Cupcake of the month (July): red currant

I’ve not felt like baking in this baking heat, but yesterday saw a slight reprieve in the daytime temperature around here, a mere 24 degrees, so I seized the opportunity to sneak in July’s cupcake of the month recipe.

The cakes on the calendar this month were called ‘ruby-red’ cupcakes, and required red food colouring as well as cocoa powder to make a deep red colour. However, since we had red currants in the fruit and veg box this week, I thought that I’d make the cakes red by putting red currants in instead of the food colouring – as simple as that. The photos make them look more brown, but when you bite into them, there is lots of redness!IMG 1870

I also had some union jack cupcake cases left from last summer’s olympic and jubilee festivities, and I thought why not bake some cakes with lovely local British summer fruit in them.

IMG 1895

They turned out very well – the recipe makes quite a dense cake, very moist and tasty, as it has natural yoghurt in it. They weren’t too sweet either, as the red currants added a sharpness and the cocoa powder a bitterness as well as the sugar to sweeten. My testers approved, which is the main thing in our house.

Ingredients – makes 12

  • 130g self-raising flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml yoghurt
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g margarine
  • 80g red currants
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 20g red currants


  1. Prepare a muffin tray with cupcake cases, and preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and beat well.
  4. Add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until just combined.
  5. Add the red currants and yoghurt and mix until just combined.
  6. Spoon into the cases to about two thirds full.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, and leave to cool.
  8. Meanwhile make up the drizzle by creaming the margarine, icing sugar and red currants together – I left a few lumpier bits of red currant for texture, but most of the juice went into the drizzle.
  9. Spoon it onto the top of the cakes.
  10. Eat and enjoy as fresh as possible.

Easy blueberry pancakes

This must be one of the easiest recipes I’ve made. After the success of banana oatmeal pancakes, I wanted to make some more pancakes with a different fruit in. We also had quite a lot of natural yoghurt in the fridge, so I thought why not make pancakes with that – I’ve heard that buttermilk makes good pancakes, and yoghurt is very similar to this. So I mixed up a quick batter with half flour, half yoghurt and an egg. The fruit I chose was blueberries, because Joel hadn’t tried them yet and I knew they would cook down well and give a great flavour, texture and, most importantly, colour! They should be called purple-berries when cooked 🙂Bluberry pancakes Collage

These were a real hit with both boys. The recipe made about 10-12, so I froze some to bring out as snacks throughout the week.


  • 120g plain flour
  • 120g yoghurt
  • 1 egg
  • 100g fresh blueberries


  1. Mix the flour, yoghurt and egg in a bowl until a thick batter forms.
  2. Stir in the blueberries (whole) until evenly distributed.
  3. Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan.
  4. Blob heaped teaspoons of batter into the pan and press down slightly.
  5. Let them cook for about 5 minutes on one side until they are nicely browned.
  6. Flip them over with a fish slice and let them cook for another 5 minutes or so until that side is nicely browned too.
  7. Remove them from the pan and place on kitchen towel.
  8. Eat as fresh as possible!

pancake eating Collage

Pregnancy diary: week 14 – hummus and med school

I promised more ramblings about pregnancy, and ramblings there shall be! Here are my baby-brained thoughts about what’s gone on in my life as a pregnant mum this week. Well the bad news is I’m still feeling very sick and tired (and also feeling very sick and tired of feeling very sick and tired). But the good news (for me) is that actually being sick seems to have stayed at low frequency for a whole week now, so I’m hoping it won’t get worse again; and the good news (for you) is that I’m not going to go on about sickness any more this week – I’m trying to be positive and boost my mood about it by writing funny tales on here.

Homemade hummus - my staple diet for week 14 of pregnancy - usually eaten in a wrap or sandwich, but shown here just with salad garnish so you can see it in all it's hummusy glory!

So my words to summarise pregnancy this week are: hummus and med school. Odd combination, I know. In fact they aren’t related at all, but both have featured prominently since I last wrote a pregnancy post. Let’s start with hummus. Or shall I be more precise and say ‘homemade’ hummus. I haven’t eaten any hot cooked food since the middle of March. I’ve been surviving on (as much as I can keep down of) things like cereals, sandwiches, crackers, salad, and selected fruits (totally gone off bananas again, as with Andrew). A few weeks ago I walked past hummus in the supermarket, and thought to myself that I quite fancied it, and it would make a nice sandwich with some salad, so I popped it in my basket. However, when I actually ate some later that day, I really did NOT like the taste of it and was almost sick (ooh sorry, I mentioned the ‘s’ word again; last time!) So I carried on with my staple sandwich filling of cheese.

