29 Mar 2012

Stellar Eazistore Non-Stick Bakeware Set: Review

This is the first time I have seen a nesting bakeware set and my first thoughts were, how clever is that! The Stellar Eazistore Non-Stick Bakeware Set comprises a Roaster, 12 Cup Muffin Pan, Baking Sheet, Baking Tray and Cooling Tray. Each piece is numbered to ensure they are stacked in the correct order, and because they are non-stick, you don't want the underside of one of the tins coming into contact with the non-stick cooking surface.

Here is a set of five everyday baking essentials which nest neatly together and only take up the space of one roaster, leaving more room in our cupboards. They are made from heavy gauged steel and all the edges are rolled. I ran my finger around all the products and there are no sharp edges.

The bakeware cannot be used on the hob and is for oven use up to 240°C. I started my chicken at this temperature to test the roaster and good news, the tray didn't warp. After the chicken and vegetables cooked, none of the baking juices were stuck to the pan, and it is simply a case of letting the tin cool down and washing in hot soapy water. The bakeware set is dishwasher safe but I prefer to handwash mine, and because nothing sticks, it doesn't seem necessary to put them in the dishwasher.

I have only one very small niggle, and that is, the name of the product is embossed centrally on top of the baking sheet and the baking tray, and to make biscuits, scones or similar you have to avoid the central area of the tray, or an alternative is to line the tray.
The muffin tin/muffin cases was an experiment I have carried out before (but not with this cupcake tin). I have had problems with some of my cupcake cases getting crushed in the cupcake tin and thought it was perfect timing to try this experiment again. The brown cupcake cases have been giving me problems and one make of white cupcake cases. Interestingly, none of my cupcake cases crushed and I did notice the cupcakes took slightly less time to cook.

The bakeware set looks good, it is versatile, excellent quality, and exceptional value too. I know I will be using this set time and time again.

The Stellar Eazistore Non-Stick Five Piece Nesting Bakeware Set can be purchased from Amazon and independent cookshops. There is a Stellar lifetime guarantee and a 5 year non-stick guarantee.  Please visit Stellar Cookware to see more products.

Thank you Pam and Stellar Cookware.

Hotel Chocolat - Your Eggsellency Extra Thick Easter Egg

Hotel Chocolat have kindly sent me a beautiful Your Eggsellency Extra Thick Easter Egg. One half of the shell is 40% milk chocolate and the other half is 70% dark chocolate, and the shell is extra thick too, whereas most Easter Eggs have a thin chocolate shell.
The chocolate truffles are all beautifully decorated, with most having a generous dash of alcohol. There are 12 truffles filled with soft cream ganaches with white port, champagne, mojito cocktail, amaretto amour, bison grass vodka and pink champagne. The centres of each of the truffles are smooth and luxurious - I don't have a favourite, I don't even mind not looking at the chocolate menu, I just want to eat these chocolates!

For more Chocolate Easter Egg gift ideas please visit the Hotel Chocolat website.

Hotel Chocolat supplied the Easter Egg for the review.

25 Mar 2012

Smoked Haddock and Leek Risotto

I'm not one for take out meals but on occasions I feel lazy, can't be bothered, can't get into the zone and can't even think what to make. On these occasions I always feel guilty, but then I do have a husband to feed! Left to me it would be a plate of leaves and a spray of balsamic vinegar, but then as I said before, I do have a husband to feed, and I don't think he would be very impressed with a plate of leaves.

For all the above occasions risotto saves the day. Risotto fills you up and as long as you have some arborio rice, a glass of white wine and some chicken stock you can make a substantial meal. Hopefully, you will have some Parmesan cheese to grate over the risotto too.

Risotto isn't the prettiest of meals but taste wise it takes some beating. Risotto costs less than a take out, takes less time than if you have to fetch it and won't hurt your wallet either.

I have a clever kitchen gadget which makes mine in 25 minutes from start to finish, a present from my husband, and so on lazy days and can't be bothered days it's risotto for us.

This delicious recipe is from Olive Magazine and can be found on the BBC GoodFood website.

A few more lazy day risotto's:

Lemon Thyme, Prosciutto, Pecorino and Goat's Cheese Risotto
Porcini and Spinach Risotto
Nigel Slater's Leek Risotto with Parmesan Crisps

24 Mar 2012

Judge Jubilee 14cm Milk/Sauce Pot: Review

The Judge Jubilee Milk/Sauce Pot is made from satin stainless steel and can be used on all hobs including induction. It has a polished ovensafe stainless steel handle, there is a clear measuring guide on the inside and it has a capacity of 1.5 litres. The pan is dishwasher safe and comes with a Judge 25 year guarantee.

