to stop right there. Before you say it, can we all just skip the no more sugar plan and bake on, let's carry on with sweet deliciousness, because I always believe and what everyone else should too is that we all deserve a little bit of it now and then, just in moderation - that's what I say! So, as every other foodie blogger and recipe book writer releases their sugar-free, raw and just about everything else 'free from' (namely just because it's January), I'm saying try my apple custard tarts. They're not sugar free or anything else in that league, but what they do is bring us something familiar; comforting and nostalgic at a time of year when change is happening all around us. 

One change for me is my camera. Yes. I've finally moved away from point and shoot and jumped to the DLSR Canon club. And you're saying what you took you so long? Well, I agree it took me awhile. I'm all very new to this and like everything else, it needs lots (and I mean lots) of practise. But I'm already getting to grips with it, this being my first 'proper' attempt with aperture and all that... and I have to say I'm pretty happy with the outcome. Bear with me though as I experiment - I'll get the hang of it eventually.  

I came up with this recipe when first thinking how to use up some much unloved puff pastry that had been hanging out in our fridge since the start of Christmas (don't worry it was still perfectly useable!) Then interpreting the way you fill muffin tins ready for portuguese tarts sprung to mind. Instead here I blind bake the pastry, like you would shortcrust and they turn out all beautifully flaky still, allowing them to be the perfect case to hold a multitude of fillings. I lightly spiced my apples and loaded my creme patisserie with vanilla to create a lovely hum of flavour notes. 

The tarts need no accompaniment, great just as they are, but be sure to eat them on the day of making or the next at a push (they go soggy after a while). If you're eating the rest the following day you could warm up some maple syrup to brush over the apples if in need of a little revival. 

Apple  Custard  Tarts

Makes 9

For the custard
3 egg yolks
40g caster sugar
20g cornflour
250ml milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract/paste

For the pastry cases
3 tbsp caster sugar
300g all butter ready-rolled puff pastry 
Vegetable oil spray to grease the tin

For the apples
2 eating apples or cooking ones if you have them
25g unsalted butter
70g dark brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 star anise


To make the custard, first whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl with the caster sugar for a few minutes until thick, creamy and light, then whisk in the cornflour. Pour the milk into a medium sized preferably non-stick saucepan and add the vanilla. Put over a high heat and bring to the boil. Then once the milk has come to the boil, turn off the heat and pour the milk in a slow steady stream over the egg mixture, whisking constantly. 

Return the mixture back to the pan and whisk continuously over a medium heat, making sure you scrape down the sides and the bottom to eliminate burning and lumps. Once it releases a bubble or two and it has thickened take it off the heat. Pour the custard into a wide bowl and place cling film over the top to stop a skin forming. Allow it to cool to room temperature and then once cooled remove the cling film and pour it into a large piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle. Put in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/ Gas 4.  

Now to make the pastry cases. Dust the work surface with half of the caster sugar and place your ready rolled sheet of rectangular pastry on top of the sugar surface. Dust the top of the pastry with the remaining sugar and roll a rolling pin over to press the sugar into it.  Tightly roll the pastry up, from one horizontal side to the other, making a log shape. Cut the roll into equal sized pieces so you have 9 in total, roughly 3cm wide each. Discard the ends. Take a 12 hole muffin tin and grease each hole lightly with vegetable spray. Place each piece spiral side up into each hole of the tin and use your thumb to push the dough outwards so that you evenly line the base and sides of the tin. 

Prick the base of each one with a fork, then line with a small piece of baking paper or foil and add ceramic beans to each. Blind bake them for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden and cooked through (check by lifting one out of the tin). Remove each one from the tin immediately otherwise they will start to stick by the sugar caramelising in the tin. Leave to cool on a wire rack before filling. 

To prepare the apples; peel, core and slice both and place into a pan along with the butter and sugar over a medium heat. Bring to the boil then add the spices - cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise.  Turn down the heat and simmer for around 5 minutes until the apples are soft but still holds their shape. Remove from the heat, leave to infuse for a few minutes with the spices and then remove the star anise. 

Drain the apples from the liquor, but reserving a few spoonfuls for later. To assemble the tarts, pipe enough chilled custard into each pastry case so that it reaches the rim. Then top with 3 apple slices and drizzle over a little of the reserved syrup liquor to glaze them. Serve straight away or store in the fridge for later. 

What  I  was  Baking  to...

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