Tuesday, 6 December 2011

New Douwe Egberts ground coffee range - plus decaff giveaway!

When Douwe Egberts asked if I'd like to try their new ground coffee range, I was genuinely excited. As you may know I'm a big coffee fan and in fact I have a cafetiere and a secret stash of Douwe Egberts in my drawer at work, so I don't have to drink the sludge that passes for coffee in our office. (Snob, moi?)

The new range comprises six brand new coffee blends:

1) House Blend – a smooth classic blend of the finest beans. Perfect for any time of day.

2) Time Together – a spicy blend with a hint of vanilla and nut. Perfect for when you are relaxing with friends.

3) Café Milano – a traditional Italian style coffee with a relaxing blend and a hint of spice. Perfect to relax and escape with.

4) Flavourful Decaff - a smooth blend with a hint of vanilla and chocolate using decaffeinated beans. Perfect for those who prefer a lower caffeine intake.

5) Morning Americano – an American style coffee with a strong blend of nutty flavouring. Perfect to kick-start your day.

6) Fired up – an espresso style blend with intense spice and chocolate flavouring creating with dark-roasted beans. Perfect for those who appreciate a rich flavour.

And lucky me, I got to sample them all! I was very impressed. They all tasted very fresh (sometimes pre-packed ground coffee can be a bit stale) and rich without any hint of bitterness. My favourite without a doubt was the Morning Americano, which is lovely brewed quite strong in a stovetop espresso pot and enjoyed black, but I also really liked Time Together. I'm not convinced by the name, I have to admit, but the coffee itself is very tasty without being too intense and is lovely with a piece of cake!

The range is available now in Tesco and other stores, priced around £3.14 for a 300g bag. The Morning Americano is definitely going to be a permanent fixture in my fridge!

I have a bag of the Flavourful Decaff to give away to one lucky person. Just comment on this post and tell me how you take your coffee. I'll pick a winner on Sunday 11 December. Make sure you leave your email address so I can contact you. Sorry but I can only post the prize within the UK.

Many thanks to Jessica for the yummy samples :)

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Restaurant review - Fallowfields, near Oxford

Sometimes, having a blog really has its advantages! Last Saturday I was invited by EnergyPR to attend a blogger's lunch, where the PR ladies could pick the brains of bloggers to find out what we really want from PR companies. It turned out to be great fun and very interesting, and I met lots of lovely people who I hope to stay in touch with.

Happy free-range chooks

But best of all was that it took place in a gorgeous country house hotel in the Oxfordshire countryside, where we were thoroughly spoilt, and I had such a great time that I want to tell you all about it. But before I start I have to apologise for the awful iPhone photos, as my camera decided to die...

Our lovely host, tempting us with sweeties

Fallowfields is owned by Anthony Lloyd and his wife Peta, and over a number of years they have added a (very sympathetic) extension, built up a kitchen garden (lovingly tended by a very dedicated 87 year old gardener), orchard and farm filled with lovely beasties. Earlier this year, they took on a new chef with an impressive pedigree, Shaun Dickinson, who has worked at Le Manoir, Per Se in New York, and l'Ortolan, and Fallowfields is his first ever restaurant not to have at least one Michelin star. Together with Shaun and maitre d' and expert sommelier Benjamin Petit, Anthony hopes to turn Fallowfields into a culinary force to be reckoned with.


A guided tour around the grounds and farm would suggest that they are already on their way. The kitchen garden provides seasonal fruit and vegetables for the restaurant. Most of the meat comes from the farm - rare and unusual breeds such as Dexter cattle and Tamworth pigs (Anthony is currently mourning the death of his boar Thriller earlier this month, whom he adored), as well as quail and chickens. What doesn't come from the farm is shot or hunted locally. During the tour, Anthony's passion for his hotel, his land and especially for his animals is evident.
The kitchen garden

After brushing the mud from the old wellies and guzzling a glass of champagne with some tasty canapés, it's time for lunch, and this is where Shaun gets to show us what a chef with a Michelin background is really capable of. It was amazing, honestly the best meal I've had for ages. And it was all local - even the walnuts and figs came from Fallowfields' own kitchen garden.

