Banana cupcakes with lemon frosting

My daughter’s nursery were giving away spare bananas today. My goto recipe for overripe bananas is Fairtrade banana bread but today I felt like something a bit more glam (and fattening!) and so made some Banana Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting recipe – the recipe calls for using a cake tin but as I’ve promised some cakes to another mum, I decided cupcakes were the better option – an added bonus is that they also cook slightly quicker. Note, this recipe is not that different from the Tesco’s banana cupcakes I have blogged about before – the only real difference is the lemon which work well as there is just enough of it to cut through the sweetness of the bananas without being overpowering. I also know that if I had left the bananas until they were really ripe and black and squishy, I would have gotten a stronger banana flavour but the call of cake was too strong to resist. If you do decide to give the recipe a go, ensure you mash the bananas first as you don’t want the sugar/butter/egg mix lying around too long as the egg starts to cook the other raw ingredients.

P.S. Sorry for the dark picture…I forgot the flash.

Paper folding

This is amazingly my first post under the “Paper” category which is funny as I’m paper obsessed, or rather stationery obsessed. I can spend hours online looking at different craft products and am in heaven in craft shops touching and looking at different types of paper. I’m not sure if it is a “girl” thing but quite a few girlies I know like their paper – an obsession that’s partly fed by our local Phoenix traders, and the nearness of Hobbycraft.

Anyhooo I digress. The recent spate of baking left me with a dilemma – how to take these to the sales without using my precious tupperware collection. The answer was simple – origami boxes. I have a stack of origami paper and card and et voila – boxes. Now this leads onto more paper-folding – and my 3-year-old and I have been making the simplest animal shapes. Easy to do and ever so cute once we stuck on googly eyes and hand drawn faces have been added. Not the most sophisticated shapes, but as anyone with a young child knows, you can’t do complicated within the 2 minutes attention span the child devotes to a task you may have spent hours preparing for!

Spring sale baking

My 3-year-old’s nursery is having a spring sale tomorrow and have asked for donations of biscuits and cakes. Great opportunity for me to try my hand at a few biscuit recipes.Not so good for the waistline as I think it’s important to sample a few before donating to the sale.

I chose 3 –  two of which were egg free as I wanted to give the egg-intolerant a treat too:

Rachel Allen’s lemon scented biscuits

Good Food channels chocolate crinkle biscuits

Allisons Oat and Raisin cookies (from the back of the plain flour packet but also available on their bakingmad site)


And the verdict:

Lemon biscuits

The lemon biscuit dough was rather crumbly. I prepared the dough last night. It wasn’t too lemon scented due to a failure to use the appropriate equipment (used the odd holes on my box grater rather than the sensible grater. And I used soft brown sugar instead of caster – you would think with so few ingredients I’d get it right. But nooooooooo.  Result is kitchen smelt very lemon like but there was little zest in the mix). I stuck it in the fridge. This morning it was brick hard so I left it out for an hour to soften. When I finally worked with it, it was really difficult to roll out as it kept breaking. Baking the biscuits was quick and short though. However, they had such little flavour that I decided to ice them. What a DISASTER. My icing had the consistency of polyfilla, didn’t taste at all lemon like despite having the juice of a whole lemon, and was so sugary it caused a diabetic shock. Even covering them in sprinkles couldn’t save them. So they are BINNED and my quest for the perfect lemon biscuit continues ….though my friend E makes gorgeous ones so my quest may just be a quick walk to her kitchen instead.

Chocolate crinkle biscuits

Ridiculously easy to make even without an electric whisk (no jokes about wrist power please). I was worried as the mix was very gooey but again, after a night in the fridge it solidified somewhat. I had great fun with two teaspoons creating little balls of mix and rolling it around in icing sugar. Watching them crack in the oven was bliss and taking them out when their centres were still a bit gooey felt naughty but nice. Most importantly the taste – well I score them 8/10 because [foolishly] I had decided to use half plain chocolate, half dark making them taste a tad too sweet. Next time, I’ll do all dark. I’ve squirreled some away for us, and the rest will go to the sale.

Allisons biscuits

I decided to do these as I’ve seen the recipe on the back of the packet for some time and it looked interesting. Again, another easy make but strange mix. When I put all the ingredients in, it felt crumbly and greasy making me fear I was in trouble again. But once baked, yum, yum, yum. I love them. 3 year old not so impressed. But if she doesn’t eat the ones I’m saving for us, hubby and I will. Score 9/10.

BTW that baking mad site has lovely recipes on it (including lemon biscuits!!). I’m going to try Ginger and Chili cookies next I think

Urad (black lentil dhal)

This creamy dhal made of black lentils (Guju name Urad, latin name vigna mungo) is normally cooked on Saturdays. There may be some religious reason for it but I don’t eat for religious reasons but rather for the satisfaction of my belly being full of culinary delights. It’s much richer/heavier/silkier to eat than the Mug Dhal I have previously posted because as the dhal cooks it oozes into the vagar and enriches it.

A word of warning here: urad takes some prep and is best slow cooked over a few hours. The benefits are worth it though  – lots of protein, iron, fibre, great for diabetics. Sometimes you can be left with farty pants after eating it so to help reduce that risk I cook it with fennel seeds which aid digestion and give a liquorice undertone – a trick picked up from my dad. But if you don’t have fennel seeds then just substitute with mustard and cumin seeds (and have the windeze on hand in case).


