Cutting yourself a slice of self-care

Last week we celebrated World Mental Health Day, and it was wonderful to see so many people sharing their experiences and encouraging others to talk. It certainly feels, at least to me, that gradually the stigma surrounding mental health is being broken. Its definitely seeing such compassion that helps me to lower my barriers-which I’m notoriously bad at doing- and speak about how I’m feeling. Its incredibly brave to talk to someone and to take that first step in getting yourself well again. After all, just like if you’d broken your leg, you’re unwell and need to recover- and it’s incredibly hard to do so alone.

I spent my World Mental Health Day baking some scrummy gluten-free millionaire’s shortbread. This is one of the ways I show myself some self-care. If you haven’t heard me talk about self-care then firstly I’m surprised, because I could and do talk about it until the cows come home. Basically its all about giving yourself a break. Sometimes our biggest bullies can be ourselves, but fun fact: we are all human, and the more we accept that about ourselves the happier we can be. So accept that humanness, and show yourself some positivity. The best part? Self-care is completely tailored to you. If you enjoy getting lost in a book, set aside some time to do so. Relax if you just need that time out- I find meditation really helps me. Push yourself! If there’s something you don’t particularly want to do but you know you’ll feel better if you just do it, push yourself to do so. It could be seeing friends you haven’t met up with in a while, or maybe the more boring stuff of getting the housework done, or doing that work you’ve been putting off. You’ll thank yourself later. Nothing is as scary as you make it, even if that anxiety is telling you it is.

But you know what, I don’t want to preach to you. I can’t say that I’ve been there in that dark place and I got through it. Sure I have done that in the past, been at my worst and fought back on top. Depression doesn’t have to be a constant thing; it can come in waves, peaks and troughs, it can lurk in the shadows and rear its ugly head whenever it pleases. So, I can’t say right now to you that I’ve been in a dark place and I’m okay now, because I’m not okay. Right now, I’m in that dark place, right in the rut of it. I can’t preach about self-care, because I regularly ignore it or lose sight of it, or even do the opposite of it: I self-criticize; I isolate myself; I break.

I’m trying to change that though, to break those bad habits and show myself the same compassion I’d show others in my condition. That’s why a couple of months ago I took my first step in doing so and got in touch with Time to Talk. Since then I’ve completed a three-week workshop aimed at learning more about your negative thoughts, behaviours and feelings. More than anything, being in that group setting has made me realise how important it is to be open. The people around you love you, and want you to be well, so don’t be afraid to tell them something you think might upset them. They will honestly be happier that you’re sharing it, and will understand its part of you getting yourself better.

Anyway, this is a baking blog and with that should be some baking! So if taking some time to bake or eating your well earned treats sounds right up your self-care street, then try my millionaire’s shortbread…

For the shortbread:


200g gluten-free plain flour

100g rice flour

100g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp fine salt

200g butter, cut into pieces

 

For the caramel:

200g granulated sugar

90g salted butter, room temperature and cut into 6 pieces

120ml heavy cream

1 tsp salt

 

For the topping:

200g dark chocolate

 

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark four, and grease a 20x20cm tin.

 

First, make the shortbread…

Put the flours into a bowl with the sugar and salt and mix well, then cut in the butter and rub together. Press to form a dough. Spread flour over a clean surface and roll out the dough until roughly the same size as the tin. Press into the tin, prick all over with a fork and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden and crisp. Allow to cool.

 

Then, the caramel…

Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes. A whisk helps if you find the butter is separating from the sugar. Very slowly, drizzle in the heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down. Pour over the shortbread and smooth with a palette knife. Leave to set.

 

To finish, the topping…

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave, and spread evenly over the set caramel. Leave until solid, then turn out and cut into squares.

 

The perfect treat with your cuppa tea!

 

Lastly for this week, I want to share with you some goals I’m keeping in mind as I continue to my journey to good mental health…

1) Continue being open and accept help from loved-ones

2) Continue exercising self-love

3) Push myself, without rushing myself back to health

 

Happy self-care! See you next time xoxo

 

 

 

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Oh (ginger) snap!

