Monthly Archives: August 2014

Honey , Fig and Mascarpone Cupcakes

Cat Cupcake(photo by me)

This is the second recipe I made for my photography session with @GreedyBetty. As soon as I saw this recipe I thought it looked beautiful, and to me it sounded more sophisticated and unusual compared to a lot of cupcakes. When I told people I was making these cupcakes, some people weren’t instantly excited by the idea. To my surprise this was because they hadn’t actually tried a fig before! These cupcakes managed to convert them – not only did they like the honey cupcake with the mascarpone, but they really liked the fig!

They also photographed beautifully – obviously with the help of Betty and her fantastic photography skills!

For the cupcakes
1 3/4 cups plain flour 
½ cup honey
½ cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup soured cream
2/3 whole milk
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line 2 cupcake tins with 16 cupcake cases and set aside
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and set aside
  3. In a different bowl, beat together the butter, honey, soured cream, vanilla paste and extract
  4. Add one egg at a time, mixing after each addition. With the mixing speed on low, alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the milk and beat until just combined
  5. Spoon the batter into the cases filling them 2/3 of the way

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  1. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes or until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in their tin for 5 minutes and then allow to cool completely on a wire rack

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For the frosting
8oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup double cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract

  1. Whisk the mascarpone cheese with the double cream, granulated sugar and vanilla extract on a low speed
  2. Beat for 2-3 minutes gradually increasing the speed to medium-high until it forms soft peaks. Be careful to not mix too much or the mix will curdle
  3. Frost the cooled cupcakes

You can either simply decorate the cupcake with half a fig like I did, or do as the original recipe suggested and caramelize the figs. The original recipe can be found at

These cupcakes are the perfect combination of sweet, followed by a slight savoury flavour from the frosting and the burst of freshness from the fig. They really were delicious and I was so proud of how the photographs turned out.

Cat Fig 1

(photo by me)

Fig Cupcake 1 copy

(photo by Betty)

Cupcake B

(photo by Betty)

Cupcake A

(photo by Betty)

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Soft pretzel bites

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Week 3 of The Great British Bake Off was Bread. Initially I was going to make a hot cross bun loaf but when I came to baking one evening I decided against it because the recipe required a couple of hours to prove. I wanted to get to bed that evening so instead I decided to make a bread recipe that was a little different. I’d seen the recipe for soft pretzel bites on Sally’s Baking Addition and knew I wanted to try it so decided to bake them for week three of #GreatBloggersBakeOff2014. I love pretzels, especially soft salted pretzels. I haven’t made them before so I thought these bites would be a good place to start without having to worry about shaping them into the usual pretzel shape.

For the pretzels
1 ½ cup lukewarm water
1 packet of instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 ¾ – 4 ¼ plain flour
Spray oil

2/3 cup bicarbonate of soda
1 large egg, beaten
Coarse sea salt 

  1. Stir the yeast in the warm water so it starts to dissolve. Add the salt, sugar, melted butter and stir. Add the flour 1 cup at a time in a bowl or in a mixer with a dough hook until it makes a thick, sticky dough. Add ¾ cup more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. If it is still sticky, add up to ¼ cup more
  2. Lightly flour your surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough for approximately 3 minutes and then roll it into a ball. Put the dough in a large bowl sprayed with oil and cover with cling film. Let the dough prove in a warm area for 20 minutes

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  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Line two large baking trays with baking parchment and set aside
  2. Cut the ball of dough into 6 sections. Roll each section into 20 inch long ropes

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  1. Cut the ropes into approximately 1.5 inch pieces to make bites

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  1. Boil 9 cups of water and add the bicarbonate of soda. Drop 8-10 pretzel bites into the water and leave for 20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the baking trays. Make sure they don’t touch
  2. Brush each pretzel bite with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat this for all of the dough

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  1. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown

These pretzel bites are best eaten on the day you make them. They can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days but they become softer. You can also freeze them – defrost them and heat them through in a 150ºc.

