Oatie cookies with ginger and chocolate


Who can resist an oatie cookie, especially one that’s crammed with gooey dark chocolate and chewy chunks of crystallised ginger? I know I certainly can’t, and neither can my children. They’re the perfect biscuit for a spot of baking with the kids on a wet Saturday afternoon and an ideal snack for when they get home after school – if there any are left from the weekend that is.
Continue reading “Oatie cookies with ginger and chocolate”

Beetroot, orange, carrot and ginger juice

beetroot orange carrot and ginger juice text

My health kick continues to go well. As well as feeling so much better in myself, I’m thrilled to report that I’m finally back to my pre-children weight and dress-size – my oldest is nearly 10, so it’s been some time coming. This feeling is really rather addictive and I can see how the changes I’m making to my lifestyle and eating habits will stay with me for the long-term.

In addition to doing the 5:2 diet and generally eating more healthily, I’ve also set myself targets of walking 10,000 steps a day, getting a good night’s sleep every night (I’m aiming for at least seven hours), and fitting in a short workout most days (even if it’s only 10 minutes of Pilates or cross-training), plus a least one run a week.

And I am really feeling the benefits. I have so much more energy, my brain feels more focussed and productive, my clothes fit well (the muffin top has been banished!) and I just feel good in my own skin. Continue reading “Beetroot, orange, carrot and ginger juice”

The Spice Trail: your favourite ginger recipes

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Last month’s ginger challenge on The Spice Trail proved to be a real feast for the senses. As the month went on, I found myself in an increasing state of drooliness as your ginger creations piled up in my inbox – each inspiring recipe and stunning photograph had me bookmarking away.

So let’s see how you like to use ginger in your cooking…

Ginger Collage

I love fresh ginger in Asian and Oriental broths and soups, and so my eyes definitely lit up when I saw this stunning entry from Tina at The Spicy Pear –  Chicken in Ginger and Spring Onion Sauce (1). You know it is going to do you good as well as tasting good, and don’t those goji berries provide a stunning burst of colour?

Linsy from Home Cook Food offers us a couple of beautifully spiced dishes, both of course featuring ginger and along with a whole host of other Asian spices including methi or fenugreek leaves. Firstly there’s a Methi Vegetable Malai (2) with mixed vegetables served in a creamy, spiced sauce, and then there’s a boldly flavoured Kala Chana Aur Methi Curry (3). 

Next is my quick and easy Baked Sea Bass with Ginger, Garlic & Chilli and Miso Rice (4) which is ready in less than half an hour but absolutely packed full of big fresh flavours.

Another speedy supper comes in the form of this super tasty Chicken & Veggie Chow Mein (5) from Louisa at Eat Your Veg, which takes just minutes to create and is so much healthier than the takeaway version.

This Lettuce Wrapped Pork (6) from Heidi at Mamacook is a gorgeously fresh and fragrant dish, with ginger, garlic, chilli and lime, and is quite simply my idea of foodie heaven.

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Heidi from Mamacook brings us a second dish in the form of this glorious Carrot, Ginger & Pumpkin Soup (7) which she describes as a “zinger of a soup” as the ginger really packs a punch. I love the sound of that.

These Spicy Chickpeas (8) from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous make for a fabulously aromatic dish and feature, as well as ginger, caraway, mint and garlic to really stir the senses.

A wholesomely tasty soup is up next from Manjiri at Slice Off Me with her Tomato & Lentil Soupy Broth (9) from Slice Off Me. Born and bred in Mumbai and now living in London, Manjiri knows a thing or two about balancing her spices and this vibrant soup is a good example of that skill in the kitchen.

Half Costa Rican,half Irish-American and married to her Hyderabadi love, it is little surprise that the cooking of Emily at Cooking for Kishore has an international, fusion feel. Emily’s Goan Shrimp Curry (10) is a stunning dish of plump shrimps in a rich and creamy coconut curry sauce, and it had to be special as it was served to Kishore for his birthday meal. Bet he loved it!

We have a gorgeously fragrant curry next from Janet at The Taste Space. Her Chickpea & Kabocha Squash Lemongrass Curry (11) features sweet kabocha squash, flavoured with aromatics like cardamom and coriander, tempered by ginger, mustard and chilli and a heavenly coconut-infused broth spiked with lemongrass. It sounds heavenly.

