Tapas Tuesday – Healthier Patatas Bravas Skillet Roasted

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It came to me in a dream, or while somebody was talking and I failed to listen. Sometimes I drift of and think of food. Tapas Tuesday. I love a good alliteration, or just an alliteration. Everything is catchier in an alliteration. Mamma Mia and Manic Monday were not popular because they were the greatest songs, right? I might be wrong, pop music is not exactly my genre.

Anyway, I love tapas. I’m Spanish and I love Spanish food, no big deal. I know you will probably be groaning right now. Going out to eat tapas is really expensive for very small portions on a big plate. To be fair Spanish Serrano ham and Manchego cheese are expensive even if you buy them at the store. I find the idea of going out to eat tapas at a restaurant hilarious, because originally they were a genius marketing scheme of the bar industry. If you went somewhere for a drink, they’d serve you a little something to eat. This way you stay longer and you don’t get drunk so quickly, therefore ordering more drinks. Perfect vicious cycle. It was almost capitalism at its peak, until they started charging you for the tapas with your drink and then they invented tapas restaurants.

Let me tell you something, save yourself the money and make a few tapas at home. It will be so much cheaper. So I figured every Tuesday I’ll give you a simple little recipe to start your own tapas fiesta at home. Last week I figured out how to make a healthier way to make Patatas Bravas – no need to fry anything. Coming fresh out the skillet they are surprisingly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I hate soggy potatoes, don’t you? Since I started making these, I have made them at least six times. They make a wonderful side dish because they go with everything and don’t even need a sauce (though you can serve them with some aioli or guacamole). So let’s get started – you can have fresh patatas bravas ready in 20 minutes, if you’re fast with your kitchen knife. Enjoy and have a nice day.

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Skillet Roasted Patatas Bravas

Ingredients for one medium skillet:

3 medium potatoes*

Olive oil

Salt

Instructions:

  1. Peel and cube your potatoes. Pat them dry with a tea towel or a paper towel.
  2. Toss them on a little olive oil, just enough to keep them from sticking on the plate.
  3. Put them on a microwaveable plate in a single layer and put them in the microwave on 800 Watts/Maximum Heat for 7-10 minutes. They should give in when you squeeze them with your finger, this way they won’t take too long in the skillet.
  4. Put a little oil in a skillet and put it on high heat. When the oil is hot and put the potatoes into the skillet. Toss them in the skillet until they are golden.
  5. Sprinkle them with salt to taste.

*If you add more potatoes to one skillet, they won’t crisp up. Work in batches when making more or use a big electric pan.

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Welcome to Culinary Tripping

There is nothing I have ever found to be harder than writing this blogpost. I doubt anyone will ever read it, but just in case your interested, here we go. I’m Debbie and I’m very boring. I like cooking and travelling, hence the name of the blog. Nothing is more fun to me than experimenting in the kitchen and eating said new creation straight out of the dish (plate – ain’t nobody got nerve to clean that). Sometimes I share my new inventions. I love trying new foods in new places and recreating international dishes I saw that I was too stingy to buy (“I can make that”). Mostly it works. Sometimes I just make new dishes up, because those vegetables have to go. You know that feeling right? Also I hate cleaning up, so I love to make things in preferably one pot. So I’ll share some of my inventions right here, hopefully you’ll like them.

Here are some other things I like: reading, writing, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Musical Theatre, annoying people in my vicinity by pretending to be Elphaba, the wicked witch of the West hanging from a doorframe, movies and TV. I’ll watch just about anything as long as it’s not mushy and romantic or has Justin Bieber in it. I hate horror movies, yet I keep watching them by myself. Why does anyone do that? No clowns! You heard me, no clowns! I still have nightmares of that family of clowns that stole all my candy at German Karneval before driving away in a tiny car. There is something wrong about a person with a smile on their face all the time, wouldn’t you agree? If you’re walking down the street smiling to yourself, I’m convinced you did something cruel like not wave back at a baby or not give a puppy a bellyrub. What is wrong with you? If you trust all those commercials you get before watching videos on youtube, I’m single who should have a baby right now (A tinder and pregnancy test commercial is a weird combination, right) and see It in theatres right away. I think I’ll pass.

