29 Dec 2009

MINCEMEAT AND APPLE JALOUSIE


Another wonderful way to use homemade, or even a bought jar of good quality mincemeat, is a Mincemeat and Apple Jalousie. This dessert is really easy to make and a great way to use up leftover mincemeat.

If you make this now, say for recipe testing purposes, you may well find you are a Mincemeat and Apple Jalousie convert! I have slightly adapted the recipe - the baking times in the original recipe, I found, were too short to cook the apples. Bake at 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6 for approximately 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas 4 for another 10-15 minutes, checking with a skewer the apple is cooked to your liking.

Next year on Christmas Day, guests who aren't too keen on Christmas Pudding, or would like something a little lighter, will be more than delighted to have a slice of this dessert with either cream poured over, as I did, or serve with the Cognac Creme Anglaise as suggested by Rick Stein, in Recipes for the Weekend, Weekend Telegraph.

Happy New Year!

13 Dec 2009

ICED SNOWFLAKE CHRISTMAS CAKE


It doesn't seem that long ago since I posted last years Christmas cake and yet here we are again............

Baby blue fondant icing covers the main cake and simple white snowflakes adorn the top. A sprinkling of snow white magic sparkles and silver hologram glitter. Wired ribbon to match the snowflakes and silver beads to add some Christmas bling.

I thought I would delve into the archives and put the Christmas cakes from other years alongside this posting for you to see. They are all very simple yet effective.

Christmas Cake December 2008.


Iced Christmas Cake 2007 (my favourite to date). This cake has served me well and this year is the first photograph on the first page of Google Images. Also on the top row of Google Images is the very same cake called 'A Slice of Iced Christmas Cake'.


Iced Christmas Star Cake 2006.



9 Dec 2009

BAILEYS CHEESECAKE



I can't resist making this at least once a year and somehow this dessert seems very appropriate for the festive season especially if you, like me, enjoy Baileys.

Cheesecake doesn't come much easier than this recipe, it's taken from the back of a Philadelphia Cream Cheese pack - too many years ago to remember.

The wonderful thing about this particular recipe is the ease with which it is made and definitely no cooking skills are required here, also it is a no bake recipe. Another positive, it isn't cloying which can be a characteristic of many cheesecake recipes. This definitely benefits from an overnight chill in the fridge and eaten the next day to give the flavours a chance to mingle and develop.
Mine, didn't manage to benefit from an overnight stay in the fridge. If you do let it sit in the fridge overnight the air bubbles in the cheesecake layer will disappear.


Serves: 10 people

A 20cm or 22cm springform cake tin. Grease the base. Put to chill until required.

For the base you will need: 225g digestive biscuit crumbs, 75g melted butter, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.

Filling: 1 packet lemon jelly (dissolve in 150ml boiling water, allow to cool), 2 x 225 packs Philadelphia (softened at room temperature), 150g caster sugar, 4 tablespoons of Baileys (or to taste), 100ml milk (I use semi-skimmed), 100ml whipping cream (lightly whipped).

1. Mix the biscuit crumbs, butter and cocoa. Press into the base of a buttered springform cake tin. Put to chill until required.
2. Beat the Philadelphia until smooth, Add the sugar, Baileys, milk and dissolved and cooled jelly. Blend well. Fold in the cream.
3. Pour onto the prepared crumb base and chill until firm and set.
4. Decorate.

1 Dec 2009

Unearthed Panettone


Abbie who represents Unearthed sent me their range of panettone to try and as I love panettone on its own, with a cup of coffee or in panettone bread and butter pudding, I think she chose well!

I am always drawn firstly to the fragrance, then the soft texture, followed closely by the fruit, and not forgetting I love the paper it's baked in too.

Classic Panettone, this was the first one to be opened and I decided to eat this alongside a freshly made coffee latte, (because the milk knew I was about to photograph the latte, it decided not to foam very well!). The Classic Panettone didn't disappoint and I really enjoyed this. The single Classic Panettone is only available in Waitrose Coffee Shops, as is the single Double Choc Panettone.

