Vegan birthday cake

Plant-based diet recipes - BBC Good Food
  • Prep:1 hr
  • Cook:30 mins
  • plus cooling and 1½ -2½ hrs chilling
  • More effort
  • Serves 16-20

Bake a plant-based version of a chocolate fudge cake for a birthday party. Everyone can enjoy it, including guests who have a dairy intolerance or egg allergies

Ingredients

  • 320ml sunflower oil , plus extra for the tins
  • 450ml soy , almond or coconut milk (the pouring variety, not a can)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 500g light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 260g plain soy or coconut yogurt
  • 450g self-raising flour
  • 160g cocoa powder
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the vegan buttercream

  • 200g dairy-free dark chocolate
  • 400g vegan spread , at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 800g icing sugar , sifted
  • colourful sprinkles (make sure they are suitable for vegans)

Method

  • STEP 1– Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Oil three 20cm round cake tins and line the bases and sides with baking parchment (if you don’t have three tins, cook the batter in batches). Whisk the milk and vinegar together in a jug – the milk should curdle slightly. Set aside.
  • STEP 2– Whisk the sugar, oil and vanilla extract together in a bowl, then whisk in the yogurt, making sure to break down any sugar lumps. Pour in the soured milk and mix well.
  • STEP 3– Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and ½ tsp salt into a separate bowl and stir well to combine. Gradually whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until you have a smooth batter, but be careful not to over-mix.
  • STEP 4– Divide the batter evenly between the tins and bake for 25-30 mins, until well risen and springy, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out almost clean. A few sticky crumbs are fine, but the mixture should not be wet.
  • STEP 5– Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for 20 mins, then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack  to cool completely. They will be delicate so be gentle (a cake lifter is helpful). The sponges will keep, covered, at room temperature for up to two days.
  • STEP 6– For the vegan buttercream, melt the chocolate in the microwave a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Leave to cool. Beat the spread and vanilla on high speed in a Cooks Professional Stand Mixer or a few minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the icing sugar gradually, beating on slow to start with, then turning up the speed to max until the mixture is light and creamy. Pour in the cooled chocolate and combine thoroughly. Chill the buttercream for at least 30 mins before using.
  • STEP 7– To assemble the cake, first use a sharp knife to trim the tops off the sponges to make them level. Put one of the sponges on a serving plate, cake stand or 20cm round cake drum (using a cake drum makes it easier to ice the cake neatly and to move it onto a stand or plate later). Spread over a layer of the buttercream, using a palette knife to get an even, neat finish. Top with the second sponge and spread over another layer of buttercream.
  • STEP 8– Top with the last sponge upside-down, so the bottom of the cake becomes the top (this will help to keep the icing neat and relatively crumb-free). Spread the sides of the cake with buttercream. Hold the top sponge steady with a palm if you need to stabilise the cake. Once you have the sides covered as neatly as you can, cover the top with a thin layer of buttercream. Use your palette knife to neaten the top and sides. If you have a side scraper, use it to sweep around the sides and top to sharpen the coating. (This is a crumb coat, trapping any crumbs to give you a neat, firm base.) Put the cake in the fridge to firm up and chill for 1-2 hrs.
  • STEP 9– To finish, cover the sides and top of the cake in the same manner, using most of the remaining buttercream. Press the sprinkles up against the bottom of the cake, about a quarter to a third of the way up. You can dress the top of the cake with a circle of sprinkles, or for a fancier finish, pipe little swirls around the top edge of the cake using any remaining buttercream scraped into a piping bag fitted with a large open star nozzle, then finish with more sprinkles.
  • STEP 10– Keep the cake in the fridge to stay firm, then remove 1 hr before serving. Will keep, covered, in the fridge, for up to three days.

Guide to Pastry

Pastry is notoriously difficult among both amateur and professional chefs alike. But if you want to become the next star baker on the Great British Bake Off, pastry is one of the many baking talents that you’ll need to master.

There are different types of pastry that are used in a variety of recipes, each one as interesting and tricky to master as the last. If you want to learn more about pastry, read on!

How many types of pastry are there?

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The sheer amount of pastries available is impressive, but there are six main types of pastry. These are shortcrust, flaky, puff, filo, choux, and hot water crust. The main ingredients tend to be the same or similar for each – a mixture of flour, water, and fats such as butter mixed together to form a dough, used as the basis of many sweet and savoury treats.

Once the pastry dough is formed, it tends to be rolled out thinly to use in baking, depending on the type of pastry in use. Pastries like hot water crust use different methods to form the finished product.

Shortcrust pastry

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Shortcrust is the type of pastry used in most recipes, due to its forgiving nature. It requires a fairly simple recipe, and tends to be quite foolproof, making it one of the most common pastries used today. It’s thought that shortcrust pastry was invented in Venice, with the first recipe being recorded in the 18th century.

To create a simple shortcrust dough, simply mix flour, butter, and salt, adding water to bind the mixture together. It can be mixed either by hand or by using a food processor or stand mixer; mixing the flour and fat together at the start inhibits the formation of gluten, leaving you with a ‘short’, or lovely crumbly, tender pastry.

The general rule of thumb is that you’ll need half the amount of fat to the amount of flour, e.g. for 200g flour, you’ll need 100g butter. As with most pastry, try to avoid handling it as much as possible, so as to prevent the butter from melting. You should try and chill it before using it to bake. Remember to add the liquid gradually – the less liquid your pastry has, the more buttery and crumbly it will be.

Flaky pastry

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This particular variety is characterised by the flakes of pastry achieved through lamination. It can be an effort to make but is more forgiving than puff pastry. It has a higher ratio of fat to flour than shortcrust, with the butter being incorporated in stages, a little bit added after each fold. It can sometimes be called rough puff pastry and is a little easier than its more difficult companion.

The flaky layers are created by shard-like pieces of butter in the dough melting in the oven, releasing steam, which makes the layers puff up. The pastry expands when cooked due to the number of layers, leaving you with a beautifully crisp and flaky finish.

To create the ideal flaky pastry, layers of dough and fat are rolled and folded together. As with most pastry, it’s best made in cool conditions, and should be chilled after making and before being used so as to prevent the fat content from leaking out during cooking. The most rustic and one of the simpler doughs, flaky pastry is a favourite to use in both sweet and savoury recipes.

Puff pastry

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Puff pastry is notorious for being one of the most difficult pastries to master. It’s time-consuming to create the perfect puff, but your efforts will be worth it in the end when you bite into a perfectly crisp pastry. It’s thought to have been invented by a French baker, Cladius Gele, in 1645.

A dough of flour, sugar, salt, and water is rolled out into a rectangle, and the butter is layered on top. The dough is then folded around the butter, a process known as lamination, before being rolled out and folded repeatedly to create multiple layers. The dough should be chilled between each lamination so as to prevent the butter from becoming too warm and melting. 

Careful temperature control is needed at all times to prevent it from merging with the dough. It’s important to chill the butter and dough at all times, so that the gluten is allowed to relax between roll-outs. During cooking, the moisture in the fat evaporates, causing lift and creating delicate layers; the melted butter adds a crispness to the pastry. Puff pastry tends to be used for Danish pastries.

Choux pastry

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A French favourite, choux pastry tends to be used for sweet treats such as profiteroles and eclairs. Choux gets its name from the French word for ‘cabbage’, due to resembling the same shape as a cabbage after cooking. This particular pastry is light, airy, and crisp, and unlike the other types of pastry on this list, it needs to be cooked before you can use it. It’s more batter-like in consistency than the other pastry types, which means it can be piped.

Choux pastry starts life as a mixture of milk or water with butter, which is heated together in a saucepan until the butter melts. Flour is then added to form a dough, and eggs are beaten in to enrich it, creating a wonderfully smooth, golden mix that is then piped.

The high percentage of water in the dough causes it to expand into a light, hollow pastry; the air lifts the pastry to treble in size while cooking. A hole is skewered into the choux halfway through cooking to let the steam out, before being placed back in the oven to dry out and become crisp. Once cooked, the choux is removed from the oven, filled with cream, and topped with chocolate. Choux pastry is used extensively in French patisserie cooking.

Filo pastry

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Filo pastry, or phyllo pastry as it is sometimes known, is perhaps the most difficult of pastry types to make. This is because it tends to dry out quickly – even if shop-bought. Due to its tricky nature, it is perhaps better to buy your own from your local shop rather than attempt to make it yourself. It is difficult and time-consuming to make by hand.

Filo is a paper-thin pastry made up of several layers, which are generally wrapped around a filling and brushed with butter to create delicate, flaky pastries, such as baklava. It’s important to keep the filo pastry hydrated, as it can dry out very quickly if made by hand.

This pastry is very fragile and requires careful handling. Make sure to brush it with oil or butter before shaping and cooking. It takes a great deal of skill to make it yourself, so unless you want to challenge your baking skills it might be easier to just buy it ready-made.

Hot water crust pastry

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This traditional English pastry tends to be mainly used to make savoury pies. Hot water crust tends to be less flaky than the other traditional methods, but is crisp, tender, and serviceable. Traditionally, hot water crust pastry is hand-raised, but over the centuries bakers have been known to use tins, dishes, or bowls as a mould.

Hot water crust pastry is created by melting lard – not butter – in hot water, which is then brought to the boil, before flour is stirred in and it’s worked into a pliable ball. The pastry was then ‘hand raised’ from the bottom of the pie tin to the top, generally while still warm as it became harder to work with once the fat had hardened. Once the pastry case had been hand-raised, it was filled and then covered with a crust, decorated, and then put in the oven ready for baking.

It’s generally accepted that hand-raising your pie doesn’t give you a neat, uniform finish, as some sagging tends to occur during cooking. This is considered to be the mark of a good hand-made pie.

The best pastry

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While these are just the main six types of pastry, there are a few variations which are pastries in their own right.  The main six types listed above are the ones you’re most likely to find in your recipe. 

Shortcrust can be sweetened to create a sweet crust, which tends to be used in a lot of desserts. Instead of binding the mixture with water, sugar and egg yolks are used to create a sweeter pastry that is better fitting for desserts.

Have you got a favourite type of pastry that you like to use in cooking? Or is there a type of pastry you’d like to know more about? Let us know over on our Facebook page!

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Eat the Seasons – July

We’re all enjoying the long, hot, hazy days of summer – and the fresh produce is too! Let’s see what is in season for July.

Chillies

Native to South and Central America, chilli peppers are the spicy fruit of capsicum pepper plants that are perfect for a range for culinary uses, including this sweet chilli jam, and famous for their fiery kick. The intensity of their heat is measured using the Scoville scale, which ranges from 0 for bell peppers and pimentos, all the way up to 1,463,700 for the mouth burning Trinidad scorpion.

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Courgettes

Brought to the Mediterranean by Christopher Columbus in the 1500s, courgettes (or zucchini) are a great source of protein, vitamin A, copper, riboflavin and many more vitamins and minerals. They have also been shown to aid digestion, reduce the signs of aging, lower blood sugar levels and protect against inflammation. A true wonder veg!

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Mangetout

Literally translated from French as ‘eat it all’, this tasty little vegetable is also known as a sugar snap pea. A nutrient dense food containing many vitamins and minerals, mangetout is also great for skin and hair thanks to its high levels of vitamin A. Try this recipe for a delicious way to get some into your diet.

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Blueberries

A perennial fruit, blueberries are native to North America and were not introduced into Europe until the 1930s. Hailed as one of the modern-day ‘superfoods’, blueberries contain fibre, vitamins C & K, manganese, iron and a whole host of antioxidants. They have even been shown to enhance moods, and are a homeopathic prescription as an antibiotic.

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Peaches

There are over 2000 varieties of peach in world, and the average peach tree lives to about 12 years old. Juicy, plump and delicious, they are a rich provider of vitamins A, C, K and E, and also contain beta-carotene. Originating from the Zheijang Province of China, early cultivation of peach trees dates back as far as 6000BC!

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Eat the Seasons – May

Summer is fast approaching, and with it comes a whole new host of delicious, seasonal ingredients. Let’s take a look at what’s in season for May.

Carrots

One of the UK’s favourite veggies, these orange beauties are super versatile and can be roasted, mashed, pureed into soups and even spiralised to masquerade as spaghetti. Unlike most vegetables, carrots release more of their nutrients (including vitamin A and beta-carotene) when cooked, as they have tough, indigestible cellular walls when raw.

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Peas

One of the first vegetables cultivated by humans and present in both Georgia and Egypt as far back as 500BC, peas are an excellent source of vitamin K, C, B1 and B2, as well as protein, iron and potassium. Available to buy (and grow!) in hundreds of different cultivars, ranging from the classic green to a moody purple.

