Sunday, January 30, 2011

White Chocolate Mint Mousse

Biscuit Boy has just had a big birthday, well actually it's tomorrow ! We celebrated at home last night with family and friends. There were about 20 adults and 10 children, which doesn't sound a lot, but in a non-extended, three-bedroomed, traditional semi-detatched house in the UK, that's not a lot of space !

I had also been wondering what on earth to cook for all of these people, since there wouldn't be room to sit and eat properly, so since it was supposed to be a party I resolved to make buffet food that could be eaten with just a fork and nothing too complicated to serve or heat or prepare etc etc. This IS  supposed to be a party !!!

In my search through my ever-growing cookbook collection, there's not a whole lot on buffet or party food, but in Nigella Express I found a first buffet recipe for the dessert side of things. It's definitely a winner, easy to make and the party guests loved it !


250gr white chocolate
1 egg white
250ml double cream
1/4 tsp peppermint extract ( I think I added another quarter as it was not very minty)
6 fresh mint leaves (optional)
2-3 tsp Grated dark chocolate (This one's not in the original recipe, but as you can see from the photo that is what I added. Well, actually, my brother added it, as he thought it needed a little texture... not that he even knows how to chop cucumber tho !!!!! Let alone advise on anything else culinary.)


1. Break up the chocolate and put into a glass bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted.
2. Once melted, leave the chocolate to cool slightly.
3. Whilst the chocolate is melting/cooling.. whip the cream, egg white and peppermint together. Not until it's stiff but until it forms 'soft' peaks. Nigella says use a handheld whisk, I had other stuff to do, so I let my KitchenAid do the whisking.
4. Put a dollop of cream into the slight cooled chocolate mixture and whisk, and then gently fold this chocolate mixture into the cream. (I didn't quite do that, I'll be honest when I tell you that when I added the spoon of cream, the mixture seemed to practically fizz... I am thinking that maybe the chocolate had not cooled enough, and then I added the rest of the cream to the same (still warm) bowl. In the end, I put it all back in the Kitchen Aid and gave it another whisk to get rid of the chocolate lumps that had formed... although it tasted just as delicious with the lumps... However, Nigella's recipe says...
5.Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the cream....
6. Divide the mixture between six glasses.

As this was a buffet dessert I divided the mix between shot glasses, so there was a small portion per person. Cupcake and I used a piping bag to put the mousse into the shot glasses. The above yielded approximately 22 shot glasses and that's allowing for some wastage as we got to grips with the piping bag.

7. Place in the fridge, or in the freezer for 10-15 minutes if you are in a rush. Mine were cling-filmed and put in the fridge for a couple of days prior to the party and suffered  no ill effect.  Just before serving sprinkle the plain chocolate over the top of the mousses. (I just had a thought - If the plural of mouse is mice, what's the plural of mousse ?? micce?)

8. Remember the dish contains raw eggs so please avoid if you have a weakened immune system.

A truly lovely, (relatively) easy dessert that will impress your friends and family. Enjoy !

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chocolate Cake

I wanted to make a chocolate cake. Hell ! Who am I trying to kid ? I wanted to find an easy chocolate cake, that I could get away with making for Biscuit Boy's looming birthday. Having done a cake decorating course, and being a general foodie I have great expectations of myself for his big day. However, BB thinks we are spending all day prepping food and getting ready generally, whereas I happen to know that my brother is arriving early and we will be going out for the day, which is meant as a nice little surprise for BB. Don't worry he doesn't read the blog, (who does?), so he'll never know.  So, what this means, my dear friends, is that I will be hosting a party for thirty people with practically NO prepping time. What am I gonna do ?? OMG. Anyway, hence the easy-peasy chocolate cake.

Here is the recipe, one I saw earlier on

225g plain flour
350g sugar
85g cocoa powder
1.5 tsp baking powder   Can you believe I didn't have baking powder!! So I visited my local neighbour hood store, aka my neighbour the crayzee Italian Claudia across the street, and she kindly gave me this Italian vanilla flavoured 'levure' to use instead. I think the French use the same thing, at least, I recognize the name 'levure'. Anyhow, it made the cake rise and that was the aim. :o)
1.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs
250ml milk
125ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml boiling water

1. Put everything except the boiling water into a bowl and stir until smooth
2. Gradually add the boiling water and incorporate into the mix.
3. Pour the mix into one large tin, or two sponge tins and bake for between 30-35 minutes at 180C, or 170C if you are using a fan oven. If the cake is still squidgy after this time, leave it for a while longer and check every few minutes until the top is set.

