Saturday, 28 November 2015

Easy Chocolate Christmas Star Lollies

Readers, it’s almost 1st December, so I feel it’s ALMOST acceptable to start talking about Christmas.  Which means… Christmas food. Christmas cakes.  Christmas baking… Just about everything Christmas that you could ever imagine.  For a foodie, it’s a heavenly time of year.

Anyway, I’m a fan of homemade gifts at this time of year… It’s thoughtful after all. 

Last year I made chocolate bark for everyone – super simple.  This year, I’m starting to experiment with chocolate lollies.  A trip to Home Bargains on my day off (best shop ever) resulted in the purchase of a Wilton silicone star mould for £1.29.  There’s lots of things I am thinking about trying… cookie pops being one of them.  But I started off with simple chocolate lollies on sticks. 

Honestly, get yourselves down to Home Bargains to pick up one of these moulds for a bargain price, they are brilliant!

christmas star chocolate lollies

Christmas Star Chocolate Lollies

Ingredients (makes 4 lollies)

120g bar white chocolate
150g bar milk chocolate
Christmas sprinkles (I got mine in home bargains for 99p)
2 candy canes (crushed)
4 small round lolly sticks

Method

  1. Crush two candy canes using a rolling pin on a heavy wooden board.
  2. Prepare your moulds by putting a stick in each cavity.
    Prep the moulds
  3. Sprinkle the sprinkles and crushed candy canes into the bottom of each mould. Random is fine, but make sure it’s well spread across the mould space.
    Sprinkle the decor into the moulds
  4. Melt your white chocolate in a microwave proof cup for around 1 minute (remove and stir after 30 seconds).  Check it’s fully melted and pour half into the first mould and half into the second.  Tap the mould against the worktop to remove any air bubbles.
  5. Melt the milk chocolate in a microwave proof cup for around 1 minute (remove and stir after 30 seconds).  Check it’s fully melted and pour half into the first mould and half into the second.  Tap the mould against the worktop to remove any air bubbles.
  6. Transfer the mould to the fridge and allow to set for around an hour. 
    Set in the fridge
  7. Remove the mould from fridge and gently press out each lolly.  Serve immediately or wrap in a cellophane bag and tie with a ribbon to give as a gift. 
    star chocolate christmas lollies


Friday, 27 November 2015

Day Out: Foodies Christmas in Edinburgh

Readers, I’ve been off on my foodie travels again.  Only 45 minutes on the train this time, over to Edinburgh to meet up with the lovely Nikki from Couthie Cantie.

We were asked along to Foodies Christmas, held in Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago to help get us into the Christmas spirit.  The event was held at the EICC – just a short walk from Haymarket train station.

Nikki and I arrived earlier and were really glad we did.  By the time we left at 1.30pm the venue was incredibly busy.  Lots of ticket deals were running in the run up to the event and I think lots of visitors took advantage of the offers. 

We arrived in time to register for one of the sessions and despite it being early, we were both keen to head off to the wine tasting.  We had around 40 minutes before the session started so took the opportunity to go and visit some of the great Scottish producers in the artisan markets.  The food areas were split out left and right when you got down the escalator, so we went left first, capturing a glimpse of the cookery demonstrations which were happening in the hall too.

We tried some great ginger beer at the Crabbies stand, then took the chance to see some of the craft beer and gin producers – all with great flavour combinations.
Marvellous Mustards - make your own at home!

Chatting away with craft brewers from Glasgow
Nikki and I were really looking forward to the wine tasting session which turned out to be really informative.  I tend not to think too much about the wines I buy, apart from knowing which varieties  I like.  Our session focused on the Rhone region in France – by the end of it, we were set to book a flight and drive our way from top to bottom.  There were reds and whites to try –the region is famous for its reds, but the whites were equally delicious.  We finished with a dessert wine, making our way through 6 different varieties on our virtual tour of France.


