Friday, 24 July 2015

Beth’s 30th Birthday Cake


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Beth's 30th birthday cake


I had the honour of making my best friend Beth’s 30th birthday cake. I found out beforehand from her fiancĂ© what her favourite cake flavour is. Red velvet with cream cheese frosting. I hadn’t made a red velvet celebration cake before, only cupcakes, but I figured I could make the recipe work for a large cake. It needed to feed 20+ people!

I decided to use Lola’s Cupcakes red velvet cupcakes recipe which I've used before. I doubled it to make two large cakes. I like this recipe as uses lemon juice instead of buttermilk, which I've used in another recipe before. This is more convenient for me, as I have usually have lemons in but never buttermilk. I've also had disasters with buttermilk and vinegar in red velvet recipes, (cake was very sour!), so try to steer away from these ingredients now.

I’ve tried a few different cream cheese frostings in the past and fancied trying a new one. A bit of a risk but  Kerry Cooks recipe for Foolproof Thick Cream Cheese Frosting turned out decent. I couldn’t get it as thick as Kerry does but it had a really good flavour and complemented the red velvet cake perfectly! I doubled the recipe to frost in between and cover the two large cakes.

I’ve wanted to try piping royal icing flowers for a while. I’ve tried piping buttercream simple swirl roses before but wanted to try making more challenging and technical types of flowers. I chose to use royal icing so I could make them over a week, as they keep well in an airtight container once dried. It was challenging and I need more practice to perfect the flowers but I’m chuffed with the overall look. I used this You Tube tutorial to pipe the more realistic looking roses and used some of the decorating techniques from the Wilton site.


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Beth's 30th birthday meal at Carluccio's


Last weekend, Beth’s birthday meal was at Carluccio’s in Newcastle. We were sat in the private dining area upstairs, which has lovely views over the Monument and Grey Street. The food was decent and the service was excellent. I was impressed with the staff in particular, who were really accommodating with the cake. People were stuffed after their three course meal so didn’t want to eat the cake. The staff offered us takeaway cartons so people could take a slice home with them!

Beth loved the cake and I received lots of compliments. All the time and effort was worth it. The cake tasted great so will definitely be making it again. It is a chocolate cake without being too chocolatey and the tang of the frosting sets the chocolate flavour off beautifully. It could easily become my new favourite!


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Lola’s Cupcakes Red Velvet Cake

Ingredients
220g butter
320g caster sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon red food colouring paste
2 eggs
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
70g dark chocolate, melted
380g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
140ml single cream
140ml whole milk
70g ground almonds

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Prepare baking tins by greasing with butter and lining with baking paper.
2. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla into a bowl
and beat the mixture with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl 
with a rubber spatula to make sure the butter and sugar are incorporated.
3. Add the food colouring and the eggs, and beat slowly until combined.
Beat in the oil and lemon juice, followed by the chocolate.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder together into a separate bowl.
5. Mix the cream and milk in a jug.
6. Add the dry ingredients (flour mix) to the batter, a little at a time,
alternating with the wet ingredients (milk & cream mix),
until you have a soft batter and all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.
7. Add the almonds and mix until smooth and a uniform colour.
Scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula
and briefly beat at a high speed until the mixture is smooth.
Do not over-mix.
8. Fill the baking tins to two-thirds full.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30- 40 minutes,
or until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

N.B. Cakes can be frozen.
Ensure cake is fully cooled then wrap in cling film twice and place flat in the freezer.
Take cake out of freezer the night before using. Remove the cling film when defrosted and use.

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Royal Icing

Ingredients
2 cups icing sugar (plus extra), sieved
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 egg white
Food colouring paste (if using)

Method
1. Whisk lemon juice and egg white together until combined.
2. Whisk in icing sugar gradually.
3. Add more icing sugar if want a thicker consistency.
3. If using food colouring, add in gradually using a toothpick.
Stir in colouring until a uniform and desired colour.


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I am linking for the first time to Kerry Cooks Cake Club July.
Join me and other food bloggers in sharing our cake-related adventures!

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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Sloppy Joe’s Deli & Sandwich Bar


I was offered a free lunch by Sloppy Joe’s Deli & Sandwich Bar in return for a review. This is the first time I’ve done this so thanks to Sloppy Joe’s for the opportunity. I want to start by stating this review is my own honest opinion and a positive review is not guaranteed.

