Saffron Couscous with Cranberries and Almonds

Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (1 of 14)

COUSCOUS | A versatile and popular alternative to rice and pasta

Couscous. A staple in North Africa, not many know how versatile these small steamed balls of semolina can be. Consisting of many tiny granules made from steamed and dried durum wheat, couscous has become a popular alternative to rice and pasta.

In Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, couscous is steamed over a simmered stew after being tossed with a little water or oil and water. This takes much longer than the ‘instant’ method, whereby couscous is boiled in water or stock for 5 minutes and then steamed for another 5 minutes before being “fluffed up” with a fork.

For myself, the beauty of couscous lies with its cross functional applicability between a pilaf and a salad. For this simple recipe, I have added a pinch of saffron to add a bit of colour and delicate taste. For some tangy sweetness I added some cranberries and for the crunch factor, some crushed roasted almonds. Feel free to throw in some pine nuts too!

Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (2 of 14).jpgSaffron couscous with cranberries and almonds

TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes | SERVES: 4 


  • 2 chopped shallot
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup of wholemeal couscous (or plain)
  • 1.5 cups of water (if using wholemeal)
  • pinch of salt and black pepper, to taste
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oilSaffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (12 of 14)


1. Soak saffron threads in half cup of boiling water to release the flavours. Remember, a little pinch of saffron goes a long way.

Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (10 of 14)

2. In the meantime, chop the shallots.

Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (11 of 14)

3. Roast the almonds on medium-high heat by stirring gently on a pan (about 1-2 minutes). Once roasted, crush with mortar and pestle. Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (13 of 14)Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (7 of 14)

4. Pour tablespoon of olive oil into a saucepan on medium-high heat. Throw in shallots and stir for one minute.Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (9 of 14)

5. Add the remaining cup of water. Once boiling, throw in the couscous, add a pinch of salt and pepper and let it cook for 5 minutes before closing the lid. Let it rest for another 5 minutes.Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (8 of 14)

6. Juice the lemon and remove the pips.Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (6 of 14)

7. Once couscous is done, remove the lid from the saucepan and pour in the lemon juice, cranberries, and crushed almonds. Fluff with fork until fluffy in texture.Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (5 of 14)

8. Serve while warm. Feel free to sprinkle some pine nuts an additional cranberries on top for garnishing.Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (4 of 14)



Super Moist Blueberry Muffins

Mana (12 of 23)

“I love you BERRY much” Blueberry Muffins | The moistest blueberry muffins with a lemon sugar crumble to take it over the top.

There is something just so homey and comforting about blueberry muffins. The thought of sitting down to relax, with a nice cuppa tea in one hand and taking a steamy bite of a freshly baked blueberry muffin is DIY therapy for my soul.

For those who are more health-conscious out there, I have managed to come up with a moist mouth-wateringly delicious blueberry muffin with a drastically reduced sugar and butter content. The key is to load up on the sour cream.  Sour cream will add moisture to these muffins, doing away with the addition of extra butter.

Last but not least, the addition of a lemon-zested sugar crumble takes this muffin over the top.

Mana (7 of 23)

These muffins are chock full of berry goodness and the sour cream makes them extra moist.

Mana (4 of 23)

Super Moist Blueberry Muffins

Prep time: 10 minutes | Bake time: 20-25 minutes | Total time: 35 minutes | Makes: 10 medium sized muffins


  • 1/4 cup (60g) of butter, softened
  • 30g of white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar crystals
  • 1 1/2 cup (180g) of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (roughly one lemon juiced)
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons of grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup of sour creamMana (2 of 23)


  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F and butter muffin moulds. Beat butter and sugar together in a bowl until combined. Add in egg, sour cream, egg, lemon juice and lemon zest. Beat again until well combined.Mana (23 of 23)
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder together. Mana (21 of 23)
  3. Fold in dry ingredients into the sour cream mixture and fold with spatula. Gently stir in blueberries until throughly combined.Mana (20 of 23)
  4. To make topping, combine 1 tablespoon of brown sugar crystals with 1/4 teaspoon of grated lemon zest. Sprinkle ~1/4 teaspoon on the top of each muffin before shoving it into the oven.Mana (17 of 23)
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Remove. Let rest for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Best served warm.Mana (3 of 23)Mana (5 of 23)Mana (9 of 23).jpg

Moist and Fluffy Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (3 of 26)POPPY SEED DELIGHT | Light, delicate, sweet and moist muffins with tiny crunches of poppy seeds and the citrusy kiss of lemon. 

