This was another 'make room in the freezer' baking session. I had more grated pumpkin in the freezer,along with some 'shop damaged' bananas (6p for a bag). I defrosted them and made two cake mixes. My idea was to pour them in opposite ends of a baking tray, giving the middle a swirl so the ends were one type of cake and the middle had both combined.
The original recipe was based on the pumpkin cupcakes. I beat together 175ml of vegetable oil, 3 eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, then divided the mixture in two.
In one half I added the pumpkin cake ingredients (but using cranberries instead of sultanas):
- 85g golden caster sugar
- 100g of grated pumpkin
- 50g cranberries
- 1 tsp cinnamon with ½ tsp of mixed spice
In the other half I added
- 85g of drinking chocolate powder, with an extra tablespoon of sugar
- 100g mashed banana
- 50g sultanas
Both halves also had
- 100g self raising flour
- ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
I poured the two batters into a 10x6 inch tray. I expected the cakes to take about half an hour at gas mark 4 but it was well over ¾ hour before the middle stopped being liquid.
When the cake had cooled, I made a lemon juice icing, slightly runny so I could drizzle it over the top.
I took some of the cake to work to share (since that was where the hot chocolate powder came from, it was only fair to do that). People seemed to like it - I got favourable comments from people, someone even noticed that I had used an oil based recipe. Both cakes were definitely worth doing again.
When we scooped out the pumpkins to make Halloween lanterns, I grated and froze the flesh so I could try cooking something with it. The pumpkins which are sold for lanterns are usually a lower quality and aren't recommended for eating so I thought I would start with something where the pumpkin isn't the main flavour, so I could probably get away with a lower quality ingredient.
I found a recipe for cupcakes. It was pretty much a carrot cake but using pumpkin instead of grated carrot. The recipe called for grated orange zest but I didn't have an orange so I left that out.
I tried one of the cakes last night, when they were still a bit warm. It tasted ok but that was before I had made the icing. Tonight's cake, with a generous layer of cream cheese frosting, was definitely an improvement.
I carried on trying out different porridge recipes this week. A couple of highlights are below.
Apple and Blackberry Porridge
When I made the apple puree a few weeks ago, I bottled and froze the juice which collected in the bottom of the pan. I used it to make an apple and blackberry porridge.
Tropical Fruit Porridge
I used coconut water instead of milk, and added some tropical fruit mix.
I only had time to try 4 different porridges this week. I'm going to be away on Friday so won't have chance to make anything.
Monday: Bacon and Syrup
Yes, you read that right. I don't like mixing sweet flavours with meat and consider pineapple with gammon or on a pizza to be a very poor choice. I decided to be adventurous and try a sweet bacon porridge. Mistake. I could still taste it even after a cup of tea and brushing my teeth.
Tuesday: Apple and Blackberry
After last week's Apple and Cinnamon porridge, I decided to try an Apple, Blackberry and Cinnamon porridge, using extra cinnamon. This was better than the plain apple one, although the blackberry seeds added a bit of a crunchy texture.
Wednesday: Lemon Berry Porridge
This was inspired by a recipe from the World Porridge Making championships. I used a mixture of frozen berries (blueberries, blackberries, wild strawberries and red gooseberries) which were mostly picked in our garden, with about a tablespoon of added lemon juice. I cooked the porridge in water instead of milk then added the fruit.
I tried the porridge first, before adding any extra sugar. I don't think it needed any. The fruit were quite sweet and the lemon juice balanced it out with some added sharpness.
Thursday: Chocolate and Coconut
This was inspired by the flavours of the Bounty chocolate bar. Since dessicated coconut can be quite 'bitty', I microwaved some in water last night then added it to the porridge this morning, along with some drinking chocolate. The coconut still had a bit of bite to it. I have tried coconut in porridge several times before and there are always some hard bits so I probably need to boil or simmer it for quite a long time to stop that happening.
I have porridge for breakfast fairly often but now that the weather is starting to get cold, it's probably time to make it my regular breakfast now. Most mornings I just add some dried fruit and sometimes some honey but this week I thought I would try a different flavour each day.
Monday: Peanut butter and Cranberry
Since it is World Porridge Day, I decided to do a different porridge each day this week. I only decided this after I had already left for work so this morning I used what I had available: a tub of dried cranberries and a small pot of peanut butter.
Tuesday: Dried raspberry
While I like raspberries, the taste didn't get into the porridge and they were very 'bitty' to eat.
Wednesday: Apple, cinnamon and brown sugar
I have mentioned before that most cake recipes don't use enough cinnamon. Unfortunately I made the same mistake myself and didn't add enough to the oats. Next time, I will add more and possibly use sweetened cooked apple instead of chopping a fresh apple into the porridge.
