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!


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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.


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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!).


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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

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Warm sticky figgy pudding


For Christmas last year, I wanted to try making a traditional Figgy pudding for the first time. When it came to it, I decided against making one. It would have been too much work (alongside making Christmas dinner) and I didn’t have all the ingredients I needed. I had already bought dried figs and still wanted to use them in a dessert somehow.

I came across this Food Network recipe for Warm sticky figgy pudding and it ticked the right boxes for me. It is similar to my Sticky date pudding except has the addition of dried figs and chocolate.

Don’t make the same mistake as me though when following the recipe from website. It says that it makes 4 portions. So, I decided to double the recipe to make 8 portions. I ended up making 16 individual portions plus enough to fill a large pie dish! I had to freeze most of the puddings and found it did freeze well. I wont be making the same mistake again. This recipe will make you plenty of individual portions without having to double it.


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It was a bit of a risk trying a new recipe for Christmas dinner but it was a risk that paid off! This pudding came out as a cross between sticky toffee pudding and chocolate cake! It  is yummy! It goes well with the accompanying toffee sauce and ice cream. It’s also nice served with custard or pouring cream. My cousin had it on Christmas eve and said that it was one of the best desserts she has ever had. High praise indeed :–)


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Ingredients

For the puddings:

150g chopped dried pitted dates
50g chopped dried figs
480ml water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
315g self-raising flour
75g dark chocolate, grated

Butter, for coating ramekins or large pie dish

For the sauce:

440g brown sugar
480ml double cream
200g butter

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
Grease ramekins.
2) Add the dates, dried figs and water to a medium saucepan.
Bring to boil over medium heat.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda.
Let cool for about 5 minutes, then add to a blender and puree.
3) Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl.
Add the eggs and beat well.
Fold in the flour, the pureed date mixture and the chocolate.
4) Put the mixture into individual ramekins or a large pie dish, filling halfway or slightly under.
Put in the oven and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.
5) Prepare the sauce by stirring the sugar and cream in a medium saucepan over low heat.
Simmer until the sugar dissolves.
Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the butter and stir until incorporated.
6) Remove the ramekins/pie dish from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
Remove from the ramekins/pie dish.
Serve warm with the toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream (if desired).

Monday, 26 January 2015

Newcastle Restaurant Week and food with friends


Last week was Newcastle Restaurant Week (19 – 25 January 2015), where we decided to take advantage of offers and eat out. We went to three restaurants last year: Fat Buddha, Las Iguanas and  Juniper’s Pantry @ Nectar Bar.

Coop Chicken House


First stop this year was a mid-week (chicken) feed @ Coop Chicken House (21/1/15). I’d read positive things about this place and fancied trying it to see if it was any good.


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The Restaurant Week offer at Coop Chicken House was half a chicken, two sides and a shot of chilli sauce for £10. You save £6 with this offer. We ordered two of these so shared a whole chicken and the sides.

For the sides, we went for skin-on fries, homemade slaw, sweet potato fries and grilled corn on the cob. The sweet potato fries are amazing – best I have ever had! The skin-on-fries were really tasty too.

There’s an extensive list of chilli shots to choose from ranging from the mild to the extremely hot! I went for mild whilst Leigh had a hot one. I went for The Cambridge Sauce Company Sweet Chilli Sauce (mild & sweet, almost honey like in taste). Leigh had The Cambridge Sauce Company Smoked Scotch Bonnet & Red Pepper Sauce (Scotch bonnets smoked over maple with sweet red peppers). We both liked mine – it was a cross between Cantonese sweet & sour sauce and Thai sweet chilli sauce. But Leigh didn’t rate his – it was super sour! He preferred the free hot sauce on the table and used that instead.

The grilled chicken was tasty and moist. You could eat this on its’ own but the variety of chilli sauces intrigue me. There are a few that caught my eye I would like to try. Bim’s Coconut Relish (A coconut & chilli relish with a lovely kick, unusual & moreish) being one of them. It could be a hit-or-miss game but it’d be a fun one to play!


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I assumed that my half chicken and sides would come on one plate (like at Nandos) and was pleasantly surprised when it came out all together ‘tapas’ sharing style. If you fancy a lighter meal (i.e. for lunch) then sharing half a chicken between two people would be enough. At a push, we managed to finish a whole chicken between the two of us. It was our evening meal and we were both pretty hungry. No room for dessert though! But we were both very satisfied with our lot.

The staff were very friendly and efficient. Even though it is a little pricey at full price, we would return again as the food is good quality as well as tasty!

