Thursday, 22 June 2017

Slimming World Linguine with Crab and Chilli

This dish reminds me of something I would order in an Italian restaurant or better still, eat while on holiday somewhere sunny, ideally with a view of the ocean. It's actually based on a Slimming World recipe for the rather more prosaically named 'crab noodles' and is really quick to throw together.

Cook some linguine or spaghetti according to pack instructions; when is cooked, drain, and add some tinned crab (a small tin will do 1-2 people depending on how generous you want to be with the crab), a few dried red chilli flakes or a pinch of fresh chopped red chilli, some finely chopped red onion, a squeeze of lime juice, and the grated zest of the lime, and some fresh parsley on top. Serve with broccoli or a salad on the side. Delicious!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Restaurant Review: Wasabi, Borough High Street, London

Commuting is never fun though in the past I’ve quite enjoyed sitting on a train with a good book or a newspaper – these days however it’s a deeply unpleasant experience. My trains are frequently cancelled or delayed, and I’ve lost count of the number of times Southern has been on strike in the past 12 months.
It was one of those days where I had finished late at work, got to London Bridge station to find the train was cancelled and I had a 45 minute wait until the next one. As I wouldn’t get home until about 9pm and it was a nice evening, I decided to make the most of it and get some dinner.
Walking back down from the station I passed a Jamie’s bar, and stuck my head inside, but it was packed and I wanted to sit down. I meandered a little way along the street, noticing that all the bars and pubs were crowded and the only other options seemed to be the likes of Pret, or a little place I thought might be an Italian from the name but when I stuck my head in turned out to be a kebab shop.

Wasabi seemed the best option as it had seating, a choice of hot or cold food and would be pretty quick. As well as sushi Wasabi sells bento boxes, salads and dishes like sweet chilli chicken and rice. I chose a hot chicken katsu which came in a pot, with rice on the bottom, a piece of breaded chicken in a separate section on top and a container of katsu sauce, for you to mix together as you wish. I like the fact that you can add the sauce however you want it – it had quite a kick but I did end up using all of it.
It was very filling and really nice – on a par with somewhere like Wagamama so if you are looking for a takeaway chicken katsu curry you can eat at your desk back at work, I recommend this. I just hope that I don’t end up having to eat dinner on the go because my train is cancelled again!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Dr. Oetker Popcorn Fudge Brownies

These treats are really good at this time of year if you want something chocolately that isn't going to melt! I made them for Father's Day and was meaning to post this beforehand but ran out of time as we were away for the weekend celebrating our first wedding anniversary, which this year fell on Father's Day.

The recipe is one by Dr. Oetker, who sent me a selection of the ingredients to try out. Their salted caramel easy-fill cake centre is brilliant - it comes in a pouch with a handy nozzle that you can stick into a cupcake to pipe caramel filling right into the cupcake. In this case I used it to mix with popcorn and also to spread on top of the brownies; as well as being easy to use it tasted really nice.

The popcorn does go soft quite quickly so if you can, I would make these as close to when you want to eat them as possible.

Dr. Oetker's recipe is gluten free but I used ordinary plain flour. The recipe below is Dr. Oetker's; the photos and opinions are my own.

Gluten Free Popcorn Fudge Brownies
Preparation time: 40 minutes plus cooling, chilling and setting
Cooking time: 55 minutes  (including chocolate melting time)
Makes: 16

For the brownie layer:
150g bar Dr. Oetker Fine Cooks’ 54% Dark Chocolate
100g (3 ½ oz) Unsalted butter, softened
100g (3 ½ oz) Dark brown sugar
2 Medium eggs, beaten
100g (3 ½ oz) Gluten free plain flour

For the blondie layer
150g bar Dr. Oetker Fine Cooks’ White Chocolate
100g (3 ½ oz) Lightly salted butter
100g (3 ½ oz) Caster sugar
2 Medium eggs, beaten
2.5ml(1/2 tsp) Dr. Oetker Caramel Flavour
100g (3 ½ oz) Gluten free plain flour

For the topping:
1 sachet Dr. Oetker Salted Caramel Easy Fill Cake Centre
25g (1oz) Lightly salted popcorn
1. Grease and line a 20cm (8inch) square cake tin.