  • 200g black lentils (urad dhal) (dried weight)
  • 2 1/2 pints water (pani)
  • 3 pieces of dried mangosteen (kokum) – if you don’t have this don’t worry. It adds sourness which you can achieve with more lemon juice at the end
  • 6/7 curry leaves (limbra)
  • 1 tbs clarified butter (ghee)
  • 1/1 tbs ground nut oil
  • Pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (if you don’t have these, substitue 1 tsp mustard seeds and 1 tsp cumin but lose the liquoricey flavour)
  • 1 stick cinnamon (taj)
  • 1 large dry bayleaf (tej patia)
  • 1 large white onion (dhungri) – diced very finely
  • 3 cloves (lasun) and 1 inch of ginger (adu)- either minced or made into puree
  • 1 or 2 fresh green chilies (murcha) chopped finely
  • 7 green cardamon pods (elaiche)
  • 6 cloves (lawing)
  • 1 tsp jaggery (ghor) – omit if diabetic
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 /2 tsp red chili powder (lal murcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (hurder)
  • 1 tsp cumin coriander seed powder (dhanna jeeru)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice (limbu) – this is a guide. Add little at a time until it’s to your taste
  • Coriander to garnish
  • Full fat yogurt or double cream to serve


  • The night before check the urad for any stones, then wash thoroughly in cold water. This will take around 8 washes. Leave to soak overnight covered in water (first picture above) . In the morning, the urad will have swollen slightly and the water will be murky.
  • Discard the soaking water the urad was soaked in and rinse the urad a few times. It now has to be boiled until tender. This can be done in a pressure cooker and takes about 15 minutes in mine using 2 1/2 pints of water. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it can take a few hours to cook on the stove. Just keep an eye on it until it is tender but still holding it’s bean shape. Do not throw away the water it was boiled in as this will be needed later.


  • Put the mangosteen and curry leaves in the urad and set aside
  • In a saucepan, heat the ghee, oil, cinnamon and bay leaf over a medium heat.
  • Throw in a very small pinch of asafoetida then add the fennel seed.
  • Once the fennel is sizzling add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until browning at the edges
  • Add the ginger/garlic and chilies. Cook for another 5 minutes stirring frequently
  • Add the spices and stir to combine well
  • Add the jaggery and let it melt before adding in the chopped tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes have squished and a sauce is formed
  • Add this sauce to the dhal and the liquid it was boiled in. To make sure I get all the goodness, I usually put a spoonful of the dhal into the vagar pan and swish it around so it soaks up the spices. Add lemon juice to taste
  • Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook until a the volume is reduced by a third and creamy texture is achieved. Check there is enough salt as you go so you can add more.
  • Basically the longer it is slow cook, the better the taste. Don’t be tempted to rapid boil it as end result isn’t the same.
  • Once cooked, garnish with coriander and serve with a dollop of yoghurt (or cream if you are decadent)
  • I like to eat this with freshly cooked rotlis smeared in ghee. I personally don’t like it with rice but don’t let that stop you from having some if you so wish. Alternatively, serve with parathas or bread.

RND’11 Chocolate brownies and fairy cakes

We love the local ladies of Plumstead who gobbled up all our baked goods this morning. So L, E and I (as in me, not a friend who’s name begins with an “I”) are in emergency baking mode.

I turned once again to the Jamie Oliver Monster Bake Sale book and made these brownies (amazingly I had all the ingredients at home except walnuts but a packet of pecan did just as well). I have a bit of a problem with brownies as they are meant to be gooey and not firmly baked like a normal cake. Mine are definitely gooey which will be messy but fun.

And for the little kiddies, made a batch of teeny fairy cakes. Fingers crossed they all sell.


RND’11 Butter fudge and Coconut ice

Well I have to say, I’m pretty pleased with myself. I’ve also got aching muscles in my right arm from stirring, stirring and stirring the fudge made using Jamie Oliver’s Monster Bake Butter Fudge. Now, here is me thinking fudge should be hard but nooooooooooo hubby assures me it should not harden. Phew as the stuff was squidy. One thing I would say is if you are going to make the stuff, then line the tray with greaseproof paper or clingfilm as I just couldn’t get it out of the tin easily and ended up with rather odd-looking shapes. However, a bit of origami and a bit of ribbon can disguise anything. We are not a household much bothered about shapes all we care about is taste and this stuff is DELICIOUS. Together with the Hope and Greenwood recipe coconut ice the fudge makes a wonderful addition to our bake sale.

Other things on offer will be L’s victoria sponge and her Jamie Oliver chocolate fudge cake, E’s chocolate and blueberry cookies plus her yummy lemon butter biscuits, and for the kiddies to get their hands on some lovely strawberry smelling homemade playdough from J.

Red Nose Honkus

A mate and I are holding a bake sale this friday for Red Nose Day. As part of that I’ve made some coconut ice, lemon biscuits and tomorrow will try the Jamie Oliver fudge recipe.

However, it doesn’t end there and tonight I made this Amigurumi Honkus in the hopes of selling it. I think it looks a tad scary but I’ll let my tot judge. I’m not sure how many more I’ll make for RND but this is the start of a new phase (i.e. obsession)  in my Chains life.