Food: Cinnabon recipe – Perfect Cinnamon Buns

I’m on the quest to make perfect cinnamon buns. The last recipe I made is great, but since trying a Cinnabon, the last time I was at Piccadilly Circus,  I’m determined to make my homemade ones more like them. There are two types of cinnamon bun – one originates in North Europe and is without icing, the second, more indulgent version, is American and is complete with cream cheese icing. Unfortunately, for my waistline, I prefer the American version.

I know I said recently that I am on a health drive, but we had some friends over for tea and I wanted to make an effort. Plus it gave me the perfect excuse to give cinnamon buns another go. Am I actually convincing anyone?! I promise I only had one and then it was back on the bandwagon the next day!

So…to the recipe. I googled ‘cinnabon recipe’ and because google never lets you down, it brought up a surprisingly large number of results. In the end, I adapted a recipe I found from All Recipes UK. Sainsbury’s kindly sent me a free sample of their cinnamon sugar so I used that in the filling.

makes 12

For the dough:
250ml warm milk
2 eggs
75g butter, melted
600g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
100g caster sugar
7g sachet of dried, quick action yeast.

For the filling:
100g Sainsbury’s taste the difference cinnamon sugar*
50g dark brown sugar
75g butter, softened

(you could always use just dark brown sugar (150g) and 2 tbsp ground cinnamon. Be brave with the cinnamon – the rolls need to be really cinnamony!)

For the icing:
50g cream cheese, softened
25g butter, softened
100g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl. Mix in the sugar, butter, salt and eggs. Add flour and mix well. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands lightly dusted with flour. After 5-10 minutes of kneading, place the dough back into the bowl and cover with lightly greased cling film.

I like to use an oiled hotel shower cap – it fits the bowl perfectly!

Allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour and a half until the dough has doubled in size. Knock down the dough, by punching it hard a few times.

2. Mix together the sugars and butter to make the filling.

3. Roll the dough into a 40x50cm rectangle. Spread the filling mixture over the dough with a knife.

4. Roll up the dough into a large sausage and use tooth floss to cut the dough into 12 even sized pieces. If you use the tooth floss like a cheese wire, you can get a nice flat edge to each roll. Otherwise, simply use a sharp knife.

Wrap the tooth floss around the dough, cross over and pull the ends tight to divide the dough

5. Place the buns into a lightly greased 23x23cm baking tin. Cover again and leave to rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Leave the rolls to double in size so that they push against each other in the tin

6. Bake the buns in the preheated oven until golden brown (18-20 minutes).

7. Meanwhile, beat together the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, vanilla and salt. Spread the icing on the warm rolls before serving.

Perfect cinnamon buns, I promise! Excuse the terrible icing.
This recipe really is the best cinnamon bun recipe I’ve ever used. I really recommend that you give it a go for an indulgent treat once in a while!

PS Because I’ve been feeling so guilty about making these buns, I must undo it (a tiny bit!) by telling you about these incredible oat cakes. Now usually I hate oat cakes (even with toppings) because I find them really dry. But these Nairn’s stem ginger oat biscuits are incredible and are only 43 calories per biscuit. I enjoyed eating them as much I enjoy eating a jammy dodger or a chocolate digestive! The heat from the ginger really comes through and they’re beautifully crunchy. Handily, the oat cakes are individually wrapped into packs of 5 so no worries about them going soft. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this will be a problem in this house as I ended up eating all 5 at once. Maybe not so good for the diet then, as they’re just far too delicious.


Life: Brick Lane Food Market

Martin and I went to Brick Lane yesterday. We’d seen London Coffee Festival being advertised and we were keen to go. Unfortunately everyone else in London seemed to have had the same idea, and being far more organised than the two of us, had already pre-bought their tickets. We decided that we didn’t want to spend the whole of our Sunday queuing on the off chance that they might release some more tickets, so we went for a wander around Brick Lane instead.

Brick Lane is such an interesting and exciting place to visit. It’s full of some of the best curry houses in London, and you can watch delcious bagels being made in front of your eyes. For once we bypassed the bagels in search of our lunch in the huge food market. There was so much on offer it was impossible to choose!

I started with a refreshing and creamy coconut Pina Colada.

How great do these carved pineapple look?
Because we’re greedy and like trying as many different flavours as possible, we chose two main dishes and shared them. We began at this Ethiopian vegan and vegetarian food stall. 