Following our session, we headed back to the other side of the producers market, saying hello to the guys at Poporopo Gourmet Popcorn and our friends at Summer Harvest Oils.  We tried brownies, smoked salmon, cheese and even South African biltong on our travels.  Needless to say, neither of us left empty handed.  I picked up some amazing artisan bread from Mhor, which I got stuck into with homemade soup after the event.
Artisan bread from Mhor

Scotland's only producer of Mead

Our only criticism – either the halls were a bit small or the event was oversubscribed.  By the afternoon, it was almost impossible to get down the aisles in the food village without pushing people out of the way.  A great sign that the event was popular, but frustrating if you wanted to get close to the producers and chat with them.
Enjoying the entertainment


Nikki and I enjoyed our morning at the event and thanks to the organisers for providing us with a couple of free tickets to attend. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Mojito Cupcakes

Readers, following on from my post on the Mexica party night the other weekend, I thought I’d share my oh so simple recipe for Mojito cupcakes… that’s right folks, MOJITO CUPCAKES. 

Oh so easy to make and you can scale up the rum content depending on your preference. I also made this with dark rum as I had some in the house, but white rum would be the better option.

Also – dried mint worked well… just don’t go overboard and DON’T use it in the icing!

Mojito Cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 12 large cupcakes)

Sponge

175g self raising flour
175g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
175g caster sugar
5 teaspoons rum
Juice & zest of ½ lime
1 heaped teaspoon dried mint

Topping
125g softened butter
250g icing sugar
1 heaped teaspoon cream cheese
1 teaspoon rum
Zest of 1 lime

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/Gas 6.  Line a muffin tin with 12 large cupcake cases.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy.   Add the rum, lime juice and zest and dried mint.  Mix to combine.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of flour to prevent curdling.  Mix fully into the batter, then sieve in the flour. Mix to combine.
  4. Spoon batter into each case, to around ¾ full. 
  5. Transfer to the oven and bake for 17 minutes, until golden.   Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Topping

  1. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to a bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix the butter until smooth and lighter in colour.  Add the icing sugar slowly and continue to mix until buttercream is formed. Add the cream cheese and rum towards the end of mixing.
  2. Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe a swirl on top of each.  Finish with grating lime zest on top of each cake.
  3. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Product Review: Proud & Co Silhouette Oven Glove

Readers, I’m introducing you to a new brand tonight! Proud & Co Kitchenware.

I recently received a gift through the post: a lovely heat resistant, waterproof and non-slip oven glove.  As I’ve mentioned several times, we recently painted the kitchen duck egg blue and it matches perfectly with our new look.
Modelling the glove for the first time!
The design features silhouettes of birds on trees and is an elegant shaped glove.   I really liked the waterproof feature. Often I have wet hands in the kitchen, so it’s good to know these won’t get soaked when I’m using them.

The non-slip feature between the palm and thumb sections are great – so often, when I’m lifting dishes out of the oven, I have the fear that the smooth ceramic of the dish against the smooth traditional oven glove are going to be a match made in disaster – cue pasta bake all over the floor.

The glove will withstand heat of up to 500F – great if you’ve got the oven cranked up high!  Also, genius – the glove is interchangeable for both hands.  Delighted as a lefty – so often people assume it’s the right hand that goes in the oven to retrieve dinner… in my case, definitely not!
proud and co oven glove
Great for lefties!
The hanging loop at the top was great – I hung mine on the oven door for ease of reach in the kitchen.
Handy loop to hang on the oven
The glove is currently available for the special price of £8.99 on Amazon… grab yours before the price goes back up!

P.S. It’s also machine washable.  Great for messy cooks like me. I’m a huge fan of spilling Bolognese sauce regularly on my gloves. 

A huge thanks to Proud & Co for giving me the opportunity to try something new.  Keep up to date on their latest developments over on Facebook.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Mini Banoffee Tarts

Readers, I got back to baking this week.  A lot of my recent posts have been cooking focussed so it’s nice to be back baking again.  This recipe is super simple and can be ready in half an hour.  No excuse not to get your bake on.  I was looking at easy tart recipes online – so many cases have to blind baked.  If you don’t have the time, or the baking beans, they can be hard to make.

This recipe creates a delicious caramelised case – be warned, they are hard when first out of the fridge, so allow to come to room temperature if you don’t want granny to break her teeth.  The advantage of this – the cases are firm and hold the filling and the whipped cream without collapsing.
I made 6 small tarts with this recipe, but you could easily double up the recipe if you are feeding a group. 

This is also a cheats recipe that uses only 6 ingredients… bonus!