Until one day last week when I decided that I hadn’t made homemade hummus for Andrew in a while, and that it would be a good thing for him to have for tea (lots of protein in the chickpeas and no salt, unlike lots of processed food that I was tempted to buy having no will or energy to prepare things myself). Tom, who is always willing to do what I ask of him at the moment (amazing man!), happily set to and followed my rather garbled instructions on how to make it. I never measure things, so my ingredients list was something like ‘chick peas, a bit of yoghurt, and a glug or 2 of olive oil’ – Tom prefers to have internationally recognised units of measurement when cooking! You just whizz them all up together in a food processor and voilà, hummus. The difference between this and the shop-bought stuff is basically no garlic or tahini paste (sesame seeds), but great for Andrew as I know exactly what’s in it. Anyway….. as I was serving some up for him, I got a blob on my hand, and without thinking I licked it off. It flashed through my mind that I wouldn’t like it right now, as I suddenly thought about my previous encounter with hummus, but that was soon followed by a feeling of ‘oooh I actually quite like that!’ So I tasted a spoonful myself and confirmed that it was definitely in the ‘foods I can currently tolerate the taste of’ category.

I liked it so much that I had a hummus wrap for tea myself that day, and the next, and the next…. in fact I’ve eaten homemade hummus for at least one meal if not two every day since the discovery. I don’t know what it is exactly about it, but somehow the combination of ingredients is perfect for my taste-buds at the moment. Maybe it was the tahini or garlic in the shop-bought stuff that was a no-no. So is this a craving? I wouldn’t go that far (yet) – I can’t say that I actively long to eat it, as I don’t really want to eat anything, I just eat out of the fact I know I need to and to some extent eating little and often helps to keep the ‘s’ word at bay during the earlier part of the day. Oh, feeling of hunger, please come back and send the feeling of nausea packing! That’s how hummus has dominated my week, and I have no inclination that this will stop any time soon.

Moving on to med school….. Don’t worry, I haven’t signed up for any more studying! I told Tom during my PhD that if I even looked like I was going to apply for any kind of course to get another degree/qualification then he had my permission to do whatever it took to stop me. But since I am a researcher, I’m always willing to help out others in their quest to find participants for research or training studies; and as we live in Cambridge, where there’s a big medical school and the teaching hospital includes a maternity unit, there’s always stuff that needs signing up to. When I went for my scan, I picked up 2 leaflets about volunteering to help medics (of the student or qualified variety).

The first was something I already took part in when I was pregnant with Andrew. It’s called ‘Preparing for Patients’, and it’s a course that all 3rd year undergrad medical students complete, in the hope that it will help them relate their theoretical work to real patients’ experiences. For this they visit a pregnant mum (and her family) in her home, twice before the birth and twice afterwards, and ask her questions about pregnancy, birth and early days with a baby. I love to talk (as if I need to point that out), and with Andrew I was happy to share my experiences in the aid of a good cause (or course! ;)) So I was keen to help out again. The only potential problem was that the leaflet was advertising for mums due between ‘November and early March’, and my due date (if you believe in such things – I don’t) is 30th October. I thought it was worth a quick email anyway, making it clear that I understood if I couldn’t be useful being due 2 days before November. Within half an hour, the course admin had emailed back saying congratulations on being the very first volunteer for this year! (That is if I didn’t mind having my antenatal visits close together right at the start of term – which I don’t.) I know I’m a keen bean for these things, but I don’t think I’ve ever been anyone’s first participant – someone’s gotta be it! They need 150 volunteers altogether, so if you’re pregnant, due November to March (well, Feb-March babies won’t have been conceived yet), and live in Cambridge or the area, why not offer your time if you can? (Disclaimer: I have not been paid/persuaded by other means to write this, it is merely a suggestion from my inner keen volunteer!)

The second thing to sign up for was an hour being ultrasound scanned by a junior doctor or two, who are training in foetal medicine. Of course they need to practice using the fancy equipment and figuring out what all the bits of a baby look like in black and white ‘magic-eye’ style! The criteria for taking part were: 1) between 11 and 32 weeks pregnant in the week beginning 9th July; 2) a singleton pregnancy; 3) a desire to help junior doctors in their training. I fit that bill nicely, and anyway it sounded like fun – mainly because it means I get to have a free scan, complete with take-home pictures, extra to the routine one at 20 weeks that I get from the NHS. I even get my parking paid, so I can travel in four-wheeled luxury (or our Corsa) rather than struggling there by bike (I won’t be brave enough to cycle with a bump, unlike many pregnant ladies in Cambridge). They’re doing this for one week only in mid July, when I’ll be 24 weeks. All I had to do was sort out childcare for Andrew (thanks, Granny), otherwise the doctors would get more than they bargained for – I can just imagine Andrew’s fascination with pressing buttons and pulling things out of holes getting the better of him, and the scan ending in technological disaster.

That brings me, finally, to the end of my ramblings about week 14 of this pregnancy. I hope you had fun reading it and will come back for more next week. Right, I’m off to get some sleep now, at the fine hour of 19.30. Night, night!