Saturday, 23 May 2015

Chicken Monte Carlo

 

 
This weekend is the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo and so I've made a recipe called Chicken Monte Carlo. I found it online but couldn't find any explanation of why the dish has that name so I don't know if it has anything to do with Monte Carlo itself but the name alone means it fits with my Formula 1 Foods challenge!
 
I found several recipes for Chicken Monte Carlo online which were all slightly different and as I wasn't sure which to use, I picked different elements of each. They all seemed to use broccoli  which I always have in the house so was very surprised to find when I started cooking that I had run out! I decided to make the dish anyway and use leeks instead so this ended up being a fairly random recipe but it did actually taste very nice.
 
This recipe is the closest one to how I made it but I was surprised at the amount of mayonnaise it called for and used far less, and I didn't use any stuffing. I had to use leeks instead of broccoli and Red Leicester cheese instead of Cheddar!

 


 

I served this with mashed potato and some more veg; it tasted nice even though it was quite different from the original recipe - but as I was about to go on holiday and made this just before I went away, so I could post the recipe this weekend, I didn't have any time to do anything else!

I'm sharing this with Formula 1 Foods, the blog challenge I started in honour of the F1 Grand Prix.



Friday, 22 May 2015

Restaurant Review: Kensington Roof Gardens

Why is posh food always served in such tiny portions? In once came across a quote from a chef which ran: “nothing on the plate, everything on the bill”. That’s true at least as far as quantity is concerned!
 
I know that quality ingredients cost more, and the rich and famous as a rule don’t tend to get that way by overeating. I think also that it’s because a small portion looks more elegant on the plate; just one or two vegetables artfully arranged, with a few dots of sauce, look far more attractive than a plate of roast potatoes, mashed swede and gravy. And I know of course that the price of a dish in the restaurant reflects all the overheads, including the time and expertise of the chef but also things like paying the waiters, the electricity bill and so on. But sometimes I do have to wonder if these tiny meals are really worth it!
 
The answer in this case was yes – sort of. For my birthday my boyfriend took me to Kensington Roof Gardens, for one reason and one reason only – the flamingos! I’d heard a few years ago that the restaurant has some resident flamingos in its roof gardens, but I wasn’t sure they were there any more after a dreadful story a little while back about someone who got drunk and threw one off the roof (of course killing it). But the flamingos are indeed still there – perhaps sometimes keeping a cautious eye on the diners, but in this case they were all sound asleep.
 
 
 

 

The gardens are arranged in sections; one area is based on the Alhambra in Granada, Spain (though I’ve been to the Alhambra and didn’t realise that when I was in the roof gardens!) with the plants and layout giving a Mediterranean feel. There are three courtyards making up the Tudor garden, with archways and plants that would have been around in Tudor England. It is very tranquil and pretty.
 
The English woodland area has narcissus, crocus, snowdrops and bluebells and when fully in bloom this would be lovely. There are also several trees, some of which are 75 years old, and this is the part where the flamingos – and ducks – live. The flamingos were in a small pond, all asleep in standing positions, but my boyfriend – who has been to a work event here – said they sometimes just potter around the gardens which I think is very cool. You can even sign up to the Gardening Club and get a discount in the restaurant: see here http://www.virginlimitededition.com/en/the-roof-gardens/the-gardens
  
 
The gardens are really an oasis of calm in the middle of the bustling Kensington High Street – the entrance to the gardens and the restaurant is in Derry Street. I kicked myself when I realised I had at one point worked in the building that is literally directly opposite – which belongs to Associated Newspapers - and never knew this was here!
 
The restaurant itself is called Babylon – I assume a reference to the Hanging Gardens as the restaurant’s terrace overlooks the gardens, though it was too cold to sit outside. There are slightly different menus for weekdays and weekends (weekends meaning Fridays and Saturdays – I wonder if that means I can convince work I should have Fridays off?!). The menu also seems to change quite frequently; I went at the beginning of May and three weeks later when I came to write this review (I had been on holiday in between) I went online to remind myself of the ingredients in the starter I had, and it wasn’t on there any more! It involved some kind of goat’s cheese mousse which sounded unusual; it came with vegetable crisps. It was  nice but quite fussy food – I would rather have had something with a bit more substance to it.
 