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Radishes

A great source of vitamin C, riboflavin and calcium and varying in size and colour, radishes are a popular addition to salads all over the world. But they can also be added to stir-frys for a bit of crunch, and can be cut in half and roasted in olive oil to release a sweet, nutty flavour.


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Oregano

This aromatic herb, which is a member of the mint family, is characterised by its aromatic leaves and purple flowers. First used by the Greeks, with mythology giving credit to Aphrodite for its invention, oregano is high in antioxidants and is also a powerful natural antiseptic thanks to its high levels of carvacrol and rosmarinic acid.

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Sage

Also another member of the mint family, sage is a fantastic flavour match with many meats including chicken and beef. Regarded in homeopathy as a healing herb, the juice from the pressed leaves can be used as both pain relief and an antiseptic for insect bites.

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Eat the Seasons – April

With Easter coming up, the best of this year’s spring produce has started appearing in our shops. Take a look below and what’s in season this April!

Asparagus

A member of the lily family, and also related to onions, leeks and garlic, asparagus in a perennial vegetable that grows from crowns. Asparagus is also rich in saponins, a type of phytonutrient credited with reducing the risk of cancer, maintain blood pressure, regulating blood sugar and controlling lipid levels. No wonder Queen Nefertiti proclaimed it to be the food of the Gods!

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Rocket

Also known as arugula, rocket is a leafy vegetable that is a part of the mustard family. Rich in vitamins A, C, K and B as well as potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, rocket has a peppery taste that adds a little kick to salads.

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Watercress

Another relative of the mustard family, and an often overlooked leafy green, watercress packs a powerful nutrient punch and has one of the highest densities of vitamin K in any food. Thought of as the ‘original superfood’, it is said that in the year 400BC, Hippocrates located his first hospital neat a stream so that he could grow a plentiful supply of watercress to help treat his patients.

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Samphire

A succulent plant belonging to the carrot family, samphire originates from the Mediterranean but can be found all over Europe. A great source of vitamins C, A amd B, samphire grows coastally on cliffs and rocky edges, and has a naturally salty flavour that is the perfect accompaniment to fish dishes.

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Chives

The tiniest member of the allium family, chives became a popular herb in the 19th century and are super easy to grow at home. Not only are these garlic-onion flavoured herbs delicious, but they are also a great source of fibre, riboflavin, iron, folate and vitamins A, C, K & B6.

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Eat the Seasons – March

Spring is here, and with it comes a whole host of delicious, seasonal ingredients to cook with. Take a look below to see what’s in season this March.

Cauliflower

One of the most versatile ingredients out there, cauliflower can be used as a rice substitute, as a healthy, gluten free pizza base, and is also delicious when simply sliced and roasted with some oil and spices. A single floret of cauliflower also contains 10% of your daily vitamin needs, as well as a host of other vitamins and minerals.

Cauliflower grows in organic soil in the garden on the vegetable area. Cauliflower head in natural conditions, close-up
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Spinach

Popeye’s favourite snack, spinach comes in many varieties but mostly falls into three distinct groups – savoy, semi-savoy and flat leaf. Best when eaten fresh, spinach contains vitamin K, fibre, phosphorus, iron, calcium and magnesium, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. Try making this crispy spinach and feta pie to get some more into your diet.

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Spring Onions

Also known as scallions or green onions, spring onions are smaller and milder than regular onions making them ideal for eating raw in salads or for using as an onion replacement when cooking quick dishes. Both the white bulb and green tops are safe (and delicious) to eat, and contain vitamins A, C and K, as well as flavanoids, potassium, calcium and fibre.

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Rhubarb

Sweet and tangy, rhubarb is one of those ingredients that we look forward to cooking with every time it’s ready to harvest. The colour of the rhubarb’s stalk is an indicator of its taste, with darker red stalks being much sweeter. Although regarded as a fruit, rhubarb is technically a vegetable and contains vitamins K and C.

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Wild Nettles

Although tricky to harvest due to their stinging hairs, wild nettles can be used in soups, risottos and teas. But why would you ever want to eat a stinging nettle? Well, wild nettles are absolutely full of vitamins and minerals including calcium, chromium, copper, iron and vitamins A, C & B. But don’t worry – they lose their stinging sensation once cooked!

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Eat the Seasons – March

Spring is here, and with it comes a whole host of delicious, seasonal ingredients to cook with. Take a look below to see what’s in season this March.

Cauliflower

One of the most versatile ingredients out there, cauliflower can be used as a rice substitute, as a healthy, gluten free pizza base, and is also delicious when simply sliced and roasted with some oil and spices. A single floret of cauliflower also contains 10% of your daily vitamin needs, as well as a host of other vitamins and minerals.

Cauliflower grows in organic soil in the garden on the vegetable area. Cauliflower head in natural conditions, close-up
Image source: Luiza Nalimova via Getty images.

Spinach

Popeye’s favourite snack, spinach comes in many varieties but mostly falls into three distinct groups – savoy, semi-savoy and flat leaf. Best when eaten fresh, spinach contains vitamin K, fibre, phosphorus, iron, calcium and magnesium, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. Try making this crispy spinach and feta pie to get some more into your diet.

Image source: Lecic via Getty Images

Spring Onions

Also known as scallions or green onions, spring onions are smaller and milder than regular onions making them ideal for eating raw in salads or for using as an onion replacement when cooking quick dishes. Both the white bulb and green tops are safe (and delicious) to eat, and contain vitamins A, C and K, as well as flavanoids, potassium, calcium and fibre.

Image source: stevanovicigor via Getty Images

Rhubarb

Sweet and tangy, rhubarb is one of those ingredients that we look forward to cooking with every time it’s ready to harvest. The colour of the rhubarb’s stalk is an indicator of its taste, with darker red stalks being much sweeter. Although regarded as a fruit, rhubarb is technically a vegetable and contains vitamins K and C.

Image source: Baloncici via Getty Images

Wild Nettles

Although tricky to harvest due to their stinging hairs, wild nettles can be used in soups, risottos and teas. But why would you ever want to eat a stinging nettle? Well, wild nettles are absolutely full of vitamins and minerals including calcium, chromium, copper, iron and vitamins A, C & B. But don’t worry – they lose their stinging sensation once cooked!

Image source: dulezidar via Getty Images

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5 Recipes to Try This Pancake Day

One of our favourite foodie days has finally arrived – it’s Pancake Day! If, like us, you’re a pancake lover, or ‘fan-cake’ if you will, then try some of these recipes for a guaranteed flipping great Shrove Tuesday.

American Blueberry Pancakes

These classic USA style pancakes are light, fluffy and fruity. Stack them high and drizzle with maple syrup and extra blueberries!

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Ingredients

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 small knob of butter
  • 150g blueberries
  • Maple syrup, to serve

Method

  1. Grab a bowl and mix together the flour and baking powder with a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, beat together the milk and egg, then make a well in the centre of your dry ingredients and gradually pour in your wet ingredients whilst mixing until you have a smooth batter. Finally, beat in the knob of butter and the blueberries.
  2. In a large, non-stick frying pan, melt a small amount of butter and drop a large tablespoon of your pancake batter into the pan, about 7.5cm across. You should be able to fit 3 or 4 pancakes into the pan in one go.
  3. Cook for around 3 minutes, until bubbles have started to appear on the surface, then flip each pancake and cook for another 3 minutes until golden. Remove from the pan, cover with kitchen paper, and continue until you have used all the batter.
  4. Serve drizzled with maple syrup and scattered with more fresh blueberries.

Gluten Free Banana Pancakes

A gluten free diet doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the Pancake Day fun! Try these delicious banana pancakes topped with fresh fruit.

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Ingredients

  • 1 large banana
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp sunflower oil
  • Handful of mixed fresh fruit, to serve

Method

  1. Using a fork, mash the banana in a bowl until it resembles a thick paste, then stir in the beaten eggs along with the baking powder and the vanilla extract.
  2. Place a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and brush with the sunflower oil.
  3. Spoon two pancakes into the pan (using about half the batter), and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, then slide onto a plate. Repeat the process with the remaining batter.
  4. Top with fresh fruit and tuck in!

Chocolate Pancakes

These are a little more indulgent, but it is Pancake Day afterall! Topped with mini marshmallows, these are a guaranteed hit with the kids.

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Ingredients

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 400ml milk
  • 100g chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 50g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • Mini marshmallows, to serve

Method

  1. Tip the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, along with a pinch of salt. Crack in the eggs and whisk until smooth, then gradually pour in the milk (continually whisking) until you have a smooth batter.
  2. Heat a little oil and butter together in a large, non-stick frying pan until they begin to sizzle then pour in 2 tbsp of batter per pancake and fry until bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Flip, then cook for a further two minutes then transfer to a low-temperature oven to keep warm. Repeat until you have used all the batter.
  3. Serve with the mini marshmallows and anything else you feel like adding on top!

Peanut Butter Pancakes

These pancakes with a sweet, crunchy peanut butter sauce are a delicious way to sneak some extra protein into your Pancake Day festivities – perfect if you’re a bit of a gym bunny!

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Ingredients

  • 250g crunchy peanut butter
  • 50g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 6 tbsp maple syrup
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 350ml milk
  • Sunflower oil, for cooking

Method

  1. Pop the peanut butter, maple syrup and butter in a microwave-proof bowl and heat for 2 minutes in 30 second bursts, stirring inbetween. Leave to one side to cool slightly.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl along with a pinch of salt, then crack in the eggs and whisk until smooth. Gradually pour in the milk, still whisking, then mix in 3/4 of the peanut butter sauce.
  3. Take a large, non-stick frying pan and heat a splash of the oil together with some butter until foaming. Allowing for 2 tbsp of batter per pancake, pour some batter into the pan and cook until bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Flip, then cook for a further two minutes before transferring to a low oven to keep warm.
  4. Serve with the remaining peanut butter sauce and any other extras you like!

Matcha Pancakes

A huge culinary trend at the moment, matcha powder (made from ground green tea leaves) paired with spinach gives these savoury pancakes that vibrant green glow that will definitely brighten up your Pancake Day!

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Ingredients

  • 2 tsp matcha powder
  • 60g spinach
  • 100ml milk
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 25g butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp natural yoghurt

Method

  1. Grab a blender and pop in the matcha powder, spinach and milk. Whizz into a smooth mixture, then pour into a large bowl with the rest of the pancake ingredients and whisk until any large lumps have gone.
  2. Melt a small knob of butter in a large, non-stick frying pan then drop in 2 tbsp of pancake mix for each pancake. Cooks for 2-3 minutes on each side (you’ll see when they’re ready to flip as bubbles start to form on the surface).
  3. Serve topped with the natural yoghurt and your choice of fruit topping.

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How to make genoise

If you’ve watched The Great British Bake Off, you’ll have heard the judges asking for the bakers to make a genoise sponge at some point in the competition. If you ever want to enter the Bake Off tent, or even become a baking extraordinaire, knowing how to make a genoise sponge is a useful skill under your baking belt. But what exactly is genoise sponge, and how can you make it at home?

What is it?

Butter, flour, eggs, and baking equipment on a wooden surface
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Genoise is a sponge which originates from Italy, and is generally associated with French cuisine. It’s a bit different from your average sponge cake – it doesn’t require any chemical additives such as baking powder or bicarbonate of soda to rise. Instead, it relies entirely on the air that you work hard to whisk into the batter. It is notoriously difficult to make, and has had many a baker throw up their whisks in anger. The key to getting it right is in how you whisk your eggs.

Whereas with a normal sponge cake you would just mix the eggs together with the creamed butter and sugar, you need to beat your eggs a little differently for a genoise sponge. The key is to whisk them together with the sugar over a bain-marie; start them off like this, then remove them from the heat and mix them with your electric mixer until the mixture gets to the ribbon stage.

The science

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The secret of a good genoise sponge lies within the heating of the eggs, and of course the properties of the eggs themselves. The protein in eggs is made up of tightly-woven molecules; when these molecules are heated, they unwind and reconnect with other nearby proteins, which helps to give bakes the structure that we want from a good genoise.

Chef’s tip: Once you’ve successfully made your batter and it is sufficiently aerated, be gentle when placing your batter in the tin for cooking. Try and bring your bowl as close to the tin as possible, as you want to ensure you keep as much as you can of that lovely air you’ve worked hard to get into the batter.