Mini Banoffee Tarts

Ingredients

For the cases
75g plain flour
60g soft brown sugar
65g unsalted butter


For the filling and topping
6 teaspoons caramel sauce
1 small banana
½ tub Elmlea double cream

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c.   Melt the butter in the microwave.  Add the flour and sugar to the bowl, along with the melted butter. Mix until you have a sticky dough.
    Mix ingredients for the cases
  2. Take a non-stick muffin pan and grease the inside of each space with vegetable oil.
  3. Divide the mix into six and either roll out and cut with a large cutter, or use your hands to shape each case into the shape of the tin.  They can look a little rustic but try to keep each to the same thickness and height in the tin if possible.
    Mould in the tin
  4. Bake in the oven for around 10 minutes.  When removing from the oven the may have puffed up a bit.  Use the back of a teaspoon to flatten them back out and create the indent for the filling.
    Reshape if required
  5. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.
  6. Whilst cooling, whip up the double cream using an electric whisk until firm.  The peaks need to be strong and be able to be piped.
  7. Once cool, fill each with a teaspoon of caramel sauce, a slice of banana and piped cream. Finish with grated chocolate or a chocolate decoration if desired.
    Fill each case with caramel

    Top caramel with sliced banana
  8. Store in the fridge until 10-15 minutes before serving.  These will keep around 24 hours in the fridge… but probably won’t last that long! 
    The finished article


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A Trip to The Cake and Bake Show Edinburgh

Readers, I had a hoot the other weekend, visiting The Cake and Bake Show.  A well established show in London, Cake and Bake hadn’t been over the border to Scotland.  Until now.

Thousands of baking fans flocked to the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh over 3 days to shop, eat and learn about baking from some of the greats in the industry.

I was delighted to be chosen as a blogging partner for The Cake and Bake Show and loved getting involved in the run up to the event with tweets, recipes and ticket competitions.
Press pass... woohoo!

When the big day arrived, I set off early and met my mum who was just as excited as me.   The lovely girls in the press room had a pass ready for my arrival along with a ticket to one of the exclusive classroom sessions which I was hoping to attend.

We started our day meeting none other than the wonderful Gregg Wallace of Masterchef fame.  Mum couldn’t believe it when he struck up a conversation about eating Portuguese Custard Tarts in Lisbon.  Turns out us Brits can’t make a Portuguese Custard Tart properly as our ovens don’t go up to 300c – the temperature that’s needed for the perfect tart!
Meeting Gregg!
After our star spotting start, (trying saying that after a trip to the Champagne bar) we went to see the exhibitors first and pick up some baking bargains.  I was delighted to run into Carol and the gang from Sugar & Crumbs who produce amazing naturally flavoured icing sugars and who’ve been incredibly supportive of the blog since I started.  I said a quick help and picked up some icing sugar from them – the salted caramel is my absolute favourite.  And great to bake with.
Ladies from Sugar and Crumbs


Moving on, Mum bought some bread mixes from Wrights – some may say cheating if it’s a packet mix, but if it encourages non cooks and bakers to get into the kitchen and give it a go, who am I to judge?

We got the bargain of the century at the Great British Bake Off stand – a set of retro scales each for £10.00.  Kitchen at What Claire Baked has recently been painted duck egg blue, so I got a set to match perfectly.
Oooh... bakeware!

To the actual show – we spent so much time getting excited over the exhibitors, we nearly missed the demonstrations.  Mum is huge fan of Flora from this year’s series of GBBO, so I left her happily sitting at the demonstration, whilst I headed off to the classroom session.

Back to the Portuguese Custard Tarts though… even if the oven isn’t hot enough in the UK we’re pushing on anyway.  Turns out these are incredibly easy to make at home AND the kids can get involved in making the custard and the pastry.  Sadly I never had the chance to try one, but I did sit in the front row and get the chance to speak to Aaron Craze who was taking the class – turns out he has family in Dundee… my hometown!  An incredibly enthusiastic chef (ex builder) with great energy: he really fit the bill for a demonstration kitchen.
Aaron Craze
In short, The Cake and Bake Show was an amazing day out and I’m so glad the event organisers have brought it to Scotland.  The classrooms were only a little extra on top of a ticket, so affordable if you had a session you really wanted to go to and learn in a smaller environment.  The mix of exhibitors was great – from ingredients to kitchenware and accessories, there was lots of variety for all budgets.  We could easily have passed a whole day there… and hope to be back at next year’s show!


