Friday, 28 November 2014

Homemade Gingerbread Latte

It's now very almost December, and for the next few weeks, my posts will involve Christmas-related recipes.  Last year just before Christmas, my dad bought a couple of bottles of 1883 de Philibert Routin gingerbread syrup and made me gingerbread lattes for a few months.  To me, this was more the taste of Christmas than hot chocolates (which are just wintery).  I now can't wait until he buys some more for this Christmas.  In the meantime, while I was looking for things to put into my Christmas scrapbook last year, I found this recipe for homemade gingerbread latte on  I definitely think this is a good recipe for making gingerbread syrup from scratch.  Next week, I'll be getting even more Christmassy so stay tuned!


For Gingerbread Syrup:
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Gingerbread Latte:
1/2 cup milk of choice (or more if using an espresso machine)
8oz coffee or a shot of espresso (about 30ml)
3-4 tablespoons gingerbread syrup (according to taste)
whipped cream (optional)
ground cinnamon


For Gingerbread Syrup:
  1. Combine the water, sugar, ginger and cinnamon in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat when the syrup has thickened a bit.  Stir in vanilla extract and allow to cool slightly before using.
  2. Once cooled, you can store the syrup in a Tupperware container or bottle in the fridge for about 2 months.  Shake well before using after the syrup has been refrigerated.

For Gingerbread Latte, Makes 1 Serving:
  1. Pour milk into your coffee mug.  Stir the syrup and add desired amount to mug.
  2. Heat milk-syrup mixture in the microwave for about 1 minute until hot.
  3. Pour in the brewed coffee or shot of espresso.
  4. Top with whipped cream (optional) and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Veggie Samosas

We're now yet another week closer to Christmas, and although there's still just over 30 days left until Christmas Day, there's a packet of mince pies in our kitchen, I saw some boxes of Christmas crackers in Sainsbury's while my friends were buying their dinner last week, and we've just started rehearsals for our Christmas concert.  It's probably still a little bit early to set in with the Christmas recipes, so for this week, it's more of a recipe for all year round, but can also be very useful for Christmas parties.  This recipe for veggie samosas is one of the many that I found in the index of The Great British Bake Off Learn to Bake book that I received for my birthday earlier this year.  I think they would make a great contribution to the food table at a Christmas party.

Ingredients (makes 16 samosas)

3 spring onions
2 x 2cm chunks fresh root ginger
1 medium potato (about 200g)
½ teaspoon mild curry paste, or to taste
200ml vegetable stock (made from a cube) or water
200g frozen mixed vegetables (from a pack of peas, sweetcorn, diced carrots and green beans)
8 sheets filo pastry, each about 25.5 x 48cm (250g box), thawed if frozen (take out of the fridge but keep in its wrapping so it doesn’t dry out)
3-4 tablespoons rapeseed or vegetable oil, for brushing


  1. Put the spring onions on the chopping board and carefully trim off the hairy roots ends and the dark green coarse tops.  Rinse the onions under the tap to get rid of any grit and dirt.  Give them a good shake in the sink so they are not too wet, then slice them into rounds about 3mm thick.  Push them to one side of the board.
  2. Use a small spoon to scrape the beige peel off the root ginger so you can see the yellow inside.  Carefully grate the ginger onto the board using the fine-hole side of the grater.  Push to the side with the onions.  Peel the potato, then cut it on the board into 1cm chunks.
  3. Put the spring onions, ginger and potato into the frying pan.  Add the curry paste and stock or water, then set the pan over medium heat and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to boil.  Turn down the heat so the liquid is just boiling gently with tiny bubbles (this is “simmering”) and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  4. Carefully lift the pan off the heat and set it on a heatproof surface.  Wait for the bubbling to stop, then gently add the frozen vegetables and stir them in to mix.  Return the pan to the heat and bring back to the boil.
  5. Cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables feel soft when you prod them with the wooden and all the liquid has evaporated.  If the vegetables still feel hard or you can see liquid in the pan, cook for 2-3 more minutes.  Once the vegetables are soft and look fairly dry, remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 400 degrees Fahrenheit/ gas mark 6.  When the vegetable mix is cold, taste a small amount on a teaspoon.  If you think it needs more spice, stir in ¼ teaspoon more curry paste (or you could add a few grinds of black pepper).
  7. Carefully unwrap the filo on a clean worktop.  Have the vegetable filling close by.  Peel off the top sheet of filo and lay it in front of you (cover the rest of the filo with a clean and slightly damp tea towel or a large sheet of clingfilm so it doesn’t dry out).  Brush the filo sheet very lightly with oil, then cut it lengthways into 3 long strips using kitchen scissors (take care as filo tears easily).
  8. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the mixture in a heap near the top of one strip, leaving about 2cm of pastry uncovered at the top and on either side.  Fold the pastry strip into a triangle: take the top right hand corner and fold it down diagonally to the left so it covers the filling.  Push in any escaped vegetables then take the point at the top left and fold it down diagonally to the right.  Keep folding the pastry over like this until you get to the bottom of the strip of filo.
  9. Set the triangle on the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush with oil.  Fill and fold the other 2 strips in the same way, continuing until all the filo and vegetables have been used.
  10. Place in the heated oven and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.  Wearing oven gloves, remove the sheet from the oven and set on a heatproof surface.  Leave to cool for 5 minutes.  Eat warm as soon as possible.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Blackberry Compote

