Saturday, October 31, 2009


Following on from my two other Abel & Cole reviews, which you can see here, Victoria asked if I would like to sample their Organic Fillet Steak.

Abel & Cole are experts at packaging and they send chilled goods in a polystyrene insulated box (which is returnable), lift the lid and there are your chilled food items in perfect condition, alongside a few reusable ice blocks. I should mention, Abel & Cole products are delivered by a friendly and polite driver.

My fillet steak was delivered alongside the free range chicken which was double wrapped, and there wasn't any sign of leakage from either product.

I cooked my fillet steak to medium - first heat your griddle pan, then prepare the fillet steak by anointing it with olive oil, season with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. To the hot and smoking pan I added the steak, cooking the first side for 3 minutes, turning it over and cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and place on a warm plate, cover loosely with foil to rest for 5 minutes or so to ensure you have a juicy and tender piece of steak.

The fillet steak seemed to vary on tenderness, graduating from tender at one end to meltingly tender at the other, and was very tasty and succulent.

I made a simple red wine sauce to serve with my fillet steak, which is basically cooking a small chopped onion in butter, adding red wine to the pan, reducing to a third, then adding a couple of teaspoons of redcurrant jelly. Lastly, adding small cubes of butter to both enrich the sauce and give a wonderful sheen.

If you are looking for a reliable, quality and traceable fillet steak for a special occasion, I wouldn't think you could go far wrong with one from Abel & Cole.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Clive from Cookequip has sent me a collection of interesting premium quality products to review for him.

Camerons Large Cedar Wood Oven Baking Plank.
Camerons Chicken Beeroaster Deluxe with Vegetable/Potato Clips.
Camerons Smoker (as used by Mat Follas on Masterchef and also demonstrated by him on ITV's This Morning Show this year).
A huge selection of Wood Chips to use in conjunction with the Smoker or for using on the barbecue to flavour food.
A pack of 6 Beech Wood Wraps.
Recipe Book

Reviews for the above products will be appearing on here shortly, so please pop back and read how I/we got on, because my husband has also taken a very keen interest in using these too!

I will be revisiting these products after the first initial reviews have been posted, so please look out for future recipes, including some from the Recipe Book.


The first product I have chosen to review is the Large Oven Baking Plank which is made of Cedar wood.

The Large Oven Baking Plank measures 38mm x 267mm x 432mm, but there is also a smaller version. There are two bolts which run through the width of the plank and these must be kept tight. If cracks appear then it will be necessary to tighten the stainless steel rods which go through the plank.

The Cedar wood imparts a subtle flavour to the food and you will also find your food stays moist. Also, because you are using very little oil, it is a very healthy and low fat way to cook food.

Presentation of food is always important and you can take the Oven Baking Plank to the table and serve straight from it (always take care because the board is very hot and retains heat, do not place the Oven Baking Plank directly onto any surface).

The first, and most important thing to do, is oil the hollow cooking area on the Oven Baking Plank with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (this will help prevent cracking). Next, you place the Oven Baking Plank into a cold oven and set the temperature to between 180°C and 200°C, depending on what you choose to cook. After 10 minutes you can then pop your ingredients on to the board to cook for your chosen time.

After you have used the Plank you must let it cool down completely, then wash with soapy water. Leave to dry completely and then oil the complete Plank.

With the onset of winter and the barbecue season over (unless you have a BBQ with a lid), the Oven Baking Plank adds another dimension to oven cooking. I'm always looking for other ways to cook food and I am now definitely an Oven Baking Plank convert.

Click on all of the photographs for a close up view of the product .


Put the oiled board into a cold oven for 10 minutes at 190°C.

Meanwhile, parboil the roast potatoes and then simply spray with olive oil.

Take your Pork Chop and press a sage leaf on to the meat, season with pepper. Lay a bed of thyme and rosemary leaves on the board and place the pork chops and potatoes on top, along with a red onion. Cook for approximately 1½ hours until the meat is tender.

