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December, 2013

  1. Luxurious Festive Cupcakes

    December 13, 2013 by Lally

    I was lacking in inspiration to get me in the festive mood and after being invited to a small last minute gathering and needing to bring something, I thought festive cupcakes would be a good idea. These cupcakes are a fun twist on the traditional British Christmas cake and make great little gifts. They are perfect for those who, like me, find the typical marzipan and icing too heavy and sweet but want to enjoy the fruity spicy taste of this seasonal cake.



    For this recipe I experimented with using mince pie ‘mincemeat’ filling with extra raisins to add a bit of luxury, but you can replace this with mixed dried fruit.


    My festive cupcakes had a great response from all with the usual ‘mmmmm’ sounds along with 2 separate joking comments regarding the possible calorie content. One comment being, after one bite: “well that’s about 1000 calories!”. But if you can’t indulge at this time of year, when can you?

    For 12 cupcakes:

    Cake mixture:

    125g butter

    100g brown sugar

    2 tsp finely grated orange rind

    2 eggs

    200g raisins

    300g mince pie filling

    60g chopped walnuts

    80ml fresh orange juice75g plain flour

    75g self-raising flour

    You can replace the raisins and mince pie filling with 500g dried mixed fruit and 1/4 tsp each of nutmeg and cinnamon.

    Put the oven on to 170˚C to preheat.

    1. Use an electric whisk to beat the butter, sugar and orange rind in a bowl until smooth
    2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one is added.
    3. Stir in the mince pie filling, raisins (or dried fruit), walnuts and orange juice.
    4. Sieve the 2 types of flour and mix in well.
    5. For even sized cakes, use a 50ml measuring spoon to put the mixture into paper cases placed in a cupcake tin.
    6. Bake for 20 minutes or until cupcakes are firm to touch. Leave in the tin to cool before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely


    Icing mixture:

    170g butter

    250g icing sugar

    2 tsp finely grated orange rind

    1 tbsp honey

    1 tbsp orange juice (or Cointreau for grown ups)

    1. Mix the butter, sieved icing sugar, orange rind and honey with an electric whisk.

    2. Add the orange juice (or Cointreau) to loosen up the mixture. It needs to be a thick consistency, but not too loose or solid. You can add more juice or icing sugar to make more thin or thick as required.

    3. Use a piping bag and medium size nozzle, swirl the icing onto the cooled cakes.

    4. Decorate with seasonal sprinkles (I used gold stars, red and white sprinkles, red and green M&Ms/Smarties and not forgetting edible/non toxic glitter!

    5. Enjoy and have a great festive season!



  2. Sushi Qui? Sushilicious!

    December 4, 2013 by Lally

    I am a big fan of sushi and recently, whilst visiting a friend in Marseille, I was lucky enough to have the best sushi I have ever tasted.

    My friend had mentioned this lovely little place to me on numerous occasions with the best fish you can eat in Marseille, straight from the boats of the local fishermen. So whilst in town it was top of my list of things to do.

    As we approached the restaurant, I realised that Sushi Qui was not the chic, fancy place I was expecting. The simple, intimate and homely feeling was so much more endearing than any fancy place could ever hope to achieve. Run by Christian Qui (find out more about him here), Sushi Qui was the most personal experience I have had in a restaurant, it was like being invited into Christian’s home.

    The tiny room, holding maximum 12 guests, has an open kitchen where you can see your dishes being prepared with love right before your eyes. There is no menu. Your are provided with beautiful dishes straight from the ocean that day.
    sushi qui

    We started with Miso soup, but not your ordinary Miso soup. This was made with fresh fish stock and flavoured with urchin. I had always wanted to try urchin after being absolutely petrified of the giant ones which shared the ocean with me when I snorkelled last year in Mexico. This one was tiny in comparison but delicious.

    Then came the fresh oysters, sushi style. Sprinkled with wasabi, spring onion and lemon juice. Such pretty things! I then ate the freshest sashimi possible. The tuna was literally gutted, cleaned and sliced in front of our eyes and then served with  stracciatella cheese and flying fish eggs. A serious taste sensation.


    sushi quisushi qui

    sushi qui sushi qui

    Throughout the meal, we were accompanied by music provided kindly by my friend who acted as DJ, selecting records from the personal collection on display. It really was like being invited into a friend’s for dinner.

    sushi qui


    Not only was the food great, but the company was too. Christian and I reminisced about music and about Leeds, where I grew up and where he studied landscape architecture. You can absolutely see the artistic past in Christian’s dishes. Each plate is prepared with such care and attention, not only for taste, but for look.

    I can tell you something for nothing: going back to regular ‘high street’ sushi was tough!