Monday, 28 August 2017

Tobago in London: Cocktail Making Masterclass

Mr R and I had a fantastic time on our first visit to the Caribbean island of Tobago. We have both felt a strong desire to make a trip there again next year.  There is so much more for us to discover - we don't feel we even scratched the surface!

Mr R and I were invited to a cocktail masterclass hosted by Nalini the owner of the hotel - Le Grand Courlan - we stayed in on the island. She was in London for a visit and organised a get together for a few friends and people who had been at Le Grand Courlan or its sister hotel, Grafton Beach Resort.
We met up at a venue in East London and despite the intense city heat we proceeded to have a really great evening.  We drank a lovely cocktail and were offered some fantastic nibbles while we waited for everyone to arrive.
First of all we split into teams of three to cocktail making stations fully equipped with everything we would need for the evening..
Our bar tender and teacher for the evening showed us how to make two really great cocktails and then we had to make them in our teams.  Of course we also drank them too!
We made the 'Paloma' - created by Don Jaview Delgado Corona; owner and head bartender of La Capilla in Tequila, Mexico. The recipe we used was an updated version by TT Liquor (our host for the evening) to include El Jimador Tequila, apricot liqueur, lime, pink grapefruit juice and sugar syrup.
The Elderflower Julep was another quick and easy cocktail made with gin, elderflower cordial, apple juice, wedge of lemon and mint leaves. The Julep is based around the Middle Eastern custom of infusing mint and sugars into soft spirits.
After the first two cocktails we had a break and were served some authentic Tobago food.  It was nice to sit and chat with other people who loved the island as much as we had come to.

Two more cocktails to make in our groups, first the Grafton Sunset made with tequila, Amaretto, Grenadine syrup and orange juice.
Followed by the spectacular TT Zombie! Originally created in the mid 1930s but now slightly tweeked the TT Liqueur way! After mixing rum, apricot brandy, pink grapefruit juice, orange juice, grenadine you set put an inverted lime half in your glass, fill with overproof rum and light. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon for a volcanic, fiery eruption ...
... and then the competition!  Each group had to devise a cocktail and come up with a great name for it, make it and present it to the group.  Our instructor was to be the judge.

Well guess what! My team won the cocktail invention with our brand new cocktail which we named the Tobago Teaser - a subtle little concoction designed to tease you into visiting Tobago for yourself!!
To make our cocktail follow the instructions:-

Into your cocktail shaker add:
2 shots of rum
1 shot of Passoa (Passion Fruit Liqueur)
1 shot Chambourd (Raspberry Liqueur)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Ginger Beer
Top up shaker with ice

Shake, strain and pour into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish with a thin slice of pink grapefruit and mint sprig threaded onto two mini skewers and ballenced on the rim of the glass.

I hope you enjoy making the cocktail but here's a thought - why not visit Tobago and Le Grand Courlan Resort and who knows you may be able to order one at the bar!

I was a guest and not required to write a positive report.  All opinions are my own and all photographs as well. No photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Giveaway - Phone Case with CaseStation

At a recent event for bloggers I discovered Case Station - an online app where you can customise your mobile phone case with any photo or design of your choice. Build and design and let your personal sense of style soar!

There are covers suitable for most makes of modern smart phones and models.  Available in clear or matt finish.
Using the app it is very easy to order. They have on-line tools, tech and product ranges to let your personal style shine through.

If you need a last minute gift they ship the same day with free delivery on all orders - that's a great perk isn't it!  Prices start at £19.99 for a case that is as unique as you are!
The good news is that you can win one of these cases if you enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below.  Just follow the instructions and if you live in the UK you can receiver your own personal case.

1. You will need to download the app from the Google Playstore or the APP store.
2. Choose your device model.
3. Choose your case style.
4. Design your case.
5. Preview your case using the unique AR feature.
6. At the checkout you enter your card details and in the case of the winner the code you will be sent.
7. Wait patiently for a couple of days for your unique phone case to arrive.

