Mint and Apple Relish

Mint and Apple Relish
I do like a bit of tradition at Easter so on Sunday I shall be having a slow cooked shoulder of lamb with roasted potatoes and spring vegetables. There is also no question that I will be pairing my roast lamb with a very English mint sauce, however I had always been a little disappointed with my homemade efforts and have been buying it in for the past few years.

Mint and Apple Relish

The recipes I had found placed too much emphasis on just the mint and the vinegar which always seemed to be too watery and pungent. Although I have found success with mint jellies I sometimes find them a bit too sweet for this exact meal. Mint jelly is infinitely better run through steamed new potatoes with a bit of butter on another day. For lunch on Sunday you do need the acidity of the vinegar to cut through the rich unctuous lamb.

So I have turned my back a little on the sauce and jellies and instead gone down the relish route for this recipe. The result is a honeyed but vinegary finish bolstered by bramley apples and shallots for good texture and given more strength of flavour by the inclusion of mustard and coriander seeds.

Mint and Apple Relish

The relish has lost none of its required piquancy however. It is fresh with the buoyancy of mint and quick to make alongside your roast lamb. Actually I could also quite happily see this also accompanying pork belly for lunch next Sunday as well.

Mint and Apple Relish

Mint and Apple Relish

½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
150ml white wine or cider vinegar
75g caster sugar
1 tablespoon honey
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 bramley apple, peeled, cored and diced
100g fresh mint, finely chopped

  1. Crush the mustard and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar until fine.
  2. Place the seeds and shallots in a medium sized saucepan with the vinegar, bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour in the sugar, honey and salt and stir for a couple of minutes until dissolved.
  4. Mix in the apple then place the lid on and cook gently for 8-10 minutes until the apple has just softened but not broken down.
  5. Turn off the heat then add the mint, stirring until well combined.
  6. Serve warm or cooled.
  7. The relish will keep in the fridge for a week or two.

Mini Egg Chocolate Muffins

Mini Egg Chocolate Muffins

These muffins were borne from a sheer craving for chocolate and the fact that I have several bags of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs in my cupboards at the moment were an absolute bonus.

Cadburys Mini Eggs

Mini Eggs

Mini Egg Chocolate Muffins

Mini Egg Chocolate Muffins

There is something about Cadbury’s Mini Eggs that bring out your inner child. I know of no one who is no less than delighted whenever a bag is produced, at parties, in the office or as a treat on the way home from your weekly Sainsbury’s shop. Or is that just me surreptitiously tucking into my bag as I’m stopped at the traffic lights?

Mini Egg Chocolate Muffins

Now these muffins were not 100% successful as the baking of the Mini Eggs inside the muffins hid the pastel colours which I now remember was a problem with the Mini Egg cookies which I baked last year but never got around to posting as they weren’t pretty enough. No matter because the taste is all there in these muffins. The not-too-sweet cocoa sponge is shot through with the sweet joy of large chunks of milk chocolate oozing within and the crisp outer shells add a smart bit of texture throughout.

Mini Egg Chocolate Muffins

Mini Egg Chocolate Muffins
Makes 12
Adapted from Call Me Cupcakes’ Double Chocolate Muffins

300g plain flour
80g cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon salt
250g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
230ml buttermilk
2 eggs
200g Cadbury’s Mini Eggs

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases.
  2. In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk up the sugar, butter, buttermilk and eggs.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until everything is just combined.
  5. Roughly chop about half of the Mini Eggs, making sure you keep some of them whole.
  6. Stir the chopped Mini Eggs into the batter.
  7. Divide the muffin batter equally between the cupcake cases.
  8. Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean.

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake
Simnel cakes have been on my Easter to do list for years. They are a traditional Easter cake which has been baked in Britain since medieval times to celebrate the end of Lent fasting, although Wikipedia says that they were originally baked during Lent to break up the fasting. It’s also interesting that they were adopted for a time by Mothering Sunday as they were a constant presence in our house during Easter due to my Mum’s love of them. My aunt would dutifully make her one every year where it would scooch down happily in our larder, pecked at over a couple of weeks with the magical preserving properties of the rich fruit making the cake moister and fuller of flavour every day.

