Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Stir Up Sunday - A Family Affair!

My daughter's step-mother invited me to join her and my daughter to make our Christmas pudding together this year.  In an attempt to create harmony and a good feeling at Christmas I accepted the offer.  The plan was to meet at Caroline (the step-mother)'s house mid morning along with our ingredients and make our puddings together. 

Now just to confuse things my daughter is also called Caroline so I will refer to her as Mummy C and her step-mother as Mrs C (Mrs Caroline).

Meanwhile I saw a mention in the December issue of Delicious Magazine for a Stir-up-Sunday Christmas pudding kit available from Fortnum & Mason.  The kit looked really good, contained everything to make a pudding (even the silver sixpence and a silver charm) except a lemon, 50ml of brandy and

2 eggs (which were supplied by the local feathered ladies!)  . 

The kit looked so enticing and interesting and knowing the Fortnum & Mason brand I knew it would be good quality so I contacted their Marketing Dept and asked for one to make at our family session.  They were kind enough to send me two kits, one for myself and one for Mummy C (she has now started blogging in her own right).

The kit contained all the dry ingredients needed, an F&M ceramic bowl, a sixpence and a unique silver charm to hide in the pudding and even the greaseproof paper and string to finish off the pudding before boiling.  The boiling time was 4.5 hours

All set up and ready to go
The instruction card was clear and easy to follow and it really didn't take long to mix up the pudding and in true tradition everyone in the house took time to have a stir and a wish.

Getting ready with the lemons and eggs
Whilst we waited for the puddings to cook Big C helped Boy G (my 3 year old grandson - see Mummy C's blog) to bake a chocolate cake and mince pies.  Boy G enjoyed rolling out the pastry and cutting out the little shapes for the mince pies.

Making chocolate cake with Grandma (Mrs C)

"Can I roll them out?"
Really serious Boy G with his pie making
Baby G (13 week old grandson) slept quietly in the other room (a feed now and then) but basically just being a perfect little baby! Boy G mixed his time with baking and playing on the stairs in his imaginary bakery and giving us lots of pretend food to eat.

"Who wants a pretend egg lunch?"

The future chef making lunch for his guests!!
At the end of the day, pudding ready to take home and a lovely lunch inside us, we left promising to get together again and bake something else!


I will think about using these kits next year if they have them. I am really looking forward to pudding time on Christmas day!

Thanks to Fortnum & Mason for sending me their Stir Up Sunday kits.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Book Review: Salt Sugar Smoke - Diana Henry


Salt Sugar Smoke

My earliest memory of home made jam making is from when we used to spend our annual family vacation at a cottage by the seaside in Maine, USA.  My mother, sister and I would go to this wild raspberry site and pick all morning then we would go back to the cottage and with all the jam making equipment we had brought from home we would turn the raspberries into jars of sparkling ruby spread.  Nothing tasted like that jam and nothing has since! 

I was sent Diana Henry's book Salt Sugar Smoke and as soon as I started reading the chapter on preserves my mind was immediately transported back all those years ago (and we are talking quite a few!) to the little holiday cottage in Maine.

There is nothing quite like making your own preserves, allowing you to travel back in time when you open a jar in the winter of a jam or preserve you made in the late spring and summer.  It is a way of trapping all that sunshine in your homemade tomato sauces, fruit syrups, pickled onions, beetroot and vegetables too.
Salt Sugar Smoke is a great collection of recipes to preserve vegetables, fruit, fish, cheese and much more.  How much better can it get than making your own Labneh (strained Greek yoghurt), preserving it in oil and eating it another time with roasted red peppers on homemade sourdough bread slices!
The preserve section starts with a page on the Essentials of Jam Making then The Process of Jam Making giving you a sort of confidence to continue reading and the feeling that you could pick a recipe and get preserving yourself. 

By the time you have salted, cured and potted, cured, pickled and made chutneys and all the sorts of jams and preserves in the book you will have a well stocked larder ready for the dark dull days of winter ahead.  I am sure Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry will be a constant reference guide throughout the winter and beyond and I recommend it to any one wanting to keep that summer sunshine in their larder for a rainy winter day!

