Thursday, January 31, 2013

Special Occasion Gift Ideas - 2013

Prestat are purveyors of fine chocolates and truffles, and who can resist chocolates that have the royal seal of approval.  This iconic brand is sure to please.  The chocolate truffles are smooth and made from the finest chocolate.  They are presented in a beautiful heart shaped box that can be kept long after the chocolates are gone. A fabulous gift for Valentine's Day.

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Handmade - Toasted Kentish Cobnut Brittle, Toasted Kentish Cobnut Fudge, Coffee & Kentish Cobnut Fudge, Roasted Kentish Cobnut Plattinums Enrobed in Ecuador Dark Chocolate

Potash Farm - artisan, fine quality, exclusive products, made in St Mary's Platt, Kent.  The cobnut fudges melt in the mouth and the brittle is buttery and very delicious.  The chocolates are exquisite, a thick shell of very high quality chocolate surrounds the roasted kernel of the cobnut.

All the products make an ideal gift for Valentine's Day, Mothering Sunday, Easter or Christmas - for further gift idea inspiration please visit their online shop. Cobnuts are a type of hazelnut and are traditionally grown in Kent.

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Tan Rosie - Cherry Valentine's Day fudge made with fabulous Morello cherries, white chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg and a hint of rose water. Only available until Valentine's Day. Grenadian Rum & Raisin Fudge is nice and spicy. There are lots of other treats to buy at their online shop. Tan Rosie create Caribbean food products inspired by family recipes from Grenada and Carriacou - they are based in the West Midlands.


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Chocolat Chocolat - Bouquet of Handmade Chocolate filled with their famous handmade sheet chocolate and made with the finest Belgian chocolate.  These French Style wavy sheets of chocolate are sprinkled with French Sea Salt, Turkish Hazelnuts, Freeze Dried Raspberries to all give the most exquisite flavour combinations.  These chocolates are a taste sensation.  A beautiful, special and unique gift for any occasion which can be purchased either online or from their shop in Cambridge.

Chocolat Chocolat have been voted Cambridge's favourite chocolate shop.  Pop into the shop to try samples, take a leisurely browse at all the beautiful chocolate or even book a chocolate making or tasting course.

Thank you for all the wonderful samples.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Breville Elements Stainless Steel Jug Kettle - Review

Photograph courtesy of Breville
The new Breville Elements Kettle is blessed with stunning good looks and is both sleek and stylish.  Made from high quality stainless steel for strength and durability to stand the test of time. The kettle has a brushed and polished finish to give a sophisticated and timeless design.  This top quality kettle has a matching 4-slice toaster to complete the sleek yet modern look.

When switched on the water level window and on/off switch are illuminated.
The perfect pouring spout.

Upturned base showing the cord storage. 

The kettle has a built in filter which is removable and washable.
I'm busy planning a new kitchen at the moment and my cooker, hob, microwave and extractor will be in stainless, this fabulous kettle will compliment my kitchen perfectly.

Pros:
A premium kettle by a trusted brand.
Family size kettle with a capacity of 1.7L.
360ยบ rotational base for left or right handed use.
There is a marked water level window.
The kettle can be filled with as little as 250ml water.
3kw concealed element.
Filter is removable and washable.
The base is non slip.
Kettle fits on and off the base easily.
You can get a good safe grip on the handle.
Extremely well made.
Quiet in use.
The perfect kettle.

A RRP of £79.99 available exclusively from John Lewis stores or www.johnlewis.com

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nigel Slater Recipe: A Creamy, Crunchy Fruit Sundae


The wild blackberries are from a stash in my freezer.  A relative picked these last year at a top secret location in Melton Mowbray - I now live in the West Midlands, and I'm not likely any time soon to pass this intelligence to any Meltonians.

Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers was must watch TV and the recipe from his programme can be found on the BBC Food website.

This is an easy, yet delicious dessert recipe and all you have to do is gather the six ingredients together, whisk the cream and layer the ingredients.  I slightly adapted the recipe and used half double cream and half natural yogurt which I mixed together. The base layer is a scoop of vanilla ice cream, followed by a cream, meringue and blackberry layer, a few chopped pistachio nuts are sprinkled over for decoration.

A perfect sundae and I am entering this into Dish of the Month - January 2013. Hosts are Janice at Farmers Girl and Sue at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate.



Thursday, January 24, 2013

Yo! Sushi, Poland Street, London - Review


Salmon Sashimi from the conveyor belt.
Posting courtesy of Kitchen Delights London based reporter.

