Manly Banana Cinnamon Cupcakes



Here you will find my yummy banana loaf recipe in the shape of little manly style cupcakes.  I was going make a traditional cup cake recipe with all the frills and a variety of flavours, but I didn’t!   Instead, I settled on, in my opinion, the perfect sponge.  They are like mini banana loaf buns, however, this time I topped them with a chocolate & cinnamon cream cheese frosting for added naughtiness.  They do look a little manlier than your usual cup cake, don’t they?  So that’s who I made them for, a newly turned 30-year-old man. Welcome to my world!

Happy Birthday Tom!!

Ingredients:

  • 113g butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar (granulated, caster, or mix in some demerara, whatever you have to hand)
  • 1 cup self raising flour (I couldn’t find self raising here in Japan so used all purpose)
  • [1.5 tsp baking powder & 1/2 tsp salt] – if you use all purpose
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 medium, very ripe bananas
  • Handful crushed walnuts
  • 1 tsp heaped cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp clove powder
  • 1 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1 bar of chocolate (broken into small pieces)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 130 degrees
  2. Grease a muffin tray with butter or marg
  3. Mash the bananas with a sturdy fork or blend in a blender
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together and mix in the eggs
  5. Mix together the mushy bananas.
  6. Mix in the sieved flour and spices
  7. Mix in the chocolate raisins and crushed walnuts.
  8. divide evenly between muffin holes and bake for 40 minutes
  9. check for they’re by piercing the center of a cup cake. If it comes out clean, cool at room temperature then decorate as desired.

While I Was Away


It has been a little over a month now since returning to Scotland.  Here is what I have cooked/ate whilst I have been AWOL from Bendi Benri.

Feeling a lot more settled in now I am ready to embark on my new life as a student AGAIN and get back into creating more yum.

Enjoy!

First up, home-coming welcome dinner, beautifully and deliciously prepared by my wonderful mother.  It is very clear to me now that my mum is the source for my desire to cook.  She effortlessly manages to put on amazing wholesome spreads.  What a mum.

Nutty Chocolate Brownies (heaven in your mouth) & Scones with Home made Jam

Victoria Sponge

prawn & avocado cocktail

Home Made Steak Pie

Home Made traditional Scottish Oatcakes

What I forgot to capture was the Ultimate Chocolate cake smothered in Ganache! I am gaining pounds just thinking about it! I swear that cake was to die for! Here’s a link to the recipe.

A flying visit home then back to Edinburgh to meet Izumi and Sofie, friends we met in Japan.  They had never tasted Haggis before, so Andy and I decided to take them to Urban Angel to give it a try.  I love the concept of this Restaurant, stylish and delicious, “using the best local, organic, free-range and fairly traded produce available.”

To follow I visited a three-day foodies festival, filled with freebies of scrumptious organically prepared fresh food from all over the country.  Some healthy and some just down right naughty!  I was in my element.

Salmon and potato pie!

Tiger Prawn Paella

Feeling inspired from my weekend boozing and munching, I bought a nice big bunch of fresh beetroot and put together a yummy beetroot cake smothered in cream cheese icing.  Here’s the recipe I used.  Yep, I AM growing by the day! Twice the size I was a month ago. Oops!

No time to break just yet.  The Edinburgh festival brought my folks and brother up to Edinburgh.  The weekend consisted mainly of indulgence and laughter. Good times!

Below we eat at Amore Dogs another very trendy restaurant serving Italian scrum.

tuna nicoise salad on the side of a grilled sea bass on a bed of baked tomatoes.

Goats Cheese & Sun dried tomato Risotto

Wow what a month.  Loved every minute!

I really miss Japan and crave a lot of the food we ate whilst we lived there, especially Soba noodles, so I treated us to a yummy crispy tofu soba dish.   Satisfying beyond expectation! Go me!

Ingredients; serves 2 if you really have to share.

