Lavender, blueberry and white chocolate bundt cake

Don’t ask me how it transpired, but yesterday the first chapter of my Masters dissertation ended up looking an awful lot like a 4lb lavender, blueberry and white chocolate bundt cake. There’s not even a special occasion like a birthday to justify it, I just really didn’t want to write the first chapter of my dissertation. This is a problem because I might fail my Masters but also I recently read Everything I Know about Love by Dolly Alderton (because all of my friends were reading it because they’re all Exeter graduates with an alcohol problem and desperately in need of therapy, too). Anyway I started taking Dolly’s advice for twenty-somethings as gospel (because she’s paid for a lot of therapy, and reading a book by a twenty-something who’s had a lot of therapy is kind of equivalent to paying for a lot of therapy, right?) and she said not to eat sugar because “it ruins your insides and your outsides”. I’m a whore for sugar, in all of its forms, but especially in the shape of bundt cake. Anyway, I can’t stop eating sugar because I have this theory that I’ll apply for The Great British Bake Off in 2019 and then I’ll make Noel Fielding try my bundt cake and then he’ll fall madly in love with me and we’ll run away to some Scandinavian country together and once we start going grey we’ll share our dark hair dye and it’ll be wonderful. (Just to clarify, I don’t fancy him, I just want to be in the remake of The Mighty Boosh). So you see, I have to practice making bundt cakes.

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Getting really excited about my bundt

The thing with bundt cakes is that they’re distinctive because of their ring shape, but their spiralling patterns make it an absolute bitch to get out of the mould. The key is in the prepping of the tin, and ensuring the batter isn’t too thin, else it will be too moist and soft to get out. So follow my advice and it’ll (probably) come out like this:

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I got 99 problems but a bundt ain’t one

If you’re an person with an unsophisticated palate who despises using “perfume” things as ingredients (like rose or orange blossom or lavender) then you can leave the lavender out. It works just the same. Just taste less posh.

Lavender, blueberry and white chocolate bundt cake (serves 12; vegetarian)

Ingredients:

  • 300g melted butter (Stork) plus extra for greasing that bastard tin
  • 3 tsp dried lavender
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 325g caster sugar
  • 350g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 300g blueberries
  • 150g icing sugar
  • A dash of purple food colouring

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Grease the bundt tin. Using the bain marie method on the hob, melt the butter, 50g of the white chocolate and 2tsp dried lavender. This really helps to release that “perfume” flavour.
  2. Once melted, leave to sit for 5 minutes before mixing in the caster sugar. Combine the eggs. Add the flour steadily, using an electric whisk on a slow setting to combine. Lastly, stir in 200g of the blueberries, leaving the remainder for decoration.
  3. Pour the mixture into the tin, and bake for 60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  4. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, before removing onto a board to leave to cool completely.
  5. Once cool, make the lilac icing and smoother on top. It doesn’t have to be neat. Melt the remaining white chocolate, and drizzle over the icing. Sprinkle over a tsp of dried lavender and pop on the blueberries.

Then indulgently post it all over Instagram.

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Tunnock’s Teacake Brownies

To touch base, here’s a few things: I moved to Glasgow, started a Masters, started two new jobs, became vegan, became anaemic, rediscovered fish and chips, rediscovered happiness. I had these vivid plans for food blogging in Glasgow – the U.K capital for vegan eats and all-things deep-fried (they even deep fry pizza here and call it “pizza crunch”, don’t you know) – and I had envisioned that I’d be eating out twice a week, free of charge of course, like I did during my undergraduate in Exeter.

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It’s an Irn-Bru-induced existential crisis

Added into the mix:

The state of my unhygienic postgrad accommodation has largely stunted any attempts to conjure up any new recipes (there’s no opportunity for aesthetically pleasing photographs when your kitchen hobs are that grimey). I have, however, lived with ten fascinating Americans (woops, and one Canadian, sorry Emilie) over the course of the year. They’ve introduced me to the joys of sweet potato casserole (thanks, Keely from Chicago), Jif peanut butter (thanks, Noah from Minnesotta), Cheezits (thanks, Rachel from North Carolina) and poutine (thanks, Emilie from somewhere in Canada). Apparently combining the sugary hells of the American diet shipped over seas and the deep-fried-ness of the Glaswegian lifestyle makes a postgraduate student such as myself rather distracted and disorganised. I left a lot of things behind when I moved 450 miles north, and a lot of things have gone on hold.