Yummy home made bread

Jerusalem artichoke velouté with truffle creme fraiche

Venison with mash, roasted beetroot, chocolate tuile & sauce

Yoghurty palette cleanser with cinnamony strawberry jam

Honeycomb cheesecake with candied walnuts, figs, walnut ice cream

After lunch, Shaun treated us to a cookery demonstration where he prepared quail with fondant potatoes while telling us about how everything works in his kitchen (he's a big fan of sous vide, by the way). Finally we were treated to coffee with home made sweeties - chocolates and lime and elderflower jellies which were fabulous, but I wasn't brave enough to ask for the recipe. Perhaps if I ask nicely...

We were even given a goody bag with a little baby turnip which is far too cute to eat (can you keep a turnip as a pet?!), some yummy home made bread and a scotch egg which didn't last very long.

Fallowfields also has a falconry... what? Department? Section? They do falconry there. And you can stay over afterwards and spend the weekend exploring the lovely Oxfordshire countryside - I recommend a trip to Bicester village where you can get lots of lovely things for not very much money at all.

Thank you so much to Anthony and his staff for a fantastic afternoon, and to EnergyPR for inviting me along. I truly wish Fallowfields a very successful future, and this morning they were awarded two rosettes so it looks like they are well on their way!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Random Recipes/No Croutons Required - Leek & Potato Soup

This month, Dom from Belleau Kitchen and Jac from Tinned Tomatoes have teamed up for a joint challenge.

I sort of cheated a little bit, and only picked from my cookbooks that have "soup" in the title or that I definitely knew had a few soup recipes (because I have so many that don't involve soup at all). I ended up with Lindsay Bareham's A Celebration Of Soup, which I was rather pleased about as I've never even opened it - I acquired it as part of a set of books from the Book People, which I really only wanted for the Elizabeth David titles it contained.

Anyway, this is actually a lovely book. No pictures, but that's fine with me, and it contains a vast amount of recipes I actually want to make. Especially as I'm currently stuck in a mushroom soup rut and really need to break out of it. But I suppose that's what this challenge is about, right?

The random page I opened had a recipe for leek and potato soup, which strangely included bacon. As the challenge required a vegetarian soup and as I didn't actually have any bacon, I left it out, and ended up more or less ignoring the recipe and just going along with what I had and how I thought it should be done. Sorry Lindsay... but I promise I will cook one of your recipes very soon and actually follow your instructions.

Here's MY leek and potato soup recipe, in case you need something to warm you up during these winter evenings.

2 big leeks, sliced
2 medium white onions, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped
3 biggish spuds, peeled and quartered (I used Maris Pipers)
Marigold bouillon powder, or vegetable stock if you're feeling very keen
A kettle full of boiling water
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
Double cream

Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a cold saucepan (pick a good-sized one), add the onions, garlic and leeks, and cook over a medium/low heat for a few minutes until everything is softened and going translucent.

Add the spuds, and fill the saucepan up with boiling water from the kettle. Add two heaped teaspoons of bouillon powder (assuming you haven't made your own veggie stock). Simmer until the spuds are completely cooked and starting to fall apart.

I like my soup nice and thick!

Take off the heat and liquidise with a stick blender, food processor or whatever you have. Add a good slosh of double cream and liquidise again until it's all well mixed. Return to the heat and season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Eat with some buttered crusty bread for dipping in. Obviously.

Home made wholemeal bread - my favourite

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Boiled fruit cake - an oldie but a goodie

Lurpak recently got in touch to ask me to come up with a recipe for their website - they wanted an alternative to the traditional Christmas cake. So I thought of my favourite boiled fruit cake recipe - the recipe is years old (I think it was originally my mum's) and I've tinkered with it, and it's a great one for using up whatever you've got in your cupboards!

For the cake in the photo, I used glacé cherries, raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricots and mixed peel. Best of all, it's incredibly easy and all you will have to wash up afterwards is one saucepan, one wooden spoon and the cake tin! So if you've left it to the last minute and haven't time to make a traditional rich fruit cake, or can't be bothered with the necessary care and feeding involved, this is the recipe for you. I used to make it regularly during my last chef job, and it was always a big seller.

Find it here, on the Lurpak website.

I don't know why boiled fruit cakes aren't more popular, but they really seem to have gone out of fashion, despite Nigella coming up with a chocolate version. They need a revival! Have you ever made one?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Spotted - pink cast iron at Sainsburys!

