30 Apr 2012

Mini Carrot Cakes

I think it is a given that I love kitchen kit and gadgets. A new addition to my bakeware collection is my 12 cup loose-based mini sandwich tin from Lakeland. I had only just purchased it at full price when I saw them advertising it in the sale - just my luck. The tin has push out bases and you can remove the cakes easily without damaging them.  If you grease the tin with Cake Release the cakes will come out very easily. 

You can make lots of mini sweet treats in this tin, and in one of their mini brochures that come with a million other brochures inside my Sunday magazine, I saw this recipe for mini carrot cakes. I adapted the recipe and used only half the walnuts suggested and replaced them with raisins. The cakes get lovely and sticky after a day or so and although mine didn't make the freezer, I can't see any reason why they shouldn't freeze successfully.

You will need:  150g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp all spice, 150g light brown sugar, 250 grated carrots, 50g finely chopped dried apricots, 50g finely chopped walnuts, 50g raisins, 150ml vegetable oil, 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.  

Lemon cream cheese icing:  50g butter, 75g full-fat cream cheese, ¼ tsp vanilla extract, 100g sifted icing sugar, 1 tsp lemon curd.

1.   Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease the tin, preferably with Cake Release.
2.   Sieve - flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and all spice.
3.   Add to a mixing bowl.
4.   Stir in the sugar, carrots, apricots, walnuts and raisins.
5.   Pour in the vegetable oil.
6.   Add the eggs and vanilla extract.
7.   Beat until combined.
8.   Scoop into the tin.
9.   Bake for 30 minutes until risen and set.
10. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes.
11. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
12.  Make the filling:
13.  Beat the butter.
14.  Add the cream cheese, lemon curd and vanilla extract.
15.  Stir in the icing sugar and mix.
16.  Slice the cakes in half.
17.  Spread with the cream cheese filling.
18.  Dust with icing sugar.

26 Apr 2012

Zabu Coffee - Review

Zabu Coffee are an online coffee company who deliver selected freshly roasted coffee beans direct to your door. They have a great value introductory offer - 2 bags of freshly roasted coffee beans for £12.97 and a free electric grinder worth £19.99 which includes free delivery.  All you need is a cafetiere and you are on your way to that perfect cup of coffee.

The grinder has a retractable cord and grinds your beans quickly, efficiently and fairly quietly too. My pack included the Coffee of the Month - Colombian Medellin Excelso coffee beans, 1 bag of Zabu House Blend and the free grinder. There are tasting notes on the back of every pack of coffee sent to me which is really helpful.

There is also a note on the back of the packs of coffee to say the coffee has been perfectly roasted for cafetieres and filter coffee makers. I appreciate not everyone wants to go to the expense of buying an espresso machine but this is my preferred method to make coffee, which in my case is always a latte, and so I had quite a few fabulous cups of coffee.

The Zabu House Blend 227g bag is Rainforest Alliance Certified is a 100% Aribica blend of Brazilian, Colombian and Costa Rican beans. Mild sweet and nutty with subtle fruity acidity and notes of caramel, peanut and hazelnut. Medium bodied with good levels of sweetness and acidity.  I made a cafetiere of coffee, Bailey's coffee and a latte, all coffees were excellent.

The Coffee of the Month - Colombian Medellin Excelso 227g bag is Fairtrade Certified. 100% Arabica beans. Mild, smooth medium bodied with subtle butterscotch sweetness, notes of hazelnut and winy acidity.  Yet another delicious cup of coffee......

 Decaffeinated Swiss Water Process 100% Arabica.  Ethopian Sidamo decaffeinated by consistent washing in pure Swiss water. Fruity acidity and soft berry notes. The lack of caffeine smooths the taste and lends a subtle flavour to the coffee. I was keen to try this coffee because I often buy fresh decaff coffee and always buy beans that have used the Swiss Water Process. I couldn't tell the coffee was decaffeinated, it was totally delicious with an acidity and lots of flavour.

Sumatra Blue Lingtong 227g bag is 100% Arabica. Bold, rounded and full of flavour with notes of earthy spices, ripe fruit and liquorice, full bodied with muted earthy sweetness. The coffee beans are very black and so was my shot of coffee. I know if I had tamped the grinds correctly there would have been more crema.

