Category Archives: Nibbley Stuff

Pao de Queijo – aka Brazilian Cheese Bread


The buffet breakfasts in Brazil were bloody brilliant, loads of different types of cake, fruit, cereal etc,  but best of all was the squidgy cheese balls known as Pao de Queijo.

Encased in a golden crisp shell with the inside all soft and… well… gooey!

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Three Cheese and Onion Mini Muffins


Basically I had some cheeses in my fridge that needed eating, so I decided to snap them up from their journey to being extra mature and turn them into a delectable little nibble. I had planned to make normal size muffins, but I was lacking a normal sized muffin tin, thus mini muffins were formed.

You could easily use any savoury ingredient as a substitute or swap cheeses from what I have used, adding a bit of bacon would be good too.

Tip: If you butter the muffin tin then place it in the freezer, your muffins will pop out nice and easily.

For the muffins:

10 oz (275 g) plain flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 large egg

8 fl oz (225 ml) milk

2 tablespoons creamy yoghurt

a little butter for greasing

1 teaspoon sea salt

For the flavour:

25g Gruyere, grated or finely diced

25g cheddar cheese, grated or finely diced

10g parmesan (or grana padano or pecorino), grated

Half an onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 sprig of rosemary, stalk removed

Knob of butter for frying

Preheat the oven to 200C

Start by gently frying the onion and rosemary in the butter on a low heat with the lid on, when soft and sweet (about 5 minutes) add the garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes, set aside.

Prepare the muffin mixture by sifting the flour, salt and baking powder twice into a mixing bowl (use a plate for 1st stage). Then beat the eggs in a jug before whisking in the milk and yoghurt to the eggs. Fold in the gruyere and cheddar cheeses (the parmesan is for on top) and onion mixture into the flour, then add the egg mixture mixing it in as few a stirs as you can, it looks pretty lumpy at this stage but it will all be fine once they are baked (if you over mix, the muffins won’t rise properly).


Spoon heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture into the mini muffin tin (they can be pretty high), sprinkle on the grated parmesan and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until well risen and golden.

Best eaten warm, and great with a little bit of balsamic syrup.

Ping Pong's Chinese Dumplings, (Har Gow)


I began on my quest to make steamed Chinese dumplings after enjoying them at the infamous Ping Pong, dim sum chain.

A little bit about Ping Pong: it naturally has all the flaws of a chain, seeking any opportunity to prep more than necessary was made apparent in the over cooked bok choy, a lack of seasoning here and there, and a long wait for pretty much everything on a weekend. But fortunately some of the dim sum is pretty decent and fairly reasonably priced.

It took me a while to research what exactly I liked, as googleing: ‘white sticky slightly clear dumplings’ didn’t give me the result I’d hoped for. Here’s a few facts I discovered:

• ‘Dim Sum’ is basically Chinese tapas, meaning small individual portions, normally steamed

• Wontons Vs Dumplings: Being of no Chinese heritage, I was idiotically getting confused with wontons and dumplings. Although both are parcels of stuff, wontons are traditionally prepared in a soup. Where as dumplings are served as a nibble along with tea.

Wonton pastry is quite similar to pasta, which can also be used for dim sum, however I was after making the clear jelly like dumplings, used in a Chinese favourite Har Gow. What I didn’t realise is that this is supposedly one of the hardest things to cook, I quote Wikipedia:

Gao (餃, Dumpling; 餃子 gau zi, Gow gee): Gao is a standard in most teahouses. They are made of ingredients wrapped in a translucent rice flour or wheat starch skin. Though common, steamed rice-flour skins are quite difficult to make. Thus, it is a good demonstration of the chef’s artistry to make these translucent dumplings

Great, and this was reinforced when I purchased the flour from my local Chinese supermarket, the lady looked at me strange as I passed over the wheat/corn starch, when I double checked I had the right stuff, she replied ‘you’re making Haaaar Gaaw?!’

Yes these are a little tricky but I can offer you a few tips for making them:

• Grease the rolling pin and surface each time you roll the skin, it makes it a lot easier

• I used a knife to pick the skin up once rolled

• Check out this link to watch someone making them:


Makes 24

For the filling:

8 ounces medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut rough pieces

3 Tbsp minced bamboo shoots

1/2 tsp soy sauce  (light is better)

1/4 tsp salt 1 tsp rice wine (optional)

1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1/4 tsp ginger, grated

1 tsp cornstarch

1 egg white

For the skin:

200g wheat starch (wheat starch is different from wheat flour)

50g tapioca starch (tapioca starch is the same as tapioca flour)

You can also use a ready mixed combination of the 2 above in Chinese supermarkets, called either har gao flour or Hagou flour, so use 250g of this

1/2 tsp salt

240ml/ 8fl oz boiling water

1 tsp Vegetable oil, plus extra to help roll

Start by preparing the filling by mixing all the ingredients together, cover and chill so the flavours properly infuse for a couple of hours.

Then its onto the tricky bit, making the skins, do this by adding the boiling water to the flour, oil and salt and mix to combine. When you have a dough transfer this onto a clean board dusted with a little of the wheat starch. Knead for 10 minutes, until you have a soft smooth dough (you may need to add a little more water of flour to get to the right consistency – it should be soft but not sticky). Divide the dough into four equal parts. Use your palms to roll each part into an 8-inch log. Cut each log into 8 pieces. Place the pieces, together with the rest of the dough, in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to keep them moist.

