Saffron Soul by Mira Manek {book review}

Earlier this week Mira Manek released her debut book Saffron Soul, but she is no stranger to having her recipes published; they have been featured in numerous publications as well as her own website.

Her love of traditional Indian food and vegetarian dishes have lead her to share this love with all of us! Mira's cookbook, for me, is an entirely new and refreshing way to look at Indian food! I am no vegetarian and my experience with Indian food is left to westernised restaurants and I can't wait to get stuck into the recipes in this book!

The chapters are broken down into ingredients and key pastes and garnishes followed by chapters titled Soulful Mornings (breakfast), Anytime Favourites (snacks and teatime treats), Light Meals (lunch) , Traditional Thalis (Thali is a meal of various dishes that aims to offer all of the 6 different flavours of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent, and spicy all on one platter) - probably the chapter I found the most interesting because I had never heard of Thalis before and I love how she uses her mother's and both of her grandmother's traditional Thali, then there is a chapter on desserts (always a great chapter), and last but not least spiced drinks.

Normally it is this part of the review that I would list all the recipes I would like to try, but with this title I just don't know where I would start? Here are a few pictures to get a peek into the book!

*I was given a copy of Saffron Soul by Mira Manek to review by the publisher, jacqui small. Retails at £20 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

Blackberry Crumble Custard Tarts

If you have read my previous post you will already know this, but if you have come here from another source then you should know that these tarts were inspired by a fictional King Edward VI from a booked titled Lady Jane: the not entirely true story. If you'd like to know a bit more about the story and my thoughts on the book click on the title above.

This post is to talk about these Blackberry Crumble Custard Tarts...... which were super amazing! In the book the King loves his blackberries especially as pie. The thing is I am not a huge fan of fruit pie because cooked mushy fruit just doesn't appeal to me.

Brainstorming, isn't something you just learn at school, an idea other then pie was fairly simple. It went like this: use fresh blackberries, fresh berries taste great in tarts, tarts are similar to pie, custard goes well in tarts and done.

So, no these aren't exactly blackberry pie, but as the real fictional king loved blackberries in or out of pie I am positive he would have approved of these.

Blackberry Crumble Custard Tarts

Shortcrust Pastry with orange zest

250g plain flour
100g icing sugar
pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, cold grated or cubed
2 egg yolks
1 egg
zest of 1 orange

Sift the flour and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl, add the pinch of salt and the cold grated butter. Rub gently between your finger tips until it resembles bread crumbs - try to handle it as little as possible. *I sometimes run my hands under cold water and pat dry before this last step as my hands are generally warm.
Gently whisk the egg yolks and yolk together, make a well in the bread crumbs and add the eggs as well as the orange zest. Using a spatula bring the dough together. It will be a bit crumbly, pour onto a sheet of clingfilm and gently pat down into a square and wrap in the clingfilm. Keep it in the fridge for a minimum of an hour, but is best if kept overnight.

Quick(ish) Custard

30g caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
3 egg yolks
260ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Using a glass or metal bowl whisk the sugar, cornflour, and egg yolks until lighter in color and you have incorporated a bit of air into them. Leave aside and heat the cream and vanilla together until it starts to produce little bubbles aka simmering. Gradually pour the now vanilla infused cream over the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the while.
Make a double boiler by placing your heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stir the custard until thick and creamy. Can take about 7-10 minutes. To test it use a spatula or spoon by dipping it into the custard and when you pull it out it shouldn't drip off the spoon, run your finger through the middle and if the trail your finger makes stays it's done.
Take off the heat and continue whisking for a few minutes before leaving in the fridge to cool for a minimum of 4 hours.

To Assemble: 

225g blackberries
Oat Crumble (optional) recipe found here.
Egg wash: 1 small egg, lightly beaten

Pastry: Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, to about 3mm or .3cm and cut into rounds to fit your muffin tin make sure to leave a little over the top for shrinkage. Press carefully into the muffin cavities, no need to grease. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Take them out of the fridge and line with grease proof baking paper and line with baking beads or your choice of weight some people use rice. Blind bake for 10-15 minutes or until it starts to brown. Remove the baking beads and brush a very light layer of the egg wash over each pastry case and bake for an extra 2 minutes or so. Leave to cool completely before adding a blackberry or two depending how big they are to each case. Cover with the custard and oat crumble if using. Enjoy!