Panettone is always a coffee shop favourite of mine and has the added advantage that they are individually wrapped.


For our enjoyment Unearthed sell a Twin Pack Choc Chip Panettone and also a Twin Pack Classic Panettone with Sugar Nibs in Waitrose Stores.


27 Nov 2009

BBC Good Food Show Birmingham - Winter 2009

A whirlwind tour of my day out at BBC Good Food Show Birmingham.......

The Jamie Oliver stand displaying all of his wonderful kitchen goodies.


Lavazza have just launched a new coffee machine, it is very sleekly designed and comes in a range of bright colours.


The Italian Fields stand had a wonderful display of Parmesan Cheese, Prosciutto, Limoncello just to name a few. My husband bought a piece of prosciutto from here, but at the moment I am still trying to figure out how he is going to carve wafer thin slices from it!


On the Kenwood stand, we were given a very informed demonstration of the Kenwood Cooking Chef which is their latest product. On the left of the photograph is chef/demonstrator Paul Brodel (you may recognize him from the shopping channels) and on the right is Kenwood's Development Chef.


The above is only a taster of the many interesting stands we came across. I have been to the Good Food Show in Birmingham almost every year since the show first launched and it gets better every year, they always bring something new to the show for us. It's a great day out and lots of fun.

I spent a wonderful day with my husband here courtesy of Ginny Braynsmith from BBC Haymarket Exhibitions. Thank you Ginny.

21 Nov 2009

Hotel Chocolat Jolly Santa


I've been 'hanging around' in the West Midlands in a cellophane packet decorated with snow flakes, waiting patiently to be photographed, and I really am the best Jolly Santa around. Even though I have waited and waited, I'm still a Jolly Santa - just look at me!


The back of my body is made from thick milk chocolate. The front of my body is milk, dark and white chocolate. My feet, hands, face and cheeks are milk chocolate. My body, arms, nose, eyes and hat are made from dark chocolate and my beard, moustache, rim of my bobble hat and bobble are all white chocolate.

I have asked not to be eaten until after Christmas because I've still lots of work to do, handing out Jolly Santa's for Christmas Gifts, delivering Christmas presents, and of course chocolate gifts, after all I have got my best Jolly Santa outfit on!

After Christmas when my work is done, I'm going to travel from the West Midlands to Kent, where I know two wonderful little boys who will just love a Jolly Santa - ah!

Many thanks to Hotel Chocolat for the opportunity to review Jolly Santa.

8 Nov 2009

ABEL & COLE ORGANIC BELLY PORK JOINT


Abel & Cole asked if I would like to try a rolled piece of Organic Belly Pork. Usually I don't buy a piece of belly pork rolled but just buy it in a slab, and so this was a complete change for me.

The first thing I noticed about this joint was how the rind had been scored into diamonds shapes. Also, there was a good fat to meat ratio. First impressions are everything to this cook.

I smothered the rind with sea salt and rubbed in lots of ground fennel seeds. The joint was then blasted at a high temperature for 30 minutes before turning the oven down to resume the cooking. During the last 30 minutes of cooking I added some white wine to the belly pork for extra flavour and to make a delicious gravy.



The exposed meat, the best pieces in my humble opinion, were delicious and the interior of the meat was soft, tender and juicy.

We thought it was the best piece of belly pork ever to have graced the table in our house, there was hardly any waste - other than the string the joint had been tied up in!

Every joint of meat on the Abel & Cole website is traceable and it is always very comforting to read about the animals and producer regarding the meat you are about to order.

27 Oct 2009

STUFFED BABY SQUASH


I couldn't resist cooking this on my cedar wood baking plank to give just a hint of smokiness to the squash.



A small whole baby squash is a meal in itself and all you need for accompaniments are some sun-dried tomato bread and a spicy tomato sauce.

