Category Archives: Make

Make: Blinis

blinis

With only one to go until pancake day I was chastising my food and lifestyle blogging self for not having marked the occasion. Forget christmas, pancake day is the big one, and having injudiciously missed the boat on national Nutella day last week I was anxious to meet this brief, yet completely without inspiration. That is until I visited leicester wholefoods co-op at the weekend.

If you are Leicester based and have not visited this delightful treasure trove of wholesome delights drop everything and go, go now! It’s an inspiring place. I was accompanying C who was picking up ingredients for work and I had promised myself I would just window shop, but it wasn’t to be. £20.00 later I was armed with Buckwheat flour, coconut palm sugar, agar, dried shitake mushrooms, Liquorice yogi tea and I even threw in some physilium husk (A key ingredient in the life changing loaf of bread) for good measure.

So, lets talk about buckwheat for a minute, the name is misleading as it’s not a grain, rather a pseudocerial or seed more closely related to sorrel and rhubarb than wheat, It’s high in nutrients and a great source of protein. Buckwheat is often to be found lining the shelves of the supermarkets in groat format though it’s not often I see buckwheat flour and I don’t recall ever having baked or cooked with it so I seized the opportunity, buckwheat was exactly what I needed for my pancake recipe of choice this year.

Now onto Blinis, This humble yeasted pancake hails from Russia, traditionally made with buckwheat flour and served to mark the beginning of lent. These delicate, cloud like morsels offer a sophisticated bite sized pancake that can hold up a multitude of toppings. The addition of yeast does keen you need to be a little patient, but the end results are well worth it!

blini making

Buckwheat blinis- you will need:

  • 125ml milk
  • 40g plain flour
  • 30g buckwheat flour
  • 2.5g fast action dried yeast
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 egg whites

This recipe makes 35-40 canapé size blini, I made mine a little larger, around 5cm diameter with  yield of 20

  1. Gently warm the milk to blood temp and mix in the yeast and 15g of the plain flour. Cover and set aside in a warm place for two hours*
  2. Mix in the remaining flours, the yolks and salt. Cover and leave for a further 1/2 hour.
  3. Whip the whites to stiff peaks and fold into the mix.
  4. lightly oil a frying pan and on a medium high heat fry the blinis in batches and watch as the batter bubbles up delightfully. Flip the pancakes halfway through so they are an even golden colour on both sides.

*If you have a dehydrator you can cut the time down by setting the dehydrator to 30°C and warming the milk mix through for just one hour, rather than two.

blinis 1

Now time to get creative, lets talk about toppings…..

I’ve gone down the savoury route here, blinis have a great affinity with smoked fish so I couldn’t deny them a little smoked salmon and cream cheese. I also opted for semi dried tomatoes, avocado and Sirancha, and red pepper pesto, cherry tomato and and olive.

Sweet works a treat here too, I suggest any of your favourite pancake toppings, e.g. honey and blueberry, maple and banana or Nutella and orange, anything goes!

Happy pancake day to all!

creative toppings

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Bake: Granola Bars

granola bars

I’m off on a little road trip for work soon, this will involve a trade show and a few nights in a hotel. All very exciting stuff apart from the fact I will be away from my kitchen for 3 days, three whole days! Whilst most would relish the prospect of not having to cook for 3 days the reality has sent me into a bit of a panic.

Cooking is one of my greatest pleasures, I cook every day. It’s my way to relax and unwind but mainly I’m a big fan of knowing what goes into my food, it’s important to me to know the origin of the ingredients going into what I eat and indeed that there are no unnecessary ingredients included, preservatives, stabilisers and what have you. life is busy, and whilst it’s not always possible to know exactly whats going into your food and it’s not always convenient to make food from scratch I do, where possible, try and champion homemade and try to source ingredients for my kitchen that are local, british or of fair trade origin, and above all, healthy. I bake my own bread, I buy my meat from the butchers and vegetables from the market and try to spend as little money as I can in supermarkets.

