Indian Food For Beginners – An Experiment


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When it comes to birthdays, some people are really easy to buy for. Some others… are not. And so it is that when Badgerman’s birthday comes around, I have a really hard time finding him a suitable gift. He doesn’t really like birthdays and he never wants anything, or when he does, it’s invariably a £400 electric guitar pedal, and we can’t afford that. I find the whole thing bewildering. I NEVER run out of ideas; there are so many great things out there, be it a kitchen gadget, a piece of jewelry (not diamonds either, anyone for stacking bracelets?), a DVD or an Amazon gift card so I can buy All The Books. And I’m barely scratching the surface of all the awesome things I could want for my birthday.

So imagine my conundrum this year when I had to find a present for his 40th birthday. It is a milestone birth date and I wanted it to be personal and memorable, however I was faced with the reality that it also needed to be, let’s put it bluntly, as cheap as possible, because these are the times we are currently living in as a family. If it ain’t necessary and/or financially reasonable, however much we may feel we ‘deserve it’ and ‘it’s a big birthday’, it would be irresponsible for us to buy it when we are barely solvent at the best of times.

This is when I hit my favourite online gift shop: Not On The High Street. It’s a gathering place for a large number of independent UK companies, their offerings are super quirky and inventive and they cater for all budgets. One of the best things about the website is also how they arrange items by theme, so for Badgerman, I knew I should be able to find something in either the Music or Food sections.

It is whilst browsing through the website that I came across a small company called The Spicery. As per their name, they sell fresh spices and herbs, which you can buy in various size packaging. But they also sell them in a unique way in recipe kits and subscription boxes. All the recipes on the website looked appetizing and I immediately fell in love with the idea of signing Badgerman up for a monthly box.

The boxes come with all the recipes needed to cook a dinner for four from scratch (a main and either sides or a dessert) and all the spices required to create it (including rare spices), weighed to the recipe requirements. I also checked the other ingredients needed and they were all bog-standard staple items which you would be able to find in your local supermarket without problems. There are a number of options to choose from, first between World Kitchen or Friday Night Curry, and then once you’ve settled on one, you can select either the Discovery Box (for the adventurous – Ethiopian Doro Wat?!), The Favourites Box a.k.a the classics (Bhuna Curry Night!) or the Vegetarian option (Mexican Tomato & Pasilla Chilli Tortilla). It was also helpful that the ‘present’ itself came in the form of a voucher to be redeemed online, leaving the decision of which option to go for to the birthday boy!

Badgerman loves Indian food and I wasn’t surprised when he went for the Curry Night option (after much deliberation, I think he wanted everything). He was a regular at his local curry house when he was a university student in Leicester. I, on the other hand, had never had a curry before I moved to England and I am generally not a fan of spicy food. You couldn’t find a couple more at odds in this area. But, hey, not only was it not my birthday I was buying for, but I thought this would be a great challenge for me. Cooking with spices is something I know nothing about and find quite daunting, and I was attracted to the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone to try my hand at something different, especially if the fearsome process of sourcing spices I’ve never heard of was removed from the equation. Plus, I knew Badgerman would love it and we’d get to have a fun dinner party with friends. What’s not to like?

This is an ideal experiment for me and, I hope you’ll agree, also for the blog. I will chronicle my foray into Indian food – I have only made two vaguely Indian recipes using basic curry powder before so I am pretty much a complete novice – and I’ll let you know how I get on, complete with pretty pictures of the end products!

Last week, we received the first box in the post and we have a date booked with friends in a couple of weeks. So for our September experiment, I will be making Tandoori chicken and sides. I can’t wait!

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Note: I paid for this out of my own money and was not asked to write a review at all. All opinions are entirely my own, I just thought it would be a fun and exciting project.


Cherry Cake with Blue Cream Cheese Icing

Cherry Cake with blue cream cheese icing

When it comes to making birthday cakes for the kids, I go for taste over style every time, for the simple reason that I can’t make fancy cakes for toffee. I admire them from afar, as my special cakes-I-won’t-ever-make Pinterest board can attest but there will never be delicate fairies and toadstools, Hello Kitty faces or elaborate Peppa Pig scenes coming out of my kitchen. That’s not to say my cakes can’t look good but they sure won’t win awards any time soon for their decorations.

