21 Dec 2011

ICED SPARKLE CHRISTMAS CAKE


A Christmas Cake with all the usual sparkle we can safely get away with at this time of the year.

It was my first visit to Cake International at the NEC Birmingham this year and I have no idea why I have never made the trip before. Fortunately, I have a very understanding husband, who made no comments regarding my purchases, only to say, did I get everything I needed for my Christmas Cakes, bless!

Back soon.

18 Dec 2011

Iced Reindeer Christmas Cake

A Reindeer Christmas Cake for my two small grandchildren and their Mummy and Daddy! I know it's unusual for small children to like fruit cake, but they both really enjoy it.

A very easy cake to decorate using Christmas red icing, two sizes of reindeer cutters, a Christmas tree cutter, red glitter, small red and gold stars, a dusting of snowflake sprinkles, and two different ribbons. Some of the items were purchased on my day out to Cake International in Birmingham last month, and as you can see I used my time well!

Back soon!

11 Dec 2011

Nigel Slater's Coffee and Walnut Cake


Do you think Nigel will approve of the way I have decorated the cake? I am guessing not, but I fell in love with these little coffee cup chocolates and decorated my coffee and walnut cake with them instead of the usual walnuts. Well, it is coming up to Christmas...........and if it looks good and tastes good, then that's ok with me.

These coffee cups were made especially for me (well perhaps not!). Here we have cappuccino, caramel macchiato, hazelnut latte and espresso.

The cake is light and fluffy, the buttercream can be made stronger with the addition of more coffee to counteract some of the sweetness, the tiny coffee cups are perfect......it's good enough to make you forget Christmas is on the horizon!

The cake keeps well and here is the recipe:

You will need: 2 x 21cm greased sponge tins.

For the cake: 175g softened butter, 175g unrefined golden caster sugar, 65g chopped walnut pieces, 3 large eggs, 175g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas Mark 4. Beat the butter and sugar until light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time to the butter and sugar, beating well after each addition.
2. Mix the flour and baking powder together and mix gently into the cake batter. Stir the dissolved coffee into the cake mix, followed by the chopped walnuts.
3. Divide the cake mixture between the two cake tins, smooth lightly and bake for 20-25 minutes.

For the buttercream: 200g softened butter, 400g icing sugar, 2 tsp instant coffee granules, 60g walnut halves.

To make the buttercream:

1. Beat the softened butter until soft and pale, add the icing sugar and beat until soft and fluffy. Dissolve the coffee granules in 1 tbsp boiling water and then mix into the buttercream. Fold in the walnut pieces.
2. Spread one of the cakes with a third of the buttercream, then place the second sponge on top, and spread the remaining buttercream on the top, and around the sides if you wish.

28 Nov 2011

Jamie Oliver's Chocolate Love Cake with Cherries and Booze


Does the special person in your life like brownies? If so, you could make this Love Cake, a recipe from Jamie Oliver, especially for them. It has a squidgy brownie consistency, is dotted with cherries and has a boozy chocolate sauce poured over. The original recipe has crushed hazelnuts added but I like this dessert without.

Men often leave present buying until the last minute, and find it really difficult choosing presents. Why not be kind to him this Christmas and leave a list of ideas, this way at least you should get something you like. If you have a dish like mine, you can attach a craft label onto the handle with a list of your Christmas wishes!

You are possibly wondering if I have done this - the answer is no, I'm just trying to help!


The dessert is quite rich and very similar to a brownie in taste and texture. I served mine with some of the reserved chocolate sauce, and a dollop of creme fraiche, which cuts through the richness.

You will need: 9 or 10 inches ovenproof dish greased.

For the cake: 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 100g softened butter, 100g caster sugar, 1 egg, 100g self-raising flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tin black cherries drained.

For the chocolate sauce: 25g butter, 142ml double cream, 75g dark chocolate broken into pieces, a splash of either brandy, rum, Amaretto or Baileys.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
2. Mix the cocoa powder with a few tablespoons of boiling water and stir until the mixture is smooth.
3. In another bowl beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the cooled cocoa mixture, egg, flour and baking flour. Mix all together and pour into the ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the cherries and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
4. To check if the cake is ready, make sure it doesn't wobble too much then it's done, if not give it some more time in the oven.
5. To make the chocolate sauce: Place the butter in a small pan with the cream and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate pieces to the pan. Give it all a good stir and leave for 5 minutes so the hot cream can melt the chocolate. Add a splash of either brandy, rum, Amaretto or Baileys and stir until thoroughly combined.
6. Once the cake is ready, pour over the warm chocolate sauce. Any sauce that is left will reheat in the microwave.

