Just a little pre-announcement announcement.

After I have taken part in this month’s Foodie Penpal reveal day (i.e. this Friday), K of A will be no more.

At some point I’ll delete it altogether, but for now it’ll just stay up but not updated.

Which was really the actual announcement, wasn’t it?

Cupcakes with Chilli Chocolate Ganache


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This is – I suppose – a bit of a continuation of a previous post.

I’ve said it a few times: I’d rather have a muffin than a cupcake. I don’t understand the fad that is (was?) the cupcake craze. They’re good as far as they go (i.e. in my face), but I wouldn’t necessarily want to put them on some kind of baked good pedestal. That being said, sometimes only a nice bit of cake will do. And as these cupcakes are made from a basic sponge cake mixture and easier to handle than a whole cake, they were perfect for what I wanted!


I simply appropriated Nigella’s cupcake recipe and added a small packet of chocolate chips I had in the cupboard doing nothing.

The ganache is incredibly simple to make too. Although I used my chilli and chocolate mill, if you can get hold of it then chilli chocolate (Lindt and Thornton’s both do a chilli chocolate bar) would work just as well!

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  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • Half teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • Half teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 100g chocolate chips (optional)


  • Preheat the oven to 200C and line a 12-hole muffin pan.
  • Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.

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  • Sift in half the flour and baking powder and add one egg. Mix until combined. Repeat with the rest of the flour and other egg.
  • Add the milk, vanilla extract and chocolate chips (if using).
  • Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners. Nigella assures us that there is enough mixture to make exactly 12 cupcakes if spooned out evenly. Perhaps I was a little heavy-handed as I got 10. Not that its a problem either way!

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  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are golden and firm to the touch, and a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes and then remove to a wire rack.

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Chocolate Ganache


  • 200g bar chocolate, chopped – either milk or plain, your choice – but chilli flavour if you don’t have a chocolate/sugar/chilli mill!
  • 150ml double cream
  • Chocolate/sugar/chilli mix



  • Pour the cream into the bowl of a bain marie (double-boiler – glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water so the water does not touch the bowl) and bring to a near boil.
  • Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until melted. The smaller you chop the chocolate the quicker this will take.
  • Add the chocolate and chilli mix if using. I should say here that I did about 50 ‘twists’ of the mill. I don’t know how much this makes, but I’d say less than a teaspoon. Whilst I like the kick, my other half isn’t so keen! Experiment and see what you like!
  • Once this has cooled slightly, top the cooled cupcakes and leave to cool completely.

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Foodie Penpals: April


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Another amazing month for me and Foodie Penpals!

I was buying for the absolutely lovely Joan Grady all the way up in Scotland! I managed to get it bought, packed and posted before the Easter holidays messed up the post too much and it got there even quicker than I imagined! Luckily Joan seemed to enjoy the somewhat sweet parcel, so I’m very pleased!

The package I received was from the supremely amazing Selina of Thrift Street Life. Her package concentrated on North African/Middle Eastern cooking as not only is it a cuisine that I have been reading about lately but one that she loves.

51OdKDN23ML._SY300_The first casualty was the packet of Snapea crisps. I’d never come across these before, but they are ‘crisps’ made from peas. Yes, peas. They even look like peapods, which I thought was cute! They were eaten before I could take a photo – hence the stock photo of the packet! They’re made by a company called Harvest Snaps (US site here: Harvest Snaps – and if you’re in the US then it might be worth checking out their Promos section!).

Then came the spice blends. Wow. Firstly, a jar of Ethiopian Berbere – which is a hot spice mix which is so beautiful – and ground in Yorkshire! Secondly, a jar of Palestinian za’atar – a mix of thyme, oregano, sesame seeds and sumac. Selina recommends mixing it with olive oil and using as a dip for pittas or “sprinkled on everything”. I like it!

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Next up is the halva. I have to say, I’ve not encountered halva before – this one is a sesame-based confection (other types can be semolina-based) flavoured with grape juice and sultanas. I’m waiting for when the nice weather returns to sit outside and enjoy this with the sunshine!

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There was also a box of tricolour couscous – golden couscous with grains infused with tomato and spinach – which, as Selina says, is a little different from the norm.

To add to my collection of fruit teas, there were some lychee and some pomegranate tea sachets from Israel/Palestine.

Most wonderfully there were two little sachets of dried rose petals from The Spicery. They are the most amazing company, offering a wide variety of spices, blends and recipe kits. Selina suggested using the rose petals in a tagine, but I am also thinking of using them in a spice blend for a curry …

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Thank you Selina and Joan for another fantastic Foodie Penpal month!

Savoury Cheese and Bacon Muffins


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I think I almost have enough muffin recipes to set up their own category …

And now I’ll be adding another.

