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Did you just find out that you’ve got guests coming over in an hour? If you’re like me and feel obliged to provide something freshly baked to munch on whilst catching up with friends, then there are two fail-proof options. Scones or muffins. Don’t have friends popping over soon? Then school or work lunches or just because-you-felt-like-it are also very reasonable reasons too.

I’m not entirely sold on the old-fashion rolled oats in this recipe, it gives it lots of little chewy bits in the muffin which might be to your liking but certainly wasn’t to mine. I guess it does make it feel a little healthier though? If healthy is your aim, you probably want to remove the chocolate from this recipe and replace a bit of the white flour with wholemeal flour.

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Overall the muffins look fab and smell amazing. They will definitely impress without looking like you’ve gone overboard. If I made them again I’d remove the oats or change them out for quick cook oats, but then that’s just me.

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IMG_3436 IMG_3437Have you ever wondered how best to make your house smell like a big bottle of delicious port? The kind of smell that is sweet, classy and fruity that is guaranteed to waft delicately through your house. Yes!? That’s exactly what I thought.

First things first, don’t be deceived by the casual, look of this cake because it sure doesn’t taste that way. Actually on second thought, I think effortless is a better descriptive word for it. I mean it’s so effortless it doesn’t even need a quick dust of icing sugar (or for the baking paper to be carefully measured and cut like I would usually do). All it needs is some gigantic, juicy plums studded into the top and you’re pretty much good to go eat. To recap – this cake is a hot mess. An effortless hot mess.

Structurally this cake is more than strong enough to hold up the plums without letting them sink in too much and yet somehow manages to retain a soft and tender crumb at the same time. By keeping the skin on the plums you contain the delicious juices that would otherwise turn your cake into a potential disaster. I don’t really know how to describe what will happen if you remove the skins but basically the liquid from the plums will get into the batter and stop the cake from baking properly around the plums. Moral of the story is keep the skins on and everything will be fine.

IMG_3441IMG_3439I recently discovered Ruahine Ports at the Newtown Street Festival last week and their New Zealand owned and made ports blew my mind. So much so my partner and I bought two bottles. They make a decent tawny port but the real star is in their less traditional range of fruit ports. Namely the boysenberry. It was by far the most delicious port I’ve ever tried and if you haven’t heard of them I would highly recommend taking a look at their online shop. I’m hoping they pop up at another festival soon where I can try the blueberry, apricot, feijoa and blackcurrant ports but in the mean time I have a plum port and a boysenberry port waiting to be drunk.

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In the past Christmas mince pies have been a thing of pure evil. While they look and smell undeniably delicious they taste – to me anyway – like crap. Over the years I’ve come to an understanding, that repulsive and sharp bitter taste is the effect of a little thing called mixed peel. Christmas mince pie recipes always seem to ask for store bought mince (which also has the horrid peel in it) and I’ve never gone to the effort of making it myself. No big loss I told myself. NO BIG LOSS!? It was an astronomically huge loss.

Now I know these guys look exceptionally rustic – aka. messy – but that was all me. I’m more than sure yours will look much more perfect than my own! So please, please don’t judge them too harshly. I promise you they make up for it in taste. Oh such taste.

This is a fantastic recipe from Nigella Lawson that uses fresh cranberries as well as dried fruit but if you’re in New Zealand too, it isn’t cranberry season. I took the suggestion of a few comments below the original recipe and swapped them out for cherries.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Shared lunches are stressful. If you find them equally as stressful and time consuming then turn your attention to this crowd pleaser. It takes no time at all, is gluten-free (for those with allergies), can be made nut-free (more allergies) and, with a bit of tweaking, can have even less refined sugar than it already has. It also stores fabulously and the bananas can be swapped out for practically anything else. The only things to note; bananas should be very ripe for maximum deliciousness; walnuts paired much better with the brownie and banana than the almonds you see featured in the above pictures; if your butter isn’t salted, add 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt.

Everyone was impressed with this bad boy, before and after eating too. It looks impressive, tastes like a great big block of chocolate – so use excellent chocolate – and is a recipe that comes from David Lebovitz (that in itself should be convincing enough). It’s also kinda festive when you swap out bananas for raspberries and add a sprinkling of white chocolate, just saying, Christmas and all. Read More

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There’s a relatively new craze that seems to be snowballing out of control, maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t. I’m talking about raw food. I had heard about it but up until last week I didn’t really think it was for me. I love baked, toasty, warm goods. End of story… Or so I thought. Then along came the Unbakery Cookbook and it piqued my interest. So I put myself to the ultimate test, could I love a cheesecake that wasn’t baked or ‘cooked’ in any way? Yes. Yes I could.