Serves: 4

You will need: 4 small squash about 350g each, 200g mixed wild and basmati rice, 60ml chilli and garlic oil, 150g grated Gruyere cheese.

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Pierce the squash in several places with the tip of a knife. Place the squash on a baking tray or oven plank and bake for 30 minutes or until the squash are tender. Leave to one side until cool enough to handle.
2. Cook the rice in salted, boiling water for 12 minutes or until tender, drain. Slice a lid off the top of each squash and scoop out and discard the seeds, also scoop out and chop the flesh.
3. Heat the chilli and garlic oil in a frying pan and cook the chopped squash for 5 minutes. ( Or, if using, transfer to the oven baking plank for extra smokiness and cook in the oven for a few minutes).
4. Reserve 4 tablespoons of the cheese and add the remainder to the pan along with the cooked rice, season. Mix well.
5. Pile the mixture into the squash shells and place in an ovenproof dish (or return to the oven baking plank). Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes.

18 Oct 2009

SMOKED SALMON AND CAMEMBERT CHEESE COOKED ON A STOVETOP SMOKER


As a newbie to smoking food, I decided to start with salmon fillets and a Camembert cheese. These took the same amount of time to cook which is approximately 15 minutes. Baby new potatoes dipped in smoked Camembert was a revelation, and will be made many times again, also the salmon was deliciously moist and smoked. I chose to use Alder Wood Chips, which came supplied with the Stovetop Smoker.


The food smoking possibilities are endless. Cheese, tomatoes, pork chops, chicken, fish, seafood, sausages and potatoes - just to name a few options. Any foods you may think will benefit from searing after smoking can then just be placed onto a griddle pan.

My husband has decided he is going to use the smoker on the barbecue, load it with sausages, potato wedges and vegetables then finish cooking them on the barbecue. He is coming up with ideas now - anything to do with the barbecue and you soon get his interest!

I've had a few requests from him such as smoked salmon fishcakes and smoked tomatoes, maybe these can be part of my next stovetop smoker posting.

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the Oven Baking Plank sent to me by Cookequip, this time it is the turn of the Stovetop Smoker. I have been sent the Gourmet Edition - Mini Smoker which can be used indoors on the hob, or outdoors on a barbecue.

The smoker is made from stainless steel and consists of a base where you put a small amount of wood chips, next you insert the drip pan and top with a food rack. Put your food to be smoked on the oiled rack and slide the lid to close. Cooking instructions and recipes are on a separate booklet included with the smoker, also included are a couple of tubs of wood chips to get you started. After use the inside of the smoker will turn black but this is normal and means you are using it!


The smoker comes with a cooking guide explaining the matching of wood chips to certain types of food, I chose to use Alder and the book explains this is a mild wood ideal for smoking salmon, seafood and vegetables. Although Alder isn't recommended to smoke cheese I found it was a suitable match.

Smoking food is all about tweaking - which wood chips you prefer to use, the quantity and also how long you prefer to smoke your food. I am at the beginning of the learning curve with smoking and from time to time I will come back with a few photographs of food I have smoked.

BEEROASTER CHICKEN AND SALMON WOOD WRAPS


Ever thought about cooking Beeroaster chicken? I have been writing my food blog for over three years now and have seen this method of cooking chicken on numerous food blogs, somehow I never seemed to get around to having a go.

Cookequip sent me the Chicken Beeroaster Deluxe which comes complete with a tube, drip pan and vegetable clips - this is by far the safer option for using this method of cooking.
The Beeroaster can be either used in an oven or a barbecue with a closed lid.


The Beeroaster comes with a cooking guide and recipes.

The tube can be filled with beer, ale, wine or fruit juice to flavour the chicken and to add to the flavour experience a rub can be sprinkled on the outside of the chicken and also inside the cavity.

