Cupcakes – so 2007, right? Depends who you ask. Personally, I’ve made about 50 in the last month, so I think they’re quite 2015 too. They’re brilliant if you’re doing any kind of baking for charity because they’re so easy to portion and transport. And children, who are less affected by trends, love them.

Cupcakes are also the flavour of the month for June’s We Should Cocoa and Tea Time Treats blogging events, so perhaps they’re not quite out of fashion yet.

Secret citrus and cream cupcakes
This is my go-to, all-time, never-fail chocolate cake recipe, upcycled with a touch of cream cheese and marmalade to make chocolate cupcakes with a secret gooey middle. Imagine something like a dark sticky chocolate cake wrapped around a citrus cheesecake filling and you’ve got the idea.

1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
100g butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup cream cheese
2/3 cup thin-cut marmalade

Preheat the oven to 180C and put cupcake cases in 18 muffin tin holes.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Add the butter, milk and eggs and beat furiously with a wooden spoon until well mixed (you can also do this in the processor or in a mixer).
Fill each cupcake case until it is about a third full, then put a teaspoon of cream cheese and a teaspoon of marmalade on top. Top with more cupcake batter, until each case is about two-thirds full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cakes are springy and a skewer plunged into them comes out clean.
Remove to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

You know what gets me about fancy houses in interiors magazines? They never, ever, have anything stuck to their fridges. Oh, sure, there might be some artful magnetic chalkboard,  or a designer decal, but there are never any library book notices, or ‘art’ or torn-out recipes. They are neat, tidy – and soulless.

By contrast, the outside of my fridge is extremely busy (and a direct reflection of the chaos inside). Magnetic newspaper headlines, school notices, drawings, business cards for builders and a motley collection of recipes ripped from newspapers or magazines. I was just about to add another one to the pile last week when I remembered this month’s Random Recipes, which celebrates those torn-out clippings. So instead of consigning the recipe to the fridge door, where it would probably be lost forever, I made it that night instead. I should really do this more often.

Easy Vegan Tofu Mayo Recipe

Tofu Mayonnaise
I knew Aaron Brunet would win Masterchef in 2013 – right from the start he had that look about him. This mayonnaise recipe was from a recent newspaper column he wrote about the pleasures of eating with your hands – in which he endorsed plate-licking. Now, I had a flatmate once who licked her plate after eating and I don’t ever want to see that again, but his recipes are definitely finger-lickin’ good. Aaron uses this mayo in a chicken caesar-ish wrap – I used in our Friday night fishburgers and to lie beneath some hot smoked salmon on crackers. I’ve now lost the clipping somewhere, but this is the recipe from memory (ish). It’s dead easy, good for you and adding some fresh herbs gets rid of any tofu flavour. You should try it.

300g block silken tofu
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Kikkoman soy sauce
salt and pepper
½ tsp pepper
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh herbs – finely chopped parsley, chives, basil (optional)

Put all ingredients, except the herbs, in a blender and blitz until smooth (I use a stick blender and a jar). Taste for seasoning and sharpness – add more salt or lemon juice as desired. If you’re planning to use it all immediately, add the herbs and blitz again. Otherwise, this keeps in the fridge for a week.

It’s about this time of year that I start to feel slightly panicked and wish I could run away to some kind of closed community where they don’t celebrate Christmas, or have jobs, or blogs or Things To Worry About. Do you feel like that too?

The internet is the worst place to be if you’re in that kind of mood, because CHRISTMAS is around every turn. Don’t, whatever you do, venture on to Pinterest, or you’ll fall into a deep depression at the realisation that you’ve failed dismally as a mother/partner/sibling/friend/member of society because you haven’t planned your themed decorations, hand-stitched jaunty bunting or made 20 sets of Frozen-themed figurines of every kid in your child’s class from air-dried clay. And you’ve still got to bake for the school gala, sort your invoices, locate the spare car key and send your dear friend her birthday present, now three months overdue (sorry Claire!). 

Fear not, friends, because I have a remedy to lift you to a higher place. It’s chocolate chilli syrup – and if pouring it over cake or ice cream doesn’t cheer you up, then adding it to a martini certainly will. Here’s how.

Chocolate-Chilli-Syrup-Recipe

Chocolate chilli syrup

If you’re stuck for easy DIY Christmas gifts, this should go on the list. It takes minutes, doesn’t cost much and is extremely simple. It’s my offering for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by the lovely Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen. No surprises in guessing this month’s guest ingredient – it’s chilli.

1 cup water

1 cup caster sugar

3 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder

1 tsp chilli flakes

Stir the sugar and cocoa together in a small pot, then add the water and mix well. Bring to the boil and let simmer for five minutes, then remove from heat. Stir in the chilli and let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine sieve into a jar or bottle and cover tightly. Store in the fridge.

Choc-Chilli-Martini-Easy-Recipe

Chocolate chilli martini

Martini purists, look away now – this is very much my desperate housewife interpretation.

