30 Nov 2011

Jamie's Italian, Brighton

Great food at good prices, great ambience and a funky interior - happy:) We arrived at 12 noon before any customers arrived to take a few photographs, hence no customers! Shortly afterwards the place was full to overflowing!

28 Nov 2011

Jamie Oliver's Chocolate Love Cake with Cherries and Booze

Does the special person in your life like brownies? If so, you could make this Love Cake, a recipe from Jamie Oliver, especially for them. It has a squidgy brownie consistency, is dotted with cherries and has a boozy chocolate sauce poured over. The original recipe has crushed hazelnuts added but I like this dessert without.

Men often leave present buying until the last minute, and find it really difficult choosing presents. Why not be kind to him this Christmas and leave a list of ideas, this way at least you should get something you like. If you have a dish like mine, you can attach a craft label onto the handle with a list of your Christmas wishes!

You are possibly wondering if I have done this - the answer is no, I'm just trying to help!

The dessert is quite rich and very similar to a brownie in taste and texture. I served mine with some of the reserved chocolate sauce, and a dollop of creme fraiche, which cuts through the richness.

You will need: 9 or 10 inches ovenproof dish greased.

For the cake: 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 100g softened butter, 100g caster sugar, 1 egg, 100g self-raising flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tin black cherries drained.

For the chocolate sauce: 25g butter, 142ml double cream, 75g dark chocolate broken into pieces, a splash of either brandy, rum, Amaretto or Baileys.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
2. Mix the cocoa powder with a few tablespoons of boiling water and stir until the mixture is smooth.
3. In another bowl beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the cooled cocoa mixture, egg, flour and baking flour. Mix all together and pour into the ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the cherries and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
4. To check if the cake is ready, make sure it doesn't wobble too much then it's done, if not give it some more time in the oven.
5. To make the chocolate sauce: Place the butter in a small pan with the cream and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate pieces to the pan. Give it all a good stir and leave for 5 minutes so the hot cream can melt the chocolate. Add a splash of either brandy, rum, Amaretto or Baileys and stir until thoroughly combined.
6. Once the cake is ready, pour over the warm chocolate sauce. Any sauce that is left will reheat in the microwave.

Good Luck!

23 Nov 2011

Gordon Ramsay's Apple & Pear Crumble Tart

A perfect tart for Christmas! With notes of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg - apples, pears, a delicious layer of almond frangipane, crisp pastry and a crumble topping.

I'm not too happy about sweet pastry when you have lot's of sweetness in a recipe, it's just too much and sugar overload. A well made shortcrust pastry base, baked blind until crisp is my preferred method.

I can't see any reason why this tart shouldn't freeze successfully, it can be sliced into portions when it is fridge cold and then put in the freezer. It also heats up successfully in the microwave. The tart is a real winner and will feed a crowd too. Simply serve with ice cream or pouring cream.

Gordon Ramsay has given us some fabulous recipes for desserts and this apple, pear and almond frangipane tart with a crumble topping is amazing.

The recipe is what I call high faff but it can be made in stages to lighten the faff element. I used my dicing gadget to make perfect dice of apples and pears because my knife skills are too clumsy to do this and I would probably end up in A&E!

Serves: 8

You will need: 34cm x 11cm oblong tin greased.

Filling: 4 Braeburn apples peeled and diced, 4 pears peeled and diced, a large pinch of ground ginger and cinnamon, a grating of nutmeg, 25g butter, juice of half a lemon.

Crumble: 160g unsalted butter, 2tbsp soft brown sugar, 150g plain flour, 80g demerara sugar, 25g roasted chopped hazelnuts.

Almond Frangipane: 50g butter, 50g icing sugar, 1 egg, 10g flour, 50g ground almonds.

