Banana and Peanut Butter Loaf

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I love a wholesome cake recipe which still tastes like a cake should: sweet, gooey and moreish; which is exactly what this banana and peanut butter loaf is. The recipe uses wholemeal flour and you could cut the sugar entirely, using only the bananas for sweetness.

While it’s true that peanut butter is high in fat, it is also important to remember that it does have health benefits. For this recipe I opted for a smooth version with no added sugar or salt which also uses palm oil from sustainable sources.

Strangely (and probably contentiously) I’m not a fan of peanut butter on toast but I have come to love cooking with it (I’m looking at you white chocolate peanut butter blondies).

Ingredients

125g wholemeal self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

A generous pinch of Maldon salt

50g butter, melted

1 tbsp smooth peanut butter

30g dark brown soft sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 egg

1 tbsp milk

4 ripe bananas

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 160°C fan and grease and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.

Weigh the dry ingredients, place in a bowl together and mix.

In a bowl mash 3 of the bananas with the peanut butter, add the sugar, egg and vanilla essence and finally the melted butter; once combined, add this mixture to the flour, cinnamon and baking powder.

Fold gently and mix well before transferring to the baking tin. Slice the final banana in half length-ways and gently press both halves into the top of the cake mixture.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the baking tin and cool on a wire rack.

This loaf is incredible served with peanut butter ice cream; not easy to find but the wonderful people at I’m Real Ice Cream make one which is at once light in texture and rich in flavour. I couldn’t recommend more!

 

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Vanilla & Lemon Rizogalo with Cherry Jam

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Its often described as nursery food; hitting the note between comforting and nourishing but that’s no reason why rice pudding can’t be so much more. A scraping of vanilla seeds, a dollop of double cream and a twist of lemon zest and suddenly rice pudding becomes an elevated classic worthy of a supper party.

This recipe actually goes one further; similar to the Greek ‘rizogalo’, an egg yolk is added at the end of the cooking creating a dish that is off-the-charts creamy and dreamy.

The lemon is important here; it’s needed to cut through the creaminess of the rice and the sweetness of the jam. Forget it at your peril! The wonderful thing about rice pudding however is that it lends itself to many flavours; I’ve chosen to serve it here with EK Preserves cherry jam but many of their other flavours would work beautifully too.

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

150g calasparra or pudding rice

800ml full-cream milk

1 egg yolk

40ml double cream

20g caster sugar

1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways

1 lemon

Method

Place the vanilla pod, a 5cm piece of lemon rind, rice and milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a low heat; keep at a low simmer, stirring often, for around 40 minutes before removing from the heat.

While the rice is cooking, gently whisk the egg yolk and sugar before adding the cream.

Once you have removed the rice from the heat add the egg mixture along with the remaining zest from the lemon, finely grated. You might need to scrap the seeds from the vanilla pod into the rice at this point; this can be done by running a teaspoon down the inside of the scored pod. Stir and leave the rice to stand while you prepare the toppings.

To serve, gently warm the contents of a pot of EK Preserves cherry jam over a low heat, adding the juice of half a lemon to loosen the mixture.

Toast a handful of flaked almonds in a frying pan.

Serve warm in glasses, layering the rice mixture with jam, ensuring you leave enough jam for the top of the pudding and add a teaspoon of the almonds at the end.

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Pear, Thyme & Hazelnut Frangipane Tart

 

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This tart is the perfect dinner party pudding and is very delicious served with a thimble full of homemade quince liqueur. The depth of flavour from the orange and thyme and the nuttiness of the hazelnuts and spelt flour are the perfect complement to the ‘salted caramel crunch’ flavour by I’m Real Ice Cream; the ice cream is wonderfully light as it is made like a gelato ie with milk rather than cream.  Make sure to roll the pastry nice and thin so it has a good crumbly crunch!

Ingredients

Pastry
125g plain flour
100g white spelt flour
120g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
1 egg yolk

Frangipane Filling
150g butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
160g whole hazelnuts, blanched, (roasted) and finely ground
45g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
1 medium orange, zested
2 small sprigs thyme
3-4 ripe pears

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Method

Preheat the oven to 180˚C and place a large flat baking sheet in the oven to heat up.