2. First make the brownie layer. Break up 100g (3 ½ oz) Dark Chocolate into pieces and place in a saucepan with the butter and sugar. Heat very gently, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes. 

3. Whisk the eggs into the melted mixture to make a thick glossy batter. Sift the flour on top and carefully mix all the ingredients together. Pour into the prepared tin, smooth to the edges and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180˚C (160˚C fan oven, 350˚F, gas 4

5. To make the blondie layer, follow the same instructions for making the brownie batter as above, using 100g (3 ½ oz) White Chocolate -  you will find that the melted mixture separates during melting, but once the eggs and flour are added, the mixture will blend together again. Stir in the Caramel Flavour. Carefully spread the White Chocolate batter over the brownie layer, trying not to press too heavily as you spread - there is no need to chill this layer

6. Bake for about 35 minutes until slightly risen, lightly golden and lightly crusty on top – the mixture should be slightly soft underneath. Leave to cool in the tin completely then remove from the tin, peel away the tin lining parchment and place the cake on a board.

7. For the topping, melt the remaining White Chocolate as above. Put the popcorn in a bowl and squeeze in 50g (2oz) Dr. Oetker Salted Caramel Easy Fill Cake Centre and add the melted chocolate. Mix well to make sure that all the popcorn is coated

8. Squeeze the remaining Dr. Oetker Salted Caramel Easy Fill Cake Centre over the top of the cake and spread right to the edge. Spoon over the caramel popcorn mix, and spread it out so that the whole top is thickly covered. Pat it down a little using the back of a spoon

9. Melt the remaining Dark Chocolate as above. Using a teaspoon, drizzle the top all over with melted chocolate. Leave in a cool place for a few minutes to set. Using a large bladed knife, cut into 16 chunky pieces. Your brownies are now ready to serve and enjoy!

Replace the gluten-free flour with plain white flour if preferred – this will give a slightly less dense texture. 
Thanks to Dr Oetker for the recipe and ingredients

Monday, 19 June 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 25

We've just had the most amazing weekend away for our first wedding anniversary; just got home on Monday lunchtime with the rest of the day off with gorgeous weather to enjoy - why can't life always be like this?!

Lunch  back home in time for a late lunch from our anniversary weekend away so we will want something quick; beans on toast or similar will do.
Dinner – barbecue: whole roast chicken from the Weber course we did plus grilled broccoli with garlic and chilli
Lunch – wfh – salad with rest of chicken from Monday
Dinner – ready meal after circuits class
Lunch- sandwich – only have 10 mins to eat before I go to the school where I volunteer
Dinner- barbecued steak with potato wedges / baked potato with sour cream and chives and salad
Lunch- chicken salad
Dinner- salmon and vegetables for me, chicken grillsteak and mashed potatoes for him
Lunch- chicken salad
Dinner- chicken goujons/ fish and chips
Lunch- fresh bread, ham, cheese etc (as I will probably have to go food shopping today so can pick up some fresh bread)
Dinner- assuming the weather is still good, homemade pizza on the barbecue, with some sides. Followed by chocolate molten puddings also on the barbecue - both Weber recipes
Lunch- fresh pasta (ravioli)
Dinner- Lemon chicken from a jar of sauce - as an experiment, if the hubby likes it I will make my own next time! With a naan bread for him, and rice (with veg for me).

Join the blog hop

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Father's Day Shirt and Tie card

This card would be really nice alongside this cake...  but if you don't have time for baking this is a quick and easy make. It's not my neatest - I made it rather on the hoof standing up in my craft room which I had tidied in anticipation of new double glazing being done that week, and didn't want to get out all my craft supplies again and mess everything up!

You can use any pattern for the background - plain, striped, checked - anything that would resemble a man's shirt. This piece of paper is actually an offcut from a piece of wrapping paper!

I cut out the tie not following a template (you can tell, oops) and added a 'happy Father's Day' silver outline sticker; it doesn't show up too well in this photo and it looked better in real life!

I'm sending this to:
Cardz for Guyz - something blue for Father's Day
Always Fun Challenges - for a male or dad
Crafty Cardmakers - Father's Day

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Get Well Soon Card for a True Hero

I finally found a use for that 'hero' sticker.....

