Gousto review (and a free £20 voucher!)

Note: this post is NOT sponsored by anyone. I just happened to try Gousto and really like it, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it.

A few weeks ago, I ordered a DVD from Amazon and inside the packaging were some coupons for assorted things like money off food or wine delivery services. I usually recycle these immediately since I’m not tempted. However, I found a voucher for Gousto, a company that delivers ingredients to your door to cook specific recipes that you’ve pre-selected online. The available menus rotate each week so you don’t get bored with the meals.

The company claims to cut down on food waste since they only give you as much as you need for each recipe, which is great since often I buy ingredients for one meal and end up with way too much of something. Inevitably, I either have to eat all subsequent meals for the following three weeks with a side of chipotle paste (or whatever the ingredient du jour is) or end up tossing the extras out. This way, I don’t have to do that! As an added bonus, a lot of the ingredients are locally sourced from farms within England and are often organic. The meals are healthy (lots of whole grains and vegetables), but also taste amazing.

I loved that there were plenty of vegetarian options (I’m pescatarian) and that there were a number of recipes I was quite excited to cook. I chose the following recipes:

Tomato risotto with mozzarella and pesto (sorry, no pictures of this one – I was hungry and forgot to photograph it!)

Smoky chipotle sweet potato cakes with pecan and blue cheese salad


Halloumi with a mint, almond, and freekeh salad and plum chutney


Cajun fish with pineapple, tomato, and mint salsa and brown rice.


They all turned out amazingly and were so delicious! My favorite was the cajun fish (in fact, I made a version of it tonight for dinner!) and I loved the other three as well. Better yet, the portions were HUGE, so I ended up getting three meals out of each dish, rather than two.

I’d initially planned on canceling the service after trying it, but now I’m actually tempted to get another Gousto delivery at some point. It’s too expensive to afford on a regular basis, but it’s good (at least for me) as an occasional thing to spice up my cooking routine and introduce me to new recipes that I might not otherwise try.

If you want to try out Gousto (UK people only – sorry!), then feel free to use this voucher code to get £20 off a delivery: MARY75850 – just go to the Gousto website to redeem it and input the code when prompted. Happy eating!

Brazilian Cheese Breads – Pão de Queijo


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Cheesy bread

The tearoom at work sells the most wonderful cheese scones that are light, fluffy, cheesy, and have a slightly crispy crust. Aside from the occasional dip in quality, they’re well worth the price. However, I’m trying to cut back on unnecessary expenditures so that I can do more travelling and buying snacks at teatime is now only an occasional treat for me.

I stumbled across this recipe on the Food52 blog the other day and it caught my interest. I was interested in trying them out since they looked cheesy and delicious. As an added bonus, they’re a little lighter than a cheese scone and so I can happily eat one for tea and still have room for lunch an hour and a half later. For gluten free folks, they have the added advantage of only using tapioca flour.

I loved the texture of these cheesy breads as the tapioca flour gave them a nice, chewy inside and a crisp, cheesy exterior. The taste was a bit mixed – I could taste the tapioca flour really strongly and it seemed quite bitter. I did some quick Googling and it seems like tapioca flour can taste like this to some people but not others, a bit like with cilantro. It could also be that the tapioca flour could have been off although this is less likely as I bought the bag yesterday.

Regardless, I decided to bring them into work and see what other people thought. Most people loved them and couldn’t taste the bitterness aside from one other person who tasted the same thing that I did. I’d make them again – bitterness notwithstanding, they were very tasty. I’ll just make sure to warn people ahead of time about the potential for bitterness!

Brazilian Cheesy Bread – adapted from Food52.com

Makes 12-15 cheesy breads depending on the size of the muffin tin used.


  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 ½ cups tapioca flour
  • 3 ounces extra sharp grated cheddar cheese or a parmesan/gruyere mixture

Preheat the oven to 375˚F (Gas Mark 5 or 190˚C), then butter/grease a muffin tin (I used one with 12 shallow wells). Blend together the wet ingredients (egg, milk, and oil) plus the salt in a blender for a few seconds until fully mixed. Add the tapioca flour next and blend until it is fully incorporated, another 10-15 seconds. Once the batter has gone smooth again, add the cheese and blend for a few more seconds until it is mixed in.

At this point, the batter will be very wet and runny. Don’t panic, it’s meant to be like this! Pour the batter into the muffin tin wells so that the batter fills each about halfway. If you have batter left over, set it aside for a second batch.