I hope you will find something you like on this blog. I am very sorry, if I have bored you to death (hey, I did refrain from telling you why Alien is both one of the best and worst SciFi movies ever). Wishing you a clown free day, Debbie.

Stuffed Butternut Squash Two Ways – Part One Butternut Garlic Stuffing

Although hollowing a pumpkin can be quite the challenge, this dish is well worth the struggle and pumpkin gut clean-up. Both fillings are meat-free, which does not mean that they lack flavour. One filling sautéed butternut squash with aromatic garlic and the other a creamy mushroom filling. Both fillings contain créme fraiche and cheese, which you can easily replace with plant-based alternatives to make these vegan-friendly. The only question left is to peel or not to peel the butternut squash.

Stuffed Butternut Squash Two Ways – Butternut Garlic Stuffing

Ingredients:
• 1 butternut squash
• olive oil
• salt
• black pepper
• 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

• nutmeg
• Parsley
• 2 tbl créme fraiche
• Grated cheese

Instructions:
1. Peel the butternut squash (optional), cut it in half and gut it using a spoon or a small ice cream scoop.
2. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
3. Hollow the butternut squash out. It is easiest to first cut an outline before cutting a grated pattern into it before scooping out one cube at a time and set them aside for later. It is no problem should you accidentally slice through the bottom of the pumpkin. Slice shallow lines into the bottom butternut squash and set it into an oven dish.

4. Drizzle some olive oil on the squash and season it well with salt and pepper. Pour a little bit of water into the bottom of the oven dish, just so much that the bottom is slightly covered.
5. Bake the butternut squash halves for about 20-25 minutes until fork-tender.
6. While the squash is in the oven make the filling. Put a pan on high heat and add some olive oil. Roast the pumpkin cubes in the oil until tender and add the garlic, sauté until aromatic. Take the pumpkin filling off the heat and season it with salt, pepper, nutmeg and some parsley.
7. When the butternut squash is fork-tender take it out of the oven to stuff. Fill both halves with the butternut squash garlic filling. Add some créme fraiche on top and sprinkle some grated cheese over it. Bake it for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese is golden.

Mediterranean Gourmet Burger and the Perfect Burger Pattie

If you happen to be tired of the same old hamburger you can buy anywhere then this might be the recipe for you. Or maybe you are just looking for a way to make a well-done burger that does not have the consistency of a shoe sole. Nothing about this burger is fast food as every little part of it is homemade, from the bun to the Romesco Sauce and the Spanish Style Coleslaw. If that is not gourmet than I don’t know what is. Some of these recipes I have posted before and now we can finally assemble the best burger of all time together, at least in my opinion, with this burger pattie recipe. It makes the most succulent and flavourful burgers I have ever tasted.

Burger Pattie

Ingredients for 2 patties:
• 1 tbl olive oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 tsp instant vegetable stock
• 2 small cloves of garlic, minced
• 200 gr ground meat (half pork, half beef or beef or turkey)
• Salt
• Black pepper
• Paprika

Instructions:
1. Sauté the diced onions and instant vegetable stock in a small pan until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Leave it to cool a little.
2. Add the onions to the meat and season everything well.
3. Form the patties and grill them to your own personal preference rare, medium or well-done.

Mediterranean Gourmet Burger

• Burger Buns (recipe here)
• Burger Patties (recipe above)
• Romesco Sauce (recipe here)

• Spanish Style Coleslaw (recipe here)

Instructions:
1. Grill the burger patties to your own personal preference.
2. Slice and toast the buns on both sides.
3. Spread the Romesco Sauce on both halves of the bun and place the grilled burger pattie on top of the bottom bun.
4. Add some coleslaw and put the top bun on top. If necessary secure the burger with a skewer to keep from falling off. Serve the burger with French Fries, Patatas Bravas or a salad.

