Recipe book review: Mountain Berries & Desert Spices

I’ve come to baking quite late in life and still find it quite miraculous! You mix wet and dry ingredients, stick them in the oven and hopefully end up with some delicious treat. Like magic!

Mountain Berries & Desert Spices by Sumayya Usmani offers a whole new range of baking opportunities as a journey through the sweet treats of Pakistan. Many and varied they are too. The book starts off with explanations of the exotic ingredients used and moves from delightful fruity dishes through puddings, biscuits, breads, pancakes, doughnuts, samosas, pastries.

The recipes are easy to follow and all the ingredients are readily available in the UK. If you can’t find them in the shops you will online. Here’s a beautiful recipe to tempt you.

And you can win your own copy of this marvellous book – I have two to give away. Find out how to enter below.

Cardamom and rose water marzipan lace

(Badam ki jail)

This Hyderabadi sweetmeat translates as ‘almond lace’ and the name conjures up visions of delicate white fairytale lace. It’s a festive sweet for celebrations and gifts. The art is in its making as the traditional methods are laborious and badam ki jail is always made in abundance. The mixture resembles marzipan, but it dries out quickly so you must work fast.

Preparation 30–40 minutes + overnight soaking

Cooking 10–15 minutes

Makes 8–10

The ingredients

1kg cups almonds with skin on

2 tsp rose water

1kg caster (superfine) sugar

4–6 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground

Butter, for greasing

500g icing (confectioners’) sugar, for rolling

To decorate

Edible silver or gold leaf

15g ground pistachios

The instructions

Soak the almonds in a bowl of water overnight. The next day, the skins should come off effortlessly.

Place the almonds in a food processor with the rose water and grind until they are very fine and paste-like, then place in a heavy-based saucepan and add the caster sugar and ground cardamom. Cook over a very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and leaves the sides of the pan. Transfer the mixture to a greased glass dish, cover with clingfilm and allow to cool to the touch.

Now form the mixture into 2 balls. Roll each ball out as thinly as possible, dusting both the board and the rolling pin liberally with icing sugar. Using a 5–7.5cm/2–3-inch cookie cutter (flower shape is best) cut out 16–20 shapes. Divide the shapes into two equal groups. On one of the groups, cover the surface of the biscuits with silver or gold leaf. Then using a tiny cookie cutter (such as hearts), make holes in the middle of each shape in the second group. Place these on top of the silver or gold leaf covered ones.

Dust with ground pistachios and serve or store in an airtight container for 2–4 days.

Recipe extracted from Mountain Berries and Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani, published by Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto Group. 

I’m regularly delving into this amazing book. First I made these lovely little sweet puff pastry biscuits called Bakar khani. Very simple, made from puff pastry sprinkled with ground cardamom, poppy seeds and sesame seeds. Sweet, spicy exoticness.

Win a copy of Mountain Berries and Desert Spice

The prize

Two copies of Mountain Berries & Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani worth £20 each.

How to enter

Answer the following question in the comment section of Eating Covent Garden.

What country is the inspiration behind Mountain Berries & Desert Spice?

A India

B Morocco

C Pakistan

D Iran

Terms and conditions

Competition only for residents of the UK.

Closing date for entry will be Sunday 2 July 2017 at midnight.

The winner will be chosen at random after the closing date.

The winner will be notified by email.

No cash alternatives to the prize will be offered. The prize is not transferable.

The editor’s decision is final.

Recipe: Deliciously simple cinnamon rolls

Okay, I know we’re well into January – I can feel this year whizzing by already – but I felt I had to share a simple recipe for some delicious little treats. I made them first thing in the morning over the Christmas period when I had friends staying. They woke up to a deliciously aromatic house and some tasty little pastries to tuck into. Cinnamon rolls make the perfect breakfast.

Sweet and crunchy cinnamon rolls for breakfast

Makes six cinnamon rolls with each sheet of pastry.

2 tbsps unsalted butter, melted

2 sheets of ready-made puff pastry

4 tbsps ground cinnamon

1 tsp brown sugar

4 tbsps raisins

4 tbsps chopped hazelnuts

Heat the oven to 200C. Brush the inside and bottom of a baking dish with half the melted butter.

Roll the puff pastry out on a chopping board and brush it with the other half of the butter.

Sprinkle the cinnamon, sugar, raisins and hazelnuts evenly over the dough.

Roll the dough up into a spiral.

Cut the dough into six equal pieces with a sharp knife.

Lay the pieces in the baking dish and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and cooked through.

