Friday, 21 May 2010

Cooking - Muffins, 3 ways

Wanting to bring Louise something tasty this weekend when I go to visit her, I decided to make muffins/cupcakes.

So what should I make? I thought to myself.

I had several recipes for muffins that I wanted to try, so I lined them up and sent them to Louise over skype to see what she made of them, asking her to choose one.

She said to make whichever one I wanted, however I was still at a loss as to which one I'd prefer, so gears started churning, and being quite ambitious, I decided to make my 3 favourites from the set of recipes I had.

The issue I met when reading through the recipes, is that they all made different quantities, and one of them didn't indicate how many muffins this was O_o

So with some clever calculations, I scaled all 3 recipes to make 12 muffins per batch, 36 in total, I also adjusted sugar, salt  and butter amounts to more sensible levels than in the originals.

So with some reconfiguring, the final recipes start below here.

Common to all recipes:
- cream the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla extract, then the eggs and mix to a smooth consistency
- combine the dry ingredients in another bowl and sieve them
- when mixing together, mix the milk into the egg butter mixture in small quantities, alternating between adding the  dry mixture and the milk (and for the banana ones, the banana as well)
- using two spoons works well for extracting the mixture into those cute little muffin cases, for these recipes I found I had two spoonfuls in each
- all of them were baked at 190C, for about 20 minutes, but basically until they looked done

In the blueberry muffins, remember to gently fold in the blueberries so as not to break any of them.

Right, the quantities are as follows:




Butter (g) 60 100 60
Sugar (g) 70 200 100
Vanilla (tsp) 1 1 1
Eggs 1 2 1
Flour (g) 320 120 190
Salt (tsp) 1/4 1/4 1/4
Cream Of Tartar (tsp) 2 1/2 1/2
Baking soda/Bi-carbinate of soda (tsp) 1 1/2 3/4

2 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork.
1/2 cup cocoa powder.
1 1/2 cups blueberries.

Any issues then drop me a line :)

And a snap of them all decorated:

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Sports - Slacklining

A balance sport gaining in UK popularity, apparently, not that I've seen anyone doing it anywhere other than the internet.

None the less, it is gaining in popularity among my friends, Mike recently having come back from Manchester, declared it was awesome fun, and bought some kit for it, slowly getting everyone else on it.

It is however, very very hard to start out.

I never quite appreciated how hard it would be until we started playing with them at least twice a week, I now realise that even with lots of practice, it's going to take even more before I can say I'm competent at it.

There are just so many factors that affect the difficulty of the line:
- The width of the line determines how easy it is to place your feet on it, given you need to look ahead while walking, though a really wide line adds rotation in the line itself, another obstacle
- The length of the line, affects how much bounce there is, how far you have to go, and often how high you can get it above the ground (too high, legs either side = unfortunate accident)
- The tension of the line, as above, affects how much bounce there is, but in a different way, a short loose line is hard, but in a different way to a short tight line, same for a longer line at different tensions
- Wind can also mess you around ( on the line (the only rick roll, I promise :P)
- Whether you have shoes or not, the verdict is unknown on this so far, but I feel it is easier without as you can feel the line better

So, general premise, walk from one end to the other, try not to fail, if you do fail, get on again, repeat until you get further.

Which gives quite a steep learning curve, quite off putting for a lot of beginners, you really have to stick at it and just accept every inevitable failure as it comes.

Another thing to note, slacklining kits can set you back about £80, or a lot lot more, but you can achieve exactly the same effect with webbing and a ratchet for £40 or less, depending on how long you want the line.

There you go, a disjointed summary of slacklining, suffice to say, I love it and it is a great way to chill out with friends, maybe some beers and a bbq, so if you see anyone around with one, just ask for a go, I'm sure they won't mind, and if you're interested in starting, grab a kit and play around.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Bumper cooking post!

Daily updates may have been over ambitious, it's not that I lack the motivation, just that I get distracted and cook more things, and it's kind of hard to type while your hands are covered in dough.

Still, even if it wasn't delivered when promised, this post should make up for any I've missed, a bumper post of all the things I've cooked over the last week, so pick one out and try something new, if variety is the spice of life, then life may well be better over seasoned.

A quick note about the following recipes, I have not listed the details of most of them as the original posters of the recipes got it bang on so I changed nothing, just visit their websites, and hopefully you'll find some other things you'll like too.

Also, I will now be adding hyperlinks instead of plain text links, just to make things even easier.