Give it a go

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Why not be brave and give it a go yourself! After all, the only way you’ll make the perfect genoise sponge is to practice, practice, practice. As genoise gets most of its flavour from the syrup or toppings you choose to add to it, it’s not a sponge that you’ll eat on its own. Take a look at our delicious strawberry genoise sponge recipe to get you started! Have you got a favourite genoise recipe? Let us know over on our Facebook page.

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Eat the Seasons – February

It’s felt like a long journey, but we’re finally into the last month of winter! Let’s take a look at what ingredients are in season for February.

Brussels Sprouts

Not just for Christmas, the humble brussels sprout is still very much in season. Victims of an undeserved bad reputation, given to them through years of over-boiled, granny-style cooking, brussels actually have a sweet nutty flavour that is truly delicious. Take a look at our favourite sprouts recipes here.

Image source: Stephen Barnes via Getty Images.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Beautiful to look at and delicious to eat! The wonder-veg that is purple sprouting broccoli contributes nutrients to your immune system, skin, blood vessels, bones and organs, and can also help to reduce fatigue. It also contains lipoic acid, which has been shown to reduce signs of aging!

Image source: Grahamphoto23 via Getty Images.

Jerusalem Artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke is one of the only perennial vegetables out there, cropping in the same place as it was originally planted year after year. A species of sunflower native to North America, Jerusalem artichoke tubers look a lot like ginger roots and are a rich source of fibre, potassium, iron and vitamins A, C and E.

Image source: bhofack2 via Getty Images.

Swede

Developed in Sweden in the 17th century, swedes are a hybrid between a turnip and a type of cabbage. Extremely nutritious and high in antioxidants, swedes have been linked to weight loss thanks to their high-fibre content.

Image source: JVisentin via Getty Images.

Salsify

Also known as the ‘oyster plant’, salsify is a rich source of fibre and contains vitamins B2, B6 and C. An extremely versatile vegetable, salsify can be consumed raw in salads, steamed, boiled or fried and is often used in soups, stews and beef dishes.


Image source: bernjuer via Getty Images.

Black Truffles

Not to be confused with chocolate truffles, black truffles are a rare form of mushroom that grows underground. With an intense, aromatic, fruity flavour that is often infused with oil for cooking in, truffles are an expensive commodity coming in at around £250 for 200g.

Image source: ValentynVolkov via Getty Images.

Lead image: Marka777 via Getty images.

Eat the Seasons – February

It’s felt like a long journey, but we’re finally into the last month of winter! Let’s take a look at what ingredients are in season for February.

Brussels Sprouts

Not just for Christmas, the humble brussels sprout is still very much in season. Victims of an undeserved bad reputation, given to them through years of over-boiled, granny-style cooking, brussels actually have a sweet nutty flavour that is truly delicious. Take a look at our favourite sprouts recipes here.

Image source: Stephen Barnes via Getty Images.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Beautiful to look at and delicious to eat! The wonder-veg that is purple sprouting broccoli contributes nutrients to your immune system, skin, blood vessels, bones and organs, and can also help to reduce fatigue. It also contains lipoic acid, which has been shown to reduce signs of aging!

Image source: Grahamphoto23 via Getty Images.

Jerusalem Artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke is one of the only perennial vegetables out there, cropping in the same place as it was originally planted year after year. A species of sunflower native to North America, Jerusalem artichoke tubers look a lot like ginger roots and are a rich source of fibre, potassium, iron and vitamins A, C and E.

Image source: bhofack2 via Getty Images.

Swede

Developed in Sweden in the 17th century, swedes are a hybrid between a turnip and a type of cabbage. Extremely nutritious and high in antioxidants, swedes have been linked to weight loss thanks to their high-fibre content.

Image source: JVisentin via Getty Images.

Salsify

Also known as the ‘oyster plant’, salsify is a rich source of fibre and contains vitamins B2, B6 and C. An extremely versatile vegetable, salsify can be consumed raw in salads, steamed, boiled or fried and is often used in soups, stews and beef dishes.


Image source: bernjuer via Getty Images.

Black Truffles

Not to be confused with chocolate truffles, black truffles are a rare form of mushroom that grows underground. With an intense, aromatic, fruity flavour that is often infused with oil for cooking in, truffles are an expensive commodity coming in at around £250 for 200g.

Image source: ValentynVolkov via Getty Images.

Lead image: Marka777 via Getty images.

10 Tips for Cooking with Cast Iron

Classic and stylish, cast iron is a durable, versatile material that thousands of home cooks around the world love cooking with. If, like us, you have a bit of a cast iron obsession, take a look at our tips and facts below to help you get the most out of it.

Keep the heat low

Unless you’re using your casserole pot to either boil water or reduce stock, we would recommend that all other cooking is done over a low or medium heat. Completely cover the inside base of you pot in oil before heating and allow the heat to build up gradually. If the oil or fat is smoking before adding your first ingredient it’s gotten too hot, so reduce the heat and allow to decrease in temperature.

Choose the best sized pot for your hob

Everybody has a favourite ring on the hob, right? But when it comes to choosing which to cook on when using your cast iron, make sure that the circumference of the base of your pot is as closely matched in size as possible to the heat ring or gas flame circumference. This will give you the best heat distribution.

Image source: Maria_Andeevna via Getty Images

Induction cooking

Induction relies on creating a magnetic field between the hob and the pan to produce heat. Cast iron is a ferrous metal and is therefore very magnetic, making its performance on induction hobs efficient and responsive for both quick heating and rapid cooling.

Go in hot

Wherever possible, always add hot liquid to a hot pot. If using cold liquid is unavoidable, remove the pan from the heat for a minute before pouring your liquid in slowly. This will help to prevent thermal shock damage to the enamel.

Roasting

If you’re cooking a gorgeous roast chicken or a juicy fillet of beef, choose a roasting tray with a square body as larger joints will sit better in this shape. A square roasting will also provide you with ample room for turning your joint, for basting and will sit nicely on the hob when it comes to making your gravy.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Oven proof

If you prefer a casserole or stew to have a deeper, darker colour, cast iron is great for hob-to-oven cooking. Simply start your ingredients off on the hob, then transfer to the oven where the all-round heat will give you a greater caramelisation.

Ingredients holder

The upturned lid of a cast iron casserole pot can be used as a handy place for holding ingredients once they have been prepared, or as a place to hold ingredients that have been temporarily removed from the pan – browning off beef, for example. Take care, however, to make sure that there is not a heat source underneath the upturned lid.

Use the correct untensils

Heat resistant silicone, plastic or wooden utensils are the best choice when cooking with cast iron as they are kinder on the surface and are also more comfortable to use.

Image source: Svetlana-Cherruty via Getty images.

Aluminium foil

When your recipe calls for a long, slow roast try covering your cast iron roasting tin with some tin foil. This will improve succulence, reduces meat shrinkage and can also contain any splashes of fat, helping to keep your oven clean.

Great for baking

The smooth finish of cast iron makes a fantastic baking surface and requires no pre-preparation for laying pastry into, and minimal preparation for baking cakes and bread – simply a little flour or a lining of baking parchment.

10 Tips for Cooking with Cast Iron

Classic and stylish, cast iron is a durable, versatile material that thousands of home cooks around the world love cooking with. If, like us, you have a bit of a cast iron obsession, take a look at our tips and facts below to help you get the most out of it.

Keep the heat low

Unless you’re using your casserole pot to either boil water or reduce stock, we would recommend that all other cooking is done over a low or medium heat. Completely cover the inside base of you pot in oil before heating and allow the heat to build up gradually. If the oil or fat is smoking before adding your first ingredient it’s gotten too hot, so reduce the heat and allow to decrease in temperature.

Choose the best sized pot for your hob

Everybody has a favourite ring on the hob, right? But when it comes to choosing which to cook on when using your cast iron, make sure that the circumference of the base of your pot is as closely matched in size as possible to the heat ring or gas flame circumference. This will give you the best heat distribution.

Image source: Maria_Andeevna via Getty Images

Induction cooking

Induction relies on creating a magnetic field between the hob and the pan to produce heat. Cast iron is a ferrous metal and is therefore very magnetic, making its performance on induction hobs efficient and responsive for both quick heating and rapid cooling.

Go in hot

Wherever possible, always add hot liquid to a hot pot. If using cold liquid is unavoidable, remove the pan from the heat for a minute before pouring your liquid in slowly. This will help to prevent thermal shock damage to the enamel.

Roasting

If you’re cooking a gorgeous roast chicken or a juicy fillet of beef, choose a roasting tray with a square body as larger joints will sit better in this shape. A square roasting will also provide you with ample room for turning your joint, for basting and will sit nicely on the hob when it comes to making your gravy.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Oven proof

If you prefer a casserole or stew to have a deeper, darker colour, cast iron is great for hob-to-oven cooking. Simply start your ingredients off on the hob, then transfer to the oven where the all-round heat will give you a greater caramelisation.

Ingredients holder

The upturned lid of a cast iron casserole pot can be used as a handy place for holding ingredients once they have been prepared, or as a place to hold ingredients that have been temporarily removed from the pan – browning off beef, for example. Take care, however, to make sure that there is not a heat source underneath the upturned lid.

Use the correct untensils

Heat resistant silicone, plastic or wooden utensils are the best choice when cooking with cast iron as they are kinder on the surface and are also more comfortable to use.

Image source: Svetlana-Cherruty via Getty images.

Aluminium foil

When your recipe calls for a long, slow roast try covering your cast iron roasting tin with some tin foil. This will improve succulence, reduces meat shrinkage and can also contain any splashes of fat, helping to keep your oven clean.

Great for baking

The smooth finish of cast iron makes a fantastic baking surface and requires no pre-preparation for laying pastry into, and minimal preparation for baking cakes and bread – simply a little flour or a lining of baking parchment.

6 Food Trends for 2020

With every new year comes a new set of food trends, but what culinary treats are en-vogue for 2020? Take a look at our top six predictions below…

Plant Based Foods

We’ve written before about the rise of the vegan, and as more and more people become aware of not only the health benefits of switching to a plant based diet, but the environmental impact of doing so as well, this trend is looking to get even bigger in 2020.

Image source: jenifoto via Getty images.

Advances in food technology are allowing for more realistic, meat-like products to be aimed at even the staunchest of carnivores. Expect ‘bleeding’ meatless burgers, plant based fried chicken and even fish and chips made from banana blossom.

Kelp

Snatching the crown from kale as the reigning superfood, kelp is high in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and is one of the only plants that contains iodine. Kale, or seaweed, comes in many different variations and is available in dried form, seasoning flakes and crisps!

Image source: Plateresca via Getty images.

There is even evidence that the nutritional properties of kelp can help to aid with weight loss, as the iodine content combines with tyrosine (an amino acid) to create T3 and T4, which are thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism.

Puffed Snacks

Made from ingredients such as beetroot, kale, chickpeas and quinoa, the air content of puffed snacks means that they are a lighter choice than crisps, and for this reason they are becoming increasingly trendy among health food enthusiasts.

Image source: seramo via Getty images.

Widely available in supermarkets, health food stores and even pubs, could it be possible that this healthier option means the end for crisps?

Growing Your Own

With consumers becoming increasingly conscious of where their food comes from, the environmental impact transporting it has, and the pesticides and chemicals used in the growing process, more and more of us are making the effort to grow our own produce.

Image source: Alter_photo via Getty images.

Not only does growing your own reduce your use of single-use plastic, but it’s actually really easy and can even be achieved in smaller spaces with the use of containers. It also tastes much better too!

CBD Cuisine

Cannabidiol is a chemical found in cannabis plants that is set to be a big food trend for 2020. Don’t be alarmed though, CBD is only one of many compounds found in the cannabis plant and, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol / THC, it is non psycho-active and cannot get you high!

Image source: aedkais via Getty images.

CBD has become extremely fashionable over the past 12 months and it’s not looking to go away anytime soon, with food companies adding it to products including hummus, brownies and even beer.

Zero Alcohol Drinks

The health risks of alcohol have long been known, and in a positive move there are now hundreds of non-alcoholic alternatives available including beers, wines and spirits.

Image source: Lilechka75 via Getty images.

Lower in sugar and calories than traditional alcoholic beverages, these delicious drinks are becoming an increasingly popular choice in restaurants and as an adult alternative at parties.

Before you go…

We’d love to hear what you think the biggest food trends of 2020 are going to be! Share your views with us over on our Facebook page.

Lead image: ThitareeSarmkasat via Getty images.

6 Food Trends for 2020

With every new year comes a new set of food trends, but what culinary treats are en-vogue for 2020? Take a look at our top six predictions below…

Plant Based Foods

We’ve written before about the rise of the vegan, and as more and more people become aware of not only the health benefits of switching to a plant based diet, but the environmental impact of doing so as well, this trend is looking to get even bigger in 2020.