Zabu roast your coffee to order, the coffee beans are packed in vacuum bags, they will even grind the beans for you, if you so wish.  If you don't like any of your delivered beans they will replace them or provide you with a full refund and they can't be any fairer than that.

For £12.97, every month you can have a Zabu Coffee House Blend plus the Coffee of the Month - tasting notes are also included, and you are able to stop or change the delivery at any time.

Forget those bags of ground coffee you buy in the supermarket, once you have tried freshly roasted coffee beans you will wonder why you didn't buy fresh before.  I have bought freshly roasted coffee beans for many years now and grind them only when I am going to make a cup of coffee. We like decent coffee and these coffee beans are comparable to my regular supplier.

Thank you Zabu and Emily for the fabulous coffee.

24 Apr 2012

Cartmel Summer Fruit Pudding: Review

The lovely people at Cartmel Village Shop have sent me two puddings to review, Lemon Drizzle and Summer Fruit Pudding. 

It was difficult to choose which pudding I should try first, I tossed a coin and it landed on heads for Summer Fruit Pudding. I know the Lemon Drizzle Pudding should have been reviewed first, but hey ho, sometimes it's good to be different.  The sun was shining yesterday, my fruit bushes are all in bud, and Summer Fruit Pudding definitely has the feelgood factor.  It is a healthy pudding, with no fat, full of fruity goodness and even those who don't normally eat pudding will be won over.

Whilst the summer fruits are infused with Belvoir Elderflower Cordial, it doesn't overpower the fruit. The bread layers are soaked in raspberry, strawberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant juice.  The pudding cuts well and is neither too tart or too sweet.  All of the fruit is tasty, plump and excellent quality.  I served my pudding with pouring cream. Today, on recommendation from Cartmel Village Shop,  I served the other half of the pudding with creme fraiche - delicious.

A transportable pudding for picnics, a great pudding to eat after a hearty meal, and can be bought in advance and stored in the freezer.

This beautiful summer pudding serves 4 people and weighs 450g. 

Thank you to Cartmel Village Shop for another perfect pud. My Lemon Drizzle pudding review will be on here very soon.

23 Apr 2012

Roasted Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Quiche

We have had a lovely outing to Liverpool to see a beautiful new born baby girl and her proud mummy and daddy.

I enjoy wandering around Liverpool and didn't need any persuading to revisit Delifonseca in Stanley Street for lunch.  There is a wonderful deli downstairs and upstairs they serve freshly made food. It is close to The Cavern and if you are nearby and need lunch/dinner which is made to a high standard, you can't go wrong, they also have a restaurant at Dockside, Liverpool. When I go out for lunch, I mostly choose the vegetarian option, and Delifonseca served me a fabulous quiche.  I hadn't made a quiche for some time and found this delicious recipe on the BBC GoodFood website.

   To go along side the quiche I made this crunchy rice salad.

21 Apr 2012

Poachies - Egg Poaching Bags: Review

Poachies are a new product to help all of us who struggle to poach an egg using conventional methods.

The Poachie is an egg poaching bag made from paper. All you have to do is fill a saucepan threequarters full with water, bring to the boil then turn down until the water is gently bubbling. Simply take a drinking mug and place the opened Poachie bag into it, crack in the egg (preferably fresh), bring both of the flaps together to close the Poachie, place vertically into the water. Put the timer on for 5 minutes then remove the bag with a slotted spoon, and drain on a kitchen towel for a few moments. Remove the poached egg from the bag by shaking the bag gently.

The above is a brief overview of how to use the product. I'm not a poached egg eater and so had to rely on my husband to do the tastings. There is no need to put any vinegar in the water or swirl or twirl the water in the hope of producing a decent poached egg.

The recommended poaching time is 6 minutes but this produced an egg, which according to my husband, was like a hard boiled egg but minus the shell. Perhaps the water was boiling too vigorously, but a conventionally poached egg wouldn't take this long to cook. I also had to tear the bag away from the egg and shaking it wouldn't release the egg.

