Archives for category: coffee

The steps at The Mound

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is coming to a close and I can’t help but feel I’ve missed out a bit this year. The Fringe festivities are on for almost a full month, but sometimes it’s tricky to get round to it of it unless you plan ahead.

As you may know from my previous post, I had a week off last week. However, I ventured off camping instead of spending time with my beloved city, Edinburgh. So on Sunday my husband, Chris, and I decided to make a day of it. We took the car in to make the most of the free parking available in the city, and to give us more flexibility. As we had nothing planned (and because I’m saving the pennies!), we headed straight for the Half Price Hut at the bottom of The Mound.

We gazed at the screens listing the many shows that had become available at 50% off until something took our fancy. Any of you who have been to the Festival before will know that there are some great shows available, but there are also a whole lot of duds too, so it can be difficult to select a good’un when there are so many to choose from.

We eventually purchased tickets for a show called Korean Drum for only £7.50 each, rather than the usual £15 price tag. We had a few hours to kill before the show started so we headed off for some lunch, walking past the Royal Mile on the way. If you want to truly experience the festival, a visit to the Royal Mile is a must. It’s full of colourful characters, street performers and stalls, and best of all, it’s free!

Edinburgh Festival: Looking down the Royal Mile

We arrived at Red Box Noodle Bar for a late lunch. We’ve been there a couple of times before, it’s great value at only £5.30 for a very generous portion of noodles, served in cool American style boxes (here in the UK, noodles are usually served in plastic tubs, like disposable Tupperware, so these boxes hold the novelty factor!). There is a choice of noodle (egg, rice, udon, ramen, etc) and ingredients. I ordered chicken satay udon and Chris ordered Thai red curry beef ramen. Yum!

Oodles of Noodles

We hurried our full tummies along to the show. I usually choose shows in the Dance & Physical Theatre section of the Fringe Guide, whilst Chris prefers music or comedy. This show was a great combination of music and dance. The performers were extremely energetic, but also showed amazing levels of precision, which certainly impressed the audience. Suitably entertained, we headed off to meet a friend for a drink at the East End. We stopped in at the Omni Centre, which I would say is probably best avoided during festival time as it was so quiet and lacking in atmosphere compared to venues in and around the Old Town.

It was a great taste of the festival though, if only for one day. Next year I’ll plan ahead… Honest.

… make chocolate & lime cupcakes. I made these chocolaty delights yesterday after finding the recipe on the BBC Good Food website. The recipe is for ‘easy chocolate cupcakes’, I added the lime twist based on the old-fashioned sweets Chocolate Limes. This recipe is extremely easy to follow, but I felt it was just a little too chocolaty for me so made a few adjustments. If you love bitter chocolate then go for the higher measurements on the cocoa and plain chocolate, if you like your chocolate sweet, then use the lower measurements or switch to milk chocolate instead of plain. My adaptation is as follows:

20110803-112110.jpg

Preheat to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. This mix makes approx 10 muffins or 24 cupcakes.

For the cakes:

  • 100g plain chocolate , blitzed into small chunks in a food processor (don’t use one with a high cocoa content)
  • 200g self-raising flour (a little extra may be required)
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa to taste (I used 4 tbsp of Green & Black’s cocoa and it was VERY chocolaty!)
  • 150 ml sunflower oil , plus a little extra for greasing
  • 100 ml soured cream
  • 2 eggs (keep ’em free-range folks!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1-2 limes
  • juice of 1 lime
For the chocolate topping:
  • 60-100g plain chocolate , blitzed into small chunks in a food processor (don’t use one with a high cocoa content, adjust to taste)
  • 3 tbsp light muscovado sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp sour cream
To finish:
Sieve the flour and cocoa and add the sugar. Beat the eggs and add the other wet ingredients (sunflower oil, vanilla extract, lime juice & zest and sour cream) then gradually fold into the dry ingredients. Add the blitzed chocolate chunks and mix well. At this stage I found the mixture a little bit too runny so I added about 4-5 tbsp self raising flour. The consistency should be sticky rather than runny; it should spoon into the cupcake cases rather than pour. Pop on the oven for about 20 minutes. The cakes are done when you can insert a cocktail stick into them and it comes out (just about) clean. Leave them to cool on a wire rack.
Gently heat all of the ingredients for the chocolate topping in a small saucepan until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Pour a teaspoon of the topping onto the cupcake and sprinkle the crushed chocolate limes on top. Unfortunately I couldn’t seem to find chocolate limes in the shops, so I used lime zest to decorate instead. There are a number of online retailers that sell chocolate limes, including chocolatebuttons.co.uk.
I have made a stash of these for a birthday party this weekend, which brings me to my little money saver this evening. My good friend Janine is celebrating her 30th birthday on Friday, and rather than having an expensive bash, she’s invited a few of her nearest and dearest to her favourite spot in Scotland, a little village called Findhorn, on the north east coast for a beach party and camping. Okay, maybe it isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but camping out makes weekend trips so much more affordable and flexible. My husband and I are heading up for one night, whilst others are there for a long weekend.
Luckily I love camping, and might just borrow this idea for my own birthday celebrations. And when life hands you lemons…

