28 Mar 2010


This is another of Jamie Oliver's Easter hot cross bun recipes and without any doubt his best to date.

I love Easter puddings where you make use of hot cross buns. This pudding is simply another variation of bread and butter pudding but with a Jamie twist. There are a couple of plus points about this recipe, both brandy and grated orange zest are added to the custard!

My ultimate bread and butter pudding is one with an eggy sauce layer in the bottom and so I removed the pudding from the oven after 30 minutes, checked that there wasn't too much sauce and then I put the pudding under a very hot grill to tinge the buns a slight golden brown. If you don't want the sauce layer then cook for about 45 minutes.

Slightly adapted recipe.

Serves: 6 people

600ml semi-skimmed milk, 600ml double cream, 1 vanilla pod, 4 medium eggs, 100g caster sugar, 6 hot cross buns, 3 tablespoons brandy, zest of 1 orange, icing sugar.

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas 3.
2. In a pan put the milk and cream and bring just to a boil.
3. Cut the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds, add to the saucepan.
4. Whisk the sugar and eggs together until light, now whisk in the milk and cream, remove the vanilla pod.
5. Halve the buns and spread with butter. Dip the buns in the mixture and place in an ovenproof dish. Pour over the cognac and the grated zest of the orange.
6. Pour the custard into a sieve held over the buns and now leave them to soak for approximately 15 minutes.
7. Put the dish into a roasting tin and half fill with hot water. Bake for approximately 40 - 45 minutes. When it is cooked the top will be slightly tinged and if you part some of the buns with a knife there should be a thick custard underneath. Check the pudding after 30 minutes cooking to ensure it doesn't overcook.
8. Dust with icing sugar.


23 Mar 2010

Afternoon Tea in Birmingham

Question - where can we go for a traditional afternoon tea in Birmingham?

Unfortunately there are only a few places to choose from and the best of the few options was the Hyatt Regency. We had a champagne afternoon tea in elegant surroundings and it was perfect. Champagne, finger sandwiches, cakes and pastries, all beautifully presented. The staff are very helpful, and they made it a wonderful afternoon for us.

I ordered a coffee latte and it came with lots of very fine layers - has anyone seen coffee with so many layers? My coffee looked fabulous and didn't disappoint on taste either.

NOTE:  Since writing this post in 2010 afternoon tea at the Hyatt has been brought up to date and looks fabulous.  Whilst at the Hyatt for a meal, the next table were enjoying afternoon tea and it looked amazing - February 2013.

This was a private visit.

21 Mar 2010


In the mood for curry but short of time - then maybe this curry is for you. The curry isn't too hot but you can easily adjust the amount of chilli and ginger.

The Very Lazy Ginger used in the recipe was comparable to fresh and is a great store cupboard standby. Once opened it can then be stored in the fridge for future use.

Whilst in the photograph I didn't show all of the creamy sauce, there is more than enough for two people. I served my curry with plain boiled rice and naans.

Serves: 2 people

2 chicken breasts (bone in), 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 chopped onion, 1 crushed clove of garlic, a few julienned strips of Very Lazy Ginger, 1 medium sized red chilli (deseeded and finely chopped), 8 green cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon ground turmeric, 200ml chicken stock, 100ml natural yogurt, 75ml double cream, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, chopped coriander leaves.

1. Lightly brown the chicken in 1 tablespoon of oil. Remove the chicken from the pan.
2. Cook the onion, garlic, The English Provender Co. Very Lazy Ginger and chilli in the rest of the oil.
3. Take the black seeds from the cardamon pods and crush them with a pestle and mortar. Add the cardamom to the cooked onion, add the cumin and turmeric then fry over a medium heat.
4. Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the stock, bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked, which is about 30 minutes or so.
5. When the chicken is cooked through, turn the heat down, stir in the yogurt and cream. Gently warm through over a gentle heat, stir in the lemon juice and coriander.
6. Serve with boiled rice and naan bread.

Thank you Alex.

14 Mar 2010


This recipe comes from the BBC Good Food Magazine March 2010 and is by the talented food writer Celia Brooks Brown.

Purple sprouting broccoli has a very short season and so we need to make the most of it whilst it is around. I bought mine from an independent greengrocer, but if you are lucky enough to live in a market town, it should be more plentiful on the market stalls and not so costly. For this recipe you will only need a few spears of purple sprouting broccoli.

The tart was delicious and is on my 'make again' list for next year.

Serves: 6

You will need: 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 finely sliced leeks, 500g pack puff pastry, 1 tbs polenta or semolina, 6 trimmed spears purple sprouting broccoli, 150ml creme fraiche, 50g finely grated Parmesan, 2 egg yolks, 25g flaked almonds.

