Pumpkin spice chocolates

I think this chocolate contains the velvetiest ganache I ever made, thanks to the addition of pumpkin. It is positively silky.

A milk chocolate shell burnished with gold contains a caramelised pumpkin ganache, lightly spiced with a sprinkling of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Pumpkin is a subtle flavour, but it lends an autumnal character and the aforementioned silkiness. So soft and pillowy. Mm-mm.

Crunchy leaves of green, gold and auburn, a crisp freshness in the air, scarves and woolly socks, and of course pumpkins – autumn is here!

This seasonal delight is available in our mixed selection box for a short time only until stocks run out. Enjoy!

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Black garlic

I couldn’t resist when I saw this at a reduced price in the shops. I’d heard of it but had no idea what it was like, or how to use it. It’s aged, fermented garlic that is transformed to a mellow, sweet and rich delicacy. The texture is a lot like soft, sticky dried fruit.

The taste is not at all overpowering as with regular raw garlic, and it certainly doesn’t stay with you for nearly as long. It really does have balsamic flavours as described on the packaging, and it’s quite treacly. In Korea it is prized as a health food, rich in antioxidants.

I ambitiously tried the company’s Baked Bananas with Black Garlic recipe, but it’s not something I’ll be readily recommending. We also used it in a stir-fry when we had run out of fresh garlic, but the flavour was a little lost there. I think black garlic would go wonderfully in some freshly-made houmous – that’ll be my next experiment with it…

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I had been fancying saag paneer for ages, so had a go at making it at home. It turned out to be surprisingly quick and simple. The result was a slightly chewy, but still fairly soft and melt-in-your-mouth, mild, lemony cheese.

1 litre milk
2–3 tbsp lemon juice

Bring the milk to the boil, stirring constantly. Take it off the heat, adding the lemon juice slowly, stirring all the while until it curdles. Pour into a muslin-lined colander to strain. Save the whey – I hear it’s good for making soft bread or to use in soups. Squeeze out as much whey as you can from the curds by twisting the top of the muslin to make a parcel. Sit the parcel in the colander with the weight on top for around two hours. After this time, unwrap the parcel, and you should have a nice spongy cheese about the size of a hand. Dice and use in a variety of delicious Indian dishes.

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Sweetcorn soup

Such a simple, yet delicious recipe! One for those sweet-toothers like me. There’s something hugely comforting about this soup.

4x 340g tins sweetcorn (make sure you get a really good kind, like ‘naturally sweet’)
Knob of butter
850ml stock

Fry the sweetcorn in a generous knob of butter, say a couple of tablespoons, for 5-10 minutes. Add the stock and blitz with a blender. Now comes the hard part – extracting all the yummy juice from the pulp. Push the soup through a sieve, little by little, until you have a smooth, creamy-looking liquid. Pour the soup back into the pan to heat through. That’s it! The world’s simplest, sweetest soup!

Serves 5.

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Carrot houmous

This recipe is taken from Vegetarian by Alice Hart and adapted slightly. It’s got a subtle sweetness and certain delicacy to it. It feels light and it’s a great colour.

2 large carrots, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tin chickpeas, drained well
1 tbsp tahini
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 good-sized cloves of garlic
Smoked paprika

Roast the garlic cloves for around half an hour in their skins, and when done, pop them out of the skin. They should be golden, soft and sticky. Place the carrots in a saucepan with just enough water to cover them. Add the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 10 minutes until the carrots are tender. Meanwhile, pinch the skins off all the chick peas and discard (this process takes a few minutes, but trust me, it’s worth it for a much smoother consistency). Pour the carrots and their water into a blender with all the other ingredients and whizz it up until smooth. Sprinkle a little smoked paprika over the top before serving.

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Miso noodle soup

Serves 2.

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp miso paste
1 sachet bonito stock, dissolved in a mugful of hot water
1 sachet seaweed stock, dissolved in a mugful of hot water
2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked for an hour and quartered
2 portions rice noodles
½ block tofu, cut into small cubes
½ tbsp finely sliced sticks of ginger
Vegetables of choice, cut into thin sticks or small cubes (I used 1/3 courgette, 1 carrot, 2 inches daikon, small cubes of squash)

Roast or grill the squash in a little oil. Set aside to add to the soup with the other vegetables or eat as a little snacky side dish. Sauté the onion in the sesame oil until golden brown in colour, tender and juicy. Add the miso paste, the bonito stock, the seaweed stock and the mushroom soaking water. Stir well to mix and dissolve the miso paste. Add the vegetables and rice noodles together. Simmer until rice noodles are cooked, and add the tofu. Leave it on a low heat for a few more minutes to heat the tofu through. Well, wasn’t that simple! This meal got eaten up so quickly that there was no time to take a picture for you, but trust me, it was really delicious.

