Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A Quick Lunch

A quick and easy lunch - cold waxy new potatoes, cut up tomato, shreds of extra sharp cheddar cheese, salt and pepper, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic reduction and corriander chopped. Mix well and serve with a slice of last night's cold meatloaf. That will keep me going!

Monday, 30 July 2012

My Winning Cake Recipe

I recently won a cake baking competition run by RussellHobbs and here is the recipe:-

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Sponge Cake with a Maple Caramel Filling and Dark Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Preheat oven to 180C - Bake 25-30 mins

175g Self Raising flour
50g Cocoa powder
225g Castor Sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
225g Unsalted butter (room temperature)
4 eggs
100g macadamia nuts (finely chopped)

I followed the procedure that was in the little cookbook pamphlet that came with the food machine. Put the eggs and butter into the bowl of the RussellHobbs Creations Food Machine. 
Sift the dry ingredients into the food machine then add the eggs and mix on medium speed for three minutes.  Whilst the batter is mixing I always add 3-6 Tbsp approx of milk to give a smooth texture and helps to keep the cake moist.

Pour into two greased and floured 20cm sponge pans.

Bake until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean and if you press lightly on the top of the cake it springs back. Cool for 5-10 mins before taking out of pan and leaving on a cooling rack until fully cool.

1 jar Maple Caramel Sauce
Icing Sugar

Mix the Maple Caramel with the icing sugar a little at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.
Sandwich the two sponges together with the filling.

600g icing sugar
300g softened butter
150g dark chocolate
150ml double cream

Blend the icing sugar with the softened butter and whip until fluffy.  In another bowl break the chocolate into pieces and melt in the microwave or in a bowl over a pan of softly boiling water.  Cool for a minute or two then slowly add the double cream.
Slowly a bit at a time add to the buttercream mixture.

Spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake and smooth with a palet knife.

As this was for a special occasion I sprinkled edible gold glitter over the top and edible gold stars.

And then it won!!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

RussellHobbs Cake Bake Competition

And the winner is ...... ME!!  I was invited to enter a competition sponsored by RussellHobbs recently to create a themed cake using their new Creations Food Machine.  I had never entered a compeition where I baked anything before which made this one all the more scary. 

New Creations Food Machine
First of all RussellHobbs asked their Facebook followers to vote for the flavour the bloggers would use.  The choices were Chocolate, Lemon, Coffee and Strawberry.  Unsurprisingly Chocolate won.  We were each given a category to bake a cake and mine was 'Celebration Birthday Cake'.  I am generally a competitive person once I say I will take part in something so the first thing was to sit down and plan the actual cake, filling and icing.  I decided to make my cake a Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Sponge with a Maple Caramel Filling and a Dark Chocolate Buttercream Icing!

Maple Caramel Filling using My Secret Kitchen Maple Caramel Sauce
We were sent a new and still unreleased Creations Food Machine to use to make our cakes and invited to bring the finished creation up to a London hotel for champagne and cake.  When the food machine arrived I set out to do a trial cake to get to know the machine and to make sure the recipe would work.  The first sponge I made was from the recipe book of a well known cooking celebrity and was so dry that it broke up when trying to put it on a plate!

The second attempt was not dry but didn't rise very well so I was quite nervous when starting the third attempt.  I opened a fresh bag of Self Raising Flour and double sifted it to make sure the final cake would be light and airy. The only other difference to the third cake was that instead of creaming the butter and sugar, adding the eggs one at a time etc, etc, I followed the instructions in the booklet which accompanied the Food Machine!  It directs you to put all the ingredients into the Food Machine and turn it on. Three minutes later pour the mixture into your two prepared cake tins.  I did this and the cake came out moist and well risen.

2nd vs 3rd attempt!
When the cake was finished I took it up to the competition in London.  Upon arrival we were offered a glass of Prosecco and put our entries on the counter top.  They all looked so good there was no way anyone could predict which one would win.  The Judges introduced themselves and then we introduced our blogs and told them a bit about our entries.

The Line-up
Judges tasted, keeping silent as they went along the line and making copious notes. Then whilst the judges went off to confir and decide on the winner we all got to try each other's offerings and drink some more Prosecco.  When the judges came back they gave a quick summing up of their notes on each entry and I was impressed how they gave their critiques without giving any hints to the winner.  The entries were judged on taste, smell, texture, overall look.


I have never baked a cake for a competition before so you can imagine how gobsmacked I was when I was the winner!

The Final Cake - let the judging commence!!
My prizes for winning have started to arrive with the rest due on Monday!

My Inspirations!

Random Recipes #18 - July

I often read Dominic Frank's blog Belleau Kitchen but usually too late to enter his 'random recipes' competition.  This month however, it is a little different.  Take a photo of your cookbook collection and tell a little story about them.

I have an extensive collection of cookbooks, some I have bought over time and some sent to me by publishers to review for my blog. But whichever way they came to me they are all precious.

I have only taken photos of the main pile in the living room but I also have some on the small bookshelf under the TV and a big box full in my storage unit from my previous life, house, kitchen!

