Thursday, 2 July 2015

Restaurant Review: Honest Burger, Spitalfields, London

My birthday this year was on a weekday when I was at work, but it was a really busy time for my team. So I wanted to suggest we go out for lunch, but knew most people wouldn’t have much time. Luckily there was a branch of Honest Burgers across the street that I had been wanting to try; the limited number of choices on the menu means the food is served pretty quickly.
The menu is divided into three main sections which look like a flow chart; there’s chicken, beef or vegetables, plus sauces and side orders. It took a matter of seconds to decide that I wanted the Honest burger, but without the bacon, as I wanted the pickles and burger sauce that this one came with. The burgers are made using meat from the Ginger Pig and come with rosemary-salted chips which are delicious.

The burgers are those dirty, oozing ones that you can’t eat without getting in a mess- but importantly, the bun is robust enough to not fall apart. There’s even a takeaway option where you can call and pre-order for collection if you are really pushed for time. It’s a good quality burger, in a casual but nice restaurant, that made a great treat for a quick birthday lunch.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Summer Fun Birthday Card



When I was card making last Saturday I took inspiration from some of the crafting blog challenges that I'd come across. One of them had the theme of flip flops and I knew I had a pack of beach-themed stickers somewhere so decided to hunt them out.

I used a yellow card blank to represent the beach, and began by sticking on the felt stickers that I had left in the pack - a bikini, pair of flip flops, beach umbrella and a bucket and spade. I wanted the wording to be similarly bright and bold and found I had the right letters left in a packet (where I had already used some up) to spell the word 'fun'. As the letters were quite large there wouldn't have been room to write a much longer word anyway!

The card was still lacking something - lacking a lot actually as it looked like a plain card with some stickers added randomly - which is pretty much what I had done! I found a mini rubber stamp with a sun and dotted that all over the card. It still needed something to bring all the elements together and I found I had a few pieces of a coloured border sticker left in a couple of different patterns so I added that around the edges of the card. I was much more pleased with the final result!

I'm sending this to the Fairytale Challenge which has a flip flops theme this week.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Formula 1 Foods - Austria round-up and the next challenge: UK


I went to Austria last year and made a few of the local dishes after I came back, so this round of Formula 1 Foods was quite easy for me. The idea is to make something inspired by the country that is hosting each race and last time it was Austria.

Apple strudel is said to originate from Vienna and when I was there I saw a demonstration and got to try some freshly-baked strudel; I was given a recipe to take away which I made at home. The trick is getting your pastry so thin that you can lay it on top of the recipe card and read the text through your pastry!


I also tried a piece of Sachertorte in the Hotel Sacher where it was invented; I had actually made this and posted it on my blog a while previously so it's a good excuse to share the recipe again!



Another local speciality is Wiener Schnitzel and while I've made it several times in the past I hadn't blogged about it before so this is my latest post. I used pork and chicken but veal is the really traditional way to make it. And it has to be served with sauerkraut!


Suelle at Mainly Baking made these Linzer Squares which are made of hazelnut pastry and filled with jam and make a tasty little treat.


Jane at Onions and Paper didn't have time to bake anything for the challenge so took the opportunity to talk about one of her favourite foodie spots in Austria, the Nashmarkt in Vienna. Check out her beautiful photographs!


The next challenge takes place in.... the UK! My boyfriend is a big fan of Formula 1 but says he would prefer to watch it on TV than go to the actual race. Aside from the cost, you get to see a lot more on television than if you are standing in one place by the track! Have any of you been or are you going this year?

For the challenge you can share any British-inspired recipe, whether it's something traditional or something you've dreamt up thinking about your favourite tourist attractions or British activities. I'd love to see a maypole dancing themed cake but I know I won't have time to make anything quite that elaborate myself!

The linkup is open now until Sunday 12th July so you've got plenty of time to get your recipes in.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Meal Planning Monday 2015 - Week 27


Finally a week that should be a lot quieter - but I will probably jinx it by saying that! Lately I've been out a lot and had to work late a bit and we've been away or busy at the weekends. This week I've just got my cake decorating class; no social events planned (which sounds depressing but is actually lovely to have a solid run of nights in at home!) and also no plans for the weekend. Other than the million and one things that need doing around the house and garden of course!

