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Chocolate & Banana Loaf Cake

Happy February! It’s been extra cold, wet and windy this past weekend in London and this recipe was the perfect remedy! I love banana bread in its original form (is it called a bread to hide the fact that it is a deliciously buttery and perhaps not-so-healthy cake?) but adding chocolate makes this bake absolutely divine.

If we’re being honest, this is just a chocolate cake that’s super rich and kept moist and sweetened by the bananas. Again, like most loaf cakes, this is a simple recipe that gives an incredible result.

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Ingredients

  • 175 plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 medium ripe bananas
  • 3 large eggs, 2 separated
  • 50ml milk
  • 100g milk chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to to 160°C / 140°C fan / 325°F.
  2. Line your loaf tin with parchment paper.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, cocoa powder and add in the caster sugar. Mix well.
  4. Mash the bananas to a lumpy pulp using a fork.
  5. Combine the mashed bananas with the melted butter and eggs.
  6. Gently whisk the wet mixture so that the ingredients are well-incorporated.
  7. Fold together the wet and dry mixtures. Add in the chocolate chips.
  8. Scrape the cake batter into the loaf tin.
  9. Bake for approx. 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  10. Enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

Work has unfortunately been busy and I haven’t had as much motivation to bake as I would’ve liked in this festive season, so this super simple cookie recipe was just what I needed to get back into it! White chocolate and cranberry is a timeless combination that I like all year round, but I’ve never really had a good excuse to bake them until now.

I’ve adapted Nigella’s chocolate chip cookie recipe – it’s my favourite and I think it makes the best big, chewy cookies which are just going crisp on the edges. This recipe also easily adjust for double and half quantities.

Ingredients

Makes 14 large cookies

  • 150 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 90 g soft light brown sugar
  • 90 g white caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 300 g flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200 g white chocolate, chopped
  • 90 g dried cranberries

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150°C fan / 325°F.
  2. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Melt the butter, and cream together with the brown and white sugars.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract and the eggs and mix until the mixture is light and creamy.
  5. Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda, and fold the wet and dry ingredients together.
  6. Gently stir through the chocolate chunks and dried cranberries.
  7. It is ideal to chill the cookie dough in the fridge for at least an hour before baking, but if you’re short of time, it should be fine to use the dough straightaway.
  8. Using an ice-cream scoop or two tablespoons, scoop the cookie dough into ping-pong sized balls and drop them on the baking sheet. Keep them at least 8 cm apart, as these will grow when baked in the oven.
  9. Bake for 15-17 minutes until the edges are golden. The centres will still be soft but will firm up when cooled. Leave to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet.
  10. Enjoy!

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The Best Mince Pies to Try This Christmas

I love this time of the year in the build up to the holiday season. Even though the days are getting shorter, darker and colder, nothing warms me up more than seeing the sparkly lights and festive decorations, and enjoying a hot beverage. Winter is also a great reason to eat more – it’s cold and we’ve got huge coats on anyway..

I’m loving making slow-cooked chillies, beef stews and delicious ragus, but more importantly – the Christmas season has heralded the return of my favourite festive sweet, the mince pie! If it wasn’t obvious from the title of this post, I’ve been on the hunt for the best mince pies that London has to offer. But first, what exactly is a mince pie? It’s basically a fit-in-your-palm-sized buttery shortcrust pastry filled with mincemeat – a fruity, boozy, spiced mix of vine fruits and citrus peel (with no actual meat!).

I’ve sampled a range of mince pies from the supermarkets and high street cafes but will be updating this list as we get closer to Christmas – do let me know if there are any you think I’ve missed out and need to try!

1. Heston from Waitrose Spiced Shortcrust Mince Pies with a Lemon Twist (£3.00 / 4 pies) – 9/10

This was probably the most unique mince pie that I tried, though I suppose it’s more of a tart than an actual pie! Waitrose also has a chocolate & ginger version which also looks really good (see below). I loved the crumble topping and the zesty lemon curd, which complemented the sweet mincemeat. The spiced pastry also tasted delicious. The only downside is that I wished there was more of the filling to balance against the pastry!

2. Sainsbury’s Deep Filled Mince Pies (£1.10 / 6 pies) – 7/10

Sainsbury’s is my go-to supermarket so I had to try out their classic mince pies and I was pleasantly satisfied. The pies are packed full of sultanas, raisins and currants and some orange peel. I didn’t find the filling to be overly sweet and was actually slightly tart. Overall, a good solid choice of mince pie and great value for money.