If you can cast your mind back to Week 2 of Great British Bake Off, you’ll remember some contestants triumphing while others crumbled over biscuit week. Usually I am very much in the latter camp, biscuits are not my forte. But as I said in my last post, this project is very much trying to break out of the habit of being a flake because, other than being a delightful choccy bar, flake-life isn’t for me. So this week, it was out with the flakes and time to battle with biscuits…

Despite my empty threats I would ‘boycott Bake Off’ after its switch to Channel 4, they were just that- empty threats. Week 2’s episode again did not disappoint. Sandi and Noel are still giving it a good old (viennese) whirl, the bakers are some of the best to have graced the tent with their wow-worthy showstoppers, and if at 71 I’m still shaking my stuff and sippin’ on cocktails like Flo, I’ll be a very happy woman indeed.

Now, there was NO way I was even going to attempt to compete with the board game showstopper- I mean how, HOW, did Steven create a whole chess board in that time? I genuinely need an explanation. So, signature bake it was, and I plumped for these gorgeous ginger creams- a favourite of my smart cookie of a mother who has recently opened her very own cafe on wheels (and doing one hell of a job!)

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Ingredients
225g self-raising flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 level tsp ground ginger
1 level tsp cinnamon
100g soft brown sugar
125g butter
100g golden syrup

For the filling
125g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter, softened but not melted
1 ball stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
1 tsp stem ginger syrup from the jar

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and cinnamon. Stir in the sugar.
Heat the 125g butter and golden syrup in a pan until melted and just warm, but not hot. Add to the flour. Stir to make a stiff dough.
Put heaped teaspoons of the mixture on the baking trays, leaving plenty of space for them to spread out. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Leave the biscuits to cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 At this point… If the biscuits aren’t as uniform as you’d like, use a cookie cutter (or I used the rim of a glass) to make them more circular
Just before serving, mix the icing sugar with the unsalted butter and the stem ginger and syrup. Use to sandwich the biscuits together. Leave to set.

Or… dip half in melted dark chocolate- leave to set.

The reviews I’ve heard from mother hen is that the biscuits are selling like hot cakes (well, biscuits) at the cafe. So, although admittedly I approached biscuit week gingerly, it wasn’t the battle I expected at all. Instead, with the help of a super-simple Asda recipe, it was really quite…

nice biccy

 

For news and updates on the cafe, visit Deli In The Garden on Instagram, Twitter and soon Facebook!!

See you next week xoxo

Recipe: Asda Good Living

Instagram: MegManganaro

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Keep on rollin’

I’m back!

Again, it’s been a while (sorry). So, full disclosure: I am a flake. I’m worse than a 99 on your Mr Whippy- forever putting my mind to something and not seeing it through or making plans to do something and cancelling later. We’re all guilty of doing this, but honestly I am almost criminally liable of it (#LawBants)

So a bit of a background- and a big step to admit- but I’ve suffered with depression since my diagnosis at 16, and more recently struggled with anxiety too. It’s majorly affected my life in a manner of ways- socially, academically- and generally can make me feel like I’ve lost my ‘Meg-ness’. With massive help from family and my pals, I’m currently in the process of pulling myself back together from yet another knock, and that’s where this blog and baking come in (yes, I promise I’ll talk about cake soon) …

I’m a big fan of The Blurt Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping those with depression. If you haven’t heard of it, I urge you to check it out whether on Instagram, Twitter or at blurtitout.org. There’s loads of articles and doodles that help to learn more about depression, helpful techniques and just make you feel a little more ‘human’. A fabulous project they’ve launched is all about self care, basically nurturing yourself and showing yourself some well-deserved kindness. So, as part of my very own Mango-tailored self care I am taking to baking at least once a week. I’ve always thought of baking as a type of therapy, something that truly relaxes me. I introduce the first of my Bake Off extravaganza, or if you like a hashtag, #MegsGBBOChallenge…

WEEK 1:

Chocolate Mini Rolls

Yes, for my first bake I attempted the technical challenge, perhaps not the most relaxing of bakes… But, despite the mess and fiddliness, I was super happy with the turn-out. As one of my brother’s childhood favourites, we always had mini rolls in the house while growing up, so to make them myself was fab- and they actually tasted like the real deal! Absolutely scrummy, even if a little ‘rustic’ in their aesthetic- but hey, who likes perfect?!