20110723-045530.jpg
Today I joined Twitter. I’m still to decide how I feel about it. After spending hours setting up an account and fluttering through the giant birdcage that is Twitter, I feel like I have achieved very little. I have wished Daniel Radcliffe a happy birthday in hopes of getting it to ‘trend’, gathered 3 followers and lost 1 already.

Not a very fruitful afternoon. And it’s sunny outside! Here in Scotland, sunny days are hard to come by, so I really should be making the most of it. At least I managed to get the washing hung out in the garden.

My money saving tip today was to talk my darling hubby out of going out to dinner. I’m sure we can find something good to make at home at just a fraction of the cost. I did my supermarket shop online today as well, so at least I’m practicing what I preach! It’s being delivered on Monday night. Also, we’re going fishing this evening (off the harbour), so if we catch anything, that’s free food!

Nobody has visited my blog today, I’m guessing it’s because it’s the weekend. So I thought I’d try a bit of reverse psychology and tell people NOT to read this post. Sorry if you thought it would be more interesting. A post like this is very much a result of a very sleepy me! Happy Saturday!

In other news… I had the best night last night, chilling with my bestest lady friends. Gossip and food fest are just the best Friday night activities…. This morning I tried Chocolate Sugar Puffs, they kinda just taste like Sugar Puffs but they turn the milk brown…. The chilli plant has been repotted and is settling into it’s new home nicely!… The big batch of soup from the allotment is nearly finished, fortunately father-in-law has kindly donated another turnip from his allotment to go into the next batch!

I’m so proud of myself today. I spent exactly £1.36 today. That. Is. All.

I did a little shopping yesterday to pick up breakfast food to take to work this week so breakfast consisted of:
2 broken up ryvita biscuits with Greek yogurt, muesli (on offer for £1, usually £2.46) blueberries (£2, large punnet) and cherries (£1 on offer). Yum yum, very filling and healthy too!
I had a coffee from the machine at work for 50p (no Starbucks or Costa!).

My husband made a big batch of soup on Saturday and divided it up into little portions and popped them in the freezer (clever hubby!). So I grabbed one of them for lunch, it had thawed nicely by this point and I zapped it in the microwave for 2 minutes. I bought a slice of bread and a portion of Philadelphia Light for 36p from the canteen and another 50p coffee from the machine. (we have free water at work from the coolers so I had a few glasses throughout the day)

I’m so pleased about not spending anything! It’s such a great feeling!

Banana loaf is done! I had a couple of bananas that were on there way out, perfect excuse for some baking methinks! I have used cherries in this recipe too and managed to snap up a small punnet for just £1 at my local Asda! See my previous post here for details of the banana loaf I’m attempting to recreate.

I struggled to find the recipes that I’d used the last time I made the gluten free banana and cherry loaf, so I adapted one I found at this link.

I made the following alterations to the ingredients:

250g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm plain white flour blend)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon glycerine
pinch salt
115g butter (can be subbed for sunflower oil for the dairy free lot – about 80ml or 1/3 cup should do)
115g dark brown soft sugar
2 eggs, beaten
500g mashed over-ripe bananas
10-12 fresh cherries – optional
50-100g chopped nuts or a couple of handfuls whole nuts (I used a mix of hazelnuts, almonds and pecans, chopped in food processor) – also optional
2 tablespoons natural yogurt (dairy free variety is okay)

I blended all the wet ingredients (butter, banana, glycerine & eggs) and gradually added the sugar. I then sieved the flour, bicarbonate of soda and xanthan gum into a large bowl and gradually added the wet mixture, folding it in. The mixture was a little stiff & doughy so I added the yogurt to loosen it off. At this stage it should be thick but it should move if you tilt the bowl, a bit like cement! I then added the nuts to add a bit of texture. I used the blade attachment on my food processor (pictured) to chop the nuts, about 4-5 pulses was enough, be careful not to chop them too much or they’ll start to form a paste. I then added the cherries, tearing each one into several pieces and disposing of the stone.