Pastry: 220g plain flour, 50g lard, 50g butter, 3tbsp cold water

1. For the pastry: Put the flour, lard and butter in a food processor, blitz until breadcrumbs, add the cold water and process until the mixture comes together. Tip onto cling film, form into a flattened circle. Cover with clingwrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Roll out the pastry, line the tin and bake blind using Delia's method.
3. To make the frangipane: Cream the butter and icing sugar together, slowly mix in the egg, flour and ground almonds. Chill for 2 hours before using.
4. To make the filling: toss the diced fruit in lemon juice to stop them browning. Take the fruit and mix with the spices. Heat a knob of the butter until foaming, then add the fruit and toss for about 30 seconds. Add the soft brown sugar and cook until the fruit is soft, but not broken down. Cool.
5. To make the crumble: Rub the remaining butter into the flour and stir in the demerara sugar and hazelnuts. Fill the tart with the frangipane, then fruit, and top with the crumble mix.
6. Heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°F/Gas 4. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

20 Nov 2011

SodaStream - Get Busy with the Fizzy and Have Yourself a Fizzy Little Christmas!

My Genesis Limited Edition Pearl SodaStream is streamlined, looks good, takes up only a small amount of room, is assembled in just a few minutes and gets busy with the fizzy without any effort whatsoever. I'm a SodaStream fan, I bought one in the 1980's, and we had fizzy flavoured drinks and sparkling water whenever we wanted it. I have yearned for a new one ever since I saw a huge display in a superstore in London. Mine came with a gas cylinder, two bottles of concentrate and a litre bottle to make my fizzy.

Christmas will soon be here and the SodaStream is the perfect kitchen accessory and also the ideal solution to gift dilemmas this year. For girls and women the Pink Fizz is the best Christmas gadget this year or how about a sleek and stylish Crystal machine.

I was sent a Kids Natural Orange and Peach and also a Kids Natural Apple Syrup - these are only made from naturally sourced ingredients and are 100% free from artificial flavours, artificial colours and artificial sweeteners and do not contain any preservatives. The concentrate comes in a handy 750ml size bottle and will make 6 litres of sparkling drinks.

The apple syrup drink after it has been fizzed!

There are flavours to suit everyone, they come in regular, diet, natural, fruity flavours, ice tea, energy drinks, sport drinks, tonic and many more. A Flavour Selection Box is a great way to sample more flavours too. Looking back I can only remember buying lemonade and cola, the choice now is amazing.

A World Without Bottles Campaign

British supermodel and environmentalist Eric O'Connor teamed up with SodaStream to launch 'A World Without Bottles', a campaign to raise awareness of plastic bottle waste and it's devastating effects on the environment. Erin's involvement follows new research that reveals a shocking 63% of British adults do not know how the 13.1 billion plastic bottles - 500 per household - used annually by UK households could damage the environment. We hugely underestimate the amount of bottle waste we generate; with 42% of adults believing we use between 1-5 bottles a week in our household when the actual figure is double that.

Fascinating facts: SodaStream is a brand born in the UK in 1903 when Guy Gilbey (of the London Gin dynasty) invented the first machine. The large machine was used by butlers in the country houses of British aristocrats.

Every year they provide over 600 million litres of carbonated beverages to more than 10 million households, making it one of the largest beverage companies in the world.

To find your nearest SodaStream stockist click here.

Genesis RRP £69.99

Thank you SodaStream and Hannah.

19 Nov 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes - Menier Cooking Chocolate

Menier sent me a brochure with some wonderful ideas for using their chocolate including a recipe for Braised Venison with Autumn Vegetables and Chocolate Sauce, Curried Lamb Stew with Bitter Chocolate and White Chocolate Raspberry and Lime Drizzle Cake. They are encouraging us to be more experimental and creative with chocolate in our home cooking but I was drawn like a magnet to my gold foil cupcake cases and edible glitter!

The chocolate melted easily, my method is to put the chocolate into a basin, place over a pan of gently simmering water. Remove the pan from the heat and let the chocolate melt over the residual heat. This ensures the chocolate melts without overheating.

Cooking chocolate doesn't necessarily mean good eating chocolate but these bars of chocolate are very impressive. My husband particularly liked the white chocolate which surprised me because usually he prefers either dark or milk chocolate. I now wish I had put a thicker layer of chocolate on top of the cupcakes because it tasted so good.