When there’s so much to choose from, I never have any idea what to pick. I usually end up panic picking and choosing completely the wrong thing! Instead, we let the lady working on the stall pick for us and this is what we ended up with:

This whole dish came to £5 which I thought was pretty good value considering the generous size! After our ultra healthy first lunch, we went on the hunt for something slightly different. There are so many places to choose from in Brick Lane: Chinese, cuban pork, Indian, Vietnamese, Italian, Thai, Caribbean, hog roast…

We decided on homemade pasta on a stall run by three very friendly Italians. They were hand making pasta infront of our eyes. After much debate we chose pumpkin and amaretti tortellini. You could also buy tagliatelle in some amazing flavours such as straw and hay and squid ink and lime. Next time we go back, we’ll definitely have to try those too. The tortellini was al dente and served with parmesan and olive oil. It was so rustic and tasty.

It’s not only food that can be found on Brick Lane. There are plenty of vintage clothes shops and record shops too. Rough trade record shop is a particular favourite. I also like looking at what the clothes stalls have on offer. These tops caught my eye immediately, and at £8 each, I thought they were quite a bargain. I snapped up one straightaway.

Here’s a selection of some of the other photos I took.

Which food markets would you recommend to visit? What sorts of foods do you like the most? 

Food: Jerk Chicken Recipe

jerk chicken

I couldn’t resist quickly adding this post as the weather’s been so nice lately. It’s a recipe for very spicy jerk chicken which makes a great alternative to sausages and burgers on the BBQ. It’s just as easy to cook in the oven though. For a really authentic flavour, you’ll need to use scotch bonnet chillies. But be warned; they’re incredibly spicy. Just remove the seeds or use fewer chilies if you prefer less spice.

Serves 4
8 chicken thighs or legs (bone in)
1 bunch of spring onions (or 1 white onion), chopped
2 tsp ground all spice
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped finely
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 scotch bonnet chillies
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper

1. It’s much easier to make the marinade if you have a food processor – simply whizz the ingredients together. Otherwise, you’ll just need to chop the ingredients up very finely and then combine them in a bowl. Check the flavour – add a little more sugar if it’s too sharp.
2. Slash the chicken deeply in a couple of places with a knife. Place the chicken into a sandwich bag, add the marinade. Allow to marinade for a minimum of 2 hours and a maximum of overnight.
2. Cook slowly over indirect heat on your BBQ for 30-40 minutes, until tender and blackened.  Otherwise, preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Place the chicken on a wire rack on an oven tray and cook for 1 hour, turning over the chicken half way. It’s nice for the chicken to be a nice dark brown colour when you remove it as it’ll taste more caramelised.

Cookbook Review: The World Food Cafe

The World Food Cafe Cookbook

I love cookbooks. Buying me a new cookbook is a failsafe birthday present. I read them like novels; from cover to cover. Inevitably, however, I only ever end up make 3-5 recipes from each book and then I remember them as old favourites and return to them again and again. I always seem to forget that all the other recipes exist. It’s probably because I’ve got distracted by another cookbook. Do you find that the same thing happens to you? For any specific recipe or method I need (e.g. how to make homemade buttermilk), I’ll just search for it on BBC Good Food rather than check out my encyclopaedic recipe books. Bad I know, but it’s just so much quicker.

The World Food Cafe cookbook finally arrived from Amazon. It cost £9.59 (link) and, reassuringly, it’s very highly rated. It’s really the diary of a married couple’s travels around much of the world. They don’t attempt to comprehensively list all the recipes from a particular region – they merely give their particular favourites. The book itself is complemented by Chris Caldicott’s beautiful photography of particular areas e.g. local tribes men in Africa. If I had to have one negative, it would be that I would prefer more photos of the dishes themselves. Most of the recipes are unfamiliar to me and I would appreciate a photo of the end dish so I know what I’m aiming for.
I really like how the cookbook is written. It’s more than just a cookbook. It’s full of funny little anecdotes like the time they accidentally ate brain which they thought was in fact brie. It’s actually really personal which makes a refreshing change from the generic cookbooks churned out continually by celebrity chefs.

