Blueberry Cardamom Scones

I love using herbs and spices in cooking. To me, it is the difference between a good dish and a great one. Likewise, it’s amazing how the same food is completely transformed by the addition of a single fleck or sprinkle from another part of the world.

Bluberry Cardamom Scones

These Blueberry Cardamom Scones are the perfect example of the almost magical power of spices. Most of us will recognize cardamom from our favourite Indian curry or chai tea latte but it is also used in some Nordic baked goods, Middle Eastern spiced tea, and is becoming increasingly popular in fusion cooking. Cardamom is extremely aromatic and has subtle hints of citrus so it pairs really well with anything sweet or savoury that might ordinarily use lemon. Although, it is expensive (much like saffron and vanilla) its intense fragrance means a little goes a long way.

I recently had the honour of talking to a local coffee shop about providing baked goods for their new venue. In my meeting with one of the owners, she specified that they wanted their food to mirror their unique personality; each offering needed to be  different to the usual cafe fare. Unfortunately, I was not able to find the kitchen style necessary for such a commitment but I was left with a surge of crazy ideas that I wanted to test out; one of which was this unusual twist on the classic coffee house scone.

Blueberry Cardamom Scones

1 cup fresh washed blueberries (I don’t recommend frozen as these tend to bleed purple all over the dough)

2 cups of self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup butter

1 egg

1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/4 cup milk)

1/3 cup sugar (plus extra for dusting)

1/2 tsp cardamom

Zest from 1/2 lemon

(Note: my experienced baker friends might be confused as to why there is no salt in the recipe but the addition of cardamom makes this step unnecessary.)

Blueberry Cardamom Scones

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix flour, cardamom, sugar together. Rub butter into flour mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together lemon zest, eggs and milk. Add whole blueberries into wet mix. Make a well in the center of the dry mix, and add the egg mixture. Gradually combine all the ingredients with your hand until a dough is formed. (If it seems too dry, add a couple of drops of milk.) Turn out the dough onto a flat surface lightly dusted with flour, and gently form into a flat ball. This is the tricky part. You will need to roll out the dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick without bursting the berries otherwise the whole thing will turn purple! Slice the dough across (like a pizza) to get 8 triangles. It is important to press and cut straight down with your knife (instead of sliding back and forth) or the scones will not rise during baking. Brush each scone with milk and sprinkle sugar liberally over the tops. Bake for 15-16 minutes until they are golden. Allow to cool completely before serving as the blueberries are full of boiling hot juice.

Blueberry Cardamom Scones

I loved the addition of cardamom and felt that it really elevated these scones from something simple to something spectacular.

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The Best Moment Award

best-moment-award

Here are the rules:

1. Display the award logo

2. Link back to the person who nominated you

I was so chuffed to be nominated for the Best Moment Award by Mimi’s Getting Fit. She is truly an inspirational woman who has lost almost 70 lbs in the past year and a half, and has become a tower of physical strength. Her honest look at life, weight loss, food and body image has been such a joy to follow. I highly recommend checking out her story.

3. State 7 things about yourself

1- Although I am not a big Christmas movie person, every year I have to watch Love Actually, and The Muppet’s Christmas Carol!

2- I am in the process of starting up my own baking side business. Lots to still do but I am excited about the journey ahead.

3-I think of London every day. Even though I love my life here in the States and would probably never want to move back permanently, I will always be a Londoner at heart.

4- I am just under 5ft and my husband is 6ft 5! Yes, it’s a big difference but it means I get the best bear hugs! Also people remember us wherever we go and this has lead to all kinds of special regular-customer treatment at various eateries.

5- I have now visited more States than I have countries in Europe.

6- I love Zumba! In fact, I just love dancing in general. Wish I could find a fun night club where people actually go for the music and dancing instead of all the other stuff.

7- I still love McVities Jaffa Cakes after all these years! Despite the fact that I turn my nose up at Little Debbie and Hostess Cakes (sorry US friends!) there is just something so familiar and sentimental attached to those little round chocolate-covered-spongecake buggers! All my baking snobbery melts into a shameful entire-pack-eating binge!

4. Nominate 15 (or however many you can) other bloggers for this award. I have been so blessed to share in the lives of these people as I read about their food, or their stories, creativity, musing, ponderings etc. I hope you will click on the links below and be inspired.