This second stage is optional but I like to toast my hazelnuts for a greater depth of flavour; keep an eye on them but they should take around 6 minutes in a hot oven. Remove, allow to cool and blend to a fine powder.

Starting with the pastry, add the flours, butter and a pinch of salt to a food processor. Once the mixture resembles breadcrumbs add the sugar and egg yolk. Pulse again and the mixture will start to come together; at this point if the pastry is still crumbly, add a tablespoon of cold water. Bring the dough together with your hands, adding a scant amount of cold water if needed and then shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm (or a beeswax wrap if you have one) and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry to fit a 24cm tart tin that’s about 3.5cm deep. Trim the excess and pinch the edges of the pastry for a clean finish. Prick the base, then line with baking parchment and baking beans; bake for 6 minutes on the hot baking sheet. Remove the paper and beans and bake for 8 minutes, until the base is just starting to colour. Remove from the oven and turn down to 170˚C

For the filling, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, then add the eggs, hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, thyme leaves (de-stemmed) and orange zest.

Peel the pears, core and cut into quarters before slicing vertically through each one at half centimetre intervals; if you wish to fan the segments, ensure you don’t slice all the way leaving the segments attached at the top.

Spread the hazelnut mixture into the pastry case and press the pears into this, fanning them a little.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling is puffed and golden. Brush the pears with warm apricot jam and leave to cool until just warm.

Decorate the tart with sprigs of thyme and serve with scoops of I’m Real Ice Cream ‘Salted Caramel Crunch’

Chocolate, Olive Oil & Lavender Cake

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I developed this recipe for Olive Branch a few weeks ago when Britain was basking in a summer heatwave. Baking a chocolate cake in 30ºC heat was a questionable life decision but the lavender plants were spilling out of their pots heavy with flowers and I couldn’t resist! One of my all time favourites for afternoon tea is my recipe for lavender shortbread; I love how the surprisingly savoury notes of the lavender balance the sweetness of the shortbread and I wanted to capture the essence of this in a chocolate cake.

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The peppery notes of the aromatic cold pressed olive oil perfectly complement the lavender and both work beautifully with the chocolate. This is one of those recipes which has the power to whisk you away; one mouthful and my thoughts turn to Provence where the heady scent of lavender fills the sun-baked air and to dinner beneath plane trees, where soft linens meet with breezy candle. A table laden with Charentais melon, artichokes and Pineau.

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Ingredients

10 heads flowering lavender

6 free-range large eggs

240g caster sugar

200g dark chocolate (70%)

150ml olive oil

50g ground almonds

pinch sea salt

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 170 and grease a 23cm springform tin with butter (or oil if you would prefer to keep the recipe vegan but note this might result in a cake with slightly crunchier edges)

 
Place a bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the base doesn’t touch the water. Add the chocolate to the bowl and allow to melt before adding the olive oil and lavender heads (its important that the lavender is flowering or freshly picked otherwise you will end up with bits in the cake). Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

 
In a very clean bowl, whisk the egg whites on a high speed and after 1 minute add 150g of the sugar. Continue whisking until you have a thick and glossy mixture.

 
In a separate bowl add the egg yolks to the remaining 50g of sugar and whisk until pale and doubled in volume.

 
Remove the lavender from the cooled chocolate mixture (if necessary, stand the bowl containing the chocolate in a basin of cold water; it should be no more than hand hot) and add to the egg yolks, along with the almonds and salt, folding to mix.

 
Take a spoonful of the egg white mixture and add it to the chocolate to loosen. Carefully fold in the remaining egg white using a metal spoon and turn the mixture into the springform tin.

 
Bake for 35 minutes until springy to touch or an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool and dust with icing sugar and sprinkle with lavender flowers before serving with crème fraiche.

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Midsummer Bellini

A summer Bellini usually means one thing; peaches. Except in this instance, its only June and in my fair opinion the doughnut peaches don’t yet have the flavour needed for this apero.

 

BELLINIS 1What I do have is strawberries; a glorious abundance after a blissful afternoon spent  at the nearby West Green fruit farm. Warm but overcast it was perfect picking weather and the neat little straw-sandwiched rows beckoned.

