Category Archives: Snacks

Carrot and Coconut Soup

Good evening good evening good evening

Even by my standards, my freezer has started to look a bit on the daft side.  I’ve been saving meat bones like there’s some kind of world shortage, and eventually got fed up of trying to pack “real food” around them, so I decided to finally make up the stock yesterday.  As I didn’t really have enough of any type of bones, the resulting stock was made in the slow cooker from a combination of chicken, lamb, ham and beef bones, along with a couple of carrots, some celery and some rosemary stalks.  I was dubious as to what would result, but pleasantly surprised by a delicious smelling, relatively gelatinous stock (click here for some fairly fool-proof stock instructions, adaptable for any type of carcass).

The fridge, on the other hand, is incredibly sad-looking.  Quite a variety of salad veg, a load of carrots and not much else.  Given that I really couldn’t be bothered to go shopping, I decided to make some carrot soup and concluded that the coconut cream leftover from the other day’s curry  probably ought to be used up too, resulting in this slightly tangy version of carrot and coriander soup.  Nice and simple, and fairly quick to make.  Hopefully I’ll regain inspiration later in the week and start cooking exciting things again!

Love love

Gemma xx

Carrot and Coconut Soup

I'm trying out a slightly more artsy style of photography. What do you think?

Lots of carrots, diced small
Ground coriander
Ground cumin
Onion powder
1 green chilli, seeds removed and chopped finely (top tip – don’t rub your eyes unlike some silly cow did this evening…)
Good quality stock (use meat stock if you like, or vegetable to make it vegetarian/vegan)
Half a carton of coconut cream
Fresh coriander leaves and stalks, roughly chopped

  1. Heat a little olive oil in a fairly deep pan.  Add the carrot and stir.  Shake in quite a lot of ground coriander and a smaller amount of cumin and onion powder.  Add the chilli and stir everything well.
  2. Add enough stock to cover the veg, topping up with water if necessary.  Stir through the coconut cream and turn the heat down to a slow simmer.  Cook for at least half an hour, until the carrot is really soft.  You don’t have to worry about boiling out all the goodness, as that’ll stay in the water, which will be whizzed up with the soup later!
  3. Once the carrot is soft, blend until smooth, adding more stock or water if necessary.  Stir through the coriander and serve with crusty bread.  A good tip if you have some bread rolls or a baguette or something which is starting to go a bit stale is to sprinkle some water over it and warm it through in a medium-hot oven.  Voila!  Fresh(ish) crusty bread 🙂

Leek and Potato Soup “Vichyssoise”


Having made a heap of ham stock the other day and having bought very cheap leeks and potatoes, last night’s dinner was a no-brainer.  It’s not an especially summery soup but if you fancy you can eat it cold as a vichyssoise if the weather’s just too nice to be eating warm soup.  We had it hot, but only due to the fact that I left it too late to cook and to cool.  I pretty much followed the recipe in the New Covent Garden Soup Book, a great little recipe book with lots of different soup inspirations; some (like this one) quite traditional, and others much more unusual.

You can easily make this dish by using vegetable stock or water, and vegan by skipping the dairy.

Love love

Gemma xx

Leek and Potato Soup

1 small onion
3 leeks, cleaned
2 medium floury potatoes
About 1 pint stock or water
2 waxy potatoes
Milk, cream or fromage frais

  1. Slice the onion and two of the leeks finely.  Gently fry on a low heat for around 10 minutes, until soft.
  2. Dice the floury potatoes and add to the leeks.  Fry for another 5-10 minutes or so until soft.
  3. Add the stock or water and bring to the boil for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and blend the soup.  At this point, taste the soup and season to taste with salt, pepper and herbs (chives are particularly good here).  Add more water if necessary (if serving the soup cold, it will probably need to be thinner than if you’re serving it warm).
  4. Slice the remaining leek and dice the waxy potatoes and stir through the soup.  Cook gently until the potato is cooked.
  5. If serving warm, stir through some milk, cream or fromage frais and serve immediately.  If serving cold, cool and add the dairy once cool.  Chill until needed.