Sloppy Joe’s is located within the Grainger Market in my hometown of Newcastle. Grainger market is no longer known just for the market stalls, butchers and grocers. But it is becoming a popular place for independent street food eateries trading under one roof. Wide ranging cuisines from traditional Chinese dumplings to Turkish coffee and baklava.

I have walked past Sloppy Joe’s before and their display of sandwiches have looked mighty tempting. As well as ready-made sandwiches and salad bowls, they do a ‘Subway’ style of make up your own sandwich. You choose your outer, filling (including salad) and sauces from the sandwich-making bar.


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I was surprised to find out what I would be reviewing was not a sandwich but in fact Rice paper rolls. This south-east Asian twist on the sandwich would not be the most obvious offering to find in an American style deli shop, however,  Sloppy Joe’s are trialling this for their menu. Rice paper rolls make a gluten-free, lighter and healthier alternative to current options of a baguette or Panini.

I got to try the Chicken rice paper rolls with a spicy dipping sauce.

The rolls have a pleasant flavour and are full of veg and fresh herbs. The accompanying sauce is full of flavour and goes well with the rolls.

My critique is the messiness of the dish which could do with some refinement. I found it difficult to eat a whole roll without some of the contents falling out. For me, street food has to be easily eaten whilst being out on the hop. I would have liked chopsticks to pick up the bits that had fallen out. But I guess that would defeat the object of these being an alternative to a sandwich, where you wouldn’t need an aid like a fork to eat it!

Leigh (the hubby) found the fresh herbs, especially the mint to be overpowering, so could only manage to eat one. I finished the rest as found the combination of flavours suited my palate. It’s notable though that this dish may not be to everyone’s tastes.

Leigh also would have liked more chicken in the roll and perhaps a sauce running through the roll to give it more moisture. I agree that the chicken could be more moist but I think the addition of a sauce in the roll would take away from its’ already fresh clean flavours present.

Overall, the crisp and punchy flavours in this dish will divide the lovers and the haters.


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We couldn’t resist sampling one of the ready-made sandwiches on display, so bought a pastrami, emmental cheese and gherkins sandwich for £3.

There are a variety of sauces available where you can help yourself. It was nice to see Safari sauces in the selection. An independent eaterie supporting local produce. Leigh went for the garlic sauce and Piri piri sauce to go with our sandwich.

We’re both partial to an occasional Subway but we thought the flavours were cleaner in a Sloppy Joe’s sandwich. The overall sandwich tasted less processed, and at similar price points, I know which one I would choose if I was around in town! We should all strive to support local independent businesses. I’m already looking forward to returning and having a go at making my own sandwich ‘the Sloppy Way’.


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Sandwich or Roll. What’s your lunch?

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Wedding weekend in Windermere


It’s been super busy these past 6 (?) weeks. It feels so nice to have a weekend free when I have nothing planned. I can recharge my batteries and take the opportunity to catch up on my blogging. I’ve been to two Hen Do weekends, a Wedding weekend (this post), a week’s family holiday in York and a local foodie event!! I haven’t stopped till now. Anyhow, I’ll catch my breath and now pick up from where I left off. Mid-June…

My (not-so) little cousin Jo is getting married this year. So it was very exciting for all the family! The family event of 2015! I really wanted to blog about this as it was truly a wonderful and memorable weekend in Windermere.


Friday 19th June



We drove down to the Lake District on Friday evening (after Leigh had finished work). The female cousins went out for food at Wild & Co in Windermere whilst the male cousins joined the Groom-to-be for drinks in neighbour town of Bowness-on-Windermere.


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Wild & Co


We chose Wild & Co as it had good reviews and was known to be child-friendly. They were very good in accommodating a large party of people last minute. They also provided crayons and paper, as well as a Little people menu for our two year old.

I found the surroundings to be modern, relaxed and cosy. The menu was equally attractive and appealing.

I shared two starters with my cousin Carine, so we could have a try of both dishes. I had to try the Tempura goats cheese stuffed courgette flowers with wild honey, as had never come across it before at a restaurant. This was a stand-out dish. The batter wasn’t as light as it could have been. Not really Japanese tempura light but more fish batter from the chip shop. However, the flavours went so well together and it was incredible. Really light, tasty and moreish. I only wish I had ordered one of my own! The Crab & avocado stack was fresh and zingy. But it was nothing new and was overshadowed by it’s deep-fried superior peer.