So, what to do? The outlook is grim and i’m facing the unnerving reality of fast food for three days. My colleagues, who know my pack lunch habits and cheese obsession have assured me this is not the sort of trade fair where there will be a hall of fine cheeses to sample (those are the best sort of trade fairs, right?!) How will I cope without a slice of homemade bread and a selection of fine cheeses at lunchtime? I had to take action.

This morning I set about baking myself a batch of granola bars so if i’m really in trouble I can reach for the comforts of home cooking direct from my own kitchen. C has also very kindly bought me some apples to take on my journey. I shall also be preparing some cheesy nibbles to take. I’m feeling better prepared now, yet still apprehensive. Seriously, no cheese?

granola bar ingredients

To make granola bars you will need:

  • an 18cm round cake tin lined with baking parchment
  • 100ml coconut oil
  • 100ml agave nectar or honey
  • 50g almond or peanut butter
  • 150g oats
  • 50g chopped pecan nuts
  • 50g mixed seeds-I used pumpkin and sunflower
  • 50g dried fruit of your choice, sour cherries or cranberries are mine

This recipe makes really delicious gooey, chewy granola bars, be sure not to bake them too long so they don’t dry out. A note on coconut oil, make sure you buy cold pressed extra virgin for maximum ‘superfood’ effect. The flavour is strong and can overpower, so for those who don’t like coconut butter or oil can be used instead.

Pre-heat the oven to 145°C Weigh all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and set aside. Gently heat the agave, coconut oil and nut butter together in a pan until they are all melted, then pour the melted oil, agave and butter over the dry ingredients and mix all together to combine. Place the ingredients into the prepared tin. Use the back of a spoon to press the mix down so it’s nice and compact. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely, (don’t try to cut it when warm as it will crumble) Once completely cool cut into 6-8 portions. Store the bars in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Perfect for Breakfast on the go.

speedy breakfast granola bars

Further reading for the travelling cook:

B’s guide to eating healthy on the road

Miriam nice fellow blogger and author of cooking without a kitchen

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Looking Back: 2015

Happy new year to all! As we head into 2016 we thought we would have a little look back at all the Make, Do and spend activities over the last year…..

sharpen pencils

January 

Getting Organised

blood orange and pistachio cakes

February

Blood orange, almond and Pistachio Cakes and Rhubarb Rum

b outfit 2

March

The Big Clothes swap  & an exclusive interview with Richard III on the day of his burial

036

April

A guest Post from our Friend Holly Loves Cake & Those Doughnuts 

bluebells

May

Bluebell Woods

elderflower sugar 1

June

Elderflower Sugar & Mango Frozen Yoghurt 

Positano

July

B & E do Italy, plus Jam Tarts  & Macarons

watermelon cake 5

August 

Watermelon Cake

Nyhavn

September 

B Visited Copenhagen, E made Elderberry Vodka

rolling

October

Pumpkin & Spice Sugar Buns

November

What November?!

grown up hot chocolate

December

Amaretto Hot Chocolate

All best wishes for 2016!

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Drink: Amaretto Hot Chocolate

amaretto hot chocolate

Despite the unseasonably warm weather and a distinct lack of festive knitwear, the last few weeks have been all about getting into the festive spirit. From homemade Christmas decorations to festive baking, with a generous amount of seasonal celebrations and family gatherings thrown in. It’s been an incredibly busy few weeks.

So it was a surprise to find the final weekend before Christmas has bought with it some welcome down time. Rather than the last minute present wrapping, card writing and Secret Santa shopping that usually precedes Christmas day, this weekend’s change in pace has allowed time for wholesome activities such as wreath making and mince pie baking, and of course the opportunity for an extremely overdue blog post!

gingerbread mince pies

wreath making

I’m enjoying the calm. My job is changing/evolving in the new year so this Christmas feels different, full of new opportunities and possibilities, i’m excited to see what the new year will bring.

This recipe has become something of a tradition over the past few years, somehow it’s not really Christmas until the first Amaretto hot Chocolate of the season has been sampled! This one is definitely for the chocolate connoisseur as it’s intensely chocolatey and the amaretto adds just a little sweetness. I recommend using the best chocolate you can find, with at least 70% cocoa solids for a seriously bitter sweet drinking experience.