I've been meaning to post this ever since I saw them in store the other day, just in case someone might like it - Sainsburys are selling Le Creuset-style cast iron casseroles in various sizes in BABY PINK!! 10% of sales will go to Breakthrough Breast Cancer. They even have a 2.5L heart shaped one!

If only I could justify buying another cast iron casserole...

Monday, 7 November 2011

A gushing post about Danish pastry and Nick Malgieri

Disclaimer: This post is unsuitable for people on diets. If you are trying to lose weight, I accept no responsibility for the ruination of your diet and pounds you will not lose (or indeed that you may gain) if you act upon any of the information contained herein.

OK, small print over. This is a post about one of the most delicious and most unhealthy treats that has ever been invented. I am talking about the Danish pastry. That pretty little flaky bundle of buttery happiness, wrapped around some sort of equally lovely filling that might be lemony, or almondy, or fruity, or nutty, or just about anything you can wrap some dough around.


Prior to this past weekend I had only ever made Danish pastry a couple of times, back when I was at catering college, and I found it an incredible annoyance. All that battering out blocks of butter, enveloping it in dough, rolling out and folding and turning, wrapping in cling film and resting in the fridge and remembering how many folds and turns you’d done and so on and so on. Not for me, sorry. I’m just too lazy. I did notice that Nigella had some sort of food processor method in How To Be a Domestic Goddess, but never got around to trying it.

Then I acquired (by which I mean I bought - but don't tell my husband) a copy of Nick Malgieri’s latest book, Bake!, and his method for food-processor Danish pastry looked so quick and simple that I thought it would be rude not to try it. I wasn’t convinced it was going to work. There was hardly any folding and turning – where would all the flaky layers come from? And the butter I was using didn’t seem ideal. Normally I use Lurpak or Country Life, but I had some Welsh butter that had a high fat content and seemed extremely soft even straight out of the fridge, so I had visions of the pastries melting in the oven and turning into fatty little flat things.

All rolled out and folded and ready to go

They didn’t. They were fabulous. Nick Malgieri is the new love of my life, and his easy Danish dough will stop me going to Waitrose and buying them there, because my home made ones are far more fabulous. Even my husband liked them, and he’s not normally a fan.

I filled them with the ricotta and lemon filling Nigella provides in her Danish recipe (only because Nick’s uses cream cheese, and I didn’t have any) and it was perfect.

With the ubiquitous espresso, in my new vintage 1950s china cup :)

You’re not getting the recipe, because I want you go to and buy the book. (Currently it’s only £4.99 from the Book People website, and there’s usually a free delivery code to be found if you search online, so you have no excuse.) It’s a beautiful book, with step by step photographs for every baking technique you will ever need, followed by lots of variations for each so what you are actually getting is hundreds of recipes (that really work). And there really is something for everyone here; both the complete beginner and someone who’s been baking for years and knows their way round a professional kitchen will be delighted with Nick’s helpful tips and ideas and the variations on old-fashioned methods (I can’t wait to try his puff pastry).

Nick's pastries and my pastries!

This is a completely unsponsored post, by the way, I just love this book immensely and want to see a copy on everyone’s cookbook stand!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Maple pecan bread - just to prove I'm still alive

Yes, yet again my blog is sad and neglected. Somehow the days just ran away with me in October, and I didn't get done anything I had planned. We seemed to be doing something every weekend and I managed to miss all the blog events I had planned to take part in. I am even more out of touch with everyone else's blogs than usual; currently in Google Reader I have 742 unread items. Shocking.

Anyway, just to ease myself back in to blogging, here's a recipe I made recently and actually managed to photograph. It's a recipe I got from my patisserie teacher in catering college (I have no idea where he got it from so if you recognise it, let me know) and it's one I particularly like but don't make very often because it's not exactly what you'd call healthy...

Maple & Pecan Bread


100ml milk (I use semi skimmed)

140ml sour cream or double cream

1 egg

25g butter

5 tbsp maple syrup

½ tsp salt

450g strong white flour

1 ½ tsp dried yeast (a 7g sachet is perfect, if you use those)

100g chopped pecan nuts

My method is to throw the lot into the Kenwood Chef/Kitchenaid and let it do the work for me, but of course you can do it by hand, in which case you should rub the butter into the flour and add the yeast and salt, mix together the milk, cream and maple syrup, add this to the dry ingredients and bring it all together to form a dough. Knead until it feels smooth, springy and lovely, and then knead in the pecan nuts (I find it easier this way than to add them right at the start).

