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A week of cake and pickles

Look, look, I'm still eating my vegetables, I promise. Here's proof, a big salad I made recently:

That's some rocket that was past its best in the back of the freezer, tomatoes, green lentils, avocado (who doesn't love avocado? Show me that person and I'll give them a Chinese burn), and the pickled figs I made last year. I'd been avoiding opening them for fear they'd actually be disgusting. Don't get me wrong, I love figs and I love pickled stuff, but sometimes two and two do not make a delicious four. I hadn't found any recipes on the internet either, so I kind of had to guess how to make them myself. I'm surprised at how good they turned out, so I'll be making some more next time fig season comes around. Just another six months to go, then.

While I'm waiting for the figs to return like fruity migratory birds, I'll be pickling anything else that stands still long enough. Case in point: a bag of jalapenos that had set up home in my fridge for a bit too long. I had a little light bulb come up over my head: 'I've got jalapenos, I've got vinegar, I normally chuck out £1.50 for a jar of pickled jalapenos... I know what I could do here.'

I could do this:

Yep, it looks a bit like a science experiment, I grant you - like those jars of specimens are used to decorate the science labs at school. (Side note - they had animals in formaldehyde when I studied first science *cough cough* many years ago, and they still have them now. No no no no. Just no.)

Anyway, the jalapenos were good. Some things belong in jars, and chilli peppers are one of them.

And of course, as well as eating my veggies, I'm still eating cake.

One of my colleagues from another office was over last week. He's a vegan too - the only other vegan I know in real life - and very kindly brought in a vegan cake from Pourtoi which he picked up at Whole Foods in Piccadilly.

It was a delightfully huge gluten-free chocolate and orange number, and I was pleasantly surprised by its tastiness. The sponge was nice and light, the icing deep and fudgy. The cakes aren't cheap apparently, but they are pretty darn good. I nabbed two slices while my colleagues weren't looking. (Don't tell them, OK? That's just between us.)

I headed up to Manchester recently to visit my family up there, including my nieces, who won't allow me to enter their house without a box of Ms Cupcake cupcakes. "Seriously," I was told, "don't come without the cakes, or they will shiv you."

I didn't want to get shivved, so I took a box. It was this box. The colours looked particularly pretty, I thought:

I can't remember which one of the six I had, but everyone likes a bit of Ms Cupcake goodness, so I'm sure it was grand. One of my family is allergic to soy and another to gluten, but they look the other way on their exclusion diets when it comes to Ms Cupcake. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, really, but they seem to be willing to contend with the consequences, and I would never want to deny anyone a good cake.

We ended up going out for lunch in Tampopo, an Asian chain restaurant with branches in Manchester as well as a couple of other cities. I was pleasantly surprised - they not only have a handful of vegan options that are well-marked on the menu (always appreciated), there's a couple of nice ones for dessert too. (Get the fried banana with the dairy cream swapped for mango sorbet.) I ended up going for the tamarind tofu, and it was rather good. A bit on the expensive side, but who can complain about a load of tofu in tasty sauce and enough rice to sink a battleship?

That's enough talking about things that aren't cake, let's talk about cake some more.

I just discovered Code Planète - it's a French green/vegan blog with lots of interesting recipes on. This one, for crème de marron muffins, really caught my eye. I had a tube of crème de marrons in the cupboard, some pear puree from a Vegan Kind box a while back, and a desire to make these muffins.

Said desire was particularly strong as, after enjoying a streak of baking successes, I'd fallen onto hard times. A recent attempt at madeleines came out hard and slightly oily, while a courgette cake I'd made before to great effect was wetter than an otter's pocket and could not be rescued. It met its ignominious end in the kitchen bin.

Luckily, the crème de marron muffins turned out way better than I had hoped: lovely and bouncy and well-risen. I even managed to feed them to my parents for dessert. There was custard involved. We were all happy.

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  1. Oooh, delicious cakes! And muffins! I can see why they would demand Ms. Cupcake cupcakes - they are beautiful, and look tasty!

  2. Pickled figs are very intriguing! I've never heard of such a thing before, and I don't usually go too crazy for the fruits in the first place, but I'd sure love to try them.

    Needless to say, those cupcakes are freaking gorgeous. As delicious as that salad looks, I wouldn't blame you for cutting out the greenery altogether when those things are around.

  3. Yay, glad you had a nice visit to Manchester. I love Tampopo. And thank you for the link to that muffin recipe. I have two tubes of Creme de Marron and I've been wondering what to use them on.

  4. The cupcakes are just too pretty to eat. Seriously, I'd have a hard time parting with them. The crème de marron, on the other hand, might force me to deal with consequences. :)

  5. Oooh that chocolate cake! I'm not usually even a chocolate cake person but that one looks lovely & fudgy. Always good to know about these things in case of a cake emergency!
    The creme de marrons muffins sound rather lovely too. I'm rather partial to all things chestnut.

  6. Oh that box of cupcakes, who could resist! And then the chocolate cake. This is too much for me in one post. Now I want cake! Most of the time I make cake without frosting, so I always drool over frosted cakes. *sigh* I wonder how those creme de marrons muffins tasted like, they sound so good.

  7. Oh that box of cupcakes, who could resist! And then the chocolate cake. This is too much for me in one post. Now I want cake! Most of the time I make cake without frosting, so I always drool over frosted cakes. *sigh* I wonder how those creme de marrons muffins tasted like, they sound so good.

  8. Everything about this post looks delicious! So much cake, and I loooooove pickles jalapeños <3

  9. After all that greenery, you deserve cake and a cupcake or two. And such pretty cupcakes. I haven't heard of picked figs before but I would love to give them a try. Will you be posting a recipe come fig season? please? :-)

  10. I knew I recognized those cupcakes, haha! Those muffins sound and look lovely. I'd love to try them.

  11. People can say what they will about vegan food, but I've never seen anything prettier than Vegan Treats' cakes or Ms. Cupcake's cupcakes. And your nieces sound like my kind of girls! Also, the vegan goodies in my office never linger. Non-vegan stuff? DAYS! You do the math.


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