This pan has the wow factor - it is also well made and has a thermic base which ensures even heat distribution. I put the pan to the test by making a celery and walnut soup. The handle hardly gets warm and it shouldn't get hot, providing you match the size of the pan base to the size of the heating area, you should only need either a moderate or low heat source. The pan looks so good you can take it to the table. My soup poured out cleanly into the bowls. There was too much soup for us and I poured the remainder into soup storage bags and popped them into the freezer for a rainy day.

The pan was large enough to cook enough soup for two, I cooled the soup and poured this directly from the pot into the liquidiser.
It is easy to cook everything in the pan from start to finish.

A great sauce pot to use for custard, sauces, porridge, soup or gravy, the heat transfer is excellent which means the contents heat up in no time at all, and the pan is very sturdy too. Nothing has either burnt or stuck on the base of the pot, cleaning is easy too, all I needed was washing up liquid and a dishcloth.

The packaging is eye catching with a Union Jack adorning one side of the pack.

The Milk Pot is excellent value at £20.00

Thank you Pam and Judge Cookware   www.judgecookware.co.uk

Vacu Vin Double Pestle and Mortar: Review

The Vacu Vin Double Pestle and Mortar is a contemporary classic which will look good in any kitchen setting. The wooden pestle has indentations across the top to make grinding/crushing spices easier and quicker.

This clever kitchen tool has two bowls for grinding herbs and spices. The larger main bowl is 10cm diameter with an inner glazed area of approximately 2cm at the top and the remainder of the bowl is unglazed. Turn it over and there is a small unglazed bowl which measures 5cm in diameter and is perfect for grinding smaller quantities of spice.

I always roast my spices in a pan, you know they are ready when they start jumping around, this method brings out the best flavour and aroma. Ready ground spices go stale very quickly and it is always best to roast and grind your own. I gave this pestle and mortar a few difficult tasks, such as grinding cardamom seeds and it was quick and easy, I think my old pestle and mortar is now destined to stay in the cupboard.....For dust free storage you can turn the pestle onto its widest bowl and place the pestle upright in the small mortar base and it is dishwasher safe too.

Can be purchased from Amazon for £9.95.

Whilst Vacu Vin are well known for their Wine Saver, they make many other innovative products too.

Thank you Pam and Vacu Vin.

23 Mar 2012

Review: The Hairy Bikers' Big Book of Baking and Scandinavian Tea Ring

Si King and Dave Myers, The Hairy Bikers', have been touring Europe on a bakeation. They went on a four month, 7,000 mile journey to discover European baking. The Hairy Bikers' Big Book of Baking is a wonderful collection of recipes and many are classics of their country.

If you have been watching the TV series to accompany the book you will be inspired to try many of the recipes you have seen the Hairy Bikers' baking.
I made a Scandinavian Tea Ring, and as the Hairy Bikers' say, it tastes as good as it looks. This tea ring is made with a sweet bread dough, rolled out, spread with a cinnamon infused butter containing ground and flaked almonds, glace cherries, candied peel (I used sultanas), rolled up as you would a swiss roll and then baked. After baking, the ring is decorated with glace cherries, flaked almonds and icing - delicious.

The book covers both sweet and savoury baking with recipes from Norway to Spain. There are recipes for biscuits, breads and rolls, cakes, puddings, sweet tarts, savoury bakes, pies, tarts and snacks.

Limoncello Babas from Italy, Hazelnut and Chocolate Vacherin from France, Lazybones Buns from the Low Countries, Black Forest Gateau from Germany and Grandma Bonka's Apple Streudel from Austria are just a few of the recipes which will inspire us to get busy in the kitchen.

This isn't just another baking book, but one which you will turn to time and time again. The book is a source of inspiration for everyday baking and baking to impress friends and family. There are recipes for the beginner through to the more experienced. The recipe is accompanied by a stunning photograph of the finished dish and every chapter has a collage of photographs taken during their tour.

The Hairy Bikers' provide a fascinating insight into some of the beautiful baking across Europe and I will use this book many times. My husband already has his eye on the Black Forest Gateau......

Thank you Waterstones for the review copy.

22 Mar 2012

AnySharp Pro Knife Sharpener: Review

If you, like me, struggle to use a steel to sharpen your knives, then this nifty AnySharp Pro Knife Sharpener will be a great alternative. It comes with a chef's presentation ring, a recipe card, full instructions with photographs and a 10 year product lifetime guarantee. This is a well engineered product and should be long lasting, it uses tungsten carbide sharpening technology and is quick and easy to use.