Image source: jenifoto via Getty images.

Advances in food technology are allowing for more realistic, meat-like products to be aimed at even the staunchest of carnivores. Expect ‘bleeding’ meatless burgers, plant based fried chicken and even fish and chips made from banana blossom.

Kelp

Snatching the crown from kale as the reigning superfood, kelp is high in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and is one of the only plants that contains iodine. Kale, or seaweed, comes in many different variations and is available in dried form, seasoning flakes and crisps!

Image source: Plateresca via Getty images.

There is even evidence that the nutritional properties of kelp can help to aid with weight loss, as the iodine content combines with tyrosine (an amino acid) to create T3 and T4, which are thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism.

Puffed Snacks

Made from ingredients such as beetroot, kale, chickpeas and quinoa, the air content of puffed snacks means that they are a lighter choice than crisps, and for this reason they are becoming increasingly trendy among health food enthusiasts.

Image source: seramo via Getty images.

Widely available in supermarkets, health food stores and even pubs, could it be possible that this healthier option means the end for crisps?

Growing Your Own

With consumers becoming increasingly conscious of where their food comes from, the environmental impact transporting it has, and the pesticides and chemicals used in the growing process, more and more of us are making the effort to grow our own produce.

Image source: Alter_photo via Getty images.

Not only does growing your own reduce your use of single-use plastic, but it’s actually really easy and can even be achieved in smaller spaces with the use of containers. It also tastes much better too!

CBD Cuisine

Cannabidiol is a chemical found in cannabis plants that is set to be a big food trend for 2020. Don’t be alarmed though, CBD is only one of many compounds found in the cannabis plant and, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol / THC, it is non psycho-active and cannot get you high!

Image source: aedkais via Getty images.

CBD has become extremely fashionable over the past 12 months and it’s not looking to go away anytime soon, with food companies adding it to products including hummus, brownies and even beer.

Zero Alcohol Drinks

The health risks of alcohol have long been known, and in a positive move there are now hundreds of non-alcoholic alternatives available including beers, wines and spirits.

Image source: Lilechka75 via Getty images.

Lower in sugar and calories than traditional alcoholic beverages, these delicious drinks are becoming an increasingly popular choice in restaurants and as an adult alternative at parties.

Before you go…

We’d love to hear what you think the biggest food trends of 2020 are going to be! Share your views with us over on our Facebook page.

Lead image: ThitareeSarmkasat via Getty images.

Eat the Seasons – January

The middle of winter is an easy time to get into a slump, food-wise. But these seasonal ingredients are an easy way to inject some colour into those cold, grey days!

Beetroot

Not only is the gloriously purple beetroot delicious, but also packs a real nutritious punch. Eating beetroot, or drinking beetroot juice, has been shown to improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and can even be used as a natural performance enhancer for exercise! Try these beetroot burgers for a tasty way to introduce them into your diet.

Image source: Lisovskaya via Getty images.

Kale

Love it or hate it, kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can find. Containing a wealth of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A, K, C and B6, manganese, calcium, and potassium!

Image source: Nachteule via Getty images.

Blood Oranges

The deeply coloured red flesh of blood oranges comes from the presence of anthocyanins, a family of antioxidants that can be found in fruit and flowers. With a unique, almost raspberry-like flavour, blood oranges can be made into marmalade, zested for baking or simply juiced for delicious drink.

Image source: bhofack2 via Getty images.

Parnsips

If your memory of parsnips is that of boiled, overcooked, ‘white carrots’ your granny used to serve up, we’re here to tell you that there is another way! If you halve them (removing the woody centre), lay them flat on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and then brush with a mixture of honey and wholegrain mustard, you will have sweet, almost caramel-like parsnips that will change your life forever.

Image source: Sarsmis via Getty images.

Leeks

The national vegetable of Wales! Legend has it that in 640AD, the Briton King Cadwallader and his men were engaged in battle with invading Saxons. To distinguish themselves from the enemy, the Welsh wore leeks in their hats – and subsequently gained a great victory over their opponents. Other than being a brave choice of accessory when it comes to defeating your enemies, leeks also contain many flavanoid antioxidants and can help to reduce the level of enzymes in the liver.

Image source: Grahamphoto23 via Getty images.

Shallots

Sweet in flavour, shallots are a wonderful ingredient and actually have a better nutritional profile than onions, containing more antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Shallots have also been shown to contain allicin, a mineral that can help reduce cholesterol production. As if that wasn’t enough, this little wonder-veg is also found to have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal activities.

Image source: ThaiThu via Getty images.

Lead image: prill via Getty images.

Christmas Cooking Essentials

One of the most wonderful things about the festive season is being able to provide your friends and family with a table full of delicious food. But, if the idea of cooking for a large group of people seems a little daunting, we’re here to save the day!

We’ve put together a list of top products that will help you with your Christmas cooking, make the whole experience seem like a breeze, and allow you to spend more quality time with your loved ones.

Food Processor

An absolute must-have for simplifying Christmas cooking, the Cooks Professional Food Processor will take all the hard work out of preparing vegetables, blending soups, mixing ingredients for pastry and so much more! With a large 3.5 litre bowl, and a 1.8 litre jug, you can create large quantities of food with ease, and the 7 included attachments will really take all the hard work out cooking this Christmas.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

8 Piece Cast Iron Set

If you’re looking to not only cook efficiently, but also bring a touch of style to the main event, the Cooks Professional Cast Iron Set is exactly what you’re looking for. Available in a range of gorgeous colours, the set includes 2 crock pots, 3 saucepans, a frying pan, griddle pan and roasting dish, allowing you to create a variety of delicious Christmas dishes.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

3-in-1 Handheld Stick Blender

Perfect for mixing soft ingredients and liquids with the blender attachment, whipping up great desserts with the stainless-steel whisk attachment or chopping up vegetables with the bowl attachment, this stylish 3-in-1 Stick Blender from Cooks Professional is the kitchen gadget that will make short work of your Christmas food preparation!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

4 Section Buffet Warmer

Ideal for keeping food warm for serving, this Four-Section Buffet Warmer from Cooks Professional also transforms into a hotplate, giving you more options over what meals you can serve. A must have for home entertaining, this is perfect for popping on the dinner table to keep food warm, and for allowing guests to self-serve at your Christmas party.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Ice Maker

Make sure your party guests are never without a cold drink with the Cooks Professional Ice Maker. This easy to use machine will give you ice in as little as six minutes, and can make either small or large ice cubes. Requiring no plumbing, it’s the perfect Christmas party companion!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Stand Mixer

Christmas is definitely the time of year to get baking, so why not take the hard work out of mixing, and create a wide variety of delicious bakes with the Cooks Professional Stand Mixer. With a dough hook, whisk and flat beater included, your festive baking options are limitless!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Ice Cream Maker

Impress your friends and family this Christmas with homemade ice cream, frozen yoghurt and sorbets using the Cooks Professional Ice Cream Maker. No need for pre-freezing, this clever little gadget allows you to pop all of your ingredients in and sit back and relax whilst the machine does the hard work.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Recycling Sensor Bin

Providing you with a place to dispose of eagerly torn open wrapping paper, and a place for those empty champagne bottles, the Recycling Sensor Bin from Cooks Professional is ideal for keeping your home and kitchen tidy this Christmas. The built-in sensor allows for hygienic, hands-free opening, and the separate compartments mean you can neatly store your items for recycling.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

12 Piece Glass Food Storage with Lids

Ideal for storing Christmas dinner leftovers, or as a place to keep food you’ve prepared for the big day, the Cooks Professional 12 Piece Set is the food storage solution that will help keep you organised in the kitchen this festive season. Suitable for oven use, they are also freezer-proof, microwave safe and can even be run through the dishwasher, making your life even easier!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Lead image: monkeybusinessimages via Getty images.

Christmas Cooking Essentials

One of the most wonderful things about the festive season is being able to provide your friends and family with a table full of delicious food. But, if the idea of cooking for a large group of people seems a little daunting, we’re here to save the day!

We’ve put together a list of top products that will help you with your Christmas cooking, make the whole experience seem like a breeze, and allow you to spend more quality time with your loved ones.

Food Processor

An absolute must-have for simplifying Christmas cooking, the Cooks Professional Food Processor will take all the hard work out of preparing vegetables, blending soups, mixing ingredients for pastry and so much more! With a large 3.5 litre bowl, and a 1.8 litre jug, you can create large quantities of food with ease, and the 7 included attachments will really take all the hard work out cooking this Christmas.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

8 Piece Cast Iron Set

If you’re looking to not only cook efficiently, but also bring a touch of style to the main event, the Cooks Professional Cast Iron Set is exactly what you’re looking for. Available in a range of gorgeous colours, the set includes 2 crock pots, 3 saucepans, a frying pan, griddle pan and roasting dish, allowing you to create a variety of delicious Christmas dishes.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

3-in-1 Handheld Stick Blender

Perfect for mixing soft ingredients and liquids with the blender attachment, whipping up great desserts with the stainless-steel whisk attachment or chopping up vegetables with the bowl attachment, this stylish 3-in-1 Stick Blender from Cooks Professional is the kitchen gadget that will make short work of your Christmas food preparation!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

4 Section Buffet Warmer

Ideal for keeping food warm for serving, this Four-Section Buffet Warmer from Cooks Professional also transforms into a hotplate, giving you more options over what meals you can serve. A must have for home entertaining, this is perfect for popping on the dinner table to keep food warm, and for allowing guests to self-serve at your Christmas party.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Ice Maker

Make sure your party guests are never without a cold drink with the Cooks Professional Ice Maker. This easy to use machine will give you ice in as little as six minutes, and can make either small or large ice cubes. Requiring no plumbing, it’s the perfect Christmas party companion!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Stand Mixer

Christmas is definitely the time of year to get baking, so why not take the hard work out of mixing, and create a wide variety of delicious bakes with the Cooks Professional Stand Mixer. With a dough hook, whisk and flat beater included, your festive baking options are limitless!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Ice Cream Maker

Impress your friends and family this Christmas with homemade ice cream, frozen yoghurt and sorbets using the Cooks Professional Ice Cream Maker. No need for pre-freezing, this clever little gadget allows you to pop all of your ingredients in and sit back and relax whilst the machine does the hard work.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Recycling Sensor Bin

Providing you with a place to dispose of eagerly torn open wrapping paper, and a place for those empty champagne bottles, the Recycling Sensor Bin from Cooks Professional is ideal for keeping your home and kitchen tidy this Christmas. The built-in sensor allows for hygienic, hands-free opening, and the separate compartments mean you can neatly store your items for recycling.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

12 Piece Glass Food Storage with Lids

Ideal for storing Christmas dinner leftovers, or as a place to keep food you’ve prepared for the big day, the Cooks Professional 12 Piece Set is the food storage solution that will help keep you organised in the kitchen this festive season. Suitable for oven use, they are also freezer-proof, microwave safe and can even be run through the dishwasher, making your life even easier!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Lead image: monkeybusinessimages via Getty images.

8 Christmas Party Recipes

Christmas party season is here again! What better way is there to catch up with friends and family than throwing a festive soiree, filled with delicious nibbles and sweet treats?

If you’re throwing a Christmas party this year, take a look at these fabulous party food recipes from some of our favourite bloggers, guaranteed to be a hit with all of your guests.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffing Bites

This recipe from Rachel Phipps comprises of stuffing, wrapped in bacon and decorated with cranberries for a perfect bite-sized taste of Christmas! A double-threat, these delicious bites aren’t only ideal for a Christmas party, but are also a fantastic addition to your Christmas dinner menu.

Packed full of Christmas flavour, try this recipe from Rachel Phipps.

Devilled Eggs

Retro-fabulous and once a staple at dinner parties in the 1970s, devilled eggs are making a fashionable comeback, and this recipe from Nigella Lawson is one you’ll definitely want to try for your Christmas party.

Add a touch of retro-fabulousness to your Christmas party spread with these devilled eggs from Nigella Lawson.

Sage & Onion Beetroot Nuggets

This fantastic vegetarian recipe from Easy Cheesy Vegetarian comprises of slices of cooked beetroot coated with an onion, cashew and sage mixture, covered in breadcrumbs and then air fried for a crispy (and healthy!) perfect party canape.

A fantastic option for any vegetarian party guests! Try this recipe from Easy Cheesy Vegetarian.