2 portions of soba noodles

150g Tofu (drained and cut into cubes)

1 small red onion (sliced into half moons)

1 stick of celery

around 12 sugar snap peas (halved)

2 cloves garlic

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

1 T light soy sauce

1 tsp pure honey

1 T chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon chilli (from the jar or fresh)

2 T olive oil

2 tsp vegetable powdered bullion

2 T corn flour

Directions:

1.  prepare all ingredients

2. evenly coat the tofu in the corn flour

3.  heat up the olive oil in a wok or frying pan then add the tofu.  When coloured a reddish brown remove from the pan and place on some absorbing kitchen paper

4. In the same pan add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent

5. add the all of the other ingredients except the soba and basil and lemon then stir through on a medium heat.

6. In the mean time boil the soba until just tender then rinse quickly under cold water to avoid over cooking.

stir through the noodles, tofu, basil and lemon juice to the vegetable mixture then serve in warm bowls.

To finish, here is yesterdays lunch…

Chilli Squash Soup accompanied with rice crackers topped with cheddar cheese (hello my long-lost naughty friend) and cranberry sauce. yummmm…..

Ingredients; serves 4-6

I small butternut squash

4 sticks of celery

1 yellow onion

3 cloves of garlic

50g low fat soft cheese

2 tsp vegetable bullion

Directions:

1.  Saute the onion and garlic until translucent

2.  In the mean time bring a med/large pot of water (2 litre) the boil

3. cut the squash into cubes then allow to boil until tender

4.  when the squash is ready add all other ingredients except the cream cheese, then mix through

5. Turn off the heat then use a hand held blender to pulse the mixture until smooth(ish) stir though the cream cheese then serve in warm bowls

Thai Mushroom Soup with basil & olive bread


Benri is back! At last a dish I feel is more than worthy of a post.

As I mentioned in a previous reply to a comment, Andy gave me a cookbook (one by the Weightwatchers team) as part of a birthday gift. I don’t think it was because he thinks I need to lose weight (I hope not) or I need more practice (which I do) or thinks my style of cooking doesn’t meet his expectations (his mmms & ahhhs confirms he’s satisfied). We have always enjoyed the recipes from the weightwatchers books as they are usually full of variety, so perhaps he is worrying I run out of ideas and stop cooking for him, so this gesture may be a gentle nudge to keep on doing what I’m doing.

I have been dying to get back into the kitchen for weeks. I was beginning to feel like I was going to burst if I didn’t get a post out there soon. Is that sad? Do I yearn for the life of blogging more than I do the outside world? I’m pretty new to this world of blogging, which I have found can be quite addictive. I’m quite happy to make it become a part of my life. However, not my life. What I love about blogging is the thought of other people loving and talking about the same interests I have. I just want to share what I love. One thing I do need to do is post more often. I’m thinking perhaps twice a week will be more doable.

Being so far away from close friends really does influence more activity on the net. If I can’t feed them, I feel the next best thing is to share what I feed myself in this blog and talk about it.

I love this hobby and it’s here to stay.

Anyway, before I run off the point, which is my last nights dinner; a creamy Thai mushroom soup served with basil and olive yeast free buns and a tomato side salad.

This one wasn’t taken from the book. It was only inspired by a recipe title in the book. I suppose you can say the ingredients share a similarity, but the taste is on a different level. A lot more to my liking. I also just wanted to use up what I had in the fridge. I’m terrible at following recipes actually. I always seem to be missing then substituting ingredients.

Due to the coconut milk this version isn’t as low in calories as the weight watchers recipe, but it still oozed fresh delicious nutritiousness (is that even a word? Well it works for me).

This one is a keeper. I hope you like it. If you’d like to check out the original recipe which caught my attention, I’ll post it in a comment below this recipe.