Dreamstate Reality

Mitts and Measures

The Foodies

The Paddington Foodie

Penny’s Food Blog

Life in Golden Light

Pliable

The Payton Periodicals

Ninja Munchies

Boomtown Sisters

Bees C’s and D’s

An Afternoon Tea Party with English Scones

What better way to celebrate the upcoming arrival of your friend’s baby girl than to throw an afternoon tea party shower. Pretty flowers, little cups and saucers, small sandwiches and scones, great friends sitting around the table together laughing, and sharing in the wonder of new life. Some friends and I had the pleasure of arranging this intimate little gathering full of tiny pink frilly outfits and baby bows with bling. It was such great fun.

tea party

I absolutely love the collaborative efforts that go into this wonderful American tradition of helping to provide and prepare for a baby’s arrival. I am especially honoured to be surrounded by friends who go to such great lengths to take care of each other. This shower was just another example of how blessed John and I are to be here at Baylor.

Our tea party consisted of delicious fruit salad, classic cucumber sandwiches with the edges cut off

Cucumber Sandwiches

and English tea scones.

scones above

served with jam and lemon curd of course!

scones above with jam

(sadly I could not find any clotted cream but I have since found a recipe for homemade clotted cream that I will be trying very soon). This tea party made me rather homesick and triggered hours of nostalgically seeking out recipes for all the other British classic desserts like cherry bakewell tarts, hot cross buns, fondant fancies, and Eccles cakes. I am sure some of these will be turning up on The Grumbling Belly in the coming weeks and months!

English scones are not like the American ones you find at coffee shops. They lean slightly towards breakfast biscuits with some added sweetness.  Typically, scones are either plain or with raisins/currants. The ones I made for this shower are sort of an American-British marriage as I added dried cranberries with the raisins as well as a few other small modifications! If you want to make a classic recipe just omit the cranberries, zest and vanilla.

Tea Scones

English tea scones

1/2 cup of raisins

1/2 cup of dried cranberries

1 tsp orange zest

2 tbsp of sugar

4 cups of self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)

2 eggs

dash of vanilla extract (optional)

1/2 cup of milk (plus a little extra for brushing)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Sift flower, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Cut butter into cubes and the rub into the flour mix until you have a breadcrumb texture. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, then add orange zest, vanilla if using, raisins and cranberries. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the milk-egg mix. Gently work the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated into a dough consistency. Roll out onto a floured surface and cut out scones circles. It is really important when cutting into the dough that you do not move the cutter around as this will prevent the scones from rising. Simply press straight down and release. Brush the top of the scones with milk and place on baking sheet with a little space between them. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown. You can freeze the scones as soon as they are cool in a ziplock bag to preserve their freshness. Or, serve them as soon as possible with jam, clotted cream or lemon curd.

scones close

(Thanks to Hannah King and Mike Trozzo for taking beautiful pictures)

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S’more Truffles

Smore Truffles

Ahhh S’mores. The quintessential American summer campfire dessert. The first time I ever heard of a S’more was when I moved here in 2003. My friend just casually mentioned making them as part of a camping trip and I guess my blank expression prompted her to ask if we had them in England. There was so much shock and horror in her eyes as she tried to imagine a childhood without S’mores. Needless to say, she soon arranged the whole experience for me as if to undo a great injustice.  She pulled out a graham cracker, added a slab of Hershey’s chocolate, toasted a marshmallow and pressed it onto the chocolate with another cracker on top creating a little cookie sandwich. There were not many American food items that I had not heard of either from friends or American media so I too was surprised that these little squishy-oozey-delights had not made their way across the pond.

Of course once I thought about it, large toasting-style marshmallows were not available in England in the 80’s. Plus, the UK is not thought of as a summer camping haven because of the terrible weather. Yes, we may go camping but it’s usually in a water protected camping vehicle or a warm and cozy chalet because you just never know if the sun is going to be out even in the middle of July or August. As a result, there is not really a market for extensive camping cuisine like there is here in the States. (heated Heinz Baked Beans from a tin does not count!). This doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy other outdoor cooking like barbecues as soon as there is even a hint of summer (not the american kind of barbecue -barbecue is just the generic English word for grilling out) but we mostly stick to kebabs, burgers and hot dogs. Greeks in London, don’t even wait for the sunshine, if we have a barbecue planned, rain is not a deterrent. Some poor male creature is assigned to build a makeshift ‘gazebo’ out of whatever can be found and stand out there grilling meat even if it means the aid of an umbrella!

