🇼🇸 Samoa | Pani Popo

Recipe: Vegan Pani Popo from Ai Made it for You

TL;DR Honestly, just save yourself the time and start making this recipe right now. I will got through the ins and outs of creating these delicious, soft, semi-sweet coconut buns, but there are times when it just makes sense to experience something for yourself and what I’m about to write is really just various different ways of telling you how good these were.

A friend sent me this recipe, for which I am hugely appreciative because researching 195 countries is a lot of work, and also my friends have excellent taste. I hadn’t started looking into Samoa yet, and I guess I don’t think about baked goods when I think about pacific nations (yet another one of my preconceptions which has proven to be wrong), but pani popo is considered one of Samoa’s national dishes, and now I understand why.

These were very simple to make. You make some dough, knead it, and let it rise for a while. Then you punch the dough down (this is always so satisfying), divide into 12 parts, roll them into balls and then gentle snuggle them together in a oven-proof pan and let them rise together again. Cover with a sugar and coconut milk syrup and whack them in the oven. When they come out all golden and delicious you pour the remaining syrup over the still hot buns, and then try to let them cook a bit before eating them.

I am not much of a sweet tooth. In my world, savoury will win 99 times out of 100. But golly gee these were DELICIOUS. They’re soft and a little bit sticky and sweet without being too sweet. I ate three straight out of the pan, which is why I don’t have very many good photos of individual buns.

One thing to note is that they do not keep very well. They were OK the following day with a 10 second blast in the microwave, but by day three they were hard and a bit chalky inside. I’d recommend making these an hour before you need them and ensure you have a gathering large enough that they will all be devoured. They really are that delicious when they’re freshly made that you won’t want to lose them to the degradation of time.

Also, for one of my favourite recipes so far I failed to get any really good photos because my desire to eat them superseded my plan to document them. And if that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Sweet and Spicy Tofu and Soba Noodles and Renewed January Enthusiasm

 Watching: Cooked on Netflix

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Sweet and Spicy Tofu with Soba Noodles from New York Times Cooking (might be paywalled so copied below as well. I’m not sure if that’s legal but given about three people read this blog I hope it’s OK?).


It’s been a while. Like a super long time. In 2018 year I set myself the goal of cooking 52 new recipes and writing about them. I didn’t get even close, writing up only 14 new recipes (even though I definitely cooked more than that – but nowhere near 52) and 16 in total. In 2019 I did no writing at all. So why take it up again? The most useful benefit I found of having written about what I’ve cooked is that I can easily find the recipe again, and I have notes on what I changed – which is the most important part as I normally make a few tweaks and fail to remember them the next time around.

So onto the food. This recipe was wonderful and has opened my eyes to the idea of combining colder salad vegetables with a hot base. The noodles have a real kick to them because of the black pepper, and this touch of spice pairs nicely with the cold cucumbers and radish. You could absolutely add broccoli, spinach, shredded carrot or zucchini, mushrooms, snow peas, or any number of other veggies if you wanted to mix it up too – the noodle base would match with most ingredients.

I thought I hadn’t changed much this time, but it turns out there were a couple of small tweaks. I doubled the amount of garlic, because two cloves is basically no garlic at all, and I do this with everything I cook. I also halved the oil (another common adjustment), and there was still plenty for both cooking the tofu and coating the noodles. I did all the vegetable prep ahead of time (not my normal process, but slicing green onions into matchsticks is very time consuming) and pressed the tofu for about 20 minutes to remove a bunch of the water so it would brown better. I also finished off the bowl with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds because they never go astray.

One change I would make next time is to season the tofu before frying. It could have handled a little bit more of something – tofu being the flavour void that it can be. The comments on the recipe suggested mixing the noodles in 3/4 of the sauce and then coating the tofu in the sauce separately as it was easier (and could potentially address the above issue), but mixing them both to get them evenly coated wasn’t too difficult. YMMV.

This comes highly recommended, and I give it bonus points because you can also eat it at room temperature making the leftovers good for lunch.

Sweet and Spicy Tofu With Soba Noodles


  • 1 ½ (14-ounce) packages firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 (8-ounce) package all-buckwheat soba noodles
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small bunch green onions, white and green parts separated, cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  •  cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  •  Pinch of red-pepper flakes
  • 4 mini or 1 large, thin-skinned cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  •  Handful of cilantro leaves, for serving
  • 1 lime, cut in wedges, for serving


  1. Drain the tofu in a colander, or dry on paper-towel lined plate while you prep the remaining ingredients, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil for the soba noodles.
  2. Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil. When the oil shimmers, add the tofu in a single layer, in batches if needed and cook until golden on all sides, turning as needed when the tofu releases easily from the pan, about 8 to 10 minutes total. Lift the tofu out of the pan with a spatula and transfer to a new paper-towel-lined plate.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the soba in boiling water for 5 to 8 minutes (or according to package directions), until just al dente, stirring frequently. Drain and rinse in cold water until the noodles no longer feel sticky.
  4. Add garlic, ginger and whites of the onions to the skillet, along with the remaining tablespoon sesame oil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the oil is fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
  5. Add cooked and drained soba noodles to the pan, along with soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, red pepper and reserved green onions; toss together until the noodles are coated. Gently toss in the tofu until all the pieces are covered in the sauce.
  6. Remove from the heat, and sprinkle cucumber, radish and cilantro on top. Serve warm or at room temperature, with lime.


