Winter spiced tea recipe

Spiced tea was a recent discover for me, and to be honest, at first I wasn’t sure. Now however I am a full on convert. It’s another of those little comforters for the dark cold months we are about to embrace.

So where did this come form? Well for me, it was an innocuous little packet of tea we bought in Whittards. It was cold and dark and Kate and I were trampling along the high street near to christmas. I was becoming more and more annoyed at the endless christmas themed latte tasters that the coffee shops were offering as we passed. Kate was having a blast but at that time I hadn’t developed a love for coffee, so felt left out.

Luckily we passed Whittards and that mean I could treat myself to some nice tea to take home. After all the pumpkin spiced lattes, gingerbread lattes and Black Forest mochas Kate was sampling, the idea of a winter spiced tea grabbed me and I grabbed a bag of it. Off home we went.

This wasn’t the traditional Chai Masala or Chai latte, it was much more subtle and for me, much more winter (think cards with robins and snow). I loved it, subsequently so did my friend Hayley who loves tea as much as me and so we usually end up sharing new found delights.

So… to jump to the end of this rather long and meandering tale… this year I am making my own and it’s not as hard as you think. I make my own Lady Grey (and Hayley approves) so I jumped right in.

The dominant flavour (and aroma) for this tea is cloves. I know, shocker, I was absolutely assuming cinnamon given the associations with winter, but nope. It’s actually cloves. The secondary aroma and flavour is orange peel.

To make the tea

Ok we are going to make this as one mug of tea. You will need:

  • Black tea (tea bag or loose leaf but enough for one mug). Assam works great but any black tea will do the job. Avoid already flavoured or scented teas like Early Grey though)
  • An orange or satsuma to get that citrus peel. You just need a couple of bits of peel.
  • 4 cloves (whole). This sounds like a lot, but we are using them whole and not grinding them so they actually impart way more aroma than flavour.

How to

Brew your mug of tea to your liking. I drink my tea black so I don’t like it too strong. Then simply steep your cloves and orange peel in your mug of tea. Make sure you have a plan for how to get them out again. I have a little one mug tea pot with a filter basket that I use.

That’s it. Really. It’s so easy, but such a lovely, makes you smile cuppa.

Iced coffee – 3 ways, latte, and freddo

I have been getting into iced coffee this summer in a big way thanks to my teammate Iraklis who introduced me to Freddo Espresso. I’m not a huge fan of those sweet high st. coffee chain iced coffees so when he introduced me to the strong, black greek version I was hooked.

So I thought I’d share my iced coffee secrets with you guys since we’re about to get a warm snap and you might fancy one.

So iced coffee, 3 ways. Let’s start with the milky, sweet iced latte.

Iced Latte

Think of those creamy, sweet iced coffees you get from high st. coffee shops like Starbucks. This is my super easy version, you need

  • 600ml cold coffee,
  • a tin of condensed milk

So cold coffee, you can either brew coffee overnight using cold water or make regular coffee and then let it cool and refrigerate. Pick which method is easiest for you, I usually just chill a normal batch of coffee for this.

Now since you are using condensed milk, which you can’t really use in small amounts easily as you buy by the tin, I make a large batch of these coffees and keep them in the fridge for when Kate needs a nice, cold, latte hit. I get about 5 or 6 small iced coffees from this batch.

So what’s the trick… it’s really complicated, I’m not sure you’d manage…. add condensed milk to coffee, stir lots and lots to mix it up, serve over ice.

Thick, creamy, sweet, mmmmmmm

Freddo Espresso

Next is my favourite iced coffee, Freddo Espresso. It is very simple, just espresso over ice, but… the espresso is whipped to make it really thick and creamy. My teammate at work, Iraklis, introduced me to these. He is Greek and this is his favourite Greek iced coffee. So for this one, you need a fancy gizmo, a drinks mixer.

I have heard other folk saying you can do this using your stick blender, but Iraklis has assured me it just isn’t the same, and I trust him, so I got one of these widgets.

It is basically a really high powered whisk that lets you whisk the coffee up really quickly.