So what did I think of my first S’more? It was messy and gooey and sticky and warm and crunchy and just delightful. I am not a purist though because I actually really dislike Hershey’s (sorry!) so I prefer my S’more with a less sugary chocolate but otherwise, good call America! In celebration of Independence Day, I decided to turn these delicious treats into truffles to take to a friend’s fish fry yesterday. It took me a couple of tries to really get these right but they were a huge hit. The challenge with trying to add marshmallows to anything is that they don’t have an actual unique flavour- they are just sugar. What finally made this recipe click for me was capturing the fluffy chewy texture as well as the toasted sweetness, and I think I got there in the end. But hey, make a batch my American friends and let me know what you think.

S’more Truffles

(makes a lot of truffles but the exact number depends on the size you chose to make them)

12oz good quality milk chocolate chips

12oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like using both kinds of chocolate to balance out the sweetness)

1 large bag of mini marshmallows (I don’t recommend using a store brand- go for the good stuff, you will really taste the difference)

1/3 cup of heavy cream

1 tbsp butter

1 cup of graham cracker crumbs

1/2 -3/4 cup of marshmallow vodka (optional)

Place chocolate chips, cream and butter into microwave safe bowl and heat at 50% power for 1 minute. Stir and heat for 30 seconds more at 50%. Stir again and heat for another 30 seconds if needed until half the chips are melted. It’s really important to stop heating BEFORE all the chips melt otherwise you will burn the chocolate. If you stir well, the remaining chips will melt away nicely without becoming grainy. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in vodka if using- add as much as you like but it is very sweet so be careful not to make the mixture too sickly. Line a baking sheet with foil and cover with non-stick spray. (I learnt the hard way by not using the non-stick spray when I did this the first time.The marshmallows will stick to everything if you don’t spray!) Spread marshmallows over baking sheet in a single layer so they toast evenly (you will have to toast the marshmallow in two batches to fit them all). Place under the broiler and watch until they become nice and golden brown. Take them out and allow them to cool for about 20 seconds and then spoon them into the melted chocolate. Finish toasting the remaining marshmallows and add them to the chocolate as well. Do not stir until all the marshmallows are in the bowl as this is key to capturing the flavour and texture of the truffles. Once they are all in the bowl, fold them in just enough to be incorporated but not too much so they completely dissolve. You should still be able to see lots of white flecks and strings of marshmallow throughout the mixture. Cover the surface of the chocolate with plastic wrap and place in fridge for about 3-4 hours. Put graham cracker crumbs into a small bowl. Scoop out a spoonful of chocolate mixture and roll it in the palms of your hands to form a ball. Drop ball into crumbs and roll around to get a nice cracker coating. Place the truffles back into the fridge in an airtight container until ready to serve.

S'more Truffles

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles

Picture1

We all love a good Oreo style truffle – so easy to make and a guaranteed crowd pleaser but every now and then it’s important to remember the beauty of a real french style chocolate truffle. Decadent, elegant and the perfect gifts for any chocolate lover (if you can bear to part with them). Somehow, I had build them up in my mind to be this intimidating complicated process that absolutely required you to either have a culinary degree or French ancestry. Fortunately, I was very much mistaken and not only are they easy but once you learn the process, you can pretty much make ANY style truffle your imagination can muster. Which is how this recipe was born.

Recently some fun friends of ours threw a Black and White themed party to celebrate the completion of some pretty important exams. We were asked to wear black or white and, if we wanted, to bring black or white snacks to share. Once I heard that they had invited an amazing mixologists to make exciting unique cocktails at the party, I knew I had to make a white chocolate french style truffle with alcohol! Mojitos are my favourite cocktails and it’s pretty much guaranteed that if a restaurant/bar menu has some kind of mojito concoction, I am going to try it! (I also make a mean blackberry Mojito- even a virgin version – which I will share with you all soon). Therefore, it seemed only natural to make White Chocolate Mojito Truffles. They were a huge hit and I can’t wait to turn other favourite drinks into delicious truffles.

