18 June 2013

Recipe | Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes

Another day, another cupcake.

Everything's been a bit mental recently and it all feels a bit up and down. I was looking forward to a busy weekend and decided a batch of cupcakes (which I'd no doubt feel guilty about scoffing afterwards) was a good idea to keep me even more busy and bring a little goodness back into the moment.

I still have lemons from my pink lemonade cupcakes but this time I felt like something a bit different. And I'd been sort of ordered to make them chocolate-y by a friend. So these are chocolate-y.


Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes

makes 12
125g butter
125g caster sugar
eggs, beaten
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence

100g butter
200g icing sugar
cocoa powder
a few drops vanilla essence

(melted) white chocolate
milk chocolate drops

1. Preheat the oven to 180*C.

2. Cream butter until soft and add caster sugar; beat mixture until light and fluffy.

3. Gradually add beaten eggs.

4. Sift in (although I didn't...but someone more professional than me would) the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture.

5. Add vanilla essence.

6. Divide mixture into 12 cases and bake until a knife comes out clean (about 18 minutes).

7. Cream the butter for the icing and add icing sugar gradually. Beat the mixture.

8. Add cocoa powder to taste. I used a recipe that said 1 teaspoon and ended up adding way more. And it still wasn't enough (coming from a massive choco-holic).

9. When cupcakes have cooled, ice with chocolate buttercream. Drizzle melted white chocolate (melt carefully in the microwave) and sprinkle chocolate drops.

Snazzy Stork background.

There's another birthday coming up at work...

Better get baking.

16 June 2013

Recipe | (Accidentally Pepto) Pink Lemonade Cupcakes!

Not that I EVER need an excuse but a birthday is the perfect excuse for cake and all things sugar. I had seen this recipe for pink lemonade cupcakes over at A Beautiful Mess and was determined to whip up my own version. I used this lemon cupcake recipe as it was the only one I could find that didn't involve buying a whole pint to use a couple of tablespoons of milk.

I thought pink lemonade was a nice twist on regular lemon cupcakes but, turns out, a little dye goes a long way...

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

makes 12
125g butter
125g caster sugar
zest of 1/2 large lemon
2 eggs, beaten
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

icing sugar
zest 1/2 large lemon
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 180*C.

2. Cream butter until soft and add caster sugar and grated lemon zest. Beat mixture until light and fluffy.

3. Gradually add beaten eggs.

4. Sift in (although I didn't...but someone more professional than me would) the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture.

5. Divide mixture into 12 cases and bake until a knife comes out clean (about 18 minutes).

6. Cream the butter for the icing and add icing sugar gradually (I did not. It was...messy). Beat the mixture, adding the lemon zest and lemon juice.

7. Add a drop or two of pink food colouring.

I added a tad too much food colouring and ended up with a slightly pepto bismol concoction...

8. When cupcakes have cooled, smooth on buttercream and decorate!

I added some freeze-dried strawberry-bits to the cupcakes and ta-da! Pink lemonade cupcakes.

It's not happiness in a tin unless it's cupcakes in a happy tin!

I was worried these wouldn't be very lemon-y but the cake and buttercream combo was perfect. I do, however, need to work on my icing and find the right amounts as I kind of completely ignored the original recipe thinking I knew better... I didn't. I can never get it right! Always too buttery or too sugary. Guess I'd better get some more practice...

02 June 2013

May Roundup


Once again I find myself apologising for the distinct lack of posts... This time I sort of have an excuse - I've been in Turkey! I just returned from a lovely 2 week trip which included touring around Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus and a lovely week at a hotel near Faralya with my mama and I'm so sad to be back. Everything was amazing - the food, the people, the landscape and everyone at the hotel felt like family, so I'm missing everyone and everything terribly. But enough of my blubbering and of Turkey-talk - there will be plenty of picture-heavy posts coming soon(ish). For now, a little round-up of May through the medium of Instagram. The best kind of roundup.

Bioderma Sébium H20 | nakd bars | Prosecco Fridays!

Found this dinky little bottle of Bioderma in my local pharmacy and thought I'd give the Sébium range (for combination skin types) a go. I am absolutely in LOVE with nakd bars at the moment. When I picked these up in Holland & Barratt they were on offer so I stocked up for the week! May also saw an incredible feat - we managed to convince our boss that prosecco Fridays were a good idea...wonder how long it'll last...