So basically to make a Freddo Espresso you just need

  • espresso

Yup that simple, obviously to do the whole iced coffee thing you need ice, but generally I’m assuming you have that one coffered.

So it goes like this. Put your espresso into a large cup and add one ice cube just to cool it down. Then whisk. It will take a couple of minutes to get it all properly whisked and creamy but you’ll be amazed. Then pour it over ice in a glass and enjoy.

The coffee separates out like a proper espresso with the dark coffee and light crema but keeps that lovely luxurious taste. A word of warning though, even though this is just an espresso, it packs a punch. I don’t know if it’s because the coffee is cold, but it tasted like it’s a way more powerful espresso than normal.

Now you have a choice, you can serve this as is, but you can also tweak it. Namely, the Greeks serve this as either plain or sweet. So you can choose to sweeten to your taste. Apparently, most folks drink it as medium sweet, which is a big spoon of sugar in the espresso, mixed to dissolve before you whisk.

Now I mentioned that you can have this 3 ways, and we already mentioned, as it comes or sweetened. The third is with milk.

Freddo Cappuccino

The Freddo Cappuccino is simply the Freddo Espresso but with a small amount of cold, whipped milk added. Just like a regular cappuccino.

So again, whip your espresso and pour over ice. Then whip a small amount of milk using your widget and pour this on top of your espresso. It gives you a softer, less punch you in the face coffee hit 🙂

So there you go, iced coffee three ways.

Carrot salad with ginger and lemon dressing

It’s been mad hot this last few weeks and the idea of being in a hot kitchen cooking or even sitting eating hot food might not be so appealing, but then again not everyone gets excited at the idea of salad for lunch so we thought we’d share one of our favourite and quick to make salads so you guys can add it to your arsenal. It’s great on it’s own but goes amazingly with BBQ as well, a great summer dish.

Also a handy way of using up the carrots that are looking amazing in the raised beds just now. I’ll add a video at the bottom if you want an update on how the beds are looking.

So this all starts with the dressing.

  • 80ml of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 medium garlic clove, mince as fine as you can or grate finely
  • 1 inch piece of ginger grated finely
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Pinch of salt

You want to add everything to a jug and mix it up well, it works great to put it all in an old jam jar and shake the hell out of it. I find that you get enough dressing for two huge salads from this recipe.

Now a tip I have learned. I love garlic and ginger, so I’ve made this a couple of times and gone overboard on the garlic and ginger. Try to resist. Adding too much of these neutralises the lemony flavour and actually makes the dressing taste bland. I know, makes no sense, adding more garlic and ginger should not make something taste bland, but you’ll have to trust me on this one. You want the fresh, lemony zing.

Ok so once you have your dressing shaken up and ready to go, the carrots.

All you need for a big bowl of this salad is

  • 2 large carrots
  • handful of chopped parsley

We are going to make the carrots into long noodles, to do this we’ve got two options in our kitchen, we have a hand peeler with a Julienne blade which will give you long thin slices of carrot. This is quick, easy to use and easy to clean.

Julienne peeler

Or we also have one of those vegetable spiraliser machines. This works awesome as it gives you really long, super thin noodles and it uses up the whole carrot. But not so easy to clean.

Spiraliser machine

So you want to turn the two carrots into noodles using your preferred method and add them to your favourite salad bowl, then simple pour about half the dressing over them and toss to coat.

We’ve found that the longer you leave this salad the zingier the dressing gets, so feel free to make it up a wee bit in advance of needing it and when you are ready to serve, toss through some of your chopped parsley and basically… nom!

We take huge bowls of carrot salad to BBQS with friends

Take a walk around the garden with me

Bakewell tart – it’s tasty, easy and nothing beats homemade

You guys know how much I love a slice of Bakewell tart with a cup of tea. I’ve even shared my homage in the bakewell muffin, but it occurred to me this week that I’ve never actually shared my Bakewell tart recipe with you guys. Shocking oversight, so since I fancied a wee slice today, here goes.

