26 Feb 2013

Stuffed Mushrooms with Leeks, Dolcelatte and Walnuts: Recipe

All photographs taken with the Nikon D3200                           
'Life's too short to stuff a mushroom' - does anyone still use this expression? In 1975 Shirley Conran, published the book Superwoman, aimed at busy women and gave advice about life using the phrase 'Life is too short to stuff a mushroom'........This recipe is definitely well worth the time spent making something tasty and inexpensive from just a few fridge and store cupboard ingredients.

Served with a simple risotto.
I placed a small amount of risotto on the plate for the photograph because it very quickly goes stodgy and doesn't like to be left hanging around, otherwise you may well end up eating it for pudding. After taking photographs, which as usual were taken speedily during cooking and serving, I topped the risotto with the remaining walnuts, Dolcelatte and thyme leaves, to give texture and interest.  I made a tried and trusted risotto recipe, used half the recommended quantities of ingredients and simply left out the bacon, leeks, Parmesan and chives.

The original recipe for the Stuffed Mushrooms with Leeks, Dolcelatte and Walnuts is from the Waitrose Kitchen Magazine - February 2013.

Adapted Recipe

Serves: 2

5 large flat mushrooms (chop one and leave the others whole)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic oil
1 leek finely chopped
a few thyme leaves
25g Dolcelatte Cheese
25g walnuts chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Mix the olive oil and garlic oil together and brush one tablespoon over the whole mushrooms. season with black pepper.  Place on a roasting tin top-side down and cook for 10 minutes.
2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and fry the leek, thyme and chopped mushrooms for approximately 5 minutes until softened.
3. Divide the mixture between the four upturned baked mushrooms, top with cubes of  Dolcelatte cheese and chopped walnuts, season.
4. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

23 Feb 2013

Nikon D3200 - Review

One of the most exciting emails to drop into my inbox recently was an invitation to use the new
Nikon D3200 camera and share this experience with my readers.

I have never written a blog post about how I use my camera to take photographs of food and I’d like to give you a glimpse of what I do. I’m not a techno wiz at all so this is a straightforward review of the camera and how it is helping me to take better pictures for the blog.
Using my Camera in the Kitchen
Before reviewing the camera I will paint a picture of how I normally take photographs for the blog. The majority of my photographs are taken in the kitchen and this is during cooking and serving food. I have to work with limited daylight, unfortunately my work surface is situated away from the window, to compensate for this I use a couple of lamps, I also use a tripod approximately 40% of the time particularly when lighting conditions are poor. Experimenting with backgrounds to complement the food can be anything from wallpaper to various materials. If the weather is good I take some photographs outside on the patio table to take advantage of natural light.

I only use the supplied zoom macro lens, this is quick to frame the subject and is able to get in very close. When framing the subject I try to vary both the layout of the food, the distance from the food and use various angles of shot, I always have a stool handy to stand on to help achieve this, again speed is of the essence when serving up food.

Introducing the Guide Mode
The on-screen Guide Mode Option is a very good introduction to using the camera and its many features. Easy or Advanced Operation present many options, for example how much of the picture is in focus or whether moving subjects are frozen, whether to use live view or the view finder and so on. For food photography there is a setting 'bright subjects' when in advanced operation.

The Guide Mode is not just for shooting pictures, it is also there for viewing, deleting and setting up the camera. Handy if I am in forgetful mode, without the instruction book.

Using Auto Mode
This setting is for point and shoot photography, most of the settings are made by the camera according to the picture taking conditions. There is also an easy 'flash off' setting by rotating the mode dial one click anti-clockwise, very handy for point and shoot Auto Mode.

View Finder
A number of focus points can be seen through the view finder, when the shutter release is pressed half way down, one or more of these points turn red and shows which part of the image will be in focus. I found these a little confusing at first but when in Aperture Priority mode you can select which part of the image will be focused on. These focus points are easily adjusted with the four way button situated on the back of the camera. The points can also be seen on the monitor screen when I use the camera on a tripod.

Using Aperture Priority
I prefer to use 'Aperture Priority' for my food photography, this allows me to use selected focus points, as mentioned earlier, to give selective sharpness. The manual setting of the aperture together with the use of the extended ISO range allows for blur effects or sharpness as required, on the monitor screen there is a reminder icon showing the aperture size. I often use the built in flash to minimise foreground shadows.

Image Quality
The camera has various settings for picture quality and image size, I use normal on image quality and large JPEG on image size. When readers to my blog view my photographs it is possible to click onto the photographs for a better view by using these settings without seeing excessive pixelation.

From Camera to Blog
I use an Eye-Fi card, which is directly supported by the Nikon D3200, this facilitates easy picture transfer from the camera to the computer without using connecting wires. This is an amazing convenience feature.
Using the Remote Function
Cooking is messy, and whilst I am cooking and taking photographs, typically without any assistance, I have been trying to make more use of my tripod. The Nikon D3200 has sensors on both the back and front of the camera. The remote function is built into the camera and the actual remote is an optional extra. Using a remote helps keep the camera clean and eliminates any possibility of introducing the camera to shake.