Onto the mains. 3 out of 4 of us ordered the Crusted lamb rack. We all asked for it to be cooked medium-rare. Unfortunately, 2 out of the 3 lamb were way overcooked. Mine, luckily was a thicker piece of meat, so was cooked more medium than the others. All the components and flavours were there in the dish. The accompanying smoky puree and the crust were tasty. However, it was such a shame to see such inconsistencies in cooking across the table. What could have been another amazing dish was made mediocre by the overcooking of the main component. My cousin Minda had ordered the Fish pie with Isle of Mull cheddar crust. She thought this was alright but not the best she’d had.

We were all full by the time it was dessert, so we decided to share a Raspberry, meringue & cream type affair. I wasn’t enamoured by the dessert. I found it bitter in places (probably due to the freeze-dried raspberry pieces), which made it unpleasant to eat at times. There was just something not quite right about the dessert and it didn’t all come together well. The flavour profile could be improved but we managed to finish it all! The little one got a Brownie, which was quite rich and we were full so it didn’t get finished.

I enjoyed spending time with my cousins. Some, I don’t get to see very often. We all love our food and eating out. Wild & Co in Windermere was a pleasant night out with great company.


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The Grey Walls


Me and hubby stayed at The Grey Walls on Friday night. This is a budget hotel and was the cheapest rate I could find in Windermere at the time. It was £70 for a double room for one night with breakfast. The rooms aren’t the highest quality but you do get what you pay for. They are a bit tired looking and not the best maintained. However, it did the job for the one night we needed before moving onto the hotel the wedding was at the next day.

The bar was really accommodating in the night time. Even though it had shut (pumps had been taken off), hubby was allowed to continue drinking as they let him buy bottles of drink instead. Leigh wants to add that the cooked breakfast was really good. It certainly set us up for the day ahead.


Saturday 20th June


Jo & Chris’ wedding was held at the Beech Hill Hotel in Windermere. This a a popular hotel, probably due to its’ amazing view overlooking Lake Windermere. This hotel is pricier than the previous one but again, you get what you pay for. The room was modern, clean and comfortable. The surroundings and location are pretty and difficult to fault. The view of the lake from the balcony alone is worth paying for. The photos taken don’t really do it justice.


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Beech Hill Hotel


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Lake Windermere


The ceremony was beautiful, like the bride! There was not a dry eye in the room and Jo had everyone in rapture.


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Beautiful bride


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Me and hubby


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Bride and female cousins


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Hubby and male cousins


Jo is a graphic designer and her creative flair and talent showed throughout her wedding. The giant ‘LOVE’ lit-up letters stood out and were great to take photos by earlier in the day. I particularly loved the handmade and designed touches like the Disney ‘Up’ inspired thumbprint guestbook.

I had my Wedding stationary designed by Jo. Completely bespoke and we loved it. Exactly what we wanted and more. If you’re interested, she’s on Twitter @Joannacreates and her website is joannawong.co.uk.


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Personal wedding details


The wedding breakfast tables were decorated with a pretty park & woodland theme. The weather had been gloomy during the wedding ceremony. We received favours of sunglasses, which were perfect, as the sun came out during the wedding breakfast! Hooray!

And onto one of my fave things in life: The food.

I got the Cocktail of Fresh salmon, avocado pear and tomato confit with toasted ciabatta. A yummy way to start a meal. Leigh got the Rustic Cumbrian farmhouse terrine with apple and sage relish. Leigh enjoyed his starter too.

The intermediate course was a Bramely apple and cider sorbet. I don’t drink alcohol and asked for mine to come without the cider. This wasn’t a problem and the sorbet was delicious! I could have eaten a bucket of it!

The mains were cooked well. I got the Pot-roasted fell-bred beef with shallots, wild mushrooms, cheddar mash and merlot fumet. Leigh got the Roast leg of lamb, potato dauphinoise, spinach crumble and minted roast jus. Both were very enjoyable. Only thing would have liked was more sauce for the lamb. I like my sauce like Manu from My Kitchen Rules! But, the meat was tender, fall-apart and moist on its’ own.

