Strawberry Surprise Marshmallows

Some time back, I was at work and I had a fancy for something sweet. That’s odd, for me as I generally tend to prefer savoury things.

All I could find was some Turkish Delight that a Turkish colleague had brought back from a visit home. Normally I don’t like Turkish Delight because it is too sweet and over scented for me but this was delicious – it was stuffed with pistachios and the contrast between the soft delight and the crunchy pistachio was unbelievable.  It really did make me a convert. Our friend, Ender, explained there is a world of difference between the mass produced cheap stuff we get over here and the high quality Turkish Delight produced in Turkey. People make it at home, he said, and that’s even better. All sorts of flavours are made, all sorts of additions to the delight.

It made me think about what I could do…..

I remember the excitement I felt when I first read about freeze dried food. It was what the astronauts ate, apparently, and it seemed so exciting. I was a child at this point, mind you, so it’s understandable. Fancy being able to eat something like that….. and then I found you could actually buy freeze dried fruit. I spotted freeze dried strawberries. I had to buy some. And when I saw the freeze dried strawberry powder as well, my mind really started ticking over.

Maybe I could make Turkish delight and use the strawberries instead of pistachios? Perhaps use the strawberry powder in cakes as a swirl? Or in meringues to make them all pretty and pink? Macaroons…whipped cream…oh the  ideas were just pouring out. But I didn’t do anything because I was too busy dealing with the huge apple harvest. I made cakes and apple butter and apple mash and apple crumble until, at last, even I was fed up of apples.

A month or so later, as I sat down at home one night, I started to read Good Food magazine and spotted a recipe for bramble stuffed marshmallows. Well, I thought, why not make marshmallows instead of Turkish delight and put the freeze dried strawberries in there?

It seemed meant to be. I was on trend!

I would have to do something with the strawberries because I had opened the packet….

It seemed pretty easy.

First of all, some cornflour and icing sugar needed to be mixed together as this would be the dusting that the mallow is poured upon. If you don’t do that it will stick.  Now, although I wanted something sweet, I didn’t want too sweet. If I used the strawberry powder that would have the same sort of effect and add a touch of sharpness, stopping everything becoming too sickly.

I made a 100g/ 4 oz mix of  cornflour and freeze dried strawberry powder, using slightly more strawberry powder. This was going to be the dusting that stops the mallow sticking together.

In order to get the bouncy texture of the mallow you need gelatine.

9 sheets were put in a pyrex jug with 150 ml of hot water. It softens and starts to dissolve quickly but it will probably need a mix with a fork to get a good, even distribution

I lined a baking tray with baking parchment and scattered a good layer of the strawberry and cornflour mix over it

One tablespoon of liquid glucose was added to 1 lb/450g of granulated sugar

200 ml of cold water was added and the pan was put over a medium heat to start the sugar dissolving.

Now, I have a sugar thermometerand I placed that in the pan too. Once the sugar was dissolved I turned the heat up to start to get the sugar solution boiling. I had to get it to 125 degrees.

if you haven’t got a thermometer, don’t worry, just time it, for a start. To get to the right temperature takes about 10 to 15 minutes of boiling. You can check how well it is doing after 10 or more minutes by dropping a little bit into cold water. If it sets into a soft ball you know you are at the right temperature.

The bubbles start to look different – thicker and perhaps more glossy.

While it is getting to that stage, start whisking the egg whites untill they become stiff and white. Once you have them at that stage there’s no harm in leaving them in the bowl, ready for the next bit.

And there you have it – I timed it – it was just over 13 minutes to get to this stage.

Now, carefully, in two stages, pour half the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatine. Give it a little stir and then add the rest of the sugar solution.

While the whisk is going, start pouring in the gelatine sugar mix into the already whisked egg whites.

Add  a teaspoon of vanilla extract as the whisk goes on

And carry on whisking for ten minutes or so – you will see the mix become shiny and somewhat stiff.

Pour half of the mix onto the strawberry dusted baking parchment

Then put freeze dried strawberries all over the mallow

And start pouring the rest of the mallow over the strawberries

And then leave to set.

This will take a couple of hours at least. (I put mine in the fridge later on as I had been doing the washing and there was a lot of moisture in the air. A fridge is a very dry environment so that helped everything set. Bear that in mind if the weather is funny and humid)

The rest of the strawberry powder mix was poured onto another sheet of baking parchment

…and the cooled and set mallow was upended onto the powder

The bottom layer of paper was now on the top and was easy to pull away (the Bear did that bit as I needed to take pictures and it is a bit sticky….)