Firstly, do not worry, it is actually really easy. Even the pastry and here’s why.

There is no shame in using a food processor. Quick and easy. I know lots of people think it’s cheating, Kate included, but you need cold hands, like really cold to be able to work pastry and some of us just run warm. So you know what, that’s just life and if there is a tool that can help, then why is it a bad thing? After all, the folk who say “just keep running your hands under the cold tap” – notice they are saying the cold tap and not just keep running down to the local stream?

So if you struggle with traditional methods then stay tuned cause I’m gonna use a stand mixer too! To hell with it!

So you will need:

Ingredients for the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • Pinch of slat
  • 100g unsalted butter, Straight form the fridge and diced into little cubes about the size of a pea
  • 1 beaten, free-range egg
  • 1 tbsp milk (if you need it)

Ingredients for the filling

  • 150g unsalted butter, at room temperature this time
  • 150g sugar
  • 3 beaten, free-range eggs, at room temperature again
  • 150g ground almonds
  • Zest of an unwaxed lemon
  • Roughly 4 tbsp seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Roughly 2 tbsp flaked almonds

The pastry is the most time consuming task and we do that first. I’ll give you both ways of doing this, the traditional and the quick.

Traditional method for making pastry

In a big, cold bowl, sift in the flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Then using the very tips of your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it forms fine bread crumbs. This takes a while, but try not to touch the mixture too much, just your finger tips as you don’t want the butter to melt.

Now add the beaten eggs and milk and gently start to squeeze it together to form a firm dough, again try not to handle it too much. Be quick as you can.

Now wrap that ball of dough in cling film and chill it in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Quick method for making pastry

Sift your flour, salt and icing sugar into the bowl of your food processor (with the large blade attached), add the diced butter and pulse until you get breadcrumbs. Add you beaten egg and milk and then pulse another few times to bring it together.

Tip the now very, very, slightly, sticky breadcrumbs onto the worktop and bring together into a ball of dough, You don’t kneed, just bring it together.

Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Once chilled for at least 30 minutes (this will make it easier to roll), get your dough out and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. You want the thickness of a pound coin.

Now grease the hell out of a loose-bottomed baking tin, about 23cm in size. Line the tin with the pastry, but try not to stretch it when tucking it into the edges, let it fall naturally if you can and push down from the top of the pastry if needed.

You want to trim the excess, but not right down to the edge as pastry always shrinks a little bit. It’s better to properly trim at the end, so leave a little wiggle room here, maybe a cm and prick all over the bottom with a fork. This will help to stop it rising in the over.

Chill for 30 minutes again. This helps to stop it shrinking too much.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C with a baking sheet in there.

Cooking your pastry

It’s getting exciting now, we are almost there. Take the pastry out the fridge and line the pastry with scrunched up baking paper (scrunching it up makes it easier to fit to the pastry as it’s more pliable) and fill this with baking beans or rice. This is going to weight everything down and help to stop the pastry rising.

Now put this on the pre-heated baking sheet and bake (this is called blind baking) for 15 minutes. Then remove the beans/rice and paper and cook for another 5 minutes until pale golden and dry on top.

Filling (my favourite bit)

And now I bring in my stand mixer (my favourite kitchen appliance).

By hand

Put your butter and sugar in a big bowl and beat it together with a wooden spoon until pale and fluffy. Be prepared this takes ages and hurts your arm. Once it’s really pale and fluffy, beat in the eggs a little bit at a time, then fold in the lemon zest.

With a stand mixer

Put your butter and sugar in the bowl of your mixer and beat it until pale and fluffy, takes about 5 minutes. Once it’s really pale and fluffy, beat in ground almonds and then the eggs a little bit at a time, then fold in the lemon zest.

Now for the jam, spread it evenly across the base of the pastry. I like a nice thick layer, it goes all gorgeous once it’s baked.

Then spoon over the filling mixture, levelling the surface with the back of the spoon or palate knife when you are done.

Lastly scatter over the flaked almonds and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden, well risen and just set in the centre. A skewer should come out clean.

