24 Feb 2014

Sponsored Video: #freethejoy with Cadbury Dairy Milk

Watch James perform the ultimate lip-sync to Estelle's Free through the streets of London helped by the great British public and a little bit of Cadbury Dairy Milk.

So who has had enough of all the doom and gloom of late? With so much rain and stormy skies since Christmas, I’ve certainly had my fill of the colour grey and I’m now looking forward to happy spring days full of alfresco dining and maybe even a spot of sunshine ;0)

It seems like this melancholy has been the mood of the nation for a while and cheeky chappy James Corden, who presented the Brit Awards this week, has captured it well in a very funny new commercial.

James starts the day being pushed and shoved into by strangers going about their business on a typical London street, but with a little bit of Cadbury Dairy Milk inside him, his day just gets better and better as he lip-sync's Estelle's poppy number 'Free' through London town. It's an infectious pop tune with lot's of get up and go, and as James perks up, he literally frees the joy in others as well. One minute he is on a park bench clapping his hands in time with happy grandmas and later he is splashing in a puddle and hanging out with teenagers. There is definitely a slight nod to Gene Kelly’s ‘I’m Singing in the Rain’ – yet it’s a very British rendition!

This video certainly got me moving and shaking in the kitchen as I prepared my shopping list for a weekend of good food and indulgent treats. Do tell me what you’ll be doing as part of yours and I hope you 'free the joy' as well.

Disclaimer: This post has been sponsored by Cadbury, but all thoughts are our own.

22 Feb 2014

Lemon Meringue Pie - Recipe

My miniature daffodils are about to come out in bloom, the sun has shone at least a couple of times this week and I am still hopeful the dead patch on the front lawn, where the skip sat for a few weeks, will suddenly spring into life and we'll see some grass poking through.

Lemon meringue pie is rarely on the dessert menu these days, which is no bad thing because typically it's a disappointment when it arrives and leaves me wanting to weep. Lemon meringue pie is a thing of beauty and for me it's got to be perfect.

I wish it didn't take so long to make. Occasionally I make and line the baking tin with pastry the day before and leave it in the fridge until the next day - a two day operation to make the pie but it makes life easier.

I'm not keen on lemon fillings which taste of lemon curd but this recipe by Delia Smith is the one I have used over the years and I would take some convincing that it can be improved upon.  I make more pastry than Delia recommends I find her amounts a bit on the skinny side and there is nothing more frustrating than finding there isn't enough pastry.

I mostly make Delia's recipe to the letter but after seeing Lorraine Pascale make her meringue using the reverse method I thought I'd experiment and give it a go.  The meringue doesn't look very promising when you start whisking but it sorts itself out in the end and I was impressed with the consistency and volume of meringue.  Occasionally my meringue weeps which is a pain but using this method the meringue doesn't weep and now I'm a convert.  For a crisp meringue I still used Delia's oven temperature and timings.

15 Feb 2014

My New Steam Combination Oven and a Parsnip Soup Recipe

I like parsnip soup, hubby doesn't like parsnip soup.  It isn't a problem though because I freeze the surplus away either in soup bags or in muffin trays for a lunchtime standby.

It seemed a good idea at the time to try using my steam oven to make the soup - it turned out to be a waste of time.  The whole point of kitchen gadgets is to get the best from them and not to try using them if it is going to take you longer than it would without them.

I spent a rainy Saturday afternoon, grating parsnips and onions in the food processor and adding them to the oven tray.....

I added some of the stock, all of the spices and cooked the parsnips and onions........

The parsnip cooked but would that onion cook - no!  It took ages to get the onion to cook.  It wasn't the easiest of things to get onion, parsnip and chicken stock from a flat tray to a liquidiser to puree.

I'm not implying in any way that my steam oven is disappointing but it's more sensible to use gadgets for stuff they are good at.  In this case using a saucepan on the hob would have been the better option. Fortunately after all this I was rewarded with a glorious bowl of soup.

Here is the recipe and method using a hob.

40g butter
1 onion
700g parsnips
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1.2 litres chicken stock
freshly ground salt and pepper
150ml semi-skimmed milk

Serves:  6

1. Peel and chop the onion and parsnips.  Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the onion and sweat gently for 5 minutes taking care not to colour the onions.  Add the parsnips to the pan and fry for a few minutes.
2. Dry fry the cumin seeds gently in a pan until they release their aroma.  Grind in a pestle and mortar. Add the cumin and curry powder to the pan and cook for a few minutes.
3. Add the chicken stock and seasoning to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
4. Cool, transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
5. Add the puree to the pan, add the milk and reheat gently.
6. Serve into bowls and sprinkle with paprika.

A few more things I experimented with using the steam function which should be useful if you are upgrading your kitchen and thinking about purchasing a steam combination oven.

Steamed puddings are a huge success.......
Lemon and Blueberry Steamed Pudding and
Christmas Pudding
Sliced potatoes and frozen peas cook really well
Prepared veg ready for steaming         
Steamed new potatoes and chantenay carrots
There is a useful steam reheat function which successfully reheated the vegetables shown in the right hand photograph.  However, I boiled the cabbage because it wouldn't steam successfully.

The reheat function will magically refresh bread......