There it was.. white and bouncy mallow with a pink dusting and an occasional strawberry poking through

We cut it all into squares – there were over 60 pieces!

They were fabulous. The sharpness of the strawberry powder stopped them being too sweet and the surprising soft crunch of the freeze dried strawberry in the middle really enhanced the softness of the mallow.

The Bear and I ate a piece. Then another piece or two ….and we realised that, delicious though they were, we would have to stop.

I put the marshmallows in an airtight box, lined with baking parchment and decided to take the rest to work. After all, it had been thanks to Ender’s generosity with his Turkish Delight that started this whole experiment off.

They were eaten! And people who normally find marshmallows too sweet had some… and then had some more!

The only downside? Ender, who inspired the whole thing, wasn’t in the office that day!

Should you make this? Yes, I think you should. I know it involves boiling sugar but that’s fine. Just time things if you don’t have a thermometer and it really is rather easy.

And to make it easier for you – here’s the recipe.

Strawberry Surprise Marshmallows

30g cornflour; 70g freeze dried strawberry powder; 9 sheets of gelatine; 450 g /1lb granulated sugar; 1 tablespoon of liquid glucose; 2 large egg whites; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; freeze dried strawberries.

* Mix the strawberry powder with the cornflour

* Dissolve the gelatine sheets in a pyrex jug with 150ml of hot water. You will need to stir it round

* Line a tin (I used my normal baking tray for flapjacks) with baking parchment and put down a layer with the pretty pink strawberry and cornflour mix. The gooey mallow mix will go on this so make sure the paper is covered

*Put the granulated sugar and the liquid glucose in a heavy bottomed pan  and add 200 ml of water. Stir over a medium heat untiol the sugar has dissolved completely  and boil until a sugar thermometer reads 125 degrees. This takes between ten and fifteen minutes. With no thermomemter, drop a little of the sugar mix into a glass of cold water after twelve minutes –  if it sets as a soft ball then it is ready.

*While the sugar is boiling, start whisking the egg whites until they are stiff

*When the sugar is at the right stage pour it carefully into the pyrex jug that has the dissolved gelatine.

*Keep on whisking the egg and add the gelatine and sugar syrup in a steady stream.

* Add the vanilla essence.

* Keep whisking until the mix is shiny and stiff.

*Pour half into the lined tray

* Add the freeze dried strawberries then pour the rest of the mallow mix over and leave it to cool for at least a couple of hours

* Put more baking parchment on the bench and scatter the rest of the cornflour/strawberry powder mix over and then turn the set marshmallow onto that. Take off the top layer of paper.

* Using a sharp knife, cut into squares.

Fairtrade Fortnight (22 Feb – 7 March 2010)

A couple of weeks ago I got the following email from a friend I have known for years… years and years.

And I thought you all might like to see what she said, because we are, of course, not only massively interested in delicious cooking but we are all supportive of Fairtrade.

So, read on and see if you can do something. After all, baking is not just for tea-time….

To encourage fairer baking, Tate & Lyle  and cupcake queen and author Lily Vanilli, have developed a trio of delicious and unusual recipes using Fairtrade ingredients, which I am delighted to share with you.  You’ll probably be aware that the Fairtrade mark is the only independent consumer label that ensures farmers in developing countries receive an agreed and stable price for the crops they grow that covers the cost of sustainable production… so it deserves support

Two years ago, Tate & Lyle announced plans to move its retail cane sugars range to Fairtrade with no resulting price increase to consumers.  In the first year alone, this switch created a return of  £2 million in Fairtrade premiums for cane farmers.
I hope that you will feel able to support Fairtrade Fortnight  through your blog and encourage “Fair” baking during the run up to Fairtrade Fortnight. Maybe you would also try one of Lily’s recipes with a view to sharing the results with your readers?  What could leave a better taste in one’s mouth than a delicious cake made from fairly traded ingredients?!
Lily Vanilli’s Fairtrade Bacon and Banana Cakes
4 rashers unsmoked organic back bacon
150g ripe Fairtrade bananas (approx 2 small)
60g Fairtrade honey
100g unsalted organic butter (at room temperature)
40g Tate & Lyle Fairtrade caster sugar
140g organic plain flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 large, free-range organic eggs (at room temperature)
Handful Fairtrade Brazil nuts (toasted & chopped)
1/2 tsp grated Fairtrade nutmeg
1/2 tsp Fairtrade ground cinnamon
12 paper cupcake cases