 
For my main course I was very tempted by the roasted cauliflower steak with a cauliflower puree, couscous and fritter, but I thought that might be a bit too much cauliflower even for me! So instead I had something that I think isn’t on the menu any more either; it was a small bird like a quail I think. It came with some cheesy mashed potato which was a small circle of piped potato with a slice of soft cheese on it which tasted great. I wish I could tell you the other accompaniments but I didn’t write them down, assuming they would still be on the menu, not realising the menu would have changed only a few weeks later! It tasted good but my only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it!
 
 


My boyfriend had the fillet of Buccleuch beef (Buccleuch being an estate in Scotland according to the internet) which he enjoyed but said he preferred the steak at Hawksmoor. He definitely prefers the chips at Hawksmoor too – this came with “oxtail and horseradish potato dauphines” which he eyed very suspiciously (not being a fan of oxtail or horseradish). They were also tiny – two bite-sized balls, and if this was all the potato he was going to have with it, he would be pretty hungry afterwards. Luckily his suspicion of oxtail had prompted him to order a side order of potatoes so he gave the dauphines to me.
 
 
We decided not to have dessert – quite unusual for us – as I needed to make an urgent phone call and he was actually quite disappointed by the restaurant by this point. At £9 a piece, there wasn’t a dessert he particularly wanted and didn’t want to waste the money. He had been really looking forward to the beignets, which were on the menu on the website (I think that same day but certainly the day before) but not on the menu we were given in the restaurant, so we decided to just ask for the bill. I’d had a cocktail at the beginning then drank water, while he only drank water, and he didn’t have a starter as there was nothing he liked, so with one drink, one starter and two main courses, plus tip, I was quite surprised that the bill came to nearly £100 (I don’t know how much exactly as he paid).
 
The service was very good and there was a musical trio playing which was lovely and the gardens and flamingos are definitely worth a visit. The gardens are sometimes closed for private events and I would hope they would warn you at the time of booking but I know that you won’t be told if you have already booked a table in the restaurant and then they get a booking for the gardens. So it’s worth calling to check if the gardens are the main reason you are coming here.
 
However, I only found out afterwards that the gardens are open to the public anyway – you don’t need to be dining in the restaurant to come here. So that would actually be my recommendation – the restaurant was nice enough, but expensive and I’ve been to others I preferred far more at that sort of price level, so I would in future come to visit the flamingos and eat somewhere else.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Goonies-inspired Baby Ruth cupcakes

Goonies Baby Ruth cupcake

This is one of the best cupcakes ever, in my opinion – I created the recipe myself and was surprised at how good it was. One of my friends said it was better than most shop-bought cupcakes he’d had!
I call it a Baby Ruth cupcake because it recreates the flavours of the US candy bar Baby Ruth – nougat, caramel, peanut and chocolate. The idea came about for a slightly strange reason….
I regularly take part in a blog challenge called Food ‘n’ Flix, where the person hosting chooses a movie, and we all cook or bake something inspired by that movie. This month Heather at Girlichef has chosen a classic, and one of my favourite films as a child – The Goonies.
 

I don’t know whether the generation younger than me has had as much exposure to the film as I did, but I hope that even kids today are watching it and enjoying it. Aside from a few politically incorrect characters that probably wouldn’t be made fun of in films today, the key themes of the film resonate today as much as they ever did: friendship, hanging on to childhood and growing up, and of course pirates, treasure and adventure!
The Goonies (1985) Poster

Unbelievably, the film is 30 years old this year – the main actors, including Sean Aston and Corey Feldman, have gone on to some great things (Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings for instace) and while some aspects of the film look dated, on the whole it doesn’t.

I watched the film again after this challenge was announced and while I had the Baby Ruth idea in my head from the start, there were loads of other food references and things that could inspire me. I even found a website listing everything Chunk eats in the movie which is an awful lot!
I made notes throughout the film of the food references before I went on holiday and unfortunately can't find the piece of paper anywhere, though a few scenes do stick in my mind, such as when the boys are in the Fratellis' restaurant looking for ice cream when they find a dead body in the freezer, and of course the moment when Chunk - taken hostage by the Fratellis - bonds with their physically and mentally disabled brother Sloth by offering him a Baby Ruth bar.