Food with friends


We went round our friends’ Debs and Rob’s house on Saturday for dinner. We had Barbecue slow cooked pulled pork nachos with cheese and sour cream to start. These were so yum and moreish – it makes me want to get a slow cooker! Followed by a Chicken, ham & leek filo pie using Hairy Bikers recipe. This is one of their healthy recipes and it was delicious. I was surprised when I found out as it is full of flavour! I would definitely have a go at making this myself. I brought round a homemade dessert. Warm sticky figgy pudding and toffee sauce served with vanilla ice cream. We had a fabulous night filled with wonderful food and a lot of laughter!


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Las Iguanas


We have been to Las Iguanas a few times and it’s always a pleasure to eat here. It was so good last year during Restaurant Week that we were keen to go again. This time for Sunday Lunch. The offer was the same – a starter, main and drink for £10. Excellent value for money!

The staff and service was friendly and efficient, as we’ve come to expect. There was also a Happy Hour offer on all January for buy-one-get-one-free cocktails. We didn’t take advantage on this occasion as Leigh was happy with his two beers (included in Restaurant Week offer; he had his own and pilfered mine) and me with my iced tap water. If it had been the evening and not a school night, Leigh probably would have indulged a bit, as it’s such a good offer.

I had tried two of the three starters last time so went for the remaining option - Taco (corn & wheat tortilla loaded roasted coconut butternut squash with pink pickled onions, radish, spring onion and soured cream).

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This was absolutely delicious. I didn’t expect the roasted butternut squash to come the way it did nor taste how it did. I was expecting big chunks of plain squash. I got a lovely spiced and fragrant curry. Divine. I could eat a plateful of this as a main course! It’s great when something surprises, delights and exceeds expectations. This dish did all these things.


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Leigh got the Quesadilla (tortilla, filled, folded, char-grilled & served with tomato salsa, spicy chicken, peppers, onion & cheese). Like last time, he enjoyed his starter.


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I chose the Albondigas (Patagonian style lamb meatballs with apple, mint, parmesan & a pinch of nutmeg and braised in a rich tomato, mint & mild chilli sauce) for my main. I wasn’t blown away with the way it looked but it did taste bloody gorgeous! The lamb meatballs were soft, succulent and melted in your mouth. The sauce was subtly spiced with a good balance of heat and sweetness. The rice was standard and served as a vehicle for mopping up all that unctuous sauce. I was very impressed. I couldn’t make this at home. Like I said in my last review of Las Iguanas, I love it when I eat out, try to figure out how the chef has cooked the food, and I can’t. I thoroughly enjoyed eating every mouthful of this dish and would return to eat this again!


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Leigh got the Chilli (braised in spiced tomatoes, with spring onion & garlic rice, warmed soft wheat tortillas, soured cream & pink pickled onion, slowly braised chunky beef steak, minced beef & black beans). He ordered this last time and enjoyed it again a second time. However, he did admit to a mild case of food envy upon tasty my dish.


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Las Iguanas is a very popular place to eat. We tried to book here originally for Wednesday evening but they were fully booked till after 9:30pm. That’s why we ended up going for Sunday Lunch instead. So, if you are wanting to go at a busier time, it’s best to get booked up early to avoid disappointment.

Friday, 16 January 2015

My first Blogiversary


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Happy new year everyone and Happy first birthday to my blog! Chow At Home turns 1 year old!

Apologies, I have not been blogging recently. I fell ill with the cold for the past couple of weeks and haven’t been feeling like myself. Anyways, I'm better now, and just in time to celebrate and look over my first year writing this blog. I can also sneak in a recap of the Christmas period (that I was meant to have done by now) in here too!

I made a mini blueberry and lemon birthday cake for my blog. I used my Blueberry muffin recipe and made a Bero lemon buttercream to go with it. Not tried this combo before as I normally eat the muffin on its’ own but it worked beautifully together and was absolutely delicious!


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I started writing my blog ‘Chow At Home’ to share my love of making (and eating) food. It led on from Instagram users requesting recipes of things I had baked and shared on my Instagram (@zoetcm).

I also created a Facebook page to go along with my blog. If you haven’t already, you can ‘like’ and keep updated with ‘Chow At Home’ :-)


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2014

I've really enjoyed sharing my baking Recipes with you. These take up the majority of my blog. I did blog some cooking recipes but it’s clear to see by the number of recipes that my interest in baking is greater! Really chuffed that some of these were tried and liked by readers. That’s what this blog is here for!

Alongside posting recipes, I have wrote some restaurant Reviews on this blog. I didn’t write as many reviews as I wanted too. Certainly not of all the places I did go and eat at this year!