I’d describe a raw cheesecake, albeit rather inaccurately because it isn’t like anything I’ve ever eaten before, as similar to an icecream mousse on a base somewhat reminiscent of a bliss ball. It’s not super sweet but it’s perfect and you could eat it for hours without feeling overloaded with richness. If you eat a lot of sugar normally, you are going to find this cheesecake seriously lacking in that department. All I can suggest is to add more maple syrup, or sweetener of your choice, to give it the boost you need (but seriously, it’s pretty flippin’ good without all the extra sugar).

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In my haste – by that I mean excitement of course – to make this cheesecake, the filling ended up being thrown together after dark. So unfortunately there are no pictures for those steps. Don’t worry, it was just everything thrown in to the food processor and blended together until a very smooth paste formed.

You might have noticed my wee baking paper trick taught to me by my mum. It is a great, no fuss way to line the base of any springform tin without having to trace a circle, cut it out and then make adjustments so the paper circle will actually fit. If you turn the springform base upside down, place a sheet of baking paper on top then clip the whole thing into the ring. You’ll not only save precious minutes but it’ll make it much easier to lift the cake off from the base which is especially good for cakes you don’t want to invert onto a cooling rack thus marking the top.

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A great tip when working with sticky mixtures such as this base is to wet the back of a metal spoon with very hot water. This stops the mixture from sticking (for a short while) and when it does start to stick again simply rewet. It’s super easy and will save a lot of time and frustration.

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Voila, the cheesecake is ready!

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There are certain things I’ve always thought would be a superb idea to make at home and yet somehow I always end up buying a pre-made version at the supermarket. Lemon and barely cordial was one of them, vanilla essence the other (of course the list extends much further than that but i’ll refrain myself). High quality vanilla essence can be ridiculously expensive especially if you go for the organic, top shelf stuff *guilty* so when I was given a mountain of pods I knew exactly what to do.

The whole concoction takes about as long as you’re willing to give it. It’s kind of like fruit cake though, the longer you leave it to mature and develop the better it tastes (although if you don’t like fruit cake then that’s a pretty bad example). This bad boy has been in my pantry for two weeks now but I’m probably going to leave it for another month or so before I start using it. Don’t strain out the black little spots when you’re ready to use it, treat them like gold. Vanilla seeds are great aesthetic enhancers in cakes, icings, ice creams and sweet muffins as well as lending loads of extra flavour.

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With Christmas just around the corner (yes we’re talking about Christmas and it’s not even December) if you whip this up right now and leave it to infuse in your pantry you’ll have super special little gifts for family and friends.

Multiply or divide the following recipe at will.

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Why would anyone go to the trouble of making their own almond milk? Well, the suppliers of nut milks have you fooled. It costs nowhere near the excessive prices featuring at your local supermarket and, surprise, surprise, it can be made in a pinch (disclaimer: it does require overnight soaking). You will also be needing a super hardcore hand blender or a stand blender – please no food processors, it’ll end up in disaster.

While normal milk is delicious, nutritious and very hard to beat, I have recently decided to try and cut out lactose for couple of weeks. Basically I’m testing to see if it changes my abnormal amount of coughing. Coughing that tends to increase exponentially whenever I pig out on yoghurt (my main lactose vice). Yes, I could buy lactose free milk but where’s the fun in that? I now have the opportunity to test out all the different nut milks and still pay less than lactose free milk.

Naturally when needing a delicious, spot-on, vegan/raw/vegetarian recipe I turned to my ex-design teacher. After scouring the internet I noticed that her ‘rule of thumb’ recipe had significantly less nuts in it than others. If you want something even richer, milkier and nut flavoured you can add more nuts but do try this reduced number first. It was the perfect amount of nuttiness without overpowering my morning muesli. You can also add a teaspoon (or less) of maple syrup into the nut milk or blend up one date per 500ml right at the very end. Taste it before sweetening! You may be pleasantly surprised.

Oh and did I mention this ‘rule of thumb recipe’ works for all other nuts as well? If you don’t have any almonds at hand try hazelnut or cashew.