Baby Ruths are made by Nestle and are a bit like a Snickers from what I can tell, with nougat, peanuts, caramel and covered in chocolate. I thought that would work really well in a cupcake and I was right! I made a vanilla cupcake, removed a spoonful of sponge from the centre when it was cooked and added a spoonful of soft nougat, used a salted caramel buttercream from Sugar and Crumbs, scattered the top with chopped peanuts and drizzled Choc Shot (a kind of chocolate sauce) over the top. It tasted unbelievable! The sponge cake was really light and fluffy, the nougat in the centre was amazing and the topping was a wonderful combination of flavours. I made these for a bake sale at work and they disappeared very quickly.

Unfortunately as this was a while ago I can't remember what recipe I used for the vanilla cupcake base but that part is pretty straightforward and you probably have your own recipe or can find one easily.

Here are the vanilla cupcakes before and after baking



 

You can see how I made the nougat in this blog post; you can do it in advance.


 
 Spoon out a little of the centre of the cupcake, add the nougat and put the cake piece back in. It doesn't matter if it is a little messy as you will cover them with buttercream.


 
You can either make plain buttercream and stir in a spoonful or two of Carnation Caramel, or use the pre-flavoured mix I bought from Sugar and Crumbs. Their icing sugars use natural flavourings and come in an amazing range of flavours; the 250g bag was just enough.




Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and drizzle with chocolate sauce - I like Choc Shot but you could also use ice cream sauce. And serve - I can guarantee these won't last long!







I'm sending this to Heather at Girlichef  for Food 'n' Flix.

 
I am also sharing this with We Should Cocoa, as the ingredient chosen this month by Karen at Lavender and Lovage is vanilla, and there is chocolate on top of the cupcake. The challenge was started by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.
 
 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

F1 Foods: Spain roundup and the Monaco challenge



I missed the Spanish Grand Prix as I was away on holiday but I didn't want to miss a race in terms of my Formula 1 Foods challenge, so I made this easy paella before I went: I cheated and used microwave rice which made it a much quicker dish, but it still tasted really nice! I forgot to take a photo of the finished dish though so this one from the pan will have to do:


As always I'd love to see your recipes - sweet or savoury - inspired by the country hosting each Formula 1 Grand Prix. This time Suelle at Mainly Baking shared these Spanish panellets, which are cookies that taste like marzipan, but Suelle added sweet potato and lemon. I haven't come across these before so it was interesting for me to read!


This weekend's Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place in Monte Carlo in Monaco so please send in your recipes inspired by the location! The link up is below and closes at midday on Sunday 31 May.


Monday, 18 May 2015

Meal Planning Monday 2015 - Week 21


I'm back from holiday this week but away with work pretty much straight after, but I wanted to do as much meal planning as possible!
Monday - in Mexico/ on plane home

Tuesday - home in time for lunch; we won't have any fresh food in the house so will need to pick something up so I will probably get some bread and cheese for lunch
dinner - again I will pick something up today that can go straight in the oven and accompany it with some veg. I always come back from holidays craving broccoli!

Weds - away with work

Thursday - away with work

Friday - home at last! Some sort of meat or chicken-based dish from the freezer that I can have with lots of fresh bread

Saturday - my boyfriend will definitely want a bacon sandwich for lunch as they are his favourite and I doubt he will have had those in Mexico!

dinner - fish and vegetables for me, gammon for him (post-holiday diet back on!)

Sunday - it's his mum's birthday so we are doing something with his family today.

Next week's meal plan will be a 'proper' one as things should be back to normal!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Through Thick And Thin Friends Birthday Card



I think there is a bit too much going on with this card and it's the butterflies which don't really work - the elements would have been enough.

I started with a square card blank and a piece of printed paper which had a striped design. I took another piece of paper from the same pack with a polka dot print and cut out a cloud shape, which I layered on top. I had a pack of stickers with friendship messages and sentiments, with coloured wording on a clear background, and I used one of these saying 'through thick and thin' over the polka dot background. I then added a 3D clay heart in the bottom corner.