This book is published by Octopus Books under the imprint of Michael Beasley and is priced at £20.00 but is available in some bookshops for less.  Photos were taken from the Octopus Books website.
I was sent a copy of this book to review but was not paid to do so and the options are my own.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Bright Lights & Bright Colours for Kenwood

Kenwood , a household name in kitchen mixers and everyday appliances have introduced a very vividly coloured range of some of their kitchen products like kettle, toaster, hand mixer, kmix food Mixer and more.  This bright range comes in orange, magenta, green, yellow and blue. 

To celebrate this range Kenwood invited a group of food bloggers to an event which they held at the Waitrose Cookery School in North London.  The dress code was 'wear bright colours' and as we arrived it was made clear why.  Even the cocktails were bright colours!

After cocktails we were invited into the lecture theatre for a quick run through how we were going to make macarons!  I had never made these before so I was both excited and a little scared.  We paired up and my friend Ren and I got ready to work together and make our macaron.  All of the ingredients were weighed out and ready for us and each table had a different food colour.  We had pink.

We were going to use the Italian Meringue method which involves heating water and sugar to 114oF then adding it to the egg whites we were simultaineously whipping in our brightly coloured kMix food mixer. This was then mixed into an ground almond mixture and put into a piping bag.  We then pipped onto the sheet baking pans and into the oven.

Heating the sugar syrup before adding to the egg whites.
Egg whites whipped and ready to be mixed with the almond mixture.
Baked and cooling.

When the circles cooled they were sandwiched together with a flavoursome icing and placed on plates to join all the other team's on the counter top.
Our baby pink finished macarons.
Everyone's finished macarons up for display.
After all that hard work a drink and quick snack before home time.

We were given a box of everyone's different flavour and colour meringues and a fantastic 'goodie bag' to take home with lots of lovely baking items and the invitation to pick something from the coloured range to have sent to us the following week.  A very generous offer - thanks Kenwood!!
Just trying to get a thermometer and I will be using my kMix food mixer to make some at home!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Market Day & Cookbooks

Today a group of St Albans bloggers met for coffee in a local bakery-cafe (Bakehouse St Albans) for the first St Albans Cookbook Club.

Food Blogger and friend Ren Behan had the idea to get together with other local food bloggers and all bring a cookbook to talk about and recommend.

Today's theme was Festive books and there were quite a few on the table.

We talked, drank coffee, ate cake and chilled out for a couple of hours (perfect way to spend time).

Happily and with fond farewells we went our seperate ways and will get together again next month!

On my way back to the car park I walked through the market in the town centre. I just couldn't resist the bowls of chilli peppers and mixed peppers for £1.00 per bowl!

Not sure what I will do with them yet but had to buy some!! Hope Mr R likes it hot!!


Friday, 9 November 2012

Mid-week scallop supper - yummmmm * Fish is The Dish

A quick supper tonight when Mr R got back from the pub.  I put the water on to boil some pasta then started the sauce in my extra large frying pan.

Fish is the Dish sent me some scallops  a couple of months ago which I promptly popped into the freezer. I took them out earlier this afternoon and let them defrost.

Scallops from Cornwall

For dinner I started with finely chopped onions browning in some sunflower oil, then added chopped streaky bacon and fried that until starting to crisp, added 2 garlic cloves crushed and some chilli flakes. At this point I also added one large roasted pepper from a jar which I chopped up.

I cut the scallops into about three pieces because they were quite large and added them to the pan.  they only take a few minutes and tend to toughen up if cooked too long.

Onion, garlic, peppers, bacon and scallops

As soon as the pasta was cooked and drained I added some double cream to the frying pan followed by 2-3 Tbsp of My Secret Kitchen Thai Dressing with Kaffir Lime.  A minute or so to warm through and serve on the pasta.

Ooohhh yummmm this was a quick and easy supper. Thanks Fish is the Dish!!
Cream added then Thai Dressing with Kaffir Lime
The finished dish!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

My Chia Seed Challenge Update #1

A couple of weeks ago I started taking chia seeds each morning (Chia Bia provided them to me) and agreed to have some each day for approximately 12 weeks.  The reason I decided to give it a three month trial is because I usually get these new fangled ideas and they only last a few days or a week or two.  I really wanted to give this challenge a decent amount of time to see if there were really visible health benefits.