Usually when I share the cards I've made, it's so that people might be able to take the ideas and create something similar for the same occasion, should they so wish. But this get well card is a bit unique and I doubt many people have the occasion to send a card wishing a friend a speedy recovery after getting injured while defending innocent people in a terrorist attack. (Though it would also make a good Father's Day card!).

The London terror attacks were scary enough without waiting for news all night of a friend I knew was in one of the pubs involved, knowing nobody could get through on his phone, then fearing the worst after hearing he was among the injured. Thanks to the efforts of some of his friends who called around hospitals to track him down, a few hours later we learned he was already out of surgery and doing well. Now I can't stop welling up not only when I think about what happened but when I see the continued news coverage calling him a hero. Not many people would have the courage to step in and defend someone being attacked - as we later learned, by two of the terrorists - engaging them and  preventing them from moving on to immediately harm others, and sustaining severe injuries himself in the process. Geoff Ho, the nation salutes you.

While waiting to be able to visit Geoff I decided to make him a get well card and found I had the perfect thing.

Years ago I bought a packet of stickers for father's day which had various dad-related words and sentiments. There were a few I thought I'd never use, but I hadn't thrown them out just in case - words like tough guy. I don't think my dad would mind me admitting those don't specifically apply to him - my dad is more mild-mannered.

I suddenly remembered these stickers and found a pre-printed card blank -it looks more pink in this photo but was mainly purple. I mounted a different sticker in each circle and a 'get well soon' die cut in another.

I was able to deliver the card in person when I went to visit Geoff in hospital and I am glad to say he is now back home and on the mend.

I'm sharing this card with the Unicorn Challenge where the theme is 'for the guys' and also the Cards in Envy challenge with the theme 'you're the man' and Lawn Fanatics where the theme is 'cheerful get well'.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Weber BBQ Cookery Class at the Abinger Cookery School

Our Weber gas barbecue is my husband's pride and joy. We bought it for our first summer in our new house - I can't remember how much it cost, but I know it was a lot compared to other barbecues, but it's so easy to use and cooks food perfectly - a far cry from the barbecues I remember as a child, where you had to wait hours (or so it seemed) for the coals to burn and then there was a risk that food would be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside... which when you're a child doesn't seem like that much of a big deal (other than making sure you get the sausage that is less burnt than your sister's) but obviously isn't very safe.

With a gas barbecue it's almost instant so we can get home from work at 7pm and cook dinner outside; you can regulate the temperature and also which flames burn so you can cook over direct or indirect heat and they are easier to clean. Some people think they aren't as authentic, and you don't get such a smoky flavour - though these days you can buy things to use on gas barbecues for smoky flavour  anyway.

My husband had a gas barbecue at his family's house for years so when we bought our own home it was a given that we would buy one, and more to the point that we would buy Weber.

For me, one of the best things about our barbecue is that my husband loves to use it. He doesn't cook at all, so I'm the one making dinner after we both get home from work every day, but in the summer he's always keen to grill and ends up being the one to cook dinner. Admittedly I still help but it does give me a bit of a break!

He's really good at cooking the basics - sausages and burgers, and over the last two years I got him to be a bit more adventurous - despite some initial scepticism on his part we were barbecuing fish to make spicy fish tacos, and even pizza, which is surprisingly easy. I wanted to take it up a notch and get my husband to take a barbecue cooking lesson, which I thought he would enjoy.

The Weber Grill Academy

Weber runs a barbecue school called the Grill Academy - it used to be in one location but now they have teamed up with cookery schools around the country so you can find somewhere local to you. I booked us both onto a course at the Abinger Cookery School in Surrey - they do all sorts of other cookery classes which look very appealing.

They do a few Weber cookery courses- charcoal grilling, seafood, winter warmers, essentials and classic. The classic course covers sausages, marinated chicken, burgers and beer can chicken - I know my husband is good at cooking most of that (I've even done beer can chicken at home before in the oven). I wanted us to learn something a bit different so we did the essentials course, which included:

  • Stonebaked pizza
  • Beer can chicken with herb and butter paprika rub
  • Sirloin or ribeye steaks
  • Smoked pork loin & crackling
  • Grilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
  • Coal roasted sweet potatoes with salsa verde
  • Chocolate molten puddings

  • The cookery school is in a converted pub in a pretty little village; it has a few rooms where different classes were taking place at the same time plus an outdoor area where we were. Unfortunately we got caught in terrible traffic and were 45 minutes late after the start of the class, so we missed all the food prep - people were marinating, chopping ingredients and so on. I think my husband didn't mind that we missed that part as he was more interested in the actual barbecuing aspect but it was a shame.