Christmas Chocolate Tiffin

Perfect for the sweet-toothed party guest, this Christmas chocolate tiffin recipe from Veggie Desserts combines amazing Christmas flavours such as cinnamon and nutmeg with crushed ginger biscuits. This tiffin isn’t only ideal for offering as a sweet Christmas party treat, but would also make a fantastic homemade gift for your guests to take away with them at the end of the night!

A sweet-treat for the chocolate loving party guest! Try this recipe from Veggie Desserts for yourself.

Sage & Cranberry Turkey Meatballs

Putting a Christmassy twist on a classic, Chris from Don’t Go Bacon My Heart has created this wonderful recipe for sage & cranberry turkey meatballs – an absolute must have on your party food table. Super easy to make and packed full of flavour, they’ll be enjoyed by adults and children alike.

Easy to make and full of Christmas flavour. Check out the recipe over at Don’t Go Bacon My Heart.

Gluten-Free Blini with Avocado Cream & Salmon

What would a Christmas party be without a few blinis to nibble on whilst you sip your champagne? This blini recipe from The Petite Cook doesn’t only combine the perfect partners of avocado and salmon, but is also gluten-free, so is a great one to try if any of your guests require gluten-free food.

If you’ve got any party guests that require gluten-free food, try this recipe from The Petite Cook.

Turkey, Cranberry & Feta Sausage Rolls

Just when you think sausage rolls can’t be perfected anymore, Eb from Easy Peasy Foodie brings these Christmassy treats to the table! Perfect for passing around your Christmas party, or simply to have a stash of ready-to-hand for any unexpected visitors over the festive season, we’re certain these Turkey, Cranberry & Feta sausage rolls will be a hit with everyone.

The ultimate Christmas Party food! Take a look at this recipe from Easy Peasy Foodie.

Puff Pastry Mince Pie Squares

A Christmas party wouldn’t be a Christmas party without a mince pie now, would it? These puff pastry mince pie squares from The Last Food Blog are not only easy to make, but offer a fun alternative to the standard mince pie and are guaranteed to impress your guests.

A delicious alternative to the traditional mine pie, try this recipe from The Last Food Blog.

Lead image: ViewApart via Getty images.

6 Delicious Brussels Sprouts Recipes

We’re into full festive-menu planning here at Cooks Professional, and what’s one of the most famous Christmas dinner components of all? Brussels Sprouts! There’s no denying that Brussels sprouts are a staple of any Christmas dinner, but sadly they’ve been given a bad rep, often seen as the dreaded boiled-to-death, pale green ball your granny would plop on your plate and insist you eat.

But, we’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way! If you’re looking for a new and exciting way to serve your sprouts this Christmas, we recommend taking a look at these 6 delicious recipes from some of our favourite foodie bloggers below.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This recipe from Hungry Healthy Happy calls for your sprouts to be roasted in balsamic vinegar, which totally transforms them and gives them golden, caramelised edges. Dannii & Dave have even included a handy video tutorial on how to make this delicious dish, as well as some nutritional information and some varients on flavours you can add.

Transform your Christmas sprouts using balsamic vinegar with this recipe from Hungry Healthy Happy.

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Smoked Bacon & Hazelnuts

The perfect partners – bacon and sprouts! This recipe from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary also includes the twist of added hazelnuts, which definitely brings a Christmassy feel to proceedings. Following Elizabeth’s advice, the main components can be prepped the day before and then thrown together in a pan for roasting when the time comes – allowing you extra time to spend with the family.

Sprouts, bacon and hazelnuts make for perfect partners on your Christmas dinner plate. Find the recipe at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

Stir Fried Sprouts with Ginger & Chilli

This vegan, Chinese twist on Brussels Sprouts from Easy Peasy Foodie is definitely one to try if you’re looking to change things up a bit this year. Quickly pan fried in chilli, garlic and ginger and then tossed in sesame oil and soy sauce, the nuttiness of the sprouts matches superbly with the Asian flavours. Give it a go for yourself!

The mix of Asian flavours in this alternative recipe match perfectly with the nuttiness of the sprouts. Try it for yourself at Easy Peasy Foodie.

Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts & Smoky Olives

The creaminess of chestnuts pairs perfectly with the earthiness of the sprouts in this recipe from Top With Cinnamon. Add in a salty hit from olives cooked in chipotle paste and you’ve got yourself a pretty amazing sprouts dish.

Try this recipe from Top With Cinnamon and wow your dinner guests this Christmas!

Parsnip, Potato & Sprouts Cheese Gratin

Perfect for Boxing Day, this recipe from Lavender and Lovage is an incredibly clever way to use up those Christmas Day leftovers. Super simple to make, we think this would be a great addition to any festive menu!

For an excellent way to use up those Christmas dinner leftovers, try this recipe from Lavender and Lovage.

Bacon & Parmesan Brussels Sprout Skewers

This is a fantastic one if you’ve got little mouths to try and persuade to eat sprouts! Ciara at My Fussy Eater has devised this genius idea of making sprouts fun by popping them on skewers and intertwining with bacon. The novely factor is bound to be a sure-fire hit with kids, and they would also make fantastic additions to any party food buffet.

The perfect way to encourage your little one’s to eat sprouts! Head over to My Fussy Eater to try it out.

Lead image: PicturePartners via Getty images.

10 Delicious Homemade Christmas Gifts

The festive season is upon us and time for Christmas shopping has begun. But if the idea of trawling the high street fills you with dread, why not try making Christmas gifts for your loved ones instead this year? We’ve put together a list of 10 delicious homemade gifts that you can treat your friends and family to this Christmas.

1. Salted Caramel Sauce

Is there anything better than salted caramel? No, we don’t think so either. This easy-to-make sauce is perfect drizzled over cake, ice cream, apple pie – anything really!

Image source: NJSirano via Getty images.

2. Fig Rolls

Forget figgy pudding, try these fig rolls instead – perfect for the biscuit lover in your life this Christmas!

Image source: alpaksoy via Getty images.

3. Battenberg

Also known as ‘window cake’ this makes a great homemade gift for all marzipan fanatics. This recipe makes two batterberg cakes, so you can gift one to a lucky friend and keep the other for yourself!

Image source: merc67 via Getty images.

4. Fondant Fancies

Kids will love helping you make these cute little cakes just as much as the lucky recipient will enjoy snacking on them! Try switching up the food colouring to a more festive green or red to give them an extra Christmassy twist!

Image source: martinrlee via Getty images.

5. Cherry Jam

The crimson glory of this homemade cherry jam is like capturing the colour of Christmas in a jar, and will look gorgeous with just a simple ribbon tied around it – saving on the wrapping! This jam will store for up to six months unopened, or up to three months opened and kept refrigerated. 

Image source: AndreyCherkasov via Getty images.

6. Raspberry Macaroons

An indulgent time of year calls for an indulgent treat. Wow your friends and family this Christmas with your baking skills by making them these delicious raspberry macaroons.

Image source: 5second via Getty images.

7. Chocolate & Cherry Fudge

The perfect partners, this chocolate and cherry fudge is unbelievably easy to make – perfect for gifting to those last-minute visitors.

 Image source: bhofack2 via Getty images.

8. Red Velvet Cupcakes

Another one full of Christmas colour, these cupcakes are not only an ideal gift for the sweet-toothed friend, but are also fantastic to have on standby to cover any sweet cravings from your guests.

Image source: BeckyBrockie via Getty images.

9. Rocky Road

Super easy to make. Gooey, chocolately and simply irresistible. This rocky road is perfect for stocking fillers and secret santa offerings, this is another one that the kids will love helping out with!

Image source: istetiana via Getty images.

10. Leah’s Triple Chocolate Brownies

With not one, not two, but THREE different types of chocolate, these brownies are perfect for the choco-holic in your life! Leah’s tip: these taste even better if you make them the night before and leave them to set overnight.

Leah's triple chocolate brownies
Image source: Cooks Professional.

Lead image: karandaev via Getty images.

12 Perfect Gifts for Foodie Fanatics

The smell of mulled wine and mince pies is beginning to fill the air, twinkling lights are being strung throughout town centres, and we’re starting to get that ‘Christmassy’ feeling.

But the idea of trawling the high street or spending endless hours online looking for that perfect gift for friends and family can leave you feeling a little, well, less-than-festive! So, we’ve taken the hard work out of it with our foodie fanatics gift guide – everything that the budding chef in your family could ever wish for!

1. Coffee & Spice Grinder

Ideal for the coffee enthusiast in your life, this compact, yet powerful machine uses a 200W motor to drive its stainless steel blades and make short work of grinding whole coffee beans, nuts and spices.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

2. Double-Walled Wine Cooler

Available in stainless steel and copper finishes, these double-walled wine coolers are perfect for keeping wine chilled in style. Ideal for the budding sommelier in your family, the double-walled design means that these coolers are able to keep wine chilled without the need for ice!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

3. Slushy Maker

Perfect for making cocktails, iced coffees and slushies, this slushy maker will be adored by both adults and children alike. With a choice of finely or coarsley crushed ice, and complete with a handy measuring guide, this clever machine is ideal for anybody who loves to entertain throughout the year.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

4. Set of Two Double-Walled Coffee Mugs

Another one for the coffee lovers out there, these mugs are designed to retain heat whilst being cool to the touch at the same time. Not only that, but their thermal design means that, come summer, they will also keep cold drinks cooler for longer!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

5. Retro Candy Floss Maker

This fun kitchen gadget is a great one for the kids! Using super-safe halogen heating, it transforms sugar into delicious candy floss in next to no time. Endless hours of fun are to be had with mixing different flavours and colourings to the mix until you find your perfect combination!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

6. Double-Walled Cafetiere

Designed to keep coffee hot, whilst ensuring the outside of the pot is cool, this double-walled cafetiere makes a wonderful present for any coffee lover. It even includes a handy measuring scoop and a bag clip to keep your coffee fresher for longer! Available in a stylish copper finish, or a more traditional stainless steel.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

7. Picnic Hamper

If you’ve got an ‘outdoorsy’ friend, then this picnic hamper is the perfect gift! Available in 2 person and 4 person sets, they come complete with cutlery, glasses and a picnic blanket. There’s even a wine cooler bag to keep that cheeky bottle of plonk chilled! All stored in an environmentally friendly wicker basket with a handy carrying handle, this is every camper’s ideal dining set.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

8. Gravity Mills

No buttons and no manual grinding, these gravity mills are designed to automatically grind salt and pepper by just tilting! The kitchen gadget lover’s perfect gift, they are available in three different colours to suit any kitchen.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

9. Five – Piece Kitchen Storage Set

Perfect for anybody that likes to keep their kitchen organised! Designed from durable, powder coated metal, this super stylish kitchen storage set is available in three colour combinations and will look stunning at any kitchen. The set comprises of a bread bin, biscuit tin, and canisters for tea, coffee and sugar, meaning there’s a home for everything!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

10. Stand Mixer

Do you have a budding bake-off contestant in your family? Why not treat them to a stand mixer so they can really perfect their craft! Available in five gorgeous colours, they come complete with a dough hook, flat beater and whisk – ideal for making a variety of tasty treats! As if that wasn’t enough, there are 6 speed settings, a pulse function, and a 4.5L mixing bowl, allowing you to make more mix in one go – perfect for bake sales and parties!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

11. Teapot with Infuser

Perfect for the tea-lover, this stainless-steel teapot has a removable infuser core, making it easy to brew fragrant, aromatic herbal teas as well as a good old cup of English breakfast tea. Available in 1L & 1.2L capacities, its ergonomic, cool-touch handle makes lifting and pouring easy.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

12. 15-Bar Digital Coffee Machine

Ideal for all enthusiastic home-baristas, this 15-bar digital coffee machine makes all your coffee-shop favourites quickly and professionally. The integrated milk reservoir gives you hot, frothy milk and the one-touch digital operation makes creating homemade lattes, cappuccinos and espresso easier than ever before.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Lead image: Alinakho via Getty images.

The history of chocolate

Every week is chocolate week here at Cooks Professional. Who doesn’t love a tasty treat with a cuppa on your break? Or nibbling on your favourite bar during lunch? And you can’t sit down and watch a film without sampling some decadent truffles, can you?

Chocolate has become a popular treat for many over the centuries. But where did it come from, and how did it evolve into the creamy delicacy that we know and love? The story of chocolate starts a long time ago in a land that we now call Mexico.

Where does chocolate come from?

Chocolate comes from the humble cacao bean.
Image source: Getty images.

