Food In Fiction #3 - Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe

Welcome to the third post in my Food In Fiction Series.

I have noticed more and more the tie-in between food and fiction. As foodies, I am sure you love when food takes center stage in a novel and when the author kindly includes some recipes, well that is just an added bonus.

Tesco gave me the idea for this edition. Tesco now have a Book Blog where they review books. They got in touch with me and asked if I would like to review one, but it was a different kind of review. They wanted to categorise books into moods and not genres. I had a wee look through their list and knew immediately which book I wanted to review.

Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan.

Recipe and author interview after review.

I love Jenny Colgan's books and the fact this one was about someone who loves to bake, well that was just an added bonus. TheTesco Book Blog listed this book as "handpicked to turn your heart in somersaults". I think that is a fair assessment.

Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe
is the story of Issy Randall, a girl who has a dull life and a dull boyfriend, but she is about to break away from all that.

The highlight of Issy's day is baking for her friends and work-mates. So when she is made redundant, it is just the push she needs to open up her own cupcake shop, but only after a good long session of moping around at home, feeling sorry for herself and vegetating.

Armed with her Granpa Joe's recipes and years of experience baking with her grandpa in his bakery and creating all sorts of fabulous sweet treats, Issy set's up her shop. Not everyone is happy for her to do well in her business and she soon learns who her true friends are.

This novel, although chicklit does not have the least bit of fluff. It follows the struggle of a young business woman determined to succeed. There is the sadness of a dear family member growing old and frail, there is the struggles of a single mother and that of a single father.

There is a joy in the relationships in this book and I was left feeling slightly bereft when I closed the last page. I think I will be opening this book again and again. Oh and don't let me forget to tell you about all the wonderful descriptions of food and the enticing recipes scattered through the pages. You are going to love it!

You may expect me to be making cupcakes after reading this book, but I decided to use the ingredients I had to hand and make a simple cookie recipe from the book.

Not Going to Work Nutella Cookies

Issy makes these cookies after she is made redundant and is slopping around the house feeling sorry for herself, of course it never gets so bad that she doesn't want to bake.

I was a bit dubious after reading the recipe as I have never made a cookie dough using the technique for making scones, but I went for it anyway. They are not the prettiest cookies, but they have a lovely brown sugar flavour to them. I imagine they would be great with a cup of coffee, if you liked that sort of thing.

print recipe
Nutella Cookies
Also known as Not Going to Work Nutella Cookies from the novel 'Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe' by Jenny Colgan. They have a lovely brown sugar flavour to them, even though they don't contain any brown sugar.
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in a little hot water
  • 2 tbsp warm golden syrup
  • 2 tsp nutella
1 Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6.2. Sift the flour and baking powder in a bowl. Rub in the butter, add the sugar, bicarb, syrup and nutella.3. Roll into walnut-sized balls and place on a greased baking tray, pressing down the centre of each ball with your thumb.4. Bake for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as you can see mine are a little brown at the edges.notes: Issy (the main character in the book) says that while these are baking you should eat 4 tsp of nutella, then eat the entire tray of cookies while reading a gossip magazine and wearing pyjamas.
Total time: Yield: 16-18 cookies

Interview with Jenny Colgan

1. Issy Randall loves to bake, it seems only natural, as she spent so much of her childhood in her Grandpa Joe's bakery. Are you a bit of a baker yourself? Did you learn to bake or cook from someone in your own family?

My mother cooks and bakes, but I didn't really learn till I had children of my own then I got interested. The thing is, though, I'm really lucky and only work part time so it doesn't seem too much to ask that I cook!

2. Do you have a dish or cake that is a family favourite?

Everyone likes the usual ones- lasagne, fish pie. I like fish curry and I make a good pad thai. As for cakes, no the children aren't picky! But everyone loves peanut butter cookies and I have to lock fruit cake away from my husband.