I was sent a set of cases for review. I was not expected to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photographs are my own and may not be reproduced in any way without my written permission.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Tobago: It Takes a Community to Make A Meal/Feed a Blogger - Les Coteaux Community Centre

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Like it was in the old days when grandparents, aunts and uncles we on hand to help and there were usually several cousins to play with.

With today's busy schedules and increased technology some families are living on take-aways and ready meals resulting in a loss of many traditional and family recipes and kitchen skills are being lost.

On our trip to Tobago we were invited to join a group of local women who get together at their local community centre to make traditional and local dishes to teach the younger generation these recipes and keep them alive.
We met the group of women and were made to feel welcome and at home immediately, sitting around getting to know each other and quickly realising that it doesn't matter where you are from or how you have grown up but food brings people together. I think that the greatest gift you can give someone is to share your food with them!

The plan for the session was to make two traditional recipes and also homemade bread.  To start there was a lot of the vegetable cassava to be grated both for the 'CouCou' and for the 'Pone' - the two very traditional and popular recipes we would be making together.

The tools were simple and traditional (I would have loved to get one of those graters in my suitcase!)
So time to start grating the cassava which is a really hard root vegetable making up the bulk of the recipes.
Mr R felt sorry for the lady grating the cassava and offered to help!
A little bit of 'chit-chat' waiting for Mr R to get that cassava grated!
You know they mean business when they infuse the milk with a scotch bonnet chilli pepper!
When the grated provisions are ready for the pot it gets stirred vigorously until it thickens (kind of like an Italian polenta)
A banana leaf is put on top to keep the steam in and keep it warm.
Then the tuna stew which has been marinating gets put in a pan.
The other recipe they wanted to show us was 'pone' - I had no idea what it was except that everyone seemed to love it.  It's something they make on special occasions. It is in fact a cross between bread pudding and sticky toffee pudding served sliced sometimes with cream drizzled over the top.  It is sweet but not overpowering, I really liked it.
Pone is another recipe that uses finely grated cassava (keep grating Mr R!) and when ready for the oven is still very liquid, so much so that I couldn't imagine it cooked and solid! So off we carried the containers of pone to the community clay oven where it will cook for 6-8 hours.
Inside the oven everything is pushed to the back to make room for the trays of bread that would be baked at the same time but of course won't need as much time.
The bread was ready well before the pone - lovely fresh bread straight from the clay oven.
When the food was ready Mr R and I sat outside in the delightful Caribbean warmth of the afternoon and we ate with our new friends/family!  We were talking, laughing and sharing life stories like we had known each other for ever! Sonia and Marsha were looking after us and were glad of some relaxing time outside of the office.
Sheena took some time out of the office to join us for lunch and especially hoping to get some pone. It seems the whole office of the Tobago House of Assembly wanted to be brought back some pone. Pone takes a lot of preparation and then a long time to bake so nowadays it is not as commonly made as perhaps it was in the past meaning everyone that hears it is being made seem to pop in just at the right time.
Even the boss of the THA (Tobago House of Assembly) stopped in for some pone.  It wouldn't be ready for some hours so Mr Arnold told his staff they had better come back into the office with some for him - not a small tray but a big one and he wouldn't be sharing his!! He said this with a big smile but somehow I got the impression that to go back to the office without any wouldn't be a good idea!!
Mr R  and I had an amazing day sharing the recipes and culture of the lovely people of Les Coteaux.  We look forward to seeing them all again next year and maybe I can take a British recipe with me to make for them.  Any suggestions what you think would make a great recipe would be appreciated and you can leave them in the comment section below.

Mr R and I were guests of the Tobago House of Assembly and the Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort during our time in Tobago.  I was not required to write any positive reviews and as usual all opinions and photos are my own or Mr R's.  No photos may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Book Review: Veggie Desserts + Cakes by Kate Hackworthy

Desserts with vegetables, cakes with courgettes and cookies with swede are all features of the new cookbook by Kate Hackworthy - Veggie Desserts + Cakes, it's carrot cake and beyond!
I always love getting a new cookbook to review however when the author is an acquaintance it is so much more exciting.  Kate Hackworthy is an award winning vegetarian food blogger of the site Veggie Desserts and I really pleased to bring you this book.