Chocolate doesn’t start out as the solid bar that we all consume. It actually comes from the humble cacao bean, which dates as far back as the 15th century to the time of the Aztecs. These cacao beans are harvested from fruit pods which grew on cacao trees in Mesoamerica. The Aztecs turned these into a bitter frothy drink which was believed to have aphrodisiac qualities; it tended to be mixed with spices and corn puree.

The cacao beans and their drink remained undiscovered in Europe until around the 16th century. The Spanish stumbled across it and made it popular among their court; they weren’t fond of the bitter taste that the Aztecs were used to, so they sweetened the drink with sugar or honey. Soon countries like Britain, Holland, and Portugal began to explore the world for themselves; chocolate spread across Europe, and then the world. It eventually evolved from that bitter drink into the chocolate that we know and love today!

A sweet tooth

Who knew such a tiny thing was hiding such a tasty secret?
Image source: Unsplash.

Much like the Spanish discovered, the cacao bean isn’t as sweet as its modified counterpart, cocoa. Cacao holds more nutritional value than cocoa, as it is the raw material that is harvested from the cacao tree. Raw cacao powder is made by cold roasting the beans, which keeps the living enzymes intact and helps to lock in all their nutritious goodness. The cold roasting process also removes the cacao butter; the fattier part of the bean which is used to make white chocolate. Cocoa powder is made by roasting the beans instead – this rids the bean of its natural bitterness.

Once roasted the beans are peeled so as to retrieve the nib, which is then ground and liquefied to create a chocolate liquor. This will then be processed to produce either cocoa solids or cocoa butter, which are then used to create the tasty chocolate bars that we’re familiar with. You might be surprised to learn that it’s not actually milk added to chocolate that gives it that creamy taste – it’s actually cream!

You can’t resist this sweet treat.
Image source: Unsplash.

The rest is history! Chocolate has changed so much over the past few centuries, evolving from a bitter cacao drink into the more solid bar and truffle varieties that we love today. Have you got a favourite chocolate treat? Or perhaps you’ve got a favourite chocolate recipe that you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear all about it over on our Facebook page!

Rise of the vegan

It seems everybody and their aunt is going vegan these days. The lifestyle choice has risen in popularity in recent years, and has become the latest food trend. Perhaps thanks to the influence of celebrities or influencers across social media, but for whatever reason, the label “vegan” no longer carries the same hippie connotations that it used to. Even Greggs jumped on the bandwagon with their vegan sausage roll earlier this year, which became a popular hit with shoppers after Piers Morgan criticised its existence. But what does it actually mean to go vegan and why do people choose to do it?

A lifestyle choice

Image source: Douyen Seo via Unsplash.

Veganism is basically not eating animals or animal products. People choose to go vegan for a variety of goals; some for health reasons, but most choose to be vegan because of the ethical issues. Instead of topping up your tea with some milk or helping yourself to that trusty cheese sandwich, vegans opt for plant-based alternatives. 

Veganism has changed dramatically over the last few years as more options have become available, making it easier to dine out, or grab a ready meal to cook in minutes. Once upon a time you could never have found a pre-prepared vegan sandwich or salad in the supermarket. Now, however, there are ample vegan cheeses and meats available, which means it’s never been easy to give a vegan diet a try.

Why do it?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news recently, you’ll have heard of activists like Greta Thunberg, or the group Extinction Rebellion. There is a conscious effort at the moment to be more aware of our impact on the planet – and going vegetarian or vegan is just one of the ways that you can limit your carbon footprint. Even just reducing the amount of red meat that you eat on a regular basis will go a long way, as evidence proves that methane produced by cattle is worse for the environment than the CO₂ produced by cars.

How to get started

Image source: Anna Pelzer via Unsplash.

Throwing yourself headfirst into a vegan lifestyle may be a bit daunting, especially if you’re used to eating a variety of animal products, but there’s no need to despair. The best way to go vegan is to just dip your toes in the foodie water; try taking out one thing at a time from your diet until you feel confident or comfortable that you can survive without your beloved cheese or chocolate. Or even just limiting your intake of meat-based products will have a positive impact on the planet overall! 

Why not try going vegan for a week and see how you get on? Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, January has been christened “Veganuary” for those wanting to eat healthier in the post-Christmas period, or even just celebrate everything vegan. It’s easier to go vegan now than it’s ever been, so why not give it a try?

Before you go…

Have you ever thought about going vegan? Or perhaps you are vegan already; what are your favourite vegan treats? Let us know over on our Facebook page!

Lead image: sveta_zarzamora via Getty images.

Rise of the vegan

It seems everybody and their aunt is going vegan these days. The lifestyle choice has risen in popularity in recent years, and has become the latest food trend. Perhaps thanks to the influence of celebrities or influencers across social media, but for whatever reason, the label “vegan” no longer carries the same hippie connotations that it used to. Even Greggs jumped on the bandwagon with their vegan sausage roll earlier this year, which became a popular hit with shoppers after Piers Morgan criticised its existence. But what does it actually mean to go vegan and why do people choose to do it?

A lifestyle choice

Image source: Douyen Seo via Unsplash.

Veganism is basically not eating animals or animal products. People choose to go vegan for a variety of goals; some for health reasons, but most choose to be vegan because of the ethical issues. Instead of topping up your tea with some milk or helping yourself to that trusty cheese sandwich, vegans opt for plant-based alternatives. 

Veganism has changed dramatically over the last few years as more options have become available, making it easier to dine out, or grab a ready meal to cook in minutes. Once upon a time you could never have found a pre-prepared vegan sandwich or salad in the supermarket. Now, however, there are ample vegan cheeses and meats available, which means it’s never been easy to give a vegan diet a try.

Why do it?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news recently, you’ll have heard of activists like Greta Thunberg, or the group Extinction Rebellion. There is a conscious effort at the moment to be more aware of our impact on the planet – and going vegetarian or vegan is just one of the ways that you can limit your carbon footprint. Even just reducing the amount of red meat that you eat on a regular basis will go a long way, as evidence proves that methane produced by cattle is worse for the environment than the CO₂ produced by cars.

How to get started

Image source: Anna Pelzer via Unsplash.

Throwing yourself headfirst into a vegan lifestyle may be a bit daunting, especially if you’re used to eating a variety of animal products, but there’s no need to despair. The best way to go vegan is to just dip your toes in the foodie water; try taking out one thing at a time from your diet until you feel confident or comfortable that you can survive without your beloved cheese or chocolate. Or even just limiting your intake of meat-based products will have a positive impact on the planet overall! 

Why not try going vegan for a week and see how you get on? Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, January has been christened “Veganuary” for those wanting to eat healthier in the post-Christmas period, or even just celebrate everything vegan. It’s easier to go vegan now than it’s ever been, so why not give it a try?

Before you go…

Have you ever thought about going vegan? Or perhaps you are vegan already; what are your favourite vegan treats? Let us know over on our Facebook page!

Lead image: sveta_zarzamora via Getty images.

Budget Friendly Recipes for Students

With fresher’s week officially underway, students up and down the country have packed their bags, flown the nest and are setting up camp in their new university residence.

Uni is an exciting time. There’s a whole new bunch of people to meet, lectures to attend and lots of studying to be done. So, let’s face it, you’ll want to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of recipes that are quick, easy, budget friendly, and sure to impress your new house mates.

Chilli Beef Nachos

Ideal for sharing, pop these nachos down in the middle of the table and get everyone to dig in. For an even spicier kick, try using chilli oil instead of regular oil when cooking the beef. You can also, of course, just make them for yourself should you wish to hide in your room whilst you nurse a hangover!

Image source: Mizina via Getty images.

Beef & Red Pepper Burgers

Who doesn’t love a good burger? These succulent, juicy patties are full of flavour and the added twist of chopped red peppers is a fantastic way to get some more veg into your diet. Simply combine all the ingredients and slide under the grill (or barbecue them – weather permitting!) and treat your housemates to a tasty, restaurant-standard burger at a fraction of the cost.

Image source: Cooks Professional.

Beer Mac ‘n Cheese

Pasta, cheese and beer all in the same dish! What’s not to love?! This one is bound to be a sure-fire hit with your new housemates and is a great way to feed a big crowd on a small budget.

Image source: Rimma_Bondarenko via Getty images.

Banana and Blueberry Muffins

Picture the scene; you’ve got a full day of classes, darting from one building to another. Where and when are you supposed to stop and grab something to eat?! Well, you’ve been smart enough to prepare in advance and pack a delicious, homemade muffin that’s studded with blueberries and has a gorgeous banana flavour. Well done, you, you clever thing. No wonder you’ve made it to uni!

Image source: Moonshotimage via Getty images.

Super Speedy Pesto Sauce

This is criminally easy to make, and makes a good batch that will last for weeks in the fridge, so you can just grab it and mix in with some cooked pasta whenever you’re looking for a quick dinner or lunch. It’s also delicious spread across toast and topped with a couple of poached eggs – the perfect start to a busy day.

Image source: tashka2000 via Getty images.

Chicken Goujons with BBQ Sauce

Keeping it healthier by oven baking instead of frying, but losing none of that crispy crunch, these ‘posh chicken nuggets’ come with the added bonus of knowing exactly what’s gone into them. Along with the homemade BBQ sauce, these will be a smash hit amongst hungry friends.

Image source: bhofack2 via Getty images.

Lead image: DGLimages via Getty images.

How to Reduce Plastic Waste

Supermarkets wrap our fruits and vegetables in it. Our meat is packaged in it. Fancy quenching your thirst when you’re out and about? Your water is bottled in it! There’s no denying – plastic is everywhere. In fact, in the UK alone, recent figures have shown that the average household produces 668kg of plastic waste every year!

But how do we even begin to reduce our plastic consumption and, ultimately, stop it from entering the oceans? We think the kitchen is a great place to start, and we’ve put together some tips below.

1. Take your own canvas bags or ‘bags for life’ to the supermarket with you. It’s often a good idea to keep a stash of these in the boot of your car or by your front door so you know that you’ve always got some to hand.

Image source: Fevziie Ryman via Getty images.

2. Supermarket bread is not only wrapped in plastic, but is often overpriced. Try making your own instead for a fraction of the cost using a bread maker. This also comes with the added bonus of having that freshly-baked bread smell wafting through the house! You can even programme it to cook overnight, so that your loaf is warm and waiting for you in the morning. Could there be a more satisfying way to wake up?

3. Ditch those overly-expensive smoothies and juices, and mix up your own (with the peace of mind of knowing exactly what’s gone into it!) with a smoothie maker that comes with reusable bottles.

Image source: Amguy via Getty images.

4. Another easy way to reduce the plastic in your household is to make the switch from one-use coffee pods and switch to a more traditional espresso machine or cafetiere.

5. When snack time calls, instead of reaching for a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar wrapped in unrecyclable foil, why not try an alternative that is healthier for both you and the planet by making your own dried fruit snacks. A dehydrator is a great way to do this, and there is a plethora of nibbles you can make that are sure to satisfy those 11am cravings!

Image source: 5PH via Getty images.

6. Fruits and vegetables come in their own natural packaging – is there anything better for packaging a banana than the banana’s skin itself?! Go for loose fruits and vegetables wherever possible, rather than those that are wrapped in plastic and bunched together.

7. Stop buying sandwiches and salads that are sat in plastic packaging and start making your own lunches instead. These brick lunchboxes add an injection of fun to school packed lunches!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

8. Instead of using plastic wrap to cover any leftovers, pop them in a lidded container. You can also take containers to a deli or health food store and use them over the usual plastic bag on offer to weigh out your ingredients and transport them home.

9. Make the switch from plastic straws. Many bars and restaurants now have the option of paper straws, which is fantastic, and you can now buy these at many retailers. Metal straws are also widely available, resulting in even less waste as you simply wash them and reuse!

Image source: Natalia Lavrenkova via Getty images.

10. And, last but not least, take full advantage of your council’s recycling services. Make sure that everything is washed out and separated according to their requirements – a bin with recycling compartments can make this job even easier, and that anything that cannot be recycled at kerbside is taken to a recycling centre.

Lead image: DutchScenery via Getty images.

How to Reduce Plastic Waste

Supermarkets wrap our fruits and vegetables in it. Our meat is packaged in it. Fancy quenching your thirst when you’re out and about? Your water is bottled in it! There’s no denying – plastic is everywhere. In fact, in the UK alone, recent figures have shown that the average household produces 668kg of plastic waste every year!

But how do we even begin to reduce our plastic consumption and, ultimately, stop it from entering the oceans? We think the kitchen is a great place to start, and we’ve put together some tips below.

1. Take your own canvas bags or ‘bags for life’ to the supermarket with you. It’s often a good idea to keep a stash of these in the boot of your car or by your front door so you know that you’ve always got some to hand.

