Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Boozy Banana Bread

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If you are anything like me, you will occasionally find some rather yucky sad looking bananas in your kitchen or your fruit bowl or wherever you keep your bananas. I mean the ones that aren't even really freckled any longer, but are turning a monochrome brown. I used to just throw bananas in the freezer before they got to that state, perfect for smoothies straight from frozen, no need for ice cubes. But since my current freezer compartment is teeny-tiny and space is at a total premium I now suffer a case of brown bananas more regularly. That's when I know it's time to make banana bread


If you have ever googled banana bread recipes you will know that there is a nearly infinite number of recipes out there. So you might ask if the world really need another blog post about Banana Bread? Well, I think so and this one is my absolute favourite. I like the rum and cinnamon, as well as the walnuts, but feel free to experiment with the spices, types of booze or add chocolate chips instead of the nuts.


Boozy Banana Bread (1 loaf)

3 to 4 ripe bananas, mashed well with a fork
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup muscovado sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons spiced rum, or rum, or bourbon or whatever else takes your fancy
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Grease a loaf tin.

Mix the butter and mashed banana in large mixing bowl. You won't need a mixer for any of this. A wooden spoon will do.

Add the sugar, egg, vanilla and booze and mix in well.

Add the spices and stir again.

Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mix and combine.

Finally add the flour and stir and once combined pour into your prepared loaf tin.

Place in the centre of the oven. Check after 50 minutes if done by inserting a wooden skewer in the middle. If it comes out clean, the cake is done if there is still some batter clinging to the skewer return to oven for another 10 minutes. Check again etc.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then carefully remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Spanish Fish Stew

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I won a competition a few weeks ago on Lavender & Lovage. The prize? £65 worth of fish from Delish Fish, a great family run business up in Scotland that delivers fresh fish directly to your door. I thought to myself at the time, that it was a little daft of me to enter, as I don't have a freezer and I live on my own. I figured I never win anything anyways though.

You can imagine my reaction when Karen got in touch to tell me I was the competition winner. I mean I was excited. It's always nice to be the winner of something, but I also started panicking slightly as to what to do with all that fish that was going to arrive on my doorstep shortly. Luckily, my friend Jacqueline who lives around the corner from me was kind enough to make some room in her freezer for all that fish, that I am now slowly and very happily cooking my way through. There'll be more recipes to follow, but let's start with Spanish Fish Stew, which I made with some of the lovely hake fillets I received.


My friends Lucy and Yuri had been driving back up to Manchester after a weekend in Brighton and I thought it'd be nice for them not to have to sort their own dinner out when they finally made it back after driving for six hours. Since they live in the same building as I, it was easy for them to drop their bags and just come upstairs to a hearty, smoky and warming fish stew (plus a very small beer).

I found the original recipe here and have adapted it to suit my taste and the contents of my larder.

Spanish Fish Stew (serves 4)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice of
a generous handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
250g new potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
1 heaped teaspoon paprika
a pinch of chilli powder or cayenne pepper
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 veg stock cube
1/2 - 1tbsp sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
200g raw king prawns
1 x 410g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
500g skinless hake fish fillets

Mix the chopped coriander, lemon zest and half the garlic and set aside for later.

Heat then a large heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil and add the onions and potatoes. Cover and saute for about 5 minutes or so on medium heat, until the onions begin to soften. Stir from time to time.

Add the remaining garlic, paprika and chilli powder (or cayenne), stir to coat and cook for another couple of minutes, until fragrant.

Add the lemon juice, followed by the tomatoes and half a can of water. Crumble in the stock cube and add the sugar, it'll help cut some of the acidity of the tomatoes.

Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are almost cooked.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the chickpeas and prawns and stir through.

Place the hake fillets on top of the stew, cover with a lid and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, scatter with the coriander/garlic/lemon zest mix and serve with some crusty bread to mop up the sauce.


Monday, 29 October 2012

Top Five from five years of A Pot of Tea

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With the blog just having turned five, I thought it might be nice to look back and to write a post in which I share my favourite recipes of the last five years again.