Adorable & delicious cocktails in teapots at Simmons, Kings Cross | Winona warning at The Lexington, Islington | New bikinis from Topshop

Had a lovely night out with friends at Simmons and The Lexington. Divine cocktails in the most adorable teacups followed by tune after tune, we ended our evening chatting to a vegan rasta outside Angel station. Perfection. Picked these new bikinis up at Topshop after finally finding some that fit and looked decent! Mama treated me to this cover up which was perfect for popping to the loo poolside.

Sunset at Göreme (#nofilter) | Elephant towel in Ephesus | More towel art!

Absolutely stunning sunset in Turkey, such a beautiful country. These cute towels were actually in our hotel in Selçuk but I like a bit of alliteration where I can. I think every hotel should follow suit, swiftly.

 Stalks in Selçuk (#nofilter) | The travertines at Pamukkale (#nofilter) | Poolside near Faralya

There's that alliteration again! We could see these stalk nests from our hotel terrace restaurant - the stalks are dotted all around the town, some of them have even set up nest on top of ancient columns! These stunning travertines are formed from the natural springs at Pamukkale, which means 'cotton castle'. It was like being surrounded by snow - in the boiling, boiling heat. Finally, the beautiful hotel we ended our trip at. I miss it so much it hurts a little.

So that's May in a little, heavily-condensed nutshell. Absolute heaven, followed by a miserable 1st June mourning the end of our holiday and our return to dreary England. Even the sunny days here are cold. WTF.

Even thoughts of London can't cheer me up. It's time for a big change, I'm just trying to work out what that should be.

11 May 2013

Baked Jerk Aubergine with Creamy Rice & Peas

I love Notting Hill Carnival. I don't know why, considering it's bloomin' months away, but I've had carnival on my mind recently. There's a stall near my flat on Saturdays that sells jerk chicken and rice & peas and oh dear LORDY the smell is insane. I don't eat meat and can't cope with spice but man that stuff smells good. There's something so perfect about Caribbean food for me; a quick look on Wikipedia may explain why - listing some of the main ingredients as rice, beans, red pepper, chick peas, tomatoes, sweet potato and coconut. I mean, it's like the best shopping list ever. It's MY shopping list, let's be honest.

I've made my own jerk/rice & pea combos before and, whilst I can't claim they taste in any way authentic (because they don't), I can state they always taste freaking delicious. I have a little jar of jerk seasoning which I recommend you add to your spice rack immediately - way easier than making your own, and I'm a lazy so and so. That way, I can sprinkle and go. Perfection.

This recipe is serious comfort food. I like my rice & peas creamy but still with a bit of bite and my baked jerk aubergine crispy on the outside and going gooey on the inside. I recommend plonking yourself down with a plate of this and a good, long film.

Baked Jerk Aubergine with Creamy Rice & Peas

Makes 1 serving
1 small aubergine
1 215g can kidney beans (or half of a regular size can)
50g grated creamed coconut
60g rice
1 large salad onion or shallot
1 clove of garlic
1/2 vegetable stock cube
jerk seasoning
olive oil

1. Cut off the ends of the aubergine and slice it in half length ways. Score the cut side of the aubergine, I like to do diagonal criss-cross.

2. Mix olive oil and jerk seasoning (depending on how spicy you want it!) and pour over aubergine on an oven tray. Rub together and on the tray to get the halves evenly coated.

If you're ladylike/in any way professional, you could use a pastry brush here. I need to get me one of those!

3. Preheat the oven to around 180*c and pop in your aubergine for around 25/30 minutes or longer if you like it going a bit crispy like me.

4. About 15 minutes before your aubergine is due to be done, start cooking your rice with the stock until the rice is very nearly done.

5. Meanwhile, about 5 minutes before your rice is done, start to gently fry your garlic and add your sliced onion. When golden, add your kidney beans and about half of the liquid from the can.

6. When some of the liquid has gone and the beans are heated through, add your rice to the beans before stirring in your grated coconut.

