Sunday, 29 March 2009

Banana and Chocolate Muffins

I should really be getting back to my holiday posts but I get lazier every day. As I plot the next holiday post, my baking tins have been given a good working out. The recent obsession has been bread pudding. It's one of the easiest things to make, brilliant for breakfast and the supermarket always has a constant supply of bread in the discounted section. The full bread pudding story will have to wait for another post I'm afraid, as last Sunday was all about banana and chocolate muffins.

Banana and Chocolate Muffins

I had some very ripe bananas that just had to be used and I wanted to make something with chocolate ( I ALWAYS want to make something with chocolate!) but couldn't find a recipe I fancied. So I modified a recipe I had used before - Gordon Ramsey's Toffee and Apple Muffins. Lo and behold! Right after I put in the first batch into the oven I realised I had missed out a vital ingredient - the milk. The batter did look a tad bit dry so I had added a touch more oil but darn it...... how could I have so silly? The muffins came out perfectly :) but if you do find your batter a little, add a touch of milk. Mine certainly didn't need it.

Banana and Chocolate Muffins

Banana and Chocolate Muffins
Makes 12

350g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
240g golden caster sugar
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
3 large eggs, beaten
130ml vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
150g dark chocolate chopped into small pieces

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and line two large 6-hole muffin tray* with paper cases. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the dry ingredients.
  • Add the mashed bananas, eggs, oil, vanilla extract and chocolate in the middle of the well, and fold the mixture together with a large metal spoon, using as few strokes as possible. Don’t worry if the mixture is lumpy, the trick behind the lightest muffins is not to overwork the batter.
  • Fill the paper cases with the mixture bake for 25-30 minutes or until the muffins are well risen and golden.
*If a smaller 12-hole muffin tray is used, check the muffins after about 20 minutes.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Crisps Galore

I'm not usually a huge crisp eater - very probably from the huge amount of guilt I pile on myself whenever I go near a packet - but I couldn't resist trying the new flavours that Walkers had just launched. Yes, I know... it's all part of a huge marketing ploy but damn it's tasty :)

New Walkers Crisp Flavours

The 6 new flavours was supposedly dreamt up by the ordinary citizen(you and me ... this marketing thing is off to a good start - Walkers didn't have to think up any new flavours themselves), shortlisted by industry experts including Heston Blumenthal (throw in a few famous names ... very clever..) and voted for by the consuming masses (after, of course, they had bought all 6 flavours to try). The prize? All 6 finalists received £10,000 but the eventual winner (the flavour that received the most votes via the Walkers website by 1 May 2009) will have their crisp flavour made permanent, receive £50,000 and 1% of all profits, estimated at £57,000 a year. No bad, not bad at all. But how did the flavours fare?

Crispy Duck & Hoisin Walkers Crisps

The first packet was brought home by Stuart who thought I might be interested in trying some Crispy Duck and Hoisin - maybe it's the Chinese thing going on there :) and maybe it's the fact I rarely buy/eat crisps. I was nicely surprised - smell wise, the hoisin sauce dominated. How would they have captured the whiff of crispy duck? Fried the spuds in duck fat maybe .... that I would love to try :) First taste, definitely hoisin sauce but a subtle flavour of roast duck comes through. Very nice indeed. Vote one to Crispy Duck and Hoisin.

Cajun Squirrel Walkers Crisps

Off to a good start I made sure Stuart and I got our hands on the other flavours in the next few days. But which flavour should be next? Cajun Squirrel won hands down. Seriously, what in the heck is squirrel supposed to taste like?? Nothing much apparently. The Cajun spices were nice but not brilliant. If I had to vote, I would yo-yo on this one.

Chili & Chocolate Walkers Crisps

Chili and Chocolate - how out of the world is that on a crisp? And weird it definitely was. With time to ponder over this, I definitely don't like it. It had none of the depth and warmth that exudes when chili and chocolate are combined; the Mexicans have a great thing going on there. The chili was minimal, practically non-existent, and the chocolate made it overly "aromatic". Great idea.... crap on crisps. Definitely no vote.