On your last visit to Yo! Sushi the chances are that you ate a few sushi dishes straight from the conveyor belt. After all, it’s quick, convenient and what they are famous for.

However last week, I was kindly invited to try some of the new Ramen dishes Yo! Sushi have just launched. For the uninitiated, Ramen is a common Japanese noodle dish, which can contain anything from chicken to beef to pork, vegetables or fish cakes all served in a warming broth – the perfect comfort food!

Five Spice Gyu Ramen
Outside it was extremely cold and snowing, I was feeling braver than usual and ordered the Five Spice Guy Ramen. Delightfully tender British beef marinated in five spice, garlic, ginger and sesame oil – it actually wasn’t too hot and rather tasty.  It was the perfect follow up to a couple of sushi plates from the conveyor belt.

Kaisen Ramen
My dining partner was also content having opted for Kaisen Ramen - handmade fish cakes served in a hot broth with ramen noodles. We also had a choice of dips and oils to add to our dish, such as garlic puree and hot chilli oil which was fun – but do be careful not to put too much into your bowl as they are on the strong side!!


The Ramen dishes are priced between £7-8 pounds.

Thanks a mill to the hospitable Gabriella at Yo! Sushi, Poland Street, London.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crock-Pot New Design Slow Cooker: Review

Photograph courtesy of Crock-Pot

My red Crock-Pot slow cooker not only looks fabulous but is the perfect way to make and serve a Valentine's Day meal for a loved one. Red is one of the hot colours for kitchen kit and brights add a welcome splash of colour. A meal can be cooked in one pot and after a few hours you have a delicious meal. Starters, mains or dessert can be cooked without too much fuss.

Slow Cooker Steamed Chocolate Pudding
Well greased basins, base lined with a circle of baking paper - chocolate batter made....


Basins securely covered with a square of pleated non-stick foil (this makes life easier). Pour boiling water into the pot to come half way up the basins.  Place the lid on top, and cook at high heat setting for approximately 2 hours, check the water level after an hour.
Puddings are well risen and ready for turning out.
The slow cooker is supplied with three very useful serving utensils.
Pros:
The slow cooker has two heat settings high and low.
There is a keep warm function.
3.5 Litre capacity which is ample for 2-3 people.
Large side handles make it very easy to lift.
The removable stoneware cooking pot and lid are dishwasher safe.
The stoneware cooking pot is oven safe.
Stylish slow cooker and eye catching design.
Other colours available.

Cons:
The glass lid cannot be used in the oven.
The lid is loose fitting.
The Owner's Guide includes only a few recipes.

However, there are some fabulous slow cooker recipes to choose from on the Crock-Pot website.

The Crock-Pot has a RRP £34.99 and is available to buy from all good retailers.

Thank you Crock-Pot for my fabulous slow cooker.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cawston Press Soft Drinks: Review


Cawston Press produce a wonderful range of sparkling non-alcoholic drinks especially for adults. They are packed full of flavour and made from their own pressed juice (not concentrate).  The drinks are additive, colouring, preservative and artificial sweetener free. They are made from apple juice that has been pressed within 48 hours of the apples being picked.

Available in 330ml glass bottles are Sparkling Cloudy Apple and Sparkling Ginger Beer, the first two sparkling drinks by Cawston, newly launched are Sparkling Apple & Rhubarb and Sparkling Lemon & Lime.

Sparkling Lemon & Lime

Sparkling Apple & Rhubarb
Sparkling Lemon & Lime is a punchy adult take on lemonade without the sweetness.  Sicilian lemons are blended with pressed apple juice and sparkling water, rounded off with a dash of lime juice.  The total juice content is 25%, rival lemonade drinks are mostly made from concentrate juice and not from pressed juice. This is a tart, refreshing drink - pour over ice on a sunny day.

Sparkling Apple & Rhubarb is made from the finest rhubarb, pressed apple juice and sparkling water.  The juice content is 40%.  The tang from rhubarb and natural sweetness from apples make a perfect partnership.

All four are available individually via Ocado, RRP £1.69 and in over 200 Adnams and independent pubs across the country.  750ml versions of Sparkling Cloudy Apple and Sparkling Ginger Beer can be found in Waitrose and via Ocado, RRP £2.79.

Thank you Cawston Press for my wonderful samples.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Recipe: Chocolate and Beetroot Cake


Chocolate and Beetroot Cake - I have held back making this, even though it has been a popular bake with food bloggers.  The thoughts of a beetroot splattered kitchen and the earthiness I associate with beetroot had no appeal.