I've put some of the things that were on last week's menu down for this week as I didn't make them last week. Someone who shall remain nameless (though it wasn't me, and it wasn't the cat...) left the freezer open slightly overnight so I had to throw away or cook all the food that was in the door or at the front! Luckily the rest of it was OK but at the weekend we were eating things that had to be used up rather than the meals that I had planned.

Monday
Lunch: pasta salad or possibly out with a friend
Dinner: sandwich - at cake decorating class

Tuesday
Lunch: sandwich - only have 10 mins before going to the school where I volunteer
Dinner:  Deliciously Ella's butternut squash risotto with grilled chicken for me; gammon and mashed potatoes for him

Wednesday
Lunch: salad from Inspiralized book: apple, watercress, gorgonzola and pecan
Dinner: BBQ as the weather is meant to be amazing: sausages with some sort of salad side dish

Thursday
Lunch: leftover salad from BBQ or sandwich
Dinner: may be slightly late home; he can cook us something easy from the freezer

Friday
Lunch:
Dinner: a variation on Deliciously Ella's brazil nut and rocket pesto pasta; spaghetti carbonara for him

Saturday
Lunch: waffles - using sweet potato from me (from my new Inspiralized recipe book)
Dinner: BBQ: I want to have fish this time and will try something like this recipe. He doesn't eat fish  so I will do honey and mustard chicken kebabs from this recipe and no doubt he will want a burger as well.

Sunday
Lunch: bacon sandwich for him; lemon garlic broccoli with bacon from Inspiralized for me
Dinner: TBA - I had planned something but it was one of the things that defrosted after the freezer was left open so we had it last Sunday!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Alphabakes Round-up 2015: O




As we continue our journey through the alphabet this month we were baking with the letter O. Oranges made a few appearances but there were plenty of other ingredients beginning with O which showed up in your sweet and savoury recipes this month.

I got one of my own entries in first: these mini rose-shaped cakes are favoured with orange and also vegan. I love the Nordicware tin that I used to make them!


My mum Jacqueline also used a pretty cake mould for this peppermint and orange flower cake. Those are two flavours which I haven't seen in combination before so I wonder what it tasted like?


Now these two flavours are a bit more common together and ones I really like: chocolate and orange. This loaf cake is also from my mum Jacqueline.



This green veggie minestrone soup comes from Jen's Food and uses orzo pasta to make it really filling. She used ham stock in the freezer from Christmas so the meal is cheap and easy to make.


Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than... made this orange and hazelnut loaf cake, which she says is wonderfully soft, full of hazelnut flavour with a refreshing orange drizzle. Perfect for summer afternoons - or any time really!


Jean at Baking in Franglais sent us these strawberry and orange friands, which are similar to financiers; the combination of almonds and fruit into these bite-size morsels sounds delicious.


The name of this bake is quite a mouthful: classic chocolate chip cinnamon oatmeal cookies. And what a mouthful they would make! Thanks to Stuart at Cakeyboi for sending these in - he says they are warm and comforting with a glass of milk, which is exactly what I want now!

I've recently gotten into fennel so was pleased to see this salad from Chardonnay & Samphire which includes black-eyed beans, sweet potato and fennel with a blood orange dressing. It can be eaten either hot or cold and would be great on a bed of rocket.


 I made this olive and rosemary focaccia for a barbecue; it was really easy to make and tasted delicious!



This white chocolate, raspberry and coconut flapjack from Suelle at Mainly Baking uses Jordan's breakfast cereal containing oats, and would be a lovely treat for when you are on the go in the morning (assuming you bake it ahead of course!).


For a cute take on a trifle check out this boozy orange and strawberry trifle from Kate at the Gluten Free Alchemist. It's served in a little jar and uses up all sorts of leftovers from the kitchen and freezer (Kate's freezer broke down so she has been cooking everything that she can!).