Home Made Quiche

Morning everyone!

I’ve been a bit on the neglectful side recently, but I’ve still been cooking.  On Monday we had our first BBQ of the year (hooray!) as we’d already planned to have sausages for tea and it would have wasted the weather otherwise.  Nothing quite like a good quality meaty sausage in a bun with home made apple chutney!  On Tuesday, A Man was out for dinner.  As you may or may not know, my little brother is a fishmonger and in February he bought me a load of sprats which he proceeded to fillet and which have been sitting in my freezer ever since.  I simply grilled them for a couple of minutes and ate them with lots of salad, beetroot chutney (thank you A Man’s nan!) and horseradish sauce.  Yum!

Having been at work on Tuesday, I wandered round the store to check out the reduced items, went slightly mad and bought 3 gammon shanks.  As the weather’s been fantastic, I had been planning to make a quiche as it can be eaten hot or cold and is great with salad so I decided to make this for Wednesday’s dinner.  I cooked up the gammon exactly the same as when I made ham and lentil soup and stuck about 2 thirds of the cooked meat in the freezer.  I also made several pints of impressively gelatinous stock, which has been frozen.  If you don’t have gammon shanks (or can’t be bothered to cook them) then this recipe would work just as well with bacon lardons or thickly chopped ham.  Besides, you can stick whatever you like in the quiche – broccoli is one of my favourites.

Love love

Gemma xx

Gammon, leek and mushroom Quiche

A Man decided it was funny to pretend that he was having the entire quiche for his dinner. I know. Hilarious...


Washed and sliced leeks
Sliced mushrooms
Chopped gammon
Shortcrust pastry (made with 8oz flour and 2oz each of butter and drippings)
3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks
Natural fromage frais (most quiche recipes use cream.  I use fromage frais because it’s much healthier and also makes the custard much firmer, which makes slices of quiche much easier to transport for picnics and lunchboxes)
Feta cheese
Salt, pepper and herbs of your choice

  1. Fry the leeks and mushrooms in a little olive oil on a low heat until starting to go soft.  Add the gammon.
  2. Roll the pastry into a 10-12 inch flan dish and blind back at 180OC/350OF/Gas mark 4 until starting to go crispy.
  3. Spoon the leek mix into the pastry case so that it is evenly distributed.
  4. Whisk the egg with around 4 dessert spoons of fromage frais.  Crumble in the feta and season with the salt, pepper and herbs.  Pour over the leek mix and stir slightly to distribute the leeks throughout the custard.
  5. Bake for around 20-30 minutes, until the custard has set and is browned on the top.
  6. Serve either warm or cold with salad, chutney and new potatoes.

Vegan Carrot and Sultana Wholegrain Muffins


It has been a busy busy few days for little old me.  It was my birthday on Friday, so I’ve not really been doing much in the way of cooking – Thursday night was a meal with A Man’s mum and step-dad at the Bath Arms, Crockerton which introduced me to the (surprisingly very very tasty) combination of belly pork and mackerel, Friday saw some incredible beef ribs with tamarind sauce at Las Iguanas, Bristol Harbourside, Saturday was a supermarket pizza and salad, Sunday reheated frozen lamb tagine with Disney films and lots of cups of tea and yesterday I threw some disappointing peri peri spice mix at some chicken legs.  At least the chicken was moist though, I guess.

Given how much we’ve spent in the past few days, we’re having a freezer week this week and attempting to make a good dent in my stash of home made ready meals.  Tonight it’s A Man’s beef stew.  There won’t be much in the way of posting this week, but there’s still the opportunity for a couple of little sweet recipes.

I made these muffins for a friend’s birthday.  They’re fairly allergy-friendly (obviously, depending upon the allergy in question…) as they’re egg and dairy free, and use rye flour which is low in gluten, although you can use ordinary wheat flour if you prefer.  Exchange the ingredients for your own if appropriate.  It’s also good to know that they’re relatively virtuous, and are even healthy(ish) enough to eat for breakfast, if you forgo the glaze…

Love love

Gemma xx

Vegan Carrot and Sultana Muffins

Adapted from Abel and Cole’s “Oh-so-virtuous Carrot Muffins”

I think they deserve the phrase "messy-licious"...