Well so far I have had chia seeds each morning for breakfast. I usually have them with Total Greek Yoghurt or porridge oats.  One day I did make a salad dressing and sprinkled the seed in to it.

The first week I usually took the whole seeds but this week I tried the milled seeds with natural blueberries.  The blueberries are the low bush variety or wild blueberry fro Newfoundland where they are free of pesticides and are righ in natural pigment, are anti-oxidant and been attributed to the long life and wellness of indigenous natives around the artic regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

What have I noticed so far? Well I don't know if it is my imagination but I do have a lot of lower back pain and this hasn't been so painful in the last week or so.  When I walk the dog my back hasn't seemed to hurt whilst walking either.  Watch this space.

I have not noticed bags more energy so far but I havn't had so many afternoon naps or felt so washed out at the end of the day so this could be a possible effect.  I really want to take them for a longer time to see if this effect is intensified.

In the last post I said I would give you some facts about the seed in each update.  I want to start with the seeds themselves.

They come from a plant which is a species (relative) of the mint family and are native to Mexico and South America..  They are now cultivated for commercial purposes and have many health purposes and benefits such as:-

They are high in Omega 3, a major nutrient that contributes to brain growth  which is vital for mental and emotional growth.  Your body cannot make the essential Omega 3 fatty acids so you have to get them from your food.  We are advised to eat at least three portions of oily fish per week to help get the level of Omega 3 we need but it is surely easier to get the from the chia seeds. 

Getting enough Omega 3 in your body helps to prevent a large number of ailments such as high blood pressure, improved circulation, joint pain. Omega 3 helps to boost the immune system and aid in children's neurological development.

Chia Bia claim that Chia is the highest known plant based source of Omega 3 on the planet.  I know I don't eat enough oily fish each week so I am comforted that I have now started to get a regular source.

In my next update I will be giving more info and benefits of the chia seeds.  If you cannot wait till then have a look at Chia Bia's website for a full explanation and how to get hold of the seeds to try them yourself.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Food at 52

Do you love a bargain? Want value for money? Let me introduce you to Foodat52, London's value for money cookery school if ever there was one!!

A quiet moment before the buzz begins!!

New Year's Eve 2011, I made a couple of New Year's Resolutions. The one I am going to share with you now was to attend 3-6 cookery lessons during the year.  The resolution is going well and I have had some great experiences meeting fantastic chefs and cooks and learning some great tips.   One of the expeeriences was to attend the Italian Cooking Class at Foodat52 a few weeks ago.  At a cost of £115.00 for a full day course this was a very exciting prospect indeed. (some schools are charging this for an evening or morning course)

On arrival at their new premises (John and Emily used to run the school from their own home kitchen near Kings Cross but now have a purpose built premises near Old Street Underground Station) we were welcomed by John and his cooking assistant for the day Sage.  The menu for the day was written on the extra large mirror on the wall.  We were going to make a fantastic feast and at the end of the day sit down to eat together what we had prepared.

John (left) and his assistant Sage

The menu was written on a huge, imposing mirror including
Amaretti Semi-freddo which we enjoyed at the end of the lesson.

The biscotti making which we used for the ravioli.

The plan was to sit down to eat about 2:30 so to keep us going we made a quick tagletelli and tomato sauce.  Yes, I said 'we made pasta'! Until this day I had never made my own pasta even though I own two pasta makers!

We went from this:-

to this:

All ready to serve!
in no time.  It really was much easier than I had imagined and not nearly as messy as I thought it would be. And it didn't really last very long!!

Didn't last long!

Butternut Squash & Biscotti Ravioli with sage and lemon dressing

Learning to use a pasta machine to make the pasta for the ravioli

Butternut Squash & Biscotti Ravioli with sage and lemon dressing

Melanzane Parmigiana ready to go into the oven

Then ready for tasting! Yummm my favourite

All the utensils one could possibly need
Everything was whisked away and cleaned ready to use again
Using our newly learned chopping skills we prepped everything for a recipe

John (left) was always on had to offer advice

Food at 52 has a wide range of courses and I  am looking forward to the next one I can take. they are fun, you learn lots in a hands on situation and make new friends.  Don't delay book your place on one of these award winning courses.