Crack Brownies and Showing Love Through Fat and Sugar

Soundtrack: Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ on Audible

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Salted Caramel Crack Brownies by Anna Jones

Star Rating: FIVE FUCK YEAH STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you want to make people feel simultaneous happy and special, and if you are also interested in being showered with love in return, then this recipe is for you. You can also make these brownies lactose-, gluten- and nut-free and they still taste incredible, meaning you can cater to various intolerances without compromising on the final product.

This is another Anna Jones recipe, and I cannot sing her praises enough. Her vegetarian cook books (‘A Modern Way to Cook‘ and ‘A Modern Way to Eat‘) over-deliver on taste and inventiveness while still being approachable and easy to make.

The reason I first made these brownies was Anna’s own intro to the recipe “Find me someone who doesn’t like these and I’ll deliver you a batch myself.” I have made these probably about 20-30 times and have never had any left over, and in one case someone swiped a whole bunch of them when I took them into work which, while annoying, is definitely high praise.

There is only one tricky bit to these and it’s the only part of the method that I don’t agree with. The caramel for these brownies takes much longer to make than the recipe would suggest, and it took me many attempts before I realised that I had to let the caramel bubble for an additional ~5-10 minutes so that it would set properly.

Also, there is a point during the caramel making process where you add the milk (or milk substitute) to the melted sugar and butter and the cool milk shocks the molten hot sugar and fat combination into a petrified candy ball. DON’T FREAK OUT. The recipe seems to suggest that you just need to put the saucepan back on the stove and in a few minutes it will be thick caramel. Instead, I always have to spend a lot of time beating that ball into submission while the milk warms up (but doesn’t boil) around it. I’ve tried using warm milk and this does help a little, but simply put the temperature at which sugar melts will always be higher than the temperature of the milk added.

Finally – make sure you use BAKING PAPER and never waxed paper to line the shallow tray you’re going to pour the caramel in. I have made this mistake so many times that I threw out my waxed paper (which I can’t recall ever having an actual use for, so I’m guess I bought in error in the first place).

Making the brownie batter is really straight forward and adding the caramel to the brownies is too. It’s also important that you line the pan they’re baking in because these are some sticky brownies.

The recipe says to cook them for 25 minutes, but I always check at 20. The caramel will have turned into molten pools of deliciousness, which can make it difficult to check whether the brownie mixture is cooked underneath. My preference is a consistency that’s like a dense fudge in the middle, with a little crunch around the edges. They will continue to cook when you take them out of the oven so I err on undercooking and they have always turned out great.

And that’s it! Once they’ve cooled they won’t last very long. They are appropriate for all occasions including (but not limited to): Holiday Parties, Break-up Commiserations, ‘Just because’ for your co-workers, Birthdays, Dinner Parties, New Babies… Really for anyone who likes things that taste nice and who you want to make the world a slightly brighter place for a moment.


Chickpea Pancakes and Dreams Come True

Soundtrack: Spotify’s #ThrowbackThursday Playlist

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want to make the recipe: Jumbo Chickpea Pancake from Oh She Glows


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

Guys. GUYS. You have to make this as soon as you can – I’ve even created a new category for my blog called ‘Make this immediately’ because of how passionately I feel about it. I vaguely followed this recipe from Oh She Glows but honestly, the only real rule you have to stick to is using equal parts chickpea flour to water. For one serving I used ½ C of each and it was a good size for breakfast.

But let’s take a step back and to see how we arrived here. While there are very few foods that I don’t like, I am surprisingly picky about breakfast. I’m vehemently opposed to sweet breakfasts – initially they make me feel sick, then about an hour later I’m hungry again. Cereal makes absolutely no sense – why would you put something crunchy into something wet? Jam should only be served with scones. Pancakes are dessert. But I digress…

Most mornings I have two pieces of toast (Ezekiel bread because it’s got loads of grains in it, and is about the only bread I can find in the US that’s not full of sugar). One piece has a soft-boiled egg with hot sauce, the other has ¼ of an avocado and some salt and pepper. It’s tasty, has enough bulk to keep me full until lunch (most of the time), and is healthy. But who wants to eat the same thing for breakfast every morning? I’ve been on the look out for savoury alternatives for a while now, and have tried out breakfast rice bowls, zucchini slice, and asparagus and goats cheese frittata. They were all delicious, but they need to be made in bulk and require a bit of time and forward planning.

The beauty of this recipe is that there is almost negligible preparation time, you can make it in a single serving, and use whichever vegetables you have to hand. I used thinly sliced onions which I sautéed in the same pan I then used to cook the pancake, eliminating any extra clean up (WIN!). I also had some coriander and basil hanging about, so these were thrown in too.

Basically, dump ½ C of chickpea flour into a bowl, ¼ t of garlic powder, a shake of chilli powder, ¼ t of baking powder (for lift!), some salt and pepper, and add ½ C of water, then whisk until there are no lumps. Add your choice of vegetables and mix until evenly combined.

Heat a pan over medium heat and spray with oil. When warm, pour the batter into the middle and spread out evenly. Let it cook for 3-4 minutes until it’s semi-set in the middle and you can flip without it folding or breaking. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the middle is cooked through. Serve topped with avocado, hummus, tomatoes, hot sauce, an egg, cheese, or whatever you fancy.


I will be making this again for breakfast tomorrow, and am a little sad I’m away this weekend because I’ll have to wait until Monday to have it again. It’s that good.

NOTE: It’s also vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, high protein AND delicious. This is the dream, people.