The ingredients can sometimes appear a little daunting. But after a quick flick through the recipes, you soon realise that it’s the same (easy to obtain) spices being used repeatedly. It’s not the kind of the cookbook which sends you on a huge mission to hunt down something ridiculously hard to get hold of and expensive. The recipes themselves are fairly easy to cook, just a little vegetable preparation here and there. It should be noted that the World Food Cafe cookbook is a vegetarian cookbook.  Throughout the book it gives the fish or meat alternatives if you prefer. The book isn’t trying to force the reader to be vegetarian or make you feel bad about eating meat, it’s more that the recipes just happen to be vegetarian. The World Food Cafe is really just demonstrating that meat eaters aren’t necessarily missing out if they don’t have meat as the centre point of their meal. Personally, I think it’s a great cookbook. The recipes I’ve tried so far have worked out well and are very tasty. I really enjoyed finding out about new flavour combinations too.

One of my particular favourites is Zanzibar Beans in Coconut Sauce. The coconut milk conveys a lovely, sweet creamy flavour and the sweet potato is a lovely robust vegetable to take the place of chicken or beef.

Serves 4-6

6 tbsp oil
450g sweet potato, cut into 2cm dice
1 onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
thumb sized piece of root ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves
4 cardamom pods, seeds removed and case discarded

2 tsp ground turmeric
3 green chillies, roughly chopped (alter this depending on your personal preference)
handful of fresh coriander, chopped
400ml coconut milk
450g black eyed peas, cooked
salt and pepper
1. Begin by heating half the oil in a frying pan and sauteeing the sweet potatoes for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2. In the same pan, add the rest of the oil and fry the onion, garlic and ginger for 4 minutes.
3. Add the spices, chillies and coriander and cook for a further 3 minutes.

4. Stir in the coconut milk, sweet potato and black eyed peas. Simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender. Season with salt and pepper. 
Serve with brown rice and some extra freshly chopped coriander.

Beauty: Coconut Oil

As part of my healthy eating plan, I decided to buy a bottle of coconut oil. To be honest, before I read about it on the keepinghealthygettingstylish blog, I didn’t even know that this product existed. Having looked in the oil section of the supermarket, I couldn’t spot coconut oil anywhere. Instead, I spotted a bottle in the cosmetics aisle. I was a little dubious about eating it because of its location. But having researched it fully online, I see that it is perfectly safe to consume. However, the first problem I am faced with is how on earth I get it out of its bottle?! Coconut oil is solid at room temperature. I’ve only managed to get it out of the neck of the bottle by using the end of a spoon. What will I do when I reach the end of the bottle? Am I going to have to soak the bottle in hot water every time I want to use it?

After all the faff with accessing the stuff, I want to know what all the fuss is about. The Internet is full of hugely detailed scientific explantations, but I’m going to list the uses which actually mean something to me.

– high smoke point – it is essential that you use an oil with a high smoke point for frying otherwise your pan with emit horrible smoky fumes. Coconut oil is perfect for stir fries and makes a much healthier, dairy free alternative to butter.

– helps lower levels of ‘bad cholesterol’. There are two types of cholesterol: High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) which is ‘good’ and Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) which is ‘bad’. High levels of LDL cause a narrowing of arteries and therefore contribute to strokes and heart disease. Coconut oil contains high levels of HDLs which act to decrease the amount of LDL in the body by transporting it to the liver where it can be removed.

– aids digestion by helping to prevent constipation

I’ve only used coconut oil to fry with so far, but I’m hoping to use it as a replacement in recipes which require generic vegetable oil such as in muffins. Coconut oil is completely odourless and tasteless so it shouldn’t alter the flavour of my favourite recipes too much.

To be honest with you, I’ve been using coconut oil far more for its cosmetic properties. It can be used as a non-scented facial oil (my skin is so soft and non-greasy after it’s applied), and it also makes a fantastic eye make up remover. Simply apply a dab to a cotton wool pad and rub the makeup gently away. There really isn’t anything that coconut oil can’t do; apparently it’s also great after sun (which I will more than likely need next week in Egypt!). One property I’m particularly interested in is its supposed ability to diminish scars. I had my appendix out 7 years ago, and I’m going to rub coconut oil on the scar. I know it’s hugely unlikely to do anything to such an old scar, but it can’t do any harm! In fact, my obsession with coconut oil is so ridiculous that Martin is getting hugely fed up of me pointing out blemishes and offering to put coconut oil on them as I’m convinced it will help!