I certainly don’t believe that muffins should only be a sweet thing. There’s a whole world of savoury muffins out there. I made a batch of wonderful cheese and herb muffins a couple of weeks ago at the husband’s request – not that I took any photos – of course! I also have a recipe floating around here for a cheese and chutney muffin – definitely a brunch thing!

Now, I found the original recipe for these here at All Recipes Australia but I made enough changes to warrant me copying out the recipe as I did it!

One thing I do want to talk about (and its not the whole zucchini/courgette thing – zucchini comes from the Italian and courgette comes from the French – they both mean the same thing in English: “little squash”) is cheese. I am a lover of cheese, and have used several different types of cheeses in muffins.

One of the cheeses most often seen in savoury baking is Parmesan, and for the life of me I cannot understand why. Yes, it smells very ‘cheesy’ when its uncooked, but once baked it loses all its flavour. I’m lucky. England is the home to one of the best cheeses with which to cook – Cheddar. France may hold its own with soft or veined cheeses, and has a Cheddar-ish equivalent with Cantal and Italy’s answer is Friulano, but there is no cheese quite like proper West Country Farmhouse Cheddar for cooking with. In these kinds of recipes, I would say to use strong mature or extra-mature Cheddar. The original recipe calls for a mix that includes Parmesan, and a total of only 120g (1 cup) of grated cheese. I upped this to at least 150g. You do want to taste it, don’t you?! I also added a touch of mustard powder just to increase that oomph – if you don’t have any then replace with paprika – or omit altogether!


  • 220g self-raising flour (I split this into 170g ‘normal’ and 50g wholemeal)
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • Quarter teaspoon salt
  • Quarter teaspoon mustard powder
  • Quarter teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 65g butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • 250ml milk
  • 1 courgette, finely grated (I used 4 baby courgettes)
  • 150g strong cheese (Cheddar is preferable)
  • 160g cubed pancetta (simply because I like bacon and had a box of pancetta in the fridge and this is what it weighed!)


  • Preheat oven to 180C and line a 12 case muffin pan
  • Melt butter and leave to one side to cool. Do the same with the pancetta/lardons/bacon.

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  • Sift the flour with the rest of the dry ingredients.

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  • Combine the butter, egg, milk and courgette in a separate bowl or mixing jug.

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  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix slowly with a spoon until just combined. Add in the bacon and cheese and mix. (If you remember to reserve some cheese then sprinkle on the top before baking.)

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  • Spoon into the prepared muffin pan and bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, remove and finish cooling on a wire rack.

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As you can see, they aren’t exactly grease-free – adding the fat that had rendered from the pancetta didn’t help with that – but they are very moist as a result. Perhaps baking in a coloured muffin case or liner-free in a silicone tin and then inserting into a pretty liner would be best if you were planning on presenting these!

Random Gifts


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I think my mum would be an awesome partner for somebody doing Foodie Penpals. She manages to find the weirdest things to send me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful. And I have used the pink Himalayan salt she sent to me, and I have used the Indonesian long peppercorns on a couple of occasions.


A month (or so) ago I mentioned in passing on the phone that I was running out of salt. (Don’t ask me why that would ever be a topic of conversation.) So she sent me these:

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Apologies for the shoddy photo work. But one is a nice pepper mill, full of 5 different peppercorns. The other … is a mill with both salt AND pepper in it. Presumably in some kind of ratio that makes sense to somebody. Why they couldn’t make the bottles the same size I don’t actually know. But I like the weirdness of them.

And the … almost Art Deco-ness of them reminds me of this box of sea-salt caramels I bought back in January when I was there. Mainly because they’re made by the same company: À la table de Mathilde. Ahem.


Anyway … yesterday my dad popped round to deliver some bits and bobs (okay – a box of plants, a fruit cake and assorted sundries) and in amongst the eggs, plant pots and pot scrubbers (again with the not asking) there were these two corkers:

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On the off-chance that you don’t speak French and/or can’t make sense of it even if you do, the one on the left is a mix of chili and chocolate, and the one on the right is ginger and garlic. How am I going to use them? I have no idea. I guess the chilli & chocolate one would be good for chilli con carne. And some kind of rub for poultry with the other one?

If you have any suggestions then please let me know!

Foodie Penpals: March


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We all know that I’m a Francophile. That is not news. When I learnt that this month one of my FPP partners was French, my heart soared. Anne runs the amazing Les Recettes du Panier blog and is from the beautiful Alsace region of France, the home of flammekeuche, choucroute and pain d’epices. Interestingly, the first mention of an Easter bunny also hails from the region. (I assume that this means first mentioned in print outside of the area where it was no doubt mentioned for a long, long time.)