Bintu from Recipes From a Pantry serves up a strikingly vibrant Curried Carrot Soup (12). As with all good things in life, it is a very simple soup made with carrots, coconut milk and curry powder with a little ginger thrown in and takes just 10 minutes of effort. Fragrant, warming, quick and easy – just perfect.

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I was delighted Nasifriet from By The Way took part in The Spice Challenge this month. I hadn’t come across her blog before but I get the feeling I might be spending quite some time there. I do like the look of her Malaysian influenced dishes; my mother is Malaysian but I don’t know the food from the region all that well. Nasifriet’s Steamed Crispy Shanghai Bok Choy in Ginger Garlic Sauce (13) looks so good and just the way I like my green vegetables.

Being an Aga owner, I’m rather a fan of slow cooked meats and this Slow Cooked Pork in Tonkatsu Sauce (Japanese Barbecue Sauce) (14) from Corina at Searching for Spice is one I shall be experimenting with very soon. The pork look so so tender and succulent, while I am intrigued by the sweet and sour Japanese inspired sauce. I think the phrase finger licking good most definitely applies here.

This Lamb Kofta Curry (15) is one of Angela from My Golden Pear’s favourite midweek curries and I really like the fact the kofta mixture is so versatile and can be used as meatballs in an appetiser, served with chutney or a yoghurt dip, or moulded on to skewers and char-grill as a starter, or cooked in this curry sauce for a main meal. Genius.

We have two more dishes from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous next. There’s a vibrantly healthy  Broccoli Ginger Stir Fry (16) followed by Mushrooms, Tamarind, Ginger and Spice (18), both beautifully flavoured and full of gorgeous fresh vegetables.

If you’re thinking of trying your hand at homemade sushi, then this recipe for Homemade Pickled Ginger for Sushi (17) from Vohn’s Vittles is one for you. It is a perfect way to use up any excess root ginger and I love Vohn’s tip for peeling ginger with a teaspoon. How did I get to the grand age of 39 and not know you could peel ginger with a spoon?

Louisa at Eat Your Veg is my go to source of inspiration when it comes to tasty, fast food the whole family will love and her Soy & Ginger Glazed Salmon & Courgette Kebabs (19) are a brilliant example of her clever way of combining wholesome ingredients and punchy flavours in a way kids (and grown ups) just adore.

In the words of Aneela from The Odd Pantry, you’d better be “clutching your socks” when you take a look at her recipe for Ginger Chutney (20) as it is sure to knock them off! Aneela says this is an authentic South Indian chutney featuring daal, which she explains is sometimes used as a spice in Indian cooking, particularly the urad daal or black lentil. I never knew lentils could be considered a spice – I love the way I am always learning new things about food from my fellow bloggers.

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Ginger is of course a traditional ingredient in so many baked goodies, featuring in cake and biscuit recipes from around the world. I was delighted with Heidi from Mamacook’s baked offering of Gingerbread Men (21)  Ginger Parkin (22)  Sugar Free Date & Ginger Muffins (23) and Quick Ginger Biscuits (25), which would make a brilliant spread for any tea party.

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to the shop-bought breakfast snack, these Apricot, Ginger & Pecan Breakfast Bars (24) from Jane at The Hedge Combers look ideal, and a very tasty alternative too spiced with gorgeous crystallised ginger. I could eat these any day of the week, although Jane does recommend saving them for high days and holidays.

If you are planning a spot of Easter baking, but don’t fancy a big cake how about trying these dainty Ginger Simnel Cupcakes (26) from Alexandra aka The Lass in the Apron? Just like the traditional Simnel cake, they feature marzipan and lots of dried fruit and spices, and are then dipped in a delicious  orange glaze and decorated with crystallized ginger. They look and sound just lovely.

Despite my personal passion for teacakes, I’ve never thought to make them with one of my favourite ingredients, stem ginger but I certainly will be trying it now after seeing this fantastic recipe for Spiced Teacakes (27) from Sarah at The Garden Deli. Do pop over to her blog to check out her wonderful springtime photos from her garden.

