These peanut butter brownies are an adaptation of my ‘world’s best brownies’ recipe. I’ve added peanut butter, crushed peanuts and hazelnut oil to add a crunchy texture to the traditional brownie. I also love the combo of a bit of salt and dark chocolate.
I was also gifted a set of cooking oils from Il Gusto and was asked to experiment with these in my cooking. I whacked some hazelnut oil into these which accentuated the nutty flavours of the brownies (and also made my kitchen smell great). I have to admit that I had never really used flavoured oils in my cooking before, but I have found them a great way to incorporate subtler flavours into dishes.
What I particularly like about Il Gusto is that they offer a refill service for any empty bottles in their stores to reduce waste.
Prep time: 20 minutes Makes 30-40 small/medium sized brownies
Babka is a rich brioche dough filled with cinnamon and dark chocolate. I first had this decadent treat in an Israeli cafe in London and swiftly fell in love. It’s not quite a bread nor a cake, and the rich chocolate filling with hints of cardamom taste amazing straight out the oven.
It took me a while to put together this recipe, as most of the recipes I found online recommended using an electric mixer with a dough hook. My recipe can be made completely by hand. I also found that cardamom wasn’t a common ingredient, but I feel it makes a massive difference to the finished product, hence why I added a homemade cardamom syrup to the babka after baking.
Prep time: 4-5 hours Cook time: 40 minutes
For the dough:
100 ml milk
350g strong white bread flour
50g caster sugar
7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
100g unsalted butter, softened and chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
For the filling:
75g unsalted butter
75g dark chocolate
150g caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the glaze and syrup:
1 large egg, beaten
2 cardamom pods, lightly bashed
Heat the milk in a saucepan until it’s just warm. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, yeast, cardamom and a pinch of salt. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook you can mix it in there.
Make a well in the centre of your flour mixture and add the milk, egg and butter in the middle. Mix together to create a dough using a spoon to swirl the flour mixture into the well. After a while you might need to start using your hands. Shape into a ball and then knead by hand on a well floured surface for 15 minutes until you have a soft dough that springs back when pressed.
Oil the bowl by patting a small amount on a paper towel and wiping it inside the bowl, then return the dough to the bowl and cover with a piece of oiled clingfilm. Leave to prove in a warm place for 2 hours (I normally turn my oven on for 2 minutes – make sure you turn it off again – so it’s slightly warm and then place the bowl in it to prove). The dough should be doubled in size after proving.
While the dough is proving, make the filling by melting the butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon.
Once the dough has proved, place on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle approximately 50 x 30cm. Spread the filling over the dough, covering it completely, but leave a small border. Roll the dough up tightly from one of the longer sides into a sausage shape (for a demo on how to roll and plait the babka, this video is really helpful from 4:45).
Cut the dough in half lengthways so you have two long pieces with the inside exposed (I cut mine into 4 and made 2 babka loafs as I didn’t have a loaf tray which worked fine too). If you are finding it difficult to work with the dough at this stage, chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to make it easier to handle.
Twist the dough into a braid and push the ends together. You can either put this in a loaf tray, if you don’t have one like me, you can lay these on a baking tray covered in baking parchment. Loosely cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place for 1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 180°C/ gas mark 4. Brush your dough with the beaten egg. Bake for 40 minutes until deep golden, loosely covering with foil towards the end of cooking time if it is getting too dark. If you have done one large braid rather than two seperate braids like I did, it may need an additional 10 minutes of baking.
Whilst the babka is cooking, make the cardamom syrup. In a small pan, add the water and cardamom pods on a low heat. Once the water is lightly bubbling, stir in the sugar until it dissolves and then reduce to a low heat and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Leave to infuse for another 10-15 minutes.
Remove the loaf from the oven, brush with the sugar syrup and leave to cool.
Out of all the cookies I’ve ever made, these cookies are probably my favourite. They are rich and gooey and melt in your mouth, whilst still being crispy on the outside. The decadent chocolate orange flavour is one of the best combinations, in my opinion, well done Joe! (Joseph Terry, who founded the chocolate orange in York in the 19th century – fun fact)
Prep time: 10 mins
Makes 20 small/medium sized cookies
125g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g self raisingflour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 whole Terry’s chocolate orange, chopped into chunks
Line your baking tray with baking parchment. Preheat your oven to gas mark 5/190C/375F
Using an electric mixer (if you have one, otherwise by hand will do!) mix your butter and sugars together until combined
Beat in the egg and vanilla essence
Add the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and orange essence and mix until you have a cookie dough.