I was very pleased with how these pretzel bites turned out, they tasted exactly as a bought soft pretzel would. They are quite simple so if you haven’t made much or any bread before, these would be a great place to start.

Original recipe –



Check out for the rest of the entries.

Chilli Con Carne

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Deliciously comforting beef with a hint of heat, perfect to pile on toppings and enjoy!

Chilli was the first meal I remember my Mum teaching me how to cook so it will always hold sentimental value. The way I learnt to cook with my Mum was by watching how she did things and then copying them. She never wrote any measurements or processes down, it was always a pinch of this, a glug of that. I think this made it more interesting for me because there weren’t strict rules of how much of each ingredient had to go in. It also influenced what type of cook I turned into – I am always adapting recipes by leaving out ingredients I don’t like and adding more of what I do. Cooking has a lot more freedom than baking which sometimes requires exact measurements so I find recipes easier to adapt.

After a while chilli became ‘my meal’ that I would make for the rest of the family. I remember getting a bit annoyed if Mum would suggest she would be making it because even though I love my Mum’s cooking, I got very particular about how I would like things to be done. As well as being particular about how food is made and prepared; I have no shame in admitting I am a food snob. To me food is something to enjoy so it has to be tasty and I believe good ingredients and cooking from scratch (where possible) are key factors. My friends at work love hearing of the little disputes I have with Rien because he has bought the wrong chicken or the ham has water added to it. In his defense I realise I am a little demanding and he does get it right most of the time.

I have been brought up in a family that if it could be made from scratch, it was. I wasn’t brought up by lasagne being made with jarred sauces and that being classed as home made. The flavours in jarred sauces is not comparable to a home made sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I understand people are busy but most thing don’t take too much longer to make yourself and taste so much better! I fully believe that by being brought up with great food and being encouraged to cook as influenced my love for food today.

I have made some small changes to the recipe over the years but this was my Mum’s original recipe for chilli. Today using chocolate in Mexican cooking is becoming more well known but 10+ years ago this was slightly unusual. Mum always referred to the chocolate as her secret ingredient. Personally I think she was ahead of the times with the chocolate. She always insisted on kidney beans in chilli sauce and this is essential! I only use the kidney beans for the chilli sauce they come in because I’m not a massive fan of them. You really do need the chilli sauce because it gives the chilli a fantastic flavour. If you don’t have the different chilli powders I have used, just use normal chilli powder which is what we did for years and is very tasty. Feel free to add more chilli if you like more heat.

Rant over – onto the chilli! My friend at work, Abi asked me for my chilli recipe. So this one is for you.

Serves 4
spray oil

1 large onion, diced
3 fat garlic gloves, finely chopped
500g lean beef mince
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp worchester sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp tomato puree
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ancho chilli powder
1/4 tsp chipotle chilli powder
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tin chopped plum tomatoes
2 OXO cubes
1 tin kidney beans in chilli sauce (has to be in chilli sauce)
30g dark chocolate 

  1. Put the oil in a pan on medium/high heat and add the diced onions and garlic. Sweat for 5 mins stirring occasionally. Add the mince making sure it is broken up – I do this by using a wooden spoon. Cook for a further 5 mins or until the mince is brown all over

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  1. Add the salt, pepper, mustard powder, tomato puree, spices and oregano and stir to mix. Add the tin of tomatoes and stir. Turn the heat down so it is bubbling gently. Using the chopped tomato tin as a measure, fill it with boiling water and pour over the mince (careful the tin can be very hot!). This acts as a good way of measuring how much water to use, but also helps rinse the tin and catch the last of the tomato juices (one of Mum’s great tips!)