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The sweet, ginger treats continue with these fun Coconut & Ginger Cake Pops (28) from Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog, which she baked using her new Lekue cake pop kit. Her tempting chocolaty treats are made with coconut oil, coconut sugar and a combination of coconut and gluten-free flour, as well as ground ginger and of course the best dark chocolate you can lay your hands on.

These Dutch Ginger Cake Squares (29) from Helen at Family–Friends–Food are an old family recipe, passed on to her mum from an elderly aunt in Australia, which looks deliciously moist and chewy. Plus I love those kind of recipes that come with family stories and memories attached. Helen also brings us some Ginger Cookies (32) which recently got a the seal of approval from her daughter Kipper and her little friends, who polished off a plate of them when their parents weren’t looking!

I’m rather taken by all things speculoos at the moment and so I’ve just got to have a go at this scrummy Speculoos Ice Cream (30) from Mel at Edible Things, made with whole spices echoing those found in traditional speculoos spice mix, and of course plenty of ginger. This might just have to be the first ice cream I make to test out my new ice cream maker.

Sarah at The Fig Tree is up next with her fragrantly delicious Fresh Ginger Cake (31) made from homegrown ginger from her friend’s greenhouse. Doesn’t it look and sound amazing? I wonder if I could try growing my own ginger here in Somerset…

I was hoping someone would bring some drinks to our ginger party and Mel from Edible Things came up trumps with lashings of  Gingerade (33) – a gingery take on classic lemonade. I bet it tastes incredible and it looks perfect for drinking on a hot, sunny day in the garden, which I’m confident we’ll be enjoying lots of this summer. Wish, wish…

Lapin d’Or brings us a rather sophisticated dessert of Ginger Wine Zabaglione with Mango (34), which sounds divinely delicious bringing together warm ginger-sweet custard and soft succulent pieces of fresh mango. Heavenly.

To close, there’s one final entry from me with a very easy but very tasty Banana, Ginger and Chocolate Cake (35), a great way to use up ripe bananas and perfect for chocoholics big and small.

And the winner is…

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If I could I’d award everyone a prize this month, the quality was just so damn good. But as ever there can only be one winner, and so I’m pleased to announce this month’s Spice Trail winner is Corina from Searching for Spice for her fabulous Slow Cooked Pork in Tonkatsu (Japanese Barbecue) Sauce. So many dishes made my mouth water this month, but probably this one most of all and I can’t wait to try that barbecue sauce.

Huge congratulations to Corina, who wins this lovely set of six ‘pantry design’ spice tins courtesy of Dot Com Gift Shophome to delightfully quirky, often kitsch but always stylish gifts. 

Thank you to everyone who took part in the cooking with ginger challenge. April’s Spice Trail challenge is now open and this month we are cooking our favourite Mexican dishes. I can’t wait to see what you bring to share!

Banana, ginger and chocolate cake

banana ginger chocolate cake

I realise there’s been a rather manic, end-of-month flurry of activity on the blog but here’s another last minute recipe, which I just had to squeeze in just in time to make the deadline for this month’s Spice Trail challenge.

The theme for March has been ginger and I’ve received a brilliant selection of ginger goodies; the round-up promises to be a real treat.

This last entry from me is a very easy-to-make banana sponge, featuring delightful chunks of chewy, crystallised ginger and dark chocolate chips, lavishly topped with a gorgeously decadent chocolate buttercream. It’s certainly not one for the weight-watchers I’m afraid, but my family made light work of getting through it, and as the cake does contain three bananas there is a little goodness in there as well as the naughty stuff. Life is all about balance, after all.

banana ginger chocolate

Banana, ginger and chocolate cake

Serves 12

120g soft butter, plus a little more for the tins
250g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground ginger
160g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
3 ripe bananas, mashed
75g dark chocolate chips
30 crystallised ginger, chopped into small chunks

For the chocolate buttercream

150g good quality chocolate (dark or milk, you decide)
225g butter, softened
300g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

I also used Dr Oetker chocolate hearts to decorate.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Butter and line a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, vanilla and milk. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and then fold in the mashed banana, chocolate chips and crystallised ginger.

Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the chocolate buttercream, melt the chocolate in a microwave on a low setting or in a bowl over a pan of just-simmering water. Leave to cool a little. Beat the butter in another bowl until pale, and then beat in the icing sugar and vanilla. Add the chocolate and mix well.

Spread the chocolate buttercream generously over the cake and, if you like, decorate with chocolate hearts or something similar.


banana ginger chocolate cake


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Baked sea bass with ginger, garlic & chilli and miso rice

When you read my blog posts, it’s probably easy to assume I spend most of my life in the kitchen. While it’s true that at the weekend I can generally be found at the stove and do make a bit more of an effort with our meals, most of my family’s food is a pretty speedy, simple affair.

I am a working mum and most days I don’t have time to cook anything too complicated, so I am trying to build up a trusty list of staples I can rustle up in half an hour.

I realise Jamie Oliver can cook up a meal in just 15 minutes but, unless it’s beans on toast or pesto from a jar stirred into pasta (and there is nothing wrong with either of those), I find it practically impossible to cook anything quite that quickly.

Although that’s probably because, unlike Jamie, it’s impossible for me to give the dinner my undivided attention. There’s usually one of the children asking for help with their homework, or the cat demanding to be fed, or my husband wanting to know if I’ve seen his glasses/wallet/keys (delete as appropriate). You get the picture.

sea bass

This is one of those meals I can cook up in about 30 minutes. Baking fish in foil makes for an incredibly quick dinner and, by throwing in heaps of garlic, ginger and seasonings, it’s incredibly tasty too. Sea bass is perfect with these strong Oriental flavours.

What’s more, the foil parcels allow me to cater for different family tastes. My youngest daughter is only five and isn’t keen on chilli, so I wrap her fillet separately and leave out the chilli. My husband can’t actually eat fish, so I wrap a chicken breast instead for him, although I do have to cook it for an extra five minutes.

Cooked in instant miso soup, the rice has a wonderfully savoury, umami flavour and I could happily eat bowlfuls of this rice on its own.

sea bass

Baked sea bass with ginger, garlic & chilli and miso rice

Serves 4

2 tsp sesame oil
4 sea bass fillets
fat, thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 red chilli, finely sliced
4 radishes, trimmed and finely sliced
5 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
2 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp light soy sauce
large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped (leaves and stalks), plus extra for garnish
miso soup paste
250g Basmati rice

Preheat oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.

Tear off sheets of foil, large enough to encase your fillets. You can bake them altogether in one parcel or individually, depending on whether everyone is happy with all the ingredients – I’m thinking mainly about children and chillies here.

Drizzle a little sesame oil onto the foil before placing the fish on it, skin side down.

Pull up the sides of the foil around the fish and toss in the ginger, garlic, chilli, radish and spring onion. Pour in the fish sauce, lime juice, soy sauce and finally sprinkle with the fresh coriander.

Close up the foil parcel tightly and place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Cook your rice in your usual way, but instead of using plain water, make up a cup of miso soup according to the packet instructions, and cook the rice in this.

Serve the fish on the rice and don’t forget to pour over all that lovely sauce left behind in the foil. Garnish with more chopped coriander.

sea bass in foil

badge CollageFab Fast Food is the theme for Family Foodies in March. Family Foodies is a challenge I co-host with Louisa at Eat Your Veg and this month it is my turn to host. This baked sea bass is one of my favourites for a speedy supper, but I’m keen to see your ideas so I can have a few more tried-and-tested dishes up my sleeve.

The theme for Four Seasons Food this month, hosted by Louisa at Eat Your Veg and Anneli at Delicieux, is Something Fishy, and so I’m entering my baked sea bass into that challenge too, and as sea bass is in season right now I’ve just got to enter it into Ren Behan‘s Simple and in Season food blog event.

Finally, as this dish features a good amount of fresh ginger I’m also entering it into The Spice Trail, hosted by me, as the spice in question this month just happens to be ginger.

The Spice Trail: cooking with ginger

cooking with ginger

This month our trip along The Spice Trail takes us to the Land of Ginger. But our destination could be just about anywhere on the planet. From gingerbread men to ginger beer, from curries to cakes, ginger is an ingredient used the whole world over. And that’s precisely why I am so excited about seeing your ginger-inspired dishes, as who knows what you might come up with.

