31 Dec 2013

Easy Recipe: Smoked Haddock and Spinach

Why I won't be dieting this year.......In my house we couldn't possibly think about cutting back on sugary foods until the end of January. We've got a stash of Christmas cake, meringue nests, chocolates, biscuits and lots of other wonderful goodies to get through and as I type this blog post I'm enjoying a bag of Galaxy Minstrels, delicious they are too.

I've just come across a recipe which uses ¼ of a banana, what's going on here, what am I supposed to do with the remainder if I was to embark on a serious New Year diet.  We don't do diets in my house but try to cut back on sugary treats, eat more soup and generally serve up smaller portions.  I went on a low fat diet many years ago and craved fish and chips on a daily basis, I'm now convinced that the no-diet diet is the only one that works.

A friend has enthusiastically thrown herself into every diet known to man but as usual she is now back to her normal weight plus a few pounds more thanks to the diets that don't work. Her venue for the group dieters was opposite an Indian Restaurant and after the dieters group hug she went straight over the road for a meal.  She was also buying ready made dieters meals.  She brought a friend along to one of our lunch get togethers and said friend counted points all throughout the meal - annoying.

Apparently most diets only last for 24 hours and some dieters fail because they go out for meals with friends who aren't on a diet.  I find it's dieters who spoil meals for those of us who don't do silly diets. The only sensible diet aid I have ever come across is a diet plate which helps with portion control for those with no control.  In my house we bought smaller dinner plates years ago and practice portion control. Make a cake, slice into portions and freeze, we don't eat the lot in one go......

I'm a huge fan of smoked haddock and this recipe can be made in a microwave safe dish in just 8 minutes or if you have a steam oven it cooks successfully too.  The creme fraiche and cheese turns into a cheesy sauce and for a minimum of effort here is a delicious meal. All you need is a small bag of fresh spinach, top with a piece of smoked haddock, spread a few tablespoons of low fat creme fraiche on top, sprinkle over mature grated Cheddar cheese, top with slices of spring onions and grind over lots of fresh ground pepper.  Serve with poached egg, new potatoes and garden peas.

The perfect healthy midweek meal

22 Dec 2013

Individual Raspberry Trifle

I turned to a Delia Smith recipe for my traditional trifle, sponge soaked in sherry, raspberries, homemade custard, whipped cream and I topped it with some chopped pistachios.

Huge bowls of trifle look amazing and have the wow factor but occasionally I like to make individual trifle.

A fellow food blogger has a wonderful Nigella recipe on her site, chocolate cherry trifle, should you need more trifle inspiration....

Back soon!

21 Dec 2013

Cawston Press - Festive Sparkling Mocktails

Mock Margarita
Cawston Press have created some delicious mocktail recipes for the forthcoming festivities.  These mocktail's are delicious at any time of the day and will definitely awaken the senses.  They are adult drinks, alcohol free and extremely enjoyable too.

The Sparkling Ginger Beer is my favourite - it's fiery without the sweetness.  Just when I thought their ginger beer couldn't get any better along comes the Mock Margarita.  I wet the rim of the glass and dipped it into table salt.  Place crushed ice cubes into a glass, top with ginger beer, 15ml lemon juice and 45ml lime juice, garnish with slices of lemon and lime.                                              

                     Apple Virgin Mojito is a refreshing mocktail with hints of mint, lemon and lime

Recipe: 130ml Cawston Press Sparkling Cloudy Apple, 12 mint leaves, 15ml lime juice, 15ml lemon juice. Place the mint, lime and lemon juice into the glass.  Half fill with crushed ice, stir, add more crushed ice and top with Sparkling Apple.  Stir again and enjoy!

                                                        Forced Punchless Mocktail

Forced Punchless is a mix of Sparkling Lemon & Lime, with Apple & Rhubarb Juice added for sweetness and a squeeze of lime juice for a hint of the exotic.

All you need is: 60ml Cawston Press Apple & Rhubarb Juice, 120ml Cawston Press Sparkling Lemon & Lime, 20ml fresh lime juice. Shake all the ingredients with ice together, strain into an ice filled glass. Top with Sparkling Lemon & Lime, stir and enjoy!

The drinks are all produced without any additives and are the perfect adult drink.  All their apples are pressed within 48 hours of picking and non of the drinks contain concentrate.