I cooked him another poached egg, but this time for 4 minutes, he said he was so used to eating poached eggs which tasted of vinegar he was missing his hit of vinegar. He wasn't sure I had cooked the egg very well. I still couldn't get the egg to slide out of the bag.

This weekend I bought some fresh eggs and made a granary loaf to serve the egg on. I decided to cook the egg for 5 minutes with the water gently bubbling, and the poached egg was perfect. I still couldn't get the egg to slide out of the bag, but the bag tears away easily and it didn't really seem to matter. As with a conventionally poached egg, it is always going to give a better result if the egg is fresh.  The poached egg in the photograph looks lovely and it isn't very often I have been able to say that.

My husband said 'I've cracked it' and he is looking forward to more well cooked poached eggs. Hard yolks, yolks that have separated from the whites, frothy eggs whites, poached egg pans should all now be history.......

Thank you Eleanor.

20 Apr 2012

Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Parmesan Wafers

This is the second cauliflower cheese soup recipe on my blog. To be truthful I only made the soup so that I could eat the Parmesan wafers and they are so easy to make, you will never look back. My other recipe was by Jamie Oliver and if you look at my previous posting you will see why his soup is so delicious.

The recipe comes from Woman&Home Dinner Tonight and is a really good quarterly magazine for recipe ideas, unfortunately I haven't seen it on the magazine racks in the shops recently.

The weather seems to be a little crazy, sun, wind, rain and hailstones, so perhaps I can be forgiven for posting yet another cauliflower cheese soup recipe.

Serves: 4

You will need: 25g butter, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped leek (reserve some of the green part to garnish), 1 chopped cauliflower, 700ml vegetable stock, 600ml milk, 75g grated Cheddar cheese

1. Add the butter to a pan and melt, add the chopped leek and onion. Cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for 5 minutes until soft.
2. Add the cauliflower, stock and milk. Bring to the boil and simmer for 35 minutes, covered until the cauliflower is tender. Season.
3. Cool the soup and pour into a food processor or liquidizer and blitz until smooth.
4. Add the Cheddar cheese, reheat, pour into bowls and garnish with chopped green leek.

Parmesan Wafers

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Sprinkle heaped tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan in little piles on top and bake for 5 minutes at 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6 until melted. Lift off the paper and cool.

15 Apr 2012

Leek, Broccoli and Stilton Soup - National Stilton Week 15 - 21 April 2012

Leek, Broccoli and Stilton cheese are a match made in heaven. The recipe is by food writer Tamasin Day-Lewis and is from her book Tamasin's Kitchen Bible.
Whilst I was growing up Stilton cheese always seemed to be in the house. I must admit though it wasn't to my taste, it was a cheese the grownups ate, and mostly with celery, another one for the grownups. I never appreciated this magnificent cheese when I lived in the shires, for me it has been an acquired taste.

Long Clawson Dairy or Tuxford & Tebbutt Stilton cheese were the ones favoured by my family because these were our local cheese makers, but when I eventually discovered Stilton cheese it was Colston Bassett for me, I think this is because it is creamier than some of the others. A digestive biscuit with a slab of Stilton on top is heavenly, my husband says I make him want to weep, and it's a waste of good cheese.

Recipe: Leek, Broccoli and Stilton Soup
Serves: 4

1 small chopped onion, 2 tbsp olive oil, 30g butter, 3 finely chopped leeks, head of broccoli chopped, 1.2 litres chicken stock, 150ml milk or cream, up to 55g Stilton to garnish, black pepper.

1. Add the oil and butter to the pan and cook the onion for a few minutes.
2. Add the leeks and broccoli to the onion, cook for five minutes.
3. Add the hot stock to the pan and bring to a simmer, cook until the broccoli is just tender. When cooked add the cream. Allow the soup to cool.
4. Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently.
5. Pour into dishes and garnish with Stilton cheese and a grinding of black pepper.

A couple more postings on my blog using Stilton Cheese - Long Clawson Dairy, Cooking Creatively with Cheese and Broccoli and Stilton Soup with Stilton Croutons.