Savoury Mushroom Cheese Strudel (vegan option available)

Light puff pastry filled with a mix of brown and white sautéed mushrooms with garlic and onions. Créme fraiche gives the filling a creamy consistency and full flavour. As everything is better with cheese there is also some grated cheese in the middle, although that step is optional. Use plant-based alternatives for the créme fraiche and the cheese to make it vegan. Be careful as not all puff pastry is vegan, so read the ingredients carefully.

Savoury Mushroom Cheese Strudel

Ingredients:
• 1 tbl olive oil
• 1 onion, diced
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 500 gr mushrooms (white and/or brown),
• salt
• pepper
• parsley
• 150 gr créme fraiche (or vegan alternative)
• grated cheese (gouda, cheddar or vegan alternative)
• 1 packet of puff pastry

Instructions:
1. Make the filling by sautéing the diced onions in some olive oil until golden. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant before adding the sliced mushrooms. Let the mushrooms sweat out completely before seasoning them with salt, pepper and parsley to taste. Stir in the créme fraiche and leave it to cool a little.
2. Preheat the oven according to the instructions on the puff pastry packet.
3. Roll out the puff pastry on a baking sheet and spread the mushroom filling out in the middle leaving the outer edge free.

Fold the short edges up and stick them together with some water.

Starting from the long edge fold up one side. Wet the pastry on top and roll it over with the help of the baking paper underneath, the seam should be at the bottom. Move the strudel towards the middle of the baking sheet and bake it until golden 20-30 minutes.

A Cheater’s Broccoli Pasta Bake

This Broccoli Pasta Bake takes about half as long as a regular casserole dish whilst being as delicious. It can easily be made vegan by substituting milk and cheese with plant-based alternatives. By pre-boiling both pasta and broccoli you can cut cooking time in half and clean your kitchen as you brown the cheese in the oven. With minimal effort you can enjoy this lovely casserole making it the ideal dish for busy days or when you’re not in the mood to create a huge mess.

A Cheater’s Broccoli Pasta Bake

Ingredients:
• 250 gr pasta
• 1 broccoli
• 1 tbl olive oil
• 2 tsp instant vegetable stock
• 1 small onion, diced
• 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
• 1 ½ cups milk or almond milk
• Salt
• Pepper
• Ground nutmeg
• 1 ½ tsp cornstarch
• Grated cheese (gouda, cheddar or vegan cheese)

Instructions:
1. Boil the pasta according to the package instructions in well-salted water. Five minutes before the pasta has finished cooking add the broccoli florets to the pot and stir. Once the pasta is al dente drain the pasta and broccoli.
2. Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
3. Put the pot back on high heat and let the olive oil come to temperature. Sauté the instant vegetable stock together with the onions until golden. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the milk and bring everything to a boil.

Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste before thickening the sauce up with some cornstarch diluted in cold water. When the sauce has the right consistency stir in the pasta/broccoli until everything is coated with the sauce and pour it into an oven dish.

4. Cover everything with as much grated cheese as you like and bake it in the oven until golden.

Parrot Cake – No Parrots were Harmed during the Making of this Cake

This parrot cake is a light and fluffy sponge with raspberry and lime flavour with a glaze and rainbow sprinkles. It is the perfect cake to make for a children’s birthday party or just to treat your inner child. It looks and tastes amazing, fruity and sweet.

You might ask yourself, what is a parrot cake? I asked myself the same thing as I walked through the cake mix aisles in the grocery store. As Germany is a lot less adventurous as far as cake seems to be concerned, and most cake mixes are standard chocolate, vanilla and lemon flavours or decorating kits with current fashionable themes, this box caught my eye. It looked colourful, fun and overprized, although I have never seen a parrot that looked anything like this. When making it myself I thought it looked more like fashionable camouflage.

The list of ingredients on the back of the packet baffled me quite a bit. All cake mixes overcharge you for the cheapest ingredients, that is normal, but at least it should have some sort of (artificial) flavour. The flavour was just aroma, what is that? Maybe we should just be excited that the cake does not taste of actual parrots. I figured that I would just try making this myself, with an actual flavour. The colour scheme made me think of raspberry and lime. This is the kind of cake you want to make a day ahead so you have enough time to trim and glaze the cake. This way you don’t have to transfer a warm cake, which cracked mine a bit. You should never bake a cake in a hurry. This may not have looked the greatest, but it tasted amazing.

