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Regional Cakeathon Z: Zimbabwe Sweet Potato Scones

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /

At last I have reached the letter Z in my alphabetical trawl through cakes and geography. It only took me a bit longer than I expected. I originally planned to make something every week or so but it ended up taking one year and 9 months. I have had to leave the UK again since the only 'Z' recipes I could find were Zimbabwe or Zanzibar.

I'm not sure how authentic this recipe is. There are many versions on different websites, mostly claiming to be a cookie recipe and mostly identical to each other, so it's not been easy to find where it came from. I came across a book called Cooking the Southern African Way: Culturally Authentic Foods Including Low-fat and Vegetarian Recipes which has the same recipe, but without the lemon glaze. This book claims that the recipe was a British invention which may explain why the so-called cookies are actually more like a traditional scone, but without milk.

We regularly have sweet potatoes in the house, so last time we cooked some I grated and froze a tub ready to make these.


  • 140g butter
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1 tbs orange zest (the original was lemon zest but I had some orange zest in the freezer)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice (the original used nutmeg)
  • 60g honey
  • 1 egg
  • 140-180g grated sweet potato
  • 400-450g self raising flour (the original used plain flour and separate raising agents)
  • a pinch of salt


I started by softening the butter then beating in the sugar, orange zest, mixed spice, egg and honey. I stirred in the grated sweet potato then sifted in enough flour to make a soft dough. I broke off lumps of dough, rolled then into balls then flattened them into cookies. These were baked at gas mark 3, 170C, for 15 minutes. While the scones cooled, I mixed the icing.

Lemon Glaze

The various versions on-line usually have a teaspoon of lemon juice then small amounts of water are added to get the right consistency. I didn't measure the icing sugar. I started with generous teaspoon of butter which I melted then added the icing sugar. I added enough lemon juice to form a spreadable icing.

Zimbabwe Sweet Potato Scones
The so-called Sweet Potato Cookies.

As I said earlier, these were more like a scone than a cookie. One of the small ones had cracked so I tasted (un-glazed) it while the rest cooled. The combination of orange and spice flavours worked very well. The lemon glaze added a bit of sharpness which worked well.

Scones, Cakes and Biscuits

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I've taken advantage of being at home over Christmas and New Year and I've managed to try a few new recipes.

Plum Slice

See more ....
We've got a lot of fruit in the freezer waiting to be used. I was looking for recipes and adapted a blackberry slice recipe to use plums. When the plums defrosted a lot of juice came out so I strained it off and simmered it to thicken it.

Sweet Potato Scones

Sweet potato and cheese scones used up one of the sweet potatoes that have been sitting in the kitchen for a few weeks. They made a tasty lunch.

Spelt Biscuits

Spelt biscuits were made using spelt flour, bread flour, butter and fruit juice. I put some powdered ginger in to give them a bit more flavour.

Week 26: Parsnip Bread

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My first attempt at making a parsnip based bread was from a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I had bought a cheap bag of parsnips which were going out of date and needed to use some up since I didn't really want to fill the freezer with parsnip wedges (which would probably have meant I would be eating roast parsnip for several months).

I followed HFW's recipe very closely but used finely chopped rosemary instead of thyme. The substitution worked well. There was one slight problem, which was probably my fault: the dough was a bit too wet and the resulting bread was slightly soggy in the middle. The actual flavour was good and the bread toasted well, which had the advantage of slightly drying out the bread a bit.

My second attempt was a sweet potato and parsnip bread. I started off with the vegetables mashed and left to cool before I added bread flour, yeast and a little water, and mixed to a soft dough. I think the dough was roughly 50% vegetable by weight. I baked the bread in a moderately hot oven until it was brown and crusty on top. The bread was slightly sweet and had a chewy texture but worked really well in a cheese toastie.

Week 18: Leek, Bacon and Sweet Potato Quiche

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A few weeks ago I decided to branch out from experimenting with different breads and try making some pies and quiches. My first attempt was a Leek, Bacon and Sweet Potato Quiche (using up spare/leftover food from the fridge and freezer).

The pastry recipe came from the BBC website. I had a look through some of the many recipe books at home and was surprised to find that there wasn't a single quiche recipe in any of them. I found a few recipes online and used them for inspiration. I cooked the leek and bacon, then diced the sweet potato and boiled it in water. The filling was some milk, egg, grated cheese and a little salt and pepper, beaten together then mixed with the rest of the filling.

The pastry was baked blind first then the filling was poured in and the quiche was put back in the oven.

Leek, Bacon and Sweet Potato Quiche

Week 8: Cottage Pie with Sweet Potato Mash

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I can't believe that I have been cooking as long as I have and can't remember ever making a Cottage Pie before. It is a fairly classic British recipe and was traditionally a way of using up leftover meat from a roast dinner. These days it is commonly made using mince, and that's what we did.

