Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Salted Caramel Rocky Road

Readers, I'm telling you now that these are seriously naughty bakes!  I repeat... seriously naughty.  Although, if you cut into 20 pieces rather than 10, it might not be quite so bad?  And they've got dried fruit in them...

These salted caramel rocky road bars are the ultimate for a sweet tooth.  Great for preparing ahead of time if you're having a bake sale, afternoon tea party or a potluck event.   

My traybake recipes are generally always popular on the blog, so I hope you enjoy this one too! 

Happy Baking!
salted caramel rocky road bars


Salted Caramel Rocky Road Bars

Ingredients

Makes 10 slices or 20 small bitesize pieces
300g crushed Hobnobs
3 dessert spoons golden syrup
125g salted butter
75g mini marshmallows
50g chopped yoghurt coated bananas
50g dried cranberries
180g dark chocolate
Topping
100g dark chocolate (melted)
Handful mini marshmallows
Handful chopped yoghurt bananas
20 raisins                                            
Salted caramel sauce to drizzle
Salted Caramel Sauce
100g golden caster sugar
50g salted butter
70ml double cream
2 pinches sea salt (ground)

Method

  1. Firstly, make the salted caramel sauce by adding the golden caster sugar to a pan over a medium heat.  This is the dry method of making caramel, so keep stirring the sugar with a heat proof spatula so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  The sugar will begin to clump together and melt into a golden colour.  Be careful not to burn it. Keep stirring!
  2. Once sugar has melted, stir in the butter and boil for 2-3 minutes – be careful, the mix will bubble up when the fat is added. Then slowly add in the double cream and stir through.  Heat for around another minute, continuously stirring then remove from heat and allow to thicken.
  3. If there are any lumps in the sauce, pass through a sieve to remove, then stir in sea salt to taste.
    Making the sauce
  4. Next, make the base for the rocky road.  Add 180g dark chocolate, 3 dessert spoons golden syrup and 125g salted butter to a pan over a medium heat.  Melt all ingredients together and remove from the heat.

    Preparing the base
  5. Once melted, allow to cool slightly, before breaking up the hobnobs into the mix. You want to keep the pieces a reasonable size, rather than a crumb, so the tray bake has some bite.
  6. Stir in the mini marshmallows, chopped yoghurt banana chips and dried cranberries to the mix.
  7. Using an 8in x 8in silicone bake pan, pour in around half of the base mixture and flatten out into the pan, making sure to reach the corners.  Then, drizzle 3 teaspoons of salted caramel sauce over the top, before adding the remaining half of the base mixture over the sauce.  You’re almost creating a salted caramel sandwich! Flatten out, as per the first half.
    Add the salted caramel filling to the rocky road bars
  8. Transfer to the fridge and allow to set into a solid block (around 1 hour).
  9. Once chilled, melt 100g dark chocolate in a microwave cup for around 1 minute until smooth.  Pour over the base mixture and use a spatula to flatten out into a chocolate topping.  Then, add some raisins, marshmallows and chopped yoghurt bananas scattered across the chocolate, before finishing with 3 teaspoons of salted caramel sauce drizzled on the top.
  10. Return to the fridge to set the topping (around 1 hour) before cutting into 10 equal sized bars. 

Top Tips
  • This can be made a day ahead of time and stored overnight – just cut before you are ready to serve.
  • The recipe is fairly dense, so you could get 20 smaller pieces out of the mix, if bitesize blocks are more your thing.
  • The rocky road will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for around 4-5 days after being made.
  • Use pre-made salted caramel sauce for the filling and topping if you are unsure about making the caramel from scratch.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Product Review: Lavazza Prontissimo Coffee

Readers, it’s nice to be doing a product review again… for some lovely coffee.  The PR team at Lavazza sent me over some of their new instant coffee to sample and give my feedback.  Hello Lavazza Prontissimo.

I received one tin of medium and one of the intense varieties.   Naturally, an office job that’s client facing and involves having to converse with people in the morning requires the strongest hit first thing.  The “intenso” has now been relocated to my desk at work.
lavazza prontissimo review
Behold... Intenso

Happened to offer a cup to my colleague the other day who was really impressed by the standard of product and claimed it tasted “almost the same as straight from a cafetiere”.  So in short, they were impressed.