My panettone looks like it has just been freshly baked - the reheat function is really useful
Purple sprouting broccoli doesn't steam successfully,
 however, tenderstem broccoli steams perfectly
Back soon with more highs and lows using a steam combination oven.....

7 Feb 2014

Almond and Lemon Drizzle Cake - Recipe

I can't resist kitchen gadgets and when I had a new kitchen it was a given I was going to choose ovens that require a few weeks to figure out how best to use them.

Over the past few weeks I have been trying to get to grips with my combination steam oven.  In the beginning it was all a battle and we both had to go through the pain barrier.  The oven won, I have the burn marks to prove it!  Care is needed when using steam ovens and I learnt very quickly how to use the oven safely.  

There are many steam oven options to choose from and if a separate steam oven isn't for you, main ovens can also be purchased that have a built-in steam function.  I went for a separate combination steam oven to give more options and also to have the facility of a small fan oven. 

One thing to be wary of when deciding to purchase a combination steam oven is some of the sales talk surrounding them.  To quote one salesman 'people are buying these now to replace their microwaves'. His statement is ridiculous, a steam oven cannot replace a microwave.  You wouldn't fill the water container, place your cereal bowl in a steam oven first thing in the morning and then empty the water container and remove all the excess water collected in the oven.

To date I've used it to cook vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and steamed puddings.  I've reheated food, used it to prove my bread dough and baked bread. Over the next few weeks I'll put a few more photographs and recipes on here letting you know how I'm getting on. 

This is my first encounter making a cake using a fan oven with steam. The cake didn't brown as much as I thought it would but on this occasion it wasn't an issue. Cakes which are overcooked can be an issue with conventional cookers - my cake had a very moist crumb and not at all dry, it also only took 20 minutes to bake.   

The lemon crunch topping is slightly different, whilst the cake is warm all you have to do is sprinkle over a layer of granulated sugar, Whitworth's has larger grains of sugar and is perfect for this cake, drizzle over the lemon juice.

I used a mixture of butter and Stork SB to give the cake a lighter crumb.

To bake in a conventional oven:

You will need:  20cm square lined baking tin

60g salted butter, softened
60g Stork SB
125g caster sugar
finely grated rind of 1 large lemon
2 large eggs
125g self-raising flour
65g ground almonds
60g granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon, strained

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.  Add the butter, Stork SB, caster sugar and lemon rind to a large bowl, mix with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat the eggs and add gradually to the cake batter, adding a dessertspoon of flour to prevent the batter from curdling.
2. Fold in the flour and ground almonds. Pour the batter into the tin and spread to the edges.
3. Bake for 25 minutes until firm.  Place the cake tin on a cooling rack.
4. Leaving the cake in the tin and whilst it is warm sprinkle over the sugar and drizzle over the strained lemon juice.

One Year Ago - Mary Berry's Gingerbread Traybake - Recipe

2 Feb 2014

Spiced Rum, Raisin, Banana & Apple Cupcakes - Recipe

Everywhere I look on the Internet it is telling me to love my leftovers.  I started to feel a little guilty because I'm not sure that I do love my leftovers, in fact all they do is stare back at me and make me feel bad that I haven't used everything up from Christmas.

For these cupcakes I have used a spiced rum that I opened a while back, and one I was kindly sent for review, although I do feel a bit naughty using it in cupcakes.  A packet of opened wrinkly raisins, the last banana in the fruit bowl and a blemished apple.  Magically I used a satsuma left over from Christmas which I have stored in the fridge using StayFresh Longer bags - the satsuma oranges are still perfectly juicy.

I think I've now redeemed myself and love my leftovers......but only because these lovely cupcakes are full of Caribbean flavours.

                        The cupcakes are for adults only, both the cake batter and icing contain rum!

Using an ice cream scoop helps with loading the cupcake cases, baking is messy and I find this is the                                                              cleanest and easiest method

Kitchen Kit: 12 hole muffin tin lined with cupcake cases

100g raisins
2 tablespoons spiced rum
150g soft margarine (Stork)
150g soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1 dessert apple
1 ripe banana
finely grated rind of either a satsuma or orange

For the icing:
150g icing sugar
2 tsp rum
8 tsp fresh satsuma or orange juice
Grated rind of a satsuma or orange

You will need: 12-hole muffin tin lined with cupcake cases

1. Preheat the oven 180ºC.
2. Place the raisins in a bowl and pour the rum over, stir and leave whilst you get on with the cake batter.
3. Add the soft margarine, sugar, eggs, sifted flour, baking powder and orange rind to a large bowl.  Whisk for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
4. Peel and core the apple, chop into small pieces.  Peel the banana and cut into small dice.  Add to the cake batter along with the raisins and soaking rum, stir to combine.
5. Use an ice cream scoop to add the cake batter to the cupcake cases.
6. Bake for 30 minutes until golden.  After 10 minutes remove from the tin and continue cooling on a wire rack.
7. To make the icing:  Sift the icing into a bowl, add the rum and enough orange juice to give a coating consistency.  Pour the icing over the cupcakes and decorate with grated orange rind.

Cupcakes cooling on the cake rack
 and I'm resisting eating them before they are iced