The meat was deliciously moist and tender and had a subtle Cedar flavour. The kitchen is filled with Cedar aroma whilst the food is cooking and everything smells delicious.


Same method as outlined above - simply rub two tablespoons of olive oil into the baking area on the Oven Baking Plank and place the plank into a cold oven and set the temperature to 190°C. After 10 minutes place your chosen food onto the plank.

You will need: 175g baby new potatoes, 1 red onion cut into wedges, 1 large sliced courgette, black pepper, ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary, 4 tomatoes sliced into wedges, 2 slices of Brie, basil leaves to garnish.

Cook the potatoes for approximately 15 minutes and drain, lay a bed of rosemary and thyme on the Plank, add the potatoes and wedges of onion and spray with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle over the cumin seeds, cook for 45 minutes.

Add the courgette slices to the board and cook for 15 minutes, now add the tomato wedges and cook for 10 minutes.

Lastly, add the Brie slices and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the Brie has melted slightly. Season to taste.
NOTE: Don't be tempted to use Light Brie as I did because it just won't melt!

All of the vegetables cooked perfectly and again had a subtle Cedar wood flavour.


Again, oil the hollow on the Oven Baking Plank and then pop into a cold oven at 190°C for 10 minutes. The courgettes take approximately 45 minutes to cook (you can see from the photograph I didn't give mine quite long enough to colour up, but I am learning).

Add the cherry tomatoes to the board 15 minutes after the courgettes went on. Add the salmon portions for the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Season the fish and vegetables and serve with slices of lemon.

The fish was beautifully moist with a subtle Cedar wood flavour and definitely benefited from this way of cooking.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Charbonnel et Walker Review

Victoria, who represents Charbonnel et Walker noticed I wrote a short posting regarding a mystery gift sent through the post to me a couple of years ago and asked if I would like to introduce you to some of their very special chocolates.

I will give you a brief history of Charbonnel et Walker, as sent to me, by them:

Their flagship store on Old Bond Street, is their oldest store, they have been at Old Bond Street since 1875. All of their chocolates are handmade in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Many are made to Madame Charbonnel’s original recipes. they specialise in traditional English favourites such as Rose & Violet Creams etc.

They were established in 1875 when King Edward VII (then the Prince of Wales) visited Paris and met Madame Charbonnel who was a chocolatier for the Maison Boissier chocolate house. He loved her chocolates so much he persuaded her to come back to London to set up business with Mrs Walker on Old Bond Street. They have connections with the Royal Household ever since and feel much pride and privilege to be endorsed with Her Majesty’s Royal Warrant.

You can also read more about the history of Charbonnel et Walker on their website.

English Rose & Violet Creams

English Rose & Violet Creams are one of Charbonnel et Walker's most renowned products. The essential oils used in these are Traditional Attar's; oils extracted from the petals of these flowers. Each chocolate is finished with a crystallised petal. These are plain chocolates with a minimum of 60% cocoa solids. May I suggest eating the petal first before eating the chocolate cream, somehow this seems to be the optimum way to enjoy them!

These were just so pretty it was difficult to bring myself to eat any of them - I didn't want to spoil the box of chocolates and I left tasting these until last. I just wanted to sit and look at these beautiful chocolates.

Banoffee Truffles

Banoffee Truffles are one of their newest truffle creations and described by them as a delicious, handmade creation of white chocolate, butter, natural banana extracts and caramel enrobed in a milk chocolate shell.

They have described these truffles much better than I could and all I can say is think 'banoffee pie'!

The box isn't particularly easy on the eye, but when you lift the lid and are met with the banoffee aroma you can forgive them.

The Classics Book Box Milk & Plain Assortment - you can see the menu card here.

An assortment of both plain and milk chocolates. The chocolate to the left in the photograph is Truffle Cafe - a smooth truffle centre with a wonderful coffee flavour coming through.
Fudge Chocolate - to the right in the photograph, with a firm chocolate fudge centre.