Fold in the chocolate orange pieces
Roll into balls and place on a baking tray. For small/medium sized cookies I use a heaped teaspoon sized ball. You can make these any size you like, just make sure they are all the same size so they bake uniformly.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes 6 medium sized pancakes
I was gifted a packet of Sambazon’s acai compote and asked to prepare some delicious pancakes with it. Sambazon have found that traditional syrup is full of a lot of sugar, so they’ve added some superfood punch to a fruity compote to use as a pancake topping. The acai bowl has recently become insta-famous worldwide, and their packets can be used to recreate them yourselves at home too. If you’re wondering where their interesting name comes from, Sambazon takes its name from its core goal: Sustainable Management of the Brazilian Amazon. It aims for and represents a positive future of global food consumption that makes a positive impact on local communities and protects the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest.
The pancakes are oat and apple pancakes, full of the same warming flavours of an apple pie. I found these went well with the fruity flavours of the compote.
The Groovy Food Company have developed a new coconut oil, infused with turmeric, which seems to currently be the nation’s favourite spice! This combination makes their coconut oil perfect for adding to curries, stir fries or even granola bars, as I tried myself. I was sent a jar of their coconut oil and asked to try out a recipe their team have developed for these tahini and turmeric granola bars. Tahini and turmeric are both ingredients that have traditionally been used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, but is gradually becoming more and more popular in the UK. I must admit, that when I initially read the recipe, I was slightly apprehensive, as these are not ingredients that I’ve commonly used to prepare granola bars! However, the end product was great, you are left with a granola bar full of warming spices, that is not overly sweet.
The Groovy Food Company also have a whole collection of other great recipes on their website using their products.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes approximately 30 granola bars
Preheat oven to 180°C. Spread oats evenly on a large baking sheet and place in the oven for 8 minutes, until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
Combine agave nectar, tahini and turmeric infused coconut oil in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla extract, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, coriander, salt and black pepper and mix well. Add dates and set aside to cool slightly.
Combine toasted oats, pistachios and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Add agave and tahini mixture and mix well to ensure the oats are well coated.
Grease the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking dish and line well with parchment paper. Transfer oat mixture to the lined dish and flatten using your hands (compressing the mixture helps the bars hold together better).
Bake for 25 mins and leave to cool for 15 before transferring out to a wire rack. Allow a further 10 minutes before cutting.
Prep time: 10 minutes plus overnight refrigeration Makes 6-8 medium sized pancakes
Pancake day is right around the corner! So I felt it was only right to share with you a new pancake recipe I discovered at a pancake making workshop last week, these really are the best American style pancakes I’ve ever tried, and the secret seems to be in the buttermilk, as well as the fact that the batter should be refrigerated overnight before cooking. Yes, it’s a bit of a faff, but totally worth it when you taste the finished product. So get prepping tonight, ahead of the big day!
180g whole milk
6g vanilla essence
380g self raising flour
75g caster sugar
12g baking powder
3G bicarbonate of soda
75g melted butter
Weigh out all of the wet ingredients (besides the butter) in a large mixing bowl, followed by the dry ingredients.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a whisk until it’s not lumpy, then slowly add in the melted butter.
Mix again until all combined and the batter is ready. Refrigerate overnight/at least for 2-3 hours.
When you’re ready to cook, add a dash of oil to your pan (you don’t need a lot if you have a non-stick frying pan) and leave to heat up slowly.
Once the pan is hot and the oil starts to sizzle, pour in your batter according to whatever size you’d like your pancakes to be. You can even buy one of these pancake rings if you’d like your pancakes to be perfectly round!!
Once one side of your pancake has browned (you’ll be able to tell as it will lift off the pan with a spatula), flip it so the other side is cooked through.
Stack and dress your pancakes with whatever toppings you like. My go to toppings are maple syrup and chocolate chips. But you could also try berries, whipped cream, Nutella, bananas, crushed nuts or even a savoury option like bacon.
If you’re having a last minute panic about your Christmas menu this year, I have the ultimate dessert for you. This was recommended to me by a friend, because it’s literally the easiest dessert you’ll ever make, but still looks super festive and impressive. It’s also really refreshing and light, so goes down well after a large Christmas roast!