This is my idea of the perfect hot chocolate, Amaretto being one of my favourite liqueurs, but if it isn’t for you feel free to experiment with the flavours here. For a vegan option why not try Almond milk instead of milk and cream, for a no alcohol version try adding a cardamom pod when heating the milk and whisk in a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup for sweetness.

The recipe makes two mugs of hot chocolate.

finely chop chocolate

You will need:

  • 400ml milk
  • 50ml cream
  • 100g Dark Chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons Amaretto

Warm the milk and cream together in a saucepan until almost boiling. Whilst this is heating up, finely chop/grate the chocolate. Once the milk and cream mix starts to simmer remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until melted and well combined, by whisking you should get a lovely light, frothy mixture. Finally stir through the amaretto. Pour into mugs and serve with toppings of your choice, I opted for cocoa nibs, meringues and just a sprinkling of cocoa powder. Marshmallows and whipped cream are always a winning combination too!

hot chocolate for two

grown up hot chocolate

Wishing all our Make, Do and Spend friends a very merry Christmas, and a happy 2016!

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No bake: Watermelon cake

watermelon cake

This week saw the return of The Great British Bake Off to our TV screens, it’s one of my very few must watch programmes and i’m very excited to be tuning in every wednesday over the next few weeks to watch the competition unfold. It was great to see the series kick off with some magnificent cakes, (And some less so!) its also a hot topic of conversation amongst my foodie friends, so strangely enough all this baking got me thinking about not baking.

Sometimes there just isn’t time, sometimes one of these fabled warm weather days arrives in the UK and the thought of turning the oven on is just a little too much to bear and sometimes its good to have a healthy cake on the menu. It just so happened that this weekend the weather has been a little brighter and a summer BBQ was called for to celebrate this momentous occasion. C and I planned a feast, pork belly, burgers, sausages, meat, meat, meat basically! So we decided watermelon would provided the perfect antidote for desert

We live on the Narborough rd in Leicester, Aka “the Narb” to us locals where one can pretty much acquire anything your heart desires, it’s entirely possible to exist solely on the offerings of the Narbourgh rd, should you want to.

I’ve spotted quite a few enormous watermelons on my weekend strolls and decided that this was to be the weekend to purchase the largest watermelon I could find. 10kg to be precise.

So, I carried the Watermelon,

In a blue plastic bag Down the Narbourough rd, it wasn’t terribly glamorous but my head was spinning with ideas of what to make. Watermelon vodka is always a winner at adult BBQs but I was tempted to try something a little different and created this refreshing three tier watermelon cake instead.

watermelon cake 1watermelon cake 5

The good news is watermelon cakes are pretty simple to make, all you really need is a good sharp knife. Here follows an explanation of how to achieve this for next time you have an enormous watermelon handy. There are many virtuous qualities to this cake also. It’s vegan, refined sugar free, gluten free, nut free so no need to feel guilty about diving in!

Slice your watermelon across the middle into 3 even slices to create the three tiers. Cut circles out of the flesh inside the watermelon, for this I used bottomless cake rings, 8″ for the base, 6″ for the middle and 4″ for the top tier. once you have the three tiers cut you can sharpen up any edges or straighten the tops of each tier if necessary so each layer stacks evenly. That being said, if the cakes are a little wonky this adds a little drama so don’t worry too much! Stack the layers on top of each other. No dowels needed as the watermelon itself is pretty sturdy. Once stacked, it’s time for the fun bit, get creative and decorate your watermelon cake with fresh fruit and berries and if you have any to hand edible flowers work a treat. Here i’ve used nasturtium, lavender, sweet peas, fennel and dahlia petals so the cake is entirely edible.

So next time you fee like baking consider this colourful, refreshing and above all healthy option, and of course you could also douse the cake with vodka too if you wanted to liven things up a bit!

watermelon cake 2watermelon cake 3watermelon cake 4

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