The filling contained turkey mince along with various vegetables including onions, leeks, garlic, red pepper, courgette, tomatoes and beans.

Cottage Pie with Sweet Potato Mash

The topping was mashed sweet potato. When it was assembled, I baked it in the oven until the filling had started to bubble, which didn't take too long because everything was still quite hot when it went into the oven.

Butternut Squash, Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry

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The plan was to make a curry with cubes of chicken, sweet potato and butternut squash in a spicy sauce. I started off by making the sauce:

Dice one sweet potato and a similar weight of butternut squash and simmer in a little water for about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve the water.

Chop and fry 1 yellow pepper, half a courgette, 2 cloves of garlic and a chilli pepper until the vegetables have softened. Add 1 teaspoon of curry powder and ½ teaspoon each of powdered ginger and turmeric. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved water from before and a cup of passata then simmer for a few minutes before liquidizing.

Dice and fry 2 chicken breasts then add the squash and sweet potato. Add the vegetable sauce, stir to coat, then simmer for a few minutes. Serve with rice.

The sweet potato had broken down almost to mash, which thickened the sauce much more than I expected. The end result was very nice though. The vegetable sauce was originally a bit too fierce but the thickened sauce had actually absorbed a lot of the spiciness and improved the flavour.

Variegated Sweet Potato

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We don't eat potatoes very often but occasionally buy sweet potatoes which we leave on the bottom shelf in the kitchen until we either feel in a 'potato mood' or several weeks pass and we find them and think 'we should probably eat them before they go off'. Last night's tea fell into the latter category. I was making some sweet potato mash to go with the home-made breaded chicken breasts and had already peeled one potato when I started on this one:

Variegated Sweet Potato

I don't know how common multi-coloured sweet potatoes are but we've been eating sweet potatoes for a couple of years and this is the first time I've seen one like this.

Chicken and Roast Veg

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Tonights tea was chicken and roast veg, using a jar of Marks & Spencer's garlic, lemon and parsley roast veg sauce. I think the cooking times might need to be increased a bit. Their instructions suggested adding the carrot after 20 minutes but I put them in at the start, so they had the full 50 minutes (at gas mark 6).

I do roast veg fairly often but I usually forget how long things take to cook, so this is as much for my information as anything else.

  • Carrot and Celeriac: at least 1 hour
  • Sweet potato: 50 minutes.
  • Onion, Pepper, Courgette: 30 minutes.

All of my oven-based recipes use gas marks because we have a gas cooker. For conversions to electric, use this table.

Not quite instant soup

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Yesterday we went to the supermarket and bought a loaf of fresh-baked multiseed bread. We thought it would go very well with some soup for lunch but we didn't have any packets or tins of soup in the house. I thought I'd make a simple leek and potato soup but I realised we didn't have any stock (either fresh or cubes) so I would have to make everything from scratch.

I realised that we had a lot of vegetables in the house, some were 'staples', some were leftover from Christmas, others (such as the celeriac) were bought yesterday from the 'reduced' section of the supermarket.

I started off by dicing the veg and adding them to a pan with just enough water to cover everything. In went 1 sweet potato, 1 onion, ½ leek, 1 carrot, 3 cloves of garlic, ¼ celeriac, 1 cooked potato, and some of the leftover roast butternut squash from the freezer. I added a sprinkle of fresh parsley and 1 diced chicken breast, and simmered everything until the veg were cooked.

Everything went in the liquidizer. To serve, we added some jerk seasoning to add salt and spiciness (no salt went into the cooking liquid) and some double cream.

It ended up a bit more complicated than the simple leek and potato soup I intended to make but it was good, and there was enough left over to go in the fridge for another day.

Week 44: Pumpkin Week

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On tuesday, someone in work gave me a spare pumpkin which was leftover from Halloween so this week I'll be trying various different pumpkin recipes.

Tuesday: Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Mash

Take equal weights of pumpkin and sweet potato. Dice and cook until soft (roast, boil or microwave). Mash and add seasoning (I added a few splashes of chilli sauce). We served it with Chicken and Chickpea Burgers, made using a similar recipe to the Turkey and Chickpea Burgers but without the herbs or cheese.

Thursday: Pumpkin and apple chutney

I followed the recipe from the BBC website, the only changes I made were to scale the quantities down slightly and to use a mixture of red and green tomatoes. The pumpkin I had was quite large and tough so it needed longer than the 45 minutes simmering time. I didn't get chance to bottle it tonight so I left the pan (lid on) overnight.

Friday: I brought the chutney back to the boil and bottled it. I was about to dice and freeze the remaining pumpkin but it had gone soft and mushy, which was a shame. I had used less than half of it.