Office coffee is an interesting thing… I watch people going into the canteen with their cafetiere-for-one and very expensive, sourced from the deli ground beans.  Frankly, I’m lazy when it comes to that and too tight go via overpriced-coffee-chain-brand on my way to the office in the morning… At £3 a cup, once per day, that’s easily £60 a month on coffee alone.

The beauty of these tins is that there’s 52 servings in each.  At £4.70 for a 95g tin, that’s value.  Trying to save money?  Coffee lovers could save £55 a month by forgoing their chain store cup for a make your own version.  What’s better, there’s no faffing about.  Add a teaspoon or two to your cup, add hot (NOT BOILING!) water and stir in milk and sugar if desired.  That’s all it takes.  Caffeine hit achieved, without hitting the pocket hard.
lavazza prontissimo review

Prontissimo is Lavazza’s first foray into the instant coffee market. With a high percentage of microground roast coffee granules which maintain the coffee oils, there’s more flavour here per cup than your average instant.

The Medio variety comes with 20% microground coffee and is a lower acidity than the Intenso with notes of caramel.   I prefer the Intenso to get me going in the morning and the Medio mid-morning, when I’m ready for a bit of a pastry and have woken up to the world.
lavazza prontissimo review

Lavazza’s new Prontissimo range is available in Sainsburys, Waitrose and Tesco stores across the UK, priced at £4.70 for the 95g tins and £3.75 for the smaller pouches.


Disclaimer: I was sent some samples of Prontissimo to try and review. Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Muffins

Readers, I found myself back in the kitchen tonight after a request from Mr WhatClaireBaked for some chocolate muffins.  Muffins are SO EASY to make at home but it’s something I save for special treats as they aren’t the healthiest.

Tonight’s challenge was to take muffins to the next level… mission complete.  These bad boys are Nutella stuffed. 

I possibly slightly over estimated on the amount of mix, but can guarantee this recipe will produce at least 10 generous muffins.   They are best eaten slightly warm or, if it’s the day after, go for 15 seconds in the microwave before you eat them.

Perfect with a fresh coffee in the afternoon.

Enjoy!
nutella stuffed muffins

 Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Muffins

Ingredients (makes 10 generously sized muffins)

3 cups plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sunflower oil
1 cup semi skimmed milk
1 packet milk chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c/180c Fan/Gas 6.
  2. Add the sugar and eggs to a bowl and using a hand whisk, bring the two together.  Add the vanilla extract, milk and sunflower oil.  Mix to combine.
  3. Add in the flour and baking powder (don’t worry about sifting – mix should be lumpy).  Mix to JUST combine, then stir in the chocolate chips.  Thick and lumpy batter is ideal!
  4. Add muffin cases to a muffin tin. Add mix to about halfway up each case. Then, dollop a half teaspoon of Nutella on to op of each mix.   Following this, add a little more batter to encase the Nutella.   This should take you to around ¾ full in each case.

  5. Transfer to the pre-heated oven and bake for around 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted to the batter leaves each muffin with a few crumbs.
  6. Allow to cool slightly before serving with coffee.   Store any leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
nutella stuffed muffins
Nutella Stuffed Muffins



Link up your recipe of the week

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

A Weekend in the City… Dining in Madrid

Readers, I’ve been on my travels again.  Every year, my 3 friends from home and I try to get away. We’ve been to London, York, Ibiza , Marbella and Tenerife in the past and this year’s trip was off to Viva Espana for a weekend in Madrid.
madrid guidebook

Some say Madid is Spain’s Gastronomy Capital… Others like me could be convinced, however, San Sebastian has more Michelin stars per square mile than anywhere else in Europe, so this remains to be seen… that said, today’s post focuses on our dining delights in this great Spanish city and has some hints and tips for those who are gluten free.

One of our group is coeliac, so we needed to be very careful where we went, given the language barrier and her need to completely avoid certain food groups.  God bless the internet – we were able to research some venues before heading out.