Good Luck!

23 Nov 2011

Gordon Ramsay's Apple & Pear Crumble Tart


A perfect tart for Christmas! With notes of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg - apples, pears, a delicious layer of almond frangipane, crisp pastry and a crumble topping.

I'm not too happy about sweet pastry when you have lot's of sweetness in a recipe, it's just too much and sugar overload. A well made shortcrust pastry base, baked blind until crisp is my preferred method.

I can't see any reason why this tart shouldn't freeze successfully, it can be sliced into portions when it is fridge cold and then put in the freezer. It also heats up successfully in the microwave. The tart is a real winner and will feed a crowd too. Simply serve with ice cream or pouring cream.

Gordon Ramsay has given us some fabulous recipes for desserts and this apple, pear and almond frangipane tart with a crumble topping is amazing.

The recipe is what I call high faff but it can be made in stages to lighten the faff element. I used my dicing gadget to make perfect dice of apples and pears because my knife skills are too clumsy to do this and I would probably end up in A&E!


Serves: 8

You will need: 34cm x 11cm oblong tin greased.

Filling: 4 Braeburn apples peeled and diced, 4 pears peeled and diced, a large pinch of ground ginger and cinnamon, a grating of nutmeg, 25g butter, juice of half a lemon.

Crumble: 160g unsalted butter, 2tbsp soft brown sugar, 150g plain flour, 80g demerara sugar, 25g roasted chopped hazelnuts.

Almond Frangipane: 50g butter, 50g icing sugar, 1 egg, 10g flour, 50g ground almonds.

Pastry: 220g plain flour, 50g lard, 50g butter, 3tbsp cold water

1. For the pastry: Put the flour, lard and butter in a food processor, blitz until breadcrumbs, add the cold water and process until the mixture comes together. Tip onto cling film, form into a flattened circle. Cover with clingwrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Roll out the pastry, line the tin and bake blind using Delia's method.
3. To make the frangipane: Cream the butter and icing sugar together, slowly mix in the egg, flour and ground almonds. Chill for 2 hours before using.
4. To make the filling: toss the diced fruit in lemon juice to stop them browning. Take the fruit and mix with the spices. Heat a knob of the butter until foaming, then add the fruit and toss for about 30 seconds. Add the soft brown sugar and cook until the fruit is soft, but not broken down. Cool.
5. To make the crumble: Rub the remaining butter into the flour and stir in the demerara sugar and hazelnuts. Fill the tart with the frangipane, then fruit, and top with the crumble mix.
6. Heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°F/Gas 4. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

19 Nov 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes - Menier Cooking Chocolate

Menier sent me a brochure with some wonderful ideas for using their chocolate including a recipe for Braised Venison with Autumn Vegetables and Chocolate Sauce, Curried Lamb Stew with Bitter Chocolate and White Chocolate Raspberry and Lime Drizzle Cake. They are encouraging us to be more experimental and creative with chocolate in our home cooking but I was drawn like a magnet to my gold foil cupcake cases and edible glitter!


The chocolate melted easily, my method is to put the chocolate into a basin, place over a pan of gently simmering water. Remove the pan from the heat and let the chocolate melt over the residual heat. This ensures the chocolate melts without overheating.

Cooking chocolate doesn't necessarily mean good eating chocolate but these bars of chocolate are very impressive. My husband particularly liked the white chocolate which surprised me because usually he prefers either dark or milk chocolate. I now wish I had put a thicker layer of chocolate on top of the cupcakes because it tasted so good.

A few fascinating facts regarding the brand: Menier was founded in 1816, making it the oldest brand in the world. Their expertise guarantees its chocolate has the best flavour, as it has been ground for longer than standard cooking chocolate to make the texture smoother and the taste better.

They were the first company to introduce blocks of chocolate and prides itself on being the number one dark chocolate brand in the cooking chocolate market. The dark chocolate contains 70% cocoa.

Menier chocolate is available in major supermarkets nationwide with a RRP of £1.19.

Thank you Emma.