Creamy Thai Mushroom Soup

Ingredients;

  • 1/2 a tin of coconut milk topped up with water making one pint
  • 1 cup soy beans (or any white bean)
  • 200g mushrooms (a mixture of your choice)
  • 1 tbsp red Thai curry paste
  • The juice of one lemon/lime/1tbsp rice vinegar/1tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 plump cloves of garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 sachet of konbu dashi/ 1 1/2 tsp

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized sauce pan, saute the chopped onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is translucent
  2. add a little water to avoid sticking
  3. add the beans
  4. add the chopped mushrooms stir the contents together.
  5. mix the Thai paste, coconut milk, water & Konbu together
  6. pour into the sauce pan
  7. bring to the boil then turn to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. In the mean time prepare your side salad
  9. I used 2 chopped tomatoes, 2 cup of chopped spinach and salad leaves, 3 chopped umeboshi (pickled plums) and 2 green onions, chopped.
  10. The bread recipe is below
  11. When the soup is ready stir through the lemon juice
  12. blend the soup in batches then return to the sauce pan and heat through before serving in warm bowls.

Yeast Free Bread Buns

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1tsp salt
  • 5 chopped green olives
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup water

Directions:

  1. sieve the flour, baking powder,soda,salt together in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. add the basil
  3. make a well in the center of the flour and mix in the water little by little until it forms a dough and the texture is a little gluey.
  4. transfer the dough onto a floured surface then separate into 4 equal parts and form into small bun shapes.
  5. grease the rice cooker pan with some of the olive oil
  6. insert the buns
  7. brush the buns with the rest of the olive oil
  8. close the rice cooker lid and set on cake for 45mins.
  9. When they are done, crisp them up a little under the grill before serving. (best served hot)

Red Thai Curry Paste ~krung Kaeng Phed on FoodistaRed Thai Curry Paste ~krung Kaeng Phed

What makes you smile on a gloomy day?


Wow when will it stop raining?  It almost feels like Scotland here in Kochi right now.

I’m now on a mission to cheer myself up.   What do you usually do to lighten the mood when it’s the greyest of greys outside?

Besides baking and eating cakes my number 1 is listening to Joanna Newsom, especially when I want to feel creative.  My number 2 is painting, but the light is too gloomy to make the most beautiful of paintings look decent (that may just be an excuse for today).  Next in line after listening to Joanna, would be listening to a very eclectic Japanese musician, who owns the quirkiest of cafes in Hiroshima (One of our best finds since coming to Japan) Her name is Goto Izumi.  Her music is a desired taste, but makes me smile every time.  You can find her here.

Oh I almost forgot, before all of the above my all time pick me up is, of course, my out of this world, magic potion, cinnamon porridge. ahhhh shiawase 🙂

Sadly this can only fill a very small portion of my day.   Bellow you will see what is next on the BendiBenri list of rice cooker delights.  Not as flawless as those you will find in restaurants or izakaya, but still delicious, perhaps fresher and definitely healthier.

Simple salad Maki with a herby crunchy salad and ginger Miso soup.

Variety Bites


Since coming to japan I have developed an obsession for onigiri (rice balls).   So much so I have ditched the sandwich for the delightful pretty tasty treats.   It has come to the point that my day doesn’t feel fulfilled until I have munched on an onigiri.

The joy with onigiri is that you can put pretty much put anything you want in them from bacon, eggs, haggis, fish to veggie’s beans and pickles.  The options are endless use your imagination, anything goes.

What’s also exiting about these savoury treats is that each new onigiri can be a surprise when preparing a variety for guests.
You can be guaranteed they will be polished off in a matter of minutes.


The traditional shape to prepare onigiri into is a triangle, however you can be experimental with their shape or simply shape them into balls and roll them in sesame seads.   Personally though, I prefer the triangles, especially since I have a nifty wee mold making them perfect every time, although using your eye and clean wet hands also works just fine.





My favourite filling by far is umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), see picture above.  Other favourites are listed bellow.  Honestly though, try anything you like as it probably will work!


Ingredients


1 cup Japanese or short grain rice  (making 6 small onigiri)
1 cup water
1 tsp salt and pepper


Either cook according to the instructions on your packet of rice, or if you have a rice cooker like me, follow the quantities above and switch the rice cooker on regular cook and wait for it to time out.
When the rice has finished cooking, open the lid and fluff the rice allowing it to cool a little before making the onigiri.
In the mean time prepare your desired filling.
If you like you can take ideas from my list or follow the same fillings as I usually use.


