Thursday, 21 September 2017

Prosecco and Strawberry Cake for a Special Birthday

The night before my daughter was due to visit us for her birthday she asked me if I was going to make her a birthday cake!  I had loads to do before the family arrived but just before bedtime I started thinking about making a birthday cake!

Then I remembered that I had been send a Prosecco & Strawberry Cake home baking kit from the subscription baking club called Bakedin.  You join the baking club and get sent a box to make the monthly cake.

You get all of the dry ingredients you will need and each step has the ingredients weighed out and in a plastic bag numbered to correspond with the recipe card.
The card lists what you will need to provide such as for this cake I needed unsalted butter, large eggs, a small amount of milk and strawberries.  Even the Prosecco was included in a small bottle.
Everything else ou will need is included including four foil cake tins, grease-proof liners, instructions and even a wooden skewer to test if your cakes are done.
Let your four layers cool for a few minutes.  Brush each one with the prosecco syrup you made whilst they were baking.  Use the rest of the prosecco syrup for the icing.
Once assembled the cake looked amazing.
The cake made a lovely birthday cake - we sang, candles were blown out then coffee and cake time!
I think the cake looked just as lovely on the inside as it did on the outside.  I personally like more frosting however the lack of frosting gives the new 'naked' cake look!
The cake was really moist and tasted lovely.
I was sent a subscription box to review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photography are my own.  No photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

London: Hot Pot - A Thai-Chinese Sensation Has Come To China Town

I arrived in the UK in 1975 living and worked in London.  I fell in love with London right from the start frequently shopping and eating in London's China Town.  Over the years I have seen many changes in London especially on the food front and China Town also part of the SoHo district is no exception.

A very new restaurant, very different to others on Wardour Street is Hot Pot and I was invited recently to eat there with two other London bloggers.
I arranged to meet fellow bloggers Fiona and Roma at Hot Pot early one evening.
Each table has a convection hob set into the table - one hob for up to four persons. The staff will continuously turn it up or down as your broth simmers.
Some larger tables are available as well.
It is a slightly different way of eating but the staff are really helpful and there are cards on the tables to assist you in ordering and then in cooking your chosen ingredient in the broth.
Basically at Hot Pot you pick a broth from a selection including one for vegetarians.  If you want you can also have a split pot which is what we did as Fiona wanted the spicier broth.  While we waited we started with a couple of appetisers.  We had Har Gu - prawns steamed in rice paper
and Goyoza - little pork dumplings with a dipping sauce.
Then the broths came - check out those little chilies in the hot side broth!
You pick the items you would like to cook in your broth from a wide selection.

We had Wagyu Beef - which has been called the best beef in the world and is any one of four Japanese cattle breeds who are predisposed to the intense marbling and high percentage of fat.
A Mixed Seafood Selection, salmon, squid, scallops, mussels and prawns which was very ample and more than enough for the three of us.
Mixed Vegetable Selection - an absolutely amazing selection of vegetables to pop into the broth.  This and noodles would make a great vegetarian lunch dish.
Marinated Pork sitting pretty on the plate and if you want you could always throw the carrot and the lettuce in the hot pot!
Ho Fan Noodles - I love these thin but wide noodles.  I often have them in my favourite Chinese restaurant just down the road and they also fry really well.
With your pot of broth simmering away you add the ingredients allowing cooking time - it's a fun way to dine, sharing a communal cooking pot, having a couple of drinks and enjoying each other's company.
There is a sauce bar at the back of the restaurant where you mix your own dipping sauces.  There is a menu to give you some suggestions or you can be creative and make up your own as simple or complex as you like.
And then of course there is the dessert! First of all we had the Pandan Pancakes. Pandan is a long, straight and thick leaf often called the vanilla of South East Asia. Here the pancakes are made with juice extracted from the leaf which give a green colour and a delicate flavour.  The filling was a sweet and crunchy coconut mixture. The pancakes were served with home made vanilla ice cream.
We were then brought a selection of the other ice creams.  The three flavours were Matcha Green Tea, Thai Tea and Coconut.  It was funny because we all had a different favourite. Mine was the middle one, the Thai Tea ice cream.
The next time I am in London's China Town I will have to stop and think if I want my traditional Chinese or go again to Hot Pot.  If you get the chance I would definitely recommend you give it a try.

I was invited to review Hot Pot. I was not required to write a positive review.  As always all opinions and photographs are my own.  No photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Grenada: 30th Anniversary Time - Let the Celebrations Begin

Grenada is known as the Spice Island of the Caribbean and I love it there and every day that I am there is a celebration in itself however 2017 is a big celebration for some of the local resorts.  Grenada is a small island only 21 miles long and lies 12 degrees north of the equator with a rich history, cooling off-shore winds and a plethora of spices - once exotic but now used every day!

This year, 2017 is the 30th Anniversary for Spice Island Resort; Coyaba Beach; Calabash Luxury Boutique Hotel and 30 years of British Airways flying to Grenada.  Join me in wishing them a very Happy Anniversary and hopefully many more.

Spice Island Beach Resort, a tranquil 5 star resort sits comfortably on Grand Anse Beach, a two mile stretch of glistening white sands, warm water and gentle waves.  They are also the only resort in the Caribbean which has been awarded AAA Five Diamonds as well.  You will be welcomed and looked after by Sir Royston Hopkin and his family to enable you to enjoy the splendor and spice of the island.
Spice Island Resort will think of everything you need before you even think of it yourself! If you want unrivaled, all-inclusive luxury you will certainly get it here.
As you walk into the open entrance there are always flowers to take your breath away!
The view from the main bar and restaurant is breath taking looking straight onto Grand Anse Beach, the tranquil, blue of the Caribbean Sea and the gentle off-shore breeze put you in an island vibe  immediately,
just sit back and enjoy superb food and drink!
Further along Grand Anse Beach is Coyaba Beach Resort.  We stayed there for two nights this year and I was really impressed.