1. First heat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas 7.
2. Heat up a frying pan over a medium heat and then add the oil. Now cook the leeks, with a lid on, stir occasionally until just tender which should take about 5 minutes. Put on one side.
3. Lightly flour a surface and roll out the pastry to a 26cm circle, drawing round a dinner plate or similar as a template.
4. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper and sprinkle with either the semolina or polenta, place the pastry circle on top. Score a circle about 2cm from the outside edge.
5. Now spread the leeks evenly inside the scored circle, bake for 10 minutes until the edges have puffed up. Remove from the oven and turn the heat down to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas 6.
6. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Blanch the broccoli in the boiling water for 1 minute, drain and cool under running water. Drain thoroughly and arrange on top of the leeks.
7. Mix together the creme fraiche, Parmesan, egg yolks, salt and pepper, now pour over the veg.
8. Bake the tart for 15 minutes and then sprinkle over the flaked almonds, return the tart to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes, until golden.
9. Can be served either warm or cold.

9 Mar 2010


I love desserts, and Banoffee Pie has to be one of my favourites. It isn't a dessert I make very often, but when I do, it's heaven.

Mine are individual pies purely because I like to give my cooking rings some work to do every now and again.

The only twist to this classic recipe is to put some ground ginger into the crumb base, not too much, otherwise it will overpower the pies.

Merchant Gourmet have sent me a jar of their very popular Dulce de Leche Caramel Toffee to use in a recipe and I couldn't think of anything better than this classic pie, also it's wonderful to eat straight from the jar.

To serve: 6 people

You will need: six buttered 9cm or 10cm metal rings.

4 bananas, sliced
1 lemon, juice only
150g digestive biscuits
75g unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
450g jar Merchant Gourmet Banoffee Toffee Dulce de Leche
284ml carton of whipping cream, lightly whipped
plain chocolate shavings, for decoration

1. Toss the sliced bananas in the lemon juice and put to one side.
2. Put the biscuits in a food processor and whiz to crumbs. Add the melted butter and ginger, if using, and process for a minute or so to combine.
3. Put the metal rings on to a sheet of baking parchment on a tray. Press the biscuit crumbs into each ring. You can now put the tray into the fridge for the crumbs to firm up.
4. Remove the tray from the fridge and put a layer of toffee sauce (how much or how little is up to you) onto the crumb mixture.
5. Top the toffee sauce with the banana slices.
6. Carefully remove the rings.
7. Pipe or spoon on the cream, sprinkle with chocolate shavings and chill.

Thank you to Merchant Gourmet and Rebecca.

2 Mar 2010

Julie & Julia

I was asked if I would like to receive a copy of the Julie & Julia DVD prior to it's release in the UK - would I?

The film kept my attention all the way through and I just loved, loved, loved it! I am not a film critic and so I can quite rightly get away with saying - I just loved it!

The DVD comes with a scaled down version of the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking and very generously gives us thirty recipes, many of these you can see Julie cooking in the film.

Julia is played by the legendary Meryl Streep who characterises the part of Julia perfectly. Julie Powell is played by Amy Adams.

The film goes back in time from the moment Julia Childs and her husband arrive in Paris in the 1940s, taking us through her time at Le Cordon Bleu to writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Cleverly, the film then swings back and forth from Julia Childs to Julie Powell, who is cooking and blogging her way through the book.

Julie Powell embarked on this project as a way of escapism from her job as a full time secretary, she came home in the evenings and set about mastering the recipes from her heroines book in her tiny kitchen above a Pizzeria.

Julie set out to cook a staggering 524 recipes in 365 days and blog about the recipes on a daily basis. She started blogging in 2002, when the blogosphere was a much smaller place, and thought she was blogging to a void. After 5 weeks of blogging she had her first comment - unfortunately it was from her mother saying she was the only reader!

The first recipe Julie cooked from the book was Artichokes with Hollandaise Sauce. Julie put herself under considerable pressure trying to cook and blog every day and often went into meltdown! There are many very funny scenes in the film - I can only say lobsters - but you will have to watch the film!

She admirably completed the Julie & Julia Project, was given a book deal and invited to appear on the Food Network. To celebrate she invited friends to her apartment and cooked her last recipe from the book, Boned Duck Encased in Pastry.

Here is my Boeuf Bourguignon from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and as cooked by Julie Powell in the film - not the same Le Creuset Volcanic casserole though!

Julie Powell was unique, she started food blogging in the early days when the majority of us had never heard of blogs, cooked and blogged her way through Julia Childs book Mastering the Art of French Cooking in her own inimitable way, her book Julie & Julia was published and subsequently made into a film. This is now being released on DVD and Blu-ray on the 8th March, 2010.

Apart from feeling as though I was blogging to a void in the very beginning, I couldn't be much further away from Julie's story, in so much as I have never become obsessed with a chef/cookery writer or their cookery books. I prefer to flit from magazine to book, chef to cookery writer and then move on. Julie Powell was also young, creative, and living her dream. I am not sure if there will ever be another 'Julie Powell' perhaps she set the bar high - only time will tell.

Thank you to all at Greenroom.