Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Good Food Show 2008 - Part 1

Well I am back, and slowly recovering after a long day spent happily at the Good Food Show on Thursday in Birmingham, courtesy of Miele (Note to self = don't wear new boots!). Please see their website miele for further information on their full product range, I am now in need of persuading our landlord to get a Miele fridge, complete with in-door lighting!

As a food blogger, I jumped at the opportunity to go along and enjoy privileged access to the show and try lots of lovely food and drink and also the chance to put faces to other blogs.

After meeting with the other bloggers and the team from Miele, the day started with going around the stalls and testing lots of lovely foods and drinks. Though on reflection trying hot chilli sauce at 10.30am was possibly not the wisest of decisions I have ever made, brother - guess what your Christmas present is this year! I chose 3 sauces in a gift pack from Eureka Food's consisting of haberno, birds eye and chipotle chillies! Luckily there was a stall round the next corner selling a delicious cordial called Blush, which was very refreshing!

I tried Limoncello a few years back and it wasn't love at first sip, however one of my favourite liqueur companies called Condessa, have just launched their own Limoncello, which was really delicious. Almost like smooth liquid lemon curd, but with a nice kick! Unfortunately I couldn't carry everything and didnt manage to make it back to the stall to purchase some, will have to remember to plan better next time around!

One of the main highlights for me was briefly meeting the lovely James Martin, I am now amongst many (female!) friends and family who are green with envy! Of course, I managed to embarrass myself by temporarily forgetting my name whilst staring at him but I was not the only one, not mentioning any names...! I have now in my possession a signed copy of The Collection, which will have pride of place on my bookshelf!

As part of the day out, we enjoyed a delicious lunch backstage with the group of other bloggers, who were also with Miele - It was really good to meet up with you all. I never had tried prawns with parmesan before but it worked really well and looked impressive as a starter, will definately be stealing that idea! The pudding was also chocolate goodness of a rich chocolate and mandarin mousse with butterscotch sauce, mm mm mm. the only downside was that I was so full I couldn't face trying much else!

In the supertheatre show, James Martin cooked Teryaki mackerel fillets with pickled red onion and green bean salsa, I will definitely be trying this out, the green bean pickle in particular sounds really good as I love anything pickled! He then did a breaded veal chop with celeriac and potato puree and herb spatzle. Is the first time I have seen spatzle made and it looked interesting…For dessert he did thin slices of puff pastry, sandwiched with mascarpone cheese, raspberries and finished with spun sugar, which was hilarious as he borrowed some poor chap’s walking stick to do it with! The dessert did look gorgeous though I am not sure I would make spun sugar in the same way.

After James show had ended, they allowed us to pop up on stage and be nosy :

Both me and a couple of other bloggers also got tickets to see Gordon Ramsey in the supertheatre, he was in fine form and it was great to see him cook live, though we had seats in row Z it was still worth it! He was accompanied by Mark Sergeant, they make a good double act! Between them there was borlotti bean minestrone, a dish which will be appearing soon in my kitchen! Also fresh tuna steak with black beans which also looked tasty and followed up with caramelized plums.

Getting into the Christmas Spirit - Cranberry Vodka

I know, I know, I promised myself no mention of the C word until 1st December but I just couldn't wait any longer!

Last night, in preparation for the Christmas season, I finally got around to making Cranberry vodka. Admittedly it says to wait six weeks* but I didn't see that in the book till the other day, oops! Hopefully it will be ready to drink on New Years Eve, it already is a gorgeous ruby red colour but doesn't take the most attractive of photos due to the crushed cranberries bobbing around inside!

From the Love Food, Christmas book, scaled down and adapted slightly:

100g fresh cranberries
2 tbsp golden caster sugar (or similar unrefined)
35cl bottle vodka

1) Sterilise a wide necked jar

2) Place the cranberries in the jar with the sugar and crush the cranberries to release the juices. I used my rolling pin, which now is an attractive shade of pink at one end ;-)

3) Pour over the vodka and mix well, seal and leave in a cool, dark space for 6 weeks*

After decanting, the above is the outcome! I have to be honest that on its own I wasn't keen, however with ice and lemonade its lovely!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Christmas Chutney

Adapting a much loved and made cranberry jam recipe from Nigella, I have made some Christmas chutney which hopefully is going to be ready just in time for the baked ham on Boxing Day! The mix tasted lovely, so here's hoping!

Makes 1 large jar or two smallies

180g fresh cranberries
180g caster sugar
3 halawi dates, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp mixed spice
3 heaped tbsp sultanas
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1) Mix the sultanas, chopped dates and red wine vinegar and leave to soak for ten minutes

2) Heat the cranberries and sugar on a low heat until the sugar is just dissolving, add the above mix and the spice and bring to a gentle boil and stir, crushing the berries lightly. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes, stiring often until it starts looking jammy and thickens, transfer immediately to a sterilized jar/s.