Fresh or dried, preserved in syrup or crystallised, ginger must surely be one of our most popular spices and is used in savoury and sweet dishes in equal measure. As usual, I turn to the Leon book of Ingredients & Recipes to see what they have to say on the subject of ginger…

Zingiber officinale is a rhizome that was indigenous to South East Asia before the Chinese made it world-wide popular. A natural remedy, specifically for warding off colds, most of the power is concentrated in the outermost 2mm, so best not to peel, just give it a good wash and as long as it’s good and fresh you can grate it just like that. Elizabeth David used to swear by keeping it in foil in the fridge but I think our supply and fridges are better these days. Ferocious in its intensity, historically ginger has been used in many ways, both medicinal and culinary, savoury and sweet. A vital part of all Asian cooking, it was being ground and transported to Europe by the Romans, but more for health reasons. It wasn’t for about another 1,000 years that it started to be used in cookery, but then things really took off (candied ginger became a favourite ingredient in medieval England.) Good for dodgy tums, as well as clearing the paths and passages in your body.

But what I really want to know is, what’s your favourite way to cook with ginger?

Win a set of spice tins from Dotcomgiftshop

This month’s winner of The Spice Trail challenge will be lucky enough to receive a gorgeous set of six Pantry Design spice tins, thanks to the kind people at Dotcomgiftshop.

spice tins

Dotcomgiftshop is home to delightfully quirky, often kitsch but always stylish gifts. Designed and sourced by their in-house team, they offer a large range of stylish home accessories, as well as cute gifts to suit every personality. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, planning a wedding, or simply want to treat yourself to something fabulous, you won’t fail to find what you’re looking for. With an eclectic mix of products, spread out across a simple to navigate website, it’s easy to find gift inspiration at Dotcomgiftshop.

How to enter The Spice Trail

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  • Display the The Spice Trail badge (above and also available here) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  • You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they feature this month’s key ingredient, ginger.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Friday 28 March 2014.
  • If you tweet your post, please mention #TheSpiceTrail and me @BangerMashChat in your tweet and I’ll retweet each one I see.
  • Feel free to republish old recipe posts, but please add the information about this challenge and The Spice Trail badge.
  • As entries come in, links to these will be added to the bottom of this page.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe and the winner this month will receive a set of spice tins from Dotcomgiftshop.
  • The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries.
  • All entries will be added to The Spice Trail Pinterest Board.

So what ginger goodies will you come up with for this month’s Spice Trail? Any questions, please tweet or email me.

And thanks to everyone who entered February’s caraway challenge – you’ll find the round-up of recipes here.

March’s entries

  1. Chicken in Ginger and Spring Onion Sauce from The Spicy Pear
  2. Methi Vegetable Malai from Home Cook Food
  3. Baked Sea Bass with Ginger, Garlic & Chilli and Miso Rice from Bangers & Mash
  4. Kala Chana Aur Methi Curry from Home Cook Food
  5. Apricot, Gingers & Pecan Breakfast Bars from The Hedge Combers
  6. Chicken & Veggie Chow Mein from Eat Your Veg

  7. Ginger Parkin from Mamacook
  8. Carrot, Ginger & Pumpkin Soup from Mamacook
  9. Gingerbread Men from Mamacook
  10. Sugar Free Date & Ginger Muffins from Mamacook
  11. Quick Ginger Biscuits from Mamacook
  12. Lettuce Wrapped Pork from Mamacook
  13. Spicy Chickpeas from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous
  14. Tomato & Lentil Soupy Broth from Slice Off Me
  15. Goan Shrimp Curry from Cooking for Kishore
  16. Chickpea & Kabocha Squash Lemongrass Curry from The Taste Space
  17. Curried Carrot Soup from Recipes From A Pantry
  18. Mushrooms, Tamarind, Ginger and Spice from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous
  19. Spiced Teacakes from The Garden Deli
  20. Slow Cooked Pork in Tonkatsu Sauce (Japanese Barbecue Sauce) from Searching for Spice
  21. Ginger Simnel Cupcakes from The Lass in the Apron
  22. Lamb Kofta Curry from My Golden Pear
  23. Coconut & Ginger Cake Pops from Chocolate Log Blog
  24. Speculoos Ice Cream from Edible Things
  25. Broccoli Ginger Stir Fry from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous
  26. Fresh Ginger Cake from The Fig Tree
  27. Dutch Ginger Cake Squares from Family – Friends – Food
  28. Ginger Cookies from Family – Friends – Food
  29. Ginger Wine Zabaglione with Mango from Lapin d’Or and More
  30. Homemade Pickled Ginger for Sushi from Vohn’s Vittles
  31. Steamed Crispy Shanghai Bok Choy in Ginger Garlic Sauce from Nasifriet @ By The Way
  32. Gingerade from Edible Things
  33. Ginger Chutney from The Odd Pantry
  34. Soy & Ginger Glazed Salmon & Courgette Kebabs from Eat Your Veg