3. Is there a cookbook you find yourself returning to again and again?

I keep my own cookbook, if I find something that works very well twice it goes in. Simon Hopkinson is very good, but the one I return to again and again is the BBC food site, their recipes tend to work brilliantly. And for the big things, like Christmas cake, only Delia will do. My mother cooked from Delia religiously, so if I want to do something like she did it, that's where I have to go. My friend who is a brilliant asian cook teases me and calls me the 70s chef because I like to try things like duchess potatoes and bouillabaisse.

4. Issy opens a cupcake cafe and indeed they seem to be popping up all over the place. Do your eyes light up when you see a cupcake or is this very much an Issy trait?

Oh yes, the first concession that opened in Selfridges I used to take a gigantic detour to get there. Gorgeous. It's the icing, isn't it?

5. I have read you spend much of your time in France. Has the cupcake phenomenon taken hold there?

I do live in France, and no they don't bake here- seriously. I need a new mixing bowl and I can't find one. They cook and take that very seriously but nobody bakes, because the patisseries are so good, so you would always buy sweet things. They have macarons, which you have to admit are also very very good.

6. The French are famous for their p√Ętisseries, do you have a favourite French sweet treat?

Our local patisserie does a melt-in-the-mouth pain au chocolat, it's just unbelievable. I'm also fond of croissant aux amandes, but they have about a jillion calories each so I try and limit myself!

7. I felt happy and sad when I turned the last page of Meet Me At The Cup Cake Cafe. I was really sad to say goodbye to the characters. I did think about Issy and her friends for a few days after I finished the book. Do you find it hard to say goodbye to your characters? Do they linger?

Oh, how kind, that's a really lovely thing for an author to hear. When I finished Olivia Manning's Fortunes of War sextet I was bereft that I'd never meet those people again. When you're writing though, all sorts of other things come into play- your next book, your deadline- so I don't feel sad as such and I'm very lucky with Cupcake as hurrah, we're doing a sequel! So I am currently writing about them all at Christmas time. I did enjoy seeing them all again. Austin and Darny are having some trouble with having a woman living in their house, and Helena has gone completely mad with her new baby, it's funny. And we're doing loads of lovely Christmas recipes.

8. Where do you write your novels? Do you have set routine?

Funnily enough I write them in the local patisserie. They are very nice there. It helps to be amongst the smell of baking! And yes I have a routine; I have three children under six and my husband is a sailor, so I have to be organised. The boys go to school and Delphine goes to creche and I work till 1.30 every day. It's such a luxury, I feel so lucky.

9. I noticed our good friend the Caked Crusader made an appearance at the end of your book with advice on making cupcakes. Do you follow food blogs? Do you have any you would like to recommend?

Isn't she absolutely brilliant! I love The Caked Crusader, and I love How Sweet at How Sweet Eats who shows you loads of gorgeous unhealthy things then tells you to take lots of exercise.

10. I was excited to hear that your next book also has a food theme. Can you give us a sneak preview and tell us a little about it?

Ooh yes, I love this one, we're so excited. It's called Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams and it's about a London nurse who has to go to the country and take care of her great aunt and sell her crumbling closed-down sweetshop to pay for her care. She thinks it's going to be the most boring job of all time but of course it turns out to be a lot more interesting that she was expecting. I talk lots about sweets, especially sweets you eat as a child, and there are recipes for fudge and marshmallows and coconut ice and flashbacks to the sweetshop in the second world war, and it's just generally, I hope, really good fun but quite touching too.

A big thanks to Jenny for the interview.

Disclosure Statement: I received this book free from Tesco to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Christmas Gift Guide - 16 Days and Counting

I don't have much Christmas shopping to do, but I am still puzzling over what to get a couple of people. And yes, you guessed it, they are men. Why are men so hard to buy for. My female friends and family, I could buy and buy and buy presents for them continually without pause, but the men in my life, well they are a bit more tricky. Anyway, I thought if nothing else, I may be able to give you some inspiration.

