Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Chocolate walnut cupcakes with caramel icing

I made chocolate walnut cupcakes on the weekend. While they were super tasty, they were a bit strange. I don't think I would describe them as cupcakes, more like a brownie. The recipe didn't call for any rising agent - no baking powder or baking soda (I did triple-check the recipe), so the cakes were quite dense, definitely more brownie-texture rather than light and fluffy cupcake.

The walnuts in them were delicious - I roasted them first, so they were crunchy and toasty, delicious. The recipe also called for chocolate chips in the mixture - next time I think I would leave them out - the recipe already has 250g of melted dark chocolate which I think was enough.

I iced the cupcakes with a really delicious caramel icing. It was super easy to make and so, so tasty. It was simply butter, brown sugar, cream and golden syrup melted together. Once cooled, you beat in icing sugar. So easy! I bought a tiny jar of that super-cute edible glitter, which I sprinkled on some of the cupcakes. It's so pretty.

I'm going to have another go at these, putting some baking powder in, and leaving the chocolate chips out. I'm also going to make the original recipe again and try baking it in a tray, like a brownie. Yum. I'll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Chicken Stock

Ok, I'll admit, chicken stock is not exactly a sexy topic. It is however, a staple in the kitchen, and I have a fail-safe way to make the most delicious chicken stock.

It's simple, fast to prepare and, like I say, you're doing well to make a hash of it. What is my secret? My crockpot.

A crockpot makes making any stock - beef, chicken, vege so, so simple. Following our roast dinner the other night I put our (free range - but that's a debate for another day) chicken carcass in the crockpot, threw in a chopped carrot and onion, a few squashed garlic cloves, salt, pepper and a bay leaf, filled it up with water, turned it onto to low and went to bed. The next morning I woke to the most delicious, golden chicken stock, ready to have the fat skimmed off, strained, and popped into containers in the freezer. Done! No endless stirring or watching, and no house full of chicken-stock steam.

I sometimes add a leek and/or celery to my stock, my sister adds fennel - it all depends what is in the fridge. Jamie Oliver advises I should also add various herbs, but again, it all depends what is in my fridge, or in the case of herbs, my freezer.

Now I have a wonderful supply of delicious, healthy chicken stock ready to go whenever I need.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


We had a NZ-themed lunch at work the other day, for a workmate seconded from the UK. Cheerios with Watties sauce, asparagus rolls, jaffas, chips and dip, cheese rolls, vegemite and cheese toasties, the list goes on, yum.

I made NZ-themed cupcakes. I used the good old reliable Edmonds Cookbook cupcake recipe, as I wanted to show off the decorations, not the actual cupcake. I discovered a wonderful trick the other day. To avoid messing up your cupcake cases when spooning the mixture in, you pop it in a piping bag, and pipe it into the cases. This means no mess, and you can ensure an even distribution in each cupcake case. I did have a slight disaster when my piping bag burst, sending a giant dollop of mixture all over the tins. I quickly scooped the mixture up, wiped everything down, and no one was the wiser! (Although, perhaps time for a new piping bag!)

The day before I made the cupcakes, I made decorations for them. I piped chocolate koru and NZ symbols. From royal icing (sometimes called fondant I understand), I made more koru and some kiwifruit. My sister made the cute sheep from marshmallows. I also made a rugby ball from a chocolate egg covered in icing and with chocolate seams piped on. My sister and I also made the jandals using the royal icing (we simply coloured the icing using food colouring, kneading it into the icing). For some, I simply used a pineapple lump and Mintie as a decoration – a typical NZ lolly. You can see all my creations in the photo attached to this post, and the photo at the top of the page.I iced the cupcakes using a simple butter cream – icing sugar, milk, butter and vanilla essence.

The cupcakes proved a great success. My favourites were the kiwifruit and the rugby ball. So cute!

Friday, 25 March 2011


Welcome to my blog!
I want this blog to be interactive, I want to hear your thoughts - your cooking successes and those that are less successful (hopefully not too many!)

I will post recipes, photos, thoughts, suggestions, and anything else cooking-related that takes my fancy!