Thank you Cawston Press for the fabulous drinks.

17 Dec 2013

Last Minute Christmas Puddings - Recipe

I didn't make Christmas pudding last year and thought for a change I'd take the easy route and buy one, that didn't go too well because we didn't like it.  I wasn't sure I wanted the usual traditional pudding and these are light and full of Christmas flavours.  They don't need maturing and freeze well too.

I managed to get eight individual puddings and two smaller dariole moulds from the mixture.  I use non- stick aluminium BacoFoil to cover the basins, it doesn't stick to the mixture and there is no need to use greaseproof paper and a layer of foil to cover the tins.

Making individual puddings is a great time saver and they only take 45 minutes to cook.

Makes approximately 8 puddings.

You will need:  8 small pudding basins

75g softened butter
450g mixed dried fruit
1 small cooking apple
finely grated rind and juice of 1 orange
50ml brandy
100g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour
40g fresh white breadcrumbs

1. Grease the tins with Cake Release Spray, or if using butter to grease, line the base of the basin with a round of greased greaseproof paper.
2. Peel, core and chop the apple into small pieces.  To a bowl add the chopped apple, mixed fruit and orange juice.  Add the brandy and leave for an hour.
3. Put the butter, sugar and grated orange rind into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and fold in the flour.
4. Sift the flour and mixed spice, add to the bowl along with the breadcrumbs and fold into the cake batter. Add the bowl of marinated fruits and their liquid to the mix and stir to combine.
5. Spoon into the pudding basins.  Cover with a square of non-stick BacoFoil which has been pleated in the middle, press down firmly around the rim of the pudding basins.
6. Steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove the papers and turn out onto clingwrap.
7. To reheat:  Microwave for 20 seconds on high on a microwave proof dish.

I made mine in a combination steam oven.

15 Dec 2013

Mini Stollen

We never bought stollen when I was a child, growing up or when I was a young adult.  I'm not sure I even knew what it was, maybe it was something only posh people were aware of and ate at Christmas time. I lived in a small market town and maybe it had yet to make its way to us. I can remember the first time I ever ate it, the slices came from M&S and were totally delicious, I love the soft icing sugar they are topped with.  I also remember buying stollen that weighed as much as a house brick.....

For the last few years I've made my own and whether you use a bread machine or a food mixer to make the dough, it's best to incorporate the cherries by hand otherwise the dough will be turn pink. I've always made one huge stollen but this time I used a different recipe and made mini ones.

Mini versions are fine but we missed our usual huge slab of cut stollen. They can be frozen but without the delicious melted butter and icing sugar topping.

I used a warming draw to rise the dough and a combination steam oven to refresh the stollen after defrosting at room temperature.  They only took 8 minutes to refresh and crisp up.  Combination steam ovens are a fabulous piece of kitchen kit and so versatile too.

The recipe is on the BBC Food website, they are easy to make and delicious, the dough has a lovely soft crumb but need lots more dried fruit, using the almonds didn't appeal so these were left out of the mix.

7 Dec 2013

Iced Holly Christmas Cake

This years cake was inspired by the ribbon I purchased on a Christmas stall. As usual I had no idea how I was going to decorate the cake. Unlike lots of avid cake decorators, I don't sit down and draw out a design but wait for some inspiration to rain down on me.  Hubby often asks how I am going to decorate the cake and more often than not, I am clueless until the last minute.

I made my usual cake recipe and this year chose to ice the cake in ivory sugarpaste. The holly leaves are cut out and left to dry over night on crumpled up tin foil. I then brushed the leaves with gold lustre, wet the edges of the leaves and sprinkled over some disco edible glitter. The holly berries are moistened and rolled in red glitter.

All so very easy and achievable too. Sometimes with cake decorations less is more and the photograph doesn't really do the cake justice.

Tip:  Using a silicone mat (I bought mine from Lidl) helps when rolling out sugarpaste it doesn't stick so easily. I use cornflour to lightly dust the silicone mat and rolling pin instead of icing sugar.  The reasoning is that using icing sugar dries out the sugarpaste.  Also a shiny surface is easily achieved with cornflour.

4 Dec 2013

Meringue Topped Mince Pies and Mini Mince Pies with Lids - Recipe

We ate all the crumble topped mince pies and because I've got lot's of mincemeat to use up I decided to rustle up these little beauties.