1. Time For Tea Ceramic Napkin Rings - set of four.
Bombay Duck £9.95

I love these napkin rings. They would look rather special nestled around some white linen napkins, don't you think?

Our set of four ceramic napkin rings in an assortment of tableware shapes will add a sense of grandeur to afternoon tea. Presented in a pretty stripy gift box.

2. Milk Bottle Measuring Cups.
Anthropologie UK £22.00

I rather think I am just suggesting presents that I personally want. I am in love with these cup measures and if you visit my blog at all you will know how I like to use cup measures when I am baking.

When not on display, this space saving, stackable set separates to do double duty in the kitchen. How's that for good measure?

New bone china
Hand Wash

3. Inside Out Bowls
Anthropologie US $8 each

And now on to the American side of Anthropologie for those of you on the other side of the pond. How could anyone resist these?

Snowflakes and stripes, diamonds and vines fill these porcelain bowls. Choose from four designs.

Dishwasher and microwave safe
2.25"H, 4.5" diameter
12 oz

4. Print and Wax Bunting Blue Birds and Roses
Mangle Prints, Folksy. £9.00

How about these rather fabulous hand printed bunting flags. Wouldn't they look great at a kitchen or bathroom window. J'adore!

This pretty bunting is hand made from lino printed paper and wax. This delicate bunting is ideal to hang at a window or in any room, the waxing of the paper makes the print translucent, so it will let the light through.

Each flag of the bunting has been hand printed and waxed in pale blue ink.

Length of bunting:
Approx 1.2m (without the string at each end.)
Each flag measures: 10cm (widest) x15cm (depth)

5. Little Caramel Angels. Hotel Chocolat £7.50

Hotel Chocolate recently sent me a Christmas Hamper. It was rather special and I am currently working my way through it. I know, life as a blogger is tough! The first thing to be ripped open was the caramel angels. I just love Hotel Chocolat's caramel chocolate, so I couldn't wait to bite into one of these beauties. Mmmmmmmmmm! I can also say the tiddly reindeer are delicious too. They aren't as I expected alcoholic, but tiddly as in wee. Lovely rich dark chocolate.

If you like Hotel Chocolat. I can let you into a little secret. My ultimate giveaway on my 12 Days of Christmas giveaway event will be a Christmas hamper from Hotel Chocolat.

6. Linen Place Mat
H&M £2.99

I know, I know, they are all creasey. Well at least that is what my mother would say, but I rather like these place mats with a pocket for your cutlery. I like the utilitarian feel of these. In fact I think I might order a set. Hmmmmmm, I show you something on folksy and I bought something, I show you something on H&M and I am about to spend more money. This post is getting pricey!

Place mat in washed linen with stitching. Pocket for cutlery or napkin on the front with a print motif. Size 35x48 cm. 100% linen. Machine wash at 60˚

7. Merino Colour Block Reverse Scarf
Gap UK £16.06 (in sale was £22.95)

We have to find something for the men and you couldn't go wrong with this warm scarf, that can be worn as red or grey in lovely, fine, merino wool.

100% Merino Wool.
Hand wash cold.
Soft knit.
Striped trim.
Fringed ends.
Navy grey reverses to grey navy.

8. Magners Specials Gift Pack
Magners Facebook Page £10

I tried these when I came back from holiday and I would heartily recommend them. I enjoyed all three - Spiced Apple & Honey, Pear & Ginger and Spiced Apple & Rhubarb. I think the pear & ginger just pipped the others at the post. These would also be great to take along when you go visiting over the festive period. I am thinking of trying them hot too, to see how they taste. This gift pack comes with a Magners bottle opener. You can buy individual bottles for £1.79 from Tesco.

I hope I gave you some inspiration and that you aren't too stressed thinking about Christmas.

Look out for the next giveaway in my 12 Days of Christmas series tomorrow.

Check out my Ultimate Veggie Christmas Guide with all the recipes and tips you could need for a vegetarian or vegan Christmas.

