Super Cool Halloween Cake

Unfortunately I can’t take credit for this one, but it was so cool that I had to post it anyway!  This fantastic skull cake was created for my sisters birthday by her friend Essie.  Love the icing!


Hot and Spicy Chocolate mud cake…with pumpkin

dense choccy goodness

You can never have too many good chocolate cakes in your repertoire.  I currently have two foolproof favourites which I whip up when time is short, or I just want something that goes down well with the crowds.  But I am constantly looking for something a little bit different to mix it up a bit and the addition of vegetables and ingredients usually confined to savoury dishes to chocolate cake seems like a good way to achieve this.  And as an added bonus it has vegetables in it…so it has to be healthy right? Being Halloween and Autumn in Spain, Pumpkin is the way to go in terms of in season veggies, so Pumpkin Chocolate cake it was!

This recipe is based on Dan Lepards’  Pumpkin Chocolate Mud Cake, but whilst in the process of baking it I was distracted by the spice rack and ended up lobbing a load in thinking that cinnamon goes nicely with chocolate, as does chilli, but nutmeg goes nicely with pumpkins…so lets have them all in there!

The result was less of a pumpkin chocolate cake and more of a spicy chocolate cake, perhaps the quantity of spices over powered the taste of the pumpkin a bit.  But it was still a nice moist, dense chocolaty cake with a distinct chilli hit, in fact if you don’t like hot foods you should probably reduce this, or maybe serve it with a glass of milk to quell the fire in your mouth!  I used Donna Hays’ Chocolate cream cheese icing, as this is my current favourite icing and the cream cheese goes nicely with the spices and cools the whole thing down a bit! It was meant to have nuts too, which I think would add a nice crunch to the texture, but I forgot to buy them!

Being a mud cake, it stays moist for a long time and also freezes well, (I made it a week ahead and it was absolutely fine).  So celebrate Halloween with a cake featuring the best of the seasons ingredients (pumpkin and chocolate), or if you just fancy something a little bit outside the box with a hint of spice, whip one up!

 Spiced Up Pumpkin Chocolate Mud Cake

250g dark chocolate broken into peices

150g butter

3 eggs

275g soft brown sugar

275ml cold water

3tsp vanilla extract

250g plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

200g grated pumpkin

1 tsp cayenne pepper

3 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup chopped pecans/ wanuts (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius

2.  Line 20cm square/round cake tin with baking paper

3. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave or over a pan of boiling water on the stove.

4.  Beat eggs and sugar until smooth, then add chocolate mixture and stir through

5.  Beat in water and vanilla -mix will be very runny!

6.  Add flour, baking powder and spices and stir to combine.

7.  Stir through pumpkin and nuts if you want them.

8.  Pour into prepared tin and bake for approx. 60 mins or until cake is solid, but with a slight spring.

9.  Cool and ice.

Donna Hays Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

250g cream cheese

50g butter (softened)

2 cups icing sugar

1/4 cocoa powder

1.  Cream butter and cheese together in electric mixer until smooth and creamy (5-6 mins)

2.  Stir in sugar and cocoa and whip until smooth with no lumps.



Ghost Biscuits for Halloween- or tiny turd cookies

Ghostly cookies


Well I thought I’d put in a little extra effort and make some little ghost cookies for my kids classes this week to celebrate Halloween.  I was without a cookie cutter so I went for the more abstract hand shaped cookie look.  I’ve never actually made plain sugar cookies before as I don’t really like them, (there always seems to be so many better cookies out there to make….usually with chocolate chips!), but I thought the plain taste would appeal more to the kids. 

So I made plain sugar cookies with a white royal icing and piped on a face with a chocolate coloured royal icing.  Unfortunately my piping skills could use a little work!  Or so Breadhead seemed to think, when after taking one look at my cookies, told me I had made a white cookie, covered in small dog turds.  On closer inspection this was actually true.  Luckily the kids didn’t seem to mind, although I pretty sure they like anything that involves sugar, turd shaped or otherwise…..

The recipe itself was a throw it all in until it was the right consistency, but turned out well and held its shape in the oven.  I would probably add a bit more lemon to the icing for adults and maybe spice the cookies up with nutmeg, ginger or cinnamon and throw in a few chopped nuts!

Sugar Cookie Recipe:

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup butter softened

3 cups plain flour

2 eggs beaten

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp baking powder

spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger) optional

1.  Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy

2.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine

3.  Add dry ingredients- sifted and stir to combine

4.  Roll dough into desired thickness and cut into desired shape with a cookie cutter or shape by hand.

5.  Place dough in fridge for half an hour- this helps them keep their shape in the oven

6.  Bake at 180 degrees celcius for 6-8 minutes or until lightly brown.

7.  Allow to cool before icing.

or a landscape of tiny turds!