Note: I have used the bonito and seaweed stocks in place of dashi. You could use regular stock, but it wouldn’t be quite the same.

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One-day pickles

I’ve attempted making pickles before, with mixed success. Here’s my latest bash at it, an easy recipe requiring very little preparation OR waiting time. I find that the recipes requiring you to drain the cucumbers by salting first actually make soggy pickles. This recipe’s a good ‘un and will make one jar of nice crunchy ones.

120 ml distilled white vinegar
15 g granulated sugar
2 tbsp coarse salt
1 tsp pickling spice (made up of equal quantities of mustard, coriander and black onion seeds)
1 tsp black peppercorns
A few slices of onion
180 ml hot water
300 g cucumbers (I used one large one)
1 large clove of garlic, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf

In a large bowl, mix together the vinegar, sugar, salt, pickling spice and peppercorns. Pour over the hot water and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Let this mixture cool to room temperature. Put the sliced cucumber, onion, garlic and bay leaf into your pickle jar, and pour the cooled pickling liquid over the cucumbers. If the liquid doesn’t quite cover the cucumbers, top it up with a bit of water. Place the jar in the fridge and wait in anticipation for 24 hours before they are ready to start munching on. Apparently they’ll keep for two weeks, but I just love pickles and they always disappear pretty quickly!

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Veggie Cholent

Cholent is wonderfully hearty and reminds me of my grandma. Traditionally, it is a Sabbath stew, made by Jewish women and brought to the village baker’s oven on Fridays. There it would sit for 24 hours, slowly bubbling away, developing comforting and delicious flavours, until the men brought it home for lunch after prayers on Saturday afternoon.

The following recipe is adapted from one my mother gave me, which was a mix from an old Jewish cookbook and how she remembered her mother-in-law used to make it. It is traditionally made with beef, but here’s my veggie version. I guess every Jewish household makes it differently, but to me, it’s not cholent without butter beans.

1 cup butter beans
½ cup of barley
½ cup lentils of your choice (I used mixed yellow split peas, green
split peas, marrowfat peas and red lentils)
3 onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
7 new potatoes, peeled
Knuckle of ginger, peeled and chopped or grated
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the butter beans and the lentils in a generous amount of water overnight.

Sauté the onions, then add garlic and carrots. Sauté for a further few minutes until light brown in colour. Add these vegetables to a casserole dish, along with the drained butter beans and lentils. Add all other ingredients to the dish. Pour over boiling water to cover and stir to mix everything well.

Replace the casserole lid and place in a 200° oven for 30 minutes or until the contents start to bubble. Turn the heat down to 130° and leave for at least 5 hours (the longer, the better). Periodically check on the cholent – you may need to add more water and stir every hour or so if it’s looking a little dry.

Yum yum! This will certainly leave you feeling very warm and happy inside.

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Vietnamese pickle salad

I decided to use my brightly coloured vegetables to make this instant pickle salad, inspired by banh mi. I love the strong flavours.

3 tbsp rice vinegar
½ tsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
small knuckle of ginger
1 small carrot
a third of a cucumber
a few slices of raw beetroot
3 inch piece of daikon

Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and sugar. Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Julienne or chop all the vegetables into fine sticks, including the ginger. Add the vegetables to the vinegar mixture and stir a little. That’s it! Although this is an instant pickle, it will taste better if you leave it a day. It will last in the refrigerator for about a couple of weeks.

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Purple madness!

I just had to blog about these beautiful vegetables I’ve been finding at the beginning of this colourful autumn. There’s not much to say, but I think they speak for themselves. Their colours are reversed – here, the normally purple beetroot is a bright orangey-yellow, and the normally orange carrot and pepper are purple. My eyes are so confused. Nature is amazing!

Rainbow carrot, purple pepper and golden beetroot

Doesn’t this pepper look like it had mixed parentage – half pepper, half aubergine…?!