Now the hardest part, leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then lift onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Then nom with a mug of earl grey and some clotted cream.

A wee alternative

You don’t have to always make this as a tart to slice. What about mini, individual tarts, or tiny bite sized mouthfuls or even a tray bake.

Hot cross buns: traditions and silliness (oh and a recipe)

Kate is a big fan of hot cross buns, I, to be honest, don’t really see what’s so fantastic about them. But hey ho, that doesn’t mean I can’t experiment with making some so Kate can have a treat.

Just in case you live somewhere in the world where hot cross buns haven’t already appeared on supermarket shelves, in bakeries and in adverts, basically they are a spiced bun with dried fruit and citrus which get eaten traditionally around spring time in the UK. They have a cross marked on top which I suppose is why they get associated with easter.

As with most traditional foods, there is no definite evidence of where they originated or when, but tradition says that these originated with a monk in St Albans in the 14th century. The spices and cross were said to be representative of Jesus being crucified and his body embalmed.

Folklore in the UK include:

  • buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or grow mouldy during the subsequent year,
  • if someone is ill a piece of hot cross bun will help them recover,
  • hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck, and
  • If hung in the kitchen, they will protect against fires and make sure that all your bread turn out perfect. You need to replace the hanging bun each year though.

Regardless of how true any of this is, let’s make some buns.


for the buns

  • 250ml milk
  • 50g butter
  • 500g bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 80g sugar
  • Tbsp fast-action yeast
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 75g dried fruit (raisons and sultanas)
  • 50g mixed peel
  • zest 1 orange
  • juice of said orange
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom

For the cross (or other decoration)

  • 75g plain flour
  • about 6 tbsp water

For the glaze

  • 3 tbsp marmalade

Let’s bake

Ok first thing, warm your milk. Keep an eye on this as if it boils over, it’s a nightmare to clean up. Once it is warm to the touch, take it off the heat and add the butter to melt into it. Give it a wee stir.

Next, add your dry ingredients to a bowl or your mixer bowl, (flour, salt, sugar and yeast). Add your beaten egg, and the milk / butter mixture. Give this a good mix to bring it together and knead, either by hand or with the dough hook for about 5 mins until it is smooth and elastic. It is meant to be a slightly sticky dough, so don’t worry. It will come together, just be patient. Add the dried fruit, peel, zest and spices to the dough and give it a good knead to incorporate. Put it into an oiled bowl, cover it and put it aside to rise for about an hour. Until it has doubled in size.

Once it’s risen, punch it back by giving it another short knead and then cover and leave it aside again. Once it’s doubled in size… do it again, yep knead it and then cover it and put it aside to rise again.

So that’s two rises (is that the right word)?

Once the dough has risen for the second time, divide the dough into even pieces, I usually get about 14 or 15. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and arrange the buns on a big baking tray or two if you don’t have one big enough. Leave enough space for the balls to expand, but I like the whole thing of them touching when they are baked so you have to tear them apart (like bread rolls) so I don’t give them masses of space, about a cm.

Cover them with a tea towel or put them in a proving bag if you have one and leave them to double in size again. I know, I know, but it’s worth it, trust me, they will be soooo scrumptious. It will probably be between half and hour and an hour. Meanwhile you can preheat your oven to 220C/200C fan.

Once they are risen, for the decoration on top, be it a cross, a smiley face etc, mix 75g plain flour with about 6 tbsp water to make a paste. You want it to be thick enough so that it doesn’t fall out of the piping bag. Add the water 1 tbsp at a time so that you don’t add too much if it isn’t needed.

Then put that into a piping bag and pipe your design onto each bun. A cross is easiest as you can do this in big lines across the whole batch but feel free to get creative. I went with some hearts for Kate… awwwww!

Bake for 20 mins on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.

For the glaze

Gently heat 3 tbsp marmalade to melt it, then while it’s still warm, brush it over the top of the buns and leave to cool.

Warning this makes them really sticky! REALLY sticky!