I got the Chilled white chocolate and raspberry marquise and Leigh got the Vanilla creme brulee with hazelnut shortbreadfor dessert. Mine didn’t have a lot to it and was a bit bland. Leigh wasn't fussed on his either. More Bramley apple sorbet for me please! ;–)

Overall, a very enjoyable meal!


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Wedding breakfast


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Selfie in the sun


Thank you Jo and Chris for having us as part of your wedding. We wish you both all the happiness, love and laughter that you deserve. Love you xxx


Sunday 21st June


Time to leave the Lake District but not before heading to the flagship Lakeland store in Windermere. I didn’t get much but picked up a couple of flavourings (coconut &  butterscotch) and edible glue.

We popped upstairs to the First Floor Cafe. People tried the soup and sandwiches and found them to be tasty. I was drawn to the yummy looking cakes. Carine got the Victoria sponge with fresh strawberries, which I tasted and it was amazing! I got the carrot cake which was alright but not as good as the Victoria sponge.


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Lakeland


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Windermere First Floor Cafe

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Back from blog break: June so far


As you may be aware, I have been absent for a few months from the blog. I have to apologise and know there are no excuses. Life is busy but you get on with it and if you’re a blogger, then you get on with it and blog!

Anyways, a recent foray into Twitter (@zoetcm) has introduced me to a whole other social media world, in some ways different to Instagram (@zoetcm) and Facebook (Chow At Home). A big “Hello” to new bloggers/followers I’ve met on Twitter and “Welcome” if this is your first time here. You have invigorated me to get back on track with my blogging, so thank you for that!

End of May/June has been and is a particularly busy month for me. It is now mid-June and I’ve already been on two Hen weekends (both in York). I’m going to my cousin’s wedding in the Lake District this weekend followed by a week away staying in a cottage in York with my cousins. In fact, York is the place to be this year! I will have to devote a post all about it.

Bakings


First Hen do was my friend Debs who I've known since 2006 and met at Newcastle Uni. We stayed at Pavilion Cottage in Clifton, which is a ten minute drive from York city centre. Click here for more more photos and detail on Facebook.

I wanted to make a surprise cake for Debs. I previously made her a Cath Kidson inspired 30th birthday cake of her requested flavours of blueberry and lemon.


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Debs' 30th Cath Kidson inspired birthday cake, February 2015


This went down so well that I knew I had to make it again. I used my Blueberry muffin recipe (doubled) and made Lemon frosting. The cake was so big and needed a lot more cooking that I was a bit concerned it might turn out stodgy/undercooked. So glad, the whole cake turned out well. Light, moist and soft cake with a juicy blueberry layer. I haven’t had much experience covering cakes with roll fondant but was pleased with this attempt. I know Debs likes the colour red, leopard print and vintage details so incorporated all these in the decoration. The paint, flower and pearls were all edible. Chuffed to say the Bride-to-be loved it and all the Hens enjoyed eating it.


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Debs' Hen do cake, May 2015


I also made some Fruit scones using Doughworks recipe. This recipe usually turns out well but I am always a bit nervous to try them. This batch was spot on (phew!) and really good with clotted cream and strawberries/jam.


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Fruit scones for Debs' Hen do, May 2015


The second Hen do was my friend Gemma who I’ve known for as long as I have known my husband Leigh. We’ve been together for 9 years and married for 3 of them. We went glamping for Gemma’s Hen do with Jollydays at Buttermere Wood by York. More photos and details from the weekend on my Facebook page here.

Before the Hen do, I found out what Gemma’s favourite flavour of cake was from her bridesmaid/sister-in-law. Gemma likes Victoria sponge with cream & strawberries and Coffee cake.

After some mulling, I decided to make cupcakes instead of a cake as it would be easier to eat at the glamp site. And instead of one cake, I wanted to make cupcakes capturing both favourite flavours of cake.


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Gemma's Strawberry & vanilla cupcakes, June 2015


I thought I would try something a bit different but still keep in tradition with a Victoria sponge cake. I used my Blueberry muffin recipe and substituted the blueberry with fresh strawberries. This was a bit of a risk, as wasn’t sure if the chopped strawberries would produce too wet of a cupcake. Luckily, they turned out fine. Instead of using traditional freshly whipped cream, I decided on a vanilla buttercream, as it would keep better. I was happy with the end result. If I made them again, I would add some strawberry jam to the middle of the cupcake (after cooking) to give it more flavour.