Onion bhajis

As long as you don't mind hot oil, onion bhajis are as easy as you like, just don't make the mixture too moist or too doughy, you want the onion to be the main feature (unsurprisingly) so don't add more dough if you think there's too much onion no matter how it looks, the recipe is perfectly weighted. Once you scrunch a ball of it up and drop it in the hot oil, it all holds together perfectly, promise.

Excellent served with brinjal pickle though I haven't been bold enough to make my own yet.

Link -

Photo (pictured with bean patties, make as falafel, substitute chick peas/garbanzo beans with mixed beans)


Tropical grilled chicken with pineapple salsa

I love this salsa! Seriously, after dinner was done, I tucked in to the rest of the bowl, but my housemate wrestled it from me before I got all the way through so he had the final extra juicy bit to himself.

A perfect combination of the warm spicy chicken and cold, fruity and crunchy salsa, a must try, if you need to, substitute the chicken, but please at least try the salsa.

Link -



Thai chicken satay served with authentic thai peanut sauce

In the photo it is sadly only with normal boiled rice, but I would have loved to have done this with coconut rice, all you have to do is cook the rice in 1 part coconut milk to almost 3 parts water instead of just in water, and it absorbs so much tasty flavour.

The link for the chicken satay does include its own peanut sauce however, the separate link is superior, trust me on this, this peanut sauce is to die for!

I've been getting it out of the fridge and just eating big spoonfuls of it when I wanted a snack but it's sadly all gone now.

You will need thai red curry paste for this, and I strongly suggest making your own for that truly authentic flavour, see my earlier post for links.

Link - (satay) and (sauce)



Rice crispie cakes

They were all over the local co-op at easter and I just couldn't resist making my own, and yes, they did get eaten very quickly.

Make sure to use fairtrade chocolate!

Link -



Thai prawn cakes served on spring onion pancakes, drizzled in chilli sauce

Making your own chilli sauce is extremely satisfying, and I can think of nothing better to show it off that these prawn cakes and the pancakes, the flavours just work perfectly together with neither overwhelming the other, just remember to omit the fish sauce from the prawn cakes, it makes them too salty.

It is sometimes nice to have a sit down lunch as well, and as you'll see, that thai peanut sauce appears again.

Link - (prawn cakes) and (pancakes) and (sauce)



Truly vegetarian mushroom risotto

Most risotto uses chicken stock, as does Jamie Oliver in this recipe, however, I found that this one works perfectly using oxo vegetable stock, just dissolve 2 cubes in 1.3 litres of boiling water and use that instead of the 1.5 litres of chicken stock.

Link -



Vegetarian/Vegan lentil burgers

There is a slash in the title of this as you have a choice in the recipe, you can add an egg and have the patties hold together a little better, or omit it and just be more careful cooking. It is entirely up to you, and I can assure you that they are delicious either way.

What's more, this is entirely my own recipe so feedback on this one would be most appreciated.

Recipe -

1/ Cook 1 cup lentils in 4 cups water, boil vigorously for 5 mins, gently simmer for another 10 mins, drain
2/ Dice 1 1/2 onions (shallots work nicely too), 2 sticks of celery, 1 large carrot, crush 3 cloves of garlic (omit if using garlic sauce)
3/ Fry the chopped veg in a little oil, until soft, not discoloured
4/ Take about 1/2 cup to 1 cup breadcrumbs, crush a handful of nuts (optional, you can experiment with any type of nut you like)
5/ Add all this to a blender with 1 egg
6/ Season (I'm adding himalayan hot garlic sauce, otherwise, 1tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 2 tsp cumin, fresh parsley, pepper and lemon juice)
7/ Add more breadcrumbs if too moist, add some liquid if too solid, but make sure not to blend too much, we still want some substance
8/ Form into patties and toss in flour, I made 4 large ones
9/ Pan fry until golden and delicious, or bake at 200C (180C fan) until they again look golden on the outside, just remember to grease the tray adequately

Photo (masked by lettuce, not because they're ugly or anything, but because I started building the burgers before I got my camera out, and by this point they were covered in mayonaise anyway, omit the mayonaise as well if you would like them vegan by the way).

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Cooking - Sweet potato, spinach and lentil curry

Very easy to make, very tasty (as all things sweet potato should be), and nice and filling, exactly what you want!

Just a few things to remember, rinse the lentils thoroughly, chop the sweet potato finely (evenly doesn't matter so much as in the cooking time it'll all work out alright) and don't overcook the onions, nice and soft, not all crispy and brown.

Now I'm not going to post a step by step here, as the instructions on the site I took the recipe from are excellent, and the proportions are excellent, and it is in fact just generally excellent.

So bear in mind my tips, make this and enjoy it!

