28 Jul 2012

Recipe: British Cherry Cupcakes and British Strawberry Cupcakes

Going for Gold! Two British fruits to adorn the top of my cupcakes, strawberries are nearing the end of the season and British cherries are in the shops, both are more fabulous than fabulous this year.

It is possibly a crime to spray cherries gold but I think I can get away with it at the moment.  To be fair, I did decide not to spray the strawberries as well......

The cupcakes are the usual chocolate sponge mix, although I splashed the cash and used a very good cocoa powder, good cocoa powder really does make a difference to the chocolate sponge.

Makes:  12 cupcakes

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

For the cupcakes:

100g self raising flour, 125g Stork SB, 125g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons warm milk, 3 level tablespoons cocoa powder.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Sift the self raising flour and cocoa into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix all together for 2 minutes.
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 tin.
5. Decorate.

The July Calendar Cakes Challenge is hosted by Laura Loves Cakes and Dolly Bakes.  The host this month is Laura and the challenge is The Olympics - I chose to use gold cherries and a Union Jack box.

The Simple and in Season challenge is hosted by Fabulicious Food.

25 Jul 2012

Chocolate and Blackcurrant Cupcakes

Chocolate and Blackcurrant Cupcakes are a surprising combination of flavours and seem to work really well together.

My cupcakes are a chocolate sponge mix with a handful of blackcurrants stirred in gently. I frosted some of the blackcurrants for decoration and they are so delicious it was a few for me and a few to decorate the cupcakes. 

The pretty cupcake stand is by Tala, I made twelve cupcakes but unfortunately I was clumsy and three were knocked over. I think I did quite well,  it could have been nine knocked over and three left to decorate the stand! 

We Should Cocoa is hosted by Chele of the Chocolate Teapot and Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog - Choclette is the host for this months challenge Chocolate and Blackcurrants.

Tea Time Treats is hosted by Kate of WhatKateBaked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage - Karen is this months host and the challenge is Cake Stall Cakes.

Thank you Tala for the pretty cake stand.

18 Jul 2012

Jamie's Italian, Canary Wharf, London

It was Dance City, Canary Wharf at the end of June and Jamie's Italian was to be the starting point for our afternoon.  We were very fortunate and the sun shone all day.

Hubby and I liked this branch of Jamie's Italian, our local Birmingham branch is huge, Canary Wharf is smaller, which means not so many customers!

View finder for the children's menu and a selection of breads.

Shake Me Salad for the children

There were four adults and two small children in our party, our waiter was a natural with the little ones. He gave them both a view finder to look through - this was basically the children's menu with photographs. We ordered our bread, and the waiter took the children to look at the bread selection, he even gave them a bread stick to keep them going until our main meals arrived.

Scottish Salmon Salad

JI Warm Brownie and Almond Tart

Latte art:)
We all enjoyed our meals, our waiter had great customer service skills -  it was agreed by all he must be the best Jamie's Italian waiter ever.

The New Range of Flavoured Mayonnaise from Hellmann's

I like Hellmann's and have used their mayonnaise for more years than I can remember. They have brought out three new flavours which come in handy squeezy bottles, and they are easily transportable for picnics and BBQ's. All three are Light Reduced Mayonnaise and contain free range eggs.

Twist of Pepper - the mayonnaise has pieces of ground peppercorns and will go perfectly with BBQ steak and sausages.

Hit of Caramelised Onion - is a sweet mayonnaise and will be perfect squeezed over a cheese salad sandwich.

Hint of Wasabi - an Asian inspired mayonnaise, and will be great mixed into your coleslaw, rice salad or squeezed over a lovely piece of salmon.

Thank you Nicola for the review samples.