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Love bites! Chilli and ginger raw chocolates

chilli ginger chocolates

It’s no surprise that two of the biggest tags on this blog’s tag cloud are chocolate and chilli. I can’t seem to get enough of either ingredient, and I’m in seventh heaven when the two come together. So this Valentine’s Day, I’m making chilli chocolates for my man. I say I’m making them for him, but of course I’m making them for both of us. Because it would be rude of him not to share…


I could of course buy him a box of chilli chocolates, and I have done this many times in the past. It’s just that my husband and I are real chilli fiends, and we find the chocolates you buy in the shops never have a strong enough chilli kick for us. When you make them yourself, you can tailor them to your individual tastebuds and make sure they have some proper fiery oomph. I also added a little crystallised ginger to my chocolates for extra flavour and another layer of spicy warmth.

chilli ginger chocolates

I used a raw chocolate making kit from Elements for Life to make these bad boys. The kit provides all the ingredients you need, including Wiltshire grown Habanero chilli, as well as the pretty silicone moulds, and the recipe is a sinch to follow. Although I should point out the crystallised ginger and fresh chilli were my own additions.

If you fancy trying out the kit yourself, there’s a chance to win one at the end of this post.

chilli ginger choclates

Dark and spicy and divinely smooth, I’m a big fan of these chocolates. Even my girls are fond of them – only the ones containing chilli powder; the ones with fresh chilli would be way too hot for them. But then it’s no surprise that our children can cope with a little heat, given their parents penchant. Normally, I’d suggest children stay away from these chocolates. Strictly adults only.

They are dairy free, so ideal for vegans and people who are lactose intolerant, and also gluten-free, so great for coeliacs. Nor do they contain any refined sugar, so perfect for diabetics.

But why raw chocolate? Well, apparently raw chocolate is pretty good for you. With normal chocolate, the cacao beans are roasted, destroying much of its nutritional value. Plus it generally contains refined sugar and fat. Raw chocolate on the other hand is one of the richest sources of magnesium and contains higher levels of anti-oxidants than either red wine or green tea. It’s full of essential amino acids, feel good chemicals and vitamins, and is even said to be an appetite suppressant.

Chilli and ginger raw chocolates

Makes 24 chocolates

120g raw cacao butter
100g cacao powder
around ½ tsp habanero chilli powder
5-6 tbsp Sweet Freedom natural fruit sweetener
20g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
1 or 2 red chillies, sliced

Place a clean bowl over a saucepan of hot water to create a bain Marie). Ensure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water and no water goes inside the bowl.

Add the cacao butter to the bowl and allow it to melt slowly. Don’t keep the water boiling; take it off the heat and just give it a quick blast every so often if necessary.

Next, add the cacao powder slowly and stir in thoroughly with a whisk or fork, until it starts to thicken slightly. The chocolate should be runny and  easy to pour.

Once the cacao powder is mixed into the butter, add the chilli powder and stir in. Go steady here. Start with a quarter of a teaspoonful and give it a taste. Add more if you want a little more fire.

Pour in the Sweet Freedom sweetener and stir in well. Taste and add a little more if you like it sweeter.

Add the chopped ginger and mix in.

Before pouring the chocolate into the moulds, you might like to add a little of the chopped ginger or maybe even a slice of raw chilli into the bottom of each one.

Carefully pour the chocolate into the moulds using a jug or spoon. Place it in the fridge to set for an hour or so, or in the freezer if you can’t wait that long.