On our first night, we found the restaurant dubbed Madrid’s best gluten free restaurant.  Clearly we can’t compare it to everything else out there, however, in terms of traditional Spanish tapas, there were 22 options which could be made gluten free meaning for once, we could all order from the same menu and share food – as tapas should be eaten!  We went for 8 different options and were delighted by a complimentary appetiser and chocolate strawberry each.  Great service.
Taberna La Concha

Taberna La Concha was heaven for our gluten free diner.  The restaurant staff don’t speak a huge amount of English, but this place is definitely a hidden hem.  Gluten free bread was an option and it was lovely to be able to share food properly as a group, without worry.  There’s a bar upstairs and a fairly small restaurant downstairs – we had to wait 30 minutes for a table at 10pm, but it was worth it.  The bill for 4 of us, including a jug of Sangria came to around £55 which we all thought was reasonable given the quality of food we had.
taberna la concha

On night two, we went to another small local place in one of the local districts. Restaurante El Arrozal took a bit of walking to get to, round a series of windy streets, so it’s not the type of place a tourist would fall over.  A traditional Spanish place, with very little English spoken and a fairly small menu, the owners have a coeliac child, so understand gluten free struggles.  The restaurant does a range of paella dishes – we tried two between the four of us. Two of the group had a traditional meat and vegetable paella, whilst we shared an oven baked dish with pork and baked eggs (think a Spanish tortilla minus the potato).   Again, with Sangria, the bill came in at around £55 for the four of us – for a LOT of food. They also did a gluten free bread with aioli to start, which everyone was happy to get stuck into!


After two nights eating Spanish food, we were all set for something a little different and ended up at La Cabana Argentina – a steak house we found down a narrow cobbled street, not far from Plaza Del Sol (the main square). As it was the last night, we blew the budget slightly, with a few bottles of decent wine as well as steak dinners.  It’s rated #51 of 8000 restaurants in Madrid and we weren’t disappointed.  The manager came to chat with us about our streak preferences – what cuts, how we liked them cooked, did we like lean or marbled etc. and then paired us up with the best option on the menu.  Dinner started with bread, garlic butter and olives – it gave us time to chat and relax, before the main event.
la cabana argentina

la cabana argentina madrid

Absolutely no complaints – the steak was so well cooked – medium to my preference – and the side of garlic and parsley fries was HUGE… absolutely no way we were leaving hungry afterwards.  The restaurant had a really relaxed feel to it – there were lots of couples and the odd family with children in to enjoy dinner together, even thought it was 9.30pm on a Sunday night.  The restaurant had a really great vibe – staff were friendly, there was a massive wine cellar to choose from and it wasn’t pushy to order any more than a main course, if that was all you wanted.  All in, we were probably around £30 a head for steaks, sides, bread and olives and a half bottle of wine each.  For those who didn’t want steaks, there were other grilled meat options, as well as a series of pasta dishes – one of the girl’s went for a ravioli dish with cheese and spinach. 

Madrid makes for a fab weekend away, either with a group of friends or as a couple.  Although it doesn’t have a huge amount of famous sights to see, there are some great walking tours, to help you uncover the secrets of the city and learn some facts about the history of Madrid.  Many are free, with a “pay what you’re happy with” element at the end. 
street food in madrid
Street Food in Madrid
mojitos at hard rock madrid
Mojitos at Hard Rock, Madrid
We passed 3 full days easily, between wandering the streets, visiting some of the sights and shopping as a group.   We flew Easyjet direct from Edinburgh and rented an apartment from a local lady, located one metro stop from the main square in the multicultural district of Lavapies.  

Saturday, 21 May 2016

BBQ Inspiration – National Barbeque Week 2016

Readers, after enjoying a few days of fabulous weather last week and over the weekend, I’m finally starting to think summer dining.
 
I’m also helping to support National BBQ Week coming up on 30th May to 5th June this year.  Many thanks to Ocean Loans for getting me involved in this year’s campaign.  The brief was really open to interpretation (as longs it sticks to the bbq theme) and I could do what I wanted to promote all things BBQ!

So, I’ve decided to go for a couple of easy to create dishes which could be made in the kitchen and finished off on the bbq.  The star here is the mini chicken kebabs… super easy to make with ingredients you possibly already have in the fridge or cupboard.  I’ve also suggested a couple of side dishes that are inspired by summer, the Med, Spanish flavours and hot days.  All of this can be prepared indoors first (great if you’ve only got enough space on your bbq for a couple of bangers) and if you really want the authentic taste – cook your chicken on the hob and finish it off for a couple of minutes over the bbq.