14 Jul 2012

Pizza Bianca

I'm always looking for that extra special pizza recipe and now I've found it. I've tried numerous recipes, had struggles rolling out pizza dough, I have cooked my base on a pizza stone/pizza tin/baking tin for that ultimate crisp base. I have had pizza bases that refuse to cook because they are loaded with toppings ......and more problems besides those already mentioned, such as crispy edges that you can't even get a knife through! Until now I've thought it a complete waste of time that I have a pizza stone, I've tried throwing my pizza onto the stone but somehow my pizza stone seems to have lost the point, anyway how do you transfer rolled out dough onto a hot pizza stone, it defeats me!  With this recipe you don't put the mix directly on the stone but you heat the stone up for an hour and then put your baking tray on top of the pizza stone.

I've got a new past time, brought on by hurting my back playing football with small children, I'm now watching America's Test Kitchen on PBS, I record every episode and then have the task of finding time to watch them. The presenters do seem to use a lot of salt though, they are either brining something with it, smothering something with it, putting it inside something, wiping it off or throwing it in a pot!  I'm just not sure about all that salt.....

My finished Pizza Bianca waiting for me to cut a slice!

Back to the pizza, it's the best pizza I have ever eaten. If you search for Pizza Bianca you will see lots of discussions regarding this recipe on food bloggers websites in America - it's that good. They have also given adapted recipes for the base and toppings. The recipe was apparently first printed in Cook's Illustrated and is now on America's Test Kitchen website, the problem is you need to pay to access their recipes.

This is the first stage and I added plain flour (not strong flour), salt and water to the bowl and mixed with the dough hook on low for 3 minutes.  Next stage is to add the easy blend yeast and sugar to the above mixture, now mix on low for a couple of minutes.  With the dough hook still attached to the machine mix until smooth and glossy for approximately 10 minutes.  The yeast batter should be coming away from the sides of the bowl.

Oil a bowl with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, also oil a spatula, now pour the batter mix from your mixer into the oiled bowl.  Turn the yeast batter mix over to coat the batter in extra virgin olive oil. 

Cover with cling wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 hours until it has tripled in volume.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, set your shelf on the middle rung, put a pizza stone on to heat up and if possible heat the stone for an hour.

Take a sturdy baking tray and pour over 2 tablespoons of extra olive oil and with your hands spread it out over the tray.  Turn the dough into the pan and spread over the pan with your fingertips. Leave to rest for 5 minutes and now with your fingertips spread the dough out into the corners of the pan.  Leave the tray uncovered for 10 minutes until the dough is bubbly.  Dock the dough with a fork 40 times to prevent it rising too much.  Cook until brown about 15 minutes.

The topping is made from drained tinned chopped and smashed tomatoes, olive oil, salt and grated mozzarella cheese.  The pizza is then cooked for 10 minutes more until the cheese browns.

What's different about this recipe?  Firstly, there is a huge amount of water mixed into the flour, and a mixer with a dough hook is required otherwise I'm not sure this recipe is achievable.  Secondly, it is best described as a batter, you definitely can't roll this out!  The finished result is crisp, light, airy and chewy, the base can also be used as a flat bread instead of a pizza base.

You will need a good baking tray that withstands high temperatures and one that you know won't warp, mine was non-stick and gave an excellent result.  Also, a good pair of oven gloves because that tray gets very, very hot!

13 Jul 2012

Lola España: Review

Lola España are Spanish food and kitchenware importers based in Salford Quays, they have been selling to the trade for over 11 years and recently launched an online one-stop shop selling amazing artisan and authentic Spanish food, earthenware and kitchen utensils to the UK public. They are passionate about Spain and Spanish produce and all the food is sourced by themselves.

Everything arrived safely and the eco-friendly insulated packaging inside my parcel ensured my products arrived in perfect condition. My parcel contained some wonderful food: suckling pig middle cut joint, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sliced Jamón Ibérico, Chorizo, Fuet Ibérico and Manchego Cheese.

I fried the Chorizo and there was plenty of paprika to satisfy our palates, and the suckling pig is roasted for only 30 minutes to produce a very tender, moist meat.

