Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tea Time A Taste of London's Best Afternoon Teas: Review

Tea Time A Taste of London's Best Afternoon Teas

If you love afternoon tea this book gives a snapshot of well known venues from boutique hotels to chic cafes including Fortnum and Mason, The Langham, The Hummingbird Bakery, Peggy Porschen through to Yauatcha if you are looking for an eastern inspired tea.

Approximately 30 venues have shared their afternoon tea recipes, I made the scrumptious fruit cake from Daylesford Organic Farmshop & Cafe and it was a huge success.  For the very keen cook there is a recipe from Laduree for Chocolate French Macaroons.

There are two or three pages dedicated to each venue with a brief description and photograph of the tea on offer, exterior and interior photographs all give a flavour of the ambience.

Turning the pages of the book I came across a stunning photograph of the outside of Claridges, I have fond memories of walking through the revolving doors into the art deco foyer where you sit and eat a relaxing afternoon tea in stunning surrounds.

Jean Cazals, food photographer, has taken the stunning photographs and you can almost find your hand wanting to reach out and take a cake off the many and varied cake stands and plates.

Fortnum and Mason Afternoon Tea


Ottolenghi Afternoon Tea


Hyatt Regency Afternoon Tea

Love afternoon tea? Then this is a great reference book to help plan that next indulgent treat.

Title: TeaTime
Author: Jean Cazals
ISBN: 9781906506575
Price: £14.99
Publisher: Papadakis
Publication Date: March 2015
Available: www.thegmcgroup.com

Disclaimer: I was sent the book for review, all thoughts are my own.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Easter Eggs and Champagne 2015

Lindt Luxury Heavenly Hazelnut Easter Egg

From the Lindt Master Chocolatier Collection is the Heavenly Hazelnut Egg. Luxurious smooth milk chocolate is rolled in roasted Piedmont hazelnuts and if that wasn't enough to please, the egg is then generously coated with a final chocolate layer.

Lindt Master Chocolatier Hazelnut Egg

Looks wise this is an unusual egg but it really is eggscellent quality, reassuringly with all Lindt products they never put style over substance, the egg is designed for adults who like something a little unusual.

Weighing 350g with a RRP of £19.99 from online and high street stores.

                                                                   **********************

Prestat, chocolatier to Her Majesty The Queen, present their Dark Chocolate Easter Egg filled with the finest truffles.
Prestat Dark Chocolate Easter Egg
Presented in a swirl design colourful box the classically elegant 70% dark chocolate egg is covered in gold foil, tied with a red ribbon and filled with luxurious handmade milk, dark and white chocolate truffles.

Weighs 170g Price £15 from online and high street shops.


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Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut from Aldi

Aldi Champagne

Champagne in one hand, Easter Egg in the other and why not?

No wonder this champagne is multi-award winning, from presentation, to opening and yes it definitely goes with a loud and impressive pop.....the glass is filled with lots of tiny bubbles which stay long after pouring.  I love bubbles and this drink is smooth, crisp and impressive.

Priced at a very reasonable £9.99 from Aldi stores, subject to availability.

Disclaimer:  I was sent the above products for review purposes, all thoughts are my own.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Get Cosy at Social Pantry Cafe, London: Review


The Social Pantry Café is an institution in Battersea. It’s likely you’ll drop in for some homemade cake and a strong coffee during the day; but now it has flung open its doors for evenings and you’ll find yourself with a glass of wine or two instead.

When you walk in, you’ll notice that it’s a very intimate space with exposed brickwork, flickering candles on small tables and perhaps have the feeling you’re in someone’s kitchen with its tables overlooked by a wooden clock. This is all part of the charm.

It’s always quite a novelty for me going to places which take on a whole new appearance by night and the menus are often much more adventurous and compelling compared to the old 9-5 staple.

On our arrival we were seated by a friendly waiter, offered a ‘welcome drink’, which isn’t free but will delight those who enjoy a classic Aperol Spritz.

Group Food Shot The Social Pantry, Battersea

We were advised to choose 3-5 small dishes to share (it’s a little like British tapas). So with that in mind, we opted for a scotch egg with peppered sausage meat to share. It was served to us oozing a bright orange yolk and was a comforting treat (mmmm).

Next up was a shredded ham hock with cheddar cheese croquet and a minted pea puree. It was smaller than I expected but the fragrant peas gave this savoury combo a superb kick.

Our third dish was the one we had been most excited about, pork chop and fennel – strips of pork delicately cooked. It’s a lovely supper idea but something felt missing and I wonder if it could have benefited from some fiery mustard. The fennel was nice but not really memorable.