Royal Icing Recipe:

2 eggs whites

3 cups icing sugar

2 tsp lemon juice.

1.  Whisk egg whites and lemon until bubbly

2.  Add icing sugar gradually whilst whisking

3.  Allow to ‘set’ in the fridge a little before icing.

4.  Add a little water if a thinner consistency is desired.

5.  Ice cooled cookies with a piping bag or simply spread with a spoon for a for rustic effect (remember the icing will spread so you don’t need to go right to the edges!).

6.  Decorate as desired and allow to set in fridge for a smooth finish.

Note: for coloured icing, simply add a few drops of food colouring or a little cocoa powder.

Chocolate con Churros…delicious but deadly

The British do fairly well on the unhealthy breaky front.  Think of a Full English, laden with bacon, sausages, eggs, toast with butter, beans, hash browns and all generously coated with a layer of tasty grease.  There is however, the odd chance of a vegetable sneaking in, be it a juicy tomato, a few fried mushrooms and hey, baked beans are veggies after all.

The Spanish have gone one up with the creation of churros, usually served with a side of chocolate for dunking, and possibly containing no nutritional benefit whatsoever aside from an excessive calorie injection.  According to some, churros  originated in the mountains of Spain, where shepherds cooked these doughnut like treats using only a pan and oil.  They were then eaten plain or dipped in sugar.  All very well if you are spending your day climbing mountains after reckless sheep and nights literally freezing off your fat!

Another theory as to their origin is that they were brought to Portugal from China when the Portuguese returned from the Ming Dynasty.  Although as they had not learned to ‘pull’ the dough, as the Chinese did, they started to pipe the dough, giving a star shaped product. Whichever theory is correct, they are now widely available all over Spain and South America.

Over time, churros con chocolate have morphed into the ultimate post party snack/breakfast.  Now everything happens just a little bit later in Spain, so generally young people are leaving the nightclubs after a night on the town at about 7am, obviously the perfect time for a quick breaky before heading home to sleep off the hangover for the entire day.

The churros themselves resemble long thin piped deep fried doughnuts and the chocolate, well, that’s what it is, literally a cup of melted chocolate, in which to dip your churros.  It is full on.  Definitely not a breakfast for the faint hearted, health conscious, or those at high risk of heart attack.  It does hit the spot after a night out on the town and a few drinks still in the belly to cloud the judgment though.

Portions are generally big, and in my experience the half way point is the limit, as this seems to be when I start to almost feel my arteries clogging as I continue to eat.  Despite this, if you get good ones, they are pretty amazing. The soft centered, crispy dough with a rich, creamy coating of thick molten chocolate is a pretty intense experience.  I have not tried making them as yet, they are pretty cheap and not the sort of thing you want to eat on a regular basis.  Best left for nights out that turn into mornings, where half the experience is hanging around the door of the Churreria at 5am to wait for it to open.

The whole thing is not particularly sweet.  I have never had Churros coated with sugar in Spain, although apparently they do exist.  I have found in general that they have a slightly salty almost savory flavour and the dipping chocolate is thick and rich, but not really sweet either.  The flavour, however, can vary from region to region in Spain, as can the shape.  In the South, churros are thicker and fatter (known as Purros elsewhere), whilst in the North they are thinner and with a harder outer coating.  They can also be found stuffed with chocolate cream, dulce de leche or vanilla, although these are more popular in Brazil and Mexico.  There is even a savory cheese stuffed version popular in Uruguay!

Well, love them or hate them, unlike so many foods these days, churros are never portrayed to be a health food.  You know what you are getting yourself into when you bite into that crispy fried shell, so enjoy.  Just not too often!

Churros con chocolate at Valour- perfect hangover fix?


Burgers for your Buns!

As promised here is the recipe for the juicy burgers featured in our homemade burger buns piccies.  They are a throw together recipe, with basically whatever was in the fridge, but turned out pretty good!Nice and moist and held their shape nicely.

Rioja not mandatory but it goes down pretty well!

In Spain they tend to sell mince meat as a mix of beef and pork, which I was a little apprehensive about, but they had a really nice flavour, so I would recommend using a mix if you can!  Also, products such as ‘heart smart’ and ‘lean’ mince do not exist, so this is the full blown fat  filled stuff.  But lets be honest, this probably helps with the juicy factor!

They also feature a couple of grated carrots, which was met with a roll of the eyeballs from breadhead, but the residual dietitian in me still tries to find ways to ‘hide’ veggies in food to bump up the daily intake.  Not that either of us would have a problem munching on a carrot, but for those who are not so rabbit inclined, its a good way to get a few more vitamins in and reduce the fat content as you can then use a little less meat.  Zucchini also works well.