Happy Summer everyone*

*disclaimer, it’s CHUCKING DOWN with rain as I write this in Glasgow.  Fear that we’ve had our summer already…

Marinated Chicken Kebabs


Ingredients (serves 4)


4 chicken fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chilli powder (adjust to your liking)
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons chopped fresh/frozen coriander
Juice of ½ lime

Method


  1. Prepare your marinade in a bowl by mixing the oil, spices and lime juice.  Chop chicken and add to the marinade. Make sure it is evenly coated.  Set aside in the fridge for at least 1 hour.  Super organised? You can make this 24h before and leave to infuse in the fridge in a tub.
    Make the marinade

    
    Add the chicken
  2. Next, fry the chicken over the hob on a medium high heat until cooked through.  Being careful once cooked, thread 4 pieces of chicken onto each skewer.   Transfer to the bbq and grill for a couple of minutes each side to get that authentic smoky flavour. (Or if you find it’s raining as per the usual British BBQ, feel free to eat straight away).
    marinated chicken kebabs



Chorizo Sweet Potatoes


chorizo sweet potatoes

Ingredients (serves 4)


4 small sweet potatoes
¼ chorizo sausage
1 garlic clove (quartered)
Olive oil for cooking

 Method


  1. Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/Gas 6.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and chop into small cubes.  Toss in olive oil and add the garlic clove.  
  3. Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Cut chorizo sausage into small cubes. 
  5. Remove the sweet potato from oven, add the chorizo and stir to coat with the oils.  Return to oven.
  6. Roast for a further 10-15 minutes until cooked through.






 Spanish Roasted Veggies


spanish roasted veggies

Ingredients (serves 4)


1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 red onions
12 cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove (quartered)
Olive Oil for cooking

Method


  1. Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/Gas 6.
  2. Chop and de-seed the peppers.  Peel and cut the onions into wedges.
  3. Add to an oven proof dish along with the cherry tomatoes and quartered garlic clove.
  4. Toss with olive oil and cook in the oven for around 30 minutes – stirring halfway through to ensure vegetables don’t burn.
  5. Serve as a side dish along with the chorizo sweet potatoes and the mini chicken kebabs.

national bbq week 2016







Sunday, 8 May 2016

Restaurant Review: Lunch at Chez Roux at Cromlix Hotel, near Dunblane

Readers, it’s been a few weeks since I last did a restaurant review.  Yesterday we went to The Cromlix, known locally as “Andy Murray’s hotel” and quite frankly, if it’s good enough for him… then it’s good enough for me.

We drove through from Glasgow and from the moment we arrived, the service was first class. We were greeted by a member of staff in the carpark, who took us into the bar, ensured we were seated and our coats and jackets were stowed away.  We had time for a round of drinks before the main event…. A 3 course lunch at Chez Roux.

On arrival, I was super excited to see the open kitchen and pass, where head chef Darin Campbell, formerly of One Devonshire Gardens, was hard at work with his team.  Chez Roux is housed in an airy open conservatory overlooking the hotels croquet lawn and tennis courts.  It’s light, spacious and has minimalist d├ęcor to appeal to all ages.  Chez Roux is overseen by the legendary Albert Roux and if we weren’t mistaken, there was a gentleman who looked INCREDIBLY similar to him sitting in the corner talking to staff today…

Mr What Claire Baked and I went with my mum and dad, who’d kindly taken us along for an early birthday treat.  Staff had taken care to remember this from the booking and asked on arrival who’s birthday we were celebrating and if we’d travelled far today… turns out it’s a great halfway point between my hometown near Dundee and our Glasgow home.