 

Makes 12

Ingredients:

60g cocoa powder

30g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp boiling water

6 large eggs, separated

150g caster sugar

 

For the filling

150g butter, softened

300g icing sugar

1 tsp peppermint essence

 

To finish

200g plain chocolate, 70% cocoa solids

200g milk chocolate

100g white chocolate

 

Step 1 – Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Grease two, 30cm x 20cm Swiss roll tins with butter. Line the base of each tin with a piece of greased greaseproof paper.

Step 2 – Sieve the cocoa powder into a small bowl, add the butter, vanilla extract and boiling water and mix together. Set aside.

Step 3 – Whisk 100g of the caster sugar and egg yolks together until light, thick and fluffy. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

Step 4 – In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Add the remaining 50g of caster sugar and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.

Step 5 – Beat one third of the meringue mixture into the chocolate mixture to loosen the mix. Using a large metal spoon, fold the remaining egg whites through the mixture.

Step 6 – Divide the mixture between the two lined tins and level out. Bake for 12 – 18 minutes.

Step 7 – Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks. Cover the tins with a damp tea towel and leave to cool completely.

Step 8 – For the filling, beat the butter until soft and gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add the peppermint essence and continue beating until white, soft and fluffy.

Step 9 – Turn the cakes upside down onto 2 sheets of greaseproof paper and peel off the baking paper. Turn the cakes so that the short end is facing you. Score a line 4cm in on both short ends of both cakes. Spread the peppermint cream over the top and towards the edges.

Step 10 – Starting from the front short edge, roll up the cake, stopping in the middle. Repeat the same from the back until both rolls meet in the middle. Cut down the centre between the rolls.

Step 11 – Repeat with the remaining sponge, so you have four rolls. Trim the ends and cut each roll into three so you end up with twelve mini rolls.

Step 12 – Place the rolls, seam side down on a cooling rack and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.

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Step 13 – To finish, melt the plain and milk chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Place the cooling rack over a baking tin (to catch the chocolate) and dip, spread or pour the chocolate over each mini roll to coat. Leave to set.

My tip: dip each end of the roll into the chocolate before placing back onto the cooling rack and spooning over the chocolate to coat the top and sides

Step 14 – Melt the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Spoon into a small disposable piping bag and snip off the end. Pipe fine stripes across the width of the mini rolls, then leave to set.

… And how better to taste-test your bake, than while watching #GBBO itself!

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Happy baking!

See you next week xoxo

Images from my Instagram (megmanganaro)

Recipe ‘Prue’s Chocolate Mini Rolls’ 

 

 

 

 

 

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Best Ever Brownies

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This is honestly my ‘go to’ brownie recipe, it always go down a treat. I first made them when I was stuck what to make for my sister-in-law’s birthday- we were holiday on her birthday and needed something that we could stash in the suitcase without being destroyed during flight. You’ll be pleased to know they survived and were DELICIOUS. They are everything you want in a brownie- rich, moist and chocolatey. Since then, I’ve had not so subtle hints to keep making them- it’s safe to say a lot of brownies have been consumed by my family and friends this summer. They love them though. In fact, I went round a friend’s house recently and took a tray of them with me. Next thing I knew, her mum had tracked me down and asked me what my secret was! Gotta say, I was pretty chuffed with that 🙂 The recipe is from BBC Good Food, and is definitely worth the effort!

