Monday, 26 September 2016

Goodies, Wullies and Nuptials

This is my last post as a single man! You may have noticed that my posts have lessened over the past wee while. That is because we are in the middle of wedding preparations at the moment.

image source
Disneyboi and I are to be wed, next week in Toronto. We jet off at the end of this week and spend a couple of weeks there. The wedding itself will be just a small affair with Disneyboi’s cousin and his wife as witnesses.

Expect lots of photographs on social media whilst I am away and lots when I return in the form of blog posts!

However, in the meantime I have been sent another selection of goodies from Degustabox to sample. Usually I go over each item individually to let you see what you will get in the latest box, but as I should be packing right now, here is a photo of the contents which includes borlotti beans, jellies, bread crisps, fizzy juices, popcorn thins and more!

Remember if you want to sign up to Degustabox, you can get an exclusive discount using code BLDEG15 worth a huge £7 off your first box. Pop over to the Degustabox website for more information.

Lastly, as you may know, I love cartoons. As a wee boy, I loved watching them on TV and reading comic strips. And as I am from the Dundee area, the biggest cartoon characters on my radar included DC Thomson’s The Broons and Oor Wullie who appeared (and still do appear) in the Sunday Post newspaper each week. I used to get the annuals at Christmas too and devoured them between Christmas day and the night before going back to school.

Recently Dundee had an ‘Oor Wullie Bucket Trail’ where well over 50 statues of Our Wullie on his famous bucket were decorated in various guises and dotted around Dundee and the surrounding area. This was great fun over the summer, looking out for Wullies, all in aid of the Archie Foundation children’s charity, helping sick kids in the north of Scotland. The Oor Wullies were then auctioned off after the Bucket Trail had finished and made a whopping £883,000 for the charity.

We were lucky enough to get tickets to go and visit the Oor Wullies which had been gathered together as a final gathering before being sold off. Below are a select few of my favourite Wullies for you to enjoy. Pop to the official Bucket Trail website to see the full array.

Here’s hoping DC Thomson’s do another character from their publications. Perhaps Dennis the Menace from the Beano or Bananaman. How good would that be?

That’s it for now folks. Catch you when I am back from our holibobs, as a married man! Maybe catch you over on my Twitter, Facebook or Instagram accounts if you are around. See you soon.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Carrot and Apple Cake

Carrot and apple cake

It was my mum’s birthday the other week and as tradition dictates I always make some form of carrot cake for her.

Over the years I have made carrot fondant fancies, carrot cake meringue pie, carrot loaf, carrot cake Swiss roll. So what could I come up with this year?

Carrot and apple cake

Well, as I said recently, our new home has two apple trees in the back garden and they are full of ripe apples at the moment. We are actually unsure which variety of apple they are, but they are definitely eating apples, as we often pick and eat.

I decided to use the apples in the carrot cake and I found a recipe online for carrot, apple and pecan cake which I knew mum would love.

I tweaked the recipe slightly which called for grated carrots, grated apples and chopped pecans in the batter of the cake. To decorate, I made a cream cheese frosting which is traditional with carrot cake, and I also stewed some apples from the trees. This sweetened, stewed apple mix I spread over the cream cheese in the middle when cooled and it oozed out a little, looking just like caramel.

Carrot and apple cake

I always think what makes a good carrot cake is a good mix of spices and I combined cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to give that lovely autumnal warmth.

Mum loved the cake, and as she is being ‘good’ at the moment for an upcoming wedding she only had one slice, as did I and Disneyboi. Disneyboi took the rest to his work and they happily demolished the rest of it.

Here is the recipe, adapted from

print recipe

Carrot and Apple Cake
Moist layer cake packed with grated apples carrots and pecans with cream cheese frosting and apple sauce
  • 125 grams chopped pecans
  • 200 grams plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 450 grams + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 180 ml vegetable oil
  • 180 ml buttermilk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 300 grams grated apples
  • 75 grams grated carrot
  • 165 grams full-fat cream cheese
  • 45 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 450 grams icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line two 9 inch cake tins.In a bowl sift together the flour, bicarb, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.In another bowl beat together the eggs, 450 grams granulated sugar, oil, salt, one teaspoon of vanilla and buttermilk until smooth.Blend in the flour mix and finally stir through the carrots, 230 grams of apple and chopped pecans.Divide the batter between the two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the centre.Whilst letting the cakes cool fully, prepare the apple filling, by placing the remaining apples in a saucepan with the two tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of water. Stew over medium heat until the apples are soft and have become golden in colour. Allow to cool fully.Make the cream cheese frosting by beating together the cream cheese, butter and one teaspoon of vanilla until smooth. Add the icing sugar and beat until fully incorporated.Place one half of the cream cheese frosting on one layer of the cake and top with the stewed apple mix.Place the other cake layer on top and cover with the remaining cream cheese frosting.Scatter on some chopped pecan if desired.Refrigerate until ready to enjoy.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 9" cake

Carrot and apple cake

Monday, 12 September 2016

That's What I Call New #13

Here is a selection of things I have been sent to try over the past month or so, which I include in my round up called ‘That’s What I Call New’. Have a look and see what you like the sound of...