I didn’t bring my baking supplies or my succulents here, because I was stubbornly adamant that I wouldn’t settle in Scotland. I expected to move back down to the old smoke as soon as I hit submit on my dissertation.

But here are some confessions: I actually like Irn Bru now, and I buy it of my own accord. And not even the sugar free version. I like, not just the taste, but the lurid orange colour and the way Glaswegians call it “juice” even though there’s no fruit pulp in it and that you can get it as an ice cream flavour and the fact that my pal who works in the NHS archives has access to the original, secret recipe and that recipe apparently is so sought after that it holds this strange, mythical status. I even own an Irn Bru clock.

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I wasn’t joking

Second confession: I still haven’t tried an empire biscuit. God knows why they’re such a big deal…it’s just two pieces of biscuit, a white icing glaze and a jelly tot.

Third confession: I hate shortbread.

So, I ventured down South in a bid to navigate through the fog and retrieve my baking goods. And on the 5 and a half hour train journey up from London to Glasgow I noticed that you can measure the milage by the difference in the passengers’ accents, the increase in their happiness, and the amount of times you’re offered a Red Stripe.

To kick things off, I thought I’d stay true to the unhealthiness of my current adopted diet (an amalgam of American and Glaswegian influences) and produce these bad boys.

Tunnock’s teacake brownies (vegetarian; makes 6 “sharing” brownies)

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 175g unsalted butter (I’m forever loyal to Stork)
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 Tunnock’s Teacakes (I went for the dark chocolate variety)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Line a rectangular baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Using the bain-marie method on the hob, melt the butter and chopped dark chocolate until smooth, stirring consistently.
  3. Remove from the heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and melted concoction. Sift in the flour and mix until well incorporated. Then, crack in the eggs, mix well.
  4. Pour the mixture into a prepared baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and add the teacakes. (We don’t want these to burn). Bake for a further 20-25 minutes, until the surface begins to crack. Allow to cool before serving.

 

 

Lettuce be happy: post-degree salads & alfresco dining

If there’s one thing I’ll learn from completing my undergraduate degree, it’s to not stock up on so many grains when your landlady’s contract only lasts for 11 months. It’s also to not get cosy in a beautiful kitchen that’s only on loan to you – (we lucked out, and got the most gorgeous house for the Exetah’ student going rate). I’ll never own a kitchen this nice again. Especially with an English literature BA. And now I’m lumped with shit loads of pearl barely, couscous, polenta, and debt.

There’s something really ominous about finishing your degree. The majority of us are currently in limbo until our graduation ceremony: too qualified to work in Tesco’s and too inexperienced to work for Penguin publishing house. It seems that reading all that Barthes and Foucault amounted to nothing. Temporarily. Thankfully, I’m motivated by learning and the thrill of it, and not by money – so I’m due to move to Glasgow this September to study an MLitt (Scottish alternative to MA) in English literature: Modernities. I’m so bloody excited. But I still need to get rid of all these grains.

I can’t come to terms with the fact that I’ll be leaving behind some of the greatest friends I’ve made at university. Consequently, I’ve been inviting friends round for dinner frequently and we’ve been enjoying the meals in the garden. These two salad dishes are sociable, economical and they make your heart happy. Both vegan and served at whatever temperature you fancy. Here’s to good health and to promising futures.

Jaunty post-degree pearl barley salad (serves 4; vegan) (my favourite)

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Thanks Maddy, for use of your Polaroid

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe aubergine, cut into 1.5cm thick disks
  • 1 sweet potato, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 200g pearl barley
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • Half a bag of lettuce of your choice
  • 100g drained olives
  • Generous handful of dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • Generous handful of dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1 pomegranate
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Work lunches 

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°c. Coat the aubergine disks and sweet potato cubes in olive oil, salt, garlic and all the spices. On baking parchment, spread the veg out and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
  2. While the veg is gently roasting, wash the pearl barley in cold water. Cook on a medium heat on the hob with 200ml water. Once the water is boiled, simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Zest the lemon and combine with the tahini, 1 tbsp olive oil and lemon juice. Prepare the olives and dried fruits by roughly chopping.
  4. Leave the aubergine and sweet potato to cool, and drain the pearl barely if needed. Combine all prepared ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and layer onto a tray of lettuce and sprinkle on the pomegranate seeds to finish.