I shared these with my work colleagues and they had a deep discussion about how one of them didn't like blackberries, but were loving them with the custard and oat topping. Then I was asked what it was that was giving it that extra something and I said it was probably the orange zest in the pastry. With that revaluation it was readily agreed upon that that was what was giving it that something special. They are funny, I do love working with fellow foodies!

*recipe adapted from Sweet Tooth by Lily Vanilli

My Lady Jane: The not entirely true story by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows {book review}

It's time I confess I have been having an affair. An affair with books. Baking will forever be a love of mine, but in all honestly books were my first love. 

I have tried mixing my love of reading and baking before by adding in the hashtag #storybookbakes to my treats that were inspired by books and characters or a treat that actually appears in the story. 

Then I tried adding in my reading lists for the seasons, but I think I'd like to start reviewing books that I like on here along with a treat that was inspired by it. 

So, the first title I am going to review on here is My Lady Jane: The not entirely true story by Hand, Ashton, and Meadows.

My Lady Jane - the not entirely true story:

From the back cover: 
This is the story of a real Queen of England. Not the nasty version where her head is chopped off, but the one with lots of humour, romance, and galloping around. Lady Jane must keep her wits to survive, but it's tricky when your downfall is being plotted and your new husband forgets to tell you that he turns into a horse. 

My thoughts: 
I couldn't help, but love this story. Set in history with a lot of truths, I did my research, but with changes that make it an adventure instead of a sad tale of a girl who was queen for 9 days before being beheaded as a traitor. The story follows the cousins Lady Jane Grey and King Edward VI (son of King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour) who after he finds out he's dying names Jane his successor instead of one of his half-sisters Mary or Elizabeth. I don't want to give too much away, but the story is funny and entertaining I couldn't recommend it enough! 

If you are a stickler for history and don't like it being messed with then I wouldn't read this one! 

*Blackberry Crumble Custard Tarts - inspired by young King Edward's favorite berry - blackberries! Find the recipe here. 

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

I have a very fuzzy memory of having mini cheesecakes like this when I was a kid. Maybe not Oreo's, but with a Vanilla Wafer or Nilla Wafers as the crust and a raspberry or strawberry topping. Either way when requested to have cheesecake for dessert I obliged.

Cheesecake is great! But, and there is a but, it is super rich and sometimes a bit much to take on as a dessert. Therefore these "cupcake" cheesecakes are a great way to serve it without having to try and cut the perfect slice. Plus, one whole cookie acts as the base and saves loads of time and effort! Gotta love short cuts! 

Since Kraft have taken over Cadbury they have made Oreo Cadbury chocolate bars and at Easter we get Oreo Eggs - since it's that time of year I added these on top as a decoration! If it's not Easter add on a mini Oreo! Remember any sandwich cookie/biscuit would do as a base and the cheesecake flavors are endless! So, be creative and bake your favorite mini cheesecake, but to start this is how I made these! 

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

makes 15
21 Chocolate Creme Cookies
455g full fat cream cheese
200g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temp
250ml sour cream
pinch of salt 

Heat the oven to 135C/275F and line a muffin tin with liners and place a whole cookie at the bottom of each liner. Beat the cream cheese until soft before gradually adding the sugar. Once combined add the vanilla and mix. Gently beat the eggs together in a bowl before gradually adding to the cream cheese mixture, scraping down the bowl as needed. Then add the sour cream and salt and beat. Chop up the remaining cookies, which should be 6 cookies, fold into the cream cheese mixture. Using a medium sized ice cream scoop fill the muffin liners with the cheesecake mixture. Bake for 22 minutes rotating the tins half way through baking. Filling will still be a bit wobbly, but should be slightly firm and colored on top. Leave to cool completely before placing in the fridge over night or for a minimum of 4 hours. 

Chocolate Glaze (optional)

170g of chocolate, mix of milk and dark or one or the other, broken up 
140ml double cream 

In a double broiler melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is almost melted remove from the heat and slowly add the double cream mixing in quick small circles with a whisk, until the mixture comes together and is smooth and shiny.