A few fascinating facts regarding the brand: Menier was founded in 1816, making it the oldest brand in the world. Their expertise guarantees its chocolate has the best flavour, as it has been ground for longer than standard cooking chocolate to make the texture smoother and the taste better.

They were the first company to introduce blocks of chocolate and prides itself on being the number one dark chocolate brand in the cooking chocolate market. The dark chocolate contains 70% cocoa.

Menier chocolate is available in major supermarkets nationwide with a RRP of £1.19.

Thank you Emma.

18 Nov 2011

Review: Tarbert Fine Foods

I have received a selection of Tarbert Fine a range of Premium Scottish cooked meats, produced from Scottish meat from animals born and reared in Scotland. The range carries the relevant Quality Meat Scotland Logos: Specially Selected Pork, Specially Selected Ham or Scotch Beef.

I have been sent Scottish Finely Sliced Heather Honey Roast Ham, Fine Mature Ham with Arran Mustard, Tarbert Fine Scottish Butter Basted Chicken, Tarbert Fine Scottish Roast Pork, Tarbert Fine Heather Honey Roast Ham and Scottish Topside of Beef.

All of the meats are excellent quality, texture and taste too. Mr W took the Scottish Topside of Beef in a bread roll to work and said it was the first time he had ever eaten precooked beef that actually tasted of beef. The meats were so tasty we ate the majority of them with a salad for our evening meal and enjoyed every pack of meat.

Available in Scottish Sainsbury's, Tesco and Asda.

About the Brand: From the humble beginnings of a small family butchers shop in Biggar 1885, Browns Food Group now supplies a vast range of chilled and frozen foods, ranging from delicatessen, pre sliced cooked meats, smoked salmon and convenience foods which are as unique and distinctive today as they were in 1885. Browns Food Group is a family run business based in the Borders of Scotland, in Kirkconnel.

Thank you Pamela and Browns Food Group.

Review: Where Women Cook Celebrate!

This book brings together 28 top food bloggers, chefs and cookbook authors. They share over 60 recipes with tips for making everyday celebrations special.

Where Women Cook Celebrate! gives us the stories, the food, the reasons, and the celebrated times of extraordinary women. Every meal they make and share is a celebration, and each photo-rich profile offers a peek into their cooking environment and favourite recipes, whether it's a holiday party or a family dinner.

I've been food blogging for a number of years now and it is fascinating to meet through this book Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), Molly Wizenberg (Orangette), Angie Dudley (Bakerella), Serena Thompson (The Farm Chicks) and Helene Dujardin (Tartelette) whose blog I follow.

The Cake Pop Party - Celebrating the Creative Spirit on a Stick!

Helene's (Tartelette) party is a simple gathering with friends at her home.

Molly Wizenberg (Orangette) - Molly started her food blog in 2004.

Where Women Cook Celebrate! ISBN 9871600598982
£16.99 - Publication Date November 2011
Author Jo Packham & The Publishers of Somerset Studio
Publisher Lark
Now discontinued but was available from www.thegmcgroup.com

15 Nov 2011

Forman and Field Gift Hampers

An email came asking if I would like to receive for review a sample hamper courtesy of Forman and Field - the answer is always going to be, yes please.

The hamper is delivered in a sturdy heavy duty box insulated with polystyrene. The contents are kept cold whilst in transit with gel ice packs to keep everything in tip top condition until you unpack. Receiving and opening a hamper is a joyous occasion it's such a treat. The hamper was large enough for the two of us, and packed and presented superbly, which added to my delight.

I was sent a list of useful Tasting Notes regarding the contents they had selected specially for me. I knew from reading food magazines they supply their smoked salmon to the finest restaurants. I hadn't realised though they also sell online products from the finest independent producers too.

I was spoilt with Genuine Wild Smoked Scottish Salmon which needs to be savoured more or less as is to fully appreciate the taste. I served mine simply with a few peppery leaves, a squeeze of lemon and a piece of brown bread. The salmon wasn't too salty or smoky, neither was it oily and tasteless, but simply melts in the mouth. I have yet to try the London Cure Smoked Scottish Salmon but I am looking forward to another indulgent treat when I try this too (it's in the freezer waiting patiently for Christmas).