Disclaimer:  I received a free pass to attend the event,  Any opinions expressed are my own. 





Sunday, 1 November 2015

Come Dine with Me – Glasgow Style

Readers, it’s been a week of blogger challenges since coming back from Mexico.  All very exciting though.   Back in September Ocean Finance got in touch to let me know about a blogger challenge they were running.  Having done some research and discovered that the dining room is the least used room in the house,  they are on a mission to bring back the dinner party with the help of bloggers across the UK.

We moved to Glasgow in August and found ourselves the owners of a massive kitchen – not bad for a 2 bedroom flat, which luckily fits a dining table.  Our old pad had a separate dining space and we loved having friends over for dinner.  There’s something very social about getting together, sharing food and putting the world to rights.

We’d originally planned a formal sit down affair on Friday but having just returned from the aforementioned Mexico, we took inspiration from our Mexican friends and went for something a bit more fun.  That’s the thing – dinner parties have a reputation as formal, old fashioned and stuffy.  But they don’t have to be.  On Friday night, I made enough food to feed a small army and laid it all out buffet style.  Our group got stuck in and did several rounds. 
Getting into the party spirit

Food ready for serving
Party time!
To start the night off, I made prawn and chorizo appetisers – so easy to make, chop chorizo, buy uncooked prawns and cook together in a pan on the hob for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, then string onto skewers.
Prawn & Chorizo Skewers
Also readers, take note… the nutribullet is great to make frozen margaritas… potentially not its intended use, but a great way to impress your guests.
Frozen Margarita


Mains were a sharing affair too.  We had a taco stuffing station, fajita making and mini chilli bowls.  The chilli bowls went down a treat and were gluten free.  It’s not too tough to accommodate special diets.  We have a gluten free friend and managed to make the whole meal gluten free, by adapting the wraps, making the fajita spice mix from scratch AND did you know taco shells are made from corn, not wheat?  Perfect for a wheat and gluten free diet.
Taco station

Nachos


Back to the chilli bowls – take gluten free wraps and cut them into circles.  Grease a muffin tin with sunflower oil and put a wrap in each, microwave rice and put a teaspoonful into each, then top with homemade chilli and cheese.   Cook in the oven for 15 minutes until the wraps are crispy and form a bowl shape.  They are great as a side dish and any leftover chilli that don’t make the bowls can be frozen and enjoyed with a baked potato at a later date.

In Mexico we tried some amazing pico de galo (salsa to everyone else).  I made some for dipping.  It was really tasty – far better than the shop bought version which can be gloopy and not fresh.
Homemade salsa

The tacos went down a treat – I served pulled chicken.  Passata, spices and chicken thighs went into the slow cooker at 8am.  I went to work and left it.  11 hours later, the sauce had incorporated and the chicken was so tender, it was ready for pulling apart and stuffing with lettuce and dips into shells.

I also made some nachos – buy value tortilla chips, grate cheese, layer up and place in the oven. Remove when cheese is melted, then top with jalepeno peppers, salsa, sour cream and guacamole. Dig in.

Dessert was a simple affair – I made mojito cupcakes.   I’ll share the recipe on another post soon, if you want to give them a go too!

Mojito Cupcakes!

So, the facts and figures –

  • Time spent in the kitchen – 2.5 hours (half an hour in the morning, prepping the pulled chicken and two hours before the guests sat down).
  • Total spent - £48.76 including some beers and mixers for the party.   I also invested in an inflatable sombrero beer cooler, fiesta bunting and sombrero napkins to add to the Mexican vibe.
The results
“A great night, the food was ace”.
“It’s lovely to get everyone together and share some food”.
“Sometimes it’s nice to stay in, rather than heading out”.  

So, all in all a success.  The night made the £50 budget, the group had a great time and the dust was blown off the dining table… It’s functional, not an ornament! 

Disclaimer:  I received a contribution from Ocean Finance towards the cost of the dinner party.  Any opinions expressed are my own.