Bake the cheese breads for about 20-25 minutes until they’ve puffed up and the tops have turned golden brown. Some of the breads might pop up out of the muffin tin wells. Remove the breads from the muffin tin and invert on a baking rack so that steam can escape from their bottoms. This will help preserve their crispy crust. Store within an airtight container and eat within a day of baking for best results.


Smoky chipotle sweet potato cakes with pecan and blue cheese salad


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I’m an absolute sucker for sweet potatoes and anything with a smoky twist, so when I saw the recipe for these I knew that I had to make them. I loved the sweetness of the cakes in contrast with the tangy blue cheese dressing, and the nuts provided a nice, crunchy texture. Next time, I might consider throwing in an egg as a binding agent since they were a little loose, but overall it was delicious. I’ll definitely be making these again!

Smoky chipotle sweet potato cakes with pecan and blue cheese salad – recipe adapted from Gousto

Serves 3 for a light meal or 2 for a heartier meal


  • 2 medium size white potatoes
  • 2 medium size sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup (or 1 ounce) pecan halves
  • 2 ounces blue cheese (I used stilton)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 3 small or two medium-sized tomatoes
  • 1 head of little gem lettuce
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Smoked paprika (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425˚F and bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil. Cut up the white potatoes into 1 inch cubes, then do the same for the sweet potatoes. Boil the white potatoes for about 5-7 minutes covered until they are somewhat tender but not fully cooked through. Add the sweet potatoes and cook for another 5-7 minutes uncovered until both types of potatoes are cooked fully through.

Meanwhile, toast the pecans on another baking tray until they darken slightly – this will take a few minutes. Watch the pecans closely as they can burn pretty quickly. Remove the pecans from the oven, let them cool, then chop them roughly.

Drain the potatoes and rinse with cold water so that they cool down. This step is pretty important – I didn’t fully cool mine and as a result they were a little bit messy to work with when it came to forming them into cakes. Add the chipotle paste and toss the potatoes to coat them, then add the flour and toss again. With a fork or a masher, roughly smash the potatoes so that they’re easier to form into cakes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, you can play with the smokiness by adding a little extra smoked paprika.

Form the mixture into six round cakes and roll them in flour to stop them from sticking. Heat a large frying pan (my favorite is a cast iron skillet) with one tablespoon of olive oil and fry three of the cakes for three minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Repeat with the remaining oil and sweet potato cakes. Bake for 12-15 minutes on a baking tray until they are crispy and piping hot.

Meanwhile, cut the lettuce into thin ribbons and chop the tomatoes into small pieces. Toss the salad ingredients together to combine. Make the blue cheese dressing by mashing up the blue cheese with the vinegar, then adding the mayonnaise and mixing until smooth. Thin the dressing by stirring in milk, then season with freshly ground black pepper.

Assemble the salad on the plates, then drizzle on the dressing and sprinkle the pecans on top. Add more pepper if desired. Arrange two (or three) sweet potato cakes beside the salad and serve immediately.


Hot Milk Cake


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I came across the recipe for a hot milk cake while reading the Food52 blog one day. It sounded a bit odd and involved a new method, so it was enough to pique my interest. I decided to jazz it up a little by adding a lemon drizzle, a very British way of finishing off a simple pound cake with a lemony glaze that forms a crackly crust on top and moistens the cake within.

This cake recipe is genius in its simplicity – you don’t need to cream the butter and the whole thing comes together within minutes. It is the perfect recipe for when you’re short on time! It can be served plain, with the lemon drizzle, or with whipped cream and fruit as the original recipe suggests.

Hot Milk Cake with a Lemon Drizzle – recipe adapted from Food52 and the BBC

Serves 8 to 12

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk

For the lemon glaze:

  • 1 ½ lemons
  • 3 ounces granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease and flour the cake pan of your choice. I used a 9 inch cake pan which might have been slightly too big for the batter as the cake took forever to bake and the center turned out a bit dense. Next time, I’d divide it into two 8 inch cake pans or use a single tube/bundt pan. You could even use a couple of loaf pans to make something like a pound cake.

Next, beat the eggs, vanilla, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Sift the flour and baking powder together, then add this to the egg mixture, stirring until the ingredients are incorporated but taking care not to overmix.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, then the add milk and bring to a boil. Gradually pour the milk and butter mixture into the batter while stirring constantly. Pour the batter into the pan(s) and bake for 25-35 minutes if using two pans or 50 minutes if using one (mine needed significantly longer, see above) until the cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

While the cake is still cooling, mix together the lemons and sugar to make the glaze. Prick the top of the cake with a fork or skewer and pour the glaze over the top while the cake is still warm. Let the cake cool (a crisp, sugar crust should form on the top) and then remove from the cake pan and serve.