Here are just a few other uses:

– mixed with sugar – a fantastic body scrub
– massage oil
– lip balm
– nappy cream
– low factor sun screen (SPF 4)
– hair conditioner

To be honest, I really need to put more effort into exploring coconut oil’s culinary uses rather than its skin benefits. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Finally, coconut oil is cheap. I got a bottle for just £1.30 at ASDA (link)

What do you use coconut oil for? Do you have any favourite recipes you like to use it in?

coconut oil

PS Since I wrote this post, I’ve melted down by coconut oil and transfered it to an empty cream pot. It’s much easier to use now!

Food: Dinner Party

We were having two of our good friends over for dinner, Andy and Fi, over the weekend. This meant that I had to slightly relax the ultra healthy food that I’ve been cooking up recently. I’m sure they would have appreciated it all the same, but dinner parties are supposed to be relatively decadent. As the weather has been so lovely the last couple of days, finally, I wanted to make a more summery dish. I was initially going to make roast chicken but I decided to use the chicken instead to make Martin’s favourite dish, chicken and saffron rice. I’d cooked up a large quinoa salad at lunch time, so I added some of that as a side and also a quick carrot and orange salad that I had rustled up. 

For dessert I scanned BBC Good Food for some ideas. BBC Good Food is one of the best food websites around. The number of user reviews means that you’re pretty much guaranteed that the recipe will work, it’s is been highly rated. I decided to make a reduced fat lemon tart. I’m usually not keen on reduced fat desserts because you can tell that they’re the diet version due to lack of flavour or an unusual texture compared with the full fat version. However, because this particular recipe had 38 five star reviews, I thought I’d give it a go, and, with just over 180 calories per portion, how can you go wrong?

I had a bit of a disaster initially, as I stupidly didn’t measure the size of my tin, so I didn’t make enough pastry. I tried, in vain, to roll it out between two pieces of cling film to make it thinner. But no, the pastry wasn’t having any of it and I ended up making a second, larger batch. This time it worked perfectly. However, on blind baking, I sampled a little excess pastry and realised I’d forgotten to add icing sugar. Doh. I was not happy! Having already made a previous attempt, I gave up at this point and just carried on with recipe. Luckily I’d made my pastry nice and thin, and the highly lemony filling more than disguised this error. The end result was a beautifully crisp pastry tart with a soft, moreish, oh so lemony, filling.

Chicken and Saffron Rice

It’s hard to describe what this dish is like as it involves such an unusual combination of flavours such as paprika, golden syrup, saffron, tomato ketchup, risotto rice and chicken. But honestly, please take my word for it that it’s delicious and give it a go! It’s effectively a chicken and rice bake. 

chicken and saffron rice

Serves 4 

2 chicken breasts, cut into bitesized piece
1 carrot, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic
1 large pinch saffron
200g risotto rice
650ml chicken/vegetable stock (a stock cube is fine)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds
20 cherry tomatoes
5 juniper berries
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp golden syrup
salt and pepper
olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Begin by marinading your chicken pieces in the tomato ketchup, golden syrup, caraway seeds, juniper berries and paprika, salt and pepper. Leave for 30 minutes.
3. Place the chicken in a large oven proof dish, cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, sweat the grated carrot, tomatoes and onion in a little olive oil for 10 minutes until softened.
4. Add the carrot, tomatoes and onion to the chicken, cover and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.
5. Finally, add the risotto rice, bay leaf, garlic, stock and saffron to the dish and cook, uncovered, for forty minutes. Check the dish every 10 minutes or so and give it a stir. Make sure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom of the dish. If it’s looking too dry, add a splash of water, although the end result should be quite dry (see my picture). It’s done when the rice is just cooked.

Quinoa salad 

Serves 4
1 cup quinoa
1 carrot
1 courgette
1 broccoli head
3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1/2 tin of cooked black eyed peas
salt and pepper
olive oil
1/2 lemon

1. Cook your quinoa according to these instructions. 
2. Place the broccoli into a large pan of boiling water and allow to boil for 2 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl of cold water to stop any further cooking. Drain again.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a griddle/frying pan on a low heat. Add the slices of garlic and sautee gently for 5 minutes. Increase the heat and add the broccoli florets, stir frying for a couple more minutes. Leave aside to cool slightly before slicing into manageable bite sizes pieces.
3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Slice your carrots and courgette lengthways, place on an oven proof tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake and check occasionally that they’re not burning and after half an hour, remove from the oven. 
4. When the quinoa has cooked, drain and leave to cool.
5. Finally assemble the dish, by mixing together the broccoli, carrot, courgette, black eyed peas (drained) and mint. Dress with a little olive oil and the juice of 1/2 lemon. 