Recording Short Movies
The camera has easy access to record and play back short videos, to start recording enter 'Live Mode' and simply press the 'Movie Record Button' shoot the video - to end the recording simply press the same button again. To play back the movie on the camera monitor all you have to do is press the playback button and then the OK button.

There are various options for movie quality in the 'Movie Settings' including HD. The maximum length of a movie is 20 minutes, given sufficient memory.

To view the movie, this can be via television, computer or the camera monitor. From the movie still pictures can be recorded as JPEG.

I hope to make good use of this facility and post some short videos on the blog.

The Verdict
The camera is capable of taking excellent photographs under various conditions in a user friendly way, it is easy to get a sturdy grip and it is a very transportable camera without unnecessary weight.

The Camera - What's in the Box?
Nikon D3200 camera body.
Nikkor 18-55mm f3.5-5.6G lens with VR(vibration resistance).
Lens cap, camera body and back of lens protective caps.
Battery and charger.
Shoulder strap.
USB cable.
Audio/video cable.
User’s Manual in print form.
Reference Manual on CD-ROM.

You will need:
A suitable memory card.
Ideally a protective case.

Thank you to Nikon for sending me the D3200 to review.

19 Feb 2013

Recipe: Chocolate Mint Aero Mousse

This is an exclusive recipe by Aero using their Bubbly Peppermint Aero and it is totally delicious.  The best way to describe the dessert is a mint chocolate biscuit in a glass. I'm sure Willa Wonka would have approved.

My dessert was made in 6 shot glasses and I also used natural yoghurt to keep those calories at bay....

Chocolate Mint Aero Mousse

Serves 4

Please note this recipe contains uncooked egg white.


120g Mint Chocolate Aero, broken into cubes
2 digestive biscuits, crushed
15g butter, melted
8 marshmallows
200g low fat natural yoghurt (or whipping cream)
1 egg white, whisked

1. Crush the digestive biscuits and add to melted butter and 1 crushed cube Mint Chocolate Aero, mix well and place into the bottom of 4 shot glasses.
2. Reserve another piece of Mint Chocolate Aero for grating.
3. Place the remaining Aero into a small bowl and microwave for 1 ½ minutes. (750w). Add the marshmallows and microwave for another 30 seconds.
4. Whisk in ¾ of the yogurt and then fold in the whisked egg white.
5. Pour the mixture into shot glasses and leave to chill in the fridge.
6. Once set, top with the remaining yoghurt and sprinkle reserved grated Aero on top.

I was kindly sent Aero bars to make this delicious recipe.

15 Feb 2013

Walnut & Rosemary Focaccia

After watching the TV programme Britain's Best Bakery, which Cumbrian celebrity chef Peter Sidwell co-hosted with Mich Turner (sugarcrafter extraordinaire), it inspired me to make a bread recipe from his book Simply Good Bread. The recipes in the book can be made using a bread machine or by hand.

I love homemade focaccia and walnuts in bread always work well. The dough uses a mix of strong white bread flour, OO Italian pasta flour and mashed potato from a baked jacket potato, this produced a very light crumb.

The baked focaccia is lovely dipped into extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Any leftover can be frozen away in slices - when you need to take any out of the freezer, defrost on a paper towel which will soak up any moisture and then refresh in the microwave.

The focaccia dough waiting to be baked.
The recipe can be found online at lovefood.com

12 Feb 2013

Pancakes With Fresh Orange Juice

Pancakes served with orange is a puzzle to those who have never heard of this or always use freshly squeezed lemons.  I'm never sure, do you put juice on the pancake first and then sugar, or is it the other way round?

This is how I have eaten my pancakes since I was a child. I originally come from Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, I'm not sure if this is the traditional way to serve them in Melton Mowbray or indeed Leicestershire.

Listening to the afternoon presenter on Radio Shropshire he has said for a few days now that he has always eaten pancakes with orange juice and he too comes from Melton Mowbray.

Upon a little internet research there is an article regarding pancakes on the bbc.co.uk/Leicester information pages and one of the photographs shows an orange being squeezed over a pancake. They also suggest filling pancakes with pork pie, Stilton Cheese and Red Leicester, not sure about this suggestion though!

I always use Delia's recipe because I love the lace effect the pancake produces - I hope you try this way of serving pancakes next time you feel a pancake moment coming on.  Children love oranges squeezed over pancakes and it is far kinder to them than using lemon juice.

7 Feb 2013

Mary Berry's Gingerbread Traybake - Recipe

A traybake can be made in any square or rectangular tin and you can increase or decrease the quantities to your hearts content. I love a traybake because of its versatility.  A traybake doesn't have to be a cake, it can be a pudding too, cut into squares and open freeze for a rainy day. It was Mary Berry who back in the day first introduced me to the wonders of a traybake bake, and true to say it lost favour for many, many years.