You guys can see why I chose this recipe for it's total simplicity. In a hurry and need a quick and simple cake ? No questions, just make this. However, whilst Cupcake and I think you can taste the water in it, Biscuit Boy thought it tasted good / nice... it certainly is very squidgy. IF I do make this cake again, ever, and to be honest, it's unlikely.. since when it comes to my chocolate cakes I like trying new recipes, but if I did, I would probably serve it with some cherry compote, or other fruity accompaniment.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Charity shop Shopping

Today when I took my jog, I jogged not in the woods (for a change!), but to a couple of charity shops that form a nice little jog route. Now that Cupcake's dance time has changed, I no longer get that 45 minutes to go and browse the shops. So, I combined it with my jog and did both. Perfect.

So, what am I looking for at these charity shops ? I'll be honest, it's mainly books and kitchen 'stuff' like pretty plates or cups, or little trinket boxes. I have a thing for trinket boxes. For example, I saw a lovely little tray-thingy which would have been great for Biscuit Boy's loose pocket change, that he tends to leave around, but I told myself 'No!'. Sometimes, often in fact, when I do that, I have later regretted it and rushed back the next day to see if it is still there, only to find it gone. A charity shop is not like any other shop, so there's never another one.. so I've learned that if I DO want it - get it NOW or regret it later..

So, what did I see today ? I was looking for coffee cups. Biscuit Boy and I bought an espresso machine recently and now need cups that are wide-rimmed and no more than 8cm in height. We found some nice ones in John Lewis for £6.00 each - they are a cream stoneware, with a wide rim. However, I just wanted to be sure that there wasn't something that I liked more for half the price! There wasn't, so we will go and get them at the weekend.

Thinking about it, I should probably write a review of the Espress machine on here (mental note to self!)

So, just what did I get today ? Cookbooks, what else ?

I found:

How to Eat by Nigella Lawson - not very often you see a Nigella book in the charity store..I was lucky there.

The Food of Love by Anthony Capella. A book about Italian Feasting. I have no prior knowledge of this book, so it's a dive into the unknown, which I'm looking forward to. This, I think, will be my next train book.

The Vodka Cookbook by John Rose. What is it about cooking with booze ? I'm always intrigued to discover how alcohol blends with food, especially when heated... So, I plan on trying a few of these

And that's all. If I had bought these three books from  I would have paid ten times more than I did.. and although they're ever so slightly 'used', they would be by the time I had read them anyway ! So, it matters not one jot, and that is what I call food for thought.

Exercise update: A nice jog between the Charity shops, not as long a jog as usual, but there were some serious hills, and having run for the last two days it was nice to take it easier.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Home Food by Richard Whittington - Book 1

Today I was contemplating writing a simple post, listing my entire cookbook collection, but then this book just about chose itself today, and so it is the first on my list.

On my way home from work on the train, I was reading the free daily newspaper which  I pick up at the train station in the morning. There on the food pages it talked about a chef called Richard Whittington who had inspired other British chefs to cook simple, delicious food, and amongst other journalistic ventures, had written some cookbooks, the best of which was a book called Home Food. Hey ! Hang on a minute, I thought, I have a cookbook called that on my shelves at home..

I treat my cookbooks not just as something to cook a recipe from, but something I absorb almost like an 'informational novel'. I love the story of the food and the setting, and I soak up the information that I gather from the book, and I love seeing what is done with the various ingredients to create  a new dish. I remember being disappointed when I bought this book, thinking that it was all about British home food, and in all honesty that book probably sat on the shelves for a good few years before I finally read it. When I did, a good few years ago now, it was an absolute revelation not just British Home cooking (for there is a chapter in there on that too), but proper home cooked food, as it is cooked around the world. What a book ! Without picking up the book, I can tell you that it is the place, where, when I was going through my Japanese phase I was able to find a recipe for Dashi (Japanese stock), it also told me what Char sui is, which I had see written many times in a restaurant, but not eaten, so to see a recipe for it was a revelation. There are so many amazing recipes in there from around the world that it's hard to know where to start, so I'm going to flick the book through at random and give you a couple:

Pg  221 Caipriana and Quinoa (under South America)
Pg 149 Chicken under Bricks and Turkey Saltimbocca (Italy)
Pg 285 Rice and Peas and Jerk Chicken (The West Indies)

Need I say more ?

