Toffee Apple and Pecan Cupcakes

image 2These cupcakes have to be the best cupcakes I have made in a long time. I’m currently slightly obsessed with apple, making these scrummy treats a bite of sugary, fruity, nutty heaven.
Ingredients (makes 10 large cupcakes):
Apple Sauce:
  • 3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced into small cubes
  • 50g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 175g softened unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 175g self raising flour, sifted
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 200g apple sauce (see above)
  • 100g pecans, chopped
Caramel Topping:
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 100g softened unsalted butter
(this recipe makes extra apple sauce and caramel topping, ready for the next batch!)
  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees.
  2. Begin by making the apple sauce. Melt the butter and sugar together and then add the apple. Cook on a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until a puree consistency. Stir occasionally and turn down the heat if it’s catching. Allow to cool once finished.
  3. For the cupcakes, cream the butter and sugar together, mix for a good five minutes to make sure it is well combined and nice and fluffy.
  4. Add in the eggs, one at a time, only adding the next when the previous one is fully combined.
  5. Stir in the cooled apple sauce.
  6. Fold in the flour, cinnamon and chopped pecans.
  7. Distribute into cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  8. Once cooled, make the caramel topping. Begin by melting the sugar and butter together.
  9. Add the condensed milk and whisk constantly.
  10. Every now and again stop whisking to check if the topping is bubbling. Allow the topping to come to the boil until it begins to bubble quite vigorously and then remove from the heat. Put the caramel in the fridge to cool and so it doesn’t slide straight off the cupcakes (you can allow the caramel to bubble for longer if you would like a thicker topping).
  11. Once cooled and at a workable consistency, remove from the fridge and spread onto your cupcakes.
This seasonal recipe is a winner for me. Get coring, peeling and chopping because all that apple labour is worth it. You could make more apple sauce and freeze any left overs for next time, have it with roast pork, or if your easily pleased like me shovel it in, nice and warm.

Uyen Luu’s Vietnamese Cooking Class

 Taylah and I had an amazing time in London last weekend thanks to a great day spent with Uyen Luu at her Vietnamese Cooking Class. Costed at £95, it is a fun day with stacks of recipes to try and more importantly, eat.
The class took more of a demonstration approach which meant we spent much of the time huddled around the stove paying close attention to what Uyen and her mum were saying. However, there were lots of opportunities to get stuck in and we rolled our own summer rolls and bò lá lởt and flipped our own sizzling crepes.
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The class had a great atmosphere and we got stuck into the true Vietnamese culture. We took our shoes off once we arrived and visited a nearby Vietnamese supermarket to discover the best brands. We also learnt about balancing sweet, sour, umami, bitter and hot flavours; something which is vital in Vietnamese food.
In total we discovered 11 dishes which included summer rolls, bò lá lởt, carrot and chicken salad with prawn crackers, chicken noodle soup, congee, baked seabass with spring onions and soy sauce, stir fried morning glory, aubergine in soy sauce, braised pork belly in coconut and cider, banana fritters and a blueberry ice cream dessert.
Not only that but we all left with some of the summer rolls, bò lá lởt and carrot and chicken salad that we had made.
Overall, I would really recommend this cooking class. It was an intimate style class, run by two ladies dedicated to sharing true Vietnamese cooking. We were welcomed into Uyen’s home which was ideal for the class and even greeted by two delightful, small (well fed) dogs. It was a really relaxed occasion which ended with a great feast and the opportunity to buy signed copies of Uyen’s recipe book.IMG_5149

Moules Marinère

As usual, the sun starts shining and beckoning me out to the garden as I set up a small revision den in the dining room. This year, however, I have forbidden myself from convincing myself that it is possible to revise in the garden, because, put simply, it never works. Usually, I end up closing my eyes, placing my book somewhere near my head (in the hope that the words will seep into my mind) and before I know it, afternoon over, a day wasted. What makes it worse is that it’s never really hot enough to get any form of tan, so what was the point in the first place?!


Anyway, I’ve gone off point slightly. My confinement to the dining room meant that I have been making up for hours staring at my laptop with some summery, tasty food. Mussels!! I found this recipe in ‘the Little Paris Kitchen’ by Rachel Khoo which features a selection of wonderful French dishes. The mussels were so quick and easy to make – the hardest part was giving them a scrub before cooking them! So, as instructed…


  1. Melt 1 tbsp of better in a pan on a medium heat. Add ½ chopped onion with 1 pinch of dried thyme and 1 bay leaf. Cook off the onions until they go clear ensuring the pan is not too hot (we don’t want them brown).



  1. Add 160ml of dry white wine. I used pinot grigio and they tasted like the real, French deal. Turn the heat up!


  1. Add the mussels (I used a 1kg bag – a few had to be discarded as they were cracked or opened – and this served two of us for a starter perfectly). Pop the lid on the pan and allow to steam for 3-4 minutes.


  1. After 3 minutes, check the majority are open. If so, turn the heat down and add 2 tbsp of crème fraiche. Stir in and sprinkle fresh parsley.  Once the wine and crème fraiche have formed a delicious sauce, serve with bread and a wedge of lemon. Slurp away.



Oriental Salmon & Broccoli Bake with Spinach Noodles

Oriental Salmon & Broccoli Bake with Spinach Noodles

Want a quick and easy meal packed full of flavour, with a bit of a kick? Well, fear not, I have it right here. This salmon and broccoli bake is so easy you will be surprised it tastes so good. Only taking 20 minutes to make, there’s no need to toil over the oven but pop it in, relax, eat. It might look like a lot of ingredients but it’s the salmon and noodle dressing so it takes no time at all to throw it all together.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 salmon fillets (skin on)
1/2 a head of broccoli (chopped and washed)
1/2 a lemon of juice, 1/2 a lemon cut into wedges
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp chopped red chillis (or chilli sauce)
1 tbsp groundnut oil (and a bit extra for the salmon)
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce
1 garlic clove (crushed)
125g spinach noodles


Start by putting together the salmon and broccoli bake. Place the salmon in a roasting tray, a little distance a part. Surround the salmon in the freshly washed broccoli. Then squeeze the juice of half a lemon over into the tray. With the remaining half of the lemon, cut it into wedges and dot them amongst the salmon and broccoli. Drizzle the bake with groundnut oil (or olive oil or sesame oil if you don’t have it) and pop it in the oven for 10 minutes at 180C.

Whilst that’s cooking, put together the sauce for the salmon. 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tsp of sesame seeds and 1 tbsp chopped chilli (or the chilli sauce) and combined. Drizzle it over the salmon after it’s cooked for the ten minutes and return to the oven to cook for a further 4 minutes.

Next up, the noodles. Get your multi-tasking skills out and do this whilst the salmon and broccoli bake is cooking away. Boil the spinach noodles as instructed on the packaging (usually around 3 mins). Whilst they’re cooking, throw together the dressing. 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp chilli (or sauce), 1 crushed clove of garlic, a splash of fish sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar and 1 tbsp groundnut oil (again, swap the oil if necessary). Mix it all up ready for when the noodles are finished. Once the noodles are boiled and ready to go, drain and put them back in the pan, add the dressing and put back on the heat. Keep stirring it for a few minutes to heat through.

Of course, everything is ready at the same time as you have timed it to perfection so pop it on a plate. Enjoy.

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