My co-host for Alphabakes Ros, who blog at The More Than Occasional Baker, made this wonderful dark chocolate salted caramel Oreo pie - it's a no-bake recipe but takes a while as you have to wait for each layer to set in turn. It certainly looks worth the effort!


One of the best things about this lime, orange blossom and pistachio cake from Lili's Cakes is that it's sugar free! It also looks wonderfully moist and can be served with natural yogurt on the side.


And finally this month we have the 'ultimate' gooey brownies from Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than. You'll have to read Laura's post to find out what her secret ingredient is - but I'll give you a clue, it begins with O!



That's all for this time - head on over to The More Than Occasional Baker on July 1st to find out which letter she has chosen at random for next month!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Rocking New Baby Girl Card


 
Every year my boyfriend goes to the Goodwood Festival of Speed with his dad, and every year I use that time to indulge my love of card making. I tend to turn the craft room (aka spare bedroom number 2, which has a desk and cupboard full of craft stuff) into a complete mess making at least half a dozen cards in the morning, and then tidy it up in the afternoon before he gets home!

I've only recently realised that there are blog challenges for papercrafts in the same way that there are for baking. Challenges for Days has a really helpful list of all the themes so I decided to have a look at that list for inspiration.

There is a challenge on Daring Cardmakers to produce a baby card with a rocking or moving element to it and as one of my closest friends is expecting her first baby in August, I thought that was the perfect theme. I first thought about making a card with a cradle that rocks, but wasn't sure how to go about making one element of the card move - there are various ways it could be done, but I didn't want to spend all morning making just one card!

Instead I took a square white card blank and cut all four corners into a curve, and trimmed the remainder so there were no straight edges, of course leaving the top of the card attached so it would open. This way, the card stands up but if nudged, will gently rock from side to side.


I used a piece of pink checked backing paper from a pack of mixed papers as the backing. I bought a set of Tattered Lace die cuts from Ebay a while back (I'd really like the die cutter to make these myself, but it's pretty expensive!) and chose a large pink circle with lacy edges; this fit perfectly onto the middle of the card.

I had a baby card making set that had a few embellishments and a pre-cut baby's buggy topper. I used the topper in the middle of the pink circle. I used some pink ribbon to stick a line across the top and bottom of the card (which you can only just see) and used some more of the ribbon to tie a little bow, which I stuck on to the flat piece of ribbon at the bottom of the card.

The gems are from the same pack as the baby buggy; they were impossible to stick on with glue (I tried two types of glue) so I ended up cutting a tiny piece of adhesive pad and using that instead. I stuck a row along the piece of ribbon at the top of the card, and another in the middle of the bow at the bottom.

I used a transfer sheet for the words; I think it looks much nicer this way than an outline sticker as it looks like it is printed directly on to the card. Another way you could do this is with a rubber stamp but I think I got a more professional look with the transfer. I really like this card - of course I made a similar one in blue in case my friend has a boy!

As well as the Daring Cardmakers challenge mentioned above, I am also sending this to the Alphabet Challenge, as this month they have chosen J for jewels.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Restaurant Review: Black's Burger, Epsom

 
 
I drove to Epsom so we could go to the cinema on Sunday evening recently. That may sound quite dull but it was the first time I’d driven somewhere unfamiliar other than on a driving lesson (I normally go to the local train station and village high street and that’s about it), the first time I’d used a satnav (though I also had my boyfriend giving directions), and one of the only times I’ve driven in the dark (and I discovered unfamiliar roads in the dark do make me quite nervous!).

We got there successfully (if you overlook stalling at a junction because I was confused about where I was going) and so I felt like I deserved something of a reward. This driving lark is still really stressful! We often go to the cinema in Epsom and eat there beforehand and have tried quite a few restaurants within walking distance of the cinema. It was only recently that I’d heard about Black’s Burgers – it’s set back from the high street so we hadn’t spotted it before. But they don’t take reservations and I was always worried they would be busy on a Saturday night when we only had a limited amount of time before the film starts.
 
