Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Cross Dressing Squirrels and Chocolate Beetroot Cake

Cake and I have a relatively dysfunctional relationship!  I don’t like to eat it and don’t like to make it but I do want to master it.  Yes, I am like one of those neurotic Disney Princesses – “I know you are a cross-dressing squirrel with nut neurosis but you will love me [until I get bored that is]” - determined to have what I don't want/need.

However, I work in a company with a variety of men who like cake and having been born on Machiavelli’s birthday, I am aware that a well-placed chocolate offering can get the wheels turning slightly faster.  So, last night I made a Middle Eastern Chocolate and Beetroot Cake …..

250g raw beetroot [I cheated and bought cooked without vinegar and the world did not end]
200g dark good quality chocolate
180g butter [softened]
200g soft brown caster sugar [I used coconut sugar which was good]
4 free range eggs
220g plain flour
80g cream cheese
0.5 tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp stem ginger [I used a ginger date flax seed topper instead]
2 tbsp dates, finely chopped
Pinch of salt

  • Pre-head the oven to 180 and crease your tin.  I used a bundt tin but they suggest a 24cm springform cake tin.  Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in the microwave.
  • Blend butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy [use a mixer as no-ones upper arms need that much of a work out].   Then add the eggs one by one beating until smooth.

Blend the chocolate into the mixture and sift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder into the bowl.  Stir in the beetroot which has been finely grated/blended as well as the dates and ginger.

  • Pour into the greased tin and say a little prayer to the cake fairy before putting into the oven for 50 minutes to an hour.  Have a large glass of wine as you inspect the devastation which is your kitchen [sob quietly]
  • Remove from the oven and the tin when it is cool enough.  Do not leave it to get too cool in the tin or you may find yourself hitting a tin against your kitchen surface swearing like a sailor

250g cream cheese
75g caster sugar
Coco powder to taste and colour [about 25g]

Mix all ingredients together and when the cake has cooled, use it to hid any cracks.  Sprinkle with something like nuts or stars or something!

Reward yourself with something that makes you happy [honey bourbon but sadly not at 8 in the morning want I was icing this thing]!



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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Wicked Key Lime Pies

I would not recognise a ‘key lime’ if one danced the hula in front of me.  So when we had a Valentine’s cook-off at work, this was not really the natural choice.  However, I had some spare limes [courtesy of a brief flirtation with Thai last month] so I decided on the American classic ‘Key Lime Pie’.  However, not having a right dish [btw. Does anyone ever have the right dish?  Unless you happen to live in John Lewis] I made individual pies in muffin tins.

  • 200g of ginger nut gluten free biscuits [I’m gluten free but I assume that the other ones would work]
  • 100g to 125g of unsalted butter 

  1. Take all your frustration out and whack the living fluff [it’s a family blog] out of the biscuits.  Either in a bag or at the bottom of a bowl until they are crumbs.
  2. Melt the butter and mix into the biscuits.

  3. Press into the greased muffin tins and bake for 10 minutes at 160 C then set aside.
  4.  I left it to cool for a day and then popped on the filling.
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 396g Evaporated milk
  • 1 cup of lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons of lime zest

  1. Fiddle around with the limes – swearing – until you have the required juice and zest
  2. Beat the yolks and then add the condensed milk slowly.

  1. Slowly whisk in the lime juice and then the zest.
  2. Pour on top of the base and then bake for 180 C for about 15 minutes [i.e. until it is set]

  1. Remove from the tins or they stick [and there is crying].  If you forget, gently reheat the dish and they will come out fine.
  2. Set aside and let it cool then set.

Wake up early [post awards with a tiny hangover due to Duck and Waffle overindulgence] – melt about 150g of chocolate and then smear on top of the filling.   Leave to set.

Look mildly nonchalant once people ask for your recipe.

L xx

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Friday, 30 January 2015

Salt Fish Adventures at night [or salt fish fritters]

So, you get back home at 12:30 after an industry party – do you remove your make up and go to bed?  Nope you have the insane urge to get a head start on your 2015 project and spend 10 minutes rummaging through kitchen cupboards in the quest for salt fish [while being watched by two very judgemental cats].   Never said, sanity was my middle name!

I then plonked it in water to soak as Friday dinner was now going to be when I learn to make Salt Fish Fritters.  There are a variety of different recipes on the internet and I decided to approach it from the perspective of fish cakes so ……..

250g salt fish [soaked for at least 24 hours with the water changed several times}
Three medium sized potatoes
One medium sized onion
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
3 cloves of garlic
1 lemon
2 spring onions
100g flour

  • Cover the salt fish with water and simmer gently for 5 minutes then set aside;

  • Peel the potatoes, chop and boil until right for mashed potato;
  • Chop the onion and garlic before sautéing it in a little oil;
  • Flake the fish and add the onion mixture;
  • Add thyme and paprika [you can add more if fancy it] as well as finely chopped spring onion;
  • Mash the potato when it is cooked and add to the fish mixture.

