Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Restaurant Review: Hawksmoor, Air Street

Restaurant name: Hawksmoor
Location: Air Street, near Piccadilly, London
Description: It claims to be the best steak restaurant in London and I wouldn't disagree.The first floor restaurant runs along the top of other shops and is deceptively big - our table was at the far end and it felt like it took several minutes to cross the restaurant floor. There's a lot of art deco windows and banquette seating; the overall impression is quite dark and traditional, a bit like I imagine a gentleman's club might be.
Reason for visit: to celebrate getting a new job - and also because my boyfriend and I love a good steak, and I'd been dying to try this place since it opened more than a year earlier.

I ate: Fillet steak, £34 for 300g, with anchovy hollandaise as I had heard good things about it (£3) and triple-cooked chips (£4). For dessert I had the peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice cream, £7.50. I would have liked to try the fish but there was no way I was going to have anything other than steak.
My companion ate: The same steak and chips but with bearnaise sauce, and the chocolate and salted caramel tart (£8).
The food was: Outstanding. The steak was melt-in-the-mouth delicious, the anchovy hollandaise was unusual and surprisingly good, though the chips were not the best I've ever had - I prefer my chips chunky. But oh, the steak.... and the dessert was outstanding, rather than just something sweet to round off the meal it really held its own and justified the cost. What sounds quite tame on paper - peanut butter shortbread - was actually an incredible dessert, akin to eating a deconstructed Snickers bar. I had a star-shaped piece of shortbread that was soft and warm, with a quenelle of salted caramel ice cream and chocolate drizzled over the top. I would go back just for the dessert. My boyfriend's tart was very good but I definitely picked the better dessert!

The service was: Of a very high standard as you would hope in such an expensive restaurant, though the fact that our table was next to the toilets was a bit annoying as there were constantly people coming and going. Still, I can hardly fault the place.
Price range/value for money: With additional charges for the steak sauce and chips, prices really add up, and this is up there with the most expensive steak I've ever had - but it was probably the best. With a modest glass of wine (we never order bottles as I'm the only one drinking) and a soft drink for the other half, and tip, the bill came to well over £100. Totally worth it though (not that I was paying!).
Would I recommend it? Can you seriously still ask that question after all I've said? Really, Jay Rayner in the Observer puts it far better than I ever could. Read this, and book a table now.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Slimming World Pizza-Topped Chicken

 This recipe was adapted from one in Slimming World magazine; it really is delicious and you wouldn't know it's a 'diet' meal. Even my boyfriend loved it!

To serve two, you need:
2 chicken breasts
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
200g tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp oregano
80g low fat hard cheese, grated
Fry Light

Preheat oven to 200C. Fry the onion and garlic in the Fry Light then add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and oregano and cook for a few minutes until the mixture has thickened and reduced. Spread over the chicken breasts.

  • small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp stock
  • 2 vine tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • 1 tbsp tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 chicken fillet
  • Low calorie oil spray (less than one calorie per spray)
  • 40g low fat hard cheese, grated
  • 1 cherry tomato, halved
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • - See more at:

  • small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp stock
  • 2 vine tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • 1 tbsp tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 chicken fillet
  • Low calorie oil spray (less than one calorie per spray)
  • 40g low fat hard cheese, grated
  • 1 cherry tomato, halved
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • - See more at:

  • small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp stock
  • 2 vine tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • 1 tbsp tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 chicken fillet
  • Low calorie oil spray (less than one calorie per spray)
  • 40g low fat hard cheese, grated
  • 1 cherry tomato, halved
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • - See more at:

  • small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp stock
  • 2 vine tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • 1 tbsp tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 chicken fillet
  • Low calorie oil spray (less than one calorie per spray)
  • 40g low fat hard cheese, grated
  • 1 cherry tomato, halved
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • - See more at:

    Place the chicken in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.

    Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the cheese has melted.

    I served these with Slimming World chips, which are made simply by slicing potatoes into chips, spraying with Fry Light and baking in the oven for about 45 minutes-1 hour, depending on the thickness and length of the chips. A delicious meal that feels a lot naughtier than it is!

    Monday, 21 April 2014

    Meal Planning Monday 2014 - week 17

    This is going to be a very yummy week... and I'm not talking about the food! 

    This week I'm off to Hobbs House Bakery to meet the Fabulous Baker Brothers, Tom and Henry Herbert, and spend an entire day cooking with them! It was my Christmas present from my amazing boyfriend who is happily packing me off to spend the day in the company of two men I might have a little bit of a crush on.. isn't that nice of him?!

