26 Feb 2012

Cartmel Sticky Toffee Apple Crumble

I've been asked if I would like to be part of a team of Cartmel Village People pudding reviewers. As a team member on the panel I have to taste and review a different pudding every month. As a proper pudding lover, it isn't going to be difficult, especially as Cartmel make handmade puddings with 100% natural ingredients, sourced wherever possible from local suppliers.

I was sent a lovely parcel from Cartmel Village Shop containing their very famous Sticky Toffee Pudding, a jar of Sticky Toffee Sauce and the pudding of the month for February, Sticky Toffee Apple Crumble.

The pudding weighs 500g and serves 4/5 people. It comes in a foil container and is cooked to perfection after 20 minutes, with the sauce bubbling up the sides of the container. The smell in my kitchen was wonderful whilst the crumble was cooking. The delicious and perfectly cooked chunky apples, with just the right amount of bite, are mixed into a generous sweet and sticky toffee sauce then topped with the best crumble ever. I served mine with custard because I can't think of a better way to eat crumble.

Sticky Toffee Apple Crumble waiting patiently for the custard sauce.

No prizes for guessing who ate this.

Next month it is the turn of Lemon Drizzle Pudding - a perfect pudding for spring and one I am looking forward to trying.

Cartmel Village Shop is a family owned business who have a passion for puddings and have been declared a 'Food Hero' by Rick Stein.

The puddings are available from the Cartmel Village Shop in Cartmel, Crumbia and online at www.cartmelvillageshop.co.uk as well as branches of Waitrose, Booths, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason, and independent fine foods shops.

24 Feb 2012

OXO Good Grips Hand Held Mixer

This new Hand Held Mixer by OXO is part of the retro baking revival. The handle features OXO's soft non-slip grip and the beaters are made from stainless steel. It is a well made product, lightweight, very easy to use and fairly quiet too. I didn't have to chase it round the mixing bowl, and it doesn't make a screeching sound as the whisk heads turn, also it can be used by either a left handed or right handed person. It's great for mixing batters, cream and eggs, just to name a few of the uses you will find for this fab kitchen gadget.

Simply press the two side buttons to detach the base and pop in the dishwasher. The beaters can be removed separately for cleaning too.

Just for fun, I made a nostalgic dessert of jelly, custard and cream, I slightly over-whipped the cream because I think I was enjoying whizzing the handle.

A 'bit of nostalgia' - I remember as a child, I used to watch both my Nan and my Mum whizzing the handle of the whisk and just how much noise it could make.

I also remember using the hand whisk and having to chase it around the bowl, they always had a mind of their own. I would go one way and the whisk the other, you haven't lived unless you managed to get milk, eggs and flour all round the kitchen or have heard the screeching sound of whisk heads hitting the sides of the mixing bowl. The whisk was not only heavy to use, but if my memory serves me well, they were quite difficult to clean too, especially if you let batter set onto them.

The hand held mixer is priced at £20 and is available from Lakeland or visit www.oxouk.com

Thank you Emma for the OXO Hand Held Mixer.

19 Feb 2012

Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Icing

Recently I have been making 'proper cake' and decided to have a cupcake break. I made a fabulous iced lemon curd cake the other day, but it wasn't blog worthy, which was a shame. The cake was moist with a tender crumb, the lemon curd was perfect, but I didn't make enough icing for the topping. Not to be beaten I decided to make some more icing and add this to the icing already on the cake, it was too thin and dripped off the cake too much, in the meantime the lemon curd took on a life of it's own and decided to ooze out of the cake. Shame really because when I sliced the cake and put it onto plates it looked fabulous and tasted sensational, looks definitely aren't everything.

What has the above got to do with Nigella's cake? Well, I wouldn't describe this cake as a looker, but taste wise, it's got everything going for it, providing you aren't mean with the fresh ginger and you don't over cook the cake and dry it out.

I think the lemon icing is optional, even though lemon and gingerbread are a match made in heaven, the cake still tastes wonderful if you miss this out. The downside to icing the cake is the gingerbread discolours the icing after a day, and if you want to keep this cake for a few days to give it a chance to get even stickier, the icing will need to be cut off before serving. I've given twice the amount of icing specified in the original recipe because it was a bit on the mean side and the top of the cake shows through.

Slightly adapted recipe:

You will need: large roasting tin 30 x 20 x 5cm greased and lined with parchment paper.

For the cake:

150g unsalted butter, 125 dark muscovado sugar, 200g golden syrup, 200g black treacle, 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 250ml milk, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water, 300g plain flour.

For the icing:

2 tablespoon lemon juice, 350g sieved icing sugar, 2 tablespoons warm water.