The knife sharpener has a PowerGrip suction pad which securely attaches to the work surface without any potential damage. All you have to do is place the knife sharpener on the work surface, and pull the lever down to secure. During the sharpening process, your fingers do not need to be anywhere near the knife blade. Place the knife into the sharpener, starting near the handle and gently draw the knife back, repeat this several times as required to produce a very sharp edge.

The photograph shows the cutting edge of a gentle scalloped edged bread knife which is severely blunt.

This shows the sharpened edge - when examining a sharpened edge there should be no reflected light. A sharp knife is safer to use because there is less chance the knife will slip whilst you are using it. Of course, the golden rule is to keep all fingers behind the cutting edge and it will be impossible to cut them.

The AnySharp Pro comes in a stainless steel tin, is priced at £29.99 and can be bought direct from www.anysharp.com where you can see an online demonstration.

Thank you Eleanor and AnySharp Pro for this brilliant kitchen gadget.

Cupcake Recipe File Organiser: Review

Gifts From Handpicked have kindly sent me a gorgeous flip-top Recipe File for review.

This fabulous cupcake organiser is very practical and looks good in the kitchen too. The front cover and stand are wipe clean and water resistant, the file comes with it's own built in stand and folds flat for storage with an elastic closure strip.

The cupcake file is strong, well made and will withstand continued use. This is a great way to store those valuable magazine clippings, printed internet copy and your handwritten notes. I am going to use mine to keep the following weeks planned recipes in a safe place, I have been known to buy ingredients and then can't find the relevant recipe, hopefully I will now be more organised.

Inside the recipe file there are:

50 plastic pockets to hold 100 recipes which can be wiped clean
6 moveable index cards (left blank for your own heading)
10 blank recipe sheets for handwritten recipes
Conversion table
Easy to use strong flip-top binding

The Ktwo Cupcake Recipe File Organiser is £14.95 and can be purchased online. Gifts From Handpicked are an established online retailer with a passion for gorgeous gifts and homewares. They also have a wonderful array of unusual Easter decorations.

Thank you to Gifts From Handpicked and Claire.

17 Mar 2012

Blueberry Streusel Scones

Blueberry streusel scones are a wonderful combination of flavours and textures. These scones aren't the easiest to make because the fruit has to be very carefully folded into the scone dough. The blueberries have to be fresh and not frozen, otherwise you end up with purple scones. I'm very gently letting everyone know this scone dough is very messy to handle.

I made my scones with plain flour and added a couple of teaspoons of baking powder but if you would like to see a scone with height, and who doesn't, then I think self-raising flour with maybe an extra teaspoon of baking powder will make a difference or simply keep plenty of height to the uncooked dough by making sure it isn't rolled out too thinly. The original recipe comes from the fabulous baking website Joy of Baking and uses milk or cream but my preferred method is to use half milk and half plain yogurt to give a fluffy scone. My photograph doesn't show the fluffiest scone, I think this was because I took the photograph outside on a freezing cold day and the scone almost instantly became frozen!

Reheated in the microwave the scones will become perfectly fluffy, and the cinnamon infused streusel topping remains beautifully crunchy. They freeze well and I think with a little tweaking, a good quality butter to spread on them and maybe a little blueberry jam, you have a very delicious scone.

This is the first time I have entered the Tea Time Treats monthly tea party challenge which is hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage, and Kate from What Kate Bakes. This months challenge is Scones sweet and savoury, and the host is Karen from Lavender and Lovage.

9 Mar 2012

Plum, Apple and Blackberry One Crust Pie

I really like these one crust pies, they always look so comforting and inviting. This recipe is by the Hairy Bikers' from their book Perfect Pies - some may say it isn't a pie because it hasn't got a lid but Delia Smith has a similar recipe in The Summer Collection, she also refers to this as a very easy one-crust pie, and so pie it is.

The pastry is brushed with egg and dusted heavily with golden caster sugar to give a sweet crunch when you bite into the buttery pastry. The mix of fruit is a perfect balance, but the recipe only gives 3 tablespoons of caster sugar to sweeten the fruit and I was a little concerned this was going to give a tart fruit mix. I used about 5 tablespoons of sugar and the sweetness was perfect.

The Hairy Bikers' omitted to say the size to roll out the pastry and so it was left for me to guess. Ha ha but I didn't, this is where Delia came in, in her book she says to roll the pastry out to a round of approximately 35cm and if you pile the fruit onto a 25cm circle and then turn the edges of the pastry up everything will be fine. The pastry needed a few more minutes to cook than the time specified in the book, but the buttery pastry was fabulous and the filling was perfect. A perfect pie for Mr W and myself, and so I'll give it 5/5.

The Hairy Bikers' have a huge smile on their faces on the front cover of the book and this book makes me smile too:) I don't normally give books a score but this one definitely deserves 5/5.