It wasn't easy to narrow it down to just five, because there are plenty of others that I think are worth shouting about and that I make and eat all the time. I did my best however and here is Sylvie's Top Five in no particular order.....

The Rockamole is always a hit at a party. It is finger licking good and makes a great change from the usual Guacomole.

Aubergine and Green Bean Curry
This is a recipe from my favourite cookbook. River Cottage Veg Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It's fragrant and well spiced without being too much for those who like to go easy on the heat. I'd happily eat it every week.

Slow-cooked Venison Ragout
I don't eat much meat these days, but when I do I make sure it is good quality and hasn't been intensely farmed. Venison can be pricy, but when cooked properly it is worth every penny. This ragout was so good I wanted to lick my fingers and the plate.

Spicy Roast Aubergine with Chickpea Stew
This has become somewhat of a favourite for when I have friends round. I once heard one of them mutter the words 'better than sex' to describe the dish.

Easy Peasy Lemon Drizzle Cake

When I need cake and I need it quick, this is the one I make. I have been asked for the recipe so many times and you can make it into a much more elaborate cake for a special occasion by topping it with lemon cream and fresh berries (as the one in the picture above).

Interestingly enough when it comes to most popular posts in terms of viewing numbers, only the Easy Peasy Lemon Drizzle Cake is in the top five. In fact it is number four, number one with over 23000 views is Tana Ramsey's Lemon Drizzle Cake, which I don't think is anywhere near as good. Number two is Turkish Red Lentil Soup, number three Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Appertizers and number five is Caramelised Onion and Feta Tart.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Roast Roots with Lentils and Cumin Yoghurt

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I've signed up to a weekly Organic Veg Box scheme recently. Of course with this being the end of October there are a lot of root vegetables about. I like roots, but I have to admit that I don't usually buy them all that often. I mean I try and eat seasonal food as much as possible, but in autumn I get excited by brassicas, such as savoy cabbage and Brussels sprout or by squashes, butternut being my favourite. Therefore having carrots delivered on a weekly basis, in addition to the occasional parsnip has meant trying out completely new recipes and it has been a bit of a challenge to not just let them sit in the fridge until limp.

I'm glad for the challenge though because it means that I discover brilliant new recipes, such as Any Veg Lentils with Cumin Yoghurt, or as I have called it Roast Roots with Lentils and Cumin Yoghurt, because I used up both the lingering carrots and parsnips. It would work equally well with red peppers, onions and roast beets I'm sure, or with roast cauliflower. Experiment and see what your favourite is. I was a little skeptical about the addition of lime zest and juice to the lentils, but it is really, really good!


The recipe is based on one that came from one of the Abel & Cole newsletters delivered with the box (this is not a sponsored post, they just deserve a mention). I served it with some grilled haloumi cheese and it made me and three friends happy eaters, so happy indeed that there wasn't a lentil left.

Roast Roots with Lentils and Cumin Yoghurt (serves 3-4)

olive oil
1 large onion, red or white, chopped finely
200g brown lentils, rinsed
400ml vegetable stock
6 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
2 parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthways
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 small pot of natural yoghurt (150g)
1 heaped tsp of cumin seeds, toasted
a good pinch of chilli powder
1 lime, juice and zest of
a large handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan (one that you have a lid for).

Add the onions, lower the heat and sautee for about five minutes or so, until beginning to soften, but not brown. Stir regularly.

Turn the heat up and add the lentils, cook for a minute or so.

Add the veg stock, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat.

Cover and simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the lentils have absorbed the stock. You should check regularly towards the end of the cooking time to avoid the lentils sticking and burning. Or like me you can add a little extra stock and drain it off once the lentils are tender.

As soon as the lentils go on you should toss your root veg in some oil, season with salt and pepper, spread out in one layer on a large baking tray and pop it in a preheated oven 220C/Gas 8.

Turn once after about 15-20 minutes and continue to roast for another 15-20 minutes until golden.

Whilst your lentils are simmering and your veg is roasting, mix the yoghurt in a small bowl with a splash of olive oil, cumin seeds and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Add the lime juice, zest and a pinch of chilli powder to the cooked lentils.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss in the roast roots and freshly chopped coriander.