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles:

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles

24 oz good quality white chocolate chips

3/4 stick of butter (chopped into little small cubes)

9 tbsp of heavy cream

pinch salt

1/4 cup of rum (you can add less or more depending on your preference! If you want to remove the alcohol altogether, use 10 oz of chips and 1 tsp of imitation rum flavour)

zest from 2 limes

2 tbsp of lime juice

1 tsp mint extract

Place chocolate, cream and butter into microwave safe bowl and heat on 30 second intervals at 50% power until the chocolate is almost melted. White chocolate can burn very easily and turn grainy so it’s better to stop heating before it all melts. Once you remove it from the microwave, just keep stirring and the last few chips will melt away and it will become a smooth texture. Add the zest, extracts and juice a little at a time and mix thoroughly. Finally, add the rum and stir well. Cover in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2 hours. The chocolate will be firm but malleable. Scoop out truffle mix with a melon baller and shape into perfect balls in the palm of your hands. (If your hands start to get too warm and begin melting the chocolate, run them under cold water and dry thoroughly before resuming.) Dust the balls in clear sugar crystals. They will need another couple of hours in the fridge to harden completely. White chocolate truffles are typically softer than regular chocolate ones so it’s best to keep them in the fridge until ready to serve.  This recipe makes a lot of truffles but the number depends on their size.

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles

Crazy Good Buffalo Chicken Mac n’ Blue Cheese

Recently I shared about some of the perils I experienced when first learning to make a sauce from a roux (browning flour in butter and then adding a liquid).  This led me to share a delicious easy alternative using cream cheese for my Enchiladas Suizas recipe. Even though I still hold to this quick fix technique as a useful tool in your weeknight dinner artillery, there’s something wonderful about successfully achieving the real deal when you have more time. My hope is that my Buffalo Chicken Mac n’ Blue Cheese will motivate you enough to try out this technique! It’s rich, spicy and creamy comfort in every bite.

Buffalo Mac n Cheese

By now you probably must all think I have an IV of constant cheese running through my veins where I just replace the bag with different kinds every morning (can you even do that …hmmm?!) but I promise I don’t!   The truth is, I have to actually limit my dairy intake for the sake of my lactose intolerance. For the most part, I don’t eat any other dairy items (yes this means no ice-cream) but when I do, it’s going to almost definitely be for cheese and it just so happens that a lot of these are the recipe triumphs that I love to share with you.

It’s hard to believe that for the first 10 years of my life, I actually didn’t like the stuff…if only I could remember that fateful moment when the winds changed and I began my descent into cheese addiction so I could go back in time and replace that slice of Brie (or whatever it was) with a carrot stick! Like most kids however, I thought Blue cheese smelt like feet and didn’t want any of it until about 10 years ago when, as with most addictions, I kept delving deeper and deeper for the ‘harder’ stuff! By the time I moved to the States and had my first introduction to the Buffalo Wings experience, I didn’t have to think twice about answering ranch or blue!! The pairing of that fiery, red, sweet tang with the smooth, creamy, richness of Blue Cheese Sauce was a wonderful new sensation. It is no surprise therefore that a timer was set somewhere in the depths of my soul waiting for the right moment to awaken my hands at combining the great delight of Mac n’ Cheese (another American Favourite) with Buffalo Chicken!

I confess that this isn’t one of those throw-it-together-while-getting-everyone-settled-at-the-dinner-table kind of meals. It’s more involved ..yes.. but well worth it for a special weekend treat. 

Buffalo Chicken Mac n’ Blue

2bsp butter

2 tbsp flour

2 -3 cups of cold milk (add more if you like your sauce to be thinner but keep in mind that the cheese will help the sauce to thicken once it melts)

1 8oz pack of crumbled blue cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 – 1/2 cup of Buffalo wing sauce (I know it sounds like a lot but the cheese really mellows away the heat.)

2 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken

About 2-3 cups of elbow macaroni

Add half the wing sauce to the shredded chicken and allow to sit for about an hour before making the mac n’ cheese. Cook macaroni according to instructions. In the meantime, heat butter in the pan on medium heat. You want the butter to get hot but not to the point of browning or burning. Add the flour and, using a wire whisk, mix it quickly around into the butter. (I always test my butter by adding just a tiny pinch of flour and making sure it sizzles). Keep whisking around the pan for about a minute until the flour cooks and is slightly golden. At this point you want to start adding the milk very slowly but making sure to whisk rapidly the whole time. I usually gradually add the first half of the milk while whisking, but then take a small break to keep stirring and working out the lumps. I then continue to gradually add the rest of the milk. Once it is smooth and beginning to thicken up, pour in the blue cheese and continue whisking so it melts and is fully incorporated. Add the chicken and the remaining wing sauce. (We also added some Mango Habanero sauce….just coz that’s how we roll! Amazing flavour but very little of the heat actually managed to fight through the richness of the cheese.)

Once the macaroni is cooked and drained, pour it into the blue cheese sauce and serve.