Book Recommendation: Tarts with Tops On, the title always makes me laugh, is written by Tamasin Day-Lewis, it is a brilliant book, well worth seeking out and I would recommend this book for more really good pie recipes.

5 Mar 2012

Crafty Cupcakes by Ann Pickard

I know you shouldn't describe the contents of a book as cute but I am going to say it anyway, the decorated sugarpaste cupcakes are very cute. There are 30 cupcake projects including a smiley snake, bunny rabbit, cute dog, new baby and wedding cupcakes.

The author shares with us her knowledge to make fabulous sugarpaste novelty models in ten easy steps, with photographs to accompany each stage. There are also recipes for making cupcakes, buttercream and royal icing. For each cupcake project there is a materials list and reference to techniques, templates, equipment, ingredients and stockists.

This is an inspirational book for beginners and those of us who would like to achieve professional looking cupcakes with the wow factor.

Crafty Cupcakes is written by the very talented Ann Pickard who qualified as a baker and cake decorator in 1983, and opened her own shop The Icing Centre, in 1986. Ann runs a successful cake decorating business in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset and has written two other books for GMC publications, Cake Characters and Cakes for Occasions.

ISBN 9781861088536
Price: £9.99
Publisher: GMC
Publication Date: March 2012
Available from Amazon

Thank you GMC for the review copy.

4 Mar 2012

Creamy Haddock Gratins

I made four of these lovely little gratins and they were one of the best dinners we had this week. They were a bit of a faff to make and I seemed to use every basin and saucepan in the kitchen, I managed to run out of work surface and made a mess everywhere too. There wasn't a space in the kitchen to take the photograph of the gratins and so I had to run outside and photograph them, it was so cold outside they cooled down straight away, looked a little sorry for themselves and had to be rescued with a few grilled cherry tomatoes placed on top to cheer them up.

The lack of preparation was because I had planned to cook salmon but somehow the salmon managed to get lost. I know I bought it, I found my receipt - I looked in the fridge, the freezer, in the car....I can only think it must have got fed up and swam back to the river. Or, it's still in Sainsbury's, but I felt too embarrassed to ring up and ask if they had found some salmon hanging around. Mr W said forget about the fish, but how am I supposed to forget about the fish that somehow managed to get lost between the supermarket and home?

It's been a week of losses, Mr W lost the remotes to the DVD and the hifi, he also fell asleep in the cinema and he nearly lost me when he started snoring! I have also lost some Tupperware containers which I use to put small amounts of sauces into for the freezer. It's also been a week of frustrations, we have invested in new technical wizardry and I am now on techie overload.

Mr W thinks we may have entered a new chapter in our lives ...........

This recipe is by the Hairy Bikers from the television series Mums Know Best and is on the BBC Food Website.

3 Mar 2012

Mermaid Baking Tray and Round Pie Dish Review

Mermaid Bakeware have sent kindly sent me a 31cm Baking Tray and a 21cm Round Pie Dish for review. I think they must have found out about my cake tin and baking tray addiction - you can never have too many. The great thing about these products is you can use your metal utensils without worrying you are going to spoil them because they are scratch resistant.

The pastry lined pie dish was baked blind and the pastry cooked to perfection. I made an egg custard and you definitely need a reliable baking tray that isn't going to warp, otherwise the uncooked egg custard will wibble, wobble all over the place.

Both of these tins are made from hard anodised aluminium and can be used for sweet and savoury baking. This amazing bakeware can withstand temperatures of 240°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9 and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Mermaid Bakeware is a reliable, trusted brand which I have used for many years and is strong and hardwearing, it can also be used either on the hob or in the oven.

They are made here in the West Midlands and are now part of one of the largest manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of bakeware in the UK making everything from roasting tins to cake tins. In 1953 the first Mermaid products were introduced for use by professional chefs. In 1995 Delia Smith recommended the brand in her cookery book the Winter Collection.

Thank you Mermaid Cookware for the review products.

1 Mar 2012

Hotel Chocolat - Chocolate Gifts for Mother's Day

Hotel Chocolat have created a fabulous selection of chocolates to give to our Mums on Mother's Day.

The All About Mum H-Box Selection has twelve beautifully decorated chocolates. Mainly the chocolates are truffles including Champagne Truffle, Buck's Fizz and Bison Grass Vodka each of these has a generous dash of booze. Vanilla Truffle, Strawberry and Black Pepper Truffle, Raspberry Rapture and Cherry Bombe are for Mum's who prefer no alcohol in their chocolates. There are also soft caramels and a smooth hazelnut praline in the gift box.

More Mother's Day chocolate gifts can be found on the Hotel Chocolat website.

Review chocolates kindly sent by Hotel Chocolat.