I added a good splodge of mustard and a few dried chillies to the mix for a bit of heat, but didn’t really taste them, so would probably increase this next time.  Or just add more chilli sauce on serving!  We had these with lettuce, tomato, beetroot, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese and a good splodge of mustard tomato sauce mix (1Tbsp mustard to 2 Tbsp sauce).  This is a breadhead creation, and apparently is a big hit with the kids, who may be reluctant to eat mustard on its own, and it went down pretty well with the adults too!

We served these with mixed roasted vegetable ‘chips’, so it ended up being a pretty veggie heavy meal, but without sacrificing the burger junk food satisfaction.

Juicy Burger Recipe

makes 6-8 burgers depending how big you like them!

500g minced meat (mix of pork and beef if possible)

1/2 an onion (diced)

1 clove garlic (diced)

1 Tbsp hot mustard

3 dried chillies finely chopped

2 small carrots (grated)

1 tsp herbs de provence (mixed herbs)

1 egg (beaten)

2 Tbsp breadcrumbs (bought or homemade)

salt and pepper to season

1.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined

2.  Shape into patties of the size you want.

3.  Put patties on a tray and cover with cling film.  Leave in fridge for 1/2 hour or more.

4.  When ready to cook, heat a little oil in frying pan or BBQ and cook one side over a medium heat for about 4 minutes.

5.  Flip and place a slice of cheese on top of the pattie to get a nice melty effect.

6.  Cook the other side until cooked through.

7.  Serve with whatever condiments you fancy and a bumper burger bun!

Mixed Roast Veggie ‘Chips’

A mixture of veggies such as potato, pumpkin, sweet potato, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, onions, carrot or garlic.

herbs de provence, salt, pepper and olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius

2.  Cut all veggies to equal sized pieces and toss in a bowl with olive oil, herbs and salt and pepper until well coated.

3.  Pour onto oven tray and cook until all veggies are soft (about 40 minutes or about and hour in our oven!)

Roast veggie chippies!

Bumper Burger Buns

Breadhead here! Now you may ask what’s the point in making your own burger buns? Well, the simple answer is because I like to.   I really enjoy making my own bread, pasta etc. Although they are basic things are available in all supermarkets, I like the feeling of making something from real, crude, ingredients, like flour and butter, and watching it transform into a totally different product. My approach is, if I can make it myself, I will give it a go.  There is something deeply satisfying and even therapeutic about mixing, kneading and rising your own bread, and the smell from the kitchen is unbeatable! These burger buns are really good, light, ever so slightly sweet, with a soft crumb. Give them a try, with a nice juicy homemade burger (recipe to follow!) and your choice of condiments.

Makes 8 buns
3 tablespoons warm milk
235ml warm water
1 sachet active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
400g strong White bread flour
40g  plain White flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 extra egg to glaze (beaten lightly)
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

  1. In a bowl combine the water, milk yeast and sugar and allow to stand for 5 mins.
  2. In another bowl Combine flours, salt and butter cubed and rub mixture between your fingers till it becomes breadcrumby
  3. Add liquids and a beaten egg to the flour mix and combine to rough sticky dough (leave 10mins.)
  4. On worksurface put teaspoon of oil and smear around and on your hands.
  5. Take dough and lift up a side and drop it on top  in a folding motion for 10 seconds.
  6. Wash bowl with water and oil it lightly.
  7. Return dough to bowl and cover with a tea towel for10min.
  8. Knead for 10 seconds again. Return to bowl leave for a further 10mins.
  9. Repeat 10 second knead one more time then leave for 1 hour to rise.
  10. Knead  for10 seconds and then divide into eight roughly equal pieces.
  11. Lightly flour work surface and dough and shape into buns. Place on floured baking tray and cover with clean cloth.
  12. Leave for 1 hour or until roughly doubled in size.
  13. Preheat oven to 210 degrees celcius.
  14. Glaze with egg and sprinkle with seeds if desired.
  15. Place a baking tray with boiling water in the base of the oven and bake for 15 to 20minutes or until light brown and hollow sounding when tapped on base.


The Ulitmate Buffet? – Masakan Padang

Soft, fragrant rice, crunchy fried chicken that definitely has some  KFC esque secret herbs and spices, soft tofu soaked in a laksa like coconut sauce, spicy potato cakes like a croquette of peppery mash with a side of garlicky greens, all piled on a plate and topped with a super spicy sambal.  These are just a few of the tasty treats on offer at Padang restaurants in Indonesia.

On our recent trip to Java and Bali, we fell in love with these all you can eat window displays, that serve up fantastic flavours for very very cheap price!  Simply grab a plate and point to the various dishes piled in a glass cabinet, usually behind a questionable curtain to keep out the flies.  Although health and safety may be slightly lacking (leaving food at the prime bacteria growing temperature of 30 degrees in a unrefrigerated cabinet may not pass any health inspections!) , the wide spread of tasty and unusual dishes in unlimited quantity provide a definate appeal. And I must add we travelled around this area of the world for six weeks without getting sick once, and we ate in some fairly questionable looking places (being the bargain lovers we are!).