Image source: Fevziie Ryman via Getty images.

2. Supermarket bread is not only wrapped in plastic, but is often overpriced. Try making your own instead for a fraction of the cost using a bread maker. This also comes with the added bonus of having that freshly-baked bread smell wafting through the house! You can even programme it to cook overnight, so that your loaf is warm and waiting for you in the morning. Could there be a more satisfying way to wake up?

3. Ditch those overly-expensive smoothies and juices, and mix up your own (with the peace of mind of knowing exactly what’s gone into it!) with a smoothie maker that comes with reusable bottles.

Image source: Amguy via Getty images.

4. Another easy way to reduce the plastic in your household is to make the switch from one-use coffee pods and switch to a more traditional espresso machine or cafetiere.

5. When snack time calls, instead of reaching for a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar wrapped in unrecyclable foil, why not try an alternative that is healthier for both you and the planet by making your own dried fruit snacks. A dehydrator is a great way to do this, and there is a plethora of nibbles you can make that are sure to satisfy those 11am cravings!

Image source: 5PH via Getty images.

6. Fruits and vegetables come in their own natural packaging – is there anything better for packaging a banana than the banana’s skin itself?! Go for loose fruits and vegetables wherever possible, rather than those that are wrapped in plastic and bunched together.

7. Stop buying sandwiches and salads that are sat in plastic packaging and start making your own lunches instead. These brick lunchboxes add an injection of fun to school packed lunches!

Image source: Cooks Professional.

8. Instead of using plastic wrap to cover any leftovers, pop them in a lidded container. You can also take containers to a deli or health food store and use them over the usual plastic bag on offer to weigh out your ingredients and transport them home.

9. Make the switch from plastic straws. Many bars and restaurants now have the option of paper straws, which is fantastic, and you can now buy these at many retailers. Metal straws are also widely available, resulting in even less waste as you simply wash them and reuse!

Image source: Natalia Lavrenkova via Getty images.

10. And, last but not least, take full advantage of your council’s recycling services. Make sure that everything is washed out and separated according to their requirements – a bin with recycling compartments can make this job even easier, and that anything that cannot be recycled at kerbside is taken to a recycling centre.

Lead image: DutchScenery via Getty images.

Eat the Seasons – September

Summer has started winding down, and we’re coasting smoothly into the cooler, crisp days of autumn. But what is in season in September?

Cavolo nero

Originating from Tuscany, this loose-leafed cabbage has a pleasant, tangy, almost bitter flavour with a sweet aftertaste. Its name translates as ‘black cabbage’ which is apt given its dark green leaves.

Image source: bhofack2 via Getty images.

Cooked in the same way as kale or cabbage, this is a great alternative for anybody looking to broaden their veggie horizons!

Kohlrabi

A cabbage cultivar, kohlrabi is packed full of nutrients including potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium, as well as vitamins C, B-complex, A and K! As if that wasn’t enough, studies also show that Kohlrabi helps to boost energy levels, regulates blood pressure and even aids in weight loss.

Image source: bhofack2 via Getty images.

Leek

The national vegetable of Wales. Legend has it that in 640AD, the Briton King Cadwallader and his men were engaged in battle with invading Saxons. To distinguish themselves from the enemy, the Welsh wore leeks in their hats – and subsequently gained a great victory over their opponents.

Image source: wmaster890 via Getty images.

Other than being a brave choice of accessory when it comes to defeating your enemies, leeks also contain many flavanoid antioxidants and can help to reduce the level of enzymes in the liver.

Parsnip

If your memory of parsnips is that of boiled, overcooked, ‘white carrots’ your granny used to serve up, we’re here to tell you that there is another way! If you halve them (removing the woody centre), lay them flat on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and then brush with a mixture of honey and wholegrain mustard, you will have sweet, almost caramel-like parsnips that will change your life forever.

Image source: jerrydeutsch via Getty images.

Sweetcorn

Sweetcorn is actually only naturally in season in September, so if you’re looking to line up with Mother Nature’s calendar then this is the month to get this gorgeous, yellow, jewel-like vegetable into your diet.

Image source: sasapanchenko via Getty images.

Rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, corn is one of the healthiest veggies out there. It’s also much loved by children, so is a great way to introduce your little ones to healthy eating.

Lead image: Prostock-Studio via Getty images.

Perfect Rice Every Time

Rice is one of those ingredients that is an absolute store cupboard essential. But when it comes to getting it right, well, it can prove a bit hit and miss. Some days you end up with lovely, fluffy rice that tastes amazing. Other days you end up with a stodgy mess, half of it sloppy and slimy, the other half stuck to the bottom of the pan.

There are a hundred tips, tricks and old-wives’ tales out there when it comes to cooking rice, but what is the real way to ensure perfect rice every time? We’ve put a handy guide together below!

White rice

First and foremost, start by measuring out your rice before cooking, using the standard rule of 90g per person (remembering that rice doubles in size once cooked). Choose a pan that will give the rice plenty of room to expand without boiling over.

Image source: AtnoYdur via Getty images.

Rinse your rice in a sieve until the water runs clear. By doing this you’re removing any excess starch, which will help to avoid gloopy rice that looks (and tastes) awful! When you’ve rinsed your rice, tip it into your chosen saucepan and add some salt, followed by the water. The rice to water ratio is where many people struggle, but it’s actually quite simple – you just use double the amount of water as rice. So for 90g of rice, you’ll use 180ml of water.

Once your pan is bubbling away, turn the heat down enough to just keep the water hot, then pop a lid on the pan. Leave to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, then fluff it up with a fork and check that it is cooked. Drain away any excess liquid (there won’t be much) and serve!

Image source: bennyartist via Getty images.

Brown rice

The method for cooking brown rice is basically the same as for white rice, except that it takes a lot longer to cook. 40-50 minutes over a low heat will give you cooked brown rice that still retains its chewy texture and nutty flavour.

Prepare your rice as you would with white rice; measure, rinse, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cover. However, leave it to took for 30 minutes untouched before giving it a stir with a fork, just to make sure it hasn’t started sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Image source: vm2002 via Getty images.

Cauliflower rice

Okay, okay. So whilst cauliflower rice isn’t technically rice, it is a great alternative if you’re looking to reduce carbs or calories. It has a similar texture to white rice, is full of flavour, and can basically be used in every meal that you’d ordinarily have rice with.

Image source: colnihko via Getty images.

Begin by removing the leaves from your cauliflower, then cut the cauliflower into quarters. Remove as much of the centre stem as possible, before cutting each quarter into three pieces. Gradually, add these pieces to a food processor and pulse – adding it all in at once will just turn your cauliflower to mush, so it’s important to add it in stages.

Once you have a mixture that looks similar to couscous, spread evenly over a baking tray and add a small drizzle of olive oil. Roast in a pre-heated oven (around 200°C / 180°C fan) for 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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Fried rice

It’s a takeaway favourite, but it’s hardly the healthiest thing on the menu. So try making your fried rice at home instead, and master that cost-reducing #fakeaway!

The easiest way to make a healthy and delicious fried rice is to use cooked brown rice and incorporate it into a stir fry so that you’re using less oil. Start off by heating some sesame oil in a frying pan or wok before adding you spices, followed by your meat or fish and fry until browned, then add in your vegetables.

Once the veggies have softened, add the cooked brown rice and your stir-fry sauce – the sauce will help to fry the rice without any need for further oil. Keep everything on the heat, stirring frequently, until everything is cooked. Eat immediately!

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Lead image: JacquesPALUT via Getty images.

Perfect Rice Every Time

Rice is one of those ingredients that is an absolute store cupboard essential. But when it comes to getting it right, well, it can prove a bit hit and miss. Some days you end up with lovely, fluffy rice that tastes amazing. Other days you end up with a stodgy mess, half of it sloppy and slimy, the other half stuck to the bottom of the pan.

There are a hundred tips, tricks and old-wives’ tales out there when it comes to cooking rice, but what is the real way to ensure perfect rice every time? We’ve put a handy guide together below!

White rice

First and foremost, start by measuring out your rice before cooking, using the standard rule of 90g per person (remembering that rice doubles in size once cooked). Choose a pan that will give the rice plenty of room to expand without boiling over.

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Rinse your rice in a sieve until the water runs clear. By doing this you’re removing any excess starch, which will help to avoid gloopy rice that looks (and tastes) awful! When you’ve rinsed your rice, tip it into your chosen saucepan and add some salt, followed by the water. The rice to water ratio is where many people struggle, but it’s actually quite simple – you just use double the amount of water as rice. So for 90g of rice, you’ll use 180ml of water.

Once your pan is bubbling away, turn the heat down enough to just keep the water hot, then pop a lid on the pan. Leave to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, then fluff it up with a fork and check that it is cooked. Drain away any excess liquid (there won’t be much) and serve!

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Brown rice

The method for cooking brown rice is basically the same as for white rice, except that it takes a lot longer to cook. 40-50 minutes over a low heat will give you cooked brown rice that still retains its chewy texture and nutty flavour.

Prepare your rice as you would with white rice; measure, rinse, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cover. However, leave it to took for 30 minutes untouched before giving it a stir with a fork, just to make sure it hasn’t started sticking to the bottom of the pan.

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Cauliflower rice

Okay, okay. So whilst cauliflower rice isn’t technically rice, it is a great alternative if you’re looking to reduce carbs or calories. It has a similar texture to white rice, is full of flavour, and can basically be used in every meal that you’d ordinarily have rice with.

Image source: colnihko via Getty images.

Begin by removing the leaves from your cauliflower, then cut the cauliflower into quarters. Remove as much of the centre stem as possible, before cutting each quarter into three pieces. Gradually, add these pieces to a food processor and pulse – adding it all in at once will just turn your cauliflower to mush, so it’s important to add it in stages.

Once you have a mixture that looks similar to couscous, spread evenly over a baking tray and add a small drizzle of olive oil. Roast in a pre-heated oven (around 200°C / 180°C fan) for 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Image source: ALLEKO via Getty images.

Fried rice

It’s a takeaway favourite, but it’s hardly the healthiest thing on the menu. So try making your fried rice at home instead, and master that cost-reducing #fakeaway!

The easiest way to make a healthy and delicious fried rice is to use cooked brown rice and incorporate it into a stir fry so that you’re using less oil. Start off by heating some sesame oil in a frying pan or wok before adding you spices, followed by your meat or fish and fry until browned, then add in your vegetables.

Once the veggies have softened, add the cooked brown rice and your stir-fry sauce – the sauce will help to fry the rice without any need for further oil. Keep everything on the heat, stirring frequently, until everything is cooked. Eat immediately!

Image source: szefei via Getty images.

Lead image: JacquesPALUT via Getty images.

Eat the Seasons – August

Mother nature has a wonderful way of providing seasonal ingredients that are full of the nutrients we need at that time of year. So, what is in season, and what should we be eating in August?

Aubergine

Masquerading as a vegetable, this fruit with its gorgeous, dark skin is jam packed full of nutrients and vitamins including vitamin C, potassium and vitamin B6 which helps with brain development and mood regulation.

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It can be difficult to think of an inspiring recipe when looking at an aubergine, but these little beauties absolutely soak up the flavour of anything they are cooked with and enhance it even further. Give our recipe for Italian stuffed aubergine a go, and see for yourself.

Beetroot

Associated with numerous health benefits, eating beetroot (or drinking beetroot juice) can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and can even help to increase exercise performance! As if that wasn’t enough, they are also full of nutrients including folate, iron and manganese.

These beetroot burgers are a great way to get them into your diet.

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Raspberries

A bowl full of freshly picked raspberries is quintessentially British, and it’s impossible not to fall in love with the bold, bright pink colour. Not only are they gorgeous to look at, they also host a plethora of health benefits including immunity boosting vitamins and can even aid in weight loss thanks to their low fat / high fibre content.

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These sweet little berries are perfect strewn atop these summer berry tarts, which make a great addition to any picnic.

Crab

A fantastic source of protein, crab contains almost as much protein per 100g as meats without anywhere near the same levels of saturated fat. Not only this, but crab meat is super rich in Omega 3 which helps to protect against heart disease and aid brain development.

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OK, so it can be a little daunting to look at a crab and wonder where to even begin. But you can buy crab meat already shelled for you, any any fishmonger worth their salt will be able to shell one for you as well, so it needn’t be something to be scared of. Give our recipe for crab cakes with dill mayonnaise a try, and rejoice in the light, yet flavourful meat of the glorious crab.