    One thing I noticed that amused me was that of the 15 or so people there, I was the only woman! Most people had come in pairs but all male, either friends, father and son and so on. It's the only time I've ever seen so many men in a cookery class!

    We went outside and the tutor explained the different types of barbecues that you can get and different types of cooking. I learnt some useful tips like:
    • Clean the grill by heating it up a little and rubbing with the cut side of half a lemon or an onion. It's best to use lemon if you will be cooking chicken or fish, and onion if you are cooking red meat. Discard the lemon or onion afterwards.
    • Sausages are best cooked over an indirect heat so if you have a gas barbecue, have the flame going on one side of the barbecue and cook the sausages on the other side where there is no flame. This will stop them getting burnt!
    You can buy all sorts of bits of equipment I didn't know about like a grilling tray to do small pieces of chicken, halloumi and vegetables; you can also buy these very amusing-looking chicken infusers, to do the beer can chicken I mentioned above.

    It's not particularly easy or probably safe to balance a whole chicken with a beer can up it on a barbecue; Weber sells two types of gadget you can use for this.

    The first, the Weber Poultry Roaster , is shown in the left of the picture below. It basically holds a can in place - you can use beer, ginger beer, Coke or Fanta, or anything that comes in a can. It holds the can in place inside the chicken and as it cooks, the liquid steams up inside the chicken, keeping it moist and giving it flavour.

    The gadget on the right of the photo above is the Weber Style Poultry Infusion Roaster - this one is more expensive but I think would give a better result. Rather than using a can, you pour liquid into the central container meaning you can use anything - orange juice, red wine etc - and there is a cap in the top to stop the steam escaping. This means the juices run down into the tray underneath which you can use for basting.

    We watched both types being cooked; the class ran for four hours, with the first hour being spent on prep; this sort of chicken will take about an hour and a half to cook; you can find a similar recipe on the Weber website.

    The tutor had already made the pizza dough and demonstrated what to do; we then took it in turns rolling out a piece of dough, topping it with chopped tomatoes and mozzarella, and using a wooden paddle to place it on top of a pizza stone on the barbecue. You can find a recipe here. The pizzas only took a couple of minutes to cook and were really good.

    Here's the tutor demonstrating:

    And here I am stretching and tossing my pizza dough!

    My finished pizza - I can never seem to roll out dough into a neat circle!

    The steaks were marinated or rubbed with something, I wasn't sure, and simply placed on the barbecue. My husband got to help the tutor by turning the steaks... and that was as hands on as he was able to get in the whole class, which is a shame - it was more a case of watching demonstrations than actually cooking.

    The pork loin had also been rubbed with something and was cooking in a roasting basket that I haven't seen before on a barbecue - it's a useful bit of kit as you can cook a large joint of meat to feed a lot of people.

    I don't recall seeing the broccoli being grilled I don't think, and the sweet potatoes were simply wrapped in foil (probably rubbed with salt and oil) and put on the barbecue.

    We also watched the tutor cook a paella that a couple of the other attendees had helped prepare and they helped cook. I didn't know you could do paella on the barbecue - some Weber barbecues have a grill with a removable circle in the middle and you can take this out and put a pizza stone in (though we managed fine by putting the pizza stone on top of the grill)  or you can put a big round dish like this into the gap. The pan is very large though so this isn't something you would cook for only a couple of people, but it seems a really nice alternative to a traditional meat-feast barbecue if you are having non-meat eaters or just want to do something different. Here's a recipe for a seafood paella from the Weber site.

    Once everything was cooked it was sliced up and we got to try a bit of everything - it all tasted fantastic and we have definitely got lots of ideas for our next barbecue!


    While we were eating the tutor made dessert; it was a shame we weren't involved in the prep or even the cooking as he did explain afterwards what he'd done but we were too busy eating at the time! Did you know you could make chocolate fondant on the barbecue? I didn't! Here's the Weber recipe - they are really good!