60ml ice cold vodka

30ml vermouth

30ml chilli chocolate syrup

ice

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (confession: I use a jam jar) and shake well. Strain into a martini glass (or two, if you’re generous).

 

It takes a special sort of person to make chocolate and chickpeas sound like natural partners. Nicola Galloway – chef, author, gardener, mother and general all-round good egg – is that person.

Nicola’s lovely blog, Homegrown Kitchen, has just turned two. Here’s how – and why – she manages to fit writing it into a very full life.

What’s Homegrown Kitchen about?
Seasonal & wholesome recipes and the occasional homemade craft. I think the word ‘homegrown’ encompasses many things, partly it is about cooking with food we grow in our garden, but it is also about keeping things simple, eating local where possible, making food from scratch, getting back to the basics.

When did you start it? Why?
Almost exactly two years ago. I already had a website with recipes from my cookbook, Feeding Little Tummies, and other seasonal recipes but it didn’t have much energy or rhythm to it. I was wondering how to make it more interactive and around the same time was introduced to food blogging. It was quite a new thing in New Zealand at the time and it has taken a while for people to catch on. However, I really like the interaction and regularity blogging adds to my week and my writing and photography skills have improved immensely.

What’s your day job? What else do you do?
I am a food writer for several magazines, and author, and I run cooking workshops in Nelson and around New Zealand. I am also a Mum to two young children so most days I am juggling work and family life.

30-minute pad thai (photo: Nicola Galloway/Homegrown Kitchen)

Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?
I am a trained chef [dip, professional cookery 1999]. I travelled and worked as a chef for about five years before changing direction into food writing and running cooking workshops.

Who’s your food hero?
My Nana taught me to cook and will always be my no.1 food hero. I also love Nigel Slater’s rustic cooking style, and Sandor Elli Katz and Sally Fallon give me regular inspiration from their exceptionally researched and thorough cookbooks.

Describe your kitchen in three words.
Rustic, wooden, the heart of our home.

Salted caramel coconut flan (Photo: Nicola Galloway/Homegrown Kitchen)

Who do you cook for? 
My family of four (husband and two young children) and anyone who visits, there is always food going on around here. As I said, our kitchen is the heart of our home, it is a large open plan kitchen / dining room that spills out into a sunny conservatory. I am often recipe testing and have extra food that needs to be eaten if friends drop around.


Masterchef and TV food shows – hot or not?
Not for me, I don’t have a lot of spare time to watch TV. But if they increase the interest of home cooking it has to be a good thing for those who do watch them.

What’s the last cookbook you bought?
The Unbakery Cookbook by Megan May – absolutely brilliant if you want to learn more about raw food.

Cauliflower crust pizza (Photo: Nicola Galloway)

What has been the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Oh gosh that is a hard one… let me think. We had some pretty memorable meals on our trip to Cuba last year. I remember one cooked by ‘the Aunties’ – my Mum is married to a Cuban and lives in Havana – it was very simple, beans and rice with a special goat curry [although not spicy], and large platter of the creamiest avocados I have ever eaten dressed with lime and olive oil.

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
Of course just talking about Cuba one of them would have to be from our trip – Salted Caramel Coconut Flan, also 30-Minute Pad Thai + Behind the Scenes and Yogurt & Honey Panna Cotta w/ Roasted Strawberries.

Tell us about another blog you love.
My Darling Lemon Thyme by Emma Galloway – one of the first food blogs I started reading. I am asked often if we are related and recently found out we are distant cousins but have never met (yet!)

Roasted strawberries with yoghurt and honey panna cotta (Photo: Nicola Galloway)

What’s for dinner tonight?
Lentil dahl with yogurt sesame flatbreads – I learned the recipe from a Pakistani woman about 12 years ago and it is still my favourite dahl recipe. I must share it on the blog one day.

Would you like to be my guest? Drop me a line…

Yesterday, someone asked me ‘how do you fit everything in and still maintain your blog?’ I realised, with a sinking feeling, that she obviously hadn’t been reading along lately. 

The Kitchenmaid has been sadly neglected this month while I have been attending to lots of other things – including a super-secret special project that I haven’t been able to talk about. 

Secret Photo Shoot
What is this man doing with a bunch of asparagus, a big camera and a white umbrella? All will be revealed, soon…

Quite aside from the secret project, I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen (having six different sets of houseguests in 24 days will do that to a person). And I’ve been eating a lot of asparagus, a sign that spring is truly here.

Fresh Asparagus Photo

And I’ve been reading this heartbreaking food memoir by Wellington writer and food blogger Anne Else. 

Food Memoir The Colour Of Food By Anne Else

The Colour Of Food is an eloquent look back at Anne’s life through food – brace yourself for the last chapters, in which she writes movingly about adjusting to living – and eating – without her beloved partner, Harvey McQueen. It was first published as an e-book last year but did so well that it’s now in print form. It might seem a bit early to get your Christmas stocking list sorted, but you’d do well to add this to it.

What have you been up to this month?