29 Dec 2011

Old Amsterdam Cheese

Old Amsterdam is a premium aged Gouda cheese with a smooth texture and rich, robust taste. It isn't comparable to the salty Gouda we all know but has a rich delicious flavour.

The story of Old Amsterdam Cheese is all about passion, dedication and craftsmanship of the Westland family who have a cheese obsession. The cheese is produced using a secret recipe - a family-owned starter culture and a unique ripening process. Master cheesemakers oversee every procedure, ensuring each cheese meets their taste and quality, to determine when each batch of perfectly ripened cheese should be released.

The cheese came with it's own board and cheese slicer. I served my cheese on Christmas Day with grapes, apples, dried apricots, walnuts and plain biscuits. We all agreed, this gourmet cheese was very special and how fortunate we were to have this on our cheeseboard. The cheese can also be melted and used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Fascinating fact: Astronaut Andre Kuipers received NASA's formal consent to take his favourite cheese - Old Amsterdam - on board his next space mission (December 2011). He will share this on board with his American and Russian colleagues. The Dutch ESA astronaut will step on board the International Space Station for the second time and stay in space for six months. Please click here for more reading....

This wonderful award winning cheese is new to supermarkets in the UK and is well worth looking out for.

Thank you to Old Amsterdam Cheese and Leanne.

21 Dec 2011


A Christmas Cake with all the usual sparkle we can safely get away with at this time of the year.

It was my first visit to Cake International at the NEC Birmingham this year and I have no idea why I have never made the trip before. Fortunately, I have a very understanding husband, who made no comments regarding my purchases, only to say, did I get everything I needed for my Christmas Cakes, bless!

Back soon.

18 Dec 2011

Iced Reindeer Christmas Cake

A Reindeer Christmas Cake for my two small grandchildren and their Mummy and Daddy! I know it's unusual for small children to like fruit cake, but they both really enjoy it.

A very easy cake to decorate using Christmas red icing, two sizes of reindeer cutters, a Christmas tree cutter, red glitter, small red and gold stars, a dusting of snowflake sprinkles, and two different ribbons. Some of the items were purchased on my day out to Cake International in Birmingham last month, and as you can see I used my time well!

Back soon!

16 Dec 2011

Review - The Silver Spoon: The New Edition

A small slice of The Silver Spoon.

Cake with Orange Icing taken from the chapter Dessert Cakes caught my attention, with an easy to follow recipe. The sponge has a moist soft crumb and although I made more icing than specified in the recipe, I felt the liquid measurement was too generous and not enough icing sugar. True to say I didn't make the icing to the recipe, and perhaps next time I make this, I will stay with the recipe!

I was delighted when asked to review the above book - memories of a magnificent display showcasing Phaidon Press in a department store at Westfield Shopping Centre London, came flooding back.

The revised edition has a fabulous new red cover and is the heaviest cookery book I have come across. In total there are 1,504 pages, 400 colour photographs, over 2,000 recipes, and chapters including First Courses, Vegetables, Meat, Fish, Desserts and Baking, just to name a few. Italy's best-selling cookery bible, The Silver Spoon, was first published in English in 2005 by celebrated publishers Phaidon Press, has sold over one million copies worldwide and is also the most successful Italian cookbook of all time. There are chef endorsements from Giorgio Locatelli to Gennaro Contaldo and praise from leading UK newspapers and magazines.

The book promises to set alight the nation's taste buds for authentic, home-cooked Italian food and is fully revised and updated for modern kitchens. The Silver Spoon is the definitive book on Italian cooking and stands alongside other culinary classics such as The Joy of Cooking and Larousse Gastronomique.

Most of the recipes are traditional and regional Italian dishes, whist others are more contemporary additions. For the English edition, the ingredients and cooking times of some recipes were updated in the light of changing tastes and lifestyles. Others have been left virtually untouched to retain their unique characteristics.

The Silver Spoon offers the opportunity to make Italian gastronomy part of your life, whether you are cooking simple family dishes or something for a special celebration.

Eating is a serious matter in Italy and as soon as the temperature falls, everyone is ready for a warming plate of Braised Beef with Barola, which is the recipe I chose to make. The beef topside was placed in a Barola, vegetable and herb marinade for 7 hours, browned all over and cooked on the hob until tender. I kept some of the cooked marinade vegetables back and pureed the remainder with the cooking liquid to make a sauce. A straightforward recipe, easy to make, a photograph to accompany the recipe and a great one pot dish.