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Gemma's Coffee & walnut cupcakes, June 2015


I’m happy when a coffee cake is requested as it’s a little different and not many people ask for it. I use the Be-Ro recipe for Coffee & walnut cake with coffee buttercream. Simple but always good!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Mother’s Day 2015


Hope all you lovely mothers had a wonderful Mother’s Day last weekend.

We celebrated with our mothers on Mothering Sunday then belatedly during the following week. And unsurprisingly through the medium of some good food! Both home cooked meals were thoroughly enjoyable. And I tried baking some new things, which were a success!


Sunday 15th March



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Me and hubby cooked for his parents on the Sunday.

Leigh cooked roast pork shoulder and attempted to do crackling. He’s tried a couple of times in the past without much success, but third time’s a charm and he nailed it! Crackling was so crispy and crunchy! The meat was really soft and juicy too. Full of flavour!

Just score the skin then rub olive oil and salt onto it. Cook the meat on medium heat for a few hours and then high heat for end of cooking time. We cooked it at 180°C for three hours and then 220°C for half an hour.


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We’ve also tried several recipes for Yorkshire pudding with limited success. Tried Delia Smith’s recipe and it was decent. The Yorkshire pudding turned out a bit deflated and overdone whilst trying to cook everything else in the same oven. But it tasted good and will probably make again.


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Roast goose fat potatoes and steamed veg completed the dinner. We don’t get round to cooking roast dinners often as I’m not the biggest fan. But it does make a good meal when you have people round. And this was one tasty plate of food!


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I decided to make a pudding for my mam-in-law’s meal. I wanted to try something new and different and went for a Lemon meringue pie. I’ve not made one before but fancied the challenge. I thought it would be something special (as takes a bit of time and effort), impressive (if it works out!) and therefore fitting for the occasion. I chose Angela Nilsen's recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie as really like her Carrot cake recipe (blogged here).

It was time consuming and everything didn't quite go according to plan. But the end result was worth it. The pastry, lemon curd and meringue all went together beautifully well.

The filling leaked a bit as I tried to remove the tart from the tin before it had set and there was a little hole in the base of tart. I know to leave it to cool down longer and ensure no holes in base next time! But despite the minor leak, the overall pie was unaffected and it was delicious.

Absolutely gorgeous. So divine. Lemon meringue pie could easily replace cheesecake as my favourite dessert! I’ve decided that this is my ‘showstopper’ dessert, where I'll pull out all the stops for a special occasion :-)


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Wednesday 18th March



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My dad cooked a belated Mother’s Day meal for my mum on the following Wednesday. We pushed the boat out and had a delicious seafood feast of crab, lobster and monkfish. It was interesting watching my dad prepare and cook the fresh crabs and lobsters. The meat was so tasty – cooking from fresh (live) ingredients does make a difference!


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My mum asked me to make her a cake using two of her favourite foods: ginger and pistachio. I used Anisha Mistry's recipe for Ginger & pistachio cake. It turned out like the texture of a banana loaf with gingery flavour.  I added crystalized ginger and a drizzle of warmed honey on top to add a little sweetness and flavour. Next time, I would cover the top with baking paper/foil halfway through cooking to stop the top catching as much.

It’s not a sweet cake/tea loaf but just right for my mum’s tastes, as she doesn’t like too-sweet things. She liked it, so mission accomplished! :-)


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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Hello March


Can’t believe February has passed and it’s already the start of Spring!

At the start of the month, we shook the cobwebs away by getting out of the house. We went to Wallington House and gardens, Cambo near Morpeth , for a day out. It was a little chilly but the weather was mostly fine. It was nice to be out and about!


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We had lunch in the tea room at Wallington. And of course we had to have tea and cake!

I got a Prawn marie rose jacket potato, which was a nice change for me. The accompanying salad and ‘coleslaw’ was a bit tired and naff. The salad was limp and lacklustre and the coleslaw was just red cabbage?! Anyways, Leigh’s food choice was good. He got the Pulled pork sandwich with crackling, apple sauce and gravy, which was all really tasty. Quite filling but there was still room for dessert!


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We went for the Sticky toffee and the Coffee & walnut cakes. Both were really good. The Sticky toffee cake in particular, as I don’t know how to make the creamy filling and toffee drizzle on top. However, the Coffee & walnut cake I make is pretty good already and tastes very similar to this! All washed down with an Assam tea for two, another nice change from our usual tea.



