Posted on August 3, 2019

Old Skool Lemon Cupcakes

Baking/ Parties

There are two extremes in my home; there’s the die hard chocolate cake addicts and the zesty lemon party. There is no in between. Well maybe when it comes to a plain sponge covered in lashings of buttercream or layers of fondant.

So when I make cupcakes for Birthdays I know instantly that one of the two fierce women in the house (that would be my daughters for new readers) is going to be disappointed and scream life isn’t fair.

I’m a huge fan of citrus. From lemon cakes to lemon dressings to sitting eating half a dozen satsumas. I love it.

Nothing in my opinion beats an old fashioned lemon drizzle however I went for a lemon cupcake with a lemon icing for these beauties.

To make 18 cupcakes (I used muffin sized) you will need:

300 grams castor sugar
300 grams butter (softened-I zap it in the microwave)
300 grams self raising flour (sifted)
6 eggs; beaten (I used medium sized)
1 TBSP (level) baking powder
Zest and juice of 4 large-ish lemons.
I note bloggers say use unwaxed lemons. If those are a bit pricey you buy cheaper ones that maybe waxed, placed them in hot water and carefully give the lemons are a rub. The wax should come off.

For the icing you will need:

500 grams icing sugar
200-250 grams butter. I use 200 grams as I like a stiffer icing.
Lemon flavouring (I don’t use lemon juice because the icing becomes runny. I also so not use the lemon zest as it clogs up my nozzles).

As my cupcakes were 80s themed I dyed the icing. I used neon yellow and neon pink.
I dyed half the icing pink and the other half yellow. I then added scoops to the icing bag and it created a lovely swirly affect icing.

Nozzle of your choice & icing bag.
Pre-heat your oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3.
Place 18 muffin cases in your muffin tins. I have a few baking tins so I manage to do this in one go. If you have bake in batches just remember the oven will be warm when you place the second lot in so keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

1) Beat the sugar and butter together. You can do this by hand or in a mixer. I find both work well. Stop beating when you have a creamy consistency.
2) Add a bit of the egg mixture in and beat it. Keep adding and beating until you run out of eggs. Don’t worry if it looks a bit runny. It will work out after you add the flour.
3) Add scoops of the flour and stir in. Add the baking powder and stir through.
4) Now add the lemon juice and zest. Give it a good stir.
5) Now distribute your mixture into the cupcake/muffin cases in the tin. I generally leave a ‘gap’ at the top of the case as these babies rise. I then trim them to make them even. Yes it’s true; my cakes are not perfect.
6) Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes. When they are ‘done’ they should be springy to touch. I do the classic ‘toothpick check’. If you insert it into the centre and it comes out clean congratulations your cupcakes are done!
7) Now allow the cupcakes to cool completely before you ice them. If you can leave them in the tin to cool down that’s good. But if you can’t tranfer them to a wire cooling rack. Don’t apply the icing whilst they are still warm. It just doesn’t work.
8) Once the cupcakes are cool give them a quick trim to even them out. This really is key to getting uniform-ish iced cupcakes (sorry not sorry).

To make the buttercream:
You can use the mixer for this or do it by hand.

1) sift the icing sugar into a LARGE bowl. Trust me the BIGGER the better. Size matters.
2) Add the butter. Now beat the ingredients together.
3) Once you have what looks like a creamy mixture (it maybe a bit rough or stiff don’t worry it’s normal) add the lemon flavouring. Stir in.
4) If the mixture is too stiff or isn’t coming together like icing add 1 tablespoon of milk and beat in. Repeat if needed. Just do it in stages as too much milk may make the mixture runny.
5) Once you are happy with the texture you can add dye if you wish to. I use gel again it helps with the texture. I find the liquid dyes make things runny and the colour isn’t as strong either (I use ClassicKool-Link here).
6) Put the icing in the bag and ice away. Get creative if you wish. Add sprinkles, glitter whatever you wish. We added themed toppers.
7) Your cupcakes are done. Don’t they look awesome? Like 80s awesome…cos everything in the 80s was awesome….


Notes: You can make the cupcakes and freeze them up to a month in advance if it helps with your party prep.

You can buy ready made icing which does an amazing job too.

Posted on August 2, 2019

Pre-cooking Lentils…

Food/ Slow Cooker

Why I pre-cook and freeze gram lentils….

I love cooking however I don’t always have time to leisurely cook and that’s where my kitchen short cuts come in.

I use gram lentils quite a bit. They are the base ingredient of vegetarian kebabs, Pakistani Bun kebab and also my favourite spinach and gram lentil curry. But I’ll be honest with you. I dislike having to watch food simmer on the stove for hours. It’s just not in my nature. I’ll happily place something in the oven and leave it for hours but on the stove? Nope. Just not happening.

I discovered a while ago that you can pre-cook and then FREEZE gram lentils to create meals that slash the time on stove top simmering. A revolution!

Since then I boil approximately 900 grams of Gram Lentils in my rather large Slow Cooker on high for a good few hours (mine took 5 hours to cook to the tenderness level I required), cool then and then freeze them up in portion sizes I know I will use.