Lavazza Prontissimo Instant Coffee

This divided opinion in our house. It is a regular instant coffee, from well known coffee sellers Lavazza,  which comes in medio and intenso varieties. It smells lovely when you open the canisters and dissolves well with the boiling water from your kettle.

I thought both types were pleasant enough instant coffees, but my other half did not like it, nor did some of his work colleagues who tried it saying both didn’t have much flavour.

Available in most supermarkets at around £4.70, which makes 54 cups. Give this a try and see what you think!

Clearspring Japanese Umami Pastes

Umami is the name for the ‘fifth taste’ we humans have. We can taste salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. The best way to describe it, is very savoury. Parmesan cheese is umami and so is Bovril for example. The word umami is a common one in Japan where these pastes hail from.

The umami pastes are great to add to your cooking and come with added flavours built in. I tried both chilli and ginger. I used them in stir frys, stock in homemade soups and also diluted in a mug with some hot water for a simple soup.

These are really, really nice and well worth a try. Around £4.49 from the Clearspring website

Milky Mischief from Monty Bojangles

Monty Bojangles sent me some of their milky and chocolatey chocolate truffles to try. And try I did. These are solid, intense chocolatey mounds which any chocolate lover will be devouring very easily if they get their hands on them. Coated in a dash of cocoa powder, these are good chilled with a hot cuppa. They sort of melt in your mouth when you eat them this way. A great indulgent treat. About £4 for a 200 gram box from Monty's website.

Maple Syrups

We Love Maple sent me 4 different varieties of maple to sample. They come in different grades from extra pale to intense amber. I use them in my porridges and also I used some in an apple crumble you might have seen recently. Maple syrup is a huge favourite of mine and as we are jetting off to Canada in the next few weeks, we will be trying even more hopefully!!

Maple syrup is being touted as a the next big superfood and if it is, then I will have a good head start. It's packed with antioxidants, can boost brain health and is a healthier alternative to sugar, as it is not processed and contains essential minerals.


Now, I know this isn’t food related. But it is blogger-related for those folk who sit at a desk regularly. I was asked if I would like to give a varidesk a try. This is something you pop onto top of your existing desk and allows you to either raise your work area up so you can stand at your desk, or you have the option to lower it so you can sit down again.

A friend of mine has one of these at his work and swears by it. When I was asked if I would like to try one out I jumped at the chance.

It is a solid item, around 30kg and can take two monitors along with your keyboard and mouse (I only have one monitor as you can see above). I used mine in the office for a while. Standing up when I could. As you may know it is recommended that we don’t sit all day and should get up and walk about as much as we can. Being sedentary all day can have adverse health effects on us.

I so wanted to like this and unfortunately it’s not for me. I got a sore neck as I was looking at the monitors at a different angle. Ideally I should have raised my monitors higher so I was looking straight at them and got longer cables in the back of my PC. For tall people, I think this could be a real problem. I am only 5’7” tall and felt it wasn’t ideal.

I also found myself standing with my legs crossed, putting my weight on one side. Again, not great for posture. I tried to stop myself from doing this, but kept reverting to that position. And my feet were really sore standing for long periods. You can buy a mat from the Varidesk website which can alleviate any pressure on your feet and knees.

Perhaps with perseverance, the mat and better shoes this would have alleviated. Other colleagues in my office gave it a try and found that they too experienced similar problems, standing cross legged. One person said she didn’t feel her arms were properly supported and were mid-air a lot of the time.

As much as it is good to be standing more through the day and not sitting, I think the varidesk needs to be used in shorter spells than I was trying. Perhaps it is better suited to people who aren’t in front of computers all day long and can vary the amount of time they are at their desk.

But for me and my working life, and I am gutted to say this, it really wasn’t ideal. But the concept is a good one and is perhaps better suited to different types of office workers.

The Varidesk Pro Plus 36 is available for £335. 

That’s my round up for now. Perhaps you have tried a varidesk, I would love to know what you think of standing at work, at your computer. Also have you tried any of the food and drink above? Let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Irn Bru Brownies

brownie mix made with irn bru drink

I hadn’t baked with Irn Bru for a while. I love using it in some of my recipes as it has such a unique sweet, ferric taste! There truly is a wee bit of ammonium ferric citrate in Irn Bru, so you can be rest assured that it’s name matches what’s inside (a little bit).