13 Nov 2011

Christmas Individual Fruit and Grand Marnier Trifles

These trifles are easily put together and all you need is a bag of frozen berries from the freezer and you are part way to assembling a delicious trifle. The recipe is fairly low fat but is easily tweaked, bought custard can be used instead of making it yourself, also whipped cream can be used instead of the yogurt. Mr W and I enjoyed this low fat trifle and surprisingly didn't miss using cream for the topping.

The original recipe was fruit overload (as in the photograph), and in this instance you can definitely have too much of a good thing. You can never have too much Grand Marnier though.

Serves: 4

For the custard:
3 free-range egg yolks, 25g caster sugar, 1dsp cornflour, 300ml semi-skimmed milk, dash vanilla extract.

For the trifle:
4 slices of Madeira cake or trifle sponges, 4 tablespoons Grand Marnier, 200g mixed half thawed frozen berries, 200g Organic Greek Style Yogurt, 3tbsp sifted icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract, few extra berries to decorate.

1. For the custard: mix together the egg yolks with the caster sugar and cornflour. Heat the milk in a pan and when it is hot stir into the egg mixture, then pour into a clean saucepan and stir over a moderate heat until thickened. Add the vanilla extract, pour into a bowl and cover the clingfilm to prevent a skin forming, leave to cool.
2. Put the cake slices in the bottom of each glass, then drizzle over the liqueur. Divide the berries between them, then whisk the custard again and spoon over the berries and cake. In a separate bowl, mix together the yogurt, sugar and vanilla then spoon over the top. Leave in the fridge for the flavours to get to know each other. Decorate with a few extra berries.

1 Nov 2011

Christmas Chocolate Cupcakes


It's coming up to that time of year again! These happy little men are surrounded by snow and a dusting of silver glitter.

The cream cheese frosting makes a welcome change from the usual buttercream and pipes really well. If you find the frosting is a little soft just pop it into the fridge covered for a few minutes to firm up. Don't be tempted to use anything other than full fat cream cheese, I used Philadelphia, or you won't be able to pipe the swirls.

Makes: 12 cupcakes

You will need: a twelve hole muffin tin lined with muffin cases.

For the cupcakes:

100g self raising flour, 125g softened butter, 125g caster sugar, 2 medium eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, 3 level tablespoons cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. In a bowl beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and milk, fold in the sifted flour and cocoa powder until the mixture is smooth.
3. Divide the mixture between the cases and bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked.
4. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting


200g Philadelphia Full Fat Cream Cheese at room temperature, 400g sifted icing sugar, 70g softened butter.

1. Simply mix all the ingredients together until light and fluffy.
2. Pipe swirls on top of the cupcakes.

28 Oct 2011

Halloween Baked Toffee Apples

Toffee Apples
Let's not forget about the grownups at Halloween. This recipe is easy to prepare and looks after itself in the oven. The best part though is the rum caramel sauce poured over the apples after they come out of the oven.

Serves: 6

You will need: 25g softened unsalted butter, 25g light muscovado sugar, finely grated zest of 1 lemon plus 1 tbsp lemon juice, 30g currants, 40g raisins, 6 red eating apples, 6tbsp golden syrup, 1tbsp rum, creme fraiche to serve.

1. Beat the butter and muscovado sugar together until creamy, beat in the lemon zest and juice (the mixture will look curdled), fold in the raisins and currants. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/Gas 4.
2. Using the tip of a sharp knife, score a circle around the middle of each apple (I didn't do this and they were still ok). Carefully cut out the apple cores using an apple corer.
3. Loosely stuff the cavities with the dried fruit to within 1cm of the top and place the apples in a baking dish spaced slightly apart. Drizzle 1 tbsp syrup over each one and bake for 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes.
4. Transfer the apples to plates or a serving dish, spooning any loose dried fruit back inside and reserving the syrupy cooking juices in a small pan. Leave the apples to cool for 10-15 minutes.
5. Simmer the cooking juices until reduced by half and a light caramel colour, then stir in the rum. Pour the caramel sauce over the apples and serve with creme fraiche.

20 Oct 2011

Roast Pears with Star Anise, Blackberries and Lemon


Pears stained by blackberries look so pretty, but add to them a few bay leaves, star anise and cinnamon we know autumn is here. If you have any blackberries in the freezer to use up or a glut of pears, this dessert is perfect.