3. Marks & Spencer’s The Collection Mince Pies (£2.50 / 6 pies) – 8/10

These mince pies are beautifully decorated with a snowflake and star design. The mincemeat filling makes M&S’s version so good – it’s bursting with vine fruits, cherries and clementine, with a full brandy flavour and citrus notes. The citrus means that the filling doesn’t end up too sickly sweet. The pastry is also decent – very buttery, but I found it got a bit sticky in my mouth – not an issue when washed down with some milk though!

4. Iceland Luxury Mince Pies (£1.89 / 6 pies) – 8/10

This was voted as the nation’s favourite mince pie last year, so I had high hopes! The pastry on these mince pies were lovely – really buttery and almost crisp when warmed in the oven. Also has a delicious gooey filling with juicy fruits. Unexpected place to find such a tasty mince pie!

5. Starbucks Mince Pie (£1.69 / ea) – 6/10

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This was a pretty hefty mince pie (both in price, as compared to the options above, and also in size). The mince pie is very deep and was generous with the sultanas, currants and raisins. I found the filling too sweet though and with the heavy dusting of icing sugar, it was a bit too much on the whole. The pastry was also very crumbly. This probably wouldn’t be my first choice of a baked good in Starbucks but it’s still pretty tasty enjoyed with one of their Christmas coffees.

6. Konditor & Cook Mince Pie (£1.60 / ea) – 7.5/10

I love the cakes at K&C, so I had to give their famous mince pies a try too! These were smaller than I expected and I polished it off in a few bites! Their mince pies have a lovely handcrafted look and are tantalisingly golden brown. The filling is plump with raisins / sultanas but there isn’t a lot of it! All in all, a delicious mince pie with buttery pastry (yet not being too dry), but the price means that it’s more of a treat / good for a gift – K&C sell it in gift boxes of 6 for £10.

7. Waitrose’s All Butter Chocolate and Ginger Mince Pies (£2.00 / 4 pies) – 8/10

img_9532I’ve never tried a chocolate mince pie before and what a delicious revelation! When warmed in the oven, the crisp pastry and the soft filling have a gooey brownie-like texture, which is divine. The filling is laced with orange oil and ginger, giving the pie a lovely spicy and warming flavour. On the whole, the mince pie isn’t too sweet and the chocolate, orange and ginger flavours pair together really nicely. If you’re looking for a twist on the traditional mince pie, this one is highly recommended!

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas / holiday season, filled with lots of delicious food (already excited for all the Christmas cakes) & wishing everyone the best for 2018! 🙂

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Sweet Potato & Walnut Loaf Cake

I missed the whole pumpkin dessert bandwagon when Halloween rolled around, but then I thought, why not use another orange-y vegetable instead? Sweet potatoes are one of my favourite root vegetable and I love how brightly coloured they are.

Back in Hong Kong, my mum always used to buy these amazing little Japanese purple sweet potatoes, but I haven’t yet been able to find a variety as moist and with such an intense flavour as those in the UK. These sweet taters were so delicious that there was a cafe dedicated to making sweet potato soft serves 😀

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Unfortunately, I think this place is now closed, but if I’m able to source some really good sweet potatoes from somewhere, I may give a go at making some purple ice cream too!

Anyway, back to this cake – since other vegetables have worked well in bakes (carrot, pumpkin and even courgette!), using sweet potato also made sense. I’ve adapted my recipe from the one I found here, mainly in cutting down the amount of sugar and upping the spices.

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (you’ll need 200 g of its cooked weight)
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 120 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 50 ml water
  • For the topping:
    • 80 g walnuts
    • 1 tbsp caster sugar
    • 1/2 tsp mixed spice

Directions

  1. Cook the sweet potatoes (either in a microwave for 8 mins or until soft, or in a steamer), scoop out the flesh and mash. Leave to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  3. Line your loaf tin with parchment paper.
  4. Whisk together sugar and oil, adding one egg at a time and mixing well.
  5. Add vanilla extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, sift flour and combine with baking powder and spices.
  7. Add a third of the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, adding a splash of water in between mixes, until all the ingredients have been folded together.
  8. Stir in the mashed sweet potato.
  9. Pour the cake batter into the loaf tin and top with the walnut, sugar and spice mix.
  10. Bake for an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.