I’ve never been to Alsace  – I lived over on the other side of the country, over 800kms away – but its long been on my travel list.

I received a wonderful mix of the sweet and the savoury, the familiar and the new.

First up: the savouries. Pretzel sticks (easy snacking!), onion soup mix (I once made French onion soup at school – love it) and a sweet horseradish paste that can be used on crackers or with dips.

The sweet side of things consists of some awesome strawberry sweets (which are long gone now!), sea-salt Lindt chocolate, and a raspberry macaron mix (at some point there will be a photo of said macarons here!). There was also a tube of condensed milk (I think that pretty much describes it). Oddly, the second month in a row where I’ve received that – so definitely time to make some caramel!!

Thank you, Anne, for a wonderfully thought out parcel and a beautiful card to go with it!


Double (ish) Chocolate Coconut Muffins


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I had a plan for this afternoon that involved raspberry macarons, but in the end decided that all that egg-white faffery was beyond me right now (hey, I did housework … that counts for something, right?). Despite that, I still wanted to bake something. Plus we had fajitas last night (pause to wipe drool) so had half a pot of sour cream left over.

And we all know what sour cream goes great in …

Continue reading

Anzac Biscuits


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Last week I was wondering what to make, when the memory of some biscuits my gran used to make sprang to mind – syrupy chewiness, oatiness and something else. Just what I like. Only I couldn’t think of what they were. Luckily, my mum has been ringing me fairly often of late as she has a new tablet and wanted some first line support so I was able to ask her if she could have a look through gran’s old cookery book and let me know.

“Oh, do you  mean Anzac biscuits? She used to make those a lot …”

Brilliant! So off I set to find a recipe. It seems that there are two variants – a chewy version and a more crisp version. I definitely wanted the chewy one.

The apocrypha states that these biscuits received their name during WWI when they were sent to members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps serving abroad.


In a speech to the East Otago Federation of Women’s Institutes, Professor Helen Leach, of the Archaeology Department of the University of Otago in New Zealand, stated that the first published use of the name Anzac in a recipe was in an advertisement in the 7th edition of St Andrew’s Cookery Book (Dunedin, 1915). This was a cake, not a biscuit, and there were no mixing instructions. A recipe for “Anzac Biscuits” appeared in the War Chest Cookery Book (Sydney, 1917) but was for a different biscuit altogether. The same publication included a prototype of today’s Anzac biscuit, called Rolled Oats Biscuits. The combination of the name Anzac and the recipe now associated with it first appeared in the 9th edition of St Andrew’s Cookery Book (Dunedin, 1921) under the name “Anzac Crispies”. Subsequent editions renamed this “Anzac Biscuits” and Australian cookery books followed suit. Professor Leach also said that further research might reveal earlier references to the name and recipe in Australia or New Zealand.

You’ll be glad to know that this recipe contains no lemon and no chocolate. Although it does, Ina Garten-like, start with a whole heap of butter. And golden syrup. How bad can that be?!

A supremely simple recipe that gives great-tasting results in under 20 minutes.


  • 1 cup/125g plain flour
  • 1 cup/90g rolled oats
  • 1 cup/90g desiccated coconut
  • 3/4 cup/150g dark brown sugar
  • 1 stick/125g butter
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda



Preheat oven to 160C (320F).

Sieve the flour into a bowl and stir in coconut and sugar until mixed.

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In a saucepan melt the butter and syrup over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda. Watch it foam (because science*).

Pour the foamy syrup butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir together until combined.

Be warned – this is a very dry mix, and at times you’ll probably think that there’s no way it’ll all come together. It will. Don’t worry.

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Take tablespoons of mixture and squeeze together in your hands to form balls. Place these on a baking sheet that is either non-stick or covered in parchment.

My yield was 20 (well, 19 but it could easily be 20 if there was some kind of quality control on the size of the rolled-up mixture!).

Flatten slightly either with a fork or the palm of your hand and bake for approximately 10 minutes.

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They will be soft, even soggy, when you take them out. Leave them on the tray for 5 or so minutes and they will firm up (not too much!).

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Leave to cool completely on wire racks or scoff immediately.

You could also sex these up with a little ground ginger, or some chocolate chips, or even go a bit decadent and paint half with some melted dark chocolate.

Your call.

(*Bicarbonate of soda is a carbonate alkali – mixing it with the acidic golden syrup mixture causes a chemical reaction to occur and carbon dioxide is produced – ergo the foam. This is often used as a form of chemical leavening in baking.)

February Foodie Penpals



What a lovely month its been.

I can only hope that March brings something different than the near-endless rain and wind!