    Monday - Bank holiday
    We are having a buffet meal mid afternoon with my boyfriend's family so we will have a late breakfast or early brunch, probably a fry up for him and something a bit healthier for me, then I don't know if we will want anything in the evening or not.


     tuna with Asian glaze I was going to make a few weeks ago but didn't, since I bought all the ingredients like mirin and rice wine! It's from the Masterchef cookery book p.196


    out - dinner at Benihana with a friend


    Chicken croquettes - I will blog the recipe this week

    Lunch: something from the canteen at work
    Dinner: sandwich on the train as I am going to stay with a friend in Cheltenham, as I can't get to Hobbs House Bakery by train from London in time on Saturday morning

    Cooking and eating with the Fabulous Baker Brothers :-)
     Stopping off at my parents on the way back as it's a couple of days before my birthday, so we are going out for a meal at lunchtime.
    Dinner: will depend what we had for lunch so probably something light.

    Sunday, 20 April 2014

    Pork Fillet with Saffron Bread Sauce and Pears

    This recipe is based pn one from Leith's Easy Dinner Parties. To serve two, you need:
    approx 350g pork fillet
    1/2 tbsp oil
    100ml apple juice
    100ml chicken stock
    15g butter
    1 ripe pear, peeled, cored and quartered
    1/2 tsp arrowroot

    for the saffron bread sauce:
    100ml milk
    1/2 onion, cut into large chunks
    1 bay leaf
    pinch of saffron strands
    25g fresh white breadcrumbs
    20g butter

    Preheat oven to 200C. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the pork fillet on each side.

    Place the pork fillet in a roasting tin lined with foil with the apple juice and stock and season. Cook in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until tender.

    Meanwhile make the bread sauce. Heat the milk in a small pan with the onion, bay leaf and saffron and simmer gently for five minutes. Remove the onion and bay leaf and add the breadcrumbs to the pan and stir in. Add the butter and season.

     Heat a little butter in a clean frying pan and gently fry the pears. Then when the pork is cooked, remove from the pan and pour the cooking liquid into a small pan and add the arrowroot. Bring to the boil and stir until thickened.

    To serve, slice the pork fillet and serve with the pears and bread sauce and pour the sauce over the top.

    Saturday, 19 April 2014

    Secret Ingredient Noodle Stir Fry (after Kung Fu Panda)

    This month's Food 'n' Flix is - for a change - a film I'd already seen: Kung Fu Panda. Chosen by Heather at Girlichef, it's a Dreamworks animation with an A-list cast (Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu) providing the voices for a panda called Po who wants to become a kung fu master, and the friends and rivals who help and hinder him along the way. I like it because it has a cute tubby panda doing high kicks but it's also one of those films with a strong message.
    Po is an adopted child and his father is a goose who runs a Chinese restaurant (or indeed, a restaurant, as the film is set in China). His speciality is Secret Ingredient Noodle Soup and it is only when Po is training to become a kung fu master that his father deems him worthy of learning the secret ingredient - which turns out to be nothing. The message is that if you believe something is special, it is - which helps Po believe in himself and defeat the baddie.
    So when it came to making a dish to best represent this film I knew I had to make a "secret ingredient" noodle dish - but somehow wanted the secret ingredient to be both something and nothing. I hit upon an idea after attending a cookery session with TV chef Phil Vickery and the British Turkey Association. Phil explained a technique called "velveting", which he did to the turkey before cooking it in a stir fry. Velveting is a Chinese technique originally so it also worked really well as the "secret ingredient" for this recipe. Chop your turkey or chicken breast (turkey is less expensive and low in fat, people!) and coat it in a mixture of egg white and cornflour (about 1 tbsp cornflour and one egg white) and leave for up to 30 minutes. This helps keep the poultry moist and gives it a soft, velvety texture.
    To make this dish I velveted the turkey and stir fried it, then chopped some onion and spring onion and fried those (after removing the turkey from the pan).

    I then  added a selection of vegetables to my stir fry, including broccoli, carrot, bean sprouts and alfafa sprouts and some prawns. Serve with noodles.

    Finally I added the turkey back to the pan and some sweet chilli sauce.

    I'm sending this to Food 'n' Flix, hosted by Heather at Girlichef.

    Triple Chocolate and Ginger Hot Cross Chelsea Buns

     Inline images 2

    This Easter Dr. Oetker has teamed up with Great British Bake Off finalist Kimberley Wilson to encourage bakers to make their own hot cross buns. Anyone who remembers Kimberley from GBBO will know that she has of course put her own spin on it - in this case made the hot cross buns into chelsea buns, and chosen chocolate and ginger as the flavour.

    Dr. Oetker has made a video of Kimberley demonstrating the recipe, which you can watch here.

    They've asked me to share the recipe with you as well; here it is in full.