I took part in What I Ate Wednesday a few times. However, I didn’t really get into this or keep it going.

Anyways, here are some of my favourite baking recipes over the year:


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I really enjoy attending food making workshops. They can be expensive so I make use of offers (like Groupon) when I can. I’ve learnt how to make bread (one of the best things I’ve ever done!) and chocolate in the past. I managed to do two workshops this year. Chocolate making with Kenspeckle and sausage making with Northumberland Sausage Company. Both were really good fun! I thoroughly recommend them.


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I went to a couple of food festivals: Tynemouth and Sunderland. We’ve been to the NE Chilli festival before but didn’t manage to go this year. The food stalls do get a bit samey after you’ve been to a few food festivals but the cooking demos are always new and interesting.

The best thing we got to do was at the Sunderland food festival. We took part in the ‘Frugal chicken’ class (which was free), where we were shown how to joint a chicken with minimum wastage, jointed one for ourselves, and got to take it all home!


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It was a busy Summer with family visiting from India and America. Of course, I had to bake some of my signature bakes for them! ;-) We took my family round a number of places, including local sights in Newcastle and surrounding coastal area. We also made trips to Alnwick and Edinburgh, Scotland.

As well as lots of fun and food, it was so lovely to meet my cousins’ children and get to spend some quality time with family who I don’t get to see often.


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We celebrated our two year wedding anniversary with a mini road trip adventure to Wales. We camped in the South for a few days and then in the North east for a few days.

We did a lot of sightseeing (mainly castles) and some camp cooking, sampled Welsh cuisine and had a wonderful anniversary gourmet meal at Park House in Cardiff.

We were so lucky with the weather. It was red hot the whole time, whilst it had been awful in the run up to our trip. Wales is a beautiful country and we definitely would like to return. For me, this holiday beat the previous year when we went to Tenerife by a mile! It goes to show that you don’t have to travel abroad for the typical sunny beach holiday to have the best time.


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Towards the end of the year, I started to turn my focus from baking great tasting cakes to decorating awesome looking cakes. I already had a repertoire of celebration cakes that I had tested and knew tasted good. So, I became more interested in making them look pretty!

It started with me wanting to do something special for my cousin’s 30th. I set myself the challenge of working with modelling sugar paste for the first time and created a unique and personalised veggie patch cake for her. My father-in-law’s duck hunting themed cake followed shortly afterwards, of which I was extremely proud of.

I then fancied decorating with buttercream and got into it using Wilton piping tips and techniques. Buttercream rosettes using a Wilton 1M/2D piping tip for the win! If you haven’t tried these yet, get yourself one and have a go. So easy yet so pretty and effective!


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At the end of the year, in November, I received my first ever cake order! This was very exciting for me! I had only ever made cakes for family/friends/work colleagues voluntarily. I love to bake and share what I bake with others. I also didn’t know whether my bakes were good enough to sell and how to start going about selling them.

It took me by surprise but I was really pleased when I was asked by my friend to make some Superhero themed cupcakes for her partner’s birthday party. Thanks Gemma! I then was pleasantly surprised again, when I got my second cake order from a work colleague for his cycling club fundraiser in December. I hopefully will get to do more cake decorating and sell my bakes in the year to come.


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The end of the year was a busy one for us. We cooked Christmas dinner for my family on Christmas eve. December is always a busy time for us. As well as Christmas, it’s Leigh’s birthday and mine too. And this year, I turned 30!

For my 30th, I was treated to a lovely meal at Peace & Loaf in Jesmond. This was followed by a surprise birthday party the following day. My mother-in-law made my cute owls birthday cake. You can contact her on Homemade Cakes by Sandra Facebook page if you're interested in ordering a custom cake from her.

I had a lovely night spent with family and friends. Especially as it was a few days after Christmas and before New year’s eve – thanks to everyone who made the effort – I really appreciate it. And thanks to my hubby and bestie Tor for organising the party!


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2015

I have had a great year of foodie adventures in 2014. What does Chow At Home’s second year hold?

I hope to:

- Blog more frequently. Including writing more restaurant reviews.
- Streamline and refine the blog. Make it look better and be more accessible.
- Read other foodie blogs. There are people I follow on Instagram who I’d like to start reading their blogs regularly.
- Improve my cake decorating skills.
- Get serious and try to sell my cakes and bakes!

Thank you for reading / liking / following / commenting. For your all-round support & inspiration that keeps me and this blog going! Love to you guys :-D

Let's make 2015 even better - Keep baking! x