Parrot Cake – A Raspberry and Lime Sponge with Sprinkles

Ingredients:

Raspberry Sauce:
• 250 gr raspberries, fresh or frozen
• 1 Tbl lemon juice
• 125 gr sugar
• 10 gr cornstarch

Cake batter:
• 500 gr flour
• 1 packet baking powder
• 300 gr butter or shortening
• 280 gr sugar
• 2 Tsp vanilla sugar
• 1 dash of salt
• 4 eggs
• 250 ml milk
• ¼ cup raspberry sauce
• 1 lime, zest and juice
• red food colouring
• green food colouring

Glaze and Decoration:
• 150 gr icing sugar
• 3-5 tbl warm water
• Rainbow sprinkles

Instructions:
1. Put the raspberries into a small saucepan and mix in the other ingredients for the sauce. Bring everything to a boil and leave it to simmer until the raspberries break apart when stirring it and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Leave it to cool down a little and blend it until smooth. Pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds Leave it to cool completely before using the sauce in the cake.
2. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
3. For the batter mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl. Cream the butter, sugar and salt with a handmixer. Add one egg at a time, mixing in between to keep it from curdling too much. Alternate incorporating all the flour and milk with the handmixer.
4. Separate the cake batter evenly into three bowls. Add the raspberry sauce and red food colouring to one bowl and mix until you have reached the desired colour. To the next bowl you add two tablespoons of lime juice, one teaspoon of lime zest and green food colouring and mix well. The third bowl remains white.

5. Grease a square cake pan and add the batter to the pan randomly creating sort of a camouflage pattern. Give the pan a shake to level the batter without mixing all colours together.
6. Bake the cake for 45 minutes, then cover it with some aluminium foil to keep from getting too dark. Bake for another 10-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
7. Leave the cake to cool down for at least 20 minutes before removing it from the cake pan and leave it to cool completely.
8. Level the cake before making the glaze. Sift the icing sugar and stir in some warm water a tablespoon at a time and stir until smooth, it should be run nicely without being translucent. Spread the glaze on the cake and scatter some rainbow sprinkles on top. Leave the glaze to harden before slicing the cake.

Pink Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, with chopped cranberries and white chocolate chips in every bite. As far as cookies are concerned these lightly pink Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies are possibly the prettiest cookies I have ever made. In terms of appearance they reminded me of these cake mix cookies you can find all over Instagram and Pinterest, without the need to overpay for the cheapest ingredients in a box and still having to add the expensive ones.

Pink Cranberry White Chocolate Chips Cookies

Ingredients:
• 200 gr butter
• 100 gr caster sugar
• 50 gr brown sugar
• 1 dash salt
• 1 egg
• 1 tbl buttermilk
• 300 gr flour
• 1 tsp baking soda
• Pink food colouring
• 50 gr dried cranberries
• 50 gr white chocolate chips

Instructions:
1. Sift your flour and baking soda into a bowl and set them aside. Chop the cranberries into fine pieces for later.
2. Put the butter into a large bowl and sift both sugars and the salt into it. Mix until well combined, not creaming it.
3. Add the egg and buttermilk to the bowl and mix it.
4. Add the flour one half at a time and mix until the flour has been well incorporated without overmixing the dough.
5. Colour the dough into the desired shade of pink. Add the white chocolate chips and cranberries folding it into the dough until well incorporated.

6. Chill the dough in the fridge for half an hour.
7. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
8. Take one tablespoon of cookie dough and roll it into a ball and set it on a cookie sheet covered with a baking parchment making sure to leave plenty of space as they spread a lot. Make sure that the cookie sheet is cool as you place the dough on it to limit the cookie sticking to the parchment due to too much caramelization.
9. Bake the cookies in the lower third of the oven for about 12 minutes until golden around the edges and still soft in the middle. Leave them to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to chill completely.