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    1. Add the 2 OXO cubes (Mum would always tell me to crumble these in but I always seemed to make a mess so now I chuck the whole thing in and make sure I stir it well!). Allow to bubble away gently for 15 minutes or so, stirring every so often. You can leave it longer just make sure you remember to stir it!
    2. Next add the kidney beans in chilli sauce. This time I fill the empty tin not quite half way with water from a recently boiled kettle and add this to the pan and stir. Leave to gently bubble for a further 15 mins
    3. Break the chocolate into squares and add to the pan. Mix through and allow to bubble for 5 mins, then serve

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We always had our chilli with rice, soured cream and salad. For some reason the salad was always in these same little bowls and was separated so each item had its own bowl. When I moved out, Mum gave me these bowls which can be seen in the photo.

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Chilli freezes really well if you don’t want to eat it all. Just defrost in the fridge and make sure it is piping hot. This makes a really quick and easy mid week meal. It isn’t the prettiest of food – especially when I mix it all together, but it has such a comforting flavour with a little kick.

Carrot cake sandwich cookies

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As you are all aware, The Great British Bake Off is back! Before it started I thought it would be a nice idea to bake something inspired by the show each week and blog about it. Week 1 was cake and although I had the best of intentions, I didn’t get round to my GBBO inspired bake because I was baking ready for my photography session with Betty last weekend.

While I was searching through endless cooking blogs (which is what I seem to spend hours doing without realising these days), I came across a blog called Mummy Mishaps ( by @JennyPaulin. She is running a little competition where food bloggers are baking an item inspired by that week’s show and then there will be a star baker each week. This has been appropriately called The Great Bloggers Bake Off.

I decided to move on from cake week and join in with week 2 – biscuits! I came across this recipe months ago and wanted to try it because everyone raves about the carrot cupcakes I make, so I wanted to see if these would be as popular. They have the same key ingredients as the carrot cupcakes but are in cookie form instead. The original recipe is one by Martha Stewart but I have tweaked it slightly.

I took these into work and they went down very well! I think they are a great alternative to cupcakes but have the same flavours that people seem to love. Sometimes I find biscuits a little bit boring so the filling in these add something a little bit special.

For the filling
2oz full fat cream cheese
2oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup icing sugar
1tsp lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and put to one side while you make the filling
  2. Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add sugar and lemon juice and mix until combined
  3. Cover and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until firm. Meanwhile, make the cookies

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For the cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup packed finely grated carrot

  1. Whisk together butter, sugars and egg yolk. In another bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and stir until combined. Mix in the oats, carrot and sultanas
  2. Spoon level tablespoons of mix onto the baking trays leaving enough room to allow for the cookies to spread. Flatten the mix down slightly

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  1. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, turning the trays half way through, until the edges are crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely
  2. When cooled, turn one cookie upside down so the flat side is facing upwards. Spoon about 1 tsp of the chilled filling onto the cookie. Put another cookie onto and gently press down so that the filling spreads to the edges

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Before being filled, the cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. The filling can be made ahead and chilled for up to five days.

The original recipe can be found at –


Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread 2

(photo by Greedy Betty)

This is the first of three posts that will include photographs from my photography lesson with Betty. I started talking to her on Twitter and was blown away by her fantastic photography on her website When we realised we both lived in the same town, she very kindly invited me over so I could get some photography tips. Photographing food is something I would really like to improve on.

It was fantastic to learn about lighting, how to create a scene for a photograph and tips on how to use my camera on the manual setting which had always scared me! It was great to meet up with someone who was as passionate about food as I am. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn, and also meet such a lovely person. I hope in future posts you will be able to see small differences as my photographs improve (go easy on me though!). Photoshop is top of the list followed very closely by a light box!

This recipe is the first I decided to make for the photography session. I saw it on one of my favourite blogs – Sally’s Baking Addiction ( She has so many delicious sounding recipes, but when I saw her recipe for Monkey Bread I knew it would be the first recipe I tried. The recipe is little cinnamon balls baked in a bundt tin with the idea of picking the individual balls off, like monkeys do when they groom each other. Bundt cakes seem to be very popular at the moment, and this recipe is another way of using your bundt tin but for something a little different.