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Time seems to have entirely gotten away from me! I promised more writing soon, then entirely failed to deliver. Here, at long last, is a little write up about the croissants I made a few weeks ago.

I’d always heard that croissants were incredibly difficult to make which made me determined to master them. Imagine my surprise to find that they were actually quite easy when it came down to it! The real issue is time; croissants are by no means quick and cannot be rushed if they are to be made properly. However, while it will take the better part of 24 hours to complete the whole process from start to finish, the actual active time involved is relatively short. Activity comes in short bursts interspersed with long periods of chilling the dough.

The temperature of the milk is particularly important, so please use a thermometer to double check that it’s in the correct range. Whenever a recipe I’ve used in the past has called for tepid/lukewarm liquid in a yeasted recipe, I’ve usually winged it and things have turned out fine. This time, I actually measured the temperature of the milk precisely. To my surprise, it felt a lot hotter than I’d assumed it would be. The yeast was much more active and foamy than usual and yielded much better results. I’ve concluded that I’ve been using water/milk that’s just a bit too cold to properly activate the yeast in past recipes, so I’ve now resolved to always measure of the temperature of the liquid before adding yeast.

I also recommend letting the croissants rise in a room that is not the kitchen, because the kitchen is a bit too warm (particularly if you’re preheating the oven) and this can cause the butter in the dough to melt and wreak havoc with the final product.

As one final note, do not halve the recipe; although you might not wish to make 24 croissants, the recipe relies on these exact proportions to make the laminated pastry dough. If you have more than you need, you can freeze the remaining croissants either before or after baking and then eat them at your leisure. The dough may also be used for pains au chocolat or for almond croissants.

Croissants (recipe adapted from Epicurious.com) – makes 24 medium sized croissants

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk, warmed to between 105˚F-110˚F
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon and ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plain flour if you’re in the UK)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups (12 ounces) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten with a fork
  • 1-2 ice cubes

Mix together the milk, sugar, and yeast and let stand for about 5 minutes until the top of the mixture has become foamy. Add the flour and salt, and then mix in a stand mixer using the dough hook attachment at low speed until you have a smooth, soft dough. This will take about 7 minutes. I don’t have a stand mixer, so instead used my electric beater that has special dough hook attachments – this seemed to work relatively well, though if the dough had been any stiffer it might have strained the motor.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for two minutes on a floured work surface. You may need to add flour as you go – up to an additional ¾ cup. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky after two minutes. Shape the dough into a 1 ½ inch (4cm) thick rectangle  and wrap in plastic wrap, then chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour).

Just before removing the dough from the fridge, shape the butter by arranging the blocks side by side and pounding them with a rolling pin so that it becomes more workable. Shape the butter into an 8×5 inch rectangle by placing between plastic wrap or kitchen towels and pounding/rolling it with the rolling pin.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it forms a 16×10 inch rectangle and orient it so that the short side is closest to you. Place the butter in the middle of the dough, with the short side of the butter parallel to the long side of the dough. Fold the dough over the butter like a letter, with one third of the dough going over the top of the butter, then the other third going over the top of that.

Re-orient the dough so that the short side faces you, then press gently down on it with the rolling pin working along the dough so that it flattens slightly. Roll out the dough into a 15×10 inch rectangle, making sure that the rolling pin does not go over the ends of the dough, but stops just at the edge. Fold the dough in thirds once more, making a 10×5 inch rectangle. If need be, stretch out the corners to square the dough so that the folded dough edges will be even. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for one hour.

Repeat the rolling, folding, and chilling process three more times, then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 8-18 hours. The dough must be chilled for at least 8 hours, but the chilling time must not exceed 18 hours or the rise may be impacted during baking.


The dough just after an 18 hour long rise in the fridge – look at all of those layers!

Divide the dough and half and place one half in the refrigerator to chill. Roll out the other on a floured work surface into a 16×12 inch rectangle. If need be, stretch the corners out to make the correct shape. Trim the edges with a knife so that the rectangle is uniform and the corners are square.

Orient the dough with the short side facing you, then cut in half horizontally and chill one of these halves. Cut the other half into thirds vertically, then cut each of these thirds diagonally to make a total of six triangles.