Woke up to a dreary Saturday morning. Rather than to let the dismal weather affect my mood, the optimistic voice inside of me nudged me to bake something to brighten up the day. Not so sure about you, but the scent of lemon always perks up the morning for me, especially in the cold winter days.

When lemon and baking comes to my mind, I instinctively think of warm lemon poppyseed muffins. The key to ensuring these muffins turn out moist and fluffy? Sour cream. Simply replace milk with sour cream in the same quantity and you will be left with moist muffins that can be frozen ahead of time.

These muffins are sweet and simple and comes together quickly – great for last minute cravings.

Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (11 of 26)Poppyseed muffins with a scent of lemon make a warm welcome to the winter blues.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins


Prep Time:  10 minutes | Cook Time: 18-20 minutes | Total Time: 30 minutes | Yield: 8 large muffins (12 small muffins)

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk or sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, melted until browned and cooled
  • 2 Tablespoons poppy seedsLemon PoppySeed Muffins (26 of 26).jpg


  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit / 200 degrees Celsius.  Line a 12 mold, regular sized muffin tray with paper muffin liners, place the muffin pan on a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Zest the lemon with a microplane grater and juice it.Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (23 of 26)Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (24 of 26)
  3. In a large bowl, rub the granulated sugar with the lemon zest until the sugar is lightly coloured and scented with lemon.  Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (21 of 26)
  4. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk (or sour cream) vanilla extract, melted butter and lemon juice.Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (20 of 26)
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold together.  When almost thoroughly mixed, add the poppy seeds.  Divide batter between muffin cups.  Sprinkle each would be muffing with granulated sugar.Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (17 of 26)Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (16 of 26)Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (15 of 26)
  6. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the tops are golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (13 of 26)Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (4 of 26).jpg
  7. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing. Best served warm with a cup of tea.Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (6 of 26)Lemon PoppySeed Muffins (1 of 1)


Irresistible Blackberry Pistachio Financiers

Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (14 of 44)

PISTACHIO-LICIOUS | A combination of pistachio, blackberries, and a dash of banana gives these financiers a touch of the extraordinary. 

Since having left Paris not too long ago, I’m still going through a financier-crazed phase. This time I wanted to go real lush and experimented with blackberries, pistachios, and a smudge of banana.

Once again, the key is getting the beurre noisette (hazelnut butter in French) right in order to achieve that nutty flavour that makes a financier so distinctive and sets it apart from the ordinary muffin.

For those who aren’t aware, financiers are basically what I consider to be “baller” teacakes. They were so named because they were so “rich” (both in ingredients and in price) that only financiers/bankers could afford to eat them. The cakes were rich with brown butter, shaped into a gold bar, and made small and crumbles for portability – perfect for a busy banker.

Egg white, almond meal, and beurre noisette are the key fundamental ingredients that constitute the basic financier. After that, you are free to experiment at your whim and add any addition of fruits, nuts and/or spices.

Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (25 of 44)

For me, financiers are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of earl grey team come five o’clock. Simply relax and unwind with a good book. What’s more, tie two financiers together with a cute ribbon and voila, you will have a perfect treat for a special friend or special someone.

Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (15 of 44)

Simply tie two financiers up in a stack with a ribbon and it’ll make for a perfect gesture of love. 