I know I say you should make a lot of the recipes I feature on here, but if you love cinnamon rolls, this is the recipe for you. It is absolutely delicious! Personally, I think American recipes are great for cinnamon based food because American’s seem to love their cinnamon and know how to use it. It makes a big old portion which makes it perfect for a party or a family occasion.

This recipe needs to be left overnight. Please read the whole recipe before starting.

For the dough
1 package of yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 & 1/4 cups warm milk (semi skimmed or higher)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp  salt
5 cups plain flour
Spray oil

  1. Put the yeast in a bowl and add the warm water. Stir it around a let it sit for a couple of minutes. Add the milk, melted butter, sugar, eggs, salt and 3 cups of flour. Beat using a dough hook for 3 minutes (or mix by hand)
  2. Add enough flour to form a firm dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Keep adding enough flour until it forms a firm dough, this will be about 5 cups in total. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, this should take about 5 minutes. Don’t over knead or else you will have a tough chewy dough. Form the dough into a smooth bowl and put it into a large greased bowl and cover with cling film. Put it in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight to allow the dough to prove

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For the coating
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 & 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

  1. Melt the butter in a small bowl. In another bowl mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon together
  2. Spray a 10-12 cup bundt tin with spray oil and set aside. Punch down the dough and then pull small pieces of dough off and roll them into balls approximately 2.5cm in width. You need approximately 40-45 balls in total so don’t roll them too big or too small!
  3. Dip each dough ball into the melted butter and then roll in the sugar and cinnamon until generously coated. Do this with each ball and arrange them neatly into the bundt tin. Depending on how generous you are with the sugar and cinnamon mix, you may need a little more sugar

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  1. Once all of the balls are assembled, cover with cling film and leave for 45 mins for the dough to prove

For the drizzle
1/4 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar (I used 1/3 cup of each)
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt the butter and whisk in the brown sugar and vanilla extract. Pour this over the dough balls in the bundt tin

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  1. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. If the top looks like it is browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil
  2. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out

For the glaze
1 cup icing sugar
3 tbsp cream or whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Whisk all of the ingredients together and pour over the bread. You may need to add a little bit more cream/milk to get to a nice pouring consistency

This recipe is so tasty you won’t be able to stop yourself going back for another gooey, sticky cinnamon ball! You have been warned!

Cat Minkey Bread

 (photo by me!)

Please visit for more of Betty’s amazing work.

Blueberry muffins

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My favourite flavour of muffin has always been blueberry. When I was 10 we went to Florida and I remember having this huge blueberry muffin that I had to eat in more than one sitting it was so big! Everyone has their own idea of a perfect muffin, and to me I love a muffin with a soft top. I’ve seen a lot of recipes that require a sugary crunchy top – this isn’t what I’m looking for!

I went shopping for a few bits on Friday evening and was tempted by a big punnet of juicy blueberries. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to bake with them, but at least I knew the direction I was going in. Its becoming more difficult each week for me to decide what to bake as there are so many things on my to bake list. I like finding an ingredient that jumps out at me and then searching for a recipe.

That night I was talking to a few people on Twitter about blueberry muffin recipes and Esther (@Bournebaking) suggested a recipe she had adapted and perfected. I am am always willing to try recipes that fellow bakers have tried and tested. Before settling on this recipe, I had looked around and saw a few recipes that used yogurt. I saw that Esther’s recipe used milk so thought I would try two batches – one using milk and the other using yogurt and then I could compare the two.

I’m getting a little fed up of my usual sultana bran for breakfast. I’ve tried yogurt or fruit instead but these don’t seem to keep my full for very long so they are more of a snack. I thought a muffin would be a perfect breakfast item, but it has to be relatively healthy. I am conscious of keeping food quite healthy and keeping an eye on the calories if possible (sometimes you do need to ignore this and treat yourself though!). The milk version of this recipe has 292 calories whereas the yogurt version has slightly more at 309. Ideally I’d like to find a tasty muffin for around 200 calories that doesn’t compromise on flavour. Watch this space as I search!