Carrot and Orange Salad

3 carrots
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp white wine vinegar 
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt and peper

1. Grate the carrots and place in a large bowl.
2. Dress with the orange juice, white wine vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle on the mint and season with salt and pepper. 

Lemon Tart

I’m definitely not great at making my food look beautiful. This tart tasted much better than it looked, honestly! I am trying to improve my presentation, but it takes patience, which is something I need to have lots more of. I tried to save it by making some chocolate dipped strawberries, I’m not sure if it worked…

Serves 10

For the pastry:
50g butter, cut into chunks (fridge cold)
140g plain flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
1 medium egg yolk

For the filling:
3 medium eggs, plus 2 medium egg white
140g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest (about 4 lemons)
200ml half-fat creme fraiche

You will need a 23x2cm flan tin (loose bottomed)

1. Begin by making the pastry.
2. Rub the butter into the pastry in a large bowl until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs (or use a food processor). Add the icing sugar and stir to combine.
3. Make a well and add the egg and rapeseed oil, plus a couple of tbsp of cold water. Use a round edged knife to bring the dough together into a bowl.
4. Roll out the dough until it’s around 5mm thick. To prevent adding extra flour to your pastry, roll it out between two pieces of cling film. 
5. Line your pastry tin, leaving the excess pastry hanging over the sides. Prick the base all over with a fork.
6. Place the lined tin into the fridge for half an hour to allow the pastry to chill. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius.
7. Line the pastry with baking parchment and add baking beans (I didn’t have any so I used loose change; works just as well as the metal conducts heat).
8. Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and trim the excess pastry using a knife. (Pastry shrinks in the oven, so by keeping the excess pastry hanging over the sides of the tin and trimming at this point, your end result will completely fill the tin).
9. Place the trimmed case back into the oven for another 10 minutes, then take out the baking beans and parchment and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes until the base is cooked and a golden colour. 
10. Now make the filling. Place the whole eggs and egg whites in a bowl and mix together throughly with a wooden spoon. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, then gradually beat in the eggs. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
11. Beat the creme fraiche in a medium bowl until smooth, then slowly stir in the lemon mix until well blended. Transfer to a jug, then carefully pour two thirds into the warm pastry case. Place in the oven and then top up with the remaining third. This helps prevent spillage occurring.
12. Reduce the heat to 150 degrees celsius and bake for 25 minutes until barely set with a slight wobble in the middle. Cool for about an hour and then serve with a light dusting of icing sugar.

Food: granola bars

Further to the success of my fruit nuggets, I thought I’d have a go at making some more portable energy foods. I decided upon granola bars. I love granola. It’s full of oats, fruit and honey. I usually eat shop bought granola with yoghurt and a little honey as a tasty breakfast alternative.

The granola bars below are great for breakfast on the go, and for providing a long term energy fix during the day. Ok, they’re not super healthy owing to the inclusion of butter and sugar. However, the granola bars’ butter and sugar content compares very favourably with most other cakes/biscuits. Plus you have the added benefit of slow burn oats and healthy dried fruits. The dried fruits add a natural sweetness to the bars so less sugar is needed.

The recipe below makes deliciously chewy granola bars. Feel free to use any combination of dried fruits, nuts and seeds – the end result will be absolutely delicious, I promise! The recipe below is just a guide so you use the correct quantities.

Granola bars

granola bars

Serves 14

200g porridge oats
100g butter
100g dried figs/dates/apricots
50g sesame seeds
50g chopped almonds
50ml runny honey
100g pumpkin or sunflower seeds
100g light brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius. Place the nuts, seeds and oats on an ovenproof tray and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.

toasted oats, seeds and nuts

2. Chop the fruit up finely.

chopped figs, apricots and dates

3. Melt the butter, sugar and honey together gently in a saucepan.

sugar, honey and butter being melted together

4. Combine the two sets of ingredients together in a large bowl, add the fruit and stir.
5. Line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper and press the granola mixture into it. Level out and press down to ensure the granola stick together.

granola bars – pre-bake

6. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

granola bars – post-bake

7. Allow the granola to cool in the tin before slicing into bars (this is the trick to preventing them from falling apart when they’re sliced.)

Note: To make your own granola, follow steps 1-4. Then place on an oven proof tray (no need to press the mixture down to form bars) and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool fully before storing in an airtight jar for up to a month.

granola bars