Part of my collection is extra special as they are signed by the authors.  I have been privileged to meet some outstanding chefs and cookery book authors and really value my signed collection. Some of the signed books include Prepped by Vanessa Kimbell, Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard, My Daddy Cooks - Nick Coffer, Desserts - James Martin, Everybody Everyday - Alex Mackay and these are just a few.

I will be taking my copy of Tart It Up by Eric Lanlard when I meet him next month to get that signed and add to the special part of the collection.

I hope one day to have them all signed and keep working on this mission as I go.  Hope you enjoyed this little interlude.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Bacon, Tomato & Parmesan Pasta Shells

I am entering a competition to win a week in a Tuscan Villa which requires a Tuscan inspired recipe and must include olive oil, parmesan cheese and tomatoes. This is my quick mid week supper pasta which uses all three of those ingredients.

"I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas" Please pop over to their site and vote for me.

I heated up some olive oil in my large frying pan. I added a package of smoked back bacon cut into small pieces and cooked this with the onion and garlic mix.

Occassionally I use a jar of Lloyd Grossman Tomato and Basil sauce when I want a mid week short cut which I did tonight, adding it to the bacon-onion in the pan. A tin of chopped tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of My Secret Kitchen Artichoke Pesto were added along with 250ml of freshly grated parmesean cheese. I only seasoned with black pepper because the bacon will be quite salty and I could alway adjust this at the end just before serving.

I cooked some pasta shells, topped with sauce and slices of mozzarella and popped it in the oven to melt the cheese topping for about eight minutes.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Luigi's Oil Soap

Some time ago I wrote about Luigi's Oil and recently they have added an olive oil soap to the range. The have no nasties in them. One has a delicate flower fragrance and the other clear one is unscented.

The both leave your skin fresh and feeling soft and moisturised.

For details and to purchase contact info@oliodiluigi.co.uk

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

1000 Ways to Love Your Total Greek Yoghurt - Part 3

Finally on my Total Greek Yoghurt day with Chef Paul Merrett we started the main course in our groups.

The first tease was preparing the spices.  As we roasted and ground the collection of spices, including fennel seeds, chilli flakes, cunim seeds, corriander seeds, cinnamon and ground ginger, the room began to fill up with the most alluring aroma. If you closed your eyes at that point you would have thought you were in a spice market somewhere exotic!

We first peeled the butternut squash and cut it into small chunks.  These were rolled in the spice mix and fried for long enough to colour the squash.  At this point we all agreed this would make a great tapas style appetiser! 

All the rest of the ingredients were put together and cooked for a further 10 minutes or so until the squash was tender.

Whilst this was cooking the yoghurt sauce was made and then Chef Paul Merrett made us giggle as he prepared the cauliflower couscous!

And finally we had our full meal made and we sat down at a large table and a group meal with wine and lots of food blogger talk!

I hope this account of my day out with Total Greek Yoghurt and Chef Paul Merrett  makes you want to try a few of the 1000 ways to love your Total Greek Yoghurt! Cheers.

Spiced Butternut Tagine with Roasted Pepper and Tomato & Toasted Fennel Seed Yoghurt Served With Cauliflower Couscous
Serves 4

For the Spice Mix
½ tbsp of fennel seeds
2 pinches of chilli flakes
½ tbsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of coriander seeds
1 inch of cinnamon
1 tsp of ground ginger
½ tbsp of paprika

For the Tagine
1 butternut squash, peeled and roughly cut into 3cm cubes
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red onion diced
1 yellow pepper, diced into 3 cm squares
1 red pepper, diced into 3cm squares
1¾ tin of chopped tomatoes
100g of dried apricots, halved
Approx 20 green olives
1 tin of chick peas
Olive oil (for frying)

For the Fennel Seed Yoghurt
200g of TOTAL Greek yoghurt
2 tsp of fennel seeds
½ tsp of smoked paprika
1 tbsp of coriander, chopped
1 tsp mint, chopped

For the Cauliflower Couscous
1 head of cauliflower
20 inch square of muslin

1.      Dry fry, cool and grind all spices for the spice mix in the pestle and mortar.
2.      Dust the cubed butternut squash with a third of the spice mix and fry in batches until brown all over. At this point you are just ‘colouring’ your squash. Set aside.
3.      Heat a casserole and fry the garlic and red onion.
4.      Add the peppers.
5.      Add the tomatoes and bring the pot to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes.
6.      Add the dried apricots, olives and chickpeas.
7.      Add a little water at this point if required.
8.      Add the pre roasted butternut and another third of the spice mix.
9.      Cook on until the butternut is just cooked (about 5 min).
10.  Check the seasoning and add a little salt and some more spice mix if required.
11.  Toast the fennel seeds in a frying pan, cool and grind.
12.  Mix the yoghurt with the fennel seeds, paprika, mint & coriander and set aside.
13.  Trim cauliflower florets from the stalk.
14.  Whizz up the florets to a crumb in a robot coupe.
15.  Wrap the cauliflower couscous in the muslin and place in a colander over a pan of boiling water for approximately 5 minutes.

