30 Sep 2013

Diciannove Italian Restaurant Launch - London

We are invited to the launch party of Diciannove and enjoy the most luxurious chocolate dessert.......

Diciannove is the latest Italian restaurant to hit London town. Nestling in the smart Crowne Plaza hotel in London’s Blackfriars, this is a quirky take on an Italian restaurant both for food and the interior.

We went to the launch night and were treated to prosecco, cocktails and nibbles from the in-house deli such as 24 month matured cheese and various cured meats. We also tried zucchini fritters with anchovy sauce and indulged in some fantastic pizza.

The restaurant is split into zones to meet different needs for different occasions. One moment we found ourselves on seats which could have come from inside a tube carriage – perfect to enjoy with friends or family, to more elegant dining areas with large round tables where you would go for a celebration.

To end the evening we were treated to a chocolate pot - a signature dessert called 'Delizia al Cioccolato' - a rich chocolate mousse with chocolate salami - wow! It really works despite the unusual flavour combination!

Grazie to the Executive Chef Alessandro Bay and his team - see you again soon.

Address: Diciannove, Crowne Plaza London, The City, 19 New Bridge Street, Blackfriars, London, EC4V 6DB  (just around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral)

29 Sep 2013

Judge Solar Photovoltaic Scale - Review

These eye catching red Judge kitchen scales are solar powered and will work in both sunlight or artificial light.  The slimline scales need only 60-90 seconds of light to activate them.

There is a large clear LCD display, the scales weigh g/lb:oz to 5kg/11lb and there are separate modes for measuring milk and water.  A button on the base of the scales is used to set the scales for either metric or imperial measurements.

Add and weigh scales are easy to use                     Measuring milk using the milk mode
Tried and Tested:
Conveniently store away on their side
In poor lighting conditions or when measuring light amounts the reading can take a few seconds to settle down
The scales weigh accurately
High weight capacity of 5kg/11lb
Use any bowl of your choice for weighing out
No batteries required
2 year guarantee
Judge Solar Kitchen Scale J415
Price £24.00

Thank you to judgecookware.co.uk for the scales.

C'est Ca Vintage Bird Cage Kitchen Oven Gloves - Review

Made in Britain
These quality kitchen oven gloves with a Victorian bird cage design are vintage chic and are made and designed in Norfolk. The gloves are part of a range which includes a choice of three aprons, tea towel, tea cosy and a gauntlet oven glove.

The gloves will look great in all kitchens
  • Cream and white design
  • Long loop for hanging
  • Glove area sits well above the wrist
  • Tested to British Standard BS6526 for heat protection and insulation
  • Made from cotton
  • Reverse is 100% towelling
  • Washable 
  • Available from Quality Independent Stores
  • Price £16.75
Thank you to C'est Ca's and www.ictc.co.uk for the lovely oven gloves

27 Sep 2013

Apricot Couronne - The Great British Bake Off

Apricot Couronne
Last weekend, before the 'Sweet Dough Week' was on television,  I had a go at making the Apricot Couronne by Paul Hollywood.

At least I had the full instructions in front of me, unlike the contestants who have to work through a few scant notes and are seriously under pressure.

I gave myself three hours to make the bread and it was ample time to make, prove, bake and decorate. When I placed my buttery filling of apricots, raisins and walnuts onto the dough and rolled it up like a swiss roll the dough seemed to stretch and have a mind all of it's own. Another observation, I didn't allow a large enough centre, although in the photograph it looks as though there isn't a gap in the centre, I'm pleased to say that there is! The icing was a little runny, it's drizzled over the couronne whilst it's warm and this makes the icing lovely and crunchy.

The couronne is fairly easy to make and would be a fabulous bake for the Christmas season.  It's rich, sticky, tender and delicious.  The bread kept happily for a couple of days under clingwrap.

To sum up, it took three hours to make, we ate it three times a day (well there were only two of us to get through it) and it took us three days to polish it all off!  Although I say it myself, I was quite pleased with my first attempt at making this recipe......

The recipe can be found on the BBC Food website.

21 Sep 2013

Individual Pineapple Tart Tatin - Recipe

Pineapple Tart Tatin made with fresh pineapple
Today we have had glorious weather and it's looking like we are going to get some more late summer sunshine. Hubby happily cooked a barbecue and I made these lovely fresh pineapple tart tatin for dessert. They are delicious served with ice cream for that lovely hot/cold dessert which always works so well.

Sometimes caramel can be a pain to make and for reasons unknown won't play and I managed to get toffee instead which is no bad thing because my husband loved it.  I find the best way to make caramel is to use a small saucepan, which I forgot to do, and used a frying pan which seemed to give problems.

The pineapple rings sitting on top of the set caramel
The 'what's that' in the top right of the photograph is my clever apple corer, which is a great kitchen gadget and I've had this for many years, it's very useful for taking the cores out of pineapples too.