Troubleshooting Cupcakes – Reasons why your cupcakes might not rise properly

Baking cupcakes is all the rage all the time. Even though they look pretty I never thought they were worth all the fuss. In the time I manage to decorate a handful of cupcakes with a buttercream that is way too sweet I have decorated an entire cake. That Swiss Meringue Buttercream I stumbled upon when trying to bake a teddy bear cake has definitely changed my view on buttercream. It is the most delicious thing in the world, although this blogpost is not about buttercream. If you want to know more about which buttercream is more suitable for your purposes or how to bake a teddy bear chocolate cake check out this post (here). There I take a closer look at the advantages of Swiss Meringue Buttercream and American Butter. It also includes step by step instructions on how to bake a teddy bear cake and some tips and tricks I wish I had known.

Anyway, that cake left me with a whole bunch of new baking equipment such as piping nozzles, a turntable and a stand mixer. Not to forget all the new recipes I saw when researching how to make that cake. Since then I attempted making more cupcakes, which were not as perfect as you see them on TV or on the internet. They were delicious and soft, but crackly on top with strange little hills forming. Buttercream can hide all these imperfections but it is so much easier to pipe around an even cupcake, so your tip is actually in the middle. How would you even go about just spreading some buttercream on top of the cupcake when you have no piping nozzles available? It would look ridiculous. Therefore I decided to conduct an experiment on how to get a perfectly even cupcake and the last five, out of twenty-nine, were finally perfect. I really think I tested all aspects of cupcake baking which might influence the outcome, other than testing all cupcake recipes in the world.

• which equipment worked best silicon or metal moulds
• how high to fill the mixture into the moulds
• how many cupcake liners to use
• where to put the baking rack in the oven

To test all these different conditions I used Cupcake Jemma’s Chocolate Cupcake recipe I have used before, but made a few alterations. By replacing some of the buttermilk I turned a regular chocolate cupcake into a Chocolate Irish Coffee Cream Cupcake (recipe here). To frost it I used some leftover Cocoa Swiss Meringue Buttercream from the freezer.

Let’s consider you have a cupcake recipe that should technically work. A good indicator for is that it is springy on top and a toothpick comes out clean within the indicated time at the indicated temperature in the oven. Obviously one some could rise a little more than others depending on how accurate you were filling them and whether or not you have a hotspot in your oven. Your cupcake did not rise evenly, but you have baked a moist sponge that is fine in any other regard. Clearly the recipe does not seem to be the problem. Now let’s have a look at all the other factors that could influence the rise of these cupcakes when the recipe is not the root of the problem.

1. Silicone Cupcake Mould versus Metal Cupcake Tin

When you take a look at the photos you can see that in terms of getting an even rise it made no difference whether I used silicone moulds or the metal cupcake tray. They were both baked on the same rack and at the temperature and all rose unevenly. Silicone moulds lightly change the shape of the cupcake as they are wider at the top, giving you more space to decorate. I only see one advantage to using silicone moulds is that they are cooler than the metal tray therefore leading to less caramelization of the cupcake within the liner. Either way when making a dark cupcake inside a light cupcake liner you will have to either double up the liners or use a stronger liner.

Verdict: Using a silicone mould or a metal cupcake tray makes no difference.

2. 2/3 of the way versus ¾ of the way full

How high to fill the mixture into your cupcake moulds can be difficult to estimate. Recipes often give you both options. I figured that this likely depends on the recipe you are using and your own personal preference when it comes to decorating. How high I filled them made no difference, they all had the crackly, hilly top. Some where just higher than others. Once I figured out my actual problem I thought that 2/3 of the way full gave me a nice even top. That even top is important when you want to sprinkle something on top or put a cupcake topper on it, which otherwise might slide down.

Verdict: How high you should fill your moulds depends on the recipe you use and how you plan decorating them.

3. One versus Multiple Cupcake Liners

The answer to that is quite short as it made no difference whatsoever when it came to the cupcake rising.
Verdict: Whether you use one or two cupcake liners makes no difference. Although two cupcake liners are often more aesthetically pleasing especially when it comes to a dark sponge. Make sure the cupcake liners fit the mould you are using perfectly so that they don’t fold in.