In the last few weeks, my views about breakfast have become so much stronger.  I find it so important to have breakfast in the morning.  Every morning, within ten minutes of waking up, I'm always in the kitchen pouring myself a glassful of tap water and preparing myself either a bowl of cereal (without milk) or a slice of marmalade toast.  I'll then be dancing around my bedroom to some CD or other to rev up my energy for the morning.  But I'm now learning that although breakfast is so important, a lot of my friends seem to skip it.  They wake up too late to have breakfast before lectures, they prefer to have breakfast later in the day, they're too busy for breakfast, other reasons.  It shouldn't bother me so much, but it does.  I see breakfast as one of those foundation blocks for staying healthy as it gives you energy to concentrate for the morning, especially if you have 9am lectures like I do.  I know that what I described above for breakfast is quite small, but that's what suits me.  However, sometimes at the weekend or in the holidays, I might have a larger breakfast of crepes as a treat.  Usually, I'll eat them with sugar and lemon juice or with honey, but this blackberry compote, which I found in the September 2013 edition of the Tesco Food and Living magazine, also seems like a sweet and fruity choice to spread onto my crepes, pancakes or even on my toast.

Ingredients (to serve 4)

100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) orange juice
1 teaspoon cornflour
100g (3 1/2 oz) caster sugar
200g (7 oz) blackberries, some left whole
a pinch of ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground cloves


  1. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the orange juice with the cornflour.  Stir until smooth and set aside.
  2. Put the caster sugar, berries, spices and the remaining orange juice in a medium pan and heat on low until simmering (this should take about 1-2 minutes).
  3. Stir in the cornflour mixture, lower the heat and cook for another 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  The compote can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 4 weeks.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Harissa Roasted Veg Flatbread

As I start writing this, it has just turned to Monday morning, and so we're now so far past Friday that I'll be soon writing a post for this Friday.  Last week was also a busy one, with Monday running until just after 3am on Tuesday so that I could finish my Media Ethics essay for a Tuesday 5pm deadline (I'm glad that's over an done with), Tuesday being a dress rehearsal running til almost 11pm, having to wait at uni until 9pm on Wednesday because my parents and brother were at an information evening, and Thursday running from the start of a 9am lab session to the end of The Merry Old Scratch of Oz in the evening. I was definitely glad to come home on Friday lunchtime after my lecture and just spend the rest of the day listening to music and doing my work with no pressure whatsoever. This week is a lot less busy with the only evening for me to be late home being Thursday when my brother has lifeguard training, during which I'll be finishing my SQL lab and then meeting up for a catch-up with one of my friends (I say catch-up - I see this person regularly anyway, but we were both so busy with deadlines and rehearsals and stuff that we barely saw each other all week). I also feel like, for the first time in a month, I'm in a position to finally try to get back into a regular reading routine. I've chosen a selection by Irish writer Cathy Kelly called Christmas Stories. I know that it's only still early-ish November, but this weekend has been when I have seen so many Christmas films come up on television guides, and with at least two Christmas books to read this season, I think I'd better get started on one of them now. In the next week or two, I'm also going to update my iPod to include all my Christmas songs! In another week or two, I'll also start to include festive recipes, but for now, I'll share a recipe for harissa roasted veg flatbread that I found in the October 2014 edition of the Tesco Food and Living magazine and then modified slightly to exclude ricotta cheese.


1/2 cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons harissa paste
4 tortilla wraps
1 x 375g jar tomato and basil sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6, 200 degrees Celsius, or 180 degrees Celsius fan-assisted.  Put the cauliflower and broccoli in a bowl and mix with the harissa paste, until coated.
  2. Lay the wraps flat on two large baking trays.  Spread each wrap equally with the tomato sauce.
  3. Top with the broccoli and cauliflower.  Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges have crisped up.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Hot Chocolate

This week has been a bit busy: at the beginning of the week (from the Friday to the Monday night), I was in Cambridge.  Then it's been media week at uni, so I was manning the stall and trying to attract people to learn about the media areas (student radio, newspaper, cinema, and video production) between my lectures on Wednesday.  There was also the media Halloween social on Wednesday evening, and I'd been planning to dress as a goth fairy, but I realised when I went to my friend's to get changed that I'd left my headband and choker at home, so I ended up with only a black top and tights and a gold skirt.  While I was in Cambridge, I decided to catch up with one of my friends who is at uni there.  There was only an hour available to us, but we ended up in a little cafĂ© called Benet's, located next to a shop full of bear-related items including several Steiff bears and a Winnie the Pooh chess set.  Unfortunately, the time was not available to us for us to have the chance to enjoy any of Benet's savoury or sweet pancakes or crepes (which you could choose two toppings for, including Nutella or banana with peanut butter), but I had a rather tasty hot chocolate topped with mini marshmallows and whipped cream.  This recipe is from Nigella Express, and originally the recipe called for 4-5 tablespoons of Kahlua and 4 cinnamon sticks, but I've opted to leave those out and add mini marshmallows.


500ml full-fat milk
6 x 15ml tablespoons hot chocolate mix, or enough to make 500ml of hot chocolate (according to packet instructions)
squirty whipped cream from a can
mini marshmallows


  1. Heat the milk in a pan and make the hot chocolate according to packet instructions.
  2. Take off the heat before the mix boils.
  3. Serve with a topping of mini marshmallows, and top with the squirty whipped cream.