I returned home with large punnets intended for jam but had worked up such a thirst that a cooling drink was the first thing that sprang to mind. I bruised some strawberries in the bottom of a glass and added a very dry prosecco. Sure, it was tasty, but it needed refining; the strawberries hadn’t imparted any depth of colour and soft fruit floated on the surface.

So below is a thought (I hesitate to use the word recipe because it’s more about the process of bringing together) about apero’clock.

1 bottle of dry prosecco or cava

500g strawberries

Basil leaves

Take 1/2 kilo of strawberries, washed and hulled, and pile them into a pudding basin. Cover with clingfilm and place into a high-sided saucepan, adding boiling water until it reaches half-way up the bowl; this is your bain-marie. Place the saucepan on the stove and simmer for an hour or until the strawberries have released their juices.

Remove from the heat and using a sieve, strain the strawberries. You can use the back of a spoon to gently press the juice from the fruit; you want a clear liquid and pressing too hard will break-down the fruit and give you a strawberry pulp instead. At this stage you can add your basil leaves to the warm juice. I used 8 large leaves to give a subtle and delicate hint of anise but you can vary this depending on how strong you want the flavour. The strawberry juice will keep, covered, for a couple of days in the fridge; any excess could be made into jelly with the addition of a little sugar and gelatine.

When it comes to preparing your evening cocktail, ensure your sparkling wine (be it cava, prosecco or champagne) is adequately chilled; select beautiful glassware and place a small amount of strawberry juice into the bottom of each glass. Top with prosecco and garnish with a basil leaf or strawberry.

Best enjoyed in the setting sunshine, preferably with a plate of chicchetti.

 

 

Stirring Slowly

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The wonderful Stirring Slowly had been on my list for a while, but being an inherently lazy cook, when it comes to new recipes and meal inspiration more often than not I turn to Instagram or the internet and the mecca that is jamieoliver.com. But this recipe book is a game changer.

On the day it arrived it just so happened that I had all the ingredients for roasted sticky plum chicken with pickled cucumber (I mean, when does that ever happen?). A perfect late summer dish when the plums are still sweet and the cucumbers British. One recipe in and I was already consumed, thumbing pages and trotting off to the greengrocer for ingredients.

As it happens, when you have a young baby, lots of people want to come and visit. Which means cake. Lots of tea and cake. Funnily, one of my main reasons for buying the book was Georgie’s blondie recipe; I’ve heard great things but am still yet to make it. When you have recipes for malted milk chocolate and raspberry tart and pumpkin and ginger layer cake it is easy to become distracted. Whole afternoons disappeared while my four-month old baby slept; I probably should have been doing the washing, tidying the house or looking around nurseries. Instead I baked.

As I sit writing, perched on the table next to me is a still-warm-from-the-oven fennel and sausage muffin from Stirring Slowly. It’s a moody autumn day outside and the kitchen is filled with the warming aroma of fennel; it’s a herb I’ve come to love and a spice I don’t use enough. I’ve included the recipe below, not because it’s my favourite but because it’s comforting and versatile: breakfast, snack or paired with a lunchtime bowl of soup.

So I’m slowly working my way through what Jamie Oliver calls a ‘new modern classic’; Georgie’s total understanding of flavours makes for dishes which I will go back to time and time again; each recipe is balanced and restorative and although she does not proclaim herself to be overly health conscious (I’m looking at you banana loaf with peanut butter frosting), there is a wholesome quality to her cooking and in the blend of ingredients, both of which are influenced by her Greek-Cypriot heritage.

I urge you to get yourself a copy immediately so you have enough time to work your way through it before Georgie publishes her next book! Also have a look at her blog; Georgie is more than an accomplished cook, she is a wonderful writer. She is also a mother who has suffered tragic loss and her story is inspiring and heartwarming.

Next up, the Jerusalem artichoke and thyme barley risotto.

 

Fennel & Sausage Muffins

Ingredients

1 garlic clove

1 tsp fennel seeds

200g good-quality sausages, Italian if possible

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

150ml olive oil

1/2 bunch spring onions

350g plain flour

1.5 tbsp baking powder

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs

275ml full-fat milk

135ml buttermilk

200g mature cheddar

a few sprigs flat-leaf parsley

 

Preheat oven to 180°C/GM4 and line a muffin tray with cases

 

Peel and finely chop garlic, grind fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle and place a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the skins and place in the pan with the garlic, chilli flakes, fennel seeds and a glug of olive oil. Break up with a wooden spoon and fry until crisp and golden. Spoon the sausage meat on to a plate and leave to one side to cool.