Of course you can tuck into your cinnamon rolls any time of day – and the perfect accompaniment is a cup of tea. Absolutely one of my favourite beverages (I have lived in England for over 30 years after all). And you can make your tea with style with the beautiful stove-top kettle from Kitchen Aid. My red one even matches my oven. Now we’re talking.

Find out more about Kitchen Aid’s fabulous selection of appliances and kitchenware products at

Distributing the delicious filling evenly with my Kitchen Aid kettle at the ready

All ready for rolling

Little spirals going into the oven

Recipe: The yummiest carrot and pineapple cake

So I love cooking, no surprise there…and I guess I’m getting pretty good at it – not to say there aren’t still culinary disasters in our house! But baking has never been a strength, I’ve managed to produce cakes that haven’t even risen enough to be described as frisbees! But as with everything, you’ve gotta keep trying and I’m pleased to announce that I think my baking has turned a corner down the road to success!

I love carrot cake and as I’d inadvertently managed to buy a whole load of eggs (I know, memory issues, didn’ realise there were already a dozen in the cupboard), I thought it would be a good way to use up some of the excess. So I scoured the internet and checked out a range of recipes before coming up with my own version.

This cake comes out beautifully moist inside, which it should with all the delightful goodies it’s made from. I made the topping using cream cheese so it isn’t too sweet, and only spread it thinly. You don’t need a lot as the cake is packed with flavour.


A totally tempting carrot cake

2 cups plain flour

1 cup white sugar

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsps ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 eggs

1.5 cups sunflower oil

2 cups grated carrots

2 tsps vanilla extract

1 425g can crushed pineapple, drained

1 cup dessicated coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts

For the topping

200g cream cheese

2 tsps vanilla extract

1 tbsp icing sugar

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Add the eggs, oil, carrots and vanilla. Mix with a hand mixer until well blended.

Add the pineapple, coconut and half of the walnuts. Stir together.

Grease a 2lb loaf tin and pour the mixture in.

Bake at 180C/Gas Mark 4 for 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool.

Run a knife around the edges and slide the cake out of the tin.

Mix the ingredients for the topping together, spread on top, add leftover walnuts and it’s ready to eat. And you’re gonna love it.

Do you have a favourite cake recipe for me to try? Do let me know, I’m feeling the love for this baking thing now!

carrot cake

Check out the succulent centre


Straight out of the tin and ready for the topping…doesn’t that look good!

Candy’s fabulous lemon drizzle cake

My niece Maxine spent the day with me on Sunday. I always treasure these days as we have so much fun together, and today we decided to make a cake for Terry – his birthday was the next day. My friend Candy had sent me her recipe for lemon drizzle cake which I love so we decided to give it a go.

The recipe is so easy to make and tastes absolutely delicious. Maxi chose blue sprinkles to add a special birthday touch.

Delicious cake straight out of the oven

Delicious cake straight out of the oven

For the cake

1 ½  Cups all-purpose flour

2 Teaspoons baking powder

½  Teaspoon salt

1 Cup plain yoghurt

1 1/3 Cups sugar

3 Eggs

2 Teaspoons grated lemon zest

½ Teaspoon vanilla extract/essence

½ Cup Vegetable oil

1/3 Cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze

1 Cup Icing sugar

2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a loaf tin.  Line the bottom with parchment/baking paper and butter and flour the entire pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a medium bowl.  In a large bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, 1 Cup of the sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla essence.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet, whisking to combine.  Use a rubber spatula to fold in the vegetable oil into the batter until it’s fully incorporated.  Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester stuck in the centre of the loaf comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, combine the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.  Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing it and placing it on a baking sheet.  Use a cake tester, wooden skewer or toothpick to carefully pierce holes throughout the cake.  While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in.  Cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the icing sugar and lemon juice, whisking to form a smooth glaze.  Pour over the cake.

Blue birthday sprinkles

Blue birthday sprinkles

Thank you Candy for sharing this wonderful recipe with me. It’s definitely going to be baked regularly in my household!

The Cook with Biltong Club: Cheese and biltong scones

So it’s been a while since I got creative with my favourite ingredient – biltong. What can I say, it’s been a hectic summer with amazing travel and work. I think my kitchen is feeling a little neglected. But don’t worry I’m back on track now and starting off with these lovely, simple cheese scones which I’ve added little bits of biltong to for a special touch. They taste amazingly delicious, simply cut in half, spread generously with butter and enjoy.

Straight out the oven, ready to go

Straight out the oven, ready to go

500ml flour

3 tsp baking powder

250g strong cheddar, grated

3 tsp sunflower oil

125ml milk

1 egg

2 handfuls wet biltong, finely chopped

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and mix the cheese and chopped biltong through the flour mixture.