Perfect served with a strong cup of coffee at the end of your Valentine’s meal. Enjoy!

chilli ginger chocolates

Win a raw chilli chocolate making kit

For the chance to win a raw chilli chocolate making kit from Elements for Life, simply leave me a comment below. The first name drawn from the ‘hat’ (or whichever receptacle comes to hand first) will be sent a complimentary kit. Closing date for entries is Wednesday 12 February 2014.

Disclosure: Elements for Life provided me with a complimentary chocolate making kit for review purpose. 

Cookies with a kick

chilli chocolate and cherry cookies

“Now that’s got a good kick” is a phrase you hear a lot in our house. My husband and I are rather partial to hot, spicy food you see. We are complete chilli fiends. Even our children like things nice and spicy, especially our oldest, Jessie, who enjoys hot chilli sauce on pretty much anything.

Chilli with chocolate is a favourite combination; they really are a match made in heaven. We’re forever trying out different chilli chocolate bars and generally complaining they don’t have enough of a kick. I was thinking about coming up with my own chilli chocolate creation when I came upon this cookie recipe in The Red Hot Chilli Cookbook by Dan May. I couldn’t resist. Dan’s recipe calls for stem ginger, but I didn’t happen to have any in. Instead I found some dried cherries in the cupboard and opted for those, as much for the charming alliteration as anything else.

If you like chilli and chocolate, you really must give these cookies a go. They are absolutely delicious and very, very moreish. The sweet, chewy cherries and big, fat chunks of richly bittersweet chocolate contrast beautifully with the savoury, fiery bursts of chilli heat. They were a little too hot for Mia, our five-year-old, but I’d made her a version using ground ginger instead of chilli, which suited her. But Jessie loved the chilli bad boys as much as her parents.

chilli chocolate and cherry cookies

Chilli chocolate and cherry cookies

Makes 8

100g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp hot chilli powder
50g caster sugar
85g soft butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp milk
100g dark chocolate, broken into large pieces
60g dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Sift into a large bowl the flour, baking powder and chilli powder and stir in the sugar. Add the butter, vanilla extract and milk and mix together to form a dough. Next add the chocolate and cherries and combine well using your hands.

Divide the dough into eight balls and squash down a little until they are about 6cm in diameter. Arrange on a baking sheet covered in greaseproof paper. You may need to use two baking sheets, as the cookies will spread a little as they bake.

Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Leave to cool and firm up on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dan May says to enjoy them with a big mug of tea, but I liked mine with strong coffee. And apparently they will keep for a few days in an airtight container but ours didn’t last that long.

If you do need to bake a non-chilli version, simply substitute the chilli powder with a teaspoonful of ground ginger.

chilli chocolate and cherry cookies

Spicy chocolate and beetroot cake

We’re getting lots of beetroot in our weekly veg box at the moment. And that is a very good thing as I have come to rather like beetroot in recent years. Whereas once I’d automatically roast them in the oven and serve alongside a roast joint, I’ve discovered just how versatile the humble beetroot can be. It’s wonderful raw in winter slaws or sweet and sour salads, partners well with a tangy goat’s cheese in a simple tart, and it’s incredible juiced with carrot and lots of ginger.

Beetroot is also fantastic in cakes and has a natural affinity with chocolate. These brownies for example always go down well with my children and are so incredibly moist and gooey. So when I saw an Abel and Cole recipe for a beetroot and chocolate cake which also used fresh ginger and ground cardamom, I knew I had to give it a go at the earliest opportunity.

At the weekend we all went to London to stay with my Dad and Step Mum, or as they’re known to the kids, Grandad Chris and Nana Sue. Since Nana Sue had treated us to her heavenly clementine polenta cake the last time they came to stay with us in Somerset, I felt it only polite to return the favour by taking some tasty homemade offering. And of course it had to be this chocolate, beetroot and ginger concoction.

After a lovely Sunday morning brunch in Highgate, followed by a walk up Parliament Hill to look out over the hazy London skyline, a couple of games of What’s the Time Mister Wolf? and some tree-climbing and green-parakeet-spotting, a cup of coffee and a slice of cake was very much required. While my Dad looked a little dubious at first, the chocolate, beetroot and ginger cake seemed to go down with all, children and adults alike – even Dad, with the whole family making lots of positive mmmmming noises as they got stuck in.