Thursday: Strawberry Porridge
We have a bag of frozen strawberries so I put some in a tub to defrost in the fridge overnight and added them to the porridge after I had cooked it. I then gave it another 20 seconds in the microwave to make sure the strawberries weren't too cold.
Fresh strawberries don't always have much flavour and I could probably have added more but this was ok.
Friday: Nutella and Peanut Butter
This used to be a favourite of mine but I hadn't had it for a while. We recently bought a jar of nutella so I made it again today. This was possibly my favourite of the week.
A few weeks ago I decided to try somewhere different for lunch. I found a website called wheeldecide.com which can randomly choose from nearby restaurants or take-aways. I decided to use it to choose where to go for lunch.
Week 1: Full Stop Sandwich
This place was a bit of a walk. I didn't know where 'New Town Row' was and had to look it up on a map. When I got there it was almost empty but while I was paying for my sandwich it started to fill up. I chose their 'sandwich of the day' which was pork and stuffing. It came with a very thick gravy and a few pieces of crackling.
Week 2: Tuckers
I walk past this place, in the Minories, fairly regularly. It does sandwiches and hot food. I decided to try the all day breakfast for £5 which had bacon, egg, sausage, black pudding, beans, toast, hash brown and tomatoes. It also came with a cup of tea. It was good value and very filling.
Week 3: Wasabi
I needed to walk to the shops to pick up something I had ordered from PC World so I put the postcode for the High Street into Wheeldecide. It kept coming up with places in the Palisades, which is closed for refurbishment, so I decided to go to Wasabi, in New Street Station, instead.
I had been wanting to go there since it opened. I chose one of their salmon sushi boxes, which came with a couple of spicy chicken skewers.
They have a wide range of sushi and bento boxes, with rice and noodles. I'll have to revisit to try something else.
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I made a second batch of the apple sauce and drinking chocolate brownies. This time I added a handful of dried cherries to the mix. I also used half apple pureé and half olive oil, since I only had half a cup of apple pureé in the fridge (the rest is in the freezer).
When the brownies came out of the oven, I sprinkled 50g of plain chocolate over the top and waited for it to melt before spreading it over the top.
I took the cakes to work the share out and the everyone seemed to like them.
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We have a glut of hot chocolate powder in work, left over from when we used a different drinks machine. I was talking to a colleague in the kitchen and I wondered whether I could use some of it to make cakes. I decided to take some home to make an experimental batch of chocolate brownies. If they were any good, I would make some more to take back to work to share.
Every now and then I use apple sauce in recipes, since it can be used to replace some or all of the butter. We recently bought an Instant Pot, which we use several times a week as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, bread proving pot, or sometimes just a giant saucepan. It is very useful and I fully intend to blog a bit more about it in the future.
We had recently been given a bag of apples from the tree in Emma's Auntie Val's garden. I peeled them, cut them into big chunks and put them in the instant pot with a splash of water. I cooked them on the 'Soup' programme for 15 minutes and they had cooked down to a smooth pureé, there was no need to mash or liquidize afterwards.
I looked up some brownie recipes to get a feel for the quantities, then decided to use the hot chocolate powder to replace both the sugar and cocoa powder.
- 1 cup of apple pureé
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cup of hot chocolate powder
- a pinch of salt
- 1 cup of plain flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 50g of plain chocolate, broken into chunks
- Heat the oven to 180C or gas mark 4. Grease and line a 9 or 10 inch cake tin.
- Mix the apple pureé, eggs and hot chocolate powder together
- Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and sift into the wet mixture. Fold in.
- Stir in the chocolate pieces.
- Pour into the tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Unfortunately I had to leave the house before the brownie was fully cooked so I turned the oven off and left it in while the oven cooled. When I got back, the brownie was properly cooked though, possibly a bit over-cooked because it wasn't moist and squishy inside.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the flavour though. Chocolate cakes do need a lot of cocoa powder or they just end up like brown sponge cakes. This was probably about right. I tried a square, then remembered that I needed to take a photo to put here. After taking the photo, I made a coffee and ate the second piece. If there is any cake left on monday, I'll take it to work, but I'll probably have to make another one to make sure there is enough to go round.
I recently bought another jar of malt extract, to replace the one I bought back in 2013 which had gone mouldy. I have started adding a tablespoon of it to bread or pizza base.
Last week we had some milk in the fridge which was about to go out of date so I thought I'd have a go at making a malted drink, a bit like horlicks or ovaltine. I put a spoon each of cocoa powder and malt extract in a jug, added the milk and gave it a whisk before warming it in the microwave. It probably needed more cocoa but it was good.
Tonight I had a go at making a spiced hot chocolate. I put sugar, ginger, cinnamon and a cardomom pod in a jug of milk and heated it before whisking it into some cocoa powder. I guessed at the amounts of spice and got the balance about right. I didn't write down the quantities but it was about a quarter of a teaspoon of each.