All of the above are smooth chocolate with extremely flavoursome centres and I am very privileged to have been given the opportunity to taste them. They are definitely the most special chocolates to have ever made an appearance in my house.

May I suggest:

English Rose & Violet Creams perhaps for a very special Grandmother.
Banoffee Truffles for a special person in your life.
Classic Book Box Milk & Plain Assortment for an after dinner treat.

Victoria also sent me some literature outlining their Christmas 2009 range of festive chocolates and listed below are a few of them.

For her: Ettinger for Charbonnel et Walker Pink Leather Chocolate and Jewel Box.
For him: Port and Cranberry Truffles.
For grownup children: Drinking Chocolate and Mug Gift Set.
For small children: Milk Chocolate Assorted Christmas Shapes.

Now, I can only hope my husband reads this posting............................

Thank you Victoria.

Friday, October 16, 2009


We Are Social asked if I would like to join another food blogger, Jo of Jo's Kitchen, for lunch at Pizza Express to try the new range of Leggera lighter pizzas (Leggera means light in Italian).

Jo and I met for lunch in Birmingham at Brindley Place one very sunny Saturday afternoon in September. Brindley Place Pizza Express is set in a wonderful location by the waters edge, and if you are lucky enough, you may be able to see some familar faces from BBC Birmingham sitting quietly having lunch!

From the Leggera menu you can have a choice of starters, mains which comes in at approximately 500 calories, and dessert - not forgetting a lighter drink choice too.

My choice of starter was Crostini al Pomodoro which are toasted ciabatta slices topped with marinated tomatoes, garlic and oil and a drizzle of thick balsamic vinegar. The presentation was wonderful and had great plate appeal, it tasted extremely good too!

Mains was Margherita Leggera which is a part pizza base topped with tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. The hole in the centre was filled with rocket. The pizza is served on a slab of marble and comes complete with a wheel to cut the pizza into slices. The sauce was vibrant, and the presentation of the pizza was a feast for the eyes although my rocket salad in the centre looked a little wilted, which was a shame.

When I go to Pizza Express, I always feel as though I can eat a huge pizza, and then when it comes on a huge plate, I soon realize it's too much of a challenge to eat the entire pizza on it's own, this was definitely the better option for me.

Ah now for dessert - Sotto Zero - which was two scoops of frozen yoghurt served with sliced fresh strawberries, fruit coulis and a chocolate straw. The dessert was fab!

On a personal note, I don't have any weight issues for which I am eternally grateful but lots of people do struggle. When you go out for a meal you don't want to be the one having to order two salad starters whilst everyone else is enjoying pizza. The wonderful thing about this Leggera menu is you don't even notice that it is the lighter option.

Surprisingly the waiting staff didn't ask us why we were taking photographs of our lunch and neither of us spilt the beans to them!

Another reason to return to this branch - the waiting staff excelled themselves and helped to make it a very pleasant lunch for us both and thank you to them.

Also, thank you to We Are Social for inviting us along to Pizza Express, it was a pleasure having the opportunity to meet Jo, a fellow food blogger from the West Midlands.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


As a follow up to my Abel & Cole Organic Mixed Fruit and Vegetable Box sent to me several weeks ago, they asked if I would be interested in reviewing a free range chicken - well the answer wasn't that difficult was it!

The chicken arrived in a polystyrene insulated box - lift the lid and you will find it is well packaged and surrounded by reusable ice blocks and if it arrives on your doorstep whilst you are out, there is really no need to worry about it surviving until you arrive home. On inspection the chicken looks wonderfully fresh and comes complete with giblets for you to use, if you so wish.

My husband said we ought to cook it on the barbecue with the lid down, but I wasn't sure about this, I was really worried in case he cremated the poor thing! When he lifted the lid on the barbecue an hour and a half later, he presented me with a glistening golden chicken and I sighed with relief.

The chicken skin was crisp, golden and glistening and the meat was very tender and moist - in fact the chicken was a joy and we both agreed that it really was in league of it's own compared with run of the mill chickens and it actually tasted of chicken. Although, to be fair, in this house we only buy chickens from our QGuild Butcher and whilst they are very good they don't quite live up to the standard of Abel & Cole Free Range chickens.