Feel free to contact me if you have any issues as well, I'm here to help :)

And a quick snap, an expect another post later this evening.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Cooking - Thai Stir Fry on Coconut Rice

To start this recipe, you'll need thai curry paste and coconut milk, which can be quite expensive/hard to come by.

But fear not friends, if you can't/don't want to buy them, follow the links here and make your own (and as always, these have all been tested and work):
Coconut milk -
Thai red curry paste -
Thai green curry paste -

1/ Mix 1 part coconut milk to 2 parts boiling water in a pan, then add 1 part rice (make as much as you need, bearing in mind you'll want about 60g rice per person)
2/ Bring this all up to the boil, then turn it down to a gentle simmer, remembering to stir often to prevent rice sticking and burning.
3/ The rice is done when the moisture is all gone and the rice is no longer crunchy.
4/ Top and tail a handful of green beans, then slice them in half.
5/ Slice about twice the volume of mushrooms into nice chunks.
6/ Rinse some (200g) prawns, small ones work best for this.
7/ Grab a handful of spinach, and put some cashew nuts in a bowl at the side.
8/ Halve a lime.
9/ Add a good tablespoon of curry paste into a frying pan, and mix this with 3 to 4 times the quantity of coconut milk (it depends on your paste).
10/ Bring it up to a high temperature so it's bubbling, then add the beans and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
11/ Add the prawns and mushrooms now, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, still on high heat.
12/ Add the spinach, and cook for 3 minutes until it is nice and wilted, then add the juice of half the lime by squeezing it out into the pan through your fingers (to catch any seeds).
13/ Cook for a final minute to remove some of the sharpness, then serve over the rice.

I promise that this is delicious, and it may seem like a lot of steps, but that's just to make things nice and clear, in reality, this took me 20 minutes tops to make from start to finish, and so I'm sure you can make it too.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Post Exams - A simple yet perfect meal

Now that batch 1 of exams is out of the way, I promise daily posts!

Yes, you heard me, well, up until the next exams at least, then more hold am afraid, but, for the next 4 weeks you'll have a lovely dose of me every single day :)

So without further ado, on with today's post:

Tonight I was quite tired, the result of an exhausting weekend of caving and Louise being up to visit.

I was also quite injured, I can't quite recall how it happened, but I appear to have pulled a muscle in my lower back, something I noticed on the way to my morning lecture.

Nothing serious it would appear, but painful enough that I couldn't walk to my afternoon lecture (on which I have caught up on the notes should anyone worry).

So I wanted something quick to eat, but being me, it had to be tasty and homemade, I also couldn't walk to the shops to get more things so it had to be done on things I had in the cupboard.

So, after some searching, assisted by Luke and George, we found our core ingredients to be:
- Half a bottle of wine
- Half a pot of double cream, about 200ml
- 2 chicken breasts

After thinking for a while I decided we needed to make:
Baked coated chicken breast served on pasta with a creamy white wine sauce
w/ homemade focaccia

Easy peasy, so here's how to do it:
1/ Make your focaccia, you can do this at any point during the day, though we made ours so that it was done at the same time as the chicken, I made mine from the following recipe
2/ Make a sauce for the chicken, combine 3/4 teaspoon garlic granules with maybe 4 tablespoons of mayonaise (I wasn't measuring the mayo), and mix this with about half as much parmezan (though you can use any cheese, just grate finely)
3/ Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthways, and lather in the sauce
4/ Roll the chicken in breadcrumbs (we used powdered jacobs crackers, put them in a bag, hit them very hard, LOTS, then use)
5/ Bake at 220C for about 20-25 minutes, until the juices run clear from the meat and the topping looks all golden and tasty.
6/ While this is happening, cook the pasta, it needs to go in 10 minutes before the chicken is done.
7/ Mix 200ml double cream with 150ml white wine in a pan, add to this 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of parsley and then sieve 1 1/2 tablespoons flour into this while stirring.
8/ Gently heat the sauce until it thickens up to a nice consistency, this will only take a few minutes so do this last just before you drain the pasta.
9/ Assuming I didn't miss any steps here, you should now be ready to serve, dish out the pasta into a bowl, drizzle the sauce over (don't drown it, but don't be too stingy either), gently place the chicken breasts on the centre of the dish, and tear some focaccia and place this alongside.
10/ Enjoy! And remember, the remaining focaccia goes excellently with bread and oil, so you could have this as a starter instead of with the pasta.

Unfortunately, I was quite hungry, so nommed it all before I got my camera, however, Louise has sent me a nice photo of Matt G (with me in the background) from the cave we did on saturday, Juniper Gulf.