Now go eat. Kate prefers them cut in half and toasted with butter and marmalade spread on each half, but they also make fantastic french toast 🙂

Banana bread with a peanut butter twist

I’m going to call banana bread a useful cake. Yup, useful cause you know how sometimes you end up with random left over bananas that look less than attractive? You know, the ones that sit lonely in the fruit bowl at the end of the week all brown and yucky? Well this recipe is a great way to use them up. So useful, see?

I do enjoy a slice of banana bread with a cuppa, but Kate had a genius idea, yesterday, to take it to the next level. Peanut butter drizzle.

I have recently developed a love of peanut butter and one of my favourite uses is peanut butter and banana on toast. So this sounded fantastic.

So here is the recipe, and of course you can skip the peanut butter drizzle if you want, the cake is gorgeous on its own.


For one loaf of banana bread

  • 100g soft butter
  • 175g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 mashed bananas (preferably super ripe)
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Splash of milk
  • 100g chocolate chips (added extra you can leave these out if you want)

For the drizzle topping

  • 125g icing sugar
  • 15ml water
  • 1 tps peanut butter or peanut butter powder(made separately following instructions)

Let’s get baking

This has to be one of the easiest cake recipes ever, you need zero skill or prior knowledge of baking for this one, so perfect for a wet, miserable Saturday when you can’t get out into the garden and need to be entertained.

Preheat the oven to 180C or 160C for fan. Grease a loaf tin(or line with grease proof paper) and let’s go.

Chuck all your loaf ingredients into the mixer or mixing bowl. I have a stand mixer which does make life so much easier (I do a lot of bread doughs which are very sticky), but this will mix up fine in a big bowl. I added chocolate chips to mine because I had some in the baking cupboard but these are absolutely not essential. I just thought it would work with the whole peanut butter and banana vibe.

Mix this up for about 2 minutes until you have a batter. It will be quite thick but still pourable.

Pour it into your loaf tin and level it off.

Whack it in the oven for an hour, you can check it’s ready by sticking a skewer into the middle and it should come out clean. Leave it in the tin for 5 mins, just to settle, then take it out and leave it on a wire rack to cool.

Now this is gorgeous as it is, so you don’t have to add any kind of icing etc, we were just having some fun.

So for the drizzle, mix your icing sugar and water into a thick paste. If it seems too runny add more icing sugar, if it’s too thick, add more water (a tiny bit). You want this to be runny but thick if that makes any sense. Basically you want it to run down the sides a little.

Then add your peanut butter and give it a really good mix. If you are using peanut butter powder, make this up according to the instructions first and then add it.

Once you have a nice thick but drizzly icing, just drizzle over your loaf. Warning, this will get messy!! And then pop your loaf in the fridge to help the drizzle set.

Serve as big, thick slices. mmmmmmmmmmm

If this deliciousness has you fancying having a go at making your own peanut butter, it’s dead easy.

Reusable waxed canvas lunch sack

I’ve been enjoying a bit of a joint crafty project with my sister, Leigh over the last couple of weeks and it’s finally finished so we can share it with you guys.

You know I have a million lunch boxes, we’ve discussed this little issue of mine, but sometimes even with my drawer full of lunch boxes, I need something different. Usually, it’s because I have lots of little things and they end up all over my bag and let’s be honest there is nothing worse than brusied apples and mashed banana at the bottom of your rucksack at 1pm in a warm office, am I right?

So when I saw a waxed canvas lunch sack on pinterest I thought – Yep I need one of those. I won’t lie, part of it was how cute and fabby and very Americana it was (for our American readers, the whole brown paper lunch bag thing doesn’t happen here, to us it’s VERY American). Now that’s fine, but these things were selling for about £30 each, for a lunch sack??? So I emailed my sister Leigh who can sew (and has no idea how I worship the ground she walks on for this skill) and asked if she could knock me up a lunch sack.

She was a bit hesitant about the whole waxing thing, so we split the project, Leigh made the bags and I waxed them.

So… wanna see how Leigh made the bags? Pop over to her blog

and hear her story. Go on, you can come back and read about how to wax them when you are done.