Serve with the yoghurt dip.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Norwegian Apple Cake to celebrate 5 years of A Pot of Tea and a Biscuit

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Well, the real reason for making an apple cake was that my lovely friend Liz came round on Sunday with a bag full of windfall apples from her garden that needed using. However,  I also realised that A Pot of Tea and a Biscuit is five years old this week and figured I should bake a birthday cake to celebrate.


How time flies and how things change...

When I started blogging in 2007 there weren't all that many food blogs around. Sometimes it seems to me that you can't move around the internet for food blogs these days. On the one hand that's great, because it is wonderful to see how many people out there all over the world share my love for food and it also means that there is hardly a recipe or tip that I can't find online when needed. On the other hand at times it has made me question why I still bother, especially as so many of the blogs out there are absolutely amazing with magazine quality photographs and a regularity of posts that makes me wonder how the writers do it!?

There have been times over the last five years when I didn't feel like cooking or writing and the blog became like a neglected friend. You know the one? The one you know you should call, but for no apparent reason you keep putting off picking up the phone. And the longer you leave it the more guilty you feel. Well, in this case it's all you wonderful followers out there, those of you who leave nice comments or send me a friendly e-mail, asking questions about a recipe, wondering if I have a tip for a specific cooking related problem and also all you silent followers that register as a number in the blog stats, it's all of you that make me 'pick up the phone' in the end and get back to writing and cooking! So here is a BIG THANK YOU to all of you who keep reading even when I'm being neglectful.


I'd send you all a slice of this lovely apple cake, but I'm afraid technology has not yet advanced to that level, so you'll just have to try the recipe yourself. If you like apple cake, you'll love this one!

Norwegian Apple Cake (serves 8-12)

200g unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 ¼ cup flour
3 apples, peeled and sliced thinly
4 tsp sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
a handful of slivered almonds

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas

Grease and line a 24/26cm springform pan.

If you want to peel, core and slice your apples before starting on the batter, put the slices into a bowl of water mixed with a bit of lemon juice until ready to use them. Just make sure you dry them off well with a bit of kitchen towel. Alternatively, you can peel and slice as you go along.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy with an electric mixer.

Once the butter/sugar mix has become quite light in colour, start adding the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine the baking powder and flour and sift it over the batter.

Use a wooden spoon to fold the flour into the batter. Don't over mix it, just combine and fold rather than stir. you want to keep the air you have beaten into the eggs/butter/sugar mixture, otherwise the sponge will become quite dense.

Pour half the batter into lined pan, spread out evenly.

Arrange 2/3 of the apple slices (or peel and slice 2 apples at this stage) over the batter.

Sprinkle with the 2tsp of sugar and cinnamon.

Pour the remaining batter over the apples and spread out evenly.

Arrange the remaining slices (or peel and slice the last apple) over the top in a decorative pattern.

Sprinkle top of apples with another 2tsp of sugar.

Bake on the lowest oven shelf for about 25 minutes. Scatter the flaked almonds over the top and return to the oven to bake for another 25 minutes or so. The cake is done when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Serve still warm with ice cream or cold with whipped cream.


Monday, 22 October 2012

Carrot Cake

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I've signed up for  weekly Organic Veg Box delivery and as can be expected at this time of year there is an abundance of root vegetables, including carrots, big, small, orange, purple. Now, I don't mind carrots, but neither am I their biggest fan, so when I opened my fridge and found that I had accumulated 13 of them, I decided it was time for an action plan. First route of attack was to bake a carrot cake for the weekend and I'll also be making some kind of carrot slaw/salad this week, but more about that after I've made it.

The cake was so popular that I didn't have any left to take a decent picture once again, but I took that as a sign that it was definitely worth blogging about. The recipe is based on the one from The Great British Book of Baking, which accompanied last year's Great British Bake Off. If you live in the UK I'm sure you will have heard off the TV show, it was kind of hard not to. I'll be making it again soon, no doubt and will do my best to take a proper picture.