We then had a grilled wedge of broccoli topped with a scattering of roasted almond and lemon butter broccoli. I couldn’t help but order it after seeing it served from the kitchen. Unfortunately it was a little burnt on one side, which was a shame and so it lost its appeal early on.

Finally we had a plate of scrumptious cheeses served with plenty of crackers and washed it down with a Taylor’s port. It was at this point that we got excited because we saw Gary Lineker at the cafe. It just shows you don’t always need to be at an uber-posh restaurant to spot a celeb’.

Overall, we had a lovely experience, enjoyed the atmosphere and trying creative dishes from the new evening menu.

To find our more visit Social Pantry Cafe.

Disclaimer:  We were guests of @Social Pantry Cafe, all thoughts are our own.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stellar Tate Casserole Review and Recipe

Stellar Tate Draining and stackable casserole

I've been sent a 22cm/3.5L Stellar Tate Casserole in stainless steel to review. The casserole is also available in 20cm and 24cm and with the unique design flat lid they are stackable and drainable. Stainless steel pans can easily get scratched if they sit inside each other and I really like the way this problem has been overcome.

Another useful feature is the see through lid that lets us keep a watchful eye on what is happening in the pan without having to remove the lid.

Inside the two handled pan there is a very useful measuring guide which is in both pints and litres. To one side of the pan is a pouring lip and when the two handled lid is in place then the casserole can be drained quickly and easily.

If you like to make soup in a pan and finish off with a stick blender this is the perfect depth - the measurements are:
Height 145mm
Overall length 310mm
Pan diameter 220mm
Base diameter 175mm

Can be used on all hobs.
Oven Safe to 180ºC.
The base is 'hot forged' for even heat distribution and when testing I found it performed well on the induction hob and also in the oven.
18/10 stainless steel.
Internal measurement guide is easy to read.
The lip on the base of the casserole pours cleanly.
When the lid is on the casserole it drains easily.
I found the handles had a good safe grip - always use oven gloves.
Cleans quickly and easily by hand, it can be placed in the dishwasher but I like to wash mine by hand.
Amazing Stellar Cookware Lifetime Guarantee.
Price £60 - the range is currently stocked at www.hartsofstur.co.uk

Tried and Tested: This clever casserole ticks all of the boxes on looks and practicality and has been carefully thought out.  A classic pan that will look fabulous in all kitchens.

I've tested the casserole making my Loads of Veg Pork Paprika Casserole..........

Making Paprika Pork Casserole
Loads of Veg Pork Paprika Casserole

Recipe - Serves 4
680g pork leg, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic infused oil
500g casserole vegetables, diced
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika or to taste
300ml chicken stock
3 peppers sliced
Salt and ground black pepper
thickening granules
200ml soured cream
fresh chopped parsley

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp garlic infused oil to the casserole. Add the pork, fry on a medium heat in batches until browned. Remove the pork from the pan and put to one side.
2. Add the last tablespoon of oil to the casserole and all of the casserole vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat until soft.
3. Sprinkle over the paprika and cook for a couple of  minutes. Return all of the meat to the pan, add the chicken stock, season and bring to the boil. Place the lid on the casserole and cook in the oven for 1½ hours or until the pork is almost tender.
4. Add the sliced peppers and cook for a further 30 minutes, uncovered. Place the casserole on the hob and stir in a few teaspoons of  the granules to thicken. Stir in the soured cream. Scatter over the chopped parsley, extra paprika and serve with rice or potatoes.

A stackable saucepan set 16/18/20cm with one handed draining are also available.


Disclaimer:  I was sent the casserole for review purposes.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Premier Housewares Cow Parsley Dinner Set Review and Recipe

Cow Parsley dinner set by Premier Housewares

The Cow Parsley design by Premier Housewares is delicate and pretty, it reminds me of summer days when we are driving along narrow country lanes and its flowers can be seen swaying in the breeze as we pass by.

I've been sent the lovely 16 piece dinner set to review, it's very versatile and can be mixed and matched with white crockery which makes a stunning table setting.

The porcelain dinner set is microwave, dishwasher safe and consists of:
4 x dinner plates 10.5in
4 x bowls 7in
4 x side plates 7.5in
4 x Mugs 12oz

RRP £41.49

There are co-ordinating textiles, tableware, woodware and storage available to complete the look.

Cow Parsley Group Shot

The range is available from Amazon.co.uk or stockists on the high street and online.