Total time: 30 minutes | Servings: makes 6

  • 125g butter
  • 90g icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)
  • 1 tablespoon of mashed banana
  • 1 punnet blackberries
  • 60g almond flour
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 freshly grated lemon zest
  • 50g pistachio (shells excluded)

Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (43 of 44)


  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius (or 180 degrees celsius if fan forced). Then prepare the beurre noisette by melting the butter on a pan over medium high heat till it turns amber in colour and smells nutty. After a few minutes, you will see specks of brown bits. Remove from heat and let it cool.   Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (40 of 44) Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (39 of 44)
  2. In the meantime, with a grater, freshly zest one lemon.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (44 of 44)
  3. Grind pistachio into fine crumbs using a mortar or pestle (or if you are more high-tech and have a food processor, opt for that instead). I purposely left some pistachios semi-grinded only so that I could get more texture.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (37 of 44)
  4. Mash a portion of a ripe banana to yield ~1 tablespoon. Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (36 of 44)
  5. In a large bowl, mix pistachio flour with the almond and plain flour. Add in remaining sugar, cinnamon, mashed banana, and lemon zest.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (35 of 44)
  6. Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Place egg whites into a mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of sugar. Whisk egg whites with an electric mixer until frothy.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (38 of 44)
  7. Spoon 1/3rd of the egg white mixture into the flour batter. Fold with spatula until just combined. Repeat process with remaining egg white being careful to fold only and not over mix. Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (34 of 44)
  8. Coat berries lightly with flour. Then add to the batter and fold.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (32 of 44)Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (31 of 44)
  9. Spoon batter into buttered financier moulds (or muffin tins). Fill each mould with the batter until about 2/3rds full. Press any remaining blackberries on top of each financier (for aesthetic appeal).Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (30 of 44)
  10. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes. Financiers are done when they turn golden. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Dust with icing sugar to serve.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (13 of 44)

Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (7 of 44)

Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (16 of 44)

Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (23 of 44)

Healthy Blueberry Ricotta Cups

Healthy Blueberry Ricotta Dessert Cups (7 of 9)

A healthy and light blueberry dessert that can be whipped up in ten minutes.

Feel like dessert but overwhelmed by guilt? That’s exactly how I felt tonight (given my recent binge fest on desserts and patisseries). To satisfy my sweet tooth – and seeing I had a tub of light ricotta and blueberries sitting idly in my fridge – I decided to come up with a healthy concoction: blueberry ricotta cups. Simply drizzle some honey into the ricotta, zest some lemon peel into it, and whisk away until a smooth consistency is reached. Spoon the finale into small cups and garnish with blueberries, Voila! It is really that simple.

(Makes two servings)

  • Punnet of fresh blueberries
  • 4 tablespoons of light ricotta
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, freshly grated
  • Icing sugar to dust (optional)

Healthy Blueberry Ricotta Dessert Cups (3 of 9)


  1. Heap 4 large tablespoons of ricotta into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of honey and grate in some fresh lemon zest. Hand whisk until combined to a smooth consistency. Healthy Blueberry Ricotta Dessert Cups (1 of 9) Healthy Blueberry Ricotta Dessert Cups (2 of 9)
  2. Spoon mixture into little dessert cups or ramekins. Mix freshly washed blueberries with a tablespoon of honey until evenly coated.  Healthy Blueberry Ricotta Dessert Cups (4 of 9)
  3. Spoon blueberries on top of the dessert cups filled with the ricotta mixture. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Dust with icing sugar to serve (optional).Healthy Blueberry Ricotta Dessert Cups (6 of 9) Healthy Blueberry Ricotta Dessert Cups (9 of 9)

Cherry Tomato and Roasted Lemon Salad

Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (3 of 32)

I am a sucker for colours. Precisely because of that, I was immediately captivated by the vivid kaleidoscope of colours that deck out the pages in Plenty More, Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbookOne usually does not equate healthy produce with good taste but trust me, he somehow manages to make vegetables taste phenomenal as if they have undergone some sort of transformative renaissance.