Iced and decorated gingerbread.
The batter waiting to go into the oven for baking.
When I first married I used to watch her on TV (I was a child bride!),  I then went on to purchase my first cookery book, which was The Hamlyn All Colour Cookery Book and I can remember they updated this quite a few years after it first came out.  When Mary contributed to Home & Freezer Digest I used to buy this from the newsagents and can remember saving every copy.

I bought a copy of Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook and gave my children a copy of this too, to use for reference, and hopefully cook a few recipes.  My daughters husband uses this cookery book and makes a fabulous Potato Dauphinoise, another favourite is Potato Lyonnaise, he has also turned out a few memorable starters using recipes from this book.

Some of my Mary Berry cookery books - do you have a collection too?
There are a few recipes on my site that I have cooked from Mary Berry cookbooks and they are all delicious.  One of my favourites is her Lamb Tagine and this is one of the best tagine recipes ever. A couple of her books on my wish list are Mary Berry's Family Sunday Lunches and her latest cookbook, Mary Berry at Home.

The following recipe is taken from Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book - I always halve this quantity and use a 18 x 28cm tin.  Freeze un-iced.

Slightly adapted recipe.  For this quantity of mixture you will need a 30 x 23cm tin lined with parchment paper.

275g golden syrup
275g black treacle
225g dark molasses sugar
225g unsalted butter
450g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 rounded teaspoons ground ginger
4 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons milk

For the icing:
225g icing sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
50g crystallised ginger finely chopped.

1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/Gas 3.
2. Measure the syrup, treacle, sugar and butter into a large pan.  Heat very gently until the butter has melted.  Remove from the heat and stir in the flour and spices.  Add the beaten eggs and milk, beat until smooth.
3. Pour into the lined tin.
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes until beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tin.
5. Cool in the tin.
6. When cold lift out of the tin and remove the lining paper.
7. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the lemon juice, drop by drop and mix until smooth.
8. Decorate with the chopped ginger and leave the icing to set.
9. Cut into squares.

4 Feb 2013

The Bar of Aero and Exclusive Recipe

Sponsored Post

Bubble Playground - Image courtesy of Aero
By Kitchen Delights London Reporter.

As some of you may remember, back in November last year, I was invited to The Bar of Aero in London's trendy Truman Brewery, Shoreditch. It gave chocolate fans, like me, the chance to feel like Willy Wonka for a night and walk through a bubbly bar of Aero in a bubble playground. We all had an amazing experience enjoying Aero hot chocolate and other Aero goodies in this fun and interactive exhibition.  The video shows everyone having a bubbly fun time.

Aero have shared with us a recipe for Chocolate Aero Meringue Roulade

Image courtesy of Aero

Serves: 6

25g coarsely grated Mint Chocolate Aero
3 egg whites
175g caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar

To decorate; 1 tbsp coarsely grated Mint Chocolate Aero

284mls double cream, whipped until stiff
300g strawberries

1.   Prehat the oven to 140C/Gas 2.  Line a 33x23cm Swiss roll tin with non-stick baking parchment.
2.   Whisk the egg whites until stiff and gradually whisk in the caster sugar - 1tbsp at a time.
3.   Whisk in the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract.
4.   Spoon into the tin, gently level and bake for 30 minutes until the surface is just firm.
5.   Dust some baking parchment with icing sugar.
6.   Remove the meringue from the oven and cover with damp greaseproof paper for 10 minutes.
7.   Discard the damp paper and turn the meringue out onto the parchment and peel off the lining paper.
8.   Spread the whipped cream over the meringue and scatter the strawberries over the top.
9.   Use the parchment to roll from one short end.
10. Carefully transfer the roulade onto a serving plate and sprinkle with grated Mint Chocolate Aero.

3 Feb 2013

Celery, Leek and Stilton Soup: Recipe

Celery, Leek and Stilton Soup
Now I'm an adult I like Stilton Cheese and any leftover pieces I freeze away for a rainy day. Stilton cheese, celery and leeks all get on well together and are amazing in any recipe.

A bowl of warm, comforting soup simply can't be beaten.  It's also the time of year when we are wall to wall with diets and exercise dvds - eat sensibly with good homemade food made from scratch, eat less and don't forget to eat a slice of cake every day, it always works for me.

Only if you must, the Stilton cheese can be left out of the recipe, but either way it will still taste very delicious.

Serves: 4

You will need:

25g butter
7 sticks celery - reserving the leaves.
1 large leek
1 onion
110g peeled potatoes
¼ tsp celery seeds
600ml semi-skimmed milk
250ml chicken stock
50g Stilton Cheese


1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Chop the celery, leek and onion, peel and chop the potato. Add to the pan and cook on a medium heat for 15 minutes to soften.
2. Pour the chicken stock and semi-skimmed milk into the pan. Add the celery seeds and season.
3. Cook for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.
4. Crumble half the cheese into the pan to melt.
5. Puree the soup with a stick blender until smooth.
6. Pour into bowls, garnish with celery leaves and crumbled Stilton cheese, if you like.