When you’re done, you just pay for what you had, with chicken and meats generally being slightly more expensive than veg, fish, tofu and tempeh, (although still ridiculously cheap!)  Choose from fried fish (head attached), curried eggs, rendangs, sweet and spicy tempeh pieces and quite a few unidentifiable dishes.  These are probably best approached with a ‘better not to know’ attitude. You may end the meal in a slight chilli induced sweat- they don’t always ‘westernize’ the heat level, but I promise its worth the small amount of pain for the opportunity to try as many dishes as possible in the one sitting.

So if you’re ever in this part of the world, don’t hesitate to load up a plate and give it a try. Or get an Indo takeaway and pile your selection into a banana leaf or brown paper parcel. Go where the locals are for to be on the safe side and get the tastiest dishes, although I’d still probably stick to lunch to get the fresh stuff!

Super Speccy Sarnie

This is hands down my favourite sandwich.  It was created by breadhead, in the back of a van, and I was sent off to Madrid airport with this little beauty as a packed lunch!  This not only saved me 10 euros ( the going price of lunch in Madrid airport), but made me look at the other travelers with their overpriced slices of ham in dry bread (the composition of a sandwich in Madrid airport) and smile smuggly as I bit into the moist filling surrounded by crunchy crusty Galician bread.

The key to a good sandwich we both agree is the moisture.  A sandwich should have enough wet ingredients such as sauces or spreads to produce a soft moist centre, although not so much as to make for a uncontrollable wet mush.  A generous spread of mayonnaise and thick avocado help make this one a winner.

A good bread is obviously imperative too.  A nice crunchy crust is important (although not teeth-shatteringly so), and a soft, but dense centre, that can absorb a little of the sandwiches filling.  Make sure to pick up your loaf before you buy and test for weight.  If its a little on the light side chances are you will cut it open and find only air, leaving a crisp shell with nothing inside!

We usually use breadheads homemade sourdough for this, but any heavy crusty bread works well!

Super Speccy Sarnie Recipe

makes one sandwich (fairly supersized!)

Two good thick slices of bread

Mayonnaise (homemade-recipe coming! or good quality bought)

tomato sliced thinly

two slices smoked salmon


salt and pepper

1.  Coat one slice of bread with a good spread of mayonnaise

2.  Coat the other side with some chunks of avocado (be generous)

3.  Add salmon and 2-3 slices tomato on top of avocado.

4.  Season with salt and pepper


Yum Yum Icecream

Sweet tooth here, this is a quick recipe I came up with yesterday based on one of my favourite sweet treats from the Cadbury New Zealand website (, Yum Yum balls.  They are a chocolate, coconut, biscuit ball that is made with sweetened condensed milk and they are my number one stand  by for a quick sweet dish to take to a party.

I was in the mood for ice cream as the weather is unseasonably nice, but couldn’t really be bothered with the whole custard, whisking every half hour process (no ice cream maker!) , so I basically just threw this mix, (based on the Yum Yum ingredients) together in about 10 minute, popped it in the freezer and left it there until dessert time.

And it wasn’t half bad.  Although the texture was no where near as light and creamy as a ‘proper’ ice cream, and it needed a little softening before eating, it was a rich chocolaty dessert with the necessary chunks I like to have in my ice cream.  No ice crystals formed, although I didn’t whisk it at any stage during the freezing process, probably due to the addition of the condensed milk.  The sugar content of this seems to keep a creamy texture, as I have found previously making various quick ice creams.  It does make for a very sweet dessert, but if you’re a fan of sweetened condensed milk (i.e. like to lick it off the spoon straight from the tin!)  this will go down a treat!

Yum Yum Ice Cream Recipe:

Thick, scoopable tastiness

makes about a litre of ice cream

100g cooking chocolate

1 Tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs whisked

1 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tin sweet and condensed milk

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup dessicated coconut

6 digestive biscuits crumbled into small pieces.

1.  Melt chocolate in a saucepan over a low heat with the milk and vanilla, stirring constantly.

2.  In a separate bowl whisk eggs with sugar until pale and thick.

3. Remove melted chocolate from stove and add egg mix, stir to combine completely.

4.  Add sweet and condensed milk and stir to combine

5.  Whip cream to stiff peaks and then fold into chocolate mix.

6.  Gently fold in coconut and biscuit pieces.

7.  Freeze for about 4 hours for a soft ice cream or six for a firmer one.  If you leave it longer than this you will need to remove it from the freezer 10 minutes before serving to soften.

Yum Yum!

Grubs up!

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