I've used the dinner plate placed on top of the cereal bowl to make a cake stand for my delicious lemon and pistachio cake and if you fancy having a go at the recipe it can be found at the end of this posting.

Lemon, Almond and Pistachio Cake


Recipe:
250g softened butter
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs lightly beaten
100g shelled pistachio nuts, finely ground
100g ground almonds
Zest and juice of a lemon
60g plain flour

Icing:
250g mascarpone
200g fromage frais
1 tablespoon caster sugar
few teaspoons lemon juice to taste

You will need: 20cm springform tin greased and lined with baking paper.

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC.
2. Cream the butter and caster sugar together using a stand mixer on a low setting until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Scrape the mixture down into the bowl and add a tablespoon of the flour. Gradually beat in the eggs on a low setting, if the cake batter shows signs of curdling add more of the flour.
3. Fold in the remaining flour, ground pistachios, ground almonds, lemon zest and juice.
4. Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake for 50 minutes, cover the top of the cake tin with foil and cook for another 10-15 minutes until cooked. Test by using a cake tester or a cocktail stick and if they come out clean the cake is cooked.  Place the cake onto a cake rack and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Unclip the tin and leave the cake on the rack to cool.
5. For the icing: Add the mascarpone, fromage frais and caster sugar to a bowl, mix together until smooth. Add the lemon juice and mix again.
6. Spread the icing over the top of the cooled cake. Crush a few shelled pistachios and decorate the cake as you wish.
7. Store in the fridge.

Disclaimer:  I was sent the dinner set for review purposes.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blueberry and Lemon Drizzle Mini Loaf Cakes

Blueberry and lemon drizzle mini loaf cakes

I turned to one of my Mary Berry cookbooks for this delicious recipe - I've adapted her lime and blueberry ring drizzle cake and used lemon to replace her suggested lime but only because I had lemons in the fridge, this was an instantaneous bake and there wasn't time to go out shopping for a few limes. The crystallised lemon rind is quick, easy to make and delicious, not a step to miss out.

Ingredients
110g soft butter
110g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
50g blueberries (use some of the measured flour to coat the blueberries)

Crunchy glaze:
3 tablespoons lemon juice
75g granulated sugar

Crystallised lemon rind:
1 lemon rind (I used a zester)
70g caster sugar
100ml cold water

You will need: 8 greased and lined mini loaf moulds.

Method
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.  Cut 8 strips of baking parchment and line the loaf tin moulds.

mini loaf tin lined with paper strips

Place the butter, caster sugar, flour, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the eggs, milk, and lemon zest. Beat with an electric hand whisk for about 2 minutes until smooth.

Divide half the batter between the eight moulds. Scatter the floured blueberries over the batter. Spoon the rest of the mixture over the blueberries and spread it evenly to cover the fruit.

mini loaf tins filled with cake batter

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until well risen. Whilst the cakes bake, make the glaze by mixing the lemon juice with the granulated sugar.  Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for a few minutes, then loosen the sides with a palette knife. Lift them out of the tin with the baking paper strips and place on a wire rack to cool.

mini blueberry and lemon drizzle loaf cakes drizzled with a crunchy glaze

While the cakes are still warm, prick them all over with a skewer. Stir the glaze, then spoon it over the warm cakes. Leave to cool.

To make the candied lemon rind, use a zester to remove the rind from lemons in long strands. Or, if you are handy with a knife, thinly slice the lemon rind away from the lemon and cut into fine strips. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Combine the rind, sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium/low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the rind is translucent. Remove from the heat. Use a fork to spread the rind in a single layer, over the tray. Put to one side for 5 minutes to set.
Now the candied zest is ready to decorate the cakes as you wish.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kitzini Silicone Baking Mat: Review

Iced Cranberry Biscuits
Iced Cranberry Biscuits
I've been testing a silicone baking mat over the last few days and it's a real winner. The beauty of this mat is that it's multitasking and you can use it from start to finish, other than you can't cut out the biscuit shapes or use a knife on the mat, otherwise it will be cut to shreds.

Biscuits on a mat waiting to be cooked

The uncooked biscuits can be placed straight onto the mat because it doesn't require any greasing - cutting out baking paper or greasing trays will be a thing of the past.

This silicone mat measures 38cmx28cm it can also be used from -40oC to 248oC. It's also 100% certified food safe, is a professional grade of 0.75mm thickness and can be used in the microwave.

Cooked cranberry biscuits

The underneath of the biscuits are a light golden brown consistent with even heat distribution.  The mat is reusable, washes easily, dry with a tea towel and I leave mine flat to air dry. To store, roll up from the long edges and pop an elastic band round to secure.