7. Serve!

I've made similar in the past with jerk-roasted vegetable kebabs and that was also delicious! With smaller veg you can marinate them slightly in the seasoning & oil to get some serious flavour. In the meantime, enjoy this while listening to this (or watch O Brother, Where Art Thou? like I did)-

Apologies for the blurry images - the steam coming off the rice was immense and I couldn't wait any longer to tuck in!

08 May 2013

Bear with me....

...blog is getting a long-awaited revamp and and a snazzy new name x

20 April 2013

Recipe | Creme Egg-surprise Muffins!

Why hello there!

As you may have realised, this post was planned for a couple of weeks ago... Everything has been really busy and I have barely been able to keep up with my favourite blogs, let alone find the time to write up posts for mine! After a very hectic 2 weeks (paintings and events galore) I'm hoping I can get back into a bit of a blogging routine. So, without further ado...


This is the last post like this you're going to see on here.

That's right folks. No more chocolate. No muffins, or peanut butter-y cups of joy. I'm going sugar-less.

I've worked out it's exactly 6 weeks until I go away...and I'm in full-blown panic mode. I need to shed some seriously pounds and become a full-on gym bunny. Ok, let's be serious, there are no plans to even step inside a gym. But things like this will definitely be out of the question -

Yes, that's right. It's only a bloomin' creme egg muffin. HELLO.

I first got the idea for these from Becky over at MilkBubbleTea and, as my cousin's birthday was coming up and she loves creme eggs, it seemed like the perfect reason to make them.

Hubba hubba.

Creme egg-surprise Muffins

Makes 12 muffins
2 bags creme egg minis (you can eat the left overs...)
100 g / 3.5 oz cocoa powder
120 g / 4 oz caster sugar
350 g / 12 oz flour
1 tbsp baking powder
375 ml / 13 fl oz water
135 ml / 4.5 oz sunflower oil

icing sugar
yellow food colouring

1. Freeze the mini eggs for a couple of hours or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 / 190*c / 375*F & line a muffin tray with muffin cases.

3. Sieve all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.

4. Mix the water and oil and stir into the dry ingredients thoroughly, making sure all liquid is mixed in before adding more. Beat until smooth.

5. Half-fill the muffin cases.

6. Pop a creme egg in each case!

7. Fill the muffin holders with the rest of the mixture.

Make sure there is a decent amount of muffin mixture in the bottom but not too much so that you also get a decent amount on the top otherwise...


8. Bake for 20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

This is a difficult judgement call. There's a creme egg in the middle. I mean, what kind of stupid directions am I giving you!? I tended to go for around the outer edge on a bit of a slant...just FYI.

9. Leave the muffins to cool on a wire rack.

10. When the muffins have cooled, make up two lots of icing (again this is just a judgement call as we are using such a small amount). Add yellow food colouring to one lot until you're happy you have a yolk-y colour.

11. Drizzle! I went with white drizzled one way, yellow drizzled the other. I'm snazzy like that.

The result?

Interestingly, the melted creme egg matched my icing - clever, non?

I made these with a vegan muffin recipe, but obviously you can use whatever recipe you like! I've heard Betty Crocker makes a mean chocolate sponge...


It's now 4 weeks until my holiday. I ate a bag of Sainsbury's Taste the Difference cookies every day last week. Ohhhhhh God. Stress binge-eating is never a good move.

N.B. creme eggs are still in the shops. Get your bake-on!

31 March 2013

Recipe | Using Chocolate Moulds, Easter-stylee

Let's be honest, I don't need an excuse to eat chocolate. I mean honestly, it's like my whole family turn into enablers at Easter-time; I get showered with so much chocolate even I struggle to keep up. Struggle, but manage. I do have unnatural chocolate-consuming capabilities, even if I do say so myself.

Anyway, back on topic.

Oh, wait, chocolate IS the topic.

That's right folks, it's Easter and that means it's chocolate all round! 

This can pose quite the dilemma for those looking for a vegan option. Don't get me wrong, they are out there. Dark chocolate Easter eggs do exist, and some of them are vegan. They're just fairly few and far between, and often not very exciting. So, I decided to make mama siddalee some vegan eggs from some adorable little moulds I'd seen in Paperchase (were £4, now £2. Typical. Go and stock up now!). This was...not quite as simple as I'd envisioned.