I've been hearing a lot about the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte recently. It's been hard to walk down the street without seeing a poster or advertising board announcing their availability. I thought I should try one to find out what all the fuss was about.
I popped into a Starbucks on the way to work and ordered a 'tall' one, using their hilarious nomenclature of calling the smallest size tall. First impressions were promising. There was a very pleasant cinnamon aroma coming up from the cup.
Then I tasted it.
First impressions can be very deceptive.
Ewww, that's very sweet
The cinnamon smell was purely there to deceive the senses. It was sprinkled on the foam. There was no warming cinnamon flavour in the coffee. There was no warming coffee flavour in the coffee. There was a horrible sweet flavour masking everything else.
I couldn't finish it and half of it got poured down a grid.
It's been a while since I've written about eating out so I thought I'd mention a few places I've been to in Birmingham recently. The first one is Aunt Sally's Caribbean restaurant. I've been there a couple of times at lunchtime. The first time I had the jerk chicken (as you do). The second I tried the mutton curry. On both occasions I chose the larger size but I really struggled to finish the mutton. The prices may have gone up a bit recently but the food is good and the serving sizes are generous.
The second place worthy of a mention is Habaneros, the burrito van near the Cathedral. I decided to try the pulled pork burrito with all the trimmings (apart from guacamole since I'm not a big fan of avocado, but I might try that next time). They cram a lot of food inside a 12 inch burrito and it's another lunchtime venue worth visiting.
We bought a Kenwood Chef food processor at the weekend, to replace our old hand-held mixer which has developed a slightly dodgy switch.
We tried it out last night, making our fluffy pancakes using the beater attachment. This afternoon I made a bread dough to try out the bread hook. The recipe which came with it used 3lb of flour which is rather a lot so I tried half that, using my usual 1/3 wholemeal, 2/3 white bread flour mixture.
The dough hook seems to need a large amount of dough to work properly, the amount I made was probably the bare minimum, so if I used it to make a pizza base I would either need to make a loaf at the same time or make several weeks of dough and freeze batches of it.
The bread was more or less the same as my usual hand-made bread but took much less effort. I only had to do a small amount of kneading at the end to shape the loaf before its final proving.
Although I prefer to cook most meals more or less from scratch, I do sometimes like the occasional bit of convenience food. We sometimes have packets of flavoured noodles or the macaroni cheese `Pasta-n-Sauce' and various supermarket brands and copies. We usually add extra vegetables and a meat, such as chicken, tuna or prawns, otherwise they aren't big enough for a meal for two.
The Kraft `Mac and Cheese' is often mentioned in American TV programmes so when I was in Chicago 3 years ago (my God is it really that long ago, time has flown!) I bought a packet to bring home to try.
The British macaroni cheese packets are straightforward to cook: the entire pack of pasta and sauce powder is added to a pan of milk and water and boiled until done.
The American version comes in a box with two packets inside. The larger pack contains the pasta which needs to be cooked separately. The smaller pack is the sauce powder. The cooked pasta is drained and then mixed with butter, milk and the packet of sauce mix.
The British version is smaller but makes more sauce with more flavour. The American version ends up with a pan of pasta with practically no sauce, the milk seems to just get absorbed into the pasta leaving a thin coating. The end result is much less satisfying than a bowl of pasta in a cheese-like sauce.
I recently bought a box of `Tropical Sun' macaroni cheese, which is cooked in the same was as the Kraft mac and cheese. It was also similar to the Kraft stuff in that it was disappointing with very little sauce and was fairly tasteless.
A bowl of proper home made macaroni cheese is much better than any of the above. It's very easy to make but takes a bit longer and is a bit more effort. The hardest part of the job is to grate the cheese. Making the roux is easy, whisking in the milk is easy, adding the cheese is easy. The only real disadvantage of making it properly is the extra washing up it generates.
We had lunch at Feast Junction, which is the re-branded and re-launched `Dragon Phoenix' near the ring road. We were last there back in 2006 and the place has been completely updated since then.
The food looked like fairly standard all you can eat buffet but the range was good and everything I tried was good. The food was split into several areas, with salad, soups, starters, mains and desserts. I had something from everywhere apart from the soups. The various different curries and oriental style meats were all good. I also liked the dahl and the paneer. The only real disappointments were: 1) the crispy seaweed wasn't very crispy, and 2) they had run out of ice cream cones in the dessert section, but the chocolate fountain was running so that probably made up for the shortage of cones.
I regularly walk past some of the 'street food' stalls in the city centre and sometimes think about trying one of the sausages from the bratwurst stall but until this week I never actually got around to it. I decided to give the half metre bratwurst a go, complete with onions and german mustard. The sausage is so long, only the middle half fits on the bread.
It's pretty good value at £4.50 and the sausage is good quality and tasty. I did notice that they advertised chicken bratwurst on the side of the stall so I'll have to try those next time I'm passing.