4. Where should you place the baking tray inside the oven?

After testing all the factors above whilst baking these cupcakes I was starting to think that the recipe had to be bogus, despite getting a springy top and a fully baked cupcake in the designated time at the designated temperature. Most recipes ask to put the baking tray in the middle of the oven, which I have always done. With the last few cupcakes I decided to go rogue as I had tried everything else. Rather than putting it in the middle I put the cupcake tray in the lower third, not the bottom, of the oven. After twenty-four minutes I had the perfect cupcakes with a springy and even top. I assume by putting it lower in the oven the top edges don’t dry out before the cupcake has the opportunity to rise evenly, which might force the weird hill we experienced before. Baking time and temperature remained the same.

Verdict: If you experience unevenly risen cupcakes when baking them in the middle rack of your oven, bake them in the lower third of the oven not the bottom in order to give them more time to rise before the top edge dry out.

Hopefully this post was helpful to you, I wish I had known this before. Cupcakes are such a cute little treat and baking season has officially begun. Now nothing can stop you from making evenly risen pumpkin spice or Halloween or even Christmas cupcakes. Both cupcakes and Swiss Meringue Buttercream freeze well, making it easy to keep some in the freezer and assemble when needed. Should you have butterfingers as I do and drop shall I say two beautifully decorated cupcakes onto your light carpet, I can tell you that those stains can be removed with an old towel, water, dish soap and vinegar essence. No butter stain left behind. I think that is a good thing to know, right?

Chocolate Irish Coffee Cream Cupcake with Cocoa Swiss Meringue Buttercream

These cupcakes are a wonderful mouthful not just in name, but in taste too. It is a beautifully soft chocolate coffee sponge with coffee and Irish Cream Liqueur topped with a smooth Cocoa Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting. I made a few changes to Cupcake Jemma’s chocolate cupcake and Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipes, as so far I have never encountered a better chocolate cupcake recipe. It is soft, delicate and moist. I used this recipe to analyze why my cupcakes don’t rise properly and I think I found the solution, but more on that in another post.

Chocolate Irish Coffee Cream Cupcake with Cocoa Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients for about 30 cupcakes:
• 350 gr flour
• 370 gr caster sugar
• 60 gr cocoa powder
• 1 tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 cup of very strong coffee, cold
• 3/4 cup buttermilk (stir 1 tbl of lemon juice into 3/4 cup of milk and leave it aside if you have non at hand, it works with almond milk, too)
• ¼ cup Irish Cream Liqueur (Baily’s or a cheaper alternative)
• 225 ml vegetable oil
• 3 large eggs
• Cocoa Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
2. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together.
3. Mix all the wet ingredients in another bowl and whisk them together.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until well combined.
5. Line 24 cupcake moulds with liners and fill them 2/3 of the way full.
6. Bake for 24 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. If you wanted to enhance the Irish coffee flavour you could poke a few holes into the cupcakes with a skewer and drizzle a mix of half coffee and half Irish Cream liqueur onto the cupcakes.
7. Leave them to cool before spreading or piping the buttercream onto the cupcakes.

Cocoa Swiss Meringue Buttercream* (adapted from Cupcake Jemma)