This loaf cake turned out to be really tasty! As I cut down on the sugar, it is only lightly sweet and delicious with a cup of tea. The cake is more like a pound cake than a sponge but it isn’t uncomfortably dense, and the walnut topping adds a great contrast in the textures. All in all, another lovely cake for the cooler autumn season 🙂

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Autumn Toffee Apple Cake

Autumn is in full swing so I thought I’d finally do some baking to warm up these chillier days. Unfortunately work has gotten busier so I haven’t written as much recently, but this delicious dessert has made me realise how much I like trying out new recipes and eating it all afterwards 😀

This spiced toffee apple cake is the perfect answer to cold grey afternoons when all you want to do is curl up in bed. In fact I think this is what a hug would taste like if you ate it. It does take a bit of prep before baking but it’s actually quite therapeutic and the results are well worth it.

Ingredients

  • 200 g dates (I used medjool)
  • 200 ml milk
  • 200 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175 g light soft brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 250 g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 small red apples (I used cox)
  • 1/2 bramley apple
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • For the toffee sauce:
    • 8 toffees
    • Splash of milk
    • Pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  2. Line your baking tin with parchment paper.
  3. Roughly chop the dates and simmer gently in the milk in a saucepan for 5 mins. Leave to cool.
  4. Blitz the dates and milk in a blender / food processor until it forms a smooth puree.
  5. Prepare the apples. Peel and dice the bramley apple into small chunks.
  6. Quarter and core the cox apples and cut into thin slices. Toss them with a squeeze of lemon juice and leave in a bowl.
  7. Using an electric whisk, cream together the butter and sugar. Crack in the eggs, one at a time and mixing in between. Add in the date puree and vanilla extra and continue whisking until smooth, but don’t worry if there are still some lumps.
  8. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl (flour, baking powder and spices).
  9. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined.
  10. Add the diced bramley apple into the cake batter and mix gently.
  11. Scrape the cake batter into the baking tray.
  12. Arrange the sliced apples into overlapping rows on top of the cake. You should be able to get three rows.
  13. Bake for 50 minutes until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  14. While you leave the cake to cool, prepare the toffee sauce. You can either melt the toffees with a splash of milk and a pinch of salt in a saucepan, or in the microwave (mixing every 30 seconds). Start with less milk and add more to loosen the sauce if it is too stiff.
  15. Drizzle the toffee sauce generously over the cake.
  16. Serve warm (and with vanilla ice cream, if you’d like) – enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

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This cake is wonderfully moist (thanks to the date puree) and surprisingly fluffy. The sharp tangy apples are nicely balanced against the salted toffee drizzle. I can’t wait to try out more recipes with autumn and winter flavours, and I hope you give this one a go!

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The Most Indulgent Triple Chocolate Brownies

Prepare yourselves. This post isn’t for the faint-hearted or the health-conscious. But, this is perfect if:

  1. Chocolate is a part of your everyday diet and you probably couldn’t live without it;
  2. You’ve had a bad day and need a pick-me-up;
  3. You’ve had an amazing day and need a reason to make it even better;
  4. You love rich, dense, chocolatey desserts.

This is perhaps the best brownie recipe I’ve ever tried. It does take some effort to make, but the recipe is still pretty straightforward and I promise you that the results are completely worth it.

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The original recipe is from BBC Good Food’s website (click here) and it is a true godsend – my recipe below has adapted this slightly.

Ingredients

  • 185 g unsalted butter, softened and cubed
  • 185 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 85 g plain flour
  • 50 g cocoa powder
  • 100 g white chocolate
  • 50 g milk chocolate
  • 3 large eggs
  • 275 g golden caster sugar