Shape the croissants by elongating the tip of the triangle until it’s about 50% longer by stretch it between your hands, then roll the triangle up from the short side up to the tip. The croissant will roll over itself about 3 times and the tip will be touching the base of the croissant shape.

Place the croissant tip down onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. At this point, you can shape the ends of the dough into a more crescent-like shape. Repeat the shaping process with the remaining triangles, and then repeat with the remaining dough in the fridge. Place the croissants two inches apart on the baking sheet.

Cover the baking sheet(s) with a plastic bag and lift the plastic away from the dough by placing glasses or other props inside the makeshift tent, then tuck the edges of the plastic underneath the sheet. Let the croissants rise for approximately two hours until they are puffy and a bit spongy to the touch.


The croissants just before going into the oven

Preheat the oven to 425˚F shortly before the rising time has finished and place a small, oven-safe dish in the bottom of the oven. Remove the baking sheet(s) from the plastic tent(s) and glaze them with the beaten egg, taking care to only brush the egg wash along the tops of the dough but not the sides as this can inhibit the nice, flaky layers from forming during baking.

Open the oven and toss 1-2 ice cubes into the small oven-safe dish in the bottom of the oven. Place the baking sheets in the oven, then decrease the temperature to 400˚F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the sheet(s) 180˚ degrees and if there are multiple baking sheets in the oven, switch the rack positions. Decrease the oven temperature again to 375˚F and bake for approximately 10 more minutes until the croissants are a deep golden color.

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The croissants are best while eaten warm or within a few hours of baking otherwise they risk going stale. They can be crisped up by baking in a 325˚F oven for a few minutes.


A Brief Stay in Edinburgh


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I came up to Edinburgh for less than 24 hours the other day to speak at a conference. Initially, I was planning to stay a few days extra afterwards and turn it into a mini-vacation of sorts, but I had a couple of other commitments that same week. I’m definitely planning on coming back soon, however – this city is beautiful and has many things worth exploring.

I stayed overnight in the Adria House hotel. I can’t recommend this place highly enough! Even though I’d booked a single room, when I arrived I found that they’d given me an upgrade to their largest family room. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this room is the size of my apartment. It’s huge, with beautiful furniture and enormous windows. I was greeted by Edward, one of the owners, who was very friendly and gave me a run-down on Edinburgh and the immediate surrounding neighborhood.
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I went for dinner at Cafe Marlayne, a short walk from the hotel on Antigua street. I loved the atmosphere of the cafe – it felt elegant, cozy, and casual at the same time. There were candles at the tables, but also an eclectic mix of furniture and art. The combination made me feel instantly at home while also feeling like it was a special occasion.

For a starter, I had butternut squash risotto with thyme, pine nuts and parmesan and a pesto-rocket salad. The butternut squash was tender and sweet, with the pine nuts providing a nice crunch for contrast. After a long day’s travel, it was warm, comforting and delicious, which was exactly what I needed.


My main course was also stunning: pan-fried plaice with brown shrimp, samphire, beurre noisette, and saffron rice. The fish was beautifully cooked and melted in my mouth. The brown shrimp (which I’d never had before) were sweet and slightly chewy (in a good way), while the samphire provided a salty kick. The beurre noisette was hauntingly good and I’m sure I’ll be dreaming about it all week.


Unbelievably, this absolutely stellar meal came to only £13 for both courses. Cafe Marlayne is a rare gem, managing to serve truly excellent food in a lovely atmosphere at affordable prices. If you find yourself in Edinburgh, please go! You won’t regret it.

It’s been awhile…

I’m not entirely sure how this happened, but I’ve somehow neglected this blog for the past two years. Well, that’s not entirely truthful. I know EXACTLY how it happened. As soon as I got back from Porto, I dove straight into summer term. The next few months passed in a total blur (so much work, so little time), then I flew back home for a short summer vacation.

I did type up a few posts, but kept on putting them off until I could add pictures…which never ended up happening. The next year (my last year of grad school) passed in a whirlwind of activity (the dissertation writing process in particular devoured all of my time and energy.

Now that I’ve graduated, I have a little bit more time on my hands. I’m hoping to get back to blogging again – if nothing else, it’s a great way to stay in touch with friends and family when I’m so far away.*

I’ve had the Porto trip blog posts completely written up for simply ages, so I’ll add pictures to them and put them up as soon as possible. I’ll also try and write up some of the more interesting things that have happened in the past couple of years.