After feeling 'so last year' or is it the 'year before last' I decided Chocolate and Beetroot Cake should appear on the blog. After some research, the recipe in Fiona Cairns book Bake & Decorate appealed, mainly because the cake is made with vegetable oil which gives a light cake.

No grating, no mess. Simply cut the beetroot into chunks (I bought prepacked), place in the food processor and blitz to a puree = no splattered kitchen.

I made the cake in a springform tin because I didn't want to chance spoiling the cake when turning out. Some retained beetroot juice from straining the pureed beetroot is the natural food colouring for the icing. The icing is a lovely pink colour and it doesn't taste of beetroot.

Fiona suggests drizzling and flicking the melted chocolate over the cake to make an abstract design.  Is this something you learn at a chocolate masterclass?

The sensible persons guide is to drizzle the melted chocolate over the cake, I always put the cooled melted chocolate into a ziplock food bag and cut a tiny corner off the base of the bag. Or simply dip a teaspoon into the melted chocolate and drizzle over the cake, not my choice because I make chocolate blobs and somehow my drizzles don't happen.


The cake is a winner, easy to make, deep chocolate flavour, moist, has a tender crumb, cuts well and is a keeper.  This is a large cake and would easily feed twelve people. If you are looking for a cake recipe to feed a crowd then look no further.

I am entering my cake into the January Calendar Cakes Challenge. This is hosted by Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes - Laura is hosting this month.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Video - Jamie Oliver and Photographer David Loftus Reveal the Secrets of Food Photography




Must watch video - Jamie Oliver with renowned food photographer David Loftus, giving an amazing insight into how he photographs Jamie's creations.








Food photography 
Jamie Oliver and photographer David Loftus reveal the secrets of food photography

Photographing food is a trend that has swept across social media sites over the past year, and the topic is a firm favourite with bloggers all over Europe, so how can you get the most out of your DSLR to make your food photos look good enough to eat, and impress your food-loving friends?

To explore the food photography trend and find out exactly how the professionals make their culinary creations look so tasty, Nikon has teamed up with celebrity chef, Nikon ambassador and DSLR photography enthusiast Jamie Oliver, and his collaborator – professional food photographer David Loftus – to discover the tricks of the food photography trade.

Speed is of the essence
When it comes to capturing tasty-looking images of food, the key message from David is “shoot lots and shoot fast”. Using a DSLR camera like the Nikon D3200, you can keep your finger on the shutter to make sure you capture all the theatre of the creation of the dish, tell a story with your food, and most of all, make all your dishes look appetising.

According to David, speed is a critical element in food photography, where the freshly prepared ingredients in a steaming hot dish have a ‘photo life’ of a matter of minutes. In Jamie’s words “the best shot in the world is 45 seconds of time… the boss in the room is the food”, and if a dish of piping hot Spaghetti Vongole will lose its vitality in 45 seconds then you have precisely that amount of time to capture its true beauty – moist pasta, tender clams and simmering tomatoes.

Everything is beautiful
Using a DSLR camera like the Nikon D3200, taking pictures of food can become much more than simple point-and-shoot photography. By using a versatile, all-round camera with a wide focal range and numerous shot settings, getting up close with a clam and then zooming out to capture the coiled spaghetti beneath it needn’t require a change of lens. And what’s more, over-complicating things can jeopardise how fresh the food looks on camera.

Embracing the way that food falls into position on a serving plate is something that Jamie reinforces on every shoot with David. Cooking is all about “the reality of mess” says Jamie, including the mess that you create when cutting, chopping, grating and slicing ingredients for a photograph or video. By slowing down shutter speeds, for example, you can capture the moment you crush a clove of garlic with the side of a knife, or crack an egg into a pan.

Set up creatively to spark a trend
David and Jamie both agree that in order to stay ahead of the trend, you have to be creative with your kit. With modern lenses you can get your camera into some really imaginative places in the kitchen.

The rise of trends like ‘dude food’, that encourage people to stay at home and put their own spin on indulgent classics like mini burgers, mixed kebabs and doorstep sandwiches mean people are getting more and more creative in the kitchen. Every ingredient has a personality, and this needs to come through in a photo: tomatoes ooze juice; chips are both fluffy yet crispy; meat will ‘breathe’ as it absorbs the flavours it is cooked in. A meal is an assortment of ingredients, each jostling for position on the plate, and for prime position in your photography.