I used dark chocolate drops for the egg shells as they melt so easy and were the cheapest vegan option (necessary when you're buying as many hundreds of grams of chocolate as I was!). I made some hollow eggs, some filled with peanut butter & chocolate and some filled with mint chocolate (melted Green&Blacks peppermint fondant dark chocolate).

I'm not going to lie, the process was long and labor-intensive, not least because I foolishly felt certain I would be brilliant at this as I used to make eggs loads as a kid with my nan. Wrong. Here are some tips and pointers for using chocolate moulds I wish I'd known before I began my egg-making journey, as opposed to discovering them halfway through (oops)...

1. It's better to build up your chocolates in thin layers. Fill your mould with a thin later of melted chocolate and, when this has hardened, add more chocolate if desired.

2. If using a mould that makes two halves, leave the mould to stand upside down on some baking parchment - this is more likely to help a thicker edge to form which you will wish you had when it comes to sticking the two halves together, believe me.

3. Have a heated baking tray at the ready when it comes to sticking your halves together - you can slightly melt the edges of your halves as opposed to adding chocolate to stick them, as I did.

I added a bit of oil to the chocolate that was filling the eggs so that they didn't harden completely and break any teeth. They went from saucepan to fridge pretty quickly and changed temperatures a lot, hence the slightly 'dusty' look. Overall though, they were tasty and cute and I think something homemade just shows that little bit more thought, which everyone always appreciates when it comes to gifts!

Mmmm, egg-cellent!

30 March 2013

Nails | Give it a Polish and Add a Bit of Shine!

Oh dear, I've become obsessed again.

Apologies for the blog-abandon, this week has been more than a little hectic. I've also been having a little think about the look and style of the place and I think a name change and blog-update are in the pipeline. Oh, and I discovered The Nailasaurus. NEW FAVOURITE BLOG ALERT.

I can't even begin to count the hours I've spent trawling through back-posts on The Nailasaurus this week. Needless to say it's been a fair few. There is just so much bloomin' awesomeness to scroll through!

Anyway, taking some inspiration from this gorgeously edgy post I decided it was high time I shook myself out of my colour-less nail rut and got a bit creative.

I'm fairly certain I picked this nails inc matte polish up at a bargain price a couple of years ago...and judging by the website they don't stock 'Brick Lane' anymore, more's the pity. It's a very dark brown-y plum which is slightly more rich than a matte black and not quite as harsh. After two coats I finished it off with an Orly 'glosser' tip. Simples.

Unfortunately this didn't last long. By the end of the day there were a couple of substantial chips and a smattering of little ones. Wahh. I'm definitely thinking about investing in a matte top coat... Ahh the possibilities!

22 March 2013

Recipe | Double Chocolate Cake Balls!

Is there anything more exciting than cake balls?

I mean, let's be rational here.

Cake + buttercream + chocolate.

Perfect combo, non?

Not that I needed an excuse, but a little party at work called for something special and I decided cake balls were the thing to bake.

What is a cake ball you ask? A cake ball is a cake pop without the stick.

Still confused?

Essentially what we're talking about here is cake...in a ball...covered in chocolate. What more do you need in life!?

I used Betty Crocker Devil's Food cake mix and Betty Crocker Chocolate Frosting as the cake ball process is fairly time consuming and the idea of whipping up my own cake on top of that made me want to scream. If you are more patient, with more time set aside for this bake and are less prone to stressed-induced outbursts, feel free to use your favourite cake recipe!

Double Chocolate Cake Balls!

1 packet chocolate cake mix and ingredients needed - in this case 3 eggsvegetable oil, water (or make your own cake)
1/2 tub chocolate frosting (or make your own buttercream)
300g white chocolate
decorative sprinkles

1. Cook chocolate cake. Let it cool completely, preferably on a wire rack.

2. Crumble cake completely, until it is in fine crumbs. (I had to remove the top of the cake which had formed a harder crust.)

3. Mix in your buttercream and combine thoroughly (best done with your hands so you can keep a better eye on the consistency and add buttercream where needed).

WARNING: This step is messy. Get involved.

I used x4 heaped tablespoons of the Betty Crocker chocolate frosting here and it was perfect. Anymore and I would have had buttercream-with-a-slight-hint-of-cake balls. Add one tablespoon at a time so you can stop when it's perfect.