I’ve added little iced snowmen to my possets (which I actually just bought from Sainsburys!!) but you could sub this with any festive decoration.
600ml double cream
200g caster sugar
zest and juice of 2 lemons and 1 lime
Iced snowmen (for decorating). I bought mine from Sainsburys
2 crushed ginger biscuits
Heat your cream and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until all the sugar has melted.
Bring the mixture to boil, stir in the zest and lemon and lime juice and turn off the heat.
Pour into ramekins or glasses, cover, and leave to set in the fridge for at least 5 hours.
Just before serving, crumble your crushed ginger biscuits on top of each posset and and add your snowmen decorations.
Winter is all about snuggling up with a hot drink by the fire under a blanket. I love hot chocolate, but the sugary versions full of melted chocolate normally leave me feeling a little bit sick afterwards! So I’ve come up with a version that is free from refined sugar, is super delicious, and is full of superfoods so it’s actually nutritious. I personally think it tastes better than the sugary version and is very nourishing during the colder months because of the additional spices I’ve added. It can be made vegan friendly and dairy free by using a milk of your choice – I used almond milk for mine.
The main ingredient is raw cacao powder, which is the purest form of chocolate you can consume. It’s unsweetened, and hasn’t undergone all the processing that we find in normal chocolate, meaning it’s packed with antioxidants (the things that are believed to help prevent ageing, cancer and all other sorts of diseases), and is also high in magnesium and calcium. It can also act as a natural mood elevator and anti-depressant – so can hopefully help those suffering from the winter blues.
350ml milk of your choice (I use almond milk)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 teaspoon honey (or natural sweetener of your choice – you could try date syrup, maple syrup or coconut sugar)
pinch of ground ginger
1 teaspoon almond butter
Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat over a low heat.
Continually stir the mixture until all the ingredients are combined (this might take quite a lot of stirring!)
Once the mixture starts to boil turn of the heat and pour into mugs. If you have a milk frother you can use this to create a foamy top.
Prep time required: 15 minutes Makes 15 medium sized cookies
I broke my foot 7 weeks ago and was put on a strict ‘no-gym’ regime for a minimum of 3-4 months. This means no running, cycling, swimming and even no walking initially. As someone who usually hits the gym 4-5 times a week, I’m ashamed to say that the first thought that crossed my mind when I was diagnosed was ‘what will this do to my waistline!!!’. I initially tried to cut out chocolates and biscuits, but found it required a lot of willpower when you’re sat at home, resting your foot and doing mostly nothing all day. All I really wanted to do was reach for the nearest hob nobs packet!
Since then, I’ve been experimenting with ‘healthy’ baking, so I could have some treats and feel less guilty. My healthy carrot cake was my first stint at this, but if you prefer something more chocolatey I’d recommend these double chocolate chip cookies. I can’t say that they are 100% free from refined sugar, as they do contain a teeny bit of dark chocolate, but they are healthIER than their sugar filled alternatives. They’re great as an afternoon treat or snack for work.
150g plain flour
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons honey
85g dark chocolate chips (50g melted and 35g keep aside for mixing in whole)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees/gas mark 4.
In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla essence and coconut oil and honey and beat until incorporated.
Melt 50g of your chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a boiling saucepan of water. Stir into your mixing bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix together until combined.
Cover a baking tray with baking parchment.
Scoop tablespoon sized portions of the batter into balls and place on the baking tray.
Wouldn’t life be so much better if you could eat cake completely guilt free? My healthy carrot cake is the answer!! It is free from refined sugar and is packed with vegetables, fruit and nuts…yet it really does taste as good as the sugary version (in my opinion). This means its not only good as a sweet treat, but also as an afternoon snack to take to work, or even a pre-gym pick-me-up.
320g carrots, grated
80g dates, finely chopped
1 tbsp honey
3 large eggs
150g coconut oil
Zest of 1 orange
Seeds from 8 cardamom pods
160g plain flour
120g desiccated coconut
1 tbsp baking powder
120g chopped walnuts
Pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 3 and grease and line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
Mix the carrots, dates eggs, coconut oil and orange zest together in a mixing bowl.
Stir in the rest of all the ingredients except the walnuts.
Blitz the mixture in a food processor or blender and then stir in the walnuts.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 65 minutes. You’ll know when its cooked when a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.