Our drinks were taken to the table and we were presented with some canapes to enjoy whilst we waited, along with a basket of fresh bread.  Cleverly, the staff take your food order whilst you’re enjoying your drinks at the bar, so by the time you’re seated, starters follow soon after.   I went for the gurnard salad with foraged greens to start, whilst my parents went for gazpacho and Mr What Claire Baked got stuck into a pigs head croquette.  All were beautifully presented.
My starter
Soon after, the main event arrived.  I had food envy across the table – mum went for cod, whilst the rest of us chose the Ayrshire pork belly, served with seasonal veg and dauphinoise potatoes.  Each was finished with a red wine jus, served hot at the table by the exceptional waiting staff. Clean plates all round and everyone remarked that portion sizes were perfect- the three course option left everyone feeling fulfilled but not rolling out the restaurant!
Amazing pork belly with red wine jus

I’m a huge fan of desserts, but often I’ll order and be left disappointed when something mass made appears before me.  Not here.  3 out of 4 of us went for the strawberry and mint panna cotta, served with mini meringues and fresh mint leaves.  Mr WhatClaireBaked isn’t the biggest dessert lover so was delighted to see a cheeseboard included with the 3 course lunch menu – so often, it’s only available with a supplement.  The knowledgeable waitress took him through the 8 cheeses on offer from the trolley and served him at the table with his choice.  
Fantastic last course in an amazing lunch

The panna cottas passed the wobble test and it was fantastic to watch the team of chefs plating up on the pass in front of us.  If something wasn’t right, they started over.  

We finished off with coffee and were brought some petit fours to finish.  Hats off to the person who made the macarons – as my readers know, they are my baking nemesis!
Petit Fours to finish

At £28.50 per head Chez Roux offered exceptional value for money for a fine dining restaurant.  We were in for over two and a half hours and at no point did we feel rushed out the door.   The atmosphere was relaxed, staff were very professional, knowledgeable and genuinely seemed interested in their jobs.  For those of you who don’t know Cromlix closed in early 2012 after a period of financial difficulty and was refurbished and reopened several years later after a purchase from none other than local boy Andy Murray. (His brother married there in 2010 don’tcha know…)

So, the verdict… we thoroughly enjoyed out visit.  The food was superb and the three course lunch was fantastic value for money.  Staff were so helpful and made us feel very welcome.  The setting was stunning, the restaurant was airy, bright and clean. Thankfully the rain stayed off during our visit, so we could enjoy the views across the grounds.  We’ll definitely be back.    Thanks also to the staff for this lovely finishing touch...

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Product Review: Propercorn Popcorn


Hi Readers!

Excited to have a product review to undertake this weekend.   A couple of weeks ago, I received a big orange satchel based box through the post, with a selection of six different bags of Propercorn.

For those of you who don’t know, Propercorn is “done properly”.  It’s made in Britain, is vegan friendly, GM free, gluten and wheat free.  Glad we’ve cleared that up as a starting point!

The brand was founded based on a Dad who was a hopeless cook but who could bash out a decent pot of popcorn. Thanks Cassandra, we appreciate you sharing your Dad’s great flavour combinations with us all!

I had a selection of sweet and savoury sent out to me.  I’m halfway through the box, having munched all the sweet bags and I’ll looking forward to trying the savoury bags as part of office packed lunches next week, when I’m back into a work routine after Italy (more of that to follow soon!)

Bags might weigh only 20g, but there’s lots of lovely munchy popped kernels inside every bag. The calorie content is lower than even a “healthy” bag of crisps, so there’s a guilt free snack if I ever saw one!

So, my thoughts so far… I’ve enjoyed all of the sweet varieties and was pleasantly surprised by the Sweet and Salted flavour.  I’ve heard loads about the revolutionary sweet and salty popcorns out there but never really felt the urge to try it.  Handy, when it lands on your door for a review.  Turns out its really moreish and odd as it sounds, works together.  My favourite so far was the Sweet Coconut and Vanilla.  Again, not something I’d automatically try…. The coconut sweets are always left in the box at Christmas, I’ve no idea why, childhood trauma maybe?!  However, I loved this! Sweet, but not too sweet… moreish enough to think “I’d enjoy that in share size”.

propercorn smooth peanut and almond

The brand junkie in me loved the care and attention put into getting the package out.  I received a £5 gift box in the mail – the presentation was great, I loved the fact I had a chance to try all the flavours and the bright, summery colours would look great out on the table at drinks with friends, or adorning the patio furniture for a summer barbeque.
propercorn popcorn

Thanks Propercorn… I really enjoyed the chance to try these nifty little snacks!  For more information, check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Disclaimer:  I was sent a box of 6 bags of Propercorn to review.  Any opinions expressed are my own.