It's best to make a few slits in the pastry lids
My caramel and pineapple tried to burst out of the tins whilst cooking and next time I'm going to make some slits in the pastry.

I hope you have a go at making this delicious dessert.......

Serves:  4 people:

You will need:  4 x deep individual tart tins

4 x 2cm slices of ripe pineapple
50g caster sugar
cube of butter
4tsp rum
375g puff pastry

1.   Roll out the pastry - cut out four circles slightly larger than the tops of the tart tins.
2.   Remove the core from the centre of the pineapple slices, this is easily done with an apple corer.
3.   Take a small saucepan and add the sugar to the pan.  Set over a medium heat until it turns golden brown, add the butter, let it melt and bubble.
4.   Pour into the four tins and place in the fridge until set.
5.   Take a pineapple ring and place on the top of the caramel.
6.   Spoon a teaspoon of rum into the centre of each pineapple ring.
7.   Take a pastry lid and place over the pineapple and with the help of the handle of a teaspoon, tuck the pastry edges in to encase the pineapple.  Make a few slits in the pastry lids.  Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
8.   Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200oC.
9.   Place the tarts onto a baking tray and place in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden.
10. Leave to cool for 15 minutes.  Run a knife round the tins and place a plate over the tin and turn upside down.  Beware the caramel can still be hot and it is safest to use a tea towel to help you remove the tins.
11. Serve with ice cream.

18 Sep 2013

All Day Dining Central & Co Style - Review

Our London Reporter gets to eat steak and drinks a few cheeky cocktails........

I love the concept of all day dining. A cheeky croissant at breakfast time, a spot of brunch with friends, or a late supper after a hard day at work. What I most like is the idea that a venue is always ready for me, like a home from home.

Clover Club Cocktail
As we know, London is a busy place, so a reliable and trusted eatery goes a very long way in this city. I was thrilled to be invited to try out Central & Co which is a brasserie and wine bar on Great Marlborough Street, just around the corner from the Palladium Theatre. We arrived for an evening meal and were greeted with a friendly smile and served some amazing cocktails from the off. I recommend you to go for the beautifully presented Clover Club – a gin based cocktail with raspberry syrup and egg white served with raspberries on a stick – it was out of this world, as you can see from the photo. The cocktail alone was enough - and with the elegant dark surroundings and a beautiful bar up front – this was fabulous.

Two more cocktails later.... and we got stuck into starters - a hot smoked salmon, 
thyme, cheddar and sweetcorn muffin, with a sour cream and sweetcorn puree. I chose this because it was a little different and out there. However, in the event it was just okay, perhaps a little too fussy before the main course!

Fast forward a Champagne Swizzle cocktail and the star of the show arrives – grilled flank steak accompanied with hand cut chips, horseradish cream and slow roasted tomatoes. Now this was worth the wait (all day dining does seem to require a wait, doesn’t it?). The steak was tender, packed with taste and a generous size.

Flank Steak, Hand Cut Chips, Slow Roasted Tomato, Watercress and Horseradish Cream
Image courtesy of Central & Co
We were really full by this point and debating whether we could fit in dessert but when we found out that an ex Pussycat Doll (which one, who knows, but it wasn’t Nicole) was drinking in the exclusive basement area, we thought it was our duty to stay on. It took us ages to eat our crumble and chocolate brownies.......

When you’re next in the West End and looking for a nice venue with friends, go give this place a whirl and let us know your thoughts.

A big thanks to Denise for looking after us so well.

For more details visit www.centralandco.com

15 Sep 2013

Fresh Berry Scones - Great British Bake Off Everyday

The crunchy demerara topping on the lid is the best part of the scones
 and I eat the lid first!
I have a passion for scones but so much the better if berries are incorporated into them. Blueberry scones are my favourite but here we have both blueberries and raspberries.  The beauty about these scones is they bypass the usual jam then cream or cream and then jam debate that goes on and on...... My scone recipe is from The Great British Bake Off Everyday cookery book.

All they need is a dollop of cream
The book is full to the brim with very tempting cakes, bread and bakes - I was spoilt for choice. I've been baking quite a lot recently, in fact more than I intended to. I'm still getting to know my new oven and it's a good excuse to bake, bake, bake.

My kitchen posting has had to be delayed - the work seems to just go on and on and on. Everything seems to take ages, electricians coming and going, the fitter still doing small bits and pieces and then there is the glass man who has ordered the glass but this takes a few weeks to be made and then he has to come and fit.  Guess what, after the glass has been fitted the electricians have to come back to fit new socket covers and then the installer has to come back to do a few more bits and pieces........Shoo workmen, shoo........