Directions

  1. Melt the butter and dark chocolate using a microwave for approx. 2 minutes, giving the mixture a stir every 30 seconds. Alternatively, you can melt this over a saucepan with hot water (if you have more patience!). Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to  180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  3. Line your baking tin with parchment paper.
  4. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into a a bowl, getting rid of any lumps, and set aside.
  5. Whisk together the eggs and golden caster sugar for 3 – 8 minutes until the mixture has become pale, creamy and about double its original volume. An electric whisk is definitely recommended – I hand-whisked this the first time I made this recipe and my arms ached for days afterwards.
  6. Pour the chocolate mixture over the egg mixture, and gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Combine the two mixtures, but try not to knock out the air from the egg mixture!
  7. Resift the dry ingredients (flour and cocoa) into the eggy chocolate mixture and fold together. Although this may look dry at first, the mixture will come together and end up looking very fudgy. But, be careful not to overdo it!
  8. Chop the milk chocolate and 50 g of the white chocolate into bite-sized chunks. Stir this into the brownie batter.
  9. Pour the brownie batter into the baking tin and use the spatula to even out the top.
  10. Melt the remaining 50 g of white chocolate and use a tablespoon to spoon blobs of the melted chocolate onto the brownie mixture. Then, use a fork to create swirls by dragging the white chocolate across the surface of the brownie mixture.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes, until the top has a shiny, papery crust and the sides are just coming away from the tin. If the brownie still wobbles in the middle when you take it out, put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
  12. Leave the brownie to completely cool – if you try to cut it while it is warm, it will ooze everywhere (as delicious as that will be). This is probably the most difficult step of the whole recipe.
  13. Personally, I like to put the brownie in the fridge to let it ‘set’ before cutting it and heating it up in the oven before serving.
  14. The brownies will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
  15. Enjoy!

Oh my god these are incredible.

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I made these brownies a week ago and they have been completely demolished. Whether you’re baking for family and friends, or just for yourself, I highly recommend this recipe! Finally, a brownie dessert isn’t complete with a cold scoop of ice cream to top it off – I paired it with my gianduja hazelnut ice cream and it was spectacular.

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Gianduja (Hazelnut & Milk Chocolate) Ice Cream

The combination of hazelnuts and milk chocolate is absolutely divine – so I was excited to find the recipe for gianduja gelato in David Lebovitz’s ice cream bible, The Perfect Scoop. Gianduja is an Italian chocolate that was created in the Piedmont region when cocoa was in short supply, so hazelnuts were added to the chocolate to give it more substance! Gianduja should be incredibly smooth, like a praline but using hazelnuts instead of almonds.

I know what you’re thinking – isn’t this basically Nutella? In fact, Nutella started off as a gianduja paste, which was then developed into the spread which has become so popular today (click here for an interesting blog post on the full history). While it’d be much easier to use a jar of the moreish chocolate-hazelnut spread to make my recipe, I didn’t want to risk my ice cream becoming too sweet, and I like a bit of a challenge! Apparently the best gianduja will contain up to 50% hazelnut, so I made sure to be generous with the nuts and to try to extract as much flavour from them as possible.

 

Making the hazelnut ice cream base involved: (1) toasting the hazelnuts to a delicious golden brown; (2) blitzing up the nuts into a fine crumb-paste; (3) mixing the paste into the milk and cream base; (4) resting the entire mixture for an hour or so to let the hazelnut flavour infuse into the milk and cream. The hazelnut paste is then sieved out and you’re left with an rich and aromatic ice cream base that is ready for the custard and milk chocolate.

 

This is a seriously tasty ice cream with a fantastic balance of flavours between the hazelnuts and the milk chocolate – neither ingredient overpowering the other. It does take more effort to make but I promise you it’s worth it!

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Maple, Cinnamon and Pecan Granola

Granola and yogurt is my favourite quick, go-to breakfast when I haven’t prepared anything beforehand (like my bircher muesli)! It’s filling, tasty and I like the contrast between the creamy yogurt and the crunchy oats. But for years, I’ve just been buying my granola from the supermarket and haven’t given much thought into what’s actually in the breakfast that I’ve been chowing down every day.

After a search for some recipes online, I found out that making your own granola couldn’t be easier! It’s one of those wonderful recipes which don’t require much measuring-out, and you can basically mix everything together and throw it into the oven to work its magic. It’s also super customisable so you can really go wild with what you add to your oat mixture. I’ve gone for a more nuts-and-seeds based granola with an autumnal note in the combination of maple syrup, buttery pecans and cinnamon.

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Ingredients

  • 300 g rolled oats
  • 50 g sunflower seeds
  • 50 g pumpkin seeds
  • 100 g flaked almonds
  • 100 g pecans
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 85 ml maple syrup

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C / 140°C fan / 320°F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients together; mix the dry ingredients together; then combine.
  4. If the mixture is looking too dry, add a tbsp more oil or sweetener, depending on your taste preferences (see tips below).
  5. Tip the granola mix onto the baking sheets and spread evenly.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the granola is crisp and golden brown. Give the mixture a stir every 10-15 minutes to ensure that everything bakes evenly and that the edges don’t get burnt.
  7. Let the granola cool before serving with milk / yogurt / on top of ice cream / on its own as a snack / how ever you like!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

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Tips

  • The granola can now be stored in an airtight container for up to a month.
  • If you’re using more delicate ingredients (e.g. flaked coconut, dried fruit) or nuts that have already been toasted, add them in near the end when the mix only needs another 10 minutes to bake.
  • The ratio of wet to dry ingredients in this recipe means that the resulting granola is more crumb-y than chunky. If you like your granola with big oat clusters, you can:
    • Add more oil / butter / sweetener;
    • Whisk one egg white and add it to the granola mix before you bake it – apparently the proteins in the egg will bind the ingredients together (I haven’t tried this yet, but will give it a go!);
    • Don’t stir the granola too furiously while it bakes and while it cools.