Flipping through the pages, the tomato and roasted lemon salad caught my eye. Who would have thought one could incorporate lemon rind into a salad? So I’ve made an adaptation to Ottolenghi’s “Tomato, Onion, and Roasted Lemon Salad” since (a) I am not a fan of raw red onions, and (b) nor was I able to lay my hands on pomegranate molasses in Hong Kong (okay, I confess, was too ‘lazy’ to make my own). I simply substituted maple syrup for the molasses.

As the man advises, seek out the sweetest tomatoes you can find to balance out the bitterness of the lemon. I personally don’t find that the local tomatoes in Hong Kong deliver enough taste or sweetness so I bought some juicy cherry tomatoes imported from Holland.

Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (8 of 32)


  • 2 medium lemons, halved lengthwise, pips removed and cut withways into 2mm eslices (260g)
  • 3 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 8 sages leaves, finely shredded
  • 400g baby tomatoes, yelllow or red or a mixture of both, halved
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 10g parsley leaves
  • 15g mint leaves
  • Seeds of 1 small pomegranate (120g)
  • 11/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (NB: I used maple syrup instead)
  • 1/2  small red onion, finely sliced (50g)
  • Salt and black pepperRoasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (28 of 32)


  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius.
  2. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, add the lemon slices and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain well and then place the lemon in a bowl and pour over 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the sugar and sage. Gently mix and then spread out exerting on a parchment lined baking tray.  Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, until the lemons have died out a little. Remove and set aside and cool.Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (22 of 32)Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (21 of 32)Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (16 of 32)
  3. Place the rest of the ingredients in a bowl along with the remaining oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Add the lemon slices, store gently and serve. 
    Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (14 of 32)

Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (6 of 32)

Sumac grilled lamb chops with lemon pea mash

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (1 of 3)

After having disappeared mysteriously for a month (I got caught up with work amongst other things), the girl is back in the kitchen. This time, she is back experimenting with sumac and lamb chops. Some of you may be wondering “what the heck is sumac?”. So before I digress into the finer details of the recipe, let me give you a brief description of what sumac is, its origins, and more importantly, why you should have it in your spice cabinet!


Sumac is one of the most ancient spices that one should readily have at their disposal

The sumac bush, native to the Middle East, produces deep red berries, which are dried and ground into coarse powder. While it’s less common, the berries may also be sold whole. Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice. A small sprinkle also adds a beautiful pop of color to any dish.

Sumac is a widely used, essential spice in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It’s used in everything from dry rubs, marinades, and dressing. But its best use is sprinkled over food before serving.

It’s great over vegetables, grilled lamb, chicken and fish. Ground sumac also makes a nice, flavorful topping on dips like hummus.

Thanks to the recommendation from my Iranian friend (who I highly respect when it comes to the culinary scene), I’ve decided to experiment with sumac and grilled lamb chops tonight. Given how busy I am, in order to save time, I opted to create a quick and simple lemon pea mash as a side. The two complement each other harmoniously, both in flavours and in colours.

INGREDIENTS: (serves one)

  • 2 lamb cutlets
  • 2 teaspoons of sumac
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 knob of butter
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Sea salt


  1. Place cutlets in a non-reactive bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and generously sprinkle sumac, garlic powder, and salt all over.
  2. Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (18 of 18)Cook the peas in a saucepan of boiling water (~1.5 cups) and boil for roughly 10 minutes until soft. Stir in the knob of butter, the lemon juice, and a dash of sea salt.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (16 of 18)3. With a potato masher or fork, lightly crush the pea mixture until it resembles a mash.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (13 of 18)4. Meanwhile, coat a cast iron pan with olive oil and turn the hob to a high heat. Pan-fry the lamb chops 2-3 minutes on both sides depending on how well done you like your lamb. Cover with foil and set aside for 5 minutes to rest.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (12 of 18)5. Layer the pea mash on a plate and stack the lamb chops neatly on top. Serve immediately.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (2 of 3)

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (3 of 18)