3) Leave for a minimum of 4 weeks in a cool, dark place.

This recipe is also with thanks to my neighbour who rescued me mid-cooking when my electronic scales died on me and he lent me theirs!

Monday, 24 November 2008


I have been very lucky in the last 7 days, 2 excellent restaurant meals and a trip to Devon, what more can a girl ask for!

Last Monday we had a new fridge freezer delivered and whilst watiting the specified resting time before restocking, we went out to one of my favourite restaurants for dinner, Bar 163 in Chertsey, Surrey. Oddly quiet in there but I guess Monday is a quiet day!

We started with the most scrummy garlic bread, which was a fresh 1/2 crispy baguette and topped with melted cheese and also a portion of foccacia with oil. They initially brought the wrong dish over with olives and bean dip etc (which I am slowly starting to like, I managed 4 whole green ones!) but they only charged us for the cheaper one, despite eating the majority of it by the time they realized!

For mains I had the special of Pheasant ravaoli with a radiccio, bacon, brie and walnut sauce which was gorgeous, huge pasta pillows and a lush creamy savoury sauce. Somehow I also managed a also delicious cheeseboard for afters and I am very firmly now in the "I love stilton" camp! It also came with a nice creamy brie and a so-so cheddar and lovely caramelized onions and good old jacobs crackers!

During the week I also tried out one of Tesco's newish salad bags with baby herb leaves which made a nice change with coriander and baby spinach, amongst other things in it! I really liked the herbs and will definately buy again.

On Friday I made this Chocca mocca caramel cake from BBC Good Food: to take to Devon (was visiting family) but I'm not sure if would make again. The caramel chunks all sank to the bottom (as I thought they might) and the sponge seemed a little dry, despite the incredibly sweet gooey topping...however it did catch slightly in the oven so that might have been partially at fault.

Saturday night we had a rather indifferent meal at Café Rouge in Exeter, to use up some Tesco meal vouchers. Maybe I am more used to the Esher one which is calm and relaxed with nicely spaced out tables but I felt the Exeter one very cramped and whilst our waitress was sweet, it was her first night which seemed a bit unfair for a new starter, especially being so busy in there. They are apparently changing the menu shortly and as a result very limited offerings of the available steaks, for our two male steak eating diners was not ideal.... My starter of supposed king prawns with tomato salsa was not very exciting and the prawns looked oddly flat and slightly tasteless, our guests French onion soup came out ice cold and had to obviously go back to the kitchen!

We skipped dessert and finished the cake at home, though not before stopping and trying a tangy Elderflower Fizz cocktail in the Exe Shed, near the restaurant. The highlight of the evening though was when I accidentally managed to smash a pint glass picking up a cocktail menu and pour a fresh pint of beer down some poor guy! Luckily he wasn't too angry and we made it out of the bar alive! If you read this, I am so, so sorry!

On Sunday we went to the Puffing Billy, thepuffingbilly a lovely country pub/ restaurant in Exton. The staff were faultless and I really liked how on arrival they took our coats and a drink order then showed us to the table. Shortly after they bought a basket of fresh bread, which came with a little pot of salted butter, which was just the right softeness for spreading.

For mains I chose the steak and ale pie with mash, it was so big I didnt actually manage to finish it! Huge chunks of really good quality beef steak, mushrooms and a delicious gravy, topped with a puff of pastry. The mashed potatoes were lovely and creamy and on the side we also had a dish of red cabbage, carrots and broccoli, which too were perfectly cooked, not too raw and not mushy! Everything was spankingly fresh and tasty which made a really welcome change to the many other pubs that just seem to re-heat Brakes finest.

I couldn't face a whole dessert, despite the tempting offers so I shared a dessert of chocolate brownie pudding with the beloved, which came with clotted cream and a silky butterscotch sauce which perfectly complemented the hot brownie.

Everyone else loved their meals and we will definately be re-visiting in the near future.

Just before heading home also managed a quick visit to Dart's Farm, which is a lovely, if a little expensive farm shop on the outskirts of Exeter. I was very well behaved and only came away with some strawberry liqorice and some sweeties for a friends x-mas gift! However I did try some really good chocolate from the South Devon Chilli farms, my favourite was peppermint which started with a nice minty kick and finished with a little chilli heat. The orange and chilli, plus the coffee bean and chilli were also very yummy!

To finish with spoiled part, I am also going to be at the Good Food show this Thursday in Birmingham and will let you know later in the week how it goes!

Monday, 17 November 2008

7 Random things about me....

Courtesy of being tagged by Hayley over at awaywiththefairycakes

7 random and/or weird facts about myself:

So here are The Rules:
Link the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.

  • Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
  • Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links.
  • Let each person know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
So here we go:

1) I was a girl guide and really hated insects and camping was horrible as the bugs got everywhere, and I mean everywhere! Wasps are my biggest fear, even above spiders.