Beat the egg and milk together in a separate bowl and add the sunflower oil. Pour this mixture into the flour and mix it until it starts sticking together and is not too dry.

Place the dough on a flat, floured board until it is about 5mm thick, then keep folding it over and flattening it again using the palm of your hand.

Cut out the scones using a round cutter. Place them on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until they’re browned

My oven was playing up a little the day I made these so they came out a bit more browned than I would have liked, but they give you the general idea – and they did still taste delicious. I couldn’t wait to share the recipe with you – the biltong certainly adds something, both in taste and texture.
Join our club

I’m regularly going to post a new recipe using biltong, so watch this space.

And if you want to order some yourself, I highly recommend the Chichester Biltong Company where you can choose the wetness and fattiness of your biltong too (it’s very personal, you know).

Go to and enter the code EATINGCOVENT when you order.

Please also like our facebook page at

The Cook with Biltong Club: Amazing biltong bread

It’s time to get a lot more adventurous with biltong! My friend Candy sent me a couple of recipes for biltong bread and I was immediately on a mission to make some. My first attempt, following the recipe, was good but not nearly as good as it could be, I thought. So I went back to the drawing board and started from scratch. I think the finished result is a really delicious and different sort of bread which is equally good as a snack with a glass of wine or with a plate of bacon and eggs (which is how my neighbours finished their loaf off).

Making bread is something of a long process. I find it very relaxing and therapeutic and even exciting. From the moment the yeast mixture starts to froth I feel like I’m creating something really special. There’s something magical about the way dough expands when you put it aside to rest! Having said all that, bear in mind that this process is going to take you some time, so just relax and enjoy it. I like to do it when I have absolutely no time constraints and go into a world of my own, listening to the radio usually!

finished bread

The beautiful finished loaf of biltong bread

Makes two loaves (size as in picture)

14g (2x7g sachets) of fast action yeast

1 tsp white sugar

65ml warm water

65ml milk

125g plain flour

125ml warm water

125ml warm milk

3 tsp sunflower oil

250g biltong, sliced

200g Philadelphia cheese light with garlic and herbs

2 medium onions, sliced

1 egg, beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Put the yeast and sugar  in a bowl. In a measuring jug mix together the warm water and milk and add  to the yeast and sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast.
  3. Lightly sprinkle the top of the yeast mixture with some cake flour and place the bowl in a warm place so the yeast activates. I put mine on top of the stove.
  4. Slowly fry the sliced onions until they become brown and caramelised. When they are done, put aside to cool
  5. Start to make you bread dough by putting the flour in a large bowl. Lightly season with  salt and  black pepper and stir.
  6. In a jug mix the warm milk and warm water.
  7. When yeast mixture becomes frothy it’s  ready to add to the flour.
  8. Using a spoon make a well in the centre of your flour and alternate between adding some yeast mixture and some of the milk and water mixture, stirring until all the liquids have been added. Mix together well until you have a sticky dough
  9. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it until you have a smooth and well mixed dough.
  10. Using the sunflower oil, oil the sides and base of a bowl and put the dough into the bowl. The oil will stop the dough from sticking to the bowl .Cover the bowl with a cloth and place into a warm place for 15 minutes to rise.
  11. Mix together the onions, Philadelphia and biltong and blend in a blender until you have a thick, smooth mixture
  12. After 15 minutes test the dough to see if it has risen enough by pressing your finger into the dough – if the dough doesn’t bounce back it’s ready.
  13. Remove the dough from the bowl and knock it back to remove the air from the dough. Just push down on it and you will feel the air coming out.
  14. Divide the dough in half and flatten each half into a rectangle that is the same length as your loaf tins.
  15. Spread each half with half of biltong, onion and cheese mixture.
  16. Using your fingers roll each half up like a swiss roll and place each into one of the floured loaf tins with the side that has the join on the bottom of the tin.
  17. Cover the loaf tins with a cloth and leave to rise for 10 – 15 minutes then lightly brush with egg wash
  18. Using scissors snip the top of each loaf to score.
  19. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 30 minutes or until the bread has a hollow sound when tapped.
  20. Remove from the oven and leave aside to cool for about 15 minutes. Slice and serve.
bread inside

Here’s how it looks sliced, with the rich mixture inside

Join our club

I’m regularly going to post a new recipe using biltong, so watch this space.

And if you want to order some yourself, I highly recommend the Chichester Biltong Company where you can choose the wetness and fattiness of your biltong too (it’s very personal, you know).

Go to and enter the code EATINGCOVENT when you order.

Please also like our facebook page at

I’d love to hear any of your biltong ideas or stories, so do get in touch and watch out for the next amazing biltong recipe coming your way.