I’ve made Irn Bru macarons in the past and Irn Bru cupcakes. What else could I use it in? How about pairing it with chocolate in some decadent fudgy brownies? The rich taste of the chocolate would work well with the sweetness of the favourite Scottish soda!

To make things even easier, I used a box of brownie mix by Mrs Crocker. You could use this, or any other boxed brownie mix you come across. I used sugar free Irn Bru in my recipe and it didn’t take anything away from the taste.

brownie mix made with irn bru drink

(If you are using a different brand use more or less Irn Bru depending on the weight. 400grams brownie mix approx. = 100ml Irn Bru as a rule of thumb.)

The box asks for eggs, oil and water. I only used the oil, which would lend to the gooeyness of the brownies and subbed the eggs and water for the Irn Bru. I beat the brownies in my Sage Scraper Mixer Pro and they were ready to bake in no time.

brownie mix made with irn bru drink

The baked brownies weren’t as puffed as I thought they might be, but instead they were dense, fudgy, and chewy which is exactly how I like my brownies. The Irn Bru taste was definitely there, but I wanted to take it to another level.

brownie mix made with irn bru drink

This part is entirely optional, but I added an Irn Bru flavoured buttercream on top. I had some Irn Bru flavouring I had purchased online a while back and added this to my buttercream along with orange and blue food colouring, swirling it on top of the brownies. This made for a very naughty treat, but one that tasted very, very good.

Brownies made in Scotland from girders! Here’s how I made them…

print recipe

Irn Bru Brownies
Brownies made with Irn Bru - simple as!
  • one box brownie mix
  • 100 ml Irn Bru (diet or regular)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 55 grams unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon iron brew flavouring
  • 115 grams icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Irn Bru (diet or regular)
  • orange and blue food colouring
Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and line a 9”x9” brownie pan with greaseproof paper.In a mixer, add the brownie mix, 100 ml of Irn Bru and the vegetable oil.Beat for at least one minute until the mixture is smooth.Transfer the mix to the brownie pan and smooth over with a knife.Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out almost clean and the top is slightly cracked.Allow to cool fully.In the mixer beat the butter, icing sugar, Iron Brew flavouring and two tablespoons of Irn Brew until smooth.Divide the buttercream into two and colour one half pale orange, the other pale blue.Dollop on top of the cooled brownies and with a knife swirl.Refrigerate until ready to enjoy. Slice into squares with a knife.Enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 16 brownies approx.

brownie mix made with irn bru drink

This is my entry for this month's Treat Petite hosted by Kat at The Baking Explorer. The theme is there is no theme!!

Disclosure Statement: I received the Scraper Mixer Pro from Sage for free to review. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, 5 September 2016

My Latest Degustabox (and a discount code for you)

I received my August Degustabox in the mail a few days ago – let’s take a look inside shall we?
I’ve been ploughing my way through the goodies and tried to sample as much as I can…

Firstly we have a Tabasco sweet and sticky sauce and marinade. This bottle contains a great sauce for popping on a burger or my favourite, pairing with pulled pork!

Next was some Clipper green tea flavoured with lime and ginger. This is both fruity and spicy from the ginger, and very refreshing.

There were two Nutripots inside the box. Think Pot Noodles but way healthier. I received a Thai noodles pot which has 50% of your daily vitamins. It’s packed with flavour and great for lunch, just pop on the kettle and you are almost there.

The other Nutripot was Moroccan couscous, which again you make by pouring on some boiling water. This one is high in protein and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. I love the spices in this couscous, and for me I get a good hit of cinnamon!

Dorset Cereals Bircher Muesli was also in the box. This one is packed with raspberry and blackcurrants and is perfect for breakfast. All you need to do is soak for as little as 30 minutes (I use soya milk in mine) and enjoy! The box contained a handy dandy scoop to use also.

Get More Vitamins drinks are packed with, you guessed it, vitamins. In the box was a bottle of lemon and lime flavour, which tastes a little like Sprite or 7Up, but with no added sugar, all natural flavours and spring water. Also very refreshing.

The next one I didn’t ry as I’m not a lover of olives. This was a wee pack of olives called Oloves and is flavoured with chilli, garlic and oregano. I gave these to Jane at my work who devoured them.

Disneyboi was a happy boy, as the box contained a bottle of Mahou Cinco Estrellas, a Spanish lager which he loves already. Chilled this was perfect on a hot afternoon in the sun.