Christmas Gift Guide - 30 days and counting

My head is filled with Christmas at the moment and I am always looking for new ideas. I have the bulk of my presents bought, but still have a few to figure out. I thought it might be nice to share some gift ideas with you. They are only a few foodie gifts thrown in, because lets face it, not all of our friends are foodies, as much as we would like them to be. Oh and I have highlighted gifts from the UK and the US, although most will ship and there is still time.

1. Olive Wood Mortar & Pestle
Muji £14.95

I visited Muji when I was in Birmingham last weekend and if I wasn't traveling with hand luggage only, I could have gone crazy.

I have one of these pestle and mortar sets and I love it. It is a joy to use and such a beautiful thing to have out on display in your kitchen.

My mortar in pestle is bigger than this one, but this would actually be big enough. I bought mine from Provender Brown a wonderful deli in Perth, Scotland.

2. Next up are three choices from Prezzybox. I first came across them when they sent me an egg cup set for Cooper. You can see it over at Little Tums. I could just spend and spend and spend on this website. So much to choose from. Here are three gifts I particularly like.

Homemade Cookie Stamper £4.95

The staff over at Prezzybox tried out the stamper and they have included their recipe for chocolate cookies and photos of their attempt. It looks like great fun. This would be a great stocking filler.

Super Egg Cup £4.95

"Kick your day off to a super start with the Super Egg Cup. But wait! Don’t crack it open just yet because hidden in the box are the last pieces of your egg’s hidden identity. The Egg Cup itself already features a heroic, billowing cape, snazzy red boots and a symbol on its chest, but the egg is not super until the finishing touches are there. Find the mask, headband and weapons in the box to complete your breakfast time hero."

Russian Doll Measuring Cups £9.95

I was quite tempted by these myself, but I already have two sets of measuring cups, so this would just be overkill. The dolls measure out 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 1 full cup, and they’re built from heavy-duty, food-safe, long-life plastics and of course they stack inside each other, so they don't take up too much room.

3. I always turn to Folksy when I want something a bit individual. Folksy is the British equivalent of Etsy. Here are three brooches that took my fancy.

Bird Brooch by Andrea Berry in her Polka shop.


This brooch measures 10cm across.

Foxy Brooch by Kirsty Elson Designs.


This brooch measures approx. 7cm x 5cm.

Ceramic Brooch by Beverley Gee.


These brooches measure: length 60mm, width 25mm, depth 5mm

4. Now on to Etsy itself. Here are some ideas:

Bird Lariat Necklace by LadyKJewelry.

On sale at $22.86 USD. Usual price $24.85 USD

Copper Wallet Inset Card by SnappinStudio.

$40.00 USD

I thought this was a lovely keepsake. This company stamp personal messages on metals. There are bookmarks, wallet inserts, jewellery, pet tags and various other items. Prices start at $0.20 USD for a stamped keyring fob. I have bookmarked this page!

Handprinted Leather Journal/Sketchbook

Dimensions: (journal inside is 4 ix 6)
7 inches tall
5 inches wide

Journal/notebook inside is removable, and can be replaced with refill books. Different leathers and designs can be chosen.

$25.00 USD smaller journals are priced at $14.00 USD.

5. We are visiting Find me a Gift now. An online gift shop. Another one with endless gift ideas. Those nice folks at Find me a Gift have kindly offered me a voucher code for my readers. Over November and December you can expect a 15% discount at the checkout if you use the code CHRISTMASGIFTS15. I will also be working with them on a giveaway over at Little Tums, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Animal Skittles Set with Carry Case

On sale at £19.99.

The Animal Skittles Set includes six soft animal skittles to bowl down with the rattling bowling ball. Each animal skittle is 20cm by 8cm complete with a handy carrying case. The animal skittles are CE marked and designed to exceed the most demanding of safety standards. Suitable for ages 18 months+.

Lunch Box & Spork by Black & Blum


I have one of the Black & Blum lunch boxes. A square one with a dressing compartment and dip area and I use it a lot. They are really attractive lunch boxes and the seal on them is good, so no leaked dressings dribbling into your bag.