Lentil tabbouleh (serves 4; vegan) (great with pimms)

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What I like about this one is that it requires minimal cooking and so is great to prepare in advance to a BBQ, or just for packed lunches. Is it socially acceptable to bring pimms to work too? Please ignore the Tesco delivery boxes I used for my haphazard student BBQ. I do think they look quite edgy though.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced into 1.5cm cubes
  • 1 tin of pre-cooked green lentils, drained
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 big bunches of coriander and mint, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170ºC. Parboil the sweet potato cubes, drain and coat in all the spices. Sprinkle on the garlic, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
  2. While this is in the oven, prepare dice the red onion and tomato. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the fresh ingredients and add the sweet potato once cooked!

 

Pear and stilton gnocchi

This recipe sounds ultra-fancy, but it can be knocked up in fifteen minutes, making it a very sociable dish for guests. And it’s cheap – a couple of pears, an onion, garlic, cheese, and some gnocchi comes to about £2 per serving. Pear and stilton is such a complimentary combination – don’t feel alarmed. Here’s some rare pictures of me cooking in my gorgeous student kitchen, curtesy of my wonderful photographer (and friend), James.

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Pear and stilton gnocchi (serves 2; vegetarian)

 Ingredients: 

  • 1 onion (I find brown works best, but shallots would also be banging)
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 100g stilton
  • 500g gnocchi

Method:

  1. Heat a saucepan with a tablespoon of olive, then fry off the onions for 5 minutes on a gentle heat. Add the sliced pear, followed by garlic and rosemary. Cook for about 10 minutes, while the gnocchi is cooking, stirring occasionally.
  2. Boil a pan of water, add the gnocchi and cook for 3 minutes – be careful to not over cook.
  3. Take the saucepan off the heat, and stir in the drained gnocchi. While still very hot, crumble the stilton over, and mix gently until creamy.

4. Season with pepper, and sprinkle over some nuts for added texture – pine nuts, cashews or walnuts work well.

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happy guests

Rose petal and pistachio cake

Rose petal and pistachio cake vegetarian; serves 10 

Bottled rose water and dried rose are incredibly exciting ingredients. I bought them about a year a go for a mere couple of pounds from an International food supermarket, and they’ve been a little neglected at the back of my cupboard, amongst the things I told myself I’d always get round to using. And once I practised this recipe to perfection, they were all gone. 

Ingredients:

  • 225g baking butter, softened to room temperature (I am forever loyal to stork)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 1 tbsp rose water
  • 40g unsalted pistachio kernels, chopped

For the icing:

  • 125g sifted icing sugar
  • 2 tsp rose water
  • 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1/2 tsp pink food colouring
  • 40g unsalted pistachio kernels, chopped
  • Dried rose petals (optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and prepare a non-stick loaf tin with baking parchment or butter.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the baking butter and caster sugar. Gradually sift in the self-raising flour, add the eggs one at a time, and combine well.
  3. Stir in the rose water and pistachios so the flavours are evenly distributed through the cake mix.
  4. Pour the mix into the loaf tin, and even out the surface with a spatular. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until a knife through the centre comes out clean.
  5. Once cooled take the cake out of the tin. Create the icing by combining the sugar with rose water, warm water and pink food colouring. Smoother the top of the cake with it. Sprinkle on pistachio kernels, and dried rose petals if you’re feeling decadent.