    We both really enjoyed the barbecue course and learnt lots of useful little tips as well as some different things we can cook on the barbecue. My only criticism was that it wasn't very hands on - for the money (£99 per person) I would have expected a bit more actual cooking and less time just watching. When I've done barbecue cooking classes before, we had one barbecue to two or three people and everyone cooked their own food - I know this wouldn't be possible with the bigger joints of meat that we did but a group of a dozen or so people watching one man cook isn't what I imagined. Having said that this was a really good course and I do recommend it if you are either new to barbecuing or considering whether to buy a Weber (as a couple of people on the course were - as we used three or four types of their grills) or if like us you want to expand your barbecue cooking repertoire.



    Monday, 12 June 2017

    Meal Planning Monday 2017 - week 24

    Not many meals to plan this week as my husband is unusually out a lot and then we are away at the weekend, leaving the cat in the company of the cat sitter. I'm really looking forward to the weekend as it's our first wedding anniversary and we are going back to our wedding venue and where we spent our wedding night. The weather is forecast to be great so it should be a good weekend!

    Lunch - I'm working from home as we are having double glazing and new doors being put in. For lunch I will have grilled prawns with passion fruit (pictured right).

    Dinner - my husband is out at a work event so I will have a stir-fry

    Lunch - working from home again. Potato rosti with smoked salmon and poached egg
    Dinner - home late (8.30) after circuits class so a Weightwatchers ready meal

    Lunch - back at work - salad of some kind
    Dinner - hopefully the weather will be nice for a BBQ with my husband

    Lunch - salad again
    Dinner - my husband is at another work event; I'll have the rest of the stir-fry

    Lunch - salad again
    Dinner - fishcakes and mashed potato for me, chicken in breadcrumbs for him

    This is a blog hop, join in!

    Thursday, 8 June 2017

    Old Bay Fried Chicken

    I've written about Old Bay seasoning before - if you're American you are probably familiar with it but if you're British or from another country, probably not. Old Bay is a seasoning made in Baltimore for more than 75 years; it was paired originally with seafood but is popular particularly in the state of Maryland with all sorts of dishes. Read more about Old Bay's cult following.

    This is a very simple and not particularly healthy recipe but probably OK in moderation; I'm sharing it because I'd forgotten how good fried chicken can be. You can find the Old Bay recipe here; you don't really need to follow exact quantities and can use whatever kind of chicken pieces you want - legs, thighs, even pieces of chicken breast. If you are using legs, which take longer to cook, I would advise baking them in the oven first and finishing off in the oil, to make sure the chidken is cooked through. You can do that with the other chicken pieces as well to be on the safe side.

    Mix Old Bay seasoning and flour in a shallow bowl or a freezer bag. Beat an egg (one egg will do enough chicken for two people, roughly) in another shallow bowl. Dip the chicken in the egg and then the flour mixture, or if using a bag, place the chicken in the bag and shake until it is coated.

    Part-cook the chicken in the oven if you wish; heat an inch of oil in a large saucepan until just bubbling and carefully place the chicken using tongs into the hot oil, turning as each side becomes golden brown. Remove from the oil with tongs and drain on kitchen paper.

    Monday, 5 June 2017

    Meal Planning Monday 2017 Week 23

    The weather has reverted to not being so warm again so I don’t think we will barbecue this week – unless we can’t use the kitchen as our windows and patio doors are being replaced at some point! As I write on Monday evening it's chucking it down with rain which is good for the garden I suppose - very different from the blazing sunshine we had on the London to Brighton classic and sports car rally yesterday
    Lunch - chicken salad
    Dinner - Lasagne with veg
    Tuesday  - working from home
    Lunch - baked potato
    Dinner - at circuits class til 8.30 so need a quick dinner, it might have to be a ready meal or instant risotto or something on toast
    Wednesday – my husband is off as our double glazing is being done. I don’t know which day this week or next they are doing the kitchen and whether that will affect my ability to cook!
     Lunch - sandwich as I'm doing my fortnightly school volunteering and have only got ten minutes for lunch
    Dinner - spaghetti carbonara
    Lunch- chicken salad or leftover spaghetti
    Dinner - chilli and ginger glazed cod for me and my mother in law, chicken for my husband (from Weightwatchers Delicious p130)
    Lunch- salad
    Dinner- sausage and chips
    Lunch- Findus crispy pancakes - bit of a blast from the past
    Dinner- chicken breast marinated in garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, with a baked sweet potato and salad, I was going to do last week but didn't
    Lunch- crumpets with eggs, bacon etc
    Dinner - roast chicken thighs
    This is a blog hop, join in!