4. Roll mixture into fairly small balls in your palms and lay on greaseproof paper.

WARNING: If you weren't messy before, you will be now.

5. Freeze balls for 15-30 mins.

6. Melt white chocolate in the microwave, 100g at a time with a dash of oil (so it doesn't cool to be rock hard) and stiring after every 20 seconds until completely melted and smooth.

7. Using two spoons (one to hold and one to pour), cover each ball with melted chocolate and place back on baking parchment.

This step was tricky and definitely needs practice. See the little blobs surrounding my cake balls? I was not aiming for that.

8. Sprinkle with your decoration! (after each ball, before they harden)

9. Leave to cool, preferably just in a cool kitchen as opposed to a fridge.

And eat.

I was so thrilled with these little balls of joy! They are part cake, part truffle, and utterly delicious. Leave yourself plenty of time to make them (my cake went into the oven at 9pm...I was finished just before 1am) - cakes take a whiiiile to cool, especially if you don't have a wire rack like me! If you want perfect balls I suggest making cake pops, as dipping the balls in the chocolate whilst holding the stick will give a much neater finish. I'm sure I'll give these a go soon!

I stored the balls in my new Happy Tin (from Joy) with some tissue paper that contrasted the pink sugar sprinkles and the lilac tin. I couldn't tell you how long these keep as they were gone in 24 hours, but I would say 3-4 days in a sealed tin.

Mmmmmmm. Balls of cake-y joy.

Review | The Gate, Islington

Present, sorted. Exhibition, sorted. That only left one thing.


Last year I took mama siddalee to one of our favourite veggie haunts, Tibits (see my review here).

This year, I wanted somewhere new. I went on the hunt for a veggie/vegan restaurant in faiiirly central London. My internet wanderings led me to a little place called The Gate.

The Gate already has a fairly established restaurant in an old studio in Hammersmith (currently being refurbished) and has recently opened up shop in Islington (read: Angel, liars). Priding itself on not being a 'good vegetarian restaurant' but simply a good restaurant, The Gate serves up a seasonal menu that changes monthly. The flavours are Indo-Iraqi Jewish-inspired, with distinct French and Italian influences. Are you sold yet?!

The restaurant was bigger than I thought it would be, but the decor of woods and warm colours is cosy, helped along by a large fern growing by the door.

Unfortunately since our visit two weeks ago the menu has already changed, so I will try and remember what we had where they aren't on the menu anymore!

For starters I went with stuffed & fried artichokes with a lentil salad and the most deliciously creamy aioli I've ever had.

Mama siddalee went for baked polenta cake with mustard and a red pepper sauce (I think). It must have been good as I wasn't even offered a bit! Although considering my option was distinctly non-vegan maybe that was fair. Maybe.

My main was an amazing beetroot ravioli stuffed with sweet potato with crispy kale and shavings of hard cheese. I have absolutely no idea how they made beetroot ravioli but it was so, so tasty. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the dish wasn't dry at all, despite not swimming in sauce.

That little dish at the back is mama siddalee's root vegetable & chickpea tagine which, once again, I wasn't allowed to try. Although once again I had decided against picking some vegan-friendly...maybe it was subconscious!? Having stated 'pomegranate, pistachio and herb tabbouleh, that sounds really unusual doesn't it?', she decided she had to give it a go. She absolutely loved it!

My new obsession is crème brûlée. Oh boy. This stuff is gooooood. There was crème brûlée on the menu. Naturally I went for this.

This absolutely scrummy maple syrup crème brûlée was topped with mincemeat which I found...a little strange. I couldn't believe the chef would be right about this combo, so I ate the mincemeat off the top and tucked into the crème brûlée after. It was pure, creamy perfection.

This little pile of perfection was mama siddalee's warm fruit compote with vegan cinnamon ice cream. Cinnamon makes everything awesome!

I wasn't sure I would need to book a table for The Gate but it filled up really quickly after we arrived at 6pm. The food was unbelievable; I completely agree that it is a great restaurant, vegetarian or not, and is definitely worth a visit by meat-eaters and veggies alike. Book in advance to avoid disappointment and be sure to have room for all 3 courses!