 

Trim and finely slice the spring onions. Place most of them in a large bowl with the flour, baking powder and seasoning. In a jug whisk together the eggs, olive oil, milk and buttermilk.

 

Add most of the cooked and cooled sausage to the flour (reserving the rest to sprinkle on top of the muffins). Make a well in the middle and pour in the wet ingredients, then finely chop the parsley, add to the bowl and gently fold everything together. Do not over-mix or your muffins will be tough! A few lumps are ok.

 

Divide the batter between the cases and top with the remaining spring onions and sausage and grate over the remaining cheese. Bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Leave them in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.

 

 

 

Phatty Beet Burgers

While in The Big Apple last week, Mr W and I visited Smorgasburg; an outdoor food market in Williamsburg where vendors serve everything from corn dogs to Vietnamese dumplings and lobster rolls. Bamboozled by the choice – some 70 plus vendors are selected each year to take part in the weekly market – we spent a good hour running circles around the stands, sampling the wares.

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In a rare moment of weakness, overwhelmed by choice I plumped for a beetroot burger. Not a particularly normal decision when surrounded by some of the best barbecued meat outside of Texas. This ‘Calexico’ Phatty Beet Burger is the creation of Chickpea & Olive who use locally and organically sourced plant based ingredients. It oozed with daiya cheddar cheese (that delicious slightly orange US cheese phenomenon to us Brits), it melted under avocado and chipotle aioli and came studded with pickled red onions and jalapenos. In short, it was nothing short of life changing.

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Fast forward a week and I’m at Raynsfords my local greengrocer in Battersea with my hands inexplicably drawn to a bunch of earthy looking beetroot. A couple of days later – after a failed attempt at peeling the suckers which resulted in a trip to A&E – beetroot are grated and combined with eggs and porridge oats and made into patties. I loosely used this recipe for the burgers, adding ricotta rather than feta or tofu.

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In the absence of any orange American cheese I have grated a combination of Keen’s Cheddar, an usual variety of Gouda and Parmesan and made some soft cheese ‘crisps’ to layer in between the brioche, cucumber, lettuce and avocado. I combine mustard, ketchup and mayo which spreads on to the brioche, before meeting the beetroot patty and a couple of cornichon.

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The patties are perfect and meaty; they hold their shape and don’t ooze as much as the Chickpea & Olive version meaning that the whole burger holds it’s shape better. A perfect supper for Meat Free Monday!

Islington Sur Mer

It was a day which promised rain, fish and chips and a blustery walk along the beach. In true British style, mid-April we had taken our swimmers along with us. Just in case.

Of course, being of an excitable temperament whenever I see the sea, it was less than half an hour after arriving in Whitstable that we found ourselves wrapped in too-small towels running down to the water. Cue strange looks from passers by on the beach as we took the plunge into the icy depths*.

Of course there is only one way to warm up after such an alarming ordeal

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A tumbler of Breton cidre!
I tried to book a table at the very pink Wheelers Oyster Bar; the kitsch palour is famed for it’s simple menu and offering of oysters.
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Sadly they were full so I booked table at The Royal Native Oyster Stores instead. However by the time lunch came around, the sun had put it’s hat on and we thought better of sitting inside, instead taking a pew on the pebbles at the lobster shack we’d spied on the beach.
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We sat basking in the sunshine, devouring half lobsters and chips, sprinkled with vinegar and lashings of salt served with great big dollops of mayonnaise and some token lettuce leaves.
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Half a dozen native rock oysters were the freshest I’ve tasted in a long while; straight from the sea to cardboard plate.
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The empty shells are piled in mounds on the beach, awaiting return to the sea where they are put to good use on the sea bed creating ‘clutch’ which encourages baby oysters to settle.
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After devouring salted caramel ice creams, we walked along the beach in search of a pub past clapboard houses and cottages with brightly painted front doors.
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I’m told there are lots of brilliant vintage and antiques shops down the lanes around Whitstable; sadly we were too distracted with cider, lobster and sunshine to find them so I’ll have to go back another time.
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*shallows on the mud flats where the water is supposedly warmer. Fully immersed but little ‘actual’ swimming achieved.