A cloud of crispy meringue
If there was a popularity contest for mince pies these would come third - first place is given to the crumble topped mince pies, second place to mini mince pies with a pastry lid and third place goes to meringue topped mince pies.

Mini Mince Pies with lids

I always use Delia's mincemeat recipe (it doesn't boil over) and if there is any left it keeps well.

You will need: 12 cup bun tin, greased and mincemeat

Recipe: for Meringue Topped mince pies or use the sweet pastry to make mini mince pies with lids.

For the sweet pastry:
225g plain flour, 115g butter, 50g lard, 25g icing sugar, 1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Sift flour into a bowl add the butter and lard. Rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the icing sugar and then the beaten egg. Bring together to form a smooth dough. Place in plastic bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Roll out just over half the pastry to 3mm thickness and cut out circles large enough to fit the base of the tart tins.
3. Place a dessert spoon of mincemeat into each pastry base.

Meringue Topping
2 egg whites
100g golden caster sugar

1. Whisk 2 egg whites to the soft peak stage. Gradually whisk in 100g caster sugar teaspoon by teaspoon until the meringue is stiff and glossy.
2. Place blobs of meringue on top of the mince meat and bake for 20 minutes, until pale golden. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Mini Mince Pies - follow the sweet pastry recipe and cut out lids to fit the tops of the mince pies. Place a dessert spoon of mincemeat into each pastry base.  Wet the lids and press on to the sides of the pastry bases. Cut twice into each pastry lid and place the tray in the fridge for 30 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes.  When they come out of the oven sprinkle with plenty of caster sugar. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then remove the pies to a wire rack. They will freeze successfully.

3 Dec 2013

Sponsored Video: Express Yourself With Canon #LEGRIA Mini

I’m always looking for fun ways to present content differently for the blog and how to make food as visually exciting and appealing as possible.

Good lighting, great props, some attention to styling and snapping away whilst getting straight into the action are some of my tried and tested methods to get great visuals but what if you’re looking for something new or unique?

Canon have introduced a nifty little video camera called the Legria mini and are challenging us foodies to create a-maz-ing content to inspire readers.

At just the size of your palm, this small camera is perfect for presenting a recipe to camera without the need for a camera assistant.  Imagine being able to put it on the work surface as you whizz, chop and create. It’s also light and versatile allowing you to capture every moment, which can be pulled together as a mini package afterwards.

The camera also boasts great sound and picture quality - so nothing to worry about if you’re a technophobe.  With wireless syncing ability with a smartphone or tablet – it’s just made life easier for all of us.

Let's take a look at the video to see what’s possible using it both inside and outdoors.  In the video they even put it in the fridge (I’m not sure I would go that far but it’s nice knowing it’s an option). With Christmas creeping up on us - this will be an ideal gift to get those creative juices simmering.

Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Canon but all thoughts are our own.

29 Nov 2013

Crumble Topped Mince Pies - Recipe

We've eaten all the mince pies
 so I guess I'll just have to make some more!
I love mince pies and I love crumble too and these pies are perfect.  They can be eaten on their own, and are delicious warm, but work well with either cream or ice cream.

Delia's mincemeat recipe never lets me down and I make this every year because it isn't too sweet and it never boils over the sides of the pies. I always leave out the peel and almonds though. The sweet pastry is easily made in a food processor.

Fresh from the oven

I only used half the pastry and froze the remainder.  There will also be some crumble left, this too will freeze.

You will need: 12 cup bun tin, greased and mincemeat

Makes: 12 mince pies

For the sweet pastry:

225g plain flour, 115g butter, 50g lard, 25g icing sugar, 1 egg  

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Sift flour into a bowl add the butter and lard. Rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the icing sugar and then the beaten egg. Bring together to form a smooth dough. Place in plastic bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Roll out just over half the pastry to 3mm thickness and cut out circles large enough to fit the base of the tart tins.
3. Place a dessert spoon of mincemeat into each pastry base.

For the crumble topping:

150g fridge cold butter, 150g self raising flour, 75g demerara sugar, flaked almonds

1. Cube the butter and rub into the self raising flour until large flakes are formed.  Add the demerara sugar and stir.
2. Top the mincemeat with crumble and scatter over a few flaked almonds.
3. Place in the oven for 20 minutes until the crumble is golden.
4. Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes and then remove and place on a cooling rack.