Spoon the mixture into a loaf tin, either lined with greaseproof paper or greased well with butter. Pop the tin in a preheated oven at 150 degrees for a fan oven or a little higher for a conventional oven and bake for about an hour and 15 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

This was not my most successful loaf but I think that’s because I had the temperature up too high (I used the temp recommended on the recipe I referenced but I think for gluten free it should be a bit lower. I also have a fan oven so think that may have played a part!) The top of my loaf is a little crispy (burnt) but the middle is gooey and just dense enough.

I made a light glaze with 1 and 1/2 tablespoons yoghurt and about 50-75g icing sugar (so its still a bit runny) and brushed it on the top. Alternatively you can make a cream cheese and icing sugar mix. Start with a small amount of cream cheese (add a slice of banana if you want to add some extra flavour) and add the icing sugar, the consistency should be thick like a paste. Sprinkle some icing sugar on the top to finish.

I’ll remake this again soon so may update it again if I can improve on anything.

20110720-123927.jpg

A couple on months back, we had a banana cake-off at work: me and a colleague, Lesley, agreed to make banana cakes for our colleagues, who would then judge the winner.

At the time I was really keen on making cupcakes, so I decided to make banana flavoured variety (with real banana though, not artificial flavourings!). I stumbled upon a recipe on the internet and produced 2 dozen tiny cakes. They were not my best. I usually ad-lib a bit on recipes as I’ll usually see more than 1 recipe for the same thing & somehow combine them. But sadly, on this occasion, I stuck to the recipe and the results were not the best. I iced them with a banana & cream cheese icing (which I ended up making far to much of!). However, I lost the cake-off to Lesley – she made a wonderful banana & date loaf, which everybody enjoyed, except for my good friend Freyja, who is Coeliac so couldn’t have any of them due to their gluten content. I left work a little bit disappointed, as I knew I could do better.

At home, I still had excess banana icing, and I still had some super-ripe bananas, so I decided to have another go to try & redeem myself! I felt a little guilty that Freyja had not been able to enjoy any of the cakes due to their gluten content, so I resolved to make a gluten free banana loaf.

I came across a few recipes online and combined a couple of them, although they weren’t gluten free. If you’ve ever tried gluten free baking before, you’ll know that it can be tricky. The flour is of a different consistency and is usually more powdery once baked. There are many varieties of gluten free flour, I used Doves Farm plain white flour blend.

To combat the powdery texture I used glycerin with the bananas and substituted some of the caster sugar for golden syrup. I also used xanthan gum (also from Doves Farm) as an alternative binding ingredient, as gluten generated by wheat flour is the element that holds everything together. As another little ad-lib, I added cherries (mainly because I had a punnet in front of me and they were delicious!).

I popped it in the oven and, once cool, used up the leftover icing. The downside to making a loaf is that you don’t get to try it before you unleash it on the world (or my colleagues). Thankfully, it all worked out and everyone enjoyed it.in fact, some people preferred it to Lesley’s. It is my gluten free greatest success to date. And I don’t remember the recipe!

So today, I am hoping to recreate the amazing banana & cherry loaf. I have the super-ripe bananas & am picking up some cherries at the shops – Tesco have some on special buy for £1! I feel like the gluten free variety of this loaf really worked and added a lightness, not usually found in a loaf.

I plan to document my every ingredient, sieve and blend. Hopefully I will then be able to share with you a recipe for a gluten free banana (& cherry) loaf that works.

I’m just about to heat up a portion of our homemade soup that’s stashed in the freezer. Yum!

For other ways to alter recipes, see Living Shalom’s blog post here:

Simple Adaptations.

My Sunday mornings are usually a bit slower to start than other days, even when I’m working. I work alternate weekends and my typical working Sunday starts with a visit to Starbucks. I know, I know, they’re ridiculously priced but I love a good Caramel Macchiato (grande, skimmed with an extra shot!).
Now, this morning, I was particularly sleep deprived, having been at a late night screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (most excellent – I might post a bit about that later), so a pint of strong sweet coffee would have been most welcome! However, in interests of saving money, I woke up early to have a coffee at home (and a tasty bowl of Tesco branded cheerios).
Admittedly it was missing the syrupy goodness of Starbucks coffees, but it saved me at least £5, as I probably would have treated myself to a muffin or a breakfast panini.
At lunch time I went for the cheaper option of a pizza slice with coleslaw and cucumber on the side, a bargain at only £1.50. I managed to resist a trip to Waitrose on the way home from work (another Sunday tradition!) as my husband told me his dad had given us some lettuce and tomatoes from his allotment for dinner (a good hearty salad with leftover Moroccan curry with turkey & apricot from last night – pictured)
So it’s been a very reasonably priced day!

20110717-101154.jpg