This month I was partnered with two people who don’t have blogs of their own for me to link you to. My buyee (i.e. the person buying for me!) was Silvija from Lithuania. Now, I’m going to come clean. What I know about Lithuania can be written on a very small piece of paper: it used to be a Kingdom and, at one stage, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe. Like I said, very small paper.

One thing that I did not tell Silvija was that one of my favourite (I have a lot) savoury flavours is that of caraway. Luckily I received two items that contained this wonderful herb spice: cheese and some yeasted rye-bread – both delicious!

There was also some wonderfully refreshing mint and citrus tea:

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and poppyseed biscuits:

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The last savoury item was some additional cheese which looks great:

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And then there was the sweet stuff: lemon and chocolate well-represented …

… and also some condensed (I think) milk. Not a weird addition as I will be using it to make some caramel (mmm – Millionaire’s shortbread …).

2014-02-22 10.03.29Thank you very much! 😀


Rhubarb and Ginger Tea Loaf


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My foodie penpal parcel for this month arrived this morning all the way from Lithuania – and some wonderful items in there! Look out for the reveal post next Friday!


But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. Today I am talking tea bread. Or tea loaf. Mary Berry’s done it. Nigella’s done it. The Hairy Bikers have done it. James Martin’s done it. Delia’s done it. I would imagine that pretty much every farmhouse north of Birmingham (West Midlands, not Alabama) has its own favourite recipe, and you can find varieties that range from luxury to traditional, from raspberry to honey and from green tea to Guinness.

If you’re thinking “No idea at all what you’re on about” then I’ll summarise: a tea loaf is a spiced and fruited non-yeasted cake moistened with tea. Its generally served in slices that may or may not be buttered, but always with a nice mug of tea.

All very English.

The making of this was actually inspired by a conversation I was having with my … well, let’s just say cousin for the sake of simplicity … about Brussels sprouts. Stay with me.

He’d gone out for his birthday and the meal had included sprouts, and we were talking about that and how they are slightly divisive – you either love them (like my mum) or hate them (like my dad). Very few people seem to be ‘they’re okay I guess’ about them (like me). This got me thinking about other foods that seem to polarise opinion. Marmite (if you believe the adverts) is one and, in my house at least, rhubarb is another.

Technically a vegetable, but used as a fruit, rhubarb is native to the wilds of Siberia and thrives in full sun. In West Yorkshire (much like Siberia) during the early 1800s they discovered that if you dug up the plants in November after they have been frosted and kept them warm and – most importantly – in the dark then the plants would convert the stored carbohydrate from its rootstock to glucose and produce sweeter, more tender, stalks in the early spring. Due to the intense nature of this forcing, the season for forced rhubarb doesn’t last long – and afterwards the rootstock is spent. In the late 19th century, forced rhubarb from Yorkshire was sent to the Christmas markets in London and Paris – and Yorkshire produced 90% of  the world’s winter forced rhubarb.

Anyway, I like rhubarb. I like the bittersweet flavour and the colour. My mum always had a rhubarb crown growing in the garden and would force it under a bucket to produce the tender stems, the early ones of which we would have sliced in a bowl and dip into sugar. Later stems would be turned into pies, crumbles and what we always knew as ‘cola mousse’ but was, in fact, some kind of rhubarb jelly affair.

A close second ...

A close second …

My husband, however, is not a huge fan. In my grandiose dreams I crystallise rhubarb in small pieces and use them in the base of a gloriously smooth and pale pink rhubarb fool-cum-trifle-cum-cheesecake or some other glorious creamy confection. For more rhubarb recipes please visit Chef Hermes!

That is not to be. However, I did get permission to make rhubarb and ginger tea loaf – mainly because his love of tea loaf outweighs his dislike of rhubarb. So I did.

The original recipe came from Nutmegs, seven, although I made a few adjustments: no ground almonds because no – these were replaced by 50g of self-raising flour; I reduced the amount of ground ginger by half a teaspoon; the tea I used was a mix of two Duchess Grey teabags to one bag of breakfast tea (Duchess Grey is a black tea flavoured not only with bergamot but also with orange and lemon peels and has a wonderfully complex floral flavour that I thought would work well with the fruity tartness of the rhubarb and the warm spice of the ginger); I used spelt flour – an option given in the recipe.

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Admittedly, not the most attractive food-related photo

Tea loaf is beyond easy. Possibly the easiest baked item I have ever made. The fruit is soaked in strong tea overnight, and the next day an egg and brown sugar are mixed in and then that is combined with the dry ingredients (flour and spices) before being poured into a lined loaf tin and baked for just under an hour.

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And the result?

Sweet, spiced, moist. Possibly a little too much ginger – I like ginger, and it works very well with rhubarb, but even 1 teaspoon, combined with the crystallised ginger, may be a little much for delicate palates.

Make again? Definitely.

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