Our room was in one of a series of small blocks only two stories high and sitting on our patio we could see Grand Anse Beach while we relaxed and planned our day.  The plans usually included spending time at the beach and floating in the warm, tranquil and clear Caribbean sea.
Rum Punch is available at every bar and hotel and I must say is rather addictive.  The grated nutmeg over the top intensifies the awareness that you are in the Spice Island. Coyaba Beach Resort make a really lovely version, maybe too lovely as they are quite addictive!!
I asked Coyaba Beach Resort what they were proud of and they sent this quote:-
"There are two significant memories.  Firstly, the ground breaking and start of our project in October 1986, and the subsequent opening of the hotel in August 1987.
Secondly, the re-building , upgrading and re-opening of the hotel in February 2006 after the catastrophic hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
Overall, our strong family commitment and unity ensured the growth, success and sustainability of the hotel over the past thirty years.” Andre Cherman, Owner & Managing Director."
I would certainly love to stay here again next year.
The Calabash Luxury Boutique Hotel is a 5* resort also celebrating 30 great years and with two amazing restaurants. I have not stayed there however have eaten there twice and both occasions were an experience.  The Calabash is owned and managed by the Garbutt family who bought the property in 1987 and has become a world class luxury resort.  It is family run and treat its guests as friends many of whom return year after year.

You are made to feel right at home the moment you enter the resort - we were both the occasion we dined in the main restaurant and on a subsequent visit when we enjoyed lunch at the Beach club. We had such an amazing lunch at the Beach Club - the sort of meal you don't want to finish because then it will be finished!
The views are spectacular whether you are looking at the keenly manicured lawns, the sparkling swimming pool or the lapping waves of Prickly Bay.
And of course the three properties above have benefited from the 30 years of British Airways flying a regular service to the island.
In 1987 British Airways initially flew to Grenada via Barbados and Saint Lucia however now the twice weekly flight goes directly to Saint Lucia where most of the passengers disembark, quick crew change and after around an hour on the ground takes off for Grenada.

Most of the Caribbean flights leave during the morning from London Gatwick Airport.
British Airways celebrated this monumental anniversary with Grenada at a reception held earlier this year at Maurice Bishop International Airport where they presented a stunning gift to all three of the resorts mentioned above.
The island makes wonderful rum so I will fill my glass with some Grenadian rum we brought home and toast to the future of Spice Island Resort, Calabash Luxury Boutique Hotel, Coyaba Beach Resort and British Airways!  Cheers all!!

I was not required to write a positive review of any of the properties above.  As usual all opinions and photographs are my own.  No photographs may be reproduce in any form without my written permission.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Book Review: Wild Honey & Rye (Modern Polish Recipes) by Ren Behan

I get a lot of books to review and it is with great pleasure to receive Wild Honey & Rye - Modern Polish Recipes by Ren Behan (published by Pavilion Books with a RRP £20). I love it when a new cookbook is launched however when the author is a personal friend the excitement is amplified!!

The book is a beautiful, concise and exciting representation of modern Polish cuisine.  Ren brings her Polish heritage and soul into this book with easy to follow recipes, beautiful photographs and the presence of Ren's mother through her family recipes.

I have known Ren since before I started writing my blog - she offered me loads of support in those early days and even then Ren was talking about one day bringing out a recipe with her family's Polish recipes.

To begin the cover of the book is beautiful.  It is simple and invites you to open to see what other delicacies are inside.

Inside I felt like I had entered Poland - many of the photos were taken on location in Poland and each one has a little paragraph or insight into Ren's soul and love of her heritage.
There are a lot of Polish people in America where I grew up meaning I am familiar with quite a few of the recipes, really looking forward to trying the Bigos (page 125). I make my own version of Bigos and look forward to trying Ren's version to see how authentic my recipe is!

Pierogi (Polish Dumplings) on page 150
and sweet treats such as Polish Apple Cake on page 163

However I wanted to start my journey with Plum & Poppy Seed Cake.
I have eaten this several times when Ren has made it and it is really delicious.  I wanted to try this because I love to bake, love plums in cakes and I could compare it with one made by the expert!

I like to start my baking by getting everything ready so I am not scrabbling in the cupboards mid-recipe.
Any cake that has the zest of a whole lemon is going to be good isn't it! The smell when you are grating the lemon is so evocative of many cakes and tray bakes I have made over the years!
Adding the poppy seeds was really exciting! I adore the little bits in the cake with their unique 'bite' on the tooth.
After the mixing and baking here is my finished result! Looks pretty much like Ren's.
Final dusting with icing sugar and ground cinnamon and cut into squares.  All that is left to do is get Mr R to put the kettle on - we have cake!
I was sent a copy of Wild Hone & Rye - Modern Polish Recipes to review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions and photographs are my own and may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

You can read about Ren's journey by clicking here.

Some other reviews from blogger friends below:-
Janice Pattie - Farmers Girl Kitchen
Claire Jessiman - FoodieQuine
Ceri Jones - Natural Kitchen Adventures
Nicola Corbishley - Kitchen Sanctuary
Helen Goldrein - Family Friends Food
Karen Hackworthy - Veggie Desserts
Hannah Hossack-Lodge - Domestic Gothess
Jane Sarchet - The Hedge Combers
Kavey Favelle - Kavey Eats
Lucy Parissi - Super Golden Bakes