I poured beer into the tube, rubbed Cajun seasoning over the outside of the chicken and lowered the cavity of the chicken onto the tube until the legs reach the bottom of the drip pan. Then the Beeroaster was placed onto the barbecue and a couple of potatoes were put onto the vegetable spikes. We then closed the lid of the barbecue and cooked the chicken for 1½ hours, the potatoes took 1 hour, you can also put corn onto the vegetable spikes and this takes about 20 minutes to cook.

The skin was golden and crispy, the meat was tender, moist and flavoursome. You don't even need to baste the chicken, it just takes care of itself - couldn't be simpler!

My husband is taking a keen interest in the Beeroaster and next year I'll be putting more postings on here with recipes. I'm sure the man in your life won't mind opening a bottle of beer now and then, so that you too can have Beeroaster chicken!

SALMON WOOD WRAPS

Beech Wood Wraps come in a pack of six - Beech wood gives the food a sweet and mild flavour and is an ideal choice for cooking fish and seafood.


Halved spring onions were placed onto the wrap then topped with salmon and anointed with soy sauce. Sprinkle with brown sugar, red chilli and grate over some ginger. I served the cooked salmon with a vegetable stir fry and the salmon was extremely moist and delicious.


Here is how to use the Wood Wraps: Presoak the wraps in water then pat dry. Spread olive oil onto the area where you will be placing the food, this is to stop the food sticking to the wood wrap.

Place the food onto the oiled area and wrap around the food. Tie with string or a spring onion leaf (I tried the spring onion for photographic purposes but got in a mess!!). Place the wraps onto a baking tray and then into an oven 180°C. My salmon took about 20 minutes to cook. Remove the string, open up the wood wrap and serve.

There are many wood wraps to choose from, including a pack containing cherry, cedar, maple, oak, walnut and beech, enough to keep any cook happy!

A few more ideas for using wood wraps are on the Cookequip website.

13 Oct 2009

BAILEYS EXTRA THICK CREAM WITH A HINT OF CREME CARAMEL REVIEW


FALL IN LOVE WITH PUDDINGS ALL OVER AGAIN..............Serve them with Baileys Extra Thick Cream. This was the heading on an email sent to me by Claire - and would I like to sample Baileys Original Irish Extra Thick Cream and also Baileys Extra Thick Cream with a Hint of Creme Caramel. As a pudding lover, of course I would!

If you, like me, are a Baileys lover then these smooth, thick creams are for you, and very moreish.

My first delivery of cream was Baileys Extra Thick Cream with a Hint of Caramel and it was a perfect match with this pudding.

STICKY TOFFEE AND BANANA PUDDING


Serves: 4 people

50g butter - softened, 35g caster sugar, 75g dark brown sugar, 1 egg, 100g bananas - chopped, 125g self-raising flour - sieved, 150g golden syrup (this is about one good tablespoon of golden syrup per ramekin).

You will need: 4 x ramekin dishes, greased, with a greaseproof paper disc placed at the bottom of each one.

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C /130°F Fan, Gas 2.
2. Mix together the softened butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Add the bananas and flour and mix again.
3. Pour the golden syrup into the ramekins, then add the pudding mixture until each ramekin is two-thirds full. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes. If they aren't quite ready cover with foil and cook for a further 5 minutes or so.

To serve: Turn out the puddings from the ramekins, dust them with icing sugar and serve with Baileys Creme Caramel Extra Thick Cream and a few slices of banana.

10 Oct 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.

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




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.

Thank you Victoria.

4 Oct 2009

THREE RECIPES USING MORNFLAKE OATS


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.

APPLE AND BLACKBERRY CRUMBLE


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.

BLACKBERRY AND APPLE CRANACHAN


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.

ANZAC BISCUITS


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.

28 Sep 2009

NIGEL SLATERS' LEEK RISOTTO WITH PARMESAN CRISPS


I could have told you I grew the leeks myself, I could have said I bought them from the Farmers Market, I could even have said, they were in my box scheme delivery. Alas, none of the above would have been true.