For the muffins
2 cups plain flour 
1 cup blueberries
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg (beaten)
1 cup milk or low fat yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil 

  1.  Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a muffin tin with 10 paper cases
  2. Wash and dry the blueberries carefully. Add them to a bowl with the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Mix everything together gently
  3. Mix the milk/yogurt and oil together in a separate bowl and then add the beaten egg
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined – don’t over mix. It will look quite lumpy
  5. Fill the cases with the mix and bake for 15-20 mins until a cocktail stick comes out clean (mine took 17 minutes)

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The two mixes looked very different. The milk mix (top photo) will be quite runny whereas the yogurt mix (bottom photo) is very thick and does take a bit more mixing to make sure all of the ingredients are combined. When filling the cases, I filled them approximately 1cm below the top of the case. This meant that some of the muffins had odd shaped tops where the mix had overflown. This is not ideal for something like a cupcake where you need a flat top, but I like this look for a muffin – makes it look more rustic! If you do want them all perfectly uniform, fill the cases 3/4 full.

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When comparing the two different recipes, there really isn’t a great lot of difference. The yogurt made a slightly denser muffin, but it was still light and fluffy and somehow gave an almost creamy texture. Use whichever you prefer or try both and let me know which you liked best!

Thanks again to Ester @BourneBaking for a fantastic recipe. Please follow her on twitter and visit her website

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Scotch eggs

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I decided to make scotch eggs among other things for Rien’s birthday. What I call ‘picnic food’ is Rien’s favourite type of food so I knew I wanted to give scotch eggs a go. I based my recipe on Simon Rimmer’s recipe which can be found on the BBC Food website ( but I did end up tweaking it slightly.

These do take a little bit of time and were never going to be the healthiest picnic snack. Try making them for a special treat.

For the filling
4 eggs
275g sausage meat
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp wholegrain mustard

Salt and pepper

  1. Gently put the eggs into a pan of cold salted water. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat until the water is at a simmer for exactly nine minutes
  2. Drain and cool the eggs under cold water. When the eggs are cooled, peel them. I find it is easiest to gently crack the shell by tapping it on the work surface and then using the wrong end of a teaspoon to carefully peel the shell away from the egg. Don’t panic if you accidentally peel some of the white away with the shell – it really isn’t the end of the world

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  1. Mix the sausage meat, thyme, mustard powder, wholegrain mustard and salt and pepper together in a bowl. Divide the sausage meat into four and flatten each one on a bowl into an oval shape. Each oval should be approximately 12.5cms in length and 7.5cms at its widest point

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For the coating
50g plain flour
100g panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil

  1. Season the flour with salt and pepper and roll each egg in it so it is completely coated
  2. Place each floured egg onto a sausage meat oval then wrap the sausage meat tightly around the egg making sure there are no gaps
  3. Dip each sausage meat covered egg in the beaten egg and then into the panko breadcrumbs. Make sure it is completely covered

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  1. Heat the oil in a deep pan until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns brown when dropped in. The eggs need to be completely submerged so how much oil you need depends on how big your pan is. I used approximately 1.5 litres. I know this sounds a lot but I have heard that deep frying is actually healthier (don’t laugh) than shallow frying – I won’t bore you with the details!
  2. Carefully lower each egg into the hot oil and cook for 8-10 minutes until they are crisp and golden and the sausage meat is cooked. Don’t overcrowd the pan because this will lower the temperature of the oil. I cooked 2 eggs at a time
  3. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and allow to drain on some kitchen paper. Allow to cool then tuck in

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Only two of my scotch eggs turned out perfectly. One completely exploded and the egg made a break for freedom and the other had a bit of a crack. I think this was down to not making sure the sausage meat was as tightly compacted as it should be. Cooking is all about trial and error so don’t worry if the same happens to you – they’ll still taste as good and definitely look home made!