Week 43: Sweet Potato, Tomato and Courgette bake

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This recipe came from an old issue of Slimming World magazine, from October 2008. We decided to follow it almost to the letter. The only changes we made were to use sweet potatoes instead of normal potatoes, ordinary tomatoes instead of plum tomatoes, grated cheddar instead of parmesan, and a mixture of fresh parsley and dried herbs instead of a handful of fresh herbs. The intention was to follow the recipe closely but now I list the substitutions, we did make more changes than I realised.


  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced.
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced.
  • 1 small courgette, sliced.
  • 1 red onion, diced.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
  • herbs.
  • salt and pepper.
  • A handful of grated cheese.
  • 2 medium eggs.
  • 150g quark.


Fry the onion and garlic until soft. Put the slices of sweet potato into a pan of boiling water, bring back to the boil then turn off the heat. Simmer for about 4 minutes then drain.

Beat the quark and eggs together, adding the onion, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.

Layer half of the vegetables in an oven proof dish, then pour over half of the quark mixture. Place the rest of the vegetables on top, followed by the rest of the quark mixture. Finally sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes at gas mark 6.


The original recipe claimed it served 1 as a main course but we shared it as a side dish. Even then it was a large portion.

Some of the vegetables were still slightly firm so I next time I might cook the potatoes for slightly longer and possibly fry the courgette slices for a minute or two to soften those too.

Week 38: Sweet potato brownie

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This recipe was based on another from Channel 4 which contained turkish delight. As usual we adjusted the recipe according to what we had in our kitchen.

Yesterday I roasted 500g of sweet potatoes for around 1 hour at gas mark 5, until the insides had gone soft and the skins had gone crispy. I scraped the insides out of the skins and put them in a tub in the fridge until we were ready to start the recipe.

The new ingredients were as follows:

  • 500g sweet potato

  • 15 quail eggs (equivalent to 3 medium eggs)

  • 140g light brown sugar

  • 60g dark muscavado sugar

  • 175g dark chocolate

  • 25g ground almonds and 75g ground peanuts

  • 2 tablespoons millet flour

  • 70g fat reduced cocoa powder

  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

  • no turkish delight

The method was the same as the channel 4 version but we stirred the mixture instead of folding in the ingredients because the mixture was a bit too dry to start with.

Sweet potato brownie

Week 27: Sweet Potato Dip

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This was my attempt at recreating a Marks & Spencer dish which we ate a couple of months ago. I can't remember what the original tasted like but I was happy with the flavour of my version. A lot of our cooking is based around what we can buy reduced or on offer. The sweet potato and butternut squash came from a supermarket pack which was cheap since it was going out of date.

In a low oven (approx gas mark 4), roast the following for about 30 minutes:

  • 250g sweet potato and butternut squash.
  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled but kept whole)
  • ½ green chilli (chopped).
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil.

When everything has cooled down, add to a food processor, along with:

  • 100g cooked white beans
  • 2tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • a pinch of salt
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1tsp pumpkin seed oil
  • 1tsp horseradish or ½ tsp wasabi paste.

Add a small amount of water if needed, to get everything to blend to a smooth paste.

Sweet Potato Dip

We used some of the dip as a pizza sauce, and topped it with salmon, leek and cheese.

Pizza with dip and salmon

Week 13: Sweet potato gratin

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I decided to do this recipe after finding the remaining sweet potatoes from a pack I'd bought a couple of weeks ago. After assembling the gratin and putting it in the oven, I found one lonely sweet potato on the kitchen floor. It must have fallen out of the bag without me noticing. So I still have one sweet potato which needs eating.

Take two sweet potatoes and two small onions. Slice them and fry for a few minutes. Add some stock and boil until all the stock has evaporated and the slices have started to soften. Grate 100g of cheese.

Meanwhile a small amount of thick cheese sauce, using flour to thicken the milk and a small amount of the grated cheese.

Put half of the slices in the bottom of an oven proof bowl. Sprinkle half of the cheese and then add the rest of the slices. Pour over the cheese sauce and top with the remaining cheese.

Cook at gas mark 6 for 25 minutes until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling. Serves 2 as a side dish.

Week 3: Sweet potato mash with chilli

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We tried this recipe 2 different ways. The first time used boiled sweet potatoes:

2 sweet potatoes, diced and boiled until a knife goes in with little resistance. Mash, mixing in a few drops of chilli sauce. The sauce we used was Encona Original Hot Pepper Sauce which is a mixture of habañero and scotch bonnet chillies. It gives a sweet/spicy kick to a recipe.

For the second version we roasted the sweet potato instead of boiling.

  • cut 2 sweet potatoes into 1 inch chunks and cook for 30 minutes at gas mark 6.

  • finely chop 1 red onion and gently fry until it goes soft. Add 1 crushed garlic clove and cook for a few more minutes.

  • when the potatoes are soft, mash them. Adding the onion and garlic.

  • Mix in a splash of chilli sauce.

Serves 2, and counts as 1 portion of veg.