26 Nov 2013

Culinary Adventures with Marmite

Kitchen Delights London Reporter @PaulFoodie getting to grips with an intriguing Marmite menu........

Love it or hate it - Marmite has been a firm staple of British life since records began (well since I was born). This dark sticky brown paste certainly makes an impression – whether on my morning toast or via a loving dollop popped into my spag bol to bring out the flavour.  So now we know that I don’t hate it.

It was with wild excitement that I was invited to try a Marmite curry at Cinnamon Soho in London’s West End. Talk about being innovative and catching the attention of a bunch of curious food blogger's. You’ll have to read on to see if it worked…

Here is what Vivek Singh, the man behind Cinnamon created for us.

                                                Stir fried shrimp, Marmite and pepper fry

Yummy! Yummy! The marmite gave it a subtle depth and surprisingly, went well with the shrimp – a bit like a flavoursome glaze and very moreish!

               Seared fillet of sea bream, Marmite and curry leaf crust, Marmite coconut sauce

Wow – you wouldn’t think it, but this was by far my favourite dish - I don’t know how, but it worked. The Marmite was infused with a curry leaf crusting so you could enjoy the delicate taste of the white fish but with a zingy after taste of Marmite cutting through.

                            Chilli and peanut chicken breast with a Marmite korma sauce -                                                                                     Marmite and honey, chilli-garlic naan

A great idea, combination wise, but not the holy trinity of the curry world. I’m not sure if I was just mourning a typical korma sauce for this Indian classic.

                                              Marmite Chocolate and Cardamom Mousse

I can’t say I loved this – I really wasn’t feeling it with the chocolate and cardamom – I felt it was too earthy but I did like the salt interspersed throughout the mousse. My fellow diners loved it though!

                                       All this can be yours as a set Marmite Menu for £35

Thanks a million to Cinnamon Soho

25 Nov 2013

Breville Aurora Stainless Steel 4 Slice Toaster - Review

Foodies love practical presents and this fabulous retro Breville Aurora Stainless Steel 4 Slice Toaster will look stylish in all kitchens and bring a welcome splash of colour. The toaster has some fabulous features - a lift and look to view progress of toast without cancelling, variable browning and width slots, defrost, reheat and mid-cycle cancel functions, and illuminated buttons. This is a large toaster and will be a great help at breakfast time for busy families trying to get out of the house on time for the school run. I'm not sure whether all sliced bread will fit perfectly into the toaster, it's just a case of trying different brands.
Breville is a trusted name and the brand has been around since the 1980's.
Available in Candy Red, Shimmer Cream or a Twilight Black and matching kettles are also available.
RRP £49.99 from Asda and Tesco

Thank you for the review sample.

20 Nov 2013

Mary Berry's Whole Orange Spice Cake

Whole Orange Spice Cake
I took this recipe from Mary Berry's Christmas Collection cookery book which I've had since it first came out in 2006, although there is now an updated version.

It's an easy cake to make but one which requires using a food processor.  My small processor just coped with the amount of batter mix.
The skin was too thick and my orange had to be cooked for an hour or so
The orange should be a thin skinned variety otherwise it won't cook down enough in 20 minutes and will process into hard chunks of orange.

It's a huge cake, well it is for 2 people, I think it will feed 12 easily and because it freezes well without the icing sugar topping, it makes a very inexpensive cake to feed a crowd over Christmas and New Year. If I made the cake again I'd definitely make some type of orange topping rather than the dusting of icing sugar. The cake is very light and moist and I served my cake with double cream.

The star template is reusable and came in an assorted pack from Lidl.

I line the base and sides of my sandwich tins
 to ensure the cake doesn't stick to the tin
The recipe can be found on the Mary Berry website.

18 Nov 2013

illy University of Coffee

Marco Arrigo, illy Head of Quality
We were invited to the illy University of Coffee at the Business Design Centre in Islington to attend a Coffee Tasting and Training Experience with Marco Arrigo, illy Head of Quality.

Marco started the day by allowing the air to be released from a huge canister of coffee. We were yet to have our first coffee of the day and couldn't have asked for a better introduction to the world of illy.