At the end of your milk escapade you’re going to have about two tablespoons of almond meal. If making larger batches than I, I highly recommend you dry them on low in the oven, or in a dehydrator, then store then in an airtight container in the freezer. You can use the almond meal later on in cakes, cookies, smoothies, muffins, etc. or you can choose to leave your milk unstrained thus eliminating all that fuss. It’s really not a fuss, but it’s less fuss than no fuss if you catch my drift.

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Wow.

This is the greatest cookie I’ve eaten, so far.

I think I’m still in shock.

Let me start by saying that The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit is a treasure trove of flavour combinations and played a huge role is my random addition of the two spices, nutmeg and cardamon. If the book hadn’t been staring at me while I wondered how to make this cookies a bit more special I highly doubt I would be as elated as I am now. I found the book when I was out shopping with mum one day and we both instantly fell in love with it. Needless to say it’s a heck of a lot cheaper online and if you’re living in New Zealand I recommend going to fishpond and buying it from there as it’s almost $10 cheaper than book depository. I don’t know whether they ship outside of New Zealand though which is why BD is the link used above. Anyone who loves to bake will be guaranteed to fall in love with this book.

Now back to the cookies. I’ve made many double chocolate cookies before but they have never been like this. The combination of the spices add a level of depth to the cocoa that I’ve just never experienced. It’s kind of like adding coffee to your brownie mix. You can’t taste it but we all know the brownie tastes a million times better with it than without.

These cookies also have half the amount of sugar the original recipe asks for. I don’t know about you but I don’t like over sweet baking. If you do, add an extra cup of white sugar and cream it in with the brown. That or you can always use a combination of milk and white chocolate if you don’t want to add in the extra sugar. Personally these are sweet enough as they are and all the more moorish because of it! When they cool completely the almonds get really crunchy which is quite delicious despite the chocolate flavour overpowering them somewhat. They are in there more for the texture than for the cookies to be almond flavoured. Obviously the chocolate is the hero in this recipe (there were quite a few complaints in the original recipe’s comment section about that).

Best eaten warm when the chocolate chunks are still a little molten. I think I shall have another one right now…

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What is this? Two posts in less than a week when in recent months it takes weeks for a new recipe to come up? Well it just felt so mean to leave everyone hanging for a week while they had their caramel sauces ready to go with no sticky date pudding to accompany it. Also, last night I hashed together one of the most delicious cookies I’ve ever made and/or tasted. I was so excited I realised that I couldn’t wait two weeks to share it with you. So, in honour of instant gratification, this post is getting shoved forward so next week I can share the most moorish, delicious cookie recipe with you. Yes I realise that is setting high expectations, and no I don’t think it will fail the imaginary, impossibly high standards of the masses. Well… *knock on wood*

I’m going to level with you, the reason or inspiration behind whipping this up the other night… I’ve never had sticky date pudding. For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated dates. Well the dried ones at least. I figured out I love fresh dates a couple of years back but that is entirely besides the point. Typically I (used to) avoid anything with dates in it because rationally, dates are not delicious, so anything with dates will be equally not delicious. Right? Wrong. Well I’ve learnt my lesson now and while I still won’t go near a dried date. I officially love things with dates in them.

So if you were like I was, or if you weren’t I urge you to try out this pudding recipe. It’s so simple and easy it hurts. The great thing is it doesn’t taste easy to make, nor does it look it, so you will be winning many hugs and praises if you make dessert tonight I promise. Pair with vanilla bean ice cream and the crowds will go wild.

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Caramel sauce, or otherwise known as butterscotch sauce, is wonderfully easy to make and tastes a million times better than store bought. For this recipe I just used a standard soft brown sugar but I imagine a light muscovado sugar would be delicious. Admittedly, I didn’t make this sauce – I was busy playing computer games and my partner wanted the sauce to be done so he could have his sticky date pudding drenched in caramel; for once he was more impatient than me for dessert.

While caramel sauce doesn’t keep forever in the fridge, it should last up to two weeks. That’s about the same amount of time cream would last in the fridge. It will get a bit firm sitting in the fridge so if you want it more sauce-like, heat in a pot on low until desired consistency is achieved or, in a microwave, blast it in ten second bursts. Either way works fine although I always find the stovetop way means I can keep a closer eye on it. This is the perfect accompaniment to just about any pudding, cake, ice cream or sticky date pudding (sorry but that recipe comes next week! In the mean time, have a sneak peek)

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I think sometime in the near future I will have to post up my chocolate fudgey sauce that is both rich and chocolatey without a single piece of actual chocolate in it. Brilliant right?

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