It wasn't a case of wanting to hide vegetables in her cooking that led Kate to develop the 60 recipes in her book but a desire to feature them as the heroes of the recipe itself.

The cover of the book is colourful, fresh and intriguing. The photographs are beautiful, professional and inviting you to try recipes such as Pea and Vanilla Cake with Lemon Icing (I have used carrot, courgettes and even pumpkin in sweet cakes and puddings but never peas!)
Chocolate Beetroot Baked Doughnuts with Blueberry Glaze
The recipe I decided to try first is Black Bean Chocolate Brownies.
I share that recipe with you below:-

Black Bean Chocolate Brownies:-
Makes 9-12
Very easy recipe, just whizz all the ingredients in a food processor.

400g/15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (215g/70 drained weight)
100ml/3.5oz/scant 1/2 cup vegetable oil plus extra for greasing
2 large free-range eggs
50g/ 1.75oz/1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
100gm/3.5oz/1/2 cup light soft brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee granules
50g/ 1.75oz/1/2 cup plain (all purpose) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
50g/ 1.75oz/1/2 cup good quality dark chocolate chopped
50g/ 1.75oz/1/2 cup walnuts roughly chopped

Pre-heat oven to 170oC/150oC fan/325oF/gas 3.  Lightly grease and line a 20cm/8 inch baking tin.

Puree the beans in a food processor.  Add the oil, eggs, cocoa powder, vanilla and coffee and blend until very smooth.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt, then pulse a few times to combine.  Stir in the chopped chocolate and half of the chopped walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread out to level, the top with the remaining walnuts.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges begin to pull away from the sides and the surface begins to look dry.
Leave to cool completely in the pan before turning out and cutting into squares to serve. My grandson was staying when I made these and he doesn't like nuts so I only put them on the top and only on two thirds of the brownies.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Here are some reviews of other blogger-friends:-
Carrot Gingerbread - Ren Behan
Pea and Vanilla Cake with Lemon Icing - Elizabeth Atia - Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Avocado Icing - Lisa Niblock - United Cakedom
Kale Apple Cake - Choclette Ammar - Tin and Thyme
Courgette & Poppy Seed Loaf Cake - Lucy Allen - Baking Queen74
Avocado Lime Tarts - Kate at The Veg Space
Cavolo Nero and Orange Cupcakes - Jane Sarchet - The Hedgecombers
Courgette & Poppy Seed Loaf Cake - Helen Goldrein - Family Friends Food
Beetroot and Vanilla Sorbet - Ceri at Natural Kitchen Adventures
Carrot Gingerbread - Janice Pattie - Farmer Girls Kitchen
Strawberry & Spinach Swiss Roll - Claire Jessiman - Foodie Quine
Kale & Apple Cake with Apple Icing - Kellie Anderson - Food To Glow
Pea & Mint Cupcakes with Rose Water Buttercream - Kavey - Kavey Eats

Veggie Desserts + cakes by Kate Hackworthy and published by Pavilion Books, UK RRP £14.99

I was sent a copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions and photographs are my own. No photo may be reproduced in any way without my written permission.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Blackberry Chutney - Christmas Promise in a Jar

Blackberry chutney time is here and looking at a row of jars on the shelf there is so much Christmas promise in those jars.

On my allotment this year we have been blessed with an abundant harvest of wild blackberries.  Although these berries grow wild on the allotment we do tend them, cutting them back at the end of the season and keeping them neat and tidy.  The results are masses of beautiful, fragrant and purple jewels just asking to be picked and turned into wonderful creations.
My blogger friend Manjiri came to visit and we popped up to the allotment to pick some blackberries then home to my house to turn these purple jewels into Blackberry Chutney.
My granddaughter, Little Miss, was visiting for a couple of days and wanted to help pick.  Looking at her in this picture she reminds me so much of myself at her age (9 years old). She was so into picking that even the little thorns biting her fingers didn't stop her!
Chutney is a really easy way to preserve fruit and vegetables for those darker winter months, perfect with cheeses and cold meats often leftover after Christmas. The combination of sugar, vinegar and heat create a thick mixture to pour into sterilised bottles best left for about 3 months to mature.