The recipe calls for maple syrup but at the time I made this there wasn't any in the store cupboard and so I used honey instead, the dessert was still delicious. This dessert is best eaten at room temperature.

Serves: 6

You will need: 6 ripe but firm pears, 1 small lemon, 3 tablespoons maple syrup or runny honey, 2 or 3 fresh bay leaves, 2 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 150g blackberries.

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel, halve and core the pears. Place the pears in a single layer in an ovenproof dish.
2. Using a peeler, remove the skin from the lemon in strips, scatter over the pears. Juice the lemon and drizzle over the pears along with the maple syrup and 200ml of cold water.
3. Tuck the bay leaves, star anise and cinnamon stick among the pear halves and bake for 20 minutes.
4. After 20 minutes, scatter the blackberries over the pear halves and return to the oven for 10 minutes.
5. Take the pear and blackberry mixture out of the oven and turn them in the juices from the blackberries. Leave to cool.

8 Oct 2011

Individual Lemon Meringues


These individual lemon meringues are a perfect dessert, especially if you are in a hurry and haven't time to make a pastry case.

There were two lemons in the fridge and I decided to put them to good use, and for the two of us today, these were perfect. The dessert is luscious and lemony, the meringue is crisp on the outside and squashy within.

Serves 4: You will need: 12cm creme brulee dishes.

For the lemon curd:

Grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons, 300ml water, 30g cornflour, 50g caster sugar, 2 large egg yolks

For the meringue:

4 large egg whites, 200g caster sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
2. To make the lemon curd: Put the cornflour and sugar into a medium saucepan and gradually stir in the water. Mix to a smooth paste and then into a cloudy liquid, add the lemon zest. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time, simmer for two minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir well.
3. Put the egg yolks into a mixing bowl. Gradually pour the lemon mixture over them, stirring all the time. divide the lemon mixture between the creme brulee dishes.
4. To make the meringue: whisk the egg whites until stiff, add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until thick and glossy.
5. Using a palatte knife spread the meringue over the lemon bases. Make peaks over the top. Place in the oven for 45 minutes until golden and crisp.
6. Serve either warm at room temperature.

3 Oct 2011

MINI CARROT CAKES WITH LEMON CREAM CHEESE ICING


These mini carrot cakes were an excuse to dust off my mini loaf tins which I haven't used for a while. The cakes are deliciously moist with background notes of cinnamon and ground ginger and the lemon cream cheese icing compliments the cake well.

You will need: 20 mini loaf tins lightly greased (5cm x 10cm) or two mini loaf pans.

175g brown sugar, 250ml vegetable oil, 4 large eggs, 200g plain flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 250g grated carrot, 50g chopped pecan nuts plus extra for decoration, 80g sultanas, 125ml crushed pineapple.

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place the greased mini loaf tins onto a baking tray. Beat together the sugar, eggs and oil for 5 minutes until fluffy.
2. Sift the dry ingredients and add to the sugar, oil and egg mixture, together with the grated carrots, nuts, pineapple and sultanas.
3. Mix everything together and pour into the loaf tins.
4. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Lemon Cream Cheese Icing


You will need:
60g softened unsalted butter, 250g icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 80g cream cheese, grated zest of 1 lemon

Place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat together until the icing is light and fluffy. Spread the icing over the cooled cakes, decorate with extra pecans.

26 Sep 2011

Review: Saeco Lavazza A Modo Mio Extra Coffee Machine


I have spent a very happy few weeks or so testing, on a daily basis, a Limited Edition Blue Saeco Lavazza A Modo Mio Extra Coffee Machine (the coffee machine isn't supplied with a shot glass).

The coffee machine arrived with five boxes of Lavazza Modo Mio coffee capsules, which includes one box of decaffeinated. There are eight capsules in each box, all of which are excellent in taste quality and also have a great after taste, giving a true Italian espresso.


If you are, or have been thinking about buying a coffee machine which takes capsules, then hopefully you will find the following information useful.

The coffee machine is quickly set up and can at the press of a button produce an espresso and steamed milk, which you can make effortlessly and extremely quickly. Within a very short time you will learn how to make a good espresso and also how to texture the milk.

Photograph showing the water tank which slides off for filling.