    Triple Chocolate and Ginger Hot Cross Chelsea Buns
    Preparation time: 34 minutes plus proving time
    Cooking time: 20 minutes
    Makes: 12

    Bun dough
    500g strong white bread flour
    7g fast-action dried yeast
    75g caster sugar
    Pinch of salt
    1tsp ground cinnamon
    1tsp ground ginger
    50g unsalted butter
    300ml Soy milk
    100g Dr. Oetker Fine Cooks’ Dark Chocolate
    50g unsalted butter, softened
    100g dried mixed fruit
    100g crystallised ginger pieces
    100g Dr. Oetker Milk Chocolate Chips
    50g Dr. Oetker Dark Chocolate Chips
    100g apricot glaze
    70g Dr. Oetker Fine Cooks’ White Chocolate
    10 buns
    • 1.       Place the fruit into a bowl, cover with boiling water and set aside.
    • 2.       Combine the flour, yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Over a low heat melt the butter and 100g Dr. Oetker Fine Cooks Dark Chocolate in a small saucepan. Once melted, add the milk and continue to heat until blood temperature.
    • 3.       Tip the milk mix into the flour mixture and bring together with fingertips until a sticky dough forms. Tip it out on to a work surface and knead until it comes together. It is quite a wet mixture so this may take about 10 minutes.
    • 4.       Place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave until doubled in size.
    • 5.       Tip on to a floured surface and roll out into large rectangle about 5mm thick. Spread with the softened butter.
    • 6.       Drain the fruit and combine with the remaining filling ingredients. Sprinkle over the buttered dough.
    • 7.       Starting from a long side roll in to a fairly tight, long sausage. Divide into 10 pieces. Arrange on a 35cm x 26cm deep sided roasted tin, cut side up. Cover with cling film and leave to prove until only about 1cm of space remains between each bun.
    • 8.       Heat oven to 200C. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and glaze while still hot. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before melting the 70g Dr. Oetker Fine Cooks White Chocolate in a piping bag. Pipe crosses over the cooled bun. Pop into the fridge for a few minutes to set the White Chocolate. Serve!

    Kimberley Wilson is part of the Dr. Oetker Even Better Baking Team, for further tips, trends and recipes visit

    Disclaimer: Dr. Oetker asked if I would be willing to share this recipe and video with my readers. I received no compensation for doing so. I just think it's a good recipe!

    Friday, 18 April 2014

    Spring Cake Pops - Tulips and Easter Eggs

    Renshaw Baking invited me to take part in a challenge to create some spring themed cake pops and I gladly obliged. Do you like my bunch of tulips with a few Easter eggs hidden in there as well?

    Renshaw kindly sent me a selection of products to use for this challenge, including several colours of Colour Melts, which is their equivalent of candy melts, and some sprinkles as well as some flower modelling paste. I thought about making a selection of animals like bunnies and chicks, or a set of Easter eggs, but liked the idea of making a bunch of flowers. I associate tulips particularly with spring, so I decided to make tulips out of cake and the petals from the flower paste. I created the design and technique myself.


    To make cake pops, you need to start with a cake, which you can either make yourself or use a shop bought one. I used an Angel Cake from Sainsburys to save time, but also because I thought the three colours of the cake - white, yellow and pink - would work well with the cake pop design. Once you have your cake, crumble it into a large bowl.

    Mix with enough buttercream until you have a dough consistency. Normally for cake pops I would then roll the dough into a ball but for tulips you want more of an oval or egg shape, pointed at one end.

    Here are three of the Colour Melt tubs Renshaw sent - I received yellow, red, pink, white, blue and green. These are brilliant - so easy to use. Simply take the lid off the tub and, following the instructions on the side, put the tub in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and then microwave for another 20 seconds. When I use candy melts from another leading brand, as they come in a packet I need to pour the melted colours into a bowl, and eventually realised that I needed a fairly tall, narrow bowl so I use a mug. The tubs that these Renshaw Colour Melts come in is actually the perfect size - deep enough for you to dip your cake pops. And because you are using it in the tub, when the leftover Colour Melts have cooled, all you need to do is put the lid back on and you can use the rest another time.

    I began with yellow, so here is my melted Colour Melt. I sometimes add a little oil to melted candy melts from other brands to make them a bit smoother and more runny but I didn't need to with these.

    Dip the end of a cake pop stick into the melted Colour Melt and insert into the cake pop. Place in the fridge for half an hour.

    In the meantime make the petals; flower and modelling paste can be rolled very thin and it then stiffens more than fondant which is essential here as you are going to dip the petals into the Colour Melts.

    You can use a petal cutter if you have one, or just use a sharp knife. Cut out three petals per cake pop in an egg shape and set aside to harden.