How to wax your canvas bag to make it water resistant / stain resistant/mashed banana resistant

If you have a quick search online there are a million blogs and video of how to do this, so don’t worry. However I will save you all that searching and say, it’s so simple. You just need a wee bit of patience.

So, I had a look at the wax options and most folk were choosing to melt a mix of parafin wax and bees wax and paint this on. It gives you a nice thick coat which makes the bags nice and stiff.

I wasn’t sure about adding this much of a coat all at once so opted to go with thinner layers to build it up to the thickness I wanted. It turned out, once layer was all I needed.

I also bought room temperature soft wax (meant for re-waxing jackets) and rubbed that into the sacks with a cloth.

Reducing the need to boil wax. It was really simple to do but you need to make sure you:

  • work it in well
  • really make sure you get right into the seams

  • and make sure you don’t forget places, like underneath folds.

Once you are certain you have covered every inch of the outside of the bag, you need to make sure the wax gets into all the gaps in the weave of the fabric. This is what makes it water/leaky container resistant. To do this, tie it up in an old pillow case and chuck it in your dryer for 45 minutes.

Yup in the dryer. The reason you tie it up in a pillow case is to protect your dryer as you are doing this to melt that wax and really let it soak in.

Now I decided one coat was enough for me, but if you aren’t happy after you’ve given it the drier treatment, you could do another coat but once you are happy, let it sit in a cool room over night to settle and you have yourself one water resistant lunch bag.

Naughty elf on the cocktail shelf – festive greetings from Kate & Eli

Espresso martini for one

  • Add ice to a cocktail shaker
  • add 2 shots of vodka
  • add 1 shot of coffee liqueur
  • add a splash of sugar syrup
  • add an espresso shot
  • shake

Festive table settings – christmas tree napkin folding

A while back we shared a post about the fun we have setting our dining table, we shared a video on how to fold a napkin into an elf shoe…

Well, how about a Christmas tree?

A wee tipple to add a glow to your christmas festivities – EGGNOG

Now eggnog isn’t something traditional to us, although we did grow up with something similar called a “snowball” using advocat, which is made from brandy, eggs and sugar, so pretty much eggnog.

We’ve spent a bit of time researching eggnog and recipes because we were worried about getting things wrong and offending one of our lovely readers who holds this as a dear part of their Christmas traditions, but in doing that we found out that there are as many variations on this recipe and its apparent traditions, as there are friends in our life who drink it. So instead, we are sharing the recipe we think is the best, once we’ve made our tiny tweaks of course.

I should point out, we are using raw egg in this recipe, I know some people will be nervous about using raw egg in a recipe (especially if you are pregnant or maybe in a position to be susceptible to infection etc) so we just wanted to point this out. I’ll let you guys make decisions for your self on whether you think it’s safe to eat raw egg or not rather than go into the ins and outs of food safety.

What you’ll need – makes one drink cocktail style

  • 1 egg
  • 1 measure of sugar syrup (measures for us are 25ml)
  • 2 measures of double cream
  • 1 measure of bourbon (or rum choice is yours)
  • pinch of fresh, ground nutmeg
  • pinch of fresh, ground cinnamon
  • tiny pinch of fresh, ground clove
  • pinch of fresh, ground all spice
  • nutmeg to grate over the top
  • ice cubes

To start, add all your spices to your syrup and let it sit while we put things together.

Now, beat your egg, the whole egg, no need to separate the yolk and white. Beat it until it is smooth and pale in colour, then add to your cocktail shaker.

Next, add your syrup to the shaker and shake it, baby, really shake it up, you want that all mixed together and emulsified. It takes around 30 seconds of hard work. That’ll be your calorie burn so you can have your eggnog.

Next, add your double cream, bourbon (or rum) and top the shaker up with ice cubes, then …. you got it shake!

Shake this up for another 30 seconds or so to get it all mixed and the ice will chill it.

Serve in a glass mug or whisky glass, you can serve over ice if you want to keep it chilled.

Lastly, grate some fresh nutmeg over the top to add that extra christmas zing.