This is a fantastic informational cookbook. Now that I have more confidence in the kitchen  and more food knowledge in general than I did twelve years ago (the book was published in 1999), I would now be prepared to take these recipes and 'tweak' them to add my own touch, whereas before I would look at them with a mixture of interest and awe. So, I look forward to making something out of this one soon.

Worthiness of being on shelf ? A very meaty ('meaty'. d'you get it ?) 9/10

You can still purchase your own copy here:

Unfortunately, the author, Richard Whittington passed away on January 3 2011. Read more about his life here:

Exercise update: 2.5 mile run through the mud in Oaks Park and loved every minute of it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Should you listen to music while running ?

This is a toughee. Many race organizers will not allow you to wear headphones whilst running a race for saferty reasons, so if you have only trained with music you could have a problem on race day. That said, I have seen severe flouting of the rules at various races.

Today, I raced my usual 8-miler, but for a change I ran with music, rather than without. If I run without music I find I am more aware of my surroundings and not just in terms of traffic. Runnning without music also gives me the time to think about my day or my week or what I have coming up. Last week when I ran my 8-miler, I left the house at 10.05am and completed my run at 12.20. I wasn't particularly in the mood for the long run, so I decided to just plod it out, and that is what I did. So the run took me 2hr 15mins.

This week, running exactly the same route, in pretty much the same condiitions but with music.. well, let's examine the differencs. Firstly, we had bought a running compilation CD last weekend. A great 3-CD collection consisting of a 'Jog' CD, a 'Run' CD and a 'Sprint' CD by 'Ministry of Sound'. So first I knew I had great music to listed to on my run, and secondly I was up for having a good run with music, just because it's such a nice change.

The run was amazing. I left the house at 10.25am and completed the run at 12.05, so a total 1hr 40 minutes. Gosh, is that actually right ?? Wow, that's a difference of 35 minutes over 8 miles. I think you'd agree that that's a pretty amazing difference. The music did have a fantastic beat, and I found that the music, which was nice and loud, completely blocked out everything including my endless mind chatter which did actually enable me to focus on the task in hand - the run. I also found that my own huffing and  puffing puts me off and makes me run slower, but of course I couldn't hear any of that, so I really wasn't as aware as usual of my effort, which enabled me to run quicker. With your heaing moreorless taken away, please remember to be extra aware of your surroundings when crossing roads and paths etc and who is around you generally.

The music I was listening to consisted of a good base beat with a melody over the top, so you can either run with the beat or the melody, the music also has areas of  what can only describe as building-up 'whoosh' noises which then fade away, which I guess is your opportunity to up the pace and have a sprint. And I did.

I don't plan to run with music every time I run, but I think in the right circumstances, with the right frame of mind  music can be a great training aid. Just don't rely on it in a race !

Here's a link to the Running Trax (3 CD)  set I was using..available at the moment for a bargain price of £3.99- what a bargain only £1.33 per CD. That's go to be the best fitness investment you'll get all year.

Happy and safe running.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Twitter and a Muffin recipe!

Andy, my friend and co-worker, had long threatened to come and 'tweet my blog' and get me all joined up with facebook+twitter+blog. Of course, I thought it was just going to be another one of those things that people say, but I should have known better with 'our Andy'. Just yesterday we chatted about him coming over to my house on Saturday afternoon, so we made sure our contact details were up to date and left it at that. Saturday morning Andy sent a text to confirm, and at 2.30 pm he and his girlfriend, the lovely Tamsin, arrived. That's what I like, no procrastination - let's just do it ! I also work with Tamsin and as you know I work with Biscuit Boy so we all know each other well, so it was like a lovely mini work reunion - without the work ! Ha.