If you don’t have a mold then using your hands is pretty simple


1st – after cleaning your hands, wet them and dust with a little salt

2nd – spoon some rice into the palm of your hands making a cup shape.

3rd – make a well in the ball you have made with your hands then spoon a little of your desired filling.

4th – cover with a little more rice.

5th – Shape the mixture into a tight ball or shape into a triangle.

6th – practice makes perfect.


An alternative is to use a piece of plastic wrap using the same method as above from the 2nd step then gathering the four corners of the plastic wrap then twist and shape with your hands.





Filling 1:

  • 1 tblsp Mayo
  • 0.5 tsp wasabi paste
  • [this is a dressing so use sparingly.  making it in a small dish and add the amount you need when you need it]
  • 3 king size prawns cooked and chopped / 1 tblsp drained tuna flakes





Filling 2:

  • Half a cup diced cooked pumpkin
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seads



Chop the pumpkin and mix into the mirin soy sauce and allow the pumpkin to soak up the flavour
Remove excess liquid then mix in the sesame seeds.


Filling 3:

  • Half a cup avocado chopped
  • Wasabi paste to taste(optional) / a little of the dressing you used for the prawns and tuna
  • salt and pepper to taste



Filling 4:

  • Small Diced cucumbers
  • dab of wasabi (optional)
  • sprinkle Ukari flakes / salt and pepper



Filling 5:

  • 4 pitted umeboshi (chopped)



Make a well in the triangle and scoop in a little filling then cover with a little more rice.
Dress with nori (seaweed strips) or sesame seeds.

Let the cooking begin!!



From having lived in Asia for three years now I feel I am slowly getting to grips with various different foods we rarely eat in the west. Some foods have opened my eyes to a new way of cooking.


Here in Japan, ovens in homes/apartments are very few and far between. The Japanese depend entirely on their rice cookers to provide the staple of their every meal, rice.

I have always enjoyed oven baked dishes from casseroles, roasted vegetables, home made granola and having the opportunity to bake a cake for the occasional treat or take around to friends homes. As soon as this option is taken away from you, you really do begin to realise how dependent you are on certain items.

It has taken me a while to settle into not having an oven to make whatever I feel like. Being solely dependent on my two gas hobs to provide the dinners delights has had it’s ups and downs. Constantly trying to find a new dish or combinations of ingredients to make each meal different from the next has been quite taxing at times. Not only that, but cooking in a shoe box size kitchen has forced me to re-think my organisational skills.

I have always been interested in healthy nutritious foods, which are low in calories and provide me with enough energy to see through the day without wanting to snack on sugary treats. mmmm…treats, one of my down falls in staying healthy!! Who doesn’t love the odd bar of chocolate or cake and coffee set?? If you can say ‘whatever’, to this, then I envy you!!

I love food and love eating out, but your wallet and waist line will hate you before you know it!! This is why I’m constantly on the search for new ideas to use new interesting nutritious and tasty ingredients.

Recently, I bought my very first rice cooker. Not only for the reason to save me time and space in the kitchen, but to experiment cooking a variety of dishes and cakes…
This new wonderful machine not only has a simple rice cooking function, but also cake, porridge and risotto settings to name a few. Actually, that’s all I understand for now, the rest will have to be translated for me as my Japanese reading skills are still very limited. 🙂

So far I have made a fruit cake, similar to Scottish clootie dumpling, and a risotto in this wonderful machine and both, to my surprise surpassed all of my expectations and were a complete hit!! Success!!

This is where this blog begins!! I have been truly inspired now and intend to make life in the kitchen easier with less work and cleaning up and more sharing, eating and enjoyment.

In this blog I will be posting my new success recipes along with an ingredient of the month, where I will give a variety of uses for it and explain to you why I love this particular ingredient with a few useful facts, which may interest you.

I would love it if you could post your thoughts on the recipes I add to this blog. If you ever decide to make them, feel free to make any suggestions for improvement. Also, if you have any ideas of your own that have been a success and would like to share, please mail me and I will try them out and add them to the blog.

Happy cooking!!

Oh, I almost forgot “bendi” as it sounds or “benri” as written in romaji, means useful in English. 🙂