Luckily on a Sunday they weren’t too busy – the Purley restaurant takes bookings but this one in Epsom doesn’t. The restaurant is almost fast-food, but not quite – you order and pay at a counter, and help yourself to your own soft drinks, but food and other drinks like milkshakes are brought over by a server. It’s a great compromise if you want a quick meal but want to feel like you’re somewhere like a Byron or Gourmet Burger Kitchen rather than Burger King.
 
The restaurant was set up by three members of the same family who wanted to make good burgers with no gimmicks and all the trimmings. And they certainly have all the trimmings. There’s the ‘salty streaker’ with grilled halloumi, streaky bacon and avocado puree; the ‘rock n rolla’ with Monterey jack cheese, smoky streaky bacon, fried egg, peanut butter and ‘no green stuff’; the ‘dirty burger’ with Frank’s hot sauce, double cheddar, blue cheese sauce on a bed of ‘blacks slaw’… my only problem is deciding what to order (and how to burn off the calories afterwards).
 
I’ve actually been here twice now; the first time I had the ‘juicy lucy’ which boasts a Monterey jack cheese stuffed patty (that is, the cheese is inside rather than on top of the burger), streaky bacon and maple mayo, and ‘no green stuff’. The way the cheese oozes out from inside the burger as you bite into it is genius.
 
The second time I ate here I had the ‘bbq burger’ – a beef patty topped with bbq pulled pork, Monterey jack cheese and an onion ring (and salad  – no dodging the green stuff this time). It sounds cheesy to say it was a taste explosion but it really was – the tangy flavour of the pork, combined with the juicy beef burger and the cheese was at first fantastic, though the onion ring was lost somewhat and would have been better on the side. Towards the end the flavours became a bit much and I started eating the pulled pork separately. The bun couldn’t handle the filling and started to fall apart, leaving me to finish the meal with a knife and fork. In fact I couldn’t actually finish it as it was so filling!
 
Which makes me wonder how anyone could actually eat the Beast… Black’s offers a challenge in its Purley location (which I haven’t been to) where you can get your meal for free, and your name on the wall of fame, if you successfully demolish “The Beast” within an hour. If you fail, you pay £60 for the meal and your name goes on the wall of shame! So what does the Beast entail? Nothing less than 7lb prime black angus beef, half a pound of mature cheddar, 7 rashes streaky bacon, 1 whole lettuce, 7 whole tomatoes, 1 lb skinny fries, and one full size milkshake with two scoops of ice cream. In the photo, it’s almost the size of the man’s torso… I don’t think that promoting something like this is actually a good idea or at all responsible; they do offer a group challenge for four people who can try to tackle it together; it costs £90 if you fail, and there is a separate winners board for teams, as they refer to this as the ‘cheat’s challenge’. Probably best that I leave it there…..
 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Nigella Lawson's Cappucino Pavlova

Meringues are the bane of my life. It’s not so much about making the perfect macaron as getting a simple meringue to not stick to the paper. After many failures I decided to sign up for a course at Cakes 4 Fun in Putney, which was brilliant; you can read about what I did here. After the course, I made a pavlova from a Nigella Lawson recipe at home, and it turned out perfectly. Fully of confidence, I asked for the Meringue Girls book for my birthday, and recently made a pavlova from that – it was undercooked in the middle and stuck to the paper. I had to turn it into a sort Eton Mess with some Carte d’Or Eton Mess flavour ice cream, pomegranate seeds and some pomegranate molasses (which I had bought for the pavlova recipe) drizzled over the top.
It was delicious, but it seems I am back to square one as far as my meringue making ability is concerned. So this is the tale of the rather more successful cappuccino pavlova by Nigella.
The recipe is available from her website and it was really easy to make, just ensure you follow the instructions in particular about the cooking time and then leave the meringue to cool properly afterwards.
I took it from her Italian cookery book Nigellissima, as I was serving this as part of an Italian-themed buffet for my boyfriend’s family on his birthday. It tasted delicious with double cream and cocoa powder piled on top.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Bulgur wheat, apricot and chickpea salad

 
I always say that I don’t like salads, but what I really mean is that I don’t like lettuce – unless I’m in absolutely the right mood for it which usually means a sunny day! When I was a child salads were “lettuce, tomato, cucumber” – the words almost run into each other. But it’s not the 1980s any more and you can put pretty much anything in a salad – and it doesn’t even have to have lettuce as a base.
 