 North East Family Fun : Travel Tales


I have linked up with #traveltales over at North East Family Fun. Click here to join in and add your favourite travel posts. As well as discover new bloggers and places to visit in the North East of England. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Feb’s cooks and bakes


Apologies for not posting as often as I had resolved to, back in mid-January (when my blog turned 1 year old). I only managed one post in the whole month of February. This is completely misrepresentative of what I’ve been up to in the kitchen! I need to get myself into the habit of posting regularly. Hopefully, March will be better. In the meantime, you can keep up to date with ‘Chow At Home’ on Facebook, where I post more frequently.

Anyways, I looked back at my posts last year and noticed that I did a lot of baking at the start of the year then baked less as the year went on. The same seems to be happening this year already. I certainly did a lot of cooking and baking this month! So, here is a bumper of a post featuring my cooks and bakes from February.


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Feb’s Cooks


Pizza


I worked one-to-one with a young man during February. One of the things he identified that he wanted to develop was independent living skills in cooking. He wanted to be able to cook more than a microwave meal.

We made pizza from scratch a couple of times using this Tesco recipe for the base. I’ve used this recipe before with previous youth groups. It’s simple and always produces a good result. He was pleased with what he’d produced. We shared the pizza with my colleagues at work, who all really enjoyed it!


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I enjoyed the pizzas I made at work so much, that I wanted to make it at home. Me and Leigh went for toppings other than just tomato and cheese. We went for pepperoni, red onion and red pepper. We’ve been wanting a baking stone for a long time and eventually got one! Which we used straight away for the pizza!


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Jambalaya


I had a lot of chorizo in the fridge that had been hanging around for a long time. So, I’ve been looking at ways to use it up. Leigh’s Naga/Ghost chilli plant had also produced tons of chillis that we harvested and froze in January. So, a Jambalaya seemed a good idea to use up chorizo and chilli!

I used this BBC Good Food recipe that I tweaked depending on what ingredients I had in. I don’t have any Cajun seasoning so made up my own spice mix with paprika, cayenne pepper and saffron. I made this one time with the recommended red pepper then with peas the second time. It’s a good recipe where it’s easy to substitute ingredients, simple to make and delicious.


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Leigh’s signature curry


Since I’ve known Leigh, he’s always made his signature chicken curry and mushroom pilau rice for people. He keeps getting asked for the recipe but has never been able to pass it on. He works between two recipes – madras and a do-piaza – but keeps it all in his head! I’ve made it with him several times before but have to follow his lead.

I’ve been meaning to get him to write down the recipe for a long time and finally managed to on this occasion. It’s a messy scrawl of notes at the moment so I need to get it in order and typed up at some point. But there is now a recipe that can be shared and I can work from on my own if I needed too!


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Pancake Day


Pancakes aren’t just for Shrove Tuesday but it’s a good excuse to have some on the day! We’ve been having pancakes quite a few times this month. It’s convenient if there’s not much in for breakfast. Leigh made British style pancakes (see recipe) and had them with the classic combination of lemon and sugar. I made some Canadian style pancakes (see recipe) and had them with butter and maple syrup.


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Chinese cookery class


My dad is a chef and he went round my cousin Carine’s house to give us a Chinese cookery class. We were taught how to prepare a variety of dishes. These included Crispy chicken in Cantonese sauce, White chicken with spring onion/garlic/ginger dipping sauce, Monkfish in a sweetcorn sauce, Chilli salt pork chops, Sweet and sour spare ribs,  and Gai lan with beef. Unpictured dishes were steamed spare ribs and chicken feet in black bean sauce.


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We learnt a lot and everyone (including our partners) enjoyed eating all the food! I’ve since made a few things I learnt from the cookery class. Leigh has especially been enjoying my Chilli salt pork!



Feb’s Bakes


Basic Bread


Ah, it’s been too long since I made bread. I usually follow a basic bread recipe that I learnt at Doughworks Basic Bread making course a couple of years ago. Sometimes, I've tried other recipes and tend to like Paul Hollywood or Doves Farm recipes. We decided to make a Cottage loaf using a Doves Farm recipe. This had a mixture of brown, malthouse and white bread flours which rose really well. The crumb was soft and the crust chewy. It was so delicious!  I used to make bread once a week/fortnight. I really need to start making bread more often again!