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake

Having said all that, the only time I can actually remember eating any of the prized cake was when I reached for one of the eleven marzipan balls, which represent the eleven disciples minus Judas, cruelly decorated and coloured by my aunt to resemble the size and shape of Cadbury Mini Eggs, to be wholly disgusted by the intense almond taste. From there, my eight year old self decreed a complete abhorrence to marzipan which survived intact up until my mid-twenties when I gave marzipan another shot and it turned out that actually now I wasn’t expecting a chocolate treat it was very nice indeed.

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake

That said, I sometimes think the two thick layers of marzipan, in the middle of the cake and the one which drapes over the finished Simnel cake is a little sickly so I wanted to disperse my marzipan more evenly throughout the cake by dicing it up finely and adding it in to the end of the batter. So this isn’t what you would call a traditional Simnel cake at all. I have done away with the disciples, not through any religious predilections but because those marzipan balls never get eaten. I have also made it as a bundt rather than the traditional round cake, added diced apples for an superbly moist cake, dark chocolate chips which ooze throughout the sponge and because it’s Easter so why not and then I bound the batter together with zesty buttermilk which makes the crumb a lot lighter and not weighted down with the fruit like a heavy dense Christmas cake. It’s a more spring like version of a Simnel cake if you will.

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake

I read somewhere that the reason our traditional British fruit cakes are not popular with our friends across the pond is because Americans don’t trust a cake that can last for over a week, let alone the months we nurture and feed our fruit cakes. However this is what makes our fruit cakes such a useful addition to your Easter larder. This bundt cake bakes up large but we don’t have to worry about guzzling it all down over a weekend, it won’t be as long lasting as a traditional recipe but it could certainly be chipped at over the course of a week without become stale or dry. Although, there is no way this cake could possibly last a week in our cake crazy household.

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake

Easter Simnel Bundt Cake

225g dark brown muscovado sugar
175g light soft brown sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 1 lemon
175g unsalted butter
4 eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
400g plain flour
125g ground almonds
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
350ml buttermilk
2 granny smith apples, peeled and diced into small pieces
140g marzipan, chopped into small pieces
150g dark chocolate chips
75g stem ginger, diced
100g glace cherries, diced
125g sultanas
125g currants
200g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra chocolate chips, marzipan and glace cherries to decorate

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C then grease and lightly dust a 12cm x 7cm bundt tin with a coating of flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. Beat the sugars together with the orange and lemon zest until fragrant.
  3. Add the butter, a cube at a time so it creams with the sugar, then continue beating until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time followed by the vanilla extract.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl sift the flour with the almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  6. Add flour mixture into the rest of the batter, alternately with the buttermilk, one third at a time until just combined.
  7. Stir in the diced apple, marzipan, chocolate chips, stem ginger, glace cherries, sultanas and currants.
  8. Pour into the bundt tin and bake for 75-80 minutes, covering the tin with foil after about 30 minutes if the cake is browning too much.
  9. Remove from the oven, and leave for 5-10 minutes to rest in the tin before carefully turning out to finish cooling on a wire rack.
  10. To make the icing mix together the icing sugar with the lemon juice until smooth and thick but just pourable. Spoon over the top of the cake then finish decorating with more marzipan, choc chips and glace cherries on top.

Easter Welsh Cakes

Easter Welsh Cakes
I can happily say that the first time I had Welsh cakes was in the most honest way possible, in Wales. We went for the long Easter weekend a few years ago and I might have got a bit addicted to these tea time treats which are neither scone nor biscuit nor really cake but a perfect amalgamation of all three. One of the local delis where I was getting my welsh cake fix over the holiday was a bit adventurous in their flavour combinations, as well as the usual plain version they also did a special Easter one, dotted with marzipan and chocolate. Unfortunately this incarnation has spoilt me and this has been the only way that I like to eat them since.