14 Apr 2012

Trudeau Mini Duo Salt and Pepper Grinder - Review

Brights are everywhere at the moment, and if you would like to add a splash of colour to your kitchen and dining room, this quality salt and pepper mill from Trudeau is perfect. The 2in1 mill is available in three fabulous colourways.

The mill measures 8cm high x 6cm wide x 5cm deep and sits comfortably in the hand. Turn the top to the left for a fresh grinding of black pepper and turn to the right to grind sea salt.

Photograph showing ceramic grinders to prevent rust and wear.

The clear acrylic cases containing salt and pepper can easily be refilled by lifting the flap.

The mill duo is soft to the touch, wipe-clean and is pre-filled with 10g of black peppercorns and 24g of coarse sea salt.

This innovative product will make a great gift for any homemaker and cook, it can also be taken with you on picnic and camping trips.

The Trudeau Mini Duo Grinder is £21.50 and is available from www.topgourmet.co.uk and independent cook shops.

Thank you Pam for another amazing product.

11 Apr 2012

Chocolate Chip and Banana Cupcakes

I've made this recipe so many times now, there are always over-ripe bananas in my fruit bowl. The blacker the banana, the lighter the sponge will be. My favourite cupcakes are always going to be the ones topped with chocolate flake, even though some of them were decorated with chocolate eggs. The puddle of chocolate on top of the cupcakes is a mixture of dark chocolate and unsalted butter gently melted together.

The recipe is from one of my favourite food writers Annie Bell who is the principal cookery writer for YOU Magazine. I always tear out the recipe section from the magazine and tuck them away in my Annie Bell cookery books for future use.

9 Apr 2012

Cherry Pies and Review: Chicago Metallic Bakeware

My pan from Chicago Metallic is part of their Speciality Bakeware range. I used mine to make these delicious individual cherry pies, the recipe is by Nigella Lawson from How to Eat. I'm a huge fan of the Chicago Metallic Speciality Bakeware range and own a few pieces, this new addition to my collection will serve me well, and I have a few recipes already lined up that I am really looking forward to making.

The good looking tin is non-stick, with separate disc inserts to help remove your sweet or savoury pies easily from the tin.

Supplied with the tin is a very useful two-sided pastry cutter which can be used to cut out pastry for the bases or to make a plain pastry lid. Turn the cutter over and make a cut-out pastry lid for sweet pies. The cut-outs can also be used to decorate pastry lids for either sweet or savoury pies. Individual tart cases can also be made in the tin.

Each pie cavity measures 11.2 x 11.2 x 1.5cm - the tin is well made, doesn't warp, gives even cooking, cleaning is minimal, dishwasher safe (but I personally think to look after any bakeware you should always handwash to keep them looking good), and a 25 year warranty.

This photograph shows even cooking of the cherry pie and the fluted edge.

The tin can be purchased from www.kitchenmonger.co.uk priced £18.95.

Thank you Eleanor.

1 Apr 2012

Hot Cross Buns: Easter Baking

Hot Cross Buns are a favourite of mine. Unfortunately, the ones we buy aren't very big and I love a Hot Cross Bun with a bit of attitude!

I made my dough in the bread machine, it never lets me down. The recipe is from one of my favourite books - The Bread Book by Sara Lewis. There are instructions for making by hand or using a bread machine. Also, comprehensive step by step instructions to guide you, if you have never made a loaf with a bread machine. Shaping techniques and baking know-how are also included in the book.

The crosses are easy to pipe, but the flour and water paste is pretty unpleasant. My husband had to try his best to get the stuff into a disposable piping bag for me, it's a two man job, one holding the piping bag and the other trying to get the paste from the bowl into the bag. Don't even be tempted to use a reusable bag because you will regret it! I think it's best if I draw a veil over what the paste looks like, it tastes good though.

My buns were light and spicy, the glaze was lovely and sticky. They don't contain the dreaded peel, but I think I would grind some peel with granulated sugar next time, they could have done with a hint of citrus and a few more raisins would have been good too.

They are perfect fresh, freeze well and are fabulous toasted. Now I have a freezer of very sticky Hot Cross Buns.