28 Nov 2014

A taste of Autumn: Orange and Pumpkin Cake

A few months ago, I announced proudly that I had moved in with The Man.
So picture me (in full-on lovey-dovey mode) with a ton of girl stuff, including 30 pairs of shoes and a container of baking equipment, invading a one bedroom flat.
The Man invested in storage units, I got rid of all the clothes I hadn't worn in 3 years (and was keeping "just in case"), and I said "bye for now" to my enormous ice-cream maker and baking robot which moved to the attic.

9 months later though, a third of my stuff is still in boxes. The single book shelf that is mine has been invaded by his latest buys, and I sometimes wish I could storm out to another room (which wouldn't have to be the bathroom) when I get angry with him (would that be the honeymoon phase coming to an end? Yeah, maybe there's a little bit of that too).
We've come to the difficult conclusion that this can't go on any longer. 
So we're buying a bigger house. 

Orange and butternut squash cake

This is one of the best sponges I've ever made. As often in cakes made with vegetables, this cake doesn't taste strongly of pumpkin, but is full of its smooth consistency and moisture. Orange and pumpkin are a match made in sponge heaven.
With its lovely colour and autumnal spices, it's a perfect seasonal cake!


225 grams self-raising flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon of mixed spice: I used cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
175 grams golden caster sugar
3 large eggs (beaten)
200 ml sunflower oil
225 grams butternut squash/pumpkin purée (canned purée is fine)
1 orange (juice and peel)


1/ Preheat the oven to 180deg C (160deg C fan oven). Grease and base line a medium sized cake tin.

2/ Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl, stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, oil, extract, rind and juice then stir until smooth. Add the puree and stir in well.

3/ Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 45-55 minutes until a metal skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake.  Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

4/ Lightly dust the top of the cake with icing sugar.

Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson's orange and butternut squash cake recipe

21 Nov 2014

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake Tartlets

Greek yoghurt? I love it. It's thick, creamy, with that lovely acidity that lifts it up. 

In the UK, one of my favourite brands of Greek yoghurt is Fage Total Greek Yoghurt, and in particular the Fat free 0% Greek yoghurt, which has a texture very close to the full fat version, without the fat. (I sometimes find that fat free yoghurts are too acidic or too runny)
Although I kind of knew that you can cook / bake many thinks with yoghurt, I used to just eat it for breakfast with cereals or for pudding with fruits and a drizzle of honey. I guess I just lacked inspiration.

When I just came back from Greece, with the delicious taste of local Greek yoghurts still on my tongue and my mind full of new Greek recipes, and I got invited to the launch of the Total Greek Yoghurt recipe book, I saw it as a sign of the Greek gods themselves.

Sophie Michell revisits some Greek classics like pastichio and experiments with desserts, sauces and dips, using Greek yoghurt in many different ways.
I tested for you the peanut butter and chocolate tartlets recipe from the book, in which I swapped the full fat yoghurt with my usual fat free one. It's very easy to make, looks cool, and tastes very nice!

Peanut Butter and Chocolate 
Cheesecake Tartlets

Ingredients, for 4 little tartlets

5 or 6 Chocolate bourbons
20-25g butter
40g peanut butter
40g cream cheese
30g fat free Total Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp icing sugar 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 or 2 squares dark chocolate, to decorate

How to make the peanut butter and chocolate tarlets
1/ Process the chocolat bourbon biscuits in a food processor until they form fine crumbs

2/ Melt the butter and mix thoroughly with the biscuit crumbs and press onto the base of tartlers tins. Place in the fridge for 1hour to set hard, or in the freezer for 15min.

3/ In a bowl, mix the peanut butter until smooth. Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth. Add the Greek yoghurt and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, the sifted icing sugar, and mix until smooth. 

4/ Pipe or spoon the peanut butter mixture onto the tartlet bases, and grate dark chocolate on top for decoration. Place in the fridge to set for an hour. Eat the same day.

  Total Greek Yoghurt recipe book, recipes by Sophie Michell

I was offered Total Greek Yoghurt recipe book but wasn't commissioned to write up a review about it. Unless stated otherwise, the content of my blog in not sponsored.

12 Nov 2014

Greece #1 - West Cyclades : Kea, Kithnos, Sifnos

I won't tell you that the Greek islands are beautiful. 
I won't tell you that Greek food is delicious.
I won't tell you that the sea in Greece is as blue as it can be.
Like me, you probably know that already, even if you've never visited Greece. 

When The Man and I decided to spend 2 weeks in Greece for our holidays in September, our main question was more: how are we supposed to choose between 6,000 islands?
I won't lie to you, there was a fair amount of "eeny, meeny, miny, moe" and a bit of reading websites and travel blogs on the matter.

In the end, we settled on looking for islands that would be: 
- close to Athens, to minimise travel time
- nice spots to ramble and snorkle
- not too touristy
and that's how we ended up in the West Cyclades; in Kea, Kythnos and Sifnos, which perfectly fit the brief.

A few highlights: 
- These islands are mainly visited by Athenians during summer and over the weekends. In September, everything was still open and we pretty much had the islands to ourselves - which is rare in Greece.
- A great way to drive around the islands is by quad bike: it's cheap, handy (the roads often turn into tracks), and safe if the roads are quiet (which they were). It only takes about 2 to 3 hours to drive from one end to the other for each of these islands, so everything is accessible. Plus, driving a quad bike is so much fun! I now consider myself a professional racer ;-)
- There seems to be more churches than inhabitants in Greece, so you'll get your share of those beautiful white churches with their blue tops.
- Greek people are lovely, and as always, as soon as you make the effort to at least greet them in their own language, they welcome you everywhere with a broad smile.
- Greek food, even in the simple tavernas, is usually delicious. But Greek food deserves more than a few lines, so I'll come back to that in a specific post.
For the rest, I'll let the photos speak for themselves. If you want to visit these islands and have questions, don't hesitate to get in touch!

As always, I took Chocolat the Travelling Bear with us and he modeled for the photos :-)



Korrissia (Kea)

On the ferries between islands, you can even sometimes see dolphins!

There are cats absolutely everywhere on the islands

Kythnos, Loutra



Sifnos, Appolonia


If you don't know me, that's what I look like ;-)

Sifnos is well know for its hand-made pottery



The famous Greek salad


The Parthenon, Athens

Places to stay:
We stayed in the three places below and loved them all.
Kea: Koralli Studio. The owner is really nice and helpful, the studio offers self-catering equipment and is perfectly located in Korissia, 5 min walk from the centre of the main village of the island, which is also the port where most ferries from and to Athens commute.
Kithnos: Kontseta. Once again perfectly located just above the little harbour, which is the main village. The owners are lovely and helpful. The self-catering studio's equipment is minimal but we actually didn't cook. It is very pretty and comfy, with a private terrace overlooking the harbour which offers incredible sunsets every night.
Sifnos: Xerolithia. A lovely hotel just a few minutes walk from the harbour's village centre, with a beautiful swimming pool. The couple who owns it are lovely, and the lady bakes her own cakes for the breakfast buffet!

How to get there: 
From London, it's easy: take a low cost flight to Athens (ie Ryanair). From there, a 1h30min direct ferry ride takes you to Kea. From there, another ferry goes directly to Kythnos in about 1 hour, connected to Sifnos by another 1h ferry ride. From Sifnos, you can go back to Athens directly with an express ferry in less than 3 hours.