    Saturday, 3 June 2017

    Just For You Birthday Cupcake Card

    This is a quick and easy card that is quite girly; I made it when I was in the middle of actually tidying up after a card making session and putting everything away! As I did so, I spotted a piece of patterned backing paper with a cute cupcake design and decided it didn't need much adding  - and at the same time remembered I had a few puffy cupcake stickers left from a pack I bought in Paperchase years ago.

    I also had a circle sticker saying 'just for you' which I put in the centre of the card, with a cupcake sticker inside the circle- it was just the right size. I added another cupcake sticker on top of one of the cupcake images on the backing paper and a piece of pink ribbon across the bottom.

    I'm sharing this with Ooh la la Creations as their theme is food or drink.

    Friday, 2 June 2017

    Bright Colours Festive Bauble Christmas Card

    One of the card making magazines I subscribed to just before Christmas came with a selection of freebies to make your own Christmas cards. As well as the free gift on the front cover, there were the usual printed papers in the middle of the magazine. These are thin pages printed on both sides - which seems a bit pointless as you can usually only use one side - and related images that you can cut out.

    What was unusual was the colour scheme - pinks, yellows, blues and purples, not normally colours that are associated with Christmas. I used one of the printed papers showing Christmas baubles to cover a card blank and cut around some other baubles and used adhesive pads to raise them off the card. The sentiment in the middle is also from the printed papers in the magazine, stuck onto card and mounted again with an adhesive pad. It's a bit different from the other Christmas cards you might receive!

    I'm sharing this with Sparkles Christmas Challenges as this month they've asked crafters to use non-traditional colours.

    Thursday, 1 June 2017

    Nutella and Frangelico Pancake Bake

    This Shrove Tuesday we invited my husband's mum over to dinner, and while I considered making savoury pancakes as the main course I knew I really wanted to do them as dessert. It would have involved me making several pancakes one at a time and keeping them warm and I wondered if there was an easier option - something where I could layer the pancakes together as a dessert.

    This recipe for Nutella pancakes from Nigella was just the thing! I decided to make life even easier for myself and buy ready-made crepes, which I spread with Nutella and folded up and poured over some melted butter and Frangelico hazelnut liqueur. My husband doesn't like nuts (pieces of nut, anyway) so I left off the chopped hazelnuts that Nigella recommends sprinkling over the top.

    They only needed ten minutes baked in the oven; serve with whipped cream for a delicious decadent dessert!

    This is Frangelico, if you haven't tried it before. It's a liqueur made with Italian hazelnuts and its origins are thought to date back 300 years when hazelnuts were distilled by monks (hence the design of the label!). It tastes really nice in cocktails.

    Spread the crepes with Nutella and fold and layer in a serving dish

    Pour over the cream and Frangelico

    Bake in the oven for ten minutes

    Serve with whipped cream

    Leftovers.... yum!

    I'm sending this to CookBlogShare, hosted this week by Hijacked by Twins.

    Tuesday, 30 May 2017

    Restaurant Review: Pizza Express, London Waterloo and Art of the Brick

    The Art of the Brick: DC Superheros is an exhibition on London's South Bank of Lego figures - but not just any Lego figures. These are the DC superhero characters, like Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, many of them life-size, made of thousands or hundreds of thousands of bricks - there is even a scale model of the Batmobile which is made of nearly half a million Lego bricks!

    My husband and his brother, and his brother's children, really enjoyed going around the exhibition, which took about an hour. The rest of our group enjoyed it too, but I think it's particularly good if you are a fan of Lego or DC, or both!

    I needed to find somewhere for lunch beforehand that wasn't too far away (we had timed entry ticket for the exhibit), that was suitable for children and that my husband would like. I decided Giraffe would be the perfect option, until I found that they didn't take bookings - and with a big group needing to be finished and at the exhibit by a specific time, that wasn't really going to work.