Dry cider and tarragon prawn linguine

Dry cider and tarragon prawn linguine pescatarian; serves 2

marinating prawns in traditional pub flavours, cider and mustard, works surprisingly well…

Ingredients:

  • 150g fresh king prawns
  • 100ml dry cider
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp creme fresh
  • 100g long stem broccoli
  • 200g linguine

Method:

  1. In a bowl, pour in 100ml dry cider, dijon mustard and tarragon and stir well. Add in the fresh prawns, and allow to marinate in the fridge for an hour.
  2. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, and cook the linguine. While this is cooking, drain the marinade from the prawns into a saucepan and reduce on a low heat for 8 minutes.
  3. Heat a frying pan with a glug of olive oil and stir fry the long stem broccoli for 5 minutes. Add the prawns, and continue to fry for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Once the cider marinade is reduced by half its size, stir in 2 tbsp of creme fresh. Stir this sauce into the linguine, topping with the broccoli and prawns.

Saag paneer

paneer is a fresh, unsalted white cheese – it requires no ageing so it can be made in no time at home. It’s a staple vegetarian Indian ingredient which holds its form well and is flavoured beautifully with turmeric and garam masala.

Saag paneer vegetarian & gluten free; serves 4

Ingredients:

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For the paneer: 

  • 1.5 litres whole milk
  • 1 lemon, juiced

For the saag: 

  • 1 medium sized brown onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5cm of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 vine tomatoes
  • 2 heaped tbsp coconut cream
  • 500g spinach
  • Salt and pepper

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Method:

  1. In preparation for the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin cloth over a bowl.
  2. In a heavy based saucepan, bring the whole milk to the boil and then leave to simmer on a low heat.
  3. Stir the simmering milk continuously with a wooden spoon while dropping in the lemon juice in a tablespoon at a time. Continue stirring until the curds and whey separate.
  4. Take off the heat and carefully pour into the sieve, so that the curds gather in the muslin. Gently rinse under cold running water. Squeeze the curd bundle to remove any excess moisture.
  5. Place the bundle back in the sieve, over the bowl, and place a 1kg weight on the cheese. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
  6. Once firmed, cut the cheese into 2cm chunks. Fry on a medium heat in chilli infused oil (if to hand) for 5 minutes. Add more oil if necessary, and ensure that the cheese retains its shape by only stirring occasionally. Remove from the pan and leave on kitchen roll whilst you cook the saag.
  7. In the same pan, add the chopped onion with cumin seeds and cook on a low to medium heat until softened. Stir in the crushed garlic, peeled and chopped ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Then add finely chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 8 minutes.
  8. Lower the heat, add the coconut cream and the spinach and cover with a lid to wilt the spinach. Add a splash of water if needed. Once a creamy consistency, serve immediately.

Sloe gin

sloe gin…and an incredibly sloe process (three months to be exact). Sloe gin makes a thoughtful Christmas gift, accompanied by homemade jams and chutneys in a hamper.

Do not worry about purchasing an expensive bottle of gin, a supermarket own will suffice.

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Sloe gin produces 1 bottle; vegan 

Ingredients:

  • 350g handpicked sloes
  • 250g sugar
  • 35cl gin of your choice

Method:

  1. Forage your sloes when they are in season (beginning to ripen in late August). Clean them thoroughly, throwing away any unripe, squashed or rotting.
  2. Using a sterilised needle, prick the sloes all over so that the juice of the fruit can seep through and flavour the gin.
  3. Sterilise a large kilner jar by placing it in an oven at 160°c for 20 minutes. Once cooled, add the fruit, followed by the sugar and gin. Seal and shake well.
  4. Store your jar in a cool, dark cupboard for 3 months. Make sure to shake every few days, or as often as you remember.
  5. After 3 months, strain the gin through muslin and bottle.

No 1 Polsloe cafe

No 1 Polsloe on Facebook

No 1 Polsloe on Instagram

No 1 Polsloe café – the clue is in the title and the address – they’re No 1 at delivering high quality food, No 1 for aesthetic, No 1 for value. 

They faced me with a challenge: to get through three of their vegetarian breakfasts, one strawberry ice cream milkshake, a flat white and a cappuccino. Suffice to say, I was waddling to my 12pm lecture after.

