Wednesday, 26 September 2012

ndali Vanilla Gift Swap at Fortnum & Mason



Hugely excited about Vanessa Kimbell's Gift Swap for this year. Meeting at Fornum & Mason in London's Picadilly.
We had to make something such as preserves, sweets or baked items with ndali vanilla (supplied to us by Vanessa and ndali) to swap with another attendee.  Our entries would also be judged and there were some great prizes to be won.  I didn't want the judges to cut into my entry so I made them a little one to try!

I made making a vanilla loaf cake with a chocolate vanilla fudge frosting.

The event was co-sponsored by The Fairtrade Foundation who asked that we used fairtrade ingredients in our entries. My recipe is below but I wanted it to look enticing as well as taste good.

My blue ribbon offering.
Everyone taking part was a winner commencing with a lovely afternoon tea typical Fortnum & Mason style.
Let the afternoon commence in traditional British fashion - Tea time!
An array of exquisite offerings for our afternoon tea.
Such a difficult choice!

Those little white ones were amazing - light and thin sponge sandwiched with lovely layers.
The entries were tasted and judged and winners in each of the four categories were announced after what seemed like a never ending wait. 

Vanessa with two of the afternoon's judges.

Vanessa Kimbell having a quick chat with Polly from Fortnum & Mason
The winner received some of these products generously donated by Fortunum & Mason and Kenwood.

The main prizes
When we registered our entry it got a raffle ticket attached to the bottom and at then end of the event everyone took a raffle ticket and searched for the corresponding gift to take home. 

My vanilla gift for the swap has the blue ribbon.
I was very lucky to get a jar of Raspberry and Vanilla Jam made by the doyen of jams and preserves Vivien Lloyd.   Lucky me cause Raspberry is my favourite jam!!

Vanessa thanked the judges and everyone who attended for their splendid efforts but the afternoon also had a serious side.  Each time you pick up an item with the Fairtrade logo on and add it to your shopping basket you are literally helping to save someone's life. The people who produce these products don't want charity they just want a fair price for their products so they can look after their families and provide for their needs and education. Next time you are shopping don't just pack that trolley with the familiar brands but stop and see if there is a Fairtrade alternative!

Time to go home and take some of the inspiration from the afternoon with us.  The Fairtrade Foundation gave us each a packed goodie bag with Fairtrade products to try and there were also a few things included by others such as delicious magazine.

To start I have infused my sugars with Fairtrade ndali vanilla in readiness to begin baking. I will be using Fairtrade sugar and chocolate too.

Vanilla Loaf Cake with Chocolate Vanilla Fudge Frosting:-

200g butter
175g golden caster sugar (infused with ndali vanilla pods for a couple of weeks)
3 eggs
300g Self Raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 vanilla pod infused in 3Tbsp milk - scrape the seeds out of the pod after the infusion

Chocolate Vanilla Fudge Frosting
1 Tbsp butter
100ml milk previously infused with 1 vanilla pod - scrape out the seeds of the pod after infusion
200g golden caster sugar (infused with ndali vanilla pods for a couple of weeks)
2tsp ndali vanilla powder

Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3
Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy for as long as you can but around 5 mins is good.
Gradually beat in the eggs one at a time (add a little flour after the first one to avoid the mixture splitting)
Fold in the rest of the flour along with the baking powder and seeds from the vanilla pod, followed by the vanilla infused milk.
Spoon into a lined loaf pan.
bake for 55-60 minutes till a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool in the tin 5 minutes then on a wire rack till cold.

Make the frosting by melting 1tsp butter in a saucepan and then add the sugar and bring the lot to the boil.

Boil for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time to avoid the mixture burning or catching on the bottom of the pan.
Take off the heat and stir in the remaining butter, chocolate and vanilla seeds and vanilla powder.
Cool a little then spread on top of the cake and allow it to cool completely.



Sunday, 16 September 2012

Olives from Spain and Cooking with Omar Abilhoy

Olives from Spain recently arranged an event in conjunction with Friday Food Club at The Balham Lounge Tapas Restaurant in Balham. Olives are a vital part of the Spanish diet and we should incorporate them more in ours. They are antioxident and high in vitamins.

One of the highlights of the evening was cooking with chef and resturanteur Omar Allibhoy of Tapas Revolution in London who took time out to spend the evening with a bunch of food bloggers and give us some great hints and tips for spanish olives.

Omar began the event by giving us a quick lesson on the place olives have in the food of Spain and how a day without olives just doesn't happen.  He explained that he would be showing us some quick ways to add flavour to olives which all start tasting the same. 

When Omar was ready to begin cooking he asked for an assistant. So I donned an apron and went to the other side of the table to await instructions!

This was the point when I wished I had my own set of knives with me!!

Helping Omar with the difficult task of onion and potato chopping!

 I loved learning the proper way to make a Spanish tortilla.
Sliced potatoes and onion cooking for the tortilla
The olives that Omar had prepared with different flavourings such as pomegranate, harissa paste and fennel seeds or sesame seeds, lemon juice and mint.

Spot the Masterchef contestants!! Shelina Permalloo and Andrew Kojima (and ME!)
We all sat down to a fantastic meal and plenty of Spanish wines

Salad with Sardines, olives, endive lettuce
Tortilla espanol!
Chicken with olives
Pan fried sea bass
Chocolate truffles made with chocolate, orange zest and OLIVES!!
Throughout the evening we had loads of Spanish wines, Tio Pepe Fino (Gonzalez Byass) as we arrived, a dry white, dry red and dry rose during the meal but what really left an impression on me was the dessert wines.  Finca Antigua Moscatel (a sweet dessert wine) was like sipping sweet silk. I have had different Moscatel wines before but a new one for me was the sweet red, Gran Barquero Pedro Ximenez.  This was one of the nicest dessert wines I have ever tasted, sweet, silky and smooth.
A goodie bag to take home and I made my way to the underground station and onward to my train.  Thanks Olives from Spain and Friday Food Club for a lovely evening of food and fellow bloggers!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Book Review - Carol Klein's Favourite Plants

I was recently asked by Octopus Books to have a look at Carol Klein's Favourite Plants and write a review.

Carol Klein's Favourite Plants
Photo taken from

This is a slight deviation from my normal blog but I figured that since my blog is about food and without gardening we wouldn't have any food I would have a look at the book.

I do love gardening (afterall I have three compost heaps in my small garden) and have over the years gained quite a lot of gardening knowledge.  Currently I have quite a small garden but have my name down for an allotment locally.

I must be honest and was expecting a gardening book with hints and tips of what to grow where and when and what pests to look out for and how to get rid of them and other conventional stuff.

But what I found was a book of beautiful photographs and a text narrative about each plant.  The plants are divided into 9 categories such as 'Drama Queens', 'Shooting Stars'. 

Carol has been a gardener for quite a few years and currently runs a nursery in Devon and is a regular contributor to BBC 'Gardener's World'

When you start reading the text in each chapter and about each of the selected plants you can almost hear the love of gardening in her voice as if she was telling you personally about each plant.

This photo of Fritillaria meleagris otherwise known as Snakeshead plants are one of my favourites and something I have had in my gardens over the years. They feature in the chapter 'Cinderella Plants' which is all about plants that sprout, flower and die back in a short space of time.

Carol Klein's Favourite Plants
Fritillaria meleagris - photo taken from

Another favourite of mine is the Helleboris which again has featured in my gardens over time.

Helleboris x - photo taken from

Each photo is a work of art, a real pleasure to gaze at with absolute detail in each one. This book will make a great addition to any coffee table or book shelf and will be enjoyed as a novel about plants rather than a 'how to' book of gardening.