A section in the book includes 23 Silver Spoon Celebrated International Guest chefs from around the world and their menus, including contributions from Theo Randall, Ruth Rogers and Georgio Locatelli here in the UK, Paolo Lopriore (Italy), Mario Batali (United States) and Robert Marchetti (Australia).

How did I fair in a domestic kitchen, located on the Shropshire/Staffordshire border and where to begin with a book such as this! My overall experience using the book was excellent, although to date I have only cooked two of the recipes, this is a very exciting book for lovers of Italian cuisine (and this includes me). The recipe selection is from easy, to recipes for the keen cook and gourmet. I'm not sure if I would recommend this book for a beginner because it assumes a level of cooking ability and confidence. Interestingly, I always presumed this book would be beyond my capabilities and now after studying the book, albeit over the last two weeks, it has proven me wrong.

More photographs have been added to this revised edition, but a photograph speaks a thousand words and even more photographs would be appreciated. To do justice to The Silver Spoon, I will revisit this again next year and make a few recipes, post them on the blog and give an account of how I get on.

Hopefully, the Fresh Pasta Chapter will encourage me to dust off my pasta machine, there are so many delicious recipes....maybe, next year!

Thank you to Phaidon Press and Lucy for the review copy.

11 Dec 2011

Nigel Slater's Coffee and Walnut Cake

Do you think Nigel will approve of the way I have decorated the cake? I am guessing not, but I fell in love with these little coffee cup chocolates and decorated my coffee and walnut cake with them instead of the usual walnuts. Well, it is coming up to Christmas...........and if it looks good and tastes good, then that's ok with me.

These coffee cups were made especially for me (well perhaps not!). Here we have cappuccino, caramel macchiato, hazelnut latte and espresso.

The cake is light and fluffy, the buttercream can be made stronger with the addition of more coffee to counteract some of the sweetness, the tiny coffee cups are perfect......it's good enough to make you forget Christmas is on the horizon!

The cake keeps well and here is the recipe:

You will need: 2 x 21cm greased sponge tins.

For the cake: 175g softened butter, 175g unrefined golden caster sugar, 65g chopped walnut pieces, 3 large eggs, 175g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas Mark 4. Beat the butter and sugar until light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time to the butter and sugar, beating well after each addition.
2. Mix the flour and baking powder together and mix gently into the cake batter. Stir the dissolved coffee into the cake mix, followed by the chopped walnuts.
3. Divide the cake mixture between the two cake tins, smooth lightly and bake for 20-25 minutes.

For the buttercream: 200g softened butter, 400g icing sugar, 2 tsp instant coffee granules, 60g walnut halves.

To make the buttercream:

1. Beat the softened butter until soft and pale, add the icing sugar and beat until soft and fluffy. Dissolve the coffee granules in 1 tbsp boiling water and then mix into the buttercream. Fold in the walnut pieces.
2. Spread one of the cakes with a third of the buttercream, then place the second sponge on top, and spread the remaining buttercream on the top, and around the sides if you wish.

9 Dec 2011

BBC GoodFood Show Birmingham - Winter 2011

I was invited to a blogger's lunch at the BBC GoodFood Show Birmingham courtesy of Sainsbury's. The Try team served us a wonderful buffet lunch showcasing their latest goodies for Christmas and the New Year. We were spoilt for choice and came away with loads of inspiration and new ideas.

Just some of the delicious food we were able to sample!

The Sainsbury's Try Me team gave demonstrations throughout the day.

A selection of Sainsbury's Taste the Difference goodies for Christmas and New Year there was also opportunity to taste party food, indulgent desserts, cheese and wine.

New to the show this year was the Sainsbury's Village. Here you could meet some of the producers who bring us some fantastic products. I was guided through a flavoured sea salt tasting with the Cornish Sea Salt Company including garlic, onion, chilli, smoked, salt and pepper and the original Cornish Sea Salt. These products can be purchased in Sainsbury's supermarkets.

Beautifully decorated frying pans.

Vibrant Fruit Twist Drinks.

Wharfe Valley Flavoured Rapeseed Oil.

Liquorice in so many colours and flavours it was difficult to make a choice.

Olive fans were spoilt for choice there were just so many to choose from.

Spice Boys - one of my favourite stands.

Great British Bake Off - I looked forward to watching this on TV every week.

World Cheese Awards 2011 with over 2,500 cheeses on display!

We were also treated to seats in the Sainsbury's Supertheatre to see the MasterChef Champions League starring Mat Follas vs Tim Anderson, compered by John Torode and Gregg Wallace which was great fun.