  • Now add the beaten egg and mix before starting to add the flour
  • The mixture should not be too sticky as you now need to roll it into balls.  The size depends on what you want, I like them bigger [but doesn’t everyone ( ;] but smaller makes them crisper;
  • Put the balls onto a greased baking sheet and put them into the fridge for about an hour;

  • Heat oil in a frying pan then pop in the balls and fry on both sides for about 5 minutes [obviously this will depend on the size].   They should be soft on the inside but nice and crispy on the outside.

Serve with lemon wedges and garlic mayonnaise or hot sauce and enjoy! 

BTW – it does help with a mild hangover, if I potentially had one so might be a good breakfast idea!


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Monday, 5 January 2015

Harbour House

Before I climbed onto the plane for my 18-hour flight back to London, I needed not only food I would enjoy but a final glimpse at the scenery which is home.  So with it drizzling in Pinelands and the wind howling in Sea Point, we turned our attentions to Harbour House in Kalk Bay for lunch!

The restaurant whose decor is Mediterranean inspired [read – expensive Ibiza] overlooks the bay and Kalk Bay Harbour.  It is beautiful and the views are amazing but the service seemed to indicate that this establishment was something for well-off tourists who may never visit again.    Or perhaps, I’m just being picky as the hostess could not find our name as she had spelt it wrong and rather than seating us [in what was then a relatively empty restaurant] decided to argue.

After this unusual welcome, we were escorted to our table [which overlooked the harbour so was perfect] and then the waiter pulled a Houdini!   Something to drink and the menus?  Nope, blank stares until we finally found someone who realise that we were visiting the restaurant to eat – how novel, appeared to be the view on this departure from their norm!

Admittedly they do have to lug the world’s largest specials board around so I’m not surprised they are less interested in serving us.   I started with the West Coast Black Mussels steamed in white wine, garlic, onion, thyme and cream – served with a toasted ciabatta.   These were really good – lick the plate clean, use your fingers, get messy but don’t lose the juices good!

My mom went for Avocado Ritz which was as pretty [and apparently tasty] as a retro picture while Dad went for tuna tartar.  Sadly, he is allergic to all seafood except for fish so we had to be careful as a quick trip to Vincent Palloti was not on the cards prior to the airport.  

For mains I settled on the smoked paprika calamari with capers, olives, garlic and chilli while the parentals chose Cape Salmon with a Dill cream.   The calamari was lovely and fresh with just the right kick from the capers and olives but almost no hint of garlic or chilli.  Perhaps I am too bold in my flavours but if it’s on the list surely I should taste it?


The Cape Salmon [which admittedly would not have been my choice as it looked like it was all one texture] was ‘nice’!  To me saying my cooking is nice is likely to upset me but apparently nice is a serviceable word to describe a meal.


Desert was a yoghurt and amaretto panna cotta which arrived looking pretty as a picture and rounded off the meal well!   The panna cotta has that slightly sour taste of yoghurt which struck just the right cord.

And so we paid our bill and left the Harbour House mildly bemused, a little puzzled and full of ‘nice’ food!  Would I go back?  Possibly!  Potentially! Maybe! But I’m taking my chili powder and changing my name to smith to smooth the process!


L x


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Thursday, 4 December 2014

Crispy Courgette Cake

Breakfast!  As someone with gluten and lactose intolerance, the first meal of the day can be time consuming, boring or unhealthy.  Most mornings it’s a fruit smoothie with Baobab powder [apparently a big thing in 2015 so I’m feeling very fashion forward] but on the weekend it is fun to try something different.

With memories of frittata and ‘eggy-bread’ from my childhood, I invented crispy courgette cake which is uber tasty and in keeping with the about to be new year diet, pretty healthy.

Crispy Courgette Cake

  • 1 courgette [grated]
  • 1 tablespoon full of gluten free flour
  • 1 medium sized egg
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • Handful of Chopped bacon, chorizo or sausage
  • Pepper, salt and chili to taste
  • Oil for frying

  • Fry onion and bacon until it starts to colour then add the grated courgette
  • When the courgette has reduced and cooked a little take it out of the frying – putting it into a bowl
  • Then add the flour [bit by bit].  It needs to take up some of the liquid but not be too dry.

  • Add pepper and salt before mixing in one egg.  You can add chili if you like a kick.
  • Pop oil into the pan and heat before adding the mixture.
  • It will go slightly crispy on the edges/bottom so turn it over carefully as this makes I nice and crispy.
  • Cook until the centre has sent and serve with coffee/tea or whatever gets out you out of bed in the morning

Tasty, healthy and not too boring

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Monday, 17 November 2014

Nuclear approach to cold management or a visit to the Sichuan Kitchen

Dark, drizzly and generally grim – gosh, welcome to London in autumn!   And just to truly celebrate all this bounty – the sniffles, colds and man flu [very vicious this one] arrives.  So when my colleague and I realised that illness was on the horizon, we decided to take the nuclear approach to cold management – bring on the Szechuan!