1. Lay rashers of bacon on a foil lined sheet and place in a cold oven with the temperature set to 200c for approx 20 mins or until crispy. Allow to cool

 2. Turn heat down to 180c

 3. Mash bananas with honey in a small bowl and set aside

 4. Sift together all the dry ingredients into a large bowl – flour, sugar, baking powder, salt

 5. Cut butter into small chunks and add to the dry ingredients, blend with an electric mixer on medium speed until evenly incorporated

 6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition

 7. Mix in the banana/honey mixture, spices and Brazil nuts to taste

 8. Spoon into cupcakes cases, filling almost to the top 

 9. Bake in preheated oven for 15 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean

 10. Remove and leave to cool in the pans for approx 3 mins – then transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.


55g unsalted organic butter (at room temperature)
325g Tate & Lyle Fairtrade icing sugar
1/2 cup (4fl oz) organic double cream
2 tbsp Fairtrade honey

 1. Beat the butter until smooth, then add half of the sugar, the double cream and the honey

 2. Continue beating, slowly adding the rest of the sugar to achieve a smooth, even texture

 3. Ice each cooled cupcake with a thick swirl of frosting and top with strips of cooled bacon and chopped Brazil nuts.

Fairtrade Devil’s Food Ale Cakes
115g unsalted organic butter (at room temperature)
45g Divine Fairtrade cocoa
155g Fairtrade ale (Honey Ale)
170g organic plain flour (sifted)
Pinch of salt
2/3 tsp baking soda
225g Tate & Lyle Fairtrade caster sugar
1 large free-range, organic egg (at room temperature)
3 fl oz (3/8 cup) organic buttermilk
12 paper cupcake cases


Preheat the oven to 180c

 1. Bring ale to the boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa.  Leave to cool until it reaches room temperature

 2. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda and set aside

 3. Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixture until very light and fluffy (about 5 mins)

 4. Add the egg and beat until just incorporated

 5. Beat in the cooled ale/cocoa mixture

 6. Add the sifted dry mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts – beginning and ending with the dry and beating after each addition

 7. Spoon the batter into a baking tray lined with cupcake cases (2/3 of the way full)

 8. Bake in preheated oven for 15 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean

 9. Cool briefly in the pans and then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.


1. Boil ale in a saucepan, remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa. Allow to cool completely – transfer to a bowl and place in the fridge if necessary

 2. Beat the butter until smooth

 3. Add the vanilla, ale/cocoa mixture and half the icing sugar and continue to beat. Gradually add all of the sugar – beating continuously until you reach a consistency you like

 4. Spread onto cooled cupcakes and top with shavings of Fairtrade chocolate and Brazil nuts. Or do as I did and just add more chocolate!

Fairtrade Burnt Butter, White Chocolate and Brazil Nut Cookies
280g organic plain flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
170g Unsalted organic butter (at room temperature)
220g Tate & Lyle Fairtrade light brown sugar
100g Tate & Lyle Fairtrade granulated sugar
1 large free-range organic egg (at room temperature)
1 free-range, organic egg yolk (at room temperature)
1/2 tsp Fairtrade vanilla essence
Handful Fairtrade white chocolate chunks
Handful Fairtrade Brazil nuts (chopped)
Zest of one Fairtrade lemon


Preheat oven to 150c

 1. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt

 2. Melt the butter in a saucepan and heat, stirring continuously until brown bits begin to form at the bottom of the pan (approx 5 mins)

 3. Beat the melted butter together with the light brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth 

 4. Add the egg & egg yolk and beat to incorporate into sugar/butter mixture

5. Set the mixer to a low speed and gradually add the sifted dry ingredients

 6. Add lemon zest, chocolate and Brazil nuts to taste

 7. Roll dough into 2 inch diameter balls and lay on a lined baking sheet, approx 2 inches apart, bake in preheated oven 15 mins or until brown around the edges and soft in the centre.

So what do you think? Fancy a try at any of these? It’s not just for our own enjoyment – well, it is, but think of the greater good – this is your chance to help Fairtrade!

Thanks, Emma!

(Oh, and have something nice for tea!)