To Make an Espresso: Place a capsule in the slot, pull the loading lever forward and down, press coffee brew button, the machine will make an espresso, press the coffee brew button to stop the flow and return the lever to eject the used capsule.

This is one of my best efforts at foaming the milk - not quite there yet, but as you can see from the photograph I have made microfoam.


This photograph is to show, that with practice, the milk can be textured and you will then get a far superior latte. Still not quite enough texturing though to make latte art. The instruction book gives full details showing how to achieve textured milk and latte art, it just needs practice.


This coffee shows one of my earliest attempts at foaming the milk - this is the equivalent to how coffee looks on the high street. Not bad but can be improved upon.


Forget all about foam and all of the bubbles you are presented with at some coffee shops, and sadly, in some of the independent coffee shops too. You can produce much better foamed and textured milk at home with the Lavazza coffee machine.

Pros:

Fabulous range of colours.
Chic, no mess and easy to use.
The machine is supplied with 5 varieties of coffee capsules, each box containing 8 coffee capsules.
Lavazza coffee is excellent quality.
Lavazza coffee capsules can be bought in most supermarkets.
It is possible to quickly learn how to foam milk to a good standard.
With practice you can foam the milk to a very high standard.
After a short time practicing steaming the milk, it is possible to texture the milk, and if you are clever enough, make latte art.
The machine is capable of making an espresso, as good as or better than, any high street chain coffee shop.
Preheating the machine for 20-30 minutes (although no mention of this is made in the manual), I believe you can expect to make an espresso which exceeds the quality you can buy on the high street.
There is a draw which holds up to 10 empty capsules and these only need to be emptied out every few days and the draw can then be cleaned too.
Minimal cleaning required.
There is a User Manual A Modo Mio Coffee Menu giving detailed instructions for making everything from an espresso to a caffe mocha.

Cons:

The steam wand is about 1cm too short which may make it difficult to foam the milk until you get used to using a suitable jug and steaming the milk.
It is essential to buy a small stainless steel jug, preferably from Lavazza, to ensure the jug is the correct size.
The User Manual has a few errors with regards to the steaming button operation.
Pressing down the steaming button manually is uncomfortable.

Summing Up:

One of my passions is coffee, and for the last few years I have owned a Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine and a Rancilio Grinder. I also buy top quality freshly roasted coffee beans, which from the time they are freshly roasted, arrive on my doorstep approximately two days later. My coffee machine has now been fitted with a PID, which in layman's terms means, good brew temperature control.

As I already own a coffee machine, it is impossible not to make comparisons whilst testing and reviewing. This was a wonderful opportunity to try a quality coffee machine which takes top quality coffee capsules, and can also foam the milk. I know I will use this machine on a weekly basis, even though I have used my Gaggia for a few years now.

The Lavazza coffee machine has given my Gaggia Classic a run for it's money and other than a few niggles, I'm in love. If you can afford it, I would suggest looking at the Premium model because it will dispense a measured shot of coffee, and also you don't have to keep the steam button pressed down.

The Lavazza coffee machine can make a range of coffees. It surely has to be one of the best coffee capsule machines on the market. RRP £125.

Thank you for the fabulous Lavazza coffee machine.



11 Sep 2011

Giant Chocolate Buttons Cupcakes - National Cupcake Week 12-18 September 2011


It's National Cupcake Week and I decided to make some very easy chocolate cupcakes and decorate them with giant chocolate buttons.

The Giant Chocolate Buttons are from Marks and Spencer and look like real buttons. They come in a fabulous box with a real button attached, all of the buttons are in individual wrappers to stop the chocolate getting marked. Brilliant product.

I am not going to take any credit for the idea of using these buttons because the lady who owns my local coffee shop makes cupcakes topped with these, so lets say, I just borrowed the idea. I know she won't mind and will be flattered that I went home and made some too.

I have been having some problems with cupcake cases from one of the large supermarkets getting squashed in my muffin tin. By this, I mean when the cupcakes have been removed from the tin the concertina's on the cupcake cases have squashed themselves into the baked cupcake, it doesn't happen to all of them though. I think this is because the cupcake cases are too large for the tin. It isn't a problem that I have encountered before. Has anyone else had any problems with cupcake cases or am I on my own with this problem?

Happy Cupcake Week!