I also do this with green lentils (for my tacos). If a lentil is going to take hours I’d rather go through the pain of pre-boiling in a slow cooker, cooling and freezing instead.

So here is my method:

1) I wash the lentils and then soak them for around a hour.

2) I place them in the slow cooker to boil HOWEVER I add the following ingredients to my 900 grams of lentils for a bit of flavour penitration. Here’s my recipe:

900 grams Gram Lentil
As much water as you can add to the slow cooker. If you find your slow cooker is on the small side boil half the amount of daal. Simples.
1 onion-halved
1 large piece of ginger-whole (skin can be kept on)
4 whole cloves of garlic peeled only
Salt-to your own taste
1 TBSP chili powder OR 5 dried red chilies
1 TBSP turmeric (Haldi)

2) Place all the ingredients in the Slow Cooker and turn to high. Check on your lentils every hour or so and give them a stir.
3) After a few hours your Lentils will be tender. I don’t let the lentils turn to ‘mush’ and leave a little bit to allow me to ‘cook them out’ when I use them on the stove.
4) Drain the lentils (because if you leave them in the Cooker they will cook further) and allow to cool. Fish out the garlic, ginger and onion. Throw them away.
5) Decant the lentils into suitable freezer bags (or containers), label and freeze!
6) To defrost: you can do this in the Microwave or leave the bag overnight in the Fridge.


Posted on July 29, 2019

Meat Free Mondays…

Curries/ Food/ Slow Cooker

Easy Lobia Masala

As part of my Meat Free Mondays I am featuring Curries. Why? Because I love cooking Curries.

One of my favourite lentils/daals is the classic Black Eye Pea aka Lobia. I love the earthiness of it. It’s a robust bean and is versatile. You can mash it up for burgers and nuggets, cook it in a curry or add it to salads.

I usually pre-boil the peas and freeze them. I find this the most economical way. However if you don’t have freezer space yet have a Slow Cooker you can utilise that and pre-cook the peas the night before. It’s not much work but it keeps costs low.

This is a rather spicy dish. Feel free to adjust the spices to your own taste buds.

I do serve my daals/pulses with plain boiled rice or naans. You can select what works for you.

To serve four you will need:

225 grams pre-cooked Lobia aka black eye peas (or raw lentils, washed and soaked in BOILING water for 1 hour prior to cooking).

ALTERNATIVE: 2 x 400 grams (Approx) cooked Black eye peas. Rinse and drained. If you take this option you need to reduce the cooking time by a few minutes (so around 5 minutes) rather than a full 10 minutes. This is to stop turning it to mush.

1 heaped TBSP garlic paste (or 4 cloves of fresh garlic; crushed)

4 TBSP pre-fried onions soaked in water and drained (or 1 medium onion; peeled and finely sliced)

2 TBSP oil

3 green chilies-sliced in half

150 ML of passata (or half a tin of tomatoes; chopped)

750 ML (0.75 litre) water

1 small piece of ginger-sliced (you could use half a TSP of ginger powder if you wish. I generally fish out the ginger before serving)

4 TBSP fresh coriander (including stalks) finely chopped

Cooking salt-to your taste

1 heap TSP turmeric

1 TSP amchoor aka mango powder. If you can’t find any you can use the juice of two limes. Amchoor is a souring agent.

Please note: the measurements given are in line with what I like. Please feel free to adjust according to your own needs. I avoid telling people how much salt to add as it really is down to your own daily consumption and needs.

1) Pre-heat the oil in a large pan on a medium heat. Add the onions and fry for 30 seconds. If the onions stick stir and add a little water if needed (I TBSP at a time). If you are using fresh onions fry until lightly golden.

2) Add the garlic and ginger. Fry for 1 minutes stirring well.

3) Now add the salt, turmeric and chili powder. Stir well. Fry for around 1 minute to cook the spices through. Add a TBSP of water is the mixture sticks.

4) Add the green chilies and stir in. Fry for 1 minute.

5) Add the passata. Stir well for around 5 minutes. This step creates the masala for the Lobia.

6) Add the lobia and coriander and stir to cover the lentils in the sauce. It will look dry but don’t worry. Now add the water and bring to the boil.

7) Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender. Now if you used pre-cooked lentils it takes around 15 minutes for this to happen. But it can take longer or less time depending on your lentils and how much you cooked them in the first place.
If you are using non-pre cooked lentils I find it takes over 3.5 hours to become tender and I don’t have the patience for this! What you can do is if you have a Slow Cooker you could transfer the daal at this point to the cooker and let it simmer away. I’ve done this a few times and find it works well. But ask me to keep an eye on lentils for hours on a stove and I will literally cry.

Remove the ginger pieces (if you used slices).

8) Garnish as you wish or serve as is. Lobia Masala is ready to eat.

Posted on July 27, 2019

Orange drizzle and Chocolate Loaf

Baking/ Food

We’ve all heard of how amazing Lemon Drizzle is but have you tried Orange drizzle loaf? Like the real good home made stuff. It’s pretty amazing and today I’ll share the recipe with you.