Builder's Breakfast Walkers Crisps

With a few days respite, it was back to crisp tasting and it was time for a Builder's Breakfast. Lovely smells of smokey bacon and fried eggs with a hint of baked beans greeted us as the packet was opened. A good start indeed but that's all you're going to get. Then again, isn't that enough? It's not a bad flavour ... not the best but not the worst either. Vote? Probably not.

Fish & Chips Walkers Crisps

Hmmmmm Fish and Chips....... how could they possibly get this? All they really needed to do was to capture the taste of oil, right? Wrong. The subtle flavour of battered fried fish and vinegar........ohhh this was getting good! I love crisps with a tang. My favourite Walker's crisps is after all Prawn Cocktail, followed closely by Tomato Ketchup. Good stuff this.

Onion Bhaji Walkers Crisps

The lone packet of Onion Bhaji remained. I had read good reviews on this flavour and had decided to leave it to the last. And those reviewers weren't wrong. This was good. The best of the lot in fact. The spicing was good and the subtle flavour of onion came through nicely. Vote? Oh yes! This is the one to keep on the shelves.

It's been a good crisp-y few days. Now back to the vegetable soups and salad. Oh yes, and I did write this review, I didn't have to... no money exchanged hands, I have not been conned or am I being being threatened in any way. Oh those marketing people are good!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


Coffee Flavoured Digestives with Raspberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt, Whole Blueberries and Blueberry Coulis

I finally got down to making my own chocolate truffles :) It went down a treat with Stuart and everyone at work, which was lovely - but more on that in the next post. I found photos of this quick dessert I put together ages ago but forgot to post.

I had bought a little punnet of blueberries - I'm always hopeful that batch will turn out to be the batch of lovely blueberries I've been waiting years to buy. Alas, it was as dry and tasteless as the rest. So the little punnet had been sitting in the fridge getting drier but no less tasteless.

Coffee Flavoured Digestives with Raspberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt, Whole Blueberries and Blueberry Coulis

A need for dessert one evening found me pulling the berries out of the fridge, along with some raspberry swirl frozen yogurt and some digestive biscuits that had been sharing tin space with some Ethiopian coffee. The biscuits had taken on a lovely coffee flavour (I didn't do it on purpose ... just a very happy coincidence:), which I topped with some raspberry swirl frozen yogurt. A few of the blueberries were studded on top of the yogurt and the rest I whizzed up with some icing sugar for a blueberry coulis.

The result was really quite good. The coffee flavoured biscuits were surprisingly good and went well with the fresher tastes of be The blueberries definitely tasted better with the frozen yogurt and biscuits. And all it took was a little sugar and a touch of lemon juice to ensure that the coulis was pretty darn delicious.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

When a Girl is in Need of Chocolate ...

A little break from all my holiday eating .... the posting of which has been taking longer than expected. I would blame it partly on pure laziness and partly on how busy I've been over the last few weeks. Photos have been accumulating but I thought I would jump to the present and slowly work my way through the rest at some point. But for now....

Chocolate Tuffle

... Chocolate is on the agenda. I have been craving chocolate for weeks and so far nothing has been able to make it go away. I've managed to feed this little craving with bits of dark chocolate and multiple cups of mocha but for today's chocolate attack, I just had to go down to the little bakery/coffee shop right below my office. I've been eying their chocolate brownie for weeks and they had recently added chocolate truffles to their display case right by the window.... always tempting me, taunting me to go in. Today I did ... chocolate truffles have, after all, been on my mind all this week but to my shock and horror one little truffle ball cost £1 each! A bit much for for a tiny cafe on this side of Holborn but the my need for chocolate had me give in. I got a single truffle and a brownie (£2.80) - the man who was serving assured me I would be back on Monday to get more. Hmmmm... confident.

