food + drink · vegetables

Roasted Spiced Butternut Squash with Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted butternut squash or pumpkin is an excellent side dish for roast chicken, lamb or chops, but can equally be enjoyed served at room temperature as part of a warm Autumn salad with some couscous. Roasting this orange coloured vegetable/fruit intensifies and caramelizes their natural sweet flavor… which I favour over steaming! Although I steam butternut squash when making a purée for Pumpkin Ice Cream, which is quite delicious!

Over at  Jungle Frog Cooking Simone is hosting an Autumn Orange/Pumpkin theme for this months photography and styling challenge and as I have just come back from a Photography and Styling Workshop (more on the workshop later),  a good time to put some learning into practice and hopefully create an Autumn feel to the images while living on a sunny desert Island!

Roasted Spiced Butternut Squash with Pumpkin Seeds


  • 1kg butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks
  •  4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, lightly squashed leaving the skin on
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pumpkin spice mix
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • a few twists of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

How to make: Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Place the squash into  a large shallow roasting tin, add the olive oil, garlic, ground spice mix, sea salt , black pepper and bay leaf. Gently toss all the ingredients together with your hands.

Roast the squash in the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the squash is tender and beginning to caramelize,  giving a stir halfway through.

While the squash is roasting, toast the pumpkin seeds on a dry pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes and set aside.

When the squash is ready, remove from the oven and place into a warmed serving dish and sprinkle over the toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve hot as a side dish or at room temperature as part of a salad. Serves 4.

baking · food + drink · posts

Victoria Sponge Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream

A fond memory recalled from childhood, the familiar words called out by my parents… “your tea is ready,” a signal letting us know our evening meal was on the table. High Tea or as we called it our “Tea,” was a light savoury meal that would be eaten somewhere between the hours of 6pm to 7pm.

Afternoon tea (3pm to 5pm) reserved for special occasions usually involved serving a selection of delicious home-baked cakes, light fluffy scones and crustless sandwiches, all washed down with copious amounts of freshly brewed tea.

I love how this quote sums up afternoon tea and I believe it is a special ceremony, a visual feast, a time to take out your pretty china cups, decorative plates, quaint cutlery, antique tiered cake stands and linen napkins…  and spoil all the lovely people in your life.

“Under certain circumstances there are few hours more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” ― Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady.

Afternoon tea would not be complete without a selection of cakes, so you might like to try other recipes such as, Rocky Road Chocolate Cakes, Matcha Tea and Lemon Cupcakes , Mini Pavlova Bites, Chocolate Guinness and Blackcurrant Cupcakes or Welsh Cheese Cakes.

Victoria Sponge Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream


  • 110g butter, softened
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 25g self-raising flour
  • 75g all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh orange juice

You will need a 12 hole cupcake tin lined with paper cases and a piping bag and nozzle.

for the buttercream

  • 110g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon of finely grated orange zest
  • 200g icing sugar, sieved
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of fresh orange juice
  • sugar flowers and strips of candied orange peel, to decorate (optional)

How to make:  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4/Fan 160°C.

Add the butter, caster sugar and orange zest into a mixing bowl and using an electric mixer, beat ingredients together until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs (a few tablespoons at a time) to the cake mixture, beating well after each addition.

Add in the sifted flours and fold into the cake mixture with a spatula until the mixture is smooth, stir in the milk. Divide the cake mixture evenly among the prepared baking tin. Bake cupcakes for about 18 to 20 minutes or until the middle of the cupcake springs back when lightly pressed with fingers. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before transferring the cupcakes to a wire cooling rack.

For the buttercream: Add the butter and orange zest into a mixing bowl,  beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add the sifted icing sugar into the butter, beating between additions until all the icing sugar has been incorporated. Beat in the orange juice. Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with the desired nozzle,  pipe the buttercream on top of each cupcake. Decorate with edible sugar flowers and candied orange peel, if desired.


This post has been part of the High Tea Sweet Adventures Blog Hop hosted by Jennifer from Delicieux where you will find all the other delicious High Tea entries on her blog!

food + drink · posts · salads

Vietnamese Salad

Recently some friends travelled to Vietnam and how I wished they could have packed me in their suitcase! However, they did bring back a little of Vietnam in the form of a cookbook, Vietnamese Food by Bobby Chinn (already a fan) from his restaurant in Saigon. Thank you dear friends… a wonderful foodies gift!

Having indulged recently (not just me) on some home-made bread and desserts it was time to scale down the calories in the household and this Vietnamese Salad made a welcoming change! Not wanting to spend as much time in the kitchen (needing a break), preparing food that is quick and easy without compromising on flavour and taste is first choice.

The taste of this simple salad relies on the freshest ingredients… so no limp herbs, dried out carrots and dry chicken please!

Using a julienne peeler for preparing the carrots for this salad came in very handy but of course you can use a good sharp knife instead!

The original recipe uses birds-eye chillies, but I opted to use medium chillies instead. Depending on your tolerance level to the spicy heat (Scoville scale) of different chillies you may want to de-seed them! You could also make this salad with prawns instead of chicken, replace the basil with mint and scatter over a few roasted peanuts on top, the choice is yours! Bursting with fresh clean flavours this salad makes you feel good after you’ve eaten it and the only shame would be… not to make it!

 Vietnamese Salad

The recipe below has been adapted from the cookbook Vietnamese Food by Bobby Chinn.


  • 4 small skinless chicken fillets, poached (see note below)
  • 2 star anise
  • fresh chicken stock or make some using a stock cube
  • 4 lemon grass stalks, tough outer leaves removed and very finely sliced
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 to 4 medium chillies de-seeded (or not), finely snipped using kitchen scissors
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into very fine matchsticks (100g)
  • 50g thinly sliced white onions
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
  • 100ml of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil (I used Thai basil from the garden)
  • 1/4 cup of freshly chopped coriander

Poaching the chicken: Place the chicken fillets in a single layer into a saucepan and pour in some chicken stock to cover, add the star anise. Bring the stock to a gently boil and immediately reduce the heat to a bare simmer and cook the chicken for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan with a lid and allow the chicken to further cook in the hot stock for about 20 minutes. Test the thickest part of the chicken to make sure it is cooked through, if not, bring the stock back to a simmer and leave (removing from heat) to cook for a couple of minutes more. When done transfer the cooked chicken fillet onto a plate and cool.

Assembling the salad: Place the lemon grass, spring onion, chilli, carrots, onions and garlic into a mixing bowl. Shred the cooled chicken and add to the mixing bowl. Pour over the lime juice and gently toss all the ingredients together. Next throw in the basil and coriander and gently toss together. Divide the salad between four serving plates and serve immediately. Serves 4.