Either way, when you've got your dough, form it into a tight ball, place it in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel, shower cap (top tip! Pinch them from hotel rooms), cling film or whatever, and leave to prove until it's doubled in size – roughly an hour.

When it's doubled, knock it back and divide the dough into six evenly sized lumps. Divide each of these lumps into three, roll them into thin sausages and plait/braid (depending on where you're from – in the UK we call it plait!) the sausages together. Place these on a baking tray, covered with a tea towel, and leave to prove again for around 40 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.

When the little plaits/braids have almost doubled in size again, brush the tops with beaten egg and bake for around 20 minutes, by which time they should be a lovely golden brown and will sound hollow if you tap the undersides. Brush the tops with some more maple syrup while they're still warm.

You really need to eat these while they're fresh and preferably still warm as they do stale quickly, but a quick blast in the oven will freshen them up again the next day. Enjoy slathered with butter, obviously!

With a teeny tiny mug of espresso!

I do have some more posts planned for the near future, including showing off my Christmas cake, which I made a couple of days ago and have already fed with a generous amount of brandy, and some recipes for chutney which is my new obsession. Oh and I also want to show you my latest kitchen toy, which happens to be yet another way for me to get my caffeine fix...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Random Recipes - Magazines, Cuttings & Pull Outs

Great theme this month for Random Recipes - my stacks (and stacks and stacks) of foodie magazines go largely ignored in favour of cookbooks, recipes from the internet and my own head, so it's great to have an excuse to dig through the magazines for a change.

I randomly pulled a magazine out of a big shelf full of them and ended up with the March 2011 edition of Good Food Magazine - definitely my favourite of the food mags. This particular issue was familiar because I happened to be reading it in the bath and dropped it in, and rather than go out and buy a new copy, I spent about half an hour drying each individual page with a hairdryer. It looks like an absolute mess (I'll update this post with a photo tomorrow when it's bright again as the one I originally took seems to have vanished) but it's a particularly good issue with lots of budget recipes.

I opened it randomly and ended up at a page with recipes for main meals, but thought I could do without eating any more cake so I chose a recipe for lentil ragu. I made the whole batch (to serve 6) and hubby and I had some with pasta for dinner, and the following day I turned the leftovers into a veggie lasagne which was actually really nice. This is definitely a recipe I'll make again.

My version alongside the magazine version!

Recipe [url=http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1139652/lentil-rag]here[/url] on the Good Food website.

Apologies for terrible iPhone photos, the natural light had gone by the time dinner was ready!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

We Should Cocoa - Happy Birthday!

Chele is hosting this month, and it's also We Should Cocoa's First Birthday! So very appropriately she chose the theme of "a chocolate masterpiece fit for a first birthday party".

Now when I was a kid, my birthday parties were fantastic, because my mum put so much effort into them. But I never had a chocolate birthday cake - back then birthday cakes were always plain sponge cakes in the shape of your age, covered in white buttercream with pink piping for girls and blue piping for boys, and crushed nuts round the sides. EVERYONE had a birthday cake just like that, and I absolutely hated them.

However what I did have at my birthday party every year, and what I absolutely adored, was a veritable mountain of chocolate rice crispie cakes. I bet if you're reading this in the UK you had them too (do they have rice crispies outside the UK?). My mum used to let me "help" make them, and even back then I was happiest with a wooden spoon in my hand.

Anyway, as I do love a bit of nostalgia, here's my rice crispie cake mountain. It's only a small mountain (more of a gentle hill, really) as there are only two of us here to eat them all up. But one day in the nearish future, hopefully I'll have a little mini baker of my own I can pass the wooden spoon along to, and I'll be able to make proper rice crispie mountains just like my mum used to :)

A big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to We Should Cocoa and a huge THANK YOU to Chele and Choclette!