Priding themselves on high quality coffee derived from a single blend of 100% Arabica beans and by using nine different beans from across the world, the parameters of each bean can be quantified and qualified to ensure the blend is consistent in its quality, very much like a premium champagne. This ensures the user will always enjoy the same coffee experience.

Using a commercial coffee machine, handling the porter filter, learning about tamping coffee and how to make the perfect milk for cappuccino, latte, flat white and macchiato. It's all a bit daunting and manic when you've only experienced the 'other side of the counter' in a coffee shop.

One cappuccino, one latte and two macchiatos demanded Marco, this was a call which we were to hear repeatedly until we were achieving a good result for these types of coffee.

Two single espresso coming up Marco
Our steamed milk
We were taught how to steam milk using full fat milk and how to place the steam wand into the milk correctly to froth and texture.  To get rid of bubbles in the milk you have to bang the jug down onto the counter top and swirl the milk constantly to keep it on the move and make it shiny ready for pouring.
Cappuccino made by Marco
Leaf design for latte and making a flat white
Getting the espresso ready for the macchiato
Macchiato is made using the very last foamed milk from the jug
Coffee cup envy
illy coffee experience
Francis Francis X7.1 Espresso Machine using iperEspresso Capsules
This fabulous coffee machine has been designed by architect Luca Trazzi and comes in red, white or black. I chose this eye catching red machine and with its sleek lines it looks stunning in my kitchen. It is extremely easy to use and all you have to do is insert an iperEspresso capsule, press the cup symbol and you have the perfect espresso with an excellent crema. Milk is easily frothed to make latte and cappuccino for the coffee shop experience. The coffee is outstanding in quality and I'm enjoying working my way through Classic, Dark Roast and Decaf.  This clever coffee machine is a crowd pleaser, doesn't make a mess and delivers consistently great coffee every time.

For a fabulous Christmas Gift there is a promotional code for readers to use MAGGIE20 this will give 20% off Illy coffee and machines at www.espressocrazy.com and expires on 1st January 2014.

Thank you to illy Coffee and Marco - for a fun and informative day.

13 Nov 2013

Jamie Oliver Cast Aluminium Range Grill Pan by Tefal - Review

Tefal Jamie Oliver Cast Aluminium Range Grill Pan
measures 29cm x 25cm
I've just had an induction hob fitted in my kitchen and this grill pan is perfect, although the pan can be used on all other heat sources too.  My old pan can't be used on induction and I've been looking round for some time now to get a replacement.  The options are either cast iron which are very heavy, or a few others which were lighter to handle but I wasn't convinced they would last or cook very evenly. This pan is more lightweight than cast iron and very strong and sturdy. Tefal is a trusted name and a brand I have used before and I knew I was going to be in for a treat when I was offered the pan to review.
Grilled salmon, crushed peas with mint and potatoes boulangere
Grill pans encourage me to cook healthier food, I came back from my annual holiday a couple of weeks ago and now thinking ahead to all the Christmas food I'm about to consume, I'm going to try and plan my meals carefully.

The pan is very roomy and you can easily cook four to six salmon steaks or chicken breast fillets at the same time.  Salmon takes about 3 or 4 minutes each side to cook.  I always oil the food and not the pan and this pan only requires a minimum of oil because it is non-stick. The underside of the handle is silicone for a non-slip grip and it stays cool too.

The pan has the patented Thermospot which is a great feature, simply put the pan on the heat and wait until the red pattern on the spot in the middle of the pan disappears and becomes a solid red spot. The pan will be at the optimum heat to sear and cook.

Parmesan chicken with griddled sweetcorn
Delicious grilled pineapple - simply baste the pineapple with honey 
Chicken marinated in soy sauce, Worcester sauce and brown sugar
The pan is really easy to clean. I cooked the pineapple in the pan first, let the pan cool a little and then gave it a quick wash in soapy water. Afterwards I cooked the chicken - any debris in the pan comes off easily with soapy water.

The base of the pan 
Oven safe to 260ºC - meat can be seared on the pan and then finished cooking in the oven.
Pro-metal hard non-stick interior.
Metal utensils can be safely used, excluding whisks and knives.
Heats quickly.
Even heat distribution.
Food stays beautifully moist.
Hand washing recommended - not a chore though because debris comes off easily.

Available from Debenhams - Price £70

Thank you to Tefal for the grill pan.