That would have been enough but then I decided to add some foam butterflies as well! Never mind....I think the sentiment is good for a friend who has stood by you through good times and bad, and I'm sure we all have friends like that.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

How to make Soft Nougat or Homemade Marshmallow Fluff



I recently came up with an idea for a cupcake which I will share with you soon, which needed nougat in the middle. I decided that the kind of nougat you buy in bars would be too hard, so wondered if there was such a thing as soft nougat. Luckily there is, it’s not that hard to make and it tastes delicious on its own as well! In fact it reminded me a lot of marshmallow fluff both in terms of flavour and texture so I think I can get away with calling it either soft nougat or marshmallow fluff.

I found this recipe on Craftsy.com which was relatively easyto do; though you do need a sugar thermometer and to be very precise. It's also pretty helpful if you have a stand mixer like a Kitchenaid.

I substituted golden syrup for the light corn syrup as you can't get that in the UK (or not easily). Other than that I followed the steps in this recipe so this blog post is more to point you in the direction of that recipe, and show you how mine looked at each stage. And as I mentioned I will refer back to this post when I write about my amazing cupcakes!

Sugar, golden syrup and water in the saucepan


My brilliant digital thermometer, which I reviewed in this post about making marshmallows. In fact the technique for making nougat is quite similar.


Testing the temperature of the sugar


Beating the egg whites in my trusty Kitchenaid

 
After the sugar is added the mixture thickens
 

I lined a small square pan with clingfilm (trust me - you will never get it out the pan otherwise!) and put it in the fridge to set. It never set really hard like the bars of nougat you can buy - and it wasn't even as firm as the nougat you get in a chocolate bar like Mars. Instead it was more like a thicker, stickier marshmallow fluff. It tasted amazing and I kept eating spoonfuls straight from the fridge, but I did save enough of it to use it in the recipe I had made it for!



Friday, 15 May 2015

Apple Pie with Lattice Top



Before I went on holiday I went through the fridge and tried to use up anything that would go off before we went away, or throw out anything that I couldn't use but would go bad. I had a bowlful of apples on the table that I hadn't gotten around to eating and as they were already going a little soft, I knew they wouldn't be any good by the time I came back from holiday (not to mention the fact that I am going to Edinburgh for work for a couple of days as soon as I get back!).

One of my favourite things to make with apples is apple pie, and as I was recently sent this lattice pastry cutter from CakeMart, I was excited to try it out. I've often wondered how you create a perfect lattice effect in pastry on top of a pie and if it takes ages - now I know, and I can tell you that it doesn't! Read on to see what you have to do....


Apple pie with raisins, by Caroline Makes

6-8 eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
100g caster sugar
100ml water
handful of raisins or sultanas
250g plain flour
140g cold butter, diced
1 egg, beaten

First stew the apples, by heating in a pan with the sugar and water - the water stops them sticking and you can add more or less as you like. I did this over a medium heat for about 20 minutes; it depends how soft you like your apples as mine retained the sliced shape but you can also cook them until they are soft enough to mash.



To make the pastry, rub the cubes of butter into the flour with your fingers until you have a dough. Add a couple of spoonfuls of water so you have a pliable dough. It's a good idea to put this in the fridge wrapped in clingfilm for about half an hour, which you can do while your apples are cooling. Preheat oven to 180C.



Roll out half the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface and use to line your pie dish.

Add the raisins or sultanas into the apple mixture and spoon into your pie base.


Roll out the remaining pastry and roll the lattice cutter over it. You'll see that the lines are broken by parts where the cutter doesn't cut through and the pastry stays joined together. I couldn't figure out initially what to do so had to watch a video on YouTube - carefully take each end of your pastry and pull apart and the lattice should open like a concertina!




Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown.
 


Unfortunately mine didn't quite work perfectly. I blame the fact that my pastry was overworked; it took me several attempts to figure out how to do this as there were no instructions with the lattice cutter and it was only later that I resorted to YouTube. I wasn't sure whether my pastry was getting too sticky so I kept adding flour, which was probably a mistake; once I had figured out how to use the lattice cutter and tried to pull my pastry apart, it was too dry and broke in several places. So you can see the idea but it doesn't look perfect - next time I think I might try with ready made pastry!

I'm sharing this with the No Waste Food Challenge, hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen, since I made this to use up fruit that would otherwise go to waste while I was away.