The Kitzini Silicone Baking Mat can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk currently priced at £10.00

If you fancy having a go at baking the biscuits here's the recipe.

For the iced cranberry biscuits:
140g plain flour
100g softened butter
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk, whisked
¼ tsp pure orange extract
dried cranberries
Icing:
50g icing sugar, sifted

You will need: Biscuit cutters, large baking tray

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC .
2. Sieve the flour into a large bowl and add the cubes of softened butter.  Rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in the icing sugar, add the whisked egg yolk and orange extract.
Bring the mixture together with your hands to form a dough.
3. Roll out the dough between two pieces of clingfilm.  Cut out biscuit shapes.
4. Place the biscuits onto the tray and gently press a few cranberries onto each biscuit, bake for 12-15 minutes until tinged with golden brown around the edges. Cool.
5. For the icing:  Place the sifted icing sugar into a bowl, gradually add water, teaspoon by teaspoon until a thin icing consistency is achieved and either drizzle over with a teaspoon or place in an icing bag and decorate.

Disclaimer:  I was sent two mats for review purposes.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Bread Maker Tomato and Caramelised Onion Focaccia

slice of tomato and caramelised onion focaccia
Best eaten fresh from the oven
Bread makers are perfect for making bread dough - from adding a few ingredients to the pan, setting the menu and getting the finished dough out of the pan it took less than an hour.

When the dough was ready I rolled it out to fit into a non-stick tray which I sprinkled with semolina to give a crisp base and it also prevents the dough from sticking.

I'm experimenting with my new machine, which I reviewed a few months back, and love the fact that I can make dough or bake a delicious loaf of bread and leave it whilst I get on with other tasks.

the bread dough after proving for focaccia

You will need:
300g strong white flour
1 tbsp olive oil
170ml water
1/2 tsp salt

For the topping:
1 vine tomato, sliced
1 red onion
extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
balsamic vinegar
Optional: Rosemary leaves to scatter over

Baking tray 30cm x 25cm

1. Make the dough according to the manufacturers instructions.
2. Sprinkle over the base of the tray a couple of tablespoons of semolina. Roll out the dough to fit the baking tray and lift onto the tray and press the dough to fit, if it springs back a little don't worry.
3. Using your fingertips make indentations over the dough.
4. Slice the red onion, place into a microwaveable bowl and sprinkle over 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (cover with clingwrap and microwave for 2 minutes).
5. Arrange the onion and sliced tomato over the dough, scatter over the grated Parmesan cheese.
6. Cover the dough with a piece of clingwrap and leave to prove until double in size.
7. Preheat the oven 190ºC.
8. Drizzle the dough with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes until golden.

Leave a comment below and let me know if  you too love your bread maker.

More recipes:
Apple and Ginger Buns
Goats Cheese and Rosemary Buns
Sunburst Rolls


Thursday, March 05, 2015

Apple and Raspberry Pie: Recipe

Baked apple and raspberry pie
Deep filled apple and raspberry pie fresh from the oven
It's British Pie Week from 2-8 March and I love a good pie, whether it's an apple pie that has to be served with Birds Custard, otherwise hubby sulks, or a chicken and leek pie served with a pot of delicious gravy.

Who better to turn to for a recipe than Mary Berry whose books I've grown up with.  This recipe is called Autumn Fruit Pie, the original recipe uses blackberries and apples, and comes from Mary Berry Cooks The Perfect......this book is full to bursting with an array of tempting new recipes.

apple and raspberries ready for a pastry lid


the apple and raspberry pie ready for the oven

Slightly adapted recipe
You will need:
23cm Pie tin 3.5cm deep - I used a tarte tatin dish but it was a little too large

800g Bramley apples thinly sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice (bottled is fine)
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
225g fresh raspberries

Pastry:
350g plain flour
175g cold salted butter
1tbsp milk to glaze
2tsp caster sugar to sprinkle over