I was going through some recipe cuttings – actually pages I had photocopied from a diet cookery book of some kind – and trying to make space in the kitchen by throwing them out. Most of the recipes in that folder were not interesting enough to keep or even to cook – or very similar to ones I already have in recipe books. I did keep a few however, one of which was this salad – but now the recipe is on my blog, I can throw out the photocopy as well!
 
T
he recipe didn’t actually include instructions for a salad dressing but instead advised that a fat-free vinaigrette would go nicely with this. So you could make your own dressing or use a shop-bought one – or even eat this plain.
 
To make at least two decent-sized lunches (this travels well in a lunchbox to work) you need:
200g bulgur wheat
200g tinned chickpeas
50g ready-to-eat dried apricots, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
1 piece stem ginger in syrup, drained – this is optional and I actually left it out
1 tbsp fresh parsley or mint, chopped
 
 
Put the bulgur wheat in a large bowl and pour over 250ml boiling water. Leave for 20-25 minutes to soften and swell and break up any clumps with a fork.
Add the other ingredients and toss well, and add your dressing if required.


I'm sending this to No Croutons Required, the veggie salad and soups linkup, hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes.



Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Strawberry Ice Cream Cupcakes in an Ice Cream Van

ice cream cupcakes

When we had a barbecue last weekend I made these cupcakes purely so I could show off my new cake stand!
 
It’s from a company called Talking Tables and looks like an ice cream van, complete with ice cream cones and a sign where you can make your own slogan.
It costs £16.50 on their website, though I got it for slightly less as I bought it at a cake show about 18 months ago. This is actually the first time I have been able to use it, as I was moving house last summer and staying with my boyfriend’s family temporarily (as we had a gap between selling and buying a house) so all my belongings were in storage. Then I was waiting for the summer so finally I have the chance to use it!
 
 
 
It comes flat-packed and is made of cardboard but is very sturdy, and stands up by itself. There are three tiers; two have flat surfaces and the top tier has holes. Paper ice cream cones are provided, which you can fill with sweets; I also baked some ice cream cone cupcakes (see below) which I popped into the holes.

 
 
I personalised the little cardboard sign that comes with it – I think children would love this. I’m 36 and was pretty taken with it myself!
 
 
I’ve made these ice cream cone cakes before and used the same recipe this time, though I added some strawberry flavouring to both the cake batter and the buttercream.
 
 
 
I also decided to try out my Duo Colour icing kit from Lakeland, which I’ve had for a while but never used. It looks quite complicated but is actually very easy so I will explain how to use it. The plastic coupler actually splits into two pieces, and the disposable piping bags have two sections. Snip off a little triangle at the bottom of the piping bag and pop each part of the coupler into a different section of the bag. Squeeze them so that they clip together and place your chosen piping nozzle over the top, with the coupling ring around the outside, which will hold it in place.

Put each colour buttercream into one half of the piping bag – I used plain which was yellow from the butter, and pink to go with the strawberry flavour. Pipe as you would normally, but you will find that the icing squeezes out of both sides at once, creating a two-tone effect. It’s a little hard to explain but pretty easy to do, and the pack does come with instructions! You can also buy replacement bags once you have used up the ones it comes with. I think the two-tone effect looks cute on the ice cream cupcakes.


The ice cream van looked very cute out in my garden!
 
 
 
 

I’m sharing these with the Food Year Linkup, hosted by Charlotte's Lively Kitchen - there are various events this month these ice cream cupcakes would be great for, including Breast Cancer Care's Strawberry Tea and Marie Curie's Blooming Great Tea Party.
 
 

Food Year Linkup June 2015 new

I'm also sending these to Love Cake, hosted by Ness at JibberJabberUK as her theme is midsummer madness.
 