As always I like to get all my ingredients prepared and equipment ready.  Manjiri had the job of chopping the two red chillies to go into the pot.
Once I had all of the ingredients in the pot I added the apple cider vinegar and off we went!
The mixture will get a beautiful colour and to start it will be quite wet but as it gently bubbles away for about 25 minutes you will notice it start to thicken and reduce in quantity.  When there it little wetness and it is clearly sticky you can turn off the heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes while you take the jars out of the oven and also let them cool for a few minutes.
Once you have cooled everything down for 2-5 minutes you pour it into the jars and seal with the cellophane jam jar covers and let cool completely.  As it cools the cellophane will tighten creating an air tight seal.  In the USA they don't have the jam pot covers we have here so they would use a water bath in the oven to create their air tight seal.
The following recipe resulted in seven jars of blackberry chutney which if left alone until Christmas will mature into an awesome, smooth and tasty chutney perfect for that huge piece of Christmas Stilton cheese!

Blackberry Chutney - full of Christmas promise:-

Put all of the following ingredients into your preserving pan or other large pot/pan.
700 gm blackberries
700 gm apples (peeled and finely chopped)
300 gm golden castor sugar
1 Tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1 Tablespoon black onion seeds
2-3 chillies (de-seeded and finely chopped)
2-3 cloves of garlic (peeled and finely chopped)
Small piece of ginger root (peeled, sliced and finely chopped)
300 ml apple cider vinegar

* bring to a boil slowly then reduce the heat until the mixture is just bubbling nicely.
* continue to simmer stirring frequently until the mixture has softened and thickened.
* When the chutney has thickened take it of the heat and allow to cool for 2-5 minutes before pouring to into sterilised jars.
* cover with the smaller circles in the pack of jam pot covers waxy side down.
* Slightly dampen the clear cellophane covers and put the rubber bands around the top.
*As the mixture cools the cellophane will tighten and create an air tight seal and as the mixture cools it will thicken.
*when completely cooled, clean off any that has spilled down the side of the glass and label.
*store for three months to allow the chutney to thicken.

What is your favourite chutney, please leave a comment below.  If you try this recipe please let me know how it goes.

All opinions and photos are my own.  No photos may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Grenada: Making Pizza at Vendome RC School

Last year I visited Vendome RC School in Grenada for the second time bringing them second hand books for their library which had  been donated by my local friends.  As I have already told you about the school (click here for the post) some of the children will not eat from school lunch one day until school lunch the following day!

I had asked the Head Teacher if I could cook something with the older children when I returned the following year.  She was all for it and asked if I could make pizza as even though there is a Pizza Hut in the capital St Georges most of these children would never have the chance to sample this.  Sure I said, pizza it will be!!
So fast forward to our visit this year to Grenada for the 4th Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival.  We (Mr R and myself) were staying after the festival finished and to coincide with the arrival of a barrel of books and other school supplied that we had sent from the UK we arrived at the school with plans to empty the barrel and then to make some pizza.

The pupils from the 6th Grade/Year 6 were really excited to help open the barrel - you would have thought it was Christmas!
Mr R had all he could do to empty the barrel in an orderly manner!
Whilst still at home I tried to think of all the equipment we could possibly need such as bowls, pizza pans, mini muffin pans, rolling pins etc. Not being sure where I could get these things I brought them with me. I got the first group of children mixing the dough and kneading it.
There was cheese to grate,
dough to kneed,
ham to chop
We made flat pizzas
and mini pizzas - the kids loved filling the little holes with the pizza dough
then filling them in.
The children had such a good time, there were smiles and laughter all around.
A very successful pizza making party if ever there was one and with plenty to go around!
I am planning to return to the school next year with more supplies for the library and a cooking class.  I haven't decided what I will make but I am sure the children will have fun.

True Blue Bay Resort have written an interview with me about my trips to Grenada and my work with the Vendome RC School. Click here if you want to read it.

This was not a sponsored post in any way. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.  Photographs are either my own or Arthur Daniel Photography - no photos may be reproduced in any manner without my written permission.

Please leave a comment below, I love reading them.