27 Oct 2009


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


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.

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


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.