Easter Welsh Cake mix

Thus begun my Easter tradition of making sure I always have plenty of Welsh cakes to hand and I take such pleasure in making them on Good Friday to last the weekend. To be honest I don’t know how I manage to only keep this recipe for this specific time of the year as I developed a bit of an unhealthy obsession with them directly after that holiday and made them All. The. Time. The best thing about making Welsh cakes is that it is so wonderfully simple that the whole family can get involved. Cats can oversee dough production and puppies can also be of use, by running around the kitchen, making sure that any loose currant is hoovered up, providing the chef with less cleaning at the end and not at all providing multi tripping opportunities.

Wesley and Welsh Cake Mix

Easter Welsh Cakes

Easter Welsh Cake roll out

Puppy in the kitchen

There is something about doing ultra traditional recipes which denotes you simply must do everything by hand, using a Mason Cash mixing bowl like we had in school and the oldest wooden spoon and rolling pin you can find.

Easter Welsh Cakes

Easter Welsh Cakes

The only way to eat these treasures is to swipe them off the cooling rack as soon as they have been set there to cool. The chocolate chips will have casually melted and the hot cakes will be steaming with juicy fruit and plump marzipan pieces.

Easter Welsh Cakes

Easter Welsh Cakes

225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
100g butter
75g caster sugar
40g currants
25g mixed peel
30g marzipan, cut into small chips
30g chocolate chips
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp milk

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and mixed spiced.
  2. Rub the flour together with the butter by hand, using the tips of your fingertips until the mixture resembles course breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the sugar, currants, mixed peel, marzipan and chocolate and mix well.
  4. Pour in the beaten egg and bring the mixture together with your hands to form a dough, if more moisture is needed add some milk but you shouldn’t need more than 2 tbsp.
  5. Roll out the dough until it’s about 1 cm thick and then cut the cakes using a 68mm pastry cutter.
  6. Bring a large frying pan up to a gentle heat and add a good knob of butter. Once the butter is melted add the cakes to the pan in batches. Cook for 2-3 mins on each side until just turning golden and slightly risen.
  7. As soon as you remove the welsh cakes from the frying pan, sprinkle with caster sugar.

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb with Toasted Almonds, Pine Nuts and Green Tahini Dressing

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb with Toasted Almond Pine Nuts and Green Tahini Dressing
This recipe is a culmination of all the lovely things I have been cooking and obsessing over these past few weeks and as they are all brought together in one dish it seems fitting that it is just in time for the Easter weekend as it will make a lovely alternative to the standard British roast, if you can tear yourself away from tradition.

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb  |  Stroud Green Larder

I have written before about how when I roast a joint or a bird I make sure I buy a beast large enough to fill twice the number of the original meal.  This is to ensure I achieve bountiful leftovers as there is nothing more rewarding the next day than throwing together a luxurious meal upcycled from yesterdays roast.  This lamb dish can go either way, it would work very well as one of those Easter Monday 30 minute meals or can equally hold its own as the very reason for roasting the joint in the first place.

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb  |  Stroud Green Larder

Aside from the lamb itself there are three other components which I am just loving in my kitchen at the moment, the nutty crunch of almonds and pine nuts which I have toasted in abundance these past few weeks and have a nifty little jar now in my cupboard any time I need to pep up a salad or a side of rice.  I have also been caramelising onions like there is no tomorrow.  It is so worthwhile setting up a large saucepan and if your weeping eyes can handle it frying off a large amount of onions at a time, then sit them in the fridge as a little pick me up for any salad you might be preparing or as a quick go-to base for the evening’s dinner.

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb with Toasted Almond Pine Nuts and Green Tahini Dressing  |  Stroud Green LarderIMG_3881

Finally I reach the cornerstone of my recent diet which is this green tahini dressing.  I have been making it every day and eating it with everything.  Tahini by itself I do think is an acquired taste.  First you must fall in love with houmous which I think most of us have down pat by now, then if you strip out the chickpeas you are left with this core element.  Tahini is no longer defined by its houmous heritage as we are now learning from middle eastern cooking the delights of this ingredient on its own.  However, since tahini is the richer element of the houmous it needs definite lightening up so the addition of lots of fresh herbs and lemon juice lifts the sauce into a bold creamy dressing.

This makes a lovely salad on its own but is also an absolute feast if served with cumin roasted potatoes or buttered rice.