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Valentine’s Day


Of course Valentine’s Day falls in February, so I had to bake something for the occasion. When I think of Halloween, I think of Gingerbread and when i think of Valentine’s, I think of chocolate, in particular, Brownies and Blondies!

I attempted both last year but I undercooked the Brownies and overcooked the Blondies. I thought I would try again this year and the Blondies turned out great. I managed to cook them so they were the right texture – fudgy soft and not like last time’s dry cake. I tried a different recipe for the Brownies – the  Antony Worrall Thompson recipe that my cousin Wesley uses all the time and is always really good. These were a success! Not liquid goo in the middle but the right amount of soft fudgyness. I’ll be using this recipe again.


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For Valentine’s day, I made Leigh his favourite dessert of mine – Pecan & butterscotch cheesecake with Oreo biscuit base. I only made a mini one as it was for the two of us and decorated it with a heart of tiny fondant roses. This was one of the best times I’ve made this cheesecake – really good!


PicMonkey Collage cheesecake


On Valentine’s weekend, I made heart-shaped fruit scones. I normally make these using a round cutter but thought it’d be cute to try a heart shape. I bought Leigh’s favourite (Bonne Maman raspberry) jam and whipped up some cream to accompany them.


PicMonkey Collage scone

  

Debs’ birthday cake


It’s the year of 30th birthdays this year for my group of school/university friends! Myself and my friend Nic turned 30 at the end of last year (see cake).

And then it was Deb’s turn in February. I made her a Blueberry and lemon birthday cake decorated in the style of Cath Kidson. I enjoyed making this cake. I view these cakes I do for my friends as valuable practice in cake decorating. I need to get better at covering a cake smoothly with buttercream and hopefully will after more practice. I was pleased with my buttercream flowers decoration.

I also continued on the tradition (that has been started since Nic’s birthday last September) of using the same ‘3 0’ candles! I’m hoping they will last all the way through to the last birthday in the summer!


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We had a fun night of retro bowling and eating American diner food at Lane 7, Newcastle. Debs was really touched by the cake and everyone was impressed and enjoyed eating it. I have to say, the cake turned out really well and was delicious. *Phew* People said that it looked professional, that it was an improvement from the last one and I just keep on getting better and better! I have the best friends ;-) I even had someone (who doesn’t eat cooked fruit) also liking it!  High praise indeed :-)


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Carrot cake cookies


I was looking for ways to use up carrots and wanted something different from carrot cake. There always seems to be too many in a bag to use up before they’re bad. Anyways, I came across Carrot cake cookies and was intrigued.

I tried two recipes and the major difference in ingredients between the two recipes was the second one has oats. Myself and everyone who tried them preferred the second Cooking Classy recipe. The first recipe were drier, stodgier and was bland in taste. The second recipe were a definite winner – moist, chewy and packed full of flavour.

It really is like eating Carrot cake but in a cookie form! They’re nice on their own but taken to another level when eaten with the cream cheese filling!


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Red velvet cupcakes


I had leftover cream cheese frosting from making the Carrot cake cookies. I decided to make Red velvet cupcakes to use up the frosting. I remember trying to make Red velvet cupcakes for the first time when I started baking about 10 years ago. They were really sour and inedible. I’ve never tried making them since. I thought that I’ve got a bit more experience in baking now, so it was time to give them another go.

I recently bought Lola’s Forever book and really liked the look of their Red velvet cupcakes recipe. Most recipes online use buttermilk and apple cider vinegar, whilst they used only lemon juice as the sour acidic ingredient. I had lemons in the house but none of the other ingredients, so this was perfect. I also remember using buttermilk and apple cider vinegar in the past recipe that didn’t work, so was keen to try a recipe that didn’t use these ingredients (in the hope that it will work!).


PicMonkey Collage red velvet


I was really pleased with the look of the cupcakes. Red velvet cake is notoriously difficult to get a red colour sponge due to the brown cocoa and chocolate ingredients. I used Wilton red gel food colouring and achieved a good colour. The cupcakes turned out well too. Light in texture with a subtle chocolate taste. I took them into work and received the loveliest e-mail from the receptionist.

“That was the best cupcake and a first for me (never had a red velvet cake before). You are for sure the Queen of Cakes.”

It’s lovely when people appreciate  your bakes. People can be so kind. It’s the best feeling! :-D