For the ‘icing’ I’ve basically melted down good old chocolate with a bit of orange juice and drizzled it over.

Let’s get down to business shall we….

To make a standard sized loaf you will need.

Ingredients for the LOAF:
3 large eggs beaten
180 grams self raising flour (sifted)
1 TSP Baking Powder
180 grams butter (softened-I zapped it in the microwave)
180 grams castor sugar
Zest and juice of 2 large oranges

The drizzle:
Juice two more oranges (put the zest in the cake batter for a extra orange punch).
60 grams castor sugar

The chocolate drizzle:
200 grams plain chocolate (we used the cheap chocolate from Aldi and it worked).
Juice of 1 orange
1) Pre-heat the oven to 170/325/Gas Mark 3. Grease or line a standard loaf tin.
2) Place all the loaf ingredients in the bowl (I used a mixer but this can be done by hand). Beat together until you get a lovely smooth batter. I always ‘scrap’ the bottom of the bowl to ensure there’s no dry ingredients that got missed from the batter process.
3) Pour the batter into the tin. Give it a gentle ‘tap’ to let out any air bubbles. Smooth the top over with a butter knife (or a palette knife).
4) Bake for 35 minutes. Whilst the loaf is baking whisk together the castor sugar and orange juice. The sugar should dissolve into the orange juice creating a slightly thick syrup.
5) Take the loaf out of the oven and insert a tooth pick into the middle of the loaf. If it’s clear the loaf is baked. If its not clear you will need to place it back in the oven for 3-5 minutes and repeat the test.
6) Remove the loaf from the tin and allow to cool slightly. Pierce all over with a skewer. Pour over the syrup. Now allow to cool completely.
7) Once the loaf is completely cooled you can drizzle it with the chocolate. I melt the chocolate in the microwave and then add the orange juice. You can so it the old skool way over a bowl of simmering water. I however look for shortcuts. If you find the mixture is too grainy or dry add a tbsp of milk or yogurt. Stir well and drizzle over.
8) Your loaf is ready and tastes bloody amazing with a cup of Mint Tea (or standard British Tea).

Wrap individual slices in greaseproof paper and then place in an airtight container or ziploc bag.
Leftover cake would be amazing in a Trifle….

Posted on July 26, 2019

Leftover Kebab Biryani

Eid and Ramadan Preparation & Celebration/ Food/ Weekend Food

Eid-ul-Adha leftovers Biryani

Now before you turn away from this recipe HEAR ME OUT.
For some of us Eid-ul-Adha is very meat heavy due to the nature of it (Qurbani Meat overload). There’s only so many Kebab recipes you can plough through.
Over time I must have tried lots of Kebab recipes with various chutneys. However I’ll be honest; I get fed up of food and so do the girls. In the end is sits around in the fridge drying out.

So last year (or maybe the year before) I decided that I wanted to create a recipe to use up leftover kebabs from the platters I create. A Pulaw in my humble opinion wouldn’t have worked so I considered it’s cousin; Biryani.

The way I would explain the different between a Biryani and Pulaw is this: A Pulaw is a one pot rice dish where you create the base and cook the rice in the stock created. A Biryani is where the rice is steamed between layers of the meat/vegetable base. A lot of Biryanis are tomato sauce based and can be tangy and very fiery.

This is a medium heat tangy Biryani which I serve with a range of Raitas and Chutneys.

The kebabs I’ve used this Biryani include: Tikkas (chicken and meat), Seekh kebabs and even liver kebabs (just shows how versatile this recipe really is).

So to make enough to serve 5/6 you will need:
450-500 grams (Cooked) leftover kebabs
300 grams rice
250 ml passata
150 ml low fat plain yogurt
5 TBSP oil
6 heaped TBSP fried onions pre-soaked and drained
1 TBSP garlic and ginger paste or just garlic paste.
3 TBSP fresh coriander leaves-chopped finely
Cooking salt-to your own requirements
2 heaped TBSP mint leaves-chopped finely
5 dried plums (available in most South-Asian food stores).
2 heaped TBSP ground coriander seeds
2 heaped TBSP ground cumin seeds
2 heaped TBSP chaat masala
Juice of 2 limes
.4 green chilies sliced (lengthways)-I prefer bullet chilies as they keep their shape well.
3 heaped TBSP fried onions (Do not pre-soak)
4 TBSP Screw pine water (Kewra water)
Powdered food dye (available in Asian food stores; I use a little bit of red and orange to compliment the original colours. You can leave out the dye is you wish to).

1) Heat the oil in a large pan on a medium heat.
2) Add the onions and fry for one minute.
3) Add the garlic paste and fry for 30 seconds.
4) Add the salt and spices and fry for 1 minute.
5) Now add the passata and stir well. Add the dried plums.
6) Now add the yogurt and stir well. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes. You’ll notice it gets thicker and you may see a bit of oil separation. Don’t worry that’s normal .
7) Add the kebabs, half the coriander leaves and chilies. Stir well to cover the kebabs.
8) Add the water and bring to the water. Then reduce the heat to simmer.
8) Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 5 minutes.

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