Jamie, more than anyone, advocates the creative use of today’s modern, lightweight DSLR cameras to push the boundaries of traditional food photography. As David attests, when cooking at home you’re equipped to capture high quality food photos at any time of day; “with a D3200 you don’t have to use a flash, turn up the ISO settings and you can shoot in low light”.

Background story
David and Jamie have worked together for the past 15 years preparing and shooting food for countless cookbooks and websites. Over the years they’ve worked in environments ranging from lavish country kitchens to self-constructed work surfaces teetering half-way up a mountain. So how does David capture rich, vibrant imagery of the food that Jamie cooks irrespective of the location?

The right coloured background can really enhance a one-dimensional food photo. Jamie and David recommend using neutral colours like natural woods and brushed steels to bring out the texture of the foods. David carries a selection of stained wooden boards and rich cotton cloths to shoot lots of dishes in different colour combinations at any one time. According to Jamie, the average food photographer will shoot between 5-8 dishes per day – he and David aim for over 20!

Top tips for capturing great food image
  1. Use neutral backgrounds to bring out textures in the food.
  2. Embrace natural, ambient light to show off fresh ingredients.
  3. Shoot quickly, especially when dealing with heat.
  4. Shoot often, and capture the mess. Cooking is messy!
  5. Take action shots using slow shutter speeds to portray energy.
  6. Set the scene to tell a story and don’t be afraid to get your hands involved.
  7. Use macro settings to capture stunning close ups.
  8. Use colourful ingredients and off-white plates to serve up.
  9. Get creative. Find an interesting angle, even if it means shooting from a height or leaning inside a cooking pot.
  10. Adopt the point of view of the creator. The same applies before eating!

    For more information about the Nikon D3200, please visit www.nikon.co.uk

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Recipe: Baileys and Walnut Cupcakes


I am mostly drawn towards coffee and walnut cupcakes but this time I left out the coffee in the cake batter and used Baileys in the buttercream.  Good idea - yes?

For the cake batter I prefer to use salted butter or to make them lighter substitute some of the butter with margarine.  I always use unsalted butter for my buttercream, it's all down to individual taste, and I know salted this and that is everywhere, but I don't think salted buttercream will ever be for me.

The recipe below is for 9 cupcakes - cupcake cases vary and these are medium size to allow for rising but leaving enough room for the buttercream topping.


This month I need to concentrate on eating less sugar, but failed, I grazed on seeds and then ate a slice of Christmas Cake........

You will need:  9 muffin cases and a muffin tin

For the cupcakes:

175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
100g chopped walnuts

For the Icing:

250g softened unsalted butter
500g sieved icing sugar
1 tbsp Baileys
Walnut halves to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 180oC.
2. Add all the cake ingredients in a bowl and beat for two minutes with an electric mixer. Stir in the walnuts.
3. Spoon the batter into the muffin cases.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked.  Cool for 10 minutes and then place on a rack to cool.
5. For the icing: beat the icing sugar and butter together until fluffy.  Stir in the Baileys.
6. Pipe or spread the buttercream over the cupcakes and top with walnut halves.
7. Can be frozen decorated.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Recipe: Frozen Berry Parfait


This is such a pretty dessert and one that can be made ahead and frozen. One of my Christmas desserts,  it is totally delicious and fortunately there is still some left in the freezer.  First published in Olive Magazine the recipe can be found on the fabulous BBC GoodFood website.

My 'nodietdiet' is about to start - basically this is simply eating less and more healthily. I now need to cut back on sugary things, I've eaten my body weight in sugar and some of my pending blog posts are Christmas desserts loaded with sugar. My increase in weight over the festive period was nil but I did eat far too much sugar.

Grazing on seeds, dried and fresh fruits at lunchtimes is going to be a priority.  Leaves, leaves and more leaves will be on the menu too. Pomegranates definitely won't get a look in, I used to like them, but every book and every magazine has a recipe using pomegranate seeds.

There are still Christmas goodies in the freezer, the naughty cupboard has all manner of chocolates looking at me and trying to tempt me in.  How can I resist a Thorntons Chocolate Smile? I have carrier bags with part-baked baguettes, Cadbury chocolate fingers and a few bags of posh crisps.  Everyone seems to have bought us sweet indulgences for Christmas and the house is heaving with sugar overload. Looking at all the booty I think it will take us until Valentine's Day to eat the lot.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Best of Foodie Bordeaux

Fabulous freshly baked bread.
Posting by Kitchen Delights Roving Reporter

Taking time to appreciate and enjoy gorgeous food and wine is what truly makes up the DNA of the French as a nation. As I walked past the numerous coffee shops and restaurants in Bordeaux, it is easy to sense a laid back attitude to life, and why not with all the great food waiting to be eaten.  It was whilst I was in this frame of mind that I made a visit to Quai des Chartrons Bordeaux - a small but perfectly formed food market located next to the river Garonne.