Christmas Pudding Ice Cream

With the best will in the world, no family can eat an entire Christmas Pudding.

Not even when it is one made by my aunt… the world’s best Christmas Pudding maker, ever.

All that love, skill and years of practice to make a lovely pudding …. you need to use it up to the last crumb. And what better way than by making it into the Boxing Day favourite pudding… ice cream.

First, make some custard. You can do it with eggs, as I normally do, or you can do it with custard powder. I have to consider who will be eating the ice cream so it’s custard powder for me this time.

Mr Bird, a Birmingham chemist,  had a wife who was allergic to eggs but adored custard so he invented the world famous Bird’s Custard Powder. It uses cornflour to thicken and is a staple ingredient in most British kitchens. I use it when I can’t make real egg custard – for example for those who are allergic or intolerant and those who may be unwell and it isn’t advised that they eat egg yolks.

It makes a perfectly lovely custard though and generations of people have grown up on it. I still think a real custard is best but needs must and all that.

You combine the powder in a bowl with some sugar – two tablespoons of each.

Then stir in some cold liquid… I am looking for a lovely, rich effect so I am adding cream

… maybe a couple more tablespoons of the cream, stirred in to make a smooth paste.

I like to add vanilla, as I would if I was doing the custard with eggs. You can use a teaspoonful of extract

 Or, if you like the look of vanilla seeds, you can use the paste

In the meantime, I have a pint or so of milk heating on the hob. Once it reaches boiling… well, once it gets those tiny bubbles round the side of the pan that are the warning it is just about to explode into a bubbling, overflowing pan of scalding milk…then you add that to the bowl and stir it smooth

You need to add it slowly and stir it round gently.. a smooth paste at first and then getting thinner and and more custard like.

Once it is smooth, pour it back into the pan and heat through to boiling again. It thickens and becomes…. custard!

You can see how it leaves a trail when you dribble a spoonful over the surface….

All you need to do now is put it into a clean bowl and leave to cool. I do this the night before and leave it in the fridge over night.

That’s handy… because if you you are using an ice cream maker, you need to have the bowl chilling in the freezer. Of course, there are some incredibly fancy machines that have their own freezing unit built in… but why spend hundreds of pounds when an ordinary machine can be had for around £30?

You can do this without a machine as well, you know. You just put the custard mix into a plastic box, clip the lid on and freeze it. You just have to keep opening the box and stirring it round with a fork to stop the ice crystals from turning the custard into a solid block.

My machine is a simple one… you put the bowl in the freezer

and the next day, connect the lid,

with the paddle and the motorised bit,

set it away to whirr and pour the chilled mixture down the hole in the lid…

It whirrs away for maybe ten minutes or so, thickening and freezing.

You can see the change happening. Once it starts to get really thick and look like it is freezing, get your added extras ready.

You break up your cold, left over Christmas pudding and drop bits of it down the hole so it sets into the freezing mix. Don’t do it too soon because you don’t want it to dissolve – you need bits of it running through the mix.

I also like to add little nuggets of brandy butter. They stay whole, too and make a surprising litle burst of soft booziness. I don’t think you are in any danger of getting drunk on it, but leave it out if you think it wouldn’t be suitable.

See how economical you are being? Using up any leftovers like this?

I suppose the fact that I was hiding the brandy butter to make sure there was some for the ice cream is neither here nor there.

Within a minute or so you are ready to serve it up….. I might have poured some brandy cream over it as well….

It was left over, OK? I was trying to use it all up!

But it doesn’t end there…..

What should have been a respectable portion for each of us somehow seemed to be not enough after all.

I admit we were all feeling rather jolly. It was J’s birthday dinner and we did deserve to spoil ourselves.

The freezer bowl was called for and spoons were dug in

In fact, we all dug in.

Sign of a succesful pudding then, don’t you think?

Coffee liqueur

There is, as you will probably know, a rather famous coffee liqueur.

In my kitchen there is a jar of something very similar… let’s call it Aunty Mary. After all, I’m not Spanish so I wouldn’t call it Tia…. oh but there you go, it’s NOT the famous coffee liqueur, is it?

It’s me with a bottle of vodka, knocking up rough and ready flavoured alcoholic drinks, ready for the Christmas party season.

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This is simplicity itself…. first of all, make some espresso coffee.