Ingredients (for cake with 20 cm diameter or about 60 cupcakes):
• 2 egg whites
• 150 gr fine caster sugar
• 200 gr soft butter
• Cocoa powder
• 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:
1. Make sure the entire equipment your working with is grease free by wiping down the whisk attachment and the bowl with a little vinegar on a paper towel.
2. Put a small pot with a little bit of water on low heat and bring it to a simmer. Your heatproof bowl should fit the pot without touching the water as to not scramble your egg whites.
3. Mix your egg whites and sugar in said bowl and put it on the double boiler. Stirring in between regularly until all the sugar has dissolved. You should be able to comfortable rub the mixture between your fingers without burning yourself. In videos it is often frothy, mine was completely smooth and white. Don’t worry it takes quite a bit of time but you will get there.
4. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the bowl from the heat and put it into your stand mixer. With the whisk attachment start beating it at medium speed (5 out of 7 for reference). Once the merengue is white and glossy, with the bowl completely cool, turn up the speed by one level. This will make it really stiff.
5. Turn the speed down to medium speed (4 out of 7) and add the butter one tablespoon at a time mixing in between. Don’t worry it will get almost soupy, that is fixed by turning speed back to high (6 or 7 out of 7) and whipping it back up.
6. Turn the mixer off and add your flavourings, vanilla extract and sifted cocoa powder. Add as much cocoa until it has the colour you desire. Mix until smooth on medium speed. Should you find the merengue a little too soft, you can chill it so the butter firms up a little. It depends how hot your kitchen is.
7. Frost your cake with a crumb layer and let it rest for 30 minutes, preferably in the fridge. Add a second layer or pipe on some decorations (not with Russian piping nozzles, the buttercream is too soft and smooth).
*This recipe makes a lot of buttercream which freezes incredibly well. Freeze the leftovers, thaw them in the fridge a day before you need them, let them come to room temperature and whip it up before you need it. Now you can decorate whatever you want with the leftover buttercream.

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Gravy (Quick Read)

These stuffed bell peppers with gravy might not look like much aesthetically, but they taste wonderful. It is ground meat stuffed in vegetables served with a super savoury dark gravy. You can serve this with rice or potatoes.

This is a recipe you really cannot say much about. What you see is what you get and it’s not trying to be something else. It is a very easy recipe, all you have to do is season the meat and hollow your bell peppers. Then you stuff the meat into the into the bell peppers and brown it in some olive oil. Boil it in water until cooked through and reduced to make the gravy. It takes more time than my usual mid-week recipes but it is well worth the trouble.

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Gravy

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 bell peppers in any colour (depends on their size)
  • 250-300 gr ground meat (mix of beef and pork or turkey)
  • 4 tsp instant vegetable stock (or two vegetable stock cubes)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ground nutmeg
  • paprika
  • parsley
  • 1 egg
  • breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbl flavour neutral oil (such as sunflower)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch or dark sauce binder

Instructions:

1. Hollow out the bell peppers and remove the seeds.

2. Mix the meat with two teaspoons of vegetable stock and spices to taste. Add the egg and some breadcrumbs and incorporate well until it holds it shape well. Fill the bell peppers with the meat.

3. Put a medium sized pot (make sure it has a lid) on high heat, when it is hot add the oil and let it come to temperature.

4. Sauté the bell peppers from all sides until lightly brown with the lid on, making sure to take it off the heat turn turn them.

5. Add another 2 teaspoons of instant vegetable stock to the pot and sauté it while the last side of the bell pepper is browning.

6. Boil hot water and pour it into the pot until the bell peppers are halfway covered. Put the lid back on and reduce heat to medium high. Boil this for at least thirty minutes then remove the lid. Keep reducing the liquid to to half.

7. Remove the bell peppers from the pot. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. If you like the sauce to be thicker you can dissolve a teaspoon of cornstarch or dark sauce binder in a little bit of cold water and adding it to the sauce little by little until has reached the desired consistency.

8. Serve the stuffed bell peppers with some cooked rice (white or brown).

Butterbeer Cupcakes – A Magical Autumn Treat for my Birthday

A soft and delicate caramel flavoured sponge with a smooth Butterbeer Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. This cupcake is the perfect sweet treat without being heavy or overpoweringly sweet. For Halloween you can easily decorate them with some candy broomsticks making them the perfect addition to the Three Broomsticks’ menu, if you don’t drop them on the floor that is.

So, this birthday absolutely sucks. On top of fighting a sinus infection we are also renovating the kitchen. The simple process of turning an old dresser into a kitchen island turned into a nightmare. All I wanted was more storage space for all the new kitchen equipment and an island of my own. What I was the entire contents of the kitchen strewn all over the place whilst waiting for a window to be replaced. Although now I sleep an arm length away from unicorn sprinkles, so that’s not too bad. Usually my family drops by for coffee and cake, which I bake myself, but this year I might just skip it. The mess is too much. I will just make something I like without having to cater anyone else’s preferences. Is it sad that I have to bake my own birthday cake, just so I can get something I even remotely like?