4 Sep 2011

Lin, Pain d'Espices & Chocolat


I would like to introduce you to a blog that is written by a lady who lives in France - Lin, Pain d'Espices & Chocolat which translates to Linen, Gingerbread & Chocolate. I have corresponded with Veronique, the writer of the blog, for some time now. It was from her love of reading English Literature, and Sussex Pond Pudding being mentioned in the book Veronique was currently reading, that she did an Internet search to see what the pudding was and found my blog, because I have a couple of postings on here for Sussex Pond Pudding. By coincidence, Veronique used to be a French teacher at the same school in London where my daughter is now a teacher!



The blog covers food, interiors, travel, film, novels, photography and her love for the UK and beyond. No tickets or travel required, click on the link to take a look at this beautiful blog Lin, Pain d'Espices & Chocolat.

2 Sep 2011

Raspberry, Blueberry and Lime Drizzle Cake


This cake is definitely one I will be making time and time again and I can't believe it has taken me so long to get round to making it.

It's full of fruity goodness and is a cake cum dessert bake. The lime drizzle is fresh and tangy, so it's a win, win bake.

I used frozen fruit and it worked perfectly, a tip here is not to stir frozen fruit into the cake mix or you will end up with streaked batter. I always put the batter into the lined tin and then simply put the fruit on top and press it down.


When it's cooled down cut into slices and put in the freezer for cake or dessert time!

The recipe is from the BBC Good Food website who, as always, bring us the most amazing bakes.

I know that there has been a lot in the press lately regarding obesity but it's everything in moderation. Although there are a number of sweet bakes on my website, I don't eat cake all day long:( My intake of cake is confined to one piece of cake in the evening with a cup of coffee, this ritual seems to take place at around 9 pm each evening and I am non the worse for this, because cake makes me happy! Most of the bakes on my website can be cut into sensible size portions and frozen, then thawed either in the microwave or at room temperature.

Happy baking and enjoy!

31 Aug 2011

Spatchcock Chicken with Lemon, Oregano and Paprika and Crunchy Rice Salad


My husband is brilliant at cooking a barbecue and will cook outside for us in all weathers, providing there is a glass of wine to hand! The weather was a bit gloomy last Sunday but he cooked such a fabulous meal for us it didn't matter. I am sorry but you will all have to find yourself an 'all weathers' man for yourself, mines definitely taken!

There are a couple of other recipes on this site for spatchcock chicken - Spatchcock Chicken with Gremolata and a recipe by Nigella Lawson Spatchcock Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary, I couldn't choose a favourite because I enjoy them all equally.


I had already skewered the chicken and then decided to cook the chicken under a brick, which is simply a brick (or similar heavy weight) wrapped in a double layer of foil and placed on top of the spatchcock chicken to weigh it down and to ensure more of the surface area is in direct contact with the cooking surface. It's best to oil the foil otherwise it tends to stick to the chicken skin.

To spatchcock a chicken:
Sit the chicken breast-side down on a clean work surface. Using poultry shears or a good pair of kitchen scissors,cut along the centre back of the chicken, running from thigh to wing on each side and removing the backbone from tail to neck. Open up the chicken and flatten by pushing down hard on the breastbone. Secure in position with metal skewers running from thigh to opposite wing.

Only a few ingredients are required for this recipe and if you can find a brick to use so much the better.

You will need:

1 whole spatchcock chicken, 1-2 tsp olive oil, grated zest of 1 lemon plus juice of 2 lemons, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon dried oregano

1. Put the oil, lemon zest and juice, paprika, salt and black pepper into a bowl and mix together.
2. Put the chicken into a large freezer bag and pour in the marinade to coat the chicken. Marinate for 1 hour.
3. Heat the barbecue until hot. Sprinkle the oregano liberally all over the chicken and cook for 40-50 minutes until golden and cooked through. Remove to a plate and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Serve with a lovely Crunchy Salad.


You will need:

175g basmati and wild rice, 50g raisins, zest and juice 1 lime, 6 tbsp olive oil, 1 deseeded and chopped red chilli, 6 sliced spring onions, 1 deseeded and chopped red pepper, 4 celery sticks scrubbed and chopped, 1 red-skinned apple cored and chopped.

1. Cook the rice according to the instructions on the pack until tender. Strain the rice and cool by running cold water over. Drain well.
2. Whisk together the lime zest and juice and the olive oil, season with salt and ground black pepper.
3. Tip the cooled rice into a bowl and stir in the dressing followed by the rest of the ingredients. Keep in the fridge.