Sometimes whole cooked chickens can be difficult to photograph and after all a chicken is, well a chicken isn't it? I decided to anoint the cooked chicken in a parsley, garlic and lemon seasoning to make it look photogenic!

The seasoning is quite simple: grate the rind of half an unwaxed lemon and mix with a handful of chopped parsley, 1 clove crushed garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with pepper and anoint the chicken with the mix. Using a vegetable peeler remove the rind from the other half of the lemon, cut into thin strips and sprinkle over the chicken.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Mornflakes have sent me some of their oat based cereals and asked if I would do a posting using some of their products.

The weather will soon be turning colder and we can now turn our thoughts to eating porridge for breakfast and also making a few recipes using oats.

It's a great time of the year to make Apple and Blackberry Crumble and as I have been given lots of wild blackberries, I couldn't think of a better way to use some of them.

The crumble was made in the usual way but I added about three tablespoons of oats to the topping, along with some demerara sugar, to give extra crunch. I lightly toasted some flaked almonds in a pan, and sprinkled them over the crumble once it had cooled down a little. A dusting of icing sugar and then a few raspberries from my garden for decoration.

Blackberry and Apple Cranachan to use up some more of these delicious wild blackberries and also for some indulgence.

I also chose to make Anzac biscuits because I had some fresh desiccated coconut in the freezer and I am trying to make room now for my Christmas baking. Also, I can't remember the last time I made biscuits!

I have mentioned in the past about making desiccated and shredded coconut, but making your own is so much better than the coconut you buy in a packet. It's definitely something to make on a rainy day though.


Serves 6

3 large cooking apples, 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon water, 200g blackberries(fresh or frozen).

For the crumble topping: 175g plain white flour, 75g butter, 75g Demerara sugar, 3 tablespoons of oats.

1. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C/fan 350/Gas 4.
2. Place the apples, sugar and water in a saucepan and cook over a gentle heat, stirring from time to time, for 10 minutes until the apples soften and become pulpy.
3. Place the cooked apples in a large ovenproof dish to cool and sprinkle over the blackberries.
4. Rub the flour and butter together, until large flakes form, stir in the oats and demerara sugar.
5. Top the apples and blackberries with the crumble and bake for 30 to 45 minutes.
6. Toast a handful of flaked almonds and sprinkle over the cooked crumble. Decorate with more blackberries or some raspberries, if you like.


Serves: 4 people

You will need: 50g butter, 75g rolled oats, 50g caster sugar, 50ml whipping cream, 115g Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons each of honey, whisky and light muscovado sugar, 200g blackberries, 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced, Creme de mure or creme de cassis to drizzle.

1. Melt half the butter in a small pan, add the oats and cook for 1 minute, then add half the caster sugar. Stir for 4-5 minutes until the oats are lightly caramelised, then tip onto a piece of baking paper and leave to cool.
2. Lightly whip the cream, then fold in the yogurt, honey, whisky, muscovado sugar and oats. Stir in the blackberries (set a few aside to decorate), crushing them slightly.
3. In a pan, melt the remaining butter and saute the apples for 3-4 minutes. When the apples begin to soften, add the remaining caster sugar and cook until caramelised. Put on one side to cool.
4. Layer up the cream and oats with the apples in 4 glasses. Top with the reserved blackberries and drizzle with a little cassis.


Makes 20

You will need: 85g porridge oats, 85g desiccated coconut, 100g plain flour, 100g caster sugar, 100g butter plus extra butter for greasing, 1 tablespoon golden syrup, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda.

1. Heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4. Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to to 2 tablespoons of boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture.
2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture. Stir gently to incorporate the dry ingredients.
3. Put dessertspoonfuls of the mixture on to buttered baking sheets about 2.5cm apart to allow room for spreading. Bake in batches for 8-10 minutes until golden.
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