    When your cake pops are ready to dip, reheat the Colour Melt and dip the cake pop in at an angle, rotate so it is fully coated and then hold over the side of the pot for the excess to drip off. Then stand in either a cake pop stand or a piece of polystyrene to set.

    To make the flower, take three of the flower paste petals and while the Colour Melt is still tacky, stick the petals on around the sides. It doesn't matter if they overlap slightly, in fact this looks quite good. Then bend the tops of the petals outwards slightly.

    Leave to set and when the petals are firmly attached to the cake pop, dip the whole thing once more in the Colour Melt. Again, allow the excess to run off and place in the polystyrene or stand to dry.

    Repeat with the remaining cake pops and petals in different colours.

    I also decided to make a few Easter eggs to go in my bouquet. I dipped this cake pop in white Colour Melt and when it had dried, I dipped it again, up to the half way mark this time, in yellow. Finally I dipped the top in Renshaw's coloured sprinkles.

    For this Easter egg I dipped the whole cake pop in white Colour Melt and then dipped it into a bowl of Renshaw sprinkles so it was fully covered.

    Finally for this Easter egg, I dipped the cake pop in white and then melted some blue and using a teaspoon rotated the cake pop while drizzling the colour over the top.

    Here is my finished vase of flowers- I also rolled out some leaves from the Renshaw flower paste and dipped those in the green Colour Melt.

    A close-up, top-down view

    Can you tell which one is real? Yes of course you can....!

    The ultimate test though was when my boyfriend came home; I had made these while he was out for the evening. I said casually "do you like my bunch of flowers?" and he glanced over and said "oh yes, nice" - then did a double take and said "hang on, those are cake!". He was quite impressed and said they tasted very good as well as looking good!

    Here you can see the inside of the cake pop

    I'm sending these to Renshaw Baking's spring cake pop challenge.


    I am also sending this to the Biscuit Barrel Challenge hosted by Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than... The entries don't have to be biscuits, but this month they do have to be fun!

    I am also sending this to Love Cake, hosted by Jibber Jabber UK, as the theme is springing into Easter.

    The theme for Calendar Cakes,. hosted by Rachel at Dollybakes, is also Easter.

    Thursday, 17 April 2014

    Carrot Cake with Walnut and Pineapple and Fondant Rabbit decoration

    carrot cake fondant bunny rabbit

    It wouldn't be Easter without the Easter bunny! This is a carrot cake I actually made last year but hadn't gotten around to blogging about yet. It is decorated with a fondant rabbit and carrots, which I will explain how to make below.

    You need:
    2 cups soft brown sugar
    1 cup vegetable oil
    3 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla flavouring
    2.5 cups plain flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 cup walnuts, chopped
    1 pound of carrots, grated
    1/2 cup pineapple, chopped
    For the icing:
    1 cup soft cheese
    1/2 cup butter, sofened
    2 cups icing sugar, sifted

    I made a rabbit from fondant to decorate but you can also decorate with extra walnuts.
    Preheat oven to 180C. Mix the sugar and flour in a large bowl.

    Weighing the carrots - then grate them

    Mix the eggs, oil and grated carrot and add the vanilla flavouring

    Mix in to the dry ingredients and add the baking powder and cinnamon

    Stir in the chopped walnuts

    Then stir in the chopped pineapple

    Spoon the mixture into a cake tin and cook in the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, testing with a skewer.

    When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

    I decided to make a rabbit and some carrots out of fondant to decorate the cake. First I coloured some white fondant with orange gel colouring left over from Halloween (Wilton brand) and some Sugarflair gooseberry colour for the carrot tops. I shaped the carrots and tops by hand; I used a knife to cut pieces out of the tops to make the greenery look more realistic, and used a fork to make indentations on the carrots.

    To make the rabbit I followed the same principles as when I made a fondant cow. I made a large white ball for the body and a smaller one for the head, then cylinders of different sizes for the arms, legs and ears, I used some pink fondant for the centre of the ears and the nose, and a tiny bit of black fondant for the eyes. I used some modelling tools to make the indentations on the feet and also to make the mouth.

    To make the frosting, carefully mix the soft cheese, butter and icing sugar until you have a suitably thick paste; if it needs to be thicker so you can spread it but it doesn't run, add more icing sugar. I spread the frosting over the top and around the sides of the cake.

    Finally I placed the rabbit and carrots on top. This would be a good cake to make at Easter but it goes down well at any time of year!

    I'm sharing this with Extra Veg, hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy; a carrot cake is a very tasty way to get one of your five a day!

    I'm also sending this to Love Cake, hosted by Jibber Jabber UK, as the theme is "springing into Easter".

    The theme for Calendar Cakes, hosted by Rachel at Dollybakes, is also Easter.