Anyway, in the summer I experimented with Butterbeer Ice Cream (recipe here), which I absolutely loved, so why not use that flavour to make cupcakes. Originally I wanted to make a Butterbeer Cake or, as it is just for me and I could make as nerdy a cake as I wanted, I would have made myself that pink birthday cake with the green writing on top. It’s just too much with half a kitchen opting for cupcakes instead. My piping job with the Butterbeer Swiss Meringue Buttercream is not the greatest and I also lost more than half of the buttercream to mad practice piping accident. When I managed to cover my cupcakes with the frosting I still had in the piping bag, I dropped all of my candy brooms on the floor and they broke. Now I am going to sit on the couch eating my Butterbeer Cupcakes whilst watching E.T., as the one-hour long sob-fest opens up my sinuses, waiting for the third disaster to strike. If you never hear from me again, you know why. To make these Butterbeer Cupcakes you will need a caramel cupcake sponge, if you already have one that works well for you use that. I used Cupcake Jemma’s recipe for Caramel Cupcakes as I had been so successful with her chocolate cupcakes.

Caramel Cupcake (makes 12 cupcakes)

Ingredients:
• 125 gr flour
• 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
• ¼ tsp baking soda
• 75 gr caster sugar
• 50 gr brown sugar
• 1 dash of salt
• 125 gr softened butter
• 2 large eggs
• 1 ½ tsp milk
• ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 170 °C and line 12 cupcake moulds with cupcake liners.
2. Sift all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
3. Add the butter and eggs and whisk it together until smooth for about a minute.
4. Add the milk and vanilla extract and whisk for another 30 seconds, careful not to overmix the batter.
5. Fill the cupcake moulds with the batter until half full and bake for about 22 minutes until golden and springy on top.
6. Leave them to cool before decorating them with the buttercream.

Butterbeer Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients:
• 150 ml non-alcoholic malt beer*
• 2 egg whites
• 150 gr fine sugar
• 200 gr softened butter
• ¼ cup butterscotch sauce
*if you have access to malt powder you can use that as well, but you will have to figure out how much to use

Instructions:
1. Pour the non-alcoholic malt beer into a saucepan and reduce it on medium high heat until it has a syrup-like consistency and leave it to cool. If you have reduced it a little too much so that it is too solid when cold you can put it into the microwave and warm it up for a few seconds on low heat to soften.
2. Make sure the entire equipment your working with is grease free by wiping down the whisk attachment and the bowl with a little vinegar on a paper towel.
3. Put a small pot with a little bit of water on low heat and bring it to a simmer. Your heatproof bowl should fit the pot without touching the water as to not scramble your egg whites.
4. Mix your egg whites and sugar in said bowl and put it on the double boiler. Stirring in between regularly until all the sugar has dissolved. You should be able to comfortable rub the mixture between your fingers without burning yourself. In videos it is often frothy, mine was completely smooth and white. Don’t worry it takes quite a bit of time but you will get there.
5. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the bowl from the heat and put it into your stand mixer. With the whisk attachment start beating it at medium speed (5 out of 7 for reference). Once the meringue is white and glossy, with the bowl completely cool, turn up the speed by one level. This will make it really stiff.
6. Turn the speed down to medium speed (4 out of 7) and add the butter one tablespoon at a time mixing in between. Don’t worry it will get almost soupy, that is fixed by turning speed back to high (6 or 7 out of 7) and whipping it back up.
7. Turn the mixer off and add your flavourings, here the malt beer syrup and butterscotch sauce, to the Swiss Meringue Buttercream and mix on high speed to distribute it well.
8. Should you find the buttercream a little too soft to pipe you can put it into the fridge for ten to twenty minutes to firm up a little. Transfer the buttercream into a piping bag with a piping nozzle and pipe it onto your cupcakes. With a big round nozzle you could make it look like actual foam on top of a beer. If you don’t have piping bags and nozzles you can just spread it on your cupcakes.