Roll each ball in your hand, and then flatten. Put a little bit of oil on the squashed ball and rolling pin before rolling out into the skin. When its about 3 mm think (too thin and its difficult to shape, and too thick isn’t great), pick up the skin using a sharp flat knife scraping it off the board you rolled it on, hold it in your hand and place a small blob of the filling in the centre. Now the sealing bit is the faffy bit skilled chefs make fancy by adding pleats to the skin, I just simply sealed mine like a mini pasty. Place each dumpling in a steamer and make sure to leave enough space so that they do not get too crowded. And serve with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, fresh chopped chilli and red wine vinegar.

Cheesey Twists


I made these tasty little cheesy nibbles for the sole purpose of using up the left over puff pastry from the previous recipe, they are so simple and great excuse to have a G&T!


300g puff pastry

100g mature cheddar

Pinch salt

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Roll out the puff pastry to about 3mm thickness sprinkle the cheese, salt and pepper over half of this puff pastry sheet. Fold the un cheesey half over the cheesey half and roll until the cheese is embedded. Slice into about 1 cm width strips. Twist these strips a few times to look pretty then place in a hot oven (220 oC)

SunBlush Tomatoes from my Oven


I’m afraid to break it to you but ‘Blush’ isn’t a term used for drying tomatoes in the sun; instead SunBlush is a brand of tomatoes that are slow roasted in a convection oven, with a marinade of oregano and garlic. I used to work for the SunBlush brand, and have visited the factories that make them, so this recipe is close to the real McCoy.

Making your own Vs buying from Sainsburys??: you can’t beat the satisfaction of watching your little tomatoes shrivel slightly and intensify in flavour, and then you can marinade them in whatever you like.


4 ripe (salad size) tomatoes

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp sunflower oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil

1 tsp dried oregano


Slice the tomatoes into 8 wedges; starting with where the stork was slice in half, then each half into 4 slices. Sprinkle with salt, then lay on a rack and place in the oven at 150oC (fan oven if you have different settings).

Essentially you are removing the moisture from the tomatoes rather than cooking them, so a low temperature is needed, and a fan oven will help remove the moisture more efficiently.

Leave in the oven for 1 hour with it on, turn the oven off and leave them in there for a further 15 minutes. they should look like this just starting to ‘blush’:

Make your marinade by placing the oils, garlic and herbs in a small bowl, and mixing to combine.

Coat the tomatoes in the marinade, before placing in a container or jar to steep until you need them. You can keep them in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a week should you not want to eat them all.

The Tommyfield’s, Smoked Mackerel Pate


I didn’t ask the Chef at the Tommyfield for the recipe, but I think you’ll find my little version that lies beneath is something quite special!

I dressed it up with balsamic syrup and tiny cubes of beetroot as they served in the restaurant (pub), but you could just whack it in a pot and delve in, in a Jamie ‘rustic’ sorta of way.

For the mackerel pate…

2 smoked mackerel fillets

2 tbsp crème fraiche

1 tbsp creamed horseradish

1 tsp chopped capers

1 tsp chopped dill

1 tsp lemon juice

The bits to go with…

Ciabatta or crusty bread

1 cooked beetroot bulb, diced

1 tbsp balsamic syrup

Start by removing the skin from the mackerel fillets, then using your hands flake the flesh roughly into a bowl. Next, place all of the remaining pate ingredients into the mackerel bowl and mix with a fork until all combined and the mackerel’s slightly shredded (I like to keep the mackerel a bit chunky to add texture). Adjust the seasoning if it needs salt or more lemon juice.

Serve with the balsamic syrup, beetroot cubes and toasted ciabatta.

British Asparagus Bruschetta


Normally bruschetta is grilled bread, rubbed with garlic, before being topped with fresh chopped tomatoes, eaten as a bit of an Italian tapas. Well I’ve pushed the boundaries and made it British using our beloved asparagus. There weren’t enough numbers of the surviving few asparagus shoots that pierced through the ground of my parents kitchen garden to serve as a ‘vegetable’, so I blitzed them up and popped them on a bit of grilled bread, fantastic with g&t.

makes enough nibbles for 2-4 depending on how greedy you are

small bunch of asparagus (about 6 shoots)

2 tbsp frozen peas

¾ tbsp crème fraiche

1 tbsp grated parmesan

1 tbsp olive oil (+ a bit extra for drizzling)

2 tsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Small baguette/crusty bread

1 clove of garlic, cut in half

 Defrost your peas in boiling water, drain. Remove the tough bottom from the asparagus (about 1inch, and chop roughly. Place in a bowl of just boiled water and leave to stand for 1 minute before draining.

Place the peas and asparagus and all remaining ingredients in a blender, (or a bowl and use a hand blender) blitz briefly so you still have a bit of texture.


Slice the bread for griddling, and drizzle olive oil onto both sides. Heat a griddle pan and when up to a high heat, cook the bread on both sides until a little crunchy. Rub the garlic on the bread to release the garlic aromas (don’t leave any chunks of pungent garlic on the bread though), before topping with the asparagus mix.