Slow Roast Middle Eastern Lamb with Toasted Almond Pine Nuts and Green Tahini Dressing  |  Stroud Green Larder

Slow Roasted Lamb with toasted almonds, pine nuts and a green tahini dressing

1.5kg lamb shoulder on the bone (for spice paste see below)
50g flaked almonds
50g pine nuts
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced thinly
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced thinly
fresh dill, mint and coriander to scatter

Lamb spice paste
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
juice of ½ lemon
60ml olive oil

Green tahini dressing
3 tbsp light tahini
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp water
15g dill
28g coriander including stalks
10g mint leaves

  1. Pre-heat oven as high it will go.
  2. Mix together all the spice paste for the lamb.
  3. Slash into the lamb shoulder several times with a sharp knife. Slather the spice paste all over the lamb, massaging into all the slashes you created.
  4. Place the lamb on a roasting tray and cover with foil. Put the lamb in the oven, immediately turning the oven down to 170°C. Roast for 4 hours. Then remove from the oven and rest for 15 mins
  5. Half an hour before you remove the lamb from the oven put the almonds and pine nuts in a medium saucepan on a low heat and toast gently until they are just about to turn colour. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  6. In the same saucepan heat the olive oil then add the onions and some seasoning. Cook gently on a very low heat for 20 mins until completely softened but not yet caramelised, then add the red peppers, stirring in. Cook for a further 10 mins until the peppers have softened and the onions have caramelised. Set aside.
  7. To make the tahini dressing just whizz everything up in a food processor with seasoning until smooth.
  8. After the lamb has rested, pull the meat off the bone. Mix with the onions and peppers, a slug of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Scatter the almonds, pine nuts and a few fresh herbs over the top.
  9. Serve with the tahini dressing.

How To Temper Chocolate

Everything you need to know about how to temper chocolate
Making your own chocolate truffles and hand filled chocolates is a bit of an indulgence.  It requires some time and a little bit of patience to learn how to temper chocolate but a whole lot of satisfaction.  If you find the whole process slightly intimidating then have no fear, it is much easier than you think and once you have done it a few times, you may find making your own beautifully hand filled chocolates more than a little addictive.  Or maybe that’s just me, but I don’t hear any complaints from friends or family.

Why do you temper chocolate?

Chocolate does not need to be tempered if you are melting chocolate for everyday use such as adding into cakes, buttercreams, biscuits or tarts.  However, if the finished look and texture of the chocolate is important, such as if you are coating truffles, creating chocolate cages for your cakes, making Easter Eggs, chocolate bark or hand-filled chocolates then you will need to temper the chocolate. Chocolate bars we buy from the supermarket have already been tempered but if we melt the chocolate we are taking it out of temper, which means that the crystallisation of the cocoa butter will run amok. We need to take these crystals into line by regulating the temperature of the chocolate during the melting process. Think of the lovely glossy shine of an Easter egg right before you break it apart with a glorious crack.  Without tempering, chocolate will bloom, giving it a dull white streaky appearance and with no satisfying snap, the chocolate will crumble miserably.

Marble Slab Method

There are two main ways of tempering chocolate, the marble slab method and the seeding method.  The marble slab method gives a more consistent result if you are dealing with large amounts of chocolate but it does require you to have a large marble slab or countertop. The seeding method, which I am concentrating on here, is more suitable for tempering chocolate at home as you can temper less with more control and you are not pouring chocolate all over your kitchen. Well, at least that isn’t the aim.

Seeding Method

The only bit of special equipment required for the seeding method is a digital thermometer. I definitely have a preferred instrument – my thermapen ( – as it reads the correct temperature immediately. Some of the cheaper digital thermometers do have to be held in the chocolate for thirty seconds or so to confirm an accurate reading which could be the pivotal amount of time to drive up your temperature and lead to over-tempering, plus they have annoying wires which really get in the way. Thermapens are not the cheapest but they come in different colours and if you shop around some of the colours are strangely cheaper than others.

How To Temper Chocolate

How much chocolate do you need?

The minimum amount of chocolate you can temper successfully is about 300g, any less and you will have difficulty getting an accurate temperature reading. More chocolate means the temperature gauge can fully immerse in the chocolate, plus you will have more control with the more chocolate you are handling.