300 ml Coconut cream
Zest of 1 lemon
50 ml Orange Juice
250g Wholemeal Rye Flour
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Freshly ground Nutmeg
1 tsp Ground Ginger
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
Pinch Salt
Around 50g Brown Sugar, depending on how sweet you like your muffins
2 medium carrots, grated
Handful of Sultanas
Handful of Sunflower Seeds
Icing Sugar, more coconut cream and lemon zest for the Glaze

  1. Preheat the oven to 180OC/350OF/Gas mark 4.
  2. Sift the flour, spices, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar into a bowl.
  3. Stir the carrot, sultanas and sunflower seeds through the flour.  Add the coconut cream, lemon zest and orange juice and stir gently – don’t overwhip.
  4. Spoon into muffin cases and bake for around 20 minutes.
  5. Once cooled, you can glaze them if desired by mixing icing sugar with enough coconut cream to form a paste, adding some lemon zest and spooning over the top of the muffins.  I had loads left over and used it to make piña colada frozen yoghurt.

More Mince Pies and Fruity Christmas Duck Paté

My oh my, what a busy day today has been already!  And it’s not even 3.30 yet.  I’ve been cleaning the house, put on and hung 3 loads of laundry, changed the bed, sat myself down for an exam-conditions practice paper (I have another exam on Friday) and of course, lots of cooking too.  I’m so pleased I made my pastry for the mince pies yesterday – it made my life significantly simpler this morning, and it’s so much easier to roll when chilled!  Smaller cases this time, as the last batch used up my mincemeat far too quickly!  I’ve also taken a leaf out of my mummy’s book, and frozen the rest of my pastry not in a ball, but ready-rolled and cut out, sandwiched between sheets of greaseproof paper.  It took longer this morning, but if it gets to a point where I don’t have the time to make pastry, I daresay I won’t have the time to roll and cut it (and more importantly deal with the inevitably huge clean-up operation afterwards).  This way, the little pastry discs and stars come out of the ice drawer in the freezer, straight into the tin to be filled and baked.  No mess.  Excellent!  I also had some marzipan leftover from yesterday’s cake decorating escapades, so put a little star of thinly rolled marzipan underneath the pastry lid of some of them.  Yum!  As before, the port and cranberry mincemeat recipe is here.

I made unsweetened shortcrust pastry and this batch is bloody excellent! 1lb plain flour, 4oz unsalted butter, 4oz rendered animal fat which has made a whopping 52 mince pie cases. It's really flaky - much better than the stuff before!

And the long-awaited duck liver paté has finally made its appearance.  I’m a bit annoyed, as I think I may have overcooked the liver, but I spread a bit on a cream cracker whilst decanting it and it tasted OK.  Still got some more liver in the freezer anyway, so I’ll give it another go at some point.  The photo’s not very exciting I’m afraid.  Perhaps I’ll remember to take a pic of some sliced onto a piece of toast or something.

Fruity Christmas Paté

I’ve made this very successfully before with chicken livers, but the duck has an added richness which works beautifully with the other flavours.  I’ve not given quantities, as I have no idea how much I used of each thing, but perhaps if you compare this one with a conventional paté recipe you can get a good idea.