Nestled just behind Spitalfields before you get to brick lane proper is Sichuan Folk Kitchen on Hanbury Street which serves some of the best south-western Chinese food in London.  Now it isn’t posh and the décor is definitely not going to challenge Nobu but [probably being horribly politically incorrect] I always think it is a good sign when most of the customers in a Chinese restaurant are Chinese – and this is definitely the case here.

Having removed our wet coast, we were seated at one of the long [sometimes communal] tables and began perusing the menu [click here for a look].   Sichuan food is not generally subtle as it uses chilli, garlic and that most glorious of peppers, the Sichuan pepper.  This pepper not only provides heat but an aromatic undertone to the meal which is quite additive.

As our tea arrived, we started reeling off dishes to the bemused but polite waiter.  Seaweed and egg soup to warm us up followed by stir fried Chinese leaf, fish flavoured aubergine, fish in Sichuan style and dry fried chicken and chili’s.  The waiter was at pains to ensure that we had eaten there before as ‘the food is quite spicy’ – yes, we smiled dreamily it is isn’t it just.

The Seaweed and egg soup arrived first and to use one of the foodie words I despite, it was simply so flavourful.  It is like the best chicken soup your jewish grandmother ever made but she went a bit mad and added seaweed.

The greens arrived [full of chili and the deep flavour of garlic] then the fish which was spicy and a little sweeter than my companion [the very glamorous blond to paraphrase A.A. Gill] liked but none the less it was good.  

Then IT arrived, the dry fried chicken in chilli.  I have likened this to crack – in a far less destructive to local communities but as addictive way.

O my giddy aunt, the chicken is essentially deep fried with the chilli and presented to you on a platter where you have to dig through the chili to find the chicken.  It is like all of KFC’s wet dreams in one.   Yes, I did say that – gosh that was so good.

The fish flavoured aubergine is made with chili bean paste, soy sauce, black vinegar, and Sichuan pepper so you know it’s going to taste good and the name refers to the method of cooking rather than the taste.  

And then we were done, sitting quietly in a replete state buzzing from the mixture of spices sipping tea.   All in all as we walked back to Liverpool street, we agreed that £61 was not much to pay for a trip to the orient, a skip in our steps and the death of any viruses within 200 yards.



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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Small and Perfectly Formed - A visit to Little Water

Now don’t get me wrong, I love wine!  Not in a horribly co-dependent way [or at least, I don’t think so] but a nice glass of red with dinner or a crisp chenin blanc is really rather lovely.  Sadly, a large glass of wine has 160 calories which is rather a lot – especially as I prefer to have more than one.

So spirits it is [48 calories per shot] which meant I was very excited when I heard of Little Water in Covent Garden.  Yes, this glorious establishment which pairs vodka with burgers and Scandinavian inspired starters – and even better, I had a Groupon voucher.

 Dragging my former boss as my bemused but tolerant guest, we arrived at Little Water to find that on a wet Wednesday night it wasn’t hugely busy [apparently Friday and Saturday are buzzing]. The décor is Nordic themed with clean lines but touches of comfort.

Sitting down, we perused the menu which was small but perfectly formed!  Yes, mushrooms on soda bread or Winter Salad [with the option to add chicken, cod or beef cheek].  The salad could also come with vegan feta cheese but I am not sure what type of crime against nature this is and I was certainly not sullying my vodka with this.

I chose Winter Salad with Cod [Basil Vodka] and she chose the plain Winter Salad [Finlandia] which arrived in a splash of colour.  The cod was a good sized piece and the salad was a carefully prepared mix of leaves, tomatoes, cucumber strips, radish, cashews and peppers topped with an Avocado dressing.  More than enough for a starter – verging on a main to be honest and very tasty.

The vodkas went well with the dishes and as we chatted about mutual friends and business contacts and life in general, we agreed that Basil vodka really was rather nice.  Burger, burger or burger was the mains choice – traditional, chicken, cod, vegan feta or beef cheek – with chips and a side salad.    

I opted for Beef cheek with celeriac puree which came with Kauffman Hard and made for a messy glorious burger.  Probably not first date food but for want of a better phrase ‘damn fine’.  The traditional cheese and bacon burger came with saffron vodka [another spirit revelation I would like to repeat again].

We skipped desert [remember those calories] but I did notice the sweet burger with chocolate which I will have to save until I’ve done more exercise, like swum the channel.  As we walked into the chilly night, we agreed that Little Water is a welcome innovation and revelation which is small and perfectly formed.

Defiantly worth a visit


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