This is a delicious moist cake, with just the right amount nuts, good balance of spices and the addition of orange zest and juice makes it really nice and fresh as well. The original recipe is for a cake baked in two cake tins with has a layer of frosting in the middle as well as on top, but I baked mine in my 26cm spring form pan and just frosted the top of the cake. So here is the recipe as I made it.....


Carrot Cake (serves 8-12)

For the sponge:

225g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp grated nutmeg
1/2tsp ground mixed spice
1/2tsp ground ginger
22gg soft light muscovado sugar
grated zest of 1/2 unwaxed orange
100g walnut pieces
3 medium free-range eggs, beaten
150ml sunflower oil
250g grated carrots (about 3 medium  ones)

For the frosting:
100g full-fat cream cheese
25g unsalte butter, softened
75g icing sugar, sifted
grated zest of 1/4 an unwaxed orange
1tsp orange juce

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Grease and line the bottom of a 26cm spring form pan.

In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and all the spices.

With a wooden spoon, mix in the sugar, the orange zest and the walnuts.

Now add in the beaten egg, sunflower oil and the grated carrot and keep stirring until all the ingredients are really well mixed.

Pour the batter into your prepared springform pan and spread out evenly with the back of a metal spoon.

Bake in the middle of your pr-heated oven for about 40 minutes. You might want to loosely cover the top with tin foil or baking parchment after about 30 minutes if it looks like it is getting to dark. You can check if the cake is done by inserting a wooden skewer into the middle. If it comes out clean the cake is done, if there is still batter clinging to the skewer put it in for another five minutes or so and then test again.

Set aside to cool for five minutes before running a knife carefully round the edge of the cake and carefully release the ring of your springform. Now set aside to cool completely.

Whilst the cake is cooling you can make the frosting, by beating all the frosting ingredients together in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Beat quite rigorously until smooth and creamy. The frosting thickens up with beating, but if it's really warm weather or you have a warm kitchen, pop it in the fridge before spreading it on the cake.

Once the cake is completely cooled, spoon the frosting onto the top and evenly spread out to cover the whole top of the cake with the back of a wooden spoon or a palette knife.

If you like you can decorate the cake with more grated orange zest or some walnuts.


P.S. If you prefer, you can bake the cake in 2 x 20.5cm round cake tins and 'sandwich' it with frosting as well as putting a second layer of frosting on top. In that case, just double the amount of frosting stated above and also reduce the baking time of the cakes to about 25 minutes.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Garden Pea and Mint Soup

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I love peas. They are sweet, a bag of frozen ones is really affordable, they are versatile, healthy and they are beautifully green. Two of my favourite thing to make with peas are Kedgeree and Macaroni Peas. Also my mum's Split Pea Soup is one of my all time favourite things to eat and would make it onto the shortlist of dishes for my death row dinner.

The soup calls for the use of dried peas though and therefore takes quite a while to make, so when I want a quicker soup I make Garden Pea and Mint Soup. Peas and mint are just meant for one another and if you haven't tried the combination, don't wait any longer.


P.S. Lucy says: "Write how much I loved it!"

Garden Pea and Mint Soup (serves 4)

vegetable oil
a small knob of butter
a medium white onion or half a large leek, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, minced
5 cups of frozen peas (you can use fresh of course)
a large handful of fresh mint, chopped finely
1 litre of good quality vegetable stock (or chicken if you're not vegetarian)
salt and pepper, to taste
a little grated parmesan (optional)
a little creme fraiche or sour cream (optional)

In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat a little oil and a knob of butter over medium heat.

Add the onions or leek and saute till soft, stirring regularly to stop them from colouring. It should take about 5 minutes or so.

Add the garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.

Now add the peas, the chopped mint (keep a little back for garnish if you like) and the stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and carefully puree the soup using a stick blender. Watch out for hot soup splashes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and return to the hob and heat through.

Serve hot with crusty bread for the perfect lunch.

If you like you can put a little grated parmesan in the bottom of the individual soup bowls before adding the hot soup, or alternatively try finishing each bowl off with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.