Rocket

One of the most nutritious leafy greens going, rocket is low in calories and high in vitamin A which studies have found helps to protect us from certain cancers. Our recipe for super green soup is a great way to incorporate rocket into your diet, and also contains watercress and spinach – both of which are also in season in August.

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Courgette

Also known as zucchini, courgettes contain vitamins A, C, K and B6, as well as beta-carotene which can help to strengthen your vision. These super-veggies are also incredibly easy to grow from seed, and are best picked when they are around the size of a finger as they have a certain sweetness to them that gets muted as they become larger.

Our recipe for courgette fritters with mango yoghurt is the perfect way to get courgettes into your menu rotation, and are also ideal for encouraging children to eat their veggies too!

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The Health Benefits of Herbs & Spices

Throughout history, herbs and spices have been used to add and enhance the flavours in dishes. But did you know that they also contain a host of amazing health benefits? Having a well-stocked spice rack not only gives you a massive range of versatility in the kitchen, but it’s also like having your very own natural pharmacy right in your kitchen cupboard.

We’ve put together a list of our top 10 herbs and spices, and the benefits that they come with!

Cinnamon

Ah, the undeniable scent of Christmas. But, cinnamon is not just a festive treat, it also contains potent antioxidants, helps to fight inflammation and has been known to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Cinnamon is also capable of lowering blood sugar by several mechanisms, including slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract and improving insulin sensitivity.

Fun fact: Cinnamon comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree, which can grow up to 60ft tall!

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Sage

Current research indicates that sage may be able to improve brain function and memory, particularly in those with Alzheimer’s, by inhibiting the breakdown of acetylcholine which occurs in patients with the disease. A study of 42 individuals with Alzheimer’s showed that taking sage extract produced a significant improvement in brain function.

Fun fact: Sage had a strong reputation for its healing properties during the middle ages, and was even used to help prevent the plague!

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Peppermint

Long used in homeopathy and aromatherapy, the oil derived from peppermint contains the agents responsible for the health benefits. Studies have shown that peppermint oil can improve pain management in people that suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and can also help to reduce abdominal bloating and can help fight nausea.

Fun fact: Peppermint is a perennial herb that will, once planted, come back stronger year after year!

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Turmeric

Turmeric contains several medicinal compounds, however the most important of these is curcumin. A remarkably powerful antioxidant, the curcumin found in turmeric helps to fight oxidative damage and boosts the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Curcumin is also extremely anti-inflammatory, to the point where it actually matches some anti-inflammatory drugs.

Fun fact: Some of the compounds found in turmeric are natural anti-venom for bites from a King Cobra!

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Holy Basil

Not be confused with regular basil, holy basil is a herb found in India that is considered to be sacred. Also known as tulsi, it is capable of inhibiting the growth of a range of bacteria, yeasts and moulds. Studies have also shown that holy basil can boost the function of the immune system, reduce blood sugar levels and help to treat anxiety and depression.

Fun fact: In Hindu mythology, holy basil is believed to ward off evil spirits and ghosts!

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Cayenne Pepper

A type of chilli pepper most commonly used to prepare spicy dishes, cayenne contains a chemical called capsaicin which has been shown to reduce appetite and increase fat burning in many studies. In fact, one study found that adding just 1 gram of cayenne to meals reduced appetite and increased fat burning compared to the those who didn’t.

Fun fact: Cayenne pepper is also an active ingredient in pepper spray!

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Ginger

Ginger is widely used in alternative medicine to help combat feelings of nausea brought on by morning sickness, chemotherapy and sea sickness. Ginger also has strong anti-inflammatory properties that can help manage pain from osteoarthritis. Research has shown that a mix of ginger, cinnamon, mastic and sesame oil had a similar effect on pain management as treatment with aspirin or ibuprofen.

Fun fact: Ginger is actually a rhizome (an underground stem), not a root!

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Fenugreek

Containing the plant protein 4-hydroxyisoleucine, fenugreek has been shown to improve the function of the hormone insulin. Many studies have shown that at least 1 gram of fenugreek extract per day can lower blood sugar levels – particularly in diabetics.

Fun fact: Fenugreek seed can be used as a substitute for coffee!

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Rosemary

Containing an active ingredient called rosmarinic acid, rosemary has been shown to suppress allergies and ease nasal congestion, as well as containing anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a great source of iron, calcium and Vitamin B6.

Fun fact: During the 16th century, people would burn bunches of rosemary in order to disinfect rooms.

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Garlic

If you often suffer from colds, then adding more garlic to your diet could be incredibly helpful. The compound, allicin, found in garlic is well known for combatting sickness including the common cold. Garlic also has convincing evidence on its side for having a beneficial effect on the heart, and for lowering blood pressure. As if that wasn’t enough, garlic is packed with potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and Vitamin C!

Fun fact: Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated crops, and was fed to the builders of the Great Pyramids in Egypt under the belief it gave them strength and endurance!

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The origin of ice cream

There’s nothing quite like chilled ice cream on a warm summer’s day. This wonderful sweet confection has become a firm favourite for many, and with good reason. Whether you opt for the soft serve variety on a trip to the seaside, or a luxury branded version from the comfort of your own sofa, ice cream is a delightful treat for everyone to enjoy!

But how much do you know about this cold dessert?

Where did it come from?

Two ice creams in jars
There’s no definitive place of origin for this tasty treat.
Source: Unsplash.

There’s no clear origin for this favourite pudding. The ice cream as we know it is vastly different from the first ice cream-esque foods which appear throughout history. It is rumoured to have come from all manner of exotic places across the globe, but there is no definitive proof of this being one particular place.

There are numerous biblical references to King Soloman having a liking for iced drinks. Alexander the Great is rumoured to have loved snow flavoured with nectar and honey, and Nero Claudius Caesar was well known for sending servants into the mountains to retrieve snow which could then be flavoured with juices and fruits.

China developed one of the earliest incarnations. The recipe is alleged to have been brought to Italy by the traveller Marco Polo, however, there is no mention of it in his journals. Ice cream as we know and love it – a frozen custard which is mixed with egg yolks and cream – is most likely to have originated from 18th century France.

A royal delicacy

Ice creams on a blue background
Ice cream has been a real favourite throughout the centuries.
Source: Unsplash.

We have Charles II to thank for our love of ice cream. The king added it to the banquet menu in 1761 for his royal guests to enjoy: “one plate of white strawberries and one plate of iced cream”. A dish suitable for the elite, as only the wealthy had the means of which to freeze it.

The more affluent estates built ice houses so as to stockpile ice for various uses. These would be stocked in the winter when ice was abundant; the quality of the ice was poor, so it was never used in foods. Instead, it would be covered with bark and straw to help keep food cool in the summer months.

An American dream

Ice cream scooped into a bowl
Now we can enjoy ice cream from the comfort of our own home.
Source: Unsplash.

While we may enjoy the odd 99 flake on a warm summer’s day, it is nothing compared to the love that America gives this ice-cold dessert. Did you know that Americans consume the largest amount of ice cream worldwide? It was seen as a symbol of Americanism during the second world war, and was often served to the troops as a source of moral.

We have America to thank for those luxurious tubs in our freezer, too! Pennsylvanian milk dealer, Jacob Fussell, became frustrated that the demand for his products fluctuated. In 1851, he decided to build an ice cream factory so as to mass-produce it, which made this favoured sweet treat accessible for the lower classes. 

Ice cream was reimagined once again in 1874, when soda fountain shops became popular thanks to the ice cream soda – what we British would call an ice cream float. The favoured treat came under criticism from religious people, who claimed it was sinful to eat such a rich dessert on a Sunday. Ice cream sellers started to leave out the fizzy soda to combat this, and the infamous ice cream Sunday was born. Eventually this changed to ‘sundae’ to remove any religious connotations.

Why not make your own!

Cooks Professional ice cream maker
A Cooks Professional ice cream maker will help you create your own tasty treats!
Source: Cooks Professional.

Feeling inspired by our little history lesson? Why not make your own sweet treats! With your own Cooks Professional ice cream maker you can enjoy a sweet treat no matter the time of year. There’s no need to collect ice from the mountains for your ice cream, either – the ice cream maker does all the hard work for you, meaning that you can enjoy delicious desserts in the comfort of your own home. Why not take a look at some recipe ideas to get you started?

Have you got any interesting facts about ice cream? We’d love to hear all about it on our Facebook page!

Throw the Perfect BBQ Party

We don’t want to jinx anything…but it looks like summer may have officially arrived! Which, at Cooks Professional, means one thing – it’s BBQ season. We’ve put together a quick ‘how-to’ on throwing the perfect barbecue party. From making sure that your cooking station is safe, to keeping your family and friends entertained, this cheat sheet will ensure your summer is packed with weekend after weekend of alfresco fun!

Safety first

Essentially, you are creating a contained fire. So you need to make sure that you set up your BBQ in an open area, well away from any trees or fences. It’s also a good idea to have a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher to hand, and make sure that all pets and kid are kept well away from your cooking area. Keep yourself safe by using long handled barbecue cooking equipment – we recommend these BBQ tools with carry case, which will allow you to flip those burgers with ease, without getting too close to the grill.

Make a toppings station

Pop your relishes, ketchups, mustard and cheeses on a separate table and let your guests create their own perfect burger. Throw in a few extra surprises like bacon, guacamole and gherkins and see what concoctions your family and friends come up with!

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Keep refreshed

Make sure that all your guests are kept as well-watered as they are fed. A crisp, cool beer or soda is the perfect accompaniment to a burger or hot dog, and our ice machine is ideal for making sure everybody’s drink is as cool as can be. Give any little ones at your party a magical treat as well with our snow cone maker – a sure-fire hit!

Play time

The perfect antidote to that pre-dinner slump – get everyone together for a game. Whether it be Twister, a game of frisbee or kicking a ball around, your guests are guaranteed to be entertained!

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Make a playlist

Build a killer playlist filled with summer hits, leading into some mellow tunes with it’s time to wind the party down. You could also send your playlist to your guests and get them to help you build it in advance.

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10 Food Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

Impress your friends and family at your next dinner party with some of the most bizarre and fascinating food facts that you probably never knew! Keep scrolling to read more.

Shine bright like a…peanut?

You can make diamonds from peanut butter. Yes, you did read that right. Scientists at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany have discovered that peanut butter, since it’s so rich in carbon, can be turned into diamonds. All you need to do is extract the oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the spread, and then enact immense pressure on the residual carbon. We would not recommend, however, attempting a wedding proposal with a jar of Sun Pat.

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White lies

Masquerading the entire time under the guise of chocolate, white chocolate doesn’t actually contain any chocolate compounds and is actually made up of a blend of sugar, milk products, vanilla, lecithin and cocoa butter.

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Child’s play

A child invented the popsicle. By mistake. In 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson from San Francisco Bay accidentally left a cup of soda pop and water outside overnight. This mixture froze and, hey-presto, a new summertime treat was born! He named this new delicacy the ‘Epsicle’ and began to sell it across San Francisco that summer. When he got older, his grandchildren referred to this treat as “Pop’s ‘Sicle” which over time developed to popsicle.

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Better than money

According to the International Cocoa Organisation, the Aztecs traded using cocoa beans, and could even pay their taxes with it! This is a tempting idea today, however we fear you may get a few funny looks handing over a bar of Galaxy to pay for your MOT.

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The deadly tomato

Nicknamed ‘The Poison Apple’ in 18th century Europe, many aristocrats would get sick and sometimes even die after eating tomatoes, therefore they were deemed to be poisonous. The real problem, however, was the fact that they were being eaten from pewter plates. The acidity in the tomatoes would cause lead to leach out from the dishes, and therefore result in lead poisoning.

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You’re off your nut-meg

It’s a staple of Christmas cooking, but four or more teaspoons of nutmeg can cause mild hallucinations and your limbs to warm without warning!

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Eating water

Cucumbers are made up of 96% water, making them one of the most hydrating foods on the planet. Containing calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium and sodium, cucumbers are actually a great choice when searching for a hangover cure.

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Not so nutty

Although considered a nut, almonds are actually flower seeds that are directly related to the botanical families of orchids and roses.

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Can you bee-lieve?

Honey is the only food product with an ‘eternal’ shelf life. It never rots, and can last up to 3000 years in storage.

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Would it kale you try it?

Kale is the most nutritiously dense vegetable out there. Just 130g contains only 33 calories, yet packs in 684% RDA of Vitamin K, 134% of Vitamin C and 206% of Vitamin A. And, as if that wasn’t enough, it also contains iron, folate, omega-3s, magnesium, calcium, iron, fibre, and two grams of protein. Truly a super veg!

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