2) I love reading. Close to 93 cook books and at least a further 250 other books. Love crime and thrillers, fave authors are Martina Cole and Jeffrey Archer

3) I also fall in the "be prepared" category and have far too much junk in my handbag, plasters, e45, lip balm, lipstick, hairbrush with built in mirror...

4) I am currently writing my first novel, I doubt will even attempt to get it published but am enjoying writing and spending an unhealthy amount of time on it.

5) I am a huge Take That fan and have been since I was about 11 - 15 years ago! Am going to Wembley next year and mega excited. If I ever met Gary Barlow I would most likely faint in shock.

6) My least favourite food is dried apricots, hate the taste, texture, appearance, just are horrible.
7) My boyfriend won't let me have any more pets as I get too emotional and phoned him at work when our goldfish died, in tears.

So that's me done, and in turn I'm going to tag the following:

Nic at Cherrapeno

Beth at jam and clotted cream

Bron over at practically daily

Margaret at kitchen-delights



And last but not least:


Thursday, 13 November 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn't like Chocolate Chip Cookies? No one, that's good then!

Anyway, I have tried many cookie recipes, some better than others, including a slightly bizarre one that ended up like a flat chocolate brownie and actually had to be baked in a baking dish, not the cookie sheet as recommended, not made that one again though the brownie wasn't too bad.....

One of my colleagues asked me yesterday to bring in chocolate chip cookies today and as I had been meaning to try a new recipe, I agreed, I think much to his surprise!

This is taken from my increasingly favourite 'Baking' book and marginally adapted and re-written as to what I had in the house!

Makes about 25 small cookies


75g butter
175g Plain flour
1 heaped tbsp bournville cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 bag plain choc chips
25g demerara sugar
25g dark soft brown sugar
Weeny pinch of salt
4 heaped tbsp golden syrup

1) Blend together the sugar's

2) In a large bowl sift the flour, bicarb, salt and baking powder, chop the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mix and rub together until it resembles breadcrumbs, almost pastry like

3) Add the sugar, cocoa powder, golden syrup and choc chips and mix until its dough like. I used my Kenwood chef for this part as my butter was cold out of the fridge and proving feisty, add more syrup if required until its all come together and slightly pliable.

4) Pinch off small balls teaspoon sized and place on a greased or lined baking tray, flatten slightly and bake for about 12 minutes or until golden, they should be slightly soft still. Allow to cool and transfer to a wire rack.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Pork and Apple Puff's

This recipe tonight came about as I had a pack of organic Pork and Apple sausages and a block of home made puff pastry both lurking in the freezer and not much else!

This is also because I have promised the other-half to stick to the shopping list this week and only buy the potatoes and milk that are on it, for Thursday's dinner (cottage pie, already got the beef!) - we are also aiming to clear the fridge-freezer as I think its on its way out.........just need to sweet talk our landlord though! I am sure it does need replacing as it is straight out of the 1980's and most likely not very energy efficient anymore! Trouble is I keep finding random little bags and tubs even though I do try and label things...still trying to work out what to do with the juice I saved from a tin of mandarins!

Anyway enough of my ramblings, here it is:

Serves 2

6 pork and apple sausages (ours were Tesco organic)
300 puff pastry (home or ready made)
1 egg (for glazing)
Flour for dusting

1) Split the puff pastry into two equal blocks, dust a piece of baking paper with flour and roll out to 26cm long by 15cm wide (approx though I did have a ruler!) Pre-heat oven 190o fan / about 210 normal!

2) Skin the sausages and lightly mix around in a bowl, now place half the sausage meat on 1 half of the pastry, leaving a good cm on each side, brush all exposed areas with beaten egg and pull the other half over, pinch between finger and thumb to seal, repeat with the other one and poke a couple of holes in the top using a fork or skewer.

3) Place on a greased or lined baking tray (I use baking parchment), brush all over with egg and transfer to the oven, cook for about 30 minutes or until golden on top.

N.b. I always use good housekeeping's pastry recipes. And yes I seem to be one of the rare ones who actually enjoys making pastry from scratch!

Friday, 7 November 2008

You say potato....I say its a Monster!!

We don't often have jacket potatoes, I love them but I always seem to forget to actually buy them!

However this week I was picking up some onions, which are in the same aisle as the potatoes and I saw loose bakers so I decided we would have them for dinner one night this week - and so I bagged up my onions, pushed the trolley along and was amazed by the sight - they were huge!

One in particular was a giant so I decided that would be for the other half! I chose a much more modest one! Mine if you hadnt guessed is the smaller one!

One of my friends commented they had picked up some 'larger' then normal potatoes but were nowhere as big as this beast when they saw this one!

I don't think you can beat a jacket potato with cheese,so we went for the whole deal and had crispy bacon, baked beans and a mountain of grated mature cheddar! This is the beast (and these bowls are pretty large!)

And yes he did finish it all!


Please bear with me for the next few days!

I am in the process of testing new backgrounds etc but keep hitting brick walls due to limited techo-speak!
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