Potted Lobster is something that I had not eaten before, it came in a small reusable kilner jar. This is a gold medal winner and one of their customers' favourites. This is cooked lobster, they pick out the best bits and pot it with clarified butter. The tasting notes suggest taking it out of the fridge to come to room temperature and serving this as a starter for a posh dinner party or, as I did, serving it on toast so the butter melts into the toast - I had made bread the day before the hamper arrived so that I had some homemade bread, this bread makes fab griddled toast to go with posh potted lobster. This was one of our favourite items from the hamper.

Hand Carved Alderton Ham from a family producer in Nottinghamshire. This was sliced and prepacked ready to serve. The ham had been steamed and baked on the bone with an old fashioned marmalade glaze, we ate this with a green salad and the ham was definitely the star on the plate.

A Selection of Neal's Yard Dairy Cheeses - when I go to London I always queue up to go in here and love sampling the cheeses whilst I am waiting. The selection of cheeses arrived in waxed paper, which is how I wrap my cheese too, and this was appreciated because it stops the cheese from sweating. Beenleigh Blue is a new cheese to me and has a strong tang, in my case though, too strong a tang. The Colston Bassett on the other hand is a creamy cheese I am used to eating and this can do no wrong on my cheeseboard. There was a cheddar and also Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire, these were superb in taste and very reliable choices for the cheeseboard.

Mrs King's Pork Pie one of Borough Market's real food heroes. This is the first time I have eaten this pork pie, I originally came from Melton Mowbray and all I have ever known are the pork pies which are made in the town.

The mince pies are made by Master Chef Michael Nadell and the pastry is buttery, soft, and the contents within will please and satisfy all mince pie lovers. Both the brownie loaf and banana bread are presented in little wooden loaf boxes, wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon. The brownie loaf is very rich and you only need a small slice to satisfy your brownie needs, the banana loaf was a little dense for me but Mr W said he enjoyed his. Pure Indulgence Chocolates from Paul Wayne Gregory are handcrafted dark chocolates for chocolate lovers, mine were vanilla pod, salted caramel and spiced praline, they were silky, smooth and superb.

Lemon Curd presented in a small reusable kilner jar, I ate this sweet, lemony curd on toast as a breakfast treat and it certainly didn't disappoint. The Christmas Pudding - this coming weekend we will be eating the pud, and to reheat, all we have to do is put it in the microwave for 5 minutes.

The hamper was a perfect introduction to some of the delights Forman and Field have to offer and because every item is premium quality you simply can't go wrong.

Disclaimer:  I was sent the product for the purposes of this review.

13 Nov 2011

Christmas Individual Fruit and Grand Marnier Trifles

These trifles are easily put together and all you need is a bag of frozen berries from the freezer and you are part way to assembling a delicious trifle. The recipe is fairly low fat but is easily tweaked, bought custard can be used instead of making it yourself, also whipped cream can be used instead of the yogurt. Mr W and I enjoyed this low fat trifle and surprisingly didn't miss using cream for the topping.

The original recipe was fruit overload (as in the photograph), and in this instance you can definitely have too much of a good thing. You can never have too much Grand Marnier though.

Serves: 4

For the custard:
3 free-range egg yolks, 25g caster sugar, 1dsp cornflour, 300ml semi-skimmed milk, dash vanilla extract.

For the trifle:
4 slices of Madeira cake or trifle sponges, 4 tablespoons Grand Marnier, 200g mixed half thawed frozen berries, 200g Organic Greek Style Yogurt, 3tbsp sifted icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract, few extra berries to decorate.

1. For the custard: mix together the egg yolks with the caster sugar and cornflour. Heat the milk in a pan and when it is hot stir into the egg mixture, then pour into a clean saucepan and stir over a moderate heat until thickened. Add the vanilla extract, pour into a bowl and cover the clingfilm to prevent a skin forming, leave to cool.
2. Put the cake slices in the bottom of each glass, then drizzle over the liqueur. Divide the berries between them, then whisk the custard again and spoon over the berries and cake. In a separate bowl, mix together the yogurt, sugar and vanilla then spoon over the top. Leave in the fridge for the flavours to get to know each other. Decorate with a few extra berries.