At The Chapel

I’d been to At The Chapel before; breaking the long journey from Cornwall to London at this restored medieval chapel. That time we stopped for a pizza – local mozzarella and chorizo – which arrived at the table hot from the wood fired oven.

This time I was staying, lured back by the bakery and promise of fresh croissants delivered to your door in the morning.

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Beautifully designed with a laid back atmosphere and friendly staff, the hotel in Bruton is a hidden gem in the middle of the rolling Somerset countryside.

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A short walk away is Hauser and Wirth, the gallery at Durslade Farm which is also home to The Roth Bar & Grill which serves seasonal local food, much from the farm itself.

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We strolled from the hotel through muddy fields and past allotments where the first signs of spring were showing.

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We spent an afternoon exploring the gallery and gardens and the dangerously good collection of cookery books in the shop. I resisted but mentally added Persiana, The Ethicurean and Kinfolk Table to my already groaning bookshelf. Returning to the hotel we settled in for tea complete with flaky pastries and afternoon cocktails.

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We ate the hotel, sampling the entirety of the menu in the three days we were there; food is relaxed and there is an emphasis on local producers. Just my cup of tea. The ricotta gnudi was so good that we went in search of the farm where it is produced hopeful that we might buy some; we weren’t disappointed.

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Westcombe is a dairy farm famous for its white truffle cheddar and the ricotta they produce is supplied to Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurants around the UK. We sampled great hunks of their cheddar and Duckett’s Caerphilly. We peaked our noses into the cave where the wheels of cheddar are left to mature and best of all we left with a pot of the creamiest ricotta I’ve ever tasted and was so inspired that I vowed to try making it at home (which you’ll know about if you follow me on Instagram).

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Of course it rained which we used as an excuse to find a cosy pub and sit fireside with pints (half for me!) and pork pie.

Reluctant to leave yet full to the brim with croissants, bread and pastries we made our way home to London, stopping on the way at The Beckford Arms. Being a Saturday, the restaurant and bar were full but we were hungry so we found a nook in a comfy old sofa by the fire and devoured manly sized portions of oozing Welsh Rarebit, topped off with shots of Guinness.

Broadway

London has its fair share of markets, from vintage clothing and antiques at Portobello, to flowers at Columbia Road and the grocers of Covent Garden who supply some of this city’s top restaurants; each has something different on offer. In the realm of food markets we are spoilt for choice, not only for produce but also the street vans that flock to feed hungry foodies and tourists every weekend. Borough Market is no exception to this but is more famed for the quality of its producers; hours can be spent idling away a Saturday morning by tasting your way through charcuterie, cheeses and artisan breads.

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But often it is the smaller and lesser known markets which are the real gems; Maltby Street is just round the corner from Borough Market in Bermondsey. Supposedly the market here first appeared when the competition for Borough Market was so great that a number of producers struck out on their own and set up under the railway arches on Rope Walk.

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Early on a brisk Saturday morning last Autumn I found myself at Maltby Street eating an oozing Cheese Truck toasted sandwich for breakfast (with a side of bacon). Never go to a market when hungry; it’s torture. There is a doughnut hatch courtesy of St John Bakery, Monty’s Deli infamous salt beef sandwiches and a mean Bloody Mary served by the Little Bird Gin ‘bar’.

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And then there’s Broadway Market where you will find grocers, bakers and butchers but also an array of incredibly tasty stalls too; Hansen & Lydersen’s beautiful smoked salmon tartines, crepes, Climpson & Sons coffee and hot jellied eel.

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Stalls are packed back to back along the street and just when you think you’ve reached the end, a chalkboard directs you to the School Yard where yet more awaits! To be precise, a small table with oysters sitting on a red and white checked cloth surrounded by shallots, chilli, lemons and parsley; an old sea dog stood waiting for his customers to spy him amongst the food vans, ready with his shuck and the pearls of the sea.

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I picked up some cod cheeks and scallops for ceviche at the fishmonger before heading back to where I started for a bahn mi; perfectly crisp morsels of pork, pickled vegetables and chilli sauce in a rice flour baguette. Perfect Saturday snacking!

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