I don’t mind this by the way, as I’d rather people remembered how good a cake tasted rather than how pretty it looked. This said, I still wanted Little Girl’s cake to have some sort of impact so I went looking for something pink and blue. I found just what I was looking for on the Sprinkle Bakes website (they have much prettier pictures too) but when I looked at the recipe, I had all sorts of issues, such as where to find Maraschino cherries this side of the Atlantic, how to work out the american cups business (simple on the one hand but nothing weighs the same so trying to translate it into grams and millilitres is a complete pain) and, well, no way was I going to make a Swiss meringue frosting, and not just because I don’t have a stand mixer.

In the end, I changed the recipe so much that to fit around the ingredients I had available that it probably tastes nothing like the Sprinkle Bakes version so for ease of reference, here it is below.

Pink Cherry Cake

Serves 8-10

113 g unsalted butter

250 g cups granulated sugar

256 g all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

60 ml whole milk

275 g jar of cherries, finely chopped – I used the jar of Morello cherries from Lidl ((I also decided to add a handful of chopped glacé Morello cherries but this is by no means necessary)

125 ml cherry juice (I used the juice the cherries came with)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons flour for sprinkling over diced cherries

4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks

Food coloring – I used Dr Oetker Food Colour Gel in Hot Pink but only had half left (5 g) so it is not as pink as I would have liked.


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C.  Grease two 15 cm cake tins and line with baking paper.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until creamy.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Combine the milk, cherry juice and vanilla extract, and add alternately to the butter and sugar with the flour mixture.
  4. In a small bowl, sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour over the diced cherries and stir until the flour has been completely absorbed.
  5. Stir the cherries into the batter. Stir in food coloring if desired
  6. Fold the stiffly beaten egg whites into the batter. Pour into the cake tins and bake for 50-60 minutes. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before removing from the tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Icing

As I said, I really wasn’t going to faff about with swiss meringue, so I decided to make a simple cream cheese icing.

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 x 250 g tubs cream cheese or mascarpone

350 g icing sugar

Food colouring optional (It took quite a lot of colouring to get the deep colour – I used a whole tub of Dr.Oetker Food Colour Gel Sky Blue 10g, and also added a couple of drops of green liquid colouring)


1. Very briefly beat the vanilla and cream cheese or mascarpone with an electric whisk until smooth.

2. Sift in the icing sugar and gently fold in with a spatula. Be careful – the more you work it, the runnier it will get, increasing the chance of splitting.

Note: The white decorations are simple whipped cream with a bit of icing sugar mixed in, and I used neon pink sugar crystals on top.

The pink cake

Bon Appétit!

Not a toddler anymore

My Little Girl turned 3 today, and never had she been more excited about her birthday. We have been talking about it since February… We’ve also had nearly daily requests for a pink scooter. Well, we can finally put that one to rest!

She really is the most delightful girl, with a wicked sense of humour and a love of sausages that is only topped by her love for Tinkerbell, butterflies, princesses and, oh wait, pink! We’ve been taken by surprised by most of these, as we have definitely not pushed her that way at all, and it seemed to happen suddenly. But if that’s what she likes, who am I to argue?

Today was therefore spent like this:

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Girly first birthday party

We’ve just had the first of three birthday parties I am organising in the next month, that of little Luciole who turned one last Monday. Yeah, I’m in for a treat  and I’ve barely started.

We had planned a picnic in the park and the weather had been glorious for many days leading up to today, and then the worst we could have expected happened: heavy showers and even thunder in the morning. I am so grateful to a good friend who offered us the use of her bigger house to host the party, otherwise it would have been a struggle. I may have had a mild panic when not a single sandwich had been made twenty minutes before people were due to arrive because of the change of venue and my dodgy organisation, but my dear guests kindly helped out and we had so much food that we are going to eat leftovers for the next three days! We had a great indoors picnic and the sun showed up just in time for the kids to have a go on the trampoline.

It’s not quite the Pinterest extravaganza that I had hoped for (in my dreams!) but it looked pretty good and tasted even better.

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I got totally carried away, so there might have been too much food…

I made a couple of savoury muffins. The chicken and sweetcorn, which I got out of a recipe book, turned out to be quite heavy and bland, but the veggie one was delicious. I found the recipe from Roar Sweetly via Pinterest and made it with carrot, courgette and cheddar cheese.

The strawberry cupcakes were the real highlight, all made from scratch with fresh ingredients and incredibly moreish from Sally’s Baking Addiction. If there is one cupcake recipe you need in your arsenal, it is this one. The strawberry whipped cream frosting alone is the best I’ve ever made.

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The birthday girl