A handful of dried cranberries, soaked overnight in the zest and juice of an orange and some ruby port
Duck liver (I also had some other meat in with mine, having portioned the duck myself)
Onion, finely diced
Garlic cloves, finely minced
Salt and Pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

  1. Heat some olive oil and butter in a pan, and cook the onion and garlic very gently.
  2. Clean the liver, removing any tubes and jumpy bits.  Cook the liver on a low heat with the onion.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, and add some of the orange/port liquor from the cranberries.  Blend this in a food processor or with a hand blender, adding more port and melted butter to reach the desired consistency.
  4. Stir in some cranberries.  Don’t add too many, or the paté will taste very sweet.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste (you may need quite a lot, to counteract the aforementioned sweetness of the cranberries.
  5. Press the paté into ramekins, or any other receptacle you wish to keep it in.  My mixture made 3 ramekins.
  6. Gently melt some butter, and pour over the paté to coat it.  Refrigerate until needed.  The butter will help to prevent the paté from going off – it should keep for around a week or so.  Serve with bread, toast or crackers.  You don’t have to eat the butter coating, but it obviously won’t do you any harm if you do – it’s only the same as buttering your toast beforehand.

Great as a starter or simple lunch, chicken or duck liver paté is ridiculously easy to make, but people are often really impressed by the effort. You can decorate the tops of the ramekins with orange peel or bay leaves if you like. I put a bay leaf in one, but it sank 😦

The First Mince Pies of the Year

Just a quick photo of my first mince pies using my port and cranberry mincemeat.  It’s December 1st, so I decided that I had no choice but to attempt to get into the spirit!  I have to say, I’m dead chuffed with the mincemeat – it’s very tasty, with quite a lot of depth and complexity.  Much more solid in the jar than bought mincemeat is, but I daresay that’s a combination of a higher fruit ratio and having melted the suet so as better to preserve it.  The pastry, however, was disappointing.  They were slightly overcooked, and the pastry was some leftover sweet stuff I’d used in a recent attempt at a Tarte Tatin which had been in the freezer.  It was too soft, so a nightmare to roll, and far far too sweet which is a real shame.  I don’t normally sweeten pastry, for good reason!  But they’ll do for the first batch.


Love love

Gemma xx

Christmas Cake

Fruit cake lasts for AGES and home-made Christmas cake has so much more body than the stuff you can buy.  If you’d prefer not to use alcohol then this is fine, but they won’t last for anywhere near as long.  I started mine on 9th October, and hopefully by the time Christmas comes round it will have matured into something beautiful.  Not sure yet how I’ll decorate it – I’ll probably post when it’s finished.  UPDATE – The cakes (both the big one and all the mini ones) have now been decorated, somewhat unconventionally…

Gemma xx

Christmas Cake
Adapted from Levi Roots’ Caribbean Christmas Cake, Caribbean Food Made Easy

Mine sunk a little in the middle, but I'm not too worried about it - I'll try to cover it up when decorating!

Roughly Chopped Dried Fruit:
5 oz (140g) Prunes
4 oz (110g) Dates
2 oz (55g) Glacé Cherries
3 oz (85g) Dried Figs
13 ½ oz (380g) Mixed Dried Fruit
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ pint (300ml) Dark rum plus extra for soaking

Wet Ingredients:
9 oz (250g) Softened Butter
7 oz (200g) Dark brown soft Sugar
4 free-range eggs

Double Sifted Dry Ingredients:
9 oz (250g) Self-raising Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Mixed Spice

Roughly Chopped Nuts:
2 oz (55g) Blanched Almonds
1 oz (30g) Hazelnuts
1 oz (30g) Walnuts

  1. Mix the dried fruit and rum in a bowl with a lid, and soak for at least 24 hours, and up to a week.  Stir occasionally throughout the soaking process.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160OC/325OF/gas mark 3.  Line a deep 7 inch/18cm round tin with a double thickness of greaseproof paper.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Beat in the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the nuts, fruit and soaking liquor.  Add a couple of spoons of rum if the mixture is very thick.
  5. Spoon into the tin and bake for around 2 hours.  Cover with foil if necessary.  Cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. While the cake is warm, poke it full of holes with a skewer and spoon over 4 spoons of rum.  Wrap in foil and store somewhere cool and dry.
  7. Check the cake once a week, and continue to feed with rum.  Turn it occasionally, to ensure even distribution of alcohol.  Decorate close to Christmas.

I had a little too much batter for my cake tin, so also made some mini cakes in silicone muffin cases.