Monday, 29 August 2011

Lavender Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

I don't think that most of you would have ever heard of lavender cupcakes before, and I certainly haven't either before making these. The idea arose when I found out that lavender was an edible flower and since there were plenty of lavender bushes in the garden I thought I could make use of them and what better than to make it into one of my favourite forms of food: cake.

I had no idea what the cupcakes would taste like, and the batter actually tasted a bit bitter so I was worried that this attempt at creative cooking may have been a failure. However I tried the finished product and they were yummy, the bitterness all gone and only the taste of lavender left. I tested these cupcakes on my family and friends and made them guess the flavour, it took a while but once they knew it was lavender they could definitely taste this flavour; one friend even said that they tasted like one of the lavender soap but sweet version. Lavender is an acquired taste I think and may not be to everyone's taste buds, however I can assure you that it tastes a lot better in a sweet form rather than just eating the flower on its own. In addition I thought that the icing finished off the cupcakes very nicely and would definitely recommend it in this cupcake; the sweeter the better with lavender. I even attempted making icing roses as decoration. Here is my first ever attempt:

I spent an hour playing around with the icing practicing my rose making skills, and as they say: practice makes perfect. I topped the cupcakes off with fresh lavender flowers for added decoration; pretty and simple.

Preparation time: 40 minutes 
Serves: makes around 15 cupcakes


1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp fresh or dried lavender buds chopped (can use lavender extract instead)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
a few drops of pink and blue food colouring to make purple


1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Beat the butter and sugar till creamy, then beat in the eggs one by one.
3. Add the vanilla extract and yogurt and mix.
4. Add the dry ingredients and the lavender and mix again till the mixture is well combined and smooth.
5. Add the batter into cupcake moulds and bake for around 15 minutes till a cocktail stick comes out clean. 
6. Let the cupcakes cool. Whilst they are cooling make the icing by beating together the butter, vanilla extract, food colouring and icing sugar (a little at a time) till the right consistency is achieved. You can add more or less icing sugar depending on how you want the texture to be.
7. Ice the cooled cupcakes. Be creative.

A post from Fullest of Life

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Clotted Cream Fudge

I had a go at making fudge as a request by my sister. I have tried to make fudge once before a few years ago, however it didn't turn out too well as it ended up being too crystallised and it was consequently binned so I was put off making it again for a while. When my sister asked me to make it for her just this week tried to find a different recipe and I came across so many, each using different ingredients. The two main ingredients to fudge are sugar and milk. The milk can be in different forms such as cream, condensed milk and evaporated milk. However I remembered the best fudge I have eaten which was in Cornwall and the secret ingredient in that was clotted cream; Cornish clotted cream fudge was at every souvenir shop there. Therefore I found a recipe containing clotted cream. You can find many different flavours of fudge, and I was tempted to try a different flavour, however  I decided that I needed to find a good recipe which works before I started experimenting with flavours. The recipe which I used turned out to be perfect. I was surprised at how well it turned out and I think my sister was as well. I was also apprehensive at first as you need a sugar thermometer to make fudge, however I didn't have one so I had to rely on my judgement and considering previous experience I struck lucky this time. It is very easy for it to all go wrong when making fudge as the temperature and consistency needs to be precise, but if successful you will be rewarded with the ultimate sugary treat to satisfy any sweet tooth.

I know that I would definitely make this recipe again, and next time I would try out a different flavour such as chocolate or add nuts to it. I also think that it is a great gift idea, if packaged nicely and with ribbons it can make a special edible gift with a more personal touch which I know I would love to receive myself.


200ml clotted cream
100ml golden syrup
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Add all the ingredients to a saucepan and mix together. 

2. Heat the mixture on a low heat and keep stirring. The sugar should dissolve. Once the mixture is boiling cover the saucepan with a lid for around 2-3 minutes. Then remove the lid and continue to boil and stir the mixture.

Make sure that you keep a close eye on the fudge at this point as it is the most crucial part. 

3. Stir the mixture until the temperature reaches 116C on a sugar thermometer (it took me around 10-15minutes). Or if you don't have one, use the balling method;  drop some fudge into a bowl of cold water and it should form balls- use your judgement, the fudge shouldn't be too runny or too hard.

4. Once it is at the correct consistency it should be like honey and have a dark golden colour. Remove from the heat. 

5. Beat the fudge till it starts to thicken as it cools. The consistency will change completely from a runny mixture to something more like play dough. It also changes from a glossy to a mat finish.

5. Once it has a more dough like consistency place the fudge in a greased baking tin and flatten down. I lined the tin with baking paper instead to make it easier to remove the fudge. You can use what ever size tin you want as depending on the shape and thickness of the fudge you want. I used a loaf tin and found it was the ideal size.

6. Leave to cool for around 30mins, then score the fudge into pieces. Leave to cool for a few hours after this.

This recipe was enough to make just one loaf tin, you may want to double the recipe if you want to make more.