To Finish: Top the chilled cheesecakes with a tablespoon of the glaze and gently spread with the back of the spoon. Top with chocolate eggs or cookie or nothing and serve! 

Cookies and Cream is not just an ice cream flavor! These mini cheesecakes are just the right portion size and the cookie gives a nice texture to the creamy cheesecake, great for dessert or afternoon treat! 

* This is NOT a sponsored post. All views and opinions are my own. Please see my contact/policy page above for more information. Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart. 

* I linked this post up with Treat Petite hosted by The Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi 

Oat Crumble

This is a short and sweet post sharing how to make oat crumble for a number of different bakes and treats! I would use this on top of yogurt, ice cream, and custard as well as muffins! Will add a kick to any breakfast cereal and of course it's a different type of crumble for fruit crumbles. My girls were eating it as is!

Oat Crumble

110g salted butter, cold and cubed
110g oats
110g plain flour
110g dark muscovado sugar

Place all ingredients in a bowl and like if you were making a pastry rub between your fingers until it resembles bread crumbs. Spread over a prepared baking sheet (lined) and place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before baking in a preheated oven at 180C for 10-15 minutes.
Let it cool before breaking up.

Then use as you want! Feel free to add other spices or ingredients like nuts. Also adjust the amounts to how much you want or need! Keeps for at least two weeks if stored in an airtight container.

Stay tuned for the recipe I used this Oat Crumble on!

Mountain Berry & Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani {book review}

Pakistan is one of those countries that intrigues me. I have never visited myself, but it sounds like a place of mystery and enchantment and I would love to go one day. Sumayya Usmani is based in the UK, but grew up in Pakistan, and has written an award-winning book Summers Under The Tamarind Tree. Following the success of that book she has written a second one titled Mountain Berry & Desert Spice: Sweet inspirations from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea, which is the book we are here to discuss and it's out now!

There was a point when I first started this blog that I did a lot of research on sweets and treats from countries around the world and it's still something that intrigues me. Sumayya gives us a collection of great recipes inspired by family recipes and from travels across Pakistan. I read this book cover to cover and with so much choice I'm not sure what I will try first!

The "Key ingredients and techniques" chapter is very useful in knowing where to source or how to make  key things used in the following recipes. The majority of the ingredients I have heard of and/or used before, but a few of them are completely new to me and that gets me excited as I love trying new things! The following chapters are full of amazing sweet recipes full of flavor and the recipes listed below are the ones I would definitely get started with!

Sweet Vermicelli Pudding - with black cardamom and vanilla
Sweet Parathas - filled with date, walnut, and milk fudge
Bramble Gulgulay aka blackberry doughnuts
Gajrela - carrot rice pudding
Rabri kulfi sticks - with honey, cardamom, and bay leaf
Dar ni puri - sweet bread filled with channa daal and candied peel.
Sohan saffron honey caramels - with rose water, pistachio and almonds
Pakistani jalebi - spiralled fermented doughnuts in turmeric-infused syrup
Semolina halva ladoos - with buckwheat groats, pine nuts, aniseed and coconut.
Spiced apple samosas
Chitrali rishiki - pancakes with mulberry syrup
Mulberry and cherry fruit leather with crushed walnuts and pistachios
Fresh curd burutz cheese with walnuts, apricots, figs, and honey
Pakwan - wheat flour and jaggery rolls with aniseed.
Afghani gosh-e-fil - elephant ear-shaped fried pastry with ground pistachio and cardamom
Badami kulcha - almond and cardamom meringues
Khanfaroush - spiced saffron crumpets with honey
Meva naan - sweet bread with dried fruit
Saffron-infused zaria - sweet rice with nuts, coconut, candied fruit and khoya
Dadi's rasyawal pudding - cane sugar molasses rice pudding
Karachi halva - with pumpkin seeds and cashews

This is only a short list of what this book has to offer! If you have ever been curious about sweet treats in other parts of the world this book is for you! It's also for you if you just have a sweet tooth and need a change from your chocolate bar or bag of pick n' mix! And last but not least it's for those of you who have tasted and experience sweets from Pakistan, now you can create your favorite treats in the comfort of your own home!

*I was given a copy of Mountain Berry & Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani to review by the publisher, Frances Lincoln. Retails at £20 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.