1. Place the flour and cubes of butter into a food processor and blend to breadcrumbs. Add 5 to 6 tablespoons of iced cold water and whizz until the mixture comes together. Tip out onto a floured surface and wrap in clingwrap and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
2. Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut into two making one piece slightly larger.
3. Place a large baking tin in the oven and preheat the oven to 180ºC .
4. Roll the larger piece of pastry out to line the pastry tin leaving the pastry overlapping at the edges.
5. Peel and core the apples.  Cut into thin slices and toss with the lemon juice.  Sprinkle over the caster sugar and flour and mix together to coat. Tip the apples and raspberries into the pastry case.
6. Roll out the lid until larger than the tin.  Brush the rim of the pastry with milk and place the pastry lid over the fruit. Press the pastry edges together.  Trim off the excess. With the back edge of a knife tap all round the edges to secure.  Crimp the edges together.  Cut a slit in centre of the pie 2cm long.
7. Make leaves with the pastry trimmings, Brush the lid with milk.  Place the leaves on the pastry lid. Sprinkle the caster sugar over.
8. Place the pie on the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 180ºC and bake for 35 minutes.  Leave the pie to cool slightly before serving.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Review: Ceru Pop Up Restaurant, London

Exterior of Ceru Restaurant London

Can anyone tell me what the food of Levant means? I had no idea but it’s actually a region of the Middle East: Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Palestine, Jordan, and Turkey. Here you find the traditional Levantine cuisine which is famous for foods bursting with flavour as you’ll see below.

So let me introduce you to Ceru.........

This little beauty in London’s Fitzrovia has been doing the rounds for a little while now and after appearing at some major festivals, they have set up a pop up restaurant on Rathbone Place off London's Charlotte Street.

As we entered we were welcomed with a zingy and rather exotic Passionista cocktail which was the perfect way to start the evening. We were treated to tapas style dishes which were beautifully crafted and carefully curated for the eyes as well as for the tastebuds.

For starters we had a four in one dip selection for a reasonable £6.50 consisting of 'pancar' - roast beetroot, yoghurt, garlic and topped with pistachio nuts. Houmous - a spicy fiery roast red pepper dip and finally a fadi - fried baby courgette, purée with tahini, roast garlic yoghurt and lemon. They were all incredible!!!

Spicy Dips

Then came out another gorgeous little number - bite size pieces of Halloumi costing a very reasonable £5.50.

Halloumi main meal

We then opted for the slow roast lamb shoulder with a fresh pomegranate and pistachio dressing. This was an amazing combination which I’d love to replicate at home.

slow roast shoulder of lamb

Next, we enjoyed a palette cleansing crisp apple, pomegranate and mint salad. Visually it was stunning and interesting, even the red apple skin had a matching red bowl rim – talk about attention to detail here!

apple and mint salad

For dessert, we enjoyed a walnut and pistachio cake served with vanilla poached apricots!! Nothing too heavy and a great way to end the meal.

walnut and pistachio cake

Want to visit? Be quick! Their temporary home is only open until the 30th April.

To find out more visit Ceru Restaurants

Disclaimer:  We were invited to attend Ceru for review purposes.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Review: Vanilla Table by Natasha MacAller

Vanilla Table

Vanilla Table, the essence of exquisite cooking from the world's best chefs, is a culinary celebration of all things vanilla. Written by International Chef Natasha MacAller, there are 100 recipes and 33 international award winning chefs including the UK's Yotam Ottolenghi, Peter Gordon, William Curley and Galton Blackiston have contributed their vanilla recipes to this book.  The stunning photographs and food styling are by Danish photographer Manja Wachsmuth who specialises in food photography.

Butterscotch Pudding

The foreword is by Peter Gordon, The Vanilla Story, Vanilla 101. Chapters: Starter Plates, Main Plates, Blue Plates and Brunch Plates, Sharing Plates, Dessert Plates, Cake Plates, The Cookie Plate, Bevvie and Bar Snacks and Vanilla Pantry.

Vanilla is an essential ingredient in my kitchen, I have beans, paste and extract which I use on a regular basis for sweet bakes, I find it is very easy to use, it gives everything a lift and my cakes always taste and smell delicious.  I have never considered using this wonderful spice in savoury dishes and reading through the recipes I've discovered how to use vanilla in an array of dishes.

I've made a couple of recipes from the book, my first recipe was Ginger Fruit Squares which were very easy to make and made a delicious sweet treat, my only recommendation for these would be to use a smaller tin than that stated in the recipe.

My next bake from the book, and possibly the easiest, are the After School Cookies and Milk - this is an unusual recipe, they are made with vanilla extract, honey, milk powder, chocolate chips and bread flour, it's definitely the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I've ever made. These are a delicious easy bake, with a chewy texture.

After School Cookies and Milk
Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

A book for the keen cook or budding food stylist and photographer.

Published by www.jacquismallpub.com
Release Date 19th March 2015
£25.00

Reader Offer:
To order Vanilla Table at the discounted price of £20 including p&p* (RRP: £25), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG301.
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Disclaimer:  The book was sent to us for review.