Andy and I both work in IT, but not in social media, so both of us are self taught on this stuff. Andy is seriously into his cars and runs this website: which is very popular indeed - lucky devil! So he knows his onions, so to speak. :o)

As they arrived I was baking these lovely Plum and Blueberry muffins, and for the next few hours we sat and munched and chatted and got me all techno'd up with a Kooky Girl Blog facebook page and an @KookyGirlBlog twitter account. Cool.

The recipe is taken from a book called Muffins Galore by Catherine Atkinson, I can't actually remember where I got the book, but I'm sure it was at a charity store or boot sale or something. Wherever it was, it's a great book and has been well used.

Plum and Blueberry Muffins

150g fresh or frozen blueberries (I used a mix of fresh plums and fresh blueberries)
25g icing sugar
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
150g soft, light brown sugar (I used a mix of demerara sugar and unrefined caster sugar)
1 egg, lightly beaten
225ml buttermilk
2 tbsp milk
50g butter, melted
Finely grated zest of half an orange.
50g dark chocolate (my own addition...) either chop it up or use chocolate morsels.

 Wow ! Typing that out I can't actually believe I had the buttermilk AND the orange zest. I'm getting good at this!

Here's what I did:

1. Preheat oven to 200deg.

2. Put the blueberries and plums in a bowl, sift over the icing sugar and coat the fruit in it. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, then stir together. Also add the chocolate now if you are using it.
It looked like this:

and here's the lovely chocolate:

3. In another bowl (well, I used a measuring jug actually) add the buttermilk, milk, melted butter and the egg and beat together.

4. Put the mixture into muffin cases as shown. I had some polka dot ones that I have really been looking forward to using. Aw ..

5. Just before putting in the oven I spinkled some demerara sugar over the top for added crunch.

6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden, or if you're anything like me (who STILL hasn't bought a timer for use in the kitchen..) you will be sat there chatting and supping tea, and your Biscuit Boy will say 'Are those muffins still in the oven?' and, in front of your guests, you will have to embarrasingly run to rescue your muffins. Or not.

7. Place on a wire rack to cool.

8. Scoff with friends.  :o)


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Join the Fish Fight

Check out this link over here ---- >>>>

It's all about reducing the numbers of fish that are discarded every day at sea because of the silly European rules on fishing quotas.

It would also help if we in the UK embraced some of the other less popular fish like dab (tastes like lemon sole apparently..), gurnard and mackerel, rather than a general over reliance and indulgence in cod, haddock, tuna and salmon. So, go on try something new and I will try something new too and write about it on here. :o)

Please sign up and help reduce discards and maybe save some little fishies.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Running Quote of the week

I just saw this on this blog: and this sort of sums it up for me - what my running is all about:

"Nonrunners cannot see how they can afford the time to run every day. But runners cannot imagine getting through a single day without it."

-– Kevin Nelson

The Runner's Book of Daily Inspiration 
I have no time to write a full post today as we're off to athletics tonight
Exercise update: day off from the running so did a super long walk by taking a different train route home. Feel better for the walk as I was feeling sluggish having missed the run. Bring it on for tomorrow!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Easy-Peasy Apple, Blackcurrant and Tayberry Crumble

It's 10pm on a Monday evening and the rain is lashing outside, I'm exhausted and for the first time I have taken to my bed with the laptop and a huge cup of tea to write this post. I've been guilty of 'blog-neglect' lately so although I have to be up in seven and a half hours (who's counting ??), I thought I'd get a quick post out.

I made this crumble, and took the photos quite a while ago and have been meaning to make this again for the last few days / weeks, but time keeps on running away with me...

On the subject of bed, it's one of my favourite places to be. As a young, single person I would talk on the phone, eat, write and, of course, read all from my beloved pit. Now, I'm older and all that has changed, although when Cupcake was younger we would sprawl out on the bed on weekend mornings and read fairy tales and eat biscuits, that was such fun. When I'm at Labour of Love I must admit I do revert to form a little. My bedroom there is divine with a lovely cream furry throw, it's so chilled, and of course I don't have to rise before dawn!

Anyway, where was I?? On with the recipe, I've got to get up soon !

Preheat your oven to 200 deg.