After a query, I decided to add a little more info about this one.

The lunchbox comes with two stacked watertight containers- the smaller one fits inside the larger one when empty
Both food storage containers have a watertight locking system
The lunch box comes with a nifty spork and carry strap
The Black and Blum lunch box and spork is microwave and dishwasher safe
Spork and lunchbox are made from polypropylene and copolyester (BPA free)
The Black & Blum pot measures 19 x 11.5cm
Smaller lunch container holds 300 ml/10 floz
Big lunch container holds 550ml/18.5 floz

Food Face Plate


My cousin Claire who blogs over at A Kiss of Cookies, bought me a set of these for Cooper. What can I say. Fun with food for little ones. Mind you, I am not giving Cooper his dinner on one of these until he has gotten over his habit of tipping his dish of his highchair once he has finished eating.

I hope I gave you some good ideas. Try not to let Christmas stress you out. It really should be fun and a time for families and friends to get together.

Fresh Ginger & Parsnip Soup

This is my entry for this Month's No Croutons Required. NCR is a little bit special this month. I teamed up with Dom over at Belleau Kitchen and so No Croutons Required Does Random Recipes was born.

This month you have to select a random soup recipe, make it and post it for our challenge. Randomly select a soup from one of your cookbooks, but remember it has to be suitable for vegetarians. You have until the 29th of November to submit an entry. You can find all the details here.

For my random recipe I decided to use the 30-Minute Vegetarian by Johanna Farrow. A much under-used book on my bookshelf. It is a pocket sized (A5)cookbook filled with lots of appetising meals that are great for an after work meal. The polenta chips with saffron mushrooms looks great as do the couscous fritters with beetroot and creme fraiche and the cranberry, oatmeal and cinnamon scones. I really must re-visit this cookbook more often. It has some real gems in it.

My friend Andrew did the hunt for the recipes and Graham picked a number. I had to disregard the first pick as it had butter beans in it and I have a real phobia about butter beans after an incident as a child. But, the second soup was the Fresh Ginger & Parsnip and I was happy to give that one a go. I added ground cumin to the recipe as I felt it needed some spice to counter the sweetness of the parsnips. It isn't going to be one of my favourite soups, but it was pleasant enough and I enjoyed some lovely homemade bread with it.

I didn't manage to get in touch with Joanna to ask her permission, but I am publishing the recipe, with full credit and links in the hope that she won't mind.

print recipe
Fresh Ginger & Parsnip Soup
A slightly sweet creamy soup with a kick of spice from the fresh ginger and the extra cumin I added.
  • 25g/1oz butter
  • 50g/2oz fresh root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
  • 500g/1 lb parsnips, sliced
  • 1 litre/ 1 ¼ pints vegetable stock
  • 1 - 2 tsp ground cumin
  • a good grinding of salt & pepper
  • a dollop of greek yoghurt to serve
  • a sprinkling of cayenne pepper to serve
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the ginger and fry gently for 1 minute. Roughly chop the remainder and add to the pan with the parsnips. Fry gently for 2 minutes.2. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes until the parsnips are tender.3. Transfer the soup to a food processor or blender and process until smooth, or leave the soup in the pan and use a hand-held electric blender.4. Return the soup to the pan, Add the cumin and stir well. Warm the soup through for a minute, then season to taste.I served my soup with a dollop of greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper, but you could use creme fraiche and scatter some finely sliced spring onion on top.
Total time: Yield: Serves 4


Basic White Loaf

I was surprised and delighted when a copy of Paul Hollywood's 100 Great Breads landed on my doorstep unexpectedly.

Bread in Fife

I'm rather keen on breadmaking since I went on a bread making course with Chele (Chocolate Teapot) back in August.

We had a rare day and we were so inspired by our teacher Colin. Saying that, I don't make a lot of bread, because we don't eat bread every day, but I do like to be able to. Especially if I have an uncomplicated day off.