185g unsalted butter
185g best dark chocolate
85g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
50g white chocolate
50g milk chocolate
3 large eggs
275g golden caster sugar

Cut 185g unsalted butter into smallish cubes and tip into a medium bowl. Break 185g best dark chocolate into small pieces and drop into the bowl. Fill a small saucepan about a quarter full with hot water, then sit the bowl on top so it rests on the rim of the pan, not touching the water. Put over a low heat until the butter and chocolate have melted, stirring occasionally to mix them. Now remove the bowl from the pan. Alternatively, cover the bowl loosely with cling film and put in the microwave for 2 minutes on High. Leave the melted mixture to cool to room temperature.
While you wait for the chocolate to cool, position a shelf in the middle of your oven and turn the oven on to fan 160C/conventional 180C/gas 4 (most ovens take 10-15 minutes to heat up). Using a shallow 20cm square tin, cut out a square of non-stick baking parchment to line the base.

Now tip 85g plain flour and 40g cocoa powder into a sieve held over a medium bowl, and tap and shake the sieve so they run through together and you get rid of any lumps.
With a large sharp knife, chop 50g white chocolate and 50g milk chocolate into chunks on a board. The slabs of chocolate will be quite hard, so the safest way to do this is to hold the knife over the chocolate and press the tip down on the board, then bring the rest of the blade down across the chocolate. Keep on doing this, moving the knife across the chocolate to chop it into pieces, then turn the board round 90 degrees and again work across the chocolate so you end up with rough squares.
Break 3 large eggs into a large bowl and tip in 275g golden caster sugar. With an electric mixer on maximum speed, whisk the eggs and sugar until they look thick and creamy, like a milk shake. This can take 3-8 minutes, depending on how powerful your mixer is, so don’t lose heart. You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture becomes really pale and about double its original volume. Another check is to turn off the mixer, lift out the beaters and wiggle them from side to side. If the mixture that runs off the beaters leaves a trail on the surface of the mixture in the bowl for a second or two, you’re there.
Pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the eggy mousse, then gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Plunge the spatula in at one side, take it underneath and bring it up the opposite side and in again at the middle. Continue going under and over in a figure of eight, moving the bowl round after each folding so you can get at it from all sides, until the two mixtures are one and the colour is a mottled dark brown. The idea is to marry them without knocking out the air, so be as gentle and slow as you like – you don’t want to undo all the work you did in step 4.
Hold the sieve over the bowl of eggy chocolate mixture and resift the cocoa and flour mixture, shaking the sieve from side to side, to cover the top evenly. Gently fold in this powder using the same figure of eight action as before. The mixture will look dry and dusty at first, and a bit unpromising, but if you keep going very gently and patiently, it will end up looking gungy and fudgy. Stop just before you feel you should, as you don’t want to overdo this mixing. Finally, stir in the white and milk chocolate chunks until they’re dotted throughout. Now your mixing is done and the oven can take over.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, scraping every bit out of the bowl with the spatula. Gently ease the mixture into the corners of the tin and paddle the spatula from side to side across the top to level it. Put in the oven and set your timer for 25 minutes. When the buzzer goes, open the oven, pull the shelf out a bit and gently shake the tin. If the brownie wobbles in the middle, it’s not quite done, so slide it back in and bake for another 5 minutes until the top has a shiny, papery crust and the sides are just beginning to come away from the tin. Take out of the oven.
Leave the whole thing in the tin until completely cold, then, if you’re using the brownie tin, lift up the protruding rim slightly and slide the uncut brownie out on its base. If you’re using a normal tin, lift out the brownie with the foil. Cut into quarters, then cut each quarter into four squares and finally into triangles. These brownies are so addictive you’ll want to make a second batch before the first is finished, but if you want to make some to hide away for a special occasion, it’s useful to know that they’ll keep in an airtight container for a good two weeks and in the freezer for up to a month.

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Oreo Cookie Cupcakes

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Said to taste every bit as good as they look. Give ’em a go!