There are still fresh berries on the shelves and using frozen for the scones unfortunately won't work because the frozen fruit will release too much liquid whilst the scones are baking.

I had some buttermilk left over from the Blackberry Buttermilk Sponge and used it to make the scones. If you can't locate any buttermilk here is a way of making your own: take 250ml milk (not semi), pour onto 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and leave to stand at room temperature for approximately 10 minutes.  If you have any blackberries left over from making the sponge I think I would be tempted to use these in the scones.  The scones freeze perfectly too, defrost and warm on the defrost setting of the microwave to refresh.

The Great British Bake Off is must watch TV and I for one find myself sitting in front of the TV every week watching, hubby knows he can't get any sense out of me whilst it's on, and now he watches too, eating one of my warm comforting fresh berry scones of course!

12 Sep 2013

The Big Feastival 2013 - The Electrolux Chef's Table

Peter and Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias
with the Electrolux Chef's Academy winners
One of the most exciting emails sent to me this year - 'you are invited to be a guest at the Chef's Table at The Big Feastival' which is to be held on the farm of Alex James in the Cotswolds.

Michelin Star chefs Peter and Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias from Casamia in Bristol cooked and plated up in front of us and introduced each of the courses. The sommelier from Casamia explained the matching wines which were superb.

Beautifully presented Chef's Table 
The diners seated around the table were fellow bloggers and journalists and we were all treated to a stunning four course tasting menu - silence fell when we were presented with our food, I think we were all speechless with delight.
Quiche Lorraine, Tomatoes and Mozzarella, Duck with Carrot and Fennel, Peaches and Cream

The food was exquisite, and not only did it look amazing, the food was a taste sensation too.
Peter and Jonray explaining the types of tomatoes used
 in their Tomato and Mozzarella dish
After the Chef's Table experience, we were feeling very happy and we had an enjoyable look round The Big Feastival, we were really lucky with the weather especially as it was the last weekend in August. As usual we headed for coffee and a look round the many stalls selling local produce, ice cream, brownies and more.We then made our way to The Electrolux Big Kitchen.

 Rachel Khoo was a joy to watch and she demonstrates how to make Paris Brest
with a surprise filling of brie, spinach, apple and a mustard mousse

We were all booked in for a cook-a-long at Electrolux Chef's Secrets with Nigel Haworth, head chef of Michelin Star restaurant Northcote,  he made this such fun and my jaw ached from laughing. Nigel wasn't very impressed with hubbies knife skills dicing a shallot but it all added to the fun.
We all made Pea and Broad Bean Risotto with baby leeks
using the latest induction hobs
I had been looking forward to the event for a few weeks and it exceeded my expectations. It's a great family festival and it was lovely to see everyone enjoying themselves.

A huge thank you to Electrolux for a fabulous day and being such amazing hosts.

Coming up:  More from The Big Feastival a foodie and music lovers festival.

7 Sep 2013

Blackberry Buttermilk Sponge

The sponge has a lovely crunchy demerara sugar topping
This easy to make blackberry buttermilk sponge has a lovely tender crumb and if you can get hedgerow blackberries the cake will taste even better. My blackberries came from the supermarket, they were absolutely fine (but make sure they aren't dessert blackberries) or raspberries would be good to use too. The sponge is best served warm and can be reheated gently in the microwave.

I know sometimes it's not convenient to buy buttermilk and a buttermilk substitute can be made by taking 250ml milk (not semi-skimmed) and pouring onto 1 tablespoon of either white wine vinegar or lemon juice and leave to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Recipe is from The Great British Bake Off Everyday cookbook and they recommend serving the sponge with Hot Berry Sauce (recipe in the book). The cake is quite sweet and I think the berry sauce would counteract the sweetness. I served my cake with a dollop of cream.

6 Sep 2013

Nature's Path Gluten Free 'Nice and Nobbly' Granola - Review

Nice and Nobbly Granola comes in two delicious flavours - Pumpkin Seed, Almond, Coconut and Raisin with a hint of cinnamon and Raspberry, Strawberry and Blueberry with chunks of yogurt.

Clusters of organic crunchy oats
The cereals can be served for breakfast with milk and a dollop of yogurt, layered with berries or poured into a container for snacking (I am typing this and snacking at the moment!).

Tried and Tested:  The clusters of oats are crunchy, the freeze dried raspberries and strawberries are a taste sensation. The pumpkin seeds, almonds and raisins are excellent quality and a dash of cinnamon makes the granola perfect for autumn/winter, although I am happy with cinnamon all year round. I also like the fact the cereal isn't too sweet.

'Nice and Nobbly' is available from Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose and Ocado and independent health food stores £3.49 RRP (312g pouch size with a serving suggestion of 30g).  Nature's Path are organic cereal experts and all their products are endorsed by Coeliac UK.

Thank you for the review samples.