I’m enjoying my homemade granola for breakfast and there are so many more nuts and seeds than I’d ever find in a store-bought granola! Seriously, it’s such a joy to be able to decide what ingredients you add and how much. I’m so excited to try different flavour combinations – let me know what you’d add to yours 🙂

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Eating the World: Mallorca

Holidays give you a dangerous taste of what life is like away from work… and our week in Mallorca was delicious. I don’t quite want to accept that I’ve come back to reality, so I’m writing this post to wallow reminisce.

We visited so many beautiful places – the dramatic Tramuntana mountain range and the little towns tucked away in the valleys, the hidden calas with the most turquoise waters I’ve ever seen, and the incredible Es Pontas, a gigantic natural rock arch with one of the most difficult deep water solo routes.

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Being on holiday was no doubt another excuse to eat as much as we physically could. We had so much tasty seafood paella, tapas and most importantly… ice cream! These were my three favourite flavours from the trip!

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1. Crema catalana

I found out that this is a popular Spanish dessert, kind of like a creme brûlée. The ice cream was wonderfully creamy and custard-y, but what made it special was the flecks of caramelised sugar throughout the ice cream – so good

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2. Tiramisu

We came across this brightly decked out gelateria in Valldemossa. This was our first stop along our mini road trip through Serra de Tramuntana and I absolutely loved this small town in the mountains! I had a lovely time browsing the shops selling Spanish wares (though admittedly it was all very touristy) and marvelling over the amazing views. 

This gelato was the perfect treat on this hot day, and I particularly liked the swirl of coffee / chocolate sauce. 

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3. Kinder bueno

This was a sweet after-dinner treat along the Pollença seaside (and I’m pretty sure this was our second ice cream of the day so we conservatively shared a scoop). 

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All in all, this was an wonderful getaway and I can’t wait to visit again. For now, I’m feeling semi-rejuvenated and will have to go back to exploring London for new and tasty ice creams! 

Chai & Speculoos Ice Cream

Following the success of my tea & biscuits ice cream, I decided to continue the theme with a different tea and to pair it with another type of biscuit. I have a feeling that I’ll be trying a few more variations, so do let me know your favourite tea and biscuit combination in the comments below!

English breakfast is usually my go-to tea, but if I’m feeling something with more flavour and warmth, I really like masala chai. Whether it’s brewed in hot water with a splash of milk, or made into a chai latte, I love how the blend of spices (cinnamon, cloves, anise, cardomom, ginger) lift a simple black tea.

The house chai at Dishoom (various branches in London) is one of my favourites since it has the perfect balance of sweet and spicy – and you get unlimited refills! At home, I like Tea India‘s chai – you can smell the amazing spices the minute you open the box, and each teabag is packed with plenty of flavour.

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I wanted to find a biscuit that could match the strong flavours of the chai and was torn between gingersnaps and speculoos. I think either of those biscuits would’ve paired well, but I decided on speculoos in the end as I wanted a more cinnamon-flavoured ice cream.

Speculoos is traditionally a Christmas cookie that originates from the Netherlands and Belgium. It’s laced with similar spices to chai – cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom – but also pepper and nutmeg. I used Lotus’s Biscoff biscuits for my recipe, but I’m definitely planning to make some of these biscuits from scratch at some point!

Like my milk tea ice cream, I steeped 5 tea bags’ worth of chai in the milk and cream mixture before making the custard. I also added a few extra pinches of cinnamon, ground ginger and nutmeg. My kitchen was filled with the aroma of all the spices and it started to remind me of Christmas 🙂

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This ice cream also turned out wonderfully, with the speculoos complementing the creamy chai ice cream perfectly. I’m starting to think you can’t go wrong with this tea and biscuits combination! I’m thinking of doing an earl grey ice cream next…!