I know you are all going to be disappointed with me now, but they were out of a plastic see-through bag bought from the local supermarket. These leeks were left over from the Leek and Gruyere Quiche in my previous posting. I've let you down, I've let myself down and most of all I have let Nigel down - lets hope he will forgive a fellow West Midlander.

I preplanned the quiche and then forgot to buy the leeks and so had to settle for non-squeaky leeks. I could have made something else, but I had promised my husband I would make quiche, ran out of time and had to settle for the see-through bag!!!

If you can get crisp, bright, fresh leeks, then this simple recipe will taste even better, because it totally relies on the quality of the ingredients, that said, my risotto didn't disappoint but would have been even better, if only I had bought wonderful leeks....................'nough said about those leeks now.

The Parmesan crisps were tablespoons of grated Parmesan placed in a non stick pan and cooked until crisp. They were very moreish and one each just isn't enough - I would definitely make more.

The recipe is from Nigel Slaters new BBC programme Simple Suppers. It's great to have someone on TV who is giving the home cook simple, realistic, achievable and furthermore, delicious recipes. Nigel Slater never disappoints the home cook and he makes cooking stress free and enjoyable.

If you take a peek at his new cookery book you will find he grills some pancetta and adds this to the risotto at the end of the cooking time, but the above recipe is part of his DigIn series of programmes, which is obviously based on growing and eating your own veg!


Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be given some homegrown leeks! I know that I have missed the moment with the above recipe but I think I have now redeemed myself to you all.............

26 Sep 2009

PIZZA EXPRESS LEGGERA BLOGGER'S LUNCH


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 familiar 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.

15 Sep 2009

LEEK AND GRUYERE QUICHE



The summer has reached the West Midlands at last! We can now have barbecues without having to run for cover and cook under the parasol, we can even eat quiche!

My tomato plants are at last happy and producing good red cherry tomatoes. Even some of the plants that have been on a back burner have burst into life and are trying their very best to put on a show for me.

If you are in the mood for quiche and have some leeks lurking in the fridge then this is a great recipe to use them up. A delicious quiche but try not to cook it to within an inch of its life because it will carry on cooking whilst cooling.

Oh dear look what happened to my pastry! This was after resting the pastry before rolling out, and then after popping the lined tin to rest in the fridge for half an hour or so. It didn't matter though and if I had removed the quiche from the tin you would never have known! Taking a belt and braces approach, by either pressing the uncooked pastry just above the rim of the tin or letting the pastry overhang the tin and when it's cooked just trim the pastry neatly from around the edges of the tin. I've never managed to trim the cooked pastry from around the tin neatly to this day!


One of my favourite Gary Rhodes recipes, although I think it is fair to say, I haven't come across many of his recipes on food blogs.

GARY RHODES - TIME TO EAT
ISBN 9780718153144
Page 180 - Serves 4 people

You will need:

a large piece of butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 sliced large onion, 1 large leek finely shredded and washed, 2 eggs, 1 egg yolk, 150ml double cream or milk, 100g Gruyere cheese grated, salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper, 175g fresh or frozen ready-made shortcrust pastry (although I made my own).

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 and butter a loose 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin.
2. Heat the butter and olive oil together in a large frying pan. Once sizzling, fry the sliced onion for 5 to 6 minutes before adding the leek. Continue to fry for a further minute or two, then spread them on to a tray to cool.
3. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them together with the extra egg yolk, and then add the cream or milk. Stir in the grated cheese and onion and leek and season with the salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
4. Roll our the pastry on a lightly floured surface and line the tart tin. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or dried rice and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
5. Bake blind for 15 to 20 minutes, and then allow to cool. Remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans and cut away the excess pastry. Lower the oven temperature to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3.
6. Pour the filling mixture into the pastry case and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until just set. Remove the quiche from the oven and leave to rest for 20 minutes before serving just warm.

13 Sep 2009

SUGAR PLUMS AND A NEW WEBER BARBECUE


My husband has just bought himself a new toy - a Weber Spirit barbecue - he's even bought some of their accessories. It was pleasing to see him, instead of the usual suspect (me), buying utensils he didn't really need, but I have to say they do lure you into parting with your cash, they are sleek in design and also very practical.