*This whole England thing was supposed to last for two years. I ended up liking it here so I stayed. Me-three-years-ago would have been very surprised by this decision, but now it feels totally right.

Porto, Day Five and Six


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Wary of the rain the previous day, I was entirely gratified to see nothing but sun when I poked my head out the door this morning.  Ever the poster child for sun safety, I dashed downstairs to put on some sunscreen.  Not 5 minutes later, I opened the door and was faced with a wall of water.  More rain!

Instead of braving the elements, we decided to have lunch at the house.  Tiago decided to make a something which he called “tomato fish rice” while I stood by and took copious notes so that I could recreate it when I got back to the UK. It was delicious!


After lunch, we wandered down to the pastry shop Concha d’Ouro where I picked up pastries for my flight home, then I went to buy more ceramics souvenirs.  We took the scenic route through town, wandering over the Bridge D. Luís before heading to Casa Museu Guerra Junqueiro for what was supposed to be a concert of traditional Portuguese music.

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I say “supposed to be” because it was only after we’d been stranded in the front row of an extremely packed concert hall that we discovered we’d been tricked into attending a performance of Portuguese Jesus Christ Superstar.  I’m extremely prone to giggling at inappropriate moments, so I had to spend the next hour biting the inside of my cheek and studiously avoiding looking at Tiago while geriatric men pranced around in loincloths mere inches from my face.  Following the performance, Tiago had some extremely…choice…words to say about the friend who’d told him about the “concert” in the first place (and who had bailed on meeting us there at the last minute).  This was actually as amusing as watching the performance itself, though I made a mental note never to get on Tiago’s bad side, if only to avoid being cursed for the next 7 generations.

To calm down, we went to an amazing little tea shop called Muí where they blend all of their teas by hand.  The owner is absolutely fantastic to talk to and speaks approximately 12 bajillion languages fluently.  So impressed.

For our afternoon snack, we stopped by the tea parlour Rota do Chá for some excellent sandwiches and equally delightful tea.  I highly recommend this place, and it’s worth going for the extensive tea menu alone.

It was my last night in Porto and we decided to stay in and cook something for ourselves.  Dinner was simple, just some roasted cauliflower and pasta with homemade pesto, but it really hit the spot.  We kicked back in front of the TV and watched a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother.  Perfect!

The next day I arose bright and early, then prodded Tiago awake because he’d very kindly agreed to drive me to the airport.  I flew back to England, missing both Porto and Tiago already.

Porto, Day Four


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Today, we ventured further afield to the town of Guimarães, European Capital of Culture 2012.  Due to a late start (ahem, Tiago, Mr.-oh-let’s-totally-wake-up-early-just-kidding-I’m-going-to-ignore-my-alarm-clock), we finally ended up arriving in town around lunchtime.  After a quick lunch, we headed outside to find that the skies had suddenly turned grey.  I’m usually pretty optimistic about the weather, but when the sky started heaving buckets of rain down onto our heads, I turned to Tiago and wailed “It’s RAAAAAAIIINING!”  With a beatific smile, he said “No it’s not!  Those are just drops of water.” 

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Tiago’s post-lunch drink; hot water with lemon peel.

We went to the Convent of Santa Clara…which turned out to be a bank or something.  I think we were both a little confused by that one. After wandering aimlessly around the courtyard, we headed to the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, then to Guimarães Castle.  For some unknown reason, most likely due to the city being named the European Capital of Culture 2012, the beautiful old castle was decked out in what has to have been some of the worst art I have ever seen in my life.  The most egregious example of this was a gigantic plaster baby with demonic eyes that had been placed in front of the altar of the castle chapel.  I wish I’d thought to take a picture of it, because it was really something else.

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Wandering back into the centre of town, we stopped by the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, then ducked into a pastry shop in order to equip ourselves with the supplies necessary for our journey home (in this case, the pastries known as Jesuits and Glórias).  Pastries in hand, we walked back to the train and rode back to Porto in order to meet with some of Tiago’s high school friends.


We also found a print shop! I spent three years working in a letterpress workshop, so I love visiting them whenever I find one.

We went to dinner at a little place in Rua do Carmo.  Tiago didn’t actually know the name of it, he and his friends switch between calling it Megadef or Parte o Prato (Break the Plate).  Anyway, whatever it was called, I finally got my fix of bacalhau. Surprisingly (or maybe not, given that they are both salted, preserved bits of fish), it tasted a lot like anchovies.  Yum!



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