I had such a day today. Graham was at work and Cooper was with his childminder, so I got stuck into my housework (after a long read of my book) and then made a loaf of bread and a pot of soup before heading out to collect the wee boy.

100 Great Breads

I didn't need to think twice about which cookbook to peruse.

100 Great Breads is a real bread making bible, with such a great variety of breads. From basic breads, through French and Italian breads, on to traditional bread, then herb and seed breads right through to fruit and nut breads and finishing with sweet treats such as Croissant Pudding, Wimbledon Muffins and Normandy Apple Tart.

It's a beautiful book filled with the tales of breads, some great tips and the most mouth-watering photos.

Simple White Loaf

I decided to start at the beginning and make a simple white loaf, something I haven't tried up to now. The perfect partner to our homemade soup.

It cut beautifully. The crust was crisp, slightly chewy and delicious.

It was gone in a flash, so I think that says it all really. It maybe could have done with a few more minutes, but all in all I was very happy with it and Graham and Cooper really enjoyed it.

print recipe

Basic White Loaf
An easy, basic white loaf with the tastiest crust. Prepare to make two as one doesn't last long at all.

This loaf comes from 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood.
  • 500g/1 lb 2 oz strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 60ml/2 fl oz olive oil
  • 20g/¾ oz fresh yeast or 15g of instant or dried yeast
  • 250ml/9 fl oz water
1. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, taking care not to put the yeast on top of the salt (if you are using dried or instant yeast, leave it to froth for about 15 minutes in a little warm water before adding it). 2. Knead well with your hands and knuckles, then leave to rise for an hour, I kneaded my dough until it was silky and very elastic. Paul doesn't cover his dough, but I like to cover mine lightly with some oiled clingfilm and then a tea towel.3. Oil a 450g/1 lb loaf tin. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and mould into a sausage shape . Put back in the tin and leave to rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour. I covered my dough once more.4. Preheat the oven to 230c/210c fan/450f/gas mark 8. Dust the top of the dough with flour, put the tin in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.5. Take out of the oven and turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool.
Total time: Yield: 1 loaf
Notes: There was a printing error in the book which has been flagged up. The quantity of salt should be 7.5 to 10g of salt and not 1 tbsp. However I was happy with the flavour of the bread. I think a white loaf needs a bit of flavour.

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.

Eat Your Books Janet

I recently discovered Eat Your Books, an online search engine for your cookbooks. I immediately bought a subscription and started using the site. I find the site really useful when I have something in the fridge I need to use up and I need a spot of inspiration. I type in the ingredient and Eat Your Books searches through all the cookbooks, magazines and blogs I have added to my online bookshelf. It then throws back a list of recipes, each one telling me which cookbook it came from and what the main ingredients are. Such a great time-saving website. I love it.

Since then, Eat Your Books have added Tinned Tomatoes as a blog you can add to your bookshelf (so remember to add me if you join) and as one of their authors, they upgraded my membership to a lifetime one and offered me a lifetime membership to one of my readers. I had a great response, 102 entries. Too many to write out and have Cooper pull a winner, so I turned to a random number generator and let it choose my winner.

And the winner of a lifetime membership for Eat Your Books is:

Congratulations Janet!

Tagliatelle con Spinaci e Funghi

This pasta is a firm favourite in this household. I don't like to have it too often as it is coated in a rich cheese sauce, but when we do have it, we really enjoy it.