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Here’s me tucking in, with brunch appropriate hair clips (available to buy via my Etsy shop)
I had been to this café back in 2014, but since it changed hands in August 2015, the aesthetic and vibe of the dainty space has gone from strength to strength. Decorated in makeshift cacti botanical bowls, fairy lights, plant wall hangings, and giant flowers floating from the ceiling; all I’m thinking about whilst waiting for my breakfast is how I wish I had the creative juices of the café’s trendy yet modest owner, Becky.

The space also boasts connections with Devonshire artists. Illustrative artist Elise who runs Skelliton illustration, has currently got a table of gorgeously designed goods up for sale there. The menus are designed by artist George Goodwin, who goes by the title ‘Omg I drawed it’ – and I’m looking at his art on the walls thinking Omg I WISH I drew that. But fear not, George’s drawings are available to purchase so you can bring home a little bit of that No 1 Polsloe aesthetic.

After feeling a little jealous of all these creative types, the food arrives, and the pressure is on to do all this beautiful food justice through my little iPhone camera.

Becky’s team have given me a platter featuring: their special smashed avocado and poached eggs on thick-sliced bread, with lime, chilli, and dill; a vegetarian, avocado aficionado version of eggs royale; and, buttermilk pancakes with honey, banana and Greek yoghurt.

The combination of lime, chilli, and dill with avocado tastes sensational. The hollandaise sauce poured over the eggs, avocado slices and warm muffins is absolutely perfect. I used the pancakes, accompanied by the strawberry ice cream milkshake, as my desert to the breakfast trio – they have clearly mastered their pancake batter recipe. After sampling all of these, I cannot help but think I would be over the moon to receive this in a highflying hotel. Yet, a brunch here will only set you back £6 at the most.

It’s all the thoughtful finishing touches which makes this eatery so great. Everyone is considered – from the meat-eaters, to the vegans, to the gluten-free customers. I truly appreciate seeing a restaurant also fully supportive of local businesses, such as using Exe Coffee Roasters to supply its beans, and KB Eats’ spectacular cakes to stock the counter.

No.1 Polsloe does not stop at brunch – it’s open for lunch and into the evening for pizza and cocktails. It’s now available to be hired out for private parties too.

I’d definitely give it 5 avocados out of 5. 

Berlin reflections

pretzels, bagels, bratwurst, currywurst…and erm, more currywurst

To make my flight €100 cheaper, I stopped off in Berlin for a few days before heading back to London. I found that Berlin had few concrete, fundamental dishes and ingredients that sets it aside from the rest of Europe. The capital certainly has the rest of Germany’s predilection for meat, particularly sausages. But, I was disappointed I couldn’t try the dish most ranted and raved about – that is bratwurst sausage with curry toppings, or ‘currywurst’ – because of dietary requirements. There’s even a museum dedicated to the phenomenon that is ‘currywurst’.

I fell in love with the city; it lives to reflect and learn from its controversial past, with the effect that it now exists as a liberal and lively hub. In the process, it has accumulated a vast array of multicultural cuisines. I ate in authentic Turkish, Italian and Asian restaurants (and many modern vegan eateries that are dispersed throughout the city).

The German bakeries are the city’s redemption. Think pretzels galore. Here’s a ‘streuseltaler’ – a fine yeast dough pastry with a refined butter crumble. It’s essentially an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.

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In East Side Berlin, there was a substantial selection of vegan eateries, to match the cool and hip ambience of this side of the city. Just past the East Side gallery, I came across a building hosting Veganz (a supermarket), Goodies (a vegan café dedicated to great coffee), The Bowl (a clean eating restaurant for the best, beautiful bowls of goodness), and a vegan shoe shop.

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The Bowl boasts a 100% plant-based kitchen, producing gluten and sugar free bowls for a little over €10. I tried went for the ‘California’ bowl from the menu; this was lemon quinoa, deep fried sweet potato sticks, sesame tamari leaf spinach, raw apple carrot salad, avocado slices, tomato coriander salsa and teriyaki hibiscus sauce. (But I also pinched a spoonful of the ‘Buddha’ bowl too from my travel buddy). The ingredients are simple, but the sauces and dressings bring the ingredients to life.

This restaurant refreshed me from a 3 hour urban art walking tour of the East Side gallery and beyond. And it has given me inspiration for new healthy, filling and vegan recipes.