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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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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Ginger Barley & Rye Biscuits

When I was a kid, ‘baking’ meant using some kind of cake or cookie mix, mostly because it was convenient when my parents were busy, the instructions were easy to follow, and the results were still tasty. But using these mixes didn’t leave much room for creativity, and some of the ingredients were pretty questionable. I was so excited to move out into my own place (with a fully functioning oven) since this meant I could finally start making some of my favourite baked goods from scratch!

You can imagine I was a little sceptical when we received a biscuit mix as part of our goody bag after the British 10K… but I finally got around to making it today and ended up pleasantly surprised. Sweetpea Pantry has a whole range of baking mixes (for biscuits, cakes, pancakes, etc) that are based on wholegrains and contain no refined sugars (unlike the mixes I used to rely on).

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I received their Ginger Giggles Biscuit Mix, which includes the following ingredients: stone ground wholemeal plain flour, rye flour, wholegrain barley flour, unrefined dark muscavado sugar, flaxseed, ground ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon and sodium bicarbonate. All I had to add was butter, honey and an egg white.

The instructions were straightforward, and it was fun cutting out different shapes for the biscuits – I had to freestyle most of this, as I didn’t have any cookie cutters (but the rustic look is in trend… right?).

 

The biscuits turned out crisp around the edges and slightly moist and chewy in the centre. They’re not overly sweet, and have a lovely spiced flavour.

 

All in all, I’d recommend this to busy bakers, or even if you want to make a healthier version of your favourite baked good!

Raspberry & Maple Syrup Bircher Muesli

I often go through phases where I’m completely obsessed with and constantly craving one type of food for a few weeks at a time. In the past, it’s been banana oatmeal, pesto on bagels… and recently, it’s bircher muesli.

Bircher muesli was created by Swiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner as a health food for his patients. Nowadays, it’s a healthy breakfast option which is also incredibly easy to make and very customisable. It’s pretty similar to overnight oats – but Dr Bircher-Benner was way ahead of the trend, as he invented this in the 1890s!

I like to make a big batch of this on Sunday evening, which gives me breakfast for at least 4 days. It’s definitely best to keep it in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours before serving, so that the oats can soak up all the liquid ingredients to become very creamy. I think the flavours mingle and improve after a few days, though I wouldn’t keep it for any longer than 5 days.

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 100 g rolled oats
  • 120 g natural yoghurt
  • 2 apples, grated (I used braeburn, but any crisp, juicy apple will work)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 70 g frozen raspberries
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • A handful of raisins
  • A splash of milk

Directions

  1. Roughly grate the apples.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together – if the mixture looks too dry, loosen with a splash of milk. The measurements above can be changed depending on your tastes – add more yoghurt / milk if you prefer a moister muesli.
  3. Keep in the fridge overnight, or for a minimum of 4 hours.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Like I said, feel free to change up the fruits you add into the mixture, or add a few handfuls of nuts for more texture! Let me know in the comments what you think – I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

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Strawberry Quartet – Four Delicious Ways to Enjoy Strawberries this Summer

Summer is in full swing here in London, so I thought I would share four (or technically three) ways to prepare my favourite fruit of the season – strawberries! I served these together, but you can also have them separately, or paired with other desserts.

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(From top, going clockwise) – roasted strawberries, marinated strawberries, strawberry ice cream and a fresh strawberry

1. Fresh strawberries

Okay, okay this is a bit of a cheat as there’s not much preparation to do – but sometimes fresh fruit should just be enjoyed as it is, with nothing else added.

That being said, here are three tasty ways to prepare this beautiful fruit.

2. Roasted strawberries

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Roasting the strawberries gives the fruit a more concentrated, sweeter flavour. The berries end up with a gooey and syrupy texture, meaning they’re best paired with something else (e.g. ice cream, oatmeal, bircher muesli, toast), rather than eaten on their own (though I wouldn’t stop you!).

Ingredients

  • 200 g strawberries
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Pinch of sea salt and black pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  2. Cut the strawberries into halves or quarters (if large).
  3. Mix all the ingredients together.
  4. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning them halfway.

3. Marinated strawberries

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This is a delicious recipe that heightens the sweetness of the strawberries, while keeping them extremely fresh. I love the extra zing! that the mint and lemon zest provides to the fruit. Again, like the roasted strawberries, these are a great topping for other desserts or breakfasts.

Ingredients

  • 200 g strawberries
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar (you could use a natural liquid sweetener, if you prefer)
  • 5 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1/4 lemon

Directions

  1. Cut the strawberries into quarters.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and cover with cling film.
  3. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour, and longer for a more syrupy result.

4. Strawberry ice cream

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Despite being such a simple flavour, strawberry ice cream is one of the hardest ice creams to get right. Often, it can end up with small ice crystals because strawberries are over 90% water! Therefore, you have to start with the highest quality strawberries which are super sweet (rather than pale and watery) to make this ice cream.

Some recipes say to cook the strawberries first before mixing it with the ice cream base (e.g. David Lebovitz’s Roasted Strawberry & Miso Ice Cream), but I wanted to retain the naturally fresh flavour of strawberries, so I chose to puree the fruit before combining it with my usual custard base.

My ice cream has a light, fragrant note of strawberries, but unfortunately the berries I used weren’t as ripe and sweet as they should’ve been. Thankfully, there were no crunchy ice crystals!

This is a lovely ice cream to enjoy on its own, or with another dessert. I love the combination of strawberries, white chocolate and matcha, so I paired this ice cream with some homemade matcha blondies (recipe to come).

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This has been a pretty long post – so I’m glad you’ve made it down here! Let me know what your favourite way of eating strawberries this summer.