A snapshot of my very enjoyable day at the Birmingham Winter 2011 BBC GoodFood Show. There was also a drinks area but I must admit to favouring food.

Thank you to Sainsbury's for a great day out.

5 Dec 2011

Montezuma's Real Chocolate Club - Gourmet Chocolate by Post!

The Real Chocolate Club has just been launched by Montezuma's and is a great way to get award winning British chocolates delivered to your door. There is a very generous 600g of chocolates which includes three chocolate tablets and a selection of truffles. The club costs £19.99 per month which includes P&P. You can join for a month or as many months as you wish and this will make the best chocolate gift ever. The chocolate box is designed to slip through the letterbox and doesn't require a signature, so there is no waiting around for them to be delivered.

Can I Tempt You?

I was totally overwhelmed by these chocolates with both taste and presentation. Novembers box have a 'pudding' theme, they are a winner with me, especially as I have a love of desserts and puddings. Lemon Meringue Truffles, Eton Mess Truffles, Apple Crumble Truffles...........all are British favourites.

I had no idea a chocolate tablet was hiding underneath the top row of chocolates! Such a wonderful surprise - I hadn't read the notes carefully enough that came with the chocolates. My box of chocolates were handmade by Gill who says to enjoy before February 2011 - they won't last that long Gill.

The first chocolate I tried was a dark chocolate 73% cocoa solids, lemon meringue truffle - the dark chocolate is silky smooth and underneath is a crunchy meringue layer and a thick layer of smooth creamy lemon truffle. The chocolate has just the right amount of sweetness and the lemon meringue truffle is pure heaven. A very carefully chosen milk chocolate bar with salted peanuts and butterscotch to follow... Oh my goodness!

Eton Mess Truffles are made from dark chocolate 73% cocoa solids, I love Eton Mess and these are made with small pieces of freeze dried strawberry and meringue pieces. The balance of chocolate, cream, dried strawberry and meringue is perfect - they melt in the mouth effortlessly. Milk Chocolate Treacle Tart Bar (how beautifully descriptive), we love treacle tart and this again was chocolate tasting heaven.

Milk Chocolate Apple Crumble Truffles these are milk chocolate 43% cocoa solids with pieces of biscuit, dried apple and nibbed hazelnuts. Yes, it really did taste like apple crumble. To follow Dark Chocolate 73% cocoa Orange & Hazelnuts Bar - chocolate and orange is a classic, added to this are whole hazelnuts to please us even more.

The chocolate box when you open it up and before you break the seal to reveal the contents.
Ex-lawyers turned chocolate entrepreneurs, Helen and Simon Pattinson, founded Montezuma's in 2000 hand making their chocolate with one little machine and one shop in Brighton.

Thank you Montezuma's and Abi.

4 Dec 2011

How Not to Barbecue a Turkey

I am sure readers of blogs assume bloggers are all perfect and that disaster never strikes, but there isn't much point putting a disaster on a blog unless it is spectacular, funny and worthwhile, and this one is!

Yep, I am going back in time here because I have never been brave enough to put this on the blog. The scenario is Christmas morning 2009 - my turkey was buttered, baconed and stuffed to within an inch of its life.

We had a power cut, my husband said ok let's cook it on our newly acquired gas barbeque, which unfortunately neither of us had much experience in using.

He heated up the barbeque to the required temperature, ah yes, the power has come back on again. I heated up the kitchen oven, the power went off yet again. Only one thing for it now, put the turkey on the barbeque.

The turkey was placed on the barbeque and because of all of the butter, bacon and stuffing it immediately went up in flames. Not to be deterred my husband said very calmly, it's only a flare-up it will be ok in a minute. He then put the lid down and the amount of smoke coming from the barbeque had to be seen to be believed.

Panic, panic, panic (that's me, not my husband). He still insisted the turkey was ok, I was now not at all happy, after all you only get one go at cooking the turkey and mine was about to be incinerated before my very eyes. By now I am shouting, take it off, take it off..............At last he did, but still insisted the flare-up would subside.

What was I to do, no electricity and a turkey about to be cremated..............at last our electricity was restored and the partly incinerated turkey put into the oven to continue cooking. My turkey had already had it's initial blast of high heat on the barbeque and now only required some short cooking time.

The good news, the turkey was delicious and had a very distinct barbeque flavour. Funny thing is, my daughter said it was the best turkey she had ever eaten!

Hopefully, this Christmas everything will be ok...................but you never know, do you?