A nice glass of bubbly!

26 Aug 2011

Review: Guylian Praline Sea Shells


These Guylian signature Sea Shell Chocolates are a real classic. They are made using only the finest, hand selected Mediterranean hazelnuts, which are roasted and caramelised to perfection before being blended with premium Belgian chocolate.

They make a fabulous gift, or simply an indulgent treat, so why not treat yourself to a box this Bank Holiday. I sat last night eating a few of these and I have been very good and saved the remainder for the weekend.

I always wondered where the name Guylian came from - this is a true story of love and chocolate which began in the 1950's with the marriage of Guy Foubert and Liliane, they joined their names to make the company name Guylian. Guy developed the signature hazelnut praline filling and Liliane designed the shining marbled look and the delicately sculptured shapes.

The Guylian Praline Sea Shells are available in a 250g box (RRP £3.99) from all good supermarkets.

Guylian have a wide range of chocolates so please visit their website and take a look at all of the tempting chocolates!

Thank you Ethna.

12 Aug 2011

Jamie Oliver's Cauliflower Cheese


Jamie has given an old favourite a makeover and for me, this is the best and easiest recipe ever. No messing about making a cheese sauce anymore, the sauce is made from a pot of creme fraiche into which a good amount of cheddar cheese is added.


The topping is simply breadcrumbs mixed with some olive oil, smoked streaky bacon and rosemary leaves. The cauliflower cheese in the photograph is topped only with breadcrumbs and olive oil.

It might not be the most photogenic dish on here, but oh my goodness, does it taste good!

Taken from Ministry of Food

Serves: 4-6

You will need: 1 large cauliflower, leaves picked from 2 sprigs rosemary, 4 anchovy fillets (not in this house though!), 400ml creme fraiche, 200g grated Cheddar cheese, 4 slices of bread, 1 rasher smoked streaky bacon, extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
2. Break the cauliflower into small pieces and add to a pan of boiling water with a pinch of salt and boil for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander.
3. Chop up the anchovy fillets and put them into a bowl with the creme fraiche. Stir in 100g Cheddar cheese and season with salt and pepper.
4. Pour a lug of extra virgin olive oil into a food processor and add the 4 slices of bread with the crusts left on, the rasher of smoked bacon and the rosemary leaves. Whiz until you have breadcrumbs.
5. Place the cauliflower into a medium size baking dish, spoon over the sauce, sprinkle over the remaining 100g Cheddar cheese and top with the breadcrumb mixture.
6. Cook for 45 minutes until golden, crisp and bubbling.

7 Aug 2011

Review: Thai Square, Sevenoaks, Kent


Thai Square are an upmarket chain of Thai restaurants - there are eleven in premium areas of Greater London and six in select areas of Outer London.

I chose the Sevenoaks branch because I was on a family visit to my daughter who lives in Kent and it was wonderful to visit Sevenoaks again.

There is plenty of parking in Sevenoaks and Thai Square is situated on the main street of London Road, the Sevenoaks branch is located in the historic former 'Dorset Arms'.

You can sit and relax in this beautifully decorated room with cocktails, drinks or coffee.


The extensive menu is thoughtfully set out with explanations of the many dishes. Our waiter asked us if we had any allergies before taking our order, which impressed both of us. The friendly waiter eagerly helped with choices and recommendations, without being assuming, and this again was very much appreciated.


The food used is authentic Thai, with ingredients freshly flown in daily from Thailand and with this in mind we just knew we were about to enjoy something special.

Whilst our starters were being freshly prepared we were brought a huge dish of prawn crackers and a chilli dip. We had to tell ourselves to stop enjoying them so much as it would be time for our starters to arrive.


For starters we chose a Trio of Satays - a combination of chicken, prawn and beef satays served with peanut sauce. Also, Royal Dim Sum - steamed parcels of prawn, chicken and crab meat accompanied by sweet soya sauce.

My satays were perfectly cooked and accompanied by a Thai coleslaw salad, my husbands dim sum was taste perfect and both starters were a feast for the eyes.

As you can imagine we were both very happy diners by now and looking forward to our mains. I chose Goong Kratiem Phriktai - A succulent stir-fried preparation with river king prawns, ground black pepper and fresh green peppercorns. Accompanied by Pad Thai - Pad Thai Noodles with king prawns, peanuts, egg and vegetables. My husband chose Gang Daeng Nuea - Premium red coconut curry of tender beef fillet accompanied by Kao Kati - steamed coconut rice.