Love Cake logo

Monday, 22 June 2015

Meal Planning Monday 2015 - Week 26

Monday
Lunch: BBQ leftovers 
Dinner: sandwich as I’m at a cake decorating class
Tuesday
Lunch: out with a colleague who is in town today
Dinner: out with a friend (didn't intentionally plan these to be the same day!)
Wednesday
Lunch: sandwich – will be stuck at a desk
Dinner: probably working late so something my boyfriend can easily cook
Thursday
Lunch: sandwich or salad
Dinner: butternut squash and feta cheese pasta for me, pasta carbonara for him
Friday
Lunch: out with a friend
Dinner: BBQ at home as part of my pledge to use it at least once a week! I will make it easy as it’s been a busy week though and just have something simple like sausages or anything I can pick up that’s ready-made
Saturday
Lunch: home alone as the Other Half is at Goodwood
Dinner: for me: Deliciously Ella's butternut squash risotto with grilled chicken; for him, BBQ chicken and potato wedges
Sunday:
Lunch: Not sure what the plan is today as we are babysitting my boyfriend’s nephews
Dinner: for me: a variation on Deliciously Ella's brazil nut and rocket pesto pasta. For him: spaghetti and meatballs

Sunday, 21 June 2015

How to make Striped Meringue Kisses and other Meringues

Are you any good at making meringues? There seems to be quite an art to them and it’s something I never really got the hang of. I went through a phase of making meringues that were flat and pale brown- not burnt, but they never came out white like they were supposed to. I then tried to make the passionfruit and pomegranate pavlova that is on the front cover of the latest Great British Bake Off cookbook and it was a complete disaster. The meringue looked great but completely stuck to the greaseproof paper, so the only way I was able to get it off was by breaking it into pieces. I cheerfully decided I would serve it as Eton Mess instead, so folded through the fruit and the cream – and when I came to serve it a couple of hours later, discovered the meringue had completely disintegrated into the cream and I had a bowl of mush. Apparently it does that and you must never assemble a pavlova, Eton Mess or anything involving meringue and cream until the very last minute- a lesson I learnt the hard way!
So when I saw a meringues and marshmallows course advertised at Cakes 4 Fun in Putney at half price I immediately signed up. I’ve already written about the marshmallows that we made, so now I’m going to tell you about the meringues. I am not allowed to recreate their recipes but you can find plenty of meringue recipes online and in books, and I suggest that when you find one that works, you stick with it.

We started by making meringue kisses which I’ve seen in shops – rows and rows of different coloured meringues in every shade of the rainbow. They are quite easy to make; you use the same basic meringue mixture for any size and shape. What I'm going to explain here is how to make the little kisses with the pretty stripes up each side - I had no idea before but it seems quite obvious when you know how!

Simply take a piping bag - this one happened to be bright pink - and select your colour. I normally use gel pastes but for this you need liquid food colouring. Using a small brush, paint a line of the colour along the inside of the piping bag - do this four times with the lines in a north, south, east and west shape, as you can see here:

You can put a piping nozzle into the bag but you don't actually need to and can just snip a little off the end of the bag. Carefully spoon your meringue mixture inside and as you squeeze it out, the meringue will take the colour and you end up with the striped effect.

Line a baking tray with a piece of greaseproof paper. To pipe the kisses, squeeze the bag so around 2 tbsp. of meringue comes out, making sure you keep it in a little pile rather than spreading it out, and pull the bag upwards as you finish. Bake in the oven according to your recipe instructions - they don't take long as they are quite small. There you have your kisses! These can be sandwiched together with cream or chocolate or eaten on their own and they will keep for a few days in an airtight container.



We also made some large freehand meringues which I thought looked great. We dolloped a large ladleful of meringue mixture onto the baking sheet and tidied it up a little with a knife. The one on the left was sprinkled with freeze-dried raspberries whereas the one on the right had cocoa powder swirled through it with a knife and chopped nuts sprinkled on top. You do this while the mixture is still raw.



Here they are just out of the oven, nicely risen


I think the chocolate ones in particular are very pretty! These were delicious served with cream and nutella.


What's your favourite meringue recipe?