Pastries and brioche fresh from the oven.
Beautiful Figs
A huge pan of snails bubbling away in wine and tomatoes.
With an abundance of fresh produce one can easily gather the necessities for a picnic hamper, whether it's fresh bread, fruits, meats or even snails and team it up with a superb bottle of red wine.  Take the hamper of fresh foods and wine down to the river, take part in a little people watching and savour the moment.  Don't forget your wineglasses!

To see more scrumptious foods of Bordeaux, take a look at my scrapbook on Pinterest - ‘Best of Bordeaux’ - http://pinterest.com/maggiefoodie/best-of-bordeaux/

For further information visit:

www.facebook.com/BordeauxWinesUK
twitter.com/BordeauxWinesUK

A massive thank you to Carey, Rosamund and Natasha at R&R Teamwork.

Disclosure:  The trip was funded by The Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) www.bordeaux.com/uk

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Jamie's Italian, Birmingham - December 2012


After a hectic morning shopping:) Jamie's Italian, conveniently situated outside the Bullring Birmingham, is a great place to escape to for a couple of hours.

Fabulous lighting.
The food is always consistently good at Jamie's Italian and this is our second visit to the Birmingham branch.  Themed on an industrial warehouse this branch is huge compared to others we have visited in the past.  We didn't have huge appetites after the Christmas festivities and on this occasion we had to refuse dessert.

Italian Bread Selection
Jamie's Italian Burger with  Posh Chips
Seafood Bucatini


Baked Shetland Salmon (they were skinny with the salmon)
Birmingham was sales crazy - a young lady saw our Selfridges shopping bag and asked for directions to the store, we decided to take her instead of the usual arm waving and trying to give directions. On the way to Selfridges she said she had come from Dubai to Birmingham for the day and she was going back to Dubai that very evening!  She had apparently flown in to Birmingham especially to visit Laura Ashley, and Cath Kidston at Selfridges in the Bull Ring.  Amazingly she was going to take her shopping back to Dubai and was then travelling on to Australia - really - she said, yes, yes!  And I thought we were brave travelling on a delayed crowded train for a 15 minute journey.....

Philips Saeco Intelia Focus Coffee Machine - Review


A bean to cup coffee machine which will grind coffee beans to deliver an espresso giving varying strengths and quantity.

An excellent crema

 A frothed milk is easily achieved manually - the machine isn't supplied with a jug or thermometer.
My coffee was superior to that typically served on the high street
The machine is easy to use and has an illuminated LED display.  Fill the hopper with your chosen beans or with ground coffee in the ground coffee compartment and away you go.  I buy freshly roasted coffee beans online from a well respected supplier for quality results.  Although there is a ground coffee facility on the machine I believe fresh coffee beans are always best. Milk can be steamed and frothed quickly, by removing the pannarello on the steam wand a textured milk can be achieved suitable for latte art.

A bedding in period is needed to get the optimum espresso but it was worth the wait.  The espresso had a good crema.  I tested the machine using both decaffeinated and caffeinated coffee beans.

Quite a large coffee machine 26 L x 46 D x 35 H approximately.

Pros

1. Excellent coffee shots from quality beans.
2. It is possible to vary strength and quantity to taste.
3. Very quick to operate from switch on.
4. Quick to steam after brewing.
5. Different size cups and mugs can be used.
6. Easy day to day cleaning.
7. Can use ground coffee or beans.
8. Excellent manual foaming when pannarello is removed.
9. The steam wand can be used for hot water to preheat cups or to make other hot drinks.

Cons

1. Auto foaming of milk using pannarello produces quite coarse bubbles.
2. Machine has large footprint.
3. Do not immerse water tank to clean due to ingress of water.
4. Plug supplied not to UK standard.
5. Waste water tray fills quickly.
6. Weekly/monthly cleaning regime required and descaling when indicated.

Note: After using this machine for sometime now and on a daily basis, I can only describe it as fabulous.  It is exceptionally clean and easy to use and it's a good looking coffee machine too.  The espresso is always superb, texturising the milk only gets easier with practice and providing you use the very best quality coffee beans, your coffee will quite possibly be the best you have ever tasted.