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For a bottle of vodka, I need two cups of espresso

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and a vanilla pod and some sugar……

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Slice the pod (look at it shining.. it is almost seeping with deep, rich vanilla-ey essence)

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Pop it into the jar with a couple of mug fulls of sugar (remember if this is to be a liqueur it needs to be sweet and almost syrupy)

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Pour in the coffee

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Then add a bottle of vodka……. all of it…..

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And stir……

And leave it……. and do you know… it’s not rough and ready at all… it’s rather smooth and delicious!

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Once you are ready to celebrate…. Aunty Mary sends Festive Greetings…. and says Cheers!

Tomato and chilli little loaves

Making bread is quick and easy and doing it yourself means you can tailor it to make the perfect match to whatever you are cooking. Because I was making pumpkin soup for Halloween I thought that some tomato and chilli mini loaves would be just the ticket…. a hint of chilli to liven the bread up and some sun dried tomato to round out the flavour.

So… get your flour out – you will need 350g for 8 mini loaves.

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I had dried a chilli that was left over… oh, OK, I had forgotten about a chilli that was in the kitchen fruit bowl (no, I don’t know why it was there) anyway, it had dried beautifully. Waste not want not, I always say

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So. I cut a bit of it off and chopped it finely

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Put that with the flour in a bowl with a 7g sachet of yeast… or two scant teaspoons if you are using a packet.

Add a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, a couple of dessertspoons of oil and 200ml of warm water and mix well…. either by hand or by mixer

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Whizz that round and round until it comes together into a smooth dough (or knead together by hand until you get the same effect)

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While that is kneading, chop some sundried tomatoes

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and knead them into the dough on a well dusted board. Cover the dough with cling film and leave it to rise

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I bought some tiny loaf tins (I don’t know where but they are easily found) and after an hour the dough had risen nicely. As I had 8 little loaf tins, I cut the dough into 8 pieces – how about that for logic?

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Leave them to rise again and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

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There they are going in and after about 15 minutes, out they came….

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Perfect little white loaves studded with bits of sundried tomato and the tiniest hint of chilli. Just right for that pumpkin soup…. mmmmmhmmmmmm…


One thing you should know about me is that I (obviously) come from a great family and there’s none more brilliant and inventive than my little brother. OK, so he’s not so little anymore and has family of his own now but I still think of him as my little brother.

He came up with this recipe and it has rocketed straight into the family collection of favourites. It is, in essence, loosely based on Nigella’s Ham in Coca Cola, from her book, “Nigella Bites”. In it Nigella cooks the ham in Coke then glazes it with black treacle and cloves. Problem is. we don’t really like Coke, cloves or treacle.

We do, however, absolutely adore ginger beer. So….. first get some gammon

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I always rinse the gammon because you never know how much salt has been added, and, quite frankly, if I just wanted to just taste a salted ham, well, I wouldn’t go to all this bother, would I?

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You’ll see a salty, fatty sort of scum on the water and then you’ll be glad you did it. Anyway, you want it to taste of ginger beer….lovely Old Jamaica Ginger Beer           

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You need to make sure there’s no plastic round the rolled joint – cut it off before you put the ham in the pan

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Then.. into the pan with it, and pour that lovely ginger beer over it. I slice the skin off some ginger root and add that as well to give it an extra gingery boost. I’ll be using the peeled ginger later in the glaze.

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 Lid on, heat up and bring it to a boil.   Then, let it simmer gently for an hour and a half or so, gently bubbling away with the ginger beer infusing the gammon.   Prod it with a sharp knife to see if it has some give to it. The actual simmering time depends on the size of the gammon so just check it now and then till you know it is done.

Get it out and put it on the board. Don’t throw the ginger beer out, you’ll need some of it later. Put the oven on now to get hot –  200 degrees  or thereabouts.

You can see that it is beautifully cooked and that all it needs now is a lovely glaze

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Remember you peeled the ginger? Grate that and smear that over the mustardy coating

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Then coat the whole lot with  sugar 

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Put it in a baking tin that you have lined either with tinfoil or a silicon sheet (this saves you hours of scrubbing afterwards) and add some of the ginger beer simmering liquid. Not much, maybe just enough to keep the base of the ham wet. This keeps the ham moist as you roast it on a relatively high heat to glaze it beautifully.    

After about ten minutes the sugar has melted and bubbled and gone beautifully brown and you have….

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Deeeeeeeelicious! Thanks Lil’ Brother!

Try it. It’s good, honest.