Image taken from Lola España website

Food and recipe inspiration can be found on their website, and I chose to make Toasted Bread with Sliced Jamón Ibérico and Tomato.  Ibérico hams come from free range pigs fed on a diet of acorns and herbs to produce a unique rich deep flavour and the meat is then cured for 24 months.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil ' Flor De Espadán' is drizzled over the bread in this recipe to give another layer of flavour.  This was an easy and delicious recipe, requires only a few quality ingredients, and you are good to go.

 Manchego cheese drizzled with honey - and why not?
The Manchego cheese is made from sheep's milk and this 6 month matured cheese was creamy with a good depth of flavour and very delicious too. 

I was kindly sent the above products for review.
Thank you to Lola España for the fabulous Spanish food.

11 Jul 2012

Tala Bun Tray: Review

One day I must take a photograph of my baking tin cupboard, on second thoughts perhaps not, because my hubby will see just how many baking tins I have in my collection. My defence is they all come to a good home where they are well looked after and well used!

Tala kindly sent me their Bun Tray for review and I used this to bake my cupcakes. The tin is non-stick, sturdy, quite weighty, withstands high temperatures, not at all flimsy and more importantly doesn't warp in the oven.  The cupcake cases didn't get crushed in the tin, which pleased me, and the cupcakes cooked perfectly too.  You can even put the bun tray in the dishwasher, fridge or freezer.
Bun Tray with a RRP of £10
The Tala team want to share in Britain's baking triumphs and have now launched a Happy Baking Days website.  This allows their community to discuss their Tala bakes and you can add photographs and recipes.  There is a very useful Top Tips section on the site, all the bakeware you will ever need.

Thank you Sophie and Tala for the review product.

10 Jul 2012

Farmer's Choice Barbecue Meat

Whether you're holding a family BBQ or a get together with friends, Farmer's Choice have all the BBQ free range meat you will ever need to enjoy some summer food in the sun.

There are many options to choose from, a Basics BBQ Pack which includes chicken drumsticks, steak burgers, lamb burgers and two types of sausages to a large BBQ Essentials Pack which also includes kebabs and Chinese ribs.  A Chicken Combo Pack, Kebab Pack or a fabulous Fish Pack which includes King Prawns, Mackerel fillets, Salmon fillets and whole Sardines.  A Mini Rotisserie Pack includes a chicken, half shoulder lamb and a belly pork joint, or to feed a crowd, there is a large Rotisserie Pack with a Forerib of Beef, Large Chicken, Whole Leg Lamb and a Spare Rib joint.  Should you wish to top up your order or choose individual items there are plenty of options available.

Farmer's Choice are an online free range butchers with over 20 years of experience and all products are high quality and traceable. British farm-reared free range barbecue food from Farmer's Choice can be delivered directly to your door. The meat is blast frozen prior to courier doorstep delivery and orders can be delivered weekdays Tuesday to Friday.

This is a sponsored post.

9 Jul 2012

Vacu Vin Active Wine Cooler: Review

The Vacu Vin Active Wine Cooler is definitely a very cool wine accessory. It can be stored in the freezer, takes up only a small amount of freezer space and waits for those days when you need chilled wine quickly. The Active Wine Cooler chills drinks after 5 minutes and keeps drinks cool for hours.

I put my wine in the purple cooler and it chilled the wine in 5 minutes, although my hubby preferred  leaving the wine in the cooler for a few minutes longer.  I have a vintage glass bottle with a clip top and it chilled the water in 5 minutes, better still if you leave the sleeve on for 10 minutes and the water is then really cold.

My hubby resorts to putting wine in the freezer when we forget to chill it down, and now he won't have to struggle to find room in the freezer for the bottle, and we mostly manage to forget we have put a bottle of wine in!  If you go on a picnic these coolers are a great way to keep drinks chilled, and if the fridge is full and you've ran out of space, they are a brilliant idea.  The coolers are unbreakable,  reusable and will make a great gift too. 

Five new designs for 2012 - Champagne, Wine, Water and Drinks Can Coolers

The coolers can be bought from Amazon, independent retailers, supermarkets and online.

Thank you Pam for sending me the Vacu Vin Wine Cooler for review.