400gr fruit 

Crumble topping
175g Flour
75g Butter or margarine
75g Sugar + extra for dousing fruit and crumble top


1. I love how easy this is. I took some frozen tayberries (picked from my garden) and some frozen blackberries (picked from the hedgerows), no need to defrost and mixed them with some tart granny smith apples - about 2 or 3 apples peeled, cored and sliced. The frozen fruit does not need to be defrosted. This is also a good recipe to use up your old apples or pears. (I make a lovely pear and chocolate chip crumble using pears which have seen better days..)

I put all of the fruit in a pyrex and scatter over 2 tablespoons of the sugar and leave all the juices to meld whilst I get on with the crumble.

I used lovely PURE soy margarine (I swear they should pay me commission the amount of free publicity I give them!) but I do love it, measure out all of the ingredients, put in a food processor and whizz! It's as easy as that. As soon as the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, stop whizzing !

If you don't have a food mixer or processor then you can mix the butter and sugar into the flour with your  (clean) fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pour the crumble over the fruit and scatter a little more sugar over the crumble (if you want to). This caramelizes in parts in the oven and gives the top an even more crunchy and chewy texture. Yum !

Place in then oven and bake on 200 degrees for approximately 30-40 minutes. The fruit will be bubbling through the surface of the crumble and the crumble itself will be turning brownish when it is done. In the photo below, this could probably have had a few more minutes for a more caramelized topping.

3. Serve with custard, cream or ice cream. Yum !!

Night-night !

Exercise update:

Monday 10 Jan 2011- 4 miles moderate run
Sunday 9 Jan 2011 - 8 mile slow run

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Labour of Love

Labour of Love is the name of my house in France. We have owned it for five years now, and we are renovating it - hence the name.

The picture below is the view from the window on Christmas Day, the village church dates back to the 11th century. I have been in love with France and the French language  - not to mention the food - since I first went a lived in Toulouse nearly twenty years ago.

The house is in a tiny village near the town of  Limoux, we are  two hours drive from Barcelona, an hour drive to the beach at Narbonne and just over an hour to the nearest ski slopes.

When we first got the place it didn't even have a toilet ! It's true ! Now we have a toilet, a shower, an oven (!), a washing machine and a dishwasher - and I am truly spoilt !

We still have quite a way to go, but what sold it to me was that view out of the window. Stunning.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy New Year !

Hi and Happy 2011 ! We are returned from a peaceful break at Labour of Love and we are all back to work and school, as of today. So, it's back to life as we know it and also back to the blog. I have decided to make this entry a kind of New Year life wish list, so I can look back on it next year, and see how I get on...

Meanwhile, I cooked my very first meal in the new oven at Labour of Love - Christmas Dinner ! It is great to have a cooker there now, I don't know how we have managed these last four or so years without one ! I managed to forget the pigs-in-blankets - why is there always something that I forget...

I have not stopped cooking during my brief absence from the blog, for the last two nights Cupcake and I have baked our own brown soda bread - this is Nigel Slater's 'Lazy Loaf' recipe from his recent 'Simple Suppers' tv programme. Here is a link to the recipe here:

I will add some photos really is just the most amazingly easy recipe. This is the first time I have made bread, there's none of that faff with yeast, and Biscuit Boy actually thought the bread was from a bakers - Ha!

I have been also been considering some Fitness goals and read about the most amazing marathon today in the January 2011 edition of Runner's World, it is based in Northumberland. Yes, you read me correctly.. a marathon !!!! Could this be the year I actually run a marathon... This marathon is run around a lake and is hilly, so my kind of race. This year was it's first year and it was organised by Steve Cram... although I can't remember the name of the actual event at the moment - Tsk! The scenery is stunning and as you know I'm a sucker for a nice view.

So, maybe a marathon, just not any old marathon...

I've also been thinking about coaching.. We all went along to the Running Event at Olympia in December where I met a lady from Run In England. They offer training to become a Running Fitness Coach which then allows you to run (literally :o)) training sessions to get beginners into running. I really like the idea of this. I enjoy running so much and I would love to get other people involved.

Here's their website:

I still haven't found a local yoga class that I can actually get to... although there is one that I plan to try out very soon, so watch this space to see how that goes.. I also want to try and swim at least once per week so that is something else to add to 'the list'.

Lastly, this blog. I realise I need to get more linked in, linked into facebook and twitter and linked into different fitness and food related web sites..

I think I'm getting there, but there's some way to go yet, which is exactlly how I like it.