As well as using fresh ginger in the cake itself, the Abel and Cole version also adds ginger to the mascarpone topping, along with orange zest. I opted to leave these out, and I’m glad I did as I think a calmer, creamy topping acted as a perfect foil for the spicy cake.

Spicy chocolate and beetroot cake

150g cooked beetroot
150g dark chocolate
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
6 cardamom pods, seeds extracted and ground to a powder
125g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3 eggs
200g soft butter
150g caster sugar
100g mascarpone cheese
200g cream cheese
75g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Puree the cooked beetroot in a food processor. Pop into a bowl along with the dark chocolate, broken into pieces, and heat gently in a microwave for a minute or two until the chocolate has melted.

Combine the chocolate and beetroot well, then mix in the grated ginger and cardamom powder. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks with the butter and caster sugar until pale and creamy. Whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks.

Gently fold the egg yolk and butter mixture into the flour. Then gently fold in the egg whites, a spoonful at a time. Finally stir in the beetroot and chocolate mixture.

Grease an 23cm cake tin with butter and dust with flour. Pour the cake mix into the tin. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. You want it be a little soft and gooey in the middle. Leave to cool on a wire tray before removing from the tin.

To make the topping, simply put the mascarpone and cream cheese into a large bowl and sieve in the icing sugar. Mix together well. When the cake is cool, use a palette knife to spread over the mascarpone topping. Dig in!

As this cake features both chocolate and ginger, I’m entering it into February’s We Should Cocoa, a blog challenge created by Chocolate Teapot and Chocolate Log Blog, and hosted this month by Blue Kitchen Bakes.

Spiced orange bread and butter pudding

Here’s my slightly seasonal take on the humble but very delicious bread and butter pudding. What could be a more festive combination than oranges and spices? The orange in this pud comes in the form of marmalade and zest, while the spices are ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice.

I wish I could share with you fond memories of eating this as a child but, to be honest, the first time I ate bread and butter pudding was only a few years ago when I tried Nigella Lawson’s ginger-jam version from her Nigella Bites cookery book. It was a pudding that never really appealed to me when I was younger. It sounds, well, a bit boring really. I mean, bread? In a pudding? And butter. Who’s going to get excited about that?

But oh! Now I’ve tried it, I can safely say it is delicious and now one of my favourites. Crunchy and slightly chewy on top, soft and gooey underneath. It might not have been one of my nursery food memories, but it will be one of my children’s. Plus it’s so simple to make and comes with its own ready-made custard. What’s not to like?

This recipe is loosely based on the one in Nigella Bites.

Spiced orange bread and butter pudding

75g butter
75g sultanas
3 tbsp apple juice
1 tsp ground ginger
10 slices thick white bread
half a jar of orange marmalade
4 egg yolks
1 egg
5 tbsp demerara sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
500ml double cream
200ml milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp runny honey

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5.

Grease a medium-sized pudding dish with some of the butter.

Put the sultanas in a small bowl and mix with the apple juice and ginger. Pop in the microwave and heat on medium power for a minute and then leave to stand. This is Nigella’s trick for plumping up the sultanas. She uses rum but I didn’t think the kids would be too keen on that.

Make up sandwiches with the white bread, spreading the butter and marmalade generously. Cut in quarters into triangles and then arrange in your dish, some pointing up and some pointing downwards. Sprinkle over the sultanas and pour over any remaining gingery apple juice.

Lightly whisk the egg yolks and egg in small bowl and mix in 3 tablespoons of the demerara sugar and mixed spice. Then add the cream and milk and combine. Pour over the marmalade sandwiches and leave for 10 minutes or so to give the custard a chance to soak into the bread.

Dot some butter onto the visible bread. Mix the ground cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of demerara sugar and sprinkle over the top. Finally drizzle the honey over the top too.

Place the dish on a baking tray and cook in the oven for around half an hour until the custard has set and the crusts poking out are browned and caramelised. Leave for 10 minutes before serving. It will be agony waiting that long as it smells so good!