Oh and I've had a bit of a funny month, from technical issues to my dad being in hospital to me changing jobs and I just haven't had time to be baking, let alone photographing it and writing blog posts, but now things have thankfully settled down so I should be back into the swing of things. And I'm still wading through weeks worth of emails so if you've sent one and I haven't replied, sorry but I will!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Random Recipes - Marguerite Patten's Victory Cookbook

I'm sneaking in right at the last minute, despite having actually made this recipe and photographed it right back at the start of August! I just didn't have time to write it up, and then life got in the way, including changing jobs, a very last minute trip to Ireland to visit a new baby, a few social events and all sorts of stuff. Anyway I've hung up my chef's whites for the last time (although I've said that at least twice before) and now I will be strictly baking only for pleasure!

So this month's random recipe theme was completely random! Dom instructed us to lay out all our cookbooks and pick one but as I have far too many to do that with, I used a random number generator instead.
It came up with The Victory Cookbook by Marguerite Patten, which is a book that I bought to read, not to cook from.

Marguerite Patten is one of my heroes. I'm fascinated by the Home Front, rationing and everything to do with the home during the Second World War, and this is such an interesting book - but I really never envisaged actually making any of the recipes! But I thought it'd be interesting. There are lots of small recipes on each page so I opened it randomly and then picked a recipe with a pointy finger and my eyes closed! And I got Beetroot Pudding, which was good as I had a beetroot that was needing to be used up.


6oz wheatmeal flour (I used wholemeal)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 oz sugar
4 oz finely grated raw beetroot
1/2 oz fat (I used lard)

Method, in Mrs Patten's own words:

Just the job to make your sugar ration go further! First mix flour and baking powder, rub in the margarine, then add sugar and grated beetroot.

Now mix all the ingredients to a soft cake consistency with 3 or 4 tablespoons of milk. Add a few drops of flavouring essence if you have it. Turn the mixture into a greased pie dish or tin and bake in a moderate oven for 35 minutes. This pudding tastes equally good hot or cold.

And the verdict? Well, I was expecting it to be horrible. But it wasn't. It was okay, not gorgeous, not disgusting, just okay. Definitely nicer with a drizzle of custard though!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Vanilla Melting Moments - and I have some news

On Sunday, I had a fleeting visit from the in-laws in the afternoon and a barbecue at our friends' boat in the evening. I had to make something suitable that could be nibbled at with coffee AND picked at after a load of burgery type stuff. Probably something small and fairly light but really tasty.

When it comes to little pretty tasty things to pick at, Rachel Allen has yet to let me down, and one recipe from Rachel's Favourite Food at Home practically jumped off the page!

These are very crumbly, buttery little vanilla morsels, sandwiched together with vanilla buttercream, so small and light they probably contain no calories (although don't quote me on this) and so ridiculously quick and easy to make that you can whip up a batch in no time at all.


For the biscuits
175g self raising flour
125g cornflour
50g icing sugar
225g butter, diced
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 160ºC and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats (Rachel says not to bother but I reckon it makes the cleanup easier).

Place the flour, cornflour and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds. Add the butter and vanilla and turn the machine on until it all comes together into a ball of dough. Roll into small balls the size of a large marble and place, well spaced out, on the baking tins. Dip a fork in cold water and use to flatten the balls slightly.

Bake for 10-15 minutes (it took 15 in my oven). Rachel says remove carefully (these little babies are fragile) and let them cool on a wire rack, but I say just let them cool on the baking sheets - they're less fragile when they're cool and they don't go soggy as they dry.


50g softened butter
125g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Just bung the lot in the processor (don't even bother washing the bowl after making the biscuits) and mix together till it turns into icing.

Spread carefully on half the biscuits (remember they are still pretty fragile) and sandwich together with the other halves. Dust with some more icing sugar to make them look pretty!

This recipe made about twenty sandwiched biscuits. There were six of us eating them and we devoured them all in a day, which meant we all had at least three each and someone probably had five (but I would never name names, oh no). They were universally adored and I will not be making them again unless I know there will be quite a crowd to help me eat them, as I know I would be capable of eating the whole batch myself.

In other, not-exactly-baking-related news, I decided a while ago that I really didn't want to be a chef anymore. The money is terrible,it's incredibly tiring, you have to work weekends etc etc. I've just had enough. So I decided I wanted to go back to my former life as an office worker, and I've been offered a job that I really like the sound of in a company that is apparently fantastic to work for. I'm leaving my current job, and starting the new one, at the end of August. I'll still be baking, but now it'll just be for me and my family and friends, so I'm probably going to have to bake even more to get my fix when I'm not doing it every day at work!
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