12 Nov 2011

Review: Tala 1960's Retro Range - Icing Syringe Set and Cook's Dry Measure

The Tala 1960's Icing Syringe Set is supplied in a wonderful retro tin and comprises an icing syringe, 5 icing nozzles and two icing nozzle brushes for easy cleaning. There is a good selection of icing nozzles and they are quickly and easily placed on the end of the syringe. I have no previous experience using an icing syringe but it is very easy to use, you have good control and is also easy to clean. The syringe bayonet has sharp edges and the syringe barrel is a little fiddly to load with icing.

The nozzles in the set are No.12 Shell, No.8 Star, No.5 Rope, No.36 Flower, No.2 Writer. The Icing Syringe Set can be purchased from www.kitchenscookshop.co.uk

I am sure that you, like me, have Tala products in your home - I have just recently puchased some of their ceramic baking beans and my Tala Pastry Blender has been a useful piece of kitchen equipment that I bought years ago.

A Bit of Nostalgia! My Tala Icing Set passed to me from my Mum and is about 40 years old and still going strong!


As well as looking good this is a useful piece of kitchenware and you can measure both liquid and dry ingredients quickly. There are graded measures for sugar, rice, pulses, dried fruit and more.

About the brand: Tala brand derived from the original company name of Taylor Law & Co. it was established in the UK in 1899 and developed a tremendous following for its wide range of cake decorating, bakeware and other kitchenware equipment. Over 110 years later Tala is still manufacturing products in England and is widely recognised as a well loved kitchenware brand.

Thank you www.kitchenscookshop.co.uk and Mel.

9 Nov 2011

Find Me A Gift - Joseph Joseph Baking Set

The online gift retailer www.find-me-a-gift.co.uk asked if I would review the Joseph Joseph Baking Set. This Joseph Joseph silicone bakeware set consists a wooden rolling pin, elevate spatula, elevate pastry brush and a mechanical Kitchen Timer. Baking is back and this set will delight those girls and women who not only love good looking baking accessories but want them to be practical too. I've been told aubergine is set to be the new colour for kitchen ware this season, which Joseph Joseph have incorporated into this set.

There is an adjustable rolling pin with 3 sets of removable discs so the pastry can be rolled to the desired thickness - the discs come in 2mm, 6mm and 10cm. The rolling pin also has a width measurement guide. The mechanical Pie Timer starts off completely pink and then to set the timer you simply twist the bezel to reveal the minutes and seconds up to one hour, it has a loud bell too! The Elevate Spatula and Pastry Brush both have a built-in ledge to stop them from touching the work surface whilst you are using them.

The rolling pin is a good weight for rolling out pastry and the adjustable rings help to get the correct thickness. The rings are optional and easily removed if you need to roll out a larger piece of pastry or icing. The working area of the rolling pin is 34cm, I am used to working with a rolling pin measuring 38cm, and this will take a little getting used to.

The silicone elevate brush is very useful when you need to brush milk or water onto pastry, or for greasing trays and dishes.

RRP £39.99

Thank you Joanna and Find Me A Gift for the wonderful kitchen gift.

8 Nov 2011

Review: Tefal Sensorielle Cookware

I have been asked to test the Tefal Sensorielle 26cm Frying Pan and 16cm Saucepan with a steam vent knob on the lid. The pan comes with a new patented non-scratch coating and is more durable than any pan Tefal have produced. The non-stick coating is guaranteed for the life of the pan against blistering or peeling. and most metal utensils can be used with the exception of whisks and knives. The base is anti-warp and the copper particles in the base help with even heat distribution and the prevention of hot spots.

The Frying Pan and Saucepan are very light, and this was immediately noticeable, especially as all my other pans are fairly heavy. When the pan is full and you need to transfer from the hob to the work surface it saves the two handed struggle. The handle is much higher than I am used to but makes the pan easier to pick up. The handle is described by Tefal as a Curved Comfort Handle.