Recipe adapted from the Good Food Channel

A post by Fullest of Life

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A Lesson in Sushi Making

I love sushi and have eaten it is many restaurants, however I thought I would attempt to make my own; the first time I made it they were half falling apart, and this is the second time I made it with a much better result. I was first introduced to sushi 2 years ago by my best friend, Emma-Lily, at first I only ate vegetarian sushi as I couldn't get my head around eating raw fish, however eventually I braved myself to try the real thing and I  was surprised as it didn't taste as fishy as I thought it would, and this was the moment that I fell in love. The fresher the fish the better the sushi. I found that sushi is an acquired taste and the more you eat the more you like it. The addiction to sushi started when Emma-Lily made an array of beautiful sushi for my surprise birthday 2 years ago and I was blown away by how amazing they looked and how tasty they were. Ever since I have been having occasional sushi cravings.

Sushi is so versatile and you can put literally what ever you want in the middle, from normal things like fish, tempura and vegetables to more unusual things like big macs (yes it has actually been done). I think that wasabi and soy sauce are a must with any sushi, especially wasabi as it's that flavour that I associate with sushi. Not everyone likes wasabi tough as they find it too strong and hot, on the other hand that is exactly the reason why I love it- for the punch through the nose it gives you (really clears your sinuses) and the clean, refreshing taste afterwards, the good thing is that the heat is different from the spiciness of chillies and lasts only temporarily.

Well made sushi can look like a piece of art, and you can be creative as you like in decorating it, from elaborate designs to the plain and simple- they all look good as sushi is a naturally pretty food. You can use toppings such as mayonnaise, chili flakes and caviar (fish roe). Sushi is most striking when presented in straingt lines and on a plain background like white plates.

I made a video to show my attempt at sushi making in a way that anyone can have a go at it. In the video I have shown how to prepare sushi rice, maki sushi, California roll and nigiri sushi using simple techniques. You can vary the fillings to suit your own taste, ideas are: avocado, cucumber, smoked salmon, boiled king prawns, crab sticks, fresh raw fish (salmon and tuna work well), tempura, peppers, omelette, and the list can go on and on. Have fun with the sushi making and don't be afraid to experiment.

A post from Fullest of Life

Friday, 19 August 2011

A Taste of India

I've not posted for a while, the reason is that I have been on a holiday to India and I just got back. India really is a 'colourful' place; bustling, lively and tropical. Whilst on the other side of the world I made sure that I enjoyed all the exotic treats on offer and boy was there a lot of it! Grandma's cooking is the best, and she made sure that she stuffed me with a years worth of food in the space of a week. Of course there was a lot of curry; not 'chicken tikka', 'rogan josh' or 'vindaloo' but instead the authentic and real thing. They use spices in everything, and even Western things like crisps, sandwiches are altered to satisfy the spice craving Indian taste buds. I didn't take any pictures of curries as they taste better than they look and there were just too many to keep a log of.

Indians also have a very sweet tooth, and I emphasise the 'very', most of the sweets are loaded with sugar, gee (clarified butter) and milk. There were piles and even bucketfuls of sweets, so I had more than my fair share. There were so many sweets that I ate that I can't name them all, but some of my favourites being basundi, jalebi, rasmalai and pala kova. I would like to attempt to make my own versions at some point, but I do know that it is more difficult than making cake.

Another delicacy in abundance were mangoes of all shapes and sizes. I just missed the mango season when I went so they were a bit rarer to come across, however my relatives managed to get hold of a few sackfuls straight from the fields; mangoes galore. These mangoes were the real thing- sweet, juicy and filled with flavour not the tasteless, 'fake' ones we get here in the supermarkets. I wish that we could get mangoes as readily and cheaply here as we get other fruit like apples, but I guess that it will have to be an exotic treat rather than an everyday indulgence of this golden fruit.

There are may exotic fruits which the Western world doesn't even know about, each flavour quite unique and hard to describe but if anyone does go to India I would recommend that they try them as you won't be able to taste these flavours elsewhere. Streets are filled with fruit stalls which vary on a seasonal basis and most of these fruits come straight from the fields, and it is only in the supermarkets you would find the imported stuff. Something which I absolutely love is fresh coconut water. I think that there is something special about the act of having the coconut cut open in front of you, drinking the refresing and sweet water straight out of the seed and finally spooning out the tender white flesh which is inside. Fresh coconuts are easily found in India from being grown in peoples' houses to being sold on the roadsides and the beaches. If I could I would probably replace coconut water for normal H2O, but I guess I can only do this on a tropical holiday.

I managed to smuggle back some of my favourite snacks, however I don't know why but food never tastes the same back at home, none the less these are 3 staples which I go on the hunt for every time I go to India since I was young: masala flavoured crisps, a chocolate bar called '5 Star' and badam (almond) milk. 

As well as being fed, fed and fed some more, I spent the rest of my time just relaxing with family. It was nice to be able to lay on a hammock or to go to the beach. One thing which was a lot of fun tough was having a fish pedicure done with my cousin; I have seen these in shopping malls in the UK however I have never actually tried it out. It was very ticklish at first that it took around 20 minutes to actually get used to the sensation and be able to place both feet in the tank. By that time most of the time we bought was over and we only had our feet in for another 10 minutes. I didn't really see any difference in my feet but the experience was worth it. I'm not in a rush to do it again tough, but I would recommend it to people who are less ticklish than me.

I also came across the Indian version of Barbie and Ken which made me smile. It made me realise how everything in India has that added 'Indian touch' to it.

All in all I had a lovely time in India and shall miss the atmosphere. However in the meanwhile I have been inspired to make some Indian themed recipes which I will try out and put op on the blog so keep your eyes peeled.

A post from Fullest of Life