For the cake:

1 pack oreo cookies
75g self raising flour
25g good quality cocoa powder
100g light brown sugar
100g butter, room temperature
2 eggs (preferably free range or organic)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
Place a oreo cookie at the bottom of each of the cupcake cases
Sift the flour and the cocoa together and put aside
Beat the butter and sugar until creamy
Add the eggs one at a time, alternating with a spoon full of the flour and cocoa
Fold in the remaining flour and cocoa
Divide the mixture between the cases and bake for about 10-15 minutes until when you insert a skewer it comes out clean and the sponge is springy when touched
Leave to cool while you make the icing…

Icing:

3/4 (approx.) packet oreo cookies
75g butter, softened
125g icing sugar, sifted
A few drops of vanilla essence

Beat the butter
Add the icing sugar and vanilla essence and beat until a smooth butter icing is formed
Place the oreo cookies into a sandwich bag
Using a rolling pin, roughly smash the cookies into small chunks
Add most of these chunks to the icing and stir so they’re distributed evenly
Spread the icing onto the cool cakes
Decorate by sprinkling the remaining oreo chunks on top of the icing

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Chocolate Cake with a Caramel filling and Chocolate Ganache

I love to bake so I don’t really need a reason to grab a wooden spoon and bake a few treats. However, this weekend was an special exception as it was my Grandad’s 80th birthday celebrations, so the thinking cap went on and ingredients were gathered to make a feast of cakes! So here’s one of the few bakes I did, a chocoholic’s delight: Chocolate and Caramel cake…

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Cake:

35g cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100ml boiling water
2  eggs
185g light muscovado sugar
90ml vegetable oil
100g self-raising flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 160 degrees
Grease and line 2 sandwich tins
Pour the boiling water over the cocoa powder and whisk so there are no lumps
Add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk again until smooth
Leave this mixture to the side to cool
Using an electric whisk, combine the eggs, sugar and vegetable oil
Fold in the flour, followed by the cocoa mixture
Split the mixture between the sandwich tins and bake for 25-30 minutes
*While the cake is cooking, you can make the caramel filling (recipe below!)*
Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in its tin, before turning out onto a wire rack to continue cooling

Caramel filling:

125g light soft brown sugar
75ml double cream
70g butter
1/4 tsp salt

Heat the sugar, cream and salt in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves 
Allow it to bubble for a few minutes (be careful it doesn’t burn), then remove for the heat and allow to cool completely
Beat the butter, then add the cooled caramel mixture and mix until combined
Leave to chill in the fridge until it is needed

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Chocolate Ganache:

115g dark chocolate
65g double cream 

Gently heat the cream in a pan, take off the heat when it starts to simmer
Pour the heated cream over the chocolate
Leave for a minute for the chocolate to melt, then stir until it is all melted and becomes smooth and glossy

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Once cooled, remove the cake from the sandwich tins
Spread the caramel icing on one of the halves, then sandwich together with the other
Pour the ganaches over the cake so that is drips down the sides, use a spatula to make sure it is distributed fairly evenly

Decorate as you wish! I used small pieces of honeycomb. 

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Oreo Cookie, Lemon Drizzle and Coffee cupcakes completed the baking bonanza. Recipes to follow in my next few posts!

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My Ultimate Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

The best compliment I’ve received for these cookies is that they beat Millie’s Cookies, and I think that’s pretty good going. Whether I baked them for a bake sale, as a gift or “just because!”, they’ve always gone down a treat and I’m proud to say it’s my own recipe!

For the cookies you’ll need:

90g Light Brown Sugar
90g Caster Sugar
110g Butter
1 egg
120g Self Raising Flour, sifted
30g Cocoa Powder, sifted
150g (75g of each) Milk and White Chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 190 degrees/Gas 6 and grease and line a baking tray
In a bowl, cream the butter and both sugars until creamy
Beat in the egg until combined
Gradually add sifted flour and cocoa powder and stir to make a smooth mixture
Stir in the chopped chocolate, making sure its distributed fairly evenly throughout the mixture
Dollop spoonfuls of the mixture onto tray, leaving space between each as they spread when cooking
Cook for 9-11 minutes, until the very edges of the cookies look firm but the middle still looks gooey/less cooked- this leaves them moist
The cookies harden as they cool, so don’t worry that you’ve removed them too early!
Leave to cool, then remove (this may require you cutting them from one another as they like to spread!) and keep in an airtight tin to ensure they stay soft

Enjoy!

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