The previous week he 'faffed' about with barbecue and kept asking for opinions and help on how he should go about cooking the food on his new barbie, it really is a learning curve with the Weber, as they recommend cooking with the hood down for some foods.


As you can see from the photograph - the barbecue was delicious!

I knew we would need a very easy and quick dessert to eat after the barbecue because I had to be prepared for the 'faffing' again! Idly flicking through the pages of the September issue of BBC Good Food Magazine I stumbled upon this glorious recipe for roasted plums.


Roasting plums brings out the very best flavour and the wonder of this simple recipe was the vivid purple juices that oozed from the plums to make a delicious sauce. I allowed my plums to cool down for 10 minutes or so and served them simply with double cream poured over. Unfortunately, the photograph doesn't show the wonderful juices that came from the plums, perhaps due to more 'faffing'.

You will need:

140g white granulated sugar, ¼ tsp cinnamon, 1 large egg white, 12 ripe purple or red plums

1. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
2. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk the egg white, then roll the plums first in egg white and then the cinnamon sugar until very well coated in a sugary crust.
3. Space apart in a buttered baking dish then bake for 15 minutes or until the plums are crusty, cooked through and starting to be juicy (I allowed mine to be quite juicy without the plums collapsing). To test poke in a cocktail stick, if it goes in easily, they are ready.
4. Serve with creme fraiche, ice cream or double cream.

28 Aug 2009

Variety is the Spice of Life - Part II

The food at Jamie's Italian was generous and delicious. My choices were Prosciutto, Pear and Pecorina Salad followed by Italian Bakewell Tart.

A couple of negatives - sorry Jamie - the bottled water, on an extremely hot day, was served to us at room temperature! We asked for a glass of ice cubes which promptly appeared but then disappeared off the table just as quickly!! Also, if you decide to go to a Jamie's Italian make sure you eat downstairs because the Brighton restaurant is on two floors. Downstairs is a must for ambiance and where you will see the cutting of hams and bread etc. Wait for a downstairs table rather than go upstairs to eat.



Coffee in Brighton has to be at The Red Roaster Cafe. Freshly roasted beans and delicious coffee topped with latte art - it doesn't get much better than this. The second photograph shows a collection of coffee brewing machines the owner has obviously collected over time.



Brighton Pavilion - no trip to Brighton is complete without a visit here.


The Victoria, Richmond - a gastro pub where Paul Merrett is a chef and joint owner. We went on a Wednesday when they have an outdoor grill menu. The food, as was my latte art topped coffee fabulous, and I couldn't find one single negative. Perfect.


RHS Wisley, Surrey. Lots of beautiful, trees, plants, fruit trees bursting with apples, pears and damsons and wonderful walks. Didn't go here for food though.


Fish! Restaurant is situated in a huge glass building at Borough Market. Another sunny day where we sat outside and ate wonderful food. Forgot to take a photograph of this - sorry. Everything was perfect here too. Fish! also have a stall at Borough Market serving up fish and chips which was extremely popular with visitors.

The Total Organics Juice Bar situated inside Borough Market - no I didn't drink any of this, I just wasn't feeling brave enough! They serve shots of juiced wheat grass here.


Lots of wonderful tomatoes, again at Borough Market, a real feast for the eyes.


Whitstable, Kent. Yet another sunny day and lots of oyster and seafood stalls to whet the appetite.


We also ate at Ask and had a reasonably good meal, but the best place in Beckenham where we ate was Friends of Mine - the food was not only delicious but presented extremely well. The restaurant interior is definitely 'cool' and we enjoyed relaxing here after long hot days out!

My daughter lives in Kent and we stayed at her house for a week which was really useful and gave us the opportunity to explore the area and beyond. As you can see we had a wonderful time - just perfect.

I have been to some other great places this year and hope to post about these in the future.