Not Just any Banana Bread…but Pecan and Chocolate Banana Bread

Apr 29

Not Just any Banana Bread…but Pecan and Chocolate Banana Bread

Not Just any Banana Bread…but Pecan and Chocolate Banana Bread

So after my husband moaning I don’t bake for him, this week I decided just for him I would do one of his favourites, banana bread.

I found a recipe in my ever expanding recipe file that looked good and I thought I would try.

It was taken from My Waitrose Magazine March 2015 Issue and this is the first time I have made it.

The process is very easy one to follow and as you can see the results looked good.

Now for my husbands verdict: LOVELY. He isn’t one for lots of words but the speed with which its disappearing speaks volumes.


100g unsalted butter softened

3 eggs

1 lemin zest and juice of ½ lemon

1tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp mixed spice

225g plain flour

100g light brown muscovado sugar plus 1tbs for sprinkling

350g peeled bananas plus 1 extra sliced to decorate

100g pecan nuts, toasted and chopped

100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)chopped into 1cm chunks

1 Preheat the oven to 180oC, gas mark 4.

Grease a 900ml loaf tin and line base and sides with baking parchment.

Blend all the ingredients – apart from the extra sugar, sliced banana, pecans and chocolate – in a food processor until evenly mixed. Stir through most of the nuts and chocolate, reserving a handful of each.

2 Spoon the batter into the tin and scatter over the reserved nuts, chocolate and sliced banana, gently pressing into the top.. Sprinkle over 1tbsp brown sugar.

3 Bake for 1 hour 15minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (cover with foil after 45minutes if it browns too quickly). Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then move to wire rack to cool.

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Small things can make the world of difference

Apr 25

Small things can make the world of difference


Fences of the traditional variety are one of my pet hates. I much prefer a more contemporary fence such as these open slat type or gabion fences.

With a fence on our boundary that was only replaced shortly before we bought the house in 2012 and funds tight I decided  to look at painting our existing panels before we put them back.

I had a look around online for options that came in a grey colour but getting hold of samples wasn’t easy or cheap and I didn’t want to waste  money buying a large tin that might not be suitable.

On a trip to Wickes for other materials  I discovered they did sample pots for the Cuprinol Garden Shades range and came away with two to test out; Urban Slate and Silver Birch.

After applying a little of each onto a sample strip of wood I instantly new  the Urban Slate was one to go for. I purchased large tins of the paint and set to work painting the panels doing two coats on each side. It is a time consuming process but I was excited to see the end results.

This weekend we finally completed the panels that had been removed and as you can see here with the panels back in place it has really transformed the fence and it works particularly well against the white and greys we have used for the house finishes.

Painting the fence grey has also brought out the texture of the wood and provides an excellent backdrop to the green of plants, really making them pop.

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Delicious Hazelnut and Chocolate Cake

Apr 22

Delicious Hazelnut and Chocolate Cake

Hazelnut and Chocolate Cake


Now that I am unemployed I have time to do things that I haven’t had time to do for a while.

High up on my list was to get back to doing some baking.

My love of chocolate and hazelnuts (nutella) and my ongoing search for a cake recipe that brings those flavours together in unison meant I decided I wanted to make a hazelnut sponge.

After browsing a few recipes most of which had either coffee in them (I hate coffee) or had chocolate in the sponge mix which I felt would over power the hazelnut.

Eventually I decide on the following recipe and made the alterations as shown in brackets.

Here is a link to the original recipe I found on google



For the cake

  1. 135g blanched hazelnuts (used shop bought ground hazelnuts)
  2. 200g soft butter
  3. 200g golden caster sugar
  4. 4 large eggs
  5. 100g self raising flour
  6. 1 tsp baking powder
  7. 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  8. 1 tsp vanilla (1tsp hazelnut extract)
  9. 3 tbsp milk (3tbsp hazelnut milk)

For the buttercream filling

  1. 75g soft butter (50g soft butter)
  2. 150g icing sugar (100g icing sugar)
  3. 3 tbsp (level) cocoa powder (4 tbsp nutella)
  4. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (not use)
  5. Upto 1 tbsp milk or Frangelico  (not used)

For the glaze

  1. 30-40 ml water
  2. 40g caster sugar
  3. 2 tbsp golden syrup
  4. 60g dark chocolate chips (green and blacks dark chocolate)


  1. Start by toasting the nuts in a dry frying pan then when a little scorched around the edges, transfer to a food processor and blitz until you achieve the texture of ground almonds – don’t go too far or it will form a paste as the oils come out of the nuts.
  2. Grease and line two deep 8 inch round loose bottomed cake tins.
  3. Preheat the oven to 170˚C.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar for the cake together until very light and fluffy – I give it a good ten minutes in my stand mixer on high.
  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time, turning up to high as the eggs are incorporated to help prevent curdling – add a spoonful of flour if worried as you add them.
  6. Sift over the flour and raising agents then fold in.
  7. Add in the nuts and milk and fold once more – it won’t look like much batter but it rises very well if the recipe is followed as stated. Divide between the prepared tins and bake for 30-35 minutes until the centre of the cake springs back when lightly pressed and no crumbs stick to a skewer inserted into the centre.
  8. Cool on a rack and make the glaze to give it time to firm up a little.
  9. Put the water*, caster sugar and golden syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, immediately take off the heat and stir in the chocolate (*= I quite like this runny so use 40 ml water but if you want it more spreadable add only 30ml). Beat until glossy with a spoon and leave to one side.
  10. Make the buttercream by placing everything in a food processor and blitzing until spreadable but still thick – add the liquid slowly.
  11. Sandwich the cakes together with buttercream and once the glaze has thickened to the texture of double cream (which can take half an hour on a hot day) pour straight from the pan in a steady stream in the centre of the cake. Allow drippage down the sides, encouraging by gently tilting the plate or cake stand if like (I do!).
  12. Keeps very well for several days covered with cling film, only put in the fridge if it is very hot.

Here are pictures showing how the cake came together. For decoration I had my first go at doing some sugar work, making some hazelnuts dipped in caramel.


I was very pleased with the end result and couldn’t wait to have a taste.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed, the cake was delicious and went down well with my husband and family.

It is definitely going into my list of favourites, to be made again soon !!!




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Garden office the story so far

Apr 19

Garden office the story so far


You may remember back in August 2015 in my week 2 post about the Project Woodlands house renovations, there were pictures of concrete being poured for a concrete base for a garden room.

As if we don’t have enough on our plates with the house we have been slowly working on a garden office / shed at the bottom of the garden.

With the main building works done on the house for now, and after being made redundant from my full time job, the provision for a home office is all the more pressing.

Here is an update in pictures of what we have done so far.


August 2015

October 2015 – 19/04/2016

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March Madness

Apr 06

March Madness

March Madness (06/04/16)

Having gone to the director of the rendering to complain about how our project was being handled, I found he wasn’t much better and didn’t address / answer many of my points raised.  I ended up back dealing with the same person managing the project  but we did eventually get the rendering work completed, the scaffolding down and the rubbish cleared away before the end of March.

We can now finally see the front elevation in all its glory and driving up to it each time feels a little strange,  as though its not our house, I found myself thinking ‘did we really achieve this’.

There is still a lot to do; cladding, interiors, phase 2, driveway and the garden to be done and with the surprise news that I was being made redundant from my job, its certainly not going to be easy or soon before its all finished and we can fully enjoy it.

For now any significant spending has been halted and we are doing jobs ourselves that don’t cost very much.

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