Buffalo Blue Mac n' Cheese

Those lovely little blue flecks of cheese let you know that this a seriously good, rich and creamy mac n’ cheese. Even with all that Buffalo wing sauce, we added some extra on the side for a more powerful punch of flavour and heat.

Pride and Prejudice Pasta!

Today, I am excited to share a story and delicious recipe from my dear friend Sodoulla in Cyprus. This story is actually about the both of us during my first stint on the island from 1993-1997  as a teenager. (I lived in Cyprus a second time from 2005-2007 after Grad school- yes it can be confusing!) We were both Greek- Cypriot kids who were born in London and whose parents had returned to live in Cyprus for various reasons. We were instant friends when we met in high school, sharing a common misunderstood dark British humour and dry wit as well as many other things. Needless to say she is still one of my best friends to this day even though there are so many miles between us and life is very different from those early days. I was absolutely thrilled when she wanted to contribute to The Grumbling Belly and I am sure you will enjoy this trip down memory lane with us.

Happy Mondays Pasta for Mr. Darcy

Pesto Garlic Cream Pasta

When Leia started her family and friends posts I couldn’t resist reminding her about our Monday night get togethers back in 1996. We were just out of school and I had moved from my parents house on the beach town of Larnaca to the central city of Nicosia for college. This meant I was closer to all my high school friends and in particular, Leia. Although she and I had our fair share of parties and going-out nights, Mondays were strictly reserved for our other two passions: English classics and food.

Much to mine and Leia’s delight the not-so-wonderful Cypriot Broadcast Corporation decided by some miracle (or perhaps someone on the board actually had good taste)  to show  the BBC’s six part series of Pride and Prejudice every Monday night, starring the original Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth, and the under acclaimed Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet.

So I’d get over to Leia’s house a good couple of hours before the show would start and we would raise havoc in her mum’s huge kitchen (has she ever mentioned that her parent’s house in Cyprus is a parsonage that used to be a school? Thus you can imagine the size of each room, not to mention there are separate guest toilets for men and women!) We would chop up the garlic, mushrooms and onions while telling each other our sad love-life updates (or lack thereof!) and of course we’ll never know if we cried because of the onions or because of our tales. Then we would get out the pots and pans  and cook up our amazing signature dish that we were so proud of at the time. For us back then, diets started on Tuesdays…

ingredients

Finally, we would sit glued to the television and eat until bursting point while watching the courageous Elizabeth sticking to her guns and the quiet Mr Darcy falling frustratingly in love with her. If I remember correctly, (I did say this was back in 1996) we would finish off the evening with a quick game of scrabble.

Needless to say the series finished after six weeks but we continued Monday evening pasta for quite a while. I can safely say that it was probably the only time in my life when I actually really looked forward to Mondays and I have my best friend Leia and, of course Mr Darcy, to thank for that.

Now to be totally honest, the recipe for our spinach pasta is a bit foggy (again, 1996) we were young and never really thought about writing it down. Being Cypriots we kind of just “played by ear” (my mum is an excellent Cypriot cook and she doesn’t have a single recipe written down, which I now find extremely frustrating, but I guess I’m like her in a lot of ways).

However the other day knowing I was going to write about it, I tested out our Monday Pasta and this is what I came up with:

Garlic Pesto Cream Pasta
(serves 2)
200g pasta (we used to use cheese tortellini or tagliatelle but use your favourite)
1 bunch of fresh spinach, chopped
1 medium onion (or half a Spanish one), chopped
chopped fresh mushrooms (optional but strongly recommended, quantity is up to you)
2 cloves garlic, chopped or mashed
2 (ok, maybe 3!) heaped tablespoons of good pesto (I now would use homemade as my husband does the best pesto but back then we used store bought)
a drizzle of good olive oil (please don’t substitute with another oil)
250ml fresh cream
half a glass of white wine
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan to grate on top

Gently sweat the onion in a hot pan drizzled with olive oil and then add the mushrooms and garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes, making sure the mushrooms don’t produce too much water.

spinach-going-in

Add the spinach and wine stir until all the spinach is hot and starts to cook down, cover the pan and let the spinach cook until its tender and reduced.

spinach-wilted

Add the pesto, season with salt and pepper; stir well so that everything is covered in pesto. Finally, when the wine is reduced to a thick sauce,

cream-going-in

add the fresh cream and stir again, let it cook and thicken.

finished-sauce

Cook the pasta to your desired tendency and mix well into the sauce, grate cheese on top and serve with garlic bread.

Pesto Garlic Cream Pasta

We strongly recommend sharing this pasta dish with your best friend for added comfort.