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas 3.
2. In a saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar, golden syrup, treacle, ginger and cinnamon. Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk, beaten eggs and bicarbonate of soda in its water.
3. Add the flour to a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed. Pour into the tin and bake for ¾ hour to 1 hour (I baked mine for ¾ hour) by which time the cake should be risen and firm to the touch.
4. For the icing: Sift the icing sugar, add the lemon juice, then gradually add the warm water. The icing needs to be thick. Spread over the cooled gingerbread and leave to set before cutting into slices.
5. Store the cake in an airtight tin - if you opt for not icing the cake, the cake will get stickier with storing for a few days.

15 Feb 2012

Review: Stellar Easy Lift Cast Iron Saute/Server Pan

This fabulous 24cm glossy black cast iron saute pan from Stellar Cookware is both lightweight and sturdy. The range uses a unique manufacturing technique to produce a 'thrown' cast iron pan which produces a thinner but lighter weight body. It retains the outstanding thermal properties of cast iron without the usual heaviness that's associated with cast iron pans. Stellar 'Easy lift pans' are lined with durable enamel which will never wear out.

There are two generous sized riveted stainless steel handles, a glass lid with a steam vent (unfortunately I took the photograph with the lid the wrong way up - please refer to the photograph at the end of this posting to see the steam vent), is suitable for all hob types, oven safe up to 220°C and comes with a Stellar Lifetime Guarantee. Whilst the pan is dishwasher safe, I would hand wash to keep the pan looking at it's best. The pan will look good in any kitchen and is a modern, timeless classic.

I cooked a meal on the hob to test for hotspots and the pan cooked evenly. I cut a medium chicken into portions and the pan was sufficiently large enough to feed a family of four. I cooked chicken, shallots, smoked bacon, garlic and herbs in white wine for last Sundays lunch and the pan was a complete joy to use.

Glass lids are always useful and I like to take a peek to see how the meal is progressing rather than keep lifting the lid. I was able to take the pan to the dining room and serve the meal at the table which saves using more pots and means less washing up - which is always a good thing.

Cast iron pans always look good in the kitchen but as we all know they can be heavy to lift, especially when they are loaded with food. I found the pan to be sturdy, the handles secure and the food stayed hot.

24cm Saute pan/server £40.00 and is also available in other sizes. Please find your nearest Stellar stockist here.

The capacity of the pan/server is approximately 1.5L

Thank you to Stellar Cookware for my saute server.

12 Feb 2012

Jamie Oliver's Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Love cauliflower cheese? Hopefully cauliflower cheese soup which is made with a few extra added veg, a good quality cheddar cheese and a dollop of English mustard will become one of your favourites.

It has been so cold where I live, the snowman the children next door made last Saturday, has only just started to melt. I didn't make a snowman but made this fabulous soup instead in the warmth of my house. The soup is easy to make, extremely tasty and can't be found in a carton in your local supermarket! All you need is some good bread, preferably not the plastic stuff, and you've got yourself a lovely lunch.

I made some crispy bacon to garnish the soup but the majority of it sank to the bottom of the bowl whilst I was trying to set up the camera, it was no bad thing though because the crispy bacon went with the soup beautifully and added some texture.

The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver's Cookery Book Ministry of Food.

2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery, 2 medium onions, 2 cloves of garlic, 800g cauliflower, olive oil, 200g Cheddar cheese, 2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes, salt and black pepper, 1 teaspoon English mustard.

1. Dice the carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Cut the cauliflower into florets.
2. Into a large pan add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and put over a medium heat, add the diced vegetables. Cook for 10 minutes with a lid partially placed over the pan or until the carrots have softened and the onion is lightly golden.
3. Grate the cheese. Put the stock cubes into a jug and pour in 1.8 litres of boiling water from a kettle. Add to the vegetables in the pan. Stir and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the vegetables are cooked.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese and mustard, season with salt and pepper. Use a hand blender and pulse until silky smooth - if using a liquidiser let the soup cool down, never put hot liquid into a liquidiser.
5. Top with more grated cheese and some crispy bacon.

5 Feb 2012

Camembert Baked in a Box

I chose my Camembert because it has a small gingham cloth under the cheese and I thought how great it looked. Cooking the cheese this way is quick, easy, delicious and perfect for Valentine's Day or in fact any day of the year.

Not very long ago I bought a Camembert and it was so smelly I actually considered stopping the car and throwing it into the nearest bin, because it made my car smell worse than an old pair of slippers - it did the same to the fridge too. The cheese in the photograph was smelly too, and it too made my car smell horrible but I learnt from the previous one, I didn't put it in the fridge and cooked it the same day.

Preheat the oven to 200°C, take the cheese out of the box and remove the inner wrapper, place back in the box, rub the top of the cheese with a clove of garlic, cut a cross in the top and pour in some white wine. I poked a few sprigs of thyme into my Camembert and then replaced the lid. Place the box onto a small baking tray and bake for 20 minutes until the cheese wobbles.

Toasted ciabiatta, french loaf, hot new potatoes, tiny cherry tomatoes, asparagus or purple sprouting broccoli all make good dippers.