Chocolate Tuffle

Verdict? The first thought to cross my mind after I bit into the truffle was .... "soybeans?". Nothing came of the soybean thought but I would definitely say the man was a little too confident. It was a nice chocolate truffle but not great. Would I go back for more? Perhaps... it did after all put me in a much better mood after eating it. And I have decided to pull out my recipe for truffles that I made years ago - more on that at a later date :) £1 is a little too steep for a weeny bit of chocolate for my liking.

Chocolate Brownie

The chocolate brownie was shared with Stuart who never says no to dessert. His first comment after taking a bite was, "A bit chocolate-y, isn't it?" and indeed it was. It's a true chocolate lovers brownie. The lack of sweetness was made up in the punch of the chocolate and topped off by a thick-ish layer of cocoa powder. Little bits of nuts gave it a slight texture in the fudginess - "dry fudginess" as I have termed it because to me fudge is soft and somewhat creamy. Again this just didn't blow me away because I really wanted it to. Ahhh well, at least my craving has been satisfied ... for today, at least :)

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Meze and Shawarma - Al Amar, Kuala Lumpur

Much as I love whinging about Pavilion whenever we head there, I must admit it's not a bad shopping centre. Pavilion is as KL as Mid Valley and 1U are suburbia - and has some pretty decent shops and shopping is what we were there for. Shoe shopping to be precise ... because ... well, c'mon let's be honest... why would someone who lives in Dubai (Razan) come all the way to KL to shop?? :) Anyway, food wise - we decided on Al Amar on the top floor, though I'm not quite sure why we thought it would be a good idea to take Razan to a Lebanese restaurant - she did just arrive from Dubai two days earlier and must have Middle Eastern food oozing from every pore. Probably because Candice and I thought it would be amusing :) (Odd sense of humour we have)

Pita Bread - Al Amar, Kuala Lumpur

Seated on their spacious balcony, which is so much nicer than their stiff and formal indoor seating area, we did started on our mini Lebanese feast with an assortment of meze dishes - served with these fresh-out-of-the-oven pita beards. I've never seen them puffed up like that before and was quite excited :)

Houmous - Al Amar

Houmous - the classic chickpea staple dish whenever I have Arab food. This version was alright - not the best, not the worst.

Moutabal/Baba Ghanoush - Al Amar, Kuala Lumpur

Moutabal or baba ghanoush - roasted, peeled and mashed aubergine blended with tahini, lemon juice, garlic and lemon juice. It was slightly lumpier than some I've had (not that I mind lumpy food, mind you .... I have a great fondness for lumpy mash potato:) and it had that wonderful smokiness. Razan proclaimed it 'OK' but this was definitely one of my favourites of the meal.

Tabouleh - Al Amar, Kuala Lumpur

For the obligatory vegetable dish, we had tabouleh. I love tabouleh - a salad of finely chopped flat leaf parsley, tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil. This really should have bulgar wheat in this too but I don't recall seeing any. This serving was a little too tart and didn't have enough depth of flavour to it - quite disappointing.

Sambousek - Al Amar, Kuala Lumpur

Sambousek - Al Amar, Kuala Lumpur

We also got a portion of sambousek - I think that is what these little triangular pastries are called, it certainly matched the description when I looked it up online :) Filled with minced lamb, spinach, pine nuts and spices, they were served hot off the deep fryer. Not at all that greasy either. I believe Razan gave it a 7 but I wasn't personally too impressed. It missed a certain 'oomph'.

Mixed Shawarma Platter - Al Amar, Kuala Lumpur

For the main we shared a mixed shawarma platter with skewers of grilled cubed lamb, chicken and minced lamb. Served with pungent garlic mayonnaise and a side salad of parsley, grilled onion and tomato. This was rather good - the garlic mayo was deliciously pungent and I wish there was more meat. However, the little side parsley salad was rather wilted and wasn't fit to be served but out it came anyway - minus points for that.

Al-Amar really isn't too bad - the food's alright, the large balcony at the end of the restaurant is a great place to chill - think sofas and good views over Bukit Bintang but expect to pay 'Pavilion prices'. It was almost dead when we were there with only one other table occupied - very likely from the Middle East as they kept staring at Razan, trying to place this member of their kin :)