When our main courses arrived I couldn't help but say wow, they looked picture perfect. My prawns were succulent and had been cooked to perfection, the sauce was a taste sensation.

My husbands curry had a generous amount of beef, and the sauce exactly the right amount of heat, the recommendation from the waiter to order coconut rice was perfect.

Now for dessert, I couldn't make up my mind and the waiter helped out with several recommendations, still a difficult choice but it was Home-made Thai coconut ice cream with exotic fruit for me and my husband chose Baked banana served warm with vanilla ice cream and toasted almonds. Both desserts were served beautifully and tasted as good as they looked.




The interior is upmarket contemporary Thai, several walls are adorned with a Bas-relief and there are also fun things such as a Thai Statue with an archway either side which appears to have been built from Jenga blocks, and a show case holding genuine Thai artefacts. The atmosphere is set by tea lights in beautiful glass holders, the tables, chairs and crockery are Thai modern. The restaurant is well looked after, spotlessly clean and the decoration is stunning. There are so many special things to see you really need to go a couple of times to appreciate the beautiful interior.


Ambience is always an important factor and here you have it in bucketloads! I was really excited throughout the whole meal As I sat eating my meal I said to my husband when can we come again? Yes, we are going again - this time to another Thai Square Restaurant for a family meal with my daughter, her husband and two small children.

Thank you Jane and all at Thai Square for a wonderful evening.

Thai Square
22 London Road
Sevenoaks
Kent
TN13 1AJ

Tel: 017 3246 2785

6 Aug 2011

Shortbread and Berry Tartlets


This is a three ingredient, but fabulous summer dessert. All I did was to take a box of Marks & Spencer All Butter Shortbread Thins and spread them with a sugarfree raspberry jam and then topped them with raspberries I had picked from my garden. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy an effortless red berry dessert just perfect for this time of the year.

19 Jul 2011

JAMIE OLIVER'S SLOW ROASTED PORK BELLY


Jamie's recipe for pork belly is my favourite and one I have cooked since his book, Cook With Jamie, was released in 2006.

This is an easy, no fail recipe, and only requires the best pork you can afford. The pork in Jamie's recipe is cooked on a bed of fennel but if you don't want to use the fresh fennel then the pork will still taste fabulous.

This is the tastiest belly pork ever, it is coated in a mixture of bashed up fennel seeds and salt and after an hour or so a bottle of white wine is added to the roasting tin. Long slow cooking is also the secret to perfect belly pork and not one to be rushed, as with all good things!

I always score the pork myself because invariably the meat has never been scored very well, even though I always buy it from the butcher. We have a huge meat knife hidden away in the cupboard, which is a bit scary, but it makes easy work of scoring meat.

You will fall in love with this recipe, just as I have, and your kitchen will be full of the most beautiful aroma's. I know once tried there will be no turning back.....


Here is the original recipe, for the two of us I mostly buy a 1.5kg joint because I like to have some leftovers.

Serves: 6-8

2kg pork belly on the bone, 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, sea salt and black pepper. 4 fennel bulbs, each cut into sixths, herby tops removed and reserved, small bunch fresh thyme leaves picked, 5 unpeeled cloves of garlic, olive oil, bottle of white wine

1. Preheat the oven to its maximum temperature. Score the skin of the pork.
2. In a pestle and mortar bash up the fennel seeds with a tablespoon of salt until you have a powder, then massage into the scores of the skin.
3. In a roasting tin toss the fresh fennel with the thyme, garlic, a good splash of oil and some salt and pepper. Place the pork belly into the preheated oven. After 10 minutes turn the oven down to 170°C/325°F/Gas 3 and roast the pork for a further hour.
4. When the hour is up, take the tray out of the oven, pour away any excess fat, add the white wine and pop back in the oven for another hour.
5. Remove the fennel and keep warm whilst you put the pork back in for a final hour until the skin is golden and crisp and the meat is melt in the mouth tender. If the wine evaporates during the cooking time, add a splash more wine or water to loosen and make a light gravy.
6. Let the pork rest for 10 minutes. Carve into large chunks and serve with gravy and the fennel.

Delicious!