What kind of chocolate do you need?

I recommend buying good quality chocolate chips rather than relying on Green and Black bars, mainly due to the cost, as it is so much cheaper to buy chocolate in bulk online than in single bars from the supermarket. Also chocolate chips will melt much quicker which will really help when you are adding your seed back into your chocolate. Now, you also can’t buy just any old chocolate chips, if you are spending your afternoon tempering chocolate and covering some delicious chocolate truffles then you really want the chocolate to be of the utmost quality. Of course you can go absolutely crazy with this as different brands can be astronomical, but a good place to start is Belgian Callebaut chocolate chips as they are reasonably priced and are also delicious. I buy my chocolate online from as they have a very good selection. The different types of chocolate, dark, milk or white work to different crystallisation temperatures, so do read be careful that you follow the correct method for the correct type of chocolate.

I always wear latex kitchen gloves when handling melted chocolate as it will get all over your hands, your kitchen work surface, spoons, bowls and the floor. Melting, then cooling, melting, then cooling. Also chocolate moulds can be messy if you are not used to them. Gloves mean there is less temptation in licking all that molten goodness off your fingers and you can concentrate on the task at hand.

How many times can you re-temper chocolate?

You can re-temper the chocolate 3-4 times so don’t worry about the amount of chocolate you are melting if you actually only need about half. You can always have a few chocolate projects on the go. However, once you are done with the tempering you will usually have some spare melted chocolate left sitting in your bain marie. For this reason my home made chocolates always come with some brownies on the side as you do not want that chocolate to go to waste. Remove the chocolate from your bain marie whilst it is still in a molten state otherwise it will pretty impossible to shift once solidified.

Once you get the hang of it tempering chocolate is really quite easy. Making homemade chocolates is a lovely way to spend the day. The Easter weekend is the perfect time to tackle such a project with the obvious reward being lots of delicious chocolates which will cost a hell of a lot less than those you will get from your fancypants chocolatier and a million times more delicious than Terry’s All Gold.

Everything you need to know about how to temper chocolate

How to Temper Dark Chocolate

For tempering white or milk chocolate look to the table below for the different temperatures to work with, the rest of the method remains the same.

  1. Measure out your chocolate, then set aside ⅓ of the chocolate to create the seed.
  2. Place the first ⅔ of the chocolate in a bain marie or a metal bowl set over a saucepan with 1 inch of hot water in it. The water should not be boiling and should not be touching the bottom of the metal bowl.
  3. Melt the chocolate very slowly, stirring occasionally but always checking the temperature. You want it to reach 55°C which is usually just after all the chocolate has melted.
  4. As soon as the melted chocolate reaches this temperature, remove the metal bowl from the heat and place on a tea towel to halt the heating.
  5. Tip your ⅓ of chocolate seed into the molten chocolate and stir in very quickly and firmly so that the chocolate melts completely. You need the temperature to reduce to 27-28°C. This could take about 10 mins of constant stirring. If by this stage your seeded chocolate has not completely melted you need to remove the lumps as these will impair the finished temper of the chocolate.
  6. As soon as the temperature has dropped to 27-28°C then place the metal bowl back on the heat and bring back up to 31-32°C. It can take just moments so keep stirring with the thermometer at hand to monitor.
  7. When your chocolate has reached 31-32°C it is now in temper and is ready to use.
  8. If you are able to keep the chocolate between 31-32°C whilst you are using it then that is ideal, however, if not then you need to work very quickly coating your truffles or filling your moulds otherwise the temperature will drop out of temper. As the chocolate cools it will thicken and become impossible to manipulate.
  9. If you let your chocolate rise above 31-32°C then you will have over-tempered the chocolate and will need to start again by raising it to 55°C and taking it from there.

chocolate tableTable adapted from Paul A. Young’s Adventures in Chocolate


Easter Egg

How To Temper Chocolate

Quick Guide on How To Temper Chocolate

This is a long post so if you want a quick easy reference on the basic points of how to temper chocolate then download my quick guide on how to temper chocolate at the link below!



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