1000 Ways to Love Your Total Greek Yoghurt - Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my account of a great time spent with Total Greek Yoghurt and Chef Paul Merrett.

Now our cake for pudding was in the oven so we proceeded to make our starter Fresh and Smoked Salmon Rillette with Wholemeal Toast.  We stayed in the same groups as for the cake and split the tasks to get the starter ready and in the fridge to chill until lunch.

We put the fresh salmon in the oven to lightly cook, let it cool and then flaked it into a bowl.

We mixed the yoghurt, lemon juice, softened butter, dill and horseraddish into a bowl and shredded the smoked salmon into this.

When it was all mixed together it went into the fridge to wait till lunch time.  It was a delicious and light starter and enjoyed very much.

Fresh and Smoked Salmon Rillette with Wholemeal Toast
Serves 4
2 tablespoon of TOTAL Greek Yoghurt, Classic (2% can also be used)
200g of fresh salmon
½ lemon, juiced
60g of diced and softened unsalted butter
1 dessert spoon of fresh dill, chopped
2 teaspoons of horseradish relish
75g of smoked salmon
Brown bread for toast

1.      Place the fresh salmon in a small oven proof baking dish and wet the salmon with a dessert spoon of water. Cover the dish with foil and put it in an oven at 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 for about 6 minutes.
2.      When the salmon is cool, flake it into a bowl.
3.      Add the yoghurt, lemon juice, the softened butter (microwave), dill and horseradish – but don’t mix it all yet.
4.      Shred up the smoked salmon into strips and add this to the bowl.
5.      Finally add a twist of black pepper and then gently fold and mix everything together taking care not to break it all down to a mush.
6.      When everything is thoroughly combined, put into a serving dish and chill it in the fridge for at least an hour.
7.      Serve with hot brown toast.

Come back to Part 3 for a fantastic vegetarian recipe for a main course Tagine with a difference.

1000 Ways to Love Your Total Greek Yoghurt - Part 1

Total Greek Yoghurt has a new campaign designed to inform readers about the 1000 new recipes and ways to use and love their yoghurt.  Based on this campaign they invited a group of food bloggers up to London for a day cooking recipes using Total Greek Yoghurt under the guidance of Chef Paul Merrett. We arrived at La Cucina Caldesi off Marlebone Lane,

When I arrived Paul Merrett came over and said hello right away (unlike some celeb chefs who pretty much keep to themselves!) and he was very warm and welcoming and gave us a quick run down of the session and off we wsent to settle in at out workstation.

Chef Paul Merrett gave us a quick idea of the agenda for the session

Finishing touches on the panna cotta
As soon as we arrived we were given a quick snack of Panna Cotta made with Total Greek Yoghurt (TGY) which was absolutely devine.  I am not a breakfast eater as a general rule so this was a very welcome offering mid-morning.

Greek Yoghurt and Vanilla Panna Cotta with Raspberries

We were split into groups and told that we would be cooking the lunch of three courses.  First of all we prepared and made the Semolina Sponge Cake with Almonds, Hazelnuts, Greek Yoghurt and Honey. We prepared the cake first because it would take about 1 hour to bake and we could get on with other preparations in the meantime.

Ready to go in the oven

All four groups baked their cakes together

A few minutes to cool then pour over the syrup

Ready to serve

Just checking the middle is cooked

Served with a drizzle of honey and a dollop of yoghurt

Blue Diamond Almond Breakfast

As part of a challenge set by Blue Diamond Almonds the California almond people I made 'Blueberry and Almond Pancakes' for breakfast this morning.

I was sent a litre of Blue Diamond Almond Breeze almond milk to use to make a breakfast for myself and Mr R.  Blue Diamond Almond Breeze almond milk is unsweetened allowing you go use it in place of cow's milk without adding sugar.  It is low in saturated fats, dairy free and a good source of calcium.  It is also suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

I chose pancakes because they are one of my favourites and usually saved for a special weekend breakfast.

I wanted to make them special so I followed a basic pancake recipe but substituted the Blue Diamond Almond Breeze almond milk instead of the usual cow's milk and substituted 10g ground almonds for 10g of the SR flour.

My pancake recipe:-

190g Self Raising flour
10g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
300ml Blue Diamond Almond Milk
1 egg (beaten)
2 Tbsp butter (melted)
150g blueberries
2 Tbsp flaked almonds lightly crushed
pinch of salt

I mixed the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Then in a smaller bowl mix the egg, almond milk and melted butter.
Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet and mix well (for best results use a wisk or electric hand mixer)

Carefully mix in the blueberries and chopped almonds.

Heat the frying pan with 2 Tbsp sunflower oil and 1 Tbsp butter and then place 3-4 spoonfuls of the pancake mix in the pan.  Allow to cook on one side until there are bubbles appearing on the surface then flip over and cook the other side for 2 minutes.

Serve with warmed maple syrup, hot coffee and enjoy.

Adding the chopped flaked almonds gave the pancakes a nice crunchy texture. To go with the pancakes I also made a smoothie with a banana, yoghurt and Blue Diamond Almond Milk.