    Pizza Express was then the next obvious choice as they would take a booking, and everyone likes pizza! The restaurant was good about the fact that half of our party were 45 minutes late; we were able to enjoy a drink and peruse the menu, then ended up speaking to the latecomers on the phone so we could place their order as we were worried we wouldn't have made the exhibition in time!

    We needn't have worried as service was fast. I fancied something other than pizza so had seafood rigatoni - a mixture of salmon, white fish (Pollock) and prawns with pasta in a white wine and garlic sauce, which was really nice. Everyone was happy with their meal, which when you have a big group including fussy eaters, children (who are also fussy eaters but not the only ones), meat eaters and vegetarians, is no mean feat!

    Monday, 29 May 2017

    Meal Planning Monday 2017 Week 22

    The weather was glorious last week which meant we barbecued outside (or rather, my husband did – the only time he ever cooks dinner!) three times. I hope it’s going to be as nice this week, unfortunately it doesn’t look like it is going to be quite as hot!
    Monday – bank holiday.
    Lunch - scrambled eggs on toast for him, poached eggs for me
    Dinner -meal with the in-laws
    Tuesday – working from home
    Lunch - soup and a roll
    Dinner- chicken breast marinated in garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, with a baked sweet potato and salad
    Lunch- need something very quick as I have to head to the school where I volunteer at 12.15 - and I have a meeting until 12. So think it will have to be a sandwich
    Dinner- my husband is at his mum's so I will have spaghetti and homemade lamb meatballs
    Lunch- chicken salad
    Dinner- salmon and veg/ chicken chargrill
    Lunch - chicken salad
    Dinner - BBQ
    Lunch- Nigella's croquet monsieur bake I was going to make last week but didn't
    Dinner- roast chicken legs
    Lunch- Doing the London to Brighton rally so will hopefully get to Brighton in time for lunch
    Dinner – something quick from the freezer as not sure what time we will be back

    This is a blog hop, join in!

    Sunday, 28 May 2017

    Orange and White Chocolate Cake with Flower Nozzles Piped Buttercream Flowers

    This is the cake I made for Mother's Day this year and finally tried out my set of flower piping nozzles which I got I think for my birthday last year - I hadn't gotten around to using them as I hadn't really made anything that I wanted to decorate with buttercream, but now I've seen how good they are I will definitely use them again!

    The nozzles have different patterns of dots and swirls and allow you to pipe different types of flowers that look amazingly realistic and detailed. You just squeeze the buttercream out and pull up, which cuts off the flower -you pipe one at a time. These would work really well on cupcakes, or as I've done with different types and colours of flower covering a large cake, or you could do all the same type of flower on the top of the cake.

    You use regular buttercream for this - it needs to be stiff enough to hold its shape but not too stiff that you can't pipe comfortably.

    The cake itself is a recipe from the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook, edited by Lynn Hill. This is one of Lynn's own recipes which I adapted a little; I didn't make the orange syrup and I used more milk as I prefer a looser batter.

    You need:
    225g butter
    225g caster sugar
    4 large eggs, beaten
    225g self-raising flour
    zest of 1 large orange
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    4 tbsp. milk

    For the filling:
    150g white chocolate
    grated zest of 2 large oranges plus 4 tbsp. juice
    200g butter, softened
    75g icing sugar

    Preheat oven to 190C / 170C fan. Cream the butter and the sugar and beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour, orange zest and baking powder and beat in the milk.

    Spoon into two greased round cake tins and bake for 20-25 mins

    When cooked, allow to cool in the tins then turn out onto a wire rack.

    To make the filling, melt the white chocolate in a microwave or bain marie and allow to cool until it is still a consistency that you can stir. Cream together the butter and icing sugar and stir in the melted chocolate and the orange zest and juice.

    Mix the buttercream (about 500g icing sugar to 250g butter) and separate into different bowls and add a couple of drops of food colouring to each one. Use the different flower piping nozzles in piping bags with each colour buttercream and pipe groups of a few flowers all around the cake. I filled in the gaps afterwards with green buttercream and a leaf nozzle, at least I think it was a leaf nozzle as it doesn't look quite right, but I still think the overall effect of the cake was good - and it tasted really nice too!

    Below are some close-ups of the different flowers I piped:

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