As with all new pans it is essential to coat the non-stick coating with oil before using for the first time. If you either wish, or need, to follow a low fat diet then a thin coating of oil will cook an egg (although I would put a lid on the frying pan for best results) and for the majority of other foods no fat is required or simply coat the pan with oil.

In the past I have always been very cautious about bakeware and pans that are light to hold because we have all come across the warping problems. The frying pan and saucepan didn't show any signs of warping even on a high heat.

Another test was to see if food stuck to the pan and how easy it was to remove. I have cooked pasta, rice, curry, gravy, bolognese and omelette. A good test for any pan is to make scrambled egg which can be one of the worst offenders for sticking and I can safely say nothing at all sticks to the pan. Although these pans are dishwasher safe, they hand wash so quickly and easily I wouldn't take up valuable dishwasher space. They clean so well you can take a paper towel and wipe around the inside to remove any debris before washing.

The pans are oven safe up to 180C which is really useful, and also come with Tefal's Thermospot indicator - the spot turns solid red when the pan is perfectly preheated and then simply turn down the heat to maintain the temperature.

Thank you Catherine.

Prestat The Mint Box - Finest Chocolates for Christmas

Prestat - Chocolatiers to Her Majesty The Queen - have created a brand new treat for us this Christmas with their quintessentially English Mint Box. The Mint Box contains a selection of three refreshing mint chocolates - all enrobed in Prestat's secret recipe mint-infused dark chocolate.

These mint infused chocolates with creamy fondant centres are beautifully presented, elegant and classic. They will make a lovely gift or are the perfect after dinner mint chocolate. My favourite is the Strawberry Mint - memories of summer with an infusion of mint.

The Coffee Mint contains a rich coffee fondant, while the double Mint gets its name because it provides two hits of mint in one go - the first from the mint infused chocolate and the second from the English mint fondant waiting patiently inside. The third chocolate in the Mint box is the brand new Strawberry Mint - created by dipping the softest strawberry fondant deep into Prestat's mint chocolate - bringing together two of Englands's most evocative flavours in one heavenly mouthful.

The Mint Box £10.50 and is available in the Prestat Shop, Selfridges, Liberty, John Lewis and the Prestat concession in Harrods.

New for Christmas too are Ginger Hunks £12.50.
Thank you Emily and Prestat.

6 Nov 2011

A Great Day Out - Cake International NEC Birmingham November 2011

I spent a fabulous day out on Friday, courtesy of Renshaw, and thought you might like to see a few photographs of some of the wonderful cakes on display.

It was really busy, lots of smiley faces and everyone was really enjoying themselves. My purchases as usual consisted of edible glitter, cutters and even more edible glitter and I bought things I didn't even realise I needed - sshh don't tell my husband!

The Renshaw stand brimming over with cake decorating goodies.

Thank you Hannah and Renshaw for a wonderful day.

1 Nov 2011

Christmas Chocolate Cupcakes

It's coming up to that time of year again! These happy little men are surrounded by snow and a dusting of silver glitter.

The cream cheese frosting makes a welcome change from the usual buttercream and pipes really well. If you find the frosting is a little soft just pop it into the fridge covered for a few minutes to firm up. Don't be tempted to use anything other than full fat cream cheese, I used Philadelphia, or you won't be able to pipe the swirls.

Makes: 12 cupcakes

You will need: a twelve hole muffin tin lined with muffin cases.

For the cupcakes:

100g self raising flour, 125g softened butter, 125g caster sugar, 2 medium eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, 3 level tablespoons cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. In a bowl beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and milk, fold in the sifted flour and cocoa powder until the mixture is smooth.
3. Divide the mixture between the cases and bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked.
4. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting

200g Philadelphia Full Fat Cream Cheese at room temperature, 400g sifted icing sugar, 70g softened butter.

1. Simply mix all the ingredients together until light and fluffy.
2. Pipe swirls on top of the cupcakes.