Next were two of Geeta’s Curry Pastes. One was a medium tikka and the other a medium Rogan Josh. We had the Rogan Josh with some beef and it was very flavourful. Perfect accompamied with some rice.

In the box also, was some of Geeta’s premium mango chutney which we had on the side of the curry to dip some mini snackers in (see below).

Willy Chase’s Fit Corn was popcorn I hadn’t heard of before. In the box, if you purchase one, will be one of four flavours. I received the goats cheese, red onion and thyme. I gave these to my mum who loved them. She is a huge fan of flavoured popcorns and this one was right up her street.

Lastly, I received two packs of Rakusen’s Snackers. One was plain and the other gluten free. I tried the gluten free first and was a bit disappointed as they had not much flavour and a weird texture.  But I don’t need to eat gluten-free, so I enjoyed the plain ones much more, with some more of the mango chutney above!

That was my Degustabox for the month and if you would like to sign up and receive a Degustabox to your door once a month, why not use the code BLDEG15 to get a £7 discount when you sign up over at the Degustabox website.

Disclosure Statement: I received the Degustabox free to review. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Get your Bake On with Joseph Joseph

Hey there – the Bake Off’s Back!

Did you see the past couple of weeks? It’s like welcoming a (filthy) old friend back into your home and is the perfect way to settle down in these ‘sumtumn’ evenings, as the nights begin to draw in.

image source 
It’s early days to guess how any of the contestants will do, but that’s the fun of it. Seeing how folk progress and get more confident as the weeks go on. Although there are a few stand-outs for me, but I shan’t say who just yet…

It all takes me back to my time auditioning for the show. It was nerve-wracking and although I was one phone call away from actually getting on the show, I’m kind of glad now I didn’t. The pressure would have been unbelievable!

To tie in with the new series of the Bake Off, the good folks at Joseph Joseph sent me along a selection of their new baking equipment to try out which I’ve been giving a test run in the kitchen over the past couple of weeks.

Here’s my verdict on each one…

Glaze – the refillable silicone pastry brush. (rrp £8)

This is like a regular pastry brush where you can brush on an egg wash or sugar glaze to your pies and pastries, only this one has a built in holder for the ‘wash’. You fill the handle with your egg or milk mix, screw on the brush head and away you go. With its silicone bristles, no stray bits end up on your food.

You can gently squeeze the handle as your brush away at whatever delicacy you are making.

My verdict: A handy tool if you are making lots of things which require an egg-wash or sugar glaze, maybe for a bake sale say. But if you are making a single pie for example, I would stick with the old method.

Whiskle – 2-in-1 whisk with integrated bowl scraper. (rrp £10)

I love this! It’s a balloon whisk, which we are all familiar with, but it has an attached silicone scraper on the side, so you can get right into the edges of the bowl.

My verdict: This saves you using a whisk AND a spatula to get right into the bits of the bowl that the whisk itself cannot reach. Saves on washing up!

Fin – silicone bowl scraper with integrated foot rest. (rrp £6)

Again, another favourite of mine which goes beyond baking. You can get your hands right into mixing bowls, pots and pans and scrape out every last bit of what you have been making. Plus this scraper also stands upright, so you don’t have to put a batter-covered edge down on the worktop!

My verdict: An extremely handy gadget which saves mess (and can be used to scrape out burnt on foods from pots and pans too!!)

Shake-it – self tapping sieve. (rrp £15)

This is a sieve which taps itself. Sounds weird? It actually took me a while to get the concept of this. You place in your flour, icing sugar, whatever you are needing to sift and this gadget taps the ingredient into the bowl with you using only one hand! The cover over the handle lets the sieve move from side to side and does all the tapping for you.

My verdict: Not a lover of this one, unless you have mobility problems. I will stick to my own sieve. It does make sifting a one-handed job, but this was a product I never really thought was needed out there. Maybe I’m wrong – who knows?

Roll-Up – non-slip silicone pastry mat. (rrp £18)

I first thought this was a silicone mat for places your baked goods on, but it’s not. It is a mat you unroll on to your worktop and start rolling out your dough without muckying up your work surface. I love this. In the past I have wasted tons of greaseproof paper and this mat does this job time and time again. Plus it has handy measurements written on the silicone if you need to roll dough out to an exact size.

My verdict: A very handy tool, no more messy flour covered worktops. Plus it has a lockable storage strap, so it takes up virtually no space in your drawers.

Overall, a great selection of baking products from Joseph Joseph, which I mostly love. At a time of year when we are all getting our bake-on, why not invest in some of these items to save time and mess in the kitchen!

Disclosure Statement: I was sent these items free to review. Any opinions expressed are my own.