Spinach, juicy and peppery mushrooms, unctuously glossy cheese sauce and salty feta cheese, such a winning combination of flavours.

print recipe

Tagliatelle con Spinaci e Funghi
Tagliatelle with spinach & mushrooms in a rich, creamy cheese sauce, finished off with some crumbly feta. Luxury on a plate.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 large field mushrooms or portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 pint / 570ml milk
  • 40g plain flour
  • 40g butter
  • ½ onion
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50g mature cheddar
  • 30g vegetarian parmesan
  • 100g baby spinach
  • a grinding of salt and pepper to taste
  • enough tagliatelle for four
  • a generous slice of feta, to crumble on the finished dishes
1. Pour the milk in a microwaveable dish and add the half onion, peppercorns and bay leaf. Microwave until warm.2. Melt the butter in a pan and then add the flour. Stir until it is well combined.3. Add the milk a little at a time (use a sieve) and whisk until it is absorbed. Do this until all the milk has been used. Simmer gently for a few minutes.4. Add the cheese and whisk until it has melted. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Keep it warm until it is required.5. Once you have started the sauce. Cook the pasta according to the instructions. 6. Saute the mushrooms in the olive oil with the garlic until they are soft and juicy. Season with lots of black pepper for a fabulous flavour.7. Rinse the spinach in a colander, then pour over a kettleful of boiling water to wilt the spinach. Pour a little cold water on, so you do not burn your hands, then squeeze out the excess liquid. I like to pat it dry with a teatowel as well before chopping it.8. Once the pasta is ready, drain it, then coat in the cheese sauce and stir through the spinach and mushrooms.9. Serve in bowls topped with crumbly feta cheese and a good grating of black pepper.
Total time: Yield: serves 4


Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are a new concept to me. I have heard them mentioned on other blogs, but didn't know much about them, then I saw them in my copy of Cox Cookies & Cake.

Custard filling, mmmmmmmmmm! I would take these over a cupcakes any day. Although I would change the recipe somewhat. There really wasn't enough custard filling to fill the bars in quite the way they were shown in the cookbook, so I doubled up the custard filling. Next time, I will also use more custard powder and less icing sugar for a more custardy flavour. The colour was there, but the custard flavour was rather lacking.

In case you haven't come across Cox Cookies & Cake, it is the new venture of shoe designer Patrick Cox and master patissier Eric Lanlard. They have a shop in Soho, London selling their wares and this new book to accompany it. None of your delicate petals and pastel shades in this book. It is a full on neon-nightclub of a book and that includes the cakes.

print recipe
Nanaino Bars
These custardy slices, which are reputedly the national sweet of Canada are a delight and very moreish. A coconutty biscuit base, topped with a custard icing, then finished of with a layer of chocolate.

Ingredients for the first layer
  • 65g/2½oz sugar
  • 15g/½oz cocoa powder, sifted
  • 125g/4oz digestive biscuit crumbs
  • 65g/2½oz desiccated coconut
  • 65g/2½oz walnuts, finely chopped
  • 125g/4oz unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
Ingredients for the second layer

  • 50g/2oz butter, softened
  • 25g/1oz custard powder
  • 250g icing sugar
  • a little warm water (optional)
  • Ingredients for the third layer

  • 150g/5oz dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 50g/2oz unsalted butter

  • Instructions
    1. Line a shallow 20cm (8 inch) square baking tray with baking paper.2. To make the first layer: in a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together except the butter. Pour the melted butter over and combine well. Using a spoon, press this into the tin and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to set.3. To make the second layer: cream the butter with the custard powder, ideally with an electric hand whisk, until fluffy. Then add the icing sugar a little at a time. Add a little warm water if it gets too stiff. Smooth the creamy mixture on top of the biscuit base, and again place in the fridge for 15 minutes to set.4. To make the third layer: melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until smooth and glossy, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Let it cool slightly, then pour over the custard layer and smooth with a palette knife. Chill for a further 15 minutes, or until set.5. Take out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving to allow it to soften slightly, then cut into bars with a large sharp knife.
    Total time: Yield: 10 bars

    I am entering my nanaimo bars for this month's Bookmarked Recipes (there is plenty time to add your own bookmarked recipe, just add your recipe to the linky) and for Karen's new challenge Teatime Treats. The theme is ginger and bonfire treats. These would definitely be great for bonfire night and I added a spot of ginger into the base.

    Disclosure Statement: I received this book free from the publisher to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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